James Comey’s testimony last week raised a host of new questions about the attorney general’s Russia contacts, his role in firing the FBI director and whether he’s fully abiding by the recusal he agreed to.
Sessions has been criticized in some quarters for being evasive. The former senator from Alabama had committed to testify before two congressional committees last month and then canceled on short notice. On Saturday night, he did it again. He announced that he’ll send a deputy to answer questions before the House and Senate appropriators who control his budget, a highly unusual move.
The attorney general announced that he would appear instead before the Intelligence Committee. His aides initially suggested to reporters that they agreed to do so with the belief that this hearing would be closed to the public, unlike the ones he backed out of. But under pressure from Democrats on the committee, Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and ranking member Mark Warner (D-Va.) announced late Monday morning that the 2:30 p.m. hearing will be open to the public.
-- Here are a few of the subjects the nation’s chief law enforcement officer is likely to be pressed on during his testimony, which will take place in the same hearing room where Comey appeared last week:
-- Did Sessions have a third meeting with Sergey Kislyak? He did not acknowledge meeting twice with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the campaign — in his Senate office and in Cleveland during the Republican National Convention — until The Post reported the news in March. Now there are reports of a possible third meeting at the Mayflower Hotel in April 2016, when both men came to see Donald Trump deliver a Russia-friendly foreign policy address.
Comey told senators during a classified session last week that investigators believe a third meeting might have happened, based in part on Russian-to-Russian intercepts in which it was discussed, according to CNN. The AG’s spokesman strongly denies that there was a meeting, and Comey reportedly acknowledged that Kislyak may have been exaggerating his connections to his superiors.
-- During the public part of the hearing, Comey testified cryptically that the FBI had information about Sessions — before he recused himself — that would have made it “problematic” for him to be involved in the Russia probe. “He was … inevitably going to recuse himself for a variety of reasons,” Comey said. “We also were aware of facts that I can’t discuss in an open setting that would make [Sessions’s] continued engagement in a Russia-related investigation problematic.” What was this information?
-- Comey said Trump asked Sessions to leave the room at the end of a meeting on Feb. 14 so that the two of them could speak privately. That was the day after Michael Flynn had resigned as national security adviser. It was during this meeting that, according to Comey, Trump said: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”
The fired FBI director said, “My sense was the attorney general knew he shouldn’t be leaving, which is why he was lingering.” Does Sessions believe he lingered? If so, was it for the reason Comey identified? Does he believe it was appropriate for the president to ask him to leave the room? Did he have any prior knowledge of what Trump planned to discuss with Comey? Did he ask either Comey or Trump what they discussed later?
-- Comey said he told Sessions after that Feb. 14 meeting that he did not want to ever be left alone again with Trump. “It can’t happen that you get kicked out of the room and the president talks to me,” he said he told his boss. The former FBI director was asked how he responded. “I have a recollection of him just kind of looking at me,” Comey said of Sessions. “His body language gave me the sense like, ‘What am I going to do?’ … He didn’t say anything.”
Sessions’s spokesman disputed Comey’s version of events, insisting that the director had not presented his concerns so directly and that the attorney general was not silent.
What exactly did Comey tell Sessions? How did Sessions respond? Did Sessions discuss Comey’s request not to be left alone with anyone else? Did Comey’s request, if he made it, worry Sessions that something improper was going on?
-- Comey testified that he wrote extensive, real-time notes of his conversations with Trump because of “the nature of the person.” “I was honestly concerned that he might lie about the nature of our meeting, and so I thought it really important to document,” the ex-director said.
Does Sessions believe Trump’s version of events over Comey’s? Does he take contemporaneous notes about his conversations with the president?
-- Sessions was involved in firing Comey. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has told Congress that he learned on May 8, during a meeting with the president and Sessions, that Trump intended to remove the FBI director. The AG then wrote a letter to the president, dated May 9, formally recommending that he remove Comey, attaching a similar letter from Rosenstein. Trump told NBC on May 11 that he “was going to fire [Comey] regardless” of these letters.
Did Sessions know that? Did Trump mention or allude to the Russia investigation during this meeting? Did Sessions talk with Trump about getting rid of Comey before May 8? Was he concerned when the White House said the president’s decision was entirely because of Rosenstein’s recommendation?
Trump said during the NBC interview that the Russia investigation was on his mind when he chose to fire Comey. Did he tell Sessions this? If Comey was fired because of the Russia investigation and Sessions knew about it, was it appropriate for him to be involved in light of his recusal? “That’s a question I can’t answer,” Comey said last week. “I think it’s a reasonable question. If, as the president said, I was fired because of the Russia investigation, why was the attorney general involved in that chain? I don’t know, and so I don’t have an answer for the question.”
-- The attorney general offered to resign at one point in recent months after his relationship with Trump grew increasingly tense, according to several people close to the White House. The strain between the two reportedly began because Sessions recused himself and Trump didn’t feel like he should have. “The president’s anger has lingered for months,” Robert Costa and Sari Horwitz reported last week.
Did Trump ever directly express frustration to Sessions about the recusal? Was there a specific incident that prompted Sessions to offer his resignation?
-- Sessions’s spokesman said last week that the attorney general has “not been briefed on or participated in any investigation within the scope” of his recusal since March 2.
Was Sessions briefed on the Russia investigation before his recusal? What does Sessions see as “the scope” of his recusal? What safeguards now exist to prevent him from violating the terms?
Since the recusal, even if he’s not making decisions, has he had discussion about the Russia investigation with anyone at the White House — including Trump?
-- Sessions was involved in selecting Christopher Wray as FBI director. Did Sessions discuss either Comey’s termination or the Russia investigation during his job interview?
-- Trump claims he did not ask Comey for his loyalty. “I didn't say that,” the president said Friday. "[But] there would be nothing wrong if I did say it." Does Sessions agree with the president that there would be nothing wrong if he had asked for Comey’s loyalty?
-- The nation’s top intelligence official told associates in March that Trump asked him if he could intervene with Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on Flynn. “On March 22, less than a week after being confirmed by the Senate, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats attended a briefing at the White House together with officials from several government agencies,” Adam Entous reported last week. “As the briefing was wrapping up, Trump asked everyone to leave the room except for Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo. … After the encounter, Coats discussed the conversation with other officials and decided that intervening with Comey as Trump had suggested would be inappropriate.”
Did the president ever make any kind of request like this to Sessions? Was Sessions aware of what Trump had asked of Coats before The Post revealed the conversation? Does the attorney general think that request was inappropriate?
-- Trump declared Friday that he is “100 percent” willing to speak under oath with special counsel Robert Mueller about his Comey conversations. Is Sessions also willing to do so? Has he had contact with Mueller?
-- The president has hinted that he surreptitiously recorded his private meetings with Comey, but he’s declined to confirm the existence of such recordings. “I'll tell you about that maybe sometime in the very near future,” the president told reporters Friday.
Does Sessions know if the tapes exist? If the tapes exist, does he believe the president is obligated to release them?
-- Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney who was fired by Trump, said Sunday that he reported to the Justice Department efforts by the president to “cultivate some kind of relationship” with him, describing phone calls from Trump that made him increasingly uncomfortable. “In his first sit-down interview since his March removal, Bharara said he reported one of the phone calls to the chief of staff for Sessions because it made him uneasy,” Sandhya Somashekhar and Jenna Johnson report. “He said he was dismissed from the important prosecutor’s job in Manhattan only 22 hours after he finally refused to take a call from the president. Bharara told host George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s ‘This Week’ that Comey’s account ‘felt a little bit like deja vu.’ ‘And I’m not the FBI director,’ he said, ‘but I was the chief federal law enforcement officer in Manhattan with jurisdiction over a lot of things including, you know, business interests and other things in New York.’ (Bharara’s jurisdiction included the headquarters of the Trump Organization.) … Trump indicated he would keep him on in November during a meeting at Trump Tower.”
Was Sessions briefed about Bharara’s concerns by his chief of staff? Did he speak with Trump about them? Was this a factor in Trump firing all the U.S. attorneys?
-- Mark Corallo, the spokesman for Trump personal attorney Marc Kasowitz, criticized Bharara on Twitter yesterday:
Does Sessions agree with Corallo that it’s proper for the president to reach out directly to a U.S. attorney? Has the Justice Department changed its policy to allow this?
THERE IS A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- As Mueller ramps up his probe, some say frequent White House visits from Trump’s personal lawyer have blurred the line between public and private interests for a president facing legal issues. The New York Times’s Rebecca R. Ruiz and Sharon LaFraniere report: “[Kasowitz], a New York civil litigator who represented [Trump] for 15 years in business and boasts of being called the toughest lawyer on Wall Street, has suddenly become the field marshal for a White House under siege. He is a personal lawyer for the president, not a government employee, but he has been talking about establishing an office in the White House complex where he can run his legal defense."
- "Mr. Kasowitz in recent days has advised White House aides to discuss the inquiry into Russia’s interference in last year’s election as little as possible."
- "He told aides gathered in one meeting who had asked whether it was time to hire private lawyers that it was not yet necessary. … Mr. Kasowitz bypassed the White House Counsel’s Office in having these discussions, according to one person familiar with the talks."
- "Concerns about Mr. Kasowitz’s role led at least two prominent Washington lawyers to turn down offers to join the White House staff.”
-- Kasowitz flatly denied last week that Trump told Comey he “hoped” the FBI would drop its investigation of Michael Flynn, saying he “never, in form or substance,” suggested the ousted director stop investigating anyone. But in a Saturday Fox News interview, Donald Trump Jr. seemed to confirm Comey’s version of events. “When he tells you to do something, guess what? There's no ambiguity in it, there's no, 'Hey, I'm hoping,'" Don Jr. said. “You and I are friends: 'Hey, I hope this happens, but you've got to do your job.' That's what he told Comey. And for this guy, as a politician, to then go back and write a memo: 'Oh, I felt threatened.' He felt so threatened — but he didn't do anything.” The president’s eldest son also said that Comey's testimony “vindicated” Trump, calling everything in it “basically ridiculous.” “I think he's proven himself to be a liar in all of this. I think he's proven himself to be a dishonest man of bad character,” Trump Jr. said. (Jenna Johnson)
-- In case you missed it: Trump’s lawyer has clients with Kremlin ties. From Shawn Boburg: “Kasowitz’s clients include Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch who is close to President Vladimir Putin and has done business with Trump’s former campaign manager. Kasowitz also represents Sberbank, Russia’s largest state-owned bank … Kasowitz has represented one of Deripaska’s companies for years in a civil lawsuit in New York and was scheduled to argue on the company’s behalf May 25, two days after news broke that Trump had hired him. A different lawyer in Kasowitz’s firm showed up in court instead, avoiding a scenario that would have highlighted Kasowitz’s extensive work for high-profile Russian clients.”
-- “When a liberal power lawyer represents the Trump family, things can get ugly,” by Marc Fisher: “[Jamie] Gorelick, now one of Washington’s most prominent lawyers, … represents famous clients who symbolize much of what she and her friends have spent their lives working against. When Gorelick signed up Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump — the president’s close advisers, as well as his son-in-law and daughter — as clients, she knew her friends might raise their collective eyebrows. She didn’t know that some of them would call her a turncoat … Gorelick, one of the first women to join that elite club of [D.C. lawyer-fixers], finds herself under attack for taking on a share of the Trump family’s legal woes. Whether that reflects the cynicism and polarization of the times, or results from the particular antagonism between the Trumps and the city they promised to drain, the reaction has been painful.”
-- Mueller has been stocking his own team with highly experienced prosecutors. One of the federal government’s top criminal law specialists is going to work part-time on the project. Justice Department deputy solicitor general Michael Dreeben, who has argued more than 100 cases before the Supreme Court, is the department’s go-to lawyer on criminal justice cases, Sari Horwitz reports. “Former and current Justice Department officials say that Mueller’s recruitment of Dreeben shows how serious he is about the investigation and signals complexities in the probe. … Mueller’s team includes … Andrew Weissmann, the chief of the Justice Department’s fraud section who oversaw corruption investigations including the probe into cheating by Volkswagen on diesel emissions tests.”
-- President Trump, meanwhile, has just signed another lawyer onto his outside defense team. Jay Sekulow, the longtime chief counsel at the conservative American Center for Law and Justice, will work under Kasowitz. Sekulow has worked since 1990 for ACLJ, which represents people in free speech and religious liberty cases. Pat Robertson founded the group. Sekulow is an outspoken Trump defender on his daily radio show and weekly TV program. (AP)
THE COMEY SCANDAL DOMINATED THE SUNDAY SHOWS:
-- Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Trump should voluntarily turn over tapes of his conversations with Comey if they exist, adding she would support a subpoena for the tapes if the White House continues to stonewall. She said such an order to compel discovery would probably come from the special counsel rather than the Senate. “I would be fine with issuing a subpoena,” Collins told CNN’s Brianna Keilar. “He should voluntarily turn them over not only to the Senate Intelligence Committee, but to the special counsel. I don’t understand why the president just doesn't clear this matter up once and for all." Collins joined House and Senate Intelligence Committee members on Friday in sending a letter to the White House demanding the president turn over any recordings within two weeks. (Dino Grandoni)
-- Many rank-and-file Republican members, however, continued to make excuses for the president. First-term Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said that, while he considers Trump’s behavior surrounding the Russia investigation “very inappropriate,” he does not believe it constituted obstruction. “The way that it was handled ... it looks like what I called a pretty light touch," Lankford said on CBS's "Face the Nation." "If this is trying to interfere … it doesn't seem like it was [very effective] … [or that it] came up more than once in a conversation."
-- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also stopped short of characterizing Trump’s behavior as obstruction, though he said Trump could be the first sitting president to “go down” because of a chaotic administration and tendency to lash out on social media. “You may be the first president in history to go down because you can't stop inappropriately talking about an investigation that if you just were quiet, would clear you,” Graham told host John Dickerson. “At the end of the day, he’s got a good agenda, but this gets in the way of it.”
-- Finally, some perspective on why the underlying Russia investigation is such a big deal: When Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) asked Comey whether Trump had ever appeared concerned about Russian interference or how to stop it in the future, Comey’s answer was blunt: “No.”
“For any president to ignore the situation is shocking,” former FBI counterintelligence agent Asha Rangappa, now an associate dean at Yale Law School, writes in an op-ed for The Post. “My former colleagues at the FBI who are working on this case and have uncovered the full scale of Russia’s efforts must be incredulous at Trump’s cavalier attitude. To understand their perspective, consider this happening in the context we normally think of as a national security threat: Imagine that during the 2016 presidential election, a candidate publicly invited the Islamic State to bomb the Democratic Party headquarters. And then imagine that such a bombing in fact took place, resulting in the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history. Now further imagine that the new president not only had no interest in learning more about who caused the attack or bringing them to justice, but in fact went out of his way to make nice with the Islamic State and offer them political and diplomatic concessions. Finally, imagine that there may be evidence that members of the president’s campaign or other American citizens were actively or passively involved in facilitating such an attack. The fact pattern of the Russia investigation so far is similar — and that’s an investigation Comey says Trump had no interest in following closely….
“Regardless of which story line you believe about Comey’s testimony, it is, in the end, a sideshow. The real issue is Russia’s assault on our democracy and how we respond to it,” Rangappa concludes. “If the president intends to stay true to his oath, both he and all Americans, regardless of political affiliation, will support the FBI in getting to the bottom of the Russian threat and making sure that it never happens again.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia are suing Donald Trump, claiming that he has violated the Constitution’s anti-corruption provisions by accepting millions of dollars from foreign governments since taking office. Aaron C. Davis reports: “The lawsuit, the first of its kind brought by government entities, centers on the fact that Trump chose to retain ownership of his company when he became president. … D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) say Trump has broken many promises to keep separate his public duties and private business interests, including receiving regular updates about his company’s financial health. … If a federal judge allows the case to proceed, Racine and Frosh say, one of the first steps would be to demand through the discovery process copies of Trump’s personal tax returns to gauge the extent of his foreign business dealings.”
-- Thousands gathered in the Russian capital to protest corruption, and police detained opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Andrew Roth and David Filipov report from Moscow: "Russian state television, meanwhile, ran a live broadcast of [Vladimir] Putin handing out state awards, and periodically showed a countdown to the Kremlin leader’s annual televised 'direct line,' in which ordinary citizens get to phone in their direct requests. The protest coincided with Russia Day, the commemoration of Russian leader Boris Yeltsin’s declaration of Russian sovereignty within the former Soviet Union in 1990.... Coordinated rallies called by Navalny attracted large crowds in cities across Russia. Between 2,500 and 5,000 rallied in the major Siberian city Novosibirsk, according to the Ekho Moskvy radio station, citing police and unofficial sources. Other major cities saw large turnouts despite official efforts to minimize crowds."
-- “'Dear Evan Hansen’ claimed the top prize — best musical — at the 71st Tony Awards on Sunday, a nail-biter of a night that saw it scoop up five other awards, including one for its universally heralded star, Ben Platt,” Peter Marks reports: “The musical, birthed in the summer of 2015 at Arena Stage … tells the story of an introverted teenager who, desperate to be accepted, perpetuates a lie about a friendship with a classmate who has taken his own life, a falsehood that earns him Internet fame but ends in disaster. Another tight race saw the Tony for best play go to ‘Oslo,’ J.T. Rogers’s fact-based, three-hour drama of the back-channel efforts of two married Norwegian diplomats.” (Check out a full list of winners here.)
-- The Pittsburgh Penguins became back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions. Isabelle Khurshudyan reports: “With their 2-0 win over the Nashville Predators in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals, the Penguins became the first team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998 to repeat as champions, capping off a remarkable run filled with adversity.” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby also won the MVP trophy for a second straight year. This makes the Caps' loss to the Penguins in the second round a little less bitter.
GET SMART FAST:
- Uber’s board of directors voted to push out a key executive but did not ask CEO Travis Kalanick to step down. Emil Michael, considered an ally of the CEO, will no longer serve as Uber’s senior vice president of business, but Kalanick’s definitive fate is still undecided. (Brian Fung)
- General Electric’s CEO will step down after 16 years. Jeff Immelt plans to leave his post at the beginning of August, as GE faces pressure from investors to improve profits. (Wall Street Journal)
- A woman granted clemency by former President Obama will return to federal prison. Carol Denise Richardson is accused of theft and violating the terms of her supervised release. (Amy B. Wang)
- The U.S. military carried out a drone strike against the al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group al-Shabab in Somalia. The attack comes two-and-a-half months after the president relaxed military restrictions in the country. (The New York Times)
- U.S.-backed Syrian opposition fighters captured a northwestern neighborhood in Raqqa this weekend. (AP)
- An Afghan soldier opened fire on U.S. troops Saturday, killing three and leaving another injured. The shooting occurred in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangahar province, where both ISIS and Taliban insurgents are contesting territory. (Annie Gowen and Thomas Gibbons-Neff)
- Puerto Rico voted in favor of U.S. statehood, but the possibility is highly unlikely to come to fruition. The Republican Congress would never be in favor of making the Democratic-leaning Puerto Rico a state. There was also a record-low turnout. (AP)
- Delta Airlines pulled its funding of the New York Public Theater due to mounting criticism over a Shakespeare in the Park production of “Julius Caesar,” starring a Trump look-alike as Caesar. The company said the interpretation “does not reflect (our) values” and “crossed the line on the standards of good taste.” (Travis M. Andrews)
- An Israeli journalist will pay Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, $28,300 after losing a defamation lawsuit. The journalist published a Facebook post claiming that the prime minister had been kicked out a car by his wife following a heated dispute. (Ruth Eglash)
- As society becomes more reliant on technology, youths may not be the only ones who need to limit “screen time." A new study of more than 150 families found that children whose parents spend time on mobile devices are more prone to develop behavioral issues. Researchers found that even low and “seemingly normative” amounts of teleconference work were linked to deviant behavior. (Linda Searing)
- A federal judge in Florida ruled that a 21-year-old neo-Nazi who was found with explosives, white supremacist propaganda, and even a framed photo of Timothy McVeigh is “not a threat,” declining to keep him behind bars as he awaits trial for federal charges. (Kristine Phillips)
- A New York Police Department officer contracted Legionnaires' disease, a potentially life-threatening form of pneumonia. Preliminary test results indicate that traces of the bacteria causing Legionnaires' were found at the police station in East Harlem. Officials have started inspecting the facility's systems and testing the precinct's water supply. (Kristine Phillips)
- A New York appeals court declined to recognize the “personhood” of chimpanzees, delivering a blow to two captive apes and the animal-rights activists seeking to relocate them to a sanctuary. At issue is whether the chimps should be entitled to challenge the legality of their “detention” – like human prisoners – and whether they are entitled to bodily liberty. Unsurprisingly, the court’s decision was unanimous. (Karin Brulliard)
- An elephant killed a monk in Sri Lanka. The elephant was a part of a Buddhist procession and lashed out at the 25-year-old monk. (AP)
-- Trump has set July 4 as the deadline for a major White House shakeup that could include the removal of Reince Priebus as chief of staff. Politico’s Tara Palmeri reports: “While Trump has set deadlines for staff changes before, only to let them pass without pulling the trigger, the president is under more scrutiny than ever regarding the sprawling Russia investigation. ... Days after his return from his first foreign trip late last month, Trump berated Priebus in the Oval Office in front of his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and deputy campaign manager David Bossie for the dysfunction in the White House … Trump had been mulling bringing on Bossie as his deputy White House chief of staff and Lewandowski as a White House senior adviser with a portfolio that includes Russia, but told the two at that meeting that they would not be joining the White House until Priebus had a fair chance to clean up shop ... ‘I'm giving you until July 4,’ Trump said.’”
-- Trump attended a fundraiser yesterday in New Jersey for Rep. Tom MacArthur, the moderate Republican who is credited with crafting the compromise amendment that revived the House health-care bill. The event raised over $800,000 for MacArthur's reelection. (Politico)
OFF TO THE RACES:
-- Virginians will go to the polls tomorrow to determine the two main candidates for November’s gubernatorial election, and the primary races are ending quite like they began. Fenit Nirappil, Gregory S. Schneider and Laura Vozzella report: “On the Democratic side, [Lt. Gov. Ralph] Northam has kept rallying the party faithful, while [Tom] Perriello has tried to tap into anti-Trump energy and economic populism to create a surge of new primary voters. In the GOP race, Corey Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, and state Sen. Frank W. Wagner (Virginia Beach) are trying to close [Ed] Gillespie’s enormous lead.” (Fenit Nirappil has a full guide to the race out this morning.)
-- Given GIllespie's significant lead on the Republican side, his two competitors have scrambled in the final days to find ways to change the narrative, with Stewart even going so far as to air an ad that features the image of Kathy Griffin holding a bloodied mannequin head resembling the president's, Laura Vozzella reports. “Donald Trump’s the president, and unhinged liberals can’t handle it," the ad's narrator says. "Who’ll stop them? Ed Gillespie won’t.”
-- The two Democrats have been neck-and-neck in the polls, with the results largely dependent on turnout. Laura and Fenit report: “Northam would benefit from a smaller electorate made up of longtime party stalwarts, who skew older. A surge of young people and progressives inflamed against Trump could help Perriello. Both campaigns are chasing the African American vote, which could make up as much as 25 percent of the electorate. The Democratic race probably will turn on the voter-rich Washington suburbs, where neither Northam nor Perriello has a natural base. Northam is from the Eastern Shore; Perriello is from Charlottesville.”
-- Despite their different bases, Perriello and Northam have both taken to criticizing a president unpopular among all Democrats. “Both candidates have taken decidedly liberal positions on abortion, guns, criminal justice and college tuition — while using Trump bashing as a foundation of their campaigns," Politico’s Kevin Robillard writes. "Invoking the resistance comes more naturally to Perriello than it does to Northam. It was former staffers of Perriello’s who wrote the Indivisible guides, which have inspired dozens of local liberal-leaning groups that have poked and prodded their members of Congress on Trump’s Russia scandals and the GOP health care repeal plan. Northam, by his own admittance, is less of a firebrand and more unassuming than Perriello.”
-- One issue on which Perriello and Northam diverge: the construction of pipelines in Virginia. The Richmond Times-Dispatch’ Graham Moomaw reports: “In perhaps the starkest policy contrast between the two Democrats, Perriello opposes a pair of pending natural-gas pipelines backed by McAuliffe and the business community as an economic benefit. Taking a hands-off approach, Northam has said the pipelines should undergo rigorous scientific review, while maintaining that the state has little control over the federally approved projects. Perriello has sworn off donations from Dominion Energy, the politically powerful utility behind the pipelines that has donated to Northam's campaign.”
-- Perriello has the support of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and his campaign offers an important early test of whether economic populists will be able to usurp the Democratic establishment in 2018 and 2020.
-- Thousands of Bernie people gathered in Chicago this weekend for the People’s Summit, a conference organized by groups aligned with Sanders. David Weigel reports: “As Sanders used his star power to unite activists behind the Democrats, some debated whether the Democratic Party could ever be fixed to their liking. Faced with unified Republican control of Washington, progressives were less interested in simple unity than in a purity that they believed could win … Candidates for Congress and local offices walked the halls of the convention, signing up activists, who — post-Sanders — felt that any race was winnable if a candidate ran to the left.”
-- The ability of the “Resistance” to drive Democrats into office will be tested next Tuesday, when Jon Ossoff faces off against Republican Karen Handel in the special election runoff in Georgia's 6th district.
But the cautious Ossoff, campaigning in a district that only recently turned purple, provides a sharp contrast to the bombastic Sanders and his supporters. Karen Tumulty reports from the ground: “Under normal circumstances, this special election to replace Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price in Congress should not even be competitive. Once represented by House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the affluent district on the northern outskirts of Atlanta has been in Republican hands for nearly four decades … While Ossoff used to describe himself during the primary as the ‘make Trump furious’ candidate, he now talks about finding bipartisan solutions on issues such as health care, and emphasizes cutting federal spending and ‘independent-minded leadership.’” Ossoff also recently said that he would not support a move to a single-payer health care and was undecided on the future of Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic leadership.
--To take back the House in 2018, Democrats would likely have to bridge the gap between its Sanders-like candidates and the Ossoffs of the party. The New York Times’ Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin report: “In a promising political environment, a drawn-out struggle over Democratic strategy and ideology could spill into primary elections and disrupt the party’s path to a majority … It is unclear, however, whether Democratic activists across the country will tolerate an army of Ossoff-type candidates in 2018, when party leaders believe the path to capturing the House runs through purple-hued suburban districts that are somewhat less Republican than Georgia’s Sixth.”
-- Frank Bruni argued on the cover of the Sunday Review section that Democrats need to focus on winning swing districts to win the House. “Democrats don’t need more votes in Manhattan and Brooklyn. They need them around Halcottsville, in the 19th Congressional District (of New York), where the party should be able to prevail but keeps falling short," he wrote in his column. "The 2018 midterms could hinge on how ruthlessly pragmatic Democrats are. From the scandalous look of the last week ... Democrats are beautifully positioned to trounce Republicans wherever Republicans are trounce-able. But the party has done an ace job of sabotaging itself before.”
-- A pending Supreme Court case may provide greater insight than the Georgia race into the results of the 2018 midterms. The nation’s highest court could announce its decision as soon as today about whether Wisconsin’s electoral map, gerrymandered to benefit Republicans, defied the Constitution. Robert Barnes reports: “The Supreme Court has regularly — and increasingly — tossed out state electoral maps because they have been gerrymandered to reduce the influence of racial minorities by depressing the impact of their votes. But the justices have never found a plan unconstitutional because of partisan gerrymandering — when a majority party draws the state’s electoral districts to give such an advantage to its candidates that it dilutes the votes of those supporting the other party. A divided panel of three judges in Wisconsin, though, decided just that in November.”
-- Rep. Jared Polis jumped into the crowded Democratic primary for Colorado governor. The Denver Post notes that, if elected, the five-term congressman would become the state's first openly gay governor. He's running to succeed John Hickenlooper.
-- French President Emmanuel Macron’s political party, En Marche, delivered a decisive victory Sunday in the first round of parliamentary elections. James McAuley reports: “In a once-unimaginable scenario, Macron’s centrist party — established little more than a year ago — was projected to win between 390 and 430 of the French Parliament’s 577 seats, according to an Ipsos-Sopra analysis. In a political landscape defined for decades by the well-oiled machines of traditional center-left and center-right parties, the rise of Macron’s Republic on the Move represented a watershed development … If Sunday’s parliamentary results hold up after a second and final round of voting next Sunday, France will be run by both a new president and a new party. Macron, who has long promised a ‘renewal of political life,’ will have successfully persuaded voters to give him relatively free rein in the attempt.”
-- British conservatives blasted Prime Minister Theresa May for last week’s miscalculated election, as well as her poor performance in its aftermath. William Booth and Griff Witte report: “As May and her representatives wrangled with the Democratic Unionist Party, based in Belfast, her fellow Tories were grumbling that the Conservative prime minister had not only bungled the campaign, but also was performing poorly in the days after its surprising conclusion Thursday. On the Sunday talk shows in Britain, former Tory chancellor George Osborne … a sharp-tongued critic of the prime minister, called May ‘a dead woman walking’ and suggested that she would be out of office by next year. Anna Soubry, a Conservative member of Parliament, said she could not predict when May might go but called the prime minister’s position ‘untenable.’”
May reshuffled her cabinet a bit more on Sunday and mostly kept out of the public eye as she worked to strike a deal with a small party of hard-right unionists in Northern Ireland to prop up her government: “It is too early to know what will happen in the coming days to May — and, more important to the global economy, how the Conservative government will approach negotiations over Britain’s exit from the European Union, scheduled to begin in a week. The disruption of recent weeks has not only created worries in Europe, already antsy on the eve of Brexit negotiations, but also appears to have crossed the Atlantic.”
-- Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also made the rounds on the British Sunday shows, saying it is “quite possible” that there will be another election this year or early next year. “We cannot continue like this,” he said.
-- Trump is considering scrapping his visit to Britain this year – a move that comes as he faces continued backlash for criticizing London’s mayor in the wake of a deadly terrorist attack and using it as an opportunity to promote his travel ban. Jenna Johnson reports: “Due to previous comments Trump was already unpopular in the United Kingdom, and a visit of any sort could prompt large protests. The Guardian newspaper … reported that Trump recently told May in a phone call that he does not want to go forward with a state visit until the British people support such a visit. The White House call was made ‘in recent weeks’ … [and reportedly] surprised May … While the White House has said a visit would come later this year, the exact schedule remains unannounced. At least publicly, Trump and May are acting as if the trip is still on."
-- Even though Macron's En Marche movement and Corbyn's Labour Party represent varied ideological views, an analysis of recent election results across Europe reveals a common thread: a rejection of the status quo. Dan Balz writes: “Searching for a clear pattern across these surprising election results can be a frustrating exercise, given the unique elements country by country. These elections unfolded differently, influenced by different factors. They were not all cut from the same cloth … Yet if finding clear-cut parallels in these elections is difficult, the results seem to point toward one common theme, which is the roiling discontent of voters when given the opportunity to render their judgments of the status quo and the political leaders in charge.”
-- Still, May’s Conservatives have maintained the largest number of parliament seats, so it’s hard to pronounce the death of the status quo just yet, E.J. Dionne argues: “The twin caveats to sweeping conclusions on the left: Its more moderate wing needs to acknowledge the mobilizing power of a clear and principled egalitarian politics and the increasingly progressive tilt of younger voters. But fans of Corbyn’s approach to politics need to come to terms with the fact that although he outran expectations, he lost the election. Labour still needs a strategy for winning dozens of additional seats.”
-- The administration plans to announce a proposal, based off consultation with industry players, rolling back regulations that they claim stifle manufacturing. Reuters’ David Lawder reports: “The 171 public comments submitted by companies and industry groups offer a strong hint [of] priorities for the [Department of] Commerce's streamlining efforts, with numerous industry groups and firms complaining that EPA air-quality permit rules for new facilities are often redundant … A common demand from industry was that the Trump administration should reject a planned tightening of ozone rules under the U.S. Clean Air Act's National Ambient Air Quality Standards, with several groups arguing this would expose them to increased permitting hurdles for new facilities, raising costs.”
-- The president may roll back portions of Obama's Cuba policy as soon as this week. The Los Angeles Times' Tracy Wilkinson reports: "The decision follows an inter-agency administration review of one of President Obama’s signature initiatives and would represent a throwback to policies that date to the Cold War ... The move will be controversial. It could dull a boom in tourism by Americans to Cuba and hurt a burgeoning cottage industry of private enterprise on the socialist-ruled island. And it could allow Russia and China to more easily step in to fill the void."
-- EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt skipped out early of a G-7 environment meeting. The AP reports that Pruitt attended an open session on climate but then left the meeting, citing a conflicting obligation.
-- “Rwanda’s children of rape are coming of age — against the odds,” by Danielle Paquette: “Over a hundred days in 1994, genocide devastated Rwanda … Assailants claimed roughly 800,000 lives and raped an estimated 250,000 women, which, according to one charity’s count, produced up to 20,000 babies. [Now], these young people are stepping into adulthood, coming to terms with an identity no parent would wish on a child … Yet they are defying expectations that tragedy would define their lives. The ‘children of killers,’ as they are often disparaged, tend to live in poverty, facing higher rates of HIV and domestic abuse than their peers. But that’s not the whole story[:] ‘We hear everyone’s lives are destroyed, that they’re the walking dead,’ said [Harvard professor] Dara Kay Cohen … ‘Then you talk to people and hear there’s this hopeful underbelly.’ … ‘The interesting question is — what makes the difference?’”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Melania and Barron Trump moved into the White House yesterday after spending the first five months of Trump’s presidency at their penthouse apartment in New York City:
After rattling his 32 million Twitter followers Friday by accusing Comey of perjury, the president tried to strike a more agenda-focused tone over the weekend, with a passing barb for the “mainstream media.”
Some voiced skepticism of the “great economic news” Trump touted:
Trump once again blamed Democrats for slow-moving legislation:
From David Frum, George W. Bush’s speechwriter:
But Trump couldn’t leave Twitter without taking another swipe at Comey:
From the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol:
From the chairman of the Human Rights Foundation:
Trump returned to social media Sunday night to promote his daughter’s upcoming interview on Fox and then to retweet these two posts:
The president’s comedic counterpart even weighed in:
Some lawmakers participated in LGBT Pride festivities this weekend:
The Pences lost a furry family member:
Jill Biden received a standing ovation at the Tonys:
Trump’s deputy press secretary tweeted a nonsensical message, and the Internet sprang to action:
And Pennsylvania lawmakers celebrated the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Stanley Cup win:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- Politico Magazine, “Trump’s Defense of Taking Foreign Money Is Historically Illiterate,” by Joshua Zeitz: “Does Trump’s business organization owe large debts to lenders aligned with the Kremlin? Do foreign governments extending him favorable leases, expedited or preferable site and permitting rights or direct business expect something in return? Did [Jared Kushner], whose family business is reportedly in dire financial straits, seek financial relief from Russian creditors? And did those prospective creditors anticipate a quid pro quo? We don’t know the answers to those questions … But one thing is clear: The Emoluments Clause was a product of the founders’ shared republican ideology. And Donald Trump is the eventuality they feared above all.”
-- The New York Times, “U.S. Cyberweapons, Used Against Iran and North Korea, Are a Disappointment Against ISIS,” by David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt: “Since [U.S. cyberwarriors] began training arsenal of cyberweapons on a more elusive target, internet use by the Islamic State, the results have been a consistent disappointment, American officials say. The effectiveness their of the nation’s arsenal of cyberweapons hit its limits, they have discovered, against an enemy that exploits the internet largely to recruit, spread propaganda and use encrypted communications, all of which can be quickly reconstituted after American ‘mission teams’ freeze their computers or manipulate their data.”
-- The New York Times Magazine, “The Long, Lonely Road of Chelsea Manning,” by Matthew Shaer: “Absent [Manning’s] own voice, a pair of dueling narratives had emerged [around her]. One had Manning, in the words of President Donald Trump, as an ‘ungrateful traitor.’ The other positioned her as transgender icon and champion of transparency — a ‘secular martyr,’ as Chase Madar, a former attorney and the author of a book on her case, recently put it to me. But in Manning’s presence, both narratives feel like impossible simplifications, not least because Manning herself is clearly still grappling with the meaning of what she did seven years ago.”
-- Politico Magazine, “How Russia Targets the U.S. Military,” by Ben Schreckinger: “In recent years, intelligence experts say, Russia has dramatically increased its ‘active measures’ — a form of political warfare that includes disinformation, propaganda and compromising leaders with bribes and blackmail — against the United States … A review of the available evidence and the accounts of Kremlin-watchers make clear that the Russian government is using the same playbook against other pillars of American society, foremost among them the military. Experts warn that effort, which has received far less attention, has the potential to hobble the ability of the armed forces to clearly assess Putin’s intentions and effectively counter future Russian aggression.”
-- The New Yorker, “The Strange History of Operation Goldfinger,” by James Ledbetter: “In the sixties, the U.S. government ran a secret project to look for gold in the oddest places: seawater, meteorites, plants, even deer antlers. For Operation Goldfinger, no scientific plan was too obscure to consider: Is there gold in meteorites that hit the Earth? Is there gold in Colorado peat? Is there gold in plants and trees? … Operation Goldfinger represented the logical culmination of a government obsession with not having enough gold. In a private 1962 conversation with the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Kennedy framed the shortage of monetary gold starkly: ‘My God, this is the time … if everyone wants gold, we’re all going to be ruined because there is not enough gold to go around.’”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“A record number of LGBTQ people were just elected to the British Parliament,” from Andrew Reynolds: “The British election was remarkable for many things — particularly the weak showing of Theresa May’s Conservative Party. But there was a milestone less widely noted: British voters elected 45 out LGBTQ candidates to parliament — 7 percent of its 650 members. In a recent study, Gabriele Magni and I found that being LGBTQ, and out, actually was a net advantage in the 2015 British general election — in particular for Labour candidates, competitive Conservatives and candidates in rural areas. That advantage appears to have been confirmed in 2017. [Now], it seems likely that the British government will fall over a battle for the soul of the British right — and one fault line will involve LGBTQ rights.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Trump slogans photoshopped out of high school yearbook,” from the New York Post: “Parents at a New Jersey high school are outraged that their kids’ yearbook photos were Photoshopped to remove pro-Trump slogans on their clothing. One student at Wall HS had the ‘TRUMP Make America Great Again’ motto deleted from his T-shirt, while a junior classmate had his fleece ‘Trump’ vest sanitized. A third student, the freshman class president, was stunned to see that her selected quote — a Trump utterance — never made it to print. ‘I want all the yearbooks reissued. Everybody gets a brand-new yearbook,’ fumed Joseph Berardo, whose 17-year-old son, Grant, donned the Trump T-shirt on picture day last fall. Berardo bought $110 worth of photos of Grant in his ‘historic’ T-shirt, but the Trump slogan was gone when his son received his yearbook ... [The father said he] also recalled Barack Obama T-shirts in past yearbooks.”
-- President Trump will lead a Cabinet meeting and have lunch with the vice president before welcoming the Clemson Tigers, the 2016 NCAA football national champions, to the White House.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Ice Cube said of Bill Maher’s use of the n-word, “It’s a word that has been used against us. It’s like a knife, man. You can use it as a weapon or you can use it as a tool. It’s when you use it as a weapon against us, by white people, and we’re not going to let that happened again … because it’s not cool … That’s our word, and you can’t have it back.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- The nation’s capital will have temperatures well into the 90’s with heavy humidity, the Capital Weather Gang forecasts. “The sun beats down, the air is thick, and it’s simply uncomfortable out there. Highs surge into the low-to-mid 90s, putting Reagan National’s record high of 95 degrees in jeopardy.”
-- The Nationals lost to the Rangers 5-1, giving the Texas team a clean sweep of the Nats.
-- District police were forced to reroute a portion of Saturday’s Pride parade after protesters shut down the 15th and P intersection. The demonstrators, who chanted, “No justice, no pride,” wrote in a statement, “Capital Pride has consistently demonstrated that it is more interested in accommodating the interests of Metropolitan police and of corporate sponsors than it is in supporting the very communities it supposedly represents.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Former President Jimmy Carter shook every fellow passenger’s hand on his Delta flight:
Sen. Claire McCaskill said that Democrats were being left in the dark on health-care negotiations:
Prosecutors in South Carolina released footage from the November rescue of Kala Brown, who was locked in a storage container for two months by serial killer Todd Christopher Kohlhepp:
Corey Stewart won a battle to air this ad in his campaign for the Virginia gubernatorial race’s Republican primary:
Megyn Kelly released clips from her interview with InfoWars’ Alex Jones, which will air next week: