Paul Kane wrote the Big Idea today. James will be back from vacation on Monday.
With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.
THE BIG IDEA: Republicans have been banking on a strategy of tying Democratic candidates to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to save their majority. But some GOP strategists are becoming increasingly worried their party is relying too much on attacking the would-be speaker rather than their own accomplishments.
Some Republicans fear this Pelosi-heavy strategy is one with diminishing returns. These Republicans view recent special election results as evidence the GOP needs more than just an anti-Pelosi campaign to win over key independent voters who will decide the critical elections in November that will determine the majority.
“There is increasing evidence that tying candidates to Pelosi as a campaign tactic may not have the impact needed to bring a race home for Republicans. Just ask Rick Saccone,” David Winston, a Republican pollster close to House GOP leaders, wrote a couple weeks ago in Roll Call.
Winston was referring to the Republican candidate who lost a special election in southwestern Pennsylvania in a district where President Trump won by nearly 20 percentage points in 2016 and where Democrats did not even field a House candidate that year.
In that special, a few outside Republican groups spent more than $6 million on TV ads, most trying to turn Democrat Conor Lamb into a Pelosi clone. Lamb, who countered with ads noting that he opposed Pelosi as leader, won the race. And last week, in a similarly Republican-tilting district outside Phoenix, the GOP candidate only won by six percentage points in a special election where outside conservative groups spent more than $1 million on a get-out-the-vote effort of robo-calls and mail pieces slamming Pelosi.
The potency of the Pelosi factor may be overblown, however, according to some recent polling.
Winston, for instance, surveyed voters to measure the impact of attacks on Pelosi against positive messaging around the GOP's single biggest domestic policy victory in the Trump era: the $1.5 trillion tax cut signed into law in December.
By a margin of 73 to 12 percent, voters said the tax package was more important to them than whether Pelosi remained the Democratic leader, according to Winston's survey.
Two weeks ago, The Washington Post-ABC News poll found a similar result. It asked respondents to rate whether a candidate “who shares your opinion on Nancy Pelosi” is important in deciding their vote. Of the 35 percent who said it was important, only 17 percent considered the Pelosi factor “extremely important” and a healthy majority of 60 percent who said it was not important.
To be sure, Pelosi is not popular — the Post-ABC poll found 32 percent of Americans had a favorable view of her while just 44 percent had an unfavorable view. But those numbers are similar to the approval ratings of other congressional leaders — and the California Democrat's unfavorable rating is actually well below what it was at Pelosi's peak unpopularity just before the 2010 midterms, when almost 60 percent of voters disliked her.
Reactions to Pelosi just don't seem as intense as they have previously. “Her role is not particularly high profile now, and she has little power on Capitol Hill. Trump, in contrast, dominates the political stage,” Stu Rothenberg, an independent political analyst, recently wrote.
But the majority of GOP strategists don't seem to be convinced and continue to make the minority leader a centerpiece of their campaigns and messaging. Last June, for instance, GOP strategists touted their Pelosi strategy as the key to winning a special election outside Atlanta to replace then-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.
But the argument could just as easily be made that Democrats didn't have the highest quality candidate there — Jon Ossoff had just turned 30 and his most senior job was working as a congressional aide to Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.). The reverse was true in the Pennsylvania special election, where the winning Democrat — Lamb — served in the Marines and then as a federal prosecutor.
In Pennsylvania, Republicans couldn't seem to decide how to defeat Lamb — their TV ads spent eight seconds touting the GOP tax plan and accusing Lamb of supporting tax hikes before turning over the rest of the 30-second spot to pictures of Pelosi. An analysis by Kantar Media’s Campaign Media Analysis Group found that 58 percent of every ad run in the Pennsylvania race featured Pelosi.
It’s the sort of overkill that the Hillary Clinton campaign engaged in with its ubiquitous “Role Models” ads in 2016, in which children watched television clips of Trump making intemperate remarks. That commercial apparently scored off the charts with focus groups, but by the time voters were seeing it for the 1,000th time in the fall, it's impact seemed to have dimmed. This will happen to Republicans, Winston warns, if they don’t have anything else to tell voters.
“Pelosi’s value as a political target may have come and gone, or at least reached a point of diminishing returns,” Winston wrote in Roll Call.
This suggests that the most important role for Pelosi, in GOP campaigns, will be to fire up the conservative base. Which is helpful in heavily Republican seats like Arizona’s 8th Congressional District — but not as much in the first 30 to 40 battleground House seats where suburban independents will decide the election. They need to hear more than how the candidates feel about what Pelosi has been up to that week.
In a meeting with reporters and editors of the Boston Globe, the California lawmaker guaranteed Democrats would win the House majority in November’s midterm elections.
“We will win. I will run for speaker. I feel confident about it,” Pelosi said.
The Cybersecurity 202 is coming to your inboxes on May 9. Derek Hawkins will break down the latest news on election security, major hacks and what lawmakers are planning to do about it all in the newest member of our 202 franchise. Sign up here.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The Swedish Academy has decided not to award the Nobel Prize in literature this year as it faces down a sexual misconduct scandal. Rick Noack reports: “‘The Swedish Academy intends to decide on and announce the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2018 in parallel with the naming of the 2019 laureate,’ according to [the academy’s] statement. … It added that the awarding of the other prizes would not be disrupted. The announcement came days after Swedish media reported that French photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, who was married to an academy member, groped Swedish Crown Princess Victoria at an academy event in 2006. Arnault had already been accused of sexual harassment or assault by 18 women last November. He also allegedly leaked the names of at least seven Nobel winners, but has denied all accusations against him.” The awarding of the prize has not been delayed since 1949.
GET SMART FAST:
- Arizona teachers ended their strike and will return to classrooms today. Teachers will get a 20-percent pay hike as of 2020 and $138 million in school investment, but that only partially meets their demands. Arizona is one of five states where public schools have closed because of teacher walkouts. (Moriah Balingit)
- President Trump signed an executive order creating a new faith-based office. But the specific responsibilities of the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative remain unclear. (Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Michelle Boorstein)
- A New York Supreme Court judge ruled that Upper West Side Manhattan condo owners could remove lettering spelling out “T-r-u-m-p” on their building. The decision permits the condo board to vote on the matter but a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization said it will appeal the ruling. (New York Times)
- The number of fatal police shootings of unarmed people has generally declined since 2015. But the total tally of deadly shootings by law enforcement officials is on track to hit nearly 1,000 for the fourth consecutive year. (John Sullivan, Julie Tate and Jennifer Jenkins)
- Nearly half of the crab houses along Maryland’s Eastern Shore have no workers to pick crab meat after their mostly Mexican workforce failed to get visas. The Trump administration awarded the visas for the first time through a lottery system rather than on a first-come, first-served basis, shutting out many Mexican women who had been coming to Maryland for crab season for two decades. (Baltimore Sun)
- Amazon is waiting to see whether it will lose customers after increasing the price of a “Prime” membership. The cost of a new membership will increase from $99 to $119 starting next week, with existing memberships seeing the rate hike next month. (Rachel Siegel)
- California investigators, inspired by the capture of the alleged Golden State Killer, are hoping DNA evidence can lead to a break in the Zodiac Killer case. Detectives with the Vallejo Police Department have sent decades-old letters from the Zodiac killer to a forensics laboratory. (San Francisco Chronicle)
- Drivers scrambled to grab as much cash as possible after the door of a Brink’s armored truck swung open on an Indianapolis highway. One school bus driver was seen pulling over on the side of the road, grabbing some $20 bills and driving away. (New York Times)
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S LAWYERS:
--Trump confirmed (basically via tweet yesterday morning) that he had indeed paid back lawyer Michael Cohen for the $130,000 that Cohen forked over to adult-film star Stormy Daniels to ensure her silence regarding her alleged affair with Trump. The president said he had reimbursed Cohen through monthly installment payments in order to stop the “false and extortionist” stories about the affair, reports John Wagner. “Money from the campaign, or campaign contributions, played no roll [sic] in this transaction,” wrote Trump.
-- Trump made the admission following a bombshell appearance Wednesday night by the new addition to his legal team, Rudy Giuliani, on Fox News's Hannity show. The ex-New York mayor was still making the press rounds on Thursday and dropping further bomblets in what indeed appears to be a more combative strategy from the president's revolving legal team regarding special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian campaign interference and any obstruction of that probe.
-- Rudy’s disclosure may have given investigators new leads to pursue, according to legal analysts. From Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Carol D. Leonnig and Michelle Ye Hee Lee: “Giuliani made statements that speak to Trump and [Cohen’s] intent — an important aspect of some crimes — and he made assertions that investigators can now check against what they have already learned from documents and witnesses, legal analysts said. His comments to media outlets underscore a growing tension for the White House: The FBI investigation of Cohen presents a legal problem for the president that his own lawyer might have exacerbated.”
-- What's behind this new broadside? Only Rudy may know, according to Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, Robert Costa and Ashley Parker: “He may have had a strategy, but [Giuliani] hatched it almost entirely in secret. The White House counsel had no idea. Neither did the White House chief of staff, nor the White House press secretary, nor the new White House lawyer overseeing its handling of the Russia investigation ... Aides and advisers to the president ... expressed a mixture of exasperation and horror. One White House official texted a reporter a string of emoji characters in response, including a tiny container of popcorn.”
One former Trump adviser who remains close to the White House said it was about time someone did some truth-telling: “There is nobody in America who didn’t think the president had the affair with the porn star. I doubt there’s anybody in America who didn’t think the president had Michael Cohen pay off the porn star.”
Rudy told The Post he had discussed the admission with the president “a few days ago,” saying: “He was well aware that at some point when I saw the opportunity, I was going to get this over with,” Giuliani said.
Other nuggets from Rudy's Hannity appearance, note Phil, Josh, Bob and Ashley:
- He warned Mueller to stay away from Ivanka Trump, but indicated that her husband, Jared Kushner, could be “disposable.”
- He advanced a new reason for why Trump fired ex-FBI director James Comey, saying that he was ousted because the director wouldn't publicly say the president wasn't a target of the Mueller probe.
-- The New York Times's Michael D. Shear says it was another “high-profile, slightly off-kilter moment for Mr. Giuliani, who has lived a life full of them ... Giuliani has historically been something of a loose cannon who is not used to having his words carefully managed.”
-- Rudy also let it be known that Trump's legal team wouldn't allow the president to fall into the "trap" of possibly committing perjury by sitting for an extended interview with Mueller, writes John. “What they’re really trying to do is trap him into perjury, and we’re not suckers,” Giuliani, said yesterday morning on "Fox & Friends.”
Some other nuggets from Rudy's media tour:
- The idea is "dead" that there was collusion between Trump campaign officials and the Kremlin.
- Attorney General Jeff Sessions should "step in and close [the Russia probe] and say enough is enough," according to Rudy.
- Any interview between Trump and Mueller's team should only last two to three hours.
- Comey is a "disgraceful liar" who should be "put in the same jail cell" as Martha Stewart, Rudy asserted. (Comey prosecuted Stewart in 2003 as a former New York prosecutor for making false statements in a stock trading case.)
-- Dan Balz asks whether anyone really cares that the president has now been caught lying (Trump told a reporter a month ago that he didn't know anything about Cohen's payment to Daniels; his tweetstorm and Rudy's comments on Wednesday belie that): “Trump isn’t the first president to tell lies. Bill Clinton lied about his relationship with White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky when he wagged his finger and said, 'I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,'" Dan writes.
“Other presidents have lied about events and policies. So this president has some company. But from serial exaggerations to disregard for the facts (his claim that millions of people voted illegally for Hillary Clinton in 2016) to obvious falsehoods, deliberate or unconscious, Trump has a pattern and practice that is often breathtaking in its audacity ... After nearly three years in the political arena, Trump has shown his ability to withstand controversies of many kinds. That may continue to be the case. But that doesn’t make the uncomfortable questions about truth and the president any less important.”
-- The Times's Peter Baker asks whether Trump is losing control of his own narrative: “As a matter of politics, the latest contradictions may not matter much, at least not yet. The public to some extent has grown accustomed to the factual deviations or written them off as unimportant ... And to be sure, not every misleading statement is equally meaningful ... Under the unforgiving glare of federal prosecutors, however, misrepresentations carry far greater jeopardy.”
-- But was the payment legal and not a campaign expenditure if Trump reimbursed Cohen? “Campaign finance experts said that the then-secret payment to Daniels — which was already the subject of complaints to the Federal Election Commission and the Justice Department — could be problematic, particularly after Giuliani’s extensive public comments,” reports Michelle Ye Hee Lee. “If the payment were 'wholly personal, as in made to help Trump’s marriage but not his campaign,' it would not amount to a campaign finance violation, according to Richard Hasen, election law expert at the University of California at Irvine. But the fact that it was made so close to the election raises questions, experts say.”
But, but, but: “Even as he insisted the payment was solely for a personal purpose, Giuliani suggested that it served another function: to quash an embarrassing story so close to the presidential election. His statements call into question Giuliani’s argument that Trump made the payment only to protect his reputation, some experts said. 'That is an explicit acknowledgment that this payment was about the election and was about hiding information from voters immediately before the presidential election,' said Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at watchdog group Common Cause, which filed a legal claim over the payment. 'That’s what makes all of this a campaign finance violation.'”
DRIP, DRIP, DRIP FOR PRUITT:
-- Scott Pruitt planned his foreign trips with the regular input from high-placed friends and allies, report Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis. “After taking office last year, Pruitt drew up a list of at least a dozen countries he hoped to visit and urged aides to help him find official reasons to travel, according to four people familiar with the matter … Pruitt then enlisted well-connected friends and political allies to help make the trips happen.” The latest example: Pruitt’s planned February trip to Israel. “Pruitt’s itinerary for [the trip] was remarkable by any standard for an [EPA] administrator: A stop at a controversial Jewish settlement in the West Bank. An appearance at Tel Aviv University. A hard-to-get audience with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. One force behind Pruitt’s eclectic agenda: casino magnate and Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson, a major supporter of Israel who arranged parts of Pruitt’s visit. … And in Israel, Pruitt was scheduled to unveil an agreement with Water-Gen, an Israeli water purification company championed by Adelson.”
-- As a state senator in Oklahoma, Pruitt bought a home with a lobbyist pushing for changes to compensation rules, which Pruitt supported. The New York Times’s Hiroko Tabuchi and Steve Eder report: “Mr. Pruitt never publicly disclosed his financial relationship with the lobbyist, who, like Mr. Pruitt, lived in the home when in Oklahoma City on business. The lobbyist, Justin Whitefield, represented as many as a dozen organizations, including some that sought business-friendly changes to Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation rules. Mr. Pruitt pressed for the changes, often bemoaning the high costs to businesses of the existing rules and suggesting that lawyers were enriching themselves off the system. … The home in Oklahoma City was registered to a shell company owned by Mr. Pruitt, Mr. Whitefield and four other associates.”
-- Pruitt reimbursed himself nearly $65,000 from his two campaigns for Oklahoma attorney general. CNN’s Gregory Wallace and Sara Ganim report: “During his attorney general bids [in 2010 and 2014], records show Pruitt made purchases and then received reimbursement from his campaign — sometimes thousands of dollars apiece — rather than having the campaign pay directly for expenses like renting a vehicle or purchasing a meal. When purchases are made directly, the campaign filings would show more details about who received the payments. Instead, dozens of entries on Pruitt's 2010 and 2014 campaign finance filings show payments to him but don't have the same level of detail, making it difficult to tell if the purchases were legitimate.”
-- In an attempt to distract from Pruitt's controversies, an EPA press staffer attempted to plant negative stories ... about Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The Atlantic’s Elaina Plott reports: “In the last week, a member of Pruitt’s press team, Michael Abboud, has been shopping negative stories about Zinke to multiple outlets, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the efforts … The stories were shopped with the intention of ‘taking the heat off of Pruitt,’ the sources said, in the aftermath of the EPA chief’s punishing congressional hearing last week. They both added, however, that most reporters felt the story was not solid enough to run. … Abboud alleged to reporters that an Interior staffer conspired with former EPA deputy chief of staff Kevin Chmielewski to leak damaging information about the EPA, as part of a rivalry between Zinke and Pruitt.”
-- Pruitt’s top spokesperson is leaving the EPA. Dino Grandoni reports: “Liz Bowman … is stepping down to become communications director for Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). Her departure follows the exit of two other top Pruitt aides this week. … Other senior EPA officials also could leave in the coming weeks, according to two individuals … Under Bowman, the EPA’s press shop aggressively defended Pruitt’s work, often in news releases calling out media outlets and reporters whose coverage the agency said was misleading or inaccurate. … Two EPA officials said Thursday that Bowman sought to remove herself from the push to challenge reporting by multiple media outlets about allegations of ethical misconduct by Pruitt … ”
AND THAT'S OVER:
-- Paul Ryan abruptly reversed course and allowed the House chaplain, a Jesuit priest who was forced to resign by the speaker last month, to stay on the job. Paul Kane reports: Rev. Patrick J. Conroy “sent the speaker a letter rescinding his resignation and vowing to remain until the end of the year. Within hours Ryan had backed down, ending the possibility of what the speaker feared would be a ‘protracted fight’ over what is supposed to be a unifying and spiritual position in the partisan chamber. [Ryan, who is Catholic,] defended his original decision and continued to question whether Conroy was delivering sufficient ‘pastoral services’ to the entire House. ‘I intend to sit down with Father Conroy early next week so that we can move forward for the good of the whole House,’ he said. …
“Congress is away on a one-week break, and some GOP advisers hoped the issue would die down amid the flurry of other news. But then Conroy issued a two-page letter early Thursday accusing Ryan’s chief of staff, Jonathan Burks, of anti-Catholic bias. Conroy spelled out in the most detail yet his April 13 confrontation with Burks that set the stage for his resignation days later. The priest asked why he was being forced out. ‘Maybe it’s time that we had a chaplain that wasn’t a Catholic,’ Burks said, according to Conroy’s account. Conroy says Burks also brought up an opening prayer the priest delivered in November and an interview with National Journal in January. During the tax-cut debate, Conroy delivered a prayer that some took as siding with Democrats. … In a statement from Ryan’s office Thursday, Burks took issue with Conroy’s version of events.”
PERSONNEL IS POLICY:
-- More errors were uncovered in Jared Kushner’s ethics disclosure filing. ProPublica’s Justin Elliott reports: “A Kushner representative confirmed the errors, attributing them to data entry and accounting mistakes. The representative said the figures will be revised in the next annual filing, which is due soon. The form has been updated at least 40 times since Kushner first submitted it in March 2017. … The newly revealed errors center on a pair of loans that Kushner Companies made to projects at 215 Moore Street in Bushwick and 9 DeKalb Avenue in downtown Brooklyn. Kushner’s disclosure suggests that these loans could have generated more income from interest in a roughly yearlong period than the entire value of the loans themselves.”
-- The hiring of Emmet Flood to Trump’s legal team was a victory for White House Counsel Donald McGahn, who could be headed for the exits. The Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng and Sam Stein: “McGahn was chiefly responsible for orchestrating Flood’s hiring and was thrilled when it was formally completed, according to four sources inside and outside the West Wing. That’s in large part because Flood provides McGahn with two things he’s long coveted: an ally on the legal team handling the Russia probe and a potential successor for his own post, which Flood, as part of this arrangement, will be granted in due time. There is no set date for McGahn’s exit from the White House. But for months now, his position in the administration has been shaky as his relationship with Trump has deteriorated. … One White House official conceded that they are ‘barely on speaking terms’ unless they absolutely have to be.”
-- Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, is trying to get back in the president’s good graces. Buzzfeed News’s Tarini Parti, Henry J. Gomez and Chris Geidner report: “The hard-nosed, conflict-prone political operative … is trying to show he can be a useful, well-behaved team player. Lewandowski in recent months has been encouraged to repair relationships with officials at the Republican National Committee, whose work he had previously trashed, in order to become more involved in the party’s 2018 strategy, a source [said]. … [A]s Trump has grown frustrated over time with chief of staff John Kelly’s more rigid operation inside the White House, he has, according to half a dozen sources, been looking to Lewandowski … ”
-- The VA is suffering from significant turnover that could imperil its agenda. Lisa Rein reports: “Dozens of senior staff members have left the [VA] since January, an exodus that predates [Trump’s] firing of VA Secretary David Shulkin in March and appears to have accelerated in the chaotic weeks since. … The upheaval has created voids throughout the organization’s leadership structure in core areas including health care, benefits, technology and human resources."
-- Controversial former Trump campaign aide Sam Clovis is leaving the Agriculture Department, where he served as liaison to the White House. From Politico’s Liz Crampton: “Clovis ... ran into trouble when [Trump] nominated him to be USDA undersecretary for research, education and economics. Clovis withdrew his name from consideration in November ... after facing a torrent of criticism from Senate Democrats and environmental advocates. Clovis drew fire for his skepticism of climate science, past comments on issues like race and gender, and what critics on the left said was his lack of scientific credentials that are legally required for the position, which would also have had him serve as the department's chief scientist.”
NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Trump has asked the Pentagon to look at options for reducing U.S. troops in South Korea. The New York Times’s Mark Landler reports: “Reduced troop levels are not intended to be a bargaining chip in Mr. Trump’s talks with Mr. Kim about his weapons program, these officials said. But they acknowledged that a peace treaty between the two Koreas could diminish the need for the 28,500 soldiers currently stationed on the peninsula. Mr. Trump has been determined to withdraw troops from South Korea, arguing that the United States is not adequately compensated for the cost of maintaining them, that the troops are mainly protecting Japan and that decades of American military presence had not prevented the North from becoming a nuclear threat.” National security adviser John Bolton dismissed the report as “utter nonsense.”
-- China said “big differences” remain after trade talks with a delegation from the Trump administration. Simon Denyer reports: “[China added] consensus had been reached on other issues. It was unclear where the two sides found common ground, but the overall aims of U.S. envoys are likely to have met stiff resistance as they seek fundamental concessions on how the Chinese leadership manages trade and its own economy.”
-- U.S. officials have accused China of directing blinding lasers at American aircraft in Djibouti, injuring two airmen. From Paul Sonne: “Pentagon spokeswoman Dana W. White said at a briefing on Thursday that the United States has requested China investigate multiple incidents in recent weeks in which U.S. aircraft in Djibouti have been affected by unauthorized Chinese laser activity. White said the Pentagon was confident that Chinese nationals were responsible. She said there had been more than two but fewer than 10 such incidents, which she said had increased in frequency in recent weeks.”
-- The State Department has frozen U.S. funding for the White Helmets, a humanitarian group that has saved thousands of lives amid Syria’s civil war. From CBS News’s Kylie Atwood: “Having not received U.S. funding in recent weeks, White Helmets are questioning what this means for the future. They have received no formal declaration from the U.S. government that the monetary assistance has come to a full halt, but the group's people on the ground in Syria report that their funds have been cut off.”
-- America’s secret wars escalate: “For years, the American military has sought to distance itself from a brutal civil war in Yemen, where Saudi-led forces are battling rebels who pose no direct threat to the United States. But late last year, a team of about a dozen Green Berets arrived on Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen,” report the New York Times’s Helene Cooper, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Eric Schmitt. “With virtually no public discussion or debate, the Army commandos are helping locate and destroy caches of ballistic missiles and launch sites that Houthi rebels in Yemen are using to attack Riyadh and other Saudi cities. … [Details of the operation] appear to contradict Pentagon statements that American military assistance to the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen is limited to aircraft refueling, logistics and general intelligence sharing.”
THE #METOO MOVEMENT:
-- Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) is the subject of a lawsuit claiming he sexually abused a 16-year-old girl in 2007. Erica Werner and Elise Viebeck report: “Cárdenas has been calling colleagues in recent days about the lawsuit and telling them he is innocent, according to a House Democratic aide. The three-term congressman is the chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s political action committee. … The court filing … alleges that ‘John Doe’ first met the plaintiff in 2005 at a golf tournament when she was 14 and subsequently became a close friend of her family’s. Two years later, the document claims, he fondled her breasts and genitals while driving her to the emergency room after the two played golf at Hillcrest Country Club in Los Angeles. The girl had ‘suddenly collapsed to the ground’ during the golf game after John Doe gave her a cup of ice water that ‘tasted distinctly different from both tap and filtered water,’ the lawsuit states.”
-- Missouri lawmakers announced they would return for a special session to consider impeaching Gov. Eric Greitens (R) over accusations of sexual misconduct and misuse of charity funds. Samantha Schmidt reports: “The announcement from the Republican-held House and Senate comes as Greitens, a former Navy SEAL once considered a rising star in his party, faces widespread calls to step down amid a series of criminal charges. … It is the first time in Missouri’s history that state legislators have called for a special session, House Speaker Todd Richardson said in a news conference Thursday. The special session is set to begin on May 18, just days after the start of Greitens’s criminal trial, and will last no more than 30 days. It will allow lawmakers to continue investigating the governor’s conduct and consider taking disciplinary action against him, Richardson said.”
-- Camille Cosby spoke out about her husband's conviction on three counts of sexual assault, saying that it was "mob justice, not real justice.” “In the case of Bill Cosby, unproven accusations evolved into lynch mobs,” she wrote on Facebook, adding that a criminal probe should be opened into the Pennsylvania prosecutor who won the convictions against her husband. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Sonia Rao)
-- The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced it has expelled Cosby, as well as director Roman Polanski, from its ranks. Polanski pleaded guilty in 1977 to unlawful sex with a minor and fled the country before he was sentenced. (LA Times)
-- Harvard Law professor and frequent Trump defender Alan Dershowitz has been hired as a consultant for Harvey Weinstein’s legal team. Dershowitz states in a declaration contained in new court papers, "I have agreed to consult on the specific issue of [Weinstein lawyer Benjamin] Brafman’s access to his client’s personal and business emails. On information and belief, it is my professional opinion that Mr. Brafman has the right to see and review these emails in order to prepare his constitutionally-mandated role as counsel to Mr. Weinstein.” (Hollywood Reporter)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Here's your correction of the day:
Correction: Earlier today NBC News, and this reporter, said that Michael Cohen's phone lines were wiretapped. 3 Senior U.S. Officials now dispute that, saying the monitoring was limited to a log of calls (pen register) not a wiretap of Cohen's lines. We will continue to report.— Tom Winter (@Tom_Winter) May 3, 2018
Trump commented on the correction this morning:
NBC NEWS is wrong again! They cite “sources” which are constantly wrong. Problem is, like so many others, the sources probably don’t exist, they are fabricated, fiction! NBC, my former home with the Apprentice, is now as bad as Fake News CNN. Sad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 4, 2018
Some perspective from a former U.S. attorney:
NBC has now retracted its "scoop" about a wiretap. A pen register is much easier to get and much less intrusive than a wiretap. No actual phone call content is listened to. Basically it's a real-time log of calls. https://t.co/KZxZrkF9Kb— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) May 3, 2018
Trump also called for Congress to approve the border wall:
Our Southern Border is under siege. Congress must act now to change our weak and ineffective immigration laws. Must build a Wall. Mexico, which has a massive crime problem, is doing little to help!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 4, 2018
Rudy offered this reasoning for his Stormy admission to an NBC reporter:
Just spoke to Giuliani who says he revealed POTUS’ payments “to get out in front of the Special Counsel, Southern District (of New York) because at some point they would realize this information and leak it. "— Kristen Welker (@kwelkernbc) May 4, 2018
Comey responded to Rudy's comments about FBI agents who raided Cohen's office:
I know the New York FBI. There are no “stormtroopers” there; just a group of people devoted to the rule of law and the truth. Our country would be better off if our leaders tried to be like them, rather than comparing them to Nazis.— James Comey (@Comey) May 3, 2018
George Conway, who is married to White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, continued subtweeting Trump:
Rudy's admission reminded this CNN reporter of another incident:
This Giuliani episode gives me flashbacks of this moment from last year: "I’ll tell you the whole history of it: When he first announced it, he said ‘Muslim ban.'...He called me up, he said, ‘Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.’"— Abby D. Phillip (@abbydphillip) May 3, 2018
Ubiquitous Stormy lawyer wants his own turn on Hannity:
Thanks but I’ve been really clear as to the next Fox show I will appear on, and that’s Sean’s show. I keep asking and the network keeps dodging me. I’ll even go on with Rudy if need be. What are they afraid of?#myturn https://t.co/QbI3znD6KF— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) May 3, 2018
From the communications director of RFK Human Rights:
ARE YOU THE GUY I TELL ABOUT THE CRIMES pic.twitter.com/F0S9CCB7dK— Max Burns (@themaxburns) May 3, 2018
West Virginia Senate candidate Don Blankenship is unhappy with Mitch McConnell and "his China family." McConnell's wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, was born in Taiwan and her parents are Chinese:
What in the world did I just watch pic.twitter.com/4eudpGAxp0— Liam Donovan (@LPDonovan) May 3, 2018
Former McConnell aide Josh Holmes didn't mince words in reply:
For those asking, this is my response to West Virginia Roy Moore: “This clown is a walking, talking case study for the limitation of a prison’s ability to rehabilitate.”— Josh Holmes (@HolmesJosh) May 3, 2018
Others stated the ad was racist:
From the co-founder of Third Way:
From a former chief of staff to Joe Biden:
A Roll Call reporter provided this statement from Blakenship:
A reality check from an editor of Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia:
To be clear, as easy as it is to mock Blankenship's bizarre #WVSen ads, they might work. It's a three-way primary, so he might only need ~35% of the vote to win.— Geoffrey Skelley (@geoffreyvs) May 4, 2018
Mitch McConnell explained his policy on blue slips, per a HuffPost reporter:
McConnell notes he changed the rules for blue slips, so a single senator can no longer use them to block a circuit court nominee.— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) May 3, 2018
"My view is that no one senator ought to be able to stop a circuit judge," says McConnell, who single-handedly denied Obama a Supreme Court judge.
A CNN executive producer took issue with Trump's claim "the past Administration has long been asking for three hostages to be released" from North Korea's labor camps:
How could "the past administration" ask for two Americans who were detained in 2017 when Trump was President?— David P Gelles (@gelles) May 3, 2018
Tony Kim and Kim Hak-song were arrested in April and May of 2017
Stay tuned. https://t.co/2kcEB1nOy9
-- “A legal dispute with a view, at a famous D.C. address,” by Paul Schwartzman: “Without warning, the Watergate South cooperative had seized [Wenkan] Tian’s apartment after management grew fearful that a prolonged renovation project in her kitchen and bathroom was hazardous ... In tears, Tian borrowed money from a neighbor — her wallet, cellphone and coat were still inside the apartment — and went to D.C. Superior Court, where a judge ordered the Watergate to let her back into the one-bedroom unit she had shared with her husband until his death two years earlier.”
Tian was ultimately evicted from the Watergate, but she's not done trying to return. “The dispute offers a glimpse inside the idiosyncratic life of a cooperative — a housing arrangement far more common to New York than Washington ... When things go south, as in the case of the Watergate, conflicts can end up in court, where accumulated resentments and dysfunction among well-heeled residents of a famous building can play out in public view.”
-- HuffPost, “The Atlantic Had A Meeting About Kevin Williamson. It Was A Liberal Self-Reckoning,” by Ashley Feinberg: “On Friday, April 6, The Atlantic’s editor-in-chief, Jeffrey Goldberg, sat down with the magazine’s star national correspondent, Ta-Nehisi Coates, for a live question-and-answer session in front of the company’s staff. This was a scheduled event, part of the media company’s in-house ‘Atlantic University’ series, but the off-the-record conversation took on a new urgency because of what had happened the previous day. On Thursday, April 5, the magazine had announced that it was cutting ties with Kevin Williamson, the irascible conservative writer it had installed in the magazine’s ‘Ideas’ section only two weeks earlier.”
HOT ON THE LEFT
“In Pennsylvania race, it’s Tom Steyer’s money vs. Bud Selig’s money,” from David Weigel: “A six-way Democratic primary for a Pennsylvania congressional district is about to become a battle of the super PACs ... NextGen America, founded and largely funded by [billionaire Tom] Steyer, announced Thursday evening that it would spend at least $100,000 on advertising in Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District. The target: John Morganelli, a longtime district attorney who gained local notoriety for using state law to cut off services to undocumented immigrants. … Pennsylvania Democrats have grown increasingly nervous about the potential for a Morganelli upset, after United Together, an affiliate of the centrist organization No Labels, began spending against his top rivals.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“Across the country, Republican efforts to arm teachers in schools stall,” from Joe Heim: “Republicans have led the campaign for the measures in 14 states that would give teachers and staff members access to guns in schools or expand their ability to do so ... Nineteen of those bills were sponsored by Republican lawmakers, while the remainder were nonpartisan or sponsored by legislative committees. The only measure that has succeeded is in Florida [where the shooting at Marjorie Douglas Stoneman High recently killed 17 people]. A school safety bill there stipulated that public school staff members, including counselors and coaches, could become “marshals” — but full-time teachers would not be eligible to be trained and armed.”
Trump will give remarks today at the NRA's annual meeting in Dallas.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked why she previously denied Trump knew about the Stormy Daniels payment: “We give the very best information that we have at the time.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Today will be D.C.’s last day of intense heat for a while, but we could see thunderstorms later on. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Heat. With that slight mugginess. High temperatures should make it into the upper 80s to low 90s. The 93-degree record at DCA *should* stay (barely) unchallenged. The day is bright enough, but clouds increase as it wears on, well ahead of an approaching cold front. … A slight shower or thundershower chance is worth mentioning by mid- to late afternoon, especially west and northwest of town.”
-- The Capitals lost to the Penguins 2-1, tying the playoff series at 3-1. (Isabelle Khurshudyan, Roman Stubbs, Scott Allen and Neil Greenberg)
-- The Nationals beat the Pirates 3-1. Washington stretched their winning streak to five games to reach .500. (Jorge Castillo)
-- Virginia Republican Corey Stewart is accusing state party officials of favoring his opponent in the Senate primary race. Jenna Portnoy reports: “Stewart, the bombastic chairman of the Prince William Board of Supervisors, said party leaders secretly back Nick Freitas, a two-term state lawmaker from the Piedmont Valley — a charge the state GOP denied. … Virginia GOP Chairman John Whitbeck said the party treats all primary candidates the same. ‘To quote President Trump, ‘There is no collusion. Total witch hunt’,’ he said.”
-- The 66 Express Lanes raked in more than $6 million in tolls during their first four months of operation. From Luz Lazo: “The new system — with tolls that have reached as high as $47.50 and are among the highest in the nation — is expected to generate $12 million by the end of the fiscal year June 30, the Virginia Department of Transportation said.”
-- More than 2,000 people took The Post’s nine-question poll about how to best manage allergies as pollen season begins. The surprise winner for the best allergy medication: Flonase. (Angela Fritz)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Late-night hosts marveled at Rudy Giuliani's admission about the Stormy Daniels payment:
Fox News host Neil Cavuto criticized Trump for his pattern of making false or misleading statements:
A Miami police officer was removed from duty after a video showing him kicking a handcuffed suspect in the head.
And women in Saudi Arabia are learning how to ride motorcycles after finally being granted the right to drive: