Several dues-paying companies have balked as the Chamber endorsed fewer and fewer Democrats over the past several election cycles. The GOP’s drift toward protectionism, nativism and isolationism since Donald Trump took over the party in 2016 is also at odds with the Chamber’s longtime support for expanding free trade, growing legal immigration and investing in infrastructure.
The Chamber’s major strategic shift, outlined here for the first time based on a series of exclusive interviews with its leaders, grew out of more than two years of intensive conversations. The deliberations began in earnest shortly after Trump became president but long before the Democratic takeover of the House in the midterms ushered in divided government.
Tom Donohue, the Chamber’s longtime president and chief executive, compares it to making substitutions during a basketball game. “It's very unfortunate that the far right has gone very far right, and the far left has gone very far left. If you think about this, there is a hole in the middle,” he said. “So what we’re doing – and this is critical – is adjusting and responding to the new politics. We're adjusting and responding to the new Congress and the way the administration operates. The people that win in sports and in politics and in business are the people that are not so focused on one approach but are ready to adjust.”
The Democratic establishment soured on the Chamber as the group came to more reliably support GOP candidates. Democrat Evan Bayh even worked for the Chamber for five years after leaving the Senate, for example, but the group spent $1.4 million on television ads against him when he ran unsuccessfully to get his old seat back in 2016.
“It's not just about telling a different story. We have to fundamentally act differently, too,” said Tom Wilson, the chairman of the Chamber’s board of directors and the CEO of Allstate Corp. “We cannot just single-source our politics through one party. We need to be more accessible and more bipartisan than we were. You can decide how much we were, and everyone’s got their own views on that, but we just need to reach across the aisle to more Democrats.”
-- Senior Chamber officials have launched a charm offensive on Capitol Hill, reaching out to freshman Democrats from swing districts whom they perceive as reasonable to set up meetings and highlight areas of common ground.
During the sit-downs with Democratic members, Chamber leaders are explaining how they will change the scorecard this year to incentivize Democrats to work with them. The Chamber has historically relied solely on a handful of key votes, but the polarization of Congress and the rise of party-line voting has skewed the ratings so that it’s hard for Democrats to get good numbers. This year the Chamber is adding two other components. One relates to sponsoring something the business community supports. The other relates to sponsoring bills across party lines, even if the Chamber doesn’t support them.
“If anybody here ever thought of themselves as working for a partisan place, they should stop,” said Suzanne Clark, the senior executive vice president of the Chamber. “Because if we are for free trade, we have to be for whoever wants to work with us on that. … We complained all the time that there was no middle ... and then some people started pushing back and saying well you're not supporting the middle. Everybody keeps worrying about the majority in any one moment, so who is creating the middle?”
Chamber leaders say they hope these changes lead to more Democratic congressional endorsements in 2020 and beyond. “If you're a Democrat and you think, ‘Well, I'm never going to be aligned with the Chamber on 70 to 80 percent of their stuff, so I'm not even going to try,’ that's not their fault,” added Wilson. “The Republican-sponsored legislation was more in line with the Chamber's positions … than the Democratic-sponsored legislation was. It wasn't that everything Democrats did we didn't like, but as a result of that natural inclination, what happened was relationships deteriorated. They deteriorated in little ways, like a day at a time. … We need to change the way we go to market here and the way we build our relationships.”
-- The Chamber’s quarter-billion-dollar capital campaign will retrofit its century-old building. The group’s iconic limestone headquarters, directly across Lafayette Square from the White House and lined with Corinthian columns, will be surrounded with scaffolding by July as part of the renovation. They’re planning to add a roof deck, among other major additions.
Part of the rehab is going retro. They’re pulling back ugly teal carpet to restore herringboned wood floors that have been hidden since the 1980s and restoring some of the grandeur envisioned by architect Cass Gilbert, who also designed the Supreme Court building. The headquarters was constructed from 1922 to 1925.
“This is kind of back to the future. The idea is coming back to our roots,” said Clark. “We do 2,000 events a year, with some 65,000 people. In the last two weeks, 17 finance ministers were here just during the IMF World Bank meetings. You can't do that and then have your building be all teal and ugly.”
-- The Chamber, which has 499 full-time employees, reports a 95 percent renewal rate among member companies that pay $100,000 or more in annual dues. The U.S. Chamber is a federation of local chambers of commerce that operate largely independently. The group does not publish a membership list. But officials said some companies have dropped out in recent years, opting to invest the money in their own Washington operations, but other new businesses have joined.
-- Last year, the Chamber reports taking in $233 million of revenue and ending the year with no debt. Donohue, who is in his early 80s, has led the group since 1997. The year he took over, the Chamber reported $68 million in revenue, $11 million of debt, and 279 employees. Audited revenue numbers provided by the group for the past 15 years show that annual revenue has fluctuated in a band between $202 million and $270 million over the past decade.
“I've now been here 22 years, and we have gone through stages, like any company or any organization,” Donohue said. “In the beginning, it was trying to stabilize the organization that had gone through some challenges. Then we went through a period where we began vigorous growth. Now we're going into the next period where we’re looking to the future. … Unfortunately, we don't win all of the time. But we sure as hell win most of the time. … And we've got to put money together to assure ourselves of having the reserves for when the economy slows, which it does from time to time.”
-- Part of the shift stems from the reality that advancing the Chamber’s biggest priorities will require forging bipartisan coalitions to get 60 votes in the Senate. “There could be some realignment going on with the parties. That's something we're obviously watching. But with respect to trade, immigration and infrastructure, those are policies that you're never going to advance unless you have buy-in from both parties,” said Neil Bradley, the U.S. Chamber’s chief policy officer.
“On big complicated issues, you're not going to get there with a single-party solution,” said Bradley, a former House GOP leadership aide who held senior jobs under Kevin McCarthy, Eric Cantor, Roy Blunt and Tom Coburn during two decades on the Hill. “One of the things we've been talking to members of Congress about is that durable policy has a long tradition of being bipartisan. Policies and laws that were enacted with bipartisan support have a tendency to be a lot more durable than something that passed along party lines. That's true whether it's the Affordable Care Act, which is something we oppose, or the tax bill. We like that policy, but there’s no question it's more susceptible to attack because it was enacted without buy-in from both parties.”
-- Companies crave consistency and certainty from Washington, but they’ve been getting the opposite. “It used to be when presidential control floated back and forth, there was a handful of policies that would go back and forth with the change,” said Bradley. “So the business community actually had a fair amount of predictability. ... Now we’re entering a dynamic where you may have huge swings in regulatory policy, for example, based on which party has the White House. Part of that is because we can't get Congress to function and the parties to come together. Then so much is being left to administrations. That's something that, increasingly, the business community is looking at and saying, 'Listen, we need predictable rules of the road. We can't go through massive swings back and forth every four years.’”
The Chamber sees technology policy as the best example of where corporations need rules of the road, and its lobbyists can help write them. Members of the federation increasingly prefer national regulations on data privacy, for instance, to preempt a patchwork from the states. “Because Congress isn't providing them, we have states providing them in often contradictory ways,” said Bradley. “Compare California to Washington, Illinois and other states. When Congress couldn't figure out the rules of the road for regulating Internet broadband and net neutrality, one FCC did it under Barack Obama and the next FCC undid it under Trump. You end up in this situation where you don't get predictability.”
-- Wilson, the chairman of the board, likens the Chamber to Tiger Woods, who won his fifth green jacket at the Masters this month at age 43. “You know how when you meet somebody at some point in their life and you kind of always know them that way? It's kind of hard to change your view,” he said. “Everybody used to say: Who is the new Tiger? Then we figured out that the new Tiger is the old Tiger. That's sort of like what the Chamber is. The business community needs somebody on its behalf in Washington to represent us. ... If the new Tiger is the old Tiger, the new Chamber is the old Chamber. We just have to get people to recognize that we're different. Everybody changes over time, and we just want people to see it, that we're not who they thought we were … and to see us for who we are in toto.”
He said business leaders need to be more thoughtful about how they can keep up with the rise of technologies like artificial intelligence, which will disrupt even the service industry. “Businesses need to take this role seriously because a guaranteed minimum income is not the answer,” said Wilson. “We need to take seriously our responsibility to create more jobs. To make sure we have a contemporary model.”
-- Corporate cultures are also changing as employees become more engaged with social activism, something the Chamber is trying to be responsive to. CEOs are now expected to weigh in on issues they would have never touched a few years ago.
“You're hearing more and more stories, particularly on the West Coast, of corporate employees calling out a company PAC for supporting a member of Congress because that member of Congress is doing something really important for the country or for the company on X, Y, Z issue. But the employees don't like their social stance on something,” said Clark. “So I do think it's making government affairs harder. I had a person say to me, 'But it's my job to get this done. I have to get this singular thing done.' … We're lucky in a way because we get to be the beneficiary of that. More people turn to us to speak for them or to talk to them or to create cover."
-- The Koch political network, perhaps the biggest benefactor of the GOP takeover of the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014, has similarly distanced itself from the Republican Party during the Trump era, even as officials use their relationships to score wins. For their part, Koch-backed groups are mobilizing to fight the Chamber’s proposal to raise the gas tax to fund infrastructure.
-- To be sure, the Chamber still has many areas of common ground with Trump and congressional Republicans. They’re very happy with the president’s judicial nominees and the tax cuts, and officials have good relationships with many people inside the administration.
-- And they’re still looking to work with Trump even on areas where they’re not really in agreement, such as immigration. The Chamber advocates for protecting the “dreamers” from deportation and expanding rates of legal immigration. “The fundamental issue is that the United States of America is out of people,” said Donohue. “We have the lowest unemployment we've had in 65 years. We have brought more people back into the workforce and still have the lowest unemployment.”
I asked Donohue whether the perception that the Chamber is tied to the GOP has made it harder to build coalitions and work with Democrats. “Of course it has,” he replied.
But he quickly added that the problem is bigger than partisanship. “One of the things that made this more difficult is all the rules,” Donohue explained. “The House, the Senate and the White House all have 300 to 400 pages of rules of how people can have lunch together, who can run a party, whether you can eat with a fork or a toothpick. ... It has made it more difficult. It used to be that you go fight up on the Hill ... and then, at 8 o'clock, everybody finishes and somebody would say, ‘Let's go get a hamburger and a beer.’ We don't do that anymore!
“I really don't know very many people in Washington that you could buy for a hamburger and a beer,” he continued. “We miss the camaraderie and the ability to do that sort of thing, and ... I think it would be better if we had a little more flexibility here – if we treated people a little more like they're honest brokers and they're honest representatives and they're not out to try to lie, cheat and steal. I think better of the members of the Congress. … It's just really silly.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Former vice president Joe Biden announced he is running for president. Michael Scherer reports: “Biden opened his third campaign for the presidency on Thursday, efforts that have spread over 32 years, with an announcement video released on social media. … Biden made his announcement hours before a major campaign fundraiser was to take place in Philadelphia. His first campaign event, union-themed, is expected to be held Monday in Pittsburgh, a Democratic city whose suburbs and exurbs are filled with the sort of voters who abandoned the Democratic Party to side with President Trump in 2016.”
-- Biden made Charlottesville the focus of his presidential announcement video, talking about the white-supremacist rally in 2017 that resulted in the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, a counterprotester. “In August of 2017, we saw Klansmen and white supremacists and neo-Nazis come out in the open. Their crazed faces, illuminated by torches, veins bulging, and bearing the fangs of racism. Chanting the same anti-Semitic bile heard across Europe in the 30s. And they were met by a courageous group of Americans, and a violent clash ensued, and a brave young woman lost her life. And that’s when we heard the words of the president of the United States that stunned the world and shocked the conscience of this nation: He said there were ‘Some very fine people on both sides.’ Very fine people on both sides? With those words, the president of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it. And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I’d ever seen in my lifetime.”
The former VP cited this as a rationale for his candidacy.: “I wrote at the time, ‘We are in a battle for the soul of this nation.’ Well, that’s even more true today. We are in a battle for the soul of this nation. … If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will, forever and fundamentally, alter the character of this nation. And I cannot stand by and watch that happen.”
Biden said “everything that has made America America is at stake”: “Folks, America is an idea. An idea that’s stronger than any army, bigger than any ocean, more powerful than any dictator or tyrant. It gives hope to the most desperate people on earth. It guarantees that everyone is treated with dignity and gives hate no safe harbor. It instills in every person in this country the belief that no matter where you start in life there’s nothing you can’t achieve if you work at it. That’s what we believe and, above all else, that is what is at stake in this election.”
-- Biden will give his first interview as a 2020 candidate on “The View” Friday morning. (The View)
-- On the eve of announcing his presidential bid, Biden sounded the alarm on fundraising during a conference call last night with major donors. Politico’s Marc Caputo and Natasha Korecki report: “'People think Iowa and New Hampshire are the first test,’ Biden said. ‘It’s not. The first 24 hours. That’s the first test. Those [early states] are way down the road. We’ve got to get through this first.’ Biden — noting that ‘I hate to do this’ in discussing the fundraising — said he would be flying around the country for fundraisers with the participants but urged them to do what they can as soon as possible. ‘Do what you can right now,’ Biden said.”
-- Federal agents searched the home and office of Baltimore Mayor Catherine E. Pugh (D) amid fallout over lucrative children’s book deals she made with businesses connected to her government. Ann E. Marimow, Peter Hermann and Lynh Bui report: “Investigators are scrutinizing Pugh’s deals with entities including the health-care company Kaiser Permanente, which was awarded city contracts, and the University of Maryland Medical System, on whose board she sat for many years. … An FBI spokesman said Thursday morning that federal agents were conducting a court-authorized search of City Hall and Pugh’s home. The arrival of federal agents from the FBI’s Baltimore field office and the IRS’s criminal investigation team from D.C. was the first public signal of federal law enforcement interest.”
-- The Capitals' hopes of winning another Stanley Cup — and their season — ended last night with a painful 4-3 loss at home in double overtime to the Carolina Hurricanes. Washington ran out of gas. The Caps were twice ahead by two goals but gave their leads away. It wasn't a pretty win for Carolina, but a W is a W. (Isabelle Khurshudyan, Samantha Pell, Neil Greenberg and Mike Hume)
-- But, but, but: Caps fans will always have last year! Thomas Boswell writes: “D.C. will always keep its memories of the Save by Braden Holtby in the Stanley Cup finals against Vegas, and T.J. Oshie chugging a brew through his jersey. Most of all, every Capitals fan, from the newest to the ‘Suffering Since 1974’ crowd, will have those massive, citywide bonding moments, gazing last June at a mall jammed into the distance with rejoicing fans, with the Stanley Cup shining. What Washington will not have is back-to-back titles.”
-- An ex-aide to Chris Christie convicted of helping cause massive traffic delays on the nation’s busiest bridge to punish a political adversary attacked the former New Jersey governor ahead of her sentencing, alleging in an interview that Christie knew in advance there would be lane closures because she had told him. Matt Zapotosky reports: “‘I’m angry,’ Bridget Kelly, Christie’s former deputy chief of staff for legislative and intergovernmental affairs, told The Washington Post before a judge sentenced her to 13 months in prison. ‘I think that he knew that I would be an easy target, and I’m wildly disappointed. I’m so angry at myself for trusting these people. I’m so angry at myself for not asking more questions. I find it really unfortunate.’
“Kelly said she was aware that some ‘family and friends’ had discussed with Washington contacts the prospect of Trump pardoning her — although she declined to detail those conversations. ‘While I would accept a pardon, no question, it’s not something that I am orchestrating the efforts for,’ she said. … During the 2016 Republican primary, in which Trump and Christie were rivals, Trump had said of Christie’s role in Bridgegate: ‘He totally knew about it.’ And after Trump was elected, the New York Post reported that Trump ‘thought it was shameful’ that Christie let Kelly face what she did.
“Kelly said she believed the public ‘didn’t realize and understand just how much Chris Christie knew.’ ‘And I think that I was the lowest-hanging fruit, and I believed that he had a stage and he had avenues to protect himself that I didn’t, and to defend himself that I did not, so while I was easy to pin everything on, there was a lot more to it,’ she said. ‘So much more to it.’ Kelly justified as banter between colleagues an email she sent to Wildstein saying, ‘Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee’ before the closures. The traffic problems, she said, meant only to refer to what she thought would be a consequence of the study.”
Christie was never charged, although Kelly testified under oath — and prosecutors contended in court — that he knew of the plan. Christie continues to deny that. He released this statement yesterday: “I had no knowledge of this scheme prior to or during these lane realignments and had no role in authorizing them. No credible evidence was ever presented to contradict that fact. Anything said to the contrary is simply untrue.”
-- The Sri Lanka suicide bombers included the sons of one of the nation’s wealthiest spice traders. Mohammad Yusuf Ibrahim is now in custody in connection with the attacks, which were carried out in part by two of his sons and a woman who authorities believe was his daughter-in-law. (New York Times)
-- Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s Muslim community fears retaliation after Easter bombings that killed hundreds of Christians. Pamela Constable reports: “Mosque leaders have stopped broadcasting prayer calls over loudspeakers to avoid offending mourners. They have put up banners with messages of condolence for the victims. They have met with Catholic Church and police officials, and packed food kits for funeral volunteers. They also are bracing for a wave of anger and possibly violent retaliation that has begun to emerge. Hateful online messages blaming Muslims for the attacks have evaded the government’s emergency social media ban, and stones have been thrown at several Muslim homes and businesses.”
GET SMART FAST:
- Facebook has set aside billions of dollars in preparation for a likely fine from the Federal Trade Commission. The social media giant said it expects to face a penalty of up to $5 billion for mishandling the personal information of users. (Elizabeth Dwoskin and Tony Romm)
- Facebook blocked at least 17 pages belonging to three far-right networks ahead of the Spanish election. Together, the pages had more than 1.5 million followers. Facebook said it took them down not because of the information they shared but because of the way the page coordinators used duplicate and fake accounts to share their content. (El País)
- The World Health Organization advised that children under 1 year old shouldn’t be exposed to electronic screens. New guidelines say that children ages 1 to 2 should have no “sedentary screen time,” and kids 2 to 4 should have no more than one hour daily to promote physical activity and healthy sleep patterns. (Rachel Siegel and Craig Timberg)
- The Archdiocese of Baltimore published the names of 23 deceased priests who have been “credibly accused” of abusing children. The archdiocese was one of the first to issue such a list after the sexual abuse scandal emerged in 2002, but it originally refrained from naming deceased priests, arguing they were unable to defend themselves. The reversal of that decision brings the archdiocese’s total number of publicly named clergy members to 126. (Julie Zauzmer)
- Not a record we wanted to break: There have now been more U.S. measles cases in 2019 than any other year since the government announced that the disease had been eliminated in 2000. A preliminary tally shows that at least 673 cases have been reported in 22 states, exceeding the 667 cases in all of 2014. (Lena H. Sun)
- Boeing’s first-quarter earnings fell 10 percent, highlighting the aerospace giant's uncertain financial future. On a conference call with analysts, Boeing executives refused to offer a date for when they will deliver an already delayed update to the software of their 737 Max jets, which were grounded after two deadly crashes. (Douglas MacMillan and Aaron Gregg)
- Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) is under federal investigation for a controversial property tax break that became a drag on his 2018 campaign. Pritzer’s wife and brother-in-law are also under investigation for their alleged efforts to make a newly purchased property declared “uninhabitable” by having all of its toilets removed. A Cook County inspector general’s report found that the renovations amounted to a “scheme to defraud” taxpayers out of more than $331,000. (WBEZ)
- Illinois authorities discovered the body of a 5-year-old boy who was reported missing last week and charged his parents with murder. A body believed to be that of Andrew “AJ” Freund was found in a shallow grave a few miles from his family home. His parents, Andrew Freund Sr. and JoAnn Cunningham, both face five counts of first-degree murder and other charges. (AP)
- A Texas couple was sentenced to seven years in prison for forcing a girl to work in their home for 16 years without pay. Djena Diallo said she was brought from Guinea to the United States at the age of 5 and forced to cook, clean and babysit for Mohamed Toure and Denise Cros-Toure, who physically and emotionally abused Diallo, before she was finally able to escape with the help of neighbors and friends. (Katie Mettler)
- Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband plan to argue that they did not realize they were doing something illegal when they allegedly bribed their children’s way into college. A source familiar with the case said the two simply wanted to “make sure” their daughters got into a good school but didn’t know the “legalities” of the scheme. (Yahoo)
- Pamela Anderson stormed out of a fundraiser in France after 100,000 euros donated for poor children in the port city of Marseille were redirected to a fund for the Notre Dame Cathedral. Anderson said she left because the children could’ve used the money “more than the church that has already received over a billion in donations.” (RFI)
- About 100 exotic animals that formerly belonged to a Florida man who died earlier this month will be auctioned off — including the bird that killed him. Marvin Hajos was fatally injured by a cassowary — a giant, flightless bird with daggerlike claws — several of which will be on the auction block this Saturday. (New York Times)
- A 70-year-old woman fell to her death at the Grand Canyon, the fourth such fatality at the national park since March 26. Officials said the unidentified woman fell about 200 feet after veering away from a trail along the South Rim. (Katie Mettler)
-- A white supremacist was executed in Texas last night more than 20 years after he murdered James Byrd Jr. in a crime that horrified the nation and led to a national discussion on hate crimes. John William King was one of three white men charged with capital murder after investigators discovered that Byrd had been chained to the back of a truck and dragged for nearly three miles. (Eli Rosenberg and Lindsey Bever)
-- Cesar Sayoc, who has pleaded guilty to sending pipe bombs to the president's critics and media outlets, told a federal judge that attending Trump rallies “became like a new found drug.” Sayoc’s defense attorneys have had him psychologically evaluated and plan to submit a report for his sentencing about how his use of steroids may have affected his mental health. (CNN)
-- The Parkland shooting suspect will receive $430,000 of life insurance money, leading his public defender to ask to be removed from the case. Nikolas Cruz will receive half of a life insurance claim left behind by one of his parents, which the public defender’s office at first estimated to be worth around $25,000. (New York Times)
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- In an op-ed for The Post, Hillary Clinton recommends that congressional hearings be held on Bob Mueller's report and advises Democratic lawmakers against rushing to impeachment. Clinton writes: “What our country needs now is clear-eyed patriotism, not reflexive partisanship. Whether they like it or not, Republicans in Congress share the constitutional responsibility to protect the country. Mueller’s report leaves many unanswered questions — in part because of [AG Bill Barr’s] redactions and obfuscations. But it is a road map. It’s up to members of both parties to see where that road map leads — to the eventual filing of articles of impeachment, or not. … Congress should hold substantive hearings that build on the Mueller report and fill in its gaps, not jump straight to an up-or-down vote on impeachment. In 1998, the Republican-led House rushed to judgment. That was a mistake then and would be a mistake now.”
-- The Mueller report showcased the president’s fixation on trying to use the power of law enforcement to target Clinton. The New York Times’s Michael S. Schmidt reports: “He wanted [Jeff] Sessions to reverse his recusal and order the prosecution of Hillary Clinton. … No evidence has emerged that Mr. Sessions ever ordered the case reopened. Like many of Mr. Trump’s aides, as laid out in the report and other accounts, Mr. Sessions instead declined to act, preventing Mr. Trump from crossing a line that might have imperiled his presidency. Instead, Mr. Sessions asked a Justice Department official in November 2017 to review claims by the president and his allies about Mrs. Clinton and the F.B.I.’s handling of the investigation into ties between Mr. Trump’s campaign and Russia.”
-- Deutsche Bank is in the process of handing over financial records from several Trump Organization projects to the New York attorney general. The office of Letitia James subpoenaed the documents last month in connection to a civil probe over whether Trump inflated his assets to secure funding from the bank. CNN’s Cristina Alesci reports: “The bank is in the process of turning over documents, including emails and loan documents, related to Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC; the Trump National Doral Miami; the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago; and the unsuccessful effort to buy the NFL's Buffalo Bills.”
-- Trump suggested that Mueller and his team “checked” his taxes and “financials,” despite there being no mention of them in the report. “Now Mueller, I assume, for $35 million, checked my taxes, checked my financials — which are great, by the way,” Trump told reporters. “They checked my financials, and they checked my taxes, I assume. It was the most thorough investigation probably in the history of our country.” (Felicia Sonmez)
-- The president said he would ask the Supreme Court to intervene if Democrats try to impeach him. John Wagner reports: “It was unclear how Trump would legally justify such a move, since the Constitution delegates impeachment proceedings to Congress, not the courts. Trump mentioned the idea briefly in morning tweets in which he lashed out at Democrats who are continuing to investigate him after the release of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report. ‘I DID NOTHING WRONG,’ Trump wrote. ‘If the partisan Dems ever tried to Impeach, I would first head to the U.S. Supreme Court. Not only are there no ‘High Crimes and Misdemeanors,’ there are no Crimes by me at all.’ … Joshua Matz, a lawyer who specializes in constitutional law, said that Trump’s tweet ‘reflects a profound misunderstanding.’”
-- House Democrats are grappling with how to respond to the president’s refusal to cooperate with their investigations. Rachael Bade and Tom Hamburger report: The defiance could upend the nation’s fundamental principle of checks and balances, legal experts say. “House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) announced plans on Tuesday to hold one Trump administration official who defied a subpoena in contempt of Congress and has threatened a second with the same punishment if he failed to show for a Thursday deposition. And with Trump promising to bar all former and current aides from testifying, the House began confronting the possibility of issuing multiple contempt citations and initiating civil litigation to defend its oversight role. ‘This is a massive, unprecedented, and growing pattern of obstruction,’ Cummings said in a statement Wednesday.”
-- At a recent meeting of House leaders, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) floated the idea of fining Trump administration officials who defy subpoenas. Bloomberg News’s Joe Light reports: “Nadler’s idea was to put teeth in his party’s numerous investigative queries, many of which Trump officials are stonewalling or simply ignoring. Nadler even mentioned jailing administration officials as a consequence for contempt of Congress, though he surmised such a plan might be unrealistic. ... The person said the idea surprised many in the room but seemed to have been researched as a serious option by Nadler or his staff.”
-- Thought leaders on the left are angry that Democratic leaders have not been vigorous enough about conducting oversight. “By the end of this Congress’s first one hundred days, only four committees—Oversight, Judiciary, and Financial Services and Intelligence (the last two jointly)—have authorized so much as a single subpoena,” Jeff Hauser and Eleanor Eagan write for Washington Monthly. “That’s a far cry from the ‘subpoena cannon’ Democrats promised. Similarly, most committees have at most held a handful of hearings in which lawmakers directly interrogated Trump officials. Some, like Agriculture and Transportation and Infrastructure have, remarkably, convened none.”
-- The Mueller report’s revelations have so far not caused Republican lawmakers, even those facing difficult reelection races next year, to distance themselves from Trump. Politico’s Burgess Everett and Melanie Zanona report: “‘Look, it’s clear there were no merit badges earned at the White House for behavior,’ said Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.). … ‘You have to focus on the heart of this conclusion, which is there is no collusion, no cooperation.’ … [B]eyond conceding there are some embarrassing details, Republicans don’t feel the need to create any new space between them and the president. The desire to stay in Trump’s good graces and keep his supporters appears to override any interest in using the episode to appeal to swing voters. … In fact, [Gardner] said he’d be happy to campaign alongside Trump next year.”
-- Michael Cohen claimed in a conversation secretly recorded by actor Tom Arnold, a vocal Trump critic who reached out to the president’s former lawyer, that he was not guilty of some of the crimes that he has pleaded guilty to. The Wall Street Journal’s Michael Rothfeld reports: Cohen “expressed dismay during the conversation that after testifying for more than 100 hours to federal and congressional investigators about his work for Mr. Trump—including the coordination of hush-money deals with two women—he remained ‘a man all alone.’ … Among the charges Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty to were five counts of evading personal income taxes and one count of understating his debt and expenses in an application for a $500,000 home-equity line of credit, or Heloc. On the March call, Mr. Cohen seemed to walk back parts of his admission. ‘There is no tax evasion,’ he said on the call. ‘And the Heloc? I have an 18% loan-to-value on my home. How could there be a Heloc issue? How? Right?…It’s a lie.’” The comments are unlikely to aid Cohen’s efforts to secure a reduced sentence, which would have to be endorsed by federal prosecutors.
-- Hypocrisy alert: Bill “Barr said in a 1998 interview that he was ‘disturbed’ that Attorney General Janet Reno had not defended independent counsel Ken Starr from ‘spin control,’ ‘hatchet jobs’ and ‘ad hominem attacks,’” CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and David Shortell report. “Two decades later, Barr is now attorney general himself -- and defending another president who has repeatedly blasted a special counsel's investigation of his activities. … Barr's 1998 comments about ‘spin control’ came several months after he co-authored a public statement with three fellow former attorneys general expressing concern that attacks on Starr from officials in the Clinton administration appeared ‘to have the improper purpose of influencing and impeding an ongoing criminal investigation and intimidating possible jurors, witnesses and even investigators.’”
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- Stonewalling alert: The Justice Department said it will not comply with a congressional subpoena for testimony on the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. Rachael Bade reports: “In a letter to the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Assistant Attorney General Stephen E. Boyd informed the panel that John Gore, the principal deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s civil rights division, will not give a deposition. Gore’s refusal to appear before the committee is at the direction of [Barr], according to the letter, escalating the already explosive fight between the executive and legislative branch. … A DOJ official later argued that the panel ‘has provided no legitimate or constitutional basis for excluding a DOJ lawyer from assisting at the deposition’ but also said if a department lawyer may appear with Gore, Barr ‘will allow the deposition to go forward.’”
-- The White House said it will not allow senior adviser Stephen Miller to testify before the House Oversight Committee about Trump’s immigration policies. Colby Itkowitz and Rachael Bade report: “Few expected Miller to comply, given precedent that White House staff traditionally do not testify. But Miller, Democrats worry, has had more power than a traditional White House staffer, particularly over immigration.”
-- The countries targeted by the Trump administration for their high rates of visa overstays actually account for a small number of violators. Maria Sacchetti and Kevin Uhrmacher report: “Twenty countries have overstay rates higher than 10 percent, according to the Homeland Security report. Except for Syria and Nigeria, these countries accounted for fewer than 1,000 overstayers each. … Some analysts say targeting these countries would have little impact on the total number of undocumented immigrants in the United States. Using the percentage of overstays as a measure also disproportionately targets African nations — 13 of the 20 countries are in Africa — while avoiding political conflicts with larger and more powerful countries, such as China and India.”
-- Trump said that Mexican troops who drew guns on American soldiers at the border last month were “probably” serving as a distraction for drug smugglers — a theory at odds with the U.S. military’s assessment of the incident. Dan Lamothe and Mary Beth Sheridan: “Navy Capt. Pamela Kunze, a U.S. military spokeswoman, said in an email that five to six members of the Mexican military approached and questioned the U.S. soldiers, who were near Clint, Tex., in an unmarked vehicle owned by Customs and Border Protection. ‘An inquiry by CBP and DOD revealed that the Mexican military members mistakenly believed the U.S. Army soldiers were south of the border with Mexico,’ Kunze wrote. … ‘We believe this brief exchange was a misunderstanding concerning the location of the unmarked U.S. surveillance vehicle and an honest mistake by the Mexican soldiers,’ Kunze said.”
-- Talking out of both sides of his mouth: Trump previously pointed to the low number of monthly apprehensions at the southern border as evidence that his hard-line approach was working. Now that the number has surged and continues to rise, Trump says that the high number is evidence that his hard-line approach is working. From Philip Bump: “Not only is Trump flipping his position on the importance of apprehension numbers, but he’s also explicitly disparaging his prior position as necessarily bad. He’s saying, in [his Wednesday morning tweet], that he was doing a bad job when apprehensions were as low as they were when he bragged about them.”
-- The Florida House passed a bill that prohibits “sanctuary cities” and would require local officials to comply with federal immigration authorities. Tim Craig reports: The legislation “would bar local governments from ignoring Immigration and Customs Enforcement requests — known as detainers — for local jails to hold suspected undocumented immigrants until federal authorities take them into custody. It also mandates that local agencies use their ‘best efforts to support federal immigration law’ and threatens a fine of up to $5,000 per day for entities that violate the law. ... More than 120 Florida business leaders, ranging from a former chief executive of Carnival Cruise Line to executives of home-building companies, signed an open letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and legislative leaders warning that the bills could cripple the state’s robust economy.”
-- Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) newly released tax returns show that he made $1.7 million giving speeches as Newark mayor. Colby Itkowitz and Felicia Sonmez report: “He earned the most from his speaking engagements in 2011 and 2013, pivotal years in his rise to national stardom. Booker’s campaign provided The Washington Post a list of the places where he gave paid speeches between 2008 and 2013, most of them at universities. He was also paid to speak by nonprofits and companies, including Google, General Mills and MetLife. Booker (N.J.), who is the latest Democratic presidential candidate to make multiple years of tax documents public, last year reported his lowest income of the decade. He made just his Senate salary of $152,715 in 2018 and gave $24,000 to charity, which is about 15.7 percent of his income, the documents show. In previous years, Booker earned considerably more income from speeches and, later, book royalties.”
-- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) got booed during a candidates' forum sponsored by She the People in Houston, an event meant to drive up voter participation among women of color. Holly Bailey and David Weigel report: “Before an audience of about 1,700, many of them African American and Hispanic women, the moderator asked Sanders (I-Vt.) how he would handle the rise in white supremacy. Sanders spoke of fighting discrimination and running a campaign ‘to bring our people together around an agenda that speaks to all people’ — then returned to a familiar message on universal health care. For many in the audience, that was insufficient. ‘Come on!’ a woman shouted from the back, as others began to jeer and boo. The reception reflected Sanders’s struggle to win support from minority voters, a problem that dogged his 2016 primary campaign against Clinton.”
-- In a 1970s Senate race, Sanders said millionaire senators are “immoral.” CNN’s Nathan McDermott and Andrew Kaczynski report: “Sanders' decades-old comments, which were picked up in December 1971 by the Bennington Banner, a local Vermont newspaper, are resurfacing as the US senator from Vermont has acknowledged that he is now a millionaire in large part due to his 2016 best-selling book, ‘Our Revolution.’ … Sanders campaign spokesman Josh Orton said, ‘Yes, it is true: Senator Sanders said in the 1970s that it is immoral that the government too often represents the interests of the super-wealthy and large corporations — and yes, it is also true that Senator Sanders has continued to demand a change from that for his entire life.’”
-- The police officers present during Beto O’Rourke’s 1998 drunken-driving arrest stand by their report from the time, which says that O’Rourke tried to flee the scene of the wreck he caused. The Texas Tribune’s Jay Root reports: “O’Rourke admits he was intoxicated and says there is no justification for his actions, but he has denied that he tried to flee. … Neither the investigating officer, Richard Carrera, nor his former supervisor, Gary Hargrove, specifically recalls the events of that night more than 20 years ago. But both of the former Anthony Police Department officers [said] they have no doubt the report they compiled and signed is accurate. … Carrera, 49, said after reading the police report, in which an unnamed witness claimed O’Rourke tried to flee in his Volvo, he has ‘no doubt that he tried to leave the scene.’”
-- O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg appear to be appealing to a similar set of voters, raising questions about whether both of their campaigns can simultaneously survive past the early primary states. The New York Times’s Jonathan Martin reports: “It is unlikely that as the nominating contest moves past the early-voting states next year, there will be room for two white men under 50 who present themselves as mainstream progressives. Both men are fresh faces in a party that often covets newness, and each is difficult to pin down on policy, hailing from neither the establishment nor the insurgent wing and centering their appeal in biography as much as ideology. … Each candidate, though, faces a similar challenge: expanding their support beyond the mostly white, largely affluent progressives who have already rallied to their sides.”
-- Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) became the first member of Congress to endorse Buttigieg. “I think he’s the most articulate of all the candidates we have,” Beyer said of his decision. “He speaks plainly but very thoughtfully. Politics is about communicating and being able to tell a story well. And I think he does it better than anyone I’ve seen since Barack Obama.” The House Democrat added, “Everybody I talk to — even my Republican brother-in-law I had breakfast with — is excited about him.” (Laura Vozzella)
-- Franklin Graham, son of televangelist Billy Graham and one of the most influential evangelical Christians in the U.S., said Buttigieg should repent for being gay. In a tweet, Graham said homosexuality is “something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized,” and, in another tweet, responded to Buttigieg’s comments this week that “God does not have a political party” by saying, “God doesn’t have a political party. But God does have commandments, laws & standards … Mayor Buttigieg says he’s a gay Christian... The Bible says marriage is between a man & a woman—not two men, not two women.” (The Daily Beast)
-- Buttigieg might not have Graham’s approval, but he’s gaining major Hollywood support for his 2020 bid: Actress Gwyneth Paltrow is reportedly throwing a fundraiser for the South Bend mayor in Los Angeles. Paltrow is not the only celebrity backing Buttigieg’s campaign — Mandy Moore, Ryan Reynolds and Jane Lynch have already donated to his campaign. (Elle)
-- Some South Carolina voters have expressed hesitation about supporting a young candidate like Buttigieg who has not had much experience on the national stage. Robert Costa reports from North Charleston: “At Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church here, many Democrats attending a bustling Easter event — where hot trays of eggs, thick ham and biscuits lined the gymnasium — said in interviews that they barely knew him. That was particularly true of the older members who do not follow the podcasts or television programs on which Buttigieg is a regular. Others said they admire the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Ind., but would prefer a seasoned hand such as [Biden], or a lawmaker such as Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.).”
-- The House Democrats’ campaign arm is re-upping its request that its Republican counterpart refrain from using hacked materials in 2020 congressional races. Mike DeBonis reports: “The request from Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) renews a request that Democrats have made for nearly three years, dating back to the first reports of potential foreign hacking of political groups in 2016. Now, with the findings of [Mueller] confirming Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is hoping to finally reach a bipartisan agreement not to use the fruits of those illicit hacks. … The NRCC brushed off similar DCCC requests in 2016 and 2017. The groups undertook a more serious effort to reach a deal in 2018, but talks fell apart just weeks before Election Day.”
-- The NRA is at the center of a new lawsuit against the Federal Election Commission brought by an anti-gun-violence organization founded by ex-Rep. Gabby Giffords. The lawsuit claims that the FEC didn’t take action against the NRA for alleged campaign finance violations. Itkowitz reports: “The lawsuit charges that the federal agency did nothing when confronted with repeated complaints by Giffords and the Campaign Legal Center accusing the NRA of using shell corporations to donate more than the legal amount to seven federal candidates, including President Trump, and to coordinate with their campaigns without disclosing it. … In addition to Trump, the suit names Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and 2018 GOP Senate candidate Matt Rosendale in Montana as beneficiaries of the NRA’s alleged violations, court documents show.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met in Vladivostok on Thursday for their first-ever talks, sending a stark signal to the United States that the Kremlin can wield influence over North Korea’s nuclear program. Amie Ferris-Rotman reports from Moscow: “The two men greeted each other warmly before sitting down for a summit that Moscow has said will produce neither formal statements nor agreements, coming two months after Kim’s second face-to-face summit with Trump broke down in Hanoi. For the Kremlin, eager to play a role in high-stakes nuclear talks, the flashy summit will show Russia’s increasing political dominance around the globe. For Kim, meeting a world leader like Putin is an opportunity to save face after the failed U.S. talks. Kim, dressed in his usual Mao-collared black outfit, told the Russian leader that he hoped their two nations would ‘exchange views on the situation on the Korean Peninsula, and resolve the issue together in a substantial manner.’ To which Putin replied, ‘And that’s the way it will be.’”
-- Putin, who praised Kim’s efforts to normalize ties with the U.S., said North Korea needs security guarantees before it gives up its nuclear program. (AP)
-- Kim has a fleet of ghost ships with false names on their hulls sailing around the seas as a way to beat U.N. sanctions. Jeanne Whalen reports: “Pyongyang is growing bolder in its sanctions evasion in part because many countries — and their banks, insurers and commodities traders — have long failed to properly enforce the measures, North Korea experts said. And some sanctions specialists worry that mixed signals from the Trump administration may further undermine global enforcement. … North Korea conducts its illicit trading with a fleet of ghost ships that paint false names on their hulls, steal identification numbers from other vessels and execute their trades via ship-to-ship transfers at sea, to avoid prying eyes at ports. … Most of the ships that trade with Pyongyang sail under a ‘flag of convenience,’ meaning they are registered in countries … that provide little oversight. But vessels and firms in more-developed countries have also come under suspicion.”
-- “In Russia, political criticism is a 4-letter word (and a $470 fine),” by the New York Times’s Andrew E. Kramer: “A Russian court this week for the first time applied a law forbidding the use of obscenities to describe public officials, state symbols or government bodies. It fined an unemployed carpenter in a small town, apparently singled out at random from the sea of foul language users on the Russian internet, for calling [Putin] a vulgar form of the Russian word for dimwit. Though this law might seem ineffective, given the scale of vulgar language used in a political context on social media in Russia, as elsewhere, it reflects a serious effort by Russia and other authoritarian states to find ways to censor crowdsourced news and commentary in the digital era, when the Soviet practice of putting a censor in a newspaper’s newsroom can no longer suffice.”
-- The Trump administration backed Libyan strongman Khalifa Haftar in his assault on the country’s capital to depose its U.N.-backed government. National security adviser John Bolton left Haftar with the impression that the U.S. approved of an offensive on Tripoli by his forces, Bloomberg News reports.
-- The U.N. Security Council passed a watered-down version of a resolution to end sexual violence in war after the Trump administration raised objections to the proposal’s references to reproductive health, which U.S. officials said could be interpreted as support for abortion rights. Rick Noack reports: “European allies are furious. France’s U.N. ambassador, François Delattre, lashed out at the United States for what he called an ‘intolerable and incomprehensible’ stance. … Potentially encouraged by the U.S. move, China and Russia threatened to join the protest, even though both had previously supported or abstained from similar resolutions in the U.N. General Assembly. … After the references to reproductive health were removed at U.S. request, both nations abstained on Tuesday, and the resolution passed 13-0.”
-- U.S. and Afghan forces have killed more civilians than the Taliban, according to a United Nations report. The New York Times’s David Zucchino reports: “The United Nations said in its quarterly report that pro-government forces were responsible for 53 percent of civilian deaths. But insurgents were responsible for the majority — 54 percent — of civilian casualties over all, even as the number of suicide bombings decreased compared with the same period in 2018, the report said. … The agency reported 581 civilians killed and 1,192 wounded during the first quarter, a 23 percent decrease in overall casualties compared with the same period in 2018.”
-- Trump is going back to Britain, and so is the giant, inflatable orange baby blimp bearing his likeness. The diaper-wearing blimp will once again fly over British skies, only this time it could be even bigger. (Jennifer Hassan)
THE DOMESTIC AGENDA:
-- The administration is working on a new rule that civil rights organizations fear could blow up the nondiscrimination protections of the Affordable Care Act for LGBTQ individuals. Ariana Eunjung Cha reports: The rule would “make it easier for hospitals, physicians or insurers to deny care or coverage to transgender people for religious reasons. The debate centers on the word ‘sex’ as it applies to those provisions. Some faith-based health-care organizations protested in 2016 when President Barack Obama’s Health and Human Services Department interpreted the term to include gender identity and transgender people as protected classes. … This month, as part of an 18-page filing in a Texas lawsuit, Trump administration officials at HHS said that they agree the Obama-era rule is illegal and they are rewriting it. ‘The United States has returned to its long-standing position that the term 'sex’ . . . does not refer to gender identity,’ HHS attorneys wrote.”
-- A divided Supreme Court sided with business owners over workers in a class arbitration ruling saying workers can’t band together in proceedings unless their contracts specifically allow it. Robert Barnes reports: “Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the court’s conservatives in the 5 to 4 decision, said because class arbitration is fundamentally different from individual proceedings, it must be expressly agreed to by an employer in the contract. … Arbitration clauses have become increasingly common in employee contracts and in the fine-print agreements consumers sign. The court’s four liberal justices are concerned enough about the trend — and the Supreme Court’s endorsement of it — that each registered a dissent in Tuesday’s opinion. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she wrote to ‘emphasize once again how treacherously the court has strayed from the principle that arbitration is a matter of consent, not coercion.’”
-- Stephen Moore, Trump’s pick for the Fed’s board, said he’s hopeful about his chances of being confirmed. But he said he will bow out if he became a liability to Trump or Senate Republicans. The Wall Street Journal’s Paul Kiernan reports: “’I want to help make America the most prosperous place in the world,’ Mr. Moore said Wednesday in an interview, adding, ‘I’m totally committed to it as long as the White House is totally committed to it.’ … He said he was getting ‘really excited’ about the prospect of joining the Fed, calling it a ‘tremendous opportunity.’ But he added he would back down ‘if something I said or something I’ve done becomes a political problem’ for the White House or Senate Republicans, particularly those facing reelection in 2020.”
-- Trump defended his administration’s efforts to address the opioid crisis, saying “tremendous progress” has been made on the issue. Ashley Parker and Felicia Sonmez report: “’Everyone here today is united by the same vital goal: to liberate our fellow Americans from the grip of drug addiction and to end the opioid crisis once and for all,’ Trump said in a speech to the Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit. ‘We will never stop until our job is done.’ … There is little evidence that the Office of National Drug Control Policy has done much on its own to combat the crisis. And critics have argued that the SUPPORT Act passed by Congress and signed into law by Trump last year lacked sufficient funding for treatment programs.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
George Conway, who is married to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, applauded Hillary Clinton's op-ed:
A HuffPost reporter posed an evergreen question about Trump's brinkmanship:
A Wall Street Journal reporter noted some errors in a Treasury letter:
A presidential historian brought back a Time magazine cover of yore:
In light of Biden’s candidacy, old clips of the end of his 1987 presidential campaign resurfaced:
A Post reporter recalled Franklin Graham’s words on Trump after the popular Evangelist said Pete Buttigieg should repent for being gay:
Elizabeth Warren called for harsher penalties against Facebook:
An MSNBC reporter captured his impressions from the She the People presidential forum, which was centered on questions from women of color:
Julián Castro joked about a slight mix-up at the forum:
The Des Moines Register has a running count of Iowa staffers for the presidential candidates:
A New York magazine contributor quipped about recent stories on some of Biden’s and Sanders’s past controversial views:
-- “The betrayal: How a lawyer, a lobbyist and a legislator waged war on an Alabama Superfund cleanup,” by Steven Mufson: “This tale of power, pollution and duplicity played out in Alabama’s poorest communities, in its executive suites and its storied courtrooms. … In the summer of 2014, [David] Roberson the lobbyist and [Oliver] Robinson the legislator met over cheeseburgers at a Billy’s sports bar out in the suburbs. The men would reach an understanding about what needed to be done: Keep the EPA out of Birmingham’s backyards and stop the agency from enlarging the Superfund site, a federally designated area contaminated with hazardous waste and pollutants. The stickier point was price. How much would Robinson charge to undertake a grass-roots campaign to get it done?”
-- The Atlantic, “What It’s Like to Teach at One of America’s Least Racially Integrated Schools,” by Kristina Rizga: “On a late February afternoon, Angela Crawford, an English teacher, stood in front of about three dozen Philadelphia educators—mostly young, black women—as they all swapped stories of small victories and challenges in their classrooms. Dressed in a ‘Black Lives Matter’ T-shirt and slim black slacks, Crawford, at one point, reflected on what has helped her remain resilient while working in some of the nation’s least resourced and most segregated classrooms for 23 years. … As a veteran black teacher, Crawford is an outlier in her hometown of Philadelphia—and in the country. Just 24 percent of Philadelphia’s public-school teachers are black, down from a third in 2001, in a district in which 53 percent of students are black. That mirrors a national pattern: Between 2003 and 2012, a net 26,000 black teachers disappeared from American classrooms, while the overall number of teachers grew by 134,000.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
Jussie Smollett’s “Empire” co-stars Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard asked Disney and Fox to bring back the disgraced actor for the show’s final season. Deadline’s Dominic Pattern reports: “’Together, as a united front, we stand with Jussie Smollett and ask that our co-star, brother and friend be brought back for our sixth season of Empire,’ the Oscar nominees and the rest of the portrayers of the Lyon clan wrote … The letter inked by the key cast was drafted in part by individuals close to Smollett, I hear. Tonight’s “Never Doubt I Love” episode of Empire, featuring a wedding between Jamal and Kai (Toby Onwumere) is the last one in which Smollett will appear this season — it’s unclear whether it will be the last time Empire fans ever see him.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Oklahoma governor signs bill barring plastic bag tax,” from the Oklahoman: “Gov. Kevin Stitt on Tuesday signed a bill that preempts Oklahoma municipalities from imposing fees on single-use plastic and paper bags. In the short term, the legislation affects Norman, where city officials contemplated imposing a 5-cent tax on plastic and paper bags. But the bill prevents all Oklahoma cities and towns from taxing single-use bags and carryout or to-go containers. Norman Mayor-elect Breea Clark urged Stitt to veto the measure as a show of respect for local government control. ‘At least he didn’t sign it on Earth Day,’ Clark tweeted Tuesday, the day after Earth Day. … Stitt signed Senate Bill 1001 by Rep. James Leewright, R-Bristow, who also carried a similar version of the bill last year. Supporters of the bill characterized it as a way to create uniformity across the state.”
Trump will receive his intelligence briefing and have lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo before speaking on the South Lawn for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I don't recall anything along those lines happening in any meeting.” — Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney on whether he instructed aides to avoid conversations about election security with the president. (Politico)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- It might be a little rainy this afternoon through tomorrow morning. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Who says we don’t ever get springtime temperatures? The area is delightfully mild through the weekend. Showers are unavoidable, mainly tonight and tomorrow, but on the bright side they should wash out a bit of the pollen overwhelming the region. Saturday and Sunday are mainly dry, so get out and enjoy.”
-- The D.C. attorney general will review police procedures after an officer detained a 9-year-old boy whose mother said had committed no crime. Peter Hermann reports: “The attorney general’s inquiry comes less than a month after another D.C. police officer detained a 10-year-old boy who was initially accused of committing an armed robbery. The youth was later exonerated after authorities reviewed surveillance video that captured the incident. In a statement, Racine (D) called the latest incident ‘obviously concerning’ and said his office, with acceptance from D.C. police and the mayor, would review how the department deals with children and compare those guidelines with those from other departments around the country.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
C-SPAN's communications director remembered this moment from the 1996 Democratic convention:
Pete Buttigieg responded to a supporter who came up with the candidate's sign name:
Travelers at Dallas Love Field Airport who parked their cars on the ground floor of a garage received an unwelcome surprise after flooding swept through the city:
Trevor Noah can't believe Trump threw a tantrum over his Twitter followers:
And, without saying his name, Hasan Minhaj criticized Jared Kushner for his close ties to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman: