With Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: Donald Trump’s attacks on George Conway and John McCain are a feature, not a bug, of his reality television presidency.

Holding court with reporters on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday afternoon, Trump called the husband of one of his top aides “a whack job.” That was a few hours after the president tweeted that “Mr. Kellyanne Conway” is a “stone cold LOSER” and “husband from hell.” He had ripped him on Tuesday, as well.

Then Trump flew to a tank factory in Ohio, where he went on a five-minute rant against McCain, accusing the former POW of failing veterans and suggesting that he’s to blame for America’s entanglement in the Middle East. Trump claimed that he “gave” McCain “the kind of funeral he wanted,” a reference to approving the use of a military transport to carry the late senator’s body from Arizona to Washington. “I didn’t get a thank-you,” Trump grumbled.

Just spitballing here, but perhaps that was because McCain had shuffled off this mortal coil?

We’ve grown collectively numb to so much of this drama. But try to imagine George W. Bush ripping into the husband of Karen Hughes, who played a role similar to Kellyanne in his White House. Or Barack Obama mocking George McGovern after he died in 2012. It’s inconceivable.

This week’s beefing speaks volumes about not just Trump but the coarser and crueler era he’s ushered in. If denizens of official Washington thought being here would change Donald Trump, Trump has changed Washington. It’s also inconceivable, for example, to imagine Hughes’s husband Jerry publicly attacking Bush while she worked in the White House, as George Conway continues to slam Trump on Twitter, or McGovern putting out a posthumous statement attacking Obama like the one McCain’s family released last summer.

This president is plainly more at ease talking about personalities than policies. The president relishes having foils. He lets basically nothing roll off his back. He routinely ignores pleas by senior staffers to restrain himself, and he doesn’t mind making things deeply personal. Just ask Rafael Cruz, Michael Cohen, Mika Brzezinski, Megyn Kelly, Stormy Daniels, Carly Fiorina or the slew of other people whom Trump has insulted in recent years.

Trump has supercharged the celebrification of American politics, as a cast of characters you couldn’t dream up cycle through this tragicomedy. TMZ videographers are now a fixture of DCA, staking out the departures level of the airport with cameras as they wait for people who have become famous in the Trump era.

Trump has hired former Fox News personalities and executives for top jobs. He lunched with Kanye West and trashed Taylor Swift in back-to-back days last October. Paparazzi followed Hope Hicks, a 20-something former model, when she was White House communications director and dating then-White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who subsequently resigned after both of his ex-wives accused him of domestic violence.

The list goes on and on, and the soap-opera story lines are hard to keep up with. Remember when Michael Avenatti was exploring a bid for president? It feels like four years ago. In fact, it was four months ago. And he’s no longer representing Stormy.

-- Kellyanne Conway publicly defended her boss yesterday for attacking her husband, praising the president as a “counterpuncher” during an interview with Politico: “You think he shouldn’t respond when somebody, a nonmedical professional accuses him of having a mental disorder? You think he should just take that sitting down?”

Indeed, to her point, Trump seems acutely sensitive to any intimation that he’s mentally ill. The president memorably described himself as “a very stable genius” after Michael Wolff questioned his mental fitness and acuity in his book “Fire and Fury.”

George Conway responded to the president’s latest insults with a stream of tweets, including: “You. Are. Nuts.” Which only appeared to make Trump angrier.

-- “Aides say the new round of frustrations over McCain was fueled by a news report Trump saw recently about McCain’s role in handing over a copy of an intelligence dossier to the FBI after the 2016 election,” Josh Dawsey, Ashley Parker, Felicia Sonmez and Alex Horton report. “Trump inaccurately blames the disputed document for kicking off the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the campaign to help Trump. … Exasperated advisers have encouraged him repeatedly to drop the issue, but his grudge against McCain is particularly visceral, according to current and former aides. The president also fumed about the wall-to-wall news coverage of McCain’s death and that he was not invited to the funeral at Washington National Cathedral, current and former administration officials said.”

-- “Some people close to Trump speculated that he might be consciously trying to remake the news environment — creating a bizarre spectacle to displace criticism of his tepid response to the massacre of dozens of Muslims in New Zealand, the timing of the administration’s decision to ground Boeing’s 737 Max jets, and frenzied anticipation around the expected release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report,” Politico’s Eliana Johnson and Daniel Lippman report. “‘For the most part, most people internally don’t want to touch this with a 10-foot pole,’ said one former senior White House official. A current senior White House official said White House aides are making an effort ‘not to discuss it in polite company.’ Another current White House official bemoaned the tawdry distraction. … ‘Why are we doing this?’”

-- “His posthumous attacks have been cheered at the president’s Make America Great rallies. But at the army tank plant in Lima, where Mr. Trump said a third of the work force is made up of veterans, the denunciations drew no cheers,” the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman reports from Ohio.

-- Trump’s attacks on McCain have once again squeezed Republican lawmakers, who by and large remain afraid to cross him. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), campaigning for reelection in South Carolina yesterday, emphasized that he likes Trump and that they have “a good working relationship” before defending McCain. “I don't like when he says things about my friend John McCain,” Graham told reporters. “And the best thing that can happen for all of us is to move forward and focus on the challenges like North Korea, Venezuela, our growing economy, fixing a broken immigration system and on and on and on.”

-- Ronald Reagan’s daughter, Patti Davis, was asked this week what her father would make of the Trump era. “I think he would be horrified,” she said. “I think he would be heartbroken.”

Promoting a new novel, she gave an interview to Yahoo News for its Web show “Through Her Eyes.” The host, Zainab Salbi, asked Davis about a blog post she wrote in the summer of 2016 that said watching Trump supporters chant, “Lock her up!” about Hillary Clinton reminded her of former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s famous quote: “You can do whatever you want if you keep the people frightened enough.”

“Are you suggesting this is what President Trump is doing?” Salbi asked. “I think it’s very obvious it’s what he is doing,” Davis replied. “If you stir up fear in people, you weaken them. If you divide people, you weaken them. Everything he says is divisive. Look at his rallies.”

“Are you suggesting President Trump is endangering our democracy?” Salbi asked.

“Of course I am,” Davis said. “I mean, he is.”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Venezuelan intelligence forces have detained the chief of staff of opposition leader Juan Guaidó. The detention of Roberto Marrero could signal a new crackdown on the opposition by embattled President Nicolás Maduro. The detention came after a pre-dawn raid in which Marrero claimed government forces planted weapons at his home. (Mariana Zuñiga and Anthony Faiola)

-- New Zealand officially banned military-style semiautomatic weapons and assault rifles, just six days after the attacks on two mosques. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country will launch a buyback program to take existing weapons out of circulation while those who don’t comply will be subject to fines, Anna Fifield reports: “'On 15 March, our history changed forever. Now, our laws will, too,’ Ardern said. … New Zealand has a tradition of hunting and shooting as sport, but there is no legal provision to own weapons for self-defense. Ardern has said there is no reason for New Zealanders to own these kinds of weapons, and there is broad consensus on that argument. The center-right opposition National Party supported the ban.”

-- In the wake of the shootings, New Zealanders are asking themselves: “Are we as open minded as we think we are?” Anna, our Beijing bureau chief and a native New Zealander, has been on the ground this week: “1 in 4 New Zealand citizens was born outside the country. There are more than 200 ethnicities represented in a population of 4.8 million people — more ethnicities than the number of countries represented at the United Nations. As Trump was capping refugee numbers, Ardern was increasing New Zealand’s refugee quota. In a world of growing anti-immigrant populism, many in New Zealand feel like they’re heading in the right direction. … 

“New Zealand does have its white nationalist movements, and they have traditionally been concentrated in Christchurch, a city that has long been notably whiter than the other parts of the country, particularly the North Island. Christchurch has long had an ugly underbelly of skinheads with swastika tattoos. They belong to groups with names like Right Wing Resistance and National Front and occasionally hold rallies.”

-- Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and other militant groups have seized on the massacre to push the narrative that the West is at war with Islam in fresh appeals to supporters and potential recruits. Souad Mekhennet reports: “'In a sense, the Christchurch attacker has done a giant favor for the global jihadist movement,’ said Rita Katz, executive director at SITE Intelligence Group, a private firm that monitors extremist activity online. … Intelligence officials say the video of the killing of Muslim worshipers inside a mosque is an especially powerful way for the groups to spread extremist propaganda. … The groups have highlighted the reactions of leaders and politicians in Western countries, describing what they say is a lack of empathy for Muslim victims in general and a double standard in the way terrorism is defined.”

-- The Defense Department’s independent watchdog has opened an investigation into allegations that acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan violated ethics rules by taking actions to promote Boeing after leaving the aerospace company and accepting a top job at the Pentagon. Paul Sonne reports: “‘The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General has decided to investigate complaints we recently received that [Shanahan] allegedly took actions to promote his former employer, Boeing, and disparage its competitors, allegedly in violation of ethics rules,’ the [inspector general's] statement said. Shanahan, who spent more than three decades at Boeing before joining the Trump administration in 2017, has denied favoring Boeing during his time as deputy defense secretary — the No. 2 post at the Pentagon, which oversees acquisitions, procurement and technology development across the military.”

Shanahan has been angling aggressively for Trump to appoint him as the permanent replacement for Jim Mattis, who resigned in December. It’s unclear how this IG probe will impact his prospects for getting the nod and/or being confirmed by the Senate. Shanahan’s spokesman says he’ll fully cooperate with the investigation.

-- Waving a caution flag, the Federal Reserve signaled that it will not raise interest rates again in 2019, a dramatic about-face that indicates the central bank’s worries about the economy are intensifying. “Growth is slowing somewhat more than expected,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said at a news conference, adding that the uncertainty from the trade wars and what will happen with Brexit are muddling the outlook.

“The Fed entered the year expecting growth of 2.3 percent and that two rate hikes would be necessary to keep the economy from overheating, but on Wednesday it cut its growth forecast to 2.1 percent for 2019 and signaled it was done hiking rates for the year,” Heather Long reports.The Fed’s new projections widened the already large gap between its growth estimates and those coming from the White House, which is predicting 3.2 percent this year and 3.1 percent the next. ... The Fed pulled back … as Europe and China deteriorated economically and U.S. consumers and businesses showed worrying signs of lower spending.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. A federal judge temporarily blocked oil drilling on about 300,000 acres of federal land in Wyoming. The judge ruled that the Interior Department “did not sufficiently consider climate change” when deciding whether to auction off the mineral rights. The decision could force the Trump administration to account for the climate impact of its plans to boost fossil fuel production. (Juliet Eilperin)
  2. Parts of the Midwest are beginning to clean up after last week’s devastating floods, but residents of downstream regions are now preparing for inundation caused by the water’s southward flow. Three-quarters of Nebraska’s counties are under states of emergency as well as other areas of Iowa, Wisconsin and Mississippi. (Ted Genoways and Frances Stead Sellers)

  3. Thousands are still in need of rescue after a cyclone swept through Mozambique. Aid agencies are struggling to keep up with the damage left by Cyclone Idai, affecting half a million people. (Max Bearak)

  4. Overdose deaths caused by the synthetic opioid fentanyl have been rising most sharply among the nation’s African American population. Overdoses related to the opioid remain more common among non-Hispanic whites, but rates among African Americans rose on average 141 percent each year between 2011 and 2016. (Joel Achenbach)

  5. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas asked a question during oral arguments for the first time in three years. The case that sparked him to speak up involves a Mississippi prosecutor who has repeatedly tried an African American man for a quadruple murder and has blocked most potential black jurors. The answer to Thomas’s question revealed that most of the jurors blocked by Curtis Flowers’s defense attorneys were white. (Robert Barnes)

  6. Health officials are downgrading Zika-related travel warnings for pregnant women. The CDC had previously told women who were pregnant or might become pregnant to avoid nearly 100 countries or regions where they might encounter the virus, which can cause severe birth defects. (Lena H. Sun)
  7. A senior DEA official who testified before Congress about the government’s efforts to address the opioid epidemic now does consulting work for OxyContin producer Purdue Pharma. Demetra Ashley told the Senate in 2017 that the government needed a “robust regulatory program” to prevent the diversion of opioids. (NBC News)

  8. Harvard University is at the center of a lawsuit over the ownership rights of images of slaves. In the lawsuit, plaintiff Tamara Lanier argues the university is profiting from 19th-century daguerreotypes of her enslaved ancestors that were originally acquired for the university by a professor who used them to assert that black people were biologically inferior to other races. (Susan Svrluga and Mara Reinstein)

  9. Rep. Max Rose (D-N.Y.) apologized to his Jewish constituents for Rep. Ilhan Omar's (D-Minn.) rhetoric. Rose said he was “horrified” when he heard Omar's comments and told constituents he was sorry for not being able to prevent her from making them. (Fox News

  10. Peloton was sued for $150 million in damages over complaints that the exercise bike company used songs for its streaming workout classes without obtaining proper licenses. The president of the National Music Publishers' Association, which filed the lawsuit, called it “unimaginable” that the well known company had used the unlicensed music for so long. (CNET)
  11. Police in Arizona arrested a mother who allegedly starved and beat her children, who were also the stars of her YouTube comedy series. Authorities said Machelle Hackney, whose seven adoptive children were the faces of the popular series “Fantastic Adventures,” would often force them to stay in a closet with a bare tile floor for days at a time. (Isaac Stanley-Becker

  12. A felon and federal prison consultant who prepares people for life behind bars has a new batch of customers: the parents caught in the college admissions scandal. Justin Paperny, himself a University of Southern California alum, has been getting a lot of calls from parents interested in answers to some prison-related questions, going from the most basic (“How do I use the bathroom in federal prison?”) to the more complicated (“Will I ever work again?”). (Peter Holley)

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- Trump said he would support publicly releasing special counsel Bob Mueller’s report. “I don’t mind,” the president told reporters when asked whether the report should be released. “I mean, frankly, I told the House if you want, let them see it. … Let it come out. Let people see it.” But he added, “That’s up to the attorney general. And we’ll see what happens.” (Aaron Blake)

-- The House Judiciary Committee will meet privately today with Felix Sater, who was the point person for the potential construction of Trump Tower Moscow. Rachael Bade and Tom Hamburger report: Sater “could be asked about whether he was ever instructed to lie or mislead to protect Trump regarding the timing of the 2016 Trump Tower Moscow talks. In early March, the Judiciary Committee asked Sater for any documents related to Trump Tower Moscow as well as to foreign governments participating in or being solicited for business transactions with Trump, his company, his children’s companies or the presidential inaugural committee.”

-- Trump’s former communications director Hope Hicks intends to provide documents for the House Judiciary investigation into whether the president obstructed justice. CNN’s Manu Raju, Jeremy Herb and Kara Scannell report: “Rep. Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, sent Hicks a detailed letter earlier this month, asking for documents on a wide-range of topics ... The request included documents from ‘any personal or work diary, journal or other book containing notes, a record or a description of daily events’ about Trump, the Trump campaign, the Trump Organization and the executive office of the President. … While she has agreed to cooperate, it's unclear how much information Hicks will ultimately provide the committee.”

-- A lawyer for former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates said he has been advised by prosecutors not to cooperate with the congressional investigation. “But Gates' lawyer, Thomas Green, left open the possibility of assisting the panel ‘in the coming months,'" Politico’s Kyle Cheney and Anita Kumar report. “The decision to delay immediate cooperation with the Democrat-led investigation comes days after Mueller signaled that Gates is still cooperating in multiple investigations. Gates was a key witness in the Virginia trial of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort last summer.”

-- The House Judiciary panel is also considering sending additional document requests to Trump associates like Rudy Giuliani, former secretary of state Rex Tillerson and former economic adviser Gary Cohn. The committee has also expressed interest in reaching out to a former lawyer for Michael Cohen who sought a pardon last year for his client. (Wall Street Journal)

FOLLOW THE MONEY:

-- In an op-ed for today's Washington Post, Jared Kushner's father, real estate magnate Charles Kushner, seeks to “set the record straight” about the family's business practices: “In 2007, the Kushner Companies bought 666 Fifth Ave. in New York City for a then-record $1.8 billion. ... But then came the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. ... Critics and media reports suggested that the Kushner Companies itself was somehow jeopardized by 666 Fifth Ave. — and that the company had been forced to seek illicit or inappropriate foreign investors. Both narratives are false. ... [T]rophy assets in New York often appeal to foreign investors — that’s a legal and appropriate stream of funding.”

-- The president's personal businesses have charged his reelection campaign $1.3 million for food, rent and other services since he took office, effectively transferring campaign contributions into Trump's own pockets. Forbes's Dan Alexander reports: “In December, Forbes reported on the first $1.1 million that President Trump moved from his campaign into his business. Since then, his campaign filed additional documentation showing that it spent another $180,000 at Trump-owned properties in the final three months of 2018. ... The campaign has paid $54,000 to Trump Plaza LLC, which controls a property that includes two brownstone apartment buildings in New York City. The reason for those payments, which are listed as 'rent,' remains unclear. ... A person working behind the front desk couldn’t make sense of it ... Six residents also said they had never seen any indication of the campaign in the buildings. A 2016 campaign staffer, however, said people sometimes crashed at an apartment there when they were in town.” 

-- Cindy Yang, the former massage parlor owner in Florida who has been tangled in the prostitution case against Bob Kraft, denied allegations that she's tried to sell access to Trump or peddle influence at Mar-a-Lago. Democrats have asked the FBI to launch a criminal and counterintelligence investigation into her, but Yang told ABC News that she supports the president because she believes he will “make America great again.” From Tara Palmeri, Lee Ferran and Nery Ynclan:Yang [said] she is not a Chinese spy or intelligence threat ... Yang said she is ‘scared’ and feels the Democrats are pushing ‘fake news.’ She said she is Chinese, doesn't speak English well and said she is ‘scared [to] talk.’ … Yang also said she never sold access to the president or the Trump family, despite a website that advertised access to the president.”

-- In a separate interview with NBC News, Yang claimed that Democrats are scrutinizing her just because she’s a Chinese Republican. Cynthia McFadden, Anna Schecter, Lisa Cavazuti and Rich Schapiro report: “Yang added that over her roughly 20 years living in the U.S. she has never had any contact with members of the Chinese government. … Yang said she sold her spa business roughly seven years ago and no longer has anything to do with the salon that's now at the center of a human trafficking investigation. … Yang insisted that no prostitution ever took place at her facilities when she was still operating them. … Yang dismissed the allegations that she could be an unwitting agent of the Chinese government. She said she has attended events at Mar-a-Lago and elsewhere to be social and to give to charity. ‘Nothing to do with politics, just like business networking,’ she said.”

-- It wasn’t just Yang who touted access to the president and Mar-a-Lago on social media. Royals, felons and pop stars have also shared images from the president’s Florida retreat online. The Palm Beach Post’s Christine Stapleton reports: “Although the identity of Mar-a-Lago’s members is a carefully guarded secret and the Secret Service claims not to keep lists of visitors, a quick search on Instagram for photos geotagged at Mar-a-Lago or with #maralago returns tens of thousands of posts, with many of the photos taken inside the club. Among those posting: Royals, Russian celebs, hedge-funders, Fox News personalities along with two Brits dubbed the ‘Bad Boys of Brexit’ who caught the attention of investigators in the U.K. and special counsel Robert Mueller III probing Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election and Brexit vote.” 

-- The Republican National Committee listed a financier charged in the prostitution ring bust in its February donors list. Billionaire John Childs made a total donation of $50,000 to the RNC last month, three days after news broke that he was charged with soliciting prostitution, an accusation he denies. (Politico)

-- Trump still wants Bob Kraft to visit the White House with the Patriots for a Super Bowl celebration party. White House officials said they think this is a bad idea, given the nature of the charges against Kraft, but they believe Trump will invite Kraft regardless of their advice, per Politico.

GET TO KNOW THE 2020 CANDIDATES:

-- Amy Klobuchar was a tough-on-crime prosecutor. Will a diverse Democratic base accept her record? Elise Viebeck and Michelle Ye Hee Lee report: “Christopher Burns, a 44-year-old black man, was unarmed and at home in Minneapolis with his fiancee and three young children when the police arrived in response to a domestic violence call. The officers put him in a chokehold, and he died on the scene, according to the medical examiner. The 2002 incident marked the third killing of a black person by the city’s police department that year, prompting local activists to stage rallies and demand that the two officers involved in Burns’s death face charges. The focus of the community’s anger was Klobuchar, the up-and-coming attorney of Hennepin County. … Klobuchar, then 42, declined to bring charges against the officers, and a grand jury she convened did not indict them.

As chief prosecutor for Minnesota’s most populous county from 1999 to 2007, Klobuchar declined to bring charges in more than two dozen cases where people were killed in encounters with police. At the same time, she aggressively prosecuted smaller offenses such as vandalism and routinely sought longer-than-recommended sentences, including for minors. Such prosecutions, done with the aim of curbing more serious crimes, have had mixed results and been criticized for their disproportionate effect on poor and minority communities.

In her first in-depth comments as a presidential candidate about this period of her career, Klobuchar said she reserved her most aggressive actions for repeat offenders. ‘When I first came into the office, the major thing I heard from the African American community, bar none, was that there were a bunch of their kids that were killed by gangsters,’ she said in an interview with The Washington Post. ‘We simply went in and did our jobs.’”

-- In an awkward moment during his CNN town hall last night, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper recalled going to see the 1972 adult movie “Deep Throat” with his mother. Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn reports: “Hickenlooper began describing how lonely his mother became after he went off to college because his father had passed away during his childhood. One night he came home from college to a feast of a dinner — the same night he had promised a friend he’d go see a movie with him. The Democrat then recalled asking his mother if she wanted to join them, which he admitted was a ‘mistake.’ ‘I didn’t know what an X-movie was,’ Hickenlooper said. ‘We thought it was a little naughty, but we didn’t think it was that bad. You have to understand, I was eighteen years old.’”

-- Hickenlooper also said he would not declare a national emergency for gun violence. “I don’t think that that is the purpose of declaring national emergencies,” he said on CNN. “I think what the president has done on the border diminishes our military efforts at creating processes by which you establish what is a national emergency.”

-- Bernie Sanders hired as his new research director the former Hillary Clinton staffer who built the opposition research book on him four years ago. New York magazine’s Gabriel Debenedetti reports: “Tyson Brody, Clinton’s deputy research director during the last election cycle, will direct Sanders’s research operation. … Brody, who worked on Clinton’s self-research as well as the Sanders oppo files last cycle, is the first Democrat to go from Clinton’s camp to Sanders’s 2020 campaign after their bitter primary fight.”

-- The Vermont senator visited UCLA during his first visit to California as a 2020 candidate — not for a campaign rally but to speak to union picketers who were demanding better wages from the school. Sanders told union members America is at war against working people and highlighted his longtime support for organized labor. (Los Angeles Times

-- Bernie announced this morning that his campaign will pay to offset all carbon emissions produced from campaign-related travel to show he’s serious about climate change. Last week, he announced this campaign will be the first to unionize. 

-- A CNN poll shows that Sanders’s popularity has taken a hit among all voter groups. CNN’s Harry Enten reports: “Our new CNN poll puts Sanders favorable rating at 46% compared to an unfavorable rating of 45% among registered voters … An average of all recent polls put Sanders' net favorability at about -1 points. Compare that to where Sanders was at the end of his 2016 presidential bid. Sanders had a 59% favorable rating to 36% unfavorable rating among all voters in a CNN poll taken in June 2016. … So, what's changed? I'd argue that Sanders was benefiting from not being in a competitive campaign.” 

-- Former vice president Joe Biden's advisers are considering packaging his campaign announcement with the promise that he will pick Stacey Abrams as his vice president. From Axios’s Mike Allen: “The decision poses considerable risk, and some advisers are flatly opposed. Some have pointed out that in a Democratic debate, he could be asked why no one on the stage would be a worthy running mate. Advisers also know that the move would be perceived as a gimmick.” 

-- South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has embraced lefty ideas like court packing and abolishing the electoral college, said slavery reparations are a bridge too far. “I've never seen a specific, workable proposal. But what I do think is convincing is the idea that we have to be intentional about addressing or reversing harms and inequities that didn't just happen on their own,” Buttigieg said in an interview with Esquire.The cleanest way I can think of to do it are through policies. … I've just not seen a cash transfer mechanism that’s been laid out that you can envision working that most people would think is fair.”

-- Beto O'Rourke denounced Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying he has “openly sided with racists.” During an appearance at Keene State College in New Hampshire, O'Rourke also said donations from supporters of Israel had not influenced his approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (The Intercept)

-- A California man was charged with wire fraud and identity theft for allegedly taking $250,000 from people who thought they were donating to the campaigns of candidates like Sanders and O’Rourke. John Pierre Dupont, who has been repeatedly convicted of fraud and even once escaped from prison while serving time for those crimes, allegedly used the fake campaign donations to purchase a Mercedes-Benz and pay his rent. (Kayla Epstein)

-- The GOP-controlled Senate’s slow start this year points to challenges that Republicans will face in presenting a policy agenda for 2020. Paul Kane reports: “When senators return Monday night for a vote on a judicial nominee, it will be just their 50th roll call of the year, and with only a couple of other votes likely for the week, the Senate will hit the three-month mark of 2019 about 50 percent behind the pace that [Mitch McConnell] set in early 2017 after [Trump] took office. … Some GOP strategists are warning that Republicans need a broader agenda on domestic policy issues or else they will remain in the House minority and put their Senate majority in peril next year.”

-- A growing movement among state legislatures to require presidential candidates to release their tax returns could keep Trump’s name off some ballots in 2020. Kayla Epstein reports: “Eighteen states have considered legislation this year that would require presidential and vice presidential candidates to post their tax returns to appear on the ballot during a primary or general election, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). … Democratic lawmakers behind some of the legislation have admitted they are … very much about Trump, which raises legal and political questions about how far states can — or should — go in regulating who appears on their ballot, especially in a hyperpartisan climate.”

-- Former Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum is not running for president, but he promises to do all he can to help Democrats carry Florida in 2020. The Times’s Astead Herndon reports that Gillum wants to build a voter mobilization network in Florida to support the eventual nominee. “Florida is tired of being a cheap date. You can’t just come in when it’s a presidential election and we’ve got a nominee and then do a few months of organizing,” he said. “And having just come from two years on the campaign trail, and having looked very critically at my own race, there’s some things I learned that I recognize that we can do better at. … Given the migration patterns in our state, and given the challenges we have around producing an electorate that's favorable to Democrats to get out and vote — we've got to put more people in the game.”

-- Gillum's goal is to register 1 million new Democratic voters in Florida. “We’ve got over 3 million people eligible to vote, and that’s to say nothing of the 1.4 million returning citizens,” he told Politico, referring to the former felons in line to have their voting rights restored under an amendment approved by Florida voters last year.

THE PRESIDENT'S FAVORITE CHANNEL:

-- Lachlan Murdoch is now the leader of the newly formed Fox Corp. but, unlike his father, he doesn’t have a close relationship with Trump. He’s never even spoken to him on the phone. Sarah Ellison reports: “Without its legacy film and television business, Fox Corp.’s most-high-profile division is Fox News, which is in a symbiotic relationship with the president of the United States. That relationship is already challenging Lachlan to deal with what one Hollywood executive called ‘the elephant in the room’ for Fox — the toxic identity of Fox News in a mostly liberal entertainment industry.” Fox News staffers fear the younger Murdoch is less loyal to the network than his father while the opinionated, Trump-supporting faction of the company is already testing his authority. Lachlan, however, is “politically conservative and defends Fox News even as his left-leaning brother James privately professes embarrassment about the channel. Lachlan has told colleagues that a news operation, be it Fox News or the Wall Street Journal, can hew to political principles, but it should not rely on loyalty to a single politician.”

-- “Donna Brazile Explains Why She’s Working for Fox News,” by the New Yorker's Isaac Chotiner: “On Monday, Brazile announced that she would be joining Fox News as a contributor, writing, in a piece on the network’s Web site, that she is ‘excited to join the honest and passionate debate at Fox News about our future.’ She described the decision as 'rooted in the belief that you cannot make progress, let alone reach compromise, without first listening to, and understanding those who disagree with you on critical issues.'”

-- Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) sued Twitter over an account pretending to be an imaginary cow of his and now the fake bovine has more followers than him. The parody account, @DevinCow, only had 1,200 followers when Nunes brought attention to it. Now it has more than 500,000. He discussed his suit with Sean Hannity on Fox News. (New York Times)

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- Following the example of Donald Trump Jr., national security adviser John Bolton used British media to criticize British lawmakers for how they've handled Brexit. Anne Gearan reports: “Bolton gave an interview to British broadcaster Sky News, accusing political leaders in London of failing voters who chose more than two years ago to quit the European Union and its collective trade policy. Bolton dangled a separate trade deal between Britain and the United States once Britain rids itself of the E.U., saying ‘we are ready to go.’ The commentary from members of Trump’s inner circle was an extraordinary departure from the diplomatic norm, in which close allies such as the United States and Britain are careful not to appear to be meddling in each other’s business.”

-- British Prime Minister Theresa May’s request for a three-month delay on Brexit once again illustrated how she has been left with few allies in the struggle to reach an agreement on exiting the European Union. Dan Balz writes: “May has absorbed the criticism from all sides. She is pummeled on editorial pages and by members of her own party, even her own cabinet. In other times, her government probably would have fallen. Still she has soldiered on, unwilling to admit ultimate defeat, unwilling to step aside, constantly scratching and clawing for more time and more tweaks to an exit agreement in the hope of gaining a majority vote before the deadline.”  

-- Trump said he would not immediately lift tariffs against Chinese goods, even if a trade deal is reached, to ensure Beijing “lives by the deal.” Damian Paletta and Felicia Sonmez report: “His comments came as talks between the two countries have reached a critical stage. They raise the prospect that the tariffs could remain in place for years, as it could take a long time to determine whether China is complying with new rules. Some White House officials had hoped that Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping would be able to meet and ratify a sweeping new trade deal later this month. But negotiations have bogged down amid a dispute over what would happen if China did not abide by the terms of any new deal.”

-- Trump will host Netanyahu at the White House next week. The Israeli leader is traveling to Washington to attend AIPAC’s annual policy conference, a visit that comes as Netanyahu faces a difficult reelection bid next month and allegations of corruption. John Wagner notes: “During a 2015 visit by Netanyahu to Washington to address a joint session of Congress, then-President Barack Obama declined to meet with him ahead of an Israeli election. A spokesman cited a long-standing policy of avoiding the appearance of influencing a democratic election in a foreign country.”

-- During a visit by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Netanyahu again pressed the U.S. to recognize Israeli sovereignty over most of the Golan Heights. The Times’s Edward Wong reports: “There are recent signs that the Trump administration could be moving in Mr. Netanyahu’s direction. An annual human rights report released last Wednesday by the State Department used the phrase ‘Israeli-controlled’ rather than ‘Israeli-occupied’ to describe the Golan Heights, the West Bank and Gaza, counter to the tradition. The Trump administration has also pushed back against United Nations condemnations of Israel’s occupation. … Mr. Netanyahu could press the issue of the Golan Heights with Mr. Trump when he meets with him on Monday and Tuesday. Any big gesture by Mr. Trump could help Mr. Netanyahu in his bid for a fifth term.”

THE IMMIGRATION WARS:

-- Border Patrol facilities in Texas are overflowing, forcing authorities to release migrants onto the streets of border cities. The Times’s Manny Fernandez and Mitchell Ferman report: “'They’re as stressed as we are,’ Jim Darling, mayor of the South Texas border city of McAllen, said of Border Patrol officials. The officials have released more than 2,200 people from government processing facilities in the Rio Grande Valley since Monday, setting aside once again the Trump administration’s vow to end what it calls ‘catch and release’ of those who cross the border without authorization. … The primary migrant-services facility in the region, a former nursing home in McAllen now used by Catholic Charities as an immigrant respite center, is already reaching capacity, with nearly every inch of the low-slung red-brick building occupied. … In El Paso, the sudden release of about 150 migrants on Tuesday set in motion a flurry to try to accommodate them.”

-- The Trump administration is expanding its controversial Migrant Protection Protocols policy that makes asylum seekers wait for their immigration court hearing in Mexico. BuzzFeed’s Hamed Aleaziz reports: “The expansion of the policy … represents the administration’s latest move to dissuade asylum-seekers by instituting sweeping policy changes. Already, the administration has rolled out the policy along other portions of the southwestern border, including in the San Diego region and the Calexico port of entry. The rollout comes just two days before a federal court judge in San Francisco is set to hear an ACLU request to block the policy from continuing to be enforced. Returns of migrants back to Mexico are expected to begin later this week at the El Paso port of entry, according to a Department of Homeland Security official.”

-- A new report by the American Civil Liberties Union found that more than 80 U.S. citizens have been wrongfully targeted for detention and deportation by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officials at a Miami jail. From the Orlando Sentinel’s Bianca Padro Ocasio: “The agency then issues notices, known as ‘detainers,’ to jails indicating that ICE is interested in taking custody of a local inmate they believe to be in the country illegally. Local jails choose whether to honor the detainer by holding the inmate for 48 hours after the inmate has served his or her time for local criminal charges. … The ACLU identified 420 cases between February 2017 and February 2019 in which ICE issued detainers for people who were listed in jail records as U.S. citizens. In 83 cases, ICE later canceled its request for the person to be held — likely because they had been determined to be citizens, the ACLU argues.”

-- The United States denied visas to dozens of women from Africa and Middle Eastern nations affected by Trump’s travel ban who planned to attend a major United Nations conference in New York. BuzzFeed’s Nishita Jha reports: “The US is obliged under a 70-year-old treaty to not restrict people or NGOs from attending the UN headquarters. In protest, women’s rights campaigners are petitioning the US Mission to the UN to streamline visa procedures for those traveling to the UN. … The International Service for Human Rights, a UN-affiliated organization, said it was aware of at least 41 women who have been denied visas to attend the conference this year — but this figure is said to be only ‘the tip of the iceberg’ and likely to increase.”

-- A new poll shows most Americans want immigration to stay the same. Recently released data collected in 2018 by the General Social Survey shows that 34 percent of Americans want immigration levels to be reduced, down from 41 percent in 2016, while 23 percent of Americans want more immigration, up from 16 percent in 2016. Forty-one percent of Americans say they want immigration levels to stay the same. (AP)

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

A Post reporter posed this question amid Trump's escalating feud with George Conway:

Conway responded with a dig at Trump's alleged ties to Michael Cohen's legal troubles:

A Post reporter who recently spoke to George Conway contradicted the president's claim that the two don't know each other:

A Daily Beast columnist reflected on the very public family tension:

The Senate minority leader brought up this issue again in the wake of Trump's latest insults against John McCain:

A Post reporter corrected Trump's assertion about McCain's funeral:

A New York Times reporter noted this from Trump's trip to Ohio:

A CNN host shared this text:

A Post editor captured the state of affairs on the Mueller investigation:

George W. Bush's press secretary defended the administration's decision to enter Iraq:

A former CIA analyst replied:

Meanwhile, Bush scored a hole in one:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) returned to Iowa, where one of her previous campaign stops was interrupted by a college student who was “on a mission” for ranch dressing:

The host of “Morning Joe” gushed about Mayor Pete Buttigieg:

And the National Weather Service shared a little science lesson:

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Bevin exposed his 9 kids to chickenpox, says vaccine not for everyone,” from the Louisville Courier Journal: “In a move experts say is medically unsound — and can be dangerous — Gov. Matt Bevin [R] said in a radio interview Tuesday that he deliberately exposed all nine of his children to chickenpox so they would catch the disease and become immune. ‘Every single one of my kids had the chickenpox,’ Bevin said in an interview with WKCT, a Bowling Green talk radio station. ‘They got the chickenpox on purpose because we found a neighbor that had it and I went and made sure every one of my kids was exposed to it, and they got it. They had it as children. They were miserable for a few days, and they all turned out fine.’ Three medical experts called the practice unsafe and unwise.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Support for impeachment falls among Democrats,” from CNN: “Support for impeaching [Trump] has fallen 7 points since December, a CNN Poll conducted by SSRS finds … The decline — from 43% in favor in December to 36% now — stems largely from a change in Democratic views on impeaching the President. In December, 80% of self-identified Democrats said they were in favor of impeachment — that now stands at 68%, a 12-point dip. … The only major subgroup among which the decline was larger than among Democrats is college graduates: 50% backed impeachment in December, 35% do so now. Combining the two to look at Democrats with college degrees, support for impeachment fell 17 points from 79% in December to 62% now.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will participate in a business roundtable and later sign an executive order.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) was asked during a town hall whether he considers white society superior to nonwhite society. “I don’t have an answer for that,” King replied. “That’s so hypothetical.” (Eugene Scott)

 

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

-- Don’t forget your umbrella because it will be soaking wet today and a flood watch is in effect. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Today’s storm strengthens quickly, keeping rain going into the evening. Once we are through the wash cycle, the back side of this storm spins up some pretty gusty winds for Friday. And this strong cold surge behind the storm is likely to set off a few more scattered showers Friday afternoon. The weekend is not a loss, with plenty of sun and finally some warmth Sunday.”

-- The Wizards lost 126-120 in overtime to the Bulls. (Candace Buckner)

-- The Capitals fell to the Lighting 5-4. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)

-- Starbucks will debut its new, straw-free lids in six markets, including D.C., this summer. (Wall Street Journal)

-- The Fairfax County schools system has launched a review of its seclusion and restraint procedures, following a report that use of the controversial practices is underreported. Debbie Truong reports: “The practices have resulted in injury and, in the most severe cases, death, according to a 2009 federal study that examined the measures dating to 1990. Last year, The Washington Post reported instances of seclusion in Loudoun County Public Schools that parents say endangered their children. The Virginia Department of Education reviewed the Loudoun system’s seclusion and restraint policies and found 'no evidence of systemic failure' to comply with those guidelines ... Parents maintained that the treatment their children were subjected to in Loudoun was indefensible.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper offered this head-scratching answer during last night's CNN town hall:

Samantha Bee introduced a new game for the 2020 race, "Guess Who's Running?":

She also reminded viewers that the Muslim ban is still happening:

Trevor Noah checked in on Trump's fight with George Conway: 

Hasan Minhaj thinks parents who paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their children into USC got scammed:

Trump showed a map to reporters to make the argument that his administration has defeated the Islamic State:

Fox News contributor Katie Pavlich sparked outrage with comments about slavery:

Meagan Flynn reports: “Pavlich later tweeted a further explanation for her comments, saying she misspoke. She meant to say that America was ‘one of’ the first countries to end slavery within 150 years ‘from the point of its founding.’ ‘My argument stands,’ she said in response to journalist Soledad O’Brien, who called her a ‘complete moron.’”