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Surprise! Trump's meeting with Pelosi and Schumer wasn't a train wreck

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer after meeting Tuesday with President Donald Trump at the White House. Credit: EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock/Jim Lo Scalzo

'Good will' hunting

As Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer held their first sit-down in four months with President Donald Trump, White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, away at a conference in California, set the expectations low. Recounting a kidney-stone attack he suffered overnight, Mulvaney quipped: "It's better than going to the meeting with Chuck and Nancy at the White House."

For the Democratic leaders, it turned out not to be painful at all. They and Trump agreed to work on an infrastructure package with $2 trillion in federal funding to upgrade the nation’s roads, transportation hubs and communications systems.

“It was a very constructive meeting," said Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader. "It's clear that both the White House and all of us want to get something done on infrastructure in a big and bold way.”

Pelosi, the House speaker, called the commitment from both sides “big and bold” and said Trump agreed to meet with Democrats again, in about three weeks, to talk more on how to pay for a plan.

Trump has threatened in recent months that he wouldn't deal with Democrats unless they backed off on their investigations of him. But Schumer and Pelosi said Trump did not air those complaints on Tuesday.

"We can do both at once," said Schumer, who also observed: "There was good will in this meeting, and that was different than some of the other meetings that we've had." Pelosi had likened their disastrous December encounter to a "tinkle contest with a skunk." That donnybrook over Trump's border-wall demands set the stage for a 35-day government shutdown.

A statement from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump and Democrats also would meet “in the near future” to discuss lowering prescription drug prices, adding that Trump “looks forward to working together in a bipartisan way and getting things done for the American people.” For more, see Newsday's story by Laura Figueroa Hernandez with Tom Brune.

Seek and hide

As for those investigations, the latest:

A key New York State Senate committee advanced a bill aimed at releasing Trump’s state tax returns to Congress, mapping out what they see as a way to work around the White House, reports Newsday's Yancey Roy. The Treasury Department and IRS haven't complied with a House committee's subpoena for Trump's federal returns.

Trump is suing in federal court, seeking to block Deutsche Bank and Capital One from responding to congressional subpoenas on his finances.

House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) hired Patrick Fallon, former chief of the FBI’s Financial Crimes Section, for a probe into whether Trump's personal financial interests influence his decisions on policy toward the Russians and Saudis, the Daily Beast reported.

Schiff also said his panel will ask the Justice Department for a criminal investigation into whether Erik Prince, a Trump ally and the founder of the military contractor Blackwater, lied to the committee about a meeting with a Russian financier before Trump's inauguration. 

Mueller's problem with Barr scene

Special counsel Robert Mueller wrote a blistering letter in late March to William Barr, objecting to how the attorney general characterized the conclusions of his Russia investigation report, The Washington Post and The New York Times reported.

Barr announced that Mueller had not found a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russian officials who sought to interfere in the 2016 election. Barr also said that while Mueller had not reached a conclusion about whether Trump tried to obstruct justice, his own review found the evidence insufficient to support such a charge.

Mueller wrote that Barr's synopsis "did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this office’s work and conclusions.” As a result, Mueller said, “There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation. This threatens to undermine a central purpose for which the (Justice) Department appointed the Special Counsel: to assure full public confidence in the outcome of the investigations.”

The dispute is likely to come up when Barr appears at a Senate hearing Wednesday and faces a barrage of sharp-edged questions from Democrats on how he presented and redacted Mueller’s report. Expect Barr to be asked, in light of Mueller's letter, how he could have previously testified on Capitol Hill: "I don't know whether Bob Mueller supported my conclusion." For more, see Brune's story for Newsday.

Janison: Trump still hard to beat

Even with a poll last weekend that found 55% wouldn't vote for him, it's hard to pin an underdog label on Trump, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.

Among his many advantages: The economy is strong. He hasn't gotten us into new ground wars. Dissent is all but crushed within the Republican Party. The Mueller report did little to alter people's impressions of him. And his campaign is swimming in cash. 

Biden's poll vault

New polls from CNN, Morning Consult and Quinnipiac indicate a surge in Joe Biden's support for the Democratic nomination since he entered the 2020 race last week.

In the CNN survey, he gained 11 points as 39% of voters who are Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents said he is their top choice for the nomination, up from 28% in March. Bernie Sanders was a distant second at 15%, followed by Elizabeth Warren (8%), Pete Buttigieg (7%) and Kamala Harris (5%).

But remember, it's early. Only 36% of potential Democratic voters with a preference in the race say they will definitely back the candidate they currently support, while 64% say they could change their minds. 

Border apprehension

More than a third of Americans — 35%— say that illegal immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border is at a "crisis," up 11 points since January, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll. That sense of alarm has grown even more strikingly among Democrats, from 7% to 24%. However, a plurality of Americans — 45% — consider the increase in crossings a serious problem but not a crisis.

Majorities still don't go along with Trump's solutions. The poll found 64% of Americans oppose Trump’s use of an emergency declaration to get around Congress to divert billions of dollars for a border wall. More broadly, 57% of adults disapprove of the way Trump is handling immigration in general.

Trump on Monday night said his administration will adopt new rules aimed at curbing migrants' use of the asylum process to gain entry. Foes of the policy promised a legal battle.

Politico reports the White House soon is expected to ask Congress for billions of dollars in emergency funding for enforcement and humanitarian needs at the border. Wall funding won't be part of the request.

On the QT, no OT

Undocumented workers formerly employed at a Trump golf course in New York's Westchester County told The Washington Post they were forced to put in extra hours off the clock — without overtime pay. 

Allegations that workers were routinely shortchanged on their pay is under investigation by the New York attorney general, whose investigators have interviewed more than two dozen former employees, the report said. Some of the workers told The Post about being denied promotions, vacation days and health insurance, which were offered to legal employees.

A former manager told the newspaper it was a deliberate and calculated policy: "There was a conscious effort to pay less wages, because they knew about the lack of documents." 

The Trump Organization has denied the ex-workers' stories. "This story is total nonsense and nothing more than unsubstantiated allegations from illegal immigrants who unlawfully submitted fake identification in an effort to obtain employment,” spokeswoman Kimberly Benza said.

What else is happening:

  • A federal judge ruled Democrats in Congress can move ahead with their lawsuit alleging that Trump's private business violates the Constitution’s ban on gifts or payments from foreign governments, The Washington Post reported. The Justice Department is defending Trump.
  • One day before Julian Assange faces an extradition hearing in London related to U.S. charges of conspiring to hack a government password, the WikiLeaks founder was sentenced to 50 weeks in prison for jumping bail.
  • CNN found yet another episode in Trump Federal Reserve pick Stephen Moore's problems with women — he denounced the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, which provided resources to fight rape and domestic abuse, as "objectionable pork." Amid revelations of Moore's hostility to equality for women, Sen. Jodi Ernst (R-Iowa) said, "He does not have the votes ... Don't bother sending (the nomination) up." 
  • With Venezuela's opposition leaders calling for an uprising, Trump threatened a “full and complete embargo” and sanctions on Cuba if its troops do not cease operations in support of the Nicolas Maduro regime.
  • Biden said on ABC's "Good Morning America" that Congress should move forward with impeachment proceedings against Trump if the White House and Republicans block Democratic efforts to investigate matters "left undone" by Mueller's probe.
  • Jill Biden, commenting on the show about the flap over her husband's handsy habits, said "going forward, I think he's gonna have to judge — be a better judge — of when people approach him, how he's going to react."
  • Oprah Winfrey told The Hollywood Reporter she is figuring out which Democratic candidate she will endorse in the crowded 2020 U.S. presidential race and is reading a book by "Buttabeep, Buttaboop." Buttigieg said having his approximate name mentioned by Oprah "is arguably a bigger deal than coming in second in a poll."

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