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--> A midday take on what's happening in politics and how to have a sense of humor about it.*

*Ha. Haha. Hahah. Sniff. Haha. Sniff. Ha--breaks down crying hysterically.


The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump doubles down on China trade threats | Top Pruitt aide resigns amid EPA ethics controversies | Questions for National Guard border plan | Trump quietly hosting White House dinner parties | Officials may roll back endangered species protections | Big sports day -- Nats home opener and The Masters | Deals near Nats Park



His name starts with an "S" and ends with a "Ruitt"



New this a.m. -- Pruitt's top aide resigns: 

Samantha Dravis, a top aide and close friend of Environmental Protection Agency's Administrator (EPA) Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittOvernight Energy: Justices take up major case on water rules | Dems probe administration's dealings with Saudi Arabia | Greens sue EPA over toxic paint strippers Environmental groups sue EPA in bid to ban toxic paint strippers Overnight Energy: EPA to make formal decision on regulating drinking water contaminant | Utility to close coal plant despite Trump plea | Greens say climate is high on 2020 voters’ minds MORE has resigned in the wake of Pruitt's scandals. Why this matters?: The sudden departure is described by one source with close knowledge of Dravis's relationship with Pruitt as a "five alarm story." Background: Dravis has a long history working with Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma.

BACK STORY: Pruitt has been under fire over ethics controversies. It was recently reported that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt rented a condo from the wife of the head of the lobbying firm Williams & Jensen, which lobbies for businesses regulated by the EPA, for $50 per night he stayed there. 'Well, that isn't necessarily incriminating' -- here's where it gets worse: The EPA "signed off last March on a Canadian energy company's pipeline-expansion plan at the same time that the E.P.A. chief, Scott Pruitt, was renting a condominium linked to the energy company's powerful Washington lobbying firm."


It doesn't end there -- a top EPA official now has questions: 

Via The Washington Post's Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis, the EPA's top ethics official Kevin Minoli says he lacked facts about EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's condo rental from a lobbyist. On March 30: Minoli wrote a memo saying Pruitt's $50 a night rental was near market value because it would equal $1,500 a month. But now: Minoli says he didn't have all the facts. "Minoli emphasized that he only evaluated the terms of the lease and not activities the document did not cover."

YESTERDAY -- THE WHITE HOUSE WON'T DTR (DEFINE THE RELATIONSHIP): During yesterday's White House press briefing, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wouldn't say if President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ McCabe says ‘it’s possible’ Trump is a Russian asset McCabe: Trump ‘undermining the role of law enforcement’ MORE has confidence in Pruitt. Watch her response:

UNRELATED TO THE CONDO STORY, BUT ANOTHER REASON PRUITT'S HAVING A BAD DAY: During an interview with Fox News, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said he wasn't aware that two close aides received pay raises after the White House refused to allow it. He got some sharp pushback from Fox News's Ed Henry. Watch: Back story from The Atlantic:


A lighter read on this controversy: 

Washingtonian's Rosa Cartagena pulled together a list of where you can stay on Capitol Hill for what Scott Pruitt paid, $50 a night. Photos of where you can stay for $50/night:


It's Thursday. If you're in D.C., start noticing which colleagues "went to get lunch" and "didn't come back" for "hours." The Nationals' home opener starts in half an hour! ;) I'm Cate Martel with a quick recap of the morning and what's coming up. Send comments, story ideas and events for our radar to and on Facebook.



Actual footage of President Trump trying to get a reaction out of China 

This morning, President Trump doubled down on his threats against China. How: Trump criticized news reports about China's plan to retaliate against proposed U.S. tariffs by hitting American goods with tariffs of their own.

He tweeted: "The Fake News Washington Post, Amazon's 'chief lobbyist,' has another (of many) phony headlines, 'Trump Defiant As China Adds Trade Penalties.' WRONG! Should read, 'Trump Defiant as U.S. Adds Trade Penalties, Will End Barriers And Massive I.P. Theft.' Typically bad reporting!"

MEANWHILE -- DON'T MIND THAT SHINY OBJECT OVER THERE: Trump's tweet came even as his own top officials, tried to calm fears of a looming trade war. Minutes before Trump's tweet, his new economic adviser Larry Kudlow downplayed that threat. He told reporters: "Technically, both countries have just proposed tariffs. Nothing's been enacted. I think that's an important point. Nothing around the corner. There's going to be a big discussion about it."

NEW APPROVAL POLL: Morning Consult's 50-state approval tracker finds 41 percent of registered voters approved of Trump's job performance during March; 54 percent disapproved. Context: This surpasses previous lows, but not by a lot. In October and November, 42 percent of respondents approved of Trump's job performance and 53 percent disapproved.



To the border! *points finger in the air*:

President Trump signed an order last night to deploy National Guard troops to the U.S. southern border. Why: Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump faces mounting challenges to emergency declaration 2,000 asylum seekers return home, decide to stay in Mexico: report Trump taps FEMA official to lead agency MORE framed the move as a way to toughen an immigration system that "rewards bad behavior," including illegal drug smuggling and border crossings. Details of the deployment: Unclear. Nielsen did not share key details about the operation, including how many troops will be sent to the border, the length of the deployment or its cost.



The lead photo in this story is incredible, by the way:

Via CNN's Gregory Wallace, the White House is considering stripping protections for hundreds of threatened species. What would be removed: The Fish and Wildlife Service uses a rule to cover hundreds of threatened animal and plant species that are at risk of becoming endangered. The proposal would roll back that rule. How the agency reacted to this report: A spokesman said it is false to say the rule would strip the protections and noted it is a "draft" that is "under internal review."


I love parties -- just saying:

Via Politico's Nancy CookPresident Trump has been quietly hosting dinner parties at the White House for friends, lawmakers, conservative leaders and prominent broadcast journalists. Why: "For Trump, the private residence dinners tend to function as a means of diplomacy, entertainment, and often an affirmation of his own worldviews."





Congress is out.

11 a.m. EDT: President Trump received an intelligence briefing in the Oval Office.

12:30 p.m. EDT: President Trump leaves the White House for West Virginia.

5 p.m. EDT: President Trump returns to the White House.



2:25 p.m. EDT: President Trump participates in a roundtable discussion on tax reform in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. He then heads back to Washington, D.C. Livestream:

Today–Sunday: The 2018 Masters golf tournament. Live coverage and leader board:



Today is National Burrito Day! 


Cel-e-brate good times, come on!: 

Happy opening day at Nationals Park! Here's a list of the best food and drink deals today to celebrate. I'm lookin' at you, Nats red velvet ice cream at Jubilee. Full list:

AND WHILE WE'RE ON THE TOPIC OF NATS FOOD...: Washingtonian has a useful guide to eating and drinking around Nationals Park this season:


And because you read this far, here's a viral video of a toddler rapping a DMX song while doing the dishes. Her mother tweeted, "Someone taught my 3-year-old a DMX song and ... I'm just not sure where to go from here." Watch:

If you don't know the actual song, you should definitely listen to part of it. It makes this video even funnier: