THE BIG IDEA: The Republican governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, held off a primary challenge Tuesday from a largely unknown state representative on his right by just three points. A seven-term Democratic congressman from the Chicago suburbs, Dan Lipinski, beat a first-time candidate challenging him from the left by less than two points, or about 1,500 votes. The powerful chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party went down, Bobby Kennedy’s son lost in the Democratic gubernatorial primary and a slate of candidates endorsed by Bernie Sanders won.
The second primary night of the year, in the country’s fifth most populous state, showcased how angry the electorate remains in this Age of Disruption. The political establishments in both parties face restive grass-roots activists who are demanding more fealty to orthodoxy, from abortion to immigration. Two years after Donald Trump slayed every avatar of the establishment on his path to the presidency, the machines continue to crumble, more dynasties are ending and each party is becoming increasingly tribal.
Rauner lost support from the religious right by expanding access to abortion for Medicaid recipients last September. The governor also angered the nativists who are ascendant in the GOP by signing a bill that prohibits cops from detaining people they suspect of being undocumented immigrants without a warrant. “He has betrayed, literally, the core values of the Republican platform,” challenger Jeanne Ives said in her stump speech.
Lipinski earned the enmity of women’s groups by refusing to budge from his staunchly antiabortion views. He opposed Obamacare, supported a 20-week ban on abortions and voted for religious freedom bills that many liberals see as giving license for discrimination against the LGBT community. Challenger Marie Newman, who has a transgender daughter, referred to Lipinski as a “Trump Democrat.” “I know what’s in his heart, and it’s called hate,” she said.
NARAL Pro-Choice America and Emily’s List went all in for Newman and a few of the incumbent’s liberal House colleagues campaigned against him, including Rep. Jan Schakowsky from a nearby district. Lipinski was dragged across the finish line by a field program paid for by Susan B. Anthony List. The antiabortion group waded into a Democratic primary for the first time in a decade and flooded the district with 70 canvassers for the final four days.
-- Turnout statewide surged among Democrats but was lackluster on the Republican side. About twice as many Democrats voted as Republicans. It’s another proof point of an enthusiasm gap that continues to benefit the left as the midterms approach.
-- Rauner’s close call is reminiscent of what happened in Virginia last June to Ed Gillespie. The former chairman of the Republican National Committee only beat firebrand Corey Stewart in the GOP primary by one point, despite a massive fundraising advantage and overwhelming institutional support. The unexpected vulnerability foreshadowed Gillespie’s struggles to unite the right in the fall.
It’s bigger than social issues. Illinois didn’t have a budget for two years and its credit rating got downgraded to nearly junk status when Rauner was unable to cut a deal with the Democrats who control the state legislature. Just as national Republicans use Nancy Pelosi as a foil, the governor has tried to blame all his problems on Democratic House Speaker Mike Madigan.
It has not worked. Polls show Rauner is about as popular in his state as President Trump, who lost the Land of Lincoln by 17 points in 2016. “Ives embraced Trump as part of her campaign, while Rauner said he and the president are not ‘particularly close,’” Amber Phillips notes.
Seeing internal polls that showed him in trouble, Rauner last week decided to veto a gun-control compromise bill and announced it on conservative radio in the more rural and conservative downstate Illinois. He also tried to attack his opponent from the right on television, which didn’t pass the laugh test and likely elevated her profile. National Review declared yesterday that “ Rauner Deserves to Lose.”
“To those of you around the state who wanted to send me a message, let me be clear: I have heard you,” Rauner said in a victory speech, which began hours later than planned on account of the photo finish.
-- Like Ives against Rauner, Newman channeled the anger of the liberal base against Lipinski – sometimes caustically. Even as the numbers moved against her last night, for instance, she declined to concede. She told her supporters that she “would like Mr. Lipinski to have a very painful evening, so we’re going to wait.”
The labor unions stuck with Lipinski because he’s been an ally, and most of the business community backed him because he’s brought home the bacon.
But make no mistake: The congressman’s narrow win is not a vindication of his style of politics. It’s a Pyrrhic victory that shows an era coming to an end. In the last round of reapportionment, the district was carefully drawn to include heavily Catholic suburbs so that Lipinski could hold the seat – which he inherited from his father, Bill, who held it for 22 years until 2005. It’s easy to see him retiring rather than face an even bigger onslaught from a stronger challenger in 2020.
Outside of ruby red states like West Virginia and North Dakota, the Blue Dogs have become an endangered species. Even then, Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) won the special election last December by promising to protect the Affordable Care Act and speaking out against a 20-week abortion ban.
-- A Pew Research Study, which coincidentally was published yesterday, highlights the degree to which the two parties continue a seismic, long-term sorting out: “The share of Democratic voters describing their political views as liberal has increased steadily since 2000. Currently, nearly half of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters (46%) say they are liberal, while 37% identify as moderates and 15% say they are conservatives. A decade ago, more Democrats described their views as moderate (44%) than liberal (28%), while 23% said they were conservative. … Conservatives have long constituted the majority among Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters. Roughly two-thirds of Republicans (68%) characterize their views as conservative, while 27% are moderates and 4% are liberals. While there has been little change in Republicans’ self-described ideology in recent years, the share calling themselves conservatives rose from 58% in 2000 to 65% eight years later.”
College graduates, women, minorities and millennials continue moving toward Democrats while Republicans consolidate gains among less-educated whites, especially men. Pew, with a survey sample of 10,000 Americans, found that 56 percent of women identify with the Democrats, up four points from 2015; 58 percent of college graduates affiliate with Democrats, the highest number recorded since 1992; and 59 percent of millennials lean Democratic, compared with 48 percent of both Generation Xers and baby boomers.
