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Trump may want to send staff to obedience school

President Donald Trump, joined by the Easter Bunny,

President Donald Trump, joined by the Easter Bunny, speaks from the Truman Balcony during the White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday. Credit: AP/Alex Brandon

'Nobody disobeys my orders'

Among the many revelations in Robert Mueller's report that displeased Donald Trump were stories of how top aides refused orders that, had they been carried out, would have made an obstruction-of-justice case stronger.

Asked Monday if he was concerned about underlings ignoring his demands, Trump replied: "Nobody disobeys my orders." But plenty have. The Washington Post compiled a list of at least 15 instances, and not just from the president's attempts to stifle the Russia investigation.

Examples: Former chief economic adviser Gary Cohn took papers from Trump's desk to stop him from ending a trade pact with South Korea. Cohn and former chief of staff John Kelly ignored directives to push the Justice Department to stop the AT&T-Time Warner merger. Former Defense Secretary James Mattis blew off a command to assassinate Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and instead drew up a plan for a more conventional airstrike to respond to a chemical weapons attack on civilians.

An op-ed in The New York Times last year by an anonymous senior official said multiple people in the upper echelons of the administration were "working diligently from within to frustrate parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations."

But shouldn't a president expect orders to be carried out without question? Not necessarily. The Wall Street Journal writes history is replete with examples of the need to have White House aides willing to stand up to the boss, and of presidents who recognized that. Examples:

Richard Nixon specifically authorized his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, to ignore orders that seemed impetuous or issued in anger — a safeguard that became crucial when he was depressed and often drunk amid the Watergate crisis. Ronald Reagan stood by aides who pushed back when they thought his instincts were leading him down the wrong path. When Barack Obama wanted to suspend the military's enforcement of "don't ask, don't tell," Defense Secretary Robert Gates refused and said to wait until Congress changed the law.

It's unknown whether anyone left in the White House is willing to be a safeguard on Trump's impulses. All of the aides and officials mentioned in The Washington Post's list are gone except Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is going soon.

Pelosi slow-walks impeachment

Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged impeachment-hungry House Democrats to focus first on fact-finding in holding Trump accountable for what she called the “highly unethical and unscrupulous behavior" described in Mueller’s report.

Acknowledging divisions among her rank and file, Pelosi wrote, “We must show the American people we are proceeding free from passion or prejudice, strictly on the presentation of fact." She said that despite differences, Democrats all "firmly agree that we should proceed down a path of finding the truth."

Trump suit: Hands off my records

The president and the Trump Organization filed suit Monday to try to stop the House Oversight Committee from seeing his financial records.

The committee's chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), subpoenaed Trump's longtime accounting firm last week after it refused an earlier request for the business records as part of an expansive investigation into the president’s dealings.

Trump's filings accused congressional Democrats of declaring an “all-out political war” and being "singularly obsessed with finding something they can use to damage the president politically.” Cummings responded that “there is simply no valid legal basis to interfere with this duly authorized subpoena from Congress.”

For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

His eggs-cellency, President Trump

With thousands of children gathered for the 141st Easter Egg Roll at the White House, Trump put a personal imprint on the tradition with a political plug for himself.

“Our country is doing fantastically well, probably the best it’s ever done economically,” the president boasted. It was the same message he built into his "Happy Easter" tweet on Sunday.

Trump happily announced that a boy at the event told him to "keep building that wall." He did not, however, complain to the young egg hunters about the "witch hunt."

Fed follies

One of Trump's choices for a Federal Reserve seat, Herman Cain, finally bowed out Monday amid revived concerns over the sexual harassment allegations that ended his 2012 presidential campaign. Enough Senate Republicans opposed Cain to make him unconfirmable.

Another Trump Fed hopeful, Stephen Moore, now is under scrutiny for sexist writings from the 2000s dug up by CNN. Moore declared women should be banned from refereeing, announcing or beer vending at men's college basketball games. “Is there no area in life where men can take vacation from women?” he lamented.

Moore allowed an exception for his no-female-announcer rule — it was OK "if they look like Bonnie Bernstein," a CBS sportscaster at the time. But he said Bernstein didn't know the game and “should wear a halter top."

Moore told CNN for its story that his commentary was a "spoof." He wrote pieces with the same theme at least four times.

Moore already faces questions for his economics credentials and other past statements, such as “Capitalism is a lot more important than democracy … I’m not even a big believer in democracy."

A loan? She can fix it

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has been looking for a spark to ignite her 2020 campaign, proposed wiping out about $640 billion in outstanding student loan debt and taxing billionaires to pay for it.

Depending on the debtor's income, up to $50,000 of what is owed by more than 42 million Americans could be forgiven under Warren's plan. She has also called for free college tuition at two- and four-year institutions. 

CBS News reports the idea has garnered support from groups like the American Federation of Teachers, but it's sure to draw criticism from conservatives and even centrists in her own party who are likely to consider the proposal unfeasible.

What else is happening:

  • A University of New Hampshire poll shows Bernie Sanders leading the Democratic field in the early-primary state with 30%. Joe Biden is second at 18% and Pete Buttigieg is third at 15%. The rest of the pack is in single digits.
  • Some deep-pocketed Republicans who snubbed Trump in 2016 are going all in for him in 2020, Politico writes.
  • Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) on Monday became the 19th declared candidate for the Democratic nomination. An ex-Marine, he planned to put more emphasis on national security and defense issues than his rivals.
  • The Trump administration announced it would tighten sanctions on countries that import oil from Iran, no longer granting waivers to eight of them, including China. Trump is gambling that higher oil production elsewhere will keep gas prices from spiking, Politico writes.
  • The Supreme Court plans to hear cases over whether federal civil rights law bans job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It shapes up as a test of how the two Trump-picked justices view the administration's efforts to roll back Obama-era policies on LGBT rights.
  • Still tweet-ranting about Mueller, Trump claimed "the people who were closest to me" were "never even called to testify." Among those Mueller's team interviewed were Jared Kushner, Hope Hicks, Corey Lewandowski, Steve Bannon, Michael Cohen, Don McGahn, Reince Priebus, John Kelly and Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Donald Trump Jr. refused a voluntary interview.

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