Before summit, South Korea halts propaganda broadcasts

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea halted anti-Pyongyang propaganda broadcasts across the rivals’ tense border on Monday days before their leaders are to sit down for talks expected to focus on the North’s nuclear program, Seoul officials said.

Seoul had blasted propaganda messages and K-pop songs from border loudspeakers since the North’s fourth nuclear test in early 2016. Pyongyang quickly matched Seoul’s campaign with its own border broadcasts and launches of balloons carrying anti-South leaflets across the border.

South Korea, however, turned off its broadcasts to try to ease military tensions and establish an environment for peaceful talks, Seoul’s Defense Ministry said in a statement.

It said Seoul hopes its action would lead to both sides stopping mutual slander and propaganda activities. Yonhap news agency reported unspecified North Korean broadcasts were sporadically heard in the South on Monday morning. South Korean defense officials said they couldn’t immediately confirm the status of the North’s broadcasts.

The move came amid a recent thaw of animosities, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un trying to reach out to Seoul and Washington in recent months after conducting his country’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test and three long-range missile test-launches last year.

Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are to meet at a border village on Friday in the rivals’ third-ever summit talks. Kim is to hold separate summit talks with President Donald Trump in May or early June in what would be the first North Korea-U.S. summit talks.

Kim has said he was willing to place his nuclear program up for negotiations. But it was unclear how serious disarmament steps he would offer during the two sets of the summit talks. U.S. officials have said they want to the North to take complete disarmament measures.

North Korea said Saturday it would close its nuclear testing facility and suspend nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests. But the country stopped short of suggesting it has any intention of giving up its nuclear weapons or scale back its production of missiles and their related component parts.

Trump nonetheless tweeted Sunday that the North has “agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, & no more testing!” Trump’s pick to be the next secretary of state, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, traveled to North Korea on Easter weekend to lay the groundwork for the meeting. Pompeo’s trip was a clear indication that preparations for the North-U.S. summit were under way though many U.S. and other foreign experts had doubts.

France’s Macron arrives for ‘celebration’ of unlikely friendship with Trump

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron will receive full state honors in Washington this week, nine months after he rolled out a literal red carpet for Donald Trump on Paris' Avenue des Champs Elysées.

The three-day visit is likely to feature more displays of public affection between two leaders who talk on the phone constantly and closely coordinated recent airstrikes against Syria. Despite the U.S president’s enormous unpopularity in his country, Macron virtually never criticizes Trump in in public and calls him a “friend.” Trump in turn reportedly even scribbled a love note to the 40-year-old French president last July.

This week’s visit will be “something of a celebration of the relationship,” a senior Trump administration official said.

Few would have predicted such talk just after Macron’s May 2017 election defeat of the nationalist insurgent Marine LePen, whom Trump implied he supported. Macron's dark-horse win was seen as a rebuke to the western nationalist movement of which Trump has become a symbol. And while the French adored President Barack Obama as a suave intellectual, Trump is seen as the embodiment of a gauche American.

But rather than denounce Trump as many French politicians have, Macron has sought to win Trump over with flattering words. In an interview with “Fox News Sunday,” Macron stressed his similarities with Trump, saying both he and the president could be called a “maverick” whose election had been unexpected.

The two men hardly see eye to eye on policy, and are expected to debate the Iran nuclear deal, Syria and trade policy, among other sensitive topics.

But Macron and Trump have worked closely together as Paris takes a larger leadership role on international issues — at a time when Britain is sidelined by political chaos and a weakened German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s relationship with Trump is cool at best.

"Macron has become Trump's main European interlocutor when it comes to addressing international crises," Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer, senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund, wrote in a recent policy paper.

Macron and Trump will share a private dinner Monday evening, followed by a bilateral meeting early Tuesday. They'll then meet with Cabinet members before a state dinner at the White House. On Wednesday, Macron will address a joint session of Congress.

In their private talks, the two men are likely to focus on security issues, including a fast-approaching decision point for the Iran nuclear deal. French officials say they share some of Trump's concerns about the July 2015 pact brokered by President Barack Obama, but are urging Trump not to abandon the agreement in mid-May, when Trump has threatened to reimpose sanctions on Tehran.

Macron has sought common ground with Trump by saying the current deal is flawed and that he might be willing to crack down on Iran’s ballistic missile program. But Trump wants much stronger measures that French officials worry could abrogate the deal entirely. A Trump official said the deal would be “a major topic of discussion” during Macron’s visit.

The official also said the two leaders “will discuss, probably in some detail, the way ahead in Syria.”

In a televised debate last week, Macron said he had changed Trump’s mind on the U.S. presence in war-torn Syria: “President Trump said the USA's will is to disengage from Syria. We convinced him that it was necessary to stay," the French leader said.

The White House quickly denied that characterization, and Macron later said he never meant the countries should maintain an indefinite military presence in the country.

But on Sunday, Macron told Fox News that he would urge international cooperation during his address to Congress, warning that Iran would benefit from a U.S. and European abandonment of Syria. “We are very much attached to the same values, and especially liberty and peace,” Macron said of America and France.

Trade will also be on the agenda, after Macron and Merkel — who's due to fly into Washington on April 27, a few days after Macron leaves — both vowed to tell the U.S. president that Europe would not stand for his recent steel tariffs. U.S. officials may in turn complain to Macron's entourage about a French-led proposal to slap a 3-percent tax on U.S. internet giants.

Despite the menu of issue differences, officials on both sides sought to lower expectations for specific results from the meeting.

"It's largely symbolic," an aide to Macron said.

“I think what the President would like to hear from President Macron is his counsel and his point of view and his perspective,” said the Trump official. “Whether we will actually solve, or come to closure, or a full detailed agreement on some of the issues that we’ve touched on is difficult to say at this remove.”

As they work together internationally, Trump and Macron are both fending off political threats at home. A year into his presidency, the French president's sheen as a political prodigy and savior of European liberalism has been dulled by grinding rail strikes and sagging poll numbers.

Macron wants Trump to stand at his side as the European Union's soon-to-be sole military power with a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, nuclear capability and the will to intervene where others will not.

The April 14 strike on Syria's chemical facilities bolstered the burgeoning Franco-American relationship, French officials say. Macron and Trump spoke repeatedly during the crisis — and no fewer than seven times over the past month, according to accounts from the Elysée presidential palace.

While Britain also joined the strikes, Merkel barely featured in the Syrian discussions. Characteristically for intervention-averse Germany, she did not order participation in the strikes, commenting on them after the fact as "necessary and appropriate."

Once the missiles had hit their targets, Macron seized on a chance to drive home his point: While others may waver, France remains a red-blooded beacon of Western power. Paris had intervened in Syria for the "honor of the international community," he told the European Parliament in Strasbourg

One outstanding question about the Macron-Trump relationship that fascinates commentators in Europe: Does the French president really like Trump, or is he just "playing him"?

European commentators suggested as much last summer when, during Trump's visit to Paris, Macron mimicked his guest's signature thumbs-up move to TV cameras.

There may be no definitive answer. Macron is a one-time stage actor who loves to quote classical French playwrights from memory and, as he told a pair of French interviewers last weekend, has "no friends."

Quizzed about Macron's apparent affection for Trump, the French president's aides say he has concluded that befriending Trump and avoiding any direct criticism of the U.S. president that could inflame his temper are the best ways of keeping Trump — and the United States — on his nation’s side.

Suspect in Waffle House shooting was arrested near the White House last year

Tennessee authorities said the suspect in a shooting that left four people dead at a Waffle House in Nashville early Sunday morning was arrested last year for being in a restricted area near the White House.

Travis Reinking, a 29-year-old who police have named as the suspect, was arrested by Secret Service officers on July 7, 2017, when he refused to leave the White House grounds. As of Sunday afternoon, he remained at large.

Todd Hudson, special agent in charge, U.S. Secret Service in the Nashville Field Office, told reporters Sunday that to his knowledge Reinking was not armed at the time of the White House incident but was arrested after he refused to leave the area near some bike racks. Hudson stressed that Reinking was only in the White House complex area and did not make it farther into the grounds.

Hudson added that Reinking wanted a meeting with President Donald Trump.

Tennessee and federal authorities said the episode caused the FBI to ask for Illinois authorities in Tazewell County to revoke Reinking's firearm license and to seize his four guns. Among the guns seized at the time, authorities said, was the AR-15 rifle used during Sunday's shooting.

Metro Nashville Police Department spokesman Don Aaron said the police department received information that the AR-15 and other guns were released to Reinking's father, who has since acknowledged returning the guns to his son.

"We are presently concerned about evidence of two guns in that apartment that have not been located," Aaron said. Metropolitan Nashville Police Department chief Steve Anderson added one of the guns is more a "hunting-type rifle" and the other is a handgun.

Anderson warned residents that Reinking remained at large and that police were continuing to sweep the area.

Reading from a prepared statement, Matt Espenshade, an FBI agent located in Nashville, said the bureau received information about the White House incident from the Secret Service in July 2017. FBI agents based in Illinois then worked with the Illinois state police to revoke Reinking's Illinois firearm identification card and then later with the Tazewell County sheriff's office to remove the guns he possessed. The FBI, Espenshade said, closed its assessment on Reinking in October 2017.

Marcus Watson, resident agent in charge at Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said ATF agents traced the AR-15 used during Sunday's shooting and determined that it was legally purchased in Illinois in 2011.

According to police, Reinking arrived at the Waffle House at 3:19 a.m., briefly waited in his truck looking at people inside the restaurant, and then grabbed an AR-15 rifle and started shooting. The first people killed were standing outside the restaurant; the shooter then continued firing inside. A patron inside, James Shaw Jr., ran to the restroom area until the shooting had stopped. Shaw then wrestled the rifle away from Reinking. Police later identified the four victims and said three people died at the scene and a fourth later died at the hospital. Two other people were being treated for gunshot wounds at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Reinking, who was wearing only a jacket during the shooting, fled the area on foot. Police said that he later returned to his apartment and put on a pair of pants. Witnesses spotted someone matching his description in the wooded area near his apartment.

Nashville Mayor David Briley called Shaw the city's "newest hero." Briley said comprehensive gun reform is needed to "take these weapons of war off the streets of our country."

Shaw stressed to reporters that he considered his actions to be "selfish," but understood that his split decision saved the lives of others in the restaurant. Aaron pointed out that Reinking's jacket, which was recovered near the scene, had two magazines of AR-15 ammunition inside.

"I did save other people, but I don't want people to think that I was the Terminator or Superman or anybody like that," Shaw told reporters. "I figured if I was going to die, he was gonna have to work for it."

Addressing Shaw, Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer said: "You don't get to meet too many heroes in life, but you're my hero."

"I talked to some of the people you saved today and they will think of you for the rest of your days, as will I," Ehmer said.

Aaron said Reinking moved to Nashville in the fall of 2017, working the crane and construction trade, but was recently fired from one job. Reinking, Aaron said, started a new job last Monday and has not been seen by his employer since.

Conway accuses CNN’s Bash of sexism

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway turned combative Sunday when CNN’s Dana Bash raised questions about her husband‘s critical tweets — accusing Bash of a sexist line of questioning.

Bash, interviewing Conway on “State of the Union,” referenced a tweet from Conway's husband, George Conway, in which he suggested that President Donald Trump’s frequent contradiction of aides is “absurd.”

Conway tried to turn the conversation back to Hillary Clinton and CNN, seeking to make a point about women’s intellectual independence from their husbands.

“No. 1 … that woman who lost the election whose name I never see on TV anymore is wrong that women — I think she said white women have to listen to … the men in their life to form their own political opinions. Wrong again, lady,” Conway said.

“No. 2,” Conway said, “it's fascinating to me that CNN would go there. But it's very good for the whole world to have just witnessed … that it's now fair game what people's — how people's spouses and significant others may differ with them. I'm really surprised, but very, in some ways, relieved and gratified to see that.”

Bash responded that gender had nothing to do with her question, saying: “I would ask you that if you were a man.“ Conway cut her off again.

“No, you wouldn't,” Conway said.

“A thousand percent, I would,” Bash responded.

“No, no, no, no, no,” Conway said.

“It's not about that,” Bash said. “It's about questioning — publicly questioning what you are doing for a living and with regard to your boss. And it has nothing to do with your gender.”

After a few more rounds of arguing, Conway — who also criticized CNN for the scope of its coverage of the president — said the question was “meant to harass and embarrass.”

“CNN chose to go there,” Conway added. “I think that's going to be fascinating moving forward.“

Trump official won’t rule out firing Mueller

President Donald Trump’s legislative affairs director said Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller has moved outside the sphere of his original investigation into election meddling — and declined to rule out the possibility of Trump firing him.

“We believe the scope has gone well beyond what was intended to be Russian meddling in the election,” Marc Short said on “Meet the Press” on NBC.

Short declined to rule out Trump firing Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, saying: “We don't know how far off the investigation is going to veer.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), said on “Meet the Press” she disagrees with Short’s assessment, noting that Mueller handed off information on Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to the U.S. attorney’s office in New York rather than broaden his own investigation.

“I believe he’s staying within the parameters,” Collins said of Mueller’s investigation.

Clyburn says House Democrats must win or else

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S WEEK … Monday: TRUMP is lunching with VP Mike Pence and hosting French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife for dinner at Mt. Vernon. Tuesday: Macron is at the White House for a host of meetings, and Trump will hold a press conference with him. Trump lunches with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and then hosts a state dinner for Macron. …

… Thursday: The president and first lady host a Wounded Warrior Project Soldier ride. Friday: Trump has Team USA at the White House, and hosts German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

SUNDAY BEST … CHRIS WALLACE spoke to FRENCH PRESIDENT EMMANUEL MACRON on “FOX NEWS SUNDAY”: WALLACE: “Many foreign leaders over the last year have come to Washington, but this will be the first state visit of the Trump presidency. How do you explain your special relationship with the president and some have called you the ‘Trump Whisperer’.”

MACRON: “Look, I think -- we have a very special relationship because both of us are probably the maverick of the systems on both sides. I think President Trump’s election was unexpected in your country and probably my election was unexpected in my country. And we are not part of the classical political system.

“Second, I think we are very much in line on some very critical issues of this world—and especially counter-terrorism and fight against ISIS. Third, I think we have a very strong personal relation -- based on the different meetings we had and especially visits such your president gave to my country for Bastille Day in 2017.”

Good Sunday morning. Happy Earth Day!

SIREN … DAVID SIDERS in COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA: “Clyburn urges full leadership shakeup If Democrats fail to retake House”: “‘If we’re still in the minority’ after Election Day, he told POLITICO following his annual fish fry here, ‘all of us have got to go.’ … With a younger class of Democrats clamoring to break into leadership, Clyburn, 77, appeared at the fish fry alongside Rep. Tim Ryan, the Ohio Democrat who challenged Pelosi unsuccessfully for her leadership position in 2016.

“Clyburn, the assistant minority leader and the highest ranking African-American in Congress, referred repeatedly to Ryan as a ‘good friend’ and a favorite drinking partner in Washington. A glass of Jack Daniel's in hand at the fish fry, a mainstay on the Democratic Party circuit, Clyburn said he did not take Ryan’s leadership challenge personally, adding, ‘I understand exactly what he was saying.’

“Ryan has said he will not challenge Pelosi again. Of his position that the party would be better served if she weren’t speaker, he said, ‘My view on that has not changed.’” https://politi.co/2qQBxkQ

-- THIS IS IMPORTANT: Clyburn has been at the leadership table for years. He is now the only member of House Democratic leadership who has voiced what many have said behind-the-scenes: that if Dems can’t win in November it’s time for new leadership. Many Democrats complain privately that even if they take the House, it is time for Nancy Pelosi and her team to step aside and make way for the next generation.

CLYBURN here is giving a subtle nudge under the bus to Steny Hoyer, too. Hoyer has shown practically zero interest in moving on from Congress.

NYT’S ALEX BURNS in FULLERTON, CALIFORNIA: “Fearing Chaos, National Democrats Plunge Into Midterm Primary Fights”: “In districts from Southern California to Little Rock, Ark., and upstate New York, the party has begun interceding to help the Democrats it sees as best equipped to battle Republicans in the fall.

“The approach is laced with peril for a party divided over matters of ideology and political strategy, and increasingly dominated by activists who tend to resent what they see as meddling from Washington. A Democratic effort to undercut a liberal insurgent in a Houston-area congressional primary in March stirred an outcry on the left and may have inadvertently helped drive support to that candidate, Laura Moser, who qualified for the runoff election next month.” https://nyti.ms/2HIvsAG

COMING ATTRACTIONS -- Tomorrow we will launch our latest PLAYBOOK POWER LIST, compiled in partnership with POLITICO’s Playbook community in D.C., the states, London and Brussels. The list features women who are having their moment in politics.

WHAT IS ON THE PRESIDENT’S MIND THIS A.M. -- @realDonaldTrump at 8:22 a.m.: “‘GOP Lawmakers asking Sessions to Investigate Comey and Hillary Clinton.’ @FoxNews Good luck with that request!”

-- TO BE CLEAR: Attorney General Jeff Sessions works at the pleasure of Trump.

… at 8:50 a.m.: “Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd of Fake News NBC just stated that we have given up so much in our negotiations with North Korea, and they have given up nothing. Wow, we haven’t given up anything & they have agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, & no more testing!” …

… at 9:02 a.m.: “....We are a long way from conclusion on North Korea, maybe things will work out, and maybe they won’t - only time will tell....But the work I am doing now should have been done a long time ago!”

HOUSTON CHRONICLE FRONT PAGE: “BARBARA BUSH LAID TO REST” http://bit.ly/2HnFp3nFRONT PAGE of the EAGLE (Bryan-College Station): “A FINAL SALUTE” http://bit.ly/2qSa0yJ

-- FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS … PHOTO of George W. and Laura Bush, Barack and Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Melania Trump and George H.W. Bush http://bit.ly/2qPn2xT

REMEMBERING BARBARA BUSH -- AP’s Juan A. Lozano in Houston: “Barbara Bush was remembered as the ‘first lady of the Greatest Generation’ during a funeral Saturday attended by four former U.S. presidents and hundreds of other people who filled a Houston church with laughter as much as tears, with many recalling her quick wit and devotion to family. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush joked that his mother called her style of raising him and his siblings ‘“a benevolent dictatorship” — but honestly, it wasn’t always benevolent.’

“She was widely admired for her plainspoken style during her husband George H.W. Bush’s presidency and was known as ‘The Enforcer’ in her high-powered family. Jeb Bush said he could feel her presence Saturday inside the nation’s largest Episcopal church and that she would likely have given him advice: ‘Jeb, keep it short. Don’t drag this out,’ he said to chuckles.

“He met her expectations with a speech lasting about seven minutes. He choked up at one point while addressing the roughly 1,500 people seated inside St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, where his parents regularly worshipped, when saying his mother — known for her self-deprecating remarks about her wrinkles and white-gray hair — was ‘beautiful’ until the very end.” http://bit.ly/2Hk6sjS

-- Greta Van Susteren: @greta: “Invited to Barbara Bush’s funeral was the owner of her favorite pizza restaurant...he and his wife sat next to me. She wanted to include people who were a part of her life and she loved their restaurant. It was not all big names but all very important people to her.”

PYONGYANG REPORT -- “What Does Kim Jong-un Want? U.S. Fears Answer Is ‘Give a Little, Gain a Lot,’” by NYT’s Mark Landler in Washington and Choe Sang-Hun in Seoul: “As North Korea’s reclusive ruler, Kim Jong-un, prepares for a landmark meeting with President Trump, he has seized the diplomatic high ground, making conciliatory gestures on nuclear testing and American troops that have buoyed hopes in South Korea and won praise from Mr. Trump himself, who called it ‘big progress.’

“But Mr. Kim’s audacious moves are unsettling officials in the United States, Japan and China. Some suspect he is posturing in advance of the summit meeting, as well as a separate meeting this coming week with South Korea’s president, and has no real intention of acceding to demands that he relinquish his nuclear weapons.

“They worry that his gestures could put Mr. Trump on the defensive in the difficult negotiations to come, by offering symbolically potent but substantively modest concessions in place of genuine disarmament — what one senior American official labeled a ‘freeze trap.’ ...

“In Washington, most officials and experts believe that the North Korean leader is determined to cement his country’s status as a nuclear state while escaping the chokehold of economic sanctions. His concessions on nuclear testing and the presence of American troops in South Korea, they said, are calculated to prod the United States into easing such penalties, even before the North dismantles its arsenal.” https://nyti.ms/2HPtjkl

HOW WE FIGHT TODAY ... “A Shadowy War’s Newest Front: A Drone Base Rising From Saharan Dust,” by NYT’s Eric Schmitt in Air Base 201, Niger: “Rising from a barren stretch of African scrubland, a half-finished drone base represents the newest front line in America’s global shadow war. At its center, hundreds of Air Force personnel are feverishly working to complete a $110 million airfield that, when finished in the coming months, will be used to stalk or strike extremists deep into West and North Africa, a region where most Americans have no idea the country is fighting.” https://nyti.ms/2HiD3CM

THE NEXT FRONTIER -- “GOP split as banks take on gun industry,” by Zach Warmbrodt: “Major banks are cutting off business with the gun industry, roiling Republicans who want to respect the financial decisions of private institutions while still showing their unyielding support of the Second Amendment.

“Some Republicans, enraged at moves by Citigroup and Bank of America to distance themselves from some retailers and gun manufacturers, have called on government agencies to cancel contracts with the banks and defer deregulation proposals that would benefit them. But other Republicans want to keep their hands off, saying lenders are free to decide who they do business with.

“It's a conundrum that puts the free-market principles at odds with gun rights, and Republicans across the board are genuinely split over how to react to moves by some of the biggest financial institutions in the country.” https://politi.co/2qQiozI

COHEN WATCH -- “Michael Cohen, once at pinnacle of Trump’s world, now poses threat to it,” by WaPo’s Michael Kranish, Tom Hamburger and Ros Helderman: “When Donald Trump won the presidency, his longtime attorney Michael Cohen seemed in position for a coveted spot in the senior ranks of the White House. At one point, Cohen topped a list of five candidates for White House counsel, according to documents reviewed by The Washington Post. He suggested to some Trump allies that he might make a good chief of staff. But when Trump built his West Wing team, the brash New York lawyer did not make the cut.

“Some in Trump’s inner circle worried about blowback from Cohen’s associations and unorthodox tactics in fixing the New York developer’s problems, Trump associates said. Among those opposed, the associates said, were Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law, Jared Kushner. For his part, Cohen had warned Trump against giving Ivanka Trump and Kushner White House jobs, saying the president would be hammered by complaints of nepotism, according to two people familiar with the matter.” https://wapo.st/2K5A5mF


-- NYT A1, “Scott Pruitt Before the E.P.A.: Fancy Homes, a Shell Company and Friends With Money,” by Steve Eder and Hiroko Tabuchi in Oklahoma City (print headline: “E.P.A. Chief’s Ethics Woes Have Echoes in His Past”): “Early in Scott Pruitt’s political career, as a state senator from Tulsa, he attended a gathering at the Oklahoma City home of an influential telecommunications lobbyist who was nearing retirement and about to move away.

“The lobbyist said that after the 2003 gathering, Mr. Pruitt — who had a modest legal practice and a state salary of $38,400 — reached out to her. He wanted to buy her showplace home as a second residence for when he was in the state capital. ‘For those ego-minded politicians, it would be pretty cool to have this house close to the capitol,’ said the lobbyist, Marsha Lindsey. ‘It was stunning.’ Soon Mr. Pruitt was staying there, and so was at least one other lawmaker ...

“The property was held by a shell company registered to a business partner and law school friend, Kenneth Wagner. ... The mortgage on the Oklahoma City home, the records show, was issued by a local bank that was led by another business associate of Mr. Pruitt’s, Albert Kelly. Recently barred from working in the finance industry because of a banking violation, Mr. Kelly is now one of Mr. Pruitt’s top aides at the E.P.A. and runs the agency’s Superfund program. ...

“According to real estate records, the 2003 purchase of the house for $375,000 came at a steep discount of about $100,000 from what Ms. Lindsey had paid a year earlier — a shortfall picked up by her employer, the telecom giant SBC Oklahoma.” https://nyti.ms/2qRRVAX

NOT A CLOSER -- Utah Republican delegates force Mitt Romney into a primary election with state lawmaker Mike Kennedy in the race for the U.S. Senate,” by the Salt Lake Tribune’s Lee Davidson and Courtney Tanner in West Valley City: “After 11 hours of political elbowing and shoving at the Utah Republican Convention — held appropriately at a hockey arena — delegates forced Mitt Romney into a primary election against state Rep. Mike Kennedy in the U.S. Senate race. In fact, Kennedy — a doctor and lawyer — finished in first place at the convention with 51 percent of the vote to Romney’s 49 percent.

“The former GOP presidential nominee fell far short of the 60 percent needed to clinch the nomination outright. ... Romney blamed his second-place finish — out of a dozen Republicans seeking the seat of retiring seven-term Sen. Orrin Hatch — on delegates’ dislike of candidates like him who hedge their convention bids by also gathering signatures to ensure at least a place on the primary ballot.” http://bit.ly/2Hl9n7Y

2020 WATCH -- “Bernie Forces Ask Clinton And Top Democrats To Recommit To Cutting Superdelegates,” by BuzzFeed’s Ruby Cramer: “A top Bernie Sanders official is asking Democratic leaders, including Hillary Clinton, to sign a draft letter recommitting to vastly shrinking or effectively eliminating the party’s controversial ‘superdelegates’ system — and ultimately changing the presidential nominating process.” https://bzfd.it/2qSKzNH

AL FRANKEN RESURFACING -- @rubycramer: “.@alfranken is making his first public appearance since leaving the Senate over multiple allegations of misconduct — speaking at a cybersecurity conference in Portugal next month on Cambridge Analytica and foreign-sponsored hacking.” http://bit.ly/2HTYNFS

REMEMBER POLITICO’S BRETT NORMAN -- by Jen Haberkorn: “Brett Norman, a Politico health care reporter, died Saturday. He was 43 and had pancreatic cancer. He is survived by his wife, journalist Kate Dailey; sons Everett, 4, and Owen, 2, his mother, Jean Norman; and his brother, Daniel Norman. Norman reported on the Affordable Care Act, bioethics and the pharmaceutical industry.

“‘He covered all the craziness surrounding the launch of Obamacare – and he broke the story that the very same HHS official who made a mess out of Medicare.gov later went on to make a mess out of HealthCare.gov. Brett had fun with that one,’ Politico Editor Carrie Budoff Brown, Politico Pro’s Editorial Director Marty Kady, and Executive Editor for Health Care Joanne Kenen emailed the staff. …

“Norman was a talented reporter, a caring colleague, and a valued member of the Politico Health Care Team family. He was thoughtful, smart, and had a delightfully wry wit.” https://politi.co/2HkGitf

SUNDAY BEST (CONT.) … MARGARET BRENNAN speaks to IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF on CBS’ “FACE THE NATION”: BRENNAN: “So all options are on the table for Iran too. You said that if the U.S. pulls out the outcome will be ‘unpleasant.’ What did you mean by that?”

ZARIF: “Well, first of all it will lead to U.S. isolation in the international community. The reason that President Trump has not withdrawn from the deal over the past 15 months in spite of the fact that he did not like the deal has been the fact that everybody has advised the administration that this is not a bilateral agreement between Iran and the United States and withdrawing from it would be seen by the international community as a -- an indication that the United States is not a reliable partner in the international community.

“So from the perspective of the U.S. presence in the international community it would not be pleasant for the United States -- the reaction of the international community, and as I said Iran has many options and those options are not pleasant.”

-- CHUCK TODD speaks to SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME.) on NBC’S “MEET THE PRESS”: COLLINS on COMEY: “If I were advising a future FBI, I would say two things. One, always follow the Department of Justice’s protocols and guidelines which unfortunately James Comey did not do with the Hillary Clinton investigation. And he did not do when he leaked documents that were FBI work documents to a friend of his knowing that they would go to the press. … The second would be don’t write a book in the middle of an investigation that’s ongoing.”

TODD: “Do you think this potentially disruptive to the Mueller probe?” COLLINS: “That’s what worries me. I cannot imagine why an FBI director would seek to essentially cash in on a book when the investigation is very much alive. He should’ve waited to do his memoir.”

-- AMAZING TELEVISION … WATCH CNN’S DANA BASH speak to SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TENN.) about Democrat Phil Bredesen and Republican Marsha Blackburn. https://snpy.tv/2HjWvmG

NICK JULIANO: “Interior rejected staff advice when scuttling tribes’ casino”: “Trump administration officials rejected recommendations from federal experts on Indian gaming policy when they blocked two American Indian tribes from opening a casino in Connecticut last year, documents obtained by POLITICO indicate. The heavily blacked-out documents add to questions about whether Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his political appointees buckled to lobbying pressure from MGM Resorts International, a gambling industry giant that is planning its own casino just 12 miles from the project proposed by the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes.

“Interior’s inspector general is investigating the department’s handling of the tribes’ casino application, a spokeswoman told POLITICO, after Connecticut lawmakers asked the internal watchdog to look into the matter.” https://politi.co/2HIRu6k

JENNIFER PALMIERI in POLITICO Magazine, “I Was a Top Clinton Aide. Here’s What I Think About Comey’s Book”: https://politi.co/2qNxLJk

CAMPBELL BROWN PROFILE – NYT Sunday Business cover, “Is Facebook’s Campbell Brown a Force to Be Reckoned With? Or Is She Fake News?” by Nellie Bowles (print headline: “Emergent Force at Facebook”): “Ms. Brown, 49, ... has long had to grapple with questions about whether she really has influence at the social network. ... But a year and a half into her tenure, Ms. Brown, who became a school-choice activist with close ties to conservative politics after her TV career, is emerging as a fiery negotiator for her vision of Facebook as a publishing platform, according to interviews with more than 30 people who work or who regularly interact with her. This month, Hollywood Reporter named Ms. Brown one of this year’s 35 most powerful New York media figures. Facebook — with its reach of more than 2.2 billion users — already holds enormous power over the news that people consume.

“But now it is making its first venture into licensed news content. Facebook has set aside a $90 million budget to have partners develop original news programming, and Ms. Brown is pitching publishers on making Facebook-specific news shows featuring mainstream anchors ... At one recent meeting, two publishers complained about having lost a lot of online traffic after changes to Facebook’s News Feed. According to one publisher who was present, Ms. Brown told them the company would give them more traffic if they stopped doing clickbait.” https://nyti.ms/2K54OQX

CEO CONVO -- Join POLITICO CEO Patrick Steel on Thursday morning at 11:30 a.m. for a conversation with Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft CEO and founder of USAFacts, to talk data transparency, disruption in civic and business leadership, and the government’s impact on society. RSVP https://bit.ly/2qRMfHZ

BONUS GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Daniel Lippman, filing from New York:

--“Church of The Donald: Never mind Fox. Trump’s most reliable media mouthpiece is now Christian TV,” by Ruth Graham in POLITICO Magazine’s May/June issue: “Trump has forged a particularly tight marriage of convenience with Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, which since early in the 2016 campaign has offered consistent friendly coverage and been granted remarkable access in return. Trump personally has appeared 11 times on CBN since his campaign began; in 2017 alone, he gave more interviews to CBN than to CNN, ABC or CBS.” https://politi.co/2HH9wpK

-- “Billion-Dollar Blessings,” by Alec MacGillis in ProPublica: “How Jerry Falwell Jr. transformed Liberty University, one of the religious right's most powerful institutions, into a wildly lucrative online empire.” http://bit.ly/2HMLnLX

-- “The Hardest Job in the World: What if the problem isn’t the president—it’s the presidency?” by John Dickerson on the cover of May’s Atlantic: “Until we fix the office, presidents will continue to be frustrated by its demands, and Americans will continue to be disappointed in their leader. We will enter another presidential-campaign season desperate for a good outcome, but unprepared to choose someone who can reset the terms of success.” https://theatln.tc/2K72nNQ

-- “The Chameleon,” by David Grann in the Aug. 11, 2008, issue of the New Yorker – per Longform.org’s description: “Frédéric Bourdin was an imposter. His ‘trail of cons,’ for which he used five languages and dozens of identities, extended for years across Europe and America.” http://bit.ly/2HCMjVM

-- “Sharks, zealots and the apocalypse: welcome to Steve Bannon’s movie world,” by Jon Henley in The Guardian: “[T]he exhibition [titled ‘Steve Bannon: a Propaganda Retrospective’ in Rotterdam] sets out to show how Bannon’s artistic work first foreshadowed, then shaped, the core narratives of Trumpism. … [Bannon’s films] feature a surfeit of unsubtle metaphors, from the meteorological (hurricanes, snowstorms, avalanches) to the animal (circling sharks, grizzly bears, American eagles).” http://bit.ly/2qPYVzdThe exhibit http://bit.ly/2qTmvdg

-- “Who’s Afraid of the Female Nude?” by Michael Slenske and Molly Langmuir in the Cut: “Paintings of naked women, usually by clothed men, are suddenly sitting very uncomfortably on gallery walls.” http://bit.ly/2JcFXJK

-- “My ancestor died of a splinter. Wait, what?” by Eleanor Cummins in PopSci – per TheBrowser.com’s description: “Before penicillin in 1942, the tiniest infected wound could bring fatal blood poisoning. Splinters will start killing us again, if our over-use of antibiotics encourages the evolution of antibiotic-resistant germs.” http://bit.ly/2HNVe4i

-- “OLPC’s $100 Laptop Was Going to Change the World – Then It All Went Wrong,” by Adi Robertson in The Verge: “After announcing the $100 Laptop, OLPC had one job: Make a laptop that cost $100. They slowly realized that this wasn’t going to happen. They pushed the cost to a low of $130, but only by cutting so many corners that the laptop barely worked. Even at $180 the design had major tradeoffs.” http://bit.ly/2HPjVxj (h/t Longreads.com)

-- Margaret Carlson’s remembrance of Barbara Bush in Time: “Bush was the girl who sat out the dance, fell in love at 17, and never got over marrying the dashing, lanky Yale first baseman who fell for the chubby girl whose mother wouldn’t serve her dessert. Her unspoken message: there is honor in ‘just being’ a wife and mother. It’s O.K. to be a plus size. A lined face is the price of living.” https://ti.me/2qUbfh8

-- “Truth and Consequences,” by Gerry Boyle in Colby Magazine: “Rebecca Corbett ’74 leads the New York Times team that exposed Harvey Weinstein and unleashed a tidal wave of change.” http://bit.ly/2JefNXd

-- “Engineers Are Leaving Trump’s America for the Canadian Dream,” by Karen Weise and Saritha Rai in Bloomberg Businessweek: “The long wait for green cards was bad enough. Antagonism toward immigrants is pushing skilled foreigners across the border.” https://bloom.bg/2F5o25f

-- “How Much Is a Word Worth?” by Malcolm Harris in Medium – per ALDaily.com’s description: “Who can afford to write? Magazines haven’t raised their rates since the 1950s. Even New Yorker staff writers typically don’t get health insurance.” http://bit.ly/2Jd8OOa

SPOTTED: Shaun Donovan sitting in Saturday evening traffic on the FDR in a black Audi A7.

OUT AND ABOUT IN NYC -- Pool report from “Campbell Brown’s 50th birthday party in a rooftop loft in Chelsea last night. The evening began with live musical performances by Campbell’s sons, Eli and Asher, and ended with a jam session by Jon Batiste. In between, there were toasts and video sketches by Anne Kornblut, Frank Bruni, Lester Holt, Amy Chiaro, Alex Pelosi and Dan Senor.”

SPOTTED: Joel Klein, Nicole Seligman, John Podhoretz, John Heilemann and Diana Rhoten, Dina Powell and Dave McCormack, Mark McKinnon, Allison Williams, Matt Negrin, Lee Woodruff, Romy Drucker, Tal Keinan, Ricky Van Veen, Seth Siegel, Chris Licht, Marc Sternberg, Steven Rubenstein, John Avlon and Margaret Hoover, Andrew Morris-Singer, Corey Morris-Singer, Paul Singer, Terry Kassel, Bari Weiss, Boykin Curry, Bret Stephens, Bruce Feiler, Linda Rottenberg, Chris Altchek, Charlotte Morgan, Dafna Linzer and Bart Gellman, Dan and Margaret Loeb, Jacob Weisberg and Deborah Needleman, Jared Cohen, Jay and Elena Lefkowitz, Bill Kristol, Steve Rattner and Maureen White, Katie Couric and John Milner, Kevin Delaney, Ben Smith, Tali and Boaz Weinstein, Michael Barbaro and Jake Kastan.

WEEKEND WEDDING – Paula Reid, a CBS News correspondent covering the Justice Department and the White House, on Saturday married Jason Kolsevich, a management consultant at Water Street Partners, in a ceremony at the Mansion on Turner Hill in Ipswich, Massachusetts near the bride’s hometown.

-- Pool report: “While in high school, she and her siblings worked as caterers at the Mansion. The wedding was a serendipitous alignment of circumstances for the couple. The two were once strangers who shared a similar commute on the D.C. Metro’s Orange Line, where Paula regularly caught Jason’s eye. Then, finally, her secret admirer saw her at the neighborhood Whole Foods and made a move. Two years later they danced to their first song as husband and wife.” Pic http://bit.ly/2HilCGo

BIRTHWEEK (was Thursday): Brian MacDonald, a former chief of staff serving three members of Congress from Oregon’s second congressional district, who celebrated with his family over a long weekend in Aruba (hat tip: wife Poppy MacDonald)

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Sarah Hunt, co-founder of the Joseph Rainey Center for Public Policy and partner of Cornerstone Group. A trend she thinks deserves more attention: “The potential for cryptocurrency to leap-frog financial services development and create economic empowerment for women. Cryptocurrency could help because women tend to have more structural and cultural barriers to economic independence. But to get there, we need affordable, cleaner energy to support the required computing power.” Read her Playbook Plus Q&A: https://politi.co/2Hns1fv

BIRTHDAYS: Julie Whiston, former WHCA executive director ... Joe Pounder, president of Definers Public Affairs and CEO of America Rising, is 35 (h/ts Colin Reed and Sarah Golan) ... Don Graham is 73 ... Matt Moore (h/t Alex Stroman) … Politico’s Elana Schor ... Jummy Olabanji ... ABC News’ Arlette Saenz (h/ts Jonathan Karl and Devin Dwyer) ... James Kvaal … McKinsey’s Elizabeth Ledet ... Marisa Medrano Perez ... Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) is 58 ... Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) is 54 ... Shayndi Raice, WSJ national news reporter ... CQ’s Matt Korade ... Helene Cooper, NYT Pentagon reporter ... Bob Reid, senior managing editor at Stars and Stripes ... Dahlia Lithwick ... The New Yorker’s Erica Hinsley ... Sana Ali, a South Asian security analyst and writer, is 32 ... WashPost’s Sari Horwitz ... Larry Brady ... DCCC events director Krista Jenusaitis … Kombiz Lavasany is 41 … Wade Henderson, professor at UDC Law ... Patrick Rucker of Reuters … TPM’s Allegra Kirkland ... Isabella Gomez Torres ... Allison Ehrich Bernstein, principal at Allative Communications (h/t Jon Haber) ...

… Brian Forde, an Obama W.H. alum who is a candidate in California’s 45th congressional district; he’s celebrating with a party organized by wife Alison at their house in Lake Forest with campaign staff, friends and teachers … NYC councilman Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr. ... Rick Dykema, COS for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher ... WeWork’s Anastasia Dellaccio, celebrating with a joint birthday party with Ben Chang at the Brothers & Sisters bar at the Line Hotel in D.C. this afternoon (h/ts Ben Chang and Fran Holuba) ... Zygmunt Wilf is 68 ... WaPo’s Eugene Scott ... Nicole Bamber ... Ed Walsh is 41 ... OZY’s Daniel Malloy … GM’s Allie Medack ... Maureen Mooney … Anthony Timpanaro ... FAA’s Christopher Jennison ... Evan Quinnell ... Mark Braden … Doug Lowenstein … Elisabeth Goodridge, NYT newsletter editorial director ... Adele M. Stan ... Walter Fields ... Evan Dobelle ... Lisa Davis Allison ... Kyle Osborne ... Yasmina Vinci ... Andrea Clarke ... David Barrett ... Logan Peyton-Massara ... Britt Cocanour ... Andrea LaRue ... Chung Seto (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)

French president: Putin’s idea of democracy ‘not mine’

French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday described his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, as a strong leader but one who carries an idea of democracy that “is not mine.”

“I think he’s a very strong man, he’s a strong president,” Macron said on “Fox News Sunday.” “He wants a great Russia. People are proud with his policy. He is extremely tough with minorities and his opponents with an idea of democracy, which is not mine.”

Macron avoided weighing in on the special counsel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, saying it doesn’t affect how France interacts with President Donald Trump.

“To me, there is no impact,” Macron said.

“[The] people of the United States voted for President Trump and elected him. You have your system. You are a free country with a rule of law … here in this office. I am not the one to judge — or in a certain way to explain — to your people [who] should be your president."

Macron did call on Trump to abandon his recently announced steel and aluminum tariffs, or make an exemption for the European Union.

“I hope he will not implement these new tariffs, and he will decide to — for an exemption for the European Union,” Macron said. “You don’t make trade war with your allies.”

Trump tempers expectations on North Korea

President Donald Trump cautioned Sunday against any sweeping declarations on how his administration's policy with North Korea will turn out, saying "only time will tell."

"We are a long way from conclusion on North Korea, maybe things will work out, and maybe they won’t - only time will tell," the president wrote on Twitter. ".... But the work I am doing now should have been done a long time ago!"

Trump and his administration are preparing for a possible historic meeting between the president and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in late May or June. Last week, media reports revealed — and the president subsequently confirmed — that CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Trump’s pick to be his next secretary of state, met secretly with Kim around the beginning of April.

In a sign of possible things to come, North Korea announced Friday that it is immediately halting nuclear and missile tests, but experts say the toughest obstacles to a peace deal remain.

The president attacked "Meet the Press" moderator Chuck Todd for his coverage of the run-up to the talks — the second time in as many days that Trump personally attacked a journalist.

"Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd of Fake News NBC just stated that we have given up so much in our negotiations with North Korea, and they have given up nothing," Trump wrote on Twitter. "Wow, we haven’t given up anything & they have agreed to denuclearization (so great for World), site closure, & no more testing!"

Trump appears to be responding to an appearancece by Todd on NBC's "Today" show on which the Sunday show host previewed what was to come. NBC's Hallie Jackson asked Todd for his analysis on what the U.S. is gaining for North Korea's apparent concessions.

"Look, the tone in itself, obviously is a positive development ... but I have to tell you, there are a lot of people asking, there are not many preconditions that the United States is asking for," Todd told Jackson, according to video of their exchange. "So far, the North Koreans have gotten a lot out of this potential summit. What has the United States gotten out of it? We don't have release of those Americans that they've held captive. We don't have a pledge of denuclearization as the ultimate goal."

#MeToo movement lawmaker made anti-Asian comments

SAN FRANCISCO — California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, the prominent #MeToo activist now under investigation for groping and sexual harassment of former legislative staffers, was reprimanded by former Assembly Speaker John Perez in 2014 for making racially insensitive comments directed toward Asians.

Perez confirmed to POLITICO on Saturday that he had to “strongly admonish” Garcia after she made comments against Asians in a closed-door Assembly Democratic Caucus meeting in 2014 — the same year in which she also acknowledged using homophobic slurs aimed at Perez, the first openly gay speaker of the California State Assembly.

Sources familiar with the incident say Garcia’s anti-Asian remarks came during a legislative battle that arose when Asian-American community activists successfully lobbied to defeat a Democratic proposal to overturn California’s ban on affirmative action in college admissions. They argued that such a move could hurt Asian student admission rates.

Perez in mid-March 2014 announced a move to return the bill to the Senate without any action from the Assembly, effectively blocking its advance.

Garcia, the sources said, erupted in anger during a tense meeting of the entire Assembly Democratic caucus.

“This makes me feel like I want to punch the next Asian person I see in the face,” according to sources present at the meeting and other legislative sources who were told about the comments in the immediate aftermath.

Perez said no formal action was ever taken after the incident. Asked whether Garcia ever apologized to the Asian-American community or to her fellow legislators for the comments, Perez said, “If she did, I am unaware of it.”

The revelations about Garcia’s past use of racially insensitive language come as political troubles continue to mount for the Bell Gardens Democrat, who, sources say, is preparing to return to the Assembly after a voluntary leave of absence and run for reelection.

Her leave followed POLITICO’s report of a formal complaint that she groped a former legislative staffer after a legislative softball game. She also faces allegations, also first reported by POLITICO, that she sexually harassed David John Kernick, a former staff member in her office, allegedly urging him and other staffers to play “spin the bottle” after a night of drinking in 2014.

Garcia has strongly denied the allegations, calling them part of a political witch hunt.

She did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

The growing cloud around Garcia prompted the powerhouse California Building and Construction Trades Council last week to launch a rare independent expenditure campaign against an incumbent Democratic assemblywoman. The campaign to block Garcia’s reelection bid in her East Los Angeles district — which sources say could involve hundreds of thousands of dollars — is titled “Working Californians Against Corruption’’ and was filed on the California secretary of state’s website on Friday.

“The Building Trades join in the chorus of outrage over Assemblymember Garcia’s reprehensible behavior — from allegations of sexual assault and harassment, to her admitted use of hate speech against Speaker Emeritus Perez and the LGBTQ community, to her flimsy excuses for bad behavior that is not acceptable for an elected official,’’ said Erin Lehane, a spokeswoman for the organization.

Lehane told POLITICO that while the influential union has been among Garcia’s strongest supporters in the past, her “overwhelming hypocrisy” now calls for a reversal, especially since “the trades have thousands of hard-working members living in Garcia’s district.”

Said Lehane: “We look forward to lifting up another Democrat in the 58th Assembly District to better represent them and their families.”

Asked for reaction to the union move to unseat Garcia, Democratic Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, through campaign spokesman Bill Wong, vowed to defend her and lambasted the new campaign as “a thinly veiled attempt by Big Oil and polluters to intimidate me and my members.”

Calling the effort “an affront to my speakership,’’ Rendon said, “We are proud of the work that the Assembly has done to increase jobs and wages while defending our environment.” He added: “We will vigorously defend the members of our caucus from any ill-advised political attack."

Rendon appeared to be referring to a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times on Friday, paid for in part by the same union, which urged California Democrats to protect blue-collar workers and “real jobs that fuel the California economy” — including those in the oil and gas industry — instead of aligning with “ivory tower elites.”

Kevin Liao, spokesman for Rendon’s speaker’s office, refused comment on the ad Saturday. But he later posted — then deleted — a tweet with an image of a hitman from the TV show “The Wire,’’ which carried the message: “You come at the king; you best not miss.”

Prior to the allegations of sexual misconduct, Garcia had won national media attention in 2017 for speaking out against sexual harassment and was one of hundreds of Sacramento women who signed an October letter with the hashtag #WeSaidEnough protesting harassment. She appeared last year as part of Time’s cover story on “Silence Breakers,” which honored the activists of the #MeToo movement.

Since then, however, she’s been subject to a legislative investigation over allegations of sexual harassment and groping. And in a March interview with KQED radio, Garcia acknowledged referring to Perez as a “homo” and said she used “candid language” in what she believed was a “safe space” of her office.

Kernick, the former Garcia staffer, told POLITICO the legislator also used the slur “faggot” to refer to Perez in the wake of the affirmative action debate, though Garcia has denied that.

Garcia has since issued a public apology to Perez for calling him a “homo,’’ saying she made that remark “in a moment of anger.’’ She noted that “I have a long and chronicled history of being a straight ally of the LGBTQ community.”

The former speaker said that he has never received any direct communication from Garcia after she acknowledged referring to him using homophobic language.

Aside from the fallout from her comments and the union campaign against her, Garcia faces another complicating factor in her reelection.

POLITICO has found that the Democratic lawmaker has embellished a part of her résumé — her claim to hold a master’s degree from UCLA — marking the second time in her legislative career that Garcia has been discovered to have made false claims about her educational background.

Officials of the university confirmed to POLITICO that Garcia has never attended the school.

In Garcia’s first bid for elective office in 2010, the East Los Angeles candidate claimed to have a Ph.D. from USC. But during her 2012 reelection bid, the Los Cerritos News reported Garcia’s claim was false, a revelation that prompted Garcia to issue a statement admitting she had exaggerated her educational credentials.

“While I have finished all of my course work, I technically am only a Ph.D. candidate. I have yet to finish the final process of my Ph.D., which is defending my dissertation. I will fulfill that final responsibility in the near future,’’ she said.

Garcia has since scrubbed that claim from her official Assembly website. USC officials told POLITICO that Garcia was enrolled as a doctoral candidate at the university from 2002 until 2010, and again briefly in 2016 — but that “no degree was ever conferred.”

The current edition of the California Target Book — a widely respected reference book on California politics — states that Garcia holds a master’s degree from UCLA, a claim that also appears in the 2017-18 edition of the California Legislative Digest.

Publishers of both books — reference volumes used by hundreds of legislative staffers, press and elected officials in the Capitol annually — say they do no original reporting but instead rely on material directly from legislative sources.

Target Book publisher Darry Sragow says Garcia’s office has never asked to correct that record.

How Emmanuel Macron Became the New Leader of the Free World

Europe’s most dynamic political leader, Emmanuel Macron, pays a state visit to Washington this week. The French president has struck up a surprisingly cordial relationship with President Donald Trump, especially when you consider that Macron has emerged as the West’s most formidable opponent of the kind of populist nationalism Trump channels here.

Speaking last week to the European Parliament, Macron warned of a “European civil war” and urged the European Union to defend liberal democracy against a surging tide of illiberal nationalism. “Faced with the authoritarianism that surrounds us everywhere, the answer is not authoritarian democracy, but the authority of democracy,” he declared.

The JFK-style antithesis was a reminder that U.S. presidents used to give stirring speeches like this in Europe. But that’s not happening today because Trump identifies more with the other side—with right-wing nativists and neo-nationalists who want to keep immigrants out; raise barriers to global commerce; weaken or leave the EU to protect “national sovereignty;” and, especially in Eastern European countries like Hungary and Poland, undermine internal checks on strongman rule.

In effect, Macron has stepped audaciously into the vacuum created by Trump’s abdication of America’s historic role as keeper of the liberal democratic flame. Although some have anointed Germany’s Angela Merkel the new “leader of the free world,” she’s been preoccupied with shoring up a weak coalition government and stanching defections from her conservative base to the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

In addition to being Trump’s ideological opposite, Macron can be viewed as something of a beacon for progressives hoping to find their way back to the halls of power across the democratic world. As a progressive, young outsider who rode a wave of voter revolt against the governing establishment, Macron managed to capture the populist’s insurgent spirit without embracing their reactionary demands. That, in a nutshell, is the task facing other progressive parties as they struggle to expand their popular appeal.


Across Western democracies, the populist/nationalist tide has submerged the old left-right axis and carved out new political fault lines based on education, ethnicity and geography; it pits an aging white working class—many of whom supported progressive parties in the past—and cultural traditionalists in the countryside against newcomers, cosmopolitan elites and the young, who feel at home in a borderless, multicultural world.

Center-right parties throughout Europe have weathered the revolt by co-opting some of the nationalists’ demands. Britain’s Conservatives put Brexit to a popular vote to undercut the rising appeal of the anti-immigration and anti-Europe UK Independence Party; UKIP collapsed and Britain is leaving the EU. In Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, ultranationalists have come to power by promising to defend what Hungarian President Viktor Orban calls their “cultural homogeneity” against “mass migration” and refugees, even though relatively few have made their way to Eastern Europe. The Czech prime minister, billionaire Andrej Babis, proudly calls himself the “Czech Donald Trump.” And even Germany’s mildly conservative Merkel is calling for limits on refugees following the far-right’s shocking gains last year.

These populist gains have come mostly at progressives’ expense.

In March, Italy’s incumbent center-left Democrats won a mere 19 percent of seats in Parliament despite presiding over a modest economic rebound. Germany’s Social Democrats, after a poor electoral showing in September, have again joined Merkel’s governing coalition as junior partners. Last March, the Dutch Labor Party was all but wiped out, dropping from the second-largest party in Parliament to the seventh. Then there’s the baffling case of Britain’s Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn, which seems to be marching back in time to a socialist Stonehenge and resigning itself to a strategy of regaining power only by waiting for people to tire of the Tories and turn to them by default.

Across the U.S., many Democrats seem to have the same idea. Following big off-year victories in Virginia, Alabama and Pennsylvania, and House Speaker Paul Ryan’s decision to pack it in, Democrats are positively giddy about the prospects for riding Trump’s low approval ratings and their own motivated base to big gains in this fall’s midterm elections.

But Democrats face a structural problem: over the past decade, their base has narrowed both geographically and demographically. It’s true that Trump is the great unifier, if only of Democrats. Unity in resistance, however, doesn’t matter if your base isn’t big enough to win elections.

What’s sorely missing—both in the U.S. and throughout Europe—is a genuinely progressive alternative to populism. Saddled with shopworn ideas and unable to offer voters a hopeful and forward-looking counterpoint to today’s splenetic and vengeful populism, center-left parties are sliding into irrelevance.

Macron appears to be the great exception to this baleful trend. He grasped that neither of France’s dominant parties—his own Socialists, or the center-right Republicans—were strong enough to withstand the populist gale alone. So in the midst of a national election he formed an entirely new party, La République en Marche, which cannibalized the more pragmatic elements of both the Socialists and the center-right Republicans.

Challenging the status quo from what Macron calls the “radical center” was a breathtaking political gamble. He got lucky when a corruption scandal brought down his main center-right rival. In any event, Macron went on to defeat both Marine le Pen, leader of the far-right populist National Front, and ultraleft demagogue Jean-Luc Melenchon in the second round of presidential voting. Astonishingly,En Marche subsequently won 308 of the 577 seats in the lower house of Parliament.

France’s Socialists imploded, polling just 6 percent in the presidential contest, and losing 90 percent of their seats in Parliament. The Republicans fared somewhat better, but still lost 40 percent of their seats. Rebuffed yet again by French voters, the National Front has rebranded itself “National Rally” in an effort to shed its anti-Semitic baggage, and has backed way from its promise to pull France out of the eurozone.

For now, at least, Macron hasn’t just won an election, he’s realigned French politics.


How did he do it? I put that question to top Macron advisers and En Marche members during a recent visit to Paris. They emphasized the radical challenge Macron poses to France’s insular and petrified political establishment. The Macronistas regard him not as a centrist in the sense of lying between the mainstream parties, but as outsider come to revivify France’s distinctive political and cultural traditions. His governing philosophy is purposefully elusive, borrowing ideas from the left and right. As a key adviser explained it, the Macron agenda is to “protect and liberate”—to buffer people against the vicissitudes of markets while taking long overdue steps to liberalize France’s economy.

Macron knows his first and most important task is to break with a stultified governing class and political economy that has produced the same result—economic stagnation—regardless of whether the center-right or center-left is in power. He’s widely seen as France’s last bastion against the populist-nationalist revolt. After Macron (should he fail), le deluge.

Over the past three decades, France has been a laggard in EU growth. Unemployment has been stuck at around 10 percent—and close to 25 percent for immigrants and the young, who have a hard time cracking France’s rigid labor markets. In the name of égalité, France has achieved something like the opposite: growing poverty and a two-tiered labor market consisting of workers “protected” by a thick carapace of laws and vulnerable workers on temporary job contracts.

Macron immediately pushed through labor market reforms that make it easier to fire workers, limit wrongful-dismissal suits and awards, and allow labor negotiations to take place at the firm level rather than industry-wide. He’s advocating changes in unemployment insurance and working to merge France’s 37 separate retirement systems into a single universal system. Macron’s energy and decisiveness, his advisers believe, reinforce the impression that he is not a typical politician, but a young man in a hurry (he just turned 40) who actually delivers on his promises.

The Macron mystique now faces its sternest test. France’s rail unions have launched intermittent strikes to protest a Macron-backed law that ends the state’s monopoly on passenger rail, as well as jobs for life and early retirement for new hires.

“This is a defining moment for Macron,” says veteran French journalist Pierre Haski, noting that rail strikes derailed the last serious attempt to reform labor markets by a center-right government in 1995. This time, however, Macron has the solid backing of Parliament and of the French public, 61 percent of whom want the government to go ahead with the reforms.

Meanwhile, Macron’s ambitious plans to strengthen the eurozone are meeting resistance in Europe. During the French election, Macron pointedly refused to bend to the prevailing winds of Euroskepticism blowing across the continent. On the contrary, he’s pushing for even deeper integration of eurozone economies, including creating a new post of finance minister, a joint budget for investment, harmonization of national business tax rates and even a separate eurozone Parliament. The idea is to put the eurozone on a par with the U.S. and Chinese behemoths. Among young people in France, “Macron has made Europe cool again,” says Lena Morozo of EuropaNova, a Paris think tank.

Germany, however, is notably cool to Macron’s package of reforms, and a group of small northern European countries has objected as well. Macron’s characteristically bold response is to bypass officialdom and take his case directly to European voters during next year’s elections for the EU Parliament. He’ll likely rely on the same social media wizardry his aides say helped them to field candidates for the LREM in last year’s parliamentary elections.

Ultimately, Macron wants France to take its place alongside Germany as the dual-core driver of a united Europe. “France has a voice and a role to play,” Macron has said. “But this role cannot be played and your voice is not even listened to, if you don’t perform at home.”


High on Macron’s agenda for this week’s talks with Trump is climate change. After Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, Macron puckishly called for “making our planet great again.” Aides describe him as “determined” to draw Washington back into global efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The same determination was evident in Macron’s approach to Syria. France joined the United States and U.K. in bombing chemical weapons facilities in Syria. “We had reached a point where these strikes were necessary to give back the international community some credibility,” Macron said in response to criticism from Le Pen and Melenchon. “When you fix red lines, if you don’t know how to make sure they are respected, you’re choosing to be weak.”

In recent days, Macron claimed to talk Trump into reversing his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. The White House subsequently denied that was the case. Nonetheless, it’s clear that despite his evident rapport with Trump, Macron is not shy about pushing back against the U.S. president’s aggressive unilateralism on all fronts. Students of Franco-American relations will savor the irony of a French president being more deeply committed than an American president to preserving Western unity.

Finally, Macron understands the power of grand narratives in forging consensus in diverse, liberal societies. “Post-modernism was the worst thing that could have happened to our democracy,” he told Der Spiegel in October, “because it destroyed the idea of a convincing national myth, and with it the possibility of a feeling of national unity and purpose.”

Macron’s inspirational narrative stresses a reinvigoration of his country’s republican principles, rooted in the liberal ethos of the European Enlightenment, to create a strong France worthy of leading a strong Europe.

The national populists are offering an alternative myth of their own: That of ordinary working people betrayed by elites, victimized by globalization, imperiled by immigrants, threatened by multiculturalism and losing their national and cultural identity.

Languishing out of power almost everywhere, progressives urgently need a coherent and optimistic account of the future they want to build. Instead of flirting with left-wing populism, they’d be better off embracing Macron’s call for a new radicalism of the liberal democratic center. “Why can't there be such a thing as democratic heroism?” Macron asked rhetorically in his Der Spiegel interview. “Perhaps exactly that is our task: rediscovering something like that together for the 21st century.”

If progressives hope to regain the ground they’ve lost in the dark years of the recent past, they ought to live up to their name, and make themselves parties of hope and progress. That’s the best riposte to populist scapegoating and panaceas, and the best way to bring new voters into the fold.

Interior rejected staff advice when scuttling tribes' casino

Trump administration officials rejected recommendations from federal experts on Indian gaming policy when they blocked two American Indian tribes from opening a casino in Connecticut last year, documents obtained by POLITICO indicate.

The heavily blacked-out documents add to questions about whether Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his political appointees buckled to lobbying pressure from MGM Resorts International, a gambling industry giant that is planning its own casino just 12 miles from the project proposed by the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes.

Interior’s inspector general is investigating the department’s handling of the tribes’ casino application, a spokeswoman told POLITICO, after Connecticut lawmakers asked the internal watchdog to look into the matter.

The documents, released under the Freedom of Information Act, don’t reveal the contents of the internal deliberations by the staff of the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Office of Indian Gaming. But they show that the career staffers were circulating what they labeled “approval” letters just 48 hours before their political bosses reversed course and refused to either OK or reject the tribes’ application — a nondecision that left the Indians’ East Windsor project in legal limbo.

To fight off the potential competition, MGM spent heavily on lobbyists, including George W. Bush-era Interior Secretary Gale Norton and firms with ties to the Trump administration, while enlisting the assistance of friendly lawmakers such as Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei. MGM lobbyists and the two Nevada Republicans held a handful of meetings and conversations with Associate Deputy Secretary James Cason in the months and days before he edited Interior’s letter holding up the tribes’ plans.

A spokesman for the tribes’ casino project said they were caught off guard by Interior's about-face and are glad to see the department's internal watchdog probing the matter.

"We are grateful there's an IG investigation into this issue because since last fall, none of the department's actions have passed the smell test,” said Andrew Doba, a spokesman for MMCT Venture, the company the tribes formed to own and operate the new casino. “Something clearly happened to pollute the process, which should be problematic for an administration that promised to drain the swamp."

The tribes have also sued, arguing that Zinke ignored his responsibilities under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to either approve or reject their application in a timely manner and to act to protect the tribes' interests.

Cason and spokespeople for Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs did not respond to requests for comment.

But the emails show that even Interior’s career staff was unsure how it would explain the sudden about-face.

“As for why we didn’t approve the Mohegan compact amendment, you say the letter speaks for itself,” Troy Woodward, a senior policy adviser in the Office of Indian Gaming, wrote in a Sept. 26 email to a colleague who anticipated having to answer questions about it at a gaming industry conference. And “like Forrest Gump, say: ‘that’s all I’ve got to say about that.’”

The dispute is complicated by the peculiarities of federal law on Indian gaming, which seeks to promote tribes’ economic development but also discourages the spread of off-reservation gambling. The two Connecticut tribes, which already operate two lucrative casinos on their reservations, are exploring a gray area with their proposed third casino, which a jointly owned private company would operate on nonreservation land.

MGM, which plans to open a casino later this year in nearby Springfield, Massachusetts, says the tribes’ approach would set a worrisome precedent for other states.

“This is an unusual situation, and we’re kind of pushing the bounds on IGRA,” says Kathryn Rand, dean of the University of North Dakota School of Law and a co-director of its Institute for the Study of Tribal Gaming Law and Policy. Rand is not affiliated with MGM or the Connecticut tribes.

The newly released documents do not show any effort by MGM to make its case to experts in BIA’s Indian gaming office. They also indicate that Interior officials closest to Indian gaming issues were ready to side with the tribes after about six weeks of internal review.

Instead, Interior reversed course with little official explanation less than 48 hours after their recommendations went to Cason, a veteran of the previous three Republican administrations who was one of President Donald Trump’s first hires at the department.

On Sept. 11, Woodward emailed around copies of “the edited letters for Pequot and Mohegan,” which he said had “been through the surname process,” a system for internal review. The contents of the letters were redacted, but each was about two pages long, and file names referred to both as “draft approvl” letters.

The following day, Woodward alerted colleagues that “Jim wants some changes,” referring to Cason. But on Sept. 13, Woodward still sent “approval” letters “for Mike Black’s signature,” referring to the then-acting assistant secretary for Indian affairs, along with a notice the department was required to publish in the Federal Register. Again, the attachments were redacted, but each was two pages long.

A day later, "Jim’s edits" came back, and the documents were no longer referred to as “approval” letters.

Instead, Black signed a one-page letter on Sept. 15 informing the tribes that it would be “premature and likely unnecessary” to weigh in on their gaming applications at all.

Returning the applications without approving or disapproving them appears to be an option Interior officials did not consider until earlier that day. A pair of redacted memos circulated that morning, including one “regarding Secretarial Authority to not act on a compact,” according to its title.

It is unclear precisely what happened over those days, but by then Cason had received ample input from MGM and its allies. As early as June, Cason met with a senior adviser to Zinke and a lobbyist from Ballard Partners, a Trump-connected firm MGM hired last year, to discuss issues related to the company, according to his calendars. And he was in touch with MGM supporters several more times over the intervening months up to the days before Interior’s response was being finished.

On Sept. 13, Cason met with Amodei, and the following day he had a teleconference with Heller, according to Cason’s calendar. MGM is a major employer in Nevada, and both lawmakers had previously raised concerns about the Connecticut tribes’ proposals and the potential expansion of off-reservation gambling.

Cason’s Sept. 14 meeting with Heller included some officials who were working on the Connecticut case, according to his calendar and the BIA emails. Later that day, Cason joined Zinke at a meeting at the White House with Rick Dearborn, Trump’s deputy chief of staff for policy.

The president has his own history of clashes with the Mashantucket Pequot, whose Foxwoods Casino competed with his Atlantic City properties to draw gamblers from New York City. “They don’t look like Indians to me,” Trump infamously declared in a 1993 congressional hearing.

Several weeks after Interior released its decision, Norton sent Zinke a 24-page memo outlining legal arguments in support of the decision on behalf of MGM. Among the evidence she cited was Trump's congressional testimony, though not that particular phrase.

"Supreme Court precedent and President Trump's testimony counsel against approving Connecticut's discriminatory framework, the sole function of which is to grant MMCT, a private corporation, a monopoly over commercial, off-reservation, state-regulated gaming," the former Interior secretary wrote in her Oct. 30 memo to Zinke.

Black’s ambiguous Sept. 15 letter, which Cason had edited, left the tribes unable to proceed with their planned casino.

The tribes’ lawsuit is pending in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, and MGM has asked to intervene in the case, although both Interior and the tribes say it does not have standing to do so.

The case hinges on dueling interpretations of the goals of the Indian gaming law — essentially, whether more weight should be given to IGRA’s goal of supporting tribes’ economic prospects or its prohibitions on off-reservation gaming in most circumstances.

In court filings, Interior has also stressed the importance of procedural differences between the two tribes’ prior gaming agreements, which it says should prevent the Mashantucket Pequot from participating in the case at all. While the Mohegan tribe was operating under a state gaming compact, the Mashantucket were never able to reach an agreement with Connecticut officials back in the 1980s — so Foxwoods has been operating under the terms of “secretarial procedures” authorized under a different section of the law.

The law says amendments to gaming compacts, such as the Mohegan's, must be approved within 45 days unless Interior can demonstrate that their terms violate federal law or the department’s trust responsibilities to the tribe. But it contains no such deadline for secretarial procedures such as the Mashantucket Pequot's.

Interior and MGM say that because the department has no obligation to act on the Pequot's proposed amendment, the entire case is effectively moot. However, the newly disclosed emails suggest that career officials were aware of that distinction throughout their review and did not see it as a reason to deny the tribes’ request.

Rand, the law school dean, said courts have not previously grappled with the issue. “That I think is a real interesting and open question that we wouldn’t have a whole lot to go on,” she said.

This case is also unusual because of the nature of the two tribes at issue and the lucrative market the two sides are battling over.

“That might be a bit implicit in MGM’s arguments — that the Mohegans and the Pequots aren’t acting like tribal governments in this enterprise, they’re operating like competitors. And because of their status ... they don’t need the protection that other tribes do,” Rand said in an interview. “The counterargument, of course, is that tribal sovereignty doesn’t depend on whether the tribe needs the federal government’s help. Tribal sovereignty is just a fact.”

Black’s Sept. 15 letter also does not mention the procedural difference between the tribes as a factor in deciding to return the applications without acting on them.

GOP split as banks take on gun industry

Major banks are cutting off business with the gun industry, roiling Republicans who want to respect the financial decisions of private institutions while still showing their unyielding support of the Second Amendment.

Some Republicans, enraged at moves by Citigroup and Bank of America to distance themselves from some retailers and gun manufacturers, have called on government agencies to cancel contracts with the banks and defer deregulation proposals that would benefit them. But other Republicans want to keep their hands off, saying lenders are free to decide who they do business with.

It's a conundrum that puts the free-market principles at odds with gun rights, and Republicans across the board are genuinely split over how to react to moves by some of the biggest financial institutions in the country.

"I'm not writing a law that says you can't do it — I just think it's dumb and it's dangerous waters," Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) said. "I have a pretty high bar before I'm going to go in and tell the private sector what they should and shouldn't be doing."

Conservatives who have begun to speak out say it's justified given the fundamental role the government plays in allowing the giant banks to operate, including the massive bailouts that shored up their operations during the Wall Street meltdown a decade ago.

"It is a blurrier area," said Senate Banking Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), the most senior lawmaker to have started to push back against the banks, which his powerful panel oversees.

Citigroup was the first to provoke the backlash. In March, the bank — the nation's fourth-largest by assets — announced new limits on its retail clients' firearms sales. The bank argued that after cycles of "tragedy and inaction," it was taking steps to prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands.

As Citigroup began to grapple with the controversy, a top official at Bank of America made a surprise announcement that her bank would also respond to the epidemic of gun violence. In an April 10 television interview, BofA Vice Chairman Anne Finucane said the bank will stop lending to the manufacturers of military-style firearms for civilian use. The bank has said next to nothing about the policy since.

The announcements set off one of the GOP's most outspoken populists, Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, who has asked an expanding list of federal and state officials to cut off the banks from government contracts. He has also discouraged Republican leadership from taking up regulatory rollbacks that would benefit banks’ trading operations.

Kennedy is a member of the Banking Committee, where in the past two weeks he has forced some of President Donald Trump's appointees to weigh in on the issue in hearings. He has framed Citi and Bank of America's decision as putting America on a path to "red banks and blue banks." He has also suggested that Citi might be running afoul of federal, state and local laws.

One of the regulators responding to Kennedy, acting Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Mick Mulvaney, said the banks' actions were "troubling" and noted that he didn't do business with either one. But — underscoring the GOP's internal tension on the issue — Mulvaney said he was hesitant to have his bureau intervene.

For Kennedy, the banks' heavy reliance on the government — in particular their bailouts — supersedes considerations of their rights as private entities.

"If they're going to come crying to the American taxpayer and say, 'We goofed up and you've got to bail us out, it's good for America,' then they ought to stay out of people's politics," he said in an interview.

"Frankly, they ought to stay out of Congress' politics. That's our job to legislate with respect to the Second Amendment, and the United States Supreme Court's job to interpret the Constitution. I would be offended by it if they came out in support of the Second Amendment. If they want to be involved in politics, the CEO ought to quit and run for Congress."

Kennedy has found a powerful ally in Crapo.

Crapo's legacy atop the committee will likely be a sweeping bank deregulation bill that would disentangle both large and small lenders from government oversight. But he is also a staunch Second Amendment advocate who opposes gun control.

A case in point was an Obama-era Justice Department program known as "Operation Choke Point," framed as an initiative to root out fraud by banks and payment processors. Crapo led the charge against the program because he said it threatened to cut off banking services to guns and ammunition businesses.

"I understand that's the government and these are private-sector companies, but they're federally chartered banks, and there's a lot of federal management that goes into the operation of our banking system,” Crapo said in an interview. “So I'm concerned."

On Thursday, Crapo and Kennedy pressed Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Randal Quarles — a Trump appointee — to weigh in on the issue in a committee hearing. Quarles told Crapo that bank decisions on whether to do business with the the gun industry "are really outside of our remit."

Across the Capitol, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee who wrote legislation to terminate the “Choke Point” program — which Republicans said threatened the gun industry — said Citigroup and Bank of America were making business decisions.

"While I disagree with their decision, and I think it's an important industry that we need to be funding, it is a business decision that they can make on their own," he said. "They get to decide what industries they finance and which ones they don't. It's up to them."

At least 16 of his House colleagues appear to disagree. The group, including Reps. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) and Steve King (R-Iowa), sent a letter earlier this month to the General Services Administration asking it to cancel Citigroup's federal contract for charge card and payment services with hundreds of government agencies.

"This flagrant attempt to undermine our fundamental rights by caving to radicals should not be endorsed by our federal government," they said.

Citigroup spokesman Rob Runyan said in a statement: “There are millions of Americans who use firearms for recreational and other legitimate purposes, and we respect their Constitutional right to do so. Our policy is based on sales best practices that are designed to prevent firearms from getting into the wrong hands and are currently followed by many of our clients. We always act in accordance with federal, state and local laws.”

Wells Fargo, the nation's third-largest bank, has faced pressure from the opposite end of the political spectrum. On Thursday, the American Federation of Teachers, a major union, announced it would no longer recommend the bank's mortgage lending program to its 1.7 million members because of its ties to the gun industry.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said Wells Fargo "won’t value children and teachers above guns," but she praised its peers for taking action.

"Bank of America and Citi’s decisions to make safer, more responsible decisions about how they interact with gun companies sets an example for the rest of the financial world, and it’s shameful — though not surprising — that Republicans, who are some of the [National Rifle Association]’s best friends, take issue with it," she said. "The NRA and their bullying shouldn’t stop any company from doing the right thing on gun safety.”

Wells Fargo spokesman Alan Elias said the bank also wants schools to be safe from gun violence but that "changes to laws and regulations should be determined through a legislative process that gives the American public an opportunity to participate and not be arbitrarily set by a bank."

"We do not believe that the American public wants banks to decide which legal products consumers can and cannot buy," he said.

‘We’ve never seen a campaign start this early, ever’

COLUMBIA, S.C. — The first presidential contests of 2020 are nearly two years away, but for one Democrat the campaign is already in full swing. John Delaney — a wealthy, little-known congressman from Maryland — has spent more than $1 million on TV in Iowa, hired staffers and opened a campaign office in Des Moines.

Since announcing his bid last July, he’s made 110 campaign stops in 48 of Iowa’s 99 counties. He has visited New Hampshire six times, and on Friday made his second trek to South Carolina.

“We’ve never seen a campaign start this early, ever,” said Troy Price, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party.

While higher-profile Democrats remain coy about their intentions, Delaney is unabashedly in. But in his massive investment of time and resources — his Iowa TV buy marks the earliest significant paid advertising from a presidential candidate in memory — he is testing the limits of a virtually unknown politician’s ability to gain early-state traction by starting first and spending heavily.

“What is Delaney running for?” Stuart Sprague, a local Democratic Party official in South Carolina asked the staffer behind a booth where Delaney’s campaign plied activists with yogurt-coated pretzels at a state party fundraiser here.

Told that he was running for president, Sprague gulped, “Of the United States?” He added, “Who is John Delaney?”

The odds confronting Delaney are enormous. The Democratic field is shaping up to be historically large — and it’s likely to be filled with some of the party’s biggest stars — while the former banker is barely known outside his home state.

He runs so far under the radar that his name has not even been included in many early national polls. In the latest Granite State Poll, in February, conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, Delaney registered at less than 1 percent among likely Democratic primary voters. That ranked behind every major prospective candidate, and also “other,” at 4 percent.

Still, Delaney runs undeterred.

“I think I’m the right person for the job, and I have the right vision, but not enough people know who I am,” Delaney, 55, said before arriving in South Carolina. “The way you solve that problem is by getting in early.”

Delaney added, “I think I’m going to win.”

In his TV advertisements, Delaney first introduced Iowans to his blue-collar upbringing and business and government credentials, while pledging to usher in a new era of bipartisanship. This month, he went up with a more pointed ad criticizing President Donald Trump’s decision to set new tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, saying “his trade war could devastate our manufacturing and farming economies and raise prices on hard-working Americans.”

Iowa media markets are so inexpensive that by spending more than $1 million on television, Delaney has mustered significant reach. Jeff Link, an Iowa Democratic strategist who hosted an event for Delaney at his house in March, said that when he asked people whether they were coming, many told him, “Oh, that’s the guy on TV.”

In Iowa, Link said, $1 million “goes a long way.”

“I think getting here early is helpful in that people get to see you a couple of times,” he said. “He’s a smart guy; he’s a very serious guy. … And, he has a good message.”

Price said Democratic activists in Iowa are focused on this year’s midterm elections but that Delaney is “doing a good job kind of building his name ID and recognition out there. … Certainly, among the activists, I hear people talking about him.”

In New Hampshire, Jim Demers, a longtime fixture in the state’s Democratic politics, said that while Delaney remains largely unknown to most voters, “with Democratic activists, he’s sort of in the middle category of ‘somewhat known,’ and he moved up to that category by coming to New Hampshire and doing a lot of visits.”

With so much time before the 2020 primaries, Demers said, Delaney’s stock could improve. However, he said, “I do think that when you look at some of the people who may be in this race, it’s going to be a struggle.”

Delaney left South Carolina on Saturday to speak at a Democratic summit in Maryland, then planned, as he does every Monday, to convene a staff meeting in Washington to plot campaign strategy for the week. He is focused almost exclusively on Iowa and New Hampshire.

“I view us as running a full-scale campaign at this point,” Delaney said. “The way I think about it kind of simply is, there are six congressional districts in Iowa and New Hampshire. … I’m doing all the things you would do to run a congressional campaign times six in those states.”

Jeffrey Zients, a former economic adviser to President Barack Obama and a friend of Delaney, said, “He’s decided there’s an opportunity, and he’s executing on it. He’s working hard.”

Delaney’s supporters often point to Jimmy Carter as an example of a candidate able to capitalize on early campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire. But Carter was a governor. And that was more than 40 years ago. The last time a member of the House won the presidency was 1880, when James Garfield pulled off the feat.

Yet precedent is the least of Delaney’s obstacles. Aside from his low profile — even by House standards — the three-term congressman cuts a more moderate profile than much of the Democratic Party’s increasingly leftward-shifting base.

He is skeptical of single-payer health care and supported President Barack Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which was opposed by both Sen. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in 2016. But Delaney said divisions within the Democratic Party are overblown, with most of America disinterested in “a lot of the things that people are obsessed with here in Washington.”

“I think the central question facing the United States of America in 2020 is how do we take this terribly fractured nation and begin to unify it so that we can start to work for the American citizens,” Delaney said. “And I think I’m the person to answer that question.”

On Friday, Delaney spoke at the South Carolina Democratic Party’s Blue Palmetto dinner, then walked several blocks to Rep. Jim Clyburn’s annual fish fry, a mainstay on the presidential circuit.

“I didn’t know who he was,” said Phil Noble, a Democratic gubernatorial candidate who met with Delaney during his visit. “But so what? Everybody’s got a chance in presidential politics.”

Trump challenges Native Americans’ historical standing

The Trump administration says Native Americans might need to get a job if they want to keep their health care — a policy that tribal leaders say will threaten access to care and reverse centuries-old protections.

Tribal leaders want an exemption from new Medicaid work rules being introduced in several states, and they say there are precedents for health care exceptions. Native Americans don’t have to pay penalties for not having health coverage under Obamacare’s individual mandate, for instance.

But the Trump administration contends the tribes are a race rather than separate governments, and exempting them from Medicaid work rules — which have been approved in three states and are being sought by at least 10 others — would be illegal preferential treatment. “HHS believes that such an exemption would raise constitutional and federal civil rights law concerns,” according to a review by administration lawyers.

The Health and Human Services Department confirmed it rebuffed the tribes’ request on the Medicaid rules several times. Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, conveyed the decision in January, and officials communicated it most recently at a meeting with the tribes this month. HHS’ ruling was driven by political appointees in the general counsel and civil rights offices, say three individuals with knowledge of the decision.

Senior HHS officials “have made it clear that HHS is open to considering other suggestions that tribes may have with respect to Medicaid community engagement demonstration projects,” spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said, using the administration’s term for work requirements that can also be fulfilled with job training, education and similar activities.

The tribes insist that any claim of “racial preference” is moot because they’re constitutionally protected as separate governments, dating back to treaties hammered out by President George Washington and reaffirmed in recent decades under Republican and Democratic presidents alike, including the Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama administrations.

“The United States has a legal responsibility to provide health care to Native Americans,” said Mary Smith, who was acting head of the Indian Health Service during the Obama administration and is a member of the Cherokee Nation. “It’s the largest prepaid health system in the world — they’ve paid through land and massacres — and now you’re going to take away health care and add a work requirement?”

Tribal leaders and public health advocates also worry that Medicaid work rules are just the start; President Donald Trump is eyeing similar changes across the nation’s welfare programs, which many of the nearly 3 million Native Americans rely on.

“It’s very troublesome,” said Caitrin McCarron Shuy of the National Indian Health Board, noting that Native Americans suffer from the nation’s highest drug overdose death rates, among other health concerns. “There’s high unemployment in Indian country, and it's going to create a barrier to accessing necessary Medicaid services.”

Native Americans’ unemployment rate of 12 percent in 2016 was nearly three times the U.S. average, partly because jobs are scarce on reservations. Low federal spending on the Indian Health Service has also left tribes dependent on Medicaid to fill coverage gaps.

“Without supplemental Medicaid resources, the Indian health system will not survive,” W. Ron Allen — a tribal leader who chairs CMS’ Tribal Technical Advisory Group — warned Verma in a Feb. 14 letter.

The Trump administration has allowed three states — Arkansas, Kentucky and Indiana — to begin instituting Medicaid work requirements, and at least 10 other states have submitted or are preparing applications. More than 620,000 Native Americans live in those 13 states, according to 2014 Census data. And more states could move in that direction, heightening the impact.

Some states, like Arizona, are asking HHS for permission to exempt Native Americans from their proposed work requirements. But officials at the National Indian Health Board say that may be moot, as federal officials can reject state requests.

Tribal officials say their planning process has been complicated by HHS’ refusal to produce the actual documents detailing why Native Americans can’t be exempted from Medicaid work requirements. “The agency’s official response was that they couldn’t provide that [documentation] because of ongoing, unspecified litigation,” said Devin Delrow of the National Indian Health Board. HHS did not respond to a question about why those documents have not been made available.

While the tribes say they hope to avoid a legal fight, their go-to law firm — Hobbs, Straus, Dean & Walker LLP — in February submitted a 33-page memo to the Trump administration, sternly warning officials that the health agency was violating its responsibilities.

“CMS has a duty to ensure that [Native Americans] are not subjected to state-imposed work requirements that would present a barrier to their participation in the Medicaid program,” the memo concludes. “CMS not only has ample legal authority to make such accommodations, it has a duty to require them.”

Meanwhile, tribal leaders say the Trump administration has signaled it may be seeking to renegotiate other aspects of the government’s relationship with Native Americans’ health care, pointing to a series of interactions they say break from tradition.

“This doesn’t seem to be isolated to the work requirements,” said McCarron Shuy of the National Indian Health Board.

The Trump administration also targeted the Indian Health Service for significant cuts in last year’s budget, though Congress ignored those cuts in its omnibus funding package last month, H.R. 1625 (115). The White House budget this year proposed eliminating popular initiatives like the decades-old community health representative program — even though tribal health officials say it is essential.

Tribal officials noted that both HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan skipped HHS’ annual budget consultation with tribal leaders in Washington, D.C., last month. The secretary’s attendance is customary; then-HHS Secretary Tom Price joined last year. However, Azar canceled at the last minute. His scheduled replacement, Hargan, fell ill, so Associate Deputy Secretary Laura Caliguri participated in his place. That aggravated tribal leaders who were already concerned about the Trump administration’s policies.

Another point of contention for the tribes is that HHS’ civil rights office — while rejecting Native Americans’ Medicaid request on grounds that they’re seeking an illegal preference — simultaneously announced new protections sought by conservative religious groups.

HHS further stressed that the administration remains committed to Native Americans’ health.

“Secretary Azar, HHS, and the Trump administration have taken aggressive action and will continue to do so to improve the health and well-being for all American Indians and Alaska Natives,” according Oakley, of HHS.

But tribal leaders and public health experts say the administration’s record hasn’t matched its rhetoric. “Work requirements will be devastating,” said Smith, the former Indian Health Service acting director. “I don’t know how you would implement it. There are not jobs to be had on the reservation.”

Rachana Pradhan contributed to this report.

Church of The Donald

HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. The Music City campus of the Trinity Broadcasting Network is about a half-hour drive from Music City itself, in a placid Nashville suburb on a bend in the Cumberland River where the main road through town is called the Johnny Cash Parkway. TBN, America’s largest Christian television network, acquired the complex in 1994 after the death of country singer Conway Twitty, who had operated it as a sprawling tourist attraction he called Twitty City. Last year, TBN renovated Twitty’s personal auditorium, leveling the floor, adding large neon signs and a faux-brick backdrop under the original Corinthian columns. The resulting TV set looks like an urban streetscape framed by a Greek temple.

On a February night, in his large office just above the auditorium, the network’s biggest star is making last-minute plans for what’s shaping up to be a busy evening. First, Mike Huckabee fields some logistics for dinner at his nearby condo, where he will host three couples who won the privilege in a charity auction. He takes a call from the actor Jon Voight, who tells Huckabee he is free to do an interview about Israel. (Huckabee leaves the next day for Jerusalem, where TBN opened another studio a few years ago.) He checks with one of his producers about an old “Laugh-In” clip Huckabee had requested. “We aren’t paying $6,500 for it, good gosh!” he laughs when he hears the cost of the snippet. “Did they point a gun at your head and wear a ski mask when you asked that?” (They decide not to use it.)

Two hours later, Huckabee walks onto a stage in front of more than 200 people and kicks off a taping of his hourlong cable show. For nearly all of its 45-year history, Trinity’s programming had been strictly religious, a mix of evangelical preachers, gospel music and a flagship talk show called “Praise the Lord” (now just “Praise”). But Huckabee’s show is saturated with politics. The former two-term governor of Arkansas and one-time Iowa caucus winner opens with a disquisition on the Fourth Amendment (“Our system is designed to make sure the government is your servant”) leading into a pre-taped interview with Senator Rand Paul. It’s followed by an appearance by Kayleigh McEnany, the Republican National Committee spokeswoman and a frequent campaign surrogate for Donald Trump. The crowd roars with laughter when Huckabee promises he won’t go on for as long as Nancy Pelosi, a reference to her recent filibuster-style speech on the House floor. “Can you imagine Nancy Pelosi for eight hours?” he asks, chuckling. “NO!” the audience shouts back.

When “Huckabee” made its debut on TBN last fall, it immediately became the network’s highest-rated show, with more than a million viewers for a typical episode. Unlike every other show the network has produced, it is overtly political and squarely focused on current events. It has a variety component, with musical guests and comedians, and Huckabee occasionally breaks out his own bass guitar on stage. But in its six months on the air, Huckabee has also interviewed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Trump-defending Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, anti-abortion activist Serrin Foster and former Senator Joe Lieberman. The very first guest on his very first show, last October, was President Trump.

A generation ago—even a few years ago—this would have been unthinkable. Christian TV was largely the province of preachers, musicians, faith healers and a series of televangelism scandals. Politicians were leery of getting too close. To establishment evangelicals, not to mention the rest of America, Christian TV was hokey at best, and disreputable at worst.

But in the past two years, largely out of view of the coastal media and the Washington establishment, a transformation has taken place. As Christian networks have become more comfortable with politics, the Trump administration has turned them into a new pipeline for its message. Trump has forged a particularly tight marriage of convenience with Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, which since early in the 2016 campaign has offered consistent friendly coverage and been granted remarkable access in return. Trump personally has appeared 11 times on CBN since his campaign began; in 2017 alone, he gave more interviews to CBN than to CNN, ABC or CBS. Trump’s Cabinet members, staffers and surrogates also appear regularly. TBN has embraced politics more gingerly—it is still not a news-gathering organization—but Trump has made inroads there, too, starting with his kickoff interview on “Huckabee.”

The benefits are mutual. For the networks, having White House officials regularly on screen gives new legitimacy to media organizations that have long felt looked down upon. CBN has belonged to the White House press corps for decades and occupied a seat in the White House briefing room since the Obama era. But its status has risen dramatically during the Trump presidency, when press secretary Sean Spicer gave questions to CBN reporters three times in the first two weeks of the term. During a joint news conference with Netanyahu, Trump himself picked CBN’s chief political correspondent, David Brody, to ask the first question. “The Trump administration has given CBN News the opportunity to be recognized in places a Christian news organization normally wouldn’t,” CBN vice president and news director Rob Allman wrote in an email.

For the White House, the relationship is arguably even more useful. Christian broadcasters offer an unmediated channel to the living rooms of a remarkably wide swath of American believers, an audience more politically and racially diverse than you might expect. TBN alone has more local stations to its name than Fox or the three major networks. “It’s about as direct a route as you can go,” says Michael Wear, a former Obama White House and campaign staffer who has appeared on CBN. They offer Trump officials a softball treatment available in few other venues. Huckabee’s own daughter, after all, is the president’s press secretary—a relationship that would disqualify him as an interviewer on most networks. One of Huckabee’s questions to the president was about the first lady, and whether it bothered the president that his wife “has fantastic approval ratings, soaring above anybody else in the entire city of Washington.”

This dance between administration politics and televised religion is new, and is built on a connection between Trump’s message and the Christian TV worldview that runs deeper than it might first appear. It also offers a different kind of answer to the puzzle of why an impious man who can barely manage to pay lip service to actual Christian belief earned a higher percentage of the white evangelical vote than predecessors including Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush—and why, if anything, his bond with those voters appears to be growing stronger.


Evangelists have been a fixture of television since the 1950s, and there’s a reason politicians stayed away for so long. Almost from the start, TV preachers carried a unique whiff of tawdriness. There were the preferences for gaudy sets, big hair and absurd stunts, for one. Oklahoma televangelist Oral Roberts once told viewers that unless he received an extra $8 million by the next month, he would die. (The ensuing wave of donations spared him.) Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker opened their own theme park in the 1970s, and TBN, with its own roster of flashy preachers, still maintains its Holy Land Experience park in Orlando, Florida. Then there were the waves of legal disgrace. The “Gospelgate” scandals of the 1980s, implicating big-ticket televangelist Jimmy Swaggart and the Bakkers with a series of sexual and financial misdeeds, seemed to permanently tar the whole enterprise.

Not all Christian television is televangelism, and not all televangelists are corrupt or even tacky. But American presidents have nonetheless mostly steered clear, preferring to select their religious advisers from more sober ranks of pastors and writers. (Billy Graham, spiritual adviser to many presidents, preached on television but had roots and connections far beyond the airwaves.) Presidents occasionally granted interviews, especially with the powerful Robertson, founder of CBN, with whom President Reagan sat down on the network’s “The 700 Club” in 1985—but they have done so carefully and rarely.

Trump had none of that caution. He started showing up on Christian TV years ago, giving his first interview to Brody back in 2011, when he was toying with a run for president that no mainstream network took seriously. Trump discussed his “conversion” to opposing abortion, his respect for the Bible (“THE book”) and his churchgoing habits (“I go as much as I can”). Most Republican candidates make occasional stops by CBN to woo conservative Christians. But Trump seemed to take a real shine to Brody, and he must have known he would need to put in overtime to bolster his credibility with religious voters. As his 2016 run gained momentum, a steady stream of staffers and surrogates, including Kellyanne Conway, former Representative Michele Bachmann and televangelist Paula White, appeared on the network to vouch for Trump’s Christian credentials. White told Brody in June 2016 that Trump had first discovered her ministry by watching Christian broadcasting more than a decade before. “Mr. Trump has always been a huge fan,” she said. “He’d always watch Christian television.”

Whether or not that was true, Trump seemed to sense early on that the Christian television audience would be receptive to his campaign theme of a kind of resentful nostalgia for an imagined idyllic past. When I interviewed Brody last year for a profile, he said Trump shared with older evangelicals a longing for “1950s America,” characterized by patriotism, prayer in school and an absence of political correctness (though he took pains to clarify that the ’50s were not a good era for “race relations”). As Huckabee puts it on one of his promos on TBN, “If you like baseball, apple pie and you love your mom, I’ve got just the show for you.”

But if Trump detected a cultural affinity with viewers of Christian television, he was also capitalizing on a deliberate turn that the medium was already taking. On TBN, “Huckabee” is part of a change under the leadership of Matt Crouch, who took over recently from his father, Paul, who founded the network back in 1973. The talk show is the network’s most obvious nod to politics, but in the past few years it has also added a newsmagazine show called “The Watchman,” focused on “gathering threats to America’s and Israel’s security”—it’s hard to overstate Christian TV’s interest in Israel—and started airing “Somebody’s Gotta Do It,” in which blue-collar conservative Mike Rowe visits “hardworking Americans” on the job. (Rowe’s show originally aired on CNN; TBN recut the episodes to include scenes like family prayers and snipped out mild cursing.) This is, in part, an effort to reach a new audience of millennials who aren’t as interested in watching sermons on TV. “We’ve got to get beyond the church, beyond the pews,” Colby May, a TBN board member, said of the network’s new direction. May says TBN isn’t trying to emphasize politics per se, but to be seen as more relevant. Huckabee’s interview with Trump “was an exciting and different kind of guest for Christian television,” he says.

CBN, for its part, had been in the news business since the 1970s, when the network opened a bureau in Washington, and “The 700 Club” transformed from a variety show into its current newsmagazine format. Robertson relishes his role as a kind of ward heeler of the Christian conservative vote, and candidates courting that vote would make obligatory campaign stops on CBN. But Robertson’s own pronouncements on current events seemed enough to keep mainstream politicians at arm’s length: Since the peak of his influence in the 1980s, he has become better known for dire predictions based on divine revelation, his notorious linkage of Hurricane Katrina to American abortion policy and his repeated insistence that Islam is less a religion than a dangerous political system.

If that last point sounds like something you might have heard at a Trump campaign rally, that begins to get at the affinity between Trumpworld and this particular set of TV viewers. In retrospect, it’s possible to see Robertson as a kind of elder statesman of the exact kind of “politically incorrect” conservative populism that Trump’s campaign rhetoric tapped into so naturally. A viewer who had stuck with Robertson through all that wasn’t likely to be put off by a candidate who took potshots at Mexicans and Muslims.

By the time Trump arrived on the political scene, it almost didn’t matter that he wasn’t much of a Christian, or tended to mangle the names of the books of the Bible. This audience recognized him as a kindred spirit in everything but religion. His hair-sprayed reality-TV persona—to say nothing of the bluster and the heroic monologues—aren’t that far from the preaching style that has prospered on cable evangelism. His family’s pastor when he was a child wasn’t the minister of the local Presbyterian church, but celebrity success guru Norman Vincent Peale, who had a long-running radio show called “The Art of Living.” Trump ran his campaign events more like tent revivals than policy symposia. And his books and TV persona dovetailed surprisingly well with the “prosperity gospel” preaching that thrives on Christian TV, the relatively new American theology in which material wealth is seen not only as a reward for good behavior, but a kind of endorsement by God.


Today, Christian broadcasters have rewarded Trump not just with airtime for his surrogates, but with uncritical, often defensive coverage of his administration. Appearing as a guest on “The Jim Bakker Show” soon after the racial violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer, Paula White compared Trump to the biblical queen Esther, and told viewers that opposing the president meant “fighting against the hand of God.” CBN’s Brody this year published a hagiographic “spiritual biography” of the president, The Faith of Donald J. Trump, in which he argues that Trump is on a “spiritual voyage” that has landed him surrounded by believers in the Oval Office. The president obligingly sat down for an interview for the book and later promoted it on Twitter as “a very interesting read.”

To watch an appearance by a Trump official on “The 700 Club,” or “Faith Nation,” the Washington-based political show hosted by Brody and Jenna Browder that debuted last summer, is to enter a softer precinct of the news universe, one in which officials are treated gently and allowed to air out their views with help, not challenge, from the hosts. When Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney appeared on CBN days after the brief government shutdown in January, he discussed policy issues including immigration and the possibility of passing a spending bill. When Brody asked him about what he would say to Hispanic Christians worried about deportation, Mulvaney reassured them that the president “wants to figure out a way for the DACA folks to stay.” Brody didn’t push him with a follow-up. In December, Vice President Mike Pence went on Brody’s show in part just to reassure evangelicals that Trump is on their team. “The president is a believer, and so am I,” Pence told Brody. “The American people, I think, can be encouraged to know that in President Donald Trump, they have a leader who embraces and respects and appreciates the role of faith and the importance of religion in the lives of our families, in communities in our nation, and he always will.”

It’s not just a “trust me” argument: Trump has actually delivered the goods in Washington, especially for this particular strain of evangelicals. And he has brought more televangelists and Christian broadcasters into his inner circle than any president before him. White, arguably his closest spiritual adviser, hosted a show that aired on TBN and BET for years. His lawyer, Jay Sekulow, has his own daily call-in radio show on a Christian network. Trump’s faith advisory board, announced during the campaign, included many members drawn from the world of television ministry, including Ken and Gloria Copeland, who have headed a daily program since 1989; Tony Suarez, who hosts a talk show on TBN’s Hispanic-oriented network; Jentezen Franklin and Robert Jeffress, whose sermons air as their own programs on TBN; and Mark Burns, who founded the web-based NOW Network. Johnnie Moore, another advisory board member, is a communications consultant who has worked with clients including CBN. “If you look at his evangelical advisory council, it’s people with media connections, more than broad church-based connections,” Robert Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, says. “That’s a weird slice of the evangelical world.”

Closer to Trump’s inner circle, the list of friendly faces continues. “This is an evangelical Cabinet,” says Jerry Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters. “You’re looking at name-brand conservative evangelicals that are very comfortable talking to Christian media types.” Jeff Sessions, Scott Pruitt, Rick Perry, Ben Carson and Pence, all evangelical Christians who talk frequently about faith, are among those who have appeared on CBN since Trump took office. And CBN has closely covered what it calls a “spiritual awakening” at the White House, including Oval Office prayers and a weekly Bible study involving many Cabinet members, at one point including Betsy DeVos and the now-departed Tom Price.

Pence, who himself hosted a conservative talk-radio show and a television show in Indiana in the 1990s, has been a particularly cheerful booster of the work of Christian broadcasters. Speaking at the 75th annual meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters in February, Pence praised its membership’s work. “Your ministry, your message, your values are needed now more than ever before,” he told the crowd in Nashville. “Every day, every hour, you speak strength to the heart of the American people. You shape our country.” (Christian radio is a different business with a somewhat different audience, but it has proved similarly attractive to Trump. Salem Media Group, the largest Christian radio broadcasting platform in the country, spent a day at the White House last summer, hosting a special broadcast with the theme “Made in America.”)


The audience Christian TV is delivering has a surprising kind of political traction, especially if you lost track of Christian broadcasting after the scandals of the 1980s. “Decline is such an easy narrative,” says Mark Ward, editor of the 2015 book The Electronic Church in the Digital Age. “What really happened is [televangelism] went underground.”

Newer TV preachers might not be national celebrities with the name recognition of Oral Roberts and Jimmy Swaggart, but they remain influential. Reliable data on the sector are hard to come by, but a 2005 survey by an evangelical pollster found that 45 percent of American adults watched Christian television on a monthly basis, just as many as in 1992. “It’s one of these stories that has just gone completely under the radar,” Ward says. “Even though it doesn’t have the same profile it had, it’s still a very decisive arbiter of the evangelical subculture.”

TBN in particular has quietly become a major player, in part by capitalizing on the switch to digital TV two decades ago. When the Federal Communications Commission declared in 1996 that all television stations had to convert to digital broadcasting within a decade, the network’s founders, Paul and Jan Crouch, snapped up many local Christian stations that couldn’t afford the conversion. As a result, TBN is now the third-largest television group in the country, with access to 100 million households and more local television stations to its name than Fox or the three major networks. Its largest rival, Texas-based Daystar, also claims access to 100 million households, and carries many of the same programs. (CBN is no longer technically a network but a production company with a series of syndicated programs that air on stations owned by others, including TBN.)

The networks haven’t escaped the whiff of scandal, particularly TBN, which was hit by another series of negative headlines just within the past few years, including lawsuits and a family feud that left Matt Crouch in charge. Last summer, a California jury awarded Paul and Jan Crouch’s granddaughter $2 million after she said she had been sexually abused by a TBN employee. There are also questions about its financial health: When the Orange County Registerreviewed the company’s tax filings in 2016, it found a revenue drop from $207 million in 2006 to $121.5 million in 2014. About five years ago, TBN banished its fundraising “praise-a-thons,” which relied largely on small donations from low-income viewers, and now relies more on underwriting and traditional fundraising efforts. Last year, the network sold at least two significant properties in Southern California, including its gaudy headquarters in Costa Mesa.

But viewers still appear to be loyal, and those viewers aren’t who you might think. Both TBN and CBN say their audiences are split almost evenly between Democrats and Republicans. This can likely be chalked up to another fact that might surprise people outside the evangelical bubble: their audiences’ racial diversity. Charismatic and Pentecostal preaching, and the related health-and-wealth “prosperity gospel,” are strong traditions within the black community. Popular black pastors including Creflo Dollar, Tony Evans and TD Jakes have all preached regularly over the years on TBN, Daystar, and other Christian networks. Paula White is the pastor of a largely black church. And CBN’s roster of reporters, hosts and regular guests is arguably more racially diverse than those of many cable news networks.

Wear, the faith outreach director for the 2012 Obama campaign, believes the racial diversity of Christian broadcasting has helped inoculate Trump against charges of racism among his white evangelical voters. CBN and TBN’s on-air diversity “is a significant reason that much of Trump’s base doesn’t take accusations of racism seriously,” he says.

In October, TBN aired a special on the American church’s role in racial reconciliation, hosted by pastor Samuel Rodriguez, who prayed at Trump’s inauguration. The year before, Rodriguez appeared on CBN to assure viewers that Trump is not a racist. In an interview taped for “Huckabee” in February, Harry Jackson, a black pastor in Maryland who has frequently defended Trump, told Huckabee the same thing.

For white evangelicals, who voted for Trump overwhelmingly and still approve of his job performance, the approach seems to be working. The networks continually polish Trump’s reputation, and perhaps more importantly, he’s talking to them. “Evangelicals, going back to the time of the Scopes trial, have always been sensitive to being seen as pariahs,” Mark Ward says. “You can get a lot of credibility with evangelicals if you simply make them feel like they matter, if you appear on their TV shows and send your administration to appear on their TV shows.”

In a fundamental way, TV people are Trump’s people. “Trump appreciates people who can communicate in an attention-grabbing way,” says Wear, author of the 2017 book Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America. “I don’t think Trump would be drawn to a preacher who breaks down five chapters of Ephesians and lays out the Greek and Aramaic.”

Trump has always had a particular genius for circumventing normal channels, and he seems to understand the power of Christian television as a medium for directly reaching an important and particularly loyal segment of his base. When Pat Robertson interviewed him last summer, in a period in which Trump had granted no other non-Fox interviews for months, the president put it succinctly. “As long as my people understand,” he told Robertson. “That’s why I do interviews with you. You have a tremendous audience. You have people that I love.”

Romney falls short in Utah GOP convention, forced into primary for Senate seat

Utah Senate hopeful Mitt Romney was narrowly defeated at Saturday’s state GOP convention and will be forced into a June primary, a setback in his political comeback bid.

Romney, who was the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, is still heavily favored to win the seat from which longtime Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch is retiring. But on Saturday, his path became slightly more complicated when he fell short at the convention to state Rep. Mike Kennedy. According to The Associated Press, Romney received 49 percent to Kennedy’s 51 percent.

Romney had already qualified for the June 26 primary ballot because he filed the needed number of signatures, the only candidate in the GOP field to have done so. But had he received 60 percent of the vote at the convention, he could have won the Republican nomination outright and avoided the two-month primary battle.

Instead, he will face Kennedy, who has cast himself as a conservative-minded outsider.

“Thank you to all the delegates who hung in there with us all day at the Convention,” Romney tweeted on Saturday evening. “I appreciate the support I received and look forward to the primary election.”

The convention process draws the state’s most ardent activists, and typically favors conservative candidates like Kennedy over more mainstream ones like Romney. Success in the convention has not always translated into success in the primary, which draws a broader swath of the Republican electorate. In 2016, incumbent GOP Gov. Gary Herbert lost the April convention to Overstock.com Chairman Jonathan Johnson before crushing Johnson in the June primary.

Still, Romney had hoped to win the convention outright. Since launching his Senate campaign in February, he has crisscrossed the state on his truck and met with delegates in the state’s 29 counties.

Hoping to woo conservatives, he toned down his past criticisms of President Donald Trump and focused instead on Utah-specific issues. Shortly after launching his campaign, he received Trump’s endorsement.

Romney heads into the primary with a massive cash advantage over Kennedy. Through the end of March, Romney had $1.1 million on hand compared to Kennedy’s $257,000. Romney has received contributions from a number of prominent Republicans who make up his donor network. Among the givers, according to campaign filings, was former President George W. Bush.

The winner of the Republican primary is expected to face Democrat Jenny Wilson, a Salt Lake County councilwoman, in the general election.

POLITICO Health reporter Brett Norman dies at 43

Brett Norman, a POLITICO health care reporter, died Saturday. He was 43 and had pancreatic cancer.

He is survived by his wife, journalist Kate Dailey; sons Everett, 4, and Owen, 2; his mother, Jean Norman; and his brother, Daniel Norman.

Norman reported on the Affordable Care Act, bioethics and the pharmaceutical industry. He joined POLITICO in July 2011.

“He covered all the craziness surrounding the launch of Obamacare – and he broke the story that the very same HHS official who made a mess out of Medicare.gov later went on to make a mess out of HealthCare.gov. Brett had fun with that one,” POLITICO Editor Carrie Budoff Brown, POLITICO Pro’s Editorial Director Marty Kady, and Executive Editor for Health Care Joanne Kenen emailed the staff.

Norman also wrote about bioethical issues such as organ transplantation, and complicated policy issues surrounding the pharmaceutical industry.

At the time of his diagnosis in late 2016, he was working on a project about overprescribing drugs to foster kids as a Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellow. It was a project he did not get to finish but it mattered to him deeply.

Norman was a talented reporter, a caring colleague, and a valued member of the POLITICO Health Care Team family. He was thoughtful, smart, and had a delightfully wry wit.

“Brett was a kind and generous colleague, but more importantly he always put his family first. It was obvious how much he loved Kate and his boys,” said his fellow POLITICO health reporter Sarah Karlin-Smith, with whom he shared the pharmaceutical beat and the weekly Prescription PULSE newsletter. “I’d like to think there will always be a bit of his spirit in every one of my bylines.”

Before POLITICO, Brett was a science writer at Rockefeller University. He got his start in journalism covering cops, courts and local government at the Pensacola News Journal. At the paper, he was twice part of teams named as finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for public service.

Norman, who lived in Washington, was a graduate of the University of Chicago and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He was born in Iowa, but considered Pensacola, Florida, his home town. On his Twitter profile, he called himself a “Floribamian.”

Trump says he's 'considering' a pardon for boxer Jack Johnson

President Donald Trump said Saturday he is considering a posthumous pardon for boxing champion Jack Johnson, who was convicted over a century ago under racially motivated charges for his relationship with a white woman.

"Sylvester Stallone called me with the story of heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson," Trump wrote on Twitter. "His trials and tribulations were great, his life complex and controversial. Others have looked at this over the years, most thought it would be done, but yes, I am considering a Full Pardon!"

Since taking office, Trump has pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and, more recently, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the chief of staff to former Vice President Dick Cheney. Arpaio was convicted of contempt of court; Libby was convicted following the investigation into the leak of the identity of CIA officer Valerie Plame.

At the time of Libby's pardon, California Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee, said the pardon sent a message that Trump would look out for his allies if special counsel Robert Mueller leveled charges against them in the ongoing probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Conservatives, including Cheney, welcomed the move.

Stallone, best known for playing fictional boxer Rocky Balboa in the "Rocky" movie franchise, is the latest boxing stalwart to press the case for Johnson, the first black world champion.

According to a Washington Post report, former world champion Mike Tyson was part of a failed effort to secure Johnson a pardon during the Obama administration. Other efforts to win a pardon for Johnson have included those of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), documentarian Ken Burns and former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a former boxer himself.

The Post report says Johnson was convicted of violating the Mann Act, a federal law that made it a crime to transport women across state lines "for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose," which was supposed to target prostitution but was also used to criminalize interracial relationships. Johnson had seven wives, four of whom were white.

Johnson was tried and convicted, serving a year at the federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas.

Barbara Bush remembered at Houston funeral service

Friends, family and colleagues paid tribute to former first lady Barbara Bush on Saturday at her funeral service held in front of some 1,500 attendees at Houston's St. Martin's Episcopal Church.

Former first lady Barbara Bush remembered fondly at service marking her life

"Our first and most important teacher."

"The tough but loving enforcer."

"The first lady of the greatest generation."

Family members, friends and colleagues on Saturday paid tribute to former first lady Barbara Pierce Bush at her funeral service held at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston.

George H.W. Bush, the 41st president, was pushed in his wheelchair into the church by George W. Bush, the 43rd president, a testament to the role Barbara Bush played in the nation's history. A day before, George H.W. Bush had unexpectedly greeted members of the public as they paid their respects to his late wife.

Some 1,500 people gathered at the church, where the elder Bushes are members, for the service, which was televised live on America's broadcast and cable networks.

First lady Melania Trump sat next to former President Barack Obama in the first row of pews, joined by former first lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. President Donald Trump decided not to attend out of respect for the family.

Barbara Bush, the matriarch of the Bush political dynasty, was remembered for her kindness, charm and sharp wit that endeared her to Americans and everyone who came into contact with her.

“... She our was teacher and role model on how to live a life of purpose and meaning,” former Florida. Gov. Jeb Bush said during his eulogy, one of three delivered during the roughly hour-and-a-half service. "Our mom was our first and most important teacher.”

America, he said, fell in love with his mom down to her favorite fake pearls, because she was “real.”

Susan Garrett Baker, wife of George H.W. Bush's secretary of state Jim Baker, called Barbara Bush "the gold standard" of a friend who educated her in the ways of Washington and showed how she could use her position as a launching pad for the causes she cared about.

“What the world may not have seen was what an amazing, caring and beautiful friend that Bar was to so many of us,” she said during her eulogy.

Recalling her friend’s devotion to her own family, Baker said Barbara Bush was “the tough but loving enforcer ... the secret sauce of this extraordinary family.”

"Known as Barbara, as Barb, as mom, as gammy, as the silver fox and as the enforcer. She was candid and comforting, steadfast and straightforward honest and loving. Babara Bush was the first lady of the greatest generation," historian Jon Meacham said.

In a statement, Melania Trump said: "Today the world paid tribute to a woman of indisputable character and grace. It was my honor to travel to Houston to give my respects to Barbara Bush and the remarkable life she led as a mother, wife, and fearless First Lady."

"Today, my thoughts and prayers are with the entire Bush family," President Trump wrote on Twitter. "In memory of First Lady Barbara Bush, there is a remembrance display located at her portrait in the Center Hall of the @WhiteHouse."

Attendees included former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and his wife Mila, former British Prime Minister John Major and his wife Norma, George H.W. Bush's Vice President Dan Quayle and his wife Marilyn, George W. Bush's Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife Lynne.

Barbara Bush, who died April 17, will be interred at George H.W. Bush Library and Museum at Texas A&M University in College Station later on Saturday. She will be laid to rest next to her daughter Robin, who passed away at three years old after battling leukemia.

During the service, the Bush granddaughters read Biblical passages. Jenna Bush Hager read from Proverbs Chapter 31 verses 10-31.

"Her children rise up and call her happy; her husband too, and he praises her," the passage reads. “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”