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270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2016 2012 2008
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Political Wire logo O’Rourke Stays Away from TV
Perry Will Leave As Energy Secretary
Democrats Slam Barr Over Rollout of Mueller Report
Mueller Report Will Be ‘Lightly Redacted’
White House Aides Brace for Mueller Report
McAuliffe Won’t Run for President

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Let the Spin Begin
      •  Trump Administration Announces New Sanctions Against Three Countries
      •  Trump Officially Vetoes Yemen Resolution
      •  Rick Perry to Exit
      •  Buttigieg for Governor?
      •  Democrats Are Struggling in Virginia
      •  McAuliffe Won't Run in 2020

Let the Spin Begin

Actually, that headline probably shouldn't be in future tense, because the spin has already begun. However, it's just the warmup spin. The tsunami will begin at roughly 9:30 EST time today, when Attorney General William Barr releases the redacted version of the Mueller report.

The administration spent most of the day on Wednesday (and, it would appear, most of the week) getting its ducks in a row. So, pretty much all the big news yesterday was related to Team Trump's preparations. To wit:

  • The New York Times reported that Barr and other Justice Dept. officials have been communicating with Donald Trump's lawyers about the content of the report since the weekend (and possibly before). There is only one reason to do this, and it is to allow the President's team to prep their PR blitz. This is not illegal, but it is ethically questionable, and it puts another nail in the coffin of Barr's objectivity and fairness.

  • And speaking of the PR blitz, the Trump campaign has already sent out an e-mail priming the base in advance of the report going public. It begins: "The Democrats are panicking. They know they have no chance of winning in 2020 so they just keep LYING about President Trump. He's up against a coordinated WITCH HUNT from the Corrupt Media, the Liberal Swamp, AND the Hollywood Elites. Let's send a message to all of the Trump haters by having 1 MILLION AMERICANS publicly stand with President Trump before the Mueller Report is released tomorrow." The e-mail encourages supporters to click on a link, which in turn affords them the opportunity to sign an online petition and to donate some money while they are at it.

  • On Thursday, employees of the Trump campaign and the RNC will be pulling overtime, as they inundate social media with pro-Trump messaging, and also appear on any media outlet that will have them. If the East Cupcake Junior High Times-Gazette or the good people at the Here Be Monsters podcast have always wanted to interview a high-ranking Republican, then today's their lucky day.

  • The President, on the other hand, will host a wounded warriors event this morning followed by a meeting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and then will depart for a long weekend at Mar-a-Lago. Clearly, the goal is to keep the Donald largely silent while the pros do their work. However, it is at Mar-a-Lago that his Twitter trigger finger gets itchiest. So, he might well be on his iPhone by the afternoon, shooting himself in the foot, and providing an object lesson in the old saying about the best laid plans of mice and men.

  • In addition to the flurry of activity at the RNC and at Trump campaign headquarters, Barr will hold a press conference this morning, set to begin at the same moment that the redacted report is posted to the White House website. There are some circumstances where a press conference would be apropos, but this is not one of them. Although Barr saw fit to share details of the report with the President and his team, the press will have no opportunity to read the document before the press conference, and the members of Congress won't get their copies until 11:00 a.m., after the event is over. This confab can have only one purpose, then: To allow Barr (and the administration) to make the first move today in terms of seizing control of the narrative.

  • Special counsel Robert Mueller, on the other hand, will not attend the press conference, nor will any of the members of his team. He isn't saying why, but the obvious explanation is that he does not want to signal his approval of this morning's proceedings by being present. And whatever his reason is, it adds further weight to the conclusion that Barr's press conference is not a serious attempt to keep the American public informed.

Democrats, of course, are furious about Wednesday's revelations, particularly Barr's communications with the President's team and his press conference. House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) called a hasty press conference of his own on Wednesday night and fired with both barrels, declaring that, "The attorney general appears to be waging a media campaign on behalf of President Trump." Nadler's Judiciary Committee colleague, Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), concurred: "Pretty convenient of the attorney general to take questions on the report before anyone has a chance to read the report." An anonymous congressional aide was more blunt: "This whole thing is a sh** show and a sham. But it's just what Trump wanted. He hit the jackpot with Barr."

For all the effort that Trump & Co. are putting into damage control, it's hard to believe that it will work. Yes, the base will buy it, but the Mueller report could produce irrefutable proof that the President is in fact a Russian double agent and KGB spy, and they will still have his back. As to everyone else, though, polls make clear that they don't buy Barr's claim that Trump was exonerated. The latest, conducted last week by the Global Strategy Group, reveals that only 30% of voters expect that to be the ultimate conclusion. And beyond the polls, there's this very simple question: Why would Trump and his underlings expend so much energy on their PR operation, unless there was something big (or, possibly, many somethings) that they really want to sweep under the rug? (Z)

Trump Administration Announces New Sanctions Against Three Countries

Move over "Axis of Evil," the Trump administration has a new target, which they have been calling the "troika of tyranny." That's working awfully hard for the alliteration, and there's certainly some irony in the use of Russian terminology. In any case, the phrase—coined by NSA John Bolton—refers to the trio of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. The newly imposed measures will include additional economic sanctions on all three nations, plus even harsher limits on American travel to Cuba, as well as the enforcement of a law that allows Americans to sue Cuban businesses who operate on property seized during the resolution. That law has been on the books since 1996, but the Trump administration will be the first to actually utilize it.

None of these three countries have governments to admire, although lumping them together is about as incongruous as was the grouping in the axis of evil (Iran, Iraq, and North Korea). As with most of Trump's foreign policy, one has to think that domestic political concerns are paramount. Smacking Cuba pleases a lot of voters in Florida, while Venezuela has become a general GOP bugaboo used by partisans to illustrate the evils of socialism (and thus, by extension, folks like Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, despite the rather sizable differences between their political philosophies, and the brand of socialism practiced in Venezuela). How Nicaragua made the list is unclear, but maybe it is pushback against alleged immigrant caravans. Alternatively, maybe a third was needed because "troika of tyranny" sounds better than "devilish duo" or "gruesome twosome." (Z)

Trump Officially Vetoes Yemen Resolution

It was expected for several days, and late Tuesday, Donald Trump made it official, vetoing the Congressional resolution that would have cut off U.S. support for Saudi Arabia's ongoing military actions in Yemen. That is the second veto of his presidency. And while the resolution attracted some Republican support, it did not attract enough to override a veto, so that is pretty much the end of it.

With that said, the whole maneuver was always just symbolic, anyhow. The War Powers Resolution, which is where Trump gets the authority to steer money in the Saudis' direction, is so broadly written that it effectively allows presidents to do almost anything they want militarily without Congressional approval. On those occasions where presidents do seek approval (as in the case of the Iraq War, for example) it is primarily for PR purposes, and in particular so that the commander-in-chief can hand off some of the blame if things go wrong. So, until Congress decides to rewrite or repeal the Resolution, then any of these "disapproval" resolutions (like Trump and Yemen or Bill Clinton and Kosovo) are just for show. (Z)

Rick Perry to Exit

As of this week, only 10 of Donald Trump's cabinet-level appointees remain, with 13 of those jobs having changed hands at least once (and several of them having changed hands more than once). Very soon, the list of survivors will be down to single digits, as Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced on Thursday that his departure is imminent, and that he's just getting everything in order before he goes.

Perry was never qualified for this particular job, nor did he even understand what it entailed. He thought he would travel around the country and the world hawking American oil, which is right up the alley of a good ol' boy from Texas. However, the main responsibility of the Secretary is actually to oversee nuclear energy, particularly the nation's stockpile of warheads. It may be that Perry just got sick of a job in which he has no particular interest, and he wanted to return to the comfortable and highly paid world of being a talking head on cable TV. There's also a rumor that he wanted a promotion, specifically to the secretaryship of DHS once Kirstjen Nielsen was fired—er, "resigned"—and that when he didn't get it, he decided to throw in the towel. He denied this, but that's not terribly instructive, since he would never publicly admit he got rejected. Either way, we will soon have yet another acting secretary in the cabinet. (Z)

Buttigieg for Governor?

GOP pooh-bahs in Indiana are rooting hard for Pete Buttigieg's presidential campaign. Not because state loyalty trumps party loyalty; it most certainly does not. No, it is because the longer he remains a viable presidential candidate, the less likely it is that he drops out and challenges Gov. Eric Holcomb (R-IN), who is not terribly popular with Hoosiers.

We are certainly not experts about the nuances of politics on the ground in Indiana, but if the people who are think Buttigieg is a real threat to Holcomb, then they must know what they are talking about. And if a 37-year-old gay man is a serious (potential) contender for the governorship of a state as red as Indiana, then it's a reminder that no state is really all that red (or all that blue) if the right candidate comes along. (Z)

Democrats Are Struggling in Virginia

While things might just be on the upswing for Democrats in Indiana, they appear to be on the downswing for Democrats in Virginia. Gov. Ralph Northam (D), Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), and Attorney General Mark Herring (D) all have some pretty serious skeletons in their closets, with Fairfax credibly accused of sexual assault, and the other two admitting to past indulgences in racist Halloween costumes. They all appear to have survived the storm, but their long-term prospects are dim, at least as judged by the donations they are taking in. Like all officeholders, they had to file their Q1 fundraising totals last week, and it's grim. Herring led the trio with a meager $17,250 take, while Northam collected $2,500, and Fairfax just $1,220.

These numbers are not entirely meaningful, as Northam can't stand for reelection, and the other two won't be before voters again until 2022, at the earliest. Still, these are very poor totals, even accounting for the election timeline. The blue team has hopes of capturing the trifecta in the Old Dominion State, which will require them to claim just one additional seat in each house of the Virginia legislature. If this is going to happen, then the Democrats will really need the lack of enthusiasm to remain limited to these three fellows. (Z)

McAuliffe Won't Run in 2020

Speaking of Virginia Democrats, the state's former governor Terry McAuliffe had been signalling an intention to join the 2020 presidential race. This despite the fact that every lane he might plausibly occupy already has one or more candidates who are better known, more popular, and better funded than he. Put another way, he's very good at making deals in smoke-filled rooms, but what is his constituency for a nationwide political campaign?

It would seem that the former governor (or, more likely, his political consultants) ran through the same analysis we did, and reached the same conclusions. And so, on Wednesday, he announced that he will not mount a bid after all. Thus, the size of the Democratic field remains at a svelte 16 major candidates. (Z)

Programming note: We're going to bump the Q&A to Friday, to leave room for the possibility, which may or may not come to pass, of Mueller report questions.


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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr17 Barr Announces Major Change to Immigration Policy
Apr17 Both Trump Fed Picks Are in Trouble
Apr17 Sanders' Town Hall Was Apparently Quite Successful
Apr17 Democrats' Q1 Fundraising Totals Are In
Apr17 Trump's Fundraising Is In, Too
Apr17 Green New Deal Has Solid Bipartisan Support
Apr17 Guess Who Is Atop the Senate Polls in Alabama?
Apr16 Mueller Report Coming on Thursday
Apr16 Let the Subpoena Wars Begins
Apr16 Sanders Releases His Tax Returns
Apr16 Tax Cuts Apparently Not What the Doctor Ordered
Apr16 Buttigieg Officially Declares
Apr16 So Does Weld
Apr16 It's Trump vs. Omar
Apr15 Trump Told CBP Head He Would Get a Pardon If He Broke the Law
Apr15 Sanders Woos Trump Voters--by Attacking Trump
Apr15 Harris Releases 15 Years of Tax Returns
Apr15 Neal Gives Mnuchin More Time to Produce Trump's Tax Returns
Apr15 Democrats Are Already Thinking about Super Tuesday
Apr15 See Dick Run. But Why?
Apr15 Gillibrand Raised $3 Million in Q1
Apr15 Joe Manchin Invades Susan Collins' Personal Space While Endorsing Her
Apr15 New Mexico Secretary of State May Run for the Senate
Apr15 Rep. Dave Loebsack Will Not Run for Reelection
Apr15 Monday Q&A
Apr12 Miller-initiated Policy Was a Bridge Too Far for Nielsen
Apr12 Assange Arrested; Trump "Forgets" What Wikileaks Is
Apr12 Cain Is Dead in the Water
Apr12 McConnell Pushes Back against Cuccinelli
Apr12 Even if Trump Loses, He Wins?
Apr12 Former Obama Counsel Indicted
Apr12 Democratic Presidential Candidate of the Week: Mike Gravel
Apr11 Barr: Government Spied on Trump Campaign
Apr11 Democrats Are Preparing Their Response to the Redacted Mueller Report
Apr11 Warren Raises $6 Million in Q1
Apr11 How Democrats Could Get Ahold of Trump's Taxes
Apr11 Sanders Unveils Medicare-for-All Bill
Apr11 It's Now Miller vs. Kushner
Apr11 House Passes a Net Neutrality Bill
Apr11 Benjamin Netanyahu Won a Fifth Term as Israel's Prime Minister
Apr11 Thursday Q&A
Apr10 Fight over Trump's Tax Returns Is about to Heat Up
Apr10 Undocumented Immigration Way Up
Apr10 Republicans Push Back Against Trump
Apr10 Pelosi Cancels Budget Vote
Apr10 Barr Says Mueller Report Is Coming Soon
Apr10 Gravel Enters the Democratic Presidential Race
Apr10 Israel's Next Prime Minister Is Probably Benjamin Netanyahu
Apr09 It's a Bloodbath at DHS
Apr09 Trump Designates Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard as a Terrorist Organization