Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke, who narrowly lost to Sen. Ted Cruz in November, concluded that his odds of being elected president were higher than defeating the state’s other senator, John Cornyn, in 2020.
Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, the Democrat best positioned to oust Sen. Cory Gardner, said he’s not cut out to be in the Senate and jumped into the presidential race.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, the dream Democratic recruit to take on Republican Sen. Steve Daines, has been hiring a staff for his all-but-declared presidential campaign.
-- Abrams is still trying to decide whether she should join a crowded field that already has 20 candidates. For now, she’ll focus on her voting rights project. If Abrams passes on the presidential, the nominee could pick her as a running mate in the summer of 2020 or select her as a member of the Cabinet in 2021. She could also seek the governorship in a 2022 rematch against Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.
-- Taken together, these decisions make the path to a Democratic Senate majority in 2021 narrower. If a Democrat wins the White House, he or she would be able to accomplish relatively little of the bold programs they’re promising if Republicans maintain a Senate majority, which today seems more likely than not. Remember, Republicans knocked off Democratic Senate incumbents last fall in North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana and Florida in November despite a blue wave in House races.
-- Republicans hold a 53-to-47 edge in the Senate. If there’s a Democratic vice president to cast tiebreaking votes, Democrats would still need an additional three pickups to take control. But Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who defeated Roy Moore in the 2017 special election to replace Jeff Sessions, is considered very likely to lose, which means they’d need to gain four seats elsewhere.
The likeliest path to a Democratic majority runs through Arizona, where Sen. Martha McSally — who lost last November to Kyrsten Sinema but was then appointed to the seat formerly held by John McCain — will face former astronaut Mark Kelly, who is married to Gabby Giffords. Trump carried the Grand Canyon State in 2016, but it will be a likely 2020 presidential battleground.
Democrats see knocking off Gardner in Colorado as critical and have made clear that Maine Sen. Susan Collins will be a top target, even though she coasted to reelection in 2014. In addition to Georgia, they’re also trying to field strong challengers against the first-term senators in North Carolina and Iowa.
-- Abrams’s decision is a boost for first-term GOP Sen. David Perdue’s reelection hopes, but national Democrats pledge to still vigorously compete in Georgia. “Stacey Abrams would have been a great senator, and so will the candidate who takes on Sen. Perdue next fall,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Stewart Boss. “Stacey and Georgia Democrats laid a strong foundation for 2020, and Senator Perdue will be held accountable for driving up health care costs, giving big corporations and millionaires like himself a tax break, and putting the president ahead of what’s right. His weaknesses are why Georgia is a great pickup opportunity.”
-- The siren song of the presidential race is very tempting. Being commander in chief, obviously, is more powerful than being one of 100 members in a broken and dysfunctional Senate. “As a senator, most senators don’t — you don’t become even the vice chair of a reasonably important committee until your third term,” Hickenlooper, 67, told Colorado Public Radio when he decided to run for president. “But by the time I got to my third term, I’d be 80.”
The presidency also appears attainable for people like O’Rourke and Abrams in a way it was not before, even though neither has held statewide office and both just lost high-profile races. Trump won Texas by nine points and Georgia by five points in 2016, but he lost the national popular vote. Until 2005, Barack Obama had never been anything more than an Illinois state legislator. Four years later, he was president. Donald Trump is the first president in American history with no prior governing or military experience. Looking at the past two men elected president, many Democrats look in the mirror and wonder: Why not me? Especially when they raised so much money in 2018 from small-dollar donors.
-- O’Rourke, Hickenlooper, Bullock and Abrams are all considered underdogs for the party’s nomination. All four could have raised massive sums of money for Senate bids. Campaign cash makes more of a difference in a Senate race than a presidential bid because you get less earned media, and the map is so spread out. But everyone has their own incentives and ambitions, which in this case aren’t in sync with helping Schumer.
Abrams, whose decision not to run for Senate was first reported by CNN's Jeff Zeleny around midnight, is the former minority leader of the state House. She would have been the first African American woman elected governor last year but narrowly lost to Kemp, who was then Georgia’s secretary of state. She has called it a “stolen election.” If the 45-year-old had run for Senate and lost, a third campaign in 2022 would be much harder.
-- As recently as this weekend, national Democrats still believed they could coax Abrams into the Senate race. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), the chair of the DSCC, watched O’Rourke speak at an event sponsored by the state party at a brewery in Henderson, Nev., on Friday night. She said that she’s been having conversations with Abrams and making the case for getting in the Senate race instead of the presidential. “I talk about from my perspective, particularly as the first Latina [senator], the opportunity to now be at the table and fight for issues and for individuals that I know have been traditionally underrepresented,” Cortez Masto told reporters. “Bringing more diversity to the United States Senate is important.” She also said she’s had conversations with Bullock, a friend from when both were the attorney general of their states.
-- But Bullock continues to hire several staffers for his presidential campaign-in-waiting. Galia Slayen, who worked as communications director on Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s 2018 campaign, has been hired as the communications director for Bullock’s Big Sky Values political action committee. “Also coming on board is James Owens, who worked as comms director for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and was the states comms director for NARAL Pro-Choice America,” Politico’s Natasha Korecki reported yesterday. “His PAC is also bringing on Jeremy Busch, who just finished a stint in Iowa working on the unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign of Democratic nominee Fred Hubbell. Busch was named Iowa press secretary to Bullock’s PAC.”
Someone who is running for Senate in Montana doesn’t hire an Iowa press secretary.
-- To be sure: It’s still early. The 2020 elections aren’t for more than 18 months. And there are other candidates who will run. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that former Columbus, Ga., mayor Teresa Tomlinson already announced she’d run for Senate if Abrams passed. “Other potential contenders have waited for Abrams before making their move,” per Greg Bluestein. “They include Sarah Riggs Amico, the runner-up in last year’s race for lieutenant governor; ex-6th Congressional District candidate Jon Ossoff; and Michelle Nunn, who lost to Perdue in 2014.”
And several Democrats are champing at the bit to take on Gardner. Mike Johnston, a former Colorado state senator who represents a diverse Denver district, raised $1.8 million in the first quarter of the year for his campaign.
MJ Hegar, a veteran who lost a House race to GOP Rep. John Carter last fall, announced last week that she’ll challenge Cornyn. Rep. Joaquin Castro, Julián’s brother, had been expected to get in, but it’s now unclear whether he’ll give up his safe House seat to take on an incumbent who is more popular and likable than Cruz and has a deep fundraising network.
Democratic strategists involved in the battle for the chamber also note that a lot of fresh-faced, first-time candidates without name ID beat entrenched House incumbents in 2018. Veteran politicians have struggled in recent cycles when they ran for Senate, such as Ted Strickland, Evan Bayh and Russ Feingold in 2016.
Also, the big names who passed on Senate races to run for president could change their minds if their campaigns fizzle. Marco Rubio famously swore off the Senate when he ran for president in 2016. He trashed the chamber constantly on the trail as he explained why he wasn’t running for reelection. Then he lost the GOP nomination to Trump, decided to seek a second term and won reelection.
-- The question now is whether Abrams gets into the presidential fray. Speaking in Seattle last Thursday, she said running for president has been on her list of goals for 25 years. “After breaking up with a boyfriend, [Abrams] says she created a spreadsheet laying out her goals, including being Atlanta mayor — the ceiling for black people, she thought at the time — a millionaire, and an author,” according to a write-up from the Capitol Hill Seattle Blog. “In about 1994, one of her friends, a white Republican man from South Carolina who she worked in the Clinton White House through a fellowship asked her the shocking question: ‘Stacey, when are you running for president?’ ‘President of what?’ she recounted asking in response. He reassured her that she could do it. ‘What shames me to this day is that I did not believe him,’ Abrams said at a sold-out [event] at Capitol Hill’s Temple De Hirsch Sinai. … After that conversation, she went home and updated the spreadsheet to say that she would run for president.”
When a member of the audience later asked Abrams if she’ll run for president in 2020, she replied: “I didn’t say I wouldn’t run. I just said I wasn’t announcing anything.”
-- In a Q&A that will run in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, Abrams also keeps the door open to running for president. “If people I respect legitimately think this is something that could be so and it’s not my mom and sister saying, ‘You should do this,’ then I owe those people the courtesy of thinking it through,” Abrams told the Gray Lady. “I was recruited to run for the Senate, which is an important job. At the same time, you had the zeitgeist surrounding the conversation about who should be in the mix for the presidency. It was important to me to not dismiss the calls for me to think about running, especially based on my race and gender and region, because the way I was being dismissed was largely driven by my profile.”
Asked to elaborate, Abrams noted that commentators covered her and O’Rourke differently after both lost their races in November. “There’s this notion that because Beto had done so well in his race for the Senate, he was considered a natural entrant into the presidential sweepstakes,” she explained. “Although I had an almost identical profile in terms of the campaign — and also had fairly substantial legislative experience — the same thought wasn’t attributed to me. There are racial and gender implications to how we think about what leadership looks like in the country. So that was part of the initial conversation for me. In addition, I was approached by a number of organizations and donors. And so I thought it was important to say: ‘Yes. This is a legitimate thought.’ Now, as I give very serious consideration to the idea of running, it comes back to what do I believe I could accomplish in that role.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó appears to be staging a military-backed challenge to President Nicolás Maduro. He shared a video urging soldiers to join the final stage of “Operation Liberty,” meant to overthrow the socialist leader. Mariana Zuñiga and Anthony Faiola report: “‘People of Venezuela, the end of usurpation has arrived,’ Guaidó said. ‘At this moment, I am with the main military units of our armed forces, starting the final phase of Operation Liberty. People of Venezuela, we will go to the street with the armed forces to continue taking the streets until we consolidate the end of usurpation, which is already irreversible.’ Maduro’s communication’s minister tweeted that the government was moving to confront a ‘coup’ and was attempting to ‘deactivate’ what he described as a ‘reduced group of military officials who are traitors’ and who had positioned themselves in the Altamira district of the capital.”
Leopoldo López, Guaidó’s political mentor and a longtime opposition figure whom Maduro placed under house arrest, appeared next to the opposition leader in defiance of Maduro’s orders. “Venezuela: the final phase for the end of usurpation has arrived, Operation Freedom,” Lopez tweeted. “I have been freed by military men of the constitution, and of President Guaidó. I’m at the La Carlota Base. We have to mobilize. It’s time to conquer freedom. Strength and Faith."
-- Erik Prince, the founder of the private security firm Blackwater and the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, has been pushing a plan to deploy 5,000 mercenary troops to topple Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, Reuters’s Aram Roston and Matt Spetalnick report: “One source said Prince has conducted meetings about the issue as recently as mid-April. White House National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis declined to comment when asked whether Prince had proposed his plan to the government and whether it would be considered. A person familiar with the administration’s thinking said the White House would not support such a plan."
-- House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said this morning that his panel would make a criminal referral to the Justice Department regarding potential false testimony by Prince. “The evidence is so weighty that the Justice Department needs to consider this,” Schiff said during a Washington Post Live event. “Among other things, Schiff pointed to a meeting that took place nine days before Trump took office between Prince and a Russian financier close to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Seychelles islands,” John Wagner reports. “Prince later told congressional officials examining Russia’s interference in the presidential election that the meeting happened by chance and was not taken at the behest of the incoming administration — testimony that congressional Democrats now think was false.”
-- Japan’s Emperor Akihito formally abdicated in a short ceremony at the Imperial Palace on Tuesday, giving way to his son after the weight of official duties became too much for the 85-year-old. Simon Denyer reports from Tokyo: “He was thanked by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for his service to the nation, before making a short speech that encapsulated the peaceful and humble outlook that marked his reign. … Akihito is the first Japanese emperor to abdicate since the Emperor Koukaku gave way, also to his son, in 1817. His 30-year reign as ceremonial head of state comes to an end at midnight, concluding what is known as the Heisei era. Crown Prince Naruhito, 59, will accede to the Chrysanthemum Throne in another ceremony at the palace Wednesday morning. His reign will mark the beginning of the Reiwa era, a term taken from ancient Japanese literature and translated as ‘beautiful harmony.’
“Akihito is a much-loved figure in Japan. … He humanized the role of the emperor, once viewed here as a living god, by reaching out to vulnerable members of society and victims of natural disasters, and actually looking ordinary people in the eye when talking to them. But he also encouraged Japan to acknowledge its wartime past, and never pandered to the conservative nationalists who revere the tradition embodied in his role.”
-- Meanwhile, two kitchen knives were found on the school desk of a young Japanese prince, poised to one day inherit the throne, increasing security fears and underlining the vulnerability of the country’s royal family. Denyer and Akiko Kashiwagi report: “The knives, whose blades had been painted pink, were bound to a two-foot-long bar that straddled the school desk of 12-year-old Prince Hisahito and a neighboring desk on Friday. Hisahito is the only young male heir to the throne. … NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster, said a man in his 50s was arrested Monday in the city of Hiratsuka southwest of Tokyo.”
GET SMART FAST:
- Authorities arrested an Army veteran who they say planned to detonate several explosives across Southern California. Allegedly seeking retribution for the New Zealand mosque shootings, Mark Steven Domingo considered several attacks, including targeting Jews and churches, before deciding he would detonate an IED during an anti-white-supremacy rally in Long Beach this past weekend. The Afghanistan war veteran was intercepted by law enforcement and has been charged with attempting to provide material support to terrorists after taking possession of a fake bomb from an undercover law enforcement officer. (LA Times)
The FBI was notified of an alarming 8chan post from the alleged Poway shooter minutes before the attack at the Chabad synagogue in California. A bureau official confirmed the FBI received several tips about the post but said that the shooting occurred before the author’s identity and potential target could be deciphered. (BuzzFeed News)
The number of U.S. measles cases in a single year hit a 25-year high, as the CDC reported that at least 704 people have been sickened. Thirteen outbreaks have been reported this year, half of which were tied to an undervaccinated community, representing a serious setback for public health since measles was declared eliminated in 2000. (Lena H. Sun)
Many planes in Boeing’s 737 Max fleet didn’t have a standard cockpit alert that was supposed to warn pilots when sensors outside the plane were sending in incongruous data. The alert was made available only on aircraft with an optional feature, and the issue has been linked to the two fatal 737 crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia. (Tim Elfrink)
More than 20 Indian students killed themselves because of failed university admissions exams that were inaccurately graded by a faulty software. Parents demanded a review of the testing system after over a third of students in the state of Telangana failed a test taken prior to applying to a university. (Telegraph)
Students at Swarthmore College occupied a fraternity house, demanding that the university shut it down after documents allegedly belonging to its members showed them making derogatory comments about women and the LGBTQ community. As many as 100 students showed up at Phi Psi house in the Pennsylvania liberal arts school after the publication of the alleged chapter documents, which also include jokes about sexual assault. (AP)
Australian Senate candidate Steve Dickson dropped out of the race three weeks before elections after footage emerged of him touching dancers and making sexist remarks while visiting a strip club in D.C. Dickson, who has been accused of trying to weaken the country's stringent gun laws, apologized for his drunken behavior. Because the election is happening so soon, his name will remain on the ballot. (BBC)
Problems with a computerized reservation system prevented customers of several airlines from checking in for flights. The same reservation company, Sabre, had issues with its software that caused outages. (Justin Wm. Moyer)
Public relations specialists now outnumber reporters in the United States by more than 6 to 1. That figure is up from less than 2 to 1 in 1998. (Bloomberg News)
Screenwriter and director John Singleton died two weeks after suffering a stroke at age 51. Singleton became the first African American and youngest-ever Oscar nominee with his 1991 debut film “Boyz N the Hood,” which he wrote as a student at the University of Southern California. (Matt Schudel)
Uber and Lyft are no longer accepting new drivers in New York City. In a post on its website, Uber said that its driver hiring freeze was a result of the city’s new regulations — which a source said meant its new wage rules. (Politico)
MIT “hackers” turned their university’s great dome into a Captain America shield in celebration of the new “Avengers” movie. Dozens of people reportedly worked on the prank for months. (Boston Globe)
The New York Times dropped the syndication service that supplied it with an anti-Semitic cartoon last week. The newspaper will no longer carry syndicated cartoons, especially from CartoonArts, a service that has provided it and other newspapers with cartoons for decades. (The Daily Beast)
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- Trump ordered major changes to U.S. asylum policies, including measures that would charge fees to migrants applying for humanitarian refuge. Maria Sacchetti, Felicia Sonmez and Nick Miroff report: “Trump’s directive also calls for tightening asylum rules by banning anyone who crosses the border illegally from obtaining a work permit, and giving courts a 180-day limit to adjudicate asylum claims that now routinely take years to process because of a ballooning case backlog. The order, announced in a presidential memorandum, comes as the president is seeking to mobilize his supporters with a focus on illegal immigration ahead of his 2020 reelection campaign. … The new White House measures, which call for new regulations in 90 days, follow one week after Trump issued a separate memorandum directing the secretaries of state and homeland security to find ways to combat visa overstays; it is another example of the administration trying to squeeze migration as it argues that the influx of undocumented people amounts to a national emergency.”
-- The percentage of Democrats who think there’s a “crisis” at the border jumped 17 points since January amid a spike in the number of families reaching the border. Emily Guskin and David Nakamura report: “At the same time, Americans assign a similar level of blame to congressional Democrats and President Trump for the situation, the survey finds, signaling that both political parties face challenges on immigration heading into the 2020 presidential election cycle. … A still-larger 45 percent plurality of the public overall says illegal immigration across the southern border is a serious problem but not a crisis, while 18 percent say it is not a serious problem. … More broadly, 57 percent of all adults disapprove of the way Trump is handling immigration in general.”
-- Migration from Mexico has slowed to a trickle over the past 20 years. This is the first year that Guatemala and Honduras are on pace to surpass Mexico as the leading sources of illegal immigration to the United States. Kevin Sieff reports: “The dramatic changes in migration flows from Mexico are the product of multiple factors. Among them: the growth of the country’s economy, an aging population, more visas for temporary work and increased U.S. border enforcement. Those factors might seem loosely connected, but analysts say the sharp decline reflects a natural pattern that’s likely to be repeated in Central America as the populations of Guatemala and Honduras age and as their economies grow.”
-- Massachusetts prosecutors are suing ICE in an attempt to block the agency from making courthouse arrests of undocumented immigrants. U.S. News’s Claire Hansen reports: “The lawsuit, which is believed to be the first of its kind, represents a growing resistance to courthouse arrests — a practice some lawyers, judges and advocates have harshly criticized — and is the latest tussle between state and federal entities over President Donald Trump's increased immigration efforts. In the lawsuit, Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan and Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins — whose district includes Boston — allege that ICE's courthouse arrests are hampering the judicial process.”
AUTOCRACY IS ON THE MARCH:
-- Norway fears that a beluga whale spotted by fishermen last week, wearing a harness produced in St. Petersburg, is part of a Russian spying program. Rick Noack reports: “Researchers say that the harness could have carried weapons or cameras, triggering new speculations about a sea mammal special operations program that the Russian navy is believed to have pursued for years. Although the Russian Defense Ministry has denied the existence of such a program, the same ministry published an ad in 2016 seeking three male and two female bottlenose dolphins and offering a total of $24,000.”
-- China is planning to build a base on the moon in the next 10 years. The China National Space Administration intends to build the research station on the moon’s south pole, a state news agency reported. (Rafi Letzter)
-- A new Pew survey shows growing numbers across the globe are dissatisfied with how democracy is working in their countries, making them more susceptible to strongmen. The Pew Research Center’s Richard Wike, Laura Silver and Alexandra Castillo report: “Across 27 countries polled, a median of 51% are dissatisfied with how democracy is working in their country; just 45% are satisfied. Assessments of how well democracy is working vary considerably across nations. In Europe, for example, more than six-in-ten Swedes and Dutch are satisfied with the current state of democracy, while large majorities in Italy, Spain and Greece are dissatisfied. … The link between views of the economy and assessments of democratic performance is strong. In 24 of 27 countries surveyed, people who say the national economy is in bad shape are more likely than those who say it is in good shape to be dissatisfied with the way democracy is working.”
-- The relatives of prisoners being held by Saudi Arabia are strongly discouraged by the Saudi regime from speaking publicly about their detained loved ones. But some make the agonizing decision to do so in hopes that it’ll help advance their cases. Kareem Fahim reports: “Several relatives said they went public after trying, and failing, to find back doors to government officials. Their frustrations are the consequence of the changes being wrought by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is making the kingdom more authoritarian than in the past, critics say, even as he is relaxing some strict social codes. The profiles of these families reflect the breadth of Mohammed’s crackdown, which began in earnest in September 2017 and has led to the arrests of people for their dissent, their prominence or for reasons that remain a mystery to their families and the public. The decision-making by the kingdom’s leaders seems increasingly unpredictable, relatives say, and thus the risk of staying quiet even greater.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is still alive and appeared in a video for the first time in five years. Liz Sly and Souad Mekhennet report: “Seated cross-legged on a flowered mattress in a bare white room, Baghdadi hailed the Islamic State’s expansion around the globe, urged his supporters to keep up the fight and congratulated the perpetrators of the Easter Sunday suicide attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka. Baghdadi’s beard, apparently tinted with henna at some point in the recent past, has grayed since his only other video appearance — at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in the Iraqi city of Mosul in July 2014 — when he first announced the Islamic State’s intention to re-create the caliphate. But otherwise he looked to be in good health and showed no obvious sign of injury, despite numerous reports in recent years that he had been wounded in airstrikes or in battle.”
-- The White House is pushing to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group. The New York Times’s Charlie Savage, Erich Schmitt and Maggie Haberman report: “The White House directed national security and diplomatic officials to find a way to place sanctions on the group after a White House visit on April 9 by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, for whom the Brotherhood represents a source of political opposition. In a private meeting without reporters and photographers, Mr. el-Sisi urged Mr. Trump to take that step and join Egypt in branding the movement a terrorist organization. Such a designation imposes wide-ranging economic and travel sanctions on companies and individuals who interact with the targeted group. The president responded affirmatively to Mr. el-Sisi, saying it would make sense. Some of Mr. Trump’s advisers have interpreted that as a commitment, officials said.”
-- Sri Lanka enacted an emergency law to ban Muslim women from wearing face veils, a move that critics slammed as overly punitive and ineffective given that most perpetrators of the Easter attacks were men. Emily Tamkin reports: “Authorities said it would be helpful to security forces in their search for remaining plotters and their network. … But human rights experts and regional analysts alike are concerned that the ban may do more harm than good.”
-- Ransom watch: Former State Department envoy Joseph Yun confirmed he signed an agreement saying the U.S. would pay North Korea $2 million for “hospital care” that Otto Warmbier received so that he could get the American student released. “As soon as North Korea side told me that this bill for $2 million would have to be paid ... I contacted my boss then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson,” Yun told CNN, noting that Tillerson “got back to me very quickly thereafter to say yes, go ahead and sign.” Yun added that it was his understanding that Trump had approved the decision. “That was my understanding. I never asked him, but that was my understanding,” he said of Trump’s involvement.
-- German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron left lengthy but inconclusive talks with leaders of Serbia and Kosovo in an attempt to reduce rising nationalist tensions in both countries. Anne Gearan reports: “All sides plan to meet again July 1 in Paris, Kosovo President Hashim Thaci said in an interview. Both European leaders tamped down expectations for quick progress, and Thaci said European Union members cannot agree among themselves about how to deal with the Balkan tensions. … Before attending the European talks, Kosovo’s sometimes-feuding leaders united for an unprecedented joint meeting with the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, whom Thaci has sought out as a go-between with close ties to President Trump. … A U.S. official said Grenell reiterated that Kosovo should suspend punitive tariffs on Serb goods, the same message Kosovo leaders also heard from a top State Department official who visited the country last month.”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Current and former intelligence officials say Trump’s dismissive comments about Russian interference in the 2016 election have made it harder to secure American elections in 2020. Josh Dawsey, Ellen Nakashima and Shane Harris report: “Officials insist that they have made progress since 2016 in hardening defenses. And top security officials, including the director of national intelligence, say the president has given them ‘full support’ in their efforts to counter malign activities. But some analysts worry that by not sending a clear, public signal that he understands the threat foreign interference poses, Trump is inviting more of it.”
- Trump dismissed the Russian efforts as a “goddamn hoax” in a 2017 meeting. Officials said the dire warnings about Russian interference included in special counsel Bob Mueller’s report have not made the president more open to discussing a 2020 strategy.
- “During discussions in the Oval Office, Trump has regularly conflated the threat of foreign interference with attacks on the legitimacy of his election, the current and former officials said.”
- Trump insisted that any public statements about potential interference before last year’s midterms include a clarification that Russia did not have any impact on his victory in 2016.
- He has also tried to blame countries besides Russia for meddling, saying that “China is the only game in town” and predicting that a bunch of “other countries” would try to sway future U.S. elections.
-- Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein submitted his resignation letter last night, praising Trump and giving two weeks’ notice. Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky report: “In his resignation letter to Trump, Rosenstein praised the president for his personal charm and policy goals. ‘As I submit my resignation effective on May 11, I am grateful to you for the opportunity to serve; for the courtesy and humor you often display in our personal conversations; and for the goals you set in your inaugural address: patriotism, unity, safety, education, and prosperity, because ‘a nation exists to serve its citizens,’’ Rosenstein wrote. He ended his letter with a sentence that asserted the Justice Department’s independence, before closing with a phrase from Trump’s campaign: ‘We keep the faith, we follow the rules, and we always put America first.’”
-- Justice Department officials continue to drag their feet and threaten that Attorney General Bill Barr may cancel his scheduled testimony about Mueller's report if Democrats insist on letting staff lawyers ask him questions. Karoun Demirjian and Devlin Barrett report: “Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the House Judiciary Committee chairman, was adamant following the discussion that ‘there is no middle ground’ in the panel’s standoff with Barr over the terms of his hearing. ‘We’ve been very clear: Barr has to come. He has to testify. It’s none of the business of a witness to try to dictate to a congressional committee what our procedures for questioning him are,’ Nadler said. … Nadler said the Justice Department seems ‘very afraid’ of the committee counsel’s questions, adding that if Barr does not show, they would ‘take appropriate action.’ … While Barr’s appearance remains uncertain, according to a committee aide, the Justice Department sent staff to the Rayburn House Office Building on Monday to assess the hearing room in which Barr’s testimony would take place, if it goes ahead.”
-- Trump, his three eldest children and his company sued Deutsche Bank and Capital One in an attempt to prevent the banks from responding to congressional subpoenas. The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman, William K. Rashbaum and David Enrich report: “Representative Maxine Waters of California, the chairwoman of the Financial Services Committee, and Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, called the lawsuit ‘meritless’ in a joint statement, and said it demonstrated ‘the depths to which President Trump will go to obstruct Congress’s constitutional oversight authority.’ … In a statement, Marc Mukasey and Patrick Strawbridge, the lawyers who filed the suit, said, ‘Every citizen should be concerned about this sweeping, lawless invasion of privacy.’ In the suit, they argue that a lack of legislative purpose to the subpoenas makes them illegal.”
-- Trump’s refusal to cooperate with House Democrats’ investigations is intensifying demands from some lawmakers to launch impeachment proceedings. Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis report: “The chairmen and members of the six panels investigating the president are increasingly angered by the White House’s unwillingness to comply as they carry out their oversight role, according to several House Democratic officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter freely. But that anger extends into the ranks of [Nancy] Pelosi’s team as well, according to multiple leadership officials. … Yet at the same time, Pelosi’s standard for whether to move ahead on impeachment remains unmet: No Republican lawmaker has joined Democrats in calling for removing the president, and public sentiment — something Pelosi frequently cites as the safeguard for any policies or political moves — has not shifted in Democratic investigators’ favor.”
-- Ben Wittes, the editor in chief of Lawfare and a friend of Jim Comey's, writes that a close reading of Mueller’s report shows that Trump committed both crimes and impeachable offenses. Wittes writes for the Atlantic: “In short, the question of the prudential wisdom of impeachment politically may be a hard one for members of Congress, but the impeachability of the conduct described by Mueller is not a close call. This is heartland impeachment material—the sort of conduct the impeachment clauses were written to address.”
-- As Michael Cohen prepares to start his prison sentence, he remains outraged that his former boss has not been charged. “You are going to find me guilty of campaign finance, with McDougal or Stormy, and give me three years—really?” Cohen told the New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin. “And how come I’m the only one? I didn’t work for the campaign. I worked for him. And how come I’m the one that’s going to prison? I’m not the one that slept with the porn star.”
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN:
-- More Senate Republicans are voicing concerns about Trump's nomination of Stephen Moore to the Federal Reserve, citing his offensive comments about women. Seung Min Kim and Heather Long report: “‘I’m not enthused about what he has said in various articles. I think it’s ridiculous,’ Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) told The Washington Post on Monday. Ernst didn’t say whether she was troubled enough by the remarks not to vote for Moore, but her remarks are the latest indication that Moore would probably face a tough confirmation process in the Senate. The White House has yet to formally nominate Moore for one of the two openings on the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Monday that the White House is looking into Moore’s past comments, which include saying there would be societal problems if men were not the breadwinners in the family, denouncing co-ed sports and saying female athletes do ‘inferior work’ to men.”
-- Rep. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) was once one of Trump's loudest and most frequent Republican critics on Capitol Hill. Now, he wants the president to pick him as Air Force secretary. “Kinzinger, who serves in the Air National Guard, said if the president wanted him for the position of U.S. Secretary of the Air Force, he would consider the role,” Roll Call’s Emily Kopp reports. "‘The Air Force is going through a lot of transition. I think a new generation of leadership would be great for it,’ 41-year-old Kinzinger said. Aerospace industry watchers expect Matt Donovan, the second-ranking civilian at the Air Force, a former F-15 pilot and policy director for the Senate Armed Services Committee, to step into the role as acting secretary, DefenseNews reported.”
-- The NRA reelected Wayne LaPierre as its leader, capping off an annual meeting plagued by a power struggle, accusations of extortion and financial mismanagement, as well as revelations of an investigation by the New York attorney general. Katie Zezima reports: “The vote of confidence capped a dramatic fight between LaPierre and former NRA president Oliver North. LaPierre accused North of attempting to extort him, and then North said he would not seek a second term, citing confrontations with board members and donors over what they said were exorbitant payments to a law firm, a lawsuit against the NRA’s longtime public relations firm and reports about alleged financial mismanagement. … Trump blamed the organization’s financial woes on New York’s governor and attorney general, alleging without proof that they were ‘illegally’ using state law to dismantle the organization.”
MORE ON 2020 WATCH:
-- Two right-wing provocateurs allegedly attempted to recruit young Republican men to make false accusations of sexual assault against Pete Buttigieg. The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay, Kevin Poulsen and Noah Schachtman report: “A Republican source told The Daily Beast that lobbyist Jack Burkman and internet troll Jacob Wohl approached him last week to try to convince him to falsely accuse Buttigieg … of engaging him sexually while he was too drunk to consent. … The source provided The Daily Beast with a surreptitious audio recording of the meeting, which corroborates his account. In it, Wohl appears to refer to Buttigieg as a ‘terminal threat’ to Trump’s reelection next year. … A separate individual using the name of Hunter Kelly published a post on the site Medium in which he alleged that Buttigieg sexually assaulted him in February.” Kelly said the post was false and that Wohl and Burkman flew him to D.C. under false pretenses. He didn’t consent to the publication of allegations against Buttigieg under his name.
-- Buttigieg’s extended stay in the media spotlight has been masterminded by messaging maven Lis Smith. David Freedlander reports for Politico Magazine: “Smith is a fierce New York City-based Democratic operative who helped engineer the plan to get Buttigieg in front of not just national political reporters, but anybody with a camera or microphone. There may be nobody more central to Mayor Pete’s media success—besides the candidate himself, and arguably his social-media-savvy husband, Chasten Buttigieg—than Smith, who serves as a communications adviser and all-around aide. … The story of American presidential politics is in part the story of the consiglieres who steer the candidate along the path … But there may be no political couple odder than that of Buttigieg and Smith.”
-- Beto proposed slicing carbon emissions to net zero in 30 years, spending $5 trillion to make the country’s infrastructure more climate-friendly and ending oil and gas drilling on public lands. Annie Linskey reports from Modesto, Calif.: “It’s the first detailed proposal released by O’Rourke, who is known for his inspirational message, eloquence on the stump and feel-good campaign events but who has been light on policies and specifics. He toured Yosemite National Park on Monday and visited California’s Central Valley to highlight his new initiative, and met with farmers and climate scientists at Modesto Junior College. … O’Rourke’s climate policy drew criticism from some climate activists for not being as ambitious as the Green New Deal framework … That plan calls for transforming the power sector so that 100 percent of demand is met by ‘clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources’ within 10 years. The longer period laid out by O’Rourke — 30 years — dismayed some activists.”
-- The failure of Vermont’s single-payer health system carries important lessons for 2020 Democratic candidates who have embraced Medicare-for-all, but they seem unwilling to acknowledge what actually happened. Amy Goldstein reports: “Three and a half years after then-Gov. Peter Shumlin of Vermont signed into law a vision for the nation’s first single-payer health system, his small team was still struggling to find a way to pay for it. … The choices Shumlin favored would essentially have doubled Vermont’s budget, raising state income taxes by up to 9.5 percent and placing an 11.5 percent payroll tax on all employers — a burden Shumlin said would pose ‘a risk of economic shock’ — even though Vermonters would no longer pay for private health plans. … Those building a national single-payer model would confront many of those same dilemmas. But as the 2020 campaigns get underway, few Democrats show signs of acknowledging, let alone wrestling with, the gritty complexities. Even [Bernie] Sanders, eager as he was for Vermont to become the first single-payer state, seldom mentions that it did not come to pass.”
-- Holding his first rally as a declared candidate in Pittsburgh, Joe Biden expressed support for a public option that would allow Americans to buy into a Medicare-like health insurance plan. Jeff Stein reports: “Sanders has called for enrolling every American on the Medicare program — a 'single-payer' system — and an aide to the campaign took a swipe at Biden’s decision to attend a private fundraiser that included health insurance executives last week. Biden’s plan would create a new government option for patients in the marketplace exchanges that would aim to lower prices for individual Americans by competing directly with private plans, according to a policy adviser for Biden.”
-- Biden tried to frame his campaign as a one-on-one battle with Trump and not a race against 19 other Democrats. Matt Viser and David Nakamura report: “‘Everybody knows it: The middle class is hurting,’ Biden said. ‘The stock market is roaring, but you do not feel it. There was a $2 trillion tax cut last year, but did you feel it? Did you get anything from it? Of course not. It all went to folks at the top.’ He also accused the president of having ‘deliberately undermined’ the American political system in a bid to ‘continue to abuse’ the office. ‘Donald Trump is the only president who has decided not to represent the whole country,’ Biden said. ‘The president has his base. We need a president who works for all Americans.’”
-- Feminists believe the former vice president remains tone-deaf and still doesn't understand what Anita Hill is angry about. Slate's Dahlia Lithwick writes: “We need to revisit his role in the Anita Hill–Clarence Thomas hearings. We need to revisit it not only because Biden badly bungled the hearing when it happened, but because he is badly bungling the baggage he carries over it now, in his first days on the campaign trail. His inability to correct for it is baffling given that he has lived through 2017 and 2018 along with the rest of us. But it’s particularly important to recognize that his failure here isn’t a problem of the 28 years that have passed in between—it’s a problem of truth and justice and law.”
MORE BROKEN PROMISES:
-- The Foxconn deal that Trump personally pushed for and celebrated with a ceremony at the White House and then a trip to a groundbreaking event in Wisconsin has not delivered anything like the investment that the company promised. The Wall Street Journal’s Valerie Bauerlein reports: “As of Dec. 31, the Taiwanese manufacturing giant, famous as an Apple supplier, had spent only $99 million, 1% of its pledged investment, according to its latest state filings. The company projected as many as 2,080 in-state employees by the end of 2019 but had fewer than 200 at last year’s end, state filings show. The village is still awaiting factory building plans for review. Locals said Foxconn contractors have recently been scarce on the site. The impact on Mount Pleasant, by contrast, is palpable. Its debt rating has slipped. Local politics has become fraught. Neighbors have fallen out over land seizures.”
-- Trump said trade wars are “good and easy to win.” But incomes for farmers have suffered bigly because of the president's policies. Bloomberg News’s Mike Dorning and Katia Dmitrieva report: “The Commerce Department on Monday cited the steep decline in farm proprietors’ income as a key factor weighing on the nation’s overall personal income growth in March, even though agricultural producers represent only about 2 percent of total employed Americans. … One-time subsidy payments from the Trump administration to compensate producers for some of their trade-war losses helped prop up farm income in the previous quarter, but earnings plunged by an annualized $11.8 billion in the January to March period, according to seasonally adjusted data. On Monday, Larry Kudlow, President Trump’s top economic adviser, said the White House is prepared to do more to help agriculture.”
-- The Trump campaign has not paid the city of El Paso the more than $470,000 it was billed for the costs stemming from a rally there two months ago. The bill includes a $380,942 charge from the police department. (ABC7)
THE REST OF THE AGENDA:
-- House Democrats included a provision in a spending bill to prevent the Trump administration’s abortion “gag rule” from going into effect, a week after a federal judge issued a nationwide injunction to block the policy. Erica Werner reports: “Democrats also included $50 million for gun violence research in the legislation released Monday, a massive spending bill for the departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services. … With both moves, Democrats served notice that they will try to use must-pass spending legislation to promote favored social policies or overturn provisions they oppose now that they control the House. … But policy riders included by House Democrats could make it more difficult for spending legislation to pass the Republican-controlled Senate or win support from [Trump], potentially increasing chances for another shutdown when existing government funding expires Oct. 1.”
-- Democratic congressional leaders pitched Trump on a “big and bold” infrastructure bill ahead of Schumer and Pelosi's meeting with the president today on the issue. Mike DeBonis reports: “In a letter sent Monday, the pair asked Trump to entertain infrastructure legislation with ‘substantial, new and real revenue’ — as opposed to previous GOP plans that have focused on using smaller amounts of public money to leverage private investments. They did not specify a dollar figure for the package, though many Democrats have discussed $1 trillion as a bare minimum. Paying for that sort of investment is the major challenge, and potential revenue sources all carry political risks.”
-- The Center for Public Integrity spent six months reviewing the process behind the creation of Trump’s tax act. Its findings include:
- Corporations got even more of a tax cut than they expected without having to promise to hike worker wages.
- A proposal that would have raised $1 trillion and paid for much of the tax cuts was defeated by a powerful business lobby.
- The bill was drafted in secrecy in part to keep it from leaking to lobbyists.
- Republicans spent $1.5 trillion to either hide the true cost of the bill or to help justify their votes.
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
A metaphor in the Senate:
Without elaborating, Trump accused New York's governor and attorney general of trying to take down the NRA:
The New York governor replied:
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) went after Trump's Fed pick for his criticism of the Buckeye State and signaled that he will do everything possible to make it politically painful for junior senator Rob Portman (R) to vote for Moore:
A House Democrat slammed JPMorgan Chase for this “motivational” tweet:
Elizabeth Warren satirized the tweet:
An adviser to Pete Buttigieg tweeted a photo of him on the subway:
Julián Castro wished one of his fellow 2020 contenders a happy birthday:
Bernie Sanders suggested a way in which Disney could be a real-life superhero to its workers:
It is unclear how committed Sanders was to this proposition. (Isaac Stanley-Becker)
A Democratic presidential candidate who was born in Iowa emphasized his connections to the state:
A Democratic pollster shared this insight:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- The Atlantic, “People Are Clamoring to Buy Old Insulin Pumps,” by Sarah Zhang: “Doug Boss pulled into a police-station parking lot to meet a stranger from Craigslist. His purpose: to buy used insulin pumps. Boss has type 1 diabetes, and he relies on a small pump attached to his body to deliver continuous doses of insulin that keep him alive. To be clear, he didn’t need to buy used medical equipment on Craigslist. Boss, who is 55 and works in IT in Texas, has health insurance. He even has a new, in-warranty pump sitting at home. But he was thrilled to find on Craigslist a coveted old model that was made by the medical-device company Medtronic and discontinued years ago. What makes these outdated Medtronic pumps so desirable is, ironically, a security flaw. Boss was looking for a pump or two he could hack.”
-- Foreign Policy, “City Hall Is the Best Prep for the White House,” by Joel Day: “On issues such as welcoming immigrants and refugees in the face of federal pressure, housing and homelessness, economic development, and a host of other public policy issues, mayors are leading a global conversation rooted in problem solving, pragmatism, and international partnership. The experience of governing a U.S. city has changed in the 21st century and with that change comes a new dynamic in which mayors’ foreign-policy experience may leave them uniquely qualified for the presidency.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Trump ridicules weather forecasters for getting it ‘wrong the most’ when they made a spot-on prediction,” from Matthew Cappucci: “Trump took a swing at meteorologists at a Wisconsin rally Saturday, calling out weather forecasters for a bad prediction. The only problem? The forecast was on the mark. Thousands crammed into Resch Center in Green Bay for the weekend rally. After greeting supporters and launching jests at politicians he has nicknamed in the 2020 race, Trump’s remarks turned to the weather. ‘They thought you were going to have a big snowstorm,’ jeered Trump, crowds erupting into roaring cheers. ‘A big, big snowstorm. The people that get it wrong the most are the weather forecasters and the political analysts.’ But the forecast wasn’t wrong. There was a storm, but hundreds of miles to the south. Wet snow blanketed southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, including Chicago. The system was not expected to hit northern Wisconsin.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Ocasio-Cortez Doubles Down, Says VA Problems Are a ‘Myth,’” from the Washington Free Beacon: “Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) reinforced her opposition to reforming the Department of Veterans Affairs on Saturday, calling it a ‘myth’ that the system was broken and in need of reform. Ocasio-Cortez pledged at a town hall a week ago that she would fight bipartisan efforts to reform the scandal-plagued VA health system. ‘If it ain't broke, don't fix it,’ she said … Ocasio-Cortez acknowledged the criticism her opposition to VA reform had received, but doubled down on her defense of the status quo at the agency, according to video of the Queens town hall captured by America Rising. ‘You might have heard Fox News talking about it,’ Ocasio-Cortez said, ‘because there is a myth that all VAs everywhere are broken.’ The freshman congresswoman said the goal is to ‘starve’ the agency of funding.”
Trump will meet with congressional Democrats and receive his intelligence briefing before meeting with NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I believed her from the very beginning, but I was chairman. She did not get a fair hearing. She did not get treated well. That's my responsibility.” — Joe Biden on his treatment of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings. (NBC News)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- It’ll be warmer today, though there’s a chance it will storm in the evening. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “This end of April into early May features a very busy pattern with lots of moving parts. This creates bigger pitfalls when forecasting, so we’ll do our best to navigate the noise. Much warmer weather today could make a run near 80 before a storm chance this afternoon into evening. We stay on the cooler side into tomorrow thanks to a wedge of cooler air off the Atlantic. But then Thursday should jet up to our warmest weather of the week, with daily shower and storm chances into the weekend.”
-- The Nationals lost to the Cardinals 6-3. (Jesse Dougherty)
-- Four Northern Virginia schools are declaring their support for the rights of transgender students in court, weighing in on a years-long legal fight over a teenager’s attempt to use the boys’ restroom at his high school. Debbie Truong reports: “The school boards in Alexandria, Falls Church and Fairfax and Arlington counties said last month in court papers that they stand behind Gavin Grimm, a transgender teen who sued the Gloucester County School Board after he was barred from the boys’ restroom. … The Northern Virginia school systems say in court papers that they think they ‘must embrace the thousands of students in Virginia public schools who . . . identify as transgender.’ The school systems offered their input via a friend-of-the-court brief, which allows entities not formally involved in a case but with a strong interest in its outcome to express their opinions.”
-- Two students at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda posted a picture of themselves in blackface on a social media account, using the n-word as a caption. Police were called in to investigate the nature of the image. (Dan Morse and Martin Weil)
-- Amazon posted the first job listings for its new headquarters in Arlington and said the project is “ahead of schedule.” Robert McCartney reports: “The company said it was able to accelerate the timetable because state and county officials were quick in approving multimillion-dollar incentives packages. That’s in contrast to the reception Amazon received in New York, where opposition led it to cancel plans to build a similar facility there. The initial round of listings on the Amazon jobs website is small — five postings, each for multiple hires — but it is a first step in what the company has pledged will be 25,000 new jobs over 10 to 12 years. The jobs will pay average annual salaries of $150,000, and about 400 of those positions are to be created by the end of this year.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Seth Meyers mocked Trump's call into Fox and how hard it was for the host to get him off the phone:
And Stephen Colbert is enjoying the effect Biden's campaign is having on Trump:
A new video for Joe Biden’s campaign features Barack Obama’s words about the former vice president when he gave him the Medal of Freedom in 2017.
The Post produced this eight-minute animated film, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, about a school shooting:
This video recirculated after Trump accepted a sleeveless jersey from Baylor's women's basketball team: