Donald Trump tosses off his overcoat as he speaks in an airplane hangar in Rome, New York, yesterday. (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

THE BIG IDEA:

-- If Donald Trump cannot get 1,237 delegates on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention in July, his campaign will be all but over – except for the shouting.

Many delegates who will be bound to support Trump on the first, and in some cases second, ballot tell us both publicly and privately that they will defect to Ted Cruz or whoever has momentum once they’re freed up from their obligation.

In some places, such as North Carolina, the Cruz campaign has put their most loyal and reliable grassroots supporters into the Trump delegate slots at district-level conventions.

Trump has lashed out so hard in recent days because this reality is finally sinking in. "The system, folks, is rigged … It’s a rigged, disgusting, dirty system,” he said in New York yesterday. “When everything is done, I find out I get less delegates than the guy who got his a** kicked."

This dynamic is also why he’s redoubling his focus on locking up the nomination during the primaries that remain through June.

This problem is not unique to Trump. Veteran strategists who have worked contested GOP conventions at the state level agree that the front-runner’s support usually tends to peel off if he cannot break 50 percent on the first ballot. The pressure will be especially high in this case because Trump is such a polarizing figure.

-- Cruz is poised to pick up at least 130 more votes on a second ballot in Cleveland, according to an analysis by Ed O’Keefe, who has been studying the delegate selections made by states and territories. “That tally surpasses 170 delegates under less conservative assumptions — a number that could make it impossible for Trump to emerge victorious,” Ed writes. “When the presidential nomination vote is held at the convention, 95 percent of the delegates will be bound to the results in their states for the first vote … But if Trump falls short, the convention will cast a second ballot in which more than 1,800 delegates from 31 states — nearly 60 percent of the total — will be unbound and allowed to vote however they want. By the third round, 80 percent of the delegates would be free, sparking a potential free-for-all that could continue for several more rounds.” Meanwhile, we know of no one who is bound to Cruz or someone else on the first ballot and would like to vote for Trump on the second.

-- To be sure, Trump can still win the nomination on the first ballot if he keeps winning primaries over the next two months and gets his act together at the conventions that are picking the delegates. “There’s not going to be a second ballot,” said Paul Manafort, a senior adviser to Trump.

-- Cruz’s campaign is now pushing to use Roberts Rules of Order, instead of House rules, to govern a contested floor fight. Why? Because House rules would allow the convention’s Rules Committee to convene during the convention to change the rules of the game as it is being played. Cruz’s team fears this could be used to elevate an alternative from the establishment wing of the party on the third or fourth ballot.

-- Many top Republicans are planning to skip the convention altogether. Jeb Bush told CNN yesterday he won’t go. “Unlikely,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, said he’ll stay home. "Let the activists, let the people decide,” he told the cable channel. Leadership aides in the House and Senate are advising their members to think about scheduling events in-state.

Ted Cruz campaigns in Brooklyn last week. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

-- The selection process keeps becoming nastier: Delegates in both parties are now getting threats.

On the Republican side: Colorado chairman Steve House said his office received 3,000 phone calls “with many being the trashiest you can imagine” after a state party convention last weekend awarded all 34 delegates to Cruz. “When they reference burials and your family in the same email, and telling you that you’re being watched, that’s concerning,” Craig Dunn, a Trump critic who was elected this past weekend as a Republican delegate from Indiana’s 4th Congressional District. (Ed O’Keefe)

On the Democratic side: “The Sanders campaign says it has no connection to the efforts of outside supporters to lean on superdelegates … Among those efforts is a website created last week under the name Superdelegate Hit List, providing phone numbers and addresses for superdelegates and encouraging users to submit further contact information … Site creator Spencer Thayer, a Chicago activist, described the goal this way in a Twitter message: ‘So who wants to help start . . . a new website aimed at harassing Democratic Superdelegates?’ (Anne Gearan, John Wagner and Abby Phillip)

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- The FBI allegedly paid a group of professional hackers to crack the locked iPhone used by the San Bernardino terrorist. The Justice Department is said to have begun working with hackers after they brought “at least one previously unknown software flaw” to the attention of the bureau, The Post’s Ellen Nakashima reports. “The researchers, who typically keep a low profile, specialize in hunting for vulnerabilities in software ...”  

Controversy continues over whether the FBI should disclose the flaw to Apple: “The people who helped the [FBI] come from the sometimes shadowy world of hackers and security researchers. Some hackers, known as ‘white hats,’ disclose vulnerabilities to the firms responsible for the software … and are generally regarded as ethical. Others, called ‘black hats,’ use the information to hack networks and steal personal information.” At least one of the people who helped the FBI falls into an ethically-murky third category, dubbed “gray hats”: These controversial researchers profit from “selling flaws” to governments or companies that make surveillance tools. “Critics say they might be helping governments spy on their own citizens. [But] their tools might also be used to track terrorists or hack an adversary spying on the U.S. These researchers do not disclose the flaws to the companies responsible for the software, as the exploits’ value depends on the software remaining vulnerable.” The final decision will be made by a White House-led group.

-- With time running out, the House Committee on Natural Resources unveiled new legislation to rescue Puerto Rico from the jaws of crippling debt. “The bill comes as the territory’s governor warned his government did not have enough money to pay for fuel for school buses or police patrol cars, or for therapies of special needs schoolchildren,” Steven Mufson and Mike DeBonis report. “The revised measure includes a provision for a vote by two-thirds of creditors on any particular debt restructuring proposala major change that was designed as a concession to conservative Republicans and would give Puerto Rico’s creditors leverage to insist on voluntary settlements. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), the committee’s chairman, said the bill offers ‘tools to redirect Puerto Rico … towards a path of prosperity.’” Bishop called it “the island’s best shot to mitigate its financial collapse and future calls for a bailout, which would be untenable.”

-- Tens of thousands of Verizon workers went out on strike this morning, in hopes of pressuring the telecomm company to limit outsourcing and improve working conditions. The massive strike could interrupt service for customers across the country who subscribe to Verizon's wired services, although Verizon has said it has trained thousands of temporary replacements to weather the coming storm, reports Brian Fung. "The strike comes as workers' contract negotiations have been stalled for months ... Verizon said that outdated contract provisions effectively prevent the company from adapting to new technology."

-- The Obama administration outlined terms for a compromise on contraception. The solicitor general field a brief with the Supreme Court last night that said a deal to resolve objections from religious organizations to providing their employees with contraceptives would work only if it was clear that the women would receive the coverage through other means, per Robert Barnes. “Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. … said a modification would be acceptable only if the court ruled that it would satisfy the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and if it halted lawsuits from groups that say providing contraceptive coverage would make them complicit in sin. Anything less, he wrote, ‘would lead to years of additional litigation, during which tens of thousands of women would likely continue to be denied the coverage to which they are legally entitled.’” (Read Verrilli’s 26-page filing here.)

  • Backstory: A week after the March 23rd oral arguments, the justices issued an unusual order asking both the government and the groups to react to a proposed compromise: Employees could receive contraceptive coverage through their employers’ plans, “but in a way that does not require any involvement” from the employers beyond their decision to provide health insurance.
  • Lawyers for the religious groups said in their own brief that they are amenable to a compromise if it truly left their clients out of the process.

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R) responded to a backlash against the state’s new law banning anti-discrimination protections for gay and transgender people by signing an executive order. “McCrory said he was expanding protections for state employees, which would prevent these workers from being fired for being gay or transgender. He also said he would seek legislation restoring the right to sue for discrimination,” Mark Berman reports. “In his order, McCrory stopped short of altering the bill’s most high-profile provision mandating that transgender people use bathrooms that correspond only with the gender on their birth certificate.”
  2. A Los Angeles man was charged with sexual assault after luring a woman into his vehicle by posing as her Uber driver. (Lindsey Bever)
  3. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) says he won't challenge Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) for the Senate Republican Policy Committee chairmanship, after leaders insisted Barrasso is “entitled” to keep his seat for another two years. But Lee could still wage a rules fight against term limits. (Kelsey Snell)
  4. Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley had breakfast with Merrick Garland yesterday, saying afterwards the meeting did nothing to change his mind. (Mike DeBonis)
  5. Scott Walker led a group of 11 governors pressing Congress to allow food stamp recipients to be tested for drug use. (The Capital Times)
  6. The University of California at Berkeley plans to cut around 500 staff positions in the next two years. The workforce reduction comes as the prestigious public flagship moves to erase a large budget deficit. (Nick Anderson)
  7. Boko Haram is increasingly using children to carry out suicide bombings, according to a report from UNICEF. “One in five” attacks conducted by the terrorist group used a child. (Kevin Sieff)
  8. China is using its vast fishing fleet to press “expansive territorial claims” in the South China Sea, putting the country on a collision course with Asian neighbors as it seeks to exert maritime dominance. (Simon Denyer)
  9. Taiwan accused Kenya of violating international law after police officers reportedly used tear gas to force prisoners onto a plane bound for mainland China. Kenya denied the claim. (AP)
  10. Billionaire Sean Parker is backing a $250 million “cancer-solving” initiative to unify research efforts of the country’s top scientists. More than 300 scientists have already signed on to the project, which will focus on immunotherapy. (Ariana Eunjung Cha)
  11. A Russian billionaire announced plans to send a fleet of tiny robotic spacecraft to the nearest star system -- 4.37 light-years away. (Rachel Feltman)
  12. Harry Truman’s grandson urged President Obama to visit Hiroshima. (Ishaan Tharoor)
  13. The man accused of killing three people and injuring nine others during a shooting rampage at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado last year told police that he unsuccessfully tried to set off an explosion during the siege. "Detectives said Robert Lewis Dear Jr., 57, who has been held without bond since the November shooting, told them that he brought propane tanks to the Colorado Springs clinic thinking that they would blow up when he shot them. Dear did shoot them, but the explosion never happened." ( Mark Berman)
  14. The FBI offered $25,000 for information regarding seven Andy Warhol paintings that were stolen from a Missouri museum last week. The paintings are part of a ten-part set worth $500,000. (NBC)

MORE ON THE REPUBLICAN RACE:

Supporters reach for Trump after he speaks in Rome, New York, yesterday. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

-- One reason Trump is coasting to a very big win in New York next Tuesday: There is no coordinated outside effort to keep him under 50 percent, which would limit how many delegates he takes from the Empire State. “In Wisconsin, anti-Trump outside groups spent $2 million in ads,” NBC’s Mark Murray notes. “But in New York…these same anti-Trump groups haven't spent a single cent. … Indeed, the only Republican who has spent money so far in ads for the April 19 contest is Kasich -- at just $177,000. The biggest overall spender in New York is Sanders, whose campaign has aired $2.3 million in ads, versus $1.2 million for Clinton.”

-- Trump is not running TV ads either, but his campaign said he is on the radio. “I love New York. Everybody knows that. When it comes to New York values, other candidates do not like us,” he says in the 60-second spot. He then lists off a laundry list of promises. (Listen here.)

-- New polls show Trump remains dominant: He pulled 51 percent in a PPP poll, with 25 percent for Kasich and 20 percent for Cruz. On the Democratic side, Clinton led Sanders by 11 (51-40). New Yorkers hate Cruz: The Texas senator’s favorable/unfavorable ratings in the state are 35 percent favorable to 50 percent unfavorable, compared with 65/29 percent for Trump and 41/38 for Kasich. A Quinnipiac poll has Trump winning every region and key group in the state. Clinton’s support among black voters is especially crucial in New York, where she leads Sanders 65 to 28 percent. The former New York senator leads in most demographic groups and regions, besting Sanders 53 - 37 in New York City and 55 - 40 in the suburbs.

Paul Ryan speaks on Capitol Hill. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

-- Paul Ryan tried to definitively quash the buzz that he could emerge as the GOP nominee out of a contested convention in Cleveland. “Let me be clear,” he said at a press conference. “I do not want, nor will I accept, the nomination for our party. ... I should not be considered. Period. End of story."

"Ryan said that in his role as co-chairman of the convention — usually an honorific title given to the top two congressional caucus leaders — he plans to push a rule that would limit delegates to casting votes on any ballot to those that ran for the nomination in the primary season," Paul Kane reports. "A month ago, after John Boehner floated the idea of Ryan running, the current speaker cursed out his predecessor at a private event in Washington."

-- “In Kasich’s call for governing experience, some hear another gasp of old GOP:” “In the political ‘year of the outsider,’ Kasich’s appeal [has come] across to some as another gasp from a wing of the Republican Party in hospice," Philip Rucker and Robert Costa write from New York. ‘I don’t know that there’s a salesman in the Republican Party who could pitch that sell,’ GOP strategist Rick Wilson said. ‘If Ronald Reagan came back from the dead and delivered Kasich’s speech, you’d have Republicans going, ‘Ehhhh, maybe not.’’ So it is that Kasich is running a distant third in the nomination, espousing a brand of Republicanism — based on results, experience, bipartisanship, solutions -- that is extolled by party leaders, but has little currency with today’s voters. Conservative activist Richard Viguerie said Trump’s candidacy has been the impetus for ‘a permanent disruption’ that could change the Republican Party for years to come. 'The Kasichs of the world, the Paul Ryans, the Mitch McConnells, the Reince Priebuses — they’re not going to get another shot for a while,' he said."

-- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg denounced Trump’s immigration policies. Decrying “fearful voices calling for building walls," he said: “It takes courage to choose hope over fear." (Reuters)

-- Trump shared the spotlight his wife and children at a CNN town hall last night. Melania and the kids spoke out about moments they wished he’d act “a bit more presidential.”

  • Trump’s wife and children sought to highlight Trump’s “softer side” and refute recent claims about his treatment of women. “He encourages everybody,” agreed Melania, “[whether] you are a man or a woman.” Ivanka agreed, saying her father instilled the belief that she has "the potential to accomplish exactly what her brothers could." And Tiffany Trump said her father’s work ethic is “inspiring.” "Whenever [he] puts his heart and soul into something, he goes full force,” she said.
  • But they often plead with him to be nicer: Trump admitted his wife and children have privately pleaded with him to “tone down” his incendiary rhetoric at times and act more presidential. "They're always saying to be nicer [during] the debates," he said. "They're coming at me from all these different angles -- how can I be nice? I can't do that."
  • Trump then accused the Republican National Committee of conspiring against him. “I know the rules very well,” Trump said on CNN last night. “But I know it's stacked against me by the establishment."

-- That prompted this response from the RNC chairman:

-- In perhaps the gaffe of the day, Trump confused the evangelical leaders supporting him. He called Bob Vander Plaats a supporter when, in fact, the Iowan was a top Cruz surrogate. It turns out he meant to say Jerry Falwell Jr. It's another reminder that the front-runner does not actually have deep relationships in the born-again community.

-- Trump strategist Paul Manafort lobbied against moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in the 1980s. (Daily Beast)

MORE ON THE DEMOCRATIC RACE: 

Hillary speaks at a Pay Equality Roundtable in New York. (AP/Mary Altaffer)

-- Bill Clinton grapples uncomfortably with the then and the now“For days, Bill Clinton has been attempting to extricate himself from a confrontation with Black Lives Matter protesters," Dan Balz reports. "It’s been an awkward dance. Clinton is caught in a time warp, having to grapple with how much the era in which he served [and] events that occurred then … have been reinterpreted and, by many in his own party, rejected. Clinton’s advocacy for free trade, his support for financial institution deregulation and his economic team, staffed by Wall Street figures are viewed with far greater skepticism today … Which is why [Bernie] Sanders has gathered such energy behind his candidacy and why Hillary Clinton has had to tack left to keep up. Bill Clinton is still widely admired within the Democratic Party and is a powerful asset to his wife as she seeks the presidency. But the party has moved from its New Democrat identity, and a new generation of activists has changed the terrain. It’s enough to cause even the most agile of politicians to lose their balance."

-- Leaders of the Colorado Democratic Party admitted they misreported caucus results in the state, costing Sanders a delegate. “The mistake is a minor shift with major implications. The new projection now shows the Vermont senator winning 39 delegates in Colorado, compared to 27 for Clinton,” the Denver Post reports. “If Sanders lands one Colorado superdelegate — two are still undecided and others are facing significant pressure — he could win the state's delegation.”

The Observer, meanwhile, endorsed Trump. This is not surprising since The Donald's son-in-law owns the paper!

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Chuck Grassley and Merrick Garland in the senator's dining room:

Garland also met with Cory Booker:

Paul Ryan answered questions about his presidential ambitions back in 1998:

Here's how aides, journalists and commentators reacted:

Harry Reid's spokesman:

Finally, from a Paul Ryan spokesman:

Rosario Dawson campaigned for Sanders:

Sanders visited Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt's grave at their estate in Hyde Park, N.Y.:

Clinton spoke with soccer star Megan Rapinoe about pay equity:

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) celebrated the new Dunkin Donuts on Capitol Hill:

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy posted this shot from a flight into D.C.:

GOOD READ FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- The Boston Globe did a deep dive on the relationship, to the extent there was one, between Donald and Hillary before the 2016 cycle: “There were decades of amiability,” writes Annie Linskey. “He was on the White House Christmas list. They would cross paths at glittering New York parties. She attended his wedding reception. … Even after the Clintons left Washington and settled in New York to build their charitable foundation and her own political career, Trump and the Clintons coexisted perfectly reasonably. For a time, at least, they mutually benefited from exposure to one another’s worlds. .. But, despite the effusive praise, there’s little evidence that the couples spent considerable time together when in Manhattan. Yes, they were ‘spotted’ or named as invitees to a number of the same events, but the hosts didn’t recall seeing them together…”

“The former president, a golf enthusiast, joined the Trump National Golf Course, which is near the couple’s home in Chappaqua. A spokeswoman for Clinton declined to say if the former president is still a member.

-- Trump said lots of nice things about Hillary not that long ago—

  • “The First Lady is a wonderful woman who has handled pressure incredibly well,” Trump wrote in the introduction to his 1997 book.
  • “I know Hillary very well. In fact, her and her husband, who’s a terrific guy, have a house right next to my golf club up in Westchester,” Trump said in 2006.
  • “I really have enjoyed the time I have spent with Hillary,” Marla Maples, then Trump’s wife, wrote in a 2007 email to friends. “She is very clear, very focused, and I feel we will at last have a voice and be received with a welcoming and open ear.”

-- Yesterday, Bill Clinton’s library releasing a tranche of records related to that White House’s interactions with Trump. The 450 pages of records show “Trump received periodic, but fleeting consideration from Clinton's staff: a photo op, a few emails, references to his public statements and controversies in which he was involved,” Niraj Chokshi reports. “What are you [sic] thoughts on sending a birthday letter to Donald Trump — who turns 50 on June 14?” asked Betty Currie, Clinton’s personal secretary, in an e-mail to White House deputy political director Karen Hancox four days before the birthday. Currie had an answer: “Cancel letter to Donald Trump. Let me know,” she wrote to a staffer. See more examples here.

HOT ON THE LEFT

“Air France's gay stewards rebel over flights to Iran,” from The Local: “A steward from Air France has launched an online appeal against gay cabin members having to travel to Iran. The letter points out that homosexuality in Iran is illegal and comes with a penalty of 74 lashes for a minor, while adults can be given the death penalty. A petition on site Change.org, which calls for gay stewards not to work on the soon to re-open Paris to Tehran route, has gained almost 2,000 signatures in the past few days. ‘Sure, our sexuality isn't written on our passports and it doesn't change the way we work as a crew,’ wrote 'Laurent M' in an open letter to the French government and the CEO of Air France … ‘But it is inconceivable to force someone to go to a country where his kind are condemned for who they are.’”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT: 

“Pay Gap Alert: Clinton Foundation Male Execs Earn 38% More Than Women,” from the Daily Caller: “Male executives at the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation earn 38 percent more than women executives, according to a Daily Caller review of the foundation’s latest IRS tax filings. The foundation’s 2013 IRS form 990 reveals that nearly three times as many men as women occupy the [foundation’s] executive suites … On average, top male executives at the foundation earn $109,000 more than the top female executives with positions in the C-suite.”

DAYBOOK:

On the campaign trail: Candidates are concentrated in the Northeast. Here's the rundown:

  • Sanders: New York, N.Y.
  • Trump: Pittsburgh, Pa.
  • Cruz: Erie, Pa.
  • Kasich: Catonsville, Savage, Md.

At the White House: President Obama speaks at the White House Science Fair and views students' projects. Later, Obama convenes the National Security Council at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Va. and then makes a statement to the press pool.

On Capitol Hill: The Senate meets at 9:30 a.m. to resume work on the FAA bill. The House meets at 12 p.m. for legislative business and to consider six suspension bills.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

"I love the smell of New York." -- Heidi Cruz

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

-- Cool morning will give way to some sunnier afternoon temps. The Capital Weather Gang forecast: “High pressure delivers a sunny and cool day across the area. Morning temperatures rise into the 40s and eventually the 50s, with afternoon highs peaking in the upper 50s to low 60s.”

-- The Nationals beat the Braves 2-1.

-- Prosecutors asked for a one-year prison sentence for a senior political adviser who played a key role in the illegal financing of Vincent C. Gray’s 2010 mayoral campaign, after he admitted to making a false statement during the investigation.  (Spencer S. Hsu)

-- D.C. police arrested an 18-year-old man in connection with Monday's fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old at the Deanwood Metro station in Northeast. (Peter Hermann and Keith L. Alexander)

-- Metro hired former NYC subway inspector Patrick Lavin as its chief safety officer, filling a critical vacancy at the transit agency that has been open since September. (Paul Duggan)

-- Eric Holder endorsed Glenn F. Ivey in Maryland’s House race to succeed Donna Edwards, cutting a radio ad for the former Prince George’s County state’s attorney. (Arelis R. Hernández)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Bill De Blasio joked about "C.P. time" -- "Colored People time" -- on stage with Clinton over the weekend. This has created an uproar in the Big Apple:

The funniest moment on the trail yesterday might have been when Kasich told the story of Joseph to yeshivah students in Borough Park. "And that’s how the Jews got to Egypt," he said. "Did you know that?” Yes, they responded. 

As Obama prepares to host his last White House Science Fair, check out these cute clips from past years:

Rachel Dolezal, the civil rights activist who rose to prominence as a black woman before being unmasked as white last year, told the "Today" show she has no regrets:

Bono testified Tuesday on Capitol Hill about foreign aid -- here's his opening statement:

A man pushed a protester's face at a Trump rally in Albany:

Finally, watch as people try to walk their cats: