German crowd boos Ivanka Trump for calling her father a 'champion' for families – Washington Post

President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, participated in a panel discussion as part of the W20 Summit, which aims to increase gender equality in the G20 countries. (Reuters)

A German crowd booed Ivanka Trump on Tuesday after she called her father a “a tremendous champion of supporting families.”

Trump was taking her first crack at diplomacy abroad in her new role as assistant to the president, vowing at an economic conference in Berlin to create “positive change” for women in the United States.

“He encouraged me and enabled me to thrive,” she said on a panel with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “I grew up in a house where there was no barrier to what I could accomplish beyond my own perseverance and my own tenacity.”

Miriam Meckel, editor of the German magazine Wirtschaftswoche, noted the audience’s response of groaning and hissing and asked Ivanka Trump whether her father is actually an “empowerer” of women.

“I’ve certainly heard the criticism from the media and that’s been perpetuated,” Ivanka Trump said on the panel, “but I know from personal experience, and I think the thousands of women who have worked with and for my father for decades when he was in the private sector are a testament to his belief and solid conviction in the potential of women.”

President Trump was caught on tape in 2005 talking about grabbing women’s genitals without their permission and, in a 2004 interview, called pregnancy an “inconvenience” to employers.

Germany, in contrast, offers one of the world’s most generous maternity leave policies: Mothers are entitled to take six weeks of paid time-off before the birth of a child and eight weeks after an infant arrives. The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not offer any paid leave to new parents.

Ivanka Trump, who moved into her own West Wing office last month, advocated for gender equality during the campaign and is now working to reform the nation’s child-care system. Her Germany appearance comes a week before the release of her advice book, “Women Who Work.” 

Candidate Trump named her the mastermind behind his paid maternity leave proposal, unveiled last September, but the White House has made no moves on the family leave front since Trump took office.

On Tuesday, Ivanka Trump was scheduled to speak about boosting women who start businesses. Female entrepreneurs in the United States, however, say the White House is making their jobs even harder.


BERLIN, GERMANY – APRIL 25: Ivanka Trump sits on a panel with Angela Merkel.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Businesses owned by women tend to face a disadvantage when it comes to expanding into foreign markets — and experts say Trump’s talk on trade and immigration has made it harder for them to pursue international opportunities.

The president has threatened, for example, to slap steep tariffs on goods from China and Mexico. He has asked for a review of the high-skilled worker visa, which tech companies rely on for talent. His travel ban on people from predominantly Muslim nations risked straining relations with Middle Eastern countries and America’s democratic allies.

All of this can impede an entrepreneur’s step into internationalization, or the act of growing beyond the American border, said Nathalie Molina Niño, a serial entrepreneur and founder of Brava, a holding company that bankrolls start-ups that benefit women.

“Women are at a particular disadvantage,” Molina Niño said, “because unlike large, well-funded companies, women-owned businesses are less equipped to throw money at issues like this.”

Advancing into foreign markets is expensive, she said. Entrepreneurs need cash for shipping, research, travel and hiring more employees. Consulting experts to keep up with today’s unpredictable business climate adds to the cost. And female entrepreneurs, Molina Niño noted, generally have less spending power.

Venture capitalists poured $58.2 billion into companies with male founders last year, while women received a comparatively measly $1.46 billion, according to data from the venture capital database PitchBook. (Less than 10 percent of VC-funded start-ups are run by women, according to the Harvard Business Review, and firms owned by women make up 38 percent of the business population.)

Still, female entrepreneurs in the United States are better off than those in most other countries, studies find.

This year, Mastercard’s Index of Women Entrepreneurs put the United States in third place for female entrepreneurs, behind New Zealand and Canada.

The authors, however, highlighted a persistent challenge: “In the United States where the underlying entrepreneurial conditions and women’s advancement outcomes are among the best in the world,” they wrote, “women’s entrepreneurial advancement is held back by the lack of internationalization opportunities.”

Fiona Murray, the associate dean of innovation at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, said the uncertainty clouding international relations, driven by Trump’s “America first” rhetoric, could exacerbate the problem. She pointed to Trump’s executive order last week calling for a review of the H1-B visas for highly skilled workers.

“That makes it difficult for any entrepreneur to think about an appropriate internationalization strategy,” Murray said. “Can you hire the people you need to hire? They need highly specialized talent, and that talent comes from all over the world.”

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The Daily 202: Trump is caving on border wall funding after showing his base that he tried – Washington Post

President Trump attended a working lunch yesterday with ambassadors from countries on the United Nations Security Council and their spouses in the State Dining Room of the White House. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

With Breanne Deppisch

— Thank you, readers! The Daily 202 has won The Webby Award for Best Email Newsletter.

THE BIG IDEA: Donald Trump blinked first – again.

After the bluster comes the inevitable bow to reality. Last night the president backed off his demand that any deal to fund the federal government include money to start construction on his border wall. At an event with conservative journalists, Trump said he’s okay waiting until September to have this fight.

While the mainstream media will cover this as another failure, the president’s core supporters will not see it that way. They see someone fighting to keep his promises and will give him an “A” for effort.

Elites routinely blast Trump for focusing too much on his base, rather than extending an olive branch to moderates who didn’t support him last November or reaching across the aisle to Democrats.

These critiques have validity, but the president’s focus on paying his respects to the populists who powered his unexpected victory – whether rhetorically or with executive orders – is paying dividends 96 days into his term that should not be ignored. It has helped solidify his firewall of support and prevented any cracks from forming in his coalition.

Trump’s approval rating is at record lows, but he maintains credibility with his base. Our new Washington Post/ABC News poll shows that his overall approval rating is 42 percent, but his rating among those who voted for him is 94 percent. Only two percent of his voters now regret doing so.

Especially after all his recent flip-flops on everything from NATO to China, the president is working to convince his supporters that he’s keeping his promises and getting things done. In our poll, 56 percent say Trump hasn’t accomplished much. Of those, 47 percent blame him while about a quarter blame congressional Republicans. Only 7 percent blame Democrats.

Trump’s posture in the border wall fight reflects a desire to shift those numbers. Immigration is one of the few populist rallying cries he has not backed away from. “My base definitely wants the border wall,” Trump told the Associated Press last Friday. “You’ve been to many of the rallies? The thing they want more than anything is the wall. … That wall’s getting built, okay? One hundred percent.”

Even after he realizes the border wall is infeasible, he is unlikely to ever acknowledge it publicly because it was such a central rationale of his candidacy. “I will build a great wall,” Trump promised in his June 2015 announcement speech. “And nobody builds walls better than me, believe me. … And I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” (The Huffington Post created a timeline tracking his promises on the wall over the past two years.)

— The president’s aides have convinced him that he can present a little bit of money for border security, especially technology and more agents, as a victory. And he will avert a government shutdown that would have raised questions about his competence and basic leadership ability, especially with the GOP in total control of Washington. Trump has already begun taking credit for a drop in illegal border crossings and a reduction in crime along the border. He says his tough enforcement policies are deterring many from trying to enter the country.

— These dynamics mean that the White House is walking a delicate tightrope this week. While Trump is talking tough for the benefit of his base, his team has been trying to soothe the jittery nerves of Republican establishmentarians and greybeards around town. Administration officials yesterday backed off some of the ominous language they used on the Sunday shows. During his briefing, Sean Spicer said the money for the wall was always more of a priority than a demand. He also said he was “very confident” that an agreement would be reached by Friday. Compare that to what Trump was posting on Twitter around the same time:

The Wall is a very important tool in stopping drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth (and many others)! If

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 24, 2017

….the wall is not built, which it will be, the drug situation will NEVER be fixed the way it should be!#BuildTheWall

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 24, 2017

The Democrats don’t want money from budget going to border wall despite the fact that it will stop drugs and very bad MS 13 gang members.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 23, 2017

Democratic leaders are fine appropriating money for border security, even though they know it lets Trump save face, but they are insisting on language that guarantees it will not be spent on a wall, so that they don’t get hammered by their own left flank.

— Republicans tried to make a trade. The White House wanted $1.5 billion now for construction, and $2.6 billion more in the fall. Administration officials offered money for insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act if Democrats would go along with cash for the wall. But Democrats stayed united, and GOP negotiators backed off.

Lindsey Graham talks to David Weigel in the corridors of the Capitol. (Susan Walsh/AP)

— The biggest reason Trump is caving: There is no appetite among Republican leaders in Congress for this fight right now. Trying to help their president save face, they too are working to define Trump’s campaign promise down, arguing that any form of border security would fulfill it. From a story on the funding fight by Philip Rucker, Robert Costa and David Weigel:

  • “I think you’re going to get a down payment on border security generally,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a key appropriator and member of Senate leadership. He explained that “there could be a wall in some places and technology in other places,” implying that there would not be funding for the wall sketched out in campaign rhetoric.
  • “There will never be a 2,200-mile wall built, period,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a supporter of immigration reform who faced Trump in the 2016 primaries. “I think it’s become symbolic of better border security. It’s a code word for better border security. If you make it about actually building a 2,200-mile wall, that’s a bridge too far — but I’m mixing my metaphors.”

— A good window into why GOP leaders are skittish: Polls consistently show that most Americans do not want a border wall. Kristine Phillips and Scott Clement review the important numbers from four surveys conducted in 2017:

  • WaPo-ABC News: Sixty percent of adults oppose building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, while 37 percent support it. Nationally, 47 percent are “strongly” against the wall. Three-quarters of Trump voters support it, while 91 percent of Hillary Clinton voters don’t.
  • Pew Research Center: The nonpartisan organization found in February that only 29 percent think a wall would lead to a “major reduction” in illegal immigration. An additional 25 percent think it would lead to a “minor reduction,” while 43 percent don’t think it would have much effect. Another key finding: 70 percent think the United States would ultimately foot the bill. Only 16 percent said they think Mexico will pay for the wall.
  • Gallup: This poll from January found that a majority of Americans would rather see other campaign promises fulfilled. Sixty-nine percent think Trump should renew the country’s infrastructure. More than half want him to reduce income taxes, establish tariffs on imports and deport illegal immigrants with criminal records. Forty-six percent want Obamacare repealed and replaced. Only 26 percent say a wall should be a priority.
  • Quinnipiac University: Five polls conducted over the past months show that an increasing number of voters oppose building a wall, and that support for a wall has been waning. In November, 55 percent were opposed, while 42 percent were in support. By March and April, 64 percent said they were opposed, while 33 percent said they were in favor.

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) greets a family while visiting a portion of the U.S. border with Mexico in his district. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

— Karen Tumulty wrote a fantastic profile of Rep. Will Hurd, one of the most outspoken Republican critics of Trump’s border wall, for The Post’s front page: “The vast, volatile 23rd Congressional District of Texas is bigger in area than 29 states. It stretches from San Antonio to El Paso and includes about one-third of the entire U.S.-Mexico border. (Trump’s proposed wall would cover 820 miles in the district, much of it on private property.) The district’s overwhelmingly Latino electorate last year went for Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. … Hurd narrowly won a second term in what turned out to be the most expensive House race in Texas history. Democrats have put Hurd’s seat in their top five targets in 2018. He will also be running to beat the fickle tendencies of a district that has ousted four different incumbents since 2006…

“A scorching, dusty morning last week found the 39-year-old congressman in the desert outside El Paso, at the dedication ceremony of a project he has championed for two years. A border crossing was being renamed in honor of World War I’s most decorated Texan, a Mexican immigrant named Marcelino Serna. The 5-foot-6 Serna volunteered for the Army to avoid deportation, and at one point he single-handedly captured 24 enemy soldiers and killed 26 in France. That his Mexican citizenship made him ineligible for the nation’s highest military accolade, the Medal of Honor, has long been a sore point with El Paso-area veterans. It was lost on no one there that Hurd was standing just a few hundred yards from where Trump’s wall would go. Currently, there is a fence, which local residents say has been effective in stemming illegal traffic.”

Hurd says the wall would be an inefficient, impractical and wasteful “one-size-fits-all” means of controlling illegal immigration and reducing crime.

In interviews with several dozen of Hurd’s constituents, not one expressed the opinion that building a wall is the best way to control problems on the border: “In Hurd’s district and elsewhere throughout the state, support for enhancing border security runs strong. But there are also fears that a physical wall would violate the property rights that Texans hold dear, and be a kick in the gut to a regional economy heavily dependent on cross-border trade.” (Take the time to read Karen’s full piece here.)

Hurd and the people he represents are not unique: “Not a single member of Congress who represents the territory on the southwest border said they support Trump’s request for $1.4 billion to begin construction of his promised wall,” according to a survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal’s Laura Meckler and Kristina Peterson. “Most lawmakers representing the region—both Democrats and Republicans—said they are opposed and many said they have unanswered questions. A few were noncommittal, but not a single member offered support.”

FOUR MORE POST STORIES ABOUT THIS FIGHT:

1. The Trump administration has quietly begun scaling back the proposed footprint for the wall, focusing only on the most highly trafficked corridors. A Department of Homeland Security planning document identifies as “high priority” the border sectors of the Rio Grande Valley in the southern tip of Texas — encompassing Rio Grande City, McAllen and Weslaco — as well as El Paso, Tucson and San Diego. “The areas were selected because of their proximity to urban centers and roads, allowing those who cross to vanish quickly,” Tracy Jan and David Nakamura report. “The preliminary plan anticipates adding more than 100 new miles of wall over the next two years, on top of the 700 miles of fencing that already exists, at an initial cost of more than $3.6 billion. The National Border Patrol Council, a union representing Border Patrol agents, hailed the targeted approach as a more practical and effective solution to illegal immigration than a 2,000-mile wall stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.”

2. Trump’s claim that the wall would halt the flow of drugs is dubious. From Fact Checkers Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Glenn Kessler: The president told the AP last week that the wall will stop “all” the illegal drug smuggling from Mexico to the U.S. “Experts say that drugs are actually shipped through the border on the underside of vehicles that have permits to cross the border in a special lane. ‘As long as the U.S. remains the world’s largest consumer of coke, and as long as Mexico continues to provide it, no wall will ever be able to stop the trade,’ wrote Roberto Saviano in Newsweek.”

3. The funding fight is galvanizing disheartened Democrats. From Amber Phillips: “Democrats have their own divisions to deal with. But opposing Trump’s wall is a near-perfect rallying cry almost everyone in their party can get behind. It’s just too good an opportunity to whack Trump and Republicans in Congress.”

4. Trump’s continued bellicosity may not get the wall built, but it could destabilize Mexico.From Adam Taylor: “Some critics worry that Trump, more used to negotiating cutthroat business deals, may push for a measure that humiliates Mexico or has a major negative effect on its economy (cutting off remittances to Mexico, for example, could be disastrous). Some suspect a hard line from Trump could even propel Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a populist compared by opponents to the late Hugo Chávez, to the Mexican presidency next year.

THREE FRESH DISPATCHES FROM THE BORDER:

1. “Trump’s border wall faces another challenge with Indian reservation,” by CBS News: “The Tohono O’odham Nation is roughly the size of Connecticut. It straddles 62 miles along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. Tribal members live on both sides and are caught in the middle of the border debate. They allowed the federal government to build a vehicle barrier in 2006, but they strongly oppose a wall through their land. The current border fence cuts right through a ranch owned by a tribal family. Their well is now on the Mexican side and a wall would make it impossible to get to.”

2. “Mexico Worries That A New Border Wall Will Worsen Flooding,” by NPR’s Morning Edition: “Mexican engineers believe construction of the border barrier may violate a 47-year-old treaty governing the shared waters of the Rio Grande. If Mexico protests, the fate of the wall could end up in an international court. Antonio Rascón, chief Mexican engineer on the International Boundary and Water Commission, said in an interview that some border wall proposals he’s seen would violate the treaty, and that Mexico would not stand for that.”

3. “Texas border hurt by (EPA) cuts,” by the San Antonio Express-News: “Sewage gushing into the Rio Grande offers a pungent reminder of problems that could worsen under the Trump administration’s plan to reduce the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency budget by nearly a third and eliminate dozens of anti-pollution programs. Joint U.S.-Mexico spending under the 1993 North American Free Trade Agreement – including $650 million in EPA funding for water projects – has helped stop release of millions of gallons daily of Nuevo Laredo wastewater into the river. Despite those investments, an estimated 6 million gallons of untreated sewage flows daily into the river from Nuevo Laredo. … An EPA memo circulating among regional administrators and top staff asserts flatly that U.S.-Mexico border activities will be ‘eliminated’ starting next fall.”

The New York Times fronts a story this morning about all the immigration hard-liners who have gotten key jobs inside the relevant agencies: “After sending more than 13,000 Twitter messages in less than three years, Jon Feere, an outspoken opponent of illegal immigration, suddenly went silent after Inauguration Day. As a legal policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based group that favors significant reductions in immigration, Mr. Feere had staked out tough positions on the subject, including pushing for an end to automatic citizenship for children born in the United States. Mr. Feere’s newfound reticence reflected not a change of heart but a new employer. He now works for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency tasked with finding and deporting people living in the United States illegally. His last Twitter post, on Jan. 20, read simply: ‘It’s time to make immigration policy great again.’”

In many cases, these people don’t just oppose illegal immigration. They’re also against any increases in legal immigration: “Julie Kirchner, who served for a decade as executive director of [FAIR] is now working as an adviser to the commissioner of Customs and Border Protection. Kellyanne Conway … worked regularly as a pollster for FAIR. … Stephen Miller worked tirelessly to defeat immigration reform as a staff member for Senator Jeff Sessions, now the attorney general. Gene P. Hamilton, who worked on illegal immigration as Mr. Sessions’s counsel on the Judiciary Committee, is now a senior counselor at the Department of Homeland Security … Julia Hahn, who wrote about immigration for Breitbart — with headlines like ‘Republican-Led Congress Oversees Large-Scale Importation of Somali Migrants’ — has followed her former boss, Stephen K. Bannon, to the White House as a deputy policy strategist.”

Historical context: “Daniel Tichenor, an immigration politics scholar at the University of Oregon, called it ‘highly unusual’ in the post-World War II era to have proponents of sharply reduced immigration in such high-ranking positions. ‘You would have to go to the 1920s and 1930s to find a comparable period in which you could point to people within the executive agencies and the White House who favored significant restrictions,’ Mr. Tichenor said.”

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

Sally Yates, then deputy attorney general, sits in her office at the Justice Department in 2015. (Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post)

— Must-see TV: Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates will testify on May 8 before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee about Russia’s interference in last year’s elections. Lindsey Graham will chair the hearing. Yates, who got fired by Trump for refusing to defend his refugee ban, has also been invited to testify before the House Intelligence Committee on May 2. (CNN)

— Arkansas executed two inmates in back-to-back lethal injections Monday night, carrying out the first double execution in the U.S. since 2000. The deaths come just one week after Arkansas issued its first lethal injection in more than a decade – an unprecedented and harried pace that authorities say is propelled by an expiring drug. Mark Berman reports: The second execution Monday night was briefly delayed by a federal judge so she could consider claims that the first lethal injection may have been botched, but she lifted that stay shortly before 9:30 p.m. local time. The second inmate was pronounced dead about an hour later … These lethal injections marked the first back-to-back executions in the United States since Texas carried out two death sentences in one night nearly two decades ago. Arkansas was also the first state to make such an attempt since a widely publicized [screw up] in Oklahoma in 2014. The two prisoners, Jack H. Jones Jr. and Marcel W. Williams, were both convicted of brutal murders two decades ago, and failed to delay their lethal injections in an appeal to the Supreme Court.”

Rupert Murdoch, left, leaves a Manhattan restaurant yesterday afternoon with Fox News co-presidents Jack Abernethy and Bill Shine. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

— Bill O’Reilly shows no contrition. On the night he was scheduled to return to Fox News from vacation, the deposed King of Cable News spoke out on a podcast that went live last night about the sexual harassment allegations that led to his ouster and hinted at a coming campaign to clear his name.

“I am sad that I’m not on television anymore. I was very surprised how it all turned out,” O’Reilly said. “I can’t say a lot, because there’s much stuff going on right now. But I can tell you that I’m very confident the truth will come out, and when it does, I don’t know if you’re going to be surprised — but I think you’re going to be shaken, as I am. There’s a lot of stuff involved here. Now, I can’t say any more because I just don’t want to influence the flow of the information. I don’t want the media to take what I say and misconstrue it.”

The Fix’s Callum Borchers writes that the podcast sounded like the start of “a revenge tour” and forecasts that O’Reilly will portray himself as the victim of a left-wing conspiracy: “It is important to note that there is no clear reason O’Reilly ‘can’t say any more.’ The harassment allegations, chronicled in a New York Times report earlier this month, already have been settled. O’Reilly’s reported $25 million severance from Fox News presumably precludes him from suing the network, so there is no pending litigation that we know of.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. A recent decision to tear down four Confederacy-linked statues in New Orleans has provoked such intense backlash that the mayor has ordered they be dismantled in the middle of the night. Workers also wear masks and are protected by police snipers. (Avi Selk)
  2. Virginia gubernatorial candidate Corey Stewart’s “Confederate-centric” campaign tactics have cost him the endorsement of a longtime political ally, Prince William County Sheriff Glendell Hill, and prompted four of the five Republicans who serve with him on a county board to back his GOP rival. The loss of support comes after Stewart’s participation in a Confederate-themed ball earlier this month, as well as a supporter who flew his plane, streaming both a Confederate flag and a Stewart banner, over an outdoor gathering. (Laura Vozzella)
  3. Chobani is suing InfoWars founder Alex Jones, after the well-known conspiracy theorist published false information linking the yogurt company to a sexual assault case involving refugee children in Twin Falls. Jones’s false accusations come after news that Chobani owner and Turkish immigrant Hamdi Ulukaya employs hundreds of immigrants and refugees at his company – prompting a barrage of outrage and threats from far-right corners of the internet. (Idaho Statesman)
  4. Republican student groups at UC-Berkeley are suing the university for cancelling a speech by Ann Coulter over security concerns, charging that the school’s actions “smother the speech” of the conservative “minority.” The back-and-forth comes after university police put the campus on lockdown and canceled a talk by another controversial figure, Milo Yiannopoulos, amid violent protests. (Susan Svrluga and William Wan)
  5. The Supreme Court is weighing whether defendants being tried for the death penalty are entitled to have a mental-health expert testify on their behalf. At issue is whether poor defendants should have a chance to obtain the kind of expert assistance that wealthy defendants and state prosecutors can afford, rather than relying on testimony from a neutral expert. (Robert Barnes)
  6. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a dissent that the court is developing a “disturbing trend” of siding with police officers accused of excessive force, breaking with seven of her colleagues as she argued that the court should have accepted the case of a man who was shot in the back by a Houston police officer in 2010.Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined her. (Robert Barnes)
  7. Members of the Writers Guild of America voted overwhelmingly to authorize their union to call a strike as contract negotiations barrel towards a May 1 deadline. If an agreement can’t be worked out, some of the most-loved shows on television may stop production. (Elahe Izadi)
  8. A recent string of extreme weather events has been substantially shaped by human-influennced global warming, according to a new study.The conclusion comes as scientists have become increasingly adept at analyzing what impact climate change has on bizarre weather patterns. (Chelsea Harvey)
  9. Four marijuana activists were arrested after lighting joints in front of the Capitol, part of a demonstration urging lawmakers to remove marijuana from the nation’s list of most dangerous drugs. A number of other protestors, also illegally in possession of marijuana on federal land, were not arrested. (Perry Stein)
  10. In Pennsylvania, real-estate executive and GOP bundler Jeff Bartos joined a growing field of candidates hoping to unseat incumbent Sen. Bob Casey (D) in 2018. Bartos sought to brand himself as a conservative businessman and Casey as an out-of-touch Washington insider, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Dave Weigel noticed that Bartos’s introductory video presented stock images from Hangzhou, China, as coming from D.C.
  11. A Tennessee teacher accused of abducting a 15-year-old student will be transferred to his home state to face charges after he was arrested in California. His capture ended a five-week manhunt in which the teacher allegedly traveled through nine states and had plans to take the teen girl to Mexico. (Lindsey Bever, Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Peter Holley)
  12. In Japan, tattoos are associated with the mafia. Even tourists who are seen sporting body art larger than the size of a band-aid can be denied access to pools, restaurants, and convenience stores. But as Tokyo prepares to host the 2020 Summer Olympics – and the huge number of ink-sporting athletes who will compete – some are seeking to put an end to the bias. (Anna Fifield profiles one.)

TAX REFORM:

— Trump will propose cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent, moving to fulfill one campaign pledge even as he shatters another. Damian Paletta and Robert Costa preview tomorrow’s big announcement: “By doing so — but not committing to measures that would offset the revenue loss — Trump is making clear he is putting a priority on cutting taxes over the national debt. It also potentially creates a tension point with House Republicans, who have spent years advancing a vision for tax restructuring of their own. When Trump proposed the 15 percent rate during the campaign, the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center projected that this would reduce federal revenue by $2.4 trillion over 10 years. But White House officials have said that the tax cuts will create such a jump in economic growth that it will create new revenue, an assumption that has divided experts. If the amount of taxes paid by businesses falls, it could put more pressure on other taxpayers to make up the difference. But Trump has said he wants to put in place a ‘massive’ cut for the middle class, which means all tax revenue could fall.”

  • House Republicans have pursued lowering the corporate tax rate to 20 percent.
  • Trump’s push for unveiling his tax plan began last week during several meetings in the Oval Office where he expressed his frustration with the slow pace of legislation on several fronts.
  • The president urged his top economic advisers to ready a rollout this week and to keep the details of the plan controlled as much as possible by Trump advisers and Cabinet members rather than GOP lawmakers.

— “The disrupter president and the do-little Congress,” by Dan Balz: “Will President Trump and congressional Republicans ever understand one another? Over time, they might accomplish things of mutual interest. Big things, perhaps. But the mismatch between the disrupter president and what has been a business-as-usual, do-little Congress seems especially evident as the 100-day mark of the administration nears. Even with a president of their own party and majorities in the House and Senate, congressional Republicans have been stuck. Trump tries to prod Congress to act, not always forgiving of why things move slowly. Congressional leaders try to educate the president on the limits and culture of the legislative process.”

On Trump’s tax announcement: “What’s coming appears likely to be little more than principles, rather than proposed legislation. Those principles might not go any further than the tax plans he proposed during the campaign. It will be more motion without real action. That’s the difference between the presidency and Capitol Hill. Trump likes to say things and sign things. And so, day after day, surrounded by aides or people from the outside, he makes announcements, or he puts his signature — in big strokes — on official documents, whether executive orders or presidential memorandums. These orders are not without impact, symbolically and eventually practically. He signs them and moves on. … The legislative process doesn’t comport with his approach to governing.

LAUNCHING A TRADE WAR:

— The White House announced plans to impose a roughly 20 percent tariff on softwood lumber imported from Canada. Ana Swanson and Damian Paletta report: “Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said in an interview that his department had reached a preliminary decision to impose the tax, the administration’s first major trade action against our northern neighbor. Ross portrayed the action as a tough measure to punish Canada after [Trump] declared last week that ‘we can’t let Canada or anybody else take advantage and do what they did to our workers and to our farmers.’ ‘What we are doing is dealing with another bad act on the part of the Canadians,’ Ross said. The Obama administration began the review of trade in softwood lumber last year out of concern that Canada was subsidizing its wood industry in a way that hurt U.S. rivals.”

How it works: “The decision to impose what are known as “countervailing duties” in retaliation for Canada’s wood subsidies … is subject to a final review by the International Trade Commission, an independent federal agency that advises the government on trade policy. Yet the decision allows U.S. Customs and Border Protection to begin collecting the funds from Canadian importers immediately. Five Canadian companies were a part of the investigation, and the United States will seek to collect money from four of them retroactively for actions taken in the past 90 days … Ross said this could amount to $1 billion in new tariffs, as well as $250 million in retroactive collections. All other Canadian softwood lumber companies will face the same tariff of 19.88 percent going forward.”

DECONSTRUCTING THE ADMINISTRATIVE STATE:

— Trump is going to sign an executive order on Wednesday instructing the Interior Department to review national monument designations made by his three predecessors – a move that could potentially upend more than two decades of protections put in place in Utah and across the country.Juliet Eilperin reports: “Presidents of both parties have invoked their executive authority under the 1906 Antiquities Act to provide safeguards for federal lands and waters. But some of these moves — including [Obama’s] designation of the 1.35 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument … and Bill Clinton’s 1996 declaration of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, both in Utah, have sparked fierce criticism from Republicans. Members of Utah’s congressional delegation started lobbying Trump shortly after his November win to take unilateral action to undo the designation for Bear Ears, which they said should have been protected instead through legislation.” The White House has not yet indicated whether it will remove protections for the monument.

— Trump coul be shutting down the EPA’s Open Data Web Service – a citizen-linked data tool that provides critical information on health and environmental issues.The Independent reports: “The [EPA’s service] … which stores information on climate change, life cycle assessment, health impact analysis and environmental justice – is to have its funding removed and will no longer be in operation, according to people working on the plan. A pop-up on the site appears to confirm the shutdown, with anyone visiting the Open Data page told that the site will not be operational from Friday. Since this story was first published, that message has been updated to read: ‘The data on this Web site will continue to be available on April 28, 2017.’ The EPA also tweeted to say that the website wasn’t going anywhere … though it seemed to be experiencing occasional outages. If the site does go offline, it will mean that citizens will no longer be able to access information on their environment and climate, keeping them from researching potentially fatal changes to their area.”

— USA Today, “Republicans in Congress push for religious liberty executive order,” by Eliza Collins: “Dozens of Republican lawmakers are asking [Trump] to scale back Obama-era protections for gays and lesbians in order to make good on a campaign promise to protect religious liberty. In early February, Trump was reportedly considering an executive order that would reverse [Obama’s] orders prohibiting discrimination against gays and lesbians in the federal workforce or by federal contractors. But the order was never signed. A group of 51 members of the House wrote to Trump this month [to request he sign the order].” Meanwhile, a senior White House official said Monday that some sort of policy to protect religious liberty is still in the works, but that Trump is “trying to find middle ground.” The official acknowledged it would be a “delicate balance,” adding that discussions were “ongoing” about how best to proceed.

Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach. (Reuters/Joe Skipper)

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST:

— The State Department removed its promotion of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort Monday following a storm of criticism.The AP’s Julie Bykowicz reports: “In an April 4 blog post that was republished by several U.S. embassies abroad, Mar-a-Lago was described as ‘Trump’s Florida estate,’ where he has hosted foreign leaders. ‘By visiting this ‘winter White House,’ Trump is belatedly fulfilling the dream of Mar-a-Lago’s original owner and designer,’ the post said. Left unsaid: Mar-a-Lago is part of Trump’s business empire. After his election, the resort doubled its membership fee to $200,000. The State Department said late Monday that its intention was ‘to inform the public about where the president has been hosting world leaders’ and that it regrets ‘any misperception.’ The White House did not respond to questions about whether it had any involvement in the original posting or the decision to take it down.”

The Mar-a-Lago post was nearly three weeks old but gained traction Monday when several people noticed the U.S. embassy to the United Kingdom was featuring it: “Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, asked on Twitter why taxpayers are ‘promoting the president’s private country club’ and referred to the incident as ‘kleptocratic.’ Former Obama-era White House ethics attorney Norm Eisen said the promotion is ‘exploitation,’ comparing it to Kellyanne Conway’s promotion of Ivanka Trump’s clothing business during a West Wing interview earlier this year. ‘This idea of using government for private gain is metastasizing,’ Eisen said. ‘It must be stopped.’ And Richard Painter, who served in the ethics role for Bush, tweeted that the State Department post was, ‘Use of public office for private gain pure and simple.'”

— Ivanka Trump’s eponymous clothing line was relabeled and sold to Stein Mart under a different name, “Adrienne Vittadini Studio.” Business of Fashion reports: The decision to relabel the garments was made by a manufacturing and distribution company, without knowledge of the Ivanka Trump brand, came after several prominent retailers dropped her clothing line.

Sonny Perdue testifies at his confirmation hearing. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

PERSONNEL IS POLICY:

— The Senate confirmed former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue as Agriculture secretary on Monday, voting 87-11 in his favor.Jose A. DelReal and Caitlin Dewey report: “Perdue, who received thumbs up from hundreds of food and agricultural groups nationwide, faced few obstacles in his confirmation. Still, he may have to contend with deep cuts to the USDA budget proposed by Trump – which could pit him between the White House’s priorities and those of rural and agricultural interest groups across the country.”

— Jeff Sessions vowed not to diminish the Justice Department’s focus on corporate fraud, telling a gathering of white-collar lawyers that his aggressive crackdown on violent crime would not diminish the department’s longstanding mission to prosecute white-collar offenders. Matt Zapotosky reports: “Sessions took aim at recent speculation that his Justice Department might be easier on white-collar crime, saying while there could be ‘some uncertainty’ when administrations changed, he would ‘still enforce the laws that protect American consumers and ensure that honest businesses are not placed at a disadvantage to dishonest businesses.’ He acknowledged that he had been focused in his first weeks on the job on violent crime and immigration but said that did not mean he would give other criminals a pass. ‘These are important priorities for our department,’ Sessions said. ‘But focusing on these challenges does not mean we’re going to reduce our efforts in other areas.’ This was the first time he addressed topics of public corruption and corporate fraud in a significant way since being confirmed as attorney general.”

— Retired Marine general Randolph Alles, who currently serves as the U.S. Customs and Border deput directory, is expected to be tapped to lead the Secret Service.Politico reports: “Alles has served as the acting deputy commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection since Trump’s inauguration. He previously served stints as the CBP’s acting executive assistant commissioner of enterprise services and leading the department’s Air and Marine Operations. Prior to serving in the federal government, Alles served for 35 years in the Marine Corps … [His] expected appointment comes after a search that purposefully looked outside of the Secret Service ranks — and process that hasn’t exactly been popular among former agents. The 6,500-person bureau has its own unique characteristics and culture, which are often best understood by someone who has served on a protective detail.” “Imagine taking a guy from USDA and moving him over to be the commandant of the Marine Corps,” said former deputy assistant director Bill Pickle. “They’re totally different jobs.”

— Former “Fox and Friends” anchor and ABC News correspondent Heather Nauert has been tapped as the State Department spokeswoman. “Heather’s media experience and long interest in international affairs will be invaluable as she conveys the administration’s foreign policy priorities to the American people and the world,” the State Department said in a statement. (Reuters)

— Trump welcomed about 50 people from conservative media organizations to a reception in the Roosevelt Room last night. It was supposed to be on background, a ground rule that was stressed to attendees at the start, but then Trump walked in and declared it on the record. There were people from Breitbart, the Washington Free Beacon, Daily Caller, Christian Broadcast Network, The Eternal Word Television Network, as well conservative radio hosts like Laura Ingraham, Larry O’Connor and John Fredericks, per Politico’s Hadas Gold. “Nearly the entire communications staff were in attendance in addition to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, chief of staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Stephen Bannon, senior adviser Jared Kushner, National Security Council spokesperson Michael Anton and Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland.”

— Bloomberg, “Trump Adviser Gorka Walks Off Stage at a Discussion of Fake News,” by Nafeesa Syeed: “[Sebastian Gorka], under fire for his alleged association with a Hungarian nationalist group and his views on Islam, walked off the stage during a conference in Washington after facing questions from students and protesters he said distracted from other participants. Gorka, a deputy assistant to [Trump], was on a panel at Georgetown University on Monday titled ‘News, Alternative Facts and Propaganda: The Role of Cyber in Influence Operations.’ During the question-and-answer period … Gorka said, ‘You are the victims of fake news’ and he called his experience a ‘superb case study of fake news.’ After intense questioning, Gorka said he was leaving the stage ‘to allow my colleagues to actually get questions about the issues on the table.'”

— Huffington Post, “The Guide To Becoming Jared Kushner,” by Ben Walsh: “When Charles Kushner was heading to federal prison in 2005 … his son Jared got some advice from Howard Rubenstein ― the dean of New York damage control ― on how to rehabilitate the Kushner name, Charles would later tell a family friend. Step one: Buy a New York newspaper. Don’t be too particular, Rubenstein told Jared … Any newspaper will do. Step two: Buy a big Manhattan building. Any building will do. Step three: Marry the daughter of a rich New York family. Anyone will do. Whether or not Kushner was indeed working through a checklist, his actions during those years have served him well. They also laid the groundwork for the meticulous public relations strategy that has made possible Kushner’s current paradoxical role in the press, as a blameless yet uniquely powerful member of the Trump administration. ‘I don’t talk to the press,’ he told Forbes in December. But someone is clearly shaping his image in the media as a beacon of moderation, the man working to pull Trump toward consensus-minded policies and socially liberal politics.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin huddles with far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen at the Kremlin last month. (Mikhail Klimenty/AFP/Getty Images/Sputnik)

MOSCOW IS MEDDLING:

— The general in charge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan appeared to confirm that Russia is sending weapons to the Taliban– an intervention that will likely deepen complications in the country’s 15-year-war, as well as U.S.-Kremlin relations. Thomas Gibbons-Neff reports: “We continue to get reports of this assistance,’ [Gen. John Nicholson said Monday, speaking to reporters alongside Jim Mattis.] A senior U.S. military official … said the Russians have increased their supply of equipment and small arms to the Taliban over the past 18 months. The official said the Russians have been sending weapons, including medium and heavy machine guns, to the Taliban under the guise that the material would be used to fight the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan. Instead, the official said, the weapons were showing up in some of Afghanistan’s southern provinces, including Helmand and Kandahar — both areas with little Islamic State presence.” “Any weapons being funneled here from a foreign country would be a violation of international law unless they were coming to the government of Afghanistan,” Mattis said, adding that they would “have to be dealt with as such.” Mattis and Nicholson’s remarks come just days after the Taliban pulled off the single deadliest attack against Afghan security forces since the beginning of the war.

— Emmanuel Macron, the frontrunner for president of France in the upcoming runoff with Marine Le Pen, appears to have been targeted by the same Russian operatives who targeted Hillary Clinton’s campaign ahead of the U.S. election, a cybersecurity firm warns in a new report. The news heightens concerns that Russia may have turned its playbook on France – seeking to bolster Le Pen’s candidacy the final round of voting May 7. The New York Times’ Nicole Perlroth reports: “Security researchers at the cybersecurity firm, Trend Micro, said that on March 15 they spotted a hacking group they believe to be a Russian intelligence unit turn its weapons on Mr. Macron’s campaign — sending emails to campaign officials and others with links to fake websites designed to bait them into turning over passwords. Those websites were registered to a block of web addresses that Trend Micro’s researchers say belong to the Russian intelligence unit they refer to as Pawn Storm, but is alternatively known as Fancy Bear, APT 28 or the Sofacy Group.” American and European intelligence agencies determined that the group was responsible for last year’s DNC hack.

— The Turkish man who gave Michael Flynn a $600,000 lobbying deal just before Trump tapped him to serve as national security adviser has business ties to Russia, including a 2009 aviation financing deal negotiated with Vladimir Putin.Politico’s Isaac Arnsdorf reports: “The man, Ekim Alptekin, has in recent years helped to coordinate Turkish lobbying in Washington with Dmitri ‘David’ Zaikin, a Soviet-born former executive in Russian energy and mining companies who also has had dealings with Putin’s government … This unusual arrangement, in which Alptekin and Zaikin have helped steer Turkish lobbying through various groups since at least 2015, raises questions about both the agenda of the two men and the source of the funds used to pay the lobbyists. The revelation of Russian business ties to the man who hired Flynn — which has not been previously reported — threatens to complicate the White House’s struggle to escape the shadow of the FBI investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian agents.”

North Korean women soldiers take part in a military parade on April 15 in Pyongyang. (Wong Maye-E/AP)

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

— The administration announced it will host a private briefing on North Korea for the entire Senate Wednesday at the White House – an unusual event that has prompted some lawmakers to question whether the administration plans to use the event as a photo op ahead of its 100-day mark.David Nakamura and Ed O’Keefe report: “[Sean Spicer] told reporters that the lawmakers would be briefed Wednesday by several senior administration officials, including [Rex Tillerson] and [Jim Mattis]. Yet the White House setting perplexed lawmakers who have grown accustomed to such briefings taking place in a secure location on Capitol Hill, where there is more room to handle such a large group. Past administrations … have traditionally sent high-level aides to Capitol Hill to hold discussions with larger groups in secure underground locations.”

“Congressional staffers suggested that the briefing’s proximity to Trump would make it easy for him to ‘drop by’ and perhaps take over the briefing. The image of senators meeting with Trump at the White House on a top national security concern could be touted by the White House as a key moment in the run-up to Trump’s 100th day in office — a milestone … that his administration is working aggressively to promote. … ‘These briefings are always, always, always done in the SCIF up here,’ said one Senate aide. ‘Does it mean classified information is going to be shared in an unsecured setting? Or that we’re not hearing about classified material?’ Another senior aide said it was Trump’s idea to hold the meeting at the White House.”

— Meanwhile, Trump just postponed the dinner he had scheduled at the White House for all nine Supreme Court judges. Aides cited scheduling conflicts. (Politico

Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago. (AP/Alex Brandon)

SIGNS OF ESCALATION:

— Trump spoke by phone to his counterparts in China and Japan on Monday, discussing concerns that North Korea could use a key anniversary Tuesday to stage a provocative missile or nuclear test. Simon Denyer and Anna Fifield report: “In his phone call with Trump, [Chinese President Xi Jinping] called for restraint from both Washington and Pyongyang … but he also stressed that China ‘resolutely opposes activities that violate U.N. Security Council resolutions’ and is willing to work with the United States and other countries to keep the peace. Japan’s [Prime Minister Shinzo Abe] had a 30-minute call with Trump to discuss North Korea, whose actions he called an ‘extremely serious threat’ to international society and to his country.”

In Beijing, the possibility of another missile test is leading to mounting frustration with Pyongyang and an increasingly obvious deterioration in relations with its neighbor: “On Monday, the Global Times newspaper said that if North Korea stages a sixth nuclear test, Beijing would ‘undoubtedly support’ the U.N. in adopting tougher sanctions against the regime, including an embargo on oil exports. … Meanwhile, naval destroyers from Japan started drills with the carrier strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson in the Philippine Sea on Sunday, and the South Korean navy is expected to do the same.”

The Japanese government is preparing its citizens to be ready in case of a missile strike: The prime minister’s office began issuing new “actions to protect yourself” guidelines this week — including for the first time instructions on how to respond if a North Korean ballistic missile is heading toward Japan. But Pyongyang has long had the technology to strike all of Japan. So the guide’s advice isn’t exactly helpful. (Anna Fifield)

— “Behind the Trump administration’s sudden urgency in dealing with the North Korean nuclear crisis lies a stark calculus: a growing body of expert studies and classified intelligence reports that conclude the country is capable of producing a nuclear bomb every six or seven weeks,” the New York Times’ David E. Sanger and William J. Broad report. “That acceleration in pace — impossible to verify until experts get beyond the limited access to North Korean facilities that ended years ago — explains why [Trump] and his aides fear they are running out of time. For years, American presidents decided that each incremental improvement in the North’s program — another nuclear test, a new variant of a missile — was worrisome, but not worth a confrontation that could spill into open conflict. Now those step-by-step advances have resulted in North Korean warheads that in a few years could reach Seattle. ‘They’ve learned a lot,’ said Siegfried S. Hecker, a Stanford professor who directed the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico … from 1986 to 1997, and whom the North Koreans have let into their facilities seven times.

“But the North Koreans are discovering — as the U.S., the Soviet Union and China did before them — that it is far more complicated to design an intercontinental missile. To reach their goal, North Korean weapons designers are looking to miniaturize their warheads, making them far lighter and more powerful. How long will it take for the North Koreans to solve those problems? The best guesswork is around 2020 — while Mr. Trump is still in his first term.”

Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull shakes hands with Jim Mattis in Afghanistan. (Reuters/Andrew Meares)

THE MIDDLE EAST:

— A devastating Taliban attack on an Afghan army base last week has shaken up the government in Kabul, forcing resignation of the country’s defense minister and army chief as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in to survey the deteriorating situation.Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Pamela Constable and Sayed Salahuddin report: “The Taliban, which is contesting control of one-third of Afghanistan, has continued to steadily gain territory and inflict record casualties on civilians and troops since most NATO troops withdrew from the country in 2014. The assault Friday — following a winter of repeated Taliban attacks on strategic cities and towns — adds to concerns that Afghanistan will not be able to defend itself without a major commitment of U.S. support.” With the conflict at a stalemate and no sign that peace talks will resume, it is unclear whether the White House will decide to send in more men or money. “But the continued weakness of the Afghan military adds urgency to a request from Gen. John Nicholson, in charge of U.S. forces here, for additional troops. He has told Congress that about 3,000 more troops are needed.” National security adviser H.R. McMaster is leading a review of U.S. strategy in the country, including troop levels.

 — The White House announced that it is imposing sanctions on more than 270 employees of a Syrian government agency that produces chemical weapons and ballistic missiles, blacklisting them from travel and financial transactions in the wake of last month’s sarin attack on civilians. Karen DeYoung reports that the sanctions on members of Assad’s Scientific Studies and Research Center more than doubles the number of Syrian individuals and entities whose property has been blocked by the United States and who are barred from financial transactions with American people or companies.

A woman walks past official posters of candidates for Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron. (Reuters/Pascal Rossignol)

IS THE E.U. MAKING A COMEBACK?

— “In this era of fiery populism and muscular anti-globalist forces, politicians across Europe are suddenly discovering an electoral surprise. It might actually pay to embrace the European Union,” Griff Witte and Michael Birnbaum report. “The top finisher in the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday is Macron, a [centrist] who is strongly favored to beat his anti-Europe rival, Le Pen, in a May 7 runoff.After years in which the E.U. was the favorite foil for ascendant politicians on the continent, the 28-nation club may be making a comeback despite Brexit and Trump’s euroskepticism…

“The Netherlands’ staunchly pro-European Green Left party quadrupled its support in elections last month. Former European Parliament president Martin Schulz is surging in polls ahead of September elections in Germany. And Macron has promised, if elected, to help lead ‘an ambitious Europe,’ restoring France to a preeminent place in the E.U. after years in which the French role has been diminished by its domestic struggles with unemployment, terrorism and political dysfunction. … For all their concerns about the E.U., voters may be becoming more wary of disruptive European politicians as they watch Trump churn up political turmoil in the United States and Britain solidify its E.U. divorce plans.”

— Still, French voters rejected both traditional parties for the first time in modern political history – making the next round of voting not just a question of governance, but also a question of national identity.Birnbaum and James McAuley report: “With just two weeks left before the next round of votes, Macron is seeking to bolster his appeal among centrist voters, while Le Pen has doubled down on her anti-immigrant rhetoric. And in a ploy to win over leftist voters who share some of her views – including an aversion to the E.U. – Le Pen on Monday temporarily stepped down from her position as the head of the National Front party. Macron is not without obstacles as he enters the runoff – especially if Le Pen can capitalize on the enthusiasm of leftist populists. (Combined, populist voters who said they wanted to ‘overhaul the system’ accounted for 49.8 percent of Sunday’s votes.) Now the question will be whether Macron can seize the moment and convert grudging support into enthusiastic backing.”

— Fun fact: The 39-year-old Macron could become the youngest contemporary French president. He would also be accompanied into the Élysée Palace by his wife, Brigitte, who is 24 years older than he is. From Rick Noack in Paris: “Born as Brigitte Marie-Claude Trogneux, the now 64-year-old is the daughter of a family of chocolatiers who are known for their macaroons. The two first met when Macron was 15 years old at the high school in Amiens where she taught a French and a theater class. ‘Whatever you do, I’ll marry you!’ Macron told her there. Despite reports that the 15-year-old even kissed his then-teacher on the cheek during a theater play, few voters seem to care.”

— British Prime Minister Theresa May has hired Obama’s former deputy chief of staff Jim Messina for her election campaign, reuniting the winning team behind David Cameron’s unexpected victory in 2015. Messina and his colleagues arrived in London this week to begin work on May’s bid – seeking to help her secure a larger Conservative Party majority, as well as a fresh mandate for her vision of “Brexit,” Bloomberg’s Tim Ross reports.

OUT OF HIBERNATION:

— Barack Obama didn’t mention Trump once as he spoke to a group of young voters at the University of Chicago yesterday afternoon in his first public appearance since leaving the White House. He urged attendees to find common ground and overcome divisiveness that has permeated national politics, Amber Phillips and Juliet Eilperin report: “‘The single most important thing I can do is to help in any way prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world,’ said Obama, who sat onstage … with a half-dozen Chicago-area activists in their teens and 20s, as dozens more student leaders watched on.”

He admitted that he failed to realize his “aspirational” goal of uniting Americans in red and blue states, but he argued that the country is not as divided as it sometimes seems: “In keeping with his previous vow not to criticize his successor, Obama made little mention of Republicans’ rush to dismantle his legacy back in Washington as quickly as possible. Instead, he focused on political polarization, which he ascribed to gerrymandered electoral districts, money in politics, a politicized media and voter apathy, especially among young people. ‘The one thing I’m absolutely convinced of is: Yes, we confront a whole range of challenges, from economic inequality and lack of opportunity, to the criminal justice system to climate change to issues related to violence,’ he said. ‘All those problems are serious, they’re daunting. But they’re not insolvable. What is preventing us from tackling them and making more progress really has to do with our politics and our civic life.”

The session marked the start of a series of public appearances Obama will make in the U.S. and abroad – including planned speeches in Boston, Berlin, and Italy.

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Many online took umbrage when they found out about the State Department promoting Mar-a-Lago:

Yes, I am curious @StateDept. Why are taxpayer $$ promoting the President’s private country club? pic.twitter.com/IlPhUlvMwa

— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) April 24, 2017

Take out “Mar a Lago” and sub in “Clinton Foundation event” and imagine the reaction if State promoted it https://t.co/3tJtkZvYPk

— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) April 24, 2017

Can’t make this up: Looks like Trump wants to cut @StateDept by 37% and use what’s left to promote his businesses. https://t.co/iz57mUyupm

— Mike Quigley (@RepMikeQuigley) April 24, 2017

Meanwhile, Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa) used the hashtag #First100 to promote Trump:

.@POTUS@realDonaldTrump fulfilling his promises: strong Cabinet, confirming Gorsuch, reining in red tape, making America safer. #First100

— Congressman Rod Blum (@RepRodBlum) April 24, 2017

Jimmy Carter’s Library is trolling Trump:

Jimmy Carter’s first 100 days..

Laws passed: 22
Executive orders: 16
Approval rating: 63 percent

— Jimmy Carter Library (@CarterLibrary) April 24, 2017

Scott Walker praised the president for siding with Wisconsin dairy farmers in a trade dispute with Canada:

Talked to POTUS on dairy issues. He is ready to take aggressive action.

— Governor Walker (@GovWalker) April 24, 2017

Obama nostalgia was ripe among Democrats as he spoke in Chicago:

In seeing President Obama today, I find it hard to forgive my fellow Americans for giving us Donald Trump and turning us into a pariah. pic.twitter.com/z0aAJTYOaY

— Russell Drew (@RussOnPolitics) April 24, 2017

“I think phones and social media should be eliminated” says HS student on panel w/ Obama. File under “Things you did NOT think you’d hear”

— Emily C. Singer (@CahnEmily) April 24, 2017

Sean Hannity’s friends showed support after a woman accused him of inviting her to his hotel room:

I #standwithsean – gentleman, patriot & mensch. Grace under fire. See you on Hannity 10pm. https://t.co/JUF2m7htx7pic.twitter.com/svH8KOyMTH

— Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) April 24, 2017

W/o question @seanhannity is the nicest guy in broadcast. Least biggest head. Most gracious in Green Rooms to kids of guests. https://t.co/m7rflMq7Oc

— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) April 24, 2017

Pretty cool:

On this day in 1943, the first class of Women Air Force Service Pilots graduated from training, paving the way for other women to serve. pic.twitter.com/yQ1KZZY6Qc

— Martha McSally (@RepMcSally) April 24, 2017

This too:

The president spoke with her yesterday:

Space Station astronaut Peggy Whitson says they are drinking their own pee
Trump: “That’s good, I’m glad to hear that, better you than me”

— Charlie Spiering (@charliespiering) April 24, 2017

The Capitol police have a new toy:

So does Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.):

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

— New York Magazine, “First, She Survived a ‘Cult.’ Now She’s Running for Office,” by Caitlin Moscatello: “The chicken legs wouldn’t cook right. Chelsea Savage, then 17, could feel tears welling up as she stood over the stove. She would be chastised for this, for not getting the skins crispy enough, for not pleasing the woman who ruled over her … If she lived in a world beyond the confines of a ‘church’ where members were forced to wear Victorian-style clothes and pulled out of school, she’d be like the girls in the magazines she was forbidden to read …  But instead she was crying in a kitchen in rural Virginia, her hair pinned up like a turn-of-the-century housemaid. ‘I wasn’t even allowed to use the dishwasher, because then I wasn’t ‘building character,’’ [she said]. That was 1987. It’s hard to imagine that these are the beginnings of a woman who would go on to earn two advanced degrees … much less run for office. And yet this week, Chelsea Savage, now 46, is doing just that — she’s hoping voters in Virginia’s 73rd district will support her bid for the Democratic nomination for state delegate. A Democratic victory would be a major feat, but for Savage — an openly gay single mother who grew up not just poor, but about as far from political pedigree as one can get — it would also be a personal triumph. A signal of how far she’s come.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“New Kids’ Book Helps Parents Approach ‘The Talk’ About Police Brutality,” from HuffPost: “In the black community, ‘the talk’ with your children isn’t just that of the birds and the bees ― it’s the one where you explain to them how their skin tone may one day make them a police target. It’s a conversation so difficult that mother, former social worker … Sanya Gragg wanted to help fellow parents navigate it with her recently released book Momma, Did You Hear The News? Gragg, 46, said … her decision to go forth with it came after the police killing of Terence Crutcher last September. ‘I knew there would be many families having ‘the talk’ with their children,’ [said] Gragg … ‘It confirmed that this was my assignment.’ Gragg, who now has two grown sons and a 3-year-old daughter, said that the hardest part of having the talk with her sons was knowing it could only guarantee that they might practice greater caution when confronted by police.” “The most difficult part for me is knowing my sons and yours can do everything right and still end up in a tragic situation,” she said.

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Bill Nye’s Bizarre Video On Transgenderism Bombs On YouTube,” from the Daily Caller: “A clip of Bill Nye’s latest television show promotes transgenderism and other gender identities as hard science, and it’s performing horribly on YouTube, as of Monday. [The video] … published on YouTube Sunday, features actress Rachel Bloom singing a song about transgenders … and how sexuality is a fluid concept. The clip comes from an episode of Bill Nye’s show ‘Bill Nye Saves The World.’ ‘Sexuality’s a spectrum, everyone is on it. Even you might like it if you sit up on it,’ Bloom sings on stage. ‘Drag king, drag queen just do what feels right.’ Bloom also delves into a bizarre chant where she laments a world in which you have only two choices between gender identity: male or female.  ‘Bill Nye Saves The World’ purports to look at various problems through a more scientific perspective, according to the International Movie Database.”

DAYBOOK:

At the White House: Trump will travel to the Capitol to give remarks and participate in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s National Days of Remembrance. Later, he will travel back to the White House to meet with Steven Mnuchin and have a meeting on tax reform. Following that, the president will participate in a farmers’ roundtable and signing of the Executive Order Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America. Afterward, POTUS will meet with H. R. McMaster and then have dinner with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

The White House just launched a new web site to tout Trump’s accomplishments in the first 100 days.

After a little over nine-hours flight, Air Force Two landed at Joint Base Andrews at 6:38 a.m. from Hawaii. “During the flight, the Vice President came back briefly to speak off the record, but the flight was otherwise uneventful,” the AFP’s Andrew Beatty writes in a pool report. “After nine days, an estimated 53 hours in the air, four countries (and) three domestic stops … the Vice President’s trip has come to an end. The Vice President will now head back to the Observatory, then to the White House and later to the Senate policy lunch.” 

The House comes back from recess today. The Senate also has votes.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

The New York Times spoke to five people who had witnessed state executions, including a prosecuting attorney, a media witness, and a mother whose son was murdered by the inmate being put to death. “People don’t realize that you never get over it, unless you’re just cold and calculated,” said a former prison chaplain. “I’ll never forget it. Not a day goes by.” (Here’s what they each had to say about the ordeal.)

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

— Another day of gray and drizzles – but hopefully our last for the week. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Periods of rain, which could be moderate at times. Temperatures don’t move much as highs creep into the upper 50s to low 60s under heavy dense overcast skies. Rainfall totals today could range from a quarter to half inch, but locally heavier amounts can happen, especially east and north of the city.”

— Even with the recent spate of rainy, chilly weather we’ve seen, Washington is currently having its warmest April on record: Average temperatures for this month are nearly seven degrees higher than normal – putting us on track to have a month that more closely resembles a typical April in Memphis. (Jason Samenow)

— The Wizards lost to the Hawks 111-101 after falling apart in the fourth quarter. The series is now tied going into Game Five. 

— The Nationals lost to the Rockies 8-4.

— Elizabeth Warren endorsed Tom Perriello in Virginia’s Democratic primary for governor, throwing her weight behind the challenger to Democrat Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (who is favored by the Richmond establishment and Terry McAuliffe). Bernie Sanders backed Perriello earlier this month.

— Maryland Del. Richard K. Impallaria was ordered to serve two days in jail for drunk driving, after a judge suspended the rest of his 60-day sentence. Impallaria’s temporary detainment comes after he was convicted of a DWI in Ocean City last summer, during an annual Maryland Association of Counties conference. (Ovetta Wiggins)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Trump said his U.N. ambassador “can easily be replaced:”

Watch Trump talk to astronauts at the International Space Station:

Seth Meyers talks about France’s “female Trump:”

[embedded content]

Stephen Colbert talks about the 100-day mark:

[embedded content]

Allison Janney feels sorry for Sean Spicer:

[embedded content]

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Even in Trump's base, his path forward on health care is awfully unpopular – Washington Post


President Trump reacts to the AHCA being pulled by congressional Republicans before a vote as he appears with Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, left, and Vice President Pence in the Oval Office of the White House on March 24. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump’s proposal on health care was nebulously perfect. Obamacare — that is, the Affordable Care Act — would be gone, he told his cheering supporters, replaced by something cheaper, better and more expansive that wouldn’t be burdened by the hated word “Obama.”

When it came time to deliver on that promise, very early in his administration, the bill that was offered up was somewhat distant from that target. The American Health Care Act would actually see fewer people covered by a decade from now, independent analysis indicated, and costs would drop largely because those with the most expensive plans would stop getting coverage. Trump halfheartedly championed the bill even though it wasn’t his creation. When it collapsed, the exhalation from the White House was nearly audible.

The problem, though, is that the failure appears to have made any future significant changes trickier. New polling from The Washington Post and our partners at ABC News as well as a survey from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal makes clear that Trump’s base still wants Obamacare to be tossed out — but that it mostly opposes the most viable path toward doing so.

It’s still the case that three-quarters of the people who voted for him and three-quarters of Republicans overall want to see Obamacare repealed and replaced. The majority of Americans disagree, mind you, thanks to large majorities of Democrats and independents who think that it’s preferable to improve the existing law. Sixty-one percent of Americans overall hold that view.

The NBC-Journal poll saw a similar partisan split, with independents narrowly preferring to stop trying to repeal the bill when offered a repeal-or-not choice. Still, three-quarters of Republicans backed continuing the fight.

So. Fine. Trump’s base wants the repeal effort to move forward. How to accomplish it?

Somewhat remarkably, nearly half of Trump voters — more than Republicans overall — think that Trump should work with Democrats instead of or alongside conservative Republicans to come up with solutions. The number of Trump voters who think he should work with conservative Republicans only is still higher, but there’s a lot of support for a bipartisan approach.

The problem with that, of course, is that Trump was already trying to hammer out an agreement between conservatives in the House and more moderate representatives — it was just that those middle-ground members of the House were in his own party. The reason that he and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) could never get a majority of support on the AHCA was that there was enough opposition from both the far-right and center of his party to keep him from getting over the finish line. Trying to find middle ground between those conservatives — who generally want to gut the bill — and Democrats who broadly want to bolster it would be some magic trick.

What’s more, one of the proposals that’s moved to the center of the conservative focus on reforming Obamacare — removing the mandate that preexisting conditions be covered — is opposed by majorities across the political spectrum. Even a majority of Trump voters think that there should be a national standard to protect preexisting conditions.

The challenge with preserving those protections is that it is one of the main drivers of the cost of the program, which is why conservatives have focused on it. But it’s strongly supported. Seventy percent of Americans think the idea should be preserved.

Trump’s strategy, then, has been to Sherman-march his way through the issue, letting Obamacare fail (perhaps with a few unsubtle nudges) and then rebuild from the rubble. As it stands, though, that strategy bears its own risks. A majority of every group thinks that the better strategy is to make Obamacare work better while repeal efforts are underway — including well over half of those who voted for Trump last year.

That’s a Catch-22 for Republicans: Making Obamacare stronger, of course, will also reinforce its popularity, since it will be a better program. The program has seen a surge in popularity since the election as the threat of it being repealed loomed.

But repealing and replacing Obamacare necessitates having something viable to repeal and replace it with. So far, that’s been elusive for Republicans. And according to that NBC-Journal poll, that’s become apparent to American voters. In February, 31 percent of respondents said they had a “great deal” or “some” confidence in the Republican replacement bill. By this month, fully half of respondents said they had “little or no” confidence in it.

Trump’s vague promise of a universally better and cheaper program was always worth a good deal of skepticism. But the faltering effort to reform the health-care system earlier this year appears to have made his already-impossible goal somehow even more distant.

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In Call to Trump, Chinese Leader Urges Restraint Over North Korea – RealClearPolitics

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WASHINGTON (AP) — As the world braces for a possible North Korean nuclear test, Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday urged restraint in a call to President Donald Trump. America’s U.N. envoy warned of a strike if Pyongyang attacks a U.S. military base or tests an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Xi’s phone call with Trump came amid signs Pyongyang could soon conduct its sixth nuclear test explosion since 2006, or the latest in a rapid series of missile tests, further advancing its ambitions of developing a nuclear-tipped missile that could reach the U.S. mainland.

In Washington, the Trump administration invited the entire 100-member Senate for a briefing Wednesday on the escalating crisis. Adding to the atmosphere of animosity, officials said North Korea has detained a third U.S. citizen.

Trump told ambassadors from U.N. Security Council members that the status quo in North Korea is “unacceptable” and the council must be prepared to impose additional and stronger sanctions.

“This is a real threat to the world, whether we want to talk about it or not. North Korea is a big world problem, and it’s a problem we have to finally solve. People have put blindfolds on for decades, and now it’s time to solve the problem,” he said at the White House.

North Korea poses one the sternest national security challenges facing the 3-month-old Trump administration. The administration has settled on a strategy emphasizing increased pressure on North Korea with the help of China, rather than trying to overthrow Kim Jong Un’s isolated government or use military force. But senior officials have repeatedly said that “all options” remain on the table.

China is a traditional ally of North Korea and fought on its side in the 1950-53 Korean War. Those ties have frayed, but Beijing remains the North’s economic lifeline. The Xi-Trump call on Monday morning Beijing time was the second time the two leaders have spoken by telephone since meeting in Florida earlier this month.

Xi told Trump that China strongly opposes North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, which violates U.N. Security Council resolutions, and hopes “all parties will exercise restraint and avoid aggravating the situation” on the Korean Peninsula, China’s official broadcaster CCTV said.

A White House readout of the call said Trump criticized North Korea’s “continued belligerence” and the leaders “reaffirmed the urgency of the threat.” They committed to strengthening coordination to denuclearize North Korea, a statement said.

The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier and ships in the strike group accompanying it are continuing to move toward the South Korea region, after completing a short naval exercise with Japanese ships in the Philippine Sea. But the ships are probably several days from arriving in the region.

In addition to the Carl Vinson, the USS Michigan, a nuclear-powered, guided-missile submarine, is due to arrive Tuesday on a routine port visit at Busan, South Korea, a U.S. defense official said. The official was not authorized to discuss the ship movement publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Tuesday marks the founding anniversary of North Korea’s armed forces. It has marked such dates in the past with displays of its military capabilities.

Commercial satellite imagery suggests the North has been readying for weeks for an underground atomic explosion, and could conduct one at any time. Alternatively, a long-range missile test could show North Korean progress toward being able to fire a weapon at America. But any decision by Trump to resort to military action would be highly risky, principally because the capital of close ally South Korea lies within range of North Korea artillery and rockets.

Nikki Haley, Trump’s U.N. ambassador, said Monday the U.S. wasn’t looking for a fight with Kim and wouldn’t attack North Korea “unless he gives us reason to do something.” She praised China’s increased pressure on North Korea.

Asked about the threshold for U.S. action, Haley told NBC’s “Today” that “if you see him attack a military base, if you see some sort of intercontinental ballistic missile, then obviously we’re going to do that.”

But asked what would happen if North Korea tests an intercontinental missile or nuclear device, Haley said, “I think then the president steps in and decides what’s going to happen.”

White House press secretary Sean Spicer said the briefing to senators will be delivered by four top administration officials: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford.

The latest American held in North Korea is Tony Kim, who also goes by his Korean name Kim Sang-duk. The 58-year old taught accounting for a month at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. He was detained on Saturday, according to Park Chan-mo, the university chancellor. No details on why Kim was detained have been released.

Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.

© 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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White House 'confident' of averting shutdown as Trump shows flexibility on wall – Washington Post

By , and ,

The White House sought Monday to calm a jittery Washington ahead of a showdown with Congress over spending, and President Trump softened his demand that a deal to keep the federal government open include money to begin construction on his long-promised border wall.

Despite one-party control at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, the brinkmanship that came to define spending battles in the Obama years has tumbled into the Trump era, as have the factional divisions over strategy and priorities that have gripped the GOP for a decade.

But with a Friday deadline looming to pass a new spending bill, the Trump administration projected confidence that a shutdown would be avoided. In the face of fierce Democratic opposition to funding the wall’s construction, White House officials signaled Monday that the president may be open to an agreement that includes money for border security if not specifically for a wall, with an emphasis on technology and border agents rather than a structure.

Trump showed even more flexibility Monday afternoon, telling conservative journalists in a private meeting that he was open to delaying funding for wall construction until September, a White House official confirmed.

“The president is working hard to keep the government open,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters Monday. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he was “very confident” that an agreement would be reached by Friday, but he pointedly said he could not “guarantee” that a government closure would be averted.

At issue is whether the spending measure will explicitly allocate funds toward building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border — a campaign promise that was a rallying cry for Trump’s base and one on which he is eager to demonstrate progress by Saturday, his 100th day in office.

Democrats, meanwhile, gave the White House an opening, saying they would agree to some new money for border security — so long as it did not go toward the creation of a wall, something House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has called “immoral.”

In a speech on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) blasted the idea of a wall while suggesting that a combination of smart technology and law enforcement, including the use of drones, would be “a much more effective way to secure the border” without hitting an impasse in Congress.

[Showdown looms as Trump demands funding for wall on U.S.-Mexico border]

Republicans were working to define Trump’s campaign promise down, arguing that any form of border security would fulfill it.

“There will never be a 2,200-mile wall built, period,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a supporter of immigration reform who challenged Trump in the 2016 primaries. “I think it’s become symbolic of better border security. It’s a code word for better border security. If you make it about actually building a 2,200-mile wall, that’s a bridge too far — but I’m mixing my metaphors.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a key appropriator and member of Senate leadership, said that “there could be a wall in some places and technology in other places,” implying that there would not be funding for the wall sketched out in campaign rhetoric. “I think you’re going to get a down payment on border security generally,” he said.

Trump has asked Congress for $1.5 billion in new money to start construction on the wall, and he wants an additional $2.6 billion for the fiscal year that begins in October. The wall, experts say, would cost $21.6 billion and take 3½ years to construct.

At the White House, Spicer portrayed Trump’s position not as a demand but rather as one of two priorities — the other being additional military funding — in evolving negotiations with Congress. He left open the possibility that the president could agree to funding for border activities generally, such as additional fencing or drones.

“I’m not going to get ahead of the negotiations that are ongoing,” Spicer said.

Should lawmakers fail to find consensus by Friday, there are plans ready to quickly pass through the House and Senate what is referred to as a “short-term C.R.,” a continuing resolution to keep the government open until discussions are finalized.

The Senate returned Monday night and the House returns Tuesday from a two-week recess, leaving only three days this week when both chambers will be in session.

The more conciliatory language emanating from the White House did not stop Trump from continuing to hammer away on Twitter at what he claims is an urgent need for the wall. In a pair of posts, Trump sought to build public pressure on lawmakers to pass funding for wall construction.

“The Wall is a very important tool in stopping drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth (and many others)!” he wrote in a morning post.

In another message several hours later, Trump wrote that if “the wall is not built, which it will be, the drug situation will NEVER be fixed the way it should be! #BuildTheWall.”

Still, Trump has left himself wiggle room to agree to sign a government funding bill that does not include money for the wall.

“My base understands the wall is going to get built, whether I have it funded here or if I get it funded shortly thereafter,” Trump said in a recent interview with the Associated Press. “That wall’s getting built, okay? One hundred percent.”

Asked if he would sign a bill without wall funding, Trump told the news service, “I just don’t know yet.”

[Trump’s AP interview, annotated]

The debate over wall funding is just one of several moving pieces congressional leaders are trying to address this week to avoid a partial government shutdown. In 2015, President Barack Obama made a deal with congressional lawmakers to fund government operations through April 28, 2017. If a new agreement isn’t reached by then, many federal employees will stop being paid, national parks will close, and a number of other changes will kick in — as in 2013, the last time the government shut down.

Since new rules about spending bills went into place after Jimmy Carter’s administration, a government shutdown has never occurred when a single political party has controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress.

Paramount for many Republican lawmakers is funding the government, as opposed to the wall specifically. If the government shuts down, they fear, voters could blame the GOP for failing to govern, and the party could suffer the consequences in the 2018 midterm elections.

“I’d like to make it as clean as we can and fund the government,” said Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.). “I wouldn’t mind funding the wall, but it’s a question of what we can do. The question is, what’s doable and will we make the deadline?”

Sen. James E. Risch (R-Idaho) said that an effective “wall” along the border had been “authorized years and years and years ago,” in the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

“It’s been partially built and partially funded. He wants to fund the rest of it and build it — perfectly legitimate debate that should take place on that,” Risch said.

Asked if that debate could happen in three days, Risch chuckled. “Things get done quickly around here when they want it to get done,” he said.

Even when Republicans controlled the House during the Obama administration, they could rarely pass spending bills without Democratic support. That is because a number of the House’s most conservative members often refused to support such bills, making a bipartisan majority coalition a necessity. In addition, 60 votes are needed to pass a requisite procedural vote in the Senate. With just 52 seats, Senate Republicans will need bipartisan support in that chamber as well.

Among other guarantees, Democrats want assurances that insurance subsidies through the Affordable Care Act will continue to be funded. There have been discussions among Republicans that Democrats could agree to provide money for the construction of the wall in exchange for those health funds, but Democrats have refused.

Sunday morning, congressional Democrats submitted to Republicans a compromise spending plan, which included some new money for border security but only if it did not go toward a wall. Democrats also asked for assurances that the health insurance subsidies would continue to be funded, language that would shore up benefits for coal miners and a change that would expand Medicaid benefits to people in Puerto Rico, according to a senior Democratic congressional aide.

Pelosi told reporters on a conference call Monday that Congress was “on the path to get it done until [Trump] did intervene” and that the administration’s actions so far belied his campaign promise to “make Mexico pay” for the border wall.

James Norton, a former deputy assistant undersecretary for homeland security under President George W. Bush, said funding for technologies, such as cameras and radars, on the border has dropped off since the early 2000s. He said to get money for the wall or other border security measures, the administration will have to “sell specifics” to lawmakers.

“Each part is going to need to be sold in a specific way to Congress, and they’re going to have to hit the Hill hard,” Norton said. “It won’t be easy.”

Damian Paletta and Sean Sullivan contributed to this report.

Read more at PowerPost

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Trump has followed through on less than half of his 100-day promises – CBS News

WASHINGTON — Sure enough, the big trans-Pacific trade deal is toast, climate change action is on the ropes and various regulations from the Obama era have been scrapped. It’s also a safe bet President Donald Trump hasn’t raced a bicycle since Jan. 20, keeping that vow.

Add a Supreme Court justice – no small feat – and call these promises kept.

But where’s that wall? Or the promised trade punishment against China – will the Chinese get off scot-free from “the greatest theft in the history of the world”? What about that “easy” replacement for Obamacare? How about the trillion-dollar infrastructure plan and huge tax cut that were supposed to be in motion by now?

Trump’s road to the White House, paved in big, sometimes impossible pledges, has detoured onto a byway of promises deferred or left behind, an AP analysis found.

Of 38 specific promises Trump made in his 100-day “contract” with voters – “This is my pledge to you” – he’s accomplished 10, mostly through executive orders that don’t require legislation, such as withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

He’s abandoned several and failed to deliver quickly on others, stymied at times by a divided Republican Party and resistant federal judges. Of 10 promises that require Congress to act, none has been achieved and most have not been introduced.

“I’ve done more than any other president in the first 100 days,” the president bragged in a recent interview with AP, even as he criticized the marker as an “artificial barrier.”

In truth, his 100-day plan remains mostly a to-do list that will spill over well beyond Saturday, his 100th day.

Some of Trump’s promises were obviously hyperbole to begin with. Don’t hold your breath waiting for alleged Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl to be dropped out of an airplane without a parachute, as Trump vowed he’d do at many of his campaign rallies. China’s leader got a fancy dinner, complete with “beautiful” chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago this month, not the promised “McDonald’s hamburger” and humble pie.

But many promises were meant to be taken seriously. Trump clearly owes his supporters a Mexico border wall, even if it doesn’t end up being a foot taller than the Great Wall of China.

One page of his 100-day manifesto is devoted to legislation he would fight to pass in 100 days. None of it has been achieved.

The other page lists 18 executive actions and intentions he promised to pursue – many on Day One. He has followed through on fewer than a dozen, largely through the use of executive orders, and the White House is boasting that he will set a post-World War II record when he signs more this week.

That’s a change in tune.

“We need people in Washington that don’t go around signing executive orders because they can’t get people into a room and get some kind of a deal that’s negotiated,” he declared in New Hampshire in March 2015. “We need people that know how to lead, and we don’t have that. We have amateurs.”

Efforts to provide affordable child care and paid maternity leave, to make college more affordable and to invest in urban areas have been all but forgotten. That’s despite the advantage of a Republican-controlled Congress, which the White House failed to pull together behind Trump’s first attempt to repeal and replace “Obamacare.”

An AP reporter who followed Trump throughout the presidential campaign collected scores of promises he made along the way, from the consequential to the fanciful. Here are some of them, and his progress so far:

ENERGY and the ENVIRONMENT:

– Lift President Barack Obama’s roadblocks on the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

Done. Keystone XL is revived and construction of the Dakota Access is completed.

– Lift restrictions on mining coal and drilling for oil and natural gas.

Done. Trump has unraveled a number of Obama-era restrictions and initiated a review of the Clean Power Plan, which aimed to restrict greenhouse gas emissions at coal-fired power plants.

– Cancel payments to U.N. climate change programs and pull out of the Paris climate accord

Nope. Trump has yet to make a decision on Paris. His aides are torn.

ECONOMY and TRADE:

– Pass a tax overhaul. “Just think about what can be accomplished in the first 100 days of a Trump administration,” he told his supporters again and again in the final weeks of the campaign. “We are going to have the biggest tax cut since Ronald Reagan.” He promised a plan that would reduce rates dramatically both for corporations and the middle class.

Nowhere close. Trump has scrapped the tax plan he campaigned on, and his administration’s new package is in its early stages, not only missing the first 100 days but likely to miss a new August deadline set by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Some details may emerge this week.

-Designate China a currency manipulator, setting the stage for possible trade penalties because “we’re like the piggy bank that’s being robbed. We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country, and that’s what they’re doing.”

Abandoned. Trump says he doesn’t want to punish China when it is cooperating in a response to North Korean provocations. He also says China has stopped manipulating its currency for unfair trade advantage. But China was moving away from that behavior well before he took office. Also set aside: repeated vows to slap high tariffs on Chinese imports.

-Announce his intention to renegotiate or withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Backtracked, in essence. A draft of his administration’s plan for NAFTA proposes only a mild rewrite. But in his AP interview, he threatened anew to terminate the deal if his goals are not met in a renegotiation.

– Direct his commerce secretary and trade representative to identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly hurt American workers.

Done. Trump has initiated plenty of studies over the past 100 days.

– Slap a 35 percent tariff on goods from companies that ship production abroad. Force companies like Apple and Nabisco to make their products in the U.S.

Nope.

-Embark on a massive $1 trillion effort to rebuild the country’s infrastructure, including airports, roads and bridges.

Not yet.

SECURITY, DEFENSE and IMMIGRATION:

– Immediately suspend the Syrian refugee program.

Trump tried, but the first version of his travel ban was blocked by the courts. A revised version dropped references to Syrian refugees entirely. That was blocked, too. And he has yet to mention another campaign pledge: to deport Syrian refugees already settled in the U.S.

– Inform his generals they have 30 days to submit a new plan for defeating the Islamic State group.

Trump did indeed order up a plan. It’s unclear what it is since it has yet to be made public.

– Suspend immigration from “terror-prone regions” where he says vetting is too difficult.

Trump’s effort to bar immigration temporarily from some Muslim-majority countries has been stymied by courts.

– Implement “extreme” immigration vetting techniques.

In progress. The Homeland Security Department is considering a number of measures, like asking for visitors’ phone contacts and social media passwords.

-Build an “impenetrable physical wall” along the length of the southern border, and make Mexico pay for it.

The government has been soliciting bids and test sections could be built as soon as this summer. Mexico is not paying for this work.

-End federal funding to “sanctuary cities” – places where local officials are considered by Washington to be insufficiently cooperative in arresting or detaining people in the country illegally.

The Justice Department has threatened to do so, but there are legal limits.

– Immediately deport the estimated 2 million “criminal aliens” living in the country, including gang members, in joint operations with local, state, and federal law enforcement.

Deportations have not increased. Arrests of people in the U.S. illegally are up and illegal border crossings are significantly down.

-Cancel visas for foreign countries that won’t take back criminals deported by the U.S.

There’s been no discussion of this yet.

-”Immediately terminate President Obama’s two illegal executive amnesties,” one of which allows young people brought into the country as children to stay and work.

Trump has made no effort to end the program, even though it would take a single phone call. In fact, he told AP these young people can “rest easy” and not fear deportation.

GOVERNMENT and the SWAMP:

– Ask agency and department heads to identify job-killing regulations for elimination.

Done.

– Propose a constitutional amendment to impose term limits on all members of Congress.

Nope.

– “Drain the swamp.”

On his pledge to curb the power of special interests, Trump has so far used an executive order to prohibit political appointees from lobbying the government for five years after serving in his administration and to ban outgoing officials from representing foreign governments. But he’s discontinuing the Obama-era practice of releasing White House visitor logs, restoring a shroud over what special interests are getting in his gates. He’s also issued at least one waiver to his lobbying ban, allowing a White House budget adviser to go advocate for a business trade group

– Impose a hiring freeze on federal employees, excluding military and public safety staffers.

This was one of Trump’s first actions. But the freeze has since been lifted.

-Require that two regulations be eliminated for each new one imposed.

Trump signed an order requiring agencies to identify two existing regulations for every new one imposed – though there is nothing in the order that requires the two to be eliminated.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS:

– End the strategy of nation-building and regime change.

Trump’s foreign policy posture is still in its early stages, though he has already intervened in Syria and has escalated rhetoric against North Korea.

– Move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The administration says it is studying the issue.

– Negotiate the release of all U.S. prisoners held in Iran, even before taking office. Renegotiate or leave the Iran nuclear deal.

No prisoners have been released. The administration is studying the nuclear deal and Trump told AP “it’s possible” the U.S. will withdraw.

– Create a safe zone in Syria for refugees, paid for by the Gulf states.

Not yet.

HEALTH CARE, COURTS and GUNS:

-”My first day in office, I’m going to ask Congress to put a bill on my desk getting rid of this disastrous law and replacing it with reforms that expand choice, freedom, affordability. You’re going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost. It’s going to be so easy.”

The bill to replace “Obamacare” was pulled from Congress because it lacked enough support. He will try again with a revised plan.

– Begin selecting a new Supreme Court judge to fill the court’s vacancy.

Done. Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch and the Senate approved him.

– Eliminate gun-free zones in schools and on military bases.

Nope.

REALLY?

– “I promise I will never be in a bicycle race.”

So far, so good. Trump’s vow came after John Kerry, then secretary of state, broke his femur in May 2015 while riding a bicycle. He was not in a bicycle race.

-Bar his generals from being interviewed on television.

Never mind that. Army Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, as Trump’s national security adviser, recently appeared on a Sunday news show. Several senior military officers have done Pentagon news conferences in the past few months that are taped by the networks. Gen. John Nicholson, the top general in Afghanistan, appeared at a news conference Monday.

-No time for play.

Most weekends as president, Trump has broken his pledge to avoid the golf course, after years of criticizing his predecessor for playing the game. “Because I’m going to be working for you, I’m not going to have time to go play golf,” he told a Virginia rally in August. “Believe me.”

-Season’s greetings.

“If I become president, we’re gonna be saying Merry Christmas at every store. … You can leave ‘happy holidays’ at the corner.”

As president-elect over the holidays, he sent a “Merry Christmas” tweet. So did President Obama. And both sent Happy Hanukkah wishes.

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White House 'confident' of averting shutdown as Trump shows flexibility on wall – Washington Post

By , and ,

The White House sought Monday to calm a jittery Washington ahead of a showdown with Congress over spending, and President Trump softened his demand that a deal to keep the federal government open include money to begin construction on his long-promised border wall.

Despite one-party control at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, the brinkmanship that came to define spending battles in the Obama years has tumbled into the Trump era, as have the factional divisions over strategy and priorities that have gripped the GOP for a decade.

But with a Friday deadline looming to pass a new spending bill, the Trump administration projected confidence that a shutdown would be avoided. In the face of fierce Democratic opposition to funding the wall’s construction, White House officials signaled Monday that the president may be open to an agreement that includes money for border security if not specifically for a wall, with an emphasis on technology and border agents rather than a structure.

Trump showed even more flexibility Monday afternoon, telling conservative journalists in a private meeting that he was open to delaying funding for wall construction until September, a White House official confirmed.

“The president is working hard to keep the government open,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters Monday. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he was “very confident” that an agreement would be reached by Friday, but he pointedly said he could not “guarantee” that a government closure would be averted.

At issue is whether the spending measure will explicitly allocate funds toward building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border — a campaign promise that was a rallying cry for Trump’s base and one on which he is eager to demonstrate progress by Saturday, his 100th day in office.

Democrats, meanwhile, gave the White House an opening, saying they would agree to some new money for border security — so long as it did not go toward the creation of a wall, something House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has called “immoral.”

In a speech on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) blasted the idea of a wall while suggesting that a combination of smart technology and law enforcement, including the use of drones, would be “a much more effective way to secure the border” without hitting an impasse in Congress.

Republicans were working to define Trump’s campaign promise down, arguing that any form of border security would fulfill it.

“There will never be a 2,200-mile wall built, period,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a supporter of immigration reform who challenged Trump in the 2016 primaries. “I think it’s become symbolic of better border security. It’s a code word for better border security. If you make it about actually building a 2,200-mile wall, that’s a bridge too far — but I’m mixing my metaphors.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a key appropriator and member of Senate leadership, said that “there could be a wall in some places and technology in other places,” implying that there would not be funding for the wall sketched out in campaign rhetoric. “I think you’re going to get a down payment on border security generally,” he said.

Trump has asked Congress for $1.5 billion in new money to start construction on the wall, and he wants an additional $2.6 billion for the fiscal year that begins in October. The wall, experts say, would cost $21.6 billion and take 3½ years to construct.

At the White House, Spicer portrayed Trump’s position not as a demand but rather as one of two priorities — the other being additional military funding — in evolving negotiations with Congress. He left open the possibility that the president could agree to funding for border activities generally, such as additional fencing or drones.

“I’m not going to get ahead of the negotiations that are ongoing,” Spicer said.

Should lawmakers fail to find consensus by Friday, there are plans ready to quickly pass through the House and Senate what is referred to as a “short-term C.R.,” a continuing resolution to keep the government open until discussions are finalized.

The Senate returned Monday night and the House returns Tuesday from a two-week recess, leaving only three days this week when both chambers will be in session.

The more conciliatory language emanating from the White House did not stop Trump from continuing to hammer away on Twitter at what he claims is an urgent need for the wall. In a pair of posts, Trump sought to build public pressure on lawmakers to pass funding for wall construction.

“The Wall is a very important tool in stopping drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth (and many others)!” he wrote in a morning post.

In another message several hours later, Trump wrote that if “the wall is not built, which it will be, the drug situation will NEVER be fixed the way it should be! #BuildTheWall.”

Still, Trump has left himself wiggle room to agree to sign a government funding bill that does not include money for the wall.

“My base understands the wall is going to get built, whether I have it funded here or if I get it funded shortly thereafter,” Trump said in a recent interview with the Associated Press. “That wall’s getting built, okay? One hundred percent.”

Asked if he would sign a bill without wall funding, Trump told the news service, “I just don’t know yet.”

The debate over wall funding is just one of several moving pieces congressional leaders are trying to address this week to avoid a partial government shutdown. In 2015, President Barack Obama made a deal with congressional lawmakers to fund government operations through April 28, 2017. If a new agreement isn’t reached by then, many federal employees will stop being paid, national parks will close, and a number of other changes will kick in — as in 2013, the last time the government shut down.

Since new rules about spending bills went into place after Jimmy Carter’s administration, a government shutdown has never occurred when a single political party has controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress.

Paramount for many Republican lawmakers is funding the government, as opposed to the wall specifically. If the government shuts down, they fear, voters could blame the GOP for failing to govern, and the party could suffer the consequences in the 2018 midterm elections.

“I’d like to make it as clean as we can and fund the government,” said Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.). “I wouldn’t mind funding the wall, but it’s a question of what we can do. The question is, what’s doable and will we make the deadline?”

Sen. James E. Risch (R-Idaho) said that an effective “wall” along the border had been “authorized years and years and years ago,” in the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

“It’s been partially built and partially funded. He wants to fund the rest of it and build it — perfectly legitimate debate that should take place on that,” Risch said.

Asked if that debate could happen in three days, Risch chuckled. “Things get done quickly around here when they want it to get done,” he said.

Even when Republicans controlled the House during the Obama administration, they could rarely pass spending bills without Democratic support. That is because a number of the House’s most conservative members often refused to support such bills, making a bipartisan majority coalition a necessity. In addition, 60 votes are needed to pass a requisite procedural vote in the Senate. With just 52 seats, Senate Republicans will need bipartisan support in that chamber as well.

Among other guarantees, Democrats want assurances that insurance subsidies through the Affordable Care Act will continue to be funded. There have been discussions among Republicans that Democrats could agree to provide money for the construction of the wall in exchange for those health funds, but Democrats have refused.

Sunday morning, congressional Democrats submitted to Republicans a compromise spending plan, which included some new money for border security but only if it did not go toward a wall. Democrats also asked for assurances that the health insurance subsidies would continue to be funded, language that would shore up benefits for coal miners and a change that would expand Medicaid benefits to people in Puerto Rico, according to a senior Democratic congressional aide.

Pelosi told reporters on a conference call Monday that Congress was “on the path to get it done until [Trump] did intervene” and that the administration’s actions so far belied his campaign promise to “make Mexico pay” for the border wall.

James Norton, a former deputy assistant undersecretary for homeland security under President George W. Bush, said funding for technologies, such as cameras and radars, on the border has dropped off since the early 2000s. He said to get money for the wall or other border security measures, the administration will have to “sell specifics” to lawmakers.

“Each part is going to need to be sold in a specific way to Congress, and they’re going to have to hit the Hill hard,” Norton said. “It won’t be easy.”

Damian Paletta and Sean Sullivan contributed to this report.

Read more at PowerPost

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Arkansas carries out country's first back-to-back executions in almost two decades – Washington Post

Arkansas executes its first inmate in 12 years after the U.S. Supreme Court clears the way for the lethal injection of 51-year-old Ledell Lee. (Reuters)

Arkansas on Monday night executed two inmates in back-to-back lethal injections, carrying out the country’s first double execution since 2000.

The executions came after Arkansas, pushing back on legal challenges, executed an inmate last week, the state’s first lethal injection in more than a decade. As part of a hurried pace that authorities say is propelled by an expiring drug, Arkansas officials returned to the execution chamber four days after that lethal injection to carry out two more death sentences.

The second execution Monday night was briefly delayed by a federal judge so she could consider claims that the first lethal injection may have been botched, but she lifted that stay shortly before 9:30 p.m. local time. The second inmate was pronounced dead about an hour later, according to the Associated Press, which had a reporter witness it.

These lethal injections marked the first back-to-back executions in the United States since Texas carried out two death sentences in one night nearly two decades ago. Arkansas was also the first state to make such an attempt since a widely publicized botch in Oklahoma in 2014.

[With its lethal drugs expiring, Arkansas set an unprecedented execution schedule]

Arkansas hoped this month to resume executions by carrying out eight death sentences in 11 days, an unprecedented schedule that has been thwarted by court orders blocking half of those lethal injections. Even after some lethal injections were stayed, officials shifted their focus to carrying out the remaining executions on the schedule.

Jack H. Jones Jr. and Marcel W. Williams, both of whom have been on Arkansas death row since being convicted of brutal murders two decades ago, unsuccessfully sought to delay their lethal injections set for Monday night at a state prison southeast of Little Rock.

Both appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected their requests Monday afternoon and evening. Jones was executed first. Williams was scheduled to follow not long after, but his lethal injection was postponed while his lawyers argued in federal court that Jones’s execution was botched. Both men had said they had medical issues that could complicate the executions, which involve injections of three drugs.

The Supreme Court first denied Jones’s request for a stay about an hour before the executions were set to begin at 7 p.m. Monday in Arkansas. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., who is assigned cases from the federal circuit covering Arkansas, referred the request to the full court, which denied it without explanation; Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the only member of the court to register a dissent.

[Arkansas executed one death-row inmate. Three more executions are planned this month.]

Jones was pronounced dead at 7:20 p.m., 14 minutes after his lethal injection got underway, according to the Associated Press, which had a reporter serve as a media witness. He delivered a last statement expressing remorse.

Arkansas inmates Jack Jones, left, and Marcel Williams. (Arkansas Department of Correction via AP)

Williams’s appeal was still pending when Jones’s execution ended, but not long after, the justices denied the stay request. Again, no explanation was given and Sotomayor was the only justice to note a dissent.

While the Supreme Court’s decision to reject Williams’s requests seemingly meant that the second execution could proceed as planned, it was pushed further into the night after a federal judge issued a temporary stay.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued the order indefinitely delaying Williams’s execution after his attorneys filed a motion asked for a stay, arguing that Jones’s “execution appeared to be torturous and inhumane.” Baker later issued an order denying the request and lifting her stay after a hearing was held.

In the motion, Williams’s attorneys, noting that he shared medical issues with Jones, said corrections staff struggled to insert a central line into Jones’s neck. The attorneys said that corrections officials did not wait five minutes, as required by the execution policy, after the injection began to check and make sure Jones was unconscious after the sedative was administered. They also alleged that Jones was still “moving his lips and gulping for air” after five minutes had elapsed.

One media witness says Jones’s “lips did move, but only very briefly at the very start of the process.” According to the Associated Press, its reporter who witnessed Jones’s execution said that the inmate moved his lips briefly after the sedative was first administered and noted that officials put a tongue depressor in his mouth intermittently during the first few minutes. The AP reporter also said Jones’s chest stopped moving two minutes after they checked his consciousness.

Under the Arkansas lethal-injection protocol, state officials must check to make sure inmates are unconscious at least five minutes after the sedative is injected. If they remain conscious, officials are then directed to inject a second dose of the sedative.

[Arkansas carries out first execution since 2005 after Supreme Court denies stay requests]

Williams’s attorneys say in their filing that he did not agree to have a central line inserted, and warned that their client’s execution could be “even more torturous” than Jones’s.

State officials filed a short response pushing back on these assertions about the IV and the execution, calling them “inaccurate” and “utterly baseless.”

“The claim that Jones was moving his lips and gulping for air is unsupported by press accounts or the accounts of other witnesses,” the Arkansas response stated. “The drugs were administered to Jones at 7:06 p.m. and he was pronounced dead at 7:20 p.m. There was no constitutional violation in Jones’ execution.”

After Baker lifted her stay, Williams’s execution proceeded, and he was pronounced dead at 10:33 p.m. after a 17-minute lethal injection, the Associated Press reported.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), who scheduled the lethal injections and did not issue a statement following the execution last week, issued statements late Monday saying that “the rule of law was upheld” and “justice has prevailed.”

In a statement after Jones’s execution, Hutchinson said that the “victim’s family has waited patiently for justice” for two decades. After Williams’s execution, Hutchinson thanked the victim’s family for their patience and said “in this case our laws ended in justice.”

The lethal injections in Arkansas were planned as part of a schedule that would have been without parallel in modern capital punishment. Hutchinson set eight executions to occur in pairs — back-to-back on four nights spread out over this week and last — and while most executions occur with little public notice, the timetable in Arkansas drew unusual attention and some criticism.

Attorneys for the inmates filed a volley of appeals seeking to delay the executions, while two dozen former corrections officials wrote a letter to Hutchinson asking him to reconsider the schedule. They warned that the schedule was “needlessly exacerbating the strain and stress placed on” the people carrying it out and saying the timetable could “increase the chance of an error occurring.”

Washington Post reporter Mark Berman explains why Arkansas scheduled eight executions in 11 days. (McKenna Ewen/The Washington Post)

Arkansas officials defended this schedule as necessary because their stock of midazolam, a common sedative that has provoked controversy after some executions and is one of three products used in the state’s executions, expires at the end of April. Due to an ongoing shortage of lethal injection drugs, Arkansas authorities say they are not sure if more can be obtained. Leslie Rutledge (R), the state’s attorney general, pledged to fight attempts to delay the remaining executions, saying that “families have waited far too long to see justice.”

As the execution dates approached, both sides engaged in a multifaceted legal battle, with death-row inmates and Arkansas officials appealing to state and federal courts. Drug companies also weighed in, unsuccessfully asking judges to prevent the state from using their products, which at least one company suggested was obtained through dishonest means.

Death-row inmates in Arkansas also appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court as a group, but those requests have been rebuffed, most recently Monday, when the high court denied a request to rehear a case from Arkansas inmates that the justices had already denied. No explanations were given, though Justice Sotomayor said she would have granted the petitions in that case.

The lethal injections on Monday come just four days after Arkansas resumed executions, carrying out the death sentence for Ledell Lee after the Supreme Court declined stay requests.

Last week, the Arkansas Supreme Court blocked the first two executions on the schedule, and another execution planned for the same night as Lee’s was stayed. Another execution is planned for Thursday night, while a second originally set that night was stayed this month by a federal judge.

While two executions per night had been the original plan in Arkansas, Jones and Williams appear to be the only two inmates who will actually be put to death on the same night this month.

Jones, 52, was sentenced to death in 1996 for raping and killing Mary Phillips. According to court records, Jones stalked and killed Phillips, a bookkeeper, and before killing her, he beat her 11-year-old daughter so severely that police thought she was dead when they got to the scene.

The Arkansas Department of Correction’s Cummins Unit prison, where executions occur. (Kelly P. Kissel/AP)

Jones’s attorneys have argued in court that he has medical conditions that could result in the Arkansas execution method causing him severe pain, according to court records. In a filing, his attorneys said Jones has diabetes, hypertension and several other conditions that cause him to be on medication that could bring intense or painful suffering because of a possible tolerance to the sedative used in the lethal injection.

State officials argue that Jones’s challenge involves “guesswork” about the sedative and “is no different than the many lethal-injection challenges” he has filed before. Baker, the federal judge, denied that motion Friday, saying Jones’s case did not show “a significant possibility” that the lethal injection process could cause that pain and suffering.

After Jones was executed, Rutledge, the attorney general, released a statement saying she hoped this helped Phillips’s family.

“This evening, Lacey Phillips Manor and Darla Phillips Jones have seen justice for the brutal rape and murder of their mother, Mary Phillips,” Rutledge said in a statement. After detailing the case, Rutledge added: “The Phillips family has waited far too long to see justice carried out, and I pray they find peace tonight.”

[Arkansas had shifted its focus to remaining executions after court losses]

Williams, 46, was sentenced to death in 1997 for abducting, robbing, raping and killing Stacy Errickson, who was 22 and was living at the Little Rock Air Force Base while her husband was serving overseas. Arkansas officials, in court filings opposing a stay in his case, said he forced her at gunpoint to take cash from ATMs before raping, beating and strangling her.

Attorneys for Williams have argued in court filings that he had poor counsel during his trial in both his guilt and penalty phases, which they said meant he was sentenced to death despite the jury not hearing any mitigating evidence arguing against the death penalty.

Protesters praying, emotionally preparing for scheduled execution of Marcel Williams… #ARExecutionspic.twitter.com/SJsguGKALw

— Kimberly Rusley (@KATVKimberly) April 25, 2017

In another filing, they pointed to health issues, saying he weighs 400 pounds and suffers from several medical maladies that meant the planned lethal injection “was more likely to maim than kill him.” His attorneys argued for stays on both counts, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit rejected both requests on Friday.

Rutledge said she felt the execution provided justice for Errickson’s family and friends.

“I hope that tonight’s lawful execution brings much-needed peace to all of Stacy’s loved ones, particularly her now-adult children Brittany and Bryan,” she said in a statement.

[Arkansas courts had briefly blocked the use of a lethal injection drug]

The Arkansas Supreme Court rejected stay requests from both men. The 8th Circuit, which had denied an appeal filed by the eight inmates facing execution that challenged the Arkansas method of execution, also denied another challenge Friday that was filed by some of the inmates — including Williams, but not Jones — and focused on the state’s clemency procedures.

The double execution was the country’s first since August 2000. Texas was in the midst of carrying out 40 death sentences that year, the most for any state in a single year since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976, according to the Washington-based Death Penalty Information Center. (Executions nationwide have fallen since that time, and last year, 20 death sentences were carried out nationwide.)

Before the double execution in 2000, the first inmate’s last words were an admonition against racism targeting black people, according to records kept by Texas corrections officials. He then said, “Let’s do it.” The second inmate apologized to his victim and his family before saying, “I am ready. I love you all.”

[Drug companies take aim at Arkansas executions and demand lethal injection drugs back]

Arkansas is not the first state to plan a double execution since then. Perhaps the most highly publicized botched lethal injection in recent memory occurred the last time a state tried carrying out two executions in one night.

In 2014, Oklahoma authorities attempted to execute Clayton Lockett, a convicted murderer, in the first of two lethal injections planned that night. They bungled the process: Lockett writhed and grimaced on the gurney, prompting the execution to be called off, and he died 43 minutes after it began. (The second execution scheduled for that night was delayed; when it was carried out months later, Oklahoma officials used the wrong lethal injection drug. The state has yet to resume executions.)

Officials in Oklahoma later blamed that bungled execution on a misplaced IV. In a state review, officials involved in the process said the back-to-back scheduling added to the stress they felt.

This story, first published at 4:58 p.m. on Monday, has been updated repeatedly with news from Arkansas. 

Further reading:

Executions and death sentences declined last year in the U.S.

After divided Supreme Court allows Alabama execution, inmate heaves and coughs during lethal injection

 The state Supreme Court justice who stepped down to protest the death penalty

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White House 'confident' of averting shutdown as Trump shows flexibility on wall – Washington Post

By , and ,

The White House sought Monday to calm a jittery Washington ahead of a showdown with Congress over spending, and President Trump softened his demand that a deal to keep the federal government open include money to begin construction on his long-promised border wall.

Despite one-party control at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, the brinkmanship that came to define spending battles in the Obama years has tumbled into the Trump era, as have the factional divisions over strategy and priorities that have gripped the GOP for a decade.

But with a Friday deadline looming to pass a new spending bill, the Trump administration projected confidence that a shutdown would be avoided. In the face of fierce Democratic opposition to funding the wall’s construction, White House officials signaled Monday that the president may be open to an agreement that includes money for border security if not specifically for a wall, with an emphasis on technology and border agents rather than a structure.

Trump showed even more flexibility Monday afternoon, telling conservative journalists in a private meeting that he was open to delaying funding for wall construction until September, a White House official confirmed.

“The president is working hard to keep the government open,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters Monday. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said he was “very confident” that an agreement would be reached by Friday, but he pointedly said he could not “guarantee” that a government closure would be averted.

At issue is whether the spending measure will explicitly allocate funds toward building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border — a campaign promise that was a rallying cry for Trump’s base and one on which he is eager to demonstrate progress by Saturday, his 100th day in office.

Democrats, meanwhile, gave the White House an opening, saying they would agree to some new money for border security — so long as it did not go toward the creation of a wall, something House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has called “immoral.”

In a speech on the Senate floor, Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) blasted the idea of a wall while suggesting that a combination of smart technology and law enforcement, including the use of drones, would be “a much more effective way to secure the border” without hitting an impasse in Congress.

Republicans were working to define Trump’s campaign promise down, arguing that any form of border security would fulfill it.

“There will never be a 2,200-mile wall built, period,” said Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a supporter of immigration reform who challenged Trump in the 2016 primaries. “I think it’s become symbolic of better border security. It’s a code word for better border security. If you make it about actually building a 2,200-mile wall, that’s a bridge too far — but I’m mixing my metaphors.”

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a key appropriator and member of Senate leadership, said that “there could be a wall in some places and technology in other places,” implying that there would not be funding for the wall sketched out in campaign rhetoric. “I think you’re going to get a down payment on border security generally,” he said.

Trump has asked Congress for $1.5 billion in new money to start construction on the wall, and he wants an additional $2.6 billion for the fiscal year that begins in October. The wall, experts say, would cost $21.6 billion and take 3½ years to construct.

At the White House, Spicer portrayed Trump’s position not as a demand but rather as one of two priorities — the other being additional military funding — in evolving negotiations with Congress. He left open the possibility that the president could agree to funding for border activities generally, such as additional fencing or drones.

“I’m not going to get ahead of the negotiations that are ongoing,” Spicer said.

Should lawmakers fail to find consensus by Friday, there are plans ready to quickly pass through the House and Senate what is referred to as a “short-term C.R.,” a continuing resolution to keep the government open until discussions are finalized.

The Senate returned Monday night and the House returns Tuesday from a two-week recess, leaving only three days this week when both chambers will be in session.

The more conciliatory language emanating from the White House did not stop Trump from continuing to hammer away on Twitter at what he claims is an urgent need for the wall. In a pair of posts, Trump sought to build public pressure on lawmakers to pass funding for wall construction.

“The Wall is a very important tool in stopping drugs from pouring into our country and poisoning our youth (and many others)!” he wrote in a morning post.

In another message several hours later, Trump wrote that if “the wall is not built, which it will be, the drug situation will NEVER be fixed the way it should be! #BuildTheWall.”

Still, Trump has left himself wiggle room to agree to sign a government funding bill that does not include money for the wall.

“My base understands the wall is going to get built, whether I have it funded here or if I get it funded shortly thereafter,” Trump said in a recent interview with the Associated Press. “That wall’s getting built, okay? One hundred percent.”

Asked if he would sign a bill without wall funding, Trump told the news service, “I just don’t know yet.”

The debate over wall funding is just one of several moving pieces congressional leaders are trying to address this week to avoid a partial government shutdown. In 2015, President Barack Obama made a deal with congressional lawmakers to fund government operations through April 28, 2017. If a new agreement isn’t reached by then, many federal employees will stop being paid, national parks will close, and a number of other changes will kick in — as in 2013, the last time the government shut down.

Since new rules about spending bills went into place after Jimmy Carter’s administration, a government shutdown has never occurred when a single political party has controlled the White House and both chambers of Congress.

Paramount for many Republican lawmakers is funding the government, as opposed to the wall specifically. If the government shuts down, they fear, voters could blame the GOP for failing to govern, and the party could suffer the consequences in the 2018 midterm elections.

“I’d like to make it as clean as we can and fund the government,” said Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.). “I wouldn’t mind funding the wall, but it’s a question of what we can do. The question is, what’s doable and will we make the deadline?”

Sen. James E. Risch (R-Idaho) said that an effective “wall” along the border had been “authorized years and years and years ago,” in the Secure Fence Act of 2006.

“It’s been partially built and partially funded. He wants to fund the rest of it and build it — perfectly legitimate debate that should take place on that,” Risch said.

Asked if that debate could happen in three days, Risch chuckled. “Things get done quickly around here when they want it to get done,” he said.

Even when Republicans controlled the House during the Obama administration, they could rarely pass spending bills without Democratic support. That is because a number of the House’s most conservative members often refused to support such bills, making a bipartisan majority coalition a necessity. In addition, 60 votes are needed to pass a requisite procedural vote in the Senate. With just 52 seats, Senate Republicans will need bipartisan support in that chamber as well.

Among other guarantees, Democrats want assurances that insurance subsidies through the Affordable Care Act will continue to be funded. There have been discussions among Republicans that Democrats could agree to provide money for the construction of the wall in exchange for those health funds, but Democrats have refused.

Sunday morning, congressional Democrats submitted to Republicans a compromise spending plan, which included some new money for border security but only if it did not go toward a wall. Democrats also asked for assurances that the health insurance subsidies would continue to be funded, language that would shore up benefits for coal miners and a change that would expand Medicaid benefits to people in Puerto Rico, according to a senior Democratic congressional aide.

Pelosi told reporters on a conference call Monday that Congress was “on the path to get it done until [Trump] did intervene” and that the administration’s actions so far belied his campaign promise to “make Mexico pay” for the border wall.

James Norton, a former deputy assistant undersecretary for homeland security under President George W. Bush, said funding for technologies, such as cameras and radars, on the border has dropped off since the early 2000s. He said to get money for the wall or other border security measures, the administration will have to “sell specifics” to lawmakers.

“Each part is going to need to be sold in a specific way to Congress, and they’re going to have to hit the Hill hard,” Norton said. “It won’t be easy.”

Damian Paletta and Sean Sullivan contributed to this report.

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