With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.
THE BIG IDEA:
Get ready for Macron-mania.
Donald Trump was the first president since Calvin Coolidge, a century ago, not to welcome a foreign leader for a state visit during his first year in office.
Fifteen months into his presidency, Trump is finally rolling out the red carpet for French President Emmanuel Macron. The country’s tricolor flag is flying all over downtown, and three days of events are planned in the capital city.
After Macron lands this afternoon, the presidents and their wives will take a helicopter to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home, for a sunset dinner on the terrace overlooking the Potomac.
Trump and Macron will meet one-on-one tomorrow morning in the Oval Office. Vice President Pence will host a lunch for Macron at the State Department, and he will tour Arlington National Cemetery.
The state dinner is Tuesday evening. “In a break with tradition, Trump invited no Democratic members of Congress or journalists,” the AP reports. “Approximately 150 guests will take their seats in the State Dining Room on Tuesday, making for a more intimate affair than those held by President Barack Obama. Obama’s guest lists numbered into the hundreds, requiring that the event be held in a tented pavilion erected on the South Lawn because no room in the White House can accommodate that many people.” (Paul Ryan will be there. Mitch McConnell got invited but sent his regrets.)
On Wednesday, Macron will address both chambers of Congress — coinciding with the 58th anniversary of Charles de Gaulle’s 1960 speech to a joint session. He’ll speak in English. Then he’ll hold a town-hall-style meeting with students at George Washington University.
Trump is going all out on pomp and circumstance because of how much fun he had in Paris last July, when Macron invited him to watch the annual Bastille Day parade. That trip inspired the president to order the Pentagon to plan a military parade through the streets of Washington. Macron also took Trump to the top of the Eiffel Tower for dinner and gave him a tour of Napoleon’s tomb during his brief jaunt to the City of Light.
Macron, who turned 40 in December, became France’s youngest head of state since Napoleon when he took office last year after defeating Marine Le Pen, who Trump suggested he favored during the election.
Since then, the two have forged an unexpected bond. Trump respects strength, so Macron made a point during their first meeting at a NATO summit last May to tightly grip his counterpart’s hand like a vise. It was a super weird moment, but it endeared him to Trump.
Many Western leaders have struggled to conceal their disdain for the neophyte American president and his disregard for the postwar, rules-based order, but Macron has a fantastic poker face. The former investment banker has turned on the charm jets like he’s trying to land a big account.
Macron wants to reestablish France as a global power and himself as the leader of Europe. Cementing a bond with Trump is part of his strategy to accomplish this. “The fate of the Western alliance now lies in the hands of one of history’s oddest diplomatic couples,” writes William Drozdiak, a former Washington Post foreign editor who is working on a biography of Macron. “Trump speaks to Macron at least once or twice a week on a wide range of subjects — more often than with any other leader. Macron is renowned for his seductive use of flattery and employs his skills to good effect with the White House. Other European leaders refer to him as the ‘Trump Whisperer’ and encourage the French leader to use his unique influence to ease friction in various transatlantic disputes.”
Because of the lovefest during their last meeting, there are literally dozens of stories popping this morning about the “bromance” between Trump and Macron. French officials bristle privately at this over-torqued narrative. Macron is simply a pragmatist who wants to be on good terms with the United States, they explain.
Knowing the president’s affinity for Fox News, the French gave Chris Wallace an exclusive interview with Macron in Paris that aired on “Fox News Sunday.” He emphasized their similarities. They each made a fortune in business and won the presidency on their first try for elected office. They ran as outsiders bent on disruption.
“We have a very special relationship,” Macron said of Trump. “Both of us are probably mavericks. … President Trump’s election was unexpected in your country, and probably my election was unexpected in my country. And we are not part of the classical political system. … We are very much attached to the same values.”
But there were profound differences. Macron ran as a technocratic centrist and globalist, Trump as a right-wing nationalistic populist. Trump, 71, is on his third wife, a former model who is 24 years his junior. Macron is happily married to his first wife, a former teacher who is 24 years older than him.
And Macron flicked at some of the areas of tension that are not far under the surface. “I’m an easy guy. I’m very simple. I’m straightforward,” Macron said on Fox. “It’s too complicated if you make war on everybody. You make trade war on China, trade war against Europe, war in Syria, war against Iran? Come on, it doesn’t work! You need allies. We are the ally!”
-- Here are five of Macron’s objectives that could complicate his chummy rapport with the president:
1. Stopping Trump from pulling out of the Iranian nuclear deal:
France was one of five countries to co-sign the agreement with the U.S. and Iran in 2015. Trump keeps threatening to withdraw unless it’s “fixed.” Macron is trying to persuade the president not to follow through on his campaign promise.
“The U.S. decision deadline is May 12,” chief diplomatic correspondent Karen DeYoung reports. “Failure to work out a compromise between the United States and its closest European allies that will keep the nuclear accord alive could lead to the most significant transatlantic breach in decades. … Senior French, British and German officials have been negotiating for months with a State Department team led by Brian Hook, director of policy planning, to come up with a way to meet Trump’s demands without altering the deal itself or driving the other signatories — Russia, China and, of course, Iran — to cry foul.
“According to officials involved in the U.S.-European talks, significant progress has been made on addressing concerns about the deal’s sunset clauses, its verification rules, and the absence of restrictions on Iranian ballistic missile testing and development,” DeYoung adds. “For their part, the Europeans worry that the mercurial U.S. president … will ultimately decide to trash it even if his State Department recommends otherwise.”
On Fox, Macron telegraphed the case he’ll make to Trump. He said there’s “no Plan B” and pulling out could push Tehran to behave more like Pyongyang, creating more headaches down the road. “Is this agreement perfect? … No. But … what do you have as a better option? I don’t see it,” Macron said.
2. Keeping U.S. boots on the ground in Syria:
Because of its colonial history, France feels a special responsibility for Syria. The French joined the U.S. and Britain earlier this month in striking Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons facilities, and Macron wants assurances from Trump that he will not follow through on his pledge to withdraw U.S. troops from the country “very soon.”
On the Sunday after the Syria strikes, Macron suggested on French television that he had convinced Trump to maintain U.S. forces in Syria for the “long term.” “Ten days ago, President Trump was saying that the United States would disengage from Syria,” Macron said. “We convinced him that it was necessary to stay there long term.”
After White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders pushed back from the podium and said Trump’s view that the troops should come home soon has not changed, Macron walked back his comments during a news conference. “I did not say that either the U.S. or France will remain militarily engaged in the long term in Syria,” he said, claiming dubiously that he was referring to a diplomatic presence.
On Fox, Macron reiterated the imperative of a U.S. presence in Syria. He said regime change would “fuel the new terrorists” and create a power vacuum that the “Iranian regime” will fill. “It’s not automatically U.S. forces, but that’s U.S. diplomacy and that’s your presence,” Macron said. “We will have to build a new Syria after war, and that’s why I think the U.S. role is very important to play.”
3. Exempting Europe from the Trump tariffs:
Macron met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin last Thursday to discuss how to push back on Trump’s protectionist trade policies. Europe is especially worried about the May 1 U.S. deadline for imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, and Macron will try to defuse a trade war. The European Union has been preparing a proposal for Trump to avert the levies. (Mexico, worried about the future of NAFTA, just negotiated a big deal with the E.U. to simplify customs and eliminate tariffs on most goods.)
Obama talked with Merkel frequently, but Trump has a frosty relationship and famously did not shake her hand during a photo op last year. Her brief visit to Washington at the end of this week will get a tiny fraction of the fanfare, and she’s certainly not getting a state dinner.
During a background briefing at the White House on Friday afternoon, a senior administration official sought to tamp down expectations of a breakthrough this week. Asked if there will be any news announced during the trip, he said: “Hard to say. Don’t know if there will be a trade announcement following the state visit or not. Just don’t know.”
“Whether we will actually solve, or come to closure, or a full detailed agreement on some of the issues that we’ve touched on is difficult to say at this remove,” he added, referring to Iran, Syria and trade.
4. Saving the Paris climate accord:
“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump said last June as he pulled out of the climate agreement negotiated by his predecessor.
Minutes later, Macron posted a video on Twitter in which he said, in English, “Make our planet great again!” (It was a play on Trump’s campaign slogan.)
This issue will be on the back burner because there’s no real action to take right now, but Macron plans to show his concern for the environment in more subtle ways. He’ll bring Trump an oak tree sapling from the site of the Battle of Belleau Wood, where many Americans died in World War I, and ask him to plant it in the White House garden.
5. Protecting the liberal world order:
Macron has positioned himself on the global stage as a champion of democracy and international engagement, a contrast to Trump. “Nationalism will lead Europe into the abyss. We see authoritarianism rising all around us,” he said in a speech to the European Parliament last week. “The response should not be authoritarian democracy but the authority of democracy!”
“But while Macron frets about the myopia of the populists, he does not fully reject their agenda,” Ishaan Tharoor notes in his WorldViews newsletter this morning. “Under his watch, authorities have embarked on a harsh crackdown on asylum seekers, and Macron himself has expressed sympathy for public anxieties over migration. Macron's supporters see his ‘radical centrism’ as a more effective platform to address some of the same concerns that animate Trump and his voters. Meanwhile, Macron's critics — especially on the left — see him not as populist in establishment clothing but as a leader for the rich, bent on tightening his stranglehold on the French political scene.”
Our Paris correspondent, James McAuley, wrote a smart piece in Sunday’s newspaper contrasting how he’s viewed here with how he’s seen over there: “Abroad, Macron is often viewed as a French Obama, a fresh face who uses his youthful energy to captivate audiences … At home, he is widely seen as a sort of liberal strongman who has sought to curtail checks on his power — and may have some of the same governing tendencies as President Trump.”
In Paris, Macron is perceived as an almost monarchical figure — in a system where executive powers are already far more extensive than they are in virtually any other Western country: “Critics say he governs by fiat and that his tenure has been marked by a troubling transition of France into what is essentially a one-party state. … Macron’s party, Republic on the Move, or République En Marche, which he founded in 2016, holds an absolute majority of the 577 seats in the French National Assembly. What is more, Macron hand-selected those deputies, or lawmakers — many of whom were political novices — before their election, diminishing the likelihood any of them would ever contradict their leader … Even with that built-in loyalty, Macron is pushing a measure that would further reduce Parliament’s powers — in the name of fostering greater ‘efficiency’ and ‘rationalization.’”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to a baby boy weighing 8 pounds and 7 ounces. From Karla Adam and William Booth: “Kensington Palace said that the baby was due in April, but they never dished on the exact due date. But earlier this month, yellow signs appeared outside of the Lindo Wing [of St. Mary's hospital] announcing parking restrictions from April 9-30 because of an ‘event.’ As students of royal baby births know, this was code for the Royal. Baby. Watch. Is. On.”
GET SMART FAST:
- At least 57 Afghans were killed in a suicide bombing while registering to vote in Kabul. At least 119 others were wounded in the blast, which was claimed by the Islamic State and could foreshadow a violent run-up to October’s long-delayed election. (Sayed Salhuddin and Pamela Constable)
- The naked gunman suspected of killing four people at a Tennessee Waffle House was also arrested in July after trying to breach a White House security perimeter. Authorities confiscated 29-year-old Travis Reinking's guns, though they were later returned to Reinking’s father — who acknowledged he gave them back to his son. (Kristine Phillips)
- Southwest Airlines canceled dozens of flights due to emergency inspections. The airline is inspecting fan blades following last week’s midair explosion on one of its Boeing 737s. (Faiz Siddiqui)
- Honda says there are still more than 60,000 cars on the road with defective air bags that have previously killed drivers. Experts have called the exploding air bags, which were initially recalled 10 years ago, a “ticking time bomb.” (Ashley Halsey III)
- A new exhibition in the Netherlands seeks to examine the visual art of propaganda by studying the little-known films made by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. The exhibit uses clips from all nine of Bannon’s documentaries to highlight his “apocalyptic worldview,” which both foreshadowed and shaped the core tenets of Trumpsim. (The Guardian)
- The 28-year-old woman who created a shareable spreadsheet identifying reported sexual harassers and abusers in the publishing industry says she continues to feel the repercussions. “The past months … have shown me how much risk all of us who used [the spreadsheet] took in trying to shield one another from harm,” Moira Donegan told Margaret Sullivan.
- An Algerian woman was denied French citizenship after she refused to shake hands with two male officials at her naturalization ceremony, citing religious convictions. That decision was upheld last week by France’s top administrative court, which ruled that her refusal was “symbolic” and revealed a “lack of assimilation.” (New York Times)
- The world’s oldest person — and the last known person born in the 19th century — died this weekend at age 117. Nabi Tajima was among a remarkably exclusive group of “supercentenarians,” or people who lived past the 110-year threshold. Out of just 36 supercentenarians reported worldwide, all but one of them are women, and 18 are Japanese. (Alex Horton)
THE TRUMP AGENDA:
-- The Supreme Court on Wednesday will hear a challenge to the third iteration of Trump’s “travel ban,” in a potentially far-reaching case that has also raised deep questions about the judiciary’s role in national security issues. Robert Barnes reports: “A major issue for the court is separating ‘the president’ from ‘this president.’ Hawaii’s brief … cites not only Trump’s campaign comments, but also his actions as president, including the time he retweeted‘three anti-Muslim propaganda videos’ … Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco urged the court not to get distracted by the president’s bluster … and to keep its examination on the law. If the president’s comments and tweets were not a factor, many legal experts said, the court would be likely to extend the deference to the political branches it has shown in the past … Besides examining the immigration statute, the court has said it will review the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit that the ban violates the First Amendment’s guarantee against religious discrimination. And the court will also consider whether the judiciary even has authority to ‘look behind’ the face of an immigration proclamation to examine whether it was drawn with improper motives.”
-- Could Trump’s “extreme vetting” center render the travel ban obsolete? Nick Miroff reports: “[I]n February the White House announced the creation of a National Vetting Center, or NVC, that would bring unprecedented rigor to screening foreigners. Since then, however, the administration has not explained how the center will vet travelers more extremely than the array of other federal agencies already performing the task. It is also unclear whether the White House plans to lift the controversial travel restrictions once the NVC is up and running. … Trump has given security, intelligence and other agencies until August to submit proposals for how they will work with the new center and share information with it.”
-- The Trump administration has touted Wisconsin as a model for “welfare reform,” but hopeful statistics belie the desperation of many low-income families in the state. Robert Samuels goes deep in Milwaukee: “Since [Republican Gov. Scott Walker] put work requirements into place, the Health Services Department said it has cut spending on food stamps by 28 percent, from $1.2 billion in 2013 to around $867 million in 2017. Officials said 25,000 food stamp recipients — out of a statewide total of 700,000 — have found work. State officials also said that more than 86,000 people have lost their ability to get food stamps and did not report getting new jobs. There’s been no government study examining what happened to them … but advocates say they see swelling numbers at churches and food pantries, where more and more people go looking for help.”
-- Mitt Romney hit an embarrassing speed bump on his drive to the Senate on Saturday, but he remains the heavy favorite to win in Utah. From Dave Weigel: “Delegates at the GOP’s state convention denied Romney their nomination as Mike Kennedy, a three-term state representative who entered the race just weeks earlier, edged out the establishment favorite with 50.88 percent of the vote to 49.12 percent. The close result secured ballot slots for Romney and Kennedy in the June 26 primary … [T]he delegates’ rebuff was a setback and underscored that Romney … has not yet made the sale with Republican voters. Kennedy had depicted himself as a bona fide Utahan, and portrayed Romney as an establishment interloper, an attack that landed with some Republican delegates. … The bigger hurdles for Romney are his well-stated problems with Trump and his shifting opinions.”
Romney has dropped his Trump criticisms to secure the GOP nod, and he pushed back on the carpetbagger attacks during his speech at the convention: “Some people I’ve spoken to today have said this is a ‘David versus Goliath’ race, but they’re wrong,” Romney told delegates. “I’m not Goliath. Washington, D.C., is Goliath. I’m your neighbor!”
These conventions are always dominated by very conservative activists, and there’s a recent history of establishment Republicans losing at the convention but then winning the primary. Six years ago, Sen. Orrin Hatch — whose open seat Romney is seeking — fell narrowly short of the 60 percent threshold of support he needed to avert a primary. But he got 67 percent in the primary. Gov. Gary Herbert lost the convention vote to a conservative challenger in 2016, but he whipped him by 44 points in the June primary. Also: Romney won 73 percent of the vote in Utah when he ran for president in 2012. “There’s not a real clear path for Kennedy to win this primary,” said Boyd Matheson, former chief of staff to Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah). “He’s got a 60-day sprint against Romney, and he’s starting out with small name ID — which is not a problem for Romney.”
-- Outgoing Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) reiterated during an awkward interview on CNN that he will not campaign against the Democratic nominee vying for his seat. Weigel reports that Corker accused the NRSC of leaking “news of tensions with [Mitch McConnell] over Corker’s public comments about former governor Phil Bredesen, the likely Democratic nominee, and his advantages in the race. 'Look, I have sent the maximum contribution to the Republican nominee on our side. I have said I’m going to plan to vote for this person,' Corker said. 'I was in a long meeting where … they were asking me about Governor Bredesen. He is my friend. I am not going to campaign against him, but I am supporting our nominee.'" (He appeared eager to avoid saying Marsha Blackburn's name.)
-- Bernie TV: “Bernie Sanders Is Quietly Building a Digital Media Empire,” by New York magazine’s Gabriel Debenedetti: “Sanders hosts an interview show (‘The Bernie Sanders Show’) that he started streaming over Facebook Live on a semi-regular basis ... The chat with [Bill Nye] the Science Guy ended up with 4.5 million views. … The scale is unmatched by any other politician, inviting obvious questions about whether Sanders plans to pivot it into a massive primary campaign-mobilization machine come 2020. But the mainstream media criticism implicit in the venture also invites obvious comparisons — if equally stark contrasts — to the man crying ‘Fake news’ at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.”
NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Trump administration officials said Kim Jong Un must take significant steps to dismantle his nuclear arsenal before the president will start to lift economic sanctions. The Wall Street Journal’s Michael R. Gordon, Jonathan Cheng and Michael C. Bender report: “Those two closely related questions — the pace of Pyongyang’s nuclear dismantlement and the timetable for sanctions relief — stand to be the major issues of the summit. … In a meeting in Pyongyang over the Easter weekend, Mr. Kim tried to push Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo toward a phased agreement in which each side would make paired concessions on a timetable that could stretch out for years, according to a person familiar with the matter. But the Trump administration is wary of making economic and diplomatic concessions upfront for steps to dismantle the North Korean arsenal that would only to be taken later. The administration favors what one person called a ‘big bang’ approach, in which major concessions would be made by each side early on.”
....We are a long way from conclusion on North Korea, maybe things will work out, and maybe they won’t - only time will tell....But the work I am doing now should have been done a long time ago!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 22, 2018
-- Fact-check: North Korea has not agreed to denuclearize, as Trump claimed over Twitter. From the AP’s Jill Colvin: “North Korea said Friday it would suspend nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches ahead of summits with the U.S. and South Korea. Kim also said a nuclear test site would be closed and ‘dismantled’ now that the country has learned how to make nuclear weapons and mount warheads on ballistic rockets. But the North has stopped short of saying it has any intention of abandoning its nuclear arsenal, with Kim making clear that nukes remain a ‘treasured sword.’ Trump nonetheless tweeted Sunday that the North has ‘agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, & no more testing!’ Being committed to the concept of denuclearization, however, is not the same as agreeing to it, as Trump claims.”
-- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned that his country will restart “nuclear activities” if the United States withdraws from the 2015 accord. Karen DeYoung reports: “In addition to U.S. isolation from the rest of the world, ‘Iran has many options and those options are not pleasant,’ including ‘resuming at much greater speed our nuclear activities,’ he said [on CBS’s “Face the Nation”] … In recent weeks, Iranian officials have said that in the absence of the deal, they would feel free to install and operate thousands of new uranium centrifuges that could, in theory, produce weapons-grade material. [Zarif] repeated charges that it is the United States, not Iran, that has already violated the agreement, by using its dominant presence in the international financial community to ‘dissuade our economic partners from engaging with Iran.’”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- White House legislative affairs director Marc Short declined to rule out the possibility that Trump will fire Robert Mueller or Rod Rosenstein. “We believe the scope has gone well beyond what was intended to be Russian meddling in the election,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We don't know how far off the investigation is going to veer.”
-- DNC Chairman Tom Perez defended his committee’s lawsuit against the Russian government, the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks. From Weigel: “‘I don’t know when Director Mueller’s investigation is going to end, so we need to file now to protect our rights,’ [Perez] said in an interview with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos … ‘We’ve got elections coming up in November. It’s hard to win elections when you have interference in elections. They’ve done it with impunity, and I’m concerned that it’s going to happen again. So, that’s why we did it now.’ … [Perez told NBC’s Chuck Todd] he was ‘confident that we will get a jury trial’ and added that he had ‘not consulted Hillary Clinton to ask her permission’ before filing the complaint. … Pressed on how much the lawsuit might cost — a worry for Democrats in cash-starved red states — Perez said it was ‘hard to put a price tag on preserving democracy.’” Trump repeatedly mocked the lawsuit over Twitter this weekend, saying, "[T]he Democrats have sued the Republicans for Winning.”
-- Cambridge Analytica data scientist Aleksandr Kogan is considering suing Facebook for defamation. BuzzFeed News’s Ryan Mac reports: “[Kogan] admitted that he did violate Facebook’s developer policy by harvesting user data and transferring it to a third party — but said that he was being unfairly pilloried as just one of many people who did this. In following up on the controversy, Facebook has vowed to find them all. … Kogan maintained that observers have missed the big story: that companies have been collecting data on users for years using Facebook’s tools and tacit understanding. Kogan also disputes other aspects of the established narrative: that he’s a spy, for one … ”
-- “Why Trump has struggled to assemble a legal team,” by the Boston Globe’s Annie Linskey: “When President Richard Nixon got into legal trouble, a team of top lawyers signed up to represent him. And as Bill Clinton found himself staring down a grand jury, another group of elite attorneys stood at his side. But the lure of representing the most powerful man in the world isn’t appealing to this generation’s cadre of top white-collar criminal defense attorneys: Twelve partners from a total of seven firms have said no to President Trump’s entreaties to help him navigate the special counsel’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. … It’s hard to call it a dream team.
“The most recent lawyer to turn down Trump was Steven Molo of Molo Lamken LLC, a New York firm that specializes in complicated criminal litigation. Others to reportedly say no to Trump, according to a variety of news media reports, include Ted Olson, a partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Paul Clement and Mark Filip of Kirkland & Ellis LLP; Robert Giuffra of Sullivan & Cromwell LLP; Brendan Sullivan and Emmet Flood of Williams & Connolly LLC; Dan Webb and Tom Buchanan of Winston & Strawn LLP; William Burck of Quinn, Emanuel, Urquhart & Sullivan LLC; Reid H. Weingarten of Steptoe & Johnson LLP; and (Robert) Bennett, who works for Hogan Lovells. The Globe sought interviews with all these lawyers; none agreed to comment on why they didn’t want Trump as a client.”
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN AND WOMEN:
-- Fox News host Sean Hannity owns a massive real estate empire, according to newly reviewed records, which link him to a group of shell companies that spent some $90 million on more than 870 homes in the United States. The Guardian’s Jon Swaine reports: “Dozens of the properties were bought at a discount in 2013, after banks foreclosed on their previous owners for defaulting on mortgages. … [Hannity] also amassed part of his property collection with support from [HUD], a fact he did not disclose when praising [Ben Carson] on his television show last year. The real estate holdings linked to Hannity are spread across more than 20 shell companies formed in Georgia. … Among the most valuable are two large apartment complexes in Georgia that Hannity bought in 2014 for $22.7m. … The Georgia purchases were funded with mortgages for $17.9m that Hannity obtained with help from [HUD], which insured the loans under a program created as part of the National Housing Act. The [Obama-era loans] were recently increased by $5m with renewed support from Carson’s department. … A [HUD] source said Hannity was identified in non-public filings as the 100% owner of the apartment complexes.”
-- Hannity responded Monday to the story with this statement: “It is ironic that I am being attacked for investing my personal money in communities that badly need such investment and in which, I am sure, those attacking me have not invested their money. The fact is, these are investments that I do not individually select, control, or know the details about; except that obviously I believe in putting my money to work in communities that otherwise struggle to receive such support. I have never discussed with anybody at HUD the original loans that were obtained in the Obama years, nor the subsequent refinance of such loans, as they are a private matter. I had no role in, or responsibility for, any HUD involvement in any of these investments. I can say that every rigorous process and strict standard of improvement requirements were followed; all were met, fulfilled and inspected. The LLC’s are REAL companies that spend real investment money on real properties.”
-- Stormy Daniels’s attorney predicted Hannity’s relationship with Michael Cohen will prove to be “far more extensive than Mr. Hannity has led people to believe.” But attorney Michael Avenatti added, “I don’t know that there’s anything nefarious that went on between Mr. Hannity and Mr. Cohen, or that there was any NDA-type involvement or anything of that nature.” (The Hill)
-- A nonprofit formerly chaired by national security adviser John Bolton peddled misleading and false anti-Muslim news picked up by a Russian troll factory, according to NBC News’s Heidi Przybyla. “The group’s authors also appeared on Russian media, including Sputnik and RT News, criticizing mainstream European leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron. From 2013 until last month, Bolton was chairman of the Gatestone Institute, a New York-based advocacy group that warns of a looming ‘jihadist takeover’ of Europe leading to a ‘Great White Death.’”
-- “McMaster and Commander,” by the New Yorker’s Patrick Radden Keefe: “Trump receives a thick briefing book every night, but nobody harbors the illusion that he reads it. Current and former officials told me that filling out a card is the best way to raise an issue with him in writing. Everything that needs to be conveyed to the President must be boiled down, the former staffer said, to ‘two or three points, with the syntactical complexity of ‘See Jane run.’’ … When briefers prepared a card for [Trump’s call with Putin], one of the bullet points said, in capital letters: ‘DO NOT CONGRATULATE.’ Trump also received a five-minute oral briefing from his national-security adviser [H.R. McMaster]. Before McMaster delivered the briefing, one of his aides said to him, ‘The President is going to congratulate him no matter what you say.’ ‘I know,’ McMaster replied. Two days after Trump’s phone call with Putin, he fired McMaster. Someone in the Administration had leaked the ‘DO NOT CONGRATULATE’ story to the Washington Post, and Trump was furious. Yet McMaster’s ouster had seemed imminent for months. As it turned out, Trump found the intellectual side of the warrior-intellectual annoying.”
-- Over 100 retired generals and admirals signed on to a letter expressing “profound concern” about Gina Haspel’s nomination as CIA director. “We are deeply troubled by the prospect of someone who appears to have been intimately involved in torture being elevated to one of the most important positions of leadership in the intelligence community,” the military officials write. “[W]e do not accept efforts to excuse her actions relating to torture and other unlawful abuse of detainees by offering that she was ‘just following orders’ … We did not accept the ‘just following orders’ justification after World War II, and we should not accept it now.”
-- The White House fears Ronny Jackson may not be confirmed as VA secretary. Per Axios’s Jonathan Swan: “Jackson is well liked at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in his role as the White House doctor, but some senior officials question whether he has the management experience necessary to run the second largest agency in the federal government. … Jackson has his confirmation hearing this week, and expects to testify before the Veterans Affairs' committee on Wednesday afternoon. Senators from both parties share the skepticism — and that includes some Republicans on the VA Committee.” White House Chief of Staff John Kelly previously expressed doubts about Jackson: “Kelly thought it was unwise for Trump to nominate Jackson so quickly without going through all the due diligence that a normal cabinet nomination process would involve.”
-- Trump's first wife Ivana gave a candid interview to the New York Post's Page Six to promote her book "Raising Trump,” which comes out in paperback May 1. Here are the highlights from Dana Schuster's report:
- On her son Don Jr.’s divorce from Vanessa Trump: “Donald Jr. is a good-looking guy. He is successful. He is not going to have a problem to find a girl. Maybe Vanessa might have a little problem because she has five kids . . . Who is going to date and marry the woman who has five children? Especially since she is young  and she might want to have more. … It’s a long time ago now, so I think Vanessa knew it all along … But I honestly don’t know that many men who can keep their zippers up.”
- On why Trump shouldn’t run for a second term: “I’ll tell you something, I don’t think it’s necessary. Donald is going to be 74, 73 [and] maybe he should just go and play golf and enjoy his fortune. … Besides, I think he probably [misses] a little bit of freedom, I don’t think he probably knew how much is involved of being the president. It’s so [much] information — you have to know the whole world.” Asked if they’re still close, she said, “We speak every month.”
- On Stormy Daniels and other Trump accusers: “She is not playing a fair game,” she said of the adult-film star. Daniels is “paid to strip . . . She goes pole dancing or whatever she’s doing.”
- And Melania, Trump's third wife: “I feel bad for her because I know how bad I did feel. It hurts a lot[.] Honestly, I prefer that she’s in [the White House rather than me] … I like to do what I want to do and like to go wherever I want to go with whomever I want to go.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump repeated his favorite line about the Russia investigation after a weekend of attacking James Comey over Twitter:
A complete Witch Hunt!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 22, 2018
From a Weekly Standard editor:
If it were true there’s no there there, or that this would be one of the weakest obstruction of justice cases ever brought, then, @realDonaldTrump, you have nothing to fear. But you fear. https://t.co/VUD1rdqCKS— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) April 22, 2018
A Democratic senator responded to Trump's reference to “Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd of Fake News NBC”:
As a parent trying to raise kind, respectful boys, it freaks me out how normalized we have become to the leader of our nation trading in middle school insults about people’s personal appearance. https://t.co/VNxaw1aiYn— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) April 22, 2018
A Daily Beast writer commented on reports of Sean Hannity's real estate empire:
Hannity calls everyone he disagrees with in journalism an out of touch limousine-driving elitist and the guy owns 870 houses.— Sam Stein (@samstein) April 23, 2018
The first lady attended Barbara Bush's funeral. From a conservative commentator:
Melania returns home. Says, yes, I had a good time. They were all very nice..... Trump says_________________ pic.twitter.com/cwca2J3nlF— Charlie Sykes (@SykesCharlie) April 23, 2018
From a New York Times reporter:
From a Cook Political Report editor:
This picture captures paradox of modern politics. We long for decency & civility but also shun dynasties and status quo. pic.twitter.com/xT4ApNms4I— amy walter (@amyewalter) April 22, 2018
From an NBC News analyst:
An immigrant. A son of one. A war hero. A descendant of slaves. A librarian. A sober alcoholic. Four presidents. The first black one. The first woman nominee. Four lawyers. An MBA. A model. From the South, North, Midwest, Pacific Islands, and Eastern Bloc. America is various. pic.twitter.com/oHNLbxLaGv— Anand Giridharadas (@AnandWrites) April 22, 2018
From an MSNBC host:
The presidency is a fraternity that erases political divisions. And yet I find it really hard to imagine Melania’s husband fitting comfortably into this picture. https://t.co/RSkmDrzEh0— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) April 23, 2018
From a former CIA intelligence officer:
Each president in this photo did things I disagreed with politically. Quite a lot, in fact, for most of them.— David Priess (@DavidPriess) April 22, 2018
And yet I never doubted that every single one of them acted based on core values, including love of country—not, primarily, love of self. pic.twitter.com/N19fV1zPoD
From the creative director of the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA:
When you finally drop the guy everyone hates from the group chat pic.twitter.com/pytLmYd74w— Rob Flaherty (@Rob_Flaherty) April 22, 2018
Congressional Democrats used Earth Day as an opportunity to demand Scott Pruitt's ouster:
This #EarthDay it is critical that we stand up for the protection of our environment. That is why I have joined more than 170 members in the House and Senate to call on EPA Administrator #PollutingPruitt to resign. He has been an unquestionable failure since Day 1. 🌎 pic.twitter.com/JBWj0VzR9l— Dina Titus (@repdinatitus) April 22, 2018
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), who represents Parkland, called for stricter gun laws:
My thoughts and prayers are with victims & families in Nashville, but thoughts and prayers are not enough. @SpeakerRyan, are you scheduling a moment of silence this week? As we reflect on lives lost, let’s DO SOMETHING. Let’s vote on common-sense gun laws THIS WEEK. #NeverAgain— Rep. Ted Deutch (@RepTedDeutch) April 22, 2018
Meghan McCain shared a photo with her father:
And a runner who broke barriers participated in the London Marathon:
This is Katherine Switzer.— Greg Hogben (@MyDaughtersArmy) April 22, 2018
50 years ago she became the first woman to run in a marathon. She signed her initials on the entry form instead of her name. Men tried to stop her.
Today, aged 71, she was the guest of honor at the London Marathon. She ran wearing the same number. pic.twitter.com/KR7lgqf8Za
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- New York Times, “Inside One of America’s Ugliest Political Feuds: Cuomo vs. de Blasio,” by Shane Goldmacher and J. David Goodman: “In their own way, Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio both are vying to define the Democratic Party’s future in New York and beyond: the mayor as a progressive beacon for unrepentant liberalism succeeding, the governor as a deal-cutting Democrat who can actually make good on progressive promises. But the compulsive rivalry makes both look small. Things have only worsened with the candidacy of Cynthia Nixon … Mr. Cuomo has seethed about what he believes is Mr. de Blasio’s hidden hand [and has signaled] that he intends to punish the mayor for it, even against the counsel of his advisers.
“The latest flash point: the recent state budget that served as a cudgel to exert his dominance over Mr. de Blasio. He added new oversight to the city’s mayor-run school system. He forced the mayor to hand over $418 million for subway repairs, threatening to garnish property taxes if Mr. de Blasio resisted. … [After the budget passed], Mr. Cuomo held a triumphant event[.] Mr. de Blasio was pointedly not invited. And when the mayor found out, he pressed at least one elected official not to attend …”
-- Washingtonian, “Inside Jeff Bezos’s DC Life,” by Ben Wofford: “Just as Bezos has busied himself pushing his Seattle company to new feats, the inventor of the ‘everything store’ has been quietly moonlighting in a town that, friends say, he views as an everything city—a delta of diplomats and techies, military engineers and journalists, powerbrokers and problem solvers, a mélange perfectly suited to the tinkerer’s heterodox taste. Confidants report that Bezos spends more time in Washington than in any other city outside of Seattle—ten trips a year, give or take—and for good reason. Not content merely to own the local newspaper, the retail guru has become the owner of the largest home in DC. … All of this prefigures the question of whether Amazon will bring its new headquarters—HQ2, in the parlance of the 20 municipalities vying to win it—to Washington, too.” (Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)
-- The Atlantic, “The Hardest Job in the World: What if the problem isn’t the president — it’s the presidency?” by John Dickerson: “The intensity of public feelings about [Trump] makes it hard to measure him against the presidency. His breaks with tradition are so jarring, and the murmuration of tweets so thick, that debate about his behavior tends to be conducted on the plane of propriety and the president’s seeming disregard for it. If Trump were a less divisive figure, we might view these lapses differently. We might consider … evidence that the office itself is broken. [The office] hasn’t just grown in power; it’s grown in scope, complexity, degree of difficulty. Each time a president has added to the job description, a new expectation has conveyed, like the Oval Office furniture, to the next man in line. A president must now be able to jolt the economy like Franklin Roosevelt, tame Congress like Lyndon Johnson, comfort the nation like Ronald Reagan …”
- “The modern presidency has gotten out of control,” said former CIA director Leon Panetta. “Presidents are caught in a crisis-by-crisis response operation that undermines the ability of any modern president to get a handle” on the office.
-- Politico Magazine, “‘My Dearest Fidel’: An ABC Journalist’s Secret Liaison With Fidel Castro,” by Peter Kornbluh: “The untold story of how Lisa Howard’s intimate diplomacy with Cuba’s revolutionary leader changed the course of the Cold War.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Kellyanne Conway lashes out on CNN over question about her husband’s anti-Trump Twitter habit,” from Vox: “Kellyanne Conway does not want to talk about her husband George Conway’s habit of subtweeting [Trump]. She accused CNN’s Dana Bash of a sexist line of questioning when the journalist asked about the matter on State of the Union on Sunday, saying it was meant to ‘harass and embarrass’ her. … ‘This ought to be fun moving forward, Dana. We’re now going to talk about other people’s spouses and significant others just because they either work at the White House or CNN? Are we going to do that? You just went there,’ Conway said. She said that spouses ‘by definition’ have differences of opinion and that Bash’s question was a ‘fascinating, cross-the-Rubicon moment’ and representative of the ‘double standard’ she faces.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Shania Twain Says She Would Have Voted For Trump In 2016,” from the Daily Caller: “Country star Shania Twain is Canadian, but if she had been allowed to vote in America’s 2016 elections, her choice would have been Donald Trump. The singer expressed as much during a wide-ranging interview with The Guardian published Sunday. ... [A]s it often does, politics came up, and Twain made it clear she would rather have hers be ‘honest’ instead of ‘polite.’ ‘I would have voted for [Trump] because, even though he was offensive, he seemed honest,’ Twain told The Guardian. ‘Do you want straight or polite? Not that you shouldn’t be able to have both. If I were voting, I just don’t want bullshit. I would have voted for a feeling that it was transparent. And politics has a reputation of not being that, right?’”
Twain later tweeted an apology for her quote:
I am passionately against discrimination of any kind and hope it’s clear from the choices I have made, and the people I stand with, that I do not hold any common moral beliefs with the current President (2/4)— Shania Twain (@ShaniaTwain) April 22, 2018
Trump and Pence will have lunch before the arrival of French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte. Trump and the first lady will plant a tree with the Macrons on the South Lawn. The two presidential couples will later travel to Mount Vernon to have dinner and view Washington’s tomb.
Pence will also swear in Jim Bridenstine as administrator of NASA.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I’m supporting the nominee. I have worked with the nominee for some time. And I don’t know what else to say.” — Bob Corker on Marsha Blackburn’s Senate bid
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Today’s weather in D.C. gets a “Nice Day!” rating. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “We’ll have a mix of sun and clouds, as temperatures make a run at close to 70 degrees. Breezes are light from the southeast at around 10-15 mph.”
-- The Wizards beat the Raptors 106-98, tying up the first-round playoff series at 2-2. (Candace Buckner and Ava Wallace)
-- Democratic gubernatorial candidate Rushern Baker won a straw poll among party activists at a Western Maryland summit. State Del. Aruna Miller won the straw poll for the race to succeed exiting Rep. John Delaney (D). (Paul Schwartzman)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
John Oliver plans to run a pro-Iran nuclear deal ad during Sean Hannity's show:
The Post's David Fahrenthold looked back on Trump's merchandising empire:
Drone footage showed the breakup of ice that caused flood warnings in Maine:
Queen Elizabeth kicked off the London Marathon:
Fox News host Jeanine Pirro took to the streets of Manhattan to see who was buying James Comey's book:
Street Justice is back and better than ever! pic.twitter.com/2wJJx2n0Jd— Jeanine Pirro (@JudgeJeanine) April 22, 2018
Nashville's mayor called for stricter gun laws after the Waffle House shooting: