POLITICS
04/17/2017 06:07 pm ET Updated Apr 17, 2017

Children Frolic On Cranky Man's Lawn Without Incident

Sean Spicer forced to smile at children
Joshua Roberts / Reuters

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During today’s White House Easter Egg Roll, Sean Spicer read from a book called,”How to Catch the Easter Bunny,” which thankfully didn’t feature any passages about hiring 15,000 ICE agents. Somewhat more disturbingly, Jeff Sessions read a group of children “It’s Not Easy Being a Bunny,” which is about a white bunny learning that he should stick to his own kind (really). And Donald Trump signed a kid’s hat, then threw it away. We’re confident the lesson the kid learned about the president will be more valuable than the hat. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Monday, April 17th, 2017:

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY ON ITS CONTROL OF CONGRESS - Sadly, it doesn’t look like the biodegradable silverware is coming back, however. Matt Fuller: “Republicans may hold the House, the Senate and the White House, but when it comes to the upcoming omnibus spending bill, it’s Democrats who look in control. There are still a number of tricky issues to settle, and there are plenty of ways a deal could blow up, but when Congress returns next week just a few days before an April 28 government funding deadline, the emerging bill seems likely to please Democrats and anger conservatives. It’s the first real instance where Republicans and President Donald Trump need Democratic votes to enact their agenda ― short of once again blowing up Senate rules ― and that leverage has Democrats blocking many Republican priorities.” [HuffPost]

And then this line: “Conservatives inside and outside Congress may soon rightfully ask: How is this deal any different than a bill Republicans would get if Hillary Clinton were president and Democrats controlled Congress?” [Ibid.]

NUNES: OBAMA ADMIN DIDN’T BREAK LAW RE: TRUMP SURVEILLANCE - “A review of the surveillance material flagged by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes shows no inappropriate action by Susan Rice or any other Obama administration official, Republican and Democratic Congressional aides who have been briefed on the matter told NBC News. President Donald Trump told the New York Times he believed former National Security Adviser Rice broke the law by asking for the identities of Trump aides who were mentioned in transcripts of U.S. surveillance of foreign targets. Normally, the identities of Americans are blacked out in transcripts circulated by the National Security Agency, but they may be ‘unmasked,’ if their identities are relevant to understanding the intelligence.” [NBC News]

SPICER DEFENDS WHITE HOUSE SECRECY - Listen, if a Patton Boggs lawyer can’t have a simple coffee in the Mess with Jared Kushner without some nosy asshole from ProPublica poking about, what have we become as a country? We ask you. Sam Stein and Paul Blumenthal: “White House press secretary Sean Spicer defended the Trump administration’s decision not to disclose the White House visitor logs online on Monday by blaming the Obama administration for not being transparent enough…. In all, the statement was a head-spinner, if only because it boiled down to a declaration that the current administration would be less transparent than the prior administration because the prior administration wasn’t transparent enough.” [HuffPost]

Sean Spicer has a tendency to let the president’s tweets speak for themselves, as this video demonstrates.

TRUMP CRASHES EASTER EGG ROLL - It’s almost like he’s spent his whole career lending his name and brand to other people’s efforts. Betsy Klein and Kate Bennet: “According to a source who participated in the preparation the weekend, the volunteers — many holdovers from years’ past and former administrations — arrived at 10 a.m. ET, working alongside Visitors Office and Social Office staffers. Truckloads of donated products were unpacked, grouped and placed into their designated spots, said one volunteer team leader. The items included arts and crafts supplies, as well as non-perishable foods. And yes, the source confirmed, there were also Peeps.” [CNN]

Melania had to nudge Trump to remind him to put his hand over his heart during the national anthem.

WHITE HOUSE TO BRING US THE BEST, CLASSIEST MUSHROOM CLOUDS - Roberta Rampton and Sue-Lin Wong: “U.S. Vice President Mike Pence put North Korea on notice on Monday, warning that recent U.S. military strikes in Syria and Afghanistan showed the resolve of President Donald Trump should not be tested…. ‘North Korea would do well not to test his resolve or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region,’ Pence said…. At a White House Easter celebration, Trump was asked by a reporter if he had a message for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and replied: ‘Gotta behave.’” [Reuters]

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OH - For the love of God, no one tell the president about the Alien and Sedition Acts. Willa Frej:  “President Donald Trump reportedly called Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday to congratulate him after Erdogan narrowly emerged victorious from a referendum to inflate his political powers, Turkish officials told state media and Reuters. Preliminary results showed 51.4 percent of voters had voted ‘yes.’ The changes could keep Erdogan in power for more than 10 more years, and allow him to select and remove members of his cabinet unilaterally.” [HuffPost]

ANOTHER BAD DAY FOR MERRICK GARLAND’S DOG - Adam Liptak: “For the first time in more than a year, nine justices heard arguments at the Supreme Court on Monday. The new member of the court, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, sat on the far right side of the bench, in the spot reserved for the most junior justice. If Justice Gorsuch experienced first-day jitters, he did not betray them. He was an exceptionally active questioner, displaying an easy familiarity with the issues in the three minor and technical cases before the court. He asked crisp and colloquial questions, and he kept asking them if he did not find the lawyers’ answers satisfactory.” [NYT]

MAYBE SOME MORE TAX MARCHES WILL CONVINCE HIM - Trump will give you his tax returns when you pry them from his cold, dead, tiny hands. Amanda Terkel: “President Donald Trump has no plans to release his 2016 tax returns, still inaccurately claiming that he can’t do so because he is being audited by the IRS. ‘The president is under audit. It’s a routine one. It continues. And I think that the American public know clearly where he stands. This is something that he made very clear during the election cycle,’ White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday. ‘We’re under the same audit that existed, and so nothing has changed.’ … But the audits have nothing to do with whether Trump can release his returns. The IRS has said ‘nothing prevents individuals from sharing their own tax information’ ― including being under audit. [HuffPost]

OH, GOOD, SCOTT GARRETT IS BACK - Garrett’s defeat last November was just about the only salve for Democrats’ — that and all the legal weed statewide voters gifted them. Amanda Terkel: “President Donald Trump intends to nominate former Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) to head the Export-Import Bank, finding a place for a congressman who lost his re-election bid in large part because of anti-gay comments that turned off big financial donors. In 2015, Garrett told fellow Republicans in a closed-door meeting that he wouldn’t pay his dues to the National Republican Congressional Committee because the organization supported some gay candidates, Politico reported... as a congressman, Garrett opposed the Export-Import Bank and called it a ‘corporate welfare program.’” [HuffPost]

TRUMP’S TRUSTWORTHINESS, ‘STRONG LEADER’ NUMBERS DOWN - Never again, they said. We won’t let a guy who sold steaks in a technology catalog fool us, they said. Oh well.  Grace Sparks: “In a Gallup poll released on Monday, only 45 percent of adults polled say they believe Trump keeps his promises. That’s down 17 points since early February, when 62 percent of respondents held that position. Since February, perceptions of Trump’s other attributes have also become more negative. About half of respondents still believe the president is a strong and decisive leader and that he ‘can bring about changes this country needs’ ― but those ratings have gone down 7 points since February. The percentage of people who say Trump is ‘honest and trustworthy’ has dropped by 6 points.” [HuffPost]

Next thing you know, an admitted sexual assaulter will be elected president: “An overwhelming majority of Bill O’Reilly’s viewers still approve of the controversial Fox News pundit despite a rising tide of sexual harassment allegations against him, according to a HuffPost/YouGov survey conducted over the weekend. Slightly more than 85 percent of Americans polled who sometimes or regularly watch ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ say they’re aware of the recent controversy surrounding its host.” [HuffPost’s Emily Peck and Ariel Edwards-Levy]

SURE, WHY NOT - Or perhaps certain people in the administration want the world to know they tried. Jennifer A. Dlouhy: “As President Donald Trump contemplates whether to make good on his campaign promise to yank the United States out of the Paris climate accord, an unlikely lobbying force is hoping to talk him out of it: oil and coal producers. A pro-Paris bloc within the administration has recruited energy companies to lend their support ahead of a high-level White House meeting Tuesday to discuss the global pact to curtail greenhouse-gas emissions, according to two people familiar with the effort who asked not to be identified…. Both the president’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, and her husband, Jared Kushner, a White House special adviser, have urged the president to stay in the deal, along with Tillerson.  On the other side are senior adviser Stephen Bannon and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who on Friday said ‘we need to exit’ the pact.” [Bloomberg]

DNC SELECTS INTERNAL REFORM COMMITTEE - Sadly the Bernie or Bust protester who crashed the DNC in a Cat in the Hat hat was not included. Daniel Marans: “Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez announced the complete list of people on the 21-member Unity Reform Commission on Monday…. The commission will now begin the process of discussing reforms to the party’s presidential nominating process, including hot-button issues like the role of superdelegates and caucuses. It will present its recommendations to the DNC by January 2018…. The 21-member commission includes 9 members selected by Clinton, 7 members picked by Sanders, 3 picked by Perez, and the chair and vice chair ― selected by Clinton and Sanders, respectively.” [HuffPost]

A sliver of hope for Dems in Montana: “Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced plans Monday to campaign with Rob Quist, the banjo-strumming populist Democrat running for Montana’s open seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.” [HuffPost’s Alexander Kaufman]

BEST MOMENT FROM THIS WEEKEND’S SUNDAY SHOWS - On “Meet the Press,” when DHS Secretary John Kelly said you can’t put a price on human misery, literally right before putting a price on human misery: “[Methamphetamines, Heroin and Cocaine] drugs result in the death in ’15, I think, of 52,000 people to include opiates. It’s a massive problem. 52,000 Americans. You can’t put a price on human misery. The cost to the United States is over $250 billion a year.”

The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect has been spitting fire this year: “The New York-based nonprofit has catapulted to national prominence with a series of aggressive attacks on the new chief executive and his policies...the Anne Frank Center’s executive director, Steven Goldstein, posts his unfiltered responses directly to Facebook…. Goldstein had never even heard of the group when its board of directors asked him last year if he was interested in taking over as executive director. That wasn’t a good sign, he thought. ‘I’m a social justice activist, I’m a Jewish activist, I’m a native New Yorker, so for me to not to have heard of an Anne Frank organization means the organization must have had an extraordinarily low profile,’ he said.” [HuffPost’s Jessica Schulberg]

BECAUSE YOU’VE READ THIS FAR - Here’s a chicken playing the piano.

ALEX JONES’ LAWYER CALLS HIS SHTICK AN ACT - It turns out the guy ranting about fluoridation turning the frogs gay is no more genuine than Macho Man Randy Savage delivering a suplex slam. Jonathan Tilove: “At a recent pretrial hearing, attorney Randall Wilhite told state District Judge Orlinda Naranjo that using his client Alex Jones’ on-air Infowars persona to evaluate Alex Jones as a father would be like judging Jack Nicholson in a custody dispute based on his performance as the Joker in ‘Batman.’ ‘He’s playing a character,’ Wilhite said of Jones. ‘He is a performance artist.’ But in emotional testimony at the hearing, Kelly Jones, who is seeking to gain sole or joint custody of her three children with Alex Jones, portrayed the volcanic public figure as the real Alex Jones.” [Austin American-Statesman]

COMFORT FOOD

- Examining Jeff Goldblum’s Instagram likes.

- An infographic detailing changes in the Fortune 500 over the last 50 years.

- Young Celtics fan drops f-bomb on live TV.

TWITTERAMA

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