Shane Savitsky

This week in Trumpland: the calm before the shutdown

Lazaro Gamio / Axios

What some believed impossible has come to pass: a quiet week in Trumpland! When the biggest visitors to DC over the past 7 days are the Italian prime minister and the Easter Bunny, things are definitely pretty chill. But "chill" doesn't necessarily mean "boring." After all, this is Trumpland — not some island in the Pacific.

Meme-ster Bunny: Speaking of the Easter Bunny, his visit to the White House this week was one of the high points of the week for the Internet. (It only could have been better if Sean Spicer had donned the suit again.) But the absolutely terrifying bespectacled bunny's appearance on the White House balcony with Trump, Melania, and Barron led to a meme onslaught. There were Hunger Games comparisons, True Detective references, and Chris Christie jokes. It was good to hear laughter again in Trumpland!

Pat on the back: You know things are a little quiet in Washington when POTUS turns to Twitter. And he did so a bunch this week — lashing out about Georgia's special election, the French presidential election, and his first 100 days — but he also got to hit one of his favorite targets, the "failing" New York Times. The Gray Lady's sports section had the misfortune of accidentally misrepresenting the number of New England Patriots players who showed up to the White House after winning the Super Bowl earlier this year. And Trump ate it up. How could he not? They might be the only football team he knows.

Erdo-why?: Of course, it couldn't be a week in Trumpland without the president courting some sort of international controversy. This week: Turkey — surprising, since Trump is known to stick to meatloaf. After last weekend's Turkish constitutional referendum that granted sweeping new powers to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, international observers called the election potentially undemocratic. But then Trump called to offer congratulations, a move that raised some eyebrows around the world. And he's meeting with Erdogan in DC next month. It wasn't a great look, but at least it didn't explicitly alienate one of our closest allies…

Check between the couch cushions: …because POTUS saved that move for South Korea after "a glitch-filled sequence" led to the Pentagon and the White House misplacing an entire aircraft carrier group that was supposed to be acting as a North Korean deterrent for a few days. And somehow, people only found out when the Navy posted a photo of the aircraft carrier a few thousand miles away from the Korean Peninsula. A lot of South Koreans were pretty peeved about the whole thing. Moral of the story: it's easy to get lost in Trumpland.

Back from the undead: Citizens of Trumpland, beware! Zombie Trumpcare is back! Well, maybe. No one really knows. With the government already facing a shutdown at the end of next week, the White House wanted to make a move to prioritize Obamacare repeal again once Congress gets back from its recess. News broke that there'd be a vote on Wednesday, but then more news broke that there wasn't actually a bill. The best we can offer: stay tuned. You had a break this week, Trumpland, but next week is sure to be a wild legislative ride!


The Global List: will she hear the people sing?

Welcome to The Global List, the new international news roundup brought to you by Axios. Check out the Axios STREAM here for more news in politics, tech, health care and business.

1. Le monde meets Le Pen

Kamil Zihnioglu / AP

Some of the last polls before Sunday's first round of the French presidential election are in, per Ifop, and they show centrist Emmanuel Macron on a collision course with far-right nationalist Marine Le Pen — though traditional right-winger François Fillon and far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon remain in the mix. Remember, the top two will face off in next month's second round:

  • Macron - 24.5%
  • Le Pen - 22.5%
  • Fillon - 19.5%
  • Mélenchon - 18.5%

Axios' Steve LeVine says the election's potential to upend international order as we know it makes it "more important to the U.S. than Brexit."

One lesson to learn from Trump: breaking up the European Union and eurozone might be much, much harder than Le Pen lets on. Find out why.

2. A word of caution

Andrew Harnik / AP; Michel Spingler / AP

The Economist pegged Marine Le Pen's chances of becoming president at 1% today — be sure to check out their excellent infographic breaking down the polling probabilities.

But don't forget: On the morning of November 8, 2016, the Huffington Post gave Donald Trump a 1.7% chance.

3. Crisis in Venezuela

Ariana Cubillos / AP

Over the past few weeks, Venezuela has been gripped by massive violent protests — resulting in at least 9 deaths — as President Nicolas Maduro tightened his grip on power and the country's economy spiraled further out of control.

Maduro has rebuffed attempts to hold a presidential vote, and last month, Venezuela's Supreme Court dissolved the opposition-controlled parliament, effectively giving Maduro control of both remaining branches of government. The decision was soon reversed, but mass protests had already kicked off.

The cost of living: Venezuela is suffering from extreme hyperinflation (a dozen eggs last year: $150) and has just $10 billion in the bank as the price of oil, which makes up 90% of the country's exports, has cratered.

Worldwide effect: Foreign companies are leaving — or getting forced out — of the country left and right as the crisis continues. This week, General Motors was the latest big name to go dark.

4. Cameroon's language barrier

Twitter / #BringBackOurInternet

In Cameroon, the government restored Internet access to the country's English-speaking regions after a three-month blackout in response to protests against government-led attempts to impose French as the official language, per the BBC.

The government said that it would still consider "[taking] measures to stop the Internet once again becoming a tool to stoke hatred and division among Cameroonians."

5. 1 fun thing: burp freely

Robert Frost/ VERITE / AP

Prost! A Vienna bartender has successfully appealed a €70 ticket that garnered international controversy, per the AP.

His crime? Violating "public decency with a loud belch next to a police officer."

THANKS for reading! If you want the news that matters in newsletter form, be sure to sign up for Mike Allen's Axios AM, which arrives in your inbox in time for your morning coffee. Sign up here and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Trumpworld "confident" it will avoid a shutdown

Andrew Harnik / AP

With federal agencies funded only through the next week and Congress in recess until Monday, the Trump administration made it clear today that they think they will be able to avoid a government shutdown on April 28.

Sean Spicer: The administration "remains confident that we are not going to have a shutdown."

President Trump: "I think we're in good shape."


3 commandments for conservative media in Trumpland

Alex Brandon / AP

Politico Magazine has a look at how the Trump presidency has redrawn the traditional boundaries of conservative media — and three quotes from the piece illustrate the three commandments of Trump's brave new world.

  1. Thou shalt be incendiary: Steve Bannon, on telling Roger Ailes to take down Megyn Kelly, "I told him then, I said, 'She's the devil, and she will turn on you.'"
  2. Thou shalt not be traditional: A Dow Jones exec, on its flagship Wall Street Journal: "They're like the Catholic Church during the Great Schism, plagued by deep internal feuding, dancing on the head of a pin because they're not important anymore."
  3. Thou shalt talk Trump: An on-air personality, on what to cover: "Nobody needs to put out an edict to producers to try to win their hours. They don't need to be told to do anything but win, and the Trump shit rates through the roof."

Hillary Clinton strikes back on Trump's LGBT policies

Kevin Hagen / AP

Hillary Clinton slammed the Trump administration's LGBT policy during a speech last night at The Center, a New York City LGBT community non-profit, calling on supporters to turn out during the 2018 midterm elections to "make sure that nobody turns the clock back on what we've achieved as Americans."

Out of the shadows: Clinton operated in stealth mode for months after her loss in November, but she's now actively striking back at Trump, singling out his rolling back of protections for transgender students and cuts for medical research for HIV and AIDS.


How Marine Le Pen could take France out of the EU

Rebecca Zisser / Axios

The first round of the French presidential election is this weekend and far-right populist Marine Le Pen has been near the top of the polls. She's likely to make it to the second round, where most pundits expect her to lose — just like Brexit and Donald Trump.

Focus on this: If Trump's victory taught us anything, it should be that Le Pen certainly might win the French presidency. But Trump taught us something else — talking the talk is easy, but following through once in power can be much harder. Le Pen's call to destroy the "anti-democratic monster" of the EU works well as a sound bite, but implementing it won't be easy.

Le Pen's plan upon assuming the presidency, from her manifesto:

  • A 6-month negotiation period to revamp France's place in the EU and roll back its influence — ending the visa-free Schengen Zone and giving nations an option to revert to their own currencies.
  • After 6 months, Le Pen would hold a referendum to leave the EU, only recommending against Frexit if her desired conditions are met.

Tougher than it sounds: Frexit would be more difficult than Le Pen lets on because France's participation in the EU is codified in its constitution.

  • In order to amend the constitution, Le Pen would need both houses of Parliament to approve an amendment. To make it official, she can either send it back to a joint session of Parliament that requires 60% approval or, per her promise, put it to the people in a referendum.
  • But Le Pen's National Front has just 4 members of Parliament right now — 2 in the National Assembly and 2 in the Senate — out of 925 total seats. Barring landslide gains in June's legislative elections, it's borderline inconceivable that she could get a Frexit amendment approved in both houses, let alone secure 60% of the votes in a joint session.

An alternative path: Charles de Gaulle circumvented the constitutional procedures surrounding referenda in 1962 when he took the question of a direct presidential vote to the people. He utilized a section of the constitution that allows the prime minister — selected by the president — to request a referendum on the basis of "the organization of public powers." There's now a constitutional provision requiring such changes to go in front of a constitutional council, but that might be a fight Le Pen would relish.

  • Will she hear the people sing? The European Commission's latest Eurobarometer says that 29% of French are positive about the EU, 39% are neutral, and 31% are negative, but when faced with the stark question of leaving the EU last month, 66% of French citizens said they'd stay in.

The Global List: terror in Paris

Welcome to the inaugural edition of The Global List. Check out the Axios STREAM here for more smart brevity in politics, health care, tech, and business.

1. Shooting on the Champs-Elysees

Kamil Zihnioglu / AP

Just days ahead of the first round of the French presidential election, Paris' famed Champs-Elysees was shut down this evening after a police officer was shot and killed and at least two others were wounded. French President François Hollande called the act "terrorist in nature," and French officials said that the lone gunman — who was killed by police — had been previously flagged as an extremist. Here's Axios' running coverage.

The big picture: Controversial far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen linked immigration and terrorism earlier this week, saying, "Behind mass immigration, there is terrorism." There's no doubt that this attack will become an electoral flash point before Sunday's vote.

2. Obama calls Macron

Emmanuel Macron / Twitter

Barack Obama called up Emmanuel Macron, the centrist French presidential frontrunner, for a chat about "the future of Europe and the progressive values that they both share." In a statement, Obama made it clear that his call wasn't an endorsement of Macron, but the two are ideologically similar — and French voters are bound to take notice.

Macron's already made a video of the call into a campaign ad. Check it out here.

3. Ahmadine-nah

Ebrahim Noroozi / AP

Iran's Guardian Council — a group of clerics charged with interpreting Iran's constitution — disqualified former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from running again in next month's presidential election. He's still a controversial figure in the country as his 2009 reelection brought about the turbulent Green Revolution that saw millions take to the streets of Tehran in protest.

Think of it this way: From Phil Elliott of TIME: "Ahmadinejad blocked from running for President again by Iran's version of super (religious) delegates"

4. Russia bans Jehovah’s Witnesses

Ivan Sekretarev / AP

Russia's Supreme Court confirmed a government order that Jehovah's Witnesses be branded an extremist group. The Russian government said that the American sect — which bans its members from going to war — had shown "signs of extremist activity that represent a threat to the rights of citizens, social order, and the security of society."

The decision, called "a terrible blow to freedom of religion and association in Russia" by Human Rights Watch, reflects the government's deep distrust of foreign religious orders.

Some perspective: As the New York Times notes, this decision puts Russia's 170,000 Jehovah's Witnesses in the same category as Islamic State militants.

5. 1 fun thing: hello, fellow kids!

Jeremy Corbyn for PM / Twitter

One day after the U.K. Parliament voted for a snap general election on June 8, polls show Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party at a staggering 24-point disadvantage. So, as you can see above, the social media campaign that powered him to the Labour leadership tried out an…interesting campaign tactic.

Thank you for reading! If you want the news that matters in newsletter form, be sure to sign up for Mike Allen's Axios AM, which arrives in your inbox in time for your morning coffee. Sign up here and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Trump on Iran, Paris and meeting the Pope

Susan Walsh / AP

Highlights from President Trump's press conference with the Italian Prime Minister, in which he warned Iran and said he plans to meet the Pope when he travels to Italy.

  • Health care or government funding next week? "I want both." Trump said there'd be a health care vote "next week or shortly thereafter."
  • On the shooting in Paris: "Again, it's happening, it seems…It looks like another terrorist attack. What can you say? It just never ends."
  • On Iran: "Iran has not lived up to the spirit of the agreement and they have to do that. They have to do that."
  • On the US role in "stabilizing" Libya: "I do not see a role in Libya. I think right now the United States has enough roles. We have roles everywhere."
  • His message to China: "You'll get a much better deal on trade if you do something about this menace that is North Korea."
  • On Gentlioni being asked about NATO spending: "I love the question you asked the prime minister. I look forward to his answer."
  • On refugees: "A responsible approach to refugees is one that seeks the eventual return of refugees to their home nation."
  • His upcoming trip to Italy: "I look very much forward to meeting the pope."

Obama calls Macron ahead of French presidential vote

Emmanuel Macron / Twitter

Barack Obama spoke Thursday with Emmanuel Macron, the centrist French presidential frontrunner ahead of Sunday's first round vote. They discussed "the future of Europe and the progressive values that they both share," per Macron's spokesperson. Obama's spokesman said the former president, who is extremely popular in Europe, will not be endorsing any candidate.

Between the lines: Though there was no endorsement, Obama and Macron are ideologically aligned and the signal will be noticed by French voters.


Erdogan says he'll meet with Trump in DC next month

Carolyn Kaster / AP; Burhan Ozbilici / AP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that he'll meet with President Trump in Washington next month prior to next month's NATO summit in Brussels, per Reuters.

Keep an eye on it: The circumstances and tone of the meeting will be closely watched, especially following the hubbub surrounding Trump's congratulatory call to Erdogan after his victory in last weekend's challenged constitutional referendum.