with Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
Coming just one day after the attack on Republican lawmakers during batting practice in Alexandria, Va., these letters put everyone on edge. In one of his final posts on Facebook, shooter James Hodgkinson had referred crudely to Handel and attacked her for opposing an increase in the minimum wage.
The Atlanta TV stations led their evening newscasts with helicopter footage of FBI agents and hazmat teams blocking off her street. Quarantined in her basement while the powder was tested — an aide said it turned out to be baking soda — Handel missed several events ahead of Tuesday’s neck-and-neck special election to replace HHS Secretary Tom Price.
Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff said his campaign has received numerous threats as well, and they have intensified in recent weeks. Now both candidates are accompanied by bodyguards in what has become the most expensive House race in U.S. history.
One of the people at the pub who expressed sympathy and support to Handel was Steve Binder, 74. “Back in the day, I’d put signs in my yard,” he said, as he sipped a martini with his wife of 50 years. “Now someone might key your car or trash your house. I’d be too concerned that there would be retribution or retaliation.”
Handel said she felt especially terrible because one of the letters went to a woman who just moved in next door. “Quite a welcome basket,” she quipped.
In dozens of interviews around Georgia’s 6th Congressional District over the past three days, voters across the ideological spectrum — often without prompting — expressed alarm about the growing toxicity of America’s political culture. They lamented rising polarization and declining civility. They decried overheated rhetoric and bemoaned a culture that seems to be increasingly permissive of vulgarity. They worried that the anonymity of social media pours fuel on the fire.
-- On Saturday afternoon, hundreds of African Americans gathered on the town square in Marietta for a Juneteenth Festival sponsored by the local NAACP chapter. The annual celebration commemorates the emancipation of slaves throughout the South.
Julie McGee, 58, wanted to go get a picture with Ossoff to post on Facebook. In the wake of the Alexandria shooting, this made her husband nervous. “You’ve got to be careful because of everything that’s going on right now,” he told her.
McGee, who works in customer service for Southwest Airlines, decided to go anyway. “We just can’t live like that,” she said. “I hate everything about the shooting, but I really hope it brings Democrats and Republicans together. Because if you don’t have hope, what do you have?”
-- Some Republicans see political upside in the tragedy. Brad Carver is chairman of the Republican Party in the neighboring 11th Congressional District, which is represented by Barry Loudermilk, a member of the GOP baseball squad who was on the scene during last Wednesday’s shooting.
“I’ll tell you what: I think the shooting is going to win this election for us,” Carver said Saturday after a get-out-the-vote rally for Handel in Chamblee. “Because moderates and independents in this district are tired of left-wing extremism. I get that there’s extremists on both sides, but we are not seeing them. We’re seeing absolute resistance to everything this president does. Moderates and independents out there want to give him a chance. Democrats have never given this president a chance.”
Carver praised Ossoff for running “a brilliant campaign” that appeals to suburban swing voters who are disillusioned with Donald Trump, but he believes the GOP base is coming home in the final days. Price, who spoke at the rally, got reelected with 62 percent of the vote last year. If registered Republicans simply show up in large numbers, Handel will prevail. “Democrats picked a good target, but they’re not going to do it,” Carver predicted. “The trend lines are looking good for us. … It’s not going to be a blowout. It’ll be close, but we’ll win it. And I really do think the congressional baseball shooting is going to decide the election.”
-- One conservative outside group, Principled PAC, is even trying to link Ossoff with the shooting in a particularly foul commercial that is airing today on Fox News. A narrator claims, without citing any evidence, that “the unhinged left is endorsing and applauding shooting Republicans.” Over grainy footage of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) being wheeled in a stretcher to an ambulance, a narrator says: “When will it stop? It won’t if Jon Ossoff wins on Tuesday, because the same unhinged leftists cheering last week’s shooting are all backing Jon Ossoff. And if he wins, they win.” The ad, backed up by a five-figure buy, concludes by urging people to vote for Handel: “Stop them. Stop them now.”
Even before the violence in Alexandria, Republicans were seeking to tie the Democratic nominee to grotesqueness on the far left. The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House GOP leadership that has spent $7 million in the special election, ran an ad earlier this month featuring a picture of comedian Kathy Griffin posing with a “severed head” of President Trump. “Liberal extremists have gone too far,” a narrator said in the spot. “Now a celebrity Jon Ossoff supporter is making jokes about beheading the president of the United States.”
Ossoff condemned Griffin’s stunt, as well as the ad. He called on Handel to demand the commercial be pulled “before any more children have to see these disturbing images on TV.” She did not.
-- These attacks don’t really track when you meet Ossoff. While raising millions from liberal supporters who hate Trump from outside the state, he is preternaturally calm, even defiantly so, and level-headed. The 30-year-old always wears a suit and never raises his voice, let alone yells. He speaks in respectful tones about his opponent, referring to her as “Secretary Handel” because she used to be Georgia’s secretary of state.
Because he needs to pick off some Republicans to win a district as red as the 6th, Ossoff has moderated his rhetoric somewhat since getting into the race. His initial mantra was that supporting him would “Make Trump Furious.” Now he talks about the need for fiscal responsibility, cutting wasteful spending and working across the aisle.
“These recent events speak to the need for a redoubled commitment to civility and unity,” he said after the white powder was mailed to Handel. “The overwhelming majority of Americans want decent and civil political dialogue.”
-- Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, a former Georgia governor who campaigned for Handel on Saturday, worries that people are disengaging from the political process for a host of reasons. “There are really two groups of people out there today: the turned off and the turned on,” he said at her rally in Chamblee. “There’s a lot to be turned off about by national politics today. … We see the vulgarity and profanity from elected officials. … The violence.… The mainstream media.… I know some of you, some Republicans, may even be turned off by our president.”
Perdue, who traveled with Trump to Florida on Friday to roll back President Barack Obama’s Cuba policy, added that he is not turned off by Trump. “I know it’s hard, but … the president keeps his promises,” he explained to hundreds of Republicans about to go door-knocking for Handel. “The president is a true populist. He cares for the little people, and he’ll look out for you, as well.”
-- Indicating just how far apart the country has grown, there is finger-pointing about who exactly is responsible for overheated rhetoric leading to violence. “The fact of the matter is most of the instances of violence have been done by left-wing people or crazy people,” said Greg Clifton, the former GOP mayor of Fayetteville, Ga. “They like to try to blame right-wing people, but when’s the last time somebody who was really right-wing did anything? You’ve got the crazies like Timothy McVeigh, but the majority of gun-toting folks — I’m pro-Second Amendment but don’t pack heat — basically our attitude is, ‘Just leave us alone. We’re not going to mess with you, so don’t mess with us.’ But the left wants to control everything.”
“It’s on both sides,” said Don Balfour, who served 22 years as a Republican in the state Senate and owns the airplane hangar that hosted Handel’s rally with Perdue and Price. “I’m for not raising the minimum wage. Someone else is for raising the minimum wage. That’s not bad. It’s bad when you say, ‘That guy’s the devil because of it.’ It’s absolutely toxic.”
When last week’s shooting happened, Balfour was flying to D.C. for a meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan group he once led. He believes our toxic political culture won’t get fixed until the Supreme Court requires truly nonpartisan redistricting. “If that happens, the world changes,” he said. “Most congressional districts are heavy ‘R’ or heavy ‘D.’ So people stay real far right or real far left or else they might get a primary. … States aren’t going to change unless the Supreme Court makes them.”
-- John Lewis joined Ossoff as he campaigned at the Juneteenth celebration in Marietta. Lewis, who represents another Atlanta-area House district, was deeply saddened by the Alexandria shooting. “It’s very important to fix it,” he said when I asked what the shooting says about the political culture. “We’re one people. We’re one family. We all live in the same house. Not just the House of Representatives, but the American house. Maybe our foremothers and our forefathers came to this great land in different ships, but we’re all in the same boat now. We’ve got to look out for each other and care for each other.”
Trump vociferously attacked Lewis on Twitter when he announced plans to boycott the inauguration, disparaging the civil rights legend (who was nearly beaten to death on Bloody Sunday in Selma) as “all talk, talk, talk – no action or results.” That kerfuffle helped spur nearly 70 other Democratic lawmakers to skip the president’s swearing-in.
Lewis, wearing an Ossoff T-shirt over a dress-shirt-and-tie, said elected officials need to lead by example. “We must do what we can to bring people together and not divide people,” he said, as sweat poured down his brow. “We’ve just got to humanize the Congress. By humanizing Congress, we can help humanize the American people. We’ve got to talk about it. We cannot hide our feelings. We’ve got to come to the point where we respect the dignity and worth of every human being. And the American people must see that and believe us.”
-- Amidst all the fear, there were signs of commonality and hope for the future. Two teenage Republicans approached the “Indivisible” booth at the Juneteenth Festival because they wanted to learn more about what the liberal group stood for. Casey Sharp, 29, explained that he voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) last year but didn’t get super politically engaged until the president issued his travel ban. Then he discovered the anti-Trump group online and got active. He recently organized a protest outside one of Loudermilk’s fundraisers.
The two kids wore T-shirts emblazoned with Handel’s name. Sharp, a geopolitical forecaster, wore a black T-shirt that said “RESIST.”
One of the young Republicans, who didn’t want to give his name, told Sharp that he flew to Washington for Trump’s inauguration with his parents and was unnerved by how angry some of the president’s supporters were. But he added that “there’s almost as much anger when I watch Black Lives Matter protests on TV.”
“One big issue right now is social media,” Sharp said. “It’s heightened that thing where people feel personally offended about stuff, but they’re not having a face-to-face dialogue on anything. … The Internet is not a place for nice people. The trolls are winning because good people just choose to not get online.”
As they continued their civil dialogue, there was a loud pop. All the guys were startled and froze, looking around to see if perhaps the noise had been a gun shot. Then they realized a toddler had simply popped a balloon.
“I don’t like hearing things like that right now,” Sharp said from inside the Indivisible booth.
The Handel volunteers agreed.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- British police said there was at least one death in London and that one person was arrested after a van struck a crowd of pedestrians outside a mosque, as reports emerged that the driver said: “I want to kill more Muslims.” Griff Witte reports: “The incident occurred just after midnight in the northern part of the city, near the Finsbury Park Mosque. Police said they had closed the adjacent roadway in both directions and were dealing with ‘a major incident.’ Early witness reports suggested that pedestrians had been struck as they left late-night prayers for the holy month of Ramadan. Video posted on social media showed people screaming as bystanders performed chest compressions on one of the injured, and another man held a bloody cloth to his head.… The Muslim Council of Britain tweeted: ‘We have been informed that a van has run over worshippers as they left #FinsburyPark Mosque. Our prayers are with the victims.’ The incident early Monday follows two recent terrorist attacks in London in which vehicles have been used as weapons, both on bridges for the Thames River.”
Prime Minister Theresa May said that the incident was being treated as a "potential terrorist attack."
-- The remains of a 17-year-old Muslim girl from Virginia were found, and a 22-year-old man was charged in connection with her assault and murder. Faiz Siddiqui, Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Bailey report: “The mosque, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) in Sterling, and relatives identified the girl as 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen of Reston.… According to accounts from police and a mosque official, a group of four or five teens were walking back from breakfast at IHOP early Sunday when they were confronted by a motorist. All but one of the teens ran to the mosque, where the group reported that the girl had been left behind.… A possible hate-crime motivation is among the things authorities are investigating, police said.”
-- Jared Kushner is traveling to the Middle East this week in pursuit of a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Philip Rucker reports: “Kushner will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem and with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah as a Trump envoy, along with Jason Greenblatt … [a] special representative for international negotiations. The visit comes one month after Trump's maiden trip to the region, during which he met with Israeli and Palestinian officials and committed to working to bring both sides together in a lasting peace agreement. Greenblatt was scheduled to arrive in the Middle East on Monday, with Kushner arriving Wednesday for the conversations with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, according to [a] White House official.… The official sought to temper expectations, saying that Kushner and Greenblatt are hoping to ‘continue conversations’ with both sides but noting that an accord almost certainly would require ongoing discussions.”
-- Kushner's allies are also considering a change in the legal team representing him in the Russia investigations. The New York Times’ Ben Protess, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Sharon LaFraniere report: “Some of Mr. Kushner’s allies have raised questions about the link between his current lawyer, Jamie S. Gorelick, and Robert S. Mueller III … Before the Justice Department named him to the special counsel post, Mr. Mueller was a law partner with Ms. Gorelick at the Washington firm of WilmerHale … In recent days, Mr. Kushner has had discussions with at least one prominent trial lawyer … And if Mr. Kushner chooses to hire a new lawyer, this person may either supplement or replace Ms. Gorelick’s team. So far, Mr. Kushner’s legal team remains unchanged. Ms. Gorelick … is preparing him for a meeting with investigators for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.”
GET SMART FAST:
- Two British ministers said that the new exterior used in the renovation of London’s Grenfell Tower, the 24-story public housing complex that was ravaged in a catastrophic fire last week, may have been banned under U.K. building regulations. As the fatality estimate reaches 79, officials are moving to inspect 2,500 similar tower blocks across the country to assess their safety. (AP)
- A massive forest fire in central Portugal has claimed more than 60 lives, one of the worst disasters in the country’s recent history. Offers of help came in from across Europe, with the European Union offering its firefighting aircraft, and Spain sending at least two planes to help contain the blaze. (Max J. Rosenthal)
- Steve Scalise's condition has been upgraded to "serious" after undergoing another surgery Saturday for injuries he sustained when shot last week during baseball practice. The Louisiana Republican "continues to show signs of improvement," MedStar Washington Hospital Center said in a statement released on behalf of his family. "He is more responsive, and is speaking with his loved ones." (CNN)
- A veteran Spanish matador was gored to death by a bull in France this weekend after his feet became tangled in his cloak. Spectators were horrified as “Burp,” a 5-year-old bull, impaled and tossed the longtime bullfighter into the air. It is the country’s first matador fatality since 1921. (Cindy Boren)
- Baltimore is running low on the reversal drug used in the event of an opioid overdose. Demand has spiked along with the drug crisis, and the city has had to ration its supply. (Baltimore Sun)
- Pro-Trump activists are sending death threats to the wrong Shakespeare theater company. A Massachusetts company with the domain name Shakespeare.org had been repeatedly confused with New York’s Shakespeare in the Park, which is showing a controversial production of “Julius Caesar” with a Trump-like character as the lead. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
- Despite much outcry, Megyn Kelly’s interview with Sandy Hook conspiracy theorist Alex Jones aired as scheduled. The interview directly addressed Jones’s claims that the 2012 shooting was “an elaborate hoax.” (Hank Stuever)
- YouTube has a new plan to combat online-bred terrorism. Its parent company Google has come out with a four-step plan to identify and remove videos that endorse terrorism. (Travis M. Andrews)
- Three workers at a produce company were arrested for stealing $300,000 worth of avocados. Authorities are referring to the crime as “grand theft avocado.” (AP)
- Awkward: Sports commentator Joe Buck referred to U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka’s girlfriend by his ex-girlfriend’s name. Thankfully, his broadcasting partner quickly corrected him. (Scott Allen)
- Beyoncé and Jay-Z have reportedly welcomed their twins to the world. Beyoncé's father tweeted out a "happy birthday" message yesterday. (NBC News)
THERES'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Jay Sekulow, a member of Trump’s private legal team, insisted on the Sunday shows that the president “is not under investigation for obstruction” – a claim which the attorney later acknowledged he could not know for certain. John Wagner and Rosalind S. Helderman report: "Let me be very clear here, as it has been since the beginning, the president is not and has not been under investigation for obstruction," [Sekulow] said on NBC’s "Meet the Press," part of a blitz of bookings on the Sunday morning public affairs shows. That assessment, repeated on three other broadcasts, was at odds with a Washington Post report last week and seemingly with a tweet by Trump on Friday.” During a tense exchange with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” however, Sekulow conceded he could not know for sure that Special Counsel Robert Mueller had not opened an investigation into Trump. While prosecutors may inform the subject or target of an investigation that a probe is underway, they are “under no obligation to do so,” John and Roz colleagues note.
-- Paul Manafort met with a Ukrainian business associate in August, just as attention was turning to Russia’s attempts to interfere with the election. Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Rachel Weiner report: “Konstantin Kilimnik, who learned English at a military school that some experts consider a training ground for Russian spies, had helped run the Ukraine office for Manafort’s international political consulting practice for 10 years. At the Grand Havana Room, one of New York City’s most exclusive cigar bars, the longtime acquaintances ‘talked about bills unpaid by our clients, about [the] overall situation in Ukraine . . . and about the current news,’ including the presidential campaign … The August dinner came about two weeks before Manafort resigned under pressure amid reports that he had received improper payments for his political work in Ukraine, allegations that he has denied.”
-- Marco Rubio said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that he does not believe Trump is going to fire Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein from the ongoing investigation into Russian election meddling: "That's not going to happen," Rubio told host Jake Tapper. "I don't believe it's going to happen." The Republican Florida senator also called on Trump and his staff to let the investigation run its course: "The best thing that could happen for the president and the country is a full and credible investigation," Rubio said. "If we want to put all of this behind us, let's find out what happened, let's put it out there and let's not undermine the credibility of this investigation."
-- ICYMI: Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen has hired his own attorney in the ongoing Russia probe. “Cohen confirmed Friday … that he has retained Stephen M. Ryan, a Washington-based lawyer from the law firm McDermott, Will & Emery who has experience prosecuting criminal cases as an assistant U.S. attorney,” Philip Rucker and Rosalind S. Helderman report. Cohen’s hiring of Ryan is the latest indication that the Russia probe is widening, and could end up focusing on a number of Trump associates both inside and outside the White House.
-- The intensification of the Russia probes has only made the president more defiant in his denouncements of what he calls “the witch hunt.” CNN’s Stephen Collinson reports: “The investigation has taken a serious turn in recent days, raising the clear possibility that whether Mueller finds wrongdoing or not, a period of political stress and upheaval is inevitable. Trump appears willing to test the bounds of convention and his own powers against a legal and political establishment that he believes is conspiring against him. The higher the pressure, the more defiant the President becomes … The scorched-earth approach may have grave political consequences. Trump and his aides may well end up in the clear, but months of recriminations ahead will further polarize the capital and cast a shadow over his administration, which is already struggling for traction after a tumultuous first five months.”
-- New polling suggests the president’s ongoing Russia drama is damaging his standing among even his most ardent supporters. The Hill’s Niall Stanage reports: “The number of Trump supporters who say they back him ‘strongly’ has dropped in many polls. In the new Associated Press poll, fully one-quarter of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents disapproved of Trump’s job performance, while nearly a third said he has little or no respect for America’s democratic institutions. Those [figures] should be troubling to the White House, given that serving presidents often enjoy approval ratings of around 90 percent among supporters of their own party. [One] GOP strategist, said the change showing up in the polls is often a precursor to a broader loss of support.”
-- Trump will meet with 20 high-profile CEOs in the technology sector today to kick off “tech week,” as the administration attempts to refocus on the agenda despite the constant barrage of Russia-related headlines. Reuters’ David Shepardson reports: “White House officials said on a conference call on Friday that the administration believed there was an ‘economic opportunity’ to save up to $1 trillion over 10 years by significantly cutting government information technology costs, reducing government costs through improved IT, leveraging government buying power and cutting fraud across government agencies. The meeting with nearly 20 chief executives comes as the White House pushes to shrink government, cut federal employees and eliminate regulations. Many business executives are eager to work with the new administration as they face numerous regulatory and other policy issues.”
-- The United States shot down a Syrian government fighter jet yesterday, marking the first time the Pentagon has approved the takedown of a manned hostile aircraft in more than 10 years. Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Kareem Fahim report: “The Pentagon said the downing of the aircraft came hours after Syrian loyalist forces attacked U.S.-backed fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, in the village of Ja’Din, southwest of Raqqa. The rare attack … signaled the United States’ sharply intensifying role in Syria’s war. The incident is the fourth time within a month that the U.S. military has attacked pro-Syrian government forces. A statement distributed by the Syrian military said that the aircraft’s lone pilot was killed in the attack and that the jet was carrying out a mission against the Islamic State.”
-- Iraqi forces have begun their assault against ISIS in Mosul’s Old City. Loveday Morris and Mustafa Salim report: “Over the past eight months, the [ISIS] militants have been gradually corralled into the Old City — an area of little more than a square mile on the western banks of the Tigris River. The loss of their last foothold in Mosul, once the largest city the militants controlled, will strike a huge symbolic blow to the Islamic State. It was in the Old City’s Great Mosque of al-Nuri that the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared the formation of a caliphate three years ago. Since then the group has lost the majority of its territory in Iraq, while an offensive for Raqqa, the Islamic State’s Syrian capital, began last month. However, despite the losses few expect an easy fight for the last few inches of Mosul, where the United Nations estimates that as many as 150,000 civilians remain trapped.”
-- As U.S. military officials complete plans likely to send thousands of additional troops to Afghanistan, a flurry of recent setbacks in the country have underscored both the imperative of action – and the pitfalls of various approaches. Pamela Constable and Sayed Salahuddin report: “Further complicating the picture are questions about how to deal with neighboring Pakistan and balance separate fights against Afghan and foreign-based insurgents. In the latest attack Sunday morning, Taliban fighters stormed a police base in southeastern Paktia province after detonating a suicide car bomb outside. At least five security forces and several civilians were killed, officials said. The attack came one day after an Afghan army commando shot and wounded seven U.S. troops inside an army base ... Almost every week seems to bring alarming and embarrassing developments that cast doubt on the ability of Afghan security forces to protect the public and make headway against the domestic Taliban insurgency and the more ruthless [ISIS] militia … The Saturday shooting was one of several recent insider attacks that are raising new concerns about poor vetting and conflicting loyalties, even among the elite Afghan special operations forces that the U.S. military sees as crucial to boosting the war effort.”
-- A fuller picture is emerging of the USS Fitzgerald's final moments before its collision with a merchant ship. Anna Fifield reports: "One of the Navy’s most advanced ships, the Aegis guided-missile destroyer was equipped with the latest and most sophisticated radar equipment. Onboard the 8,315-ton vessel was a crew of 300. On the bridge, a full complement of officers and enlisted personnel was on duty. The commanding officer, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, was in his cabin, on the starboard side. It was about 2 a.m. … Early Saturday morning, the [merchant ship] — for reasons that have not been explained — swung around 180 degrees in that busy waterway and doubled back on its course, heading nearly due west. Minutes later, just before 2:20 a.m., the much larger container ship hit the U.S. warship broadside, just about amidships on the starboard rail, the Navy said. The freighter punched a wide hole into the Fitzgerald, breaching two compartments below the waterline where there were berths for 116 sailors, as well as a machinery room."
-- Investigations into how the accident could have occurred have already begun. Anna Fifield reports: “There are now multiple investigations into the accident, from both the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard as well as the Japan’s Coast Guard and its Transport Safety Board … The investigators will be questioning the crew of the USS Fitzgerald … Three investigators for Japan’s Transport Safety Board had inspected the container ship inside and out, said spokeswoman Yuko Watanabe. It was not clear when or if Japanese investigators would be able to check the Fitzgerald or talk to its crew.”
-- The names of the seven sailors who died in the collision were released yesterday. They are:
- Gunner's Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, from Palmyra, Virginia
- Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, from San Diego
- Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, from Oakville, Connecticut
- Gunner's Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, from Weslaco, Texas
- Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, from Chula Vista, California
- Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, from Halethorpe, Maryland
- Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, from Elyria, Ohio
MCCONNELL WANTS A HEALTH-CARE VOTE:
-- Mitch McConnell is dead-set on forcing a Senate health-care vote by July 4. Axios’s Jonathan Swan reports: “Some senators want to delay the vote but McConnell views that as delaying the inevitable. There are no mysteries about what the toughest disagreements are over — Medicaid funding and insurance market regulations. This week is crucial: the Senate won't vote without a CBO score, which means they need to finalize negotiations this week. Behind-the-scenes: McConnell and Senate leaders have been at this for all of May and now [the] first couple weeks of June … They've whittled down the stack of items that people don't agree on. I've spoken to a number of people who know McConnell well who speculate that he'll force a vote regardless of whether he knows he has 50 votes. They say he's desperate to move on to tax reform and can't have healthcare hanging around like a bad smell through the summer.”
-- But at least one Republican senator, Marco Rubio, publicly criticized the secrecy surrounding health-care negotiations. He said on "Face the Nation:" “The Senate is not a place where you can just cook up something behind closed doors and rush it for a vote … So the first step in this may be crafted among a small group of people, but then everyone's going to get to weigh in."
Bernie Sanders also lambasted the Republicans' approach on "Face the Nation." He said: "Throwing 23 million people off of health insurance is beyond belief. Now, in the Senate what you have is you have I believe it is 10 Republicans working behind closed doors to address 1/6th of the American economy… The average Republican doesn't even know what's in that legislation … My understanding is that it will be brought forth just immediately before we have to vote on it. This is completely unacceptable."
-- “An organization that opposes the Republican effort to repeal and replace key parts of the Affordable Care Act is pressuring five GOP senators not to vote for the emerging legislation in a new $1.5 million ad campaign that begins Monday,” Sean Sullivan reports: “Community Catalyst Action Fund, which bills itself as a consumer health organization, is targeting Sens. Lisa Murkowski, Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, Dean Heller, and [Shelley Capito] with television and radio ads urging them to vote no. The ad campaign comes as other organizations are ramping up opposition to the Senate GOP effort. Last week, a coalition of medical and consumer groups held an event in Cleveland that was billed as the first of a series of gatherings to speak out against a bill that passed the GOP-controlled House and the direction that Republican senators appear to be heading. The coalition — which includes AARP, two hospital associations and four disease-fighting organizations — has said it will convene events in at least three other states in coming weeks, with the next one Wednesday in Reno, Nev. …”
PERSONNEL IS POLICY:
-- A spokesman for the Trump administration confirmed Sunday that controversial Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke has withdrawn his name from consideration as assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security. "Sheriff Clarke is 100 percent committed to the success of [Trump] and believes his skills could be better utilized to promote the president’s agenda in a more aggressive role,” an adviser to Clarke told The Post’s Abby Phillip on Saturday. The news comes after Clarke’s appointment -- initially expected to start at the end of June -- had been subject to “significant delays." Clarke has been accused of plagiarism and has also drawn backlash for conditions in his jails that left one mentally ill inmate dead.
-- As Trump’s distrust of bureaucratic Washington continues, he demands more facetime with his chosen Cabinet members. Politico’s Tara Palmeri and Andrew Restuccia report: “The CIA director’s treks to the West Wing reflect Trump’s insistence on frequent meetings with favored members of his team. Every president has regular contact with key Cabinet members, but Trump, who remains deeply mistrustful of career agency officials, has turned the White House into a hangout for his chosen department heads … But for Trump’s Cabinet members, proximity is a plus. Being physically present at the White House ensures that they have a say in policymaking — and serves as an indication of status with the president. While Pompeo, Tillerson, and others like Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly are frequent White House visitors, some Cabinet secretaries have had little interaction with Trump, including Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.”
-- Female and minority recruits to the State Department were informed last week that they would not be able to soon join the Foreign Service as promised. Josh Rogin reports: “The recruits, who are part of the State Department’s Rangel and Pickering fellowship programs, have already completed two years of graduate-level education at U.S. taxpayers’ expense plus an internship, often in a foreign country. The deal they struck with the federal government was that after completing their educations they would be given an inside track to become full-fledged U.S. diplomats abroad if they also satisfied medical and security requirements. In turn, they promised to commit at least five years to the Foreign Service … Many were shocked when they received a letter telling them they had one week to decide if they wanted to take a much less appealing job — stamping passports in a foreign embassy for two years — with the prospect but no guarantee of becoming a Foreign Service officer even after that.”
-- Six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS have publicly announced their resignation in a joint letter, which was published in Newsweek and titled, “Trump doesn’t care about HIV. We’re outta here.” The Hill’s Jacqueline Thomsen reports: “The group said that the administration ‘has no strategy’ to address HIV/AIDS, doesn’t consult experts when working on policy and “pushes legislation that will harm people living with HIV and halt or reverse important gains …’ They also said that the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal bill will dramatically hurt those with HIV/AIDS, making it the ‘final straw for us — more like a two-by-four than a straw’ in deciding to leave the council.”
A NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- The political party of French President Emmanuel Macron, formed only a year ago, secured a decisive victory in the second round of parliamentary elections yesterday, but a record-low turnout may mar Macron's mandate. Ishaan Tharoor reports: “French President Emmanuel Macron pulled off something extraordinary in 2017 … Macron's Republic on the Move party … was projected to win at least 355 of 577 seats in Parliament — a commanding majority. The center-right Republicans will be his main opposition, albeit with a shrunken total of about 125 seats … Macron's critics suggest that historically low turnout — particularly among young people and the working class — casts his mandate into doubt. But the new makeup of the French Parliament still signals a profound moment of affirmation for Macron, who championed a ‘neither left nor right’ brand of politics at a time when the centrist status quo seems under siege across the West.”
-- Macron’s victory sent European stocks on their highest rise in two months, Reuters’ Marc Jones reports.
-- Brexit discussions formally begin today, as E.U. leaders fear that Prime Minister Theresa May no longer has enough of a political mandate to reach a deal. The Guardian’s Dan Roberts, Jennifer Rankin and Daniel Boffey report from Brussels: “As officials began gathering in Brussels on Sunday night, the long-awaited start of negotiations was overshadowed by political chaos back in Westminster, where chancellor Philip Hammond warned that failing to strike a deal would be ‘a very, very bad outcome.’ The EU side fears that, in reality, the British government will struggle to maintain any position without falling apart in the coming months, because, without support from the Democratic Unionist party, May’s negotiating hand is limited. There are also concerns that any DUP backing to give May a majority in the House of Commons would come with strings attached."
-- Rumors have started swirling around who might replace May if she’s forced to resign. The two top contenders are Boris Johnson and David Davis. Business Insider’s Adam Becket reports: “May is under huge pressure to turn her fortunes around after her plan to increase her parliamentary majority in this month's election spectacularly backfired … The prime minister has also faced severe criticism over her handling of last week's Grenfell Tower fire, in which she decided not to meet residents affected by the tragedy, unlike the Queen and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Brexit Secretary Davis — who begins negotiations with the EU on Monday morning — is seen by Tories within the parliamentary party as the ‘unity candidate’ to succeed May and lead the country.”
-- Davis arrived in Brussels this morning and expressed his hope that the talks would lead to a "new, deep and special partnership" between Britain and the EU. Reuters’ Alastair Macdonald and Elizabeth Piper report: “Beaming as he met the European Union's chief negotiator Michel Barnier at the EU executive's Berlaymont headquarters, the veteran campaigner for Britain to quit the bloc said he aimed for a ‘positive and constructive’ tone in the talks, adding: ‘There is more that unites us than divides us.’ Barnier, a former French minister, has voiced impatience in the past that Britain has taken nearly a year to open talks. Looking more somber than his British counterpart, he said he hoped they could agree a format and timetable on Monday.”
-- Israel has been providing secret aid to Syrian rebels—in the form of cash, food, fuel and medical supplies—for years. The Wall Street Journal’s Rory Jones, Noam Raydan and Suha Ma’ayeh report: “The Israeli army is in regular communication with rebel groups and its assistance includes undisclosed payments to commanders that help pay salaries of fighters and buy ammunition and weapons … Israel has established a military unit that oversees the support in Syria—a country that it has been in a state of war with for decades—and set aside a specific budget for the aid … Interviews with half a dozen rebels and three people familiar with Israel’s thinking reveal that the country’s involvement is much deeper and more coordinated than previously known and entails direct funding of opposition fighters near its border for years.”
-- Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said that it had launched missiles at Syria in retaliation for this month’s attacks on Tehran, which were claimed by ISIS. AP’s Nasser Karimi reports: “Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on Monday issued a stark warning to IS militants, saying that any future attack against Iran will result in more powerful launches … Iran has been involved in Syria’s long-running civil war, in which it has backed embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad. Iranian state television quoted Gen. Ramazan Sharif on Monday as saying that ‘if they (IS) carry out a specific action to violate our security, definitely there will be more launches, with intensified strength.’”
-- At least two tourists were shot and killed at a resort popular with Westerners outside Mali’s capital yesterday. CNN’s Joseph Netto, Farai Sevenzo and Darran Simon report: “Three UN staff members were injured and taken to a hospital … In an earlier statement, Mali's Ministry of Security and Civil Protection said the resort attack was carried out by ‘armed individuals, certainly terrorists.’"
Mali announced this morning that all four terrorists involved in the attack have been killed. AP’s Baba Ahmed reports: “Authorities had said that security forces initially killed at least three assailants, and a fourth had escaped. [Mali’s security minister] confirmed that at least a fourth had been killed by Monday morning. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, which took place amid the final week of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.”
-- North Korea accused the United States of “literally mugging” a diplomatic delegation they had sent to a U.N. conference at JFK on Friday. CNN’s Brad Lendon reports: “In a report published Sunday, Pyongyang's state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) accused US Department of Homeland Security officers and airport police of taking a diplomatic package away from the delegation, which it said carried a valid diplomatic courier certificate. KCNA called the incident "an illegal and heinous act of provocation," adding that US authorities behaved like ‘gangsters.’ The US Department of Homeland Security confirmed that a group of three North Koreans was confronted at JFK, but said they did not hold diplomatic status. [A DHS statement said,] ‘According to the US State Department, the North Korean citizens were not accredited members of North Korea's Mission to the UN and had no entitlement to diplomatic immunity.’”
DISPATCHES FROM TRUMP’S AMERICA:
-- When Trump first launched his presidential bid by coming down an escalator at Trump Tower in June 2015, America couldn’t look away. But two years later, Trump is struggling to keep his viewers engaged. Jenna Johnson takes the pulse among some of his most adamant supporters: “Governing turns out to be less entertaining than the spectacle of a political horse race — especially when complicated by conflict-of-interest scandals, a widening criminal inquiry and a policy agenda bogged down by infighting and partisanship. [Still], the president’s die-hard supporters — the sort who make a pilgrimage to Trump Tower to ride the golden escalator — say they tune out much of the controversy ... And while many of them say Trump has met their expectations during his first five months in office, they also have a sinking feeling that those obstructing him will keep him from reaching his full potential as president.”
“I wish the media would back off, because they’re very negative and anything he does they want to pick apart,” said Lori Vanauken of Florida, who, along with her husband, believe the president’s word over ousted FBI director James Comey and others. Even if Trump did tell Comey to stop investigating Michael Flynn, the couple added, it’s “no big deal”: “Okay, so something happened — get over it and move on,” said husband David Vanauken. “That’s what middle-class people do every day: You have a struggle, you resolve it, and you move on. Don’t keep hanging on it.”
-- Despite Trump’s rough start, much of his base in Blue Earth County, Minn. -- which overwhelmingly backed Obama in 2012 but flipped narrowly for Trump in November -- continues to stand by the man they helped elect president. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s John Reinan reports: “’I think he’ll get this country straightened out,’ said Don Marben, 74 … ‘He calls a spade a spade.’ It’s a sentiment echoing across this southern Minnesota county … [reflecting] a base of support that’s still evident in national polls, as well as an April Star Tribune poll, which found that 87 percent of Trump voters approved of his performance so far. Though Trump’s first months in office have been turbulent, his most fervent supporters in Blue Earth County are digging in and swinging back. Congressional investigations into the Russia affair? Fake news. Health care? If the politicians get out of the way, Trump will fix it ...” “My view of Trump is not ever gonna change,” said 37-year-old Brenda Sanderson.
-- Scott Pruitt has pledged to prioritize cleaning up nuclear waste dumps, but the communities affected by such dumps are skeptical. Brady Dennis reports: “Dawn Chapman had listened with surprise and skepticism as the new head of the [EPA] vowed to clean up West Lake, the nuclear waste dump that has filled her days and nights with worry. ‘We’re going to get things done at West Lake,’ [Scott Pruitt stressed on a local radio show]. ‘The days of talking are over.’ [But] on a blue-sky afternoon, Chapman sat in her small home in this leafy St. Louis suburb and mulled the latest set of promises from Washington — this time from a man known more for suing the EPA and rolling back environmental regulations than for cracking down on pollution. ‘Why our site? Why now? Can he keep those promises?’ the mother of three wondered. In Bridgeton and elsewhere, others are asking similar questions with various degrees of hope and hesitation. [But] with more than 1,300 Superfund sites nationwide … it’s unclear how Pruitt will back up his professed commitment in an age of scorched-earth budgets …”
-- An Ohio town that welcomes migrant agricultural laborers every year has been ripped apart by the immigration debate. The New York Times' Miriam Jordan reports: "The first sign of discontent came earlier in the year, when the Willard Area Chamber of Commerce was planning a welcome-back party for the migrants, most of whom come from Mexico and other countries farther south … At the chamber’s February meeting, everyone seemed on board … But after a local newspaper published an article about the event in March, a far less welcoming response emerged, one rooted in the vigorous national debate over illegal immigration that brought President Trump to office. Some Willard residents complained that Hispanic workers did not deserve any special treatment, and that those without papers ought to be met not with open arms, but rather with handcuffs … By the April chamber meeting, enthusiasm for the party had waned as the controversy grew and local business leaders feared that it might attract protesters. At May’s meeting, the festival was called off."
-- “A small-town American left Belleville, Ill., and turned his weapons on Washington,” by Peter Holley and Kurt Shillinger: “On the western edge of town, where midcentury suburban streets give way to cornfields and farms, a weathered barn sits among neat rows of soybeans. This bucolic stretch was long accessible only via a gravel lane, and the barn was one of the only buildings. But this week the town’s genteel rhythm was disrupted by news that one of its residents had opened fire on Republican congressmen and their aides hundreds of miles away in the Washington suburbs. Suddenly the old barn became the backdrop for a two-day scrum of television news crews down the road from the shooter’s house. The cafes downtown buzzed about [James Hodgkinson, who many] recognized as ‘Tom’ but whom few knew well. ‘He was just another working stiff, a guy I would sit next to at a bar and have a beer with,’ said Greg Oliver, who once sold new carpeting to Hodgkinson … ‘He seemed average in every way.’ [And] while the national landscape is dotted with communities relabeled by an act of gun violence in their midst, [the shooter from Belleville] might represent something different: a moment when a small-town American, fueled by radical partisanship and economic frustration, turned his weaponry on Washington."
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
The president offered his condolences Saturday to the families of the sailors who died on the USS Fitzgerald:
But he returned to Twitter the next day to talk up poll numbers from the Republican-leaning Rasmussen Reports and criticize the "Witch Hunt" led by the special counsel:
The MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN agenda is doing very well despite the distraction of the Witch Hunt. Many new jobs, high business enthusiasm,..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2017
...massive regulation cuts, 36 new legislative bills signed, great new S.C.Justice, and Infrastructure, Healthcare and Tax Cuts in works!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2017
The new Rasmussen Poll, one of the most accurate in the 2016 Election, just out with a Trump 50% Approval Rating.That's higher than O's #'s!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2017
He also retweeted this article from his son:
And, later in the day, he extolled the virtues of Camp David, which he visited for the first time this weekend:
Camp David is a very special place. An honor to have spent the weekend there. Military runs it so well and are so proud of what they do!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 18, 2017
Many Twitter users complained that the president was tweeting about polls when sailors had died:
It linked to this article.
Some Mexicans have a sense of humor about Trump's wall:
And this appeared on a heavily-traveled highway near Washington:
There was misdirected Trump anger at theaters with the name "Shakespeare" in it meant for a New York theater staging a production of Julius Caesar with a Trump look-alike:
Dear Trump Supporters: Stop calling for boycotts of "this playwright behind Julius Caesar." He's rather dead. For the last 400 years.— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) June 17, 2017
An important day in presidential and journalistic history:
Past and present lawmakers celebrated Father’s Day with their loved ones:
And a news organization joined the Father's Day fun:
When does a Dad joke become a Dad joke?— NPR (@NPR) June 18, 2017
When it becomes apparent.
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- NBC News, “Memo Shows Watergate Prosecutors Had Evidence Nixon White House Plotted Violence,” by Ari Melber, Noel Hartman and Liz Johnstone: “Watergate prosecutors had evidence that operatives for then-President Richard Nixon planned an assault on anti-war demonstrators in 1972, including potentially physically attacking Vietnam whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, according to a never-before-published memo obtained by NBC News. The document, an 18-page 1973 investigative memorandum from the Watergate Special Prosecution Force, sheds new light on how prosecutors were investigating attempts at domestic political violence by Nixon aides, an extremely serious charge.”
-- The New Yorker, “An Unquiet Week in Washington,” by Steve Coll: “The President was praised for his dignified, conciliatory message. Then, the next morning, he returned to trolling. Repeating a charge that he has made before, he tweeted that the F.B.I. and congressional investigations of his campaign and his Administration constitute ‘the single greatest witch hunt in American political history.’ At this point, it feels unnecessary to analyze Trump’s incongruities. He believes that lashing out at opponents strengthens him, and he does not respect the integrity of prosecutors, judges, intelligence officers, or even his own Cabinet appointees. No other President in the television era has humiliated his Cabinet the way Trump did last Tuesday, when he invited cameras to record members praising and thanking him.”
-- Buzzfeed News, “The Man Who Secretly Taped Planned Parenthood Could Be Going To Prison — Alongside His Criminal Lawyers,” by Ema O’Connor: “Late last month, David Daleiden and his team of criminal attorneys allegedly flouted multiple injunctions and court-issued seals by posting more shocking videos of abortion providers and identifying 14 of the John/Jane Does participating in the state criminal complaint against him and his recording partner Sandra Merritt. Those names were previously under a court seal. This apparent defiance of court orders may end up landing Daleiden and his criminal attorneys in contempt of both state and federal court, potentially resulting in fines and jail time — and disbarment for the lawyers.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“9/11 recovery worker from Queens targeted by ICE for deportation,” from the New York Daily News: “A Queens man put his health on the line to help remove hazardous material from Ground Zero — and now immigration authorities want him removed from the country over a 30-year-old criminal case. Carlos Humberto Cardona, 48, was one of about 41,300 people ICE agents took into custody during the first 100 days of the Trump administration. But Cardona is fighting for his freedom — with a Brooklyn federal lawsuit and a state clemency bid. ‘I can’t believe that this is happening to him after all of the sacrifices he has made.’ [said] Cardona’s wife Liliana … ‘He’s very much an American,” Rajesh Barua, Cardona’s attorney, told The News. ‘He’s scared of going back to Colombia. He doesn’t know how he'll maintain a living and what kind of treatment he’ll have for respiratory problems [after inhaling fumes at the World Trade Center…]’”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Caitlyn Jenner Jokes After Alexandria Shooting: ‘Liberals Can’t Even Shoot Straight,” from the Daily Caller: “Caitlyn Jenner joked that ‘liberals can’t even shoot straight’ after [Steve Scalise] and four other people were shot during a congressional baseball practice Wednesday. ‘Nobody deserves what happened out there,’ Jenner said when asked at the [CRNC] gala about the shooting in Alexandria … ‘As far as the people that were injured, it’s an absolute shame,’ she continued. ‘Fortunately the guy was a really bad shot … liberals can’t even shoot straight.’ Jenner also praised Capital Police Officer Crystal Griner, who’s credited with stepping into the line of fire to help stop the shooter. [President Trump and Melania] brought flowers to Griner and her wife at the hospital last week where she was recovering. ‘She did her job,’ Jenner explained. ‘She wasn’t thinking about LGBT issues, she wasn’t thinking about any of those types of things. She did her job and she did it well.'"
President Trump and the first lady will meet with Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela and his wife in the morning. Trump will then attend an American Technology Council roundtable with top CEOs to kick off “Tech Week” at the White House.
Vice President Pence will attend both the president’s luncheon with Varela and the CEO roundtable, and he has a dinner planned with Speaker Ryan in the evening.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Trump's lawyer, Jay Sekulow, repeatedly contradicted himself during his interview with Fox's Chris Wallace yesterday. When discussing the president's decision to fire Jim Comey, Sekulow said, “The president takes action based on numerous events, including recommendations from his attorney general and the deputy attorney general’s office. He takes the action that they also, by the way, recommended. And now he's being investigated by the Department of Justice because the special counsel under the special counsel relations reports still to the Department of Justice. Not an independent counsel. So he's being investigated for taking the action that the attorney general and deputy attorney general recommended him to take by the agency who recommended the termination. So that's the constitutional threshold question here. That’s why, as I said, no investigation…”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- The daytime clouds could coalesce into thunderstorms in the late afternoon or early evening, the Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “It’s mostly cloudy and muggy through early afternoon or so, as temperatures make steady progress into the 80s. Between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., thunderstorms are likely – some of which may produce torrential rain and damaging wind gusts.”
-- The Nationals lost to the Mets 5-1, largely thanks to a stellar pitching performance from the Mets’ Jacob deGrom.
-- In happier Nats news, pitcher Max Scherzer’s wife announced yesterday that they were expecting a baby in November. She wrote on Twitter: “Happy Father’s Day to the best dad-to-be we could ask for!”
-- A noose was found hanging on the National Mall, the third in recent weeks. Martin Weil reports: “The noose was hanging from a lamppost near the National Gallery of Art, said Sgt. Anna Rose, spokeswoman for the U.S. Park Police. She said it was found about 3 p.m. near Third Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW.”
-- Ten Maryland legislators are proposing a radical overhaul of Metro’s board and a flexible, equitably shared funding plan that would yield the $500 million in dedicated funding proposed by Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld. Faiz Siddiqui and Robert McCartney report: “In a 29-page Metro reform proposal to be released Monday, the lawmakers, who are from Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, call for significant governance and oversight changes, and separate, $170 million annual payments from Maryland, Virginia and the District to support Metro’s long-term needs. The funds would be put into a new “capital trust fund” that would allow for bonding, substantially increasing Metro’s long-term borrowing abilities. The proposal does not lay out a specific funding mechanism, leaving it to each jurisdiction to determine how to come up with its share — an acknowledgment of the significant disagreements over how to support the troubled system’s financial needs."
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
The Post looked at how McConnell’s comments on health care today compare to seven years ago, when Obamacare passed:
Rex Tillerson said that, despite the deep budget cuts proposed for the State Department, he remains "confident" they can achieve their goals:
Seattle police shot and killed a pregnant woman named Charleena Lyles yesterday. The officers claim she was holding a knife:
Newt Gingrich has been repeating his anecdote that Trump compared the cost of a presidential campaign to the cost of a yacht. He shared the story with The Daily 202 back in December:
Sen. Ben Sasse offered some perspective on parenthood for Father's Day: