French Voters Head to the Polls

“French voters go to the polls on Sunday in the first round of a presidential election that to the very end has brought little consensus or comfort and only one certainty: the result will be a political upheaval, whoever wins,” The Guardian reports.

“Even as they walk into their bureau de vote, many will still be undecided, faced with paper slips for an unprecedented 11 candidates, only four of them thought to be serious contenders for the Elysée palace. There is a nail-biting sense that anything could happen.”

FiveThirtyEight: “The top two finishers will proceed to a runoff election unless the top vote-getter receives more than 50 percent of the vote, in which case he or she wins outright. But if the polls are to be believed, that’s not going to happen. Instead, candidates representing the far right, far left, center and center-right all have a shot at securing one of the two spots in the runoff on May 7.”

“In short, the French presidential election is a mess.”

Ryan Says He Won’t Be Rushed on Health Care

Speaker Paul Ryan told GOP lawmakers “that they plan to devote their energy this week to keeping the federal government open, conspicuously avoiding an immediate commitment to take up health care despite pledges to do so by conservatives and the White House,” the Washington Post reports.

“Ryan added that the House will vote on a health-care bill when Republicans are sure they have the support to pass it.”

Axios: “There’s been a lot of talk about a health care vote this coming week, but leadership won’t be rushed by some arbitrary timeline — a big lesson Ryan’s office took from the failure of the first health care bill.”

Trump Reaches Beyond White House for Counsel

New York Times: “As Mr. Trump’s White House advisers jostle for position, the president has turned to another group of advisers — from family, real estate, media, finance and politics, and all outside the White House gates — many of whom he consults at least once a week.”

“The media mogul Rupert Murdoch is on the phone every week, encouraging Mr. Trump when he’s low and arguing that he focus on the economy rather than detouring to other issues. The developer Richard LeFrak is a soothing voice who listens to Mr. Trump’s complaints that cost estimates for the border wall with Mexico are too high. Sean Hannity tells the president that keeping promises on core Republican issues is crucial.”

“Mr. Trump’s West Wing aides, like President Bill Clinton’s staff two decades before, say they sometimes cringe at the input from people they can’t control, with consequences they can’t predict.”

Trump Schedules Rally on Same Night as Reporter Gala

President Trump announced his intention to hold a “big rally” in Pennsylvania next Saturday, a date which marks his 100th day in office, and coincides with the White House Correspondent’s Dinner—an event he previously declined to attend, CNBC reports.

Axios: “Holding a newsworthy rally the same night as the WHCD essentially forces White House reporters to either skip the annual event for the rally, or attend the dinner and risk the backlash for wearing fancy clothes, rubbing elbows with celebs, and laughing along with a comedian who has a history of ridiculing Trump.”

Trump Offended South Korea

President Trump’s apparently offhand comment after meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping — that “Korea actually used to be a part of China” — has enraged many South Koreans, the AP reports.

The historically inaccurate sentence “bumps up against a raft of historical and political sensitivities in a country where many have long feared Chinese designs on the Korean Peninsula. It also feeds neatly into longstanding worries about Seoul’s shrinking role in dealing with its nuclear-armed rival, North Korea.”

Melania Not In a Rush to Move to White House

Vanity Fair: “Woefully pliant as Melania may be, even she may have a breaking point. Over the course of reporting this story, for which her close friends declined to talk, an uneasy picture has emerged of their marital union. Melania’s unhappiness and the couple’s apparent lack of closeness are becoming more noticeable.”

“Despite assurances from her spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, that Melania is embracing the role of First Lady, most signs point to a distinct lack of interest. And while Grisham says Mrs. Trump plans to move to the White House once their son, Barron, ‘finishes out the school year,’ there have been indications that she is in no particular rush.”

French Social Media Flooded with Fake News

“French voters have been deluged with fake news stories on their social media feeds ahead of the country’s presidential election, many from sources ‘exposed to Russian influence,'” The Independent reports.

“Researchers from Oxford University found up to a quarter of the political links shared on Twitter in France were based on misinformation. They were identified as deliberately false and expressed ‘ideologically extreme, hyper-partisan or conspiratorial’ views with logical flaws and opinions presented as facts.”

Why Trump Likes a Loose Schedule

President Trump “leaves large blocks of ‘private time’ on his Oval Office schedule for spontaneous meetings and phone chats with ex-aides, friends, media figures, lawmakers and members of his Cabinet — an old habit he’s carried over from his business days that has frustrated some West Wing aides,” Politico reports.

“Trump wrote in his 1987 book The Art of the Deal that his loose scheduling practices as a real estate magnate at the Trump Organization helped him be ‘imaginative.”

The White House May Be Screwing Up Tax Reform

Playbook: “Republicans have been promising to repeal and replace Obamacare for almost a decade. But if they jam an Obamacare bill through the House, it could seriously complicate their chances for tax reform. Why? Because they are using reconciliation — a budgetary tool — to gut Obamacare. And if they are successful at passing the repeal with reconciliation, they’d need to pass another budget to allow them to begin tax reform. Do you think passing a 2018 budget will be easy? No. It will be very difficult. And that’s basically the only way for Congress to pass a tax-reform bill. White House insiders say this obvious — and critical — dynamic hasn’t been discussed much.”

“Despite all of that, the White House seems hell bent on trying to push through a health care package when Congress returns. And in a city that rarely can walk and chew gum at the same time, Trump’s decision to announce that he would unveil of his tax plan next week in the middle a government shutdown fight is aggressive, to say the least. At worst, it could hurt his support among Republican lawmakers frustrated by the lack of direction from the White House.”

Trump Is Wildcard In Spending Fight

President Trump “has emerged as the wildcard as congressional leaders clamber to reach agreement on a package to keep the government funded and prevent a shutdown,” The Hill reports.

“Republican leaders are keenly aware which ‘poison pill’ provisions are non-starters with the Democrats, whose votes will be needed to send a spending bill to the president. But Trump, who is closing in quickly on his first 100 days in office, is hungry for legislative victories after a rocky start that included the stunning failure of the Republicans’ Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill.”

For members: Trump Sets Himself Up for a Double-Fail on Day 100

No Border Lawmaker Supports Funding Wall

“Not a single member of Congress who represents the territory on the southwest border said they support President Donald Trump’s request for $1.4 billion to begin construction of his promised wall, according to a Wall Street Journal survey, testing the administration’s ability to reach a deal on government funding next week.”

“Most lawmakers representing the region—both Democrats and Republicans—said they are opposed and many said they have unanswered questions. A few were noncommittal, but not a single member of the House or Senate representing the region expressed support for the funding request.”

Democratic Recruitment Helped by Anti-Trump Wave

“A wave of first-time candidates eager to fight President Trump and his young administration plan to challenge House Republican incumbents, giving Democratic Party leaders hope that they can capi­tal­ize on the anger and intensity at grass-roots protests and town hall meetings across the country this year,” the Washington Post reports.

“At least 15 declared candidates or contenders on the verge of announcing have emerged in districts that Democrats must win to take back the House, including in several districts where the party did not seriously compete in 2014 or 2016, according to party officials.”