The greatest showdown on Earth

Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress are upbeat that they will be able to come to terms on a spending bill to avoid a government shutdown.

“I am optimistic that a final funding package will be completed soon,” said House Appropriations Committee chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.)

“There are some sticking points that remain, but I’m optimistic,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)

Yet Trump’s Twitter tone Thursday was more apocalyptic than optimistic.

“Democrats want to shut down the government. Politics!” Trump said in a seven-tweet blast. He charged, among other things, that Democrats “want illegals to pour through our borders, are threatening to close national parks and are “jeopardizing the safety of our troops to bail out their donors from insurance companies.”

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As the tweetstorm passed, the talks were still on track. Despite Trump’s posture on Twitter, Democrats said the president actually cleared a major obstacle to a deal by abandoning a threat to end subsidy payments under Obamacare.

Unnerving North Korea talk

Whether warning of something he actually knows, or just loosely rambling, Trump told Reuters there could be a "major, major conflict" with North Korea, while diplomatic efforts to quell the nuclear-arms situation go on. The full piece is here

Meanwhile Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told NPR that the U.S. favors direct talks with North Korea on ending its nuclear program. The interview airs Friday.

Easy doesn’t do it

In his first 100 days as president, there are signs Trump has started to know what he doesn’t and didn’t know. The revelation in chief: that delivering in the White House is much harder than delivering on the stump.

“I never realized how big it was . . . ” Trump said in a recent interview. “This is thousands of times bigger, the United States, than the biggest company in the world.”

He’s notched a few wins, and suffered setbacks, especially in a Congress controlled by his own party. But his self-advertised “flexibility” and abandonment of campaign positions suggests a willingness to adapt.

See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.

The take-away: Scared off

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If Trump wanted to declare victory and forget about building the wall, it could work.

Even with delays in his proposed funding for the Mexican border barrier and in defunding “sanctuary cities,” Trump’s presence seems to have boosted deterrence of illegal immigration, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

The Department of Homeland Security this month released figures that indicated a stunning 93 percent drop since December of parents and children trying to enter the U.S. illegally from Mexico.

Sessions’ LI visit triggers critics

Protests are planned Friday morning for the visit of Attorney General Jeff Sessions to Central Islip, with civil rights activists denouncing him as “an overt racist,” reports Newsday’s Victor Manuel Ramos.

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Sessions is planning to spotlight recent MS-13 gang violence as a rationale for the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown.

The Rev. Calvin O. Butts III charged Sessions is “using this issue to press an introverted, anti-immigrant platform that does not represent the values of inclusiveness and equity I believe America has and should always espouse.”

From breakup to make up?

Trump said he changed his mind about announcing a plan to exit from NAFTA because of calls he took from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Trump treated the prospects of a renegotiated trade deal are “very possible” and said later that withdrawing from it a “pretty big . . . shock to the system.”

Flynn — who knew?

As investigations intensified into President Donald Trump’s ousted national security adviser, Michael Flynn, the White House still admitted to no regrets over how the former Army lieutenant general was given the job or vetted.

“He had an active security clearance that was issued during the Obama administration,” said press secretary Sean Spicer.

The Pentagon inspector general has joined lawmakers in probing payments Flynn accepted from foreign sources, including a Russian state-sponsored TV network after leaving the military.

Documents released by the top Democrat on a House oversight committee showed Flynn was warned by authorities after he retired from the military in 2014 not to take foreign government-sourced money without “advance approval” from the Pentagon.

What else is happening:

  • Newsday readers are grading Trump on his first 100 days. Click here to see what they say and add your own report card.
  • The U.S. economy expanded at its slowest pace in three years in the first quarter of this year, hinting the administration's target of 3 percent annual growth looks unlikely.
  • Trump’s tweeting habits have sparked more threats than the Secret Service can keep pace with to investigate, Politico reports.
  • The Senate voted 60-38 to confirm Alex Acosta as secretary of labor, filling out Donald Trump’s cabinet as he approaches his 100th day in office.
  • Trump signed an executive order that creates a new office devoted to protecting whistleblowers at the Department of Veterans Affairs and a memo ordering an expedited investigation on whether dependence on imported aluminum is jeopardizing U.S. national security.
  • Support may be too shaky for Trump’s Mexican border wall from the ground beneath it, The Washington Post reports. The proposed barrier would have to straddle seismic fault lines — raising the risk that earthquakes could send huge sections tumbling down — as well as / waterways prone to flash floods.
  • Mexico is learning not to be so easily provoked by Trump, The New York Times reported. Senator Armando Ríos Piter, a Mexican legislator, compared it to dealing with a bluffing poker player and said, “In front of a bluffer, you always have to maintain a firm and dignified position.”
  • Trump will need to decide later this year whether to make public or keep confidential thousands of long-secret government files about the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Politico reports. The deadline was set by a 1992 law.