I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, April 18, 2018. 202 days until Election Day 2018. 930 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barbara Bush dies at 92
Former First Lady Barbara Bush, the wife of one president and mother of another, died on Tuesday at the age of 92. She was the outspoken matriarch of one of America's most prominent political dynasties, a key influence behind the combined five presidential campaigns waged by her husband, George H.W. Bush, and sons, George W. and Jeb Bush. Bush, known for her advocacy of literacy while serving as First Lady, is only the second woman in history to be married to a U.S. president and give birth to one, following Abigail Adams.
--- Statement from the elder Bush's post-presidential chief of staff: "So many of you are asking, 'How is 41?' He, of course, is broken-hearted to lose his beloved Barbara, his wife of 73 years. He held her hand all day today and was at her side when [she] left this good earth. Obviously, this is a very challenging time. But it will not surprise all of you who know and love him, that he also is being stoic and strong, and is being lifted up by his large and supportive family. He is determined to be there for them as well. He appreciates all the well wishes and support."
--- Their marriage, which lasted over 73 years, was the longest in presidential history.
--- Her funeral will be on Saturday at St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Houston. She will be buried next to her late daughter Robin at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.
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CIA Director Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un
CIA Director Mike Pompeo secretly met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea, President Trump confirmed this morning, as planning continues for a possible summit between Kim and Trump. "Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed," Trump tweeted. "Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!
Pompeo's top-secret mission was first reported on Tuesday by the Washington Post, which called the visit an "extraordinary meeting between one of Trump’s most trusted emissaries and the authoritarian head of a rogue state." Pompeo is also Trump's nominee to be Secretary of State.
--- Meanwhile, a number of Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced on Tuesday that they would not vote to confirm Pompeo, including the two — Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Tim Kaine (D-VA) — who supported his nomination to be CIA Director. If all 10 Democrats and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who also plans to vote against him, oppose Pompeo, he will receive an unfavorable recommendation from the panel, although Republican leaders have signaled that they will send his nomination to the floor even without the committee's endorsement. According to the Wall Street Journal, only one Cabinet nominee on record was confirmed without a favorable committee reccoemdnation: Agriculture Secretary Henry Wallace in 1945.
Haley vs. Kudlow: Trump officials spar over Russian sanctions
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley engaged in a public war of words with National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow on Tuesday over the issue of Russian sanctions. In an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Haley announced that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would be rolling out new sanctions against Russia the next day that would "go directly to any sort of companies that were dealing with equipment related to [Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad] and chemical weapons use."
But when Monday rolled around, no sanctions were imposed. According to the Washington Post, President Trump had told his advisers Sunday night that "he was upset the sanctions were being officially rolled out because he was not yet comfortable executing them," and decided against authorizing them, despite Haley's public announcement to the contrary. The New York Times reports that Trump "grew angry" when he watched Haley's television appearance, believing he had not yet decided to impose sanctions, although Politico reports that Trump did sign off on the new sanctions last week.
"She got ahead of the curve," Kudlow told reporters of Haley on Tuesday. "She's done a great job. She's a very effective ambassador, but there might have been some momentary confusion about that."
Hours later, Haley fired back. "With all due respect, I don't get confused," she said in a statement to Fox News.
Kudlow told the Times that he later called Haley to apologize, adding that "she was certainly not confused" and that he "was wrong to say that — totally wrong." He continued: "As it turns out, she was basically following what she thought was policy. The policy was changed and she wasn't told about it, so she was in a box."
--- According to the Times, there is a "deeper strain" between Haley and Trump, who "has grown exasperated by her outspokenness," especially in criticizing Russian president Vladimir Putin. Trump has reportedly "grown suspicious of her ambition," "increasingly wondering whether she wants his own job." Interesting aside: "Republicans close to the White House whisper about the prospect of an alliance between Ms. Haley and Vice President Mike Pence, possibly to run as a ticket in 2020," the Times reported.
--- So far this morning, President Trump has tweeted four times. He criticized Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) on immigration, said that the sketch of the man Stormy Daniels claims to have threatened her is "a total con job," confirmed CIA Director Pompeo's secret meeting with Kim Jong Un, and insisted that he did not fire "Slippery James Comey" because of the Russia investigation.
--- The Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down a law requiring the mandatory deportation of immigrants convicted of some "crimes of violence, ruling that it was too vague. Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was appointed by President Trump last year, sided with the court's liberal justice in the 5-4 decision, ruling against Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Trump Administration.
--- Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA) announced Tuesday that he plans to resign in the "coming weeks." Dent had already said he'd be retiring at the end of his current term. In a statement, Dent said that the decision to step down sooner came "after discussions with my family and careful reflection."
--- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he would not hold a floor vote on a bipartisan bill to protect special counsel Robert Mueller. "We'll not be having this on the floor of the Senate," he said on Fox News. The bill is set to be voted on by the Senate Judiciary Committee next week.
--- Defense Secretary Jim Mattis urged President Trump to get congressional approval before launching airstrikes against Syria last week, the New York Times reports. He was overruled by President Trump, "who wanted a rapid and dramatic response."
--- Fox News anchor Sean Hannity is "an increasingly powerful confidant" to President Trump, the Washington Post reports. The two reportedly speak "several times a week," discussing Hannity's show, the Russia investigation, White House staffing decisions, the president's tweets, and other topics. "The conservative commentator is so close to Trump that some White House aides have dubbed him the unofficial chief of staff," the Post said.
--- Gov. Eric Greitens (R-MO) faces growing calls from members of his own party to step down, amid explosive allegations of aggressive sexual encounters from his hairdresser and the threat of a felony charge for using his charity's donor list to raise money for his gubernatorial campaign. The Missouri State House Speaker, Majority Leader, Speaker Pro Tem, and Senate President Pro Tem all called on Greitens to resign Tuesday, but the governor said on Twitter that he would not do so. Impeachment proceedings are likely to begin in the coming weeks.
President Trump continues his two-day summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida today. Trump and Abe will hold a 2pm working lunch, followed by a 5:30pm joint press conference, and a 7:30pm "social dinner" with their wives.
The Senate is scheduled to hold up to four call votes today:
- on passage of a joint resolution rolling back a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regulation "intended to discourage discrimination in auto lending," according to Politico;
- advancing a measure which would "pull Clean Water Act protections from U.S. waters when it comes to regulation of the 'biological pollution' contained in the ballast water discharges of ships from overseas," transferring oversight from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to the U.S. Coast Guard, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel;
- if the Coast Guard bill fails, advancing the nomination of James Bridenstine to be Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA);
- and on confirmation of Carlos Muñiz to be General Counsel of the Department of Education.
The House is in session today, but no roll call votes have been announced. Lawmakers will gather in the Capitol's Statuary Hall today to honor the late Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who died in office last month. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), four other Democratic representatives, and Slaughter's daughter will speak at the memorial service.
*All times Eastern