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2020 hopefuls get a rough welcome to the big leagues

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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann

WASHINGTON — Now that the potentially gigantic field of Democratic presidential candidates for 2020 is beginning to narrow — so long, Michael Avenatti; goodbye, Deval Patrick — the scrutiny is increasing on some of the Democrats who continue to eye the upcoming presidential race.

On Thursday, for example, the New York Times reported how progressives and minority groups criticized Elizabeth Warren for the recent DNA test she took to prove her family’s Native-American origins, and then the Boston Globe’s editorial page implored her not to run for president. “Warren missed her moment in 2016, and there’s reason to be skeptical of her prospective candidacy in 2020,” the editorial page said.

“While Warren is an effective and impactful senator with an important voice nationally, she has become a divisive figure. A unifying voice is what the country needs now after the polarizing politics of Donald Trump” he paper continued. (We don’t remember the Globe telling Massachusetts pols like Ted Kennedy, Michael Dukakis, John Kerry and Mitt Romney not to run for president.)

Also this week, a top aide to Kamala Harris resigned “after a report surfaced of a $400,000 harassment settlement resulting from his time working for Harris at the California Department of Justice in 2016,” per NBC’s Frank Thorp and Dartunorro Clark.

And then there was the criticism that Beto O’Rourke was getting from the progressive left:

  • Washington Post columnist Elizabeth Bruenig: “I’m not sure we need another Obama, or another of any Democrat we’ve had recently: I think the times both call for and allow for a left-populist candidate with uncompromising progressive principles. I don’t see that in O’Rourke.”
  • Journalist David Sirota: “Here are some Beto O’Rourke donors who work in the energy industry & who gave more than $1000.” (Reality check: When you raised LOTS of money from individuals, even in small-dollar contributions, you’re going to get donors from all industries.)
  • Jacobin: “Beto O’Rourke Should Not Run for President.”

Welcome to the big leagues, guys and gals. Running for president is the best story in American politics. But the presidential vetting process is like nothing any of these folks have ever seen, even for these senators who’ve run before in high-profile Senate contests.

The opposition research. The ideological criticism. The examination of every wart and flaw. And the totality of this process is why sitting incumbent presidents who don’t get primary challenges from their own parties have an advantage in seeking re-election. See Bush in 2004 and Obama in 2012.

Just how lethal will this vetting process be for Democrats? (In that New York Times piece on Warren, a Cherokee genealogist says she won’t vote for Warren under any circumstance, even against Trump.) Will hard feelings undermine the eventual nominee? (The lack of full party unity definitely hurt the Democrats in 2016.) Or can someone transcend the presidential meat-grinder?

As Mueller prepares to release more documents, Trump rage-tweets on the investigation

NBC’s Ken Dilanian: “Three new court documents are scheduled to emerge Friday that could shed new light on what Donald Trump’s former top aides have been telling — or not telling — federal investigators. A federal judge in New York has ordered that prosecutors for the Southern District of New York and the Special Counsel’s Office have until 5 p.m. Friday to deliver sentencing memos designed to detail former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s cooperation in their ongoing investigations.”

“And special counsel Robert Mueller is also due to file a document spelling out what his team previously referred to as the “crimes and lies” that led them to cancel a cooperation agreement with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.”

And it sure seems like President Trump is bracing for bad news. Just check out his tweets from this morning:

Somebody is clearly worried…

Experts say lame-duck curbs on power could violate Michigan constitution

“Republican lawmakers may be violating the state constitution with fast-tracked bills in the lame-luck Legislature that curb the powers of incoming Democratic officeholders or water down proposals backed by Michigan voters, legal experts say,” the Detroit Free Press writes.

“‘They’re just going crazy,’ said Robert Sedler, a Wayne State University law professor. Sedler, who has taught at Wayne State since 1977 and wrote a book on American constitutional law, cited a range of problematic bills — from a package the Senate passed Thursday to strip enforcement of campaign finance laws from the secretary of state to one that restricts the incoming governor’s choices to head the Michigan State Police, and bills that meddle with legislation and constitutional amendments backed by Michigan voters. ‘In the 40 years that I’ve been here, I have not seen any such effort to curtail the powers of the governor and the executive branch,’ Sedler told the Free Press Thursday.”

Republican concedes in CA-21, Democrats’ House gains now at 40 seats

GOP Congressman David Valadao conceded to Democrat TJ Cox in the CA-21 race, giving Democrats a net of 40 House pickups for their haul in 2018, NBC’s Jane Timm writes. As a result, NBC News declared Cox the apparent winner in the contest.

Democrat withdraws concession in NC-9 after the allegations of election fraud

NBC News also withdrew its call for Republican Mark Harris in that NC-9 contest after Democrat Dan McCready took back his concession amid allegations of election fraud in the race.

Here’s NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell and Rich Gardella: “State investigators are combing through election board records in several counties to discover whether there was an organized effort to unlawfully collect the absentee ballots of thousands of voters and then not turn those ballots over to election authorities. They are especially interested in Bladen County, a rural, low-income area in the southeastern part of the state where investigators are looking at several individuals who turned in requests for absentee ballots on behalf of hundreds of voters.”

“The results of the investigation could put in jeopardy Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris’ unofficial lead of 905 votes over Democrat Dan McCready.”



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Marine Le Pen first husband: The ONE connection between husbands and new boyfriend

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MARINE LE PEN’s party is tipped to top the upcoming European Parliament elections in France, leading with 24.5 percent of the French vote according to a recent poll, but what is Mrs Le Pen’s personal life like?

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Trump announces $16 billion in aid to farmers as trade war continues

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By Lauren Egan and Phil McCausland

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday announced a $16 billion aid package for American farmers aimed at softening the financial blow created by the ongoing trade war with China.

“Our farmers will be greatly helped,” Trump said during a press event in Roosevelt Room at the White House. “The 16 billion [dollar] funds will help keep our cherished farms thriving.”

Thursday’s announcement comes as tensions continue to escalate between the U.S. and China and negotiations have largely stalled.

Earlier this month, talks between the two countries ended without a deal as Trump imposed another round of tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods. And both Trump and President Xi Jinping of China have signaled that they are prepared for a long fight, if necessary.

Thursday’s aid package is the second bailout the Trump administration has issued in response to decreased agriculture trade with China. Last November, Trump announced $12 billion in aid to “make it up” to farmers, as he described it.

“During that time of negotiation, if everyone remembers, we had a period where China would target our farms,” Trump said Thursday. “Now is the time to insist on fair and reciprocal trade for our workers and our farmers.”

Trump added that he was “hopeful” that trade talks could begin again with China, but if that didn’t happen, “that’s fine.”

“These tariffs are paid for largely by China,” Trump continued, repeating claims that the tariffs were being paid out by China, not American importers. However, a study published Thursday by the International Monetary Fund found that the tariff revenue on Chinese goods “has been borne almost entirely” by U.S. importers.

Communities that supported Trump in the 2016 election have been some of the hardest hit by the ongoing trade war, and some say there is reason for Republicans to be concerned as the window to reach a deal with China before the 2020 election continues to narrow.

“I think President Trump is counting on his tariff bailout payments to buy support for him among farmers, but this is a bigger issue,” Richard Oswald, 69, of Langdon, Missouri, a fifth generation farmer, said in a phone interview with NBC News. “This is going to bite a lot of Republicans when it’s all set and done. I don’t think he understands the stress people are under and it shows a lack of compassion.”

The timing of the administration’s decision to roll out another bailout, as farmers are still deciding what crops to plant this season, has come under criticism from some lawmakers, especially since the aid comes with some strings.

“We want farmers to make decisions on how many acres of corn and soybeans to plant based on the market and not something the government’s doing,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters on Wednesday.

Jonathan Coppess, the former Farm Service Agency administrator and the director of the Gardner Agriculture Policy Program at the University of Illinois, also expressed concerns about the aid package.

“Frankly the most immediate issues they need to clear up is the requirement that you need to plant a crop to get payment. The risk of impacting planting decisions is already in place. They’re telling them explicitly that they have to plant something,” Coppess said in an interview with NBC News, cautioning the potential for a further depressed market.

In addition to the $16 billion aid funds, Trump also announced plans to roll back some regulations on farming in the coming days, although he did not provide specifics. “We’re saving our farmers and ranchers from ridiculous regulations,” Trump said Thursday.

Trump is expected to meet with Xi at the G20 summit in June.

Lauren Egan reported from Washington, and Phil McCausland reported from New York.

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Brexit LATEST: What is happening with Brexit NOW? Everything you need to know

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BREXIT is making headlines again, with the Prime Minister being pushed to resign and the threat of another vote on the deal. So what is happening now?

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