with Breanne Deppisch
In the past few days, several of Trump’s rivals for the Republican nomination have taken I-told-you-so snipes:
- “I don't understand why people are that shocked,” Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “This president ran a very unconventional campaign. … That's what the American people voted for. And in essence, you know, this White House is not much different from the campaign.”
- “When I ran for office, I said he is a chaos candidate and would be a chaos president,” Jeb Bush said Friday at a hedge fund conference in Las Vegas. “Unfortunately, so far chaos organizes the presidency.”
- “The things that have swirled around this White House are the reasons that caused me not to move forward and support him,” Ohio Gov. John Kasich said during a CNN town hall last Tuesday. “Part of my concern was not just some of what I saw during that campaign, but also there wasn’t a real grasp on the issues.… I don’t like people that say, ‘I told you so,’ but … I was the one Republican who would not endorse Donald Trump.”
On the other hand, if you truly took Trump at his word — i.e. face value — his performance thus far has been shocking. He has repeatedly broken campaign promises big and small, and he’s demonstrated hypocrisy by doing many of the exact same things he used to rip Barack Obama for. His strikes on Syria and escalation of the war in Afghanistan suggest that even some of the signature positions he staked out before becoming president were driven more by political convenience than principle. His frequent golf outings, an activity he once said he would give up if he won, are small but routine reminders.
-- Trump’s first full budget, which will be formally released tomorrow, is yet another example of him not doing what he promised as a candidate. The president tweeted this exactly two years ago:
He’s also on the record making this promise. Note that he mentions Social Security and Medicaid:
I was the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid. Huckabee copied me.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 7, 2015
But tomorrow Trump will propose gutting Medicaid by more than $800 billion over the next 10 years, Damian Paletta scooped last night. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that this could cut off benefits for about 10 million people.
In total, the president’s first full budget will propose $1.7 trillion worth of entitlement cuts over the next decade, “a source with direct knowledge” tells Axios’s Jonathan Swan. In addition to Medicaid, the president plans to put the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance) on the chopping block. SSDI, obviously, is part of Social Security.
Trump’s budget would also push millions of Americans off food stamps. “The cuts include a whopping $193 billion from food stamps over the coming decade — more than 25 percent — implemented by cutting back eligibility and imposing additional work requirements,” the Associated Press’s Andrew Taylor reports. “The program presently serves about 42 million people.” Andrew, who obtained talking points being circulated by the White House, adds that the president’s blueprint includes huge cuts to federal employee pensions, welfare benefits and farm subsidies, as well.
Damian’s sources say Trump will call for zeroing out federal funding to Habitat for Humanity, subsidized school lunches and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which coordinates the federal response to homelessness across 19 federal agencies.
“A key element of the budget plan will be the assumption that huge tax cuts will result in an unprecedented level of economic growth,” he explains. “Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told a Senate panel last week that these tax cuts would end up creating trillions of dollars in new revenue, something budget experts from both parties have disputed. The tax cuts would particularly benefit the wealthiest Americans, as Trump has proposing cutting the estate tax, capital gains and business tax rates. The White House will use its presumed new revenue from the tax cuts combined with broad spending cuts to claim that its changes would eliminate the budget deficit over 10 years.”
All of this taken together underscores the stark ideological division inside the administration. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney is a tea partyer who co-founded the House Freedom Caucus and wants to starve the beast of big government. Trump was a Democrat for most of his life, however, and he’s stocked his senior team with populists and globalists who want to “prime the pump.” That creates an odd dynamic, which leads to a budget that simultaneously calls for the federal government to be spending less on discretionary programs 10 years from now than it did in 2001 while also calling for $200 billion in new infrastructure spending and $25 billion to support Ivanka Trump’s European-style liberal family leave proposal.
Many rank-and-file Republicans on Capitol Hill are already dismissing Trump’s budget as unserious and say it is dead even before arrival. “Like I want to go home after having voting against Meals on Wheels and say, 'Oh it's a bad program, keeping seniors alive'? There's just some of the stuff in here that doesn't make any sense,” Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) told Politico. “Frankly, you can't pass these budgets on the floor."
Simpson is correct, but it’s also true that budget proposals are meaningful statements of priorities. And this budget is fundamentally at odds with what Trump told voters his priorities would be.
-- Trump’s weekend in Saudi Arabia brought several fresh illustrations of how much he’s flip-flopped in the realm of foreign policy. “I think Islam hates us,” Trump said on the campaign trail as he defended his proposed Muslim ban. During a major speech yesterday, he called Islam “one of the world’s great faiths.” (Here is a comprehensive timeline of the president’s shifting comments about the religion and its adherents.)
Trump used to attack Obama for refusing to utter the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.” But his aides have convinced him that he, too, ought to avoid that term. “In his Riyadh address, Trump decided to use a substitute phrase: ‘Islamist extremism,’” Karen DeYoung and Philip Rucker report. “But he slightly veered off the prepared excerpts released earlier by the White House, saying ‘Islamic’ instead of ‘Islamist’ on several occasions.… A senior White House official later said that Trump merely misspoke in using the word ‘Islamic’ rather than ‘Islamist.’ ‘He’s just an exhausted guy,’ said the official, who briefed reporters only on the condition of anonymity.”
Exhaustion (on the second day of a nine-day trip) is an amusing excuse to offer for such a mistake, considering how much Trump mocked Obama, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush for lacking stamina. There are several dozen more examples where these come from:
Obama looks exhausted and beaten. He was never made or prepared for the job. Like it or not, he doesn't have "it"— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 10, 2014
Hillary Clinton doesn't have the strength or stamina to be president. Jeb Bush is a low energy individual, but Hillary is not much better!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2016
Trump lavished praise on Saudi Arabia all weekend. Just last year, he publicly accused the country of being behind the 9/11 attacks several times.
The president also criticized Obama for bowing to a Saudi king. Then he did it:
And “Morning Joe” had a field day:
Trump criticized Michelle Obama for not wearing a scarf when she joined her husband in Saudi Arabia. Yet neither his wife nor daughter did.
Many people are saying it was wonderful that Mrs. Obama refused to wear a scarf in Saudi Arabia, but they were insulted.We have enuf enemies— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2015
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates pledged yesterday to donate a combined $100 million to a World Bank fund dreamed up by Ivanka to assist women entrepreneurs. In the final debate last October, though, Trump attacked the Clinton Foundation for accepting $25 million from the Saudis. “These are people that kill women and treat women horribly. Yet you take their money,” he said. Last summer, he posted on Facebook: “Saudi Arabia and many of the countries that gave vast amounts of money to the Clinton Foundation want women as slaves and to kill gays. Hillary must return all money from such countries!"
Substantively, there is nothing inherently wrong with any of this. Previous first ladies, including Laura and Barbara Bush, also did not wear headscarves. The World Bank fund, like the Clinton Foundation, might do some very noble work. Not alienating the Muslim world is a good goal of U.S. foreign policy. All presidents evolve as they learn the complexities of the world.
The issue here is that Trump scored political points on each of these topics. Now he has shifted in dramatic ways without even nodding to the changes. Meanwhile, many of his supporters who expressed outrage when Obama was president are silent.
Today the president’s foreign trip continues in Israel, where he will not follow through on his campaign promise to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn will plead the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination today as he refuses to comply with a congressional subpoena seeking documents. The AP reports: “Flynn's decision comes less than two weeks after the Senate Intelligence committee issued a subpoena for Flynn's documents as part of the panel's investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election. Legal experts have said Flynn was unlikely to turn over the personal documents without immunity because he would be waiving some of his constitutional protections by doing so. Flynn has previously sought immunity from ‘unfair prosecution’ to cooperate.”
-- Boston stunned Cleveland last night. Avery Bradley’s 3-pointer danced on the rim and dropped with less than a second left and the Celtics, blown out in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals and playing without star Isaiah Thomas, stunned the Cavaliers 111-108 in Game 3 to end the champions’ 13-game postseason winning streak. (Associated Press)
-- Register for tomorrow’s 202 LIVE with John Podesta: The founder of the Center for American Progress, who chaired Hillary Clinton’s campaign and served in both the Clinton and Obama White Houses, will come by The Post's headquarters at 9 a.m. to discuss Trump, the Russia investigation and the path forward for Democrats. Karen Tumulty will guest host (I’m in Minnesota). RSVP to attend or watch the live stream here. Also: Sign up for The Energy 202, which debuts tomorrow just in time for budget day.
GET SMART FAST:
- The Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus held its final three shows, ending a 146-year run of entertaining American audiences with gravity-defying trapeze stunts, comically clumsy clowns and trained tigers. (Karin Brulliard)
- The FBI is assisting in the murder investigation of a Bowie State University student to determine whether his stabbing death was a hate crime. The 23-year-old African American was allegedly killed by a student just one year younger in what police called a “totally unprovoked” attack. (Luz Lazo)
- A longtime black congressman, Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.), says he received intense backlash after calling for Trump’s impeachment — including a spate of vulgar lynching threats. “You’re not going to impeach anybody, you f—— n—– … You’ll be hanging from a tree,” one person said. (Kristine Phillips)
- Republican gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart was jeered by hundreds of attendees at a candidates’ forum in a Northern Virginia synagogue last night when he said that most anti-Semitism originates on the political left. This is the same guy who is defending the state’s Confederate "heritage" and has received support from white supremacists across the Commonwealth. (Moriah Balingit)
- An Alexandria gym terminated the membership of self-proclaimed white nationalist Richard Spencer, after he was confronted by a Georgetown University professor who called him a “cowardly Nazi” for his alt-right views. (Faiz Siddiqui)
- A Boston-area charter school that punished two black girls for wearing braided hair extensions has suspended its dress code, ending a rule that parents complained unfairly targeted children of color. (Katie Mettler)
- NASA is sending two astronauts on an emergency spacewalk to replace equipment after its primary computer system on the International Space Station failed this weekend, leaving the $100 billion laboratory operating on a backup for now. (Reuters)
- The Texas House voted to approve “bathroom bill” legislation, advancing the contentious measure for a Senate vote. (Dallas Morning News)
- David Clarke, the controversial Milwaukee sheriff who recently announced he will join the Trump administration in a top DHS role, plagiarized sections of his 2013 master's thesis. CNN reports that Clarke failed to properly attribute his sources at least 47 times.
- House Democrats are aggressively recruiting military veterans to run in 2018. Fifteen have already launched campaigns, and 10 more may enter races by this summer. (Wall Street Journal)
- Ford Motor’s board of directors ousted CEO Mark Fields, replacing him with 62-year-old Jim Hackett as it moves into an era of autonomous vehicles. (New York Times)
- A man was detained at the Honolulu airport after trying to break into the cockpit on his flight from Los Angeles. Travelers and flight attendants thwarted the aggressive passenger by duct-taping him into his seat, placing him in handcuffs for the duration of the trip. (Avi Selk)
- The number of diarrhea outbreaks caused by swallowing swimming pool water containing hard-to-kill parasites has more than doubled in the U.S. during the last two years, the CDC warned, jumping from just 16 in 2014 to more than 30 in 2016. Be careful. (Reuters)
- Two teachers in Georgia presented a teenage girl with ADHD an award for being the “most likely to NOT pay attention” during a school award ceremony. (Amy B Wang)
- The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum was placed on lockdown after a sexual assault was reported in a bathroom on Sunday afternoon. (Martin Weil)
- North Korea says it will begin mass-producing a new medium-range missile capable of reaching Japan following a test launch that it claims confirmed combat readiness. The solid-fuel missile flew about 310 miles Sunday before plunging into the Pacific Ocean. (AP)
- A bomb exploded at a military-run hospital in Bangkok, leaving more than 20 wounded on the third anniversary of a military coup. (AP)
- The last handful of neighborhoods held by ISIS militants in Mosul will likely be the most difficult to retake, a U.S. commander said this weekend, predicting “extremely violent” battles ahead as American soldiers advise and assist Iraqi forces around the city’s ancient center. (Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Mustafa Salim)
- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was reelected to a second term in a landslide, winning 57 percent of the vote in a resounding endorsement of his push to reengage with the world. (Erin Cunningham)
- Three climbers died while summiting Mount Everest, including an American who previously survived an avalanche while climbing the mountain in 2015. A fourth climber, separated from his guide, is still missing. (Pradeep Bashyal and Annie Gowen)
- A young girl in Vancouver was dragged into the ocean by a wild sea lion. She was yanked from a dock as onlookers screamed in horror. Such attacks are rare but not unprecedented – in San Diego, a sea lion dragged a 62-year-old man off his boat and about 20 feet underwater. (Kristine Phillips)
CONFLICTS OF INTEREST:
-- “Jared Kushner keeps most of his real estate but offers few clues about potential White House conflicts,” by Amy Brittain and Jonathan O'Connell: “As chief executive of his family’s real estate empire, Kushner planned two apartment projects across the street from each other in Jersey City. Both would be luxury skyscrapers, complete with retail space and sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline. A new crosswalk would connect them, intended to link the two Kushner Cos. developments practically and visually. But when Kushner prepared an ethics plan ahead of joining the White House … he drew a curious distinction between the two projects. He sold his stake in one while keeping his share of up to $5 million in the other. Kushner, 36, is keeping nearly 90 percent of his vast real estate holdings even after resigning from the family business and pledging a clear divide between his private interests and public duties. The value of his retained real estate interests is between $132 million and $407 million and could leave him in a position to financially benefit from his family’s business."
New documents reflect the opaque decisions that Kushner and his attorneys made to allow him to keep much of his outside investments while seeking to remain within the boundaries that government ethics officials would find acceptable: "Kushner’s (financial disclosure) form lists hundreds of private companies. Some of the investments he kept are held by shell companies that are virtually impossible to track, and Kushner has declined to make public more information on those entities. … As a result, ethics experts say, Kushner is asking Americans to take his word for it.”
BILLY BUSH BREAKS SILENCE:
-- The Hollywood Reporter interviewed Bush about the "Access Hollywood" tape that ruined his career but not Trump's: “Bush was on the tarmac at New York's JFK International Airport waiting to take off for Los Angeles when his world imploded. It was Friday, Oct. 7, 2016, and an 11-year-old tape of a lewd conversation with [Trump] — in which the then-Apprentice star could be heard bragging about sexually assaulting women with a chortling Bush egging him on — was leaked.” "Looking back upon what was said on that bus, I wish I had changed the topic," Bush said. "I could've said, 'Can you believe the ratings on whatever?' But I didn't have the strength of character to do it."
- Was Trump speaking seriously? “I felt that, in that moment, he was being typically Donald, which is performing and shocking. … When he said what he said, I'd like to think if I had thought for a minute that there was a grown man detailing his sexual assault strategy to me, I'd have called the FBI.”
- Had you heard him speak like that about women before? "I don't recall anything to that degree. But he's a provocateur. Shocking statements flow like wine from him. And he likes to captivate an audience."
- Did Trump know he was being recorded? "I would assume not. I've done many interviews with him, and he always knew when the camera was on and when the camera was off because [he] changed. He was very aware of the camera."
- On how his daughters reacted: “My 15-year-old, Mary, called me from boarding school, and she was in tears.... And she said, ‘No, why were you laughing at the things that he was saying on that bus, Dad? They weren't funny.’ It hit really hard.”
-- What Bush has been up to since NBC cut him: "Engaged in a lot of soul searching, a process that included time walking on fiery coals with spiritual guru Tony Robbins and a stint at a Napa Valley healing retreat. He took up yoga and meditation, developed a boxing routine and read books like 10% Happier, written by ABC News anchor and buddy Dan Harris. Bush, the nephew of President George H.W. Bush, also spent more time than he had in years with his family."
A GOOD SCENE SETTER:
-- “Most of the so-called experts on the long search for peace between Israel and the Palestinians say there is little chance that [Trump will] break new ground in the bitter conflict when he arrives in Jerusalem on Monday,” William Booth and Ruth Eglash report from the ground:
"As it turns out, ordinary Jews and Muslims here are even more cynical. Many confessed that they — alongside officials on both sides — have no real idea where Trump is going with this, beside his repeated claims that he might be able to make ‘the deal of the century’ and that ending years of terrorism and occupation might not be as hard as many think. The list of flash points include expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a series of lone wolf-style Palestinian attacks and Israeli reprisals and Trump’s campaign pledge to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.… ‘I don’t think anyone can fix whatever is wrong here, but he is so weird that he might have something,’ said Noga Perry, strolling down the street with a pair of headphones on.…
But if one is looking for a sliver of hope in the region, these same citizens welcome Trump to try his best and they are waiting to hear what he says. An Israeli with gray whiskers and a Jewish skullcap named Yakov … appeared pleased the Trump would at least make an effort at rekindling peace efforts.” “He will try. Okay? Good for him,” he said. “He’s not the first, he won’t be the last to try. I like him.”
-- The most memorable paragraph from Karen and Phil's story: Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi praised Trump and invited him to visit Egypt, which Trump said he intends to do. Through an interpreter, Sissi said, “You are a unique personality that is capable of doing the impossible.” “I agree!” Trump replied, as his advisers and others looking on laughed. Trump went on to compliment Sissi on his fashion, telling the Egyptian leader, “Love your shoes. Boy, those shoes. Man….”
-- “Ivanka Trump meets with Saudi women leaders as some activists remain critical,” by Karen DeYoung: “[She] brought her message of female empowerment Sunday to the world’s most repressive society for women, a place where women are not allowed to drive, must cover themselves from head to toe in public and require permission from a ‘male guardian’ to travel outside their homes. ‘In every country, including the United States, women and girls face challenges,’ Trump told a small group of accomplished Saudi women gathered for a dialogue with her about how to build on their successes. ‘Saudi Arabia’s progress, especially in recent years, is very encouraging,’ she said, ‘but there’s still a lot of work to be done.’ ...
“Beyond the streets of this country’s locked-down capital, social media has been filled with both flattering and not-so-positive comments about the Trump family.… One cartoon showed the Statue of Liberty dolefully sitting with her chin on her fist — an apparent reference to the [travel ban], while Trump dances a jig, holding aloft a torch spewing American warplanes. In her meeting with the women, Ivanka described herself as a ‘female leader within the Trump administration’ and said her focus was ‘to help empower women in the United States and around the globe.’ [And] throughout the president’s two-day visit to the kingdom, neither he nor any other U.S. official has publicly mentioned human rights.”
-- Columnist Anne Applebaum slams Trump for his “bizarre and un-American visit to Saudi Arabia,” noting that it is a very strange place to speak out against Islamist extremism: “Although Saudi Arabia is afraid of some forms of Islamist extremism, it supports others. Saudi Arabia sponsors extremist Wahabi mosques and imams all over the world; Osama bin Laden was a Saudi citizen, as were 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers. … Yes, Americans are often hypocritical about where and when they promote human rights.… But to denounce human rights in Iran while standing in Saudi Arabia, a place where there is no political freedom and no religious freedom, brought hypocrisy to a whole new level. Better not to have said anything at all.”
PENCE AT NOTRE DAME:
-- More than 100 seniors walked out of their graduation ceremony Sunday to protest the vice president as he began to deliver the commencement speech. Valerie Strauss reports: “Pence was chosen to give the commencement address at the nation’s most prominent Catholic university — even though the school ordinarily invites newly inaugurated presidents to give the address in their first year of office. Thousands of students and faculty members signed a petition asking Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins, not to invite [Trump], and the university chose instead to invite Pence ... A coalition of student activist groups at Notre Dame called We StaND For planned a walkout to protest policies Pence pursued as governor that they say targeted the most vulnerable. School officials knew of the student walkout plans and did not try to stop them. The students — more than 100 — walked quietly out, and there were some cheers and boos sounded, though only briefly. ... Hundreds of antiabortion activists protested [Obama] when he spoke at the 2009 graduation ceremony, and there were smaller protests too for Joe Biden] at the 2016 commencement."
THE COMEY STORY DOMINATED THE SUNDAY SHOWS:
-- H.R. McMaster did not deny that Trump discussed his true motivations for firing James Comey during an Oval Office meeting with Russian officials, saying on ABC’s “This Week" that he doesn't "remember” exactly what the president said. Kelsey Snell reports: “McMaster would not directly address details of the meeting, but he did not deny reports that Trump revealed classified intelligence information in that meeting and … said only that Trump was speaking about his desire to find common ground with the Russians. ‘The gist of the conversation was that the president feels as if he is hamstrung in his ability to work with Russia to find areas of cooperation because this has been obviously so much in the news,’ the national security adviser said. ‘That was the intention of that portion of that conversation.’” He also declined to say whether the president raised Russia's interference in the election.
-- Comey has agreed to testify sometime after Memorial Day before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Leaders of the Judiciary Committee criticized the former FBI director for not appearing before the committee that actually has jurisdiction over the FBI. (Karoun Demirjian)
-- Former CIA Director John Brennan will testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Russian meddling tomorrow. He’ll talk in public session and then in private session.
-- House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said on CNN that he expects to speak with Comey today.
COMEY FALLOUT CONTINUES:
-- If you have somehow been out of pocket since Friday’s 202 published, here are seven significant stories you should make sure you’re up on:
Washington Post: “The law enforcement investigation into possible coordination between Russia and the Trump campaign has identified a current White House official as a significant person of interest, showing that the probe is reaching into the highest levels of government … The senior White House adviser under scrutiny by investigators is someone close to the president … The revelation comes as the investigation appears to be entering a more overtly active phase, with investigators shifting from work that has remained largely hidden from the public to conducting interviews and using a grand jury to issue subpoenas. The intensity of the probe is expected to accelerate in the coming weeks…”
New York Times: “Trump told Russian officials in the Oval Office … that firing the F.B.I. director … had relieved ‘great pressure’ on him … ‘I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,’ Mr. Trump said … ‘I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.’ Mr. Trump added, ‘I’m not under investigation.’”
Reuters: “The Trump administration is exploring whether it can use an obscure ethics rule to undermine the special counsel investigation into ties between … Trump's campaign team and Russia, two people familiar with White House thinking said on Friday. … Within hours of Robert Mueller's appointment … the White House began reviewing the Code of Federal Regulations, which restricts newly hired government lawyers from investigating their prior law firm’s clients for one year after their hiring.”
NYT: “Michael Caputo, who served as a communications adviser to the Trump campaign, has been asked by the House committee investigating Russian election meddling to submit to a voluntary interview and to provide any documents he may have that are related to the inquiry. The House Intelligence Committee, which is examining possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, made its request in a letter on May 9. Mr. Caputo, who lives near Buffalo and spent six months on the Trump team, worked in Russia during the 1990s and came to know Kremlin officials. He also did work in the early 2000s for Gazprom Media, a Russian conglomerate that supported President Vladimir V. Putin.”
CNN: “Russian officials bragged in conversations during the presidential campaign that they had cultivated a strong relationship with … Michael Flynn and believed they could use him to influence (Trump) and his team … The conversations deeply concerned US intelligence officials, some of whom acted on their own to limit how much sensitive information they shared with Flynn.”
CNN: “White House lawyers have begun researching impeachment procedures in an effort to prepare for what officials still believe is a distant possibility that (Trump) could have to fend off attempts to remove him from office…”
Comey’s father unloaded on Trump to The Bergen Record in New Jersey: “I never was crazy about Trump,” J. Brien Comey, 86, a Republican and a former borough councilman. “I’m convinced that he’s nuts. I thought he belonged in an institution. He was crazy before he became president. Now he’s really crazy.”
THE MONTANA SPECIAL ELECTION IS THURSDAY:
-- “Sanders raises stakes in tight Montana race,” by Kathleen McLaughlin and David Weigel: “For months, Democrats were careful not to promise too much about Montana’s May 25 special election. Hillary Clinton had lost the state by 20.2 points. Rob Quist, the folk-singing Democratic candidate … had never run for office before. Losing a close race would grant a moral victory; raising the stakes and losing might give Republicans a boost. On Saturday, in front of 3,000 cheering voters at this Democratic city’s Civic Center, Bernie Sanders raised the stakes. Sanders’s much-anticipated visit kicked off the final stretch of voting in a race that has become closer than either party might have expected. Quist, 69, has raised more than $5 million, nearly doubling the last Democratic candidate for Montana’s sole House seat. Millions of dollars have poured in for Greg Gianforte, 56, a software entrepreneur …The result, in the final days, is a dogfight between Democrats who’ve bet on a flawed but compelling populist, and Republicans who worked hard and early to protect their structural advantage — and exploit Quist’s flaws.”
-- “In a struggling factory town, residents want Washington to cut the ‘drama’ and get to work,” by Robert Samuels in Lumberton, North Carolina: “There was the flood of news that consumed Washington. And then there was the actual flood that almost consumed them. Entire blocks in the southern end of this city are still uninhabited seven months after being ravaged by Hurricane Matthew. And just on Wednesday, while politicos gawked at the announcement of a special prosecutor for an investigation many residents here don’t fully understand, news spread around town that another garment factory would be closing. More than 150 jobs would be lost in a town where nowadays little was being produced other than resentment ... In some sense, the concentration on the FBI investigation and its fallout aroused the worst of each side’s worries about Trump. For [Brenda] Allen, it displayed something simple and fixable: ‘Trump’s ability to communicate with other people needs improving,’ she said. For [Andrea] Whitted, it cut deeper, revealing how corrupt and unprepared she thinks Trump is to lead the nation. [Meanwhile], Whitted’s church flooded so badly that congregants were meeting in a parking lot for weeks, and they still could not use their fellowship hall. ‘Sometimes,’ she said, ‘it seems like the only thing that can save us now is Jesus.’”
-- “A millionaire, a hotel maid and an arrest after the inauguration for sex abuse,” by Michael E. Miller: “He was a millionaire, in Washington to toast President Trump’s inauguration. She was a maid, tasked with cleaning rooms that cost more in a few days than her monthly rent. On Jan. 19, as the nation’s capital swelled with tourists and protesters … [two different Americas collided] … Such incidents are all too common in an industry where about half of employees say they have been sexually assaulted or harassed by a guest, union surveys have shown. Perhaps the only thing unusual about what happened in Room 1065 (at the Mayflower Hotel) was that the man was arrested. Boswell is the chief executive of Independent Stave Company, the world’s largest wine-and-whiskey barrel manufacturer. He lives in a 14,000-square-foot, $7 million mansion in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., 20 miles from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. … The judge and the prosecutor agreed (as part of a plea deal to let him avoid jail time) that Boswell could travel overseas while on probation. Last month, he was allowed to fly to the Bahamas. At the end of this month, he is scheduled to spend two weeks in the Dominican Republic for a family reunion. Meanwhile his victim was so frightened by a visit from Boswell’s defense team to her apartment that she moved …”
-- “The ‘Trump effect’ has slowed illegal U.S. border crossings. But for how long?,” by Joshua Partlow: “In a different era, Oscar Galvez Serrano might have abandoned his mother’s tin-roof shack in the jungly Central American hills by now and set out for the United States. Despite having been deported in March, Galvez said, he would have tried to quickly return to join his 11-year-old son in Sherman, Tex., and his siblings and cousins. He would have taken another job — roofing, landscaping or washing dishes. There is something different now, however, looming over Central Americans’ decisions on migration: President Trump. Migrants used to feel that if they reached the United States illegally, they could stay. ‘They’ve gotten rid of all that,’ said Galvez, 36. ‘I still hope I can go back there. I just don’t know when.’ Trump has credited his tough stance on illegal immigrants for the sharp decline in apprehensions of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border … [and] in the first four months of the year, U.S. authorities have detained about 98,000 would-be immigrants heading north, a 40 percent drop from the prior year.” After Trump’s election, “we saw the drop in crossings almost immediately,’ [said Kevin McAleenan, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection].”
-- “Despite high court’s decision on N.C. voting law, activists worry about chief justice,” by Robert Barnes: “The big win for voting rights activists at the Supreme Court last week came with an equally big asterisk, and provided new reason for jittery liberals and civil rights groups to continue to fret about Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. The justices without noted dissent on May 15 said they would not consider reviving North Carolina’s sweeping 2013 voting law, which had been struck down by a lower court after years of litigation. The bottom-line importance of the Supreme Court’s pass was clear: the law, opposed by a broad coalition of voting rights groups, civil rights organizations and the Obama Justice Department, cannot be used. But J. Gerald Hebert of the Campaign Legal Center, one of the groups that had fought the North Carolina law, said two things became immediately clear: First, North Carolina legislative leaders would immediately begin rewriting the law. They will take pains to avoid some of the ham-handed legislative maneuvers that caused Judge Diana Gribbon Motz, writing for the 4th Circuit panel, to declare that the state had passed a law in the absence of a problem and ‘restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African Americans.’ Second, Roberts made it clear the justices were not endorsing the 4th Circuit’s reasoning by passing on the case. His statement was unusual … and it sent what seemed to be a signal for states whose laws are challenged to bring them to the Supreme Court.”
THE DECONSTRUCTION OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE STATE:
-- New York Times, “How Rollbacks at Scott Pruitt’s E.P.A. Are a Boon to Oil and Gas,” by Hiroko Tabuchi and Eric Lipton: "In a gas field in Wyoming’s struggling energy corridor, nearly 2,000 miles from Washington, the Trump administration’s regulatory reversal is crowning an early champion. Devon Energy, which runs the windswept site, had been prepared to install a sophisticated system to detect and reduce leaks of dangerous gases. It had also discussed paying a six-figure penalty to settle claims by the Obama administration that it was illegally emitting 80 tons each year of hazardous chemicals, like benzene, a known carcinogen. But something changed in February just five days after Scott Pruitt, the former Oklahoma attorney general with close ties to Devon, was sworn in as the head of the [EPA]. Devon, in a letter dated Feb. 22 … said it was ‘re-evaluating its settlement posture.’ It no longer intended to move ahead with the extensive emissions-control system, second-guessing the E.P.A.’s estimates on the size of the violation, and it was now willing to pay closer to $25,000 to end the three-year-old federal investigation. The extraordinary about-face reflects the onset of an experiment in Trump’s Washington that is meant to fundamentally reorder the relationship between government and business.”
-- One of Trump’s federal appeals court nominees wrote more than 400 blogs under a pen name – weighing in on a number of controversial topics and once calling Ted Cruz a “sore loser.” Buzzfeed’s Zoe Tillman reports: “[John] Bush wrote about his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, which is still the subject of litigation, and in September he called for it to be repealed and replaced. He’s expressed opposition to public financing of political campaigns, called the idea of trying terrorists in civilian courts ‘bone-headed,’ and wrote in 2008 that the ‘two greatest tragedies in our country’ were slavery and abortion. There are also some off-color remarks. Bush, as G. Morris, live-blogged the Republican convention last year, and in a July 17 post noted that there was a protest by naked women. ‘You know Trump is onto something huge when he causes people to shed their underwear,’ Bush wrote … Lawyers can deflect criticism about controversial cases they’ve handled by saying that they were representing the interests of their client. But Bush’s blog posts reflect his personal opinions, and they touch on a number of issues that could come up at his confirmation hearing.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
The Iranian foreign minister trolled Trump for criticizing Iran from Saudi Arabia:
Here are some of the most memorable moments from Trump's stop in Saudi Arabia.
A giant U.S. flag was projected outside the Ritz, where the president stayed:
There was dancing:
Obama's Deputy National Security Adviser's reaction:
TV reporters had some technical challenges with their liveshots:
Ivanka Trump met with Saudi businesswomen:
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This morning I participated in a powerful and constructive dialogue with an amazing group of Saudi Arabian women leaders. The need to empower and engage women transcends borders and cultures. Whether in the United States or Saudi Arabia, we must recognize that empowering women is key to driving economic transformation. #WomensEconomicEmpowerment #POTUSAbroad
Melania met with kids:
This photo opp prompted lots of memes:
The Church of Satan, from its verified account, responded:
The traveling press corps was angry about this:
Sec State Tillerson is holding a news conference right now in Riyadh, per WH pool, but US reporters were not invited or told about it.— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) May 21, 2017
But at least reporters could buy trinkets:
So this must be how "fake news" happens?
You know what we should do? Start flooding the NYTimes and WAPO tip lines with all kinds of crazy "leaks." Then laugh when they print them!— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) May 21, 2017
In other news...:
Scary: During eulogy, Ailes's teenage son threatened Fox women who alleged harassment. "I’m coming after them...and hell is coming with me.”— Gabriel Sherman (@gabrielsherman) May 21, 2017
A Democratic Mississippi state senator, who is African American, posted a screengrab of a Facebook post from a Republican state representative, who apparently wrote that those who try to remove Confederate memorials should by lynched:
Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin threw the first pitch for the Orioles:
The wedding shower for Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) was a hit:
Some father-daughter time:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- Washingtonian, “Meet Matt Boyle, Breitbart’s (Other) Man in the White House,” by Luke Mullins: “[Breitbart editor Matt Boyle] has no assigned seat, so he finds a spot to stand at the front. It’s irritating, he grumbles, that the first row is reserved for establishment networks like CNN, ABC, CBS, and NBC. ‘I don’t think that these people are going to be relevant for much longer,’ he says, gesturing at the front row. ‘The viewers will all be dead in ten years.’ Seven years ago, Boyle came to town a rudderless young man in search of a captain and a cause, fell under the influence of powerful figures like [Steve Bannon], and became a human Molotov cocktail against the political establishment. Sure, he may have spent many of his Washington years as the laughingstock of the political press corps—ridiculed for his fanatical writing, his peculiar personality, and his fawning treatment of Trump. It didn’t matter. By the end, he was flying on Trump’s private jet and interviewing him in the Oval Office. How did an accidental warrior become one of the most powerful media figures in the nation’s capital? The answer involves a reversal of fortune that could only have occurred in Trump’s Washington.”
-- New York Times, “Plotting an O’Reilly Comeback With an Eye on Fox,” by Jim Rutenberg: "Two decades ago, Bill O’Reilly’s wryly resentful Everyman act became the foundation upon which the Fox News founder Roger Ailes built the right-leaning television monopoly that the network became (and remains today). Now, with Mr. O’Reilly out on the market after his ouster from Fox News over sexual harassment allegations, Fox’s much smaller rivals believe Mr. O’Reilly could do the same for them … Whether Mr. O'Reilly would go any of those routes, and whether the advertising boycott that contributed to his Fox ouster would make picking him up prohibitive, remains to be seen. (Mr. O'Reilly's representatives declined to comment on his plans). ... But make no mistake: Things are in flux as never before in the Fox News era, and big movements are afoot that could change the cable news dynamic of the past two decades."
-- The New Yorker, “Putin’s Shadow Cabinet and the bridge to Crimea,” by Joshua Yaffa: “Why the Russian President’s childhood judo partner is leading the country’s most ambitious construction project.”
-- Wall Street Journal, “The Quants Run Wall Street Now,” by Greg Zuckerman and Bradley Hope: "Up and down Wall Street, algorithmic-driven trading and the quants who use sophisticated statistical models to find attractive trades are taking over the investment world. On many trading floors, quants are gaining respect, clout and money as investment firms scramble to hire mathematicians and scientists. Traditional trading strategies, such as sifting through balance sheets and talking to companies' customers, are falling down the pecking order. ... In just one sign of their power, quantitative hedge funds are now responsible for 27% of all U.S. stock trades by investors, up from 14% in 2013."
-- ICYMI: New York Times, “Killing C.I.A. Informants, China Crippled U.S. Spying Operations,” by Mark Mazzetti, Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt and Matt Apuzzo: “The Chinese government systematically dismantled C.I.A. spying operations in the country starting in 2010, killing or imprisoning more than a dozen sources over two years and crippling intelligence gathering there for years afterward. Current and former American officials described the intelligence breach as one of the worst in decades. It set off a scramble in Washington’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies to contain the fallout, but investigators were bitterly divided over the cause. But there was no disagreement about the damage. From the final weeks of 2010 through the end of 2012 … the Chinese killed at least a dozen of the C.I.A.’s sources. According to [officials], one was shot in front of his colleagues in the courtyard of a government building — a message to others who might have been working for the C.I.A. The previously unreported episode shows how successful the Chinese were in disrupting American spying efforts and stealing secrets years before a well-publicized breach in 2015 gave Beijing access to thousands of government personnel records, including intelligence contractors.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Mayor jokes about watching reporters ‘cry like little girls’ as he pointed machine gun at them,” from Kristine Phillips: “Last year, Bob Buckhorn stood on a Navy warfare boat and fired blanks from a .50-caliber machine gun as a crowd watched. The Tampa mayor was just ‘rescued’ from his mock captors as part of a military demonstration in Florida. At this year’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference, Buckhorn talked about that experience and joked about pointing the machine gun at reporters ... ‘I’ve never seen grown men cry like little girls, for when that gun goes off those media folks just hit the deck like no one’s business,’ Buckhorn said. ‘It’s great payback. I love it.’ … Many said the remarks were inappropriate, especially at a time when the free press has become the president’s verbal punching bag."
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Gingrich spreads conspiracy theory about slain DNC staffer,” by David Weigel: “Newt Gingrich used a ‘Fox and Friends’ appearance] to spread the conspiracy theory that former [DNC] staffer Seth Rich was killed last year to cover up the true story of how WikiLeaks obtained tens of thousands of hacked Democratic Party emails. ‘We have this very strange story now of this young man who worked for the DNC, who apparently was assassinated ... having given WikiLeaks something like 53,000 emails and 17,000 attachments,’ Gingrich said. ‘Nobody’s investigating that, and what does that tell you about what’s going on? Because it turns out, it wasn’t the Russians. It was this young guy who, I suspect, was disgusted by the corruption of the Democratic National Committee. He’s been killed, and apparently nothing serious has been done to investigative his murder. So I’d like to see how Mueller is going to define what his assignment is.’” There was no pushback from the Fox hosts, though Gingrich was making unsubstantiated claims that have been denied by Rich’s own family.
Trump is in Tel Aviv: Trump will participate in a bilateral meeting and deliver remarks with President Reuven Rivlin of Israel. Following, Trump and Melania will visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall. In the evening, Trump will meet and deliver remarks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. Trump and Melania will then join Prime Minister and Mrs. Netanyahu for dinner.
Pence will be at the Capitol to participate in a series of meetings with lawmakers.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Twitter co-founder Evan Williams apologized for the role his site might have played in Trump becoming president. “I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place,” he said. “I was wrong about that. If it’s true that he wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Some scattered showers and thunderstorms on the radar this morning, the Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “You’ll need umbrellas for the commute in this morning, but the rain should start shutting off mid-to-late morning. We dry out in the afternoon and some intervals of sunshine are a good bet. They help push temperatures well into the 70s.”
-- The Nationals beat the Braves 3-2.
-- Wegmans is coming to Washington. The company’s first store is set to take over a portion of the Fannie Mae sprawling headquarters on Wisconsin Avenue NW, across from Sidwell Friends High School. Fannie Mae is scheduled to move out of the complex late next year, clearing the way for Wegmans to open by 2022. (Abha Bhattarai)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appeared to fall asleep during Trump's speech in Saudi Arabia:
If you want to see Trump's full 58-minute speech in Riyadh, you can watch it here:
Elizabeth Warren calls on graduating seniors to get involved in politics:
Joe Biden tells Morgan State graduates that black lives do matter:
John Oliver talks about the Trump scandals:
A Minnesota transit police officer asks a passenger if he's here "illegally." Read more about the investigation.