Washington Brief: U.S. Says Time to ‘Take Action, Short of Armed Conflict’ With North Korea

Washington Brief

  • Tensions between the United States and North Korea remained high over the weekend as North Korea launched a test missile that failed shortly after liftoff. U.S. National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster said it is time for the United States “to take action, short of armed conflict, so we can avoid the worst.” (The New York Times)
  • Justice Neil Gorsuch will take the bench for the first time today. The Supreme Court is scheduled to take up three cases this week, including a high profile church-state issue on Wednesday. (Bloomberg News)
  • America First Policies, a political action group run by former aides to President Donald Trump, is launching a $3 million advertising campaign to bolster a dozen House Republicans who stood with the White House on the health care bill that stalled in Congress last month. (The Washington Post)
  • About a quarter of registered U.S. voters say the legislative filibuster should stay in place after Senate Republicans opted to eliminate it for federal judges, according to a recent poll. A similar share of voters said the legislative filibuster should be eliminated. (Morning Consult)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

No events scheduled
NAACP vice chair speaks at National Press Club 2 p.m.
Heritage Foundation event on U.S.-U.K. trade after Brexit 10 a.m.
Brookings Institution event on carbon pricing and climate cooperation 2 p.m.
No events scheduled
Brookings Institution event on cyber threats 10 a.m.



Ready or Not, Gorsuch to Take Supreme Court Bench a Week After Oath
Greg Stohr, Bloomberg News 

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch didn’t have much time to get up to speed on his new job. Only a week after being sworn in, Gorsuch will take the bench for the first time Monday, filling the space next to Justice Sonia Sotomayor and hearing arguments in three cases, with another four scheduled to follow later in the week.

Erdogan claims victory in Turkish referendum
Mehul Srivastava, Financial Times 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed victory on Sunday night in a historic referendum on a new constitution that will hand him sweeping new powers. But the narrow winning margin fell well short of the 55 per cent mandate he predicted.

Russia Seeks Meeting With U.S., UN on Syria Next Week in Geneva
Henry Meyer, Bloomberg News 

Russia plans to hold talks with the U.S. and the United Nations next week in Geneva aimed at breathing new life into the Syrian peace process, state media reported, in what would mark the first such contacts since the new administration of Donald Trump took office. UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura has agreed to attend and Russia is awaiting confirmation from U.S. officials, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said, the TASS news service reported Monday.

Mexican Deportees, Once Ignored Back Home, Now Find ‘Open Arms’
Elisabeth Malkin, The New York Times

Mexico’s president dashed to the airport to greet a planeload of deportees. The education minister rushed to the Texas border to meet Mexicans being kicked out of the United States.


A ‘Cuban Missile Crisis in Slow Motion’ in North Korea
David E. Sanger and William J. Broad, The New York Times

All the elements of the North Korean nuclear crisis — the relentless drive by Kim Jong-un to assemble an arsenal, the propaganda and deception swirling around his progress, the hints of a covert war by the United States to undermine the effort, rather than be forced into open confrontation — were on vivid display this weekend. There was the parade in Pyongyang’s main square, with wave after wave of missiles atop mobile launchers, intended to convey a sense that Mr. Kim’s program is unstoppable.

Pence tells North Korea not to test American resolve, offering Syria and Afghanistan strikes as examples
Anna Fifield, The Washington Post

Vice President Pence warned North Korea Monday that it could be in for the same treatment as Syria and Afghanistan — both of which the Trump administration has bombed this month — if it continues with its nuclear program. The stark warning, delivered in Seoul after the vice president went to the military demarcation that separates the two Koreas, could revive speculation that the White House is considering military action against the regime in Pyongyang.

Trump names Garrett, Bachus to Export-Import Bank
Miranda Green, CNN

President Donald Trump will nominate former members of Congress Scott Garrett and Spencer Bachus to two vacant positions at the US Export-Import Bank — an entity Trump has in the past called “excess baggage” and agreed with conservatives on shutting down. Garrett would fill the role of Ex-Im president for a four-year term.

EPA emerges as major target after Trump solicits policy advice from industry
Juliet Eilperin, The Washington Post 

Just days after taking office, President Trump invited American manufacturers to recommend ways the government could cut regulations and make it easier for companies to get their projects approved. Industry leaders responded with scores of suggestions that paint the clearest picture yet of the dramatic series of steps that Trump officials are likely to take in overhauling federal policies, especially those designed to advance environmental protection and safeguard worker rights.

How a Trump presidency poses big questions for IMF and World Bank
Shawn Donnan, Financial Times

Central bankers and finance ministers from around the world are gathering in Washington this week to discuss the state of the global economy and how to keep another post-crisis recovery from stalling. But also hanging over this week’s spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank is the shadow of uncertainty.

Kelly: Marijuana ‘not a factor’ in drug war
Kevin Robillard, Politico

Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said Sunday that marijuana is “not a factor” in the war on drugs and that solving the nation’s drug problem does not involve “arresting a lot of users.” Kelly, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” was discussing his work to stop the flow of drugs into the United States from Central America and Mexico when host Chuck Todd asked whether legalizing marijuana would help or hurt his work.

Steve Bannon’s Biblical Fall
Olivia Nuzzi, Vanity Fair

Steve Bannon is a devout Catholic who believes in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But it’s the story of Christ’s descent into hell that occupies his mind most this Easter weekend.


Sanders: Democrats should have put more into Kansas special
Kevin Robillard, Politico

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said Sunday that Democrats should have done more to help a special election candidate in last week’s surprisingly close Kansas race. Democrat James Thompson, a veteran and civil rights attorney who Sanders endorsed, lost by just 6 percentage points to Republican Kansas Treasurer Ron Estes in the heavily Republican 4th District.

Nashville attorney, Iraq War vet announces Democratic run for Corker’s Senate seat
Joey Garrison, The Tennessean

James Mackler, a Nashville attorney and Iraq War veteran, will on Monday become the first Tennessee Democrat to announce plans to run in 2018 for the state’s U.S. Senate seat held by U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee. Mackler cited his military background repeatedly in a news release provided to The USA Today Network – Tennessee ahead of the formal announcement, saying he’s “running to restore respect, honesty, and most importantly, integrity in Washington.”

John McCain says North Korea ‘may be the first test of this presidency’
The Week 

U.S.-China relations are central to handling what could be the first major challenge of Donald Trump’s presidency, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Sunday while speaking with NBC’s Chuck Todd. “I want to start with North Korea,” Todd said.


Pro-Trump group launches a $3 million ad campaign to prop up House allies
Robert Costa, The Washington Post

Hours before the Republican health-care plan fizzled last month, White House officials marched to the Capitol and urged party leaders to call for a vote on the House floor. Several of them later groused privately that they wanted a list of who was with President Trump and who was against him.

Two Republican lawmakers face anger, from their own voters, on health care
Sean Sullivan and Kelsey Snell, The Washington Post

Inside a government building here, far-right Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) scolded his party’s leaders for rolling out an “ill-advised” health-care bill and blamed House Speaker Paul D. Ryan for the ensuing debacle. The next evening on a college campus nestled in the Rocky Mountains, moderate Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) held the House Freedom Caucus — to which Yoho belongs — culpable for the legislation’s defeat.

4 takeaways from the town halls dogging the GOP
Kyle Cheney and Rachael Bade, Politico

Republicans eager to flee Capitol Hill after squandering weeks on failed negotiations to repeal Obamacare are finding little refuge at home, where furious throngs of liberal constituents await. Halfway through the two-week Easter break, it’s clear that the energy on the left to protect Barack Obama’s health care law — and oppose President Donald Trump — is still soaring.

Why Is Bob Brady Still in Charge?
Holly Otterbein, Philly Mag

Bob Brady, the U.S. Congressman and boss of Philadelphia’s Democratic Party, is six-foot-one and has a massive barrel chest. His head and neck are also strikingly thick; his voice is almost as gravelly as Tom Waits’s.


Can the consumer watchdog Trump loathes win an Ohio election?
Lorraine Woellert et al., Politico

Gary Cohn gave Richard Cordray, the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an ultimatum over dinner a few weeks ago: Go the easy way, or go the hard way. Cohn, President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, had heard the rumors that Cordray wanted to run for governor in Ohio.

Christie angling for a comeback
Ryan Hutchins and Josh Dawsey, Politico

Chris Christie is feeling good again. The New Jersey governor remains one of the country’s most unpopular executives, after a dismal year in which two allies were sentenced to prison, the state’s credit rating continued to drop, and his White House dreams were conspicuously dashed by Donald Trump.

State Senate candidate’s reality show stint bites back
Carl Campanile, New York Post 

State Senate candidate Brian Benjamin is a real-estate developer, community-board chairman — and a former reality-TV star accused of stealing everything from a computer to hair extensions from his cancer-stricken girlfriend. Benjamin, 40, first landed on the Oprah Winfrey Network’s “Love in The City’’ show in 2014 as the devoted boyfriend of breast-cancer victim and entrepreneur Tiffany Jones, 42.

Which state sends most taxes to DC? Hint: It’s not a state
Stephen Ohlemacher, The Associated Press

As Tax Day approaches, show some love for the good people who live in the nation’s capital. Washington, that swampy den of iniquity that politicians love to scorn, sends the most tax dollars per person to the U.S. government.


With Trump Appointees, a Raft of Potential Conflicts and ‘No Transparency’
Eric Lipton et al., The New York Times

President Trump is populating the White House and federal agencies with former lobbyists, lawyers and consultants who in many cases are helping to craft new policies for the same industries in which they recently earned a paycheck. The potential conflicts are arising across the executive branch, according to an analysis of recently released financial disclosures, lobbying records and interviews with current and former ethics officials by The New York Times in collaboration with ProPublica.

Former Trump aide advises Chinese tycoon on building contracts
Lionel Barber et al., Financial Times

Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, who has deep ties to Russia, is offering advice to a Chinese billionaire on how to win construction contracts for the US president’s promised $1tn infrastructure buildout. Mr Manafort met Yan Jiehe, the billionaire founder of Pacific Construction Group, in Shanghai last Tuesday.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

NEW REPORT: 66% of small merchants are satisfied with what they pay for debit card acceptance. When it comes to interchange, small merchants want value, not price caps. So who is putting small merchants’ choice and flexibility at risk? Get the facts from EPC.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

President Trump’s Loose Talk on North Korea
The Editorial Board, The New York Times

As a candidate, Donald Trump seemed to pay no more attention to North Korea’s accelerating nuclear weapons program, which his predecessor has warned is America’s most urgent threat, than he did to other complex foreign policy issues. Now he is paying attention, but not in a helpful way.

Trump’s Art of the China Deal
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

President Trump is reversing some of his foreign-policy positions, but this should be no great surprise and so far the changes are mainly for the better. Mr. Trump is never going to pursue a consistent geopolitical strategy because he doesn’t think that way.

Trump isn’t sure what to do next on Syria. Congress has some ideas.
Josh Rogin, The Washington Post

When lawmakers return from their recess next week, they will quickly begin moving several bills designed variously to sanction the Assad, Iranian and Russian governments, several lawmakers and congressional aides told me. Some of the bills are being reframed as ways to try to stop Assad’s atrocities, including one aimed at cutting off support for Iran’s ballistic missile program by House Foreign Affairs Committee leaders Edward R. Royce (R-Calif.) and Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.).

How Democrats Should Spend Their Millions
Steve Phillips, The New York Times

The outpouring of outrage across the country in response to Donald Trump’s election has created a significant opening for flipping Republican-held House seats. This wave of progressive activism has found its way to the campaign coffers of Jon Ossoff, the leading Democrat in the Georgia congressional special election on Tuesday to fill the vacancy created when Tom Price joined Mr. Trump’s cabinet.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

Don’t be fooled by big box retailers’ claims about the Durbin amendment. A new Javelin study found small merchants choose their card processor based on value, not cost. In fact, despite price controls applying only to debit transactions, more merchants prefer credit card payments than debit card payments. Learn the truth about the interchange system from the Electronic Payments Coalition.

Research Reports and Polling

Voters Split on Future of Legislative Filibuster
Cameron Easley, Morning Consult

Senate Republicans’ decision to change the confirmation rules for Supreme Court nominees prompted speculation that the legislative filibuster may be next on the chopping block, and voters are split on its future.