With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.
THE BIG IDEA:
Paying tribute to the late Barbara Bush on Wednesday, Donald Trump noted she was married to George H.W. Bush for 73 years. “I’ll never beat that record,” said the president, who has been married three times and faces allegations that he cheated on his third wife with a Playboy centerfold shortly after the birth of their son.
That’s not the only difference between them.
-- Thirty years ago, in 1988, Mrs. Bush persuaded her husband to visit an AIDS clinic during his presidential campaign and acknowledge the epidemic ravaging the country.
Then, just two months after becoming first lady, she paid a historic visit to one of the nation's first homes created to care for AIDS-infected infants. At the time, many Americans wrongly believed you could contract HIV simply by touching someone who had the virus. To defuse the stigma, Bush cradled an infant, kissed a toddler and hugged an adult AIDS patient.
“You can hug and pick up AIDS babies and people who have the HIV virus” without hurting yourself, she said. “There is a need for compassion.”
The first lady’s hour-long visit, which generated immense national media coverage, was a courageous act of humanity that many leaders in the gay community have never forgotten. It’s been mentioned in several online tributes since she passed away on Tuesday.
Ronald Reagan’s inaction on what was sometimes referred to at the time as the “gay plague” remains one of the biggest black marks on his legacy. “Barbara Bush broke that shameful silence with a hug and her voice,” writes Jonathan Capehart. “She saved lives that day by bringing attention to the ignored.”
In her 1994 memoir, Bush recalled her trip to the townhouse in Logan Circle. “I especially remember a young man who told us that he had been asked to leave his church studies when it was discovered he had AIDS,” she wrote. “His parents had also disowned him, and he said he longed to be hugged again by his mother. A poor substitute, I hugged that darling young man … But what he really needed was family.”
Tom Rosshirt, who would later be a speechwriter for Bill Clinton, lost a brother to AIDS around this time and knew the man she hugged. “My parents knew of individuals who'd been fired from their jobs for volunteering for AIDS organizations. That's how crazy the fear was,” he wrote in 2012. “In a time of ignorance, her wise touch eased the sting of exclusion for my friend and many others. Thank you, Mrs. Bush.”
-- The White House has begun publicly distancing Trump from Michael Cohen in the wake of the FBI raid on his office and home, as well as the revelation that he’s under criminal investigation. Now a spokesman says the president’s longtime consigliere is just one of “many” lawyers the president has on retainer. Marc Fisher explains that Trump has done this before:
“The rhetorical pivot would have sounded familiar to Roy Cohn, who died in 1986, having been largely abandoned by his longtime client and friend. … Meeting Cohn (in 1973) changed everything for Trump. Their first encounter took place inside a Manhattan members-only club that Trump described as ‘the sort of place where you were likely to see a wealthy 75-year-old guy walk in with three blondes from Sweden.’ Trump, then 27 and just breaking away from his father’s real estate business, was hungry for connections, looking to meet the power brokers who could help him fulfill his dream of becoming a big-deal Manhattan builder. Cohn was just the ticket — a celebrated and much-feared former prosecutor who boasted about his ties to New York’s Mafia bosses, worked on the espionage case against Julius and Ethel Rosenberg and served as Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s sidekick in the anti-Communist witch hunts of the 1950s.
“Attorney and client, strategist and builder, Cohn and Trump worked together for more than a decade. They pushed back against a federal race discrimination lawsuit stemming from allegations that Trump and his father had made it difficult for black tenants to find apartments in Trump buildings. (They eventually settled with prosecutors.) They won glowing profiles in top magazines and newspapers, and they were happily quoted praising each other. They spoke often, sometimes a dozen times a day. They joined forces to battle construction unions, win building permits and press libel suits against critical reporters.”
But then, “In 1984, Cohn fell ill, suffering from HIV. As Cohn lay dying at the National Institutes of Health hospital in Bethesda, Md., Trump distanced himself from his longtime friend. Cohn believed Trump had cut him off because he was HIV-positive. ‘I can’t believe he’s doing this to me,’ Cohn said at the time. ‘Donald pisses ice water.’ Trump always denied any anti-gay motivation, saying that he had always known that Cohn was gay and never minded it. … At his memorial service, Trump stood silently in the rear.”
-- Since becoming president, Trump has signaled that he still clings to outdated stereotypes about the virus.
During a December meeting at the White House, Trump reportedly said he does not want to give visas to immigrants from Haiti because they “all have AIDS.” At the same meeting, he said people admitted from Africa will never “go back to their huts” once they get in, several sources told the New York Times. The president denied it. In January, Trump once again singled out Haiti as a “shithole” country.
During the week between Christmas and New Year’s, he fired the remaining members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS en masse. The form letters letting them go were delivered without warning by way of FedEx. Half a dozen members had already resigned in protest of Trump’s policies last summer. That council, which has advised the White House on HIV/AIDS policies since its founding in 1995, is supposed to offer recommendations on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, a five-year plan responding to the epidemic.
Even after 15 months on the job, Trump has still not named a director for the Office of National AIDS Policy, which was established in 1993.
“The White House budget for fiscal year 2018 proposed cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including programs on HIV,” Melanie Thompson wrote on HuffPost in January. “It proposed cuts to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program at the Health Resources and Services Administration, which is the nation’s signature HIV treatment program, caring for over half a million people. The budget also includes an $800 million cut to global AIDS funding and steep spending reductions for the National Institutes of Health.” The Senate and House appropriations committees rejected many of those proposals, but this is what the president wanted.
Trump’s proclamation for World AIDS Day in December drew widespread criticism for not making any mention of the LGBT community, which is a break with tradition. As a candidate, Trump promised to be friendlier to the community than traditional Republicans. But he’s taken several other steps that have made the campaign rhetoric look somewhat hollow, including his push to ban transgender troops from the military.
-- One charitable defense of Trump is that he’s simply a product of his time. Elected at 70, he was the oldest man to ever assume the presidency. But the truth is that many septuagenarians have evolved and become more thoughtful on these matters than they were a generation ago.
-- Barbara Bush, who passed away at 92, offers a powerful counterpoint to illustrate how people can grow very late in life and become more tolerant. Historian Tim Naftali recalls an October 2015 lunch he had with the former first lady and his friend Jon Meacham in Maine. “Barbara Bush mentioned that the person who greeted them as a friend when we all entered the dining room was gay. ‘I sensed that,’ I said. I paused, then added, ‘I am gay.’ Instantly, she replied with a smile, ‘I sensed that,’” Naftali writes in a piece for The Atlantic.
“Well, you know what I think about President Obama,” she said a few minutes later. “Did you see that he just appointed a transgender person? Do we announce each time the appointment of a heterosexual?”
“She said she wasn’t against the hire, she just didn't understand why the White House should make a point of a person’s sexual identity,” Naftali recalls. “I explained, as best I could, the sensitivity of the transgender community, because for so long the focus of the struggle for LGBTQ rights had been on the G and the L, and, respectfully, reminded her that when the White House recognizes a group it has a tremendously positive effect on not only that group’s self confidence but on how other Americans view that group’s place in our society.
“She didn’t seem convinced that the Obama White House had done the right thing,” he remembers. “She asked me what I thought of Caitlyn Jenner, who had come out as a transgender woman only six months before. I described her as an important symbol. ‘But why is she a hero?’ As she repeated the question, Bush wondered how important gender-reassignment surgery was for defining gender. I told her about my own experience coming out as a gay man … I argued that a person should be allowed to come to terms with their own sexuality or gender identity in their own way.”
Naftali, who hadn’t met her before, worried that he had become too informal during their conversation and perhaps pushed too hard. But a few days after the visit, Bush sent a note to Meacham. “I so enjoyed the lunch and Tim won the argument or he changed my mind about so much,” she wrote. “Transgenders are born that way … Please tell him that at 90 I learned a lot from our lunch.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Former Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal reached a settlement with American Media Inc., ending a lawsuit over the rights to the story of the affair she says she had with Trump a decade ago. From Emma Brown and Beth Reinhard: “The settlement means McDougal is no longer bound by the contract with AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer, which bought — but never published — her story for $150,000 in the months before the 2016 presidential election. The tabloid company is entitled to 10 percent of any profit McDougal makes from reselling the rights to her story within the next year, up to a maximum of $75,000, according to a copy of the settlement terms. … McDougal said that she and Trump had a 10-month relationship in 2006 and 2007, during which they met dozens of times at multiple Trump properties — including the apartment he shared with his wife, Melania. Their son was an infant at the time.”
GET SMART FAST:
- Raúl Castro, 86, is expected to step down today as president of Cuba, ending nearly six decades of Castro family rule. Taking his place will be engineer Miguel Díaz-Canel, his long-groomed successor who was named as the sole candidate for head of state. (Anthony Faiola)
- The entire island of Puerto Rico lost power. It was the first island-wide blackout since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico more than seven months ago. (Arelis R. Hernández)
- The Senate passed a new rule allowing senators to be on the chamber floor with children under the age of 1. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) pushed for the change after giving birth to a baby girl this month. (Paul Kane)
- Not a single Republican man in the Senate has signed a letter supporting a bipartisan push from female senators to overhaul the chamber’s workplace harassment rules. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) circulated the letter in solidarity with a push from all 22 female senators, including every Republican, but he cannot get GOP men to co-sign. (Politico)
- Gov. Jerry Brown (D) reached an agreement with the Trump administration to deploy troops to California's southern border, meaning every border state is now reinforcing its security with Guard troops. Brown said he will deploy 400 soldiers to fight drug trafficking and cross-border criminal groups but who will avoid contact with border-crossing migrants. (Nick Miroff)
- The House Agriculture Committee advanced a plan to strengthen work requirements for food stamp recipients on a party-line vote. (Caitlin Dewey)
- The Tampa Bay Times is cutting dozens of jobs, citing the rising cost of newsprint due to the Trump tariffs. The newspaper’s CEO said the president’s tariffs could add $3 million to the company’s annual newsprint bill. (Tampa Bay Business Journal)
- Amazon Prime has more than 100 million paying members. CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns The Post, revealed the figure, which has been closely guarded, in an annual letter to shareholders. (Wall Street Journal)
- Facebook is building a team to design its own semiconductors, also known as “chips.” The move will allow the tech giant to end its dependence on outside chipmakers such as Qualcomm, as well as power hardware devices, Artificial Intelligence software and servers inside its data centers. (Bloomberg News)
- A Southwest Airlines pilot is being praised for heroically landing a plane after its engine exploded midflight, sending shrapnel flying through the cabin and ripping both a window and a passenger from the aircraft. Those onboard have lauded Tammie Jo Shults, one of the first female fighter pilots in the U.S. Navy, for her steadiness and “nerves of steel,” which averted catastrophe. (Samantha Schmidt)
- The Hill is retiring its annual "50 most beautiful list.” The list debuted in 2004 and became a well-known, and much maligned, D.C. tradition.
TRUMP'S GOT 99 PROBLEMS, AND MICHAEL COHEN IS ONE:
-- One of the president's longtime legal advisers, Jay Goldberg, warned Trump in a phone call last week that Michael Cohen would likely flip against him and cooperate with prosecutors if faced with criminal charges. The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Palazzolo, Michael Rothfeld and Michael Siconolfi report: “On a scale of 100 to 1, where 100 is fully protecting the president, Mr. Cohen ‘isn’t even a 1,’ he said he told Mr. Trump. ‘Michael will never stand up [for you]’ if charged by the government, Mr. Goldberg said[.] In the call, Mr. Goldberg, a former prosecutor … said he told the president Mr. Cohen could even agree to wear a wire and try to record conversations with Mr. Trump. ‘You have to be alert,’ Mr. Goldberg [said]. ‘I don’t care what Michael says.’ Speaking from his experience as a prosecutor, he said even hardened organized-crime figures flip under pressure from the government. Mr. Goldberg said the volume of correspondence taken and the potential pressure the government can bring to bear on Mr. Cohen to testify put the president in more potential peril … than from [Mueller’s] investigation. Mr. Goldberg said he warned Mr. Trump [against] submitting to an interview with Mr. Mueller’s team … Prompted by the president for his advice, he also said he recommended Mr. Trump fire Rod Rosenstein[.]”
-- “One of the ways in which the scandals around President Trump have come to resemble a mob movie, other than the nature of the crimes themselves, is that nobody involved is putting up much of a pretense that Trump is innocent,” observes New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait. “[A]s a public relations strategy, isn’t [Goldberg, as a Trump legal adviser] supposed to say he believes Cohen is innocent, and would be shocked to learn if he did something wrong, because of course Trump has never engaged in any illegal behavior and would never tolerate it among his employees?”
-- The question of whether Sean Hannity is a journalist has ethical implications for his business relationship with Cohen — and Hannity has offered different answers to that question. Paul Farhi writes: “Fox News often says there is a clear line between its news side — the province of journalists such as Shepard Smith and Bret Baier — and its opinion side, represented by Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Laura Ingraham and Jeanine Pirro. … Asked repeatedly on Wednesday whether Fox considered Hannity a journalist, a network spokesman declined to answer directly. She would only allow that Hannity is ‘an opinion talk-show host.’… But Hannity has played both sides of this game, as the occasion suits. ‘I never claimed to be a journalist,’ he told the New York Times in 2016 when asked about his close association and friendship with Trump. But in another interview with the Times last year, he said, ‘I’m a journalist. But I’m an advocacy journalist, or an opinion journalist.’”
-- New York’s attorney general wants to change state law to allow him to bring criminal charges against aides pardoned by the president. The New York Times’s Danny Hakim and William K. Rashbaum report: “Under the plan, [Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman,] a Democrat, seeks to exempt New York’s double jeopardy law from cases involving presidential pardons, according to [a letter sent to the governor and state lawmakers] … Right now, New York state law prevents people from being prosecuted more than once for crimes related to the same act, even if the original prosecution was in federal court. There are already a number of exceptions to the law, and the letter says that Mr. Schneiderman is proposing to add a new one that could be used if federal pardons are issued.”
THE SPECIAL COUNSEL:
-- Trump suggested yesterday that he's not rushing to fire Robert Mueller or Rosenstein. “They’ve been saying I’m going to get rid of them for the last three months, four months, five months, and they’re still here,” Trump said at a news conference. (Anne Gearan)
-- But his allies appear eager to lay the predicate so Trump could get rid of Rosenstein if he so chooses: Two of the president's top congressional allies met with the deputy attorney general to press him for documents on the conduct of law enforcement officials in the Russia and Hillary Clinton probes. Robert Costa and Ellen Nakashima report: “Rosenstein’s meeting [with] Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) came days after Meadows, an influential Trump confidant, warned Rosenstein that he could soon face impeachment proceedings or an effort to hold him in contempt of Congress if he did not satisfy GOP demands for documents. Trump and Meadows spoke at some point after the meeting, the three people said, but they declined to share details of the exchange.”
-- Pittsburgh police are preparing for protests in the event Trump fires Mueller. CBS Pittsburgh reports: “A memo went out to the police department from Victor Joseph, commander of the Pittsburgh Bureau of police. In the memo the department’s detectives are instructed to begin wearing a full uniform and carrying riot gear with them in anticipation of massive protests. Police believe the protest would happen within 24 hours of Mueller’s firing.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Trump expressed optimism about his expected summit with Kim Jong Un, but vowed to cancel or walk out of the meeting if there are signs it “is not going to be fruitful.” David Nakamura and Anne Gearan report: “Trump also said his administration is negotiating with Pyongyang for the release of three Americans who remain captive in the North and suggested that they could be freed as part of a diplomatic thaw … ‘If I think it’s a meeting that is not going to be fruitful, we’re not going to go,' Trump said at a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe[.] ... He added that he intends to remain ‘flexible’ as a negotiator …”
-- The secret meeting between secretary of state designate-Mike Pompeo and Kim doesn't seem to be helping the CIA director earn some grudging respect on the Hill (where Pompeo may not get approval from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee but is still likely to move forward on the Senate floor). Karoun Demirjian and Shane Harris report: “'I’m glad that there’s some preparatory work happening for this potential summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un,’ Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said[.] .... [But] news of Pompeo’s trip didn’t change the minds of some Democratic senators who pledged to oppose his nomination[:] Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) called Pompeo’s policy record ‘alarming,’ while Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said Pompeo’s views on Iran will ‘make America less secure.’” The panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.) also confirmed he will not vote in favor of Pompeo's nomination.”
-- The list of possible sites for the summit includes Sweden and Switzerland. Bloomberg News's Jennifer Jacobs, Toluse Olorunnipa and Nikos Chrysoloras report: “Locations for the meeting include Geneva, an unnamed Swedish location, and venues in Asia and Southeast Asia … One person said the U.S. wasn’t considering Beijing, Pyongyang, Seoul or Panmunjom, the site of the Korean armistice signing in 1953. … Trump’s aides believe that if the meeting leads to a thaw between the U.S. and North Korea … the president and Kim could win the Nobel Peace Prize.”
-- “People don’t realize the Korean War has not ended,” Trump said while expressing support for talks between North and South Korea. “It’s going on right now.” Jenna Johnson uses this as a peg for a deeper look at the president's “gee whiz” approach to history: “For Trump, people don’t realize a lot of things. … Trump’s public remarks are filled with dozens of similar comments. They often begin with some variation of the phrase, ‘Most people don’t know . . .,’ and end with a nugget of information that many of those surrounding him — fellow world leaders, diplomats, journalists, politicians or aides — do indeed already know. According to Trump, most people don’t know that there’s more than one Air Force One; that the heroin epidemic has ravaged New Hampshire; that the Empire State Building was constructed in less than a year; that universities ‘get massive tax breaks for their massive endowments;’ that Clemson University is ‘a great academic school, one of the top 25;’ or that nonprofit organizations and churches are barred from endorsing political candidates.”
-- Lawmakers from both parties fear Trump’s plan to withdraw from Syria will disrupt American goals in the region. Karen DeYoung reports: “In a House hearing, members repeatedly challenged the State Department’s top officials on the Middle East and Russia to explain how the administration planned to reach its stated goals of defeating the Islamic State, building a stable Syria without President Bashar al-Assad, and keeping his Russian and Iranian backers from taking over. … Their comments followed a closed-door military briefing Tuesday night that left lawmakers ‘unnerved,’ according to Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.). With no military or diplomatic strategy, Graham told reporters, the administration seems willing ‘to give Syria to Assad, Russia and Iran.’”
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN AND WOMEN:
-- U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley told reporters in New York her working relationship with the president is “perfect.” From Politico’s Eliana Johnson and Burgess Everett: “But the sanctions episode is a stark reminder that this president has little compunction about letting his top staffers and appointees dangle. As the White House scrambled to explain the president’s change of heart on issuing Russia sanctions, Haley became a convenient target for West Wing aides working to smooth a ragged decision making process without blaming the president himself.”
-- “For now at least, [Haley] is showing off her savvy in navigating the administration's ever shifting dynamics,” writes CNN’s Jeremy Diamond. “She appears to have emerged from the combative approach unscathed — a rare feat in Trump's orbit. … Another source close to Haley said the ambassador ‘isn't going to let the President run over her like some of these star-struck men around the White House let him do.’”
-- Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), who co-chaired Trump’s failed voter fraud commission, was held in contempt by a federal court. Eli Rosenberg reports: “[A federal judge ruled] Kobach acted ‘disingenuously,’ and ordered him to pay damages for the opposing team’s attorney fees. The order stems from a 2016 lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of Kansas voters in federal court against a state voter ID law. … U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson issued a preliminary injunction in 2016 blocking the law and asked that the registrations of some 18,000 people whose materials had been held be notified with a postcard confirming their registration and polling place … But the ACLU recently charged that many voters had failed to receive the postcard … Robinson sided with the ACLU’s January motion to hold [Kobach] in contempt for the failures.”
-- Retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) nearly derailed Rep. Jim Bridenstine’s nomination to lead NASA, but then he backed down and allowed the Oklahoma Republican to pass a key test prior to final confirmation. Sean Sullivan and Mike DeBonis report: “[Flake cast] a pivotal ‘no’ vote before later changing to ‘yes’ and allowing Bridenstine (R-Okla.) to advance by the slimmest of margins. Afterward, Flake did not say much. He acknowledged he was negotiating for something. ‘Just a few discussions,’ Flake replied, when asked why he changed his vote. Did he get any assurances? ‘We’ll see,’ he said. In Flake’s telling, it was ‘just a vote that stayed open a little longer than usual’ because ‘some discussions needed extra time.’ Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), the second-ranking Republican senator, said Flake wanted to talk to [Pompeo] about travel restrictions to Cuba.”
-- “[S]enior Republicans are worried that Wednesday’s scene will continue to repeat itself the rest of the year, as Democrats throw up procedural roadblocks and a few maverick Republicans seize their leverage points,” Paul Kane writes. “[F]or all intents and purposes, [McConnell] does not have a governing majority on most days. Out of 51 Republicans, [he] can count on about 45 as mostly reliable votes. … On any close vote, [maverick] Republicans can gum up the works by withholding their votes until their issue is dealt with.”
-- A review of a nonprofit Bridenstine led before joining Congress suggests evidence of self-dealing, the Daily Beast’s Nick Schwellenbach and Adam Zagorin report: “Bridenstine led a small non-profit organization into hefty financial losses. Some of the losses involved the use of the non-profit’s resources to benefit a company that Bridenstine simultaneously co-owned and in which he’d invested substantial sums of his own money. … [Bridenstine] has vehemently denied mismanaging the non-profit: the Tulsa Air and Space Museum. His stake in the separate company, the Rocket Racing League, has been well known. But the fact that he was using the Museum’s resources to benefit that company has not previously been covered by the press and now raises red flags for tax law experts.”
-- Congressional Republicans are divided over how to better sell the tax bill to midterms voters. Erica Werner reports: “[Paul Ryan] aims to pass another massive tax cut this summer, which Republicans hope will rev up the GOP base and improve the standing of Republicans at the polls. But [Mitch McConnell] is under pressure to block a vote, which Republican campaign strategists worry could allow red-state Democrats to vote for additional tax cuts and undermine one of the GOP’s most effective lines of attack in conservative-leaning states: that Democrats voted against a big tax cut last December. … The GOP debate shows how the tax bill … has not become the campaign booster Republicans said it would be.”
-- Playing hardball, McConnell is threatening endangered Senate Democrats with longer workweeks that would keep them off the campaign trail if they continue to hold up Trump’s nominees. The Washington Examiner’s David M. Drucker reports: “Marc Short, White House point man for legislative affairs, told a small gathering of Republican donors this week that the majority leader plans to use this tactic in the weeks ahead to squeeze Democrats running for re-election in red states. … This approach could assuage a GOP base that believes Senate Republicans have been too passive in pushing Trump’s nominees past Democratic obstruction. Action on this front could help motivate the party’s committed voters, who are particularly supportive of the president, to turn out in the midterm.”
-- House Republicans are enlisting the president's help in an Arizona special election next week held in a district Trump carried by 21 points. David Weigel and Mike DeBonis report: “Republican Debbie Lesko, a former state senator, faces Democrat Hiral Tipirneni, a physician and health-care advocate, in the April 24 contest … Starting earlier this month, Republican voters in the western Phoenix suburbs have received robo-calls in which Trump warns that ‘illegal immigrants will pour right over your border’ if Democrats win the House. ‘Nancy Pelosi wants to send a liberal Democrat to Congress to represent you,’ Trump says in the call. ‘We can’t have that.’ … Republican groups have spent more than $500,000 to boost Lesko … The involvement of the president and GOP leadership underscores that no race is a surefire win for the party in an unforgiving midterm year ... "
-- Arizona’s Republican-controlled legislature is considering legislation that would keep the seat of Sen. John McCain (R) off the November ballot if he leaves office early. The Arizona Republic’s Ronald J. Hansen and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez report: “Senate Democrats intend to try to block the legislation by voting as a bloc to ensure that its emergency clause can't get the needed two-thirds approval. … If McCain were to leave the seat before his term ends in 2022, the governor would decide who fills the vacancy and the seat would appear on the next general election ballot. … House Bill 2538 would effectively allow a Senate appointee to hold the post for two years if a vacancy happened within 150 days of a regular primary election. That would mean if McCain’s seat became vacant today, his permanent replacement would not be chosen by voters until November 2020.”
-- Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said he will not campaign against former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, the Democratic candidate seeking to replace him. From Sean Sullivan and Philip Rucker: “Asked to assess the state of play, Corker said he guesses that Bredesen is leading [the likely Republican nominee, Rep. Marsha Blackburn,] by roughly six percentage points — a ‘real six,’ he said. … Speaking at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Corker called Bredesen a longtime friend and described him as a committed public servant. He said Bredesen would have crossover appeal, and noted that a number of top Republican donors in the state were hosting fundraisers for the ex-governor. … Corker’s comments have not been well received by some Blackburn allies, who have privately dismissed them.”
-- Embattled Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) is seeking a restraining order to keep state Attorney General and GOP Senate candidate Josh Hawley from investigating him. The Kansas City Star’s Jason Hancock and Steve Vockrodt report: “The motion was filed the night before Hawley announced that his office had uncovered ‘potentially criminal acts’ committed by Greitens regarding his use of a charity’s donor list to benefit his 2016 gubernatorial campaign. … The motion argues that Hawley compromised his investigation of the governor when he publicly called on Greitens to resign last week after a report by a House committee detailed allegations of sexual violence and blackmail against Greitens.”
-- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who is facing a primary challenge for a third term, signed an executive order granting parolees in his state the right to vote. The move follows the state Senate’s rejection of a similar proposal. His challenger, Cynthia Nixon, called the action long overdue. (John Wagner)
-- Billionaire liberal Tom Steyer endorsed Kevin de León's long shot primary bid against Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Steyer was noncommittal about funding an outside effort in support of the state legislator. Feinstein crushed her ambitious challenger in fundraising again last quarter. (LA Times)
-- A Quinnipiac poll showed Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) in a neck-and-neck race. From the Texas Tribune’s Abby Livingston: According to the poll, “47 percent of registered voters in Texas support [Cruz], while 43 percent back O'Rourke … That number falls within the poll's 3.6 percent margin of error. The poll had another ominous warning for the GOP: [Trump was] underwater in Texas, with 52 percent of respondents disapproving of him and 43 percent approving of his job performance.”
THE BEST STORY OF THE DAY:
-- “How Tony Podesta, a Washington Power Broker, Lost It All,” by the Wall Street Journal's Brody Mullins and Julie Bykowicz: “Tony Podesta was in line to be king of K Street. His lobbying firm ended 2015 as the third largest in Washington, D.C.[.] With his longtime friend Hillary Clinton expected to win the White House, 2016 promised to be even better. Then he fell, a calamitous collapse propelled by unexpected blows, delivered by fate and made worse by hubris. Financial problems, legal threats and the election of [Trump] took it all away — the clients, the firm and, finally, Mr. Podesta’s position as one of Washington’s most influential players.”
- “The [IRS] determined that in 2007 and 2008, the Podesta Group paid more than $300,000 for the shipping and handling of art bought by Mr. Podesta — money that was improperly reported as a business expense … Later, Mr. Podesta began billing his firm $360,000 a year to rent pieces displayed at the office. The firm also paid part of the salary of Mr. Podesta’s art curator.”
- “[In July 2014] Podesta told senior employees the firm could make more money by agreeing to represent clients unpopular with Democrats, such as tobacco companies and the [NRA]. By 2015 … Mr. Podesta had doubled his overseas business from four years earlier to $5 million. Firm clients included the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Iraq and the government of South Sudan …”
- “With clients leaving, the Podesta Group had no money. Rent was due the next day. One idea was to use Mr. Podesta’s art collection as collateral for a loan, but he refused. The next day, he left for an art show in Turin, Italy. The bank’s deadline passed … Before closing the firm’s doors, Mr. Podesta gave himself an advance on his lobbying commissions.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Commentary on the Haley dispute from George W. Bush's former speechwriter:
Trump called Russia before Nikki Haley https://t.co/a7MW2WAC7R— David Frum (@davidfrum) April 18, 2018
From a former adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.):
Everyone is hung up on the Haley aspect of this but...WHY DID THE POLICY SUDDENLY CHANGE? https://t.co/g5P7hLmaN5— Amanda Carpenter (@amandacarpenter) April 18, 2018
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) responded to Trump's claim he did not fire James Comey over the Russia investigation:
I've concluded @realDonaldTrump can say anything & his base will follow. He can say Lester Holt interview never happened & base would agree.— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) April 18, 2018
Trump can say bacon is a fruit & his base will say eat more bacon! Grows on trees! And Hannity will run stories saying Obama opposed bacon https://t.co/RZzV5rKDsJ
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee called out his Republican colleagues after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wouldn't hold a vote on a bill to protect Mueller:
When the dark chapter of the Trump presidency is written in the history books, the harshest criticism will be reserved for the GOP leadership in Congress, which put party over country and refused to defend our institutions and the rule of law when they were most at risk. https://t.co/qZTyOtBwT3— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) April 18, 2018
A Politico reporter shared a letter from a group of House Republicans:
11 House Republicans are calling on Attorney General Sessions to prosecute (in no particular order):— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) April 18, 2018
Their letter: https://t.co/mwsLZD60bA
From a former Boston Globe reporter:
There is a significant faction of the Republican Party that believes the best solution to silencing their political enemies is to put them in jail https://t.co/50PWT1lGy0— Astead (@AsteadWesley) April 18, 2018
Trump and the Japanese prime minister visited the golf course:
Prime Minister @AbeShinzo of Japan and myself this morning building an even deeper and better relationship while playing a quick round of golf at Trump International Golf Club. pic.twitter.com/YqU7pHiFoU— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2018
From an ABC News reporter:
Pres Trump & PM Abe are at the president's private golf club in West Palm FL.— Karen Travers (@karentravers) April 18, 2018
Last wk I asked a senior admin official if Trump & Abe would get in a round of golf during their summit (as they did last yr in FL & Japan)
They said no, this was a "working visit," no time for golf
FiveThirtyEight's editor in chief made a prediction about the Texas Senate race:
I think I'm on team Cruz-could-actually-lose**; the arguments to the contrary remind me a little too much of the arguments that Democrats could never lose a presidential election in Pennsylvania.— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) April 18, 2018
** Could lose ≠ will lose; Cruz is a favorite but I think I'd take Beto at say 4:1
No caffeine on the House floor, reminds a Politico reporter:
Rookie move: Freshman Rep. Conor Lamb tries to bring coffee cup on House floor. Door guard stops him, directs him to the Democratic cloakroom. ☕️— Heather Caygle (@heatherscope) April 18, 2018
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) showed some love for Cardi B:
Cardi B is right. If we are really going to make America great we need to strengthen Social Security so that seniors are able to retire with the dignity they deserve. https://t.co/B8cOkoOdLc— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) April 18, 2018
The former director of the FBI made new friends:
That time James Comey met Method Man and Ghostface Killah. pic.twitter.com/utC5okNAN3— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) April 18, 2018
The New York Times's PR team hit back against a radio host:
Hypocrisy alert. @DennisPrager wrote a dishonest essay about our best-sellers lists. He claims, “I have long known it isn’t a best-seller list, and I don’t pay attention to it.” Though he lists ”NYT best-selling author” on his twitter bio and his own site. pic.twitter.com/SAm5zanslx— NYTimes Communications (@NYTimesPR) April 18, 2018
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) clarified his mental state, per a Post reporter:
Reporter (@StevenTDennis) to Sen Gardner: “Senator, on marijuana ..”— Erica Werner (@ericawerner) April 18, 2018
Gardner: “No, I’m not.”
One of Tammy Duckworth's Republican colleagues fretted over the rule change allowing her to bring her daughter on to the Senate floor, per a New York Times reporter:
Sen. Orrin Hatch: “But what if there are 10 babies on the floor of the Senate?"— Elizabeth Dias (@elizabethjdias) April 19, 2018
What if there were? https://t.co/49edpjKsB7
And Hatch also mourned the loss of the Hill's "50 most beautiful” list:
You wake up early every day to comb your hair and pick out the brightest shirt/tie combo with your strongest pinstripe suit thinking this is going to be the year.. then this happens. https://t.co/MvYVDOQN3C— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) April 18, 2018
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- The Philadelphia Inquirer, “The Long Game,” by Jonathan Tamari: “On his gleaming resumé, [Cory] Booker's college football career stands out as an unusual bullet point. Unlike at most stops in his life, the onetime Stanford class president, Rhodes scholar, Newark mayor, and political celebrity who became a senator at 44 never achieved star status as a Stanford athlete. He was relegated to the background … [and] pushed off the team before his final year of eligibility. A look at his four years on the Cardinal football team shows how someone who has enjoyed a rapid rise … and whose political critics accuse him of being more flash than substance handled frustration, disappointment, and a workmanlike grind with little personal glory. ‘It was like the first time in my life I ever felt like I failed at something.’ Booker … recalled in an interview. ‘And it was one of the toughest blows to my ego I've ever taken.’”
-- New Yorker, “Inside Rex Tillerson’s Ouster,” by Ronan Farrow: “When I mentioned the White House’s role in escalating rumors of his demise, Tillerson appeared to have been waiting for the question. … ‘When you say ‘the White House,’ who are you talking about?’ he asked. … Tillerson leaned in and, for a moment, I realized that it must be unpleasant to be fired by him. ‘I know who it is. I know who it is. And they know I know.’ According to multiple individuals who had heard Tillerson speak of the matter behind closed doors, this was a reference to Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner. Before Tillerson’s departure, tensions between the two men had been flaring regularly, often in the form of a public-relations proxy war.”
-- New York Times, “Inside Southwest Flight 1380, 20 Minutes of Chaos and Terror,” by Jack Healy and Christine Hauser: “Tens of thousands of feet above the earth, the passengers clasped hands with strangers, prayed together and got ready to die.”
HOT ON THE LEFT
“Tennessee lawmakers punish Memphis for removing statue of Confederate and KKK leader,” from Alex Horton: “A few years before Nathan Bedford Forrest became the leader of the Ku Klux Klan, and decades before a statue of him was dedicated in Memphis, the Confederate general overlooked Fort Pillow and planned how he would destroy the beacon for escaped slaves. … In 1905, a statue of Forrest on horseback was dedicated in a Memphis park, 40 miles south of the site of the battle and later massacre. On Tuesday, nearly 154 years to the day that his troops obliterated the fort, Forrest’s ghost — and his statue — haunted the Tennessee legislature. The Republican-dominated House voted to remove $250,000 earmarked for the Memphis bicentennial next year after the city engineered a way to remove that statue in December, along with a statue of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. The amendment was adopted in a $37.5 million spending bill still working its way through state chambers for approval.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“After calling Barbara Bush an ‘amazing racist,’ a professor taunts critics: ‘I will never be fired,’” from Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Herman Wong: “In the hours after Barbara Bush died Tuesday, even those who didn’t share the former first lady’s political views expressed their condolences and recounted warm memories of the Bush family matriarch. … But a creative writing professor at California State University at Fresno had a message for those offering up fond remembrances: ‘Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal,’ Randa Jarrar wrote on Twitter on Tuesday evening … Jarrar’s words … sparked a backlash on social media that would soon prompt the university to distance itself from her remarks. … The writer taunted those attacking her, sharing a contact number that was actually that of Arizona State University’s suicide hotline, and said she was a tenured professor who makes $100,000 a year. ‘I will never be fired,’ she tweeted.”
Trump will visit Joint Interagency Task Force-South in Key West, Fla., where he will also receive a briefing.
Fox News's Chris Wallace will sit down with French President Emmanuel Macron this Friday in an exclusive interview ahead of Macron’s state visit to the United States. The interview will air Sunday.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
George W. Bush said he visited his mother last Saturday, and they “were needling each other” in front of her physicians. She was even telling jokes. “You want to know why George W. is the way he is?” the former president said Barbara Bush asked her doctor. “Because I drank and smoked while I was pregnant with him.” (Politico)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Expect wind and isolated showers in D.C. today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Clouds are flying by, but sunshine breaks through at times. Most of the area stays dry, with only isolated showers as the main rain band is up in Pennsylvania. Temperatures climb through most of the morning to highs in the upper 50s to low 60s. However, winds from the northwest quickly ramp up by midmorning, with gusts up to 40 mph. Temperatures drop off by late in the afternoon.”
-- The Nationals lost to the Mets 11-5. (Chelsea Janes)
-- Virginia House Republicans killed two tax hikes to help fund Metro. The dedicated funding plan will still be able to move forward, but a larger portion of Virginia’s contribution will now come from funds earmarked for road improvements. (Robert McCartney)
-- JPMorgan Chase plans to open its first consumer banking branches in the D.C. area. The expansion is part of a push for the national bank to add brick-and-mortar stores in 15 to 20 markets before 2023. (Aaron Gregg)
-- “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman will deliver the keynote address at Howard University’s commencement ceremony. Boseman is an alumnus of Howard and will receive an honorary degree from the historically black university. (Sarah Larimer)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Samantha Bee kept up late-night hosts' attacks on Sean Hannity:
Trevor Noah mocked Trump's inability to keep Mike Pompeo's meeting with Kim Jong Un to himself:
The Post fact-checked White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow's claim that the Obama stimulus was “all spending”:
Two members of the Tennessee Air National Guard were let go after this video of a public affairs officer swearing an oath with a dinosaur puppet went viral:
A camera captured the moment a Texas house exploded as officers arrived to respond to a car crash:
An Australian wildlife hospital released previously injured penguins into the ocean near a Sydney suburb:
And our video department responded to Katy Perry's request for a hard copy of The Post: