With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.
THE BIG IDEA:
A panel of three judges, each appointed by a Republican president to the federal appeals court in Chicago, ruled unanimously on Thursday against President Trump’s effort to withhold money from “sanctuary cities.”
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit upheld a nationwide injunction that blocks the Justice Department from using “the sword of federal funding to conscript state and local authorities to aid in federal civil immigration enforcement.”
Trump’s latest courtroom defeat offers yet another civics lesson about checks and balances for the first president in American history who lacks any prior governing or military experience. Unlike congressional Republicans who have by and large kowtowed and capitulated to Trumpism, despite private uneasiness and grumbling in many cases, Republican-appointed judges are free not to care about the wrath of the president or blowback from his loyalists. This gives them the breathing room to worry more about the rule of law than partisanship. That was the point of an independent judiciary and giving lifetime appointments. It’s how the Constitution is supposed to work.
Judge Ilana Rovner, who was appointed to a district judgeship by Ronald Reagan and elevated to the circuit by George H.W. Bush, offers a remarkable rebuke of the Trump administration in a 35-page opinion that can be read as a tutorial on the separation of powers. She even throws around words like “tyranny” that you don’t often see in opinions of this nature:
“Our role in this case is not to assess the optimal immigration policies for our country,” she writes. “Rather, the issue before us strikes at one of the bedrock principles of our nation, the protection of which transcends political party affiliation and rests at the heart of our system of government …
“The founders of our country well understood that the concentration of power threatens individual liberty and established a bulwark against such tyranny by creating a separation of powers among the branches of government. If the Executive Branch can determine policy, and then use the power of the purse to mandate compliance with that policy by the state and local governments, all without the authorization or even acquiescence of elected legislators, that check against tyranny is forsaken …
“Congress repeatedly refused to approve of measures that would tie funding to state and local immigration policies. Nor … did Congress authorize the Attorney General to impose such conditions. It falls to us, the judiciary, as the remaining branch of the government, to act as a check on such usurpation of power. We are a country that jealously guards the separation of powers, and we must be ever‐vigilant in that endeavor.”
Rovner, 79, and her parents fled Latvia, and the Nazis, when she was an infant. She lost family members in the Holocaust. She often says that she decided to become a lawyer to stop anything like that genocide from happening again. Displayed in her chambers are the green card she was issued when she arrived in America in 1939 and her mother’s passport. “These are the things that saved my life,” she told the Chicago Tribune for a 2011 profile.
Her scathing opinion was joined by Judge William Bauer, who was appointed by Gerald Ford. Judge Daniel Manion, who Reagan put on the bench, wrote a concurrence saying he would have narrowed the injunction to protect only Chicago, rather than keeping it national.
The injunction was ordered last September by District Judge Harry Leinenweber, who was also appointed by Reagan.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has tried to require that cities give federal immigration agents access to undocumented immigrants who are in their jails in order to get certain public safety grants. This effort has already been blocked in separate lawsuits by federal judges in California and Pennsylvania. The judge who blocked the administration from holding back money from Philadelphia, Michael Baylson, was appointed by George W. Bush and wrote an unusually long 128-page ruling against the administration in November.
The 7th Circuit opinion yesterday complains that the term sanctuary cities “is commonly misunderstood” and “a red herring.” Contrary to popular understanding, the judges explain, “the federal government can and does freely operate in ‘sanctuary’ localities.”
-- The Justice Department quickly criticized the ruling, saying the administration continues to believe it has the power to attach strings to money appropriated by Congress and complaining that courts keep issuing broad injunctions that thwart Trump. “Many in the legal community have expressed concern that the use of nationwide injunctions is inconsistent with the separation of powers, and that their increased use creates a dangerous precedent,” DOJ spokesman Devin O'Malley said in a statement. “We will continue to fight to carry out the department's commitment to the rule of law, protecting public safety, and keeping criminal aliens off the streets to further perpetrate crimes.”
-- Trump reacted on Twitter last night:
Sanctuary Cities released at least 142 Gang Members across the United States, making it easy for them to commit all forms of violent crimes where none would have existed. We are doing a great job of law enforcement, but things such as this make safety in America difficult!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 19, 2018
-- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel held an afternoon news conference to blast Trump as petty for refusing to hand over the grant money while the case continues to play out in the courts. “The Trump Justice Department could actually say ‘OK, we’re going to go forward with these grants, and let’s fight the case out in court,’” said the Democrat, who was Barack Obama’s first White House chief of staff. “But they refuse to give municipalities like Chicago and other cities around the country the resources to fight crime and gun violence, because they think fighting us on the principle of being a sanctuary, welcoming city, is more important than helping the police departments get the technology they need to do a better job in public safety.”
-- This is just the latest legal setback for Trump when it comes to his far-reaching immigration agenda.
On Tuesday, Justice Neil Gorsuch joined the Supreme Court’s four liberal members to strike down part of a federal law used to deport noncitizens who commit felonies on the grounds that it was unconstitutionally vague. The 5-to-4 decision could limit the government’s ability to deport people with criminal records, a Trump priority.
“Vague laws invite arbitrary power,” Gorsuch wrote in a concurring opinion. “Today’s vague laws … can invite the exercise of arbitrary power all the same — by leaving the people in the dark about what the law demands and allowing prosecutors and courts to make it up.”
“For the conservative Gorsuch to align with the liberals might seem a surprise, but his vote was in keeping with questions he asked during oral argument in October. And he was in part following in the footsteps of the justice he replaced, the late Antonin Scalia,” explains Supreme Court beat reporter Robert Barnes. “In 2015, Scalia wrote the court’s decision in Johnson v. United States, which struck down a similarly vague description of violent felony in the Armed Career Criminal Act.”
-- Trump is incensed about Gorsuch’s vote. Administration officials say the president has been complaining to them that the justice “had proved too liberal in recent cases,” Robert Costa, Josh Dawsey and Rosalind S. Helderman report. “Associates … said it renewed his doubts that Gorsuch would be a reliable conservative. One top Trump adviser played down the comments as unhappiness with Gorsuch’s decision rather than with Gorsuch broadly.”
-- In February, the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s request to immediately review the lower court decisions that prevent him from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). Getting cert. would have only taken four votes, which means at least one GOP appointee opposed the administration’s request. The litigation over the fate of the “dreamers” will now follow the normal process, winding through the circuit courts.
-- The courts have proved vexing for Trump since his first days in office. District Judge James Robart in Washington state, who was nominated by George W. Bush in 2004, halted the president’s first travel ban, which blocked citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the United States.
“The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!” Trump tweeted angrily.
But it wasn’t. A three-judge panel on the 9th Circuit, which included another Bush 43 nominee, unanimously agreed. The administration withdrew the ban and issued another watered-down version.
-- Barack Obama also lost cases in the courts, including on immigration. But he typically failed before conservative judges who had been appointed by Republicans more than judges appointed by his Democratic predecessors. The Harvard-educated former constitutional law professor had a much better record. To be sure, most judges appointed by Republicans are still siding with the administration most of the time. And Trump is remaking the judicial branch by appointing nominees who share his worldview.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The Justice Department gave Congress redacted versions of James Comey’s memos, detailing his interactions with Trump while he was FBI director. The contemporaneous notes show Trump expressing concerns about the judgment of Michael Flynn (who was then national security adviser) weeks before forcing him to resign. They offer fresh details about Trump's efforts to personally influence the FBI's Russia investigation. “The memos also reveal the extent of Trump’s preoccupation with unproven allegations that he had consorted with prostitutes while in Moscow in 2013. Trump, according to the memos, repeatedly denied the allegations and prodded Comey to help disprove them, while also recalling being told by Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russia has the most beautiful prostitutes,” per Ellen Nakashima and Devlin Barrett.
-- Here are a few of other nuggets:
- “In a Jan. 28, 2017, memo, Comey said Trump castigated Flynn for not promptly scheduling a return phone call of congratulations from a foreign head of state. ‘In telling the story, the President pointed his fingers at his head and said, ‘the guy has serious judgment issues,’ Comey wrote.”
- “In early February, Comey met with then-White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, who asked the FBI director ‘if this was a ‘private conversation.’ I replied that it was,’ Comey recounted in one memo. Priebus then asked if the bureau was wiretapping Flynn … ”
- “Comey’s memo of his Feb. 14, 2017, discussion with Trump also includes a previously unreported exchange about trying to prevent leaks. … [Trump said stopping leaks] may involve putting reporters in jail. ‘They spend a couple days in jail, make a new friend, they are ready to talk.’”
-- These memos only got released because Republicans lawmakers demanded they be turned over and threatened to hold Trump officials at the Justice Department in contempt if they weren't, even raising the specter of impeachment. It's hard to overstate how irregular it is for DOJ to release evidence central to an ongoing federal investigation. Special counsel Robert Mueller is probing whether Trump obstructed justice, and these notes would be key building blocks of any obstruction case.
-- Trump has denied Comey's account of their conversations and says the memos support his side of the story. Republicans are also arguing Comey is a leaker because some of the memos are redacted, but there's no indication he disclosed classified information.
But this is part of the GOP plan to try to blunt the impact of the former FBI director's book:
James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classified information. WOW! Will the Witch Hunt continue?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 20, 2018
The memos don't actually show whether collusion or obstruction took place — that is something for Mueller to decide.
This morning, Trump again attacked Comey's book and expressed sympathy for Flynn:
So General Michael Flynn’s life can be totally destroyed while Shadey James Comey can Leak and Lie and make lots of money from a third rate book (that should never have been written). Is that really the way life in America is supposed to work? I don’t think so!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 20, 2018
-- Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani joined Trump's legal team in an attempt to bring an end to the Mueller probe. Robert Costa, Josh Dawsey and Rosalind S. Helderman report: “The entry of Giuliani, an experienced attorney with a combative reputation, immediately raises questions about how Trump will engage with Mueller and the leadership at Justice. ‘I’m doing it because I hope we can negotiate an end to this for the good of the country and because I have high regard for the president and for Bob Mueller,’ Giuliani said in an interview[.] In recent days, the president has been regularly venting and speculating to aides about his legal status and the expected timeline for the Russia investigation to end …”
Giuliani declined to say if Trump has made a final decision on whether to sit for an interview with Mueller’s team, or whether Trump could move to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in the coming weeks. “I’m not involved in anything about those issues,” he said. “My advice on Mueller has been this: He should be allowed to do his job. He’s entitled to do his job.”
Trump has “loudly and repeatedly complained” to aides that Comey, Andrew McCabe and Hillary Clinton, among others, “should be charged with crimes for misdeeds alleged by Republicans”: “Although White House officials said Thursday that Trump has not called Justice Department officials or taken any formal action, the persistent grousing has made some advisers anxious.”
-- Rosenstein told Trump last week that he is not a target in either the Mueller's probe or the investigation into the president's lawyer, Michael Cohen. The move has quelled — at least temporarily — Trump’s desire to oust him or Mueller, Bloomberg News's Jennifer Jacobs and Chris Strohm report: “After the meeting [with Rosenstein], Trump told some of his closest advisers that it’s not the right time to remove either man since he’s not a target of the probe. One person said Trump doesn’t want to take any action that would drag out the investigation. The shift gives some breathing room for Mueller, as well as Rosenstein [and] last week’s meeting was set up in part to allow Rosenstein to assuage Trump’s frustration with his decisions. At the same time, Rosenstein’s message may have been based on a technicality. Trump may not officially be a target, but Mueller hasn’t ruled out making him one at some point in the future, according to a U.S. official with knowledge of the unfolding investigation.”
-- Prosecutors on Mueller’s team said Paul Manafort’s long-standing Russia ties merited a review of whether he provided “back channels to Russia.” Spencer S. Hsu reports: “[Deputy Solicitor General Michael R. Dreeben's] reference to back channels came during a hearing in federal court in Washington in which Manafort’s attorneys sought to have criminal charges against him dismissed. Dreeben cited Manafort’s alleged long-standing connections in Russia during a decade of work as an international political consultant in Ukraine and said it was ‘only natural’ to investigate whether those ties were a means of ‘surreptitious communications. Did they provide back channels to Russia?’”
-- DOJ's inspector general referred his finding that former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe repeatedly misled investigators to Washington’s top federal prosecutor, who will determine whether McCabe should be charged with a crime. From Karoun Demirjian and Matt Zapotosky: “The referral to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia occurred some time ago, after the inspector general concluded McCabe had lied to investigators or his boss, [Comey], on four occasions, three of them under oath. The U.S. attorney’s office met with McCabe’s legal team in recent weeks, though it was not immediately clear whether prosecutors there were conducting their own investigation or believed criminal charges are appropriate ... A referral to federal prosecutors, though, does not necessarily mean McCabe will be charged.”
-- Michael Cohen has withdrawn his libel lawsuit against BuzzFeed and Fusion GPS over the infamous dossier, which suggested Cohen helped facilitate Russian interference into the 2016 election. Rosalind S. Helderman and John Wagner report: “[The lawsuits] would have required Cohen to submit to an evidence discovery process, forcing him to produce documentation and sworn testimony about his activities … Among other things, the dossier alleged that Cohen had traveled to Prague and met with Russian operatives. Cohen filed a pair of lawsuits in January … claiming he could prove that the allegation was false and had harmed his reputation. In a statement, Cohen’s lawyer said he continues to deny the allegations but had to concentrate on other legal matters after [last week’s FBI raid].”
GET SMART FAST:
- Federal regulators plan to fine Wells Fargo $1 billion. The penalty would be the most aggressive action against a big bank since Trump took office, as well as the first enforcement action announced by Mick Mulvaney since he took over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (Renae Merle)
- Trump’s D.C. hotel is hosting the Philippine government for a June event. Billed as “a Reception to commemorate the 120th anniversary of the proclamation of Philippine Independence,” the event could raise further questions about the mixing of the president's business interested with his official duties. (Daily Beast)
- Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) plans to introduce legislation to decriminalize marijuana. The bill would mark the first time a congressional leader of either party has backed such a rollback. (Dave Weigel)
- Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s official portrait will cost taxpayers a whopping $85,000, according to open records requests. The price tag exceeds the combined costs for his three predecessors' official portraits. (AP)
- Lance Armstrong agreed to pay $5 million to the federal government in a fraud lawsuit. The Justice Department originally argued the cycling champion owed the government $100 million for doping while competing for a team sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service. (Spencer S. Hsu)
- Walter Leroy Moody Jr. was put to death in Alabama, making the 83-year-old the oldest inmate executed in the modern era. Moody was convicted of murdering a federal judge and a civil rights lawyer using package bombs in 1989. (Mark Berman)
- The passenger who died on Tuesday’s Southwest flight was partly sucked out of the plane. Jennifer Riordan’s window had been broken by pieces of the plane’s disintegrating engine. Riordan probably died instantly because the plane was traveling at 550 miles per hour when the window broke. (Ashley Halsey III, Faiz Siddiqui and Dana Hedgpeth)
- Employees at the scandal-plagued blood testing company Theranos have developed a video game allowing players to attack the journalist who unearthed the company's fraud. The “Space Invaders”-style game involves shooting the Wall Street Journal reporter who first revealed Theranos misled investors about its technology. (Business Insider)
- A Canadian woman who attempted to smuggle millions of dollars worth of cocaine into Australia by way of a cruise has been sentenced to eight years in prison. She documented the exotic, weeks-long ocean voyage in a string of glamorous Instagram posts. In pleading guilty, the 24-year-old, who was recruited for the job by one of her escort clients, acknowledged she put everything on the line for some international travel selfies “to receive ‘likes’ and attention.” (Lindsey Bever)
- After sending a self-described army of journalists to report on this year's Coachella festival, Teen Vogue says it found a “rampant” culture of sexual harassment lurking behind the sun-drenched California music and arts event. One reporter says she was groped 22 times in a 10-hour period — and more than 50 women interviewed for the piece said they also experienced sexual harassment while at the festival. (Teen Vogue)
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Kim Jong Un is “no longer demanding” that U.S. troops leave Seoul as a condition for denuclearizing Pyongyang, eliminating a major obstacle to negotiations with the United States. The New York Times’s Choe Sang-Hun and Mark Landler report: “That has encouraged the United States to proceed with plans to hold its first-ever summit meeting with North Korea, he said. When Mr. Moon’s special envoys met with Mr. Kim [last month] Mr. Kim said his country would no longer need nuclear weapons if it did not feel ‘threatened militarily’ and was provided with ‘security guarantees.’”
-- But North Korea policy experts are skeptical Kim will abandon his nuclear ambitions. Anna Fifield reports: “More likely he’s playing for time, [experts] say. Staving off an American invasion, showing China that it doesn’t need to implement sanctions quite so strictly, betting that Trump won’t be around long enough to see any deal through.”
-- North Korea, once believed to be a mid-level cybersecurity threat at best, has quietly developed one of the world’s most “sophisticated and dangerous” hacking machines, the Wall Street Journal’s Timothy W. Martin reports: “Over the past 18 months, the nation’s fingerprints have appeared in an increasing number of cyberattacks, the skill level of its hackers has rapidly improved and their targets have become more worrisome … North Korea is cultivating elite hackers much like other countries train Olympic athletes[.] Promising students are identified as young as 11 years old and funneled into special schools, where they are taught hacking and how to develop computer viruses. ‘Once you have been selected to get into the cyber unit, you receive a title that makes you a special citizen, and you don’t have to worry about food and the basic necessities,’” says …, who studied programming and hacking before he defected.
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN:
-- Amy Gardner and Alice Crites profile Ronny Jackson, the longtime White House physician and former trauma surgeon tapped by Trump to lead VA: “He often went to extra lengths to win over the officials he was on hand to assist. He helped George W. Bush clear brush at his Texas ranch. He supplied Barack Obama with Nicorette gum even as he urged him to quit the nicotine substitute. He once was so eager to deliver a sling to Vice President Richard B. Cheney for a sore arm that his sprint toward the presidential helicopter caught the attention of Secret Service agents ...
“One trait universally cited is Jackson’s storytelling ability. He has regaled colleagues with one particular tale about administering stitches on an intimate part of his body. He even recounted it for Bush after cutting himself with a hoe at the president’s ranch in Texas. … That earned him an admiring nickname from Bush: Scrote.”
-- Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) became the first Democratic senator to support Mike Pompeo’s nomination as secretary of state, potentially clinching his confirmation. Karoun Demirjian and John Wagner report: “But if [Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)] declines to support Pompeo’s nomination, it … means a second Democrat would have to back him to secure his confirmation on the Senate floor. GOP leaders seem confident that other Democrats will join Heitkamp ... "
-- Economic adviser Larry Kudlow and national security adviser John Bolton are making an early mark on the White House. CNN’s Kaitlan Collins and Kevin Liptak report: “The President has not explicitly told Bolton and Kudlow they report directly to him, bypassing chief of staff John Kelly. But multiple sources with knowledge of the hierarchy said it is clear that, in effect, Trump's two newest aides are also his direct reports. Trump views his new staffers as mini-executives, with wide unilateral prerogative for their own areas of focus … He has given them wide leeway to hire who they like and dismiss those they don't ...”
-- GOP donor Elliott Broidy pushed for a golf date between Trump and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who controlled a lucrative contract with Broidy’s defense company, according to newly obtained documents. The New York Times’s David D. Kirkpatrick and Mark Mazzetti report: “In addition to providing new details about Mr. Broidy’s attempts to exploit his White House connections for personal gain, the documents also raise questions about whether Trump administration officials were aware of his efforts.”
-- The real estate company of Jared Kushner's family has been subpoenaed for records related to its rent-regulated tenants. The Wall Street Journal’s Erica Orden reports: “The subpoena, part of an investigation by prosecutors in the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office, came shortly after an Associated Press article about the company having filed documents that said it had zero rent-regulated tenants, when in fact it had hundreds, an omission that relieved it of certain rules governing developers. … A spokeswoman for the company said Thursday that ‘Kushner Companies has nothing to hide and is cooperating fully with all legitimate requests for information, including this subpoena.’”
-- The EPA’s inspector general announced plans to probe Scott Pruitt’s use of his security detail while on personal trips. From Brady Dennis: “The latest inquiry follows a March 20 request from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who told officials that he had obtained work schedules and other documents detailing how Pruitt’s 24/7 protective detail accompanied him on personal trips. The arrangement resulted in taxpayers footing the bill for travel and lodging for agents, even when Pruitt wasn’t on officials business.”
-- Pruitt spent $45,000 to fly five employees to Australia in preparation for a trip that was later canceled. Reuters’s Jeff Mason reports: “Two of his aides and three security agents flew to Australia last August on business-class tickets costing roughly $9,000 each to set up meetings for the EPA administrator. … Pruitt was scheduled to participate in environment-related meetings with Australian officials on a visit to Sydney and Canberra. EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox said Pruitt’s trip was canceled because of Hurricane Harvey[.]”
-- Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski quietly facilitated a “highly lucrative” deal between Poland’s top military contractors and one of Washington’s top lobbying firms. The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng report: “In the process, Lewandowski managed to spurn socialite Jill Kelley ... a central figure in the 2012 sex scandal that brought down retired general David Petraeus. The story … is a strange chapter in the former Trump campaign manager’s career ... including some who work out of his Washington, D.C. home. It’s also a cartoonishly Washington tale, involving backstabbing in the city’s notorious influence industry, a glamorous socialite … and political operatives who arrived in D.C. pledging to drain the swamp, only to end up pocketing large sums in exchange for brokering multi-billion-dollar weapons deals.”
-- The Senate narrowly confirmed Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) as NASA administrator. Seung Min Kim and Christian Davenport report: “The vote to install the three-term Oklahoma Republican was 50 to 49. [Trump] had initially tapped Bridenstine for the post last year, but his nomination stalled amid Democratic criticisms, as well as some reticence from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who said Thursday that NASA should be led by a professional with a background in space. Rubio ultimately sided with all other Republicans to confirm Bridenstine as the NASA chief despite his hesitations, arguing that Trump deserves to have his team in place across the administration.”
-- A razor-thin majority and ugly primary fights are jeopardizing Senate Republicans’ mission of picking up seats in November. Michael Scherer, Sean Sullivan and Josh Dawsey report: “McConnell had to pull aside rogue senators over their occasional defiance twice in the last two days. He warned one — Bob Corker — in a private conversation that his comments risked hurting the party’s ability to hold its majority in November’s midterm elections. Outside Washington, McConnell’s allies have launched major ad campaigns against two Republican Senate candidates they see as potential liabilities in the general election — former coal baron Don Blankenship in West Virginia and Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel. Other races, in Indiana and Montana, are quickly becoming costly slugfests, distracting the party from its central mission of dislodging vulnerable Democratic incumbents.”
More on McConnell’s contentious moment with Corker on the Senate floor: “Corker lavished praise Wednesday on Tennessee’s leading Democratic contender, former governor Phil Bredesen, calling him ‘a very good mayor, a very good governor, a very good business person,’ who could win in November. The remarks set off alarm bells at the highest levels of the Republican Party and supporters of the leading GOP candidate in the race, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, interpreted them as a personal slight. … McConnell and Corker, who has said he will support Blackburn, had a lengthy discussion on the Senate floor Wednesday about his remarks … McConnell told Corker his comments were unhelpful — both in the Tennessee race and in the larger battle for the Senate majority … McConnell also reminded Corker that Republicans were in the current situation only because Corker had decided to retire.”
-- Indiana GOP Senate candidate Luke Messer chose not to disclose two drunken driving convictions when seeking a state legislature seat left open after a lawmaker was killed by a drunk driver. The Indianapolis Star’s Kaitlin Lange and Tony Cook report: “As he sought the state legislative seat in 2003, Messer decided against sharing that history with local Republican precinct leaders charged with selecting [state Rep. Roland Stine] replacement. Nor did he disclose it to county or district party leaders. In fact, many of those officials didn't know about Messer's DUIs until contacted this week … ”
-- Ohio gubernatorial candidate Dennis Kucinich (D), the former congressman and presidential candidate, received a $20,000 donation last year from a California group that has defended Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and offered praise for Putin. The Columbus Dispatch’s Marty Schladen reports: “On its website, [the] group in December praised ‘President Putin of the Russian Federation ... We regard the US occupation of any part of Syria as a war crime and we call upon the USA and its Coalition partners to get out of Syria now.’ Kucinich called the organization a ‘civil rights advocacy group.’”
-- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is bracing for a blue wave as he runs for reelection. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Craig Gilbert reports: “[Walker is] reminding Republicans he could lose. That message is a hard sell for some GOP voters who see the economy growing, are used to their party winning and have little respect for the Democratic field. … It is also a message that sends mixed signals about Walker’s own campaign, which like all campaigns is trying to project strength and confidence about its prospects at the same time Walker is talking about how tough it’s going to be.”
-- The three Republicans vying for the party’s nomination in Virginia’s Senate race spent yesterday’s debate vowing loyalty to Trump. Laura Vozzella reports: “Asked … about a variety of Trump’s domestic and international policies Thursday, Corey Stewart, Nick Freitas and E.W. Jackson had the president’s back. Border wall? Check. Threatening to scrap a nuclear deal with Iran? Check. … Their steadfast support for the president suggests that no matter who wins the June 12 primary, Virginia’s Republican candidate for U.S. Senate will run hand-in-hand with Trump.”
-- Coming attractions at SCOTUS: In 2017 alone, Trump’s first year in the White House, 19 states passed 63 antiabortion restrictions. Mary Jordan reports: “Mississippi’s governor just signed a law, more restrictive than in any state, banning abortions after 15 weeks. Iowa’s state Senate is trying to go even further and stop abortions at around six weeks. And 20 Ohio legislators have proposed outlawing all abortions, even if the woman’s life is in danger. In many state capitols, Republican lawmakers are backing unusually strict antiabortion laws. Many are emboldened by President Trump … Conservative lawmakers also are eager to get more restrictions on the books in case November’s elections bring a surge of Democrats hostile to them. Federal courts have immediately blocked many of these antiabortion laws, including Mississippi’s. But they still have a purpose: to set up legal challenges to Roe v. Wade … at a time when Trump could appoint the justice who helps overturn it. … About 1 in 4 women have an abortion in their lifetime, according to a report by the Guttmacher Institute.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Twitter reacted to the release of the Comey memos. From Nancy Pelosi:
The release of #Comey Memos are further proof of @realDonaldTrump’s contempt for the rule of law. His attempts to intimidate, circumvent the law & undermine integrity of law enforcement investigations demand immediate action to protect the Mueller investigation. #FollowTheFacts— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) April 20, 2018
From another House Democrat:
I already thanked House Republicans, but I'm going to do it again. There is so much in the #Comeymemos that @realDonaldTrump would not want released, but you did it anyway! I don't know why you did it, but much thanks. https://t.co/bMCohiXIcF— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) April 20, 2018
From a reporter for Vox:
I don’t follow this as closely as others, but were the Comey memos supposed to be damning for *Comey* in any way?— Dylan Scott (@dylanlscott) April 20, 2018
because they aren’t really, aside from a few ultimately inconsequential lines
for Trump, on the other hand...
A CNN national reporter responded to the memos' assertion that Trump suggested jailing journalists:
I spent years covering countries where reporters are put in jail for doing their jobs: China, Russia, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Iran. It is an all-too-real tactic employed by undemocratic leaders around the world. Not to be dismissed or trifled with. https://t.co/HePVMkPH2M— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) April 20, 2018
But a Daily Beast reporter downplayed the memos:
The thing about these Comey memos is that…. Comey has basically told us what’s in them— Sam Stein (@samstein) April 20, 2018
A New York Times reporter shared this detail on Giuliani's decision to join Trump's legal team:
There’s a belief Giuliani was like the Kool-Aid man bursting through a wall to join the Trump team. Four people close to the White House say he resisted joining, but Trump - wanting a big name who he’s comfortable with - pushed for it.— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) April 20, 2018
From a former federal prosecutor:
People who are under investigation would always like to negotiate an end to the investigation, but typically investigations don’t end until the prosecutor wants them to.— Renato Mariotti (@renato_mariotti) April 19, 2018
What looms in the background here, of course, is that Trump can fire the people investigating him.
One of Trump's new lawyers is similarly prone to misspellings:
Trump's new lawyer, Martin Raskin, spells his last name in two different ways on his website. pic.twitter.com/pcnkqXv8oW— Annie Linskey (@AnnieLinskey) April 19, 2018
Obama’s former White House ethics czar commented on Rosenstein's reported reassurance to Trump that he is not a target of the Mueller probe:
On the one hand, huh. On the other: a subject can become a target in the blink of an eye, and I took little comfort in such assertions when I was repping defendants—especially when a potential cooperator like Cohen was lurking in the wings. Bottom line: be patient & trust Mueller https://t.co/Ja7tMITGO2— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) April 19, 2018
Trump commented on the inspector general's report on McCabe:
James Comey just threw Andrew McCabe “under the bus.” Inspector General’s Report on McCabe is a disaster for both of them! Getting a little (lot) of their own medicine?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 19, 2018
This morning, he went after congressional Democrats on the tax bill:
Nancy Pelosi is going absolutely crazy about the big Tax Cuts given to the American People by the Republicans...got not one Democrat Vote! Here’s a choice. They want to end them and raise your taxes substantially. Republicans are working on making them permanent and more cuts!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 20, 2018
And he criticized the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries amid rising gas prices:
Looks like OPEC is at it again. With record amounts of Oil all over the place, including the fully loaded ships at sea, Oil prices are artificially Very High! No good and will not be accepted!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 20, 2018
The GOP campaign to discredit Comey took a whimsical turn:
Shadowing Comey: @CNN has learned the Republican campaign to discredit the former FBI director is now turning to lions, including this fury costumed creature who will be tailing Comey on his upcoming book tour. This gives new meaning to the role of tracker.... pic.twitter.com/Jgks4gtOUD— Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) April 19, 2018
Stormy Daniels's attorney has received death threats:
You know you are making great progress and “winning” when the level of death threats, crazy emails & calls, and vitriol spikes. Its negative effect on us - ZERO. But it does serve as rocket fuel!! #bringit #basta— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) April 20, 2018
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) prepared her baby daughter for a floor vote:
I may have to vote today, so Maile’s outfit is prepped. I made sure she has a jacket so she doesn’t violate the Senate floor dress code (which requires blazers). I’m not sure what the policy is on duckling onesies, but I think we’re ready pic.twitter.com/SsNHEuSVnY— Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) April 19, 2018
From a CNN reporter:
And a Post columnist responded to a question from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah): “What if there are 10 babies on the floor of the Senate?”
-- “Trump lied to me about his wealth to get onto the Forbes 400. Here are the tapes,” by Jonathan Greenberg: “In May 1984, an official from the Trump Organization called to tell me how rich Donald J. Trump was. I was reporting for the Forbes 400, the magazine’s annual ranking of America’s richest people, for the third year. … The official was John Barron — a name we now know as an alter ego of Trump himself. When I recently rediscovered and listened, for first time since that year, to the tapes I made of this and other phone calls, I was amazed that I didn’t see through the ruse: Although Trump altered some cadences and affected a slightly stronger New York accent, it was clearly him.”
-- CNN, “YouTube ran ads from hundreds of brands on extremist channels,” by Paul P. Murphy, Kaya Yurieff and Gianluca Mezzofiore: “Ads from over 300 companies and organizations — including tech giants, major retailers, newspapers and government agencies — ran on YouTube channels promoting white nationalists, Nazis, pedophilia, conspiracy theories and North Korean propaganda, a CNN investigation has found.”
-- Bloomberg Businessweek, “Palantir Knows Everything About You,” by Peter Waldman, Lizette Chapman and Jordan Robertson: “High above the Hudson River in downtown Jersey City, a former U.S. Secret Service agent named Peter Cavicchia III ran special ops for JPMorgan Chase & Co. His insider threat group — most large financial institutions have one — used computer algorithms to monitor the bank’s employees, ostensibly to protect against perfidious traders and other miscreants. It all ended when the bank’s senior executives learned that they, too, were being watched, and what began as a promising marriage of masters of big data and global finance descended into a spying scandal. The misadventure, which has never been reported, also marked an ominous turn for Palantir, one of the most richly valued startups in Silicon Valley. An intelligence platform designed for the global War on Terror was weaponized against ordinary Americans at home. … The scary thing? Palantir is desperate for new customers.”
-- Politico Magazine, “The Judge in the Michael Cohen-Stormy Daniels Case Is Perfect,” by David Freedlander: “A porn star in the courtroom? The president’s secrets at stake? Why Kimba Wood isn’t even blinking.”
-- BuzzFeed News, “The UK Refused To Raid A Company Suspected Of Money Laundering, Citing Its Tory Donations,” by Heidi Blake, Tom Warren, Richard Holmes and Jane Bradley: “The British government refused to assist a French investigation into suspected money laundering and tax fraud by the UK telecoms giant Lycamobile — citing the fact that the company is the ‘biggest corporate donor to the Conservative party’ and gives money to a trust founded by Prince Charles. French prosecutors launched a major probe into the firm and arrested 19 people accused of using its accounts to launder money from organised criminal networks two years ago, after BuzzFeed News revealed its suspicious financial activities in the UK. But the Conservatives continued taking Lycamobile’s money … ”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Obama Profiles Parkland Survivors For TIME’s ‘100 Most Influential’ List,” from HuffPost: “Former President Barack Obama wrote a moving tribute to five outspoken survivors of the Parkland, Florida, high school massacre for TIME magazine’s annual list of 100 influential people, released on Thursday. The 44th president praised students Cameron Kasky, Jaclyn Corin, David Hogg, Emma González and Alex Wind for demanding tougher gun control legislation following the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. ‘Seared by memories of seeing their friends murdered at a place they believed to be safe, these young leaders don’t intimidate easily,’ Obama wrote. … ‘They’re as comfortable speaking truth to power as they are dismissive of platitudes and punditry,’ he continued. ‘And they live to mobilize their peers. ... The Parkland students are shaking us out of our complacency.’”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Illinois Plan: Replace Armed School Officers With Therapists,” from the AP: “Some Illinois lawmakers want to give extra money to schools that replace armed security officers with unarmed social workers and behavior therapists, an approach to safety that's far different than a national push to add police or arm teachers following a mass shooting at a Florida high school. Rep. Emanuel ‘Chris’ Welch, a Hillside Democrat, said he proposed the plan after hearing from advocates who argue that investing in mental health resources is the best way of treating the epidemic of violence. His plan, which is backed by 16 other Democrats in the House, would allow schools to apply to an optional grant if they promise to reallocate funding for school-based law enforcement to mental health services, including social workers or other practices ‘designed to promote school safety and healthy environments.’”
Trump will host an RNC roundtable this evening. He has no other official events today.
Mark your calendars: The president will deliver the commencement address at the U.S. Naval Academy on May 25.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I think he has an emptiness inside of him, and a hunger for affirmation, that I’ve never seen in an adult,” James Comey said to describe Trump to the New Yorker’s David Remnick.
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Winds will begin to calm down in D.C. today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Supper sunny. Moderate northwesterly winds. They remain a bit annoying in the 15-25 mph blustery range. High temperatures in the mid-50s to maybe near 60 if we’re lucky are indeed below average, by around 10 degrees for this time of year. The wind chill may feel even five or more degrees colder than the air temperature reading.”
-- The Capitals beat the Blue Jackets 4-1, tying the playoff series 2-2. (Isabelle Khurshudyan, Roman Stubbs and Mike Hume)
-- The D.C. council member who implied the Rothschilds control the weather left his tour of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum early. Peter Jamison reports: “D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) studied the image. ‘Are they protecting her?’ Lynn Williams, an expert on educational programs at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and White’s tour guide for the day, stared at the photo. ‘No,’ she said. ‘They’re marching her through.’ ‘Marching through is protecting,’ White said. ‘I think they’re humiliating her,’ Williams replied. … The group paused before grainy photos of German troops executing Catholic clergy in Poland by firing squad. ‘Were they actually manufacturing these weapons?’ White asked. Moments later, White was nowhere to be seen. … The tour, scheduled to last 90 minutes, was halfway done.” White later said, “This opportunity has given me the chance to meet a lot of great Jews, a lot of people. A lot of good Jews that I’ve never had the chance to meet before.” (Peter’s whole story on White’s visit is worth the read.)
-- Former Maryland governor Parris N. Glendening (D) endorsed Rushern Baker in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. (Rachel Chason)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
The news of Giuliani joining Trump's legal team caused this 2000 video to recirculate:
Stephen Colbert doesn't want any more details about Trump's alleged affairs:
The two black men arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks discussed their experience on “Good Morning America”:
A group of Saudi Arabians watched “Black Panther” as the country's cinema ban was lifted:
And a buffalo on the loose in Hawaii led to a water-scooter chase: