WHCA PRESIDENT JEFF MASON announced on “Morning Joe” that HASAN MINHAJ is the headliner for the White House Correspondents Association dinner April 29.
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BULLETIN FROM THE WHITE HOUSE — ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS is heading to the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona today to announce “specific, new actions the Trump administration is taking to secure our borders and keep our people safe,” an aide said.
THE TOUGH TALK STARTS — AP at 6:32 a.m.: “LUCCA, Italy (AP) – Tillerson says Russia must choose between aligning with US and likeminded countries or with Assad, Iran and Hezbollah.”
Good Tuesday morning. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP has said he is done with health-care reform, and is moving onto an overhaul of the tax code. But BEHIND THE SCENES, top White House officials are still calling Republicans, looking for a deal on a health-care overhaul. The bill went down in flames a few weeks ago, but the thinking is that the White House can’t just give up and walk away from their central campaign promise to repeal Obamacare. The effort has left Hill Republicans scratching their heads.
A sharp Republican makes this observation: The White House is not so good at internal congressional dynamics. OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, VP Mike Pence and HHS Secretary Tom Price — the leaders of the health-care reform effort — are all former lawmakers, but they all lost internal party elections when they were in Congress. They haven’t proven terribly adept at counting votes.
— BUT, BUT, BUT … BUZZ IN THE WEST WING AND ON CAPITOL HILL: Mulvaney is on the rise in the Trump orbit. So when thinking about up and comers in the administration, think less about Gary Cohn, a New York City Democrat, and more about Mulvaney, a polished former congressman from the south who can keep up with Trump on the golf course (Mulvaney has a single-digit handicap). It’s also a sign of how quickly Trump can shift his loyalties.
ANOTHER CEO MEETING AT 1600 PENNSYLVANIA — Seventeen executives are heading to the White House today for a “Strategic and Policy Forum” meeting led by Stephen Schwarzman (the billionaire CEO of the Blackstone Group who Trump dined with at Mar-a-Lago Saturday night). The meeting is a follow up from a February session. They’ll meet in breakout sessions with cabinet secretaries before a larger listening session. TOPICS INCLUDE … infrastructure, education and more.
— COMMERCE SECY WILBUR ROSS’S GROUP: Rich Lesser of the Boston Consulting Group; Doug McMillon of Walmart and Indra Nooyi of Pepsico.
— ED SECY BETSY DEVOS’S GROUP: Ginni Rometty of IBM; Jack Welch, formerly of GE and Toby Cosgrove of the Cleveland Clinic.
— EPA ADMIN SCOTT PRUITT’S GROUP: Dan Yergin, the vice chairman of IHS Markit; Mary Barra of General Motors and Paul Atkins of Patomak Global Partners.
— OMB DIRECTOR MICK MULVANEY’S GROUP: Kevin Warsh of the Hoover Institute; Mark Weinberger of EY; Jerry McNerney, former chairman of Boeing; and Larry Fink of BlackRock.
— TRANSPORTATION SECY ELAINE CHAO’S GROUP: Elon Musk of SpaceX; Bayo Ogunlesi of Global Infrastructure Partners; Philip Howard, the founder of Common Good; Matt Rose, executive chairman of BNSF Railway.
EARLY-MORNING AP STORY by GW’s own Josh Lederman in Lucca, Italy: “With fresh urgency but scant solutions, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and top foreign diplomats held an urgent meeting Tuesday to strategize on a way forward to end the protracted civil war in Syria. A meeting of the ‘likeminded’ countries was hastily arranged on the sidelines of a Group of 7 industrialized economies in Italy, days after the U.S. for the first time launched airstrikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces. It came hours before Tillerson was to make a tense trip to Moscow to press Russia’s leaders to finally abandon their support for Assad. …
“At Tuesday’s meeting in the walled Tuscan city of Lucca, the G-7 countries were joined by diplomats from Muslim-majority nations including Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. The inclusion of those countries is important because the U.S. strategy for Syria involves enlisting help from Mideast nations to ensure security and stability in Syria after the Islamic State group is vanquished.” http://apne.ws/2ouMJ6w
SCOOP — “Trump takes control of the GOP machine,” by Gabe Debenedetti: “Now comes stage two of President Donald Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party. With the Republican National Committee firmly in his control, the White House and Trump’s political allies are now moving to lock down the state Republican parties, installing loyalists in top positions and laying the groundwork for the 2018 midterms and his 2020 reelection campaign in key swing states. Under the watchful eye of the president and the White House political office, Trump skeptics have been ousted from atop state committees. Lines of contact have been established to gauge the political temperature on the ground and monitor key upcoming races — beginning with the 2017 governor and attorney general races in Virginia.
“In addition to the political travel schedule of the president and Vice President Mike Pence — who have since November visited a number of Republican and battleground states that they won, but none that they lost — administration staffers are being dispatched beyond the Beltway: Kellyanne Conway, a Trump counselor in the White House and his campaign manager, is set to speak to state parties in New Hampshire and North Carolina in the coming weeks.” http://politi.co/2p2jkP3
SPECIAL ELECTION IS HAPPENING TODAY — “Republicans undertake unexpected rescue mission in deep red Kansas,” by WaPo’s Dave Weigel in Wichita: Democratic candidate James “Thompson was not supposed to win — or even come close — in this largely rural 4th District, which picked Donald Trump for president by 27 points. Rep. Mike Pompeo (R) vacated the seat to lead the CIA, and Republicans expected to hold it easily.
“But in the final days before Tuesday’s special election, Republicans reacted to weak polling and turnout data by rushing resources to southern Kansas. A GOP super PAC rolled out robo-calls over the weekend from Vice President Pence, and on Monday from President Trump, in support of candidate Ron Estes. ‘Ron Estes needs your vote and needs it badly,’ Trump said on the call. ‘Ron is going to be helping us, big league.’” http://wapo.st/2pog4wy
— THE JMART DEADPAN from Wichita: “Congressional Republicans knew next year’s election could prove difficult, as the first midterm campaigns for the party controlling the White House often are. But not until a few days ago would they have believed that their immediate challenge would be hanging onto a House seat they have controlled for over two decades, in a district that President Trump carried by 27 points and that just happens to be home to that most nefarious of liberal boogeyman: Koch Industries.” http://nyti.ms/2p0wTBf
SIREN — “Republicans avoid town halls after health care votes,” by USA Today’s Heidi Przbyla: “Reps. Leonard Lance of New Jersey and Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania appear to be the only swing-district Republicans who voted for their party’s bill to replace Obamacare who will directly face constituents over the April recess, according to a USA Today analysis of scheduled town halls compiled by Townhallproject.com. … The lack of town hall meetings in key swing districts during a spring break that lasts until April 23 underscores the party’s precarious political position on health care and peaking civic activism by progressives. …
“The migration away from public forums has been going on for months, despite complaints from constituents and local media. There have been roughly 30 recent newspaper editorials slamming lawmakers for avoiding town halls and calling on members to face their voters, not only in bluer portions of the country like New York but also in critical battlegrounds like Pennsylvania’s 6th and 7th districts, represented by Reps. Pat Meehan and Costello.” http://usat.ly/2pobM8n
— It’s never a good sign when lawmakers don’t want to interact with their constituents when they are back home. Republicans need a clear message on what they are doing on health care. The last-minute legislative gambit to pass a bill focused on high risk insurance pools in the House Rules Committee doesn’t appear to have done the job.
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MICHAEL CROWLEY and JOSH DAWSEY on Syria: “Trump vexed by Assad’s motivation for chemical weapons attack”: “In White House meetings, evening calls with friends and even throughout the weekend at Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump asked a repeated question: Why did Syria’s president use nerve gas? Trump puzzled over the mystery — even as he ordered 59 Tomahawk missiles careening into a Syrian airfield last Thursday night. … That Trump and his team couldn’t initially decide what may have motivated the strike complicated the decision-making on how to move forward, one administration official said, but ‘not to the point of stopping us from doing anything.’ Still, the uncertainty and its effect on Trump provides a window into how the inexperienced commander in chief copes with major decisions. Aides and friends say the lack of clarity seemed to worry Trump, who is impatient and has sometimes expressed distrust of the intelligence community, while he faced his first military test. ‘No one really knew exactly why,’ a senior administration official said Saturday. ‘And Trump wanted to know why.’” http://politi.co/2poh2ce
— DAVID ECKELS WADE in The Atlantic: “Lessons From the ‘Red Line’ Crisis: I was chief of staff at the State Department the last time a president considered punishing Assad for using chemical weapons. The complexities we faced then are worth considering as Trump contemplates what’s next in Syria.” http://theatln.tc/2omkdDJ
FILLING THE ADMINISTRATION — “Why the Trump administration has so many vacancies,” by Nancy Cook, Josh Dawsey and Andrew Restuccia: “The process is bogged down as a result of micromanaging by the president and senior staff, turf wars between the West Wing and Cabinet secretaries and a largely inexperienced and overworked staff, say more than a dozen sources including administration insiders, lobbyists, lawyers and Republican strategists. Trump personally oversees the hiring process for agency staff by insisting on combing through a binder full of names each week and likes to sign off on each one … Also weighing in on the names — and not always agreeing on final picks — are leaders of sometimes warring factions, including chief of staff Reince Priebus, senior strategist Steve Bannon, Cabinet secretaries and, sometimes, the White House’s top lawyer, Don McGahn.
“The only uniformity is that potential hires must show fealty to the president. … The head of the Office of Presidential Personnel, Johnny DeStefano, did not start until Inauguration Day, and some of the office’s problems are attributed to his leadership, say Trump allies, Republican strategists and lawyers familiar with the hiring process. The administration picked DeStefano, who had run the data operation of the Republican National Committee and worked for former House Speaker John Boehner but had no recruiting experience. DeStefano, in turn, stacked the office with campaign veterans who demonstrated loyalty to the president but had little government experience.” http://politi.co/2o2HUhD
— “More delays in ambassador nominations, trainings,” by CNN’s Theodore Schleifer: “The State Department has delayed its planned training sessions for new ambassadors as an appointment bottleneck frustrates donors and allies of President Donald Trump who expect plum postings overseas. The sessions, meant to train new prospective diplomats who are successfully vetted by the White House, were originally slated to begin this month, but have since been rescheduled to May, according to a person briefed on the process. Friends of Trump have been lobbying him at places like Mar-a-Lago in Florida and at private fundraisers for positions in Western Europe or the Caribbean. But the training delay reflects the slow pace with which Trump is filling the ambassadorial positions, which typically are rewards to key supporters.” http://cnn.it/2ouNlZL
DEAR FREEDOM CAUCUS, FROM A CONGRESSMAN’S DAD — REP. TREY HOLLINGSWORTH (R-Ind.) was elected to Congress in November after his father gave $1.4 million to a super PAC boosting his campaign. Now, Joe Hollingsworth Jr. — the 33-year-old congressman’s father — has penned a letter to members of the House Freedom Caucus admonishing them for their legislative tactics. “First, let me disclose that I am not a resident or voter in your district. However, I am a conservative donor that has funded over a million in political campaigns for conservative causes. I was contacted today by a group that wanted to raise money to fund opponents against the House Freedom Caucus members. … I have chosen not to participate in that cause but instead write you directly … [W]hat was done by the House Freedom Caucus was almost suicidal to the Republican Party, to your group and possibly individually.”
— Robert Burgess, the congressman’s spokesman, said, “Joe Hollingsworth exercised his right as a citizen to express his opinion to elected representatives, but he does not speak for Rep. Trey Hollingsworth who remains committed to working with fellow Republicans towards the full repeal of Obamacare.”
NOT SO FAST — “Trump Jr nixes 2018 NY bid, but could run for office someday,” by AP’s Jonathan Lemire: “Donald Trump Jr., rumored to be eyeing a move to follow his father’s footsteps into politics, will not be a candidate for governor of New York next year but is not ruling out a possible run for office in the future. The younger Trump, in an interview Monday with The Associated Press, categorically denied any speculation that he might challenge incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo. ‘I am not running in 2018,’ Trump said in his first public comments about a possible candidacy next year. But he acknowledged having been bitten by the politics bug and said that he could consider a run down the road. ‘Maybe someday,’ Trump said. ‘It’s not something I’m doing now. But you never know, it’s fascinating stuff.’” http://apne.ws/2nXYLBq
THE JUICE …
— THREE DEM VETS LAUNCH CAMPAIGNS: Isaac Dovere scooped that House Democrats were recruiting veterans to run for office. Today three will announce their campaigns: Jason Crow, a decorated Army Ranger, is running against Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.); Chrissy Houlahan, an Air Force officer, is running against Rep. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.); and Josh Butner, a Lt. Commander of the U.S. Navy Seals, is announcing against embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.).
— HOT JOB: “Manager – Brand Public Relations, United Airlines”: “The pace is fast, our standards are high and the opportunities are boundless. If joining us in building a forward-thinking, path-blazing, world class communications team sounds intriguing – let’s talk. Being part of big, transformative moments like this are rare – so, if you have the courage, the creativity, the conviction, the agility, the leadership and most importantly the passion to help United reclaim its reputation as one of the world’s great and resilient companies we hope you’ll consider embarking on this journey with us.” http://politi.co/2om3Y7L (h/t Tom Manatos)
— HARRY REID is joining UNLV’s law school as its first distinguished fellow in law and policy. http://bit.ly/2oTt0P2
–ROBBY MOOK is back to sending campaign emails! He emailed yesterday on behalf of Archie Parnell, formerly a senior adviser at Goldman Sachs, running for the 5th district in South Carolina, which was Mick Mulvaney’s district: “My start in politics was as grassroots as you can get: campaigning for Democrats at the town dump. … Archie Parnell is running for the seat that John Spratt held when I first started working on Congressional campaigns, a seat that Democrats had held for over a century.”
TRUMP’S TUESDAY — THE PRESIDENT is attending the meeting of CEOs, then will meet with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn. In the evening, he’s dining with military leaders.
PULITZER WINNERS — THE LOCAL ANGLE — David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post for his “persistent reporting that created a model for transparent journalism in political campaign coverage while casting doubt on Donald Trump’s assertions of generosity toward charities.” http://bit.ly/2p0LwV5 … A list of all the winners http://bit.ly/2posG6W
PIC DU JOUR — @agearan: “The wall outside the State Dept briefing room where portraits of former spokespeople used to hang.” http://bit.ly/2nzT3uo
HOW ABOUT THAT — “Remember Mitt Romney’s ‘binders full of women?’ They’re real. And we got them,” by the Boston Globe’s Jim O’Sullivan. http://bit.ly/2ouVVHV
THE LATEST ON THE BAN — “Full bench of 4th Circuit to hear Trump travel ban case in May,” by Josh Gerstein: “The full bench of a federal appeals court in Virginia will consider the legality of President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban executive order at an argument session next month, the court announced Monday. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals said it will conduct an en banc hearing May 8 in Richmond on the federal government’s appeal of a Maryland-based judge’s ruling blocking Trump’s ban on issuance of visas to citizens of six majority-Muslim countries. Normally, appeals go to a three-judge panel for review. However, the en banc session will involve 15 judges hearing the case. The 4th Circuit’s active bench has nine Democratic appointees, five Republican appointees and one judge who was nominated to the court by both a Democratic president and a Republican one.” http://politi.co/2olRnlc
TRUMP INC. — “Leaked Email: President Trump’s Modeling Agency Is Shutting Down,” by Mother Jones’ James West: “One of President Donald Trump’s favorite businesses … his embattled New York modeling firm, Trump Model Management, has officially told its business associates around the world to prepare for its closure, according to an email obtained by Mother Jones. Over the weekend, Corinne Nicolas, president of Trump Models, informed industry colleagues of the pending closure of the 18-year-old agency, in which Trump owns an 85 percent stake (according to his most recent financial disclosure). ‘The Trump Organization is choosing to exit the modeling industry,’ Nicolas wrote in the email. ‘On the heels of the recent sale of the Miss Universe Organization, the company is choosing to focus on their core businesses in the real estate, golf and hospitality space.’” http://bit.ly/2p29L2x
THE LUV GOV — “Robert Bentley’s years of scandal end in 6 historic days for Alabama,” by the Birmingham News’ Mike Cason: http://bit.ly/2p0y6bB
****** A message from JPMorgan Chase & Co.: “It is now more important than ever for the business community and government to come together and collaborate to find meaningful solutions and develop thoughtful policies that create economic growth and opportunity for all.” Learn more in JPMorgan Chase Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon’s Letter to Shareholders: http://politi.co/2oKtc2G ******
SNEAK PEAK — RICK PERLSTEIN in the NYT Magazine, “I Thought I Understood the American Right. Trump Proved Me Wrong”: “The professional guardians of America’s past, in short, had made a mistake. We advanced a narrative of the American right that was far too constricted to anticipate the rise of a man like Trump. Historians, of course, are not called upon to be seers. Our professional canons warn us against presentism — we are supposed to weigh the evidence of the past on its own terms — but at the same time, the questions we ask are conditioned by the present. That is, ultimately, what we are called upon to explain. Which poses a question: If Donald Trump is the latest chapter of conservatism’s story, might historians have been telling that story wrong?” http://nyti.ms/2olZLBf
OFF MESSAGE PODCAST: Where to next in Syria? In the latest episode of Off Message, Isaac Dovere sits down with former American diplomat and Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, who breaks down every angle of the U.S position in Syria following last week’s bombing. “It certainly changes our posture in the sense that we’ve now said, ‘We will attack you if you use chemical weapons.’” http://politi.co/2nA61YO … Listen and subscribe http://apple.co/2nEa7y0
BEYOND THE BELTWAY — “Nextdoor eyes 2018, aims for neighbor-to-neighbor approach in politics,” by Playbook California co-author Carla Marinucci in San Jose: “The community social media site has become a tool for elected officials, civic activists, and even political candidates aiming to reach voters, and neighbors, in San Jose’s 430 distinct neighborhoods, which make up one of the country’s largest and most diverse cities.” http://politi.co/2nA0kuc
MEDIAWATCH — “Breitbart editors tell staffers to stop writing stories critical of Jared Kushner, sources say,” by Business Insider’s Oliver Darcy: “Employees at Breitbart News have been asked by senior editors to refrain from writing stories critical of Jared Kushner, two people familiar with the matter told Business Insider. … Kushner had become a target of Breitbart News amid reports that he was feuding with Stephen Bannon, the news website’s former executive chairman who is now the White House chief strategist.” http://read.bi/2ouCeQw
— WAPO STYLE PROFILE — “Brian Stelter has been training for this moment his entire life,” by Ellen McCarthy in New York. http://wapo.st/2poFbPZ
— Sean Spicer (@PressSec) April 11, 2017
SPOTTED at the White House seder last night: VA Secretary David Shulkin, Jeremy Katz, deputy director of the National Economic Council, and other staff who couldn’t get home to spend the holiday with their families
SPOTTED: Kellyanne Conway having a long and late lunch outdoors at BLT Steak Monday. A photographer on the sidewalk snapped photos of her while she was dining and was asked to leave.
ENGAGED – Adrienne Watson, deputy comms director for the DNC and a Hillary campaign alum, just got engaged to Will Jennings. They met in D.C., worked together on the campaign, and he proposed in Charleston. Instapic with the caption “This ring goes with everything! #strongertogether” http://bit.ly/2nzSEba
TRANSITIONS — Alexis Weiss has moved to New York to lead media relations for Edelman’s public affairs practice as a vice president. She previously was a vice president on the media services and strategies team in Edelman’s D.C. office. … Alyssa Canobbio Hackbarth is joining the American Legislative Exchange Council as their manager of public affairs and digital strategy. Her last day as war room director at the Washington Free Beacon is Thursday … Chris Pack is headed to American Crossroads as communications director. He is currently deputy communications director at the NRCC. …
… Walter Garcia just started working as the press secretary for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. He was the national press secretary for the Keith Ellison for DNC Chair campaign, and the western regional communications director at the DNC … Danielle Doheny started at the International Myeloma Foundation last month as their new director of public policy and advocacy. She was previously senior LA for Rep. Richard Nugent (R-Fla.) … Rykia Dorsey, a press assistant at Third Way, has been named press secretary for Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.). (h/t Matt Bennett)
WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Tori Weems, manager of standards and technology at the RIAA, and Michael Weems, vice president for government engagement at the American Lighting Association, have welcomed Eisele Weems, 6 1bs., 3 oz, born two weeks ago. Pic http://politi.co/2o2M358
BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Raelyn Johnson, senior producer at MSNBC and an Al Jazeera, CNN and ABC alum — she is celebrating with “dinner with my best friend Miguel at dell’anima. It’s our tradition. We sit at the chef’s table which is adorned with Wu-Tang memorabilia and I instantly remember how old I was when their first album came out. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.” Read her Playbook Plus Q&A: http://politi.co/2p0zqvf
BIRTHDAYS: Ethel Kennedy is 89 … HFA alum Alex Phillips, now director of surrogates and media affairs for Leader Schumer … Ed Skyler, former NYC Deputy Mayor for Operations now Citi’s EVP for global public affairs … Erika Masonhall, comms manager for news partnerships at Facebook and an NBC News alum … Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is 62 … J.D. Harrison, senior editor of strategic comms for the U.S. Chamber … former Rep. Mark Kennedy (R–Minn.), president of the University of North Dakota, is 6-0 … David Wofford, VP at Meridian Group International … Sydney Rubin, deputy director at WomenStrong International … Michele Ballantyne, SVP for federal gov’t relations at Recording Industry Association of America … Marcia Hale, president of Building America’s Future Education Fund and a Clinton WH alum … Missi Tessier, managing principal at the Podesta Group (h/ts Jon Haber) … Laura Braden Quigley, VP of comms at the California Medical Association … Abigail Sigler … Christian Science Monitor justice reporter Henry Gass … Politico’s Hillary Alvaré and Boris Alban Saka … Manuel Ortiz, founder of VantageKnight … Donna Borak, senior economics writer at CNN … Kate Warren, senior director and editor for careers and recruiting at Devex …
… Chris Gates, Broncos fan, senior advisor at the Council on Foundations and former president of the Sunlight Foundation … Benjamin Bryant, deputy press secretary for Sen. Jack Reed … Sebastian Silva, Sen. Kaine’s press assistant (h/t Sarah Peck) … Joshua Lapidus, a Democratic consultant who has worked in Maryland/Montana, is 27 (h/t Kyle Cheney) … Edelman’s Jon Berrier is 35, celebrating with dinner at Le Diplomate (h/t Blain Rethmeier) … Paul Arden, senior associate at SKDKnickerbocker and a Dianne Feinstein alum, is 3-0 … Kevin O’Neill, senior director of marketing at the Washington Speakers Bureau … Christopher Malagisi, editor in chief of the Conservative Book Club … Don Graves … Marc Ross, co-founder of Caracal Strategies … Kargo’s Alex Douglas … Nina Verghese … Linda Lipsen, CEO at AAJ, the American Association for Justice (h/t Randy White) … Julie Tarallo, Sen. McCain’s comms director … 3 Bush 43 alums: Sarah Beth Lowe … Nancy Yacoub … Jacob Peterson, director of Latino affairs for Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, is 32 … Kim Aagaard, Podesta Group alum now a grad student at Sciences Po … Julie Westfall, deputy politics editor at L.A. Times … Jim Parenti … Jamie Sterling … Adam Kramer … Jake Peterson is 32 … Elliott Suthers … Bob Fois is 55 … William Hamby … Gil Gross … DOT alum Beth Osborne … Bret Funk … Sharon Haselhoff … Sara Norris … Teresa Thomas-Boyd … Danny Vega (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Ellen Goodman is 76 … Joss Stone is 3-0 (h/ts AP)
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