With Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro
THE BIG IDEA: President Trump is the personification of the new Gilded Age.
Mark Twain coined that term to describe America in the late 19th century. His point was that the country appeared to be glittering, but it was a facade.
Tax numbers published last night by the New York Times highlight a jarring contrast between Trump’s self-created mythology as a master dealmaker and a litany of cold, hard financial facts that he’s kept concealed until now.
A source leaked 10 years of figures from Trump’s 1985 through 1994 federal income tax forms. The transcripts show that the president paid no federal income tax for eight of those 10 years. He reported a net $1.17 billion of losses over that stretch. In multiple years, Trump reportedly lost more money than nearly any other individual taxpayer in the United States. His $418 million of losses in 1991 alone represented 1 percent of all losses declared by individual taxpayers in the entire country that year.
The most fascinating passage of the lengthy Times article, deep in the second half, focuses on the three years Trump spent “posing as a corporate raider” from 1986 through 1988. He had overleveraged himself by taking out huge loans at high interest rates and making questionable spending decisions. Two weeks before the stock market crashed in October 1987, for example, Trump bought a 282-foot yacht for $29 million.
The president recognized as a relatively young man – still in his early 40s – that he could profit off his celebrity and perceived business acumen. This was around the time that his book “The Art of the Deal” came out in 1987. He didn’t have the assets to purchase large publicly traded companies, but he knew that other people didn’t know that – especially after he successfully bamboozled Forbes Magazine into wildly overestimating his wealth. He expressed interest and spread rumors that he was looking to acquire companies he knew he couldn’t and wouldn’t.
“Trump made a total of $57 million by briefly presenting himself as a takeover threat to, among others, Hilton Hotels, the Gillette razor company and Federated Department Stores … In all, from 1986 through 1989, Mr. Trump declared $67.3 million in gains from stocks and other assets bought and sold within one year,” Russ Buettner and Susanne Craig report. “As with many things Trump, his adventures in the stock market were more image than substance, helped greatly by news reports quoting anonymous sources said to have knowledge of Mr. Trump’s actions. An occasional quote from an associate — including his stockbroker, Alan C. Greenberg — helped burnish the myth. ‘He has an appetite like a Rocky Mountain vulture,’ Mr. Greenberg, the legendary chairman of Bear Stearns, told the Wall Street Journal in 1987. ‘He’d like to own the world.’ In his actions, Mr. Trump was more like a peacock.”
Investors grew wise to Trump’s game – eventually – so it caught up with him and stopped working. In 1989, Trump bought up American Airlines stock and then announced he was thinking about buying the huge company. “I’m very skeptical of everything this man does,” Andrew Geller, then an airline analyst at Provident National Bank in Philadelphia, told the Associated Press.
“Mr. Trump was rebuffed, and the stock price fell sharply. Though at the time his losses were reported to be modest, the new tax return figures show that in 1990, the year he sold his American Airlines stake, Mr. Trump lost $34.9 million on short-term trades, wiping out half his gains from the previous four years,” per Buettner and Craig.
The bluffer in chief had overplayed his hand.
-- Reacting to the Times story, Trump said this morning that claiming massive losses to minimize his tax bill was “sport.” The president tweeted that it was routine for all real estate developers in the 1980s and 1990s to claim “massive write offs” and depreciation. “You always wanted to show losses for tax purposes … and often re-negotiate with banks, it was sport,” Trump tweeted. “Additionally, the very old information put out is a highly inaccurate Fake News hit job!”
-- Trump didn’t face the personal consequences that most people would for losing so much money. The lenders were largely left holding the bag, and he could always count on his father, Fred, for a bailout. The Times reporters who wrote this story won the Pulitzer Price last month for revealing that Trump received at least $413 million in today’s dollars from his dad. This backstop meant that the president’s standard of living didn’t decline even in the face of repeated failure. This allowed him to project the image that he was winning, which allowed him to borrow more money and bounce back.
-- The Times also reports there are no itemized deductions for charitable giving in the records obtained by the paper: “Because Mr. Trump reported a negative adjusted gross income in each of the 10 years, he was not allowed to deduct any charitable contributions. So while he has boasted of making large donations at the time, the information … shows no such itemized deductions. Potential deductions could have been carried over to a future year, should Mr. Trump have reported a positive income.”
-- In this era of Theranos, the Fyre Festival and Trump University, the story is a good reminder that not all that glitters is gold.
-- Congressional Democrats say these records from three decades ago show the need to see more, especially to understand how he climbed out of the hole he dug himself into and the extent to which he has depended on foreign investors. “As these records make clear, Trump was perhaps the worst businessman in the world. His entire campaign was a lie,” Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) said in a statement. “He didn’t pay taxes for years and lost over $1 billion dollars. How is that possible? How did he keep getting more money and where on Earth was it all going? We need to know now. Second, we must still see Trump's actual returns over the last generation. The IRS must abide by the legal requirement to provide them as requested under Section 6103(f). We now have another part of the truth. We need a lot more.”
-- House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richie Neal suggested last night that he will soon go to court to pursue the last six years of Trump’s personal and business returns, now that the administration formally rejected his request to turn over the president’s records voluntarily. The Democrat from Massachusetts has scheduled a meeting with the House counsel for Thursday to discuss next steps. “I was never naive about it,” Neal told Erica Werner, “and I thought that it would end up in the courts."
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- At least eight people were killed in an explosion outside the Data Darbar Sufi shrine in Pakistan, one of the oldest Muslim shrines in South Asia, during Ramadan. From the AP’s Zaheer Babar: “Officials said it was not clear if the target was the shrine itself … or police outside guarding it. Hundreds of pilgrims were inside and outside the shrine, where a local Sufi saint is buried, when the blast took place. … Lahore police chief Ghazanfar Ali said five police and three passers-by were killed in the attack, adding that the toll could rise as some of the wounded were in critical condition. … Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar, the governor of Punjab province, told reporters that those who carried out Wednesday’s attack were the ‘enemy of Islam and humanity.’ No group has claimed responsibility yet for the attack in the Muslim-majority country, the BBC notes.
-- An 18-year-old student was killed in a shooting at a suburban school in Denver, and eight other students were injured. Susan Svrluga, Perry Stein and Nick Anderson report: “Two suspects, both students at the school, are in custody ... The adult suspect was named late Tuesday as 18-year-old Devon Erickson. … The shooting happened shortly before 2 p.m. Tuesday local time at the STEM School Highlands Ranch — a charter school campus with more than 1,800 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The shooters were able to walk in and get deep inside the school, Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock said. … The injured students were 15 years old or older, he said. ... A handgun was used, he said, but he did not have other information about weapons. No teachers or staff members were injured, to his knowledge.”
GET SMART FAST:
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed the “heartbeat bill,” which would outlaw most abortions six weeks into pregnancy, teeing up a challenge to Roe v. Wade that could end up before the Supreme Court. Kemp acknowledged the bill — which would largely ban abortions once a doctor detects “a fetal heartbeat in the womb” — was likely to be challenged in court. (Emily Wax-Thibodeaux and Ariana Eunjung Cha)
The CDC says hundreds of American women die each year because of complications from pregnancy that could be prevented. About 700 women die annually from cardiovascular conditions, infections, hemorrhages and other complications up to a year after delivering their babies. In about 60 percent of the cases, the deaths could have been prevented, in part with proper medical intervention, as well as better access to it. (Lindsey Bever)
Drawing charges of voter suppression, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) will sign a measure requiring repayment of all financial obligations before felons can get their voting rights restored. Voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 4 in November, which restores voting rights to felons who’ve completed their sentences. But some Republicans worry this could hurt them in 2020 and have been looking for ways to minimize the number of new voters. (CBS Miami)
Thousands of Uber and Lyft drivers are expected to strike today in eight major U.S. cities, including Washington. The drivers plan to hold rallies outside company headquarters and regional offices to highlight what they say are unfair wages and poor working conditions as Uber and Lyft head toward the public market. Experts said delays, as well as fare increases, are likely with fewer drivers on the road. (Luz Lazo)
Google promised greater privacy for users at its annual conference for developers. The move could have implications for the search giant’s business model, which depends on user data to make advertising sales. (Greg Bensinger)
A Navy leader who directed sailors to “clap like we’re at a strip club” when Vice President Pence arrived at an event has resigned. Command Master Chief Jonas Carter stepped down from his post and will retire after the remark was picked up by multiple news outlets. (Military.com)
- Barack Obama’s book will no longer be released this year. The publisher alerted foreign partners about the delay, raising the likelihood the former president's memoir will drop in the heat of the 2020 campaign. (AP)
- CBS censored a segment in the legal drama “The Good Fight” that, ironically, talked about censorship in China. While some viewers took the censorship as satire, one of the showrunners said CBS itself requested the eight-second scene be pulled from the show. (New York Times)
- The Salt Lake Tribune is seeking federal approval to become a nonprofit operation that will be sustained by donations from the public. This would be the first time a privately owned legacy newspaper switches to nonprofit status. (Salt Lake Tribune)
Dave Chappelle will receive the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The gala, always fun, will be on Oct. 27. (Elahe Izadi)
Kim Kardashian is still a ways off from becoming a lawyer, but she’s funding a legal team that has, so far, freed 17 inmates. The reality TV star is bankrolling a group of lawyers that is helping secure the release of inmates set to serve life sentences for low-level drug offenses. (Emily Heil)
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- The Justice Department informed the House Judiciary Committee late last night that it would ask Trump to assert executive privilege over all of the underlying evidence in Bob Mueller’s report, a hostile move that all but assures Attorney General Bill Barr will be held in contempt of Congress later today. Rachael Bade and Matt Zapotosky report: “In a late-night letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), assistant attorney general Stephen E. Boyd argued that the Justice Department had tried to accommodate Democrats’ demands for the release of the full Mueller report, which the Judiciary panel subpoenaed for its investigation into the president. But Boyd said that Democrats — who made a counteroffer to the Justice Department in a last-ditch negotiation session to stave off a scheduled contempt vote for Barr Wednesday morning — ‘has responded to our accommodation efforts by escalating its unreasonable demands.’”
-- House Democrats threatened to hold Don McGahn in contempt after Trump invoked executive privilege to block the former White House counsel from complying with a subpoena to turn over documents. Rachael Bade, Carol D. Leonnig and Josh Dawsey report: “In a letter to the House Judiciary Committee, White House counsel Pat A. Cipollone said McGahn does not have the legal right to comply with its subpoena for 36 types of documents — most related to Mueller’s nearly two-year probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. ... Democrats rejected the White House moves as illegitimate, arguing that the Trump administration hadn’t officially completed the paperwork to assert privilege. And even if it had, the committee continued, it would not apply because the White House waived privilege for McGahn long ago.”
-- FBI Director Chris Wray distanced himself from Trump and Barr’s use of the term “spying” to describe the investigation into Trump’s 2016 campaign. Devlin Barrett reports: “‘That’s not the term I would use,’ Wray said in response to a question from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) during a congressional hearing about the FBI’s budget. Wray, who took over the bureau in 2017, urged lawmakers to wait for the findings from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who is expected to issue a report in a month or two about the origins of the FBI investigation into the Trump campaign, and the law enforcement tools that were used, including foreign intelligence surveillance court orders.”
-- House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) threatened to withhold the salaries of Interior, Commerce and Justice Department staffers who block committee investigations. The committee called for eight current and former Trump administration officials to provide information for two investigations, one into the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, and one into whether Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and his staff complied with record-keeping laws. (The Hill)
-- Some of the former federal prosecutors who signed the open letter saying that Trump would have faced criminal charges if he weren't president sought to clarify they are not endorsing impeachment. Matt Zapotosky reports: “The signers included some left-leaning lawyers who have gained prominence from their frequent TV appearances, but also a significant number of career prosecutors and high-profile conservatives who bristle at the suggestion they were motivated by anti-Trump bias. A handful interviewed by The Post on Tuesday said they hoped for little else than to make public their view that Barr had mischaracterized Mueller’s report in asserting it laid out insufficient evidence to make an obstruction case. They said they did not sign hoping to spark impeachment proceedings.”
-- Mueller and his prosecutors sought to block the public release of James Comey’s memos last year because they feared Trump and other witnesses would change their stories after reading the former FBI director’s full version of events. CNN’s Katelyn Polantz reports: “A court order on Tuesday forced the Justice Department to provide a transcript of the hearing to CNN as part of a lawsuit over access to the Comey memos. The Justice Department implored a federal judge to keep the memos under seal after CNN and other news organizations asked for their release. Mueller's plea to keep the memos under seal coincided with negotiations with Trump's legal team over a potential interview with the President at Camp David, planned for the days following the court hearing and which ultimately fell through.”
-- Nothing to see here! Mitch McConnell joined fellow Republicans in saying “case closed” and demanding an end to the congressional probe of Russia and its interference to help Trump win in 2016. Mike DeBonis, Rachael Bade and Matt Zapotosky report: “Inside the Capitol, Republicans stood with Trump, as they have repeatedly since the start of his presidency. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who frequently talks about the Constitution, said he was not concerned about the precedent the White House was setting in ignoring congressional subpoenas. … GOP Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Cory Gardner (Colo.), both seeking reelection next year in states Trump lost in 2016, declined to challenge McConnell’s view, with Gardner using Trump’s oft-repeated assessment. ‘The report talks about no collusion, no cooperation, so what are you talking about?’ Gardner said.”
-- Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, promised that his panel’s forthcoming report will divulge more details on Russian election interference than Mueller included in his telling. Karoun Demirjian reports: “’We’re addressing two different lanes,’ [Burr said]. ‘The tough thing is, everything that we’re going to report on already has a narrative.’ … Burr and the committee’s vice chairman, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), have managed to shield their panel’s work from much of the partisan pressure that splintered other probes … In the process, they collected what several members and aides described as a ‘mountain’ of evidence exposing the degree to which Russia exploited social media and weaknesses in U.S. election systems.”
-- The Pentagon’s Cyber Command probed the networks of other countries to explore threats and gain insights that could help the U.S. thwart foreign interferences during the 2020 campaign. Ellen Nakashima reports: “Code-named Synthetic Theology, last year’s operation leveraged new authorities, granted by the president and Congress, enabling U.S. agencies to become more aggressive in foreign cyberspace in defense of the nation. Though the operation has ended, Cybercom is continuing its close relationship with the National Security Agency and working to build partnerships with other nations … Aided by NSA intelligence, Cybercom’s midterm operation successfully blocked Russian trolls working at the infamous Internet Research Agency from posting divisive messages on U.S. social media in an effort to sow discord among Americans as they went to the polls in November.”
-- After Donald Trump Jr. targeted her on social media, the White House recalled the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, ahead of her scheduled departure. Josh Rogin writes: “Yovanovitch will leave her post permanently on May 20, with no replacement in place and no nominations to fill that position. … The House Democratic leadership thinks that Yovanovitch’s early departure under pressure is a clear sign that the White House is responding to calls from Trump allies, Trump family members and conservative media sites that have accused Yovanovitch, without firm evidence, of being part of a conspiracy that involves anti-corruption probes in Ukraine.”
THE TRADE WARS:
-- Trump’s ongoing trade war with China has caused a rift inside his administration, as top officials like Steven Mnuchin and economic adviser Larry Kudlow have urged the president to abandon the tariffs that threaten to drag down his reelection prospects. Toluse Olorunnipa and Seung Min Kim report: “As Trump prepares to run on the economy, his threat to increase tariffs on imports from China has sent the stock market diving and undercut a stretch of positive economic news. U.S. farmers and exporters, already bearing the brunt of China’s retaliatory tariffs, now face the prospect of an escalated trade war in which states that Trump needs to win reelection will be in the crosshairs. … White House officials said Trump is prepared to take a hard line with China going into 2020 in part because he intends to keep his 2016 campaign promise to fix what he views as bad trade deals. … Trump’s trade agenda is likely to play a central role in the 2020 race, as Democrats seek to challenge his economic message and compete with him in export-reliant states such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.”
-- Nonpartisan career economists at the Agriculture Department say they are quitting after suffering retaliation for publishing reports detailing how badly American farmers have been hurt by Trump’s policies, especially his tariffs. Politico’s Ryan McCrimmon reports: “The Economic Research Service — a source of closely read reports on farm income and other topics that can shape federal policy, planting decisions and commodity markets — has run afoul of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue with its findings on how farmers have been financially harmed by [Trump's] trade feuds, the Republican tax code rewrite and other sensitive issues, according to current and former agency employees. The reports highlight the continued decline under Trump’s watch in farm income, which has dropped about 50 percent since 2013.”
-- Experts at the nonpartisan Peterson Institute estimate that every job saved or created by Trump's steel tariffs cost U.S. consumers more than $900,000. Heather Long reports: “The cost is more than 13 times the typical salary of a steelworker, according to Labor Department data, and it is similar to other economists’ estimates that Trump’s tariffs on washing machines are costing consumers $815,000 per job created. … Many economists and business leaders point out that jobs in steel-using industries outnumber those in steel production by about 80 to 1, according to experts at Harvard University and the University of California at Davis.”
-- Americans could soon pay 40 percent to 85 percent more for tomatoes after Trump's new 17.5 percent tariff on Mexican tomato imports went into effect yesterday. Laura Reiley reports: “The tariffs follow a breakdown of a 22-year-old agreement that had attempted to maintain the peace between American and Mexican tomato growers. … Mexican imports account for about 54 percent of the U.S. tomato market. … [An Arizona State] study found that American consumers will pay the lion’s share of the tariff impact because the demand for fresh tomatoes is relatively steady.”
-- Trump’s brinkmanship with China this week represents a test of his administration’s tougher stance as he attempts to secure a trade deal with Beijing while preserving its cooperation on North Korea. David Nakamura and Ashley Parker report: “The specter of escalating tensions illustrated the risks of Trump’s China strategy as he has simultaneously pursued denuclearization talks with North Korea, which have rested in part on Beijing’s enforcement of sweeping international economic sanctions on its neighbor. Analysts said Beijing has not directly linked the two issues, but they warned that mounting hostilities with Washington could complicate the picture at a time when nuclear negotiations have stalled.”
-- The Pentagon has given up hope of recovering any more remains of American troops killed in the Korean War, at least in the near future. Reuters’s Josh Smith reports: “The U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), which works to recover missing American troops around the world, said on Wednesday that it had not heard from North Korean officials since the second U.S.-North Korea summit, held in Hanoi in February, ended with no agreement.”
SABER RATTLING AND ESCALATION OVER IRAN:
-- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced today that his country is taking steps to halt its compliance with elements of a landmark nuclear deal in response to Trump pulling out of the accord and stiffening sanctions on Tehran. Tamer El-Ghobashy reports: “In a televised speech, Rouhani said that Iran would keep stockpiles of excess uranium and heavy water that is used in nuclear reactors. He gave a 60-day deadline for new terms to the nuclear accord, after which Tehran would resume higher uranium enrichment. The speech coincided with the anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal last year. … On Friday, the State Department announced new restrictions on Iran’s civil nuclear program, despite protests by European allies.”
-- The U.S. Navy announced it has canceled a planned port visit in Croatia for an aircraft carrier group because its deployment to the Middle East was expedited in response to “recent and clear indications” that Iran is preparing to attack U.S. troops in the region. Dan Lamothe reports: “The USS Abraham Lincoln, traveling with a fleet of escort ships, will make way for the Middle East as part of a deployment announced Sunday by White House national security adviser John Bolton. The Lincoln already was due to ‘spend a significant amount of time’ in the Middle East, but it will now arrive earlier than initially planned, the Pentagon said in an emailed statement responding to questions from numerous reporters.”
-- After abruptly breaking away from a European trip and canceling a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made an unannounced visit to Iraq to discuss Iran. Carol Morello and Missy Ryan report: “After flying out of Baghdad late at night, Pompeo said he had told Iraqi President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi that they are responsible for protecting Americans in their country and briefed them on intelligence suggesting Iran is posing a greater threat. ‘We wanted to let them know about the increased threat stream that we had seen and give them a little bit more background on that so they could ensure that they were doing all they could to provide protection for our team,’ Pompeo told reporters. ‘They understood, too, it’s important for their country. We don’t want anyone interfering in their country .... and there was complete agreement.’”
-- Deja vu? Some U.S. officials worry the Trump administration is overreacting to or otherwise overhyping intelligence on Iran, which they fear could lead to unplanned hostilities. The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff and Adam Rawnsley report: “’It’s not that the administration is mischaracterizing the intelligence, so much as overreacting to it,’ said one U.S. government official briefed on it. Another source familiar with the situation agreed that the Trump administration’s response was an ‘overreaction’ but didn’t dispute that a threat exists. … ‘I would characterize the current situation as shaping operations on both sides to tilt the field in preparation for a possible coming conflict,’ continued the second source, who is also a U.S. government official. ‘The risk is a low-level proxy unit miscalculating and escalating things. We’re sending a message with this reaction to the intelligence, even though the threat might not be as imminent as portrayed.’”
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN:
-- Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney who is now in prison, said he helped prevent the release of embarrassing personal photographs of Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. shortly before the evangelical leader endorsed Trump for president in 2016. Felicia Sonmez and Sarah Pulliam Bailey report: “Cohen made the assertion, which was first reported by Reuters, in a phone call in March with actor Tom Arnold. Arnold provided The Washington Post with a recording of the call Tuesday night. [Click the image above to listen.] ‘There’s a bunch of photographs — you know, personal photographs — that somehow, the guy ended up getting,’ Cohen said on the call. The person who had the photos, who is not identified on the call, was demanding money from the Falwells, and Cohen threatened to report the person to legal authorities, according to Reuters. … A statement released by an attorney for the Falwells called the account ‘not accurate.’”
-- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin addressed a group of “bundlers for Trump’s reelection campaign during a fundraising event last night at the Trump hotel in D.C., a highly unusual political appearance at a gathering that included industry executives he is charged with regulating. Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Josh Dawsey and Damian Paletta report: “Mnuchin’s attendance at the kickoff event for the Trump Victory Committee came a day after he rejected a request from House Democrats for Trump’s tax returns. … Treasury secretaries in recent years have avoided attending fundraiser events with people they could be tasked with regulating, in part because of their unique role in overseeing a broad swath of companies in the financial system. His presence would be acutely noted by industry executives in attendance, said legal experts, who noted that the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial regulation law gave Mnuchin tremendous power over a broad swath of companies.”
Flashback: A political firestorm erupted in 1996 when then-Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin attended a fundraiser for Bill Clinton’s reelection campaign. Republicans seized on the event and highlighted the conflicts of interest. Clinton later said the optics were poor and that “mistakes were made.”
-- Trump's appointees at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau proposed new rules to debt collectors to deliver an unlimited number of text messages and emails to consumers. Renae Merle reports: “The proposal is a victory for debt collectors such as San Francisco-based TrueAccord. Instead of making a barrage of phone calls, TrueAccord sends out millions of emails and texts every month. Next, it hopes to contact delinquent consumers through chat programs such as WhatsApp. … But this digital-first approach has alarmed consumer advocates who worry that the CFPB could give an industry known for high pressure tactics a new way to violate consumers’ privacy.”
-- Trump wants to shut down the Office of Personnel Management, but the president's nominee to lead the agency had almost nothing to say about its potential demise during her confirmation hearing. Joe Davidson reports: Virginia Dale Cabaniss “promised transparency and to work with Congress, as all nominees do. She had no specifics to offer on the future of OPM, which has about 5,500 employees. If the Trump administration succeeds at dismantling OPM, it would be the first major federal agency eliminated since the World War II era. ... Sen. Gary Peters (Mich.), the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, was clearly frustrated with the administration’s inability or refusal to provide Congress information on the reorganization.”
-- Betsy DeVos testified that her top priority is expanding charter schools and other alternatives to traditional public schools. In response, Democratic lawmakers are slashing federal funding for charters. They're citing concerns over DeVos's ability to be a responsible steward of taxpayer dollars flowing into the programs. Valerie Strauss reports: “The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday released its proposed 2020 budget for the Education Department and is seeking $75.9 billion. That is $11.9 billion more than [the Trump budget request], and $4.4 billion more than what was enacted in 2019. There are big boosts for Title 1 — a program intended to help children from low-income families — and special education. The section on charter schools is seeking $400 million for the federal Charter Schools Program, which is $40 million less than what was given last year and $100 million less than Trump’s proposed budget.”
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- The Trump administration sent new guidelines to asylum officers that direct them to take a more confrontational approach during interviews with migrants seeking refuge. Nick Miroff reports: “The asylum officers will more aggressively challenge applicants whose claims of persecution contain discrepancies, and they will need to provide detailed justifications before concluding that an applicant has a well-founded fear of harm if deported to their home country. The changes require officers to zero in on any gaps between what migrants say to U.S. border agents after they are taken into custody and testimony they provide during the interview process with a trained asylum officer.”
-- No group has been more hurt than Syrians by the U.S. curtailing refugees. Katie Zezima reports: “Under the Trump administration, the number of refugees allowed into the United States has fallen to its lowest level since the resettlement program began in 1980. And few groups have been as affected as Syrians, who have been fleeing a brutal civil war that has left hundreds of thousands of people dead since it began in 2011. The number of Syrian refugees allowed into the United States in fiscal 2016 was 12,587. In fiscal 2018, the United States admitted 62.”
-- “Self-deportation” rates among undocumented immigrants have increased under Trump. The Marshall Project’s Christie Thompson and Andrew R. Calderon report for Politico Magazine: “The number of immigrants who have applied for voluntary departure has soared since the election of [Trump], according to new Justice Department data obtained by The Marshall Project. In fiscal year 2018, the number of applications doubled from the previous fiscal year—rising much faster than the 17 percent increase in overall immigration cases, according to data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.”
-- An Oregon man was sentenced to four months in prison for trying and failing to bribe an ICE officer into deporting his wife. Antonio Oswaldo Burgos and his wife were going through a divorce when authorities say he followed an ICE employee from the agency’s Portland office to a parking lot, where Burgos offered the officer money to deport his wife. The officer declined and reported Burgos, who was then prosecuted. (Katie Mettler)
-- Negotiations over a multibillion-dollar disaster aid bill in the Senate have grown more complicated now that the Trump administration wants to add emergency spending for the border. Erica Werner reports: “But with the $17 billion disaster aid bill among the few legislative vehicles expected to move through Congress anytime soon, administration officials have begun eyeing it to carry some or all of a separate $4.5 billion emergency spending request for the border they sent to Congress last week.”
-- Trump briefed a dozen Republican senators on the broad contours of his son-in-law Jared Kushner's plan to transform the legal immigration system. Seung Min Kim reports: The proposal is expected to prioritize “immigrants based on their ability to immediately contribute to the economy. ... Republicans in touch with the White House in recent weeks also said the administration has also looked at modernizing the visa system for temporary guest workers … and tightening asylum policy … But changing asylum policy and temporary guest worker programs barely came up in the hour-long meeting at the White House on Tuesday.”
-- The Republican senators appeared receptive. The AP’s Jill Colvin reports: “A senior administration official told reporters after the meeting that the president had approved the effort to overhaul America’s immigration system and increase border security last week and that it should now be considered ‘the President Trump plan.’ … The White House is also working with Sen. Lindsey Graham on additional legislation that would address the nation’s asylum system in an effort to stem the flow of migrants across the border.”
-- While researching bankruptcy in the late 1980s, Elizabeth Warren was criticized by fellow academics for overstating her findings. Annie Linskey reports: “Warren, who with two co-authors had spent six years digging into court files on real-world cases, laid out a provocative argument that Americans were going broke at a faster rate due to predatory credit card companies — not, as many experts long argued, because of their own irresponsible spending. … A scathing article by a Rutgers University bankruptcy scholar, Philip Shuchman, appearing in the school’s law review, accused Warren and her co-authors of engaging in ‘repeated instances of scientific misconduct,’ making ‘extravagant and false claims’ and adopting ‘high-level populist theorizing that bears no relation to their research.’ … [The episode] foreshadowed a recurring dynamic in Warren’s career as professor, then politician: She introduced pioneering ideas that reshaped views of the middle class, drew criticism that she was overstating her findings to make ideological points, and seemed to relish punching back.”
-- “Amy Klobuchar’s complicated political inheritance,” by Ben Terris: “It’s been something of a theme over the course of Amy’s life; both an evolving kinship with her father and being mortified by things he put in the paper. For decades, Jim Klobuchar was a daily columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune; part sportswriter, raconteur-adventurer, voice for the voiceless, and needler of the ruling class. Little in his life, or Amy’s, was off limits. … Friends of Jim’s say they see a lot of him in Amy: the populist streak, the humor, and yes, the reports of a fierce temper. Intentionally or not, being the daughter of an alcoholic has become central to Amy’s presidential run.”
-- Jill Biden said it was “time to move on” from her husband's mishandling of Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegation against Clarence Thomas. “I watched the hearings like most other Americans, and so I mean Joe said, as I did, we believed Anita Hill. He voted against Clarence Thomas,” the former second lady told NPR. “And as he has said, I mean he's called Anita Hill, they've talked, they've spoken, and he said, you know, he feels badly. He apologized for the way the hearings were run. And so now it's kind of — it's time to move on.” She also defended her husband against allegations of inappropriate touching, saying, “Joe realizes these are different times. And believe me — he's very conscious of, you know, how he interacts with men and women today.”
-- The Trump campaign rebuked “dishonest fundraising groups” in a veiled swipe at the president’s former deputy campaign manager David Bossie, who’s been accused of running a fundraising group that misleads donors about how it is using their money. Felicia Sonmez and Josh Dawsey report: “‘President Trump’s campaign condemns any organization that deceptively uses the President’s name, likeness, trademarks, or branding and confuses voters,’ Trump’s campaign said in the message ... The statement includes an appeal to the ‘appropriate authorities’ to ‘investigate all alleged scam groups for potential illegal activities.’ … Despite its stated goal of supporting conservative candidates who back Trump, just 3 percent of the $15.4 million that [Bossie’s group] Presidential Coalition spent in 2017 and 2018 went toward direct political activity.”
-- House Democrats are raking in money from corporate political groups and registered lobbyists, even as their more left-wing members increasingly attempt to distance themselves from those traditional sources of financial support. The Daily Beast’s Jackie Kucinich and Lachlan Markay report: “The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee raised about $1.93 million from 143 corporate political action committees in the first quarter of 2019, according to a Daily Beast review of campaign finance records. That’s up substantially from the past two election cycles. … Lobbyist fundraisers are also ponying up for the DCCC. In the first three months of the year, eight registered federal lobbyists ‘bundled’ more than $1.2 million in contributions for the committee. That’s nearly double the total during the same period last cycle.”
-- “The racial divide in the Red Sox’ visit to Trump’s White House is impossible to ignore,” by Dave Sheinin: Boston Red Sox Manager Alex Cora will not be attending a visit to the White House, and he “is not the only uniformed Red Sox personnel to opt out of the trip. Among players … David Price, Christian Vazquez and Hector Velazquez have said they would be declining the invitation. The other roughly 20 players … have either announced their intention to attend or were presumed to be attending. It was impossible not to notice one significant difference between the two groups: Those opting out of the trip are all people of color, while those planning to attend (with the exception of designated hitter J.D. Martinez, who is of Cuban descent) are white. This dichotomy was highlighted by a tweet from longtime Boston sports columnist Steve Buckley, who noted, ‘Basically, it’s the white Sox who’ll be going.’ The racial divide was further underscored when Price, who is African American, retweeted Buckley’s tweet to his nearly 1.8 million followers, adding, ‘I just feel like more than 38k should see this tweet …’ Price’s retweet led to rampant speculation Monday that the racial divide of the White House visit had become a clubhouse problem for the team.”
-- The Chicago Cubs are investigating a fan who appeared to flash a white-supremacist sign on-air. The fan, in the background of a camera cut to a game analyst, flashed an upside-down “okay” sign, a hand gesture that’s been adopted as a symbol of white power. (Tim Elfrink)
-- A group of white supremacists interrupted a Holocaust remembrance event in Arkansas carrying Nazi flags and shouting racial slurs. The group, named Shield Wall Network, said it was protesting the controversy surrounding a scholarship at Arkansas Tech University named after a professor who’s been accused of being a Holocaust denier. (Courier News)
-- Footage from an Oklahoma police officer’s body camera has raised new questions about the shooting of a black teenager who had been playing with a replica gun. Sgt. Kyle Holcomb, who is back at work after being cleared of criminal charges in the March incident, can be heard in the video saying, “I think it’s a cap gun, but they are shooting something off.” Moments later, he directed the group of boys to drop their toy weapons just before firing off four shots — two of which hit Lorenzo Clerkley Jr., an eighth-grader who survived the shooting. (Eli Rosenberg)
-- Right-wing agitator Jacob Wohl, the mastermind of the baseless sexual assault smear attempt against Pete Buttigieg, tried to create a fake protest against himself. Wohl and Jack Burkman, one of his allies, were planning on holding a news conference to push the fake allegations against Buttigieg, but the event was canceled after they claimed a protest was being organized against them. A reporter then found that the email account behind the Eventbrite invitation for the protest belongs to Wohl himself. (The Daily Beast)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
The president of the liberal Center for American Progress had this observation about the NYT's tax story:
I saw focus groups of Trump voters in 2016. They thought the fact he was a hugely successful businessman would make him a successful president. The fact he was a loser in business will hurt him. And that is why he’s kept his taxes secret.— Neera Tanden (@neeratanden) May 7, 2019
One of Trump's congressional allies took issue with the FBI director's comments on spying, and a former senior CIA official fired back:
Where have you been? That's how law enforcement investigates crimes. Do you really want to take away that key tool? Expect more terrorism, espionage and crime.— John Sipher (@john_sipher) May 7, 2019
A reporter on the intelligence beat looked back on the Senate majority leader's handling of information on Russian election interference:
McConnell used his office to prevent public from learning about Russian interference in 2016. Rejected CIA intel that Russia was interfering. Accused WH of "trying to screw the Republican candidate." Refused to sign statement condemning Kremlin. https://t.co/AaX8DrHPvh— Greg Miller (@gregpmiller) May 7, 2019
A Democratic senator tried to draw attention to the lack of a permanent defense secretary:
Hey everybody, we are at war in 3 different countries - Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria - and inching toward conflict in 2 more - Venezuela and Iran - AND WE HAVEN'T HAD A SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR FIVE MONTHS.— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) May 7, 2019
A Times reporter connected the dots:
Symbolism alert: Mike Pompeo cancels a visit with Angela Merkel on the same morning that the White House announces an Oval Office welcome for Viktor Orban of Hungary.— Mark Landler (@MarkLandler) May 7, 2019
A Democratic strategist pointed to the swampy career paths of former Trump administration officials:
Scott Pruitt is now a registered energy lobbyist.— Jesse Lehrich (@JesseLehrich) May 7, 2019
Ryan Zinke was hired as a "consultant" for a mining company due to his "excellent relationships" with BLM.
John Kelly is on the board of the company running the largest facility housing migrant children in the U.S. https://t.co/Wa21PxXim2
An NBC reporter flagged that the president just nominated an Amtrak critic to the Amtrak board:
Trump names former Rep. Todd Rokita, an opponent of federal funding for Amtrak, to Amtrak board. pic.twitter.com/0tqjImND1m— Jonathan Allen (@jonallendc) May 8, 2019
A Times reporter called out one of the Democratic presidential candidates for doing exactly what the left has long criticized the right for doing vis-a-vis abortion:
Breaking with tradition for presidential candidates, Kirsten Gillibrand says she would only nominate judges who would uphold Roe v. Wade.— Shane Goldmacher (@ShaneGoldmacher) May 7, 2019
Such litmus tests have long been the subtext of nominations (see Trump's Federalist list in 2016) but not explicit:https://t.co/oxKGf00Rdr
A Post reporter who used to cover the Nationals offered this baseball comparison for the “electability” argument:
I wonder if "electability" might be the political equivalent of "built for October." You can define it all you want based on history, then the '07 Rockies win 14 of their last 15, then 7 straight playoff games, and end up in the World Series. Definition best written in hindsight.— Chelsea Janes (@chelsea_janes) May 7, 2019
A HuffPost reporter highlighted an absurdity of the American system:
A very telling thing about American democracy is that the maximum legal campaign donation is indexed to inflation, but the minimum wage is not.— Kevin Robillard (@Robillard) May 7, 2019
A Post reporter made this argument about the newly released video of Sandra Bland's arrest:
And Pamela Anderson visited the imprisoned WikiLeaks founder:
-- After last week’s failed plot to oust President Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s opposition is considering extending an offer to senior government and military officials to join a post-Maduro government while diplomats rush to defuse tensions over the growing concern of a U.S.-led intervention. Anthony Faiola and Karen DeYoung report: “The European Union called on the Vatican and the United Nations to join talks to defuse tensions. Canada and another nations were seeking to enlist Cuba — one of Maduro’s closest allies — in finding a peaceful solution. The United States, in an attempt to lure more defectors, lifted sanctions Tuesday on Maduro’s spy chief, who last week broke with the socialist leader and fled the country. In Caracas, meanwhile, Maduro’s government began to fire back. A week after opposition leader Juan Guaidó’s failed attempt to lead a military uprising — senior loyalists were said to be poised to move against Maduro — the pro-government Supreme Court charged six opposition lawmakers with treason, conspiracy and rebellion, and they were stripped of their parliamentary immunity from prosecution. Guaidó was not among them, suggesting Maduro is still reluctant to move against him.”
-- The New York Times, “Australia’s Politics May Be Changing With Its Climate,” by Somini Sengupta: “Australia is acutely vulnerable to climate change, just as it is also a culprit. The continent has warmed faster than the global average; its cherished Great Barrier Reef has been devastated by marine heat waves; and heat and drought this year took a bite out of the country’s economy, according to a top official of the country’s central bank. At the same time, central to its prosperity is the extraction of the dirtiest fossil fuel: Australia is the world’s biggest exporter of coal for power generation. Against that backdrop, the governing conservative coalition, led by the Liberal Party, is under pressure in key districts as independents assail longstanding members of Parliament like Tony Abbott, a former Liberal leader and prime minister, over their climate positions.”
-- The Wall Street Journal, “‘Chill, Chat, Eat.’ The Secret to Life Without Power,” by Simthandile Ntobela: “Africa’s most developed economy can’t manage to keep its lights on, but South Africans are trying to see the bright side anyway. In the weeks leading to national elections on Wednesday, the nation has been enduring the worst blackouts in decades. The rolling power cuts, called load-shedding, occur throughout the day and night and last for hours at a time. They are meant to prevent a collapse of the national electricity grid. South Africans, ever resourceful, have been adjusting on the fly—and even discovering a few simple pleasures from being unplugged.”
-- The New Yorker, “The Birth-Tissue Profiteers,” by Caroline Chen: “For more than half a century, the regenerative possibilities of stem cells—which the body stores to repair damaged tissue and organs and restore blood supply—have tantalized the medical community. Bone-marrow transplants for cancer patients, which rely on blood stem cells, fulfill this potential. But alongside legitimate, scientifically proven treatments, an industry has sprung up in which specialized clinics offer miracle remedies from poorly understood stem-cell products.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Internet rallies to support Nunes cow parody Twitter account,” from Roll Call: “The Twitter account of the country’s most famous cow since Mrs. O’Leary’s is now under threat from people trying to get it shut down, according to @DevinCow, a parody account currently being sued by Republican congressman Devin Nunes of California. ‘So people are mass reporting me in protest that an account they like was shut down,’ @DevinCow tweeted late Monday night. … By Monday night #ProtectTheCow was trending on Twitter and still is as of Tuesday afternoon. … The threat to @DevinCow is the latest battle in the Twitter parody wars. Mike Thompson, operator of popular parody account @AOCPress, recently told conservative news outlet Human Events that Twitter banned his account.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Pete Buttigieg: God doesn't belong to a political party, but 'I can't imagine' God would be a Republican,” from CNN: “In an interview with NBC's Today Show that aired on Tuesday, Buttigieg suggested that if God did have a political affiliation, it wouldn't ‘be the one that sent the current president into the White House.’ … Buttigieg went on to say ‘what we see (in the White House) is so different than what I hear in scripture when I am in church.’ ‘I hear about taking care of the marginalized and defending the weak and supporting the poor and visiting the prisoner and welcoming the stranger and humility and decency,’ he said. … ‘And so the idea that that is the property of the Republican Party, especially this Republican Party and some of the choices they have made in recent years, it just doesn't add up to me.’”
Trump will lead a Cabinet meeting before traveling to Florida, where he will tour areas affected by Hurricane Michael and hold a campaign rally in Panama City Beach.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“We used to always have this debate: Are liberals just stupid or are they evil? ... After this, I think they're stupid and evil.” — Stephen Moore, whose hopes of joining the Federal Reserve Board failed because GOP senators were digusted by his decades of negative comments about women.
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- We’re back to cloudier, cooler days. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “After a pair of mostly sunny and relatively easy forecast days Monday and Tuesday, we revert back to a cloudier and more complicated pattern today through the weekend. The clouds keep us on the cooler side today, but it’s a decent day nonetheless. Tomorrow is one of those tricky temperature forecast days with a front nearby, and then shower and storm chances lower the forecast confidence Friday into the weekend.”
-- The Nationals lost to the Brewers 6-0. (Sam Fortier)
-- One person connected to former GOP congressman Scott Taylor’s campaign has been charged with election fraud, but the Virginia Republican was not implicated. Gregory S. Schneider reports: “In an update released Monday afternoon, Donald S. Caldwell, the special prosecutor in the case, said he presented two indictments to a court against one unnamed individual but that a judge or a jury had not returned the indictments yet. Media in Hampton Roads reported that the person was a campaign staffer for Taylor. Last fall, a Richmond judge found that several staffers from Taylor’s reelection campaign had submitted false signatures on petitions to help a rival, Shaun Brown, get on the ballot to run against him. … The Democratic nominee, Elaine Luria, went on to defeat Taylor in the November election. ... Taylor called the findings 'a complete vindication . . . Today serves as a complete repudiation of the smears and lies leveled against me in the campaign last year,' he said in a statement distributed on social media."
-- A record 21.9 million people from across the country visited Washington last year, spending nearly $8 billion here. From Justin Wm. Moyer: “Destination DC, a nonprofit funded by the city’s hotel occupancy tax, said the number of domestic visitors was an increase of 1.1 million over 2017. The amount they spent was up 4.3 percent from the previous year, the organization said. … Tourism in the District last year resulted in $851 million paid in taxes to the city and helped to support more than 76,000 jobs, according to Destination DC.”
-- A California man accused of paying $400,000 to help his son get into Georgetown University pleaded guilty to fraud conspiracy. Nick Anderson reports: “Stephen Semprevivo, 53, a business executive from Los Angeles, faces the possibility of prison after acknowledging in federal court in Boston that he committed a crime in his dealings with college admission consultant William ‘Rick’ Singer. Prosecutors are recommending 18 months of incarceration and a fine of $95,000 under the terms of a plea agreement. Sentencing is scheduled for September. Of 33 parents accused in the investigation, Semprevivo is the third to plead guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. He is the first with a Georgetown connection to do so.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, presented their baby boy:
Meghan and Harry appear with new baby son https://t.co/6heozvntoJ— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) May 8, 2019
Seth Meyers criticized the secretary of state for suggesting that climate change could be beneficial to trade:
Meyers also interviewed Meghan McCain, John McCain's daughter, who got defensive about the statements she made about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). (The Daily Beast)
Stephen Colbert raised the possibility that Trump might not actually know how tariffs work:
Jimmy Kimmel noted that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is imprisoned in a correctional facility that's been called one of the most cushy jails in America:
And Trevor Noah tried to make sense of all the news coming out of D.C. so far this week: