With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.

THE BIG IDEA: Running for reelection in a state Donald Trump carried by 21 points, Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is kicking off his 2018 campaign today with a commercial highlighting the 13 pieces of legislation he’s co-sponsored that the president signed into law.

Veterans, a cop, a firefighter and an elderly couple count off the bills and resolutions. Tester, who lost three of his fingers in a meat grinder at age 9, then holds up his hands.

“Washington’s a mess, but that’s not stopping me from getting bills to help Montana signed into law by President Trump,” he says to camera. “I’m out of fingers, but I’m not finished getting things done for Montana.”

During a primary season in which many Democrats are seeking to outdo each another in denouncing Trump the loudest, Tester’s debut ad — shared first with The Daily 202 — foreshadows what you’ll see a lot more of in places like North Dakota, Missouri and Indiana.

He is one of 10 Democratic senators up for reelection this year in a state the president carried in 2016. In Wisconsin, which Trump narrowly and unexpectedly won, Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin launched a commercial two weeks ago that highlights a bill she’s co-sponsored with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to lower prescription drug prices.

The goal across these races is to show voters both a willingness to work across the aisle and an effectiveness at breaking through the gridlock that characterizes the Capitol.

Tester has stuck with Democrats on the major issues. He opposed the tax cuts on the rationale that they blow up the national debt by more than $1 trillion and fought efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act because Montana benefits from Medicaid expansion. But he has also voted with Trump 52 percent of the time when the president took a position on a bill or nominee, according to Congressional Quarterly.

In a phone interview from Helena, Tester said the 30-second spot encapsulates his approach to the job over the past year-and-a-half. He said it’s easy for him to compartmentalize. “I try to keep the issues separate,” he said. “That’s politics. Your friend one day is your enemy the next and vice versa.”

Tester is the ranking Democrat on the Veterans Affairs Committee, and Montana has the second most veterans per capita in the country, so eight of the 13 bills focused on helping the vets: from making it easier for the VA to fire bad employees, to giving them more access to private health-care options when government hospitals are far away, streamlining the appeals process for disability claims and changing the cost-of-living-adjustment formula for benefits.

Another law directs the Department of Defense to declassify documents related to any known incident in which at least 100 members of the Armed Forces were exposed to a toxic substance that resulted in at least one case of a disability.

Not all 13 of the bills referred to in the ad are of equal significance. One named a mountain peak for a conservationist who died of cancer. Another amended the U.S. Flag Code so governors can order the flag lowered to half-staff when a first responder dies in the line of duty.

Others nod to more parochial concerns. Trump last month signed a bill co-sponsored by Tester, for instance, that establishes quality standards for intermediaries that transmit phone calls. The senator, who spends a lot of time on the road in Big Sky Country, pointed to a study that showed 1 in 5 cellphone calls made in rural areas are delayed, disrupted or dropped.

Tester noted that he often broke with Barack Obama during the preceding eight years. He supported construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, opposed farm labor regulations and fought against the importation of Brazilian beef.

Accounting for Montana’s libertarian bent, he’s been critical of the various incarnations of the Patriot Act and expanded federal surveillance authorities since he toppled Republican incumbent Conrad Burns in 2006. He’s also opposed federal testing requirements and voted against the Internet sales tax bill, both on states’ rights grounds.

Tester’s most significant bipartisan feat, though, is expected to pass in the coming weeks. As a member of the Banking Committee, he’s championed relaxing some of the banking regulations that were passed after the 2008 financial crisis in the Dodd-Frank bill. He says these rules have been putting small banks in his state out of business and has forcefully defended the effort in the face of strong criticism from liberal colleagues like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Tester has always known he’d face another tough reelection fight. The list of stuff he’s gotten through shows he started preparing early. But even if he runs a perfect campaign, and Republicans put up an average candidate, the race is likely to be close.

If you need a proof point, Republican Greg Gianforte won a special election to replace Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in the state’s sole House seat last May despite physically assaulting a reporter on the eve of the election.

Tester acknowledged that tribalism is a growing problem, and he said some conservative-minded folks in his state are certainly becoming more down-the-line partisan. But he expressed confidence that this is still a minority of voters in his home state. “Montanans pride themselves in being able to split their ticket,” he said.

I heard similar comments during interviews in early 2014 with Mark Pryor in Arkansas, Mark Begich in Alaska and Mary Landrieu in Louisiana. All three lost that year because of backlash to Obama in states that had grown redder.

But Tester won reelection in 2012 by four points on the same day Obama lost Montana by 14 points. And his state has a progressive-populist tradition dating to the backlash against the corruption of the Copper Kings a century ago.

Bigger picture, one of the most interesting numbers to watch after the November elections will be how many split Senate delegations remain. Until Democratic Sen. Doug Jones’s victory in the Alabama special election in December, there were only 13 states that had a Republican and Democratic senator. (Montana is one of them.) That was the fewest in five decades, going back to 1968 — when the South was solidly Democratic. In 1980, as a point of comparison, 27 states had split delegations.

Montana has had at least one Democratic senator since 1911, from Burton Wheeler (the New Dealer who broke with FDR over court packing) to Mike Mansfield (who succeeded LBJ as majority leader and shepherded Great Society programs into law during his 16 years in the post) and Max Baucus (who served 36 years before Obama named him ambassador to China). The state has also had a Democratic governor since 2005. (Gov. Steve Bullock, in his second term, is likely to run for president in 2020.)

Tester, who chaired the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee last cycle, said there are some Republican leaders who don’t want to let him score any legislative wins during an election year, but he thinks his friendships with individual GOP colleagues can get around those roadblocks. “I don’t want to lower myself to the dysfunction,” he said.

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Trump continues caving to the NRA: “The White House on Sunday vowed to help provide ‘rigorous firearms training’ to some schoolteachers and formally endorsed a bill to tighten the federal background checks system, but it backed off President Trump’s earlier call to raise the minimum age to purchase some guns to 21 years old from 18 years old,” Philip Rucker reports. “Responding directly to last month’s gun massacre at a Florida high school, the administration rolled out several policy proposals that focus largely on mental health and school safety initiatives. … Many of the student survivors have urged Washington to toughen restrictions on gun purchases, but such measures are fiercely opposed by the National Rifle Association, and the Trump plan does not include substantial changes to gun laws. Rather, the president is establishing a Federal Commission on School Safety, to be chaired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, that will explore possible solutions.

Pressed by reporters about the apparent backtracking, a senior administration official said the age issue was ‘a state-based discussion right now’ and would be explored by DeVos’s commission. … At a political rally Saturday night in Pennsylvania, Trump mocked the idea of commissions to solve the nation’s drug epidemic. … Administration officials demurred Sunday night when asked why Trump found commissions an inadequate response to the drug epidemic but an appropriate way to respond to gun massacres.”

“The White House has taken tiny baby steps designed not to upset the NRA, when the gun violence epidemic in this country demands that giant steps be taken,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “Democrats in the Senate will push to go further including passing universal background checks, actual federal legislation on protection orders, and a debate on banning assault weapons.”

-- DeVos stumbled during a “60 Minutes” interview that aired last night. From Valerie Strauss: Leslie “Stahl repeatedly challenged the education secretary, at one point suggesting that DeVos should visit underperforming public schools to learn about their problems. DeVos responded, 'Maybe I should.' The secretary also said she is 'not so sure exactly' how she became, as Stahl described her, 'the most hated' member of President Trump’s Cabinet, but believes that she is 'misunderstood.' ... Arming teachers 'should be an option' for states and communities, she said, even though she couldn’t 'ever imagine' her first-grade teacher, Mrs. Zorhoff, having a gun. 'We have invested billions and billions and billions of dollars from the federal level, and we have seen zero results,' she said — a statement Stahl challenged.”

On the performance in public schools in Michigan, where DeVos has spent millions promoting school choice: “I hesitate to talk about all schools in general because schools are made up of individual students attending them.”

On campus sexual assault: “Well, one sexual assault is one too many, and one falsely accused individual is one too many.” Stahl asked in response whether the two were the same. DeVos replied, “I don't know. I don't know. But I'm committed to a process that's fair for everyone involved.”

-- Adult-film star Stormy Daniels said she's uncertain what will happen to her taped interview for “60 Minutes,” following reports that Trump’s lawyers are considering legal action to block the broadcast from airing next week. Frances Stead Sellers reports: “The most likely legal course for Trump’s attorneys would be to seek a court injunction to try to enforce the nondisclosure agreement Daniels signed … Daniels, in a brief email … declined to comment on any legal discussions. ‘All I can say is it was never going to air tonight and I guess we will see what happens,’ she said. … CBS said late last week that the interview with correspondent Anderson Cooper, who posed for a photograph with Daniels that was widely circulated on social media, has not yet been scheduled.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. A plane crash landed in Nepal, killing at least 40 people. The aircraft, connected to a private airline based in Bangladesh, had taken off from Bangladesh’s capital city and later caught fire after crash landing near Kathmandu’s international airport. (Pradeep Bashyal and Annie Gowen)
  2. Five people died after a helicopter crashed into New York City’s East River and flipped upside down. Only the helicopter's pilot was able to free himself from his harness and be rescued by a tugboat. (AP)
  3. Authorities recovered the “black box” from a Turkish private jet that crashed in Iran. The accident killed all 11 people onboard, who were traveling from the United Arab Emirates to Istanbul. (AP)
  4. Belgium’s state secretary has proposed a law allowing police to raid homes providing shelter to migrants whose asylum requests have been denied. Belgian citizens gather in a Brussels park every day to arrange housing and food for 500 migrants, a massive effort that has rankled authorities. (Quentin Ariès and Michael Birnbaum)
  5. A San Francisco fertility clinic told hundreds of patients that their eggs and embryos may have been damaged following a liquid nitrogen failure in one of its storage tanks. The incident comes just days after a clinic in Cleveland suffered a similar problem. (Amy Goldstein)
  6. The Northeast is bracing for its third nor’easter in less than two weeks. The storm is expected to dump more snow along the coast even as many residents struggle to recover from the last wintry blast. Areas including Boston and Maine could receive a foot or more of snow. (AP)
  7. Brown University canceled a display of a restored Detroit home associated with Rosa Parks. The university’s student newspaper reported last month there was uncertainty over whether Parks had ever actually lived in the house. (Susan Svrluga)
  8. An Oregon woman was sentenced to 21 years in prison last week for running an illegal day-care operation. The woman allegedly posed as a nurse, drugged the children and left them unattended while she went tanning. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
  9. A woman high on methamphetamines gouged her own eyes out. Kaylee Muthart told Cosmopolitan she felt as if she were receiving a message from God. She said, “I thought everything would end abruptly, and everyone would die if I didn’t tear out my eyes immediately.” (Alex Horton)

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- Trump administration officials said that the United States made “no concessions” to North Korea in agreeing to a face-to-face meeting with Kim Jong Un. “The conditions that Trump has set … is that Kim would halt any [testing] until the talks occur and allow joint military exercises between the South Korea and the United States to proceed,” Seung Min Kim reports.

  • White House spokesman Raj Shah said the planned sit-down may fall apart: “If it does, it’s the North Koreans’ fault. They have not lived up to the promises that they made.”
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin dismissed unnamed Trump officials who reportedly expressed doubt the meeting would occur: “I would expect the meeting goes forward. I don’t know why anybody would be handicapping this at 50 percent,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
  • CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Pyongyang has agreed to have “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization” on the table. “These are conditions that the North Korean regime has never submitted to in exchange for conversations,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Several lawmakers expressed a more skeptical view — questioning Kim’s willingness to disarm and emphasizing the ground work to be done before any meeting:

  • “The important thing is the diplomatic work that has to go in before such a meeting,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “A meeting like that would be kind of an afterthought after things are negotiated. Here it looks as if … that’s kind of the opening gambit … That’s a little worrisome.”
  • “I've talked a lot about the diplomatic runway, the length we have left on the diplomatic runway,” said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) on “Face the Nation.” “We have to have those steps, those real concrete steps, before this meeting occurs, because after … there's going to be very little left of that diplomatic runway.”
  • Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) highlighted Pyongyang’s history of broken promises in denuclearization talks. “Let’s not be snookered again,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

-- The administration will soon unveil its Middle East peace plan, which could be declared dead on arrival. The New York Times’s Mark Landler reports: “The administration is considering simply revealing the document, in the hopes that it will pressure the Palestinians to return [to the negotiating table]. … While officials declined to discuss the plan’s content, in keeping with the veil of secrecy they have kept over it since Mr. Trump took office, they said it would not have a set of guiding principles[.] … For example, the plan will not call for a two-state solution as one of its goals, though it will prescribe pathways for the creation of two states. Nor will it call for a ‘fair and just solution’ for Palestinian refugees, though it will offer steps to deal with the issue of refugees. Mr. Trump’s aides described a multipage document, with annexes, that proposes solutions to all the key disputes[.]”

-- Trump told Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu he won't be flexible in amending the Iran nuclear deal. The president said he would demand France, Germany and the U.K. make “significant changes” to the deal, or else the United States would walk away. Trump has set a May 12 deadline to “fix” the deal. (Axios)

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- Vladimir Putin provoked international outrage after suggesting in an NBC interview with Megyn Kelly that “Russian Jews” could have manipulated the 2016 U.S. presidential race. Avi Selk reports: “‘Maybe they’re not even Russians,’ Putin told [Kelly], referring to who might have been behind the election interference. ‘Maybe they’re Ukrainian, Tatars, Jews — just with Russian citizenship.’ [His] remark about Jews, which seemed to suggest that a Russian Jew was not really a Russian, prompted particular outrage among those who remember Russia’s centuries-long history of anti-Semitism and Jewish purges. Some groups compared the statement to anti-Jewish myths that helped inspire the Holocaust. ‘Repulsive Putin remark deserves to be denounced, soundly and promptly, by world leaders,’ Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote on Twitter. ‘Why is Trump silent?’”

-- The British government said it has found evidence of a nerve agent used to “specifically target” former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter at a Salisbury restaurant last week. Authorities are urging anyone who may have dined at the same location within a 33-hour period to take precautions. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)

-- Mary Louise Kelly reviewsRussian Roulette,” a new book from journalists Michael Isikoff and David Corn: “‘Russian Roulette’ is Corn and Isikoff’s account of how Russia consumed the 2016 presidential campaign — and the first year of Trump’s presidency. … [The book] delivers no real bombshells. No proof of collusion, no evidence that Russia changed the outcome of the 2016 election, no revelation that fundamentally revises our understanding of the trajectory of events. But ‘Russian Roulette’ performs an important service in tracing how establishment Washington — policymakers, intelligence chiefs, journalists — came to understand that what Russia was (and reportedly is still) up to was not routine espionage.”

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S WOMEN:

-- Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker profile Ivanka Trump as she navigates increasingly complicated dual roles as the president’s daughter and a senior White House adviser: “[Ivanka Trump] likes to be in complete control — over-prepared and deliberate — in contrast to her freewheeling and impulsive father. ... [Ahead of her trip to South Korea last month], she peppered National Security Council experts in advance with questions … Flying over the Pacific … she pored over a research dossier for hours. And she and her team choreographed many of the possible encounters she might have, including acting out what she would do if a North Korean official tried to shake her hand. ‘I don’t like to leave a lot up to fate,’ [she said]. By many accounts, her trip to South Korea was a success and arguably helped lay the groundwork for her father’s surprise decision Thursday to talk with [Kim Jong Un]. … But at the moment, Ivanka — whose first name has become a brand identity — controls increasingly little of the world in which she inhabits ...

“The White House is careening from crisis to crisis. Her colleagues are leaking damaging anecdotes about her and [husband Jared Kushner]. Tensions between the couple and [John Kelly] are intensifying. And all the while, the dark legal cloud hanging over her family is threatening to unleash a downpour. … The president himself has exacerbated the tensions, [musing] to Kelly that he thinks Ivanka and her husband should perhaps return to New York, where they would be protected from the blood sport of Washington and less of a target for negative media attention …” In Trump’s eyes, said one confidant, “Ivanka’s still his little girl.”

-- Mnuchin defended Trump calling Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) “a very low-IQ individual” during his Pennsylvania rally. From Avi Selk: “‘The president likes making funny names,’ he told [NBC News’s Chuck] Todd, whom Trump had called a ‘sleeping son of a bitch’ at the rally. ‘He's using these vulgarities in the context of a campaign rally,’ Mnuchin said, ‘and, obviously, there were a lot of funny moments in that rally.’”

PENNSYLVANIA PREVIEW:

-- The special election outside Pittsburgh tomorrow could provide key clues about the midterms. FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich writes: “[I]t’s the margin of victory that tells us what to expect in midterm results, and Democrat Conor Lamb is likely to overperform in Pennsylvania no matter who wins. We will still be watching that margin closely, though, and a decisive victory by Republican Rick Saccone could be a sign that something in the political environment has changed.”

-- “Lamb would need to pull off an electorate trifecta of sorts to win the race,” writes ABC News’s MaryAlice Parks, “by greatly increasing the Democrat turnout over what it would typically be in a midterm or special election, convincing moderate or swing voters to go blue and lucking out with depressed Republican turnout.”

-- Lamb visited voters in coal country to make his closing pitch. From the AP’s Marc Levy and Bill Barrow: “Lamb, wearing muddy work boots, jeans and a green fleece top, told those inside a packed cinderblock building on the fairgrounds that keeping promises to fully fund labor union pensions, Medicare and Social Security is ‘non-negotiable.’ He attacked Republicans as forgetting what it means to honor a promise.”

-- Republicans have deployed millions of dollars and their biggest stars to avoid the embarrassment of losing in the deeply red district. Politico’s Elena Schneider and Alex Isenstadt report: “Nearly every corner of the national party was involved in the final push over the weekend — from the [RNC], which deployed staffers from Washington to knock on doors; to a cash-flush GOP super PAC that orchestrated an under-the-radar effort to diminish [Lamb’s] standing with liberal voters; to the powerful Koch political network, which is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a mail and field deployment campaign ahead of Tuesday’s closely-watched special election. And then there was [Trump], who flew here on Saturday evening to campaign with [Saccone], an appearance the White House hopes will energize GOP voters who’ve yet to rally behind the underperforming candidate.”

-- The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette endorsed Saccone in the race, warning a Democratic House could lead to impeachment proceedings. “If Mr. Lamb, 33, wins, it could well be the start of a Democratic wave,” the editorial read. “The prospect of a Democratic House may please partisans, but it might be bad for the country. The Democrats in the House have only one agenda item at the moment, and it isn’t health care or jobs. It is impeachment. Regardless of whether one likes this president or his policies, one must ask what the consequence for the country will be if we dive into so great a distraction.” (Dave Weigel)

THE REST OF TRUMP’S AGENDA:

-- California has declared all-out war against the Trump administration over immigration enforcement, writes Maria Sacchetti. “The stakes are high for the administration because if California defies the White House on ‘sanctuary cities,’ then others can, too, jeopardizing President Trump’s main campaign promise to deport many of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. The administration has urged states to follow the lead of Texas, which passed a law requiring officials to cooperate with Immigration and Customs Enforcement even as California enacted policies that do the opposite.”

-- Robert Samuels reports from Granger, Ind., where a local restaurant owner was deported a year ago. Now, it seems like the town has moved on: “Roberto Beristain, a former dishwasher who worked until he could afford to buy the place, was gone. In his place were refurbished wood-paneled walls, a bar with a granite counter and a new pork chop entree. Even the name had been changed with something snappier, sleeker — Eddie’s was now simply, ‘The Shed.’ … In Granger, though, there are few signs of lingering resentment. The calls threatening the restaurant stopped long ago, as did the ones in support of Beristain. A local businessman bought Eddie’s, gave it a new name and a new look. Beristain is now in Mexico, desperate to return.”

-- A DHS reauthorization bill would allow Trump to dispatch Secret Service agents to polling places nationwide during a federal election. The Boston Globe’s Annie Linskey reports: “The rider has prompted outrage from more than a dozen top elections officials around the country, including Secretary of State William F. Galvin of Massachusetts, a Democrat, who says he is worried that it could be used to intimidate voters and said there is ‘no basis’ for providing Trump with this new authority. … The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs didn’t include the measure in the version of the bill it approved this week, according to Ben Voelkel, a spokesman for [Sen. Johnson], who chairs the Senate committee.”

THE ROAD TO 2020:

-- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) rejected a suggestion from a newspaper in her home state that she take a DNA test to prove her Native American ancestry. “I know who I am and never used it for anything,” she said on “Meet the Press.” “Never got any benefit from it anywhere.” (Tory Newmyer)

-- The RNC is preparing to deploy a massive ground operation to beat back the threat of a “blue wave” this November. NBC News’s Alex Seitz-Wald reports: “The RNC will add an additional 170 permanent staffers to its field program by the end of March, more than doubling the number already in the field to over 300. And the party expects to add 200 more before before the start of the summer.”

-- Sen. Flake, poised to visit New Hampshire, said Trump should face a Republican primary challenger in 2020. “Yes, I do. I do,” Flake told Chuck Todd. “I mean, it would be a tough go in a Republican primary. The Republican Party is the Trump party right now. But that's not to say it will stay that way.” (Tory Newmyer)

-- The New York Times’s Michael Tackett spoke to white evangelical women in Texas who, despite supporting Trump, would also like to see a primary challenge: “Carol Rains, a white evangelical Christian, has no regrets over her vote for [Trump[. She likes most of his policies and would still support him over any Democrat. But she is open to another Republican. ‘I would like for someone to challenge him,’ Ms. Rains said[.] … While the men in the pulpits of evangelical churches remain among Mr. Trump’s most stalwart supporters, some of the women in the pews may be having second thoughts. … According to data from the Pew Research Center, support among white evangelical women in recent surveys has dropped about 13 percentage points, to 60 percent, compared with about a year ago. That is even greater than the eight-point drop among all women.”

-- The Atlantic's April cover story, “The Last Temptation,” from Michael Gerson: “As the prominent evangelical pastor Tim Keller [recently wrote]: ‘‘Evangelical’ used to denote people who claimed the high moral ground; now, in popular usage, the word is nearly synonymous with ‘hypocrite.' Indeed, a number of serious evangelicals are distancing themselves from the word for similar reasons. … How did something so important and admirable become so disgraced? For many people, including myself, this question involves both intellectual analysis and personal angst.

“The answer extends back some 150 years, and involves cultural and political shifts that long pre-date Donald Trump. It is the story of how an influential and culturally confident religious movement became a marginalized and anxious minority seeking political protection under the wing of a man such as Trump, the least traditionally Christian figure — in temperament, behavior, and evident belief — to assume the presidency in living memory.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

A former deputy CIA director called out Trump's nasty language:

Tom Brokaw defended Chuck Todd after Trump attacked him during his Saturday night rally: 

A Daily Beast reporter commented on Trump's shifting position on gun:

From a Senate Democrat:

The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee warned against fake news:

Twitter reacted to the education secretary's "60 Minutes” interview. From a Post reporter:

From a Politico correspondent:

From a Republican strategist:

From a former spokesman for Hillary Clinton:

Trump mentioned his 2020 campaign slogan at the Pennsylvania rally. From a Post columnist:

Meghan McCain reflected on her father's illness:

Bernie Sanders visited the Dodgers' spring training site:

He reminisced about when the team was based in his hometown of Brooklyn, per an LA Times reporter:

From Sanders's former spokesman:

A pair of West Virginia senators ran into each other:

And a Kansas police department fielded some March Madness complaints:

(Here are Patrick Stevens's tips to winning your bracket pool.)

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- New York Times, “Saudis Said to Use Coercion and Abuse to Seize Billions,” by Ben Hubbard, David D. Kirkpatrick, Kate Kelly and Mark Mazzetti: “In November, the Saudi government locked up hundreds of influential businessmen — many of them members of the royal family — in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton in what it called an anti-corruption campaign. … During months of captivity, many were subject to coercion and physical abuse, witnesses said. In the early days of the crackdown, at least 17 detainees were hospitalized for physical abuse and one later died in custody with a neck that appeared twisted, a badly swollen body and other signs of abuse, according to a person who saw the body.”

-- Politico Magazine, “Orange Crush: Inside the GOP Struggle to Hold the Southern California Suburbs,” by Gabriel DeBenedetti: “All is not well for the Republicans of Orange County. If it were, the door knockers wouldn’t be knocking on these particular doors, or many others across California’s third most populous county. The long-term demographic shifts that have basically doomed the Republican Party throughout the rest of the state may finally have reached the GOP’s prized California hideaway. And in Washington, the Republican Party is led by a man whose crass style of politics clashes with the sensibilities of the chinos-and-mimosas conservatives and sandals-and-surfboards libertarians who still run this place.”

-- Wall Street Journal, “New Life for Steel Plant Perks Up Depressed Illinois Town, Workforce,” by Andrew Tangel: “Suddenly things are looking up for Granite City, an industrial town with a population of about 30,000 across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. U.S. Steel last week said week it would fire up one of its two dormant furnaces at its Granite City mill and start filling 500 jobs, calling back to work many of the roughly 1,500 employees it had laid off just over two years ago. … The enthusiasm in Granite City stands in contrast to pessimism about the tariffs elsewhere and warnings of a global trade war.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Trump loves winning, but in his presidency and business, California has gotten in his way,” from the LA Times: “No state represents losing for Trump more than California, whether in business or politics. … As a candidate, Trump used to boast he could become the first Republican to win the state, and its 55 electoral votes, in nearly three decades. Instead, Hillary Clinton won California by 4.3 million votes, more than accounting for her nearly 3-million advantage in the popular vote nationwide. … His resentment toward California extends beyond the election, however. The Golden State is the seat of an entertainment industry that dismissed him as a reality television creation, the home of a business culture where his real estate dreams were stymied and, now, the headquarters of a resistance movement that has tried to cast a cloud over his legitimacy as president.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

“James Clapper avoids charges for 'clearly erroneous' surveillance testimony,” from the Washington Examiner: “Former intelligence chief James Clapper is poised to avoid charges for allegedly lying to Congress following five years of apparent inaction by the Justice Department. Clapper, director of national intelligence from 2010 to 2017, admitted giving ‘clearly erroneous’ testimony about mass surveillance in March 2013, and offered differing explanations for why. Two criminal statutes that cover lying to Congress have five-year statutes of limitations, establishing a Monday deadline to charge Clapper, who in retirement has emerged as a leading critic of President Trump. … Many members of Congress, mostly Republicans supportive of new limits on electronic surveillance, called for Clapper to be prosecuted as the deadline neared, saying unpunished perjury jeopardizes the ability of Congress to perform oversight.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will host the Houston Astros, last year’s World Series Champions, at the White House and then have lunch with Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

Pence is in New York City today for a “Protect the House” fundraiser with the Great America Committee.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“I've not had a root canal, but I can imagine that a root canal might be more pleasant than that was.” -- Betsy DeVos on her confirmation hearing ("60 Minutes”)

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

-- Washington could see some snow early today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “We’ll have a slight chance of light snow this morning, with a somewhat better chance during the afternoon. However, by then, temperatures will have risen into the mid-to-upper 30s, meaning precipitation may fall as light rain or a mix of rain and snow. Little or no snow accumulation expected.”

-- Maryland state Sen. Cheryl Kagan accused a lobbyist by name of groping her. Ovetta Wiggins reports: “[W]hen lobbyist Gil Genn allegedly groped her this month, Kagan decided she could not remain silent, galvanized by the national #MeToo movement and the increased discussion of alleged sexual harassment in the Maryland General Assembly. … Genn, a former delegate turned lobbyist, vehemently denied the allegations.”

-- Virginia Del. Nick Freitas, who is running in the Senate GOP primary alongside Corey Stewart, gets his turn in the spotlight. From Jenna Portnoy: “A former Green Beret with libertarian bona fides, Freitas last week gave a heated floor speech about the societal ills that he believes cause mass shootings. Along the way he offended African American lawmakers and seemed to suggest ‘the abortion industry’ was to blame for gun violence. Democrats were left ‘emotionally shaken.’ Republicans couldn’t get enough. Video of the speech has been viewed more than 14 million times on Facebook. A conservative media headline gushed, ‘A Star is Born!’ ‘Fox and Friends’ put him on the air. Lou Dobbs called it ‘brilliant,’ tweeting, ‘Watch this!’”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

SNL mashed up the disastrous “Bachelor” finale with the Robert Mueller investigation:

SNL host Sterling K. Brown impersonated Ben Carson in a parody of Brown's show “This is Us”:

An MSNBC host rejected the term “fake news” while talking to the Mooch:

PETA protesters interrupted the Crufts dog show in the U.K.:

And Faith Hill reassured an audience after her husband Tim McGraw collapsed on stage: