A day after word that White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus asked the FBI to talk to the media to clarify reports about Trump campaign aides' contact with Russians, another doozy — one that's likely to increase congressional interest, and perhaps lead to an independent, 9/11-style commission:
Today's WashPost lead story, "Key officials were asked to rebut Russia report: White House arranged calls to media," by Greg Miller and Adam Entous: "The Trump administration has enlisted senior members of the intelligence community and Congress in efforts to counter news stories about Trump associates' ties to Russia ... Acting at the behest of the White House, the officials made calls to news organizations last week."
Also this morning, another arena of tension between Trump officials and their own bureaucracy:
Wall Street Journal lead story, "Trump Rejects Report on Travel Ban: Tension with career staff rises," by Shane Harris: "An intelligence report by the Department of Homeland Security contradicts the White House's assertion that immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries pose a particular risk of being terrorists."
At the Conservative Political Action Conference — a Woodstock for Young Republicans, on the Potomac in suburban Maryland — Trump drew repeated applause and laughter as he went on-camera with the "enemy of the people" shot at the press that he had tweeted. (Some top Republicans had been optimistic that POTUS would abandon the language after he saw how it had been interpreted as having overtones of Lenin and Stalin.)
"I called the fake news 'the enemy of the people' — and they are. They are the enemy of the people. Because they have no sources, they just make them up when there are none. ... They are very dishonest people. ... They shouldn't be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody's name."
"[M]any of you, you're not part of the story ... If you are part of the story, you know what they're saying is true or not."
Three hours later, Sean Spicer held an invitation-only, off-camera briefing with several conservative outlets included, and several mainstream outlets barred — a move that the White House Correspondents' Association said it was "protesting strongly," and which longtime journalists called unprecedented.
This led to headlines around the world that made the Trump administration sound like a repressive regime: WashPost page A1, "White House slams door on several reporters ... CNN, New York Times, other media barred" ... Lead story of Guardian homepage in U.S.: "Guardian, New York Times and CNN denied access to briefing" ... Top of BBC News homepage: "Media groups condemn briefing bar."
The White House posted a transcript of the 40-minute gaggle. Pressed on the exclusions, Spicer said: "I think that we have shown an abundance of accessibility. We've brought more reporters into this process. ... [W]e've actually gone above and beyond with making ourselves, our team and our briefing room, more accessible than probably any prior administration. So I think you can take that to the bank."
On yesterday's attendees, Spicer said: "We started with the pool and then we expanded it. So I get it. ... We do what we can to be accessible. And if there's a problem with that, I understand it. But we do what we can to accommodate the press. I think we've gone above and beyond when it comes to accessibility and openness and getting folks to -- our officials, our team."
Mood music ... In late afternoon, Axios broke the news that Bloomberg, host of the premier afterparty for the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner, won't hold the event after this year's April 29 dinner, but will still support the scholarship dinner.
Bloomberg told us: "We surveyed some of the past attendees and didn't get as much interest in a party this year as we've had in the past."
"Americans Haven't Been This Optimistic About the Job Market in Over 30 Years," by Bloomberg's Jordan Yadoo: "Thirty-five percent of U.S. consumers surveyed by the University of Michigan this month expect unemployment to further decline during the year ahead."
That's the largest share "since March 1984 — a time when unemployment was a full three percentage points higher than the current rate of 4.8 percent."
Chaser ... "Record-setting stock rally faces test in Trump speech," by Reuters' Lewis Krauskopf: "[S]ome investors worry that his first major address to Congress [on Tuesday] risks dousing it if his plans look slow to execute or are overly vague."
I liked the CPAC take from the Boston Globe's Tyler Pager, who leads the paper: "Attempting to put a defining framework on his tumultuous first month in office, ... Trump ... articulated a new vision for the Republican Party as a populist defender of the working class that will challenge elites at home and abroad.
Trump said: "The GOP will be, from now on, the party also of the American worker. (Applause.) You know, we haven't been, as a group, given credit for this, but if you look at how much bigger our party has gotten during this cycle."
Trump also signaled more welfare reform: "It's time for all Americans to get off of welfare and get back to work. You're going to love it! You're going to love it. You are going to love it. (Applause.)"
Advice for Trump from Peggy Noonan in her Wall Street Journal column, arguing that Washington still "seems a little lost" after the Quake of '16: "This president doesn't argue [for things], he only announces. He asserts. Previous presidents in their early speeches were always making the case for a certain advancement. Not to do so is a waste of the biggest mic in the world."
Worth the click ... CPAC attendee wearing a "Make America Great Again" yarmulke. Photo by Reuters' Joshua Roberts
Spotted at CPAC ... Ken Bone! In red sweater, appearing as Chief People Officer for Victory Holdings, a Florida-based political software company. Photo by Reuters' Joshua Roberts
Matt Bennett of the centrist Democratic group Third Way emailed us to say: "I know you like lists of ten, but we have three big reasons why demography didn't translate into destiny for Democrats" in 2016.
The big idea: "Democrats cannot simply rely on demographic change to deliver inevitable victories."
The report is called "Why Demography Does Not Equal Destiny" (14-minute read; by Lanae Ericsson Hatalsky and Jim Kessler), and Matt says it "drives a stake through the heart of the theory that we believe has helped take the party off-course":
1. "Demographic change isn't evenly dispersed: Power in our political system is based on place, not national polls. The 'Rising American Electorate' is concentrated in cities, on coasts, and in the Southwest."
2. "Voters ... don't behave like demographic robots: Independents swung 35 points (favoring Dems by 17 in 2006, then Republicans by 18 in 2010) in subsequent midterms. 403 counties flipped from Obama to Trump."
3. "Even in the Rising American Electorate, most voters aren't liberal: 54% of Democratic voters in 2016 were conservative or moderate. 40% of Millennials are moderate and another 28% are conservative (68% total). 36% of Latinos are moderate and another 32% are conservative (68% total). ... The demographics of our country are changing, but that doesn't mean the ideology is changing with it."
Why it matters: "Democrats are in a huge hole and doubling down on demography as destiny won't help us dig out of it."
Ohio Gov. John Katich, one of Trump's last-men-standing primary opponents, responds to reporters as he arrives at the White House yesterday for a closed-press, Oval Office meeting with the president."
Spicer: "This is something that they wanted to get together after the election and catch up, and discuss sort of the issues and agenda that the President is implementing, and hopefully how some of these things -- I think coal will probably come up."
N.Y. Post, "Blas on the hot seat": "Hard-charging US Attorney Preet Bharara sent a message to Mayor de Blasio Friday — trotting out the same prosecutors who took down [Albany twin titans] Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos to interrogate Hizzoner about his campaign fund-raising activities."
"The NBA gets high-tech with VR, drones and futuristic dreams," by TechCrunch's Lucas Matney: At All-Star festivities in New Orleans last weekend, "basketball aficionados from across the globe were able to don high-tech goggles to live-stream stereoscopic virtual reality of a highly paid athlete receiving a bounce pass from a custom-designed drone to perform a highly technical slam dunk."
N.Y. Post's Jennifer Gould Keil: The single-family, five-story mansion in northern Tribeca "is about to hit the market for $35 million and it will cost another $15 million to develop ... At 70 feet tall, 50 feet wide and 100 feet deep — with its own four-car garage and 82-foot-long swimming pool — it will be the biggest suburban-style mansion the city has ever seen."
"The mystery seller bought the building for $13.3 million ... in 2014."
Deets from The Tribeca Trib: "At ... nearly 20,000 square feet (including the basement), the ... home at 11 Hubert St. [approved by the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission] would rise ... at the corner of Collister Street."
"How stars spend a month getting ready for Oscars' red carpet," by AP's Sandy Cohen in L.A. (Academy Awards are tomorrow night):