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🚨: Just when we thought the 2020 field was set after Joe Biden jumped in . . . CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams told Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) she will not be running for Senate next year.

At the White House

IS TRUMPISM AN ABERRATION? It's a debate the president's latest opponent, Joe Biden, has reignited after the former vice president declared in his announcement video spotlighting a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville that Trump “and all he embraces” will be looked back on as “an aberrant moment in time.” 

But democracy watchers, historians and some members of minority communities disagree. They argue that Trump, along with the rise in violent incidents by extremists, is not a blip in the historical record but a sign of things to come. They say Trumpism — from its grievance-laden overtures to working-class Americans who feel alienated by the political system, to the president's scapegoating of immigrants — is a symptom of deep-rooted social problems and long-running institutional inequality. 

  • “There is no question that Trump did not invent himself — there are issues that he's capitalized on that have been percolating for some time,” historian and spokesperson for the 9/11 commission, Alvin Felzenberg, told us on Monday. “If the president were to decide: 'I made my point, did some good for the country, and am going to spend the rest of my days water skiing,' the problems wouldn't   go away . . . Winston Churchill said America will always find the right thing to do after exhausting all the alternatives. Well, the time is here.” 

Structural change: The angst and unrest of voters in the Trump era was echoed in a fresh Washington Post-ABC News poll revealing an overwhelming majority of Democratic voters believe the economy mainly benefits people already in power. Democrats across the 2020 field have embraced the idea that democracy is in need of a dramatic overhaul through varying degrees of policy prescriptions.

But historians with whom Power Up spoke say that might not be enough. They point to violent incidents like the race riots in Charlottesville and the shooting at a Poway, Calif. synagogue on Sunday and say that American history is rife with moments when violence against minorities bubbled to the surface. The difference in Trump's case, they contend, is his failure to systematically condemn violent acts like the one in Charlottesville (the president and his aides would disagree). 

  • “Anyone who imagines that Trump and white supremacist violence is an aberration is someone who is completely out of touch with American history,” Ibram Kendi, the director of the Antiracist Research & Policy Center at American University, told Power Up. “You cannot separate it from America — the violence that sustained slavery, Jim Crow through lynchings, the violence of police officers killing unarmed people, churches being bombed in Louisiana — like many candidates Joe Biden is reimagining history to suit his own political needs.” 
  • Biden's “analysis and assessment represents the worst thinking of a winnowing number of liberals and is a missed assessment of the actual conditions of working people,” Maurice Mitchell, the national director of the Working Families Party, created by labor unions and community organizations, told Power Up. “Most working people believe Trumpism is a symptom but not the underlying disease. But it does give us the opportunity to not just ameliorate the symptoms but finally face the disease, if we choose do so.” 
  • “People are looking for structural change and have an appetite for solutions that meet the scale of their problems,” Mitchell added. 

The pushback: Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway on Sunday fiercely defended the president's response to Charlottesville as "darn near perfection” and Trump strongly condemned the shootings at a Poway, Calif., synagogue on Sunday, speaking with the community's rabbi by telephone.

  • A White House statement reiterated that Trump and his entire administration “have and will continue to condemn racism, bigotry, and violence of any form.”

The stats: Violence by white nationalists is on the rise: The Anti-Defamation League reports that "39 of the 50 extremist-related murders tallied by the group in 2018 were committed by white supremacists, up from 2017, when white supremacists were responsible for 18 of 34 such crimes.” And hate crimes increased by 17 percent in 2017, according to the FBI.

But observers say Trump has not acted with the full force of the executive branch to address the growing threat of extremism at home.

  • “When Trump says that this is a minor problem, what that means is that he's not going to put the full weight of the Department of Justice, the FBI, won’t encourage local policing to put the full weight of their powers and resources behind preventing these kinds of attacks. He acts like the attacks are a result of a rotten apple that will fall off the tree as opposed to the tree falling on Americans heads,” Kendi told us. 
  • Felzenberg told Power Up that Trump should take his cues from former Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson who “acted very boldly and broke up the Klan” or Ulysses S. Grant who granted protections to emancipated slaves after the civil war.
  • “We've had times of very firm responses,” to rising violence against minority communities. "We may not have that now but we could have it. This would be a great opportunity for the president to demonstrate what he really means no matter how clumsy hs words were,” Felzenberg told us.
  • Felzenberg said Trump should create a national commission on domestic terrorism to address the recent violence, similar to Johnson's creation of the Kerner Commission, an 11-member presidential commmission established to investigate the cause of the 1967 race riots and prevent them from happening again. 

…. In certain areas, the Trump administration has actually scaled back federal funding and support of efforts to combat domestic terrorism, despite evidence showing the number of attacks are the worst they’ve been in decades. The New York Times reported this morning that the administration is weighing whether to designate the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group.

  • The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff reported earlier this month wrote the Department of Homeland Security “disbanded a group of intelligence analysts who focused on domestic terrorism.”
  • The administration also reorganized an Obama-era grant program to counter violent extremism. After Trump took office, the program was frozen and now it appears the roughly $10 million in grants will end for good in July. 

“Neither went after white supremacists”: It’s worth pointing out the grant program was criticized even under President Obama’s watch for focusing too much on Muslims.

  • “The picture is more nuanced than, ‘The Obama administration was going after white supremacists and the Trump administration stopped it,’" Faiza Patel, co-director of the Brennan Center's Liberty and National Security Program, told PolitiFact’s Amy Sherman. “Neither went after white supremacists.”

But overall, experts tracking the area say Trump could be doing more: “It is interesting that the National Counterterrorism Strategy does call out the threat of domestic extremism, yet the Administration has not proportionately empowered agencies to counter it,” George Selim, senior vice president of programs at ADL and former DHS official said in a statement to us. “What missing is a clear, strategic approach — including policies, authorities, and budget requests to Congress — from the Administration, and to-date, we have, at best, seen the Administration pay lip-service to this threat, and at worst, they have made cut to critical programs.”

 

 

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TRUMP ORDERS MAJOR CHANGES TO ASYLUM POLICIES: Aiming to address one of the largest factors in the surge of migrants at the border, President Trump “ordered major changes to U.S. asylum policies in a White House memo released Monday night, including measures that would charge fees to those applying for humanitarian refuge in the United States,” our colleagues Maria Sacchetti, Felicia Sonmez and Nick Miroff report.

  • “The proposed changes to the asylum system aim to address one of the most confounding aspects of the surge: Families seeking safe passage using long-standing U.S. asylum protections,” Maria, Felicia and Nick report.
  • “The new White House measures, which call for new regulations in 90 days, follow one week after Trump issued a separate memorandum directing the secretaries of state and homeland security to find ways to combat visa overstays; it is another example of the administration trying to squeeze migration as it argues that the influx of undocumented people amounts to a national emergency.”
  • The order comes right as Trump is beginning to make his 2020 pitch.

The Investigations

TRUMP SUES: The New York Times's Maggie Haberman, William Rashbaum and David Enrich broke the news last night that "President Trump, his three eldest children and his private company filed a federal lawsuit on Monday against Deutsche Bank and Capital One, in a bid to prevent the banks from responding to congressional subpoenas."

The suit, part of a sustained aggressive response to House Democrats by the president, was filed in federal court in Manhattan and alleges the subpoenas issued by the House's Intelligence and Financial Services committees to Trump's longtime lender and financal institutions "have no legitmate or lawful purpose." 

  • “The subpoenas were issued to harass President Donald J. Trump, to rummage through every aspect of his personal finances, his businesses and the private information of the president and his family, and to ferret about for any material that might be used to cause him political damage. No grounds exist to establish any purpose other than a political one," according to the suit. 

Chairs of the committees issued a joint statement: 

  • “As a private businessman, Trump routinely used his well-known litigiousness and the threat of lawsuits to intimidate others, but he will find that Congress will not be deterred from carrying out its constitutional responsibilities,” they said. “This lawsuit is not designed to succeed; it is only designed to put off meaningful accountability as long as possible.”

On The Hill

TOP DEMS MEET WITH TRUMP: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer along with other top Democrats are headed to the White House at 10:30 a.m. for a meeting with Trump about infrastructure, an area the president has long talked about as ripe for bipartisan deal. In a letter to Trump, Pelosi and Schumer “asked Trump to entertain infrastructure legislation with ‘substantial, new and real revenue’ — as opposed to previous GOP plans that have focused on using smaller amounts of public money to leverage private investments,” our colleague Mike DeBonis reports.

. . . Split Screen Washington: While top party leaders signal a possible willingness to work with the White House, one of the House's top committees continues to battle with the Trump administration. House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), said Monday he is pushing forward on setting the parameters for Attorney General Bill Barr’s scheduled appearance on Thursday, despite Barr’s opposition to some of those ground rules, including allowing House attorneys to question him after lawmakers get their respective time. Nadler has threatened to subpoena Barr if he doesn't appear, and the New York lawmaker later said the hearing will go on regardless, even if it's just featuring an empty chair as a witness.

Elsewhere on the Hill:

Global Power

JAPAN'S EMPEROR ABDICATES: For the first time in two centuries, Japan’s emperor will abdicate his throne. Emperor Akihito, 85-years-old, previously cited concerns over his age and declining health as reasons to step aside and transfer power to his son, Crown Prince Naruhito.

  • As the Council on Foreign Relations points out, Japanese emperors face strict limits on their political power, but Akihito has worked to repair post WWII relations.
  • President Trump at the end of May will become the first world leader to meet the new emperor.

To celebrate Naruhito’s accession, Japan is extending a public holiday to 10 days. But as our colleagues report, not everyone is happy.

In the Media

A BIG EXPOSÉ ON TRUMP'S TAX LAW: The Center for Public Integrity and the Guardian are out this morning with a joint 10,000-plus word report  on the genisis for Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, better known as the tax overhaul that for now is Trump's signature domestic achievement heading into 2020. 

Here's what they found:

  • " . . . By the time the measure was signed into law 10 months later, it had ridden a roller-coaster ride of flip-flops, exaggeration, hypocrisy, falsehoods and contortions. Rosy estimates of economic growth were summoned from right-wing pro-growth think tanks. Budgeting gimmicks made deficits disappear. Deals were cut. Historic Republican concerns about the long-term debt were abandoned. The result: flawed and ill-considered legislation that disappointed some tax experts like Trier, and utterly flummoxed others,” Peter Cary and Allan Holmes report.
  • Even someone who worked on the bill criticized the end result: “So, I mean, I want to be honest with you, I was completely sick,” veteran tax lawyer Dana Trier, who worked in the Trump Treasury Department said. “You know from my perspective, I took one for the team and my reason for taking one for the team had not been fulfilled. I thought I could make it work. I could be one of those people who could help make it work. And in fact, we didn't reach my standard.”
  • Republicans and fiscal hawks' talk of the deficit was “meaningless”: “In fact, the bill had to create a $1.5 trillion 10-year deficit to pay for its generous tax cuts, which some believed would create economic growth. Without the deficit, the corporate rate of 21 percent could never have been achieved, and, more important, the bill could not have passed at all,” Peter and Allan write.

Read the full story, the result of a six-month investigation here: https://bit.ly/2UKfl8p

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