It’s another defining moment. President Donald Trump fired the FBI Director on Tuesday, surprising administration staffers and prompting his press secretary to seek refuge among West Wing shrubbery while formulating an explanation. First it was a Justice Department recommendation, based on handling of Hillary Clinton’s email probe, then the president’s choice to dismiss “a showboat.” But a growing chorus of critics fingered Comey’s probe of administration-Kremlin links. On Friday, Trump released a letter from his tax lawyers, who wrote that he’d not received Russian revenue — “with a few exceptions” — precipitating more questions.
The Presidential Daily Brief
Will it be quid pro quo? The White House plans to arm Kurdish fighters for an assault on the ISIS “capital” of Raqqa in Syria, infuriating Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan. On Tuesday, he’ll be visiting Trump in Washington, and a major deal — or disagreement — is expected. While Erdogan’s vowed to reverse the Pentagon’s plan to arm what he’s called a terror group, analysts say Trump could appease his NATO ally by turning a blind eye to Turkish airstrikes against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq.
They took ill. Britain’s National Health Service became the canary in the digital coal mine Friday, as yet-unknown hackers unleased a global assault on Windows-equipped computers. Email-delivered WannaCry ransomware, linked to U.S. National Security Agency cybertools that hackers released last month, caused the service to turn away some patients. Tens of thousands of computers in nearly 100 nations were hit, and some owners reportedly paid Bitcoin ransoms to unlock their data. But by this morning, security measures and the chance legitimate activation of a hijacked domain had blunted the virus’ spread.
Everyone’s got their own bubble. Britain’s press is famously partisan, with cheeky right-wing publications like The Sun and the Daily Mail. But now far-left media like The Canary and Another Angry Voice are responding with their own tsunami of partisan gotchas, engineered to gain traction on social media. Traditional publications may suffer as left-of-center outlets like The Guardian are discarded as too centrist by supporters of far-left Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn — perhaps leaving such voters unprepared for an expected loss in June’s elections.
The Week Ahead: Ex-FBI Director James Comey’s acting successor, Andrew McCabe, will testify behind closed doors to the Senate Intelligence Committee — probably on Russian election meddling — on Tuesday. President Trump will travel abroad Friday — with the first lady — for a visit to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Italy and Belgium, where he’ll attend NATO and G-7 meetings. And Mother’s Day is tomorrow — but read this before celebrating.
Know This: Three people have reportedly died in a new Ebola outbreak reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Reversing an Obama-era initiative, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered federal prosecutors to seek the harshest possible sentences for drug offenders. And a Pennsylvania prosecutor has charged an engineer with involuntary manslaughter in the 2015 wreck of a speeding Amtrak train that killed eight people.
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It’s an arcane campaign. To control Congress, Democrats will need more than turnout: Even when they get a majority of votes nationwide, they end up the minority in the House of Representatives. The result’s skewed by red states’ redistricting, which packs minority and other Democrat-voting demographics into as few districts as possible, while sprinkling remaining blue precincts among solidly Republican districts. So liberal heavyweights like former attorney general Eric Holder — and possibly Barack Obama — are fighting back, focused on helping to elect Democratic governors in states like Wisconsin to veto such maps.
Try to keep up. In 1967, novelist Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light envisaged a hippie-dippie future, mixing Hindu mythology with nerd culture to create Accelerationism: Seeking nirvana in technology’s sterile embrace. Fifty years later, it doesn’t sound so fringe: Adherents believe in fast-paced, unregulated innovation, going against mainstream philosophies from conservatism (no rushing) to environmentalism (regulation required) to socialism (workers, not machines). As Silicon Valley mesmerizes masses with smartphones and ride-sharing, Zelazny’s reality is no longer virtual, delivering revolutionary change to your fingertips while others can’t find the brakes.
This hits people where they live. U.S. tax rules benefiting wealthy homeowners are resisting reform, allowing mortgage interest deductions and lavish tax breaks for those with up to $1 million loans, while a disproportionate number of low-income renters get virtually no help. Despite public perception, only 1 in 4 qualified households receives rental assistance. One solution, hinted at by the new treasury secretary, is to lower the cap on deductible loans. Billions in savings could be used for rental assistance, but it could also lower high-end property values and few politicians want to go there.
It’s not about harmony. Eurovision, which chooses a winner tonight, has tried to avoid divisive issues. Conceived in a fractious postwar Europe in 1956, the song contest has grown into an event that spectators — over 200 million last year — watch more for its increasingly over-the-top personalities, dance routines and, despite a prohibition, politics. This year, host Ukraine did the unthinkable: banning a wheelchair-bound contestant because she had visited Kremlin-annexed Crimea — prompting a Russian broadcast blackout and putting the competition in the line of fire.
“Nobody plays basketball in Cameroon.” That could explain the stony look on the face of 7-footer Joel Embiid when he got drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2014. But it’s actually what his father told him when he was invited to a basketball camp run by Luc Mbah a Moute, who’s played for five NBA teams since 2008. Now Pascal Siakam, 22, plays for the Toronto Raptors, and more of his countrymen are expected as Embiid’s breakthrough and Mbah a Moute’s camp inspire a new generation of Sub-Saharan hoopsters to shoot for international fame and fortune.