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If the President was in the driver’s seat last week, then the car seemed like it was having trouble, shuddering and fishtailing all over the road: A week after announcing he would try to destroy Obamacare again, on Monday night he said he’d wait till after the election. After repeatedly saying he was OK with releasing the Mueller report, now he wasn’t. He dug in about releasing his tax returns (he won’t) and went on odd riffs about his German-born (not true) father and carcinogenic windmills (not true) and declared, at the border on Friday, that America was “full.”

The chaos is intentional, Julian Zelizer thought: Trump wants “to use his mastery of the media cycle to totally control the agenda throughout the next two years, making it difficult – if not impossible – for Democrats to discuss their own ideas.” Michael D’Antonio, Trump’s biographer, warned that the President’s batty behavior was more than just a bizarre spectacle, it hinted strongly at mental decline. “The talk coming from this President is frightening, destabilizing and bewildering,” he wrote.

Dean Obeidallah, meanwhile, suggested that Trump should savor, while he can, his latest roasting on “Saturday Night Live” – a sketch on how he seemed to have dodged the Mueller bullet. It won’t last, he wrote: “Trump’s potential criminal and legal woes are not over. As (Robert) DeNiro’s Mueller stated near the end of the sketch, “P.S., can’t wait to see what the Southern District of New York has in store for Trump.”

Clay Jones

On Friday, Trump visited the border town of Calexico, California, where he railed against a “colossal surge” in immigration – and mistakenly referred to the Flores Settlement as decided by “Judge Flores” (it was named after Jenny Lisette Flores, who fled El Salvador as a teenager).

Frida Ghitis was exasperated: He is presenting a humanitarian crisis – Central American asylum seekers – as an illegal criminal invasion, and demanding a wall, she observed. If the President really wanted a border solution, he would send money south to support “well-vetted nongovernmental organizations that improve governance, rule of law, and economic development” in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, she wrote.

Van Jones and Jessica Jackson, meanwhile, took a look at a rare bipartisan success on criminal justice reform, explaining why they’re celebrating a three-month-old law signed by President Trump.

Is Bernie Sanders really like Donald Trump?

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In the Washington Post, Dana Milbank went out on a limb and called Bernie Sanders the Donald Trump of the left: “Fundraising and polls show that many Democrats think the best answer to an angry old white guy with crazy hair, New York accent and flair for demagoguery is, well, another angry old white guy with crazy hair, New York accent and flair for demagoguery.”

SE Cupp countered that a more ridiculous comparison was hard to imagine: “No one is like Donald Trump. He is, in ways that are both impressive and disturbing, inimitable, unprecedented, unique.”

Top court blesses barbarity?

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Russell Bucklew, on death row in Missouri for murder, wanted to be executed using nitrogen gas instead of a lethal injection of pentobarbital. His lawyers argued that he had tumors in his throat, and could choke to death on his own blood under lethal injection. On Monday, the Supreme Court rejected his request.

The 5-4 decision, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, shows the conservative court continuing to move in “an exceptionally barbarous direction,” wrote Jill Filipovic, putting “a legal veneer on judicially sanctioned torture and murder.”

Inspiration and grief over Nipsey Hussle

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The shooting death on Sunday of hip-hop star Nipsey Hussle outside his Los Angeles clothing store drew a torrent of grief in the community where he had worked to create opportunity for others. “You were about something..positive and for your community in every chance you had to speak..and because of that You inspired millions,” tweeted Pharrell Williams.

But there was another, troubling, thread that emerged, lamented Clay Cane: “Sadly, social media is already being flooded by many trying to use Hussle as an example of the always popular, intellectually bereft, black-on-black-crime talking point.” The facile framing, he said, detracts from Nipsey’s status and contributions – the STEM program he helped launch and several other entrepreneurial and community-focused ventures aimed at lifting up his South LA neighborhood. “Racializing crime perpetuates a stereotype” and dishonors Nipsey, he wrote.

Trump under pressure

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Two weeks after Attorney General William Barr issued a four-page summary declaring that the much-longer, still-unseen Mueller report largely exonerated the President, Congress is ratcheting up the pressure to see for itself.

The House Judiciary Committee voted to authorize chairman Jerrold Nadler to issue a subpoena (when he wants to) for the full report and other evidence. It’s a battle Nadler was born to fight, suggested Norman Ornstein in The New Republic.

Michael Zeldin, a formal federal prosecutor, said Barr’s decision to exonerate President Trump of any potential obstruction of justice allegations was out of line. “There is nothing in the special counsel regulations that would appear to authorize the attorney general” – a political appointee – to put his (and Rod Rosenstein’s) spin on Mueller’s own decision “that he lacked sufficient evidence to make a criminal charging decision.” Barr should have given the full report to Congress, which can take up the question of obstruction in an impeachment investigation, he wrote.

Barr told the House and Senate Judiciary committee chairmen he would send up the full report by mid-April – as soon as he’s done reviewing whether and how to redact it.

OK, fine, wrote Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor. But it gets dicey when Barr says he’ll scrub the report of information that would “unduly infringe on the personal privacy and reputational interests of peripheral third parties,” as well as grand jury materials. Barr should “put away his redaction pen” in favor of transparency, Honig wrote. “Anything less will raise one big question: What is Barr trying to hide?”

Taxing Trump

Meanwhile, Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday asked the IRS for six years of Trump’s tax returns – a request Trump will fight all the way to the Supreme Court, a source told CNN. In the Washington Post, Aaron Blake noted a report in Bloomberg that in February Trump asked Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to fast-track his nominee for IRS chief counsel, Michael J. Desmond – who had once advised the Trump Organization on a tax matter. Trump attempting to install “people who have publicly taken his side” is a recurring theme, Blake wrote. Michael McGough, writing in the Los Angeles Times, observed that Democrats were in “search of skullduggery.”

Biden’s bad week

Walt Handelsman/The New Orleans Advocate/Tribune Content Agency

“Joe Biden has problems,” wrote Roxanne Jones. Since last weekend, a series of women have told of uncomfortable, handsy encounters with the former Vice President – and likely 2020 candidate.

Joe Biden waited several days before he addressed the issue in a Twitter video, saying he would “be more mindful about respecting personal space.

But then, on Friday, he joked about his predicament to a largely male crowd of union electricians, causing Emily Peck to complain in an essay in HuffPost that he still didn’t get it. Jones took note of the other problematic issues in Biden’s personnel file – the ones rooted in his long Senate career, like his treatment of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings and his once-popular tough-on-crime views that “mostly targeted black and brown communities and have perpetuated the racial disparities in today’s justice system.” Biden will have to explain himself not just to women, but also to communities of color, Jones wrote.

But there’s another side to consider, wrote Marion Steinfels, Biden’s deputy communications director during his 2008 run. She recounted the candidate grabbing her arm once during a plane takeoff and telling her a random story. She realized only later that he was distracting her from her flying anxiety. “With Biden, it is not about objectifying women or asserting male dominance; it’s about doing what he can to encourage others and make them feel comfortable – especially in stressful and overwhelming situations,” she insisted. “This is who he is.”

Biden’s case surfaces the challenges facing all the Democratic candidates as they navigate norms “in an era defined by the #MeToo movement,” and confront a “generational divide, in which a rising cohort, characterized by its diversity and tolerance, is intolerant of conduct that was long commonplace,” wrote Nancy Gibbs in Time.

Don’t count him out, cautioned John Avlon. “There are plenty of compelling reasons for Joe Biden to get in the race of a lifetime, aiming to reunite his party and the nation.”

Pete Buttigieg on God, marriage and Mike Pence


While Biden was trying to get his pre-candidacy back on course, Pete Buttigieg was having a bit of bump in the polls. The South Bend mayor sat down to chat with CNN contributor Father Edward Beck about his religious journey, his views on the intersection of faith and politics – and Mike Pence.

Beck asked him about reports that the Vice President believes that God is behind his and Trump’s leadership. Said Buttigieg: “The idea that God wants somebody like Mike Pence to be the cheerleader for a President largely known for his association with hush money to adult film actresses seems to me to give God very little credit.” Read the whole Q&A here.


Mike Luckovich/Creators Syndicate, Inc

The White House was playing a game of “high-stakes dodgeball” in trying to explain away the White House’s push for security clearances for at least 25 people over experts’ objections, wrote CNN security analyst Samantha Vinograd. Pay attention, wrote Vinograd, who served 10 years in government, four of them in the White House. “If red flags about an applicant are raised – and later overruled by senior White House officials or the President himself – that means that the very people supposedly charged with protecting our national security are knowingly taking steps that could damage it. The outstanding question is why.”

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