What to Know in Washington: Trump to Visit Border After Threats

President Donald Trump will visit a stretch of border wall in California today, capping a week of heated threats against Mexico over undocumented migration and the flow of illegal drugs.

In his third trip to the border this year, Trump will view a portion of border wall in the city of Calexico and meet with local law enforcement, a setting he typically uses to reiterate his promises to crack down on undocumented immigration.The visit comes at the end of a tumultuous week that laid bare Trump’s growing frustration and limitations in controlling the U.S. southern border. The administration’s botched efforts have ranged from an attempt to deter migration by separating migrant children from their families to ultimatums against Mexico that have proved too costly to enforce.

One such threat came at the end of last week, when Trump said he would immediately close the border unless Mexico stemmed the flow of migration from Central and South America.

But by yesterday — after an outcry from lawmakers and businesses alike that closing the border would bring economic calamity — Trump had changed course. Instead, he abruptly said he’d likely impose tariffs on cars imported from Mexico if the country didn’t stanch the flow of migrants and illegal drugs into the U.S. within a year. “I don’t think we’ll ever have to close the border because the penalty of tariffs on cars coming into the United States from Mexico at 25 percent will be massive,” Trum p told reporters at the White House yesterday. Read more from Alyza Sebenius.

Trump inspects border wall prototypes in San Diego, Calif. in March 2018.

Trump Aides Targeted Over Immigration Policy: Immigration and civil rights groups are urging companies not to hire senior Trump administration officials who were involved in planning, carrying out or defending the separation of migrant children from their parents. “They should not be allowed to seek refuge in your boardrooms or corner offices,” according to the open letter signed by 41 groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Allowing them to step off of the revolving door and into your welcoming arms should be a non starter.”

The letter, which is being released today, will be sent to chief executive officers of all Fortune 500 companies, according to organizers. The approach marks a shift in strategy by opponents of Trump’s policies that resulted in migrant children being separated from their undocumented parents on the U.S.-Mexico border. Until now, the groups have focused on campaigning against the administration’s actions or staging protests directed at public officials. Read more from Jennifer Epstein.

Groups Sue Trump Over Emergency: The American Civil Liberties Union and the Sierra Club urged a federal judge to block Trump from building a wall along the southern U.S. border using billions of dollars in taxpayer funds they allege were re-appropriated in violation of the Constitution. The groups yesterday asked U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam in Oakland, Calif. to bar Trump from following through on his Feb. 15 declaration of a national emergency. Gilliam was appointed by former President Barack Obama. Read more from Kartikay Mehrotra.

Politics & Elections

Senators Avoid Endorsements: The proliferation of Democratic senators running for president is making for some awkward moments in the clubby chamber. “Could they all be president? Could I endorse them all?” joked Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). “If there were one or two or three maybe you would feel pressure to get behind a friend. But when you have so many people running, it makes a lot of sense to say a lot of nice things about everybody.”

With a few exceptions, Senate endorsements don’t sway many voters. But they do open the door to donor networks and provide a roster of well-known surrogates who can help rally voters in primary states. At this point four years ago, Hillary Clinton had already racked up endorsements from Democratic senators, eventually lining up nearly every one of them in her 2016 Democratic primary campaign against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). With so many senators eyeing the White House, support from their colleagues will be hard to get, but it could be all the more valuable as a result. Read more from Laura Litvan and Steven T. Dennis.

O’Rourke Aims at Trump: Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke told a crowd in Sioux City, Iowa, that some of Trump’s inflammatory remarks echo the rhetoric of Nazi Germany’s “Third Reich.” He said the administration’s policy of separating families who cross the Mexican border unlawfully “follows the rhetoric of a president who not only describes immigrants as rapists and criminals but as animals and an infestation. “Now, I might expect someone to describe another human being as an infestation in the Third Reich. I would not expect it in the United States of America,” O’Rourke said yesterday, drawing heavy applause from the young crowd at Morningside College. Read more from Sahil Kapur.

Dimon Dismisses 2020 Run: JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said he’s not considering a run for U.S. president, and said a report that he had given serious thought to a campaign was misleading. “I tell people, I thought that I should think about it,” Dimon said yesterday, drawing laughs from the audience at a Council on Foreign Relations event in New York. “I never did any work or any polling or any of that. I did think about it and decided not to.” Read more from Michelle F. Davis.

Movers & Shakeups

Trump’s Wage Office Pick Teed Up: The Senate returns 4 p.m. Monday as they prepare to vote on Trump’s nominee to lead the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) yesterday filed for cloture on Cheryl Stanton’s nomination. If the motion is adopted, Senate floor debate will be limited to up to two hours before a confirmation vote.

Stanton marks one of the first such possible confirmations since the Senate this week voted to change chamber rules in an effort to help alleviate a logjam of nominees awaiting confirmation. The GOP-led action shortens debate for some judges and administration nominees from 30 to two hours before a final confirmation vote. Read more from Tyrone Richardson.

Is Shanahan Again SecDef Favorite? Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan will likely be Trump’s nominee for defense secretary, Senate Armed Services Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said. “I think he will,” Inhofe said in an interview yesterday when asked about the likelihood of Shanahan getting the nomination. “Indications are now that it’s going to be him.”

Inhofe’s comments were a shift from last month, when he signaled impatience with Shanahan’s continuing status as acting secretary. The former Boeing executive assumed the position on Dec. 31 after serving as deputy secretary to former Pentagon chief Jim Mattis. Read more from Tony Capaccio.

Trump Taps Loyalists for Fed: Trump is stepping up his campaign to exert influence on the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy. Trump intends to nominate Herman Cain, the former pizza company executive who ran for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, to fill one of two remaining open seats on the Federal Reserve Board. The move follows his selection last month of Heritage Foundation economist Stephen Moore for the other spot. Both would require Senate confirmation.

The picks — which differ sharply with the White House’s previous, more orthodox selections for the Fed — would extend Trump’s efforts to influence the central bank by placing two loyalists on the committee that votes on monetary policy. The pressure started last year with angry Trump tweets over Fed interest-rate increases and by December had escalated to inquiries about whether he could fire Fed Chairman Jerome Powell. Read more from Craig Torres and Jennifer Jacobs.

Fannie-Freddie Gets New Watchdog: The Senate yesterday confirmed Mark Calabria to run the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a potentially crucial step in Trump’s recently announced call to reform the mortgage-finance giants. Calabria, a libertarian economist currently working for Vice President Mike Pence, won lawmakers’ approval in a 52-44 vote along party lines. He’ll take the reins as Federal Housing Finance Agency director from Joseph Otting, who ran the agency on an interim basis while also serving as comptroller of the currency. Read more from Austin Weinstein.

Small Business Administration Pick Named: Trump said yesterday he will nominate Jovita Carranza to be the new head of the Small Business Administration. “She will be replacing Linda McMahon, who has done an outstanding job. Jovita was a great Treasurer of the United States – and I look forward to her joining my Cabinet!,” Trump said in a tweet. Trump announced on March 29 that Linda McMahon would step down from leading SBA to help raise money for his 2020 re-election campaign.

Trump Probes & Oversight

Mueller Report Summaries Questioned: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team produced summaries of core investigative findings but didn’t submit the documents to the Justice Department’s leadership in a way that could allow for their quick release to Congress and the public, according to people familiar with the matter. The summaries were included as part of an overall confidential report that Mueller submitted to Attorney General William Barr last month, ending his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and whether Trump or any of his associates conspired in the election meddling effort. News reports have raised questions about whether Barr could have easily released the summaries, rather than issue his own short, four-page description of Mueller’s principal conclusions on March 24.

In addition, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) yesterday requested that Barr publicly release the summaries. “If these recent reports are accurate and the Special Counsel’s office prepared summaries ’in a way that minimum redactions, if any, would have been necessary,’ then those summaries should be publicly released as soon as possible,” Nadler wrote in a letter to Barr. Read more from Chris Strohm.

Cohen Offers to Turn Over Hard Drive Files: Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen wants to give congressional Democrats more information in return for help in delaying the start of his three-year prison sentence next month — or even reducing it. Cohen’s lawyers Lanny Davis, Michael Monico and Carly Chocron wrote to lawmakers yesterday that Cohen has recently been able to access a hard drive with 14 million files from his computers and telephones that they believe have significant value to investigators. Those files consist of all emails, voice recordings, images, and attachments from Cohen’s computers and phones dating from as long ago as 10 years, they write. Read more from Billy House.

Tax Return Request May Lead to Business Probe: Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal’s (D-Mass.) relatively narrow ask for several of Trump’s business returns could be the first step in unraveling the president’s business empire. Neal chose to focus his request to the Internal Revenue Service on six years of business returns for eight entities, including holding firms associated with the president’s businesses and his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. Read more from Allyson Versprille and Kaustuv Basu.
Related: Grassley Blasts Democrats for Finding ‘Pretext’ to Get Trump

Mar-a-Lago Security: The FBI is investigating whether a Chinese woman arrested at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida had links to Chinese intelligence or military services by examining a thumb drive that allegedly contained malware, people familiar with the investigation said. The inquiry is part of a broader investigation into whether Chinese operatives are targeting Trump and Mar-a-Lago to get information about the administration’s policies regarding China, according to the people, who asked for anonymity because the inquiry is ongoing. Read more from Michael Smith and Chris Strohm.

What Else to Know Today

China Hails ‘New Consensus’ on Trade: China and the U.S. claimed progress in talks to end their trade war, with President Xi Jinping pushing for a rapid conclusion and Trump talking up prospects for a “monumental” agreement that may still be some weeks away. Through a message passed to Trump via Vice Premier Liu He, Xi called for an early conclusion to negotiations and said that strategic leadership was needed to ensure healthy and stable U.S.-China relations, the official Xinhua News Agency said. Liu, who took part in talks this w eek in Washington, said the two sides had “reached new consensus on such important issues as the text” of a trade agreement, according to Xinhua.

Trump said any trade deal with China was probably still weeks away, although both sides were making progress on an accord that could be “very monumental.”

“We have a ways to go,” Trump told reporters at a meeting Thursday with Liu at the White House. “We are rounding the turn.” Read more from Margaret Talev, Justin Sink, Andrew Mayeda and Xiaoqing Pi.

NAFTA Movement: After Democrats in the U.S. threatened to hold up a renegotiated NAFTA, Mexico’s ruling party beefed up a labor bill to meet requirements laid out in the trade deal and plans to vote it through this month. The bill now satisfies “diverse obligations” required by the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, as the new NAFTA deal is known, said Mario Delgado, the majority leader for Mexico’s lower house. The lower house could vote on it in a week’s time, he told reporters yesterday. Read more from Nacha Cattan.

Trump’s Deregulation Plan Challenged: California, Oregon and Minnesota sued Trump and several top cabinet officials over the administration’s requirement that federal agencies delete two regulations for every one they add. Lodged by three Democratic state attorneys general, the lawsuit asserts that Trump’s January 2017 executive order and accompanying Office of Management and Budget guidance violate the U.S. Constitution’s separation-of-powers principle. It also argues the order is in breach of the president’s responsibility to faithfully implement laws and regulations. Read more from Andrew Harris and Kartikay Mehrotra.

Dwindling Education Staff Takes On Cases: A year after appropriators gave the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights more money to increase its workforce, its staffing has shrunk, leaving fewer workers handling a growing number of discrimination complaints.
As of March 2018, there were 508 employees in the department, compared with 539 a year ago, an Education Department spokesman said. Workloads have doubled over the past decade. Enforcement staffers in the office had 11 cases each in 2007, and 27 per staffer in fiscal 2018. So many cases prevent investigators from doing an effective job with each, said Catherine Lhamon, who headed the office during President Barack Obama‘s administration. Read more from Emily Wilkins.

Mnuchin Pledges Recusal: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s pledge to recuse himself from matters involving his wife’s film production company passed muster with the top federal ethics watchdog, though it declined to certify his financial disclosure. Mnuchin agreed to recuse himself from matters involving Stormchaser Partners, a film production company that Louise Linton started in 2012. Mnuchin, who held a stake in the company worth at least $1 million when he was nominated to be treasury secretary, had agreed to divest his interest within 90 days of his confirmation, according to his original ethics agreement. Read more from Bill Allison.

Ecuador to Expel Assange: Ecuador plans to expel WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from its London embassy and has an agreement in place with the U.K. for his arrest, WikiLeaks said citing a source within the Ecuadorian government. “A high level source within the Ecuadorian state has told WikiLeaks that Julian Assange will be expelled within ‘hours to days’,” WikiLeaks said on Twitter. Ecuador’s government did not respond to calls made after office hours, but the Associated Press reported that no decision has yet been made, citing an unidentified government official. Jennifer Robinson, a lawyer for Assange, declined to immediately comment. Read more from Jose Orozco, Thomas Penny and Stuart Biggs.

To contact the reporter on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Brandon Lee at blee@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com; Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com

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