Supporters of Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff watch election returns on TV last night in the special election for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
With Breanne Deppisch
THE BIG IDEA: The results from Georgia’s special election should scare Republicans, but Democrats shouldn’t overread the results.
With all the precincts reporting, Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff pulled 48.3 percent of the vote in the open House race to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. He needed to break 50 percent in the jungle primary to avoid a head-to-head June runoff with the top Republican finisher. For perspective, Ossoff got 92,390 votes. If he had rustled up 3,700 more, he would have won outright.
Instead, he’ll face former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel in a June 20 runoff. She pulled close to 20 percent of the vote in a field that included 11 GOP candidates. “Tomorrow we start the campaign anew,” Handel said around midnight.
— Ossoff shouldn’t have come as close as he did. He is a 30-year-old documentary filmmaker and former congressional staffer who has never run for office before and doesn’t even live in the district. Republicans, from Newt Gingrich to Johnny Isakson, have easily held the Sixth District since the 1970s. Price just won reelection with 62 percent before giving up his seat. “This is already a remarkable victory,” Ossoff said in a statement sent at 1:35 a.m. “We defied the odds, shattered expectations, and now are ready to fight on and win in June.”
— National Republicans had to pour in millions just to keep Ossoff under 50 percent. The super PAC aligned with Speaker Paul Ryan spent more than $3 million on a rescue mission. After seeing polling on March 24th that showed Ossoff at 42 percent and rising, the group deployed an organizer to Atlanta the next day. He oversaw a full-time paid field team of 100 that has knocked on doors seven days a week since. “If we had waited another couple of weeks, it would have been too late,” said Corry Bliss, executive director of Congressional Leadership Fund, told the Washington Examiner’s David Drucker.
— Donald Trump waited up late to watch results. He celebrated Ossoff staying below 50 percent as some kind of validation of his leadership. The president tweeted about the race four times yesterday and posted this after midnight:
Despite major outside money, FAKE media support and eleven Republican candidates, BIG “R” win with runoff in Georgia. Glad to be of help!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 19, 2017
— But Handel kept more distance from Trump than most of the other Republicans. She handled him carefully. She had a common refrain whenever reporters asked: “Do I support the president? Absolutely. But my job, if I have the privilege of being the next congressman, is not to be an extension of the White House. It is to be the best representative.”
Robert Costa, who has been on the ground in the home stretch for us, relays that Republicans he talked with veered between wanting a typical party man to preferring a Trump-style hard-liner. In interviews, some voters genteelly tried to sidestep questions about loyalty to Trump. “We didn’t support Karen based on who she supported for President,” said Allison Newman, a 42 year-old special education teacher, when asked why she and her husband supported Handel. “We supported Karen based on her track record, she’s ethical and she’s a good person.”
Republican candidate Bob Gray campaigns. (Bita Honarvar/Reuters)
— The candidates who embraced Trump the most didn’t get traction. Bob Gray, a city councilman in the suburb of Johns Creek, closely tied himself to the president and said he was running to back him up. His slogan paid homage: “America First. Conservative Always.” But Gray underperformed the public polls, pulling only 10 percent. Others who took a similar tack barely registered.
A headline on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution homepage is: “Trump loyalists flail in Georgia special election.”
At Gray’s election night event at an Italian family restaurant in Roswell, he implored his supporters to rally behind Handel. “No one cheered; there was no applause for party unity,” Jonathan Lee Krohn reports.“And why should there be? For at least some of Gray’s most hardcore supporters, they had supported him specifically because of his love for Trump. ‘He’s willing to support the president, and I voted for the president,’ said Brittany Evrard, a 27 year-old substitute teacher from Fulton County who volunteered for both Trump and Gray.”
From the AJC’s veteran political reporter:
Ten minutes into a speech claiming the second spot in the Sixth District runoff, Karen Handel hadn’t mentioned the words “Donald Trump.”
— Jim Galloway (@politicalinsidr) April 19, 2017
From the Atlanta-based founder of the conservative RedState blog, who now writes for The Resurgent:
Significant to note that among the GOP tonight in GA06, the more closely aligned a candidate was with Trump, the worse said candidate did.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) April 19, 2017
— Several of the takeaways I wrote about last Wednesday after the unexpectedly close special election in Wichita Kansas, are now doubly true: This will make GOP recruiting harder. Some House Republicans might become scared about being vulnerable and change their behavior. Congressional Democrats are going to become less likely to bail out House GOP leadership on tough votes. Democratic campaign committees will face more pressure than ever from the left flank to spend money in red districts, even if there’s no realistic path to victory.
Karen Handel speaks at her election night watch party in Roswell, Ga. (David Goldman/AP)
— Contrary to the gelling D.C. conventional wisdom, Democrats could still win the Georgia race in the runoff. A lot of the overnight press coverage suggests that Handel is now the favorite against Ossoff because he couldn’t crack 50 percent. The assumption is that all the non-Handel Republicans will now coalesce behind her over the next two months and turn out to vote for her in June. This isn’t necessarily so.
While it votes Republican, the district’s demographics – affluent and highly educated suburbs north of Atlanta — make it well-suited for Democrats to pick off in the age of Trump:
Consider this: Democrats control nine of the 10 congressional districts with the highest percentage of college-educated voters. Georgia-6 is the only exception, Dante Chinni pointed out last week in the Wall Street Journal.
A lot of these center-right, upper-middle-class, well-educated professionals view Trump warily. That’s why Mitt Romney won the district with 61 percent in 2012, and Trump pulled just 48 percent. That was one of the biggest swings anywhere in the country. (I wrote about this dynamic in February after interviewing lots of voters around the district.)
Supporters presented Handel with a cake last night. Making it to the runoff was a nice birthday gift from the voters. (David Goldman/AP)
— Moreover, even months before the primary, Democratic operatives were telling me privately that Handel was the Republican against whom they would fare the best.CNN’s Eric Bradner explains: “Handel lost a 2010 race for governor and a 2014 Republican Senate primary and was accused of overspending as a county commissioner in a 2017 jungle primary attack ad from the conservative Club for Growth. She was hammered by Republican foes in the runoff who aligned themselves with Trump — raising the prospect that those Trump voters could skip the runoff entirely. Handel’s efforts as secretary of state to purge Georgia’s voter rolls by requiring voters to prove their citizenship led to fights with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. … Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez — who led the Civil Rights Division during Barack Obama’s first term — said voters would hear ‘a lot’ about Handel’s efforts to require voters to prove their citizenship.”
— An under-covered dynamic: Handel advancing is a win for the pro-life movement. She was last in the national news in 2012 when she resigned from a top job with Susan G. Komen for the Cure after unsuccessfully trying to cut off the breast cancer foundation’s ties with Planned Parenthood. Handel even wrote a book about the episode called “Planned Bullyhood” in 2014. The fight made her a hero of anti-abortion groups, which promoted her and celebrated last night’s news:
— Susan B Anthony List (@SBAList) April 19, 2017
— Money mattered. Ossoff raised more than $8.3 million with the help of celebrities and the liberal netroots. About 95 percent of that haul came from outside Georgia. Ending Spending, the conservative group bankrolled by the billionaire Ricketts family that owns the Chicago Cubs, poured in $1.3 million to boost Handel, potentially pivotal in such a free-for-all race. There will now be a crazy amount of spending on Atlanta TV before June.
Jon Ossoff speaks at his party last night. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
BUT, BUT, BUT – CONSIDER THE BIGGER PICTURE:
— Picking up 24 seats to win control of the House will still be very hard for Democrats. Despite all the national help Ossoff got, he only outperformed Hillary by about 1 point in the district.
— “To win back the House, coming close won’t be enough,” National Journal political editor Josh Kraushaar writes this morning. “Republicans were able to use their traditional playbook (to force a runoff), painting Ossoff as a down-the-line liberal to stunt his momentum. If that strategy works in the midterms, they’ll be well-positioned to hold their House majority. Democrats need to win these types of diverse, affluent Republican districts to regain control of the lower chamber. … All told, it doesn’t look as if many typical Republican voters — even those who don’t care for Trump — were inclined to vote for a Democrat to send a message…
“If there’s anything that should concern Democrats, it’s that they know what they’re against but not what they’re for,” Josh adds. “They’ve mastered the art of mobilization in the age of Trump, but are still struggling to persuade winnable voters. Ossoff’s campaign ads struck all the right notes, portraying him as a fiscal conservative and a pragmatist who’s tough on national security. But on the stump, Ossoff never really articulated much beyond bland Democratic talking points. With their pumped-up base, Democrats should have a productive midterm election. But to capture a House majority, they’ll need to pick off Republican-friendly seats with candidates who can reassure GOP-leaning voters with a moderate message. Balancing the energy of the progressive activists with that sort of pragmatism won’t be an easy task.”
Donald Trump, standing in front of a flag made out of wrenches, speaks yesterday at a tool company in Kenosha, Wisconsin. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)
TAKING THE LONG VIEW:
— Doug Sosnik, who served as Bill Clinton’s White House political director, believes Democrats are unlikely to win control of the House next year. Barring a complete Trump meltdown, the Democratic strategist thinks that the path is just too tough because the last round of redistricting was so effectively controlled by Republicans in many states.
Doug agreed to let me share with Daily 202 readers a 24-slide deck he just prepared on “Politics in the Age of Trump.” It has a bunch of charts and maps that you may want to print out for future reference. (See the whole thing here.)
The way he sees it, the significance of the 2017-18 cycle is largely about the 2020 presidential campaign and, as importantly, political power in the next decade surrounding reapportionment and redistricting.
The GOP’s performance in the 2010 midterm election positioned the party to dominate in the House for the entire decade. Consider that, in 2012, Republicans controlled the chamber despite getting 1.2 million fewer overall votes across all the House races. That’s how important it is to be able to draw the lines. (See slide 19.)
This also helps explain why there has been a steady decline in true swing seats since the 1990’s. Red districts have gotten redder and blue districts bluer. There are fewer and fewer split districts. (See slide 10-12.)
Most of the tea party incumbents are unlikely to lose, so the action is going to be more in the moderate districts. (See slide 12.)
House races still matter, of course. How many seats the Democrats gain will affect Trump’s ability to govern. That will impact whether he can hold the White House in 2020.
— Here are a few other notable takeaways from a conversation we had yesterday:
Due to the nature of the states with elections in 2018, Doug also thinks the Democrats are unlikely to take back the Senate for the rest of the decade. Again, barring a complete Republican meltdown. (See slides 7-9.)
Governors who win in 2018 will likely drive the redistricting process across the country. There are 38 governors races this cycle. Half are in open seats. There are contests in nine of the country’s 10 largest states. The outcome in these races will go a long way in determining who is in charge until the end of the 2020s. (See slides 15-16. Slide 20 shows who dominates the process in each state.)
History says that the party out of power should be highly motivated and do well. There seems to be signs of that now, but is it real? The greatest single question mark, which no one got right in 2016, is who is going to vote. That is even more difficult to predict in an off-year election. (See slide 24.)
An under-appreciated early warning sign will be mayoral races. (Slide 17 has a list of key municipal contests this cycle. Slide 22 lists the major elections in 2017. Again, here is the deck.)
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
A security guard stands next to boxes of petitions left by protesters calling for the firing of Fox News host Bill O’Reilly in front of the News Corp. headquarters in Midtown Manhattan yesterday. The protest against O’Reilly, who has been the subject of numerous sexual harassment allegations and legal settlements, was organized by the women’s group UltraViolet and the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
— Bill O’Reilly’s future at Fox News is increasingly imperiled, with the lodging of a new harassment allegation, an advertiser boycott that shows no signs of dissipating and new signals that Rupert Murdoch’s sons are pushing for his ouster:
- Several outlets, including the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal, report that exit talks are underway and that Fox is “preparing to cut ties.”
- New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reports that Rupert’s sons James and Lachlan have been arguing that O’Reilly needs to go, though their father has resisted that outcome: “Another factor: the Murdochs’ pending $14 billion takeover of European pay-TV provider Sky. On May 16, the British media regulator Ofcom is set to judge whether the Murdochs are ‘fit and proper’ to own such a large media property. Removing O’Reilly could appease critics and help close the Sky deal. Sources describe the Murdoch family discussions as fraught[:] Initially … Lachlan was aligned with his father, but in recent days he has leaned more in his brother James’s direction.”
- CNN’s Brian Stelter spoke to one O’Reilly ally, who acknowledged that he will probably not return.
- Fox News spokespeople are no longer confirming that O’Reilly will appear on his show again Monday night, when he is supposed to be back from a vacation to Italy.
— Fox’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, is holding a board meeting Thursday that could potentially seal his fate at the network, The Post’s Paul Farhi reports: “Although the board has no direct vote over O’Reilly’s employment status, its members could be influential with the Murdoch family, which controls the company and would have the final say. O’Reilly’s contract — signed in March — has an ‘opt out’ clause that would require Fox to pay him a fixed amount if invoked, making extensive negotiations unlikely and unnecessary. … The Murdochs … must decide whether O’Reilly is so badly damaged by the harassment complaints that his value to Fox is permanently diminished. Alternatively, they will have to assess whether getting rid of him would anger O’Reilly’s loyal viewers and perhaps deal a permanent blow to Fox, one of the most lucrative franchises in the family’s media empire.”
— O’Reilly’s camp denies these reports. His attorney, Marc Kasowitz, issued two defiant statements accusing “activists” and “far-left organizations” of ganging up on the embattled host, whom he claimed has been “subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America.”
— The Trump administration certified that Iran is complying with the 2015 nuclear deal. In a letter to Congress last night, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cited concerns about Tehran’s role as a “state sponsor of terrorism” and announced an “interagency review,” led by the National Security Council, to evaluate whether the nuclear agreement “is vital to the national security interests of the United States.” This will impact whether sanctions continue to be lifted. Tillerson said the review was personally ordered by Trump but did not say how long it is expected to take. (Reuters)
Former NFL player Aaron Hernandez during his murder trial in Massachusetts. (Dominick Reuter/Reuters)
— Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end serving a life prison sentence for murder, hanged himself in his prison cell. Officers at the Massachusetts correctional facility said they found the 27-year-old hanging from a bedsheet early Wednesday. They attempted lifesaving techniques and transporting him to a nearby hospital but to no avail. Cindy Boren reports: “Hernandez’s death ends a stunning fall from the golden life of a star athlete and comes on a day when the Patriots are visiting the White House to celebrate their victory in Super Bowl LI. He was serving the life sentence for the June 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd. A little less than a week ago, he was acquitted in a double murder trial but was convicted of a gun possession charge.”
Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is pressured by New England Patriots defensive end Alan Branch (97) during the Super Bowl. (Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports)
— Driving the day: New England Patriots defensive tackle Alan Branch said he’s boycotting his team’s visit to the White House today in part because he was offended by Trump’s sexist comments caught on an “Access Hollywood” video: “I have three daughters,” Branch told the Boston Globe’s Annie Linskey. “I wouldn’t spend time away from my family to shake the hand of a guy I wouldn’t want to meet with or talk to. I can’t see myself going and then hanging out with my kids and pretending everything was all right.” Branch said he was horrified when he learned about the video, in which Trump was caught on a microphone talking about aggressively groping women and saying “when you’re a star, they let you do it.” Branch was also offended when Trump said his lewd comments were simply “locker-room banter.” “I’ve never heard nor talked like that in my life in a locker room, and my 11th season is coming up,” said the professional football player. “The way he talked, so aggressively, I’ve just never heard that.”
“Branch is among five members of the Super Bowl-winning Patriots team to skip the traditional White House ceremony because of Trump’s behavior or policies,” Linskey reports. “Martellus Bennett, LeGarrette Blount, Devin McCourty, and Chris Long also have expressed dismay over Trump and aren’t going to Washington. A sixth member of the team, linebacker Dont’a Hightower, is not attending but hasn’t said whether the reason was rooted in politics. Also, James White, the running back who was credited for 20 of the 34 points the Patriots scored in the Super Bowl including the game-winning touchdown, has said he was ‘up in the air’ about whether to attend.”
— AL.com (@aldotcom) April 19, 2017
— “Self-proclaimed white nationalist Richard Spencer spoke at Auburn University in Alabama Tuesday night after a federal judge reversed the school’s cancellation of the event on First Amendment grounds. He was greeted by protests that quickly turned violent and led to three arrests,” Travis M. Andrews reports. “A video released by AL.com showed a man with spiked hair and a bloody face on the ground, his hands cuffed behind his back. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge W. Keith Watkins in Montgomery, Ala., Tuesday barred Auburn from blocking Spencer, stating there was no evidence that he advocates violence. ‘Discrimination on the basis of message content cannot be tolerated under the First Amendment,’ he wrote in the ruling. Auburn released a third statement, urging any protesters to remain peaceful. They did not.”
— A real estate agent in Montana is suing the founder of the neo-Nazi “Daily Stormer” website,saying her life was “stolen overnight” after the blog called for a “troll storm” against her and her family – triggering more than 700 harassing messages, including graphic death threats. The complaint accuses Daily Stormer chief Andrew Anglin of invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and violating Montana’s anti-intimidation act. (Abby Ohlheiser)
George H.W. Bush arrives for the coin toss before the Super Bowl in February. (Eric Gay/AP)
GET SMART FAST:
- George H.W. Bush was hospitalized for another “mild” bout of pneumonia this week. A spokesman said the 92-year-old is “in very good spirits,” already “well on the path to recovery” and slated to return home soon. He is being treated at Houston Methodist Hospital. (KHOU)
- Steve W. Stephens, the man suspected of fatally shooting a Cleveland man and posting video of the murder on Facebook, committed suicide as police closed in. Stephens was first spotted at a McDonald’s in Erie County, Pa. Drive-through employees recognized him, phoned authorities, and tried to delay him by holding up his french fries. Pennsylvania state police chased him for nearly two miles after he fled the restaurant, finally ramming into his car. Authorities said he immediately pulled a weapon from his vehicle and shot himself. (Avi Selk, Lindsey Bever, Peter Holley and Wesley Lowery)
- Three people were killed in random and unprovoked shootings in Fresno, Calif., which unfolded in a matter of seconds Tuesday morning. Police quickly arrested a suspect in the attack, taking into custody a man who reportedly yelled “Allahu akbar” as he was being detained and has a long history of anger towards white people and the government. (Mark Berman)
- Adidas apologized for sending an insensitive email to Boston Marathon competitors, congratulating runners “who survived” the Monday event which four years ago was the site of a deadly bombing attack that left three dead and more than 260 injured. (Bryan Flaherty)
- The NCAA said it will resume holding championship events in North Carolina after lawmakers repealed and replaced a contentious “bathroom bill,” announcing a series of 23 championship events to be held in the state through 2022. (Matt Bonesteel)
- The Florida House passed a resolution apologizing to families of the “Groveland Four,” a group of African American men wrongfully accused of raping a white woman in 1949. The unfounded accusation immediately landed three of the men in jail, while the fourth was chased down and killed by an angry mob. (Katie Mettler)
- Suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore scheduled an “announcement” at the state Capitol for later today after the newly sworn-in governor said she is moving up the special election for the Senate seat that opened when Jeff Sessions became attorney general. He was one of several candidates interviewed by Robert Bentley, who resigned as governor last week, for the seat. Luther Strange, who got the appointment, says he is running for the full term. Moore may now challenge him. (WKRG News)
- Republican senators in Iowa recently passed legislation to make fireworks legal in the state for the first time in decades and to allow children of anyage to operate a handgun. But as the state’s session nears adjournment, lawmakers have taken a stand against one safety hazard: Cardboard boxes. The new GOP majority banned high school pages from stacking large columns of empty boxes on the chamber floor – shuttering a longstanding tradition because of safety concerns. (Des Moines Register)
An F/A-18 launches from the deck of the USS Carl Vinson in 2014. (US Navy/Handout via Reuters)
ADVANCING IN ANOTHER DIRECTION:
— “Despite talk of a military strike, Trump’s ‘armada’ actually sailed away from Korea,” by Missy Ryan, Simon Denyer and Emily Rauhala: “As tensions mounted on the Korean Peninsula this month, the U.S. military made a dramatic announcement: An aircraft carrier had been ordered to sail north from Singapore toward the Western Pacific, apparently closing in on North Korea and its growing nuclear arsenal. But the ship that some officials portrayed as a sign of a stepped-up U.S. response to threats was in fact, at the moment that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un mounted a defiant show of military force last weekend, thousands of miles away from the Korean Peninsula, operating in the Indian Ocean.”
“Officials’ nebulous — if not seemingly misleading — statementsabout the whereabouts of the USS Carl Vinson come as the Trump administration attempts to deliver a dual message on one of its most thorny foreign problems: at once illustrating a willingness to employ force against a dangerous adversary while also steering clear of steps that could spiral out of control. A series of binary, sometimes conflicting comments delivered by top officials in the past week highlight the Trump administration’s hope that hard-line rhetoric will have a deterrent effect and, more fundamentally, the lack of attractive options it faces on North Korea. While officials are eager to signal a break from previous U.S. policy, their strategy appears to be a continuation of the Obama administration’s attempt to use international economic and diplomatic pressure to force results in Pyongyang…Analysts said the White House is betting that its tough talk will convince Chinese President Xi Jinping that Trump is willing to use force, prompting Beijing to use the weight of its trade ties with North Korea to help avoid a huge conflict on its border.” (Aaron Blake rounded up all of the administration’s misleading statements here.)
— In any case, the carrier strike force appears to be finally steaming toward Korea.
Trump and Putin (Jim Lo Scalzo/Sputnik Pool/European Pressphoto Agency)
— “On Russia, Trump and his top national security aides seem to be at odds,” by Greg Miller: “The message was defiantly optimistic, like a suitor determined to hold a relationship together despite mounting obstacles. ‘Things will work out fine between the U.S.A. and Russia,’ President Trump declared on his Twitter account last week. ‘At the right time everyone will come to their senses & there will be lasting peace!’ Trump’s interest in achieving warm relations with Moscow has been a consistent theme since the earliest days of his campaign, and it stands now as one of the few major foreign policy positions that he has not discarded or revised since taking office. But in his devotion to this outcome, Trump appears increasingly isolated within his own administration. Over the past several weeks, senior members of Trump’s national security team have issued blistering critiques of Moscow, using harsh terms that have led to escalating tensions between the countries and seem at odds with the president. … The harsh rhetoric — and the apparent lack of any rebuke from Trump — suggests that Russian skeptics have gained influence in the administration, making the rapprochement that Trump envisioned seem increasingly remote.”
John Destefano stands in his office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
PERSONNEL IS POLICY — Three good stories on Trump’s hiring woes:
— Jeff Sessions has prioritized an aggressive law enforcement system as he moves to reshape the Justice Department – but his tough-on-crime agenda is poised to be met with a few hurdles – including the fact that he does not have a single U.S. attorney in place after firing Obama-era holdovers in March.Sari Horwitz reports. “Last month, Sessions abruptly told the dozens of remaining Obama administration U.S. attorneys to submit their resignations immediately — and none of [the 93 U.S. attorney positions] … have been replaced. Sessions is also without the heads of his top units, including the civil rights, criminal and national security divisions. ‘We really need to work hard at that,’ Sessions said Tuesday when asked about the vacancies. … U.S. attorneys, who prosecute federal crimes from state offices around the nation, are critical to implementing an attorney general’s law enforcement agenda.”
- This is exactly why both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations gradually eased out the previous administration’s U.S. attorneys while officials sought new ones.
- Sessions said that until he has his replacements, career acting U.S. attorneys “respond pretty well to presidential leadership.” But former Justice Department officials say that acting U.S. attorneys do not operate with the same authority when interacting with police chiefs and other law enforcement leaders. “It’s like trying to win a baseball game without your first-string players on the field,” said former assistant attorney general Ronald Weich.
— Lisa Rein has a good profile of Trump head hunter Johnny DeStefano, a bona-fide Beltway insider tasked with hiring an administration of swamp-drainers: “If Johnny DeStefano applied for a job in the Trump administration, chances are pretty good that Johnny DeStefano wouldn’t hire him. DeStefano is the president’s official headhunter, responsible for filling up to 4,000 political jobs — about 500 of which are really important jobs— in a government that his boss promised to clear of the permanent class of capital insiders to drain the Washington swamp. So the ideal applicant wouldn’t have spent much of his career on Capitol Hill as DeStefano has. … Or served as political director for former House speaker John Boehner … Or raised money for House Republicans, then built a data operation used by the [RNC].” And yet this didn’t stop DeStefano from wining an under-the-radar role as someone to see in Trump world.
In an interview, DeStefano dismissed suggestions that his political pedigree is a liability: “’What I’m interested in now is, ‘Why do you want the job, and more specifically, why do you want to work for this administration?’ DeStefano says he asks candidates he interviews for jobs ranging from undersecretary of transportation to ambassador to the E.U. ‘What’s your vision? I want to know that myself,’ he says. ‘I’m the person who’s vouching for them to the president of the United States.’ He’s also struggling to fill critical jobs across a government still missing most of its senior leaders, a personnel roadblock caused by a slow start, screening delays … and the possibility that Trump doesn’t want to fill all of those posts.”
— Trump has yet to nominate the State Department official who oversees diplomatic security abroad — despite having made the 2012 attacks in Benghazi a centerpiece of his campaign against Hillary Clinton, Politico’s Austin Wright reports: “Congressional Democrats say it’s a striking omission that shows Trump’s campaign rhetoric was just that. And even some Republicans are urging Trump to move faster to fill this and other key State Department posts. Trump has made just two nominations for senior management posts at the State Department, not including ambassadorships. More than three dozen State Department leadership jobs remain unfilled … with hundreds of jobs requiring Senate confirmation sitting vacant across the federal government.”
Joni Ernst speaks during a town hall meeting in Elkader, Iowa. (Nicki Kohl/Telegraph Herald via AP)
ANGST ON THE RIGHT:
— Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst criticized Trump’s frequent trips to Mar-a-Lago during a town hall meeting, admitting to her constituents that she is “bothered” by the president’s frequent jaunts to his Palm Beach resort. “I do wish he would spend more time in Washington, D.C. That’s what we have the White House for,” she said. Ernst relayed that fellow GOP lawmakers share similar concerns, and she said she expects his travel schedule to become a topic of discussion in Washington this week. (KCCI Des Moines)
— Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford said he believes Trump should release his tax returns, surprising some constituents at a question-and-answer session. “He promised he would,” Lankford said. “He should keep his promise.” (Tulsa World)
— As Steve Bannon’s influence continues to decline inside the White House, alarm bells are getting louder at Breitbart News – the website once run by Bannon and known for its fawning coverage of Trump. CNN’s Tom Kludt reports: “The latest source of angst for Breitbart came late last week, when Trump tapped former Republican Congressman Spencer Bachus to serve on the board of directors for the Export-Import Bank. Bachus … is apparently the only politician whom the website’s late patriarch, Andrew Breitbart, ever called upon to resign. On Breitbart’s radio program on Monday, the site’s senior editor-at-large Peter Schweizer called the appointment ‘troubling.’ [And] Breitbart editor-in-chief Alex Marlow … admitted that he had become ‘more concerned about the potential for corruption in the Trump White House.’ The change in tenor on the site has coincided with recent signs that Bannon … has been marginalized in the administration. It’s also led to headlines that would have been unthinkable on the site a year ago.”
–Secretary John Kelly slammed congressional critics of the DHS, saying Tuesday that that lawmakers should either “shut up” and assume the agency is “acting appropriately,” or change the law.Devlin Barrett reports: “’If lawmakers do not like the laws they’ve passed and we are charged to enforce, then they should have the courage and skill to change the laws,’’ said Kelly, speaking at George Washington University. “Otherwise they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines.’’ Meanwhile, he said the problem is not the fault of federal agents enforcing immigration laws or other contentious policies, but rather the result of “political games” or misguided reporting.
The DHS secretary framed his remarks as seeking to repair a morale problems that has plagued the department for years, saying the mood inside the DHS is “already changing for the better.” He also alluded to a recent decision to ban portable computer devices from the passenger cabins of planes coming from certain airports in the Middle East and Africa, saying the restriction is “likely” to be expanded, though he declined to say how. The retired Marine general also indicated that his agency is “reviewing how the U.S. admits visitors from Europe and other members of the Visa Waiver Program,” which allows visitors from 20 nations to enter the U.S. without a visa or the screening that goes along with a visa. “We have to start looking very hard at that program — not eliminating it, but looking very hard at it,’’ he said. The United States is “the Super Bowl, in terms of terrorists, and that’s what they want to do, and that’s where they want to come,’’ Kelly said.
DACA recipient Daniel Ramirez Medina. (AP/Ted S. Warren)
— A young man brought into the U.S. by his parents and shielded from deportation under the “DREAMer” act was deported to his native Mexico, as federal agents ignored Trump’s pledge to show “compassion” to a protected class of immigrants brought into the U.S. as young children. USA Today’s Alan Gomez and David Agren report: “After spending an evening with his girlfriend in Calexico, Calif., on Feb. 17, Juan Manuel Montes, 23, who has lived in the U.S. since age 9, grabbed a bite and was waiting for a ride when a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer approached and started asking questions … Montes had left his wallet in a friend’s car, so he couldn’t produce his ID or proof of his DACA status and was told by agents he couldn’t retrieve them. Within three hours, he was back in Mexico, becoming the first undocumented immigrant with active DACA status deported by the Trump administration’s stepped-up deportation policy.” A DHS spokeswoman said Tuesday that the department could not confirm details of Montes’s deportation and said they have “no record” of him renewing his DACA status after it expired in 2015, even though Montes’s attorneys provided a copy of his work authorization card showing his DACA status was valid through 2018. Now, a group of attorneys filed a suit in federal court requesting that Customs and Border Protection be forced to release details of the agent’s encounter with Montes.
— “Sanctuary cities debate has jurisdictions weighing whether to defend the policy,” by Maria Sacchetti: “On Miami’s famed Calle Ocho, where white-haired Cuban exiles play dominoes on crowded tables outdoors, everyone speaks Spanish and few fear getting deported from the United States. This unofficial capital of Latin America has welcomed immigrants for decades — including thousands from Cuba who illegally washed up on shore — but Miami is not a sanctuary anymore. After Trump threatened in January to strip federal money from cities that refuse to help deport immigrants, Miami-Dade County was the first to retreat. The mayor halted the policy … [stunning] advocates in a county where 51.7 percent of the residents are immigrants are considering their next move. ‘People are really angry,’ said María Rodriguez, [director of the Florida Immigrant Coalition]. ‘People in Miami-Dade are outraged that we would buckle so quickly to the administration’s intimidation.’”
Across the country, elected leaders are debating whether to follow Miami-Dade’s lead: “Emotions are rippling across more than 100 other sanctuary communities as they weigh whether to defend policies that shield undocumented immigrants and other noncitizens from deportation — including those who have been arrested for crimes — or risk losing their share of $4.1 billion in Justice Department grants this year.”
— Leaders of Iranian-American organizations asked a U.S. District Court to order a nationwide halt of Trump’s travel ban, testifying on behalf of the largest ethnic group directly affected by the March order, and one that received more U.S. visas in 2015 than all the other affected countries combined. The lawsuit is unusual in that U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of Washington allowed live testimony by individuals who allege they are harmed by the order and because the case is on a fast-track. (Spencer S. Hsu)
— Trump traveled to Wisconsin Tuesday to tour a manufacturing company in Kenosha. Abby Phillip reports: “By hitting the road, White House officials are seeking to reassure the president’s supporters that he will keep promises made during the campaign — following policy reversals that raised questions about whether the administration is moving away from its nationalistic agenda toward a more centrist approach. ‘We’re going to do everything in our power to make sure more products are stamped with those wonderful words ‘Made in the USA,’’ Trump told employees at Snap-on, a tool manufacturing company. Shortly afterward, Trump signed an executive order that will attempt to limit foreign workers coming to the U.S. by cracking down on fraud and abuse in a high-skilled visa program, fully enforce rules barring foreign contractors from bidding on federal contracts, and ensure that steel used in federal projects is melted and poured in the United States. Left unmentioned, however, was Trump’s own history as a businessman, in which he violated nearly every one of the aforementioned practices.”
— The United States wants “stronger and more balanced bilateral trade relationships” with countries including Japan and South Korea, Mike Pence said Tuesday, raising the prospect of opening bilateral talks with Tokyo and reviewing a deal already struck with Seoul.Anna Fifield reports: “‘We seek trade that is free. We seek trade that is fair,’ Pence said in Tokyo after opening an economic dialogue with his Japanese counterpart, Taro Aso. Pence’s remarks, to business leaders in South Korea and then after meetings with Japan’s prime minister and his deputy Tuesday, hew closely to [Trump’s] ‘America First’ promises on the campaign trail. Although the tone was friendly after the meeting, Japan and the United States appear to have decidedly different ideas about where their trading relationship should go.”
Pence said that TPP is a “thing of the past,”raising the prospect of forging a bilateral deal with Japan, which would likely require Tokyo to respond to politically sensitive demands such as removing trade barriers on cars and agriculture. Meanwhile, Tokyo is looking at reviving the TPP without the United States – a pact which, even without U.S. involvement, would allow Japan to present itself as a regional leader and alternative to China. Pence and Aso are schedule to meet again later this year, and said in a joint statement Tuesday that the talks “should generate concrete results in the near term.”
— The EPA asked a federal court Tuesday to delay oral arguments in a challenge involving a 2012 regulation limiting the amount airborne toxins emitted from power plants, seeking to overturn an Obama-era rule that has already largely earned compliance in the power sector. (Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis)
— Trump’s inaugural committee said it raised nearly $107 million for festivities surrounding his swearing-in ceremony in January – roughly doubling the haul of any other incoming president. (The previous high was $53 million for Obama’s 2009 inauguration.) John Wagner reports: “Trump’s team set no limits on what corporations and individuals could contribute to the inaugural committee, which coordinated more than 20 events over six days … In a statement, Trump’s committee said it is in the process of identifying charities that will receive contributions from leftover funds. The committee did not say how much money remains.”
Supporters of Marine Le Pen took down a poster after a campaign rally in the rural town of La Bazoche-Gouet. LePen is campaigning and polling strongly among rural and blue collar voters throughout France. (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
FOUR DAYS UNTIL VOTING BEGINS IN THE FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION:
— “Growing anti-Muslim rhetoric permeates French presidential election campaign,” by James McAuley in Paris: “For some, the French presidential election will alter the course of a troubled nation steeped in economic and social turmoil. For others, it will alter the course of a troubled continent, challenging the very existence of European integration. But in France itself, something far less abstract and far more intimate is at stake. In a country that remains under an official ‘state of emergency’ following an unprecedented spate of terrorist violence in the past two years, the election also has become a referendum on Muslims and their place in what is probably Europe’s most anxious multicultural society. Before the election’s first round of voting Sunday, each of the five leading contenders — from across the ideological spectrum — has felt compelled to address an apparently pressing ‘Muslim question’ about what to do with the country’s largest religious minority.”
Most outspoken on the issue is, unsurprisingly, National Front leader Marine Le Pen– the far-right candidate who, in the same speech in which she announced her presidential bid, decried “Islamist globalization” as an “ideology that wants to bring France to its knees.” And while Le Pen’s opponents do not share in the extremity or conviction of her views, each agrees that, when it comes to France’s Muslims, “something needs to be done.” (For example, mainstream conservative candidate François Fillon called for “strict administrative control of the Muslim faith” in a January campaign speech.)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Rep. Steve King celebrated the deportation of a DREAM-er:
— Steve King (@SteveKingIA) April 18, 2017
Check out this press release:
You know you have a problem with internal division, when… pic.twitter.com/0U8VTuZo0o
— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) April 19, 2017
Elizabeth Warren poses with the statue of a girl on Wall Street that the artist of a nearby statue wants to see removed:
Fight like a girl. pic.twitter.com/qGTn46jS9W
— Elizabeth Warren (@elizabethforma) April 18, 2017
Chelsea Clinton explains a fun mag cover:
Was laughing about the wonderfully hilarious & sweet things Charlotte sometimes says. Hope the people in your life bring you as much joy! https://t.co/zSpGL71yau
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) April 18, 2017
Don Rumsfeld is rooting for tax reform:
— Donald Rumsfeld (@RumsfeldOffice) April 18, 2017
Mike Huckabee went on a tweetstorm about the Cable Guy:
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) April 17, 2017
@comcast is now operated by the N. Korean missile launch team. Epic failure!
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) April 17, 2017
@comcast customer service? Faster than cold molasses pouring out of pinhole; makes gov’t look efficient;as fun to deal with as root canal.
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) April 17, 2017
By the time @comcast shows up to fix THEIR problems after they missed THEIR appt today, my 5 year old grandson will be graduating college.
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) April 17, 2017
By the time @comcast shows up to fix THEIR problems after they missed THEIR appt today, my 5 year old grandson will be graduating college.
— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) April 17, 2017
Some fun tweets out of Georgia:
— Kira Lerner (@kira_lerner) April 18, 2017
Karen Handel just said something about getting to “kick a little Ossoff,” so that’s a thing.
— Sarah Mimms (@SarahMMimms) April 19, 2017
Scott Walker gave Trump a “Make the Bucks Great Again” hat and then posted this:
Moms will relate:
Alec Baldwin plays President Trump in the opening sketch on “SNL.” (Will Heath/NBC via AP)
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
— The Atlantic, “Alec Baldwin Gets Under Trump’s Skin,” by Chris Jones: “Playing Trump is physically demanding—watching footage of his longer performances, Baldwin can sometimes see his mouth begin to droop, his Trump face requiring a combination of contractions that can be hard to sustain—but it’s a psychic challenge, too. Jokes are supposed to provide an escape, for the listener and the teller. Instead Baldwin lives in a state of constant reminder. His country is so far from his hopes for it, and now people won’t stop asking this liberal New Yorker to portray the primary vessel of his disappointments. … Even after so many successful appearances—even after his and Trump’s visages have become so closely associated that a newspaper in the Dominican Republic ran a photograph of his Trump instead of the real one—Baldwin can still seem as though he doesn’t have the stomach to inhabit Trump fully. ‘Push, push, push,’ he says in his makeup chair, his lips once again threatening to burst from his distorted face. ‘It’s exhausting. I’m hoping I can come up with someone else I can imitate. Pence?’ In the meantime, he will keep his Trump at a remove, almost like an abstract painting, not of Trump the man but of Trump’s withered soul.”
— Politico, “White House aides grapple with newfound celebrity,” by Annie Karni and Tara Palmeri: Kellyanne Conway could barely move across the White House lawn at the Easter Egg Roll on Monday without being accosted by a crush of selfie-seeking fans and enraptured young girls who wanted to stare at her. The onslaught of attention hardly came as a shock to Conway, who has been recognize-on-the-street famous since her ubiquitous television appearances during the 2016 campaign. Conway might be the most overexposed of [Trump’s] West Wing aides; in November, the Daily Mail published a 59-photo slideshow of the Republican strategist lounging poolside in her bathing suit while on a family vacation … But she’s not the only White House official who has transformed into a bona fide national celebrity, completing a melding of politics and entertainment that Washington observers say has been years in the making.”
“Paparazzi photographer Mark Wilkins used to stalk movie stars like Shia LaBeouf, who once famously threw a cup of coffee on him. He’s now taken to following White House aides instead[:] Last week, he stationed himself outside the Newseum, where Conway was speaking at a conference, to snap pictures of her as she left. Wilkins also sometimes sits outside of Spicer’s house in his car, waiting for a shot he can sell to the tabloids. ‘I’m going to try to work on him and get him at church,’” said Wilkins, who receives tips from airline and train stations when they travel in and out.”
— LONG READ OF THE DAY à New York Times Magazine, “Is It O.K. to Tinker With the Environment to Fight Climate Change?” by Jon Gertner: “For the past few years, the Harvard professor David Keith has been sketching this vision: Ten Gulfstream jets, outfitted with special engines … take off from a runway near the Equator. Their cargo includes thousands of pounds of a chemical compound — liquid sulfur, let’s suppose — that can be sprayed as a gas from the aircraft. If things go right, the gas converts to an aerosol of particles that remain aloft and scatter sunlight for two years. The payoff? A slowing of the earth’s warming — for as long as the Gulfstream flights continue.
“Keith argues that such a project, usually known as solar geoengineering, is technologically feasible and … ought to be fairly cheap from a cost-benefit perspective[:] What surprised me, then, as Keith paced ‘around his Harvard office … was his listing all the reasons humans might not want to hack the environment. Most of his thoughts were related to the possible dangers of trying to engineer our way out of a climate problem of nearly unimaginable scientific, political and moral complexity. Solar geoengineering might lead to what some economists call ‘lock-in,’ referring to the momentum that a new technology, even one with serious flaws, can assume after it gains a foothold in the market. Once we start putting sulfate particles in the atmosphere, he mused, would we really be able to stop?”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“She wanted her ex-husband to die with a happy thought; she told him Trump had been impeached.” From Kristine Phillips: “When Michael Elliott died, the last voice he heard was that of his ex-wife, his best friend. In a short phone conversation moments before Elliott took his last breath, she told him what he wanted to hear. ‘I told him that everything’s going to be all right,’ [she said] … ‘And Donald Trump has been impeached.’ Teresa Elliott, who lives in Texas, [was unable to make it to Oregon before the passing of her ex-husband]. So on April 6, one of Michael Elliott’s friends called her and told her that he was about to die. The two talked as someone held up the phone to the dying man’s ear. Afterward, one of his friends took the phone ‘and told me that he had completely relaxed and taken his last breath, and he was gone,’ Teresa Elliott said.” Teresa said her ex-husband was a “CNN junkie” and longtime Democrat who found Trump to be a “loathsome individual.” She said she gave her ex-husband the false news because she wanted him to die with a happy thought.
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Fresno State lecturer placed on leave for ‘Trump must hang’ tweet,” from Derek Hawkins: “A Fresno State University lecturer has been placed on paid leave after tweeting that President Trump ‘must hang’ to save American democracy. Lars Maischak, who teaches history, will spend the rest of the spring semester off-campus, Fresno State President Joseph Castro said in a statement Tuesday. The professor, who has worked in the history department since 2006, will no longer have a teaching role but will conduct research elsewhere, Castro said. In the meantime, he added, the university would continue to review the matter. It started with a tweet Maischak wrote in February … [and which] remained lost in the ether until April 8, when Breitbart News published it in an article saying his remarks exemplified why ‘universities across the country are now viewed with disdain.’”
At the White House: Trump will meet with VA Secretary David Shulkin before signing S. 544, the Veterans Choice Program Extension and Improvement Act. Following, Trump will then host the Patriots at the White House, and meet with National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster.
Mike Pence is in Asia: The vice president will visit the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) on Wednesday, where he will meet with Navy service members, deliver remarks to approximately 2,500 U.S. and Japanese service members, and participate in an interview with CNN’s Dana Bash. Later in the afternoon, Pence will deliver remarks and participate in a listening session with U.S. and Japanese-based companies. Pence will conclude his time in Tokyo by visiting a Japanese youth baseball and softball clinic before departing for Jakarta, Indonesia.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Jon Ossoff acknowledged during a CNN hit that he lives with his girlfriend near Emory University, which is outside of the district. “I’ve been living with my girlfriend, Alisha, for 12 years now down by Emory University where she’s a full-time medical student,” Ossoff said. “As soon as she concludes her medical training, I’ll be 10 minutes back up the street in the district where I grew up.” CNN’s Alisyn Camerota then asked,“So when are you going to marry her?” “Well, I don’t want to give anything away,” Ossoff replied. “I’ll give you a call when I have something to announce.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
— Warm weather lovers will be disappointed by today’s break in sunny temps — the Capital Weather Gang forecasts a cooler, cloudy day ahead: “Partly to mostly cloudy skies may produce a few light showers. Otherwise it’s a cooler day, with temperatures rising into and through the 50s this morning, and afternoon highs reaching the low-to-mid 60s. In other words, the kind of weather you’d expect for mid-April.”
— The Nationals beat the Braves 3-1.
— D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is out of office for the next six days on “personal travel” and her office will not say to where. It’s the third time since taking office that Bowser departed the District for several days and left behind a public schedule that did not make note of her absence. Aaron C. Davis reports: “Balancing personal privacy and public responsibility is a fraught topic for elected leaders. But the travel of D.C. leaders has been an especially sensitive topic since former mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) traveled to China and the United Arab Emirates on trips announced as personal travel that city officials later disclosed were paid for by foreign governments. In a statement Monday, Bowser spokesman Kevin Harris said that the mayor was paying her own way, but not where she was. Asked whether a security detail or any other city employee was accompanying Bowser at taxpayer expense, Harris said no. The mayor’s taxpayer funded salary is $200,000.”
Karl Rove and Ed Gillespie enter the Blair House for a going away party for OMB director Rob Portman in 2007. (Lawrence Jackson/AP)
— Lots of outside money is pouring into the Virginia governor’s race:
George W. Bush recently cut a check for $25,000 to Ed Gillespie, a former adviser. Karl Rove gave him $20,000. The former RNC chair now has $3 million cash on hand, and half his money has come from out of state.
Virginia Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam has outraised Democratic primary rival Tom Perriello since the start of the year, but Perriello recently got $250,000 from liberal activist George Soros and another $125,000 from Soros’s son Alexander. New York financier Courtney Smith gave him $75,000, while California philanthropist Stephen Silberstein donated $50,000. After the filing period, Perriello was endorsed by Bernie Sanders. The primary is June 13. (Fenit Nirappil and Gregory S. Schneider have more from the first quarter reports here.)
A mature tree fell and killed a man Tuesday on the U.S. Capitol grounds at Independence and New Jersey in Washington. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)
— A man doing work on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol was killed Tuesday morning when a large portion of a tree fell on him. Matthew McClanahan, married with two young children, was a pipe fitter who worked in the maintenance division of the office of the Architect of the Capitol. He was working on an irrigation pipe when he was struck by the large branch. The incident occurred about 9:15 a.m. at Independence Avenue and First Street in Southeast Washington. The tree is an American elm. (Peter Hermann and Mandy McLaren)
— The National Building Museum announced its new summer installation, which will be called “Hives.” (Think insects, not allergy season.) The exhibit is slated to open in July and will feature a mass of interconnected metallic domes – the tallest will be around 60 feet – and made up of more than 2,700 paper tubes. (Emily Codik)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Jimmy Kimmel says Trump doesn’t know the difference between Kim Jong-Un and Kim Jong-il:
Trump calls Obama about Syria and Afghanistan:
Here’s why scientists say we should be worried about Trump:
Late-night comedians talk about the White Housed Easter egg roll: