With Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: Some have called him crazy. He thinks he’s crazy like a fox.
Let’s dispense once and for all with the fiction that Donald Trump doesn’t have a strategy. It may be a deeply flawed strategy for reasons the neophyte president is not yet savvy enough to appreciate, but make no mistake: There is a strategy.
The conventional wisdom around Washington is that Trump is being impulsive as he disregards the counsel of his lawyers, who are correctly warning him that the travel ban may not survive a Supreme Court review if he continues to talk about it the way he does.
Yet the president has now explicitly called for a “TRAVEL BAN” five separate times on Twitter over the past four days. Undercutting the spin that he was just reacting to a morning cable segment he saw on TV before coming downstairs to work, his social media team posted a video on Facebook (an account he doesn’t personally control) that featured the tweets set to dramatic music.
He posted this at 9:20 p.m. last night:
That's right, we need a TRAVEL BAN for certain DANGEROUS countries, not some politically correct term that won't help us protect our people!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017
If Trump truly cared about the underlying ban and wanted it to be in place for the country’s security, as he claims, he would not be speaking so freely. The billionaire businessman has been mired in litigation off and on for decades and has demonstrated an ability — when his own money was at stake — to be self-disciplined.
The only explanation, then, is that he cares less about winning the case than reassuring his base. The number of posts reflects the degree to which Trump thinks the travel ban is a political winner. He is trying to signal for his 24 million Facebook fans and 31.7 million Twitter followers that he’s fighting for them, regardless of what the judges, the media and the Democrats say. As Trump put it this morning:
The FAKE MSM is working so hard trying to get me not to use Social Media. They hate that I can get the honest and unfiltered message out.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017
Sorry folks, but if I would have relied on the Fake News of CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, washpost or nytimes, I would have had ZERO chance winning WH— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017
-- Bigger picture, the president is trying to maintain his populist street cred and show his true believers that he’s not going wobbly on them after five months in Washington, despite back-tracking on more of his campaign promises than he’s kept.
Trump has always been a flashy show horse. Why would anyone think a septuagenarian is suddenly going to buckle down to become a work horse? As a developer, biographers and former associates say, he consistently cared more about the gold-plated façade than the foundation. This is why Trump could obsess about how the lobbies of his properties looked, even as his business ventures careened toward bankruptcy under the weight of bad loans and poor bookkeeping. (Marc Fisher explored this dynamic in February.)
-- With his agenda imperiled, Trump increasingly seems determined to create an aura of effectiveness in the hopes that core supporters already inclined to support him won’t be able to tell the difference between optics and substance. Remember, this is the same candidate who once boasted that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and his voters would stick with him.
Consider this: “Trump employed all the trappings traditionally reserved for signing major bills into law as he kicked off ‘infrastructure week’ on Monday: the stately East Room full of dignitaries, a four-piece military band to serenade, celebratory handshakes and souvenir presidential pens for lawmakers, promises of ‘a great new era’ and a ‘revolution’ in technology. Yet the documents Trump signed amid all the pomp were not new laws or even an executive order. They were routine letters to Congress, relaying support for a minimally detailed plan in Trump’s budget to transfer control of the nation’s air traffic control system to a private nonprofit group,” the Los Angeles Times’s Noah Bierman reports.
But low-information voters may not be able to tell the difference when they see the B-roll of the ceremony on TV or an image in the paper.
It follows a pattern of Trump over-promising and under-delivering: “He touted the unveiling of his tax overhaul in April but released only a one-page set of bulleted talking points,” Noah writes. “Just last week, he tweeted that his tax bill is proceeding ‘ahead of schedule,’ though he has submitted no bill to Congress.… Trump held a Rose Garden ceremony in May to celebrate House passage of a bill to repeal Obamacare … even as Republicans in the Senate served notice that the House bill was unacceptable. His promised ‘beautiful wall’ on the southern border is not yet on a drawing board. Likewise, many of the executive orders Trump has signed failed to live up to the president’s rhetoric.”
Bloomberg’s Toluse Olorunnipa noticed an amusing pattern and just posted a smart trend story about it: “From overhauling the tax code to releasing an infrastructure package to making decisions on NAFTA and the Paris climate agreement, Trump has a common refrain: A big announcement is coming in just ‘two weeks.’ It rarely does.… Trump’s habit of self-imposing — then missing -— two-week deadlines for major announcements has become a staple of his administration.… The president has used two-week timelines to sidestep questions from reporters or brag to CEOs at the White House. But his pronouncements have also flummoxed investors, Congress and occasionally even members of his staff.”
Is this strategy gimmicky and cynical? Absolutely. Does it work? For millions of people, yes.
-- To be sure, Trump's talent for showmanship has gotten him this far. He developed a valuable brand as a reality TV star and has leveraged his celebrity to get through rough patches before. He brought that skillset to the presidential race and assumes it will continue to work in Washington.
Indeed, White House officials defend Trump by arguing that he’s simply governing as he campaigned. “The president won an election by being somebody who is not a conformist candidate,” Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, told reporters during a conference call last night. “He won by being somebody who the American people were anxious to change the culture in D.C. They understand that they were asking for disruption to the way D.C. operates. And I think that they’re anxious, the American people are anxious to see progress in this town. So he may not have conventional style in doing that, but many of his efforts are extremely helpful to, I think, getting our legislation accomplished.”
Short’s explanation offers a deeply revealing window into Trump’s theory of the case: All of the let-'er-rip tweets in the wake of the attack on London Bridge have been focused on ginning up the GOP base. The president believes that, so long as grass-roots activists back him, his adopted party’s lawmakers will have no choice but to follow. The fact that so many politicians have caved and capitulated over the past two years has taught him that he can get away with his unusual behavior. What the Republican governing class has never understood is that Trump doesn’t really respect people who kowtow to him; he sees it as a sign of their weakness. Seeing such timidity has only emboldened this president to pursue this bottom-up, outside-in approach. There is no evidence he will change until elected Republicans buck him en masse.
-- Here’s the rub: There are some fresh signs that Trump’s act is wearing thin. While Trump’s floor of support has thus far stayed surprisingly high, the percentage of Americans who “strongly” approve of the president has continued to slip — from 30 percent earlier in the spring to about 20 percent now.
-- More and more GOP lawmakers are also getting sick and tired of either defending the president or dodging questions about his latest provocative statement. “Trump’s refusal to disengage from the daily storm of news — coming ahead of former FBI director James B. Comey’s highly anticipated public testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday — is both unsurprising and unsettling to many Republicans [on the Hill], who are already skittish about the questions they may confront in the aftermath of the hearing,” Robert Costa reports on the front page of today’s Post. “In particular, they foresee Democratic accusations that Trump’s exchanges with Comey about the FBI probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign were an effort to obstruct justice. Some Republicans fear that Trump’s reactions will only worsen the potential damage.”
- “It’s a distraction, and he needs to focus,” said former Trump campaign adviser Barry Bennett. “Every day and moment he spends on anything other than a rising economy is a waste that disrupts everything.”
- “Unfortunately, the president has, I think, created problems for himself by his Twitter habit,” John Cornyn, the second highest-ranking Senate Republican, said with characteristic understatement during a Sunday interview on the Dallas TV station WFAA.
- "We live in a world today where unfortunately a lot of communication is taking place with 140 characters. Probably it's best to refrain from communicating with 140 characters on topics that are so important," Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said one day after golfing with the president.
-- Efforts to create a “war room” stocked with former campaign officials and top-flight lawyers have stalled. “Three people briefed on the matter said the process has been bogged down by a lack of decision-making in the West Wing over how to proceed, as well as reluctance from some of those the White House hoped to recruit about serving a president who keeps getting in his own way,” the AP’s Julie Pace reports. “The White House has made a conscious decision to avoid answering questions about the Russia probes, referring inquiries to Marc Kasowitz, the president’s outside counsel. Kasowitz has so far had no comment on the investigations, leaving those questions unanswered.”
“Anybody with press chops looks at this and they’re fearful there’s not a path to succeed,” said Sara Fagen, former White House political director for George W. Bush.
-- Top lawyers with at least four major law firms rebuffed White House overtures to represent Trump in the Russia investigations, in part over concerns that the president would be unwilling to listen to their advice, Michael Isikoff reports for Yahoo News this morning. “Before Kasowitz was retained, however, some of the biggest law firms and their best known attorneys turned down overtures when they were sounded out by White House officials to see if they would be willing to represent the president.”
-- Trump wants to blame Democrats for blocking his agenda, but the truth is that he cannot even get 50 Republican senators onboard for his biggest priorities. Consider these two other quotes from yesterday:
Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, a former NRSC chairman and one of the most reliable votes in the Republican conference, put out a stinging statement about Trump’s push to privatize the country’s air traffic control system: “Proposals to privatize air traffic control threaten the reliable transportation options provided by small airports and the general aviation community for millions of Americans. All but our largest airports nationwide stand to be hurt by this proposal. Privatization eliminates the chance for Congress and the American people to provide oversight, creates uncertainty in the marketplace and is likely to raise costs for consumers."
On health care: “I just don’t think we can put it together among ourselves,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham told a gaggle of reporters, joining a growing chorus of Republicans who publicly and privately say that Obamacare repeal is unlikely to happen. (Last week, Richard Burr (R-N.C.) made a similar comment and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said he doubted a bill could pass before the August recess.)
-- “The most effective opponent of the Trump Presidency is Donald J. Trump,” the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial board opines this morning. “If Mr. Trump’s action is legal on the merits, he seems to be angry that his lawyers are trying to vindicate the rule of law. Attorney General Jeff Sessions would be justified if he resigned. … If this pattern continues, Mr. Trump may find himself running an Administration with no one but his family and the Breitbart staff. People of talent and integrity won’t work for a boss who undermines them in public without thinking about the consequences. And whatever happened to the buck stops here?”
-- “The man is out of control,” Eugene Robinson writes in his column today. “I know his unorthodox use of social media is thought by some, including the president himself, to be brilliant. But I don’t see political genius in the invective coming from Trump these days. I see an angry man lashing out at enemies real and imagined — a man dangerously overwhelmed.”
-- “The president has gone rogue,” adds Dana Milbank. “Though Trump’s ineffectiveness comes as a relief, his isolation is no cause for celebration. Whenever his back is to the wall, he becomes even more aggressive. The further he falls, and the more alienated he grows, the greater the danger that he will do something desperate — and there is much that a desperate commander in chief can do.”
Dana flags that an unnamed Trump confidant told CNN’s Gloria Borger last week that the president is a lost man: “He now lives within himself, which is a dangerous place for Donald Trump to be. I see him emotionally withdrawing. He’s gained weight. He doesn’t have anybody whom he trusts.”
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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Tory Newmyer launched The Finance 202 this morning with a look at how economic populism is in retreat in the Trump administration. He reports that the border-adjustment tax has flatlined amid divisions between Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and House Speaker Paul Ryan who championed the plan. (Read the first edition here. Sign up here.)
-- Clean up on Aisle 9: Mike Pence went to the Ritz Carlton in D.C. last night to reassure European leaders at a dinner put on by the Atlantic Council that the United States will have their backs if they’re attacked. There was consternation among U.S. allies and the president’s own national security leadership team when Trump dropped an explicit reference to Article 5 during his recent speech in Brussels. Around 9 p.m. last night, the vice president tried to be as clear as possible. “Make no mistake: Our commitment is unwavering. We will meet our obligations to our people to provide for the collective defense of all our allies,” he said to applause. “The United States is resolved, as we were at NATO’s founding and in every hour since, to live by that principle that an attack on one of us is an attack on us all.”
-- Neighboring Middle East nations are attempting to resolve the conflict between Qatar and the countries that cut off diplomatic ties. Kareem Fahim and Paul Schemm report: “The eruption of the long simmering dispute into an open rift shocked the region and threatened deeply intertwined trade links and air routes. Kuwait has signaled that it is ready to step in and try to heal the festering rift that threatens to blow apart the region [and hurt the United States]. … Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, meanwhile, spoke with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar about resolving the dispute. Turkey enjoys good relations with all the parties in the conflict.”
Trump waded into the delicate situation this morning:
During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar - look!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2017
-- “Senate Republican leaders are aiming to conclude their perilous and divisive effort to rewrite the nation’s health-care laws as soon as late this month, giving themselves only weeks to resolve substantial disagreements and raising the possibility that their push will collapse,” Sean Sullivan and Kelsey Snell report this morning. “The leadership team is eyeing a vote by the end of July on a bill to be completed by early that month, with some aspiring to wrap up even sooner. One said he expected to hold a vote on a bill even if it lacked the support to pass, underscoring a growing desire to bring a difficult debate to a close one way or the other. Some Senate Republican aides and associates are already privately discussing how the GOP would craft its midterm campaign message if it fails to pass a health-care bill, suggesting they could tell voters they need to build a bigger majority to finally undo the Affordable Care Act.”
GET SMART FAST:
- A disgruntled ex-factory worker killed five former co-workers in Orlando. The shooter had been fired in April and, according to the county sheriff, had at least one “negative relationship” in the workplace. The attack did not appear to be an act of terror, and the killer committed suicide before police arrived. (Les Neuhaus, Lindsey Bever and Mark Berman)
- Two were charged in Oakland for the December fire that killed 36. Derick Almena and Max Harris, who ran the illegal party space known as The Ghost Ship, were charged with three dozen counts of involuntary manslaughter. (The Mercury News)
- Bill Cosby’s sexual-assault trial began in Pennsylvania. The first day of testimony included an account from Kelly Johnson, who said through tears that, in 1996, she was coerced into taking a pill from Cosby and then assaulted while losing consciousness. (Manuel Roig-Franzia)
- The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the federal government must abide by a statute of limitations when collecting profits tied to illegal activity. The specific case involved an Security and Exchange Commission request of $35 million from a businessman who misappropriated funds. That sum will now be reduced to $5 million due to a five-year statute of limitations. (Robert Barnes)
- The Supreme Court agreed to take up a case on whether authorities can track cellphone records without a warrant. This could have huge privacy implications. (Robert Barnes)
- Puerto Rico declared an end to the Zika epidemic. Only 10 news cases have been reported over the past four weeks. Last summer, 8,000 new cases were reported every four weeks. (Lena H. Sun)
- Apple announced the launch of the “HomePod” to compete against Amazon and Google’s smart speakers. The HomePod, like Google’s Home and Amazon’s Alexa, will respond to basic voice-activated commands. Apple CEO Tim Cook claimed the device’s sound quality will surpass its competitors. (Hayley Tsukayama)
- Three men detained for investigating a Chinese company that produces Ivanka Trump shoes are being held in the Ganzhou City Detention Center. The State Department demanded their immediate release. (AP)
- Al Franken canceled a planned appearance on Bill Maher’s show, citing Maher’s recent use of the n-word. A spokesperson for the Minnesota senator said the former comedian found the talk-show host’s use of the racial slur to be “inappropriate and offensive, which is why he made the decision not to appear.” (HuffPost)
- A public official in Michigan was fired for using a racial slur to refer to Flint residents. Phil Stair, the sales manager of the Genesee County Land Bank, was recorded by an environmental activist saying that the city’s water crisis was caused by "ni***** (who) don't pay their bills." (Michigan Live)
- Greg Gianforte filed for reelection in Montana. The congressman-elect, who allegedly body-slammed a reporter ahead of last month’s special election, will run for a full term in 2018. He still faces misdemeanor assault charges. (David Weigel)
- A Virginia imam was condemned for endorsing female genital mutilation as a means of avoiding “hyper-sexuality” in girls. The Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center’s Board of Directors noted in a statement of disapproval that the practice is “prohibited in Islam as well as the laws of the land.” (Abigail Hauslohner)
- Evergreen State College closed for the second time in less than a week due to security concerns. The school has faced threats of violence over ongoing race protests. (Susan Svrluga)
- Maine is sending a 40-foot “floating beer keg” to Iceland. The Maine Brewers’ Guild shipped dozens of local craft beers and 78 taps to Reykjavik. The shipment will arrive just in time for the BjórFestival, an Icelandic craft beer festival. (Fredrick Kunkle)
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- A top-secret report from the National Security Agency, which was leaked to The Intercept, concluded that agents of the Russian government attempted to directly interfere with U.S. voting software before the 2016 presidential election.
- “Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election.”
- The report states unequivocally in its summary statement that it was Russian military intelligence, specifically the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, or GRU, that conducted the cyberattacks.
- “The NSA analysis does not draw conclusions about whether the interference had any effect on the election’s outcome and concedes that much remains unknown about the extent of the hackers’ accomplishments. However, the report raises the possibility that Russian hacking may have breached at least some elements of the voting system, with disconcertingly uncertain results.”
-- A government contractor has been charged with passing along the NSA document to the Intercept. Devlin Barrett reports: “Reality Leigh Winner was accused of gathering, transmitting or losing defense information — the first criminal charge filed in a leak investigation during the Trump administration. Winner was arrested Saturday and the case was revealed Monday. ... According to court documents, Winner had a top-security clearance as an active-duty member of the Air Force from January 2013 until February of this year.”
-- The White House announced that Trump will not try to interfere with James B. Comey’s Thursday's appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said yesterday that the president has decided not to assert executive privilege, even though he thinks he has the right to do so.
-- All the broadcast network, along with cable TV, are expected to preempt regular coverage to air Comey’s testimony live, including CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC.
-- Some local businesses are even devising gimmicks to capitalize on the buzz. One D.C. bar is even hosting a viewing party. Shaw’s Tavern will open early Thursday for “The Comey Hearing Covfefe." The best drink special? $5 Russian vodka flavors, DCist reports.
POTUS SEEKS A SCAPEGOAT:
-- “Trump Grows Discontented With Attorney General Jeff Sessions,” The New York Times’ Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman report: “He has intermittently fumed for months over Mr. Sessions’s decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election, according to people close to Mr. Trump who insisted on anonymity to describe internal conversations. In Mr. Trump’s view, they said, it was that recusal that eventually led to the appointment of a special counsel who took over the investigation. … In fact, much of the past two months of discomfort and self-inflicted pain for Mr. Trump can be tied in some way back to that recusal. Mr. Trump felt blindsided by Mr. Sessions’s decision and unleashed his fury at aides in the Oval Office the next day, according to four people familiar with the event. The next day was his fateful tweet about President Barack Obama conducting a wiretap of Trump Tower during the campaign, an allegation that was widely debunked.”
FOLLOW THE MONEY:
-- "Was Jared Kushner Seeking a Russian Bailout for Manhattan Building? Congress Will Ask,” NBC’s Ken Dilanian, Leigh Ann Caldwell and Corky Siemaszko report: “A very expensive piece of New York City real estate with an ominous address could be Exhibit A when and if Trump’s son-in-law and trusted adviser appears before the Congressional committees probing Russian meddling in the presidential election. One of the questions Kushner is expected to be asked is whether he tried to set up a secret back channel way of communicating with the Russians so he could find somebody in Moscow to take the 41-story tower at 666 Fifth Ave. off his family's hands.”
-- “White House Looked at Dropping Russia Sanctions — Even After Firing Michael Flynn,” The Daily Beast’s Kim Dozier reports: "The White House explored unilaterally easing sanctions on Russia’s oil industry as recently as late March, arguing that decreased Russian oil production could harm the American economy, according to former U.S. officials. State Department officials argued successfully that easing those sanctions would actually hurt the U.S. energy sector.”
-- British authorities named two of the assailants in the Saturday attack that killed seven and injured dozens. Griff Witte and Karla Adam report: “London’s Metropolitan Police identified the assailants as 27-year-old Khuram Shazad Butt, a British citizen who was born in Pakistan, and 30-year-old Rachid Redouane, who had claimed to be Moroccan and Libyan. Both lived in the Barking area of East London, only a half-hour’s drive from London Bridge and Borough Market — the adjacent areas where victims were targeted Saturday night. Police said efforts to confirm the identity of the third attacker were ongoing.”
-- And just breaking this morning, an Italian news outlet has identified the third attacker. More from Griff and Karla: “According to the newspaper Corriere della Sera, Moroccan-Italian Youssef Zaghba was stopped in Italy last year trying to go to Syria.… British police later confirmed the report.”
-- One of the attackers was already known by neighbors for his extremist views and was even featured in a documentary entitled “The Jihadis Next Door.” William Booth and Rick Noack report: “In ‘The Jihadis Next Door,’ Butt can be seen praying in a London park. At least one other person featured in the documentary has since joined the Islamic State militant group in Syria. Siddhartha Dhar left Britain only days after being released from prison on bail and is thought to have risen in the ranks of the Islamic State quickly after his arrival in Syria. Like Dhar, Butt is thought to have been associated with al-Muhajiroun, a banned extremist organization.”
-- The announcement of the attackers’ names could further affect Britain’s general election on Thursday. Isaac Stanley-Becker reports: “The latest assault, in which three suspects mowed down pedestrians on London Bridge before slashing their way through a nearby market, inserts an unpredictable new dynamic — the fear and uncertainty sowed by terrorism — into this week’s contest, which was already tightening. Once projected to end in a landslide for Theresa May, the Conservative prime minister who called the election in a bid to consolidate her majority, the race has appeared less lopsided in recent days. Polls suggest it could even offer a lifeline to Jeremy Corbyn, the firebrand Labour chief whose leadership had been in doubt as his party struggled to gain traction.”
-- In an attempt to bolster her security credentials, Theresa May is calling for greater Internet regulation to prevent extremism from spreading. Brian Fung reports: “May blamed Internet providers and large websites on Sunday for providing violent extremism ‘the safe space it needs to breed.’ She called on governments around the world to develop ‘international agreements that regulate cyberspace’ to battle terrorism.”
-- London Mayor Sadiq Khan held a vigil for the victims — and demanded that Trump’s state visit be canceled after the president criticized his response to the crisis. Khan told Channel 4 News: “I don’t think we should roll out the red carpet to the president of the USA in the circumstances where his policies go against everything we stand for.”
This is our president's latest attack on a guy still trying to deal with the fallout of an attack on his city. Repeating our question from yesterday, can you imagine how outraged Americans would have been if Tony Blair had repeatedly slammed Rudy Giuliani in the days after 9/11?
Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who had to think fast on his "no reason to be alarmed" statement. MSM is working hard to sell it!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2017
THE FEVER SWAMP:
-- A freshman congressman called for a holy war against radical Islam in response to the London attack. Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) wrote on Facebook: “Hunt them, identify them, and kill them. Kill them all. For the sake of all that is good and righteous. Kill them all.” (Peter Holley)
-- A Breitbart editor, though, was fired for blaming the episode on British Muslims. Katie McHugh tweeted, “There would be no deadly terror attacks in the U.K. if Muslims didn’t live there.” She announced yesterday that she got fired by Steve Bannon's old website for “telling the truth about Islam and Muslim immigration.” (Samantha Schmidt)
-- The family of one of the London victims, who used to work for a homeless shelter, encouraged others to donate time or money to shelters in honor of their lost loved one. Cleve R. Wootson Jr. reports: “As 30-year-old Christine Archibald's family mourns her, it also has a message for the world: Celebrate the circumstances of her life. … The Internet responded with donations and volunteer hours and a pair of hashtags: #ChrissySentYou and #ChrissySentMe.”
THE TRUMPS CASH IN:
-- “Trump’s hotel company moves into his political territory, beginning with Mississippi,” by Jonathan O’Connell: “President Trump’s hotel company is pushing into territory he conquered as a political candidate, beginning with four new hotels in Mississippi. The company will open the first of its Scion line of hotels — marketed as a four-star boutique brand — early next year through a deal the company inked for a property under construction in Cleveland, Miss., population 15,800…. All of the hotels will be priced lower than the luxury brand Trump minted with his name before running for president, offering rates that working-class voters in Mississippi and elsewhere can more easily afford.”
-- Saudi Arabia paid roughly $270,000 to Trump’s D.C. hotel as part of a lobbying effort against the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act. The Wall Street Journal’s Byron Tau and Rebecca Ballhaus report: “The payments — for catering, lodging and parking — were disclosed by the public relations firm MSLGroup last week in paperwork filed with the Justice Department documenting foreign lobbying work on behalf of Saudi Arabia and other clients…Saudi Arabia’s Washington lobbyists and consultants spent approximately $190,000 on lodging, $78,000 on catering, and $1,600 on parking at the Trump International Hotel…. Saudi Arabia has been lobbying against JASTA, a law that was passed by Congress over former President Barack Obama’s veto. It allowed Americans to sue foreign governments over terrorists attacks.”
THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS RESISTS:
-- The acting ambassador to China quit over the president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. Carol Morello reports: “David H. Rank, a career Foreign Service officer of 27 years, had been acting ambassador until former Iowa governor Terry Branstad (R) was confirmed as the new ambassador last month. Rank held a town meeting with embassy employees to explain he had offered his resignation and it had been accepted. As the head of the embassy until Branstad arrives, it was Rank’s responsibility to deliver a formal notification of the U.S. intention to withdraw from the climate pact. According to a State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to be more candid, Rank was unwilling to deliver the demarche.”
-- Rank becomes the latest in a string of senior diplomats who are abandoning the president over his controversial policy decisions. The New York Times’ Mark Landler reports: “As Trump strains alliances and relationships around the world, some of the nation’s top career diplomats are breaking publicly with him, in what amounts to a quiet revolt by a cadre of public servants known for their professional discretion…. The State Department has been a hotbed of resistance to the Trump administration’s policies from the start. About 1,000 staff members signed a cable protesting the temporary ban on visas for visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries the administration tried to impose in January. There has been a small exodus of senior diplomats, which, combined with the slow pace of appointments, has left the State Department’s headquarters noticeably depleted.”
-- A fresh Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that just 28 percent of Americans support Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. The majority of the country doesn’t just oppose the decision but believes that the move will damage the United States’ global standing. But, but, but: While only 22 percent of independents back Trump’s action, 67 percent of Republicans do. Three-quarters of GOP voters say Trump’s decision will help the economy, and 73 percent sayi it will create more jobs. This is what the president cares about, and it is how chief strategist Steve Bannon persuaded Trump to follow through on his campaign promise.
-- “Solar’s rise lifted these blue-collar workers. Now they’re worried about Trump,” by Danielle Paquette: “While there could well be some winners — such as workers in the coal industry — the Paris departure embodies the government’s abandonment of a suite of policies that promised to create hundreds of thousands of jobs at the same time as fighting climate change. About 370,000 people work for solar companies in the United States, with the majority of them employed in installations, according to the Department of Energy. More than 9,500 solar jobs have cropped up in North Carolina alone, the study found. That’s more than natural gas (2,181), coal (2,115) and oil generation of electric power (480) combined.”
-- “Pruitt’s (misleading) claim that ‘almost 50,000 jobs’ have been gained in coal,” by Glenn Kessler: “Scott Pruitt had a shiny new talking point to roll out on the Sunday morning shows as he defended Trump’s decision to exit the Paris accord.… The biggest problem with Pruitt’s statistic is that most of the gain in ‘mining’ jobs has nothing to do with coal. Most of the new jobs were in a subcategory called ‘support activities for mining,’ which accounted for more than 40,000 of the new jobs since October and more than 30,000 of the jobs since January.”
DEMOCRATS IN THE WILDERNESS:
-- “Amid Trump’s unpopularity, Democrats face criticism for not investing more in special elections,” by Mike DeBonis and David Weigel: “Democrat Jon Ossoff, whose $8.3 million war chest has made him a contender for the congressional seat from Georgia’s 6th District, is under siege…Republican-aligned outside groups funded mainly by large donors have swamped their Democratic counterparts, led by the Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) that has announced plans to pump $7 million into the Georgia race. The main Democratic super PAC aimed at House races, in comparison, has announced only $700,000 in spending ahead of the June 20 runoff. The disparity in outside funding has raised alarms among Democrats, who fear that the party is squandering clear opportunities in its quest to win the House majority in 2018.”
-- “In Virginia state races, new Democratic activists fight to scrap party’s ‘tepid centrism,’” by Gregory S. Schneider: “Democrats motivated by last fall’s presidential defeat have poured into Virginia House races, where all 100 seats are on the ballot this fall and Republicans enjoy a 66-34 advantage. Democrats are challenging in 54 of those Republican districts, up from 21 in 2015. The aggressive slate of candidates, including a record number of women, is part of a national effort by Democrats to reemphasize state and local elections after watching Republicans make massive gains in recent years. Many of the new Democrats are untested, and are converging from a variety of backgrounds and progressive groups that are elbowing past the traditional party.”
-- “The Trump effect: Everyone’s thinking of running for president,” by Karen Tumulty and John Wagner: “Presidential buzz seems to be building around an unusually large and varied group of Democrats and famous names from outside of politics — a parlor game that includes pretty much every current Democratic senator and governor, mayors and House members, barons of the business world and, of course, the occasional wild-card celebrity. The Hill newspaper recently tallied 43 people who might run against Donald Trump.” (There are lots of good voices and names in this story.)
-- “Women shape 2020 Democratic field,” by Politico's Gabriel Debenedetti: “Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota are all drawing mention as top-of-the-ticket prospects and settling into distinctive lanes ahead of a primary that will begin in earnest in two years…With many Democrats speculating about the effect that misogyny had on the result, party leaders are trying to better understand the politics of nominating another woman.”
RECONCILIATION FOR INFRASTRUCTURE?
-- In his briefing Monday night, White House legislative affairs director Marc Short indicated that the administration plans to advance the infrastructure package via special budget rules that would allow it to pass with a simple majority vote in the Senate. “That means that if Republicans can stick together — and there’s no guarantee they can — Democratic votes would not be needed, although Short said that ‘we would hope to get some Democrats’ support,’” the AP’s Erica Werner reports.
-- “Infrastructure was supposed to be the unicorn of bipartisan cooperation — now it looks like a regular horse,” Amber Phillips writes on The Fix.
-- It’s not just for political reasons. Democrats have substantive objections to the president’s proposals – which they see as crony capitalism. Trump promised during the campaign to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. He actually attacked Hillary Clinton for proposing to spend just $275 billion. But the president's budget proposes spending only $200 billion, though he claims this will eventually spur $1 trillion in total spending.
Democrats note that the cuts to existing programs in Trump's budget — including federal funding for local transit projects — far outstrip the proposed new spending. From John Wagner: “Many transportation advocates were taken aback by the extent to which Trump proposed gutting existing programs. The president, for example, proposed elimination of a program launched in 2009 by the Obama administration that is slated to provide nearly $500 million in grants to states and localities next year to help with an array of transportation projects. Trump’s budget also takes aim at several infrastructure programs in rural areas, which formed the backbone of his political support last year. The budget seeks to eliminate another program slated to spend nearly $500 million in the coming year for wastewater treatment projects in rural areas.”
From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: “Rather than public investment — with the government allocating the money and directing it to where it’s most needed — the Trump plan relies entirely on private projects through which investors (e.g., private contractors) would own the projects, get huge federal tax credits equal to a stunning 82 percent of their equity investment, and make profits from the tolls or fees they would charge to consumers.”
“Trump tolls” is what Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calls this.
“The other big problem with this method is that which projects get built is determined by where private developers think they can continue to make profits, not where the need is greatest. But there are lots of necessary infrastructure projects that might not be profit centers,” Paul Waldman writes on the progressive Plum Line blog. “Democrats don’t like the idea of trying to fund infrastructure only through tax breaks, but that’s not their only objection. Will there be ‘prevailing wage’ guarantees that ensure that the people working on these projects are paid adequately? What about environmental protections? Is an infrastructure plan going to be a Trojan horse to attack those protections? It would be more appealing to many Republicans if it were, but it would harden Democrats’ resolve against it.”
Nancy Pelosi said Trump’s air traffic plan “would hand control of one of our nation’s most important public assets to special interests and the big airlines.” (The Post’s Editorial Board endorses it, though, noting that it is very similar to what Al Gore proposed in 1993 as part of his government-reinvention project. Here’s a useful Q&A about how it would work.) But The Energy 202's Dino Grandoni says it could actually mitigate climate change.
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
George Conway, Kellyanne's husband, just withdrew from consideration to run the Justice Department's civil division. From an account he has hardly ever used but confirmed is his, the prominent conservative lawyer expressed exasperation with Trump's Twitter outbursts:
These tweets may make some ppl feel better, but they certainly won't help OSG get 5 votes in SCOTUS, which is what actually matters. Sad. https://t.co/zVhcyfm8Hr— George Conway (@gtconway3d) June 5, 2017
(OSG is Office of the Solicitor General)
When his post blew up and dominated the chatter on cable news, George explained himself further:
1) Just to be clear, and in response to inquiries, I still VERY, VERY STRONGLY support POTUS, his Admin, policies, the executive order ...— George Conway (@gtconway3d) June 5, 2017
2) ... and of course, my wonderful wife. Which is why I said what I said this morning. Every sensible lawyer in WHCO and every political ...— George Conway (@gtconway3d) June 5, 2017
3) ... appointee at DOJ wd agree with me (as some have already told me). The pt cannot be stressed enough that tweets on legal matters ...— George Conway (@gtconway3d) June 5, 2017
4) ... seriously undermine Admin agenda and POTUS--and those who support him, as I do, need to reinforce that pt and not be shy about it.— George Conway (@gtconway3d) June 5, 2017
George is not alone. Check out this brutal tweetstorm from Harvard Law School professor Jack Goldsmith, who led the Office of Legal Counsel during the John Ashcroft years (he's articulating what dozens of Bush 43 veterans tell us privately):
1/ Trump’s actions since January, & especially in last month, take us so far beyond normal that it’s hard to have any faith in Exec branch.— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017
2/ In the last month alone he has told many lies, fired Comey related to Russia probe, dissed long-time allies, re-attacked courts,— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017
3/ Shut out & viciously attacked the press, reacted whole inappropriately to London attack, spilled deep secrets to Russians,— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017
5/ Given POTUS’s instability, it is not just courts that have reason to relax presumption of regularity for this Prez.— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017
6/ We all have reason to do so about everything the Executive branch does that touches, however lightly, the President.— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017
11/ The impulsive, uncontrolled, ill-informed President infects the legal soundness of everything his administration does.— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017
13/ My sympathies for the honorable people (especially the honorable attorneys) working around Trump are greater than ever.— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017
14/ Every hour they face the qu whether doing the normal thing in protecting presidential prerogatives is, with this POTUS, appropriate.— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017
15/ Thus the question: How much can *executive branch officials* indulge the presumption of regularity in their work?— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017
16/ And: To the extent that they can’t, how long do they continue to serve?— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017
17/ And: How long should they apply normal executive branch principles to buck up this president? END.— Jack Goldsmith (@jacklgoldsmith) June 5, 2017
And Democratic lawyers involved in the fight about the travel ban could not believe their good fortune:
Its kinda odd to have the defendant in HawaiivTrump acting as our co-counsel.We don't need the help but will take it! pic.twitter.com/8ehqkLkOY2— Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) June 5, 2017
I'm waiting now for the inevitable cover-my-tweet posts from him that the Solicitor General will no doubt insist upon.— Neal Katyal (@neal_katyal) June 5, 2017
Could Congress be broken because there are not enough lawyers making laws? A Texas Supreme Court justice who was on Trump's list of 21 potential SCOTUS nominees shares these stats:
Lawyers once dominated Congress.— Justice Don Willett (@JusticeWillett) June 5, 2017
⚖️ 1849-50: 80%
⚖️ 1965-66: 58%
⚖️ 2015-16: 37%
Even as % of lawyers in population has ⬆️. pic.twitter.com/7r4QhhTH4t
NBC's Andrea Mitchell is traveling with the secretary of state:
SecState Tillerson's motorcade arriving New Zealand greeted by people signaling thumbs down & display of middle fingers for quitting Paris— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) June 6, 2017
The NYT TV critic notes that the reality TV spectacle we're living through does not even feel real:
Whoever is writing 2017, let's cool it with the heavy-handed details; no audience is going to buy this https://t.co/1lQgPEFBGu— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) June 5, 2017
States are touting their allegiance to the Paris climate accord:
Kellyanne Conway traded barbs with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's press secretary.
An elliptical thinker that has his city on a treadmill...working out or out working? https://t.co/Ft9nUizjb4— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) June 5, 2017
The mayor's spokesman responded with a series of Russian flag emojis:
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) sent Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) some birthday cupcakes:
Need a handyman?
From Kevin McCarthy:
JOHNNYSWIM played at the historic Ford's Theater gala last night. Afterward, Judy and I took them on a late-night tour of the Capitol and they sang in Statuary Hall. Thirty seven years ago yesterday, Abner Ramirez's mother left Cuba on a raft in search of freedom. She arrived here with almost nothing and now her son lives the American Dream, singing in the halls of freedom in our nation’s Capitol with his beautiful wife Amanda
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“The Role of Voter Suppression in the 2016 Election,” from Demos: “The 2016 election was the first to take place without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. The results were manifold, from racially discriminatory voter ID laws, which could have swung states to Trump, to racially-motivated polling place closures, which are shown to depress turnout… These barriers work: according to Census Bureau data, only 68 percent of eligible individuals are registered to vote.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Sanders snagged $795K book advance last year,” from Politico: “Sen. Bernie Sanders snagged a $795,000 advance last year for his book ‘Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In,’ according to his personal financial disclosure…Sanders’ income topped $1 million last year.”
After a session with his national security adviser, President Trump will meet with Senate and House leadership, followed by a separate dinner with members of Congress.
Vice President Pence will join the leadership meeting after a speech at the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast and the Senate Republican Policy Lunch on Capitol Hill.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“If a song moves you, that’s all that’s important.” – Bob Dylan accepts his Nobel Prize in Literature (Travis M. Andrews)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Skies will be a bit brighter today, the Capitol Weather Gang forecasts: “Partial sunshine pulls back our cloudy curtain today as temperatures moderate to the upper 70s to low 80s. We can’t rule out a stray light shower, especially this afternoon along the northern parts. But overall, we’re aiming for a better day than yesterday.”
-- The Nationals beat the Dodgers 4-2.
-- Both D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said that they would strive to uphold the Paris agreement recommendations, Peter Jamison and Laura Vozzella report: “Neither action committed the District or Virginia to new emissions-reduction policies beyond those they are already pursuing. But they did add two prominent names to the long list of corporations, universities and city and state governments that have declared themselves at odds with Trump’s decision to abandon the agreement.”
-- Heading into the homestretch of Virginia’s gubernatorial Democratic primary, Ralph Norman has a $500,000 edge in campaign funds over Tom Periello, Fenit Nirappil reports.
-- A freshman congressman from Virginia Beach, Scott Taylor, became only the second House Republican to endorse a national ban on LGBT discrimination, Jenna Portnoy reports.
-- A black bear was spotted recently in Fairfax County: “Fairfax police said residents in the Greenbriar subdivision saw the black bear in late May. It was near the Birch Pond community and Rocky Run Stream Valley Park. There was another report, authorities said, of a bear near Ellanor C. Lawrence Park off Walney Road in Chantilly. In that incident, the bear is said to have damaged a beehive,” Dana Hedgpeth reports.
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert came back from a week-long vacation and took his shot at the “covfefe” kerfuffle:
Sarah Huckabee Sanders briefed the press yesterday in another indication that Sean Spicer has been knee-capped and marginalized. Sarah noted that Sean has taken on some of the communication director’s job since Mike Dubke resigned last week after only a few months on the job. She insisted it was “probably” an upgrade for Sean:
But Jimmy Kimmel says Spicer is pretty upset with Trump:
See how Kellyanne Conway's interviews dominate the news cycle:
See how Trump reacted to five separate attacks:
Trump claimed that his predecessors “didn’t know what the hell they were doing”:
A passenger aboard an airplane filmed this storm over Dallas: