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At the White House
THE LONG CAMPAIGN: A video attacking Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) for the way she referenced 9/11, spliced with footage of the burning twin towers, still remains on President Trump’s Twitter feed.
And criticism from Democrats condemning Trump’s Friday tweet, based on his interpretation of Omar’s remarks made at a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) conference last month, swelled over the course of the weekend. Some were more forceful and explicit than others, however.
“Since the President’s tweet Friday evening, I have experienced an increase in the direct threats on my life — many directly referencing or replying to the President’s video,” Omar said in a statement released on Sunday evening. “We are all Americans. This is endangering lives. It has to stop.”
This isn’t an easy issue for Democrats, fiercely divided over whether to officially rebuke Omar — one of the first Muslim congresswomen — for what some senior lawmakers in their party viewed as anti-Semitic rhetoric.
- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) first tweeted on Friday condemning Trump’s politicization of 9/11: “The memory of 9/11 is sacred ground, and any discussion of it must be done with reverence. The President shouldn’t use the painful images of 9/11 for a political attack.”
- She followed up with a statement Sunday calling for Trump’s “dangerous video” to be taken down and said that Capitol Police were conducting a security assessment to assure the safety of Omar, her family and staff.
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) offered one of the first and most searing responses: “The President is inciting violence against a sitting Congresswoman — and an entire group of Americans based on their religion. It’s disgusting. It’s shameful. And any elected leader who refuses to condemn it shares responsibility for it.”
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) was panned by Democrats for the qualifier: “As a Senator who represents 9/11 victims, I can’t accept any minimizing of that pain. But Trump’s dangerous rhetoric against @IlhanMN is disgusting. It’s a false choice to suggest we can’t fight terrorism and reject Islamophobic hate at once — a president should do both.
The varying shades of defenses of Omar by Democrats, from milquetoast to explicit, did not go unnoticed by the base:
- 2020 consequences: “Black folks are watching. Muslim folks are watching. Brown folks are watching,’’ Jennifer Epps-Addison, the co-executive director of the Center for Popular Democracy, a liberal organizing group focusing on minority communities, told the New York Times’s Astead Herndon. “And we’re making our decisions about who to support in real time. When your sister is being attacked, you can’t wait to get the politics right.”
- “We are seeing a shift in the Democratic Party where there’s a fracture…“I’m more invested in the candidates who are willing to speak up and call it what it is,” Zahra Billoo, the executive director of the CAIR chapter in the San Francisco Bay area, told Herndon.
Trump, too, has been throwing more red meat to his base as the 2020 campaign has started, increasing his attacks on immigrants and hardening his central 2016 campaign promise to drastically restrict the number of people allowed into the country.
- In the aftermath of the shooting that killed 50 Muslims at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, the president ignored the prime minister’s ask for him to “show sympathy and love for all Muslim communities,” did not call the massacre a terrorist attack and denied the rising threat of right-wing extremism.
- This is not new: Here’s a timeline compiled in 2017 of Trump’s comments about Islam and Muslims by our colleagues Jenna Johnson and Abigail Hauslohner.
- Last week, Trump purged his leadership at the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to push a “tougher” approach to securing the border and the president confirmed The Post scoop that the White House is considering sending migrant detainees to sanctuary cities, partially as a means of political pressure on Democrats.
- Additionally, CNN’s Jake Tapper and the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman, Annie Karni and Eric Schmitt reported that Trump urged now acting secretary of homeland security Kevin McAleenan to close the southern border with a promise to pardon him if he encountered legal problems as a result.
Over the course of the past decade, Trump has repeatedly wielded the 9/11 terrorist attack as a political weapon, perpetuating falsehoods:
- On his travel ban: “Those people that knocked down the World Trade Center most likely under the Trump policy wouldn’t have been here to knock down the World Trade Center, just so you understand,” Trump said in August.
- During a 2015 interview with ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos on this debunked theory: “There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations,” Trump falsely alleged. “They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down. I know it might be not politically correct for you to talk about it, but there were people cheering as that building came down — as those buildings came down. And that tells you something. It was well covered at the time, George. Now, I know they don’t like to talk about it, but it was well covered at the time. There were people over in New Jersey that were watching it, a heavy Arab population, that were cheering as the buildings came down. Not good.”
- And during a 2016 debate: “The World Trade Center came down during the reign of George Bush. He kept us safe? That is not safe. That is not safe,” Trump said, attacking Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio for defending George W. Bush during a February 2016 primary debate.
Later today, Trump heads to Omar’s state for a visit to a Burnsville trucking company to tout the economy and the 2018 tax plan, according to the White House. Trump’s reelection campaign has its sights set on Minnesota. He narrowly lost the state in 2016.
THE WAITING GAME: Attorney General Bill Barr has promised that a redacted copy of the Mueller report will be available sometime this week to Washington and the rest of the world. For now, we have only read less than 100 words from the report itself. Soon enough, we may get answers to some of our biggest questions nearly two years after Robert Mueller’s mid-May 2017 appointment..
How they’re preparing: Congress is on recess, but the Wall Street Journal’s Aruna Viswanatha reports that ample stocks of whisky and draft pizza orders have been “stockpiled” for the legion of aides ready to tear through the report once it hits.
- “Once the report does arrive, House Judiciary Committee lawyers and aides plan to crowd into a staff office and pore over it. Among their goals will be determining how big a gap is between what they have requested and what the redacted copy offers. That measure will inform whether the committee issues a subpoena to obtain evidence underlying the report,” per Viswanatha.
- “Lawyers for Mr. Trump have for months been preparing a counter-report. It is now 140 pages long, but lawyers want to whittle it down to about 50,” Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told the Journal.
How the White House is biding its time?: “Mr. Trump is purposefully escalating his language, people who know him said, expressly to enliven his base of supporters and to enrage his political rivals and the news media. He has revived an idea that his administration rejected — sending immigrant detainees to so-called sanctuary cities — in part, people close to him said, to distract from the [Mueller] report.” the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni report of Trump’s distraction tactics.
Remember when? Over the weekend, Power Up relistened to a Slow Burn episode depicting the hysteria in Washington and around the country following the Sept. 9, 1998 release of Ken Starr’s investigation of Bill Clinton. The descriptions of DC’s reaction 21 years ago seems almost quaint in the Trump era.
- “The Government Printing Office couldn’t produce enough copies for every Congressman and all 7,000 journalists who wanted one. To accommodate demand, the House clerk’s office struck a special deal with Kinko’s to get the report printed at just 7 cents a page,” Slow Burn host Leon Neyfakh says.
- Here’s some of The Post’s coverage from the week:
- Our favorite highlight: “Overall, the glitches were minor and the Web did not unravel,” Linton Weeks and Leslie Walker wrote at the time about the record online traffic after the report was posted publicly three days after it was delivered to Congress.
- Barr is set to testify in front of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees on May 1 and 2.
- There are already calls, including from Republicans, to call Mueller too.
- Three different book publishers, including one in conjunction with The Post, are set to publish the report once it is released, redactions and all.
- Preorder the report and The Post’s analysis here.
Sarah Sanders claims members of Congress are too dumb to review Trump’s tax returns
“Frankly, I don’t think Congress, particularly not this group of congressmen & women, are smart enough to look through the thousands of pages… my guess is most of them don’t do their own taxes” pic.twitter.com/IAfWDZ7FPd
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 14, 2019
On The Hill
HAPPY TAX DAY: “House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal is giving the IRS an extension until 5 p.m. on April 23 to produce the six years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns he requested earlier this month,” per Roll Call’s Doug Sword. The Treasury Department already blew past Neal’s first deadline of April 10.
- “The Massachusetts Democrat told IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig in a letter Saturday that the agency has failed to produce the tax returns despite an “unambiguous legal obligation to do so” under Section 6103 of the tax code. If Rettig declines to turn over the records by the new deadline, Neal wrote that ‘your failure will be interpreted as a denial of my request,'” per Sword.
CONGRESS “NOT SMART ENOUGH” TO UNDERSTAND TRUMP’S TAXES: Like president, like press secretary. Among his litany of excuses, Trump has claimed that his taxes are far “too complicated” and people wouldn’t “understand them.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders took it a step further on Sunday by claiming House Democrats aren’t smart enough to understand Trump’s finances.
- “This is a dangerous, dangerous road and frankly, Chris, I don’t think Congress, particularly not this group of congressmen and women, are smart enough to look through the thousands of pages that I would assume that President Trump’s taxes will be,” Sanders said on Fox News Sunday.
It turns out that ten members of Congress are actually accountants, according to CNN’s Eric Levenson. It also turns out, lawmakers don’t appreciate being called dumb:
There’s an old saying.
When the law is on your side, pound the law.
When the facts are on your side, pound the facts.
If neither the facts or law are on your side, pound the table.
And then there’s whatever this is. https://t.co/INukgddrg7
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) April 14, 2019
Speak for yourself, Sarah. https://t.co/jvMDhMuIv6
— Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (@RepMGS) April 15, 2019
Our freshman class includes intelligence analysts, nurses, veterans, and – ahem – law professors. I think we can handle it. https://t.co/XORMWW8dEd
— Rep. Katie Porter (@RepKatiePorter) April 14, 2019
SHADE FROM THE SPEAKER: Pelosi isn’t worried about the progressives in her caucus. Asked on “60 Minutes” about the challenge posed by the new members of her caucus, Pelosi had this to say:
Lesley Stahl: “You have these wings– AOC, and her group on one side” — Pelosi: “That’s like five people.”
Former Ocasio-Cortez campaign staffer Waleed Shahid responded on Twitter: “That’s quite a way to welcome a new generation of mostly progressive women of color entering the Democratic Party who are activating young people, people of color, and working-class voters of all backgrounds.”
“HOPE IS NOT A PLAN”: Three months have passed since the Trump administration demanded that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro resign and hand his power over to opposition party leader Juan Guaidó. The administration’s expectations have not materialized and “Venezuela’s top-heavy military remains largely intact” under Maduro’s authoritarian rule, my colleagues Karen DeYoung and Mary Beth Sheridan report.
“I think the administration, as well as the opposition, put too much hope in the military rising up,” said a former senior U.S. official who worked on President Trump’s Venezuela policy. “Hope is not a plan.”
“Trump administration officials acknowledge that [military] defections are occurring more slowly than anticipated.”
“Why hasn’t it broken open yet? Good question,” Elliott Abrams, the administration’s special envoy for Venezuela, said in a meeting last week with Post editors and reporters. “It’s open for debate. I’ll give you part of the answer, and it’s the Cubans.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo just arrived back from his four-country swing through South America, where the cheese-loving secretary of state “had a lot to feel good about,” according to my colleague John Hudson, who was traveling with him:
- Re Venezuela: Chile stressed the importance of “diplomatic pressure,” officials in Peru and Paraguay promised continued relief to Venezuelan refugees and in Colombia, “Venezuelans who have fled there thanked him for his efforts in the border town of Cúcuta, where the United States has positioned tons of aid in the event Maduro’s regime allows food and medicine into the country,” per Hudson.
Uh okay, Mr. Secretary: Hudson hit a nerve with Pompeo during a news conference after he asked if Peru “might consider engaging with Maduro if Western sanctions against the regime worsen the humanitarian and refugee crisis.”
“Your question showed an incredible lack of understanding,” Pompeo said, following his Peruvian counterpart’s response. “To have suggested that somehow the policies that Peru has taken or that the Lima Group has taken or that the United States has taken have driven these refugees. You shouldn’t ask questions like that.”
When asked again, Pompeo responded: “The responsibility for these refugees lies squarely with Nicolás Maduro, not any policies that any democratic nation has taken with our deep intent to make lives better for the Venezuelan people. A hundred percent of the refugee challenge that is faced by Peru and Colombia is the direct result of the Russians, the Cubans and [Maduro].”
IVANKA IN AFRICA: The first daughter, meanwhile, is in Africa. The Associated Press’s Catherine Lucey is traveling with Ivanka Trump, who is promoting her ‘Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative” on a four-day trip to Ethiopia and the Ivory Coast.
- “Investing in women is smart development policy and it’s smart business,” Trump said, sitting in an Addis Ababa coffee shop, alongside women who work in the coffee industry. “It’s also in our security interest, because women, when we’re empowered, foster peace and stability.”
“I think she’s coming genuinely to empower women and it’s good that she’s coming because she will push forward our agenda,” activist Marakie Tesfaye, who founded a group in Ethiopia for women, told Lucey.
The program, which has secured $50 million in funding through USAID, is intended to offer assistance to 50 million businesswomen in developing countries by 2025.
- “The president’s 2020 budget proposal requests an additional $100 million for the initiative, which will also be supported by programs across the government as well as private investment,” Lucey reports.
Trump also visited the Holy Trinity Cathedral to honor the victims of the Ethiopian Airlines crash that killed 157 people last month. She’ll then visit with the Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed before heading to the Ivory Coast.
America, and apparently Washington, loves a comeback. Presidents Trump, Obama and Clinton — along with more than a dozen lawmakers from both parties — celebrated Tiger Woods’s Masters win on Sunday. (Barry Svrluga has The Post’s story from Augusta).