Day 454: This Russia thing.

1/ Defense Secretary James Mattis wanted to get Congressional approval before bombing Syria last week. Trump overruled him because he wanted his tweets to be supported by action, despite warnings that an overly aggressive strike could spark a larger dispute with Russia. A limited airstrike on three targets was the compromise. (New York Times)

2/ Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un over Easter weekend for a top-secret visit to lay the groundwork for direct talks between Trump and the North Korean leader. Pompeo was nominated as secretary of state shortly after the meeting. Trump is expected to meet with Kim by June. While meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday, Trump said his administration has "had direct talks at very high levels, extremely high levels with North Korea." (Washington Post / New York Times)

3/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders said "the administration does not comment on the CIA director's travel." Hours later, Trump tweeted that "Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week. Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed." (Reuters)

4/ Two Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote against Mike Pompeo, Trump's nominee for secretary of state. Pompeo can still be confirmed by the full Senate without the committee's support. Republicans hold a 11-10 majority on the committee and Republican Rand Paul has already said he's also "no." (Reuters / CNN)

5/ Nikki Haley: "I don't get confused." The comment by the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations comes in response to a White House official attributing her statement that Trump would impose sanctions on Russia to "momentary confusion." Larry Kudlow, the president's national economics adviser, said Haley "got ahead of the curve." Later, Kudlow called Haley to apologize, saying "she was certainly not confused." He added: "She was basically following what she thought was policy. The policy was changed and she wasn't told about it, so she was in a box." The White House sent out a document – titled "White House talking points" – to surrogates on Saturday letting them know that Trump had decided to take punitive action against Moscow. (New York Times / Politico / CNN)

  • Haley said her relationship with Trump was "perfect." (Reuters)

6/ Trump denied that he fired James Comey because of the Russia investigation, directly contradicting his own comments on Comey's dismissal. In May 2017, Trump told NBC's Lester Holt that his decision to fire Comey was "this Russia thing," which he called "a made up story" and "an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won." Today, Trump tweeted that "Slippery James Comey, the worst FBI Director in history, was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation," adding the requisite all-caps "NO COLLUSION (except by the Dems)!" (CNN / Washington Post / Axios)

7/ Trump dismissed the sketch of the person that Stormy Daniels claims threatened her years ago on Trump's behalf, calling the person a "nonexistent man" and said the sketch was a "total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!" (ABC News / New York Times)

8/ American Media Inc. let Karen McDougal out of her contract that kept her from talking about her affair with Trump. In August 2016 American Media, which owns the National Enquirer, purchased the rights to McDougal's story and spiked it in exchange for $150,000. David Pecker, American Media's chairman, is friends with Trump. (New York Times)

9/ Trump is still "apoplectic" about the FBI raids on Michael Cohen's hotel room, office and home, a source close to the president said. Trump's concerned that the FBI has everything, including everything he's told Cohen, and doesn't feel protected by the FBI "taint team" that's supposed to separate out information subject to attorney client-privilege. (CNN)

poll/ The race between Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke is "too close to call." 47% of Texas voters support Cruz while 43% back O'Rourke. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. Barbara Bush died at the age of 92 after a series of recent hospitalizations. Bush had recently refused to seek any further medical treatment. (NBC News)

  2. The Senate Judiciary Committee will take up legislation to protect Robert Mueller despite opposition from Mitch McConnell. The legislation is on the agenda for a committee business meeting on Thursday, but an actual vote is expected to be delayed until next week. (The Hill)

  3. Puerto Rico hit with an island-wide blackout after an excavator accidentally downed a transmission line. Officials said it could take 24 to 36 hours to fully restore power to more than 1.4 million customers. (Associated Press)

  4. New York's attorney general is trying change a state law so he can bring criminal charges against aides Trump pardons. Eric Schneiderman wants to exempt New York's double jeopardy law from cases involving presidential pardons. (New York Times)

  5. Mick Mulvaney said the Office of Management and Budget is opening a probe into Scott Pruitt's spending since he took over the EPA. The OMB will look into the $43,000 spent on a "secure phone booth" for Pruitt's office at EPA headquarters. (ABC News)

  6. A group of 131 representatives and 39 senators introduced a resolution calling for Scott Pruitt to resign for ethics lapses. The resolution states that the co-signers have "no confidence in the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and [are] calling for the immediate resignation of the Administrator." (The Hill / Reuters)

  7. Trump's trade representative Robert Lighthizer is spending nearly $1 million on new furniture. He blamed the Obama administration for the costs. (New York Post)

  8. Trump tweeted that sanctuary cities are where undocumented immigrants go for "breeding." (CNN)

  9. Bob Corker said Trump governs in a state of "constant chaos" and denounced his attacks on the FBI and the media. The Republican senator once described the White House as an "adult day-care center." (Washington Post)

  10. Madeleine Albright: Trump is "the least democratic president of modern history." The former secretary of state said the modern world provides a "petri dish" for fascism. (The Atlantic)

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