Trump also said or did something every week during last year’s campaign that would have doomed any conventional candidate. He never apologized. He always fought through it. To what extent do the old rules of politics no longer apply?
The Virginia governor’s race this year may offer some early clues. One primary alone will not answer these larger questions, but this is the highest profile contest of 2017. It offers at least a small window into the path forward for a party that controls every branch of the federal government but remains at war with itself.
It seems safe to say that no one will ever be as good at channeling Trump’s style than Trump himself. But Corey Stewart is trying. The chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors likes to say, “I was Trump before Trump was Trump.” He became famous a decade ago by leading a major crackdown on undocumented immigrants, and last year he led Trump’s campaign in Virginia.
Ed Gillespie, though, is the frontrunner to win the GOP primary on June 13. The former chairman of the Republican National Committee has basically been running for governor fulltime since his narrow loss to Democratic Sen. Mark Warner in 2014. A poll from Christopher Newport University, published yesterday, shows Gillespie pulling 38 percent, with Stewart getting 11 percent and state Sen. Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) at 10 percent.
The Democratic primary, which was supposed to be non-competitive, has become the marquee fight. Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and ex-Rep. Tom Perriello are tied at 26 percent, with half of likely voters undecided.
Gillespie, meanwhile, continues to build up an impressive war chest. George W. Bush will attend a fundraiser for his former adviser in Dallas this weekend.
But while Gillespie is leading in the metrics that matter most, Stewart’s supporters are undeniably passionate and highly confident he can continue to ride the anti-establishment wave. The Fairfax County Republican Committee held a candidate forum this past Saturday at a secondary school not far from Gillespie’s house. He beat Stewart in a straw poll taken at the event, 172 to 120, but what was most striking was how much more raucous and energetic the insurgent’s boosters were. They chanted “Corey” as he spoke.
Many of Stewart’s supporters wore Trump buttons or “Make America Great Again” hats. I didn’t see anyone wearing Gillespie and Trump apparel. A few of his boosters said during interviews afterward that they haven’t traditionally been involved in Republican politics, but the new president inspired them to participate. Keep in mind that this is Fairfax, one of the bluest places in Virginia.
“You either love him or you hate him. It’s the same way with Stewart as Trump,” said Stewart supporter Scott Reagan, a 35-year-old from Reston who was wearing a Trump T-shirt. “Corey is the only candidate who has a backbone. … I’m an Eagle Scout, and Corey’s an Eagle Scout. The second rule of the Scout Law is loyalty. He showed that during the campaign.”
In part because his movement is built more around a man than ideas, Trump has seemed like a singular – almost exogeneous – figure in American politics. Electoral success always breeds copycats, and the president clearly tapped into a deep well of disaffection that his adopted party can no longer ignore. Because of the nature of his hostile takeover, though, most voters still don’t identify him as “Republican.” They see him as an independent figure, even when he largely pursues conventional GOP policy goals. Trump now controls the official Republican machinery, and he got to pick the RNC chair.
For certain lawmakers, one of the lessons from last week’s health care debacle is that they’re going to outlast Trump. The Teflon got torn a little, and his prestige took a hit. Some members of Congress have concluded they will still be around when Trump is off the stage, and right now with an approval rating below 40 percent they’re not as afraid of him as they were. Though, to be sure, no Republican member of Congress wants to get attacked on Twitter by the president.
Gillespie is not running against Trump so much as he’s running as his own man, trying to focus on local issues and fly below the national radar. During his speech at the Fairfax forum, he mainly focused on a proposal to cut taxes and nodded elliptically to the president just once. “Just like the Trump administration is doing in Washington, here in Virginia for every new regulation we impose we need to repeal or modernize two old ones,” Gillespie said. He moved on to attack Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe in the very next sentence.
Virginia was considered a red state not long ago, but Republicans have not won a statewide race since 2009. Barack Obama was the first Democrat to carry the commonwealth in a presidential election since Lyndon Johnson, and Hillary Clinton won Virginia by five points in November, largely because of her strength in D.C. suburbs like Fairfax. (Trump’s approval rating in the Virginia poll released yesterday is 37 percent.)
From 1976 until 2013, the party that won the presidency lost the Virginia governorship the following year. It was a predictable pendulum swing until McAuliffe (barely) broke that curse four years ago.
With this history on everyone’s mind, Gillespie heavily emphasizes electability. He used the word “win” repeatedly in his 10-minute pitch. “I will win this race,” Gillespie said. “We are at a critical juncture both for the future of the Virginia we love but also for the future of our party. And we cannot afford to lose. … I will unify our party, and I will appeal to all Virginians.”
Stewart prides himself on being an “in your face” flamethrower, but he also argues that he can win. He notes that he’s been elected as chairman of the board of supervisors four times in a county that went twice for Obama and where whites now make up less than half the population. He boasts that he did this even as an immigration hard-liner and an across-the-board conservative.
While Gillespie focused on the economy, Stewart devoted the bulk of his speech at the Fairfax forum to what he called “the ravages from illegal immigration.” “As a father, 10 years ago, I saw something so despicable: people who are not supposed to be in our country in the first place committing rapes and murders and other heinous crimes,” he said. “Some people say, ‘Why are you so mean against illegal aliens?’ Because they’re committing crimes against our families.” Stewart touted a drop in violent crime and faux-apologized that many of the people he ran out of Prince William moved into Fairfax. “I started this job as a nice guy, but I’ve been brutalized by the left, and I’ve gotten strong and I’ve pushed back,” he said.
Looking for a wedge issue to gin up the Trump base in a low-turnout primary that’s been slipping away from him, Stewart also decided to make the Confederate flag a centerpiece of his campaign. “He has vowed to defend Confederate monuments from liberals who want them gone, promised to bring back Confederate emblems on state-issued specialty license plates, and said he would ‘absolutely not’ mention slavery in symbolic proclamations about Confederate history,” a story in today’s Richmond Times-Dispatch notes. He even sips coffee from a Confederate-flag mug as he tells the paper, “The only way that we can kill political correctness is to be politically incorrect.”
His war against political correctness manifests itself in ways big and small:
The chairman of the state GOP, John Whitbeck, denounced Stewart last week for describing Gillespie as a “cuckservative.” Whitbeck said the insult, derived from the word “cuckold,” is a racist term popularized by white nationalists. Stewart said he was unaware of the racial overtones and meant it as a synonym for “RINO,” or a “Republican In Name Only,” per Laura Vozzella.
As he took a sip of water during his speech in Fairfax last weekend, Stewart couldn’t help but take a dig at Marco Rubio over his State of the Union response a few years ago. “There’s nothing wrong with him, except he lost,” Stewart joked. (Trump won Virginia’s primary, but Rubio cleaned up in Fairfax County.)
Ultimately, the meaning of Trump’s victory depends to some degree on your vantage point. State Del. Glenn R. Davis Jr., a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, argued that Trump won, in part, because he focused on helping entrepreneurs. Not coincidentally, that’s a big part of his own campaign pitch. “I didn’t start running on guns and abortion. I am as Republican as anyone else in this room,” Davis said at the Fairfax event. “We’re all going to protect those rights. But who is going to bring the passion to the moderates and get them back on our side, like Donald Trump did? Jobs and the economy are what crosses those lines. … That’s what they’re passionate about!”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Shots were fired this morning outside the Rayburn building on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol after someone tried to ram a cruiser, D.C. police said. The incident started at 9:30 a.m. when calls came in for shots fired. A D.C. Police spokesperson said someone in a vehicle tried to ram a U.S. Capitol Police cruiser. Officers with the U.S. Capitol police pursued the person on foot. By 9:45 a.m., the suspect was caught and in police custody. The D.C. Police spokesperson said no one was struck by the bullets. It was not immediately clear who fired the shots. (Dana Hedgpeth)
-- The two antiabortion activists who mounted a hidden-camera investigation against Planned Parenthood officials were charged with 15 felonies for violating the privacy of health care providers and recording confidential information without consent. Samantha Schmidt reports: “In announcing the charges against David Robert Daleiden and Sandra Merritt on Tuesday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the duo used manufactured identities and a fictitious bioresearch company to meet medical officials and covertly record the private discussions they initiated. The activists face a felony count for each person covertly recorded, and an additional felony charge for criminal conspiracy to invade privacy. The charges marked a major turning point in a case that had drawn national attention from both sides of the abortion debate and led to investigations — but no charges — against Planned Parenthood in 13 states. The heavily edited videos attempted to discredit Planned Parenthood … and galvanized conservatives’ efforts to pull funding from the women’s health organization and other family planning programs.”
-- A milestone for all women in sports: USA Hockey struck an 11th-hour deal last night with boycotting players from its national women’s team that will allow the United States to compete in the world championships. From Rick Maese: “The women’s team had vowed to boycott the tournament if USA Hockey wouldn’t address the players’ concerns over what they felt was inadequate compensation and support. The year’s biggest event — a preview of what might be in store at next year’s Winter Olympics — begins Friday in Michigan. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but the new deal covers the next four years. … Before Tuesday’s agreement, USA Hockey didn’t pay the women in non-Olympic years and gave each a total of $6,000 in the year leading up to a Winter Games. The players had demanded higher wages and urged USA Hockey to make a bigger investment in its developmental programs targeting young girls.”
-- This is no one's idea of populism: “In a party-line vote, House Republicans freed Internet service providers … of protections approved just last year that had sought to limit what companies could do with information such as customer browsing habits, app usage history, location data and Social Security numbers," Brian Fung reports. "The rules also had required providers to strengthen safeguards for customer data against hackers and thieves. If Trump signs the legislation, as expected, providers will be able to monitor their customers’ behavior online and, without their permission, use their personal and financial information to sell highly targeted ads — making them rivals to Google and Facebook in the $83 billion online advertising market. The providers could also sell their users’ information directly to marketers, financial firms and other companies that mine personal data — all of whom could use the data without consumers’ consent.”
GET SMART FAST:
- Ex-Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) declined to accept an award as a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, citing pressure from a “small but vociferous group” of female alumni who are angry about past statements he made that women aren’t suited for combat and shouldn’t attend the academy. Webb was slated to receive the prestigious award on Friday in Annapolis. On Monday, he was defiant. But as criticism and protests mounted, he released a statement last night saying he doesn’t want to be a distraction. (Dan Lamothe)
- A congressional staffer secretly recorded conversations for the FBI and became a secret informant during its investigation into ex-Rep. Aaron Schock’s alleged misuse of government and campaign funds. Schock’s attorneys disclosed this in a filing that asked the judge to throw out the charges against him, or at least make the evidence obtained from the staffer inadmissible. The former Illinois lawmaker faces 24 charges, and his trial is scheduled to begin this summer. (The Hill)
- Three Weather Channel storm chasers were killed after their vehicles collided while tracking a tornado in Texas. (Ben Guarino)
- The FDA approved a new drug to treat primary-progressive multiple-sclerosis, greenlighting the first-ever medicine to treat the most severe type of MS. The groundbreaking medicine is being put on the market for $65,000 per year. (Wall Street Journal)
- A fake Florida doctor was sentenced to 10 years in prison on manslaughter charges for performing buttocks enhancement surgeries with a toxic cocktail of chemicals – injecting patients with a formula of cement, mineral oil, bathroom caulking and “Fix-a-Flat” tire sealant. (Katie Mettler)
- Terrified of spiders? There’s a good chance you’re sitting in a room with one right now. An entomological survey of North Carolina homes found the eight-legged creatures in 100 percent of them – including 68 percent of bathrooms and more than three-quarters of bedrooms. In even creepier news, the study estimates that the world’s spiders consume up to 800 million tons of prey in any given year – more than double the total biomass of all adult humans on earth. In other words, they could theoretically eat us all and still have room for dessert. (Christopher Ingraham)
THE PRICE OF LOYALTY:
-- Widely-respected Asia analyst Patrick Cronin was tapped to run a Pentagon-funded think tank in Honolulu – but he was forced to withdraw because of his past criticisms of Trump. The move is highly unusual because his position is not a political appointment. Greg Jaffe scoops: “The shake-up alarmed some long-term staff members, who feared that they might be pushed out of their positions at the policy center. ‘There are a lot of career people in the Pentagon and the White House, and right now they’re wondering where does it stop?’ said Kelly E. Magsamen, a former Pentagon official in the Obama administration. ‘Where does it stop in terms of filtering?’ ... Cronin, a Republican who has worked closely with national security adviser H.R. McMaster, was preparing for the move to Hawaii when an article in the Washington Times described him as a ‘liberal’ and noted that he was among 122 Republican national security officials who had signed a letter opposing then-candidate Trump.” Shortly after the article’s publication, Cronin said he was “no longer interested” in accepting the position, citing personal reasons. But people close to him say he was pressured not to take the job.
-- But, but, but: Russia scholar and frequent Putin critic Fiona Hill is joining the White House National Security Council as senior director for Europe and Russia. Karen DeYoung reports: “Hill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and former member of the National Intelligence Council, was first recruited for the NSC job under Michael Flynn. … [The] job offer was subsequently renewed by [H.R. McMaster]. … In her book ‘Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin,’ Hill described Putin as a survivalist on foreign policy, willing to use ‘forms of blackmail, intimidation, punishment, and blatant distortion of the truth’ to defend Russia and his position.”
In November, Hill also expressed doubts about Trump’s plans to “normalize relations” with Russia: While Trump’s presidency might bring “a stylistic rhetorical change” in the relationship, she said, “I think it will come down to what it’s always been — where the Russians will get all giddy with expectations, and then they’ll be dashed, like, five minutes into the relationship … And Trump isn’t the most diplomatic of people. So I imagine he’ll fall out with his new friend Vladimir pretty quickly.”
-- No White House staffers will attend this year’s White House Correspondent’s Dinner so they can stand in “solidarity” with the president as he boycotts the event.
-- Trump declined an invitation from the Nationals to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Opening Day, breaking with a century-long tradition due to what White House officials claim is a “scheduling conflict.” (Jorge Castillo)
-- Attorneys for Trump are pushing back on a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos, arguing that as president he is immune from civil litigation filed in state court until he leaves office. Rosalind S. Helderman reports: “Zervos, who appeared on the television show in 2006, alleges that Trump groped and aggressively kissed her against her will during a 2007 encounter at a Los Angeles hotel, after Zervos sought a job with the Trump Organization. Trump has denied Zervos's allegations and said her story was a ‘total fabrication.’ The Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that litigation against the president over conduct unrelated to his public office can proceed … [a ruling that came as Paula Jones sued Bill Clinton for sexual harassment]. However, the justices said courts should show deference. Because of that deference, Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz wrote that the Zervos case should be postponed until the court can resolve the issue of whether Trump can be sued in state courts.”
WAGING WAR ON THE DEEP STATE:
-- Trump traveled to the EPA Tuesday to sign a sweeping executive order aimed at rolling back Obama’s efforts to combat climate change. But his bill-signing was met with limited interest within the agency, as longtime employees expressed frustration and outright scorn for a president who has proposed slashing their budget by a third. Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin report: “At the EPA, scientists are encountering renewed skepticism of their work, many employees have seen their offices slated for elimination altogether, and regulators are facing the prospect of dismantling environmental rules many of them spent years creating. Trump’s visit to headquarters was met with frustration, resignation and varying levels of angst.” “What an insult,” said one longtime employee. Another said morale at the agency has reached “rock bottom,” noting that some employees had worn buttons reading “scientific integrity” in quiet protest. Many agency staff declined to attend Trump’s ceremony, where he sat at a small table surrounded by a group of coal miners. “Basically, you know what this is?” Trump said to the miners gathered around him. “You know what it says, right? You’re going back to work.” (But, but but: some of his measures could take years to implement and may not actually put them back to work.)
- Several Democratic governors said they would push forward with their own plans to curb carbon emissions. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he spent part of the day in Snohomish County, heralding the “biggest battery in the world to integrate solar and wind into the grid.”
- And California Gov. Jerry Brown said he was prepared to take the Trump administration to court over its regulatory rewrite: “Gutting the Clean Power Plan is a colossal mistake and defies science itself,” he said. “Erasing climate change may take place in [Trump’s] mind, but nowhere else.”
CONGRESS PUSHES BACK ON THE WHITE HOUSE:
-- Trump wants to add defense funding and money for his border wall with Mexico in a stopgap budget bill intended to help avoid a government shutdown, but GOP lawmakers are rejecting the idea -- as well as the deep cuts that the border wall project would require. Kelsey Snell, Damian Paletta and Ed O'Keefe report: “Trump’s request … calls for $33 billion in new defense and border spending — and $18 billion in cuts to other priorities, such as medical research and jobs programs. But it appeared that few on the Hill shared the White House’s appetite to flirt with a government shutdown over the border wall, which Democrats have pledged to oppose and which even some conservative Republicans object to on fiscal grounds. Several senior Republicans said Tuesday that Trump’s wall request is not likely to be included in the stopgap budget plan … but instead will be considered during separate negotiations later this year to add new spending to the current budget. 'Congress will decide what they want and what they don’t want,' said Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, one of a half-dozen Republicans engaged in spending negotiations. 'I don’t think we need a shutdown argument, period. I don’t know any rational person who wants a shutdown.'"
-- The Senate voted 97-2 to approve Montenegro’s entry into NATO, taking a defiant jab at Russia as lawmakers moved to make the tiny Balkan nation a full-fledged member of the security alliance. The Kremlin attempted to stage a coup during the country’s parliamentary elections last fall. (Karoun Demirjian)
-- Trump hasn’t spoken with Chuck Schumer in more than two months. But last night he said six words to him at a White House reception. Politico’s Shane Goldmacher and Burgess Everett report: "As he welcomed more than half the Senate to the White House … he gave a shout to a recognizable Democratic face in the crowd. 'Chuck? I see Chuck,' Trump said. 'Hello, Chuck.' The Trump-Schumer relationship was supposed to have been one of Washington's most intriguing this year. Instead, they've had virtually no relationship at all, with zero one-on-one meetings or even private conversations on the phone since Trump took the oath of office.”
-- Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) demanded information from five top opioid manufacturers, saying she would investigate their alleged role in the drug epidemic responsible for more than 200,000 overdose deaths since 2000. (Lenny Bernstein and Scott Higham)
-- Ann Romney spoke out against Trump’s proposed cuts to the National Institutes of Health. “I will be the first one down lobbying against this,” she told Yahoo’s Bianna Golodryga. “If you don't have that funding, there will be nothing. There'll be no there will be no new treatments. There will be no new drug therapies…progress in medicine will come to a halt. … I'm not sure it would be such a hard sell for me to go to Congress and say do not defund NIH because I'm sure a lot of those people will understand how significant that funding is. But people just need to be educated on it and understand that if we are going to be leading with advancements in science … the NIH is absolutely critical to making that happen.”
THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- The House Intelligence Committee’s Russian investigation was effectively put on hold Tuesday, after chairman Devin Nunes said the panel would refrain from interviewing additional witnesses until two intelligence chiefs return to Capitol Hill for a still-unscheduled private briefing. Karoun Demirjian reports: “Late last week, Nunes canceled an open hearing scheduled for Tuesday that would have featured testimony from former director of national intelligence James Clapper Jr., former CIA director John Brennan, and former acting attorney general Sally Yates. He did so, he said, ‘in order to make time available’ for Comey and [NSA] Director Mike Rogers to brief the panel on ‘additional information’ that came up during an open hearing with the same spy chiefs. … But the closed-door meeting was never scheduled. According to several Democrats on the committee, Nunes also canceled two regular panel meetings this week, without giving them a reason.” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the panel, accused him of employing “stalling tactics." “Sure, our investigation will continue. But as long as Nunes continues to lead it, we won’t have any credibility," he said.
-- Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) told The Post this morning that the Senate should now take the lead on Congress’s Russia investigation. “The House is paralyzed on this thing,” he said. “The Senate is moving forward. I think that’s the only committee that’s going to be able to bring us a report at this point.” The leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee are expected to brief the press on Wednesday afternoon about the status of their investigation. (Karoun Demirjian and Mike DeBonis)
-- And Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) joined a chorus of Democrats in calling for him to recuse himself from his panel's investigation: "How can you be chairman of a major committee and do all these things behind the scenes and keep your credibility? You can't keep your credibility," Jones, an iconoclast who often breaks with leadership, told The Hill. “If anything has shown that we need a commission, this has done it by the way he has acted. That's the only way you can bring integrity to the process. The integrity of the committee looking into this has been tainted."
-- National Review’s David French makes the conservative case for why Nunes needs to step down as chairman: “Just at the time when the nation desperately needs adults to step forward who can give the public confidence that they not only understand the stakes of the Russia investigation, they also can be entrusted to conduct that investigation in good faith, Nunes unnecessarily poured gasoline on an already-raging fire. The American body politic is awash in conspiracy theories, mistrust, and wild claims of espionage and criminality. It needs leaders. It needs competence. It needs integrity. Nunes isn’t Donald Trump’s lawyer. He’s not Trump’s spokesperson. It’s not his job to clean up Trump’s Twitter mess. … Let’s indulge in the simplest exercise in political integrity. If the roles were reversed, what would you argue? If Adam Schiff was the chairman, Hillary Clinton was president, and Schiff was secretly meeting at the White House for solo briefings then presenting that same ‘evidence’ to the press as if he’d discovered it, you’d want him to step down. And you’d be right.”
-- A more blunt version of the same argument from John Kasich’s former chief strategist:
THE BIG GRAY CLOUD:
-- In the years he spent building his real estate brand, Trump, his company, and his partners repeatedly turned to wealthy Russians and oligarchs from former Soviet Republics – several of whom were reportedly connected to organized crime. USA Today's Oren Dorell reports: “The president and his companies have been linked to at least 10 wealthy former Soviet businessmen with alleged ties to criminal organizations or money laundering.” Among them:
- “A member of the firm that developed the Trump SoHo Hotel in New York is a twice-convicted felon who spent a year in prison for stabbing a man and later scouted for Trump investments in Russia.” An investor in the same project was accused by Belgian authorities in 2011 in a $55 million money-laundering scheme.
- “Three owners of Trump condos in Florida and Manhattan were accused in federal indictments of belonging to a Russian-American organized crime group and working for a major international crime boss based in Russia.”
- “A Ukrainian owner of two Trump condos in Florida was indicted in a money-laundering scheme involving a former prime minister of Ukraine.”
- In 2008, Donald Trump Jr. told Russian state media, while in Moscow, that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross section of a lot of our assets.” And New York City real estate broker Dolly Lenz said she sold about 65 “Trump World” condos to Russian investors, many of whom sought meetings with Trump. “They all wanted to meet Donald,” she said. “They became very friendly.”
-- Almost two-thirds of Americans say it is necessary for the FBI to investigate possible links between Russia and the Trump campaign, according to a new poll from CBS News: “Most Democrats and Independents say so, and just over one-third of Republicans do as well. Half of Americans suspect Russia tried to interfere in some way, including a large majority of Democrats (74%) and nearly half of independents (47%). Most Republicans (64%) disagree. Most Republicans (74%) say it is likely that Mr. Trump’s offices were wiretapped during the campaign. Meanwhile, half of independents (49%) say it is likely and most Democrats (74%) do not think it is.” Paul Ryan’s overall approval rating is 33 percent, meanwhile, with 60 percent approval from Republicans.
MORE BAD HEADLINES FOR PAUL MANAFORT:
-- A Cyprus bank investigated accounts associated with the former Trump campaign chairman after the transactions raised red flags of possible money-laundering. NBC News reports: “Manafort — whose ties to a Russian oligarch close to Vladimir Putin are under scrutiny — was associated with at least 15 bank accounts and 10 companies on Cyprus, dating back to 2007 ... At least one of those companies was used to receive millions of dollars from a billionaire Putin ally, according to court documents. Banking sources said some transactions on Manafort-associated accounts raised sufficient concern to trigger an internal investigation at a Cypriot bank into potential money laundering activities. After questions were raised, Manafort closed the accounts." Offshore banking is not illegal, and the island has long been known as a hub for moving money in and out of Russia. A spokesman for Manafort defended his accounts, saying they were set up at behest of clients in Cyprus “for a legitimate business purpose.” "All were legitimate entities and established for lawful ends," the spokesman said.
-- Manafort also spent the past decade engaging in a series of puzzling real estate deals in New York. WNYC reports: “Between 2006 and 2013, Manafort bought three homes in New York City, paying the full amount each time, so there was no mortgage. Then, between April 2015 and January 2017 – a time span that included his service with the Trump campaign – Manafort borrowed about $12 million against those three New York City homes: one in Trump Tower, one in Soho, and one in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Manafort’s New York City transactions follow a pattern: Using shell companies, he purchased the homes in all-cash deals, then transferred the properties into his own name for no money and then took out hefty mortgages against them …. Real estate and law enforcement experts say some of these transactions fit a pattern used in money laundering; together, they raise questions about Manafort’s activities in the New York City property market while he also was consulting for business and political leaders in the former Soviet Union.”
-- With few exceptions, Democrats are feeling no public pressure to work with Trump — and not expecting blame if the health-care system bristles under the new administration. Dave Weigel reports: “Before the failure of the American Health Care Act, the president’s approval rating was underwater in most of the country. Afterward, Democrats are speaking more confidently about resisting the president and being rewarded at the polls. In conversations Tuesday, a dozen Democrats from Trump-voting states and districts generally dismissed the political threats from the White House — which, confusingly, have alternated with rhetoric about the president reaching across the aisle to cut deals.”
- “If people have a sense that he’s not just rooting for failure but creating it, that’s not a good position to be in,” said Sen. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, one of the 10 Senate Democrats up for reelection next year in a state that voted for Trump. “It’ll be clear to people who did the damage.”
- “I’m grateful that their ineptness and incompetence and demagoguery ensured that 900,000 Ohioans still have insurance, 1 million Ohioans still have the expansion of Medicaid, and every Ohioan still has those protections,” said fellow “Trump state” Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.
- “The intensity between the parties really flipped overnight after Nov. 8,” said Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin, one of 13 House Democrats representing a Trump-won district. “There’s a lot of scratching of heads by his supporters. He hasn’t really done a lot to improve people’s lives. I’m not sure how much time they’re going to give him.”
-- DNC Chairman Tom Perez requested resignation letters from all current staffers this week, part of an effort to overhaul the party organization. "What we're trying to do is culture change," he told NBC. "We're repairing a plane at 20,000 feet. You can't land the plane, shut it down, and close it until further notice." Party officials said major staffing and organization changes can be expected in the coming weeks. (NBC)
-- Hillary Clinton, speaking at a diversity conference in San Francisco, made some of her most political comments since the presidential election. CNN reports: “She called Republicans' attempted replacement for the Affordable Care Act ‘a disastrous bill,’ adding that the Trump administration has been ‘met with a wave of resistance’ that indicates the protests against Trump's policies are just getting started. ‘People who had never been active in politics told their stories at town hall meetings.’ Clinton said. ‘They were people who had something to say and were determined to be heard.’ During the question and answer portion of her appearance, she grew incredulous at the GOP health care debate. ‘Really? Take away maternity care?’ Clinton said. ‘Who do these people talk to?’ Clinton also focused on issues like inclusivity and diversity of women in the workplace and the need for the private sector to make better efforts to bring more women to the table.” "Advancing the rights and opportunities of women and girls is the great unfinished business of the 21st century," she said, noting that women's representation in D.C. is "the lowest it's been in a generation."
MEET THE PENCES:
-- Ashley Parker profiles Karen Pence, the vice president’s “prayer warrior,” gut check, and shield: “During the first of [Mike Pence’s] two unsuccessful races for Congress, he rode a single-speed bicycle more than 250 miles around his district, much of it accompanied by his wife, Karen, along for the journey. During their time in the Indiana governor’s mansion, the Pences installed twin treadmills upstairs in their residence. Now, as second lady, Karen … remains an important influence on one of [Trump’s] most important political allies. She sat in on at least one interview as the vice president assembled his staff, accompanied her husband on his first foreign trip and joins him for off-the-record briefings … acting as his gut check and shield. Friends and aides, meanwhile, say she is the Pence family ‘prayer warrior,’ a woman so inextricably bound to her husband that even then-candidate Trump understood her importance and consulted her in critical campaign moments.” “They are in a strong, supportive marriage bound by common faith,” said Peter Rusthoven, a lawyer and longtime friend of the Pences. “I don’t think they make decisions separately.”
- When Trump called to ask Pence to be his running-mate, he asked to speak to Karen personally afterwards -- a practice he would repeat nearly three months later, as he apologized after the release of an Access Hollywood tape that revealed Trump speaking crudely about women.
- Pence has told reporters that he never eats alone with a woman other than his wife, and that he won’t attend events featuring alcohol without her by his side. She is widely cited as a force behind her husband’s socially conservative stances -- including his opposition to gay marriage and the religious freedom law he signed in Indiana.
-- “Amid White House Tumult, Pence Offers Trump a Steady Hand,” by the New York Times’ Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman: “At times, [Mike] Pence can seem jarringly out of place, a clean-cut 1950s Republican cheerfully navigating the chaotic ‘Mad Max’ landscape created by the disruptive duo of Mr. Trump and Mr. Bannon, trying to stay engaged while remaining discernibly aloof from the less-savory aspects of serving in the Trump White House."
- “He has held his capital in reserve, choosing to tread lightly on certain issues … not campaigning aggressively for defunding Planned Parenthood in the renewed health care bill discussions, for instance.
- “Much of the time he simply seemed out of the loop, Mr. Trump’s man-who-knew-too-little sidekick. Mr. Pence’s philosophy, according to several White House staff members, is that he is a team player who has signaled that he needs to know only what Mr. Trump wants him to know. His model, people close to him say, is the laid-back helpmate vice presidency of George Bush under Ronald Reagan.”
STORIES FROM AROUND THE GLOBE:
-- “A sharp rise in the number of civilians reported killed in U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria is spreading panic, deepening mistrust and triggering accusations that the United States and its partners may be acting without sufficient regard for lives of noncombatants," Loveday Morris and Liz Sly report. “In front-line neighborhoods in western Mosul, families described cowering in basements for weeks as bombs rained down around them and the Islamic State battled from their rooftops. Across the border in Raqqa, residents desperately trying to flee before an offensive begins are being blocked by the militants, who frequently use civilians as human shields. Throughout his election campaign, [Trump] pledged to target [ISIS militants] more aggressively, criticizing the U.S. air campaign for being too ‘gentle’ and asking for a reassessment of battlefield rules. The United States has denied there has been any shift … But figures compiled by monitoring organizations and interviews with residents paint an increasingly bloody picture, with the number of casualties in March already surpassing records for a single month."
-- A New York Times photojournalist spent three weeks near the front in Mosul – documenting the terrified civilians trapped in the crossfire: “It is no longer a question of waiting between salvos — there are few, if any, breaks that make it obvious when to run, so the people of Mosul are simply running whenever they can. Families carried their young children and propped up their aging relatives, and they all moved as quickly as they could along streets where the sounds of battle were all too close: a cacophony of gunfire, the dull thud of mortar rounds, the deafening roar of Islamic State car bombs and American airstrikes. Nearly everyone frantically asked which way was safe for them to flee."
-- Afghanistan is planning to double the size of its 17,000-soldier elite special forces unit, moving to bolster existing units amid an onslaught of attacks from Taliban insurgents and other Islamist militants. Recruitment and training efforts are “already underway," but officials caution that it could be several years before they reach the ambitious goal. (Reuters)
-- “As Brexit begins, the British face a Europe with far more at stake,” by Michael Birnbaum and Griff Witte: “In the bitter breakup between Britain and the E.U., Britons on Wednesday will finally file the divorce papers. But the 27 spurned partner nations of Europe may have far more at stake. French leaders are fearful of their country’s insurgent anti-E.U. forces, who will chalk up any British gain from the divorce settlement as a reason to file exit papers of their own. Italian leaders are combating anti-establishment parties who may gang up to hold a Brexit-style referendum. And surging anti-E.U. campaigners elsewhere are eager to press any advantage they see from the negotiations … In the meantime, the two sides will haggle over [details surrounding the exit] … The British are hoping that Europe will go easy on them to soften any hit to fragile economies. But with E.U. unity at stake, Brussels can hardly afford to be kind, leaders say. The outcome may be a jarring wake-up call to British leaders who say that their nation has opted for a latter-day declaration of independence, one that will give the country back its rightful place as one of the world’s eminent powers.”
-- “Three elements of uncertainty hang over May’s upcoming announcement,” The Atlantic’s Linda Kinstler writes: “The first is what, exactly, her letter will say. The prime minister is expected to outline the U.K.’s position … and perhaps elaborate on what kind of relationship she hopes the U.K. and EU will have post-Brexit. But she is unlikely to elaborate [on other issues] ... The second unknown is how the EU will respond to the U.K.’s notification. As member states prepare to meet in April, a sharper portrait of their varied priorities in talks with the U.K. will emerge. “Nothing will be settled in April, but we will get an idea of whether these are going be … really nasty, conflicting negotiations, or whether both sides want to come to a quick agreement,” Portes said. The third question is whether Article 50 is setting the U.K. on an irrevocable path toward leaving the EU, or whether it is reversible.”
-- The Scottish Parliament voted in favor of holding a second independence referendum, setting the stage for a clash between the Scottish first minister and British Prime Minister Theresa May over scheduling such a vote. (Karla Adam)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
-- Irony alert: “Ivanka Trump Promotes ‘Hidden Figures’ As Her Dad Tries To Slash NASA Education Funding,” by HuffPost’s Amanda Terkel: “Ivanka Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos held an event at the National Air and Space Museum Tuesday, promoting the administration’s support for young women in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. They even appeared with astronaut Kay Hire and showed the movie ‘Hidden Figures,’ a story about the achievements of African-American women at NASA...If Trump gets his way, his budget will eliminate the $115 million NASA Office of Education. The popular NASA initiative provides internships, enrichment programs, camps and scholarships for young scientists, and tries to get more underrepresented communities into STEM.”
The White House director of social media confirmed that Trump has a new iPhone, replacing his Android:
From the reception that the Trumps hosted for senators last night:
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) was particularly impressed by the size of the musical instruments:
A CNN reporter made this observation about one of Trump's comments:
On CNN, Trump surrogate Kayleigh McEnany falsely accused President Obama of going golfing after Wall Street Journal Daniel Pearl was killed by terrorists in 2002.
There was soon a hashtag called #ObamaWasGolfingWhen:
Walt Disney World’s Hall of Presidents is getting a new addition:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- Buzzfeed, “Pro-Trump Media Has A New Obsession: The White House Briefing Room,” by Charlie Warzel: “Following [Sean Spicer’s] pledge to establish a White House press corps with voices ‘outside of Washington,’ a number of unabashedly Trump-friendly news outlets have made the pilgrimage to the West Wing briefing room — the symbolic heart of the establishment. Their goal: to bring their anti-elite, pro-Trump, and occasionally trollish brand of coverage to the White House. For some of these self-described ‘real news’ outlets and personalities, landing a seat in the White House briefing room is vindication of their often sensational and semi-factual 2016 presidential campaign stories. … [But] for many, there’s a singular benefit worth the trip to Washington alone: the exposure that comes from seeing and being seen on the highest-rated show on daytime TV. ‘The briefing room has become a piece of pop culture for this generation and the people who followed the election every day on TV and are now glued to the day-to-day,’ [said one correspondent]."
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Bill O’Reilly compared a black congresswoman’s hair to a ‘James Brown wig,’” from Amy B Wang: “Fox News host Bill O'Reilly on Tuesday seemed to disparage a senior African American congresswoman because of the lawmaker's appearance — comparing her hair to a ‘James Brown wig.’ In a “Fox & Friends” segment Tuesday morning, O'Reilly replayed a speech Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) had delivered on the House floor the night before. In it, Waters defended those who were critical of [Trump], saying that that criticism arose from a love of country. ‘We have suffered discrimination. We have suffered isolation and undermining,’ Waters said. “But we stand up for America, often times when others … who say they are more patriotic, do not.’ Throughout her speech, O'Reilly's face appeared in a smaller window on the screen, where he was shown smiling, pumping his fist and mouthing silent responses to Waters.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Christian student suspended after challenging Muslim prof’s claim that Jesus wasn’t crucified,” from The College Fix: “A student says he was suspended from Rollins College for challenging his Muslim professor’s anti-Christian assertions, including her claim that Jesus’ crucifixion never took place. Twenty-year-old Marshall Polston, a sophomore at the private, Florida-based four-year college, said that the professor of his Middle Eastern Humanities class also told students that Jesus’ disciples did not believe he was God. Polston, an avid traveler and self-described Christian, has toured the Middle East and is familiar with the Muslim culture. ‘Our university should be a place where free-speech flashes and ideas can be spoken of without punishment or fear of retribution,’ Polston told The College Fix. ‘In my case it was the total opposite. … I came forward with the story because I know so many other students like me suffer under today’s liberal academic elite.’”
At the White House: Trump will spend the morning hosting an opioid and drug abuse listening session before dropping by the Women’s Empowerment Panel.
Pence will join Trump for the drug abuse listening session and Women’s Empowerment panel. Afterwards, he will participate in a swearing-in ceremony for the U.S. Ambassador to Israel, David Friedman.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Sean Spicer lost his cool during a testy exchange with American Urban Radio Networks reporter April Ryan after she said the White House has a Russia issue to deal with. After some back-and-forth, Spicer spotted Ryan shaking her head in disagreement. “Please, stop shaking your head again,” he said. (Aaron Blake)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- D.C. police arrested a suspect in the stabbing death of an artist who was found slain in her Capitol Hill apartment last week. Authorities said there were no signs of forced entry, but do not believe the suspect – a 28-year-old homeless man – knew the victim. They are investigating robbery as a possible motive. (Peter Hermann and Keith L. Alexander)
-- A breezy, but otherwise pleasant spring day – and perhaps the most “normal” forecast we’ve had all season! The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Partly to mostly sunny skies help morning temperatures into and through the 50s, with afternoon highs reaching the mid-60s.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert also zeroed in on Nunes's conflicts and lack of impartiality:
Stephen also joked about "nepotism beneficiary" Jared Kushner's growing portfolio:
And he imagined what it would be like to be Trump's caddy when he goes golfing:
The "Daily Show" took on Trump's proposed budget cuts:
Trump told senators at a reception last night that they will "make a deal on health care" together. "That's such an easy one," he insisted:
A funny moment in the Roosevelt Room:
Watch Dan Balz's 40-minute conversation with DNC chair Tom Perez:
With Trump turning down an invite to throw the opening pitch at Nationals opening day next week, here's a clip of Obama doing it in 2010:
And George W. Bush, who owned the Texas Rangers, threw the first pitch in 2008:
One reason the White House probably didn't want to do it is that he could get booed, like Dick Cheney did at RFK stadium in 2006:
TSA is defending its officer after a mother posted a viral video of the pat-down he gave her son:
A D.C. firefighter rescued a cat from a tree in Northeast:
Al Gore released the trailer for his sequel to "An Inconvenient Truth":