-- Lipinski is now virtually assured reelection because the only Republican who ran is a Holocaust denier who has been involved in anti-Semitic and racist groups since the 1970s. The Illinois GOP and the National Republican Congressional Committee both disavowed their nominee, Arthur Jones, and said he will get no support.
-- There were five other results in Illinois that ought to scare entrenched establishmentarians in both parties:
1. It won’t get much coverage outside the Windy City, but voters resoundingly rejected Chicago-style machine politics. The chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party, who has long been one of the most powerful figures in the state, lost reelection to another term as county assessor. To give you a sense of what a huge deal this is, the Chicago Tribune is treating Joe Berrios’s downfall as the biggest story of the night. It’s the banner headline across the top of this morning’s front page.
The party boss got a dismal 34 percent of the vote: “The momentum for [Fritz] Kaegi, a mutual fund asset manager from Oak Park, was built on his pledge to make the property tax assessment system fairer,” Hal Dardick, Ray Long and Joe Mahr report. “That theme was bolstered by ‘The Tax Divide,’ a series by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica Illinois that found assessments under Berrios shifted an outsize portion of the property tax burden from the wealthy to the poor, with minority communities being hit particularly hard. Kaegi also railed against the ‘Democratic Machine’ … pointing to Berrios’ history of taking campaign contributions from property tax appeal attorneys who seek reductions in assessments from both his office and the Board of Review where he was previously a commissioner. He also pointed to Berrios’ hiring of relatives and friends.”
The Daley machine that Milton Rakove so vividly chronicled in his 1976 classic book “Don’t Make No Waves” is no more. “The old machine style is no match for a campaign powered by the people of Cook County,” Kaegi said in a triumphant victory speech last night.
2. Tuesday was a good day for self-funders: J.B. Pritzker, a billionaire heir to the Hyatt hotel fortune, spent $70 million to win the Democratic primary for governor. Rauner, a longtime private equity executive, has already pumped $50 million of his own money into getting reelected. Their combined wealth guarantees that the general will be one of the most expensive races of 2018, if not ever. The Daily Herald frames it as a “CASH OF THE TITANS” on this morning’s front page: “Multimillionaire will face multibillionaire in November’s election.”
3. But it was a bad day for political dynasties: Pritzker was the front-runner to win the six-way Democratic primary, but his 20-point margin of victory was unexpectedly huge. Chicago developer Chris Kennedy, the son of the martyred Robert F. Kennedy, entered the contest to great fanfare and waged an aggressive campaign, but he only managed to garner 24 percent. His failure comes two years after the son of a president and the wife of a president went down in flames to Trump.
4. Another humiliation for Pat Quinn: The former Democratic governor lost to Rauner in 2014. He made a comeback bid by running for attorney general. But he lost in the primary to state Sen. Kwame Raoul. Some guys just don’t know when to hang it up. Quinn was a particularly ineffective governor, and his loss is another data point to underscore the hostility toward the powers that be.
5. Bernie is getting another ally in Congress. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a hard-left liberal who almost toppled Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2015, easily won the primary to succeed retiring Rep. Luis Gutiérrez in a heavily Hispanic district. Garcia supported Sanders’s 2016 campaign, and the Vermont senator returned the favor by flying in to stump with him. Garcia pulled 66 percent in a three-way primary. “What has made Chuy's campaign so powerful is that he's not just working hard to win an election, he's building a grassroots movement to support a slate of exciting new candidates who are taking on the political establishment,” Sanders said in a statement.
The senator noted that Garcia ran on a slate with several other candidates who also won, including 28-year-old Alma Anaya, who ran to replace him on the Cook County Board of Supervisors; Beatriz Frausto-Sandoval, an immigration attorney running to serve as a Cook County Circuit Court judge; and 26-year-old high school counselor Aaron Ortiz, who won a state House primary. Sanders, mulling another run for president, met with all of them in Chicago a few weeks ago. “No one person can take on the political elite on their own. We must stand together,” he said. “That is exactly what Chuy and his slate of candidates did today.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The Austin bombing suspect killed himself after detonating an explosive device in his car early this morning as a SWAT team closed in. Kristine Phillips, Meagan Flynn, Mark Berman and Eva Ruth Moravec report: “Austin police and the FBI tracked the 24-year-old white male to a hotel parking lot in Round Rock, Tex., just north of Austin, where they found him inside his vehicle, [interim Austin Police Chief Brian] Manley said. Officers wanted to wait for tactical units to arrive before engaging the suspect, but then he started to drive away. He stopped on the side of the Interstate 35 frontage road, Manley said. And as Austin SWAT officers approached, the suspect detonated a bomb, knocking one of the officers backward and injuring him, Manley said. A SWAT officer then fired at the suspect. He died inside the vehicle, Manley said. It was unclear whether he died from the explosion or from gunfire.”
-- “[A high-ranking law enforcement official] official said authorities identified a suspect in the past 24 hours based largely on information gained after police said the suspect shipped an explosive device from a FedEx store in Sunset Valley, a suburb surrounded by Austin,” reports the Austin American-Statesman’s Tony Plohetski, Mark D. Wilson and Mary Huber. “That evidence included security video. Authorities also relied upon store receipts showing suspicious transactions from the person and obtained a search warrant for his Google search history that showed him conducting searches they considered suspicious, the official said.”
-- The president thanked law enforcement officials for their diligence over Twitter this morning:
AUSTIN BOMBING SUSPECT IS DEAD. Great job by law enforcement and all concerned!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2018
-- "DO NOT CONGRATULATE:" Trump called Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on his reelection to a fourth term, ignoring specific warnings from his national security advisers, who included a section in his briefing materials in all-caps. Carol D. Leonnig, David Nakamura and Josh Dawsey report: “Trump also chose not to heed talking points from aides instructing him to condemn Putin about the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom. ... Trump told reporters that he had offered his well wishes on Putin’s new six-year term during a conversation on a range of topics, including arms control and the security situations in Syria and North Korea. [Sarah Huckabee Sanders] told reporters that [the poisoning] case was not discussed. ‘We’ll probably be meeting in the not-too-distant future,’ Trump said of Putin, though Sanders emphasized that nothing was planned. ... It was not clear whether Trump read the notes, administration officials said. Trump, who initiated the call, opened it with the congratulations for Putin ... "
- Trump’s tone earned a swift rebuke from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who wrote on Twitter: “An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections. And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, [Trump] insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election.”
- Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) was less critical however, noting that Trump has congratulated other totalitarian leaders. “I wouldn’t read much into it,” he said.
-- All federal offices in Washington are closed due to snowfall in the capital, per OPM.
-- The wintry weather (on the first full day of spring) has already closed most of the region’s schools. Here is the full list.
-- WMATA has also altered its schedules. Metrobus will operate limited service, and Metrorail will start the day on a modified schedule, with more service changes possible depending on how the weather develops. (Luz Lazo)
-- Airlines have already canceled hundreds of flights in the region. Lazo reports: “By late afternoon, more than 600 Tuesday flights had been canceled, along with 2,000 flights scheduled for Wednesday, according to FlightAware. Most of the affected flights had destinations or departures in the Northeast corridor, including at the Washington region’s three airports.”
-- Snow will continue to fall in D.C. until this evening, the Capital Weather Gang forecasts. “A wintry mix changes to all snow from west to east across the area around 5-8 a.m. And then the snow accumulates into and through the afternoon, anywhere from 2 to 8 inches across the D.C.-Baltimore area as shown in our forecast map below.” And be careful while driving: “More snow will stick to the grass than pavement, thanks to the high March sun angle. But with temperatures hovering right near the freezing mark, the snow should manage to stick to many road surfaces, especially during heavier bursts.”
GET SMART FAST:
- A student gunman in Southern Maryland died after he opened fire at Great Mills High School, wounding at least two students before a school resource officer confronted him. Witnesses said the gunman and school official fired “simultaneously” in a hallway, but it was unclear if the shooter was shot by the officer or hit by his own round. (Justin Jouvenal, Donna St. George and Debbie Truong)
The Supreme Court signaled concerns over a California law requiring antiabortion pregnancy centers to inform women that the state provides contraception services and abortion procedures. Even the court’s liberal justices expressed fears that the law may violate the centers’ free speech rights. (Robert Barnes)
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was detained over allegations that he accepted more than $60 million in illegal donations from the late Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi to finance his 2007 presidential bid. (James McAuley)
Breitbart has lost about half its readership since October, according to ComScore. The site saw its lowest traffic last month since February 2015, four months before Trump declared his candidacy. (Politico)
A Republican running to be Kentucky’s secretary of state apologized after suggesting using a Democratic lawmaker as a shooting target. Rep. John Yarmuth (D) bragged about his F rating from the NRA and tweeted a photo of himself with an F pin on his lapel. “Move it over just a bit,” Republican Carl B. Nett tweeted in reply. “I was trained center mass,” he said, referring to the tactical training that teaches law enforcement officers to strike the center of the body. (Eli Rosenberg)
A lobbyist who hired a private investigator to solve the murder of Seth Rich claims the man later tried to kill him. Conservative lobbyist Jack Burkman hired Kevin Doherty to probe the death of the young DNC staffer but later cut Doherty loose amid rising tensions between the two associates. Police arrested Doherty Saturday after Burkman was shot twice and hit by a car in a Rosslyn parking garage last week. (Rachel Weiner)
A Minneapolis police officer who fatally shot an Australian woman last summer was charged with murder. The charging documents show Mohamed Noor is charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of Justine Damond. (Mark Berman and Marwa Eltagouri)
- Tougher climate policies could save more than 150 million lives, according to the results of a new study. Researchers found that lowering carbon emissions would spare hundreds of thousands of lives on nearly every continent, including more than 330,000 in the United States alone. (Darryl Fears)
The world’s last male northern white rhino was euthanized by a veterinary team in Kenya this week after suffering a string of infections that left the elderly animal unable to stand. Only two female members of the dwindling species now remain – leaving developing IVF treatments as the last tool against extinction. (Max Bearak)
- An 8-week old puppy traveling to his new home via Delta Air Lines was lost for two days and mistakenly flown to at least four different states before ultimately reaching his final destination in Idaho. (Lindsey Bever)
Sports Illustrated predicted the Nationals will win the 2018 World Series. The magazine says the Washington team will beat the Yankees in the championship.
MEN BEHAVING BADLY:
-- A New York judge ruled that a defamation lawsuit against Trump, filed by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos, may proceed. Mark Berman and Frances Stead Sellers report: “[Zervos] filed the suit last year after Trump said publicly during the 2016 presidential campaign that she and other women accusing him of unwanted sexual contact were making up their claims. Trump sought to block the legal action, but New York Supreme Court Judge Jennifer G. Schecter — citing court precedent that ultimately led to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in 1998 — said that ‘a sitting president is not immune from being sued in federal court for unofficial acts.’ … In her ruling, Schecter also dismissed a request that the case be stayed for the duration of Trump’s time in office, saying that such ‘a lengthy and categorical stay is not justified’ just because a president can be called away to attend to a crisis. If that happens, Schecter wrote, Trump’s federal responsibilities would be given priority. Schecter wrote that Trump’s comments calling Zervos a liar ‘cannot be characterized simply as opinion, heated rhetoric or hyperbole.’”
-- Former Playboy model Karen McDougal -- who claims she had an affair with Trump -- also filed a lawsuit asking to be released from a 2016 legal agreement requiring her silence. The New York Times’s Jim Rutenberg and Rebecca R. Ruiz report: “[McDougal] is suing the company that owns The National Enquirer, American Media Inc., which paid her $150,000 and whose chief executive is a friend of [Trump’s]. … Ms. McDougal, in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims that [Trump lawyer Michael Cohen] was secretly involved in her talks with A.M.I., and that the media company and her lawyer at the time misled her about the deal. She also asserts that after she spoke with The New Yorker last month after it obtained notes she kept on Mr. Trump, A.M.I. warned that ‘any further disclosures would breach Karen’s contract’ and ‘cause considerable monetary damages.’"
-- “The nearly simultaneous developments added to the political and legal challenges for the president, who has faced weeks of reports about his alleged affair with another woman, porn star Stormy Daniels, and his attorney’s effort to buy her silence,” note Beth Reinhard, Emma Brown, Frances Stead Sellers and Mark Berman.
-- Lawyers for Daniels and Cohen went after each other in personal terms during a CNN segment last night. Derek Hawkins reports: “Michael Avenatti, an attorney and spokesman for Daniels, and David Schwartz, an attorney for Cohen, spent nearly a half-hour trading insults and accusations and waving their hands at each other in a heated discussion about [Daniels’s non-disclosure agreement]. At one point Avenatti, who has mounted a media blitz in recent days, held up an unflattering picture of Cohen and demanded Schwartz explain why he wouldn’t come onto the network. ‘You’re a very passionate guy on behalf of your client, Michael Cohen,’ Avenatti told Schwartz. ‘If Michael Cohen is such a stand-up guy, where is he? Where is this guy? Why won’t he come and sit in this chair?’” Schwartz also told Avenatti at one point, “You’re gonna go down in flames on this case.”
-- “Trump’s Stormy History: The Seven-Year Battle Between the President and the Porn Star,” by the Wall Street Journal’s Joe Palazzolo and Michael Rothfeld: “The extraordinary legal battle between the president of the United States and a former adult-film star has been building for seven years. … A turning point came during a February phone call, after [Cohen] acknowledged publicly he paid [Daniels] $130,000 but didn’t say why. In the call, [Daniels’s] lawyer told Mr. Cohen the actress believed his comments breached a nondisclosure pact they had signed in October 2016—and that she was now free to discuss the alleged affair. ‘I didn’t f—ing breach it!’ Mr. Cohen yelled, people familiar with the call said. Mr. Cohen warned her lawyer that if [Daniels] were to talk, he would seek to enforce the agreement.”
-- Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) may resign from Congress before the end of his term. Politico’s Jake Sherman, Rachel Bade and John Bresnahan report: “Farenthold already announced he would not seek re-election in his southeastern Texas district, after [reports that] he settled a sexual harassment lawsuit with $84,000 in taxpayer funds. But he now is on the brink of leaving Congress well before the end of his term, which would allow him to dodge an Ethics Committee investigation into allegations of inappropriate office behavior.
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) would support impeachment proceedings against Trump if he were to end Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation “without cause," he told The Post. “We’re begging him: ‘Don’t go down this road. Don’t create a constitutional crisis. Don’t force the Congress to take the only remedy that Congress can take,’” said Flake. “To remind the president of that is the best way to keep him from going down that road. To fire Mueller without cause, I don’t know if there is any other remedy left to the legislative branch.” Flake compared any efforts to oust Mueller to President Nixon’s infamous 1973 “Saturday Night Massacre.” The senator added: “[Nixon] left before impeachment came, but that was the remedy then, and that would be the remedy now.” Also on Tuesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt that firing Mueller “without cause” would “probably” be an impeachable offense. (Robert Costa)
-- Meanwhile, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters that Mueller should be able to finish his investigation, but insisted that legislation protecting the special counsel was not necessary: "I agree with the President's lawyers that [Mueller] ought to be allowed to finish his job. I think he was an excellent appointment," McConnell said. "I think he will go wherever the facts lead him and I think he will have great credibility with the American people when he reaches the conclusion of his investigation. So, I have a lot of confidence in him."
-- Paul Ryan said Trump wasn't considering firing Mueller -- but didn't say who assured him of that. “Look, first of all, the special counsel should be free to follow through his investigation to its completion without interference, absolutely. I am confident he will be able to do that,” Ryan said. “I have received assurances that his firing is not even under consideration. We have a system based upon rule of law in this country. We have a justice system, and no one is above that justice system.” (Seung Min Kim)
-- Star GOP attorney Theodore B. Olson has declined an offer to become one of Trump's lawyers, as the president seeks to shake up his legal team. Robert Costa and Carol D. Leonnig report: “Olson, 77, who served as solicitor general in the George W. Bush administration … would have brought deeper ties to the Justice Department and more experience on landmark cases than any of Trump’s current lawyers. But after reviewing the offer and weighing potential conflicts with his clients at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where he is a partner, Olson is not planning to join Trump’s team, a top executive at the firm said Tuesday.”
-- The Senate Intelligence Committee recommended immediate action to beef up security for American election systems. Karoun Demirjian reports: “[Senators said] that the federal government and states should take immediate steps to update antiquated voting machines; improve information-sharing and cybersecurity measures surrounding threats to systems; and make it clear that the United States will respond to attacks on election infrastructure as hostile acts to prevent Russia and other adversaries from trying to interfere with future elections.”
-- Committee members also urged states to buy voting machines that produce paper ballots. “The senators said 14 states had used at least some machines in 2016 without a paper trail that could be audited. Five states used only those machines,” notes the New York Times’s Nicholas Fandos and Matthew Rosenberg.
-- Andrew McCabe, the FBI deputy chief who was fired last week, was asked about his contacts with the media on the same day that James Comey was fired as FBI director. Matt Zapotosky and Karoun Demirjian report: “The investigators, who reported to McCabe, wanted to know about his dealings with the press, the people said. The Justice Department inspector general now thinks that McCabe was not completely truthful with them, the people added. The episode figures prominently in a forthcoming inspector general report expected to allege that McCabe authorized a disclosure of information to the Wall Street Journal and then misled investigators about it. Though the Justice Department inspector general thinks that McCabe was not candid on multiple occasions — both under oath and not — the May 9 conversation is thought to be one of the first examples. … It is difficult to ascertain from what is known publicly so far whether McCabe’s alleged misdeeds could be criminal in nature. That the inspector general’s report is not yet released has fueled speculation … that prosecutors might be weighing a criminal case.”
-- Russia secretly helped Venezuela launch a state-backed cryptocurrency known as the petro to evade U.S. sanctions. Time magazine’s Simon Shuster reports: “The new cryptocurrency, a form of digital cash that is supposedly linked to the value of Venezuela’s oil reserves, was launched on Feb. 20 during a ceremony in the presidential palace in Caracas. [Nicolás Maduro] declared that it would serve as a kind of ‘kryptonite’ against the power of the U.S government … But behind the scenes, the petro was in fact a collaboration—a half-hidden joint venture between Venezuelan and Russian officials and businessmen, whose aim was to erode the power of U.S. sanctions."
CAMBRIDGE ANALYTICA LATEST:
-- The Federal Trade Commission launched an investigation into whether Facebook violated a 2011 settlement by allowing Cambridge Analytica to access millions of users’ personal information. Tony Romm and Craig Timberg report: “The FTC probe … marks the most substantial political and legal threat yet to Facebook as it grapples with the fallout from Cambridge Analytica and its controversial tactics. And it could result in the U.S. government slapping Facebook with a massive fine. At issue for the company [is a settlement reached with the FTC in November 2011], ending an investigation that Facebook deceived users about the privacy protections."
-- Steve Bannon oversaw Cambridge Analytica’s early efforts to acquire the personal data of millions of Facebook users. Craig Timberg, Karla Adam and Michael Kranish report: “The 2014 effort was part of a high-tech form of voter persuasion touted by the company, which under Bannon identified and tested the power of anti-establishment messages that later would emerge as central themes in [Trump’s] campaign speeches, according to Chris Wylie, who left the company at the end of that year. Among the messages tested were ‘drain the swamp’ and ‘deep state,’ he said. In an interview [with The Post] … Wylie said that Bannon — while he was a top executive at Cambridge Analytica and head of Breitbart News — was deeply involved in the company’s strategy and approved spending nearly $1 million to acquire data, including Facebook profiles, in 2014. Bannon received more than $125,000 in consulting fees from Cambridge Analytica in 2016 and owned ‘membership units’ in the company worth between $1 million and $5 million, according to his financial disclosure. It is unclear whether Bannon knew how Cambridge Analytica was obtaining the data[.]”
-- Cambridge Analytica said it has suspended CEO Alexander Nix pending a “full independent investigation,” after Britain’s Channel 4 News released undercover video footage that appeared to show Nix talking about entrapment as a way to win campaigns, Michael Kranish and Tony Romm report.
-- Channel 4 News’s latest report on Cambridge Analytica includes footage of executives bragging they “ran all the digital campaign” of Trump’s White House bid: “Nix boasted about Cambridge Analytica’s work for Trump, saying: ‘We did all the research, all the data, all the analytics, all the targeting, we ran all the digital campaign, the television campaign and our data informed all the strategy.’ … In one exchange [Nix] revealed the company used a secret self-destructing email system that leaves no trace. … Nix also belittled representatives on the House Intelligence Committee to whom he gave evidence in 2017. He claims Republican members asked just three questions. ‘After five minutes – done.’ ‘They’re politicians, they’re not technical. They don’t understand how it works,’ he said."
-- The Cambridge Analytica whistleblower will give an interview to House Intelligence Committee Democrats. Karoun Demirjian and Craig Timberg note: “[The committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.),] said Monday that panel Democrats want to talk to Wylie to determine where and how the Facebook data was stored and used, and whether others — including Russian operatives — had access to it.”
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN:
-- EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt spent more than $120,000 in taxpayer funds last summer for a trip to Italy, which included a private Vatican tour and a short stop at a G-7 meeting. The AP’s Michael Biesecker reports: “The known cost of Pruitt’s previously reported trip grew this week after the agency disclosed a heavily censored document showing expenses for Pruitt’s security detail cost more than $30,500. That’s on top of nearly $90,000 spend for food, hotels, commercial airfare and a military jet used by Pruitt and nine EPA staff. Last June, Pruitt flew to Bologna, Italy, for a meeting of environmental ministers from the world’s top seven economies. Pruitt attended only the first few hours of the summit before leaving early to jet back to Washington for a Cabinet meeting ... EPA’s Office of Inspector General is investigating Pruitt’s 2017 travel costs.”
-- HUD Secretary Ben Carson claimed the $31,000 dining set for his office was necessary because the previous table was “dangerous” and that he left the decision to buy it up to his wife. “People are being stuck by nails, a chair collapsed with somebody sitting in it, it’s 50 years old," Carson told a House panel. Eli Rosenberg reports: "Carson said he and his wife were shown some catalogues — again he did not clarify by whom — and said that he had communicated that the prices were ‘beyond what I wanted to pay.’ ‘I made it clear that just didn’t seem right to me,’ Carson said. ‘And I left it with my wife. I said, “Help choose something.”’”
-- The Republican National Committee spent roughly $271,000 at Trump properties last month. Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports: “The majority of the RNC’s spending at Trump’s private properties last month paid for venue rental and catering at the Trump National Doral Miami resort in Florida and the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Of about $270,000 spent at both properties, most of the expenses -- about $205,000 -- were spent at Trump National Doral Miami, Federal Election Commission filings show. The amounts spent at those two Trump properties comprised 86 percent of the RNC’s February expenses that were categorized specifically as ‘venue rental and catering.’”
-- Congress could be headed toward another government shutdown Friday night, after lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on several issues in the massive government funding bill. Mike DeBonis and Erica Werner report: “Standing in the way of the $1.3 trillion spending agreement to fund all government agencies and programs through Sept. 30 are disputes over immigration, a giant tunnel under the Hudson River and various other issues that were still being hashed out Tuesday evening — a day after top congressional officials hoped to have a deal concluded. House Republicans left a morning conference meeting Tuesday expecting to vote on the bill no sooner than Thursday. That would leave the Senate scant time to act by Friday at midnight to stave off a third government shutdown this year and empower any one senator to take advantage of the chamber’s rules to extend debate beyond the deadline. …
“The thorniest issue seemed to be immigration policy, … including how much funding would be available to construct the border wall favored by President Trump, as well as to hire immigration enforcement officers and support facilities to detain immigrants in the country illegally. An effort to trade border wall money for protections for certain young immigrants appeared to have fallen apart. Trump continued to push for a last-minute deal as recently as Monday, but Democrats resisted the terms of the White House offer.”
-- The Koch network ramped up its campaign for an immigration deal that would include a DACA replacement as part of a funding deal. From Seung Min Kim: “In a letter Tuesday to congressional leadership, top officials from three Koch-backed groups — Americans for Prosperity, Freedom Partners and the LIBRE Initiative — pressed Congress to include $25 billion in border security cash paired with a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants who came here as minors. That offer had been floated by congressional Democrats in recent days.”
-- A veterans health-care bill may also not make it into the final legislation. Emily Wax-Thibodeaux reports: “It’s unclear what will become of the Caring for our Veterans Act, which on Monday appeared to be headed into the budget with a compromise plan supported by the White House and eight major veterans advocacy groups. [Nancy Pelosi] ‘put the brakes on the legislation,’ according to congressional aides in both parties who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks remain sensitive.”
-- Trump is seeking to ease export restrictions on some types of lethal U.S.-made drones to “dozens” of allies and American partners. Reuters’s Mike Stone and Matt Spetalnick report: “Trump is expected to ease rules for such foreign sales under a long-delayed new policy on unmanned military aircraft due to be rolled out as early as this month, the first phase of a broader overhaul of arms export regulations. The White House is expected to tout the move as part of Trump’s ‘Buy American’ initiative to create jobs and reduce the U.S. trade deficit. Human rights and arms control advocates, however, warn it risks fueling violence and instability in regions such as the Middle East and South Asia."
-- Senior administration officials are defending Trump’s “America First” agenda at the G-20 meeting in Buenos Aires. Damian Paletta reports: “The U.S. treasury secretary told global finance ministers Tuesday that the Trump administration would press ahead with a range of trade restrictions on numerous U.S. allies, rebuffing calls to scale back the White House’s protectionist agenda despite intensifying resistance and threats of retaliation. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin parried warnings from other global finance ministers during two days of meetings here, telling them that President Trump is intent on reworking trade barriers in a way that promotes more U.S. exports. ‘We need to be prepared to act in the U.S. interest . . . to defend free and fair and reciprocal trade,’ Mnuchin said Tuesday.”
-- “Death penalty for drug dealers is not a new idea,” by the Boston Globe’s Annie Linskey: “Using an obscure federal provision to bring capital cases against dealers, the concept that Trump enthusiastically backed during a visit to New Hampshire this week, fits within the framework of some of his other cornerstone ideas: Build the wall, Launch trade wars, Arm teachers. … The proposal to impose the death penalty on drug dealers also serves as a dog whistle to the white nationalists who support Trump, according to critics, similar to strategies followed by governors with shaky records on race. These include former Alabama governor George Wallace, who backed the death penalty idea in 1985, and the current governor of Maine, Paul LePage, a Republican who blamed minorities for the drug problems in the state, at one point saying: ‘Black people come up the highway and they kill Mainers.’”
-- House Democrats grilled Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over her budget proposal. Moriah Balingit reports: “Members of Congress signaled they would probably reject many of the proposed cuts in DeVos’s budget, as they did last year. Her budget, released last month, proposed cutting $3.6 billion from the Education Department. It proposes slashing or eliminating programs that support teacher training, after-school activities and aid for needy students. ‘I am concerned about the administration continuing to request cuts that Congress has rejected,’ Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said."
-- Washington is preparing for 500,000 visitors to descend upon the city for Saturday’s March for Our Lives rally. From Marissa J. Lang: “Because the Saturday march — an anti-gun-violence demonstration led by the survivors of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting — will draw thousands of students, many of them under 18, officials said they will take extra care to ensure the safety of protesters. … Students from D.C.-area schools will speak at the rally, where no featured speaker will be older than 18[.]"
THE ROAD TO NOVEMBER (AND 2020):
-- Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) plans to appoint the state’s Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith to Thad Cochran’s Senate seat, which could set up a divisive special election. Sean Sullivan reports: “Hyde-Smith is a former Democrat who served in the state legislature before being elected to head the agriculture and commerce panel in 2011. … Doubts emerged in mainstream Republican circles Tuesday about whether Hyde-Smith would be able to stop [fellow Republican Chris] McDaniel if she runs in November. Two Republicans … expressed concerns that her past affiliation with the Democratic Party would give McDaniel fodder for attacks that could resonate with conservative voters. … The campaign for Cochran’s seat could drive a wedge between Republican senators. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a rebellious conservative, left open the possibility of supporting McDaniel on Tuesday.”
-- Trump warned against a blue wave in the midterms during his speech last night at a Republican fundraiser. John Wagner reports: “Trump on Tuesday warned that a Democratic takeover of Congress would lead to ‘radical’ policies, including higher taxes and less-secure borders — and would provide a greater platform for those seeking to impeach him. … Trump said he plans to travel ‘all over the country’ in coming months to help Republicans tell their story of cutting taxes, reducing regulations and building up the military."
-- Trump’s reelection campaign sent an email to fundraisers asking them to support the Justice Department’s request to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Tara Bahrampour reports: “[Critics say the citizenship question] could have far-reaching consequences not only on immigrants but also on local economies and political redistricting. ‘The President wants the 2020 United States Census to ask people whether or not they are citizens,’ read the email … ‘The President wants to know if you’re on his side.’ It includes two answers to click on: ‘Absolutely! Is that even a question?’ and ‘No.’ The email was the latest in several moves by the administration toward adding such a question to the decennial count … A year ago, a White House draft executive order recommended that the U.S. census ask about immigration status. The Department of Justice request for the question to be added … said it was necessary to better enforce the Voting Rights Act."
-- Democrat Conor Lamb, the apparent winner of last week’s special election in Pennsylvania, will face voters again in less than two months for a Democratic primary in a newly drawn district. From David Weigel: “[T]he Democrats already running in that race aren’t all clearing his path ahead of the May 15 primary. … Lamb is one of three Democrats expected to run for the new 17th Congressional District, which includes his home precinct, the parts of Allegheny County where he ran strongest last week, and Republican-leaning Beaver County. In the 2016 election, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton ran even in the new district; Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Pa.), a conservative who found his home drawn from a safe seat to the new swing seat, has become viewed as one of the party’s most vulnerable incumbents.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Departing secretary of state Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had a private dinner:
Trump took issue with the Justice Department in a morning tweet:
Department of Justice should have urged the Supreme Court to at least hear the Drivers License case on illegal immigrants in Arizona. I agree with @LouDobbs. Should have sought review.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2018
He also quoted a legal commentator criticizing the Mueller probe:
“Special Council is told to find crimes, whether a crime exists or not. I was opposed to the selection of Mueller to be Special Council. I am still opposed to it. I think President Trump was right when he said there never should have been a Special Council appointed because.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2018
...there was no probable cause for believing that there was any crime, collusion or otherwise, or obstruction of justice!” So stated by Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 21, 2018
An analyst at FiveThirtyEight thinks Rauner is definitely going down in the general:
Bruce Rauner looking like he'll survive in order to most likely get mauled in the general like one of those antelopes on Animal Planet.— (((Harry Enten))) (@ForecasterEnten) March 21, 2018
The election handicapper at the University of Virginia noted that the Illinois governor’s race will be closer than if Rauner had gone down last night:
So in #ILGov, the likely match-up is JB Pritzker(D) vs. Gov. Bruce Rauner(R). You can argue how much the race tilts D, but it surely tilts D for Nov. Had Ives been the R nominee, you could've just put a "win" checkmark next to Pritzker right now.— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) March 21, 2018
A Fox News host took aim at the former FBI director:
A former adviser to Jeb Bush responded to the Levin quote:
What is this difference between this and Russian state television? https://t.co/5yDv4XyFNH— Tim Miller (@Timodc) March 20, 2018
"The Daily Show" offered a suggestion to the president after The Washington Post reported Trump's national security team wrote, "DO NOT CONGRATULATE" before his call to Putin:
George W. Bush's press secretary was concerned about leaks after the story was published:
Who leaks this stuff? This WH still is disloyal to the president and to each other. What a mess. https://t.co/COnvU4MjKT— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) March 20, 2018
Bush's former communications director replied to Fleischer's tweet:
We both know a lot about leaks. Without getting into the merits, (because we likely disagree and Twitter isn’t the place for civil disagreement) can we agree that it was probably someone who was worried that he congratulated Putin and didn’t condemn Russia’s actions in the UK? https://t.co/qwxGFpORDk— Nicolle Wallace (@NicolleDWallace) March 21, 2018
A former speechwriter to Barack Obama also replied to Fleischer:
Imagine thinking the leaks are the mess. https://t.co/ks7kHDBqoU— Jon Lovett (@jonlovett) March 21, 2018
From a House Democrat:
Why would officials leak that Trump's national security staff told him in all caps DO NOT CONGRATULATE Putin? Because folks in the White House are beginning to realize that the American President seems to have been compromised by the Russians.— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) March 21, 2018
What is @realDonaldTrump hiding? https://t.co/XyGf1YUO8D
Sen. Graham offered a very different message of congratulations a day earlier:
Congratulations to Russian President Putin on his Fake Victory in the Fake Election.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) March 19, 2018
Heaven help the 25% who didn't vote for him! https://t.co/4LeTlendVf
A Post columnist joked about Cambridge Analytica:
Next up: Facebook puts a post on your timeline congratulating you on your three-year anniversary of being friends with Cambridge Analytica.— Karen Tumulty (@ktumulty) March 20, 2018
Stormy Daniels responded to a Twitter troll:
Technically I didn't sleep with the POTUS 12 years ago. There was no sleeping (hehe) and he was just a goofy reality TV star. But I digress...People DO care that he lied about it, had me bullied, broke laws to cover it up, etc. And PS...I am NOT going anywhere. xoxoxo https://t.co/Js9sEnanIk— Stormy Daniels (@StormyDaniels) March 20, 2018
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) introduced a controversial proposal:
Today I filed a resolution that would declare Cesar Chavez's Birthday: "National Border Control Day." Read more about the resolution, here: https://t.co/JCXg0vbRRR— Louie Gohmert (@replouiegohmert) March 20, 2018
A Post correspondent reported from Austin:
This is the spot the tripwire bomb exploded in Austin. Not hugely powerful but it was st inside a box full of nails, staked across the path to a stolen “For Sale” sign. If the bikers had not triggered it Sunday night, it would have been primed for kids heading to school Monday am pic.twitter.com/UbAMY6qJqm— Scott Wilson (@PostScottWilson) March 20, 2018
The RNC gave the Trump Organization more business, per a Politico reporter:
The RNC will be hosting their annual spring meeting May 2-5, per email out today. Location: the Trump National in Doral, Fla— Alex Isenstadt (@politicoalex) March 21, 2018
A former president wished a friend happy birthday:
Wishing a very happy 93rd birthday today to one of the noblest, most selfless public servants in the history of these United States, Gen. Brent Scowcroft. A great American, a great friend. pic.twitter.com/zVCr7LSON3— George Bush (@GeorgeHWBush) March 19, 2018
And Missouri's former secretary of state commented on a coastal phenomenon:
As a Midwesterner, I think my favorite East Coast social phenomenon to observe is the reaction of passengers on the quiet car when someone takes a phone call. They chastise them sternly then acknowledge each other with a “we did good” nod like they just foiled a pick pocket.— Jason Kander (@JasonKander) March 20, 2018
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- Buzzfeed News, “What It’s Like For School Shooting Survivors To Watch The Parkland Protests,” by Tyler Kingkade and Jessica Testa: “There may be an assumption that living through a school shooting can transform a young person's views — making them more anti-gun — but it's not that simple. ... Parkland is a liberal, well-educated, upper-middle-class pocket of a swing state — the perfect tinderbox for a youth-led gun control revolution. Kids in other parts of the country have experienced school shootings, and the aftermaths, differently. Some survivors have been energized by Parkland. They want to participate in activism now because their communities didn’t rise up when they were the sites of attacks years ago. … But other young people who’ve survived gun violence [said they] won’t be marching for their lives.”
-- Politico Magazine, “The woman behind the RNC’s fundraising juggernaut,” by Reena Flores: “Ronna Romney McDaniel said her cash-flush operation got her ‘a lot of credibility in a town that didn’t know who I was.’”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Fox News military affairs commentator exits with a searing attack on the network,” from Paul Farhi: “Commentator and author Ralph Peters isn’t just closing the door on his career at Fox News Channel. He’s slamming it right off the hinges. In a blistering goodbye email, Peters, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who commented on military affairs, called Fox ‘a mere propaganda machine for a destructive and ethically ruinous administration.’ He described President Trump as being ‘terrified’ of [Vladimir Putin]. ‘Four decades ago, I took an oath as a newly commissioned officer,’ wrote Peters on Tuesday to his Fox colleagues … ‘That oath did not expire when I took off my uniform. Today, I feel that Fox is assaulting our constitutional order and rule of law, while fostering corrosive and unjustified paranoia among viewers. Over my decade with Fox, I long was proud of the association. Now I am ashamed.’”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“Pennsylvania GOP moves to oust judges over gerrymandering decision,” from the Hill: “A Pennsylvania state representative has introduced resolutions to impeach four of the five state Supreme Court justices who voted to override congressional district maps they said were unfairly gerrymandered on partisan lines. The resolutions, introduced by state Rep. Cris Dush (R), accuse Justices Kevin Dougherty, Christine Donohue, Debra McClosky Todd and David Wecht of misbehavior in office. A fifth resolution to impeach Supreme Court Justice Max Baer is pending introduction. In a memo to fellow House members, Dush said the ruling overriding Pennsylvania’s U.S. House district lines amounted to an overstep of judicial authority under the state Constitution, which lays out the path by which a bill becomes a law — in this case, a bill to delineate the district lines after the decennial Census and reapportionment process.”
Trump's public events have been canceled today due to the weather.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Mark Turnbull, a managing director at Cambridge Analytica, described how the company disseminated negative research against political opponents in Channel 4 News’s footage: “We just put information into the bloodstream to the internet and then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again over time to watch it take shape. And so this stuff infiltrates the online community and expands but with no branding – so it’s unattributable, untrackable.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- The Capitals beat the Stars 4-3. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)
-- Hundreds attended a D.C. Council hearing to debate a 1,000-page framework outlining the city’s plan for land use over the next 20 years. Fenit Nirappil reports: “[The document] sparked a raging debate about gentrification, affordability and displacement [at the hearing] on proposed changes to the city’s comprehensive plan.”
-- Two armed men got into an altercation at Union Station. No shots were fired, but one account reported the incident sent crowds fleeing from the train station. One arrest was made. (Martin Weil)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert took shots at Mark Zuckerberg as Facebook weathers the Cambridge Analytica controversy:
Austin residents described their fears amid the city's string of recent bombings:
Parkland shooting survivors discussed their gun-control activism at a Harvard panel:
New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon held her first campaign event:
And Melania Trump said she would persist in her anti-cyberbullying campaign despite being "criticized:"