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The Daily 202: Keep an eye on Tom Vilsack in Hillary Clinton’s veepstakes

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)
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THE BIG IDEA: Tim Kaine will get his V.P. tryout with Hillary Clinton at a community college in Annandale this afternoon. Conventional wisdom holds that the Virginia senator is a, if not the, favorite to be her running-mate.

But there’s increasing chatter among some tip-top Democrats that another white guy – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack – could be emerging as a real contender late in the process. He’s a sleeper, but he has several qualities that make him appealing to the Clintons.

Vilsack declined to answer questions about whether he’s being vetted during an interview on MSNBC last night, referring questions to the campaign. That’s a surefire indicator that he’s being considered.

Here’s why Vilsack makes sense—

-- He’s not a lightning rod. Clinton wants the election to become, as much as possible, a referendum on Donald Trump. That benefits the relatively unobjectionable, “safe” figures on her list. Vilsack was Iowa’s governor from 1999 to 2007. When Barack Obama appointed him Agriculture Secretary, he was confirmed by unanimous consent. He’s the only cabinet secretary who has served during the president’s full tenure. He’s a low-risk choice.

-- Clinton is known for putting an immense premium on loyalty, and Vilsack has a deeper and longer-term relationship with her than anyone else being considered. Vilsack’s brother-in-law became friends with Hillary Rodham in 1972 when they worked together on the congressional committee investigating Watergate. When he was a longshot candidate for governor in 1998, Hillary helped him raise money. “Without her support I may not have won,” Vilsack wrote in an op-ed endorsing her for the Cedar Rapids Gazette last year. “Why did she do it? Loyalty.” (Vilsack tried briefly to run for president in 2007 but dropped out and endorsed Clinton.)

-- He could potentially deliver Iowa. If you had to rank the states Obama won in 2012 that Trump could realistically pick off, Iowa would be relatively high. It’s one of several reasons that The Donald was intrigued by Sen. Joni Ernst – besides the fact she is a woman and a veteran – before she took herself out of contention.

A poll of Iowa released yesterday by the Wall Street Journal, NBC and Marist University shows Clinton leading Trump by just 3 points (42 percent to 39 percent), which is within the margin of error. Their previous poll of the state had her up 8 points in a head-to-head match-up.

Vilsack remains popular back in the Hawkeye State, and he deserves some credit for her very narrow win over Bernie Sanders in the caucuses.

Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley  told the Waterloo Courier last month that Vilsack would be a good pick for Clinton, giving him high marks as head of the USDA and noting that tapping him would signal how seriously the Democrats want Iowa. “He’s clean … ethically very clean,” Grassley said.

-- Vilsack is a well-known figure across rural America, where Democrats (and Clinton) have struggled. As Agriculture Secretary, he’s spent seven years traveling to rural areas where national figures rarely go, bringing welcome news about federal appropriations. During the 2014 midterms, when Obama was toxic in some of the key Senate battlegrounds, Vilsack was still an in-demand administration surrogate. Narrowing the margin among rural voters by just a few points might help Clinton win a couple states that could be close. (While the Pittsburgh native is a lawyer by training, he was a small-town mayor before getting elected to the state legislature in 1992.)

In January, Obama  tapped Vilsack to lead an interagency effort focused on addressing rural America’s struggle with heroin and opioid abuse. He has been aggressively traveling the country this summer to talk about the government’s strategy.

-- He doesn’t potentially jeopardize the balance of power in the Senate. Unlike Elizabeth Warren or Sherrod Brown.

-- He’s a bridge to Obama. With the president’s approval rating rising, Clinton is essentially running to serve Obama’s third term. Vilsack’s work in the administration could help her make that case as she tries to galvanize the Obama coalition.

-- He’s not offensive to the Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party. He does not have ties to Wall Street.

-- One hiccup there: Vilsack, like Obama, actively supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership, touting it as especially beneficial for farmers. Clinton was an early cheerleader for the TPP negotiations, but she flipped under pressure from labor and the protectionist left. Downplaying the divide, the Ag secretary sounded a conciliatory tone during his MSNBC sit-down last night, saying that the deal will either pass or fail before the next president takes office. “TPP is in Congress’s hands,” Vilsack said. “Everybody likes trade; the issue is trade agreements.”

He then accepted the premise of a question about how he and Clinton could run together with different positions on the trade. “It’s kind of like a marriage,” he said. “I don’t agree with my wife on everything, although she isn’t right 100 percent of the time. And that’s the way this relationship would work.”

-- Precedent: Henry Wallace, an Iowan like Vilsack, was Franklin Roosevelt’s Secretary of Agriculture during his first two terms and then tapped to be vice president for his third term. Had FDR not dumped him for Harry Truman as he sought a fourth term in 1944, Wallace would have become president. He challenged Truman from the left as the Progressive Party’s candidate in 1948 and got 2.4 percent of the vote. Anyone who has read about Wallace and knows Vilsack, though, will reassure you they are very different kinds of politicians…

-- What Vilsack does not bring:

While he was once chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, he’s not a feisty attack dog – traditionally the role that the vice president plays.

Farmers know the 65-year-old. Hispanic and African Americans, millenials and single women – constituencies with which Clinton needs to run up the score – by and large do not.

Vilsack also does not speak Spanish, a la Kaine.

That said, he has worked to develop relationships with communities of color. Just yesterday, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) gave him its “Agency of the Year” award during its conference in Washington. “Vilsack told the group that he was adopted and so doesn't know his heritage. ‘When I see a group like this I say well, maybe I am Latino,’ Vilsack joked,” according to an account from NBC Latino. “At the event, he announced $26 million for housing for farmworkers, telling the crowd the worse poverty he had seen was when he went to live with farmworkers in McAllen, Texas.” Clinton addresses the same group today.

-- Today, though, is Tim Kaine’s day. (My colleague Paul Schwartzman wrote a profile of the senator that just posted online. Read it here.)

-- What a difference eight years makes: While now he is considered Clinton’s safest choice, in 2008 Kaine was perceived as a risky pick when he was on Obama’s short list. Largely that was because he had only been elected governor two years earlier, and he had no foreign policy experience. “And that presented a potential weakness when matched with Obama’s own brief tenure in the Senate,” Paul Kane notes in an astute column. Getting slammed for his opposition to the Iraq surge and with the world a tinderbox, Obama picked Joe Biden – who had spent 36 years as a senator, including a dozen years as the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. “Now, after (just) three-plus years on the Senate’s Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, Kaine is presented as the old hand compared with the competition.” (Vilsack’s been passed over before, too. John Kerry considered him in 2004 before going with John Edwards.)

-- Clinton has the luxury of not needing to make her decision until after she knows who Trump has chosen. She will be able to think about how her potential picks will match up against Mike Pence, Chris Christie or Newt Gingrich when they debate at Longwood University on Oct. 4.

Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning newsletter.
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  1. Former London Mayor Boris Johnson, who had been the early favorite to replace David Cameron as prime minister before withdrawing, will now be Foreign Secretary. (Ishaan Tharoor)
  2. Congress passed the opioid addiction treatment bill before leaving for a nearly two-month recess. Most Democrats think the legislation will be ineffective because there's not enough funding to make a real difference. Republicans see the measure as political gold because vulnerable incumbents like Rob Portman and Kelly Ayotte now have a marquee accomplishment they can tout back home. (Karoun Demirjian)
  3. Members of the House Freedom Caucus filed a motion to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, defying Republican leaders who don't believe he deserves to be removed. (Politico)
  4. The House Science Committee inserted itself into a multi-state ExxonMobil investigation, issuing a “slew” of subpoenas to state attorney generals related to an ongoing securities fraud probe. (Buzzfeed)
  5. The Senate confirmed Carla D. Hayden to be the 14th Librarian of Congress, making her the first woman and the first African American to hold the post. (Peggy McGlone)
  6. A Chinese businessman who pleaded guilty to hacking sensitive U.S. military information was sentenced to 46 months in prison. He participated in a years-long plot to steal technical data for the communists. (Matt Zapotosky)
  7. Russian authorities briefly detained – and then deported – the chairman of the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors. The diplomatic skirmish comes as John Kerry prepares to travel to the country to meet with Vladimir Putin on a U.S. proposal to coordinate counterterrorism operations in Syria. (Karen DeYoung and Andrew Roth)
  8. Kerry's effort to coordinate air attacks in Syria with Russia has opened a deepening rift in the administration. Some senior national security officials insist it could quiet Syria’s civil carnage and further larger counterterrorism goals. Others consider it a counterproductive sellout to the Kremlin. (Karen DeYoung)
  9. Fiat Chrysler will begin rewarding hackers. The automaker has offered up to $1,500 to anyone who can expose vulnerabilities in its cars' software. The announcement comes after two researchers hacked into a 2014 Grand Cherokee – remotely – turning the wheel, disabling brakes and shutting down the engine from afar while the vehicle was driving 70 mph on a highway. (Jacob Bogage)
  10. Immunotherapy drugs have revolutionized cancer treatment – but they're also sparking the emergence of new, genetically-altered tumors that become immune to the treatment. UCLA researchers are trying to figure out why. (Laurie McGinley)
  11. The FEC fined three nonprofit groups formerly connected with the Koch political network, a rare intervention by the commission into the world of outside spending. (New York Times)
  12. NBC correspondent Luke Russert announced he is leaving the network, saying he “plans to take some time away from political reporting” and focus on non-journalistic endeavors. (Read his statement.)
  13. Armstrong Williams, a central figure in the failed campaign of Ben Carson, stands accused of sexual harassment and retaliation by a man in his late 20s. Williams denies wrongdoing. (Erik Wemple has the details.)
  14. Bernie Sanders finally stopped getting Secret Service protection. His detail said goodbye after he returned to D.C. from New Hampshire. ( Los Angeles Times)
  15. New York cops swarmed Brooklyn, raiding bodegas and questioning suspects after 33 people overdosed from synthetic marijuana in a single day. One resident likened the scene to a zombie movie after watching three people collapse. (New York Times)
  16. Two months before the 2-year-old was killed by an alligator at Disney’s Grand Floridian resort, firefighters at Walt Disney World were warned to stop feeding the reptiles. The firefighters, who were admonished in emails obtained by the Orlando Sun-Sentinel, were less than a half-mile from where Lane Graves tragically drowned.
  17. Utah lawmakers voted to give authorities permission to down drones that fly too close to wildfires, after it was revealed that the small aircrafts have interfered with firefighting efforts in the state. (AP)
  18. Dr. Phil and his wife filed a quarter-million-dollar lawsuit against the National Enquirer, accusing the tabloid of libel and malicious defamation. The lawsuit focuses on a series of Enquirer-launched allegations that Dr. Phil abused his wife. (Travis M. Andrews)
  19. A community in central England became the first in that country to label misogyny a “hate crime,” criminalizing actions such as street harassment, catcalling – even unwanted text messages or picture-taking – as part of the broad new measure. (Elahe Izadi)
  20. Denver police staged a bizarre wildlife rescue mission after a black bear locked himself inside a Subaru. The 17-year-old owner, who discovered the bear “tossing stuff around” in her backseat and chewing at her steering wheel, said she was late to work. (Elahe Izadi)


-- South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott delivered a powerful Senate floor speech on policing and race in America, sharing personal anecdotes as he addressed the “trust gap” between the black community and law enforcement. The only black Republican senator described seven humiliating incidents with the police since winning office. “I do not know many African American men who do not have a very similar story to tell, no matter their profession, no matter their income, no matter their disposition in life," he said. “The vast majority of time, I was pulled over for nothing more than driving a new car in the wrong neighborhood, or some reason just as trivial. Imagine the frustration, the irritation, the sense of a loss of dignity that accompanies each of those stops.” 

Another time, Scott said, he was entering one of the Senate’s offices wearing the pin that identified him as a member of Congress. An officer stopped him, demanding his identification. “I was thinking to myself: Either he thinks I’m committing a crime, impersonating a member of Congress, or what?” Scott said. “While I thank God I have not endured bodily harm, I have, however, felt the pressure applied by the scales of justice when they are slanted. I have felt the anger, the frustration, the sadness and the humiliation that comes with the feeling that you are being targeted for being nothing more than yourself.” Watch a 2.5-minute clip from the senator's speech here.

David Weigel notes that Scott, whose political career began 21 years ago on Charleston’s City Council, joined Congress in 2010 by defeating one of the sons of former senator Strom Thurmond. “The good Lord has given me a soapbox, and I’m going to use this soapbox to talk about what needs to be spoken about,” the senator told his home town newspaper this week. 

-- Only 26 percent of Americans think race relations are getting better, according to a fresh New York Times/CBS News poll, an 11-point drop from 2015 and a 40-point drop since 2009. Seven in 10 Americans think race relations are getting worse. These are historically bad numbers.

  • Three in four African Americans believe the police are more likely to use deadly force against a black person than a white person. Meanwhile, a majority of white Americans (56 percent) think race “doesn't make a difference” in the use of deadly force by police.
  • 41 percent of Americans said they agree with the Black Lives Matter movement, while 25 percent said they disagree. Support is concentrated among African Americans (70 percent) while white Americans are more divided, with 37 percent supporting the movement and 31 percent opposing it.

-- Obama held a closed-door meeting with 33 civil rights, law enforcement and state and local government representatives yesterday, seeking to forge a consensus on how best to address racial bias in policing. “I do not want to gloss over the fact that not only are there very real problems, but there are still deep divisions about how to solve these problems,” he told reporters after the huddle. “We have to, as a country, sit down and just grind it out, solve these problems. (Juliet Eilperin)

-- “Empty cells and hotels: Cleveland takes stock before the convention comes to town,” by Mary Jordan and Wesley Lowery: “The Cleveland jails are being emptied and its courts are staying open until 1 a.m. in case of mass arrests. Riot gear, handcuffs, body cameras — police equipment that cost tens of millions of dollars — are ready, and more than 70 law enforcement and government agencies are on alert. … The close proximity of thousands who love or loathe Trump is what law enforcement is most worried about. The fact that Ohio has an open-carry law, allowing people to walk into crowds carrying a rifle if they have a permit, compounds safety concerns. ‘I’m not telling people to bring guns, and I’m not telling people to leave their guns at home,’ said Tim Selaty, the Houston-based founder of Citizens for Trump. Selaty said he is encouraging people to livestream themselves during protests for their own security."

“At least half a dozen of the most prominent Black Lives Matter leaders [across the country] have been contacted by the FBI in recent days," Mary and Wes report. "The FBI describes the visits as community outreach, but some see it as warning not to show up at the convention. ‘The agent basically told me not to go to Cleveland,’ said Sam Sinyangwe, an activist in San Francisco … who said an agent came to his home this week.”0

-- NBA superstars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul spoke out about race relations during last night’s ESPY awards, condemning racial profiling in black communities as well as any retaliation efforts. “Enough is enough,” said Wade. (Des Bieler)

-- At a Wal-Mart in McKinney, Texas, a former employee slit the throat of an off-duty firefighter. It is believed he was intentionally targeted. A Dallas Police officer heading back from a colleague’s funeral responded to the incident. (CBS DFW)

-- Three Republican senators filed a bill to step up penalties against anyone who intentionally targets police officers, making such actions punishable by up to 30 years in jail. The measure is authored by Texas Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, along with North Carolina's Thom Tillis.(Karoun Demirjian)

-- The ACLU filed a lawsuit against Baton Rouge police, accusing officers of violating the constitutional rights of people protesting the death of Alton Sterling. The group accuses officials of “physically and verbally abusing demonstrators, threatening protesters with pepper spray and using ‘objectively excessive force’ during arrests,” Mark Berman reports.

-- Meanwhile, Sterling’s 15-year-old son, who appeared inconsolable in a press conference last week, delivered a speech calling for peace and begging the public to come together “as one united family.”

-- Three first responders in South Carolina were fired for insensitive social media posts about the Black Lives Matter movement, two days after a Columbia fire captain was dismissed over a Facebook post in which he threatened to run over protesters blocking traffic. “It’s not clear what those comments were, since they have been deleted," Sarah Kaplan writes. "But a Columbia Fire Department spokesman told the Associated Press that the men were fired as part of the same investigation that led to the dismissal of Capt. Jimmy Morris, a 16-year veteran of the department, on Monday. Morris had reportedly written on Facebook: ‘idiots shutting down I-126. Better not be there when I get off work or there is going to be some run over dumb a—.’ The Black Lives Matter protest, which blocked part of the interstate Sunday night, was legally sanctioned.”

-- During her half-hour speech at the old State House in Illinois, Clinton acknowledged that she at times has contributed to the nation’s partisan division. “I realize that our politics have contributed to the sense of division that many Americans feel right now,” she said. “And as someone in the middle of a hotly-fought political campaign, I cannot stand here and claim that my words and actions haven't sometimes fueled the partisanship that often stands in the way of progress. So I recognize I have to do better, too.”

She didn’t go into additional detail, pivoting instead to attacks on her opponent: “Donald Trump’s campaign adds up to an ugly, dangerous message to America. A message that you should be afraid — afraid of people whose ethnicity is different, or whose religious faith is different, or who were born in a different country or hold different political beliefs.” (John Wagner and Abby Phillip)

A PANOPLY OF POLLS SHOWS CLINTON’S LEAD NARROWING ACROSS THE BATTLEGROUNDS, apparently driven by fallout over James Comey’s speech last week:

-- Trump and Clinton are tied in Ohio at 39 percent, down from a 6-point Clinton advantage in March, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll. In Pennsylvania, Clinton tops Trump by 9 points, compared to a 15-point lead in April. There are large numbers of undecided voters. And, as noted in the big idea, she’s up 42-39 in Iowa, down from 8 points earlier. "The good news for [Clinton] is that she is still even or ahead of [Trump] in these three critical states in the aftermath of the FBI's report,” said Marist pollster Lee Miringoff. "The bad news for her is the contest has gotten closer in all of these states, and the issue does not seem to be going away anytime soon."

-- Clinton has also ceded ground in Wisconsin: She now leads Trump 43-37 in a Marquette University Law School survey. In a head-to-head matchup, her lead shrinks to a 4-point margin, down from 9 points last month.

-- Clinton gained on Trump in COLORADO, however. She leads by 10 points (44-34) in a Fox News poll of the state. She leads among whites with a college degree (47-30) and voters who are “extremely” interested in the election (50-43). She also enjoys stronger party base support, with 81 percent of Democrats backing her to 75 percent of Republicans backing Trump.

-- Nearly four-fifths of white evangelical voters plan to vote for Trump: 78 percent of white evangelicals said they would vote for Trump if the election were held today, according to a new Pew Research Center poll, with 36 percent saying they “strongly” back his campaign.

  • Support for Trump among evangelicals is even stronger right now than it was for Mitt Romney in 2012: At that time, nearly three-quarters of white evangelical voters said they planned to vote for the Mormon, with one-quarter saying they “strongly” supported him.
  • Roman Catholics, meanwhile, favor Clinton by 17 points.
  • She also enjoys an advantage among the religiously unaffiliated (68-26). But they are somewhat less enthusiastic about her candidacy than Obama’s: 26 percent of the religiously unaffiliated say they “strongly” support her, while 37 percent said the same of Obama in 2012.

-- Gallup's polling finds that a full one-quarter of American adults view both Trump and Clinton unfavorably — “a figure that's more than twice as high as those who disliked both Romney and Obama in 2012,” Philip Bump notes. “Only 4 percent of Americans viewed both Trump and Clinton favorably. Everyone else fell into the camps you'd expect: Liking one candidate and disliking the other. Who are these people that dislike both candidates? According to Gallup, more than half are independents, which makes sense. They also tend to be younger, suggesting that there may be some overlap here with supporters of Sanders.”


-- A tentative schedule of speakers in Cleveland, per the New York Times’ Jeremy Peters and two sources with “direct knowledge of the convention planning." Among the surprise names is Peter Thiel, who funded Hulk Hogan's litigation against Gawker.

  • Night 1 will have a Benghazi focus, followed by border patrol agents and a man whose son was killed by an undocumented immigrant. Tom Cotton, Rudy Giuliani, Melania Trump and Joni Ernst are scheduled to speak.
  • Night 2 will focus on the economy. Among the scheduled speakers are the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship; Asa Hutchinson, the governor of Arkansas; Michael Mukasey, the former U.S. attorney general; Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn; Senator Mitch McConnell; Tiffany Trump; Donald Trump Jr. and Scott Walker.
  • Night 3 will be headlined by the V.P. nominee. Speakers: Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi; Newt; Ted Cruz; Eric Trump.
  • Night 4 will end with Trump accepting the nomination. Speakers include Tim Tebow; Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee; Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma; RNC chair Reince Priebus; Gov. Rick Scott of Florida; and Ivanka Trump. 

-- Without naming specific nights, the RNC just blasted out a longer list of speakers that included: Congressman Ryan Zinke, Michael McCaul, Chris Collins, Sean Duffy and Marsha Blackburn; Mike Huckabee; West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito; Ben Carson; Harold Hamm; and Jerry Falwell Jr.

-- Missing from the above list: Don King, Sarah Palin and Tom Brady, all of whom Trump has said he would like to speak.

-- A poll conducted by the Global Strategy Group finds that a majority of consumers and the general public do not want companies to pay to sponsor the Republican convention. Financing Trump’s coronation could hurt a company’s reputation, the Democratic firm found in a survey shared first with The 202. From the firm: “Americans want companies to engage with political issues, and believe they have an impact when they do. Recently, a number of companies have made news by withdrawing their sponsorship of the RNC. In a recent survey, GSG found that three in five Americans approve of these companies’ decision.

  • 57% would “be embarrassed to work for a company that sponsored the Republican National Convention given Donald Trump is the presidential nominee.”
  • 44% of Americans would be less likely to “support or follow on social media” a company that supported the convention.
  • 42% of Americans are less likely to “recommend this company to a friend or family member.”
  • 39% of Americans are less likely to “buy this company’s products or services.” (More details on the poll here.)

-- The Democratic National Convention is slated to have a star-filled opening night, featuring remarks from Elizabeth Warren, Michelle Obama and Bernie Sanders, Abby Phillip and Dan Balz report. “Although the speaking schedule isn't yet set in stone, the jam-packed Monday night is also expected to include Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) will introduce Warren. According to another source familiar with the convention planning, the night's theme will be an economic agenda focused on families."

-- Pennsylvania's governor announced that he will allow some Philly bars to remain open until 4 a.m. during the week of the DNC. (NBC Philadelphia)

-- The Narrative: “Trump promises ‘showbiz,’ but GOP stars will skip convention,” by Philip Rucker: “For months now, Trump has promised that his convention would be unlike any other — a dazzling, spectacular affair that soars above traditional political theater. But ... next week in Cleveland, he will showcase an assortment of family members, defeated primary opponents and politicians whose names barely register with the general public. … The star-power disparity between the [Republican and Democratic] conventions speaks volumes about the state of the two parties — one is united and marching together toward what it hopes will be its fifth win of the past seven presidential elections, while the other remains divided and still not fully accepting its new standard bearer.”

Quote du jour from Republican strategist Rick Wilson: “Republicans have always had a terrible star-power deficit ... but this year it’s going to be even more pronounced,” the outspoken Trump critic told Rucker. “It’ll be like a hostage video of people forced on stage. ... 'On Earth 2,' you’d be showing the Republican Party isn’t this stupid white boys’ club. But Donald Trump has rejected everybody who’s not in the stupid white boys’ club. At this point, we might as well have a giant cross burning out front."

-- An especially large contingent of GOP senators is also staying home next week. The AP’s Erica Werner tried to make a list: “Sen. Steve Daines of Montana will be fly-fishing with his wife. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona said he has to mow his lawn (yes, he has one even in Arizona). Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska will be traveling her state by bush plane. And Sen. John McCain of Arizona will be visiting the Grand Canyon, and joked that his friend Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina would be coming along and might even fall in (just kidding, an aide later clarified).” Also not attending: Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson.

-- An important, if symbolic, victory for freedom of conscience: The RNC contests committee has reinstated Rina Shah Bharara as a D.C. delegate. She was stripped of her position by Trump hard-liners because she had called him a “racist, misogynist flip-flopper” earlier this year and said she might vote for Clinton instead. A majority of the D.C. delegation are supporters of the “Never Trump” movement, Aaron C. Davis reports.


-- Trump's televised contest for V.P. is approaching its season finale. He says he will announce his pick tomorrow at 11 a.m. in New York City. Of course, it could leak out before then…

-- He met privately with the apparent finalists in Indianapolis yesterday. One by one, he had sit-downs with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions. 

The day carried the lure of intrigue: Trump initially was expected to depart Indiana on Tuesday evening, hours after Pence had a well-received audition for the running-mate role at a raucous rally," Jose A. DelReal and Robert Costa report. "Instead, after his plane experienced unidentified mechanical issues, he dined with Pence Tuesday night in downtown Indianapolis and visited the governor’s residence Wednesday morning.” He was joined by Ivanka Trump, her husband, Jared Kushner; his sons Donald Jr. and Eric; and campaign chairman Paul Manafort. “Gingrich, who is considered a finalist, was not aware of the Pence meeting until he saw news reports … But he flew to Indiana on Wednesday morning to meet with Trump. Sessions was spotted boarding a flight to Indiana on Wednesday afternoon.”

-- Gingrich’s flight to Indiana was paid for by Fox News host Sean Hannity, CNN’s Dylan Byers and Dana  Bash reportedHannity defended himself on Twitter: "I have known Newt Gingrich since 1990 (I emceed his event the night he became Speaker of the House in 1994) he has been a long term, very dear friend of mine and is a private citizen. Whatever favors I do for my friends is my business.”

-- “If Pence is the pick, it will come as a relief to (campaign chairman Paul) Manafort, who is pushing hard for him. According to multiple sources, Manafort has long been opposed to selecting Gingrich to the ticket (and to a lesser extent Christie), believing that the loquacious former speaker would be undisciplined and difficult to manage," Politico’s Eli Stokols and Nolan D. Mccaskill report. Trump son-in-law Jared "Kushner would prefer Gingrich, according to multiple sources involved in campaign deliberations. That's at least in part driven by his relationship with GOP mega-donor and Republican Jewish Coalition founder Sheldon Adelson, who is pushing Gingrich, as well as his own antipathy toward Christie (who indicted his father). On a phone call with Manafort on Tuesday, pollster Tony Fabrizio, armed with new data showing Trump and Hillary Clinton statistically tied in Florida and Virginia, reportedly expressed his belief that retired Gen. Michael Flynn, a registered Democrat also on Trump's short list, would be a smart choice.”

-- “Gingrich is a vice-presidential finalist, but his last campaign is still millions in debt,” by Matea Gold and Rosalind S. Helderman: His 2012 campaign committee owes more than $4 million to about 100 vendors. "The charges echo a long pattern of leveraging political stature for personal financial gain that has characterized the career of the 73-year-old speaker-turned-pundit. That reputation, combined with Gingrich’s lingering campaign debt, could make for an awkward fit on the ticket as Trump seeks to capitalize on voter anger at the political elite."

  • “After two decades in Congress, Gingrich did not follow the revolving-door tradition of lobbying … But his business empire relied on selling access to his celebrity … generating close to $100 million in revenue in the decade after he left. Among the ventures: a for-profit think tank that lured members with promises of ‘access to Newt Gingrich’ and ‘direct Newt interaction.’”
  • “Like the Clintons, Gingrich has been active on the paid lecture circuit, earning as much as $60,000 per appearance, according to his speaker’s bureau posting. At one point, he was delivering 50 to 80 paid speeches a year."

-- Gingrich spoke at length about Trump during a closed-door speech to the Republican State Leadership Committee in February, candidly mixing admiration and skepticism for the mogul months before he began angling to be his V.P. ProPublica’s Robert Faturechi got the audio: Gingrich said Trump “is not a conservative, speaks to voters ‘at the lowest level of any candidate in either party,’ and could lose in a landslide if he didn’t significantly change his approach to campaigning. [He] suggested Trump’s move from campaigning to governing would be challenging: ‘How we make the transition from, you know, language for fourth graders to real policy, I don’t know.’”

-- National Review Editor Rich Lowry makes the case for Newt: “Trump is going to need a wingman who can believe six impossible things before breakfast; who can defend the Muslim travel ban during those times when it is Trump’s position and skate away from it during those times when it’s not; who can take any new controversy of the hour, defend it and explain it away and look forward to the next one with relish … Pence is a stolid, respectable conservative who thinks running away and joining the carnival sounds alluring … But the carnival isn’t as much fun as it looks from a distance if you aren’t cut out for an itinerant lifestyle of operating the Tilt-A-Whirl or hawking dubious games of skill and chance.”

But Gingrich has real advantages, Lowry writes. He “loves the game and would relish his unlikely return to the top of it like, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, the saved and the thankful. … He can embed Trumpism in a larger, more sophisticated argument about the country than Trump can, and do it vastly more eloquently. Besides, if the GOP is committed to a brash, unpredictable and divisive candidate at the top of the ticket, it might as well go all the way. Pick Newt, and let her rip.”

-- Some conservatives, led by former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, are trying to muster up an 11th-hour Stop Christie movement.

-- Inside Trump’s head: “I'm narrowing it down,” he told Bret Baier on Fox News last night. “I'm at three, potentially four. But in my own mind, I probably (at) two.” He didn’t specify who.

-- Trump is seeking $10 million in damages from fired campaign consultant Sam Nunberg, alleging that the once key aide “went out of his way” to make derogatory remarks about his former employer in violation of a confidentiality agreement. From Sean Sullivan: Trump's arbitration claim accuses Nunberg of “willful, malicious and continuous disclosure” of confidential information to media organizations. The claim cites a Politico report stating that Nunberg “helped facilitate” a New York Post Page Six item about an argument between then-campaign spokesman Corey Lewandowski and campaign spokesman Hope Hicks. “Nunberg's petition … denies providing the reported information to Page Six. It accuses the Trump campaign of 'a misguided attempt to cover up media coverage of an apparent affair its former campaign manager was witnessed as having with a Trump Campaign female staffer." (Read the full confidentiality agreement Sam was forced to sign.)

-- Trump's suit highlights two very significant elements of his personality:

First, his penchant for secrecy. No serious campaign binds staffers with these sorts of onerous non-disclosure agreements. Trump has suggested he'd try to make his White House staff sign similar NDAs! 

Second, his vindictiveness. The Donald is actually having a relatively good moment; The veepstakes spectacle has been good for his campaign, and the fresh revelations from the FBI director about Clinton's carelessness have bolstered him in the polls. But the GOP nominee is taking the time to file a $10 million lawsuit against a former staffer? Part of the goal is obviously to scare other current and former staffers from talking to reporters or disparaging him. That says a lot about his temperament.

-- U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel heard arguments about whether Trump’s videotaped testimony in the Trump University lawsuit should be released. This was the first public hearing since Trump repeatedly eviscerated Curiel as a “hater" and said his Mexican heritage made him too biased to render a fair hearing. Ironically, Curiel was born in Indiana -- the state Mike Pence governs. (Roxana Popescu)

-- If you read one story about Trump today --> “The man he’s been waiting for,” by Robert Samuels and Shawn Boburg: “Since his rise as a businessman in the 1980s, Trump showed few constants when it came to politics, with one exception: He tried to align himself with winners, people who could raise his profile and further his business goals. Trump helped candidates on opposite ends of the political spectrum with money and endorsements.” Two highlights:

“Trump changed parties seven times between 1999 and 2012, starting when he left the GOP to consider a run under the Reform Party banner. After registering as a Democrat in 2001, he switched back to the Republicans in 2003. He became a Democrat again in 2005 and a Republican in 2009. He chose not to be affiliated with any party in 2011. Asked what he would say to critics who saw the constant party-switching as proof that he had no core beliefs, Trump responded: ‘I think it had to do more with practicality because if you’re going to run for office, you would have had to make friends.’”

In 1999, two weeks after Trump announced an exploratory committee to run for president, he appeared on Meet the Press. “The moderator, Tim Russert, pressed him on a range of issues. At one point, Trump said he supported a right to partial-birth abortion, a procedure in which the fetus is partially removed from the womb before it is aborted. Roger Stone, Trump’s political adviser, accompanied him to the interview. When the two left the studio, Stone said, Trump admitted that he didn’t know what partial-birth abortion was.

-- Trump is not running a 50-state campaign --> “The Huffington Post attempted to call the contact phone numbers for the Trump campaign in all 50 states. A few of the state operations had no websites or no numbers listed. Many of the other numbers didn’t work. … On only six occasions did someone actually answer the phone. And in several of those instances, the person who picked up explained that a physical office would be opened up only after the convention,” reporters Sam Stein and Elise Foley report. “Fourteen of the state websites list numbers for the Trump headquarters in New York City … There are no numbers listed on the websites for Massachusetts or Texas. Arkansas and Oklahoma share a phone number, but it’s not in service. There’s an ‘application error’ for Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Nebraska, Ohio, Oregon, West Virginia and Wisconsin. An automated voice informs callers to the Connecticut and Pennsylvania offices that the customer they are attempting to reach has not set up a voicemail.”

-- While Trump stays out of it, GOP platform tacks farther to the right on gay rights. “The draft platform included language alluding to ‘conversion therapy,’ a controversial practice where therapists try to change a child’s sexual orientation." Katie Zezima and David Weigel report. "The draft proposal also calls for protecting businesses that refuse services to gays and lesbians on moral grounds.”


-- He formally announced his Indiana Senate campaign yesterday and gave his first media interview to the Indianapolis Star. It didn’t go too well, as he got pressed on his decision to quit in 2010, strained credulity with an impossible-to-believe claim that Chuck Schumer had nothing to do with his decision to run again and then spoke evasively on whether he’s given up his K Street jobs working on behalf of special interests. Highlights from the Star’s Q&A:

Q: “Politico quoted Harry Reid as saying Schumer persuaded you to run.”

A: “Ha! I’m laughing. If I did this because somebody nationally was urging me to do it, that’s just wrong. … I care about Hoosiers, not anybody in Washington, D.C.”

Q: “So what role did Chuck Schumer play?”

A: “None…”

Q: “But you talked to him about it?”

A: “Over the last few days, I’ve talked to a lot of people…”

Q: “Republicans are also pointing out that you own two expensive homes in Washington and a Florida apartment, while your Indianapolis apartment is small.”

A: “Susan and I spent the last couple of nights at our Indianapolis home, and we like it.”

Q:  “Your legal residence is still Indiana?”

A: “Yes … Can I sing you the Indiana University fight song? Would that help? I’m not very good at that, but I’d be happy to if that would help establish my bona fides.”

-- When a local TV affiliate asked Bayh if he will move back to Indiana, he replied: "I've never left."

-- PowerPost columnist Stuart Rothenberg writes this morning that Bayh’s decision to run “is not exactly a profile in courage”: “I had heard rumors over the past few months that Indiana and national Democrats were again urging Bayh to run for the Senate. So I checked with him a couple of times about his level of interest – or lack of interest – in possibly running for his old Indiana seat. Given those conversations, I was pretty sure I knew how he felt and what he thought about serving in the Senate again. He hated the idea. Unequivocally. Emphatically. No ifs ands or buts. I got the clear impression he had no interest returning to an institution crippled by political gridlock and no interest in returning to the partisan political wars, which have become more bitter and nasty over the past two decades. (Shades of Rubio again.) But now, at the last minute, Bayh suddenly has decided the Senate needs him, or the country can’t live without him.”

-- A smart observation from the politics editor at National Journal:

Others are comparing Bayh's bid to Nebraska’s Bob Kerrey's failed 2012 comeback. As Stu notes in his column: “Bayh, who was first elected Indiana secretary of state 30 years ago, has not had a competitive race since his 1988 gubernatorial contest.”

-- A Republican operative flags this tweet from the Hoosier State:

-- Here's Bayh's debut ad to re-introduce himself:


Deeply troubling --> “How a modest contract for ‘applied research’ morphed into the CIA’s brutal interrogation program,” by Greg Miller: “The architect of the CIA’s brutal interrogation program was hired for the job through a secret contract in late 2001 that outlined the assignment with Orwellian euphemism. … In fact, the CIA already had a specific consultant in mind, and the agreement to pay $1,000 a day to psychologist James E. Mitchell subsequently expanded into an $81 million arrangement to oversee the use of water-boarding, sleep deprivation and other harrowing techniques against al-Qaeda suspects in secret agency prisons overseas. The abuses of that program have been documented extensively over the past decade, but the initial contracts between the CIA and the psychologists it hired to design the torturous interrogation regimen were surrendered by the agency for the first time earlier this month … The contracts … show how Mitchell and his partner Bruce Jessen — Air Force veterans with no significant expertise in interrogation — were given wide rein to design punishing interrogation regimens for dozens of detainees and then evaluate whether their methods worked, all while securing increasingly lucrative follow-on contracts.”


The front page of the New York Daily News was not friendly to GOP leaders:

The New York Post went after Ruth Bader Ginsburg for her comments about Trump:

Trump, meanwhile, promised "real legal opinions" if he becomes president:

A few notes on Newt as a potential Trump running mate:

Meanwhile, journalists checked in with Chris Christie (click for video):

Women lawmakers celebrated these new Barbie dolls:

The political world is still enjoying Pokemon Go:

Finally, the House Judiciary Committee made a Legally Blonde joke:

Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) announced he was diagnosed with leukemia:


-- Rolling Stone, “The Last Word: Rachel Maddow on Trump, Dystopias and Success,” by Andy Greene: “We sat down with Maddow in her office at Rockefeller Center early on a recent morning to discuss everything from her favorite music (would you believe country & western and Fugazi?) to her worst-case scenario for America if [Trump] becomes our next president …”

On her most conservative trait: “Probably my drinking habits. I am a rigorous curmudgeon when it comes to alcohol. All the mixed drinks and cocktails that anybody needs were pretty much settled a generation before I was born. There's no reason to have, like, cordials made out of new flowers.”

On her reaction to Trump as a major party nominee: “I am fascinated in my country! [Laughs] There's no mystery about Trump. I mean, there's a little mystery as to why he wanted to do this. Have you seen those frustration moments for him on the trail: ‘I had a good life. Why am I doing this?’”

… And her subsequent study of Hitler: “Over the past year I've been reading a lot about what it was like when Hitler first became chancellor. I am gravitating toward moments in history for subliminal reference in terms of cultures that have unexpectedly veered into dark places, because I think that's possibly where we are.” (Read the full interview.)


“Footage of California police killing unarmed teen prompts claim of 'trigger-happy' officers,” from The Guardian: “The release on Wednesday of video of the killing of Dylan Noble, a 19-year-old shot at a gas station in Fresno on 25 June, occurred just hours after the police department told the Guardian it would not release the footage. After watching the footage, Noble’s family launched legal action against the city alleging that the shooting was ‘an inexcusable use of excessive force.’ Police claim that the officers believed Noble had a gun, though they later learned he had no weapons on him or in his pickup truck. ‘They just wanted to shoot him,’ said Darren Noble, Dylan’s father, after watching the footage. ‘They’re just trigger-happy.’”



“Transgender Person Arrested For Taking Pictures Of Woman In Target Dressing Room,” from the Daily Caller: “Idaho police arrested a man — who identifies as a transgender woman — on one count of felony voyeurism Tuesday after he took pictures of a woman while she was changing clothes in a Target dressing room, the Post Register reported. Sheriff’s deputies arrested 43-year-old Sean Patrick Smith, who reportedly identifies as Shauna Patricia Smith, the day after he was spotted reaching over the changing room wall with a cell phone taking pictures of a woman who was trying on clothes. Target announced in April that men who identify as women would be allowed to use the women’s facilities at the retail store.”


On the campaign trail: Clinton is in Washington, D.C. to speak at LULAC, goes to the Senate Democratic lunch and then Annandale for her rally with Tim Kaine. She's will focus on immigration. Trump is fundraising in the west.

At the White House: Obama participates in a town hall hosted by ABC. Biden addresses the U.S.-Japan-Republic of Korea trilateral meeting, speaks to U.S. troops and tours the U.S.S. John C. Stennis. He remains overnight in Honolulu.

On Capitol Hill: The Senate meets at 9:30 a.m., when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will make a compound motion to go to conference on S.2943, National Defense Authorization Act.

It is also Bastille Day.


"In just one year I was stopped seven times by law enforcement officers - seven times in one year, as an elected official." -- Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.)


-- Another day of “oppressive” humidity, per our friends from the Capital Weather Gang: Scattered clouds provide limited shape relief and humidity remains oppressive. This makes highs in the low-to-mid 90s feel more painful (heat indices in lower 100s). Thunderstorms are likely to hold off until late afternoon but could produce locally heavy downpours. Breezes are light from the west.

-- More than 100 people attended a vigil for 27-year-old Seth Conrad Rich, the DNC staffer who was fatally shot in Northwest D.C. just one block from his home. Attendees included DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Columbia Heights bartender who ordered a plaque to place on Rich’s favorite chair, and neighbors concerned about the uptick of violence in the community. (Perry Stein)


-- The Clinton campaign just posted a brutal, minute-long reprisal of some of Trump's most controversial statements as seen through the eyes of children. "The negative spot has video of Trump playing in the background as children watch," Abby Phillip reports. "It contrasts Trump -- using profanity, mocking a disabled reporter, apparently alluding to a female reporter's menstrual cycle -- with Clinton, who appears at the end of the ad." Watch:

-- Mic posted a video to its Facebook page with celebrities, including Alicia Keys, Rihanna, Kevin Hart and Beyoncé, speaking about “23 ways you could be killed if you are black in America.” Examples include: “failing to signal a lane change … riding in your girlfriend’s car with a child in the back … riding a commuter train … making eye contact … selling CDs outside a supermarket … wearing a hoodie.” Watch here.

-- Some of our nation’s most preeminent historians have recorded short videos warning about the clear and present danger they believe Trump represents to the United States and the risk of complacency. Their testimonials have been posted on a new Facebook group called “Historians on Donald Trump.” Among the brand names participating: Robert Caro, David McCullough, Ron Chernow, Joseph Ellis, Michael Kazin, William Leuchtenburg, Evan Thomas, and Sean Wilentz. You can see what they all have to say here.

-- 50 Cent commented on Trump and a potential Kanye West presidential candidacy:

-- Conan O'Brien noted that it seemed pretty hard for Sanders to endorse Clinton:

-- A one-minute viral video mocking Cleveland as a dump is making the rounds among Republicans and journalists preparing to fly in:

-- The best quips and jokes from David Cameron's last "Prime Minister's Questions" before Parliament:

During his last Prime Minister’s Questions before handing over the reins of power to Theresa May, David Cameron pokes fun at the opposition, confirms his love of Larry the cat and even tries out an American accent. (Video: AP)

-- Finally, watch as non-Pokemon fans play Pokemon Go for the first time: