With Breanne Deppisch
THE BIG IDEA: Many West Wing staffers have sacrificed their personal reputations by parroting falsehoods on behalf of Donald Trump. How will their devotion be repaid? Perhaps with pink slips.
The president has a congenital inability to take personal responsibility for his own mistakes. Throughout his career, he’s sought out scapegoats whenever situations get hairy. He’s doing it again amidst the continuing fallout from his decision to fire James Comey as FBI director.
Trump demands unquestioning loyalty from his subordinates, but kowtowing and paying fealty do not ensure that he’ll return the favor.
Several people who have spoken with the president tell Philip Rucker that he has been quick to blame his staff for the blowback from axing Comey. “Privately, Trump has lashed out at the communications office — led by press secretary Sean Spicer and communications director Michael Dubke — and has spoken candidly with advisers about a broad shake-up that could include demotions or dismissals,” Phil reported on the front page of Sunday’s paper. “Yet Trump did not inform Spicer and Dubke of his decision until about an hour before it was announced, keeping them and other senior aides out of the loop because he feared the news might leak prematurely. … Their defenders said they were assigned an impossible task of orchestrating on short notice a complete rollout plan — from crafting and distributing talking points to lining up lawmakers, legal experts and other Trump supporters to give interviews.”
The president and his family members do not want to hear these excuses. “Trump is in some ways like a pilot opting to fly a plane through heavy turbulence then blaming the flight attendants when the passengers get jittery,” Phil observed. “Some of Trump’s allies said they are worried that the president views the Comey episode entirely as a public-relations crisis — a branding problem — and has not been judicious about protecting himself from legal exposure as the FBI continues to investigate possible links between his campaign and Russia. … One GOP figure close to the White House mused privately about whether Trump was ‘in the grip of some kind of paranoid delusion.’"
THE PRICE OF LOYALTY:
-- Trump reportedly asked Comey to pledge his loyalty three times during a one-on-one dinner in late January, but the FBI director refused to do so. Comey allies say he believes this conversation is what led to his termination last week.
The president denies asking Comey to pledge personal loyalty, but he also says that he does not think doing so would be inappropriate. “I don’t think it would be a bad question to ask,” Trump said in an interview that aired Saturday night on Fox News. “I think loyalty to the country, loyalty to the United States, is important. You know, I mean, it depends on how you define loyalty.”
-- When you consider Trump’s history, there is nothing surprising about him asking Comey for a loyalty oath.
You might recall that the president installed minders inside key agencies as soon as he took power in January. These apparatchiks, who have already proven their devotion to the president, are charged — above all — with monitoring the loyalty of cabinet secretaries and reporting back to the White House. “This shadow government of political appointees … is embedded at every Cabinet agency, with offices in or just outside the secretary’s suite,” Lisa Rein and Juliet Eilperin reported in March. “The White House has installed at least 16 of the advisers at departments including Energy and Health and Human Services and at some smaller agencies such as NASA.… These aides report not to the secretary, but to … a White House deputy chief of staff.”
The administration’s head hunters have struggled for months to find well-qualified people for high-level posts because any past criticism of Trump is often disqualifying. Trump rejected Rex Tillerson’s first choice to be his deputy because he had criticized Trump during the campaign. A top aide to Ben Carson was summarily fired and escorted out of the Housing and Urban Development headquarters by security in February after a Trump loyalist discovered a critical op-ed he had written last fall.
During the GOP primaries, Trump asked attendees at his rallies to physically pledge loyalty. “Raise your right hand,” he said last March in Orlando, for example. He then told the crowd to repeat after him: “I do solemnly swear that I — no matter how I feel, no matter what the conditions, if there’s hurricanes or whatever — will vote, on or before the 12th for Donald J. Trump for president." Jewish groups complained at the time about the disconcerting imagery of people raising their right arms in what looked like a Nazi salute.
“Asked during a 2014 speech about the trait he most looks for in an employee, his answer was unequivocal: loyalty,” Bloomberg notes.
BUT LOYALTY DOES NOT CUT BOTH WAYS:
-- Last year, Trump repeatedly cited his refusal to fire then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, after he forcibly grabbed a female reporter and then denied it (even though there was video), as a testament to his own character. “Folks, look, I'm a loyal person,” Trump said at one town hall. “It would be so easy for me to terminate this man, ruin his life, ruin his family.” (He even cited Lewandowski during a meeting with Jewish leaders to make the point that he’d stay loyal to Israel if elected.) “This campaign, above all other things, is about loyalty,” Lewandowski told New York Magazine around this time.
Shortly thereafter, however, Trump fired Lewandowski. Then a few months after that, struggling in the polls, the candidate fired his replacement. It was a reminder that, for Trump, loyalty is always conditional. There are strings attached.
-- Trump has described himself as a “loyalty freak,” according to a profile written last summer by Politico’s Michael Kruse, but what he really meant by that is that he wants people under him to stay loyal to him.
-- From a prescient BuzzFeed profile in April 2016: “A review of the billionaire's tumultuous, decades-long career — including interviews with former employees, aides, and confidantes — suggests that Trump's dedication to even his closest allies can wear thin, particularly at moments of professional crisis. Far from a tight-knit family of blood brothers, The Donald's inner circle has been purged and repopulated many times over the years. Devoted workaholics burn out and flame out. Longtime alliances end with lawsuits and tabloid sniping. Sometimes reconciliation follows, sometimes grudges endure — and rarely does Trump refuse to bury the hatchet when it's good for the bottom line.”
Trump has even been willing to throw family members under the bus to avoid accepting fault for his own mistakes. “In 1990, when the disastrous opening of the Taj Mahal Casino threatened to unravel Trump's Atlantic City casino empire, he aimed his fury at his younger brother, Robert, who worked on the project,” the BuzzFeed story noted. “According to a 1991 book written by a former Trump executive, the magnate angrily berated Robert in front of other employees. Robert immediately departed the casino seething, according to the book, saying, ‘I don’t need this.’ … The episode put a lasting strain on their relationship.”
-- “Perhaps one of the most fraught positions for someone to occupy in Trump’s orbit is that of the PR man,” The Atlantic noted back in March: “Long before he earned the distinction of becoming the first president to live-tweet cable news, Trump was a headline-obsessed media junkie who devoured the New York Post daily and demanded round-the-clock attention from the publicists on his payroll. In one emblematic example from the early ‘90s, Trump became irate that he was losing the media battle with his first wife, Ivana, as their breakup dominated the tabloids — so he fired the public-relations consultant that his family had employed for more than two decades. Asked about the incident years later, the consultant, Howard Rubenstein, waved it off as a short-lived temper tantrum. ‘There was a time when [Trump] was upset with everybody,’ he shrugged. Still, in retrospect, the episode seems to have foreshadowed Trump’s widely chronicled displeasure with Spicer.”
TRUMP STILL HAS A LOT TO LEARN:
-- The president clearly prefers to surround himself with “yes men.” Consider what some of his favorite staffers said on TV in recent days:
- “I understand I have to earn his confidence every day,” Rex Tillerson said on NBC's “Meet the Press.” (That sounds exhausting.)
- Kellyanne Conway did not even try to dispute that Trump demands loyalty. “The president expects people who are serving in his administration … to be loyal to the administration,” the counselor to the president said on Fox News last Thursday as the Comey imbroglio blew up.
- Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the United Nations, added yesterday on ABC’s “This Week”: “The president is the CEO of the country. He can hire and fire whomever he wants. That’s his right."
-- In fact, that is not how it works. Trump is the president, not “the CEO,” of the United States. This is a meaningful distinction. The federal government does not belong to Trump. It is not a family business. Or even a publicly traded corporation with a board of directors. There are checks and balances. There are courts and Congress. There are laws designed to prevent obstruction of justice. As our first president to take office with no prior political or military experience, and lacking any formal training in history or constitutional law, Trump clearly still faces a Herculean learning curve.
-- This point is very important: FBI agents do not take an oath to the president. They take an oath to the Constitution. The bureau explains why this matters on its own website: “It is significant that we take an oath to support and defend the Constitution and not an individual leader, ruler, office, or entity. … A government based on individuals — who are inconsistent, fallible, and often prone to error — too easily leads to tyranny on the one extreme or anarchy on the other. … The American colonists were all too familiar with the harmful effects of unbalanced government and oaths to individual rulers. For example, the English were required to swear loyalty to the crown, and many of the early colonial documents commanded oaths of allegiance to the king.”
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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The Supreme Court will not review a decision that found North Carolina’s 2013 voting law discriminated against African American voters, the justices said this morning. From Robert Barnes: “A unanimous panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit had found in 2016 that North Carolina legislators had acted ‘with almost surgical precision’ to blunt the influence of African American voters. And last summer the Supreme Court had divided evenly on whether the law could be used in last fall’s election while the appeals continued. But the election resulted in a new Democratic governor and a Democratic attorney general, and they had told the court they did not want to defend the law enacted by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature. The Republicans had asked to continue the appeal….
“In an order saying the court would not review the lower court’s decision, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. cited the state’s changed political scene, and indicated that not all of the justices agreed with the lower court’s decision. ‘Given the blizzard of filings over who is and who is not authorized to seek review in this court under North Carolina law, it is important to recall our frequent admonition that ‘the denial of a writ of certiorari imports no expression of opinion upon the merits of the case,’” Roberts wrote.”
-- Barron Trump, the 11-year-old son of the president, will attend the private St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, Md., this fall after he moves from New York to Washington with his mother. From Valerie Strauss: “Barron Trump is finishing out the current school year at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where he is believed to be in fifth grade. He is expected to move to Washington this summer. He will be the first presidential child to attend St. Andrew’s, a co-educational college preparatory school that was founded in 1978 and educates about 580 students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.”
- “The White House had planned to hold off until summer to make the announcement – in part because of concern that St. Andrew’s might become the site of protests while school was still in session. But parents began to ask questions and express security concerns as rumors surfaced, and school leaders decided to tell their community on Monday in a letter.”
- “St. Andrew’s, where tuition will cost the Trumps about $40,000 a year, is known for its pioneering use of brain-based research to help students of all abilities to succeed and providing extra support for students who need it.”
THE WORLD IS ON FIRE:
-- Kim Jong Un celebrated the test of a so-called “perfect weapon system” on Sunday, after Pyongyang test-launched a ballistic missile that landed in the Sea of Japan. Anna Fifield reports: U.S. rocket scientists said the missile appeared to show “substantial” progress toward developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the mainland United States. “North Korea’s latest successful missile test represents a level of performance never before seen from a North Korean missile,” said aerospace engineer John Schilling, speculating that this means Pyongyang might be just one year, rather than the expected five, from having an ICBM. The launch was widely condemned. Rattling his saber, Kim was quoted by state media: “If the U.S. awkwardly attempts to provoke the DPRK, it will not escape from the biggest disaster in the history. The U.S. should not … disregard or misjudge the reality that its mainland and Pacific operation region are in the DPRK’s sighting range for strike and that it has all powerful means for retaliatory strike.”
-- The malicious “ransomware” attacks that struck more than 100 countries on Friday could worsen this week, computer experts warn, as millions of employees return to work for the first time. Brian Fung reports: “With much of the world still reeling from the digital breach that prevented people from receiving hospital care, a second wave of what European officials have called ‘the biggest ransomware attack ever’ could be devastating. The software, which first affected Britain’s National Health Service before spreading to as many as 150 countries, locked down victims’ computers and threatened to delete their files unless they paid $300 in bitcoins. Much of the potential damage from Friday’s attack was quickly contained by the efforts of a 22-year-old security researcher, [who] discovered that the unnamed attackers had accidentally included a ‘kill switch.’ … But that victory could be short-lived, experts said, because the [software] is likely to be modified soon and continue its spread in a slightly different form. For IT workers and security researchers, the episode highlights the challenge of fighting an ever-mutating foe whose motives are rarely clear."
-- For the second year in a row, Miss D.C. won the crown at the Miss USA pageant. Kára McCullough, a 25-year-old scientist who works at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, was born in Italy and raised in Virginia Beach. She gave controversial answers during the Q&A portion, saying that she considers health care more of a privilege than a right and rejecting the “feminist” label. (Emily Yahr)
-- Happening Wednesday at 6:15 p.m.: Join me at The Post's headquarters for the next "Daily 202 Live" interview with Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.). We'll talk about the news of the day and his new book, “The Vanishing American Adult.” RSVP here to attend.
GET SMART FAST:
- Emmanuel Macron, 39, was sworn-in as president of France, becoming the country’s youngest leader since Napoleon. Now the centrist leader faces his most high-stakes challenge of all: governing a highly-divided country from the middle. And should Macron fail to ease France’s stubbornly high joblessness, the far-right National Front may roar back stronger than ever in 2022 — a step that could bring the entire European Union tumbling down. (Cléophée Demoustier and Michael Birnbaum)
- Callista Gingrich, Newt's wife, is slated to be named as U.S. ambassador to the Vatican. CNN says Trump has finalized the decision, and Gingrich is working with the Office of Government Ethics on paperwork. Administration officials hope to formally announce the news before Trump travels to meet Pope Francis in Rome.
- The 9th Circuit will hear oral arguments today on Trump’s second travel ban. The San Francisco-based federal appellate court blocked the first ban, and now a different set of three judges will weigh the revised version. The 4th Circuit in Richmond is also considering the order. (Matt Zapotosky)
- Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks is expected to announce today that he’ll challenge Sen. Luther Strange in the GOP Senate primary next year, a big blow to Mitch McConnell’s hardball efforts to clear the field. Strange was appointed by the toxically-unpopular Robert Bentley shortly before he resigned as governor. (Birmingham News)
- GOP Rep. Ann Wagner will announce in July that she is running against Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill. (National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar)
- Chicago’s sprawling main jail was placed on lockdown Sunday after more than 200 of its employees failed to show up for their shifts — for the second year in a row. Officials believe the absences were triggered by nice weather and Mother’s Day. (Derek Hawkins)
- White nationalist Richard Spencer led a large group of torch-wielding protesters though the streets of Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday, chanting “You will not replace us” and “Russia is our friend” as part of a rally against plans to remove a Confederate monument. (Laura Vozzella)
- A Tennessee woman who opposes the House’s health-care bill was arrested after she allegedly tried to run her Republican congressman off the road. When the lawmaker pulled into a driveway to avoid an accident, his aides say that she got out of her car, screamed at him and began striking the windows of his vehicle. Authorities tracked her down after she posted on Facebook about the incident. (Kristine Phillips)
- A family was booted from their JetBlue flight after a dispute over where to store a birthday cake they had brought on board — even after, they said, they complied with instructions to move the cake to the floor. The airline says flight attendants worried about disruptions in the air. (Amy B Wang)
- Scientists identified the earliest known example of fossilized brain tissue from a dinosaur — using the remains of a 2,500-pound, remarkably well-preserved skeleton that is in such mint condition that scientists can count the number of scales on its foot. (Travis M. Andrews)
- A horrifying 50-foot sea creature washed up dead on the shores of Indonesia — turning the ocean bright red and setting off a global guessing game as the Internet raced to identify the bloated, nightmarish creature. But as the scientific community worked itself into a tizzy, the people of Seram just had one simple inquiry: How do we get rid of it? (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
THERE IS A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Russia han't gotten much of what it hoped for from the Trump administration (at least not yet), but the Kremlin has collected a different kind of return on its effort to help elect Trump in last year’s election: chaos in Washington. Greg Miller reports: “The president’s decision to fire [Comey] was the latest destabilizing jolt to a core institution of the U.S. government … [joining] a list of entities that Trump has targeted, including federal judges, U.S. spy services, news organizations and military alliances. The instability, although driven by Trump, has in some ways extended and amplified the effect Russia sought to achieve with its unprecedented campaign to undermine the 2016 presidential race...
Current and former U.S. officials said that, even if that probe remains on track, Comey’s ouster serves broader Russian interests:
- "They feel pretty good overall because that’s a further sign that our political system is in a real crisis," said former State Department official Eugene Rumer.
- "It plays into the idea that we are as corrupt as anybody else, that what the United States is exporting isn’t something you want," said a former senior U.S. intelligence official."
SOUNDING THE ALARM:
-- Former director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned on the Sunday shows that Trump is undermining U.S. institutions: "I think in many ways our institutions are under assault both externally — and that's the big news here is the Russian interference in our election system — and I think as well our institutions are under assault internally," he said on CNN's "State of the Union." “Internally from the president?” Jake Tapper asked. “Exactly,” said Clapper.
On ABC’s “This Week,” Clapper added that Russia sees Trump firing Comey as “another victory on the scoreboard for them”: “The lead of the investigation about potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign has been removed. So the Russians have to consider this another victory on the scoreboard for them."
He called on other branches of the government to step up their roles in protecting the system of checks and balances: "I think the founding fathers, in their genius, created a system of three co-equal branches of government and a built-in system of checks and balances," he said on CNN. "I feel as though that is under assault and is eroding."
Clapper also said that Trump is totally wrong to cite his recent congressional testimony as “proof” that there was no collusion between the Kremlin and his campaign: "The bottom line is I don't know if there was collusion, political collusion. I don't know of any evidence to it. So I can't refute it, and I can't confirm it."
COMEY FALLOUT CONTINUES:
-- Key Republican and Democratic lawmakers called on Trump to turn over any recordings he has of conversations with ex-FBI director James Comey. The president, who has a long history of taping private meetings, suggested that he has tapes in a tweet on Friday. He and his aides refuse to confirm or deny that there is a taping system, raising suspicions that there are indeed tapes.
- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on NBC’s “Meet the Press: “If there are any tapes of this conversation, they need to be turned over."
- Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a former federal prosecutor, said “it’s probably inevitable” such recordings would need to be handed over to Congress, and predicted that they would be subpoenaed. Asked on “Fox News Sunday” about Trump’s decision to set up a taping system, Lee called it “not necessarily the best idea.”
-- “After a week of turmoil, none of Trump’s top aides appeared on the major Sunday morning news shows to defend and explain the president’s decision,” Ed O’Keefe and Jenna Johnson note. “Host Chris Wallace opened ‘Fox News Sunday’ by highlighting who was not on his guest list, saying that the White House would not make anyone available to discuss the Comey firing. ‘When we said we were going to focus on Comey for at least the first half-hour of this program, they put those officials on other shows,’ Wallace said."
-- An NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll finds that just 29 percent of Americans approve of Comey’s firing, while 38 percent disapproved. Another 32 percent of respondents didn't have an opinion. Asked if they prefer Congress or an independent commission or prosecutor to investigate Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election, 78 percent said they support an independent prosecutor, while just 15 percent picked Congress.
-- Trump suggested Saturday that he could name a new FBI director by the time he departs for his first overseas trip this Friday. Administration officials say he is considering nearly a dozen candidates for the position. Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein interviewed eight contenders on Saturday. That list included Sen. John Cornyn, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe; Alice Fisher, a white-collar defense lawyer who previously led the Justice Department’s criminal division; Michael Garcia, a judge on the New York State Court of Appeals and former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York; Adam Lee, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Richmond field office; U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson, who presides over the Eastern District of Virginia; former Homeland Security adviser Frances Townsend; and former House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers. (Callum Borchers and Matt Zapotosky)
-- Chuck Schumer said Senate Democrats may oppose whoever Trump nominates for FBI director until the Justice Department names a special prosecutor. “We will have to discuss it as a caucus, but I would support that move, because who the FBI director is related to who the special prosecutor is,” the minority leader said.
-- Republicans keep trying to float Merrick Garland for FBI director so that they can shift the balance of power on the D.C. Circuit. (This will not happen, and serious media outlets really need to stop covering it as a credible idea.)
-- In an op-ed for The Post, ousted U.S. attorney Preet Bharara asks: “Are there still public servants who will say no to the president?” To restore faith in the rule of law, he says, three obvious things must happen:
- “First, we need a truly bipartisan investigation in Congress. That means no partisan nonsense — just a commitment to finding the facts, whatever they may be, proving (or disproving) Russian interference in our election and anything related.”
- “Second, the new FBI director must be apolitical and sensitive to the law-enforcement mission, not someone with a long record of reflexive partisanship or commentary on the very investigative issues that will come before the bureau. Unfortunately, some of the candidates paraded by cameras this past weekend reality-show style fall into that category. I can’t think of anything worse for FBI morale, for truth-finding or for public trust.”
- “Finally, I join in the common-sense call for an independent and uncompromised special counsel to oversee the Russia investigation. Given the manner of Comey’s firing and the pretextual reasons proffered for it, there is no other way. … History will judge this moment. It’s not too late to get it right, and justice demands it.”
TRUMP STOCKING MAIN JUSTICE WITH LOYALISTS:
-- “George Conway is the man at the center of everything,” by Ben Terris: “If it weren’t for George Conway, the nation might never have met Monica Lewinsky, and Donald Trump might never have met Kellyanne. In the 1990s, George was a quiet but critical presence in what Hillary Clinton would dub a ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ — a hotshot young attorney working to undermine Bill Clinton by offering secret legal aid to his accusers and reportedly funneling salacious details to the Drudge Report. ‘This one disgruntled New York lawyer almost single-handedly brought down the president,’ David Brock [once wrote]. … Years later, George would marry [Kellyanne], a publicity-prone Beltway pollster, and move with her to an apartment in Manhattan’s Trump World Tower ... [But] back then, George helped sow the chaos. Now, he’s coming to Washington to try to put things back together. … Trump, according to sources who would know, has asked George to run the Justice Department’s civil division. Pending Senate approval, he would become one of the administration’s top lawyers, tasked with guarding the president and his policies from legal challenges.”
UNDER TRUMP, INCONVENIENT DATA IS BEING SIDELINED:
-- The administration has deleted or tucked away important information, removed Obama-era webpages and broken with precedent by refusing to disclose even basic public information when it does not help advance Trump's agenda. Juliet Eilperin rounds up some of the startling assaults on transparency:
- Some of the moves lessen public access to information about companies and other employers – shielding them from the so-called “naming and shaming” that federal officials previously used to influence company behavior. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration dramatically scaled back on publicizing fines against firms. The Agriculture Department removed from the web a list of animal welfare enforcement actions, which listed abuses in dog breeding operations and horse farms.
- The administration no longer publishes ethics waivers granted to employees who would otherwise be barred from joining the government because of lobbying activities. Nor is the White House releasing its visitor logs.
- They've removed websites and other material supporting Obama-era policies – such as a White House web page directing prospective donors to private groups that aid Syrian refugees, and websites providing information about climate change.
- Officials removed websites run by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department that provided scientific information about climate change, eliminating access, for instance, to documents evaluating the danger that the desert ecology in the Southwest could face from future warming.
- The White House also retired the two-year-old Federal Supplier Greenhouse Gas Management Scorecard, which ranks firms with major federal contracts on their energy efficiency and policies to curb carbon output.
ROLLING BACK THE OBAMA LEGACY:
-- “As Ryan Zinke listens in on the monumental divide at Utah’s Bears Ears, natives feel unheard,” by Darryl Fears: “Long after the Black Hawk helicopter carrying the Interior secretary flew off into the bright Utah sky, James Adakai stood in the airport parking lot with an angry frown frozen on his face. As chairman of a tribal commission established to oversee the Bears Ears National Monument, Adakai, who is Navajo, felt he deserved a place in a meeting Zinke arranged at the airport to discuss the monument’s fate. Instead, Zinke met and toured the site in helicopters with Utah government officials and others who adamantly oppose the first U.S. monument designated at the request of Native American tribes. … The fight over Bears Ears isn’t just the usual row between politicians who want to mine and drill the land and conservationists who want to preserve and ogle its natural splendor. It also pits natives who reside on reservations across three states against many Anglos — as some Navajos and Hopi people call white residents — who live in San Juan County. ... Zinke is expected to submit a recommendation to Trump in early June, following a public comment period that started Friday. But conservationists wondered whether the Trump administration had already betrayed its intent.”
CONFLICTS OF INTEREST:
-- ICYMI: “At Mar-a-Lago, the star power of the presidency helps charities — and Trump — make more money,” by Drew Harwell and Dave Fahrenthold: “Mar-a-Lago will soon close for the season, as Palm Beach’s wealthy snowbirds return north. That will bring an end to one of the oddest experiments in modern American politics — in which a sitting president has become a moneymaking attraction for his own private business. [The Post] identified more than 45 events since Election Day in which outside groups paid to rent space at Mar-a-Lago. Hedge-fund investors noshed by the pool. Zoo animals prowled for the entertainment of donors. Men in military gear dropped from a helicopter near the lakefront cocktail bar and stormed a lawn full of socialites as part of a benefit for the Navy SEAL Foundation … In at least 10 of those cases, the events turned out to be a little bigger, and to raise a little more money, than in past years. … The reason, some organizers said, was that Trump’s event customers could offer the grandeur of the presidency as an added attraction for potential attendees. The trend is likely to continue next year, as some charities planning Mar-a-Lago events for the 2018 season are hoping the dates they book coincide with times that Trump is staying at the club."
-- Politico, "How Trump gets his fake news," by Shane Goldmacher: “[Reince Priebus] issued a stern warning at a recent senior staff meeting: Quit trying to secretly slip stuff to the president. Just days earlier, K.T. McFarland, the deputy national security adviser, had given Trump a printout of two Time magazine covers. One, supposedly from the 1970s, warned of a coming ice age; the other, from 2008, about surviving global warming … Trump quickly got lathered up about the media’s hypocrisy. But there was a problem. The 1970s cover was fake, part of an Internet hoax that’s circulated for years. Staff chased down the truth and intervened before Trump tweeted or talked publicly about it. … The episode illustrates the impossible mission of managing a White House led by an impetuous president who has resisted structure and strictures his entire adult life."
-- “Health insurance premiums will keep going up, under either ACA or AHCA,” by Glenn Kessler: Analyzing Congressional Budget Office data, here is the first visualization of premium prices over the next decade for an average 64-year-old:
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan prepares to travel to the U.S. to meet with Trump this week, relations between the two countries remain deeply strained. Karen DeYoung reports: “Barely two months ago, [Erdogan] was one of [Trump’s] biggest fans. Fed up with what he saw as the Obama administration’s wishy-washy Syria policy, its unwise alliance with Kurdish ‘terrorists’ and its failure to understand the need for some of his authoritarian policies, Erdogan envisioned a new dawn in U.S.-Turkish relations. But ... Erdogan has been less than pleased. Last week, his top military and intelligence officials traveled here for a final effort to stop the administration from arming Syrian Kurdish fighters for an upcoming offensive in Raqqa against the Islamic State, only to be told by their U.S. counterparts that a decision to do so had already been made. At the same time, his justice minister brought new evidence to support Turkey’s long-standing extradition request for [Pennsylvania-based cleric] Fethullah Gulen. … The U.S. Justice Department thanked him and sent him away with no news of progress.” Turkey's diplomats said the purpose of those visits was “to pave the ground for fruitful discussions between the two presidents." "We were hopeful,” a senior Turkish official said. “Now, we are in a crisis period.”
-- “How a woman in England tracks civilian deaths in Syria, one bomb at a time,” by Greg Jaffe: “One recent morning in the countryside beyond London, Kinda Haddad dropped her two children off at school, came home and began scanning her computer for the day’s first reports of Syrian civilians killed by American bombs. This is her second year of doing this, an almost daily routine since Haddad, 45, became one of the first analysts for Airwars, an eight-person nonprofit group started with a simple question: Exactly how many civilians were being killed in the American-led air campaigns in Iraq and Syria? Was it even possible to know? The usual sources of such information — reporters, the U.N. and human rights groups … have been largely absent from the battlefields, especially after a series of kidnappings and beheadings of journalists and aid workers in Syria. And so Airwars — which is to say Haddad in her living room and seven others … began quite literally piecing together the answer — a painstaking process that involves sifting through tens of thousands of … fragments of information, from a war that often feels remote to everyone except the Syrians and Iraqis trying desperately to document their own destruction.”
-- “‘Did you hear that?’: Amid Baltimore’s surge in killings, a faint cry in a locked car,” by Peter Hermann and Theresa Vargas: “No one saw the baby. She sat in a gold-hued car with tinted black windows as her 26-year-old father lay on the ground outside, dying. All eyes were on him, another fallen body in a city increasingly defined by them. In portions of Baltimore, the strobe of police cars is as much a part of the landscape as boarded-up homes. But the pace of the killings this year has been stunning as the city struggles to recover from rioting in 2015. As of Friday, 124 people had been slain … making Baltimore’s homicide rate one of the highest in the country. It is more than triple Washington’s rate and higher than the homicide rates in New Orleans and Chicago, two places that have become national symbols of gun violence. But few [scenes] have been as haunting as the [one] that played out on March 27 in front of a West Baltimore carryout.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Since his unceremonious firing, the world has gone “full TMZ” on James Comey – from the news helicopters that trailed his car in L.A., to the AP reporters staking out the front yard of his McLean-area home. A nine-year-old neighbor, Abby Grace, in a burst of sympathy for her now-jobless acquaintance, baked chocolate chip cookies to bring over. This weekend, Comey went to see the play "Fun Home." The show’s website describes it as a "musical about looking back … and moving forward." That's fitting perhaps, Amy B Wang reports.
Comey even posed for a picture with the cast:
President Trump's longtime attorney, Michael Cohen, tweeted a photo of his college-aged daughter in lingerie:
So proud of my Ivy League daughter...brains and beauty channeling her Edie Sedgwick. On Instagram @samichka_ pic.twitter.com/mpQxhr3mh3— Michael Cohen (@MichaelCohen212) May 15, 2017
When one user pointed out that it is weird for a father to post a picture like this of his child, Cohen replied: “Jealous?” (Travis M. Andrews)
-- Politicians mostly posted about Mother's Day on Sunday:
Happy Mother's Day to my love and partner on this journey @MichelleObama, and to all the wonderful, hardworking mothers out there.— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) May 14, 2017
When we can support our working moms, we can lift up every family. A great reminder on this Mother’s Day. https://t.co/Bi3DgiULRw— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) May 14, 2017
Happy Mother's Day mom. pic.twitter.com/xRytVqozMW— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) May 14, 2017
My mom and me right after she gave the prayer at my swearing in for Congress. We lost her to cancer a year later. pic.twitter.com/BhtTPOjtzb— Rob Portman (@senrobportman) May 14, 2017
Melissa w/ Beto on board, 1972. Amy w/ Ulysses on board, 2006. Happy Mother's Day to our mamas!! pic.twitter.com/bxew5G9NQi— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) May 14, 2017
"Talking story" with my baby girl.she is my joy&a reason why I fight dragons.thank u all who saved me so I can be mom pic.twitter.com/XKiJFRXjTF— tammyduckworth (@tammyduckworth) May 14, 2017
Happy Mother's Day to Stacy, who watches over our two kids (and chickens) while I'm away in Washington. 👨👩👧👦♥️🐔 pic.twitter.com/ACSd1ohtbJ— Rep Rick Crawford (@RepRickCrawford) May 14, 2017
And another Happy Mother's Day to my own amazing mom. You did everything right as a mom - with a few notable exceptions... pic.twitter.com/JTNH1IhcG6— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) May 14, 2017
Happy Mother's Day to the sweetest person I've ever known, my wife Cindy. pic.twitter.com/KRDEvEhLjk— Steve Daines (@SteveDaines) May 14, 2017
From this "Scandal" star:
Some got pretty political with the holiday:
Nothing says "I love you, Mom!" like standing up for the right of mothers everywhere to get the care they need. https://t.co/uFRM9UeosH— Cecile Richards (@CecileRichards) May 14, 2017
Medicaid currently covers over 40 percent of American pregnancies.— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) May 14, 2017
This Mothers' Day, the GOP is plotting $800 billion in cuts.
This women's health week statement is written as if it didn't come from a president slashing domestic spending and essential health benefits pic.twitter.com/iaCO9yaHsF— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) May 14, 2017
From a Democratic candidate for governor in Virginia:
Twitter 2017: Where even #MothersDay gets turned into partisan politics— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) May 14, 2017
Antonio Sabato Jr., the soap opera star who is running for Congress, would love to stump with Trump:
Yes our President @realDonaldTrump fired JC and will continue to fire individuals that should be gone for good .We stand with our Leader 🇺🇸— Antonio Sabáto Jr (@antoniosabatojr) May 14, 2017
Newspapers in Germany:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- New York Times, “Young Black Democrats, Eager to Lead From the Left, Eye Runs in 2018,” by Alexander Burns: “In states from Massachusetts to Florida, a phalanx of young black leaders in the Democratic Party is striding into some of the biggest elections of 2018, staking early claims on governorships and channeling the outcry of rank-and-file Democrats who favor all-out battle with Mr. Trump and increasingly question his legitimacy as president. By moving swiftly into the most contentious midterm races, these candidates aim to cement their party in forceful opposition to Mr. Trump and to align it unswervingly with minority communities and young people. Rather than muting their differences with the Republican Party in order to compete in states Mr. Trump won, like Georgia and Florida, they aim to make those distinctions starker. And, these Democrats say, they are willing to defy the conventional strategic thinking of the national party establishment, which has tended to recruit moderate, white candidates for difficult races …”
-- The New Yorker, “My grandmother’s desperate choice,” by Kate Daloz: “My grandmother died of a self-induced abortion. In the Trump era, her story has taken on a new sense of urgency.”
-- Buzzfeed, “There’s So Much to Learn From the Montana Special Election,” by Anne Helen Petersen: “On April 26, the Washington Free Beacon … broke what, to its mind, was a major scandal … ‘Montana Democrat Rob Quist Is Regular Performer at a Nudist Resort,’ the headline declared. The resort where Quist performed is indeed a nudist hot spring. But to suggest that Montanans would be scandalized by this choice of venue is to fundamentally misunderstand Montana … The story — and the GOP’s aim to exploit it — points to the problem with attempts, both financial and ideological, to transform the races in Georgia, Kansas, and now Montana into political bellwethers. In trying to nationalize these races — and framing them as macro-commentary on politics in America — we lose sight of the actual lessons they can teach us. The Montana special election won’t be a referendum on Trump. It won’t even necessarily tell us what will happen in the midterms. But it, and Montana politics in general, does offer a master class on something even more important: namely, how to cultivate and actually sway one of the most valuable, and increasingly rare, of political entities — the independent voter.”
-- Politico, “Reckless stock trading leaves Congress rife with conflicts,” by Maggie Severns: “Rep. Tom Price … was under siege, the harsh lights of a Senate hearing upon him. News reports showed he had bought shares in a tiny biotechnology company while sitting on committees that could influence the firm’s prospects. … But what many saw as a scandal, others saw as an opportunity. On the very day that [Sen. Ron] Wyden was decrying Price’s bad judgment, Rep. Doug Lamborn … bought shares of the same tiny Australian company, Innate Immunotherapeutics. Within two days three more members also bought in — Republicans Billy Long of Missouri, Mike Conaway of Texas and John Culberson of Texas. Conaway added more shares the following week. These brazen decisions to gobble up shares of a little-known firm at the very moment when such trading was being decried as an abuse of power reflects Congress' anything-goes culture around stock investments. In the pursuit of wealth, even obvious conflicts of interest are routinely ignored by members who feast on daily trades.”
-- New York Magazine, “Women Can Wear Pants on Fox News Now, But Not Much Else Has Changed,” by Gabriel Sherman: “When Rupert Murdoch left his office [recently] … the 86-year-old mogul was ambushed by a BBC reporter seeking comment on the ongoing scandals at Fox News. ‘Nothing’s happening at Fox News, nothing,’ Murdoch declared. The response was practically Trumpian in its breathtaking denial … But by another measure, it’s true that not much is happening at Fox News. Many of Roger Ailes’s top lieutenants remain, including Suzanne Scott, who enforced Ailes’s short-skirt dress code; Warren Vandeveer, who installed the in-house surveillance system; and John Moody, who enacted Ailes’s right-wing news agenda. A high-level employee told me that Murdoch is adopting a policy of willful ignorance about the Ailes era and ‘doesn’t want to know’ about the past. An organization like Fox News doesn’t become such a toxic workplace by accident. The question now is whether Fox News will do the minimum to appear to address the various scandals or make substantial cultural change. And whether substantial change is even possible under Murdoch.”
-- New York Magazine also profiles Ivanka Trump --> “The People’s Princess,” by Caitlin Flanagan: “Long ago (she) made a decision, one befitting a Tudor or a Gotti: She would make it her mission to ‘preserve and protect the family name and reputation.’ Like a princess, Ivanka devotes herself to the needs of a waning king. He is Lear — ‘All the power of his wits have given way to his impatience’ — but Lear with only one relevant daughter, and to her has fallen the task of keeping his terrifying impatience from destroying not just their shared empire but the world itself. He is strangely dependent on her now. And so are we.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Massachusetts school punishes twins for hair braid extensions. Their parents say it’s racial discrimination,” from Katie Mettler: “As white parents of five black children, Deanna and Aaron Cook have taught their family to grow thick skin. But nothing [prepared them for the battle they’ve been fighting] over their daughters’ hair. On April 14, twins Deanna and Mya Cook, 15, told their parents they wanted to have their hair professionally braided. The next day, the girls were called to the office for a ‘uniform infraction.’ Hair extensions are prohibited in the public charter school’s student handbook … because it is ‘distracting.’ An administrator told Deanna and Mya that their new braids … violated that rule. With each day since, punishments from the school have escalated, Aaron Cook said, so much so that he and his wife eventually sought guidance from the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League and the [ACLU].”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Songwriter: 'If you're a Trump supporter, don't come to my show,’” from The Hill: “Todd Rundgren, a singer and songwriter, warned fans not to attend his concerts if they are [Trump] supporters, saying ‘buyer beware.’ ‘If I had the power, I’d say: If you’re a Trump supporter, don’t come to my show, because you won’t have a good time,’ Rundgren said in [an interview] …Rundgren collaborated with an array of artists for his new album … [and co-produced] an anti-Trump song called ‘Man in the Tin Foil Hat.’ Rundgren said his shows will contain many insulting jokes about the Republican president, warning that it could be a turnoff for the president's supporters.”
At the White House: Trump will travel to the Capitol, where he will give remarks at the 36th Annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service. Following, he will return to the White House to welcome and meet with Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayid Al Nuhayyan of Abu Dhabi. Later, the two will have a working lunch. Pence will join Trump for Peace Officers’ Service and for the lunch. Then he will swear in U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, upset about the firing of Comey, unloaded on Trump before his team played the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals: “Usually, things happen in the world and you go to work and you’ve got your family and you’ve got your friend and you do what you do, but to this day I feel like there’s a cloud, a pall, over the whole country, in a paranoid surreal sort of way that’s got nothing to do with the Democrats losing the election.” Cindy Boren notes that Popovich isn’t just any coach spouting off: An Air Force Academy graduate with a degree in Soviet Studies, he was an active-duty intelligence officer in Eastern Europe after graduating in 1970. Not only does he have five NBA championships to his name, he’s becoming the coach of the U.S. national team. “It’s got to do with the way one individual conducts himself,” Popovich said Sunday. “It’s embarrassing. It’s dangerous to our institutions and what we all stand for and what we expect the country to be. But for this individual, he’s at a game show and everything that happens begins and ends with him, not our people or our country. When he talks about those things, that’s just a ruse. That’s disingenuous, cynical and fake.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Today will be mostly sunny, breezy, and beautiful. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “We’re still on the breezy side and a bit cooler than yesterday. But mostly sunny skies help temperatures steadily through the 50s this morning, with beautiful afternoon highs in the low-to-mid-70s.”
-- The Nationals held their own in a split doubleheader with the Phillies on Sunday, losing game one 4-3 but coming back with a 6-5 victory in the second.
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Watch SNL's cold open in which Lester Holt interviews Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump:
Melissa McCarthy emerges (from the bushes) to return as Sean Spicer:
John Oliver talked about the Comey firing last night:
A Comey 60 Minutes flashback:
Here's how Trump has used surveillance previously:
See Will Ferrell try to channel Whitney Houston at the USC commencement ceremony:
“No one has ever achieved anything significant without a chorus of critics standing on the sidelines explaining why it can’t be done,” President Trump said in his Saturday commencement address at Liberty University. “Nothing is easier — or more pathetic — than being a critic, because they’re people that can’t get the job done.” Watch the highlights of the speech here: