Here are eight things that the Moore imbroglio reveals about the present political moment:
1) Trump prizes loyalty and ideological fealty over more traditional qualifications.
“The president selected Mr. Moore after Larry Kudlow, his National Economic Council director who was a best man at Mr. Moore’s wedding, showed the president a Wall Street Journal opinion piece in which Mr. Moore called for the Fed to cut interest rates and said the central bank posed the biggest risk to the American economy,” the New York Times reported.
Moore and Herman Cain, who dropped out of consideration for another slot on the Fed board last week, both called very publicly for cutting interest rates before Trump picked them.
“Trump is trying to install political allies willing to do his bidding in jobs that are supposed to be insulated from partisan politics. To do that, Trump has taken some fliers on damaged-goods nominees — that wound up blowing up in his face,” Aaron Blake notes. “Those rates have been intermittently rising, and Trump has routinely attacked Fed Chairman Jerome H. Powell for the hikes.”
2) Announce first, vet later.
Trump announced plans to nominate Moore, whose papers were never formally sent to the Senate, before anyone at the White House had reviewed his past writings, personal finances or court records.
Press secretary Sarah Sanders announced on Monday that the White House was reviewing Moore’s writings, something that is supposed to happen before – not after – the president announces a major personnel decision.
The president has repeatedly put people up for hugely important jobs before they were vetted, including Andy Puzder for labor secretary and Ronny Jackson for VA secretary. Both went down in flames. Five of the president’s judicial nominees have failed at least in part because Republican senators objected to red flags in their paper trails that would have almost certainly prompted previous presidents not to pick them for lifetime appointments to the federal bench.
“If I had in any sense that … people would be looking at my writings from 20 or 25 years ago, I would have told the president, ‘Wait a minute, I can't do a Senate confirmation,’” Moore told Fox Business yesterday.
Senate Republicans said yesterday that they hope White House officials finally learn from this latest donnybrook to change the way they operate. Seung Min Kim relays the following quotes from the Capitol:
- “Bottom line, they need to vet all of that, even before they forward a name or float a name out there,” said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa). “Let’s please do some research!”
- “Reading people’s articles that they write would be a good start,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).
- “Vet better,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
3) Senate Republicans have the power to check Trump. They just rarely choose to use it.
All it takes is four of the 53 GOP senators to balance Trump. While Republicans are often wary of publicly crossing Trump, Moore’s withdrawal shows it takes only a handful of senators to flex their muscles. In this case, Ernst led the charge.
Moore had also needlessly antagonized several members of the GOP conference over the years, something that the White House might have known if he’d been vetted. He crusaded against Sen. Mitt Romney when Trump considered picking him as secretary of state, declaring that such a move would constitute a “betrayal” of the president’s base. In 2003, Moore called for the impeachment of then-Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, who is now agriculture secretary, over tax policy. Sonny’s cousin, Sen. David Perdue, is a member of the Banking Committee. Moore described Sen. Rob Portman’s hometown of Cincinnati as an “armpit of America.”
4) Problematic policy positions were not a major factor in Moore’s failure.
“Moore wasn’t done in by his terrible economic ideas but by old-fashioned oppo. It should have been the other way around,” laments conservative thought leader Charlie Sykes, the former Wisconsin talk radio host who is now the editor in chief of the Bulwark.
“He’s prone to say idiotic things about women, race, sports and economics. This last point should be crucial, since he was up for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board, but because this is Washington, his messy personal life, bad jokes and offensive comments from decades ago did more to kill his nomination than his manifest lack of qualifications or his profound misunderstanding of basic economics,” Sykes writes for Politico Magazine. “These included his lack of understanding of the Volcker rule (he thought it related to commodity prices), his embrace of crackpot theories like returning to the gold standard, and his willingness to flip his positions depending on what policies would give Republicans a partisan advantage. … Moore figured out that it was less important to be right about economics than it was to say the right things and make the right friends. For a while that looked like it would be enough.”
5) Trump is totally with you — until he’s not.
Moore told reporters during a breakfast yesterday sponsored by Bloomberg News that he was not going to surrender. “My biggest ally is the president. He’s full speed ahead,” Moore said. “I’m all in.”
Two hours later, Trump tweeted that he wouldn’t nominate Moore — claiming that it was at Moore's request.
Cain was also adamant until the end that he was not going to drop out — until the White House announced he had.
Moore told the Wall Street Journal, where he used to write for the editorial page, that he talked with Kudlow on Wednesday night about whether it was time to quit. “I was ready to pull out, and Larry said, ‘Let me talk to the president about this and see what he thinks,’” Moore recalled. When the Journal’s Paul Kiernan checked in on Thursday morning, Moore said he would not withdraw. “You may think I misled you,” Moore told him later in the day. “But it is what it is.”
6) Trump is the first cable news president.
Historically, it’s been standard practice for people with pending nominations to not give on-the-record interviews or appear on television while they’re awaiting Senate confirmation. The idea is that there’s little upside in drawing scrutiny or rocking the boat. But the reality TV star turned president wants his people on TV defending him. No one told Moore to keep his head down for a little while, and he’s given many interviews over the past six weeks.
7) Defiance, always defiance.
If last night was any indication, Fox News might give him a contract. Moore appeared live on Tucker Carlson’s show, a few hours after going on the Fox Business Network for an interview with Neil Cavuto.
Carlson likened Moore to Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. “Kavanaugh made it through,” Carlson said as he introduced his guest. “Steve Moore hasn't been so lucky, but we are happy to have him on this show anyway. Or, maybe, especially now!”
Moore said people have been coming up to him at airports and restaurants to urge him not to “let these jackals get you.”
“I hate quitting,” he said. “I’m not a quitter. So I’m sad about that.”
“They are jackals,” said Carlson. “The White House should have never given into this. … They shouldn’t have because that’s more weakness [and] draws more aggression.”
“Well, there’s a lot of truth to that,” Moore replied. “But I will say this, do you know who … did not want me to withdraw from this? Donald J. Trump!”
“Good,” said Carlson. “I believe that.”
“That’s what I love about him,” said Moore. “He is a fighter.”
Moore then attacked CNN for not hiring him back, saying that it’s weird that the network has run critical stories about his record when he’s been a contributor at the network for the last two and a half years.
“If I’m such a scoundrel and sexist,” Moore said, “why did they have me on every night?”
Moore added that it is unfair to hold someone accountable “for things that were written 25 years ago.”
“You’ve got to stand up to these people,” Carlson said.
“Yes,” Moore replied.
“It’s disgusting what happened to you and Kavanaugh and a lot of other people in this city,” said Carlson. “Anyway, Steve Moore, you are always welcome on the show!”
8) Coming into Trump’s orbit is like staying at the Hotel California. Once they check in, many people never leave. Just ask Corey Lewandowski, who is still hanging around Trump three years after he got fired as his campaign manager. Bob Mueller’s report showed how he’s continued to do Trump’s bidding since he came into the Oval Office.
The president called Moore “a truly fine person” yesterday. “Steve won the battle of ideas including Tax Cuts and deregulation which have produced non-inflationary prosperity for all Americans,” Trump tweeted. “I’ve asked Steve to work with me toward future economic growth in our Country.”
Moore responded with an effusive letter to the president, distributed to reporters by a conservative PR firm that’s been promoting his nomination. “Trumponomics has been VINDICATED,” he wrote.
-- Connecting the dots: Trump has faced a string of recent setbacks that reveal the hardening limitations on his attempts to goose the economy heading toward the 2020 election. Moore is just the latest example.
“This week, Fed officials declined to slash interest rates despite demands from Trump just 24 hours before. They also appeared to ignore his call to restart a controversial Fed asset-buying program that was used during the recession and subsequent years to help economic growth,” Damian Paletta and Steven Mufson report. “And even though Trump has repeatedly sought to pressure the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries into lowering energy prices, foreign leaders of oil exporters appear to be rebuffing his demands, and the cost of oil is hovering near its highest level since October. Trump has jawboned foreign leaders for more than a year to intervene in oil markets in a way that he hoped would push down prices. Trump insisted as recently as last week that Saudi officials had promised him they would help.”
GET SMART FAST:
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh (D) resigned amid cascading state and federal investigations into lucrative sales of her self-published children’s books. Pugh, who has been on a leave of absence since April 1, said in a statement read by her attorney that she was “sorry for the harm I have caused to the image of the city of Baltimore and the credibility of the office of the mayor.” City Council President Jack Young will take over as mayor but said he would not seek the office in next year’s election. (Paul Schwartzman and Peter Hermann)
Acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan vowed to confront sexual violence in the military after a report showed a 38 percent increase in assaults between 2016 and 2018. The survey of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine personnel estimated that 20,500 instances of unwanted sexual contact, ranging from groping to rape, had occurred — up from 14,900 in 2016. Enlisted women between the ages of 17 and 24 were found to be most at risk of being assaulted. (Frances Stead Sellers and Dan Lamothe)
Facebook permanently banned several extremist leaders and organizations for being “dangerous.” Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, Infowars host Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos and Laura Loomer were among those who had their accounts removed. The social media giant, which has faced pressure to crack down on hate speech, said the decision followed a reevaluation of the individuals’ past content and behavior outside Facebook. (Elizabeth Dwoskin)
Monster Cyclone Fani, which is equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane, is likely to hit eastern India today with potentially disastrous consequences. Meteorologists say the hurricane will push an enormous storm surge inland and inundate homes, roads and businesses not only in eastern India but also in Bangladesh. (Jason Samenow)
West Virginia reached a $37 million settlement with drug distributor McKesson over the company’s role in the opioid crisis. McKesson admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to pay $14.5 million this year and then $4.5 million annually for five years to the state, which leads the nation in drug overdose deaths. (Lenny Bernstein)
Scientists found traces of cocaine and pesticides in a batch of freshwater shrimp from Britain. The samples were collected from different locations in the county of Suffolk, and researchers said the concentration of cocaine didn’t fluctuate much between sites, which they said is proof of widespread contamination. (NPR)
An emergency-room nurse who became a state legislator in Colorado received death threats after he sponsored a bill to tighten vaccination protocols for parents. The bill, which didn’t make it beyond the state Senate, was meant to help increase vaccination rates in the state, which is at the bottom nationwide for the percentage of kindergarten-age children who’ve been vaccinated against diseases such as measles and mumps. (Eli Rosenberg)
Voter registration groups sued Tennessee just hours after Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed a bill threatening criminal charges and fines over incomplete forms and missing deadlines. The groups are arguing that the bill violates the First Amendment and will slow down their efforts to get more people registered. (Tim Elfrink)
Mark Halperin is struggling to rehabilitate his career after several women accused him of sexual harassment, but he’s getting help from MSNBC hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. The veteran political journalist, who was fired from his show and lost a book deal after the allegations surfaced, was planning on launching an online-only program with the two hosts before MSNBC called it off because Scarborough and Brzezinski didn’t seek approval before involving him. (The Daily Beast)
Nearly half of college students routinely skip meals and go hungry because they cannot afford groceries. This isn't the Third World. This is America. In 2019. (New York Times)
The captor of a teenage girl who forced her to have sex with him and held her in a dog cage for a year will face no additional prison time. Michael Wysolovski pleaded guilty to first-degree cruelty to children and interstate interference with custody. Although he was given a 10-year sentence, he received credit for the eight months he’s already served and will spend the rest of the time on probation. (Antonia Noori Farzan)
The Oglala Sioux Tribe told South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) that she is not welcome on their reservation in the latest escalation in the years-long feud over the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Tribe President Julian Bear Runner said Noem would be banned until she rescinds her support for a pair of laws the state passed designed to prevent protests that may disrupt the pipeline’s construction. (Reis Thebault)
Actor Peter Mayhew, who played Chewbacca in the original Star Wars trilogy, died at 74. George Lucas discovered the 7-foot-3 actor while Mayhew was working as an orderly in the radiology department at King’s College Hospital in London and told him that all he had to do to be cast was stand up. (Sonia Rao)
Woody Allen pitched a memoir last year, and no publishers were interested. In years past, Allen’s memoir might’ve been the subject of a bidding war, but with resurfaced allegations of sexual assault, the director is finding himself shunned, too, by the publishing industry. (New York Times)
Bill Clinton is getting in on the podcast craze. Clinton, along with his daughter, Chelsea, is launching a Clinton Foundation podcast called “Why Am I Telling You This” that will feature conversations with foundation staff and special guests. (CNN)
A U.S. soldier was seriously injured after falling into Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano in search of a better view. The 32-year-old man, who was on Hawaii’s Big Island for training exercises, fell from a 300-foot high cliff after climbing over a metal guard to take a picture. (Matthew S. Schwartz)
WATCH WHAT THEY DO, NOT WHAT THEY SAY:
-- This should be getting a lot more attention than it is: The Trump administration continues to roll back more of the offshore drilling safeguards put in place after the 2010 explosion on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil platform that killed 11 and caused the largest oil spill in American history. Darryl Fears reports: “Administration officials said the revised Well Control Rule announced Thursday in Louisiana, not far from the site of the spill, reflects President Trump’s stance on ‘facilitating energy dominance’ by increasing domestic oil and gas production and reducing burdens on the fossil fuel industry. … Officials at the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, a division of the Interior Department that promulgated the rule, said the changes also will save the offshore oil and gas industry nearly a billion dollars over 10 years. ...
“Administration officials heeded the concerns of the industry, particularly the American Petroleum Institute, which lobbies on its behalf. … The new rules responded to those concerns by eliminating a requirement that safety and pollution prevention equipment be inspected by independent auditors certified by the bureau. A bipartisan presidential commission established after the BP disaster recommended such inspections. Now oil companies can use ‘recommended practices’ set by the oil industry for ensuring that safety equipment works, returning to a standard that existed before the gulf oil spill.
“Safety-bureau regulators removed a key word from language describing the level of down-hole pressure the agency requires operators to maintain in a given well to avoid an accident. The word it removed is ‘safe.’ Pressure tests, which failed in the Deepwater Horizon disaster, no longer have to ‘show’ that a well is in balance. Instead, they should ‘indicate’ that. A requirement that forced oil rig and platform operators to design and assure that equipment functions in extreme heat and weather such as storms that produce high winds was eliminated.”
-- The Trump administration pushed to remove references to climate change from an international statement on Arctic policy. Anne Gearan, Carol Morello and John Hudson report: “The Arctic Council declaration is an affirmation of goals and principles among the eight Arctic nations, which meet every two years. The Trump administration’s position, at least initially, threatened a standoff in which the United States would not sign onto a statement that included climate discussion and other members would not agree to a version that left it out, according to senior diplomats and others familiar with the discussions. The administration objected to language that, while nonbinding, could be read as a collective commitment to address the effects of climate change in the Arctic, diplomats said. One official familiar with the preparations for this year’s meeting said that at meetings last month, the United States ‘indicated its resistance to any mention of climate change whatsoever.’”
-- The House passed a bill to force the U.S. to remain in the Paris climate agreement, but the Democratic measure is dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled Senate. Dino Grandoni reports: “House Democrats seized on the measure to portray Republicans as obstacles to progress on climate change — and make a case ahead of the 2020 election that Trump is undermining the nation’s commitment to rein in heat-trapping pollution. Democrats also hope to signal to other countries party to the Paris agreement inked in 2015 that, if the next president is a Democrat, he or she is likely to keep the U.S. in the climate agreement.”
-- Trump announced a new rule allowing health-care workers to refuse to perform certain procedures, including abortions, based on religious objections. Ariana Eunjung Cha, Sarah Pulliam Bailey and Amy Goldstein report: “The 440-page rule is broad in scope, spelling out specific services that individuals and entities could refrain from providing or paying for based on their beliefs. It also emphasizes parents’ rights to refuse several specific types of care for their children. Conservative groups welcomed what they call ‘conscience protections’ for health care workers and others, while LGBTQ and women’s groups warned the rule would reduce services and potentially harm patients if providers refuse to deliver certain care, or treat gay and transgender people. … Trump’s remarks on the National Day of Prayer were the third time he has used the 77-year-old annual multifaith observance to make announcements addressing the concerns of Christian conservatives.”
-- The FDA said it will not ban a type of breast implant, even though it has been linked to a rare cancer. But the agency added that it would continue to gather information about the risks associated with the device. The FDA’s decision came a month after many women shared with an agency advisory panel their stories of suffering debilitating health effects that they attributed to the implants. (Laurie McGinley)
TRUMP GETS HIS ROY COHN:
-- Attorney General Bill Barr’s combative performance before the Senate thrilled Trump, who was initially skeptical about appointing the Bush 41 alum. Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey, Tom Hamburger and Ashley Parker report: “In Barr’s first three months in the job, his actions have served to protect Trump, though his motive is up for debate. Barr’s defenders note that the attorney general has long advocated strengthening the power of the executive branch, and the attorney general has told other lawyers that he is more interested in protecting the presidency than the man in the job. But critics say that Barr has emerged as the partisan champion Trump always wanted — one willing to defend the president’s most questionable conduct, put a Trumpian spin on the results of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation and mislead Congress along the way. … Trump and senior White House officials have urged surrogates to go on TV and praise Barr — and even arranged a call Wednesday afternoon to disseminate supportive talking points.”
-- Barr’s refusal to appear before the House Judiciary Committee has put more pressure on Nancy Pelosi to initiate impeachment proceedings. Rachael Bade, Mike DeBonis and John Wagner report: "'Ignoring subpoenas of Congress, not honoring subpoenas of Congress — that was Article III of the Nixon impeachment,’ Pelosi said of Trump in a private meeting with colleagues …The tensions between the Trump administration and Congress could come to a head as early as next week, when House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said his panel will probably adopt a contempt citation against Barr unless he provides the full, unredacted Mueller report.”
-- Pelosi said she believes Barr has “committed a crime” and made false statements to Congress, but the speaker acknowledged it would be hard to remove the attorney general or the president with a Republican-controlled Senate. “We are in a very, very, very challenging place, because we have a Republican Party that is complicit in the special-interest agenda so they are not going to say anything,” Pelosi said during a news conference. “Impeachment is the easy way out for some of these people because they know it will end at the Senate’s edge.” Barr's spokeswoman replied that he's done nothing wrong. (DeBonis and Bade)
-- White House lawyer Emmet Flood sent a five-page letter to Barr last month asserting Trump’s executive privilege over the Mueller report, even though a redacted version of it had already been released. Rosalind S. Helderman and Josh Dawsey report: “In his April 19 letter, Flood accused Mueller of exceeding his authority by spilling into public view a recitation of facts far more detailed than what is typically included in criminal indictments. He described the report as ‘prosecutorial curiosity — part ‘truth commission’ report and part law school exam paper.’ … Flood offered a scathing critique of Mueller’s report, writing that the special counsel team abandoned the normal burden of proof that requires prosecutors to establish crimes beyond a reasonable doubt. The refusal to ‘exonerate’ the president, he wrote, turned the presumption of innocence on its head.”
-- Trump said he will resist allowing former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify before Congress because he already talked to Mueller. “I would say it’s done,” Trump said. “I’ve had him testifying already for 30 hours.” (Reuters)
-- The House is talking to Mueller's team about getting him to come testify, per NBC:
THERE’S STILL A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- In 2017, the State Department allowed at least seven foreign governments to rent condos in Trump’s World Tower in New York, a potential violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause. Reuters’s Julia Harte reports: “The Trump World Tower lease requests were never submitted to Congress. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said his committee has been ‘stonewalled’ in its efforts to obtain detailed information about foreign government payments to Trump’s businesses. … The records show that in the eight months following Trump’s January 20, 2017 inauguration, foreign governments sent 13 notes to the State Department seeking permission to rent or renew leases in Trump World Tower. That is more solicitations from foreign governments for new or renewed leases in that building than in the previous two years combined.”
-- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif) said he agrees with Trump’s assessment that he was the subject of an attempted “coup” during the Mueller investigation. John Wagner reports: “McCarthy pointed to text messages between two senior FBI officials involved in the probe of possible connections between Trump associates and Russia that showed an intense dislike of Trump and fear that he might win. ‘Their actions are a coup,’ McCarthy told Post reporter Robert Costa, who pressed the top Republican in the House on whether he believed the word ‘coup’ was appropriate. ‘I do not believe they were abiding by the rule of law based on what they said,’ McCarthy said, also suggesting those involved in the probe were biased against Trump.”
-- The FBI sent an investigator posing as a research assistant to meet with George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign adviser, to better understand the campaign’s links to Russia. The New York Times’s Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt and Mark Mazzetti report: “The American government’s affiliation with the woman, who said her name was Azra Turk, is one previously unreported detail of an operation that has become a political flash point in the face of accusations by President Trump and his allies that American law enforcement and intelligence officials spied on his campaign to undermine his electoral chances. Last year, he called it Spygate. … The London operation yielded no fruitful information, but F.B.I. officials have called the bureau’s activities in the months before the election both legal and carefully considered under extraordinary circumstances. They are now under scrutiny as part of an investigation by Michael E. Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general.”
-- Trump said he leaned on God to get through the Mueller probe during a National Day of Prayer event at the White House. “People say, ‘How do you get through that whole stuff? How do you go through those witch hunts and everything else?’ … We just do it, right? And we think about God.” (Politico)
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- As the Trump administration sends asylum seekers to Mexico while they await court rulings, the government is in some cases ignoring its own protocols for who should be sent back across the border. Robert Moore reports: “The guidelines for the Migrant Protection Protocols program … preclude government officials from sending people with ‘known physical/mental health issues’ back to Mexico. But at least two pregnant women and a Honduran family that includes a 4-year-old girl with a neurological disorder were sent from El Paso to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, under the MPP program ... It is difficult for the girl to take in food, she is nonverbal and unable to walk, and her family argues that waiting in Mexico was a dangerous proposition. … The mother and daughters spent seven days in Border Patrol custody, including two nights under an international bridge in El Paso, where they slept outdoors. One day after being told her husband could pay for bus tickets to get them to Florida, Border Patrol agents told the mother they would instead be sent to Ciudad Juarez.”
-- A 10-month-old boy was found dead and three other migrants were reported missing after a raft overturned in the Rio Grande along the Texas border, an incident a Border Patrol official blamed on “callous smugglers.” Nick Miroff reports: “The missing include a 7-year-old boy and a girl approximately the same age, part of a group of nine Honduran migrants who were attempting to cross the river late Wednesday, said Department of Homeland Security officials … According to CBP, U.S. agents encountered a man late Wednesday who said his wife and two sons — a 10-month-old and a 6-year-old — had fallen into the river, along with his nephew, age 7. Another man and a female child were also reported missing. … A Border Patrol agent jumped into the river and rescued the woman and child, who were later identified as the wife and son of the man who made the initial report.”
-- The government is planning on housing more immigrants in tent cities at the border. The AP’s Cedar Attanasio and Nomaan Merchan report: “A lack of space means some immigrants must sleep on floors in Border Patrol stations, while others are held in military-style tents next to an El Paso bridge. The government will soon open two more that could start taking immigrants Thursday. The newest tent cities — in El Paso and in the Rio Grande Valley — will hold 1,000 parents and families, expanding the Border Patrol’s capacity to hold and process the surge of immigrants who have arrived in recent months and overwhelmed authorities. The capacity could be expanded at some point.”
-- House Democrats have shelved plans to advance a bill that would have protected “dreamers.” “The bill is stalled because of an intraparty fight over providing citizenship to undocumented immigrants with criminal records, multiple lawmakers and aides said Thursday, and a likely committee vote is now delayed,” Politico’s Heather Caygle and Sarah Ferris report. "‘Always issues when it comes to immigration, but we’ll get through it,’ House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said in a brief interview after attending a meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Thursday.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- He wishes to defect! The beluga whale suspected of being a spy for Russia is refusing to leave Norway. An official from the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries said the whale has moved only about 25 nautical miles since it was spotted by fishermen last week. The whale, which was wearing a harness that was produced in St. Petersburg and could be used to carry weapons or cameras, has shown very unusual behavior for its species – including allowing humans to get close enough to pet its nose. (Rick Noack)
-- Venezuela’s opposition remains wary of U.S. intervention despite several setbacks in its goal of ousting President Nicolás Maduro. Anthony Faiola and Mariana Zuñiga report: “While the White House and the Pentagon are debating the wisdom of a military intervention in Venezuela, after the failure this week of [opposition leader Juan] Guaidó’s bid to oust Maduro, the question is getting a more serious airing here. … Many believe U.S. troops could ignite internal conflicts within the military, irregular forces linked to Maduro and criminal cartels. Intervention would also undermine Guaidó’s claim to be a grass roots Venezuelan leader by seeming to confirm that he’s exactly what Maduro has claimed: A puppet of the United States.”
-- The U.S. claims there are over 20,000 Cuban troops in Venezuela. Cuba says there are none. Adam Taylor reports: “The allegation about Cuban security forces in Venezuela would seem easier to prove or disprove — after all, how do you hide 20,000 to 25,000 soldiers? Former U.S. officials say there may be a gray area. ‘It’s hard to say what’s what,’ said Fernando Cutz, who was a senior adviser to then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster and served as South America director in the National Security Council. ‘The truth is likely somewhere in the middle.’”
-- Iraq is trying to build an isolation camp for the 30,000 Iraqis who lived in the Islamic State’s final stronghold in Syria. Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim report: “Objections from humanitarian groups have already scuttled a proposal to set up a new camp near Tal Afar in northern Nineveh province. Senior Iraqi officials, however, remain opposed to the idea of scattering the Islamic State returnees, mostly women and children, among existing displacement camps around the area, according to high-ranking figures in the displacement ministry and parliament.”
-- In a big win for the regime in Riyadh, the Senate failed to override Trump’s veto of a resolution that would have cut off American support for the brutal, Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. Karoun Demirjian and Missy Ryan report: The measure “brought along some Republicans troubled by the worsening humanitarian situation in Yemen, where more than 20 million people are at risk of starvation, and others frustrated by the lack of clear congressional authorization for participation in the conflict. But most Republican lawmakers objected to using Congress’s war powers to end what amounts to a support operation.”
-- A new Pentagon report shows that China is blatantly stealing foreign military technologies to leapfrog their own development of complex weapons systems. ABC News’s Elizabeth McLaughlin and Luis Martinez report: “China uses various means to get these technologies including the use of influence operations against individuals, businesses, media organizations, academic institutions and other communities. … According to the report, China is using multiple tools to gain access to those technologies including ‘targeted foreign direct investment, cyber theft, and exploitation of private Chinese nationals' access to these technologies, as well as harnessing its intelligence services, computer intrusions, and other illicit approaches.’”
-- Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said Europeans have “lost their collective libido” for one another. In a whimsical analysis of the state of affairs on the continent, Juncker also said Britain has “reviled” the E.U. from its start. (The Guardian)
-- Trump said Joe Biden “is very naive about China.” Felicia Sonmez reports: "'If Biden actually said that, that’s a very dumb statement,' Trump said ... Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said the former vice president believes the United States 'can compete and win against anyone, including China,' by investing in America’s 'core strengths.' ... 'If Republicans are so scared of Joe Biden that they want to take the other side of that bet to try and score political points, then they’re welcome to it,' [the spokesman said]. Trump’s criticism of Biden came after members of both parties took aim at his comments.”
-- Bernie Sanders’s campaign manager said it was the senator's idea to call for a one-on-one debate with Biden. CNN’s Ryan Nobles and Gregory Krieg report: “‘This was driven by Sen. Sanders himself,’ [Faiz] Shakir said in an interview. ‘He said, 'Why the heck should I wait to draw contrast between the two of us? That is what a primary is all about.'‘ … Shakir conceded that Biden is the frontrunner — polls have shown him building on his early lead since joining the contest last week — and said Sanders and the campaign expected Biden to come out of the gates strong. But they were also determined to define Biden early on by shining a spotlight on the pieces of Biden's record that, though perhaps standard for Democrats at the time, might run against the party's more recent progressive shift.”
-- A just-married Bernie Sanders spent a 10-day “honeymoon” in the Soviet Union in 1988 as part of an official visit that left him enthralled with aspects of his host country. Michael Kranish reports: “Sanders was bare-chested, towel-draped, sitting at a table lined with vodka bottles, as he sang ‘This Land Is Your Land’ to his hosts in the Soviet Union in the spring of 1988 … The trip garnered brief mention in the 2016 presidential campaign, but earlier this year, a video from a Vermont community television station was posted online that showed a few minutes of Sanders’s unlikely celebration with the Soviets. Right-leaning websites suggested Sanders was cozying up to communists, underscoring how the trip might be used against the senator if he becomes the Democratic nominee. … As he stood on Soviet soil, Sanders, then 46 years old, criticized the cost of housing and health care in the United States, while lauding the lower prices — but not the quality — of that available in the Soviet Union.”
-- Bernie had his own TV show in the ’80s, and tapes of the long-lost program have resurfaced, revealing a lot about the man who rewrote America’s political script, writes Politico’s Holly Otterbein, who watched all 51 episodes of the show: “’Bernie Speaks with the Community,’ [was] a bizarre, charming and, at times, startling cable-access TV show that Sanders created in the late 1980s when he was the mayor of Burlington. … For dozens of hours, Sanders interviews townspeople, and lets them interview him. He gives speeches, but he also does all the day-to-day things a mayor does: He talks with his police chief. He visits the local schools. He chats up elderly constituents. He even plants trees. … On the shows, it’s possible to detect a young … Sanders crafting his democratic socialist message, refining the populist parts, shaving off the more extreme elements and figuring out how to sell it to the masses.”
-- Black voters across South Carolina think presidential candidates are missing out on connections and racking up social miscues. Cleve R. Wootson Jr. reports: “In a testament to that community’s importance, at least two presidential candidates — former vice president Joe Biden and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg — are heading to South Carolina this weekend. Biden remains popular with many black voters, while some have expressed reservations about Buttigieg, but the visits are an important moment for both. Several candidates, not just Sanders (I-Vt.), have struggled to close the deal in South Carolina. Fellow members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority in the state have asked Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) how they can help her campaign and say they’ve heard little but silence in return. Staffers for Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) have argued with local organizers over scheduling delays. Former congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) has talked extensively about his privilege as a white man, but some black voters at his events complain that he hasn’t offered concrete solutions to address racial disparities.”
-- Kamala Harris attracted positive attention this week with her sharp questioning of Barr, but she's been struggling to find her footing on the campaign trail. Chelsea Janes reports: “She has, at moments, seemed indecisive and cautious on the national stage, suggesting an aversion to risk that conflicts with her self-description as a truth-teller. … On the trail, Harris seems to be feeling for the right balance between authenticity and discipline. Voters at her events often applaud her informal style and spontaneous wit and leave saying they feel a connection. But that relaxed approach can invite missteps. After Harris said she wanted to end private health insurance, for example, she softened that position and has repeatedly had to reexplain it.”
-- Michael Bennet’s entry into the 2020 field means 21 candidates are competing for the Democratic nomination, placing immense strain on the primary debate format that was built with a maximum of 20 candidates in mind. The New York Times’s Matt Stevens reports: “Only 17 candidates have so far qualified for the first debate, so cuts are not guaranteed. But with nearly two months to go, more candidates could very well meet the requirements. Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the D.N.C., said that the party has no plans to raise the cap from 20 or revise its debate qualification criteria.” The DNC has said it will use three tiebreakers involving polling and donor numbers if more than 20 candidates qualify by the original requirements.
-- Bennet explains why he's running in a meaty new Medium post: “We are the first generation of Americans at risk of handing our children less opportunity, not more. … Washington may have given up, but the American people are still fighting for their families. Like most Americans, I refuse to accept that our economy and our democracy are too broken to fix. For the sake of our children, we must build opportunity for every American and restore integrity to our government. We refuse to accept as permanent the debilitating distance between our high aspirations for the future and Washington’s pathetic performance. We know we can do better.”
-- Several Democratic candidates are taking steps to prepare for a contested convention by courting superdelegates — including Bernie, who railed against superdelegates’ power in 2016. BuzzFeed News’s Ruby Cramer reports: “Superdelegates — the elected officials, party officers, and activists who have been given a say in the Democratic nominating system since 1982 — were stripped of their vote in the first round of convention voting last year, a move to appeal to Sanders supporters who felt the system unfairly benefited Hillary Clinton in 2016. But across the field of 21 candidates, campaigns with the resources to do so are already courting superdelegate support to prepare for the possibility of a contested convention next summer — a scenario where superdelegate votes could come back into play. ‘We're taking superdelegates and superdelegates strategy seriously,’ a Sanders aide said, ‘hence having a team dedicated to delegates who can prepare for multiple convention scenarios.’”
-- “The last time the Democratic field was so crowded, a peanut farmer won the White House,” by Gillian Brockell: “How many Democratic candidates were there in 1976? One historian put the number at 17, though it depends on how you count them. Let’s just say the race was remarkably fluid right up until the last primary. The first to announce was Rep. Morris Udall of Arizona in late November of 1974, almost a full two years before the election. The longtime congressman came from a famous political dynasty. (Four generations of Udalls have served in various elected offices across the American West.) The next was [Jimmy] Carter, who was weeks away from finishing his term as Georgia governor. He was so unknown that a Gallup poll that asked voters for their impressions of 31 possible candidates didn’t even have Carter on the list.”
-- “Chasten Buttigieg has been a homeless community-college student and a Starbucks barista. Now, he could be ‘first gentleman,’” by Ellen McCarthy: “The 29-year-old former drama teacher has often courted attention, but he has never been more watched than in these past few months as his husband, Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., has emerged as a serious contender for president. … Chasten stands out among the 2020 spouses for reasons other than the fact that he is a man married to a man, or that he is a millennial married to a millennial, or that this campaign is happening during the first year of their marriage, or that he is not yet 30. He is also the son of working-class Midwesterners, a first-generation college graduate, a guy who took a second job at Starbucks so he could have health care. The life story he tells includes bullying, estrangement, homelessness and sexual assault. His story represents both an American archetype and a modern phenomenon. And now that Chasten Buttigieg knows he’s being watched, what he cares about is being seen.”
-- Now that she has ruled out running for Georgia’s Senate seat next year, Stacey Abrams has focused her efforts on a new group aimed at expanding voter rights. Amy Gardner reports: “Abrams’s command center is now Fair Fight Action, a nonprofit she formed in December to increase access to elections and combat what she describes as Republicans’ systemic efforts to suppress voters of color. The organization, where at least four former campaign aides work, has already filed a federal lawsuit over the election, lobbied for legislative reform and released videos featuring Abrams. If the group is successful, it could help further boost the ranks of voters of color in Georgia, a state that saw a record turnout of 1.9 million Democrats last year, when Abrams narrowly lost the governor’s race to Republican Brian Kemp. That could also bolster Democratic fortunes in 2020 — as well as Abrams personally if she decides to challenge Kemp to a rematch two years after that.”
-- Chuck Schumer downplayed his recent recruiting failures, including Abrams in Georgia, in an interview with Karen Tumulty: “Unlike the situation he faced last year — when 10 Democratic senators were running for reelection in states that President Trump carried, some by double digits — Democratic incumbents other than [Doug] Jones will be on the 2020 ballot in states that [Hillary] Clinton carried, or where the party did well in last year’s midterms. … ‘Is it an easy path? No, but is it a doable path,’ Schumer says of his party’s chances of pulling off a similar feat in 2020. And he predicts: ‘By this summer, you will see a very good list of candidates.’”
THE FAULT LINES IN TRUMP’S WASHINGTON:
-- Today’s Wall Street Journal goes deep on the chilly relationship between the Trump administration and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a major factor that’s driving the strategy shift I wrote about last week. “A month before his inauguration, and shortly after he had finished a round of golf with Tiger Woods, Donald Trump was introduced to an adviser of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” Brody Mullins and Alex Leary report. “Stanton Anderson stood in the clubhouse of Mr. Trump’s golf course in West Palm Beach, Fla., and extended his hand to the president-elect. Mr. Trump refused it. ‘You guys did everything to stop me,’ Mr. Trump said, his face reddening, according to two people who were there. ‘I haven’t forgotten.’ In the two years since, relations between Mr. Trump and Washington’s biggest lobbying organization haven’t much improved. …
“At a board meeting in Aventura, Fla., this March, executives complained about the absence of prominent Trump administration figures. The same month, the Business Roundtable, a rival lobbying group, hosted Mr. Trump, Ivanka Trump, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Kudlow at their quarterly meeting in Washington. The chamber’s featured guest, meanwhile, was former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. The following day, Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, spoke to a separate gathering of chamber officials.”
-- Three Democratic senators have requested documents from the NRA to examine the pro-gun group’s nonprofit status. Katie Zezima reports: “Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), members of the Senate Committee on Finance, sent letters Thursday to NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre, former NRA president Oliver North and Ackerman McQueen, the group’s longtime public relations firm. It has asked the men and the firm to hand over all requested documents by May 16. … In the letters, the senators ask LaPierre about the claims that North sought LaPierre’s resignation over allegations of financial mismanagement and that North formed a ‘Crisis Management Committee’ at the NRA.”
-- Some Democratic senators, including three 2020 candidates, called for the FBI to rescind a change to the way it classifies domestic terrorist incidents, arguing that the move plays down the threat of white supremacy. Felicia Sonmez reports: “In the letter, the senators said the FBI has created a new category — ‘racially-motivated violent extremism’ — that ‘inappropriately’ combines white-supremacist incidents with those involving ‘Black identity extremists.’ By doing so, the FBI has ‘shifted its approach to tracking domestic terrorism incidents to obfuscate the white supremacist threat,’ the senators said. … Previously, the FBI used 11 categories for domestic terrorism, but the new system uses only four, according to the senators’ letter Thursday.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Bernie Sanders thanked his primary opponent for “joining” his signature foreign policy proposal to end U.S. involvement in Yemen:
A CNN reporter highlighted these polling numbers:
The New York Times's editorial page editor has had to recuse himself from 2020 coverage because his brother is running for president:
A Post reporter commented on Bennet's campaign launch:
A HuffPost reporter and polling editor listed the nine “B” names of the 2020 primary:
Flooding continues to wreak havoc in the Midwest:
A Post reporter noted this about a future Medal of Freedom recipient:
Another Post reporter made this calculation:
And a CNBC reporter made a casting decision:
-- “Surviving a stroke,” by former CIA director Michael Hayden for CNN: “Just six months ago, I was jet-setting across this country, giving speeches and interviews, engaging with the public on matters of domestic and international politics. … And then on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, it all changed. That morning, as I was preparing for the day, I suffered a stroke. … The world, filled with all its challenges and struggles, is also still filled with an abundance of love and joy. These things I know. And yet, sometimes the questions seem to outnumber the certainties. What is possible for recovery? Will I ever be able to use my right arm? Will I be able to read fluidly? Will I one day again stand before an audience? It is humbling to face these challenges that were once so routine. To dress. To eat. To walk. To read. To recall the names of loved ones.”
-- “The little-known story of Major Taylor, America’s first black sports hero, who became a world champion during the Jim Crow era of 1890s,” an excerpt of a forthcoming book by Post reporter Michael Kranish: “On the clear, brisk Saturday afternoon of Dec. 5, 1896, a young man strode to New York City’s Madison Square Garden, where thousands would soon assemble for one of the era’s greatest sporting events. From a distance, the 18-year-old seemed short and slight, but a close look revealed a compact body with remarkably muscular legs. Marshall ‘Major’ Taylor was unlike any racer the spectators had seen at such an event. He was a black man. … Now, as Taylor walked toward the arena, he carried with him the hopes of countless Americans — blacks as well as some liberal whites, including his manager, Birdie Munger — that he could prove wrong the racist theories that he was inherently inferior. What better place than the greatest stage in America?”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Did House Speaker's office attempt to frame activist? DA asks for special prosecutor to investigate,” from CBS affiliate WTVF in Nashville: “Did Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada's office try to frame a young activist who had challenged Republican lawmakers during this year's legislative session? An exclusive NewsChannel 5 investigation has uncovered new evidence - including racist text messages - that raise questions about the Speaker's $200,000-a-year chief of staff, Cade Cothren. Now, Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk has requested a special prosecutor to take a hard look at the case. … In late February, a cup was thrown onto the Speaker's elevator -- and [student activist Justin] Jones was arrested for assault. He was released on bond on the condition he have no contact with Casada. … But in early March, Funk's office filed a motion to revoke Jones' bail, citing an email Jones had allegedly sent … But Jones had the original email. The real date was February 25th, which was before his arrest. The DA's office now admits their evidence came from the Speaker's chief of staff.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Alabama Democrat on abortions: ‘Some kids are unwanted, so you kill them now or you kill them later,’” from Katie Mettler: “A day after the Alabama House of Representatives passed what could become the most restrictive abortion legislation in the country, state Rep. John Rogers, a Democrat, took to the House floor to voice his support for a woman’s right to choose. But the perplexing words he used have drawn intense pushback from conservatives … Rogers argued Wednesday that ‘it ought to be a woman’s choice’ about terminating a pregnancy, an autonomy that would disappear entirely if the majority-Republican Alabama Senate passes the ‘Human Life Protection Act’ — a bill that would criminalize abortion at any stage of pregnancy. … Then his argument took a turn. ‘Some kids are unwanted, so you kill them now or kill them later,’ he said. ‘You bring them into the world unwanted, unloved, then you send them to the electric chair. So you kill them now or you kill them later. But the bottom line is that I think we shouldn’t be making this decision.’”
Trump will have lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and later meet with the Slovak prime minister.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“The so-called attorney general can run, but he cannot hide.” — Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). (CNBC)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Don’t be fooled by the summerlike weather: There might be heavy storms tonight. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Our Friday streak of suboptimal weather is set to continue today. Please stay tuned for updates this afternoon and evening on any approaching storms. Possibly two rounds. The main impacts seem likely to be some damaging winds. It’s a bit unsettled this weekend as well.”
-- The Nationals beat the Cardinals 2-1. (Sam Fortier)
-- The team fired pitching coach Derek Lilliquist in the first shake-up of what’s been a disappointing start to the season. Lilliquist will be replaced by Paul Menhart, who’s served as the minor league pitching coordinator for the past five years. (Jesse Dougherty)
-- Three protesters were arrested outside the Venezuelan Embassy in D.C. on the third day of an intensifying standoff between supporters of opposition leader Guaidó and left-wing activists who support Maduro. Marissa J. Lang reports: “The pro-Guaidó demonstrators had spent the day grappling to assert control over the embassy’s entrances and exits, prompting activists from Code Pink — who support Maduro and have been living in the embassy for weeks — to issue a call for food and supplies. Code Pink organizers said group members have not been able to pass Venezuelan supporters of Guaidó to deliver provisions to people in the building. But demonstrators outside said they were not preventing anyone from eating or accessing medicine — they just didn’t want more American citizens to enter and occupy the building. … One person was charged with throwing missiles and two with simple assault. ... Ariel Gold, the national co-director of Code Pink, was one of the three people arrested.”
-- An appeals court found that Montgomery County’s pesticide ban doesn’t clash with state law. Jennifer Barrios reports: “Montgomery County Attorney Marc Hansen said the plaintiffs in the case — a group of lawn care companies and a trade association — can opt to ask the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, to review the decision by the Maryland Court of Special Appeals. But in the meantime, he said, ‘we are reviewing how soon the county can implement its law.’ The county council had passed the pesticide ban in 2015 by a vote of 6-3. The ban, which had been scheduled to take effect last year, targeted certain pesticides that are approved federally, but contain substances linked to cancer. It did not apply to agricultural land and golf courses, and would not have stopped the sale of lawn pesticides in the county.”
-- A man who set off a pipe bomb at Colonial Williamsburg was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Prosecutors say the former maintenance technician may have been testing a device that he would later use to murder his wife. (Rachel Weiner)
-- The CDC is urging users of electric scooters to wear helmets as head trauma tops the list of severe injuries affecting scooter riders. Luz Lazo reports: “Almost half of the riders identified in the study had a severe injury, such as a broken leg, and half reported that a surface condition such as a pothole or crack in the street may have contributed to their injury, according to the report, released Thursday. Fewer than 1 percent of those injured were wearing a helmet. … The Austin analysis found that nearly half of those hurt while using a scooter suffered an injury to the head and that about 15 percent suffered a traumatic brain injury. Among those were concussions and internal bleeding.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
A reporter for the liberal website Young Turks recirculated a 2015 clip of Biden praising Dick Cheney at an event with Walter Mondale. On the eve of this event, Mondale had complained to me in an interview about the Obama administration's mishandling of the Senate Intelligence Committee's report on the CIA's use of enhanced interrogation techniques during the George W. Bush administration. That's the context:
Seth Meyers looked into Barr's refusal to appear in front of a congressional panel:
Stephen Colbert reviewed Trump's words on the National Day of Prayer:
A Democratic congressman brought Kentucky Fried Chicken to the House Judiciary Committee hearing to mock the attorney general's absence:
And Trevor Noah joked about the new ways Russia is trying to expand its control over the Arctic: