With Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro
THE BIG IDEA: President Trump routinely uses loaded terms freighted with cultural and historical baggage. He accuses Democrats of committing “treason,” refers to journalists as “the enemy of the people” and claims the government “spied” on his campaign.
Such public pronouncements are often seen as the casual, or even careless, use of language by a neophyte president who chafes at “political correctness.” But special counsel Bob Mueller’s probe has revealed that Trump may actually be quite calculating, careful and cautious about his choice of words -- especially when giving directions to his staff that could prove to be controversial, if not illegal.
Trump boasted at the White House Easter Egg Roll the Monday before last: “Nobody disobeys my orders.” But how does someone know when the president is giving an order? Three of the 10 episodes of potential obstruction of justice explored in Mueller’s 448-page report put this dynamic in stark relief. The way that Trump communicated with his personal lawyer Michael Cohen, then-FBI Director James Comey and White House Counsel Don McGahn before he turned on each of them drew intense scrutiny from investigators.
“It is important to view the President’s pattern of conduct as a whole,” Mueller wrote. “That pattern sheds light on the nature of the President’s acts and the inferences that can be drawn about his intent. Our investigation found multiple acts by the President that were capable of exerting undue influence over law enforcement investigations.”
-- Cohen will report today to the Federal Correctional Institution in Otisville, N.Y., to start his three-year prison sentence for tax evasion, lying to Congress and campaign finance crimes.
In December, the day after Cohen’s sentencing, Trump tweeted: “I never directed Michael Cohen to break the law.” In February, when Cohen testified before Congress, he admitted that he lied to Congress about when Trump stopped negotiating the Trump Tower Moscow project. Talks had continued for months after he said they had ceased.
“Mr. Trump did not directly tell me to lie to Congress. That’s not how he operates,” Cohen told the House Oversight Committee. “In conversations we had during the campaign, at the same time I was actively negotiating in Russia for him, he would look me in the eye and tell me, ‘There’s no business in Russia,' and then go out and lie to the American people by saying the same thing. In his way, he was telling me to lie. There were at least a half-dozen times between the Iowa caucus in January 2016 and the end of June when he would ask me, ‘How’s it going in Russia?’ — referring to the Moscow Tower project. … Nothing went on in Trump world, especially the campaign, without Mr. Trump’s knowledge and approval.”
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) asked Trump’s longtime fixer to elaborate. “It would be no different,” Cohen explained, “than if I said, ‘That’s the nicest-looking tie I’ve ever seen, isn’t it?’ What are you going to do? Are you going to fight with him? The answer is no. But you say, ‘Yeah, it’s the nicest looking tie I’ve ever seen.’ That’s how he speaks. He doesn’t give you orders. He speaks in a code. And I understand the code because I’ve been around him for a decade.”
Mueller addressed this in his report. “While there is evidence … that the President knew Cohen provided false testimony to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow project, the evidence available to us does not establish that the President directed or aided Cohen’s false testimony,” the special counsel wrote. “Cohen said that his statements to Congress followed a ‘party line’ that developed within the campaign to align with the President's public statements distancing the President from Russia. Cohen also recalled that, in speaking with the President in advance of testifying, he made it clear that he would stay on message, which Cohen believed they both understood would require false testimony. But Cohen said that he and the President did not explicitly discuss whether Cohen’s testimony about the Trump Tower Moscow project would be or was false, and the President did not direct him to provide false testimony.”
Henry Farrell, a professor of political science at George Washington University, reflected on how “Trump speaks like a mob boss” after watching Cohen’s testimony. He’s spent years studying the oblique ways in which Sicilian Mafiosi communicate with one another and wrote a book on how this affects trust and distrust among them.
“The deeper issue is not just that crooks fear wiretaps — it’s that they fear one another. Criminals, almost by definition, are not notably trustworthy people. They are liable to lie to, cheat and betray one another for selfish personal gain,” Farrell wrote on the Monkey Cage blog. “Trump’s distrust of Cohen and other underlings was entirely rational. Cohen was a highly untrustworthy individual who kept recordings and other evidence incriminating others in case he would need them later. … Hatchet men like Cohen can be useful — but the boss should never trust the hatchet man. …
“If you work in a Mafia-style organization, you quickly learn that asking your boss direct questions is evidence of your untrustworthiness,” the professor explained. “After all, why would you need to know explicitly, if you didn’t want to trap your boss? The result is an organizational culture where not only do bosses not give answers, but underlings also learn not to ask difficult questions in the first place. If Cohen’s testimony is truthful, then a similar dynamic explains why he was willing not to ask any questions when Trump signaled to him that he wanted this or that distasteful or illegal job done.”
After watching Cohen, a retired veteran of the FBI’s organized crime squad, James Gagliano, said he’s heard similar language from many mid-level mobsters who flipped:
Cohen: "[Trump] doesn't give orders. He speaks in code. And I understand that code."— James A. Gagliano (@JamesAGagliano) February 27, 2019
I was once assigned to FBI Organized Crime Squad in Queens, NY. Can't begin to number amount of Mob cooperators who described their abilities to interpret Mob Boss's orders in exact same manner.
-- Comey has also said that interacting with Trump reminded him of the mafiosi he prosecuted as a young lawyer. On Valentine’s Day 2017, the day after Trump pushed out Michael Flynn as national security adviser, the president cleared the room at the end of an Oval Office meeting so he could have a one-on-one meeting with Comey. Referring to the FBI’s investigation of Flynn, the president allegedly told Comey: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
Comey interpreted the president's statement “as a direction,” he testified under oath before the Senate Intelligence Committee in June 2017: “It rings in my ear as kind of, ‘Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?’” This was a reference to a classic incident in 1170 when King Henry II was angry with Thomas Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury. He purportedly said, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” The next day, Becket was murdered by four knights who heard the king make the comment. Mueller’s report noted that, despite Trump’s denials, “substantial evidence corroborates Comey’s account.”
Thursday is the second anniversary of Trump’s firing of Comey. The ousted FBI director will appear during a televised town hall on CNN that night at 8 p.m. Eastern. Anderson Cooper will moderate. Comey criticized Barr in an op-ed for the New York Times last week. “Trump eats your soul in small bites,” Comey wrote.
-- Trump’s allies, especially Attorney General Bill Barr, have sought to cast doubt on Mueller’s conclusion that the president “directed” McGahn to have Mueller removed in June 2017.
After The Washington Post reported at the time that the special counsel was investigating if Trump had obstructed justice, the president called McGahn at home twice on a Saturday from Camp David and directed him to call Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and say that the special counsel had conflicts of interest and must be removed, according to the Mueller report.
McGahn told federal investigators that Trump told him something like, “You gotta do this. You gotta call Rod.” McGahn recalled that the president was more direct the second time and said something like, “Call Rod, tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can't be the Special Counsel.” McGahn also recalled the president telling him “Mueller has to go” and “Call me back when you do it.”
When the New York Times first revealed this episode months later, McGahn refused to issue a denial. He told colleagues in the West Wing that the media reports were accurate. “The President then met with McGahn in the Oval Office and again pressured him to deny the reports,” Mueller wrote. “McGahn refused to back away from what he remembered happening and perceived the President to be testing his mettle.”
Mueller observed in his report that the president's subsequent denials “were carefully worded.” When they spoke in the Oval Office, according to contemporaneous notes, Trump focused on whether he had used the f-word: “I never said to ‘fire’ Mueller. I never said ‘fire.’”
Barr defended Trump’s actions when he testified last week. “There is a distinction between saying to someone, ‘Go fire him. Go fire Mueller,’ and saying, ‘Have him removed based on conflict,’” the attorney general argued. “The president later said that what he meant was that the conflict of interest should be raised with Rosenstein, but the decision should be left with Rosenstein.” Barr added that if Mueller had been removed, another special counsel probably would have been appointed so Trump wasn’t necessarily impeding an investigation. “We believe that it would be impossible for the government to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the president understood that he was instructing McGahn to say something false because it wasn't necessarily false,” Barr added.
Mueller preemptively refuted these very arguments at some length in his report. “McGahn spoke with the President twice and understood the directive the same way both times, making it unlikely that he misheard or misinterpreted the President's request,” the special counsel wrote. “In response to that request, McGahn decided to quit because he did not want to participate in events that he described as akin to the Saturday Night Massacre. He called his lawyer, drove to the White House, packed up his office, prepared to submit a resignation letter with his chief of staff, told [White House Chief of Staff Reince] Priebus that the President had asked him to ‘do crazy shit,’ and informed Priebus and [Steve] Bannon that he was leaving. Those acts would be a highly unusual reaction to a request to convey information to the Department of Justice.”
-- This was one of several moments during last week’s hearing when Barr split hairs. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), for example, asked: “Has the president or anyone at the White House ever asked or suggested that you open an investigation of anyone? Yes or no please, sir.”
“I’m trying to grapple with the word ‘suggest,’” Barr replied. “There have been discussions of matters out there, [but] they have not asked me to open an investigation.”
Harris replied: “Perhaps they’ve suggested?”
“I wouldn't say suggest,” said Barr.
“Hinted?” Harris wondered.
“I don't know,” said Barr.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) asked Barr whether Trump lied to the American people. “Well, I'm not in the business of determining when lies are told to the American people,” the attorney general replied. “I'm in the business of determining whether a crime has been committed.”
-- Trump said in a Sunday afternoon tweet that “Mueller should not testify” before Congress. On Friday, the president said the decision should be left to Barr. The AG said under oath last week that he has no objections to Mueller testifying, reiterating his position from the news conference he held on the morning that he put out the redacted report.
“Trump’s reversal on Mueller testifying came hours after a member of the House Judiciary Committee said that the panel has proposed a date of May 15 for Mueller to testify but that no agreement has been reached yet,” per Felicia Sonmez. “Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) said Sunday morning during an appearance on ‘Fox News Sunday’ that a ‘tentative date has been set’ for Mueller’s testimony. But he said in a later tweet that he had misspoken. … A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment.”
Just to clarify: we are aiming to bring Mueller in on the 15th, but nothing has been agreed to yet. That’s the date the Committee has proposed, and we hope the Special Counsel will agree to it. Sorry for the confusion. https://t.co/FfR8ReLmkp— David Cicilline (@davidcicilline) May 5, 2019
....to testify. Are they looking for a redo because they hated seeing the strong NO COLLUSION conclusion? There was no crime, except on the other side (incredibly not covered in the Report), and NO OBSTRUCTION. Bob Mueller should not testify. No redos for the Dems!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 5, 2019
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) responded:
First @realDonaldTrump repeatedly tried to fire Mueller— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) May 5, 2019
Then he refused to be interviewed by Mueller
Now he’s trying to silence Mueller
For a man who constantly proclaims his innocence, @realDonaldTrump is acting awfully guilty
Mueller must testify publicly before Congress https://t.co/TqzSygUF8M
-- “After two missed deadlines, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is again due to tell House Democrats on Monday whether he plans to hand over Trump's personal tax returns,” per CNN’s Donna Borak and Lauren Fox. “A person familiar with Mnuchin's thinking (said) to expect Trump's top finance chief … to ultimately reject the initial April 3 request from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal to release six years of Trump's personal returns. It's unclear whether that denial would come on Monday or at a later point. … Democrats initially directed their request to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, the only person with the legal authority to turn over the returns, but Mnuchin has interceded twice in the matter, citing his role overseeing the federal tax collector. Mnuchin said in April he would deliver a response by May 6. The Justice Department has declined to comment on the matter.”
THE 2020 DYNAMIC:
-- Democrats pounced after Trump said he discussed the “Russian hoax” and the Mueller report with Vladimir Putin but acknowledged he did not tell the Russians not to interfere in the 2020 presidential election. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said there is “ample evidence” that Trump is not concerned about Russia helping his campaign again, and she accused the president of dismissing the seriousness of the issue. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), another 2020 candidate, was asked on CBS whether he stands by his previous claim that Trump is an “agent of Russia.” He replied, “I think he acts on their behalf.” (Felicia Sonmez)
-- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo grew visibly frustrated when “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace read him a quote from the Mueller report saying that there's no doubt Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Wallace asked, "Why doesn't the president get tough with Putin about what everyone seems to agree is clear: meddling in 2016 and the threat of meddling in 2020?" Pompeo replied that "this administration has been tougher on Russia than any of its predecessor administrations." He added, "I could go through the list, but there's not time in the show to talk about all the things we've done.” (USA Today)
-- Beto O’Rourke said he now supports impeaching Trump. “We're finally learning the truth about this president. And yes, there has to be consequences. Yes, there has to be accountability. Yes, I think there's enough evidence now for the House of Representatives to move forward with impeachment,” the former Texas congressman told the Dallas Morning News. “This is our country, and this is the one chance that we get to ensure that it remains a democracy and that no man, regardless of his position, is above the law.”
-- An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll published Sunday found that 60 percent of Americans think Trump has been dishonest in the Russia investigation, and only 29 percent believe the Mueller report clears the president of wrongdoing. Another 42 percent say the report does not clear the president of wrongdoing, and another 29 percent say they’re unsure. The country is split on impeachment: 48 percent believe Congress shouldn’t hold impeachment hearings and that Trump should finish his term as president, while 17 percent say that Congress should begin impeachment hearings now and 32 percent say Capitol Hill should continue investigating whether there’s enough evidence to hold them in the future.
MR. COHEN GOES TO PRISON:
-- More on the former fixer’s new digs: “‘The Situation’ and the Fyre Festival fraudster are already there,” the AP’s Michael Sisak and Jim Mustian report: “Tucked in the lush countryside south of the Catskill Mountains, Otisville is actually two federal facilities with a total of about 800 inmates: a medium-security prison where former NFL star Darren Sharper is serving a 20-year rape sentence, and a satellite camp for non-violent offenders like Cohen. There, he’ll be serving his sentence with the likes of ‘Jersey Shore’ star-turned-tax fraud convict Michael ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino and Fyre Festival’s Billy McFarland. About 115 inmates sleep in bunks lined up in barrack-style halls, instead of individual or two-man cells like in higher-security facilities. There are lockers to store personal belongings, washers and dryers for laundry, microwaves to heat up food and ice machines to keep cool. …
“Otisville is also known as a favorite among prison-bound Jews for its Kosher meals and Shabbat services. Add in recreational amenities like tennis courts, horseshoes and cardio equipment, and it sounds like the closest thing the federal prison system has to sleepaway camp. Forbes once ranked Otisville as one of ‘America’s 10 Cushiest Prisons,’ but former employees and inmates say it’s hardly ‘Club Fed.’ … As for a typical day: During the week, it’s lights on at 6 a.m., followed by breakfast. Work duties, such as mowing the grounds or cleaning up the prison, are performed from 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a break for lunch at 11. Dinner is served beginning at 4:15 p.m. It’s lights out at 11:30 p.m. On the weekend, inmates get to sleep in. Lights on isn’t until 7 a.m.”
Former Otisville case manager Jack Donson told the AP that Cohen could be a candidate for the prison’s protective housing unit because he cooperated with federal prosecutors, and Trump calls him a “rat.” He’ll also be in situations where paparazzi can photograph him from a distance.
-- A former defense lawyer for Cohen complained to a legal trade publication that Cohen falsely accused him of wrongdoing, was never open with him about the scope of his crimes and still hasn’t paid a $43,000 legal bill. The New York Law Journal published messy new details of their dispute late Friday afternoon: “Robert Costello, a partner at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, (said) that his communications with Cohen have been twisted and taken out of context in news articles and in the [Mueller report]. He said he believed Cohen and his legal adviser Lanny Davis were smearing him and, with Cohen having waived attorney-client privilege, Costello said he feels the need to respond publicly.
“A former prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Costello said he was on Cohen’s legal team for about three months in 2018. His name surfaced in March 2019 in news reports that described him as a friend of [Rudy] Giuliani and a lawyer who had hinted at the prospect of a pardon to pressure Cohen not to cooperate with prosecutors. … Costello said he only asked Giuliani about the chance of a pardon at Cohen’s request, and he got a ‘curt’ reply that it would not be discussed. … Davis, Cohen’s spokesman, said Costello had ulterior motives when advising Cohen. ‘Mr. Costello pursued Mr. Cohen like a predator on behalf of Mr. [Giuliani] and the administration to control the narrative and continue to deceive the American people,’ Davis said in a statement.” [Davis sent a revised statement to the publication after the story went up, saying the first had been sent prematurely.]
“According to Costello, he met Cohen in April 2018 through his partner Jeffrey Citron, who knew Cohen socially, after federal authorities searched Cohen’s home, hotel room and office. … The three of them met at Cohen’s hotel, nine days after the searches, to talk about the legal risks Cohen faced. … A day later, when it was reported that Giuliani had joined the president’s legal team, Costello reminded Cohen of their prior relationship and said in an email that it could be ‘very very useful.’ … Soon after, Costello told Cohen in an email that he had spoken with Giuliani, and Giuliani was ‘very very pleased’ that Costello was on his team. … ‘We’re trying to literally talk him down off the ledge,’ Costello said.
“Those remarks were ‘all to calm down a suicidal guy,’ not to hint at a potential pardon, he said. Costello had also heard from Giuliani that Cohen expressed thoughts of suicide to Jerry Falwell Jr. over a June dinner. (Falwell declined to comment through a spokesman. Giuliani said via email that he remembers ‘Jerry telling me he was worried about Michael being suicidal.’)
“It didn’t take long for frustrations between Cohen and Costello to mount. In a May 4 email, Costello told Citron, who declined to comment for this story, that ‘I think we have to stop dealing with him until he signs the retainer.’ Cohen never ended up doing so … For months, Cohen had declined to tell Costello which other lawyers he’d been speaking to, and Costello said he only learned that Guy Petrillo, of Petrillo Klein & Boxer, was among them when Cohen accidentally sent an email to the two of them at once. … In July, Costello learned that Cohen was working with Davis, a longtime supporter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, and told Giuliani on July 5 that it seemed Cohen had cast his lot with ‘the Comey-Clinton team.’ Costello told Cohen that month that he would not be moving forward as his lawyer, and Davidoff Hutcher billed Cohen shortly thereafter for $43,000. Cohen said he would not pay.”
-- “Cohen has at best a modest claim on our sympathies. And yet there can be little doubt that he is a fall guy in Trump’s web of misconduct,” Jeffrey Toobin writes in a profile for this week’s New Yorker. “F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote, about the fictional Buchanan family, that they ‘smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.’ For a decade, Michael Cohen cleaned up Donald Trump’s messes. He embraced Trump so uncritically that he wound up committing crimes on his behalf. Thus far, Trump, like the Buchanans, has escaped the wreckage he leaves behind.”
Remember, prosecutors noted in court filings last year that Cohen “acted in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1,” who was clearly the president, when he arranged for hush money payments to women who said they had affairs with Trump after he married Melania.
Over breakfast on Park Avenue recently, Cohen remained outraged that he was prosecuted and Trump was not: “How come I’m the only one?” he asked Toobin. “I didn’t work for the campaign. I worked for him. And how come I’m the one that’s going to prison? I’m not the one that slept with the porn star.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, welcomed a baby boy on Monday. “Baby Sussex is seventh in line to the throne and Queen Elizabeth II’s eighth great-grandchild,” William Booth and Karla Adam report from London. “The baby is also half-American and may choose to hold dual nationality, as Meghan, a California native, remains a U.S. citizen while waiting for her British citizenship to be approved. An announcement from Buckingham Palace said the baby was delivered at 5:26 a.m. and weighed 7 lbs 3 oz. A name will be announced soon.”
Maximum Security’s owner Gary West explains why the horse will not run in the Preakness pic.twitter.com/7ByO3p9Zsc— TODAY (@TODAYshow) May 6, 2019
-- Maximum Security owner Gary West said that the horse will not run in the Preakness Stakes on May 18 after having his Kentucky Derby win stripped following a lengthy video review by the stewards at Churchill Downs. “There’s no Triple Crown on the line for us and there’s no reason to run a horse back in two weeks when you don’t have to,” West said on NBC’s “Today” show.
“West added that he will be filing an appeal of the stewards’ decision with the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission on Monday, even though state regulations say that the stewards’ decision on any horse race ‘shall be final and shall not be subject to appeal,’” per Matt Bonesteel and Chuck Culpepper. “West said that the appeal will center not on the decision but the way the stewards went about making the decision. He questioned why the stewards themselves didn’t file an immediate objection after the race, instead waiting for two jockeys to raise the issue. He also wondered why the stewards didn’t take questions from reporters Saturday, instead reading a statement that he claimed was written by lawyers.”
-- “Armed factions in Gaza said that they had agreed to a cease-fire with Israel that took hold in the early hours of Monday morning, after militants fired more than 600 rockets toward Israel, which responded with airstrikes,” Loveday Morris and Hazem Balousha report from Jerusalem. “Over the previous 48 hours, four Israelis were killed as dozens of rockets slammed into urban areas of Israel’s south. Palestinian health officials in Gaza said 23 people died as Israel responded with airstrikes that brought buildings in the densely populated strip tumbling down. It was the worst bout of violence since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, which rules Gaza, and involved the first Israeli civilian deaths by rocket fire since that clash.
“Hamas officials said they escalated the violence to push Israel to stick to the terms it had agreed after another such flare up in March, when rocket fire had caused [Benjamin] Netanyahu to cut short a trip to Washington. It accused Israel of reneging on the deal to allow in cash assistance of $30 million a month from Qatar, expand fishing rights and ease the restrictions on imports and exports that have choked Gaza’s economy ...
“During the flare-up, Israel said it carried out its first targeted assassination in Gaza after a hiatus of several years. Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition partners had been calling for the policy to be brought back. The Israeli military said that it had targeted a 34-year-old man who worked in a money exchange office and was responsible for channeling Iranian funds to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. An airstrike hit his car on a busy street in Gaza City on Sunday.”
GET SMART FAST:
A Russian passenger jet caught fire after making an emergency landing, killing 41 people. Russian officials have launched a criminal investigation. (Anton Troianovski, Angela Fritz and Amie Ferris-Rotman)
Boeing’s board of directors discussed how quickly and cheaply the 737 Max could be made while approving plans for the aircraft, without asking detailed questions about safety. “Safety was just a given,” said one former board member. (Douglas MacMillan)
The company also waited until after the Indonesian plane crash to inform the Federal Aviation Administration of the 737’s safety review. The company reportedly discovered a problem in the plane’s flight control software months after it started delivering the new jets but didn’t inform regulators about the issue until nearly a year later. (Aaron Gregg)
Multiple pets drowned to death in the cargo hold of a Miami Air International charter flight that slid off the runway and into a river in Jacksonville, Fla. No humans died in the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating. (Deanna Paul, Marisa Iati, Orion Donovan-Smith and Ian Shapira)
U.S. mosques are increasing security measures for the month of Ramadan. After a string of high-profile attacks on houses of worship, mosques are conducting preparedness drills, hiring security officers and adding locks. (Michelle Boorstein and Julie Zauzmer)
The Sri Lanka bombers built their deadly weapons using designs from the Internet and conducted trial-and-error tests. Investigators say the assailants planned and executed their attack locally without direct instruction from the Islamic State. (Wall Street Journal)
Miss America, Miss Teen USA and Miss USA are all black women for the first time. The contests are rethinking themselves in the #MeToo era. (New York Times)
One in 15 borrowers has considered suicide because of their debt burden. Deutsche Bank economists estimate that 0.8 percent of the U.S. population owes more than $100,000 in student loans, which means about 2.8 million owe about half a trillion dollars in debt. (Bloomberg News)
The European Union will investigate Apple after Spotify accused the tech giant of abusing its app store dominance to promote its own music service. The complaint centers on Apple’s 30 percent charge on digital subscriptions to third-party companies made through its app store. (Financial Times)
Hundreds of hepatitis A cases have now been reported in Arizona, and health experts expect many more to be infected. Most of the cases are in Tucson, but the disease, which could take months to contain, has spread. (AZFamily)
A person with measles hung out at a number of popular tourist spots in Los Angeles, from the farmers market in Hollywood to the Grove shopping mall and LAX. (ABC7)
Germany’s health minister proposed a law that would fine parents up to $2,800 for not vaccinating their children. An estimated 93 percent of German children have the necessary immunization, but that’s still short of the country’s goal of 95 percent. (dw.com)
A million plant and animal species are facing extinction, a new United Nations report warns. Their demise would bring devastating consequences to human survival, affecting food and water security as well as farming and economies. (Darryl Fears)
CBS is set to make big changes to its morning and evening anchor lineups, placing Gayle King as the centerpiece of “CBS This Morning.” The network’s new leader, Susan Zirinsky, is also reportedly contemplating moving “Evening News” from its Manhattan studio to a new home in D.C. (New York Times)
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- Trump announced he will nominate Mark Morgan, who briefly ran Border Patrol at the end of the Obama administration, to lead ICE. Nick Miroff, Shane Harris and Josh Dawsey report: “In Morgan, Trump has found a vocal advocate for some of his positions, particularly the construction of a wall on the border with Mexico. … Trump’s Twitter announcement ... caught White House aides and Homeland Security officials by surprise. They had not been informed Morgan was Trump’s choice, and at ICE, senior leaders learned of the decision from the president’s tweet, according to two senior administration officials. … Morgan, who had been in his position at Border Patrol only a few months before he was ousted shortly after Trump took office, seems to have auditioned for his new job largely via television appearances. Particularly on Fox News, Morgan has given his support to the president’s declaration of a national emergency to enable him to build a border wall.”
-- Watch what they do, not what they say: The Trump administration will allow an additional 30,000 seasonal workers to return to the U.S. this summer, something that could help the president's private businesses. The Wall Street Journal’s Louise Radnofsky and Lalita Clozel report: “A rule to issue the extra visas, known as H-2Bs, to foreign workers who have held them in the past was cleared last week by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The administration had earlier indicated it was leaning toward only an additional 15,000 such visas. Landscapers, fisheries, county fairs and holiday resorts—including President Trump’s own golf and beach clubs—all use the H-2B program to fill lower-skilled jobs they say they can’t find Americans to do. Such visas have been capped at an annual 66,000—33,000 for summer, 33,000 for winter—and demand routinely outstrips supply.”
-- You can’t make this stuff up: James “Russell” Bolton, a right-wing militia leader in Washington state who raged against Mexican cartels, stands accused of impersonating them to extort money from his own followers. Antonia Noori Farzan reports: “On the group’s website, he had once warned that murderous cartels were infiltrating the United States, just another example of the ‘subversive political insurgency’ that threatened to overtake the country. In recent months, Bolton allegedly tried to take advantage of the fears that he had stoked. Officials believe that he posed as a made-up cartel boss himself so that he could extort vast sums of money from his followers. The Stevens County Sheriff’s Office, which Bolton once sought to lead, is now on the lookout for him. Though a nationwide warrant for his arrest was approved on April 22, the Spokesman-Review reported last Thursday, the 51-year-old is still at large.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Trump threatened to increase tariffs on Chinese imports this Friday, frustrated that Beijing has not agreed to his trade demands. David J. Lynch, Damian Paletta and Robert Costa report: “Days before Chinese negotiators are scheduled to arrive in Washington, the president threatened to increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent on Friday and levy a new 25 percent fee on all remaining Chinese imports ‘shortly.’ In a pair of tweets, Trump accused China of trying to ‘renegotiate’ the terms of an agreement that representatives have been trying to finish for five months. The hard-line turn was at odds with recent administration optimism, and it unsettled plans for this week’s potential final round of negotiations."
-- “U.S. markets tumbled Monday as global fears of a trade meltdown between the United States and China resurrected worries of an economic slowdown,” Thomas Heath reports. “The Dow Jones industrial plunged more than 450 points, or nearly 1.7 percent, at the start of trading. The Standard & Poor’s 500 and tech-heavy Nasdaq also shed at least 1.5 percent apiece.”
-- “After latest threats, Chinese see Trump as a Marvel villain out to destroy them," Anna Fifield reports from Beijing.
-- Chinese leaders said they are considering pulling out of the talks after the president’s warning took Beijing by surprise. The Wall Street Journal’s Bob Davis, Rebecca Ballhaus and Lingling Wei report: “Mr. Trump’s tweets surprised many Chinese officials, according to a person briefed on the matter Monday, and China is considering canceling trade talks that are to resume in Washington starting Wednesday. … ‘China shouldn’t negotiate with a gun pointed to its head,’ the person said. A decision on whether to go ahead with the talks this week hasn’t been made, the person said. Chinese officials have said Beijing wouldn’t bend to pressure tactics. By potentially scotching the trip, Beijing would be following up on its pledge to avoid negotiating under threat.”
-- The Trump administration, sending a message to Iran, will deploy an aircraft carrier and a bomber task force to the Middle East. Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan report: “A defense official … said there were indications ‘that Iranian forces and proxies were making preparations to possibly attack U.S. forces in the region.’ … Asked about the announcement, [Pompeo] told reporters traveling with him en route to Finland that ‘it’s something we’ve been working on for a little while.’ Repeating [John] Bolton’s statement about undefined ‘escalatory actions’ by Iran, he said that ‘we will hold the Iranians accountable for attacks on American interests.’ … Earlier Sunday, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani said that the United States had adopted ‘psychological warfare’ against Iran, and that U.S. actions in the region were part of a political struggle with other superpowers, according to Iran’s Mehr News Agency.”
-- Iran is working to expand its influence over the Shiite Muslim community in Iraq as part of an attempt to win over Iraq’s largest religious groups as it competes with the U.S. for clout. Erin Cunningham and Mustafa Salim report: “The Iranian campaign is most apparent ... in the holy city of Najaf, home to Iraq’s clerical hierarchy and a gateway to the wider Shiite population. … Clerics tied to Iran are promoting its particular brand of state-sponsored Shiite theology in the city’s seminaries and have been maneuvering to install one of their own as Iraq’s ‘marja,’ or supreme religious authority, Iraqi political operatives say … But the Iranian theocracy’s advances in Najaf have run into resistance, irking this city’s turbaned luminaries, and could ultimately fuel resentment among Iraq’s Shiites.”
-- Pompeo declined to commit to seek congressional authorization for the potential use of U.S. military force in Venezuela. Karoun Demirjian and Paul Sonne report: “When asked directly on ABC’s ‘This Week’ whether [Trump] believes he has the power to intervene without seeking approval from Congress, Pompeo declined to answer. ‘I don’t want to speak to that,’ he said, pointing to the powers granted to the president as commander in chief under the Constitution. … But Pompeo’s evasion of a direct question about the role of Congress — which is the body empowered to declare war under the Constitution — could strike a nerve with several Republicans, who have chafed at other administrations pursuing military campaigns on what they see as flimsy or nonexistent legal grounds.”
-- Satellite images appear to confirm that North Korea launched a short-range missile Friday night. CNN’s Zachary Cohen and Nicole Gaouette report: “A US official [said] that an early analysis says the launches ‘appear to have been both MLRS (multiple launch rocket systems) and what is being looked at as a possible short range ballistic missile.’ The missile test, North Korea's first since 2017, serves as a clear warning of leader Kim Jong Un's frustration at the state of talks with the US, which have been deadlocked since [Trump] walked out of their Vietnam summit early in February. The launch follows a warm meeting between Kim and … Putin less than two weeks ago and likely signals more tests to come … Pompeo, speaking on ABC News ‘This Week,’ confirmed that the projectile was ‘relatively short range’ and ‘landed in the water east of North Korea and didn't present a threat to the United States or to South Korea or Japan.’”
-- Refugees in Germany are starting to help the country’s economy. Griff Witte and Luisa Beck report: “Nearly four years after German Chancellor Angela Merkel chose to leave the country’s borders open amid a vast influx of asylum seekers to Europe, a significant majority of the approximately 1.5 million people who have arrived since remain out of the labor force. Many are taking required integration and language courses. Nearly 200,000 are registered as unemployed. But after spending billions of euros to accommodate the newcomers, Germany is beginning to reap some gains. The number who are either working or participating in a job training program has been growing, and was at more than 400,000 as of the end of 2018. Of those, 44,000 were enrolled in apprenticeships, according to German business groups. That’s on pace with, or even slightly ahead of, what many experts had predicted.”
-- Following international protests, Brunei said it will no longer carry out executions by stoning for people convicted of having gay sex or adultery. The Times’s Austin Ramzy reports: “Critics of the country’s newly enacted Islamic laws said several other harsh punishments remain on the books, including whipping and amputation, and they have called for continued opposition until the laws are completely revised. The sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, said Sunday that his country had gone decades without carrying out the death penalty, and it would continue its de facto moratorium on executions despite the new punishments codified last month under a harsh interpretation of Islamic law.”
MORE ON 2020:
-- Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper (D) says in an op-ed for today's Wall Street Journal that he’s running for president to save capitalism. “Capitalism is the only economic system that can support a strong middle class, a growing economy, and innovative entrepreneurs leading global technological advancements. Yet for too many Americans, capitalism simply isn’t working. … To save capitalism, the government has to adjust it, as it has countless times in this nation’s history—from Teddy Roosevelt and the muckrakers to Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. … The 2020 election will decide if capitalism flourishes in America. I am a small-business man—and, yes, a capitalist. But today American capitalism is broken. We have to fix it before it’s too late.”
-- Cory Booker rolled out a gun-control plan this morning that would enact a national licensing program, as well as ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The New York Times’s Matt Stevens reports: “Aspects of Mr. Booker’s 14-part plan are among the most progressive gun-control measures suggested by a candidate seeking the Democratic nomination for president. … The most notable piece of Mr. Booker’s plan is the proposed gun licensing program, which would enact minimum standards for gun ownership nationwide. Under such a program, a person seeking to buy a gun would need to apply for a license in much the same way one applies for a passport. Mr. Booker’s campaign said the process would involve submitting fingerprints and sitting for an interview, and would require applicants to complete a certified gun safety course. Each applicant would also undergo a federal background check before being issued a gun license, which would be valid for up to five years.”
-- Joe Biden was able to keep his hands to himself, at least for the first week of his 2020 candidacy. Politico’s Natasha Korecki writes: “There‘s been no hair-sniffing. No nose-to-cheek nuzzles. No intimate whispers with strangers. … After nearly a week on the campaign trail, including nearly a half-dozen events in Pittsburgh, Iowa and South Carolina, it appears Biden got the message. Gone are the episodes of canoodling with voters, replaced by a less tactile brand of retail politicking marked by selfies and more physical reserve than Biden is accustomed to.”
-- Bernie Sanders pushed back against Biden’s claim that he’s the “most progressive” candidate in the field. “I think if you look at Joe’s record and you look at my record, I don’t think there’s much question about who’s more progressive,” Sanders said, per ABC News. “Joe voted for the war in Iraq, I led the effort against it. Joe voted for NAFTA and permanent trade relations, trade agreements with China. I led the effort against that. Joe voted for the deregulation of Wall Street, I voted against that.”
-- Female candidates are pitching their electability. The Times’s Astead Herndon and Lisa Lerer report: Kirsten Gillibrand “won her first House race in an upstate conservative district that had ‘more cows than Democrats,’ as she likes to say. … [Klobuchar] has drawn on her electoral success in red counties to position herself as a bridge-builder ... And Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — who soundly defeated a popular Republican incumbent in her first election — has focused recently on addressing concerns that she’s simply an ‘ideas candidate,’ combining her rhetoric about economic inequality with a more explicit pitch on her ability to beat Mr. Trump.”
-- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) criticized Trump for the “foul language” he’s used as president. Politico’s Christopher Cadelago reports: “‘It’s time we had a president who’s not scared to call neo-Nazi violence what it is: domestic terrorism,’ the Democratic presidential hopeful told thousands at the NAACP’s Freedom Fund dinner reception in Detroit. … Harris directly accused Trump of going after communities and leaders of color by name. She spoke about Trump’s ‘war’ to destroy Obamacare. And she accused him of fueling sexism, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, and transphobia. ‘Let’s speak truth here today — this president isn’t trying to make America great; he’s trying to make America hate,’ Harris said.”
-- A political organization run by former Trump deputy campaign manager David Bossie raised millions of dollars by saying it’s supporting conservative candidates aligned with the president. But it has spent a small fraction actually supporting candidates. Axios’s Alayna Treene, Jonathan Swan and Harry Stevens report: “Instead, federal records suggest the Presidential Coalition has spent nearly all its money — raised mostly from small-dollar donations — on more fundraising, as well as administrative costs, which include Bossie's salary.”
-- Longtime DNC finance chairman Henry Muñoz stepped down. Muñoz, the first openly gay person and first Latino to hold the role, will be replaced by Chris Korge, a Florida attorney and top fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. (Politico)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump retweeted a message from the president of Liberty University suggesting that his term should be extended:
After the best week ever for @realDonaldTrump - no obstruction, no collusion, NYT admits @BarackObama did spy on his campaign, & the economy is soaring. I now support reparations-Trump should have 2 yrs added to his 1st term as pay back for time stolen by this corrupt failed coup— Jerry Falwell (@JerryFalwellJr) May 5, 2019
Hours after retweeting Falwell, Trump doubled down on the message, saying the past two years have been "stolen” from him:
Despite the tremendous success that I have had as President, including perhaps the greatest ECONOMY and most successful first two years of any President in history, they have stolen two years of my (our) Presidency (Collusion Delusion) that we will never be able to get back.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 6, 2019
He originally tweeted that the years had been “stollen” but later corrected the tweet. (Politico)
He also blamed the controversial Kentucky Derby call on “political correctness:
The Kentucky Derby decision was not a good one. It was a rough & tumble race on a wet and sloppy track, actually, a beautiful thing to watch. Only in these days of political correctness could such an overturn occur. The best horse did NOT win the Kentucky Derby - not even close!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 5, 2019
A former press secretary for Bill Clinton mocked Sarah Sanders for hiding from the press:
Since it’s been 44 days since last WH press briefing , and it’s unlikely @PressSec will ever be seen in the brfg room, if you want to what it’s like to be the Press Secretary for a President facing impeachment, I’m all you’ve got. Ask me anything.— Joe Lockhart (@joelockhart) May 4, 2019
A Democratic presidential candidate met with a former president:
I was humbled to meet with President Carter in Plains, Georgia today. He is a true public servant and America is blessed for his continuing leadership. pic.twitter.com/LaITTSYb0A— Pete Buttigieg (@PeteButtigieg) May 5, 2019
Another 2020 candidate slammed Trump for his call with Putin:
Seeking a performance review? https://t.co/8HODIekdqc— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) May 5, 2019
Cory Booker criticized Trump's former chief of staff:
Profiting from your own cruel policies. This is disgusting. https://t.co/1hEtmFZH7s— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) May 3, 2019
Presidential candidates get selected for extra screening, too:
Presidential candidates: they’re just like us. When pre-check is down, their shoes get flagged by TSA. pic.twitter.com/gdCbjFfcNC— Sawyer Hackett (@SawyerHackett) May 5, 2019
Elizabeth Warren has described herself as the “mom” of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:
Every woman who runs for president in this country is under a stupid amount of pressure to describe herself as a "wife and mom."— Lauren Naturale (@lnaturale) May 5, 2019
So @ewarren listed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as one of her children. pic.twitter.com/ZSs24VV2lh
And a Post columnist recounted this scene from a race she ran on Saturday:
Today I ran a 5k and the man ahead of me was so supportive. He kept turning around to yell, “We got this!” He kept me going. When we crossed the finish, he opened his arms for a hug and so did I, but then a different woman ran in. His wife had been in my blind spot the whole time— Monica Hesse (@MonicaHesse) May 5, 2019
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- “Global meat-eating is on the rise, bringing surprising benefits,” by the Economist: “In rich countries people go vegan for January and pour oat milk over their breakfast cereal. In the world as a whole, the trend is the other way. In the decade to 2017 global meat consumption rose by an average of 1.9% a year and fresh dairy consumption by 2.1%—both about twice as fast as population growth. Almost four-fifths of all agricultural land is dedicated to feeding livestock, if you count not just pasture but also cropland used to grow animal feed. Humans have bred so many animals for food that Earth’s mammalian biomass is thought to have quadrupled since the stone age … On a planetary scale, the rise of meat- and dairy-eating is a giant environmental problem. Locally, however, it can be a boon.”
-- “Five insights from the 2019 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Meeting,” by Forbes: “1. We are all biased, but we can be more rational if we systematically defend against behavioral biases. 2. Having a high IQ is not enough to be a good investor, and it can be especially dangerous if it leads to overconfidence (e.g. Long Term Capital Management) 3. You can, and should use checklists to improve your decision making process. Focus on those things that have had a bad track record of working and avoid doing them.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Red Sox manager Alex Cora will skip White House visit,” from the Boston Globe: “Manager Alex Cora will not join the Red Sox on Thursday when the World Series champions are honored at the White House. Cora said Sunday he would not be comfortable making the trip, given what he considers the Trump administration’s poor treatment of his native Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria struck the island in 2017. ‘It’s pretty tough to go celebrate where we’re at. I’d rather not go and just be consistent with everything,’ Cora said. Cora said in November that he would attend but reversed that decision in January, saying he was undecided after talking it over with his mother and other family members.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Senate Dems' social media poll finds more users want Supreme Court justices like Kavanaugh than Ginsburg,” from Fox News: “A Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Twitter poll asking what type of Supreme Court justices social media users would like to have on the bench apparently backfired when 71 percent of respondents selected ‘justices like Brett Kavanaugh’ compared to just 29 percent who chose ‘justices like Ruth Bader Ginsburg.’ The poll, which is not scientific and open to anyone with a Twitter account, was posted on May 3 and stated it had two more days before it closed. However, by Sunday afternoon, the tweet had vanished.”
Trump will present the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy to the U.S. Military Academy football team and receive his intelligence briefing before awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Tiger Woods.
Pence will join the president at the celebration of the Military Academy football team before delivering remarks at the 2019 Satellite conference. He will then join the president again to honor Woods.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“The economy is doing well. And I'm sure I don't have to give Trump any credit. I'm sure he will take all the credit that he wants. … But what we should also know is that what we're looking at is a 10-year rebound from the Wall Street crash of 2008.” — Bernie Sanders. (Politico)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- It's a beautiful day and a great start to a spring week. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Today and tomorrow are beautiful spring days. After that, the weather is still pretty nice more often than not, but conditions turn a little more variable and we’ll have a few chances of showers. The weekend forecast is still coming into focus, but Saturday looks somewhat more promising than Sunday.”
-- The Nationals lost to the Phillies 7-1. (Jesse Dougherty)
-- Hundreds of Maryland residents attended a town hall to criticize Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s plan to add toll lanes to the Capital Beltway and Interstate 270. Katherine Shaver reports: “Many of the speakers at a town hall organized by Montgomery County Council member Tom Hucker (D-District 5) said the governor has moved too quickly and ignored local leaders, planners and residents in determining how to best relieve traffic congestion in their communities.”
-- With an $8.5 billion work backlog, Prince George’s County is on track to become the first jurisdiction in the U.S. to use a public-private partnership to build and maintain several public schools. (Rachel Chason)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
John Oliver talked about the lethal injection process:
Saturday Night Live” found Bill Barr skipping the House Judiciary Committee hearing too ridiculous to spoof in its cold opening, so it decided to parody the characters of “Game of Thrones” and “Avengers” instead:
Trevor Noah thinks Steve Cohen's KFC stunt might get Trump to visit Congress:
Elizabeth Warren (played by Kate McKinnon) showed up on “Weekend Update” to talk about her student debt forgiveness plans:
Adam Sandler, in his return to the show, sang about the news as Opera Man: