House Speaker Paul Ryan watches President Trump sign House Joint Resolution 41 in the Oval Office on Valentine's Day. (Evan Vucci/AP)

With Breanne Deppisch

THE BIG IDEA: The conventional wisdom when Donald Trump took office was that Paul Ryan would be in the driver’s seat on policymaking. That has turned out to be wrong.

The thinking was that the new president doesn’t care deeply about the particulars of policy, so he would defer to the House speaker — who does — as long as he could get wins.

But the collapse of the Obamacare repeal effort last month left a bad taste in Trump’s mouth, leading him to conclude that he shouldn’t have agreed to focus on health care first, that he shouldn’t have been so hands-off early in the process and that he shouldn’t have outsourced so much of the substance to House leadership.

Trump is trying to learn from his mistakes, and that’s manifesting itself this week in the debate over taxes and health care.

-- The tax reform proposal that the president unveiled yesterday makes clear that he is not content to let Ryan (R-Wis.) take the lead on the issue that has animated him more than any other during his two decades in Congress.

The administration’s framework does not include a border adjustment tax, a signature element of Ryan’s plan that is designed to pay for cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. The speaker’s team warned publicly and privately that cutting the rate to 15 percent is untenable, would blow up the debt and could never pass Congress. Trump embraced it anyway.

The president told the Associated Press last Friday that he would roll out his tax reform plan this Wednesday. Ryan got no heads up. He found out about it in the press.

-- Trump’s desire to put more points on the board during his first 100 days led White House officials to start telling reporters that there might be a vote on the health-care bill this week, as well.

Bypassing Ryan at times, administration officials negotiated directly with members of the Freedom Caucus on a compromise to bring the failed bill back to life. They placated the hard right, and now they’re trying to cajole Ryan to bring along enough moderates to get it through. At a private meeting two weeks ago, Chief of Staff Reince Priebus reportedly told Ryan that his speakership could be in jeopardy if the House failed to revive the health-care plan.

The pressure is suddenly on the speaker, not the president, to persuade potentially vulnerable members to walk the plank for an unpopular bill that’s still going to be dead on arrival in the Senate. Such a vote could also cost some their seats next November. It will be the guys in the Tuesday Group, not the Freedom Caucus, who get swept out in a 2018 wave because they tend to come from more purple districts. Many are balking, but still undecided, about the revised proposal.

A lot of Ryan allies are exasperated by the Trump push to rush a vote before the week is over. There are even rumors of scheduling one for Saturday — to coincide with Trump’s 100th day. (This seems unlikely.) But it was a similar fixation on optics over substance that prompted Trump to demand a now-or-never repeal vote last month that would coincide with the seventh anniversary of the Affordable Care Act being signed into law.

-- This is part of an emerging pattern. Trump has repeatedly set up the speaker to be the fall guy by making unrealistic demands and sticking with infeasible promises. Once again, the burden is falling on Ryan to either make them happen or explain why they didn’t. “We’ll vote on it when we get the votes,” he said yesterday of health care.

Rather than emerging as the unquestioned architect of a new conservative renaissance, Ryan is being forced to play “bad cop” to Trump’s “good cop.” He is The Adult In The Room, bowing to the realities of governing at a time when the neophyte president still seems to believe he can bend government to his will. If Trump is the sugar high, Ryan is the buzzkill.

As Trump practices the politics of brinksmanship, Ryan soothes. With the president hinting that he might shut the government down if he didn’t get money to start construction on his border wall, the speaker convened a conference call over the weekend to assure his members that there wouldn’t be a shutdown. Last week, during the Easter recess, Ryan took a delegation across Europe to reassure jittery allies of the U.S. commitment to NATO.

-- A Pew poll released last week pegged Ryan’s approval rating at 29 percent nationally. The reason that his standing is lower than Newt Gingrich, Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner at comparable points in their speakerships is that 3 in 10 members of his own party give him negative marks. That’s spiked since the health-care bill didn’t pass last month.

-- Trump friends in the conservative media deserve a big share of the blame for Ryan’s rising negatives among Republicans:

Breitbart, formerly led by White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, has continued to be a thorn in his side. The all-caps headline on one of the site’s top stories Tuesday blared, “Ryan’s Approval Rating Plummets as He Fails to Deliver for President Trump.”

Matt Drudge, who still wields immense power as a gatekeeper and curator of the news that many conservatives see, has been a Ryan detractor on his web site. "Congress hanging The Donald out to dry,” he tweeted in late January. “Making him do everything alone! Despicable. No tax cuts, no Obamacare repeal. NOTHING.” Last month, Drudge accused congressional Republicans of lying about wanting tax cuts. “Can we get our votes back?” Then yesterday he tweeted this:

The shake-up at Fox News is also potentially problematic for Ryan: Eric Bolling, who is as big a Trump cheerleader as Sean Hannity, is getting his very own show at 5 p.m. starting next week, as “The Five” moves into the 9 p.m. hour. During Trump's transition, Bolling was reportedly in the mix for a top job at the Commerce Department. Most importantly, though, he’s been an on-air critic of PDR. He blamed the failure of the AHCA last month on the speaker, whom he named as one leader of “the establishment, old-school Republicans in D.C.” As Callum Borchers reported, Bolling then insisted that the failure of the bill — which the president aggressively pushed for — was actually “a win for Donald Trump” by the nature of being a loss for the establishment. Bolling is coming out in June with a book called, “The Swamp: Washington's Murky Pool of Corruption and Cronyism and How Trump Can Drain It.”

And don’t forget that time Trump urged his followers to tune into a Fox News show hours before the host called on Ryan to resign: 

-- Ironically, Ryan’s standing has become more closely tied to Trump’s than ever. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Craig Gilbert observed recently that, for the first time, Trump is more popular than Ryan with Republican voters in the speaker’s home state: “That’s a mammoth change from a year ago, when Trump lagged far behind Ryan with GOP voters in Wisconsin. The polling shows that Ryan’s popularity with Republicans back home has shifted as his relationship with Trump has evolved.”

-- This shines a light on why Ryan doesn’t more forcefully push back on Trump. Publicly, he always tries to downplay their differences. “We see this as a good thing,” he said during a press conference yesterday when asked about Trump’s tax proposal. “We’ve been briefed on what they’re going to do, and it’s basically along exactly the same lines that we want to go. Progress is being made and we're moving and getting on the same page.” In a joint statement with Mitch McConnell and two committee chairmen, Ryan said the principles released by the administration will serve as “critical guideposts.”

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A U.S. Army helicopter crewman manned a gun as James Mattis departed Kabul on Monday. (Jonathan Ernst/Pool Photo via AP)

-- Two U.S. service members were killed during operations against the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan, the Pentagon said. From Missy Ryan and Thomas Gibbons-Neff: Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said the deaths occurred in Afghanistan’s Nangahar province, where a small but virulent Islamic State cell poses a threat for Afghan and U.S. coalition forces. It was the third time this year that a member of the U.S. military has died in combat in Afghanistan.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), leaders of the House Oversight Committee, speak to the press. (Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA)

-- The Pentagon’s top watchdog has launched an investigation into money that former national security adviser and retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn received from foreign groups, members of the House Oversight Committee announced this morning. From Dan Lamothe: “The Pentagon office will try to determine whether Flynn ‘failed to obtain required approval prior to receiving’ the payments, according to an April 11 letter from Defense Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the committee chairman. In the past, the Pentagon has advised retiring officers that because they can be recalled to military service, they may be subject to the Constitution’s rarely enforced emoluments clause, which prohibits top officials from receiving payments or favors from foreign governments. Flynn received $45,000 to appear in 2015 with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a gala dinner for RT, a Kremlin-controlled media organization. He also worked as a foreign agent representing Turkish interests for a Netherlands-based company, which paid his company, Flynn Intel Group, $530,000 last fall.” 

-- House Republicans introduced a stopgap spending bill late last night to allow negotiations on a spending agreement to continue through May 5 without the threat of a government shutdown. From Kelsey Snell: “The short-term spending measure, which would extend current funding levels beyond the end of this week, comes as negotiators are nearing an agreement on a budget to increase military spending and border security and keep the government open through the end of September. The decision to begin work on a short extension is no surprise: The final steps of a spending deal could drag on beyond the current April 28 deadline, and congressional leaders are eager to minimize the threat of a shutdown.”

Asian community organizations from Chicago protest after a passenger was dragged off a United Airlines flight. (Chris Sweda/AP)

-- United Airlines released a new report this morning admitting that several mistakes were made during the now-viral “dragging incident” that left a passenger with a concussion, broken nose and two missing teeth. Lori Aratani reports: “The airline says it had allowed internal policies to distract from the need to treat passengers with dignity and respect and it outlines what the company intends to do to prevent a repeat of the incident. The report lays out five ways in which United says it failed both its passengers and employees. In addition to unnecessarily summoning law enforcement, the airline should not have tried to find space on the flight for crew members at the last minute. It also should have offered more compensation or more transportation options in order to entice customers to give up their seats voluntarily, but it acknowledged that agents did not have the authority to make such decisions. Finally, the report said the airline has not provide regular training for employees on how to deal with ‘denied boarding situations.’"

-- Meanwhile, the airline is in the spotlight again after a beloved 10-month-old rabbit named Simon  on track to possibly shatter records for his extremely large size  was found dead after traveling on United from Britain to Chicago. He had been declared “in good condition” and fit for travel on the day he left. (Amy B Wang)

Atlanta Hawks forward Kent Bazemore fouls Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat during the second half of last night's game at the Verizon Center. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

-- The Wizards’ defense delivered in crucial moments down the stretch, and Washington defeated the Atlanta Hawks, 103-99, for a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven playoff series. (Candace Buckner)


  1. A group of paleontologists published a new report claiming that humans reached North America more than 100,000 YEARS earlier than previously believed. But the study — which relies on broken mastodon fossils and several large stones uncovered in California — has sparked controversy in the scientific community. (Sarah Kaplan)
  2. China, with a goal of one day surpassing the United States as the ultimate superpower, launched its first aircraft carrier built entirely on its own, a  demonstration of the growing technical sophistication of its defense industries and determination to safeguard its maritime territorial claims. The 50,000-ton carrier will replace a Soviet-built predecessor. (AP)
  3. An advocacy group concerned about increasingly restrictive laws in the United States has launched a website to help women self-induce abortions at home offering advice and counseling about how to use medications that will terminate their pregnancies. The Netherlands-based site operates in a number of different countries but chose to launch here because of concerns about the “current political climate." (Sandhya Somashekhar)
  4. Former congresswoman Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) will take the stand to testify in her federal corruption trial, her attorney said yesterday in his opening statement. If convicted on all charges, she could face a combined total sentence of up to 357 years in prison. (WJXT)
  5. Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, infamous for refusing to remove a 10 Commandments statue and uphold gay marriages, announced that he is resigning from the court to run for the U.S. Senate. "I share the vision of President Donald Trump to make America great again," Moore said. He'll face former state Attorney General Luther Strange, whom then-Gov. Bob Bentley appointed to fill Jeff Sessions's seat shortly before resigning in disgrace to avoid impeachment. (Birmingham News)
  6. ESPN laid off 100 on-air personalities and writers, cutting a number of its most familiar faces as the company shifts its focus toward digital media. The cuts include former NFL quarterback and analyst Trent Dilfer, NFL reporter Ed Werder, senior baseball writer Jayson Stark and host Jay Crawford. (CNN)
  7. The Turkish government deported foreigners working with Syrian refugees at a U.S.-based aid organization this week, the latest move in what appears to be an ongoing crackdown on international humanitarian groups in the country. (Karen DeYoung and Kareem Fahim)
  8. Pope Francis is slated to arrive in Egypt Friday for a two-day visit, courageously moving forward with his travel plans despite growing acts of violence against the minority-Christian community — and less than a month after ISIS carried out two Palm Sunday bombings at churches in the area. (Sudarsan Raghavan)
  9. Venezuela announced it is quitting the Organization of American States, the hemisphere’s oldest regional alliance, amid growing criticism from member states of the country’s slide toward authoritarian rule. (Mariana Zuñiga and Nick Miroff)
  10. Ann Coulter’s planned speech at Berkeley this week was canceled, again, amid mounting concerns about potentially violent protests. The conservative firebrand said she received an email from the College Republican chapter telling her not to come to campus. (Susan Svrluga, William Wan and Elizabeth Dwoskin)
  11. Meanwhile, conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos  whose speech was also canceled at the university earlier this year said he plans to occupy Berkeley’s campus in the fall to host a week-long free speech rally. He also blamed the series of recent cancelations on liberals, saying both his and Coulter’s appearances were shuttered “because the left knows it’s losing.” (William Wan)
  12. The grieving mother of an 11-month-old girl who was hanged on a Facebook Live broadcast in Thailand this week has spoken out after her daughter’s tragic murder. She said she does not have ill feelings towards the social media giant, even though the video was left up for nearly an entire day. (Facebook blames the time difference between Thailand and San Francisco.) (Kristine Phillips and Lindsey Bever)
  13. An elementary school principal at a predominantly black school in Florida has requested to be reassigned after she came under fire for instructing teachers to group their white students into the same classroom. She has since apologized. Her remarks remain under investigation. (Lindsey Bever)
  14. Starbucks announced it is opening an upscale four-story “Roastery” in Chicago. Plans for the sprawling 43,000-foot store are slated to mirror an existing location in Seattle – currently the only one of its kind – and feature cold-brew coffee “flights,” an entire menu dedicated to affagatos, and Roastery-specific items such as the “Nitro Cold Brew Float,” poured over ice cream. (Business Insider)
  15. The San Antonio mayor says that the root cause of systemic poverty in her community is a “lack of faith in God.” Critics say this is insensitive in two ways — blaming poverty on the poor and asserting that nonreligious people are the root of society’s ills. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Tex.) is now leading the House probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election after Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) recused himself. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)


-- After a rocky start, the House Intelligence Committee is plowing full steam ahead under new leadership, a new witness list and new plans for hearings. Karoun Demirjian reports: “Republicans and Democrats on the committee have agreed on a witness list that is dozens of names long and includes campaign and transition team surrogates of President Trump who volunteered to be interviewed, according to two panel Democrats. The volunteers who have come forward include [Paul Manafort and former campaign advisers] Carter Page and Roger Stone, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Members have also overcome bitter discord that threatened to undermine the committee probe under the tenure of Rep. Devin Nunes … who handed over leadership of the investigation to Rep. K. Michael Conaway earlier this month. Democrats on the committee are singing the praises of the conservative Conaway as ‘very fair-minded’ and ‘very cooperative,’ with one — Rep. Mike Quigley — even noting he had ‘nothing negative at all’ to say about him. But the bipartisan zeal is hitting a few snags with their Senate colleagues, as lawmakers try to iron out who will get the first crack at key witnesses, including former director of national intelligence James Clapper and former acting attorney general Sally Yates."


-- President Trump told the leaders of Canada and Mexico last night that the United States would not be pulling out of the North American Free Trade Agreement “at this time,” opening the door to future negotiations on the same day that Trump was considering signaling a strong intent to withdraw as a potential way of bringing the parties together at the deal-making table. Damian Paletta and Todd C. Frankel report that Trump spoke with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the late afternoon after reports circulated during the day that the president was contemplating withdrawing from NAFTA.

-- News that Trump was weighing withdrawing from NAFTA drew sharp criticism from several Republican leaders, including Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain. “Scrapping NAFTA would be a disastrously bad idea,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said in a statement. “It would hurt American families at the checkout, and it would cripple American producers in the field and the office.  Yes, there are places where our agreements could be modernized but here's the bottom line: trade lowers prices for American consumers and it expands markets for American goods. Risking trade wars is reckless, not wise.”

-- Earlier, three people familiar with the matter said Trump is seriously considering signing a document within days that would signal his intent to withdraw the United States from the agreement within six months: “If signed, the letter would begin a formal process that could see the United States exit the 23-year-old trade pact with Canada and Mexico, ratcheting up tensions among neighboring nations," per Damian and Todd. "Signing the document does not require Trump to withdraw from NAFTA after six months, but it is a required step if he plans to eventually do so. The White House is expected to soon take a separate step by signing a letter to Congress that would notify lawmakers of the administration’s intention to renegotiate NAFTA. By taking both steps, the White House would give itself more flexibility to choose a different outcome in several months.” 

-- “Trump has set out to protect workers and businesses that make their living in the great American forest. But the immediate beneficiaries are probably going to be lawyers and lobbyists who inhabit the Washington swamp,” Charles Lane writes about Trump renewing the softwood-labor dispute. “Fighting Canadian lumber ‘dumping’ is the raison d’être of the U.S. Lumber Coalition, founded in 1985 and headquartered — where else? — on K Street. Meanwhile, Canada’s wood products industry has its own Washington legal representatives, retained to draft contentious memorandums for the bureaucrats who adjudicate such matters at the Commerce Department. The average American’s stake in all of this — or the average Canadian’s, for that matter — is considerably less clear than the Trump administration’s rhetoric would imply. … The best thing for the public, in both countries, would be to use market mechanisms to allocate timber resources to the maximum extent feasible, then allow free cross-border trade in lumber as in (almost) everything else. May the most efficient producer win!”

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai speaks yesterday at the Newseum. (Eric Thayer/Getty Images)


-- The head of the FCC revealed a plan to undo net neutrality regulations – setting up another dramatic showdown between the Trump administration and the technology world. Brian Fung reports: “The proposal from FCC Chairman Ajit Pai marks the first step toward undoing a key decision of the Obama era, one that forced Internet providers to behave more like legacy telephone companies. The stricter rules for ISPs had made it illegal to block or slow down websites for consumers — and they paved the road for other policies, such as one governing online privacy, which was overturned in a separate controversial move by Congress and [Trump] earlier this year.” In a speech Wednesday, Pai said his predecessor’s net neutrality rules were “all about politics.” “Two years ago, I warned that we were making a serious mistake,” Pai said. “It’s basic economics: The more heavily you regulate something, the less of it you’re likely to get.” Still, his attempt to reverse the Obama-era regulation rekindles a high-stakes debate over the future of the web.

-- Trump’s FCC chairman wants to hand the Internet over to big corporations" is the title of an op-ed in today's paper by Tom Wheeler, Obama’s FCC chairman from 2013 until January, written with Sens. Ron Wyden and Al Franken.

President Trump speaks to White House Senior Adviser/son-in-law Jared Kushner in the Oval Office last Friday. (Andrew Harnik/AP)


-- New York Times A1, “Bribe Cases, a Jared Kushner Partner and Potential Conflicts,” by Jesse Drucker: “It was the summer of 2012, and Jared Kushner was headed downtown. His family’s real estate firm, the Kushner Companies, would spend about $190 million over the next few months on dozens of apartment buildings in tony Lower Manhattan neighborhoods … For much of the roughly $50 million in down payments, Mr. Kushner turned to an undisclosed overseas partner. Public records and shell companies shield the investor’s identity. But, it turns out, the money came from a member of Israel’s Steinmetz family, which built a fortune as one of the world’s leading diamond traders. A Kushner Companies spokeswoman and several Steinmetz representatives say Raz Steinmetz, 53, was behind the deals…

“His uncle, and the family’s most prominent figure, is the billionaire Beny Steinmetz, who is under scrutiny by law enforcement authorities in four countries. In the United States, federal prosecutors are investigating whether representatives of his firm bribed government officials in Guinea to secure a multibillion dollar mining concession. In Israel, Mr. Steinmetz was detained in December and questioned in a bribery and money laundering investigation. In Switzerland and Guinea, prosecutors have conducted similar inquiries. The Steinmetz partnership with Mr. Kushner underscores the mystery behind his family’s multibillion-dollar business and its potential for conflicts with his role as perhaps the second-most powerful man in the White House.”

-- White House officials said Ivanka Trump helped “inspire” an idea under consideration at the World Bank to invest in women-owned businesses internationally, but they insisted she would have no role in fundraising or deciding where the money would go. David A. Fahrenthold reports: “That account, on an afternoon conference call for reporters, was markedly different from the first report on the fund in the online news site Axios on Wednesday morning, [which reported] that Ivanka ‘has begun building a massive fund that will benefit female entrepreneurs around the globe.’ Axios's original report seemed to imply that the fund was Ivanka’s idea and that she might be poised to lead its fundraising and its investments. That report raised legal and ethical questions because Trump is a formal White House staffer. … By rule, experts said, she would be prohibited from using her official position to solicit money for a new nonprofit set up to help women, or a for-profit investment fund.”


-- An influential group of House conservatives threw its weight behind a new GOP plan to revise the Affordable Care Act Wednesday, shifting political pressure onto moderate Republicans to determine the fate of the effort. Elise Viebeck, David Weigel and Sean Sullivan report: “The House Freedom Caucus said the amendment negotiated by its chairman, Rep. Mark Meadows, along with moderate Rep. Tom MacArthur, would drive down health-care costs by allowing states to opt out of certain rules under Obamacare. ‘While the revised version still does not fully repeal Obamacare, we are prepared to support it to keep our promise to the American people to lower health-care costs,’ the Freedom Caucus said Wednesday … The decision came as three conservative advocacy groups — the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and Heritage Action for America — also declared support for the plan, adding to its momentum. Attention now shifts to the moderate Tuesday Group, some of whose members will need to support the MacArthur amendment for it to pass…

“Republican leadership can afford to lose only about 20 votes if most of the Freedom Caucus backs the measure. As of Wednesday afternoon, roughly 30 Republicans who are not members of the Freedom Caucus were either opposed or undecided. [Rep. Charlie] Dent, co-chair of the Tuesday Group, said most of the moderates who opposed the original GOP bill were not privy to MacArthur’s negotiation and would vote ‘no’ on his amendment. He accused the Freedom Caucus, which thwarted Republicans’ first attempt to overhaul the health-care system under Trump, of trying to shirk responsibility for the effort. ‘It’s an exercise in blame-shifting,’ Dent said.”

-- But, but, but: The revised House health care plan is unlikely to be more popular with voters than the last one. Large majorities oppose the ideas at the heart of the most recent GOP negotiations to forge a plan that could pass in the House, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. “These would allow states to choose whether to keep the ACA’s insurance protection for people with preexisting medical problems and its guarantee of specific health benefits,” Amy Goldstein and Scott Clement explain. “Public sentiment is particularly lopsided in favor of an aspect of the current health-care law that blocks insurers from charging more or denying coverage to customers with medical conditions. About 8 in 10 Democrats, 7 in 10 independents and even a slight majority of Republicans say that should continue to be a national mandate, rather than an option for states to retain or drop.”

Our poll is the first that has measured public attitudes toward the possibility of giving states control over insurance rules covering preexisting medical conditions and many plans’ mandated benefits:

More broadly, The Post-ABC poll shows that, beyond the criticism of GOP proposals for devolving health policy to the states, many Americans are leery about a major overhaul to Obamacare:

-- Hypocrisy watch: “Now that House Republicans are officially refusing to fund extra Obamacare subsidies, they’re looking to the Trump administration to make the payments — despite having sued the Obama administration for doing just that,” Paige Winfield Cunningham reports. “Ryan confirmed Wednesday morning that funding for the subsidies, which insurers say are necessary to tamp marketplace premiums down, won’t be included in a government funding bill that lawmakers are trying to pass this week. ‘Obviously, we’re not doing that,’ Ryan said. ‘That’s not in an appropriation bill. That’s something separate that the administration does.’ House Republicans, however, spent the previous few years suing the Obama administration for giving insurers the subsidies without consent from Congress … Their lawsuit, which has been upheld by a federal-district court, argues that the administration was overstepping its authority in making the payments, as they didn’t have a permanent appropriation within the health-care law. That now puts them in an awkward position.”

The White House notified lawmakers yesterday that Trump has abandoned a threat to end the payments, a concession to Democrats to clear the way for a bipartisan budget agreement. The subsidies, called cost-sharing reductions, are an important part of the law. They are available to the lowest-income enrollees in the law’s insurance marketplaces — those earning 100 to 250 percent of the federal poverty level — to help them afford extra costs beyond their monthly premium, like co-payments and deductibles.


-- The president’s team offered few key details on how he would accomplish the effort. Damian Paletta reports: “The one-page outline pinpointed numerous changes he wants to make – among them, replacing the seven income tax brackets with three new ones, cutting the corporate tax rate by more than 50 percent, abolishing the alternative-minimum tax and estate tax, and creating new incentives to simplify filing returns. But the White House stopped short of answering key questions that could decide the plan’s fate. For example, Trump administration officials didn’t address how much the plan would reduce federal revenue or grow the debt. They also didn’t specify what income levels would trigger inclusion in each of the three new tax brackets. The goal, White House officials said, was to cut taxes so much and so fast that it led to immediate economic growth, creating more jobs and producing trillions of dollars in new revenue and wealth over the next decade…

“Despite its brevity … the document marked the most pointed blueprint Trump has presented Congress on any matter. [Now], the plan must navigate a legislative and political gauntlet on Capitol Hill that has killed numerous other efforts to rework the tax code.” And business groups were already squaring off: The National Association of Realtors called the proposal a ‘non-starter,’ alleging that it would remove tax incentives for people to buy homes because of changes it would make to certain tax deductions. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, by contrast, issued a statement saying the plan would ‘help drive job creation, investment, and economic growth.’”

-- Trump is promising to do what Reagan and both Bushes couldn’t. Max Ehrenfreund analyzes the proposal: “His advisers say that the plan will pay for itself. But in the experience of two other Republican presidents, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, tax cuts produced an uneven record on prompting economic growth. And in both instances, reductions in taxes failed to pay for themselves and, instead, left the nation to deal with increasing federal debt. After his 1981 tax cut, Reagan was forced to raise taxes several times. And Bush’s tax cuts put the nation on vulnerable fiscal footing, depriving the government of revenue as the United States waged two wars and faced a financial crisis. Ultimately, Congress and [Obama], after several standoffs over federal finances, hiked taxes by billions of dollars and imposed strict limits on government spending. [Now], economists fear it will happen again. ‘This is definitely not in pays-for-itself territory,’ Alan Cole, an economist at the conservative Tax Foundation, said of Trump’s plan.”

-- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin admitted that Trump “has no intention” of actually releasing his tax returns, despite repeatedly promising the American people he would do so. “The president has released plenty of information, and I think has given more financial disclosure than anybody else,” he told reporters in a news conference Wednesday (this is totally untrue). “I think the American population has plenty of information.” (Philip Rucker)

-- Without Trump’s returns, we cannot know exactly how much he’d benefit from his proposal. But there is no doubt that the plan would slash taxes on hundreds of Trump-owned real estate, licensing and other companies, many of which qualify as pass-through businesses. Drew Harwell and Jonathan O'Connell report: “A copy of Trump’s tax return from 2005 suggests that a tax cut similar to the one Trump is proposing could have lowered his tax obligation by potentially tens of millions of dollars in a single year. The White House said it would create rules to prevent wealthy individuals and corporations from taking advantage of the low pass-through rate. But because they did not provide details, it’s difficult to know how those rules would apply to the Trump companies. ‘Trump is the king of pass-throughs,’ said Steven M. Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. ‘He has pass-through businesses everywhere. This is a very large issue.’”

-- House Democrats plan to force a floor fight with Republicans today over legislation that would require Trump to disclose information about his personal taxes, business holdings, ethics waivers, and visitors to the White House and his vacation properties. Ed O’Keefe reports: “Responding to the deep opposition to Trump, Democrats for the first time will use the legislative process to try tying congressional Republicans to Trump’s decisions to withhold information about his personal wealth, business dealings with the federal government and visitors to the White House and Mar-a-Lago … During debate and votes on unrelated legislation, aides said Democratic lawmakers plan to use procedural gimmicks to try forcing a vote on a bill by Rep. Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass.), who represents suburban Boston. Given their control of the chamber, Republicans are likely to step in and either block consideration of the legislation or hold a vote that outright rejects it. Then, Democrats could begin attacking vulnerable GOP incumbents as supportive of Trump … The bill also would force Mnuchin to provide the House Ways and Means Committee with copies of Trump’s tax returns from 2007 through 2016 that would be reviewed in a closed executive session.”

-- Most top House Republicans privately say Trump’s tax framework is fundamentally unserious. Many also see it as disruptive to their own process, which they’ve been thinking about and working on for years. "It's not tax reform. Not even close,” a senior GOP aide told CNN last night. “It's really easy to talk about big cuts. We're about solutions. They aren't to that point yet, either on the policy or on the personnel level, and it's both obvious and disruptive to the process."

-- During a panel discussion with other experts last week, which aired on C-SPAN 2 but got little pick-up in the mainstream press, one of Ryan’s top aides called the idea of enacting a temporary business tax cut through the reconciliation process a “magic unicorn running around.”

"Not only can that not pass Congress, it cannot even begin to move through Congress,” George Callas, Ryan's senior tax counsel, said at the Institute of International Finance event. “A plan of business tax cuts that has no offsets, to use some very esoteric language, is not a thing. It’s not a real thing! And people can come up with whatever plans they want. Not only can that not pass Congress, it cannot even begin to move through Congress. … And there are political reasons for that. Number one, members wouldn’t vote for it. But there are also procedural, statutory and legal reasons why that can’t happen.”

Callas spoke candidly about the problems of trying to pass tax reform with only 51 votes in the Senate, as opposed to 60 votes. To do permanent reform, under the rules, the measure cannot increase the deficit after a decade. “A corporate rate cut that is sunset after three years will increase the deficit in the second decade. We know this. Not 10 years. Three years. You could not do a straight-up, un-offset, three-year corporate rate cut in reconciliation. The rules prohibit it. You might be able to do two years. A two-year corporate rate cut … would have virtually no economic effect. It would not alter business decisions. It would not cause anyone to build a factory. It would not stop any inversions or acquisitions of U.S. companies by foreign companies. It would just be dropping cash out of helicopters onto corporate headquarters.


-- Switching gears on one of his loudest campaign promises – building a "big, beautiful" border wall – may cost Trump among some of his most ardent supporters. Jenna Johnson and Sean Sullivan report: “In his bumpy first three months in office, Trump has reversed himself on campaign promises now seen as impractical or unnecessary … But Trump’s promise to build an ‘impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful southern border wall’ paid for by Mexico was special. It was his most vivid campaign promise, and its proposed height grew with every obstacle thrown in Trump’s way, from naysayers saying it wasn’t possible to the Mexican government saying it wouldn’t foot the bill. Failing to quickly follow through on a wall carries real political risks for Trump, whose success is due in large part to his embrace of hard-line positions on immigration. There is also peril for fellow Republicans — who have been split for years on how the U.S. should reform its immigration system — in not taking the idea of the wall seriously enough.

“Mark Krikorian, [the longtime director of the Center for Immigration Studies], said that he has never considered a border wall a top priority. But now that the wall has taken on a life of its own, Krikorian said that Trump and Republicans have to make some sort of progress in securing a chunk of the border with a wall or heavy-duty fence — or else blow the opportunity to show Americans the party is ready to take action to crack down on illegal immigration.” “Following through on wall construction is one of the ways that the political class can win back trust on this topic,” Krikorian said. “It’s a tangible thing. You can take pictures of it and imagine it in your head.” He added: “Even if the border wall did no good at all to control immigration, it would be important to build … Even if it did nothing, even if it was completely ineffective, it’s important politically.”

-- As Trump’s border wall initiative appears to be on shaky ground in Washington, it could encounter the same problem – literally – on the rocky, shifty terrain where it’s slated to be built. Scientists say the 2,000-mile fence would have to weather a number of unique environmental conditions – among them, waterways, prone to flash floods, that would hurtle boulders at the wall, as well as fault lines that could jerk at any time and bring down massive sections of stone or steel. (Darryl Fears)

-- DHS secretary John Kelly unveiled a new effort to aid victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, catapulting the White House into another pitched battle over whether Trump is deploying federal resources to “demonize” illegal immigrants in the U.S. Maria Sacchetti reports: “Kelly said the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement Office, or VOICE, will provide custody status, release dates and other information to victims, witnesses and their representatives. He said there is ‘nothing but goodness’ in his intentions — a claim immigrant advocates disputed."


-- Trump told the Washington Examiner in an interview that he has “absolutely” considered proposals that would split up the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where judges have blocked two of his executive actions temporarily suspending travel from several Muslim-majority countries. “Absolutely, I have," Trump told Sarah Westwood. "There are many people that want to break up the 9th Circuit. It's outrageous." His comments came one day after U.S. District Judge William Orrick temporarily blocked Trump's efforts to withhold funds from any municipality that refuses to cooperate with immigration enforcement officers. The case, if appealed, would go before the 9th Circuit.

-- Chief Justice John Roberts said he has grave fears about “prosecutorial abuse” that could cause the executive branch to revoke an immigrant’s citizenship for any reason. Alongside other justices, he expressed hesitancy during oral arguments to give the administration unfettered power to strip a naturalized immigrant of citizenship if it turned out they were not fully forthcoming during the application process. Robert Barnes reports: “The case involved a Bosnian native, Divna Maslenjak, who was criminally prosecuted for lying on her application about her husband’s military service. She was deported by the Obama administration, which held the broad view that any misrepresentation — whether relevant or not — was enough to give the government the right to consider revocation. ‘It is troublesome to give that extraordinary power, which, essentially, is unlimited power, at least in most cases, to the government,’ Roberts said. Because it would be easy in almost all cases to find some falsehood, the chief justice said, ‘the government will have the opportunity to denaturalize anyone they want.’”


-- “The rise and fall — or maybe rebirth? — of the White House correspondents’ dinner,” by Amy Argetsinger: “When Washington’s signature social event kicks off this weekend, Wolf Blitzer will not be dining with Ashton Kutcher. The stars of ‘SNL’ will not lean in for selfies with Chuck Schumer. A professional comedian will entertain, but his name might not ring a bell. And — perhaps you’ve heard? — for the first time in 36 years, the president of the United States will not attend. After more than a decade of celebrity glitz and lavishly underwritten partying, Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner is shaping up to be a slimmed-down, more sober, slightly dowdier affair. And for some longtime attendees — that’s just fine. Maybe even a relief. ‘Last year, I was at a table with Kendall Jenner, and this year I’m at a table with Madeleine Albright,’ [said USA Today’s Susan Page]. Both of whom, she hastened to add, are delightful guests. The lack of celebrity frisson isn’t necessarily a bad thing, she said. ‘In a way it refocuses the dinner … on the role we want the press to play in a democracy.’”

-- The Hollywood Reporter, “Samantha Bee Interviewed by Lena Dunham on Trump, Trolls and Comedy's Fraught New Normal”: “Now in its second season, Bee's show reaches 4.3 million viewers an episode, and its host, a Canadian who became an American citizen in 2014, has emerged as one of Trump's most insightful critics (‘The president's entire staff appears to treat him like a dangerously strong show chimp that you have to bribe with Diet Pepsi so he won't tear your face off’). Her research-dense yet profanity-laced monologues — she calls it ‘evidence-based comedy’ — have become viral hits and even occasionally manage to shame political hacks into doing the right thing. (A segment about the backlog of rape kits in Georgia led to the passage of a bill requiring DNA testing on all rape kits.) She sees the Correspondents' Dinner special … as a celebration of the First Amendment. (It's also a fundraiser for the Committee to Protect Journalists or, as Trump calls them, the ‘enemy of the American people!’) ‘We're not revealing that Vladimir Putin is going to be there,’ she teases, demurring on show details. But Bee's wit belies the challenge of political comedy in an unpredictable moment: ‘Every time I turn my phone off, something terrible happens in the world,' she tells Dunham. ‘It's insane.'"

Donald Trump had Newt Gingrich campaign with him as a tryout for vice presidnet. Here they share the stage during a rally in Cincinnati last July. (John Minchillo/AP)


-- “How Newt Gingrich became the go-to interview for every story about the Trump White House,” by Ben Terris: “Donald Trump is everything to Newt Gingrich. He’s ‘the grizzly bear in ‘The Revenant,’’ … a ‘pirate’ willing to get things done outside the system … and a shrewd businessman who ‘likes to invest in winners because they make more money.’’ ...  Trump is also — perhaps most importantly to a man who has not held elected office since 1999 but who still wants to be in the mix — the reason Gingrich’s phone keeps ringing off the hook, and why his speaking fees have gone through the roof. In a time when everyone is trying to figure out what’s going on in the mind and administration of our president, Gingrich has become one of the hottest dial-a-quotes around. He’s dished on palace intrigue in the pages of the Times, discussed Trump’s 2020 reelection chances with George Stephanopoulos and talked presidential television habits with The Post. “[Trump] is very attuned to the fact that cable networks have 24 hours a day that they need to fill,” he told The Post. “And if you’re interesting, you are gold.”

National Front candidate Marine Le Pen visits the Whirlpool plant in Amiens, in northern France, yesterday. She's the underdog going into the May 7 runoff. (Christophe Petit Tesson/EPA)


-- “With a tense battle for the future of France underway ahead of a presidential runoff election next month, the far-right insurgent Marine Le Pen is pulling a page from the same improbable victory playbook as [Trump]: encouraging her opponents to stay home.” Michael Birnbaum reports: “Opinion polls suggest that Le Pen’s opponent, centrist newcomer Emmanuel Macron, holds a commanding lead … less because French voters believe in him than because they are frightened by Le Pen’s National Front, which has long been dogged by charges of anti-Semitism and Nazi sympathies.  But in a year when voters are storming the establishment bastions around the world, many mainstream French politicians are warning that Macron’s campaign is dangerously complacent. Despite polls that show Macron sweeping up more than 60 percent of the vote, several post-election missteps have kept the door open to a Le Pen upset, analysts say … Now Le Pen’s victory chances depend on disillusioned left-wing voters staying home, holding down the total voting pool enough for her to top 50 percent. With nearly half of French voters opting for anti-establishment candidates in Sunday’s first-round vote, there is a slender possibility it could happen."

-- George Will calls Macron a “Gallic Barack Obama” in his column today, and he’s also highly critical of Le Pen: “Macron promises only to nibble at statism’s ragged edges. … The 1930s confounded the European left because capitalism’s crisis benefited the rancid right, which by melding economic and cultural anxieties produced aspirations from the base metal of resentments. Today, globalization is causing similar stirrings on both sides of the Atlantic.”


-- Trump and his top national security advisers briefed members of Congress on North Korea, but offered few details about the administration’s strategy to pressure Pyongyang. David Nakamura and Ed O'Keefe report: “Lawmakers said they came away convinced that the Trump administration recognized the urgency of the mounting tensions on the Korean Peninsula, where Pyongyang conducted a failed missile test last week and drew international condemnation for the launch. But several … said the administration remained vague about its efforts to confront the regime beyond tougher talk from Trump."

  • Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, emphasized that there was no talk from the White House on a preemptive strike on North Korea. Among the options being considered are additional economic sanctions, and attempts to further isolate Pyongyang in the international community. 
  • The Pentagon, though, is developing military options, officials said, after having already directed the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group toward the peninsula in a show of force earlier this month. One senior White House official said a timeline had been developed to press North Korea, but emphasized the approach was “mainly events driven.” “Nothing is risk free,” the official told reporters. “But the team has done everything we can try to anticipate reactions [from North Korea] and mitigate the risk.”


All the members of the Senate went on a trip together to the White House for the North Korea briefing (they rode in buses rented from

Chris Coons was apparently the only senator who came to the mics at the White House:

Some lawmakers were less than impressed:

Yesterday, in three steps:

Republican lobbyist Bruce Mehlman saw yesterday as win-win:

The senior politics editor at HuffPost had a different take:

Some reaction to Trump's tax plan from a Tufts professor and WaPo contributor:

From a University of Michigan economist and a New York Times contributor:

And then there's this:

There would be some interesting political consequences:

Lots of chatter about how it sure took awhile to produce the plan released yesterday:

From Colorado's senior senator:

From a Trump ally:

Good point:

From the Dems:

And on NAFTA:

Throwback Thursday:

The ACLU defends Ann Coulter:

Finally, the previous Interior secretary spoke out against Trump's review of national monument designations:

The new economy at work:

The governor of Missouri:

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) announced he's having foot surgery:

Joe Biden showed up at the Wizards-Hawks playoff series at the Verizon Center and got a standing ovation:

The president wished the first lady a happy 47th birthday, and they had dinner together last night in the residence:

Two airline passengers were arrested in New York last week after authorities, suspicious of their bulging calves, found a combined 23 pounds of cocaine hidden under their clothes. Together, they were carrying nearly $400,000 worth of the white powder. (Faiz Siddiqui)

The Post's latest Pulitzer Prize winner, David Fahrenthold, received a gift paying homage to his shoe-leather approach to exploring Trump's philanthropy (or lack thereof):


-- Poynter, “Breitbart struggles to define its role in Trump era: Bad boy, watchdog or lapdog?,” by Indira A.R. Lakshmanan: “Breitbart’s failed bid so far to get a Congressional press credential is part of the larger and unresolved story of how it positions itself in the Trump era. Does it remain a rebellious, naysaying outsider unconcerned with establishment trappings? Does it evolve into a more conventional partisan newsroom and formally distance itself from deep-pocketed financial backers? Or does it become a mere mouthpiece for a president it helped elect? ‘The problem Breitbart has is a common one in journalism: How do you balance speaking truth to power and keeping access to power?’ said Lee Stranahan, a former investigative journalist at Breitbart who quit a few weeks ago in a dispute over what he perceived as instructions not to ask questions at the White House press briefing about an investigation he was working on. The balance between truth and access that Stranahan highlights is one ethical challenge his former employer faces, but it’s far from the only one.”


“Fox News Host Makes Seemingly Crass, Sexist Gesture While Talking About Ivanka Trump,” from HuffPost: “Fox News host Jesse Watters made what appeared to be a sex joke about Ivanka Trump, at a time when the network is desperate to shed its reputation as a hotbed for sexual harassment, sexism and misogyny. On a segment of Fox’s The Five on Tuesday night, Watters criticized attendees at a women’s conference in Germany who booed [Trump’s] daughter. 'So I don’t really get what’s going on here, but uh I really liked how she was speaking into the microphone,' [Watters] said with a knowing smirk and what appears to be a quick hand ... gesture. Later on Wednesday, after multiple outlets criticized him, Watters said he was merely complimenting Ivanka’s voice. ‘During the break we were commenting on Ivanka’s voice and how it was low and steady and resonates like a smooth jazz radio DJ,’ Watters said.”



“Montana Democrat Rob Quist Is Regular Performer at Nudist Resort,” from the Washington Free Beacon: “Montana Democrat Rob Quist, a locally famous musician, is a frequent performer at the Sun Meadow Resort, Idaho's premier nudist resort for guests seeking a ‘family nudist experience.’ Quist, running to represent Montana in Congress, is featured front and center on the nudist resort's website playing the guitar with his singer daughter. Both are clothed, though others on the website's homepage are not. … His earliest known concert at the resort came during the second annual Skin to the Wind Festival of Fun in 2009, in which Sun Meadow attempted to break the record for the largest skinny dip ever in North America. According to pictures posted on the resort's website, concert attendees sit naked in metal folding chairs during performances.”



At the White House: Trump will welcome Argentinian President Mauricio Macri to the White House. They will have lunch. Then the president will sign a Memorandum on Aluminum Imports and Threats to National Security and travel to the Department of Veterans Affairs to give remarks and sign an Executive Order on Improving Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. Pence will join Trump for the lunch and the executive order signing.


“Do not pay much attention to Trump’s words.” -- Iran's top diplomat, Mohammad Javad Zarif, told reporters not to take the president’s criticism of the nuclear deal seriously (Adam Taylor)  



-- Some very warm temperatures are heading our way just in time for the weekend. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Patches of fog are possible for early morning commuters so be on the lookout. Warming temperatures should clear things out on the ground and up above by mid-morning. Southerly breezes are notable as they occasionally gust up to 25 mph. That may be a good thing for cooling those of us not acclimated to highs reaching the low-to-mid 80s.”

-- The Nationals beat the Rockies 11-4.

-- Nearly 500 members of Metro’s largest labor union said they are planning a “sick-out” Friday to protest the agency’s new absenteeism policy, designed to crack down on employees believed to be abusing extended medical leave and overtime policy. At issue, the union said, is a new rule on “pre-approved” sick leave, which requires employees to make requests 72 hours in advance. (Martine Powers)

-- Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has just one issue with his wife’s potential run for Congress. It’s Congress. “The only thing I’ve said [is], ‘Dorothy, I’m the biggest critic of Congress,’ ” McAuliffe (D) said Wednesday. “They do nothing.’” Despite his dim view of the place, McAuliffe said he has encouraged his wife, Dorothy McAuliffe, to consider seeking the Northern Virginia seat held by Rep. Barbara Comstock (R). “I think she could be a spectacular member of Congress,” the governor said in his first public comments on his wife’s potential bid. “I think it would be great. … She knows every issue inside and out.” (Laura Vozzella)

Annie Peguero nurses her 19-month-old daughter Autumn at their home in Dumfries, Virginia, yesterday. (Michael Chandler/The Washington Post)

-- “Mother is asked to find private room while breast-feeding in church,” by Michael Alison Chandler and Laura Vozzella: “Annie Peguero was trying to soothe her agitated 19-month-old baby in church on Sunday when she did what she often does — she nursed her. But her efforts to calm her daughter caused a stir in the sanctuary of Summit Church in Springfield. A woman promptly asked the Dumfries mother to decamp to a private room, she said. Peguero declined and was later told that the church does not allow breast-feeding without a cover because it could make men, teenagers or new churchgoers “uncomfortable,” she said. One woman told her the sermon was being live-streamed and that she would not want Peguero to be seen breast-feeding. The mother of two left her seat in the back of the church and fled, embarrassed and in shock. The next day, she posted her own livestream video on Facebook — with her baby, Autumn, at her breast — telling viewers what happened and urging women to stand up for breast-feeding. ‘I want you to know that breast-feeding is normal,’ she said…

“It is also a legally protected right in Virginia, where the legislature passed a 2015 law that says women have a right to breast-feed anywhere they have a legal right to be. Now Peguero, and an attorney, are pressing church leaders to issue a statement and reverse their policy. ‘I feel like my rights as a mom have been violated,’ Peguero said. Peguero, a 42-year-old personal trainer and fitness and nutrition specialist, often posts live videos online with tips and advice about managing life with two young children. She talks about getting through the day when a spouse is deployed, drawing on her own experience as the wife of a Marine serving overseas.”


Jimmy Fallon weighs the pros and cons of Trump's first 100 days:

Seth Meyers talks to John Mellencamp about Trump:

He also interviews Trump's speech writers:

Turns out Jeff Sessions has a perfume:

Stephen Colbert wishes Melania Trump a Happy Birthday:

And talks about Trump turning the Oval into a treehouse:

Jimmy Fallon tells us about Take Your Parents to Work day: