2020 Poll: Elizabeth Warren Support Growing as Bernie Sanders Drops in Battle of Progressives – Newsweek

2020 Poll: Elizabeth Warren Support Growing as Bernie Sanders\ Drops in Battle of Progressives - Newsweek

The Other Glass Ceiling: Kamala, Warren, and the Trouble with Tough Women

White men have consistently topped the early polls. In both Iowa and New Hampshire, they hold all three top spots: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Pete Buttigieg. And while early polls are fallible, there’s no denying that the breakout stars of the Democratic primary have been men—both well-known candidates like Biden and Sanders and, somewhat more confounding, the relatively unknown and less-experienced Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke, whose entry into the race inspired wall-to-wall press, though he’s since slipped in the polls. Certainly they each have their merits. Buttigieg’s standing as the first openly gay presidential candidate is something to be celebrated. To see him and his husband on the cover of Time magazine as the potential “First Family” is a heartwarming sign of progress in America. Joe Biden is the most qualified person to ever seek the Democratic nomination, as well as one of the most decent people in politics I’ve ever known. I have also been an informal advisor to Governor Steve Bullock, who joined the race for president this week, and who I believe is a worthy candidate for president. Bernie Sanders has been in public service for decades, and draws crowds of supporters inspired by his message. Point being, there are legitimate reasons, devoid of gender bias, to support all of these men.

Still, all things being equal, the women in the race deserve just as much attention. Unlike the male candidates who’ve so far captured the spotlight, the women senators—who are largely boxed out of all individual top-three spots in the early primary states save Kamala Harris, who placed third in a recent South Carolina poll—have never lost an election. They also have significantly more governing experience: Harris has held statewide office since 2010 and has won three state elections in California; more than seven million people cast a vote for her in the 2016 general election. Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar are in their third Senate terms. Elizabeth Warren is in her second. In contrast, neither O’Rourke nor Buttigieg has held statewide office. O’Rourke served just six years in the U.S. House of Representatives. Buttigieg has held office longer, since 2011, but in a city of about 100,000 people.

"He has real results to show here," she said of President Trump. "Where all these other people, even Joe Biden, had eight years under the Obama administration to do a lot of great things for this country and we didn't really see that," she continued.

The Onion turned Joe Biden into a lovable meme. Now one writer is apologizing.

But of course, all things aren’t equal. All too often, bias creeps in to augment the legitimate reasons to support the men. Which is why I end up sending exasperated texts to my friends from the Clinton campaign now working for some of the women presidential candidates. There is extensive use of the eye-roll emoji. Sometimes I’m annoyed enough at the fawning coverage that I’ll resort to a phone call to vent my frustrations: “I’ve seen Tiger Beat cover boy bands with more discernment.” Usually, all the person on the other end has to offer is, “I know. So frustrating.”

Lara Trump, a senior campaign adviser for her father-in-law President Trump, told "America's Newsroom" hosts she's unbothered by a new poll showing Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden ahead of Trump.

Kirsten Gillibrand takes questions from reporters after announcing she will run for president in 2020.

The Fox News poll illustrated that if the 2020 election were held today, Joe Biden would be polling at 49 percent, Bernie Sanders at 46 percent and Elizabeth Warren at 43 percent, all higher than Donald Trump's numbers of 38 percent.

A Lot Of Americans Say They Dont Want A President Who Is Over 70. Really?

To some extent, women who run for office still face tangible obstacles. Their professional networks are less developed; they generally have a harder time raising money; they’re covered by majority male reporters. But mostly, we’ve moved beyond overt sexism and progressed, as it were, to the shadowy muck of unconscious bias. Its intangible nature makes it tricky to talk about publicly, and even more difficult to combat. Although we no longer hear questions about whether a woman is capable of serving as commander in chief, a recent CNN poll showed that white voters without a college degree prefer Trump by less than 20 points over every male Democratic candidate, and more than 20 points over every female candidate.

The press unintentionally perpetuates male candidates’ advantages because, in trying to predict who’s likely to do well, political reporters are more attuned to those with a style and approach they recognize as having generated enthusiasm in the past. These candidates fit with our mental image of what leaders look and sound like, and who we find inspiring. And—shocker—they’re usually men, triggering a feedback loop in which men get more coverage, therefore more money, therefore more support. Women candidates, in contrast, recall the only woman to ever win a major party’s presidential nomination and the sexist questions that haunted her, prompting a separate feedback loop that asks why they’re not seen as likable or “electable.”

According to Smith, 73 percent of voters placed the importance of a candidate's ability to halt Trump ahead of "high ethical standards, track records, new ideas."

Reporters may not set out to treat women unfairly, but they hold biases, and their biases have enormous influence over which candidates gain traction. It’s the same kind of bias that makes us say, I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about Mayor Pete I find so inspiring. Or, conversely, I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about Elizabeth Warren I just don’t like.

I know what “it” is because candidates like Mayor Pete inspire me, too. They stir something in me because society has conditioned me since birth to see white men as leaders. These two may be fresh faces on the political scene, but there’s something comfortably familiar about them. Their type of crusading man is well-represented in the American canon: J.F.K., R.F.K., Abraham Lincoln, Atticus Finch. Biden’s clearly sincere announcement video in which he lamented Donald Trump’s response to the white supremacist march in Charlottesville is an example of this phenomenon. I watch O’Rourke’s insistent answer—complete with flopping hair and pumping arms—about why N.F.L. players are right to take a knee, and I see Jimmy Stewart’s Mr. Smith and his heroic one-man crusade against corruption in the United States Senate. The very fact that white men live lives of privilege makes them uniquely positioned to be selfless, and make it easier for us to see them as selfless leaders. It is easy to fall in love with them, and fall quickly.

2020 Trump campaign senior adviser says the presidents new policy proposal sets out to give legal immigrants the best chance possible to succeed in America.

2020 Vision: There are 14 white male Dems running for president. So why should Kamala Harris settle for veep?

Kirsten Gillibrand can’t resemble J.F.K. or Atticus Finch. It’s much harder for women seeking the presidency to position themselves as selfless. After all, they’re hoping to achieve a status that a woman has never held. The idea of a woman chasing power can make voters uneasy.

"I say this all the time, but none of these people seem like a huge threat to me," Lara Trump said during an interview Friday morning.

Trump Calls For Joe Biden to Be Investigated: Its a Disgrace

On the Clinton campaign, our pollsters told us that voters were uncomfortable with Hillary’s ambition. Instead, she should express her motivation as being “in service to others.” The quality of hers we were told voters liked best was that she was willing to work for Barack Obama, the man who had defeated her—to put her ambition aside for the good of the country, as it were. These are the traits we admire in female candidates: their toughness, their doggedness, their willingness to put others first. “I will say this about Hillary. She doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up. I respect that. She’s a fighter,” Trump said when asked to compliment his opponent on the debate stage. I hear this said about women on the trail this time around. Gillibrand, Harris, Klobuchar, Warren are all described as tough. (Google it.) They’re allowed a grudging respect for how hard politics can still be for women, and how they’re willing to prove themselves to voters.

She went on to discuss perceived evidence of a successful Trump presidency, including increased job numbers and heightened GDP reports in 2019.

Joe Biden Is the Democrats Safety School

Their tenacity is a quality we can admire in them, but the stream of questions women face about electability and likability suggests we don’t yet see an inspiring story about ourselves and the country reflected in their struggles. Even they seem aware of this. Vox’s Ezra Klein tallied the use of “fight” in candidates’ announcement speeches, and tellingly, it was the women who deployed the word most often—more than the men by nearly a factor of three. To some, women invoke a “fight” to prove they’re tough enough to be president and to take on Trump. But I think their fighter stories signal a deeper shift in women leaders’ place in the American story. In deploying the word, they’re connecting their fights to the country’s struggles: her fight to defeat Trump is your fight, too. Ultimately, that message may win out with voters, transcending the flood of early, flattering press enjoyed by the men.

Elizabeth Warren Was Smart to Tell FOX to Go to Hell

Jennifer Palmieri was the Communications Director for the Clinton 2016 Presidential Campaign and White House Communications Director for President Obama. She is the author of number-one New York Times bestselling book, Dear Madam President.

Once young Americans leave free daycare, Democrat presidential candidates would like the government to educate them, not merely through high school, but through college as well. Bernie Sanders has pledged to make community colleges and four-year public universities free for families earning less than $125,000 per year. Elizabeth Warren would take Bernies plan a step further. In addition to free public college, she would give each of the 42 million Americans currently paying off their students loans up to $50,000. Warren herself estimates that plan would cost an additional $1.25 trillion over ten years. In the Senate, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand have all co-sponsored the Debt-Free College Act, estimated to cost $95.4 billion per year.

Onion editor regrets portraying Joe Biden as skeevy yet loveable uncle

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MURDOCK: Biden a Centrist? Hes a Committed Leftist

Conventional wisdom among political press claimed the 2020 Democratic primary would be a tough cycle for white male candidates. So far, that conventional wisdom has turned out to be bunk. Not that I believed it. My experience as Hillary Clinton’s 2016 communications director showed me the maddeningly persistent ways in which we’re conditioned to see men as leaders, and are still uneasy with—or worse, uninterested in—women with presidential ambitions. I knew America was unlikely to undo more than a millennium of human conditioning in one election cycle. Still, I didn’t think it would be this bad, this early.

Democrats free stuff primary promises voters a need-free life from cradle to grave. Senator Elizabeth Warren has pledged free child care for all Americans. According to the Center for American Progress, child care for American infants costs on average nearly $15,000 per year. The financial services firm Moodys pegs the cost of Warrens program at $1.7 billion over ten years.

Video: Joe Biden Up And Bernie Sanders Loses Steam In New Polling | Morning Joe | MSNBC

White men have consistently topped the early polls. In both Iowa and New Hampshire, they hold all three top spots: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Pete Buttigieg. And while early polls are fallible, there’s no denying that the breakout stars of the Democratic primary have been men—both well-known candidates like Biden and Sanders and, somewhat more confounding, the relatively unknown and less-experienced Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke, whose entry into the race inspired wall-to-wall press, though he’s since slipped in the polls. Certainly they each have their merits. Buttigieg’s standing as the first openly gay presidential candidate is something to be celebrated. To see him and his husband on the cover of Time magazine as the potential “First Family” is a heartwarming sign of progress in America. Joe Biden is the most qualified person to ever seek the Democratic nomination, as well as one of the most decent people in politics I’ve ever known. I have also been an informal advisor to Governor Steve Bullock, who joined the race for president this week, and who I believe is a worthy candidate for president. Bernie Sanders has been in public service for decades, and draws crowds of supporters inspired by his message. Point being, there are legitimate reasons, devoid of gender bias, to support all of these men.

But college is only the beginning. After graduation come the real political handouts. For those recent grads unable or unwilling to work, a universal basic income would replenish their bank accounts each month. Most 2020 Democrats have endorsed this income entitlement through the Green New Deal, estimated to cost $93 trillion over ten years.

Still, all things being equal, the women in the race deserve just as much attention. Unlike the male candidates who’ve so far captured the spotlight, the women senators—who are largely boxed out of all individual top-three spots in the early primary states save Kamala Harris, who placed third in a recent South Carolina poll—have never lost an election. They also have significantly more governing experience: Harris has held statewide office since 2010 and has won three state elections in California; more than seven million people cast a vote for her in the 2016 general election. Kirsten Gillibrand and Amy Klobuchar are in their third Senate terms. Elizabeth Warren is in her second. In contrast, neither O’Rourke nor Buttigieg has held statewide office. O’Rourke served just six years in the U.S. House of Representatives. Buttigieg has held office longer, since 2011, but in a city of about 100,000 people.

Joe Biden beats Trump in 2020 by most secure margins, new poll shows

But of course, all things aren’t equal. All too often, bias creeps in to augment the legitimate reasons to support the men. Which is why I end up sending exasperated texts to my friends from the Clinton campaign now working for some of the women presidential candidates. There is extensive use of the eye-roll emoji. Sometimes I’m annoyed enough at the fawning coverage that I’ll resort to a phone call to vent my frustrations: “I’ve seen Tiger Beat cover boy bands with more discernment.” Usually, all the person on the other end has to offer is, “I know. So frustrating.”

Kirsten Gillibrand takes questions from reporters after announcing she will run for president in 2020.

The problem — for both ORourke and Harris, and for pretty much everyone else — is Joe Biden. Since he entered the race on April 25, ORourkes numbers in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina have not climbed above 3 percent, according to CNNs Harry Enten, ORourkes cable-news mentions have tumbled week after week, to the point where Biden is now being name-checked 20 times as often. The former vice president, meanwhile, is hovering around 40 percent nationally; leading in every early state; drawing direct attacks from Trump; and running like the general election has already begun.

To some extent, women who run for office still face tangible obstacles. Their professional networks are less developed; they generally have a harder time raising money; they’re covered by majority male reporters. But mostly, we’ve moved beyond overt sexism and progressed, as it were, to the shadowy muck of unconscious bias. Its intangible nature makes it tricky to talk about publicly, and even more difficult to combat. Although we no longer hear questions about whether a woman is capable of serving as commander in chief, a recent CNN poll showed that white voters without a college degree prefer Trump by less than 20 points over every male Democratic candidate, and more than 20 points over every female candidate.

Even so, the Harris-for-VP talk highlights a very real issue for Democrats going forward. The partys base is disproportionately black and brown, and increasingly young, progressive and female. Biden, the frontrunner, is none of those things. If he continues to dominate the polls — a big if, considering that Iowa is still nine months away — then he will eventually come under tremendous pressure to ensure that his ticket reflects the party he seeks to lead. The same pressure would apply to any of the other white guys angling to take Bidens place should he stumble.

The press unintentionally perpetuates male candidates’ advantages because, in trying to predict who’s likely to do well, political reporters are more attuned to those with a style and approach they recognize as having generated enthusiasm in the past. These candidates fit with our mental image of what leaders look and sound like, and who we find inspiring. And—shocker—they’re usually men, triggering a feedback loop in which men get more coverage, therefore more money, therefore more support. Women candidates, in contrast, recall the only woman to ever win a major party’s presidential nomination and the sexist questions that haunted her, prompting a separate feedback loop that asks why they’re not seen as likable or “electable.”

Reports say Team Harris finds the talk infuriating, privately venting that its demeaning to a woman of color and perpetuates an unfair critique that shes somehow not prepared for the job shes actually seeking. Her people have a point: Almost no one is making the same argument about, say, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who has never won statewide office (Harris has won twice) and who is trailing the senator in national polls and fundraising — not to mention the dozen other white men who also lag behind her.

Reporters may not set out to treat women unfairly, but they hold biases, and their biases have enormous influence over which candidates gain traction. It’s the same kind of bias that makes us say, I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about Mayor Pete I find so inspiring. Or, conversely, I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about Elizabeth Warren I just don’t like.

I know what “it” is because candidates like Mayor Pete inspire me, too. They stir something in me because society has conditioned me since birth to see white men as leaders. These two may be fresh faces on the political scene, but there’s something comfortably familiar about them. Their type of crusading man is well-represented in the American canon: J.F.K., R.F.K., Abraham Lincoln, Atticus Finch. Biden’s clearly sincere announcement video in which he lamented Donald Trump’s response to the white supremacist march in Charlottesville is an example of this phenomenon. I watch O’Rourke’s insistent answer—complete with flopping hair and pumping arms—about why N.F.L. players are right to take a knee, and I see Jimmy Stewart’s Mr. Smith and his heroic one-man crusade against corruption in the United States Senate. The very fact that white men live lives of privilege makes them uniquely positioned to be selfless, and make it easier for us to see them as selfless leaders. It is easy to fall in love with them, and fall quickly.

Kirsten Gillibrand can’t resemble J.F.K. or Atticus Finch. It’s much harder for women seeking the presidency to position themselves as selfless. After all, they’re hoping to achieve a status that a woman has never held. The idea of a woman chasing power can make voters uneasy.

The ranks of white, male Democrats who seem to have surveyed the partys sprawling primary field and concluded that America clearly needs another president who looks like them continued to expand this week. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio followed in the footsteps of other little-known white dudes such as Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, California Rep. Eric Swalwell, Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet, launching their own late-breaking presidential bids.

On the Clinton campaign, our pollsters told us that voters were uncomfortable with Hillary’s ambition. Instead, she should express her motivation as being “in service to others.” The quality of hers we were told voters liked best was that she was willing to work for Barack Obama, the man who had defeated her—to put her ambition aside for the good of the country, as it were. These are the traits we admire in female candidates: their toughness, their doggedness, their willingness to put others first. “I will say this about Hillary. She doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up. I respect that. She’s a fighter,” Trump said when asked to compliment his opponent on the debate stage. I hear this said about women on the trail this time around. Gillibrand, Harris, Klobuchar, Warren are all described as tough. (Google it.) They’re allowed a grudging respect for how hard politics can still be for women, and how they’re willing to prove themselves to voters.

Their tenacity is a quality we can admire in them, but the stream of questions women face about electability and likability suggests we don’t yet see an inspiring story about ourselves and the country reflected in their struggles. Even they seem aware of this. Vox’s Ezra Klein tallied the use of “fight” in candidates’ announcement speeches, and tellingly, it was the women who deployed the word most often—more than the men by nearly a factor of three. To some, women invoke a “fight” to prove they’re tough enough to be president and to take on Trump. But I think their fighter stories signal a deeper shift in women leaders’ place in the American story. In deploying the word, they’re connecting their fights to the country’s struggles: her fight to defeat Trump is your fight, too. Ultimately, that message may win out with voters, transcending the flood of early, flattering press enjoyed by the men.

Bernie Sanders: What I recognize is that for many years our trade policies have been a disaster. If you look at NAFTA and PNTR with China, in fact, it has cost us about 4 million decent-paying American jobs and help lead to a race to the bottom where wages were depressed in America. So I think we do need new trade policies that are fair to the working people of this country, not just to the CEOs. But as usual, I think Trump gets it wrong in terms of implementation.

Jennifer Palmieri was the Communications Director for the Clinton 2016 Presidential Campaign and White House Communications Director for President Obama. She is the author of number-one New York Times bestselling book, Dear Madam President.

Pete Buttigieg: If youre going to deal with an actor like China, one of the largest and one of the most strategic countries ever to come on the world stage, youd better really know what youre doing. … Im not sure this president thinks beyond his next tweet, and it shows in our policies. … There has to be some sense that were going to come to the table and negotiate something better, not just lobbing tariffs over the fence.

To be sure, there are a good many Americans who do not feel such affection for Clinton. As First Lady for eight years, she forgave her husband, Bill, for cheating with an intern, covering up the affair, and being impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice. After the Clintons left the White House for New York, she voted in favor of the Iraq war—a decision that has since raised questions about her hawkish judgement. She lost her 2008 bid for the White House, which some assumed shed win handily, to a first-term community organizer turned senator from Chicago. And when that newcomer took office as the 44th president and named her secretary of state, she hosted her work e-mails on a private server and took responsibility for a 2012 security breach in Benghazi that led to the death of four Americans.

But the Wellesley- and Yale-educated lawyer, champion for womens rights, advocate for children, and well-regarded glass-ceiling smasher finally seems as though she is headed back to the Oval Office, on her own terms. After a drawn-out primary process with Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton appears to have locked up enough super-delegates to win the nomination.

Elizabeth Warren: I dont believe in tariff negotiation by tweet. I think we need a comprehensive, coherent plan before we ever get started, and that would start with bringing our allies together so we have maximum leverage against the Chinese. The Chinese are bad actors on trade. But that means that our best way to fight back is with strength and with a coherent plan — not with chaos.

Weve reached peak irony. Hillary Clinton has now done a brief dramatic reading of the Mueller report—including, specifically, the moment when Donald Trump found out Robert Mueller had been appointed special counsel, and then reportedly slumped back in his chair and said, This is the end of my presidency; Im fucked. Her Trump impression might never make it into the pantheon of great impersonations, but it gets the job done.

The stunt comes courtesy of Jordan Klepper, who has been busy prepping his new Comedy Central docuseries, Klepper. The show will find the former Daily Show correspondent and Opposition host on the front lines of American activism, learning about the fights surrounding issues like fracking, legalizing marijuana, and protecting undocumented students from deportation. (Until it premieres, though, the show might be best known as the project that got Jordan Klepper arrested.)

Klepper sat down with both Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton for this clip, which finds the comedian asking which crowdfunding efforts they think he should support. The Clintons offer some advice before Klepper convinces Hillary to perform her dramatic reading—although, truthfully, it doesnt take much cajoling. The former secretary of state needs a few tries to nail the right tone, but pulls it off after Klepper gives a bit of helpful advice: Feel it; imagine like you have a history with this.

As always, Hillary appeared totally game to run with the comedians conceit. The ex-presidential candidate has previously done guest stints on everything from Broad City and Saturday Night Live to Murphy Brown and Madam Secretary. Not too shabby! And when it comes to audiobooks, she does have a bit of prior experience thanks to her own 2017 book about the 2016 election, What Happened. So if Klepper ever does get his Mueller report audiobook off the ground, he could certainly do worse for a narrator.

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isnt even a celebrity in the traditional sense of the word. But thanks to an inspiring, rags-to-riches political rise, a massive social-media following and an influential, no-holds-barred approach to progressive messaging, the freshman congresswoman has quickly become the lefts most effective counterweight to Trump.

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

Kamala Harris: “This president and this administration have failed to understand that we are stronger when we work with our allies on every issue … meaning working with our allies to address China, in terms of the threat that it presents to our economy, the threat it presents to American workers and American industries.

— Abigail Disney is calling for her familys company to raise the salaries of thousands of employees

Video: Betrayed

When Peter Francis James enters stage right at the Golden Theatre, theres an enraptured hush and recognition as the audience takes him in. Starring in Hillary and Clinton with Laurie Metcalf as Hillary Clinton, John Lithgow as Bill, and Zak Orth as Mark Penn, James is the spitting image of Barack Obama.

Orlando Bloom, Katy Perry and Gwyneth Paltrow are backing Buttigieg. Shonda Rhimes, Elizabeth Banks and Ben Affleck are with Harris. Susan Sarandon and Danny DeVito are supporting Sanders. And even Steve Bullock has some A-list donors, including Jeff Bridges and Lyle Lovett.

In the play, which opened on Broadway last month, Obama comes knocking at Hillarys hotel room in New Hampshire just after shes taken the state in the 2008 primary elections. Bill is also there, against the advisement of chief strategist Penn. Although the characters and their situations are drawn in an imagined, alternate-reality past by playwright Lucas Hnath, the four players onstage still capture the subtle, human privacies of these gargantuan public figures—perhaps none more recognizably so than James and his Barack.

For her part, Harriss counterargument is that Democrats who are anxious about losing to Donald Trump and shopping for so-called electability need to shake the outdated (and likely biased) assumption that the only way to win is by putting a white man at the top of their ticket.

Lucas is not talking about the surface tics of people. Hes talking about what makes people tick, James said in recent interview. His goal was not to impersonate Obama, but to play a version of him. An imitation would get in the way.

Considering Jamess practiced presidential posture, his exacting cadence and intonation, and even his striking physical similarities, his fit for the role is clear. But that moment of recognition from the theaters audience, he said, largely comes from a level more subliminal than explicit: his clothing.

What started over the winter as a whisper campaign, according to Politico, has rapidly transformed into national narrative, with members of the Congressional Black Caucus pitching the pair as a dream ticket earlier this week.

Video: Sleepy and crazy: How Trump attacks his 2020 competition

I can feel the first 15 seconds Im onstage that my costuming is doing a whole lot of work for me in a way that allows me to just focus on other things, James said. It just couldnt be better. . . . Theres nothing like coming out with the wind at your back.

Thats thanks to costume designer Rita Ryack, who perfects the former presidents uniform of a navy suit and tie. Plus, its winter in New Hampshire, so hes got a calf-length, ash-gray cashmere overcoat, too. His tie was originally striped and dark red, but after consulting director Joe Mantello, they went with blue: striped with white, royal, and an arctic-gray hue. When you have a very small play like that, everything counts, Ryack said. Its very important, each tiny detail.

Trumps current approval rating, according to FiveThirtyEight. The only modern president who had a lower rating at this point in his presidency was Jimmy Carter (37 percent). Carter went on to lose reelection the following November.

So just how did they capture the silhouette of one of the worlds most recognizable men? Ryack actually tapped Obamas real-world tailor to make Jamess suit just so. While the rest of the four-person ensemble is dressed in less presidential attire—Hillary in purple track pants and a cream turtleneck, Bill in mid-thigh running shorts and knee-high white socks—Jamess Barack required a more elegant treatment. Thats where Martin Greenfield Clothiers, under the direction of Martin Greenfield and his son Jay, came in. The elder Greenfield has tailored suits for over 70 years and has worked with presidents such as Eisenhower and Obama. Conveniently for this Scott Rudin–produced, Broadway-bound play, Greenfields factory is located in the heart of Brooklyns Bushwick neighborhood, and they were eager to assist.

Sanders and AOC have had phone calls, reports Politico — she worked as an organizer on his 2016 campaign — and last week, the pair teamed up on legislation to cap credit card interest rates.

This was immediately very exciting for us to do, Jay Greenfield said. They mentioned his signature navy suits, which we obviously knew all about. We have made clothing for various movies that actors played presidents, but we never really were asked to emulate a specific look for an actor playing a president who we dressed.

Ryack, who previously worked with the Greenfields on projects like Barry Levinsons Bernie Madoff biopic, The Wizard of Lies, with Robert De Niro, explained that taking James to the factory space allowed for the greatest degree of authenticity. And he could also have the experience of seeing where that clothing came from—its a little more insight into the presidential wardrobe. As an actor, James also admits that simply coming close to the suit-maker is kind of an extraordinary experience.

Jay explained that the suit seen onstage is the exact make and material of the famous navy suits that became Obamas sartorial calling card: a very fine Italian cloth that comes from a mill called Loro Piana. Theyre kind of known with really finishing the cloth with a little more luster than, say, the English mills do, he says. The finish set him apart from those around him, and the deep navy had just enough blue to it to be noticeably navy next to gray or black.

Fox News is a hate-for-profit racket that gives a megaphone to racists and conspiracy theorists. I wont ask Democratic primary voters to tune into an outlet that profits from racism and hate.

Jay was the lead tailor on this project, as his father has relinquished his duties in older age. I tried to come as close as I could to what we actually did for President Obama, he explains. We helped [Obama] pick that first navy suit that we made for him, and we went on over the years to make many more of that same suit for him. It became almost a uniform. He also had other colors, charcoal grays, but navy was always the first choice. . . . Every time it was a more important event that would be viewed by more people either on television or pictures, he seemed to always choose the navy suit.

I think [Bidens] going to look to balance his ticket so that the ticket itself is more appealing, said Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md. It wouldnt surprise me if he picked a woman of color.

Considering their whos-who clientele of Washington, D.C., power players (including former Secretary of State Colin Powell, whom James has also portrayed on stage), James was surprised to find that modesty is the name of Greenfields game. They dont discuss their clients any more than youd want them to discuss you, he adds. Theyre a classy bunch.

Welcome to 2020 Vision, the Yahoo News column covering the presidential race. Reminder: There are 262 days until the Iowa caucuses and 535 days until the 2020 presidential election.

James did have find one sign of the people who have been fitted before him, though. You couldnt have a less ostentatious kind of establishment, James says. It was wonderfully low-key. The first thing I saw as I went into the—I cant even call it a changing room, but it was kind of a little section—was a picture of Colin Powell thumbtacked to the wall.

Yet as skeptical as Democrats may be, few have suggested that the latest white guys to declare would be better suited to serve as vice president than as commander in chief.

There is one secret design element that only the real Obama gets to wear. While Jay ensured Jamess replica suit have the hand stitching along the edges of the suit, the handmade working buttonholes on the sleeves, the same rich shoulder and the lapels of the jacket not too narrow and trendy but not too wide, either, there is one interior detail missing. The Greenfields will sometimes add a decorative touch along the edge where the lining meets the facing, and presidents get to have it in red, white, and blue thread. Its a little painstaking because [theres] three needles going at the same time, and thats one stitch of red, one stitch of white, one stitch of blue, and then keep changing the needle and go all the way around the lining of the jacket, Jay says. [But] thats something that we figured out we like to do for the president.

Even as new candidates are still joining the Democratic primary, others are already seeking to reboot (or reset or reintroduce) their campaigns.

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

Aside from his global fame and his love affair with soft-serve ice cream, Joe Bidens biggest calling card at this budding stage of the presidential race is the mushy notion of electability. Biden, the former vice president, isnt outright saying that he would be the best foil against Donald Trump next year, but hes laying it on thick, mugging for the cameras in Iowa diners and bragging to a Teamsters union hall in Pittsburgh that the road back to the White House runs straight through working-class Pennsylvania. Bidens home turf. Shot-and-a-beer territory, as Richard Ben Cramer called it.

And Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro have also made overtures to the first-term phenom.

The imagery is not subtle. Biden wants Democrats to know that he and he alone is best positioned to reclaim the Upper Midwest after Trumps Electoral College burglary in 2016. With Biden, you know what youre in for: a tested statesman with populist charm who can clean up Trumps malarkey on day one. He can go to the Hague one day, and then show up at Sturgis the next. And folks, if youre not getting the message, his allies will give it to you loud and clear: Biden. Can. Win.

Not to be outdone, Warren has met privately with the freshman congresswoman and written a glowing essay about her for Time magazine.

This is do-or-die, and Joe Biden is the best candidate to go against Trump in November, said Dick Harpootlian, a state senator in South Carolina who recently hosted a Biden fund-raiser in Columbia. Would Joe Biden be running if he thought any of these other folks could beat Donald Trump? No way. We cant risk this thing with someone who has not done this before, who is unchallenged, who is untested. There is something to be said for two old white guys going at it. The African-Americans in the State Senate with me are going to be with him overwhelmingly. Because this is a pragmatic year. This isnt a battle of ideologies or identity or Medicare for All or a Green New Whatever. Its all about who can stop this juvenile narcissist from getting a second term.

The glaring counterpoint to Harpootlians argument is the most shopworn of political clichés: Democrats fall in love, and Republicans fall in line. Since Vietnam, every time a Democrat has won the presidency, its because Democrats voted with their hearts in a primary and closed ranks around the candidate who inspired them, promising an obvious break from the past and an inspiring vision that blossomed in the general election. Jimmy Carter. Bill Clinton. Barack Obama. All were young outsiders who tethered their message to the culture of the time. When Democrats have picked nominees cautiously and strategically—falling in line—the results have been devastating, as Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton made plain. Its not a perfect rule: While Gore and Clinton didnt quite electrify the country, they still won the popular vote. And George McGovern was a heart candidate who got slaughtered by Richard Nixon in 1972. But the McGovern wipeout is kind of what Biden and his loyalists are clinging to: the idea that this Trump moment, like the wrenching 60s, is so existential and high stakes that Democrats will overlook their usual instincts and do the sensible thing. Theatrical and Irish, Biden surely is hoping that he can be a vehicle for both passion and pragmatism. But if he wins the nomination next year, it will be because Democrats went with their heads, not their bleeding hearts.

This is just not a normal year, Harpootlian told me. I believe that pragmatic Democrats will vote in larger numbers than what you would call the ideologue candidates. Joes record in Congress wasnt particularly stellar, but they understand the importance of winning in November of 2020. The folks that I talk to, they arent looking for a socialist, or trying to make a statement on the basis of identity or sex or gender. They want somebody to run the country in a normal fashion that typifies the dignity of the office. People want stability.

I recognize that I can do a better job, the former Texas congressman told MSNBCs Rachel Maddow a few days later.

Mounting an electability argument is a risky gambit in a Democratic primary. Recent election cycles are littered with unheeded calls to look ahead to the general election, while genuine passion flowed elsewhere. Hillary Clinton made such a case about Bernie Sanders in 2016—she called herself a progressive who likes to get things done—but her electability strategy was far more pronounced in 2008. She announced in 2007 with a statement that Beto ORourke would be proud of: Im in. And Im in to win. As Clinton ran against Obama, who was rallying a diverse coalition of young anti-war voters and African-Americans, she memorably downplayed her gender and the history-making possibility of her own candidacy, choosing instead to highlight her toughness against the callow young outsider. She was the deal-making insider, brimming with experience and the right connections, who would be ready to take that infamous 3 A.M. phone call at a time of national emergency. Clinton held an enormous lead in national polls throughout the entirety of 2007, even leading Obama by as much as 20 points in some surveys as late as December, just weeks before the Iowa caucuses.

Time to hit reset (or at least whisper to the press on plans to do so) and hope people start paying attention again.

But Clintons team was entitled. They were contemptuous of the obvious cultural and generational tides pushing against her, so twisted up by their defensive posture over the Iraq War and her shifting positions, that they closed Clintons Iowa campaign with a slogan by committee straight out of Veep: Big Challenges, Real Solutions: Time to Pick a President. When Oprah Winfrey announced her endorsement of Obama in late 2007, Clinton backer Tom Vilsack was hilariously dismissive. Im not sure who watches her, Vilsack said as Oprah and Obama packed arenas and stadiums in Iowa and South Carolina. Even as their staffs peddled negative stories about one another to the press, Clintons public strategy was largely to ignore Obama, until it was too late.

When Biden announced, influential Democratic donor Robert Wolf told Politico, everything changed.

Electability became Clintons guiding light in that primary fight, in a way that ultimately turned toxic. Even as she faded in the delegate chase against Obama and was facing questions about why she remained in the race, Clinton reminded an editorial board in South Dakota that Bobby Kennedy was assassinated late in his campaign, so all the better to stick around until the bitter end. (She quickly apologized.) During the long Pennsylvania primary, after Obama was caught on tape at a San Francisco fund-raiser saying that working-class Americans can get bitter and cling to guns or religion, Clinton immediately targeted older white voters around the state by calling Obama elitist, and talking up her own fondness for church and firearms. Just a few months later, Sarah Palin would echo the charges against Obama in the very same Pennsylvania towns.

— Elizabeth Warren explaining why she turned down an offer to appear at a town hall hosted by the cable network

Clintons focus on winning became her reason for running, the message du jour for almost every day of that long primary slog, obscuring the core reasons she had to run for president, big ideas on health care, energy independence, and cleaning up the miasma in Iraq. All the while, Obama aimed straight for the hearts of primary voters, embracing his outsider status and anti-war pedigree in a way that dovetailed with the political moment. Like Clinton, he downplayed his identity in speeches. But he was not afraid to find ways to leverage his race to curry favor with black voters where he needed it. His skin color, like Hillarys gender, was a powerful symbol that moved and excited Democrats, even if it remained largely unspoken. The dynamic left the many other white guys in the 2008 race in the dust, particularly John Edwards, who was ever so gently making the case that he could better appeal to white moderate voters in red states, an argument that Biden is tiptoeing around today, even as rural whites have largely made a home in the Republican Party. Predictably, Edwardss electability plea fell on deaf Democratic ears. Voters, donors, and journalists were just interested in seeing other people. Edwardss always-forthcoming wife, Elizabeth, let her frustration over the matter show.

We cant make John black. We cant make him a woman, she told an interviewer in 2007. Those things get you a lot of press.

That dubious honor, it seems, has so far been reserved for candidates of color — black women in particular.

Electability campaigns havent always gone bust. Late in 2003, John Kerry was able to mount a comeback on the idea that he was best suited to confront George W. Bush in wartime, thanks to his service in Vietnam and his tenure on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Democrats werent exactly gung ho about the charisma-deprived Kerry—aloof was the preferred adjective of the pundit class—but he entered the campaign as a front-runner nonetheless. The unexpected rise of Howard Dean, who ran hard against the Iraq War and ignited a powerful grassroots following, became concerning to many moderate Democrats who figured Dean was too liberal to take on Bush. Iowans shopped around and eventually settled on Kerry, who fizzled early in his race, but later emerged the consensus choice after the other horses failed to impress. A bumper sticker became popular at the time: Dated Dean. Married Kerry. Its not implausible to envision Biden hanging out by the altar come next February.

But the biggest celebrity get of the 2020 cycle isnt based in Hollywood. Shes based in the Bronx.

Kerry explicitly said, You want me on that debate stage against George W. Bush. I took the bullets, said Mark Kornblau, Kerrys press secretary in 2004. He projected strength in that primary in a way that was believable to voters. Kerry, I felt, captured the nomination based on a projection of strength that was comforting to Democrats who knew exactly who the occupant of the White House was.

Kornblau would go on to work for Edwards three years later, which gave him key insight about electability messages: they can actually work, if primary voters know who the opponent will be that November. Edwards and Clinton, each running on general-election viability in 2008, had no idea who would emerge as the Republican nominee, let alone that the worlds economy would begin to fray as Election Day approached. In Kerrys case, he could define himself and his foreign-policy agenda directly against Bush, the man in the White House prosecuting two wars. In 2008, everyone was running against an unknown, Kornblau told me. Democratic voters didnt have in their heads the Bush of 2004, or the Trump of 2020.

"Since slavery in this country, we have had overt policies fueled by white supremacy and racism."

All of the Democrats running in 2020 have set their sights on Trump, but Biden seems most intent on rising above the internecine Democratic squabbles over identity and ideology, focusing squarely on Trump. Yet unlike Kerry, who ran against Bush in wartime as the electable national-security guy, the long-winded Son of Scranton has yet to attach his I-Can-Win message to a concise vision and set of values. Right now, Biden is just assumed to be the Guy Who Can Beat Trump, but do Democrats really know why? Saying I am electable for some demographic or primary campaign reason is not sellable, Kornblau said. Electability has to be a visceral feeling by the voter, not just a strategic move.

"Let me be as clear as I can about this: When Democrats next have power, we should be bold."

Given his nearly 50 years in American politics, Biden can authoritatively make the case that he is best equipped to step onto the global stage and be a competent, get-shit-done president after dispatching Trump. He would be wise to focus on his stature and what he would do in office, because Democrats have a fondness for thinking about whats next. Somewhere inside Bidens theory of electability is the hazy idea that 2020 will just be a do-over of 2016, only with a more inspiring candidate atop the ticket. Bernie Sanders is offering a similar promise with the Revolution 2.0: that the essential malfunction of 2016 was Clinton and her failure to inspire key voting groups in the right states. Electability means re-running the same program with a new input, like that scene in Waynes World 2 when Wayne swaps out the D-list actor at the gas station for Charlton Heston. But that feels like a miscalculation. The next presidential election will not be like the last one. They never are. So who knows what electable really means? Does it mean playing it safe with a seventysomething white man when the country just elected a raft of millennials, women, African-Americans, Muslims, gays, and bisexuals to governors mansions, city halls, and Congress, many of them in suburban swing districts and others in districts long held by Republicans? Legions of new Democratic voters were activated by Trumps election and last years midterms. If youre one of those Democrats, its difficult to look at the results of 2018 and not think that pretty much anyone, regardless of race, gender, or background, has a shot at winning.

On a somewhat related note, Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, recently floated plans to travel to Ukraine and convince the government to launch an investigation on the Biden family. Giuliani has dropped that idea last week, and yesterday, a Ukranian prosecutor said in an interview that his government has no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens.

We dont know what its going to take to beat Trump, said Amanda Litman, a former Hillary Clinton aide who co-founded Run For Something, a group that recruits Democrats to run for down-ballot offices. To assume that we do and act on that assumption, thats a dangerous risk. Part of electability is to inspire people, to pump people up, and also get their friends to show up. To cultivate a sort of fandom. Excitement and passion are contagious. Candidates who can do that will do better than those who cant. Or, as Ben Smith from BuzzFeed tweeted on Monday, Bizarre the extent to which the electability conversation leaves out the fact that the only Democrat elected in two decades is black.

Polls right now show Biden clobbering the Democratic field. Polls, too, show that Biden wins on the question of who can best beat Trump. But in a CNN poll last week, Sanders, ORourke, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg also beat Trump in head-to-head matchups. Another recent poll from CBS News and YouGov revealed that Democrats would prefer a female candidate over a man, a candidate of color over a white person, and a young nominee over an old one. Polls also reveal, shockingly, that most voters dont really know much about the rest of the candidates. What do all these numbers mean? Biden is popular and famous among Democrats, but primary voters are open to something different and want to hear more about the other candidates. Biden can still win, and should be treated as the front-runner. But he has nowhere to go but down. While polls are useful, they fail to account for Bidens terminal foot-in-mouth disease, the natural ebbs and flows of the news cycle, an ever-changing set of national issues and emergencies, the capacity of candidates to grow and change, or the volatility of the cable-news viewer who sits in the Oval Office. This is why we have campaigns. Be sure to remember that point about 2008 for your next cocktail party: Clinton was beating Obama by 20 points a month before she finished third in Iowa.

Hilton’s question appears based on a claim from Peter Schweizer — author of Clinton Cash — who wrote hat the firm of Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden “inked a $1 billion private equity deal with a subsidiary of the Chinese governments Bank of China.”

I wrote last year about the flimsiness of political punditry that classifies politicians according to their identity: the simplistic concept that women candidates are best positioned to win women, that white men will only vote for white men, that black voters will rally for black candidates. Research has shown that a candidates identity is not fixed. It is conditional on who they are running against in a campaign, what the issues are, and how voters see them in that floating context. Electability, too, is only a condition of the moment. Nothing about the term is predictive. It is always subject to change. At this point four years ago, the least electable person on the planet had not even taken his escalator ride down to the lobby of Trump Tower. Today, he is the president of the United States. So if Biden can surf this moment all the way to November 2020, well, it will be an enormous feat. A Big F–king Deal indeed.

“Its a disgrace,” the president continued. “And then he says Chinas not a competitor of ours. China is a massive competitor of ours. They want to take over the world.

A convoluted, Fox News-fueled story involving the Clinton campaign and the Biden familys potential conflicts of interest in Ukraine appears to have claimed its first victim: Masha Yovanovitch, a career diplomat and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. This week, Yovanovitch was suddenly recalled from her post, months before she was expected to end her three-year assignment this July, following increasingly feverish accusations in Trumpworld that Yovanovitch has demonstrated disloyalty to the president. Donald Trump has alluded to a Ukrainian plot to help Clinton. Democrats are calling Yovanovitchs ouster a political hit job. According to two congressional sources familiar with the situation, the decision to recall Yovanovitch two months early did not come from the seventh floor of the State Department, but directly from the White House.

The strange circumstances surrounding Yovanovitchs early exit provide a window into what is becoming a new front in a wide-ranging information war between Democrats and Republicans that could have a significant impact on the 2020 election. The official story coming out of Foggy Bottom is that Yovanovitchs departure is timed to the arrival of a new administration in Kiev and as planned. But few believe it. There is no other reason for her early departure, one of the congressional aides told me, adding that the president is aware of the situation. In fact, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had previously asked Yovanovitch to stay on beyond the three-year mark, the other source said.

The trouble for Yovanovitch can be traced, in part, to a speech she gave in March, during which she took a firm stand against political corruption in Ukraine and called for the ouster of Nazar Kholodnytskyy, the chief of the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutors Office. Those remarks, notable for their asperity, outraged Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko. Two weeks later, he gave an interview to The Hills John Solomon in which he alleged, without evidence, that Yovanovitch had given him a list of people whom we should not prosecute during their first meeting, presumably to shield Obama–Clinton allies.

The State Department bluntly dismissed the allegation at the time as an outright fabrication. And in April, Lutsenko walked back his remarks entirely. (In this new telling, it was Lutsenko who asked for a do-not-prosecute list, and Yovanovitch who said no.) But by that point, the allegation had already been injected into the bloodstream of the conservative media.

The same day the Solomon–Lutsenko interview was published, frequent Fox News guest Joseph diGenova called for Yovanovitchs removal as ambassador to Ukraine in an interview with Trump confidant Sean Hannity, saying she has bad-mouthed the president of the United States to Ukrainian officials and has told them not to listen or worry about Trump policy because hes going to be impeached. Later that week, Fox News host Laura Ingraham piled on, revealing a May 2018 letter former congressman Pete Sessions had sent to Secretary of State Pompeo, which accused Yovanovitch of having reportedly demonstrated clear anti-Trump bias. Two days after Ingrahams show, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted a Daily Wire roundup of conservative attacks on the diplomat. We need more ⁦@RichardGrenells and less of these jokers as ambassadors, the presidents eldest son wrote on Twitter, referencing the current U.S. ambassador to Germany.

Among veterans of Foggy Bottom, Yovanovitch has an impressive reputation and the allegations against her ring false to many. Very much a role-model female diplomat, one former high-ranking State Department official said. Admired, respected, liked. Very professional. Another former senior U.S. official echoed the sentiment. Shes everyones idea of the best kind of professional diplomat, they told me. But it appears she made enemies in high places—and became a convenient scapegoat.

Behind the scenes, Trump allies have been developing a labyrinthine counter-theory of collusion, designed to distract from and deflect the Mueller report. One aspect involves allegations that Ukrainian officials sought to boost Hillary Clintons candidacy in 2016 by questioning Trumps fitness for office and leaking damaging information about former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort—information that ultimately made its way to Robert Mueller. Another aspect involves allegations that Joe Biden abused his position as vice president to engineer the ouster of Viktor Shokin, Lutsenkos predecessor, to kill an investigation into Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company that was paying Bidens son Hunter Biden up to $50,000 a month to sit on the board. (Hunter Biden told The New York Times he had no role whatsoever in relation to any investigation of Burisma, or any of its officers.) Lutsenko has reportedly reopened the investigation into Burisma, and told Solomon that he has opened an investigation into whether Ukrainian law enforcement worked in favor of Clinton, too. (On Tuesday, citing a Ukrainian official, Bloomberg reported the Burisma case has not been reopened. The Times is standing by its reporting.)

Of course, Lutsenko has not been working alone. Trumps personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has met with Lutsenko multiple times over the past year and has discussed the Burisma case with him, according to the Times. Lutsenkos decision to reopen the investigation was reportedly interpreted by some as an attempt to curry favor with the Trump administration on behalf of his boss, President Petro Poroshenko. (Poroshenko lost his re-election bid last month; incoming president Volodymyr Zelensky, a television comedian, has said he intends to replace Lutsenko as prosecutor general.)

Giuliani told the Times that he has discussed the Burisma affair with Donald Trump on multiple occasions, and has called on the Justice Department to investigate the Bidens involvement in Ukraine. Trump himself recently suggested that Attorney General William Barr should look into materials gathered by Lutsenko. I would imagine [Barr] would want to see this, he told Hannity in an April 25 interview. It sounds like big stuff, very interesting with Ukraine. . . . But that sounds like big, big stuff, and Im not surprised. (The White House did not respond to a request for comment.)

It is unsurprising that Yovanovitch was quickly ensnared in this narrative. Despite the fact that she was first nominated as a U.S. ambassador by George W. Bush, she was appointed to her post in Ukraine by Barack Obama at the tail end of his presidential term. As a result, she has been cast by Fox News talking heads and allies of the president as an Obama holdover and a deep state agent.

As the attacks on Yovanovitch were escalating, Congressmen Eliot Engel, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, privately called on Pompeo to publicly defend Yovanovitch. It is disappointing that certain political actors within Ukraine have criticized Ambassador Yovanovitch, given her anti-corruption efforts that touch on their interests, the lawmakers wrote in an April 12 letter. It is critical that State Department leadership support ambassadors and foreign service officers in the field and make clear that they will not be subjected to any politically motivated attacks. We urge you to make public statements personally defending your team and those who represent our country from these spurious disparagements.

Less than a month later, Yovanovitch is on her way out. An internal management notice sent to embassy staffers in Kiev and shared with me reveals that there is no succession plan in place, suggesting the decision was abrupt. Yovanovitchs last day as ambassador to Ukraine will be May 20. We expect the Department to appoint a long-term Charge dAffaires to lead the Mission until a new Chief of Mission is nominated and confirmed, the notice reads. During the transition, Joseph Pennington will serve as the charge daffaires and acting deputy chief of mission until Kristina Kvien arrives at the embassy on May 28.

The saga of G.O.P. operative Peter Smiths ill-fated attempts to uncover the 33,000 e-mails deleted from Hillary Clintons server was revealed shortly after his death in 2017, and depicts an isolated and increasingly desperate researchers scramble to fulfill a task he believed would benefit Donald Trump. But according to Robert Muellers report, the directive to track down the missing correspondence came straight from the top. Though Mueller found no evidence that the Trump campaign had initiated or directed Smiths efforts, he did note that the then-candidate asked several associates, most notably then-adviser Michael Flynn, to find a way to obtain the e-mails—and that they complied. According to the report, Flynn recalled that Trump made this request repeatedly, prompting Flynn to contact multiple people in an attempt to do his bosss bidding.

One of those people was Smith. Back in December 2015, Smith and Senate staffer Barbara Ledeen had begun to coordinate their own efforts to track down the e-mails. When Flynn contacted Smith asking him to look into the matter, however, he kicked things into high gear. Per Muellers report, Smith created a company to find said e-mails, raised tens of thousands of dollars, and hired security experts and business associates. Smith made claims to others involved in the effort (and those from whom he sought funding) that he was in contact with hackers with ties and affiliations to Russia who had access to the e-mails, and that his efforts were coordinated with the Trump Campaign, wrote Mueller, describing the fervent, secret-agent-style effort.

In his recruitment efforts, Smith repeatedly described his connections with the Trump campaign, mentioning in a fund-raising e-mail that he was in coordination with Trumps circle to the extent permitted as an independent expenditure organization. He then name-dropped several prominent figures in the campaign, including Flynn, chairman Sam Clovis, Steve Bannon, and Kellyanne Conway. He also drafted multiple e-mails stating or intimating that he was speaking to hackers with ties and affiliations to Russia, though there was nothing to suggest this was the case.

Mueller likewise found no evidence that anyone on the campaign directed Smiths efforts. Nevertheless, Trumps allies bought in. Per Mueller, Blackwater founder Erik Prince, who would later be involved in a sketchy meeting with Jared Kushner and emissaries from the Middle East in Seychelles, funded efforts to authenticate a trove of e-mails Ledeen had discovered on the dark web. (They did not belong to Clinton.) Despite their enthusiasm, however, Trumps supporters shambolic search led to naught. Mueller ultimately concluded that Smith, Ledeen, or other individuals in touch with the Trump Campaign never ultimately obtained the deleted Clinton e-mails.

On Thursday, Attorney General William Barr is expected to release a redacted version of Robert Muellers report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, a fact that may or may not be putting Donald Trump off his Big Macs. After initially claiming that he was totally in favor of fully releasing the special counsels report (I have nothing to hide . . . absolutely nothing to hide), the president now seems to be having second thoughts about letting the public peruse the nearly 400-page document, rather than the four-page summary in which Barr cleared his boss of obstruction. Anticipating that the full accounting of Muellers investigation may include some unflattering details about the Trump campaigns contacts with various Kremlin operatives, or uncomfortable motives for the presidents friendly behavior toward Vladimir Putin, there is said to be significant concern in the White House.

As such, Rudy Giuliani is circling the wagons. Bloomberg reports that Trumps legal team has put together a rebuttal to the chain of events they believe Mueller may describe, and the legal arguments for why they dont amount to obstruction of justice. Rather than wait for that to come together, the president appears to be previewing his own rebuttal in the event the report does not show Total EXONERATION (which we already know it wont, because it didnt): changing the subject to Hillary Clinton, and why she should be investigated for colluding with Russia.

What Lassie seems to be referencing here is the fact that U.S. research firm Fusion GPS contracted former British spy Christopher Steele to compile the the dossier that alleged, among other things, collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Steeles research was initially bankrolled by the Washington Free Beacon, a Republican media firm, with the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign picking up the tab after Trump won his partys nomination. In the presidents fever dreams, this means Clinton colluded with Russia.

In addition to attempting to pivot the conversation from what the Mueller report might expose about his conduct to that of his longtime arch-nemesis, Trump continued to argue this morning that Democrats will never be happy with the information they get, ergo maybe they shouldnt be given anything:

He also doubled down on Barrs wild suggestion last week that the F.B.I., investigating evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election, spied on his campaign—a tragedy that, like 9/11, we must keep in our memories forever:

Democrats have a dilemma. If they impeach Donald Trump, a futile exercise in the Republican-controlled Senate, it could backfire, hurting their chances in next years election and possibly gifting him another term. But if they do nothing with Robert Muellers findings, they may run afoul of their base, the majority of which seems to support impeachment, and allow the presidents transgressions go unchecked. So how can they hold Trump accountable without risking giving him another four years to run amok in the White House?

They may have found an answer in Republicans own playbook. As Politico reported Wednesday, Democrats are considering a Benghazi approach to the Trump administration—that is, holding hearing after high-profile hearing, both for political spectacle and for the potentially damaging information they may produce, similar to the nearly three dozen hearings Republicans held on the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack that killed four Americans and was weaponized by the right to smear Hillary Clinton.

Theres a big sentiment amongst some that they should Benghazi Trump, Julian Epstein, a former senior House Democratic aide, told the publication. They dont have a lot of good options.

Republicans held a whopping 33 hearings over the Benghazi attack, seeking to pin the blame on Clinton, her state department, and then-President Barack Obama for failing to adequately protect American personnel in Libya. They failed to do so definitively, at least beyond the G.O.P. bubble, but in the process they helped unearth what would eventually become one of the biggest thorns in Clintons side in 2016: Her use of a private e-mail server. That spawned an F.B.I. investigation, which cast a shadow over her campaign for months and flared up again just days before election day, becoming one of Trumps favorite lines of attack. (Never mind that at least seven Trump administration officials, including Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, have used private e-mail or other unofficial communication means since he took office.)

Democrats railed against the Benghazi hearings at the time, accusing Republicans of using their investigatory powers to kneecap Clintons presidential bid. Its time to bring this taxpayer-funded fishing expedition to an end, Democrat Elijah Cummings said in 2015. Now, though, such high-profile probes likely seem increasingly attractive to Democrats in the wake of the Mueller report, which didnt quite find criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, but outlined a number of attempts by the president aimed at derailing the investigation. The Democratic plan, then, according to Politico, could be to hold a torrent of hearings, featuring big names certain to draw significant media attention, including Mueller himself. In part, these hearings would be designed to draw focus to shady behavior by the president and those around him. They would also likely result in new revelations about Trump and his administration that could be seized on ahead of 2020. Similar hearings have already struck dirt: Michael Cohen accused his old boss of crimes and other misdeeds, triggering new lines of inquiry for congressional investigators and frustrating Trump with another bad news cycle. A repeat could bring similar results.

In contrast with the Benghazi hearings, this isnt just about politics. Democrats are seeking real answers to legitimate questions about the presidents behavior and that of those around him, including Barr, whose summary of Muellers report has been thrown into question, most recently by Mueller himself. On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that the special counsel wrote in a letter to Trumps attorney general that his four-page letter did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of investigators work and added to public confusion about the probe. Lawmakers plan to grill Barr about the letter in his Wednesday hearing. Updating my questions! Amy Klobuchar, a member of the Judiciary committee and a 2020 presidential candidate, tweeted Tuesday evening after news of Muellers gripes emerged. Such scrutiny is a legitimate part of government oversight. But for Democrats, its also a chance to hold Trump politically accountable. Most Americans are not going to read a 400-plus page report, Hank Johnson, a senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, told Politico. They would much rather see something on TV that they can make conclusions for themselves about. Thats the age were living in. Its almost entertainment.

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

After it was first reported months ago that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry would be moving residences to live in Frogmore Cottage, outside of London, it is now official Thursday, per a release from the Palace, that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex will have a new household in their name as well. Celebrate however you please; perhaps with a loaf of homemade banana bread.

The Queen has sanctioned this development, and the release notes that the creation of the household—which will take place in the spring—also has the support of Prince Charles. Harry currently has his own private office—which has been servicing Meghans needs as well, ever since the couple became engaged in 2017. The release notes that this long-planned move will ensure that permanent support arrangements for The Duke and Duchesss work are in place as they start their family and move to their official residence at Frogmore Cottage.

The couples office, though, will be based out of Buckingham Palace, and the pair will appoint their own communications staff (who will report to the Queens communications secretary). And the Palace has already announced who will be heading up their communications staff: Sara Latham, who, per the release, joins from Freuds where she oversaw global corporate accounts with a particular emphasis on executive thought leadership and purpose-led campaigns. Latham was a former senior adviser on Hillary Clintons 2016 presidential campaign (and she worked in the White House for Bill Clinton in the late 1990s, too).

When Latham was hired at Freuds last year (after having previously worked at the company from 2003 to 2005), the C.E.O. stated, Sara brings unrivaled experience as an adviser at the very highest levels. Her judgment and counsel is of huge value to our roster of clients. Reporter Omid Scobie also noted that Latham has joint citizenship in the U.S. and the U.K., and that she worked as special adviser to U.K. Labour politician Tessa Jowell in 2005 and as a transition official for then-president-elect Barack Obama in 2008.

The Palace also announced that Jason Knauf will serve as senior adviser to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and he will be advising Their Royal Highnesses on their charitable initiatives—including work on the environment, mental health, and early childhood—and supporting a review of the charitable structures that underpin their work.

Joe Biden said he was very close to a final decision about whether to run for the White House. That was on February 26, 2019. Or perhaps it was February 26, 2018. Or maybe it was February 26, 2004. The former vice president has been inches away from declaring hes taking a shot at the presidency for so long now that it is becoming difficult to keep straight Bidens actual (1988, 2008) and almost (2004, 2016) and possible (2020) campaigns. The more important question for his current Democratic primary chances, though, is whether Bidens drawn-out deliberations are pure indecision or craftily strategic. Its genuine indecision, a Democratic strategist who is in touch with Bidenworld says, that his team is trying to make into good strategy, by basically waging a Rose Garden campaign of leaks and trial balloons.

On the surface, Bidens delay has produced mostly awkwardness and apologies. In January, during a speech to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, he seemed weirdly out of touch with the realities of modern Washington by saying, I read in The New York Times today that . . . one of my problems is, if I were to ever run for president, I like Republicans. O.K. Well, bless me, Father, for I have sinned. A few weeks later, Biden infuriated gay activists by calling his vice-presidential successor, Mike Pence, a decent guy. This week, Biden completed a strange sort of trifecta by musing that I wish I could have done something, so Anita Hill was treated fairly by the Senate Judiciary Committee during the brutal 1991 Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings. Biden was merely the chairman of the committee at the time.

Maybe its all a methodical attempt to anticipate and defuse criticism of the likely candidate. Probably not. Bidens gonna Biden, right? says Rebecca Katz, a Democratic strategist who ran Cynthia Nixons losing campaign for governor in New York, and who helped Nixon craft a Washington Post op-ed that blasted Biden for hollow civility in his remarks about the gay-unfriendly Pence. Biden says whats on his mind, and its usually authentic, until it doesnt sound quite right in 2019. If I were working for him, I would not let him announce until December, to try to limit the gaffes.

Its unlikely Biden would or could wait quite that long to make a run official, but being consistently on top in public polling has given him the luxury of waiting, as lesser-known contenders eagerly jump into the field. Yet emotion, not data, is the main reason for Bidens hesitation. Is he willing to subject his family, particularly his younger son, Hunter, to the harsh scrutiny of a campaign? Biden would also risk tarnishing the halo he currently enjoys from serving under President Barack Obama. He is looking at this race with a bunch of ego. He doesnt see anyone else in the field as good as he is, a top advisor to one of the Democratic contenders says. But of the declared and likely contenders, Biden does have the most to lose, reputationally, in what would be his last race.

So while their man continues to mull a run, Bidens inner circle has been using the time to see how different gimmicks might affect Bidens popularity. They know that Bidens age would be an issue for primary voters—his 78th birthday falls two weeks after Election Day 2020—so word was leaked that Biden is considering pledging, in advance, to serve only one term. His mid-March meeting with Stacey Abrams, the dynamic 2018 Georgia gubernatorial candidate, quickly found its way into print, followed by chatter that Biden could offer Abrams the vice-presidential slot at the outset of the primaries. It was a transparent, and clumsy, way to test how Biden might help himself with women, Southerners, and black voters. His team knows Biden would start off as the front-runner. What theyre trying to gauge is whether thats a real thing, says a Democratic strategist who worked for Hillary Clinton, and saw her favorables crater once Clinton declared her 2016 candidacy. Theyre saying, Is that a durable cushion of support, or will we give back half or two-thirds of that support within three months, after we decide to get in the race?

No doubt Bidens team is actively polling and focus-grouping those questions, though his spokesman refused to comment. Bidens potential rivals are certainly measuring his strengths and weaknesses, and they are encouraged by what theyre seeing and hearing. Biden is polling as the front-runner right now, but theres no intensity there. And he has nowhere to go but down, a strategist for one of the Democratic contenders says. There were these mirages in early polling that doomed Hillary both times, and it was a function of a similar dynamic, where you've got broad, deep name I.D. Every backward-looking Democratic nominee, one whos been a vice president in the previous administration or played a major role—Hillary, Gore, Mondale—all failed. And Democrats have always succeeded when its been a fresh face and somebody who hasnt spent a ton of time in Washington. Thats consistent with the research weve done internally this time: Do you want someone older, or someone new? People overwhelmingly want someone new. To me, A.O.C. represents so much of what is going to be challenging for Biden. Shes speaking to people, saying, Yeah, Im fucking sofa-surfing as a member of Congress. Thats how people live. Biden is not exactly matching that moment.

Biden would be betting that math—white and older voters still outnumber millennials—is stronger than cultural momentum, and that Democratic primary voters will value electability against President Donald Trump above all else. But the longer he avoids joining the fray, the less confident Uncle Joe looks about his chances of winning the nomination.

Katy Perry has always been one to deliver a show, when it comes to her red carpet looks, and this years Met Gala look was no exception, as the singer arrived at the event as—well—a glamorous chandelier, is probably the best way to describe it. Designed by Moschino, the outsize, glistening look was an immediate pull all the focus moment on the carpet.

For past Met Galas, Perry has worn a variety of out there ensembles—angel-wings, a red veil—but this year is more fun and frothy and high-concept, paying tribute to the camp theme, which seems tailor-made for her. Perry, of course, is known for committing to her costume looks. She has dressed as pretty much every variety of candy or dessert confection out there; and her Halloween costumes are more involved than most peoples wedding day looks (the Flaming Hot Cheeto and Hillary Clinton looks come to mind).

It is hard for us not to think, gazing upon this chandelier ensemble, about how she is going to converse with basically anyone inside the event tonight. We imagine a lot of people trying to get close to her to chat and then just sort of waving: Well catch up later!

Imagine a straight-A student. Shes perky. Shes generally blonde, from a bottle or otherwise. She understands how to style her hair, how to wear the right makeup and clothes to radiate a seriousness of purpose. She cares. She is fully self-possessed—and theres something about her that just bugs you.

Maybe its that she also seems a bit soulless. Maybe its that she wants things. She laps her peers, parlaying dutiful research and kissing up into enviable promotions. She accepts an Oscar with a line that sounds fake and practiced in the mirror. She makes certain men irrationally angry—the type who swear they would totally vote a woman into office, just not this one. Shes a specter haunting all women of ambition, no matter what that ambition may be. Shes Tracy Flick.

Twenty years after Alexander Paynes Election opened to glowing reviews and middling box office ($15 million, against its $25 million budget), the film has penetrated the national consciousness—especially in regard to its indelible central character, a smiling Slytherin and aspiring high school student-body president played by a career-best Reese Witherspoon. In some crowds, the term Tracy Flick has become a pejorative term for a woman who is just too much—too accomplished, too hardworking, too ambitious. Female politicians are especially susceptible; women who have been accused of Flick-ish tendencies include but certainly arent limited to Elizabeth Dole (in Roger Eberts 1999 review), Elizabeth Warren, and Kirsten Gillibrand. Hillary Clinton has borne the brunt of such comparisons—the 2016 election led to an avalanche of think pieces connecting her to Tracy, some about how brutal Election felt in 2016 (The Very Uncomfortable Experience of Watching Election in 2016, published in The Cut in September 2016), some anticipating her seemingly inevitable win (The Triumph of Tracy Flick?, published in The New York Times November 7, 2016).

Every four years, when some gal is running for president of something, they dredge out the Tracy Flick comparison, Payne acknowledged in a recent phone call, from his home in Omaha. It might be Kirsten Gillibrand, or Hillary Clinton, or who knows who. Then Im called to make some comment about that. I say, well, its like she entered the popular culture, like Archie Bunker. You could never foresee those things.

Payne didnt. The director—who won a pair of Oscars for films he made post-Election—never anticipated Tracys staying power. One never thinks that. One only hopes that, he said. I wasnt seeing it so much as a political metaphor. I knew it was in there—I just thought it was a fun little comedy . . . Elections a film that I still get the most compliments on as a movie from film people, because it has a very good rhythm to it. The stars all aligned to make it a pretty decent film.

Time has been good to Election, a film based on an early novel by author and screenwriter Tom Perrotta. Its one of those stories that only seems to become more sharp and prescient with age. Barack Obama told me twice that it was his favorite political movie, said Payne. I met him once in 2005, and he had just been elected senator, and again in 2008 when he was running. Both times when I introduced myself, he said, Oh, Election is my favorite political movie.

The story is deceptively simple. Its plot centers on a banal student council race, where junior overachiever Tracy seems to be a shoo-in—until shes challenged by dumb rich-kid jock Paul Metzler (Chris Klein, in his first on-screen role), whos convinced to run by a teacher, Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick), who holds a grudge against Flick. The race is further shaken up by a wildcard third candidate: Pauls little sister Tammy (Jessica Campbell), who gives burning-down-the-house speeches that hit a now-familiar note: I dont even want to be president, she says. The only promise Ill make is that as president, Ill immediately dismantle the student government so that none of us will ever have to sit through one of these stupid assemblies again!

Perrotta is on record as saying that the dynamics in his novel were shaped by his obsession with the 1992 U.S. presidential campaign, in which Republican incumbent George H.W. Bush was running against young upstart Democrat Bill Clinton, with Independent Texan Ross Perot as a billionaire spoiler candidate. (Though the women compared to her tend to be Democrats, Tracy was based on a Republican, and is portrayed as being to the right of center herself. She writes letters to Elizabeth Dole; in her final scene, shes seen working for a Republican congressman from Nebraska.)

Every election seems to foreground intangibles—likability, relatability, beer-drinking—over substantive issues, such as policy. Thats probably why its so easy to graft the dynamics in Election onto the real-world political primaries and elections that have followed it, from Hillary Clinton versus Barack Obamas out-of-nowhere cool to Hillary Clinton versus spoiled-rich-kid-slash-nihilist Donald Trump. Speak to a historian, Payne said, [and] you can certainly see patterns which iterate themselves in their own unique ways, given the personalities, but following a certain pattern.

As prescient as it now seems, Perrotta initially had trouble selling Election; publishers couldnt figure out whether to slot it as a YA book or an adult novel. Producers Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa eventually got their hands on it, and a chain of events led to his manuscript being both optioned by MTV films and published by Putnam. Payne came on board the film project as director and co-screenwriter, with his frequent writing partner Jim Taylor.

As played by Witherspoon, Tracy Flick is the sort of nuanced character that serves as a tabula rasa for her audiences feelings about women, especially ambitious young women. Is she a villain? A victim? An abuse survivor? An annoying overachiever? A misunderstood hero? Perhaps shes all of the above, suggested Payne. Shes a person. A strong person with a strong personality. But thats how I see all the characters in my movies. Theyre people. Because I have to understand them and see what makes them tick.

Some aspects of her personality arent as up for debate: One thing we built into the film is that she has some class resentment, because shes from a lower class family with a single mom. You didnt see it in the movie, because we cut that specific scene, but she lives in an extremely modest house. The rich kid whos running, who won, really burned her heinie.

The late 90s were a fertile period for teen movies. Most featured people in their twenties playing students—and they all look too pretty, and the high school itself is too well-lit and idyllic, somehow, said Payne. (Witherspoon had made one of those movies right before she did Election: Cruel Intentions, a cheeky riff on Les Liaisons Dangereuses, the ever-remake-friendly 1782 French novel of sex, power, and intrigue.) But Election stands apart, thanks to its awkward, pimply, teenage sensibility.

That was a byproduct of filming in Omaha, Payne said, on my turf—at a real high school that was in session during the shoot. Payne also cast the film with a mix of established actors and non-actors. All of the extras were students from that high school, which lent to the film exactly what I wanted, which was authenticity, he said. And though Witherspoon herself was 20 or 21 at the time, he added, she still passed for a high schooler. Had she not, I wouldnt have cast her.

Witherspoons performance is indelible, the sort that still ranks on best-of lists. Part of her process involved perfecting Flicks particular Midwestern accent. Voice was a big one for her. She adopted a clipped, snippy, slightly-verging-on-Fargo-but-not-quite, because Fargo was in our consciousness. She found Tracy Flicks voice, and then a little tight lip. I remember, before every take, before Id call action, she would twitch her mouth around, her mouth and nose, not unlike Samantha Stephens in Bewitched. That would help anchor her in what she was doing.

Witherspoon received great notices and some award nominations for the role—though perhaps her greatest validation came years later, when she met Hillary Clinton. As the actress said in a 2015 Variety interview, Clinton herself acknowledged the Tracy connection: Everyone talks to me about Tracy Flick, she told Witherspoon.

Tracys real-life avatars—particularly Clinton, Gillibrand, and Warren—also coincidentally happen to be women who grew up in middle and rust belt America, and who initially identified as conservative or centrist—Hillary was once a Goldwater girl—before moving politically left as they accrued more life experience. Might that have happened to Tracy as well—or would she have become a Fox News anchor? The film is open-ended enough to imagine a variety of possibilities.

Like Tracy, Clinton has long been a woman whom people use as a mirror for their own projections; their impressions of her often seemed wrapped up in their impressions of themselves, and how they feel about women more broadly. Theres an unfortunate kind of stereotype, said Payne, that when a woman has got a lot on the ball and is in politics, theres a stick up her butt. But in terms of a larger observation—which has little to do with Election, or maybe it does—you think about Hillary, and what became of her. All it made me think about is that in this country, the white man gave the black man the vote 60 years before he gave it to the white woman. It didnt surprise me, in a way, that a black man has been elected president before a white woman.

Election officially entered the canon with a 2017 Blu-ray edition via the Criterion Collection, and will eventually be available in its best movie-geek form via Criterions new streaming service. When asked what he thinks of the movie now, Payne demurred with typical Midwestern modesty. But he did say this: Im very proud of [it]. I wouldnt have said that for many years, because I dont want to say Im proud of any of them, necessarily—because I dont want to cast any judgment on them. You want to just put them out there, and to let people have their own reactions to them.

When watching the film for its Criterion re-release, though, he found himself thinking positively, if in the third person: This isnt bad, and its use of music is good. The director was still somewhat under the spell of Casino and Goodfellas about how to link editing and camera movement together with an unending string of songs that change the mood on a dime. It has some of that influence in it. I lucked out with the actors, both professional and non-professional.

Really, Payne continued, The other thing Im proud of is capturing a flavor of a genuine Midwestern high school. The movie was put out by Paramount, a big studio, but it doesnt feel like a studio movie. It feels like a film with its own integrity. Part of me wishes I could get back to that now. Its like that Woody Allen movie, Stardust Memories, where they ask him, Why dont you make more movies like the earlier, funnier ones? Well, you hear that from others—but you also hear that from a voice inside yourself.

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

— Abigail Disney is calling for her familys company to raise the salaries of thousands of employees

Fresh off a tirade encouraging Donald Trump to stonewall Democratic subpoenas, Lindsey Graham kicked off William Barrs Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday by rehashing the Hillary Clinton e-mail controversy, a matter settled by the F.B.I. close to three years ago now, and vowing to probe the origins of the investigation into the president and his campaign. When the Mueller report is put to bed, and it soon will be, Graham said in his grating opening remarks, this committee is going to look long and hard at how this all started.

At one point, Graham went full-on conspiracy crank, alleging the Clinton team went to great lengths to dispose of pertinent evidence. There was a protective order for the server issued by the House and there was a request by the State Department to preserve all the information on the server, he said. Paul Combetta, after having the protective order, used a software program called BleachBit to wipe this email server clean . . . Eighteen devices possessed by Secretary Clinton she used to do business as secretary. How many of them were turned over to the F.B.I.? None. Two of them could be turned over because Judith Casper took a hammer and destroyed two of them. What happened to her? Nothing. (Both the BleachBit and hammer-smashing theories are popular on the right.)

It was a familiar stance for Graham, whose public defenses of the president and his allies have at time left him beet red and gasping for breath. Barrs appearance before the committee, it seemed, struck a similar nerve. Wednesday was Barrs first appearance before Congress following the release of the redacted Mueller report, in which the special counsel did not establish that the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin in 2016, but described a pattern of behavior by the president that suggested he was attempting to strangle the investigation. Barr has been criticized for his handling of the probe, including by Mueller himself, who complained in a letter to Barr that his investigators work had been misrepresented in the four-page summary Barr submitted to lawmakers. The summary letter the Department sent to Congress and released to the public late in the afternoon of March 24 did not fully capture the context, nature, and substance of this Offices work and conclusions, Mueller wrote. There is now public confusion about critical aspects of the results of our investigation.

Democrats have used Muellers letter to raise a fresh round of questions about Barrs motivations. But Graham, one of Trumps most obnoxious advocates on the Hill, echoed the presidents talking points about the probe, as well as his insistence that it was actually Clinton and the Democrats who committed crimes. The South Carolina Senator said in his opening statement Wednesday that there was no collusion, no coordination, no conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government—which isnt quite what Mueller said in his report. While the special counsel does acknowledge that his team didnt find evidence of a conspiracy, he says at one point that investigators faced limitations in conducting their work and that the Office cannot rule out the possibility that the unavailable information would shed additional light on (or cast in a new light) the events described in the report. In short, investigators not finding evidence of collusion is not the same as there not having been any collusion, as Barr, Trump, and Graham claim. Graham continued Wednesday that because there was no underlying crime, there could be no obstruction—leaving out the possibility that obstructive behavior by the president and those around him, if successful, would have made it impossible to find evidence of such a crime.

Of course, Grahams opening statement was largely political, meant to provide cover for a president whose apparent abuses of power were painstakingly catalogued by the special counsel. As such, it wasnt enough to merely defend the president—Graham also parroted Trumps attacks on investigators and sought to re-litigate the Clinton e-mail controversy. He lashed out at Peter Strzok, an F.B.I. agent leading the Clinton probe who expressed opposition to Trump in text messages, saying that Strzok hated Mr. Trumps guts—and reading through some of the texts to prove it. He also vowed, as Trump and Barr have, to look into the origins of the Russia probe, including what he suggested were surveillance abuses by the F.B.I. and Department of Justice.

The bottom line is, were about to hear from Mr. Barr, the results of a two year investigation into the Trump campaign, all things Russia, the actions the president took before and after the campaign, $25 million, 40 F.B.I. agents, Graham said. I appreciate very much what Mr. Mueller did for the country. I have read most of the report. For me, it is over.

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

Two years ago, I made a case for why Joe Biden should run for president in 2020, and I confess I had to look it up in order to remember why. This was a case of literally—to use a favorite Biden word—asking, What was I thinking? Turns out I was highlighting the normal stuff (likability, experience, folksiness) and, more important, writing in a spirit of the more the merrier, like a drunken party-goer beckoning another guest into a crowded Jacuzzi. But sober eyes reminded me that not all soakers are equal. I failed to consider that the entrance of Biden might crowd out everyone else. Biden now leads the Democratic polls by a wide margin. Rather than enlivening the party, Bidens candidacy could wind up cutting it short.

Despite the many reasons he could flame out early, Biden now seems to be the likeliest presidential nominee. In a field with too many candidates already, almost two dozen, Biden will get far with even a small plurality, and he feels like a safe choice. Much as anybody-but-Bush sentiment pushed Democratic primary voters to John F. Kerry, perceived as most electable among his rivals, anybody-but-Trump sentiment will play a powerful role in 2020, leading many Democrats to shy away from big gambles. That could either be a fatal mistake—Kerry lost in 2004, and Hillary Clinton lost in 2016, where bolder candidates might have won—or it could be a shrewd judgment, as was seen with Bill Clinton in 1992. So lets ask a narrow question: If your sole goal is to get Donald Trump the hell out of office, is Joe Biden the safest choice of challenger?

Plenty of factors point to yes. Any Democrat starts with certain advantages, chief among them that Democrats start out with a larger number of locked-in states. For Biden, in particular, prospects are even better. A hefty majority (80 percent) of Democrats likes him, and so, remarkably, does about a third of Republicans. Many of the old positions that are getting him in trouble with Democratic primary voters—such as his backing for tough anti-crime measures in the 1990s—help more than hurt in a general election. He has a folksy manner and a sincere affection for the working class that Hillary Clinton, if she felt it, never managed to convey. He has White House experience. He is kind. He shies away from drastic policy ideas. He seems non-threatening and familiar. Average Joe. Maybe thats why he beats Trump in polls so far—not just nationally, but in crucial swing states like Pennsylvania—and unfamiliar and unseasoned Democrats like Beto ORourke dont.

But to assume Biden is a safe bet is to forget that some of his vulnerabilities are serious and unique. A minor one is a propensity for gaffes, which are often tolerated if an overall message is strong, but this is tied to a major one, which is an absence of coherence overall. Biden as a senator was never known for getting to the point, offering epic monologues that often sounded more like sleep talk than anything resembling thought, and age isnt proving to be the cure. Asked recently about Trumps trade war with China, Biden offered such a mess of words—just read the whole statement, because its the non sequiturs that distinguish it—that only journalists quoting him selectively could pretend to make sense of it. It takes a lot to make Donald Trump sound articulate, but Joe Biden can manage. In an election about serious ideas—and Trump offered those in 2016, despite the buffoonish wrapping—youre behind if you seem like you dont have any.

More important, to the extent that Biden has a message, its a dicey one. Biden seems to think he can attract support by highlighting the problem of Trump-era racial conflict, which he chose to put front and center in his video, reminding viewers of the atrocious events in Charlottesville, where a demonstration by white nationalists in 2017 turned deadly. This might appeal to younger voters, and demographic change works in Bidens favor. (In very, very rough terms, over the four-year span between presidential elections, about 10 million old people die, and about 10 million young people turn 18.) But about 7 million to 9 million voters picked Barack Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016, and most are likely to be alive still. A focus on race seems like one of the least promising means by which to reach them.

Let us be specific about why: According to one study, racial resentment played a crucial role in the defections of Obama voters to Trump. (This causes lazy commenters to say that racism elected Donald Trump, but that muddies the problem. Racism, by almost any definition, is a different beast from, say, resentment over affirmative action.) Its easy to forget that the late Obama era was characterized by a surge in racial hostility, with riots in several cities. Americans were bitter in their divisions over who was responsible for this unrest—for some, the villains took the form of enforcers of racial oppression; for others, of agitprop activists—and resentment ran strong. Its likely that many Obama voters who jumped to Trump took the law-and-order side against the activists. They may agree that Trump is bigoted, and they may be open to kitchen-table arguments for a Democrat. But Biden, who in a general election could have counted on the woke vote anyway, is offering one of the unlikeliest pitches for winning them back.

Finally, and fundamentally, whether you consider Biden to be a safe bet has a lot to do with whether you consider the idea of a third term for Obama to be a safe bet. In his campaign-announcement video, Biden offered a restoration of what we had—suggesting Americans view the presidency of Donald Trump as an aberrant moment in time, and remember who we are. But, for many voters, a sense of hopelessness and alienation grew rather than receded during Obamas presidency. Bidens praise of unions or vague talk of helping out the middle class this time around, all the while downplaying the idea that China is a serious economic threat, is unlikely to inspire those left behind. Maybe those who fled to Trump are in the mood for the status quo that preceded him. But if you toss out your old pillow and dont like the new one, are you going to go back to the old one—or are you likelier to take a chance, once more, on something new?

Aside from his global fame and his love affair with soft-serve ice cream, Joe Bidens biggest calling card at this budding stage of the presidential race is the mushy notion of electability. Biden, the former vice president, isnt outright saying that he would be the best foil against Donald Trump next year, but hes laying it on thick, mugging for the cameras in Iowa diners and bragging to a Teamsters union hall in Pittsburgh that the road back to the White House runs straight through working-class Pennsylvania. Bidens home turf. Shot-and-a-beer territory, as Richard Ben Cramer called it.

The imagery is not subtle. Biden wants Democrats to know that he and he alone is best positioned to reclaim the Upper Midwest after Trumps Electoral College burglary in 2016. With Biden, you know what youre in for: a tested statesman with populist charm who can clean up Trumps malarkey on day one. He can go to the Hague one day, and then show up at Sturgis the next. And folks, if youre not getting the message, his allies will give it to you loud and clear: Biden. Can. Win.

This is do-or-die, and Joe Biden is the best candidate to go against Trump in November, said Dick Harpootlian, a state senator in South Carolina who recently hosted a Biden fund-raiser in Columbia. Would Joe Biden be running if he thought any of these other folks could beat Donald Trump? No way. We cant risk this thing with someone who has not done this before, who is unchallenged, who is untested. There is something to be said for two old white guys going at it. The African-Americans in the State Senate with me are going to be with him overwhelmingly. Because this is a pragmatic year. This isnt a battle of ideologies or identity or Medicare for All or a Green New Whatever. Its all about who can stop this juvenile narcissist from getting a second term.

The glaring counterpoint to Harpootlians argument is the most shopworn of political clichés: Democrats fall in love, and Republicans fall in line. Since Vietnam, every time a Democrat has won the presidency, its because Democrats voted with their hearts in a primary and closed ranks around the candidate who inspired them, promising an obvious break from the past and an inspiring vision that blossomed in the general election. Jimmy Carter. Bill Clinton. Barack Obama. All were young outsiders who tethered their message to the culture of the time. When Democrats have picked nominees cautiously and strategically—falling in line—the results have been devastating, as Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton made plain. Its not a perfect rule: While Gore and Clinton didnt quite electrify the country, they still won the popular vote. And George McGovern was a heart candidate who got slaughtered by Richard Nixon in 1972. But the McGovern wipeout is kind of what Biden and his loyalists are clinging to: the idea that this Trump moment, like the wrenching 60s, is so existential and high stakes that Democrats will overlook their usual instincts and do the sensible thing. Theatrical and Irish, Biden surely is hoping that he can be a vehicle for both passion and pragmatism. But if he wins the nomination next year, it will be because Democrats went with their heads, not their bleeding hearts.

This is just not a normal year, Harpootlian told me. I believe that pragmatic Democrats will vote in larger numbers than what you would call the ideologue candidates. Joes record in Congress wasnt particularly stellar, but they understand the importance of winning in November of 2020. The folks that I talk to, they arent looking for a socialist, or trying to make a statement on the basis of identity or sex or gender. They want somebody to run the country in a normal fashion that typifies the dignity of the office. People want stability.

Mounting an electability argument is a risky gambit in a Democratic primary. Recent election cycles are littered with unheeded calls to look ahead to the general election, while genuine passion flowed elsewhere. Hillary Clinton made such a case about Bernie Sanders in 2016—she called herself a progressive who likes to get things done—but her electability strategy was far more pronounced in 2008. She announced in 2007 with a statement that Beto ORourke would be proud of: Im in. And Im in to win. As Clinton ran against Obama, who was rallying a diverse coalition of young anti-war voters and African-Americans, she memorably downplayed her gender and the history-making possibility of her own candidacy, choosing instead to highlight her toughness against the callow young outsider. She was the deal-making insider, brimming with experience and the right connections, who would be ready to take that infamous 3 A.M. phone call at a time of national emergency. Clinton held an enormous lead in national polls throughout the entirety of 2007, even leading Obama by as much as 20 points in some surveys as late as December, just weeks before the Iowa caucuses.

But Clintons team was entitled. They were contemptuous of the obvious cultural and generational tides pushing against her, so twisted up by their defensive posture over the Iraq War and her shifting positions, that they closed Clintons Iowa campaign with a slogan by committee straight out of Veep: Big Challenges, Real Solutions: Time to Pick a President. When Oprah Winfrey announced her endorsement of Obama in late 2007, Clinton backer Tom Vilsack was hilariously dismissive. Im not sure who watches her, Vilsack said as Oprah and Obama packed arenas and stadiums in Iowa and South Carolina. Even as their staffs peddled negative stories about one another to the press, Clintons public strategy was largely to ignore Obama, until it was too late.

Electability became Clintons guiding light in that primary fight, in a way that ultimately turned toxic. Even as she faded in the delegate chase against Obama and was facing questions about why she remained in the race, Clinton reminded an editorial board in South Dakota that Bobby Kennedy was assassinated late in his campaign, so all the better to stick around until the bitter end. (She quickly apologized.) During the long Pennsylvania primary, after Obama was caught on tape at a San Francisco fund-raiser saying that working-class Americans can get bitter and cling to guns or religion, Clinton immediately targeted older white voters around the state by calling Obama elitist, and talking up her own fondness for church and firearms. Just a few months later, Sarah Palin would echo the charges against Obama in the very same Pennsylvania towns.

Clintons focus on winning became her reason for running, the message du jour for almost every day of that long primary slog, obscuring the core reasons she had to run for president, big ideas on health care, energy independence, and cleaning up the miasma in Iraq. All the while, Obama aimed straight for the hearts of primary voters, embracing his outsider status and anti-war pedigree in a way that dovetailed with the political moment. Like Clinton, he downplayed his identity in speeches. But he was not afraid to find ways to leverage his race to curry favor with black voters where he needed it. His skin color, like Hillarys gender, was a powerful symbol that moved and excited Democrats, even if it remained largely unspoken. The dynamic left the many other white guys in the 2008 race in the dust, particularly John Edwards, who was ever so gently making the case that he could better appeal to white moderate voters in red states, an argument that Biden is tiptoeing around today, even as rural whites have largely made a home in the Republican Party. Predictably, Edwardss electability plea fell on deaf Democratic ears. Voters, donors, and journalists were just interested in seeing other people. Edwardss always-forthcoming wife, Elizabeth, let her frustration over the matter show.

We cant make John black. We cant make him a woman, she told an interviewer in 2007. Those things get you a lot of press.

Electability campaigns havent always gone bust. Late in 2003, John Kerry was able to mount a comeback on the idea that he was best suited to confront George W. Bush in wartime, thanks to his service in Vietnam and his tenure on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Democrats werent exactly gung ho about the charisma-deprived Kerry—aloof was the preferred adjective of the pundit class—but he entered the campaign as a front-runner nonetheless. The unexpected rise of Howard Dean, who ran hard against the Iraq War and ignited a powerful grassroots following, became concerning to many moderate Democrats who figured Dean was too liberal to take on Bush. Iowans shopped around and eventually settled on Kerry, who fizzled early in his race, but later emerged the consensus choice after the other horses failed to impress. A bumper sticker became popular at the time: Dated Dean. Married Kerry. Its not implausible to envision Biden hanging out by the altar come next February.

Kerry explicitly said, You want me on that debate stage against George W. Bush. I took the bullets, said Mark Kornblau, Kerrys press secretary in 2004. He projected strength in that primary in a way that was believable to voters. Kerry, I felt, captured the nomination based on a projection of strength that was comforting to Democrats who knew exactly who the occupant of the White House was.

Kornblau would go on to work for Edwards three years later, which gave him key insight about electability messages: they can actually work, if primary voters know who the opponent will be that November. Edwards and Clinton, each running on general-election viability in 2008, had no idea who would emerge as the Republican nominee, let alone that the worlds economy would begin to fray as Election Day approached. In Kerrys case, he could define himself and his foreign-policy agenda directly against Bush, the man in the White House prosecuting two wars. In 2008, everyone was running against an unknown, Kornblau told me. Democratic voters didnt have in their heads the Bush of 2004, or the Trump of 2020.

All of the Democrats running in 2020 have set their sights on Trump, but Biden seems most intent on rising above the internecine Democratic squabbles over identity and ideology, focusing squarely on Trump. Yet unlike Kerry, who ran against Bush in wartime as the electable national-security guy, the long-winded Son of Scranton has yet to attach his I-Can-Win message to a concise vision and set of values. Right now, Biden is just assumed to be the Guy Who Can Beat Trump, but do Democrats really know why? Saying I am electable for some demographic or primary campaign reason is not sellable, Kornblau said. Electability has to be a visceral feeling by the voter, not just a strategic move.

Given his nearly 50 years in American politics, Biden can authoritatively make the case that he is best equipped to step onto the global stage and be a competent, get-shit-done president after dispatching Trump. He would be wise to focus on his stature and what he would do in office, because Democrats have a fondness for thinking about whats next. Somewhere inside Bidens theory of electability is the hazy idea that 2020 will just be a do-over of 2016, only with a more inspiring candidate atop the ticket. Bernie Sanders is offering a similar promise with the Revolution 2.0: that the essential malfunction of 2016 was Clinton and her failure to inspire key voting groups in the right states. Electability means re-running the same program with a new input, like that scene in Waynes World 2 when Wayne swaps out the D-list actor at the gas station for Charlton Heston. But that feels like a miscalculation. The next presidential election will not be like the last one. They never are. So who knows what electable really means? Does it mean playing it safe with a seventysomething white man when the country just elected a raft of millennials, women, African-Americans, Muslims, gays, and bisexuals to governors mansions, city halls, and Congress, many of them in suburban swing districts and others in districts long held by Republicans? Legions of new Democratic voters were activated by Trumps election and last years midterms. If youre one of those Democrats, its difficult to look at the results of 2018 and not think that pretty much anyone, regardless of race, gender, or background, has a shot at winning.

We dont know what its going to take to beat Trump, said Amanda Litman, a former Hillary Clinton aide who co-founded Run For Something, a group that recruits Democrats to run for down-ballot offices. To assume that we do and act on that assumption, thats a dangerous risk. Part of electability is to inspire people, to pump people up, and also get their friends to show up. To cultivate a sort of fandom. Excitement and passion are contagious. Candidates who can do that will do better than those who cant. Or, as Ben Smith from BuzzFeed tweeted on Monday, Bizarre the extent to which the electability conversation leaves out the fact that the only Democrat elected in two decades is black.

Polls right now show Biden clobbering the Democratic field. Polls, too, show that Biden wins on the question of who can best beat Trump. But in a CNN poll last week, Sanders, ORourke, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg also beat Trump in head-to-head matchups. Another recent poll from CBS News and YouGov revealed that Democrats would prefer a female candidate over a man, a candidate of color over a white person, and a young nominee over an old one. Polls also reveal, shockingly, that most voters dont really know much about the rest of the candidates. What do all these numbers mean? Biden is popular and famous among Democrats, but primary voters are open to something different and want to hear more about the other candidates. Biden can still win, and should be treated as the front-runner. But he has nowhere to go but down. While polls are useful, they fail to account for Bidens terminal foot-in-mouth disease, the natural ebbs and flows of the news cycle, an ever-changing set of national issues and emergencies, the capacity of candidates to grow and change, or the volatility of the cable-news viewer who sits in the Oval Office. This is why we have campaigns. Be sure to remember that point about 2008 for your next cocktail party: Clinton was beating Obama by 20 points a month before she finished third in Iowa.

I wrote last year about the flimsiness of political punditry that classifies politicians according to their identity: the simplistic concept that women candidates are best positioned to win women, that white men will only vote for white men, that black voters will rally for black candidates. Research has shown that a candidates identity is not fixed. It is conditional on who they are running against in a campaign, what the issues are, and how voters see them in that floating context. Electability, too, is only a condition of the moment. Nothing about the term is predictive. It is always subject to change. At this point four years ago, the least electable person on the planet had not even taken his escalator ride down to the lobby of Trump Tower. Today, he is the president of the United States. So if Biden can surf this moment all the way to November 2020, well, it will be an enormous feat. A Big F–king Deal indeed.

Former Vice President Joe Biden's formal entrance into the 2020 campaign Thursday was met with endorsements, criticism—and, it turns out, a whole lot of cash. The Biden campaign revealed Friday that it had raised $6.3 million in the first day of its campaign, the highest fundraising haul of any 2020 primary candidate. Biden crushed it, one bundler told Politico.

Biden's one-day haul came from more than 96,000 donors whose donations averaged $41 each, including 65,000 new donors who weren't on existing email lists. The campaign received donations from all 50 states within 90 minutes of Biden's campaign announcement video going live, and of Biden's online donations, 97% of online donations were less than $200. Though Biden has vowed not to accept money from registered lobbyists and corporate PACs, much like his fellow candidates, he isn't shirking big-money fundraisers as Sen. Elizabeth Warren is, and his one-day total includes $700,000 from a fundraiser Thursday night in Pittsburgh. The campaign's first-day totals were reportedly something that Biden had been concerned about, stressing in a call the night before his announcement that the campaign was going to be judged by what we can do in the first 24 hours, the first week. People think Iowa and New Hampshire are the first test, Biden said. Its not. The first 24 hours. Thats the first test.

The candidate's 24-hour total presumably put his fears to rest, as Biden's numbers cemented his front-runner status by blowing past those of his fellow candidates. Beto O'Rourke had previously held the first-day fundraising record of $6.1 million, while Sen. Bernie Sanders came in second with $5.9 million—though both candidates attracted more donors than Biden, receiving donations from 128,000 and nearly 225,000 donors, respectively. Biden's one-day haul has even outmatched many candidates' entire first-quarter fundraising hauls, including those of Warren and Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker. Whether Biden will be able to sustain his record fundraising pace is a different matter; many big Democratic donors are either holding off until later in the race or donating to multiple candidates, and far-left groups are already taking a stand against the 76-year-old's candidacy. But the unexpectedly high first-day total, coupled with Biden's decisive lead in the polls, are ensuring that the candidate enters the 2020 race on strong footing nevertheless. Joe is going to do a lot better than a lot of people think, Democratic fundraiser Chris Korge told Politico before Biden's announcement. Theres broad support from him in our party, just look at the polling.

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

Perhaps more than any other Democratic candidate for president, Joe Biden is a comedians dream. The former vice president and former senator from Delaware has an extensive record—and, more importantly, a famous tendency for committing gaffes at record rates. As Trevor Noah put it on The Daily Show Thursday night, The only thing that spends more time in Bidens mouth than those perfect teeth is his own foot.

In a weird way, I feel like these gaffes are what made Biden the perfect balance to President Obama, Noah added. You know, because . . . Obama . . . measured every . . . word. You could feel . . . him . . . thinking . . . as he was . . . talking. But when Biden talks, his brain just clicks Im Feeling Lucky, and the first result comes out of his mouth.

Biden announced his presidential campaign Thursday, with a video calling for supporters not to grant Donald Trump eight years in the White House—although it was hard to absorb any of what he was saying after seeing that unfortunate font choice, or the curious way the video was shot. (As Jimmy Fallon put it on The Tonight Show, Is he running for president, or trying to sell me a reverse mortgage?)

Yes, Noah conceded, Biden has a formidable list of accomplishments. For example, hes known as an expert dealmaker in Washington, with a gift for working across the aisle: Thats right. Joe Biden was so good at getting stuff done, he even found a way to work with Mitch McConnell, Noah said. And they probably got along because Mitch was the only person Biden wouldnt give a massage to.

Any politician who has served as many decades as Biden is bound to rack up some baggage. But Biden does have a lot in his past to answer for, including his treatment of Anita Hill, passing the now-controversial 1994 crime bill, and voting for the Iraq war. So on the downside, Joe Biden got a lot of things wrong back in the day, Noah said. But on the upside? He managed to grow his hair back!

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

— Abigail Disney is calling for her familys company to raise the salaries of thousands of employees

On Thursday morning, Joe Biden announced his presidential campaign not with a bang, but a video. In it, he said some stuff, Im sure. Something about unity? It was great. But also, I couldnt hear what he was saying over the noise of that font. Did you see and/or hear the font? Right there at the beginning of the video, when Biden reads a quote from the Declaration of Independence, the same quote pops up in script to the left of his head. This is the font of a Hallmark condolence card. Its the font of a budget wedding invite. It is the font of cheese.

The thought process here seems fairly transparent: the team wanted something that would hat-tip cursive, what the real Declaration of Independence is written in, but in a more easily readable version. That compromise, it turns out, creates something funereal.

And the tweet! Oh boy, the tweet. Whats going on with that thing, huh? He tweeted his announcement as well . . . with weirdly spaced . . . ellipses . . . like this. The ellipses, plus those two little hyphens in a row— — America — —rather than the grammatically complete em dash, makes it read like the tweet of dear, old gramps. But then, of course, hes trying to prove his mettle to a specific demographic, and its not the demographic known for deftly executed tweet syntax. Between Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, and Beto ORourke, those folks have been taken care of. These are the consecutive hyphens and weird ellipses of a man who is shooting for bigger game: older Republicans who are ready to go Dem, baby.

Good thing nobody cares about how good a candidate is at the Internet. Remember, the guy who repeated cyber on the campaign trail like a malfunctioning sex robot is in the White House.

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

In the politics of American memory, the harsh reality of the past has traditionally been obscured by a more romantic idea of ourselves. At one time, our culture could look beyond the past and reshape it, much like how Manifest Destiny transformed this country as it moved westward. Our public statues and memorials—to the genocidal Andrew Jackson or the slaver Robert E. Lee—are a testament to how myth becomes history. Yet in the digital age, past deeds—both bad and good—cannot so easily be erased or forgotten. No one in American politics today knows this better than Joe Biden.

Ever since Biden announced his run for the presidency, his candidacy has found itself on a collision course with the politics of memory. Bidens record—built on 40 years in the public eye—plays out not as a dusty old melody, but on shiny screens that can summon the past with a click. His tone deafness at the October 11, 1991, testimony of Anita Hill before the Senate Judiciary Committee is now being replayed on a feedback loop, one Biden cannot escape. At a time when America is debating how to render judgment about racism and sexism in the context of history, Bidens venial sins—such as opposing federally mandated busing or eulogizing the segregationist Strom Thurmond—occupy a perilous middle ground: far enough in the past to be forgiven by some, but current enough to be captured on hours of videotape.

During his recent appearance on ABCs The View, Biden refused to apologize for his treatment of Hill, but at least acknowledged that he must confront rather than hide from the past. He said he holds regret for how he facilitated his fellow senators questioning of Hill. But Biden could easily have called in witnesses to corroborate Hills testimony, rather than allowing the hearings to descend into a prurient discussion of breasts and bestiality. When he told the women of The View that he was sorry she was treated the way she was treated, he missed the mark in such passive acknowledgment of his active failures.

As Biden pointed out in his awkwardly convivial exchange with Joy Behar, Clarence Thomas gained approval by only the narrowest of margins. What Biden sweeps over is that Thomas would never have been confirmed had Biden chosen another course of action. Instead, Biden allowed himself to be steamrolled by Thomas and the Republicans on his committee, who effectively weaponized racial language to characterize the hearings as a high-tech lynching.

Now, Biden wants America to believe he has learned from his mistakes. Its possible. But what took him so long? And what else is he eliding in our increasingly defogging national memory?

It was even more recent—in this century, in 2003—that Biden eulogized Dixiecrat segregationist Strom Thurmond, one of Thomass most vigorous supporters. As Hill herself noted in a 2011 interview in The New York Times Magazine, given Thurmonds history and his constituency, I think he would have been hard pressed to treat a white woman accusing a black man in the same way he treated me. Of course, it is bad form to speak ill of the dead. Still, Biden failed to consider the long-range optics of the appropriateness of his eulogizing Thurmond. He made his choice.

In his eulogy, Biden said he believed time had healed and changed Thurmond, judging from the number of African-Americans on his staff, as well as African-Americans who sought his help. But Thurmond had African-Americans on staff, in spite of decades of efforts he made to stop black political and social progress. Thurmond supported a black man to be on the Supreme Court, but he did so only because he felt Thomas would not push harder to pursue the social transformation Thurmond had once so vigorously fought against.

In his eulogy, Biden spoke of Thurmond as if the South Carolina senator had played only a minor role in this countrys history of racist transgressions. Instead, what Biden could have done was talk about how the politics of race that were part of Thurmonds political life had also shaped his own back home in Delaware.

Though Biden frames his biography through his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, his life as a politician was shaped by the border state of Delaware. Delaware is a provincial hybrid, writes Northwestern University historian Brett Gadsden, meaning it is a place in which both southern and northern modes of confronting race were part of the culture. That means Biden has spent his entire political life navigating a place that blends the cultures of North and South. While the North is often characterized as the Souths antithesis, Delaware stands as a small yet significant example of how Americans have oversimplified our regional divide. One of the first acts of mass resistance in this country took place in 1954 in Milford, Delaware, when a small group of black students were admitted to a local white school. As Malcolm X once proclaimed, As long as you south of the Canadian border, you South.

Soon after his 1972 election to the Senate, Biden found himself mired in the politics of school busing, both nationally and in Delaware. In the summer of 1974, Biden was invited to a community meeting in Newport, Delaware, just south of Wilmington, to discuss the issue of busing with his constituents. While it had been framed as an open discussion, it was secretly organized to pressure Biden to support anti-busing legislation, which he had already done, if not at a level that satisfied many of his white suburban constituents. Biden had campaigned for the Senate as a supporter of the ideals of the civil-rights movement, but he soon found himself making political alliances with the likes of Thurmond and North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms on anti-busing legislation as the political winds had begun to shift on school de-segregation. Bidens political stance on busing, both then and now, appears to be at odds with his position as a social-justice Democrat. Its yet another piece of the public memory of Joe Biden he has yet to confront and explain.

Biden is part of a long tradition of alliances between old-line segregationist Southern politicians and East Coast liberals. Senator Ted Kennedy forged a strong relationship with white supremacist James Eastland, one that led to Kennedy giving the 1978 commencement address at the University of Mississippi. Eastland and Kennedy were a political odd couple, each using the other to his advantage.

During his commencement address, Kennedy said, How can you invite a Kennedy to be a graduation speaker at Ole Miss? Eastland replied by saying, Because Im not running for re-election. There is both humor and truth in this exchange. Eastland knew bringing Kennedy to Ole Miss could not be brought out against him in the future. But a larger agenda was at work here as well. Eastland was seeking to affect the way he would be viewed in historical memory. Somehow, Eastland did not think his vicious segregationist past would loom larger than that light moment on the dais in Oxford. Today, this piece of public memory is a footnote, with Eastlands darker politics largely overshadowing it. This should serve as an object lesson to Biden.

Biden views his celebration of Strom Thurmond, his support of anti-busing legislation, and his grilling of Anita Hill as mere venial sins, lesser transgressions that neither pierce the soul nor affect his state of grace, both personally and politically. His non-apology to Hill amounts to a trip to a public confessional, an effort for which he has not been granted absolution, nor should he be. In fact, Biden has only amplified how much more he has failed to confront.

Of course, Biden and his campaign are well versed in how public memory can be used to political advantage. To launch his 2020 campaign, Biden used an event from the recent past—the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville—to frame his candidacy, which he says is a battle for the soul of this nation. Bidens inaugural campaign video would look very different had it featured scenes from his own political past. It is almost as if Biden is saying we should forget his place and role in American memory, and allow him to help us forge a path forward out of the Trump era. And perhaps we should. But can American voters, in a political culture that already has a tenuous relationship with truth and reality, allow a politician who has spent so many years in the public arena to escape his past? And shouldnt we consider how Biden could have altered the course of our current political trajectory decades ago, had he made different choices?

Our digital world has destroyed our cultural ability to forgive and forget. This shift has made American society position tangible public acts of atonement ahead of pure unfettered forgiveness. Still, a quest for redemption must be accompanied by atonement. Bidens lack of atonement in his pronouncements may be the real hurdle to the redemption he appears to be seeking.

W. Ralph Eubanks is the author of Ever Is a Long Time: A Journey into Mississippis Dark Past and The House at the End of the Road. He is a visiting professor of English and Southern studies at the University of Mississippi and is currently at work on a book on Mississippis literary landscape.

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

After months of indecision, Joe Biden officially flung himself into the 2020 race on Thursday morning with a brief video announcing his intention to return America to its pre-Donald Trump glory. We are in the battle for the soul of this nation, he says, framing his candidacy as a bid to restore the Obama coalition and bring decency back to the White House. The implicit paean to the status quo wont be popular with the left—the progressive Justice Democrats have already slammed Biden as a centrist interloper—but Bidens big-tent politics nevertheless represent a clear and present danger to the rest of the Democratic field. In an era when much of the country is pining for a return to normalcy, Biden is the front-runner to beat.

The most immediate threat is to fellow centrists (Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bennet, John Delaney, Tim Ryan) and other would-be unifiers (Beto ORourke and Pete Buttigieg, who share Bidens policy-lite politics), but his potential appeal isnt limited to predefined electoral lanes. As polling firm Morning Consult found back in February, theres plenty of overlap between Biden and Bernie Sanders voters: when asked to identify their second choice for a presidential candidate, about a quarter of Bernies supporters said they would go with Biden, and vice versa. That might be because those two candidates have the highest name recognition (near 100 percent) in the Democratic field. But it also suggests that Biden and Sanders, for all their policy differences, share a similar political orientation that is resonating with voters.

With Biden finally in the race, will he siphon support from his left, too? Hes already hired Symone Sanders, Bernies former press secretary during the 2016 campaign, suggesting that he is thinking not just about how to appeal to Bernie voters, but also how to make his (old, white) campaign both younger and more diverse.

The danger for Biden, as for Sanders, is that hes already a known quantity. Biden has a commanding lead in most polls (with Sanders in second), but much of his popularity is a function of name ID. Biden could rise as opponents drop out, consolidating his support. But in the shorter term, it may be that polling drops off as voters get to know new candidates. Buttigieg, for instance, remains unknown by about a third of Democratic primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. As Nate Silver argues, better to be polling at 10 percent with low name recognition than 20 percent with high name recognition.

For now, Bidens perceived electability works in his favor. But as the primary race goes on, and voters get more comfortable with other candidates, those dynamics could shift. Bidens favorables are off the charts, but theres plenty of room to go down. A brief flurry of media attention earlier this month regarding Bidens history of over-affectionate behavior toward women is likely the tip of the iceberg.

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

Time, Twitter, and VHS continue to be the bane of Joe Bidens presidential campaign. As if the left needed another reminder that Biden has been in politics for decades, and that the center of the Democratic Party used to be considerably further to the right than it is today, along comes video unearthed by CNNs KFile, in which Biden takes a practically Trumpian tone when talking about tightening U.S. immigration laws, building fences along the U.S.-Mexico border, punishing sanctuary cities, and jailing employers who hire illegals.

The clip is from 2006, which isnt that old, but is also a lifetime in Democratic politics. Barack Obama was against gay marriage. Kirsten Gillibrand was opposed to amnesty for illegal immigrants (another KFile exclusive) and was calling for increased deportations. In 2007, Gillibrand would say you have to close the borders in order to right size immigration—the same year that Senator Bernie Sanders opposed comprehensive immigration reform on the basis that millions of people coming into the country would drive wages down even lower than they are now for American citizens. Gillibrand and Biden have both evolved a lot since then. (Sanders, for what its worth, remains somewhat more skeptical about immigration than the median Democratic presidential candidate.)

Democratic centrists probably wont care all that much about the new Biden video. They might even agree with him. Still, its another tally in the non-woke column for the 76-year-old Scrantonite, who has already committed a multitude of progressive sins, from his flippant remarks about touching women to his non-apology apology to Anita Hill, to his past praise of segregationist Strom Thurmond and his opposition to desegregating busing.

The clip itself is sure to provide plenty of fodder for Bidens progressive enemies. Folks, I voted for a fence, I voted, unlike most Democrats—and some of you won't like it—I voted for 700 miles of fence, he says during an appearance at a South Carolina rotary club in November 2006, defending his vote for the Secure Border Act, which allocated over a billion dollars for hundreds of miles of double-layered fence. He went on:

But, let me tell you, we can build a fence 40 stories high—unless you change the dynamic in Mexico and—and you will not like this, and—punish American employers who knowingly violate the law when, in fact, they hire illegals. Unless you do those two things, all the rest is window dressing.

Now, I know I'm not supposed to say it that bluntly, but they're the facts, they're the facts. And so everything else we do is in between here. Everything else we do is at the margins. And the reason why I add that parenthetically, why I believe the fence is needed does not have anything to do with immigration as much as drugs … And let me tell you something folks, people are driving across that border with tons, tons, hear me, tons of everything from byproducts for methamphetamine to cocaine to heroin and it's all coming up through corrupt Mexico …

Asked for comment by CNN on Friday, Bidens team attempted to downplay his past comments and distance their candidate from his pre–Obama era politics. As then-Senator Biden said at the time, we can build a fence 40 stories high, but it will not address the real issues here, the spokesman said, adding that Biden wants to pass comprehensive immigration reform, create a pathway to citizenship, and end Trumps crackdown on sanctuary cities and especially its repugnant treatment of migrant children.

Less than a week after Joe Biden formally announced his presidential run, one of the most potentially awkward aspects of his family history—perhaps even more awkward than his predilection for over-enthusiastic hugging—appears to have resolved itself. Page Six reports that Joe Bidens son Hunter Biden has split up with Hallie Biden, the widow of Hunters late brother, Beau, ending a two-year-long relationship that began after Beau died of brain cancer.

The devastating loss of Beau, the charismatic attorney general of Delaware and a rising star in the Democratic Party, was perhaps the foremost reason that Joe Biden decided not to run for office in 2016, despite overwhelming popularity and Beaus reported encouragement. Hunter and Hallie became an item slightly less than two years later, apparently with the Biden parents approval, and while Hunter was separated from his wife. We are all lucky that Hunter and Hallie found each other as they were putting their lives together again after such sadness, Biden told Page Six in 2017. They have mine and Jills full and complete support and we are happy for them. Its unclear what caused the split—sources described the breakup as a private family matter, but amicable. (Hunters ex-wife and the mother of his three children, Kathleen, whom he divorced in 2017, is reportedly thriving and looking better than ever and back on the dating scene.)

Though Biden the Elder was (and remains) the likely front-runner in the 2020 Democratic primary, rumors swirled for months that he might decline to run, in part, because of various family dramas. Hunter Biden was discharged from the military after testing positive for cocaine (hed already received a waiver for a previous drug-related incident), and in a court filing during divorce proceedings, Hunters ex-wife claimed he was spending extravagantly on his own interests including drugs, alcohol, prostitutes, strip clubs, and gifts for women with whom he has sexual relations. (The former couple agreed to settle the divorce in private.) Biden allies and Democratic insiders also feared that Hunters former position on the board of a Ukrainian gas company with ties to an oligarch and former president Viktor Yanukovych would be scrutinized. None of which, it seemed, was Hunter Bidens intent. You know how some people are both fuck-ups and earnest at the same time? Thats how Hunter is. Hes not a bad guy at all, a former colleague of Hunters told my colleague Chris Smith earlier this year.

Back in January, Hunter told Smith that he didnt expect his past to factor into his fathers decision. My father has been a constant source of love and strength in my life. Even though my life has been played out in the media, because I am a Biden, my father never once suggested that the familys public profile should be my priority, he wrote. The priority has always been clear for my dad, as it is, now, for me: Never run from a struggle.

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

The wait is almost over. Joe Biden, whos leading a jam-packed field of Democrats he hasnt officially joined yet, is finally expected to pull the trigger. According to reports in the Atlantic and NBC News on Friday, the former vice president will announce his third presidential bid next Wednesday, ending months of speculation and officially launching his 2020 challenge to Donald Trump. Hell enter the race as a front-runner, sitting atop early polls thanks in part to his high profile. But he will also need to elbow past a crowded field of worthy opponents, some of whom may better reflect the partys diversity and progressive energy.

Biden aides, speaking anonymously, told the Atlantic that the former veep believes the primary will be easier than some might think. He sees a clear path down the middle, especially with Bernie Sanders occupying a solid 20 percent of the progressive base, and most other candidates fighting for the rest, the outlet reported. Its true that Bidens announcement will come as Democrats are increasingly viewing Sanders as the candidate to beat. But of course, Bidens moderation could be a double-edged sword, allowing him to appeal to the middle but potentially turning off voters looking for a fresher face with a little less baggage.

Indeed, Bidens announcement will arrive weeks after several women said he made them feel uncomfortable and disrespected at events with inappropriate touching—allegations that he said in a video would make him more mindful of others personal space. Yet at an event days later, Biden cracked several tone-deaf jokes about the allegations, undercutting assurances that he has taken the womens complaints about his demeaning behavior to heart. Those clumsy attempts to downplay the accusations, as the Atlantic noted, have faded from the news cycle, but are likely to bubble up again once his campaign gets underway—and will continue to aggravate concerns about his political viability in 2019. Many progressives point not just to his behavior with women but also to his role in the Anita Hill hearing as reason for him to not lead the charge for the party. Trump, too, has indicated hell use the sleepy former vice presidents handsiness against him, despite the obvious irony.

Of course, its hard to say how much any of that will really impact Biden. One Biden associate suggested to the Atlantic that it would cast a long shadow on his campaign: There is a concentrated [opposition research] dump on him and will continue to be, the person said. But Biden and his team have been buoyed by his consistently strong showing in early polls, and apparently believe his support could grow over time.

That Biden will once again seek to fulfill his longstanding presidential ambitions is no surprise; hes been hinting at it since 2017 and seemed to accidentally acknowledge his candidacy during a speech last month. Just Thursday, he told a crowd at a union rally in Boston that its time to take back this country. And yet, according to the Atlantic, he was undecided as recently as a couple weeks ago. That means hell have to play a little catch-up in fundraising and next steps. But Biden is likely to be a formidable candidate—the most experienced, and one of the best-known and most popular. Whether that is enough to propel him through a grueling primary remains to be seen.

Former Vice President Joe Bidens attempt at getting ahead of his Anita Hill problem backfired on Thursday, as the newly-announced presidential candidates campaign leaked a conversation between the two—only to be quickly upstaged by Hills own account of the event. Biden has long faced criticism over his treatment of Hill during Justice Clarence Thomass 1991 Supreme Court hearing, which he presided over as the then-chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Hill has said that Biden could have done more to support her allegation that Thomas had sexually harassed her, including by allowing more witnesses to testify who supported her claims, and said prior to their conversation that Biden had never personally apologized to her.

Undoubtedly anticipating that his treatment of Hill will become an issue for Biden, his campaign confirmed Thursday that the former V.P. had recently spoken with Hill to express his regret over the Supreme Court hearing. They had a private discussion where he shared with her directly his regret for what she endured and his admiration for everything she has done to change the culture around sexual harassment in this country, a campaign spokesman said in a statement. Biden has previously expressed remorse, saying in March that he regret[s] that I could not come up with a way to get her the kind of hearing she deserved.

For Hill, though, the one-on-one with Biden was apparently too little, too late. Soon after news of their conversation broke, The New York Times published Hills own account of their discussion, which she said left her feeling deeply unsatisfied and could not characterize as a full apology. I cannot be satisfied by simply saying Im sorry for what happened to you. I will be satisfied when I know there is real change and real accountability and real purpose, Hill told the Times, adding that she would not be supporting Biden's candidacy. Biden needs to give an apology to the other women and to the American public because we know now how deeply disappointed Americans around the country were about what they saw, she said.

Hills response ensures that the 1991 hearing will continue to haunt Bidens campaign, particularly given the recent controversies surrounding his handsiness, and the diverse slate of qualified female candidates hes running against. Even before Biden officially announced his campaign, the 76-year-old white male candidate faced heightened scrutiny during the She the People presidential forum in Houston on Wednesday. The events female attendees of color didnt hold back in their criticism of Biden—one attendee wore a shirt saying I still believe Anita Hill—perhaps foreshadowing the candidates difficulties in winning over a younger and more diverse Democratic base. I know that we have been cultured to feel that only the white man can save us, organizer Roxy D. Hall Williamson said at the event. I just don't feel like Biden is our answer.

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

Trump lawyer Rudy Giulianis plan to make Joe Bidens Ukrainian entanglements into the next Benghazi is not faring well. Giuliani has recently been playing up an investigation into the Burisma Group, where Hunter Biden previously served as a board member. His theory: that then-Vice President Joe Biden called to remove former Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin, who was leading an investigation into Burisma, to protect his sons interests. There doesnt seem to be much to that theory, however. In an interview on Thursday, Ukraines current prosecutor general Yuriy Lutsenko distanced himself from Giuliani, and emphasized that the Ukrainian government had no plans to investigate Bidens son.

While there is an ongoing probe involving Burismas owner in conjunction with a long-running criminal investigation into another mogul, he told Bloomberg, that matter is unrelated to Biden, and neither Biden nor Burisma are directly under investigation. He added that he would forward information to U.S. Attorney General William Barr about payments to the Burisma board—where Hunter Biden was apparently paid up to $50,000 a month—to determine whether Biden had paid U.S. taxes on the income. I do not want Ukraine to again be the subject of U.S. presidential elections, Lutsenko told Bloomberg. Hunter Biden did not violate any Ukrainian laws—at least as of now, we do not see any wrongdoing. A company can pay however much it wants to its board.

Even before now, Giulianis plan had met with some roadblocks. As Bloomberg noted, the timeline doesnt add up; Biden seniors call came a year after Biden Jr. had left the Burisma board. Still, Giuliani had been doggedly pursuing it, even planning a trip to Ukraine to encourage the government to continue the probe, which could theoretically have damaged one of Donald Trumps political rivals. He ultimately decided to scrap the trip due to the Democratic spin. They say I was meddling in the election—ridiculous—but thats their spin, Giuliani said about pushing for the Burisma Group investigation, which he previously claimed could yield information [that] will be very, very helpful to my client.

The Bloomberg comments appear to be a reversal for Lutsenko, who The New York Times previously reported had reopened the investigation into the Burisma Group, and who has reportedly already met with Giuliani multiple times. Before splitting with Giuliani with his most recent interview, the prosecutor was even seen as something of a Trump shill: His reported decision to reopen the investigation was seen by some as an attempt to curry favor with Trump, and Lutsenko has also previously investigated whether other Ukrainian officials attempted to sway the 2016 election in favor of Hillary Clinton. He also helped to turn the Trump camp against the soon-departing Ukrainian ambassador Masha Yovanovitch, who Lutsenko alleged had given him a do not prosecute list that, as my colleague Abigail Tracy noted, was presumably to shield Obama–Clinton allies. (Lutsenko has since walked back those comments and claimed he instead asked Yovanovitch for a do not prosecute list.)

Lutsenkos refusal to investigate Biden now may be the death knell for Giulianis Ukrainian plan, as any investigation seems unlikely under Ukraines next administration. Ukrainian president-elect Volodymyr Zelensky is slated to be sworn into office by the beginning of June and will reportedly replace Lutsenko, whom the Zelensky camp has faulted for his efforts to conspire with Giuliani. Lutshenko has decided his only way to cling onto the prosecutors office is with the help of a Trump ally, Member of Parliament Sergii Leshchenko told The Independent.

While Giuliani has been attempting to get the Zelensky administration behind his investigation scheming, and tried to meet with Zelensky during his now-cancelled trip, that also appears to be a fools errand. According to sources cited by The Independent and The Washington Post, Giulianis Ukrainian efforts havent gone down well with the incoming administration, which would really prefer to stay out of the U.S.s partisan infighting entirely. This is definitely not our war, one person close to Zelensky told the Post. We have to stay away from this as much as possible.

Born and raised in Brooklyn to a paint-salesman father who had emigrated from Poland and a homemaker mother, Sanders went off to the University of Chicago in 1960, where he took on a leading role in the burgeoning civil-rights movement. After graduation, he worked in a psychiatric hospital, taught with Head Start, and labored as a carpenter, eventually landing in the Green Mountain State in 1964, at the age of 23.

Sanders earned a reputation as a pragmatic and effective mayor and presided over an impressive economic transformation of the city (if you can call a population of 38,000 at the time a city), while insisting that housing remain affordable for lower-income residents. He often butted heads with local developers, who were over-eager to convert subsidized housing into luxury condos. Over my dead body are you going to displace 366 working families, Sanders once barked at a landlord.

After serving three terms as mayor of Burlington, Sanders set his sights on Congress, serving eight terms as the Houses sole independent socialist before moving shop over to the Senate in 2007. Despite Hillary Clintons claim that, unlike Sanders, Im a progressive who likes to get things done, Sanders has been adept at getting amendments passed from his outpost, especially in his earlier years—of the 415 amendments Sanders has sponsored, 90 have passed, with 49 passing between 1995 and 2007, according to PolitiFact. But it was his eight-hour filibuster against the proposed extension of the Bush-era tax cuts in December 2010 that laid the groundwork for his 2016 presidential run. Petitions popped up all over the Internet urging him to run in 2012, and the text of his filibuster monologue was even published in book format under the title The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of our Middle Class.

After months of indecision, Joe Biden officially flung himself into the 2020 race on Thursday morning with a brief video announcing his intention to return America to its pre-Donald Trump glory. We are in the battle for the soul of this nation, he says, framing his candidacy as a bid to restore the Obama coalition and bring decency back to the White House. The implicit paean to the status quo wont be popular with the left—the progressive Justice Democrats have already slammed Biden as a centrist interloper—but Bidens big-tent politics nevertheless represent a clear and present danger to the rest of the Democratic field. In an era when much of the country is pining for a return to normalcy, Biden is the front-runner to beat.

The most immediate threat is to fellow centrists (Amy Klobuchar, Michael Bennet, John Delaney, Tim Ryan) and other would-be unifiers (Beto ORourke and Pete Buttigieg, who share Bidens policy-lite politics), but his potential appeal isnt limited to predefined electoral lanes. As polling firm Morning Consult found back in February, theres plenty of overlap between Biden and Bernie Sanders voters: when asked to identify their second choice for a presidential candidate, about a quarter of Bernies supporters said they would go with Biden, and vice versa. That might be because those two candidates have the highest name recognition (near 100 percent) in the Democratic field. But it also suggests that Biden and Sanders, for all their policy differences, share a similar political orientation that is resonating with voters.

With Biden finally in the race, will he siphon support from his left, too? Hes already hired Symone Sanders, Bernies former press secretary during the 2016 campaign, suggesting that he is thinking not just about how to appeal to Bernie voters, but also how to make his (old, white) campaign both younger and more diverse.

The danger for Biden, as for Sanders, is that hes already a known quantity. Biden has a commanding lead in most polls (with Sanders in second), but much of his popularity is a function of name ID. Biden could rise as opponents drop out, consolidating his support. But in the shorter term, it may be that polling drops off as voters get to know new candidates. Buttigieg, for instance, remains unknown by about a third of Democratic primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. As Nate Silver argues, better to be polling at 10 percent with low name recognition than 20 percent with high name recognition.

For now, Bidens perceived electability works in his favor. But as the primary race goes on, and voters get more comfortable with other candidates, those dynamics could shift. Bidens favorables are off the charts, but theres plenty of room to go down. A brief flurry of media attention earlier this month regarding Bidens history of over-affectionate behavior toward women is likely the tip of the iceberg.

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

The poll numbers for his presidential candidate are stubbornly mired in the single digits. The fundraising numbers are equally underwhelming. Still, the Democratic strategist makes a detailed, optimistic case for patience, one anchored firmly in recent history. Seventy percent of the electorate doesn't have a favorite yet, and people are going to have fatigue about the current frontrunners. You see it with Kamala Harris—she had this crazy amazing first week, and then shes leveled off, he says. Everyone in the field is going to get a look, from voters and from the media. Thats what happened to the Republicans in 2016 when they had 17 people in the field—Carly Fiorina had a moment. Herman Cain had a moment, for Gods sake. So were going to get a look. Then he sighs. But, yeah, Bernie is definitely a problem.

The Democratic establishment fear of Sanders started percolating in February when he raised $6 million in the first 24 hours after officially announcing his 2020 run. It escalated into borderline panic in the past few weeks, as Sanders dominated the first-quarter money race, hauling in $18.2 million, and as his polling numbers stayed healthily, steadily solid, in the high- to mid-20s. Part of the reason for his strong start is the nimble digital operation Sanders built during his 2016 run against Hillary Clinton. A greater part is his distinctive theory of the case. Its called having a message, says Cornell Belcher, a pollster for both of Barack Obamas presidential campaigns. He has a clear vision of how the economy and the government should work. You may agree or disagree with Bernies policy ideas, but in this field his message is the most deeply developed, while the others at this point are kind of fuzzy.

Sanders is making more of an effort to connect with voters on a personal level: at the Reverend Al Sharptons convention in New York recently, Sanders tried to bond with the predominantly black audience by talking movingly about how he understood bigotry and persecution because I am the son of immigrants whose family was murdered by the Nazis. Yet the core of Sanderss appeal centers on Medicare for All and rebalancing the economic playing field away from the one percent, just as it did in 2016. Moderate Dems are scrambling to develop alternatives: Senators Chris Coons and Michael Bennet are touting Medicare X, which sounds like the name of the worst Netflix series ever, but is a plan to offer a public option as well as private insurance. Other people are just freaking out: Larry Summers raised the specter of a Sanders nomination as the second, disastrous coming of George McGovern in 1972, and the Center for American Progress, a Clinton-friendly think tank, handed Sanders a gift by attacking him as a millionaire hypocrite. Sanders quickly exploited the episode to bolster his outsider cred, though re-litigating 2016 runs the risk of making Sanders look as if he has a martyr complex. I mean, Bernie wrote a letter in response, then leaked it to the Times! a top strategist for a Democratic contender says. That wasnt some shit that just happened, like an angry phone call.

Even without the perverse help, Sanders wasnt going away anytime soon. I thought Elizabeth Warrens entrance into the race would greatly eat into Bernies numbers because she has an appeal to the same constituency, says Ben LaBolt, an Obama White House strategist. His support is looking fairly durable. This could shape up into the field versus Bernie.

For all the hand-wringing in Beltway Democratic circles, however, the top tier of candidates is staying calm, focusing on winning the race in their own lane before turning their sights to Sanders. So Beto ORourkes camp is far more concerned with fending off Pete Buttigieg as the fresh, young, moderate, white candidate. Harris continues to cultivate women and black voters, keeping her eye on Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, and (perhaps) Stacey Abrams. Joe Biden, when he finally jumps in, may need to engage Sanders a bit in order to solidify his traditional base of blue-collar voters. But all of Sanderss opponents are dubious that he can expand his support, and they are all confident that the Vermont senator will eventually talk himself into trouble.

Bernie has the strongest base and the lowest ceiling, which is a paradox for him, the top strategist says. So the more fragmented the field is, the better the scenario is for him. But the winnowing will come about a year from now. Some of the current field wont make it to Iowa because they wont be able to make payroll. And the first two contests, in Iowa and New Hampshire, will reduce it to a three- or four-person narrative. Fifty-five percent of the vote right now is for neither Biden nor Sanders, the two high-name-recognition candidates. The question is, who gets the biggest market share of the vote for people who arent one of the old guys? We still think it comes down to generation and gender.

One thing is clear, though: whoever emerges as the main rival to Sanders will hammer the argument that a vote for him is a vote to re-elect the Republican incumbent. Bernie is the one guy in the field I think could easily lose to Trump, a strategist for one of his opponents says. And that scares the shit out of me.

Within a few hours of Joe Bidens official presidential announcement, the Justice Democrats, the progressive group behind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezs rise to power, brought out the flamethrower. The old guard of the Democratic Party failed to stop Trump, and they cant be counted on to lead the fight against his divide-and-conquer politics today, began executive director Alexandra Rojas, accusing Biden of standing in near complete opposition to where the center of energy is in the Democratic Party today.

Incredibly, the rebuke from Justice Democrats was among the more anodyne responses on the far left, where Biden—Amtrak Joe, defender of the middle class, Scranton native son—is being treated like Darth Vader. Or, worse, the second coming of Hillary Clinton. If you hear from a candidate that were just going to go back to 2016, its not satisfying, one progressive grassroots organizer told me.

The lefts animosity toward Biden derives in part from a feeling that the Democratic Party is at a crossroads, that the answer to Donald Trump isnt a restoration of the old order but a brash, new, left-wing politics. In fact, about half of registered Democrats identify as moderate or conservative, suggesting that Biden, far from being out of step with the partys base, is actually its best representative. But groups like Justice Democrats, the Working Families Party, Data for Progress, and others, are hoping to seize the moment to change the conversation, either by supporting candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, or pushing the centrists further to the left. Hence the all-out, shock-and-awe style blitzkrieg. Whoever you will support, if it is not Biden, Biden is an existential threat to your candidate. So you have to fuck him up, and hes just the most vulnerable to attack for the most shitty stuff, said progressive activist Sean McElwee, a co-founder of Data for Progress. Its going to be a guerrilla war of placing the shittiest issues and getting the oppo out there.

According to sources I spoke to across the progressive-activist world, the general strategy is to mobilize the grassroots to destroy Bidens greatest asset—his supposed electability—by making him radioactive on the left. The first step, quite literally, is to repeat his political record over and over again. In a single breath, Maurice Mitchell, the national director of the Working Families Party, rattled off Bidens sins: his sexist interrogation of Anita Hill; his lead role in passing the 1994 crime bill that put mass incarceration on steroids; and his longtime cozy relationship with credit-card companies, which he cemented in 2005 with a vote against bankruptcy-protection reforms.

I guess I challenge the premise that were going all out now—all I did was basically just read out his record right now to you, said Mitchell. Hes going to have a lot of opportunities, now that hes in the race, to explain to us and constituents how he could be on the wrong side of history over and over again. (Unmentioned but omnipresent: Bidens voting record on environmental and L.G.B.T.Q. rights, his handsiness with women, and his support for the Iraq War.)

While Bernie Sanders has pledged not to go negative in the 2020 race, far-left operatives dont feel bound by the same rules of political warfare. If I was a candidate whos trying to win an election, I would definitely not shit on Biden, acknowledged McElwee. Im not. Im an analyst who would very much not like to see the most reactionary Democrat in the field become the nominee. Without hesitation, he went for the jugular. I mean, theres a lot of oppo on Biden. . . . The Biden family is like the fucking Lannisters.

Progressive activists argue these attacks arent personal—theyre about protecting the Democratic Party from nominating a candidate who cant beat Trump. Most head-to-head polls show that Biden could dispatch Trump handily, including in the swing states of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. But according to Data for Progress, those numbers reverse when voters are first read statements summarizing Biden and Trumps policy positions, such as Bidens support for the Iraq War or Trumps decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

Donald Trump isnt going to hold back any punches. Hes going to attack every Democrat for everything he possibly can, said Charles Chamberlain, the chairman of Democracy for America, arguing in favor of a trial by fire. I think its a good idea for the entire Democratic primary to be a realistic fight of what were going to be looking at ahead.

Underlying the debate over strategy and tactics are philosophical divisions on the far left between operatives who want to beat Donald Trump, and activists who see Biden as hardly any better. For the D.F.A., Biden is flawed but familiar: They would rather have that than Donald Trump, said Chamberlain, and they want to make sure that we defeat Donald Trump. For others, arguably, Biden is inseparable from the broken political system that led to Trump. For a man who has been in politics so long, Bidens record of actual progressive accomplishments is quite thin, said McElwee. The only thing to his name appears to be groping his way through the most successful Democratic presidency since L.B.J. without fucking it all up.

It is, perhaps, a variation of the left-wing maximalist argument that led Clinton skeptics in 2016 to vote for Bernie or Jill Stein, or no one at all. Nobody wants to re-elect Trump, but if Biden isnt going to support Medicare for All or the Green New Deal, then whats the goddamn point? Theres a really deep problem with democracy that allowed Donald Trump to arrive, and its not just Trump, said the grassroots organizer. The goal is not only to defeat Trump. The goal is to address the underlying problems that allowed Trump to rise.

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

Over the last few weeks, Abigail Disney—the filmmaker, activist, and Disney heir—has caused ripples across Hollywood by calling out the crazy wealth amassed by the company her grandfather co-founded. Shes been especially critical of Disney C.E.O. Bob Iger, saying that while hes done a great job for the company, his reported $65.6 million 2018 payday is unfair when there are Disneyland employees who are struggling to make ends meet. She even went so far as to write an op-ed about the issue, calling on Disney leaders to set aside part of the companys executive bonus pool and give that to the employees who are paid the least.

Well, all of that has evidently caught the attention of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. On Monday, Sanders tweeted about Disneys box-office haul from Avengers: Endgame (thus far, $1.2 billion and counting), calling on the studio to use some of that money to even out the salaries for its employees.

What would be truly heroic is if Disney used its profits from Avengers to pay all of its workers a middle class wage, instead of paying its CEO Bob Iger $65.6 million—over 1,400 times as much as the average worker at Disney makes, he wrote.

In the tweet, Sanders references data that Abigail Disney used in her op-ed. She wrote more specifically that Igers salary is 1,424 times the median pay of a Disney worker.

This isnt the first time Sanders has piped up about Disney. When Abigails op-ed published, Sanders reposted it on his official Facebook page, noting that Abigail Disney is right. It is absurd that CEOs are making over 1,000 times as much as their workers, while workers live paycheck to paycheck and struggle to afford basic needs. Corporate executives should devote resources to workers and communities before buying back stock and giving themselves huge compensation packages. We have to raise the minimum wage in this country to a living wage of $15 an hour and stop this unfettered greed.

When Abigails op-ed was published, a spokesperson for Disney sent Vanity Fair the following statement:

Lets look at the facts: Disney has made historic investments to\nexpand the earning potential and upward mobility of our workers,\nimplementing a starting hourly wage of $15 at Disneyland thats double\nthe federal minimum wage, and committing up to $150 million for a\ngroundbreaking education initiative that gives our hourly employees\nthe opportunity to obtain a college or vocational degree completely\nfree of charge. Mr. Igers compensation is 90 percent\nperformance-based and he has delivered exceptional value for\nshareholders: Disneys market capitalization has grown exponentially\nover the last decade, rising $75 billion in the last month alone, and\nthe stock price has increased to $132 a share from $24 a share when\nMr. Iger became C.E.O. in 2005—all of which directly benefits\nliterally thousands of employees who hold our stock.

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

— Abigail Disney is calling for her familys company to raise the salaries of thousands of employees

As we approach the full-blown primary cycle, dozens of Democratic wannabes are, as expected, lining up to cast themselves as the quintessential anti-Trump candidate. But if Donald Trumps persona is an all-you-can-eat buffet of political and personal depravity, the declining standards hes wrought have emboldened some leading contenders to dabble at the salad bar when it suits them.

Take Joe Biden, who over the course of a long career has earned a reputation as an unfiltered centrist with a divine gift for human connection. In a steady drip of personal essays published over the past couple of weeks, the 76-year-old former vice president has been called out by several women for his handsy hyperfamiliarity, which has manifested in bizarre episodes of hair sniffing as well as unwanted nose-to-nose and forehead-to-forehead contact. Although Biden hasnt yet officially announced hes running in 2020, he remains the Democratic front-runner in polls—and just like No-Apologies Trump, hes not backing down.

Im not sorry for anything that I have ever done, he said on Friday while insisting, I have never been disrespectful intentionally to a man or a woman.

Then theres Bernie Sanders, known for his impassioned speeches railing against the excesses of Wall Street but digging in his heels on the issue of his own finances, à la Tax-Secrets Trump. Despite repeatedly promising that he would release his tax returns ahead of the 2020 presidential primaries, the 77-year-old Vermont senator has continued to stall and make excuses compared to other candidates who have already released their tax information.

Just because you want em today doesnt mean were going to give em to you today, Sanders told CNNs Jake Tapper last week. He has now agreed to release them on Monday.

The two leading Democrats heading into 2020 may differ wildly from President Trump on matters of policy, but as paternalistic septuagenarians who came of age in the Kennedy era, they are demographically cut from the same rigid cloth. And they are both ripping a page out of Trumps entitled-old-white-man playbook, embodying elements of his stubborn personality. Between Sanderss tax-delay tactics—what exactly is he hiding?—and Bidens dismissive sorry-not-sorry video followed by a Twitter spat with the president—why feed the trolls?—the past week has felt like a food fight at the old-folks home. And the race hasnt even started.

If nothing else, living under the Trump administration for the past two and a half years has resulted in the overthrow of many truths we once thought to be self-evident. Weve seen that its possible for a president to lie constantly, about issues both consequential and ridiculous, and get away with it. Weve also seen that its possible for a president to weather massive scandals by deflecting and denying personal accountability without alienating his base. The two leading Democratic candidates seem to be digesting this new data and incorporating it into their algorithm for 2020.

One of Trumps biggest, longest-running fabrications is that hes living his life under an infinite audit, going so far as to speculate that the I.R.S. has targeted him for being a strong Christian. He has cited this audit situation as his prime excuse for being the first president in over 40 years to decline releasing his tax returns to the American public. At the same time, Trump has dangled his tax returns as a bargaining chip, promising a big reveal tied to the release of Obamas birth certificate (2011), his decision to run for office (2014), and the publication of Hillary Clintons emails (2016), all to no avail. Last week, after the House Ways and Means Committee requested the past six years of Trumps returns from the I.R.S., White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney acknowledged Trumps lie, telling Fox News that voters knew the president could have given his tax returns . . . and they elected him anyway, which is, of course, what drives the Democrats crazy.

So, maybe Sanders is thinking, Why should I rush to release my tax returns if Trump didnt do it? Its possible that the contents of Sanderss tax returns are so scandalous that the consequences of not immediately releasing them—even after several other candidates have done so—are politically preferable, especially since he now has proof that in the end it might not matter. But in light of the House Democrats move to obtain Trumps returns, Sanderss reluctance is growing increasingly problematic. Appearing on The Daily Show last week, Sanders told Trevor Noah that April 15 [tax day] is coming, adding that he plans to release 10 full years of taxes to the public very shortly. On Tuesday, he went further, promising that the American public would see his tax returns by next week. But as Trump would say, we will see what happens.

To be sure, when it comes to #MeToo-related issues, Biden and Trump engaged in massively different types of behavior. Nobody has suggested that Bidens unwelcome nuzzling constitutes sexual assault. By contrast, Trump has been accused of assaulting at least a dozen women. He notoriously bragged about grabbing women by the pussy on the infamous Access Hollywood tape that threatened to derail his candidacy in 2016, leading to his only documented apology, clearly made under duress. In a Facebook video shot in front of a backdrop of the New York City skyline, Trump was squinting and angry as he read from a script: I said it. I was wrong and I apologize. A few seconds later he called the whole thing a distraction, and criticized the Clintons for being even worse. He later completely backtracked, telling aides that he thought the tape was fake.

The video that Biden posted on Twitter last week was far more conciliatory. Sure, he didnt really apologize for his actions, but he acknowledged that social norms have shifted, and promised to be more respectful of peoples personal space going forward. It was a good start. But in a Trumpian reversal, a couple of days later he made light of the accusations in a speech he gave in Washington. I just want you to know I had permission to hug Lonnie, he told his audience, referring to Lonnie Stephenson, the president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, who had introduced Biden at the event. He then invited some children up on the stage, hugged one of them, and made the same joke.

Lucy Flores, the former Nevada state assemblywoman who last month wrote the first essay describing how Biden invaded her personal space and kissed her on the head at a 2014 campaign rally, was not amused. To make light of something as serious as consent degrades the conversation women everywhere are courageously trying to have, she wrote on Twitter.

She had a point. All the focus on shoulder rubbing and hair inhalation obscures much deeper issues with both of these candidates. Sanderss 2016 campaign was riddled with accusations of sexual harassment, pay disparities, and a $30,000 discrimination settlement, which the candidate later claimed not to know about. And while Biden has acknowledged on a few occasions that he owes Anita Hill an apology, he has never directly, unreservedly apologized to her for his role in suppressing testimony from at least three other women who could have corroborated her account of Clarence Thomass sexual harassment during the Supreme Court justices 1991 confirmation hearings. I wish I could have done something, Biden said last month, even though as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he very much could have.

Should Sanders or Biden clinch the Democratic nomination, either would be the oldest person to run for president in U.S. history. Biden has already run twice, in 1988 and 2008. Sanders has, quite memorably, run once before. Whats driving their behavior now is not what they think but fundamentally who they are. They both should exit stage left and make room for a new generation of talented Democrats—but as standard bearers of the patriarchy from another era, of course, they wont.

As we barrel toward the Democratic primaries of 2020, Bernie Sanders has lost some of the magic of a first-round insurgency that propelled him in 2016, much as John McCain did when, after losing in 2000, he ran again in 2008. His detractors are alleging once more that his campaign is sexist and full of abusive supporters (the Bernie Bro). Despite his position at No. 2 in the polls, many seem to be ignoring him altogether.

But be not fooled. Sanders is still the most probable Democratic nominee, like him or not. And if he wins the primaries, his chances of going all the way are decent, too. To back up this assertion requires a lot of speculation, but its 2019, and speculation is our right. Lets exercise it.

To be sure, any given candidate faces long odds. But one good thing about running for president once is that it makes you better prepared to run once more. Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, Al Gore, McCain, Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton—all of these presidential nominees had already run before and lost. What you lose in sparkle you gain in seasoning, and, just as important, name recognition. While Democrats generally seem more receptive than Republicans to new faces, if nominations are any sign, they still like people they know. Sanders and Joe Biden are the best known of the Democratic candidates, and both lead the polls, Biden with about a third of Democrats and Sanders with about a quarter. Sanders also had a massive $18.2 million fundraising haul in the first six weeks of his campaign.

Perhaps just as important, Biden and Sanders share a pool of likely voters. According to polling by Morning Consult, about a third of Bidens supporters have Sanders as their second choice (and vice versa). This is odd, if you think in terms of policy, since Biden is Establishment-minded and Sanders is radical. But, again, name recognition matters a lot. While a recent uproar over Bidens alleged handsiness toward women suggests that a faction within the Democratic Party is trying to squelch his candidacy, the effect may just be to make the Sanders camp stronger, especially if Biden drops out. Democratic primary rules, by tradition, also award delegates to those candidates who garner above 15 percent of the vote. The vast field means that anyone who can avoid falling victim to the effect of scattered votes stands especially tall.

There are warning signs, to be sure, that Sanderss focus on economic issues is out of step with the progressive activists who dominate on Twitter and on cable news. To be very serious about it, I clocked it. He did not mention race or gender until 23 minutes into the speech, said MSNBC analyst Zerlina Maxwell after listening to Sanderss campaign announcement. I went back and looked at Elizabeth Warrens opening speech, for example. She mentions race and discrimination in the first paragraph. That Maxwells comment seems to have been incorrect is of secondary importance. It portends the spirit of things to come. But if 2016 should have taught us anything, it is that America isnt blue-check Twitter.

The latest uproar over Sanders is that he has agreed to participate in a town hall hosted by Fox News. This has drawn criticism from some deep-blue partisans, but, back in the real world, where Democrats have to campaign in the country as it exists, not in a place where they have an election just for themselves and instruct the other side to stay home, this is another one of his strengths. As recently as 2015, when Sanders made an appearance at Liberty University to speak to evangelicals, the consensus was that it showed Sanders at his best. (It should also be noted that Sanders got a polite hearing; one wonders if, say, Evergreen State College would have offered the same courtesy to Ted Cruz.) But the spirit of purification is in the air, and Sanders, more than most, avoids it. He offers respectful debate to his opponents, and seeks out votes among those who might not otherwise support him.

Among the strengths of Sanders, one that few people notice is that he avoids gaffes, at least more so than almost any politician. Whence this talent comes is unclear, because Sanders is far from robotic—he is, instead, blunt in his statements—but no parade of ill-chosen comments trails him. In this, he is unlike just about every one of his competitors, and, for that matter, most presidents. (Barack Obama and George W. Bush both made plenty, for instance.) Biden, by contrast, leads the field in gaffes, and his best defense against them is that he makes so many of them that todays replaces yesterdays. Sanders, for some reason, is sure-footed, and this, too, could save him while his primary opponents drop.

Now we get to the presidential election, when Bernie goes up against Donald Trump. The data we have is that Sanders beats Trump by 48 percent to 43.7 percent in recent polls, and Trump keeps muddling about in the low 40s in his approval ratings. But thats a mere snapshot. Weve got more than a year and a half to go. How does Bernie win? This article has already been speculative, but now we get way more so.

Countries go through moods, and our choices for president reflect them. Americas last good-mood election year was 2000, and ever since its been bad, but in different ways. In 2004, we were still in a bad mood over terrorism. In 2008, we were in a bad mood over two faltering wars and a financial crisis. In 2012, we were in a bad mood over unfair bailouts and a weak recovery. In 2016, we were in a bad mood over everything: bailouts, trade, migration, war, political correctness, opioids, migration, you name it. (You could say the mood had become downright ornery, and, boy, did it find the man for the job.) But whats going to be the mood in 2020?

Its not going to be stellar. Americans are still in a radical frame of mind. (Contentment and prosperity tend to reduce polarization, but such blessings are not vouchsafed us at present. So does total war, but, God willing, well be spared that, too.) If Trump had turned life upside down and transformed the country into a living hell, then most voters would yearn for the imperfect normalcy of yore. But hes something more mundane, a bad (if uniquely vulgar) president who has kept much of the status quo in place, and made a lot of policies even worse. This means that the waverers who took a plunge with Trump in 2016, in the name of disruption, might try a different one with Sanders.

Much will come down to the economy. An economic expansion that kept going through 2020 would carry Trump—just barely—back into office. Trumps gift for ugly nicknaming is overrated in significance, but, for Sanders, Crazy Bernie is a decent one. It exploits Bernies quirks—stooped posture, unruly white hair, wagging finger, socialist affiliation—and stokes the ordinary voters suspicions. Theyll go with the familiar devil.

But signs are already strong that a recession is nigh, and Trump never looks weaker than when fulminating about developments he cant control. Very few Americans like Trumps antics. They tolerate them. And thats provided theres a payoff. Absent that, theyll look elsewhere. For all the strengths of Crazy Bernie as an insult, its coinage also shows its limits. Trump doesnt project complete sanity himself, and yet here we are. If extreme discontent is in the air, voters are likely to decide, once more, that a bit of crazy wouldnt hurt.

When the #MeToo movement began taking down powerful men across every industry from TV news to Hollywood to publishing, many wondered why Wall Street was largely unaffected, considering the financial-services sector has never exactly been overly friendly toward women. The answer, of course, was the widespread practice of forced arbitration, in which many firms require any new employee to sign away their right to sue the company, ensuring that all claims are heard (and resolved) privately. Not only do such provisions give the company the upper hand, sparing executives from potential embarrassment and shame, but they keep fellow victims from finding out about each others allegations and banding together in class-action suits.

If that sounds like bullshit, its because it is! In February, congressional Democrats unveiled a bill that would ban mandatory arbitration and that same month, Google said it would give employees the right to sue the company. Meanwhile, the women of Wall Street have been fighting the arbitration fight themselves, telling abusive co-workers, no, you cant act however you want with impunity. One of those women is Lee Stowell, a former Cantor Fitzgerald broker whose story Bloomberg recounts today:

Lee Stowell couldnt find her Bernie Sanders mug. It was August 2016 at the Summit, N.J., outpost of Cantor Fitzgerald, the Wall Street brokerage. The tension in the office was becoming unbearable for Stowell—and not only because her colleagues couldnt stand the rumpled-haired socialist on her mug. For a while, work had felt like a throwback to the early days of her career, when traders could spew invective with impunity, and women had to stomach it or find a way to hold their own.

Stowell scanned her desk, then took her hunt to the kitchen. She opened a cabinet, saw Sanders staring back at her, and reached for the mug. I looked in, she tells Bloomberg Businessweek. There was feces in it.

Yes, thats right: Wall Street can be that disgusting. Amazingly, when Stowell complained about the colleague she suspected of defiling her mug—a salesman whose conservative views clashed with Stowells liberal politics—her boss reportedly told her to be respectful of the guy. It was just one of a number of indignities Stowell allegedly suffered over the years—including having her butt grabbed in 2015, and then being asked by a colleague, would you rather he grabbed your boobs? Later, Stowell was told by the company that she was part of the problem and ordered her to take a course on appropriate workplace behavior. Shortly thereafter, she was dismissed as part of a round of layoffs.

Finally, in April 2018, Stowell sued, but the case was held up over the question of her being allowed to take her claims to a jury, or if she was bound to an arbitration agreement. Lawyers for Cantor, which told Bloomberg it couldnt comment on the case, argued that Stowells recollections dont matter because Cantor has her signature on a 2007 agreement, plus an updated electronic version she clicked on in 2014. Stowells lawyer, though, argued that workers cannot be bound to checking a box on some boilerplate legal language, to say nothing of the fact men will continue to act however they please—that they will, for example, shit in someones mug—if they know their company will simply force women into arbitration. And, fortunately, a judge agreed!

Stowell have a better chance in court, but the threat of a trial almost certainly gives her leverage over Cantor in any settlement negotiations. Theres another reason shes fighting to get to court: She says she wants to help harassment victims escape forced arbitration. That can happen only with new laws, widespread retreat by corporations, or favorable rulings from judges. Thats why, when Stowell learns the New Jersey judge has rejected Cantors request to send her to arbitration, she starts to choke up.

The judge found that the employment policy Cantor sent digitally in 2014 replaced the 2007 contract that the firm claimed shed signed. The newer agreement told employees to click a box that said theyd read and accepted the terms, language the judge said wasnt thorough enough. Employees have to be told loudly and clearly, the judge wrote, that theyre agreeing to give up their right to sue.

Unsurprisingly, Cantor and the men named in the suit are appealing the decision, but unless theyre successful, Stowell will get her day in court. Which should probably be a lesson to a number of people as we head into the 2020 election season.

His Twitter feed has lit up each morning with angry posts about Muellers conclusions (total bullshit, he said of the report a day after its release)—21 tweets on the subject since the findings went public, at last count, along with four re-tweets. Hes ripped into congressional Democrats for subpoenaing an unredacted version of the report and its underlying investigatory materials. . . . White House allies are starting to worry that Trumps inability to move on to other subjects, or at the very least stick to playing up Muellers conclusion that his campaign did not engage in a criminal conspiracy with the Russian government, is doing more harm than good. One former Trump campaign official described the presidents post-Mueller volley as a complete and utter disaster, suggesting that Trump is likely to generate another negative news cycle for himself when he sits down for an interview with longtime pal and Fox News host Sean Hannity Thursday night.

Obviously its not a smart strategy, a former White House official told Politico, noting that, unfortunately, there are very few staffers left who are likely to tell Trump to put a sock in it. He needs to let it go. Its especially not helpful to him, but he just cant help himself.

Its all fast-food and rage-tweeting, the way the new chief of staff apparently thinks life in the most powerful office in the world should be:

When I got here, morale wasnt what it needed to be, Mulvaney told us. I dont think Im telling any secrets—John hated the job. And let everybody know. He cheerfully extolled his relationship with Trump, joking that hed gained 10 pounds since becoming chief. (I eat more with the president now, he said. He eats hamburgers all the time.) . . . Mulvaneys first order of business as chief of staff was to loosen the strictures that Kelly had put in place. The retired four-star general had tried in vain to bring some discipline to a freewheeling White House, instituting tighter controls on who was able to see Trump and what information people were able to give him.

Mulvaneys allies say there is value to his more casual approach to the job, because its made the West Wing a happier place to work. He has re-energized the position, says Larry Kudlow, the presidents top economic adviser. . . . But his detractors see a chief of staff whos overseeing ever more chaos—and whose nontraditional approach has rendered the position almost meaningless.

These people, of course, are obviously haters and losers, since clearly this administration is the very picture of order and stability.

Elizabeth Warrens loan forgiveness plan wont be the windfall for the rich some feared, study says (CNBC)

Despite Trumps tariff and border threats, Mexico is now the largest U.S. trading partner (The Washington Post)

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders hedged her bets on Trumps renewed threat to send migrants to so-called sanctuary cities, telling ABC This Weeks George Stephanopoulos the administration is looking to see if there are options that make the idea feasible.

The interview followed Trumps Saturday Twitter blast that The USA has the absolute legal right to have apprehended illegal immigrants transferred to Sanctuary Cities. We hereby demand that they be taken care of at the highest level, especially by the State of California, which is well known or its poor management & high taxes! The White House denied initial reports from The Washington Post that the administration had pushed the policy, claiming the idea to deposit an influx of migrants into cities represented by Trumps political rivals was a suggestion that was floated and rejected, which ended any further discussion. But Trump himself contradicted that line less than 24 hours later, confirming on Twitter that the policy was still under consideration.

On Sunday, Sanders seemed to back him up. We dont want to put all of the burden on one or two border communities, she told Stephanopoulos. And Democrats have stated time and time again they support open borders, they support sanctuary cities, so lets spread out some of that burden and lets put it in some of those other locations if thats what they want to see happen and are refusing to actually help fix the problem.

Sanders did hedge slightly, telling Stephanopoulos, Certainly this wouldnt be our first choice because ideally we wouldnt be dealing with the massive influx of illegal immigrants coming across the border.She was slightly more forceful in another interview with Fox News Sunday, offering, We have to look at all options across the table so the towns right there on the border arent taking on the entire burden, so were shifting some of that burden to places who constantly claim to want to have open borders and want to have an open city. Lets put some of those people into their communities and into their towns and see if they are okay then, with that same impact.

Apprehended migrants are most commonly released into border communities to await appearances in immigration court, as the current influx has reportedly overwhelmed detention centers and available resources for immigration enforcement. Using homeland security funds to transport significant numbers of migrants anywhere—an already expensive prospect—would likely require approval from the House and Senate.

The president likes the idea, and Democrats have said they want these individuals into their communities, Sanders told Stephanopoulos. So lets see if it works and everybody gets a win out of it.

On May 11, 2017, two days after Donald Trump fired F.B.I. director James Comey, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders held a little briefing with reporters. Addressing the matter of Comeys unceremonious axing—he reportedly learned of his termination from the breaking news chyrons flashing on TV screens in the room as he delivered a speech at the F.B.I.s Los Angeles field office—Sanders claimed that Comey was fired not because the president was trying to stop the Russia investigation, but because he was not fit to do the job. Its that simple . . . the president knew that Director Comey was not up to the task. He decided he wasnt the right person for the job. He wanted somebody that could bring credibility back to the F.B.I. that had been lost over the last several months. Sensing that this excuse for dismissing the man probing possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia was, as they say in the business, total horse shit, several reporters pressed Sanders further.

What led you in the White House to believe James Comey had lost the confidence of the rank and file members of the F.B.I when the acting director says its exactly the opposite? the first asked. I can speak to my own personal experience, Ive heard from countless members of the F.B.I. that are grateful and thankful for the presidents decision, Sanders replied. Clearly not buying it, another reporter asked, incredulously, You personally have talked to countless F.B.I. officials, employees, since this happened? Correct, Sanders said, her voice breaking.

I mean, really? the reporter asked. Apparently incensed that someone would dare question her, Sanders doubled down: Between like e-mails, text messages, absolutely. Saying she wasnt going to get into a numbers game when asked to quantify just how many of these e-mails and text messages shed received (50, 60, 70?), Sanders reiterated that shed heard from a large number of individuals who work at the F.B.I. who said that they are very happy with the presidents actions. And yet, according to the redacted special counsels report from Robert Mueller released today, that actually wasnt the case!

The presidents draft termination letter also stated that morale in the F.B.I. was at an all-time low and Sanders told the press after Comeys termination that the White House had heard from countless F.B.I. agents who had lost confidence in Comey. But the evidence does not support those claims. The President told Comey at their January 27 dinner that the people of the F.B.I. really like [him], no evidence suggests that the President heard otherwise before deciding to terminate Comey, and Sanders acknowledged to investigators that her comments were not founded on anything.

In other words, Sanders invented the countless F.B.I. employees whod supposedly e-mailed and texted her to say theyd lost confidence in Comey, i.e. she told a giant lie. This, of course, is not the first time the White House press secretary has stood at the podium and lied to reporters faces, but it is the first time its been memorialized in a special counsel report. So . . . congrats?

As it turns out, the real estate magnate who awed over his own buildings becoming downtown Manhattans tallest in the wake of the September 11th attacks is very willing to overlook his history when parsing comments from democratic rivals. President Donald Trump is facing a litany of criticism for a video tweeted Friday featuring extensive imagery of the 9/11 attacks; attempting to paint comments from Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar as dismissive of the days significance.

Omar spoke at an event held by the Council on American-Islamic Relations last month, discussing the rise of general Islamophobia in the United States after September 11, 2001. In particular, conservative media zeroed in on Omars suggestion that C.A.I.R. was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties—spinning the some people did something line into a dismissal of the attacks themselves. The New York Post devoted its entire cover to explicit imagery of the burning World Trade Center buildings in response to Omars comments, while Texas representative Dan Crenshaw tweeted First Member of Congress to ever describe terrorists who killed thousands of Americans on 9/11 as some people who did something. Unbelievable.

President Trump—natural mediator and pacifist though he is—seized upon the moment to tweet the aforementioned video and stoke controversy further. Since then, numerous high-profile democrats and 2020 hopefuls have stepped in to defend Omar—herself one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress—from further attacks.

Ilhan Omar is a leader with strength and courage, Bernie Sanders tweeted Friday in response to reports of death threats against the Minnesota congresswoman. She won't back down to Trump's racism and hate, and neither will we. The disgusting and dangerous attacks against her must end. Massachusetts Senator and fellow 2020 candidate Elizabeth Warren added The President is inciting violence against a sitting Congresswoman—and an entire group of Americans based on their religion. It's disgusting. It's shameful. And any elected leader who refuses to condemn it shares responsibility for it.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was notably less forceful in her own tweet. The memory of 9/11 is sacred ground, and any discussion of it must be done with reverence, she began. The President shouldnt use the painful images of 9/11 for a political attack.

She continued, As we visit our troops in Stuttgart to thank them and be briefed by them, we honor our first responsibility as leaders to protect and defend the American people. It is wrong for the President, as Commander-in-Chief, to fan the flames to make anyone less safe.

C.A.I.R. stood by Omars remarks in a statement to USA Today. The Islamaphobes and other anti-Muslim extremists are grasping at straws and looking for any way to smear her, wrote communications director Ibrahim Hooper. Omar herself also questioned attacks leveled against her, retweeting several articles suggesting that her right-wing critics had willfully misrepresented her statements.

Bernie Sanders made history this week. The senators campaign leadership confirmed on Friday that they had voluntarily recognized the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 as the official union for workers on his presidential bid. In doing so, Sanders became the first major-party presidential campaign to recognize a union for its staff.

The campaign chose to recognize its unionized workers after 44 employees signed union cards. Contract negotiations for collective bargaining are expected to begin soon—potentially extending to 1000 employees. (The union said anyone under the rank of deputy director is eligible to join.) Bernie Sanders is the most pro-union candidate in the field, hell be the most pro-union president in the White House and were honored that his campaign will be the first to have a unionized workforce, campaign manager Faiz Shakir said of the decision. Sanders himself tweeted support:

UFCW Local 400 President Mark P. Federici offered a more cautious assessment: We expect (unionizing) will mean pay parity and transparency on the campaign, with no gender bias or harassment, and equal treatment for every worker, whether they're in Washington, D.C., Iowa, New Hampshire or anywhere else. Sanders 2016 campaign was previously accused of of both sexual harassment and pay disparity.

Its likely Sanders recognition of a staff union will push other democratic candidates to follow suit. The 2018 midterm elections saw a number of democratic campaigns unionizing staff under the Campaign Workers Guild and others, especially as candidates tout livable wages and benefits for the voters they aim to represent. Fellow 2020 candidate and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro has also suggested he would recognize a unionized staff, having already pushed for a minimum wage of $15 per hour for his employees.

According to Politico, the Campaign Workers Guild signaled some unease with Sanders campaign. While the Campaign Workers Guild has concerns and questions about the unionization process engaged in by Bernie 2020 management, their recent announcement shows that we have succeeded in changing the status quo, a statement read. On even the largest campaigns, campaign workers at all workplaces will have unions and will band together for their collective empowerment.

Also on Friday, Sanders hit his head on a shower door, and the resultant laceration required seven stitches. His campaign said he did not fall, and would not miss any\ncampaign events.

Joe Biden has left little doubt that he is running for president because he has already told us. I have the most progressive record of anybody running for the— he exclaimed during a speech in Delaware over the weekend, before stopping short. Anybody who would run, he corrected himself. Nevertheless, we must continue to pretend, for now, that Biden is not officially seeking the White House, despite mounting and irrefutable evidence that he is doing precisely that. Politicos Playbook says Democratic ad-maker Mark Putnam was SPOTTED in Scranton, Pennsylvania, over the weekend, where he was apparently scoping out Bidens childhood home (cue the Bruce Springsteen music and the Biden 2020 title card). If that were not enough, The Wall Street Journal reports that Biden told at least a half-dozen supporters Tuesday he intends to run for president.

More intriguing, according to the Journal report, is that Biden enjoined those supporters to ask deep-pocketed donors to help him quickly raise several million dollars to stay competitive with Bernie Sanders and Beto ORourke, both of whom blew away expectations and decisively shifted the media narrative in their favor by raising about $6 million in the first 24 hours of their campaigns. If hes going to establish himself as the frontrunner to beat—as literally every Democratic primary poll suggests he is—then it would help if he could raise frontrunner-status money, too.

Indeed, the 24-hour fundraising haul has quickly become a marker for the viability of 2020 presidential candidates hoping to stand out in an increasingly crowded field. In Sanderss case, the combination of a massive haul and a small average donation was seen as proof that he retains his massive grassroots base from 2016. In ORourkes case, leaping to the front of the fundraising pack helped quiet the criticism that his candidacy is only skin-deep, or that his popularity may be fleeting. So far, no other candidates have come close to matching both men, with Kamala Harris in a distant third with a $1.5 million first-day haul from 38,000 donors, Amy Klobuchar, Jay Inslee, and John Hickenlooper reaching the million-dollar mark in a few days, and other campaigns declining to disclose their performance in the money primary.

There are reasons to doubt that Biden can outperform Sanders and ORourke. His age, voting record, and centrist reputation have raised the hackles of the progressive base, and his Hamlet-on-the-Potomac act has invited scorn on Twitter. (Wonder if establishment donors are getting tired of Biden's dithering, suggested writer Nathan Bernhardt.) ORourke and Sanders also have a distinct advantage over Biden: massive digital fundraising infrastructures, built out over previous campaigns, that allow them to quickly raise record-breaking amounts of money in short bursts. (The Bernie campaign famously rallied hundreds of thousands of supporters to donate small-dollar amounts on a repeated basis, allowing them to marshal millions of dollars in a single night, while ORourke, building off that strategy, shattered Senate midterm fundraising records with a $38 million haul in a single quarter.)

But of course, Biden is also massively popular with Democrats, despite the cynical mood among media elites and Twitter activists. In more than two dozen polls catalogued at RealClearPolitics, Biden has come out on top in every single one, leading by an average of 6 points over his closest competition. After all, as a recent poll showed, a plurality of Democratic voters describe themselves as Obama Democrats. And Biden, as Obamas vice president, is perhaps the closest link to that halcyon time for Democrats craving a return to sanity and stability.

Biden appears to be cultivating that image, too. At the Munich Security Conference in February, Biden was roundly applauded while implicitly criticizing the Trump administration. Now, as Biden prepares to launch himself into the 2020 contest, Politico is out with a report describing how all those world leaders came up to Biden to tell him how much they needed him to restabilize the world. Here, there, and everywhere are the fingerprints of Bidens team, building him up as Obamas true heir. We have a lot of candidates and unfortunately very few of them have any real depth or experience working in foreign policy issues, one former Biden adviser told Politico.

Im really rich, Trump declared while announcing his candidacy in June 2015. To prove it, he released a Summary of Net Worth balance sheet, indicating a net worth of $8,737,540,000. A month later he upwardly revised that figure to in excess of TEN BILLION DOLLARS. (The caps are his.)

Since then, a cottage industry of spreadsheet-diving journalists has worked itself into a lather trying to peg his real net worth. But without tax returns to go on, its really anybodys guess. Despite the all-caps figures Trump has dispensed, most estimates from the established financial-media outlets have been lower, FAR LOWER. Forbes put his net worth at $4.5 billion. Fortune postulated $3.7 billion, and later upped it to $3.9 billion. Bloomberg guessed it was closer to $2.9 billion.

In response to these wanton guesstimates, Trump instinctually fired back at the guesstimators. Forbes is a bankrupt magazine, doesnt know what theyre talking about. Fortune has no idea what my assets are and has totally lost its way. But the real sulfuric acid was reserved for the lowballers over at Bloomberg. As usual, Trump made it personal, even suggesting his friend, the former New York City mayor, might be jealous. Maybe Michael told them to do it, Trump speculated in the Daily Mail, because he always wanted to do what Im doing. Perhaps wisely, The New Yorker—even with its legendary phalanx of persnickety fact-checkers—wouldnt venture any closer than just a back-of-the-envelope calculation of $2.56 billion, which shouldnt be taken too seriously.

In November, Trump was elected president of the United States in a shocking turn of events. He lost the popular vote by some two million ballots.

When Donald Trump first opened Trump Tower, the centerpiece of his property empire, he was able to convince everyone from Steven Spielberg to Johnny Carson to Sophia Loren to pay top dollar to live in the place, with units selling for as much as $15 million. Now, thanks to a name thats synonymous with racist blowhard of debatable mental stability and questionable moral conduct, not to mention a lack of updates in recent years, people cant get away from the building fast enough.

Bloomberg reports that since Trump was elected, at least 13 condos in the tower have been sold. Among the nine for which property records show the original purchase price, eight were unloaded at an inflation-adjusted loss, with several selling at a discount of more than 20 percent. (By contrast, just 0.23 percent of homes sold in Manhattan during the same period booked a loss.) And, of course, its not hard to understand why! Michael Sklar, who sold his parents unit for $1.83 million last October after they bought it for $1.4 million and spent $400,000 on renovations, summed up the situation thusly: The name on the building became a problem. . . . No one wants in that building. Matthew Hughes, a broker at Brown Harris Stevens, said that while the luxury market is softening, its rare that someone owns an apartment here for 10 years and takes a loss. Another real-estate agent told reporter Shahien Nasiripour that clients have repeatedly and insistently told him not to show them units in any of Trumps buildings. Its a similar situation at Trump properties around the world—last year, Jeffrey Rabiea, who owns three units in the Trump Panama hotel and was part of a group fighting to have the name removed, told The Washington Post: Its a bloodbath, basically. Its a financial bloodbath. . . . Nobody wants to go there. If youve got a Marriott and a Hyatt and a Trump, youre not going to Trump.

The commercial portion of the building has been struggling for months to find tenants for more than 42,000 square feet of vacant office space, despite advertising rents well below the areas average, listings and data from real-estate brokers show. . . . If I were looking for office space, that would be a building Id want to avoid, said Edward Son, until recently a market analyst for CoStar Group, Inc.

The office portion of Trump Tower is advertising five vacancies spread across five floors. In January, prices for the open space ranged from $72 to $85 per square foot annually. A month earlier, the Trump Organization posted to its YouTube channel a glossy marketing video that referred to the tower as one of New Yorks most iconic trophy buildings. Now the prices are listed as negotiable. A commercial real-estate broker said that his firms surveys show that prospective tenants wont consider a Trump building until hes out of office. One of the buildings other problems is that Trump hasnt spent much money updating the tower in recent years, according to disclosures to investors.

I dont think I would want an office in Trump Tower, Barbara Res, a former Trump Organization executive, told Bloomberg. Why would you go there? Its a wonder he doesnt have 50 percent vacancy.

Last week, The New York Times followed up its 2018 report about Donald Trump inheriting $400 million from his father largely through highly questionable, possibly illegal tax schemes with the news that the very successful businessman had lost more than $1 billion between 1985 and 1994. Specifically, according to the team that won a Pulitzer for its coverage of Trumps finances, the former real-estate developer frittered away a whopping $1.17 billion in a decade, more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer, and such a massive sum that he was able to avoid paying income taxes for eight of the 10 years. If anyone still believed Trump to be a successful businessman, thats the sort of data point youd think would cause them to re-evaluate. But apparently, not so much!

According to a new Politico/Morning Consult poll, 54 percent of voters believe Trump has been successful in business, compared to 36 percent who think hes been unsuccessful, and 10 percent who have no opinion. Broken down by party lines, a whopping 85 percent of Republican voters think Trump has kicked ass in the private sector—despite the 10 figures worth of losses, the bankruptcies, and the words Trump Steaks . . . exclusively sold through The Sharper Image, while a mere 10 percent of Republican voters view him as unsuccessful. (On the flip side, 61 percent of Democratic voters say hes been unsuccessful.) Reminded about the Times report in a subsequent question, 74 percent of Republicans still clung to the belief that Trump was somewhat to very successful in business.

Of course, this isnt the only area in which Trump supporters have been happy to buy his obvious lies. Elsewhere, many seemingly believe that hes the same height and weight as Tim Tebow, and a full two inches taller than Barack Obama, glaring evidence to the contrary. They also seem to believe hes as rich as he says he is, that his tax cut was all about the middle class and cost him a fortune, and that he cant release his tax returns because hes under audit.

To be fair, Trumps rank-and-file believers have good company in high places. After the Times reported he lost $1 billion, the clapping seals at Fox & Friends remarked, If anything, you read this and youre like wow, its pretty impressive, all the things that hes done in his life. Its beyond what most of us could ever achieve.

More than a dozen allies, along tech giants Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter, all signed a pledge, but the U.S. government decided it couldnt get on board with such an initiative:

The United States broke with 18 governments and five top American tech firms Wednesday to endorse a New Zealand-led effort to curb extremism online, a response to the live-streamed shootings at two Christchurch mosques that killed 51. White House officials said free-speech concerns prevented them from formally signing onto the largest campaign to date targeting extremism online.

The Christchurch Call, unveiled at an international gathering in Paris, commits foreign countries and tech giants to be more vigilant about the spread of hate on social media. It reflects heightened global frustration with the inability of Facebook, Google, and Twitter to restrain hateful posts, photos, and videos that have spawned real-world violence.

The call is named for the New Zealand city where a shooter killed 51 people in a March attack broadcast on Facebook and posted afterward on other social-media sites. Facebook, Google, and Twitter struggled to take down copies of the violent video as fast as it spread on the Web, prompting an international backlash from regulators who felt malicious actors had evaded Silicon Valleys defenses too easily. Before the attack, the shooter also posted a hate-filled manifesto that included references to previous mass killings.

Last year, the shooter who opened fire at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh posted anti-Semitic screeds online, and neo-Nazis used Facebook to organize before their deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville, after which Trump famously commented that there were very fine people on both sides of the clash.

Gov. Brian Kemp postponed an annual trip to Los Angeles to promote Georgias film industry on Tuesday as a growing number of movie executives and celebrities criticized his decision to sign the anti-abortion heartbeat bill into law. Abortion-rights activists had threatened to protest the May 22 event, and Georgia film executives were worried that tepid turnout and no-shows from studio chiefs could do lasting damage to the states moviemaking business. . . . The delay is the latest sign of how quickly the fallout over House Bill 481, which outlaws most abortions as early as six weeks, has rocked Georgias film industry since the Republican signed it into law a week ago.

Several film production companies have vowed not to shoot anything in Georgia, and dozens of actors including Alec Baldwin, Don Cheadle, and Sean Penn signed a protest letter saying they wont work in Georgia because of the law. . . . Georgia has become one of the leading locations for movie and TV productions thanks to a lucrative incentives signed into law in 2005 that allows film companies to earn tax credits for up to 30 percent of what they spend here.

According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 455 productions were shot in Georgia during the fiscal year 2018, with an estimated economic impact of $9.5 billion. Oops!

Trump is going to take the next six months to decide if he should introduce yet more job-killing tariffs

Trump plans to hold off on imposing steep tariffs on imported autos while the U.S. pursues agreements with key trading partners, industry sources told A.F.P. Wednesday. Trump has threatened to impose 25 percent punitive duties on autos—a possibility that has worried the European Union and Japan in particular, as well as Mexico and Canada. Facing a deadline to announce a decision by Saturday on whether to implement the tariffs based on national-security concerns, the sources said Trump would hold off as negotiations proceed.

New tariffs risk exploding already-tense trade relations with Washingtons major trading partners, who are angry about punitive duties on steel and aluminum imposed last year. . . . German car-makers are especially concerned about the tariff threat, but Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker declared a truce in July 2018 in order to pursue negotiations.

In related news, very few people are enthused by the presidents plan to provide farmers with another multi-billion-dollar bailout in order to make up for the damage done by his trade war with China:

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), a leading member of the Senate Finance Committee, is warning that President Trumps plan to provide $15 billion in assistance to farmers hurt by the escalating trade war with China is very bad policy. Its a very bad policy, he told a group of reporters in his office. Think about what were doing. Were inviting this retaliation that denies our farmers—the most productive farmers on the planet—the opportunity to sell their products overseas and then we say, Dont worry, well have taxpayers send you some checks and make it O.K. Thats a very bad approach.

This, of course, would be the second farm bailout Trumps trade war has necessitated. The first one clocked in at a cool $12 billion and still didnt stop farm income from plummeting $11.8 billion.

Barr asks Pelosi outside the Capitol, Madam Speaker, did you bring your handcuffs? (The Washington Post

The never-before-told story of the Navy plane that drew a giant penis in the sky (The Washington Post)

For those old enough to remember, as recently as March 25, Donald Trump was all about the Mueller report and the man who authored it. Asked by reporters if he wanted to see the special counsels findings completely released, shortly after William Barr told Congress the investigation totally exonerated him, the president said it would be up to the attorney general, but it wouldnt bother me at all. He even said that he thought Robert Mueller had acted honorably. Fast-forward six weeks and things have changed slightly! Now that people know the Mueller report actually lays out multiple episodes of deeply corrupt behavior, as well as obvious instances of obstruction by the president, the ex-real-estate developer isnt so keen on giving the public the full story, asserting executive privilege over the report and the underlying materials pertaining to it. Hes also reverted to batshit-crazy mode when it comes to Mueller himself, claiming, among other things, that the special counsel has amorous feelings for ex-F.B.I. director James Comey.

Asked by reporters on Thursday if he would allow Mueller to testify before Congress—over the weekend, President Twitter said he Mueller should not be allowed to—Trump responded that he would leave the decision up to our very great attorney general, and then offered this rambling, incoherent aside:

Bob Mueller is no friend of mine. I had conflicts with him. We had a business dispute, we had somebody that is in love with James Comey. . . . They were very good friends, supposedly best friends. Maybe not, but supposedly best friends. You look at the picture file and you see hundreds of pictures of him and Comey. And with all of that and other things, he wanted the F.B.I. job. I dont know if anybody knows that, but as you know, he was considered for the F.B.I. job, wanted it, and the day after he didnt get it, he became the special counsel. Thats a conflict. And we had other things, but those are tremendous conflicts.

Listen to this. Your judge, call him a judge, is a—has a business dispute with me. Your judge has a fantastic relationship with James Comey. Well, hes a part of this. He lied to Congress, he leaked—hes a liar, a leaker. And your judge has a situation where he wanted to become the F.B.I. director. We chose Director Wray instead and told him Im sorry. Thats—those are tremendous conflicts. Those are tremendous conflicts. . . . then he puts on his staff almost all Democrats, many of whom contributed to Hillary Clinton. None of them contributed to me. That I can tell you. And it started out at 13 and it went to 18. And these were angry Democrats. These were people that went to her, in one case, went to her what was supposed to be a party and turned out to be a funeral on election evening and was going wild. He was so angry. And this man now is judging me. You had other people made big contributions to Hillary Clintons campaign. They were angry Democrats in, I think, almost all cases.

So, obviously we have a lot of questions, the first being: what is a picture file? Is Trump talking about a Google image search (which, incidentally, shows just a handful of photos of the two men from when they worked together)? Does he have a Getty account? Did someone—and this seems most likely—print out pictures of Comey and Mueller together and put them in an actual file folder for Trump to flip through and annotate with his favorite Sharpie? Unfortunately, the White House did not respond to the Hives request for clarification.

Elsewhere during Trumps Q&A, the president said he was surprised Don Jr. had been subpoenaed by the Senate Intelligence committee; accused Representative Adam Schiff of conning this whole country; repeated his false claim that Puerto Rico has received $91 billion in disaster aid (and thus that its people should really like President Trump); and called for former Secretary of State John Kerry to be prosecuted.

Theres something deeply poetic about 11-day White House Communications director Anthony Scaramucci inviting Angelo Mozilo, who had a major role in the 2008 mortgage crisis, to speak at his annual Wall Street confab. Per the Post:

Speaking at an exclusive hedge fund conference in Las Vegas this week, the disgraced former head of Countrywide Financial said he doesnt care that he is still being held responsible for the 2008 financial meltdown, driven by a collapse in shoddy subprime loans, many of them sold by Countrywide.

A lot of years went by, my wife passed away, I turned 80 years old, and now I dont care, Mozilo said, eliciting nervous laughter from the crowd gathered at the SALT Conference in Las Vegas. Theres other things more important in life, said Mozilo, 81, wearing his trademark tan with stiff white-collared shirt.

Mozilo, who was charged in 2009 with insider trading and securities fraud related to e-mails in which he said things like In all my years in the business I have never seen a more toxic product and called another Countrywide offering the most dangerous product in existence, all while publicly touting the stock, claimed ignorance with how people got the idea that he had any role in the global financial crisis. For some unknown reason, I got blamed for it, he said. (Mozilo settled his case with the S.E.C. for $67.5 million and received a lifetime ban for serving as an officer or director of a public company, while neither admitting or denying wrongdoing.)

Trumps accounting firm might be able to release his shady financial documents sooner than we thought

Last month, the presidents lawyers filed a lawsuit to prevent his longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, from responding to a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee for 10 years of Trumps financial statements. (The suit followed Michael Cohens testimony that his former boss frequently inflated his wealth in order to obtain loans, and a Washington Post exposé that revealed Trump frequently had Mazars prepare Statement(s) of Financial Condition that included blatant lies intended to exaggerate the former real-estate developers wealth.) While the president would obviously like to keep his financial documents (and tax returns) a secret forever, the move was presumably designed to, at the very least, delay Mazars from turning over information for several months. But according to CNN, thats unlikely to happen:

Judge Amit Mehta plans next week to weigh the major legal issues raised in President Donald Trumps challenge of a congressional subpoena for his accounting firm's records, according to an order issued Thursday—putting the case on an even faster track than it previously looked to be. Congress has subpoenaed Trump and his business accounting records from the firm Mazars USA, and Trumps personal legal team sued to stop the records from being turned over. A hearing is now scheduled for May 14.

Previously, the case was set up so that Mehta would consider it in multiple stages, beginning next week—which could have lengthened out the legal fight and held off Congress from getting the records.

According to the Post, in one of the Statement(s) of Financial Condition, Trump invented an extra 800 acres at his 1,200-odd-acre Virginia vineyard. In another, he claimed Trump Tower had 68 stories, despite the fact that anyone with eyes could tell you there are 58. In a 2013 document titled Summary of Net Worth, which was used for his failed Buffalo Bills bid and also fell under the genre of fan fiction, he conveniently omitted ownership of a hotel in Chicago, and another in Last Vegas, to hide those debt loads from anyone reviewing the statement.

The direct impact of tariffs could be consequential. Economists at Moodys Analytics calculate the increase to a 25 percent tariff on $200 billion in Chinese imports would pare 0.8 percentage points off U.S. growth by the fourth quarter of 2020. A scenario in which the U.S. applied a 25 percent tariff to all imports from China and Beijing retaliated would slash U.S. real GDP by 2.6 percentage points and cost the economy 3 million jobs by the final quarter of 2020. Bloombergs own economists calculate that a 25 percent tariff on all imports from China would shave 1.5 percentage points off Chinese growth.

If Trumps threat becomes reality, it will be a game changer for the global economy, wrote Steve Cochrane, chief Asia-Pacific economist at Moodys Analytics.

Told by Charles Leerhsen—the ghostwriter on the real estate developers book Surviving at the Top— who was inspired to describe his time with Trump during the period in which he lost $1 billion:

Trumps portfolio did not jibe with what I saw each day — which to a surprisingly large extent was him looking at fabric swatches. Indeed, flipping through fabric swatches seemed at times to be his main occupation. Some days he would do it for hours, then take me in what he always called his French military helicopter to Atlantic City — where he looked at more fabric swatches or sometimes small samples of wood paneling. It was true that the carpets and drapes at his properties needed to be refreshed frequently, and the seats on the renamed Trump Shuttle required occasional reupholstering. But the main thing about fabric swatches was that they were within his comfort zone — whereas, for example, the management of hotels and airlines clearly wasnt. One of his aides once told me that every room at the Plaza could be filled at the rack rate (list price) every night, and the revenue still wouldnt cover the monthly payment of the loan hed taken out to buy the place. In other words, hed made a ridiculous deal.

On days when there were no broadlooms or chenilles to ponder, we would sit around his office and shoot the breeze while (as we now know) out there someplace in the real world, his businesses were hemorrhaging cash. Hed talk about the Yankees, show me pictures of Marla Maples (whom he was then romancing while still married to Ivana) and tell me obviously made-up stories, such as how he had just the other day seen a beautiful, completely naked woman on the street. Put that in the book! hed say, and Id pretend to write it down.

Anna Delvey, Fake Heiress Who Swindled N.Y.s Elite, Is Sentenced to 4 to 12 Years in Prison (NYT)

Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Team Up to Fight Big Banks in First Joint Legislation (The Daily Beast)

He Founded Students for Trump. Now He Could Face Jail Time for Impersonating a Lawyer. (Politico)

The presidents decision last year to slap tariffs on goods from countries around the world and drag the U.S. into a trade war with China hasnt gone super well for America. The farmers whose profits have been destroyed as a result know this. The manufacturers who have had to lay off employees and move production overseas know this. The consumers who paid $3 billion a month last year to finance the tariffs know it, too. One person who doesnt? Donald Trump, who lives in his own alternative reality and still thinks this whole thing is going great. On Tuesday, after China responded to the latest round of tariffs with fresh punitive measures of its own, the president claimed that Tariffs have rebuilt our Steel Industry (fact-check: false); that Our great Patriot Farmers will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of what is happening now (fact-check: false, and weirdly Soviet); and that we will be moving jobs back to the USA (fact-check: false again!).

Alarmingly, while Trump previously appeared to view tariffs as a negotiating tactic, he now seems to believe they should be permanent economic policy, despite his own advisers admitting theyre hurting not just China but the U.S.:

In tweets and other public utterances in recent days, Trump has hailed his tariffs, claiming they have helped power U.S. economic growth, and repeated over and over again that other countries such as China foot the bill, a view even his own economic advisers are uncomfortable defending. Trump is also displaying a preference for his tariffs over his own deals. Among the major hurdles to a congressional vote to ratify his renegotiated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement are the steel and aluminum tariffs that Trump imposed on products coming from Canada and Mexico.

Those tariffs have invited retaliation against U.S. agricultural exports, such as corn and pork, that [is] hurting U.S. farmers. They also have caused senior Republicans like Chuck Grassley, the powerful head of the Senate Finance Committee, to say they will block any vote for Trumps rebranded NAFTA, the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement. But Trump has refused to bend unless Canada and Mexico agree to other trade restraints with new investment in domestic steel mills and aluminum smelters, one of the benefits of Trumps trade wars the president is most eager to tout.

While an obsession with tariffs certainly hurts the U.S. economy—Moodys analysts predict Trumps threat to hit virtually all Chinese goods with a 25 percent levy would slash U.S. real G.D.P. by 2.6 percentage points—experts say the never-ending counterattacks would likely be detrimental to the global economy, too, causing a painful economic slowdown that could tip the country into a recession. Im with most economists and I think tariffs and a reduction in free trade are going to be a bad outcome for all involved, Stephen Gallagher, chief U.S. economist at Societe Generale SA, told Bloomberg. Gary Hufbauer, of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, noted that while it might be easy—if not entirely misguided—to slap tariffs on imports from other countries, its a lot harder to take them off, pointing to a tariff that was introduced in the 1960s to protect U.S. light trucks from foreign competition and has never been removed.

Meanwhile, China appears to be in this thing for the long haul. On Tuesday, its state media released a clip effectively saying the countrys been through a lot worse than some bloated real-estate developer with a Twitter addiction.

In a clip from state broadcaster CCTV that went viral, an anchor asks, After 5,000 years of trials and tribulations, what kind of battle have the Chinese not been through?

The video, which has been viewed more than 3.3 billion times, underscores how China wants to portray itself as playing the long game in the trade battle in contrast with President Trump, whose re-election next year could be at risk if voters perceive the trade war negatively. Meanwhile, the Peoples Daily, the official newspaper for Chinas Communist Party, posted a photo captioned, This, is Chinas attitude! CNBCs translation of the Chinese phrases in the image reads: Negotiate—we can! Fight—bring it on! Bully us—YOU WISH!

Ubers underwriters, led by Morgan Stanley, were so worried the companys initial public offering had run into trouble, they deployed a nuclear option ahead of the deal last week, so they could provide extra support for the stock, four people with knowledge of the move said. This level of support, known as a naked short, is a technique that goes above and beyond the traditional help a new offering can get.

In every deal, theres an overallotment, which allows the underwriters to sell 115 percent of the available offering to investors, effectively opening a short position. The excess 15 percent can be purchased by the underwriters in the open market—covering the short position—to support the stock if it goes down. More colloquially, this is known as the greenshoe. But in rare cases, bankers will use a strategy called a naked short, which allows underwriters to sell shares in excess of that greenshoe portion and then buy them back in the open market to provide even more firepower in the event there is significant selling pressure. Some of the bankers tried to console market participants prior to the opening of trading by telling them that there would be additional support from the naked short, said one of the people, who asked not to be named discussing private conversations. The exact size of the naked short could not be learned, but it is expected to have been fairly small, two of the other people said.

Unfortunately for Uber investors, the plan didnt stop the stock from falling 18 percent in its first two days of trading (it closed at $39.96 on Tuesday, a far cry from the now-delusional-seeming price of $45/share). Both Morgan Stanley and the ride-share company declined CNBCs requests for comment.

AT&T has cut more than 23,000 jobs since receiving a big tax cut at the end of 2017, despite lobbying heavily for the tax cut by claiming that it would create thousands of jobs. AT&T in November 2017 pushed for the corporate tax cut by promising to invest an additional $1 billion in 2018, with C.E.O. Randall Stephenson saying that every billion dollars AT&T invests is 7,000 hard-hat jobs. These are not entry-level jobs. These are 7,000 jobs of people putting fiber in ground, hard-hat jobs that make $70,000 to $80,000 per year.

The corporate tax cut was subsequently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017. The tax cut reportedly gave AT&T an extra $3 billion in cash in 2018. But AT&T cut capital spending and kept laying people off after the tax cut. A union analysis of AT&Ts publicly available financial statements shows the telecom company eliminated 23,328 jobs since the Tax Cut and Jobs Act passed in late 2017, including nearly 6,000 in the first quarter of 2019, the Communications Workers of America (C.W.A.) said yesterday.

Last month, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that, contrary to the administrations claims that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act had resulted in big bonuses for American workers, employees had received, on average, an increase of a penny, which they hopefully havent spent all in one place.

A federal judge in Washington expressed astonishment Tuesday at arguments raised by President Trumps lawyers seeking to block his accounting firm from turning over years of financial records to the Democratic-controlled House Oversight and Reform Committee and seemed to signal a swift ruling in favor of lawmakers. U.S. District Judge Amit P. Mehta fired pointed questions at the presidents lawyers, who argued in an April 22 lawsuit that the committees sweeping subpoena to Mazars USA for the financial records of Trump and various associated entities since 2011 was not a valid exercise of legislative power.

The lawsuit in Washington was brought by Trump and several of his businesses against House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) and Trumps accounting firm Mazars USA. . . . Mehta gave both sides until Saturday to file any additional submissions and promised a ruling promptly, consistent with the gravity of the issues involving the balancing of powers between Congress and a president. Mehta did not say when he would rule, but noted that a different House panel, the Financial Services Committee, is set to appear in federal court in Manhattan on May 22 to defend other subpoenas for Trumps bank records issued to Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial Corp. Trump and his three eldest children and companies have sued to quash the subpoenas.

According to a report from The Washington Post, Trump would frequently have Mazars prepare statements of financial condition that included blatant lies intended to exaggerate the former real-estate developers wealth, the tip-off being that the firm would note that the figures were neither verified nor audited, that they didnt follow normal accounting principles, and that readers of the documents should recognize that they might reach different conclusions about the financial condition of Donald J. Trump if they had more information.

Earlier this week, the national firefighters union endorsed Joe Biden for president, saying he was the candidate with the best chance of beating Donald Trump in 2020. As you can probably imagine, this didnt go over so well with President Twitter, whos known to fly off the handle at the smallest of perceived slights. But rather than simply shoot off a typical all-caps, unglued tweet or two before moving on, Trump had a massive, flaming meltdown that does not bode well for the next 552 days.

Lashing out at the union for having the audacity to throw its weight behind Biden—a move that apparently came as a shock to the White House, despite the presidents aggressively anti-worker policies, Trump wrote: Ive done more for Firefighters than this dues sucking union will ever do, and I get paid ZERO! (He, Trump, is doing the work without expecting compensation, thank you very much.) He then proceeded to unleash a whopping five dozen re-tweets in the span of an hour, trashing Biden and the union and suggesting that firefighters actually have his back. Heres a small representative sample:

Despite a history of flying off the handle via social media, Wednesdays volume is a record for Trump, which might have something to do with the fact that hes panicked about Bidens candidacy for office, and reportedly has no strategy in place to beat the former V.P. Earlier this month, before Biden even officially got into the race, Trump blew his top when Uncle Joe delivered a speech to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and received applause and laughter from the crowd. Ive employed thousands of Electrical Workers, the leader of the free world tweeted, like a lover scorned. They will be voting for me!

In addition to fear of a Biden vs. Trump general election, the president was presumably also on edge Wednesday morning thanks to the news that special counsel Robert Mueller wrote a letter to Attorney General William Barr criticizing the latters characterization of the investigation into Russian election interference and whether Trump obstructed justice. Following his Biden tirade, the president tweeted:

Barr is expected to testify for most of the day on Wednesday, and potentially also on Thursday, so who knows what additional deranged ravings that will inspire. Stay tuned!

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

Donald Trump isnt making things easy for himself in 2020. Despite the strong economy, the protection and support of G.O.P. sycophants, and a potential identity crisis among Democrats, the halfwit president continues to put obstacles in his own path to re-election, including, most recently, by escalating his war on the Affordable Care Act. In a filing on Wednesday, the Trump administration called for the entirety of Barack Obamas signature health care legislation to be struck down, formalizing the more aggressive posture on the A.C.A. Attorney General Bill Barr signaled last March in throwing the D.O.J.s weight behind a Texas district judge who ruled that the law should be invalidated.

Previously, the administration had suggested that only certain elements of Obamacare be killed. But, it argued in March and in its filing Wednesday, it now believes that the proper course of action would be the wholesale elimination of a system on which millions of Americans rely for their healthcare. Instead of rewriting the statute by picking and choosing which provisions to invalidate, the proper course is to strike it down in its entirety, the administration wrote.

Still, its not clear that Trump has a real shot of nuking the law. Obamacare has withstood close to a decade of legal and political attacks from the right and has remained not only relatively stable, but popular with the American people. That makes the presidents continued assault particularly perplexing. Democrats seized on his failed attempts to repeal and replace the law to win back the House in 2018, and would be only too happy to run on healthcare again in 2020. Republicans, battered after their House and Senate majorities failed to make good on promises to deliver health care solution, seem to have little appetite for another fight. Trump has no plan to replace the A.C.A., should it be struck down. So why is he wading back into such politically treacherous waters?

The easy answer is that hes an imbecile whod rather play exclusively to his base, even as Democrats hammer him over his latest push to strip Americans healthcare and the A.C.A.s protections for those with preexisting conditions. President Trump wants to take all that away from the American people, jacking up health care costs and leaving millions without coverage, Chuck Schumer said in a statement on the administrations filing. There is no viable legal argument and no moral defense for the devastation the Trump Administration is asking the court to inflict on Americans health care, Nancy Pelosi added. In the courts and in Congress, the Democratic House Majority will fight relentlessly to defend Americans health care and to lower health costs and prescription drug prices for all Americans.

But its also possible that Trump, who says hell reveal his own really great health care agenda if and when hes re-elected, is taking up the fight again because he actually thinks he can win. In Barr, who has served as something of a defense attorney for the president in the melee over Robert Muellers Russia report, Trump seems to have found a willing foot-soldier. And while the Supreme Court has twice upheld the the A.C.A., Trump has added two deeply conservative justices to its bench. Even so, some analysts have questioned whether the administrations argument can pass legal muster. It is a truly indefensible position, Nicholas Bagley of University of Michigan law school, told The New York Times. This is just partisan hardball. Democratic Rep. Matt Cartwright made a similar argument last month as he grilled Barr about his decision to take up the case, calling it unbelievable for its recklessness and its lack of legal justification. But Barr signaled he was game for the fight. If you think its such an outrageous position, Barr told the Pennsylvania congressman, you have nothing to worry about.

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

In the halcyon days of 2015, back when his build the wall mantra was more of a mnemonic device, Donald Trump claimed that constructing his beautiful barrier along the southern border would be easy. Its not even a difficult project if you know what youre doing, he insisted. Fast forward to 2019, and his quest for a wall has been anything but simple. Mexico isnt paying, and Trumps emergency declaration, a last-ditch effort to fund the thing, is facing multiple legal challenges. In desperation, the president has reportedly turned to the Pentagon for help. And according to The Washington Post, his newly-installed acting defense secretary, Patrick Shanahan, is happy to comply.

Per the Post*, the Pentagon is planning to shift another $1.5 billion to Trumps project from its own programs—including its ballistic missile program, its Airborne Warning and Control System, and a program that funds war efforts abroad. Shanahan maintains the diversion wont adversely effect military operations: The Department carefully selected sources for the reprogramming that are excess or early to need and will not adversely affect military preparedness, read a document reviewed by the Post. Still, the fact that the D.O.D. is funneling money from bona fide defense systems to fund a wall that will be largely ineffective is deeply ironic.

Also ironic: that Trump, who has claimed the D.O.D. was depleted by Barack Obamas administration, would siphon funds from D.O.D. programs to fund his pet project. Democrats, too, are incensed at the move, noting that raiding the Pentagons coffers is yet another way Trump has subverted Congressional authority, and that the funds could be better spent on, say, disaster relief for military personnel. Once again, the Department of Defense has ignored decades of precedent and cooperation with the Congress in carrying out a transfer of funds without regard to any consultation with the Appropriations Committee, a team of Democratic senators including Dick Durbin, Patrick Leahy, and Jack Reed wrote in a letter to Shanahan on Friday. We are dismayed that the Department has chosen to prioritize a political campaign promise over the disaster relief needs of our service members, given the finite reprogramming authority available.

The dispute comes as the White House redoubles its efforts to make good on the presidents signature campaign promise. Trump failed to make headway on the wall during his first two years in office, and tensions increased when Democrats took over the House, leading to a historic government shutdown over funding. When that failed to produce the cash he wanted, the president employed the nuclear option, even as he publicly undermined his own claim of an emergency at the border. Since then the administration has repeatedly sought money from the Pentagon, looking to delay more than $10 billion in military construction projects, and diverting $1 billion in March to the border project. The administration has previously floated siphoning resources set aside to address natural disasters—including in hurricane-damaged Puerto Rico—to pay for the wall.

Perhaps anticipating the backlash, the administration told the Post that the $1.5 billion in funding is being redirected from cost savings, programmatic changes and revised requirements at the Pentagon. Still, the hypocrisy is hard to miss, as is the fact that Trump is once again thumbing his nose at Congress role in governance. We look forward to hearing your views on how you intend to repair the damaged relationship between the defense oversight committees and the Department, Democrats wrote in their letter to Shanahan.

President Donald Trump's ever-elusive tax returns got slightly demystified Tuesday, as the New York Times released a report detailing one decade of Trump's finances from his days as a real estate tycoon. And, spoiler alert: he's not the VERY successful businessman he's claimed to be. According to the Times report, which is based on printouts from Trumps official Internal Revenue Service tax transcripts, rather than the actual tax returns themselves, the now-president lost $1.17 billion from 1985 to 1994—more money than nearly any other individual American taxpayer.

Per the Times, Trump's startling losses came from of a rash of unprofitable business purchases, largely in real estate, that included a shuttle operation from Eastern Airlines funded at a rate of $7 million per month and the Trump Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino, which opened with $800 million in debt. The casino never recouped its debts, the Times found, and sucked revenue from [Trump's] other casinos, Trumps Castle and Trump Plaza, pulling them deep into the red. By 1990, Trump's adjusted gross income was negative $400.3 million, which would balloon to negative $915.7 million by 1994. (An earlier Times report found Trump's 1995 adjusted gross income was negative $916 million, an amount then described as so substantial it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years.) As a result of his overwhelming losses, the Times found that Trump didn't pay income tax for eight of the ten years reviewed, only paying income tax in 1987 and 1988. Trump was required to pay taxes both years through the alternative minimum tax, which, as the Times described, was created to make sure wealthy people could not avoid all income tax through loopholes and deductions.

There were actually some ways that Trump made money in that decade, of course. The Times report details income that changed year after year, including $67.1 million in salary in 1988, which largely came from a lucrative deal with former T.V. host Merv Griffin for the Taj Mahal, and a still-unexplained $52.9 million in interest income in 1989. Trump's primary money-making scheme was as a corporate raider, in which Trump would buy stock in companies to fuel speculation that he could buy the company—only to drive up the stock price and then cash out. But always, those gains were overwhelmed by losses on his casinos and other projects, the Times said, and Trump ultimately lost the bulk of the gains from his four-year trading spree. As the Times noted Tuesday, though, the now-president could stand to lose so much money and keep up his gilded lifestyle, largely because the money he lost wasn't actually his. Most of Trump's money belonged to others, the Times found, to the banks and bond investors who had supplied the cash to fuel his acquisitions. Trump also secretly leaned on his fathers wealth to continue living like a winner.

The Trump camp has disputed the findings as demonstrably false, though they've yet to point out any specific falsehoods in the Times report. Trump lawyer Charles J. Harder said in a statement to the Times that their statements about the presidents tax returns and business from 30 years ago are highly inaccurate, later adding, I.R.S. transcripts, particularly before the days of electronic filing, are notoriously inaccurate and would not be able to provide a reasonable picture of any taxpayers return. The Times has disputed that claim, citing Mark J. Mazur, a former director of research, analysis and statistics at the I.R.S., who said such transcripts are referred to by I.R.S. auditors as handy summaries of tax returns, undergo quality control, and have been used to analyze economic trends and set national policy.

The Times' tax report comes as the struggle to see Trump's current tax returns has only intensified. House lawmakers and state governments alike have been hotly pursuing the closely-guarded documents, both through investigations and legislation, and the Trump team has been responded by ramping up its stonewalling to prevent the documents from ever seeing the light of day. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin officially refused to hand over Trump's tax returns to House lawmakers Monday—potentially risking jail time in doing so—and Trump and his family members have been desperately attempting to stop Deutsche Bank, some of whose employees have seen the tax returns, from complying with a congressional subpoena. While Trump's 1985-1994 tax returns don't necessarily answer the questions about the Trump Organization's modern-day dealings that investigators are hoping for from the current tax returns, their debunking of Trump's wealth and business acumen suggests there could be much more dirt left to find. The 1985-1994 returns show that in fact Donald Trump is not the modern Midas who turns everything to gold. He is the Wizard, and Toto in the form of the New York Times has pulled back the curtain and revealed the con man, David Cay Johnston, a tax policy expert and author of The Making of Donald Trump, told MSNBC Tuesday. When it comes to Trump, Johnston added, Money . . . flows out faster than it flows in. And one of the reasons we should be concerned about that is someone who is constantly, desperately in search for money to maintain the appearance that they're wealthy, is likely to commit crimes and be open to various actions.

Having a reputation as a colossal moron helped Donald Trump Jr. escape being charged by Robert Mueller, despite his starring role in the infamous Trump Tower meeting—a rendezvous he helped arrange after being promised dirt on Hillary Clinton, hypothetically tantalizing information he loved the idea of deploying especially later in the summer of 2016. Yet it appears his excitement over avoiding prosecution by the special counsel—TOLD YA!!! he tweeted after the report was released—may have been slightly premature.

NBC News reports that the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee has subpoenaed Don Jr. to answer questions about supposedly having limited information about the plan to build a Trump Tower in Moscow while his father was running for president. While both he and his sister claim to have barely known anything about the effort—in September 2017, Don Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee he was only peripherally aware of the project, and this past January told Laura Ingraham, The reality is this wasnt a deal—others say thats not the case. Trumps former fixer Michael Cohen, for example, told a House committee in February that he met with the presidents namesake and Ivanka Trump approximately 10 times to brief them about the Trump Tower plan. Before Cohen and Trumps relationship hit the skids, Cohen falsely told Congress that the project had been scrapped in January 2016 when, in reality, it was pursued all the way through June 2016. Vladimir Putin, of Russian sweeping and systematic election-interference fame, was reportedly set to receive a $50 million penthouse in the tower, in an effort to get in good with the oligarch crowd. According to Muellers report, the president authorized the highly lucrative project, and remained interested in it until it was dropped.

Before the news of the congressional subpoena—the first known to be issued to any member of Trumps immediate family—broke on Wednesday, Don Jr. tweeted, Democrats are not interested in the truth, they just want to keep the Hoax going forever. The games need to stop. He also called Representative Jerry Nadler a hack for protesting an effort to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. Hopefully he plans to live-tweet his chat with the Senate!

The long national nightmare that is Donald Trumps presidency will be over in January 2025 at the very latest—or so tradition would have us believe. But what if that isnt the case? What if Trump doesnt accept the results of the 2020 election? What if he refuses to leave?

Thats the alarm some Democrats have begun to sound amid tweets from the president in which he appeared to suggest hes owed more time in office because he was hamstrung by the Russia probe for the first half of his term. They have stolen two years of my (our) Presidency (Collusion Delusion) that we will never be able to get back, Trump tweeted Sunday, after retweeting a message from Jerry Falwell Jr. in which the false prophet made a semi-joking call for reparations for Robert Muellers investigation.

The White House and Trumps allies on Capitol Hill insisted the president was kidding. The president has a sort of dry sense of humor, Republican John Cornyn told The Washington Post, in what must surely have been an example of Cornyns own dry sense of humor. But Democrats werent laughing. When you look at people who have used authoritarian practices that have brought down democracies, they have used excuses to stay in power, Senator Ben Cardin told the Post. It may be in jest, but you still dont do that in jest. The so-called joke fueled concerns that the president would not accept the results of the upcoming 2020 election, as outlined by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an interview with The New York Times on Saturday. He would poison the public mind, she said of Trump, had Democratic victories in 2018 been by a narrower margin. He would challenge each of the races; he would say you cant seat these people . . . So, as we go forward, we have to have the same approach.

Trumps allies, though, have expressed outrage at Pelosis suggestion, accusing Democrats of fear-mongering and refusing to accept election results themselves. Kellyanne Conway called Pelosis remarks tone-deaf and ironic. Theyre trying to suggest hes some kind of monster, Rudy Giuliani told the Hill. They should stop.

Of course, Democratic fears arent completely unfounded. Trump has shattered political norms at every turn, and suggested in 2016—when he was widely believed to be headed for defeat at the hands of Hillary Clinton—that he might not accept the results of that election. Ill keep you in suspense, he said in response to a debate question as to whether hed acknowledge his loss if Clinton won. Of course, Trump did win, yet hes still contested the results, frequently complaining that supposed voter fraud kept him from winning the popular vote. Given his disregard for political norms, and the fact that his most controversial proposals often begin as insinuation, its not out of the realm of possibility that he at least sees some truth to Falwells pitch.

On the other hand, the notion that Trump would seek to extend his term is likely extreme, in no small part because he appears too incompetent to go full authoritarian. Still, theres real danger to Trump sowing doubt about the legitimacy of elections, even if he willingly returns to his life as a reality TV bozo and unsuccessful steak salesman. Trump has already lent legitimacy to myriad conspiracy theories. His repeated claims of victimhood have led to violent threats, including the attempted bombings by MAGA fanatic Cesar Sayoc last fall of dozens of Democratic figureheads. Its easy to imagine baseless claims about the legitimacy of the 2020 election riling up his most unhinged supporters.

Moreover, though Trump is unlikely to make good on any threat to extend his presidency, its disconcerting to imagine what Republicans would do if he did. The G.O.P. has stood by as Trump shatters norm after norm, offering handwringing and toothless statements in response to his most outrageous conduct. Can anyone confidently say that Republicans, who have been unwilling to stand up to Trump for two years, would rally if he actually proposed tacking on two more? So far, Trump is only joking. But Pelosi and the Democrats are steeling themselves for the possibility that what began in jest could morph into another break with precedent. We have to inoculate against that, Pelosi said of the potential for Trump to challenge the results of a possible Democratic victory. We have to be prepared for that.

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

The news that Kim Jong Un launched two short-range missiles on Thursday, the latest weapons test for North Korea after a period of diplomatic quiescence, is surely disappointing for Donald Trump, who has built his entire foreign policy around the belief that he can bully, befriend, and then bend the worlds dictators to his will. In the past weeks, however, the presidents cult-of-personality approach to international affairs appears to be faltering—not just on the Korean Peninsula, where tensions are once again rising, but also in South America and the Middle East.

In Venezuela, the Trump administrations efforts to force out authoritarian President Nicolas Maduro appears to have backfired, both for the Venezuelan opposition, which launched an anemic, failed coup last week, and for Trumps hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton. Trump previously recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela, and took Boltons advice to ramp up pressure on Maduro to leave the country. Now, however, Trump is reportedly fuming that Bolton is trying to get into a war that he doesnt want to fight. (So much for Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatening a military option.) Maduro, far from fleeing the country, has responded by detaining political enemies who tried to depose him, solidifying his power, and exposing Trump and Bolton as paper tigers.

The blustery, peace-through-strength approach has hit similar stumbling blocks in Iran, where Bolton is also at the wheel. In recent days the administration has ramped up tensions with Tehran, sending a strike carrier to the region in response to what it called troubling and escalatory threats from Iran. The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces, Bolton said Sunday in an unusual statement, warning that the U.S. would respond to any provocation with unrelenting force.

But the troubling intelligence the administration used to justify its saber-rattling was exaggerated by Bolton and other foreign-policy hawks in Trumps orbit, the Daily Beast reported Tuesday. Its not that the administration is mischaracterizing the intelligence, one U.S. official told the publication, so much as overreacting to it. Meanwhile, Irans moderates are power as the countrys hardliners grow frustrated with Trumps insistence on economic sanctions. Amid growing tensions with the U.S., Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced Wednesday that Tehran would no longer adhere to parts of the Iran nuclear deal, the landmark 2015 accord brokered by Barack Obama, which Trump withdrew from last year.

While Bolton beats the war drum in Iran and Venezuela, the administration is flailing to salvage talks in North Korea, once Trumps favorite foreign-policy success story. (There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from Pyongyang, Trump proudly declared after their summit last June.) When he and Kim met again this year to hash out a more concrete denuclearization plan, however, negotiations broke down before the two sides could even agree on first steps. It didnt help that Trump repeatedly acknowledged publicly that his threats to rain down fire and fury on North Korea were all just a ploy. The weapons tests Kim had seemingly put on hold? They started up again last month, with North Korea once more attempting to set the terms of negotiations.

Trump has expressed confidence that a deal will eventually materialize thanks to his very good personal relationship with the dictator. But of course, this belies the fact that foreign policy is an unavoidable weak spot for the president. Trump took office without any previous political or military experience beyond vague tough talk about how he knows more than the generals. But Trumps playbook—threaten total annihilation and then quickly cut a deal—has limited effectiveness once rivals catch wise. And, as Trump is struggling to learn, authoritarian governments tend to have a high threshold for political and economic pain. Kim, Maduro, and Ali Khamenei know theyll likely still be in power once Trump is gone.

On Thursday afternoon, The Washington Post reported the bizarre news that North Korea issued a $2 million bill for the care of comatose American student Otto Warmbier, insisting a U.S. envoy sign a pledge that America would pay before being granted permission to fly Warmbier home in 2017, after hed been held prisoner by the hermit kingdom for removing a propaganda sign. According to the Post, the official reportedly signed the agreement on orders passed down from Donald Trump, despite the request being wildly shameless, even for Kim Jong Un. At some point, Trump . . . well, were not going to say he read the Post story, but he heard about it somehow, and decided to set the record straight in his characteristically calm, reasonable way.

No money was paid to North Korea for Otto Warmbier, not two Million Dollars, not anything else. This is not the Obama Administration that paid 1.8 Billion Dollars for four hostages, or gave five terroist [sic] hostages plus, who soon went back to battle, for traitor Sgt. Bergdahl! the president informed his followers Friday morning, before quoting an unknown official who would like the world to know that Trump is the best hostage negotiator in U.S. history. President Donald J. Trump is the greatest hostage negotiator that I know of in the history of the United States. 20 hostages, many in impossible circumstances, have been released in last two years. No money was paid. Cheif [sic] Hostage Negotiator, USA!

While the Post never actually said whether the bill was ultimately paid, you might forgive people for expecting that Trump would have no issue paying North Korea $2 million for supposedly providing medical care to Warmbier, who died shortly after returning to the U.S. During a press conference following his aborted summit with Kim in Vietnam this past February, Trump told reporters that he chatted with Kim about Warmbiers death, and came away with the strong conviction that the brutal dictator didnt deserve any blame for what had transpired. He felt badly about it, Trump said. He felt very badly. He tells me that he didnt know about it, and I will take him at his word. Kim, of course, is one of the worlds foremost human-rights abusers, has ordered the execution or assassination of multiple family members, and runs a country thats been described as the worlds biggest open prison camp. But Trump was happy to take his word, later claiming, after outrage by the Warmbier family, among others, that he was totally misinterpreted, despite his comments being captured on tape.

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

The first Romney debate was a significant waypoint in Obamas slow drift from ebullient optimist to cranky, deflated cynic, sparking speculation that he might just be over being president. Republicans from Chris Christie (I dont think he likes being president) to Donald Trump (Hes just not into it) made note. So did the liberal media, perhaps feeling betrayed by the vanishing act of their heretofore cheerleader in chief. Salon asked in a headline, Does Obama just hate his job? *Harper*s Kevin Baker reminded readers, Barack Obama has repeatedly informed us that he hates living in the White House and cant wait to be an ex-president.

But Obama, an indefatigable basketball fan, soon turned it around and flashed his competitive side. He roundly beat Romney in the second and third debates, before soaring through November and concluding one of the most quietly accomplished portfolios of any president in the modern era: auto-industry bailout, Wall Street reforms, new fuel-efficiency standards, increased aid to veterans, expanded F.D.A. food-safety oversight, gay marriage, getting private lenders out of the federal student-loan program, the Iran deal, and of course, the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare. Not to mention ending the war in Iraq and drawing down our presence in Afghanistan.

So whats next for the Obamas? All the strands of my life came together, and I really became a man when I moved to Chicago, Obama said in May 2015, announcing Chicago as the future home of his presidential library and leading to speculation that the departing First Family will resettle in the Windy City. Others had predicted Hawaii, Obamas home state, as nice a place as any to unwind. Finally, in March, Obama put an end to the guessing game: the family will remain in Washington at least until youngest daughter Sasha graduates from high school in 2019. Wherever they end up, Obama will be hitting the phones: hes raised just $5.4 million of the projected $1 billion cost of his 21st-century digital-first library and its endowment.

And what of the first ladys post–White House plans? Despite media speculation about a possible future in politics, There are three things that are certain in life: death, taxes, and Michelle is not running for president, Barack recently declared. Wherever they are, the windows are likely to be open. We cant do little things like open the windows, the First Lady told Ellen Degeneres about life in the prison-like White House. I havent been in a car with the window open for, like, seven years.

When Peter Francis James enters stage right at the Golden Theatre, theres an enraptured hush and recognition as the audience takes him in. Starring in Hillary and Clinton with Laurie Metcalf as Hillary Clinton, John Lithgow as Bill, and Zak Orth as Mark Penn, James is the spitting image of Barack Obama.

In the play, which opened on Broadway last month, Obama comes knocking at Hillarys hotel room in New Hampshire just after shes taken the state in the 2008 primary elections. Bill is also there, against the advisement of chief strategist Penn. Although the characters and their situations are drawn in an imagined, alternate-reality past by playwright Lucas Hnath, the four players onstage still capture the subtle, human privacies of these gargantuan public figures—perhaps none more recognizably so than James and his Barack.

Lucas is not talking about the surface tics of people. Hes talking about what makes people tick, James said in recent interview. His goal was not to impersonate Obama, but to play a version of him. An imitation would get in the way.

Considering Jamess practiced presidential posture, his exacting cadence and intonation, and even his striking physical similarities, his fit for the role is clear. But that moment of recognition from the theaters audience, he said, largely comes from a level more subliminal than explicit: his clothing.

I can feel the first 15 seconds Im onstage that my costuming is doing a whole lot of work for me in a way that allows me to just focus on other things, James said. It just couldnt be better. . . . Theres nothing like coming out with the wind at your back.

Thats thanks to costume designer Rita Ryack, who perfects the former presidents uniform of a navy suit and tie. Plus, its winter in New Hampshire, so hes got a calf-length, ash-gray cashmere overcoat, too. His tie was originally striped and dark red, but after consulting director Joe Mantello, they went with blue: striped with white, royal, and an arctic-gray hue. When you have a very small play like that, everything counts, Ryack said. Its very important, each tiny detail.

So just how did they capture the silhouette of one of the worlds most recognizable men? Ryack actually tapped Obamas real-world tailor to make Jamess suit just so. While the rest of the four-person ensemble is dressed in less presidential attire—Hillary in purple track pants and a cream turtleneck, Bill in mid-thigh running shorts and knee-high white socks—Jamess Barack required a more elegant treatment. Thats where Martin Greenfield Clothiers, under the direction of Martin Greenfield and his son Jay, came in. The elder Greenfield has tailored suits for over 70 years and has worked with presidents such as Eisenhower and Obama. Conveniently for this Scott Rudin–produced, Broadway-bound play, Greenfields factory is located in the heart of Brooklyns Bushwick neighborhood, and they were eager to assist.

This was immediately very exciting for us to do, Jay Greenfield said. They mentioned his signature navy suits, which we obviously knew all about. We have made clothing for various movies that actors played presidents, but we never really were asked to emulate a specific look for an actor playing a president who we dressed.

Ryack, who previously worked with the Greenfields on projects like Barry Levinsons Bernie Madoff biopic, The Wizard of Lies, with Robert De Niro, explained that taking James to the factory space allowed for the greatest degree of authenticity. And he could also have the experience of seeing where that clothing came from—its a little more insight into the presidential wardrobe. As an actor, James also admits that simply coming close to the suit-maker is kind of an extraordinary experience.

Jay explained that the suit seen onstage is the exact make and material of the famous navy suits that became Obamas sartorial calling card: a very fine Italian cloth that comes from a mill called Loro Piana. Theyre kind of known with really finishing the cloth with a little more luster than, say, the English mills do, he says. The finish set him apart from those around him, and the deep navy had just enough blue to it to be noticeably navy next to gray or black.

Jay was the lead tailor on this project, as his father has relinquished his duties in older age. I tried to come as close as I could to what we actually did for President Obama, he explains. We helped [Obama] pick that first navy suit that we made for him, and we went on over the years to make many more of that same suit for him. It became almost a uniform. He also had other colors, charcoal grays, but navy was always the first choice. . . . Every time it was a more important event that would be viewed by more people either on television or pictures, he seemed to always choose the navy suit.

Considering their whos-who clientele of Washington, D.C., power players (including former Secretary of State Colin Powell, whom James has also portrayed on stage), James was surprised to find that modesty is the name of Greenfields game. They dont discuss their clients any more than youd want them to discuss you, he adds. Theyre a classy bunch.

James did have find one sign of the people who have been fitted before him, though. You couldnt have a less ostentatious kind of establishment, James says. It was wonderfully low-key. The first thing I saw as I went into the—I cant even call it a changing room, but it was kind of a little section—was a picture of Colin Powell thumbtacked to the wall.

There is one secret design element that only the real Obama gets to wear. While Jay ensured Jamess replica suit have the hand stitching along the edges of the suit, the handmade working buttonholes on the sleeves, the same rich shoulder and the lapels of the jacket not too narrow and trendy but not too wide, either, there is one interior detail missing. The Greenfields will sometimes add a decorative touch along the edge where the lining meets the facing, and presidents get to have it in red, white, and blue thread. Its a little painstaking because [theres] three needles going at the same time, and thats one stitch of red, one stitch of white, one stitch of blue, and then keep changing the needle and go all the way around the lining of the jacket, Jay says. [But] thats something that we figured out we like to do for the president.

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

Barack Obamas close, nearly brotherly friendship with Joe Biden is the stuff of meme legend. Its perhaps surprising, then, that the former president has mostly remained silent as women accuse his former vice president of inappropriate touching—allegations that could weigh on Bidens expected 2020 bid. Other establishment politicians, from Dianne Feinstein to Lindsey Graham, have defended the notoriously handsy ex-veep, with Democratic brass calling on Biden to keep his hands to himself (Pretend you have a cold and I have a cold, Nancy Pelosi remarked at a breakfast this week), but saying that the allegations are not disqualifying. But Obama, who has been careful in choosing when to throw his weight around, has so far remained on the sidelines.

Initially, those close to Biden indicated to my colleague Chris Smith that Obamas even-handed approach to the 2020 field had ruffled the former veeps feathers. (This is unequivocally false, a Biden spokesperson said at the time.) But this time around, Obamas reticence is probably the best outcome for Biden, whos done his best to brush off the allegations. Obama thinks the world of [Biden] and thinks hed be an excellent president, and is standing by him through the controversy, a source close to the former president told The Hill Thursday. Moreover, Joe Biden would be the first to tell you that hell have to earn the nomination on his own.

Bidens trouble began last week, when Nevada Democrat Lucy Flores wrote an essay describing how he kissed the back of her head at a campaign event in 2014. Several women have since come forward to say Biden made them similarly uncomfortable, and calling his behavior demeaning. Biden attempted to address the allegations in a video posted to Twitter this week, in which he acknowledged that social norms have begun to change, and promised to be more mindful about others personal space. Yet at an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers conference on Friday, Biden seemingly poked fun at the rash of stories. I just want you to know I had permission to hug Lonnie [Stephenson], he joked, referring to the union president who introduced him. By the way, he gave me permission to touch him, Biden then said of a boy he hugged on stage. Everybody knows I like kids more than people. According to reporters at the event, the largely male crowd responded with laughter.

Whether this kind of brush-off will fly with the rest of the Democratic electorate remains to be seen. Biden continues to lead early polls, though his standing has dipped somewhat since Flores went public. His opponents could easily weaponize the claims against him, something Donald Trump has done already. WELCOME BACK JOE! the president tweeted on Thursday, along with a doctored video of Biden. Asked Friday if he—the guy who told Billy Bush that his celebrity allowed him to grab [women] by the pussy—was the right person to take Biden to task, Trump said he was a very good messenger. People got a kick out of it, he told reporters, unabashed.

Unlike Trump, a source told The Hill Thursday, Obama does not want to influence public opinion on the matter. Thats probably a smart move, as it keeps the former president from being dragged into a contentious debate. Its also beneficial to the former vice president; any intervention by Obama would likely make allegations appear more serious than the Biden camp has sought to portray them. He realizes that he breathes so much air into every situation, the Hills source said. And I think he realizes that he would have to walk a bit of a fine line on this. Anything he says would cut against Joe Biden.

Before Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became a game-changing congresswoman, she was a bartender fighting an uphill political battle after the election of Donald Trump. Its all captured in the upcoming Netflix documentary Knock Down the House, directed by Rachel Lears. The film, which has a new trailer out today, follows four everyday women—A.O.C., Amy Vilela, Paula Jean Swearingen, and Cori Bush—who decided to get into politics ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, inspired to change their respective communities and fight against rising Trumpism.

The trailer opens with Ocasio-Cortez in an elevator, talking straight to camera. If I was a rational person, I would have dropped out of this race a long time ago, she says cheerfully, referring to her fight for New Yorks 14th District against career politician Joe Crowley. (Ocasio-Cortez would go on to defeat him in the districts Democratic primary.) The trailer offers tons of behind-the-scenes footage of her in action, hitting the pavement and passing out flyers. Hes gonna tell me Im small, that Im young, that Im inexperienced, she says at another point, preparing herself for the fight ahead.

From there, the trailer also offers glimpses at Bush (a nurse in St. Louis), Swearingen (a West Virginia environmental activist), and Vilela (a Las Vegas businesswoman). Each woman shares the varied reasons they got into politics. For Bush, it was social activism. I live six minutes from Ferguson, she said, referring to the Missouri city that was home to numerous Black Lives Matter protests.

In an interview last June with Vanity Fair, Lears said she began working on the film the day after Trumps election, communicating with organizations like Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats to find aspiring female politicians. She raised money for the project on Kickstarter, then debuted the final doc at this years Sundance Film Festival, where it earned strong reviews. Of the four women, the New York-based Lears has the most footage of Ocasio-Cortez, witnessing firsthand how the congresswomans fame exploded overnight.

Ive heard multiple people say to her and to me that they havent been as excited about a candidate since Obama, Lears said. She was able to engage voters that have been neglected by the Democratic Party machine in New York City.

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In February 2017, a controversy roiled the food world: President Donald Trump went to a steakhouse for dinner, where he ordered a $54 steak well-done and paired it with a heavy helping of ketchup. The story caught on because it seemed to reflect Trump's worst tendencies: his inability to take advice and his helplessly gauche behavior despite his wealth. At the time, writer Helen Rosner put it succinctly, writing A person who refuses to try something better is a person who will never make things good.

On Sunday, in a look at V.I.P. dining in Washington, D.C., published in Washingtonian magazine, another data point emerged in Trump dining story. Badger Russell, a former server at the Trump restaurant in D.C., said that as far as he could tell, Trump was putting the ketchup on his fries, not his steak, when he would dine at the restaurant. The server also added that every time Trump dined at the restaurant, he was greeted with a standing ovation.

That the president expects adulation with his well-done steak is one understandable reason why he tends not to eat at restaurants that he does not own himself. Hes probably doing the other restaurants of D.C. a favor: consider what happened when Trump official Stephen Miller allegedly demanded a seat in the middle of the restaurant, sparking anti-Trump anger among other customers.

But for as many Trumpworld figures as there are dining in D.C., it's still the previous administration that owns the hearts and minds. Restaurants will still do anything they can to accommodate Barack and especially Michelle Obama, whose presence at a restaurant is such great word-of-mouth advertising, said Billy Carter, who has been a maître d at various D.C. haunts. And the restauranteurs return the favor by keeping their dining habits to themselves, though Brent Kroll, a former beverage director at the St. Regis, acknowledged that when it came to wine, Barack Obama wouldnt go really expensive. He wanted domestic."

When the Obamas are in, everyone who enters the restaurant is wanded, which seems like a pain, but is worth it for the employees and owners. We dont say at first, but finally it all gets out, so all those people are going to say, I was at Joes when Michelle was there, added Carter.

Unlike celebrity-choked Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., still has the type of restaurant culture where having a big name gets you the best service. Unless youre one of the many politicians who all kind of look the same. At the restaurant Oyamel, they realized one day that a regular who would dine at the bar was wearing a lapel pin. They finally thought to look at the name on the credit card, and it was former Tennessee senator Bob Corker they had been serving that whole time. Who can blame them? Would you recognize Bob Corker in the wild?

— Shooting a tiger: the bitter infighting, global protests, and massive egos of Indias most controversial tiger hunt

Would you believe that Queen Elizabeth is the cool, approachable name for the reigning monarch of England? In moments of proper formality, shes actually Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her Other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith. Thats a lot of name! Imagine trying to ferret ones way through all that pomp and prestige and the title of it all to get to the person beneath it. The Crown has made a good-faith attempt at it, but there must be a better way to understand Her Majesty than by waiting until Netflix gives us Season 3, when we learn how Charles disappoints his father this time.

Michelle Obama, though, shows us another way. The former First Lady, still on the never-ending press tour for her memoir, Becoming, made a stop at Londons O2 arena on Sunday, where she recounted her first visit to the palace, in April 2009, with then-president Barack Obama. She—horrors of horrors—placed an arm around the Queen's shoulder, a clear breach of protocol, as protocol is always and forever: Stay off the grass, no photographs of the crown jewels, and please, please dont touch the Queen.

What is true among world leaders is that there are people who handle protocol, and usually the people theyre representing dont want all that protocol, she said of the moment that sent waves of gasps through the British press. So you wonder, Well, who are you doing this for? Because they dont want it, we dont want it. But its just the way things are. So I dont know that I could have done anything differently because it was a natural human reaction.

Yes, cut the B.S. Be a human to another human. These formalities and special treatments may have buoyed the Queen through, like, 20 wars last century and many more Christmas addresses, but lord, shes 92 now (and 82 then). She must be a little exhausted by all of it.

There are, of course, reasons for protocol. Maybe in days of yore, when monarchs were a more common way of structuring things, all those rules were used to prop up that big title kings and queens had. Now, in an era of constant cameras, protocol seems geared toward giving world leaders marks to hit so they dont have pained expression of confusion etched on their faces for all of history to see.

Obama was on the other side of a bewildering moment of protocol breach during the changing of the guard at the White House back in 2017, when the Trumps brought a gift for the outgoing family to their inauguration. (Its just not done!) But a brief pat on the back is not a big blue Tiffanys box that no one knows what to do with. Its a relatively benign gesture of affection.

In her memoir, Obama recalls the incident, writing that the Queen remarked on Obamas height, and Obama remarked on her heels, and the Queen remarked on her own heels, and they had a moment of recognition in each others shared lack of arch support. Forget that she sometimes wore a diamond crown and that Id flown to London on the presidential jet: we were just two tired ladies oppressed by our shoes, she wrote. I then did whats instinctive to me anytime I feel connected to a new person, which is to express my feelings outwardly. I laid a hand affectionately across her shoulder.

I couldnt have known it in the moment, but I was committing what would be deemed an epic faux pas, Obama added. But I tried not to let the criticism rattle me. If I hadnt done the proper thing at Buckingham Palace, I had at least done the human thing. I daresay that the Queen was okay with it, too, because when I touched her, she only pulled closer, resting a gloved hand lightly on the small of my back.

The Queen has since verbalized her frustration with protocol, apparently. During a panel in Royal Festival Hall in London last December, Obama recalled another Windsor Castle visit. So I had all this protocol buzzing in my head, and I was like, dont trip down the stairs and dont touch anybody, whatever you do, she said. And so the Queen says just get in, sit wherever, and shes telling you one thing and youre remembering protocol and she says, Oh its all rubbish, just get in.

On Tuesday, attorney general William Barr turned Donald Trumps wildest dreams into reality when he told a congressional committee he was assembling a team to investigate the F.B.I.s handling of its probe in the Trump campaign. The next morning, the president was apparently riding high. It was an illegal investigation, Trump told reporters running down the list of intelligence officials hes cast as villains of the so-called witch hunt. This was an attempted coup.

Trump and his allies have long called for closer examination of the Russia probe, suggesting it was born out of anti-Trump bias and amounts to a politically motivated attempt to bring down the president. Trumps supporters have insisted that a controversial dossier—which alleged, among other things, that Russia had salacious tape of the president in a Moscow hotel room—served as the basis for the probe, though The New York Times reported in 2017 that it stemmed from drunken comments former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos made to an Australian diplomat in May 2016.

At present, its unclear how far Barrs probe will extend. Per Bloomberg, he explained to lawmakers that he is reviewing the conduct of the investigation and trying to get my arms around all the aspects of the counterintelligence investigation that was conducted during the summer of 2016. He clarified in a second straight day of testimony on Wednesday, saying he would look into both the genesis and the conduct of intelligence activities directed at the Trump campaign, including potential spying, which he said did occur. He added that he wanted to make sure there was no improper surveillance, as Trump and Co. have alleged.

Whether these measures will satisfy Trump, who has continued to call for a separate investigation into the origins of the inquiry, even after Barrs letter exonerating him, remains to be seen. Democrats, meanwhile, are pushing for the release of Robert Muellers full report, which some on the special counsels team apparently view as more damaging to Trump than the four-page summary Barr provided last month. Barr, who had criticized the investigation before being appointed by Trump, said Tuesday that he plans to publish a redacted version of Muellers report, but that will almost certainly fall short for House Democrats, who are preparing to issue subpoenas for more information and have accused the attorney general of attempting to protect the president. I think thats a betrayal to what he promised during his confirmation, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff told CNN Tuesday. The president wanted his own Roy Cohn, and apparently he got one.

Even if Democrats prevail, however, Barr has already given Trump some legal cover. And in complying with Trumps wishes to investigate the investigators, he could also further muddy the political waters. We beat them, Trump crowed to reporters Wednesday. I won. No collusion, no obstruction. I won. Everybody knows I won. He added that he has not seen the Mueller report.

Donald Trump still has Obamacare in his crosshairs, and now his administration has launched a new effort to torpedo the law. On Monday, Trumps Department of Justice threw its weight behind a federal district judges ruling that would invalidate the Affordable Care Act in its totality, a more extreme position than the administration had previously staked out, and one that could prove potentially devastating for Americans who depend on the law. The Department of Justice has determined that the district courts judgment should be affirmed, the D.O.J. wrote in a filing Monday to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is currently considering the case. The United States is not urging that any portion of the district courts judgment be reversed.

Republicans have sought to undermine Barack Obamas signature health-care policy since its inception nearly 10 years ago, and Trump last year succeeded in ending the laws individual mandate, a key part of the legislation requiring Americans to either have health insurance or pay a fine. But he and his allies have so far failed to repeal and replace the A.C.A., despite having controlled both the House and Senate for the first two years of Trumps presidency. Trump has groused about those high-profile defeats, most notably in his bizarre, ongoing attacks against late senator John McCain, who shot down the G.O.P.s half-baked skinny repeal with a dramatic, last-minute thumbs-down. Trump has also continued to target the A.C.A., proposing in his most recent budget that Obamacare be repealed and replaced with his preferred block-grant system—a position that will likely figure heavily into the 2020 campaign, but that would almost certainly be a nonstarter in the Democratically controlled House.

But the D.O.J.s support for Judge Reed OConnors ruling in Texas v. United States could present a legitimate threat to the A.C.A. Texas, banded with other red states that opposed Obamacare, argued that the whole law should be thrown out because the individual mandate had been repealed. California and several blue states have challenged the judges ruling, setting up a battle in the Fifth Circuit, and likely in the Supreme Court down the road. The administrations support for the sweeping ruling is a more aggressive position than its previous stance, which held that only some parts of the law, like protections for people with pre-existing conditions, should be eliminated.

That argument last year by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions was a direct and unusual threat by the Justice Department against an existing law. This even more extreme position, under William Barrs D.O.J., not only threatens to leave millions of Americans without health care, but, as Politico noted, would upend some of the Trump administrations own agenda, such as its proposed drug-price reforms and its battle against opioids. It could also carry political costs for the president. Polls suggest that more Americans support the A.C.A. than oppose it. And several Democratic presidential candidates have not only defended Obamacare, but have pledged to expand access to health care.

Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, have vowed to fight the administrations latest monstrous broadside. Tonight in federal court, the Trump Administration decided not only to try to destroy protections for Americans living with pre-existing conditions, but to declare all-out war on the health care of the American people, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement after the D.O.J.s filing. Democrats will continue to fight relentlessly to protect people with pre-existing conditions and to deliver lower health costs and prescription drug prices for every American.

When Barack and Michelle Obama first landed their big Netflix deal more than a year ago, one obvious question came to mind: what will the former First Couple be like as auteurs? What is their programming philosophy? Are they fans of the burgeoning half-hour-drama format? Will their upcoming shows and films be all about politics? (To answer that last one: nope!) Our wondering came to an end this week, when Netflix announced seven upcoming programs from the former president and First Lady—and with only a few exceptions, the unifying theme here seems to be serious Big Dad Energy.

A few selections on the list sound a bit like subtle jabs at Donald Trump; for instance, theres a feature film adaptation of David W. Blights Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom. (Guess Trump was right; the long-dead abolitionist is being recognized more and more.) Theres also an adaptation of Michael Lewiss The Fifth Risk, which examined the transition into Trumps presidency, as well as some of the well, risks it posed. Per Netflixs release, that nonfiction series will aim to portray the importance of unheralded work done by everyday heroes guiding our government and safeguarding our nation. Indeed.

But beyond these projects, the grander uniting theme seems to be a dedication to dadliness—which makes a certain kind of sense, given Barack Obamas long-standing Cool Dad vibe. In addition to the Frederick Douglass and Fifth Risk programs, both of which sound like catnip for a certain brand of wonkish, history-loving dad, theres American Factory, which already won the U.S. documentary directing award at Sundance. Per Netflix, The acclaimed film takes a deep dive into a post-industrial Ohio, where a Chinese billionaire opens a new factory in the husk of an abandoned General Motors plant and hires two thousand blue-collar Americans. Early days of hope and optimism give way to setbacks as high-tech China clashes with working-class America. See also: Overlooked, a series developed from the long-running New York Times column by the same name, which runs long-overdue obituaries for interesting people whose deaths had been unrecognized by the paper. Theres also a film that documents the rise of the disability rights movement—which happened to spring up just down the road from Woodstock in the 70s. That one sounds like itll have a little something for everyone.

Naturally, there are also a few exceptions to the rule. The half-hour preschool series Listen to Your Vegetables & Eat Your Parents will teach children all about food—a move that sounds like it came straight out of the Michelle Obama playbook. And then theres Bloom, an upstairs/downstairs drama series set in post-World War II New York. Per the release, that show will examine the world of fashion at the time, and the barriers women and people of color faced. In other words: theres a decent amount of Big Mom Energy among these projects as well.

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

— Abigail Disney is calling for her familys company to raise the salaries of thousands of employees

Nicole Avant has been an actress, music executive, and U.S. ambassador, and half of a Hollywood power couple, so shes a woman in constant motion. But she rarely misses a Friday lunch with her father, Clarence, the polymathic music mogul and trusted mentor to entertainers, athletes, and politicians for more than 50 years. Only taking a hiatus from their weekly routine when she served as President Barack Obamas envoy to the Bahamas, from 2009 to 2011, Nicole absorbed her fathers stories of escaping the Jim Crow South to become the consigliere for such legends as Bill Withers, Hank Aaron, and Muhammad Ali, eventually becoming the chairman of Motown Records and one of the first black entertainment executives to plunge into politics. Clarences tales inspired Nicole to produce The Black Godfather, a documentary premiering on Netflix in June, directed by Reginald Hudlin, and featuring such friends and associates of her fathers as Quincy Jones, Cicely Tyson, Snoop Dogg, David Geffen, Jamie Foxx, Obama, and President Bill Clinton.

Making the movie was an opportunity for Avant—who with her husband, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, has become one of the Democratic Partys go-to fund-raisers in L.A. (as for their 2020 favorite: Too early to say)—to wield her spirited drive. Ive always been a producer, working towards a goal, Avant says. Whether at A&M Records, with my team in the Bahamas, or now this film, I love putting the pieces together to get dreams fulfilled.

Perhaps more than any other Democratic candidate for president, Joe Biden is a comedians dream. The former vice president and former senator from Delaware has an extensive record—and, more importantly, a famous tendency for committing gaffes at record rates. As Trevor Noah put it on The Daily Show Thursday night, The only thing that spends more time in Bidens mouth than those perfect teeth is his own foot.

In a weird way, I feel like these gaffes are what made Biden the perfect balance to President Obama, Noah added. You know, because . . . Obama . . . measured every . . . word. You could feel . . . him . . . thinking . . . as he was . . . talking. But when Biden talks, his brain just clicks Im Feeling Lucky, and the first result comes out of his mouth.

Biden announced his presidential campaign Thursday, with a video calling for supporters not to grant Donald Trump eight years in the White House—although it was hard to absorb any of what he was saying after seeing that unfortunate font choice, or the curious way the video was shot. (As Jimmy Fallon put it on The Tonight Show, Is he running for president, or trying to sell me a reverse mortgage?)

Yes, Noah conceded, Biden has a formidable list of accomplishments. For example, hes known as an expert dealmaker in Washington, with a gift for working across the aisle: Thats right. Joe Biden was so good at getting stuff done, he even found a way to work with Mitch McConnell, Noah said. And they probably got along because Mitch was the only person Biden wouldnt give a massage to.

Any politician who has served as many decades as Biden is bound to rack up some baggage. But Biden does have a lot in his past to answer for, including his treatment of Anita Hill, passing the now-controversial 1994 crime bill, and voting for the Iraq war. So on the downside, Joe Biden got a lot of things wrong back in the day, Noah said. But on the upside? He managed to grow his hair back!

— Cover story: Nicole Kidman reflects on her career, marriage, faith, and texting with Meryl Streep

— Abigail Disney is calling for her familys company to raise the salaries of thousands of employees

But Dean reminded Buttigieg of something lost in popular memory: his early support for civil unions. In April 2000, Dean had signed the nations first law allowing same-sex civil unions, then a groundbreaking step in the nations slow march to marriage equality. At the time, the law was so controversial, so aberrant to the American mainstream, that Dean had to wear a bulletproof vest at times in public. But as Dean began to assemble a presidential campaign, his support for civil unions was a door opener. Running for re-election in Vermont that fall, Dean was the toast of the L.G.B.T. fund-raising circuit, appearing at several events hosted by the Human Rights Campaign. He later appeared on the cover of The Advocate in a very hetero-looking fleece half-zip under the headline A Civil Unions President? His connections in the gay community would become foundational as he began to raise money and put together an organization.

Im not sure Howard Dean fully appreciated this at the beginning, but civil unions was kind of a made-up artifice, said Elizabeth Birch, who was then the executive director of the Human Rights Campaign. It had no legal meaning. It was made-up legal creature that had no history in the country. But because Dean had supported at least what would be the equivalent of a domestic partnership, that was the biggest step to date. He went on our dinner circuit. And the H.R.C. had really grown into a formidable organization. We bought talent from Silicon Valley and it became a real force. Dean was able to tap into that, appear at a number of dinners, and really impress people. He was intelligent. He was a truth-teller.

Deans early ask to L.G.B.T. donors in 2002, as he launched his presidential exploratory committee, was similar to Buttigiegs last year as he ramped up his potential bid: I might not be your first choice, but Id appreciate some of your support as I try this. His rapport with the gay and lesbian political community was critical. It became the building block upon which he would capitalize as he broke into the mainstream. Big L.G.B.T. donors had fancier names to support, like John Kerry, Dick Gephardt, and John Edwards, but they also tossed some friendly extra cash Deans way because they respected his bravery on civil unions. I showed up on the campaign early and almost everyone there was there because of civil unions, said Nicco Mele, the Web master of the Dean campaign who now teaches at Harvard. Almost all of the early money was around the civil-unions issue from the gay community. Dean lost that 2004 campaign, but he raised more money than any candidate in the Democratic primary.

Seventeen years later, so much has changed. Other states began to recognize civil unions, then same-sex marriage. In 2012, President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to openly support marriage equality. The Supreme Court in 2015 made same-sex marriage the law of the land after a five-four ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. And today, an openly gay man is not only running for president, but has leapt to third place in the Democratic primary polls behind internationally famous candidates Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden. Buttiegiegs sexual orientation is not a central theme of his campaign message, but it doesnt need to be for prominent L.G.B.T. donors who have grown accustomed to supporting candidates who are friendly on their issues, but never one their own.

There is just this shock in the midst of this incredibly important presidential campaign that is simmering: you have an openly gay man who is catching fire, said Corey Johnson, the 37-year-old Speaker of the New York City Council who is also gay and recently attended two packed Buttigieg fund-raisers in Manhattan, giddy events chronicled by my colleague Tina Nguyen. Of course his message extends beyond his sexual identity, but in the L.G.B.T. community, people are used to supporting allies who have been our friends, but maybe not even fully your friends, Johnson told me. Maybe they once voted for DOMA or only quietly supported marriage equality. Now you have this young, openly gay mayor who is married. Whether you are a big donor or a random donor, there is this palpable excitement. People are kind of slack-jawed.

But before Buttigieg could even think about catching fire, he had to find a way to pay for a staff, travel, and digital advertising. He initially followed Deans counsel, cracking open wallets in L.G.B.T. donor networks even if he was unable to lock down full-blown commitments from major bundlers. If Buttigieg could raise enough to get started and prove viability, the theory went, he could come back for more later. It worked: in the first quarter of 2019, Buttigieg was able to raise funds not just from adoring small donors over the Internet, but also from major L.G.B.T. donors who initially liked other candidates but were nevertheless enamored with Buttigiegs history-making gamble. Buttigieg raised $7.1 million in the first quarter, out-raising all but three Democratic candidates and taking in more money than four sitting U.S. senators. Among 2020 candidates, according to the Associated Press, Buttigieg received the second-highest number of checks from donors who gave to multiple candidates.

Now that Buttigieg is firmly established as a credible candidate rather than just a Twitter-friendly novelty act, his financial support is growing more serious by the day. While he netted over $4 million from donors giving under $200 in the first quarter, some $2.5 million came from large donations, a sum likely to balloon in the coming months. Many L.G.B.T. donors who gave early to multiple candidates are now either firmly in Buttigiegs corner or lining up to host big-money events for his campaign. Movie producer Richie Jackson hosted a finance event for Buttigieg in New York in April. This week, Buttigieg traveled to Chicago for an event with Democratic donors Eric Janssen and Marco Zerega. In May, Buttigieg will attend a fund-raising event in the Washington area co-hosted by Obama bundler Barry Karas, public affairs strategist Alex Slater, and lobbyist Steve Elmendorf, a top Hillary Clinton bundler who recently told CNBC that hes fully in Buttigiegs corner in the 2020 race.

Buttigieg, of course, has attracted financial support from plenty of straight bundlers as well, including from well-connected Obama and Clinton donors like Susie Tompkins Buell and Orin Kramer. But in conversation after conversation, its becoming clear that the high-dollar L.G.B.T. donor community has never been as excited about a presidential candidate as it is right now. The gay community should speak freely and clearly, and to have someone on the national and international stage is meaningful to us, said Rufus Gifford, the former ambassador to Denmark who was Obamas national finance director in 2012. As a public member of the gay community, its an inspiring voice, without a doubt. I have maxed out to Pete because of what you are seeing.

Put simply, Buttigiegs identity is helping him tap into a deep reservoir of politically engaged wealth that has, until recently, been watching the Democratic race somewhat tepidly. If Buttigieg manages to post a monster fund-raising number in the second quarter of this year, it wont just be because small-donor millennials were fired up about his CNN town-hall appearances or his viral piano covers of Spoon songs. It will be thanks to a growing set of major fund-raisers, many of them gay and lesbian, who are coalescing behind him early and fast, delivering substantial checks that other Democratic candidates are choosing to leave on the big-money table.

If you look in my sent e-mail box, I am constantly forwarding e-mails on to the campaign saying, How can I get involved? I want to get involved. Can you connect me? said Jackson, the film producer. Something very real is happening.

Jeff Trammell, a longtime Democratic fundraiser who is supporting Buttigieg, first began doing outreach to the L.G.B.T. donors in 1999, as an advisor to Al Gores 2000 presidential campaign. Previously, gays and lesbians were not explicitly a target group for Democratic fund-raisers. But the culture was changing, and a gay man, Andy Tobias, had recently taken the reins as treasurer of the Democratic National Committee. People were just ready, people were starting to come out, Trammell said. Lawyers, doctors, bankers. People wanted to come out to engage in the political process. At the same time, being out and gay was not mainstream in places beyond major urban centers. Today, you wouldnt do a separate L.G.B.T. event. But in those days, you did separate events. Fifteen years ago, people were closeted and wanted to come to an event but not run into a senior partner. I remember once in Des Moines, we once set up a moveable wall at a hotel between the media and gay and lesbian Iowans who came to our fund-raiser and wanted to talk.

Today, Trammell said, part of the buzz around Buttigieg among L.G.B.T. donors is that hes appealing to Democrats outside the gay and lesbian universe—that, so far, he appears to be viable with straight people. There is a feeling of surprise and excitement in the community to see one of our own not just standing up there, but doing so well in the process. Its exciting for us because it signifies promise. That we are all part of this and we are living the revolution. Obama significantly out-raised Buttigieg in the first quarter of 2007—$25 million to Buttigiegs $7.1 million this year—but both numbers projected credibility to once-skeptical insiders who then felt more open to giving. Buttigieg is now capitalizing on his cultural virality by harnessing the support of big donors and small donors alike. But his immediate emotional connection with the increasingly influential L.G.B.T. donor set is giving him an early financial edge in the Democratic race.

What is going on now is one of the untold secrets of the D.N.C. and Democratic Party generally, which is that the L.G.B.T. community is a huge source of money into the Democratic Party, said Birch, who admires Buttigieg but said she is hoping for a woman president. You could call it the Obama moment. But he is the right package of characteristics for gay donors. I think hes striking a chord in the hearts of donors about childhood and the all-American boy. He reminds you a little of one of the kids next door, like he would have been on Father Knows Best. He is not a Ken doll. He has the appeal of Opie Taylor, and then within that persona comes out this really wise and deep and intelligent commentary about the country and the world. And on top of that, he talks about faith. Hes calling for awakening of the religious left. A great number of L.G.B.T. people were thrown out of their places of worship growing up. Pete is grabbing the mantle of spirituality and reclaiming it. There is an undercurrent in the L.G.B.T. world that finds that incredibly moving. For many L.G.B.T.Q. people, it is enormously appealing and healing. So that combination of awakening the religious left, the boy-next-door feel of him, and combining all of it is very appealing to many donors in the L.G.B.T.Q. community, particularly some of the really traditional wealthy donors in the Democratic Party. Some of them think that had they been born in a different time, they would have had more opportunities open to them, so they love the idea of putting money in this very appealing mayor.

What is going on now is one of the untold secrets of the D.N.C. and\nDemocratic Party generally, which is that the L.G.B.T. community is a\nhuge source of money into the Democratic Party.

Richie Jackson, the movie producer who recently hosted a Buttigieg fund-raiser alongside his husband, Broadway mogul Jordan Roth, told donors at his fund-raiser that hes made a daily habit of waking up in the morning and watching or listening to a new interview with Buttigieg to soothe his nerves about the Trump era. My shoulders relax and I breathe easier, Jackson told his guests, with Buttigieg looking on in his trademark tie and white shirtsleeves. Jackson punctuated his introduction with a refrain often heard among Buttigieg donors: I am old enough to remember when there were no out gay elected officials.

What I think about with Pete is that we know that there are 1.5 million L.G.B.T.Q. youth at risk today, Jackson told me. My only feeling, as far as being gay, is can you imagine how life-saving and life-changing his election would be for them? Just his running. What a beacon. He is not saying he didnt struggle. And that it hasnt been difficult for him. When I think about those young people who need to hear you are worthy and you can do whatever you want, that alone is reason to support him.

Buttigiegs willingness to raise money from major donors sets him apart from candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who are swearing off fund-raising events to focus on grassroots donations. Its also caused problems for Warren, who saw the recent departure of her finance director and raised only $6 million in the first quarter. Progressive activists are throwing darts at Buttigieg for taking money from wealthy elites, like Facebook executives and energy lobbyists, but his supporters say that Democrats who swear off big donors are making a mistake, with Trump amassing a significant fortune that hes already using to run digital advertisements and build a field staff. The Trump re-election campaign raised $30 million in the first quarter of 2019, and along with the Republican National Committees war chest, hes currently sitting on $82 million in the bank.

Democrats have the disadvantage of being encumbered with a do-gooder mentality, Trammell said. We believe in good government and not cutting corners with campaign financing. On the other hand, you have to win. As someone famously said, if you dont win, you dont legislate. The Democrats need to have enough money. We will see if the Elizabeth Warren approach works.

Gifford, who raised money for both of Obamas campaigns, said Democrats need to depend on many streams of revenue. Small donors will never be enough. Buttigieg has to make sure he diversifies his revenue streams just like we did in 2007 and 2008. Early on it was the big supporters that got us to that first number. That wasnt online money. That was old-school fund-raising, direct mail, and telemarketing. That gets you out of the gate. You should never be reliant on one strain of fund-raising and I think a lot of the campaigns have been doing that. The idea that I can send an e-mail and be good to go? Thats just naive as far as Im convinced.

Despite his excitement, Gifford cautioned that Buttigieg cant just assume the L.G.B.T. community will rally behind him in full. It is only April 2019, and Buttigieg is still figuring out how to ride the lightning. There are candidates who have been fighting for L.G.B.T. equality longer than Petes been out of the closet, Gifford said. My allegiances are pulled a million different ways. Just because he has inspired a lot of people doesnt mean the L.G.B.T. community will vote that way. Biden, Kamala, Gillibrand, Booker. They have long-standing relationships that do matter. But Pete has been doing all the right things. He had no real relationships nationally when he launched his campaign. He had to do that legwork. He is definitely working his tail off.

Though he canceled one trip to England in January 2018, perhaps because he feared protests, President Donald Trump is now ready to take the Trump Train all the way to Buckingham Palace. On Tuesday, the Palace announced that the Queen will host President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump for an official visit starting on June 3.

Its not the first time that the Queen has hosted the Trumps. In July 2018, the Trumps met the Queen for tea at Windsor Castle, though they reportedly didnt arrive until after 5 P.M. and kept the Queen waiting. It happened the day after a state dinner with Prime Minister Theresa May, at which Melania wore a dress right out of Beauty and the Beast.

Since the visit is an official state visit, it stands to reason that there will be, perhaps to the chagrin of everyone involved, another state dinner. Though Trump is not known for his skill at hosting and attending these dinners, he does seem to enjoy them. At least its happening on the Queens turf, and we can rest easy knowing that he will not be serving any great American food, like the over 1,000 hamburgers he fed to the Clemson Tigers football team in January.

The Queen has met 11 of the last 12 American presidents. Some of the visits have been fairly tame, but others have been more exciting, like the horseback-riding session she had with Ronald Reagan in 1982. Others caused an international hubbub, like Michelle Obamas 2009 visit when she put her arm around the Queen, touching her back. (On her recent book tour, Obama mentioned that she thought it was the right thing to do. Why? It was a natural human reaction.)

In the White Houses statement about the upcoming visit, she was mistakenly called Her Royal Majesty instead of Her Royal Highness. Though this is a minor flub by the standards of this typo-prone press office, it shows it has plenty to learn before it can appropriately greet the Queen. Lets hope that there are no more back pats in our future—the press corps wouldnt be able to handle it.

— Facial-hair theories: Why the Trump kids are sporting scruff, and what to make of Julian Assanges exile beard


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