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On the roster: You’ve got to work it - Pence to stump for Heller in Nevada - Pruitt aide, friend resigns amidst EPA scandals - Nielsen: ‘This is the Trump border wall’ - Beets, bears and Battlestar Galactica
YOU’VE GOT TO WORK IT
With the news blowing around like a hairdo in the April wind, how about a few nuggets from our notebook?
- President Trump has spent more time in West Virginia lately than some of the state’s senators used to. It’s an easy trip from Washington and Trump has found a kindred spirit in his fellow billionaire resort owner and Democrat-turned-Republican Gov. Jim Justice. Plus, Trump is more popular in the Mountain State than almost anywhere else. The question that lingers after his latest visit, though, is whether Trump will use his popularity to sort out the state GOP Senate primary. With less than a month to go and a chance to flip one of the four most vulnerable Democratic Senate seats on the line, Trump hasn’t waded in.
- Speaking of The Greenbrier, that’s one of the places where Rep. John Duncan, R-Tenn., is accused of improperly spending campaign contributions. Duncan denies that he lavished more than $100,000 on friends and family and has vowed to fight the charges. However the probe turns out, we have to say that a round on Old White on a perfect spring day might even be worth a seat in Congress…
- And speaking of members of Congress from Tennessee, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., had better get busy. A new poll from Middle Tennessee State University shows Blackburn down ten points to Democratic Governor Phil Bredesen. Blackburn had been worried for months about surviving a Republican primary, but Sen. Bob Corker decided to remain out of the race and really retire and former Rep. Stephen Fincher opted against a run. She may have been worrying at the wrong time. Even in a state where President Trump does at least ten points better on his job approval rating than in the country as a whole, Blackburn is struggling. Bredesen fits the mold of the kind of statewide politicians who do well in Tennessee: He’s moderate, pro-business and has a low-key personality. If Democrats really could flip Tennessee, it would take some of the pressure off an otherwise abominable map for the Blue Team.
- Remember when the White House went to great pains to argue that the president’s criticism of FBI Director James Comey was unrelated to the investigation into Russian campaign meddling even though Trump included Russia in his termination letter to Comey? Then they started steering the message back toward talking points but the president point-blank told NBC News that he fired Comey over Russia? In that spirit, consider the president’s tweet today about his simmering resentments toward Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos, which we are told daily have absolutely, positively nothing to do with negative coverage in the WaPo, which Bezos also owns: The Fake News Washington Post, Amazon’s ‘chief lobbyist,’ has another (of many) phony headlines, ‘Trump Defiant As China Adds Trade Penalties.’ WRONG! Should read, ‘Trump Defiant as U.S. Adds Trade Penalties, Will End Barriers And Massive I.P. Theft.’ Typically bad reporting!” Hmmmmmm…
- Trump’s conduct surrounding Amazon is pushing an increasing number of ethical boundaries, but here’s a bet: The shockingly lavish inducements local and state governments are offering Amazon will be a more lasting source of political scandal than the president’s fulminations about his foe, Bezos.
- A labor shortage is a good problem for a nation’s economy to have, but as Daniel Henninger points out in the WSJ, it’s still a problem. After months at what constitutes full employment in the eyes of economists – somewhere around 4 percent – employers are struggling to find workers to keep pace with growth. Aside from fueling inflation concerns, the worker shortage could sabotage growth. A report in Barron’s says America will be short more than 8 million workers over the next decade. The Journal recently provided a useful snapshot of the predicament: The burgeoning manufacturing sector in Iowa can’t find enough skilled workers to fill jobs. As a result, employers are looking elsewhere to expand.
- The fight in the Colorado Senate over a Republican member who, according to an independent investigation, “more likely than not” grabbed and slapped the buttocks of a Democratic aide two years ago has become an extraordinarily stupid exercise. The state House expelled a Democrat last month for harassing a fellow representative. But when #metoo came around for Republican Sen. Randy Baumgardner, the GOP majority refused to budge and kept the lavishly mustachioed lawmaker (and their one-seat majority). Republicans even offered a counter-claim against a Democratic senator who used an unmarked restroom reserved for female lawmakers. We wonder, though, if it will be worth it. With four Republican U.S. House seats for election, a competitive gubernatorial election and several key state Senate races, Democrats won’t hesitate to make Baumgardner the face of the GOP.
- The speculation about if and when Sen. John McCain might step down is intensifying. The Arizona Republican has been clear since he was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that he would continue to serve in the Senate. But if he were to step aside, timing would be a serious consideration. Under state law, if McCain were to leave before May 30, Republicans would automatically be defending two tough seats on Nov. 6 with an increasingly challenging Arizona electorate. If McCain were to retire after May 30, though, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey would get to pick a replacement who would serve through 2020.
THE RULEBOOK: NEUTRALITY
“As the accuracy of the census to be obtained by the Congress will necessarily depend, in a considerable degree on the disposition, if not on the co-operation, of the States, it is of great importance that the States should feel as little bias as possible, to swell or to reduce the amount of their numbers.” – Alexander Hamilton or James Madison, Federalist No. 54
TIME OUT: IT WAS ALL YELLOW
Paris Review: “Here are two yellow fables: In the first story, a man sits next to a pool of water. … He can see his own reflection, and he admires the tender sweep of his brow. … Eventually, his body … withers, and he dies. … Every year, in that same spot, a narcissus opens its butter-yellow petals… In the second story, an artist sits at his easel and feels the creeping dread of depression… To cure himself … [he] spoons yellow [paint] into his mouth… Narcissus belongs to mythology, and Vincent van Gogh most likely didn’t eat his yellow paint. … The myth persists because it is so appealing… These myths tell us something about yellow… While darker yellows … can feel sophisticated, earthy, or even moody … there is another type of pure yellow, one that gleams softly without a hint of brown. Known as jonquil, this light-yellow hue is the color of sunshine and vanity, madness and domestic bliss.”
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Trump job performance
Average approval: 41.4 percent
Average disapproval: 53.4 percent
Net Score: -12 points
Change from one week ago: down 1 point
[Average includes: Gallup: 39% approve - 55% disapprove; IBD: 38% approve - 56% disapprove; CNN: 43% approve - 53% disapprove; Marist College: 42% approve - 51% disapprove; Fox News: 45% approve - 52% disapprove.]
Control of House
Republican average: 41.4 percent
Democratic average: 47.8 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 6.4 points
Change from one week ago: no change in Democratic advantage
[Average includes: CNN: 50% Dems - 44% GOP; 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.]
PENCE TO STUMP FOR HELLER IN NEVADA
Politico: “Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Las Vegas next week to do fundraising for Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, one of the most vulnerable Republican incumbents, as the vice president continues his intense campaigning ahead of the midterm elections. The April 13 fundraiser costs $1,000 to attend, and $10,000 for a photo reception, according to an invitation obtained by POLITICO… The trip is part of the vice president’s push to help Republicans ahead of what is shaping up to be a bruising 2018 midterm cycle... As the White House accepts that it will accomplish little legislatively between now and November, Pence’s focus is squarely on the midterms. He is intensely sought as a fundraiser, and carries less controversy than President Donald Trump.”
Both parties try to use immigration debate in House races - AP: “Both Democrats and Republicans think the stalemate between President Donald Trump and Congress over immigration can help them in November’s congressional elections. Each could be right. In House races across the country, both parties are using the fight over immigration … to fire up base voters in midterm elections. Democrats think it can help them reach minorities, young people and suburban moderates repelled by Trump’s strident anti-immigrant stances, while Republicans have noted his success in using promises to crack down on immigration to energize disaffected conservatives. As a result, Democrats are using the issue to emphasize inclusivity and are targeting border regions, suburbs and areas with immigrant populations. Republicans, whose districts tend to be less diverse, plan to make immigration a law-and-order issue that appeals to conservatives all around the U.S.”
Trump dines with super pac donors - Politico: “President Donald Trump [spent] Wednesday evening dining with backers of America First Action, the principal pro-Trump super PAC, which is expected to spend millions of dollars in this year’s midterm elections. The Washington dinner will also be attended by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a key informal Trump adviser, said White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters. Jeff Miller, a veteran Republican fundraiser who oversaw Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s 2016 presidential bid, is also expected to be in attendance. America First Action is raising funds with an eye toward spending $100 million ahead of the 2018 midterms. The super PAC has enlisted energy company executive Harold Hamm, a Trump ally, to help fill its coffers.”
Gun control hype may not help Dems in key midterm races - Fox News: “Students are energized. People who want tighter gun restrictions are energized. Staunch defenders of the Second Amendment are energized. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez are on televisions everywhere. … But it remains to be seen whether firearms will be an issue in this fall’s midterm elections and help Democrats win seats. Consider the types of seats Democrats must capture to take the House. Look at the success in the recent special election in southwestern Pennsylvania. Rep.-elect Conor Lamb, D-Pa., won touting a moderate message. Democrats note that voters backed Lamb in part due to his stance on health care and ways to improve Obamacare. Guns? Nowhere to be found.”
With or without Ryan, the race for his seat is heating up - NYT: “Mr. [Randy Bryce], for those who don’t watch MSNBC, is better known by his Twitter handle, ‘Iron Stache’ — a nod to his occupation (ironworker) and his thick horseshoe mustache. A Democrat, he has become a liberal media darling of sorts, as he seeks to do the unthinkable: unseat Mr. [Paul Ryan] in Wisconsin’s First Congressional District this fall. But Mr. Bryce is not the only candidate hoping to dethrone a congressional king. Another Democrat, a schoolteacher named Cathy Myers, is also running for her party’s nomination. … And on the right, Republicans are confronting an embarrassing spectacle: A white nationalist and anti-Semite, Paul Nehlen, who lost to Mr. Ryan by 68 points in the 2016 Republican primary, is running again, this time flaunting his bigotry to gain a national following.”
The Rock gets honest about a possible political run - Fox News: “There's been a lot of chatter that WWE star turned movie star Dwayne Johnson, otherwise known as ‘The Rock,’ may run for office. Johnson, 45, told Fox News on the red carpet at the Los Angeles premiere of his film ‘Rampage,’ he hasn't ruled out a possible political -- or even presidential -- run. ‘I wouldn’t rule it out and I think you know with the amount of people in a way campaigning for that and being vocal about that it’s very flattering,’ he dished. … Johnson first stirred rumors of a possible political run at the tail end of 2017 with an interview in Rolling Stone, in which he said he was ‘seriously considering’ running for president in 2020. Earlier this week, he revealed to the magazine he's been having ‘under the radar’ meetings with political strategists.”
Unprecedented number of educators are running for seats in Kentucky legislature - The Hill: “At least 40 educators have filed to run for office in Kentucky. That number includes 32 Democrats and eight Republicans who have filed to run for a seat in the Kentucky legislature, David Allen, the former president of the Kentucky Education Association, told WKYT. ‘It's unprecedented,’ Allen, who is tracking the number of educators who are running for office this year, said. … He said educators are moving to run for office due to ‘frustration.’ ‘It's frustration over past action and it's all been recently exacerbated by the efforts of the General Assembly to meet behind closed doors and push legislation through,’ Allen said.”
PRUITT AIDE, FRIEND RESIGNS AMIDST EPA SCANDALS
The Hill: “A top aide and close friend of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has issued her resignation in the midst of various scandals plaguing the agency chief. Samantha Dravis, the senior counsel and associate administrator in EPA's Office of Policy, tendered her resignation last week, the agency confirmed to The Hill on Thursday. The sudden departure is described by one source with close knowledge of Dravis’s relationship with Pruitt as a ‘five-alarm story.’ Dravis has a long history with Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma. She previously worked with Pruitt as policy director and general counsel at the Republican Attorneys General Association. She was also president of the Rule of Law Defense Fund, affiliated with the same organization, and before that legal counsel at Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce — an organization of conservative political donors led by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.”
GOP senators jump to Pruitt’s defense - WashEx: “Conservative senators on Thursday raced to defend embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who is being scrutinized by the White House for arranging a controversial condo rental agreement with the wife of an energy lobbyist. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., credited Pruitt for his conservative credentials, and his efforts at unwinding environmental regulations imposed by prior administrations. … Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also gave support to Pruitt Thursday, and blamed media coverage for Pruitt’s problems. ‘Why do Obama and his media cronies want so badly to drive @EPAScottPruitt out of office? @realDonaldTrump is too cagey to be duped and bullied by the Obama groupies,’ Cruz wrote on Twitter. Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., a longtime Pruitt supporter from his home state, is also standing by him.”
EPA ethics lawyer casts doubt on Pruitt’s housing arrangement - AP: “An Environmental Protection Agency lawyer said he wasn’t provided the full facts when he ruled there was no ethics violation in Administrator Scott Pruitt’s lease of a bargain-priced Capitol Hill condo with ties to a fossil fuels lobbyist. In a letter dated Wednesday, EPA ethics lawyer Kevin Minoli said his finding last week that Pruitt was paying fair-market value was based on the assumption that Pruitt occupied only one bedroom for $50 a night, as outlined in the lease. Media reports later disclosed that Pruitt’s college-aged daughter occupied a second bedroom in the unit while she interned at the White House last summer. Minoli said he did not consider the value of a second room in his analysis. Pruitt paid about $1,000 a month, less than a third of what Minoli’s review found nearby two-bedroom homes listed for.”
NIELSEN: ‘THIS IS THE TRUMP BORDER WALL’
The Hill: “Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said on Wednesday that the administration considers replacements and updates to the border wall as qualifying as ‘new’ segments of border wall. ‘To us, it’s all new wall. If there was a wall before that needs to be replaced, it’s being replaced by a new wall,’ Nielsen said on Wednesday during a White House press briefing. ‘This is the Trump border wall.’ Her comments come after President Trump received $1.6 billion for border security in the recently passed federal budget, though the funding came with a number of restrictions. Trump recently touted ‘the start’ of his long-proposed border wall in a tweet that featured photos of a border update project in Calexico, Calif., that had been prioritized since 2009. Nielsen’s remarks were similar to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s comment on Friday that replacement fencing was part of the Trump administration’s border wall system.”
Oregon governor says she won’t sent Guard to border - Oregon Live: “In her latest resistance to the Trump administration, Gov. Kate Brown announced Wednesday that she will refuse to let Oregon National Guard troops be stationed at the U.S.-Mexico border, should President Trump seek to dispatch them there. Trump signed a proclamation Wednesday making clear his intention to beef up security at the country's southern border, in part with National Guard forces. Brown, a Democrat, tweeted that if Trump asks her to deploy Oregon Guard troops to the border, ‘I'll say no.’ ‘As Commander of Oregon's Guard, I'm deeply troubled by Trump's plan to militarize our border,’ Brown tweeted. She noted that federal officials have not reached out to request troops from Oregon.”
THE JUDGE’S RULING: MULLING MUELLER
This week Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano discusses what exactly Special Counsel Robert Mueller is looking for: “Mueller is examining [the Russians’] potential American confederates for the crime of conspiracy -- or, as my colleagues in the media call it, collusion. This would be an agreement by campaign officials to accept something of value from a foreign person, entity or government, even if the thing of value -- for example, Hillary Clinton emails -- was never actually delivered. The crime is the agreement, and it is prosecutable after at least one of those who agreed takes a material step in furtherance of the agreement.” More here.
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats plans to declassify ‘as much as possible’ of Gina Haspel’s CIA record - Politico
T-Rex left behind hefty consultant bill - Politico
Las Vegas political adviser sexually enslaved ex-fiancée - Las Vegas Review-Journal
Judge approves settlement over IRS tea party targeting - AP
Facebook says up to 87M users affected in Cambridge Analytica scandal - Fox News
Russia’s top diplomat calls expulsion of Russian diplomats ‘mockery’ of the law - AP
“Even shooting wars end with negotiations.” – White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow discussing U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods yesterday with Bloomberg.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Just a question to ponder. Everyone is worried that Trump is igniting a trade war by imposing tariffs on other countries. If these other countries first put tariffs on our imports and we respond by putting tariffs on theirs why are we accused of starting trade wars and they aren’t?” – Bob Hoerr, East Peoria, Ill.
[Ed. note: That is exactly what the White House is saying all day, every day. President Trump is keenly interested in avoiding the blame for the economic damage that a trade war would do, and would rather voters think of it as him responding rather than initiating. I tend to think that would be a pretty hard sell for the administration since this president is departing from the status quo. Probably a better argument would be that the economic disruptions are necessary in order to preserve the long-term health of the economy. That is particularly a good argument to make in regards to stopping China’s rampant theft of intellectual property and other, ahem, patently illegal conduct. It will be harder to manage that argument on products like steel and agricultural products in which China is more than able to play tit-for-tat with the US. Don’t forget, one of the advantages that authoritarian states have is that they care very little, if at all, about disruptions and dislocations for their citizens. American voters lose patience with economic suffering almost instantly.]
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BEETS, BEARS AND BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
TIME: “Not only is The Office one of the most bingeable shows on Netflix, but turns out it’s also responsible for saving lives. Thanks to the famous scene from season five’s ‘Stress Relief’ in which Steve Carell’s Michael, Dwight and the rest of the Scranton branch take a CPR lesson, Central Michigan University student Natalie Belsito was recently able to rescue a drowning squirrel from near-certain death. In a video that has been watched nearly 33,000 times since Wednesday, Belsito can be seen performing CPR on the squirrel — which had fallen into a campus pool — before taking it back to her dorm to warm it up with a blow dryer. ‘Brought a squirrel back from the dead, what was your Wednesday like?’ she captioned the clip. She apparently wouldn’t have known what to do without the help of the Dunder Mifflin gang.”
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.