With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.
THE BIG IDEA:
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is running two commercials right now. One highlights the endorsement he’s received from President Trump in the race for governor. The other attacks his Republican primary opponent, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, for calling on Trump to drop out after the “Access Hollywood” tape emerged in October 2016.
“With the White House and the Supreme Court hanging on the line, Brian Calley deserted Donald Trump — helping Hillary Clinton’s campaign,” a narrator says.
In the 2005 tape, Trump boasted in lewd terms about being able to get away with groping and kissing women. He also discussed an effort to seduce a married woman by taking her furniture shopping. “When you’re a star, they let you do it,” the future president said on a hot mic. “You can do anything.”
At the time, Calley said he’d write in Mike Pence’s name on his ballot if Trump didn’t step aside. “This is not a decision I take lightly because I still believe that a Hillary Clinton presidency represents a disastrous alternative,” he said then. Schuette also condemned Trump but didn’t withdraw his endorsement.
Naturally, none of that nuance comes through in the 30-second commercial. Calley has the strong endorsement of outgoing Gov. Rick Snyder (R), who also declined to vote for Trump in 2016, ahead of the Aug. 7 primary.
The escalation in Michigan’s air war mirrors what’s happening in other gubernatorial, House and Senate primaries across the country. Fealty to Trump has become more of a litmus test than ever for Republicans. Emboldened by private polling and focus groups that show the president is incredibly popular with the base, GOP candidates are stepping up attacks on their rivals over any daylight they’ve shown with Trump, even if it stemmed from his personal conduct toward women or apostasy on traditional conservative orthodoxy. It’s another illustration of the degree to which Trumpism has come to define the Republican Party. This is no longer the party of Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush. It’s the party of Donald J. Trump.
Support for Trump has also become one of the biggest flash points in the Ohio Republican primary for governor. Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor has intensified her attacks on Attorney General Mike DeWine, the heavy favorite in the May 8 contest to succeed outgoing Gov. John Kasich.
The pro-Taylor super PAC, Onward Ohio, has spent heavily over the past week to run a commercial contrasting DeWine with Trump. “If you like President Trump, then you won’t like Mike DeWine,” a narrator says. “In the Senate, DeWine voted with Hillary Clinton to let illegal immigrants receive Social Security. And in Ohio, DeWine allowed illegal immigrants to receive drivers’ licenses. … DeWine backs unfair trade with China and received an F from the NRA. President Trump is right on immigration, guns, and China. Mike DeWine wrong on all three.”
OH-Gov: Onward Ohio (Pro-Mary Taylor group) is up on TV today with this spot attacking Mike DeWine. We've tracked nearly $700K in spending behind it pic.twitter.com/BWVictcBTt— Medium Buying (@MediumBuying) March 20, 2018
The pro-DeWine super PAC, Ohio Conservatives for a Change, has been sending mailers highlighting Taylor’s endorsement of Kasich during the 2016 Republican primaries. (Never mind that DeWine and Taylor endorsed Kasich together in September 2015!) “Ohio Can’t Afford a 3rd Kasich Term,” the mailer says.
.@MaryTaylorOH supported John Kasich’s bid for president and touted her experience working “hand in hand” with him. Taylor wanted Kasich in the White House, not President Trump. #OHGov pic.twitter.com/gJIrh2NbSn— Ohio Conservatives (@ConservativesOH) March 26, 2018
Taylor has distanced herself from Kasich, who she’s served under over the past eight years, as he continues to flirt with a potential run against the president in 2020. The outgoing governor will hold a “fireside chat” in New Hampshire at New England College on April 3. A poll published last week by Baldwin Wallace University showed Trump crushing Kasich in Ohio, 62 percent to 27 percent, in a hypothetical 2020 head-to-head matchup.
One reason Republican candidates are leaning so hard into the Trump loyalty issue is that it proved quite potent last year in Virginia. Corey Stewart, despite having no real establishment support and being dramatically outraised, came within about a point of toppling former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie in the June 2017 primary for governor. Stewart chaired Trump’s 2016 campaign in Virginia and referred to Gillespie as “anti-Trump” in his ads.
In Tennessee, where there’s a four-way race for the GOP gubernatorial nomination, Rep. Diane Black has been on the air this month with a spot built around footage of Trump praising her at the signing ceremony for the tax cut bill in December. “Diane? Come on up. Diane Black, thank you,” Trump said in the Rose Garden. “Helping write the president’s tax cut was one of my proudest moments,” the congresswoman says.
In South Carolina, Republican Gov. Henry McMaster — who got the job when Nikki Haley resigned to become ambassador to the United Nations — just launched a web video touting Trump’s endorsement in the face of a primary challenge. It features a clip of Trump saying, “He’s going to be, for many years, a great governor.” Then McMaster says to camera, “We finally have a president in the White House who believes in the people of our country. … We must do the same in South Carolina.”
Challenger Catherine Templeton has downplayed McMaster’s sway with Trump backers. “Like Trump, (Templeton) is an outsider willing to shake up the do-nothing establishment career politicians,” her spokeswoman said when the governor recently touted his ties to the White House.
In Pennsylvania, the two GOP candidates for governor are trying to outdo each other in who can praise Trump more. State Sen. Scott Wagner, a wealthy businessman, paid for 20,000 Trump lawn signs during the summer of 2016. “While many political leaders refused to support Donald Trump, Scott Wagner was leading the charge,” says a Wagner mailer that’s been going to Republican households.
Businessman Paul Mango, who spent his career at McKinsey and hasn’t run for office before, says “there’s a lot of similarity between the president’s agenda and my agenda.”
“I absolutely love the president and what he's doing,” he said in a radio interview last fall. “I just have to give the guy all the credit in the world for fighting these Democrats.”
The Trump loyalty test is also taking center stage in Senate GOP primaries.
Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita released a web video on Tuesday attacking his opponent, Rep. Luke Messer, as a “Never Trump lobbyist.” The narrator describes Rokita as “a pro-Trump conservative.” They are vying to take on Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) in a state Trump carried by 19 points.
Arizona Rep. Martha McSally, the establishment favorite for the Republican nomination to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R), has been under fire for months from two primary challengers for refusing to say whether she voted for Trump. “Not your business,” she snapped at a Los Angeles Times reporter who asked at a Republican banquet in Phoenix. “I made a couple of, a very small number of, statements about particular statements that were made, and on the spectrum of things, it was very measured compared with a lot of other Republicans.”
In fact, this is what she said after the “Access Hollywood” tape:
Trump's comments are disgusting. Joking about sexual assault is unacceptable. I'm appalled.— Martha McSally (@MarthaMcSally) October 8, 2016
But McSally has gone out of her way on the stump recently to link herself with Trump and talk up the face time she’s had with him. “Like our president, I'm tired of PC politicians and their BS excuses,” she says in a web video. Joe Arpaio, the former county sheriff who was pardoned by Trump, and Kelli Ward, a former state senator, have both called her pro-Trump comments disingenuous.
Nevada Sen. Dean Heller (R) declined to say who he voted for in 2016 until after he drew a primary challenge from Danny Tarkanian last summer. Then, within a week, he disclosed that he had backed Trump. The White House cleared the field for him two weeks ago by having Trump endorse Tarkanian for House and Heller for Senate. (The Nevada Democratic Party prepared a memo on the ways Heller embraced Trump to shore up base support before locking down the nomination.)
Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker (R) launched an attack ad early this month against primary challenger Chris McDaniel over Facebook posts he wrote back in 2016, when he initially endorsed Ted Cruz for the nomination. The commercial claimed that McDaniel called Trump supporters delusional based on this quote: “Donald Trump is a strong candidate who will do well in Mississippi. But the inclination of some of his supporters to promote wild-eyed conspiracy theories and flat out lies is incredibly disturbing.” A week after the spot went up, McDaniel switched from running against Wicker to running for the seat that opened with the resignation of Sen. Thad Cochran (R) for health reasons.
In House primaries, Republicans are also using TV ads to emphasize their devotion to Trump.
The North Carolina rematch between Rep. Robert Pittenger and Mark Harris has become one of the most acrimonious in the country. Both men are accusing the other of exaggerating their support for Trump. Harris lost by just 134 votes in 2016, so he decided to run again. Last month, Pittenger ran a commercial that said, “Mark Harris worked to stop a Trump presidency.” The citation was an interview he gave supporting Cruz before the convention in Cleveland. This week, Harris released a response ad decrying it as “more lies” from “just another Washington politician.” The response notes that Pittenger falsely claimed Trump had endorsed him on Twitter when he had not.
In the New Jersey Republican primary to succeed the retiring GOP Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, assemblyman Jay Webber has gone after first-time candidate Tony Ghee for declining to say who he voted for in 2016. Ghee has also been attacked for retweeting criticism last year of Trump’s response to the white supremacist rally, and ensuing violence, in Charlottesville.
Katie Arrington, a state representative, is challenging Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) on the grounds he’s been too critical of Trump. “Too many Washington politicians only want to attack our president,” she said in her debut commercial last month, referring to Sanford. “I am running for Congress to help pass President Trump’s bold, conservative agenda.” Arrington's campaign consultant, Michael Mule, said the spot’s goal was to depict Sanford as “an anti-Trumper.” “You'll see it on Fox News quite a bit,” he told the Charleston Post & Courier.
On Staten Island, felon and former congressman Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) — who served time in prison for tax evasion — is trying to win back his old seat by waging a primary challenge against his successor. The central rationale of his campaign is that the incumbent, Dan Donovan, has not backed up the president enough on health care, taxes, “sanctuary cities” and the border wall. Grimm even said during an appearance on Fox in January that he’s “willing to die” for Trump.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- By tapping the White House physician to replace embattled VA Secretary David Shulkin, Trump has once again prioritized personal chemistry over experience. From Lisa Rein, Philip Rucker, Emily Wax-Thibodeaux and Josh Dawsey. “The ouster of [Shulkin], who has been mired in scandal over his charging taxpayers for luxury travel expenses and the infighting among his senior aides, had been widely expected and was made official at 5:31 p.m. by presidential tweet. Trump said he would nominate Ronny L. Jackson, 50, an active-duty rear admiral in the Navy who has served for the past three administrations as a White House physician. A biography released by the White House shows Jackson is credentialed and experienced in medicine but has no background in management. He nonetheless will be charged with delivering on one of Trump’s signature campaign promises: to fix the federal government’s second-largest bureaucracy. …
“As a career military officer, Jackson has been apolitical, and his views on a range of hot-button issues affecting VA — including proposals to privatize care — are not publicly known. Trump prizes relationships and loyalty over traditional qualifications, and he quickly developed personal chemistry with Jackson. The boss admires the man he calls ‘The Doc,’ according to aides, and cheered Jackson’s on-camera performance in the press briefing room in January, where he delivered the results of Trump’s annual physical as ‘very, very good’ and ‘excellent.’ ...
“Jackson, who is referred to inside the West Wing as ‘Dr. Ronny,’ travels regularly with Trump … Jackson checks in on the president at least once a day, and the doctor is usually in the White House residence with him. ... Trump had even asked Jackson what he thought of Shulkin, an official said. The two doctors are close friends who met during the Obama administration ... It was unclear how Jackson replied to the president.”
Will Jackson be confirmed? “Some Republican senators issued muted statements saying they looked forward to learning more about Jackson. Privately, there was speculation that he lacks the management chops to oversee VA, according to a Senate Republican aide … ‘It could be a disaster for vets,’ the aide said of Jackson. ‘What has this guy ever managed? Can he really take on one of the toughest jobs in government?’ … Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who serves on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, cautioned that any nominee who is in favor of too much private care would not be cleared by the committee.”
-- Parting words: Shulkin penned a New York Times op-ed slamming his perceived political enemies: “I believe differences in philosophy deserve robust debate, and solutions should be determined based on the merits of the arguments. The advocates within the administration for privatizing V.A. health services, however, reject this approach. They saw me as an obstacle to privatization who had to be removed. … I have been falsely accused of things by people who wanted me out of the way. But despite these politically-based attacks on me and my family’s character, I am proud of my record and know that I acted with the utmost integrity.”
-- There could be more staff turnover to come, as Hope Hicks’s time in the White House comes to an official end this week. CBS News’s Jacqueline Alemany reports: “Staffers are approaching the post-Hicks era with trepidation, unsure what to expect in what they describe as a lawless White House featuring a president who thrives on chaos and resents authority, process and order. Hicks even used her standing to shield others from the wrath of Mr. Trump's explosive outbursts, sources inside the White House say. ‘She's the glue to the entire place,’ a White House source said. ‘She helps keep the White House from fracturing. I don't think people realize what's about to happen once she leaves.’”
-- Meanwhile, a heated battle has broken out to replace Hicks as White House communications director. From New York Magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi: “Among the potential hires mentioned by Trump in conversations with aides in recent weeks are former Fox News executive Bill Shine, who reportedly isn’t interested, and Kellyanne Conway, who reportedly is. But administration sources [said] that, whoever the job goes to, the real story is the bloodletting between two early frontrunners: director of strategic communications Mercedes ‘Mercy’ Schlapp and Treasury Department spokesman Tony Sayegh, both former Fox News contributors. White House officials [said] the view from the inside is that Mercy wants it most, and is campaigning for the job with the assistance of her husband, Matt Schlapp, a lobbyist and frequent presence on cable news who chairs the American Conservative Union … And [the Schlapps’] perceived ruthlessness had a perceived profit motive: the year that Mercy joined the administration, Matt’s lobbying firm saw its income nearly double.”
-- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in in a border village next month, Korean officials announced. It will be only the third time the leaders of the two Koreas have held talks. South Korean officials would not provide a clear answer on whether the summit’s agenda would include discussion of nuclear disarmament in the North. (AP)
-- The White House said it was “cautiously optimistic” about the planned May meeting between Trump and Kim. From Karen DeYoung and Anne Gearan: “The Trump administration was initially thrown off balance when China announced late Tuesday that it had held its own summit with Kim this week, according to U.S. officials and people familiar with internal diplomatic discussions. Amid debates about whether the Chinese move was good or bad for U.S. aims, administration officials ultimately decided to declare it a positive result of its ‘maximum pressure’ campaign against North Korea. But Beijing’s failure to officially inform the United States until after its talks with Kim were over and he had departed for Pyongyang aboard his armored train was another indication of the uncertainties that still surround Trump’s North Korea gambit.”
Major details of the potential summit remain undecided: “It remained unclear whether the administration has received a direct confirmation from North Korea about the proposed Trump-Kim summit. … No decision has been made among a number of options for the location of the meeting, including the Peace House in the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea, or countries such as Sweden that maintain diplomatic relations with both North Korea and the United States. … Another question is whether there will be what [one] official called ‘senior-level engagement’ between the two governments before the summit.”
GET SMART FAST:
- John Boehner and Eric Cantor say Paul Ryan’s retirement is not imminent. “The idea that he’s going to walk out of there in the middle of the fight is ludicrous,” Boehner said. Cantor added, “The notion that Paul Ryan is just going to abdicate and leave is preposterous.” (Paul Kane)
- A federal judge ruled D.C. and Maryland may proceed with their lawsuit alleging Trump violated the Constitution's emoluments clauses. If the ruling is upheld, the attorneys general of D.C. and Maryland would be able to seek internal documents from the Trump Organization to determine how much money Trump’s Washington hotel has taken in from state and foreign governments. (David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell)
- The Justice Department charged a former Minnesota FBI agent with leaking confidential documents to “a reporter for a national media organization.” Details from the complaint hint that the agent, Terry J. Albury, leaked information to the Intercept for its January 2017 story alleging the FBI aggressively investigates people who could be valuable sources. (Sari Horwitz and Matt Zapotosky)
- Supreme Court justices seemed torn over how to handle Maryland’s congressional map. State Republicans accuse their Democratic counterparts of gerrymandering the map. But the justices don't agree on a path forward. (Robert Barnes)
- Sacramento’s mayor responds after demonstrators disrupt a city council meeting to protest the death of Stephon Clark, the unarmed black man shot at least 20 times by police in his backyard. “It’s our job to bear some of that pain, and to help translate the anguish and grieving and the historic pain [of black communities] into tangible and real change,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said. (Alex Horton and Mark Berman)
- Boeing was struck by the WannaCry computer virus. Company officials said they were able to quash the attack with minimal damage to any of their equipment. (Seattle Times)
- Dutch schoolteacher Johan van Hulst, credited with saving more than 600 Jewish children during World War II, died at 107. Dr. Van Hulst’s teacher training institute bordered a Jewish nursery. Under his supervision, hundreds of Jewish children were smuggled from the nursery and hidden in his school. (Ellie Silverman)
- A Canadian teenager won a lifetime prize after buying a lottery ticket for her 18th birthday. Charlie Lagarde had to choose between a lump-sum payment of $1 million or $1,000 per week. Given her age, she chose the latter, which will provide her with the equivalent of $100,000 annual salary before taxes for the rest of her life. (Lindsey Bever)
THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Trump lawyer John Dowd raised the prospect of pardoning Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn with their lawyers last year, the New York Times’s Michael S. Schmidt, Jo Becker, Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman and Adam Goldman report. “The discussions came as the special counsel was building cases against both men, and they raise questions about whether [Dowd], who resigned last week, was offering pardons to influence their decisions about whether to plead guilty and cooperate in the investigation. The talks suggest that Mr. Trump’s lawyers were concerned about what Mr. Flynn and Mr. Manafort might reveal were they to cut a deal with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, in exchange for leniency. Mr. Mueller’s team could investigate the prospect that Mr. Dowd made pardon offers to thwart the inquiry, although legal experts are divided about whether such offers might constitute obstruction of justice.” Dowd denied the report, saying, “There were no discussions,” Period,” but he added, “As far as I know, no discussions.”
-- “Trump, however, did express a keen interest last spring and summer in his power to pardon, according to people familiar with the situation,” Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey and Rosalind S. Helderman report. “While interviewing lawyers as possible candidates to represent him in the probe, aides said, Trump asked his team whether he could pardon his advisers, his family members and even himself. … White House aides and Trump’s legal advisers privately expressed concern Wednesday about the situation and said Dowd may have mentioned pardons off the cuff and failed to recognize the intense sensitivity of the subject at that moment. ‘I hope he didn’t do it,’ said one Trump aide. ‘It would be just awful — a terrible end to his good career.’”
-- CBS News reports Manafort is counting on a presidential pardon to avoid prison. Trump’s former campaign chairman has resisted cooperation with Mueller’s team and plans to fight his extensive charges through to trial.
-- Dowd told the National Law Journal that, before resigning, he had a “terrific” relationship with Mueller. “We had a terrific relationship with Mueller — the best that I can recall in my 50 years of practice,” Dowd said. “It was terrific, completely open, people trusted each other, and we had no misunderstandings.”
-- The Justice Department’s inspector general is investigating possible surveillance abuses at the DOJ and FBI. From CNN’s Laura Jarrett and Jeremy Herb: “The review by Inspector General Michael Horowitz came after requests from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and members of Congress, the IG's office said. … But Wednesday's move from the inspector general is also not likely to tamp down the criticism coming from Republicans on Capitol Hill, where there have been numerous calls for Sessions -- or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein -- to appoint a second special counsel to investigate possible FISA abuse.”
-- Jason Foster, the chief investigative counsel for Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote on his private blog that homosexuality is akin to incest, warned of an Islamic takeover, called liberals anti-American and said Joseph McCarthy should be remembered more kindly. He did all this under the username “Extremist.” ProPublica explains why this matters: “For the last year, Foster — empowered by his boss, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the committee’s chairman — has been the behind-the-scenes architect of an assault on the FBI, and most centrally its role in [trying to undermine Mueller’s investigation] … Foster engineered Grassley’s highly unusual public announcement asking federal authorities to consider criminal charges against Christopher Steele … For Foster’s critics, and they include Republicans as well as Democrats, his provocative work on the Trump-Russia investigation is just the latest chapter in the career of a partisan combatant willing to discard norms and indulge in conspiratorial thinking as he pursues investigations favorable to Republicans...
“Foster, in an email sent this week to ProPublica, apologized for his inflammatory posts, saying his ‘pen name’ had been satirical and that his writings had been ‘stupid and wrong.’ ... Taylor Foy, a spokesman for Grassley, said the office had no prior knowledge of the blog, but that the beliefs expressed by 'extremist' were 'not relevant' to Foster’s professional work."
-- A Democrat challenging House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) raised over $1 million in the first quarter of 2018. From CNN’s Ryan Nobles: “Andrew Janz, the Deputy District Attorney in Fresno County, is still considered a long shot in his bid to unseat Nunes. CNN currently rates the 22nd District as a ‘safe Republican’ seat. But Nunes' role in running interference for Trump on the investigations into Russia's role in the 2016 election has made him a target for Democrats nationwide.”
-- British officials said former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter may have come in contact with a nerve agent at their front door. Metropolitan police said they have found the poison at other locations in Salisbury, “but at lower concentrations to that found at the home address.” (William Booth)
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN AND WOMEN:
-- EPA staffers received a list of “talking points” questioning how human activity contributes to climate change, based off statements from Administrator Scott Pruitt. Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin report: “The list offered suggestions on ways to talk with local communities and Native American tribes about how to adapt to extreme weather, rising seas and other environmental challenges. Employees crafted the email … on the basis of controversial — and scientifically unsound — statements that [Pruitt] has made about the current state of climate research.”
-- Under Ben Carson's leadership, HUD is rolling back enforcement of fair housing laws. Former and current officials at the agency say the move is meant to unwind the Obama administration’s attempts to address racial and financial segregation in federally subsidized housing projects. Among other actions, Carson’s HUD has frozen an enforcement action against Facebook after the social media giant was accused of allowing advertisers to exclude specific groups it referred to “ethnic affinities” from seeing their ads. (New York Times)
-- John Bolton’s arrival as national security adviser could change Jared Kushner’s foreign policy role in the White House. The Wall Street Journal’s Peter Nicholas and Felicia Schwartz report: “In talking with friends, Mr. Kushner has joked about the hawkish Middle East views of Mr. Bolton, who has said he opposes a two-state solution for achieving peace in the region in favor of Egypt and Jordan absorbing the Palestinian territories. The ‘Orthodox Jews’ working toward a Middle East peace deal — himself, White House chief negotiator Jason Greenblatt and U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman — are now looking like ‘the moderates,’ Mr. Kushner told his friends, according to a person familiar with the matter.”
-- White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders classified recent shootings of unarmed black men as “a local matter … that we feel should be left up to the local authorities.” “Certainly we want to make sure that all law enforcement is carrying out the letter of the law. The president’s very supportive of law enforcement,” Sanders said. “But at the same time, in these specific cases and these specific instances, those would be left up to local authorities to make that determination and not something for the federal government to weigh in to.”
-- Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke attracted scrutiny for apologizing to a mining executive in a newly obtained video. From Darryl Fears: “It lasted just 21 seconds, but an exchange last fall between [Zinke] and the chief executive of an Idaho-based mining company tied to major toxic contamination in the Little Rocky Mountains is raising eyebrows. ‘Hello, Secretary. Good to see you again. Phil Baker with Hecla Mining Company,’ said the executive, Phillips S. Baker Jr. ‘I’m here to tell you and others about the impediments to mining from the permitting regime we have.’ Before he could explain the impediments, Zinke responded: ‘On behalf of the United States government, we apologize.’ Some conservationists are calling it another example of the deference the Trump administration gives to excavation companies, but an Interior Department spokeswoman, noting the laughter in response to Zinke’s remark, said it was a joke.”
THE REST OF TRUMP’S AGENDA:
-- An administration proposal would penalize immigrants who utilize a broad range of public benefits. Nick Miroff reports: “Current rules penalize immigrants who receive cash welfare payments, considering them a 'public charge.' But the proposed changes from the Department of Homeland Security would broaden the government’s definition of benefits to include the widely used earned-income tax credit as well as health insurance subsidies and other ‘non-cash public benefits.’ The changes would apply to those seeking immigration visas or legal permanent residency, such as a foreigner with an expiring work visa. While they would make little difference to those living here illegally, it could affect immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals … if they attempt to file for full legal residency.”
-- The California Department of Justice issued a guidance document on how local law enforcement should interact with federal immigration authorities. Matt Zapotosky reports: “The guidance document makes clear that federal law ‘prohibits restrictions on the exchange of information regarding a person’s citizenship or immigration status’ and says ‘all California law enforcement agencies should comply with these laws.’ But it also stresses various ways in which state law limits local authorities’ ability to interface with their federal counterparts. For example, the guidance says state and local authorities should honor requests to transfer immigrants suspected of being in the country illegally to federal custody only under certain circumstances, such as if the person has been convicted of a serious or violent felony.”
-- House Republicans are weighing a vote on a “balanced-budget amendment” to reaffirm their commitment to eliminating the deficit, despite having passed a tax bill projected to add $1 trillion to the deficit. Jeff Stein explains: “The plan is expected to have virtually no chance of passing, as it would require votes from Democrats in the Senate and ratification by three-fourths of the states. Republican lawmakers have pushed for the vote as a way to signal to constituents ahead of the midterm elections that they have tried to reduce the nation's deficit.”
-- Trump signed the EGO Act, prohibiting the use of taxpayer funds on officially painted portraits. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) championed the legislation as a cost-cutting measure, but the Congressional Budget Office estimated the move would save taxpayers “less than $500,000 annually, because the CBO expects that fewer than 20 portraits would be purchased with federal funds in most years.” (CNN)
-- A Senate committee is investigating how DHS handles employees with criminal backgrounds, including their security clearances. Elise Viebeck reports: “In a letter sent Tuesday, the leaders of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs asked DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen for a full account of DHS’s policies toward employees ‘arrested, charged, or convicted for felony criminal violations or issued a restraining order,’ including any rules that impede DHS’s ability to discipline or revoke the clearances of those employees. The investigation follows a March 8 Washington Post article about a senior career official at DHS who said in an online résumé that he handles a ‘high volume’ of classified information as an intelligence briefer. That employee, Lawrence Curran, served a jail sentence after an alleged assault on his wife … ”
MEN BEHAVING BADLY:
-- Stormy Daniels’s attorney, Michael Avenatti, said he wants to depose Trump to prove the White House’s account of an alleged payment to Daniels was “a bucket of lies.” “We are arguing that under the law, we’re entitled to the deposition,” Avenatti said on “CBS This Morning.” He added Daniels would consider accepting a settlement, but, “At this point, I don’t see how the case gets resolved short of the truth coming out, and the whole truth, for the American people.” (Frances Stead Sellers and Mark Berman)
-- Six conservative Americans sat down with The Post to discuss whether they viewed Trump as a role model: “Sometimes when Sarah Wiseman is driving with her 15-year-old son, President Trump’s voice will come on the radio, uttering words that they avoid in their home. … ‘We want to teach our children: Respect yourself, respect other people,’ said Wiseman, a local leader for the Boy Scouts of America. ‘But there comes a point where you kind of like have to, unfortunately, say, ‘Well, he’s the president. This is his job, this is his personal life.’ Kinda got to separate the two.’"
-- Every female senator signed a letter demanding a vote on overhauling the chamber’s process for addressing sexual harassment complaints. Elise Viebeck reports: “[S]uch changes were excluded from a recent major spending bill ... [A]ll 22 female senators expressed ‘deep disappointment’ in the upper chamber’s delay in approving changes to the Congressional Accountability Act, the legislation that governs employment complaints in the legislative branch. … The House approved changes to the underlying law last month … ”
-- Former employees of casino mogul Steve Wynn described a workplace environment in which his alleged sexual misconduct was allowed to thrive. From the Wall Street Journal’s Alexandra Berzon, Chris Kirkham, Elizabeth Bernstein and Kate O’Keeffe: “Complaints were often dismissed or ignored. Supervisors sometimes looked the other way when Mr. Wynn asked for the private company of workers. Some supervisors advised employees to keep quiet to protect their jobs. Others were instructed to find damaging information on complainants as a pretext for firing them.”
-- “Morgan Stanley Knew of a Star’s Alleged Abuse. He Still Works There,” by the New York Times’s Emily Flitter: “[T]he man, Douglas E. Greenberg, remains one of Morgan Stanley’s top financial advisers — and a celebrated member of the wealth management industry. For years, Morgan Stanley executives knew about his alleged conduct … Despite this information, Morgan Stanley apparently took no action against Mr. Greenberg.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
The husband of senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway responded to reports that Trump's personal lawyer talked about pardoning Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn:
So did a former spokesman for the Obama Justice Department:
This is just straight up corruption. Every lever Trump has to try and impede the investigation, he has used, from direct intervention with the FBI, to asking others to intervene, to dangling pardons in front of targets. https://t.co/bppflLoekz— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) March 28, 2018
Bill Clinton's secretary of state is out with a new book:
My new book, Fascism: A Warning, is available for pre-order now and will be released on April 10.— Madeleine Albright (@madeleine) March 28, 2018
I wrote this call to action because history has taught us that, when #Fascism looms, we have a duty to stand up and speak out. https://t.co/LagiJLbZWK
The Post's White House bureau chief highlighted the inexperience of Trump's pick to lead the VA:
The VA is arguably the federal government’s most chronically mismanaged bureaucracy. Trump has tapped to helm it a uniformed physician who, though well credentialed in medicine, has no apparent management experience.— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) March 28, 2018
From Chris Lu, who oversaw Cabinet affairs for the Obama White House:
100% agree with @PhilipRucker. What Ronny Jackson will manage at VA:— Chris Lu (@ChrisLu44) March 28, 2018
7 million patients
115 million outpatient visits
145 VA hospitals
$106 billion in benefits
This is a very challenging job for even experienced managers. https://t.co/z12PiuW0s0 https://t.co/L6NnINVxlA
A Post reporter summed up covering the Trump era:
One of my favorite experiences on the Trump beat: I was assigned a story about an uncharacteristically slow few days. "Why are things so quiet?" an editor asked. I wrote the story and filed it. While it was being edited, Trump fired Comey. It never ran.— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) March 28, 2018
Trump weighed in on a local matter:
....release known dangerous criminals into communities across the State. All citizens have the right to be protected by Federal law and strong borders.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2018
Trump said he received a briefing on the border wall:
Great briefing this afternoon on the start of our Southern Border WALL! pic.twitter.com/pmCNoxxlkH— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 28, 2018
A Post reporter replied to Trump's tweet:
Whenever this briefing was, it didn't appear on the daily POTUS schedule sent out by the White House. https://t.co/wcHBJCj6LY— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) March 28, 2018
A former independent presidential candidate criticized Trump's push to pay for the border wall with Pentagon funds:
.@realDonaldTrump's demand that our troops pay for his wasteful wall puts his baseness on full display. He would deprive our warfighters of the life-saving equipment they need all to meet an unserious campaign promise designed to fuel and exploit public fear for his own benefit.— Evan McMullin (@Evan_McMullin) March 28, 2018
Trump's reelection campaign devised a new fundraising appeal, per a Wall Street Journal reporter:
Trump campaign fundraising off the decision to add the citizenship question to the 2020 census. “GOOD NEWS: We are asking about citizenship.” pic.twitter.com/qt20hlGvM3— Rebecca Ballhaus (@rebeccaballhaus) March 28, 2018
A former Clinton campaign operative took issue with the White House press secretary's response to recent police shootings of unarmed black men:
Sarah can't even muster a "condolences for the families" from the WH podium for cases of Black people killed by cops.— Zerlina Maxwell (@ZerlinaMaxwell) March 28, 2018
I miss a president who had empathy and who you didn't have to explain racism to.
A Post reporter looked at Trump's call for Republicans to “hold the Supreme Court” to protect the Second Amendment:
A former vice presidential nominee advocated for a ban on assault-type weapons:
People often forget that we *already had* an assault weapons ban. For a decade! So don't let the gun lobby cry "unconstitutional!" It wasn't.— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) March 28, 2018
We are pushing to *reinstate* this law so we can reduce mass shootings. Pretty straightforward.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) discussed gun control:
Students from Hillhouse High School in New Haven invited me to come talk about gun violence. Young people are leading the charge here. Proud of their activism. pic.twitter.com/8rvE5ulmA2— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) March 28, 2018
Fox News's Laura Ingraham highlighted the college rejections of one Parkland survivor:
David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it. (Dinged by UCLA with a 4.1 GPA...totally predictable given acceptance rates.) https://t.co/wflA4hWHXY— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) March 28, 2018
From a Politico reporter:
Just a Fox News host attacking a school shooting survivor for getting rejected from colleges. What a world. https://t.co/i0HYUpLHgN— Matthew Nussbaum (@MatthewNussbaum) March 28, 2018
Stormy Daniels's attorney sparred with Michael Cohen's attorney:
Donald Trump Jr. posted this meme:
The Trump family was featured on Jeaopardy:
And the Wall Street Journal issued a holiday-themed correction:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- Politico Magazine, “How to Primary Trump in 2020,” by Mike Murphy: “‘Could Donald Trump be, um, primaried?’ That’s the whispered question I hear more often than you might think from plenty of exhausted Republican elected officials, particularly after a long week of dodging reporters looking for comment on the president’s latest antics. … Could the president be beaten in a primary? The short and easy CW is, lots of luck! Only two incumbent presidents have faced serious primary opposition in the past 50 years: Ronald Reagan challenged Gerald Ford in 1976, and Ted Kennedy took on Jimmy Carter in 1980. Both lost after spirited contests.”
-- New York Times Magazine, “A People in Limbo, Many Living Entirely on the Water,” by Ben Mauk: “Floating villages on the Mekong waterways play host to ethnic Vietnamese whose status in Cambodia is perpetually adrift.”
HOT ON THE LEFT
“Rick Santorum: ‘I did misspeak’ in telling kids to learn CPR instead of marching for gun control,” from Amy B Wang: “Rick Santorum is trying to walk back comments he made suggesting teenagers protesting gun violence would be better served by taking CPR classes instead of demanding stricter gun laws. … Santorum appeared on CNN’s ‘New Day’ and said he had not used the proper term before, though he did not specify which term he had intended to use. ‘The fact of the matter is, I did misspeak in using the term 'CPR,' he told host Chris Cuomo … What he had meant to focus on, Santorum told Cuomo, were ‘the positive things that have come out of these mass shootings.’ He named organizations that had focused on mentoring and bullying prevention, describing the groups as ‘people who have actually focused on what we can do at our individual schools and communities to actually prevent these types of things.’”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“Donations to the NRA tripled after the Parkland shooting,” from CNN: “In the days and weeks following the February 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the National Rifle Association saw a significant spike in donations. In fact, reports from the Federal Election Commission show donations to the NRA's Political Victory Fund tripled from January to February. … Since the Parkland shooting happened in the middle of the month, one could argue the relationship between it and the spike in donations is hard to prove. However, the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political spending, tracked itemized contributions (donations of $200 or more by an individual) in the days before and after the shooting. According to their data, in the two weeks after the shooting, itemized contributions to the NRA doubled from the previous two weeks.”
Trump will deliver a speech on his infrastructure proposals in Richfield, Ohio, and then travel to Palm Beach.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
In an apparent jab at Trump, Jeb Bush said, after losing the 2016 GOP primary in South Carolina, he returned home to children who “actually love me.” But Bush added, “I’m not going to talk about the 2016 election. … I’m still in therapy.” (Yale Daily News)
-- Trump's children responded over Twitter:
Jeb! I love everything about my father. I love that he’s a fighter, I love that he has guts, I love that he’s President (all those things you’re not)— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) March 29, 2018
Also love that he learned enough about politics in a few weeks to dismantle you piece by piece despite it being your life’s work https://t.co/4fcnA1AgAa
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Washingtonians will see temperatures reach the 70-degree mark today, but don’t get used to it. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “A shower is possible this morning but should quickly scoot away. Clouds follow suit, breaking up by midday, leading to a partly sunny and warm afternoon. Unless the clouds prove stubborn, highs should peak in the low-to-mid 70s.” But, but, but: “By Easter Sunday we are back in the 50s. Below-normal temperatures persist into next week with, dare I mention, the chance of some wet snow early Monday?”
-- The Capitals defeated the Rangers 3-2 in overtime. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)
-- The Nationals’ Opening Day: postponed. Jorge Castillo reports: “The Washington Nationals boarded a flight Wednesday afternoon for Cincinnati, where they were slated to begin their season Thursday at Great American Ball Park against the Reds. Turns out they could have waited another day. With rain in the forecast for much of Thursday in Cincinnati, the Reds announced Wednesday that the Opening Day game has been postponed until Friday, which was scheduled as an off-day for this very scenario.”
-- The DNC allocated an $85,000 grant to the Maryland Democratic Party to boost voter turnout as the party seeks to unseat Gov. Larry Hogan (R). Ovetta Wiggins reports: “The money is targeted to energize voters who are young, African American or who live in rural areas. … But DNC investments in Virginia and Alabama last year were much larger: The DNC gave $1.5 million to help elect Ralph Northam as Virginia’s governor and nearly $1 million in Alabama to elect Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate.”
-- A Maryland House committee narrowly approved Hogan’s Amazon incentive package. Several lawmakers expressed doubts over whether the $5 billion package meant to lure Amazon’s second headquarters to Maryland was worth the cost. (Steve Thompson)
-- Metro pulled 10 percent of its bus fleet from service after two recent instances of mysterious engine failure. Martine Powers reports: “According to a statement the agency issued Wednesday night, two drivers in the past week have reported that their bus engines cut off suddenly. … The buses will remain out of service until Metro and the manufacture figure out what happened.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Dana Carvey impersonated John Bolton on Stephen Colbert's show:
Samantha Bee broadcast from Puerto Rico to explore how the island continues to recover from Hurricane Maria:
This former clown is running for Congress in South Carolina:
French far-right leader Marine Le Pen was booed attending a march honoring slain Holocaust survivor Mireille Knoll:
And the first episode of the “Roseanne” reboot embraced political controversy: