Democrats strive to tighten their hold in several states

INDEPENDENCE, Ore. (AP) – Unfazed by signs banning soliciting and dogs that barked at her in almost every home she visited, a political newbie knocked on doors, handed out campaign flyers and asked voters to elect her to the Oregon Senate.

Deb Patterson, who canvassed in the riverside town of Independence on a recent Saturday, hopes to win the May 15 primary and unseat four-term Republican Sen. Jackie Winters in November. A win could propel Democrats into a “supermajority” in the Legislature, with the ability to increase state revenue without Republican support.

Democrats buoyed by anti-Trump political activism want to wrest control of legislatures from Republicans, but they’re also striving to tighten their hold in states where they have an edge – or where control is split – in order to pass legislation ranging from gun control to health care and from taxation to campaign finance reform.

Republicans also consider these states battlegrounds. In Oregon, a political action committee called No Supermajorities has received a $5,000 contribution from Koch Industries, the Kansas-based energy conglomerate of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch who advocate for conservative causes.

“If even one Republican loses re-election in November 2018, there is no telling what kind of new taxes Democratic leaders might push through,” the PAC’s website proclaims.

A supermajority is a level that exceeds the threshold to produce a majority.

In Oregon, Democrats need just one more seat in the Senate and one in the House to reach a three-fifths supermajority in both chambers. That would give them a better shot at increasing corporate taxes in a state where corporations pay one of the lowest rates in the nation.

“We continue to have a pattern where families pay more into the tax system to support state services than do corporations and businesses,” said Jeanne Atkins, chair of the Democratic Party of Oregon. “With a supermajority maybe there’s a better chance, but of course the devil is always in the details.”

Atkins called Patterson “a serious candidate” who’s among those who might take seats from Republicans.

Patterson is a pastor at a rural church who has worked as a health care advocate and never held elected office. But after Donald Trump was elected president in 2016 and threatened the Affordable Care Act, Patterson was so upset that she decided to enter politics.

“I’m running for office because the last election took me by surprise, and I realized that people had to get active and get involved,” Patterson said after spending a morning knocking on doors. “We have to stand up at the state level to push back against the changes that are coming at the federal level.”

Heading into the 2018 elections, Republicans control 32 state legislatures, Democrats 13, and four are split between the parties, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Nebraska, unique among U.S. states, is unicameral and officially nonpartisan.

For their part, Republicans hope to snatch seats away from Democrats in November.

“Republicans have proven with the right candidate and right policies they can win in historically adverse areas,” said David James of the Republican State Leadership Committee.

In New York, Democrats dominate the state Assembly. On Tuesday, they won two Senate seats in special elections, leaving them one short of controlling that chamber. In theory they have a one-seat advantage, but a Democrat consistently sides with Republicans. If Democrats gain another Senate seat in November, they can more easily push liberal priorities like gun control, advance voting and campaign finance reform.

Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins, leader of the Senate Democrats, said of Tuesday’s elections: “These electoral wins are part of the ‘blue wave’ sweeping our state and nation which will help even more Senate Democratic candidates win in the upcoming general election.”

In Colorado, Democrats control the House and are one seat away from flipping the Senate. If they succeed, and hang onto the governorship, health care would be a priority, with single-payer or Medicaid for all at the top of the agenda. They would also try to strengthen gun control legislation and undo several constitutional amendments that severely restrict spending.

The national Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee is also targeting other key chambers like the Maine Senate. Democrats in Maine need only one seat to establish a majority in both chambers – if they maintain control of the House.

“We are harnessing the incredible momentum we’ve seen from volunteers and activists all over the country and we’re mobilizing record numbers of door knockers, volunteers making phone calls, and doing everything we can to elect more Democrats,” said Mara Sloan of the campaign committee.

Having a supermajority doesn’t always translate into unity, though, as both Democrats and Republicans discovered in Illinois and Kansas.

Illinois Democrats want at least four more House seats to reach the 71 needed to overturn vetoes by the governor. They’ve had a supermajority in the Senate since 2015. But from 2015-2017, they also had that magic number of 71 in the House, yet had little to show for it because three party members refused to get in lockstep with Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan.

It wasn’t until July 2017, when the Democrats’ control slipped to 67 seats, that they managed to break a two-year budget stalemate with Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner by persuading five House Republicans to join them in overriding his veto of an income-tax increase.

Illinois Democrats also diverged on social issues. For instance, some Democratic senators voted against a plan to set up a state licensing system for firearms dealers.

In Kansas, a Republican split emerged last year as the GOP-controlled Legislature sought to roll back income tax cuts enacted by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback in 2012 and 2013. The cuts resulted in the state not having enough money because tax revenues fell and promised economic gains didn’t make up the difference. Conservative Republicans blasted the proposed rollback as a tax hike. Still, it passed, Brownback vetoed it, and lawmakers overrode the veto.

In many legislatures, Republicans have used their clout to cut taxes, limit union powers and expand school-choice initiatives.

It’s a blueprint that shows Democrats can push their own agenda if they consolidate power in these states.

“I am feeling good about progressives’ chances on the ballot this fall,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said.

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AP journalists James Anderson in Denver, Colorado, David Klepper in Albany, New York, John O’Connor in Springfield, Illinois contributed to this report.

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Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.



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U.S. concerned by ‘destabilizing and malign activities’ of Iran: Pompeo

TEL AVIV (Reuters) – The United States is deeply concerned by Iran’s “destabilizing and malign activities”, new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday.

Pompeo was speaking on a flying visit to the region, where he had earlier met with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh and stressed the need for unity among Gulf allies as Washington aims to muster support for new sanctions against Iran.

The whirlwind trip to NATO in Brussels and to Middle East allies came only hours after Pompeo was confirmed as Trump’s top diplomat. He has not even visited his own office yet, he told Netanyahu.

Speaking alongside the Israeli leader, Pompeo said in Tel Aviv: “We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s dangerous escalation of threats towards Israel and the region.”

He added: “Strong cooperation with close allies like (Israel) is critical to our efforts to counter Iran’s destabilizing and malign activities through the Middle East, and indeed, throughout the world.”

Pompeo also said that the relocation of the American embassy to Jerusalem, a move set to take place on May 14, was “recognising (the) reality” of “Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the seat of its government.”

Netanyahu echoed Pompeo’s focus on Iran, stressing the closeness of U.S. and Israeli cooperation on the issue.

“I think the greatest threat to the world and to our two countries, and to all countries, is the marriage of militant Islam with nuclear weapons, and specifically the attempt of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. We have had a very productive talk today on this subject,” he said.

In Saudi Arabia earlier, Pompeo said that the U.S. would abandon the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, reached under President Donald Trump’s predecessor, unless talks with European partners yield improvements to ensure the Islamic Republic never possesses nuclear weapons.

“Iran destabilises this entire region. It supports proxy militias and terrorist groups. It is an arms dealer to the Houthi rebels in Yemen. It supports the murderous Assad regime (in Syria) as well,” he said in joint remarks with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.

“Gulf unity is necessary and we need to achieve it.”

Pompeo also addressed the rift between Qatar and its neighbours, telling reporters after leaving Riyadh: “We are hopeful that they will, in their own way, figure out how to remove the dispute between them.”

Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, cut off travel and trade ties with Qatar last June, accusing it of supporting terrorism and Iran.

Doha has denied the accusations and has said its three fellow Gulf countries aim to curtail its sovereignty. Iran denies supporting terrorism or having sought to develop nuclear weapons.

The United States, which has military bases in both Qatar and some of the countries lined up against it, is trying to mediate the Qatar feud. Trump publicly sided with the Saudis and Emiratis early in the crisis, but is now pushing for a resolution to maintain a united front against Iran.

Yemen’s armed Iranian-aligned Houthi movement has fired over 100 missiles into Saudi Arabia, the latest salvo killing a man on Saturday in the southern Saudi province of Jizan.

The United States and the Saudi-led coalition that intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015 accuse Iran of providing the missiles to its Houthi allies, which Tehran denies.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a meeting at the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, Israel, April 29, 2018. Thomas Coex/Pool via Reuters

NUCLEAR DEAL

Pompeo’s trip comes as Trump considers whether or not to abandon a self-imposed May 12 deadline for the Iran nuclear deal he sees as deeply flawed.

He has called on Gulf allies to contribute funding and troops to stabilise areas in Iraq and Syria where a U.S.-led coalition has largely defeated Islamic State jihadists.

Earlier this month, Jubeir said Saudi Arabia would be prepared to send troops into Syria under the U.S.-led coalition if a decision is taken to widen it.

Asked about Saudi troops on the ground in Syria, Pompeo said: “We will sit down and talk about… how to best make sure that this is not America alone working on this, it’s the Gulf states working alongside us.”

On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani waved aside U.S. and European discussions over changes to the nuclear accord and dismissed Trump as a “tradesman” who lacked the qualifications to deal with a complex international pact.

“We’ve certainly made some (progress with the Europeans),” Pompeo said on Sunday. “There is still work to do. They said, ‘Great, we will support you if you get the fixes’.”

Britain said on Sunday that it, France and Germany – the other signatories to the 2015 Iran deal along with Russia, China and the European Union – agreed that the accord was the best way of stopping Tehran from gaining nuclear weapons.

“(We) committed to continue working closely together and with the U.S. on how to tackle the range of challenges that Iran poses – including those issues that a new deal might cover,” a statement from British Prime Minister Theresa May’s office said.

The 2015 agreement limited Iran’s enrichment of uranium for nuclear fuel to help ensure it could not be turned to developing bomb material, and Tehran secured a removal of most international sanctions in return.

Iran has repeatedly said its ballistic missile programme has nothing to do with its nuclear work and is non-negotiable.

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Trump sees three defects in the deal: a failure to address Iranian ballistic missiles; the terms under which U.N. inspectors can visit allegedly suspect Iranian nuclear sites; and “sunset” clauses under which key limits on the Iranian nuclear programme start to expire after 10 years.

Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Ori Lewis; Additional reporting by Sarah Dadouch in Riyadh and Andrew MacAskill in London; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Stephen Kalin

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Global elites to hash out #MeToo sexual misconduct issues at Milken Conference

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The global social media movement known through the Twitter hashtag #MeToo has highlighted sexual misconduct in business, entertainment and politics, and will be on the agenda at this year’s Milken Institute Global Conference, which starts on Sunday.

Beginning with accusations of misconduct starting in October against Hollywood movie producer Harvey Weinstein, which he has denied, #MeToo has already derailed the careers of dozens of entertainers, journalists, politicians and corporate executives.

It will now also be a focus of the Milken conference, which considers how market principles can be applied to social problems. The conference is being staged at the Beverly Hilton by the Milken Institute, a think tank endowed by former Drexel Burnham Lambert banker Michael Milken.

Milken, once considered Wall Street’s “Junk Bond King,” experienced his own fall from power after his 1989 indictment in an insider trading probe. After pleading guilty to securities violations, he served about two years in prison and has since devoted his life to philanthropic efforts.

The Milken conference, which tries to set standards for corporate behavior, will this year feature a panel with actress Ashley Judd, who is one of Weinstein’s accusers, on how the momentum around the #MeToo movement can last.

One panel on Tuesday is called “How to be a Man in 2018,” while another that day focuses on women seeking to overcome the “boys club” mentality often associated with the Silicon Valley technology industry.

“Women are at the forefront of some of the world’s most disruptive and innovative companies but continue to battle systemic, outdated barriers and bias across industries,” said Canadian entrepreneur Janice McDonald, one of the speakers this year.

Since the accusations against Weinstein, men like Amazon Studios’ Roy Price, Minnesota Senator Al Franken, Hollywood stars Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K., TV anchors Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, celebrity chefs Mario Batali and John Besh, and casino magnate Steve Wynn have fallen from their positions amid allegations of sexual harassment or assault.

Meanwhile, Bill Cosby, the comedian long thought of as “America’s Dad,” was convicted of sexual assault on April 27, more than three years after such allegations began to destroy his own reputation..

Milken organizers say the organization has highlighted gender diversity issues for several years, but #MeToo has put a spotlight on the topic.

Other related issues in business include persistent pay gaps between men and women, and a lack of diversity in corporate boardrooms, where women occupy just one in five board seats.

In a recent report, Linda-Eling Lee, global head of research for MSCI’s ESG Research group, said that after studying U.S. companies between 2011-2016, companies with at least three women on the board experienced median gains in return on equity (ROE)of 10 percentage points and earnings per share (EPS) of 37 percent.

In contrast, companies that began the five-year period with no female directors experienced median changes of minus one percentage point in ROE and minus 8 percent in EPS over the study period.

Milken conference organizers said women will likely comprise at least 30 percent of the conference’s more than 4,000 attendees and more than 700 speakers.

Other conferences are making similar efforts, including the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. About 21.1 percent of Davos attendees were women in 2018, up from 20.3 percent last year, while women held 26.1 percent of speaker roles, up from 25.3 percent.

“There has been an intention to have a more diverse set of attendees and speakers,” Milken Institute president Richard Ditizio said in an interview.

Ditizio added that the non-profit group, has been doing gender related programming for years, but #Metoo offers an opportunity to “draw more attention to that specific angle of the issue.”

Investment manager State Street Global Advisors will be bringing to the event a replica statue of the young defiant girl that it placed in the heart of New York’s financial district in 2017, to ignite a discussion around the power of women in leadership and the benefits of more diversity in the corporate world.

Reporting by Liana B. Baker and Anna Irrera in Los Angeles; Editing by Jennifer Ablan

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North Korea’s Kim to invite U.S. experts for nuclear site shutdown as Trump presses for full denuclearization

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un plans to invite experts and journalists from the United States and South Korea when the country shuts its nuclear test site in May, Seoul officials said, as U.S. President Trump pressed for total denuclearization ahead of his own unprecedented meeting with Kim.

On Friday, Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in vowed “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula in the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade, but the declaration did not include concrete steps to reach that goal.

North Korea’s state media had said before the summit that Pyongyang would immediately suspend nuclear and missile tests, scrap its nuclear test site and instead pursue economic growth and peace.

Kim told Moon that he would soon invite the experts and journalists to “open to the international community” the dismantling of the facilities, the Blue House said on Sunday.

“The United States, though inherently hostile to North Korea, will get to know once our talk begins that I am not the kind of person who will use nuclear weapons against the South or the United States across the Pacific,” Moon’s press secretary Yoon Young-chan quoted Kim as saying.

“There is no reason for us to possess nuclear weapons while suffering difficulties if mutual trust with the United States is built through frequent meetings from now on, and an end to the war and non-aggression are promised.”

Kim said there were two additional, larger tunnels that remain “in a very good condition” at the Punggye-ri test site beyond the existing one, which experts have said has collapsed after repeated explosions, rendering much of the site useless.

Kim’s promise shows his willingness to “pre-emptively and actively” respond to inspection efforts to be made as part of the denuclearization process, Yoon said.

To facilitate future cross-border cooperation, Kim pledged to scrap the unique time zone Pyongyang created in 2015. He said the North would move its clocks forward 30 minutes to be in sync with the South, nine hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.

Kim also reaffirmed that he would not use military force against the South and raised the need for an institutional mechanism to prevent unintended escalations, Yoon said.

NEXT STEPS

Late Saturday, U.S. President Donald Trump told Moon in a phone call that he was pleased the leaders of the two Koreas reaffirmed the goal of complete denuclearization during their summit, Seoul officials said on Sunday.

During a Middle East trip on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would require North Korea in any deal to “take irreversible” steps to demonstrate its commitment to denuclearization.

He told ABC TV that there was a real opportunity for negotiations between Kim and Trump and that he had a clear mission from the White House to discuss American detainees and a verifiable mechanism for denuclearization with Kim.

Trump is also preparing to pull the United States out of the international 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, reached under his predecessor Barack Obama, barring an agreement in talks with European partners to tighten its terms.

Pompeo was asked whether there was any contradiction between Washington trying to negotiate a nuclear deal with North Korea and also threatening to jettison the accord with Iran.

“I don’t think Kim Jong Un is staring at the Iran deal and saying, ‘Oh goodness, if they get out of that, I won’t talk to the Americans any more,’” Pompeo told reporters. “There are higher priorities that he is more concerned about than whether or not the Americans stay in the (Iran deal).”

Moon and Trump agreed on the need for an early summit between Trump and Kim, and explored two to three potential locations, one of which Moon suggested, the Blue House said.

The candidates for the venue did not include North Korea, the United States or the demilitarized zone dividing the two Koreas, a Blue House official told reporters, declining to elaborate.

A senior U.S. official has said Singapore is being considered as a possible venue for the Trump-Kim summit.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their meeting at the Peace House. Korea Summit Press Pool/Pool via Reuters

“Trump said it was good news for not only the two Koreas but the whole world that they affirmed the goal of realizing a nuclear-free Korean peninsula through a complete denuclearization,” Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom told a separate briefing.

“Moon told Trump that Kim said he and Trump would get along with each other,…and Trump said he was looking forward to talks with Kim and there would be a very good result.”

Trump, who called the 75-minute chat “a long and very good talk” on Twitter, said his summit with Kim would take place sometime in the next three to four weeks.

“It’s going be a very important meeting, the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,” he said at a campaign rally in Washington, Michigan, on Saturday.

The White House said Trump and Moon during the call “emphasized that a peaceful and prosperous future for North Korea is contingent upon its complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization.”

Most of the specific commitments outlined in the official declaration signed by Kim and Moon focused on inter-Korean relations and did not clear up the question of whether Pyongyang is willing to give up its arsenal of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Abe’s office said on Sunday that Trump and Abe highlighted the significance of Pyongyang’s taking concrete steps toward denuclearization in their phone call.

Trump had informed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that he would urge North Korea to promptly resolve its abductions of Japanese citizens, the White House said.

Moon also had a phone call with Abe on Sunday and said he had discussed the abduction issue with Kim during the summit “in substantial detail,” the Blue House spokesman said.

Pyongyang admitted in 2002 to kidnapping 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s to train spies. Five of them returned to Japan, but Tokyo suspects that hundreds more may have been taken.

“Moon relayed Abe’s wish for a normalization of bilateral ties to Kim based on the clearing of historical legacy issues, and that Kim expressed his willingness to talk to Japan at any time,” the official said.

Slideshow (2 Images)

Later on Sunday, Moon informed Russian President Vladimir Putin of the summit’s outcome in a separate call, and proposed a joint study on trilateral cooperation over rail, gas and power infrastructure involving North Korea, the Blue House said.

Putin stressed the need for the summit to lead to trilateral projects, and invited Moon to Russia for a summit and the World Cup in June, Moon’s office said.

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin, Christine Kim, Haejin Choi and Soyoung Kim in SEOUL, Thomas Wilson in TOKYO, Lesley Wroughton in TEL AVIV and Amanda Becker in WASHINGTON, Michigan; editing by Gerry Doyle and Mark Heinrich

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Trump tweets he’s open to re-entering TPP ‘if the deal were substantially better’ than Obama’s


President Donald Trump is pictured. | AP Photo

The announcement from President Donald Trump earned a warm reception from many Republicans, the party that has traditionally strongly backed free-trade policies. | Evan Vucci/AP Photo

President Donald Trump said Thursday he would be open to rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal he railed against on the 2016 campaign trail, but only if the agreement was renegotiated to feature better terms for the U.S.

“Would only join TPP if the deal were substantially better than the deal offered to Pres. Obama,” Trump wrote on Twitter late Thursday night. “We already have BILATERAL deals with six of the eleven nations in TPP, and are working to make a deal with the biggest of those nations, Japan, who has hit us hard on trade for years!”

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After years of slamming the TPP, Trump told a group of farm-state lawmakers and governors that he had instructed his economic adviser Larry Kudlow and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Thursday to consider whether rejoining the trade pact makes sense.

The announcement from Trump earned a warm reception from many Republicans, the party that has traditionally strongly backed free-trade policies.

That the president might reconsider TPP marked a significant about-face, especially amid his steps in recent weeks to threaten significant tariffs on China as part of an effort to reset the economic relationship between the two nations. China, for its part, has threatened retaliatory tariffs that would impose significant import taxes on major U.S. exports, including soybeans, cars, aircraft and chemicals, sparking fears of a looming trade war between the U.S. and China.

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Priorities USA super PAC ramps up fundraising for 2018


People voting are pictured. | Getty Images

The super PACs first-quarter haul more than doubled what it brought in all of last year, when the nonprofit took the lead fighting policies put forward by President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Democratic group raised $4.5 million in the first quarter, plus $2.2 million for an allied nonprofit.

Priorities USA Action, the pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC that reinvented itself in 2017 with a broader mission and a focus on digital campaigning, raised $4.5 million in the first three months of 2018 as it prepares for the midterm elections.

The super PAC’s sister nonprofit, Priorities USA, raised $2.2 million, for a combined first-quarter total of $6.7 million.

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The super PAC’s first-quarter haul more than doubled what it brought in all of last year, when the nonprofit took the lead fighting policies put forward by President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans. The super PAC spent approximately $500,000 in two key 2018 Senate states, Indiana and Missouri, and finished the first quarter with about $4.5 million on hand, the group said.

The fundraising pace slowed for the 501(c)(4) nonprofit, Priorities USA, which brought in $15.5 million in 2017.

While Priorities USA Action has to report its donors and expenditures to the Federal Election Commission by Sunday’s first-quarter deadline, the 501(c)(4) can accept anonymous donations of unlimited size.

The Priorities USA groups plan to spend $75 million in the 2018 midterms, CNN reported in January, focusing on digital advertising and working in concert with House Majority PAC and Senate Majority PAC, the biggest Democratic super PACs focused on congressional races. Priorities USA Action and House Majority PAC already announced a plan to jointly spend $12 million on digital ads this year, as Democrats look to win the 23 seats they need to take back the House.

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Comedian Wolf draws laughs, gasps at correspondents’ dinner – The Denver Post

WASHINGTON — If President Donald Trump isn’t comfortable being the target of jokes, comedian Michelle Wolf has given him and others plenty of reasons to squirm.

Reporters and other famous-for-Washington types ...

Willy Sanjuan, Invision/AP, File

In this March 24, 2018 file photo, Michelle Wolf arrives at the 6th Annual Hilarity For Charity Los Angeles Variety Show at the Hollywood Palladium n Los Angeles.

“It’s 2018 and I’m a woman, so you cannot shut me up, unless you have Michael Cohen wire me $130,000,” she cracked at the annual dinner of the White House Correspondents’ Association on Saturday night.

No, Trump’s personal attorney wasn’t there. And, for the second year, Trump himself skipped the event, preferring to criticize journalists and others during a campaign-style rally in Michigan.

Wolf, the after-dinner entertainment for the White House press corps and their guests, was surprisingly racy for the venue and seemed more at home on HBO than C-SPAN. After one crass joke drew groans in the Washington Hilton ballroom, she laughed and said, “Yeah, shoulda done more research before you got me to do this.”

Trump, noting how Wolf’s routine played, observed in a tweet Sunday: “While Washington, Michigan, was a big success, Washington, D.C., just didn’t work. Everyone is talking about the fact that the White House Correspondents Dinner was a very big, boring bust … the so-called comedian really ‘bombed.’”

As he did last year, Trump flew to a Republican-friendly district to rally supporters on the same night as the dinner. In Michigan, the president assured his audience he’d rather be there than in that other city by that name.

“Is this better than that phony Washington White House Correspondents’ Dinner? Is this more fun?” Trump asked, sparking cheers.

“I could be up there tonight, smiling, like I love where they’re hitting you, shot after shot. These people, they hate your guts … and you’ve got to smile. If you don’t smile, they say, ‘He was terrible, he couldn’t take it.’ And if you do smile, they’ll say, “What was he smiling about?’”

Wolf’s act had some in the audience laughing and left others in stony silence. A blistering critique of press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was seated just feet away, mocked everything from her truthfulness to her appearance and Southern roots.

Among Wolf’s less off-color one-liners:

–“Just a reminder to everyone, I’m here to make jokes, I have no agenda, I’m not trying to get anything accomplished, so everyone that’s here from Congress you should feel right at home.”

–“It is kinda crazy that the Trump campaign was in contact with Russia when the Hillary campaign wasn’t even in contact with Michigan.”

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