National Political Correspondent

With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.

THE BIG IDEA: 

Rudy Giuliani has neither reduced Donald Trump’s legal exposure nor helped him in the court of public opinion during his week-long media blitz, but the former New York City mayor’s pugnacity has pleased the president. Can it last?

Giuliani huddled with Trump yesterday afternoon at his golf club in Sterling, Va., to discuss legal strategy after he appeared on Fox News Saturday night and ABC on Sunday morning. Then he spoke with several other reporters by phone.

Rudy’s public comments have primarily been aimed at an audience of one, from likening FBI agents to “stormtroopers” to describing James Comey as “Judas” and calling on Jeff Sessions to investigate the people investigating Michael Cohen.

Giuliani is being as aggressive as Trump has said he wants his lawyers to be. He asserted yesterday that Trump does not need to comply if special counsel Robert Mueller subpoenas him, opened the door to the president invoking the Fifth Amendment if forced to testify and then declared that “the Founding Fathers created immunity for a president, so the president can't be indicted.”

“I am focused on the law more than the facts right now,” he told CNN last night.

Earlier in the day, he told George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week”: “My issue is getting up to speed on the facts here. I’m about halfway there.”

Some lawyers might wait to defend their client on television until they were all the way there. Not Rudy. But this is not actually his biggest problem.

Giuliani is repeating seven of the mistakes that have felled previously highflying Trump aides, who rose rapidly only to fall out of favor:

1. He’s overconfident about his standing with the president.

“We’ve made a deal this weekend: He stays focused on North Korea, Iran and China, and we stay focused on the case and we’ll bother him when we have to,” Giuliani told The Washington Post’s Robert Costa yesterday after his meeting with Trump.

The cigar-chomping politician, fresh off his third divorce, added that the recent media blitz has “all worked out” because “we’re setting the agenda.”

“Everybody’s reacting to us now, and I feel good about that because that’s what I came in to do,” he told Bob.

People often feel emboldened after getting hired by Trump, only to get their legs cut out from underneath them after they overinterpret their mandate. The best example of this was Anthony Scaramucci’s 11-day tenure as White House communications director. Many observers see parallels with Giuliani. The Mooch himself responded last night:

Challenging Giuliani’s statement that he knew about the hush money paid to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, Trump on Friday said Giuliani “just started a day ago” and is “learning the subject matter.” (In fact, it had been 15 days at that point.) “Rudy is great, but Rudy has just started and he wasn’t familiar with everything,” Trump told reporters on his way to speak at the NRA convention. “He’ll get his facts straight.”

In an interview that afternoon with The Post, Giuliani said Trump was not actually mad at him. “He says he loves me,” Giuliani said.

Trump always “loves” his advisers — until he doesn’t.

2. He’s acting like a principal, not a staffer.

The man who was called “America’s Mayor” after the Sept. 11th attacks — who was once seen as a front-runner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination and who earned notoriety in the 1980s as a swashbuckling and self-promoting U.S. attorney — sees himself as a principal who calls the shots. That’s understandable. But when he's representing the president, he’s not.

Giuliani, who turns 74 this month, is a staffer now — a retainer, a spokesman, an adviser. He’s got stature, but he’s still just one lawyer in a stable of them — representing a client who struggles to take counsel and churns through attorneys. He’s serving at the pleasure of a mercurial president who prizes loyalty above all else.

Trump also hates when others hog the spotlight, and he tends to diminish people when he thinks they’ve gotten too big for their britches or get too much credit for what he’s doing. The beginning of the end for White House chief strategist Steve Bannon came when he appeared on the cover of Time Magazine and “Saturday Night Live” portrayed him as a Grim Reaper-like figure who told Trump what to do.

3. He’s embarrassing the president.

Giuliani’s evolving explanations about the $130,000 that Cohen paid to Daniels have raised more questions than they’ve answered. He said Sunday that it is possible that the president’s longtime fixer paid off other women to keep them quiet about alleged affairs with Trump. “I have no knowledge of that, but I would think if it was necessary, yes,” he said on ABC, adding that Cohen is no longer Trump’s attorney. (It’s unclear if that’s correct, and Cohen didn’t respond to a request for comment.)

Rudy told BuzzFeed last Wednesday that Cohen “had complained to some people” after the 2016 election that he’d not been fully paid by Trump. “At some point — Giuliani said he did not know when or where specifically — Cohen met with Trump and told him of his complaint,” the site reported. “Giuliani said that Trump told Cohen, ‘We’ll cover your expenses,’ and agreed to pay him $35,000 a month ‘out of his personal funds’ over the course of a year-long period that began in the first few months of 2017 and has since ended.”

Stephanopoulos asked about this yesterday. “Those are the facts that we’re still working on,” Giuliani replied. “And that, you know, may be in a little bit of dispute. This is more rumor than it is anything else.”

“But that’s what you said. You said that to BuzzFeed,” the anchor replied.

“Well, yes,” Giuliani said. “That’s one of the possibilities and one of the rumors.”

“You stated it as fact,” Stephanopoulos shot back.

“Well, maybe I did,” said Giuliani. “But I — right now, I’m at the point where I’m learning, and I can only — I can’t prove that. I can just say it’s rumor. I can prove it’s rumor, but I can’t prove it’s fact. Yet. Maybe we will. … I don’t know how you separate fact and opinion.”

Giuliani also said Trump fired Comey because the then-FBI director wouldn’t clear him in the Russia investigation, which the president has admitted in the past but is at odds with the official rationale that it was due to his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. “He fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn’t a target of the investigation,” Giuliani told Hannity.

4. He’s clashing with the kids.

Giuliani told Sean Hannity last week that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior White House adviser, is “disposable.” He was making the point that Mueller shouldn’t target Ivanka Trump, the first daughter. “Men are disposable. But a fine woman like Ivanka? Come on,” Giuliani said. “I think I would get on my charger and go right into ... their offices with a lance if they go after Ivanka.”

The dig came partly because Giuliani still blames Kushner for Trump passing him over for secretary of state last year, but being on the wrong side of Javanka has imperiled many West Wing aides. “In private, according to a Republican close to the White House, Giuliani has also blamed the negative view of him in the media, including the whispers about his mental health, on Kushner and Ivanka Trump,” Politico’s Annie Karni reports. “Some point to Giuliani’s main ally in the White House as an explanation: Giuliani, according to people in the building, has aligned himself with Don McGahn, the White House counsel who has clashed repeatedly with Kushner. ‘He’s spent time with him getting indoctrinated,’ said a White House official. ‘Giuliani and McGahn are largely aligned. Rudy’s heard from McGahn that everything would be better without Jared, and he just assumes that’s commonly understood without better understanding the nuance.’”

5. He’s earning the enmity of some key Trump friends.

Alan Dershowitz, the emeritus Harvard law professor who has been informally advising Trump about how to deal with the Russia investigation, chastised Giuliani publicly yesterday. “They're admitting to enough that warrants scrutiny,” he said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It shouldn't be put on television shows off the cuff. This is not the way to handle a complicated case.”

Others who work inside the White House are also angling to undercut Rudy. “If the Giuliani circus continues unabated … White House staff will likely quit,” Axios’s Jonathan Swan reported Sunday, citing “a well-placed source.”

6. He keeps going outside his lane.

Giuliani announced out of the blue last week on “Fox and Friends” that North Korea was poised to release three Americans being held hostage. This was supposed to stay a secret. 

“We can't confirm the validity of any of the reports currently out about their release,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders replied at her briefing later in the day, using a euphemism to refer to the president’s own lawyer.

But Giuliani came back to the same topic on Saturday, announcing during a speech that there’s a “good chance” the hostages will be freed in the coming days. He made that comment at the Iran Freedom Convention for Democracy and Human Rights in an unscripted speech that covered a range of topics. Speaking about the Iran nuclear deal, Rudy picked up a piece of paper and pretended to rip it apart: “What do you think is going to happen to that agreement?!”

Trump does not like being boxed in like this or when aides go on the record to get out in front of him.

7. He’s making predictions about Mueller’s investigation that seem unlikely to come true.

One reason the president grew to dislike Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer he hired last summer who departed last week, is that he felt like he didn’t give him good advice. Cobb repeatedly said after he got the job that he thought Mueller’s work would be wrapped up quickly.

“I’d be embarrassed if this is still haunting the White House by Thanksgiving and worse if it’s still haunting him by year end,” Cobb told Reuters last August. “I think the relevant areas of inquiry by the special counsel are narrow.”

That obviously turned out to be wrong.

Giuliani is now making bold statements about where Mueller’s investigation is headed that legal experts don’t think will pan out.

“Among his ludicrous pronouncements, Giuliani now declares that the chances that Mueller would subpoena Trump are ‘50/50,’” writes Jennifer Rubin, a longtime practicing lawyer before becoming a blogger. “Where does Giuliani get his ‘50/50’ analysis? He made it up. Let me give a better prediction: 90/10. Trump is a critical witness whose testimony can materially affect charges against himself and others, including Cohen and Paul Manafort. It would be a dereliction of Mueller’s duties as a prosecutor not to seek the information. The notion that he would not try to subpoena Trump because he might lose in court is nonsensical. The available precedent is all on Mueller’s side, and the potential that one might lose in court or that it might take time to enforce the subpoena would have little, if any, impact on Mueller’s thinking. … Count this 50/50 hooey as another instance of Giuliani’s atrocious legal advice.”

-- Rudy’s media tour has provided fodder for every late-night comedian.

John Oliver spent 16 minutes on it last night on HBO:

Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update”:

Stephen Colbert:

Seth Meyers:

And Jimmy Kimmel:

-- Thank you to my colleagues who filled in with fabulous Big Ideas while I was on vacation last week: David Weigel, Robert Costa, Michael Scherer, Robert Barnes and Paul Kane. And thanks to Elise Viebeck for guest hosting the 202 podcast.

Listen to James's quick summary of today's Big Idea and the headlines you need to know to start your day:
Subscribe to The Daily 202’s Big Idea on
Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple Podcasts and other podcast players.
 
Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning briefing for decision-makers.
Sign up to receive the newsletter.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Gina Haspel, Trump's nominee for CIA director, sought to withdraw her nomination Friday after some White House officials worried the Senate won't confirm her because of her role in the interrogation of terrorist suspects. But she was persuaded not to drop out, Carol D. Leonnig, Shane Harris and Josh Dawsey scoop: “Haspel told the White House she was interested in stepping aside if it avoided the spectacle of a brutal confirmation hearing on Wednesday and potential damage to the CIA’s reputation and her own. ... Taken aback at her stance, senior White House aides, including legislative affairs head Marc Short and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, rushed to Langley, Va., to meet with Haspel at her office late Friday afternoon ... Discussions stretched several hours ... and the White House was not entirely sure she would stick with her nomination until Saturday afternoon. ... [Trump] decided to push for Haspel to remain as the nominee after initially signaling he would support whatever decision was taken, administration officials said.”

Haspel oversaw a secret interrogation site in Thailand in late 2002, where an al-Qaeda suspect was waterboarded. She was also involved three years later in the destruction of more than 100 hours of videotapes of interrogations: “Some records from the interrogation program, including documents that haven’t been made public, show that Haspel was an enthusiastic supporter of what the CIA was doing, according to officials familiar with the matter. But others have disputed any characterization of Haspel as some kind of cheerleader of the harsh treatment of detainees.”

-- Trump defended Haspel as “tough on Terrorists” in a morning tweet:

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. At least 26 homes have been destroyed by the latest eruption from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island. The eruption has caused at least 10 fissure vents to split open, releasing noxious gases and magma. (Amy B Wang)
  2. Pakistan's Interior minister was nearly assassinated last night, sustaining a shot to his right shoulder after a gunman infiltrated a small crowd of his supporters. Ahsan Iqbal is in stable condition, according to hospital officials, and the shooter has been apprehended as tensions rise before national elections in July. (New York Times)
  3. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called for a “prompt” ethics investigation into California Democrat Tony Cárdenas in the wake of allegations that he sexually molested a 16-year-old girl a decade ago. Cardenas denies wrongdoing. (Robert Costa and David Weigel) 
  4. House Democrats are planning to release 3,000 Russia-linked Facebook ads as soon as this week. The social media company has said the pro-Kremlin Internet Research Agency bought the ads during the 2016 campaign. (Wall Street Journal)

  5. Trump has been slow to fill vacancies on the powerful U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Trump has repeatedly complained about the court’s liberal leanings, but, so far, he has put forward only two picks for eight current vacancies. (Seung Min Kim)

  6. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi could make history as a Shiite politician to prevail in the overwhelmingly Sunni city of Mosul. Iraq will hold its national elections next weekend. Abadi’s strength in Mosul bodes well for his reelection, which U.S. officials have supported. (Tamer El-Ghobashy and Mustafa Salim)
  7. Colorado State University’s president issued an apology after two Native American boys had the police called on them during a campus tour. The two brothers, 19-year-old Thomas Kanewakeron Gray and 17-year-old Lloyd Skanahwati Gray, arrived late for the tour. When they attempted to join it, the mother of another student called the authorities because, as she said, “They just really stand out.” (Kristine Phillips)

'REMARKABLY SEPARATE' 

-- Trump and Melania Trump are leading “remarkably separate” daily lives. Mary Jordan, Emily Heil and Josh Dawsey have a revealing look at this untraditional first couple: “Donald and Melania Trump’s remarkably separate daily routines begin with him getting up around 5:30 a.m., watching cable news shows and tweeting. The first lady wakes in her own bedroom a bit later, according to two close friends of the Trumps. She then readies their 12-year-old son for school, including checking to make sure his homework is in his backpack ...

“The first lady has not directly addressed the affairs that [Stormy] Daniels and another woman, Karen McDougal, said they had with her husband. But she has noticeably begun to raise her profile, independent from the president’s, and she has called a news conference in the White House Rose Garden on Monday, a public appearance that would have been almost unthinkable just a few months ago. 'Her focus all along has been children and this launch is meant to formalize what her role will be for the next three to seven years,' said Stephanie Grisham, Melania’s spokeswoman. She said the first lady will devote the rest of the Trump presidency to the issues children face today and their well-being.

Some other nuggets from Mary, Emily and Josh's piece:

  • The Trumps are often apart even during their free time, according to several people who know the couple’s schedules. At Mar-a-Lago on holidays and weekends, the president golfs or dines with politicians, business executives and media personalities on the patio, while Melania is often nowhere to be seen. The president and first lady apparently do not eat together often in the White House either. “They spend very little to no time together,” said one longtime friend of the president.
  • Melania's staff in the East Wing is unusually small; with 10 people, it is about half the size of Michelle Obama’s at its peak.
  • As first ladies often are, Melania is more popular than her husband. But two friends of the couple say the president, who pays close attention to his poll numbers, also fixates on hers.
  • There's a persistent rumor around Washington that Melania doesn’t really live in the White House and stays in a house with her parents and Barron near his suburban Washington school. “It’s 1,000 percent false. We laugh at it all the time,” Grisham said.
  • “They are not that couple that holds hands just because; she is old-world European and it’s not who she is,” said Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a longtime friend of Melania’s.

THE FATE OF THE IRAN DEAL COULD BE DECIDED THIS WEEK:

-- The Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee advised Trump not to pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement. From Reuters: “Texas Congressman Mac Thornberry said on Fox News Sunday it would be a mistake for Trump to scuttle the nuclear accord reached with Tehran. … Thornberry said that while he was opposed to the deal when it was signed by the Obama Administration in 2015, exiting the agreement now would erode Washington’s leverage against Tehran. … Thornberry said that Trump should work with European allies to address [the] shortcomings in the accord. But scuttling the deal, he said, would take pressure off Iran by dividing Washington from its allies.”

-- Israel and Iran are making their arguments ahead of Trump’s May 12 deadline to decide whether to scuttle the deal. The New York Times’s Isabel Kershner and Thomas Erdbrink report: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel repeated his call for the agreement to be ‘fully fixed or fully nixed,’ arguing that while it may have delayed the acquisition of Iran’s first bomb, it paves the way for the country to build an entire nuclear arsenal soon after the deal expires. In Iran, President Hassan Rouhani … said the Trump administration would come to rue any decision to renounce the agreement. ‘If America leaves the nuclear deal, this will entail historic regret for it,’ Mr. Rouhani said in a speech broadcast live on state television. He warned in veiled terms that Iran could consider restarting its now largely mothballed nuclear energy program … ”

-- British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson wrote a New York Times op-ed entitled, “Don’t Scuttle the Iran Nuclear Deal”: “Of all the options we have for ensuring that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon, this pact offers the fewest disadvantages. It has weaknesses, certainly, but I am convinced they can be remedied. Indeed at this moment Britain is working alongside the Trump administration and our French and German allies to ensure that they are.”

-- Meanwhile, the deal has done little to address the daily problems of average Iranians. The AP’s Mohammad Nasiri and Amir Vahdat report: “While the nuclear deal offered a salve in allowing Iran to sell crude oil and natural gas in the international market, the deal has not helped address its high unemployment, particularly among the youth in this country of 80 million people. Banks remain saddled with massive bad loans from the sanctions era. Government corruption also remains.”

-- The firm Black Cube gathered information on Obama administration officials who negotiated the Iran deal in hopes of undermining the agreement, Ronan Farrow writes in the New Yorker. “[Black Cube] was also employed by Harvey Weinstein and … offers its clients access to operatives from ‘Israel’s élite military and governmental intelligence units,’ including the Mossad. … [D]ocuments show that Black Cube compiled detailed background profiles of several individuals, including [foreign-policy advisers Ben Rhodes and Colin Kahl], that featured their addresses, information on their family members, and even the makes of their cars. Black Cube agents were instructed to try to find damaging information about them, including unsubstantiated claims that Rhodes and Kahl had worked closely with Iran lobbyists and were personally enriched through their policy work on Iran (they denied those claims); rumors that Rhodes was one of the Obama staffers responsible for ‘unmasking’ Trump transition officials who were named in intelligence documents (Rhodes denied the claim); and an allegation that one of the individuals targeted by the campaign had an affair.”

-- The Observer of London reported that it was Trump aides who hired the Israeli firm to gather intel on Obama administration officials. From Mark Townsend and Julian Borger: “People in the Trump camp contacted private investigators in May last year to ‘get dirt’ on [Rhodes and Kahl] as part of an elaborate attempt to discredit the deal. … Sources said that officials linked to Trump’s team contacted investigators days after Trump visited Tel Aviv a year ago, his first foreign tour as US president. Trump promised Netanyahu that Iran would never have nuclear weapons and suggested that the Iranians thought they could ‘do what they want’ since negotiating the nuclear deal in 2015. A source with details of the ‘dirty tricks campaign’ said: ‘The idea was that people acting for Trump would discredit those who were pivotal in selling the deal, making it easier to pull out of it.’”

-- The firm denies the story and any links to Trump's orbit: “It is Black Cube’s policy to never discuss its clients with any third party, and to never confirm or deny any speculation made with regard to the company’s work,” the company said in a statement responding to the stories. “Black Cube has no relation whatsoever to the Trump administration, to Trump aides, to anyone close to the administration, or to the Iran Nuclear deal. Anyone who claims otherwise is misleading their readers and viewers. Luckily, the Mossad and the CIA are capable to deal with the Iran Nuclear deal and other issues of national security without relying on the expertise of Black Cube. It is important to note that Black Cube always operates in full compliance of the law in every jurisdiction in which it conducts its work, following legal advice from the world’s leading law firms.”

THE MIDTERMS:

    -- Congressional Republicans hailing from districts previously considered safely red are facing some of the toughest challenges of their careers. David Weigel and Paul Kane report from Salisbury, N.C.: “[Rep. Ted] Budd is one of two GOP incumbents in this region of North Carolina being targeted by Democrats, with pollsters and independent handicappers saying the races could be competitive. … Democrats had largely ignored the districts in this decade after Republicans redrew the state’s congressional boundaries to their advantage. … In 2016, Budd and [Rep. Robert] Pittenger survived primaries, then sailed to victory over Democrats who raised less than $100,000. This election, Democrats recruited Kathy Manning, a philanthropist and longtime party donor who has raised $1.3 million to Budd’s $832,690. Dan McCready, a business executive and veteran, has raised $1.9 million to Pittenger’s $1.1 million. Recent moves show that Republicans see these two districts as emblematic of their larger problems.”

    -- Mike Braun, a wealthy outsider businessman who has been surging in the polls ahead of tomorrow's three-way Indiana GOP Senate primary, was labeled a “hard Democrat” in the RNC voter file as recently as December. CNN’s Eric Bradner reports: “He has described himself as a lifelong conservative, but his opponents, Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer, have howled for weeks that Braun's voting history suggests he was a Democrat — at least until the 2012 election. … In the RNC's private trove of voter data, scores from one through five are assigned to individual voters to assess how likely they are to back GOP candidate[s]. A score of one means your voting history suggests you're a reliable Republican, something in between suggests GOP candidates will have to court you, and a five, Braun's score until recently, means the party sees you as a ‘hard Democrat’ — someone it couldn't possibly win over.”

    -- Republican operatives are panicked that Don Blankenship, the formerly imprisoned coal baron, will win tomorrow's West Virginia GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports: “[F]our Republicans said they’d reviewed polling conducted in recent days showing Blankenship, who spent a year in jail following the 2010 explosion at his Upper Big Branch Mine that killed 29 workers, moving narrowly ahead of his more mainstream GOP rivals, Rep. Evan Jenkins and [Attorney General Patrick Morrisey]. … Many are convinced that a Blankenship win, coming just months after the disastrous Alabama Senate race, would destroy the party’s prospects of defeating [Manchin] in November.”

    -- Blankenship won’t rule out a third party bid in West Virginia if he loses the primary. CBS News’s Nicole Sganga reports: “Blankenship has repeatedly stated on the campaign trail that his opponent [Morrisey] is at fault for the opioid epidemic in West Virginia, and vows he will not support the attorney general if chosen as the Republican nominee. … [Blankenship noted] that an independent bid might be the most viable option in the general election race against current West Virginia senator Democrat Joe Manchin. But Blankenship's threat may ring hollow. West Virginia law contains a ‘sore loser’ clause barring candidates that lose in a party primary from running as an independent for the same post.”

    -- Trump warned his Twitter followers against voting for Blankenship in a morning tweet:

    -- Allies of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) say he is increasingly looking the part to be the next speaker. From the AP’s Lisa Mascaro: “[M]any in Bakersfield are musing that ‘Kevin’ — he’s still just easygoing, uncomplicated Kevin here — might actually pull off this ascent. The Republican Party insiders who nurtured his career are proud, if a bit surprised. Critics are just as stumped at what they see as a new, low bar for top leadership. But in this under-examined corner of California’s Trump country, there’s also a bit of told-you-so defiance that McCarthy’s brand of hustle and persistence pays off, even in Washington. … [H]e says he’ll talk about the speaker’s race after Republicans retain control of the House. He maintains they will and has said little about what’s next for him if they don’t. But last week, back at home while Congress was on recess, McCarthy told a group of students he’s unlikely to run for another office after serving in the House: ‘That’s where my political career will probably end.’”

    -- California Republicans are increasingly concerned their candidates for governor and senator won't make it onto the general election ballot, which is a strong possibility because the so-called “jungle primary” advances the top two vote-getters regardless of party. This matters not because they could win either of those seats in a blue state but because it could depress turnout for House races that might determine control of the lower chamber. 

    “It would apparently be the first election since 1914 where a major party had no candidate in either the race for Senator or for governor,” the New York Times's Adam Nagourney reports from Whittier. “Republican hopes of getting a spot on the November ballot suffered another setback on Sunday when party leaders, meeting in San Diego, failed to agree on anyone to endorse in the June primary. ... 'Maybe hitting rock bottom is getting shut out of both state races this year,' said Bill Whalen, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and a former senior adviser to Pete Wilson, a Republican governor. 'You would think that if Republicans are shut out, it will be time for some serious soul-searching.'”

    -- Bloomberg News compiled a graphic on the record number of women seeking seats in the House and Senate this year: “527 [women are running] as of the end of April, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, with more than a dozen states still accepting new candidates for the November midterms. That’s a 67 percent jump from 2016. … Women are competing in 278 out of 435 districts this year, more than double the total in 2000. … If the proportion of winners precisely tracked the candidates this year — and there’s no assurance it will — the House would gain 17 women. But men, who dominate the field of candidates this year, would still outnumber women in Congress by more than 3-to-1.”

    ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN AND WOMEN:

    -- Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has sat for multiple interviews with Chinese or Chinese American media outlets alongside her father, a shipping magnate. Politico’s Tanya Snyder reports: “In many of the videos, James Chao is introduced as founder and chairman of the Foremost Group shipping company, and, in discussing a 2016 biography about his life, speaks proudly of his daughter’s role as secretary of transportation, as she sits beaming by his side. One interview with New China Press published on April 12, 2017, features the pair sitting in what appears to be the Department of Transportation, with DOT flags in view behind the interviewer. … The appearances raise ethical concerns, experts say, because public officials are legally banned from using their office for any form of private gain for themselves or others.”

    -- Trump’s goodwill toward EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt appears to be waning, Axios’s Jonathan Swan reports. “Now, senior political appointees tell me they have no idea where and how Pruitt spends his time. They scan Twitter and the news to try to keep tabs on him. Pruitt used to share his travel schedule with political appointees. Then, over the winter, he sent out a redacted schedule simply saying 'travel.' After that, he stopped sharing it altogether. Since his April 26 congressional testimony, senior staff outside his inner circle have had virtually no idea of his whereabouts. … The bottom line: Pruitt has grown paranoid and isolated, and he only trusts a small handful of people at the agency.”

    -- George Conway, who is married to White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, has been tweeting critically about Trump, and it has caught the attention of West Wing aides. The New York Times’s Katie Rogers reports: “[One White House official] said some advisers were miffed by the tweeting, and considered Mr. Conway’s public criticisms to be potentially harmful to Ms. Conway, who remains poised to assume more of the duties left behind by Hope Hicks, the departed White House communications director. But the president does not seem to share those concerns, according to a senior White House official familiar with his thinking. He continues to trust Ms. Conway, and he appeared to enjoy her response after the CNN journalist Dana Bash recently asked her to explain her husband’s social media missives.”

    -- A review of Michael Cohen’s business history “reveals the degree to which he has often operated in the backwaters of the financial and legal worlds.” The New York Times fronted a profile on Sunday: “While he has not been charged with a crime, many of his associates have faced either criminal charges or stiff regulatory penalties. That includes partners in the taxi business, doctors for whom he helped establish medical clinics and lawyers with whom he worked. He has spent much of his personal and professional life with immigrants from Russia and Ukraine. His father-in-law, who helped establish him in the taxi business, was born in Ukraine, as was one of Mr. Cohen’s partners in that industry. Another partner was Russian. And Mr. Cohen used his connections in the region when scouting business opportunities for Mr. Trump in former Soviet republics.

    “More recently, Mr. Cohen and his father-in-law lent more than $25 million to a Ukrainian businessman who has a checkered financial record and a history of defaulting on loans. And Mr. Cohen long held a small stake in his uncle’s catering hall, which was frequented by Russian and Italian mobsters. In addition to his legal and taxi businesses, Mr. Cohen has had a seemingly charmed touch as a real estate investor. On one day in 2014, he sold four buildings in Manhattan for $32 million, entirely in cash. That was nearly three times what he paid for them no more than three years earlier.”

    SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

    Trump this morning said he has not obstructed justice because he was merely “Fighting Back”:

    From the former DOJ inspector general:

    A House Democrat responded to Giuliani's assertion Trump may assert his Fifth Amendment right:

    An MSNBC host criticized Giuliani's logic:

    The White House press secretary called Democrats hypocrites for not supporting Haspel: 

    Feminist columnist Jessica Valenti replied:

    The executive director of the NRSC’s home was vandalized on Sunday:

    A London surgeon responded after Trump during an NRA speech said his hospital was “like a war zone for stabbing wounds” due to a ban on guns: 

    From a British writer:

    Former Obama administration officials responded to reports that the Trump team hired an outside firm to get dirt on the Iran deal negotiators. From Biden's former national security adviser:

    (Kahl's whole thread is worth reading.)

    From Joe Biden's former chief of staff:

    From Obama's former ethics czar:

    The Times's Jonathan Martin wrote a touching piece on the people who are coming to say goodbye to John McCain as he battles terminal cancer, including Joe Biden:

    Rudy had something to say about the Stormy Daniels cameo on the cold open of "Saturday Night Live":

    Daniels celebrated her SNL appearance:

    From a Times reporter:

    Christian evangelist Franklin Graham gave his take on the Stormy controversy:

    From a conservative pollster:

    From a Cook Political Report editor:

    And retired Democratic congressman John Dingell mocked Trump's schedule:

    GOOD READS:

    -- “As gentrification escalates in Calif., people wonder: Where can the homeless go?” by Scott Wilson: “Frustrated with the slow pace of politics and demanding immediate, street-level action, residents in the wealthiest counties along California’s coast have been agitating for a solution — which increasingly involves pushing homeless people out of sight.”

    -- New York Times, “96-Year-Old Secretary Quietly Amasses Fortune, Then Donates $8.2 Million,” by Corey Kilgannon: “Even by the dizzying standards of New York City philanthropy, a recent $6.24 million donation to the Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side was a whopper — the largest single gift from an individual to the social service group in its 125-year history. It was not donated by some billionaire benefactor, but by a frugal legal secretary from Brooklyn who toiled for the same law firm for 67 years until she retired at age 96 and died not long afterward in 2016. Her name was Sylvia Bloom and even her closest friends and relatives had no idea she had amassed a fortune over the decades. She did this by shrewdly observing the investments made by the lawyers she served.”

    HOT ON THE LEFT

    “As New Orleans mayor is sworn in Monday, La. has three black women leading its largest cities,” from Ashley Cusick: “When LaToya Cantrell raises her right hand Monday to take the oath of office, she will make history, becoming the first female mayor in New Orleans’s 300-year existence. Her installation also means that Louisiana’s three largest cities — New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport — all have black female Democrats as their leaders. Deep South Louisiana also will have two black women leading cities that rank in the top 100 by population, joining four other such cities nationwide: Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlotte and the District of Columbia. Some here say the rare feat has occurred in an otherwise politically red state because of its staunchly Democratic blue oases, much like quirky Austin in conservative Texas or liberal Louisville in Kentucky coal country.”

     

    HOT ON THE RIGHT

    “Rosie O’Donnell’s campaign donations to Dems went over legal limit,” from the New York Post: “Rosie O’Donnell made illegally over-sized campaign donations to at least five Democratic federal candidates, according to a Post analysis of campaign filings. The liberal comedian has regularly broken Federal Election Commission rules limiting the total any one person can give to an individual candidate at $2,700 per election. The limit applies separately to primaries, runoffs and general elections. ‘Nothing nefarious,’ the outspoken star and Donald Trump arch-nemesis wrote in an email to the Post. ‘I was not choosing to over donate. If 2700 is the cut off — [candidates] should refund the money,’ she wrote. ‘I don’t look to see who I can donate most to … I just donate assuming they do not accept what is over the limit.’”

     

    DAYBOOK:

    Trump will receive his intelligence briefing. He has no other events on his public schedule.

    QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

    U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said of Trump, “First of all, he has his communication style. … But you're not hearing me defend that.” She added, “What I will tell you is if there is anything that he communicates in a way that I'm uncomfortable with, I pick up the phone and call him, and I tell him that. And I think that's something that he deserves from me.” (The Hill)

     

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

    -- The District will have its fair share of cloud coverage today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Amid the clouds, we should have some intervals of sunshine this morning. But, with a disturbance moving through at high altitudes, we’ll see clouds build back up this afternoon and a pop-up shower is possible (20 percent chance). Highs range from the upper 60s to low 70s, with winds from the north around 10 mph.”

    -- The Nationals won against the Phillies 5-4. (Jorge Castillo)

    -- The controversy surrounding D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr.’s comments about the Rothschilds controlling the weather has revealed a leadership vacuum among District officials, writes Peter Jamison. “What began as an embarrassment for White, a first-term lawmaker from the District’s most impoverished ward, turned into a test of the ability of city officials to handle the explosive race and class resentments that can arise in a city whose prosperity masks a troubling gap between its haves and have-nots. Critics say it is a test that elected leaders have failed or at best barely passed.”

    -- Tyshon Perry, a 16-year-old who was stabbed to death last week near the NoMa-Gallaudet Metro station, was remembered as a gifted and diligent student. From Paul Duggan and Peter Hermann: “At week’s end, with the stabbing still under investigation, staff members at KIPP D.C. College Preparatory charter high school, several blocks from the crime scene, were mourning the loss of a dean’s list student they described as bright and mature.”

    VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

    The Post annotated Stormy Daniels's cold open on SNL:

    Michelle Obama addressed the United State of Women Summit in Los Angeles:

    Watch this 4-year-old feed the homeless: