With Breanne Deppisch

THE BIG IDEA: Barack Obama’s decision to record a commercial for French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron reflects the global significance of Sunday’s election. It also puts him, very publicly, on the opposite side of Donald Trump.

Just as the former president spoke out against Brexit before last year’s referendum in the U.K., he sees this closing ad as a necessary defense of globalization and the international order that he believes would be further in jeopardy if Marine Le Pen wins. The populist leader of the far-right National Front party wants to pull out of the euro currency and majorly restrict immigration.

“The French election is very important to the future of France and the values that we care so much about,” Obama says to camera. “Because the success of France matters to the entire world. … (Macron) has stood up for liberal values. He put forward a vision for the important role that France plays in Europe and around the world, and he is committed to a better future for the French people. He appeals to people’s hopes and not their fears. … Because of how important this election is, I also want you to know that I am supporting Emmanuel Macron to lead you forward. En Marche! Vive la France!”

En Marche, which translates to “Onward,” is the name of the new party founded by Macron last year, an independent coalition that blends fiscal conservatism and social liberalism.

Graffiti in Paris depicts Marine Le Pen and Donald Trump. Those words translate to "Pride and Prejudice." (Joel Saget/AFP)

-- President Trump, meanwhile, has repeatedly signaled his support for Le Pen. "She's the strongest on borders, and she's the strongest on what's been going on in France,” the president told the Associated Press recently. “Whoever is the toughest on radical Islamic terrorism, and whoever is the toughest at the borders, will do well in the election."

Days before the first round of the election, a small-time criminal apparently inspired by the Islamic State shot police officers on Paris’s renowned Champs-Élysées boulevard. Le Pen responded with a speech calling on the French government to immediately reinstate border checks and expel foreigners being monitored by the intelligence services. That same day, Trump weighed in on Twitter:

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus denied that these comments constituted an endorsement. “I think he may have some opinions, as far as who he thinks might win,” Reince said on Meet the Press. “But he certainly doesn't have a preference, other than a right-of-center person who believes in the free market.”

But soon after Reince said that, Donald Trump Jr. retweeted a message of support for Le Pen from Nigel Farage, a British political who led the charge for Brexit and campaigned for his dad.

White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, when he ran Breitbart, also praised Le Pen. In November, he reportedly reached out to the Le Pen family in hopes of “working together.” Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the niece of the candidate, replied on Twitter that she was enthusiastic about it:

Marine Le Pen herself visited Trump Tower shortly before the inauguration in January, though she did not meet with the president-elect or his staff.

There is obvious ideological kinship between the two, even if they have never met. (Just as there is between Obama and Macron.) Trump, who has described himself as “Mr. Brexit,” has agreed with Le Pen that Europe would be better off without the European Union. She’s also is very positive toward Russia, even traveling to the Kremlin last month to meet with Vladimir Putin.

Le Pen said last year she’d vote for Trump if she could. She was the first foreign politician to congratulate him after his upset victory. “The French referendum in 2005, the Greek one in 2015, the recent electoral successes of patriots in different European countries, the massive vote by the British in favor of Brexit and now Donald Trump — all are democratic choices that bury the old order and steppingstones to building tomorrow’s world,” Le Pen said at a rally immediately after our election.

Petitions calling on Obama to run for French president in the streets of Paris. (Elly Park)

-- Obama’s direct intervention is highly unusual. Historically, it would have been unthinkable for a current or former American president to weigh in so directly. It also probably would have been unwelcome inside France.

-- The president’s intervention into the French election is even more remarkable because of how reticent he has been to speak out forcefully against Trump back home, even as his successor accuses him of wiretapping and works to eviscerate his legacy, from health care to the environment, trade and Wall Street reform.

Many progressives pine for Obama to record video messages like the one he made for Macron to register his objections to Trump’s agenda, whether against the travel ban or for the Affordable Care Act.

People close to Obama, who this week unveiled plans for his presidential library in the South Side of Chicago, explain that he’s not doing so for several reasons:

  1. He’s trying to extend Trump the same courtesy George W. Bush showed him after leaving office.
  2. Bracketing Trump too aggressively would make it easier for the president to use him as a foil. The Republican grassroots continues to despise Obama, so he plays into Trump’s hands by helping him coalesce conservative support if he swings too hard.
  3. A former president’s stature tends to grow with the passage of time. Speaking up too often in an explicitly partisan manner may dilute the potency of his words down the road. Why not save his powder for closer to 2018 and 2020?
  4. Obama wants a new generation of Democratic leaders to emerge, which is harder if he stays in the spotlight.

-- Macron has a nearly 20-point lead over LePen in the final polls, but he’s struggling to consolidate support from his left in the runoff. Many who supported more progressive candidates aren’t enthusiastic about voting for a longtime investment banker who calls himself a “radical centrist” (the same phrase Mark Warner used to get elected in Virginia!) and spends his time talking up the transnational institutions they view skeptically. Parisian elites are fearful that a lot of these people will just stay home.

There were 11 candidates on the ballot in the election’s first round two weeks ago. Macron got 24 percent and Le Pen pulled 21 percent. A far-left, Bernie Sanders-like candidate who won almost 20 percent, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, has refused to endorse Macron. Two-thirds of Mélenchon’s supporters said in one poll this week that they won’t vote for Macron.

This is a jarring contrast to 2002: Fifteen years ago, Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie, shocked the political world by making it into the runoff. All the mainstream political figures rallied together behind Jacques Chirac in a very effective Stop Le Pen movement that called itself a “Republican Front.” Literally, millions protested in the streets.

That sense of urgency is totally lacking in the streets right now. “For years, the right and left just divided the Republic with their disputes, and now there is little left,” Hamid Djodi, 57, told a Post reporter during a May Day protest in Paris earlier this week. “In 2002, we believed it, this idea of a ‘Republican Front.’ But now we don’t believe it anymore — all you have is a capitalist running against a fascist.”

You’d think that the fascist vs. capitalist frame might motivate someone to vote. Especially someone whose parents came of age during World War II. Alas, the lesser of two evils argument doesn’t work for everyone...

-- One of the reasons that there is not a “Republican Front” this time, a la 2002, is that Le Pen has worked very hard to sandpaper the rough edges of her father’s image. (He once dismissed the Holocaust as a mere “detail of history.”) She has successfully made inroads with millennials (desperate for jobs) and women (eager to shatter a glass ceiling). The party has fared better in several elections now under her watch, and the National Front’s base is larger than it ever was under her dad:

-- That’s where Obama comes in. “He enjoys a striking popularity in America’s ‘sister republic,’” reports James McAuley, our man in Paris. “Earlier this year, a group of voters dissatisfied with the names on the French ballot — mostly with Le Pen — began posting campaign posters with Obama’s face and the slogan ‘Oui on peut!’ (‘Yes we can!’) throughout Paris. Although their ‘campaign’ began as a joke, it ultimately morphed into an online petition to persuade Obama to run for the French presidency. In the end, the petition received nearly 50,000 signatures.” (Trump is not particularly popular in France. Even Le Pen distanced herself from him after his missile strikes on Syria, accusing him of acting like “the world’s policeman.”)

While Obama didn’t formally endorse until yesterday, he telephoned Macron three days before the first round to offer advice, wishing him “good luck” and urging him not to take anything for granted. “Because you never know, it might be that last day of campaigning that makes all the difference,” he said. Macron’s campaign posted a one-minute video of the men talking over speaker phone:

-- Macron’s appeal has been compared to Obama’s in 2008. He’s tried to run as a sort of post-partisan candidate. He’s benefited from angry voters rejecting both of France’s major political parties: the Republicans and the Socialists (even though he was a cabinet minister to the current Socialist president until they had a falling out). “Since the current voting system was introduced in 1965, at least one of these two wings of mainstream French politics has been in the runoff; usually both were,” Adam Taylor explains in a good primer on the race. “This is partly because of some unique circumstances in 2017. Republican (Francois) Fillon was seriously tarnished by corruption allegations, while the record unpopularity of outgoing Socialist President François Hollande was a big factor in (Benoit) Hamon's slim odds.”

-- The geographic divide is another important storyline to watch: Macron excels in the big urban cores (Paris, Bordeaux, Lyon). Le Pen, like Trump, is working to run up the score in rural areas (including the south and northeast), where deindustrialization has allowed her National Front to pour gasoline on the fire of xenophobia and nativism. Check out this map of first-round results. Places Macron won are purple. Places Le Pen won are dark blue:

-- While Macron embraces Obama, Le Pen is relentlessly trying to link her opponent with Angela Merkel in the closing days before Sunday. During their final debate Wednesday night, Le Pen said that a woman is going to run France no matter who wins on Sunday. It will either be her – or the German chancellor. “We do not want the migrants of Madame Merkel,” she said at a rally, accenting the foreignness of the chancellor’s name to loud applause. “Don’t you think Madame Merkel is toxic for Europe?” she added in a radio interview. “She let 1.5 million migrants in. Isn’t that toxic? She imposes austerity on all the nations of Europe. Isn’t that toxic?”

“In France, Le Pen’s attacks have lent an anti-German bent to her National Front’s Euroskepticism, exposing the historical rifts that have led some in France to chafe against the rise of German influence under Merkel,” Anthony Faiola and James McAuley report in a new piece this morning. “At the same time, Le Pen supporters increasingly see Merkel as the essence of the globalized, multicultural society that they are seeking to reject. ‘We cannot accept the threat of Madame Merkel to our country, to our national identity,’ said Davy Rodriguez, 23, a deputy of a National Front youth organization in Paris and a student at Sciences Po in the capital, one of France’s elite universities. ‘They’re putting migrants all over the countryside. We have to take back our sovereignty.’”

-- Germany could be the next proxy war: While Trump has been highly critical of Merkel and awkwardly declined to shake her hand when she visited the White House in March, Obama has suggested that he plans to endorse her as she seeks a fourth term this summer. “If I were here, if I were German, and I had a vote, I’d support her," Obama said during his November visit to Berlin. "I don't know if that helps or hurts!”

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-- The Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into Uber’s use of a secret software, “Greyball,” to evade authorities in areas where its app was banned or restricted. The investigation comes as the latest blow to the embattled company, which has faced a slew of recent high-level departures, as well as a trade-secrets lawsuit taking aim at its development of self-driving cars. (Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg)

Referee Monty McCutchen holds back Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. as he goes after Boston Celtics center Kelly Olynyk. Oubre was ejected. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

-- The Wizards won a particularly mean-spirited playoff game in Washington last night. “Washington spent the first two games of these Eastern Conference semifinals building leads and losing them, coming home in a 2-0 hole to the top-seeded Celtics. In Thursday’s Game 3, they set a physical tone early, built another big lead and maintained the edge en route to a 116-89 win,” Candace Bucker reports. “After Washington opened a 39-17 lead, tempers stopped the free-flowing action. Early in the second quarter, reserve forward Kelly Oubre Jr. was ejected for steamrolling Celtics 7-foot center Kelly Olynyk. By the fourth quarter, with Washington ahead by 26 points, the game descended into a hail of technical fouls. In the aftermath, both benches were standing, coaches were barking at officials, and the backup point guards, Brandon Jennings and Boston’s Terry Rozier, were sent to the locker rooms. In all, eight technical fouls dotted a game with no shortage of shoving and smack-talking.”

See the Oubre moment:


  1. The Senate voted 79-18 to approve the $1.1 trillion spending bill that funds the government through September. So there won't be a shutdown tonight. (Kelsey Snell)
  2. Former New England Patriots star Aaron Hernandez cited Bible passage John 3:16 in ink on his forehead and in blood on the wall of his prison cell before he hanged himself. (AP)
  3. Pittsburgh police are investigating a woman’s report that she was raped at PPG Paints Arena during Wednesday’s Penguins-Capitals playoff game. She said that the incident happened in a women’s restroom between periods of the game. The woman said she screamed for a half-hour but no one came to her assistance. (Des Bieler)
  4. Curt Schilling accused Orioles outfielder Adam Jones of lying after he said he was called the “n-word” by a Red Sox fan at Fenway Park, pointing to what he claimed was a “lack of evidence” from others in the stands. (Des Bieler
  5. Russia, Iran and Turkey have agreed to create “de-escalation zones” in Syria – renewing diplomatic efforts to bring warring parties to heel in the country’s six-year conflict. It is unclear how the deal differs from previous failed cease-fires, in which Assad’s regime has continued to strike rebel-held areas. The State Department expressed concern about the effort, including the involvement of Iran as a so-called “guarantor.” (Louisa Loveluck and Karen DeYoung)
  6. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is poised to sign a sweeping bill that would outlaw so-called “sanctuary cities” and other localities in the state – imposing costly fines, and even jail time, on officials who refuse to cooperate with ICE agents. If passed, the legislation would be the country’s most significant crackdown so far on sanctuary cities. (Maria Sacchetti)
  7. A new lawsuit accuses Wells Fargo employees of “targeting” undocumented immigrants on the street and persuading them to open bank accounts at their local branches – scouring locations such as construction sites and factories for potential recruits, and even offering them money to open an account. It’s the latest in a string of alarming allegations that have engulfed the San Francisco-based banking giant, whose employees say they were forced to resort to questionable tactics to meet the company’s unrealistic sales quotas. (Kristine Phillips)
  8. The head of U.S. Special Operations, testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said sending additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan would be a “welcome boost” for his men and could lessen the need for them to conduct dangerous missions alongside local forces. Deploying additional troops is a possibility being considered by the Trump administration. (Missy Ryan)
  9. Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar returned to Kabul after spending two decades in exile, pleading for peace and unity in a town where his ruthless fighting once earned him the nickname “Butcher of Kabul.” Hekmatyar’s return comes just eight months after he signed a controversial peace deal with the government, which allows him immunity for past crimes and the chance to lead his party, the Hizb-e-Islami, back into Afghan politics. (Pamela Constable)
  10. A California father says he and his family were booted from a Delta flight after they declined to give up a seat they had purchased for their son. In video footage, officials can be heard requesting they fly with the two-year-old on their laps – against FAA recommendations – and threatening the parents with jail time when they refuse to comply. (Lindsey Bever)
  11. A new study from George Mason University found that black applicants for Fairfax County teaching positions were far less likely than white candidates to get job offers in a recent year – even though they had, on average, more advanced degrees and classroom experience. The study asserts that racial bias in hiring may be contributing to a persistent lack of black teachers in public education – a problem long pinned on a lack of qualified applicants and interest. (T. Rees Shapiro and Moriah Balingit)
  12. Three students who were reportedly threatened and beaten at a Pittsburgh high school have filed a lawsuit against the school district and local police department, saying surveillance footage documents an atmosphere where both administrators and cops are “assaulting children.” In one video, the school’s principal can be seen holding a student’s head to the ground while he is shocked with a stun gun. (Lindsey Bever)
  13. A longtime Brooklyn principal is suing the Department of Education after she was accused of Communist organizing – saying the allegation, which “hearkens back to another era” – was made in retaliation for her outspokenness about race and segregation in New York City schools. (New York Times)
  14. Owners of a Colorado wildlife sanctuary said a series of recent floods placed their beloved wild animals in danger. But after being denied a permit request to relocate their facility, owners took drastic action – deciding, inexplicably, to kill each one. Their abrupt decision has horrified local officials and wildlife experts, who had offered to help relocate the animals. (Peter Holley)
  15. Hillary Clinton is preparing to launch her own political group as soon as next week. It will fund organizations working on the resistance to Trump’s agenda. She's spent recent weeks in Washington, New York City, and Chappaqua, N.Y., meeting with donors and potential groups to invest in, and recruiting individuals for the group’s board of directors. It will be called Onward Together. (Politico)
Trump locks eyes with Paul Ryan in the Rose Garden after the House pushed through the health care bill. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)


-- The House voted 217-213 to pass its latest health-care bill, delivering a significant, if incomplete, political victory for Trump, even as it failed to meet his promise of “insurance for everybody." Ed O'Keefe, Paige Winfield Cunningham and Amy Goldstein report: In the end, the bill slid by with just four votes to spare. All 193 Democrats voted in opposition, as did 20 Republicans -- primarily moderates who thought the legislation rolls back health-care benefits too much. "The latest bill’s changes allow states to opt out of many of the ACA’s key provisions, such as its protection of people with preexisting conditions," our colleagues write. "And to regain moderates’ support it lost with that change, an additional $8 billion was allocated to helping sick people afford their premiums — a figure even the conservative American Enterprise Institute says is not nearly enough." (Check out a full list of how each lawmaker voted.)

-- THE TICK TOCK: “The rescue effort that pulled the Republicans back from the brink of failure on health care began quietly, with two House members who are not exactly household names trying to find common ground on a little-noticed issue," Karen Tumulty and Robert Costa report. “[They were Reps. Tom MacArthur and Mark Meadow, and] the question at hand was giving states more flexibility by allowing them to come up with their own ways of achieving cost savings and providing coverage. MacArthur — a goateed former insurance executive who once worked on claims with [Trump’s] late father — decided to take a stab at it. While staying at the beach with his family over the House’s two-week Easter recess last month, ‘I took pen to paper,’ MacArthur recalled. ‘I presented it to the speaker and talked about it with Mark Meadows, and it got life. It moved.’ That amendment allowing states to opt out of some central provisions of the Affordable Care Act was the first breakthrough in the resurrection of the GOP health-care bill — a far different process from the top-down one that led to the failure of the Republicans’ first attempt to bring a bill to the floor in mid-March...

“The first and second incarnations of the health legislation represent a steep, six-week learning curve on the part of the Republicans who now control Washington. [Trump, for his part], had assumed that the force of his personality was his best asset in pushing the bill through. He summoned House members to the White House for negotiating sessions that were more theatrical than substantive; threatened Meadows that if he didn’t support it, ‘I’m coming after you’; and laid down an empty ultimatum that he would walk away. … If his first big legislative victory has taught Trump anything, it may be that the art of the deal in Washington requires subtlety, patience and — most uncharacteristic for him — a willingness to step back and play a supporting role.”

 Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) speaks outside the House chamber. (Eric Thayer/Getty)

-- BUT, BUT BUT: Few Republican lawmakers truly like this bill – viewing it instead as a necessary step to demonstrate some sort of momentum and ability to govern with a new GOP majority. “Rather than embrace policy cobbled together to replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, many Republicans simply decided the best move was to approve a flawed bill — and ram it through a flawed process — so that the Senate would get a chance to fix the House’s mistakes, setting up a major negotiation later," Paul Kane writes in his column. "House Republicans did so knowing that their votes will be portrayed by their Democratic opponents as ruthlessly denying millions of people health insurance … Inside the leadership team of [Ryan], there was a gripping fear of what failure would mean for its future overseeing a chamber seemingly incapable of moving important legislation. Ryan had already pulled his American Health Care Act from the floor once … [and] the initial game plan was to simply give up on repealing Obamacare and move on to a broad rewriting of the tax code. But inside the White House, [Trump’s] advisers became increasingly concerned about how little they had to show in terms of early victories. They helped nudge the hard-line House Freedom Caucus and some members of the moderate Tuesday Group back to the bargaining table. The consequence of failure — for a second time in six weeks, after the humiliating first retreat — became a compelling reason to vote ‘yes.’ The question is whether this short-term victory was worth the long-term squeeze.

“This bill is highly imperfect, imperfect, okay? There’s no doubt about that,” said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who came onboard in the final 24 hours. “Is this bill good? No, I don’t like it. So my decision was, how do I stay involved?”

-- Now, the measure will head to the Senate to face a whole new set of obstacles. On Thursday, Republican leaders there sent an unmistakable message: When it comes to health care, we’re going to do our own thing. “I think there will be essentially a Senate bill,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the fourth-ranking Senate Republican, told our colleagues. HuffPost’s Michael McAuliff reports that at least a half-dozen GOP senators have already expressed opposition to the tack the House was taking. It remains unclear how closely the Senate measure will resemble the one narrowly passed in the House, or whether Republican senators will resolve their own stark differences. 

-- Trump expressed confidence that it will pass the Senate – calling Obamacare “essentially dead.” "This is a great plan. I actually think it will get even better. This is a repeal and replace of Obamacare. Make no mistake about it," Trump told reporters.

-- Despite the new set of obstacles ahead, Trump and the House GOP had reason to celebrate. Ashley Parker reports on the scene at the White House: “They gathered on a chilly, overcast afternoon in the Rose Garden, busing over House members from the Capitol so everyone could preen and crow. And crow they did. A Marine quartet sat playing on the lawn — the same tableau as the day last month when Neil M. Gorsuch became a Supreme Court justice. Lawmakers snapped photos and clapped each other on the shoulder. [Sean Spicer] even raced back from his Navy Reserve duty at the Pentagon to savor the moment. And Trump — who earlier in the process expressed surprise at just how complicated health-care could be — also seemed momentarily in awe of the day. ‘How am I doing?’ he asked, before answering his own question and posing another. ‘I’m president! Hey, I’m president! Do you believe it, right?’”

-- Trump met with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in New York last night, arriving late for a truncated meeting with the foreign leader after he extended his stay in Washington to celebrate the passage of the health bill. It was the first time the two leaders were slated to meet in person after an infamous and frosty phone call that threw a curveball into their relationship earlier this year. Abby Phillip reports:

Appearing alongside the prime minister for the first time, Trump made a series of conflicting statements about their earlier call – jovially dismissing reports of the tense exchange as “fake news” in one moment, before acknowledging later that the exchange was indeed “testy." “We get along great. We have a fantastic relationship, I love Australia, I always have," Trump, seated next to Turnbull, told reporters after their one-on-one meeting. "We had a great telephone call. You guys exaggerated that call. That was a big exaggeration. We're not babies." Hours later, after Trump took to the stage to deliver remarks at the gala, he opened with a little confession. "Now that the record is straight … We had a very nice phone call. A little testy. It got a little bit testy, but that’s okay.’”

-- Hours after his party advanced a health-care bill that some estimate would leave millions uninsured, Trump lavished praised on Australia’s government-funded universal health-care system: “We have a failing health care — I shouldn't say this to our great gentleman and my friend from Australia, because you have better health care than we do,” Trump said.

-- The left jumped all over this:

Three smart takes:

-- The eleven states with the highest percentages of people with preexisting conditions all voted for Trump in 2016, CNN’s Chris Cillizza notes. “What those numbers mean is that many of the people most in favor of repealing and replacing Obamacare are also the people most likely to be directly affected -- and not in a good way -- if the new GOP bill becomes law. It's not immediately clear what the political ramifications of that reality would be. On one hand, Republicans have a cushion in most of these states, politically speaking, and so may be able to withstand some degree of fallout even if the GOP plan doesn't work out as planned. On the other, people tend to pay more attention -- and be more unhappy -- when a change made by Congress directly impacts something they have relied on. And, if the House GOP's change on pre-existing conditions means that people in the 11 states above can't get any sort of coverage, there could be a political price to pay.”

-- Fourteen of the 23 Republicans representing districts that voted for Clinton last November ended up supporting the legislation. The Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein and Leah Askarinam say “that decision will elevate almost all of them on the target list for Democrats aching to recapture the House majority next year”: “All seven of the California Republicans in districts Clinton carried voted for the bill; elsewhere, the Clinton-district Republicans split more closely, with nine opposing the legislation and seven supporting it. Looking at a broader list of legislators in competitive seats, the highly controversial plan drew support from fully 46 of the 61 House Republicans in districts that voted either for Clinton in 2016 or for Obama in his 2012 or 2008 elections. … Only 15 of the Republicans from those districts voted ‘no.’”

-- “The Republican health care overhaul might never become law, but it has already changed the life of one American: Reince Priebus, who knew it was his best and perhaps last hope of becoming an empowered White House chief of staff,” the New York Times’ Glenn Thrush and Maggie Haberman report: “It is unlikely that Mr. Priebus — roundly regarded as a steady party leader but one of the least powerful White House chiefs of staff ever — would have been fired had the second repeal-and-replace plan not passed the House on Thursday. But he viewed it as a personal make-or-break moment … [and] responded by texting, calling and buttonholing Republicans, especially Mr. Ryan — badgering him for weeks to bring some version of the bill to the floor …”

“Mr. Priebus’s push for a quick vote chafed some members of the White House staff. Several people on Mr. Trump’s team who were trying to lower expectations were annoyed to find out that Mr. Priebus was openly talking about forcing a vote this week. At times, Mr. Trump himself seemed a little puzzled by his aide’s vehemence, telling legislators, including Mr. Ryan, that while he wanted a win, he did not necessarily need a vote immediately. “Even with a win, Mr. Priebus remains, at best, the third most powerful player in a top-heavy White House dominated by bigger personalities, a would-be gatekeeper desperately in search of a gate. In recent days, Mr. Priebus cut back on his stalking-butler tendency to hover over the president, realizing his antsy boss had grown resentful of his constant companionship. ‘What are you doing in here? Don’t you have health care to take care of?’ Mr. Trump asked Mr. Priebus at one recent meeting around his desk.”

Protesters hold signs as they rally on Capitol Hill to oppose the health-care bill. (Oliver Contreras/For The Washington Post)

-- Other consequences of the House bill:

  • Planned Parenthood will be defunded for one year: “The women’s health provider stands to lose about 30 percent of its funding under a provision [in the bill] to block it from getting Medicaid reimbursements for one year, unless its hundreds of clinics stop offering abortions.” (Paige Winfield Cunningham)
  • Those who obtain health insurance through their employers — about half the country — could be at risk of losing protections that limit out-of-pocket costs for catastrophic illnesses: “The provision … lets states obtain waivers from certain [ACA] insurance regulations. Insurers in states that obtain the waivers could be freed from a regulation mandating that they cover 10 particular types of health services, among them maternity care, prescription drugs, mental health treatment and hospitalization. … Under the House bill, large employers could choose the benefit requirements from any state—including those that are allowed to lower their benchmarks under a waiver, health analysts said. By choosing a waiver state, employers looking to lower their costs could impose lifetime limits and eliminate the out-of-pocket cost cap from their plans under the GOP legislation.” (Wall Street Journal)
  • Democrats warn that the bill could increase costs for up to seven million veterans who are eligible to receive health care from the VA system: “An estimated 7 million veterans who qualify for such care do not receive it for a range of reasons: They may live too far away from a VA center, their incomes may be too high for them to be placed in a high-priority group for VA access, or they may have health issues unrelated to their service … By taking away the credits that Obamacare offered for those seeking insurance on their own, the GOP proposal effectively means a tax hike.” (HuffPost)

-- This is far from the health-care bill that Trump promised. For perspective, Philip Bump compared how it stacks up to promises made by Trump during an interview in January:

  • Trump promised insurance for everybody: “The AHCA would probably result in 24 million more uninsured people by 2026.”
  • Trump promised “lower numbers” and lower deductibles: “The AHCA would probably have higher deductibles. The CBO anticipates that they will be higher under the AHCA than they would have been if the ACA were kept."
  • Trump promised that insurance plans would be “much better”: “The AHCA would probably reduce the quality of insurance plans, thanks to late amendments that would allow states to get waivers so that insurers could separate coverage items out of the default package."
  • Trump promised that the plan would take “care of preexisting conditions.” “The AHCA would probably increase costs for a substantial number of people who have preexisting conditions."

-- Meanwhile, the largest insurer in the Mid-Atlantic region, CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, warned Thursday that Affordable Care Act marketplaces were in the “early stages of a death spiral,” and requested a rate hike of more than 50 percent in Maryland next year, a 35 percent increase in northern Virginia and a 29 percent increase in D.C. (Carolyn Y. Johnson)

-- Want more smart insights on the politics and policy of health care? THE HEALTH 202, anchored by Paige Winfield Cunningham, launches Tuesday. Sign up here:


-- The president will make his first foreign trip later this month, he announced, traveling to Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican as part of an effort to unite Islam, Judaism and Christianity in the cause of fighting “intolerance and radical extremism.” Karen DeYoung reports: “The nine-day trip, during which officials said Trump will meet with Pope Francis, will end with previously announced meetings with NATO leaders in Brussels and the Group of Seven world economic powers in Sicily. His trip, he said, ‘will begin with a truly historic gathering in Saudi Arabia with leaders from all across the Muslim world,’ where ‘we will begin to construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with our Muslim allies to combat extremism, terrorism and violence.’ In an apparent reference to his willingness to deal with authoritarian governments without pressuring them on human rights, Trump said, ‘Our task is not to dictate to others how to live but to build a coalition of friends and partners who share the goal of fighting terrorism and bringing safety, opportunity and stability to the Middle East.’”

-- The Trump administration is moving to further toughen the vetting of foreigners, proposing new authority to allow State Department screeners to ask visa applicants more intrusive questions. The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler reports: “Under the proposed rule … [visa applicants flagged] for additional screening would be asked for significantly more personal information. Specifically, applicants could be asked for 15 years of addresses, employment history and travel history, including sources of funding for their travel; names and birth dates for all siblings, children and current and former spouses or domestic partners; social media handles used during the past five years and phone numbers and email addresses used over the past five years. The State Department estimated these requests would go to about 65,000 people a year. … The proposed rule, which is now open for public comment, asks for the [OMB] to approve the proposal on an emergency basis by May 18.”

-- Trump signed an executive order aimed at making it easier for churches to participate in politics – an order that was cheered by some conservative Christians, but lamented by others as falling short of their original expectations. John Wagner and Sarah Pulliam Bailey report: “The order … removes the financial threat faced by tax-exempt churches from the IRS when pastors speak out on behalf of political candidates. But some experts said it amounts to a mostly symbolic gesture with little likelihood of changing how the agency polices the issue. Trump’s order … also directs his administration to consider developing regulations related to religious objectors to an Obama administration mandate, scaled back by the courts, that required contraception services as part of health plans. ... The sweep was considerably narrower than a leaked February draft, however, which included a provision that could have allowed federal contractors to discriminate against LGBT employees or single mothers on the basis of faith.”

-- Cindy McCain, the wife of John McCain, is being eyed by the Trump administration to fill a “prominent role” at the State Department. The AP’s Josh Lederman reports: “Although it wasn't clear what position she would fill, one possibility under discussion is McCain serving as an ambassador-at-large in Washington, focusing on a specific issue such as human trafficking ... McCain, a philanthropist and global humanitarian activist, has been a vocal advocate for victims of human trafficking for several years."

Michael Flynn at the White House in February. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

-- “The mystery behind a Flynn associate’s quiet work for the Trump campaign,” by Matea Gold: “Jon Iadonisi, a friend and business associate of [Michael Flynn], had two under-the-radar projects underway in the fall of 2016. One of his companies was helping Flynn with an investigative effort for an ally of the Turkish government — details of which Flynn revealed only after he was forced to step down from his White House post. At the same time, Iadonisi was also doing work for the Trump campaign … The project Iadonisi was engaged in for Trump’s campaign focused on social media, [a source said]. What that work consisted of — and why his company was not disclosed as a vendor in campaign finance reports — remains a mystery. However, [FEC] reports show that the Trump campaign paid $200,000 on Dec. 5 for ‘data management services’ to Colt Ventures, a Dallas-based venture-capital firm that is an investor in VizSense, a social-media company co-founded by Iadonisi. “It is common for political vendors to hire subcontractors whose work is not publicly reported. However, campaign committees cannot seek to avoid disclosure by paying an entity that does not have a legitimate relationship with the ultimate recipient, said [campaign-finance lawyer] Daniel Petalas … ‘A venture-capital company is certainly a strange entity for a campaign to be making an expenditure to, and I would want to look further to assess whether it was it an appropriate recipient,’ he said.”

Corey Lewandowski arrives at Trump Tower. (Drew Angerer/Getty)


-- Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski is leaving the lobbying and consulting firm he co-founded in January amid a spate of negative publicity, saying he’s concerned he “lost control” over the firm. Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs  and Ben Brody report: “Lewandowski said Thursday that his partner, Barry Bennett, and others … have used his name without his authorization and sought business with foreign clients that he doesn’t want. ‘The most important thing is my reputation, and I’ve worked really hard in the face of adversity to try to be successful,’ Lewandowski said. … His remarks came after a liberal ethics group alleged that he might have engaged in unregistered lobbying and selling access to the Oval Office -- allegations he denies. Politico reported on April 28 that an affiliate of Avenue Strategies called Washington East West Political Strategies had been soliciting business in Eastern Europe and elsewhere by offering access to Trump, [Mike Pence] and other top administration officials. Lewandowski said Thursday that he hadn’t authorized the creation of Washington East West, nor been informed about it. He said he’s willing to dissolve the partnership to distance himself from negative publicity and what he called conjecture that he’s not following the rules. ‘I know I have a giant target on my back. People want to see me fail,’ he said."

-- “Trump says he’s a big fan of history. But he doesn’t seem to trust historians,” by Amy B Wang: “One telling example of Trump's cavalier botching of history came when the History Channel invited him to appear — as an expert — in a 2012 episode of ‘The Men Who Built America,’ a series on the Industrial Revolution. Though he was on the screen only briefly, Trump delivered his contribution to the segment with confidence. ‘Andrew Carnegie was somebody that I think in terms of because I do buildings,’ Trump said on the show. ‘And he really came up with the mass production of steel. He was the first and the biggest by far, by a factor of 30 times. And what he built was unbelievable and just got bigger and bigger and bigger.’ Even in those few lines, there were factual issues. It was Sir Henry Bessemer who invented the first process to mass-produced steel — known as the ‘Bessemer process’ — in England in the 1800s. Carnegie adapted the process for his business needs and, in the process, became the richest man in America.”

-- The American Association for Public Opinion Research convened a 13-member committee to study, in detail, what pollsters missed during the 2016 election. Dan Balz outlines their findings: “The report’s two main findings about polling underscore that it was a treacherous year for pollsters, and therefore predictions. The AAPOR committee concludes that the national polls ‘were generally correct and accurate by historical standards,’ and that they were more accurate than in 2012. The polls, on average, pointed to a Clinton victory in the popular vote by about three percentage points. Her eventual advantage was well within the margin of error of the national polls. But where elections are decided, in state-by-state contests, things were not so rosy for pollsters. State polls were historically bad — the report calls it the largest error in state polling of elections starting in 2000 — and the key failure was the underestimation of Trump’s support. This was particularly true in the Upper Midwest, where the election was decided. The AAPOR team also found flaws among those organizations that produce poll aggregates and projections of results and pointed to these predictions as one reason so many people were surprised by the outcome of the election.”


Online, the rhetoric got very, very, very heated after the health-care bill's passage. Here's a taste:

Before the vote:



The Democrats trolled Republicans in their own delegations:

A keeper:

And the reverse:

This is something people care about:

Time for the Senate:

Melania does something FLOTUS-y:

And at the White House:


-- “After seven days of testimony from dozens of witnesses, and forensic accounting of years of bank records and financial statements, former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown is gambling that she can beat 22 federal fraud and tax charges through sheer force of personality alone.” The Florida Times-Union’s Nate Monroe Christopher Hong and Steve Patterson report: “Brown’s decision to take the stand in her own defense — which is the core of her strategy to beat the charges — offered some characteristically surreal moments from the pugnacious and often theatrical former lawmaker. She opined on which clothing stores offer the best deals (Neiman Marcus is ‘Needless ‘Markup’) [and] the advantage of shopping at Dollar Tree … [Her testimony] also included new explanations about why it appears she was wrapped up in the fraudulent activity surrounding One Door for Education, where the government says hundreds of thousands of dollars raised under the guise of charity was spent instead on luxurious parties … or simply [deposited directly into her personal] account. Brown testified, for example, that a former aide made regular deposits into her bank account because the aide owed her money — not because Brown had conspired to find a secret source of cash."


"Alaska Dispatch News reporter slapped by Wasilla lawmaker,” from Alaska Dispatch News: “An Alaska Dispatch News reporter told Juneau police he was slapped Tuesday inside the Alaska Capitol by a state senator during an encounter regarding a recent story. ADN political reporter Nathaniel Herz said the exchange between him and freshman Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, occurred Tuesday afternoon in the main stairwell of the Capitol … [after] the ADN published a story by Herz Sunday regarding Wilson's Senate Bill 90, which would end a state program that distributes grants to Mat-Su social-service groups. The story mentioned Wilson's employer prior to his election, Palmer-based nonprofit Alaska Family Services, wouldn't be among those potentially hurt by the cuts. … [After the encounter], Herz filed a report with the Juneau Police Department. ‘I was not enthusiastic about taking this to the police,’ Herz said. ‘But I also felt like I couldn't accept this kind of behavior from a public official.’ Asked Wednesday about the incident, Herz said he was not injured by the slap, but ‘it was not a love tap.’”



“Hero' stopped mass murder by crazed bar patron who was armed to the teeth, police say,” from the Dallas Morning News: “A concealed carry holder is being heralded as a hero by Arlington police for preventing mass murder by killing an ‘incoherent’ gunman at a sports bar [after he killed the manager] … Police later identified the gunman as 48-year-old James Jones … [and later found him carrying two loaded guns and two knives]. ‘We do believe he had the capacity to do much greater harm,’ Cook said. When Jones entered the business, some witnesses told police, he started yelling incoherently [before fatally shooting the manager] … That's when a customer fired his gun at Jones. ‘After he was struck once, the suspect started shooting at the front door,’ Cook [said] … More than a dozen customers and a handful of employees were in the sports bar at the time of the shooting. Cook said the customer, who was dining with his wife, ‘prevented further loss of life.’ ‘We're treating the good guy as sort of a hero,’ he said.”



Trump and Pence have no public events scheduled. The president will spend this weekend at his golf club in New Jersey.

Congress is going back on recess.


Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) admitted on CNN that he didn’t read the health care bill before voting for it: “'I will fully admit, Wolf, I did not. … I have to rely on my staff. And I can probably tell you that I read every word, and I wouldn't be telling you the truth, nor would any other member. We rely on our staff and we rely on our committees. I'm comfortable that I understand this bill in its entirety, Wolf, without poring through every word. I'm being quite honest. That's the way it is.”



-- Rainy, humid, and the possibility of some powerful storms this afternoon. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Rain, showers, thunderstorms may dominate our weather through early afternoon. Rain that fell most of last night should taper this morning. We may even see some sunnier times in the midday. Muggy high temperatures should still get into the mid-to-upper 70s. Any storms later in the day may tend to be isolated, but they could be powerful with large hail, damaging wind, and a tornado all possible.”

-- Sidwell Friends School has dismissed a veteran music teacher after learning of an allegation of inappropriate contact with student in previous job. The teacher will not be returning. (Valerie Strauss and Michael Alison Chandler)

-- The Nationals beat the Diamondbacks 4-2 yesterday, but Bryce Harper came out of the game in the seventh inning because of groin pain that resulted from a diving catch. “We took him out for precautionary reasons and we just have to see,” said Dusty Baker. “He’s day-to-day.” After the game, Harper said he “felt good.” He explained he initially felt discomfort when he made a diving catch in the third inning, a few minutes before he walked and scored in the bottom of the frame. “I’ve got to stop diving, trying to catch fly balls too much,” Harper joked. (Jorge Castillo)

-- Speaking of Bryce, he recently filmed a “promposal” for the son of former MLB star Steve Garvey:


Seth Meyers took "a closer look" at the health care vote last night:

(Emily Yahr has a good write-up of all the Trumpcare jokes on the comedy shows last night.)

Tom Perriello, a Democratic candidate for Virginia governor, cuts a health-care focused ad that depicts an ambulance being crushed:

Pundits react:

A two-minute summary of yesterday's news:

Heart-warming story of the day: