With Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA:

STORM LAKE, Iowa — If Joe Biden fails to catch fire in Iowa on his third try for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Amy Klobuchar will be well positioned to make inroads with the kinds of voters who might otherwise back the former vice president.

The senator from Minnesota has been getting a more positive reception in the Hawkeye State than has been reflected in the polls, where she’s in the back of the pack, or in the national media’s coverage, which has focused more on candidates like Biden, Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke.

“While there's a lot of attention on the B's right now, I would like to remind people that A comes before B and A will win out in the long term,” Klobuchar joked during an interview last night. “It just gives me time, with all the attention on these guys, to keep building steady support. And I note that Jimmy Carter and a number of other people were underdogs at this point in the race.”

Biden wrapped up his first foray into Iowa last night with a rally in Des Moines. Klobuchar will return to the state this weekend for her sixth trip since she launched her campaign in February. She will convene roundtable discussions on Saturday in Des Moines and Iowa City to discuss combating substance abuse and prioritizing mental health. And she’ll host meet-and-greets near the campuses of Grinnell College and the University of Iowa.

-- One thing Klobuchar has going for her is that she represents a neighboring state, which allows her to speak in a way that resonates with Iowans. Seven of Iowa’s northern counties are in the Rochester, Minn., media market, which means folks see about as much news about Minneapolis as Des Moines. She can also talk in minute detail about the Minnesota Twins, one of the three baseball teams that Iowans tend to root for.

“It's helpful because there's people that know who I am, especially in the northern part. But I think it's more that I understand the people in Iowa,” Klobuchar explained during an extended interview in Storm Lake last month. “I understand what their issues are. That isn't an immediate gain; it's a long-term gain.”

Klobuchar said that a surprising number of Iowans have approached her to say that they checked with relatives or friends who live in Minnesota to ask how she’s been as a senator before they came to see her speak — and that her constituents have vouched for her job performance. “Before they go to an event, they'll call their cousin in Burnsville and ask, 'What do you know about her?' Literally, people are coming up all the time and saying that,” Klobuchar said. “Because of the fact that I have a lot of support in my state, and in rural areas, I think that will have a long-term benefit.”

This is certainly not going to be determinative, but it does offer a boost. Having a home-field advantage helps sports teams, of course, but they’ll still lose games even when they’re playing before a friendly crowd.

-- Klobuchar also has a track record of winning the same kinds of Iowa voters who backed Barack Obama twice, when he carried Iowa, but then broke for Donald Trump in 2016. “I have a very strong case to make about how I am able to get independent and moderate Republican votes,” she said. “The Democrats in Iowa get that it’s not easy to win these elections, and that to win in states like ours you have to get some independent votes.”

No Republican has carried Minnesota in a presidential election since Richard Nixon in 1972, but Trump came unexpectedly close. Hillary Clinton carried the Land of 10,000 Lakes with less than 47 percent, besting Trump by 1.5 percentage points, or about 44,000 votes. “It was Hillary's smallest margin, and in fact she got a lower percentage of the vote than she did in four states she lost, including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan,” said Klobuchar. “Then I think she won only because some of the moderate Republicans voted for [Libertarian Gary] Johnson because, as you know, they like that name.”

This is a joke Minnesotans will get. The state is chock-full of people with the surname Johnson. They’re everywhere.

-- Klobuchar won her third term in November with 60 percent of the vote, beating her GOP challenger by 24 points, or 626,000 votes. Klobuchar won 42 counties in 2018 that Trump had won in 2016. Of those, 39 are in rural areas. (Minnesota has 87 counties.) Riding her coattails, Democrats flipped the state House and picked up two U.S. House seats in the suburbs of the Twin Cities that have long been held by Republicans. Klobuchar has consistently fared well in outlying areas. She’s carried all eight of Minnesota’s congressional districts in all three of her Senate campaigns, including the one previously represented by Republican Michele Bachmann.

“I visit every county every year in Minnesota, and that's one of my things: I go not just where it's comfortable but where it's uncomfortable,” she said. “That means people are going to ask critical questions here and there when they don't agree with something, but then they're going to find some common ground. That's what I've been doing here in Iowa.”

Klobuchar added that she’s not putting all her eggs in the Iowa basket. She also hired staffers in New Hampshire and campaigned in Nevada last weekend.

-- Klobuchar was in the national spotlight yesterday during Bill Barr’s appearance before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss Bob Mueller’s report. She pressed the attorney general on his conclusion that the president didn’t obstruct justice. She walked through the 10 episodes of possible obstruction in the Mueller report. “You look at the totality of the evidence,” Klobuchar said. “That’s what I learned when I was in law school.” Barr replied, “There’s ample evidence on the other side of the ledger.”

Klobuchar was one of three presidential candidates to question Barr, in addition to Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey. She said after the hearing that Barr should resign. “I've always thought that he should step down,” Klobuchar explained. “I never supported him to begin with, and everything that's happened has been consistent with my views that I put forth back during his confirmation hearing, that his expansive view of executive power was the worst thing the country needs right now when we have a president that needs a check and balance, and that is more true in how he handled this report and his statements today.”

-- Klobuchar also used the hearing to criticize the White House’s maneuvering to quash the Secure Elections Act during the last Congress, which she co-sponsored with Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) and which would mandate backup paper ballots. Klobuchar said that former White House counsel Don McGahn called around to GOP senators to get them to oppose the measure and asked Barr whether he’ll back her plan when she reintroduces it. “Otherwise, we are not going to have any clout to get backup paper ballots if something goes wrong in this election,” the senator said. Barr responded that he does not know about the bill, but he pledged to work with her “on securing our elections.”

-- In Iowa, Klobuchar has been touting her commitment to bipartisanship, but she said she doesn’t consider herself a moderate. “People can call me whatever they want, as long as they call me a winner,” she said. “I don't really care, but I think it's important to note that I'm a proven progressive and that I've gotten things done.”

The senator has been willing to say “no” to some of the purity tests being pushed by far-left activists, which has been a rare quality in this environment. Klobuchar has expressed skepticism of packing the Supreme Court, for example, and she’s said that her rivals promising free tuition to universities and college debt forgiveness aren’t being straight with voters. On health care, Klobuchar endorses a public option but stops short of Medicare-for-all.

-- A big part of Klobuchar’s theory of the case is that she can bridge the urban-rural divide that has bedeviled Democrats lately. “Yeah, I'm going to reach out to our base, and I know I'm in an incredibly competitive primary, but it's just not me if I don't also try to bridge that divide with rural voters,” she said.

She rolled out a trillion-dollar infrastructure proposal during a March swing across rural eastern Iowa. “There’s no such thing as a Democratic or Republican bridge,” she said. “There are just bridges.”

Klobuchar said showing up is important, but it’s also important to lay out an optimistic economic agenda and not get distracted by divisive cultural issues when Trump talks about them. Klobuchar also tries to use humor. When she announced her candidacy outdoors as it was snowing, Trump called her a “snow woman” on Twitter. Klobuchar replied: “I'd like to see how your hair would fare in a blizzard.”

-- Klobuchar said she thinks the televised town halls by the cable channels this year will wind up being equally as important as the debates, which will be split across two nights and where the massive numbers of candidates on the stage will make it hard for anyone to get a word in edgewise. Fox News will broadcast an hour-long town hall with Klobuchar live from Milwaukee on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. Eastern. Sanders is the only other Democrat who has gotten the platform thus far, and 2.6 million people tuned in. Pete Buttigieg, who appears on the cover of next week’s Time magazine, has a Fox town hall on the books for May 19.

-- Klobuchar works very hard to cultivate a brand as down-home and down-to-earth. “The Senator Next Door” was the title of her 2015 memoir. But she’s also indisputably one of the smartest candidates running to be president. She went to Yale for undergrad, where she wrote an astute senior thesis on the politics behind the public financing of the Metrodome stadium. It was published as a book in 1986 and holds up well three decades later. Then she went to the University of Chicago for law school, where Jim Comey was a classmate.

-- Klobuchar was the first woman elected to the Senate from Minnesota. The state still hasn’t elected a woman as governor. I’ve encountered a surprisingly significant number of female voters at Democratic events recently, including town halls for female presidential candidates, who have volunteered without any prompting during interviews that they’re not sure whether it makes sense to nominate another woman to take on Trump after Clinton’s defeat. I asked Klobuchar about this dynamic and, more broadly, whether she feels she's experienced more misogyny in rural areas than the suburbs or urban centers.

“I wouldn't call it misogyny, ever,” the senator replied. “I think that it is people that want to win, and they're just trying to game it out basically and figure it out. I don't agree with the assessment, but I wouldn't call it misogyny. I would say that they are so focused on beating Donald Trump, and they are trying to figure out who the best person is for that. It's that simple.”

Klobuchar noted that women won many of the most exciting victories for Democrats in the midterms in red states with large rural populations. She pointed out that Laura Kelly defeated Kris Kobach in the Kansas governor’s race. Democratic women also picked up two of Iowa’s four U.S. House seats in the midterms, defeating Republican incumbents in districts that Trump had carried two years earlier. Abby Finkenauer, 30, ousted Rod Blum in the northeast district that includes her hometown of Dubuque. Cindy Axne, 54, toppled David Young in the southwestern district that includes Council Bluffs.

“It's a thing. They supported a woman for president before. But the answer is right in front of them, with Cindy and Abby in their own state,” said Klobuchar. “You have to make the case that a woman can win and is perhaps … actually a good bet against Donald Trump, depending on who the woman is. What I think you don't want to have be your whole theme is, 'Oh, we have to put a woman in the White House.’ I don't think that's going to work for voters when they just want to win. What works is if you're able to show your strength, and you're able to show that you do well against him. We had a Michigan poll that showed Biden and I were the two strongest candidates against Trump.”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) announced this morning on CBS that he is running for president. He is the 21st Democrat to declare a candidacy. Michael Scherer reports: “Bennet announced in April that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. After surgery, he reported that it had been successful and he had no need for further treatment. ‘My plan is to run for president,’ Bennet said on CBS, adding that he will focus on issues including health care, economic mobility and the ‘need to restore integrity to our government.’ Bennet emphasized his track record of bipartisan legislation in Washington and said he would stand out among Democrats because of his ability to tell the truth, his record of winning elections in a ‘purple’ state like Colorado and his history of turning around failing businesses in the private sector.”

-- Soon there will be 22: Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) plans to announce his White House bid during the week of May 13. The two-term governor can’t run for reelection in 2020 because of term limits, and he has rejected Sen. Chuck Schumer's recruitment efforts to get him to challenge Sen. Steve Daines (R). So he's got nothing to lose. (KTVH)

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Maryland lawmakers elected Adrienne Jones as the new speaker of the House of Delegates in a contest full of intrigue, making her the first woman and first African American to hold the powerful position. Jones emerged as the consensus pick after a five-hour closed-door meeting of Democratic legislators, who were torn between electing a black man from Prince George's County or an openly gay woman from Baltimore. In the end, with Republican delegates threatening to vote as a bloc for the man, both Dereck Davis and Maggie McIntosh agreed to step aside for Jones. (Erin Cox, Ovetta Wiggins and Rachel Chason)

  2. A 21-year-old student killed in the shooting at the University of North Carolina’s Charlotte campus was credited with saving lives by disarming the attacker. Riley Howell knocked the shooter off his feet and suffered a mortal wound in the process. He and his classmate, 19-year-old Ellis “Reed” Parlier, both died, while three other students remain hospitalized. (Jodie Valade, Susan Svrluga and Nick Anderson)

  3. The arrest of alleged Poway, Calif., synagogue shooter John Earnest, a devout member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, has led to soul-searching among evangelical pastors. Earnest’s apparent manifesto intertwined his anti-Semitic rants with Christian theology he learned in the pews — prompting questions about how he became “radicalized into white nationalism from within the very midst of our church,” as one pastor put it. (Julie Zauzmer)

  4. USA Gymnastics pushed out its new director of sports medicine and science, Edward Nyman, after just one day on the job. The embattled organization cited an unspecified conflict of interest for the departure, but after Nyman’s hiring was announced, survivors of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse complained they weren’t consulted and were skeptical of choosing another man for the role. (Cindy Boren)

  5. Facebook and the FTC are negotiating a possible settlement that would require the social media giant to place privacy-minded executives at its highest levels. The steps would also include appointing a federally approved privacy official and naming Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, a “designated compliance officer.” (Politico)

  6. Nearly 300 passengers were quarantined on a cruise ship in St. Lucia after discovering a case of measles on board. A sergeant with the St. Lucia Coast Guard said the vessel is a 440-foot boat owned by the Church of Scientology. (Reis Thebault)

  7. Some Texas legislators want to ban people from paying with food stamps for energy drinks, candy, soda and other junk foods. A bill introduced by a Republican state representative aims to curb the spread of diabetes and other health complications linked to a poor diet. (Laura Reiley)

  8. Tiger Woods will visit the White House next week to receive the Medal of Freedom. Trump is excited to celebrate the golfer's win at the Masters. (Wall Street Journal)

  9. California’s population growth rate is slowing down as the state gets close to hitting 40 million people. The state had a growth rate of 0.47 percent last year, the lowest since 1900. (AP)  

  10. The Trump administration issued more specific rules on federal employees taking time off for religious observances. Eric Yoder reports: “While the government traditionally has allowed employees to make up for time missed for religious observances by working longer hours at other times, the practice was defined only in broad terms. The new, more detailed rules, issued this week, take effect May 29. For example, while both sets of rules state that agencies must approve an employee’s request unless it would interfere with the agency’s mission, the new rules add that the agency must explain a denial in writing. Employees making a request must now further provide a ‘name and/or description’ of the observance, when they would be absent, and when they would make up the work.”

THE STONEWALLING CONTINUES:

-- Barr dismissed Mueller's letter complaining about his handling of the special counsel's report as “snitty” and refused to give any ground. Devlin Barrett, Matt Zapotosky, Karoun Demirjian and Rosalind S. Helderman report: “The attorney general parried many of the Democrats’ toughest accusations and questions with avuncular answers about legal definitions and Justice Department policy, exasperating lawmakers like Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who accused Barr of ‘masterful hairsplitting.’ … After the hearing ended, Justice Department officials notified the House Judiciary Committee that Barr would not appear at a planned Thursday hearing to discuss the Trump investigation. That session had been in doubt over objections by Barr’s aides that he would be questioned by staff lawyers for the committee. Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec blamed the cancellation on ‘unprecedented and unnecessary’ conditions demanded by the committee’s Democratic chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York.” 

-- Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters after the hearing that he will not call Mueller to testify. (Watch the video.)

-- Barr’s refusal to appear before the House Judiciary Committee increases the likelihood he will be held in contempt of Congress, especially after the AG blew off the panel’s subpoena deadline to review the unredacted Mueller report. Rachael Bade, Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian report: “Nadler said he would give Barr a ‘day or two’ to turn over the full, unredacted Mueller report in accordance with the committee’s subpoena — information that was due Wednesday morning. But the chairman warned that ‘if good-faith negotiations don’t result in a pledge of compliance . . . the next step is seeking a contempt citation against the attorney general.’ … On Wednesday night, in a letter to the committee explaining the ignored subpoena, Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd argued that Nadler's move to compel the DOJ to turn over the unredacted Mueller report ‘is not legitimate oversight.’”

-- The White House said it will refuse to authorize any executive branch officials to provide a House committee with details on individual security clearances. Tom Hamburger, Rachael Bade and Josh Dawsey report: “House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) called [the move] ‘the latest example of the president’s widespread and growing obstruction of Congress.’ The oversight panel has been examining the administration’s handling of security clearances and allegations that officials, including presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, were granted access to sensitive information over the objections of career staffers. … On Wednesday, White House Counsel Pat A. Cipollone escalated the fight, writing to Cummings that his ‘committee appears to be putting public servants at risk’ as it seeks information on how the White House granted security clearances to Kushner and others in the White House. Cummings rejected Cipollone’s arguments and accused the administration of taking on the trappings of monarchy.”

-- House Democrats denounced Trump’s lawsuit to block compliance with a subpoena for his financial records as a grave threat to congressional oversight. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “In a 34-page answer to the lawsuit, filed April 22 by Trump against [Cummings] and Trump’s accounting firm, lawyers for Cummings urged a federal judge to reject the president’s request to temporarily block the subpoena while the case proceeds. Ruling for Trump ‘would directly impede ongoing congressional investigations of national importance and threaten the constitutional system that separates and divides power between the branches of government,’ lawyers for the House panel wrote.”

-- Mar-a-Lago sent the federal government a $1,000 bill in April 2017 after a group of White House staffers served themselves top-shelf liquor from the resort’s bar. ProPublica’s Derek Kravitz has a very important story based on documents obtained via an open records lawsuit. “The group asked the bartender to leave the room so it ‘could speak confidentially,’ according to an email written by Mar-a-Lago’s catering director, Brooke Watson. The Secret Service guarded the door, according to the email. The bartender wasn’t allowed to return. And members of the group began pouring themselves drinks. No one paid. Six days later, on April 13, Mar-a-Lago created a bill for those drinks, tallying $838 worth of alcohol plus a 20% service charge. … The unusual cocktail hour underscores a unique push and pull in the current administration: Donald Trump’s White House pays a bill and Donald Trump’s club reaps the revenue. … Emails show that the president’s company refused to agree to what was essentially a bulk-purchase agreement with the federal government, and that it charged the maximum allowable federal rate for hotel rooms.” The White House, the State Department and the Trump Organization all declined to comment.

    -- Has Trump found his new Roy Cohn? By aggressively downplaying the president's efforts to get former White House counsel Don McGahn to remove Mueller, Barr often looked more like Trump's defense attorney than the nation's chief law enforcement officer. Carol Leonnig reports: “In Barr’s telling … Trump may have merely been trying to correct media reports he believed were inaccurate. He cited the president’s public explanations of his behavior — even though the president refused to provide testimony about it under oath. And he discounted as weak the case that Trump’s actions were part of a criminal effort to thwart a federal investigation — despite the fact that Mueller said in his report that ‘substantial evidence’ indicated the president was acting to prevent scrutiny of his conduct in the obstruction inquiry. … In a day of sometimes prickly testimony, the focus on Barr’s view of the McGahn episode provided the most revealing look yet at Barr’s rationale for determining there was not sufficient evidence to charge Trump with trying to thwart the probe.”

    -- Barr’s hearing underscored how Mueller’s by-the-book silence has enabled Trump and his allies to cast the probe’s findings in the most favorable light possible for the president. Greg Miller explains: “In particular, the attorney general downplayed or dismissed the evidence assembled by Mueller that Trump could be guilty of obstructing justice. And he emphasized that Mueller found no proof of collusion between Russia and Trump or his associates. … Mueller’s reverence for the rule of law and rigid adherence to protocol have bolstered the credibility of the Russia report. … But the special counsel’s deference to procedure and bureaucratic authority has also enabled Trump and his allies to dominate the debate over the investigation’s results.”

    -- Former FBI director Jim Comey argues in a stinging op-ed that Barr, as well as outgoing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, have been co-opted by Trump’s “amoral” leadership. Comey writes in the New York Times: “Amoral leaders have a way of revealing the character of those around them. Sometimes what they reveal is inspiring. … But more often, proximity to an amoral leader reveals something depressing. I think that’s at least part of what we’ve seen with Bill Barr and Rod Rosenstein. Accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from. It takes character like [former defense secretary Jim] Mattis’s to avoid the damage, because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.”

    -- Comey agreed to appear in a CNN town hall on May 9, the two-year anniversary of his firing. (CNN)

    -- How the hearing is playing:

    • Aaron Blake: “Barr’s ‘snitty’ slip-up gives away his game.”
    • Philip Bump: “Barr’s conclusions are undercut by his lack of familiarity with details of Mueller’s probe.”
    • Amber Phillips: Graham “mischaracterized [Mueller’s] report and how damaging it was for Trump. He misstated key facts. He raised conspiracy theories about how the Russia investigation got started in the first place.”
    • The Post’s Editorial Board: “Barr torched his reputation. His testimony compounded the damage.”
    • Neal Katyal, Barack Obama’s former acting solicitor general: “We should celebrate a system in which our own government can uncover so much evidence against a sitting president.”
    • Jennifer Rubin: “The attorney general seems determined to incinerate his professional reputation. … What is clear is that the Justice Department’s delaying tactics on allowing Mueller to testify must end.”
    • Paul Waldman: “Barr’s name can now be added to the lengthy list of Trump administration officials who in any just accounting would be considered guilty of perjury, though there will be no such accounting.”
    • Politico: “Moderate Democrats fret they made a ‘big mistake’ backing Barr.”
    • New York Times: “When the Mueller Investigation Ended, the Battle Over Its Conclusions Began.”

    -- Hillary Clinton suggested hypothetically that, if the Justice Department was going to let Russia interference in the 2016 election go unpunished, China should get Trump’s tax returns to help the 2020 Democratic nominee. Politico’s Bianca Quilantan reports: “The 2016 Democratic presidential candidate offered a seemingly tongue-in-cheek hypothetical to Rachel Maddow on her MSNBC show. … ‘Why should Russia have all the fun? And since Russia is clearly backing Republicans, why don't we ask China to back us? … And not only that, China, if you're listening, why don't you get Trump's tax returns?’ Clinton [said]. ‘I'm sure our media would richly reward you.’”

    THE GROWING CHINA THREAT:

    -- Former CIA case officer Jerry Lee pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to commit espionage for China. But Lee’s sentence will likely be significantly shorter than previously expected because the guilty plea he entered describes the information he divulged as “secret” rather than “top secret,” even though U.S. intelligence officials still believe the former agent is responsible for compromising and betraying CIA sources in China. (Rachel Weiner and Shane Harris)

    -- Chinese authorities are compiling a database tracking the locations of their citizens, their mobile app usage, religious habits and even their electricity consumption. It's all part of a crackdown on an estimated 1 million Muslim citizens. Gerry Shih has an alarming report: “In the last two years, a growing body of testimony by former Xinjiang residents and a trove of government procurement documents, directives and state media reports have painted a picture of oppression in the region, where Chinese authorities have relied on far-reaching electronic surveillance to help dictate its mass internment program. … After denying their existence for a year, Chinese authorities have recently argued that Xinjiang’s network of detention centers are built for educating and de-radicalizing a Muslim population that became increasingly influenced by extremist Islamic ideology.”

    -- A federal judge in Washington ordered three Chinese banks partly or wholly owned by the government to turn over documents as part of a probe into the evasion of sanctions on North Korea. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “A March 18 opinion unsealed late Tuesday by Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell marked the first known instance in which a U.S. court has upheld subpoenas to a Chinese bank in a sanctions probe. … Records capturing ‘cash deposits . . . intrabank transfers and foreign currency deposits’ that can be used to launder money through the United States ‘are precisely the type that the statute permits the government to subpoena,’ wrote Howell.”

    -- British Prime Minister Theresa May has just fired her defense secretary after he allegedly played a role in leaking details from a meeting about Britain’s ties to the Chinese tech giant Huawei. Karla Adam and William Booth report: “The abrupt sacking of Britain’s top defense official — over allegations by the prime minister that [Gavin] Williamson had breached the secrecy protocols of the National Security Council — was stunning. For a top government minister to be canned over such a leak is almost unprecedented in Britain. Williamson denied any involvement in the unauthorized disclosure. … After an April 23 meeting of Britain’s National Security Council, attended by intelligence chiefs and senior cabinet ministers, a story appeared on the front page of the Daily Telegraph that claimed May had decided to permit Huawei to play a leading role in building Britain’s 5G Internet — despite intense pressure from the United States to ban Huawei as a security risk.”

    -- China has dubiously declared itself a “near-Arctic power” in a bid to encroach on what's long been an American sphere of influence. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps promise to push back with a show of force. The Wall Street Journal’s Ben Kesling reports: “Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said the service would undertake extensive Arctic operations this summer and fall, while the Marine Corps commandant said that Marines are committed to training in Alaska to an extent not seen in decades. … As the Arctic opens up to greater navigation [because of climate change], major powers are vying for supremacy over areas previously locked under ice.”

    -- A Chinese family allegedly paid $6.5 million to secure their daughter’s admission to Stanford as part of the college admissions fraud scandal. The family of Yusi Zhao, a Chinese national who was admitted to Stanford as a sailing recruit even though there are no indications she ever sailed, met Rick Singer through a Morgan Stanley financial adviser. Her family has not yet been charged in the case and denies wrongdoing, but she has been expelled by Stanford. (Los Angeles Times)

    -- Some American politicians appear unwilling to acknowledge the Chinese threat. Joe Biden even said in Iowa last night that China is “not competition for us.” Felicia Sonmez reports: “At a campaign stop in Iowa City, Biden pointed to his years serving as vice president and as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, telling the crowd that there’s not a ‘single solitary’ world leader who would trade the problems the United States faces for those confronting China. ‘China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man,’ said Biden … His comments drew a swift rebuke from Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee. ‘This will not age well,’ Romney said.”

    MORE ON THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

    -- Thousands of demonstrators showed up to support Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the opposition tried to regain momentum in the campaign to oust President Nicolás Maduro. Anthony Faiola, Mariana Zuñiga and Mary Beth Sheridan report: “Yet the chaotic events of the day before — which began with Guaidó’s calling for a peaceful insurrection by the military and ended with few takers and Maduro still in the presidential palace — left opposition supporters grappling with a sense of a pivotal moment lost. Many in the ranks remained resolute after a day of violence that left one man dead, dozens injured and more detained. But there were also strains of confusion and disappointment. … Senior opposition leaders spent part of the day Wednesday explaining their tactics to others in the movement, many of whom had been left in the dark about Guaidó’s high-stakes bid … Guaidó and the Trump administration had hoped this week would be a turning point in the three-month-long effort to remove Maduro.”

    -- But the opposition’s plan seems to have failed, for now. Karen DeYoung, Josh Dawsey and Paul Sonne report: “The Trump administration publicly blamed Russia and Cuba — Maduro’s top backers — for keeping him in place and discouraging expected high-level defections. On Wednesday, as the United States and Russia traded barbs, the White House held an emergency meeting of top national security aides to mull next steps. ‘Significant progress on defense matters’ was made, a senior administration official said. Throughout the day, however, there were mixed messages about what role, if any, the U.S. military would play in Washington’s future efforts to resolve the Venezuelan crisis.”

    Trump, meanwhile, thinks national security adviser John Bolton “wants to get him into wars.” From Karen, Josh and Paul: “Bolton has angered some within and outside the White House. Even before Tuesday’s events, his staff clashed with Gen. Paul Selva, Dunford’s vice chairman, during a meeting to address the ongoing Venezuelan crisis, according to several officials with knowledge of the exchange. The soft-spoken Air Force general was giving an update last week on the Pentagon’s view and making the case against a risky escalation by the United States when Bolton aides, including Mauricio Claver-Carone, Western Hemisphere director at the National Security Council, repeatedly interrupted and asked for military options, according to the officials. Selva, irritated at the interruptions and confrontational style rather than the substance of any disagreement, slammed his hand down on the table, his ring hitting the wood with a sharp crack. Bolton deputy Charles Kupperman, who was chairing the meeting, adjourned the session earlier than planned, said the officials, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.”

    -- About 50 Americans have been living inside the Venezuelan Embassy in D.C. for three weeks, and now, Venezuelan demonstrators say they want the embassy back. Marissa J. Lang reports: “On one side, a group of activists from Code Pink and other left-wing organizations have been living inside the embassy since April 10 at the invitation of the Maduro government. On Tuesday, they sat on the embassy steps and sang American protest songs, holding yellow signs that read 'No to U.S. coup plots' and 'Hands off Venezuela!' On the other side of the barricades, pro-opposition demonstrators decked out in yellow, red and blue filled the streets. They chanted, 'libertad,' meaning 'freedom,' and sang the Venezuelan national anthem.”

    -- Trump and his administration are trying to salvage support for his NAFTA rewrite, which has received bipartisan blowback. Erica Werner and Damian Paletta report: “White House officials have said that Trump really wants the Canada-Mexico trade deal to be successful and that he knows he needs support from Democrats to achieve this. … Trump’s new courtship of Democrats on trade came as he is simultaneously trying to prevent Republicans from bolting. A number of Republicans have objected to Trump’s hardball tactics in the trade talks and want him to start offering Canada and Mexico immediate concessions. … White House officials have signaled they want the Canada-Mexico trade deal to be completed by the end of this year, before election-year politics overwhelm Washington in 2020.”

    MORE ON 2020:

    -- Biden is facing mounting conflict of interest questions that are being promoted by Trump and his allies over the ousting of a Ukrainian prosecutor general he once said was corrupt — and who had opened a case into a company that was paying Hunter Biden. The New York Times’s Ken Vogel and Iuliia Mendel report: “The broad outlines of how the Bidens’ roles intersected in Ukraine have been known for some time. The former vice president’s campaign said that he had always acted to carry out United States policy without regard to any activities of his son, that he had never discussed the matter with Hunter Biden and that he learned of his son’s role with the Ukrainian energy company from news reports. But new details about Hunter Biden’s involvement, and a decision this year by the current Ukrainian prosecutor general to reverse himself and reopen an investigation into Burisma, have pushed the issue back into the spotlight just as the senior Mr. Biden is beginning his 2020 presidential campaign.”

    -- Biden has already benefited from the extensive donor network that Obama built during his two presidential elections. Hours after launching his campaign last week, the former vice president raised about $700,000 from a fundraiser held at a Comcast executive’s Philadelphia home. Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports: “But his approach also serves as a test of whether Democratic voters, wary of the political influence of wealthy corporate interests, will be turned off by a candidate so openly courting big donors. Most of the other Democratic hopefuls have focused on attracting large numbers of smaller contributions from online donors. … Biden’s connections to wealthy donors could also place pressure on other Democrats to step up their big-money fundraising.”

    -- Biden wants Trump to know that he’s no socialist. Matt Viser reports: “Biden’s implicit argument to Democrats, in the meantime, is that he has embraced enough of the policies animating the party’s ascendant left to make him acceptable as the standard-bearer — but not enough to alienate the working-class voters the party desperately wants to win back in 2020. He has embraced raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, a posture that advances on Hillary Clinton’s stutter-step approach to raising wages in 2016, and he has touted a plan to allow anyone to go to community college free. He also has spurned others, calling for improvements to the Affordable Care Act but declining to back a Medicare-for-all plan supported by many of his party’s 2020 candidates.”

    -- Biden said last night that Barr should resign, saying he’s “lost confidence” in the attorney general. “This is what happens when you get caught in this administration — you get pulled down,” Biden said. (KCCI)

    -- Biden also called for the U.S. to end its support to Saudi Arabia in its war in Yemen. Josh Rogin reports: “Biden’s decision to weigh in on the Yemen issue is a clear sign he plans to rely on his long experience and record on foreign policy as he lays his claim to the role of commander in chief. That means foreign policy will indeed be featured in the Democratic primary, something Biden’s opponents within the party are already preparing for.”

    -- Kamala Harris and Cory Booker are trying to become the consensus pick for African American voters by pitching two very different economic visions. The New York Times’s Nick Corasaniti and Astead W. Herndon report: “Mr. Booker’s ‘baby bonds’ proposal calls for every child born in the United States to be given a $1,000 savings account that the government would fund annually on a tiered basis, depending on family income. The lump sum is presented when the child turns 18 and can only be used for education, investing in a business or buying a home. … Ms. Harris’s policy, called LIFT the Middle Class Act, would provide lower-income families up to $500 in monthly payments, on top of existing tax credits and public benefits.”

    -- Reversing himself under pressure, Beto O'Rourke said he will take no donations from the fossil fuel sector. Any funds he raised from that sector that are over $200 will be returned. Texas is a big energy state, and O'Rourke has sometimes been an ally of the industry. (AP)

    -- Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) won’t challenge Sen. John Cornyn (R) for his Senate seat. The Texas Tribune’s Abby Livingston and Patrick Svitek report: “After repeated public signals that he was ‘all but certain’ to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, Castro, a San Antonio Democrat, has opted to run for reelection rather than pursue what would likely have been a bruising political battle. … But Castro's decision first came to light earlier in the day, when he told a reporter that he's ‘gonna pass’ on the race to unseat Cornyn. That conversation with Castro was overheard by other media outlets on Cornyn's weekly conference call with the Texas media. The reporter apparently had not muted his line on the Cornyn call and was talking with Castro on a different line.

    THE IMMIGRATION WARS ESCALATE:

    -- The White House sent Congress a $4.5 billion emergency spending request for border protection money. Erica Werner, Maria Sacchetti and Nick Miroff report: “The request includes $3.3 billion for humanitarian assistance and $1.1 billion for border operations, and it represents a dramatic escalation of the administration’s efforts to address the situation at the border. … ‘The situation becomes more dire each day,’ White House acting budget director Russ Vought wrote in the request to congressional leaders. ‘The migration flow and the resulting humanitarian crisis is rapidly overwhelming the ability of the Federal Government to respond.’ … Democrats responded with skepticism to the request, which comes as Trump prepares to run for reelection on a hard-line immigration agenda. It also arrives as Congress is in the midst of a fight over a different emergency spending bill, for disaster aid.”

    -- In its plea for funds, the administration described migrants as vulnerable children and families requiring resources to “sustain critical and lifesaving missions,” a message that starkly conflicts with Trump’s typical description of those seeking to immigrate as an “invasion” by criminals and gang members. David Nakamura reports: “The sharp dichotomy between the president’s rhetoric and the tone of his aides reflects how they are waging a battle on separate fronts — one political and the other operational — as the administration struggles to deal with a mounting humanitarian crisis at the U.S. border with Mexico.”

    -- The U.S. immigration court system is facing a backlog of 850,000 cases with fewer than 450 judges nationwide to handle them. Nick Miroff and Maria Sacchetti report: “Since Trump took office, the backlog has swelled by more than 200,000 cases. The president has grown so frustrated that he has been floating the idea of doing away with U.S. immigration courts, which are part of the Justice Department, not the judicial branch. ‘We don’t need a court system,’ he told Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo this week. ‘We have a court system that is — has 900,000 cases behind it. In other words, they have a court which needs to hear 900,000 cases. How ridiculous is this?’ He added, ‘What we need is new laws that don’t allow this, so when somebody comes in, we say: ‘Sorry, you got to go out.’”

    -- A 16-year-old Guatemalan boy who crossed the border without his parents died after spending several days at a Texas hospital. Maria Sacchetti reports: “The teenager, who was not identified, had cleared initial health screenings after encountering U.S. officials at the border. But he deteriorated shortly after he arrived at the Casa Padre shelter, a converted Walmart housing approximately 1,400 minors in the border city of Brownsville, Tex. Officials have not released a cause of death, and the case remains under investigation. … The boy was the third migrant child to die in federal custody in the past five months, as a soaring number of Central American families and unaccompanied minors have been trying to enter the United States via the southern border.”

    -- Trump appears to think that his best hope for reelection is to once again make the race a referendum on the border, which inspired his proposals to radically overhaul asylum rules. Sean Sullivan, Josh Dawsey and Matt Viser report: “Trump has repeatedly told White House aides that he won in 2016 because he was the strongest candidate on immigration — and that no chant at his rallies is louder than ‘Build the wall!’ When he is underscoring his immigration stance and contrasting it with Democrats, current and former aides and associates said, Trump thinks he has the advantage.”

    THE REST OF TRUMP'S DOMESTIC AGENDA:

    -- The Trump administration may seek permanent renewal of the surveillance law that has allowed the NSA to gather and analyze Americans’ phone records. Ellen Nakashima reports: “The White House, these officials said, was prepared to issue a public statement calling on Congress to reauthorize in full Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which in the past has been the focus of heated debate over the acceptable bounds of government surveillance. The plan to issue a statement was put on hold, officials said, but it illustrates nonetheless where the administration stands on the contested issue of national security authority. … The statute expires in mid-December, and the reported suspension of the phone records program had raised questions about whether the Trump administration would seek to renew it.”

    -- DOJ offered its first full argument in court for fully invalidating the Affordable Care Act. CNN’s Ariane de Vogue reports: “The government argues in the filings that the so-called ‘individual mandate’ requiring Americans to have coverage is unconstitutional and that the rest of the law should therefore also be struck down, even if the government ‘might support some individual provisions as a policy matter.’ … In the filing, Assistant Attorney General Joseph Hunt acknowledged that the administration had previously argued that parts of the law could remain in effect even if the individual mandate were struck down, but he said, the administration had come to believe it could no longer defend that position.”

     -- Senior Republicans, including the Senate majority whip, acknowledged that Stephen Moore appears unlikely to win confirmation to the Federal Reserve Board. Seung Min Kim reports: “Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) has already said she probably would oppose him, while several other GOP senators have expressed concerns and have privately indicated they prefer he never be officially nominated. Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) said in an interview Wednesday that he expects more information about Moore’s fate by the end of the week and that trying to confirm him in the Senate, where Republicans control 53 votes, would be a ‘very heavy lift.’ … Two GOP senators familiar with party dynamics … said they expect either Moore to withdraw or the White House to cancel his pending nomination by either Thursday or Friday.”

    -- A new Senate GOP offer on the disaster aid bill would send $300 million more to Puerto Rico in an attempt to break a standoff. Erica Werner reports: “A key Democrat reacted positively Wednesday, in an optimistic sign for prospects for a deal. But White House officials were still reviewing the proposal, and President Trump, who has resisted sending more money to Puerto Rico, had yet to endorse it. … Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said of the new proposal: ‘I’m hopeful. It deals with additional resources to Puerto Rico, it deals with making sure the money doesn’t get wasted.’”

    SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

    More 2020 Democrats called for Barr's resignation:

    From a New York Post reporter:

    One of Barr's predecessors accused him of trying to protect Trump:

    The Senate's Democratic whip raised this concern about the attorney general:

    Another Democratic senator added this Nixon comparison:

    From a Mueller biographer:

    A Condé Nast editor tweeted a photo of Mueller's military days:

    A New York Times columnist scrutinized this answer from Barr:

    From a University of Alabama law professor and a former U.S. attorney:

    From a CNN reporter:

    Hillary's former spokesman, who is now at the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA, mocked the questions posed to Barr by GOP senators:

    A political science professor at the University of Denver pushed back against Trump's claims of presidential harassment:

    Fox News host Chris Wallace said Mueller's letter shouldn't be underestimated:

    A Fox colleague fired back:

    The schedule for an iconic Iowa caucus event is set:

    A Republican congressman running for Alabama's Senate seat criticized Biden for his comments on China:

    Mitt Romney, who was mercilessly mocked in 2012 by Biden for saying Russia was the biggest geopolitical threat facing the U.S., piled on:

    A BuzzFeed News reporter tweeted a photo of this bizarre Biden sign in Iowa:

    Hillary Clinton ran into a fan: 

    And Elizabeth Warren celebrated her golden retriever's birthday:

    GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

    -- BuzzFeed News, “A Former Alt-Right Member’s Message: Get Out While You Still Can,” by Rosie Gray: “If you remember Katie McHugh, it’s probably because of the tweets. ... There are many ... examples, but this is the big one, the one that ultimately triggered her firing from her job as a writer and editor at Breitbart News in 2017: 'There would be no deadly terror attacks in the U.K. if Muslims didn't live there.' If you look at her Twitter feed now, you’ll see that it’s changed. It’s locked, and her bio is blank. Where is McHugh? I can’t tell you, but I’ve seen her lately. The first time we met was late last summer, on the stoop of a house where she was then living in Washington, DC. She looked gaunt and anxious. When I shook her hand it felt tiny and frail. We sat facing each other across a patio table on a hot, sticky day. ... She was saying she wanted to leave it all behind: her years as a far-right media figure and tweeter, and someone whom close observers of right-wing media knew was one of Breitbart’s most obvious connections to the white supremacist core of the alt-right.” 

    -- The New Yorker, “How the Census Changed America,” by Ted Widmer: “The 1890 Census was simply too big to bind; it was five times larger than all the previous censuses combined. … The chief clerk of the census predicted that it would require a seven-thousand-foot shelf to store them all. Finding more than a mile of empty shelf space was difficult, even in a city that was already known for its bureaucracy. So the pile sat around, sparking no joy among the officials charged with its safekeeping. … The papers were arranged on narrow pine shelves, in cardboard packages wrapped with twine. … The space was also very hot—more than ninety degrees when the boiler was running. On the afternoon of January 10, 1921, an employee noticed smoke coming through openings around the pipes that ran from the boiler room into the file room. … The greatest effort in history to tell a nation’s story had gone up in a puff of smoke. … The idea of a National Archives … emerged in response to the disaster.”

    -- Bloomberg Businessweek, “The Most Valuable Company (for Now) Is Having a Nadellaissance,” by Austin Carr and Dina Bass: “Even if it doesn’t last, [Satya] Nadella’s turnaround over the five years since he replaced Steve Ballmer as CEO [of Microsoft] has been nothing short of historic. The company had been universally viewed as spiraling toward obsolescence, having missed almost every significant computing trend of the 2000s—mobile phones, search engines, social networking—while letting its main source of revenue, Windows, the operating system that comes preloaded on PCs, stagnate. Microsoft marketers like to attribute its reemergence as a tech power to a sort of cultural rehab, involving what Nadella calls corporate ‘empathy’ and a shift of his team from a ‘fixed mindset’ to a ‘growth mindset.’ The reality of the company’s turnaround was more painful, according to interviews with more than four dozen current and former executives, board members, customers, and competitors.”

    HOT ON THE LEFT:

    “Roy Moore cites Brett Kavanaugh’s survival of sexual misconduct allegations as he ponders another Senate race,” from John Wagner: “A new fundraising pitch for Roy Moore, the Republican who lost a special Senate election in Alabama amid accusations of sexual misconduct in the 1970s, cites the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh as a reason he might run again next year. The fundraising message, signed by Moore’s wife, Kayla Moore, points to Kavanaugh’s ability last year to ‘survive’ accusations of sexual misconduct in the 1980s and says Moore is still ‘seriously considering another run for the United States Senate!’ Moore, a former Alabama Supreme Court justice, is seeking to raise money for a fund to cover legal expenses on multiple fronts.”

     

    HOT ON THE RIGHT:

    “CNN Drops 26% In Prime Time As Fox News Dominates April Cable Ratings,” from Forbes: “As CNN prepares to move its prime time studios and operations to a glitzy new building at New York City's brand new--and widely reviled--Hudson Yards development, the network saw its prime time lineup drop 26% in April compared to the same month one year ago. CNN's total audience in prime time was well under a million viewers--767,000--while competitors MSNBC and Fox News finished the month far ahead: MSNBC in second place overall with 1.660 million total viewers, and Fox News leading all of cable with a total audience of 2.395 million. April ranks as CNN's lowest-rated month among total viewers in nearly four years, since October 2015.”

     

    DAYBOOK:

    Trump and the first lady will participate in a National Day of Prayer service and later meet with Republican senators.

    QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

    Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) recounted when he asked Nancy Pelosi to remain neutral in his 2014 race against incumbent Democrat Mike Honda: “Pelosi invited me to her house. … And when I asked her not to make an endorsement, she said, ‘Absolutely not. I stand for my incumbents.’ So I get very discouraged, and Pelosi could see that. As I’m leaving the room, she said, ‘Ro, let me tell you something. If I had waited around, I’d have never been speaker of the House. Power is never given. It’s always taken.’” Khanna did take on Honda, but it wasn’t until 2016 that he won a seat in Congress. (Vox)

     

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

    -- It’ll be a partly sunny day with chances of an afternoon storm. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Look for a quick transition to summer with heat, humidity and a few scattered afternoon t-storms the next two days. More persistent showers show up Saturday, but most hold off until late day and should gradually end Sunday, allowing some time to enjoy the outdoors both days.”

    -- The Nationals lost 5-1 to the Cardinals. (Sam Fortier)

    -- Kieran Shafritz de Zoysa, the young boy killed in the Sri Lanka attacks, was mourned at Washington National Cathedral. Jessica Contrera reports: “Kieran was visiting one of those hotels with his mother and grandmother. He had just sat down for breakfast when a suicide bomber entered the buffet line nearby. Kieran’s mother and grandmother survived the attack, but he was hit with three pieces of shrapnel. One pierced his heart. 'That piece of shrapnel struck down our sweet, articulate, thoughtful, handsome boy,' Kieran’s father, Alex Arrow, told the more than 250 people who came to honor his son. ... With his top-of-the-class grades, Kieran had planned to become a neuroscientist. His father said he had wanted to be the one to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease — and after a few minutes of meeting him, most adults agreed he had the drive and intelligence to actually do so.” 

    -- Homelessness dropped in D.C. for the third straight year, city officials reported. Peter Jamison reports: “There were 6,521 homeless people in the District, a 5.5 percent decline from last year, according to the annual count performed by the city. The trend was driven by a 15.6 percent reduction in family homelessness, while the number of homeless, single adults increased by 2.8 percent. ... Homelessness also fell in neighboring Montgomery County, county officials said Wednesday, with 647 homeless people counted this year — a 23 percent drop from last year. It was the fourth year in a row that the county’s homeless population has shrunk.”

    VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

    This moment from Barr's testimony attracted a lot of attention:

    Seth Meyers broke down Barr's performance and Mueller's complaint letter:

    Stephen Colbert found Barr's testimony hard to watch: