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With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.
THE BIG IDEA: Mick Mulvaney said the quiet part out loud.
“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said Tuesday at the American Bankers Association conference in Washington. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”
Mulvaney, who represented South Carolina in the House from 2011 until President Trump appointed him as director of the Office of Management and Budget in 2017, told the 1,300 industry executives and lobbyists that they should push lawmakers hard to pursue their shared agenda.
He told the crowd that trying to sway legislators is one of the “fundamental underpinnings of our representative democracy.” For good measure, he insisted that he always made time for his constituents. “If you came from back home and sat in my lobby, I talked to you without exception, regardless of the financial contributions,” Mulvaney said.
To be clear, not all members of Congress operate this way. Many offices take pride in meeting with people no matter how much money they have given or might in the future. But Mulvaney’s comment appears emblematic of a mentality that pervades Trump’s orbit.
Multiple Republicans admitted last fall during the debate over tax cuts that they worried about losing campaign contributions if they didn’t vote for the legislation. “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again,’” Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), the first member of Congress to endorse Trump’s presidential campaign, told The Hill in November.
The president himself has repeatedly said that he views politics as transactional. “As a businessman and a very substantial donor to very important people, when you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal in 2015. “As a businessman, I need that.”
He was asked about that quote during a GOP primary debate. “You better believe it,” Trump replied. “I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what? When I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me.”
-- Mulvaney’s comments are especially notable because he’s been viewed for several years, by supporters and critics alike, as one of Wall Street’s best friends in Washington. “He was tapped by President Trump in November to temporarily run the [CFPB], in part because of his promise to sharply curtail it,” Glenn Thrush notes in the New York Times. “Since then, he has frozen all new investigations and slowed down existing inquiries by requiring employees to produce detailed justifications. He also sharply restricted the bureau’s access to bank data … And he has scaled back efforts to go after payday lenders, auto lenders and other financial services companies accused of preying on the vulnerable. [Mulvaney received nearly $63,000 from payday lenders for his campaigns.] But he wants Congress to go further and has urged it to wrest funding of the independent watchdog from the Federal Reserve, a move that would give lawmakers — and those with access to them — more influence on the bureau’s actions.”
Mulvaney also announced during yesterday’s speech to the bankers he will likely end public access to a database used by consumers to file complaints against financial institutions. “The CFPB database has drawn 1.5 million consumer complaints on financial companies and products since its launch in 2011,” the Wall Street Journal’s Yuka Hayashi reports. “It includes the names of the companies that receive complaints and detailed consumer experiences. Advocates say having the information available to the public makes the portal effective by putting pressure on companies to respond to consumers. Businesses say it spreads unverified negative information about them. … Mr. Mulvaney said the bureau would continue to maintain a toll-free number and a website to gather consumer complaints and forward them to companies, but the database would be hidden from public view.”
-- Democratic members of Congress are accusing Mulvaney of practicing pay-to-play politics. “This is supposed to be a government by the people, for the people. Not a government of the thieves and the money changers. Mick Mulvaney is a disgrace,” tweeted Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who sits on the Finance Committee.
A California congressman added:
I’m not surprised @MickMulvaneyOMB confessed he would only meet with lobbyists who gave him money. He once told me on the @HouseFloor he was voting against a bipartisan bill of mine because @Heritage_Action would “score” him negatively.— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) April 25, 2018
-- “Mulvaney didn’t offer this as a sad concession to reality but an actual principle of governance he had personally abided,” notes New York magazine columnist Jonathan Chait. “People in government might have always given their donors more influence over their decisions, but they at least pretended that was not the case in public. The Trump administration is not even bothering to put up a facade. … The completely accurate sense that Trump and his party are out to get themselves and their friends rich is the administration’s gaping vulnerability.”
-- Many journalists are characterizing Mulvaney’s statement as scandalous:
“A remarkable admission that would very likely spark an immediate House ethics investigation [if he was still in Congress],” tweeted veteran congressional correspondent Paul Kane.
“I’ve never before seen a former member describe Congress so explicitly as an extortion racket,” said Politico editor Timothy Noah.
“This really is one of the hallmarks of the Trump era, but had mostly been just Trump doing it — saying the inside part out loud,” added the Times’s Maggie Haberman. “It’s spreading to appointees.”
“Mulvaney is my No. 1 draft pick for Guy Who Would Give The Detective Extra Information To Amuse Himself But It Ultimately Leads To His Downfall,” quipped HuffPost congressional reporter Matt Fuller.
From the conservative New York Post columnist:
Mick Mulvaney has three roles. He's the OMB director. He runs the Consumer protection agency. And he's the monologuing villain in a Bond film.— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) April 25, 2018
-- Before he ran for president, Trump said publicly that you needed to give money to get access. His donations were tightly focused on advancing his own personal and business needs, according to a 2016 investigation by David Fahrenthold and Rosalind Helderman: “He raised money for Jeb Bush while lobbying Bush’s allies to soften the governor’s opposition to casino gambling. He started giving to Virginia state candidates after purchasing a golf course and, later, a winery in the state. And he backed two county commissioners in Palm Beach County, Fla., amid a dispute over airport noise at his Mar-a-Lago estate.”
The president claimed during one of the GOP debates that Bill and Hillary Clinton came to his wedding only because he had donated to their foundation, which the Clintons denied. “This is what's wrong,” interjected Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who was then a rival but is now a golfing buddy. “He buys and sells politicians of all stripes!”
In 2016, Trump paid the IRS a $2,500 penalty after The Washington Post revealed that the candidate’s charitable foundation had violated tax laws by giving a political contribution to a group connected to Florida's attorney general. “The improper donation, a $25,000 gift from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, was made in 2013,” Fahrenthold reported. “At the time, Attorney General Pam Bondi was considering whether to investigate fraud allegations against Trump University. She decided not to pursue the case.” Both Trump and Bondi denied wrongdoing, though each side’s account of what happened differed.
Trump often said back then that his ability to buy access proved that the system was “broken,” and he contended that he was so rich he could never be bought. “I don’t need your money, I never took any of your money, you have no control, bye bye,” he said he would tell lobbyists during an event in Iowa.
It was not long after this that Trump’s campaign began ramping up a traditional finance operation. Once elected, he began holding high-dollar fundraisers to raise money for his reelection campaign even earlier than his predecessors.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Republicans only narrowly won the special House election in Arizona to replace Trent Franks, the congressman who resigned in December after reportedly offering a staffer $5 million to carry his child. Trump won the district by 21 points in 2016, and Frank had won reelection by 37 points. But former GOP state lawmaker Debbie Lesko prevailed by just five points. Dave Weigel reports: “The party’s problems were on display in Arizona, as [Hiral Tipirneni, a Democratic physician and first-time candidate] made inroads into reliably Republican areas. The Democrat appeared to carry 58 of the district’s 142 precincts; in 2016, Hillary Clinton had carried just 12. … [T]he GOP took nothing for granted, with party committees and PACs investing more than $1.1 million in ads and get-out-the-vote efforts, and tapping Trump for robo-calls to voters. … Democrats, who did not invest in the race as heavily as they had in other special elections, said the numbers represented a promising swing toward their party.”
From a CNN elections analyst:
There's just no excuse for the GOP here. Early/mail voting is so easy to do in AZ and GOP voted plenty here. Lesko raised/spent plenty. She wasn't scandal plagued. I mean the special election signal is obvious. It's actually *worse* for the GOP than 2006.— (((Harry Enten))) (@ForecasterEnten) April 25, 2018
From a Cook Political Report editor:
There are 147 GOP-held House seats less Republican than #AZ08. It's time to start rethinking how many of those are truly safe in November.— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) April 25, 2018
From a New York Times writer:
It probably won't get covered this way, but this is arguably the worst special congressional election result yet for the GOP— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) April 25, 2018
A Post columnist noted this milestone:
With Lesko’s win, women will now hold 20% of all Senate/Congressional seats for first time on record (excluding non-voting House delegates) https://t.co/sZuWOGCbzW— Catherine Rampell (@crampell) April 25, 2018
-- A D.C. federal judge ordered the administration to accept new applications for DACA in the biggest blow yet to Trump's efforts to end the Obama-era program. Maria Sacchetti reports: “U.S. District Judge John D. Bates on Tuesday called the government’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program ‘virtually unexplained’ and therefore ‘unlawful.’ … Federal judges in California and New York have also blocked the administration’s plans on those grounds … But the ruling by Bates, an appointee of President George W. Bush, is far more expansive: If the government does not come up with a better explanation within 90 days, he will rescind the government memo that terminated the program and require Homeland Security to enroll new applicants, as well. Thousands could be eligible to apply.”
Bates’s stinging opinion calls Trump’s decision to end the program in March “arbitrary and capricious”: “Each day that the agency delays is a day that aliens who might otherwise be eligible for initial grants of DACA benefits are exposed to removal because of an unlawful agency action,” he wrote.
This is another proof point for my Big Idea from last Friday: Once again, a Republican judge just went further than his Democratic counterparts on the bench in checking Trump’s overreach on immigration.
But, but, but: Legal insiders say this ruling raises the odds that the Supreme Court will no longer wait for the cases to wind their way through the lower courts. Conventional wisdom is that the high court, as currently composed, is more likely than not to hand down an adverse ruling for the “dreamers.”
-- Meanwhile, DHS is preparing to rescind the temporary protected status of 9,000 immigrants from Nepal, three years after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake devastated their homeland. Nick Miroff reports: “According to internal planning documents … Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will give the Nepalis a one-year grace period to prepare their departure, but they would face deportation after June 24, 2019.”
-- The Supreme Court will consider the third version of Trump’s travel ban today. Robert Barnes reports: “Lower courts have struck down each of the three iterations of the president’s proclamation … But the conservative-leaning Supreme Court may be Trump’s best hope, and it gave the administration a boost by allowing the ban to go into effect in December while considering the challenges to it. … In requesting the court provide a final answer on the travel ban, Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco said the high court must reestablish the vast authority the president wields when the nation’s security is at stake. … The challengers are led by the state of Hawaii, who said its citizens and educational institutions have suffered because of the ban.”
GET SMART FAST:
- The SEC announced a $35 million fine against Yahoo for failing to disclose a massive cyber breach that affected more than 500 million users. The Web giant learned in 2014 that Russian hackers stole the data but did not tell investors for nearly two years. (Renae Merle)
- The Dow slipped 550 points at its low in trading yesterday. Investors worried about rising interest rates and panicked after a Caterpillar executive said during an earnings call that this would be the “high-water mark” for the year. (Thomas Heath)
- Toronto van attack suspect Alek Minassian posted a Facebook message praising Elliot Rodger moments before the rampage. Rodger, who killed six people in a 2014 attack, had posted a YouTube video describing his rage at women who had rejected him. Acquaintances of Minassian said he also harbored resentments toward women. (New York Times)
- The Supreme Court heard arguments in a Texas gerrymandering lawsuit, the third such case this term. Texas was awarded four new congressional districts after the 2010 census, largely powered by growth in the state’s African American and Hispanic communities. But voting rights groups argue the new districts were drawn to protect white Texans. (Robert Barnes)
- The government’s star witness in the AT&T-Time Warner case estimated the proposed merger could cost consumers less than originally expected. The altered figures could weaken the government’s case to block the merger. (Brian Fung)
- A privately run prison transport company was sued for negligence and emotional distress after it allegedly kept a detainee shackled for 18 days in a van traveling from Virginia to Houston. Charges against the man were later dismissed, but lawyers say his journey was “torturous” and he spent the duration “sitting in human waste and filth.” (Tracy Jan)
- Jennifer Hart was accused of child abuse years before she drove her wife and six adopted children off a cliff in California. Oregon officials had received seven independent reports accusing her of abuse but declined to intervene. (Marwa Eltagouri)
- Three Mexican film students who were abducted by fake police officers have been found killed and dissolved in acid. Mexican officials said the students had no connection to any criminal gang — and their disappearance last month sparked protests across Mexico, as well as the international filmmaking industry. (Samantha Schmidt)
- A vehicle struck four pedestrians standing on a D.C. sidewalk after two cars collided at the intersection of 9th Street and New York Avenue NW. The pedestrians suffered serious but non-life-threatening injuries, and police said there is no indication that the incident was intentional. (Justin Wm. Moyer and Peter Hermann)
- Amazon is rolling out a new delivery service that allows its employees to place packages directly in the trunk of parked cars. The service is aimed at increasing convenience and reducing package theft — but privacy and legal experts said it raises a number of concerns about consumer privacy. (Abha Bhattarai)
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN:
-- Trump is standing behind Ronny Jackson’s nomination as VA secretary as misconduct allegations continue to mount against the White House physician. Josh Dawsey, Seung Min Kim, Lisa Rein and John Wagner report: “The administration’s decision to fight on in defense of the nomination came hours after President Trump publicly suggested that Jackson should consider pulling out because of the 'abuse' he was facing. But by late afternoon, Trump had huddled with Jackson, and White House aides vowed to fight the charges. … [Montana Sen. Jon Tester, the top Democrat of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee,] said during an interview with NPR that the committee had heard complaints from more than 20 current and former military members that Jackson had improperly dispensed drugs, become intoxicated on professional trips and belittled staff members. … [M]ore allegations emerged about Jackson, including a 2012 government report that said he exhibited ‘unprofessional behavior’ and should be removed from his post.”
-- The accusations against Jackson could sink what many veterans groups and lawmakers already considered a risky nomination. Amy Gardner, Seung Min Kim and Lisa Rein report: “[Veterans' Affairs Committee Chairman] Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) called the White House twice seeking information [about the allegations]. The answers did not appear to satisfy him. The information void plunged Jackson’s nomination into peril faster than any other in a series of controversial Cabinet choices that have marked the Trump presidency. … Former colleagues said [Jackson] was nicknamed ‘Candyman’ because of how freely he distributed medications, a moniker that Tester [said] he heard about as well from Jackson’s associates.”
-- The latest allegation: Jackson drunkenly banged on the hotel room door of a female employee during an overseas trip in 2015. CNN’s Juana Summers and Manu Raju report: “The incident became so noisy, one source familiar with the allegation [said], that the Secret Service stopped him out of concern that he would wake then-President Barack Obama. Two sources who previously worked in the White House Medical Unit described the same incident, with one former staffer [saying] that it was ‘definitely inappropriate, in the middle of the night,’ and that it made the woman uncomfortable. At the time, the incident was reported up the chain of command … ”
-- The controversy threatens to further derail the agenda of VA, an agency that has been beset by scandal for years. Emily Wax-Thibodeaux reports: “For the 9 million military veterans who rely on VA for medical care, vocational training, home loans and burial services, the uncertainty is “distressing,” said Garry Augustine, who heads the Washington headquarters of Disabled American Veterans. … Augustine credited VA’s career employees for trying to remain focused amid the turmoil, but he described the mood among [attendees at a Tuesday conference on improving VA] as ‘numb.’”
-- Several Republican senators called for more congressional scrutiny of EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s management and spending decisions. From Juliet Eilperin, Josh Dawsey and Mike DeBonis: “The increasingly critical comments from Senate Republicans across the ideological spectrum — from longtime ally James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma to moderate Susan Collins of Maine — come as Pruitt readies for back-to-back appearances before two House committees Thursday in what promises to be a grilling from members of both parties. Pruitt has declined to coordinate with White House officials in preparing for the hearings … Trump has been monitoring the recent coverage of Pruitt, according to aides, and has become increasingly concerned about the constant drumbeat of allegations against the EPA chief.”
-- The head of Pruitt’s security detail worked for American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, during the 2016 campaign. The New York Times’s Kenneth P. Vogel, Eric Lipton and Jim Rutenberg report: “The security official, Pasquale Perrotta, had received a waiver from the E.P.A. under the Obama administration to hold outside employment, but the work has now become the subject of scrutiny in both the agency and Congress. … According to several people familiar with his work and documents reviewed by The New York Times, some of the activities included physical security, cybersecurity and investigative services involving litigation.”
-- Mike Pompeo wants to move Trump's nominee for ambassador to Australia to the same position in South Korea. Josh Rogin reports: “[Adm. Harry Harris] was nominated to be Trump’s representative in Canberra in February, and the Australian government had approved the choice. But late Monday, the administration asked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to postpone his confirmation hearing …. Multiple administration officials told me Pompeo wants to move Harris to Seoul due to the urgency of filling that vacancy.”
-- The Senate will almost certainly confirm Trump’s controversial nominee for ambassador to Germany, Ric Grenell, by the end of this week. “Marc Short, the director of White House Legislative Affairs, [said] Trump made it clear he wanted Grenell confirmed by the Senate before German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Washington on Friday,” Axios’s Jonathan Swan reports.
-- The Senate confirmed Army Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone as the next director of the National Security Agency and leader of U.S. Cyber Command. He will replace the retiring Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers. (Ellen Nakashima)
-- Senate Republicans, who have accused their Democratic colleagues of slow-walking Trump’s nominees, are attempting to streamline the confirmation process. From Paul Kane: “Republicans complain that Democrats have drawn out debate on even the least-controversial nominees, just for the sake of delay and, they contend, to deny [Mitch McConnell] the time needed to put actual legislation on the Senate floor. … But this move comes just as President Trump has sent a pair of controversial nominees to the Senate, to run the CIA and the Department of Veterans Affairs, raising questions about how well the picks were vetted. This has been a perfectly timed gift to Democrats, who point to these choices as a reason to take as much time as possible, not less, to review Trump’s selections.”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Attorney General Jeff Sessions is refusing to recuse himself from the federal investigation into Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Bloomberg News's Chris Strohm reports: “By staying involved … Sessions is entitled to briefings on the status of the investigation[.] That could put Sessions in the position of being asked by Trump, who strongly condemned the FBI’s raid on his longtime lawyer, to divulge information about the Cohen investigation. Sessions could also weigh in on specific decisions by prosecutors, including whether to pursue subpoenas and indictments. The attorney general is expected to be asked about his role in the Cohen investigation when he testifies before congressional panels on Wednesday and Thursday.”
-- Despite his public spats with the president, Sessions has proved to be one of the more reliable members of Trump’s Cabinet. From the New York Times’s Elizabeth Williamson: “[U]nlike several other members of the Trump cabinet, Mr. Sessions has not sullied the administration with headlines over first-class jet travel, exorbitant office furnishings, lobbyist-furnished housing — or all of the above. When he is in Washington, Mr. Sessions has a turkey sandwich from the Justice Department cafeteria (base price: $5.29) for lunch, which he eats at his desk. When his team works late, he hands out granola bars, which his wife buys in bulk at Costco.”
-- Paul Manafort was interviewed by the FBI twice about his work for a political party in Ukraine years before he was hired as Trump’s campaign chairman. The FBI also spoke to Manafort’s deputy, Rick Gates, before he held a top job in Trump’s operation. All this raises questions about how well the Trump team vetted its top staffers. Rosalind S. Helderman reports: “In all, three Trump associates are known to have been interviewed by the FBI about their interactions with people from the former Soviet Union before joining the Trump campaign, [including] foreign policy adviser Carter Page … The new court filings indicate that prosecutors provided Manafort with copies of his past interviews to help him prepare for trial on charges including conspiracy, money laundering, and tax and bank fraud.”
-- The host of the 2013 Miss Universe pageant confirmed that Trump spent at least one full night and part of another in Moscow. The Daily Beast’s Andrew Kirell reports: “’The first time I met Donald Trump it was in Moscow on November 8th, 2013,’ [said the host and former NBC anchor Thomas Roberts]. ‘I taped a sit-down interview with Trump the next day on November 9th. That was also the date for the Miss Universe broadcast.’ Roberts continued: ‘During the after-party for the Miss Universe event, Mr. Trump offered to fly me and my husband back to New York. He said he would be leaving directly from the party. We were unable to accept the invitation. That was the early morning hours of November 10th.’”
-- Michael Cohen’s life after the FBI raid: “His moods oscillate along with the news cycle and the time of day,” reports Vanity Fair’s Emily Jane Fox. “‘He wants to fight this,’ one person familiar with Cohen’s thinking told me over the weekend. ‘There’s nothing in him that wants to hide or back down.’ There are moments when he is convinced that he is collateral damage in the Mueller probe and that he will beat this. … Cohen broods at night, pacing in his hotel room, worrying about how his legal nightmare is impacting his family. He wonders if there are people within Trump’s orbit who might have wanted to see him go down.”
-- Democrats warn Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley’s proposed amendment to protect special counsels from improper firing would give Republicans the ability to “tip off” Trump about developments in Mueller’s probe. Karoun Demirjian reports: “The amendment adds reporting requirements to Congress that Grassley believes would equip lawmakers to act to protect a special counsel — potentially by even starting impeachment proceedings — if the courts strike down the constitutionally controversial parts of the legislation. But Democrats see a potential Trojan horse in those reporting requirements, which require special counsels such as Mueller to inform the House and Senate Judiciary Committee leaders ‘if there is any change made to the specific nature or scope of the investigation of the Special Counsel’ … Even if information isn’t passed directly to the White House, Democratic aides complained, some lawmakers might try to exert political influence over the probe if they know in which direction it is heading.”
-- “How Devin Nunes Turned the House Intelligence Committee Inside Out,” by Jason Zengerle in the New York Times Sunday Magazine: “A few weeks after the election, [Nunes] traveled to Trump Tower, where, according to transition officials, he and Trump discussed the possibility of his becoming the director of national intelligence and overseeing an ambitious reorganization of the intelligence community. But Trump ultimately decided to shelve those plans and appoint as director a less disruptive figure … [Besides], Trump’s circle believed that Nunes would be even more valuable to the administration if he remained in Congress, running the Intelligence Committee. Some 17 months later, that looks to have been a remarkably prescient decision …
“While many Republicans on Capitol Hill may nurse private reservations about Trump but choose not to voice them … Nunes is a true believer. Years before the Russia investigation, he was extremely skeptical of — if not paranoid about — the American military and intelligence establishments in a way that presaged Trump’s denunciations of the ‘deep state.’ Now he and Trump are waging war against these foes, real and imagined, together.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- While hosting Emmanuel Macron at the White House, Trump signaled his willingness to consider a “new” nuclear deal with Iran. Anne Gearan reports: “Trump also appeared to threaten a military attack if Iran menaced the United States[:] ‘If Iran threatens us in any way, they will pay a price like few countries have ever paid. Okay?’ Trump said … Macron has spent little time this week publicly defending the pact, instead focusing his efforts on appealing to Trump’s view of himself as an unorthodox dealmaker by suggesting that a supplemental agreement [could] address many of the president’s criticisms … Such side deals would not change the terms of the international pact itself and would not bind co-signers Russia and China, but they could allow Trump to argue he has improved the deal and provide a reason he could point to for keeping it in place, at least for now.”
-- In a dramatic shift, Trump told reporters that North Korea's leader — whom he once mocked as “Little Rocket Man” — has been “very honorable.” “We're having very, very good discussions,” Trump told reporters about the pair's planned summit. “Kim Jong Un was — he really has been very open. I think very honorable, from everything we're seeing.” Trump said he is looking forward to meeting Kim “very soon” and suggested Pyongyang is pressing for talks to begin immediately. (CNN)
-- Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) swiftly rebuked Trump’s praise for Kim. “For the president to describe a leader who stands incredibly accused of starving his own people, violently executing his political opponents and murdering members of his own family as very open and very honorable is beyond comprehension,” Flake said. (The Hill)
-- “There was, simply, so much touching,” Ashley Parker writes of Macron’s visit to the White House. “The two men exchanged French-style cheek kisses. They shook hands and held hands and clasped hands. And they embraced and backslapped and shoulder-rubbed. … The copious public displays of affection also raised the question of whether Trump and Macron had finally embarked on a true transcontinental bromance or if the two men were merely partaking in an alpha game of one-upmanship. The answer, said David Givens, director of the Center for Nonverbal Studies, is a little of both. ‘It’s more of a playful dominance,’ Givens said. ‘The romance is there, and they’re just kind of fooling around, but it’s real.’”
-- Sonny Perdue is encouraging Trump to consider rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Erica Werner reports: “The agriculture secretary’s statement came at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing in response to a question from Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) [on whether joining the agreement would benefit U.S. agriculture]. Perdue responded: ‘I do. I think, again, it forms a united front with our allies in an effort of tariff reduction that excludes China, to our benefit and not to their benefit. And I concur with you there. I’ve encouraged the president in that regard to consider the TPP again.’ Perdue [then alluded] to a White House meeting this month where Trump ordered top administration officials to look at rejoining [TPP]… ‘I would welcome us looking at rejoining the TPP,” Perdue added. ‘Again, I think the president’s negotiating style could possibly get a, even a better agreement this time around.’”
-- Trump declined to call the 1915 mass killings of Armenians a “genocide,” keeping with past precedent. The Hill’s Brett Samuels reports: “Trump issued a statement for Armenian Remembrance Day, which marks the anniversary of Meds Yeghern, when 1.5 million Armenians were deported, massacred or marched to their deaths by Ottoman forces. … The use of the term 'genocide' as it relates to the Armenian killings has long been a hot-button issue.”
-- Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Roselló is launching an effort in Orlando to mobilize millions of Puerto Ricans living on the mainland to be more politically active. The Orlando Sentinel’s Bianca Padró Ocasio reports: “’Seven months after Hurricane Maria … we learned who was willing to support us and who wasn’t,’ [Rosselló] said in a statement. ‘With the 2018 midterm elections just around the corner, we want to fully exercise the influence we can have.’ The political organization will [focus] on voter registration and civic engagement … so [Puerto Ricans] can ‘fully participate in the democratic process and become agents for change for the island.’”
-- “The conservative Christian coalition that helped usher [Trump] into power in 2016 is planning its largest midterm election mobilization ever,” the New York Times’s Jeremy W. Peters and Elizabeth Dias report. “[L]eaders of the movement plan to lean hard into a message that fans fears and grudges: that the progressive movement and national media mock Christian life and threaten everything religious conservatives have achieved in the 15 months of the Trump administration. ... [One evangelical organization leader, Penny Young Nance], said she heard a common sentiment from volunteers and supporters who did not seem bothered by the allegations of Mr. Trump’s infidelity. ‘We weren’t looking for a husband’ she said. ‘We were looking for a body guard.’”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
The White House held its first state dinner:
From a CNN reporter:
From a reporter for the Washington Examiner:
melania trump is chanel haute couture has me speechless 🔥 pic.twitter.com/GGKQo73I2Y— kelly cohen (@politiCOHEN_) April 25, 2018
From a Post reporter:
favorite moment at #statedinner arrival: someone asked Surgeon General who he was wearing. Pointed to his uniform-“US Public Health Service”— Emily Heil (@emilyaheil) April 25, 2018
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) expressed gratitude to France:
From an NBC News reporter:
(Here is the complete guest list from the dinner.)
Twitter reacted to the many awkward interactions between Trump and Macron:
This clip of the president trying to hold the first lady's hand also caused a stir:
Trump trying to hold Melania’s hand reminds me of Pepé le Pew chasing a bewildered Le Cat. pic.twitter.com/ZlhbtAJDuH— laney (@misslaneym) April 24, 2018
An editor for IJ Review compared the first lady's hat to a certain television character's:
Melania with the Young Pope hat pic.twitter.com/PqwI4bqO9A— Josh Billinson (@jbillinson) April 24, 2018
Washington gathered for James Comey's book party. From a Post Style reporter:
From another Post reporter:
spotted at the Comey book party, two figures from the 2016 campaign: Comey and Donna Brazile pic.twitter.com/9QUQDcJ6Q0— Robert Costa (@costareports) April 24, 2018
From a BuzzFeed News reporter:
And here are the cocktails at Comey’s book party pic.twitter.com/yR04DYNRk6— Steven Perlberg (@perlberg) April 24, 2018
From a writer for the Atlantic:
James Comey told me this evening that his favorite television show is Homeland. “I care about Carrie,” he said. “I miss Pete.”— Elaina Plott (@elainaplott) April 25, 2018
And Comey's book continues to ride a best-selling wave, per The Post's book critic:
A HIGHER LOYALTY by James Comey has sold 600,000 copies in its first week — double the first week of HRC’s WHAT HAPPENED and triple the first week of Wolff’s Fire and Fury. Lordy! https://t.co/DzBcch9wqB— Carlos Lozada (@CarlosLozadaWP) April 24, 2018
-- Bloomberg Businessweek, “Call Him Mr. Impeachment: Tom Steyer’s War Against Donald Trump,” by Max Abelson: “Steyer isn’t the first to claim there are grounds for booting Trump from office, but his enormous pools of wealth, outrage, and ambition mean he can do more than the members of Congress responsible for impeachment proceedings: He can spend the money required to stoke a fire and fan its flames until a real chance to burn down the administration presents itself. … Before he can take down Trump, though, Steyer will have to claw past his own party’s sheriffs.”
-- New York Times, “A National Security Aide’s Departing Wish: Cooking for the State Dinner,” by Mark Landler: “[Michael] Anton, a classically trained chef who favors French cuisine, resigned on April 8 in a phone call with President Trump, the night before General McMaster’s successor, John R. Bolton, started work. As he packed up his office the next day, he made a special request of the current chief of staff, John F. Kelly: that he be allowed to come back for a day to work as a line cook in the White House kitchen, helping to prepare Mr. Trump’s state dinner for [the Macrons].”
-- “Inside the secret U.S. stockpile meant to save us all in a bioterror attack,” by The Post's Lena H. Sun: “From the outside, it looks like an ordinary commercial warehouse, only much bigger ... [and dark]. When the lights come on, hundreds of thousands of shrink-wrapped boxes of medicines emerge from the gloom, stacked on shelves nearly five stories high. There are antibiotics, including the powerful medication Ciprofloxacin, vaccines for smallpox and anthrax and antivirals for a deadly influenza pandemic. This is quite a different kind of warehouse. It and several others across the country are part of the $7 billion Strategic National Stockpile, a government repository of drugs and supplies ready for deployment in a bioterrorism or nuclear attack, or against an infectious disease outbreak …”
-- Jim Acosta, Ashley Parker, and April Ryan spoke to Variety’s Ted Johnson about the unique challenges of covering Trump’s White House:
- On threats of violence: “I probably receive more death threats than I can count. I get them basically once a week,” Acosta said. Ryan agreed, adding: “I actively get death threats just for asking a question.”
- On the administration's combative tone toward the press: “There’s always retaliation, but never on this scale,” said Ryan, who has covered the past four presidents. “If you write on something or report on something they don’t like, of course they are going to give you a call … [But with] this administration ... They will try to disparage your name. It has gone into personal attacks.”
- How reporters are fighting against the label of “fake news”: “The one thing about this ‘fake news’ environment: I think one of the ways you protect yourself is by doing your job and being extra bulletproof,” Parker said. “So if under Obama or [Bush] you would triple-check your work, now maybe you quadruple-check it because you don’t want to give them any excuse to call you ‘fake news.’”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Democrat Wins New York Assembly Seat, the 40th Legislative Flip Since Trump’s Inauguration,” from the Daily Beast: “Democrat Steve Stern won his race in New York’s 10th Assembly District on Tuesday night, a Long Island district that had been in the hands of Republicans for more than three decades. It is the 40th legislative flip since President Trump’s inauguration, as Democrats continue to make gains in local and congressional races. Hillary Clinton won the seat 52-45 in 2016, and President Obama won it 51-48 in 2012.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“An Internet Nonprofit Challenged Joy Reid’s Claim That Her Blog Was Hacked,” from BuzzFeed News: “A nonprofit internet library on Tuesday challenged MSNBC host Joy Reid’s claim that someone added anti-gay material to an archived version of her now-defunct blog. In a statement, the Internet Archive, which maintains a digital archive of websites called the Wayback Machine, said that it had investigated the liberal commentator’s assertion in December 2017, following a request from her attorneys. ‘When we reviewed the archives, we found nothing to indicate tampering or hacking of the Wayback Machine versions,’ read the statement ... "
Trump will have an afternoon meeting with Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Macron will address a joint session of Congress at 10:30 a.m. ET.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I don’t see anything in here that says I have to run a Yelp for financial services sponsored by the federal government,” Mick Mulvaney said, holding up a copy of Dodd-Frank, as an explanation for his decision to end public access to the CFPB complaint database.
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- D.C. could see a few more showers today before the sun returns tomorrow. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “A few lingering showers remain possible today. Clouds stick around as well, as morning 50s bump up into the 60s for afternoon highs.”
-- The Nationals lost to the Giants 4-3. (Jorge Castillo)
-- Maryland’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, signed legislation meant to prevent gun violence. From the AP: “One measure Hogan signed will enable families and law enforcement to ask courts for an order to temporarily restrict firearms access to people found to be a risk to themselves or others. It’s known as a ‘red flag’ law. … Hogan signed a measure to ban bump stocks, which can increase a semi-automatic rifle’s firing rate. … He also signed legislation requiring convicted domestic abusers to surrender guns to law enforcement or a firearms dealer. … [Hogan] described the legislation as ‘commonsense bipartisan measures that will keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and those with criminal backgrounds.’”
-- Maryland high school student Alwin Chen was sentenced to four months in jail for bringing a loaded, concealed gun to Clarksburg High. (Dan Morse)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Late-night hosts picked apart the awkward interactions between Trump and Macron:
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) bemoaned the “abysmal” vetting of Trump's nominee for VA secretary:
The Post fact-checked Trump's claim that countries where drug offenses are punishable by death don't have “much of a drug problem”:
Toronto residents honored the victims of this week's van attack:
And some NRA members blew up their Yeti coolers amid claims the company doesn't support gun rights: