With Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: When Bob Mueller’s report posts later today, legal experts from across the ideological spectrum will scan through first to see what evidence the special counsel collected that President Trump may have sought to obstruct justice.

Attorney General Bill Barr suggested in his four-page summary of the 400-page Mueller report on March 24 that Mueller laid out pro and con arguments related to obstruction.

“The most important consequence of the report is no longer whether the evidence on obstruction would support a criminal charge,” said John Yoo, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley who held a top job in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel under George W. Bush. “Barr has settled that matter by finding no grounds to prosecute. A declination to prosecute is very difficult to overturn. But the report has a different, most important function here: It could provide sufficient evidence for the House to bring impeachment charges. The standard for impeachment is not solely that the President committed a crime; it could include matters of bad character or judgment, as well as disastrous policy. It is entirely possible that the report could provide evidence that does not support an obstruction charge in a federal courtroom, but could provide the grounds for impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives.

Yoo said he’s looking forward to seeing how the report characterizes Trump’s firing of Jim Comey as FBI director, his subsequent comments to the Russian ambassador, his tweets about those who have cooperated or not with the special counsel, as well as anything new on his relationships with former fixer Michael Cohen, ex-campaign chairman Paul Manafort and longtime confidant Roger Stone. “It will be especially interesting to see if Trump had proposed doing things that might constitute obstruction, but his aides — such as the White House Counsel or the Chief of Staff — talked him out of,” Yoo wrote in an email.

-- Several Democratic lawyers gave similar answers when we asked what they’re looking for. “I want to know the reasoning for why there was no obstruction of justice conclusion,” said Georgetown law professor Neal Katyal, who was acting solicitor general during Barack Obama’s first term. “Was it because of the facts, or the law? Did Mueller have doubts about the law, or was that a Barr determination?”

-- People familiar with the matter say that the 400-page document will be only lightly redacted: “The report — the general outlines of which the Justice Department has briefed the White House on — will reveal that Mueller decided he could not come to a conclusion on the question of obstruction because it was difficult to determine Trump’s intent and because some of his actions could be interpreted innocently, these people said,” per Matt Zapotosky, Carol Leonnig, Roz Helderman and Devlin Barrett. “But it will offer a detailed blow-by-blow of the president’s alleged conduct — analyzing tweets, private threats and other episodes at the center of Mueller’s inquiry, they added. … [Rudy] Giuliani and others have long feared Mueller’s findings on obstruction, viewing them as potentially more damaging than anything found on the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians.”

-- How today will play out: Barr will speak to reporters at 9:30 a.m. and explain his process. The Justice Department says the report will be delivered to relevant members of Congress on discs between 11 a.m. and noon before being posted on the special counsel’s website afterward.

-- Matthew Miller, a Justice Department spokesman during the Obama years, wonders if we’ll be able to piece together anything about the status of other investigations that are ongoing based on what’s not there. Some other questions that Miller said he hopes to find answers to: “What obstructive acts are there that we don’t yet know about? … Did Mueller investigate the use/dangling of pardons? … Did Don Jr. tell his dad about the Trump Tower meeting? Relatedly, did Don Jr. do an interview or go to the grand jury (or, alternatively, did he take the Fifth)? If they don’t have direct evidence that they discussed it, what do the phone records show about any calls between the two? … Did Trump know that [Michael] Flynn was going to discuss sanctions with [Sergey] Kislyak ahead of time? … Did Trump know Flynn had lied when he asked Comey to give him a pass (a key question for obstruction)?”

-- Here are other key things to watch for today:

1. How much exactly is redacted and for what reasons? Barr has said he will color-code all the redactions so that it’s clear whether information is being withheld because it is either from the grand jury, reveals intelligence sources and methods, relevant to ongoing investigations or material that could affect the privacy of “peripheral” third parties.

Barr has not given a clear definition of what he sees as “peripheral,” and some have worried that this could be used to hold back embarrassing information for the White House. We’ll know how broadly he uses this category based on the color-coding.

It’s possible that some details of the Kremlin’s interference in 2016 will be held back to avoid compromising sources and methods. Does the report reveal any previously unknown contacts between Russians and Trump associates?

2. What was the nature and extent of the Justice Department’s advance discussions with the White House? “Justice Department officials have had numerous conversations with White House lawyers about the conclusions made by [Mueller] in recent days, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. The talks have aided the president’s legal team as it prepares a rebuttal to the report and strategizes for the coming public war over its findings,” per the New York Times’s Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman, Nicholas Fandos and Katie Benner.

3. Is there anything revelatory in the counter-report that Giuliani says he will release? The former New York mayor said Trump’s legal team has been whittling down this document and will put it out as soon as they can after the Mueller report comes out. Rudy texted Jackie Alemany at 5 a.m. that he’s “ready to rumble” and that the counter-report has been edited down to “30 or so” pages “without appendix.”

4. What exactly did Don McGahn and Reince Priebus tell Mueller’s team? White House officials are concerned about damaging testimony from a number of senior aides, but no one more so than the former chief counsel and chief of staff. “Their testimony, according to people with knowledge of it, gave a clear, detailed breakdown of some of the administration’s most controversial incidents, from the firing of [Comey] to attempts to oust Jeff Sessions. McGahn spoke with the special counsel for dozens of hours, according to two people familiar with the matter,” per Matt, Carol, Roz and Devlin.

A sense of paranoia was taking hold among some of Mr. Trump’s aides, some of whom fear his backlash more than the findings themselves,” the Times adds. “The report might make clear which of Mr. Trump’s current and former advisers spoke to the special counsel, how much they said and how much damage they did to the president — providing a kind of road map for retaliation. The president’s aides have devised a strategy for numerous lawyers and political aides to quickly read different parts of the document to develop a rebuttal strategy, according to multiple people briefed on the plan.”

5. How much more will lawmakers get to see than the public? Prosecutors in the case against Stone told a federal judge yesterday that certain members of Congress will get to see a more complete version of the Mueller report. “Last week, his attorneys … asked the judge to release to them a full copy of Mueller’s report, arguing that it could contain exculpatory material showing Mueller had unfairly targeted Stone and chose not to charge others who also appeared to have lied to Congress,” Helderman explains. “U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson has imposed a strict gag order in the case, forbidding Stone and the government from making public comments that could affect whether Stone receives a fair trial.

“In their filing, prosecutors assured the judge that her order is being considered as redactions were made to a version of the Mueller report set to be publicly released Thursday. In particular, they wrote that information related to the charges in Stone’s case will be redacted from the report. They also alerted the judge, however, that the Justice Department intends to ‘make available for review’ a version of the report without ‘certain redactions’ to ‘a limited number of Members of Congress and their staff.’ Among the information that will be left unredacted, prosecutors said, will be material about the Stone investigation. They described steps they will take to keep the more complete version of the report from becoming public, saying it will be made available to some lawmakers and their staff in a secure location and they will not be allowed to remove it or publicize it.”

Prosecutors promised in their filing that they’ll seek guidance from the judge if it seems likely that the material related to Stone could be made available to the media or accessed by the public.

6. Can Barr project independence during his news conference? A Justice Department spokeswoman said it was Barr’s call to go to the podium, but Trump broke the news during a radio interview.

The attorney general is scheduled to appear alongside Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller after Sessions recused himself but also wrote the letter justifying Trump’s decision to fire Jim Comey as FBI director. Mueller will not be at the news conference, the special counsel’s spokesman confirmed.

Democrats don’t trust Barr, and they don’t believe he’s being an honest broker. They see his remarks to the press, before anyone has seen the actual report, as an attempt at pre-spinning. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said during his own news conference in the Big Apple last night that Barr “appears to be waging a media campaign on behalf of President Trump” and had “taken unprecedented steps to spin Mueller’s nearly two-year investigation.”

7. Will the president hold a news conference of his own this afternoon? He said during the same radio interview that he might take questions from reporters. “You’ll see a lot of very strong things come out tomorrow,” Trump told “The Larry O’Connor Show” on WMAL. “Barr is going to be giving a news conference. Maybe I’ll do one after that. We’ll see.”

8. Will Mueller testify? Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi put out a joint statement this morning calling for the special counsel to appear on the Hill ASAP. “Barr’s regrettably partisan handling of the Mueller report, including his slanted March 24th summary letter, his irresponsible testimony before Congress last week, and his indefensible plan to spin the report in a press conference later this morning — hours before he allows the public or Congress to see it — have resulted in a crisis of confidence in his independence and impartiality,” Chuck and Nancy said. “We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust … is for [Mueller] himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible.”

9. Bigger picture, does anything shake either party from its pre-written talking points? Many lawmakers on both sides are intent on sticking to their scripts, no matter what the report says. Both chambers of Congress are also on a two-week spring break, so members are scattered across the country and even the world. So people who don’t want to talk with reporters can more easily stay out of pocket.

“Democrats, who believe they won back the House majority by focusing on kitchen-table issues, mostly ignoring Trump scandals, have pushed their freshmen who won GOP seats to keep their focus on that agenda and spend time in their districts talking to voters about lowering health-care costs and boosting wages,” Paul Kane reports.

“Republicans, according to their advisers, already received all the information they needed when Barr released a brief summary of Mueller’s findings,” he adds. “GOP lawmakers leaped onto a key phrase that Barr quoted from the Mueller report, that investigators ‘did not establish that members of the Trump campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government’ — and that was all they needed to hear. … Instead, if Republicans focus on the investigation at all, it will be to accuse Democrats of overreach in their ongoing probes of the Trump administration.”

10. Will the report move the needle of public opinion at all? There’s been very little shift in public opinion during the month that’s passed since Mueller finished his investigation and Barr put out his letter.

A Monmouth University poll published yesterday shows another challenge that both sides need to navigate. Six in 10 Americans say that Congress should get a full copy of the Mueller report. Just 30 percent say that the Justice Department should be able to redact information it considers sensitive. But only 4 in 10 Americans say that Congress should continue looking into remaining concerns related to the Mueller investigation. A 54 percent majority said Congress should move on to other issues. While 2 in 3 Democrats want Congress to continue pursuing the threads of the Mueller investigation, 8 in 10 Republicans and 57 percent of independents say it is time to move on.

-- Coming attraction: Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is expected to release his report on Christopher Steele, who wrote the so-called dossier, in the next month. Politico’s Natasha Bertrand reports: “Several people interviewed by the Inspector General’s office over the past year [said] Horowitz’s team has been intensely focused on gauging Steele’s credibility as a source for the bureau. One former U.S. official left the interview with the impression that the Inspector General’s final report ‘is going to try and deeply undermine’ Steele, who spent over two decades working Russia for MI6 before leaving to launch his own corporate intelligence firm. Thursday’s planned release of the full Mueller report by the Justice Department could shed new light on Steele’s role.”

-- A final wild card: What’s the biggest non-Mueller news of the day? Communications professionals are taught from an early age to “take out the trash” — the lingo for releasing bad news when no one is paying attention — on Friday afternoons because everyone is checking out for the weekend. But this afternoon seems particularly ripe for a news dump on topics that have nothing to do with the Russia investigation.

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Kim Jong Un announced that North Korea has conducted its first missile test since nuclear negotiations broke down with Trump in February. Simon Denyer and John Hudson report: “It was not immediately clear what type of weapon the North Koreans fired, but experts said the description appeared to rule out a ballistic missile, meaning the move would not violate North Korea’s self-declared moratorium on testing. Nevertheless, experts said that the action was a calibrated sign of defiance by Kim following a stalemate in the denuclearization talks and a reminder that his country was continuing to develop its conventional weapons program. But they said it does not close the door on diplomacy or negotiations about North Korea’s nuclear program. The state-run Korean Central News Agency said Kim oversaw the testing of the weapon Wednesday, explaining that it was fired at different targets, could carry a ‘powerful warhead’ and increased the ‘combat power’ of the country’s military.”

-- North Korea wants Secretary of State Mike Pompeo out of nuclear talks. The nation’s Foreign Ministry said it wants him replaced with someone who “is more careful and mature in communicating.” (Simon Denyer

-- Kim and Vladimir Putin may meet for the first time as soon as next week. Simon Denyer and Anton Troianovski report: “In a sign of Moscow’s growing relevance, U.S. envoy Stephen Biegun is holding talks with Russian officials in Moscow on Wednesday and Thursday ‘to discuss efforts to advance the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea,’ according to the State Department. For Kim, a summit with Putin would be another step in the international rehabilitation of the once-ostracized leader. It would also be Kim’s chance to send a signal to both Washington and Beijing that he has other options. For Putin, a summit would mark another milestone in his effort to show Russians — and the world — that he has brought his country back as a global diplomatic power.”

-- A man is in custody after attempting to get into St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York with gasoline and lighters. Allyson Chiu reports: “There were no injuries or damages as a result of the incident. 'It’s hard to say exactly what his intentions were, but I think the totality of the circumstances of an individual walking into an iconic location like St. Patrick’s Cathedral carrying over four gallons of gasoline, two bottles of lighter fluid and lighters is something we would have great concern over,' New York Police Department Deputy Commissioner John Miller told reporters. Around 7:55 p.m., Miller said the man returned to a minivan he had parked on Fifth Avenue, the same street the cathedral is located on, and took out the gasoline containers and the 'equipment to light it.' Immediately after he entered the church, he was confronted by the security guard, who informed him that he was not allowed inside carrying the gas and lighters.”

-- France’s prime minister announced an international competition to replace Notre Dame’s iconic spire, which was lost in this week’s fire. But traditionalists have demanded the spire be re-created exactly as it was, complaining that a new design would amount to heresy. (Griff Witte)

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. The woman whose admiration of the Columbine shooting caused the closure of Colorado’s largest school districts was found dead in a remote mountain area after a massive manhunt. Authorities say that Sol Pais was so “infatuated” with the 1999 attack that she traveled from her South Florida home to Colorado, where she purchased the same shotgun used by one of the Columbine shooters. But rather than attacking a school on the shooting's 20th anniversary, she would end up turning the gun on herself. (Jennifer Oldham, Jessica Contrera, Ian Shapira and Reis Thebault)

  2. Sixty medical professionals across five states were charged in connection with more than 350,000 illegal opioid prescriptions. According to the Justice Department and its Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid Strike Force, some doctors traded sex for prescriptions, while one dentist agreed to unnecessarily pull patients’ teeth to secure their access to pain pills. (Sari Horwitz and Scott Higham)

  3. Former Peruvian president Alan García fatally shot himself after police arrived at his home to arrest him on corruption charges. García, who was accused of taking bribes from a Brazilian construction company in exchange for public works contracts, told the police officers he was going into his bedroom to call his lawyer. The fatal gunshot was heard minutes later. (Simeon Tegel and Adam Taylor)

  4. Consumer groups fear the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau could allow debt collectors to send texts and emails. The CFBP will unveil debt collection rules in the next few weeks, promising to “modernize” the legal regime for the collection process. (Renae Merle)

  5. Two newborns with the rare genetic disorder known as bubble boy disease were cured with gene therapy. The disease, which causes children to be born without a functioning immune system, appears to have been removed through a novel new treatment. Outside observers say this is a big breakthrough. (William Wan)

  6. Yale medical researchers revealed they were able to restore some cellular function in pig brains from animals that had been decapitated hours earlier. While scientists saw no signs of consciousness in the pig brains, they did observe neurons capable of sending signals to the rest of the body. The research could provide critical new insights for combating diseases such as Alzheimer’s, but ethicists expressed concern about blurring the line between life and death. (Joel Achenbach)

  7. A Florida judge halted prosecutors’ plans to release surveillance footage from inside spa rooms where New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and other men have been charged with paying for sexual services. Prosecutors initially said they would release the footage in compliance with a public records request, but the judge called an emergency hearing to prevent the release until he has had a chance to rule on the matter. (ABC News)

  8. Sea creatures, lost and adrift, are showing up on California's shores. Experts believe whales, snails and other ocean creatures are scouting the San Francisco Bay because of the shifting climate. (Scott Wilson)

  9. A group of doctors sued the Agriculture Department in an attempt to force the agency to prohibit the sale of raw poultry and meat products containing animal waste. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is also proposing a new warning label for poultry and meat alerting consumers to the possible presence of fecal matter in the products. (Kimberly Kindy)

  10. A new study found that same-sex couples were 73 percent more likely to be denied a mortgage than heterosexual couples with similar financial records. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences also found that when gay couples were approved for a loan, they paid an average 0.2 percent more in interest and fees. (Hamza Shaban)

  11. High-schoolers are holding viewing parties for strangers to watch them get accepted (or rejected) to college. The new social media trend is attracting thousands, if not millions, of viewers to teenagers’ YouTube channels. (Abby Ohlheiser)

  12. Great white sharks also get scared! A new study showed the sharks tend to swim away whenever pods of orcas approach them. (Kayla Epstein

THE IMMIGRATION WARS:

-- Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is preparing a bill to tighten asylum standards in a similar manner to the attorney general’s move to stop allowing some asylum seekers to post bail. Seung Min Kim reports: Johnson “said in an interview Wednesday that the focus of his bill would be to more swiftly and rigorously assess the claims of asylum seekers while keeping them detained longer so the government could more easily deport them if their asylum claims are denied. … Johnson also wants to make the credible fear standard more stringent. Nearly 90 percent of asylum seekers meet that initial standard, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which allows them to continue their application process. But Johnson said the test should be altered so the figure is somewhere around 50 percent.”

-- Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, formally asked Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller to testify about the administration’s immigration policies. Rachael Bade reports: “Cummings said in the letter that he would ask Miller about why the Trump administration sought to separate immigrant children from their families as well as Trump’s move to force out top immigration officials at DHS and agencies within. It is unlikely the White House would allow a top aide to testify, and in the letter, Cummings acknowledged that White House advisers do not testify before congressional committees. Cummings sought to argue against that rationale.”

-- The Department of Homeland Security has transformed from an agency primarily focused on counterterrorism to one dominated by the White House’s call for stricter immigration enforcement efforts. And now that Kirstjen Nielsen is gone, some are worried the agency’s cybersecurity efforts might suffer. Nick Miroff, Shane Harris and Josh Dawsey report: “Several of the senior DHS leaders who gathered to cut the ribbon last week at the new campus — the largest federal construction project in Washington since the Pentagon — will not be staying long enough to work there. … Trump largely cares about two parts of the DHS mission — immigration and disaster recovery — according to three current and former administration officials … Senior DHS officials say the president’s focus on immigration enforcement has not undermined their work on counterterrorism, cybersecurity and other efforts. ‘We are laser-focused on the daily threats we face,’ said David Glawe … DHS’s top intelligence official. … ‘On cyber, it certainly struggled in the early years,’ said Chris Painter, who served as the State Department’s top coordinator for cybersecurity. … With the departure of Nielsen, Painter said, there aren’t enough senior leaders who understand the cybersecurity issue and have the clout to shape policy.”

-- The Trump administration proposed a Housing and Urban Development rule to prevent undocumented immigrants from receiving federal housing assistance. The New York Times’s Annie Karni and Michael D. Shear report: “The proposal, according to an administration official, is intended to overturn what the official described as a Clinton-era loophole that allowed some undocumented immigrants to obtain public housing without revealing their citizenship status. The rule would ensure that the social safety net is awarded only to verified American citizens and legal residents. The long waiting lists for public housing prompted the crackdown, the official said, adding that the rule would affect about 25,000 households.”

-- Little-known changes last year to State Department protocol have contributed to an increase in visa rejections over concerns applicants could become financially dependent on the government. Reuters’s Yeganeh Torbati and Kristina Cooke report: “More and more aspiring immigrants — especially Mexicans — are being denied visas based on determinations by the U.S. State Department that they might become 'public charges’ … Lawyers for some immigrants say consular officers are denying visas even when applicants fulfill legal requirements to prove they will be financially independent. … One reason for the rise in refusals are little-known changes last year in the State Department’s foreign affairs manual that gave diplomats wider discretion in deciding visa denials on public-charge grounds.”

-- The Canadian government is asking for U.S. assistance in cracking down on illegal border crossings at its own southern border as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faces a difficult reelection. Selena Ross and Emily Rauhala report: “Canada has made a formal request to the United States to amend a 15-year-old border treaty between the countries. … Under the terms of the deal, which took effect in 2004, asylum seekers who try to enter Canada at an official border crossing are sent back to the United States. But there’s a loophole: Those who cross the border at an unauthorized point of entry can proceed into Canada and file their claim. One Canadian proposal would close that loophole: An asylum seeker who entered at an unofficial crossing would be escorted to an official port of entry and bounced back to the United States.” But it seems unlikely that the Trump administration would agree to help Canada given its own efforts to limit asylum applications.”

-- More trouble for Trudeau: Right-leaning parties now control five of Canada’s 10 provinces after a major win in Alberta. Rauhala reports: “The leaders of these provinces, called premiers, constitute a growing threat to Trudeau heading into the federal election in October.”

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN AND WOMEN:

-- Ivanka Trump said her father asked her whether she'd be interested in running the World Bank. The AP’s Catherine Lucey reports from Ivory Coast, where the president's 37-year-old daughter is on a trip to promote a women’s initiative: “Trump says her father raised the job with her as ‘a question’ and she told him she was ‘happy with the work’ she’s doing. Ivanka Trump worked on the selection process for the new head of the 189-nation World Bank, David Malpass. She says he’ll do an ‘incredible job.’ Asked if her father had approached her about other top jobs, Ivanka Trump said she’d ‘keep that between’ them. She says she doesn’t see a run for office in her future.”

-- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin plans to hire a new top spokeswoman: Fox News regular Monica Crowley, who lost a National Security Council job days before Trump's inauguration over allegations of plagiarism. “Crowley will be assistant secretary for public affairs, replacing Tony Sayegh, who departs at the end of May after more than two years with Mnuchin,” Bloomberg News’s Saleha Mohsin and Jennifer Jacobs report. “Trump planned to appoint Crowley to a position at the National Security Council in his White House, but she withdrew from consideration in January 2017 after CNN reported that she had plagiarized portions of her 2012 book and Politico reported that she had plagiarized portions of her 2000 Ph.D. thesis. Crowley said in a Fox News interview that the reports were a ‘political hit job.’”

-- Herman Cain said he has no intention of withdrawing from consideration to be on the Federal Reserve Board. The Wall Street Journal’s Paul Kiernan reports: Cain “said that he’s ‘very committed’ to sticking with the process of being vetted by the White House as it considers whether to formally nominate him for the position. He said the Fed needs ‘new voices’ and it has been ‘too quick’ to raise interest rates in the past, a view he expressed to Mr. Trump and his top economic adviser Lawrence Kudlow in a meeting in late January at the White House.” But Cain still faces an uphill battle to win confirmation after four Republican senators came out against his potential nomination.

-- Energy Secretary Rick Perry is planning his departure from the administration, Bloomberg News's Jacobs, Jennifer Dlouhy and Ari Natter report: “While Perry’s exit isn’t imminent and one person familiar with the matter said the former Texas governor still hasn’t fully made up his mind, three people said he has been seriously considering his departure for weeks. ... An Energy Department spokeswoman, Shaylyn Hynes, rejected the idea that Perry would be leaving the administration any time soon. 'He is happy where he is serving President Trump and leading the Department of Energy,' she said in a statement.”

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- The Trump administration has levied new sanctions on Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, using Cold War language in a vow to fight socialism, communism and human rights abuses. Karen DeYoung reports: “The heaviest measures were directed at Cuba. U.S. citizens will now be allowed to sue any entity or person found to be ‘trafficking’ in property that was expropriated from U.S. citizens after the 1959 revolution .... The administration is also reimposing limits on the amounts of money that Cuban Americans can send to relatives on the island, as well as the frequency of transactions, and ordering new restrictions on travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens.”

­-- The Red Cross is struggling with aid distribution in a polarized Venezuela. The New York Times’s Isayen Herrera and Anatoly Kurmanaev report: “The arrival of 24 tons of Red Cross supplies to Caracas airport Tuesday had been welcomed by Venezuelans and by local charities, which saw the campaign as crucial. But front-line aid workers said it was only the first step toward providing relief to a country that is in the midst of an unprecedented political, economic and humanitarian crisis.”

-- Trump’s veto of legislation designed to disentangle the U.S. from the war in Yemen has set the stage for an extended stalemate. Missy Ryan and Karoun Demirjian report: “Stephen Seche, who served as U.S. ambassador to Yemen under two presidents and is now executive vice president of the Arab Gulf States Institute, said Trump’s widely expected decision telegraphed a continuation of his strong support to Persian Gulf Arab nations, reinforcing the same dynamics that had allowed the war to fester for four years. … On Capitol Hill, proponents of curbing Saudi Arabia’s war effort have not hammered out a strategy for regrouping after Trump’s veto. But Democrats are eyeing bipartisan legislation that would pair a near-complete cessation of weapons transfers to Saudi Arabia over its Yemen campaign with sanctions for Saudi leaders over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as the next focus of their efforts.” 

-- A new Trump administration report on international compliance with arms-control accords has caused a dispute among intelligence agencies and State Department officials concerned the document politicizes assessments about Iran. The clash happened Tuesday, when the State Department posted and then deleted an unclassified version of an annual assessment drafted for Congress. (Reuters)

-- White House senior adviser Jared Kushner urged people to keep an “open mind” about the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan he has been working on, even as the new Palestinian prime minister declared that it would be “born dead.” Kushner told about 100 ambassadors gathered at Blair House, “We will all have to look for reasonable compromises that will make peace achievable.” But Mohammad Shtayyeh said in an AP interview: ““Israel is part of the financial war that has been declared upon us by the United States. The whole system is to try to push us to surrender. … This a financial blackmail, which we reject.”

-- Speaker Nancy Pelosi's threat to block any trade pact with Britain if Brexit hurts the Irish peace pact sparked tense talks with pro-Brexit leaders. Neil Michael reports: “Pelosi’s tough words led to a ‘frank exchange of views’ Tuesday between the U.S. lawmakers and members of the European Research Group, the pro-Brexit members of the British Parliament, said U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.). … ‘It was a good, honest exchange, but there was no yelling or screaming,’ [he said]. A report in the Irish Times had characterized the encounter as ‘forceful and at times heated,’ prompting the ERG leader, Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, to suggest there were a few ‘snowflakes’ in the meeting.”

-- An article based on anonymous statements by Defense Department officials concluding that all of Pakistan’s F-16 jets are accounted for contradicts the Indian air force’s public claims and has become an issue in the world’s largest election. Sameer Lalwani and Emily Tallo report: “On Feb. 26, the IAF launched airstrikes against what it said were terrorist camps in Pakistan. Pakistan retaliated with fighter planes dropping their payloads in Kashmir and, in an ensuing air battle, shot down an Indian MiG-21 warplane and captured its pilot. India claims the MiG-21 pilot shot down a more advanced Pakistan F-16 fighter aircraft before his own aircraft was downed — but Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership vehemently denied this. … India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party used the Kashmir crisis to project [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi as a strong leader against Pakistan — capitalizing on this opportunity ahead of India’s general election.”

-- The Federal Communications Commission plans to block China Mobile from operating in the United States, saying the firm may pose a spying risk. Brian Fung reports: “The decision could put an end to a years-long effort by China Mobile to gain access to the U.S. market. In 2011, the company applied to the FCC for clearance to connect U.S. customers to callers around the world. But on Wednesday, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said China Mobile ‘raises substantial and serious national security and law enforcement risks’ that cannot be mitigated. … The looming FCC decision, some analysts said, raises the prospect that China could seek to retaliate against U.S. carriers who partner with Chinese providers, much as China Mobile would have partnered with American carriers in the United States.”

-- An Air China employee working at JFK airport pleaded guilty to acting on behalf of the Chinese government by placing unscreened packages on a flight from New York to Beijing. Colby Itkowitz reports: “Ying Lin, who also goes by Randi or Randy, was working at the direction of Chinese military personnel stationed at China’s permanent mission to the United Nations, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York. Lin, a naturalized U.S. citizen, worked for Air China from 2002 through fall 2015 at JFK and then at Newark Liberty International Airport through April 2016. She could face up to 10 years’ imprisonment when sentenced. … It is not known what was in the packages sent to Beijing.”

2020 WATCH:

-- Former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe announced he won't run for president in 2020 and will instead focus on helping down-ballot Democratic candidates for the state’s General Assembly. Laura Vozzella and Annie Linskey report: “The 62-year-old Democrat has been publicly mulling a White House bid since leaving the Executive Mansion in January 2018. He originally said he would decide by March 31 but stayed mum as he continued visiting early-primary states. McAuliffe said he came to his decision reluctantly, still relishing the notion of going toe-to-toe with [Trump]. Just last week, McAuliffe created a buzz by saying in a speech and on Twitter that he’d dispatch Trump — a onetime campaign donor — like the 280-pound alligator he wrestled in a 1980 fundraising stunt. ‘I had full intentions of running,’ McAuliffe said in an interview with The Washington Post. ‘But after February, when we began to have the issues that we had in Virginia, people began to call. … ‘We’re really in a bad way. We really need your help.’’”

-- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) expressed regret over a truancy program she implemented while state attorney general and said she wouldn’t support expanding it nationally if she becomes president. Chelsea Janes reports: “While district attorney of San Francisco, Harris tried to combat waning school attendance by criminalizing truancy. She was then able to use the threat of fines or jail time for parents of children who missed too many school days. Harris never sent a parent to jail while overseeing this initiative as San Francisco’s chief prosecutor. But when she became attorney general of California in 2011, she implemented the policy statewide. Prosecutors across the state took parents to court, and some were jailed. … Speaking on the left-leaning podcast Pod Save America, Harris lamented what she called ‘unintended consequences’ of the policy … and distanced herself from the detentions that resulted from it.”

-- Pete Buttigieg’s increasingly popular presidential campaign has now enlisted former Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton fundraisers to help build his war chest. Buttigieg’s campaign has drawn the support of more than two dozen top Democratic fundraisers, including former U.S. ambassadors, real estate executives, former John Kerry 2004 campaign official Steve Elmendorf, the wealthy Pohland family (of the Minnesota Twins fame) and hedge fund executive Orin Kramer. (CNBC)

-- Bernie Sanders’s campaign believes the Vermont senator could have a path to the nomination if he secures at least 30 percent of the vote. The Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere reports: “He’s counting on winning Iowa and New Hampshire, where he was already surprisingly strong in 2016, and hoping that Cory Booker and Kamala Harris will split the black electorate in South Carolina and give him a path to slip through there, too. And then, Sanders aides believe, he’ll easily win enough delegates to put him into contention at the convention. They say they don’t need him to get more than 30 percent to make that happen.”

-- Following in Bernie's footsteps, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) will hold a town hall on Fox News. The Minnesota Democrat’s event will take place in Milwaukee on May 8. Other presidential candidates are also in talks with the network to hold their own town halls. (AP)

-- Trump has reportedly told his aides to “keep an eye” on Fox News, to make sure the network stays loyal to him. (The Daily Beast)

-- Julián Castro is still waiting for his breakthrough moment. The New York Times’s Sydney Ember reports: “Once considered a rising star in the Democratic Party — he was the first Latino to give a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention — he has been outshined in the ever-expanding field by brighter stars and nonstars alike. While he has many fans in his hometown, San Antonio, where he once served as mayor, he is not well known on the national stage. And with the sudden rise of the former El Paso congressman Beto O’Rourke, Mr. Castro is not even the most well-known candidate in his own state. … Though he has drawn some recent notice, including for being among the first of the candidates to support a congressional bill to study reparations, he is in many ways a 2020 afterthought.”

-- The women of the 2020 campaign are already making history, writes the New Republic’s Liza Mundy: “Until now, U.S. presidential campaigns have been as routinely and exclusively male as a restroom line at Hooters. Pretty much since the day the country was founded, most presidential cycles have included exactly this many serious female candidates: zero. … Then, beginning in 2000, every cycle had at least one woman candidate whom most voters would have heard of. … Now there are six—count them, six. … To be sure, the United States is not Iceland, where women were put in charge after male recklessness and corruption led to the 2008 banking crisis. Nor are we France, where quotas require that parties must run an equal number of women candidates as men. … Even so, five candidates with name recognition, in 2020, is a lot more than two, in 2016.”

THE CULTURE WARS:

-- In compliance with Trump’s transgender troop ban, military academies have issued new policies banning transgender students. The AP reports: “The U.S. Naval Academy will ban people who are transgender from attending the school, beginning with the 2020 school year. The Defense Department confirmed that change to the Capital Gazette newspaper on Monday. The school in Annapolis, Maryland, currently accepts transgender students and retains midshipmen who transition to another gender. … The U.S. Coast Guard has also implemented the new policy, as of April 12, the agency states on its website. … The Air Force Academy will conform with Defense Department policy when admitting future cadets, said Lt. Col. Tracy Bunko, an academy spokeswoman.”

-- Kentucky Republicans are worried that their invitation of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) to speak with coal miners might backfire. GQ's Luke Darby reports: “Kentucky Republican congressman Andy Barr invited Ocasio-Cortez to come meet coal miners in his state 'who will tell you what the Green New Deal would mean for their families, their paychecks.' ... Ocasio-Cortez accepted, saying she'd be 'happy' to go, adding that the Green New Deal was written to fund coal-miner pensions. ... It seemed like an uncharacteristically cordial exchange for two members of Congress. And not even a month later, that cordiality is out the window: Barr attached a rather inhospitable and obnoxious demand to his invitation, writing in a letter posted to Twitter that she should 'apologize to [Texas representative Dan Crenshaw] prior to coming to visit Kentucky,' for a completely unrelated event before meeting with miners. The public scolding over purported incivility, along with the random call for an apology to a colleague from a completely different state, leaves the impression that the Barr might not want her to come to Kentucky after all.” 

 -- A crisis in Kentucky shows the high costs of clean drinking water, and the crumbling infrastructures that are putting Americans at risk. Frances Stead Sellers reports from Lovely, Ky.: “The challenges are monumental here in Appalachia and beyond: The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the nation’s drinking-water system a D grade in its quadrennial report card. The network of more than 1 million miles of pipes includes many that are a century old and have a 75-year life expectancy. Across the country, 14 percent of treated water is lost through leaks, and here in Martin County, that figure has at times reached more than 70 percent. The American Water Works Association estimates that it will take $1 trillion to support demand over the next 25 years; in Martin County, repairs carry a price tag exceeding $10 million. … Updating small systems such as Martin County’s presents additional problems, experts say, because they lack economies of scale and have limited technical and managerial resources.”

-- Church membership in the U.S. has plunged by 20 percent in the past 20 years. From the AP’s David Crary: “Among Americans identifying with a particular religion, there was a sharp drop in church membership among Catholics — dropping from 76% to 63% over the past two decades as the church was buffeted by clergy sex-abuse scandals. Membership among Protestants dropped from 73% to 67% percent over the same period. … David Campbell, a University of Notre Dame political science professor who studies religion’s role in U.S. civic life, attributed the partisan divide to ‘the allergic reaction many Americans have to the mixture of religion and conservative politics.’”

-- More Christian students are protesting Vice President Pence’s speeches, alarming conservatives. Isaac Stanley-Becker reports: “The latest sign that even Christian colleges are not safe spaces for Pence came last week, when Taylor University, an evangelical school in rural Indiana, announced that Pence would speak at the commencement ceremony on May 18. … But not everyone at the nondenominational school, whose mission is ‘challenging each generation of students to integrate faith with learning and follow Christ’s calling,’ is enthused about Pence’s planned appearance, as became clear this week. A Change.org petition asking the school to rescind the invitation had garnered nearly 5,000 signatures by early Thursday. Appeals to university leadership have been plastered across social media. Some are pledging to withhold donations.”

-- A high school wrestler in Buena Vista, N.J., was forced to cut his dreadlocks before a match, and the town is still struggling to understand what happened. Roman Stubbs reports: “A 16-year-old African American wrestler named Andrew Johnson, was given an ultimatum by a white referee before a match: Your hair covering doesn’t conform to the rule book, so cut your dreadlocks or forfeit. Soon a viral video of a white female trainer cutting off Johnson’s hair transformed the teenager into a new symbol of racial tension in America. … School administrators have gone silent. Multiple investigations have been launched … The referee, Alan Maloney, likewise has remained silent .... But in this town, one of 53 in New Jersey that went from supporting Barack Obama in 2012 to backing Donald Trump in 2016, the conversation has continued without them.”

-- A sergeant in the Virginia Capitol Police was fired after posts made to his social media accounts apparently referenced white-supremacist groups. Tom Jackman reports: “Sgt. Robert A. Stamm, 36, was placed on administrative leave in February and an internal investigation was begun. A group called Antifascists of the Seven Hills published a blog post in February that included photos of Stamm from his social media accounts. In some photos Stamm was shown with several tattoos, flags and other symbols that the group said are connected with white supremacists and Nazis.” 

-- The likenesses of musician Johnny Cash and civil rights icon Daisy Lee Gatson Bates will replace two Civil War figures in the hallways of the U.S. Capitol. Colby Itkowitz reports: “Last week, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed a measure to swap out the statues of individuals from the 19th century for more modern representations of the state. The current statues of Uriah Milton Rose, an attorney who sided with the Confederacy, and James P. Clarke, a governor of the state who held racist beliefs, are not being removed because of their controversial past, but rather because of a decision by the state ‘to update the statues with representatives of our more recent history,’ Hutchinson said in a weekly address. The statues of Rose and Clarke have been in the Capitol for nearly 100 years, he said.”

-- The Dixie School District in Northern California is changing its name after a months-long debate. Joe Heim reports: “Board members of the small school system just north of San Francisco voted Tuesday evening to replace the name, which opponents said is a racist vestige of the Confederacy and the proslavery South. The board did not choose a new moniker for the 2,000-student district in San Rafael, instead calling for an advisory group to provide suggestions and for the board to approve a name by the time the next school year begins in late August. … For now, there is still lingering resentment over the controversy that roiled the surface calm in the wealthy, liberal school district and set neighbor against neighbor in angry social media exchanges over what path to take.”

-- A group of parents dropped their lawsuit against a Chicago-area school district over a policy allowing transgender students to use the facilities matching their gender identity. Moriah Balingit reports: “Students and Parents for Privacy sued Township High School District 211 in Palatine, Ill., after the school board, facing pressure from the Obama administration, voted to allow a transgender girl to use the girls’ locker room. The case drew national attention as schools throughout the country grappled with accommodating transgender people in bathrooms and locker rooms, a debate that played out in statehouses, courthouses and local school boards. On its Facebook page, Students and Parents for Privacy, which was represented by the conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom, assured its members that the fight was not over but did not explain why it had dropped the lawsuit.”

-- Middlebury College canceled an appearance by conservative European politician Ryszard Legutko because of safety concerns. Legutko is a member of Poland’s national conservative Law and Justice Party and has made controversial comments regarding the LGBTQ community. (Burlington Free Press)

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

The House Judiciary Committee chairman criticized the process for releasing Mueller's report:

From the House Democratic Caucus chairman:

A Post reporter highlighted this irony:

A Democratic senator asked DHS to send additional staff members to secure the border:

Ivanka Trump retweeted this photo from her Africa trip:

A Politico reporter noted this apparent contradiction in Kamala Harris's comments about a controversial truancy law in California:

A Post reporter questioned Bernie Sanders's proposed path to the nomination:

A former adviser to John Boehner, Paul Ryan and Jeb Bush posed this question about Buttigieg:

The Onion satirized Buttigieg's foreign language skills:

AOC thanked Elizabeth Warren, who wrote the congresswoman's entry in Time magazine's "most influential people" list:

A certain freshman Republican senator got an office upgrade:

Trump's former press secretary made another embarrassing typo:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- New Yorker, “Secrecy, Self-Dealing, and Greed at the N.R.A.,” by Mike Spies: “The N.R.A. is troubled; in recent years, it has run annual deficits of as much as forty million dollars. It is not unusual for nonprofits to ask prospective donors to help forestall disaster. What is unusual is the extent to which such warnings have become the central activity of the N.R.A. Even as the association has reduced spending on its avowed core mission—gun education, safety, and training—to less than ten per cent of its total budget, it has substantially increased its spending on messaging. The N.R.A. is now mainly a media company, promoting a life style built around loving guns and hating anyone who might take them away.”

-- The Atlantic, "The Truth About Dentistry," by Ferris Jabr: "The uneasy relationship between dentist and patient is further complicated by an unfortunate reality: Common dental procedures are not always as safe, effective, or durable as we are meant to believe. As a profession, dentistry has not yet applied the same level of self-scrutiny as medicine, or embraced as sweeping an emphasis on scientific evidence. 'We are isolated from the larger health-care system. So when evidence-based policies are being made, dentistry is often left out of the equation,' says Jane Gillette, a dentist in Bozeman, Montana, who works closely with the American Dental Association’s Center for Evidence-Based Dentistry, which was established in 2007. 'We’re kind of behind the times, but increasingly we are trying to move the needle forward.'"

-- The Economist, "A new era at Goldman Sachs starts in the shadow of a scandal": "It is not only on the consumer side that Goldman is rolling out new technology. More than a quarter of its employees are now engineers, says Heather Kennedy Miner, its head of investor relations. The firm has deployed a new platform, called Marquee, for institutional investors. It will expand into corporate cash management in 2020, which will further increase low-cost deposits. ... Its new strategy will mean Goldman is competing on less familiar territory. ... Compared with the incumbents, Goldman is quick at developing and deploying technology; but unlike digital startups, its innovations are backed by a $925bn balance-sheet. America’s financial-services industry has been slow to adapt to technological change. An old brand with a new direction might be well-placed to disrupt it."

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Tom Ridge, former GOP governor of Pennsylvania, takes aim at Trump cuts to disabilities programs,” from John Wagner: “Tom Ridge, the former Republican governor of Pennsylvania and the nation’s first homeland security secretary, criticized the Trump administration on Wednesday for proposed budget cuts to an array of programs supporting people with disabilities. Ridge, who now serves as chairman of the National Organization on Disability, called the proposed cuts ‘not only unjust but also fiscally foolish’ in an op-ed published by the New York Times. … Among the programs that Ridge identifies as being ‘on the chopping block’ are independent living centers, assistive-technology programs, supports for individuals living with brain injuries and family caregiver support services.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Bernie Sanders can’t beat Donald Trump in 2020: Obama campaign manager Jim Messina,” from ABC News: “Political adviser Jim Messina, who managed former President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012, answered a question Wednesday that has been on the minds of Democrats looking ahead at the 2020 presidential race. ‘Can Bernie Sanders beat Donald Trump?’ … ‘No,’ Messina responded. … ‘I think if you look at swing voters in this country they are incredibly focused on the economy,’ Messina replied. ‘I think today you look at it and say that Bernie Sanders is unlikely going to be able to stand up to the constant barrage that is Donald Trump on economic issues.’ That said, Sanders’ name came up when Karl asked Messina for his top picks for Democratic finalists.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will speak at the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride and meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo before receiving his intelligence briefing. He and the first lady will later travel to Mar-a-Lago.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

Trump is “kind of like a Chinese finger trap — you know, the harder you pull, the more you get stuck,” Pete Buttigieg said in Iowa, adding that fellow Democrats should avoid trying to “knock him flat with some zinger.” (AP)

 

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

-- The day will be pretty warm before Friday hits us with heavy, muggy storms. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “The downside of spring warm-ups are the vicious cold fronts that can trigger severe weather. We must monitor Friday very closely as afternoon, evening and nighttime thunderstorms could deliver some very heavy rain and high winds. The cold front clears out for the weekend, removing the heavy rain risk, but a lingering disturbance generates intermittent clouds and the chance of some scattered showers into Sunday morning.”

-- The Nationals beat the Giants 9-6. (Jesse Dougherty)

-- The Redskin's 2019 schedule opens with the Eagles, followed by a faceoff against the Cowboys and a prime-time game against the Bears. (Les Carpenter)

-- The problems confronting the Cleveland Park apartment complex Sedgwick Gardens have raised questions about the District’s housing voucher program. Peter Jamison reports: “Sedgwick Gardens was once out of reach for low-income District residents. That changed two years ago, when D.C. housing officials dramatically increased the value of rental subsidies. … As of February, tenants with city-issued housing vouchers had filled nearly half of the building’s roughly 140 units. … Many of the new tenants are previously homeless men and women who came directly from shelters or the streets, some still struggling with severe behavioral problems. The result has been a high-stakes social experiment that so far has left few of its subjects happy. Police visits to the building have nearly quadrupled since 2016. Some tenants have fled. In February, responding to complaints, the city began staffing the building with social workers at night to deal with problems that arise.”

-- Maryland’s chief of toll operations, Kevin C. Reigrut, resigned abruptly. Reigrut has led the agency for more than two years but quit unexpectedly. The reasons for his departure remain unknown. (Luz Lazo

-- The Purple Line project is getting a new chief executive amid disputes over its completion schedule and cost. The team of companies behind Maryland’s Purple Line is hoping a new leader will resolve these disputes and accelerate the construction of the $5.6 billion public-private project. (Katherine Shaver

-- The 2019 Squirrel Week Squirrel Photography Contest is over, and here you can find the best pictures of the ubiquitous rodents, as judged by columnist John Kelly.

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Stephen Colbert has concluded that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange might not be a great roommate: 

He also questioned Trump's relationship with Fox News: 

Julia Louis-Dreyfus talked about Trump's influence on her show "Veep":

Mitch McConnell kicked off his reelection bid with a video touting his connections to Trump and his blockade of Merrick Garland's Supreme Court nomination: