With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.

THE BIG IDEA: 

Those who don’t learn from the mistakes of the past are doomed to repeat them. That’s what the United States keeps doing in Syria.

In 1950, Secretary of State Dean Acheson gave a speech implying that the Korean Peninsula was outside of the core defense perimeter of the United States. Though not intended, this sent a signal that America was abandoning South Korea. That helped provoke a war with fallout we're still managing today.

Barack Obama made one of the gravest blunders of his presidency when he declared in 2012 that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad using chemical weapons against civilians would cross a “red line” and bring “enormous consequences.” When hundreds were killed by a gas attack the next year, he planned to launch missiles but blinked when the Brits balked. After Obama punted the decision to a Congress that dithered, an emboldened Assad escalated his barbaric campaign against his own people.

A year ago, President Trump’s new administration announced that removing Assad from power was no longer a priority of the United States government. Soon afterward, the man known as “the Butcher of Damascus” launched a sarin attack that killed more than 80 Syrians. Seeing gruesome images of murdered children prompted Trump to order airstrikes on the airfield that had been used by planes that dropped the gas.

Fast forward almost exactly one year. During a rally in Ohio the Thursday before last, Trump contradicted and undercut months of public commitments from diplomatic and military leaders that America would not cut and run from Syria. Speaking off the cuff during what was supposed to be a speech about infrastructure, the president declared: “We’ll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now!”

The next day, news broke that Trump had suspended more than $200 million in stabilization funds for Syrian recovery efforts — to the grave consternation of the professionals at Foggy Bottom.

“I want to get out,” Trump added last Tuesday at the White House during a news conference with Baltic leaders. “I want to bring our troops back home. … It’s time.”

This declaration caught military commanders off guard. Top national security aides persuaded Trump not to immediately pull out the 2,000 Americans who are on the ground during a meeting later in the day. Then they crafted a statement in the Situation Room designed to reassure allies in the region. But for Assad and his patrons in Moscow and Tehran, the president’s preferences were crystal clear.

Then, on Saturday night, at least 40 people were killed in another apparent chemical attack on a besieged, rebel-held enclave near Damascus. “More than 500 people ‘were brought to local medical centers with symptoms indicative of exposure to a chemical agent,’ according to the Syrian American Medical Society, a Washington-based nonprofit group that supports health facilities in the area,” Louisa Loveluck and Erin Cunningham report from the region. “Footage from the area showed bodies strewn across the floor of an air raid shelter. Among them was a young man who appeared to have died foaming at the mouth and clutching his child. Rescue workers at the scene said the smell of chlorine in the room had been almost overpowering.”

-- John McCain sees a direct line between Trump’s wobbliness last week and the latest crime against humanity. The Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee took a break from battling brain cancer in Arizona to press Trump to show more backbone. “Trump last week signaled to the world that the United States would prematurely withdraw from Syria,” the war hero wrote in a statement. “Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers have heard him, and emboldened by American inaction, Assad has reportedly launched another chemical attack … The President responded decisively when Assad used chemical weapons last year. He should do so again, and demonstrate that Assad will pay a price for his war crimes.

“To be sure, President Trump inherited bad options after years of inaction by his predecessor in Syria,” added McCain, referring to his opponent in the 2008 presidential campaign. “History will render a bitter judgment on America for that failure. But no one should believe we are out of options.”

-- Trump telegraphed on Sunday that he will authorize some form of military response to what he described as an “atrocity.” He even leveled a rare criticism of Vladimir Putin. “President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad,” the president tweeted. “Big price to pay. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!”

As the United Nations Security Council convenes for an emergency session today, administration officials say all options are on the table. John Bolton, on his first day as Trump’s national security adviser, will convene a Syria-focused meeting at the White House.

The Syrian and Russian governments say Israeli warplanes carried out missile strikes on an air base in central Syria in the early hours of Monday, though details are still sketchy. “A Syrian military source and the Russian Defense Ministry said Israeli F-15 fighter jets carried out Monday’s strike from Lebanese airspace,” Erin Cunningham and Ruth Eglash report. “Russia on Monday called the Israeli raid a ‘dangerous development.’” Israel hasn’t confirmed it.

-- Even though he was an outspoken critic of American action against Assad in 2013, Trump blamed Obama yesterday for not solving the problem:

-- Words matter, credibility counts and nature abhors a power vacuum. Theodore Roosevelt said America must “speak softly and carry a big stick.” Trump often seems inclined to do the opposite. That dilutes the power of the bully pulpit. 

-- With his tough tweets about the latest attack, Trump appears to be boxing himself in and putting America’s standing on the line once again.

“If he doesn't follow through and live up to that tweet, he's going to look weak in the eyes of Russia and Iran,” warned Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Looking straight to camera on ABC’s “This Week,” he added: “Mr. President, you need to follow through with that tweet. Show a resolve that Obama never did to get this right.”

After last year’s airstrikes, the president made clear that there would not be a broader escalation or meaningful follow-up. American officials now acknowledge the runway destroyed by U.S. missiles was quickly rebuilt. When the leaders of Iran, Turkey and Russia gathered to discuss the future of Syria last week in Ankara, the United States was not even invited. Will Trump think through the endgame this time?

Listen to James's quick summary of today's Big Idea and the headlines you need to know to start your day:
Subscribe to The Daily 202’s Big Idea on
Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple Podcasts and other podcast players.
 
Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning briefing for decision-makers.
Sign up to receive the newsletter.

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. One man, 67-year-old Todd Brassner, died in the Trump Tower apartment fire. The president commended his “well built building” for minimizing the fire’s damage. But Trump's past opposition to a law that would have required sprinklers in New York residential buildings was in the spotlight after authorities confirmed there were no sprinklers in the building’s top floors. (Amy B Wang)

  2. Tourists found a body near the Northern California cliff where a family’s SUV crashed into the ocean. Officials have not yet identified the body but described it as belonging to an African American female. A DNA test will be conducted to determine if it is the body of one of the missing children. (Kristine Phillips)

  3. A Missouri House committee investigating the alleged wrongdoing of Gov. Eric Greitens (R) plans to release its report this week. Its release could accelerate calls for the resignation or impeachment of Greitens, who has been accused of attempting to blackmail a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair. (Kansas City Star)

  4. Opening statements will be made today in Bill Cosby’s retrial on sexual assault charges. Judge Steven T. O’Neill, who oversaw Cosby’s first trial that ended in a hung jury, has decided to allow five past accusers to testify for the prosecution. (Manuel Roig-Franzia)
  5. Deutsche Bank selected a new CEO that signals a move toward a potential merger with another European bank. (Wall Street Journal)

  6. Patrick Reed won the Masters. The 27-year-old is a major tournament winner for the first time, holding off bigger names in the sport like Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler. (Barry Svrluga, Cindy Boren, Bryan Flaherty and Des Bieler)

  7. Remains recovered from a wartime crash site in Austria may be those of a Tuskegee airman who disappeared in 1944. Capt. Lawrence E. Dickson, 24, a black fighter pilot during World War II, was thought to have gone down over Italy on Dec. 23, 1944. (Michael E. Ruane)

  8. America’s oldest World War II veteran was flown to Washington on a private jet to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Richard Overton, who will celebrate his 112th birthday next month, made the trip thanks to billionaire entrepreneur Robert Smith and received a private tour of the museum. (Allison Klein)

NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- Trump administration officials said North Korea confirmed its willingness to discuss denuclearization ahead of next month’s potential meeting between the president and Kim Jong Un. David Nakamura reports: “The message from Pyongyang offers the first reassurance that Kim is committed to meeting Trump. … At the same time, U.S. officials cautioned that Pyongyang offered no details about its negotiating position and noted that North Korea has violated past agreements, during the George W. Bush administration, to freeze its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs. Foreign policy analysts warned that the Kim regime has long defined the concept of denuclearization differently than the United States has, seeking the removal of U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula and an agreement that the United States will no longer protect allies South Korea and Japan with its nuclear arsenal. Previous U.S. administrations have unilaterally rejected such demands.”

-- Hungary’s staunchly anti-migrant prime minister, Viktor Orban, secured a resounding reelection victory, bringing the E.U. member one step closer to autocracy. James McAuley reports: “Orban’s ruling coalition was expected to win 133 of 199 seats in parliament … That barely gives him the two-thirds majority he needs to rewrite the constitution as he sees fit. … The vote — easily the most consequential since Hungary’s post-communist transition — was widely seen as a reflection on the state of democracy and the rule of law in a European Union member state that in recent years has been sliding toward autocracy. The result — coming in an election with high turnout — quashed any hopes of an opposition presence in a country that has essentially been a one-party state for nearly a decade.”

THE TRADE WAR:

-- “Many of the farmers who helped propel Donald Trump to the presidency fear becoming pawns in his escalating trade war with China, which threatens markets for soybeans, corn and other lifeblood crops in the Upper Midwest,” Dave Weigel reports from Mankato, Minn. “When China threatened a 25 percent tariff on soybeans, Mike Petefish, who grows the crop over 2,000 acres, feared the worst. Soybeans are a $2 billion business in Minnesota. ‘A 40-cent drop in soybeans, like we saw on Wednesday, meant $50,000 of value evaporating out of my bottom line,’ said Petefish, the 33-year-old president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association. ‘The last time I talked to our banker, he told me that of all his clients — these are all farmers — only four made money last year. We kind of broke even. But this year was looking tough even before the tariffs.’

Trump’s aggressive attacks on China over trade are putting Republicans … in a difficult spot — torn between siding with Trump and acknowledging the economic peril to many of their constituents. ... In Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District, six-term Democratic Rep. Tim Walz is retiring to run for governor, opening up a seat Trump won by 15 points. [Jim] Hagedorn, 65, is considered the best GOP candidate to turn a blue seat red. [He says voters should keep their faith in Trump despite the tariffs.] A third of the state’s soybean crop comes from the district. It also is home to Martin County, the top hog-producing county in the state and one that has been dubbed the ‘Bacon Capital of the USA.’ China’s tariffs on pork will hit hard, too.

“For much of 2017, Republicans sought to portray Democrats as unhinged by the president, obsessed with scandal. The trade war has allowed rural Democrats to pivot, advocating stability against a backdrop of threats and confusion.”

-- On the Sunday shows, Trump surrogates downplayed concerns that China will actually implement the tariffs. National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow said on CNN, “The problem here is China. It is not President Trump. China has been getting away with this for decades.” Kudlow added that a “coalition of the willing” is forming to pressure China on its trade practices, including by taking the issue to the World Trade Organization. (Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Sean Sullivan and Jenna Johnson)

-- Trump was once again tweeting about China early this morning:

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN AND WOMEN:

-- Today is John Bolton’s first day as national security adviser. The New York Times’s Peter Baker writes: “[Bolton] loves nothing more than a good target. Over a long and colorful career he has had many of them: the United Nations, first and foremost. But also the International Criminal Court and the Antiballistic Missile Treaty. North Korea. Iran. China. Russia. The Palestinian Authority. The European Union. And then there are ‘the Crusaders of Compromise,’ as he terms the elite of the national security world; the diplomats he refers to as ‘the High Minded,’ with the capital H and capital M; ‘the True Believers’ of the arms control priesthood. And, of course, Republicans who succumb to such muddled thinking, like Colin L. Powell, Condoleezza Rice and even [George W. Bush]. But as Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, the targeter is now slated to become the facilitator, charged with mobilizing the policy apparatus rather than simply taking aim at it.”

-- NSC spokesman Michael Anton announced plans to leave the White House. Politico’s Eliana Johnson reports: “Though Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, brought Anton into the administration, he spent the majority of his tenure serving as spokesman for Flynn’s replacement, H.R. McMaster. … The announcement of Anton’s departure coincides with that of McMaster … Inside the White House, Anton, the author of a book about about men’s style, was the rare egghead who managed not to drive the president crazy — and he played a key role weathering McMaster’s testy relationship with the president.”

-- Three Republican senators voiced concerns about Scott Pruitt hours after Trump tweeted that his embattled EPA administrator was doing “a great job.” From Sean Sullivan: “Sens. John Neely Kennedy (La.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Susan Collins (Maine) voiced worry about Pruitt’s conduct in interviews on morning television talk shows. … The sharpest Republican criticism came from Kennedy, who said Pruitt ought to hold a ‘full-blown press conference’ to address the criticism he has received. ‘Stop leading with your chin,’ Kennedy said in an interview with CBS News’s ‘Face the Nation.’ ‘Now these are unforced errors. They are stupid. There are a lot of problems we can’t solve. But you can behave. I don’t mean to denigrate Mr. Pruitt, but doggone it, he represents the president of the United States, and it is hurting his boss and it needs to stop.’”

-- Pruitt’s security detail has cost taxpayers nearly $3 million. Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report: “Travel schedules and agency correspondence obtained by The Washington Post show that Pruitt’s detail, which is triple the size of those for prior EPA administrators, has stretched the agency’s resources and required regular overtime for the men and women who guard him. In the early months of Pruitt’s tenure, that round-the-clock security arrangement prompted officials to bring in, on rotation, special agents from across the country who otherwise would have been investigating environmental crimes; they were assigned to two-week stints helping to protect Pruitt. His detail now comprises at least 18 full-time agents who provide coverage for him whether he is on official business or off duty. The AP reported that given Pruitt’s busy travel schedule and frequent trips home to Oklahoma, many agents racked up so much overtime that they hit annual salary caps of about $160,000.”

-- Ronny Jackson’s pending Navy promotion has complicated his confirmation process to become the next VA secretary. Andrew deGrandpre reports: “[Jackson] could be forced to pass up [the military promotion] — along with an estimated $1 million in future retirement income — if confirmed for the Cabinet post. Jackson, a one-star admiral and the president’s White House doctor, was nominated by Trump for promotion to be a two-star admiral in the days leading to VA Secretary David Shulkin’s departure late last month. The White House has said Jackson intends to remain on active duty until the Senate confirms him to become VA secretary, at which point he would retire from the service. … The dual nominations and a lack of clarity from the White House have left lawmakers flummoxed about how to proceed.”

-- Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed a U.S. attorney in Chicago to deal with congressional requests for documents on the agency’s most high-profile investigations. Matt Zapotosky reports: “Sessions and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray asked U.S. Attorney John Lausch, whom Trump picked to lead the U.S. attorney’s office in the Northern District of Illinois, over the weekend if he would supervise the Justice Department’s handing over of materials to Congress on the surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, the investigation of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and the firing of Andrew McCabe from the FBI.”

-- Andrew Sullivan argues in New York magazine that Gina Haspel’s role in the CIA's use of brutal interrogation measures should disqualify her from becoming the agency's director: “It sends a very clear message: that anyone committing war crimes in the future will be celebrated, not disciplined, rewarded, not punished, that torture is justifiable, even worth reviving, as our future secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, opined only last year. It would amount to a full-on endorsement of torture by the United States, and a signal to the entire world that it can be justified.”

FACEBOOK FALLOUT:

-- Mark Zuckerberg will meet with lawmakers today before he testifies before Congress tomorrow. The meetings are expected to include lawmakers who sit on the three congressional committees who will hear Zuckerberg’s testimony. (Reuters)

-- Facebook suspended another analytics firm following reports about its data collection tactics. CNBC’s Michelle Castillo reports: “CubeYou misleadingly labeled its quizzes “for non-profit academic research,” then shared user information with marketers. … The company sold data that had been collected by researchers working with the Psychometrics Lab at Cambridge University, similar to how Cambridge Analytica used information it obtained from other professors at the school for political marketing. The CubeYou discovery suggests that collecting data from quizzes and using it for marketing purposes was far from an isolated incident. Moreover, the fact that CubeYou was able to mislabel the purpose of the quizzes — and that Facebook did nothing to stop it until CNBC pointed out the problem — suggests the platform has little control over this activity.”

-- Ex-FTC employees expect Facebook will face record fines for leaving user data vulnerable. Craig Timberg and Tony Romm report: “[T]hree former officials, all of whom were at the Federal Trade Commission during the privacy investigation that led to a 2011 consent decree with Facebook, said the company’s latest mishap may violate the decree’s provisions requiring the implementation of a privacy program. The language was written to require Facebook to identify and address emerging threats to user privacy as its business practices changed over the 20-year term of the consent decree, said David Vladeck, who was head of the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection when the decree was drafted and signed by Facebook. … He predicted Facebook may face fines of $1 billion or more ...

-- Sen. John Kennedy suggested he may be open to regulating Facebook. “I don’t want to hurt Facebook. I don’t want to regulate them half to death. But we have a problem. Our promised digital utopia has minefields in it…. But my biggest worry with all of this is that the privacy issue and what I call the propagandist issue are both too big for Facebook to fix, and that’s the frightening part,” Kennedy said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” (Kristine Phillips)

-- The New York Times reached out to nearly two dozen Facebook users affected by the Cambridge Analytica breach. The Times’s Matthew Rosenberg and Gabriel J.X. Dance write: “Some were angry — one woman compared it to being robbed — while others were annoyed but unsurprised, having grown cynical about tech giants’ use of the data they collect. They are some of the first known affected Facebook users to be publicly identified. And nearly all said the misuse of their data had given them second thoughts about staying on Facebook.” 

THE MIDTERMS:

-- The latest GOP campaign strategy: Republicans are warning voters that Democrats will move to impeach Trump if they capture the House. From the New York Times’s Jonathan Martin: “What began last year as blaring political hyperbole on the right — the stuff of bold-lettered direct mail fund-raising pitches from little-known groups warning of a looming American 'coup' — is now steadily drifting into the main currents of the 2018 message for Republicans. The appeals have become a surefire way for candidates to raise small contributions from grass-roots conservatives who are devoted to Mr. Trump, veteran Republican fund-raisers say. But party strategists also believe that floating the possibility of impeachment can also act as a sort of scared-straight motivational tool for turnout. … [T]he mere fact that Republicans are talking by early spring about running on an impeachment threat reveals the depth of their challenge going into this fall’s election.”

-- Republicans are so worried about losing the House that they're shifting their focus to retaining the Senate majority. Sean Sullivan reports: “[Mitch McConnell] and his allies are seeking to capitalize on concerns about the House. He is leading an effort to motivate conservative voters by reminding them that his side of the Capitol has the unilateral power to confirm federal judges and Trump administration nominees. Trump is showing a keen interest in the Senate landscape, raising money for a highly touted challenger, helping clear the primary field for an endangered senator and playfully engaging in an intraparty contest. And marquee Republican challengers are stepping up to run for the Senate, even as House GOP retirements pile up.”

-- Conservative pollster Frank Luntz predicted Republicans would lose the House and Senate if elections were held today. “If Donald Trump wants to keep a Republican Congress, he has to differentiate when he’s attacking Congress in general versus the Republicans in Congress,” he said. (The Hill)

-- Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) plans to travel to Washington next week to fundraise for his expected Senate run, which he is poised to announce this morning over Facebook Live. Sean Sullivan reports: “There has been talk among Scott’s close associates about amassing more than $100 million for his bid. Campaign cash is especially valuable in Florida, which has many major media markets where it will cost millions to run advertisements as the election nears. Scott is wealthy and able to put his own money into the campaign. But his associates have said he will aggressively raise money from donors and will rely more heavily on that cash to fund his bid.”

-- Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise are both eyeing the House speakership in the event Paul Ryan decides to retire after the midterms. From Politico’s Rachael Bade and John Bresnahan: “They’re closely monitoring the moves of the other and quietly courting Republicans who could help them clinch the top post, according to 20 GOP lawmakers and aides interviewed for this story. Neither man is actively rounding up votes at this point, and both of them downplayed the possibility of a looming clash. … But Scalise also expressed interest in leading the conference someday — remarks that only intensified simmering speculation in GOP circles about his intentions. Adding to the intrigue, some of Scalise’s allies have urged him to be ready if McCarthy falls short for speaker, as he did in 2015. And some of McCarthy’s allies discount Scalise’s vows not to mount a direct challenge, noting Scalise’s willingness to attempt to leapfrog more senior Republicans in the past.”

THE FOURTH ESTATE:

-- A review of news subscription data and election results shows that Trump outperformed Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton in “news deserts,” or areas with fewer subscribers to print or online newspapers. Politico’s Shawn Musgrave and Matthew Nussbaum report: “That gives new force to the widely voiced concerns of news-industry professionals and academicians about Trump’s ability to make bold assertions about crime rates, unemployment and other verifiable facts without any independent checks .... [This] analysis suggests that Trump did, indeed, do worse overall in places where independent media could check his claims. … In tight races with Clinton in states like Wisconsin, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, the decline in local media could have made a decisive difference.”

-- A former anchor at one of the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s stations spoke out against the company’s recent media-bashing ads. Adam Bagni writes for the Providence Journal: “With its penchant for conservative politics well-documented, the company is attempting to use its local stations like NBC 10 to advance its own political agenda. Simply put, a powerful outside influence is messing with your local news. Regardless of your political allegiance, that should concern you greatly.”

-- “This Is What It Was Like Learning To Report Before Fake News Was The Biggest Problem In The World,” by BuzzFeed News’s Ben Smith: “[Belarus] was then known as Europe’s Last Dictatorship, a backward, Soviet-style state ruled by a giant former collective farm boss, Alexander Lukashenko, who towered over the nation’s politics. An election was scheduled for two days before 9/11, and correspondents from every major Western news outlet had gathered to cover it, and — perhaps — to watch the final communist domino fall. … You learn how to be a reporter in large part by making mistakes, and I made most of my worst ones in Belarus. I’ve been thinking about them lately because so much of what we were wrestling with then feels relevant: questions about American and post-Soviet power, about the allegiances and responsibilities of reporters, and about the power of narratives.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

The president congratulated the winner of the Masters ... while highlighting one of his own company's golf courses:

From The Post's Middle East correspondent on the alleged Syrian chemical attack:

The House speaker addressed the Syrian attack:

A Democratic senator replied to Ryan:

Trump was criticized for his reversal on Obama's Syria policy:

From a contributor to the Atlantic:

From a Post columnist:

From an op-ed editor for the New York Post:

The White House provided a report on Trump's call with the French president:

But an AFP reporter noted this:

A Politico reporter contextualized the departure of Trump's NSC spokesman:

The president of the Council on Foreign Relations pushed back against Trump's claims about China:

A reporter for Politico explained why Trump does not understand how trade deficits work:

A House Democrat broadly criticized Trump's leadership:

A BuzzFeed reporter questioned Trump's assertion Scott Pruitt has received death threats:

Democratic lawmakers attacked Pruitt's policies:

Washington prepared for Mark Zuckerberg's testimony:

The president again attacked The Post in response to a story about John Kelly's declining influence:

A Post reporter recalled this criticism from one of Trump's predecessors:

And another reporter for The Post summarized Trump's tweets:

GOOD READS:

-- “‘I know I don’t need it:’ An AR-15 owner explains the allure,” by Abigail Hauslohner: “[Fabian] Rodriguez is among the sprawling population of American gun enthusiasts who own or aspire to own an AR-15, the semiautomatic weapon that the National Rifle Association has designated ‘America’s rifle.’ For some, the weapon is useful for hunting or protecting their home. But for a loyal band of thrill-seeking followers, the sleek, militaristic design and customizable features make the high-powered rifle simply fun to own.”

-- New York Times Magazine, “The Post-Campaign Campaign of Donald Trump,” by Charles Homans: “There is a widely held theory that Donald Trump did not, and maybe still does not, really want to be president. Whether or not this is true, what can be ventured with greater certainty is that no candidate has ever delighted as visibly as Trump did in campaigning to be president, and that his having been elected was the period at the end of a sentence that he would happily have let run on forever. For Trump, the campaign trail was a place of self-actualization. On the stage was where he seemed most himself — so much so that, not even a full day after his election, the president-elect mused to his staff about the possibility of another series of rallies.”

-- New York Times, “Tourists Could Be East Timor’s Lifeline. But Will They Ruin Its Reefs?” by Ben C. Solomon: “The young country’s amazing marine life has created hope that visitors could uplift its urgently poor economy. But preservation concerns remain.”

-- BuzzFeed News, “‘We Had To Stop Facebook’: When Anti-Muslim Violence Goes Viral,” by Megha Rajagopalan and Aisha Nazim: “When the Sri Lankan government temporarily blocked access to Facebook last month amid a wave of violence against Muslims, it seemed like a radical move against new technology. But in fact, government officials saw it as a last resort. It came after Facebook ignored years of calls from both the government and civil society groups to control ethno-nationalist accounts that spread hate speech and incited violence before deadly anti-Muslim riots broke out this year … ”

HOT ON THE LEFT

“This vitriol is ‘harmful to our country’: Jimmy Kimmel tries to end his feud with Sean Hannity,” from Elahe Izadi: “After several days of trading barbs on TV and social media, Jimmy Kimmel attempted to defuse his feud with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Sunday. It all began with a joke Kimmel made last Monday on his ABC show, ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live,’ about first lady Melania Trump’s accent. That enraged Hannity, who took to Fox News on Wednesday to call Kimmel a ‘despicable disgrace’ and some other choice words. Kimmel fired back during his own show before the two TV personalities took their quarrel to Twitter. … ‘While I admit I did have fun with our back and forth, after some thought, I realize that the level of vitriol from all sides (mine and me included) does nothing good for anyone and, in fact, is harmful to our country,’ Kimmel wrote in a statement Sunday.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

“Laura Ingraham returns to air amid a boycott drama. It’s the new normal for Fox News,” from Sarah Ellison: “Laura Ingraham will return to her show on Fox News on Monday night, unbowed after a spring break hiatus that some briefly speculated might be made permanent. Once there, Ingraham, one of the cable news giant’s sharpest tongues and biggest stars, will confront a continued advertiser boycott and simmering controversy that has plagued her since she mocked one of the teenage survivors of the Parkland, Fla., shooting in a scathing tweet. In other words, the new normal at Fox News. For all the drama surrounding her, Ingraham is being welcomed back with the full support of Rupert Murdoch, who personally urged Jack Abernethy, Fox News’s co-president, to stand behind her.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will host a Cabinet meeting, later receive a briefing and have dinner with senior military leaders.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) defended Scott Pruitt, describing much of the controversy surrounding the EPA chief as nitpicking. “I don’t know how much of it is overblown and how much of it is accurate, to be honest,” Rounds said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I’m not going to call it fake news. I’ll say in some cases we’ll overblow something, but in this particular case Mr. Pruitt has been doing a good job as the secretary of the EPA. He is moving forward exactly as this president said he would.”

 

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

-- Washington could see snow this morning, but winter appears to finally be on its way out. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “The combination of a weak disturbance scooting by and some lingering cold air means we could see some patchy light rain and/or snow this morning (40 percent chance), becoming all rain if any precipitation lingers into the afternoon (30 percent chance). No snow accumulation is expected. Afternoon highs reach the mid-40s. The total amount of rain (and melted snow) is minimal, less than a tenth of an inch, and more hours are dry than wet.”

-- The Nationals lost to the Mets 6-5 in 12 innings. The defeat continues a five-game losing streak and brings the team under .500 for the first time since August 2015. (Jorge Castillo)

-- Dara Khosrowshahi will make his first trip to D.C. as Uber’s CEO. He will participate in a panel discussion on urban development with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D).

-- As Howard University’s financial aid controversy continues, a well-known former undergrad is scrutinized. From Monica Hesse and Jessica Contrera: “[A now-deleted Medium post] claimed that more than $400,000 had been awarded to a current law student who’d also attended Howard for his undergraduate degree: a former student-employee named Tyrone Hankerson. Suddenly, the expensive-looking clothing on Hankerson’s blog and social media accounts seemed, to some, to take on new meaning … Hankerson, 24, has said repeatedly he didn’t award himself any money, only accepting the financial aid that was offered to him. He was not one of the six employees fired in the investigation. He has not been charged with any crimes. He also has not been publicly cleared by Howard." 

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Alec Baldwin returned to SNL as Donald Trump to make a startling confession about his presidency:

John Oliver set up his own crisis pregnancy center to prove how easy it is to establish the centers, which masquerade as abortion clinics:

Oprah Winfrey visited a memorial to the victims of lynching:

And pubgoers were treated to an unwelcome surprise in Britain: