With Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: Democrats controlled the House and the Senate during Bill Barr’s previous tour of duty as attorney general in 1991 and 1992. Steven Mnuchin’s first two years as treasury secretary were marked by unified GOP control of Congress. 

Each sparred with House Democrats on Tuesday during testimony before separate House committees, but the exchanges showed Barr’s experience on the Hill — and that Mnuchin is clearly struggling to adjust to the new reality of divided government.

Both men find themselves in the spotlight this week because of cascading congressional investigations. Barr said he plans to release a redacted version of special counsel Bob Mueller’s report “within a week.” Mnuchin oversees the IRS, and Democrats have set today as the deadline for the agency to provide President Trump’s tax returns.

Neither is inclined to give House Democrats everything they’re asking for, but their differing levels of antagonism in response to tough questions was instructive.

Mnuchin had a 5:30 meeting scheduled last night with a senior official from Bahrain. At 5:15 p.m., several members of the House Financial Services Committee had not gotten to question him yet, but Mnuchin wanted to wrap things up. That led to a fiery exchange with Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). Waters told Mnuchin he could get up and walk out if he wanted, but he wanted her to end the hearing.

“Please dismiss everybody,” Mnuchin said. 

Mispronouncing the word gavel, he added: “I believe you are supposed to take the gravel and bang it.”

“Please do not instruct me as to how I am to conduct this committee,” Waters replied.

“When the Republicans [controlled the House], they did not treat the secretary of the Treasury this way,” Mnuchin said. “So if this is the way you want to treat me, then I will rethink whether I would voluntarily come back here later to testify.”

“This is a new way, and it’s a new day,” Waters said. “And it's a new chair, and I have the gavel.”

Mnuchin acknowledged that Treasury Department lawyers have consulted with the White House general counsel’s office about the potential release of the president’s tax returns, even though the process was intended to be walled off. He emphasized that his staff wasn’t asking for “permission” from the White House, and he didn’t view it as “interference.” But he irked Democrats by saying that Republicans could have requested the returns of Democratic lawmakers and their major donors when they were in power. 

“I am sure there are many prominent Democrats who are relieved that when Kevin Brady was chairman of the committee, he didn’t request specific returns,” Mnuchin said, referring to the Texas GOP congressman who lost his gavel in January.

Every president since Richard Nixon has released his tax returns. They’ve done so because of the public outcry to the rampant corruption that was exposed by Watergate. The 1924 law saying that the IRS “shall furnish” any individual’s tax returns to the chairmen of the tax-writing committees upon request was enacted after the Teapot Dome scandal. Warren Harding’s interior secretary went to prison for bribery related to no-bid contracts for petroleum leases, and lawmakers agreed they had a compelling interest in understanding the financial interests of all the president’s men.

-- Mnuchin’s clash with Waters immediately went viral, which is almost never good for an administration witness. None of Barr’s comments over 2½ hours did, despite the higher national profile of the fight over the special counsel’s report and what critics see as stonewalling.

Barr, for example, flatly refused to say whether he has provided a copy of the Mueller report to the White House for review or briefed anyone there about its contents. “I’ve said what I’m going to say about the report today,” he said firmly.

Barr all but dared Democrats to subpoena him when he redacts grand jury information from the Mueller report. “The chairman of the Judiciary Committee is free to go to court if he feels one of those exceptions is applicable,” he said. He added, “My intention is not to ask for it at this stage.”

Asked about his controversial four-page letter, Barr said: “The letter speaks for itself.”

“From a prosecutor’s standpoint, the bottom line is binary, which is charges or no charges,” he added.

Persuasion has been defined as telling someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. No one was persuaded by Barr or Mnuchin during yesterday’s hearings. But Barr’s deft deflection makes his performance a case study in how other Trump figures might approach tough hearings on the Hill.

Trump wants the oversight being conducted by Congress to appear partisan to bolster his claim that he’s the victim of “presidential harassment.” He no doubt wants his representatives to be confrontational with their interlocutors.

Barr, 68, also has a lawyer’s knack for not directly answering questions. Mnuchin’s background is in finance, a flashy profession, and his dabbling in Hollywood — plus his marriage to an actress — makes the 56-year-old even flashier than most high-flying Wall Street suits.

Barr returns to the Hill today to answer questions from the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that controls the Justice Department’s budget. 

-- The testiest exchanges of Barr’s House testimony actually revolved around the Trump administration’s new efforts to invalidate the Affordable Care Act in court. Barr counseled Trump against the move privately, as The Post has reported, but the president instructed the Justice Department to advocate for killing the law anyway. So the attorney general went along. He gamely defended his boss’s position.

“I’m not going to get into the internal deliberations of the administration on this point,” he said. “I believe that the final decision reached is a legally defensible and reasonable legal position.”

Democrats said Barr was asserting executive privilege.

“Call it what you wish,” the attorney general replied. “I’m not discussing it.”

He also shrugged off concerns by Democrats about more than 20 million people losing health insurance. “I’m a lawyer,” he said. “I’m not in charge of health care.”

The Daily 202's BIG IDEA> Get James' insight into Washington every weekday on your smart speaker or favorite podcast player.
Subscribe on Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod and other podcast players.
 
Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning briefing for decision-makers.
Sign up to receive the newsletter.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have clinched his fifth term in office with the vast majority of votes counted in the Israeli election. Both Netanyahu and his main rival, Benny Gantz, gave a victory speech before the final tally was released, because both of their parties were tipped to win 35 seats in Israel’s 120-member Knesset. Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash report: “But Netanyahu was the one with a clear path to forming a coalition with his natural allies in the right-wing doing better overall, predicted to win 65 seats. To form a government he needs to cobble together a 61-seat majority in the Knesset. … Netanyahu had presented the election as a referendum on his leadership, and his beaming smile showed he believed he succeeded in winning a new mandate from his people, despite his legal challenges. The attorney general in February recommended that the prime minister be indicted in three corruption cases, including on bribery, corruption and breach-of-trust charges, pending a hearing. If he remains in power, Netanyahu is in a much stronger position to fight the charges and draw out the legal process, analysts say. If he forms a new government and survives until July, he will make history, becoming the country’s longest-serving prime minister.”

-- In his celebratory speech, Bibi promised to form a government “swiftly.” Foreign leaders, including Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, have begun congratulating the Israeli leader. (Haaretz)

-- Trump helped Netanyahu win, writes Ishaan Tharoor, who collected a few takeaways from the election: "For the past two years, he vociferously backed Netanyahu on social media and doled out political gifts to the prime minister, from his decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital to his recent recognition of Israeli sovereignty of the disputed Golan Heights. Netanyahu pinned all these concessions to his mast. ... Netanyahu’s demagoguery did the trick once more. When he wasn’t declaiming conspiracies against him and bashing the media on the campaign trail, Netanyahu was stirring fears about Arabs gaining power should his political rivals win.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Sixteen parents, including actress Lori Loughlin, were charged with additional crimes related to the college admissions scandal. The parents were charged with conspiring to commit fraud and money laundering, allegations that could trigger a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. (Susan Svrluga)

  2. New York City ordered mandatory measles vaccinations amid an outbreak in Brooklyn. The city declared a public health emergency as officials said that nearly 300 people have contracted the disease since September in an outbreak concentrated among ultra-Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn. The order for mandatory vaccinations in four Brooklyn Zip codes is by far the toughest action to date on measles by state or local officials. (Lena H. Sun, Alex Horton and Gabrielle Paluch)

  3. An E. coli outbreak has sickened nearly 100 people in five states. Nobody knows where the most recent outbreak came from. (Michael Brice-Saddler

  4. The New Zealand Parliament nearly unanimously passed a law banning semiautomatic weapons less than a month after a white-nationalist-inspired gunman killed 50 at two mosques. The ban makes permanent the temporary restrictions imposed last month on these type of weapons. (Shibani Mahtani

  5. The 2018 launch of California’s DMV voter registration project was the victim of a hacking attempt. The incident was just one of a number of problems, including technological hurdles and suspicions of political motivations, that marred the rollout of the costly system. (LA Times)

  6. Jewish groups and security organizations are planning exercises on how to respond to future attacks on Jewish facilities months after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. Officials in the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, along with members of various nationwide Jewish organizations, met in D.C. to run through how participants would react to a wave of threats and attacks. (Mark Berman)

  7. YouTube users posted a string of anti-Semitic comments in reaction to the live stream of a House hearing on combating the spread of white nationalism on social media. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said it “illustrates part of the problem we’re dealing with.” But his colleague Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) suggested that it could be “another hate hoax.” (Tony Romm)

  8. An image of a young woman standing on top of a car during an anti-government protest in Sudan went viral. The woman, identified by some Arabic-language news outlets as 22-year-old engineering and architecture student Alaa Salah, led the crowd in a chant of “Thowra!” The word is Arabic for “revolution.” (Siobhán O'Grady)

  9. Authorities found 14 tons of scales belonging to nearly 36,000 pangolins, the world's most-trafficked mammal. The diverted haul would have been worth $39 million. (Reis Thebault)

  10. A British woman is facing a three-year jail sentence in Dubai for mocking her ex-husband and his new wife on social media. Laleh Shahravesh appears to have run afoul of the United Arab Emirates’ cybercrime laws by calling her ex-husband an “idiot” and his new wife a “horse.” Activists working to secure Shahravesh’s release say the case shines a light on how the Emirates’ strict laws can affect even those who travel to the country. (Jennifer Hassan)

  11. Chicago's Johnson Publishing Co., which started Ebony and Jet magazines, filed for bankruptcy. The company sold the magazines in 2016, which means the publications won't be affected, but the filing is a reminder of how far the company fell after being one of the most recognizable African American brands in the U.S. (Chicago Sun-Times

  12. Magic Johnson abruptly resigned as president of the Los Angeles Lakers. The five-time NBA champion sounded relieved when he made his announcement two years after Lakers owner Jeanie Buss brought him on to lead the team. (Ben Golliver)

  13. The last remaining Doolittle Raider from World War II, Richard Cole, died at 103. Cole was the last of the 80 raiders who carried out the U.S. attack on Japan during the war. (AP)

THE IMMIGRATION WARS:

-- Trump's purge continues: Claire Grady, the acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security, was technically in line to take over from Kirstjen Nielsen, who formally vacates her office today. But she's been pushed out, too, paving the way for Kevin McAleenan, the president's preferred choice, to lead DHS in an acting capacity. (CNN)

-- “Trump’s increasingly erratic behavior over the past 12 days — since he first threatened to seal the border in a series of tweets on March 29 — has alarmed top Republicans, business officials and foreign leaders who fear that his emotional response might exacerbate problems at the border, harm the U.S. economy and degrade national security,” David Nakamura, Josh Dawsey and Seung Min Kim report. “The stretch also has revealed that a president who has routinely blamed spiking immigration numbers on others — past presidents, congressional Democrats, Mexican authorities, federal judges, human smugglers — is now coming to the realization that the problems are closer to home. Though his aides have taken the fall, and it is unlikely that Trump will blame himself, the president is facing an existential political crisis ahead of his 2020 reelection bid over the prospect of failure on his top domestic priority. ... Some administration officials are privately concerned that Trump, influenced by senior adviser Stephen Miller, a border hawk, will hire only ‘yes men’ who will not stand up to a president whose orders have, in many instances, been blocked by federal courts.”

-- The White House is working on plans to force immigrants seeking asylum at the border to do more to validate that they have a credible fear of returning home, and to put border agents in charge of the interview process. Trump adviser Stephen Miller argued that CBP agents will be tougher on asylum seekers and will allow fewer of them to pass the initial screening than Citizenship and Immigration Services asylum officers, who are currently in charge of the process. About 90 percent of asylum seekers pass the credible-fear interview, but only 10 percent are granted asylum. A CBP official said that border agents are already overwhelmed by the situation at the border and that asking them to conduct these interviews will become an additional burden. (NBC News)

-- The Trump administration is trying to come up with a revised version of the family separation policy that could pass political muster. Nick Miroff, Josh Dawsey and Rachael Bade report: “‘We’re not looking to do that now,’ the president told reporters in the Oval Office, when asked to respond to reports that the White House is planning to separate families again. ‘But it brings a lot more people to the border when you don’t do it.’ Administration officials said Tuesday that while a return to the previous family separation tactic, known as ‘zero tolerance,’ is not in the works, the White House is considering a ‘binary choice’ policy, which would give parents the option of remaining in detention with their children or allowing their children to be separated and placed with another caregiver.” Many of the president’s allies on Capitol Hill, including Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, have already expressed opposition to any return to a family separation policy, even a “binary choice.” 

-- The Pentagon awarded $976 million in contracts to build portions of Trump's border wall. The completion date for these projects is set for October 2020. (CNN) 

-- Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said the Senate would be unable to confirm fellow Kansas Republican Kris Kobach if Trump nominates him to lead DHS. Kobach, who lost the governor's race last year, is openly campaigning for the job and has been promoting himself on Fox. Bryan Lowry reports for the Kansas City Star: “Kobach, the former Kansas secretary of state, has been mentioned as a potential candidate for an array of immigration-related positions … ‘Don’t go there. We can’t confirm him,’ Roberts whispered ... when asked about Kobach Tuesday on his way into a Senate vote. ‘I never said that to you,’ Roberts added, despite the fact that another reporter was present and The Star had not agreed to an off record conversation.” Roberts later issued a longer statement blaming Kobach’s difficult path to confirmation on the Senate’s narrow split between Republicans and Democrats.

-- Nielsen's allies are going into overdrive to rehabilitate her toxic public image so that she can prosper professionally post-Trump. Politico's Andrew Restuccia and Daniel Lippman report: “Nielsen’s allies began spinning a narrative of her tenure that casts her not as an enabler of Trump’s most controversial immigration policies, but as a guardrail against even more extreme action. In particular, they stressed that the policy for which Nielsen is most fiercely reviled — separating detained migrant children from their parents — gave her no pleasure, and that she slow-walked or resisted other Trump demands on border security.”

-- Trump’s claim that the country is “full” ignores the fact that many U.S. cities and towns are struggling with a shrinking workforce, posing challenges for local economies. From the New York Times’s Neil Irwin and Emily Badger: Demographers and economists “see ample evidence of a country that is not remotely ‘full’ — but one where an aging population and declining birthrates among the native-born population are creating underpopulated cities and towns, vacant housing and troubled public finances. … A particular fear, said John Lettieri, president of the Economic Innovation Group, is that declining population, falling home prices and weak public finances will create a vicious cycle that the places losing population could find hard to escape.”

THE REST OF THE DOMESTIC AGENDA:

-- So much for all that talk about the virtues of federalism: Trump is poised to sign a pair of executive orders that would make it easier for energy firms to build oil and gas pipelines and harder for state agencies to intervene. Steve Mufson and Toluse Olorunnipa report: “The executive action seeks to rein in states’ power by changing the implementation instructions issued by federal agencies and changing the deadlines for state action … Critics said that the president’s orders would trample on authority delegated to the states under Section 401 of the Clean Water Act and other congressional legislation. That authority has been upheld twice by the Supreme Court. Trump’s move would benefit, among others, Energy Transfer Partners, whose chief executive, Kelcy Warren, was a major contributor to Trump’s campaign. … State leaders have urged Trump not to try to override state agencies. Doing so, said a letter from the Western Governors Association, ‘would inflict serious harm to the division of state and federal authorities established by Congress.’”

-- The chief executives of the largest U.S. banks plan to tell Congress that the financial system is less risky and more supervised than it was ten years ago thanks to the regulations implemented in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Ackerman and Lalita Clozel report: “In testimony prepared for the House Financial Services Committee, bank chiefs including JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s James Dimon, Citigroup Inc.’s Michael Corbat and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s David Solomon plan to paint a rosy overall picture of an industry House Democrats have targeted for closer scrutiny. … Wednesday’s hearing marks the first time since February 2009 that the chief executives of the major banks have appeared together at a congressional panel. The hearing is part of an opening salvo in House Democrats’ plans to examine the industry’s activities a decade after the financial crisis.” 

-- Bowing to pressure from the Trump administration, which is trying to end affirmative action in higher education, the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center agreed to stop using race when considering applicants to its medical school. Laura Meckler reports: “The action is the first of its kind under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and signals the approach her agency plans to take with other schools. … The school said it was willing to sign the agreement proposed by the Trump administration ‘in an effort to resolve this matter and focus on educating future health care providers.’ … The school agreed to inform staff of the change by March 1 and said it would remove material referencing race and national origin as admission factors by September. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that universities may consider race in admission decisions to create a diverse class but said the programs must be narrowly tailored to pass judicial scrutiny.”

-- House Democratic leaders called off a vote on a two-year budget plan after the party’s liberal wing demanded more spending for social programs. Erica Werner, Mike DeBonis and Rachael Bade report: “The development demonstrated the newfound clout of the most liberal members of the House, and their ability to frustrate their leaders’ plans if they stick together — much as the conservative Freedom Caucus routinely did when Republicans controlled the House. … At stake Tuesday was legislation setting overall federal spending levels for domestic and military programs that depend on annual congressional appropriations. … Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus were pushing an amendment calling for higher levels of domestic spending. With Republicans expected to unanimously oppose the legislation, leaders could lose only 17 Democrats on the vote, giving the group of lawmakers the power to exact their demands. But moderate-leaning Democrats opposed the amendment over concerns about skyrocketing federal spending, deficits and debt.”

-- Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas, who may face a primary challenge in 2020 because of his moderate positions, is urging his fellow Democrats to support Trump’s trade deal. From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Andrea Drusch: “‘They’re moving on this legislation,’ Cuellar said of the Mexican government officials, who he counts as friends. But ‘there are some Democrats who have questions, what is Mexico going to do? So I’m trying to set up a trip and invite some of the members to go there so they can hear from them personally.’ … Cuellar dined with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Democratic lawmakers to discuss the issue Monday night. He is keeping a paper list of Democratic colleagues and whether they support the deal in his office on Capitol Hill. He hasn’t named the Democrats who plan to join him in Mexico over the April recess, which begins next week.”

-- The House yesterday passed a bipartisan bill that includes a provision barring the IRS from creating a free tax filing system, a big victory for the for-profit tax preparation industry. Jeff Stein and Rachael Bade report: “The House approved the bipartisan legislation on a voice vote as liberals, who feared the measure would enrich private tax preparers at the expense of millions of taxpayers, gave up their fight, in part because of the value of other elements of the legislation. The bill includes other changes to the nation’s tax collection agency such as protections from private debt collectors and millions of dollars in program assistance for low-income taxpayers. On Tuesday, ProPublica reported that the legislation included a provision to codify an existing arrangement preventing the IRS from creating online tax filing software to compete with private services such as TurboTax.”

2020 WATCH:

-- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he would release 10 years of tax returns by Monday, acknowledging that he has become a millionaire. The New York Times’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports: “Told that he was being compared to [Trump], who has refused to release his tax returns, Mr. Sanders got more specific: ‘On the day in the very immediate future, certainly before April 15, we release ours, I hope that Donald Trump will do exactly the same. We are going to release 10 years of our tax returns, and we hope that on that day Donald Trump will do the same.’ … Reminded that he is a millionaire, he did not shirk from the description. ‘I wrote a best-selling book,’ he declared. ‘If you write a best-selling book, you can be a millionaire, too.’”

-- Bob Kaiser, the legendary former managing editor of The Washington Post, who is 76 years old, poses a provocative question: Can politicians his age be effective presidents? According to the actuarial tables used by life insurance companies, Trump, Sanders and Joe Biden all have at least a 20 percent chance of dying before 2025. “Reagan was a spry 69 when he won the job,” Kaiser writes. “If Biden or Sanders triumphs in 2020, we enter an unprecedented age of — well, of old age in power. If reelected in 2024, Biden would start his second term at 82, Sanders at 83. If Trump won again, he’d still be president at 78 … Experts on aging (none as old as I) were generally more sympathetic to the idea that someone in their late 70s might be an effective president, but no one I’ve talked to thinks this is an ideal age for the role.”

-- During a CNN town hall event, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said she’s “ashamed” about her past positions on immigration. Politico’s Matthew Choi reports: “’When I was a member of Congress from upstate New York, I was really focused on the priorities of my district,’ the New York senator said … ‘When I became senator of the entire state, I recognized that some of my views really did need to change.’ … Those old stances especially corrode her platform as the antithesis of President Donald Trump … Gillibrand said she has changed considerably since her times in the House … She used her ideological evolution to further distance herself from the president, who she said is incapable of change.”  

-- The White House is considering auctioning off parts of Florida’s coastal waters for oil and gas drilling, something Republicans say could cost Trump during the 2020 election.Politico’s Zack Colman and Ben Lefebrvre report: “The idea is so politically toxic in Florida that past presidents haven't even entertained it. But behind the scenes, oil and gas interests are appealing to Trump's desire to turbocharge U.S. energy production, including his past openness to drilling off the Florida coast. The president and his top advisers haven't yet weighed in on the plan taking shape inside his Interior Department. But giving it the green light would be tantamount to a declaration of war on his second home state.”

-- Warner Bros. Pictures filed a copyright infringement complaint against Trump after he shared a 2020 campaign video that uses part of the score from the studio's 2012 film “The Dark Knight Rises.” The video, which the president shared under the words “Make America Great Again!” had more than a million views before it was taken down. (BuzzFeed News

-- Democrats who do not maintain a social media presence will play a large role in determining the party’s presidential nominee. And they are more diverse and less progressive than their tweeting counterparts, the New York Times’s Nate Cohn and Kevin Quealy note in a smart analysis: “The outspoken group of Democratic-leaning voters on social media is outnumbered, roughly 2 to 1, by the more moderate, more diverse and less educated group of Democrats who typically don’t post political content online, according to data from the Hidden Tribes Project. This latter group has the numbers to decide the Democratic presidential nomination in favor of a relatively moderate establishment favorite, as it has often done in the past. … It makes it easier to imagine how Joe Biden might not merely survive questions about whether he touched women in ways that made them feel uncomfortable, but might even emerge essentially unscathed.”

-- Pette Buttigieg often talks about the successful redevelopment project he led as mayor of South Bend, Ind., where 1,000 vacant and abandoned houses were bulldozed or repaired within 1,000 days. The reality is much different to the majority black and Latino population that was affected by it. BuzzFeed News’s Henry J. Gomez reports: “The fallout from his approach to urban redevelopment has relevance in a primary where candidates promote economic and racial equality. The [program] promoted neither, at least not at first, in the minds of critics … More broadly, [residents] saw a mayor who wanted what they wanted — revitalized neighborhoods — but who didn’t listen to their concerns about displacement. And there were suspicions that homes were targeted because they stood in the way of other city-endorsed residential development plans that would price out longtime area homeowners and renters.”

THE NEW WORLD ORDER: 

-- Trump welcomed Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to the White House and then delivered a diatribe against a recent appeals court decision that stopped his attempt to stem the flow of migrants into the U.S. It felt particularly discordant delivered next to Sissi, a leader who has presided over an authoritarian consolidation of power in Egypt. Anne Gearan reports: “Sissi has jailed opponents and allegedly approved their torture, muzzled the press and silenced critics as he expanded the power of the security forces. … Trump, asked about what human rights groups call a blatant power grab in Egypt, said he was unaware of it. ‘I think he’s doing a great job,’ Trump said amid the din of reporters shouting questions in the Oval Office. ‘I don’t know about the effort. I can just tell you he’s doing a great job. Great president.’”

-- The U.S. is pursuing aircraft tariffs against a broad collection of aircraft and aircraft parts from the European Union in an attempt to force action in a trade dispute involving Airbus. Aaron Gregg reports: “The U.S. trade authority released a preliminary list of products to be covered by the additional import duties, including helicopters, passenger and cargo aircraft, fuselages, and other aircraft parts. It excluded aircraft sold to the U.S. military. ‘Our ultimate goal is to reach an agreement with the EU to end all WTO-inconsistent subsidies to large civil aircraft,’ the U.S. trade representative, Robert E. Lighthizer, said … The import duties would be imposed depending on the outcome of a World Trade Organization case over subsidies awarded to Airbus, which is expected to be resolved this Summer. If tariffs were imposed on Airbus jets it could significantly benefit Boeing’s U.S. prospects, although the company could be caught up in E.U. retaliation abroad.” The U.S. is also planning on implementing sanctions on a diverse list of European products, including swordfish, brandy and brooms.

-- The future of Brexit may depend on an outsider: French President Emmanuel Macron. James McAuley and Michael Birnbaum report: “Macron has taken the hardest line among European leaders on Brexit. … When E.U. leaders gather Wednesday in Brussels to consider Prime Minister Theresa May’s request for a further delay, Macron is expected to be the loudest voice of resistance. Any decision must be unanimous. … May devoted her final hours of lobbying on Tuesday to meet with Macron in Paris and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. … The German media called May’s travel on Tuesday ‘the begging tour.’ Merkel has tended to be more charitable than Macron ... A Downing Street spokesman said that in their Tuesday meeting, May and Merkel ‘agreed on the importance of ensuring Britain’s orderly withdrawal from the European Union.’ A Downing Street readout of the Macron meeting did not mention such agreement.”

-- Iran’s leader warned the U.S. of serious repercussions after it designated the Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s most potent military force, a terrorist organization. Erin Cunningham reports: “The decision would allow the Trump administration to seek criminal penalties against elements of the Guard, one of the most revered institutions in Iran. … Iran’s often-bickering leaders have presented a united front in the face of the U.S. move. On Tuesday, lawmakers in parliament wore olive-green fatigues to demonstrate solidarity with the Guard and opened the session with chants of ‘Death to America.’ President Hassan Rouhani called the U.S. move a ‘mistake’ and said it would only boost the organization’s popularity, at home and abroad. … Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei … denounced the U.S. decision, saying such ‘plots’ will come back to haunt Trump and his administration.”

MORE DRAMA ON CAPITOL HILL:

-- Awww, shucky ducky: Republican senators are begging Trump to reconsider his nomination of Herman Cain to the Federal Reserve board of governors. Politico’s Burgess Everett reports: “Senate Republicans are warning the White House that the 2012 presidential candidate will face one of the most difficult confirmation fights of [Trump’s] presidency and are making a behind-the-scenes play to get the president to back off. … The GOP has generally waved through Trump’s nominees over the past two years, but are reluctant to do the same for the Fed, amid fears that Trump’s push to install interest-rate slashing allies will politicize the central bank. … Some GOP senators said that Cain’s difficult path may have actually eased Stephen Moore’s confirmation to the Fed, despite Moore’s own problems with unpaid taxes and partisan reputation. After all, Republicans may be hard-pressed to revolt against both of Trump’s nominees.”

-- Mitch McConnell refused to publicly endorse Cain for the Fed job. Colby Itkowitz and Seung Min Kim report: “We’re going to look at whoever he sends up, and once he does, we’ll take a look at it,’ McConnell told reporters. McConnell’s noncommittal stance on Trump’s preferred picks, neither of whom have been officially nominated yet, suggests at minimum serious trepidation among Senate leadership that these men are worthy of consideration for such crucial financial roles.”

-- Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) doubted John Kerry's climate change credentials during a House Oversight Committee hearing, which prompted disbelief in the former secretary of state, who helped broker the 2015 Paris climate accords. Colby Itkowitz reports: Massie “began his line of questioning attempting to undermine Kerry’s authority on the issue by asking him about his 'science degree' from Yale. Kerry explained it was actually a bachelor of arts in political science. 'How do you get a bachelor of arts in a science?' Massie asked. 'Well, it’s liberal arts education . . .' Kerry replied. 'So, it’s not really science,' Massie said. 'I think it’s somewhat appropriate that someone with a pseudoscience degree is here pushing pseudoscience in front of our committee today.' 'Are you serious?' Kerry said. 'Is this really serious, this is really happening here?' It went on like this for several more minutes with Massie continuing to conflate natural sciences with social sciences. Kerry ... sat through four hours Republicans trying to poke holes in scientific evidence that climate change is real.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

This flag was spotted in Israel during an election watch party:

The outgoing homeland security secretary announced last night that her No. 2 is also leaving:

The House Intelligence Committee chairman mocked Trump for the high number of vacancies in his administration:

A Post reporter noted this of a video Trump shared promoting his reelection bid:

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) called one of Trump's top advisers a white nationalist:

One of Omar's Republican colleagues replied:

The president amplified Omar's critics. Ironically, Omar could lose a Democratic primary in Minnesota, but Trump's attacks might improve her odds of holding her seat in a deep-blue district:

Meghan McCain dismissed Trump's message about National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day given the president's disparaging remarks about her father, who spent five years in captivity in North Vietnam.

A television producer got the hashtag #YachtCocaineProstitutes trending after news broke that Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) was suing McClatchy in connection to an article about him with a headline featuring those words:

The president's son announced a new addition to the Trump family: 

And a Republican senator received a Grammy for championing legislation that gives musical artists more of the royalties when their work is sold by streaming services:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- Nieman Lab, "When local newspapers shrink, fewer people bother to run for mayor," by Joshua Benton: "Local newspapers are basically little machines that spit out healthier democracies. And the best part is that you get to reap the benefits of all those positive outcomes even if you don’t read them yourself. (On behalf of newspaper readers everywhere: You’re welcome.) Now a new paper suggests that weakened newspapers hurt communities in a different way: by reducing the number of options voters have to choose from. The paper in Urban Affairs Review, by Cleveland State’s Meghan Rubado and the University of Texas’ Jay Jennings, examines what happens to mayoral elections in cities where staffing at the local daily gets cut."

-- Hollywood Reporter, “John F. Kennedy Jr. and George Magazine: A Story of Politics, Love and Loss, 20 Years Later,” by Lisa DePaulo: “My first encounter with John: I had handed in a piece for the third issue of the magazine that everyone was talking about while toiling for another in Philadelphia. One day, at my office, a voicemail. ‘Hi, Lisa? It's John Kennedy. I just read your story and I love it! Please give me a call. I want you to be part of the George family.’ … I don't believe John ever fathomed that he would die at 38. He didn't buy into things like The Kennedy Curse. Stuff like that made him hurl. But 20 years later, I do think he would want to be memorialized by the cast of characters who knew the real John — and helped him create the magazine he loved. Meet George.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Candace Owens wrongfully called GOP’s Southern strategy a ‘myth,’” from Colby Itkowitz: “Candace Owens, an African American conservative commentator, claimed Tuesday that Republicans never tried to siphon off white voters in the South by using race as a wedge issue. Owens, who was invited to testify before the House Judiciary Committee during a hearing on the rise of white nationalism, said the well-documented Southern strategy is a myth that ‘never happened.’ … But the political realignment that began as a result of the civil rights movement in the 1960s is well established. … In fact, when Ken Mehlman was Republican National Committee chairman, he effectively apologized for that political strategy at the 2005 NAACP national convention.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Rep. Eric Swalwell’s presidential campaign video receives thousands of downvotes on YouTube,” from Fox News: “Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., officially entered the 2020 White House race Monday night but his campaign video fell flat with some social media users. The 38-year-old four-term congressman made the announcement during a taping Monday of CBS’ ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.’ He released campaign videos on his Twitter and YouTube pages. … The video on YouTube received more than 3,200 dislikes and more than 950 comments as of Tuesday afternoon of people criticizing Swalwell over his controversial tweet from November in which he mentioned a ‘short war’ and government nukes while discussing gun rights.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will fly to San Antonio for a roundtable with supporters and a speech at a fundraising lunch. He will then travel to Houston, where he will sign an executive order, participate in another supporter roundtable and speak at a fundraising dinner before returning to Washington.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

Vladimir Putin mischaracterized the findings of the special counsel’s investigation, falsely claiming that it found no evidence of Russian election interference: “We have been saying from the start that this notorious commission led by Mr. Mueller won’t find anything, because no one knows better than us: Russia has not meddled in any U.S. election.” (AP)

 

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

-- There will be beautiful skies and bright sun all day today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “For those who thought temperatures near and past 80 the past two days were too warm, perhaps you’ll be pleased with cooler 60s today and tomorrow. Yeah, I know, right in between would be perfect. But we all know that’s not how we roll around here. The chance of showers and maybe a thunderstorm returns late Friday before a mixed weekend, with a nice Saturday and potentially unsettled Sunday.” 

-- The Nationals beat the Phillies 10-6. (Sam Fortier)

-- A pediatric medical center funded by a gift from the United Arab Emirates will open next year at the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center site in D.C. Justin Wm. Moyer reports: “The facility, which will be affiliated with Children’s National Health System, will open in 2020 on about 12 acres in Northwest Washington. The new Children’s National Research and Innovation Campus will research rare childhood illnesses and host an outpatient clinic. The $190 million campus will be supported by $30 million from the UAE — a gift that comes 10 years after the Arab nation gave $150 million to build the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, named for the nation’s founding father, a few miles away at Children’s National.” 

-- Amazon’s complicated relationship with Seattle could provide a road map to how the retail giant will affect the D.C. area when it moves into its new headquarters in Northern Virginia. Robert McCartney reports: “Amazon’s rise in Seattle has earned it a mixed reputation as both a progressive-minded economic godsend for the city and a self-centered behemoth contributing too little to address the disruption it helped create, analysts say. The online retail giant has created 45,000 jobs here, a welcome investment in this city of 725,000 people. … But Amazon also draws much of the blame for pushing up housing costs and homelessness, aggravating traffic and even diluting Seattle’s identity as a quirky, laid-back city.” (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Post.)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Owens lashed out at Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) after he played a clip of controversial comments she made about Hitler:

Stephen Colbert tried to find evidence for Trump's claim that Obama separated migrant parents from their children at the border:

Trevor Noah tackled the tug-of-war for the Mueller report: 

A "Jeopardy" contestant won $110,000, setting a single-day record: 

And a 7-year-old blind boy known by his fans as Avett Ray has become known for his amazing, self-taught skills on the piano: