with Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
Romney’s struggles to secure the GOP nomination in 2012 over a historically weak field of has-beens and Cantor’s unexpected downfall in a 2014 primary both offered early warning signs of the potent forces that would propel Donald Trump to the presidency.
Ryan, who not long ago was considered both the GOP’s ideological standard-bearer and its future, has become a stranger of sorts in his own party. He’s struggled to adjust. Now, at just 48, he’s stepping aside.
He said last night that he does not plan to ever seek public office again, though he expressed openness to becoming ambassador to Ireland in a decade or so. “That’s what speaker of the House gets you,” Ryan told Paul Kane and other reporters in his office. “That’s kind of why I knew this would be my last elected office. When I took this job, I knew that.”
Laura Ingraham celebrated Ryan’s exit on her Fox show last night, calling it proof that the “GOP establishment” is “out of steam” and finally yielding to Trump.
What’s wild about that statement is Ryan was not really seen as part of the “establishment” until somewhat recently. Romney picked him as his running mate over Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), an avatar of the establishment, because he needed to shore up the conservative base and Ryan was seen as having grass-roots appeal.
Ryan was sometimes seen as a nuisance by GOP leadership during this time. Party strategists eyed his annual budget proposals as unhelpful because they called for steep cuts that would never come to pass, including changes to entitlement programs, but gave fodder for Democratic attack ads.
In 2015, when John Boehner stepped down after years of growing tension with his right flank, Ryan emerged to take the job because he was perceived as a bridge between the various factions of the party.
-- Trump changed everything, and Trumpism is an unapologetic repudiation of nearly everything Ryan once stood for. Overhauling entitlements and pursuing austerity in government animated Ryan; Trump ran against any changes to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Ryan was always an outspoken free trader and believer in the power of markets; Trump is a protectionist who has pursued tariffs and started a trade war. Ryan has supported comprehensive immigration reform and making the Republican Party more inclusive. He’s an internationalist who supports global engagement. The speaker fashioned himself as a policy wonk and a nitty-gritty numbers guy. Trump is anything but.
Trump in many ways is the opposite of Jack Kemp, Ryan’s mentor and onetime boss who died of cancer in 2009. Kemp, also a former vice presidential nominee, was an early advocate of what would later be called “compassionate conservatism” and focused on helping the poor as George H.W. Bush’s housing secretary. After Bush lost, Kemp started a group called Empower America. Ryan, then 23, was hired as a researcher and speechwriter.
Ryan used to call himself “a Jack Kemp Republican.” “Donald Trump is a Donald Trump Republican,” he said in 2016, during a phase when he wasn’t supporting Trump. “This is the party of Lincoln, of Reagan, of Jack Kemp. What a lot of Republicans want to see is that we have a standard bearer that bears our standards.”
The standards changed.
“Speaker Ryan is an embodiment of a particular kind of optimistic, pro-growth, pro-free market inclusive conservatism, and that is a very different feel and tone of where the party is going under President Trump,” Michael Steel, a former senior aide to Boehner who worked for Ryan on the 2012 Romney campaign, told Michael Scherer.
-- Stop mistaking Trumpism for conservatism. Most of the press coverage in the past 24 hours says matter-of-factly that the party has moved to the right. That’s not quite correct. The party has moved toward Trump, who has redefined modern conservatism in his more nationalistic mold and made what was historically a movement of ideas into, mostly, a cult of personality. “Ryan’s retirement means America no longer has a conservative party,” observes The Post’s Editorial Board. “Republicans are decreasingly conservative and increasingly reactionary.”
The conventional wisdom when Trump took office was that Ryan would be in the driver’s seat on policymaking because the new president didn’t have many core convictions. While the speaker has played a hugely consequential role at shaping what the tax overhaul looked like, for example, the chattering class underestimated Trump’s penchant for disruption and domination.
In a sign of the power dynamic, Ryan repeatedly praised Trump during the news conference to announce his retirement. “I'm grateful to the president for giving us this opportunity to do big things to get this country on the right track,” he said.
-- If you had any doubt that it's Trump's party now, check out this photo he shared from his session with Republican leaders at the White House last night:
-- History remembers results, not rhetoric. Ryan may have proposed bold cuts and reforms, but he’ll be remembered for $1.4 trillion in tax cuts, a $1.3 trillion spending bill and $1 trillion annual deficits becoming the new normal. Government spending was at $3.5 trillion when Romney tapped Ryan. Now it’s $4.2 trillion.
-- Ryan will also be remembered for empowering Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and failing to protect the “dreamers.” Erica Werner explains: “Ryan has frequently provided political cover … giving Nunes wide latitude to steer the panel through more controversial areas of an investigation that ultimately splintered the once-bipartisan panel. … He defended Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James B. Comey … He has given no indication that he is at all interested in taking legislative steps to protect the special counsel from being removed …
“Before becoming speaker, he pushed for action on comprehensive immigration reform, even joining outspoken immigration advocate Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-Ill.) at a joint forum to voice his support. But he became speaker partly by promising not to advance immigration legislation that didn’t enjoy majority support in the GOP conference, and despite much discussion, especially after Trump threatened protections for young undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children, nothing ever happened.”
-- Karen Tumulty focuses on the moral side of Ryan’s capitulation to Trump: “He was once able to muster the fortitude to call Trump’s attacks on a Mexican American judge ‘the textbook definition of a racist comment.’ When the ‘Access Hollywood’ recording leaked just weeks before the 2016 election … the speaker pronounced himself ‘sickened’ and canceled a campaign event in which the two had been scheduled to appear together. Ryan’s stomach has since grown stronger, or perhaps his standards have grown weaker. Asked in March about reports the president’s lawyer had paid a porn actress to be silent about her alleged 2006 tryst with Trump, Ryan said: ‘I haven’t put a second of thought into this. It’s just not on my radar screen.’ Which said a lot about how far Trump has taken Ryan and his party.”
THE LEADERSHIP RACE:
-- “Ryan’s departure would appear to clear the way for lower-ranking GOP leaders, including Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) and Majority Whip Steve Scalise (La.), to move up the ladder. But key uncertainties, starting with whether Republicans will be able to maintain their House majority, could keep the race unsettled for months,” Mike DeBonis explains.
- “McCarthy has assiduously developed close ties with GOP members … and he has cannily adjusted to a shifting political climate in recent years. More recently, he has cemented those relationships with campaign cash, raising nearly $9 million already this year — most of which gets doled out to vulnerable members.
- “Scalise, as the lead Republican vote counter, is the member of GOP leadership whom most rank-and-file members interact with on a routine basis … But it is his personal saga of the past 10 months — being shot in June by a would-be assassin who targeted Republican lawmakers practicing baseball — that has put him in a new light and could allow him to leapfrog McCarthy under the right circumstances.”
McCarthy was the presumptive speaker in 2015 but withdrew in dramatic fashion. This time, though, he has a close relationship with Trump, which is seen for now as giving him a leg up. “Scalise has been struggling with an episode that nearly ended his ascent within the leadership: In 2002, while serving as a state lawmaker, he attended a meeting of a white-supremacist group in Louisiana and faced a firestorm when the episode was publicized in 2014,” DeBonis notes.
-- A wild card: “Ryan wants to serve the rest of his term as speaker. But some senior Republicans are suggesting that Ryan relinquish his gavel now and allow a successor to take over,” Politico’s Rachael Bade and John Bresnahan report. “Several allies to [McCarthy] say House Republicans need to be united heading into the midterms, and that a leadership race could split the conference. Other Republicans are questioning whether having a lame duck speaker at the helm of the Republican Conference will hurt their fundraising. ‘We would have more success if there’s no ambiguity as to what the leadership structure might look like,’ said Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.), one of McCarthy’s closest allies … Some hard-line conservatives who’ve butted heads with Ryan think a protracted leadership contest would mean a prolonged courtship of them by McCarthy and Scalise — and potentially more influence down the road. … In an ironic twist, the House Freedom Caucus — some members of which have plotted to overthrow Ryan previously — are now saying he should complete his term.”
THE EFFECT ON THE MIDTERMS:
-- Rep. Dennis A. Ross (R-Fla.) also announced his retirement yesterday. This means at least 46 Republican members of Congress won’t be there next year, and insiders expect a handful more might follow now that Ryan has pulled his parachute.
-- Ryan’s exit imperils the GOP's grip on the House. “As many as 50 House Republican seats are at risk in competitive races this year,” Jonathan Martin and Alex Burns report on the front of the New York Times. “Private polling indicates that Mr. Trump’s approval rating is well below 40 percent in some of those tossup districts, the sort of low political standing that often dooms candidates of the president’s party. ‘This is the nightmare scenario,’ said former congressman Thomas M. Davis III, a Virginia Republican. ‘Everybody figured he’d just hang in there till after the election.’
“Already, some veteran Republicans are suggesting that the party shift its focus from the House to protecting its one-seat Senate majority. ‘It seems clear now that the fight is to hold the Senate,’ said Billy Piper, a lobbyist and former chief of staff to Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader. ‘The first thing a Democrat House majority would do is begin impeachment proceedings. The second would be to undo tax reform. A G.O.P. Senate will stop both of those things and continue to put conservatives on the bench at a record pace.’
“Now, some in the party are suggesting that the speaker’s departure will free Republicans to run a more hard-edged campaign that better reflects the politics of the man in the Oval Office. ‘Paul is relentlessly positive and wanted to run an ideas-oriented campaign,’ said former House speaker Newt Gingrich. ‘But I guarantee you that would not have worked this fall.’”
-- WaPo team coverage:
- Paul Kane: “Ryan’s contradiction: Talk inclusive politics but work with Trump.”
- Amy Goldstein and Dave Weigel: “Ryan and Janesville: The speaker’s rapport with his hometown had frayed.”
- Eugene Scott: “For many black voters, Paul Ryan’s legacy will be his insufficient criticism of Trump on race matters.”
- Philip Bump: “1 in 8 House seats will have no incumbent on Election Day.”
- Callum Borchers: “Ryan’s complicated relationship with the media.”
- Amber Phillips: “Don’t count on Ryan to be the GOP’s next anti-Trumper.”
- Sonia Rao, Elahe Izadi and Travis M. Andrews: “Ryan’s career as told through songs by Rage Against the Machine, a band he once supposedly liked.”
-- Opinion pieces:
-- How it’s playing elsewhere:
- Wall Street Journal Editorial Board: “Ryan’s Departure Is a Pity.”
- New York Post’s Editorial Board: “Ryan’s retirement is a loss for the GOP and the nation.”
- Bloomberg: “Ryan's Epic Fiscal Failure.”
- Politico: “Why Ryan called it quits.”
- New York Times: “Ryan Found Himself on the Margins as the G.O.P. Moved Right.”
- AP: “Ryan will leave behind new tax code, busted budget.”
- Bustle: “7 Ways Ryan Made Life Harder For Women While In Congress.”
- McClatchy: “Fewer GOP members mean more power for House Freedom Caucus to pick Ryan successor.”
- Dayton (Ohio) Daily News: “Ryan’s retirement could give Jim Jordan a higher platform.”
- FiveThirtyEight: “Ryan’s Retirement Makes His District — And The Whole House — More Competitive.”
- CNBC’s John Harwood: “Ryan's retirement increases the odds that President Trump will be impeached.”
- Bloomberg: “Ryan Poised to Earn Millions Even If He Sheds ‘Weekend Dad’ Role.”
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “Ryan announcement has Republicans scrambling to replace him as Democrats cheer.”
- Philadelphia Inquirer: “Ryan's retirement echoes GOP departures from Philadelphia region.”
- Observer: “As Paul Ryan Hedges Toward Exit, White Nationalism Continues Its Ascent in the GOP.”
- The Atlantic’s Ronald Brownstein: “Ryan Personifies the Devil's Bargain the GOP Struck With Trump.”
- Washington Examiner’s Michael Barone: “Speaker Ryan follows the lead of Speaker Reed.”
- USA Today’s Andrew Cline: “America is done with adults like Paul Ryan. Donald Trump and celebrities are the future.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) groped, hit and initiated other unwanted sexual conduct with a woman who used to be his hairdresser, she testified in a new report prepared by a special committee of Missouri’s predominantly Republican House of Representatives. Eli Rosenberg runs through the unsettling details: “[T]he report raised the specter of impeachment for Greitens and prompted another round of calls for Greitens to step down, including by the state’s Republican attorney general and senate hopeful Josh Hawley and Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill. … While Greitens has described the extramarital relations as ‘consensual,’ the woman said it included unwanted and potentially coerced sexual acts that she felt afraid to say no to and physical violence, in addition to the threat of photographic blackmail. … The special committee set up to investigate the charge ... wrote that it found the woman a credible witness.”
GET SMART FAST:
- A California man is expected to plead guilty to making a death threat against Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). Anthony Scott Lloyd could face up to 10 years in prison after he allegedly left a voice mail at Waters’s Capitol Hill office in October saying, “if you continue to make threats towards the president, you’re going to wind up dead, Maxine, ’cause we’ll kill you.” (LA Times)
- Pope Francis acknowledged making “serious mistakes” in addressing Chile's sex abuse scandal. The pope also asked forgiveness for accusing abuse victims of Bishop Juan Barros of slandering the bishop. (NPR)
A sexual assault case against Kevin Spacey is under review by the Los Angeles County district attorney. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said the case involves “events” that took place between Spacey and an adult male in 1992 in West Hollywood. (CNN)
- Democratic strategists see MSNBC’s soaring ratings as an opportunity for the midterms. They believe host Rachel Maddow could power fundraising for liberal candidates. (Politico)
- Circulation in the Atlantic Ocean has slowed to a 1,000-year low due to climate change, according to a new study. The study suggests that one of global warming's most feared consequences across the scientific community is already coming to pass. (Chris Mooney)
- An environmental group is raising money to launch a satellite capable of measuring methane emissions. The Environmental Defense Fund recently estimated methane emissions from Pennsylvania’s shale oil and gas sites could be five times higher than what the companies have reported. (Steven Mufson)
- A Chicago aviation security officer is suing the city after he was fired for his role in forcibly removing a doctor from a United Airlines flight last year. James Long claims his employers exhibited negligence by not providing him with the proper training for such situations. (Lori Aratani)
- Dog rescue groups have spent millions buying dogs at auctions from breeders they often denounce. Rescuers have even purchased dogs from some of the same breeders who face protests from activists trying to end “puppy mills.” (Kim Kavin)
THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Federal investigators who raided the office and home of Michael Cohen this week specifically sought out any communications he had with Trump involving the 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape. Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman and David A. Fahrenthold report: “Investigators also sought communications Cohen had with Trump and campaign aides about ‘potential sources of negative publicity’ in the lead-up to the election ... The warrant indicates that federal prosecutors may be examining interactions Trump might have had with his longtime attorney about tamping down unflattering stories as he sought to win the White House. At the time, Cohen was a top lawyer at the Trump Organization and not formally affiliated with the campaign. The interest in Cohen’s communications with Trump suggests that the investigation is delving into the president’s actions, legal experts said.” “If they’re specifically going after communications between the president and Cohen, it confirms the investigation does relate to the president in some way,” said Randall Eliason, who teaches white-collar criminal law at GWU Law School.
-- Investigators requested records on communications between Cohen and executives at American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer. The New York Times’s Jim Rutenberg, Emily Steel and Mike McIntire report: “[T]he tabloid company has been drawn into a sweeping federal investigation of Mr. Cohen’s activities, including efforts to head off potentially damaging stories about Mr. Trump during his run for the White House. In one instance, The Enquirer bought but did not publish a story about an alleged extramarital relationship years earlier with the presidential candidate, an unusual decision for a scandal sheet. … [The federal inquiry] presents thorny questions about A.M.I.’s First Amendment protections, and whether its record in supporting Mr. Trump somehow opens the door to scrutiny usually reserved for political organizations.”
-- Another payoff: AMI signed a $30,000 contract with a former doorman at one of the president’s New York City buildings to prevent him from going public with a rumor that Trump fathered an illegitimate child. The AP’s Jake Pearson and Jeff Horwitz report: “[The ex-doorman, Dino Sajudin,] got $30,000 in exchange for signing over the rights, ‘in perpetuity,’ to a rumor he’d heard about Trump’s sex life — that the president had fathered an illegitimate child with an employee at Trump World Tower, a skyscraper he owns near the United Nations. The contract subjected Sajudin to a $1 million penalty if he disclosed either the rumor or the terms of the deal to anyone. [Cohen acknowledged] that he had discussed Sajudin’s story with the magazine when the tabloid was working on it. He said he was acting as a Trump spokesman when he did so and denied knowing anything beforehand about the Enquirer payment to the ex-doorman. …
“Asked about the payment last summer, Dylan Howard, the Enquirer’s top editor and an AMI executive, said he made the payment to secure the former Trump doorman’s exclusive cooperation because the tip, if true, would have sold ‘hundreds of thousands’ of magazines. Ultimately, he said the information ‘lacked any credibility,’ so he spiked the story on those merits. … But four longtime Enquirer staffers directly familiar with the episode challenged Howard’s version of events. They said they were ordered by top editors to stop pursuing the story before completing potentially promising reporting threads.”
-- “Sajudin had passed a lie-detector test, during which he testified that high-level Trump employees, including Trump’s head of security, Matthew Calamari, had told him the story,” adds the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow. “One told me that, after the polygraph came back positive, ‘the decision was made at a high level to pay this source those funds and to put this thing to rest without an investigation taking place.’” The alleged daughter, who was not identified, declined to answer questions about the rumor, while the father of the family dismissed Sajudin’s claim as “completely false and ridiculous.”
-- Cohen continues to insist he will not flip on Trump:
-- Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is pitching a plan to West Wing aides and congressional allies to “cripple” Robert Mueller’s probe and protect Trump. The first step calls for the president to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller’s investigation. Robert Costa reports: “Bannon is also recommending the White House cease its cooperation with Mueller, reversing the policy of Trump’s legal team to provide information to the special counsel’s team and to allow staff members to sit for interviews. And he is telling associates … that the president should create a new legal battleground to protect himself from the investigation by asserting executive privilege — and arguing that Mueller’s interviews with White House officials over the past year should now be null and void. … There is no indication that Trump, who forced out Bannon and later said his former adviser had ‘lost his mind’ … would be willing to take Bannon’s advice or is aware of the plan.”
-- The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to vote April 26 on a bipartisan bill to prevent the improper firing of special counsels. Karoun Demirjian reports: “Panel Chairman Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) asked committee ranking Democrat Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) to endorse plans to swiftly schedule the bill for committee consideration mere hours after Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) announced that they had completed work on a long-awaited compromise between two bills to protect the special counsel. … Feinstein balked on Wednesday at endorsing Grassley’s plans without seeing [the text of changes he wants to make] … The compromise, should it get through the Judiciary Committee, would still need the acquiescence of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and [Paul Ryan] to come up for the floor votes needed to pass Congress …”
-- Eight GOP senators either backed or said they'd consider supporting the effort, per Politico’s Elana Schor and Burgess Everett report. “Though several senators believe the bill needs tweaks, the change in tone among Republicans was unmistakable. ‘It’s something I would certainly consider,’ said Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). ‘Sure just wish we weren’t in this place in the first place.’ Asked whether she trusts that Trump wouldn’t fire Mueller at this point, she replied: ‘No. I don’t.’ Other Republicans who said Wednesday that they would consider legislation aimed at shielding Mueller’s job include Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).”
-- In a morning tweet, Trump pushed back against reports he tried to shut down Mueller’s probe in December:
If I wanted to fire Robert Mueller in December, as reported by the Failing New York Times, I would have fired him. Just more Fake News from a biased newspaper!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2018
-- The Justice Department gave House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes access to a redacted document outlining the origins of the Russia investigation. Matt Zapotosky and Karoun Demirjian report: “A Justice Department official said the department had provided Nunes (R-Calif.), ranking Democratic member Adam B. Schiff (Calif.) and all committee members access to the document, with redactions ‘narrowly tailored to protect the name of a foreign country and the name of a foreign agent.’ … The Justice Department’s providing Nunes access to it seemed to placate him at least for the moment, as he issued a statement afterward thanking [Rosenstein] for his cooperation.” Nunes had previously threatened to impeach top FBI or Justice Department officials if he did not get access to the information.
-- Trump personally ordered DOJ to hire former White House aide Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who was forced out of his job in August following reports he improperly showed classified documents to Nunes. Bloomberg News's Chris Strohm and Jennifer Jacobs report: “Trump had thought Cohen-Watnick began working at the Justice Department in the fall, but a confidant told the president during a recent phone call that he was not ... Trump was displeased, and told staff to make it clear he wanted Cohen-Watnick on the job as soon as possible. Cohen-Watnick was recently asked again to join the Justice Department and accepted ... His rehiring drew criticism from Democrats, who speculated Cohen-Watnick may attempt to interfere in [Mueller’s investigation].”
-- The NRA acknowledged in a letter to Congress it has accepted contributions from about 23 Russian-linked people since 2015. NPR’s Tim Mak reports: “The NRA said in a letter to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., [that] the sum it received from those people was just over $2,500 and most of that was ‘routine payments’ … About $525 of that figure was from ‘two individuals who made contributions to the NRA. Wyden has been querying the NRA about its Russia connections following press reports that suggest the FBI is investigating whether Russians might have tried to use the NRA or other political organizations [as part of their effort to interfere in the 2016 election]. One high-profile Russian NRA supporter, state bank official Alexander Torshin, has cultivated a years-long relationship with the organization — but he was placed under sanction by the United States with other Russians last week.”
-- Jill Stein’s presidential campaign recently handed over documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee in its Russia probe. (BuzzFeed News)
-- As Trump continues to launch broadsides at top DOJ officials, Jeff Sessions repeatedly praised him during a speech about immigration enforcement. Robert Moore and Matt Zapotosky report: “Sessions credited ‘just the force’ of Trump’s election with producing an immediate drop in illegal border crossings, while also suggesting that a more recent increase in such crossings could be because the U.S. has prospered economically under Trump. The [DHS] recently reported a 203 percent increase in illegal border crossings from March 2017 compared to March 2018, and a 37 percent increase from February 2018 to March 2018. ‘We believe the increase in illegal crossings could be due to the Trump economy,’ Sessions said. ‘Things are doing well, economically, and people could be coming for that reason.’ The speech comes at a precarious time for Sessions, as his job — and the jobs of top leaders in the department — have seemed increasingly imperiled[.]”
-- Trump's tweet yesterday that missiles “will be coming” to Syria upended the White House's deliberative process to respond to the alleged chemical attack. Ashley Parker, Seung Min Kim and Philip Rucker spoke to 21 Trump insiders: “White House advisers were surprised by the missive and found it ‘alarming’ and ‘distracting,’ in the words of one senior official. They quickly regrouped and, together with Pentagon brass, continued readying Syria options for Trump as if nothing had happened.
“But the Twitter disruption was emblematic of a president operating on a tornado of impulses — and with no clear strategy — as he faces some of the most consequential decisions of his presidency … [These] pivotal developments come as many of the guardrails that previously helped stabilize the president — from West Wing aides to clear policy processes — have been cast aside, with little evident organization or long-term strategy emanating from the White House. …‘A decision or statement is made by the president, and then the principals — [Jim] Mattis or [Mike] Pompeo or [John] Kelly — come in and tell him we can’t do it,’ said one senior administration official. ‘When that fails, we reverse-engineer a policy process to match whatever the president said.’”
-- Trump insists he never said when U.S. military action in Syria would take place:
Never said when an attack on Syria would take place. Could be very soon or not so soon at all! In any event, the United States, under my Administration, has done a great job of ridding the region of ISIS. Where is our “Thank you America?”— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2018
-- The U.S. and Russia continued to clash over who is responsible for the alleged attack. Anne Gearan, John Wagner and Anton Troianovski report: “By addressing his warning to Russia, Trump effectively acknowledged that Syria could become a proxy battleground. … Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia did not plan to respond to Trump’s online taunts. 'We do not participate in Twitter diplomacy,' Peskov said.”
-- Trump’s threat appeared to inflame tensions in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia said it shot down drones and intercepted missiles sent from pro-Iranian rebels in Yemen. (Bloomberg News)
-- British Prime Minister Theresa May has called an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the U.K. response to the suspected chemical attack. May’s ministers are expected to support her call to join Trump in a military response. (BBC)
-- The World Health Organization said 500 Syrian patients in Douma had shown symptoms consistent with toxic weapons exposure in the days after Saturday’s attack. Its report corroborates the conclusion of Trump and other Western allies, even as Assad's allies continue to claim the incident was “staged.” (Reuters)
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN AND WOMEN:
-- Deputy national security adviser Nadia Schadlow resigned, becoming the third senior national security official to leave the White House since Trump installed John Bolton. CNN’s Jeremy Diamond and Jenna McLaughlin report: “Schadlow was a principal author of the President's National Security Strategy document, which sought to outline the administration's foreign policy goals and view of the world. Sources close to the National Security Council have for weeks expected that Schadlow, who was a close adviser to [H.R. McMaster], would resign or be pushed out after [Trump announced Bolton’s hiring]. Her resignation is likely to evoke some concern in foreign policy circles in Washington, where Schadlow has been viewed as one of the rare, reliable steady hands guiding foreign policy …”
-- White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has been increasingly sidelined by Trump’s latest hires. CNN’s Kaitlan Collins and Kevin Liptak report: “National Economic Council chairman Larry Kudlow and [Bolton] entered their posts as favorites of Trump's from afar … Now that their advice and counsel is at his constant disposal, Trump has sought them out more than Kelly, who has been left out of key decisions and is no longer regularly consulted about policy decisions.” Kelly has also reduced the frequency of senior staff meetings in his office, preferring to meet with smaller groups of staffers throughout the day.
-- Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo heads to the Hill today for his confirmation hearings, where he intends to acknowledge widespread “morale issues” plaguing the department under Rex Tillerson John Hudson reports: “In excerpts of his prepared remarks, [Pompeo], who is expected to face a tough confirmation process … says he has met with a large number of State Department officials who ‘shared how demoralizing it is to have so many vacancies and, frankly, not to feel relevant' ... in his prepared testimony, Pompeo attempts to reveal a softer side of his foreign policy philosophy. ‘When journalists, most of whom have never met me, label me — or any of you — as 'hawks,' 'war hard-liners' or worse, I shake my head,’ he plans to say. ‘War is always the last resort. I would prefer achieving the president’s foreign policy goals with unrelenting diplomacy …’ Pompeo, who at times has downplayed the effects of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, also plans to take a tough line with Moscow.”
-- Last year, Pompeo failed to disclose a Chinese business connection before he was confirmed as CIA director. McClatchyDC’s Anita Kumar and Lesley Clark report: “[Pompeo] owned a Kansas business that imported oilfield equipment from a company owned by the Chinese government. The issue with the Chinese company … never came up during his confirmation hearings last year. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., a committee member … said it was troubling. ‘If there's an inconsistency in his questionnaire, that would be a matter of major interest,’ Cardin said. With Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., opposed and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., out battling cancer, Pompeo needs some Democrats to be confirmed. Already, Democrats who voted for Pompeo last year but are vulnerable in this year’s congressional elections are wary about committing to the former Kansas congressman this time.”
-- Mick Mulvaney defended his leadership of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before members of the House Financial Services Committee. Renae Merle reports: “The four-hour-long hearing … was marked by partisan bickering about the Trump administration’s takeover of the CFPB, including the revelation that Mulvaney had spent more than $3,000 to frost the glass around his and other offices. ... Several lawmakers noted that the bureau had not fined or sued a single company during the past five months of Mulvaney’s leadership. Under its previous leadership, the CFPB announced three or four cases a month.” “We have essentially taken the cop off the beat,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). “Are you telling me that every single financial institution in America has suddenly snapped into full compliance?”
-- EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt proposed redesigning the agency’s souvenir medallion, known as a “challenge coin,” to remove the EPA logo and add elements reflective of Pruitt himself. The New York Times’s Lisa Friedman and Kenneth P. Vogel report: “Among the possibilities: a buffalo, to evoke Mr. Pruitt’s native Oklahoma, and a Bible verse to reflect his faith. Other ideas included using the Great Seal of the United States — a design similar to the presidential seal — and putting Mr. Pruitt’s name around the rim in large letters, according to Ronald Slotkin, a career E.P.A. employee who retired this year … [S]taff members expressed worries that his proposals would cost too much, and that dropping the agency’s seal — a stylized flower — would be a breach of protocol.” “These coins represent the agency,” Slotkin said. “But Pruitt wanted his coin to be bigger than everyone else’s and he wanted it in a way that represented him.”
-- House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said the committee would look into Pruitt’s controversial condo rental. From Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin: “Gowdy noted that a memo last week from a top EPA lawyer ‘raises questions about whether ethics officials who reviewed the lease had access to all relevant information, and whether all applicable ethics rules were considered when those officials concluded the lease agreement with federal ethics regulations.’ As a result, Gowdy asked the EPA to provide a slew of documents related to Pruitt’s controversial rental, including documents and communications about how the lease agreement came to be and whether the EPA head’s use of the condo was in line with the terms of the lease.” Gowdy also requested more documents on Pruitt’s first-class travel expenses.
-- The Interior Department’s internal watchdog office cannot determine whether the reassignment of senior employees broke federal law because the agency’s top officials didn’t keep the correct records. Dino Grandoni reports: “The investigation began after Democratic lawmakers raised concerns about Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s move to reassign 27 members — about 12 percent — of his department’s workers in the Senior Executive Service between June and October. … In the new report, Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall of Interior found that the members of a board set up to make the transfer decisions in May did not follow the correct protocol for record-keeping. … Without documentation including ‘meeting minutes, notes, voting or decision records,’ investigators were not able to determine whether the board’s decisions complied with federal law to protect employees from sudden transfers.”
THE REST OF TRUMP’S AGENDA:
-- Trump signed a bill targeting online sex trafficking. The bill, also known as “FOSTA,” grants federal and state prosecutors greater authority to pursue websites that host sex-trafficking ads, and enables states and victims to file lawsuits against those sites. (Tom Jackman)
-- Trump is looking at a Depression-era program to aid farmers affected by rising trade tensions with China. From Damian Paletta: “Trump’s aides are looking at ways to use the Commodity Credit Corporation, a division of the Agriculture Department that was created in 1933 to offer a financial backstop for farmers. But while the White House is considering the idea as a way to protect farmers if China slaps tariffs on U.S. agricultural products, some GOP lawmakers have told the administration that the approach will not work. The program, the lawmakers say, will not be able to provide the needed relief to farmers, and using it will further inflame trade tensions with China.”
-- California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) agreed to a limited National Guard role at the southern border — as long as the forces don’t participate in wall construction. From Nick Miroff: “[I]n a letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Brown said those from California will support operations against drug traffickers, gun runners and smuggling gangs. ‘Combating these criminal threats are priorities for all Americans — Republicans and Democrats,’ Brown wrote. ‘But let’s be crystal clear on the scope of this mission,’ his letter continued. ‘This will not be a mission to build a new wall. It will not be a mission to round up women and children or detain people escaping violence and seeking a better life. And the California National Guard will not be enforcing federal immigration laws.’”
Trump commended Brown’s decision in a morning tweet:
California Governor Jerry Brown is doing the right thing and sending the National Guard to the Border. Thank you Jerry, good move for the safety of our Country!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 12, 2018
ZUCKERBERG ROUND TWO:
-- Mark Zuckerberg appeared before members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where lawmakers grilled him in a five-hour marathon hearing that was notably more tense than his Senate hearing the previous day. Tony Romm reports: “Throughout the hearing, Zuckerberg’s demeanor vacillated between calm and frustrated as lawmakers challenged the 33-year-old billionaire on a host of issues. Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) demanded that Zuckerberg improve the company’s hiring practices, pointing out that Facebook had no people of color in its highest executive ranks. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), meanwhile, pressed Zuckerberg on claims of bias against conservatives [on the platform] …. Rep. David B. McKinley (R-W.Va.) accused Zuckerberg and Facebook of ‘hurting people’ by failing to combat users who try to sell opioids on the site. …
-- Zuckerberg also confirmed that the company collects information on consumers who aren’t registered Facebook users, “acknowledging something that’s been reported but not publicly spelled out by the company,” Bloomberg News's Sarah Frier and Todd Shields report. “' ... His questioner, [Rep. Ben Luján (D-N.M.)], said the practice creates ‘shadow profiles.’ ‘You’ve said everyone controls their data, but you’re collecting data on people that are not even Facebook users who have never signed a consent, a privacy agreement,’ Lujan said. Zuckerberg said the practice was intended to help prevent malicious actors from collecting public information from Facebook users, such as names. ‘We need to know when somebody is trying to repeatedly access our services,’ he said. On Twitter, a former Facebook employee in the ads department [said] Zuckerberg’s description of the data’s use was incomplete. ‘It’s collected for growth reasons as well,’” he said.
-- The questioning underscored the bipartisan nature of concerns about the power of social media. Craig Timberg, Tony Romm and Elizabeth Dwoskin write: “The uncommonly bipartisan flavor of the hearings manifested itself in numerous threats by members of both parties to more forcefully regulate the technology industry — a development that Zuckerberg and some other tech leaders now seem to expect and accept, at least in concept. But many longtime advocates for reining in the industry remain unconvinced that federal action is imminent after more than a decade in which privacy controversies have failed to generate meaningful new laws. Few expect a reversal this year with a looming election, a Congress riven by partisan discord and a White House weakened by federal investigation.”
THE NORTH KOREA SUMMIT:
-- South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that the United States and North Korea have been involved in “detailed” negotiations over the logistics of a planned meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un. The New York Times’s Choe Sang-Hun reports: ”'No sitting American president has ever met with a North Korean leader … which has led to complicated logistical issues around the summit meeting — starting with where it will be held. … Mr. Kim’s private jets are said to lack the fuel capacity for a nonstop flight to Washington from Pyongyang. [And] the idea of a summit meeting in Pyongyang makes some American officials cringe … News reports in South Korea and the United States have mentioned Geneva and the Mongolian capital, Ulan Bator, as possible venues.”
-- The U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University — which is the only D.C. think tank devoted to Korean Peninsula issues — will close next month after Seoul withdrew funding. Anna Fifield reports: “Robert Gallucci, the chairman of the institute, said the move was a direct result of the managers’ refusal to follow instructions from the South Korean government to fire the institute’s director and assistant director. ‘It’s utterly inappropriate for a foreign government, and an ally by the way, to threaten an American academic institution this way,’ said Gallucci, a former U.S. nuclear negotiator.
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Republicans, including the president, applauded Paul Ryan's service:
Speaker Paul Ryan is a truly good man, and while he will not be seeking re-election, he will leave a legacy of achievement that nobody can question. We are with you Paul!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2018
Mitt Romney thanked his former running mate:
Love of country compelled Paul Ryan to accept the Speakership, a role he alone could fill at a critical time. He unified the House, passed scores of bills, and led with integrity, honor and dignity. The country will miss Speaker Ryan.— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) April 11, 2018
From a ProPublica reporter:
Really can’t overstate what a symbolic rebuke it is to all those who hailed Paul Ryan’s self-professed deficit hawkery for him to go out the day after CBO lays bare a rising tide of red ink as far as the eye can see.— Alec MacGillis (@AlecMacGillis) April 11, 2018
An abortion rights group applauded Ryan's move:
A Bloomberg News reporter tracked Paul Ryan's career:
A liberal New York Times columnist went on a rant against Ryan:
And meanwhile, as Speaker, his main achievement, if you can call it that, has been as enabler of corruption and contempt for rule of law. It's unclear whether the end game will be Democratic takeover of the House or autocracy, American style. But either way, what a legacy 4/— Paul Krugman (@paulkrugman) April 11, 2018
A Republican senator criticized Trump's tweets promising missile strikes on Syria and taunting Russia.
Promising war by tweet, insults not only the Constitution but every soldier who puts their life on the line.— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) April 11, 2018
A retired CIA officer who ran the agency’s Russia operations responded to Trump blaming Mueller for deteriorating relations with Russia:
Huh, I woulda thought it was caused by Russia's attacks and despicable anti-US activities around the world.— John Sipher (@john_sipher) April 11, 2018
A House Republican questioned the latest news on the Cohen raids:
A writer for the Atlantic provided this timeline:
A New York Times reporter analyzed Bannon's talk of ousting Mueller:
A Politico reporter replied:
Democratic senators began lining up against Pompeo's nomination as secretary of state:
I voted YES on Pompeo for CIA on the theory that he would be the “adult in the room.” I was wrong. I am voting NO on Pompeo for Secretary of State because our top diplomat should believe in diplomacy. He has an alarming tendency towards military provocation and brinkmanship.— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) April 11, 2018
The Secretary of State should be a person who can use diplomacy to build consensus. They need to be able to represent American values to the world. It’s abundantly clear that Mike Pompeo is not that person.— Senator Tina Smith (@SenTinaSmith) April 11, 2018
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called on Trump to fire his EPA administrator:
Scott Pruitt has abused our environment, removed protections for our children and families, engaged in activity that creates clear conflicts of interest, and spent taxpayer dollars on frivolous luxuries. It’s time for the President to tell Mr. Pruitt, "you’re fired".— Senator Dick Durbin (@SenatorDurbin) April 11, 2018
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) addressed the CBO's report on the ballooning deficit, per a reporter for the Hill:
Corker on price of tax cut according to CBO: “If it ends up costing what you said here, it could well be one of the worst votes I ever cast.”— Niv Elis (@NivElis) April 11, 2018
Meghan McCain responded to a Twitter critic after she defended Paul Ryan:
You know - men get to go on tv and be passionate, intense and emotional with their convictions and they are lauded. But women do it and we are "brats having temper tantrums". Would you have the same reaction if I were a man attacking Trump and parroting your political views? https://t.co/V1RVdAZp50— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) April 11, 2018
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) got a solicitation asking him to join the NRA:
The cherry blossoms are on their way out of D.C.:
Uh oh...— National Mall NPS (@NationalMallNPS) April 11, 2018
We've had picture perfect petal conditions for the last week, but those green leaves are starting to push through. A 20-degree warm-up tomorrow accompanied by windy conditions means those blossoms will start moving out of here! pic.twitter.com/Cvm5Ii4wPa
And a budding journalist visited The Post's office:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- ProPublica, “Trump’s Company Is Suing Towns Across the Country to Get Breaks on Taxes,” by Katherine Sullivan: “Since becoming president, Trump’s companies have filed at least nine new lawsuits against municipalities in Florida, New York and Illinois, arguing for lower tax bills … At stake is millions of dollars that communities use to fund roads, schools and police departments. Real estate owners dispute property taxes frequently, and some even sue. But experts are troubled [Trump is] doing so while in office.” “The idea that the president would have these interests and then those companies would sue localities is really a dangerous precedent,” says the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center’s Larry Noble.
-- The Resurgent, “A Congressman's Profanity Laced Tirade in a Safeway Grocery Store,” by Erick Erickson: “‘If we're going to lose because of him, we might as well impeach the mother---er,’ said the congressman as we roamed the aisles of a Safeway grocery store together. … The congressman did not want to be seen with me on Capitol Hill. … He is not happy with President Trump. He was never a die hard Trump supporter. He supported him in the general and never expected him to win. But he did. … He is happy to be quoted, so long as I don't name him. He says he just needs to vent. I suggest what we're doing is one of the reason's Trump won — a congressman says nice things in public and bad things in private.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“A district armed its teachers with baseball bats, urging them to fight back in a mass shooting,” from Amy B Wang: “In an effort to protect students in the event of a mass shooter, a school district in Pennsylvania has ‘symbolically’ armed its teachers — with baseball bats. The Millcreek Township School District in Erie, Pa., recently distributed 16-inch wooden sluggers to each of its 500 or so teachers as a way to emphasize fighting back as a possible response to an active shooter, according to superintendent William Hall. Hall said Millcreek officials have periodically discussed how to respond to school shootings for about five years but always with a focus on hiding … However, the [Parkland shooting] prompted the northwestern Pennsylvania district to revisit its policies … to emphasize fighting back as an option.” “… Unfortunately, it might come down to a situation where it’s one on one,” Hall said.
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“Broward County — site of Parkland school shooting — votes to refuse money to arm school personnel,” from Valerie Strauss: “The school board in Florida’s Broward County — where 17 people died when a gunman opened fire Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — voted unanimously against accepting state money so that school personnel can be trained to carry guns on campus. The Florida legislature approved a package of gun-control measures, including restrictions on some gun sales and $67 million for the ‘Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program’ to fund districts that want to arm school staff members. … Leaders of most of the state’s largest school districts, including Miami-Dade County and Broward, said they were not interested in participating in the program. The Broward County School Board made it official Tuesday night by voting against participating."
Trump has a morning meeting with governors and members of Congress and will later deliver a Rose Garden speech on tax cuts. Sean Sullivan also reports the president will head to Texas next month to fundraise for Senate Republicans as the GOP appears to shift focus to preserving control of Congress’s upper chamber.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I have not burned the place down.” — Mick Mulvaney, defending his leadership of the CFPB
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Washingtonians will see afternoon sun and temperature highs in the 70s today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “The morning is likely to start off with fairly cloudy skies, but don’t despair, as it signals the surge of warm air into the area that has struggled so this spring. Clouds break up with no cold-air ‘wedge’ to stand in the way, and highs surge into the mid-70s.”
-- The Wizards lost to the Magic 101-92, claiming the No. 8 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference. They will play the top-seeded Raptors in the first round, starting either Saturday or Sunday. (Candace Buckner)
-- The Nationals lost to the Braves 5-3 in 12 innings. (Chelsea Janes)
-- Uber will begin offering bike-share through its app, with the District as a testing ground. Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi appeared at a D.C. panel discussion with Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) to announce new initiatives, including a car-rental service offered through the app debuting in San Francisco. (Faiz Siddiqui)
-- State Sen. Jennifer Wexton, a leading candidate in the Democratic primary to unseat Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.), is being criticized for her voting record on gun control. From Jenna Portnoy: “During a public forum Tuesday in Haymarket, [Dan] Helmer highlighted Wexton’s support for a 2016 legislative deal that expanded the rights of concealed-carry handgun permit owners in Virginia and around the country, over the objections of gun-control advocates. The bill was part of a compromise brokered by former governor Terry McAuliffe (D), GOP lawmakers and the National Rifle Association that also forced domestic abusers to relinquish their firearms and allowed voluntary background checks at gun shows.
-- Virginia’s General Assembly kicked off a special session to adopt a state budget and resolve a standoff over Medicaid expansion. Laura Vozzella and Gregory S. Schneider report: “Republicans, who control both chambers of the legislature, are split over whether to expand Medicaid to as many as 400,000 low-income Virginians; the House supports expansion while the Senate has opposed it. Those differences prevented the approval of a two-year budget during the regular session that ended March 10.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Late-night hosts made jokes about Paul Ryan's retirement:
ABC News previewed George Stephanopoulos's interview with former FBI director Jim Comey:
A nominee to be a federal judge (the wife of former Republican senator David Vitter) sparked outrage by refusing to say Brown vs. Board of Education was properly decided:
South Africa held a memorial for Winnie Mandela:
And NASA created an animation depicting the cyclones on Jupiter's north pole: