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On the roster: Washington goes soft - Beto O’Rourke, hipster hacker - Trump issues first veto, slaps back at Congress’ rebuke - It's Mueller time (almost) - Life, liberty and the finger

WASHINGTON GOES SOFT


The Irish have a wonderful way to refer to days like this one in Washington: “soft.”

The air is cool but not chilly and certainly a little damp. The winds are mild and when the sun breaks through from time to time it reveals a glorious brilliance and sapphire-blue skies behind.

Yes, spring is springing here in America’s Mid-Atlantic and it is, as always, stirringly, heart-rendingly beautiful. Other places in America may have consistently better weather, but no place in America has a finer pageant of seasons than ours. An army of daffodils is rising up even now to protect our title.

But the effects on the population are noticeable. Children begin to slouch toward a touch of languid insolence and adults begin to stir at the thought of all the wonderful things they want to see and do in these fine days. Spring fever is here indeed.

With that in mind, perhaps we can best hold your attention with some newsy nuggets from a very unusual day and week in politics.

- How racist and sexist do Democrats believe Americans to be? Serious question. In 2008, there were plenty of Democrats who either openly or not-so-openly said that as much as they liiiiked Barack Obama that America just wasn’t “ready” for an African-American president. A similar argument was had about the party’s 2016 female nominee. There’s visible discontentment within the Democratic base that three members of the 2020 top tier are white dudes: Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke and Joe Biden. Democrats have not selected a male person of pallor as their nominee for 15 years. And there’s no doubt that no matter how many “this is what a feminist looks like” t-shirts they wear, the B brothers will come in for continued criticism of their gender and ethnicity. But also don’t forget that many Democrats believe that sexism and racism were major forces against their Obama and Hillary Clinton. So if you are concerned about pervasive racism and sexism among Americans today might there be an incentive to actually pick a nominee who could avoid these issues? 

- It’s starting to dawn on Democrats that they picked a terrible time to give up their top-down, tightly controlled nominating process. The party has changed its nominating rules to open up the process to Sanders, who got shafted by party insiders in 2016. It will come at a considerable cost. The folks at FiveThirtyEight observe that with now more than a dozen credible contenders in the race, the chances of a contested convention are rising by the day. And if that moment – which would be the Dems’ first since 1952 – should come in Milwaukee next year, the party will be badly ill-equipped to keep the peace.

- White House whisperers tell Politico that President Trump is fixating on Biden as perhaps his most dangerous general election opponent. Trump may very well be right. Biden is the best known and best liked of any Democrat running for the party’s nomination. But Republicans should bear in mind that one of the other candidates might well emerge over the next 10 months as a more formidable opponent. Remember how Democrats in 2016 were gearing up the fight an establishment Republican and worked to stir up the GOP base in favor of long-shot candidates like… oh yeah, the guy who is now the sitting president of the United States.

- Jeb Bush has a lot in common with Hillary Clinton. They are both considered the less successful, more serious members of their respective political dynasties. Now we can add another one: Coming back from the political wilderness to make trouble for their political party. In an interview with David Axelrod set to air this weekend, the former Florida governor and exclamation point enthusiast called for a primary challenge to President Trump. “I think someone should run just because Republicans ought to be given a choice,” Bush said. “It’s hard to beat a sitting president, but to have a conversation about what it is to be a conservative, I think it’s important.” Bush also had encouraging words for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who is currently considering a 2020 presidential run.

- What’s a ‘Jexodus’ anyway? The president tweeted about it this morning. And its apparently a follow up on Team Trump’s efforts to use professional celebrity Kanye West to sell something called “Blexit,” the purported mass exit of black voters from the Democratic Party in favor of Trump’s GOP. This portmanteau is Jewish + exodus = Jexodus. Coupla points here: First, the original Exodus was Jewish so isn’t that kind of redundant? Second, there’s no sign of such a thing. One way that Republicans often misunderstand Jewish voters is by imagining that it is their Jewishness that makes them Democratic. The major American metropolitan areas with the largest concentration of Jewish Americans – led by New York, Philadelphia and Miami by one estimate – are overwhelmingly Democratic. If you took a sampling of almost any major sect or ethnic group in those places they would also be overwhelmingly Democratic. Republicans’ staunch support for Israel has no doubt won many converts, but the partisan percentages for Jewish voters remain remarkably consistent. According to one poll, 67 percent of Jews backed Democrats in 2018 compared with 20 percent for the GOP.

- Trump had to take down a different tweet today. He had blasted out his ominous-sounding claim in an interview with a nationalist web site in which he warned of coming political violence. “I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.” But Trump’s account took down the tweet this morning when the president wanted to broadcast his expression of sympathy for the victims of a mass murder of Muslim worshipers in New Zealand. We suppose it’s good that the White House understands how such loose talk about civil strife is inappropriate. But if that’s so, wouldn’t that argue against ever saying such things in the first place?  

- As the daffodils prepare to raise their heads to face the glorious sun, we hope that you are preparing for your own splendid weekend. See you Monday. 

THE RULEBOOK: LOLZ


“It is evident from the state of the country, from the habits of the people, from the experience we have had on the point itself, that it is impracticable to raise any very considerable sums by direct taxation.”Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 12

TIME OUT: RATH DÉ ORT 


History: “Every March 17, the United States becomes an emerald country for a day. Americans wear green clothes and quaff green beer. Green milkshakes, bagels and grits appear on menus. In a leprechaun-worthy shenanigan, Chicago even dyes its river green. Revelers from coast to coast celebrate all things Irish by hoisting pints of Guinness and cheering bagpipers, step dancers and marching bands parading through city streets. These familiar annual traditions weren’t imported from Ireland, however. They were made in America. In contrast to the merry-making in the United States, March 17 has been more holy day than holiday in Ireland. Since 1631, St. Patrick’s Day has been a religious feast day to commemorate the anniversary of the 5th-century death of the missionary credited with spreading Christianity to Ireland. For several centuries, March 17 was a day of solemnity in Ireland with Catholics attending church in the morning and partaking of modest feasts in the afternoon.”

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SCOREBOARD


Trump job performance
Average approval: 41.6 percent
Average disapproval: 53.8 percent
Net Score: -12.2 points
Change from one week ago: down 1.4 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 39% approve - 57% disapprove; Monmouth University: 44% approve - 52% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 38% approve - 55% disapprove; IBD: 41% approve - 53% disapprove; NBC/WSJ: 46% approve - 52% disapprove.]

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**we now return you to our regularly scheduled political palaver**

BETO O’ROURKE, HIPSTER HACKER
Reuters: “While a teenager, [Beto O'Rourke] acknowledged in an exclusive interview, he belonged to the oldest group of computer hackers in U.S. history. … An ex-hacker running for national office would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. But that was before two national elections sent people from other nontraditional backgrounds to the White House and Congress, many of them vowing to blow up the status quo. Arguably, there has been no better time to be an American politician rebelling against business as usual. Still, it's unclear whether the United States is ready for a presidential contender who, as a teenager, stole long-distance phone service for his dial-up modem, wrote a murder fantasy in which the narrator drives over children on the street, and mused about a society without money."

Racks up endorsements, even on Gillibrand’s turf - The Texas Tribune: “Four Democratic members of Congress quickly endorsed former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke's presidential bid within hours of his official announcement Thursday. U.S. Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney and Kathleen Rice, both of New York; Stephanie Murphy of Florida; and Veronica Escobar of El Paso all announced their support for O'Rourke to be their party's nominee for president in 2020. All four are part of the younger generation of Democratic House members. All joined the chamber either with O'Rourke in 2013 or afterwards. ‘I have endorsed Beto O’Rourke in every election he’s run — including this exciting run for President of the United States — because he is an extraordinary public servant, driven by compassion and a desire to unify,’ Escobar, who succeeded O'Rourke in his El Paso-based district in January, said in a post on Facebook.”

Barnstorms Iowa - Texas Tribune: “Making his debut Thursday in Iowa, hours after announcing his presidential campaign, Beto O'Rourke all but picked up where he left off in his blockbuster U.S. Senate run last year, bringing his off-the-cuff, frenetic campaign style to the towns that outline the Mississippi River. It was a return to form for O'Rourke, who has made ample public appearances in recent weeks but few that allowed him to practice the retail-heavy politics that animated his bid against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. If the style wasn't new, the setting certainly was. ‘This is my first time to ever visit Iowa,’ O'Rourke declared Thursday morning inside a coffee shop in Keokuk, where he kicked off the three-day Iowa swing. … Many of his rivals have already logged multiple trips to the state and made multiple hires, though if the reception O'Rourke got Thursday was any indication, he has not yet missed his moment.”

Bernie’s campaign becomes the first in history to unionize - AP: “Campaign workers for Bernie Sanders’ 2020 Democratic campaign have unionized, becoming the first presidential campaign workers in history to do so. The United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400 confirmed Friday that Sanders’ campaign workers were the first to win union representation. UFCW Local 400 President Mark P. Federici says he expects the decision will mean that Sanders’ campaign workers have pay parity and transparency, as well as no gender bias and harassment. Earlier this year, Sanders apologized to female staffers on his 2016 campaign who said they experienced sexual harassment from male staffers. The New York Times reported allegations of unwanted sexual advances, as well as pay inequity. Sanders’ campaign manager Faiz Shakir says the Vermont senator is honored to be the first presidential candidate with a unionized workforce.”

Bernie’s wife closes family non-profit amid ethics worries - AP: “The Sanders Institute, a think tank founded by Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' wife and son, is shutting down, at least for now, amid criticism that the nonprofit has blurred the lines between family, fundraising and campaigning. The Vermont-based institute has stopped accepting donations and plans to suspend all operations by the end of May "so there could not even be an appearance of impropriety," Jane Sanders told The Associated Press. …. Jane Sanders, who also serves as a chief adviser to her husband's presidential campaign, is not compensated for her role at the institute. Her son, David Driscoll, is paid $100,000 a year as co-founder and executive director. Driscoll previously was an executive for Nike and the Vermont snowboarding firm Burton, but had no previous nonprofit experience, according to his LinkedIn profile.”

Ouch: Bernie campaigns with big bandage after bathroom mishap - Politico: “Sen. Bernie Sanders cut his head on a glass shower door on Friday morning and received seven stitches, his campaign announced. But the 2020 candidate was given a ‘clean bill of health’ and will attend all of his previously scheduled campaign events over the next couple days. Arianna Jones, a Sanders spokeswoman, said ‘out of precaution, he went to a walk-in clinic’ to have the cut checked out.”

Harris keeps focus on South Carolina - Guardian: “This was the third trip [Sen. Kamala Harris] has made to South Carolina since launching her campaign, making it her most visited of the first four primary states in next year’s election. There is now established thought in Democratic circles that winning South Carolina, with its diverse voting constituency, provides the real gateway to the party’s nomination rather than the starting states of New Hampshire and Iowa with their overwhelmingly white electorate. Senior campaign aides say Harris will give equal time to all four early states throughout the race. Recent public polls place the senator third here at 13%, behind the more familiar names of Joe Biden, who has yet to declare a bid, and Bernie Sanders, who ran against Hillary Clinton in 2016 but failed to win the state. She placed fourth in a recent poll among caucus goers in Iowa.”

Klobuchar: It takes a tough boss to deal with Putin - Mediaite: “With presidential candidate and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) dealing with, sometimes wild, reports about mistreatment of her staff in the Senate, Klobuchar defended her management style – saying toughness is needed on the world stage. ‘Your campaign was shaken up in the early days by multiple reports, negative reports about how you’ve treated your past at times. Your answer was, too, I can be too hard. What’s too hard,’ CNN’s Poppy Harlow asked. ‘…If, you know, they felt that something was unfair or they felt bad about something, but I still think that you have to demand good product. When you are out there on the world stage and dealing with people like Vladimir Putin, yeah, you want someone who is tough,’ she added. ‘You want someone that demands the answers and that is going to get things done. That’s what I’ve done my whole life.’”

Booker cops to romance with actress Rosario Dawson - Fox News: “Presidential candidate Sen. Cory Booker confirmed on Friday that he’s dating actress Rosario Dawson. ‘I am dating Rosario Dawson and I’m very happy about it,’ the New Jersey Democrat told reporters following a campaign stop in New Hampshire, the state that holds the first primary along the road to the White House. ‘She’s a wonderful actor,’ Booker highlighted. The 39-year old actress broke the news on Thursday, saying ‘yes, very much so,’ when asked by TMZ at Washington’s Reagan-National airport if she was involved with Booker, who turns 50 next month. ‘He’s a wonderful human being. It’s good to spend some time together when we can. Very busy.’ … If Booker wins the White House, he would become just the third bachelor in the nation’s history to serve as president.”

TRUMP ISSUES FIRST VETO, SLAPS BACK AT CONRESS’ REBUKE
AP: “President Donald Trump issued the first veto of his presidency on Friday, overruling Congress to protect his emergency declaration for border wall funding. Flanked by law enforcement officials as well as the parents of children killed by people in the country illegally, Trump maintained that he is not through fighting for his signature campaign promise, which stands largely unfulfilled 18 months before voters decide whether to grant him another term. ‘Congress has the freedom to pass this resolution,’ Trump said, ‘and I have the duty to veto it.’ A dozen defecting Republicans joined Senate Democrats in approving the joint resolution on Thursday, which capped a week of confrontation with the White House as both parties in Congress strained to exert their power in new ways. It is unlikely that Congress will have the two-thirds majority required to override Trump’s veto, though House Democrats have suggested they would try nonetheless.”

The week trump lost Congress - NYT: “Time and again … lawmakers on Capitol Hill warned him not to push them too far. This week, in a remarkable series of bipartisan rebukes to the president, Congress pushed back. On Wednesday, with seven Republicans breaking ranks, the Senate joined the Democrat-led House in voting to end American military aid to Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen in protest over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post. On Thursday morning, the House voted unanimously on a nonbinding resolution to make public the findings of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. And on Thursday afternoon, 12 Republican senators abandoned the president to pass legislation, already adopted by the House, that would block Mr. Trump from declaring a national emergency to build his border wall — an act of defiance that he has vowed to overturn with the first veto of his presidency.”

Senators facing 2020 re-election stick with Trump on emergency funding - Politico: “Two weeks ago, Sen. Thom Tillis said President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration violated the separation of powers and created a dangerous precedent, stating in an op-ed that he would vote to reverse it. On Thursday, the North Carolina Republican flipped and sided with Trump on the border vote. While a dozen Senate Republicans joined Democrats to support a resolution undoing Trump’s move to fund a border wall, Tillis and all but one other Republican up for reelection in 2020 — Sen. Susan Collins of Maine — stuck with the president. The list includes Sen. Cory Gardner of blue-trending Colorado and Sen. Martha McSally, who was appointed this year but will face Arizona voters again in 2020 after losing a tough race in 2018. The vote underscores how little Republicans on the ballot in 2020 want to break with the president, even on an issue that divided the party and in states where Trump’s approval rating is low.”

Sasse, Tillis face conservative backlash - WashEx: “While consistent constitutional conservatives including Sens. Mike Lee and Rand Paul held firm, other conservatives who often warn about the erosion of checks on executive power, prominently Sens. Ted Cruz and Ben Sasse, caved. Thom Tillis, who actually wrote an op-ed outlining why he would vote against the measure, changed his mind when it came to vote. In explaining away his decision, Sasse said: "…I think that law is overly broad and I want to fix it, but at present Nancy Pelosi doesn't, so I am therefore voting against her politically motivated resolution. As a constitutional conservative, I believe that the NEA currently on the books should be narrowed considerably.” … He is setting up a classic false choice. Sasse has in the past lamented the tendency of people to put their preferred outcomes over respecting process and institutional checks on power, and yet here he is, embracing a move because of the policy outcome.

IT'S MUELLER TIME (ALMOST)


Fox News: “For weeks, rumors have been swirling that Special Counsel Robert Mueller is nearing the end of his years-long Russia investigation — and lawmakers on Capitol Hill are eager to make his final report public. The House of Representatives unanimously voted (420-0) Thursday in favor of a resolution to urge Attorney General William Barr to release Mueller’s full report to Congress and the country for the sake of ‘transparency.’ The probe was intended to examine Russian election interference and whether President Trump's campaign colluded with Russian officials during the 2016 election -- and has since resulted in charges for several former Trump campaign associates, though none have directly related to collusion. Trump called the investigation ‘illegal’ and ‘conflicted’ this week, arguing Mueller should have never been appointed in the first place. … When the investigation — which began in May 2017 — concludes, Mueller will release his final report to Barr, who has been overseeing the special counsel since he took office in February.”

Graham ready to deploy countermeasures - Politico: “Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham is demanding answers from the Justice Department about former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s explosive allegation that top officials there discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Donald Trump from office. In a letter to Attorney General William Barr on Friday, Graham said his panel intends to investigate the allegations and gave Barr a two-week deadline to turn over any documents relating to conversations between McCabe and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about the 25th Amendment or about covertly recording Trump. Last month, during a media blitz to promote his new book, McCabe said that after the abrupt firing of FBI Director James Comey, Rosenstein had offered to wear a wire into the White House and furthermore had brought up whether Trump could be removed from office using the 25th Amendment.”

To investigate or to legislate? - NPR: “Nowhere else in the House of Representatives is the tension between legislation and investigation more present than on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where a bipartisan infrastructure deal could be in the making — even as the Democrats on the committee launch a reinvigorated investigation into the D.C. Trump Hotel. ‘I have to do my duty over here and get questions answered,’ committee Chairman Peter DeFazio told NPR. ‘But I also need to pursue vigorously working with the White House to try and move an infrastructure package. And I'm willing and able to do both, and I think that the president will understand that if he really wants to do infrastructure.’ Trump famously declared at his latest State of the Union address that members of Congress could choose between working with him on passing bills or probe his business and administration — not both.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY


House Democrats scramble to head off GOP legislative trolling - Politico

Trump will have another rally in Michigan - Fox 17

AUDIBLE: CHILLY


“…consider this our resolution of disapproval.” – Editorial from The Denver Post rescinding the newspaper’s 2014 endorsement of Sen. Cory Gardner. Gardner, facing a tough re-election fight, carried President Trump’s water, voting against the congressional resolution of disapproval for the president’s emergency declaration.

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY


This weekend Mr. Sunday will sit down with Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind. and 2020 Presidential Candidate. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.

#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE FINGER


NPR: “If you've ever been tempted to make a rude gesture at a police officer, you can rest assured that the Constitution protects your right to do so, a federal appeals court says. In the sequence of events described by the court, a woman in Michigan, Debra Cruise-Gulyas, was pulled over in 2017 for speeding. The officer showed leniency, writing her up for a lesser violation known as a nonmoving violation. As she drove away, apparently insufficiently appreciative of the officer's gesture, Cruise-Gulyas made a certain gesture of her own. Or as the court put it, ‘she made an all-too-familiar gesture at [Officer Matthew Minard] with her hand and without four of her fingers showing.’ Minard was not amused. He pulled her over again and rewrote the ticket for speeding. Cruise-Gulyas sued, arguing she had a First Amendment right to wiggle whatever finger she wanted at the police. … The court's ruling means Cruise-Gulyas' lawsuit can proceed in a lower court.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…


“One day, we shall all have to account for what we did and what we said in this scoundrel year. For now, we each have our conscience to attend to.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post June 9, 2016.

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Liz Friden contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.