With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.
THE BIG IDEA: In the first federal election of 1789, two future presidents squared off in a brutal campaign to represent Virginia’s Fifth District in the new House of Representatives. James Madison, the brains behind the Constitution, vigorously debated James Monroe, who opposed ratifying the document because he thought it gave too much power to the central government. If Madison had lost — and he prevailed by just 336 votes — it is very possible that America today would not have a Bill of Rights and all the protections it provides.
The freshman congressman who now holds this seat, Thomas Garrett, announced Monday that he is an alcoholic and ended his reelection campaign so he can focus on his recovery. “Any person — Republican, Democrat or independent — who has known me for any period of time and has any integrity knows two things: I am a good man and I’m an alcoholic,” Garrett said in a video recorded outside the Virginia State Capitol. His voice cracking with emotion, he added: “This is the hardest statement that I have ever publicly made by far. It’s also the truth.”
Washington is full of temptations. Alcohol is one. But this problem predates the congressman’s arrival in the Capitol. The 46-year-old says people close to him have been cautioning him about his drinking since he was in his early 20s. But this apparently widely known problem did not stop the former state senator, prosecutor and Army veteran from getting elected in 2016 to represent a massive swath of central Virginia, including Charlottesville.
Garrett, a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, insists he’s never been drunk on the job. “I never, ever, ever had a drink during the day,” he said in an interview last night with Laura Vozzella. “I didn’t keep booze in my drawer. … When I knew I could drink [after work], I would drink, and I would drink to my own detriment.”
As the government struggles to respond to the opioid epidemic, Garrett’s decision to give up what might have been a safe House seat provides a timely reminder that everyone is at risk to addiction. It does not matter what party you’re in, how much money you have, whether you have a supportive spouse, etc. Just look at the front pages of the nation’s newspapers on any given day to see how addiction impacts every community in America. “Substance abuse is a serious issue that reaches even to the halls of Congress,” said John Whitbeck, the chairman of the Virginia GOP. “Tom has tremendous courage for bringing his own struggle to light.”
His announcement is the finale of a stunning fall from grace that played out over the past week. His chief of staff resigned. Then Politico reported that Garrett was thinking about dropping out. That prompted him to hold a news conference denying it. Then, on Friday, Politico quoted four unidentified former staffers who accused Garrett and his wife, Flanna, of ordering staff to walk their dog, carry groceries or perform other personal tasks for the couple. The devastating story, which outlined behavior that may still bring scrutiny from the House Ethics Committee, did not mention the congressman’s drinking.
The Politico piece has prompted some observers to express skepticism about whether Garrett is really stepping aside because of alcoholism. In his video announcement, the congressman pushed back on the other allegations in a broad way. “The recent attacks on my family and myself were a series of half truths and whole lies,” he said, insisting that his alcoholism is the only thing he’s been untruthful about.
-- This problem is by no means new. In 1980, then-Rep. Robert Bauman (R-Md.) — at that point a leader of the conservative movement — announced he was an alcoholic when he got busted for the solicitation of a male prostitute. He lost reelection, his marriage broke up and he later came out as gay.
When Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) pleaded guilty in 2006 to conspiracy and false statements related to taking gifts from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff in return for helping his clients, he announced that he had been struggling with alcoholism and checked into rehab.
The same year, then-Rhode Island Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D) pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of prescription drugs after he rammed his car into a Capitol Hill barricade. He subsequently emerged as a leading spokesman for improving treatment to help addicts.
In 2013, Rep. Trey Radel (R-Fla.) became the first sitting congressman convicted of buying cocaine. The freshman resigned and later wrote a book about what it was like to become the “cocaine congressman.”
-- If anything, lawmakers used to be even more blatant about their heavy drinking.
Rep. Wilbur Mills (D-Ark.) was one of the most infamous alcoholics of the 20th century. He consorted with a stripper in a very public way, leading to a drunken episode at the Tidal Basin, and his caucus took away his chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee in 1975.
The late ex-Rep. Phil Crane (R-Ill.), who ran for president in 1980, got passed over for the chairmanship of the same committee in 2000 because he had been in rehab for alcoholism earlier that year. He blamed the death of his daughter from cancer and his efforts to stop smoking.
-- Drinking is also a big problem in state capitols. Earlier this month, the director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency cited alcohol dependence when announcing his resignation. (He also blamed post-traumatic stress disorder following a deployment to Iraq and the response to Hurricane Katrina.)
Last year, a freshman state representative in Rhode Island marveled at how much her colleagues drink. Moira Walsh, a Democrat from Providence, told a local radio station that she was shocked to discover that lawmakers have “file cabinets full of booze” and described how they had taken shots on the House floor to celebrate Dominican Republic Independence Day. Asked what was most surprising about being in government, she answered: “I am probably going to get in a lot of trouble for saying this, but the drinking! It is the drinking that blows my mind. You cannot operate a motor vehicle when you’ve had two beers, but you can make laws that affect people’s lives forever when you’re half in the bag? That’s outrageous.”
“In Massachusetts, late-night antics ultimately forced a rules change essentially banning the House of Representatives from meeting past midnight,” CBS noted last year. “A Missouri lawmaker (in 2016) proposed legislation banning smoking and alcohol in the Statehouse. And a pattern of drunken-driving arrests of California lawmakers led the legislature to provide them free after-hours transportation, though the free rides were ended in 2015 in an attempt to restore public trust.”
-- Related trivia: Rep. John Langley (R-Ky.) was convicted in 1924 of “conspiracy to violate the Prohibition Act” by trying to sell 1,400 bottles of bootlegged whiskey. He got reelected that fall anyway, but he was forced out of Congress when the Supreme Court declined his appeal. His wife, Katherine Langley, ran for his open seat in 1926. He campaigned for her from prison. She won.
-- Republicans are favored to hold Garrett’s seat, but the race is now definitely going to be on the map this fall. The retiring congressman was facing an aggressive challenge from Democrat Leslie Cockburn, a journalist and author, who has been outraising him and had more cash on hand.
It’s a red district: President Trump won the Fifth by 11 points in 2016. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) lost it by nine points last November, even as he won statewide by nine points.
But there’s a precedent for Democrats winning: In 2008, Tom Perriello was able to knock off six-term Republican incumbent Virgil Goode partly because of record turnout among students at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, who were energized to help Barack Obama become the first Democrat to carry Virginia since Lyndon Johnson. But Perriello was a one-term wonder, and he lost in the 2010 GOP wave to Robert Hurt — whose retirement in 2016 let Garrett take the seat.
Garrett’s replacement on the ballot will be decided by the three dozen members of the 5th Congressional District Republican Committee. “Republican observers of Virginia politics have said possible candidates from the General Assembly could be state Sen. William M. Stanley Jr. (Franklin), Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (Fauquier), Sen. Bryce E. Reeves (Spotsylvania) and Del. Robert B. Bell (Albemarle),” per Laura Vozzella and Jenna Portnoy. “Tech executive Michael Del Rosso and businessman and developer Jim McKelvey sought the GOP nomination in 2016 and could also be interested. Within hours of Garrett’s announcement, distillery owner Denver Riggleman said he is running. Riggleman is a former Air Force intelligence officer who ran a short-lived populist campaign for governor last year.” Ironically, one of these people might be more likely to keep the seat in GOP hands.
-- For those keeping track: Garrett is the 48th House Republican to retire or announce they will not seek reelection in 2018. That means there will be a remarkable degree of turnover, even before Democrats make expected gains in the midterms.
-- How the news is playing on social media:
A leading handicapper of House races from UVA’s Center for Politics, which is in the district, is changing his rating:
Well — as telegraphed last week, we’ll move VA-5 from Likely R to Leans R as an open seat, even though the eventual R replacement may be an upgrade on the incumbent (but let’s see who that is). https://t.co/FVnGFcOt2Q— Kyle Kondik (@kkondik) May 28, 2018
Garrett’s Democratic challenger wrote that “it is important that he has recognized his alcohol addiction” and wished him well:
My opponent Tom Garrett has announced that he is not seeking reelection. This must be a very difficult time for him, his family and staff. It is important that he has recognized his alcohol addiction and I wish him well.— Leslie Cockburn (@LeslieCockburn) May 28, 2018
From a CNN political commentator who worked in Bill Clinton’s White House:
If Rep. Thomas Garrett (R-Va.) is an alcoholic, I hope he gets help. But was it his alcohol addiction that caused him to mistreat his staff by forcing them to walk his dog, clean up the dog poop and pick up his groceries? https://t.co/8nMPkIW0ZA— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) May 28, 2018
From a former aide to Chuck Schumer who co-founded the center-left group Third Way:
From the Washington bureau chief of the Intercept:
Leslie Cockburn, the Democrat running in this district, is one of the best investigative journalists in a generation or two, exposed Contra drug-running, for instance. Can’t wait to read her expose about Congress in ten years. https://t.co/nGFKgDTG5d— Ryan Grim (@ryangrim) May 29, 2018
From Politico reporters:
Tom Garrett and his wife ran an abusive office, forcing staffers into doing errands for them at the risk of sparking their tempers. Caught, he says he's an alcoholic and he'll resign https://t.co/7b5awPGeJM— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) May 28, 2018
BREAKING: Rep Tom Garrett announces his retirement after Politico exposes him & his wife’s alleged mistreatment of staff. He cites alcoholism, but that was just one of MANY problems in that office. Here is our original story. Latest coming soon -> https://t.co/zIdEeEOEz4— Rachael Bade (@rachaelmbade) May 28, 2018
A ProPublica reporter had a gentler take:
Whatever the situation, admitting your addiction and seeking to address it is the right move. Hoping Tom Garrett gets the help he needs and his family does, too.— Derek Willis (@derekwillis) May 28, 2018
A leading GOP strategist in Richmond also offered sympathy:
.@RepTomGarrett is an old friend. We were LA’s together back in the day. He’s a good man who truly cares about folks and I hope he gets the help he needs and comes back stronger than ever. I know he will and he’s got a lot of folks rooting for him— Tucker Martin (@jtuckermartin) May 28, 2018
Correction: This story has been updated to more accurately reflect Garrett's reasons for stepping down. He is leaving to focus on his recovery and has not said whether he plans to seek treatment as the story originally stated.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Trump is moving forward with tech investment limits and $50 billion in tariffs on China. The White House announced Tuesday morning that the U.S. government will apply tariffs of 25 percent to Chinese imports containing important technologies. The moves are meant to limit China’s ability to acquire U.S. technology and come days before Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is scheduled to arrive in Beijing for talks aimed at cooling trade tensions. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced less than 10 days ago that the trade war with China was “on hold.” (Post staff)
GET SMART FAST:
The Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers will face off in the NBA Finals for the fourth consecutive year. The Warriors defeated the Houston Rockets in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals. (Tim Bontemps)
The Vegas Knights beat the Washington Capitals, 6-4, in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals. (Post staff)
The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season’s first storm made landfall in Laguna Beach, Fla. “Alberto” arrived in the Florida panhandle as a subtropical storm, meaning it demonstrated the characteristics of a hybrid cyclone. (Brian McNoldy)
One National Guard sergeant remains missing after massive flooding in Ellicott City, Md. Eddie Hermond rushed to help a woman trapped by rising water across the street from him. (Michael E. Miller and Ian Shapira)
George H.W. Bush is still hospitalized in Maine because of low blood pressure and fatigue. The former president, who turns 94 next month, has been hospitalized several times in recent years — most recently in April, following the burial of his wife and former first lady Barbara Bush. (Kristine Phillips)
Former Connecticut governor John G. Rowland (R) was released from federal custody, cutting short a 30-month sentence stemming from charges of campaign fraud, conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The 61-year-old was serving his time at a minimum security prison camp in Pennsylvania before being transferred to a halfway house in January. (CTPost)
Trump attorney and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani was loudly booed at Yankees Stadium after the PA announcer told the crowd it was his birthday. Giuliani was at the park to celebrate turning 74. (New York Daily News)
An ex-CIA officer accused of selling secrets to China will go on federal trial today in Alexandria. He plans to argue he handed over “useless” information to Chinese operatives in an effort to out the spies to U.S. authorities. Prosecutors allege his plan was to cash in on covert knowledge to get himself out of debt. (Rachel Weiner)
Gambia’s government has launched a commission to investigate an alleged seven-year “witch hunt” ordered by ex-dictator Yahya Jammeh. Victims say Jammeh directed soldiers to carry out the investigations, which targeted hundreds of poor, elderly residents and farmers across the country. The soldiers often forced victims to drink a hallucinogenic liquid before pressuring their confessions to “murders by sorcery.” (Sally Hayden)
California police say they thwarted a vigilante deportation attempt at an airport after a pilot allegedly kidnapped a foreign student and tried to send him “back to China.” (Avi Selk)
An undocumented immigrant from Mali is being hailed as a hero after he was captured on video scaling four stories of a Paris apartment building to rescue a child who was dangling from a balcony. (James McAuley)
A woman suspected of underage drinking was punched in the head and tackled by a New Jersey police officer at a beach. Police have vowed to investigate the attack, which was captured on video and described by Wildwood Police Chief Robert Regalbuto as “alarming.” (Marwa Eltagouri)
A Catholic high school rejected its gay valedictorian’s planned commencement speech. So he stood outside and delivered the address through a bullhorn. (New York Times)
TO MEET OR NOT TO MEET:
-- A top North Korean official is on his way to the United States to discuss next month’s possible summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un. Anna Fifield reports: “Kim Yong Chol, a four-star general who has been at the forefront of North Korea’s diplomatic outreach, landed at Beijing capital airport on Tuesday, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported. … That would have him arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport shortly after 2 p.m. Wednesday. He would become the highest-ranking North Korean to visit the United States since General Jo Myong Rok went to the White House to see President Bill Clinton in 2000, part of a denuclearization effort that went nowhere.”
Trump confirmed the official’s trip in a morning tweet:
We have put a great team together for our talks with North Korea. Meetings are currently taking place concerning Summit, and more. Kim Young Chol, the Vice Chairman of North Korea, heading now to New York. Solid response to my letter, thank you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2018
-- Trump agreed to meet personally with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before any potential sit-down with Kim. David Nakamura reports: “Trump and Abe spoke by phone on Memorial Day as a U.S. delegation was negotiating with North Korean counterparts in a bid to keep alive the June 12 summit in Singapore ... [Meanwhile], a separate U.S. team led by White House deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin and deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel is in Singapore to coordinate logistics. … Abe has been concerned about an outcome that could leave Japan's security interests unresolved. … A meeting between Trump and Abe could come on the sidelines of the Group of 7 economic summit in Quebec from June 8 to 9, but it is also possible that Abe will swing by Washington en route to that conference, a Japanese official said.”
-- The United States held off on implementing new sanctions against North Korea as talks continue. The Wall Street Journal’s Vivian Salama and Ian Talley report: “The White House was prepared to announce the ramped-up sanctions regime as soon as Tuesday but decided Monday to indefinitely delay the measures while talks with North Korea proceed, a U.S. official said, citing progress in efforts to repair diplomatic relations between Washington and Pyongyang.”
-- South Korean President Moon Jae-in is in the middle of the tug-of-war as he tries to broker a meeting. Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports from Seoul: “As Kim sought to reopen talks [with North Korea], he turned to Moon. In less than 24 hours, Moon’s motorcade snaked through traffic to cross the demilitarized zone for a meeting. Then, on Sunday, U.S. officials crossed the DMZ into North Korea for talks to prepare for the potential [summit] … The fact that talks resumed a day after the surprise inter-Korean meeting was viewed by Moon’s supporters as a sign of his increasingly effective role. His conservative critics, however, say Moon should be reinforcing the U.S.-South Korea alliance rather than acting as a neutral facilitator … They also say Moon is setting unrealistic expectations and masking fundamental gaps between the two sides on the definition of denuclearization …”
-- Stanford professor Siegfried S. Hecker, a top U.S. government adviser who has repeatedly visited Pyongyang's atomic projects, warns that North Korean disarmament could take up to 15 years. The New York Times’s William J. Broad and David E. Sanger report: “[Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico], argues that the best the United States can hope for is a phased denuclearization that goes after the most dangerous parts of the North’s program first ... Dr. Hecker’s time frame stands in stark contrast with what the United States initially demanded ..."
LETTING TRUMP BE TRUMP:
-- In his second year in office, Trump is unofficially performing the jobs of many senior staffers — including the still vacant role of White House communications director — and has brought onboard a cadre of advisers who are more in sync with his instincts and ideas. Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Philip Rucker report: “Largely gone are the warring factions that dominated life at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in the first year of Trump’s term, replaced by solo players — many with personal connections to the president and their own miniature fiefdoms — laboring to do their jobs and survive. Trump has brought in a handful of senior people who believe in him personally … and are invested in his political success more than some of his first-year aides were. Rather than struggling to manipulate the president to follow their personal agendas, the senior staff members of Trump’s Year 2 — or ‘Season 3,’ in Trump’s reality television parlance — focus on trying to curb his most outlandish impulses while generally executing his vision and managing whatever fallout may follow. Most of all, officials said, they ‘get’ Trump.
“The new cast of advisers — including national security adviser John Bolton, economic adviser Larry Kudlow and ... Giuliani — have generally melded more easily with Trump than their predecessors did. They are generational peers of the 71-year-old president, earned Trump’s appreciation for their vigorous defenses of him on television over the years and treat him like the boss, even if they do not always agree on specific policies. ‘The president has exactly the team he’s always needed,’ said Giuliani.
“At least two people in Trump’s circle — one current White House official and one former — likened the dynamic in the West Wing to HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones.’ They chose the show, they said, not because of the internecine conflicts and deadly family feuds, but because of the general sense of confusion and seesawing fortunes. ‘I would liken it to ‘Game of Thrones’ a little bit, not for the obvious reason, but from a factual standpoint,’ said the current official. ‘No one knows where anyone else is, and everyone is playing everyone else a little bit. Everyone is essentially in business for themselves.’
“Though Trump continues to rage about special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the president seems satisfied — for now, at least — with his new legal team, which includes Giuliani and Emmet T. Flood, the official White House lawyer tasked with handling the probe. Whereas Trump used to leave meetings with his previous legal team red-faced and riled up, said someone familiar with the dynamic, the president these days appears more sanguine after briefings from his lawyers. In many ways, Giuliani, who is prosecuting the case against Mueller in the court of public opinion, has served as a helpful release valve for Trump …”
-- Trump’s fluid and improvisational approach to national and economic security is baffling U.S. allies — and opening American businesses to costly retaliation, according to Republican experts and lawmakers. David J. Lynch and Damian Paletta report: “The president holds an expansive view of national security, describing imported products like steel or passenger sedans as worrisome threats to the United States. Yet he also engages in freewheeling bargaining that treats vital strategic considerations as the equivalent of commercial factors, leaving negotiating partners unsure of his true priorities.” The president last week initiated a Commerce Department investigation that could lead to tariffs of up to 25 percent on foreign cars, arguing that a flood of imports threatens American national security.
- This latest gambit would hit Mexico, Canada, Japan and Germany — all close allies — the hardest. “While U.S. trading partners have been fairly measured in responding to the steel and aluminum tariffs, they will have no choice but to exhaust every option in opposing tariffs on autos,” said John Veroneau, a trade official in the George W. Bush administration.
- “Past presidents generally tried to keep national security issues in one lane and trade policy in another lane,” said Peter Harrell, a former State Department official. “Trump is just more willing to make trade-offs between the two.”
-- Trump’s “Spygate” allegations show how he has continued to traffic in conspiracy theories — even as president — to erode trust and advance his own interests. From the New York Times’s Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman: “Now that he is president, Mr. Trump’s baseless stories of secret plots by powerful interests appear to be having a distinct effect. Among critics, they have fanned fears that he is eroding public trust in institutions, undermining the idea of objective truth and sowing widespread suspicions about the government and news media that mirror his own. … Mr. Trump’s willingness to peddle suspicion as fact has implications beyond the Russia inquiry. It is a vital ingredient in the president’s communications arsenal, a social media-fueled, brashly expressed narrative of dubious accusations and dark insinuations that allows him to promote his own version of reality.”
“The diabolical brilliance … is that many people are simply going to hear the charges and countercharges, and decide that there must be something to them because the president of the United States is saying them,” said presidential historian and biographer Jon Meacham. “The effect on the life of the nation of a president inventing conspiracy theories in order to distract attention from legitimate investigations or other things he dislikes is corrosive.”
- “He’s the blame shifter in chief,” said Trump biographer Gwenda Blair. “Conspiracies, by definition, are things that others do to you. You’re being duped; you’re being fooled; the world is laughing at us. It goes to this idea that you can’t believe anything that you read or see. … He has sold us a whole way of accepting a narrative that has so many layers of unaccountable, unsubstantiated content that you can’t possibly peel it all back.”
-- The Atlantic, “Trump’s Right-Hand Troll,” by McKay Coppins: “Inside the White House, [policy director Stephen] Miller has emerged as a staunch ideologue and an immigration hawk championing an agenda of right-wing nationalism. But people who have known him at different points in his life say his political worldview is also rooted in a deep-seated instinct for trolling. Miller represents a rising generation of conservatives for whom ‘melting the snowflakes’ and ‘triggering the libs’ are first principles. You can find them on college campuses, holding ‘affirmative action bake sales’ or hosting rallies for alt-right figures ... Raised on talk radio, radicalized on the web, they are a movement in open revolt against the dogmas of ‘political correctness’—and their tactics could shape the culture wars for years to come. The story of Miller’s rise to power offers an early answer to an urgent question: What happens when right-wing trolls grow up to run the world?”
-- Former Playboy model Karen McDougal sought advice from a Latin American political operative on what to say about her alleged affair with Trump in May 2016. Beth Reinhard and Emma Brown report: “McDougal and J.J. Rendón spoke for hours over two days in his Miami penthouse ... talking through whether she should sell her account of a decade-old relationship with [Trump]. ... Rendón said the mutual acquaintance who arranged the meeting, Jay Grdina, had asked him to find a buyer. ‘He was proposing for me to find people, people inside or outside the United States — it didn’t matter,’ Rendón said. ‘Whoever I may know in the media or in Hollywood or in the documentary sector or politics.’”
- “The people involved connected in an underground marketplace where secrets about the rich and famous are a form of currency, where brokers can be compensated as readily as sellers and where buyers are not necessarily limited to media companies. The story of their effort offers a glimpse into how Trump’s political rise has turned his past into fodder for people seeking to profit in that marketplace.
- “Though little known in the United States, where he lives in a form of exile, Rendón is a polarizing political force in Latin America ... Critics cast him as a master of campaign dirty tricks. He has been accused of deploying hackers whose strategies resemble those used by Russia in the 2016 U.S. campaign …”
-- Stormy Daniels’s attorney, Michael Avenatti, has complicated the ongoing federal investigation into Trump consigliere Michael Cohen. The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Palazzolo, Michael Rothfeld and Nicole Hong report: “In public, [Avenatti] has been among the most vocal critics of Michael Cohen … But behind the scenes, Mr. Avenatti has slowed prosecutors’ efforts to discuss the nondisclosure agreement with Ms. Clifford’s [that's the adult entertainer's legal name] former lawyer ... Mr. Avenatti also demanded to review documents investigators subpoenaed from Ms. Clifford’s former manager ... Mr. Avenatti hasn’t yet acted on multiple requests from federal prosecutors in Manhattan for Ms. Clifford to waive the attorney-client privilege that prevents her former lawyer from discussing their communications about the nondisclosure deal ... In April, Mr. Avenatti, acting in his capacity as Ms. Clifford’s current lawyer, sent a cease-and-desist letter to her former lawyer, Keith Davidson, ordering him not to disclose any communications related to her ... Mr. Avenatti has told federal prosecutors he is trying to get Ms. Clifford to agree to waive her attorney-client privilege, but prosecutors have come to believe he is stringing them along … The delays in responding to their requests to waive privilege aren’t seen as highly damaging to the probe but have frustrated investigators."
-- “TMZ Goes MAGA: How Harvey Levin’s Gossip Empire Became Trump’s Best Friend,” by the Daily Beast's Lachlan Cartwright: “When the Access Hollywood tape of Donald Trump emerged in the home stretch of the 2016 election, it should have been a gift from the tabloid gods for TMZ. Instead, the celebrity gossip website went into overdrive to help Trump. Within a week of the tape’s explosion, TMZ ran ‘exclusive’ after ‘exclusive’ giving Trump cover. There was a story that Bill Clinton made ‘disparaging remarks’ about women when he played golf with Trump — as Trump claimed Clinton did when the tape dropped. Another story claimed NBC executives ‘had a plan to time the release’ of the tape to sink Trump. … It shouldn’t have been a surprise: It was the result of a cozy relationship between TMZ founder and boss Harvey Levin and Trump, who called each other throughout the campaign [according to seven sources].”
-- In Tennessee, Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s embrace of Trump could determine her ability to win over women voters in the race to replace retiring GOP Senate incumbent, Bob Corker. Mary Jordan reports: “In a year when a surging number of female candidates on the left are tapping into support from women, [Blackburn] — who is facing centrist Democrat and former governor Phil Bredesen in a close Senate race — is taking the opposite tack by embracing the polarizing president. Blackburn, one of Trump’s most vocal congressional surrogates, shares his hard-line views on immigration and often adopts a similarly pugilistic tone, calling herself ‘politically incorrect and proud of it.’ Her alliance with Trump will be center stage Tuesday, when the president is scheduled to appear with her at a rally in Nashville … But Blackburn’s stance puts her at a distance from many of the women she will need to win over: While 59 percent of male Tennessee voters approve of Trump, only 48 percent of female voters do[.] That could be a key factor in what is emerging as a tight race to replace [Corker] — a campaign cited by [Mitch McConnell] as one that could determine control of the Senate.”
-- A Breitbart employee courted Bernie Sanders activist Bruce Carter to get Carter to convince black voters to support Trump or refrain from voting in 2016. Bloomberg News's Lauren Etter and Michael Riley report: “Carter’s recollections and correspondence, which he shared after a falling-out with his fellow Trump supporters, provide a rare look inside the no-holds-barred nature of the Republican’s campaign and how it explored new ways to achieve an age-old political aim: getting the right voters to the polls — and keeping the wrong ones away. … The work Carter says he did, and the funds he was given to do it, also raise questions as to whether campaign finance laws were broken. The group Carter founded, Trump for Urban Communities, never disclosed its spending to the Federal Election Commission — a possible violation of election law.”
-- This year’s Democratic primaries have seen a wave of female candidates challenging male incumbents. The New York Times’s Susan Chira and Matt Flegenheimer report: “As Democratic women run for House, Senate and state offices in historic numbers this year, many are bucking the careful and cautious ways of politics. As Stacey Abrams showed last week, a black woman can win the Democratic nomination for governor in Georgia by running a proudly liberal campaign, for instance. For dozens of these candidates, confronting President Trump and winning seats and offices for Democrats are not the only goals: They want to run and win on their own terms. Some are coming for their own party. And many are not waiting their turn, as past generations were mostly content to do.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump accused Russia investigators of interfering in the midterm elections:
The 13 Angry Democrats (plus people who worked 8 years for Obama) working on the rigged Russia Witch Hunt, will be MEDDLING with the mid-term elections, especially now that Republicans (stay tough!) are taking the lead in Polls. There was no Collusion, except by the Democrats!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2018
He suggested the investigators turn their focus to Hillary Clinton:
Why aren’t the 13 Angry and heavily conflicted Democrats investigating the totally Crooked Campaign of totally Crooked Hillary Clinton. It’s a Rigged Witch Hunt, that’s why! Ask them if they enjoyed her after election celebration!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2018
He then implied the probe was taking time away from other more pressing duties:
Sorry, I’ve got to start focusing my energy on North Korea Nuclear, bad Trade Deals, VA Choice, the Economy, rebuilding the Military, and so much more, and not on the Rigged Russia Witch Hunt that should be investigating Clinton/Russia/FBI/Justice/Obama/Comey/Lynch etc.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2018
On Memorial Day, Trump plugged himself:
Happy Memorial Day! Those who died for our great country would be very happy and proud at how well our country is doing today. Best economy in decades, lowest unemployment numbers for Blacks and Hispanics EVER (& women in 18years), rebuilding our Military and so much more. Nice!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 28, 2018
The editor of Defense One noted that the president, who avoided service in Vietnam, has steered clear of other combat zones as president:
And he touted a candidate in California ahead of next week's primary:
California has a rare opportunity to turn things around and solve its high crime, high tax, problems - along with so many others. On June 5th., vote for GOP Gubernatorial Candidate JOHN COX, a really good and highly competent man. He’ll Make California Great Again!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 28, 2018
Trump again endorsed the conspiracy that his campaign was spied on:
“This investigation involved far more surveillance than we ever had any idea about. It wasn’t just a wiretap against a campaign aide...it was secretly gathering information on the Trump Campaign...people call that Spying...this is unprecedented and scandalous.” Mollie Hemingway— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2018
Trump's 2020 campaign manager, who was digital director in 2016, has been echoing his boss's baseless conspiracy theories:
They put a spy within our ranks. This is the highest more egregious use of government power for political gain in modern history. People need to be held accountable. @realDonaldTrump— Brad Parscale (@parscale) May 27, 2018
The chief strategist of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign replied:
Your campaign manager has been indicted. Your deputy campaign manger is now a felon. Your top foreign policy expert is now a felon. The top levels of your campaign met with Russian agents. Your data firm is now bankrupt & under investigation in multiple countries. Whine on. https://t.co/rKzZ6Yvs0m— stuart stevens (@stuartpstevens) May 28, 2018
Former FBI director James Comey is being mentioned as a third-party validator in a California Democrat's mailers:
The president's son "liked" a tweet that endorsed the idea of him eventually becoming president:
A Johns Hopkins professor made a comparison to current immigration policies:
Forcibly separating parents from children has a history; it is our history. pic.twitter.com/1OgxeCLF8V— Martha S. Jones (@marthasjones_) May 26, 2018
The White House press secretary's son got to hang out with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs:
My son had the honor of meeting a few real superheroes today and now knows what he wants to be when he grows up. Thank you to @GenDunford and all the brave men & women of our great military on this #MemorialDay pic.twitter.com/5AJo3eltpH— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) May 28, 2018
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), wounded in combat, supported the right of NFL players to take a knee:
One day, our nation’s flag will drape my coffin, just as it did my Dad’s and will my husband’s and brother’s. I will always stand on these legs for the flag and anthem, but it was ALSO my honor to defend people’s right to free speech... pic.twitter.com/oYVARtH8o6— Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) May 25, 2018
... including those who choose to #TakeAKnee to express outrage at the glaring disparity in how Americans of different races are treated— Tammy Duckworth (@SenDuckworth) May 25, 2018
From a former deputy assistant secretary of defense:
I like passing the Westboro Baptist protesters on the way into Arlington National Cemetery because they serve as the ugliest and, in a way, best representation of the freedoms for which those men and women buried under those white headstones fought. #1A pic.twitter.com/ZQa09dT1BB— Andrew Exum (@ExumAM) May 28, 2018
And Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) cheered on his (ultimately doomed) hometown team:
-- “Europe is rejecting thousands of Afghan asylum seekers a year. But what awaits them back home?” by Pamela Constable: “During three decades of war and upheaval that ended with the fall of Taliban rule in 2001, millions of Afghans were accepted — if not always eagerly welcomed — by other countries. Hundreds of thousands reached the West and built new lives. But Western Europe has recently tightened borders, and now the migrants face deportation back to a nation little prepared to receive them.”
-- Former Arizona attorney general Grant Woods called on fellow Republicans to protect Mueller’s investigation. From an op-ed for the Arizona Republic: “Let [Mueller] finish the job that he is unquestionably qualified to do. Let the facts exonerate or prove wrongdoing, but don’t let political interference turn us into the kind of country where the rule of law can be dismissed. We all are responsible to stand up for our institutions and ideals, and we will all be measured by whether we did so in America’s time of testing. We are living one of those moments. Insist that our elected representatives speak out and take action to prevent unalterable damage. Congress should pass a bipartisan bill to protect the special counsel’s investigation from political interference, and the Arizona congressional delegation should support it.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“The Trump effect: New study connects white American intolerance and support for authoritarianism,” from NBC News: “A new study ... suggests that the main threat to our democracy may not be the hardening of political ideology, but rather the hardening of one particular political ideology. Political scientists [from Clemson and] Texas A&M have released a working paper titled ‘White Outgroup Intolerance and Declining Support for American Democracy.’ Their study finds a correlation between white American's intolerance, and support for authoritarian rule. In other words, when intolerant white people fear democracy may benefit marginalized people, they abandon their commitment to democracy.” “Since Richard Nixon's ‘Southern Strategy,’ the GOP has pigeon-holed itself as, in large part, an aggrieved white people's party,” said Clemson political scientist Steven V. Miller.
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Shaun King, Linda Sarsour, Others Try To Hammer Trump On Immigration But Hit Obama Instead,” from the Daily Caller: “In an apparent attempt to criticize the Trump administration’s treatment of unaccompanied children at the U.S. border with Mexico, former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau tweeted a link to an AZCentral.com article entitled ‘First glimpse of immigrant children at holding facility.’ ‘This is happening right now, and the only debate that matters is how we force our government to get these kids back to their families as fast as humanly possible,’ Favreau wrote in a now-deleted tweet, which included a disturbing image of two immigrant minors sleeping in a caged enclosure. But the Arizona Central article was from 2014 — during Obama’s presidency.”
Trump responded to the photo mistake in a morning tweet:
Democrats mistakenly tweet 2014 pictures from Obama’s term showing children from the Border in steel cages. They thought it was recent pictures in order to make us look bad, but backfires. Dems must agree to Wall and new Border Protection for good of country...Bipartisan Bill!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2018
Trump will have lunch with Pence and HUD Secretary Ben Carson, followed by a meeting with HHS Secretary Alex Azar and NIH Director Francis Collins. He will later travel to Nashville for a rountable, a dinner with supporters and a rally.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I have been one that has said several times I don’t consider the president a role model for my kids. I don’t want my kids to speak the way that he speaks or to make some of the choices. And that has been the challenge for quite a bit of time to say, how do you balance this out between policy and personal behavior, in the way he has his own unique style?” — Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) on Trump (MSNBC)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- It will be cloudy and humid in the District today with showers possible. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Mostly cloudy, muggy, and warmer with highs in the lower 80s range. An isolated shower or two could turn up, but most of the day is dry. Light breezes blow from the southeast.”
-- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) released the first television ad for his reelection campaign. The ad highlights Hogan’s record on the economy and environmental issues. (Rachel Chason)
-- D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) has a friendly Stanley Cup wager with her colleague from Nevada, Rep. Dina Titus (D). From Emily Heil: “If the Caps win, Titus and her staff will don D.C. statehood T-shirts, but if the Golden Knights best them, Norton and her staff promise to make ‘a comparable show of opposition’ to the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository outside Las Vegas.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Trump laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns for Memorial Day:
Motorcycles rolled through Washington to raise awareness of U.S. military personnel missing in action:
Drone footage showed the effects of massive flooding in Maryland:
And a Little Caesars employee in Florida was attacked by someone wearing a clown mask and wielding a wooden post and scissors: