With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.
THE BIG IDEA: Ayana McAllister wanted to become a detective who helped victims of sexual assault. “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” was her favorite show. “She used to always say she wanted to be just like Olivia Benson,” recalls her sister, N’Daja McAllister.
But one year ago tomorrow, the 18-year-old was shot and killed in Northeast Washington. Ayana was home for spring break from her freshman year at Saint Augustine’s University in North Carolina. She was one of the 259 homicides recorded in our region last year. Unlike on “Law & Order,” where the bad guy always gets caught by the end of the hour, her murder remains unsolved.
Sitting in the dimly lit living room where they watched so many episodes together as a family, N’Daja and her mother fought back tears on a drizzly Saturday afternoon. They discussed their efforts to honor Ayana’s legacy and talked about next weekend’s “March for Our Lives,” which is being organized by students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where a gunman killed 17.
“I'm really proud of the kids in Florida. Enough is enough,” Tyreese McAllister said. But, she added, African American kids are more likely to get shot walking home than at school. Most children who get killed by guns don’t die in mass shootings, and Tyreese is worried that the everyday street violence which took her daughter is getting overshadowed by the higher-profile incidents that mostly impact white people.
“I don't want anybody to be killed, but in our community it is a huger problem and nobody's talking about it,” the 49-year-old explained. “My kids have been to several funerals before they even got out of high school. This is a big issue for our community, and being middle class does not change it. I thought it did. … Gun violence is different in communities of color. We feel we don't have any power. That’s the main thing. I'm trying to take a different approach. I'm powerless to bring her back, but can I stop another family from going through this? Because this right here is unimaginable.”
Tyreese, who as a crisis response therapist has helped many other families cope with tragedy, choked up as she reminisced about her lost daughter’s hearty laugh. “There are days where I struggle to get out of my bed,” she said. “Like it takes everything in me to get out of bed. But every day God gets me out of bed.”
Anthony McAllister, a juvenile probation officer, said he drives by the apartment complex where his daughter was gunned down while watching a friend record a music video on his way to and from work. He has a picture of Ayana at his bedside and in the front entryway of their home. “For the rest of my life, I have to deal with this broken heart that I have,” the 54-year-old said. “But I don't need everybody to see that. … I don’t have to boohoo out loud. … Anger is in me, but I don’t let it go outward. … We’ll never know what she had in her.”
Anthony and Tyreese didn’t think this would happen to them. They’ve had security cameras inside and outside their house on a cul-de-sac in Upper Marlboro, Md. They were strict about who their daughters hung out with. They checked their cellphones and computers. They taught them what it meant to be “street smart.”
“None of that protected my girl. None of it. I was under an illusion,” Tyreese said. “We know that outside of these four walls, it’s a dangerous place. But I was probably more worried about my girls getting kidnapped … than killed in the street. … Once they graduated from high school, I really felt like, ‘It’s cake from here.’”
It happened at 8:37 p.m. on Monday, March 20. N’Daja and Ayana, who were both on spring break from Saint Augustine’s, were up the street from the Benning Road Metro station at the Fort Chaplin Apartments. The video shoot was wrapping up when there was a sudden hail of gunfire. “At first, we thought it was fireworks,” said N’Daja, who is now 20. “Once we realized that it was gunshots, we all begun to duck down. When the gunshots stopped, we all started to get up. Ayana didn’t get up.”
“Yo, I got shot. I got shot. I can’t move,” N’Daja remembers her sister saying. “We were all panicking, but she was like, ‘Calm down. I’m ok. I just can’t move.’”
Ayana died a few hours later, and Tyreese said she has been “second guessing” herself ever since. “They had gotten home Thursday night and they had been asking to go out each night, and each night I was like, ‘Just hang out with me. I miss you.’ And then on Monday I just felt like I had kept them cooped up all weekend,” the mother recalled. “Could I have done something different? Could I have done more? What might I have done differently? She wasn't doing anything she shouldn't be. She wasn't in a war zone.”
A few years ago, one of Ayana’s friend’s moms died. That prompted a mother-daughter conversation about mortality. “She said that, if I died, she would jump in the casket with me. She said there was no way she’d let me die by myself,” Tyreese recalled. “I told her that’s silly. I told her to live her life if anything happened to me.”
Tyreese fears that much of what the Florida students are pushing for — like stronger background checks, raising the age to buy an assault-style weapon from 18 to 21 and more mental health evaluations — would not do much to curtail inner-city gun violence. She said most weapons used in such crimes are illegally obtained, so she believes authorities should first crack down on gunrunning and institute tougher penalties.
“In our community, I can go get a gun in 15 minutes and be back. That's not my lifestyle, but I know where I can get ‘em,” she said. “And if I know, then you have kids who know.”
Tyreese said she was at a community meeting for work just last week when a D.C. police officer told the leader of the tenant association at the apartment complex where her daughter died that many illegal guns are floating around the property. “My heart just dropped,” she said. “In this particular community, the police know who has the guns. But they have rights. They have more rights to have their guns than Ayana had to live. … We have to allow police to police.”
Authorities are offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Ayana’s killer. When I asked how it feels that the gunman has not been brought to justice, the parents said they disagree.
“I’m definitely angry,” Anthony said. “Some days I’m pissed, and some days I’m okay.”
“I’m not angry,” Tyreese said. “I’m just sad. Incredibly sad.”
The McAllisters are Baptists, and Tyreese said that faith leads her to forgive whoever killed her daughter. “Ayana didn’t have any enemies that would want to kill her,” Tyreese said. “Just as I should not have had to bury my daughter, a mother shouldn’t have to visit their kid in prison either. It’s an incredibly sad state of affairs that, in the African American community, we’re losing kids either to the grave or the jail. … Either way, your kid is gone.”
March Madness was muted on the television as we talked in the living room where they all used to watch “Law & Order” together. That was fitting because Ayana loved basketball and was the student manager for the team at Largo High School during her senior year.
I told them that I interviewed Ayana on the Saturday before the 2016 presidential election during a college-football game in Raleigh, N.C. She was one of dozens of people I spoke with that day, but I vividly remember her sunny disposition. She said she was delighted to chat with a Washington Post reporter because she grew up reading the paper and was homesick. She lamented the negativity in the political discourse and the nasty turn the fall campaign had taken. Two weekends before, Ayana had gone with classmates to a Hillary Clinton rally on campus. She recalled how five “Mothers of the Movement” — women who have lost children to gun violence or police-involved incidents — accompanied the Democratic nominee.
Now Tyreese has become a mother of the movement. The family has established the Ayana J. McAllister Foundation. They’re organizing a May fashion show to raise money for scholarships and a June prayer breakfast to raise awareness. They hope to offer five scholarships for $2,000 each. One will go to someone who lives in the apartments where the shooting happened and is bound for college. Another will go to a student at Saint Augustine’s who is majoring in criminal justice and has been personally impacted by gun violence.
And the couple plans to become politically engaged in a way they never have been before. “It's a reasonable expectation that people won't just face random acts of violence,” Tyreese said. “Some neighborhoods are safe. What are they doing in those neighborhoods that are safe that we can’t do in other neighborhoods? … I just feel like this is our new mission: to make some noise. One other thing is to hold these people accountable. The sound bite is good, but what are you going to do? I need some action. I need to know that other kids aren’t going to be killed.”
First, though, they had to get out of town. The family could not bear to be in Washington on the anniversary of Ayana’s death. So they drove to Atlantic City on Sunday morning. Ayana’s grandmother, great-grandmother, godparents, great-aunts and others are all coming for what they hope will be a quiet week in New Jersey. “Everybody just wants to be supportive,” Tyreese said, “and they may need some supporting themselves.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Another package bomb went off in Austin, seriously injuring two young men. Eva Ruth Moravec and Meagan Flynn report: “Two men in their 20s were injured Sunday in an explosion on the 4800 block of Dawn Song Drive after a package bomb detonated as they passed on bicycles, said interim Austin Police Chief Brian Manley. Unlike the other explosions, which detonated after victims tried to pick up packages left at their homes, this package was left on the side of the road and was possibly triggered by a trip wire, Manley said. ‘We are working under the belief that this is related to the other bombing incidents that have occurred in our community over the last couple weeks,’ he said at a news conference at 1:30 a.m. Monday. The two men, who have not been identified, were rushed to the hospital with serious, but non-life-threatening injuries … ”
GET SMART FAST:
- Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s helicopter was forced to return to Reagan Airport on Thursday after one of its engines failed. The two were traveling from D.C. to New York and quickly boarded a commercial flight after the engine trouble. (CNN)
- School officials and a sheriff’s deputy recommended that Nikolas Cruz be forcibly committed for mental-health evaluation in September 2016 — more than a year before he allegedly killed 17 people in a shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Authorities say the involuntary commitment would also have been a “high obstacle, if not a complete barrier” for Cruz to legally obtain a firearm. (AP)
- A Portland man accused of intentionally smashing his car into a former Afghan interpreter for the U.S. military was indicted last week on attempted murder and 11 other felonies. According to witnesses, the driver “rammed repeatedly” into Mohammad Fawad Mohammadi, pinning him against his car and causing him to lose part of his leg. (Oregonian)
- Turkish troops backed by Syrian rebels wrested control of the Kurdish-held city of Afrin. The action ends a nearly two-month military operation that left scores of civilians dead and highlights the extent to which foreign powers and “proxy” fighters have dominated the Syrian battlefield. (Erin Cunningham and Zakaria Zakaria)
- Apple has begun developing its own screens for the first time. The tech giant has only produced a small number of screens for testing, but the development could severely impact screen-makers like Samsung. (Bloomberg News)
- A Cirque du Soleil performer fell to his death in front of a live audience in Tampa. His accident marks the group’s third death connected to a show in the past five years. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
- Xavier became the second No. 1 seed to be eliminated from this year’s NCAA tournament. The Musketeers lost to the Florida State Seminoles, 75 to 70. Maryland Baltimore County, who eliminated No. 1 seed U-Va., also lost to Kansas State 50 to 43. (Cindy Boren and Des Bieler)
SIX MORE YEARS:
-- Vladimir Putin cruised to an unsurprising victory in Russia’s presidential election. From Anton Troianovski: The results allow the Russian leader to hold the reins of power for a fourth six-year term, even as authorities rolled out elaborate measures to increase voter turnout across the country and play up the strength of Putin's support. Early exit polls showed Putin earning 73.9 percent of the vote, with the closest runner-up, Pavel Grudinin, earning just 11.2 percent.
-- Expect rising tensions with the West. Anton and Matthew Bodner report: “ ... as infighting over the country’s domestic course continues at the top, Putin will have an interest in intensifying the conflict with the West. Six years ago, when he last ran, Putin stepped up his anti-American rhetoric amid large and continuing street demonstrations against him. U.S. officials, thinking it a campaign ploy, expected him to dial back the heat once he was safely in office — but that never happened. And it’s unlikely to happen now.”
-- “Poisoning of Russian ex-spy puts spotlight on Moscow's secret military labs,” by Joby Warrick: “Since the start of Putin’s second term, a construction boom has been underway at more than two dozen institutes that were once part of the Soviet Union’s biological and chemical weapons establishment …. Russian officials insist that the research in government-run labs is purely defensive and perfectly legal. But the effort has come under increased scrutiny in the wake of allegations of Moscow’s involvement in the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain.”
THERE IS A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Jeff Sessions’s congressional testimony that he opposed a Russia outreach effort floated by a Trump campaign aide in March 2016 has been contradicted by at least three other people who attended the meeting, according to Reuters: “Sessions testified before Congress in November 2017 that he ‘pushed back’ against the proposal made by [George Papadopoulos] ... Then a senator from Alabama, Sessions chaired the meeting as head of the Trump campaign’s foreign policy team. ‘Yes, I pushed back,’ Sessions told the House Judiciary Committee on Nov. 14, when asked whether he shut down Papadopoulos’ proposed outreach to Russia. ... Three people who attended the March campaign meeting told Reuters they gave their version of events to FBI agents or congressional investigators … Although the accounts they provided to Reuters differed in certain respects, all three, who declined to be identified, said Sessions had expressed no objections to Papadopoulos’ idea. One person said Sessions was courteous to Papadopoulos and said something to the effect of ‘okay, interesting.’ The other two recalled a similar response. ‘It was almost like, ‘Well, thank you and let’s move on to the next person,’' one said. ... Sessions, through Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur Flores, declined to comment beyond his prior testimony.”
-- White House lawyer Ty Cobb released a statement last night reiterating Trump has no plans to fire Robert Mueller. “In response to media speculation and related questions being posed to the administration, the White House yet again confirms that the President is not considering or discussing the firing of the [Mueller],” Cobb said. (Reuters)
-- The statement comes after Trump railed against Mueller for the first time by name in tweets Sunday morning. He also slammed Andrew McCabe, claiming that notes taken by the fired former deputy FBI director are “Fake Memos.” Trump’s remarks came just one day after his personal attorney, John Dowd, called for an end to Mueller’s ongoing Russia investigation — prompting swift condemnation from both Republicans and Democratic lawmakers, who warned the president to back off Mueller. “Under instruction from his attorneys, Trump has in the past been careful not to publicly criticize Mueller by name or otherwise directly antagonize the special counsel, but … on Saturday night, in an apparent change of strategy, Trump for the first time [challenged the probe directly],” Philip Rucker notes.
- “If you have an innocent client, Mr. Dowd, act like it,” Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said on “Fox News Sunday,” adding that any interference in Mueller’s probe would result in a “very, very long, bad 2018.” Trump should “want the investigation to be as fulsome and thorough as possible,” he added.
- On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that any action by Trump to remove Mueller would be “the beginning of the end of his presidency … because we’re a rule of law nation.”
- Chris Christie praised the work of Mueller’s team on ABC’s “This Week,” saying it would be inappropriate for the president to try to remove him. The special counsel has “conducted this investigation so far with great integrity, without leaking and by showing results, and I don’t think the president’s going to fire somebody like that,” the former New Jersey governor and Trump ally said.
-- Trump also increased his attacks on Mueller’s staff, claiming in a tweet on Sunday that it includes "13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans.” “Another Dem recently added ... does anyone think this is fair?” Trump continued. Setting the facts straight: “The president is ignoring one important fact: [Mueller] is a longtime registered Republican,” Matt Zapotosky writes. “He was appointed by another Republican, [Rod Rosenstein], whom Trump nominated as deputy attorney general. But publicly available voter registration information shows that 13 of the 17 members of Mueller's team have previously registered as Democrats, while four had no affiliation or their affiliation could not be found.”
Here is a full fact-check of Trump’s tweets from Glenn Kessler.
-- Graham and Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) called for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on McCabe’s firing. “I don’t like the way it went down,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said of McCabe’s ouster on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I would have certainly done it differently.”
-- At least one Democratic congressman has come up with a way to protest McCabe’s 11th-hour firing: by offering him a temporary job so he can obtain full retirement benefits. Amber Phillips reports: “Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) announced Saturday afternoon that he has offered McCabe a job to work on election security in his office, ‘so that he can reach the needed length of service’ to retire ... A [spokeswoman for McCabe] didn't immediately rule out a job … which might only need to last for a day or so for him to get his full retirement benefits: ‘We are considering all options,’ she said."
-- James Comey’s book rocketed up to the No. 1 bestseller Sunday on Amazon, climbing 15 spots in less than 24 hours after the president blasted him on Twitter as “sanctimonious” and someone who “made McCabe look like a choirboy.” The book will be released on April 17. (CNNMoney)
-- “What Michael Flynn Could Tell the Russia Investigators,” by Bloomberg News's David Kocieniewski and Lauren Etter: “A three-month Bloomberg investigation has found that Flynn … had a slew of other problematic entanglements. Previously unreported documents, including Pentagon contracts, emails and internal company papers, point to overlapping business conflicts around the world. Self-dealing is, in some ways, at the core of the Mueller inquiry[.]”
-- The Big Picture: “A dozen people close to Mr. Trump or the White House, including current and former aides and longtime friends, described him as newly emboldened to say what he really feels and to ignore the cautions of those around him,” reports the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman. “They say Mr. Trump now feels he doesn’t need the expertise of [John] Kelly, [Gary] Cohn or [Rex Tillerson]. If he once suspected they were smarter or better equipped to lead the country and protect his presidency, he doesn’t believe that now ... Contrary to descriptions of a constantly fuming, beleaguered president, friends and advisers say Mr. Trump is more at ease than he has been in some time. What seems like unchecked chaos to almost everyone else is Mr. Trump feeling he is in his element."
INFORMATION WARFARE :
-- U.S. and European officials are demanding answers from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on how the Trump-linked data firm Cambridge Analytica obtained the personal information of tens of millions of Facebook users during the 2016 race. From Craig Timberg, Tony Romm and Elizabeth Dwoskin: “Though both Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have been embroiled in investigations in Washington and London for months, some of this weekend’s demands have taken on a more personal tone, focusing explicitly on Zuckerberg, who has not testified publicly on these matters in either capital. ‘They say “trust us,” but Mark Zuckerberg needs to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about what Facebook knew about misusing data from 50 million Americans in order to target political advertising and manipulate voters,’ Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said in a statement. … Similar calls for official investigation came from several other U.S. lawmakers, the European Union’s justice commissioner and a British lawmaker … ”
-- Facebook’s actions may have violated its consent decree on user privacy with the Federal Trade Commission, according to two former federal officials. Craig and Tony report: “Such a violation, if eventually confirmed by the [FTC], could lead to many millions of dollars in fines against Facebook, said David Vladeck, who as the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection oversaw the investigation of alleged privacy violations by Facebook and the subsequent consent decree resolving the case in 2011.”
-- Facebook said it's looking into ties between one of its employees and Cambridge. CNN’s Donie O'Sullivan reports: “Joseph Chancellor, now a researcher at [Facebook], was a director of Global Science Research, a company that provided data to Cambridge Analytica. … On Friday, Facebook announced it was suspending Cambridge Analytica and data scientist Aleksandr Kogan, Chancellor's former business colleague, from using its platform while it investigates.”
-- The Massachusetts attorney general has also launched an investigation into Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. (CNN)
-- Meanwhile, Trump’s digital director Brad Parscale has refused to answer lawmakers’ questions about the campaign’s digital strategy. Politico’s Josh Meyer reports: “Parscale stonewalled lawmakers during his July testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Democratic sources familiar with it [said]. During his testimony, Parscale was unresponsive to some questions and referred most others to Alexander Nix, the chief executive officer of Cambridge Analytica, and to campaign senior adviser and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who hired Parscale and worked closely with him on the targeting operation … ”
PERSONNEL IS POLICY:
-- New York Magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi reports on former communications director Hope Hicks’s final days in the West Wing: “While others were left wondering what the president was thinking, Hicks could often hear him shouting, even with her door closed. ‘Hope!’ he’d scream. ‘Hopey!’ ‘Hopester!’ ‘Get in here!’ … A second source who meets regularly with the president told me that Hicks acted almost as an embodiment of the faculties the Trump lacked — like memory. ‘He’ll be talking, and then right in the middle he’ll be like, ‘Hope, what was that … thing?’ When the name of a senator or congressman or journalist came up, Trump would prompt Hicks to provide a history of their interactions, asking, 'Do we like him?' ‘She’s the only person he trusts,’ the second source continued. 'He doesn’t trust any men and never has. He doesn’t like men, you see. He has no male friends.'"
Some more key nuggets:
- Trump interrupted Hicks before she could finish resigning and told her hoped she’d “go make a lot of money.” Trump added: “I’m sorry for everything you’ve been through.”
- Day in the Life: “She woke at 4 a.m.; responded to emails from the night before; read the bookmarked articles she’d been meaning to get to; met her trainer in the 3,200-square-foot gym on the first floor of her building; and arrived early at the northern gate, usually by 7:30 a.m.”
- More on the tangled backstory between Hicks and ousted staff secretary Rob Porter, outed by the tabloid Daily Mail, which called Hicks and Porter a “red-hot couple.” Also, Corey Lewandowski, who was apparently unusually fixated on Hicks: “He got wind that she was dating Porter, and he could not handle that,” a third source, who is close to the White House and worked with Lewandowski, said. “There were still raw feelings.”
- No wonder she wanted out: John Kelly referred to Hicks as “the high schooler.”
-- In the early months of his administration, Trump had senior White House staff sign nondisclosure agreements that were designed to last beyond his presidency. Ruth Marcus reports: “Some balked at first but, pressed by then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and the White House Counsel’s Office, ultimately complied, concluding that the agreements would likely not be enforceable in any event. The nondisclosure agreements, said a person who signed the document, ‘were meant to be very similar to the ones that some of us signed during the campaign and during the transition. I remember the president saying, 'Has everybody signed a confidentiality agreement like they did during the campaign or we had at Trump Tower?' Moreover, said the source, this confidentiality pledge would extend not only after an aide’s White House service but also beyond the Trump presidency.”
Ruth obtained a copy of a draft: “It would expose violators to penalties of $10 million, payable to the federal government, for each and any unauthorized revelation of ‘confidential’ information, defined as ‘all nonpublic information I learn of or gain access to in the course of my official duties in the service of the United States Government on White House staff,’ including ‘communications … with members of the press’ and ‘with employees of federal, state, and local governments.’” The draft would also prohibit revelation of confidential information in any form, including works of fiction that “mention the operatives of the White House, federal agencies … or other entities interacting with the [U.S.] government.”
-- Jared Kushner’s real estate company routinely filed false paperwork to push vulnerable tenants out of its apartment buildings in New York City — clearing several properties and turning huge profits as a result, the Associated Press reports. Avi Selk has more: “[Kushner] was in charge of the company between 2013 and 2016, when the company allegedly filed at least 80 false applications for construction permits … The company stated on the paperwork that no tenants — in at least 34 buildings it owned ... were protected by special rules that would have prevented Kushner from raising rents or harassing residents to leave … [In reality], tax records showed that hundreds of tenants were protected by such rules. The AP cited three Queens buildings that the company bought in 2015 … inheriting as many as 94 rent-protected units. Most of those tenants had moved out two years later, when the company sold the three buildings for $60 million — ‘nearly 50 percent more than it paid,’ the AP wrote. By allegedly misleading the city, Kushner’s company was able to clear several buildings of tenants and resell the properties for huge profits.”
-- Kushner’s father acknowledged having met with Qatar’s finance minister three months after Trump was sworn in. Michael Kranish and Karen DeYoung report: “However, Charles Kushner said he turned down possible funding to avoid questions of a conflict of interest for his son, who had run the family company until he became Trump’s senior adviser. The elder Kushner said that the Qataris had asked for the meeting, and that he told them he couldn’t accept sovereign funds.”
-- Senior White House officials are weighing bringing back Trump’s former personal aide John McEntee, who was abruptly ousted from the West Wing because of a gambling problem that raised security concerns. Politico’s Andrew Restuccia reports: “[John Kelly] told aides during a Friday morning senior staff meeting that there are tentative discussions about finding a role for McEntee in the administration, according to a person familiar with the meeting. The person added that Kelly and others in the West Wing believe McEntee has been unfairly maligned in the media. A second administration official and a person close to the White House confirmed that aides have talked about rehiring McEntee, though it’s unclear how advanced those discussions are.”
-- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) doubled down on his promise to oppose Mike Pompeo at the State Department and Gina Haspel to helm the CIA. Paige Winfield Cunningham reports: “‘He keeps appointing people around him who like the war with Iraq so much they’re eager to start a war with Iran next,’ Paul said. Pompeo is too enthusiastic about regime changes around the world, the senator said.” He also expressed disagreement with Haspel’s nomination, saying: “It’s just inconsistent with who we are as a people to have someone run our spy agency who is intimately involved with torture.”
THE REST OF TRUMP’S AGENDA:
-- The Trump administration will seek the death penalty for drug dealers when allowed under current law and aims to slash by one-third the prescribing of powerful painkillers. Katie Zezima reports: “Administration officials said Sunday that the measures are part of a three-pronged approach to fighting the opioid epidemic ... The White House said it aims to reduce the demand for opioids by slowing overprescribing, cutting off the supply of illicit drugs and helping those who are addicted.” It wants fentanyl traffickers to “be prosecuted more aggressively” but stopped short of making dealing large quantities of the synthetic drug a capital offense other than when it's warranted under current law.
-- Family separations at the border have soared since Trump took office, Michael E. Miller and Jon Gerberg report. “They had come so far together, almost 3,000 miles across three countries and three borders: a mother with three children, fleeing a gang in El Salvador that had tried to kill her teenage son. But now, in a frigid Border Patrol facility in Arizona where they were seeking asylum, Silvana Bermudez was told she had to say goodbye. Her kids were being taken from her. She handed her sleeping preschooler to her oldest, a 16-year-old with a whisper of a mustache whose life had been baseball and anime until a gun was pointed at his head. ‘My love, take care of your little brother,’ she told him on Dec. 17.” The family would not be reunited until March 16.
-- The new congressional spending bill may exempt Minor League Baseball players from federal labor laws. Mike DeBonis reports: “The exemption would represent the culmination of more than two years of lobbying by Major League Baseball, which has sought to preempt a spate of lawsuits that have been filed by minor leaguers alleging they have been illegally underpaid. The league has long claimed exemptions for seasonal employees and apprenticeships, allowing its clubs to pay players as little as $1,100 a month, well under the pay that would be dictated under federal minimum wage and overtime standards.”
THE ROAD TO NOVEMBER (AND 2020):
-- Trump will visit New Hampshire today for the first time since 2016 amid speculation that fellow Republicans will mount primary challenges against him in 2020. From John Wagner: “Trump’s Monday visit is billed as an official trip, with a focus on combating the opioid crisis, which has hit the Granite State hard. But amid the ongoing Russia probe and fallout from an alleged dalliance with a porn star, the appearance also presents an opportunity for the president to shore up support in a state that not only plays a key role in the nominating process but also is a general-election battleground. … Sensing vulnerability, potential Democratic challengers, including former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), have started making state appearances, and the parade of hopefuls is expected to pick up considerably after the November midterm elections.”
-- Democrats hold a 10-point advantage on the generic congressional ballot, according to the latest NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll. NBC News’s Mark Murray reports: “Fifty percent of registered voters say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, while 40 percent want a GOP-controlled one. … The survey, which was conducted March 10-14, also shows Democrats holding the early enthusiasm advantage: Sixty percent of Democratic voters say they have a high degree of interest in the upcoming elections … versus 54 percent of Republicans who say the same thing.”
-- Conor Lamb’s victory in the Pennsylvania special election is emboldening candidates to say they won't support Nancy Pelosi as the party's congressional leader. From the New York Times’s Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns: “Democratic candidates are increasingly opposing her as speaker or refusing to take a stand as an act of political inoculation — a trend that even her allies acknowledge could ultimately imperil her grip on the Democratic caucus. At least two other senior Democrats, Representatives Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland and Joseph Crowley of New York, are already actively laying the groundwork to seek the leader’s job if Ms. Pelosi’s position becomes untenable. … Most ominous for Ms. Pelosi, it is not just centrist candidates running in red-tinged districts who are reluctant to embrace her, but also political insurgents on the left who see her as an embodiment of the Washington establishment.”
-- Koch-aligned groups are targeting Hispanic voters with positive messaging on conservative policies, including the GOP tax bill. The Boston Globe’s Annie Linskey reports: “[T]hey’re trying to prove that their key priority, the massive tax cut, should be popular with immigrant newcomers and the economically struggling. … They’re not just selling the tax cut, they’re providing a host of Spanish-language events infused with the free market, limited government philosophy the Kochs hope will appeal to Hispanics — and help them look past the many offensive comments made by the president. It’s a case, in other words, of the wealthiest GOP benefactors looking for ways to mop up after the GOP president.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
A former CIA director slammed Trump after the firing of McCabe:
When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America...America will triumph over you. https://t.co/uKppoDbduj— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) March 17, 2018
The lawyer representing McCabe commented on Trump's tweets:
We will not be responding to each childish, defamatory, disgusting &— Michael R. Bromwich (@mrbromwich) March 18, 2018
false tweet by the President. The whole truth will come out in due
course. But the tweets confirm that he has corrupted the entire
process that led to Mr. McCabe’s termination and has rendered it
George W. Bush's former press secretary mocked the idea of McCabe being temporarily hired in a government role to receive his pension:
Wonderful idea. Every member of Congress should hire fired bureaucrats who lied to an inspector general in the course of a government investigation. Pensions before Honesty. Great slogan. https://t.co/0oMwBmZqek— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) March 17, 2018
Lawmakers came to the defense of Robert Mueller after Trump derided the special counsel's probe. From Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.):
Special Counsel Mueller has served our country with honesty and integrity. It’s critical he be allowed to complete a thorough investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election — unimpeded.— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) March 18, 2018
From Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.):
Every member of Congress, Republican and Democrat, needs to speak up in defense of the Special Counsel. Now. https://t.co/bg9pVtkdOv— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) March 17, 2018
From Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.):
Special Counsel Mueller is a lifelong Republican. He's universally respected and will follow the facts. His investigation must continue without political interference. The American people will not stand for efforts to impede his work.— Sen Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) March 18, 2018
The Post's fact-checker responded to Trump's claims of partisanship on Mueller's team:
The way Trump tweets about how investigators can't be trusted because they donated to Democrats, it's easy to forget he donated to Hillary Clinton in 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009. Melania, Ivanka and Don Jr. also made donations to Clinton.— Glenn Kessler (@GlennKesslerWP) March 18, 2018
From a New York Times reporter:
This does not mean he will fire Mueller - but it raises increasing prospects that he orders/pushes Rosenstein/Sessions to do so— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) March 18, 2018
An MSNBC host replied:
The question is why. Ryan https://t.co/qCB508c7qW. got their millionaire tax cuts and permanently cut the corporate rate. Are they holding out for ending Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security? Do they fear the Trump base in the midterms? Do they fear Russian kompromat? What? https://t.co/IdlSYA1Kq7— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) March 18, 2018
From a Post reporter:
What's interesting is that most ppl around Trump think his tweets this weekend are blowing off steam/threats he won't follow through on. Of course we don't know what he will do. But many around him think trying to oust Mueller would be a bad idea and that he's not about to do it.— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) March 18, 2018
The former director of the Office of Government Ethics responded to Lindsey Graham's quote on Trump firing Mueller:
And if he were to get away with it, that would be the beginning of the end of the presidency, because we would no longer be a rule of law nation. The stakes are that high for our republic.— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) March 18, 2018
From a presidential historian:
“Nixon Blasts ‘False Charges’”: pic.twitter.com/A3ERM8NMMx— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) March 18, 2018
A New York Times reporter looked at the congressional Democratic leadership:
In other words, the generational issue is not just Pelosi. House Dems have never had a speaker, leader or whip born after V-J Day.— Alex Burns (@alexburnsNYT) March 18, 2018
Stormy Daniels's attorney responded to a threat from Trump's legal team to seek $20 million in damages:
How can President Donald Trump seek $20 million in damages against my client based on an agreement that he and Mr. Cohen claim Mr. Trump never was a party to and knew nothing about? #notwellthoughtout #sloppy #checkmate— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) March 17, 2018
The president's son shared this picture from the family's Chicago hotel:
Meghan McCain spent time with her father:
No place I would rather be. ♥️🇺🇸🌵 pic.twitter.com/fihomzUiIL— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) March 18, 2018
The president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund consoled UMBC after its March Madness loss:
The underdog team thanked its thousands of new Twitter followers:
Well, it was fun y'all. KState may have won (50-43), but we hope to have won your hearts.— UMBC Athletics (@UMBCAthletics) March 19, 2018
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- Vogue, “Kamala Harris Is Dreaming Big,” by Abby Aguirre: “[I]n the seventeen months since Donald Trump was elected president, Harris has been propelled into an altogether different stratum of political celebrity—one that raises certain questions about her future. (Questions she is well practiced at deflecting. ‘I honestly am focused on 2018,’ she tells me when I ask her for her thoughts about a presidential run. But you haven’t ruled it out, I say. ‘I’m not focused on it,’ she repeats.) It’s not just that she’s outspoken on social media, which she is, or that she holds an all too rare demographic appeal, which she does. Rather, Harris has become a force due to her authority on the very issues Trump warps for his own gain: crime and immigration.”
-- Politico Magazine, “Why Trump Slayed His Own Masters of the Universe,” by Ben White: “[Trump] swept into the White House on a promise to run the government like a business and stock his administration with titans of industry. The partnership hasn’t worked out. Just over a year into Trump’s presidency, those titans are leaving, driven out by a chief executive who doesn’t want to hear no, doesn’t trust anyone but himself and can’t stand to share the spotlight … Trump is simply returning to who he’s always been, a one-man reality show who prefers to be surrounded by admirers who will praise and fawn over him and confirm that all his instincts are correct and brilliant ... The wonder is that anyone is surprised.”
-- New York Times, “‘Testilying’ by Police: A Stubborn Problem,” by Joseph Goldstein: “An investigation by The New York Times has found that on more than 25 occasions since January 2015, judges or prosecutors determined that a key aspect of a New York City police officer’s testimony was probably untrue. … In these cases, officers have lied about the whereabouts of guns, putting them in suspects’ hands or waistbands when they were actually hidden out of sight. They have barged into apartments and conducted searches, only to testify otherwise later. Under oath, they have given firsthand accounts of crimes or arrests that they did not in fact witness. They have falsely claimed to have watched drug deals happen, only to later recant or be shown to have lied. No detail, seemingly, is too minor to embellish.”
-- Wall Street Journal, “The Next Housing Crisis: A Historic Shortage of New Homes,” by Laura Kusisto: “A decade after an epic construction binge, fewer homes are being built per household than at almost any time in U.S. history. … What makes the slump puzzling is that by most other measures, the American economy is booming.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Schools shouldn’t arm staff because they’re full of ‘lady teachers,’ Alabama lawmaker says,” from Alex Horton: “Many arguments against arming teachers are reasonable enough. Critics say more guns in the classroom could lead to negligent discharges, which happened as recently as Wednesday. Or their proliferation can spark chaos for police … But few have [declared] that it would violate the feminine sensibilities of teachers. Alabama state Rep. Harry Shiver (R) asserted that belief, saying that guns should not be placed in the hands of ‘our ladies’ — meaning female teachers — many of whom he believes are ‘scared’ of firearms. “I’m not saying all [women], but in most schools, women are [the majority] of the teachers,’” Shiver said in an interview Thursday.
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“Women’s March members bail over ties to Farrakhan,” from the New York Post: “The Women’s March — a civil-rights group at the center of protests against the Trump presidency — is losing top staffers and supporters over its leadership’s refusal to denounce a racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic rant by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. The latest to jump ship is high-profile staffer Alyssa Klein, who quit last week as the group’s social-media director. Klein called Farrakhan ‘a dangerous troll,’ and tweeted on March 5 that Women’s March leaders are ‘turning a blind eye to the hate spoken about a group of people.’ Regional branches in Canada, Florida and Washington, DC, have condemned the leadership’s unwillingness to speak out against Farrakhan.”
Trump is in New Hampshire today, where he will give a speech on combating the opioid crisis at Manchester Community College.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I think one of the really sad realizations over the last year is not what kind of a president Donald Trump turns out to be — I think it was all too predictable — but rather, how many members of Congress would be unwilling to stand up to him, and more than that, would be completely willing to carry water for him,” the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff (Calif.), said. “I did not expect that. I thought there would be more Jeff Flakes, more John McCains, more Bob Corkers — people who would defend our system of checks and balances, would speak out for decency, who would defend the First Amendment.” (Politico Magazine)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Washingtonians will see sun and temperatures in the 50s today, before wintry precipitation takes over tomorrow. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Today is the calm before the storm, probably the week’s mildest day, and pretty enjoyable overall. Most spots should see temperatures nudge above 50 degrees even as high clouds slowly increase.”
-- The Capitals lost to the Flyers 6-3. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)
-- A D.C. council member apologized after publishing a video to Facebook in which he accused the Rothschilds (a European business dynasty descended from Mayer Amschel Rothschild, an 18th-century Jewish banker that has been the subject of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories) of “controlling the climate to create natural disasters.” Peter Jamison and Valerie Strauss report: “D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) posted the video to his official Facebook page at 7:21 a.m. [Friday] as snow flurries were hitting the nation’s capital. … ‘Man, it just started snowing out of nowhere this morning, man. Y’all better pay attention to this climate control, man, this climate manipulation,’ [White narrates in the video]. ‘And D.C. keep talking about, “We a resilient city.” And that’s a model based off the Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities, man. Be careful.’”
-- The Agriculture Department is scaling back the number of days its employees may telework to one time a week and no more than two days per pay period.
-- Stop now: The Maryland Senate will hold a hearing this week on increasing the maximum fine for texting and driving to $500. Legislation approving the penalty, which would become one of the highest in the country, has repeatedly passed the House but failed in the Senate. (Rachel Chason)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
John Oliver produced a rival children’s book to the Pence family’s “Marlon Bundo’s A Day of the Life of the Vice President,” with one twist – the rabbit in Oliver’s book is gay:
SNL addressed last week's numerous firings in Trump World:
Kate McKinnon played Education Secretary Betsy DeVos defending her widely panned performance in a "60 Minutes” interview:
The Post fact-checked the president's overview of Hillary Clinton's position on going to Mars:
A baby bald eagle was born in D.C.:
And a gorilla named Louis in Philadelphia often walks upright like a human: