May 5, 2014

The Ron Paul family hasn't exactly been warmly embraced by the Republican establishment, and it's fair to say that the former congressman/paterfamilias was neither the presidential choice of Fox News nor The Wall Street Journal. His son Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), has fared a little bit better, but Rand Paul's noninterventionist foreign policy and other Republican heterodoxies have not endeared him much to Rupert Murdoch's influential right-leaning media outlets.

And then, at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day, this happened:

The story, according to The New York Times' Jason Horowitz, is that Paul invited Murdoch to be his guest at the Derby about a month ago, and Murdoch — who'd never been to the first of the big American horse races — accepted eagerly (for an octogenarian billionaire power broker). "I said absolutely," Murdoch told the Times, indicating that it wasn't all about playing the ponies: "It's a good thing for me. He's a very interesting man.... I'm very open minded."

Horowitz describes the public spectacle of Paul leading Murdoch around the seersucker-suited set as "part getting-to-know-you and part political audition, and marked a potential turn in the race for president." That may or may not be true, but expect Fox News and The Wall Street Journal editorial page to give Paul a fairer hearing from now on — maybe. In the marquee race, Murdoch bet (a lot, it seems) on Wicked Strong; Paul wagered on Danza. Which means neither man picked a winning horse on Saturday, at least not literally. --Peter Weber

9:27 a.m. ET

It's possible that when artist Carter Goodrich set out to design this week's cover of The New Yorker, he didn't mean to craft an image that would haunt your dreams. But alas, that's precisely what he did:

President Trump is a "dangerous clown," Goodrich told the magazine. "It's a national nightmare," he added. "He's already a cartoon villain, infantile and strange."

On the plus side, there are eight days till Halloween — plenty of time to get your "President Terrifying Forest Clown" costume in order. Kimberly Alters

9:02 a.m. ET

President Trump has slammed a whole host of news organizations as being "fake news," but his favorite target of all is CNN. On Monday, the network responded to Trump's allegations in no uncertain terms with a new ad:

"This is an apple," the ad explains, over a photo of the iconic red fruit. "Some people might try to tell you that it's a banana. They might scream 'banana, banana, banana' over and over again. They might put BANANA in all caps. You might even start to believe that this is a banana. But it's not." CNN has also switched its Twitter header to a photo of the apple with the caption "facts first."

"CNN has never been more relevant than we are now," CNN Worldwide's executive vice president and chief marketing officer Allison Gollust told Variety of the new campaign. "There's a conversation happening around journalism and media and the First Amendment. It's happening right now. We felt compelled to participate in that conversation with a brand campaign that reminds people who we are and what we do and why we do it."

Other organizations have also used ad campaigns to hit back at Trump. The New York Times, for example, ran ads with mottos including "the truth is alternative facts are lies." The Washington Post, another frequent target of Trump's, recently changed its slogan to "Democracy dies in darkness." Jeva Lange

8:19 a.m. ET

Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, spoke to Good Morning America on Monday to confirm reports that President Trump "couldn't remember my husband's name" and made her "cry even worse" when he called to offer his condolences. La David Johnson, 25, was killed in Niger earlier this month under uncertain circumstances when ambushed by Islamic militants.

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), who is a close family friend of the Johnsons and was in the car with Myeshia when Trump called, recounted details of the conversation to the press last week. Wilson's account was heavily criticized by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. "In his own way, [Trump] tried to express that opinion, that [La David Johnson was] a brave man and a fallen hero," Kelly said.

Myeshia Johnson, though, said Monday that she was "very upset and hurt" when she got off the call with Trump. "What [Trump] said was, 'he knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway.' It made me cry because I was very angry at the tone of his voice and how he said it. He couldn't remember my husband's name," Johnson told Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos. She added: "[Johnson] risked his life for our country; why can't you remember his name?"

Watch the full interview below. Jeva Lange

Update 8:39 a.m. ET: President Trump tweeted in response to the interview: "I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!"

7:57 a.m. ET
Olivier Douliery - Pool/Getty Images

President Trump on Sunday urged House Republicans to pass the Senate budget proposal and start working to pass tax reform, saying that haggling with the Senate would delay a much-needed legislative accomplishment and could hurt the GOP in next year's midterm elections. "We are on the verge of doing something very, very historic," Trump said, according to a person who was on the conference call. Another GOP aide told The Associated Press that Trump warned that failure to pass the bill would result in midterm Republican losses.

Trump's participation in the call to the House Republican Conference ramped up pressure on House Republicans to get behind the Senate's spending plan even though it adds $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over a decade due to tax cuts. House Speaker Paul Ryan, also on the call, signaled his intention to pass the Senate budget bill this week in order to meet an end-of-the-year deadline for tax reform.

"I think we are going to get our taxes," Trump told Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo as part of an interview segment airing over Sunday and Monday. "Hopefully before the end of the year, but maybe much sooner than that. There's great spirit for it. People want to see it." Jeva Lange

7:31 a.m. ET

Dozens of Democratic House candidates are out-raising their Republican opponents, looking a surprising amount like the GOP did eight years ago before capturing the House in the 2010 sweep, Politico reports. "The Democrats in 2017 are starting to very much resemble the Republicans in 2009," said former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Steve Israel. "People are talking about a wave developing, but in order to even begin to think about a wave, you have to be in a position to take advantage in [case of] a wave. And Democrats are clearly in that position."

Even as the Democratic National Committee is struggling to compete nationally with the Republican National Committee — "on-the-ground operatives worry they won't have the resources to build the infrastructure they need to compete effectively in next year's midterms and in the run-up to 2020," Politico wrote Sunday — local House candidates are putting intense pressure on their opponents more than a year ahead of the election. "At least 162 Democratic candidates in 82 GOP-held districts have raised over $100,000 so far this year," Politico found, adding that that's "about four times as many candidates as House Democrats had at this point before the 2016 or 2014 elections," and twice as many as Republicans had before the 2010 wave.

Additionally, Democrats have out-raised nearly three-dozen different Republican incumbents around the country. "That's something that should get every Republican's attention in Washington," said GOP strategist Jason Roe. "These first-timers are printing money."

In fact, it has: "The fact that the environment is so intense so early is ultimately a good thing, as it makes sure more members will be prepared," observed Republican operative Mike DuHaime. "They can see it coming." Read the full analysis at Politico. Jeva Lange

7:17 a.m. ET
Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images

The Central Intelligence Agency's paramilitary branch is stepping up its covert attacks in Afghanistan, deploying small groups of officers and contractors to hunt and kill Taliban militants alongside Afghan commandos, two senior American officials tell The New York Times. The CIA had been focusing its Afghanistan efforts on battling al Qaeda and aiding the Afghan intelligence service, but President Trump and his CIA director, Mike Pompeo, appear to want the agency to play a more aggressive role in the world.

The CIA, with only hundreds of paramilitary officers spread around the world, "has traditionally been resistant to an open-ended campaign against the Taliban, the primary militant group in Afghanistan, believing it was a waste of the agency's time and money and would put officers at greater risk," The New York Times reports. "Former agency officials assert that the military, with its vast resources and manpower, is better suited to conducting large-scale counterinsurgencies." The apparent end goal of killing lower-level Taliban militants is convincing the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. You can read more at The New York Times. Peter Weber

6:09 a.m. ET

In Sunday's half of Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo's interview with President Trump, she asked him about White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's "emotional press conference" on Thursday, following criticism of Trump's condolence call to the widow of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, and whether he was expecting Kelly to have "defended you getting criticism from the Gold Star family — well, the media, really." Trump responded by saying that Kelly "was so offended, because he was in the room when I made the call and so were other people. And the call was a very nice call. He was so offended that a woman would be — that somebody would be listening to that call."

Trump did not name the widow, Myeshia Johnson, or the congresswoman who listened in on the call, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), but he told Bartiromo that he's "called many people, and I would think that every one of them appreciated it," adding: "And by the way, I spoke of the name of the young man and I — it was a really — it's a very tough call." According to Wilson, Myeshia Johnson was partly upset that Trump never said La David's name. At a press briefing on Wednesday, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders seemed to confirm that, telling a reporter: "Just because the president says 'your guy' doesn't mean he doesn't know his name."

On Friday, Sanders said there is no transcript of the call, responding to a question about an interview Trump's daughter-in-law Lara Trump gave to Fox News in which she claimed to have seen the transcript. But even in the transcript Lara Trump purports to have seen, Trump called La David Johnson "your husband."

Myeshia Johnson is on Monday's Good Morning America. Maybe she'll clear some of this up. Peter Weber

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