With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.

THE BIG IDEA: Neither President Trump nor his lawyer wants to talk under oath.

-- Michael Cohen — Trump’s longtime attorney and consigliere — told a federal judge in California last night that he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself in a civil case brought by adult entertainer Stormy Daniels. He made the declaration as part of a request to pause that lawsuit, citing an “ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.”

-- Separately, Rudy Giuliani — who joined Trump’s legal team last week — met with special counsel Robert Mueller to reopen negotiations for a presidential interview. The former New York mayor, who has known Mueller for decades, “conveyed the ongoing resistance of Trump and his advisers to an interview with federal investigators, but did not rule out the possibility,” Robert Costa and Carol Leonning report. “One person briefed on the discussions described the session as relaxed and an opportunity for both sides to ‘feel each other out.’ Still, Trump remains ‘extremely opposed’ to granting Mueller an interview, according to one close adviser — setting up a potential high-stakes legal battle between the White House and the special counsel, who could ultimately seek to try to subpoena the president.”

Trump soured on meeting with Mueller as soon as he learned on April 9 that Cohen was under criminal investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan. That’s the day the FBI raided Cohen’s office and residences seeking his communications with Trump before the 2016 election and records related to two women who received payments during the campaign to stay quiet about sexual encounters they say they had with Trump. Cohen has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime.

-- “In New York, meanwhile, lawyers for Cohen and Trump continue to fight for the ability to review material seized in the raids before prosecutors have access to it,” Emma Brown and Rosalind Helderman report. “In letters to the court filed Wednesday, lawyers for Cohen, Trump and the Trump Organization said they were prepared to put significant resources into quickly reviewing the documents.”

The president is offering to personally review the materials seized from Cohen’s office. “Our client will make himself available, as needed, to aid in our privilege review on his behalf,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.

-- Appearing on “Fox & Friends” this morning, Trump sought to distance himself from Cohen. He said his lawyer is really more of a businessman. “I have nothing to do with his business,” Trump said.

But after saying recently that he was unaware of the payments to Daniels, he acknowledged that Cohen represented him in the case:

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Daniels’s attorney called that a “hugely damaging admission.” He also tweeted this of Cohen taking the Fifth: 

-- Testifying on Capitol Hill yesterday, Jeff Sessions declined to answer questions about whether he’s discussed the Cohen investigation with the president or his aides. Unlike the Russia investigation, the attorney general has refused to recuse himself from the probe into the president’s personal lawyer. “I am just not able to go down that road,” Sessions said during an appropriations committee hearing, when asked about his discussions regarding Cohen. “He also declined to answer when asked whether Trump or anyone else in the administration had discussed the possibility of pardoning Cohen if necessary,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

-- A remarkable Fox News poll that just published finds that a 56 percent majority of Americans believe it’s “likely” Mueller’s probe will find Trump committed criminal or impeachable offenses. That includes 85 percent of Democrats but also 22 percent of Republicans. Three other nuggets:

  • 67 percent say it is at least somewhat important the investigation continues.
  • 64 percent feel confident Mueller is treating the White House fairly.
  • 71 percent think it’s likely Trump will fire Mueller before the investigation is complete.

-- All these developments can be viewed together against the backdrop of the president’s past criticism of people who are unwilling to freely answer questions from investigators.

“If you are innocent, do not remain silent,” Trump tweeted in 2014 to Bill Cosby. “You look guilty as hell!”

“The mob takes the Fifth,” Trump said at an Iowa rally in September 2016 after a former State Department employee who helped set up Hillary Clinton’s home-brew email server asserted the Fifth. “If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?” 

(One of the reasons that quote, just 19 months old, is ironic: Former FBI director Jim Comey writes at length in his new book that dealing with the president reminded him of the mob bosses he prosecuted as a young lawyer.)

-- To be sure, the president’s view of the Fifth Amendment is situational. In 1990, Trump himself took the Fifth 97 times to avoid answering questions, mostly about his adultery, during a divorce deposition. Back when he was a liberal, Trump said on CNN that Bill Clinton should have taken the Fifth to avoid answering questions from special prosecutor Ken Starr.

-- Cohen is also not the first Trump confidante to take the Fifth in the past year: Former national security adviser Michael Flynn also invoked his constitutional right to remain silent last year to avoid handing over documents to the Senate related to his Russian connections.

-- Looking ahead, Giuliani says he’s trying to figure out if Mueller is “truly objective” as he weighs whether to recommend Trump sit for an interview. “At this stage of an investigation, it'd be highly unusual to let an ordinary client testify,” Giuliani told the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman. “This isn't an ordinary client. This is the president of the United States.” He said the lawyers are trying to decide Mueller “and his staff are truly objective,” citing Comey specifically. “Obviously, if they've already made up their minds, we'd be stupid to do that.”

“Trump’s lawyers are seeking to determine whether [Mueller] has an ‘open mind’ about the Russia investigation, as they negotiate the terms of a possible interview,” adds the Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Ballhaus.

The president says he did nothing wrong, that there was no collusion between his campaign and the Russian government and that he did not obstruct justice.

-- Michael Kranish has a primer in today’s paper on Jane and Martin Raskin, the South Florida couple Trump hired to represent him after a single meeting: “Among their early assignments is to try to use attorney-client protections to keep investigators from scouring Trump’s communications with [Cohen] … Jane Raskin has a long-ago work connection with Mueller, which associates said could be a plus to Trump’s legal team. She prosecuted Mafia underbosses for a federal Organized Crime Strike Force in Boston when Mueller held supervisory positions in the U.S. attorney’s office there. ... Martin Raskin headed the criminal division in the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami. The small size of the Raskins’ firm and their distance from typical Washington clients give them few, if any, conflicts of interest, which the Trump team regarded as a plus.”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Ronny Jackson withdrew his nomination to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, calling the allegations made against him “completely false and fabricated.” The latest accusations against the White House physician included a claim that he wrecked a government vehicle after getting drunk at a Secret Service going-away party. Amy Gardner, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim report: “The allegations were contained in a two-page document described by the Democratic staff of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee as a summary of interviews with 23 of Jackson’s current and former colleagues. The document also described Jackson’s ‘pattern’ of handing out medication with no patient history, writing himself prescriptions and contributing to a hostile work environment with ‘a constant fear of reprisal.’

According to the document: ‘Jackson was described as ‘the most unethical person I have ever worked with,’ ‘flat-out unethical,’ ‘explosive,’ ‘100 percent bad temper,’ ‘toxic,’ ‘abusive,’ ‘volatile,’ ‘incapable of not losing his temper,’ ‘the worst officer I have ever served with,’ ‘despicable,’ ‘dishonest,’ as having ‘screaming tantrums’ and ‘screaming fits,’ as someone who would ‘lose his mind over small things,’ ‘vindictive,’ ‘belittling,’ ‘the worse [sic] leader I’ve ever worked for.’’ It continued: ‘As Jackson gained power he became ‘intolerable.’ One physician said, ‘I have no faith in government that someone like Jackson could be end up [sic] at VA.’” (Aaron Blake annotated the list of allegations.)

-- Staffers for Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), whose office spearheaded the investigation, said every allegation was substantiated “by at least two people.” “Am I a 100 percent rock solid sure that he did this? No,” Tester said on MSNBC. “But I’ve seen a pattern here that continues on and on and on, and I think it’s important that members of the committee see what I’m seeing.”

-- Tester’s prominent role in scrutinizing Jackson could cause political trouble in Montana, where he faces a tough reelection this year. Sean Sullivan reports: “Ensuring capable stewardship of the sprawling Veterans Affairs is an issue certain to resonate with Tester’s constituents; nearly 1 in 10 Montana residents is a veteran. … At the same time, Tester’s aggressive scrutiny could derail the president’s pick and draw the wrath of Trump as Tester seeks reelection. Trump remains popular in Montana, where he won by more than 20 percentage points in 2016. National Republicans consider the race a top target in November and are already castigating Tester for previously crossing the president on his top priorities.” “I’m frankly a little surprised at how emboldened he has felt,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.). “He apparently isn’t too worried about the election.”

-- Trump threatened Tester with political retaliation after news of Jackson's withdrawal broke. In a morning interview with Fox and Friends, he said, “I think Jon Tester has to have a big price to pay in Montana.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Authorities said they finally arrested the “Golden State Killer” suspected of raping dozens of women and killing 12 in California more than 40 years ago. Investigators found DNA evidence that they said “clearly linked” Joseph James DeAngelo, a 72-year-old former police officer, to the gruesome crimes. (Mark Berman, Avi Selk and Justin Jouvenal)
  2. The true crime writer who coined the nickname “Golden State Killer” did not live to see DeAngelo’s arrest. Michelle McNamara’s best-selling book on the case, “I’ll Be Gone In the Dark,” was published after her death in 2016 with the help of her husband, comedian Patton Oswalt. (Eli Rosenberg)
  3. An additional 31 people have fallen ill from romaine lettuce contaminated by E. coli, bringing the tally to 84 cases across 19 different states. The CDC is still searching for the source of the outbreak, which is believed to be somewhere in the growing area of Yuma, Ariz. (Lena H. Sun and Joel Achenbach)
  4. The FBI is investigating MSNBC host Joy Reid’s claim her old blog was hacked, according to her lawyer. MSNBC says Reid will remain on the air as the FBI probes whether her now-defunct blog was hacked to add posts expressing anti-gay views. (Politico)
  5. Ford will cut most of its North American car lineup during the next four years. To boost profits, the car company will focus production solely on the Mustang sports car and a compact Focus crossover vehicle. (AP)

  6. Trump’s attacks on the media were blamed for America’s decline on the “World Press Freedom Index.” This year, the U.S. fell two spots down to 45th place out of 180 countries. The report states that Trump’s comments have amplified a “disappointing” climate that existed before his presidency, as evidenced by the “international popularity of the term ‘fake news.’” (Sonia Rao)
  7. Republican lawmakers returned to the Alexandria baseball field where Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) was critically injured almost a year ago. The Republican congressional baseball team held their first practice for their annual charity game. (USA Today)

  8. The sheriff’s deputies who help protect Trump when he stays at Mar-a-Lago racked up over $3 million in overtime in three months. Palm Beach County officials want the federal government to reimburse the locality for the costs. (Palm Beach Post)

  9. Philadelphia authorities said a murder-suicide that left two women dead in Radnor, Pa., was a “calculated” ambush driven by an alleged affair. The deaths of Meredith Chapman and Jennair Gerardot have “rocked the world” of the quiet township. (Samantha Schmidt)
  10. A Port Authority official has resigned after dash-cam footage showed her berating and cursing at officers during a traffic stop with her daughter. In the video, the woman demands officers call her by the title of “Commissioner” and not-so-subtly points out she is friends with the town mayor. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN AND WOMEN:

-- White House officials have been intensifying efforts to document wasteful spending by Scott Pruitt ahead of today’s Capitol Hill hearings. Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis and Josh Dawsey report: “[Mick Mulvaney] has expanded an inquiry into the nearly $43,000 soundproof phone booth Pruitt had installed in his office to cover other costly expenditures[.] And the White House Counsel’s Office is examining allegations of unethical behavior, among them Pruitt’s decision to rent part of a Capitol Hill condo for $50 a night from a lobbyist ... EPA staffers are aiding both probes, the officials said, [signaling] how uncertain Pruitt’s status is within the White House. [Meanwhile, Pruitt] has lost the backing of many senior aides, including [John Kelly] and communications officials, lawyers and Cabinet affairs officials, whose calls he ignores. Pruitt, for his part, believes the White House is leaking damaging details about him and is ‘out to get him,’ in the words of a Pruitt ally. ...

“The controversies have prompted at least one change among Pruitt’s senior staff: the accelerated retirement of the head of his protective detail, Pasquale ‘Nino’ Perrotta, according to an EPA official. Perrotta — who advocated for the administrator flying first class as a security precaution, enlisted a business associate to conduct a security sweep of Pruitt’s office and endorsed other privacy measures — had planned to step down this summer. He now will leave sooner, the official said.”

-- An internal EPA document suggests Pruitt may attempt to blame his staff for his ethics controversies during today’s hearings. The New York Times’s Lisa Friedman and Coral Davenport report: “The document, known as the ‘hot topics’ list .... suggests that Mr. Pruitt is prepared to say that he now flies coach when traveling; that others were responsible for giving two close aides who used to work for him in Oklahoma substantial pay raises; and that E.P.A. officials who were reassigned or demoted after challenging his spending all had performance issues.”

-- Some White House officials are rooting for Pruitt to fail before the House committees to justify firing him. The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay, Asawin Suebsaeng and Andrew Desiderio report: “Two White House officials [said] they hope Pruitt does ‘crash and burn’ — as one put it — so as to possibly give the president the pretense to finally fire him. That sentiment isn’t shared universally. But few, if any, inside the White House are actively rooting for Pruitt to do well when he comes under questioning.”

-- Senate Democrats are irate that the CIA refuses to declassify key documents about Gina Haspel before her confirmation hearing to be the agency's next director. Karoun Demirjian reports: “Citing unspecified ‘disturbing facts’ about Haspel’s career at the agency, where she is deputy director, [Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Martin Heinrich (N.M.)] had asked the CIA to make more details about her tenure publicly available. The CIA responded Tuesday, telling the three senators that while the CIA would not further declassify materials related to Haspel’s 32 years working ‘in a clandestine role,’ they were welcome to peruse such material in a secure facility. … Democrats say the CIA has been selective in releasing information about Haspel. They point to the agency’s decision last week to declassify a memo that cleared her of responsibility for destroying evidence of the coercive methods used as part of the interrogation program — but then refusing to share with the public basic biographical details about Haspel’s career, including a complete list of the countries in which she was posted.”

-- Trump plans to nominate a former senior Bush official, Paula Dobriansky, to the State Department’s top policy post. From Bloomberg News's Nick Wadhams: “Dobriansky, a former special envoy for Northern Ireland and undersecretary of state for global affairs, will replace career diplomat Thomas Shannon, who announced his retirement earlier this year … ”

THE AGENDA:

-- A majority of Supreme Court justices appeared to back Trump’s authority to issue the travel ban during oral arguments. Robert Barnes, Ann E. Marimow and Matt Zapotosky report: “Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was most active in advancing the notion that the president is privy to national security information that courts are ill prepared to second-guess. And Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who always seems to occupy the pivotal position … asked questions that mostly seemed supportive of the president’s authority. It would seem almost impossible for challengers to prevail without one of those justices joining their colleagues on the left.”

-- HUD Secretary Ben Carson plans to propose raising rent for low-income Americans who receive federal housing subsidies. Tracy Jan, Caitlin Dewey and Jeff Stein report: “The move to overhaul how rental subsidies are calculated would affect 4.7 million families relying on federal housing assistance. ... Under the proposal, the cap for the poorest families would rise to about $150 a month — three times higher than the current minimum — affecting about 175,000 families … The bill would also allow public housing agencies and property owners to impose work requirements.

-- The Justice Department nixed plans to suspend a legal-aid program for detained immigrants. From Maria Sacchetti: “Sessions, an immigration hawk, said the U.S. immigration courts had planned to suspend the [Legal Orientation Program] starting as early as next week. At a budget hearing before a Senate appropriations subcommittee, he signaled that he had received questions about pausing the program from lawmakers in both parties.”

-- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) sent a cease-and-desist letter to ICE. Meagan Flynn reports: “[Cuomo accused] the agency of making illegal arrests and describing its ‘aggressive tactics’ in recent immigration raids across the state as unconstitutional and ‘un-American.’ … Cuomo described multiple incidents in which he said ICE agents stormed private property without warning, without identifying themselves and without a warrant to arrest undocumented immigrants. Cuomo warned that if ICE agents continued making arrests in this manner, ‘the state will sue them, period.’”

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- Sessions testified that Trump can pardon anyone he wants without the Justice Department's input. From Sari Horwitz and Ellen Nakashima: “The president ‘clearly has the constitutional power to execute pardons’ without conferring with the Office of the Pardon Attorney, Sessions said during a hearing before [a] Senate [Appropriations] Subcommittee … In the past two administrations, all pardons originated with the pardon attorney, and the Justice Department then forwarded recommendations to the White House. Sessions had said during past congressional testimony that it would be an abuse of power for the president to pardon someone without first going through the pardon attorney, said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).”

-- A coalition of news organizations, including The Post, asked a federal court to unseal materials that Robert Mueller’s team used to obtain search warrants of former Trump associates indicted in the Russia probe, including Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn. Paul Farhi and Rosalind S. Helderman report: “The request covers warrant material used in the investigation of [George Papadopoulos, Rick Gates] and 13 Russian nationals … Information used to obtain criminal warrants is typically released to the public after a short holding period[.] But some of the Mueller documents have remained under seal for several months. … The media coalition argues in its motion that the government’s desire to keep the material under seal to protect an ongoing investigation is superseded by the public’s interest in, and right of access to, the Mueller materials.”

-- Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Christopher Wylie told Democratic lawmakers that Steve Bannon turned the data firm into “essentially a full service propaganda machine.” From NBC News’s Mike Memoli and Anna R. Schecter: “In a closed-door meeting Tuesday, Wylie told Democratic members ... that Bannon specifically tasked Cambridge Analytica with looking at ways to depress Democratic turnout with their messaging. … According to House Judiciary Committee Democrats, Wylie also told lawmakers Cambridge Analytica tested messaging for an American audience about Vladimir Putin and Russian expansion in Eastern Europe. But based on a transcript of his comments provided by the committee, it was not clear to Wylie whether Bannon directed the research.”

-- Among the dozens of Russian diplomats expelled from the U.S. last month were spies tasked with tracking Russian defectors now living in America, U.S. officials say. CNN’s Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz report: “In at least one instance, suspected Russian spies were believed to be casing someone who was part of a CIA program that provided new identities to protect resettled Russians ... That episode and other US intelligence raised concerns that the Russians were preparing to target Russian emigres in the US labeled by the Kremlin as traitors or enemies … Officials in both the US and UK have warned that the Russian government appears emboldened to carry out assassinations in western democracies.”

-- Two Senate Democrats have requested eight large banks turn over financial information linked to 96 Russian oligarchs with ties to Putin. The Wall Street Journal’s Byron Tau reports: “In [the letter], Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D, N.H.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D, R.I.) asked the financial entities for details about accounts, assets or services the institutions were providing to any of the [oligarchs] … In their letter, the two Senate Democrats said they were seeking additional information about how the U.S. and international financial systems might be exploited by individuals on the sanction list and said that banks should use the list to identify possible money-laundering activities.”

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- French President Emmanuel Macron offered an implicit rejection of Trump’s worldview in his address to a joint session of Congress. Karen DeYoung reports: “Macron expressed hope that the United States would reenter the Paris climate accord … Macron also called for resolving of trade disputes through negotiation and the World Trade Organization, indirectly criticizing Trump’s imposition of tariffs. … More broadly, the free world needed to ‘push aside’ the forces of ‘isolationism, withdrawal and nationalism,’ Macron said … ”

Macron reiterated his support for the Iran nuclear deal but suggested he does not expect Trump to preserve it: “[Macron] outlined a four-part ‘comprehensive’ strategy to address upheaval in the Middle East, even if Trump opts out of the agreement. … In a solo news conference before his return home Wednesday night, Macron said that he was under no illusions about Trump’s views on the Iran deal. ‘I don’t know what his decision will be, but a rational look at . . . comments he has made . . . indicate to me he will not do his utmost to preserve it,’ he said. … Asked how he could say he was ‘extremely pleased’ about his three-day visit here and praise his warm relationship with Trump while outlining positions opposite to those of the U.S. president on climate, trade and a host of other issues, Macron said: ‘I think it’s life. It’s the same thing in all families.’

-- A new Quinnipiac Poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe Trump and his policies are making the world “less safe.” And while 66% of voters approve of Trump's planned meeting with Kim Jong Un, 51 percent said they do not have confidence in his ability to handle the situation with North Korea. 

-- "The Hidden Hand of a Casino Company in Trump’s Contact with Vietnam,” by ProPublica’s Justin Elliott: “On Dec. 14, 2016, one month after his election, [Trump] had a call with the prime minister of Vietnam … [leaving State Department officials puzzled and concerned]. Historically, post-election calls to heads of state are choreographed affairs … [But] contact with Vietnam was not set up by the State Department. Instead, Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, helped arrange the call. Kasowitz had another client with a keen interest in Vietnam: Philip Falcone, an American investor with a major casino outside Ho Chi Minh City. After the Trump call, Kasowitz traveled to Vietnam with Falcone. They met with government officials as part of an effort to persuade Vietnam to lift a ban on gambling for its citizens. … ‘Phil asked if Marc could arrange a phone call between the president and prime minister of Vietnam,’ said a person familiar with the call. ‘Marc did that.’”

THE #METOO MOVEMENT:

-- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is demanding former congressman Blake Farenthold (R) cover the cost of a special election to replace him in Congress. “While you have publicly offered to reimburse the $84,000 in taxpayer funds you wrongly used to settle a sexual harassment claim, there is no legal recourse requiring you to give that money back to Congress,” Abbott said in a Wednesday letter. “I am urging you to give those funds back to the counties in your district to cover the costs of the June 30, 2018, special election. This seat must be filled, and the [taxpayers] … should not again pay the price for your actions.” (Dallas Morning News)

-- Neera Tanden, president of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, outed a sexual harassment victim during an all-staff meeting. BuzzFeed News’s Sarah Mimms reports: “Two days after BuzzFeed News unveiled allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation at [CAP], [Tanden] met with staff to restore confidence in the organization’s ability to handle the issue and ensure that employees feel safe. But during the meeting Wednesday afternoon, Tanden named the anonymous victim at the center of that story — a revelation that a CAP spokesperson said was unintentional — and what began as a tense meeting became what three staffers in the room described as a textbook example of the organization’s failures to appropriately handle sexual harassment cases.”

-- Tina Brown said she was recently approached to produce a series featuring interviews by Charlie Rose of other men who were toppled from positions of power by the #MeToo movement. Page Six’s Ian Mohr reports: “Brown — who added that she passed on the project — first mentioned the proposed Rose redemption show while she appeared at a Q&A this week … Said a source: ‘Tina said she’d just been e-mailed about co-hosting a new show with Charlie Rose, in which they’d interview Louis C.K., Matt Lauer’ and others caught up in the #MeToo sexual harassment scandals. Brown explained to the group that she was having none of it, and remarked, ‘These guys are already planning their comebacks!’”

THE MIDTERMS:

-- Republicans are increasingly panicked about November after their closer-than-expected win in Arizona. Dave Weigel and John Wagner report: “House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told rank-and-file members in a closed-door meeting Wednesday morning that Debbie Lesko’s single-digit victory in Arizona’s 8th Congressional District was a fresh sign of mobilized Democrats putting even the most reliable GOP congressional districts in jeopardy.”

-- Former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee said he would “very likely” launch a primary challenge against Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D). The former presidential candidate cited Whitehouse’s 46 percent approval rating and Bernie Sanders’s 2016 primary win in the state as motivation to enter the race. (Politico)

-- California Republicans have gathered more than 800,000 signatures calling for a ballot measure to repeal the state’s gas tax hike. The LA Times’s Patrick McGreevy reports: “Even before they know for sure it will appear on the November ballot, the party's candidates up and down the state already are acting to direct voter anger over higher fuel prices at Democrats who boosted the levies. … Democrats say they are not worried, because the gas tax is paying for much-needed road and bridge repairs. … But Republicans are betting big financially that the higher gas tax is an issue that can help them win races in a state where voter registration favors the Democrats … ”

-- Tennessee Democrat Phil Bredesen continues to hold a narrow edge over GOP Rep. Marsha Blackburn in the Senate race to replace Bob Corker, leading her 46 percent to 43 percent in a new survey by Mason-Dixon. (Tennessean)

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Trump retweeted this message from Kanye West:

And Twitter predictably lost it. From 91-year-old John Dingell, a former House Democrat:

From a producer for CNN:

From Obama's former National Security Council spokesman:

From a reporter for BuzzFeed News:

CNN host Jake Tapper predicted a political alliance:

From an NBC News reporter:

From a CNN analyst:

An EPA official predicted it would take some of the attention away from Scott Pruitt's hearings today, per an Atlantic writer:

Trump wasn't the only one embroiled in Kanye's tweeting spree:

Kanye added this clarification to his stance:

Kim Kardashian, who is married to Kanye, weighed in on the controversy:

Another rapper came to Kanye's defense:

And a GOP strategist urged her followers to ignore the circus:

And a Republican lobbyist provided this progress report:

GOOD READS:

-- The New York Times obtained a confidential recording from a three-hour meeting of NFL heavyweights last October to discuss ongoing national anthem protests that were drawing Trump’s ire. Ken Belson and Mark Leibovich report: “The players sounded aggrieved. After discussing a proposal to finance nonprofit groups to address player concerns, they wanted to talk about why Colin Kaepernick … was, they believed, being blackballed by the owners. The owners sounded panicked about their business under attack, and wanted to focus on damage control. ‘I feel like he was hung out to dry,’ [Kaepernick's former teammate Eric Reid] said … The room fell quiet. ‘Nobody stepped up and said we support Colin’s right to do this. We all let him become Public Enemy No. 1 in this country, and he still doesn’t have a job.’ ... [Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula] offered that he thought the league was battling a perception and ‘media problem.’ He said it would be great for the league to find a compelling spokesman … to promote all of the good things they were doing together. He suggested that the league could learn from the gun lobby in this regard.”

-- New York Times, “A Lynching Memorial Is Opening. The Country Has Never Seen Anything Like It,” by Campbell Robertson: “The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opens Thursday on a six-acre site overlooking the Alabama State Capitol, is dedicated to the victims of American white supremacy. And it demands a reckoning with one of the nation’s least recognized atrocities: the lynching of thousands of black people in a decades-long campaign of racist terror.”

-- “Regrets of an ISIS midwife,” by Tamer El-Ghobashy: “[Samira al-Nasr], 66, is among the millions who lived under the Islamic State’s violent and austere rule in Syria and Iraq, but she witnessed a side of the militancy that perhaps no other outsider did. She was coerced, she said, into delivering countless babies for Islamic State families, attending the most intimate moments of their secluded lives, which she described as alternately ordinary and grotesque. Entrusted by the Islamic State with delivering the ‘cubs of the caliphate’ shortly after it captured Raqqa in 2014 … Nasr’s emotions ran from fear to anger to helplessness, she said.” “These were not humans,” she said of the militants. “They were a different kind of creature.”

-- Politico Magazine, How the Trump Show Gets Old,” by Michael Kruse: “It’s possible that no president in history has had such a grip on public attention … But now it’s year two, and life in the time of Trump has settled somewhat into a bizarre kind of routine. Articles don’t always go viral just because his name’s in the headline … He is tweeting more often, and with more truculence, but not always garnering as much notice. His campaign rallies aren’t the must-see circuses they once were, and he certainly doesn’t generate much enthusiasm[.] His approval ratings are holding far steadier than ‘Apprentice’ viewership did, but it’s hard to say the same about public attention. A year of intense, anxiety-laced interest in his every act has given way to eye rolls, exhaustion or both. … A big slump in season two is a hallmark of the president’s entire career. [But] this time the ‘show’ is the White House, and his response will affect the world. So what are we in for?”

    HOT ON THE LEFT

    “Kirsten Gillibrand Unveils A Public Option For Banking,” from HuffPost: “Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is introducing legislation Wednesday that would require every U.S. post office to provide basic banking services, an ambitious step aimed at improving the lives of Americans with limited financial resources. The bill brings to Congress for the first time a policy idea that has already won the support of liberal economists and anti-poverty activists: Turning the nation’s sprawling network of U.S. Postal Service facilities into places where working-class and low-income Americans who lack adequate access to commercial banking can obtain low-cost, short-term loans. The central goal of the bill is to replace risky financial products like payday loans, which can trap borrowers in prolonged cycles of debt, with regulated alternatives.”

     

    HOT ON THE RIGHT:

    “Is Nikki Haley the most popular politician in America?” from CNN: “American voters of different partisan stripes don't agree on much nowadays, but they can agree on this: most of them approve of US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. A broad 63% of American voters approve of her job performance vs. only 17% who say they disapprove in a new Quinnipiac University poll. Twenty percent had no opinion. Her approval spans party lines: 75% of Republicans, 63% of independents and even 55% of Democrats say they approve of how she's handling her job. Her support among Democrats is virtually identical to the share of Democrats who approve of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (56%) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (55%) in the same poll.”

     

    DAYBOOK:

    Trump will deliver remarks this morning at the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride.

    QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

    Former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid advised his fellow Democrats against impeachment discussions: “I say to everybody, stop it. … I’ve been through impeachment, and they’re not pleasant. And the less we talk about impeachment, the better off we are.” (NBC News)

     

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

    -- Washington gets the “Nice Day!” designation today, with sunshine and temperatures in the high 60s. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Sunny skies and mild temperatures make this the nicest day of the next several. Highs reach the upper 60s to low 70s, near normal for the date.”

    -- The Wizards lost to the Raptors 108-98. Washington now trails Toronto 3-2 in the first-round playoff series. (Candace Buckner and Ava Wallace)

    -- The Nationals beat the Giants 15-2. (Jorge Castillo)

    -- Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam described a protest of a proposed pipeline as “unlawful.” Gregory S. Schneider reports: “Northam (D) stopped short of saying he would order state police to do anything to resolve the standoff. Theresa ‘Red’ Terry, 61, and daughter Theresa Minor Terry, 30, have been on wooden platforms in trees on Bent Mountain since April 2, preventing workers for the Mountain Valley Pipeline from clearing trees on a path through their land.”

    -- The Secret Service arrested a person with a BB gun and a Buck knife at a foreign consulate office in the West End. (Peter Hermann)

    VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

    Late-night hosts highlighted the controversies that took down Jackson's nomination:

    Protesters gathered at the Supreme Court to denounce the travel ban:

    Lava began to overflow at Hawaii's Kilauea volcano:

    And a man in a cowboy hat thwarted an armed robbery in Mexico: