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At the White House

FULL BATTLE MODE: President Trump launched into a diatribe against socialism, late-term abortion and reveled in the fact that Joe Biden seems to have been “taken care of” in a sharp-edged speech at the National Republican Congressional Committee spring dinner last night.

If we didn't realize the 2020 campaign is now in full swing, Trump has now reminded us he is firmly on the warpath.

Here are just a sampling of the things — and targets — the president took on during the speech for House Republicans' campaign arm:

  • “Radical socialism”: “The Democrat program of radical socialism and open borders, if we are doing our job, it will not work,” Trump said.
  • The American worker: “The Republican Party is the party for all Americans. We have changed this party dramatically. We're now the party of the American worker. When I first started doing this we were the party of the American rich person,” Trump said.
  • Trump mocked the Green New Deal for being written by a "29 -year-old bartender," presumably referring to  Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
  • Health care: “The Republican Party will be the champion of preexisting conditions. You have to do it --  some of you like, some of you don’t, but you’re going to have to like it, not just for politics, it’s the right thing,” Trump said. “I will ask that this be my first vote immediately after the election.”
  • You’re going to win your elections because of health care, and a lot of people were upset with me,” Trump addeed. “It's a great incentive for the voters to vote for you.”
  • Late-term abortion: “Now the baby is born and you wrap the baby gently and you talk to the mother and depending on what the mother says, you execute the baby,” according to Trump (a graphic and inaccurate description.) 
  • On immigration: “Now you look at that speech and you see what’s happening and that speech was so tame compared to what is happening now, that trek up is one of the great treacherous treks anywhere, and Mexico has now, because they don’t want the border closed,” Trump said, referring to his 2020 announcement speech when he “mentioned the word rape.” 

Trump also hit Biden, who is expected to enter the 2020 race soon, over the recent spate of stories regarding Biden's touchy-feely encounters with women: “I felt like Joe Biden,” Trump joked after expressing a desire to kiss a general who advocated for a swift withdrawal from Syria. He suggested he was happy about the criticism surfacing in the press from two women who say they were uncomfortable during encounters with Biden.

  • “We’re going into the war with some socialist. It looks like the only non, sort of, heavy socialist is being taken care of pretty well by the socialists, they got to him, our former vice president. I was going to call him, I don’t know him well, I was going to say ‘Welcome to the world Joe, you having a good time?’” the president said.

Despite the charged rhetoric, realistically very little is likely to get done on Capitol Hill this year or next as Trump's actual policy agenda is less than robust.

In recent weeks, the president “has left his advisers and GOP lawmakers reeling from policy whiplash . . . cycling through new ideas on health care and immigration that underscore his continuing struggle to pursue a coherent domestic agenda in a divided Washington,” my colleagues Seung Min Kim and Erica Werner report

  1. Health care: “Trump surprised Republicans last week with a new pledge to replace the Affordable Care Act, only to backtrack Tuesday after being confronted with the realities of another all-consuming fight over President Barack Obama’s signature health-care law on Capitol Hill.”
  2. Immigration: “Trump has also sent aides and a large part of the federal bureaucracy scrambling to respond to his expansive vow to close the entire U.S.-Mexico border this week unless 'ALL illegal immigration is halted by Mexico.'”
  3. Disaster relief: “Even efforts on which the White House has worked closely with congressional GOP leaders have seen setbacks, such as a massive disaster funding bill that stalled Monday amid partisan sniping over aid to Puerto Rico,” per Seung Min and Erica. 

The president's allies don't seem to feel a sense of urgency just yet and view time as one of their biggest strengths, providing Trump with ample space to workshop and hone a coherent message while the campaign apparatus moves full steam ahead: 

  • “One of the differences is time. We have a big advantage on the Democrat field in that, and we intend to use it,” Tim Murtaugh, the Trump campaigns communications director, told the New York Times's Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman
  • “It's way too early to be having this kind of conversation,” an outside adviser to the White House told Power Up. “Nothing matters until the Democrat's debates start. Nothing.” 
  • “Have a party, get some popcorn. Let’s watch these Democrats debate each other. Let them keep going because the hole’s getting deeper every day,” Lara Trump said at a New Hampshire GOP event in Nashua, according to WMUR's John DiStaso.
  • And anyway: “The president communicates on multiple message threads better than anyone else out there,” a former Trump campaign official told Power Up. “I don't believe that he can't walk and chew gum at the same time. He's not going to wait for Congress to wake up one day and wait for them to come around on a policy.”

Wish List: A number of Trump's allies on the Hill and outside the White House weighed in with what they hope and expect to see from the campaigner-in-chief, with an infrastructure week — alas — at the top of the list. 

  • “I know what I would like to see him run on. Doesn’t mean he will!," a senior Hill aide on told Power Up. “Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure.”
  • “Infrastructure is a TBD. But what we’ve learned with this president is that he’s wiling to reach across the aisle and put together an infrastructure plan that strengthens this economy and that’s what we’ll see over the next year legislatively — we’ll finally have an infrastructure week,” Bryan Lanza, a former 2016 Trump campaign official and the managing director of Mercury Public Affairs LLC told Power Up.

  • Another outside adviser predicts that Trump's foreign policy will play more of a role than D.C. anticipates “because of [Trump's] declared defeat of ISIS and potentially if he withdraws from and declares victory in Afghanistan. I would not be surprised if Trump timed a pull out of Afghanistan with the 2020 campaign.” 

Meanwhile, you can expect to see the Trump campaign trot out some of their tried-and-true campaign stars to spread Trump's message: 

  • Lara Trump, at the NHGOP's 'Spring to Victory' event in Nashua last night, used the same  insults for campaign rivalas as her father-in-law, according to ABC News's Rachel Scott, calling Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas” and Beto O'Rourke a “skateboarder.” She also said she hoped that a potential Republican challenger wouldn't be “dumb enough to run against Donald Trump.” 
  • Positive message: “You look at the stock market, you look at the lowest unemployment rate in the history of this country, the manufacturing jobs by the hundreds of thousands that are coming back to our country, the world stage — how we’ve regained our place as the free world leader,” the president's daughter-daughter-in-law told the crowd
  • “Come 2020, expect Don Jr. to be a constant presence on the campaign trail. He has proven himself to be one of the most effective campaigners and fundraisers in the Republican Party, headline roughly 70 events for Republican candidates and state parties during the latter half of 2018. I expect him to be significant more active than that with his father actually on the ballot in 2020,” Andy Surabian, a spokesman for Donald Trump Jr, told Power Up. 
 

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OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY:

IS TRUMP READY TO OWN A DIFFERENT KIND OF SHUTDOWN?: Trump reupped his threat to close the  southern border on Tuesday, as Republican lawmakers urged him not to and his own economic advisers are studying ways to blunt what could be a billion-dollar impact on the economy. With all that being said, Trump made it clear that matters of trade will take a back seat.  

  • "All you've heard me talking about is trade, but let me just give you a little secret: security is more important than trade,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

Senior advisers are talking about how to minimize that impact: "White House officials have not settled on a firm plan, but they are responding to widespread complaints from business groups that closing the border would be a major blow to industries such as agriculture and automakers,” my colleagues Damian Paletta and Josh Dawsey report.

  • "Trump plans to visit the Mexico border in California on Friday, where some aides are bracing for a possible announcement,” they report.

Reality check: Shutting down the border, as Vox's Dara Lind explains, would not physically do anything to stop illegal immigration. But Trump can close down ports of entry either entirely or specifically. 

Here's just a taste of what could happen if he closed down everything:

  • " . . . Could halt all U.S. automotive manufacturing within a week, impacting at least one million jobs,” per Damian and Josh. 
  • “Closing down the border would have potentially catastrophic economic impact on our country, and I would hope we would not be doing that,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told Politico's Marianne Levine. 

  • Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, told the New York Times's Jim Tankersley and Ana Swanson, that “a full shutdown of the U.S.-Mexican border of more than several weeks would be the fodder for recessions in both Mexico and the U.S.” 

  • "Closing the entire U.S. border with Mexico would also put the brakes on more than $1.6 billion worth of goods that cross back and forth every day, including 50 million pounds of fresh Mexican produce that now fills 100 warehouses in Nogales, Ariz.” according to NPR's Scott Horsley

House Democrats are looking to highlight the issue themselves as party leaders are weighing a vote to force Republicans to go on the record on the possible closure, Politico's Sarah Ferris and Laura Barrón-López report

🚨🚨🚨: “Secret Service agents arrested a Chinese woman after she bypassed layers of security and gained access to the reception area of President Trump’s Florida resort this past weekend, saying they found she was carrying two passports and a thumb drive containing malicious software, according to court documents,” my colleagues Devlin Barrett and David A. Fahrenthold report

  • “After [Yujing] Zhang was stopped and questioned, a search of her belongings turned up four cellphones, a laptop, a hard drive and a thumb drive, which contained “malicious malware,” according to the criminal complaint. Authorities said that despite her initial claim to be headed for the pool, she was not carrying a swimsuit,” per Devlin and David. 

  • “The incident renews concerns about how secure the president and his advisers are during their frequent stays at his Mar-a-Lago Club, which stays open for its members and their guests when the president is there.”

The Secret Service, in a statement to The Post, threw Mar-a-Lago management under the bus: The agency “does not determine who is invited or welcome at Mar-a-Lago; this is the responsibility of the host entity. The Mar-a-Lago Club’s management determines which members and guests are granted access to the property. This access does not afford an individual proximity to the President or other Secret Service protectees.”

The People

MAYOR PETE'S MOMENT: In under 100 days, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg spoke about his faith in a viral moment on prime-time TV, revealed that he learned Norwegian just to read a book, officiated a wedding for couple just before they gave birth, watched his husband Chasten's tweets become a national sensation and saw his memoir become a New York Times best-seller.

All of this occurred while he is exploring a presidential run, during which he raised more than $7 million for the first quarter of the year, a staggering sum for someone who has never won statewide office or enjoyed a prominent national profile.

Power Up looked back at what we've seen and learned about Mayor Pete so far:

  • The CNN town hall: Buttigieg launched himself into the national conversation with rave reviews for his appearance, including when saying fellow Hoosier and Vice President Pence could “allow himself to become the cheerleader of the porn star presidency?”
  • He learned Norwegian just to read a book: A close friend told the New Yorker that Buttigieg loved a Norwegian novel so much that he taught himself the language to translate another of the author's works. (P.S.: He also speaks seven languages)
  • He was mistaken for a high schooler: 

He officiated a wedding on deadline: Buttigieg wrote on Facebook he began this Monday with an early-morning stroll around his office only to be asked to officiate a wedding for a couple who under a hour later would give birth via c-section.

  • Buttigieg also boasts an impressive resume that is even more unique when you consider that he's just 37-years-old. He would also be the first openly gay president in the nation's history. My colleague Dave Weigel summed up the buzz in his newsletter, The Trailer (Subscribe here, by the way):
  • “The people who come to see him, sometimes clutching copies of his memoir, marvel at how he graduated from Harvard, attained a Rhodes scholarship and fought in Afghanistan — all before he combed gray hair,” Weigel writes. 

Programming note: Buttigieg, along with 12 of the Democratic candidates, will address the National Action Network conference on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. 

In the Media

What we're reading: