With Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: President Trump said he wants to get “tougher” on immigration as he purged the senior ranks of the Department of Homeland Security. Bill Barr is following through.

The attorney general announced late last night that migrants who come to this country seeking asylum may wind up jailed indefinitely while they wait months or even years for their claims to be considered. Barr’s 11-page decision applies to migrants who have already established “a credible fear of persecution or torture” in their home country.

This is the first time that Barr has used his position as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer to overrule precedent-setting decisions made in immigration court. His ruling reverses a decision made in 2005 after an Indian man entered the United States from Mexico and sought asylum. The clear intent is to deter people from trying to seek asylum, no matter how credible their claims.

-- The latest hard-line move comes on the eve of the release of Barr’s redacted version of special counsel Bob Mueller’s 400-page report, which details Russian interference in the 2016 election and purportedly lays out evidence on both sides of the question about whether Trump sought to obstruct justice during the federal investigation that followed. Members of Mueller’s team have privately expressed frustration about the way Barr characterized their findings in his initial four-page summary letter.

-- A federal judge appointed by George W. Bush said yesterday that Barr has sowed public distrust about the Justice Department’s handling of Mueller’s probe. “The attorney general has created an environment that has caused a significant part of the public … to be concerned about whether or not there is full transparency,” U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton said during a hearing on a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

Walton denied BuzzFeed’s request to issue a preliminary injunction requiring Mueller’s report to be released. “However, the judge said Tuesday that he plans to ‘fast track’ the issue of the report and what information in it must be disclosed, then deal with other records from Mueller’s probe,” Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports. “He also said he’ll want to consider whether to order the government to give him an unredacted copy of the report so he can assess whether the redactions are proper. ‘That’s something we will have to work through. I’ll have to think about it,’ he said. Walton said he hopes any disputes will be limited because the Justice Department makes the bulk of the document public. ‘I would hope that the government is as transparent as it can be,’ the judge said.”

-- This asylum ruling is another proof point. During his first two months on the job, Barr has often seemed focused on currying favor with the president and avoiding the fate of Jeff Sessions, whom Trump ridiculed publicly and referred to as “Mr. Magoo” privately. He testified last week that he believes “spying did occur” on Trump’s 2016 campaign. Despite reportedly having private reservations, Barr’s Justice Department recently changed course and advocated for the full invalidation of the Affordable Care Act in court. He’s vigorously defended the president’s legally dubious move to divert money appropriated by Congress for military construction toward border wall construction, even though the legislative branch explicitly rejected the idea of spending money for this purpose.

-- Barr’s full-throated embrace of the Trump agenda continues to give fresh fodder for his detractors to question whether he’s an honest broker. David Kris, former assistant attorney general for national security from 2009 to 2011, and Michael Morell, a former deputy director and twice acting director of the CIA, have an op-ed in today’s paper explaining why Barr’s “spying” comment last week undermines the attorney general’s standing.

“The reference to ‘spying’ created the impression that Barr was pandering to the president, succumbing to Trump’s relentless pressure to shade the truth (or worse) in service of his own narrow, personal interests,” Kris and Morell explain. “This surely pleases the president, but it undermines Barr’s credibility and corrodes the public’s perception of him as an agent of apolitical justice. Whether those concerns are valid or not, the perception alone is damaging.

-- Back to the border, Trump calls the current system “catch and release.” He argues that the United States has been a magnet for immigration because asylum seekers know they’ll be released on their own recognizance while awaiting a hearing if they can make credible claims. Trump insists that most of these claims are fraudulent. “Parole by the Department of Homeland Security will be the only way asylum seekers who crossed the border illegally can be released once the order goes into effect,” Reis Thebault and Michael Brice-Saddler report. “It is not clear how DHS would carry this out. ICE is detaining 45,000 to 50,000 people a day, but it is not authorized to detain children for longer than 20 days. Sixty percent of the more than 100,000 apprehensions last month were families or unaccompanied minors who currently cannot be held indefinitely.”

-- A court fight over the new policy of imprisoning asylum seekers is certain. Barr decreed that the new policy will go into effect in 90 days, giving time for legal challenges. The director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project promises one will be forthcoming:

-- Sarah Pierce, an immigration lawyer and analyst for the Migration Policy Institute, said Barr’s decision will lead to more and longer detention for asylum seekers. But she said the bigger story emerging from last night may be “the absolutely unprecedented ways” the Trump administration is using the attorney general’s referral and review power to advance its immigration agenda. She said Trump’s two attorneys general have referred 10 immigration cases to themselves over the past two years, and six relate to asylum. Barack Obama’s Justice Department did this only four times over eight years, and Bush’s DOJ did it nine times. “The cherry on top is the DOJ's plans to hugely expand the AG's referral power,” Pierce tweeted. “This administration is finishing off the transformation of this power from a quasi-judicial mechanism to an outright and powerful political tool. … And those certainly won't be the last.”

-- Others in the legal community who have been critical of Trump also faulted Barr’s decision:

From a University of Minnesota law professor who served as the chief White House ethics lawyer during Bush’s second term:

A former federal prosecutor and current CNN legal analyst:

A Fordham Law School professor:

-- Democrats are also seizing on Barr’s move against asylum seekers:

From Connecticut’s senior senator, who sits on the committee responsible for oversight of the Justice Department:

From a 2020 presidential candidate:

From a former House Republican staffer and CIA officer who ran for president in 2016 as an independent:

MORE ON THE MUELLER REPORT:

-- Dismayed by Barr’s approach and convinced that he will over-redact Mueller’s findings, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee plan to subpoena the Justice Department as soon as Friday for the special counsel’s full report. “Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) has refrained from issuing subpoenas for the report and the testimony of individuals questioned during Mueller’s investigation — including former White House counsel Donald McGahn and former White House communications director Hope Hicks — until [Barr] releases the report,” Karoun Demirjian reports. “Judiciary Committee Democrats have readied a number of subpoenas. And as Nadler considers the opportune moment to issue one for the full Mueller report, they also are contemplating when and how they might seek to secure a judge’s order to release grand jury materials.”

-- “White House Counsel Pat Cipollone and the president’s legal team are preparing for an extensive legal battle, if necessary, over subpoenas from Congress,” Tom Hamburger, Demirjian, Josh Dawsey and Rachael Bade report. “The White House also plans to hold back information being sought about how particular individuals received their security clearances, and will reject requests for notes on the president’s meetings and phone calls with foreign leaders, senior adviser Jared Kushner’s interactions with foreign leaders, and the president’s conversations with Cabinet members about initiatives, among other topics. …

  • Cabinet agencies have been told to seek White House permission before giving any documents to Congress, and lawyers in the counsel’s office are closely monitoring the requests …
  • House Democrats said … they have little confidence that the Justice Department under [Barr] will enforce contempt actions if their demands are flouted, but they believe subpoenas can be enforced through civil litigation. … House Democratic legal advisers have been poring over past congressional subpoena litigation as a guide as they map out their strategy.”

-- People close to Trump believe Mueller’s report could prove embarrassing to the president. “The damage will be in the details, these advisers believe, given the broad strokes of what Mueller has been investigating are mostly already known,” CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Kaitlan Collins report. “And because the report won't be based on anonymous sources, but will instead contain accounts attributed to former officials and allies of the President relayed under penalty of lying to federal investigators, it will carry a heavy weight of credibility.”

MORE ON THE IMMIGRATION WARS:

-- The House Judiciary Committee opened a separate probe on Tuesday into press reports that the president directed acting homeland security secretary Kevin McAleenan to intentionally break asylum laws and otherwise act in contravention of court orders. “The request follows reports by CNN and the New York Times that Trump told McAleenan to stop allowing migrants to claim asylum at the U.S. border — then promised he would pardon him should he find himself in legal jeopardy for breaking the law,” Bade reports. “The Washington Post was not able to independently confirm these two reports. The Judiciary panel has been investigating whether Trump has abused his power and engaged in public corruption. The chairmen suggested in their Tuesday letter that the reported allegations fall squarely into their probe.”

-- The Republican mayor of Yuma, Ariz., signed an emergency proclamation saying his community is struggling to cope with the number of families being released in his town by Border Patrol. “Mayor Douglas Nicholls said he was seeking help from state and federal authorities as a result of the ‘imminent threat’ posed by ‘too many migrant releases into our community,’” the New York Times's Miriam Jordan reports. “‘It is something that we need to do to make sure that our community is maintained and that the human rights of all the migrants are maintained and that we have a path forward that respects both,’ said Mr. Nicholls ... Despite the crush of the arrivals, authorities have not dropped migrants in the streets of Yuma. Mr. Nicholls said the city had not spent any of its own funds on the migrants, and had relied instead on donations from the community, for everything from coloring books to diapers.”

-- Democratic presidential candidates, meanwhile, are staking out far more liberal stances on immigration than they ever did during previous campaigns. “Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, one of the latest presidential candidates to enter the race, says there is only one way Democrats can beat Trump on his signature immigration issue in working-class places such as his own Youngstown district: Start by talking to voters about border security,” Michael Scherer reports. “But so far this year, most of Ryan’s rivals have chosen a different path, almost entirely focused on denouncing Trump’s policies as un-American, bigoted and inhumane, while offering new policies that are more welcoming to undocumented immigrants than anything offered by Obama or, in some cases, the party’s last nominee, Hillary Clinton.”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Trump issued the second veto of his presidency, rejecting a bipartisan bill to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. Felicia Sonmez, Josh Dawsey and Karoun Demirjian report: “The measure had passed the House on a 247-to-175 vote this month and was approved by the Senate last month with the support of seven Republicans. … The veto means the United States will continue its involvement in Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign against Yemen’s Houthi rebels, waged in the name of holding back Iran’s expansion in the region. … A senior administration official said that Trump was involved in drafting and editing the language of Tuesday’s veto statement and that he had told senators for some time he was going to issue a veto. … Trump viewed the Yemen vote as a rebuke of his administration after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and urged some senators not to go along with it, according to White House and congressional aides.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. More details have been made available about the case against four Navy SEALs and Marines who face murder, hazing and obstruction-of-justice charges after allegedly attacking an Army staff sergeant. Green Beret Logan Melgar died in Mali when the four men, fueled by alcohol, allegedly broke into his room and put him in a chokehold after he left them behind in traffic on the way to a party. (Dan Lamothe and Brad Wolverton)

  2. James Murdoch, one of Rupert's sons, is looking to invest $1 billion into new media companies. Murdoch has decided to start his own business after his family sold many of its assets to Disney, and his plans include potentially funding a liberal-leaning news outlet. FEC filings show he maxed out to Pete Buttigieg's campaign. (Financial Times

  3. Denver-area schools are closed today, and a massive manhunt is underway for a woman who the FBI says has shown an “infatuation” with the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, which happened 20 years ago this week. Police identified the suspect as 18-year-old Sol Pais, whom they described as armed and extremely dangerous. (Reis Thebault and Jessica Contrera)

  4. A 71-year-old man was charged with 100 counts of rape. Harvey J. Fountain’s alleged crimes began in Pineville, La., during the early 1970s and continued for a decade, involving children under 13. (Deanna Paul)

  5. A man charged with attempted murder after allegedly throwing a 5-year-old boy from a balcony at the Mall of America told authorities repeated rejections from women caused him to lash out. Emmanuel Aranda said he went to the Bloomington, Minn., mall “looking for someone to kill.” According to charging documents, the boy remains in critical condition after suffering “massive head trauma.” (Kayla Epstein and Katie Mettler)
  6. Parents say they’re dreading life without Fisher-Price’s Rock ’n Play Sleeper after the company recalled it. The cradle was popular among sleep-deprived parents who said they’re also shocked, frustrated and angered that an apparently dangerous item remained on shelves for so long. (Abha Bhattarai

  7. Apple and Qualcomm settled their years-long legal fight over the use of Qualcomm’s chips in iPhones. Apple will make a payment of an unspecified amount to Qualcomm, and the companies will enter a six-year licensing agreement and a multiyear supply agreement. (Reed Albergotti)

  8. The FDA ordered that manufacturers halt the sales of a vaginal mesh used in many pelvic procedures. The agency said the companies hadn’t demonstrated a “reasonable assurance” of safety and effectiveness for the devices. (Laurie McGinley)

  9. Uber said it modified some of its electric bikes after it identified a problem similar to the one that prompted Lyft to recall its electric bikes in several cities. Uber, which operates the electric-bike-share service JUMP, said the brakes on the bikes were modified over a year ago. (Faiz Siddiqui

  10. Thousands of texts and emails about the investigation into Jussie Smollett’s allegations were made public by Cook County, Ill., State's Attorney Kim Foxx’s office. In one, Foxx told her top deputy that Smollett was a “washed up celeb who lied to cops.” (Chicago Tribune)

  11. Former interior secretary Ryan Zinke has landed a gig that will pay him more than $100,000 a year with a Nevada company. He is pursuing involvement in natural gas exports, which have surged under Trump. (AP)
  12. Spoiler-filled footage from “Avengers: Endgame” leaked online two weeks before the movie hits theaters. The leaks, which spread quickly on Reddit and Twitter, could have a negative effect on Marvel's box office numbers, even though the film has already shattered Fandango’s presale tickets record. (Hamza Shaban)

NOTRE DAME WILL BE REBUILT:

-- French authorities launched an investigation into the cause of the fire that engulfed Notre Dame Cathedral, while President Emmanuel Macron ambitiously promised the historic church would be rebuilt in five years. Chico Harlan, Michael Birnbaum and James McAuley report: “Officials warned that Notre Dame may still have gravely dangerous vulnerabilities, especially in the soaring vault. But a few government officials ventured inside, and camera footage showed charred rubble in front of the still-intact pews. In an evening address to the nation, French President Emmanuel Macron described the firefighters as heroic and said he hoped the country would reconstruct Notre Dame within five years — a shorter timetable than that put forward by experts. ‘We now have to get things done,’ Macron said. ‘We will act, and we will succeed.’ He said the rebuilt cathedral would be ‘even more beautiful.’”

More than $700 million in private donations were committed to reconstructing the church. Much of the museum’s most valuable art and relics, including a crown of thorns said to have been worn by Jesus and a 13th-century tunic of Saint Louis, were saved. But the destroyed steeple and roof demonstrated how much work would need to be done to return the cathedral to its former glory.

Questions abound about whether warning signs were missed: “Paris Prosecutor Rémy Heitz laid out a timeline in which an alarm went off at 6:20 p.m., but no evidence of fire was found. Only when a second alarm went off — 23 minutes later — was fire detected. … Patrick Chauvet, the Notre Dame rector, told French radio that the cathedral’s ‘fire watchers’ were on constant lookout and three times each day made ‘assessments’ in the vulnerable area under the wooden roof. ‘In terms of security, I doubt we could have done more,’ Chauvet said.”

-- A fire department chaplain played a key role in saving much of the precious artwork. McAuley reports: “Firefighters rushed in, looking for whatever they could grab and carry to safety. The fire department chaplain — his glasses reflecting the orange flames — demanded to join them. Then a human chain took shape, according to accounts by Paris officials and firefighters. It included city workers, church caretakers and the Rev. Jean-Marc Fournier, the fire chaplain who hours earlier had been preparing events for Easter week. … Fournier previously served as a military chaplain in Afghanistan, and in 2015 comforted survivors of the terrorist rampage at the Bataclan theater after attacks across Paris that claimed 130 lives.”

-- Engineers say the rebuilding effort will probably rely on cutting-edge tools that have been deployed after similar recent tragedies. Peter Holley reports: “The rebuilding effort is likely to draw upon expertise gleaned from disasters like the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan and the Brazilian National Museum fire, where experimental robots and new digital tools were used to go places people cannot safely venture and replicate detailed artifacts lost to fire.”

-- “My girlhood home caught fire. I know what fire destroys. I also know what it can never destroy,” by Post Managing Editor Tracy Grant: “I know what fire does. It takes away the places where memories are made. It ensures that those places are forever changed. I know this because my house burned to the ground when I was 7 years old. … It took me awhile to realize that the sense of profound loss I felt watching Notre Dame Cathedral burn was really for what I lost as a child that night. … The fire will forever be part of the story. For what it claimed and never for what it added. Notre Dame will be rebuilt. It will never be the same. … But amid all the devastation of that night in Oak Park, there was a whisper of a miracle.”

DIVIDED AMERICA:

-- The man accused of burning down three predominantly black churches in Louisiana is facing hate crime charges. Holden Matthews pleaded not guilty to all charges — three counts of hate crimes, two counts of simple arson and one count of aggravated arson — during a Monday appearance in court. Officials said they have uncovered additional evidence placing Matthews at the scene of each burned church. (Kayla Epstein, Alex Horton and Ashley Cusick)

-- Although the president and vice president tweeted about the fire at Notre Dame, neither initially commented on the Louisiana fires. After The Fix’s Eugene Scott published his piece about the discrepancy, Mike Pence’s office sent the following statement: “When tragedy strikes in places of worship, people of all faiths unite. Our hearts go out to the members of the congregations of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, St. Mary’s Baptist Church, and Greater Union Baptist Church who were victims of arson. No one should be in fear in a house of worship. Justice must be carried out on the perpetrator.”

-- A white man in South Carolina was sentenced to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to trying to hire a hit man to lynch his black neighbor. Authorities say that Brandon Cory Lecroy contacted a white-supremacist organization about the plot and later told an FBI agent posing as a hit man, “$500 and he’s a ghost.” (New York Times)

-- Trump said he has no regrets about sharing a video of Rep. Ilhan Omar spliced with images of the 9/11 attacks even after the Democrat from Minnesota said death threats have increased toward her since the posting. “No, not at all,” Trump told a Minnesota television station. “Look, she’s been very disrespectful to this country. She’s been very disrespectful, frankly, to Israel. She is somebody that doesn’t really understand, I think, life, real life, what it’s all about. It’s unfortunate. She’s got a way about her that’s very, very bad, I think, for our country. I think she’s extremely unpatriotic and extremely disrespectful to our country.” (Colby Itkowitz and John Wagner)

2020 WATCH:

-- Speaking at the funeral of former South Carolina senator and one-time segregationist Ernest Hollings just a week before his expected 2020 launch, Joe Biden offered this message: “People can change.” The New York Times’s Jonathan Martin reports from Charleston: “His eulogy underscored Mr. Biden’s deep ties to this pivotal state with its high percentage of black voters — and the promise and peril of his candidacy. Mr. Biden once described Mr. Hollings as his best friend in the Senate. … That friendship is what first brought Mr. Biden to South Carolina, where Mr. Hollings would introduce him to many of his political allies. … Younger Democrats have little personal connection to Mr. Hollings and those who are aware of him recall that he began his career, like many other white politicians of his generation in the South, as a segregationist.”

-- Many establishment Democrats are alarmed by the prospect that Bernie Sanders really could capture the nomination, but they remain torn about bolstering his message by trying to impede his campaign. JMart reports: “The matter of What To Do About Bernie and the larger imperative of party unity has, for example, hovered over a series of previously undisclosed Democratic dinners in New York and Washington organized by the longtime party financier Bernard Schwartz. The gatherings have included scores from the moderate or center-left wing of the party, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi; Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader; former Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia; Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., himself a presidential candidate; and the president of the Center for American Progress, Neera Tanden.”

-- More 2020 Democrats are expressing interest in doing a Fox News town hall after Bernie's appearance on the network was rated the most-watched town hall of the cycle so far. The Daily Beast’s Gideon Resnick reports: “According to early Nielsen data, more than 2.5 million viewers tuned in to hear Sanders ... make his case on Fox News during the 6:30pm hour, prior to primetime. That total viewership bested CNN’s Sanders town-hall event from back in February; and it doubled MSNBC’s during the same time period on Monday evening, and nearly tripled CNN’s. … South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is in talks to participate in a Fox News town hall ... and he had been prior to the airing of Sanders’ event.” Reps. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) and Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) have also expressed interest in appearing on the network.

-- Some residents of South Bend, Ind., complain that Mayor Pete's singular focus on data-driven solutions to address the city’s problems at times ignored disadvantaged communities. HuffPost’s Michael Hobbes reports: Buttigieg “spent his tenure as South Bend mayor applying his skills as a management consultant to nearly every problem the city faced. From sewer overflows to gun violence to garbage pickup, Buttigieg collected data, sought out technical fixes and set quantifiable goals. … While South Bend’s economic fortunes have improved overall, homelessness and displacement have worsened. Buttigieg has sold parks to private developers and given tax breaks to luxury condos. Less than a mile west of South Bend’s booming downtown, its African American and Latino residents continue to complain of police harassment, rampant evictions and a team of ‘code enforcement’ inspectors who fine them every time they forget to mow their own lawns.”

-- Fundraising data shows about 1,600 Democratic donors have given more than $200 to multiple presidential candidates. BuzzFeed News’s Tarini Parti and Jeremy Singer-Vine report: “In all, more than 700 donors gave to [Kamala] Harris’s campaign and at least one other. Approximately 170 donors gave more than $200 to both Harris’s and Pete Buttigieg’s campaigns, and roughly 166 gave to both Cory Booker’s and Harris’s campaigns … The data, along with interviews with some of the donors, reflects an engaged Democratic base that is keeping an early and close eye on the 2020 race, and suggests that voters are not too concerned about a drawn-out primary.”

-- Beto O’Rourke declined to sign a pledge from climate activists not to accept any money from the fossil fuel industry. O’Rourke said that he won’t take donations from oil and gas executives, lobbyists or PACs but that he won’t say no to contributions from workers in the industry. “If you work in the oil fields, you answer the phones in the office, if you’re one of my fellow Texans in one of our state’s largest employers, we’re not going to single you out from being unable to participate in our democracy,” he said. (Bloomberg News)

-- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) endorsed a Democratic challenger to Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Ill.). Gillibrand is supporting Marie Newman, a liberal activist who narrowly lost to Lipinski last year. Lipinski is one of three House Democrats who regularly co-sponsor antiabortion bills. (David Weigel)

-- Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y), who’s battling insider-trading charges and narrowly won his reelection race last November despite a looming trial, raised just $5,000 in the first quarter of this year. The donations came from three sources, according to the Federal Election Commission: the campaign of fellow New York Republican Dan Donovan and two moderate Republican political action committees. (Felicia Sonmez)

-- Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) warned his Republican colleagues against picking fights with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) McClatchy’s Lesley Clark reports: “He said the Bronx congresswoman is smart, has a ‘movement of millennials’ and that Republicans should watch closely before tangling with her. Comer’s remarks came as he co-hosted ‘Hey Kentucky!’ on Monday night and follow Rep. Andy Barr’s decision to invite the Bronx congresswoman to come to Kentucky to tour a coal mine. Comer’s word of caution went viral Tuesday as Ocasio-Cortez retweeted one of Comer’s remarks, adding that the ‘GOP’s getting scared that up close, their constituents will realize I’m fighting harder for their healthcare than their own Reps.’”

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- Indonesian President Joko Widodo has the lead in today’s high-stakes rematch between himself and a former general who has appealed to nationalist, conservative forces and the poor. (CNN)  

-- Analysts have said that both candidates have played to divisions in the country. Widodo rose to power on the votes of religious minorities, young people and liberals, while Prabowo Subianto railed against elitists and played to a base of Islamic conservative voters. Stanley Widianto and Shibani Mahtani report: “In protest of both candidates, some have chosen to abstain or go ‘golput’ — a reference to the white part of the ballot paper. Among them was Ruth Ogetay, 34, a women’s rights activist for Papua, Indonesia’s easternmost province that sees frequent violence in response to its calls for independence. ‘Jokowi didn’t resolve the many rights violations in Papua, and Prabowo is the worst offender of human rights in Papua,’ she said … Complicating the calm and amicable scenes across many polling stations on Wednesday are allegations from the Prabowo camp that the election will be somehow rigged in favor of the incumbent.”

-- Egyptian lawmakers approved constitutional changes that could allow President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to stay in power until 2030. The changes will now be subject to a public referendum, but the Sissi regime’s extensive efforts to quash any opposition to the amendments have led many to doubt that the government will allow a free and fair vote to take place. (Sudarsan Raghavan and Heba Farouk Mahfouz)

-- Trump initially dismissed last year’s nerve agent attack against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter as part of legitimate spy games — a notion that had to be dispelled by CIA Director Gina Haspel. The New York Times’s Julian Barnes and Adam Goldman report: “During the discussion, Ms. Haspel, then deputy C.I.A. director, turned toward Mr. Trump. She outlined possible responses in a quiet but firm voice, then leaned forward and told the president that the ‘strong option’ was to expel 60 diplomats. … Ms. Haspel showed pictures the British government had supplied her of young children hospitalized after being sickened by the Novichok nerve agent that poisoned the Skripals. She then showed a photograph of ducks that British officials said were inadvertently killed by the sloppy work of the Russian operatives. … Mr. Trump fixated on the pictures of the sickened children and the dead ducks. At the end of the briefing, he embraced the strong option. The outcome was an example, officials said, of how Ms. Haspel is one of the few people who can get Mr. Trump to shift position based on new information.”

-- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is ramping up efforts to remain tight with Trump. Politico’s Eliana Johnson reports: “‘Abe's policy team spends significant time examining President Trump's rhetoric, including tweets, to mimic his language in their talking points for the prime minister and his representatives,’ said Andrew L. Oros, an East Asia specialist and political science professor at Washington College. ‘This stands in contrast to their more typical approach of prepping negotiators about the nuances and details on the policy issues themselves.’ Abe’s goal is, in part, to avert an economic disaster. The trade negotiations — and the president's forthcoming decision about whether to slap Japan with steep auto tariffs — could prove a make-or-break issue for the chummy relationship.”

-- A record 70 percent of Russians say in a new poll that Joseph Stalin’s rule was good for the country. The surge in Stalin’s popularity coincides with the Russian government’s efforts to downplay the mass killings and political persecutions that accompanied the tyrannical leader’s reign of terror. (Bloomberg News

-- Nancy Pelosi said there will be no U.S.-British trade deal if Brexit in any way weakens the Northern Ireland peace accord. William Booth reports: “’Pelosi did not have to remind her hosts that the Trump administration can negotiate treaties and trade deals. But she emphasized that Congress has to approve them. … Pelosi’s remarks served to bolster demands by the E.U. that any agreement allowing for Britain’s orderly departure from the bloc must guarantee that the border between Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, a member state of the E.U., remains as it is now — open and virtually invisible.”

-- The U.S. published its first map showing the Golan Heights as an Israeli territory. The graphic, tweeted by Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt, comes three weeks after Trump recognized Israel’s sovereignty over the plateau. (The Times of Israel)

-- Brunei defended its anti-gay and anti-adultery laws in a letter to the European Parliament, saying few gay men are stoned to death in practice. The country recently passed laws that allow the brutal executions of members of the LGBTQ community and those who commit adultery. (EUobserver)

-- A spy targeted critics of Russian anti-virus firm Kaspersky Lab. The AP’s Raphael Satter reports: U.S. officials have expressed wariness about the cybersecurity firm for years and even called for restrictions on it, contending that it couldn’t be trusted with keeping American networks safe. “The mysterious man, who said his name was Lucas Lambert, spent several months last year investigating critics of Kaspersky Lab, organizing at least four meetings with cybersecurity experts in London and New York.” 

-- Corruption in Venezuela has helped create a superhighway for cocaine trafficking between the South American country and the U.S. CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh, Natalie Gallón and Diana Castrillon report: “A months-long CNN investigation traced the northward route of cocaine from the farmlands where much of it is grown in Colombia, and found that the number of suspected drug flights from Venezuela has risen from about two flights per week in 2017 to nearly daily in 2018, according to one US official. This year, the same official has seen as many as five nighttime flights in the sky at once. Planes loaded with Colombian cocaine used to depart from Venezuela's remote southern jungle regions. Now they take off from the country's more developed northwest region to reduce their flying time, US and regional officials also said.”

KEY LITIGATION TO WATCH:

-- A federal court threw out more than three years of proceedings in the case against the alleged mastermind of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, a huge setback for the Guantanamo Bay military commissions. A three-judge panel decided that former military judge Vance Spath created an appearance of partiality by seeking a position as an immigration judge while overseeing the case. (Missy Ryan)

-- Justice Department antitrust staff told T-Mobile and Sprint that their planned merger — which is meant to protect the companies from falling behind as Verizon and AT&T venture into 5G territory — is unlikely to be approved as currently structured. The Wall Street Journal’s Drew FitzGerald and Brent Kendall report: “Reservations voiced by Justice Department staff lawyers aren’t necessarily the last word on a merger, as department leadership also will have an opportunity to weigh in and make the final decision. … Public filings show the Federal Communications Commission is also prodding the companies for more data about several elements of their proposed combination, including the calculated cost savings and how they would use wireless infrastructure to provide home broadband service. The different groups of government officials are operating on similar timelines and a final decision is still likely several weeks away.”

-- Fifteen attorneys general slammed Trump’s move to limit federal authority under the Clean Water Act, saying the move would end the EPA’s oversight of 15 percent of streams and more than half of the country’s wetlands. Steven Mufson reports: “The limit on the federal government’s authority to regulate the pollution of wetlands and tributaries that run into the nation’s largest rivers would be a major win for builders, farmers, coal miners and frackers. … The scaling back of the regulation was one of Trump’s top priorities when he took office, and he issued an executive order in February 2017 directing the [EPA] to carry out ‘the elimination of this very destructive and horrible rule.’”

-- A new accuser has gone public in the case against multimillionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, saying she and her then-15-year-old sister were molested by Epstein and his companion, Ghislaine Maxwell, 23 years ago. The Miami Herald’s Julie K. Brown: The woman said that she believes she was the first person to report the two to the FBI but that, in the end, the FBI didn’t take any action against them. In the lawsuit, the woman alleges that Alan Dershowitz, one of Epstein’s attorneys, knew about and participated in the sex-trafficking operation. Dershowitz has denied the allegations for years and has said he can prove them false in court, while Epstein, who received a non-prosecution agreement as the result of a plea deal with Trump’s secretary of labor, Alexander Acosta, couldn’t be reached for comment.

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Trump issued a string of complaints about Bernie's town hall on Fox News, even claiming (without evidence) that his supporters were kept out of the event:

But Trump added that he believed Sanders and Biden would be the last Democratic candidates left standing:

A Fox News anchor reacted to the president's initial tweet about Sanders's appearance on the network:

Hillary Clinton recognized those affected by fires at three predominantly black churches in Louisiana:

Others took offense at the White House's pledge to help France rebuild Notre Dame, noting that the same hasn't been done for Puerto Rico: 

Ecuador's president shared the story behind a leaked picture of him:

The Vox founder compared the use of these two words in 2020 Democrats' announcement speeches:

A Post reporter shared these photos from a gift shop in Trump Tower:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- The Atlantic, “The Children of the Children of Columbine,” by Ashley Fetters: “Both Ben and Renee have shared their story many times over the years, sometimes in public forums, and having a succinct, memorized script can help when you’re reliving a tragedy in front of an audience. But for Renee, the script fell by the wayside when her audience consisted of one particular person: her daughter, Emma. One afternoon before Renee married Ben, Emma came home and announced that she’d had a lockdown during the day at school. Emma was 7 at the time, and Renee, who lives with what she described as severe PTSD, said she had a small panic attack. She immediately called the school: 'I was like, ‘What the hell happened?’' It was a drill, the school reassured her; the students had just been practicing for an active-shooter situation. And that’s when Renee decided it was time to talk to Emma about Columbine.”

-- Foreign Policy, “It Takes a Village to Make a Monster,” by Rebecca Hamilton: “The world loves to hate a villain, and Sudan’s recently ousted president, Omar al-Bashir, is a villain worthy of despise. During his 30 years of autocratic rule, he presided over the deaths of millions of Sudanese citizens, oversaw the establishment of proxy militia that have devastated communities across the country, and fostered a ruthless security apparatus that has tortured thousands of dissidents. The demise of this villain, however, means less than many casual observers in the West might imagine. ... While it is certainly a milestone, Bashir’s exit from center stage does not make a dint in the structural pathologies he nurtured.” 

-- New York Times, “When Slaveowners Got Reparations,” by Tera W. Hunter: “On April 16, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed a bill emancipating enslaved people in Washington, the end of a long struggle. But to ease slaveowners’ pain, the District of Columbia Emancipation Act paid those loyal to the Union up to $300 for every enslaved person freed. That’s right, slaveowners got reparations. ... The compensation clause is not likely to be celebrated today. But as the debate about reparations for slavery intensifies, it is important to remember that slaveowners, far more than enslaved people, were always the primary beneficiaries of public largess.” 

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Disgraced Former Rep. Todd Akin Donated to Steve King After ‘White Supremacy’ Comments,” from the Daily Beast: “Just weeks after Rep. Steve King (R-IA) appeared to publicly defend the idea of white supremacy, he received a four-figure donation from a political group run by a controversial one-time colleague, disgraced former Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO). Akin’s leadership PAC, Takin Back America PAC, donated $2,000 to King’s campaign on Feb. 2, according to a newly filed financial disclosure statement. That was less than a month after King, in an interview with The New York Times, asked, ‘White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization—how did that language become offensive?’ … [Akin's] 2012 Senate bid fizzled after he was caught on tape in a bizarre anti-abortion rant questioning whether women could be impregnated through rape.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Trump will head to Wisconsin for rally on night of White House correspondents’ dinner,” from Felicia Sonmez and Anne Gearan: “Trump will headline a rally in Wisconsin later this month on the same night as the White House correspondents’ dinner, his campaign announced Tuesday. The event at the Resch Center in Green Bay on Saturday, April 27 will mark the third straight year that Trump has skipped the black-tie gala and held a Make America Great Again rally. … The campaign said the rally will mark Trump’s 18th in Wisconsin and his third in Green Bay since he began running for president in 2015. Trump, who frequently rails against the media, told reporters earlier this month that he was declining to attend the dinner because it is ‘boring’ and ‘negative.’ In 2017, Trump became the first president to skip the dinner since Ronald Reagan in 1981.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will participate in an Opportunity Zone conference with state, local, tribal and community leaders this afternoon. He has no other events on his public schedule.

Looking ahead: The president and the first lady will attend an Atlanta summit on the opioid crisis on April 24. (AP)

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

Political handicapper Amy Walter said reporters talking about polls are like preteens talking about sex: “They know all the words. They talk about it a lot. But they have no idea what they’re talking about.” (New York Times)

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

-- The pleasant spring weather will continue through today, with major warming tomorrow. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “The action ramps up as an energetic storm system moves in Friday, with the potential for heavy rain and storms Friday afternoon and night. A weaker part of the systems then stalls overhead, keeping a chance of scattered showers in the forecast through at least the first half of the weekend.”

-- The Nationals lost to the Giants 7-3. (Sam Fortier)

-- Fundraising dried up for Virginia's three tainted executives, but not for its other Democrats. Laura Vozzella reports: “Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark R. Herring have raised $2,500 and $17,250 respectively since admitting in the first week of February that they had worn blackface as young men. Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax has raised no money since two women stepped forward that week to say he had sexually assaulted them in the early 2000s — accusations he has strongly denied. ...But at least so far, fundraising on the part of individual Democratic candidates for the House of Delegates and Senate does not appear to have suffered. In the House, where all 100 seats are on the ballot in November, Democratic candidates raised $2.4 million in the first quarter, compared with $1.7 million raised by Republican contenders. In the Senate, where all 40 seats are up, Democratic candidates raised $1.9 million while Republicans raised $1.1 million.” 

-- Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch was laid to rest. Busch, the state’s longest-serving speaker, lay in rest in the rotunda of the Maryland State House from Monday afternoon through Tuesday morning before a funeral was held at St. John Neumann Church in Annapolis. (Ovetta Wiggins)

-- A bright fireball illuminated the skies across the Washington region. Martin Weil reports: “A man in the District reported ‘a huge bright Fireball with bright blue fire falling very close to Capitol Hill at around 11:30pm.’ ... The American Meteor Society, a clearinghouse for fireball reports, listed a dozen from Maryland and Virginia. Reports were also received at about the same time from other parts of the country. ... Some of the reports to the meteor society indicated that the fireball made a relatively small visual impact. The accounts classed the experience as only one on a scale of five. However, a witness in Fairfax County rated it as a three.” 

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Stephen Colbert made fun of the advice Trump sent to France's firefighters: 

Colbert then took his show on the road, talking to Brits about Brexit: 

Jimmy Kimmel took a look at the growing list of 2020 candidates: 

Chasten Buttigieg, who is married to presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, spoke in an interview about the pair's marriage and his husband's campaign:

Mayor Pete also encountered an anti-gay protester in Des Moines:

And many gathered at the Glasgow Airport to watch the world's largest commercial passenger aircraft land:

The Airbus A380 will begin making regular trips between Glasgow and Dubai. (BBC)