with Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
-- In Nebraska, a liberal social worker and political neophyte who built her campaign around “Medicare for All” scored a shocking upset in a Democratic primary to take on Rep. Don Bacon (R). Kara Eastman, 45, beat former congressman Brad Ashford, 68, in an Omaha-area district that national Democrats believed they could pick up in November.
Eastman advocated for universal background checks to buy guns, raising taxes and decriminalizing marijuana. “I’m tired of hearing Democrats don’t have a backbone, that we don’t stand for anything,” she said in a commercial that touted her support for universal health care. “That changes now!”
Ashford had the full-throated support of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which must now reevaluate whether to invest in the race.
-- In Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, where GOP Rep. Charlie Dent’s retirement created a winnable open seat for Democrats, early front-runner John Morganelli — a district attorney who has been locally prominent for decades — lost the primary to attorney Susan Wild, who ran at him from the left. Morganelli, who opposes abortion rights and “sanctuary cities,” was attacked relentlessly on the airwaves for speaking positively about Trump and tweeting that he was open to taking a job in the administration during the transition.
-- In the Philadelphia suburbs, centrist Rachel Reddick — a 33-year-old Navy veteran endorsed by Emily’s List — lost the Democratic primary to take on Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R) after “proud progressive” Scott Wallace ran ads attacking her for being a registered Republican until 2016. Wallace, 66, is the grandson of Henry Wallace, who was Franklin Roosevelt’s vice president for a term and then ran against Harry Truman, who FDR dumped him for, from the far left in 1948. In a victory speech to supporters in Bucks County last night, Wallace declared: “Together, we can make America sane again.”
-- Statewide, John Fetterman — a small-town mayor with a bristly beard and tattoos on both of his arms — toppled Pennsylvania’s incumbent lieutenant governor, Mike Stack, thanks in part to the strong endorsement of Bernie Sanders, who stumped across the state for him on Friday and Saturday. Fetterman campaigned on universal health care and legalizing marijuana.
-- In the Pittsburgh area, two card-carrying members of the Democratic Socialists of America topped incumbent state representatives in Democratic primaries with 65 percent and 68 percent of the vote, respectively. (The New Yorker profiled one of the winners, Summer Lee, last week.)
“Since it was founded in 1982, the Democratic Socialists of America has played virtually no role the country’s elections,” Clint Hendler writes for Mother Jones. “That’s begun to change, fueled by the organization’s 2016 endorsement of Bernie Sanders and a growth spurt led by the activists and organizers he inspired. In Pittsburgh, the local DSA chapter is 500 members strong and hosts Marxist reading groups, organizes against controversial anti-abortion pregnancy centers, and works to reduce police stops by fixing residents’ brake lights. … Pittsburgh’s DSA group is one of the first chapters in the country to have launched a political action committee …”
-- In Idaho’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, Paulette Jordan defeated business owner and Boise school board member A.J. Balukoff, who had the backing of most of the state’s political establishment. Jordan, who has generated a lot of media coverage because she could become the first Native American governor in the country, built her campaign around protecting more public lands, as well as promising to expand Medicaid, relax marijuana laws, reduce incarceration and limit corporate tax loopholes. She garnered 58 percent of the vote.
“The election saw historic numbers of Democrats cast votes,” Carissa Wolf reports from Boise. “Boise area precincts, home to the state’s largest Democratic base, ran out of ballots due to unexpected turnout that more than doubled the number of Democratic votes statewide. In the 2014 primary, about 25,000 Democrats had cast votes for governor; last night, more than 64,000 did.” Jordan is still the underdog in the general election.
-- In the much bluer state of Oregon, liberals toppled an entrenched Democratic incumbent in the state Senate. Sen. Rod Monroe got crushed 62 percent to 25 percent by civil rights attorney Shemia Fagan. A Somali immigrant who works as a community organizer got another 13 percent of the vote. “Monroe, 75, a five-term senator, was vulnerable because the race centered on housing,” the Oregonian reports. “The owner of a 51-unit apartment complex in East Portland, Monroe alienated tenant advocates and fellow Democrats last year when he opposed a bill that would have restricted evictions and allowed some rent controls. Monroe spent heavily to defend his seat, raising nearly $385,000 -- much of it from the real estate industry -- and spent most of it. A group largely funded by the real estate industry also raised more than $360,000.” But a spending advantage was not enough to save him.
-- In a state House primary, the establishment favorite – a county commissioner who was endorsed by the retiring representative – lost to a child welfare worker after he said the state of Oregon should consider requiring employees to contribute into the public pension fund. The stakes are high because Democrats can achieve three-fifths supermajorities with just one additional seat in both the House and the Senate, which would let them raise taxes with no Republican votes.
-- Democratic enthusiasm was on display across the country: They cast about 100,000 more ballots than Republicans in Pennsylvania. In northwest Pennsylvania’s Erie County, a linchpin of Trump’s narrow 2016 victory in the state, 5,000 more Democrats voted than Republicans. In the race for Dent’s open seat in the Lehigh Valley, there were about 42,000 votes in the Democratic primary and 29,000 in the also competitive Republican contest.
-- But the sorting out between the two parties continues:
Democrats are making hay this morning out of the news that they flipped a state House seat in the Philly suburbs that Trump had carried by three points in 2016. The special election was called because the Republican incumbent had stepped down to become executive director of the Philadelphia Parking Authority. Democrat Helen Tai prevailed after getting endorsements from Joe Biden and other national figures. It’s the 41st state legislative district to flip from red to blue since Trump’s inauguration.
But Republicans also picked up a state House seat in a special election in southwestern Pennsylvania. The Democratic incumbent resigned to become a judge, and the area has been trending to the right and Trump carried it two years ago.
-- Last night also offered several fresh data points that 2018 will be another Year of the Woman.
All 20 of Pennsylvania’s House members are male. That’s been the case since the 2014 midterms. Before then, there was only one woman. But times are changing.
Two years after the state rejected Hillary Clinton, three Democratic women are now all but assured to represent Pennsylvania in Congress next year. “The retirement of Rep. Ryan Costello (R), the resignation of Rep. Patrick Meehan (R) and a revised map ordered by the state Supreme Court have led the GOP to effectively cede two House districts in the Philadelphia area,” Sean Sullivan, Elise Viebeck and David Weigel report. “Democrats Chrissy Houlahan, Mary Gay Scanlon and Madeleine Dean were nominated in districts that Democrats are favored to win in November. … All told, Democrats nominated seven women for the House in Pennsylvania. Republicans nominated one.”
If Democrats are going to retake the House, Pennsylvania will be the keystone. It’s realistic that Democrats could pick up as many as a half-dozen seats of the 24 they need there. Most of those new members would be female.
-- Another important takeaway: It’s truly a terrible time to be a House Republican seeking a promotion.
Idaho Rep. Raúl R. Labrador will soon be out of a job after losing the Republican gubernatorial primary to Brad Little, the lieutenant governor. Labrador is no establishment squish: He was a founding member of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus. But Little had the support of outgoing Gov. Butch Otter, and a third candidate had Mitt Romney’s endorsement.
Labrador joins four House Republicans who lost primaries last week: North Carolina Rep. Robert Pittenger went down in his quest for reelection, while Indiana Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer and West Virginia Rep. Evan Jenkins lost Senate primaries.
In Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Rep. Lou Barletta won the GOP primary to challenge Sen. Bob Casey (D) but his performance was weaker than expected. Despite vocal support from Trump, and a last-minute robo-call, he only got 63 percent against an unknown, unfunded state representative. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) similarly underperformed in a Senate primary last week.
“The media said that Donald Trump could not win in Pennsylvania, and Pennsylvania put Donald Trump in the White House,” Barletta told supporters in Hazleton last night. “They say I can’t beat Bob Casey, and I’m going to beat Bob Casey.”
Trump tweeted his support for Barletta this morning:
Congratulations to Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania. He will be a great Senator and will represent his people well - like they haven’t been represented in many years. Lou is a friend of mine and a special guy, he will very much help MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2018
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- North Korea insisted it will not be pushed to abandon its nuclear program as Kim Jong Un prepares to sit down with Trump. Anna Fifield reports: “The latest warning, delivered by former North Korean nuclear negotiator Kim Gye Gwan on Wednesday, fits Pyongyang’s well-established pattern of raising the stakes in negotiations by threatening to walk out if it doesn’t get its way. This comes just hours after the North Korean regime cast doubt on the planned summit by protesting joint air force drills taking place in South Korea, saying they were ruining the diplomatic mood.” “U.S. officials can’t seem to get on the same page regarding denuclearization and what is required of North Korea,” said Ken Gause, a North Korea leadership expert at Virginia-based consulting firm CNA. “At some point, North Korea was going to cry foul.”
-- A White House official said he received an email during the 2016 campaign about Russia having damaging information on Hillary Clinton, but the search for such a message has so far proved unsuccessful. The New York Times’s Nicholas Fandos and Michael S. Schmidt report: “Testifying behind closed doors on Capitol Hill in late March, the official, John K. Mashburn, said he remembered the email coming from George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser to the campaign who was approached by a Russian agent, sometime before the party conventions — and well before WikiLeaks began publishing messages stolen in hackings from Democrats. Such an email could have proved explosive, providing evidence that at least one high-ranking Trump campaign official was alerted to Russia’s meddling, raising questions about which advisers knew and undercutting President Trump’s denials of collusion. But two months after Mr. Mashburn testified, investigators for the Senate Judiciary Committee have not found any such message. …
“[T]he search that [Mashburn] inspired demonstrates the difficulty investigators for Congress and (Robert) Mueller face nearly two years after the F.B.I. began looking into ties between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia. Counterintelligence experts say that uncovering what occurred during an event like the 2016 election could take years, if not decades, to understand. … In the case of Mr. Mashburn’s testimony, investigators will now have to decide what to do with a witness who appears to be telling the truth and remembers a potentially volatile detail that cannot be corroborated. Mr. Mashburn was nonchalant when he met with committee staff in late March. When investigators gave him an opportunity to change his story, he stuck to his testimony. At one point, he returned from a short break with an ice cream sandwich to snack on as he testified.”
GET SMART FAST:
- U.S. officials have identified a suspect in last year’s major leak of CIA hacking tools. One of the most damaging disclosures in agency history, it compromised critical cyber weapons and spying techniques. But prosecutors are currently unable to bring charges against the suspect, Joshua Adam Schulte, who is being held in a Manhattan jail on unrelated charges. (HuffPost reports Schulte is facing federal child pornography charges after he was accused of snapping photos as he sexually assaulted a passed out woman.) (Shane Harris)
- Twitter plans to limit the visibility of tweets from users who display certain patterns of behavior on the platform. Users who tweet at large numbers of accounts they don’t follow are often blocked or have created many accounts from the same IP address could have their tweets pushed lower in search results. (BuzzFeed News)
- An explosion at a California medical building that killed one and injured three was found to be an “intentional detonation.” Federal sources said the explosive device was delivered to the Aliso Viejo medical building and addressed to a specific person. (NBC Los Angeles)
- North Carolina teachers are expected to protest for more education funding at the state Capitol today. The rally could keep hundreds of thousands of students out of class. (Moriah Balingit)
- Almost 150 people were arrested at the Capitol on Monday as they kicked off the new Poor People’s Campaign, named after a coalition originally organized by Martin Luther King. The group plans to spend a month protesting poverty, war and inequality. (Marissa J. Lang)
- Former congressman Blake Farenthold (R-Tex.) said he will not repay $84,000 in taxpayer funds used to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit against him. Appearing on ABC News, Farenthold — who has denied wrongdoing in the 2014 case — said he had been advised by his attorneys not to follow through on the promise he made several months ago. (Elise Viebeck)
- The University of Southern California let a gynecologist continue treating students for decades after repeated accusations of inappropriate touching and misconduct during pelvic exams. And after a 2016 internal investigation found that his behavior amounted to sexual harassment of students, USC allowed him to resign quietly with a financial payout. School officials admitted fault in the case for the first time on Tuesday. (LA Times)
- U.S. doctors are successfully persuading more men with low-risk prostate cancer to forgo more aggressive treatment in favor of “active surveillance.” Researchers say the trend away from early action is sparing men's sexual health without increasing their risk of death. (Laurie McGinley)
- A North Carolina egg farm responsible for a multistate salmonella outbreak was also found to have “unacceptable rodent activity” inside its facilities, according to the FDA. The feds say the rodent infestation had been going on for “months,” and managers at the farm failed to take actions to reverse it. (Kristine Phillips)
- Tom Wolfe died at 88. The best-selling novelist championed the literary movement known as “New Journalism” and became known for his explosive prose. He also worked as a Washington Post reporter from 1959 to 1962. (Matt Schudel)
- A match between two Polish soccer teams was interrupted after enthusiastic fans accidentally set their stadium on fire. Ironically, the blaze almost took down a massive banner reading, “We will never burn out.” (Amanda Erickson)
PERSONNEL IS POLICY:
-- Gina Haspel has locked down enough votes to secure confirmation as CIA director after she agreed to write a letter saying the agency never should have detained terrorist suspects and employed brutal interrogation techniques against them. Karoun Demirjian and Shane Harris report: “In announcing his support for Haspel, Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) said Tuesday that he had asked her to write down her views because he believed that in one-on-one meetings, she had expressed greater regret and more resolute moral opposition to the agency’s interrogation program than she had communicated during her confirmation hearing last week. ‘I believe she is someone who can and will stand up to the President if ordered to do something illegal or immoral — like a return to torture,’ Warner said in a statement.
- “Minutes after Warner’s announcement, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) — one of the GOP’s prime targets in 2018 — announced that she, too, would be supporting Haspel. … Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who is also up for reelection this year, announced late Tuesday afternoon that he also would vote for Haspel.
- “Haspel played an integral role in the CIA’s program, both as a senior leader in the agency’s Counterterrorism Center and a supervisor of a secret facility in Thailand. While she was there, the CIA subjected one detainee to waterboarding. Notably absent from Haspel’s letter was any statement about her role in destroying 92 videotapes of interrogations carried out at the Thailand facility.”
-- Nepotism watch: Trump nominated the brother-in-law of Mitch McConnell and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to run the Labor Department’s pension agency. The decision raises new concerns about the White House’s process for vetting high-level administration officials. Gordon Hartogensis [married to Chao's sister, Grace] has no apparent public service experience, and on his LinkedIn page, his current position is “managing his family’s trust.” (Alex Horton)
-- The White House eliminated its top cybersecurity position. Politico’s Eric Geller reports: “[It was] first reported last week that John Bolton, [Trump's] new national security adviser, was maneuvering to cut the cyber coordinator role, in a move that many experts and former government officials criticized as a major step backward for federal cybersecurity policy. According to an email sent to National Security Council staffers Tuesday, the decision is part of an effort to ‘streamline authority’ for the senior directors who lead most NSC teams.”
WATCH WHAT THEY DO, NOT WHAT THE SAY:
-- The Trump administration is making plans to hold immigrant children on military bases. Nick Miroff and Paul Sonne report: “According to an email notification sent to Pentagon staffers, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will make site visits at four military installations in Texas and Arkansas during the next two weeks to evaluate their suitability to shelter children. The bases would be used for minors under 18 who arrive at the border without an adult relative or after the government has separated them from their parents. HHS is the government agency responsible for providing minors with foster care until another adult relative can assume custody. The email characterized the site visits as a preliminary assessment. ‘No decisions have been made at this time,’ it states.”
-- A federal appeals court heard arguments on DACA. Matt Zapotosky reports: “The three-judge panel with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit is the first appellate court to hear oral arguments on whether the Trump administration’s decision to end [DACA] can pass legal muster. The judges — two appointed by President Barack Obama and one by President Bill Clinton — asked skeptical questions of both sides, and it was difficult to determine how they might rule.”
-- A federal advisory committee on climate change was disbanded last year by administration officials out of concern that it did not have enough industry representatives. Juliet Eilperin reports: “An exchange among Commerce Department officials … sheds light on the demise of a panel aimed at helping policymakers and the private sector incorporate the government’s climate science into long-term planning. [Wilbur Ross] allowed the 15-person Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment — which included scientists and representatives from companies and local governments — to expire in August. The newly released emails and memos chart an intense debate between career and political officials last summer over whether the group’s two-year charter should be renewed. … George Kelly, then the deputy chief of staff at the [NOAA], questioned the panel’s ideological makeup. ‘It only has one member from industry, and the process to gain more balance would take a couple of years to accomplish,’ Kelly [wrote]. [In response, Craig McLean, NOAA’s assistant research administrator], warned Kelly that failing to renew the committee’s charter ‘would stop their work mid-stream, and likely have backlash.’”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- The Justice Department and FBI are investigating the now-defunct data firm Cambridge Analytica and have moved to question former employees, as well as banks that handled its business. The Times’s Matthew Rosenberg and Nicholas Confessore report: “Prosecutors have questioned potential witnesses in recent weeks, telling them that there is an open investigation into Cambridge Analytica — which worked on [Trump’s] election and other Republican campaigns in 2016 — and ‘associated U.S. persons.’ But the prosecutors provided few other details, and the inquiry appears to be in its early stages, with investigators seeking an overview of the company and its business practices. The federal investigation in the United States appears to focus on the company’s financial dealings … and how it acquired and used personal data pulled from Facebook and other sources, according to [an] American official, who was briefed on the inquiry, and other people familiar with it. In addition, the investigators have contacted Facebook …”
-- Ahmed Al-Rumaihi, a Qatari businessman first referenced on Twitter by Stormy Daniels's lawyer Michael Avenatti this week, confirmed he attended meetings at Trump Tower in December 2016. CNN’s MJ Lee reports: “The stated reason: [Al-Rumaihi] wanted face time with Trump transition officials. ‘Mr. Al-Rumaihi … was there in his then role as head of Qatar Investments, an internal division of QIA, to accompany the Qatari delegation that was meeting with Trump transition officials on that date,’ said a spokesperson[.] ‘He did not participate in any meetings with Michael Flynn, and his involvement in the meetings on that date was limited.’ A person familiar with the Qatari delegation's meetings at Trump Tower that day said, ‘There were several meetings that took place between the delegation and Trump transition officials. During one, Michael Cohen briefly popped in.’ ... Avenatti alleged Al-Rumaihi had met with Cohen and Flynn. Avenatti also claimed Al-Rumaihi boasted about bribing administration officials in a ‘sworn declaration filed in court’ — a reference to a declaration from Jeff Kwatinetz, an entertainment executive who is currently in a legal battle with Al-Rumaihi.”
-- A federal judge rejected former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s motion to dismiss an indictment against him, saying there were “multiple flaws” in his argument that Robert Mueller exceeded his authority by bringing the charges. Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports: “In a blow to Manafort’s defense, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Mueller’s prosecution of the longtime political consultant on charges of money laundering and failing to register as a foreign agent for a Ukrainian political party was ‘squarely’ within the authority that [Rod Rosenstein] granted to Mueller last May.” “Manafort was, at one time, not merely ‘associated with,’ but the chairman of, the Presidential campaign, and his work on behalf of the Russia-backed Ukrainian political party and connections to other Russian figures are matters of public record,” the judge wrote. “It was logical and appropriate for investigators tasked with the investigation of ‘any links’ between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign to direct their attention to him.”
-- Speaking of Ukraine: Vladimir Putin opened a $4 billion bridge directly linking Russia to Crimea — earning swift criticism from Western leaders and Ukraine, who slammed its opening as illegal. Anton Troianovski reports: “The bridge opening represented a milestone in Putin’s efforts to show the world — and his people — that the annexation of Crimea was irreversible. … It also underscored the Putin-centric system of political and economic patronage in Russia. [Putin’s former judo partner, Arkady Rotenberg’s] role as the builder of the bridge [also] showed how Russia’s billionaires have been able to leverage their closeness to Putin to further enrich themselves — while also rendering services to the state.”
-- Even Trump’s most ardent supporters, who agree with his assessment that the Russia investigation is a “witch hunt,” do not think he should fire Mueller. “Politically, it would be a terrible idea,” one Trump voter said. “People would be suspicious,” added another. Philip Rucker reports from Brookfield, Wis.: “[A dozen] men and women [were] assembled for a two-hour focus group in this Milwaukee suburb, a perennial suburban swing area in a state that helped propel Trump to a surprise victory and is home to competitive Senate and gubernatorial contests this fall. … All 12 of the assembled voters said they were following news about the Mueller probe, and their views of the special counsel were colored by their feelings about the president.”
-- Novartis announced its general counsel would retire in connection with the company’s payments to Trump lawyer Michael Cohen. “Although the contract was legally in order, it was an error,” general counsel Felix Ehrat, who co-signed the agreement with Cohen, said in a statement. (Wall Street Journal)
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Both Israel and the United States were harshly criticized for defending Israel’s use of lethal force in protests along the Gaza border this week, where 60 people were killed and thousands more were injured. In an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting yesterday, Ambassador Nikki Haley said Israel had “acted with restraint” and dismissed suggestions that the violence was related to the relocation of the U.S. Embassy. “I ask my colleagues here in the Security Council: Who among us would accept this type of activity on your border?” Haley said. “No one would. No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.”
“But the actions of Israeli troops, and the U.S. refusal even to express regret for the loss of life, has left both countries isolated amid growing condemnations that Israel used excessive force against the protesters, many of whom were unarmed,” Carol Morello, Loveday Morris and Karen DeYoung report:
- “In Dublin, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney summoned the Israeli ambassador to express Ireland’s ‘outrage’ over the Gaza shootings. The [E.U’s] policy chief, Federica Mogherini, called on Israel to show ‘utmost restraint to avoid further loss of life.’ In remarks to reporters, she and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the embassy move was a violation of international law and Security Council resolutions.”
- Saudi Arabia and other U.S. allies in the Middle East criticized the Gaza violence and the relocation of the U.S. Embassy. “Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and [Benjamin Netanyahu] traded insults on Twitter. A Turkish government minister and spokesman, Bekir Bozdag, said Palestinian outrage had been fueled by the embassy move and that ‘the blood of innocent Palestinians is on the hands of the United States.’”
-- Josh Rogin obtained a copy of the negotiating document that China provided to Trump last month, with a list of economic and trade demands ranging from the “reasonable to the ridiculous.” On Sunday, Trump caved to one of them before the next round of negotiations even began. “[Bullet Five on the negotiating document] is entitled, 'Appropriately handling the ZTE case to secure global supply chain.’” “Having noted China’s great concern about the case of ZTE, the U.S. will listen attentively to ZTE’s plea, consider the progress and efforts ZTE has made in compliance management and announce adjustment to the export ban,” the document states.
“Trump may have gotten ahead of a brewing ‘mini-deal’ whereby the United States provides relief for ZTE and, in return, China eases its restrictions on U.S. agricultural imports. If that’s the case, the Trump administration ‘just got blackmailed,’ according to Derek Scissors, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.”
-- Top Senate Democrats accused Trump of jeopardizing national security by offering relief to the Chinese telecom giant. Damian Paletta reports: “Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), along with Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), wrote in a letter to Trump that easing U.S. penalties on ZTE would ‘call into grave doubt whether this Administration will put American jobs and national security first.’"
-- It doesn’t look like NAFTA will be rewritten this year, as negotiators have failed to strike a deal. The Wall Street Journal’s Anthony Harrup, Robbie Whelan and Paul Vieira report: “Paul Ryan had set this Thursday as an informal deadline if the administration were to push a pact through the Republican-controlled Congress before a new slate of lawmakers arrives in Washington next year, possibly led by Democrats. The U.S. and Mexican governments had hoped to reach at least the general terms of an agreement this week to allow enough time for legislative approval before year’s end. … Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said Tuesday that a deal was unlikely by Thursday, voicing frustration at U.S. demands for a five-year sunset clause and the elimination of Nafta’s dispute-resolution mechanisms.”
WEST WING INTRIGUE:
-- None of the Senate Republicans present for a meeting yesterday with Trump brought up the controversial remark one of the president’s aides made about Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Seung Min Kim reports: “‘I’ve said how I feel about the comment about Senator McCain. It was unconscionable. I think everybody involved should apologize,’ said Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) as he exited the lunch held at the U.S. Capitol. ‘But this was a policy meeting, right? It was policy-driven.’ Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has had his own personal spats with Trump, added: ‘That’s not what we do in those meetings.’ The episode illustrated how reluctant most Republicans have become about directly challenging Trump … Senate Republicans were also reluctant to raise other issues with Trump, even on policies where they’ve diverged from the president.”
-- Internal leaks from the White House have continued despite extensive security measures meant to prevent them, CNN’s Kaitlan Collins writes. “The White House banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing in January. … Officials publicly maintained that the ban was because of national security reasons, but multiple staffers said privately that they were under the impression it was carried out in hopes of limiting leaks to reporters. … Officials now either leave their personal devices in their cars, or, when they arrive for work each morning, deposit them in lockers that have been installed at West Wing entrances. Each locker has a key, which official said take a little jiggling to remove. The staffer puts their phone in the locker, locks it and hangs on to the key until the end of the day when it's time to reclaim their device. Sources said it's common to find several staffers huddled around the lockers throughout the day, perusing their neglected messages. The lockers buzz and chirp constantly from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. …
“Sweeps are carried out to track down personal devices that have made it past the lobby and into the building. According to sources who are familiar with the sweeps, men dressed in suits and carrying large handheld devices have been seen roaming the halls of the West Wing, moving from room to room, scouring the place for devices that aren't government-issued. If one is detected, one of the men will ask those in the room if someone forgot to put their phone away.”
-- Trump filed his annual ethics statement, which could shed light on the payment to Stormy Daniels. Politico’s Lorraine Woellert reports: “Last year, Trump reported assets of at least $1.4 billion and income of at least $596.3 million in the 2016 calendar year and the early months of 2017. … That report made no mention of a $130,000 payment from Trump’s longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to Stormy Daniels … The paperwork filed on Tuesday with the Office of Government Ethics could force Trump to reconcile, in writing, months of conflicting accounts from the president and his lawyers about what he knew about money changing hands with Daniels … Details of the filing might not be publicly known for several weeks.”
-- Daniels’s decision to crowdfund her legal fees has raised issues of transparency. From the AP’s Michael Balsamo: “The more than 14,000 donations have been made mostly anonymously in amounts ranging from $10 to $5,000. Through Monday, [Daniels] and her attorney, Michael Avenatti, raised more than $490,000 on CrowdJustice.com, a crowdfunding site dedicated to helping people raise money for legal fees. … Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School, said it’s unusual but ‘not totally unheard of’ for a lawyer to seek online donations to cover legal costs. ‘It does bring up some ethical concerns in terms of who is actually giving this money and whether they will try to exert influence,’ said Levinson.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
A former secretary of defense responded to the latest news on North Korea:
Today’s announcement from North Korea threatening negotiations should remind us that there is no easy or quick path to success— William J. Perry (@SecDef19) May 16, 2018
From a professor at the Naval War College:
it's almost like the North Koreans wanted to suck Trump into a summit that was good PR for them but never really intended to give up anything. Unfortunately, no one saw this coming and there was no way to guess that this could happen. https://t.co/voiSTNfYii— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) May 16, 2018
A Daily Beast reporter noted this of Trump's meeting with Republican senators:
Pretty telling that Senate GOPers had an opportunity to press Trump about his staff’s treatment of one of their own…. and they just didn’t do it— Sam Stein (@samstein) May 15, 2018
A Democratic senator pushed for her chamber to address workplace sexual harassment:
It has been 98 days since the House unanimously passed a bill to address sexual harassment in Congress. The Senate still hasn’t taken action.— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) May 15, 2018
A New York Times reporter shared this statistic:
Staggering statistic from @SenateMajLdr: One eighth of all the circuit judges in the United States have been appointed by @realDonaldTrump— Sheryl Gay Stolberg (@SherylNYT) May 15, 2018
A CNBC reporter looked at the Trump administration's latest hiring announcement:
Amazing. Trump just nominated Mitch McConnell & Elaine Chao’s brother-in-law to lead the nation’s pension agency. The White House announcement doesn’t even list a current job for him & WH won’t answer questions. Below, his announcement vs. a typical one >> https://t.co/58Vu6GzLwC pic.twitter.com/LL5zsexfuF— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) May 15, 2018
There was no White House press briefing:
White House has canceled the on-camera press briefing for today, a day when the president is in town and working.— Julie Davis (@juliehdavis) May 15, 2018
Mitt Romney sent his prayers to Melania Trump and Harry Reid:
Prayers for the First Lady and for Harry Reid. Hoping for healing and recovery for both.— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) May 15, 2018
A CNN reporter provided this quote from the first lady's office:
Update I just got from @StephGrisham45 regarding @FLOTUS condition and request for details: “I am not going to expand beyond the statement I put out. The First Lady is in good spirits and she is resting. There are HIPAA laws to consider, but she also deserves personal privacy.”— Kate Bennett (@KateBennett_DC) May 15, 2018
Politico's Capitol bureau chief criticized Blake Farenthold:
Farenthold is lying about why he isn't repaying the money. Just like Farenthold lied when he said he didn't harass his former staffer OR that he'd repay the $84K settlement in the first place. https://t.co/9AqNKf8E8e— John Bresnahan (@BresPolitico) May 15, 2018
Stormy Daniels's lawyer wants to know whether he should do more TV:
Time for a poll. Vote as to whether I should a) stay on television and keep disclosing accurate information to the American public or b) get off television and stop disclosing accurate information.— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) May 15, 2018
And a former speechwriter to George W. Bush mourned the passing of Tom Wolfe:
Wolfe once explained his dandified wardrobe:— David Frum (@davidfrum) May 15, 2018
Try to interview hippies or NASCAR fans dressed like one of themselves - they'll instantly sniff you out as a fraud.
Show up dressed like the Man From Mars, and they'll tell you all you wish to know. People love explaining things.
-- Monica Hesse profiled notorious pro-Trump painter Jon McNaughton, whose political beliefs may not always align with his incendiary, world-famous works of art. “The Trump world is populated by disciples — Michael Cohen, Diamond & Silk — whose ideology can seem both deeply felt as well as performative and opportunistic. To spend all day, every day, creating beatific images of Donald Trump would be exhausting, if you didn’t believe in Donald Trump at least a little. So [Jon] McNaughton must believe in him at least a little. But it’s complicated. As McNaughton talks, with some thoughtful sadness, about being the ‘whipping boy’ of the art world he spent a lifetime hoping to join, he’s not the person you expect him to be … McNaughton’s art shapes perceptions of the president. It stokes anger in Trump’s supporters. [But] what isn’t entirely clear is whether McNaughton believed in it himself …”
-- Wall Street Journal, “Making Movies in the Trump Era for the Audience Hollywood Ignored,” by Erich Schwartzel: “The 38-year-old former talent manager, who got his start working with actor and director Greta Gerwig, now finds himself navigating culture, commerce and politics in trying to answer a question facing Hollywood: Where does entertainment go in the Trump era? The industry has responded to that question largely by using platforms such as the Academy Awards to rail against the Trump administration. That has alienated many moviegoers, and today those are the people [Dallas] Sonnier has in mind.”
-- BuzzFeed News, “A DC Think Tank Uses Fake Twitter Accounts And A Shady Expert To Reach The NSA, FBI, And White House,” by Craig Silverman: “The event was organized by the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, a nonprofit think tank founded just a few years ago that quickly established itself as a convener of well-attended cybersecurity events, a facilitator of Capitol Hill briefings, and the beneficiary of hundreds of thousands of dollars in sponsorships from top private sector security vendors. … BuzzFeed News identified a network of at least 45 fake Twitter accounts being used to amplify ICIT content and [cofounder James] Scott’s book, as well as a group of fake YouTube accounts that upload and like ICIT videos and frequently post adoring comments about Scott on content featuring him.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“It’s a vision thing: Democrats sketch out policies as Trump dominates discussion,” from David Weigel and Michael Scherer: “The Democratic Party’s most prominent voices and potential presidential candidates faced a vexing question: How to get Americans to notice their vision for the country when President Trump dominates everything. ‘People at home say, ‘Why are we not offering alternatives?’’ Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who is up for reelection this year, said Tuesday at an ideas conference. ‘Well, we are.’ The day-long annual event, organized by the Center for American Progress, offered an opportunity for Democrats to sketch out their policy solutions. … Tuesday’s conference reflected a more upbeat party as Democrats, through special elections, have shrunk Republican margins in the House and Senate, while flipping 41 state legislative seats since the nadir of the 2016 election. ... The piecemeal approach of the party, however, left some attendees cold.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“The Newest Star Of The Trump Movement Ran A Trump-Bashing Publication — Less Than Two Years Ago,” from BuzzFeed News: “Even by the whiplash-inducing standards of Trumpworld, Candace Owens’ rise has been fast. Ten months ago, the 26-year-old posted her first politically-themed video to YouTube, a reenactment of ‘coming out’ as conservative to her parents. In November ... Turning Point USA hired Owens [as] its director of urban engagement. Last week, [Trump] tweeted that Owens was a ‘very smart ‘thinker’” who is ‘having a big impact on politics.’ And this week, Owens mingled with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump … Yet Owens, suddenly a new face of the American right, was less than two years ago the CEO of an online publication that frequently mocked then-candidate Trump … And in a 2015 column for the site lambasting conservative Republicans, Owens wrote that it was ‘good news’ that the ‘Republican Tea Party ... will eventually die off (peacefully in their sleep, we hope.)’”
Trump will have a working lunch with the president of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev. He will later participate in a photo op with the White House News Photographers Association award recipients and then host a roundtable on California’s sanctuary policies.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“If it wasn’t Lehman Brothers, but Lehman Sisters, we might not have had the financial collapse,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said at the CAP Ideas Conference. (David Weigel and Michael Scherer)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- D.C. could see more thunderstorms today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “We’re on the cooler northern side of a stalled front today. But it’s still warm and humid enough for scattered showers and storms throughout the day. The severe potential should be less than the past couple of days, but some storms could still be heavy rainers, with isolated severe winds possible. Temperatures that start the day near 70 only rise into the mid-70s under mostly cloudy skies.”
-- The Capitals lost to the Lightning 4-2. Washington still leads the Eastern Conference finals 2-1. (Isabelle Khurshudyan, Samantha Pell, Scott Allen and Neil Greenberg)
-- The Nationals’ game against the Yankees was suspended due to rain. The teams ended the night tied at 3 in the sixth inning and will conclude the game today before the start of the regularly scheduled game. (Chelsea Janes)
-- A 37-year-old former Obama administration official is challenging Eleanor Holmes Norton for the Democratic nomination to serve as the District’s nonvoting House representative. From Jenna Portnoy: “[Kim] Ford is channeling the frustration of some District residents who have seen zero progress on statehood in the generation since Norton, who is 80, took office. Although largely unknown, Ford has the backing of D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine, has raised $106,000 — a little more than half of Norton’s war chest so far — and is building a network that could position her for a win — someday.”
-- A federal appeals court ordered a halt to construction of Dominion Energy’s Atlantic Coast Pipeline. From Gregory S. Schneider: “Three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said in a ruling issued late Tuesday that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had failed to set clear limits for impact on threatened or endangered species.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Trevor Noah delved into the White House's problems with leakers:
A GOP candidate for governor of Georgia released a controversial anti-immigration campaign ad:
Trump honored fallen law enforcement officers during a ceremony at the Capitol:
A video of a man targeting a Muslim woman for her religion went viral:
A bear disturbed a Pennsylvania home:
KNOCK KNOCK: A Pennsylvania family received a surprise visitor early Monday morning when a bear walked right up to their front door. https://t.co/Wc3W6ds3K5 pic.twitter.com/X66ho39kIP— ABC News (@ABC) May 16, 2018
And a pro-Trump choir released a new song to celebrate his presidency:
New Song! Trump is winning YUGE!! Can’t expect the fake news media to report it, so we’re here to enlighten the liberals! 😜🇺🇸 PLS RT! RT! ❤️☺️— CJaye ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (@DeplorableChoir) May 14, 2018
Ps..thank you @kanyewest for the dragon energy 🔥@realDonaldTrump @DonaldJTrumpJr @EricTrump rallies? 🇺🇸❤️ pic.twitter.com/7kkkXKpYXZ