With Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: Most of the Democratic presidential candidates have now expressed at least some degree of support for impeaching President Trump in the aftermath of Bob Mueller’s address to the nation.

The latest example is the most surprising. Jay Inslee narrowly won a House seat in a suburban Seattle swing district in the 1998 midterms by running attack ads against the Republican incumbent, Rick White, for voting to open impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton. Speaking into the camera, Inslee said the debate over impeachment would mean “months and months of more mud and politics.”

“What the president did was wrong. He should be censured, not impeached,” Inslee said. “Rick White and Newt Gingrich should not be dragging us through this. Enough is enough. It's time to get on with the nation's business.”

Democrats broke with tradition and picked up five House seats that fall because voters felt like the GOP was focused too much on Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress and not enough on the issues that impacted their pocketbooks. This experience has shaped Inslee’s worldview. Now the governor of Washington state, waging a long shot bid for the presidency, he has been cautioning fellow liberals that the best way to remove Trump is at the ballot box next November. Until yesterday. On MSNBC, naturally, he threw caution to the wind.

“I believe the course he is on makes impeachment inevitable, and when that happens, I’m going to be fully supportive of it because the truth has to be obtained in this. There is no other option to preserve democracy,” Inslee told Andrea Mitchell. “The moment that he impedes this investigation, articles of impeachment need to be filed because that may be the only way to get to the bottom of this. There are so many potential depredations of this president. There are so many rocks that need to be turned over. The moment that they are impeded, then they needed to convert this to an impeachment inquiry. I’m glad that they’re being aggressive. Americans need that aggression in the pursuit of justice and truth. I believe that fervently.”

-- Inslee’s pivot came hours after John Hickenlooper announced that he, too, has changed his mind. The former Colorado governor described himself on CNN as an “extreme moderate” before adding that Mueller “laid the responsibility clearly at the doorstep of Congress.”

“I think we have to begin an impeachment inquiry,” Hickenlooper said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to impeach President Trump tomorrow, or maybe ever, but I think we do have an obligation to follow where the facts lead.”

-- Though Mueller said nothing new that wasn’t already in his report, except that he doesn’t want to testify on Capitol Hill, the special counsel’s nine-minute speech has proved to be a turning point as far as the 2020 conversation is concerned. For candidates trying to stand out in a field of 23, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to flatly reject impeachment proceedings, even as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi resists what she sees as a futile and self-destructive effort.

“I’m a lot closer today than I was yesterday,” Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) told NPR on Thursday, an evolution from his heretofore wait-and-see approach. “Mueller basically said that he would have indicted the president, but for the fact that the law would not allow it. … We may be left with no choice at this point but to impeach him.”

-- Two of his House colleagues who are also running for president have sharpened their language since Wednesday. “Prepare for impeachment. That's what I've told my colleagues,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said on MSNBC.

“Impeachment hearings should begin tomorrow,” Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) tweeted. “Mueller did his job. Now it’s time to do ours.”

-- Two senators who had previously declined to advocate for impeachment, Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), did so quickly after Mueller left the podium. “So far, President Trump has stonewalled Congress. In doing so, he has left us with only one option: for Congress to begin impeachment proceedings,” said Gillibrand.

Asked about impeachment a few days after the Mueller report was released last month, Booker told reporters that “there’s a lot more investigation that should go on before Congress comes to any conclusions like that.”

He tweeted on Wednesday: “Mueller’s statement makes it clear: Congress has a legal and moral obligation to begin impeachment proceedings immediately.”

Last week, Pete Buttigieg said during an event at The Washington Post that Trump “deserves impeachment” but said he would leave it to the House to decide the best way to handle things. After Mueller’s speech, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., tweeted: “This is as close to an impeachment referral as it gets.”

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) has also amped up her pro-impeachment rhetoric. “What Robert Mueller basically did was return an impeachment referral,” she tweeted. “We need to start impeachment proceedings. It's our constitutional obligation.”

-- It’s no coincidence that the only two Democrats who served in Congress when Republicans impeached Clinton have been among the most cautious about doing it again. But even they’ve signaled a degree of resignation or acceptance that this is what the base of their party wants.

Bernie Sanders, who was then in the House, literally stood behind Clinton on the South Lawn of the White House in December 1998 after he voted against impeachment. He’s repeatedly said that he worries impeaching Trump works to the president’s advantage and will help him get reelected. “The worry,” the senator from Vermont told Jake Tapper last week on CNN, “is if we spend all of our time worrying about Trump and we ignore the needs of the American people, what ordinary folks are going to say is: What about us?” 

On Wednesday, though, Sanders tweeted: “If the House Judiciary Committee deems it necessary, I will support their decision to open an impeachment inquiry.”

Joe Biden, who spoke passionately against impeaching Clinton as a senator from Delaware, did not mention impeachment during two appearances in Dallas following Mueller’s statement and ignored shouted questions from reporters. But his campaign released a statement that went further than he has before. “Vice President Biden agrees with Speaker Pelosi that no one would relish what would certainly be a divisive impeachment process, but that it may be unavoidable if this Administration continues on its path,” his spokesman said.

-- This tension can be viewed against the backdrop of a broader divide among Democrats about whether to work with Republicans or wage war against them. “Biden repeatedly touts the need to return to an era of bipartisan comity, saying that ‘compromise is not a dirty word’ and predicting that Republicans will have an ‘epiphany’ on bipartisanship after President Trump is out of office,” Matt Viser and Seung Min Kim note in today’s newspaper. “Others say Biden’s view is naive and harks back to an era of bipartisanship that no longer exists, rather than confronting the hardball tactics that have helped Republicans notch big political wins in recent years.”

-- Whippersnappers in the new Democratic majority like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), 29, are gung-ho to plunge ahead on impeachment while a veteran like Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), who has served in Congress for 26 years, says “This is a case where you need to drive with the emergency brake on.”

Because it’s such a seniority-driven caucus, the top leaders all lived through the trial by fire of the Clinton saga. This shaped indelibly the world views of Nancy Pelosi and others. Paul Kane explored the stark generation divide among House Democrats last week: “Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), who was in his 10th year in Congress in 1998, said that he thinks the Mueller report paints a solid picture that Trump obstructed justice. But the Clinton impeachment proved the futility of pursuing such a divisive act when the outcome was predetermined. Some people will say, ‘If he should be impeached, then impeach him,’’ said Pallone, who now chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. ‘I just know that, the way things are around here, we only have so many legislative days and so much that we can accomplish. I want to spend my time doing things that we can get done.’”

-- But the divide is as much experiential as generational. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is one of the oldest candidates in the presidential race, for example, but she was the first to call for Trump’s impeachment. This is perhaps because she was not in politics in 1998. She was a professor teaching bankruptcy law back then. “If he were anyone other than president of the United States, he would be in handcuffs and indicted,” Warren said on ABC’s “The View” yesterday.

She added that House Democrats ought to compel Mitch McConnell to hold an up-or-down vote in the Senate, even if it’s quixotic. “Put them on the record and make them live with those votes for the rest of their lives,” she said. “It's about the Constitution. It’s not only about this president, but it's about what are the rules for the next president and the next president?”

Compare that to her Senate colleague Michael Bennet’s comments during a televised town hall last night on CNN. After Yale Law School, where he was editor of the law review and met his wife, Bennet worked in the Clinton administration as a counsel to the deputy attorney general and then as an assistant U.S. attorney in Connecticut.

“If we go down the road tomorrow and impeach President Trump, we're actually giving him a favor,” Bennet said in Atlanta. “That's what he wants, to be able to say he was railroaded, and then to have the impeachment from the House go to the Senate where I guarantee you Mitch McConnell and the Republicans are not going to convict Donald Trump. They’re going to acquit Donald Trump, and then he's going to run for president saying he was acquitted. … I'm tired of losing to Mitch McConnell.”

-- To be sure, the 31 House Democrats up for reelection next year in districts Trump carried in 2016 face a very different political calculus than their counterparts who are seeking the nomination for president. With Congress on recess this week, our reporters deployed to take the pulse.

Mike DeBonis spent Wednesday shadowing Rep. Cheri Bustos in West Peoria, Ill.: “She dedicated a post office to a fallen Marine. She toured a mining equipment factory. And she spent time in a grocery store parking lot, quizzing voters about their concerns. Mueller didn’t come up once. Neither did impeachment. … Senior Democrats, including Bustos, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, fear blowback from ‘burned out’ swing-district voters who could upend their majority in 2020. ‘They see it as just more dysfunction in Washington,’ said Bustos. ‘The president’s going to be what the president is. And rather than just be critical of the president at every turn, what are we doing to make their lives better? What are we doing for this guy who makes $9 an hour and just got his health insurance yanked from him?’”

Rachael Bade went to Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, which Trump won by three percentage points in 2016 but where Democrats ousted a GOP incumbent in the midterms. During a 90-minute town hall in Yorktown on Tuesday night, constituents asked freshman Rep. Elaine Luria about veterans issues, gun control measures and climate change. “The word ‘impeachment’ wasn’t uttered once,” Bade reports. “‘It has not been something that’s been brought up a lot,’ Luria, a freshman who ousted a GOP incumbent last year, said in an interview. … At one point during the town hall, held in a predominantly African American church, … a constituent inquired about the Democratic Party’s plan to counter a president who was turning the country into a ‘dictatorship.’ Luria’s response: Take him out at the ballot box. ‘I think that if people have complaints about how we’re being governed, they should get out and they should vote,’ she said, prompting applause from the crowd.”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Trump’s surprise announcement last night of an escalating series of new tariffs on all imports from Mexico is likely to upend hopes for early congressional action on his proposed North American trade deal and trigger economic upheaval on both sides of the border. David J. Lynch and Kevin Sieff report: “Business leaders reacted with dismay to Trump’s statement Thursday that he would impose a new 5 percent tariff on all goods from Mexico beginning June 10 to force the Mexican government to take more aggressive actions to prevent Central American migrants from crossing its territory en route to the United States. If the administration determines that Mexican authorities have not done enough in response, the tariff would automatically jump to 10 percent on July 1 and then continue rising in 5 point increments at the start of each subsequent month until it reaches 25 percent on Oct. 1. …

A prominent member of the president’s party, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, blasted Trump’s move as ‘a misuse of presidential tariff authority and contrary to congressional intent.’ Implementing the tariffs, he said, would ‘seriously jeopardize passage’ of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

The president’s announcement came after the White House appeared to be making headway with its push for ratification of the USMCA. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador earlier Thursday sent the accord to the Mexican Senate, asking it to convene a special session to pass it before September. Trump has been pressing [Nancy Pelosi] to move forward with congressional approval, with the administration sending a formal statement of its plans to Capitol Hill hours before the abrupt tariff move. Even by the standards of an unpredictable presidency, the announcement drew startled reactions from those involved in cross-border commerce.

At a news conference, Mexico’s deputy foreign minister for North America, Jesús Seade, said the suggested tariffs would be ‘disastrous’ and promised that Mexico would respond ‘strongly.’ He called the announcement an ‘ice bath’ for U.S.-Mexico relations.”

-- Thursday night's National Spelling Bee crowned eight co-champions after they all withstood 20 rounds of increasingly difficult words. All eight of the competitors -- who are 12, 13 and 14 years old -- will get $50,000. Orion Donovan-Smith and Kayla Epstein report: "'We will soon run out of words that will possibly challenge you,' Jacques Bailly, the Bee’s longtime official pronouncer, said at the end of the 17th round, calling the eight winners 'the most phenomenal assemblage of spellers in the history of this storied competition.' ... The bee, which took place at the Gaylord National Resort at National Harbor in Washington's Maryland suburbs, kicked off Tuesday with its biggest field ever. The co-champions bested 557 other contestants ranging in age from 7 to 14 in Thursday night’s prime-time finals. The result was the first time more than two co-champions were named and came as the Bee has become increasingly competitive, with contestants training with coaches and some parents paying to bypass the traditional path to qualify for the annual contest.”

These are the words that earned the winners their titles: auslaut, erysipelas, bougainvillea, aiguillette, pendeloque, palama, cernuous and odylic. How many could you spell? In an era when American hegemony is being challenged like never before, watching these joyful students nail these complex words gave a glimmer of hope that America's future may yet be bright.

-- At least four bystanders were killed and four U.S. troops were injured after a suicide car bomb targeting a passing U.S. convoy in Kabul exploded. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which come days after peace talks with its leaders in Moscow. (Siobhán O’Grady

-- A South Korean newspaper reports that Kim Jong Un executed North Korea’s special envoy to the United States after the collapse of his second summit with Trump. Reuters reports: “Kim Yong Chol, a senior official who had been U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s counterpart in the run-up to the summit between [Trump] and [Kim] in Hanoi, is also said to have been subjected to forced labor and ideological education, the Chosun Ilbo reported. The North Korean leader is believed to be carrying out a massive purge to divert attention away from internal turmoil and discontent, the newspaper said. ‘Kim Hyok Chol was investigated and executed at Mirim Airport with four foreign ministry officials in March,’ an unnamed North Korea source said, according to the Chosun Ilbo, adding that they were charged with spying for the United States. Kim Hyok Chol had been negotiations counterpart to U.S. special representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun before the summit.”

From Anna Fifield, our Beijing bureau chief: “These kinds of South Korean reports need to be taken with a grain of salt. They often turn out to be untrue. But this is not implausible.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Fisher-Price invented a popular baby sleeper without medical safety tests and kept selling it. Now more than 30 babies are dead. Last month, the Rock ‘n Play was finally recalled. The imbroglio illustrates how the nation’s product safety system relies heavily on manufacturers — rather than regulators — to protect against dangers in new products. (Todd C. Frankel)

  2. Thad Cochran, who represented Mississippi in the Senate for nearly four decades, died at 81. The former Republican chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee was remembered for his Southern gentility and an ability to reach across the aisle that helped him secure funding for his rural state and win seven Senate elections — including his last victory in 2014, which came after an ugly primary battle against a tea-party challenger who had Trump's support. (Emily Langer)

  3. Louisiana’s Democratic governor signed one of the strictest abortion bans in the country. Gov. John Bel Edwards’s approval of the bill, which allows no exceptions for rape or incest, has sparked widespread condemnation from members of his party. (Jacqueline Kantor and Reis Thebault)

  4. Pete Brownell, a former president of the National Rifle Association, resigned from the organization’s board, citing the demands of his family business, Brownells, which is a major supplier of firearm accessories. Brownell made no mention of the controversies and internal fights that have consumed the gun lobby. (Tom Hamburger)

  5. A federal grand jury issued a subpoena for information from Democrat Andrew Gillum’s campaign for Florida governor. The former mayor repeatedly claimed last year that a sprawling FBI investigation into Tallahassee City Hall had nothing to do with him, but the latest subpoena directly focuses on Gillum’s 2018 campaign and groups connected to him. (Tampa Bay Times)

  6. The Drug Enforcement Administration is investigating Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernández and some of his closest advisers. According to documents filed by prosecutors in New York, Hernández is presumed to be part of a group of individuals participating in a “large-scale” drug trafficking organization. (AP)

  7. Sixteen former FBI trainees have sued the bureau, alleging gender discrimination. The women, several of whom still work at the FBI, say the review and evaluation processes at the bureau’s training academy were biased against them — complaints that were allegedly ignored by FBI leaders, including then-Director James Comey. (NBC News)

  8. R. Kelly was indicted on 11 new charges in his sexual abuse and assault case. The charges against the R&B singer range from aggravated criminal sexual abuse to aggravated criminal sexual assault, which can carry a sentence of up to 30 years in prison. (CNN)
  9. The Toronto Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors 118-109 in the first game of the NBA finals. The Raptors smothered the Warriors’ offense during the franchise's first victory in an NBA finals appearance. (Ben Golliver)

  10. A Pennsylvania woman was sentenced to 21 years in prison for sharing heroin with a friend who later suffered a fatal overdose. The conviction of Emma Semler in connection to the 2014 death of Jenny Werstler represents an increasingly common and controversial tactic for combating the opioid epidemic: prosecutors are charging people with distribution of heroin resulting in death. (Antonia Noori Farzan)

  11. Mark Zuckerberg’s personal security chief is on administrative leave amid allegations that he made racist and homophobic remarks about people, including Priscilla Chan, the Facebook founder's wife. A spokesman for the family said Liam Booth is on leave while an outside law firm investigates. (Bloomberg News)

  12. Claus von Bülow, the Danish socialite who was convicted and then acquitted of attempting to murder his millionaire wife, died at 92. The trials of von Bülow, who was accused of plotting to kill his wife Sunny to inherit her millions and marry his soap opera actress mistress, captivated Americans in the 1980s. Sunny died in 2008 after lying in a largely vegetative state for nearly 28 years. (Paul W. Valentine)
  13. A child was hospitalized after being hit by a foul ball at a game between the Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs. The Cubs’ Albert Almora Jr., who hit the line drive, appeared very shaken by the incident, which has revived calls for Major League Baseball to require extending the protective netting at ballparks. (Des Bieler and Matt Bonesteel)

  14. Hillary and Chelsea Clinton are starting a production company to pursue TV and film projects. Barack and Michelle Obama have also launched a production company with numerous projects that will air on Netflix. (Bloomberg News)  

  15. George W. Bush, Kobe Bryant and the right-wing Canadian professor Jordan Peterson are lending their names to a multilevel marketing insurance company that some critics say is a pyramid scheme. All three men will serve as keynote speakers for the People Helping People Conference, an event organized by insurance sales company PHP Agency. (Daily Beast)

  16. A storm chaser proposed to his boyfriend in front of a tornado in Kansas. The engagement picture, of meteorologist Joey Krastel on his knee in front of Chris Scott with a twister very visible in the background, has gone viral. “The 2 loves of my life,” Krastel wrote in a caption. (Paulina Firozi)

MORE ON THE IMMIGRATION WARS:

-- New evidence suggests the citizenship question the Trump administration is trying to add to the 2020 Census was crafted explicitly to benefit white Republicans. Tara Bahrampour and Robert Barnes report: “The evidence was found in the files of the prominent Republican redistricting strategist Thomas Hofeller after his death in August. It reveals that Hofeller ‘played a significant role in orchestrating the addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 Decennial Census in order to create a structural electoral advantage for, in his own words, ‘Republicans and Non-Hispanic Whites,'' plaintiffs’ lawyers challenging the question wrote in a letter Thursday morning to U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman, one of three federal judges who ruled against the question this year. The lawyers also argued that Trump administration officials purposely obscured Hofeller’s role in court proceedings. … The files show that Hofeller concluded in a 2015 study that adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census ‘would clearly be a disadvantage to the Democrats’ and benefit white Republicans in redistricting.”

-- Hundreds of minors are being held at U.S. facilities at the southern border beyond legal time limits. Abigail Hauslohner and Maria Sacchetti report: “Federal law and court orders require that children in Border Patrol custody be transferred to more-hospitable shelters no longer than 72 hours after they are apprehended. But some unaccompanied children are spending longer than a week in Border Patrol stations and processing centers, according to two Customs and Border Protection officials and two other government officials. … One government official said about half of the children in custody — 1,000 — have been with the Border Patrol for longer than 72 hours, and another official said that more than 250 children 12 or younger have been in custody for an average of six days. ...

The McAllen Border Patrol station, a facility near the southern tip of Texas that is routinely overwhelmed, was holding 775 people on Tuesday, nearly double its capacity. The Washington Post this week made a rare visit inside the facility, where adults and their toddler children were packed into concrete holding cells, many of them sleeping head-to-foot on the floor and along the wall-length benches, as they awaited processing at a sparsely staffed circle of computers known as ‘the bubble.’ … Experts say transferring children out of detention facilities as quickly as possible is critical, especially for ‘tender age’ children — those 12 or younger, who face physical and mental health issues even during short periods in detention. They sleep fitfully, do not eat well and suffer anxiety, said Amy Cohen, a child psychiatrist and expert witness in the Flores case.”

-- Border agents apprehended 1,036 migrants in a record roundup near El Paso earlier this week. The apprehensions, which included 63 children traveling alone, reflect an uptick in the number of large groups trying to cross the border. Border agents apprehended a group of 424 migrants, the previous record, just last month. (NBC News)

-- The police chiefs of America’s largest cities are demanding a meeting with DHS officials to discuss immigration issues. Tom Jackman reports: “The Major Cities Chiefs Association, comprising the chiefs and sheriffs of the 69 largest law enforcement agencies in the United States, formed an immigration working group at its meeting [in Miami], led by Houston police Chief Art Acevedo, who has openly opposed a Texas law banning sanctuary cities. Acevedo and other chiefs here said they do not take immigration status into account when performing their duties, only whether someone is breaking the law or has been a crime victim. They see immigration enforcement as a federal responsibility, not one for local police. … Some chiefs told Acevedo that their local social service agencies are being overwhelmed by busloads of suddenly relocated immigrants.”

WHAT TRUMP'S TRADE WARS HAVE WROUGHT:

-- China is preparing to pursue “major” retaliatory measures against the United States after Trump blacklisted Huawei, according to the editor in chief of the Global Times, a propaganda rag published by the Communist Party’s People’s Daily. (Bloomberg News)

-- The U.S. economy slipped from first to third place in global competitiveness rankings because of the trade wars, according to an annual ranking from the IMD World Competitiveness Center. Both Singapore and Hong Kong now have more competitive economies than the United States, according to the report. (Newsweek)

-- The president's tariffs on imported steel and aluminum spurred only modest domestic investment, the reopening of a few idle plants and the creation of a few thousand jobs. But they also forced American consumers to pay way more for steel and aluminum. The Times’s Jim Tankersley reports: “Shares of America’s largest aluminum and steel makers have plunged over the last year. There are fewer aluminum production jobs in the United States than a year ago, while steel mills have added only a few thousand jobs. In April of this year there were 381,000 Americans working in the primary metals industry, which includes steel and aluminum. That’s up from 376,400 a year ago — a 1.2 percent gain — and down from 398,000 in April 2015. Steel production barely increased over the past year. Aluminum production has risen more, but it remains more than 40 percent down from where it was in 2015.”

-- Trump’s trade war is beginning to change manufacturers in ways that might be impossible to reverse. The Times’s Ben Casselman reports: “Trade tensions are accelerating a corporate trend of shifting supply chains away from China. In a recent survey of more than 200 corporate executives by the consulting firm Bain, 42 percent said they expected to get materials from a different region in the next year, and 25 percent said they were redirecting investments out of China. …GoPro, the camera maker, said this month that it was shifting some production from China to Mexico. Universal Electronics, a manufacturer of remote controls, announced a similar move late last year. And Varex Imaging, a Utah-based maker of X-ray equipment, said this month that it was working to ‘redirect our supply chain away from China’ in response to the tariffs.”

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TRUMP AND THE MILITARY:

-- The controversy over who directed White House efforts to obscure the USS John S. McCain ahead of Trump's visit to Japan has underscored how this president is challenging important institutional norms. Dan Lamothe, Missy Ryan and Paul Sonne report: “White House and Pentagon officials suggested Thursday that lower-level staff had been trying to satisfy the political predilections of the president without high-level orders. ... In remarks Thursday at the White House, Trump repeated his dislike of Sen. John McCain. ‘Somebody did it because they thought I didn’t like him, okay? And they were well meaning,’ he said. Since Trump took office, the military has found itself thrust into the political crosshairs, risking an erosion of the traditional civil-military divide as the political climate grows more partisan. While many presidents have used military service members and assets as a backdrop for political remarks, Trump has gone a step further, making overtly political comments to service members and signing 'Make America Great Again' campaign hats for troops during a trip to Iraq and Germany last year. ...

The incident involving the president’s trip … has refocused attention on the role [Pat] Shanahan will play if confirmed as Pentagon chief. The former Boeing executive vowed to retain the military’s apolitical culture upon taking over the job from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis early this year. But he also faces skepticism, even from Republican lawmakers, about whether he will stand up to Trump when necessary. Joseph J. Collins, a retired Army colonel and professor at the National Defense University, said that White House staffers are not authorized to issue such military directives — unlike the president, they are not in the chain of command. Collins said senior Pentagon officials should have asked whether the demands about the McCain constituted orders from the president being given through the defense secretary. If not, the officials should have declined to follow them, Collins said. If the secretary of defense or the secretary of the Navy did not know about the directive, then they are failing to protect their uniformed personnel from an 'imperial' White House staff, Collins added. 'This is a very bad precedent,' Collins said.”

-- Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), who was holds McCain's seat, called for an investigation into who knew what and when. The Arizona Republic's Yvonne Wingett Sanchez reports: “A spokeswoman for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) said: “Kyrsten believes this is disgusting and shameful.’ … Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) sent a letter to Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson demanding answers. A Marine Corps. veteran who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, Gallego wants to know who ordered the concealment and whether Navy resources were used to carry it out.”

THERE'S STILL A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- Trump confirmed — and then quickly backtracked and once again denied — that Russia helped him get elected. The president wrote on Twitter before flying to Colorado for the U.S. Air Force graduation ceremony, “I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected.” But as he prepared to depart less than an hour later, he told reporters, “No, Russia did not help me get elected. … You know who got me elected? I got me elected. Russia didn’t help me at all. Russia, if anything, I think, helped the other side.” (New York Times)

-- As he attacked Mueller on Thursday before boarding Marine One, Trump articulated his belief in the theory of the unitary executive. The president suggested to reporters that he couldn’t have possibly obstructed justice because there was no underlying crime. “Also, someday, you ought to read a thing called Article 2,” he said. “Read Article 2, which gives the president powers that you wouldn’t believe.”

-- Trump used discredited accusations to attack Mueller, claiming without merit that the special counsel had conflicts of interest that made him a biased investigator. Colby Itkowitz, Josh Dawsey and John Wagner report: “Trump, in tweets and in comments to reporters, accused Mueller of being a ‘true never-Trumper,’ who was conflicted due to a past ‘business dispute’ between them. He also alleged that Mueller asked him for a job. … 

“Trump has repeatedly alleged that he and Mueller had a business dispute that led to bad blood between the two after the former FBI director resigned his membership at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va. But the special counsel’s report describes a far less contentious parting of ways than the president has described. In October 2011, Mueller informed Trump’s club that his family was canceling their membership because they lived in Washington and were ‘unable to make full use of the Club.’ He then asked if they would be ‘entitled’ to a refund of a portion of their initial membership fee that was paid in 1994. The club responded that the Mueller family would be put on a list for a potential refund. ‘The Muellers have not had further contact with the club,’ according to the report.”

-- Attorney General Bill Barr said Mueller “could’ve reached a decision” on whether the president committed obstruction of justice. CBS News’s Camilo Montoya-Galvez reports: “'I personally felt he could've reached a decision,’ he told CBS News chief legal correspondent Jan Crawford. … ‘The opinion says you cannot indict a president while he is in office, but he could've reached a decision as to whether it was criminal activity. But he had his reasons for not doing it, which he explained and I am not going to argue about those reasons.’ … Asked about accusations that he has been shielding the president from scrutiny since taking office, Barr said he expected the flurry of criticism, which he noted ‘goes with the territory of being attorney general in a hyper-partisan period of time.’ ‘The Department of Justice is all about the law, and the facts and the substance,” he said.”

-- Many Americans remain confused about the core conclusions from Mueller's report. One Republican woman who attended Rep. Justin Amash's town hall earlier this week said that the event was the first time she had heard that the special counsel's report did not completely exonerate Trump. “I was surprised to hear there was anything negative in the Mueller report at all about President Trump. I hadn’t heard that before,” Cathy Garnaat said. “I’ve mainly listened to conservative news and I hadn’t heard anything negative about that report and President Trump has been exonerated.” But she added that she will still definitely support Trump in 2020. (NBC News)

-- A United Nations official said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange shows symptoms of “psychological torture” and warned against extraditing him to the United States. Isaac Stanley-Becker and William Booth report: “Extraditing Assange to the U.S., following the announcement last week of 17 new charges under the Espionage Act, would represent a grave threat to his human rights, including a scenario in which the anti-secrecy activist could receive ‘a life sentence without parole, or possibly even the death penalty, if further charges were to be added in the future,’ said Nils Melzer the U.N. special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. … On Thursday, Assange, 47, missed a scheduled court appearance via videolink because he was ‘not very well,’ according to his lawyer, and had been transferred from his cell to the health ward of Belmarsh Prison. WikiLeaks claimed Assange had ‘dramatically lost weight’ and quoted a defense lawyer saying ‘it was not possible to conduct a normal conversation with him.’ ‘In the atmosphere and the conditions, he has gone from one prison to another prison,’ WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsson said.”

THE REST OF THE DOMESTIC AGENDA:

-- House Republicans blocked a $19.1 billion nationwide disaster aid bill for the third time. Erica Werner reports: “The objection was voiced by freshman Rep. John Rose (R-Tenn.) after Democrats sought to advance the legislation via unanimous consent. ... But Rose’s objection meant the bill that would deliver assistance to states and territories hard hit by hurricanes, flooding and wildfires did not advance, just as happened twice in the past week with other conservative lawmakers stepping in to make the objection. … But the hang-up is destined to be short-lived, given that the House will come back into session next week, at which point Democratic leaders plan to bring up the bill and pass it under ordinary procedures.”

-- The Interior Department vowed to sell oil leases for the first time this year inside an ecologically sensitive area of an Alaska Arctic refuge. Reuters’s Yereth Rosen reports: “The decision marks a likely turning point in a decades-long battle between environmental groups and fossil energy companies over the Beaufort Sea coast of the wildlife refuge, home to caribou, polar bear and other Arctic wildlife east of Alaska’s North Slope oil fields. The refuge had been off-limits to oil and gas drilling until the end of 2017, when Congress passed a tax overhaul that included a mandate for oil leasing there.”

-- The Trump administration wants spray cheese, beef jerky, frozen burritos and stuffed olives to count as staples under a proposal to allow more retail stores to accept food stamps. Tim Carman reports: “The Food and Nutrition Service’s proposed rule changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, has generated pushback from groups such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which argues that the administration is sacrificing public health for the sake of convenience — or convenience stores. … The Trump administration’s proposed changes, critics say, chip away at an Obama-era mandate to provide SNAP recipients with access to more healthful foods. … The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) had lobbied for the changes.”

-- The Agriculture Department plans to move its economists out of Washington and closer to the country’s farmers. The Times’s Alan Rappeport and Thomas Kaplan report: “Last year, after an economist with the division presented research that contradicted the Trump administration’s views about the president’s signature tax cuts, the Agriculture Department put into effect new rules about submitting work to peer-reviewed journals. Now, Sonny Perdue, the agriculture secretary, is planning to move the roughly 300-person research unit, along with another division, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, out of Washington. … Some critics see the relocation plan as another attempt by the Trump administration to diminish the role of science in government policymaking.”

-- The State Department will launch a new human rights panel offering “fresh thinking” on international human rights and “natural law.” Politico’s Nahal Toosi reports: “The new body, to be called the Commission on Unalienable Rights, will advise Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, according to a notice the State Department quietly published Thursday on the Federal Register. … Several human rights activists said Thursday that they were surprised by the move and trying to learn details. Some privately said they worry that talk of the ‘nation’s founding principles’ and ‘natural law’ are coded signals of plans to focus less on protecting women and LGBT people.”

-- The Trump administration is putting the finishing touches on a plan marking the comeback of mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Wall Street Journal’s Andrew Ackerman reports: “The proposal, coming more than a decade after the government seized the firms to save them from collapse, would seek to put the companies on a sounder financial footing and then release them from government control, if Congress doesn’t enact a more fundamental overhaul. The plan is being developed by the Treasury Department in consultation with a regulator of the companies, the Federal Housing Finance Agency.”

MORE ON 2020:

-- “Cory Booker and the Orthodox rabbi were like brothers. Now they don’t speak,” by Kevin Sullivan: “It was March 1993 at Oxford University, where Booker, then 23, was studying for two years on a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. The man on his back was Shmuley Boteach, an American rabbi who was his close friend and spiritual mentor during what Booker describes as a ‘profoundly shaping’ period of his life. … The two men in their 20s seemed to be always together … Judaism became a lifelong passion for Booker, and he still quotes Torah passages he learned from Boteach, in Hebrew, from memory on the campaign trail. But after two decades, Booker, 50, and Boteach, 52, are no longer on speaking terms. They disagree about what cratered an interfaith bond that had inspired blacks and whites, Christians and Jews, on two continents. They both call it betrayal. But Boteach says it was political while Booker says it was personal.”

-- Booker slammed the 1994 crime bill, which Joe Biden supported, as “awful” and “shameful.” From an interview with HuffPost's Kevin Robillard in Iowa: “The incentives they put in that bill for people to raise mandatory minimums, for building prisons and jails ― from the time I was in law school to the time I was mayor of the city of Newark, we were building a new prison or jail every 10 days in America while the rest of our infrastructure crumbled ― overwhelmingly putting people in prison for nonviolent drug offenses that members of Congress and the Senate admit to breaking now. That bill was awful. Good people signed on to that bill. People make mistakes. But let’s hold them to that. That crime bill was shameful, what it did to black and brown communities like mine [and] low-income communities from Appalachia to rural Iowa. It was a bad bill.”

-- Politico's John F. Harris identifies five ways in which Trump has remade the Democratic Party: The president's biggest impact shows in the size of the Democratic presidential field, which is filled with candidates that, before the current administration, would have flunked the plausibility test. The president has also made Democratic candidates conscious that they need to perform well at cable debates, that they must not be as reserved as previous candidates used to be, that deficits are unnecessary and that being a uniter “is so yesterday.” 

-- Trump once cast himself as pro-LGBTQ. Now he’s under fire from Democratic candidates for rolling back protections. Toluse Olorunnipa reports: “The Trump administration has sided against LGBT activists on a host of issues over the past two years, including banning transgender troops from serving in the military and arguing in court that civil rights laws to do not protect employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Human Rights Campaign, a top advocacy group for LGBT issues, has created a 16-page document outlining administration actions that it says are hostile to LGBT Americans.”

-- Democratic campaigns complained that the unexpected requirement to attract 130,000 donors to qualify for the third primary debate would shift the priorities of the race. The Times’s Shane Goldmacher and Lisa Lerer report: “Two-thirds of the sprawling field of 23 candidates are probably at risk of falling short of that threshold, and news of the more stringent rules set off a flurry of frustrated early-morning text messages, emails, calls and meetings as campaigns reassessed the path forward, according to multiple 2020 campaign officials. … Some candidates questioned whether the party’s new donor threshold would winnow the field too severely, before most voters even tune in to the race. … [C]ampaign after campaign said the party’s donor requirements are skewing the way they allocate resources, forcing them to choose between investing in staff or pouring more money into ads on sites like Facebook, where prices are soaring to dizzying new heights.”

-- The Democratic National Committee will require female moderators at every 2020 debate. “The DNC is committed to an inclusive and fair debate process,” DNC senior adviser Mary Beth Cahill said. “That means that all 12 DNC sanctioned debates will feature a diverse group of moderators and panelists including women and people of color, ensuring that the conversations reflect the concerns of all Americans.” (Refinery29)

-- Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) vetoed a bill that would pledge the state’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. “Once effective, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact could diminish the role of smaller states like Nevada in national electoral contests and force Nevada’s electors to side with whoever wins the nationwide popular vote, rather than the candidate Nevadans choose,” Sisolak said in a statement about the bill.” (Nevada Independent)

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

A Post reporter noted this red flag of a looming recession:

A Bloomberg reporter compared Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s criticism of Trump’s tariff threat against Mexico in 2017 to his support now, a reflection of the president’s takeover of the party and the move toward protectionism:

An Obama-era DOJ spokesman pushed back against Trump's claim about Mueller wanting to be FBI director:

An NBC News reporter remembered this quote from the Senate majority leader:

A Times reporter speculated that POTUS didn’t actually read the Mueller report:

A conservative commentator suggested buying this piece of merchandise:

A presidential historian resurrected this photo from McCain's military days:

Pete Buttigieg responded to the latest news about the Trump administration's efforts to add a citizenship question to the census:

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), who has previously been criticized for her positive comments about Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, raised eyebrows with this statement:

A House Democrat criticized Trump's efforts to put pressure on Mexico:

Alabama's Democratic senator, who defeated Roy Moore in 2017 as the controversial judge faced allegations of making sexual advances toward teenagers, mocked his former opponent:

An unlikely pair of lawmakers expressed openness to crafting a compromise bill on banning lawmakers from becoming lobbyists:

The Republican senator replied to the freshman House Democrat:

A House Republican joined in the effort:

Michael Bennet replied that he introduced this bill in 2010:

An editor at the Center for Public Integrity highlighted Trump's change of heart on Cochran:

And one of Washington's ubiquitous scooters encountered some technical difficulties: 

GOOD READS:

-- Politico, “Nikki Haley begins experiment in political life after Trump,” by Eliana Johnson: “By remaining a loyal Republican soldier on good terms with the president — a forthcoming memoir is not expected to join the ranks of cutting insider tell-alls — Haley is also something of a test case for independent political life after Trump. The former South Carolina governor’s summer itinerary includes a June 15 stop in Boone, Iowa, where Haley will help Sen. Joni Ernst launch her reelection campaign at Ernst’s annual Roast ’n Ride event, where Iowans are slated to grill over 2,000 pounds of pork. Given its location in a key presidential caucus state, the event is sure to spark murmurs about Haley’s own political ambitions, including the prospect of a 2024 presidential bid. … While a bevy of Republicans are contemplating how to position themselves for the post-Trump era, Haley is the first to begin the process of redefining herself outside the president’s shadow.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“New Hampshire abolishes death penalty after lawmakers override governor,” from Mark Berman: “Lawmakers in New Hampshire voted Thursday to abolish the death penalty, overriding a veto from the state’s Republican governor and making it the 21st state to abandon capital punishment. The vote by the New Hampshire Senate capped months of uncertainty about what would happen to capital punishment in the state, the last in New England to still have the death penalty. … Lawmakers in New Hampshire had tried to abolish the death penalty before but narrowly failed, running headlong into gubernatorial vetoes and, in 2014, falling short by a single vote. After Gov. Chris Sununu (R) vetoed a bill last year abolishing the death penalty, lawmakers passed another measure this year with enough support to withstand a veto.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Tech giant brings software to a gun fight,” from Jay Greene: “On its website, Salesforce.com touts retailer Camping World as a leading customer of its business software, highlighting its use of products to help sales staff move product. A Camping World executive is even quoted calling Salesforce’s software ‘magic.’ But behind the scenes in recent weeks, the Silicon Valley tech giant has delivered a different message to gun-selling retailers such as Camping World: Stop selling military-style rifles, or stop using our software. … But its decision to force its position on guns on retailers did not sit well with some industry advocates. These types of rules are ‘corporate-policy virtue signaling’ and discriminate against gun owners, whose rights are protected by the Second Amendment, said Mark Oliva, public affairs director of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearms trade group.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will receive his intelligence briefing and then attend a reception in honor of Gold Star families with the first lady.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“Don't disguise lies as truth, and truth as lies,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in her commencement address at Harvard. “Tear down walls of ignorance and narrow-mindedness.” (Deutsche Welle)

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

-- Today will be partly sunny and not too muggy, with a slight chance of rain. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Today’s the first day of 2019 when our average high temperature hits 80 degrees! It comes just in time for June tomorrow, but we may remain warmer than average through Sunday. At least we aren’t grossly muggy. Some intermittent shower and storm chances are around, so we’ll keep one eye on radar.”

-- House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), long an opponent of D.C. statehood, announced in a Post op-ed that he was reversing his position. Hoyer writes: “I have been hesitant in past years to call for statehood for the District because I believed that we could achieve voting rights for its residents without having to take the politically difficult steps statehood would entail. … I now believe the only path to ensuring its representation is through statehood. Legislation granting representation in the House could be revoked in the future; statehood would bring D.C. residents a permanent voice in our elected institutions. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the non-voting delegate from the District in the House, has introduced a bill to admit the District as a state, and I will cosponsor it.” Hoyer had been the capital region's last Democratic federal lawmaker to oppose statehood.

-- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) called for an investigation into the University of Maryland's handling of an adenovirus outbreak that killed a freshman student last fall. Hogan wrote a sharply worded letter to the University System of Maryland Board of Regents urging a probe into why university officials waited more than two weeks to inform students about the virus, which killed 18-year-old Olivia Shea Paregol and sickened more than 40 others. (Jenn Abelson)

-- The man who set himself on fire near the White House died. Police said they have found no notes or items at the scene to make sense of 33-year-old Arnav Gupta’s motives. (Peter Hermann and Dan Morse)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

A video of an encounter between a black man a police officer in Arkansas has raised questions about the officer's intentions. “You’re telling me to shut my car off so you can shoot me,” Edrick Truitt says in the video:

Barack Obama shared the story of two of his former campaign volunteers who are facing the challenge of a lifetime:

Nancy Pelosi sat down with Jimmy Kimmel to talk Trump, Mueller and the NBA finals: 

Trevor Noah said Mueller's speech “shook” Trump:

Jimmy Kimmel made some NBA stars read mean tweets about themselves:

And Lil Nas X surprised an elementary school with a performance of “Old Town Road”: