Analysis | The Daily 202: MLK’s final speech — delivered 50 years ago today — was full of timely and timeless teachings

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With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.

THE BIG IDEA: 

Martin Luther King Jr.’s final speech, delivered 50 years ago tonight in Memphis, is well remembered for its prophetic musings on mortality. “I’ve seen the Promised Land,” he said on a stormy night at the Mason Temple. “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

The reverend’s declaration that he was not worried about anything and did not fear any man — because he had seen the glory of the coming of the Lord — followed more than 40 minutes of reflection on the cause that brought him to Memphis — and martyrdom.

Slain at just 39, the extemporaneous oratory on the eve of his assassination ensured that King would be remembered as a sort of American Moses. But the meat of his larger message is also worth revisiting on this dreadful half-century anniversary. His case for the virtue of nonviolent protest, boycotts and pushing the country to live up to our shared ideals is timely. His paeans to unity, economic justice and the moral obligation to look out for the least among us are timeless.

In February 1968, two African American sanitation workers were crushed by a garbage truck’s compactor. The city of Memphis refused to compensate their families. This prompted 1,300 workers to walk off the job and agitate for better working conditions and higher pay. Most of them made 65 cents per hour. There was no overtime pay or paid sick leave. In fact, getting injured on the job could get you fired. The striking workers carried placards that said “I AM A MAN,” as they sought recognition for a union. This is what brought King to town.

His ministry’s focus had shifted more toward economic inequality in his final years. He was planning a poor people’s march on Washington when he flew to Tennessee. “It isn’t enough to integrate lunch counters,” King explained in another setting. “What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t earn enough money to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee?”

That night, he framed what was happening in Memphis as a flash point in the global struggle for human dignity. “It’s all right to talk about streets flowing with milk and honey, but God has commanded us to be concerned about the slums down here and His children who can’t eat three square meals a day,” the reverend told a few thousand people who had come to see him. “In the human rights revolution, if something isn’t done and done in a hurry to bring the colored peoples of the world out of their long years of poverty — their long years of hurt and neglect — the whole world is doomed. … If we are God’s children, we don’t have to live like we are forced to live.”

King recounted the familiar story of the good Samaritan — with a localized twist. He and his wife, Coretta, had just visited Israel and rented a car to drive the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. In Christ’s time, it was known as the Bloody Pass because travelers would get ambushed and robbed. As Jesus told it in Luke 10, a priest and a Levite had passed by a Jewish man who had been stripped of clothing, beaten and left for dead on the road. Samaritans and Jews didn’t get along, but a Samaritan stopped to help the victim.

“You may not be on strike, but either we go up together or we go down together. Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness,” King said. “Whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite formula for doing it. … He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh’s court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that’s the beginning of getting out of slavery.”

Only by sticking together in a determined way, King argued, could they “make America what it ought to be.” He urged the crowd not to buy Coca-Cola, Sealtest milk or Wonder Bread because those companies weren’t hiring African American employees. He also encouraged his audience to deposit their money in black-owned banks and to buy insurance from black-managed insurance companies.

“We have an opportunity to make America a better nation,” he said. “All we say to America is, ‘Be true to what you said on paper.’ If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn’t committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of the press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right.”

An overarching takeaway from this final address of his life is that everyone should live like they are dying. King noted that a mentally ill woman stabbed him in 1958 during a book signing in New York City. The tip of the blade was on the edge of his aorta. Doctors told reporters that King would have died if he had merely sneezed. While recovering, King received a letter from a white woman. (He remembered her as a high school student. Archives show she was middle-aged.)

“I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze,” she wrote.

“I want to say tonight that I, too, am happy that I didn’t sneeze,” King said.

That brought the crowd to its feet.

In what can be heard posthumously as a sort of self-eulogy, King recounted the triumphs of the previous decade, from the sit-ins to the March on Washington and the movement’s perseverance against dogs, fire hoses and bombs in Birmingham. “Bull Connor didn’t know history,” the reverend said, referring to the racist sheriff he stared down in Alabama. “And that was the fact that there was a certain kind of fire that no water could put out.”

King nodded to the threats he faced on his life. Just that morning, as he left Atlanta, his plane was delayed so all the luggage could be checked to make sure he was safe. “Well, I don’t know what will happen now; we’ve got some difficult days ahead,” King said to a chorus of amens.

But he told the crowd not to get discouraged by setbacks. The arc of the moral universe is long, and it may bend toward justice, but human progress has never been linear. It zigs and zags. “Whenever men and women straighten their backs up, they are going somewhere,” King said that night, “because a man can’t ride your back unless it is bent.”

If God let him choose any era to live in, King told the crowd he’d pick the second half of the 20th century. “That’s a strange statement,” King said. “The world is all messed up. The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. … But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.”

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

— Villanova defeated Michigan 79-62 in the men’s NCAA championship, bringing home its second national title in three years. Chuck Culpepper and Roman Stubbs write: “Villanova on Monday night became that occasional college basketball men’s national champion of such uncommon quality that it never did cause its fan base any of the customary bouts of March such as fear, dread or horror. … When the Wildcats sprang out of a 21-14 deficit that stood after nine minutes to lead 37-28 at halftime, they didn’t do so with the kind of dazzling blur they made in routing Kansas on Saturday night. They did it steadily and methodically if compellingly, because in their 36-win season, they reached a rare level of superbness.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. The DEA arrested 28 drug prescribers and pharmacists as part of a crackdown on opioid distribution. The Justice Department announced the DEA also revoked the licenses of 147 people who handle controlled substances. (Lenny Bernstein)
  2. Trump congratulated Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi on his “landslide” reelection victory. Trump’s message broke sharply with his own State Department and other critics who decried the race as a “sham” election that offered no serious challengers. (Seung Min Kim)
  3. A Post analysis found the recent spike in homicide rates almost entirely stems from gun violence. Federal homicide data show that gun homicides in 2016 accounted for a greater share of overall homicides than at any other point in the past 80 years. (Christopher Ingraham)
  4. Tens of thousands of teachers in Oklahoma and Kentucky participated in massive walkouts, rallying in their respective state capitols to demand higher wages and increased education funding. Oklahoma’s educators and students have endured some of the nation’s deepest school spending cuts, and protests there could stretch for days. (Moriah Balingit)
  5. “Affluenza” drunk driver Ethan Couch, whose legal team claimed he couldn’t tell right from wrong due to his privileged upbringing, was released from jail after two years. His time behind bars was not served for killing four people while driving drunk when he was 16 but rather violating his parole by fleeing to Mexico. (Alex Horton)
  6. The gay dating app Grindr said it would stop sharing users’ HIV status with other companies. The app’s 3.6 million daily active users have the option to list their status and their “last tested date” in their profiles. Two outside companies have been able to obtain that information, as well as users’ GPS data, phone ID and email — potentially allowing them to identify specific users and their HIV status. (BuzzFeed News)
  7. Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, an anti-apartheid activist and former wife of Nelson Mandela, died at 81. She was known as the “Mother of the Nation” long after her split with the South African president. She died this week at a Johannesburg hospital. (Stephanie Hanes)
  8. A high school senior in Houston was accepted to 20 universities — with a full ride to each. Micheal Brown’s lucky streak began with an acceptance from Stanford in December and ended with a “yes” from Harvard last week. The feat was considered all the more impressive given that half the students at Brown’s high school are considered at risk of dropping out. (Amy B Wang)

PRUITT UNDER FIRE:

— As EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt was renting the condo linked to a lobbyist for an energy company, his agency approved the company’s pipeline project. The New York Times’s Eric Lipton reports: “Both the E.P.A. and the lobbying firm dispute that there was any connection between the agency’s action and the condo rental … Nevertheless, government ethics experts said that the correlation between the E.P.A.’s action and Mr. Pruitt’s lease arrangement … illustrates why such ties to industry players can generate questions for public officials: Even if no specific favors were asked for or granted, it can create an appearance of a conflict.”

— The apartment also served as a hub for GOP fundraising over the same time period Pruitt lived there. The Daily Beast’s Sam Stein and Lachlan Markay found at least three members of Congress held fundraisers at the brownstone: “Several of those fundraisers took place on dates when Pruitt was in Washington, D.C., according to a cross-reference of the invitations and Pruitt’s schedule. The EPA said that Pruitt wasn’t invited to and didn’t attend any of the events. And even if he were to have attended, ethics laws do not prohibit a cabinet secretary from going to a political event in his or her personal time.”

— The White House is reviewing Pruitt’s housing arrangement. From the Wall Street Journal’s Peter Nicholas: “While there is no sign yet that Mr. Pruitt’s job is in jeopardy, another White House official said that few people are coming to Mr. Pruitt’s defense. Mr. Pruitt has alienated some colleagues by making known his desire to succeed Jeff Sessions as attorney general should Mr. Sessions step down or be fired by President Donald Trump, this person said. The purpose of the inquiry is to ‘dig a little deeper,’ the first official said, indicating that the White House isn’t satisfied with a statement from the EPA last week that the $50-a-night lease agreement didn’t violate federal ethics rules.”

— The EPA considered leasing a private jet for Pruitt on a month-to-month basis last year to “accommodate his travel needs,” according to current and former officials. Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report: “[The officials] said the agency ultimately did not move forward with the plan because it would have been prohibitively expensive. Pruitt’s aides had contacted NetJets, a well-known firm that leases such planes, and received a cost estimate of roughly $100,000 a month[.] The idea was quickly scuttled after some top advisers objected …. Aides were discussing the arrangement before Tom Price resigned as [HHS secretary] amid revelations about costly flights he had taken aboard chartered planes. [The news comes as Pruitt] is facing a number of ethics questions in addition to scrutiny from lawmakers of both parties about the many first-class domestic and international flights he took.”

— Pruitt bypassed the White House to secure raises of tens of thousands of dollars for two close aides. The Atlantic’s Elaina Plott and Robinson Meyer report: “The aides, Sarah Greenwalt and Millan Hupp, were part of the small group of staffers who had traveled with Pruitt to Washington from Oklahoma, where he had served as attorney general. … Pruitt asked that Greenwalt’s salary be raised from $107,435 to $164,200; Hupp’s, from $86,460 to $114,590. Because both women were political appointees, he needed the White House to sign-off on their new pay. … The White House, [one] source said, declined to approve the raises. So Pruitt found another way. A provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act allows the EPA administrator to hire up to 30 people into the agency, without White House or congressional approval. … By reappointing Greenwalt and Hupp under this authority, they learned, Pruitt could exercise total control over their contracts and grant the raises on his own.”

— John Kelly has considered firing Pruitt in the coming months as part of a broader White House shake-up. Politico’s Eliana Johnson, Alex Guillén and Andrew Restuccia report: “Pruitt is still hanging on for now, in part because Kelly wanted to wait for an upcoming EPA inspector general’s report into his expensive travels … Multiple people close to the president still argue that Pruitt is one of Trump’s most effective Cabinet members in making policy, despite the steady drumbeat of headlines about his [spending habits].”

— Meanwhile, the EPA formally announced a rollback of the Obama-era fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks. Juliet and Brady report: “The push to rewrite the first carbon limits on cars and SUVs, which came out of an agreement among federal officials, automakers and the state of California, is sure to spark major political and legal battles. California has authority under the Clean Air Act to set its own emissions limits, and it has threatened to sue if its waiver is revoked and it is blocked from imposing stricter targets. Such a fight has broad implications, because 12 other states, representing more than a third of the country’s auto market, follow California’s standards.”

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

— Trump suggested Vladimir Putin visit the White House when he called to congratulate him on his reelection last month. Anton Troianovski reports that Sarah Huckabee Sanders sought to downplay the potential meeting, saying that “a number of potential venues, including the White House,” were discussed. A White House meeting with Putin would be the first to occur in more than a decade. 

— Russian Twitter bots have backed Fox News host Laura Ingraham in her spat with Parkland student David Hogg. Amanda Erickson reports: “According to the website Hamilton 68, which tracks the spread of Russian propaganda on Twitter, the hashtag #IstandwithLaura jumped 2,800 percent in 48 hours this weekend. On Saturday night, it was the top trending hashtag among Russian campaigners. The website botcheck.me, which tracks 1,500 ‘political propaganda bots,’ found that @ingrahamangle, @davidhogg111 and @foxnews were among the top six Twitter handles tweeted by Russia-linked accounts this weekend. ‘David Hogg’ and ‘Laura Ingraham’ were the top two-word phrases being shared.”

— Robert Mueller’s team revealed in a court filing that deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein authorized the special counsel to investigate possible collusion between Paul Manafort and Russian officials. CNN’s Katelyn Polantz reports: “Mueller was also empowered by Rosenstein to investigate Manafort’s payments from Ukrainian politicians … The revelation of the August 2 memo comes amid a broader court filing from Mueller’s prosecutors that offers a full-throated defense of their investigative powers and indictments thus far. In the filing, the special counsel’s office argues that a federal judge should not throw out Manafort’s case. … The filing Monday night crystallizes the extent to which Rosenstein … has backed the investigation’s actions.”

— Mueller’s team is investigating Roger Stone’s claim that he met with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in August 2016. The Wall Street Journal’s Shelby Holliday and Rob Barry report: “In an email dated Aug. 4, 2016, Mr. Stone wrote: ‘I dined with Julian Assange last night,’ … The note, to former Trump adviser Sam Nunberg, adds to a growing number of times Mr. Stone claimed during the campaign to be in contact with WikiLeaks. The next day, Mr. Stone publicly praised Mr. Assange via Twitter. In an interview, Mr. Stone said the email to Mr. Nunberg was a joke and that he never communicated with Mr. Assange in 2016. Mr. Stone said he was flying out of Los Angeles the night before the email, putting him thousands of miles away … Mr. Stone provided the Journal with screenshots showing a booking for a person named ‘Roger’ on a Delta Air Lines flight[.] The airline … declined to say whether Mr. Stone was on board, citing customer privacy rules.”

  • On Aug. 5, 2016 — one day after he claimed to have dined with Assange — Stone tweeted: “Hillary lies about Russian Involvement in DNC hack -Julian Assange is a hero.” “Three days later, Mr. Stone told a Republican group in Florida that he had communicated with [Assange] and that he believed more damaging documents about Mrs. Clinton would be released in the months to come.” “There’s no telling what the October surprise may be,” he told the crowd.

— Mueller’s team has asked questions about a consulting firm that has done work for the UAE. The Wall Street Journal’s Byron Tau, Rebecca Ballhaus and Aruna Viswanatha report: “The questions by Mr. Mueller’s team concern a private consulting firm, Wikistrat, as well as two of its co-founders, Joel Zamel and Daniel Green. … Mr. Zamel has informally met with Mr. Mueller’s team … and was asked questions about his business relationship with George Nader, a Lebanese-American who serves as a top adviser to U.A.E. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and was also close to Trump administration officials last year.”

— Jill McCabe, who is married to former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, wrote a Post op-ed entitled, “The president attacked my reputation. It’s time to set the record straight:” “I am an emergency room pediatrician and an accidental politician — someone who never thought much about politics until I was recruited to run for state office after making a statement about the importance of expanding Medicaid. That decision — plus some twisted reporting and presidential tweets — ended up costing my husband, Andrew, his job and our family a significant portion of his pension my husband had worked hard for over 21 years of federal service. For the past year and a half of this nightmare, I have not been free to speak out about what happened. Now that Andrew has been fired, I am. …

“A reporter called my cellphone on a Sunday in October 2016, asking questions about contributions to my campaign and whether there had been any influence on Andrew’s decisions at the FBI. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, it makes no sense. Andrew’s involvement in the Clinton investigation came not only after the contributions were made to my campaign but also after the race was over. Since that news report, there have been thousands more, repeating the false allegation that there was some connection between my campaign and my husband’s role at the FBI.”

IMMIGRATION LATEST:

— The administration is moving to impose quotas on immigration judges in the hopes of accelerating deportations. Nick Miroff reports: “The Trump administration will pressure U.S. immigration judges to process cases faster by establishing a quota system tied to their annual performance reviews, according to new Justice Department directives. The judges will be expected to clear at least 700 cases a year to receive a ‘satisfactory’ performance rating, a standard that their union called an ‘unprecedented’ step that risks undermining judicial independence and opens the courts to potential challenges. … The system sets up additional bench marks, penalizing those who refer more than 15 percent of certain cases to higher courts, or judges who schedule hearing dates too far apart on their calendars.”

— Administration officials said they are crafting new legislation to address “loopholes” in the immigration system. The AP’s Jill Colvin reports: “Among the measures the administration is pursuing: ending special safeguards that prevent the immediate deportation of children arrested at the border and traveling alone. … The administration is also pushing Congress to terminate a 1997 court settlement that requires the government to release children from custody to parents, adult relatives or other caretakers as their cases make their way through immigration court.”

— Meanwhile, the number of U.S. visitor visas issued to foreigners has significantly dropped. Politico’s Nahal Toosi, Ted Hesson and Sarah Frostenson report: “By one measure, the U.S. granted 13 percent fewer visitor visas over the past 12 months when compared with fiscal year 2016, according to State Department data[,] … a downward trend that appears to have accelerated in the past six months. … People from Arab and Muslim-majority nations saw some of the steepest drops in visitor visas. That includes the handful targeted by the three successive iterations of Trump’s travel ban … But substantial drops were observed also in non-Muslim-majority countries.”

— Trump’s aggressive immigration rhetoric this week may be the result of his supporters growing impatient for him to fulfill some of his largest campaign promises, including building the border wall. David Nakamura reports: “[Since Congress approved a $1.3 trillion spending bill in March], Trump has faced growing criticism from some conservatives who had supported him — most prominently commentator Ann Coulter — over his inability to secure funding for the wall[.] ‘I don’t know what more horrible thing you could come up with than violating your central campaign promise that became the chant and the theme of the campaign that he promised at every single rally,’ Coulter said.”

Trump’s frustrations reached a boil at Mar-a-Lago over the holiday weekend, where he spent time with immigration hard-liners including adviser Stephen Miller and Sean Hannity. “Trump’s focus on border and immigration issues also follows a briefing he received late last week from [DHS Secretary] Kirstjen Nielsen … It’s not clear exactly what piqued Trump’s interest most, but among the issues discussed were the wall, the ‘caravan’ highlighted in conservative media and [DACA],” Nakamura reports. “Trump was fired up after the briefing … and that was further fueled by segments on Fox and Friends this weekend.”

— Trump continued his recent string of anti-immigrant tweets last night and this morning:

— Two powerful Democratic senators said the Pentagon has “no power” to reroute federal money to fund Trump’s border wall with Mexico. Seung Min Kim reports: “[In a letter to Jim Mattis, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.)] made clear that they believe such a move would be illegal, while wasting money set aside for other, more pressing military needs. ‘Such a controversial move could only be funded by cutting other vital priorities for our service members, mere weeks after the Department communicated its needs to the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee during omnibus appropriation negotiations,’ [the senators said]. They added that after reviewing appropriations law, ‘we conclude that the Department of Defense has no legal authority, with or without a reprogramming request, to use … for the construction of a border wall.’” 

— A must-read –> “A Betrayal: The teenager told police all about his gang, MS-13. In return, he was slated for deportation and marked for death,” by Hannah Dreier in ProPublica and New York Magazine: “[Trump] had seized on MS-13 as a symbol of the dangers of immigration, referring to parts of Long Island as ‘bloodstained killing fields.’ Police were desperately looking for informants who could help them crack how the gang worked, [and] Henry gave them a way in. Under normal circumstances, Henry’s choice would have been his salvation. But not in the dawning of the Trump era, when every immigrant has become a target and local police in towns like Brentwood have become willing agents in a nationwide campaign of detention and deportation. Without knowing it, Henry had picked the wrong moment to help the authorities.”

THE FOURTH ESTATE:

— Trump tweeted his support of the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which has been criticized for bolstering the president’s accusations of “fake news.” Paul Farhi reports: “Sinclair, which owns 173 TV stations and is seeking to buy 42 more, has a long history of supporting conservative political candidates and courting criticism by using the newscasts of its many stations to boost them. … Sinclair’s new ‘fake news’ spots — which it refers to as its ‘Journalistic Responsibility Campaign’ — have caused unease among some of the company’s journalists, who regard it as an attack on colleagues within their chosen profession and an instance of corporate pandering to the Trump administration. ‘Disgusted,’ is how one newsroom employee at WJLA, Sinclair’s flagship station in Washington, summed up the internal reaction on Monday.”

— At least one Sinclair station pushed back against the ads. “WMSN/FOX 47 Madison did not air the Sinclair promotional announcement during our 9pm news this weekend,” the Wisconsin station said in a Twitter statement. (Eli Rosenberg)

— Senior Sinclair executive Scott Livingston defended the ads and slammed “misleading, often defamatory stories” about the company. From CNN’s Brian Stelter: “‘For the record, the stories we are referencing in this campaign are the unsubstantiated ones (i.e. fake/false) like ‘Pope Endorses Trump’ which move quickly across social media and result in an ill-informed public,’ [Livingston] wrote in Monday’s memo. ‘Some other false stories, like the false ‘Pizzagate’ story, can result in dangerous consequences. We are focused on fact-based reporting.’”

— Trump once again promoted Sinclair over its competitors in tweets this morning:

— The stock market took a tumble, as Trump stepped up his  Twitter attacks on Amazon. Craig Timberg, Thomas Heath and Tony Romm report: “Trump’s ongoing attacks on Amazon.com … pushed the company’s shares down 5.2 percent and helped lead the tech-heavy Nasdaq index down 2.7 percent. The Nasdaq is 9.5 percent off its peak last month. Trump’s bellicose talk on trade and retaliatory moves by China also spooked Wall Street, helping drive down the Dow Jones industrial average by 1.9 percent. It’s now off more than 11 percent from its peak in January, signaling an official market correction. But it was the tumbles by a wide range of technology giants that drew particular attention from traders. The most valuable U.S. companies — Apple, Google parent Alphabet and Microsoft — all closed down Monday.”

— West Wing advisers say Trump’s reignited attacks on Amazon are meant to inflict damage on the company’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, according to Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman: “‘He’s off the hook on this. It’s war,’ one source told me. ‘He gets obsessed with something, and now he’s obsessed with Bezos,’ said another source. ‘Trump is like, how can I f— with him?’ According to sources, Trump wants the Post Office to increase Amazon’s shipping costs. … Advisers are also encouraging Trump to cancel Amazon’s pending multi-billion contract with the Pentagon to provide cloud computing services, sources say. Another line of attack would be to encourage attorneys general in red states to open investigations into Amazon’s business practices. Sources say Trump is open to the ideas. …

“Even Trump’s allies acknowledge that much of what’s fueling Trump’s rage toward Amazon is that [Bezos] owns The Washington Post, sources said. ‘Trump doesn’t like the New York Times, but he reveres it because it’s his hometown paper. The Washington Post, he has zero respect for,’ the Republican close to the White House said. While the Post says that Bezos has no involvement in newsroom decisions, Trump has told advisers he believes Bezos uses the paper as a political weapon.”

— Fact-check from The Post’s executive editor: “It’s completely made up.” Martin Baron told the New York Times: “I can’t say more emphatically [Bezos has] never suggested a story to anybody here, he’s never critiqued a story, he’s never suppressed a story. … Frankly, in a newsroom of 800 journalists, if that had occurred, I guarantee you, you would have heard about it. … It hasn’t happened. Period.”

— Meanwhile, the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner will recognize journalism Trump has repeatedly denounced as “fake news.” Politico’s Michael Calderone writes: “CNN won the WHCA’s Merriman Smith Award in the broadcast category for its January 2017 report on how the intelligence community believed Russia had compromising information on Trump; that report was followed by BuzzFeed’s decision to publish the entire ‘dossier’ of opposition research on Trump’s alleged ties to Russia, which has become a particular focus of the president’s wrath. The announcement on Monday of CNN’s victory — along with a trove of other awards to various outlets for largely critical coverage of Trump and his administration — appeared to complicate the WHCA’s invitation to Trump to attend this year’s dinner.”

— As president, Trump cherishes advice from cable news personalities — so much that he puts Fox Business host Lou Dobbs on speakerphone during Oval Office meetings. The Daily Beast’s Maxwell Tani and Asawin Suebsaeng report: “Trump will ask Dobbs for his opinion before and after his senior aides or Cabinet members have spoken. Occasionally, he will cut off an official so the Fox Business host can jump in. Dobbs … has been patched in to senior-level meetings on issues such as trade and tax policy — meetings that featured officials such as [Stephen Miller, Gary Cohn, Steve Bannon, Peter Navarro, and Steve Mnuchin]. During the more intense days of the tax-bill push, Trump made sure to have his White House personal secretary get Dobbs on the line …”

THE REST OF TRUMP’S AGENDA:

— China’s measured response to Trump’s tariff proposal shows the country is still searching for a diplomatic solution to the escalating trade tensions, David J. Lynch writes. “[B]y hitting numerous products, including fruit, wine, ginseng and pork, that affect congressional districts across the country, China demonstrated that it can exert pressure within the American system … Beijing is prepared to engage in a slugging match, but its preferred solution to the deepening trade dispute remains a diplomatic outcome, analysts said. … China also is being careful to act within the rules of the global trading system that were established under U.S. leadership over the past seven decades.”

— The Interior Department backed off plans to increase entrance fees at national parks after significant public blowback. From Darryl Fears: “In October, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke proposed to increase peak-season entrance fees at 17 parks from $25 to $70 — the largest hike since World War II. … But as temperatures climb and parks prepare for another season of potentially record-breaking visitation, Interior and National Park Service officials are rethinking the plan based on public comments that inundated the NPS website over an abbreviated 30-day period.”  

— Blue states are eyeing New York’s attempt to dodge the GOP tax law as a possible model. Jeff Stein explains: “On Saturday, New York became the first state to approve new tax measures designed to shield residents from tax hikes under the GOP bill signed by President Trump. The two provisions — one creating a new ‘charitable’ fund to replace local property taxes, and the second a largely technical change in how taxes are assessed — aim to help taxpayers avoid a new $10,000 cap on the amount of state and local taxes they can deduct from their federal taxes. … California, New Jersey and Connecticut are among the liberal-leaning states where legislators have expressed interest in pursuing similar schemes. … But some tax experts doubt that the Internal Revenue Service would allow taxpayers to classify these gifts to the state as ‘donations’ that can be deducted.”

THE MIDTERMS:

— Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-Conn.) announced that she will not seek reelection after reports that she took months to remove a top aide who threatened to kill a former colleague. Elise Viebeck reports: “With her announcement, Esty became the ninth member of Congress to see her career felled by allegations related to workplace harassment. The other eight — all men — were themselves the target of misconduct complaints; in Esty’s case, criticism was leveled at her handling of the allegations against [her former aide]. … Esty’s western Connecticut district, which includes the town of Sandy Hook, went for Hillary Clinton by less than five percentage points in 2016, making it an attractive target for Republicans.” 

“I have determined that it is in the best interest of my constituents and my family to end my time in Congress at the end of this year and not seek reelection,” Esty said in a statement. “Too many women have been harmed by harassment in the workplace. In the terrible situation in my office, I could have and should have done better.”

— Esty’s withdrawal is the latest in a string of setbacks for Democrats as they try to take back the House. Dave Weigel reports: “In Iowa’s 3rd district, a candidate who raised more than $330,000 for her campaign dropped out after a problem with her ballot petitions. In California’s 4th district, the candidate who won the most support at the party’s convention has been accused of inflating her resume. … The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee would not comment on the setbacks, but both races are slightly outside the first tier of 2018 campaign targets, with several other candidates seen as able to keep the districts in play.”

— Democrats in Indiana are hoping to recreate the success of Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania. Mike DeBonis writes: “Perhaps no race has been more clearly transformed by the implications of Lamb’s win than the one in Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District, whose demographics and political sensibility closely mirror Pennsylvania’s 18th District but whose recent GOP-friendly history has kept it on the margins of the House battlefield. Now, with three Democrats aggressively competing to become their party’s standard-bearer in the May 8 primary, the promise and peril of the Pennsylvania race is on display as party factions do battle in an increasingly sharp-edged primary. Where Democrats see a prime opportunity to oust three-term Rep. Jackie Walorski (R), Republicans argue that, come November, not every GOP district will have a Conor Lamb on the ballot — a young, moderate former prosecutor with a political pedigree tailor-made for his Rust Belt constituency.”

— Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) formally launched his reelection campaign. Jenna Portnoy reports: “[Kaine] is running for reelection with something he says was missing from the national ticket when he ran for vice president: a crisp economic message. … The Clinton campaign ‘had really good plans, but they don’t communicate as immediately,’ he said, snapping his fingers. ‘You’ve got to communicate immediately.’ Kaine formally launched his bid for a second term Monday with plans for 22 stops around the state over the next six days, during which he’ll challenge Trump’s vision for the country with the theme ‘A Virginia that works for all.’”

TRUMP’S ACCUSERS:

— The publisher of the National Enquirer asked a California court to dismiss a lawsuit brought by ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal, who claimed she had an affair with Donald Trump. Beth Reinhard and Emma Brown report: “The 199-page response by American Media Inc. comes less than two weeks after McDougal sued … to get out of the deal in which she sold the rights to her story for $150,000. McDougal argued that the National Enquirer violated campaign finance law when it bought her story not to publish it but to bury it … McDougal alleges that AMI colluded with the Trump campaign to hide the story of her affair, citing as evidence company chief executive David Pecker’s friendship with Trump. In its response, AMI said McDougal was attempting to run roughshod over freedom of the press, suing over an ordinary editorial decision. Media organizations ‘have a First Amendment right not to publish, and cannot be punished for exercising that right,’ the company said in its court filing.”

— Trump’s legal team is trying to force the Stormy Daniels lawsuit into arbitration. From Politico’s Josh Gerstein: “‘This motion seeks to enforce the arbitration provision in the Settlement Agreement, which was negotiated at arms’ length by the parties’ respective counsel, and pursuant to which [Daniels] accepted $130,000 as consideration,’ attorney Brent Blakely wrote on behalf of the company used to pass the funds, Essential Consultants. … Daniels’ attorney in the matter, Michael Avenatti, warned Monday that sending the case to arbitration would effectively lock the public out of the proceedings. … [Avenatti wrote on Twitter,] ‘This is a democracy and this matter should be decided in an open court of law owned by the people. #sunlight’”

— Another woman is suing to get out of a nondisclosure agreement linked to Trump. Bloomberg News’s Christian Berthelsen reports: “[Jessica] Denson says she joined Trump’s campaign in August 2016 and oversaw phone banks and Hispanic outreach for the campaign. She sued in November seeking $25 million in damages, claiming her superiors on the campaign defamed her, harassed her and discriminated against her. The Trump campaign responded by attempting to move the lawsuit to arbitration, where it submitted a claim for $1.5 million saying Denson breached the confidentiality and non-disparagement obligations of the non-disclosure agreement.”

— Trump’s attorneys are appealing the decision to allow a defamation suit filed against the president to advance. Mark Berman and Frances Stead Sellers report: “They filed the appeal less than two weeks after New York Supreme Court Justice Jennifer G. Schecter rejected attempts by Trump’s attorneys to block Summer Zervos’s lawsuit, one of multiple legal cases the president is facing. Trump’s attorneys argued that Schecter’s ruling was mistaken in not dismissing or at least temporarily staying the case. Zervos had accused Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign of groping her years earlier, charges he denied.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

The acting attorney general Trump fired responded to his latest attack on the Justice Department:

A veteran news anchor slammed Sinclair Broadcast Group’s media-bashing ads:

A WaPo legend:

A New York Times reporter explained Trump’s attacks on Amazon:

Trump’s 2020 campaign manager criticized a CNN reporter for attempting to ask Trump a question during the White House Easter Egg Roll:

Acosta responded to Parscale’s criticism:

A writer for the pro-Trump Daily Caller went after Acosta:

The Fix responded:

A Weekly Standard editor made a prediction about Trump’s next staff shake-up:

A CNBC reporter compared how the markets fared under Obama and Trump:

A possible 2020 candidate extended his book tour, per a New York magazine correspondent:

A writer for Vox reported on the Oklahoma teachers’ walkout:

The White House was lit up for Autism Awareness Day:

Trump struggled to describe the White House during the Easter Egg Roll:

A Cabinet secretary captured the event:

A former White House press secretary responded to his fans:

And a Fox News host congratulated her dog:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

— Politico Magazine, “The Most Powerful Lobbyist in Trump’s Washington,” by Theodoric Meyer: “[Brian] Ballard is a veteran Florida lobbyist who’s been in Washington for barely a year — the blink of an eye in an industry in which many of the top practitioners have spent decades inside the Beltway. But Ballard is closer to the president than perhaps any other lobbyist in town … [and that relationship] has helped him solve a lucrative puzzle that has frustrated more established players. … It took months for Ballard himself to come around to Trump. He jumped ship first to Rubio’s campaign and signed on with Trump only once it was clear he would be the Republican nominee. But once he was in, Ballard proved a valuable asset. If he didn’t know Trump, he might have ended up as a Trump critic rather than a supporter, he told me. ‘But I know him,’ he said.”

— NPR, “Technologies To Create Fake Audio And Video Are Quickly Evolving,” by Tim Mak: “‘Fake news’ has become a commonly used term in politics, but often to refute real reporting. Now technology that creates fake audio is advancing to the point that it could undermine true recordings.”

HOT ON THE LEFT

“Falsely Accused Parkland School Shooter Sues Alex Jones’ InfoWars for Defamation,” from the Daily Beast: “Marcel Fontaine, who was falsely declared a suspect in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting by conspiracy-theorist website InfoWars, is now suing Alex Jones for more than a million dollars. Fontaine, a young man from Massachusetts, filed suit in the district court of Travis County, Texas on Monday against InfoWars head Alex Jones; InfoWars reporter Kit Daniels; InfoWars LLC; and Free Speech Systems, LLC, InfoWars’ parent company. The suit charges that InfoWars ‘irreparably tainted’ his reputation in a report that falsely claimed he was suspected as the Stoneman Douglas shooter. Daniels’ story about the shooting, published Feb. 14, included a picture of Fontaine.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

“Fox News stands by Laura Ingraham, rails against ‘intimidation efforts’ of advertiser pullout,” from Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Herman Wong: “Fox News called the campaign to drive advertisers away from Laura Ingraham’s show ‘agenda-driven intimidation efforts,’ as the network showed support for the embattled host. ‘We cannot and will not allow voices to be censored,’ Jack Abernethy, Fox News’s co-president, said in a statement Monday to multiple news organizations. ‘We look forward to having Laura Ingraham back hosting her program next Monday when she returns from spring vacation with her children.’ … More than a dozen advertisers … have distanced themselves from Ingraham’s show, ‘The Ingraham Angle,’ since she taunted Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg last week.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will meet with Baltic state leaders at the White House for a working lunch and joint news conference.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman declared Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei to be worse than Hitler: “I believe the Iranian supreme leader makes Hitler look good,” the prince told the Atlantic. “Hitler didn’t do what the supreme leader is trying to do. Hitler tried to conquer Europe. … The supreme leader is trying to conquer the world.”

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

— Expect clouds and showers in Washington today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Clouds and morning showers greet us as colder-than-normal temperatures lift up slowly through the 40s. Clouds continue in the afternoon with only widely scattered shower chances as temperatures slowly drift up into the 50s.”

— The cherry blossoms are primed to hit peak bloom by this weekend. (Angela Fritz)

— The Nationals beat the Braves 8-1, bringing their season record so far to 4-0. (Chelsea Janes)

— The Capitals beat the Blues 4-2. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)

— Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) reached a settlement with the ACLU of Maryland after Hogan blocked Facebook users who posted critical comments on his official page. From Ovetta Wiggins: “The state has agreed to pay $65,000 to plaintiffs and in attorney fees and to devise a new social media policy that oversees the governor’s page, create a separate Facebook page where constituents can raise issues and set up an appeal process for those who think their comments have been improperly deleted. … The settlement is one of the first in the country that requires an elected official to establish a new social media policy.”

— Negotiations appear to be improving between the administration and protesting students at Howard University. Members of the student group HU Resist have occupied the school’s administration building since last week. (Sarah Larimer and Joe Heim)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Seth Meyers went after Scott Pruitt for his multiple ethics controversies: 

Jimmy Kimmel added some animation to President Trump’s message for Passover and Easter:

Central American immigrants asked President Trump to empathize with their plight:

Actor Seth Rogen said Stormy Daniels recounted her alleged affair with Donald Trump during the shooting of “Knocked Up” in 2007:

And New York saw its heaviest April snowfall in 35 years:

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