Chapter and worse
Perhaps Donald Trump doesn't get that Robert Mueller's report isn't the "total exoneration" he claims it to be, but those around him do.
Politico reports that several aides concede the special counsel's Russia investigation report, due to be released with redactions in the coming days, will probably include new anecdotes about Trump’s behavior that are at a minimum embarrassing.
“In 400 pages there’s bound to be something the media will spin as embarrassing for the president and then that will be the story,” said a White House official, “but will it be collusion? Will it be obstruction? Will it be conspiracy? Will it be criminality? No, no, no and no.”
Some Trump allies told Politico the damage could be worse than those on the inside predict. A former White House official said the celebrations after Attorney General William Barr's short summary took criminal liability off the table were "completely unfounded." He called his ex-colleagues “blissfully unaware of what’s to come.”
But Barr last week also gave Trump's defenders the ammo to renew their attack on those who investigated the president and his campaign by telling a Senate committee, “I think spying did occur, yes.” Though Barr later qualified his remarks, the counteroffensive took off. The comments gave those who accused FBI officials of political bias "their biggest boost yet," The Washington Post writes.
At a minimum, Trump's team hope Barr's relatively rosy summation locked in a narrative that will endure despite details that The New York Times said could renew questions about Trump's fitness for office. “We consider this to be case closed,” press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on "Fox News Sunday."
Polling and political experts say that regardless of what the Mueller report reveals, hardened public opinion on Trump may not change much if at all, reports Newsday's Tom Brune.
Sanctuary cities under the bus
Donald Trump’s call to place migrants seeking asylum in so-called sanctuary cities throughout the country — including New York City — remains “an option on the table" though not the administration's "first choice," Sanders said on Sunday.
On ABC's "This Week," Sanders said, "Democrats have stated time and time again … they support sanctuary cities, so let's spread out some of that burden and let's put it in some of those other locations if that's what they want to see happen and are refusing to actually help fix the problem."
To recap, when news broke late last week about the proposal, a White House official said it “was just a suggestion that was floated and rejected, which ended any further discussion.” Trump promptly revived the idea and continued to embrace it on Twitter over the weekend.
A political ally, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), suggested it was a case of Trump bluffmanship. “I mean maybe he’s just saying this to make everybody crazy, make everybody talk about it on their shows,” Scott said on CNN's "State of the Union."
For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
Janison: Unify? Fie on that
On rare occasions, like State of the Union time, Trump will pay lip service to the cause of national unity. "We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future," he said in February's address.
Those aren't the words he lives by. His threat to bus migrants to "sanctuary cities" is but the latest example.
Not a day passes in which he shows the slightest bent toward building bipartisan consensus in Congress on meaningful immigration bills, even as an emergency finally develops at the southern border, writes Newsday's Dan Janison. It's pure political strategy for a president who needs votes beyond his party to help re-elect him and looks not only to demonize his foes, but the places where they live.
Sanders said in essence that Democrats in Congress are too stupid to be allowed to see Trump's tax returns.
"I don't think Congress, particularly not this group of congressmen and women, are smart enough to look through the thousands of pages that I would assume that President Trump's taxes will be," Sanders said on "Fox News Sunday." Congress is where tax laws are written.
It's a variation of the argument that Trump's sons offered during the 2016 campaign against showing the returns to the public because it would be over their heads. "You would have a bunch of people who know nothing about taxes trying to look through and trying to come up with assumptions on things that they know nothing about,” Eric Trump said.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has balked at giving the House Ways and Means Committee the documents it requested from the IRS. If he doesn't comply with a new April 23 deadline, subpoenas and a court fight are likely to follow.
Trump does a 9/11 number
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she has asked the U.S. Capitol Police to increase its protection of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) after Trump tweeted a video of the Muslim lawmaker spliced with 9/11 footage of the Twin Towers aflame. She also urged him to remove the "disrespectful and dangerous" video.
Soon after, it was taken down as his "pinned tweet" with no immediate explanation, but it remained in his timeline.
Earlier, Sanders said on ABC, "Certainly the president is wishing no ill will, and certainly not violence towards anyone" but said, "It's absolutely abhorrent, the comments she continues to make and has made and [Democrats] look the other way."
Trump and other critics of Omar have accused her of playing down the significance of the 2001 terrorist attacks. Her phrase that "some people did something" came in broader comments about how U.S. Muslims felt a loss of civil liberties in the aftermath of 9/11.
Behold a high horse
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan), whose district includes the World Trade Center, said Trump has no moral standing to talk about 9/11. He recalled how Trump cashed in by accepting a $150,000 small-business grant intended to help in recovery efforts for his office tower at 40 Wall Street, which was not damaged.
“He stole $150,000 from some small businessperson who could have used it to help rehabilitate himself" Nadler said on “State of the Union” on CNN. “To use it for his own small business of 40 Wall Street, he has no moral authority to be talking about 9/11 at all.”
Nadler's profile as a Trump foe has been elevated since he became chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and launched new investigations of the president. Their personal feud dates back to West Side development battles of the 1980s, which Figueroa revisited for Newsday.
The target for Trump's Sunday morning Twitter roast was the Federal Reserve, which he wants to pump more money into the economy.
“If the Fed had done its job properly, which it has not, the Stock Market would have been up 5000 to 10,000 additional points, and GDP would have been well over 4 percent instead of 3 percent … with almost no inflation,” Trump complained.
Trump's efforts to add like-minded allies to the Fed have sputtered. One of his picks, Stephen Moore, would likely to be asked to explain the following past comment found by CNN if he gets as far as a confirmation hearing: "Capitalism is a lot more important than democracy … I'm not even a big believer in democracy."
What else is happening:
- Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who has been rising fast in the 2020 Democratic pack, officially launched his campaign Sunday. “The horror show in Washington is mesmerizing, all-consuming," he said. "But starting today, we are going to change the channel." He added, "Sometimes a dark moment brings out the best in us."
- The African-American vote for the Democrats' 2020 primaries is very much up for grabs, writes Newsday's Emily Ngo. There are two black contenders, Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, but others who reach out and are seen as having a chance at winning can expect consideration, one expert says.
- Also from Ngo: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand reported raising $3 million in the first months of her campaign, which places her eighth among Democratic contenders who have released numbers. Her campaign said she ranks fourth in cash on hand with $10.2 million.
- Bernie Sanders accused the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank with links to the Clintons, of spreading “bad faith smears” about him and other candidates who are further to the left.
- One of those candidates, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, was a conservative-minded Republican in her early days, Politico writes. Her shift began during academic research in the 1980s when she concluded many Americans filing for bankruptcy were not irresponsible deadbeats but families that struggled like her own.
- The New York Times looked at how destined-to-lose candidates in past elections often won bigger public profiles from their effort. The Rev. Al Sharpton said his 2004 bid "opened doors" as he went from "a tracksuit-wearing local activist" to getting "taken more seriously" on a national level.
- Short-time White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci writes in The Hill that Trump should stop using the term "enemy of the people" against the news media. "While he is far from a tyrant and has done a terrific job as president, he needs to stop doing this. It sounds like an echo of long-ago autocrats and some contemporary ones," Scaramucci said.
- They don't agree on much, but both Trump and former President Barack Obama hailed Tiger Woods' victory in the Masters golf tournament Sunday. Trump live-tweeted the final two holes and said, "Love people who are great under pressure. What a fantastic life comeback for a really great guy!"