One year later, another horrifying tragedy has hit much closer to home. In an act of domestic terrorism, a gunman shot a Republican congressman, an aide, a lobbyist and two police officers during batting practice on the eve of the Congressional Baseball Game.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise remains in critical condition this morning after being wounded, but in a resolute show of bipartisan unity, tonight’s baseball game at Nationals Park will go on. Everyone who knows the Louisiana lawmaker says that’s exactly what he’d want.
-- But the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. It feels like the period of mourning gets shorter, and the finger pointing comes quicker, after each heinous rampage.
Marc Fisher says that the shootings on Simpson Field in Alexandria “tore at the nation’s civil soul—and perhaps even opened a pathway toward healing.”
“It’s my breaking point,” said Rep. Rodney Davis, an Illinois Republican and the catcher on the team. “The way we talk to each other has to change. The political hate has to end.”
“But if this was a breaking point, it was, sadly and darkly, one in a very long line,” Marc writes. “So many shootings in recent years have also been declared the pivot, the last straw, the one beyond which none could be tolerated. Precious children in Newtown, Conn.; partying young people in Orlando; office workers in San Bernardino, Calif., and at the Washington Navy Yard; churchgoers in Charleston, S.C.; military service members at Fort Hood, Tex.; moviegoers in Aurora, Colo.; college kids at Virginia Tech. … Despite the regularity of the incidents, the shock is new and real every time, because each time it happens, another group of people learns a fresh and frightening vulnerability.”
-- “We are united in our anguish,” Paul Ryan told the House yesterday. “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.” The Speaker received four standing ovations from Democrats and Republicans alike.
Dana Milbank flags that Ryan’s words closely echoed those of his predecessor, John Boehner, six years ago when then-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) was shot in the head: “An attack on one who serves is an attack on all who serve.”
“Then, members of Congress paid tribute to Giffords for eight hours on the House floor, and both sides pledged to temper their rhetoric as they waited for Giffords to return,” Dana recalls. “She never returned to Congress, but the sniping did."
-- Giffords wrote an op-ed for The Post that just published: “Congress did nothing when I was shot. Lawmakers need courage now.”
-- But even after the shooting of their close friend, there is no appetite at all in the House Republican Conference for tougher gun laws. In fact, many are citing what happened yesterday as a reason to roll back the restrictions that are currently on the books. Republicans earnestly believe that guns can never be completely kept out of the hands of criminals. They are willing to accept some personal risks to their own safety, of a lunatic getting a firearm, because they genuinely see Second Amendment rights as inviolable. Furthermore, the phrase may be a cliché, but most conservatives sincerely believe that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.), who was on the scene during yesterday’s shooting, said Congress should explore allowing lawmakers to carry weapons to defend themselves. “If this had happened in Georgia, he wouldn’t have gotten too far,” Loudermilk told Mike DeBonis at the Capitol. “I had a staff member who was in his car maybe 20 yards behind the shooter, who was pinned in his car, who back in Georgia carries a 9-millimeter in his car. … He had a clear shot at him. But we’re not allowed to carry any weapons here.”
Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) said he’s going to begin carrying his pistol when he’s out in public. “If you look at the vulnerability, I assure you: I have a carry permit. I will be carrying when I’m out and about,” he told the Buffalo ABC affiliate WKBW. “On a rare occasion I’d have my gun in a glove box or something, but it’s going to be in my pocket from this day forward.”
If Scalise skipped the final practice before the game, his security detail would not have been there to fire back at the assailant. Several congressmen may have died. “Had there not been a member of House leadership present, there would have been no police present, and it would have become the largest act of political terrorism in years, if not ever,” Rep. Tom Garrett (R-Va.) told the New York Times, pointing to legislation he has introduced to make it easier for people to carry a gun in Washington. His bill “would allow the most law-abiding among us to defend themselves,” he said.
A House Natural Resources committee hearing, scheduled for 10 a.m. yesterday, was postponed because of the shooting. Members were set to consider a bill that would make it easier for gun owners to obtain silencers. The measure, strongly supported by Donald Trump Jr., amends the National Firearms Act of 1934 to remove any reference to silencers. It has been rolled into a larger “sportsmen’s package” and is expected to pass.
-- Some key congressional Democrats, meanwhile, are hesitant to wade into the gun control debate too quickly. Politico reports that they fear the appearance of opportunism and realize that legislation will never pass any way.
Others believe it is irresponsible to stay silent. “This is not what today is about, but there are too many guns on the street," Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said during a press conference at the scene. “Disgusting,” Virginia Republican Party Chairman John Whitbeck responded in a tweet.
-- Meanwhile, Americans keep getting murdered. Around the time McAuliffe spoke, a UPS employee opened fire at a San Francisco package sorting center – killing three people and then shooting himself in the head. That attack came nine days after another deadly workplace shooting at an Orlando factory.
In the past 18 months, there have been 52 other incidents in the United States in which five people were wounded. As a crime fitting a very specific profile, The Fix’s Philip Bump notes, what happened in Alexandria is relatively common:
Consider this sobering statistic: “Since the start of this baseball season, approximately 3,120 people have been killed with guns in this country — more than four times as many people as the active Major League Baseball roster," the Center for American Progress’s Chelsea Parsons notes in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times.
-- But guns are as deeply ingrained in American culture as baseball, if not more so, and they’re not going anywhere.
-- History may not repeat itself, but it often rhymes.
The congressional baseball tradition dates to 1909, when Rep. John Tener (R-Pa.) organized the first game. The Irish immigrant had played for the Baltimore Orioles, the Chicago White Stockings and the Pittsburgh Burghers. (He later became governor of Pennsylvania and president of the National League.)
A debate over raising tariffs on goods entering the United States was deeply dividing the Republican conference back then. “I think Tener wanted to bring those two wings of the party together by forcing them to band together and make a baseball team,” Nathaniel Rakich, who has written extensively about the history of the game, told Amy Wang.
Overall, Republicans and Democrats have each won the annual game 39 times, and there was a 17-17 tie in 1983.
Just two years ago, when Barack Obama dropped by, Republicans playfully chanted “TPA,” as in Trade Promotion Authority. The GOP rank-and-file were backing up the Democratic president as he negotiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership over objections from his own party. No one at that June 2015 game foresaw Trump becoming president and Republicans embracing their protectionist roots.
Obama called Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who had been an ally in the trade fight and was in Alexandria yesterday morning, as soon as he learned of the attack. “He just said, ‘I hope that this does bring more unity,’ and he wanted me to pass on certainly his regards if he wasn't able to get to Steve or others before me that he was praying for their good health,” Flake recalled to CBS News. “It was a nice call.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Special counsel Robert Mueller has begun investigating whether President Trump obstructed justice in the Russia probe. Devlin Barrett, Adam Entous, Ellen Nakashima and Sari Horwitz scoop: “The move ... to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates ... Five people briefed on the interview requests ... said that Daniel Coats ... Mike Rogers ... and Rogers’s recently departed deputy, Richard Ledgett, agreed to be interviewed by Mueller’s investigators as early as this week.”
-- Trump responded to The Post's story this morning:
-- Why Trump is scared: “Mueller is recruiting perhaps the most high-powered and experienced team of investigators ever assembled by the Justice Department," Garrett Graff, who wrote a book about the former FBI director, writes for Wired. "It’s a team that’s not just a paper office tiger but one with deep experience investigating crime around the world.”
-- Paul Manafort continues to do international work despite the cloud of the Russia probes hanging over him. Trump's former campaign chairman in recent weeks has either consulted or worked with a Chinese construction billionaire looking to expand his business overseas and a telecommunications firm interested in regulatory approval from governments in Asia and the Middle East, as well as an investment fund claiming links to the Chinese government," Politico’s Kenneth Vogel reports. "A lawyer involved in the discussions said Manafort indicated that he could convince the Trump administration to support any resulting deal, because he’s remained in contact with Trump’s team, and that he played a role in helping to soften Trump’s tough campaign rhetoric on China.”
-- Coming attraction: Former DHS secretary Jeh Johnson will appear before the House Intelligence Committee next Wednesday.
-- In related news, the Senate yesterday voted 97-to-2 to curtail Trump’s power to unilaterally scale back sanctions on Russia. Karoun Demirjian and Anne Gearan report: “The vote … is a sharp rebuke to [Trump’s] posture vis-à-vis Russia and his resistance to the intelligence community’s assessment that the country was behind efforts to influence the election he won … Trump’s team pushed back against the legislation Wednesday, with Rex Tillerson warning lawmakers about passing anything that might 'tie the administration’s hands.'"
GET SMART FAST:
- At least 12 people were killed and more than 70 injured in the massive fire that tore through a London apartment building. Witnesses saw residents jump from the 24-story complex, children who banged on closed windows from inside smoked-out bedrooms, and one woman who, in a fit of desperation, dropped her infant from a dozen stories up. Police expect the death toll to increase. (Griff Witte and Karla Adam)
- D.C. authorities will announce criminal charges today against members of Turkish President Erdogan’s security detail, accused of attacking protesters last month outside the ambassador’s residence. Mayor Muriel Bowser and D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham will hold a press conference later to say that arrest warrants have been issued for the suspects, who are all believed to be in Turkey. (Peter Hermann)
- Southern Baptist leaders are voting at their conference this week on a proposal that would condemn the alt-right movement. But a fierce debate over the potential resolution highlights many divisions that have emerged within the congregation in recent months -- some of which are tied to Trump's political rise. (Sarah Pulliam Bailey)
- Michigan's director of health and human services and four other public officials were charged with involuntary manslaughter for their roles in the Flint water crisis, marking the first time state officials have been linked in any capacity to the deaths of residents. Michigan’s attorney general noted that the investigation, which stretched into its third year, also involves an outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease. (Brady Dennis)
- The Pentagon is constructing drones to serve as "robotic wingmen" to fighter pilots. (Aaron Gregg)
- Intensified airstrikes by the U.S.-led coalition have caused a “staggering” loss of civilian life around the ISIS-controlled city of Raqqa, a U.N. investigative body said, deepening suffering in a city already under the yoke of the militant fighters. In addition to the deaths, officials said the intensification of airstrikes has caused more than 150,000 civilians to flee their homes and become internally displaced. (Louisa Loveluck)
- Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust announced that she would step down at the end of the next academic year. She is Harvard's first female president. (Sarah Larimer)
- A Human Rights Watch report found that at least 17 construction workers have died while building Russia's stadiums for the 2018 World Cup. (The New York Times)
- The district attorney in Contra Costa County, California, pleaded “no contest” to a perjury charge and announced his resignation, hours after being accused of stealing tens of thousands in campaign funds and spending it on personal items, including jewelry. (LA Times)
- Deliberations in Bill Cosby's sexual assault trial stretched into a third day without a verdict. The jury has deliberated for over 20 hours and seems to be reviewing every detail of the case that was presented to them. (Manuel Roig-Franzia)
- Doctors in Philadelphia have separated conjoined 10-month-old twin girls who were connected at the head, successfully performing a marathon scalp-separating surgery that is one of the rarest operations in the world. (Lindsey Bever)
- As crowded boats of migrants attempt a perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea, rescuers have trekked closer and closer to the Libyan coast in order to provide aid. It’s a well-intentioned strategy, but one that could be causing record numbers of migrants to drown: According to aid groups, this early intervention has caused human smugglers to become more brazen than ever – buying flimsy rafts filled with just enough gas to get passengers to the edge of Libyan waters. Oftentimes, smugglers then remove the raft’s engine and head back to Libya on another vessel -- leaving the migrants abandoned, adrift, and praying for rescue. (New York Times)
- Fox News is dropping its “Fair & Balanced” slogan, moving to abandon one of its most iconic elements which network executives said had been “mocked” and was “too closely” associated with the late Roger Ailes. (New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman)
- HuffPost laid off 39 journalists. Its parent company, AOL, is being acquired by Verizon. (The Hill)
- Executives at the conservative news site IJR, struggling with an exodus of talent, have asked remaining employees to sign noncompete agreements barring them from working at any competing business "anywhere in the world" for six months after they leave. An original version of the noncompete extended for two years post-employment -- prompting outrage from new reporters, who are hired at an annual salary of just $35,000. (CNN)
- Police in Texas confiscated $1 million worth of meth-infused lollipops. What was supposed to be a routine burglary investigation took a turn when the officers came across 600 pounds of drugged candy molded into kid-friendly shapes like flowers and butterflies. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
- The French are facing a croissant emergency. Bakers are facing a shortage of butter, the price of which has increased by 92% in a year. (The Guardian)
HORROR IN ALEXANDRIA:
-- More than 20 Republican members of Congress were at their baseball team’s practice at a park in Alexandria when the shooting began just after 7 a.m., along with 15 or so staffers and Rep. Joe Barton’s adult-aged and 10-year-old son. Steve Scalise's Capitol Police detail engaged in a gunfight with the shooter, who was later pronounced dead at a hospital.
-- “The lawmakers and their aides had nearly finished batting practice ... when they heard a single crack through the sticky early-morning air,” John Woodrow Cox, Kelsey Snell, Mike DeBonis and Peter Jamison write in a detailed reconstruction of the terrifying scene. “For a moment, the field went quiet as they wondered what the noise was. ‘He’s got a gun!’ someone shouted. Then came a torrent of bullets, and there, behind a chain-link fence near third base, was a man with a rifle…One round hit Scalise … dropping him to the ground. He screamed and then dragged himself to the grass outfield as a trail of blood streaked the dirt. The shooter methodically moved along the outside of the fence before opening another round of fire. Rep. Mo Brooks, who was standing at home base when the gunman opened fire, dove into the first-base dugout. There he found legislative aide Zack Barth, who had been struck in the leg before hobbling all the way across the field. “It’s not bad,” Barth assured him. “Dude, you’ve got a hole in your calf,” Brooks responded, before cinching a tourniquet above the wound. And as chunks of bark exploded off an oak tree, (Rep. Barry) Loudermilk realized that Matt Mika, a lobbyist, was sprawled across the ground with a bullet wound in his chest ... Each time they moved to help him, more shooting erupted.”
-- What lawmakers on the diamond thought during the shooting:
- “[I] couldn’t tell what was what,” said Sen. Jeff Flake. “For a while, there in the dugout … I didn’t know [what] was friendly fire or not. [The security detail] was using our dugout as kind of shelter to fire on the gunman. And I kept yelling: ‘Are you friendly? Are you friendly?’ And he yelled back: ‘Yes.’”
- Rep. Mike Bishop said the gunman had a rifle that was “clearly meant for the job of taking people out, multiple casualties, and he had several rounds and magazines that he kept unloading and reloading.” Later, Alexandria police confirmed he had both a rifle and a handgun.
- “We didn’t know exactly where all the shots were firing from and whether or not it was only one shooter,” said Rep. Chuck Fleischmann. “I had to walk right past him when I walked past third base … he just decided not to shoot me.”
THE STATUS OF THE VICTIMS:
Five people, including the gunman, were shot during the attack, and two others were injured.
-- Scalise, 51, is the third-ranking Republican in House leadership. His office initially said he was “in good spirits” and had spoken to his wife, Jennifer, by phone before he went in for surgery. Later, MedStar Washington Hospital said in a statement sent at 9:15 p.m. last night that Scalise was shot once in the left hip and that the bullet fractured bones and struck internal organs: “He has received multiple units of blood transfusion. His condition is critical, and he will require additional operations."
-- Legislative aide Zack Barth was shot in the leg. The Houston native is a staffer in the office of Rep. Roger Williams and formerly worked on the presidential campaign of Jeb Bush. “I got shot this morning at the baseball fields but I am in the hospital and okay,” he wrote in a Facebook status update. “Thank you for the thoughts and prayers.” Later in the day, family members said he was released from the hospital and expected to make a full recovery. “[T]hank goodness for the Police who were at the scene,” said his father, Tim Barth, who immediately flew to D.C. to be with his son. “It could have been so much worse.”
-- Matt Mika, a Tysons Food lobbyist and former congressional staffer, remains in critical condition after undergoing surgery at George Washington University Hospital for multiple gunshot wounds, his family said.
-- Crystal Griner, a Capitol Police special agent on Scalise's detail, was shot in the ankle and is “in good condition.”
-- Also injured in the attack were 32-year-old Capitol Police Special Agent David Bailey, who has worked for the department for nearly a decade, and Rep. Williams, who twisted his ankle while scrambling to the dugout after the gunfire broke out. Neither were shot, and each is expected to make a complete recovery.
-- Theresa Vargas has some good history on the Capitol Police: “When Congress moved from Philadelphia to Washington in 1800, a single watchman named John Golding was tasked with protecting the Capitol Building … Then in 1827, President John Quincy Adam requested that a Capitol Police force be created … The result was a four-member police force consisting of a captain and three men whose jurisdiction did not extend beyond the streets bordering the Capitol Building. They worked 15-hour shifts when Congress was in session and 10-hour shifts when it wasn’t … The force currently employs than 2,100 officers and civilians and has an annual budget of about $375 million … It has lost four members in the line of duty.”
WHO WAS THE SHOOTER?
-- Law enforcement identified the gunman as 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson, an unemployed home inspector from an Illinois suburb of St. Louis who had been living in his van in Alexandria for the past few months. (Peter Hermann, Amber Phillips, Paul Kane and Rachel Weiner have more.)
-- Bernie Sanders said he was "sickened" to learn that Hodgkinson had volunteered on his 2016 presidential campaign, although an aide said that he had no formal role and that no one could remember him.
- The shooter’s affinity for Sanders could raise uncomfortable questions for his supporters. The New York Times’ Yamiche Alcindor reports: “[The shooting] may prove to be an unexpected test for a movement born out of Mr. Sanders’s left-wing, populist politics and a moment for liberals to figure out how to balance anger at Mr. Trump with inciting violence. ‘Both sides need to look in the mirror,’ said Nina Turner, a former Ohio state senator who campaigned for Mr. Sanders and is working on a new think tank started by the senator’s wife. ‘We have to decide what kind of language we are going to use in our political discourse.’”
-- Hodgkinson’s social media included visceral anti-Trump and anti-Republican rhetoric. Ann E. Marimow, Patricia Sullivan, Shawn Boburg and Tom Jackman mine his posts: “Hodgkinson left a trail of political rants against Republicans and the ‘super rich,’ and he had adopted a photo of Sanders as his Facebook cover image … Hodgkinson was quick to share his political views online and in letters to his local newspaper. A Facebook page believed to be his features pictures of Sanders and ... a recent post that reads: ‘Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.’”
- He made repeated, angry calls to the office of his Illinois representative, Mike Bost (R), but never issued any threats.
- He made at least one direct mention of Scalise on Facebook in March 2015, posting a cartoon that featured the Louisiana congressman: “Here’s a Republican that should Lose His Job, but they Gave Him a Raise.”
- He was a member of Facebook groups including "Terminate the Republican Party" and "The Road To Hell Is Paved With Republicans."
Karen Handel, running for Congress in Georgia’s hotly contested special election, is among the GOP figures that Hodgkinson singled out. A post to a Facebook account believed to belong to Hodgkinson called Handel an expletive and said she “wants people to work for slave wages,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
-- An Alexandria lawyer says he repeatedly saw Hodgkinson at the YMCA next to the baseball field: "Stephen Brennwald said he realized after seeing Hodgkinson’s photo on the news that he was the same man who had been hanging out for at least the past several weeks in the lobby of a YMCA adjacent to Simpson field. Brennwald said Hodgkinson would regularly show up first thing in the morning — about the same time the shooting took place — and look at his laptop or stare out the window.”
-- Back in Illinois, local police had gone to Hodgkinson's house in March after he fired 50 rounds “in the pine trees” at the end of his street. He had a valid license for the weapon and stopped shooting at the request of the cops.
-- But authorities had charged him with domestic battery and aggravated discharge of a firearm after a 2006 encounter with his daughter. Ann E. Marimow, Patricia Sullivan, Shawn Boburg and Tom Jackman report: “Witnesses said Hodgkinson forced his way into [a neighbor’s] home looking for his teenage daughter and grabbed her by the hair when he found her upstairs … His daughter escaped and got into the neighbor’s car, but Hodgkinson opened the door of the car, pulled out a pocket knife and cut off the seat belt she was wearing … Hodgkinson punched the neighbor who was in the driver’s seat of the car in the face, witnesses told police. Later, Joel Fernandez, the boyfriend of the woman who was punched, went to Hodgkinson’s home to confront him. He said Hodgkinson ‘walked outside with a shotgun and aimed it at Fernandez face,’ a complaint states. Hodgkinson struck Fernandez on the side of his face with the wooden stock of the shotgun and fired off one round as Fernandez ran away.” It's not clear why, but the charges were later dismissed.
-- The president went to see Scalise and the other victims at the hospital last night. Abby Phillip reports: “The unannounced visit to MedStar Washington Hospital Center came hours after Scalise emerged from surgery after he was injured during a shooting at a Congressional Baseball Game practice in Alexandria, Va. … Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrived at the hospital at around 8:40 p.m. on Wednesday night, bringing with them bouquets of flowers for the shooting victims … The first couple spent less than a half hour at the hospital meeting with Scalise's wife and the medical team treating him before returning to the White House.” Trump tweeted this after his visit:
A SCARY MOMENT:
-- Violence against politicians is blessedly rare in this country, but it’s not unheard of. At least fourteen sitting members of Congress have been killed in U.S. history. Michael S. Rosenwald and Ian Shapira recall a few of the highest profile incidents: “In 1859, California Sen. David Broderick was called a ‘miserable wretch’ – and then shot to death – by the state’s attorney general during an argument about slavery. Years later, the attorney general was also shot to death. … In 1868, Arkansas Rep. James Hinds was traveling by horse to a speech supporting Ulysses S. Grant when he was assassinated by a Ku Klux Klan member. His killer vanished and was never seen again.”
-- Lawmakers on both sides have been reporting a major uptick in threats recently. From Buzzfeed: “Multiple Democratic representatives said during a members-only security briefing that they had received calls after the shooting saying, ‘You guys are next,’ said California Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragàn … Arizona Rep. David Schweikert, a Republican who is not on the baseball team, told reporters that his office had filed four threat assessments on Tuesday, the day before the shooting, based on people emailing and calling his office. He said one of those threats was ‘wishing my little girl is dead.’”
THE POLITICAL CULTURE:
-- Everyone agrees that the political culture has coarsened, and that there is less civility than there used to be. But the discussion quickly deteriorates when people on both sides blame the other. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) drove from the Capitol to Alexandria after the shooting to pray. He told reporters that it was impossible to separate the hyperpartisan climate in Washington — especially people protesting Trump — with Republican members of Congress being fired upon at a baseball practice. “The divisions within the country, people that can’t accept the results of the election that are determined to try to take this country down, take this organization down,” he said, per Amber. “This city was filled up with demonstrations the day after the inauguration, where you couldn’t drive down the streets. And we’ve had demonstrations every week since then, sometimes different topics.” King added: “We do need to focus on what’s happening to the culture in this country.”
-- “Some in conservative media gilded the lily," David Weigel reports: "A headline at the Drudge Report read ‘Gunman: “Kill as many Republicans as possible.” That was a quote from Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) describing what he thought the gunman’s motivation had been, not a quote from the gunman. The editor of the conservative Vessel News shared a video by former attorney general Loretta E. Lynch and asked whether the shooter had heeded her ‘call’ for ‘blood on the streets.’ In reality, Lynch was referring to civil rights protesters who ‘bled’ and ‘died.’”
-- Speaking on Fox News Wednesday afternoon, Newt Gingrich decried what he called “an increasing hostility on the left.” “You’ve had a series of things that send signals that tell people it’s okay to hate Trump,” he said. “And now we’re supposed to rise above it?”
-- But, but, but: Remember Pizzagate? “The armed North Carolina man who commandeered a pizza restaurant in Northwest Washington apologized to his victims and residents in the nation’s capital in a letter to a federal judge seeking leniency at his June 22 sentencing,” Spencer S. Hsu reports. “Writing in his own hand, Edgar Maddison Welch, 28, said in a court filing that he was ‘truly sorry’ … Federal prosecutors countered in their own memo to the judge that it was ‘entirely the product of good luck’ that no one was shot when Welch entered Comet Ping Pong (last December) carrying a fully loaded AR-15 military-style rifle and revolver seeking to investigate a viral Internet rumor known as ‘Pizzagate.’ False stories propagated an unfounded conspiracy theory that linked Hillary Clinton to an alleged child-sex-trafficking ring run from the family restaurant.”
Welch’s public defender is asking for an 18-month prison sentence. The feds are calling for 4 ½ years. “Beyond Pizzagate, the Internet is full of wild conspiracy theories where people urge members of the public . . . to take action,” the government said in its filing. “A significant sentence is required to deter other people from pursuing vigilante justice based only on their YouTube feed.” Prosecutors included the arrest warrant of a Shreveport, La., man, Yusif Jones, who pleaded guilty to telephoning a copycat threat to a nearby pizza shop on Dec. 7, saying: “I’m coming to finish what the other guy didn’t.”
-- “The Trump administration is suspending two key rules from the Obama administration that were intended to protect students from predatory for-profit colleges, saying it will soon start the process to write its own regulations," Valerie Strauss reports: “The move made Wednesday by [Betsy DeVos] was a victory for Republican lawmakers and for-profit colleges that had lobbied against the rules. Critics denounced it, accusing the administration of essentially selling out students to help for-profit colleges stay in business.”
-- Awkward: Trump will pay his first visit to the Supreme Court today for the official investiture ceremony of Neil Gorsuch, as the nation’s justices are inundated with near-daily filings attempting to revive Trump’s travel ban. “The court could decide by next week whether to allow Trump’s executive order to go into effect,” Robert Barnes writes. “Differences traditionally are put aside for a new justice’s investiture … [and] it’s unlikely the high-stakes legal maneuvering will be mentioned … [Still], it is rare for the court and the president to get together when such an important executive branch priority is pending."
-- Contrary to his congressional testimony, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt appears to have used two government emails as attorney general of Oklahoma. Dino Grandoni reports: “A batch of emails recently acquired by a watchdog group, the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD), shows that Pruitt used two addresses out of the Oklahoma attorney general’s office: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Documents the nonprofit watchdog received through an open-records request show Pruitt’s name associated with both the ‘scott.pruitt’ and ‘esp’ handles, the latter being initials for the former Oklahoma attorney general’s full name, Edward Scott Pruitt.”
-- The day Comey testified last week, Trump gathered his top donors at the White House to bolster support for his agenda. Politico’s Tara Palmeri and Kenneth Vogel report: “The donors — including Ken Griffin, Doug DeVos, Tom Hicks, Jr., Rebekah Mercer, Todd Ricketts, Tom Saunders, Paul Singer and Dick Uihlein — gathered in the Roosevelt Room on June 8 for a briefing from Trump’s legislative director Marc Short … A senior administration official said that topics covered during the briefing included health care, tax reform, the confirmation of Supreme Court justice Neil Gorsuch, pending judicial nominations, the Paris climate accord and the Saudi arms sale … The briefing was seen as notable in GOP finance circles partly because of the timing and also because Trump’s team has not engaged in as much donor maintenance as have past presidential administrations.”
-- As Senate Republicans continue to work towards a consensus on health care, a familiar pattern has emerged: Each senator is trying to get the best deal for his or her state. Paul Kane reports: “The last six weeks of Senate consideration of the Republican effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act has been somewhat lost in the weeds of Medicare regulations, the size and scope of tax credits and proposals to phase out benefits over a couple years or much longer. That makes this process look a lot like what happens when, say, a big infrastructure bill is making its way through the Capitol, as lawmakers fight over regional funding formulas to try to maximize the benefits to their states … The most critical divide sits between Republicans from states that accepted the federal funding to expand Medicaid coverage to millions more Americans, and those from states that declined that expansion.”
-- The House bill remains deeply unpopular across a large swath of the country, including in red states. The New York Times’ Christopher Warshaw and David Broockman report: “In recent national polls, only about 29 percent of Americans support the [American Health Care Act]. It is the most unpopular piece of major legislation Congress has considered in decades — even more unloved than TARP (‘the bailout’), and much more unpopular than the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare … Perhaps red-state senators, or even some senators in swing states, might think their states are friendlier to the bill than the nation as a whole. Our research indicates that is not the case … Even in the most supportive state, deep-red Oklahoma, we estimate that only about 38 percent of voters appear to support the law versus 45 percent who oppose.”
-- Meanwhile, Trump continues to mangle his facts on the ACA. Glenn Kessler fact-checks: "Premiums have not spiked to unimaginable levels, 2 million people have not dropped out and insurance companies departing the business have cited the administration’s own policies for creating uncertainty in the marketplace."
-- A group of women’s health-care groups sent a letter to Mitch McConnell criticizing the Senate’s attempts to repeal Obamacare and rejecting the repeal bill passed by the House last month. The letter’s authors write: “We believe that [a repeal] would turn back the clock and reverse hard-won progress on gains in women’s access to healthcare and coverage. We stand ready to work with Congress to advance legislation that would instead promote women’s health and access to care and coverage … When women have access to quality, evidence-based, affordable care throughout their lives, they enrich our workforce, achieve higher levels of education, reach their goals, and actively contribute to the success of their families and their communities.”
The letter was signed by the following health-care groups: American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Nurse-Midwives, American College of Physicians, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health, National Partnership for Women & Families and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
OFF TO THE RACES:
-- Following Tuesday’s primary results, Virginia Democrats and Republicans alike raced to get their parties in line — with mixed results. Gregory S. Schneider, Laura Vozzella and Fenit Nirappil report: “Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam emerged from his unexpectedly tough campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor in good shape for the fall election. But Republican Ed Gillespie, who seemed to coast through the primary, suddenly looks damaged. Northam starts with a unified Democratic Party and the promise of a helping hand from his rival for the nomination, former congressman Tom Perriello. Gillespie saw what should have been an easy victory almost slip away, and the man who nearly stole the crown — Prince William County supervisor Corey Stewart — has withheld his endorsement.”
-- The Republicans’ lack of unity has affected forecasts for their chances in the November general election. The University of Virginia’s Center for Politics’ Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley write: “As the general election period begins, we’re moving the race from Toss-up to Leans Democratic … There are a number of factors working in favor of the Democrats, enough that Northam starts as the favorite, though not necessarily an overwhelming one. A major reason is that Virginia is trending Democratic … Gillespie should be able to rely on reasonably strong GOP base support, but if Stewart’s backers don’t show up in full force, Gillespie will be in trouble.”
-- Further complicating matters on the Republican side: Stewart’s potential Senate run against incumbent Tim Kaine in 2018. Laura Vozzella reports: “When [Stewart’s] bid attracted support from white nationalists, many political observers predicted that his political career in one of Virginia’s most racially diverse corners was over. But Stewart pulled out a closer-than-expected finish. [Now,] Stewart said he would take ‘a few weeks, a couple months maybe’ to decide whether to challenge to Kaine.”
-- Aside from the gubernatorial race, the most closely watched Virginia election may be the state House race between a transgender journalist and an incumbent who proposed a bathroom bill. Antonio Olivo reports: “[Danica] Roem, 32, is a transgender ex-journalist with a passion for public policy details that rivals that of Del. Robert G. Marshall (R-Prince William), the scholarly conservative incumbent who has spent 25 years as a foil to the LGBT community … A victory over the 13-term incumbent would make [Roem] the first openly transgender elected official in Virginia, advocates say. But experts said the race, which is sure to attract national attention and a more-energized base on both sides, may also reveal that voters in the increasingly purple 13th District are not ready to be known for that historic distinction.”
A NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- The National Security Agency linked the WannaCry computer worm, which affected more than 300,000 people across roughly 150 countries last month, to the North Korean government. Ellen Nakashima reports: “The [NSA’s] assessment states that ‘cyber actors’ suspected to be ‘sponsored by’ [North Korea’s spy agency] were behind two versions of WannaCry, a worm that was built around an NSA hacking tool that had been obtained and posted online last year by an anonymous group calling itself the Shadow Brokers … WannaCry was apparently an attempt to raise revenue for the regime, but analysts said the effort was flawed. Though the hackers raised $140,000 in bitcoin, a form of digital currency, so far they have not cashed it in, the analysts said. That is likely because an operational error has made the transactions easy to track, including by law enforcement.”
-- Former NBA star Dennis Rodman, on a return trip to Pyongyang, gave a copy of Trump’s “Art of the Deal” to a top North Korean official and asked him to pass it along to Kim Jong Un as a gift, the AP reports.
-- As Trump plans to roll back Obama’s Cuba policy, lawmakers and interest groups have been trying to talk him out of it. Karen DeYoung and Nick Miroff report: “Farm state Republicans have appealed to Trump to help them expand Cuban markets rather than close them. A newly introduced Senate bill to lift remaining travel restrictions has attracted 54 co-sponsors, including 10 Republicans. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers have called for expanding relations with the island. Major travel and agricultural companies and associations have publicly warned that a reversal would cost American jobs. U.S. and international human rights organizations, while condemning ongoing Cuban government repression, say that tightening the screws will only bolster government hard-liners, putting even more pressure on the island’s nascent civil society and private sector.”
-- Lawmakers are expressing concern that the Pentagon, with its new authority to determine troop levels in Afghanistan, will unilaterally initiate a surge. Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Dan Lamothe report: “There are currently about 8,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and around 5,000 forces from additional nations in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Seven years ago, U.S. forces alone numbered more than 100,000 and were spread across Afghanistan, fighting and patrolling from tiny outposts in some of the country’s most remote provinces. While Mattis declined to give an estimate of how many more forces he might send to Afghanistan, he told lawmakers at Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing that he would deliver an Afghan strategy by mid-July. ‘I’ve been given some carte blanche to — to draw up a strategy or a number that’s out of step with the strategy,’ Mattis said.”
-- Kabul’s American University reopened in March after last year’s terrorist attack, but it is facing new threats. Annie Gowen reports: “The reality of life in the country’s increasingly violent capital soon intruded [after the reopening]: One of the school’s adjunct professors and a graduate were killed May 31 when a truck bomb detonated in central Kabul, killing more than 150 people. In the political recrimination that followed, the Taliban issued a new threat targeting the safety of their Western hostages — including two professors taken at gunpoint outside the school last August. The university administration again called for their safe release. Teachers and students say they are determined to carry on despite the threats to the college.”
-- “These are the people who suffered when Kansas’s conservative experiment failed,” by Ana Swanson and Max Ehrenfreund: “The combination of deep tax cuts and austere spending that was supposed to ignite economic growth and reduce dependency have hit hard in the southeastern corner of Kansas … a collection of some of the poorest and sickest counties in the state that is sometimes branded the Appalachia of the Midwest … [Republican Gov. Sam] Brownback had promised that the tax cuts would unleash an economic resurgence strong enough to keep the government funded and lift people out of poverty — a similar narrative to that of Washington Republicans, who are considering a comparable plan that pairs tax reductions with steep cuts to welfare programs. But five years after Brownback's first tax cut, Kansas has become a warning sign about what happens when promised economic growth fails to materialize.”
-- "Otto Warmbier is home from North Korea, but his community remains on edge," by Susan Svrluga: “Friends and neighbors have tied blue and white ribbons to trees in his close-knit home town of Wyoming, Ohio … They hoped for some kind of reassurance from the family that Warmbier would be all right — that he would be the same friendly, intellectually curious, athletic, studious Otto they have always known … As those close to him waited for news about his health, people nationally and internationally wondered how his condition — and the lack of information about it for so long — would affect tense relations between the United States and North Korea.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Yesterday’s shooting shook Washington to its core. Many lawmakers responded with messages of unity, hope and resilience:
Others offered less unifying comments:
He was linking to this:
The spokeswoman for one of the main pro-Trump outside groups (and an alumn of Trump's campaign):
Trump has broken a record in his unpopularity:
Trump’s family and friends celebrated his birthday yesterday:
But some pointed out the poor timing of Trump's birthday, given The Post's story that he is now being investigated by the feds for obstruction of justice:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- The New York Times, “Gangsters, Grandmothers and Gold: Japan’s New Crime Wave,” by Jonathan Soble: “Sometimes the perpetrators are gangsters. Sometimes they are rather less accustomed to the criminal life. In one case, the ringleader of a middle-aged, female crime ring was said to be a 66-year-old woman … An old-fashioned crime is experiencing a resurgence in Japan: gold smuggling. [Authorities] say they are contending with a startling rise in the amount of gold being brought illegally into the country … [allowing smugglers to dodge] import duties and taxes, in some cases worth millions of dollars. The smuggling has gained national attention because of a spate of high-profile episodes, including a brazen gold robbery by thieves dressed as police officers; the seizure of multimillion-dollar gold cargoes from fishing boats and private jets; and the foiling of the smuggling ring the police have said was organized by a 66-year-old housewife.”
-- Megyn Kelly is unapologetic about her upcoming interview with Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. “What we do as journalists is we shine a light on those with power, those with influence, those who have become culturally relevant,” she told the New York Times’s Jim Rutenberg in an interview. “Of course, it’s upsetting to know that doing that causes any upset to the Newtown families, many of whom I know well. But I have to do my job … As journalists, we don’t get to interview only the good guys — that’s not journalism … It’s going to be very difficult for us to keep an eye on the more controversial figures of our time if we never talk to them … I do not think people will emerge from having seen this piece thinking anything other than 26 people were brutally murdered in Newtown, Conn., and there is a group of people that refuses to acknowledge that.”
-- Speaking of powerful women in media, Rachel Maddow discusses her skyrocketing popularity in the Trump era for a new Rolling Stone profile. Stat du jour: “In mid-May, The Rachel Maddow Show was second only to the NBA playoffs as the most-watched program on cable, period.”
HOT ON THE LEFT
“Trump critics are boycotting Dolce & Gabbana. The brand trolled them with $245 T-shirts,” from Amy B. Wang: “Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana has heard the criticisms over its support of U.S. first lady Melania Trump. Its response? The equivalent of a disinterested catwalk hair flip and a shrug — and not the fabric kind. Last week, Dolce & Gabbana rolled out a line of $245 T-shirts clearly meant to flout the objections of those who have called for a boycott of the luxury fashion label.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
"Christopher Ruddy, the Trump whisperer: ‘I’m honest with him,’" from Derek Hawkins: “Ruddy has fashioned himself into something of an unofficial spokesman for Trump, a freelance translator of sorts with a unique insight into the president’s thought process and the workings of his inner circle. Put differently, he’s a Trump whisperer.”
President Trump will give a speech on the future of the workforce in the morning and then go over to the Supreme Court with the first lady for Neil Gorsuch’s investiture ceremony. The White House says the president will NOT attend tonight's Congressional Baseball Game. “Some members had suggested that Trump might appear … But his attendance would pose major logistical challenges for the Secret Service,” Abby Phillip reports.
Vice President Pence will fly to Miami for a speech on Central American affairs at Florida International University, followed by meetings with leaders of Central American nations.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, emphasized that the shooter in Alexandria is the shared enemy of all who love democracy. He writes in the Atlantic: “An assassin sends his message by the identity of his victim as well as the heinousness of his methods. An assassin therefore strikes beyond the victims and their bereaved. He attacks democracy, the people’s right of self-rule. He is attempting veto by murder. In any free society, therefore, an assassin should be seen as the enemy of all—not only of those who share the politics of his targets, but equally of those who reject them.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Increased cloud coverage today will likely help make D.C. less stifling than it has been this week, the Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “A milder and drier start to the day should be noticeable to all. Variable clouds help keep the heat down during the day with highs only low-to-mid 80s. Lower humidity levels make it more comfortable and keep rain chances low.”
-- The Nationals fell to the Atlanta Braves in a dismal 13-2 showing. It’s their fifth loss in six games.
-- A report from the D.C. Council accuses Mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration of favoring a top donor in a contracting dispute. Aaron C. Davis reports: “The top appointed official in D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s administration took an ‘extraordinary’ step of trying to appease one of the mayor’s largest campaign donors by urging city attorneys to quickly settle unresolved contract disputes between the District and his company … The action by D.C. City Administrator Rashad M. Young led to $4 million in taxpayer settlements with Fort Myer Construction, ending the city’s previous opposition to such payouts.”
-- A University of Virginia student and scion of a prominent Republican family has been charged with rape and forcible sodomy in an alleged attack that left a young woman bruised and bloodied. From T. Rees Shapiro: “Dalton Baril, 20, of Richmond, turned himself in to authorities at the Albemarle County Regional Jail Wednesday morning and appeared in court through a teleconference for a bond hearing. … The alleged victim, also a U-Va. student, sat still in the front of the court during the proceedings as prosecutor Areshini Pather detailed a harrowing assault that occurred on the night of Feb. 1. … He is the grandson of the late governor John N. Dalton (R), a U-Va. law graduate. His mother, Mary Dalton Baril, is a U-Va. alumna and a partner in the law firm McGuire Woods. His father, Steve Baril, ran as a Republican for state attorney general in 2005, losing in the primary to Robert F. McDonnell."
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
President Trump visited Rep. Steve Scalise at the hospital where he is recovering from the shooting:
Sen. Jeff Flake recalls the horrifying scene:
A history of the congressional baseball game:
Watch Ron Paul and other members play in the 1983 game: