I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP World HQ in my bedroom. It’s Monday, April 30, 2018. 190 days until Election Day 2018. 918 days until Election Day 2020. Have comments, questions, suggestions, or tips? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Weekend Review: Correspondents' Dinner controversy
The White House Correspondents' Association held its annual black-tie dinner on Saturday night — and, for the second year in a row, President Donald Trump broke with tradition by declining to attend, opting to hold a campaign rally in Michigan instead. In his absence, a controversy ensued over the monologue delivered by comedian Michelle Wolf, a "Daily Show" alumnus now launching her own Netflix talk show, the dinner's headlining act.
Wolf targeted many members of the Trump Administration in her remarks, including White House press secretary Sarah Sanders (cracking a joke about her "smokey eye" makeup and calling her "an Uncle Tom but for white women who disappoint other white women) and presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway (musing about her getting stuck underneath a tree). Both Sanders and Conway were in attendance; the former sat on the dais to represent the president, remaining in place as Wolf eviscerated her in often-personal terms.
Wolff's profanity-laced monologue also lavished attention on the absent commander-in-chief, taking shots at Trump's wealth, alleged relationship with a porn star, comments on the "Access Hollywood" tape, and ties to Russians and white nationalists. She also made light of a number of uncomfortable topics, including abortion.
Many journalists, commentators, and White House officials panned Wolf for going too far. Criticism of her performance was immediate: White House director of strategic communications Mercedes Schlapp and her husband, American Conservative Union chairman Matt Schlapp, left early, along with other members of the administration.
"The White House Correspondents' Dinner was a failure last year, but this year was an embarrassment to everyone associated with it. The filthy 'comedian' totally bombed (couldn't even deliver her lines-much like the Seth Meyers weak performance)," President Trump tweeted Sunday, referring to the "Late Night" host's monologue at the 2011 dinner, which harshly roasted Trump with the future presidential candidate in attendance. "Put Dinner to rest, or start over!"
Facing pressure from members and critics alike, the Correspondents' Association promised to consider changes to "the format of the dinner going forward" in a Sunday statement, which said that Wolf's monologue "was not in the spirit" of the organization's mission.
--- New this morning: President Trump has tweeted about the dinner again, declaring: "The White House Correspondents' Dinner is DEAD as we know it. This was a total disaster and an embarrassment to our great Country and all that it stands for. FAKE NEWS is alive and well and beautifully represented on Saturday night!"
--- Counterpoint: House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) was singing a different tune on Saturday night, offering this message "to the next generation of reporters" in a pre-recorded video that played at the dinner: "Our republic does not work without an informed electorate. Pay attention to the policy, not just the personalities. Look at the human impact, not just the horserace. And above all, challenge yourself and challenge us, those of us in public office."
"Because what you do, it really matters. It provides transparency and accountability. Done right, journalism can not just inform but empower citizens. Of course, we don't always agree on what's right and what's fair, but that push and pull, that makes us both better. It creates a higher standard. It's part of the genius of this country and it will endure through any turbulent time."
--- NYT: "Keeping diplomatic developments coming at a head-snapping pace, the South Korean government said on Sunday that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, had told President Moon Jae-in that he would abandon his nuclear weapons if the United States agreed to formally end the Korean War and promise not to invade his country."
"In a confidence-building gesture ahead of a proposed summit meeting with President Trump, a suddenly loquacious and conciliatory Mr. Kim also said he would invite experts and journalists from South Korea and the United States to watch the shutdown next month of his country’s only known underground nuclear test site."
--- Also... new this morning: South Korea announced plans to dismantle the loudspeakers that have broadcast propaganda across the border into the North for decades, while North Korea announced that it will shift its clocks 30 minutes earlier to align with South Korean time.
--- These developments of continued unity come after Kim and Moon vowed to formally end the Korean War and committed to "complete denuclearization" in a historic summit last week, and as planning continues for a meeting between Trump and Kim.
--- The once-doubted Trump-Kim summit now seems increasingly likely. Per CBS News, negotiators have narrowed the location down to two potential sites under consideration: Mongolia and Singapore. But on Twitter this morning, President Trump suggested another candidate: the inter-Korean Peace House, which sits on the border between North and South Korea and has hosted peace talks between the two nations (including last week's summit). Would the Peace House "be a more Representative, Important and Lasting site than a third party country?" Trump inquired in his tweet. "Just asking!"
--- Reality check: Asked on ABC's "This Week" if the U.S. could trust promises stemming from a meeting with Kim Jong Un, newly-confirmed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded: "This administration has its eyes wide open. We know the history. We know the risks," promising to negotiate in a different way than has been done before."
--- "President Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize" for his efforts to end the standoff with North Korea, President Moon Jae-in of South Korea told his cabinet today, according to a government press release. At his Saturday night rally in Michigan, Trump was met by supporters with chants of "Nobel," as some Republican lawmakers have also suggested that the president is deserving of the prize.
Inside the White House
--- Per Politico, Rear Admiral Ronny Jackson will not be returning to his previous role as the president's physician, after withdrawing his nomination to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs last week. Jackson bowed out after Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee ranking member Jon Tester (D-MT) released a document detailing allegations by current and former colleagues that Jackson created a hostile work environment, drank while on duty, and overprescribed medication.
--- President Trump has defended Jackson, calling on Tester to resign and promising to campaign against the Montana Democrat after the Secret Service denied some of the allegations.
--- How did the president's physician get tapped to lead the second-largest agency in the federal government in the first place? A haphazard vetting process that prioritizes Trump's gut and loyalty to the president, according to a report on the front page of the Washington Post this morning. The report included examples of prospective hires whose appointments were squashed due to anti-Trump social media posts or comments from the 2016 campaign.
--- Interesting... Bill Gates tells STAT News that President Trump appeared "super interested" in the notion of a universal flu vaccine, which would be effective against all strains of the virus, when the philanthropist broached it in an Oval Office meeting last month. Gates also said that Trump spontaneously phoned Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Scott Gottlieb during the meeting to ask him about the idea, and even asked if Gates would be interested in serving as Trump's White House science adviser. "That's not a good use of my time," Gates recalled telling the president.
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The President's schedule
At 11am, President Trump receives his intelligence briefing.
At 12:05pm, President Trump meets with President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria. According to the White House, the two presidents will discuss "ways to enhance our strategic partnership and advance our shared priorities: promoting economic growth and reforms, fighting terrorism and other threats to peace and security, and building on Nigeria’s role as a democratic leader in the region."
President Trump will also participate in a 12:20pm working lunch and 1:30pm joint press conference with President Buhari.
At 7:20pm, President Trump attends dinner with supporters at an undisclosed location in Washington, D.C.
Today in Congress
Both houses of Congress are on recess.
*All times Eastern