THE BIG IDEA, by White House Bureau Chief Juliet Eilperin: 

(James Hohmann returns from vacation today.)

For a while, it looked like criminal justice reform would be the great white whale of this Congress: that elusive triumph that was just out of reach for the Democrats and Republicans who believed it was finally within their grasp. As lawmakers return to town this week, though, there are signs it could happen this Congress—though it remains an uphill battle.

-- The compromise that saved the Senate bill: Late last month, the bipartisan coalition in the Senate that has been pushing this initiative—including Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley, ranking member Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sens. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)—introduced a revised bill with 37 cosponsors. It explicitly excludes anyone convicted of a “serious violent felony” from being eligible for early release. That compromise helped win the backing of GOP Sens. Steve Daines (Mont.), Mark Kirk (Ill.), Thad Cochran (Miss.) and Dan Sullivan (Alaska), plus the National District Attorneys Association. The new bill also reduces minimum penalties for low-level, non-violent offenders and allows judges to exercise greater discretion when sentencing low-level, non-violent drug offenders.

-- Meanwhile, the House Judiciary Committee is planning to press ahead later this month. In addition to eight measures that have already passed, the panel is slated to mark up bills related to juvenile justice, civil asset forfeiture, as well as criminal procedures and policing strategies. “I think we can get there,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) said in an interview. When it comes to the whole package, cobbling together all of the parts, he added: “It is our hope that we can bring it to the floor soon. But I can’t say when, because I don’t know when.”

-- The window of opportunity to pass the bill is narrow. The closer the election gets, the harder it becomes to pass big-ticket legislation. Reform advocates hope the House can pass its bill in June, to provide enough time for the Senate to act and reconcile its proposal with that of the lower chamber. Since the Senate Judiciary Committee has already passed a criminal justice bill, lawmakers can substitute their revised measure as an amendment on the floor. That, though, depends on Mitch McConnell deciding to bring the bill up for consideration.

-- The two biggest hurdles right now: McConnell and mens rea

The Senate Majority Leader holds most of the cards, and he’s keeping them close to the vest. McConnell has still not said whether the most recent version of the Senate bill, which has 18 Republican co-sponsors and 19 Democratic co-sponsors, has sufficient GOP support to merit a floor vote.

He remains nervous that vulnerable GOP incumbents could get accused of being soft on crime. One of his recurring nightmares is Willie Horton-style ads being run against his members. And he is always loathe to highlight divisions among Republican senators. Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Tom Cotton (Ark.), for instance, are outspoken critics of this effort.

On the other hand, with Donald Trump at the top of the ticket, passing a marquee bill could give vulnerable Republicans something to run on, besides merely blocking Barack Obama’s agenda. And the growing number of Republicans who support the revised bill could tip the balance.

Speaker Paul Ryan is in the latter camp. "I think we need to let more people earn a second chance at life,” he said at Georgetown University recently. “Instead of locking people up, why don’t we unlock their potential?”

Even with the revisions, there are still some serious differences between the two chambers’ proposals. The biggest centers around what’s known as “mens rea,” a legal phrase used to describe state of mind. Basically, the fight boils down to whether prosecutors should be forced to prove that someone intended to break the law, specifically when it comes to white-collar corporate crimes.

The House Judiciary Committee already moved a bill that says, when federal criminal law fails to provide a clear standard of intent, prosecutors would have to prove defendants “knew, or had reason to believe, the conduct was unlawful.”

“There needs to be a significant change in the criminal intent standards,” Goodlatte said, adding the senators “must find a way to deal with the fact that there are over 5,000 criminal statutes and hundreds of thousands of regulations on the books under which somebody could be charged with a crime.”

Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, a signatory to the conservative movement’s “Right on Crime Statement of Principles,” said he believes a package has better than 50-50 odds of passage, but he is adamant that there will be no criminal justice reform without mens rea. “The idea that the hard left of the Democratic Party likes to threaten businesspeople with jail for not complying with regulations that they’ve written in some cubbyhole somewhere is ridiculous,” he said.

-- Most Democrats—including the president—have warned that these changes could create loopholes for corporate wrongdoers and other bad actors.

White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett said there could be “unintended consequences,” like if a robber took money from a bank without knowing it was federally insured, but she emphasized that she believes these differences can be reconciled. “We are building momentum in support in both the House and Senate, and I’m optimistic President Obama will have a chance to sign a meaningful criminal justice reform bill,” she told the 202.

-- Jarrett has continued to work with conservative advocates, such as Koch Industries General Counsel Mark Holden, in trying to sustain support for the initiative. On April 16, she journeyed to deep-red Kansas – headquarters of the Koch conglomerate – to meet with a group of nearly two dozen young women graduating from a program that aims to halt the school-to-prison pipeline. Holden and his wife Louise, along with Koch Industries, have supported the program – called Caring Ladies Assisting Students to Succeed (CLASS) – and its male counterpart program—Do You Want to Live or Die? (DYWTLOD).

Holden said the trip arose out of a visit he made to the White House in January, when he explained to Jarrett and her team about how two ex-drug offenders, Lynn and David Gilkey, managed to start programs for disadvantaged youth that now boast a 100 percent high school graduation rate. “It meant a lot to these young women that you had the president’s top adviser come out to Wichita to spend time with them,” Holden said.

Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning newsletter.
With contributions from Breanne Deppisch (@b_deppy) and Elise Viebeck (@eliseviebeck).

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-- Americans broadly oppose “bathroom bills” that require transgender people to use restrooms that correspond with their birth gender: A CNN/ORC national poll shows 57 percent disapprove of such legislation, while 38 percent approve. Strong opposition outweighs strong support for the law, 39 percent to 25 percent, and three-quarters favor laws that guarantee equal protection for transgender individuals.


  1. West Point announced that it has launched an inquiry into whether the above image violates military restrictions on political activity. The women, about to become officers in the Army, did not anticipate how the gesture would be interpreted and say no offense was intended, a mentor told the Associated Press.
  2. A commission suspended the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to abide by the U.S. Supreme Court decision to recognize same-sex marriages. Roy Moore, who was removed from office in 2003 after refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument from a public building, faces six charges of violating judicial ethics after he told state probate judges that they have a “ministerial duty” to limit marriage to heterosexual couples. (Niraj Chokshi; Birmingham News)
  3. Twitter cut off U.S. intelligence agencies from accessing an analytics service that helps identify unfolding terrorist attacks, the latest example of privacy tensions between the tech industry and the federal government. (Wall Street Journal)
  4. Uber and Lyft suspended services in Austin after voters upheld requirements that its drivers undergo fingerprint-based background checks. (Austin-American Statesman)
  5. Electronic cigarettes are sickening rising numbers of children under six, according to an analysis of U.S. poison center calls. Most cases involve swallowing liquid nicotine. (AP)
  6. Penn State confirmed Sunday that its payouts to alleged victims of sexual abuse by former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky cover incidents that date from 1971. A court filing last week claimed that a child had notified former head coach Joe Paterno in 1976 that he had been abused by Sandusky. (Des Bieler)
  7. Harvard has its first mumps outbreak since 1937. Since February, the virus has sickened more than four dozen people at the university, mostly undergraduates. Although no one suffered serious illness, many have had to spend days in isolation. The Boston Globe reports that 22 people are currently in isolation.
  8. Australian scientists blame climate change for the rising waters that led to the disappearance of five Solomon Islands in the Pacific. (Ben Guarino)
  9. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un announced a five-year plan to boost his country’s economy and pledged to strive for “global denuclearization” at the Worker’s Party Congress. (Anna Fifield)
  10. Meanwhile, the regime expelled a BBC reporter from the country over what the government called “disrespectful” reports. The journalist was detained for eight hours and made to sign a statement of apology before leaving the country. (CNN)
  11. Canada’s massive oil sands wildfire could double in size. Firefighters warn that the 400,000 acre blaze could burn for months. (USA Today)
  12. Afghan officials hanged six Taliban prisoners following last month’s deadly bombing in Kabul, the first set of executions carried out as part of the country’s new hardline stance against insurgents. (Antonio Olivo and Sayed Salahuddin)
  13. ISIS militants opened fire on a Cairo van filled with plainclothes police officers, killing eight. (Sudarsan Raghavan and Heba Habib)
  14. A California school launched an investigation after a student in a hijab was incorrectly renamed “Isis” in her high school yearbook. (Yanan Wang)


The Narrative --> “Clinton’s wonky policies of fine-grained complexity contrast with rivals’ grandiose ideas,” by David A. Fahrenthold: “Clinton’s official campaign platform is now twice as long as ‘Hamlet’: seventy-three thousand six hundred forty-five words of policy ideas. One hundred seventy-four pages. And growing. But, at its heart, this wordy list amounts to a statement of Clinton’s confidence in two things. The status quo. And the federal bureaucracy. The other two candidates left in this presidential race want to overhaul American government. Clinton mainly wants to tinker with its parts. In many cases, her plans involve adding small — but intricate — new tasks for the bureaucracy, designed to make government smarter, more generous and more just.

  • “To crack down on Wall Street, for instance, Clinton would expand a particular regulatory form. The form already is 42 pages long and can require up to 300 hours to fill out.”
  • “If Congress doesn’t overhaul immigration, Clinton’s plan is to allow undocumented residents to walk into local federal offices and ask for help. Already-busy bureaucrats — armed with guidelines that nobody has written yet — would make millions of new decisions about who can stay.”

-- We've written many times that this will be a "lesser of two evils" election. David Weigel has coined a new moniker: 2016 is THE YEAR OF THE HATED. “Clinton, whose buoyant favorable ratings in the State Department convinced some Democrats that she could win easily, is now viewed as unfavorably as George W. Bush was in his close 2004 reelection bid," he writes. "Trump is even less liked, with negative ratings among nonwhite voters not seen since the 1964 campaign of Barry Goldwater." 

But Trump is meaningfully more hated than Clinton among voters, and the continuing fallout for down-ballot Republicans is palpable:

-- “Evangelicals feel abandoned by GOP after Trump’s ascent,” by Katie Zezima in Lincoln, Neb.: “Pastor Gary Fuller planned a Sunday service heavy on politics. But after a week when Cruz abruptly dropped out of the race, a dismayed Fuller kept the political portion short. ‘In a sense, we feel abandoned by our party,’ he said. ‘There’s nobody left.’ … There is consternation about the hard line Trump takes on immigrants and about the morality of a thrice-married man who has long bragged about his sexual conquests. But another factor is at work as well: With Trump as the nominee, the social and cultural issues that drive many religious voters … have been cast aside by a candidate who seems to have little interest in fighting the culture wars. ‘I got the idea of ‘Who would Jesus have voted for, Herod or Pilate?’ and probably neither one, and that’s where I feel we’re at here,’ Fuller said.”

-- The Republican Senate majority is imperiled. Even Roy Blunt could go down: “Key forecasters now think Republican incumbents in states like Arizona, North Carolina and Missouri, considered safe a year ago, are vulnerable,” Mike DeBonis reports from Bridgeton, Mo. “It remains unclear whether Trump could lose Missouri … But Democrats believe Blunt is vulnerable in any scenario and have recruited a particularly potent challenger in Jason Kander … a former Army intelligence office who served in Afghanistan and is now waging an aggressive campaign targeting Blunt’s longstanding ties to corporate interests and his party’s Washington leadership.”

-- Remember when Trump, after winning the GOP primary in Massachusetts, insisted he could put that state in play during a general election? In case you were naïve enough to believe him, there is fresh evidence that it's not going to happen. A Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll today shows Hillary up 24 points, 55 percent to 31 percent, in the Bay State.

-- Hillary starts with a leg up in Loudoun County. “In the fight for the votes of suburban women, there is no more representative place than Loudoun County, the ticket-splitting bedroom community in swing state Virginia that Clinton will visit Monday — and no better foil for her argument, perhaps, than Trump,” Anne Gearan reports. “Although many suburban women identify as Republican or independent, they often vote on the kinds of pocketbook issues Clinton is emphasizing in her presidential bid — workplace flexibility and fair pay for female workers, accessible health care, and affordable college tuition. These voters have long displayed a willingness to look past ideological bright lines, and this year that could favor Clinton, whose open courtship is a bet that women who would not support her otherwise will be driven there by Trump.”


-- Trump has decided to advocate for higher taxes on the wealthy: "I am willing to pay more, and you know what, the wealthy are willing to pay more," the billionaire said on ABC's "This Week."

The real estate tycoon also reversed his position on the minimum wage, saying he doesn’t know “how people make it on $7.25 an hour”: “I’d like to see an increase of some magnitude,” he told NBC and ABC. "I am looking at it, and I haven't decided in terms of numbers. But I think people have to get more.”

And Trump said he does not think it is necessary for the Republican Party to unite: “I think it would be better if it were unified,” Trump told George Stephanopoulos. "But I don’t think it has to be unified in the traditional sense.” 

-- Sarah Palin said she will support Speaker Paul Ryan’s primary challenger in Wisconsin: “I think Paul Ryan is about to be ‘Cantored,’” Palin told Jake Tapper, alluding to Eric Cantor’s 2014 loss. “His political career is over but for a miracle, because he has so respected the will of the people.” She said she "will do whatever I can for Paul Nehlen."

The obscure challenger, who visited the Southern border with a Breitbart editor this weekend, tried to capitalize on the attention:

-- John McCain touted Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) as a good option for Trump’s running mate. “I think Joni Ernst would be tremendous," the 2008 nominee told CNN. "She's really remarkable. There's a number of members of the Senate. Paul Ryan was helpful to the (Mitt) Romney ticket (in 2012), though I'm not sure he'd want to do that again. I think there's a lot of people out there that (Trump) would choose from."

-- Ex-Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said she’s open to being Trump’s running mate. She volunteered that she’s be willing to serve him in “any capacity."

-- Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, the former New Mexico governor, said he sees an “opportunity” for his third-party candidacy. “I do think that Clinton and Trump are the two most polarizing figures in politics today,” Johnson said on “This Week.” After failing to get traction in the GOP primaries in 2012, he became the Libertarian nominee and received 1.2 million votes.

-- Clinton continued her bid for anti-Trump Republicans on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” saying she’s heard from many conservatives turned off by his rhetoric. "Obviously I'm reaching out to Democrats, Republicans, Independents — all voters who want a candidate who is running a campaign based on issues," Clinton said.


-- Clinton won Guam's caucuses Saturday, netting four of the island’s seven pledged slots, as Sanders scored an additional 49 delegates in Washington State.

-- Maine Democrats voted at a convention this weekend to bind superdelegates to support whomever wins the state’s caucuses or primary. This is something Bernie has been calling for, but the rule will not go into effect until 2020. (Portland Press-Herald)

— ZIGNAL VISUAL: Sanders supporters aren't ready to throw in the towel. Of more than 407,000 tweets about Bernie over the weekend, 64,000 contained the hashtag #neverhillary. Another 63,000 contained the hashtags #bernieorbust and #dropouthillary. That means more than a quarter of all Sanders-related social media traffic was dedicated, at least in part, to expressing anti-Hillary sentiment. On Twitter at least, the Democratic Party healing has yet to begin. Via our analytics partners at Zignal Labs, here are the top hashtags used in tweets about Bernie on Saturday and Sunday:

-- Sanders has become increasingly erratic on the stump as his campaign winds down. His rhetoric is “all over the map,” The Boston Globe’s Annie Linskey reports from West Virginia. “Sometimes he’s attacking [Clinton] … Then he goes three events in a row without mentioning her once. Sometimes he’s reflecting on what his campaign has accomplished. At other moments he sounds like the leader of a movement — telling his thousands of cheering fans that only they have the power to change the country. And other times what he says is just confusing. ‘Today is not a political event,’ Sanders declared improbably to a group of supporters at the beginning of one town hall meeting held at a food bank … He went on to deliver his familiar stump speech.”

And the media continues to scale back coverage: “Hours after Sanders [won] Indiana by five points, Sanders was doing an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. What was unusual was it was conducted via cellphone as Sanders paced outside a brewery. The cable network had refused to send a nearby correspondent to interview him in person. Then a standalone CNN camera malfunctioned, so Sanders’ only option was the cellphone.”


Where are they now?

Get a whole new view of Trump, thanks to an anonymous Photoshopper:

After Trump called Warren "goofy," she hit him back, big time:

Trump has been hitting the Massachusetts senator hard for exaggerating her Native American heritage to advance her career. She felt compelled to reply to the line of attack:

Trump went after an old friend, Joe Scarborough, after the "Morning Joe" host said he could not endorse him so long as he wants to ban Muslims:

Scarborough returned fire:

Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, who met with Mitt Romney last week to discuss the possibility of launching an independent bid, reiterated his call for Trump to release his tax returns:

Last night, Kristol also retweeted this list of deadlines to get on the ballot as an independent:

Other thought leaders on the right are being more conciliatory:

This Sanders parody keeps spreading to more places:

This tweet epitomizes the sorry state of the political culture in Rhode Island:

Everyone posted online for Mother's Day. Here's a selection of those Instagrams, including one from Hillary to Chelsea Clinton:


-- NY1, “Former Congressman Grimm Talks Post-Prison Life,” by Amanda Farinacci: “Former Rep. Michael Grimm walked out of his Staten Island home Friday, but he's not yet a free man. Grimm was released from federal prison April 27 to serve three more weeks under house arrest … But to Grimm, it's all better than the seven months he just spent behind bars. ‘It's a horrible experience. I wouldn't wish it on my enemies,’ he said. Grimm pleaded guilty in December 2014 to one count of felony tax fraud related to a restaurant he owned when he was elected to Congress in 2010. He resigned from Congress in early 2015 and entered prison last September. But the former FBI agent and marine veteran struck a defiant note about the conduct that led him there. ‘I don't think there's anything that I've ever done that I would say I'm really ashamed of,’ he said. ‘Did I have a couple people off the books? Yeah. So does a lot of people. It's not the end of the world. It's something I put behind me and will move on.’”

-- Politico, “Trump’s war on the foreign press,” by Ben Schreckinger and Hadas Gold: “Trump’s presidential campaign has captivated – and disconcerted – much of the world, but the journalists tasked with translating Trump for a global audience are facing an unexpected barrier: They can’t get into his rallies. The nationalist tone of Trump’s campaign is being echoed in its press credentialing practices, with foreign media giants regularly denied press access and even blocked from general admission.”


 “Passenger Fears Professor Doing Math Is A Terrorist, Delays Flight 2 Hours,” from HuffPost: “A flight was delayed for more than two hours after a paranoid passenger suspected a professor writing out math equations was a terrorist.” American Airlines confirmed the flight was delayed after a passenger said she was sick and “expressed some concern”’ about the behavior of a male passenger. “But Guido Menzio, an Italian University of Pennsylvania economics professor [said] …. he was the suspect. “I thought they were trying to get clues about her illness,” he said. “Instead, they tell me that the woman was concerned that I was a terrorist because I was writing strange things on a pad of paper.”



“CBO: Federal tax receipts hit record $1.9 trillion, but spending still tops,” from the Washington Examiner: “Federal tax receipts hit a record high for the first seven months of the fiscal year, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. But that was not enough to offset growth in mandatory federal spending programs. Receipts hit $1.9 trillion for the period ending April 30 … up $25 billion over the same period in 2015. The federal deficit stood at $352 billion, $69 billion more than the shortfall recorded during the same time last year.”


On the campaign trail: Here's the rundown:

  • Clinton: Stone Ridge, Va.
  • Sanders: Sacramento, Calif.

At the White House: President Obama has no public events scheduled. Vice President Biden speaks at Datapalooza 2016 and departs for New York, where he will attend a fundraiser for Maggie Hassan (the New Hampshire governor challenging Sen. Kelly Ayotte.)

On Capitol Hill: The Senate meets at 3 p.m. to resume consideration of the energy bill. The House is not in session.


“I am endorsing Hillary. … She’s wrong about absolutely everything — but she’s wrong within normal parameters! . . .   I mean, this man just can’t be president of the U.S. I mean, they got this button, it’s in a briefcase, he’s gonna find it.” – Conservative writer P.J. O’Rourke on NPR


-- Another cool, damp start to continue our cool, damp streak. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “We’ve seen worse days, but a warm front draped over the region produces a good deal of clouds and the opportunity for some showers, especially this morning. This is not great news for viewing the transit of Mercury. With some luck, maybe there are peeks of sun in the afternoon, as highs range from 65 to 70.”

-- The Cubs beat that Nationals, 4-3. Chicago walked Bryce Harper a record 13 times during the four-game series.

-- Whoever stabbed a man outside the Minnesota Avenue Metro station remains at large. The victim suffered non-life-threatening injuries. (Faiz Siddiqui)


Obama counseled Howard graduates to be "confident" in their blackness:

Dana Carvey returned to SNL as the Church Lady to discuss Cruz, Trump and 2016:

SNL unpacked some young women's choice not to embrace Clinton with a "President Barbie" sketch:

What do everyday North Koreans think of Trump and Clinton? We asked them:

We asked a few residents of Pyongyang about a different sort of politics happening half a world away. (Jason Aldag, Anna Fifield/The Washington Post)

A Trump-supporting tow truck driver in Asheville, N.C. refused to help a motorist because of her Sanders bumper sticker:

A tow truck driver who supports Donald Trump refused to a help a customer stranded in Asheville, N.C, because of the Bernie Sanders sticker and sign on her car. (WLOS)

A 15-year-old high school student in South Carolina was hospitalized after an assistant principal placed her in a chokehold until she lost consciousness. Police are investigating the incident, caught on this 30-second video:

Video shows assistant principal putting student in a chokehold (Kingstree Police Department)

SNL poked fun at last week's Game of Thrones episode:

Jimmy Fallon let puppies predict the outcome of the Kentucky Derby:

A timelapse video captures a rare Aurora Borealis over Seattle: 

The National Weather Service in Seattle described it as "probably the best aurora display we've seen in a decade here." (Twitter/NWS Seattle)