With Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro
THE BIG IDEA: A low point of Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign came in the spring of 2007 during a forum sponsored by the Service Employees International Union and the Center for American Progress Action Fund. The major Democratic candidates descended on Las Vegas for an event focused specifically on health care. Obama’s problem was that he didn’t have a health-care plan, so he spoke in bromides and generalities. Hillary Clinton, then the front-runner, had a detailed proposal. So did John Edwards. And Chris Dodd.
The event that day was moderated by Karen Tumulty. “Obama was noticeably uncomfortable when pressed for details,” she wrote afterward in Time magazine. Ezra Klein, then at the American Prospect, reported that “Obama seemed uncertain and adrift.” The headline on the Associated Press’s write-up was: “Is Obama all style and little substance?”
Jon Favreau, Obama’s chief speechwriter, remembers the day vividly 12 years later. “Barack Obama fumbles through it and is maybe the angriest I heard him in the whole campaign because he felt unprepared,” Favreau recalled during a recent episode of his “Pod Save America” podcast. “He felt like he didn’t do the work. The truth was that we were just getting a policy staff together. He didn’t have time to put the whole plan together. But he was like, ‘That’s not an excuse! I’m running for president! I need to put plans together!’
“Obama, then, for the next five or six months overcorrected and started getting into such detail on every single policy to the extent where, in Iowa, he was giving these 50- to 60-minute-long speeches because he wanted to prove to people that he was super substantive,” Favreau added. “It turns out people want some substance, but not a ton of substance because they also want message and inspiration. It wasn’t until the Jefferson-Jackson dinner that fall that he once again lost all the details on policy and got back to inspiring people.”
-- The SEIU and CAP’s political arm are co-hosting a forum again in Las Vegas tomorrow to push the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates for specifics, but this time the focus is on income inequality instead of health care. Six presidential candidates will face 30 minutes of questioning from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Pacific: Sens. Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, plus the former congressman Beto O’Rourke, governor John Hickenlooper and housing secretary Julián Castro.
“We've had the highest levels of inequality that we've had in close to a century,” said Neera Tanden, the president and CEO of CAP, a powerful liberal group. “Median wages have been essentially stuck for decades. There have been some improvements in the last couple of years, but it is extraordinary how weak those improvements have been when you have such low unemployment. A laissez-faire attitude towards the economy has failed. Inequality was a really important conversation in 2016, but it’s accelerated now that we have the Trump tax cuts that are driving inequality even more.”
“Obviously being able to join a union is a key lever to address inequality,” said Mary Kay Henry, the international president of the SEIU, which counts 1.9 million members. “People are working harder and harder and still stuck in poverty. Frankly, for us, the most important thing we can inject into the presidential debate is this idea that we need an economic plan where the ability to join a union, no matter where you work, is at the heart of the solution to balance the power of corporations in this country. …
“There are some bold ideas that are being presented in the Democratic primary that have been exciting, but they are a set of ideas and not so much a [holistic] plan to fix the racial and economic inequality that is the story of our time,” Henry added. “We’re hoping to hear a set of ideas that is more coherent and a plan of action. Because of the richness of the field and the number of ideas, we want to create as much opportunity in this first phase as possible for our members to engage with candidates.”
Coming into the event, Warren has been widely commended for offering a cornucopia of policy proposals that are more detailed than those of anyone else in the Democratic field while other candidates such as Harris and O’Rourke have been criticized by progressive thought leaders for tending to speak more in abstract terms. The bar is higher for them to clear tomorrow.
-- “President Trump in 2016 had an answer for people about stagnant wages,” Tanden explained during an extended interview in her office this week. “It was not a good answer, but he was going to stop all outsourcing and stop all immigration. Those aren't actually fully responsive, and not possible, and he hasn't done either. But it's an answer, and my view is you need an answer. You can't beat a bad answer with no answer. You have to have an answer to beat a bad answer. Hopefully a good answer. It doesn't have to be like 50 pages, but it has to be something.”
Tanden said there’s a big opening for one of the 20 candidates in the crowded field to share “an alternative framework” or propose “a restructured social contract” for thinking about the economy. “You have a situation where 47 percent of people find a $400 unexpected cost to be destabilizing to their household,” she said. “That's a big, flashing red warning sign that there's something fundamentally wrong with the way we've structured the social contract. … A system where there are few rules is not working so people are more open to new rules that are fairer.”
-- The experience of the 2007 health-care event has “very much shaped” how organizers are approaching this weekend’s inequality conversation, Tanden explained. “In 2004, John Kerry had not had a universal health-care plan. He just had a plan to expand health care. So it was a big push to get even to the ACA, which was not full universal but near universal. … That forum really showed the intensity and importance of the issue. We've been planning this for a long time, and we think that progressive leaders have to demonstrate how they have concrete plans around raising wages and inclusive growth that's broadly shared.”
-- Joe Biden, who likes to claim that people in D.C. call him “Middle Class Joe” (I’ve never heard it), is someone to watch carefully for how he talks about inequality and corporate power. He held a high-dollar fundraiser last night in Philadelphia with Comcast executives on his first day as a candidate, but the central rationale of his third try for the presidency is that he can appeal to the blue-collar, white working-class voters across the industrial Midwest who supported Obama in 2008 and 2012 but defected to Trump in 2016.
-- The Overton Window is shifting: Not long ago, advocating for a national minimum wage of $15 — which would double the current federal standard of $7.25 an hour — sounded extreme. Now it’s a litmus test that every top-tier Democratic contender is embracing. Clinton endorsed a $12 minimum wage in 2016, but under pressure from the labor movement, she said she would sign a $15 minimum wage if it somehow passed Congress.
“What a sea change compared to last time and the time before,” said Henry, whose union has been a leader in the Fight for $15 push. “The movement has created a standard that used to be seen as ridiculous just six years ago.”
-- House Democratic leaders hope to pass a bill in the next few weeks that would phase in a $15 national minimum wage over five years, even though they know Senate Republicans will never take it up. This will help ensure that wages are an issue in the 2020 campaign. A whip count published yesterday by Roll Call showed that 22 House Democrats remain uncommitted to the idea. If 11 of them sign on, they’ll have the votes to pass Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott’s bill without any Republican votes. Some business-friendly moderates and members from poorer, redder states advocate regional minimum wages that would be below $15.
-- The labor movement suffered a legal blow last June when the Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that public sector workers cannot be compelled to join or pay dues to the unions that bargain on their behalf. But this decision unexpectedly helped set off a wave of activism and energy. The American Federation for Teachers, for example, thought it might lose about a third of its revenue. Instead, so far, it’s actually gained members.
There has been a string of high-profile strikes, including teachers in red states like Oklahoma, West Virginia and Kentucky, and most of the Democratic presidential contenders have gone out of their way to rally to labor’s defense. Several candidates, for instance, joined picket lines with striking workers last week at Stop & Shop, New England’s largest supermarket chain. The 11-day strike ended Sunday with a win for the union.
SEIU leaders think the next president can do a lot to make it easier for home-care and child-care workers to bargain together. About half the workforce is excluded from joining unions by laws written in the 1930s, Henry notes. “That’s of special concern to home-care and child-care workers who were written out of the original law because of racism in the 1930s.” (Southern segregationist Democrats supported most New Deal programs but not for African Americans.)
“We think there’s lots of creative ways that executive and regulatory power can be used,” said Henry.
-- One of the endorsement criteria that the SEIU’s executive committee approved last month encourages candidates to call out specific businesses by name when they’re resistant to unionization. Several Democrats, especially Bernie Sanders and Warren, have been doing so. “We think that government for the past 40 years has been siding with corporations,” said Henry. “This is our way to test how our elected officials can stand with working people by naming the problem more specifically. It’s our way to test the courage of a candidate who is going to experience some pressure for doing it. Calling out corporate actors, we think, is pivotal to create the conditions for millions more workers to join unions.”
-- Tanden points to a Harvard study that estimated about 30 percent of the increase of inequality in the United States has been driven by the decline of labor unions. “Germany and Canada are pretty good at driving median wage growth, and the U.S. and the U.K. are pretty terrible,” she said. “There are global trends like artificial intelligence and technology and robotics. You can look at globalization as essentially a global arbitrage around wages. Essentially companies can move anywhere, and they go where the lowest wages are. That doesn't just affect the U.S. It affects Canada and Germany, too, but those countries have policies and practices to ameliorate that.”
-- Nevada, the third state to vote after Iowa and New Hampshire but before South Carolina, was as hard hit as almost anywhere else in America by the Great Recession, particularly because of the housing crisis that led to mass foreclosures.
Jody Domineck, a pediatric oncology nurse in Las Vegas, is active in SEIU Local 1107, which represents 19,000 health-care and public-sector workers in the region. She’s been selected to pose a question to one of the candidates during Saturday’s forum. “Nevada was hit so hard in the last recession,” Domineck said by phone when she called me after a shift on Tuesday night. “I saw how increased unemployment meant more people without insurance at the hospital. Half my co-workers had a spouse who was laid off or looking for a job. That was a very scary time for everybody. There were a lot of sole-provider families all of a sudden. I really hope these candidates can tell us their plans so that we don’t ever go back there.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena said there will be a major reorganization soon of the country’s security services after intelligence failings allowed the Easter attacks to take place. He also confirmed that Zahran Hashim, the attack’s mastermind, was killed. Amantha Perera and Pamela Constable report: “Speaking at his residence to local media heads, Sirisena said both the head of the police and the defense secretary had been warned about the attacks but didn’t inform him. Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando and police chief Pujith Jayasundara have since resigned.”
GET SMART FAST:
Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray was picked first overall by the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL draft, with Ohio State’s Nick Bosa picked by the San Francisco 49ers right after. It's a defense-first draft following an offense-first NFL season. (Mark Maske)
The Navy is drafting formal procedures for pilots to document sightings of UFOs. Former officials say that establishing a process to report “unexplained aerial phenomena,” as the military calls them, is long overdue given how frequently unidentified aircraft enter military-designated airspace. (Deanna Paul)
The University of California, Los Angeles and California State University at Los Angeles have quarantined hundreds of students and staff after they were exposed to measles. UCLA determined that more than 500 students and staff might’ve come into contact with a student infected with measles, while officials at Cal State LA alerted students and staff of a potential measles exposure that might’ve reached at least 198 members of its community. (Michael Brice-Saddler)
Federal judges ordered Michigan to draw new legislative districts after finding that a gerrymandered plan enacted by the state’s Republican-led legislature nearly a decade ago violated the Constitution. If state officials don't come up with new legislative maps by Aug. 1, the court will redraw them itself. This has implications for which party wins the House in 2020. (Eli Rosenberg)
Twitter chief executive Jack Dorsey told Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) that the company stands behind its decision to permit a tweet by the president to stay up despite it leading to a flood of death threats against the Muslim congresswoman. Dorsey told Omar that Trump's tweet didn't violate Twitter's rules. (Tony Romm)
Microsoft became the third American company to reach a market value of $1 trillion. The achievement highlights the recovery in technology stocks that collapsed last year. (New York Times)
Canada threatened to take Facebook to court. Following an investigation triggered by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, regulators up north said the social media giant committed “serious” breaches of their laws by mishandling user data and demanded that it enhance its privacy measures. (Tony Romm)
The U.S. incarceration rate has hit the lowest level in 20 years. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of people in the United States serving jail or prison sentences dropped 10 percent between 2007 and 2017. (NBC News)
The CDC logged the most multistate investigations of foodborne illnesses last year in more than a decade. The agency pursued 23 investigations in 2018 as foodborne illnesses killed 120 Americans and sickened another 25,606. (Laura Reiley)
Lawmakers in Grand Rapids, Mich., are considering a measure to make it illegal to summon police on people of color who, as a summary of the ordinance puts it, are just “participating in their lives.” The proposed move comes after police officers were called to a party where the majority of attendees, who had all the appropriate documentation and permits, were black. (Reis Thebault and Michael Brice-Saddler)
Meghan Markle and Prince Harry remain tight-lipped about the impending birth of the royal baby, but that won't stop the British media's speculation. Harry has showed up solo to a number of royal events, sending the press into a frenzy over even the smallest details on the Anglo-American baby's arrival. (William Booth)
An emperor penguin colony in Antarctica collapsed after losing more than 10,000 chicks in 2016. Some of the colony’s adults relocated, but the decline of the colony signaled the penguins are vulnerable in what was previously considered the safest part of their range. (New York Times)
- The Australian government is continuing its efforts to kill 2 million feral cats by 2020, in part by dropping poisoned sausages from planes. The project was first announced in 2015 as a means of protecting threatened rodent and marsupial species that have been preyed upon by the cats. (New York Times)
Giraffes are being considered for “endangered” status after a steady decrease in their populations.The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said there’s enough information on any “potential threats associated with development, agriculture and mining” affecting the lives of the popular mammals. (Kayla Epstein)
IS THE THIRD TRY THE CHARM FOR JOE BIDEN?
-- A few weeks before Joe Biden launched his presidential campaign, he reached out to Anita Hill to discuss her testimony during Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings in a conversation that left Hill deeply unsatisfied. The New York Times’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Carl Hulse report: “On Thursday, the first day of his presidential campaign, the Biden camp disclosed the call, saying the former vice president had shared with Ms. Hill ‘his regret for what she endured’ 28 years ago, when, as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he presided over the confirmation hearings … In a lengthy telephone interview on Wednesday, [Hill] declined to characterize Mr. Biden’s words to her as an apology and said she was not convinced that he has taken full responsibility for his conduct at the hearings — or for the harm he caused other victims of sexual harassment and gender violence. She said she views Mr. Biden as having ‘set the stage’ for last year’s confirmation of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh … And, she added, she was troubled by the recent accounts of women who say Mr. Biden touched them in ways that made them feel uncomfortable.”
-- Even Biden acknowledged that Hill's hearing wasn't fair. Elise Viebeck reports: "Interviews with a dozen people with firsthand knowledge and a review of the written record and interviews published with participants over the past three decades reinforce that Biden failed to use the powers afforded to Senate committee chairmen to conduct a judicious and thorough inquiry into Hill’s allegations. He did not give full consideration to witnesses whose allegations seemed to corroborate her testimony or curb the attacks and innuendo leveled at her during the hearing. A former Biden lawyer told The Washington Post this month that the Democrats were outmaneuvered by Republicans, whose purpose was to damage Hill."
-- Biden did not tell Susan Bro, Heather Heyer’s mother, that he would be invoking her daughter’s murder in Charlottesville in his campaign launch video. The Daily Beast’s Tim Teeman reports: “‘But I wasn’t surprised,’ Bro, co-founder of the Heather Heyer Foundation set up in her daughter’s memory, told The Daily Beast. ‘Most people do that sort of thing. They capitalize on whatever situation is handy. He didn’t reach out to me, and didn’t mention her by name specifically, and he probably knew we don’t endorse candidates.’ … Asked if she had found Biden’s video exploitative, Bro said, ‘Since we had not spoken, I’m glad he (Biden) didn’t specifically mention Heather. It’s not all about her.’”
-- “Though Biden is, by virtue of his name recognition, the front-runner of this crowded field, most senior Democrats I talk to are skeptical that he will make it through the primaries,” columnist Karen Tumulty writes. “He lost twice before in his bids for the White House, and is burdened by vulnerabilities that are as evident as his virtues. He is undisciplined and gaffe-prone. Along with his vast experience comes nearly a half century of taking actions and positions, particularly on race and gender, that have become apostasies in the modern-day Democratic Party. And he’s a white male in his 70s. … Biden may well indeed be the Democrats’ strongest bet to win back the White House next year. But he may never get that far. And if he doesn’t, whoever wins the nomination could do far worse than to pick up where Biden leaves off.”
-- “By beginning his campaign as he did, Biden played what he believes is the strongest card in his hand — that whatever Democratic voters might feel about aspects of his record, he hopes they will see him as the candidate best equipped to win a general election," Dan Balz writes. "Ultimately, Biden will not want the nomination battle to become a test of policy chops or a debate about generational change. His announcement video showed that, instead, his goal will be to make the coming election a moment of reckoning for the country and his party and then to prove he can meet that test."
-- When Biden first ran for the White House 32 years ago, he was known in the field as the “young fella.” Now, he’s the candidate of experience. Matt Viser reports: “From the distant end of the generational arc, he’s hoping to become the oldest president in American history. And often as he speaks these days, he’s the one carrying a set of notecards. A tour through a trio of announcements spanning more than three decades shows the evolution of his politics … They reflect the gradual shift of the Democratic Party and Biden’s place in its modern-day version. … Now, he is framing his candidacy as a clear rebuttal of Trump’s politics of racial and ethnic division … He starts this race at the top of the polls, while in previous races he was the struggling underdog.”
-- Obama talked his then-vice president out of running in 2016, The Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere reports: “In his 2020 announcement, he leaned heavily into the Obama associations and a sense that he is the heir to the Obama legacy. Obama isn’t quite saying the same, though his feelings about this run are complicated too—word went out from someone familiar with the former president’s thinking today saying Obama isn’t endorsing anyone, for the moment.”
-- Biden hired Symone Sanders, an African American woman who rose to prominence as Bernie Sanders’s press secretary in 2016, to be a senior adviser. The AP’s Julie Pace and Errin Haines Whack report: “The move adds a younger, diverse voice to Biden’s cadre of top advisers, which has been dominated by older white men. It suggests Biden is seeking to broaden his appeal to a new generation of Democrats. … [Symone] Sanders has been heavily recruited by 2020 contenders, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, California Sen. Kamala Harris and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker. Bernie Sanders notably did not ask her to come back after working on his 2016 campaign.”
-- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) is planning on opening his fundraising network to Biden’s campaign. Cuomo, who quickly endorsed Biden’s candidacy, raked in $100 million in campaign donations since he first ran for governor in 2010. (CNBC)
-- "Welcome to the race Sleepy Joe," Trump said to Biden as soon as his campaign was announced. But the insult may show that the president sees the former vice president as his biggest 2020 threat. Politico's Eliana Johnson and John Bresnahan report: "As early as last fall, Trump was talking privately with aides about the threat Biden posed: 'How are we gonna beat Biden?' he would ask. When reassured that the moderate Biden would never defeat several of his more liberal rivals, Trump has pushed back: 'But what if he does?' The conversations, relayed by a Republican strategist with direct knowledge of the interactions, reflect the president’s assessment that Biden poses the biggest threat to his re-election, uniquely capable of competing with him in the Rust Belt states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania that carried him to victory in 2016."
-- Trump said he’s “rooting for” South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg to win the Democrat’s crowded primary. Colby Itkowitz reports: “At the end of a 45-minute live interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity ...Trump did not elaborate on why Buttigieg is his favored candidate and didn’t have anything negative to say about the young South Bend, Ind., mayor, other than that he doubted he’d win the crowded primary. ‘I hope he would,’ Trump said. ‘I’m rooting for him, but he is not going to make it.’" Trump also called Beto O'Rourke a "fluke" and said Sen. Kamala Harris has a "little bit of a nasty wit."
--Trump told Hannity the Russia probe was a "coup." “This was an attempted overthrow of the United States government.”
-- George Conway, husband of Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, developed a new viral nickname for the president: “Deranged Donald.” Allyson Chiu reports: “It didn’t take long for the hashtag to begin shooting up the list of Twitter trends, and it was eventually trending in the No. 2 spot worldwide. By late Thursday, the hashtag had been mentioned hundreds of thousands of times. As many celebrated the hashtag’s success, others praised Conway for giving the Internet a nickname for Trump that seemed like it would ‘stick.’”
THE DOMESTIC AGENDA:
-- The Trump administration is hitting pause on its plans to expand offshore oil and natural gas drilling across the U.S. continental shelf. Dino Grandoni reports: “In his first interview since being confirmed to Trump’s Cabinet, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told the Wall Street Journal that a recent ruling by a district court in Alaska has stalled plans that at one time called for opening up most U.S. continental-shelf waters to oil and gas companies. … With the appeals process in the case expected to drag on for months, if not years, Bernhardt suggested any plan his department crafts now would have to be rewritten by the time the dust settles over the suit. In the meantime, the administration’s plans to offer oil and gas drilling leases in these areas are now stalled.”
-- A federal judge blocked the Trump administration from imposing anti-abortion restrictions on the use of federal family planning funds designed to assist millions of low-income women. Fred Barbash reports: “The rule, promulgated in March by the Department of Health and Human Services, would have barred programs receiving the money from saying or doing anything to advise or assist a patient about securing an abortion. Critics called it a ‘gag rule.’ … Planned Parenthood, a regular target of [Trump] and HHS, would have been particularly hard hit as the nation’s single largest provider of reproductive health services. … The order was nationwide in scope, barring HHS from implementing the administration’s rule entirely and preserving the status quo.”
-- Top White House officials are asking key Republicans to hurry and raise the debt ceiling. Damian Paletta and Erica Werner report: “Te effort appears to be getting little traction so far, in part because some Democrats are insisting that any debt ceiling deal come as part of a package of changes that raises spending levels after October. The White House has sent mixed signals as to whether it would support raising spending caps, and Democrats have asked for firm commitments before they will proceed. … There has even been some discussion of trying to add a debt ceiling increase to a major disaster-aid bill that has stalled on Capitol Hill. It’s unclear whether that approach could prove viable, but its consideration reflects the administration’s urgency to find some vehicle to get a debt ceiling increase through Congress.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Acting on instructions passed down from Trump, a U.S. official sent to retrieve comatose American student Otto Warmbier from North Korea in 2017 signed a pledge to pay a $2 million invoice for hospital care. Anna Fifield reports: “The bill went to the Treasury Department, where it remained — unpaid — throughout 2017 ... However, it is unclear whether the Trump administration later paid the bill, or whether it came up during preparations for Trump’s two summits with Kim Jong Un. … Trump, as recently as Sept. 30, asserted that his administration paid ‘nothing’ to get American ‘hostages’ out of North Korea. … The North Korean officials handed [State Department envoy Joseph Yun] a bill for $2 million, insisting he sign an agreement to pay it before they would allow him to take Warmbier home ... Yun called then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and told him about the bill. Tillerson called Trump. They instructed their envoy to sign the piece of paper agreeing that the $2 million would be paid...”
-- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is in Washington for a two-day summit with Trump in an attempt to fan the president’s ego. David Nakamura reports: The visit “includes meetings at the White House, a private birthday dinner for the first lady and 18 holes at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling. … Beyond the pleasantries lies a more difficult reality for Abe and a test of his resilience at a time when Trump is demanding that Japan engage in negotiations for a bilateral free trade agreement that Tokyo has long resisted, and is ratcheting up threats to impose tariffs on Japanese automobiles. Such an action ‘could be a turning point’ in the relationship, one Japanese official said this week, before quickly adding that he does not believe it will happen. … His White House visit will mark the 40th time he has spoken or met with Trump since the president won office.”
-- Trump ordered his administration to prepare for new arms-control agreements with Russia and China. Paul Sonne and John Hudson report: “The aim of the nascent effort, a senior administration official said, is to bring Russian nuclear weapons unregulated by treaties under new limits and persuade China to join an arms-control pact limiting or verifying its capabilities for the first time. The initiative is still in its earliest stages, with officials preparing options for how to implement Trump’s order. … A trilateral nuclear arms-control agreement among the United States, Russia and China would be a watershed diplomatic achievement; separate treaties alone would be significant. But normally such pacts require years of negotiation and diplomatic outreach, a challenge for an administration that has withdrawn from arms-control treaties but has not brokered any new ones.”
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- Thousands of migrants every day report for their check-ins with ICE, where they face the serious threat of deportation. Michael E. Miller reports: “The surge in the number of people seeking asylum, despite the Trump administration's aggressive attempts to reduce immigration, has only burdened that system further. Over the past two years, as record numbers of Central American families have turned themselves in at the border, the number of immigrants required to report regularly to ICE has jumped by 26 percent to 2.9 million. … For the people presenting themselves to immigration authorities, including more than a million already facing final orders of removal from the United States, each check-in can feel perilous.”
-- Migrants who have been forced to wait in Mexico as their asylum cases are processed, because of the Trump administration’s new policy, complain they are being returned to dangerous border towns. Many of them are families with young children. Vice News’s Emily Green reports this scene from El Paso: “Defendant #5 was sleeping in his father’s arms when his name was called. Three-year-old Josué couldn’t be roused from his slumber to take note of Judge Nathan Herbert. ‘He’s currently taking a nap,’ Herbert noted from the bench. Instead, Josué’s dad, Edwin, did the talking, as his wife, seven months pregnant, sat by his side. ‘We don’t want to go back to Mexico,’ Edwin told the judge, explaining that the day before he had been kidnapped in Mexico.”
-- Three House committees are now investigating White House policy adviser Stephen Miller’s role in the purge of several Department of Homeland Security leaders. Colby Itkowitz reports: “In a letter sent Thursday to the agency’s acting secretary Kevin McAleenan, the panels’ chairmen asked for all communications related to the departure of several individuals, including former homeland secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who resigned on April 7. They also requested all communications with White House senior adviser Stephen Miller about department leadership changes. … They also said they were concerned that the exits of top Homeland staff empowered Miller to handle the Trump administration’s immigration policy.”
-- A Massachusetts judge and a former court officer were charged with obstruction of justice by federal prosecutors for preventing an immigrations and customs officer from arresting an undocumented immigrant at a courthouse last year. Steve Burkholder reports: “Judge Shelley M. Richmond Joseph, 51, and Wesley MacGregor, 56, … helped the man — wanted on fugitive charges in Pennsylvania and for narcotics possession — avoid being picked up by an officer of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to an indictment filed by the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts. … At one point during the on-the-record court proceedings more than a year ago, a court clerk said that a representative of ICE was ‘here in the court . . . [unintelligible] to, to visit the lockup,’ according to a transcript included in the indictment. ‘That’s fine,’ Joseph responded, according to the transcript. ‘I’m not gonna allow them to come in here.’”
-- The president’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump, who is a senior adviser to his reelection campaign, said the admission of Syrian refugees was “one of the worst things that ever happened to Germany.” Felicia Sonmez reports: “In an appearance on Fox Business Network on Thursday morning, Lara Trump was asked by host Stuart Varney about the wave of migrants who have made their way to Germany in recent years. In 2015, the chancellor welcomed more than 1 million migrants to Germany, many of them fleeing war and poverty. ‘Angela Merkel let them in. Open borders. Let them in. Catastrophic,’ Varney said. Trump replied that the move ‘was the downfall of Germany.’ … Trump’s comments prompted derision online, with many noting that Germany fought in two world wars and took years to recover from Nazi rule.”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- “Stymied by aides, Trump sought out loyalist to curtail special counsel — and drew Mueller’s glare,” by Ashley Parker, Roz Helderman and Matt Zapotosky: “Trump’s efforts to enlist (Corey) Lewandowski as a back channel to try to curtail the probe, … which discomfited even some of Trump’s most loyal advisers, was read by some legal observers as one of the clearest cases laid out in (Bob) Mueller’s report of potential obstruction of justice by the president. In unequivocal terms, the report states that there was ‘substantial evidence’ that Trump hoped his actions would derail Mueller’s investigation and prevent further scrutiny of his campaign and his own conduct.”
“There are several episodes where I am confident that if this were not the president of the United States, charges would absolutely be recommended. And this is one of them,” said Barbara McQuade, who served as a U.S. attorney in Michigan during the Obama administration. “The question is, are all of the elements of obstruction of justice met? Was there an act, was there a sufficient nexus and was there a corrupt intent? Here, the answer is yes, yes and yes.”
-- Trump denied that he told Don McGahn to fire Mueller. In an early morning tweet yesterday, the president disputed a central finding of the special counsel's report. “I never told then White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller, even though I had the legal right to do so,” Trump tweeted. “If I wanted to fire Mueller, I didn’t need McGahn to do it, I could have done it myself. Nevertheless, Mueller was NOT fired and was respectfully allowed to finish his work on what I, and many others, say was an illegal investigation.”
-- “The president’s attacks on his former White House counsel are driven by Trump’s growing belief that his opponents on Capitol Hill will use McGahn’s testimony as the cornerstone of a possible impeachment case against him, according to two White House officials," per Robert Costa and John Wagner.
-- Fox News analyst Andrew Napolitano, a former judge, challenged Attorney General Bill Barr’s understanding of obstruction of justice and described Trump’s actions to stifle Mueller’s investigation as “unlawful, defenseless and condemnable.” He writes in a FoxNews.com op-ed: “Obstruction is a rare crime that is rarely completed. Stated differently, the obstructer need not succeed in order to be charged with obstruction. That's because the statute itself prohibits attempting to impede or interfere with any government proceeding for a corrupt or self-serving purpose. … The president's job is to enforce federal law. If he had ordered its violation to save innocent life or preserve human freedom, he would have a moral defense. But ordering obstruction to save himself from the consequences of his own behavior is unlawful, defenseless and condemnable.”
-- Former intelligence officials say the Mueller report clearly shows the Trump campaign left itself open to a Russian influence campaign. NBC News’s Ken Dilanian and Tom Winter report: “The report describes meetings with questionable individuals and a ready use of backchannel communications, despite warnings from U.S. intelligence officials. … Trump officials took those meetings knowing their campaign had benefited from information stolen by the Russian government, the Mueller report says. … The fact that the Trump team did not coordinate their Russia meetings with the U.S. government gave the Russians leverage, [intelligence] experts say. U.S. government officials with security clearances who fail to report contacts with Russian nationals could lose their security clearances or their jobs.”
-- In his first public comments since last week, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein fired back at critics of his handling of the Mueller report. Philip Bump and Devlin Barrett report: Rosenstein “warned that hacking and social media manipulation are ‘only the tip of the iceberg’ when it comes to Russian efforts to influence American elections. … In his speech, Rosenstein critiqued Congress, politics and the media, and defended the Justice Department as an institution whose mission is to rise above partisanship and focus on facts. … ‘There is not Republican justice and Democrat justice. There is only justice and injustice,’ he said. … ‘Last week, the big topic of discussion was: ‘What were you thinking when you stood behind Bill Barr at that press conference, with a deadpan expression?’ The answer is: I was thinking, ‘My job is to stand here with a deadpan expression.’’”
-- Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called on Congress to take steps to protect against future election interference from foreign adversaries. Warner writes in a USA Today op-ed: “Republicans and Democrats alike should acknowledge that our laws must be updated to address the new threats we face. To do this, we must confront the fact that the president and his campaign engaged in behavior that — repeated by Trump or any future candidate — poses an ongoing threat to our national security."
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN:
-- In a new Atlantic profile, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney criticized his predecessor John Kelly and defended his apparent abandonment of hard-line fiscal policy. The Atlantic’s Elaina Plott and Peter Nicholas report:
- “When I got here, morale wasn’t what it needed to be,” Mulvaney said. “I don’t think I’m telling any secrets—John hated the job. And let everybody know. … I just think it’s very hard to cultivate a healthy work environment when somebody near the top lets everybody know that they hate their job.” He boasted with a smile, “I don’t think I’ve fired anybody since I’ve been here!”
- Mulvaney pushed back against his former House colleague Mark Meadows’s characterization of Trump signing a massive spending bill as “losing.” “I told him, ‘Yeah, but at least I’m losing at the very highest levels,’” Mulvaney said. He acknowledged the administration is “spending a bunch of money on stuff we’re not supposed to.”
- He dismissed accusations that Trump’s senior staff never pushes back against his controversial proposals. “We do say no to the president,” Mulvaney said. “He wants us to say no when we believe the answer is no—that does not mean we’re being disobedient or we’re somehow undermining the president. Many times the exact opposite is true.”
- Mulvaney bragged that his close relationship with Trump has caused him to gain 10 pounds. “I eat more with the president now,” he said of becoming chief. “He eats hamburgers all the time.”
-- Acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan was cleared of allegations he used his position to benefit his former employer Boeing, seemingly clearing the way for his nomination as defense secretary. Dan Lamothe and Missy Ryan report: “The probe was launched in March after the office of the acting Defense Department inspector general received reports saying that Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, had boosted Boeing in Pentagon meetings, disparaged Boeing’s competitors, pressured Pentagon officials to buy Boeing products and sought to influence the Air Force’s decision on accepting a Boeing aircraft, the KC-46 tanker plane, after technical problems delayed its delivery. … The findings by acting inspector general Glenn Fine … state that Shanahan ‘fully complied with his ethics agreements and his ethical obligations.’”
-- Exactly a year into his tenure, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has become the face of Trump’s “America First” worldview, often left to explain the president’s controversial foreign policy. Carol Morello reports: “A year in, Pompeo is credited with pulling State Department morale out of the abyss. Though many senior positions remain vacant, his decision to lift a hiring freeze has paved the way for hundreds of new entry-level and mid-level employees. … Pompeo has taken charge of navigating complex pressure campaigns on Iran, North Korea and Venezuela, even while defending U.S. ties with Saudi Arabia after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But some question the degree to which Pompeo is helping shape foreign policy, finding him more of an explainer-in-chief for an unorthodox president and his ‘America First’ agenda.”
-- Lachlan Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch and new Fox News chief, thought that getting rid of Trump-hostile assets and selling them to Disney would allow Fox’s tradition of right-wing programming to continue. But that has not been the case. Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman reports: “For Lachlan and Fox, the Trump dissonance didn't end post-Disney deal—in some ways, it's even gotten worse. The network has never been more powerful—and at the same time so vulnerable. Fox programs influence Trump daily, but that has opened the network up to charges that it is State TV. Inside Fox, a long-running cold war between the network's journalists and right-wing, prime-time hosts has turned hot. Fox journalists, bristling at being branded an arm of the Trump White House, are lobbying Fox News C.E.O. Suzanne Scott and president Jay Wallace to rein in Fox & Friends, Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, and Jeanine Pirro. “Reporters are telling management that we're being defined by the worst people on our air,” a frustrated senior Fox staffer told me last month.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Former second lady Jill Biden celebrated the launch of her husband's third presidential campaign:
The former mayor of Charlottesville thanked Biden for centering the city's story in his launch video:
As the Jewish mayor of Charlottesville serving when @realDonaldTrump made his contemptible remarks giving safe harbor to neo-Nazis, I’m grateful to @JoeBiden for centering his campaign on our own Thomas Jefferson’s “idea of America”: dignity for all. https://t.co/ukxCLWPKGi— Mike Signer (@MikeSigner) April 25, 2019
A former senior adviser to Obama praised Biden's video:
Energetic, smart @JoeBiden kickoff video. Essentially bypasses the primaries and goes right to main event, assailing @realDonaldTrump, putting Charlottesville front and center; framing the fight as a titanic struggle for American values.— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) April 25, 2019
https://t.co/clItM46Dfu via @YouTube
A New York Times reporter reacted to the timing of Biden's call to Anita Hill:
Stating obvious here: Biden had 28 years to say something. Called weeks before his presidential launchhttps://t.co/8DfRSML2KS— Steadman™ (@AsteadWesley) April 25, 2019
Meghan McCain said this in advance of Biden's appearance on "The View" today:
Thrilled that Vice President @JoeBiden will be giving his first exclusive interview since announcing his run for President with us @TheView table tomorrow morning. It’s no secret of my love and friendship with Joe - and I can’t wait to talk to him tomorrow. 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/zEbijrlqgL— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) April 25, 2019
Biden also received this unwelcome endorsement from the former lawyer to Stormy Daniels, who is facing a string of very serious federal charges:
Joe Biden picks up another key endorsement pic.twitter.com/Pb47VPXRUs— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) April 25, 2019
A pizza parlor in Biden's hometown wished him well, per an NBC News reporter:
An AP reporter captured this screenshot from Biden's website:
Biden's 404 page game is strong pic.twitter.com/IUrLv9g9re— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) April 25, 2019
The Post's satirical columnist mocked Biden's logo:
An editor at the Center for Public Integrity did the math on the age difference between Biden and fellow presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke:
A New York Times reporter noted Bernie Sanders’s campaign's quick response to Biden’s campaign:
Joe Biden has been a presidential candidate for less than 15 hours and the gloves are off from the Bernie Sanders campaign.— Shane Goldmacher (@ShaneGoldmacher) April 26, 2019
Witness their latest fundraising email pic.twitter.com/51fRUFc3hJ
The communications director of the liberal group Justice Democrats and a former Bernie staffer tweeted this video in response to Biden's launch, while noting that both men ended up voting for the bill in question:
Lots of white dudes in my mentions about how Bernie ended up voting for the 1994 bill. It's bad that Bernie voted for it! But it's also noteworthy that Bernie criticized Biden's tough-on-crime approach. Biden hasn't fully owned up to his wrongdoings on *leading* that charge.— Waleed Shahid (@_waleedshahid) April 25, 2019
This venn diagram captured half of the Democratic 2020 field:
Some in-depth analysis of the 2020 field pic.twitter.com/3otIut1ivg— Zoë Ryan (@z_m_ryan) April 25, 2019
The former Department of Homeland Security spokesman under John F. Kelly fact-checked Trump:
They are doing great work but...1st, it's Border PATROL. 2nd, you tried to freeze federal employee salaries -- including CBP & USBP -- but Congress passed a 1.9% raise for this year. https://t.co/xKUEMEPZPQ 3rd, your gov't shutdown caused BP agents to work w/out pay for weeks. https://t.co/GwrKnBalWt— David Lapan (@DaveLapanDC) April 25, 2019
Hillary Clinton shared this throwback photo for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day:
Children also appeared in the White House briefing room for Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day:
Children of White House reporters and staff are in an off-record briefing with press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. pic.twitter.com/QZJ9ufQCax— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) April 25, 2019
And the CIA joined Instagram:
-- Politico Magazine, “Inside the Shrinking Newsroom of the Paper That Shapes the Primaries,” by Tim Alberta: “Tony Leys is a newspaperman. … He has won numerous awards, including two years ago for reporting on the impact of Medicaid privatization, as told through the eyes of poor, suffering patients, and last year for authoring a stellar package of Sunday print edition stories about mental health. There will be no such series this year. Not because Leys has lost his job, but because he’s being reassigned—sort of. He’ll continue to cover health-related stories. But for the next 10 months, his priority will be covering presidential politics. Leys is used to this. It happens every four years. Because this is Iowa. Because this is the Des Moines Register.”
-- “They grew up in the shadow of USC. Would the school let them in?” by Moriah Balingit: “For students who have grown up in the shadow of USC and were fighting against all odds to get in, the college admissions scandal that broke last month struck a deeply personal note. … Experts say all kinds of factors work against students in poverty. They are more likely to experience destabilizing life events that interrupt their education, such as homelessness, hunger and community violence. In a world in which the children of the wealthy had so many advantages, where did that leave students like [Anthony] Ramirez and [Asriel] Hayes?”
-- USA Today, “We found 85,000 cops who’ve been investigated for misconduct. Now you can read their records,” by John Kelly and Mark Nichols: “At least 85,000 law enforcement officers across the USA have been investigated or disciplined for misconduct over the past decade, an investigation by USA TODAY Network found. … Most misconduct involves routine infractions, but the records reveal tens of thousands of cases of serious misconduct and abuse. … Less than 10% of officers in most police forces get investigated for misconduct. Yet some officers are consistently under investigation. Nearly 2,500 have been investigated on 10 or more charges. Twenty faced 100 or more allegations yet kept their badge for years.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Sarah Sanders Holds First Press Briefing in 46 Days – for Children,” from Bloomberg News: “White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders held her first news briefing in 46 days on Thursday. It was for children, and mostly off the record. Sanders hasn’t taken questions from reporters in the White House’s briefing room since March 11, when she and other officials briefed the press corps on the president’s fiscal 2020 budget proposal. On Thursday, Sanders invited children of staffers and journalists brought to the White House for Take Your Sons and Daughters to Work Day to sit in their parents’ seats in the briefing room and ask questions. She allowed grown-up journalists watching the event to report two pieces of news: [Trump] will deliver a commencement address at the Air Force Academy next month, and NASCAR driver Joey Logano will visit the White House soon.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez deletes tweet that mistakenly identified fellow Democrat as one of GOP’s ‘older male members,’” from Felicia Sonmez: “Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on Thursday tweeted — then deleted — a post that mistakenly identified her fellow House Democrat, Rep. John Yarmuth (Ky.), as one of the Republican Party’s ‘older male members.’ …[A] Kentucky GOP post shows Yarmuth, a six-term Democrat who is chairman of the House Budget Committee, smiling and standing next to a cardboard cutout of Ocasio-Cortez. ‘Looks like @AOC and #socialism are calling the shots for @KyDems now!’ the post reads. In her now-deleted response, Ocasio-Cortez had seized on the tweet to point out the dearth of young women among the ranks of House Republicans. ‘GOP: Let’s pose our older male members next to cardboard cutouts of young female legislators,’ she wrote.”
Trump will travel to Indianapolis to speak at the NRA's annual meeting. He will then return to Washington to meet with the Japanese prime minister at the White House.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I asked President Obama not to endorse, and he doesn’t want to. Listen we should, whoever wins this nomination should win it on their own merits.” – Joe Biden. But reports have been circulating for nearly a year that the former president does not plan to make an endorsement in the primaries. (Fox News)
-- A McClatchy reporter was skeptical of Biden's claim:
to follow up: It would be an extraordinary act for a former president to endorse this early in a hyper-competitive presidential primary and exactly zero people expected he'd formally back JB at this moment -- not least because it risks Obama's own pristine reputation in the party— Alex Roarty (@Alex_Roarty) April 25, 2019
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Prepare for another damp Friday with a potential round of strong storms approaching later in the day. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “With an all-day shower and storm chance, a small umbrella may be a good idea. After 1 p.m., a few strong storms with damaging wind gusts above 40 mph become possible, as a cold front moves in. A brief tornado can’t be ruled out, either. We rise into upper 60s to low 70s by late afternoon. If you’re wanting a quick half-inch or more of rain, one of these downpours may do the trick. Southerly winds around 10 mph to perhaps above 20 mph are possible, at times."
-- Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh’s attorney said she’s not “lucid” enough to make a decision about her resignation a day after federal agents raided her homes and offices. CBS Baltimore’s Devin Bartolotta reports: “An earlier report said she may have been trying to get out of town, but attorney Steve Silverman spoke to WJZ outside her home Thursday and said the mayor is physically ill and emotionally saddened. He said she apologized for letting down the people of Baltimore with any appearance of wrongdoing. However Silverman did not address whether Pugh would resign, only saying he was discussing her options with her. According to Silverman, Pugh is not mentally or physically able to make any decisions. Neighbors tell WJZ they haven’t seen her in weeks. They believe she splits her time between two homes in Baltimore.”
-- A judge is expected to release the Coast Guard officer accused of a terrorist plot against politicians and journalists pending a trial on gun and drug charges brought against him because prosecutors have not charged him with any terrorism-related offenses. Justin Jouvenal and Lynh Bui report: “U.S. District Judge Charles B. Day said he had “grave concerns” about Christopher Hasson, 50, of Silver Spring, Md., during a detention hearing Thursday in Greenbelt, Md., but could not justify holding him without more serious charges.”
-- The senators of Maryland and Virginia plan to introduce legislation to increase a key federal subsidy for Metro by $50 million. Robert McCartney reports: “The long-awaited Senate proposal would extend the decade-old federal funding program that has provided the transit agency with $150 million a year for another 10 years. In addition to increasing the annual funding by $50 million a year, the legislation also strengthens the office of Metro’s inspector general, tightens procedures for capital spending, and creates two task forces to improve safety on Metrorail and Metrobus.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Obama once made a joke about his vice president's infamous neck massages:
#OTD FOUR YEARS AGO TODAY:— Howard Mortman (@HowardMortman) April 25, 2019
"I feel more loose and relaxed than ever. Those Joe Biden shoulder massages, they're like magic. You should try one. Oh, you have."
-- Pres. Obama, WHCA dinner, April 25, 2015 #Nerdprom pic.twitter.com/LrjmtwEatH
Trevor Noah suggested the former vice president managed to successfuly negotiate with Mitch McConnell because he was the one person he wouldn't give neck massages to:
The highly awaited superhero film "Avengers: Endgame" is released today, but Stephen Colbert decided to change the plot a little bit:
Taylor Swift released a new song after a much-hyped countdown:
The song, “Me!”, features Panic! At the Disco’s Brendon Urie. (Emily Yahr)
A storm that rolled through Chicago caused four of the city's tallest buildings to simultaneously emit upward lightning:
A snack distracted a Cincinatti Reds player mid-game:
"Are those oppo tacos? No? No thanks." 😉 pic.twitter.com/XTQdO9qFc3— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) April 26, 2019
If you’ve ever wondered what a soccer game against one hundred children would look like, now we have an answer:
VIDEO: Three professional Japanese footballers play against one hundred children. pic.twitter.com/hFuIJuLafg— The Spectator Index (@spectatorindex) April 25, 2019
And this chimpanzee seems to really enjoy social media: