National Political Correspondent

With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.

THE BIG IDEA: 

Donald Trump is either woefully uninformed or intentionally misleading the American people about one of his most consequential decisions as president. Which is the more charitable explanation?

With a trio of temperamental tweets on Easter Sunday and three follow-ups this morning, Trump announced there will be no deal to save the 700,000 “dreamers” whose futures he put in peril by ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. He also called on Republicans to change the rules of the Senate to pass anti-immigration legislation with a simple majority and threatened to kill the North American Free Trade Agreement if Mexico does not step up border security.

The president then falsely claimed that there are “big flows of people” who are sneaking into the United States “because they want to take advantage of DACA.”

In truth, to be eligible for the program created by Barack Obama, immigrants must have lived in the United States since 2007, have arrived in the country before they turned 16 and have been younger than 31 on June 15, 2012. Anyone who came after does not qualify.

Trump’s erroneous musings capture in miniature six features of his presidency:

1) This is the improvisational presidency. There is no strategy. There is no message discipline. There is no process. Every modern White House plans out policies it wants to roll out months in advance. There is no calendar now. No one has replaced Hope Hicks as communications director. “Infrastructure week” has become a punchline. These tweets, which upended the news cycle, clearly weren’t vetted.

2) Trump does not understand how Congress works. He’s demanding that Senate Republicans use the “Nuclear Option” to pass his preferred immigration legislation with 51 votes, instead of 60. In February, though, only 36 of the 51 GOP members voted for the bill that reflected his demands.

Anyone with a sense of history who has thought through the institutional dynamics at play recognizes that ending the filibuster would, over the long-term, benefit liberals dramatically more than conservatives. The left wants bigger government and further-reaching laws than the right, and making it easier to pass new laws would enable that. If only 51 votes are needed to pass bills, Democrats could raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, ban assault weapons and create single-payer health care next time they get the majority. Mitch McConnell, who got elected to the Senate in 1984, understands this. Trump does not.

3) The president does not think through the second- and third-order consequences of his decisions. He’s undeniably motivated by a desire for instant gratification. Trump often appears to be thinking more about the next move than the end game. He also seems, especially on Twitter, more focused on scoring short-term political points than worrying about possible costs down the road.

Just like he does not care that ending the filibuster would hurt his adopted party when Republicans inevitably lose control of the Senate in the future, his provocations toward Mexico are generating ripple effects that could eventually make America less safe.

A new poll out this morning from Parametria shows that far-left presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is surging ahead of Mexico’s July 1 election and has opened an 18-point lead, thanks in part to hatred for Trump south of the border. He formally kicked off his campaign yesterday with a rally in the border city of Ciudad Juárez, where he gave a strongly nationalistic speech and said Mexico under his leadership will demand more respect from the American president. “A Lopez Obrador victory could usher in a Mexican government less accommodating toward the United States,” Reuters notes. “Lopez Obrador has backed [NAFTA], but his plan to review newly issued oil contracts sparked worries he will deter foreign investment.” There are also concerns across Washington’s foreign policy firmament that he’d be less cooperative with us on national security matters, specifically drug interdiction.

Trump’s new tariffs, meanwhile, prompted China on Sunday to retaliate against a range of American agriculture products. This will not only hurt U.S. farmers, but it was a completely foreseeable consequence of the president’s decision. White House officials have repeatedly insisted that the president was not starting a trade war. They were wrong.

As he pushes to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear agreement, the president has brushed aside warnings from his own top advisers that doing so will make it much harder to negotiate a deal with North Korea to give up its nuclear program. Trump just doesn’t see the connection.

4) Proximity is power in Trump’s White House.

Most aides spent Easter with their families, including White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. But Trump was accompanied for the past four days at Mar-a-Lago by senior policy adviser Stephen Miller. The former spokesman for Jeff Sessions in the Senate is the leading advocate for nativist policies in the president’s orbit. More than anyone else, he’s torpedoed the prospect of a bipartisan breakthrough on immigration by encouraging Trump’s base instincts.

Because Trump lacks many core convictions, he’s often swayed by the last person he speaks with before making decisions. That’s one reason staffers are even more eager to travel with him and be around the Oval Office than during a more traditional presidency.

Trump also had dinner on Friday night with Fox News host Sean Hannity and then golfed with him on Saturday. Hannity has long been a hard-liner on immigration, and something he said might have rubbed off on the president.

5) He’s heavily influenced by cable news punditry.

Trump’s tweets refer to a so-called “caravan” of immigrants who are heading to the United States. He appears to have gotten this formulation from a segment that aired on “Fox & Friends” early Sunday morning, which was based on a BuzzFeed story from Friday about more than a thousand Central Americans — primarily from Honduras — who are on a month-long trip toward the U.S. border.

“These migrants are looking to seek asylum from criminal elements back home or slip into the United States undetected,” Alex Horton explains. “Moving in a large group is expected to blunt the efforts of criminal gangs and cartels known to isolate and later rob immigrants, many of whom bring large sums of money to make the long journey north through Mexico.”

Trump embraced the “caravan” branding. As he tweeted Monday morning:

Today is also CNBC talking head Larry Kudlow’s first day on the job as the president’s chief economic adviser, and longtime Fox contributor John Bolton starts next week as national security adviser.

6) Trump is not a reliable negotiating partner because he moves the goal posts.

Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill find the president difficult to work with because he’s inconsistent about what he wants. He threatened to veto the omnibus spending bill the week before last, after saying he supported it, because there was not enough money for a border wall. Then he signed it anyway.

Trump promised to show “great heart” for the dreamers. At one point, he said he’d protect the DACA kids in exchange for wall money. Democrats reluctantly agreed. Then he changed his demands, insisting that they also go along with massive reductions in levels of legal immigration. Now he tweets: “NO MORE DACA DEAL.”

“Time and time again, the president has walked away from bipartisan proposals that are exactly what he asked for,” complained Nancy Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill.

A host of lawmakers complained about the way Trump does business in the wake of his latest tweets.

From the retiring Republican senator from Arizona:

A group of 30 Hispanic congressmen:

From a Democratic congressman who represents Northern Virginia:

Potential 2020 challengers to the president also weighed in:

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- The trade war escalated after China said it will impose tariffs on 128 U.S. food products, a direct retaliation for Trump’s decision to impose new restrictions on Beijing. Damian Paletta reports: “Beijing’s move could force Trump to decide whether to follow through on expansive trade restrictions he had hoped would crack down on China even if Beijing is now threatening to harm U.S. companies that rely on Asian markets for buyers. A Twitter post from the ‘People’s Daily,’ an English-language news organization controlled by the Chinese government, said Sunday that ‘China imposes tariffs on 128 items of imports from the U.S. including pork and fruit products starting Monday as a countermeasure in response to a previous U.S. move to slap tariffs on steel and aluminum imports: Ministry of Finance.’”

-- Costa Rican presidential candidate Carlos Alvarado Quesada defeated a challenger who ran on his opposition to same-sex marriage. From Joshua Partlow: “With about 90 percent of the votes counted, Alvarado, 38, a novelist and musician who had served in cabinet positions for the current president, Luis Guillermo Solís, had captured 60.6 percent, according to the country’s ­Supreme Electoral Tribunal. His opponent, Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz, a TV journalist, pastor and singer who had been riding momentum based on his opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion and his stance on other social issues, had received 39.3 percent of the vote. Fabricio Alvarado’s surprising rise had highlighted the growing power of socially conservative and evangelical voters in the small Central American country.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. A Sacramento sheriff’s vehicle was captured on video this weekend striking a 61-year-old woman during a protest and then driving away. The incident occurred during a demonstration over the death of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man who was shot by police last month. (Alex Horton, Rob Kuznia and Sawsan Morrar)
  2. Thousands of public school teachers in Oklahoma are expected to walk out of class today over a pay dispute. The governor signed raises of around $6,100 last week, but teachers said the 15 to 18 percent increase fails to adequately account for some of the lowest salaries in the country. (NPR)
  3. British investigators believe a highly skilled operative smeared the poisonous nerve agent on the door handle at Sergei Skripal’s home. They believe the operation targeting the former Russian spy is unlikely to have been executed without Kremlin approval given the mission’s riskiness and sensitivity. (New York Times)
  4. Kim Jong Un made a surprise appearance at a rare pop concert in Pyongyang. About 1,500 members of the North Korean elite gathered to listen to the K-pop band Red Velvet perform, and Kim called for a similar performance in Seoul later this year. (Bloomberg News)
  5. Parkland student David Hogg labeled Fox News host Laura Ingraham a “bully.” The teen activist said on CNN, “It’s disturbing to know that somebody can bully so many people and just get away with it, especially to the level that she did.” (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
  6. The owner of Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor said its department stores have been hit by a data breach that compromised the personal and payment information of its customers. It’s unclear how many shoppers were affected, but a New York-based security firm claims up to 5 million credit and debit cards were stolen. The breach has drawn comparison to previous retail attacks on Target, Home Depot and Neiman Marcus. (AP)
  7. NTSB officials were “unhappy” after Tesla released information on the investigation into a crash involving one of its vehicles. Tesla announced the Model X car had its semiautonomous “Autopilot” mode activated just before the vehicle slammed into a highway barrier, killing the driver. But the NTSB said the investigation is ongoing. (Faiz Siddiqui)

  8. Authorities said an SUV carrying a family of eight may have intentionally been driven off a California cliff last week. Early reports reveal the vehicle’s speedometer was “pinned” at 90 mph when it plunged some 100 feet from the Pacific Coast Highway. (Kristine Phillips, Kevin Sullivan and Marwa Eltagouri)

  9. The governor of the Siberia region has announced his resignation following widespread public outrage over a deadly mall fire last month. Thousands rallied to demand the ouster of Aman Tuleyev and other local officials, blaming the March 25 tragedy on corruption and incompetence. (Matthew Bodner)

  10. Notre Dame won the women’s NCAA championship. Guard Arike Ogunbowale made a three-point shot with 0.1 seconds remaining to carry her team past Mississippi State. (Ava Wallace)

PERSONNEL IS POLICY:

-- One of the Pentagon’s top choices to lead the Joint Chiefs of Staff was dropped from consideration after the corrupt defense contractor “Fat Leonard” told federal agents about his “unsavory past” with the finalist. Craig Whitlock reports: “Leonard Glenn Francis [said] that he had paid for opulent dinners and other favors for Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III [and shared] several photographs of him drinking and socializing with [him]. After separate investigations, the Justice Department declined to press charges, and the Navy cleared the four-star admiral of wrongdoing. But his association with the 350-pound contractor helped sink his chances to lead the Joint Chiefs ... Now retired, Locklear is the highest-ranking officer known to have been investigated in what has become the worst corruption scandal in Navy history.”

-- Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone, who is expected to be confirmed as the next head of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, will be tasked with stopping Russia’s efforts to disrupt U.S. elections and “aggressive” targeting of the electric grid. Ellen Nakashima reports: “[If directed, Nakasone would also] be responsible for providing the president and the defense secretary options to counter such provocations ... The NSA has been shaken by several major breaches, a steady loss of technical talent and a controversial reorganization. Cyber­Com, now eight years old, has struggled to gel as a mature organization able to offer effective options for countering cyberthreats. … Nakasone, 54, cruised through two confirmation hearings, during which he said that, when it comes to Russia’s campaign against the United States, ‘the most important thing is we want the behavior to change.’”

-- David Shulkin said he did not voluntarily leave his job as VA secretary, breaking with the official White House description of his exit and adding more uncertainty around the department's future. “I would not resign, because I’m committed to making sure this job was seen through to the very end,” Shulkin said on CNN, echoing his previously stated belief that he was fired after political appointees sought to undermine his post. “These appointees had a belief that there was a different way to do that than I did … [and] when they didn’t see that their way was being adopted, used subversive techniques to change the leadership at VA." On NBC’s "Meet the Press," Shulkin said he did not submit a letter of resignation and was not asked for one. 

David Weigel explains why this matters: “Whether Shulkin resigned or was fired would have bearing on who leads the [VA] until the president’s nominee, Navy Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson, is confirmed … According to federal statutes, the departure of a Senate-confirmed secretary elevates the department’s deputy secretary to that position until a permanent replacement arrives. But VA’s deputy secretary, Thomas G. Bowman, has already been passed over."

-- Jonathan Chait writes in the latest New York magazine that corruption in the Trump administration could become Republicans’ greatest liability in the midterms: “To be out for yourself is probably the single most disqualifying flaw a politician can have. … What’s truly shocking is how much petty graft has sprung up across his administration. Trump’s Cabinet members and other senior officials have been living in style at taxpayer expense … Not since the Harding administration, and probably the Gilded Age, has the presidency conducted itself in so venal a fashion. … It should take very little work — and be a very big priority — for Democratic candidates to stitch all the administration’s misdeeds together into a tale of unchecked greed.”

-- The conservative author of a new book about the Trump White House accuses Kellyanne Conway of being the “number one leaker” in the West Wing. CNN’s Devan Cole reports: “In a Sunday interview ... Ronald Kessler, the author of ‘The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game,’ claimed that the President's counselor and former campaign manager leaks more information to the press than any other individual working in the White House. Kessler told [Jake] Tapper that in at least one interview with Conway, she forgot that they were on-the-record as she ripped into her fellow colleagues. According to Kessler, Conway said some of the most ‘mean, cutting and honestly untrue’ things about former chief of staff Reince Priebus, and also ‘dissed’ Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.”

-- Conservative observers of the Supreme Court are once again wondering whether Justice Anthony Kennedy will retire. From CNN’s Ariane de Vogue: “[C]ourt watchers wonder what went into his calculation for staying on the bench last term — and if anything's changed since then. Significant cases facing the court could have served as the siren call, or maybe Kennedy felt the weight — and pull — that one of his colleagues called the ‘awesome responsibility’ of holding the critical vote for the biggest cases. It's conceivable he was spooked by the volatile first few months of the Trump administration, or perhaps retirement is easier to contemplate than to execute.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) bid farewell to his constituents as his resignation became official:

The former director of the Office of Government Ethics criticized the EPA's response to the controversy over Scott Pruitt's D.C. apartment:

Obama's former ethics czar replied:

The new cover of New York magazine is likely to attract Trump's ire:

The Times's front page was conspicuously devoid of Trump's name:

Stormy Daniels's attorney trolled Michael Cohen's attorney:

Washington officials celebrated Easter. From the White House press secretary:

From the House speaker:

From Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.):

From Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.):

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) spent the holiday with his grandchildren: 

A CNN host met a holiday celebrity:

And the Nationals marked Easter with a bit of science fiction:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- Washingtonian, “Is DC Being Too Mean to Louise Linton?” by Elaina Plott: “Linton describes coming to Washington as like being sucked through a broken window in an airplane flying at 30,000 feet. Which is the 37-year-old’s very specific way of saying ‘it all happened so fast’ but, if we’re being honest, also suggests a very sudden death. … Linton will now have you know she has found her footing. She doesn’t feel bad about declining the occasional dinner invitation to stay in and play with her Chihuahuas. She has made peace with the whole Instagram fiasco … and has moved on — even if others haven’t. So perhaps it’s not exactly right to say that Linton still doesn’t get Washington. Perhaps the reality is that she understands precisely what’s expected of her. Perhaps it’s just that she no longer cares.”

-- The New Yorker, “A Saudi Prince’s Quest to Remake the Middle East,” by Dexter Filkins: “In a country long ruled by aging kings, M.B.S. was young, tall, and transparently ambitious. He wanted to wean the kingdom from its unsustainable addiction to oil and to diversify its economy. … As Kushner grappled with the complexities of Middle East politics, he and M.B.S. began a conversation by telephone and e-mail. ‘They became close very fast,’ a former American official who sees M.B.S. periodically said. ‘They see the world in the same way—they see themselves as being in the tech-savvy money world.’”

-- Vox, “Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook’s hardest year, and what comes next,” by Ezra Klein: “I spoke with Zuckerberg on Friday about the state of his company, the implications of its global influence and how he sees the problems ahead of him. ‘I think we will dig through this hole, but it will take a few years,’ Zuckerberg said. ‘I wish I could solve all these issues in three months or six months, but I just think the reality is that solving some of these questions is just going to take a longer period of time.’ But what happens then? What has this past year meant for Facebook’s future?”

-- New York Times, “Anatomy of a Bomb Investigation: Inside an A.T.F. Lab,” by Ali Watkins: “Evidence from hundreds of domestic bombing cases passes through A.T.F. labs every year. [A few] attract widespread attention. The majority prompt no headlines: husbands trying to kill wives with amateur car bombs, rival motorcycle gangs lobbing improvised explosive devices, a mischievous student who accidentally blows up a mailbox. … Deconstructing them requires a combination of logistical skill — physically analyzing explosives and their components — and creative psychology, involving analysis of the motivation and patterns of the bombers.” Said one former ATF agent of improvised bombs: “It’s only limited by your imagination and the size of the container you want to put it into.”

-- New York Times, “Hollywood’s Ambassador, Schooled in Diplomacy and the Muppets,” by Brooks Barnes: “Charles H. Rivkin, an assistant secretary of state during the Obama administration, is now the chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America. He takes over in a time of upheaval.”

HOT ON THE LEFT

“Flynn’s son: Parkland student Hogg’s parents didn’t ‘smack’ him enough growing up,” from the Hill: “The son of former national security adviser Michael Flynn ripped Parkland student David Hogg this weekend, saying he hadn't been smacked enough growing up. ‘Someone (hint: parents) clearly didn’t smack this kid much growing up. Your emotional high will run out soon so savor it while it lasts,’ Michael Flynn Jr. tweeted in response to a tweet from Hogg. His tweet came in response to Hogg rejecting an apology for a critical tweet Fox News host Laura Ingraham posted about his college prospects.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

“Google snubbed Easter with no doodle for 18th year in a row, Christians say,” from Fox News: “For the 18th year in a row, Google has no doodle to celebrate Easter, and Christians are angry on this holy day. Paul Joseph Watson, Infowars editor-at-large, tweeted Sunday about Christianity’s most joyful day: ‏’So Google has a doodle for every obscure “woke” person/event imaginable, but nothing for Easter? #EasterSunday’ James Woods retweeted it, saying: ‘They loathe Christians. Plain and simple.’ The search giant did find room to celebrate April Fool’s Day — by inserting a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ game into Google Maps.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump and the first lady will host the White House Easter Egg Roll. He later has a meeting with new NEC Director Larry Kudlow.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

Chris Christie, who initially ran Trump’s transition before being replaced, said, “This was a brutally unprofessional transition.” Referring to the controversy over Scott Pruitt’s Washington apartment, the former New Jersey governor said, “I don't know how you survive this one, and if he has to go, it's because he never should have been there in the first place.” (ABC News)

 

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

-- Washingtonians could see some mixed precipitation on their morning commute, but the sun should make appearances later in the day. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Rain and, in our far north/northwest areas, some sleet and wet snow, ends between 8 and 10 a.m. If you’re in our colder areas, especially up into northern Maryland, look out for slushy spots early on. During the afternoon, we have partial clearing with highs near 50.”

-- The Capitals defeated the Penguins 3-1, clinching their third straight Metropolitan Division title. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)

-- The Nationals beat the Reds 6-5. (Jorge Castillo)

-- The Wizards lost to the Bulls 113-94. (Candace Buckner)

-- Cybersecurity experts are warning Maryland its voting system leaves the state vulnerable to hacking. From Rachel Chason: “Maryland is one of three states in which any resident can receive their ballot online and the only state in which there is no signature verification process required by law, advocates said. To have their ballots counted, residents must print them out and return them by mail or in person.”

-- Metro’s attempts to increase revenue are facing head winds. Martine Powers writes: “The agency has had trouble finding corporate sponsors to subsidize the cost of after-hours service and special events. Last year, for example, MillerCoors dropped its years-long tradition of paying for Metro to stay open late on New Year’s Eve. The Metro board has pushed the transit agency to pursue the idea of selling station naming rights — allowing companies or institutions to attach their brand to the official name of a Metro station, for a price. And yet, when Metro sought out potential station sponsors, there were no serious offers.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

John Oliver probed immigration courts:

Sinclair Broadcast Group's media-bashing ads went viral:

Pope Francis used his Easter address to call for peace in the Holy Land:

Members of the British royal family attended an Easter service at St. George's:

And the Nationals' Bryce Harper responded to a heckler: