With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.

THE BIG IDEA: 

Many Democratic talking heads make weak arguments on television that fail to move voters. To address this, several groups and top pollsters on the left are teaming up to launch a new project that will conduct surveys and convene focus groups to produce monthly guidance with the most politically potent lines of attack against President Trump and congressional Republicans.

This new initiative, which has not been previously reported, will be called Navigator Research. The debut report, shared first with The Daily 202, offers original polling and talking points related to the economy, political corruption and disruption.

It flows from fears among progressive thought leaders that their side focuses too much on the ups and downs of public polls related to the generic ballot and Trump’s approval rating, rather than messaging and framing.

“There is a dearth of direction as it relates to how to talk about things,” said Jefrey Pollock, the president of Global Strategy Group. “When the news cycle is the length of the tweet, that challenge is more acute than ever. … For years, Republican politicians have been better at paying attention to language cues. We're trying to do a progressive version of that.”

Pollock is one of the three lead pollsters on the project, along with his business partner Nick Gourevitch and Margie Omero from GBA Strategies. Alumni of the Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders campaigns are also involved.

-- The advisory council overseeing the research includes representatives from several of the left’s most powerful groups, including AFL-CIO political director Mike Podhorzer, the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Navin Nayak, Emily’s List’s Christina Reynolds, the Latino Victory Project’s Stephanie Valencia and the Roosevelt Institute’s Felicia Wong. Also on the board are Arkadi Gerney from The Hub Project, Delvone Michael from Working Families and Ron Klain, who was chief of staff to the last two Democratic vice presidents but is best known for his roles as Barack Obama’s Ebola czar and Al Gore’s lawyer during the Florida recount.

The project staff includes polling director Bryan Bennett, communications director Andrea Purse and general consultant Jesse Ferguson, who previously directed the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s independent expenditure arm.

-- Each report will focus on two or three themes in the news, with messages that might be helpful to candidates, committees and pundits.

The first opens with the economy. One of the biggest challenges for Democrats this year is that unemployment is low and growth is good. But the Navigator’s survey finds many registered voters still anxious about their financial future. “So if you're going to talk about economic themes, talk about the concerns of tomorrow,” said Pollock. “Don't talk about today.”

The report identifies “corruption” as a narrative that’s ripe for Democrats to pursue as the midterms approach. This theme helped hugely in 2006, the last time they won the House. “The voters think everybody in Washington is corrupt,” Pollock said. “Americans don't trust either party. … I'm not going to bury my head in the sand … They believe that all the parties are there to sort of serve the special interests.”

But, but, but: One key difference the research found is voters are more receptive to the argument that Republicans are likelier to use government to personally enrich themselves and their wealthy donors. “They actually don't think the tax plan was done for policy reasons,” Pollock said. “They don't even think it was done for ideological reasons. They think it was done for purely dirty campaign reasons.”

As part of this month’s poll, respondents were read 11 statements about things Trump has said or done and asked whether it was “completely unacceptable,” “concerning but no worse than what other politicians do,” it “makes me like him more” or they don’t know.

The most unpopular of the 11 was his criticism of “shithole” countries, followed by his response to Charlottesville. Using Twitter the way Trump does, not reading his daily intelligence briefings and making false statements also bothered more people than the president’s firing of James Comey, publicly criticizing the U.S. intelligence committee or referring to journalists as “the enemy of the people.” The thing that bothered people least was Trump keeping ownership of his businesses while president.

The pollsters argue that calling Trump lazy and focusing on how much he golfs does not move the needle. Just 3 percent said “laziness” speaks to their concerns about Trump. Instead, the report urges people to describe him with words like reckless, incompetent and childish.

It also suggests Democrats should accuse Trump of “breaking the rules” when talking about his departure from the historic norms of governing. The president has benefited from the electorate’s desire for an outsider, and many people still find it refreshing that he’s not politically correct. “I hear it in focus groups all the time,” Pollock said. “People will say, ‘Look, I may think Donald Trump’s a jerk, I may think he's obnoxious, I may think he's even insane, but he is trying to shake things up.’ … There's no question that the voters think he is shaking things up.”

-- Read the nine-page memo here.

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- “Barbara Bush, who was the wife of one president and the mother of another and whose embrace of her image as America’s warmhearted grandmother belied her influence and mettle, died April 17. She was 92,” Lois Romano writes in her obituary. “The office of her husband, former president George H.W. Bush, issued a statement Tuesday evening announcing her death ... Mrs. Bush was reportedly battling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure.”

“Barbara Bush was a fabulous First Lady and a woman unlike any other who brought levity, love, and literacy to millions,” her eldest son said in a statement. “To us, she was so much more. Mom kept us on our toes and kept us laughing until the end.”

-- “She knew who she was, and she saw no need to apologize for it,” presidential historian Jon Meacham writes for the New York Times. “Barbara Bush was the first lady of the Greatest Generation — a woman who came of age at midcentury, endured a world war, built a life in Texas, raised her family, lost a daughter to leukemia, and promoted first her husband’s rise in politics, and then that of her sons. As the wife of one president and the mother of another, she holds a distinction that belongs to only one other American in the history of the Republic, Abigail Adams.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. The IRS said it will let taxpayers submit their returns without being penalized through midnight tonight after a widespread breakdown of its electronic filing system through much of yesterday. (Jeff Stein, Damian Paletta and Mike DeBonis)
  2. One person died and seven people were injured after the engine of a Southwest Airlines flight blew apart, spraying shrapnel into the airplane and forcing the pilot to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia. Federal officials said it was the first passenger fatality for the airline and the first on a U.S. carrier since 2009. (Faiz Siddiqui, Martine Powers and Ashley Halsey III)
  3. The Supreme Court struck down a provision of federal law that requires deportation of noncitizens who commit felonies. Justice Neil Gorsuch cast the decisive vote, agreeing with the court’s liberal members that the statute was unconstitutionally vague. (Robert Barnes)
  4. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that dozens of people have been arrested in the takedown of a multistate opioid distribution network, which trafficked heroin and fentanyl in West Virginia and Michigan. In total, Sessions said law enforcement officials seized enough fentanyl to kill more than 250,000 people. (Sari Horwitz and Katie Zezima)
  5. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) abruptly resigned earlier this month because the House Ethics Committee was about to rule against him in a sexual harassment investigation. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said the committee was also going to announce it had concluded Farenthold used official money for campaign purposes and lied in committee testimony. (HuffPost)
  6. Starbucks plans to close more than 8,000 stores for an afternoon next month to train employees on recognizing racial biases. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson also apologized in person to the men arrested in a Philadelphia store. (Tracy Jan and Rachel Siegel)
  7. The Sacramento Police Department released dozens of videos related to last month’s shooting of Stephon Clark, the unarmed black man who was fatally shot in his grandmother’s backyard. The new material shows officers muting their body cameras at least 16 times, raising additional questions about police actions in the final moments of Clark’s life. (Alex Horton)
  8. A body recently found near the Northern California cliff where a family’s SUV plunged into the ocean was identified as 12-year-old Ciera Hart. Ciera was the youngest member of the family, and two of her siblings — Devonte, 15, and Hannah, 16 — remain missing and are feared dead. (Marwa Eltagouri)
  9. The spike in organ donations in the United States is linked to a similar rise in drug overdose deaths. Overdose victims made up 13.4 percent of all donors in 2017, researchers found, compared to just 1.1 percent in 2000. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
  10. NPR host Carl Kasell died at 84. He first became known as a newsreader on NPR’s “Morning Edition” and later as the scorekeeper on the popular news quiz show “Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!.” (Adam Bernstein)

A DIPLOMATIC BREAKTHROUGH?

-- CIA Director Mike Pompeo made a top-secret trip to North Korea to meet with Kim Jong Un over Easter weekend, shortly after Trump tapped him to be secretary of state. Shane Harris, Carol D. Leonnig, Greg Jaffe and David Nakamura report: “The extraordinary meeting … was part of an effort to lay the groundwork for direct talks between Trump and Kim about North Korea’s nuclear weapons program … The clandestine mission, which has not previously been reported, came soon after Pompeo was nominated to be secretary of state. … Pompeo has taken the lead on the administration’s negotiations with Pyongyang. His meeting with Kim marks the highest-level contact between the two countries since 2000, when then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with Kim Jong Il, the current leader’s late father, to discuss strategic issues.” 

The news comes after Trump told reporters at Mar-a-Lago that the United States and North Korea had spoken at “very high levels”: “Trump said that he would sit down with Kim probably in early June, if not sooner. ... Trump also said he has given his ‘blessing’ to planned discussions between South Korea and North Korea about bringing a formal end to the Korean War, as fast-moving diplomatic developments surrounding nuclear-armed North Korea came into view.”

Trump confirmed the meeting in a morning tweet:

-- A new Washington Post-ABC poll shows a majority of Americans support Trump’s planned summit with Kim but have low expectations for its results. Emily Guskin reports: “Over half, 56 percent, say Trump should hold a summit meeting with Kim to try to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. A smaller 36 percent say the meeting should not be held because it would give Kim legitimacy while his government allegedly violates international law. Three in 10 Americans think it is likely the meeting will lead to an agreement for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, but two-thirds of the public say that is unlikely, including 42 percent calling it ‘very unlikely,’ according to the Post-ABC poll.”

-- Meanwhile, there's trouble for Pompeo on the Hill, where the Senate Foreign Relations Committee may not approve his nomination as secretary of state (it can go to the floor anyway). Karoun Demirjian reports that Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Tim Kaine (D-Va.) backed Pompeo's bid to become CIA director but won't do the same now. “Their decisions are not likely to kill Pompeo’s ultimate chances of being confirmed, as the committee can still send Pompeo’s nomination to the Senate floor for a vote with an unfavorable recommendation if only a minority of panel members support his bid. But they increase the potential that he would be the first secretary of state in almost a century to fail to gain a favorable committee recommendation before advancing to the floor.”

PALACE INTRIGUE:

-- U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley pushed back on claims from other administration officials that she bungled the administration’s stance on tougher Russia sanctions out of “confusion.” “With all due respect, I don’t get confused,” she said. Anne Gearan reports: “[Fox News host Dana Perino] read the quote on the air Tuesday as she discussed the fallout from Haley’s remarks … Haley’s office confirmed the quote but did not elaborate. Haley has been otherwise silent about the unusual dust-up over her remarks.” White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow set off the back-and-forth when he told reporters Haley got ahead of the curve: “There might have been some momentary confusion about that.” The AP reports that Kudlow later called Haley to apologize.

-- The “crossed circuits” may be the result of a White House without a secretary of state, a new national security adviser and “an increasingly marginalized White House chief of staff,” write the New York Times’s Peter Baker, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman. “Beyond the immediate disconnect, though, is a deeper strain between Mr. Trump and Ms. Haley … Ms. Haley has been perhaps the most hawkish voice on Russia on a team headed by a president who has emphasized his fervent desire for friendship with President Vladimir V. Putin. At times, that serves the president’s interests because she can say what he will not. But at other times, he has grown exasperated by her outspokenness. At one point recently, [the president] saw Ms. Haley on television sharply criticizing Russia over its intervention in Ukraine. ‘Who wrote that for her?’ Mr. Trump yelled angrily at the screen … ”

-- Trump overruled Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s suggestion of soliciting congressional approval for last week’s strikes on Syria. The New York Times’s Helene Cooper reports: “Mr. Trump, [administration and military] officials said, wanted to be seen as backing up a series of bellicose tweets with action, but was warned that an overly aggressive response risked igniting a wider war with Russia. Friday night’s limited strikes on three targets, which lasted under two minutes, were the compromise. … In several White House meetings last week, [Mattis] underscored the importance of linking military operations to public support — a view Mr. Mattis has long held.”

PERSONNEL IS POLICY:

-- Trump’s pick to lead VA, Ronny L. Jackson, has promised Senate Democrats he would oppose efforts to privatize veterans’ health care. Seung Min Kim and Emily Wax-Thibodeaux report: “But Democrats are far from being won over by the veteran White House physician, who began his gantlet of courtesy meetings on Capitol Hill this week ahead of his April 25 confirmation hearing. They remain unpersuaded that Jackson, a one-star Navy admiral, can successfully fend off a conservative push to outsource more veterans’ care away from VA and are seeking a more firm commitment publicly that he would block such efforts.”

-- EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt upgraded his official car last year to a larger, customized SUV, complete with bullet-resistant covers over bucket seats. Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report: “Recent EPA administrators have traveled in a Chevrolet Tahoe, and agency officials had arranged for Pruitt to use the same vehicle when he joined the administration in February. But he switched to a larger, newer and more high-end Chevy Suburban last June. One former EPA official ... said that Pruitt remarked that he wanted the larger car because it was similar to ones in which some other Cabinet officials rode. The first year’s lease of the vehicle cost $10,200, according to federal contracting records.”

-- Pruitt stayed at a luxury Colorado hotel on the dime of a home builders group affected by a regulation the EPA was unwinding. Politico’s Lorraine Woellert reports: “During his visit to Colorado Springs, Pruitt gave a speech to the builders and invited them to EPA headquarters in Washington, where he later told his staff to regard them as the agency’s ‘customers,’ the head of the group [said]. The $409.12 hotel stay may have met federal legal requirements if EPA’s ethics officers had approved it ahead of time. But it’s likely to add to the storm of ethics controversies surrounding Pruitt … ”

-- Turnover in the West Wing continues to be off the charts: Trump’s top energy adviser, Mike Catanzaro, is leaving the White House for the private sector. E&E News’s Robin Bravender reports: “Working largely behind the scenes, he's been pivotal in crafting Trump's energy policies and in rolling back Obama administration environmental rules. Among the high-profile issues he's worked on, Catanzaro has been central to efforts to repeal the Clean Power Plan and President Obama's signature clean water rule. He was also a key player in the administration's recent decision to relax climate rules for cars.” It is unknown who will replace him.

-- Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has identified himself as a geologist to bolster his credibility, but he has never worked as a geologist. CNN’s Sara Ganim reports: “Since becoming leader of the 70,000-employee agency, Zinke has suggested that he was a geologist or former geologist at least 40 times in public settings, including many under oath before Congress. … Zinke, however, has never held a job as a geologist. In his autobiography, Zinke wrote that he majored in geology at the University of Oregon, which he attended on a football scholarship, and chose his major at random. … [O]nce Zinke retired as a [Navy] SEAL he went into business and politics, never mentioning work in the field of geology.”

-- U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer spent nearly $1 million to furnish the two trade offices near the White House. From the New York Post’s Marisa Schultz: “That’s a significant increase compared to the last two trade reps. Ron Kirk, [Obama’s] first trade ambassador, spent $237,000 on office furniture during the first 15 months of his term. His successor, Ambassador Michael Froman, spent $151,000 during a comparable time span, records show. When asked about the spending spree, Lighthizer’s office pointed the finger at the Obama administration. ‘The furniture purchases are the culmination of a longtime, planned project that began under the Obama Administration to replace two-decade-old furniture,’ Lighthizer’s office said in a statement. … But Obama-era reps say they didn’t sign off on any major remodeling plans.”

THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- The FBI’s raid on Michael Cohen’s office and home last week “deeply rattled” Trump — souring him on the prospect of a sit-down interview with Robert Mueller. Carol D. Leonnig, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey scoop: “Trump was infuriated by the seizure of possibly sensitive correspondence involving work that Cohen — his close friend, consigliere and personal ‘fixer’ — was doing on his behalf and believed Mueller’s team was operating in bad faith[.] Trump was so upset, in fact, that he had trouble concentrating on plans that were laid out for him that day by his national security team about potential options for targeted missile strikes on Syria … In recent days, Trump has grown increasingly agitated, railing against members of his beleaguered team[.]”

The raid also renewed Trump’s efforts to recruit new legal talent to represent him in the investigation, and his team could grow in size by the end of the week: “The president has also been personally involved in the hunt for new members of the legal team, making phone calls to potential additions … Trump’s team has reached out to Robert C. Bonner, a former federal judge and former member of [Bush 43’s] administration ... Unlike other lawyers the Trump team has approached, Bonner retired from his role as a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in 2008 and thus does not have to worry about potential objections from law partners[.]”

-- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced that he will refuse to allow a floor vote on bipartisan legislation to protect Mueller. “I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That is my responsibility as the majority leader. And we’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” he said on Fox News last night. “McConnell’s statement comes barely a week after Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said the panel would take up and vote on the measure during a business meeting April 26,” Karoun Demirjian and Sean Sullivan report. "[In] the Fox interview, [McConnell] questioned why Congress would expend effort on trying to get a bill passed that the president was unlikely to sign.” “There’s no indication that Mueller’s going to be fired … and just as a practical matter, even if we passed it, why would he sign it?” he said, calling the legislation “not necessary.”

-- GOP candidates in competitive Senate primaries have begun calling for an end to Mueller’s investigation, echoing Trump’s complaints as they scramble to outdo each other in promising fealty to the president. Michael Scherer and Sean Sullivan report: "'This has gone too far. Something has to be done,’ said former Maricopa County sheriff [and Arizona Senate contender] Joe Arpaio. ‘Whatever action he takes, I’ll back him up, whether he fires these guys or not.’ Troy Downing, a GOP candidate in Montana, took to Twitter on Monday to express his displeasure[:] “#Mueller investigation going on too long, no collusion, needs to end!’ the tweet read. All three Republican senate candidates in Indiana said Sunday at a debate [that] the Mueller inquiry should end ... ‘Hoosiers want us to get past this Russian issue,’ Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.) said. ‘It’s outrageous. It needs to end.’”

-- Despite James Comey’s criticism of Trump, Democrats are not ready to forgive the former FBI director for his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email server. Dave Weigel writes: “Even in his criticism of Trump, Comey’s Democratic detractors said they see the same flaws they believe led him to mishandle the Clinton investigation: an inflated sense of righteousness and an outsized concern about how he will be perceived. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said Comey was ‘an honorable man, but his job was to do everything by the book, and not to manage reputations — either his own, or that of the agency. He seems a little bit too concerned about his own.’”

TRUMP'S “UNOFFICIAL CHIEF OF STAFF”:

-- Robert Costa, Sarah Ellison and Josh Dawsey have a deep dive on Sean Hannity’s rising role in Trump’s orbit: “The revelation this week that the two men share an attorney is just the latest sign of how Hannity is intertwined with Trump’s world — an increasingly powerful confidant who offers the media-driven president a sympathetic ear and shared grievances. Trump and Hannity usually speak several times a week, according to people familiar with their relationship. The Fox News host … is one of the few people who gets patched immediately to Trump. The two men review news stories and aspects of Hannity’s show, and occasionally debate specifics about whatever the president is considering typing out on Twitter. There have also been times when Trump has assessed the merits of various White House aides with Hannity. ... The conservative commentator is so close to Trump that some White House aides have dubbed him the unofficial chief of staff. … The frequency of Hannity’s contact with Trump means that ‘he basically has a desk in the place,’ one presidential adviser said.”

-- Hannity has previously retained the services of at least two other lawyers with ties to Trump. The Atlantic’s Rosie Gray reports: “On May 25, 2017, KFAQ, a radio station based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, received a cease-and-desist letter signed by two lawyers for Hannity: Victoria Toensing and Jay Alan Sekulow. Toensing’s signature sits above her name and that of her husband Joseph E. diGenova, the members of diGenova and Toensing LLP, who are identified as ‘Counsel for Sean Hannity’ … Sekulow is also identified in the letter page as a ‘Counsel for Sean Hannity.’ Sekulow is Trump's personal attorney in the Mueller inquiry while he announced he would hire diGenova to join him before recently changing his mind.

More potential conflicts of interest: “Sekulow, diGenova, and Toensing have frequently appeared on Hannity’s program; diGenova appeared on the show as recently as Monday night.”

-- Behind the scenes, Hannity’s connection to Michael Cohen sparked a crisis at Fox News. Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman reports: “Hannity, according to sources, had not informed senior Fox News executives about his undisclosed relationship with Cohen, so the network was basically flying blind. Adding to the chaos, Hannity was in the middle of hosting his afternoon radio show, and weighed in live on air without clearing his response with Fox’s notoriously controlling public-relations department. His opaque, have-it-both-ways explanation — that he wasn’t really a Cohen client, and that he merely consulted him informally about ‘real estate,’ while still maintaining that attorney client privilege applied — did little to stop Fox journalists from speculating about just what, exactly, Cohen did for Hannity. …

On Tuesday, Fox executives pressed Hannity to provide more information about his Cohen connection. Hannity told them what he’d already said publicly. The network issued a statement saying it was ‘surprised’ by the news, but Hannity ‘continues to have our full support.’”

THE MIDTERMS:

-- The GOP’s internal war is intensifying ahead of key Senate primaries, with insurgent candidates in West Virginia and Mississippi taking new aim at McConnell. Sean Sullivan reports: “In West Virginia, the polarizing former coal-executive candidate Don Blankenship issued a written statement [likening McConnell’s strategies to Russia’s 2016 election interference] … The statement came after a group called Mountain Families PAC launched an ad campaign opposing Blankenship. While Mountain Families PAC’s donors are not yet known, the organization has paid a trio of political firms with ties to McConnell allies … In Mississippi, insurgent conservative Chris McDaniel is challenging recently appointed Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith. On Twitter this week, McDaniel singled out McConnell, labeling Hyde-Smith his ‘handpicked’ candidate. McConnell allies have said they do not believe attacks against him will resonate with Republican primary voters.”

-- Missouri Attorney General and Senate candidate Josh Hawley announced his office had found evidence of a probable felony committed by embattled Gov. Eric Greitens (R). Kurt Shillinger reports: “Hawley said Tuesday that he found evidence that Greitens, during his run for governor, had ‘obtained, transmitted and used’ the donor list of his charity for the purpose of political fundraising without the organization’s knowledge. ‘I do think this evidence would likely support the finding of probable cause that a crime was committed again,’ Hawley said Tuesday in a news conference, adding that a crime would be grounds for impeachment as well.”

-- Paul Ryan is snuffing out efforts to accelerate his departure from the House. Mike DeBonis reports: “Inside a closed-door meeting of lawmakers [Tuesday morning] at the Capitol Hill Club, Ryan told his fellow Republicans that he had spoken to virtually all of the top GOP donors with whom he has developed relationships over his two-and-a-half years as speaker and had gotten assurances that they would continue to give through the 2018 cycle. That … was widely interpreted as a direct rebuttal to fears that Ryan’s fundraising would drop off a cliff as he remains a lame duck — which emerged last week as a prime argument for a quicker departure. Ryan said … that no fundraisers have been canceled and that he fully intended to maintain, if not exceed, his current fundraising pace in the coming months.”

-- Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who had already announced his retirement, said he will resign and leave Congress within weeks — potentially setting up a costly special election. Mike DeBonis and David Weigel report: “Pennsylvania election law requires the governor to issue a writ of election within 10 days of a vacancy, with an election to follow ‘not less than sixty days’ later. Although the election could be held during ‘the next ensuing primary or municipal election,’ Pennsylvania’s primary will be held May 15 — before any special election could be called.” Dent's swing seat is a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats.

-- Mike DeWine, a GOP candidate in Ohio’s gubernatorial race, attacked his primary opponent, Mary Taylor, over her decision not to endorse Trump in 2016. The ad continues a theme of Republicans in tough primary races emphasizing loyalty to Trump as a key selling point, which I wrote about last month.

THE REST OF THE AGENDA:

-- The Trump administration is expected to announce tomorrow a new “Buy American” initiative aimed at expanding weapons sales from the U.S. defense industry. Reuters’s Matt Spetalnick and Mike Stone report: “[The initiative] will loosen U.S. export rules on equipment ranging from fighter jets and drones to warships and artillery, [officials] said. … [It] will provide guidelines that could allow more countries to be granted faster deal approvals, possibly trimming back to months what has often taken years to finalize. The strategy will call for members of Trump’s cabinet to sometimes act as ‘closers’ to help seal major arms deals … More top government officials will also be sent to promote U.S. weapons at international air shows and arms bazaars.”

-- A reversal of the reversal? Trump appeared to back away from his recent reconsideration of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. “While Japan and South Korea would like us to go back into TPP, I don’t like the deal for the United States,” Trump wrote in a tweet last night. “Too many contingencies and no way to get out if it doesn’t work. Bilateral deals are far more efficient, profitable and better for OUR workers. Look how bad [the World Trade Organization] is to U.S.” From the New York Times’s Alan Rappeport: “The comments confounded some trade experts on Tuesday night because South Korea is not in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

-- McConnell voiced strong opposition to the White House's call for cutting billions of dollars from the massive spending bill passed last month. From Erica Werner: “McConnell said last week that he thought a possible rescission package was worth discussing, but in a Fox News Channel interview Tuesday he came out strongly against it. Aides have said the White House is looking to pare back $30 billion to $60 billion in spending from the ‘omnibus’ bill. ‘Well, he agreed to it, you know. He was involved in the negotiation and signed the bill,’ McConnell said of Trump. ‘You can’t make an agreement one month and say, ‘Okay, we really didn’t mean it.'”

-- California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) said his state and the Pentagon have reached an agreement in principle on sending California Guard troops to the southern border. From Nick Miroff: “[T]hough Brown has offered to deploy 400 guardsmen from the California Guard, the terms of their mission have been in dispute. Brown on Tuesday played down the differences, saying that the state’s troops were ready to go. ‘I think we’ve already come to terms, but we haven’t gotten written confirmation,’ Brown told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington.”

Trump tweeted again about California’s contribution of guardsmen this morning:

-- The Koch-backed LIBRE Initiative and Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce are launching a seven-figure national ad campaign calling for a permanent solution for “dreamers.” The president of the LIBRE Initiative said in a statement, “ ... The Dreamers are among our best and brightest. … Washington must come together and approve a bipartisan solution that provides certainty for Dreamers and security improvements along our border.” (I wrote earlier this month about the Koch network’s frustration with GOP inaction on Capitol Hill.)

-- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) hired the anti-establishment leader of a conservative think tank as his chief of staff. From the New York Times’s Jeremy W. Peters: “As chief executive of the influential conservative think tank Heritage Action for America, Michael Needham waged years of unforgiving political warfare against the Republican Party establishment, deepening the divide between party leaders and grass-roots activists that helped elevate [Trump] to the presidency. Now Mr. Needham is leaving his job there to become chief of staff for one of the Republican establishment’s favorite sons … The move is certain to raise questions about whether Mr. Rubio, whose hopes of becoming president in 2016 were dashed by Mr. Trump, may be positioning himself for another run. And it underscores how unsettled the conservative movement remains nearly two years after Mr. Trump won the Republican presidential nomination and became the party’s improbable leader.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Condolence messages flooded in after news broke of Barbara Bush's passing. From two of her children:

My dear mother has passed on at age 92. Laura, Barbara, Jenna, and I are sad, but our souls are settled because we know...

Posted by George W. Bush on  Tuesday, April 17, 2018

STATEMENT BY GOVERNOR JEB BUSH ON THE PASSINGOF MRS. BARBARA BUSH“Columba and I join every member of the Bush family...

Posted by Jeb Bush on  Tuesday, April 17, 2018

From one of her grandchildren:

From the president and his predecessors:

The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library mourns the passing of former First Lady Barbara Bush, STATEMENT FROM FORMER U.S....

Posted by Jimmy Carter Presidential Library on  Tuesday, April 17, 2018

From a former Republican presidential nominee:

She spent her final hours with her husband:

From a HuffPost contributor:

From The Post's book critic:

Trump called for legislation to address yesterday's Supreme Court decision:

He also called for the release of a jailed pastor in Turkey:

To mark Tax Day, congressional Democrats messaged against the GOP tax bill:

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) went after GM and the tax bill:

Meanwhile, Republicans on Capitol Hill took a victory lap. From the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee:

From the House Ways and Means Committee chairman:

The International Monetary Fund singled out U.S. debt. From a Post reporter:

The former director of the Office of Government Ethics questioned Trump's motivation for walking away from Russia sanctions:

From a former senior adviser to Obama:

Stormy Daniels released a sketch of the man who threatened her:

Trump questioned the sketch’s legitimacy this morning:

The Boston Globe's deputy Washington bureau chief (and countless others) made this connection:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- The New York Times Magazine and ProPublica, “How Liberty University Built a Billion-Dollar Empire Online,” by Alex MacGillis: “Between 2009 and summer 2017, [Liberty University Online, or L.U.O.] students filed 49 complaints with the council, more than for any other institution in the state. Several complainants said they were particularly taken aback by their L.U.O. experiences because of Liberty’s religious underpinnings, [and the] anodyne responses the students received from L.U.O. were frequently glossed with Christian bromides. To a student whose financial aid was suspended in 2015 … an instructor sent ‘quiz tips that may help’ that included … ‘Pray before beginning each quiz!’ In 2015, [another student] failed a graduate-level education course when, she said, one of the assignments she submitted vanished from Blackboard …. [In response], he wrote: ‘I wonder if you can’t find a great prayer group through L.U.O.?’” After assuring him she had prayed “very hard,” the instructor simply replied: “Bless your heart. I am so sorry … I will join you in prayer for you to have wisdom and discernment.”

-- Elle, “Joy Reid Is Quietly, Steadily, Stealthily Changing the Game for Women on TV,” by Veronique Hyland: “Given the cacophony of cable news, where the loudest panelist often wins, Reid’s approach has few antecedents on the right or the left, but perhaps that’s why she has so many newly minted fans: In a sensationalist climate, she refuses to let facts wriggle out of her grasp.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Sandy Hook Parents Hit Alex Jones With Defamation Lawsuits,” from HuffPost: “Alex Jones has spent years claiming the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School … was faked. He has claimed the parents of these dead children are liars and ‘crisis actors.’ Now, those parents are coming after him. In a pair of lawsuits … the parents of two children who died in the [2012 shooting] say Jones’ repeated lies and conspiratorial ravings have led to death threats. Neil Heslin, the father of a 6-year-old boy killed in the shooting, and Leonard Pozner and Veronique De La Rosa, who lost their own little boy, filed the suits in Austin, Texas, where Jones’ conspiracy-minded media outlet is based. … It’s been five years since the shooting, [one] lawsuit says, and ‘Mr. Jones continues to push this sick lie' …”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Ingraham’s Viewership Increases 20 Percent Since David Hogg’s Boycott,” from the Washington Free Beacon: “Fox News host Laura Ingraham's viewership has gone up by 20 percent since gun control activist David Hogg initiated a boycott of her advertisers late last month. Hogg went after ‘Ingraham Angle’ advertisers on March 29, and that week Ingraham's ratings had averaged about 2.23 million, but last week she returned from vacation and her ratings climbed to around 2.7 million … Hogg, [who] survived February's [Parkland, Fla., shooting], targeted Ingraham's advertisers last month after she tweeted an article about him being turned down from [several universities]. While Ingraham apologized on Twitter a day after the initial tweet, Hogg did not accept the apology ... "

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will have a working lunch and joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He and the first lady will later have a social dinner with Abe and his wife.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“Many of the world’s great leaders request to come to Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach. They like it; I like it; we’re comfortable … ” — Trump with Abe at Mar-a-Lago.

 

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

-- The District will see slightly milder weather today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: It will be “mostly sunny through early afternoon, with some increasing clouds possible mid- to late afternoon. Temperatures climb out of the 30s this morning and max out in the low to mid-60s this afternoon, with light winds from the west-southwest.”

-- The Wizards now trail 2-0 in the Eastern Conference first-round playoff series after falling to the Raptors 130-119 in Game 2. (Candace Buckner and Ava Wallace)

-- The Capitals defeated the Blue Jackets 3-2 in double overtime. Columbus leads the series 2-1. (Isabelle Khurshudyan, Roman Stubbs, Mike Hume and Neil Greenberg)

-- The Nationals won against the Mets 5-2. (Chelsea Janes)

-- D.C.’s inspector general found local school officials often failed to collect tuition in residency-fraud cases. Peter Jamison reports: “In two-thirds of the 67 residency-fraud investigations [the inspector general] examined, the superintendent’s office settled its cases for ‘much less than the full tuition due’ and was unable to provide auditors with records of its investigations. And 51 of 79 nonresident students were allowed to continue attending D.C. schools free because the agency did not alert school administrators that their parents or guardians defaulted on tuition payments.”

-- The Virginia House of Delegates once again approved a state budget expanding Medicaid, setting up a showdown with the Republican-controlled Senate. From Gregory S. Schneider and Laura Vozzella: “The new budget tightens a requirement that able-bodied Medicaid recipients seek jobs or job training, kicking them out of the program if they fail to do so for three consecutive months. It also sets aside some funds to help recipients comply with that requirement, and creates high-risk insurance pools to help bring down the cost of private insurance. Those changes were aimed at making the deal more palatable to Senate Republicans … ”

-- A woman had her first appearance in federal court after driving to the entrance of CIA headquarters with a loaded gun. Authorities say Beth Huth pulled up to the McLean compound Friday with the firearm, a passport and $100,000 in cash. (Rachel Weiner)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

James Comey continued his book tour on Stephen Colbert's show:

Trevor Noah picked apart Sean Hannity's explanation of his business relationship with Michael Cohen:

Chuck Schumer quickly walked back a biting remark about the Wall Street Journal:

The Post annotated Stormy Daniels's appearance on “The View”:

And Barbara Bush's passing caused this clip to recirculate: