The Daily 202: Reflexive partisanship drives polling lurch on Syria strikes – Washington Post
President Trump walks the grounds of the White House yesterday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
With Breanne Deppisch
THE BIG IDEA: More Americans than ever view the news through red-colored glasses.
In 2013, when Barack Obama was president, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that only 22 percent of Republicans supported the U.S. launching missile strikes against Syria in response to Bashar al-Assad using chemical weapons against civilians.
A new Post-ABC poll finds that 86 percent of Republicans support Donald Trump’s decision to launch strikes on Syria for the same reason. Only 11 percent are opposed.
— Overall, a bare 51 percent majority of U.S. adults support the president’s action in our new poll. In 2013, just 30 percent supported strikes. That swing is driven primarily by GOP partisans. For context, 37 percent of Democrats back Trump’s missile strikes. In 2013, 38 percent of Democrats supported Obama’s plan. That is well within the margin of error.
Independents are split evenly, with 46 percent backing Trump’s decision and 45 percent opposing it.
— Trump’s decision has had no impact on confidence in his leadership. A plurality say last week’s action doesn’t make a difference in their views of him:
These numbers break down along partisan lines, as well: 54 percent of Republicans say the strikes make them more confident in Trump, while just 23 percent of independents and 10 percent of Democrats do.
— The electorate’s view is somewhat nuanced:
- There is not much confidence that firing 59 Tomahawks at one base will make much of a difference, even as a deterrent. “Nearly 7 in 10 say they are ‘not so’ or ‘not at all’ confident the U.S. missile strike will end the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons, while one-quarter are at least somewhat confident,” pollster Scott Clement notes.
- But 54 percent oppose additional strikes against Syrian targets right now. While roughly two-thirds of Republicans favor additional action, just under one-third of independents and under one in five Democrats do.
- Just over half the country supports a policy of trying to remove Assad from power, yet just over one-third back using military force to do it. ( See the full results here.)
— The Post’s poll tracks with three other public surveys conducted since Friday. Gallup pegged support for the airstrikes at 50 percent. A YouGov/HuffPo survey put it at 51 percent. And CBS News, which did not include Trump’s name in the question, registered 57 percent support.
— Political polarization helps explain why public support for the Syria strike rates low in historical context. Gallup has tracked the immediate public reaction to 11 other military interventions over the past 35 years. A majority approved of all the actions with one exception: 47 percent approved of the bombing of Libya in 2011. The 50 percent approval of the missile strikes against Syria is in line with three other actions: the same Libya bombing in 2011, Kosovo and the Balkans in 1999 (51 percent), and Grenada in 1983 (53 percent). (Check out the breakdown here.)
— Sean Spicer stepped in it again. The White House press secretary said yesterday that the Trump administration is prepared to take more action against Syria’s government if Assad continues to use chemical weapons and barrel bombs. “If you gas a baby, if you put a barrel bombing to innocent people, I think you can see a response from this president,” he told reporters. “That’s unacceptable.”
But barrel bombs are used nearly every day inside Syria, so taking action each time one is dropped would mark a dramatic shift in strategy and quickly ramp up U.S. involvement. “Although Spicer lumped barrel bombs in the same category as chemical weapons on three separate occasions during a Monday briefing with reporters, he later insisted that his comments should not be interpreted as a change in U.S. policy,” Jenna Johnson and Ashley Parker note.
“Nothing has changed in our posture,” Spicer wrote in a statement yesterday afternoon to clean up his confusing message. “The president retains the option to act in Syria against the Assad regime whenever it is in the national interest … And as the president has repeatedly made clear, he will not be telegraphing his military responses.”
— Meanwhile, Eric Trump told The Daily Telegraph of London that his father bombing Syria proves he is “not in league” with Russia and “unintimidated” by Vladimir Putin. The first son also confirmed that his pop’s decision to launch the strikes was influenced by the reaction of his sister Ivanka, who was “heartbroken and outraged” by the gruesome images of dead children. The younger Trump’s remarks came as Boris Johnson said Russia will face fresh sanctions if it does not pull its armed forces out of Syria and end its support for Assad. The British Foreign Secretary, who is at a G-7 summit with Rex Tillerson, said the U.S. missile strikes “changed the game.”
— An important reminder: The U.S. still has 800 ground troops stationed inside Syria as part of the fight against ISIS. Some are close to Russian military installations:
— What lessons will Trump learn from the Syria strike? Walter Pincus worries that the president will be emboldened to use military force as a first resort and to order airstrikes on something whenever he’s in a political pickle. “Although last Thursday’s pinprick attack will have little direct impact on the Syrian civil war, it has given Trump a needed success that he has savored,” Walter laments in his column this morning for The Cipher Brief. “Trump wants immediate results and does not appear to recognize, as commander-in-chief, he must consider secondary and tertiary longer-term results that may come from any quick, immediate military decisions. … With that in mind, it seems clear that the highly-publicized sending of a U.S. Navy carrier strike group toward the Korean Peninsula in advance of a series of expected North Korean demonstrations later this month is a sign that the White House wants to build on Trump’s new appearance of ‘toughness.’”
POTUS unwittingly validated Walter’s point with a morning tweetstorm:
North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2017
I explained to the President of China that a trade deal with the U.S. will be far better for them if they solve the North Korean problem!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 11, 2017
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
— Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) resigned last night as part of a plea deal to avoid jail time for trying to cover up an affair with his former top aide. From Amber Phillips: “Pressure built on Bentley to step down over the sex scandal as state lawmakers opened impeachment hearings against him this week and state Republican officials called for him to leave the governor’s mansion. Bentley pleaded guilty on Monday to two misdemeanor charges related to covering up the alleged affair, one for failing to file a major contribution report and another for knowingly using campaign contributions for personal use. Bentley will face up to a year of probation and 100 hours of community service, which he is expected to perform in his capacity as a licensed dermatologist. He must turn over some $37,000 in campaign funds to the state.” (Read the Birmingham News’s coverage here.)
Bentley posed for this mug shot at the county jail:
Something is clearly rotten in Montgomery:
- Bentley is the third top Alabama public official in less than a year to lose his job over a scandal and/or face jail time. The former state House speaker, a Republican, was sentenced to four years in prison last summer after being convicted of violating state ethics laws he helped pass by using his political leverage to increase his personal wealth. Last fall, a state ethics court suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore for his refusal to abide by a U.S. Supreme Court order legalizing gay marriage.
- This is Alabama’s fourth governor to resign while in office: “Most recently, former Alabama governor Guy Hunt (R) resigned in 1993 after being convicted of taking $200,000 from his inaugural fund for personal use,” Amber notes. “Former Democratic governor Don Siegelman just finished serving a seven-year prison sentence after being convicted in 2006 — three years after he left office — for corruption related to bribery.”
Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey was sworn in as Bentley’s replacement. She’s the second woman to hold the job. The other was George Wallace’s wife, Lurleen, who he put in power to get around term limits laws. She served only 16 months in office before her death in May 1968. The next election is in November 2018.
Parents wait outside North Park Elementary School to learn if their children are still alive after a shooting inside. (Rick Sforza/Los Angeles Daily News via AP)
— Three people, including a teacher and an 8-year-old boy, died at a California elementary school in what police are calling a murder-suicide. Sandhya Somashekhar and Lindsey Bever report: “San Bernardino Police say the gunman, Cedric Anderson, 53, entered a classroom at North Park Elementary School on Monday morning, raised a large caliber revolver, and, without saying a word, opened fire on the teacher, Karen Elaine Smith, also 53, who was his estranged wife. Fifteen students and two aides were also in the room, a special education class with a mix of first- through fourth-graders. Two were near Anderson when she was shot and were struck by the gunfire. One of the students, 8-year-old Jonathan Martinez, was airlifted to a nearby hospital but died from his injuries. The second student, a 9-year-old boy … was in stable condition at a hospital. … Police said they arrived at the scene about 10:30 a.m. to find that Anderson had turned the gun on himself as well.” The community is still reeling from a terrorist attack two years ago that left 14 people dead.
John Stumpf, then CEO of Wells Fargo, testifies before the House Financial Services Committee last September. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)
GET SMART FAST:
- Wells Fargo will claw back $75 million in compensation from two former executives, including longtime CEO John Stumpf, after a scathing internal report found that the two ex-leaders declined to probe reports of “improper and unethical behavior” reaching as far back as 2002. (Renae Merle)
- The Trump administration is planning to move forward on the sale of a dozen ground attack aircraft to Nigeria,advancing a $600 million deal to bolster the country’s fight against Boko Haram militants. The sale began under the Obama administration and has been in the works for more than a year. (Thomas Gibbons-Neff)
- A federal judge ruled for the second time that Texas’s voter ID law was “crafted to discriminate” against minorities, reiterating the same points she made more than two years after an appeals court asked her to re-examine the case. (AP)
- Tesla became the most valuable U.S. car company, edging out General Motors even as the electric-car company – which has yet to turn a profit – lost hundreds of millions of dollars in the last year alone. (Thomas Heath)
- FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has reversed a proposal that would have allowed airline passengers to use their cellphones at high altitudes, saying the measure was “ill-conceived” and did not serve the public interest. “Taking it off the table permanently will be a victory for Americans across the country who, like me, value a moment of quiet at 30,000 feet,” Pai said. (Brian Fung)
- Since the 1940s, Americans have been using salt to de-ice roads and sidewalks – a practice that scientists now say has contaminated North America’s freshwater lakes. A new study of more than 370 lakes found that 44 percent showed signs of long-term salinization – a number that, when extrapolated, puts at least 7,770 lakes on our continent at risk. (Ben Guarino)
- A massive manhunt is underway in Wisconsin for a 32-year-old accused of stealing more than a dozen firearms and mailing Trump a 161-page anti-government and anti-religious manifesto. More than 150 local and federal agents have been working to track down the suspect. (Lindsey Bever)
- Charleston gunman Dylann Roof, who killed nine people at a historically black church in 2015, pleaded guilty to state murder charges. His plea comes as part of a deal with South Carolina prosecutors to spend the rest of his life in prison and avoid a second death-penalty trial for the state charges. (Matt Zapotosky and Mark Berman)
- Israel closed its southern border with Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on Monday and urged its citizens to leave Egypt, citing fears of another round of terrorist attacks after the bombing of two Coptic Christian churches. The incident underscored the growing strength of Egypt’s Sinai-based ISIS affiliate, and reflected the security challenges facing President Sissi, who has vowed to eradicate Islamist extremists from the country and protect Egyptians “of all faiths.” (Sudarsan Raghavan and Ruth Eglash)
- Recent Russian naval activity in Europe exceeds levels seen during the Cold War, a top U.S. military officer warned. He voiced concern that Moscow’s deployments, which have “significantly” increased in the past several years, could end up “splitting and distracting” the transatlantic alliance. (Reuters)
- Amnesty International urged China to come clean about its “grotesque” level of capital punishment, saying in a new report that the country executes more people every year than the rest of the world combined. The group says China’s staggering number of executions are “shrouded in secrecy” and plagued by injustice – used to punish even minor offenses. (Simon Denyer)
- Tomi Lahren, the 24-year-old conservative commentator, filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the Blaze and its founder Glenn Beck, alleging the company retaliated against her after she publicly admitted she supports abortion rights. The company says she’s still getting paid, though she’s been pulled off the air. (Samantha Schmidt)
- Aspiring Australian rapper “2Pec” jumped into the Pacific Ocean to avoid paying a $600 dinner tab at a seafood restaurant. He ordered multiple lobsters, a baby octopus, and 21 oyster shooters before sprinting to the sea. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
James Thompson, the Democratic candidate in Kansas’s fourth congressional district, campaigns in Wichita. (David Weigel)
— Sam Brownback is so toxically unpopular in Kansas that he might cost the GOP a House seat today in a district that Trump carried by 27 points. David Weigel previews today’s special election to replace Mike Pompeo, who resigned to become CIA director: “As the race has tightened, Republicans, who are still favored to win Tuesday, have strained to make the election a referendum on liberalism. Brownback, invisible on the trail, didn’t help matters by vetoing a bipartisan Medicaid expansion bill last month; his most favorable polling puts his job-approval rating below 25 percent, even in the 4th District.”
“In Wichita, where turnout in early voting has been high, Brownback’s name has the force of an epithet,” Dave reports. “As she settled in for lunch at the Anchor, a downtown gastropub, Kayla Marshall said she didn’t vote in the 2016 election. She would, she said, vote for (the Democrat) — and to explain why, she talked about teachers buying pencils with their own money because Brownback had cut the education budget. Lynn Jones, who opened his door to (Democratic) canvassers Monday morning, was quick to say he’d voted for George W. Bush. Brownback, he said, was nothing like Bush. ‘Okay, he was trying something new with his tax cuts, but the experiment didn’t work,’ Jones said. ‘When the laboratory explodes, you probably ought to try a different formula.”
— The Democratic candidate has received very little help from the national party: “James Thompson, a civil rights lawyer who supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 caucuses, flew under the radar for weeks. Meanwhile, Ron Estes, the state treasurer, got bogged down as his party staged an unsuccessful rebellion against Brownback. Estes rarely mentions Trump, but he did reference ‘fair trade’ at a Monday rally.”
— “An internal poll circulating among Republicans showed Estes up by only a single point as of last week,” the Kansas City Star reports.
— Republicans lost three state House seats in the Wichita area in November. Several Brownback-aligned Republicans lost primaries to more moderate candidates. “People here still like Trump,” said Thompson, whose campaign signs identify him not as a Democrat but as an Army veteran. “It’s not been a referendum on him. It’s a referendum on the failed Republican leadership in the state. People don’t want these policies taken to the national level.”
— The national GOP is now scrambling at the 11th hour to hold the seat: Ted Cruz flew in for a rally yesterday. GOP super PACs rolled out robo-calls over the weekend from Vice President Pence, and on Monday from President Trump. “Ron Estes needs your vote and needs it badly,” Trump says on the call. “Ron is going to be helping us, big league.” This may prove to be the political equivalent of taking out an insurance policy, as some national Republicans privately put it, writes the New York Times’ Jonathan Martin: “But the spectacle of Cruz and a senior national Chamber of Commerce official descending on Wichita’s airport just hours before Election Day to prop up Mr. Estes evoked panic more than premium-paying. That this contest and the race to fill the reliably Republican Georgia seat vacated by Tom Price … require any substantial intervention is an ominous sign for Republicans. Should the Georgia race require a June runoff, national Republican groups could find themselves spending over $7 million to protect territory they have rarely thought of when it comes to House races. … Taken together, the spending amounts to a flashing red warning sign for Republicans on the ballot next year.”
— The Narrative: “Republicans avoid town halls after health care votes” is the headline on USA Today’s front page. “Reps. Leonard Lance of New Jersey and Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania appear to be the only swing-district Republicans who voted for their party’s bill to replace Obamacare who will directly face constituents over the April recess,” according to Heidi M Przybyla. “The lack of town hall meetings in key swing districts … underscores the party’s precarious political position on health care and peaking civic activism by progressives. There have been roughly 30 recent newspaper editorials slamming lawmakers for avoiding town halls and calling on members to face their voters, not only in bluer portions of the country like New York but also in critical battlegrounds. … Costello’s office screened participants for his Saturday town hall … and forbid videotaping, leading the local Democratic Party chair to call the event ‘staged.’ Others lawmakers are holding question-and-answer events over the phone or Facebook Live, a social media tool allowing them to speak to a camera while avoiding uncomfortable public exchanges with the citizens they represent.”
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback answers questions from the media in Topeka. (Thad Allton/The Topeka Capital-Journal via AP)
— In his defense, Brownback is not the most unpopular governor in America. Chris Christie beats him out (very narrowly). Morning Consult tests how governors and senators are faring with their constituents in continuous online surveys. With a total sample of more than 85,000 registered voters nationally, they release aggregated approval ratings every few months. In a big batch of polling published this morning, just 25 percent of New Jerseyans approve of their Republican governor. Brownback is at 27 percent, with 66 percent disapproving. The two most popular governors in the country are Republicans in traditionally blue states: Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland. Dan Malloy of Connecticut remains the most unpopular Democratic governor. (See the numbers for all 50 governors here.)
— Mitch McConnell is still the most unpopular senator in America. Of the 100 members, the majority leader is the only one who is underwater back home right now in the new Morning Consult poll. His approval rating is 44 percent in Kentucky, with 47 percent disapproving. Bernie Sanders retains his place atop the list as the country’s most popular senator with a 75 percent approval rating in Vermont.
— Looking to the 2018 midterms, Democrats can take some comfort that their incumbents in red states carried by Trump are polling relatively well: North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp (60% approve, 32% disapprove), West Virginia’s Joe Manchin (57% approve, 33% disapprove), Florida’s Bill Nelson (53% approve, 26% disapprove), Montana’s Jon Tester (57% approve, 32% disapprove), Ohio’s Sherrod Brown (52% approve, 30% disapprove), Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey (49% approve, 29% disapprove) and Indiana’s Joe Donnelly (46% approve, 26% disapprove). The least popular Democratic senators up for reelection next year are, perhaps surprisingly, Wisconsin’s Tammy Baldwin and Missouri’s Claire McCaskill. (See the numbers for all 100 senators here.)
THE GOP CIVIL WAR RAGES ON:
— The conservative Club for Growth is targeting 10 moderate House Republicans with a $1 million ad campaign focused on health care. Mike DeBonis reports: “The ads, set to begin Tuesday, come … after the latest bid to reconcile warring GOP lawmakers and resurrect the American Health Care Act fell short last week. But the Club sees a path to the bill’s passage: convincing more moderate — or less stridently conservative — Republicans to swallow a proposal … [allowing] states to seek waivers of several Affordable Care Act insurance mandates. ‘There are a few moderates that have worked to thwart these efforts,’ said David McIntosh, the group’s president. ‘Our message in this ad is: Come on board, keep the promise that you and our party made.’ What the ad does not mention is that Trump himself has blamed the Freedom Caucus — not the moderates — for the bill’s failure so far, and that there is deep concern among both House Republican leaders and the GOP rank and file that rolling back the ACA mandates could easily be cast as a betrayal of Trump and other GOP leaders’ pledges to protect insurance access for those with preexisting conditions.”
— House Freedom Caucus member Justin Amash (R-Mich.) called for Paul Ryan to be ousted as speaker during a town hall in his district last night. CNN’s Tom LoBianco reports from Cedar Springs: “We need either a change in direction from this speaker, or we need a new speaker,” Amash said while answering a question about the perpetual gridlock in Washington. “When we go home for the weekend, they give us a set of talking points. They say ‘here are your talking points.’ That’s not the way you’re supposed to represent a community.” Amash’s town hall comes one week after the White House director of social media, Dan Scavino, called on the #Trumptrain to run over Amash in a Republican primary because of his opposition to the effort to overhaul Obamacare.” Ryan’s office declined to comment.
— Now comes stage two of President Donald Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party. “With the Republican National Committee firmly in his control, the White House and Trump’s political allies are now moving to lock down the state Republican parties,” Politico’s Gabe Debenedetti reports. “Under the watchful eye of the president and the White House political office, Trump skeptics have been ousted from atop state committees. Lines of contact have been established.” Chairmen loyal to Trump are being installed in key swing states. More fights are on the way at conventions in the coming weeks. Bill Stepien, a former top political aide to Christie during the Bridgegate saga, is taking point on the party takeover effort from inside the White House.
Don Jr. and Eric Trump attend the opening ceremony of the Trump International Hotel in Vancouver on Feb. 28. (Rafal Gerszak for The Washington Post)
THE TRUMP FAMILY:
— Eric Trump – who faced a barrage of criticism for describing nepotism as a “factor of life” – doubled down on his controversial remarks, telling The Daily Telegraph’s Simon Johnson that nepotism is actually “a beautiful thing”: “You trust the people who are closest to you. Who is he going to trust most to run a company? He is going to trust somebody who he trusts implicitly. He knows I care about the family. He knows I care about the brand. And he knows I’m going to do everything I can humanly possible to take care of that. Is that nepotism? Absolutely. Is that also a beautiful thing? Absolutely. Family business is a beautiful thing. The same applies for Ivanka. Ivanka is by his side in Washington.”
— Donald Trump Jr. said he will not run for governor of New York next year, ending speculation that he might challenge incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D). Still, the first son declined to rule out a possible run for office in the future: “Maybe someday,” Trump told the AP in an interview. “It’s not something I’m doing now. But you never know, it’s fascinating stuff!”
— Trump’s travel to his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach has already cost the taxpayers an estimated $20 million since his inauguration. That puts him on pace to spend more on travel during his first year in office than Obama spent in all eight years combined. (CNN)
— The Trump Organization settled a lawsuit with celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian, two days after reaching agreement in a similar breach-of-contract suit against José Andrés. Keith L. Alexander reports: The legal battles came after both chefs backed out of deals to open a restaurant in Trump’s D.C. hotel. “After an intense, two-year legal battle, we are pleased we were able to amicably resolve our differences and wish Geoffrey continued success,” Don Jr. said in a statement. President Trump – who often boasted about “never settling a lawsuit” – originally sued Zakarian for $10 million, basing that figure on expected losses after the chef refused to work with him.
— “Leaked Email: President Trump’s Modeling Agency Is Shutting Down,” by Mother Jones’s James West: “One of [Trump’s] favorite businesses will go the way of Trump Steaks, Trump University, Trump Airlines, and Trump Magazine: his embattled New York modeling firm, Trump Model Management, has officially told its business associates around the world to prepare for its closure. … Over the weekend, Corinne Nicolas, president of Trump Models, informed industry colleagues of the pending closure of the 18-year-old agency, in which Trump owns an 85 percent stake. ‘The Trump Organization is choosing to exit the modeling industry,’ Nicolas wrote in the email. ‘On the heels of the recent sale of the Miss Universe Organization, the company is choosing to focus on their core businesses in the real estate, golf and hospitality space.’” The news comes just one week after employees assured Mother Jones that the agency was operating as normal, and that the company was “of course” open for new business. It is unclear when operations will cease.
— Forbes Magazine cover story, “Josh Kushner’s Complex World: How Jared’s Liberal Brother Runs A Billion Dollar Fund In Trump Era,” by Steven Bertoni: “We now have the makings of a Hollywood-worthy sibling rivalry, which will play out on the national stage: the younger brother, who attended the Women’s March on Washington, helping lead the team running the most prominent startup of the Obamacare era; the older brother, helping lead the team that’s determined to end the Obamacare era. As heirs to billion-dollar fortunes go, Josh is the self-made man, abdicating a comfy seat at the family real estate firm to create something independent and new. Yet through no action of his own … he gets saddled with all the Trump baggage. And unlike Trump’s business partners, he gets none of the upside. Actually, it is worse: [Josh cofounded a health insurance company built around Obamacare] … that sits squarely in Trump’s crosshairs, with his brother riding shotgun as the president tries to shoot it down.”
Steve Bannon chats with a guest at Neil Gorsuch’s swearing-in ceremony. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)
PERSONNEL IS POLICY:
— Employees at Breitbart News were asked by senior editors to refrain from writing stories critical of Jared Kushner, Business Insider’s Oliver Darcy reports: “The move comes after Kushner allies reportedly complained to Trump about negative coverage he was receiving from the far-right website, amid rumors that he and former CEO Steve Bannon were feuding. Bannon, who resigned from the site in November, has insisted he no longer has any editorial involvement – but a source told Business Insider in March that Bannon had instructed Washington editor Matthew Boyle to stop publishing articles critical of Reince Priebus, who he had been feuding with.” Breitbart denies this story.
— An official who was involved in a George W. Bush-era “purge” of gay employees from the federal government has landed a key post in the Trump administration.ProPublica’s Justin Elliott reports: “It was one of the uglier scandals of the Bush administration: Top officials at an agency dedicated to protecting whistleblowers launched a campaign against their own employees based on suspected sexual orientation, according to an inspector general report. Staffers were abruptly reassigned from Washington, D.C., to a new office 500 miles away in Detroit in what the head of the office reportedly described as an effort to ‘ship [them] out.’ Staffers who refused were fired. Now one of the major players in the scandal has a new assignment: He works in the Trump administration. [James Renne] was … hired Jan. 30 in a senior role at the Department of Agriculture, though his exact job duties are not clear.” A little-noticed inspector general report described Renne as a “central player” in the relocation effort – even removing language from the OSC agency’s website about how job protections cover sexual orientation.
— The State Department postponed training sessions for new ambassadors until May – a delay that comes as Trump struggles to fill the posts. So far, just one ambassador has been confirmed, and only four others nominated. (CNN)
Jeff Sessions, a former federal prosecutor in Alabama, speaks at the White House. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)
TRUMP’S DOJ WILL MAKE IT EASIER TO PROSECUTE PEOPLE, EVEN IF THEY’RE INNOCENT:
— Attorney General Jeff Sessions will end a Justice Department partnership with independent scientists to raise forensic science standards and has suspended an expanded review of FBI testimony across several techniques that have come under question. From Spencer S. Hsu: “In a statement Monday, Sessions said he would not renew the National Commission on Forensic Science, a roughly 30-member advisory panel of scientists, judges, crime lab leaders, prosecutors and defense lawyers chartered by the Obama administration in 2013. A path to meet needs of overburdened crime labs will be set by a yet-to-be-named senior forensic adviser and an internal department crime task force, Sessions’s statement said…
“In September, a White House science panel called on courts to question the admissibility of four heavily used techniques, including firearms tracing, saying claims about their reliability had not been scientifically proved,” Spencer notes. “The Justice Department last year also announced a wider review of testimony by experts across several disciplines after finding that nearly all FBI experts for years overstated and gave scientifically misleading testimony about two techniques the FBI Laboratory long championed: the tracing of crime-scene hairs based on microscopic examinations and of bullets based on chemical composition.” (In case you missed it, Sari Horwitz wrote a story on the front page of Sunday’s paper about “how Sessions wants to bring back the war on drugs.”)
Trump applauds Neil Gorsuch at his swearing-in ceremony. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)
GORSUCH NOW SITS ON THE SUPREME COURT:
— Neil Gorsuch was sworn in as the Supreme Court’s 113th justice Monday morning, first in a private event and later at a Rose Garden ceremony with President Trump. Robert Barnes and Ashley Parker report: “At the first event, held inside the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. administered the oath that all federal employees take. Later, Justice Anthony Kennedy — for whom 49-year-old Gorsuch once served as clerk — led him through a second oath in the Rose Garden ceremony. … The president called Gorsuch’s high court appointment a ‘great honor’ before straying from teleprompter remarks and ad-libbing a bit of praise for himself: ‘I got it done in the first 100 days,’ he told the crowd, to laughter. ‘You think that’s easy?’”
— “Justice Gorsuch has yet to hear his first case, but the partisan conflict over [Trump’s] nominee … already has left a legacy on the federal judiciary, further blurring the line between law and politics,”The Wall Street Journal’s Jess Bravin writes: “More than any appointment in recent memory, Justice Gorsuch’s was tied to the presidential election cycle. The fight …was fueled by tens of millions of dollars spent by political organizations promoting and attacking Judge Gorsuch this year and Judge Merrick Garland. And it may not be over: On Friday, the [NRA], which said it spent $1 million on pro-Gorsuch advertising, announced plans to spend against two Democratic senators facing reelection next year because they voted against the Trump nominee. Today … the process for staffing the federal judiciary, an institution the Constitution frames almost as an order of nobility, is looking more like the rough and tumble electoral politics associated with less prestigious state courts.”
Pope Francis arrives for an ecumenical mass in the cathedral in Sweden. (Andrew Medichini/Reuters)
— “How Pope Francis is leading the Catholic Church against anti-migrant populism,” by Anthony Faiola and Sarah Pulliam Bailey: “As politicians around the world including [Trump] take an increasingly hard line on immigration, a powerful force is rallying to the side of migrants: the Roman Catholic Church led by Pope Francis. Catholic cardinals, bishops and priests are emerging as some of the most influential opponents of immigration crackdowns backed by right-wing populists in the United States and Europe. The moves come as Francis, who has put migrants at the top of his agenda, appears to be leading by example, emphasizing his support for their rights in sermons, speeches and deeds. The pro-migrant drive risks dividing Catholics — many of whom in the United States voted for Trump. Cardinal Peter Turkson, one of the Vatican’s most senior voices, said last month that it was wrong to portray the Holy See as ‘against’ Trump. But a day earlier, he said that the Vatican was counting on the U.S. Catholic Church — as well as checks and balances — to stop Trump’s policies.”
— “The Pentagon has struggled in recent weeks to effectively explain what lies behind a surge in reported civilian casualties in its air campaign against the Islamic State, fueling speculation that the new Trump administration is pursuing policies resulting in a greater loss of life,” Missy Ryan reports: “Military officials insist there has been no significant change to the rules governing its air campaign in Iraq and Syria, and instead attribute the string of alleged deadly incidents to a new, more intense phase of the war … But some in Iraq and Syria are left wondering whether the higher death count is a product of [Trump’s] bare-knuckle military stance and his suggestions that the U.S. should ‘take out’ militants’ families. The military’s difficulty in accounting for the civilian casualties — exacerbated by classified regulations and a complex process for airstrikes — has allowed [ISIS] to advance its own version of the events … [decrying] what It has said are ‘continuous American-Iraqi massacres’ in [Mosul] and elsewhere. … In March, the surge in reported casualties was so dramatic that it prompted one respected watchdog group to suspend its tracking of Russian air operations in Syria in order to focus full-time on U.S. actions. … ‘We’re ceding space to the adversary who wants to create the perception of disregard for civilian life,’ said retired Air Force general David Deptula.”
THE PULITZER PRIZES:
— “Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold wins Pulitzer Prize for dogged reporting of Trump’s philanthropy,” by Paul Farhi: “In a detailed series of articles, he found that many of Trump’s philanthropic claims over the years had been exaggerated and often were not truly charitable activities at all. … On Monday, Fahrenthold’s investigative digging was rewarded with … journalism’s most prestigious award. His work … won the award for national reporting. Fahrenthold’s Pulitzer-winning package of stories also included his article disclosing that Trump had made crude comments and bragged about groping women during an unaired portion of an interview on ‘Access Hollywood’ in 2005.”
The Post also had two finalists in this year’s Pulitzer competition. Both were recognized for work tied to Trump’s candidacy: “Fred Hiatt, the newspaper’s editorial-page editor, was a finalist in the editorial-writing category for unsigned staff commentaries. National reporter Eli Saslow was a finalist in the feature-writing category for stories that explored grievances, despair and racism in pockets of white America.”
Among the other journalism winners were: “The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a nonprofit based in Washington that led the coverage of the Panama Papers, a huge cache of documents exposing the scale of offshore tax havens. … The New York Daily News and ProPublica, which won the gold medal for public service reporting for uncovering widespread abuse of eviction rules by police to remove hundreds of people, mostly poor minorities, from their homes. The New York Times won three Pulitzers, for international reporting, feature reporting and breaking-news photography. The international award was for its staff’s reporting on Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian regime in Russia. The photography award went to freelancer Daniel Berehulak for his photographs of the Philippines’ violent crackdown on drug dealers and users. The feature award was for C.J. Chivers’s story about a Marine’s postwar descent into violence.” (See the full list of winners here.)
From David, genuinely one of the most humble (and deserving) guys in the business:
What a wonderful day! Thank you all for the good wishes today, and thanks to everyone who helped last year. I’m so incredibly grateful. https://t.co/gUabnrZ6Ux
— David Fahrenthold (@Fahrenthold) April 10, 2017
— With Trump staying away, “The Daily Show’s” Hasan Minhaj will headline this year’s White House Correspondents Association dinner. From the AP: “In a press release, the comedian made a tongue-in-cheek reference to the president’s Twitter style, saying: ‘It is a tremendous honor to be a part of such a historic event even though the president has chosen not to attend this year. SAD!’ WHCA President Jeff Mason made the announcement on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ Tuesday, saying the April 29 dinner will be ‘different’ without Trump.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
A man who refused to give up his seat on an overbooked United Airlines flight was violently dragged from the plane by security officials – yanked feet-first and limp down the aisle as horrified passengers protested. Footage of the incident went viral and prompted intense criticism, with many slamming United for its tone-deaf response and heartless defense. Avi Selk has the story. The airline’s CEO made it worse by describing the incident, caught on video, as a “re-accomodation” and then criticizing the passenger in a later email to staff:
United CEO response to United Express Flight 3411. pic.twitter.com/rF5gNIvVd0
— United (@united) April 10, 2017
Here is video of the now-infamous incident:
Twitterati seized on this gem:
— PRWeek US (@PRWeekUS) March 16, 2017
Lots of Twitter snark followed:
United: Alright, it’s been almost three weeks since we were in the news for the leggings thing. We need to get trending again. Who has ideas
— Elise Foley (@elisefoley) April 10, 2017
The passive language here is how corporations deflect responsibility. “Review of what happened.” It didn’t just happen. You did this. https://t.co/nTGOXfDMZ4
— Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn) April 10, 2017
“Re-accommodate” reminds me of the scene in ‘Up in the Air’ where @AnnaKendrick47 practices firing employees using solely corporate speak
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) April 10, 2017
The dictionary made fun of United’s response:
?’Volunteer’ means “someone who does something without being forced to do it.” https://t.co/qNAcMyplhZ
— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) April 11, 2017
Imagine sitting down at a restaurant, paying for meal up front, then being told to leave the table so an employee can eat your meal instead.
— Matt McDermott (@mattmfm) April 11, 2017
Not to pile on but the other terrible thing about United is every flight.
— Farhad Manjoo ? (@fmanjoo) April 10, 2017
— Jaime King (@Jaime_King) April 10, 2017
Jet Blue’s new slogan – extra leg room and we won’t physically drag you down the aisle screaming in pain.
— billy eichner (@billyeichner) April 10, 2017
“For the comfort and safety of the other passengers, please remember we will be resorting to cannibalism BY GROUP NUMBER” #united
— Joss Whedon (@joss) April 10, 2017
Having flown #united last week, I feel very blessed to not be tweeting this message from a hospital bed.
— Josh Gad (@joshgad) April 10, 2017
united: fly the friendly skies unless we volunteer you as tribute
— Ziwe (@ziwe) April 10, 2017
I feel like Pepsi and United are pulling from the same employment agencies
— Whitney Cummings (@WhitneyCummings) April 10, 2017
Why didn’t United just give that guy a Pepsi?!
— Trey Radel (@treyradel) April 10, 2017
I can’t believe United got Harrison Ford to star in their new ad so quickly. pic.twitter.com/YG6m9LA1Dx
— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) April 10, 2017
— Don Barger (@donbarger) April 11, 2017
If you have a “policy” that can result in a paying customer being bloodied by cops for refusing to give up his seat, your policy suuuucks.
— Ben White (@morningmoneyben) April 11, 2017
Meanwhile, a Secret Service dog got his own seat on the flight back from Florida:
Glimpse of Secret Service dog on flight back from Palm Beach Trump duty. Sat quietly in his own seat next to handler. pic.twitter.com/FIjgXfNRU0
— Kelly O’Donnell (@KellyO) April 10, 2017
Another sign of the times:
The wall outside the State Dept briefing room where portraits of former spokespeople used to hang. pic.twitter.com/hkmXVkJGjX
— Anne Rumsey Gearan (@agearan) April 10, 2017
From the G-7:
Boris Johnson looks like a low-budget Trump impersonator pic.twitter.com/Mm9qaxdlgq
— Michael Crowley (@michaelcrowley) April 11, 2017
Republicans celebrated Neil Gorsuch’s swearing-in:
The president wished Americans a happy Passover:
Happy Passover to everyone celebrating in the United States of America, Israel, and around the world. #ChagSameach
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 10, 2017
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner celebrated Passover:
— Sean Spicer (@PressSec) April 11, 2017
Donald Jr. and Eric Trump celebrated National Sibling Day:
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) will probably seek the Democratic nomination for president. From the Des Moines Register’s political reporter:
— Jason Noble (@jasonnobleDMR) April 11, 2017
Mitt and Ann Romney attend a presentation of a new Mormon temple in France. (EPA/Christophe Petit Tesson)
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
— The Boston Globe, “Remember Mitt Romney’s ‘binders full of women?’ They’re real. And we got them,” by Jim O’Sullivan: “In the world of important political documents — from the Magna Carta to the Pentagon Papers — there are also those known for more pedestrian reasons. Count Mitt Romney’s ‘binders full of women’ in that category. For those who don’t recall, Romney mentioned the binders during a 2012 presidential debate in which he was questioned about workplace inequality. Critics pounced on his response as clumsy at best, patronizing at worst. Late-night comics had a field day. For all the high-stakes attention they drew, the binders themselves never surfaced. Until now. A former Romney aide recently exhumed the files and shared them with the Globe. Two white three-ring binders (weighing in at an aggregate 15 pounds, 6 ounces) are packed with nearly 200 cover letters and résumés, along with a few handwritten notations.”
— The New Yorker, “The Deadly Despair of Devalued Experience,” by Benjamin Wallace-Wells: “Two Princeton economists suggest that rising white-working-class mortality might be related to another phenomenon: people are aging but aren’t getting what they think they’ve earned.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Congress Just Made It Officially Legal To Kill Hibernating Bears,” from HuffPost: “Hunters in Alaska can now track and kill hibernating bears thanks to a U.S. House and Senate resolution rolling back Obama-era regulations against the practice. … Trump signed the bill into law on Monday, which rolled back Alaska’s ban on killing the vulnerable bears, along with wolf cubs in dens. It also allows for hunters to target the animals from helicopters. The Republican-sponsored legislation impacts 76.8 million acres of federally protected national preserves across Alaska.
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“She wanted to criticize Black Lives Matter in a college speech. A protest shut her down,” from Cleve R. Wootson Jr.: “The Facebook event invitation left little doubt about the protesters’ feelings toward pro-police speaker Heather Mac Donald. They accused her of ‘neglecting the state sponsored genocide committed against black people’ and said she represented ‘white supremacist and fascist ideologies.’ And just in case people didn’t get the point, organizers photo-shopped devil horns onto her picture. The last words on the invite, which has since been deleted, offered instructions to like-minded Claremont McKenna College students and others: Show up wearing black and ‘bring your comrades, because we’re shutting this down.’ The demonstration was the second time this year that a large-scale protest has targeted a conservative speaker on a college campus.”
At the White House: Trump will lead a strategic and policy CEO discussion. After, he will hold meetings with John Kelly, H.R. McMaster and Gary Cohn. In the evening, Trump will have a working dinner with senior military leaders. Pence has no scheduled public events. Pence has no public events.
Congress is on spring break.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“He is the decider.” – Sean Spicer, describing President Trump
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
— Even more sunny and beautiful weather is on the radar today, the Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “A warmer repeat of Monday with sunny skies and highs up into the lower to middle 80s. Humidity is just a touch higher than yesterday — while low compared with summer levels, you may feel it just a bit.” (Unfortunately for those with allergies, however, D.C. trees have exploded with pollen for the second time this spring – effectively giving us two allergy seasons instead of one.)
— The Nationals beat the Cardinals 14-6.
— The Wizards beat the Pistons 105-101.
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
This Australia news anchor didn’t realize she was live:
Here are John Oliver’s “Catheter Cowboys” ads:
On his Sunday program, Oliver riffed on Bill O’Reilly:
… Trump’s airstrike:
… and gerrymandering:
Stephen Colbert made fun of Donald Trump Jr. saying he may run for governor down the road:
Watch this bullseye landing for this space station crew:
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