With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.
THE BIG IDEA: Donald Trump once again showed friend and foe alike on Thursday that the United States is no longer a reliable negotiating partner.
Trump’s decision to abruptly cancel next month’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may very well have been the right call at this point. But the way the president went about it will likely have second and third order consequences that he does not appear to have grappled with, from empowering China to straining alliances and undermining future nonproliferation efforts.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s national security adviser told reporters on the flight to Washington earlier this week that there was a “99.9 percent chance” the summit would go on as planned in Singapore on June 12.
Soon after Moon and his entourage arrived back in Seoul from their meetings at the White House, they were blindsided by Trump’s announcement that the summit in Singapore was off. One of America’s closest allies, with as much to gain or lose from the talks as anyone, found out the same way everyone else did that they won’t happen: The White House blasted out an open letter from Trump to Kim.
Trump didn’t want to give anyone a heads up for fear the news would leak, despite warnings from some in the White House that it wasn’t worth insulting the South Koreans. Moon, who has staked his political future on rapprochement with Pyongyang and worked to position himself as the intermediary between Kim and Trump, convened an emergency meeting after midnight local time at the presidential Blue House. Then he released a statement that said he was “very perplexed and sorry.”
-- “America First” is turning out to be America Alone, as the United States isolates itself from the world in ways not seen since the 1930s. Trump has pulled out of the Iranian nuclear agreement, the Paris climate accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In all three cases, the president promised he would negotiate a better deal for the United States. He has not yet done so.
The president launched a “trade war” against China, which he said would be easy to win. Then he blinked, with no meaningful concessions from Beijing.
Trump said last May that securing peace in the Middle East would be “frankly maybe not as difficult as people have thought.” Then he poisoned the well by moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, giving up a possible bargaining chip that could lubricate a bigger deal.
-- The mixed messages coming out of the White House about “the Libya model” also sowed additional seeds of mistrust that scared the North Koreans. Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker and Josh Dawsey explain the significance in a detailed tick tock on how everything fell apart: “Kim and his deputies had blasted (national security adviser John) Bolton for comments he made April 29 on CBS News in which he said the administration would try to emulate the ‘Libya model’ from 2003 and 2004, in which Moammar Gaddafi relinquished his regime’s nuclear weapons program. The North Koreans believe that agreement led to Gaddafi’s downfall and death in 2011, and a top Kim aide blasted Bolton, whom they generally considered antagonistic from his many years as a foreign policy hawk.
“Trump last week sought to reassure Kim that he would remain in power under any nuclear deal with the United States, contradicting Bolton by saying, ‘The Libya model isn’t the model that we have.’
“But on Monday, Pence said in an interview with Fox News that ‘the Libyan model’ will apply to North Korea if Kim does not agree to denuclearize. Aides said Pence’s comments were not an effort to sabotage the deal … Still, Pence’s Libya analogy struck a nerve in Pyongyang.”
-- Trump is the first president in American history with no prior governing or military experience. The naivete that stems from a mix of inexperience and hubris once again hobbled him here. Greg Jaffe and Paul Sonne explain: “Trump’s letter to Kim canceling the meeting … neatly summed up his view. In it, the president described the ‘wonderful dialogue’ that he believed had been developing with Kim. ‘Ultimately that dialogue is all that matters,’ Trump wrote. But the backtracking, insults and miscommunications of the last week demonstrate that there was far more in play than just the chemistry between two leaders. In the end, what killed the summit was the rushed nature of the negotiations, the lack of message discipline by senior Trump officials and the absence of the meticulous planning that typically leads to diplomatic breakthroughs.”
This also helps explain Trump’s erratic approach to the peninsula: “In the run-up to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, Trump asked his staff to present him with plans to evacuate the dependents of U.S. military personnel from the peninsula,” Greg and Paul report. “A presidential official order mandating the move was drafted and approved by the National Security Council’s lawyers before White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis talked Trump out of it … Kelly and Mattis, both former Marine generals, warned Trump that the plan, if implemented, would alienate South Korea, ruin the Olympics and possibly trigger a hostile response from North Korea.”
-- “Never has such chaos attended the public behavior of a U.S. president on a matter of such gravity,” The Post’s Editorial Board argues. “Both Mr. Trump and the North Koreans alluded to the possibility of nuclear war. Appearing before Congress, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was unable to offer an answer when asked what the U.S. strategy would now be. North Korea, meanwhile, had hours earlier made a show of blowing up mountain tunnels it has used to conduct nuclear tests — an action suggesting that until Mr. Trump’s statement, it remained willing to move forward.”
-- Trump fancies himself the premier negotiator of his generation. “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it,” he said as he accepted the Republican Party’s nomination for president.
But he keeps learning the hard way that diplomacy takes a global village. “'Gradually and then suddenly.’ That was how one of Ernest Hemingway’s characters described the process of going bankrupt. The phrase applies vividly to the accumulating failures of [Trump’s] foreign-policy initiatives,” former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum writes in The Atlantic. “The ‘bark orders, impose punishments, and bully friends and enemies into surrender to the mighty, imperial me’ approach to foreign policy is unlikely enough to work even when applied to relatively weak states like North Korea and Iran. When simultaneously applied to the entire planet, allies and adversaries alike, it produces only rapidly accelerating failure. In Trump’s case, the reckoning came especially fast.”
-- An underappreciated dynamic: China is winning so much that Xi Jinping may soon get tired of winning. “Trump and his aides have blamed Beijing for influencing Kim in recent weeks to take a harder line, souring relations ahead of the summit,” David Nakamura, Anna Fifield and John Wagner report. “Kim’s outreach to Seoul and Beijing, where he visited twice with President Xi Jinping, has fractured the pressure campaign, analysts said, and Trump’s personal dalliance with Kim elevated the stature of a brutal, authoritarian regime on the global stage.”
“Trump thinks the prospect of U.S. investment may draw Kim back to the table. But it’s just as likely that the nimble Kim will decide he has escaped a trap. If he wants modernization, China may be a more reliable bet,” writes columnist David Ignatius.
“This opens the door for Kim to play a much more complicated and nuanced game than we had wanted. We’ve dealt ourselves out,” said Robert Carlin, a former CIA and State Department analyst who has visited Pyongyang more than 30 times.
-- Retired admiral James Stavridis, who is now the dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University, notes that his friend Harry Harris “will be parachuting into high drama” as he becomes the new U.S. ambassador to South Korea (after the post was left vacant for the first 16 months of the Trump administration): “President Moon … will be wounded both politically and personally,” Stavridis writes for Time Magazine. “His first question to the new Ambassador will be, ‘Why did the Administration start talking about Libya?’ Clearly, doing so was like throwing a chunk of kryptonite into the room with Seoul’s Superman, effectively wilting the strength and powerful possibilities of the meeting. Harris, who knows the Korean War Plans better than anyone on earth at this point, understands exactly how devastating a war on the Peninsula will be — and both he and his wife Bruni (herself an expert on Asia and a Japanese speaker) are sitting in ground zero. Expect him to join Secretary Mattis in taking a cautious approach.”
-- Yesterday begged an important question: With this president, can there ever be certainty about anything? “This episode speaks to the larger issue endemic to the current administration, which is the on-again, off-again style of leadership exhibited by the president on issues across the board,” Dan Balz notes in a smart take. “From the time of his candidacy, Trump insisted that being unpredictable was a central attribute of his approach to problems and negotiations. Unpredictability can be an asset if it leads to genuine progress and constructive outcomes. Unpredictability for the sake of unpredictability leads nowhere. So far, his unpredictability has produced few of the dividends he often promises.
“Perhaps this will prove to have been skillful diplomatic maneuvering by the president, but that can’t be known at this time. What is known is that this is not the first time the president has spoken extravagantly about his desire to solve a problem, only to demonstrate later that either his words were not genuine or that his positions are so ungrounded that he can change his mind at any moment.
“Trade is one glaring example of how the president has operated. He has been at different points — and sometimes almost in the same moment — a trade hawk and a trade pussycat. … He has proved to be an unsteady negotiator who has only modest achievements, achievements that fall far short of the promises he made to workers during the campaign and later. His approach on NAFTA has damaged relations with Mexico, frustrated Canada and caused some heartburn among U.S. businesses. On TPP, he for a moment mulled rejoining the deal, but the rest of the nations have moved on, signing an accord without the United States.
“Immigration is another example of the difficulty of knowing where the president is at any given moment. … He has talked optimistically about trying to make a deal and about his desire to provide dreamers with a path to citizenship. He told members of Congress to work out something and bring it to him. When they did, he balked.”
-- Programming note: The 202 will be dark on Memorial Day and back Tuesday. Have a great holiday weekend.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Canadian police are searching for two men after an improvised explosive device detonated at an Indian restaurant in Ontario, injuring around 15 people, three of whom suffered critical injuries from the blast. (Allyson Chiu)
-- A bystander fatally shot a gunman who opened fire inside an Oklahoma City restaurant last night. Oklahoma’s News 4 reported that a shooter seriously injured a mother and her 12-year-old daughter who went to Louie’s Grill to celebrate the girl’s sister’s birthday. When the gunman left the restaurant and attempted to flee, an armed bystander standing outside pulled out his handgun and killed him. (Meagan Flynn)
GET SMART FAST:
- Trump granted a posthumous pardon to Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion, whom Trump said served prison time “for what many view as a racially motivated injustice.” Johnson was convicted in 1913 under a Jim Crow-era law often used to target interracial relationships. (Jacob Bogage)
- Jurors in Georgia awarded $1 billion to a rape victim. The victim said jurors told her: “You’re worth something.” (Lindsey Bever)
- Two Ebola patients fled a hospital in Congo to attend a prayer session — possibly exposing dozens of people to the virus as doctors struggle desperately to contain it. Both were in the “acute” phase when they went to the service and died within hours. (Siobhán O'Grady)
- An Amazon Echo device mistakenly recorded a family’s conversation and sent it to a random person in their contacts list. Amazon said it happened after an “unlikely” string of events it was working to make “even less likely.” The device apparently woke up when it heard a word that sounded like “Alexa” and the subsequent conversation was heard as a “send message” request. (Hamza Shaban)
- Major League Baseball confirmed for the first time what pitchers in the sport have been saying for more than two years: that changes to the composition and/or behavior of the baseball are responsible, at least in part, for the surge in home runs since the middle of the 2015 season. What remains unexplained, however, is what exactly those changes were, or why they occurred. (Dave Sheinen)
- Suicide rates are on the rise in the United States and especially in rural areas. Between 2005 and 2015, nearly half of rural counties saw their suicide rates jump by 30 percent, according to a detailed new CDC study, while just 10 percent of the largest urban counties experienced a similar increase. (Christopher Ingraham)
- White evangelicals are the least likely group of people to think the United States has a responsibility to accept refugees, according to a new Pew study. Just 25 percent of evangelicals said they believe the U.S. has such a responsibility — falling well below the religiously unaffiliated, as well as the national average (which splits about half-and-half.) (Philip Bump)
- Actor Robert De Niro, the co-founder of the restaurant and hotel chain Nobu, said he would not allow the president to dine at any of his locations. He also said he’d refuse to eat anywhere else in Trump’s proximity. “If he walked into a restaurant I was in, I'd walk out,” De Niro said defiantly. (The Hill)
MEN BEHAVING BADLY:
-- Harvey Weinstein is expected to turn himself in to New York authorities today. “Weinstein, the disgraced movie mogul, is expected to surrender to the police in Manhattan on Friday on charges that he raped one woman and forced another to perform oral sex on him, law enforcement officials said,” the New York Times's James C. McKinley Jr., Benjamin Mueller and William K. Rashbaum report. " ... He will be charged with first-degree rape and third-degree rape in one case, and with first-degree criminal sex act in another, law enforcement officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. The criminal sex act charge stems from an encounter with Lucia Evans, who told The New Yorker and then investigators from the Manhattan district attorney’s office that Mr. Weinstein forced her to perform oral sex on him during what she expected would be a casting meeting at the Miramax office in Tribeca. The victim in the rape case has not been publicly identified.” Weinstein is expected to put up $1 million in cash as part of a bail package, agree to wear a monitoring device and surrender his passport.
-- Morgan Freeman was accused of inappropriate behavior and harassment by multiple women in a new CNN report. An Phung and Chloe Melas report: “In all, 16 people spoke [about] Freeman as part of this investigation, eight of whom said they were victims of what some called harassment and others called inappropriate behavior by Freeman. Eight said they witnessed Freeman's alleged conduct. These 16 people together described a pattern of inappropriate behavior by Freeman on set, while promoting his movies and at his production company Revelations Entertainment. … Four people who worked in production capacities on movie sets with Freeman over the last ten years described him as repeatedly behaving in ways that made women feel uncomfortable at work. Two, including the production assistant … said Freeman subjected them to unwanted touching. Three said he made public comments about women's clothing or bodies. But each of them said they didn't report Freeman's behavior, with most saying it was because they feared for their jobs. One of the three, CNN entertainment reporter Chloe Melas, the co-author of this article, says she was subjected to inappropriate behavior by Freeman more than a year ago.”
INVESTIGATING THE INVESTIGATORS:
-- “White House lawyer’s presence at briefings on FBI’s Russia source roils lawmakers,” by Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Karoun Demirjian and Seung Min Kim: “Justice Department and intelligence community leaders conferred twice with top Republican and Democratic lawmakers Thursday, hoping to defuse a partisan conflict over the FBI’s use of a confidential source to aid the investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia. After hours of discussion, though, there seemed to be little in the way of resolution. Instead, the meetings spawned classic Washington fights over who was there, who wasn’t, and how it all might look.
“Contradicting its earlier position, the White House allowed top Democrats to join their Republican colleagues, and also dispatched two of its own representatives — Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and White House lawyer Emmet T. Flood — to relay a message from the president. That raised some suspicion, as the matter being discussed concerned an ongoing criminal investigation involving the Trump campaign. Even Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) told a reporter that he presence of Flood, who is handling the White House response to the special counsel investigation, was ‘a bit odd.’
“House Intelligence Committee ranking Democrat Adam B. Schiff (Calif.) said in a statement that Flood’s ‘involvement — in any capacity — was entirely improper, and I made this clear to him.’ ‘His presence only underscores what Rudy Giuliani said: the President’s legal team expects to use information gleaned improperly from the Justice Department or the President’s allies in Congress to their legal advantage,’ Schiff said. The White House insisted that Flood and Kelly made only ‘brief remarks before the meetings started to relay the President’s desire for as much openness as possible under the law.’
“Briefers from the Justice Department brought documents with them to the Gang of Eight meeting, but lawmakers did not ask to see them, two people briefed on the matter said. The people said Nunes said nothing at all at that meeting. In resisting disclosures about the source, officials had cited concerns about his safety and worries about damaging the United States’ relationship with intelligence partners.
“But after the two briefings Thursday, there were no signs of an imminent showdown. (Speaker Paul) Ryan said afterward that the Intelligence Committee had ‘the responsibility to ask tough questions of the executive branch’ and that the Justice Department was cooperating. … Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) … said in an interview with NPR that nothing he heard changed his support for the Russia probe.”
-- Trump's morning tweets took aim at Democrats:
The Democrats are now alluding to the the concept that having an Informant placed in an opposing party’s campaign is different than having a Spy, as illegal as that may be. But what about an “Informant” who is paid a fortune and who “sets up” way earlier than the Russian Hoax?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 25, 2018
Can anyone even imagine having Spies placed in a competing campaign, by the people and party in absolute power, for the sole purpose of political advantage and gain? And to think that the party in question, even with the expenditure of far more money, LOST!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 25, 2018
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Roger Stone, Trump's longtime political adviser, sought out damaging information on Hillary Clinton from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange during the 2016 campaign, according to newly reviewed emails that potentially contradict his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee last fall. The Wall Street Journal’s Shelby Holliday and Rob Barry report: “In a Sept. 18, 2016, message, Mr. Stone urged an [intermediary to ask Assange] for emails related to Mrs. Clinton’s alleged role in disrupting a purported Libyan peace deal in 2011 … ‘Please ask Assange for any State or HRC e-mail from August 10 to August 30 — particularly on August 20, 2011,’ Mr. Stone wrote to Randy Credico, a New York radio personality who had [recently interviewed Assange]. Mr. Credico initially responded to Mr. Stone that what he was requesting would be on WikiLeaks’ website if it existed[.] Mr. Stone, the emails show, replied: ‘Why do we assume WikiLeaks has released everything they have ???’ In another email, Mr. Credico then asked Mr. Stone to give him a ‘little bit of time’ [and] wrote: ‘That batch probably coming out in the next drop ... I can’t ask them favors every other day. I asked one of his lawyers ... they have major legal headaches riggt now..relax.’ ... Mr. Credico said in an interview with the Journal that he never passed the message on to Mr. Assange or his lawyers, but ‘got tired’ of Mr. Stone ‘bothering’ him, and so told Mr. Stone he had passed along the message.”
-- Philip Bump ponders an interesting question: If Trump’s team was colluding with Russia, why did it keep asking WikiLeaks for things?
-- Drip, drip, drip: Robert Mueller’s team is investigating Stone’s finances — and the special counsel has summoned at least eight of Stone’s current or former associates in hopes of gathering more information on his business dealings. CNN’s Sara Murray reports: “Mueller's team has questioned associates about Stone's finances, including his tax returns. The special counsel recently subpoenaed John P. Kakanis, who has worked as Stone's assistant and has insight into some of Stone's business deals ... The interest in Stone's finances could be tied to Mueller's charge of investigating Russian meddling … though another possibility is Mueller is pursuing something unrelated that turned up in the course of the investigation.”
-- Meanwhile, Assange may finally lose his refuge at the Ecuadoran embassy in London, exposing him to possible extradition to the United States. CNN’s Jim Sciutto and Jenna McLaughlin report: “While Assange has in the past claimed his position in the embassy was under threat, sources say his current situation is ‘unusually bad’ and that he could leave the embassy ‘any day now,’ either because he will be forced out or made to feel so restricted that he might choose to leave on his own. His position there is ‘in jeopardy,’ one source familiar with the matter said. Assange's exit from the embassy could open a new phase for US investigators eager to find out what he knows. Ecuador's newly elected president, Lenín Moreno, is under increasing pressure from the US to expel Assange ... Sources familiar also believe Spain exerted pressure on Ecuador after Assange tweeted support for the separatist movements in Catalonia[.]”
-- Top GOP fundraiser and Trump supporter Elliott Broidy “alleged in a court filing Thursday that a former CIA operative and a former British spy helped the government of Qatar find hackers to target him as part of a broader conspiracy to blunt his outspoken criticism of the Gulf state,” Ellen Nakashima writes. “Elliott Broidy, who resigned last month as Republican National Committee deputy finance chairman after acknowledging he had impregnated a former Playboy model, alleged in the filing that the state of Qatar in late 2017 hired Kevin Chalker and David Mark Powell to coordinate a hacking and information operation directed at him. Chalker is a former cyber operative at the CIA, who founded New York-based Global Risk Advisors. Powell, his business partner, is a former British intelligence operative who opened a GRA office in Doha in October 2017, Broidy’s filing said. The allegations are contained in a legal complaint filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, where Broidy’s firm, Broidy Capital Management, is located. The complaint is an amendment to a lawsuit filed in March that accused the Qatari government of orchestrating a campaign to discredit him.”
-- A heated turf war between Jared Kushner and Jeff Sessions drove the federal prisons director to resign this week, bringing an abrupt end to his tenure just nine months after Trump appointed him to the post. The New York Times’s Glenn Thrush and Danielle Ivory report: “[Mark Inch said] said he was tired of the administration flouting ‘departmental norms.’ And he complained that [Sessions] and, to a lesser extent, Mr. Kushner … had elbowed him out of major staffing, budget and policy decisions … Early in the administration, Mr. Kushner and Mr. Sessions came to an agreement[:] Mr. Kushner would press ahead with prison reforms but avoid a politically divisive issue he cared even more strongly about, sentencing reform, which the attorney general and [Mitch McConnell] both adamantly oppose. But Mr. Sessions, not Mr. Kushner, controls the prison bureau. And he has quietly worked to ensure that any reforms that might be seen as excessively lenient toward inmates are put into place only after time-consuming study. The departure of Mr. Inch, who tried to navigate a middle course, creates a vacuum … But some see Mr. Inch’s exit as an opening for Mr. Trump to take a more sweeping approach that would include sentencing reform — one of the few issues that offer him a chance for the kind of big, bipartisan deal he promised during the 2016 campaign.”
-- The Senate unanimously passed a bill that would change the way Congress deals with sexual harassment claims. Sean Sullivan reports: “The bill would end a mandatory 90-day waiting period and allow individuals to seek a hearing or civil action on their claim immediately. It would also require members of Congress to reimburse the government for monetary settlements resulting from harassment by them. The legislation, which also covers other claims of workplace discrimination, passed by voice vote, meaning no senators objected to it. Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) introduced it.”
-- The Congressional Budget Office said Trump’s proposed budget for 2019 would result in significantly higher deficits over the next decade than the White House estimated. “The difference comes partly from CBO’s belief that the tax bill signed into law last year will not create as much revenue as the White House has promised,” Erica Werner notes.
-- The House overwhelmingly passed its version of the defense reauthorization bill, despite objections from Democrats over how it revamps the country’s nuclear arsenal. Karoun Demirjian reports: “The 351-to-66 vote is not the final word on the matter, as the Senate has yet to weigh in with its version of the defense bill, which the Senate Armed Services Committee completed work on this week. The two measures must be combined into a final product before Congress can vote to send it to the president’s desk.
“The White House objected to several of the policy positions in the measure but stopped short of threatening to veto the bill. The administration argued that the measure should have included funding to build a heftier and more modernized detention facility at Guantanamo Bay; it also admonished lawmakers for not giving the administration the ability to waive certain Russia-related sanctions … The administration also objected to certain organizational changes the bill would make at the Pentagon. But it was silent on provisions that would seem to challenge the president’s preferences in other ways — such as a prohibition on the federal government purchasing products from ZTE and other similar foreign tech firms over security concerns.
“The bill includes a 2.6 percent increase in troops’ pay and meets the president’s budget request to fund an additional 16,000 service positions in the military. It also strips back about 25 percent of funding for parts of the Pentagon not directly focused on military activities.”
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- 'We’re closed!’: Trump directs his anger over immigration at Homeland Security secretary, by Josh Dawsey and Nick Miroff: "Trump began berating Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in the Oval Office earlier this spring, according to administration officials, griping about her performance and blaming her for a surge in illegal border crossings. [Kelly], who installed her in the job, jumped in to defend her. The two men then sparred over Nielsen as she silently watched. At one point, Trump noted the border numbers were lower under Kelly and wondered aloud why Nielsen could not perform as well, according to these officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private meeting."
-- This is just one of several times the president has chastised Nielsen: "He has grown furious because his administration has made little progress building the border wall, and his most ardent supporters have blamed Nielsen for not doing more to halt the caravan of Central American migrants whose advance Trump saw as a personal challenge. He has also seen her as a proxy for Kelly, whose relationship with the president has frayed in recent months. Trump has decided, according to several aides, that Nielsen is a George W. Bush kind of Republican, the worst in his view. Nielsen has complained that it is almost an impossible task working for Trump, according to administration officials and others familiar with her thinking, and that he doesn’t understand the nuances of immigration law.
"It remains unclear, according to several people familiar with the situation, how much longer the relationship can last, but the strains illustrate the difficulty faced by Trump subordinates who are tasked with delivering policy solutions to match his most soaring promises. 'The president has a very rudimentary understanding of what the border is all about and how you secure it,' said a former DHS staffer who worked closely with Nielsen. 'And she’s also not one of the border fire-eaters that have his ear right now. She’s in an impossible, no-win situation.'"
-- Two more Republicans signed the discharge petition in an effort to force a vote to save the “dreamers,” even after Trump suggested to Fox News that he’d veto such a stand-alone measure. Mike DeBonis reports: “GOP Reps. Tom Reed (N.Y.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.) signed on Thursday. The discharge proponents said they remain prepared to gather the remaining signatures next month, after Congress returns from a week-long Memorial Day break. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.), who filed the petition and is among the leaders of the effort to force immigration votes, said he believes that the break will make Republicans more likely to sign on when they return. ‘If there’s an agreement before we get to 25 [Republican signatures], that’s the only thing that will impede our progress,’ he said. ‘We will get to the number we need to get to.’”
-- The head of the national Border Patrol union called Trump's National Guard deployment to the U.S.-Mexico border "a colossal waste of resources," reports The Los Angeles Times's Molly Hennessey-Fiske. "'We have seen no benefit,' said Brandon Judd, president of the union that represents 15,000 agents, the National Border Patrol Council. The criticism is a dramatic departure for the group, which endorsed Trump's candidacy for president and has praised his border security efforts, including National Guard deployments."
-- “Trump taps Utahn who’s railed against illegal immigration to oversee refugee, migration issues at the State Department,” by Salt Lake Tribune’s Thomas Burr. The White House picked Bountiful’s Ronald Mortensen, a former career foreign service officer, to serve as the assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration – a post that needs Senate confirmation. “Mortensen, who backed Trump in the 2016 presidential election, is a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for reducing immigrant populations and is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.”
-- The Department of Health and Human Services lost track of nearly 1,500 migrant children it placed with sponsors in the United States. The New York Times's Ron Nixon reports that this disclosure from a top official there raised “concerns they could end up in the hands of human traffickers or be used as laborers by people posing as relatives. The official, Steven Wagner, the acting assistant secretary of the agency’s Administration for Children and Families, disclosed during testimony before a Senate homeland security subcommittee that the agency had learned of the missing children after placing calls to the people who took responsibility for them when they were released from government custody. The children were taken into government care after they showed up alone at the Southwest border. Most of the children are from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, and were fleeing drug cartels, gang violence and domestic abuse, government data shows.”
-- In the midst of a reelection campaign on track to be the closest Senate race in Texas in more than three decades, Ted Cruz has largely relinquished the role of anti-establishment agitator. Amy Gardner reports: “Once propelled by promises to upend Washington, he now spends his time on more-local fare -- redrawing flood-plain maps along the Gulf Coast, expanding airport runways in suburban Dallas and reauthorizing federal spending on NASA, a home-state favorite. There are no longer barbs at Republican leaders in the Senate, no calls to shut down the federal government and no shots at [Trump] … Instead, in a laudatory write-up in Time magazine's annual Time 100 list, Cruz recently praised the president as ‘a flash-bang grenade thrown into Washington by the forgotten men and women of America’ — words he might have used to describe himself when he first arrived in D.C. ... It has been a necessary reinvention for an ambitious politician who is expected to seek the presidency again some day, say many who know Cruz. The change in Cruz is 'as much what he's not saying,' said Fort Worth money manager and Cruz donor Hal Lambert. 'Sometimes in the past he'd be very vocal about certain things. Now, he's more supportive' of the party and its platform.”
-- “Concerned by Trump, Some Republicans Quietly Align With Democrats,” by The New York Times’s Kenneth P. Vogel: “In the past year… influential liberal donors and operatives have gone from cheering these so-called Never Trump Republicans to quietly working with — and even funding — them. Through invitation-only emails and private, off-the-record meetings, they have formed a loose network of cross-partisan alliances aimed at helping neutralize President Trump, and preventing others from capitalizing on weaknesses in the political system that they say he has exploited. While this network has mostly eschewed electoral politics, some involved see the potential for it to help form an ideological — and possibly financial — platform to back candidates, including a centrist challenge to Mr. Trump in 2020, possibly from within the G.O.P. or even a third party.
“The network — composed of overlapping groups led by Democrats such as the donor Rachel Pritzker and several veteran Obama administration operatives, as well as leading Never Trump Republicans like Evan McMullin, Mindy Finn and William Kristol — aims to chart a middle path between a Republican base falling in line behind Mr. Trump and a liberal resistance trying to pull the Democratic Party left.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Frank Jannuzi is the president of the Mansfield Foundation, which promotes cooperation in U.S.-Asia Relations. From 1997 to 2012, he was the policy director for East Asian and Pacific Affairs on Senate Foreign Relations Committee, working for Democratic chairs Joe Biden and John Kerry. He was in Seoul when the news of Trump’s letter to Kim broke. Here are some tweets from an interesting thread:
Handed a chance to put US-DPRK relations on a better trajectory -- headed in direction of peace and denuclearization -- Trump misinterpreted how we got here. He attributed DPRK willingness to talk to his Max Pressure campaign alone -- ignoring the two more important factors.— Frank Jannuzi (@FrankJannuzi) May 24, 2018
Moreover, DPRK has secured its flanks -- improved relations with China and ROK, leaving USA isolated in its attempt to assemble "maximum pressure" on DPRK going forward. DPRK makes USA appear to be the party walking away from diplomacy. A huge diplomatic defeat for USA.— Frank Jannuzi (@FrankJannuzi) May 24, 2018
ROK will respond responsibly, maturely. They will sleep on this horrible development, and no doubt issue a modest, careful, controlled and hopeful message tomorrow, looking forward to a summit meeting in the future. But inside, they will be SEETHING mad, disappointed, crushed.— Frank Jannuzi (@FrankJannuzi) May 24, 2018
From an NYU political scientist and the president of Eurasia Group:
BREAKING:— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) May 24, 2018
China relations w N Korea:
S Korea relations w N Korea:
US relations w N Korea:
As they were.
From a former national security adviser under Barack Obama:
The Administration’s approach to North Korea from start to finish has been one long amateur hour. In that way, it is not much different from Trump’s approach to many other issues. But the difference is that with North Korea the stakes could not be higher. https://t.co/xweQfI5ncv— Susan Rice (@AmbassadorRice) May 24, 2018
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Kelly and Flood should not have attending the DOJ briefing:
For the record, the President’s Chief of Staff and his attorney in an ongoing criminal investigation into the President’s campaign have no business showing up to a classified intelligence briefing.— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) May 24, 2018
And Adam Schiff, his counterpart on the House side, pushed back on Trump's efforts to make “spygate” a thing:
SCHIFF on "LIEGATE"- "The president said there was wiretapping at Trump Tower. That was false. He said there was an unmasking conspiracy. That was false. He said there were political spies embedded in his campaign. That's false. This isn't 'spygate,' but it's a form of 'liegate'" pic.twitter.com/YrUHHgDttC— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 24, 2018
An Obama-era spokesman for the Justice Department:
Give me a break. Their presence puts a thumb on the scale, just as summoning Rosenstein & Wray to a mtg with POTUS on Monday did. https://t.co/00BUhO5hUq— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) May 24, 2018
From the longtime former journalist Ron Fournier:
Private attorney gets confidential DOJ briefing on an ongoing FBI investigation into his client’s actions.— Ron Fournier (@ron_fournier) May 24, 2018
Folks, that NEVER happens — or at least, it never happened until this president made the presidency above the law https://t.co/YZ3HSiJvl0
There were lots of jokes online about the premature casting of commemorative coins for the summit:
This does not hold up great:
18 lawmakers nominate President Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize pic.twitter.com/2ZfA6jONLc— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) May 3, 2018
From the director of our fact checking unit and a veteran diplomatic correspondent:
No one knew North Korea could be so hard https://t.co/sgzMWLFfqd— Glenn Kessler (@GlennKesslerWP) May 24, 2018
The president signed the bill rolling back parts of Dodd-Frank:
Heitkamp, D-N.D., a top target for Republicans in 2018, managed to get a prime spot at the Trump bill signing. https://t.co/XDT8mjDcu9— Ken Thomas (@KThomasDC) May 24, 2018
Some context on Trump's posthumous pardon of Jack Johnson:
A Politico reporter asked the majority leader about August recess:
I told Sen. McConnell I delayed my August vacation. His response: "You should"— Burgess Everett (@burgessev) May 24, 2018
Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) announced yesterday that he will run for reelection to a second term after reports that he might drop out. Read about Garrett's 25-minute long Facebook Live announcement from Jenna Portnoy here. But here are some highlights from a Richmond Times-Dispatch reporter:
"This isn't all cocktail parties and hubbubs. I don't give a rat's behind about having the title congressman."— Graham Moomaw (@gmoomaw) May 24, 2018
Michelle Obama revealed the cover of her new memoir:
Cover of Michelle Obama’s book - out this fall. pic.twitter.com/iq5UAZtLN9— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) May 24, 2018
Rosie O'Donnell, an occasional target of criticism from Trump, shared more of her art on Twitter:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- New York Magazine, “The Reporter Who Took Down a Unicorn,” by Yashar Ali: “The story of Theranos may be the biggest case of corporate fraud since Enron. But it’s also the story of how a lot of powerful men were fooled by a remarkably brazen liar. It took just one reporter, and three former Theranos employees, to expose her.”
-- The Wall Street Journal, “How a Weakened ESPN Became Consumed by Politics,” by Shalini Ramachandran: “John Skipper was furious. One of his star anchors, Jemele Hill, had sent a tweet calling [Trump] a ‘white supremacist.’ Mr. Trump’s supporters called for her to be fired. Prominent black athletes defended the anchor, who is African-American. Sitting in his office last September, Mr. Skipper, then ESPN’s president, lit into Ms. Hill ... If I punish you, he told her, I’d open us up to protests and come off as racist. If I do nothing, that will fuel a narrative among conservatives — and a faction within ESPN — that the network had become too liberal. … [The accusations] tapped into real anxiety at ESPN … [and generated] sharp internal disagreements over whether ESPN was appropriately taking part in the broader national conversation, or whether top executives were encouraging a divisive company culture and giving too much leeway to hosts to promote left-leaning views, both on air and on social media …”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Black defendants receive longer prison terms from Republican-appointed judges, study finds,” from Christopher Ingraham: “Federal judges appointed by Republican presidents give black defendants sentences that are, on average, six to seven months longer than the sentences they give to similar white defendants, according to a new working paper from Alma Cohen and Crystal Yang of Harvard Law School. That racial sentencing disparity is about twice as large as the one observed among judges appointed by Democrats, who give black defendants sentences that are three to four months longer than the sentences they give to white defendants with similar histories who commit similar crimes. To arrive at these numbers, Cohen and Yang examined over 500,000 sentences handed down by nearly 1,400 federal judges between 1999 and 2015. … Cohen and Yang estimate that differences between how Democratic and Republican judges treat black and nonblack defendants account for 65 percent of the total racial sentencing gap observed at the federal level.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Rachel Dolezal, the white woman who posed as black, charged with welfare fraud,” from Allyson Chiu: “Former NAACP official Rachel Dolezal, a white woman who posed as African American for years, is now facing charges of welfare fraud after investigators say she illegally received thousands of dollars in public assistance. Dolezal, who legally changed her name to Nkechi Diallo in 2016, is accused of stealing $8,847 in food and child care assistance dating back to August 2015 … Local reporters who went to her Spokane home seeking comment said she declined to say anything and closed the door. … The investigation into Dolezal began in March of last year when an investigator from the Washington Department of Social and Health Services learned she had written a book that had been published.”
DAYBOOK: The president delivers the commencement address at the Naval Academy in Annapolis at 10 a.m. He meets with Pompeo at 2:30 p.m. in the Oval Office.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“Do you think I could take him?”
-- Donald Trump, asking whether he could take WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder.
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Today will be sunny and dry with temps reaching as high as 90 degrees. The Capital Weather Gang says: “It’s our last mostly sunny, definitely dry weather day for a while.” As the weekend gets more humid, there's an increased chance of showers and storms: “if you can remain nimble and flexible with a few downpours ... you should be able to fit in the majority of your outdoor plans this holiday weekend.”
-- The D.C. Department of Health has warned hundreds of nurses that their personal information was inadvertently exposed in the online licensing portal and is offering them one year of credit-monitoring services. (Fenit Nirappil)
-- Maryland health officials said a person has been diagnosed with measles and warned that others in the D.C. region may have been exposed to the illness. (Justin Wm. Moyer)
-- Jeff Sessions tapped Zachary Terwilliger — a career federal prosecutor who most recently served as Rod Rosenstein’s chief of staff — to serve as the interim U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia. Matt Zapotosky reports: “The move will put Terwilliger, 37, at the center of some of the Justice Department's most high-profile cases, including the investigation of [Assange], and the discussions of what to do with the two British members of an Islamic State cell believed to be responsible for the brutal murders of Western hostages. … The appointment will allow Terwilliger to run the office without Senate confirmation on an interim basis, and he will formally start doing so Friday[.]
“Trump has yet to nominate a permanent U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, although Terwilliger could still get that appointment, and it seems likely he could win Senate confirmation. Terwilliger’s only obstacle might be his closeness with Rosenstein … although a Justice Department official familiar with the matter said he does not have any role in Mueller’s probe[.]”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Our in-house video department made a “Waiting for Godot” parody for 2018. On a park bench in D.C., two men wait for Godot. All they have is each other and their phones:
Seth Meyers took a closer look at the canceled North Korea summit:
Stephen Colbert made fun of the commemorative coins:
And he talked about Michael Cohen's latest legal setbacks:
Colbert also chastised ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio, who is running for Senate:
Trump awarded a Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor in combat, to retired Master Chief Petty Officer Britt K. Slabinski:
Jim Mattis delivered the commencement address at the Air Force Academy: