With Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro
THE BIG IDEA: The Koch network is getting a new name to reflect its shifting strategy.
The Seminar Network, which includes the constellation of groups funded by the billionaire industrialist Charles Koch and around 700 like-minded conservatives and libertarians who contribute at least $100,000 annually, will now operate as Stand Together.
That has been the name of a nonprofit arm that the Koch apparatus created three years ago to support community groups addressing maladies like poverty, addiction, recidivism, gang violence and homelessness. That effort, which has provided grants to 140 organizations, will continue as the Stand Together Foundation.
Freedom Partners, an entity that was once used to air campaign commercials, will cease to exist. Americans for Prosperity will now oversee all political and policy efforts. Groups that cater to specific constituencies, like Libre for Latinos or Concerned Veterans for America, have moved under the AFP umbrella.
“We live in a period of unprecedented progress — economic, social, technological — but not everyone has shared in that progress. While many people have gotten ahead, too many people are falling behind. Our charge is clear: we must stand together to help every person rise,” Koch writes in a letter that will go to supporters later today and that was shared first with The Washington Post. “In many ways, this new name already expresses who we are. … But this new name also marks a new chapter — and a new call to action.”
-- Today’s announcement puts meat on the bones of what Koch outlined in broad strokes at the January gathering of his supporters outside Palm Springs, Calif. Uneasy with President Trump and the Republican Party’s drift toward nativism, protectionism and populism, the 83-year-old signaled a turn away from partisan politics to focus more on goals that cut across ideologies. Koch has also described himself as less interested in electoral politics than his brother David, who was the Libertarian Party’s nominee for vice president in 1980 and who stepped away from the network last year because of ailing health. This is also happening against the backdrop of growing hostility on the right toward billionaires and the business community. These forces have led other entities, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to also disentangle their brands from the GOP.
-- Brian Hooks, who has chaired the network and will continue to lead the new Stand Together organization on a day-to-day basis, was adamant during a lengthy interview that this is “not a branding exercise” for marketing purposes but reflects a “natural evolution.”
“For too many years, we've let people define us. Going forward, we're going to define ourselves,” he said at his office in Arlington, Va. “This is really about helping to better define who we are. It's a reflection of who we've become.”
-- Koch and Hooks identify these as their five top priorities going forward: Empower everyone to find fulfilling work. Help neighbors beat poverty and addiction. Ensure excellent education for every person. Build a stronger economy that works for all. Bridge divides and build respect for one another.
They plan to take a “comprehensive approach” in pursuing those broad goals, which involves leveraging relationships across four key institutions: the education field, the business world, community organizations and politics/policymaking. Together, for example, the Koch community already funds more than 1,000 professors at 350 universities. “Our North Star hasn't changed,” said Hooks. “We're here to break down the barriers that are preventing people from realizing their potential. … Those barriers will be different for each person.”
-- The nomenclature is changing, as well. Officials will no longer call it a “network.” Now it’s a “philanthropic community.” Members of the Koch “community” have always referred to one another as “investors.” The idea was that they were investing money with a specific outcome in mind, and that the return on their investments — whether in politics or philanthropy — could be measured. Now, they will be referred to as “partners” because “investors” has too transactional of a ring. These “investors” have gathered twice a year — California in the winter, Colorado in the summer — for “seminars” to discuss strategy. Starting next month, “partners” will attend these gatherings, and they’ll be known as “summits.”
-- A totally redesigned website went live this morning. “Greater your good” is the group’s new slogan, and it may be the catchphrase of a forthcoming ad campaign. “That’s the promise made between us and our incredible partners who are dedicated to the betterment of themselves and others,” Koch writes in his letter, which Hooks co-signed. “This requires that we do much more — helping social entrepreneurs increase their effectiveness by orders of magnitude. It means living by the lessons we’ve learned from our own experience, from that of our partners, and from movements throughout history that have benefitted millions of people: Empower those closest to the problems, to help solve them. Progress comes when millions of people get engaged: bottom up, not top down. … Unite with anyone, despite our differences, to unleash the potential in everyone.”
-- Sitting out the 2016 presidential election, Koch strongly criticized Trump — and the GOP nominee responded in kind. The Trump administration, populated with several former Koch lieutenants, has done a lot that he likes, especially the 2017 tax cuts, deregulation and the confirmation of judges. But Koch concluded that many of the congressional Republicans who have benefited from the network’s spending over the past decade took their support for granted. As a result, the Koch groups became much more selective about which candidates they backed in the 2018 midterms. The result of all this is that the biannual get-togethers have become less overtly political since Trump’s takeover of the GOP. Dozens of elected Republicans used to fly in. In January, only three were invited: Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse and Utah Sen. Mike Lee.
-- To be sure, Koch and his groups are not getting out of politics. They’re just trying to engage more effectively. “You can’t ask anybody about politics and not find somebody who is frustrated,” said Hooks. “Everybody is frustrated about politics. The general answer to that frustration that we've heard usually takes two forms. One is, ‘I'm done with it. I'm going to walk away.’ The other is, ‘Well, I'm not sure what to do so I'll just double down on it.’ Neither of those are acceptable. You can't walk away from politics because policy matters too much, and, if you want to change the policy, you’ve got to be engaged in politics. But if you double down, it’s the definition of insanity, right? Doing the same thing and expecting something different.
“So we've rejected both of those,” he added. “We’re not going to continue to do the same thing that we’ve done, and we’re not going to walk away. What we’re committed to doing is offering people a different way to stay engaged in policy and in politics but to do it in a way that unites people to actually get things done.”
-- Criminal justice is the model. Liberal activist Van Jones protested outside the Koch donor conference in 2011, but he was the poster boy of the session in January. Jones worked closely with Koch Industries general counsel Mark Holden to push the First Step Act, a sweeping overhaul of the criminal justice system that Trump signed into law during the lame-duck session.
Hooks said they’ll keep searching for nontraditional, unexpected partners. Koch-backed groups have been partnering with liberal entities on everything from protecting the “dreamers” to accelerating the end of the war in Afghanistan. “It's not just Van Jones, but I’ll tell you what: It does take some risk takers like Van Jones to say, ‘Hey, this stuff works,’” Hooks explained. “In a sense, all of us have had to make a choice, right? What do we care more about? Do we care more about helping people to actually break barriers or some of these old attachments? I think more and more people are making the right choice on that.”
-- Koch remains a boogeyman to the left, of course, as well as an occasional punching bag of the president. Several Democratic presidential candidates mention “the Koch brothers” in their stump speeches, including top-tier contenders like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Hooks acknowledges that. He declined to detail private conversations but said he and his team have been in touch with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. “We’re talking to more people than we've ever talked to,” he said. “We haven't totally built that trust yet [with Democrats], but there’s a willingness to engage.”
-- Stand Together, the new entity, still plans to stay out of the presidential race in 2020, and, unlike in the past, there is no public target for spending on policy and politics in the coming election cycle. I asked Hooks how they’re going to deal with liberal ideas that have been gaining traction, such as Warren’s proposed wealth tax of 2 percent a year on all incomes over $50 million, Sanders’s Medicare-for-all plan or Andrew Yang’s advocacy for a universal basic income.
“It's not as though we don't care about those issues. We do. We just want to be effective in how we engage on them,” Hooks said. “I think the best way to challenge a bad idea is with a good idea. In the absence of good ideas, people are prone to gravitate towards bad ideas — even ideas that have been proven failures for decades every time they’ve been tried. None of these are new ideas. We’ll continue to make the case for what we see as the best policy in every arena where that case needs to be made, but ultimately there's a real problem that people are concerned about, and we think the best way to address that is by offering an actionable alternative. That’s what this future initiative does.”
-- There has been a degree of turnover inside the network, though how much is unclear because the identities of donors and their levels of support are closely guarded. Some donors who are unhappy with the general shift have diverted their political spending to other groups or otherwise drifted from the network, but new supporters who like the less partisan endeavors have also gotten involved for the first time. Officials said more people are now members than ever before, meaning they’ll give at least $100,000 this year, and there was higher attendance at the January gathering than any previous meeting.
“Stand Together ought to be the most important movement in the country, and we would love to find a way to help make that happen,” wrote Silicon Valley venture capitalist Ben Horowitz, who attended the January seminar, in an email.
Forbes estimates Koch’s net worth at $50 billion, making him the 11th richest person in the world. His son Chase, who is in his early 40s and appears more interested in transforming education and business than politicking, has taken on an increasingly active role. Based in Wichita, where he works for his dad as an executive at Koch Industries, he oversees a New Leaders Initiative focused on engaging younger donors from emerging fields. About 60 of them gathered for a recent weekend together in Santa Fe, N.M.
Hooks said longtime boosters have been supportive. “We really always try to push the envelope, and the response has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic,” he said. “People are fired up. Everybody is seeing the same studies and the same evidence of the challenges that we are facing. At the same time, a lot of people are seeing a ton of upside from the changes that are happening in society. This is a critical point for us: We want to be very sober-minded about the magnitude of the challenge, but we also want to recognize that with change comes tremendous benefits.”
-- Hooks, 41, has emerged as a trusted confidant of Koch and doesn’t come from the partisan background that past people in his position did. After eight years as executive director of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, which receives significant Koch funding, Hooks became president of the Charles Koch Foundation in 2014 and has taken on growing responsibilities.
During our sit-down, he said that the declining life expectancy numbers over the past three years have profoundly shaped internal conservations about what Stand Together should focus on. The most recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that life expectancy in the United States declined again in 2017 for the third year in a row. This appalling performance has not been seen in the United States since 1915 through 1918. That included World War I and a flu pandemic that killed 675,000 Americans. In other developed nations, life expectancy has marched steadily upward for decades. Drug overdoses, the opioid epidemic and rising suicide rates are major factors.
“Those aren't an anomaly. For a significant percentage of people in the country, the odds are now against them. They’re likely to do worse than their parents. That's never happened before in our country,” Hooks said. “This is the biggest challenge that’s facing our country. Not just in a generation, but in generations. … We've decided, as a philanthropic community, that we need to put everything we've got behind addressing this challenge, and the way that we do that is by helping to activate as many people across the country as possible. …
“When you look at the problems that we're trying to address, a lot of the reason that we see life expectancy going down is because people left behind tend to turn to drugs or alcohol, and they're dying,” he added. “If we're going to solve this problem, if we're going to help make sure that too many people aren't left behind, you've got to address addiction. … It's not going to happen by the stroke of a pen in Washington. To address a problem as significant and as complex as this, it’s going to take bottom-up efforts. And it's not going to happen overnight.”
Last year, the Stand Together Foundation gave money to 117 organizations. This year, 140 organizations are getting grants. Ten new partnerships will be announced later today in Atlanta. There are plans to add an additional 70 recipients each year. One of the biggest partners is a group called the Phoenix that helps recovering addicts by using physical fitness. Koch officials helped the group devise a plan to scale up into new cities.
-- Another project is called Cafe Momentum. It started as a Dallas restaurant that employs formerly incarcerated young people and teaches them job skills. Now it’s expanding into Nashville. Shaun Alexander, the former running back for the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins, learned about the concept when he attended his first Koch seminar in January. He made some introductions and helped forge a partnership with the NFL. Alexander dreams of a Cafe Momentum in all 32 cities with a professional football team.
Alexander said he and his wife were impressed by the “business-like approach to social change” that they saw from Koch in Palm Springs. “They vet thousands of organizations that have touched families impacted by unfortunate situations,” he said in a statement. “We immediately got involved because we want to be teammates with like-minded people who are committed to unleashing the potential of everyone.”
-- Hooks said improving the criminal justice system, and increasing life expectancy, requires pulling multiple levers across government, higher education, business and community organizations. “We have a tendency to see these huge problems in society and to think that the only way to solve them is from some heavy-handed, top-down, one-size-fits-all approach,” he said. “People think some big institution is going to solve big problems, whether it’s big philanthropy, big government, big what-have-you. But everything that we’ve learned has shown that this is not actually how you solve these big problems. Social progress all happens one individual at a time. It’s one social entrepreneur helping a community, finding a better way to do something and then having that catch fire and gain momentum and become a nationwide movement.”
They are also supporting research on drug policy at Ohio State University to help states decriminalize marijuana in the smartest ways possible. “A lot of states now are beginning to decriminalize marijuana so a lot of people who shouldn't go to jail are no longer going to jail,” he said. “That's where our comprehensive strategy comes in. Certainly, government has a role. Ensuring good government policy is part of the strategy that we bring to any one of these problems.”
GET SMART FAST:
More than a dozen states have passed legislation to heighten environmental protections in recent months because the Trump administration is rolling back enforcement. Hawaii, New York and California have moved to ban a widely used agricultural pesticide linked to neurological problems in children. Michigan and New Jersey are pushing to restrict a ubiquitous class of chemical compounds that have turned up in drinking water. Colorado and New Mexico have adopted new policies targeting greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel drilling and limiting where these operations can take place. And more than a dozen states have adopted policies that would force automakers to produce cars that are more efficient than required by federal standards. (Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin)
Lori Lightfoot (D) will be sworn in as mayor of Chicago this morning. A former prosecutor who won her runoff with little assistance from the Cook County Democratic Party, she will be the city's first black female and first openly gay mayor. (Mark Guarino)
- U.S. Navy sailors ranked female crew members and created sexually explicit lists that named the sex acts they wanted to perform with them. Two sailors found the lists stored on an internal computer network aboard the USS Florida, which last year integrated female crew members. (Deanna Paul)
Courts are analyzing the constitutionality of “revenge porn” statutes, which have passed in 45 states. Opponents of the laws argue they violate the First Amendment, while supporters say there is a compelling government interest in protecting the private information of citizens. (Deanna Paul)
Trump is considering pardons for several members of the military who have been accused or convicted of war crimes. The president's shortlist includes Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, who was accused of shooting unarmed civilians and killing a captive enemy with a knife in Iraq. (New York Times)
The CIA will hold its annual ceremony tomorrow to recognize fallen agents by adding stars to its Memorial Wall. But the addition of a star for Ranya Abdelsayed, who killed herself in 2013 while serving at a CIA base in Afghanistan, has intensified a debate over the criteria for agents to qualify for the wall. (Ian Shapira)
Austin Eubanks, who survived the Columbine shooting when he was 17, was found dead at his home. Eubanks struggled with opioid addiction after the shooting, during which he was shot and lost his best friend, and later became an advocate for fighting addiction. No foul play is suspected. (CNN)
Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mom, is running for Miami-Dade County commissioner to push for gun violence prevention. Fulton, a former housing agency employee, is one of three “Mothers of the Movement” — a group of mothers who’ve lost children to high-profile gun violence incidents — who have launched bids to hold office. (Meagan Flynn)
A transgender woman who was attacked in a Dallas parking lot earlier this year was found dead. Police said they have no evidence linking Muhlaysia Booker’s killing to the earlier attack, which was investigated as a possible hate crime. (New York Times)
A shooting game, popular in Google and Apple’s app stores, gives players a mission to shoot a journalist. The game, which has a combined 12 million reviews on both platforms, offers different scenarios for players to kill a number of characters, including a reporter. (Angela Fritz)
- Brooks Koepka won the PGA Championship, his fourth major title in eight attempts. The victory made Koepka the first male player to hold back-to-back titles in two separate major events simultaneously. (Cindy Boren)
We now know who ends up on the Iron Throne. “Game of Thrones,” HBO’s hit show, ended after 10 years and eight seasons with a surprising choice for the new leader of Westeros. (David Malitz has all the spoilers.)
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Trump called Rep. Justin Amash a “loser” after the Michigan Republican became the first GOP member of Congress to say the president “engaged in impeachable conduct.” Felicia Sonmez and Paul Kane report: “In morning tweets, Trump said he was ‘never a fan’ of Amash, ‘a total lightweight who opposes me and some of our great Republican ideas and policies just for the sake of getting his name out there through controversy.’ ... Republican leaders on Sunday joined Trump in criticizing Amash. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) called Amash’s comments ‘disturbing,’ arguing that the lawmaker is ‘not a criminal attorney.'”
-- Former Deutsche Bank employees said that entities linked to Trump and Jared Kushner repeatedly set off alarms about suspicious lending, but they were never reported to the authorities. The New York Times’s David Enrich reports: “The transactions, some of which involved Mr. Trump’s now-defunct foundation, set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity, according to five current and former bank employees. Compliance staff members who then reviewed the transactions prepared so-called suspicious activity reports that they believed should be sent to a unit of the Treasury Department that polices financial crimes. But executives at Deutsche Bank, which has lent billions of dollars to the Trump and Kushner companies, rejected their employees’ advice. The reports were never filed with the government. The nature of the transactions was not clear. At least some of them involved money flowing back and forth with overseas entities or individuals, which bank employees considered suspicious. … Former Deutsche Bank employees said the decision not to report the Trump and Kushner transactions reflected the bank’s generally lax approach to money laundering laws. ...
“In the summer of 2016, Deutsche Bank’s software flagged a series of transactions involving the real estate company of Mr. Kushner, now a senior White House adviser. [Tammy] McFadden, a longtime anti-money laundering specialist in Deutsche Bank’s Jacksonville office, said she had reviewed the transactions and found that money had moved from Kushner Companies to Russian individuals. She concluded that the transactions should be reported to the government — in part because federal regulators had ordered Deutsche Bank, which had been caught laundering billions of dollars for Russians, to toughen its scrutiny of potentially illegal transactions. Ms. McFadden drafted a suspicious activity report and compiled a small bundle of documents to back up her decision. … Ms. McFadden and some of her colleagues said they believed the report had been killed to maintain the private-banking division’s strong relationship with Mr. Kushner.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- A rocket landed inside Iraq’s Green Zone near the U.S. Embassy. Mustafa Salim and Tamer El-Ghobashy report: “The rocket landed less than a mile from the U.S. Embassy near Iraq’s parliament building and caused no injuries or serious damage, a security official said. But the timing of the launch has increased worries in Iraq that it will be drawn into a conflict between two of its closest allies, the United States and Iran. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but suspicion among Iraqi officials and Western diplomats fell on one of the Shiite militias that draw their strength from Iranian support. Last week, the State Department took the extraordinary step of ordering all nonessential staff to leave the embassy and consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil, citing an alleged threat from Iranian proxies in the country.”
-- Trump warned Iran not to mess with the United States. “If Iran wants to fight, that will be the official end of Iran,” Trump tweeted on Sunday. “Never threaten the United States again!” From Seung Min Kim: “That appeared to be a considerable shift in tone from the president’s brief remarks at the White House on Thursday, when he responded ’I hope not’ after being asked whether the United States and Iran were headed toward war. … But his threatening language echoes rhetoric he used against North Korea in 2017, when he warned of ‘fire and fury’ against the regime of Kim Jong Un before ultimately holding direct talks with the North Korean leader in Singapore and Vietnam.”
-- Former CIA director John Brennan will brief House Democrats tomorrow on the situation in Iran. The Trump critic will talk to Democrats at a private weekly caucus meeting. (AP)
-- Islamic State prisoners rioted in a Tajikistan prison, killing three prison guards and 29 other inmates. From Reuters: Tajikistan’s Justice Ministry “said the riot broke out late Sunday at the prison in Vakhdat, about six miles east of the capital, Dushanbe, after militants armed with knives killed the guards and five fellow prisoners ... Security forces responded to the violence, killing 24 militants and restoring order at the prison, which holds 1,500 inmates, the ministry added.”
-- John Walker Lindh, known as the “American Taliban,” will be released from federal prison on Thursday, three years before the end of his 20-year sentence after pleading guilty to supporting the militants who harbored al-Qaeda as it planned the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Alex Horton and Michael Brice-Saddler report: “Lindh and other incarcerated American supporters of the Islamic State present a quandary with growing urgency: Is the United States prepared to try to rehabilitate extremists and foreign fighters, and welcome them back into society? ‘There is very close to nothing in terms of de-radicalizing programs at the federal level,’ said Bennett Clifford, a research fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. ‘The current model is hoping long prison sentences of material support of terrorism will be a deterrent.’ … With Lindh’s release, and inmates with Islamic State ties nearing the end of their sentences, there may be a new focus on culling extremist beliefs before prisoners head back into civil society. But time is nearly up for many.”
-- The Trump administration intends to announce next month a series of economic proposals tied to its Israeli-Palestinian peace package during a summit in Bahrain. Anne Gearan reports: “In announcing the session, the Trump administration did not describe plans for Palestinian self-governance or a future state. The plan developed by Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner is expected to call for a multibillion-dollar package of loans, grants and investment for Palestinians and in regions affected by the conflict, but to stop short of endorsing a separate, fully sovereign state alongside Israel. The second half of the plan, dealing with ‘political’ issues, will follow at an unspecified date, the administration said. … By divorcing the economic underpinnings of the plan from the most sensitive questions about the future of the region, the Trump administration may be attempting to prevent it from becoming dead on arrival.”
-- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears headed to reelection, according to exit polls in the world’s largest democracy. Joanna Slater reports: “Official results are to be released Thursday. Exit polls in this nation of more than 1.3 billion people have a patchy record: Past surveys have both underestimated and overestimated the strength of the winning party. But Sunday’s exit polls suggested that Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies would win a majority of seats in the lower house of Parliament. … The exit polls seemed to indicate that Modi’s campaign strategy had paid dividends. Seven polls suggested that the BJP and its allies would garner between 287 and 340 seats in the lower house, well above the 272-seat threshold for a majority. Two exit polls predicted that Modi’s coalition would fall short of that mark. The polls showed the main opposition Congress party and its allies winning between 70 and 164 seats.”
-- A Swedish grandfather succeeded in getting his orphaned grandchildren home from Syria. The Wall Street Journal’s Isabel Coles reports: “Ibrahim’s parents, both from Scandinavia, joined Islamic State at the height of its power and were killed as U.S.-backed forces battered the group’s last redoubts in Syria this year. Swedish authorities, under pressure from humanitarian organizations and the children’s tenacious grandfather, Patricio Galvez, earlier this month evacuated the orphans from a camp in Syria. … The joy Mr. Galvez felt when the children finally made it to Iraq quickly collided with the reality of caring for seven young children. … Galvez looked exhausted as he contended with tantrums and cases of chickenpox. ‘It’s really difficult,’ the 50-year-old said. ‘There are so many of them.’”
-- At least 11 people were killed during a gun attack at a bar in Brazil. Police reported that seven gunmen attacked the establishment in Belem. (AP)
-- Al Jazeera suspended two of its reporters over the production of an offensive video that claimed the Holocaust has been misrepresented by Jews. Images of Nazi persecution of Jews were overlaid with narration asking: “Why is there a focus only on them?” (The Guardian)
THE TRADE WARS:
-- China experts fear that escalating trade tensions between Washington and Beijing will spill over into other points of contention between the countries, including Taiwan and the South China Sea. Paul Sonne reports: “Underpinning the growing strain is a sense among many Americans, harnessed by Trump during the 2016 presidential election, that China is not playing fair, and the time has come for Washington to shift the balance. … Still, the United States and China have developed a complex and robust economic relationship that dates to the normalization of diplomatic ties four decades ago. … That reality raises a broader question about the Trump administration’s approach to the world’s second-biggest economy: How can the United States execute full-fledged ‘great power competition’ with China, the likes of which Washington has not seen since the Cold War, when the nations remain so economically intertwined?”
-- A disease sweeping China’s hog populations is likely to hit the pocketbooks of Americans who eat meat. The Wall Street Journal’s Heather Haddon and Jacob Bunge report: “African swine fever, harmless to humans but deadly to pigs, has decimated Chinese hog counts, constraining supplies in the world’s top market for pork. Up to 200 million Chinese hogs will be lost as the disease spreads and herds are culled to prevent it from spreading further, U.S. meat-industry officials estimate.”
-- Chinese President Xi Jinping visited a rare earth minerals facility, one of the few goods not hit by U.S. tariffs. China produces 90 percent of the world’s rare earth minerals, which are used in the production of high-tech equipment, such as electric vehicles. Experts in the country are suggesting that China could ban rare earth exports to the U.S. as a way to punish Trump for imposing additional tariffs on other Chinese products. (South China Morning Post)
-- Google has suspended some of its business with Huawei as the Trump administration seeks to blacklist the Chinese telecommunications giant. Reuters’s Angela Moon reports: “The move could hobble Huawei’s smartphone business outside China as the tech giant will immediately lose access to updates to Google’s Android operating system. The next version of its Android smartphones will also lose access to popular services including the Google Play Store and Gmail and YouTube apps.”
-- Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who’s been under house arrest in Vancouver for the past six months in a six-bedroom, multimillion-dollar house, complained about the nature of her detention and said she's “restricted to a limited space.” This has prompted a backlash in Canada because two Canadians have been held in solitary confinement in China for a similar length of time. Reuters’s Tyler Choi reports: “The two Canadians have no access to lawyers or bail, are questioned every morning, afternoon and evening, and are held in a room where the lights are not allowed to be turned off at night, according to Canadian diplomats. … It was not even clear where they have been held. The diplomats who have met them were taken to a police station and allowed to meet them there, rather than being taken to the actual location of their detention.”
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- Trump, who has employed countless undocumented workers and not consistently complied with immigration law, said on Fox News last night he wants to let some people off the hook when it comes to using E-Verify. That's the system that checks whether employees are legally eligible to work in the United States. Seung Min Kim reports: “Trump said a new White House plan to overhaul portions of the legal immigration system could ‘possibly’ include the use of E-Verify. But he also said that the verification system could be overly onerous on certain employers, such as farmers, who Trump said were ‘not equipped’ to use it. ‘I used it when I built the hotel down the road on Pennsylvania Avenue,’ he said, referring to the Trump International Hotel in Washington. ‘I use a very strong E-Verify system. And we would go through 28 people — 29, 30 people — before we found one that qualified.’ He continued: ‘So it’s a very tough thing to ask a farmer to go through that. So in a certain way, I speak against myself, but you also have to have a world of some practicality.’”
-- Kevin McAleenan, the acting homeland security secretary, said the Trump administration will not send migrants to Florida and “sanctuary cities” across the country because it wouldn’t be an “effective use” of resources, though he acknowledged they previously planned to do so. Felicia Sonmez reports: “McAleenan said John Sanders, the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, made the decision to reverse course on Saturday. Sanders issued a statement on Saturday night indicating that CBP has ‘no plans to transport people in our custody to northern or coastal border facilities,’ including Florida. … ‘Our transportation is based on operational necessity, capacity to process safely. That’s what we’re doing,’ McAleenan said. Some migrants have already been moved from Texas to San Diego, which has a ‘high-capacity Border Patrol sector,’ he added.”
-- In 2017, former U.S. Border Patrol chief Mark Morgan, now Trump’s pick to lead ICE, wrote a bitter email to McAleenan, the man who fired him, telling him the Trump administration was “heartless and void of any decency and compassion” for firing him. Axios’s Alayna Treene, Jonathan Swan and David Nather report: “‘I am being removed in the name of politics — and politics at its worst. … I will not have them believe I willingly left under these circumstances,’ Morgan wrote in one of the emails to McAleenan. In a separate email, he wrote: ‘This is wrong on many levels. I have several questions but I need to process through a bit more.’ The reason for Morgan's removal isn't clear from the emails, and no official reason was given at the time of his resignation.”
-- A border agent used slurs before allegedly hitting a migrant with his truck. Tim Elfrink reports: “In November 2017, U.S. Border Patrol Agent Matthew Bowen fumed about the humane treatment his agency was expected to give migrants who had illegally crossed into the country. ‘PLEASE let us take the gloves off trump!’ he texted another agent who, at the time, was facing criminal charges for shooting an unarmed Mexican teenager through the border fence. Migrants, Bowen suggested, are ‘disgusting subhuman s--- unworthy of being kindling for a fire.’ Less than two weeks later, prosecutors say, Bowen hit one such migrant with his truck … In the dozens of texts introduced in an April 4 filing, Bowen uses racial slurs and insults like ‘s---bags’ to refer to migrants. He often used the word ‘tonk,’ which some agents claim is an innocent acronym, the Republic reported, and others say is a slur derived from the sound of hitting an immigrant on the head with a flashlight.”
-- A kindergartner in Georgia sees his mom daily through a video camera because she was deported to Mexico after Trump’s election. His dad doesn’t think he made a mistake in voting for Trump. The Los Angeles’s Times Jenny Jarvie reports: “Jason Rochester and Cecilia Gonzalez have spent the last 16 months raising their 6-year-old son from opposite sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Like so many separated families, the couple have experienced the years of Trump’s presidency as a grim journey of restless nights and tearful goodbyes. But unlike many in their predicament, Jason voted for Trump. … Sometimes he feels stupid or duped or betrayed. But then he thinks back to how he didn’t vote for himself personally but for the greater good — for what he sees as the ‘noble’ cause of outlawing abortion. ‘Was it a bad decision for my family? Yes,’ he said. ‘Was it a bad decision for our country? I can’t say. Sometimes you can’t just think about yourself. You have to think about the broader picture.… I feel like God will bless my decision.’”
-- A Dominican man died on the Canadian border in an attempt to cross over to the U.S. to be reunited with his 11-year-old daughter. Selena Ross reports: The man, Wilson Reynoso Vega, “flew from Santo Domingo to Toronto. He found his way to the border between Quebec and New York and paid a smuggler to help him slip into the United States. He never made it. Authorities think he became disoriented walking through the cold, dark, marshy woods on the Canadian side and drowned. His death April 16 comes as Canada asks for U.S. help in hardening the border against a rising northward flow of asylum seekers — an effort that critics warn would make tragedy here more likely.”
THE ABORTION WARS:
-- Trump became the latest high-profile Republican to distance himself from the recent passage of strict abortion laws, even though he identified himself as “strongly pro-life.” Amy Goldstein and Seung Min Kim report: “Without referring specifically to an Alabama law enacted last week that makes performing abortions a felony unless a pregnancy seriously risks a woman’s health, Trump reiterated his position that abortion should be legal following rape or incest. In a series of tweets shortly before midnight on Saturday, the president wrote that his view is ‘the same position taken by Ronald Reagan.’ … Trump tweeted his view two days after Congress’s top two Republicans also distanced themselves from the Alabama law, even though they oppose abortion.”
-- Trump’s tweet invoking Reagan overlooked the fact that the late Republican president signed a relatively liberal abortion law while serving as governor of California. Alex Horton reports: “In 1967, nearly six years before Roe v. Wade went to the Supreme Court, newly minted California Gov. Ronald Reagan signed one of the most liberal abortion laws in the country. The Therapeutic Abortion Act allowed for pregnancy terminations if the mother was in physical or mental distress as a result, or if the pregnancy was a product of rape or incest. … Reagan regretted the legislation, which his aides said did better as a compromise than as a bill that would have been overturned as a veto … In a way, Reagan also played a role in protecting legalized abortion even after he left office. His first judicial appointee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor, led the effort to uphold Roe v. Wade in a 1992 case over restrictive abortion laws in Pennsylvania.”
-- Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said he does not support Alabama's new law. “I believe that there ought to be exceptions. I'm pro-life, but there ought to be exceptions for rape and incest and where the life of the mother is at risk,” he said on NBC's “Meet the Press.”
-- Some Republicans fear that recent focus on issues like abortion and immigration could distract voters from the strong economy during next year’s elections. The New York Times’s Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns report: “Such divisive and destabilizing stands — driven by Mr. Trump’s political impulses and by emboldened conservatives — could end up alienating swing voters and could help Democrats who might otherwise be on the defensive over the nation’s relative prosperity, politicians and strategists in both parties said. And the longstanding verity that Americans vote with their pocketbooks may be tested in 2020 like never before.”
-- Hundreds in Alabama protested the state’s abortion ban. The AP’s Kim Chandler reports: “Marchers on Sunday said the measures have energized supporters of legalized abortion, and they say they are digging in for a legal and political fight. Along the route they took, the protesters passed by scattered counterdemonstrators raising signs against abortion. … Similar demonstrations were held in Birmingham and Huntsville on Sunday. Amanda Reyes, who runs Yellowhammer Fund, a nonprofit that provides funding to help low-income women obtain abortions, said donations have begun streaming in since passage of the Alabama bill.”
-- The successful launch of Joe Biden’s campaign is challenging the conventional wisdom that Democratic voters want their presidential nominee to pull the country to the left. Annie Linskey and Michael Scherer report: “Biden defends his support for the 1994 crime bill that many blame for mass incarceration of blacks. He declares that most Americans are ‘satisfied’ with a private insurance system reviled by the left. He justifies the North American Free Trade Agreement as a pact that ‘made sense at the moment.’ And to the dismay of many liberals, he won’t call for a study of slavery reparations, saying the nation has other ways to fight racism. ... At its heart, Biden’s campaign is a gamble that his rivals are wrong in seeing the current Democratic Party as liberal, angry and ready for revolution — a case he made in unusually pointed terms at a rally in Philadelphia on Saturday. … For Biden’s team, the Democrats jockeying for ever more dramatic solutions to the nation’s problems are missing the point. ... A January poll by the Pew Research Center found that 58 percent of Republicans wanted their party to become more conservative. In contrast, 53 percent of Democrats wanted their party to become more moderate.”
-- Trump is scrambling to reverse a Rust Belt slide as Biden gains supporters in the area. Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports: “Trump will travel to Pennsylvania Monday for a rally that comes after recent visits to Wisconsin and Michigan, two other states at the center of his reelection strategy. Those appearances are just the most public display of his team’s efforts to fortify his standing. … [The] Trump campaign recently completed a 17-state polling project that concluded the president trails Joe Biden in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, according to two people briefed on the results. America First Action, the principal pro-Trump super PAC, is expected to conduct its own polling and focus groups in Pennsylvania and Michigan later this summer.”
-- During a Fox News town hall last night, Pete Buttigieg called out network hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham, saying they’re not “always there in good faith.” Amy B Wang reports: “‘There is a reason why anybody has to swallow hard and think twice before participating in this media ecosystem,’ Buttigieg said. … He [said] that many people who tune into the network are doing so in good faith and that he wants to be willing to meet voters wherever they are. ‘There are a lot of Americans who my party can’t blame if they are ignoring our message, because they will never hear it if we don’t go on [Fox] and talk about it,’ Buttigieg said Sunday.”
The South Bend, Ind., mayor pushed back on host Chris Wallace’s questions about women’s right to terminate third-trimester pregnancies: “He tried to avoid answering at first, saying he didn’t want to get into ‘hypotheticals’ that were a setup. When Wallace pointed out that his question wasn’t hypothetical, saying 6,000 women have third-trimester abortions each year, Buttigieg noted that that represented less than 1 percent of all women who have abortions, before responding specifically. ‘We’re talking about women who have perhaps chosen a name, women who have purchased a crib,’ he said. Those women, he continued, probably had been expecting to carry their babies to term but had received medical news that forced them ‘to make an impossible, unthinkable choice.’”
-- Back in South Bend, residents are starting to notice their mayor's absence. Buttigieg has been out of town for nearly half the days in the past three months, writes the South Bend Tribune's Jeff Parrott: “Over the four-month span, Buttigieg has or will have been to New York city at least 10 times, Los Angeles and New Hampshire five times, and made four trips each to Washington, D.C., and Iowa. Lis Smith, his campaign’s top communications adviser, has said she’s tried to 'get him everywhere' in order to boost his name recognition with voters.”
-- Buttigieg, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) have all made pilgrimages to Plains, Ga., to visit Jimmy Carter as they look to re-create the magic of his 1976 insurgency. The AP’s Bill Barrow reports: “It’s quite a turnabout for a man who largely receded from party politics after his presidency, often without being missed by his party’s leaders in Washington, where he was an outsider even as a White House resident.”
-- Beto O’Rourke is stocking his campaign with Obama and Clinton alums. Politico’s David Siders and Alex Thompson report: “Lauren Brainerd, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s field director in 2018, has been hired as national organizing director. And Lise Clavel, who worked in former Vice President Joe Biden’s office as director of public engagement and for Barack Obama's 2012 reelection, has been named states director … O’Rourke’s recent hires come after the departure of Becky Bond and Zack Malitz, two senior strategists who worked on O’Rourke’s Senate campaign and Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential effort ... Their exits, along with the arrival of Obama and Clinton alums in leadership positions, drew skepticism from some progressives about the influence of establishment forces on O’Rourke’s campaign.”
-- Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper will unveil his foreign policy platform today in a speech to Chicago's Council on Global Affairs. During an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” Hickenlooper slammed Trump’s foreign policy as “isolationist and reckless” but added that some of his fellow Democrats “would have the United States withdraw from global engagement.” (ABC News)
-- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said she won’t use America’s detention system for immigrants if she’s elected president. “They don’t need to be incarcerated,” she said during a CBS “Face the Nation” interview. “If they are given a lawyer and given a process, they will follow it. They can go into the community in the way we used to handle these cases under the Department of Justice.” (Politico)
-- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is embracing his image on the left of being the “Grim Reaper” to power his reelection bid in Kentucky. Politico’s Burgess Everett reports: “Most members of Congress don’t run for reelection as the opposition party’s biggest foe, but that’s exactly what he’s doing. The move is likely to help McConnell ward off the kind of conservative primary challenge he’s faced in the past. And it fits neatly with the national strategy he’s helped devise for his party heading into 2020, presenting the GOP as a bulwark against socialism even as Senate Republicans appear to have no real legislative agenda. So when he hears liberals complain about him killing their priorities on health care, the environment and gun control, McConnell can’t help but crack a smile.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump started the day off by pushing back on the New York Times story about his relationship with Deutsche Bank:
....fashioned, but true. When you don’t need or want money, you don’t need or want banks. Banks have always been available to me, they want to make money. Fake Media only says this to disparage, and always uses unnamed sources (because their sources don’t even exist)......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2019
....Now the new big story is that Trump made a lot of money and buys everything for cash, he doesn’t need banks. But where did he get all of that cash? Could it be Russia? No, I built a great business and don’t need banks, but if I did they would be there...and DeutscheBank......— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2019
.....was very good and highly professional to deal with - and if for any reason I didn’t like them, I would have gone elsewhere....there was always plenty of money around and banks to choose from. They would be very happy to take my money. Fake News!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 20, 2019
A former top adviser to John Kelly when he was DHS secretary reacted to the news that Trump may be pardoning several military members who were accused or convicted of war crimes:
I will hammer on this every day until it is stopped. I sincerely hope leaders at the Pentagon and in the administration convince him of how dangerous & damaging these pardons would be and get him to change his mind. Not just on Memorial Day but ever. https://t.co/wCajuPYVsZ— David Lapan (@DaveLapanDC) May 19, 2019
A presidential historian tweeted this Watergate-era cartoon from The Washington Post:
In this 1974 Herblock cartoon, Nixon says, "Listen, are you going to be loyal to me or to that (expletive deleted) Constitution?" pic.twitter.com/9G93IFm4zb— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) May 18, 2019
Trump said Fox News was “wasting airtime” by covering Buttigieg:
....who got them there. Chris Wallace said, “I actually think, whether you like his opinions or not, that Mayor Pete has a lot of substance...fascinating biography.” Gee, he never speaks well of me - I like Mike Wallace better...and Alfred E. Newman will never be President!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 19, 2019
Yet the Fox anchor hosting the forum said this:
“I’ve gotta tell ya, and you can feel it, this is a hot ticket. More people have shown up for this town hall than any of our previous ones,” Chris Wallace says at start of Pete Buttigieg town hall, shortly after President Trump rebuked Fox News for airing it.— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) May 19, 2019
Elizabeth Warren responded to a comedian's joke:
DM me and let’s figure this out.— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) May 19, 2019
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee won plaudits in the AOC primary:
.@JayInslee’s climate plan is the most serious comprehensive one to address our crisis in the 2020 field.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) May 18, 2019
It meets key marks:
✅ Big enough
✅ Fast enough
✅ Economically stimulating for working people
✅ Acknowledges injustice w/ an eye to make communities whole https://t.co/C7nyEsdUxk
Biden's deputy campaign manager shared a picture of the Rocky statue before the former vice president’s rally in Philadelphia:
A Post reporter drew some comparisons between this old Time cover and “Game of Thrones”:
Was about to make fun of this old Time cover, but then remembered how two powerful families were wiped out by an unpredictable interloper, so... pic.twitter.com/URUcQle0sa— Dave Weigel (@daveweigel) May 19, 2019
With summer arriving soon, the New Yorker shared this warning:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- The New York Times, “‘They Were Conned’: How Reckless Loans Devastated a Generation of Taxi Drivers,” by Brian M. Rosenthal: “Over the past year, a spate of suicides by taxi drivers in New York City has highlighted in brutal terms the overwhelming debt and financial plight of medallion owners. All along, officials have blamed the crisis on competition from ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft. But a New York Times investigation found much of the devastation can be traced to a handful of powerful industry leaders who steadily and artificially drove up the price of taxi medallions, creating a bubble that eventually burst. … These business practices generated huge profits for bankers, brokers, lawyers, investors, fleet owners and debt collectors. … But the methods stripped immigrant families of their life savings, crushed drivers under debt they could not repay and engulfed an industry that has long defined New York. More than 950 medallion owners have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Times analysis of court records. Thousands more are barely hanging on.”
-- HuffPost, “When The Far Right Took Over Brazil, Its Only LGBTQ Congressman Fled For His Life,” by Travis Waldron: “In January, weeks after far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took control of the world’s fourth-largest democracy, [Jean] Wyllys suddenly announced his intention to leave the country. He had just won reelection in October … His decision to flee was a gut-punch to a splintered leftist movement and to already-marginalized communities that feared what Bolsonaro and his rabid, right-wing supporters might do to them and Brazil’s democratic institutions. … Wyllys became the country’s most prominent political exile since its return to democratic rule three decades ago. ‘The causes and the fights I stand for, they will be better if I’m alive,’ Wyllys said.”
-- The Wall Street Journal, "‘Playing Catch-Up in the Game of Life.’ Millennials Approach Middle Age in Crisis,” by Janet Adamy and Paul Overberg: “American millennials are approaching middle age in worse financial shape than every living generation ahead of them, lagging behind baby boomers and Generation X despite a decade of economic growth and falling unemployment. Hobbled by the financial crisis and recession that struck as they began their working life, Americans born between 1981 and 1996 have failed to match every other generation of young adults born since the Great Depression. They have less wealth, less property, lower marriage rates and fewer children, according to new data that compare generations at similar ages. Even with record levels of education, the troubles of millennials have delayed traditional adult milestones in ways expected to alter the nation’s demographic and economic contours through the end of the century.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Dozens walk out before Mike Pence's commencement address at Taylor University,” from USA Today: “Dozens of graduates and faculty at Taylor University walked out of graduation exercises Saturday morning minutes before the introduction of Vice President Mike Pence, who delivered the Christian liberal arts school's commencement address. In caps and gowns, the students and faculty rose and quietly walked down the aisle and out of the auditorium in the Kesler Student Activities Center at Taylor. The protest, planned and discussed prior to Saturday’s ceremony, comes after faculty and students at the nondenominational Christian liberal arts school debated the appropriateness of the vice president at the commencement ceremony.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Alice Johnson, great-grandmother who had sentence commuted by Trump, 'knew that God was going to get me out,’” from Fox News’s Victor Garcia: “‘I should have had some time in prison. I'm not saying that I was not guilty of committing a crime. I'm saying that the time did not fit the crime. The first thing that people say is if you do the crime, you should do the time. But my answer to that is that time should be fair and just based on the crime and not just rubber stamped,’ Johnson [said].” When asked what she’d like to say to Trump, Johnson said: “I hope that you're proud of the things that I've been able to accomplish, and I hope that to you will continue to be proud of the things that I will do for this nation, for other people to change the trajectory of how we look at prisoners, how we look at people. Thank you for seeing me as another human being and giving me a second chance in life.”
Trump will receive his intelligence briefing and later travel to Montoursville, Pa., for a campaign rally. Pence will travel to Florida to deliver remarks at an event promoting the USMCA before speaking to service members in Jacksonville's Naval Air Station.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I don’t think we can talk about who we are as people and what we owe to one another without talking about climate change. This problem doesn't get any easier based on whose side wins or loses an election. It’s about who has won life’s lottery and has the luxury of ignoring this issue, and who stands to lose everything.” — Apple CEO Tim Cook said his generation has failed young people during a commencement speech at Tulane University.
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- It might rain a little today, but the rest of the week will be warm and toasty. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Overall, the upcoming week should be a really good one weatherwise, with a blend of late spring and summerlike conditions. The two wrinkles are chances for storms this afternoon and perhaps Thursday. Otherwise, it’s generally dry and temperatures are mild to warm. Most days hit the summery 80s, but Tuesday and Wednesday feature more springlike 70s.”
-- The Nationals lost to the Cubs 6-5. (Jesse Dougherty)
-- Three freshman Democratic congresswomen from Virginia are in high demand to campaign for candidates for their state’s legislature in a year that has seen top leadership shaken by scandal. Jenna Portnoy reports: “Reps. Elaine Luria, Abigail Spanberger and Jennifer Wexton are busy fundraising and endorsing Democrats in their districts. It’s a mutually beneficial situation for the three, who face reelection in 2020. … Luria, Spanberger and Wexton provide a welcome respite from issues of race and sexual assault, and they remind Democratic voters what they can accomplish in the era of President Trump, party observers say. ‘You’ve got three guys who are in trouble and three women who are on fire,’ said Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Md.). ‘The freshman Virginia Democratic women are the success story this year at a time that there’s been some rough news for our party in Virginia.’”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Billionaire Robert Smith gave a phenomenal gift to one graduating college class, announcing during his commencement address that he will pay for an estimated $40 million in student loans:
Wow! Billionaire Robert F. Smith surprises @Morehouse graduates by announcing this morning his family will eliminate the student debt of the entire class of 2019 with a grant. #PayItForward #HBCU pic.twitter.com/BPEDBdqryu— Marcus Smith (@MarcusSmithKTLA) May 19, 2019
John Oliver explained why Americans should be keen on fixing the country's system for conducting death investigations:
Leslie Jones slammed the Alabama abortion bill during SNL's “Weekend Update”:
Paul Rudd also appeared on the show as Buttigieg during SNL's parody of “The View”:
Steve Kroft, the longtime "60 Minutes” reporter, announced his retirement:
Steve Kroft: “We end tonight’s broadcast on a personal note. After 50 years in journalism, 40 years at CBS News, and 30 years at 60 Minutes -- it doesn’t seem possible -- I have decided to retire.” https://t.co/yRmq2sM3hM pic.twitter.com/8AqSl7pvaP— 60 Minutes (@60Minutes) May 20, 2019
When life imitates art: