with Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro
“If you go to China, they promise you ‘X percent’ of their overall market share,” the Republican senator from Florida said in an interview yesterday. “You make money, and you look good in front of your shareholders, but you're also turning over your intellectual property and eventually they're going to replace you. But who cares? You won't be CEO in 10 years when that happens.”
Rubio said Trump’s biggest problem right now is that Chinese leaders are unaccustomed to a president going to the mat this way and have therefore miscalculated his resolve. “They have traditionally been able to unleash the American corporate class to march up to D.C. and pressure their policymakers to back down because so many of these companies have established a market presence in China that in the short-term is very beneficial but in the long-term is probably suicide for those companies,” Rubio said. “That's what's happened in the past. This is the first administration that has not backed down.”
The senator’s comments on China came as he uncorked a broader, extended critique of American corporate culture. Rubio, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, faulted CEOs for focusing too much on the next quarter and not enough on the next generation. He blamed warped incentives from Wall Street and Washington for driving this shift. And he complained that the “shareholder primacy theory” — which is taught at business schools and accepted as gospel in the C-suites of most Fortune 500 corporations — has prompted too many business leaders to care more about returns for shareholders than the people who work for them.
Rubio gave me the first look at a 37-page report he plans to release later today on the decline of business investment over the past several decades. It details how nonfinancial corporations, for the first time, now consistently spend more on acquiring financial assets than on capital development. “At its core, the problem is that, beginning in the 1970s, the primary objective for companies became maximizing return to shareholders, and that came at the expense of investing in new capacities and in innovation,” Rubio said. “In essence, it’s coming at the expense of the things that lead to growth. In key industries that are critical to our national security and our national interests, that's even more problematic.”
He declined to name names, as has become so fashionable among politicians of both parties during the Trump era, but Rubio’s unsparing rebuke of the business community more broadly was no less searing as a result.
“What it's resulted in is that you can become a very profitable company that returns a lot of money to shareholders by taking your productive capacity and sending it to China or by turning over your intellectual property because they're allowing you market access, which is generating new revenue,” he added. “That's great for the short- to mid-term. Your stock performance can be very good. Your shareholders are going to be very happy. But it's devastating for American workers, and in the long term it's devastating for America.”
The senator will chair a hearing at 2:30 p.m. Eastern to consider the reauthorization of the Small Business Administration’s innovation programs. He’ll question two administration officials, and he’s invited four outside witnesses to offer ideas for how government policy can spur additional business investment.
There is a growing recognition among elites across the ideological spectrum that capitalism itself is in trouble. The 47-year-old son of Cuban immigrants said he wants to save the economic system that made America exceptional by paying more attention to its excesses. “Our economy today is really not working the way free enterprise works at its best,” he explained. “I'm an enormous supporter of free market capitalism because I've seen and know that it's generated more prosperity than any other economic system in human history, but when it stops working the way it's supposed to work, it creates the structural imbalances that lead to many of the problems that we're seeing across not just the U.S. but across multiple developed Western economies. We are certainly doing well in the short- to mid-term in our growth, but we also have an obligation to think about the structural challenges that will make it difficult to sustain that in the long term if we don't make additional changes.”
To do that, he wants more rewards for long-term investments in workers and facilities. “We can't force companies to be innovative, but we shouldn't have tax provisions or policy provisions that incentivize against it,” Rubio said. “And we do.”
The senator said he tried to push for things that would advance this aim during the debate over the GOP’s 2017 tax bill, but he couldn’t get them all. The legislation made full expensing available to capital investment, except facilities, plus research and development expenses. Those provisions are scheduled to expire. Rubio wants to make them permanent, as well as expand the full expensing to cover facilities. He said he wanted to see the full refundability of the child tax credit because it would help workers.
“If we're going to have preferences in our tax code, and the tax code always has preferences, they should be in favor of things that create strong and stable jobs,” he said. “Returns to shareholders should be treated equally, no matter which route you choose, whether it's a buyback or a dividend.”
As a political matter, Rubio has concluded that the GOP focused too much in the past on catering to corporate executives at the expense of their consumers and their employees. This year he’s rolling out a series of proposals aimed at restoring the balance between businesses and their workers. “We have a free market, but that free market operates under the conditions created for it by policymakers,” he said. “Those conditions should reflect our national priorities. And one of our top national priorities should be creating strong and stable jobs upon which strong families and strong communities can take root.”
Rubio’s emerging “pro-work agenda,” as he calls it, reflects the GOP’s broader embrace of populism during the Trump era. For others following this zeitgeist, read my Big Idea from yesterday about freshman Republican Sen. Josh Hawley from Missouri.
Rubio’s new report and Hawley’s maiden speech, which he’ll deliver on the Senate floor later today, can be viewed against the backdrop of growing tensions between corporate America and the Republican Party. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the political network led by the billionaire industrialist Charles Koch have both distanced themselves from the GOP in the wake of Trump’s takeover, which has made the party less supportive of free trade and expanded immigration.
In our interview, Rubio recounted how his unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination against Trump in 2016 opened his eyes to the number of people being left behind by the changing economy, especially in places like the industrial Midwest.
“Heading into 2014, I started to become very interested in not the daily ups and downs or twists and turns of markets but the broader structural challenges,” he said. “And then I ran for president and it gave me the chance to travel the country and meet people and interact with people of various backgrounds, which I had not been directly exposed to representing only Florida. … Someone working in an industrial city that's been hollowed out isn't necessarily going to move to Silicon Valley and work for a high-tech firm. And even if that transition eventually happens, in the interim period, these are real people and real communities that are left behind. So that stark reality, coming back to the Senate, led me to further explore this.”
Rubio added that he also came to understand why government must play a more muscular role in doing something. “We need to get back to a point where we don't solely analyze the American economy on traditional economic measures,” he said. “GDP growth is important, but that alone doesn't tell us the full story. It has to be not just growth that we care about, but the kind of growth that creates stable jobs that allow strong families and strong communities to develop, which are the backbone of a strong economy. Our public policy should reflect that.”
Bigger picture, Rubio lamented that Americans in the modern era have become overly susceptible to the temptations connected to the pursuit of instant gratification. “We have a challenge that's developed in our culture writ large in that we seek immediate returns, whether it's in our own lives or in corporate life, and we oftentimes do so at the expense of long-term development,” he said. “That is best encapsulated by what’s happened in the private sector in this country.”
Defending Trump’s hard-line approach toward China, Rubio said it’s imperative to fight for a better balance in Sino-Americans relations. “I believe that the imbalance that has developed between our countries on economics and geopolitics is dangerous,” he said. “It will leave us with a world in which China grows emboldened and aggressive, and the U.S. will be forced to respond. And it could lead to conflict. It's already leading to trade conflict, and it could lead to worse. For the sake of global stability, there has to be equilibrium in that relationship, and we don't have it right now. At its core, this is very simple: China is allowed to do anything they want in our economy and in Western economies, but our firms are allowed to do very little of anything and pay a tremendous price over there.”
Rubio acknowledges that the trade war with China is harmful to the American economy in the short term and that the tariffs increase costs for U.S. consumers. But he says he believes it’s worth it. “Surrendering to China will be devastating,” Rubio reasoned. “It will fundamentally alter our place in the world and the very nature of our economy for two generations or more.”
THE LATEST ON THE CHINA STANDOFF:
-- Trump thinks his China tariffs will help him win reelection. Robert Costa, Josh Dawsey and Sean Sullivan report: “‘I don’t see him crying uncle anytime soon,’ said Stephen Moore, a conservative economist who withdrew from consideration as a Trump Federal Reserve Board nominee amid an uproar. ‘It’s a high-risk strategy, but it’s not in his personality to back down. This goes back to what he said that first time he came down the escalator at Trump Tower.’ Speaking to reporters Tuesday before boarding Marine One en route to Louisiana, Trump insisted that he is in a ‘very, very strong position’ and called the stalled negotiations ‘a little squabble.’ … But as Trump expresses confidence, there have been tensions inside the White House, with some advisers uneasy with Trump’s strident nationalism and firm belief in tariffs as economic weapons.”
-- Some Republican senators expressed fresh concern over the impact of the trade war on rural America. Damian Paletta, Erica Werner and Taylor Telford report: “‘I’m not sure if you talk to him face to face, he hears everything you say,’ said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) … Republican lawmakers are also looking for ways to provide a taxpayer bailout to farmers, perhaps adding billions of dollars to a disaster bill that has languished in Congress for weeks. … Until last week, many Republican senators supported a tougher approach with China. But with Trump’s decision to increase tariffs, GOP lawmakers are now fielding angry calls. Soybean farmers, pork producers and a growing number of other agricultural interests across a range of states — including cherry producers, corn growers and lobstermen — have complained that they are collateral damage caught in the middle of the escalating trade battle.”
-- Trump continues to insist China is paying for the tariffs, but it does not feel that way for many Americans. David J. Lynch reports: “A pair of recent studies, by two teams of economists from institutions such as the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, as well as Princeton, Yale and Columbia universities, both concluded that Americans are bearing nearly the entire cost of Trump’s tariffs. … If he opts to proceed — and he took the first official step toward doing so on Monday — the economic impact will dwarf his previous levies on foreign washing machines, solar panels, industrial metals and about half of what the United States purchases each year from China. Once in place, the tariffs would cost the typical family of four nearly $2,400 annually, destroy 2.2 million jobs and shave more than $200 billion from the size of the economy, according to a study for an anti-tariff group by Trade Partnership Worldwide, a Washington-based consultancy.”
-- Despite blasting Beijing’s trade policies in the recent past, Democrats are not supporting Trump’s new tariffs on Chinese imports. Politico’s Burgess Everett and Heather Caygle report: “In interviews with a dozen House and Senate Democrats from the Midwest and in leadership, most lawmakers refused to back Trump's offensive against China, particularly as he’s kept tariffs on U.S. allies. Even those most willing to praise Trump on trade have been notably reserved. … Nancy Pelosi told reporters Monday that Trump’s action toward Beijing is ‘in recognition that something needed to be done.’ But she again criticized the president for ‘antagonizing’ Europe with a separate series of tariffs last year instead of trying to join with European Union allies to pressure China. … ‘I still hope he can reach an agreement, but I don’t know. He’s pretty unaware of the damage they’re doing if they don’t get an agreement soon,’ said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who has otherwise supported Trump’s tough-on-China approach.”
-- Trump continues to push a misleading narrative about his trade war. Fact Checker Glenn Kessler reviewed some of the president’s latest tweets: He constantly claims “that the United States has been ripped off by other countries for years. … But Trump consistently gets two things wrong here. First, he overstates the trade deficit with China. It was $378 billion in 2018, $336 billion in 2017 and $308 billion in 2016. But for Trump, it’s always been $500 billion. Even if one just focuses on trade in goods, the deficit in 2018 was still not $500 billion, but $419 billion. Given the rise in the trade deficit during his presidency, perhaps one day Trump will be right. Second, countries do not ‘lose’ money on trade deficits. A trade deficit simply means that people in one country are buying more goods from another country than people in the second country are buying from the first country.”
-- There’s a new effort in Congress to prevent Chinese interests from gaining access to sensitive information by hiring former national security officials as lobbyists. From Josh Rogin: “The case of former Obama administration cybersecurity official Samir Jain has sparked a reaction from lawmakers who see his new gig as a lobbyist for Huawei as problematic. After the news broke last month that Jain, who served as National Security Council senior director for cybersecurity policy in the Obama White House, had registered as a Huawei lobbyist, [Trump] tweeted: ‘This is not good, or acceptable!’ … Last month, [Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.)] introduced the Congressional and Executive Foreign Lobbying Ban Act, which would prohibit former members of Congress, retired senior military officers and former senior political appointees from lobbying for foreign governments.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The Alabama Senate passed the country’s most restrictive abortion ban, which makes no exceptions for victims of rape and incest, and the state's Republican governor is poised to swiftly sign it into law. Emily Wax-Thibodeaux and Chip Brownlee report: “The measure permits abortion only when necessary to save a mother’s life, an unyielding standard that runs afoul of federal court rulings. Those who backed the new law said they don’t expect it to take effect, instead intending its passage to be part of a broader strategy by antiabortion activists to persuade the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion nationwide. … Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R) said the legislature was carrying out ‘the express will of the people, which is to protect the sanctity of life,’ noting that Alabama voters approved declaring the state officially pro-life. ...
“Sixteen states have passed or are working to pass bans on abortion after a doctor can detect what they call ‘a fetal heartbeat in the womb,’ usually at about six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant. That includes Georgia, where Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed a ‘heartbeat bill’ into law on Tuesday. … The Alabama bill, which passed 25-6, is even more restrictive than prior state-level abortion laws, and it includes a penalty of up to 99 years in prison for doctors who perform abortions. … After a Democratic amendment to the bill that would have provided exceptions for victims of rape and incest failed 21-11, Democrats railed against the prospects of young crime victims having to carry the resultant fetuses to term and having to then live with their assailants’ children for the rest of their lives. ...
“Alabama already has a case in the federal courts over a restrictive abortion law passed in 2016. The state has lost in federal courts, which have blocked the law, but it is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. That lawsuit came after the state was forced to pay the ACLU and Planned Parenthood $1.7 million in 2016 after a law requiring abortion providers to have hospital admitting privileges was struck down by federal courts.”
State Sen. Vivian Figures (D) introduced an amendment last night to make vasectomies a felony. She noted that there are no laws regulating what a man can do with his body. It failed.
Those protesting the bill said that although Alabama might be antiabortion, it is not pro-life because it fails to support children once they are born. “They love to champion themselves as defenders of children by fighting to make abortion illegal, but when it comes to education, health care and other concerns, especially of our most vulnerable children, wealthier Alabamians and the Legislature couldn’t care less,” said Susan Pace Hamill, a law professor at the University of Alabama.
Mostly missing from this debate: It’s already exceptionally difficult to obtain an abortion if you live in Alabama, especially if you’re poor or a woman of color. Just half of the Yellowhammer State’s 67 counties have an obstetrician, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
-- The culture wars continue: Republican voters in North Carolina nominated Dan Bishop, the state lawmaker who sponsored the controversial “bathroom bill,” to run in the House special election. He avoided a runoff. Felicia Sonmez and Amy Gardner report: Bishop “will face veteran and business executive Dan McCready (D) in September’s do-over election in North Carolina’s scandal-plagued 9th Congressional District, after last year’s results were thrown out amid allegations of election fraud. … Bishop’s 2016 ‘bathroom bill,’ which was later repealed, required transgender people to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender on their birth certificate rather than the gender with which they identify. Its enactment triggered a national outcry and a wave of boycotts that analysts say cost the state $3.7 billion.”
GET SMART FAST:
The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel issued a legal opinion claiming that the FDA “lacks jurisdiction” over the drugs used in lethal injections. The opinion, which sides with Texas Republicans in the lawsuit the state filed against the FDA in early 2017, says that “articles intended for use in capital punishment by a state or the federal government cannot be regulated as ‘drugs’ or ‘devices.’” (Laurie McGinley and Mark Berman)
The Trump administration is moving to roll back a federal rule that limits Wall Street's ability to charge overdraft fees. The banking industry has been lobbying for the change. (Renae Merle)
Trump proposed taking $1.9 billion from the Pell Grant program to support a NASA budget boost. The president wants to return astronauts to the moon by 2024. (AP)
The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is at its highest point in human history. The latest measurement of 415 parts per million is the highest reading in at least 800,000 years and probably over 3 million years. (Jason Samenow)
The U.S. birthrate has dropped to a 32-year low. The general fertility rate in America fell to 59.0, the lowest since the federal government began keeping track, deepening a fertility stump that is likely to shape the country’s future workforce. (Wall Street Journal)
Boeing rejected requests from American Airlines pilots for a fix to the flawed software aboard the 737 Max jet. The complaints came less than four months before an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed. (New York Times)
Former congressman Anthony Weiner is a free man. He completed his prison sentence and was released from a halfway house. “It’s good to be out,” said Weiner, who was serving time for sexting an underage girl. “I hope to be able to live a life of integrity and service. I’m glad this chapter of my life is behind me.” (NBC News)
The suspect in the Poway, Calif., synagogue shooting pleaded not guilty to federal hate crime charges. John Earnest spoke twice during the brief hearing — to acknowledge his name and to say he agreed with his court-appointed attorney's decision against seeking bail. Federal prosecutors told the judge that the government had not decided whether to seek the death penalty. (CBS News)
The New Orleans Pelicans landed the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft lottery and will get to add star Zion Williamson to their roster. The struggling franchise won the lottery despite having only a 6 percent chance at the top pick. (Candace Buckner)
The Harvard Lampoon apologized for “sexualizing” Anne Frank with a bikini cartoon. The undergraduate publication ran a doctored image of her below the headline "Gone Before Her Time: Virtual Aging Technology Shows Us What Anne Frank Would Have Looked Like if She Hadn’t Died.” Rabbi Jonah Steinberg, the executive director of Harvard Hillel, said the image recalled Nazi propaganda. (Isaac Stanley-Becker)
Walmart will begin offering free next-day shipping this week. Next-day deliveries will begin to be available in Phoenix and Las Vegas with the hope that, by the end of the year, about 75 percent of the country will be eligible for the service. (Abha Bhattarai)
Economist Alice Rivlin, who served as founding director of the Congressional Budget Office, died at 88. A centrist Democrat, Rivlin was recognized as a moderating influence on politically driven understandings of economic thought over a career spanning more than 50 years. (Elaine S. Povich)
Comedian Tim Conway, best known for his role on “The Carol Burnett Show,” died at 85. During his 11 years as a regular cast member on the variety show, Conway’s physical stunts and numerous accents delighted audiences and often left even his co-stars in stitches. (Lisa Grace Lednicer)
American citizens in Austria have been told to seek consular help at McDonald’s. Under a new partnership between outlets of the American fast-food chain and the U.S. government, Americans in Austria can get help contacting their embassy with help from McDonald’s locations. (AFP)
-- The State Department just ordered all non-emergency, nonessential U.S. Embassy staffers to leave Iraq immediately amid escalating tensions with Iran. From the AP: “The alert, published on the embassy’s website on Wednesday, comes after Washington last week said it had detected new and urgent threats from Iran and its proxy forces in the region targeting Americans and American interests.”
-- The Trump administration is debating a range of military options against Iran in the event the conflict turns hot. Missy Ryan, John Hudson and Carol Morello ferret out new details beyond yesterday’s NYT report: “Officials said the options include increasing the number of troops in the region, currently between 60,000 and 80,000, to more than 100,000, in the most dramatic scenario were Iran to attack U.S. interests or make clear moves to develop a nuclear weapon. … Trump’s views on the proposals were not immediately clear. …
“The uptick in tensions has also rattled the State Department’s top officials in charge of diplomatic security, who on Tuesday postponed a major forum of regional security officers from most embassies and consulates worldwide. … The event … was postponed because of ‘increasing tensions with Iran’ and the need for senior personnel to ‘remain in the field to assess and respond to potential threats,’ according to a State Department memo obtained by The Washington Post. The event is scheduled every three to four years and involves 300-plus people, said a State Department official who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss internal logistics. ‘It’s no small potatoes that Diplomatic Security chose to cancel this,’ the official said.
“The situation has set off alarm bells on Capitol Hill, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is attempting to bring in senior administration officials to brief senators next week on Iran and other issues in the region, according to three congressional officials apprised of the discussions. The effort comes as many lawmakers are voicing their frustration with the Trump administration for not keeping Congress more fully aware of its plans concerning Iran. ‘I think all of us are in the dark over here,’ Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Tuesday.”
-- A conflict with Iran could be much worse than the Iraq War. Adam Taylor explains why: “If nothing else, Iran is simply a bigger country than Iraq was before the 2003 invasion. At the time, Iraq’s population was about 25 million. Iran’s population is estimated to be more than 82 million. Iran spans 591,000 square miles of land, compared with Iraq’s 168,000 square miles. One estimate from 2005 suggested the Iraqi army had fewer than 450,000 personnel when the invasion began. Recent estimates suggest that Iran has 523,000 active military personnel, as well as 250,000 reserve personnel. … In terms of conventional military strength, Iran is far weaker than the United States. But the country has long pursued asymmetric strategies that could allow it to inflict serious damage on U.S. interests in the region.”
-- A top British officer said there is no increased Iran threat in Syria or Iraq, contradicting U.S. intelligence. From the Guardian’s Julian Borger: “Maj Gen Christopher Ghika, who is a deputy commander of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the coalition conducting counter-terrorist operations against Isis in Iraq and Syria, was repeatedly questioned by reporters about the threat from Shia militias in Syria and Iraq … ‘No — there’s been no increased threat from Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria,’ Ghika said in a videolink briefing from Baghdad to the Pentagon. ‘We’re aware of that presence, clearly.’ … On Tuesday night, US Central Command — whose area of operations covers the Middle East and Afghanistan — put out a statement refuting Ghika’s comments.”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Donald Trump Jr. agreed to a limited second interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee next month. Karoun Demirjian, Ashley Parker and Tom Hamburger report: “Under the deal’s terms, Trump Jr. will testify for up to four hours and address a limited number of questions … The agreement ends a months-long process to secure Trump Jr.’s testimony. It also quells a simmering crisis for the GOP, after several Republican senators openly urged the president’s son either not to comply with the committee’s summons or to invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination if he appeared. … Trump Jr. is expected to face questions in six broad categories, whittled down from an original list of 10, according to people familiar with the deal to secure his testimony — including his participation in the June 2016 [Trump Tower] meeting, as well as his knowledge of the president’s efforts well into his campaign to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to people familiar with the deal.”
-- Bill Barr has long argued in favor of an expansive view of presidential authority, an outlook that has already aided Trump as the president seeks to thwart congressional oversight. Tom Hamburger has a deep dive on the attorney general’s career: “Embracing a theory that the Constitution grants presidents sweeping authority, Barr is part of a group of conservative intellectuals who have been leading the charge to expand the powers of the executive branch over the past four decades. … During his first tour at the Justice Department, Barr issued a controversial secret opinion saying that the president could order the FBI to take people into custody in foreign countries, a ruling that paved the way for the arrest in Panama of then-leader Manuel Antonio Noriega. Two years after that, Barr offered another far-reaching interpretation of presidential power, advising President George H.W. Bush that he did not need congressional approval to invade Iraq. Later, as attorney general, he backed Bush’s pardons of six Reagan administration officials charged in the Iran-contra investigation, a move the independent counsel described at the time as ‘a coverup.’ Now, back at the helm of the Justice Department under Trump, Barr is in a singular position to put his philosophy into action.”
-- The House Intelligence Committee is investigating whether the Trump family’s lawyers helped obstruct the panel’s inquiry into Russian election interference. The New York Times’s Nicholas Fandos and Maggie Haberman report: “The line of inquiry stems from claims made by the president’s former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen, who told Congress earlier this year that the lawyers in question helped edit false testimony that he provided to Congress in 2017 about a Trump Tower project in Moscow. Mr. Cohen said they also dangled a potential pardon to try to ensure his loyalty. In recent weeks, the committee sent lengthy document requests to four lawyers — Jay Sekulow, who represents the president; Alan S. Futerfas, who represents Donald Trump Jr.; Alan Garten, the top lawyer at the Trump Organization; and Abbe D. Lowell, who represents Ivanka Trump. The lawyers all took part in a joint defense agreement by the president’s allies to coordinate responses to inquiries by Congress and the Justice Department.”
-- A federal judge voiced doubt about the president’s bid to block a House subpoena for his financial records. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta fired pointed questions at the president’s lawyers, who argued in an April 22 lawsuit that the committee’s sweeping subpoena to Mazars USA for the financial records of Trump and various associated entities since 2011 was not ‘a valid exercise of legislative power.’ … Mehta, a 2014 Obama appointee, challenged some of Trump’s claims in questions to his legal team. … ‘Say a president was involved in some corrupt enterprise — you mean to tell me because he is the president of the United States, Congress would not have power to investigate?’ Mehta asked, saying that what if ‘we’re talking about a presidential violation of a constitutional prohibition that only Congress has authority to approve,’ such as the acceptance of emoluments or gifts from a foreign government.”
-- Company documents show that Trump’s resort in Doral, Fla., is in steep decline. David A. Fahrenthold and Jonathan O’Connell report: “In two years, the resort’s net operating income — a key figure, representing the amount left over after expenses are paid — had fallen by 69 percent. Even in a vigorous economy, the property was missing the Trump Organization’s internal business targets; for instance, the club expected to take in $85 million in revenue in 2017 but took in just $75 million. … The troubles at Trump Doral — detailed here for the first time, based on documents and video obtained under Florida’s public-records law — suggest the Trump Organization’s problems are bigger than previously known. This is also the first known case in which a Trump Organization representative has publicly acknowledged the president’s name has hurt business.”
-- The president criticized FBI Director Chris Wray’s defense of the bureau’s investigations into Trump’s 2016 campaign advisers as “ridiculous.” Wray declined to join Trump and the attorney general in their characterization of the investigation as “spying” on the campaign, telling the Senate last week, “That’s not the term I would use.” Trump told reporters yesterday at the White House, “I didn’t understand his answer because I thought the attorney general answered it perfectly.” (John Wagner, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett)
-- Barr is working closely with Wray, as well as CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, to review the origins of the Russia counterintelligence investigation. CNN’s Laura Jarrett reports: “There had been speculation as to why Haspel had been spotted at the Justice Department in recent weeks. Wray testified last week he was assisting Barr. … [Trump] told reporters Tuesday he did not direct Barr to call on intelligence agencies to join his review of the Russia probe. ‘I didn't ask him to do that,’ Trump said at the White House ahead of his departure to Louisiana. ‘I didn't know it. … But I think it's a great thing that he did it.’”
-- More than 20 House Democrats will hold a marathon reading of special counsel Bob Mueller's report. Rhonda Colvin reports: “‘We’ve been saying for weeks that if you think there was no obstruction and no collusion, you haven’t read the Mueller report. So the ongoing quest has been, “How do we get that story out there while we are waiting for the witnesses to come in?”’ said Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) who has been organizing the effort since Friday. … The reading of all 448 pages of the report will take an estimated 12 to 14 hours, Scanlon said. Shifts will be divided up among the readers, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who will follow Scanlon as the second reader. … The reading will take place in the House Rules Committee Room inside the Capitol and will be live-streamed. Afterward, a recording will be made available in to an audio book.”
-- Michael Wolff’s sequel to “Fire and Fury,” his book on the Trump administration, will be released on June 4. The book, titled “Siege,” begins with the second year of Trump’s administration and ends with the delivery of the Mueller report.
ANOTHER RUSSIAN RESET?
-- The Trump administration is trying out a fresh start with Russia now that Mueller’s probe is over. Anne Gearan and Anton Troianovski report: “Trump dispatched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, bearing a message that the United States is ready to renew discussions on a lengthy list of topics, including arms control, Iran and Venezuela. … Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov dismissed the entire question of Russian interference during a news conference with Pompeo, who then delivered the warning Trump had not. ‘You can see we have some disagreements on this issue,’ Pompeo told reporters. ‘I made clear to Foreign Minister Lavrov, as we’ve made clear in the past months, that interference in American elections is unacceptable. If the Russians were to engage in that in 2020 it would put our relationship in an even worse place than it has been, and we encourage them not to do that. We would not tolerate that.’”
-- During their meeting, Pompeo and Putin were able to agree on only one thing: Many issues stand in the way of reconciliation. Anton adds: “After several hours of talks between Pompeo and Lavrov — and another 90 minutes between Pompeo and Putin — Kremlin foreign policy adviser Yury Ushakov praised Pompeo for holding a ‘not bad, concrete conversation.’ The United States had joined Russia in showing an interest, he said, in ‘starting to correct the relationship and gradually restoring communication channels.’ … In an apparent example of the Trump administration’s readiness to move past some points of disagreement, the biggest source of U.S.-Russian tensions during President Barack Obama’s tenure didn’t come up in Tuesdays’ talks, according to Kremlin aide Ushakov. ‘There was no Ukraine at all,’ Ushakov said. Instead, Ushakov said, Putin and Pompeo discussed Syria, North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, and the New START accord.”
-- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said the FBI has barred him from disclosing which two Florida counties were hacked by the Russians during the 2016 election. From the Tampa Bay Times’s Emily Mahoney: “DeSantis told reporters Tuesday that he had been briefed on that breach ... but that he couldn’t share which counties had been the target. … DeSantis emphasized that while the counties had experienced ‘intrusion into the supervisor of election networks,’ no information was manipulated or changed, and said it’s possible they obtained voter information that was public record anyway. Voter registration databases are not connected to the vote tabulation systems. … ‘I get why the FBI didn’t rush to tell me something that happened several years ago,’ he said. Still, DeSantis seemed unsure Tuesday of the FBI’s rationale behind the nondisclosure agreement.”
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- Jared Kushner stumbled on key questions from Republican senators during a briefing on his immigration plan. Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis report: “Publicly, senators emerged from their weekly Capitol Hill luncheon applauding the White House senior adviser’s pitch to move U.S. immigration toward a merit-based system that prioritizes highly skilled workers, a task he undertook at Trump’s behest. But privately, Republican officials said Kushner did not have clear answers to some questions from the friendly audience, prompting Trump’s other senior adviser, Stephen Miller, to interrupt at times and take over the conversation. … Some GOP senators left the meeting wondering whether Kushner understood the issue, the GOP officials said. Though some appreciated his efforts, they did not think his plan would advance anytime soon. No senator has stepped forward yet to turn Kushner’s plan into legislation.”
-- New photos show migrant children sleeping not just on the ground at a Border Patrol station, but on rocks covered by polyester-film blankets. CNN’s Vanessa Yurkevich and Priscilla Alvarez report: “In others, migrants are seen seemingly wandering the premises, which has four temporary tents to accommodate the swell of migrants approaching the US-Mexico border. One photo shows an agent holding a megaphone in a sea of migrants outside of the station. The photos came from a source who has access to the facility and was disturbed by the conditions over the weekend. Customs and Border Protection has confirmed the images are of the McAllen border station. ‘Nobody, no matter who you are, where you are from should spend an hour like this. This is the United States of America. Not in our country,’ the source, who has seen the conditions firsthand, said.”
-- Trump’s campaign to limit immigration has undercut his own efforts to be tough on crime by worsening delays in a visa program intended to help police pursue violent criminals. The Times’s Zolan Kanno-Youngs reports: “The U visa program, created in 2000, offers undocumented immigrants temporary legal residency and a path to American citizenship if they cooperate with law enforcement officials after being a victim or a witness to violent crimes, among them domestic violence and sexual assaults. But under the Trump administration, the federal program is facing the biggest backlog in its history, officials said, meaning that immigrants could be deported as they wait for their visas. Last year, fewer immigrants applied for the visas — the first annual decline since 2007 — in what law enforcement officials and lawyers called a sign that immigrants were growing wary of helping the police and prosecutors.”
-- Various government officials have adopted the practice of slow-walking or flat-out ignoring the president’s orders, including his decision to cut off aid to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The Atlantic’s Elaina Plott reports: “A month and a half has passed since the president’s Central America announcement, and according to lawmakers and aides, the administration is not advancing the issue. Senator Patrick Leahy, who serves as the ranking member of the subcommittee that funds foreign aid, told me that this was the inevitable result of an 'impulsive and illogical' decision by the president. 'It caught the State Department and USAID by surprise, and they have been scrambling to figure out how to limit the damage it would cause,' Leahy said.”
-- The Transportation Security Administration is planning on sending hundreds of officials, including air marshals, to the border to temporarily assist with migrant inflows. CNN’s Rene Marsh and Gregory Wallace report: “TSA acknowledged in an internal email the ‘immediate need’ comes with the acceptance of 'some risk' of depleted resources in aviation security. TSA plans for the deployments to involve up to 175 law enforcement officials and as many as ‘400 people from Security Ops,’ according to two sources and the email. At least initially, the efforts will not involve uniformed airport screeners, according to the email, which says that some parts of TSA would be asked to contribute ‘around 10%' of its workforce. … The initial law enforcement teams will be drawn from six cities, according to a source familiar with the plans.”
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN:
-- Sen. Mitt Romney voted against confirming a Trump judicial nominee who referred to Barack Obama as an “un-American impostor,” but he was the only Republican senator to do so. Mike DeBonis reports: “Romney (Utah) was the only voting senator to break ranks on a party-line vote to seat Michael J. Truncale on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. In a brief interview after the vote, Romney mentioned 2011 comments Truncale made... ‘There were some things that he said about President Obama that were disparaging, and as a Republican presidential nominee, I felt I just couldn’t go along with that for a judge,’ Romney said Tuesday. … The Senate approved Truncale on a 49-to-46 vote, making him the 113th Trump-nominated judge to win confirmation.”
-- “I own the Red Hen restaurant that asked Sarah Sanders to leave. Resistance isn’t futile,” by Stephanie Wilkinson: “I’ve been getting hate mail for almost a year now, ever since I asked White House press secretary Sarah Sanders to leave my Lexington, Va., restaurant, the Red Hen, last June. … Yet, as I kept opening the letters, I saw a pattern. For every hateful message, there was one of gratitude. … After nearly a year, I’m happy to say that business is still good. Better than good, actually. And besides the boost to our area charities, our town’s hospitality and sales revenue have gone up, too. Our haters may have believed that there were more of ‘them’ than of ‘us,’ but it turns out we have more than enough to keep us cooking. And to everyone who might be fearful about taking a stand, I say don’t be. Resistance is not futile, for you or your business.”
-- Newly obtained emails show Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross expressed openness to meeting with Internet troll and Holocaust denier Charles C. Johnson last year. Yahoo News’s Alexander Nazaryan reports: “‘Hi Secretary Ross,’ the markedly informal email sent by Johnson [on June 25, 2018] begins. ‘Great chatting with you the other day.’ Johnson proceeds to say that he would be ‘speaking before about 30 congressmen on tech issues’ in Washington and ‘would love to meet’ with Ross as well. Ross responded about three hours later, in an email apparently typed from his iPhone. … He urged Johnson to schedule a time for them to meet with Macie Leach, a senior adviser to the commerce secretary. … The puzzling interaction raises questions about why a high-ranking government official would entertain a figure as divisive as Johnson, especially since by late 2018 Johnson’s affiliation with white supremacists and other fringe figures was well known.”
-- Department of Labor chief of staff Nick Geale will leave after a White House probe. Bloomberg Law’s Ben Penn, Jaclyn Diaz and Chris Opfer report: “Geale is leaving the department at the end of the month, an agency official confirmed. The announcement comes after a White House Office of Management and Budget investigation into complaints that Geale cultivated a threatening, hostile work environment and misled White House staff about progress on DOL policies … Geale’s departure … marks a major blow for Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, who is said to lean heavily on the former GOP congressional staffer. Geale is the latest in a growing list of key political appointees to leave the department.”
BIG TECH IN THE CROSSHAIRS:
-- San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban the use of facial-recognition software by city agencies and police. The unprecedented vote by the city’s Board of Supervisors comes as privacy and civil rights advocates warn that the lack of regulation surrounding facial recognition could lead to mass surveillance or increased false arrests. (Drew Harwell)
-- WhatsApp issued new versions of its messaging app following reports that it had been infected by spyware. The company acknowledged that “an advanced cyber actor,” possibly targeting human rights activists, had exploited a security flaw and potentially gained access to private messages and location data. (Hamza Shaban, Loveday Morris and Jennifer Hassan)
-- Facebook, Google and Twitter will participate in a meeting organized by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron that will address the need for greater social media accountability over the spread of extremism online. Officials from countries including Canada, the U.S. and Britain are also expected to attend. (Tony Romm and Drew Harwell)
-- Days after pledging more user privacy, Google rolled out new ways for marketers to advertise on its products, all based on user data. Greg Bensinger reports: “Google showed new ways that marketers would be able to reach customers willing to part with their money … In one iteration, advertisements informed by customers’ previous searches and other online behavior would show up on Google’s iconic search homepage. The company showed a rolling stream of ads from sites such as furniture retailer West Elm under the Google search bar. … Brad Bender, an advertising product manager for Google, said the search engine can ‘anticipate the customer’s wants and needs’ and has advanced software that can predict when consumers are most likely to open their wallets.”
-- More than 10,000 users are threatening to deactivate their Airbnb accounts in protest of listings in the occupied West Bank. The Independent’s Anu Shukla reports: “The #DeactivateAirbnb action is timed to coincide with Nakba Day on Wednesday or what is known as ‘the catastrophe,’ which led to the exodus of several hundred thousand Palestinians after the declaration of the State of Israel on 15 May 1948. Airbnb announced in November last year it would remove from its website around 200 listings in the settlements of the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, an area claimed by Palestinians as territory for a future state, and would donate all profits from properties in the West Bank to humanitarian aid organisations. The company however reversed the decision five months later.”
-- Trump used an official White House event in Louisiana that was ostensibly focused on energy to mock a slew of his 2020 rivals. Seung Min Kim and Dino Grandoni report: “Trump drew out the pronunciation of Pete Buttigieg’s uncommon last name, saying: ‘We’ve got Boot-edge-edge.’ Using a derisive nickname for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), the president mused: ‘Pocahontas, I think, is probably out.’ Trump also said former vice president Joe Biden ‘doesn’t look like the guy I knew’ while taking aim at ‘crazy’ Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who has a ‘lot more energy than Biden . . . but it’s energy to get rid of your jobs.’ And Trump ridiculed former congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-Tex.) for a Vanity Fair interview in which O’Rourke claimed that he was ‘just born to be in’ the presidential race. ‘He was made to fall like a rock!’ Trump said at an event designed to tout his energy policies at a liquefied-natural-gas plant in this southwestern Louisiana town. ‘What happened to him?’”
-- The president’s continued attacks on Biden are worrying Trump’s allies, who have expressed concern that the jabs will allow the former vice president to rise above a messy primary that would otherwise drag down his candidacy. The Times’s Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman report: “The president, though, has told advisers he believes he can portray Mr. Biden, a longtime Washington veteran, as representative of an ossified political class the same way he did Hillary Clinton, wounding him with enough attacks and put-downs that Mr. Biden will either stagger into the general election or collapse in the primary. … Mr. Trump’s attacks on Mr. Biden have defied the pleadings of his own aides, who think almost any other candidate would be easier to defeat, and left Republicans puzzled while delighting Biden supporters.”
-- Biden’s plan to address climate change, which he plans to formally release this month, could be an early test of whether his consensus-building brand meshes with today’s Democratic Party. Matt Viser, John Wagner and David Weigel report: “Biden’s approach represents a fundamental test of whether the Democratic Party has shifted out of his grasp in recent years — to one that punches back hard against the Trump-controlled Republican Party with a sharply liberal agenda — or whether it is one that wants a return to bipartisan bonhomie.”
-- Biden’s vote for NAFTA is a liability in the Rust Belt. Bloomberg Businessweek’s Joshua Green report: “Biden’s record on trade is already drawing attacks from the left and right. Besides Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a former House member, Biden is the only one of the 22 Democrats running for president who voted for Nafta. … ‘Nafta still resonates in the industrial Midwest and Rust Belt,’ says Stanley Greenberg, a veteran Democratic pollster who recently conducted focus groups on trade in Michigan and Wisconsin. ‘There’s still a lot of anger because it symbolizes, for many people, the indifference about the outsourcing of jobs and the favoring of elite economic interests in international trade agreements.’”
-- Warren said she would not participate in a Fox News town hall, dismissing the network as a “hate-for-profit racket that gives a megaphone to racists and conspiracists.” The decision sets the senator apart from some of her 2020 rivals — such as Sanders, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Buttigieg — who have agreed to appear on the network. (John Wagner)
-- CNN’s regular town halls with 2020 candidates have proved to be disastrous for the network’s ratings. Paul Farhi reports: “Since January, [CNN] has staged 20 town halls, featuring both well-known candidates like [Sanders] and California Sen. Kamala D. Harris (both twice) to long shots like businessman Andrew Yang and self-help book author Marianne Williamson. … Only four candidates — Harris, Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg — have drawn more viewers than CNN averages on a typical weeknight, around 1.16 million people. The rest, at least in television terms, have ranged anywhere from subpar to flaming disasters. Back-to-back town halls featuring Yang and Williamson drew about 310,000 viewers in April, far below the network’s modest 907,000 average for all the candidates. None of its town halls has surpassed regular programming on cable rivals Fox and MSNBC.”
-- A dark-money group is running racist ads targeting Warren and a bill that would allow a Native American tribe to open a casino in Massachusetts. The Daily Beast’s Jackie Kucinich and Lachlan Markay report: “The Coalition to Restore American Values has been running ads since November 2018 that, among other things, feature Warren in an Indian headdress and warn against her ‘casino plan.’ The group is registered to David R. Langdon, a long time culture warrior, in July 2018, according to Ohio state records. The online ad was one of the first public salvos linking Warren to the project in an attempt to rally conservatives against legislation recognizing a Native American tribe seeking a new casino in Massachusetts. [Trump] himself has since declared his opposition to the legislation last week in a tweet that dubbed Warren ‘Pocahontas.’”
-- Three radio stations in the Florida Panhandle vowed to play Trump speeches every day until the end of the 2020 election. The Orlando Sentinel’s Tiffini Theisen reports: “The stations will broadcast two-minute snippets of Trump speeches every hour of every day — perhaps sometimes twice an hour — until the end of the presidential race, owner Samuel Rogatinsky said.”
-- O’Rourke stopped by “The View” as he attempts to reboot his flailing presidential campaign. Jenna Johnson reports: “Meghan McCain, daughter of the late Republican senator John McCain, listed things the Democrat from Texas has done over the past few months that she believes a female candidate would never get away with: going on a meandering road trip of self-discovery, joking about parenting his kids only some of the time and saying in a Vanity Fair interview that he was 'just born to be in' the presidential race. ‘You’re right,’ O’Rourke responded. ‘There are things that I have been privileged to do in my life that others cannot. And I think the more that I travel and listen to people and learn from them, the clearer that becomes to me. . . . I’ve had advantages that others could not enjoy.’”
-- Democrats in D.C. expressed disappointment that Montana Gov. Steve Bullock opted to run for president rather than challenge GOP Sen. Steve Daines. Politico’s Burgess Everett and James Arkin report: “Unlike any other Democratic candidate in the country, Bullock could make a virtually unwinnable Senate race competitive and give the party a real shot at knocking off a GOP incumbent and getting closer to a Senate majority. … Bullock has been unequivocal in shrugging off the Senate recruitment, which has included conversations with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democratic senators. He doesn’t want to be one senator of 100, people who know him say, and fashions himself an executive, not a legislator.”
-- Fifteen Democratic candidates pledged to columnist Karen Tumulty that they will hold on-the-record news briefings at least once a week at the White House if they're elected. Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), Bullock, Buttigieg, Gillibrand, Warren, Harris and Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio) agreed they would do that as a minimum, Karen writes. “The remaining eight — [Biden], former housing and urban development secretary Julián Castro, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Rep. Seth Moulton (Mass.), [O’Rourke], [Sanders] and Rep. Eric Swalwell (Calif.) — said they would go further. They all replied that once a week is not enough and committed to reinstating the tradition of daily media briefings.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
The former U.S. ambassador to Russia questioned the wisdom of Trump's Iran strategy, and a former senior CIA official — who ran Russia operations during his 28-year career at the agency -- responded:
I'm sure many of the youth in Ian are not fans of the regime. The best way to make them supportive of the ayatollahs is to attack the country.— John Sipher (@john_sipher) May 14, 2019
The Senate Intelligence Committee chairman cleverly dodged questions on Capitol Hill:
The Senate basement, a scene:— Jordain Carney (@jordainc) May 14, 2019
Shelby-Burr got off a train together
Burr, navigating through a crowd of reporters: “Shelby has news! Shelby has news!”
Reporters crowd Shelby.
... Shelby does not have news.
Presidential candidate Mike Gravel continues to pick up donors from the right, who hope to get him on the debate stage so that he can attack fellow Democrats:
we're at 35k with a month to go— Gravel Institute (@GravelInstitute) May 14, 2019
The newest 2020 candidate shared his best dad joke, per a CNN reporter:
Oh boy. Bullock's son asked his dad - in front of the entire press corps - to tell his best dad joke.— Dan Merica (@merica) May 14, 2019
The governor obliges: "Momma Buffalo is dropping a baby buffalo off to school. You know what he says? Bye son."
A Texas Tribune editor noted these T-shirt options for one Republican senator's campaign:
John Cornyn campaign running a poll to decide his next campaign t-shirt. One of the designs mentions "Beto" and "truck stop sushi"... pic.twitter.com/aaYxt3e1i1— Aman Batheja (@amanbatheja) May 14, 2019
Twitter is now sharing information on vaccinations:
Look what happens when you search for info about vaccines (or "vaccine dangers") on Twitter: this box shows up (h/t @Mantzarlis) pic.twitter.com/sWCd5a1ju4— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) May 14, 2019
A Times photographer tweeted this picture as the president arrived in Louisiana:
.@realDonaldTrump is greeted by Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser who was wearing "Trump Socks" as he arrives at the Chennault International Airport Lake Charles, LA. pic.twitter.com/DCTGtnz1VO— Doug Mills (@dougmillsnyt) May 14, 2019
Trump suggested reporters are after Hollywood deals:
"Look at all of them back there. Fake news, " says @POTUS. "Some of them will go and sign movie contracts tonight."— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) May 14, 2019
To which a Post reporter responded:
I am back here and I can confirm I am definitely not signing a movie contract tonight. https://t.co/BIkBJkeAX5— Seung Min Kim (@seungminkim) May 14, 2019
A new oral history has a lot of Henry Kissinger's perspective, per our book critic:
KISSINGER ON KISSINGER, with an introduction by... Henry Kissinger. pic.twitter.com/GSkC5UuoQu— Carlos Lozada (@CarlosLozadaWP) May 14, 2019
And this is how many Democratic 2020 candidates there are now:
we've officially reached a full soccer game of Democratic candidates pic.twitter.com/3N6llIJ17v— Steadman™ (@AsteadWesley) May 14, 2019
-- Families who fled Spain decades ago during the era of dictator Francisco Franco and landed in Venezuela are now returning to Spain to escape Nicolás Maduro. James McAuley and Pamela Rolfe report: “As Venezuelan refugees and exiles have poured into neighboring countries in South America and Latin America, Spain has emerged as a destination of choice for many Venezuelans of means, including those whose families once left to get out from under Franco. The number of people from Venezuela living in Spain has more than doubled in the past five years, according to Spain’s National Institute of Statistics. Many of the newcomers can claim Spanish citizenship based on their ancestry. Others have applied to Spain’s ‘golden visa’ program, which grants residency to anyone who invests more than $560,000 in real estate. And those with more limited resources can apply for asylum. Indeed, for the past three years, Venezuelans have topped Spain’s list of asylum seekers, with Venezuelans filing more than 19,000 asylum applications last year.”
-- “Does this train station smell like ... grapefruit? How the air around us suddenly became so fragrant,” by Lavanya Ramanathan: “The business of making everything smell nice is booming, extending to casinos and theme parks and even residential buildings. Every SoulCycle smells like grapefruit; it is the SoulCycle smell, and if you like it, you can buy it in candle form. The Equinox hotel at New York’s dystopian city-within-a-city Hudson Yards hasn’t even opened, but it, too, has already lined up a signature candle to burn in its lobby: Cire Trudon’s Abd El Kader, which is advertised as smelling like mint and tea and tobacco and ‘the rashness of fights.’ … What’s behind our need to bathe in rarefied air?”
-- New York Times, “This Gen X Mess”: “Like many things considered ‘cool,’ Gen X is pretty exclusive. You had to be born between 1965 and 1980 to get in to this gloomy, goofy club of forgotten middle children, and only about 65 million of us were. (Both boomers, at 75 million, and millennials, at 83 million, far outnumber us.) … And you know what else Gen X is? Getting older. Its oldest members are 54; its youngest are preparing for 40. As we try to make sense of that fact, here’s a look at the stuff we loved and hated, as well as a re-evaluation of things like 'The Rules,' grunge, CK One and 1994; an appreciation of John Singleton; a quiz to figure out which generation you actually are; and a visit with Evan Dando, plus some dynamite for the myths that have always dogged Gen X. So plug in your headphones, click on that Walkman and let’s travel through this time machine together.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“#LindseyGrahamResign trends on Twitter,” from the Hill: “Graham on Monday said Trump Jr. should refuse to answer questions from the Senate Intelligence Committee, which subpoenaed Trump Jr. to testify about his communication with Russian officials. … The official Twitter account for Democratic Coalition, an anti-Trump super PAC that targets Republican officials and candidates, called for Graham to resign following the comments. ‘Retweet if you agree. #LindseyGrahamResign,’ the group posted. The group wrote that Graham ‘has abdicated his responsibilities as a U.S. Senator and has clearly abandoned his oath to uphold the Constitution and defend the rule of law.’ … The hashtag quickly gained momentum online, with more than 65,000 people using it on Twitter.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Steve Bullock Awkwardly Unable to Say What He Achieved as Governor,” from Mediaite: “The awkward incident occurred at [Bullock’s] campaign announcement event in Helena, Mont., today when a woman at a Q&A asked, ‘What have you been proudest to achieve as governor?’ Bullock uttered an ‘um’ after several seconds of silence … After over 20 seconds of white noise and the previously noted stalling lapsed, Bullock began a meandering sentence comparing his role as governor to serving as a state’s top law enforcement official. ‘You know, as governor, it’s not like attorney general when you know you won or lost a case. Sometimes you won’t have impacts for years,’ Bullock said. ‘But I know that 100,000 people have healthcare because of the work we have done.’”
Trump will travel to the Capitol to speak at the annual National Peace Officers’ Memorial Service. He will later meet with Mike Pompeo and host the White House Historical Association Dinner with the first lady. Vice President Pence will travel to Indiana to deliver a eulogy at the memorial service for Sen. Richard Lugar.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I just think there is a way, and the thing that will fundamentally change things is with Donald Trump out of the White House — not a joke — you will see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends.” – Joe Biden, expressing a strikingly naive hope that there will be a return to bipartisanship. (Philip Bump)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Go out and enjoy the sunshine! The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Finally a beautiful day today, and pretty nice tomorrow into the weekend as well. It may not be perfect, with a few showers possible early tomorrow morning and then isolated shower or storm chances Friday through Sunday. But all in all it’s a drier, brighter and warmer stretch than we’ve seen in a while.”
-- The Nationals lost to the Mets 6-2. (Sam Fortier)
-- The D.C. Council decided the Circulator will no longer offer free rides. Luz Lazo reports: “The D.C. Council on Tuesday cut Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s request for $3.1 million from the fiscal 2020 budget, killing the mayor’s plan to keep Circulator rides free indefinitely. While the free-ride funding was eliminated from the $15.5 billion spending plan, the budget does include money for a scooter parking program and a congestion-pricing study. It also increases residential parking fees. The budget, for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, will get a second, and final, vote on May 28.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert doesn't think Trump's trade war is a little “squabble”:
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) stopped by Seth Meyers's show and talked about her background as well as comments she made about the Holocaust that were taken out of context:
Tim Conway was remembered for his flawless comedic timing that left even his fellow cast members on “The Carol Burnett Show” suppressing laughter, such as in this classic sketch that apparently made co-star Harvey Korman wet his pants:
And two loose llamas were caught by authorities in Las Vegas:
LLAMAS ON THE LOOSE: Two llamas named Hershey and Kisses strolled along a street in Las Vegas before animal control safely returned the animals to their owner, who was issued a citation. https://t.co/rT2ti0k8pX pic.twitter.com/UIVHxkT7SZ— ABC News (@ABC) May 15, 2019