ELECTION DAY IN FRANCE — Will MARINE LE PEN send a Brexit-like shock tremor through the world, or will French President EMMANUEL MACRON hold on? The French election is underway today, with low turnout reported thus far. Polls close at 2 p.m. D.C. time. POLITICO’s poll of polls showed Macron gaining ground in the final week: As of Friday, he led Le Pen 55% to 45%. Keep up with live updates from our colleagues in Europe
IN MEMORIAM — Utah’s ORRIN HATCH, the longest-serving Republican senator in history, died Saturday at 88. His tenure spanned the end of the Ford administration to the middle of the Trump administration, including stints chairing multiple powerful committees and serving as the chamber’s president pro tempore.
A conservative champion who retired in 2019 after helping to shepherd Republicans’ major tax reform law, Hatch played a big role in confirming Supreme Court nominees and was a stalwart of the right on many issues, notably religious liberty and labor unions. Hatch briefly ran for president in the 2000 election. But he also retained an independent streak and a prominent bipartisan friendship with Sen. TED KENNEDY.
Hatch passed more bills into law than any other living senator at the time of his retirement, his foundation said. Among the landmark legislation he helped champion were the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a law that created the generic drug industry and one that slapped health warnings on cigarette packs. An upcoming biography from William Doyle declares him a “Titan of the Senate.”
Hatch’s humble beginnings included a childhood in poverty in Pittsburgh, where his family didn’t have indoor plumbing. He variously had stints as a lawyer, an amateur boxer and a pop/folk songwriter.
“In his later years in the Senate, Hatch lost much of his deal-making persona,” becoming a strong backer of DONALD TRUMP, The Salt Lake Tribune’s Matt Canham and Thomas Burr write in a comprehensive obituary. “And yet at the same time, Hatch, in his farewell speech on the Senate floor, lamented the political hardening of the country, while maintaining that his Senate service had been the honor of his life.”
KSL’s Lisi Merkley has a roundup of many of the tributes to Hatch that poured in from Utah politicians Saturday. And we can’t help but link to the classic moment when Hatch tried to take off glasses he wasn’t wearing, which the senator himself enjoyed afterward.
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A WHCD CALLOUT: The White House Correspondents’ Dinner is coming up Saturday, in case you lost track. On Monday we’ll be publishing a comprehensive guide to all the festivities — and we need your help! Please send us details of your event.
SUNDAY BEST …
— IGOR ZHOVKVA, an adviser to Ukrainian President VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, on what they need from the U.S., on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “We definitely need some more weapons in terms of defending the sky over Ukraine, because NATO countries refuse to close the skies over Ukraine. So we also need anti-missile systems and anti-aircraft systems, because daily and nightly Ukrainian cities are bombarded by the cruise missiles.”
— Rep. VICTORIA SPARTZ (R-Ind.) on whether the U.S. should reopen diplomatic facilities in Ukraine, on CNN’s “State of the Union” from Kyiv: “Yeah. A lot of people, a lot of countries are actually bringing [diplomats] back to Kyiv, but the least we can do [is] actually bring it maybe to Lviv.”
— Rep. HENRY CUELLAR (D-Texas) on whether he’s involved in any investigation after the FBI raided his home, on “Fox News Sunday”: “I have deep respect for law enforcement. We’re going to cooperate. You saw what the attorney said, and we’re going to follow that advice.” Sandra Smith: “So you’re going to cooperate, meaning there’s an ongoing investigation?” Cuellar: “We will cooperate with law enforcement when they ask us to do that.” Smith: “Why was there a raid?” Cuellar: “Well again, as I said, we will cooperate if there’s any questions on that issue.”
— Sen. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-Mass.) offering up what could be a Democratic midterm message, on “State of the Union”: “The Democrats are out there trying to do something. We’re trying to save small businesses. We’re trying to lower costs for the family who’s standing there at the grocery checkout line and trying to figure out what to send back because they don’t have enough money to cover. And what are the Republicans doing? They’re saying, let’s fight the culture wars. They have no ideas on the economy other than to impose pain on American families and small businesses. That’s not an idea. What they want is they want power for themselves rather than to help the American people.”
More from Warren on “Meet the Press”: “I’m not running for president in 2024, I’m running for Senate.”
ABOUT LAST NIGHT — At Trump’s Ohio rally Saturday night, the former president touted J.D. VANCE for Senate and brushed aside Vance’s past criticisms of him, The Columbus Dispatch’s Haley BeMiller reports. “You know what, every one of the others did also,” Trump said. “In fact, if I went by that standard, I don’t think I would’ve ever endorsed anybody in the country.” Vance was both booed and cheered by the crowd.
PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN’S SUNDAY — The president has nothing on his public schedule.
VP KAMALA HARRIS’ SUNDAY — The VP is in Los Angeles and has nothing on her public schedule.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN UKRAINE …
— On Orthodox Easter, Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN and Defense Secretary LLOYD AUSTIN will be in Kyiv today to meet with Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian president announced Saturday. It’s the first trip by senior American leaders to Ukraine during the war. The U.S. has declined to confirm it publicly thus far. More from NBC
— Just posted: Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN has soured on the idea of a peace deal, which he was “seriously considering” last month, and now just wants to capture as much of Ukraine as he can, FT’s Max Seddon and Henry Foy report. “The Russian president appears to hold a distorted view of the war as set out by his generals and depicted on Russian television.”
— Russia is continuing to bomb the Azovstal steel plant, the last holdout in Mariupol, per the NYT. Ukraine claimed Russia was forcibly deporting Mariupol civilians to Vladivostok, at the far end of Asia, per CNN.
— Russian attacks continued elsewhere, as Ukrainian officials said a strike in Odesa killed eight, including a baby. Several towns were shelled, and several others taken. The Ukrainian counteroffensive continued too, claiming a Russian command post in Kherson. More from the AP
— CNN’s Jim Sciutto: “Russian forces are proving ruthless in Ukraine. There is evidence virtually every day of WW2-level war crimes here. Please don’t turn your gaze away.”
— In a new profile of Austin, WaPo’s Dan Lamothe and Karoun Demirjian report that the Defense secretary’s quiet public persona belies his forceful role behind the scenes, including warning his Russian counterpart shortly before the invasion: “‘I know what you’re doing,’ Austin told SERGEI SHOIGU in an icy, deep baritone.”
— Fascinating story: The Russian advance in Ukraine was slowed in part by “a clandestine network of railway workers, hackers and dissident security forces” who sabotaged Belarusian railways that were key pieces of Russian supply lines, WaPo’s Liz Sly reports.
9 THINGS FOR YOUR RADAR:
1. ‘MY KEVIN’ IN THE SPOTLIGHT: House Minority Leader KEVIN MCCARTHY may have been spared for now from Trump’s rage over his private break with Trump post-Jan. 6. But the fallout from McCarthy’s lying about the situation continues, exemplified by a pair of brutal new analyses from NYT’s Jonathan Weisman and WaPo’s Dan Balz.
- Weisman writes that McCarthy’s lie “would once have been considered career-ending for a politician,” until the Trump-era GOP stopped punishing people who cross such lines.
- Balz is even more unsparing: “In his ceaseless drive to become the next speaker of the House, he has demonstrated weakness, hypocrisy and a willingness to lie to save his skin.”
2. REGARDING TRUMP’S GRIP ON THE GOP: Michigan Republicans officially endorsed MATT DEPERNO for A.G. and KRISTINA KARAMO for secretary of state in high-profile battles for the future of the GOP at their party convention Saturday. DePerno and Karamo, both Trump-backed, “rose to political prominence levying unproven claims of fraud in the November 2020 presidential election,” notes The Detroit News’ Craig Mauger. Now the election deniers are seeking to oversee election administration and prosecutions. The big question for Republicans: Will they be able to get enough independent voters to unseat Democratic incumbents?
3. MISINFORMATION IN THE MIDTERMS: Election officials say that after 2020, they’re anticipating another onslaught of misinformation during the fall campaign, AP’s Amanda Seitz reports. Some offices are getting proactive, offering explainers and responding to false claims in real time. Others don’t have the capacity to tackle such a task. And thousands of volunteers will work with advocacy groups like Common Cause to bat down false rumors and flag them to social media platforms in real time.
Related read: A North Carolina GOP county chair “threatened to get a county elections director fired or have her pay cut unless she helped him gain illegal access to voting equipment,” part of a drive to “audit” the 2020 election results fueled by false conspiracy theories, Reuters’ Nathan Layne scoops.
4. SCOTUS WATCH: The Supreme Court on Monday will take up a case with the potential for a major religious freedom ruling. The justices will consider the story of JOE KENNEDY, a Washington state high school football coach who was fired for praying on the field. With a newly expanded conservative majority that’s been particularly aggressive on religious liberty, the coach’s backers are feeling hopeful about a ruling in their favor. The Kitsap Sun’s Andrew Binion has a thorough primer on the case and the question of whether Kennedy’s prayers pressured players to join.
5. HOW FAR IS TOO FAR? The high-profile Republican bills in several states to limit classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity, along with the false “groomer” rhetoric, is starting to worry some GOP strategists, WaPo’s Annie Linskey and Casey Parks report. If the party seems anti-gay, it could invite a political backlash among moderate voters who might otherwise be open to a “parental rights in the classroom” pitch. “Some Republican strategists are concerned enough about the new laws and rhetoric that they are working to launch campaigns against the measures,” they write. GOP donor DAN EBERHART tells them Florida Gov. RON DESANTIS “may have gone too far” in his latest attack on Disney.
Related read on CHRISTOPHER RUFO: The activist think tanker who helped put “critical race theory” on the lips of every Fox News viewer now sees taking on LGBTQ issues in schools as “even more politically potent,” NYT’s Trip Gabriel reports in a new profile from Gig Harbor, Wash. Rufo’s seen major successes in Florida, and his cable news interviews tap into a similar playbook as he did on race. “The reservoir of sentiment on the sexuality issue is deeper and more explosive than the sentiment on the race issues,” Rufo tells Gabriel. Next up: He’s launching “a series of articles on classroom practices he deems outrageous.”
6. THE FUTURE OF ABORTION?: If the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade, medication abortion pills ordered in the mail could become the method of choice for many people seeking to end their pregnancies. But awareness of the pills and access to them are limited, prompting a scramble among advocates to educate the public in the next few months, Alice Miranda Ollsten and Megan Messerly report. The pills are already the most common abortion method, but not many Americans know about them, and new laws in many Republican states ban them.
7. TITLE 42 FALLOUT: Sen. MAGGIE HASSAN (D-N.H.) has angered progressives and immigration advocates back home with her recent trip to the southern border and push for the Biden administration to reverse its Title 42 decision, Sabrina Rodríguez reports this morning. In one of this fall’s key swing Senate races, Hassan’s trip could help shore up support from independents. But with immigration politics perpetually a charged issue, there’s backlash too, as Latino state legislators resigned from party leadership posts: “To some Democrats, it appeared to be an embrace of GOP tactics and an unnecessary doubling down on an issue that Republicans are going to criticize her on regardless.”
8. HOT ON THE RIGHT: Paging through the Obama White House visitor logs, N.Y. Post’s Jon Levine and Miranda Devine report that ERIC SCHWERIN, the business partner of HUNTER BIDEN, met with top officials including then-VP Biden across 19 government visits from 2009 to 2015. The White House didn’t respond to requests for comment, but you can bet this will be a focus of investigation for House Republicans if they retake the chamber this fall. Biden has previously said he had nothing to do with his son’s overseas work.
9. CNN+ TICK-TOCK: NYT’s John Koblin, Michael Grynbaum and Benjamin Mullin delve into the streaming service’s quick death, which came shortly after DAVID ZASLAV took over Warner Bros. Discovery. The company’s execs “had experienced bad luck with single-topic streaming services; their niche platforms dedicated to cars, food and golf were costly and ended in failure,” and low initial numbers for CNN+ raised a red flag as they looked to elevate HBO Max. The news has not gone over well at CNN, roiled by a series of recent shocks, where “employees remain stunned.”
In Las Vegas tonight, the National Association of Broadcasters will induct NBC’s Lester Holt and NPR’s “All Things Considered” into its Hall of Fame.
The Library of Congress turns 222 today.
Joe Biden put out a statement officially recognizing the Armenian genocide for the second year in a row.
TRANSITIONS — After almost two years in retirement, Mark Pettitt has returned to be chief of staff for Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.). … Sam Wright will be a managing director at HBS+. He previously was an associate at Targeted Victory. … Kiara Kearney is now deputy press secretary/digital director for Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.). She most recently was a staff assistant for Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.).
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rep. Mike Garcia (R-Calif.) … White House’s Mike Gwin … The Hill’s Al Weaver … Vanity Fair’s Abigail Tracy … Andrew Kirtzman … Erin DeLullo … Zack Roday … Clark Packard … Alyssa Betz … Ruth Guerra … Meredith Shue … Terron Sims II … Jesica Wagstaff … Hillary Lassiter … POLITICO’s Griffin Taylor … E&E News’ Miranda Wilson … Megan Sowards Newton of Jones Day … Conner Prochaska … Stuart Chapman of Thorn Run Partners … Megan Nashban Kenney … Robb Walton of BGR Group … Jameson Cunningham … PayPal’s Megan Hannigan … Edelman’s Luis Betanzo … Smithsonian’s Gabriella Kahn … former Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) … Dana Wechsler Linden
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