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On the roster: Welcome to the jungle, Amazon - I’ll Tell You What: Constituting a real debate - Arizona special election heating up - Pence clobbers Heitkamp on her home turf - ‘That’s how Ruff Ryders roll’
WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE, AMAZON
It was like old times today when Amazon shares tumbled on word from the favored source of White House leaks, Axios, that President Trump had it in for America’s online retail behemoth.
It has been a year since the president could rip some corporation and watch stock prices tumble. As 2017 wore on and American’s remembered the virtues of limited government and the separation of powers, investors started to worry less about the president’s pronouncements and focused more on actual policies.
Maybe it’s just because investors are quite skittish these days, or maybe it’s because the president has started to govern less like a traditional Republican and more like the populist he promised in 2016. But Jeff Bezos’ baby lost more than 4 percent of its value on Wall Street today.
Another factor here may be the growing sense that the government is coming for the lightly regulated tech giants after two decades of kid-glove treatment. Facebook’s crash in credibility is going to have some unhappy consequences for the rest of the tech sector, and maybe Amazon will get gigged in the process.
According to New York Magazine, Trump’s antipathy towards Amazon has less to do with a desire to prop up failing retailers and more to do with his vendetta against Bezos’ Washington Post and its bruising coverage of Trump’s campaign.
Whatever is driving the train when it comes to Amazon, it’s pretty clearly a real thing.
We have known for a while that this administration, unlike most Republicans, is in favor of a federally imposed sales tax on internet purchases. And when asked about the reports, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders gave a classic non-denial denial in which she said there was nothing to report… today.
Sanders went on to say that the president believes it’s the job of the federal government to “create a level playing field for all businesses.”
Chew on that one for a minute. Retailers operate in a cutthroat world of low profit margins, high volume and no mercy for the weak. There’s little that’s level about that sector of our economy.
Every freshman economics student has heard the story about the battle between the big retailers Sears and Montgomery Ward at the end of World War II. Montgomery Ward, believing that a post-war recession would be inevitable and lasting, focused on catalogue sales, smaller payrolls and lower real estate costs. Sears did just the opposite and went on a building and buying spree that changed the retail landscape of the country.
Sears was right and Montgomery Ward was wrong. But then, cheap-o department stores sprang up and ruined Sears’ model. They sold more for less thanks to cheap Chinese imports and skeletal staffing. Now, it’s Walmart’s turn to cry as Amazon has found ways to undercut what was previously considered rock bottom.
It’s an open question whether federal government could save Sears, Walmart and others by going after Amazon. If the feds impose the right combination of antitrust actions and tax increases, Trump could conceivably harm his foe. But it’s hard to think that someone else wouldn’t come along and take advantage of the same business model to finally kill off America’s once-flourishing shopping mall sector.
This may just be courtiers at Axios venting Trump’s id, but it is definitely in keeping with the new Republican embrace of a more planned economy.
THE RULEBOOK: THE OBJECT OF THE PROPOSITION
“…for in every new application of a general power, the PARTICULAR POWERS, which are the means of attaining the OBJECT of the general power, must always necessarily vary with that object, and be often properly varied whilst the object remains the same.” – James Madison, Federalist No. 44
TIME OUT: FROM MOSUL TO MOGULS
Task & Purpose: “Lots of people want to be ski instructors at the Okemo Mountain Resort. … So when a 74-year-old retiree applied for the gig a few years back, [Chris Saylor] didn’t think much of it. … But Paul Bremer, who also goes by Jerry, is best remembered for the 14 months he spent in Iraq following the 2003 invasion, when he served as the administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Before he ran moguls, he ran Mosul. … [Journalist Aaron Gell’s] ski lesson, as Bremer fully understood, was a pretext. With the 15-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq looming, [Gell] had begun to wonder about the man almost unanimously blamed for just about everything that’s gone wrong in the region ever since. His tenure as the country’s top authority … was controversial almost from the start, beginning with the decision on his fifth day in country to bar all senior members of the Baath Party from holding public jobs.”
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 41.8 percent
Average disapproval: 52.8 percent
Net Score: -11 points
Change from one week ago: up 2.8 points
[Average includes: CNN: 43% approve - 53% disapprove; Fox News: 45% approve - 52% disapprove; Marist College: 42% approve - 51% disapprove; Gallup: 39% approve - 55% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 40% approve - 53% disapprove.]
Control of House
Republican average: 40.6 percent
Democratic average: 47.6 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 7 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage down 2.8 points
[Average includes: Marist College: 44% Dems - 39% GOP; Fox News: 46% Dems - 41% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 49% Dems - 43% GOP; NBC News/WSJ: 50% Dems - 40% GOP; George Washington University: 49% Dems - 40% GOP.]
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I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: CONSTITUTING A REAL DEBATE
This week Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss the controversy over the 2nd Amendment, the upcoming midterm elections and the 2020 census. Plus, Dana weighs in on the Roseanne reboot and Chris answers questions from the mailbag. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE
ARIZONA SPECIAL ELECTION HEATING UP
The [Arizona] Republic: “The West Valley's congressional candidates used America's ailing health care system to highlight the starkly different approaches they would take to Washington, D.C. Hiral Tipirneni, the Democratic nominee and a physician, called for universal health coverage in which a public option competes alongside private-sector choices. Debbie Lesko, the Republican nominee, offered no specific remedy but said her opponent was out of step with a district where most people view former President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act as a disaster with unaffordable ‘socialized medicine’ pushed as a way to fix it. In a 30-minute debate on Channel 8's ‘Horizon,’ the two women vying for the West Valley's vacant 8th District seat sparred along predictable party lines over tax policy and President Donald Trump's behavior. They also found room to disagree on an issue they largely view the same way: the treatment of young migrants brought into the country illegally as children.”
Renacci didn’t report contributions while lobbyist - AP: “U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci failed to disclose nearly $50,000 in political contributions while registered as a Washington lobbyist starting in the late 2000s, according to an Associated Press review of federal records. The AP review identified five reporting periods from 2008 to 2010 while the Ohio Republican was registered as a lobbyist when he either failed to file the required disclosure form or reported giving no political contributions when he had given. Renacci, a businessman and former Wadsworth mayor, is Republicans’ favored candidate to win a GOP primary and take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown this fall in one of the year’s most closely watched Senate contests. Renacci’s campaign said that he never lobbied. They said he was registered as the lobbyist with the consulting firm he helped launch in 2008, Smokerise International Group, as a precautionary measure.”
Kansas GOP get anxious over House race - The Kansas City Star: “The KFC bucket came with a side of Republican panic. Anxiety over the GOP's weakened grasp on Kansas’ 2nd congressional district, which includes Topeka and Lawrence, was on full display during last month’s state party convention. GOP Rep. Lynn Jenkins is retiring. Republicans lack a clear front runner in the race to replace her, while Democrats have coalesced around Paul Davis, a former state lawmaker who won the district during his unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2014. ‘If the election were held today, (there's) a 70 percent chance Davis gets elected,’Mike Stieben, co-chair of Kansans For Life’s political action committee, told the crowd at a convention prayer breakfast. He passed an empty KFC bucket around the room, urging people to drop in donations so his anti-abortion group could start campaigning in the district. ‘We cannot elect Paul Davis,’ Stieben said.”
Dem candidate sues over rivals’ ballot entries in California primary - Fox News: “The Democrats’ tidy plan to sweep through Southern California in the 2018 elections en route to taking control of the House remains a crowded, often bare-knuckled scrap, with a final candidate deadline Thursday. Millionaire lottery winner and former Republican Gil Cisneros in the past few days filed lawsuits against two Democratic primary rivals in his bid to win retiring GOP Rep. Ed Royce’s seat, after two other candidates were apparently coaxed out of the race. Cisneros filed the suit in California Superior Court to force the state to reject the three-word job descriptions submitted by rivals Andy Thorburn and Sam Jammal for the June 5 ballot, arguing they were ‘misleading or otherwise do not comply with the law,’ according to court documents. The suits named as the defendant Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who has rejected Thorburn and Jammal’s original ballot designations but has accepted their alternative choices.”
The list of Dems ditching Pelosi grows - NBC News: “A growing number of Democratic congressional candidates are bailing out on Nancy Pelosi as they try to inoculate themselves against Republican attacks on the House Minority Leader. ‘I'm not supporting Nancy Pelosi,’ Democrat Andrew Janz, who is running against Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., told NBC News in a recent interview. ‘I think she's done a lot of good for the party; I think she's done a lot of good for the country,’ he added. ‘However, I think it's time for a new generation of leaders to go to Washington, and this is with respect to both Democrats and Republicans. I think the country, and my district in particular, is hungry for change.’ Janz is one of about a dozen Democratic candidates who have publicly signaled they would not support Pelosi since Conor Lamb won…”
Hispanic Caucus endorses non-Hispanic candidates - Roll Call: “The political arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has endorsed seven more Democratic candidates, most of whom are not Hispanic. BOLD PAC announced Wednesday it was backing Xochitl Torres Small for New Mexico’s 2nd District seat, which Republican Steve Pearce is vacating to run for governor. The other six candidates the group is backing are not Hispanic. BOLD PAC endorsed non-Hispanic candidates in the 2016 cycle as well. ‘BOLD PAC is also proud of the diversity represented in this latest round of endorsements — from race and background to geography and gender — I am confident these individuals will play a pivotal role in helping take back the House,’ said California Rep. Tony Cárdenas, the group’s chairman.”
Eyeing midterms, House GOP said to be readying balanced budget push - The Hill: “House Republicans will push for a balanced budget amendment after they return from recess, according to a report from Politico. The report follows the passage of the $1.3 trillion omnibus package to fund the government through September. That bill was ripped by conservatives in the House and Senate, and President Trump vowed to never approve a similar bill again. Calls for a balanced-budget amendment have waxed and waned through the years, with growing support from the Tea Party movement that first helped elect a class of conservatives to Congress in 2010.”
PENCE CLOBBERS HEITKAMP ON HER HOME TURF
NBC News: “North Dakota ‘could do a whole lot better’ than Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday at a private fundraising event for her Republican rival. ‘Sen. Heitkamp voted no on tax cuts, no on repealing and replacing Obamacare, no on cracking down on sanctuary cities, no on repealing the anti-energy methane rule — she voted no on a 20-week abortion ban,’ Pence said, according to a person at the small gathering of political luminaries and donors in Fargo. ‘I mean, it's time that North Dakota voted no on Heidi Heitkamp's re-election,’ the vice president added in support of her challenger, GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer. With Republicans trying to maintain or expand their 51-49 majority in the Senate, North Dakota is one of their best pickup opportunities for the GOP in the country this year. Heitkamp won her seat by about 3,000 votes in 2012.”
Obama to stump for McCaskill - Politico: “Former President Barack Obamawill appear at a Beverly Hills fundraiser for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) in May, according to an invitation obtained by POLITICO — a sign Obama is edging into the midterm elections. Obama is listed as a special guest at the May 6 fundraiser hosted by film studio executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, filmmaker Steven Spielberg and others Los Angeles-area heavyweights, including director J.J. Abrams and his wife, Katie McGrath. This is his first post-presidential fundraising event for an individual candidate — and it goes to the female senator who very notably backed him early over Hillary Clinton in 2008.”
Menendez readies for another Senate campaign - The Record: “U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, just a few months after surviving a federal corruption trial that threatened to land him behind bars, is scheduled to announce Wednesday that he will seek another six-year term. The New Jersey Democrat, 64, will kick off his campaign in Union City, his hometown, at an event attended by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, Gov. Phil Murphy and other ‘prominent New Jersey Democrats,’ according to an advisory from his campaign. Menendez’s main opponent come November will likely be the well-funded Republican Bob Hugin, a Marine Corp veteran and former pharmaceutical executive who, like Menendez, ascended to great success from humble beginnings in Union City.”
Trump visits donor’s house under the radar - NYT: “President Trump kept a relatively low profile and did not make any public appearances on Tuesday, but emerged for a rare evening trip outside the White House to meet with deep-pocketed donors at a real estate developer’s home in Virginia. Mr. Trump, who usually prefers a steak served at his own hotel if he leaves the confines of the White House at night, traveled to the McLean, Va., home of Giuseppe Cecchi, according to a person with knowledge of the president’s plans. Mr. Cecchi is a loyalist who previously hosted Mr. Trump for a $10,000-a-couple fund-raising dinner in the final weeks of the 2016 presidential campaign.”
Stuart Rothenberg: ‘How Can the GOP Turn Out Trump Voters?’ - Roll Call: “Is there anything Republicans can do to change the trajectory of the election cycle? And if there isn’t, would a disaster for congressional Republicans in November automatically be a political disaster for Trump? One veteran GOP campaign operative who is sympathetic to the president acknowledged something that should trouble Republicans on Capitol Hill: ‘Trump just endorsing a nominee is not enough. He can’t bring people out without issues.’ That conclusion seems reasonable given the Democrats’ advantage on enthusiasm and after the special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District. … He’s not alone. Previous presidents with strong personal followings also found their popularity didn’t transfer to their party when they were not on the ballot.”
SUPCO HEARS MARYLAND GERRYMANDERING CASE
Roll Call: “The Supreme Court hears oral arguments Wednesday in a second key case about partisan gerrymandering, this time focusing on the way Maryland redrew a congressional district to swing it from a Republican to a Democratic seat. The justices already heard arguments in October in a case out of Wisconsin about whether a state’s political maps can be challenged on the basis that they entrench a benefit to one political party over another. The court has never allowed such a challenge but has not ruled it out either. But then in December, with that case still undecided, the Supreme Court announced it also would decide a version of the same issue from Maryland focused on the 6th District. Currently, Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race to replace retiring Democratic Rep. John Delaney ‘Solid Democratic’ for November. Michael Kimberly, the lawyer who will argue Wednesday on behalf of Maryland voters who brought the case, said that Gov. Martin O’Malley and other top state officials who redrew the state’s congressional map specifically intended to dilute the votes of Republicans in the northwest section of the state.”
Court blocks Walker bid to skip special elections - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “As Wisconsin Republicans race to pass a bill to block two court-ordered special elections, a Senate panel Wednesday took testimony on the proposal and GOP Gov. Scott Walker appealed the court decision to give lawmakers time to pass the legislation. On Wednesday, Walker appealed a pair of court orders that he must quickly order special elections to fill two legislative seats that have been vacant since December. Under the two court orders, Walker has until Thursday to call the special elections, which would likely be held in June. The governor and his fellow Republicans who control the Legislature are seeking to approve legislation next week that could cancel the need for special elections and give Walker broader powers to determine when to allow voters to fill vacancies in the Legislature.”
TOP TRUMP AIDE IN TOUCH WITH SHADY RUSSIAN DURING 2016
Fox News: “Former Trump campaign deputy chairman Rick Gatescommunicated with a person with ties to a Russian intelligence service in late 2016, Special Counsel Robert Mueller stated in a new court filing. The revelation came during the sentencing of Alex Van Der Zwaan, an attorney connected to Gates and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who pleaded guilty last month to making false statements to the FBI. ‘That Gates and Person A were directly communicating in September and October 2016 was pertinent to the investigation,’ the Tuesday court filing, obtained and reviewed by Fox News, read. Mueller is investigating Russian meddling and the actions of Trump campaign associates during the presidential election. The unnamed person, cited as ‘Person A,’ had lived in Kiev and Moscow up until August 2016 and worked with Manafort and Gates in connection with their Ukraine lobbying work. Person A, according to the filing, is a foreign national and was a ‘close business colleague’ of both Manafort and Gates, working for Manafort’s company in Ukraine, Davis Manafort International, LLC.”
Trump lawyer suggested Trump pardon Flynn, Manafort - NYT: “A lawyer for President Trump broached the idea of Mr. Trump pardoning two of his former top advisers, Michael T. Flynn and Paul Manafort, with their lawyers last year, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions. The discussions came as the special counsel was building cases against both men, and they raise questions about whether the lawyer, John Dowd, who resigned last week, was offering pardons to influence their decisions about whether to plead guilty and cooperate in the investigation. The talks suggest that Mr. Trump’s lawyers were concerned about what Mr. Flynn and Mr. Manafort might reveal were they to cut a deal with the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, in exchange for leniency. Mr. Mueller’s team could investigate the prospect that Mr. Dowd made pardon offers to thwart the inquiry, although legal experts are divided about whether such offers might constitute obstruction of justice.”
Tillis, Coons stick up for Mueller - Politico: “A Republican senator behind a bill to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller's job joined his Democratic co-author on Tuesday in a bipartisan call for President Donald Trump to let Mueller's investigation proceed ‘without impediment.’ Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) aligned with Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) after weeks of downplaying the need for quick passage of their legislation designed to shield Mueller from being fired by Trump, who has repeatedly expressed frustration with the ongoing probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Tillis and Coons' move comes one week after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) delivered their own gestures of support for Mueller — while not endorsing legislation to protect his work.”
DOJ Inspector General investigates alleged FISA abuses by DOJ, FBI - Fox News: “Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz announced Wednesday he will investigate potential Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) abuses by both the Justice Department and the FBI, following requests from Congress and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The Office of the Inspector General released a statement Wednesday outlining the initiation of a review. ‘The OIG will initiate a review that will examine the Justice Department’s and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s compliance with legal requirements, and with applicable DOJ and FBI policies and procedures, in applications filed with the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) relating to a certain U.S. person,’ the statement obtained by Fox News read.”
Wray doubles agents responding to subpoena on Clinton, McCabe - Fox News: “FBI Director Christopher Wray on Tuesday announced plans to ‘double the number’ of agents handling records for the House Judiciary Committee after it asked for documents on the Clinton email probe, potential FISA abuses and the firing of Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. According to a statement released by Wray, he believes the documents requested by committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., are ‘likely in the thousands’ but that he agrees the ‘current pace of production is too slow.’ In attempt to comply with the committee’s request, Wray said he was ‘doubling’ his team. … But, a DOJ insider told Fox News that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has voiced his concern over the ‘unacceptable’ pace with which the FBI is working and is ‘done’ seeing his department criticized over it.”
Trump tweets support of Second Amendment after Stevens’ call for repeal - Fox News
Trump secures first trade deal for American automakers with South Korea - Bloomberg
White House tries to downplay Kushner finance probe - The Hill
The story of Trump’s billionaire benefactor Robert Mercer’s secret life as a small-town police officer - Bloomberg
Samoans sue seeking citizenship - The Hill
Former Disney Channel star Caroline Sunshine joins White House press team - Fox News
AUDIBLE: THERE’S A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
“Now there is a good chance that Kim Jong Un will do what is right for his people and for humanity.” – President Trump wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning showing optimism about the two leaders upcoming meeting.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Your comments on the second will get many responses I expect. You are correct, Stevens did come out and say the solution if you want to regulate guns is to repeal the second. This is the practical truth and now the fat is in the fire so to speak as the gun owners knew this was the end game for all ‘common sense’ gun laws. The reality I see is that the heartland will likely not play along and thus practically I don’t see the 2nd getting repealed ever. As a long time gun owner, and target shooter, I think getting necessary votes are practically impossible. … What bothers me is the fact that mass shootings in a ‘gun free zone’ is a somewhat modern problem and we don’t seem to be addressing the core issue. It’s not the gun that shot all those folks in the various incidents. It was a person and we need to solve what is wrong with our society that we don’t value life and respect each other over killing innocents. Keep up the great work. Your reports are always fascinating and educational.” – Peter Eick, Houston
[Ed. note: We did get a lot of responses, most of them quite thoughtful, just as yours is. If we take a step back and look at the longer game here, we see how Americans in favor of gun control, as well as other liberal causes, successfully use the courts to advance their agendas starting with Civil Rights. Stevens himself speaks wistfully of the court of his fellow Republican appointee, former Chief Justice Warren Burger. The Burger court resided over momentous changes in American law, life and culture. Probably the most significant of these was preventing states from barring women access to elected abortions, but there were many other decisions that helped advance liberal causes. Conservatives got wise and made the courts a particular focus of their own, as is well reflected in the courts of the last two Chief Justices, William Rehnquist and John Roberts. Now that the definitional terms have changed, liberals are confronted with the fact that the Constitution is not a “living document” in the way they previously saw it. That term rightly refers to the fact the Constitution can be amended, but for much of the past half century it has been taken to mean that our interpretation of the document is situational depending on the wants and needs of the people at any given moment. The victory of the originalists may ultimately be a victory for the original design of the document. This is really the second longest stretch between the ratification of constitutional amendments in U.S. history. There was one ratified in 1992, but that’s kind of a technicality. The 27th Amendment was part of the original Bill of Rights and had passed all but a couple of the necessary states before being set aside. It took the work of a handful of activists and a few state legislatures to push it across the finish line. The last regular amendment was passed in 1971, setting the voting age at 18. Prior to that new amendments came with considerable regularity, especially in the period after the Civil War. It’s about time we get back to using the Constitution the way it was intended. And if strict constructionalism at the Supreme Court has pushed liberals to embrace that concept then I say, good for them.]
“Hi Chris, Thanks for the discussion Justice Steven’s Op Ed. I think this may be the beginning of something momentous. I have thought this was one major solution. I am so thrilled that the 500 pound Gorilla in the room has been exposed.” – Henry Martin Lederman, Ypsilanti, Mich.
[Ed. note: I think the odds would be quite long, Mr. Lederman, for the kind of simple repeal that the former justice described. As the correspondent above, Mr. Eick, points out the antipathy toward gun control in many states would make repeal a pretty tough tote. But I do think that an amendment that modifies our understanding of the original or clarifies the tension between “well regulated” and “shall not be abridged” could succeed. That will depend on, of course, the content of the proposed legislation, as well as the political climate of the moment. If enough lawmakers were to lose their seats over opposition to the amendment you could end up with serious change in the span of only a couple of years. But all of that depends on supporters of gun control uniting behind such an initiative.]
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‘THAT’S HOW RUFF RYDERS ROLL’
Complex: “DMX currently awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to tax fraud for avoiding $1.7 million in taxes over the course of five years. ‘I failed to file taxes,’ he told U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in December. ‘I’m responsible, even placing other people in charge of it.’ The rapper’s prosecutors are seeking a five-year prison sentence and urged Rakoff to ‘send the message to this defendant and others that star power does not entitle someone to a free pass.’ According to court documents made public on Monday, DMX’s legal team has a unique plan in place to sway the judge’s opinion: they’re going to play his songs at the sentencing. Attorney Murray Richman said that he plans to play a few of DMX’s songs at Thursday’s sentencing so that the judge will ‘understand him genuinely in his voice.’ Richman explains that DMX may be too emotional to speak.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.