With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: With all the ballots counted, Republican Karen Handel won the most expensive House race in U.S. history by 3.8 percentage points. That’s a larger margin of victory than the 1.5 points that Donald Trump carried Georgia’s 6th Congressional District by last November.
Handel even wound up winning by a greater margin than the GOP candidate in an unexpectedly close special election to replace OMB Director Mick Mulvaney in South Carolina that had not been on the national radar.
The suburban district north of Atlanta is ruby red and has been in GOP hands since Newt Gingrich won it in 1979, but that does not make Jon Ossoff’s defeat any less devastating for Democrats struggling to find their way in the Trump era.
Dem member of Congress eyeing results texts to ask Q on many Dem minds: "Lots of 'moral victories.' But when do we get actual victories???"— Gabriel Debenedetti (@gdebenedetti) June 21, 2017
-- Last night was a wake-up call for Democrats that they still need to home in on an effective anti-Trump message. Seth Moulton, the Democratic congressman from Massachusetts who has been flirting with a longshot 2020 presidential bid, seized on the results:
#Ossof Race better be a wake up call for Democrats - business as usual isn't working. Time to stop rehashing 2016 and talk about the future.— Seth Moulton (@sethmoulton) June 21, 2017
We need a genuinely new message, a serious jobs plan that reaches all Americans, and a bigger tent not a smaller one. Focus on the future.— Seth Moulton (@sethmoulton) June 21, 2017
-- The results are already prompting Democratic recriminations, as the Bernie Sanders wing of the party pushes the establishment to get behind more liberal candidates. Initially, Ossoff’s mantra was “Make Trump Furious.” But he rarely talked about the president toward the end of the contest because he needed to win over moderate Republicans and didn’t want to motivate low-propensity Trump voters to turn out against him. He modulated his rhetoric, calling for fiscal conservatism in his ads and focusing on jobs. He avoided hot-button issues and called for civility.
Liberal activists and their allied outside groups are grumbling that Ossoff moderated too much, and they’ve been complaining for weeks that the national party apparatus invested more to help him than outspokenly liberal candidates in Montana and Kansas special elections. “The best way for Democrats to maximize gains in 2018 — especially in purple and red districts — is to harness the power of the resistance and field candidates who proudly challenge power,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
From the executive director of the National Nurses union and a prominent Bernie supporter:
Dear Democrats. Can we talk? Georgia on my mind... pic.twitter.com/iokFp9cyEr— RoseAnn DeMoro (@RoseAnnDeMoro) June 21, 2017
-- “Ossoff chose the high priest route instead of the fierce warrior. It was civil disobedience rather than civil unrest. And he still lost,” Paul Kane writes in a dispatch from Sandy Springs, Ga. “Privately, Democratic strategists said even before the votes were counted Tuesday that Ossoff’s civility campaign would be mirrored only in more Republican-leaning districts, and that a more aggressive anti-Trump campaign would be waged by candidates in longtime swing districts.”
-- The outcome demonstrated that two political fundamentals remain true: Attack ads work, and candidates matter.
Democrats pinned their hopes on a 30-year-old who had never run for office before and didn’t even live in the district. Ossoff became more dynamic on the stump as the race dragged on, but his lack of a record made it easy to caricature him. He was a vessel through which Democrats channeled their hopes, but he lacked charisma. As a former CNN reporter who now runs Snapchat’s news division memorably put it:
Jon Ossoff. There hasn't been this much grassroots excitement for an unexciting candidate since Ned Lamont was marching around Connecticut— Peter Hamby (@PeterHamby) April 18, 2017
Handel, 55, has been a fixture of local politics for 15 years. She chaired the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, served as Georgia secretary of state and narrowly lost GOP primaries to become governor in 2010 and then senator in 2014. She had the baggage that comes with being a career politician, but her deep roots and relationships certainly helped far more than they hurt. She was a known commodity who came into the race with high name identification.
In conceding, Ossoff stressed that winning was always against the odds:
We showed the world that in places no one even thought it was possible to fight, we can fight. And we will fight.— Jon Ossoff (@ossoff) June 21, 2017
Total spending in the race topped $50 million. National Republican groups poured resources into the race to offset Ossoff’s impressive online fundraising. In the end, from the April primary through yesterday’s election, both sides were equally matched on the airwaves. Republicans spent $12 million and Democrats spent $12.2 million, according to sources tracking the air war.
Nancy Pelosi was a huge drag on Ossoff. The most prominent and effective hit on the Democratic candidate was to tie him to the congresswoman from San Francisco.
Republican operatives say that 98 percent of voters in the 6th District already had an impression of Pelosi when they conducted their first internal poll, and she was 35 points underwater. When presented with the choice of whether they wanted a representative who would work with Paul Ryan or Pelosi, six in 10 picked the Speaker and three in 10 picked the minority leader.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned closely with Ryan, spent more than $7 million in Georgia. “CLF tied Ossoff to Pelosi and her liberal agenda early and often, echoing the message on television, digital and radio advertising, as well as campaign literature and direct mail,” Corry Bliss, executive director of the group, writes in an after-action report that will be widely distributed later today. Other outside groups and Handel also focused on this theme.
Dave Weigel obtained the mailers that the group sent into the district, and Pelosi is dominant in each. Here are three examples of how they used her:
Some Democrats expressed concern last night that Pelosi will be a drag on their hopes of winning the House next year. One liberal writer for Vox suggested last night that it is time for her to go:
Her four years as Speaker were a heroic triumph, but after tonight I think House Democrats need to think hard about the Pelosi Question.— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) June 21, 2017
Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff fired back:
Right, let's abandon the party's best $ raiser & consensus builder cause Rs don't like a Democratic woman that gets things done https://t.co/FkmGdUUKGx— Drew Hammill (@Drew_Hammill) June 21, 2017
Republican operatives, including the executive director of the NRSC, trolled Hammill by saying that they want Pelosi to stay on as leader forever:
Pelosi’s job is secure, but insiders say to expect a raucous House Democratic caucus meeting today when the results are discussed.
-- The results will embolden Trump and may convince him that he doesn’t need to course correct. A CBS News poll published yesterday showed that the president’s national job approval rating has slipped to 36 percent. Even among Republicans, his approval rating is 72 percent -- down 11 points since April. Yet as far as Trump’s concerned, he keeps winning – even when the polls and the pundits forecast doom. The GOP base clearly rallied behind Handel, and she closed strong in the final days of the campaign. Rightly or wrongly, the president perceives her victory as a mandate.
Trump stayed up late watching the returns come in and began live-tweeting as soon as it became clear that Handel would prevail:
Things are looking great for Karen H!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2017
Thank you @FoxNews "Huge win for President Trump and GOP in Georgia Congressional Special Election."— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2017
Congratulations to Karen Handel on her big win in Georgia 6th. Fantastic job, we are all very proud of you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2017
Well, the Special Elections are over and those that want to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN are 5 and O! All the Fake News, all the money spent = 0— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 21, 2017
A West Wing that has grown accustomed to losing news cycles was in a celebratory mood:
WH senior official, in a text just now: "They haven't figured out how to beat Trump"— Robert Costa (@costareports) June 21, 2017
A counselor to the president:
A deputy assistant to the president, on the National Security Council staff, took a screenshot of CNN hosts looking unhappy, suggesting that it was because of the results:
The First Sons joined in:
Media headlines this week should be: Democrats go 0-4 in special elections... voters reject socialism.— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) June 21, 2017
-- GOP leaders on Capitol Hill are relieved that Handel’s win will avert a collective freak-out of the rank-and-file. The results “may embolden Republicans in Washington to press ahead on an ambitious policy agenda that has yielded few legislative victories since Trump’s inauguration in January,” Robert Costa, Paul Kane and Elise Viebeck report. “Most immediately, the election result could bring momentum to Senate Republicans’ efforts this week to craft their version of a major revision to the Affordable Care Act. ‘We need to finish the drill on health care,’ Handel said during her victory speech” in Brookhaven, Ga.
“By any measure, the victory proves the Republican political machine is alive and working well,” GOP super lobbyist Ed Rogers argues on the PostPartisan blog. “This race proves Republicans have no reason to be defensive as a result of Obamacare’s demise, it shows Republicans have nothing to hide from in the age of Trump and it signifies that nothing about the current faux-scandal-ridden environment has produced a downdraft for Republicans.”
Republican lawmakers who have tough reelection races in 2018 will see Handel’s victory as proof that they can thread the needle when it comes to Trump. Handel hardly mentioned him, yet she was still able to win over his supporters. We saw the same dynamic at play in several 2016 contests, as well. As a political reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer notes:
In moderate PA burbs, Rs like Toomey, Meehan, Costello ran ahead of Trump in Nov. Same tonight. Voters distinguish typical Rs from POTUS— Jonathan Tamari (@JonathanTamari) June 21, 2017
And they've been working to create more distinctions. Dems pushing back on that, but they are trying to create some distance— Jonathan Tamari (@JonathanTamari) June 21, 2017
The political editor at National Journal makes another important observation:
Biggest short-term impact of a Handel win in #GA06? Heading off possible R retirements if GOP members feared a tsunami on its way.— Josh Kraushaar (@HotlineJosh) June 21, 2017
-- Bigger picture: Perhaps the GOP House majority isn’t as vulnerable as some people have been saying. But veteran Republican operatives also warn against overreading the lessons of one special election. There are many districts that will be a lot tougher for Republicans to hold than Georgia’s Sixth next November.
Ken Spain recalls the 2010 cycle, when he was the communications director of the NRCC:
We lost PA-12 special in spring 2010. Tough loss and media said GOP was dead. Went on to win 63 seats six months later. #ThingsChange— Ken Spain (@Ken_Spain) June 21, 2017
Warning signs for both parties coming out of this race. Plenty of time to address over the next 17 months. Political enviro likely to change— Ken Spain (@Ken_Spain) June 21, 2017
Only 22 seats Rs hold that Clinton won. If Ds can't win #GA06 w/unlimited $, will be tough to run table next Nov. Not impossible but tough.— Ken Spain (@Ken_Spain) June 21, 2017
A Los Angeles Times reporter puts it more starkly:
Dems won first 7 special elections in Obama admin. Lost House in 2010 https://t.co/tyjDwWleWX— Mike Memoli (@mikememoli) June 21, 2017
From the conservative editor of Commentary Magazine:
Two things can be true:1) '18 will be a Dem year; 2) Ds are having trouble winning in '17 which may mean '18 won't be as Dem as it could be— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) June 21, 2017
NBC’s senior political editor is looking to this November:
Don't forget -- 2017 isn't over. Nov features 2 GOV races, with the most impt one being VA.— Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) June 21, 2017
Dems losing in GA-6 puts more pressure on VA
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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Facing a shareholder revolt after a litany of recent scandals, Travis Kalanick resigned as the chief executive of Uber. Elizabeth Dwoskin reports: “Kalanick, who helped founded Uber in 2009 and led it to become one of Silicon Valley’s highest flying start-ups, will stay on Uber’s board of directors. ... He was asked to resign in a letter from five major shareholders. … The exit also comes amid the company’s search for a chief operating officer, a second in command who could take the reins from Kalanick. The COO role is one of many executive positions that remain unfilled, leaving questions about who will run Uber in Kalanick’s absence.”
-- Saudi Arabian King Salman named his son as the new crown prince, demoting his nephew in a move that could spark deep ramifications for the oil-rich nation and its Middle Eastern neighbors. Sudarsan Raghavan reports: “In a series of royal decrees, published in the Saudi state news agency, the monarch stripped Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef from his position … Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the new crown prince, will also become the kingdom’s deputy prime minister while retaining his control of the Defense Ministry and other portfolios. The decree all but confirms him as the next ruler of this key American ally and the Arab world’s largest economy. The surprise announcement arrives at a critical time for the Sunni Muslim kingdom as it grapples with the economic fallout from declining oil prices and a costly military campaign it leads against Shiite rebels in neighboring Yemen.”
GET SMART FAST:
- Ramsey County released dash cam footage of the traffic stop that ended in Philando Castile’s death. The video revealed that police officer Jeronimo Yanez began firing into Castile’s car seconds after learning he was armed. (Mark Berman and Wesley Lowery have the story and video)
- In just a single year, nearly 1.3 million Americans were treated at the hospital for opioid-related issues, according to new government data, reflecting a staggering 64 percent increase in inpatient care and a 99 percent jump in emergency-room treatment since 2005. (Joel Achenbach and Dan Keating)
- New CDC research shows a significant increase in the number of U.S. counties with mosquitoes capable of spreading Zika. Thirty-eight additional counties, mostly in Texas but as far north as Illinois, documented the presence of Zika’s most-common spreaders. (Lena H. Sun)
- Belgian soldiers shot and “neutralized” a man at a Brussels train station who they believe set off a small explosion. While no one was hurt, security forces believe they may have foiled a larger terrorist attack. (Michael Birnbaum and Annabell Van den Berghe)
- Suspected Taliban gunmen ambushed and killed eight Afghan guards as they headed to work at the U.S.-run Bagram air base, the latest in a recent spike of brazen militant attacks in the country. The assault comes as the United States completes plans to send several thousand more troops to Afghanistan. (Sayed Salahuddin)
- Trump’s net worth has dropped slightly from $3 billion last year to $2.9 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire’s Index. (Bloomberg)
- A Pennsylvania radio host quit his job after he was directed by his station manager not to criticize Trump on air, or else his show would be canceled. (Amy B Wang)
- Interpol has recovered one of the largest, most disturbing set of Nazi artifacts buried deep in the secret passageway of an Argentinian collector’s home. Objects discovered included a device used to measure heads — which Nazis believed could help distinguish a Jew from someone of “Aryan” race — as well as swastika-studded instruments and photos of Hitler holding the items. (Max Bearak)
- A European court struck down Russia’s ban on “gay propaganda,” ruling that the 2013 law is discriminatory and violates the European Convention on Human Rights. The ruling comes just weeks after numerous reports surfaced about the abduction and torture of Chechen citizens suspected of being gay. (Andrew Roth)
- As the Southwest experiences its worst heat wave in decades, temperatures in Arizona have climbed to a record 118 degrees, prompting complaints from seasoned desert-dwellers and even grounding dozens of flights. (Amy B Wang)
- Mattel announced it's creating a new line of diverse “Ken” dolls — allowing children to choose from a host of stylish new designs, which include three body types, seven skin tones, and nine hairstyles — including the so-called “man bun.” (ABC News)
- Daniel Day-Lewis said he is retiring from acting. His announcement came as a shock to many, who have long revered the veteran performer and Oscar winner as one of the greatest of all time. He the only person to ever win the “Best Actor” title three times. (AP)
- A Canadian bar is furious after a sticky-fingered patron made off with the signature ingredient in its most famous drink — a human toe. (Under longtime tradition, brave drinkers must touch lips with, but not swallow, the gnarled human digit.) “We are furious,” the bar’s designated “toe manager” said. “Toes are very hard to come by.” They’re planning to slap the thief with a hefty fine — but thankfully, employees said, they’ve also got a few backups. (CBC)
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Even though top U.S. officials were convinced in January that incoming national security adviser Michael Flynn was vulnerable to blackmail and was an “urgent problem,” he continued to receive briefings from CIA Director Mike Pompeo for three weeks, where he was read in on some of the nation’s most sensitive intelligence on a near-daily basis. The New York Times’ Matthew Rosenberg and Adam Goldman report: “Concerns across the government about Mr. Flynn were so great after Mr. Trump took office that six days after the inauguration … [former deputy attorney general Sally] Yates, warned the White House that Mr. Flynn had been ‘compromised.’ Mr. Trump waited 18 days from that warning before firing Mr. Flynn, a period in which Mr. Pompeo continued to brief Mr. Flynn and the president. A warning from Mr. Pompeo, may have persuaded the White House to take Ms. Yates’s concerns more seriously. Mr. Pompeo was sworn in three days before Ms. Yates went to the White House, [and] testified last month that he did not know what was said in that meeting. By that time, C.I.A. officials had attended meetings with F.B.I. agents about Mr. Flynn and reviewed the transcripts of his conversations with the Russian ambassador … Separately, intelligence agencies were aware that Russian operatives had discussed ways to use their relationship with Mr. Flynn to influence Mr. Trump. [And] Mr. Pompeo, who briefs the president nearly every day, had frequent opportunities to raise the issue with Mr. Trump.”
- Last month, Pompeo sidestepped Senate lawmakers who asked whether he knew about the CIA’s concerns about Flynn, telling lawmakers “I can’t answer yes or no.”
-- Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of possible financial ties between Russia and Trump associates may include probing a real-estate development firm called the Bayrock Group. Bloomberg’s Timothy L. O’Brien writes: “Bayrock partnered with the future president and his two eldest children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, on a series of real-estate deals between 2002 and about 2011, the most prominent being the troubled Trump Soho hotel and condominium in Manhattan. During the years that Bayrock and Trump did deals together, the company was also a bridge between murky European funding and a number of projects in the U.S. to which the president once leant his name in exchange for handsome fees. Icelandic banks that dealt with Bayrock, for example, were easy marks for money launderers and foreign influence.”
-- The attorney general is now lawyering up: Jeff Sessions has hired D.C. litigator and longtime friend Charles Cooper as his personal attorney. The move comes after several other White House officials, including Mike Pence, have sought outside counsel to protect their personal interests in Mueller's probe. Sari Horwitz reports: “Cooper was seen sitting behind Sessions when he testified last week before the Senate Intelligence Committee about [Trump] and Russia. ‘I do represent the Attorney General, but, as with all clients, do not comment on confidential client matters,’ Cooper [said in an email]. Cooper, a partner with his own firm, Cooper & Kirk, would not say when he was retained by Sessions or whether he is representing Sessions in the special counsel’s investigation into Trump and Russia …”
-- Meanwhile, Sean Spicer said during a White House press briefing Tuesday that he did “not know” whether Trump believes Russia interfered in the 2016 elections, despite the conclusion of 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that it did. Philip Rucker reports: “Spicer was asked a yes-or-no question near the end of a [briefing]: Does Trump believe the Russian government interfered in the 2016 election? ‘I have not sat down and talked to him about that specific thing,’ Spicer said. [After he was reminded] that 16 U.S. intelligence agencies had concluded that Russia did engage in cyber attacks to influence the election, Spicer said, ‘I understand. I've seen the reports.’” But when reporters pressed him on whether the president shares in that conclusion, Spicer said, “I have not sat down and asked him about his specific reaction to them.”
-- Both the Senate and House Intelligence Committees will hold public hearings today focused on the effects of Russian election interference at the state-level. The Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Ballhaus and Erica Orden report: “The hearings represent the most robust effort to date to elicit public testimony from state election officials concerning what federal officials have described as an aggressive and sustained effort by Russia to interfere with the 2016 election. Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, on Tuesday sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly pressing him to publicly disclose ‘which states were targeted, to ensure that they are fully aware of the threat, and to make certain that their cyber defenses are able to neutralize this danger.’”
-- Mueller met with House Intelligence Committee leaders K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.) and Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) on Tuesday evening, the lawmakers confirmed in a statement. The meeting comes as the two parties work to ensure Mueller’s work does not conflict with their probe. He is slated to meet today with leading members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as well as Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). (ABC News)
-- A CBS News poll found that a full 56 percent of voters believe Mueller’s investigation, which Trump has decried as a “witch hunt,” will be impartial, while more than 80 percent said Trump should not attempt to stop the special counsel’s investigation. Meanwhile, a third of voters now say Trump's approach to the Russia issue has made their opinion of him worse — contributing to the president's sky-high 57 percent disapproval rate.
... MEANWHILE, ON CAPITOL HILL:
--A bill extending financial sanctions on Russia, which overwhelmingly passed the Senate last week in a 98 to 2 vote, has hit a major procedural snag in the House. Mike DeBonis and Karoun Demirjian report: “[This] week, House staff flagged the bill for violating the constitutional provision that only the House can originate bills raising revenue for the government — creating what is known on Capitol Hill as a ‘blue slip’ violation. Fixing the issue might not be a simple matter, with unanimous consent required to expedite any Senate legislation and Republicans preparing to bring complex health-care legislation to the Senate floor.” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the bill’s sponsor, said Tuesday that he had not been informed of the issue: “You’re sharing something with me I’m not aware of,” he said. “We felt like we had adequately dealt with the blue-slip issue … I look forward to seeing what the complaint might be.”
“But the holdup comes amid a push by the Trump administration to delay or water down [sanctions] … and senators fear that the White House sees the House as a bottleneck where it can block the broader sanctions bill.”
DAMN THE TORPEDOES:
-- Senate Republicans expect to release a “discussion draft” of their health-care bill on Thursday and hold a vote next week, but the intense secrecy surrounding the negotiations has angered colleagues on both sides of the aisle. Sean Sullivan, Juliet Eilperin and Kelsey Snell report: “McConnell’s desire to wrap up before the Fourth of July recess reflects the sense of urgency among Republicans, including President Trump, to show progress on health care after years of vowing to ‘repeal and replace’ the Affordable Care Act … But even among Republicans … competing ideological goals have complicated Senate negotiations. Among the challenges in a messy drafting process: how to lower insurance premium costs and eliminate what some view as burdensome coverage mandates without increasing the number of uninsured Americans … Senate leaders hope to start debate by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week … yet it remains unclear whether McConnell has the 50 votes he needs … to pass the bill.”
- Republican Sen. Mike Lee even took to Facebook to vent his frustration over the lack of transparency. He said in a video: “Even though we thought we were going to be in charge of writing a bill within this working group, it’s not being written by us. It’s apparently being written by a small handful of staffers for members of the Republican leadership in the Senate. So if you’re frustrated by the lack of transparency in this process, I share your frustration. I share it wholeheartedly.”
-- The clandestine nature of the health-care talks, as well as the shortened timeline between the bill’s introduction and the vote, are key parts of McConnell’s strategy after watching the House struggle to pass its version of the AHCA. Amber Phillips writes: “Republicans might not be able to defend keeping their health-care bill secret until the last minute, but they have a reason for doing it: They're calculating that the blowback for keeping it secret is a lesser evil than the blowback for negotiating it in public … [And] opposition probably won't have time to coalesce … There will be about a week between the bill's introduction and a vote.”
-- The contents of the bill remain unclear, but the legislation will likely include deeper cuts to Medicaid than the House bill and a more gradual phaseout of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, my colleague Paige Winfield Cunningham reported in the The Health 202: “The bill’s 50-vote pathway to passage is most likely to circumvent Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.).”
- If McConnell lost Collins and Paul, he would need every other Republican senator and the vice president’s tiebreaking vote to get the bill passed. But the Medicaid cuts may also cost him the votes of West Virginia Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, according to Axios’s Cailtin Owens.
- Top insurance groups have also stated opposition to the Senate’s possible Medicaid cuts. In a letter to McConnell and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, 10 health-care chief executives wrote: “This year’s discussion began with a focus on the ACA’s individual insurance market, but current health care proposals go further and do not enact meaningful, needed repairs to the ACA … There are no hidden efficiencies that states can use to address gaps of this magnitude without harming beneficiaries or imposing undue burden to our health care system and all U.S. taxpayers.”
-- The Medicaid expansion also included substance abuse treatment, which could be gutted just as states face an opioid drug crisis. Senators like Portman and Capito have proposed a $45 billion fund to fill the gap, but conservatives oppose that as well, the New York Times’ Robert Pear and Jennifer Steinhauer report.
-- Another Republican who may be on the fence: Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. She has voted against her party on occasion since Trump took office, and she has voiced concern over the cutting Medicaid and Planned Parenthood funding, the Wall Street Journal’s Kristina Peterson and Stephanie Armour report.
-- Even if Senate Republicans can pass a bill, the White House has indicated they won’t necessarily receive much cover from the president. Asked about a report that Trump said the Senate bill needed “more heart,” Sean Spicer replied: “The president clearly wants a bill that has heart in it … He believes health care is something that is near and dear to so many families and individuals. He made it clear from the beginning that it was one of his priorities.”
- The Fix's Aaron Blake writes: “If you are a Republican who is thinking about sticking your neck out for this bill, that has to make you think twice … What if the bill they are working on does wind up causing major problems? What if it doesn't even pass, and most all of them put themselves on the record voting for something that can still be used in a pretty brutal attack ad using those CBO numbers? There is basically nothing to suggest that Trump is going to allow himself to go down with this ship.”
-- The search is on for Sean Spicer’s replacement as White House press secretary, but there may be few takers. The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and Glenn Thrush report: “Most Republicans in Washington said it would be among the hardest jobs to fill in the Trump administration … Among the candidates: Laura Ingraham, the conservative radio host, about whom Trump advisers remain ‘iffy’; Kimberly Guilfoyle, the Fox News commentator who said publicly that Mr. Trump had called her in recent weeks (she said she didn’t want the job); and David Martosko, an editor for The Daily Mail who was briefly considered for the role during the transition and has been talked about for other roles now … Filling the role of communications director, open for the last few weeks, has not gone much more smoothly.”
- The communications transition comes as Trump reconsiders the role of the daily press briefing, which he has previously threatened to cancel. The Atlantic’s Rosie Gray reports: “But instead of canceling them entirely, the White House has appeared to embrace a different strategy: simply downgrading them bit by bit, from ‘briefings’ to ‘gaggles,’ and from on-camera to off-camera. Guidance for the briefings has begun to include a note that audio from them cannot be used. Additionally, though Trump has held short press conferences when foreign leaders visit, he has not held a full press conference since February.”
- Spicer defended the president’s press appearances, saying yesterday: “We’ve looked at a lot of data that suggests that, when you look at the number of availibilities and interviews that the president has given … it’s pretty significant compared to past administrations.” Philip Bump writes that, at least in terms of Trump’s presidential news conferences compared to past administrations, that is not true.
PERSONNEL IS POLICY:
-- Trump’s nominee for deputy Defense secretary Patrick Shanahan, a Boeing vice president, faced a rocky confirmation hearing on Tuesday, with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) threatening to block his nomination from a vote, and others questioning Shanahan's lack of Defense Department experience. Dan Lamothe reports: Shanahan “faced questions about how he will manage day-to-day operations in the Pentagon while recusing himself from all decisions with a tie to Boeing. [And] McCain needled Shanahan … about his prepared answer to a question about the U.S. potentially supplying weapons to Ukraine to face Russian-backed separatists.” Shanahan wrote that he would have to look at the issue. (In person, he amended his answer to say he supported the idea.)
- “That’s not good enough, Mr. Shanahan,” McCain said. “I’m glad to hear you changed your opinion from what was submitted, but it’s still disturbing to me. Have you not been aware of the issue? Have you not been aware of the actions of the Senate Armed Services Committee? Have you not been aware of the thousands of people that have been killed by [Russian President Vladimir Putin]?” If confirmed, Shanahan will replace Robert Work, a retired Marine colonel and Obama-era holdover.
-- The EPA has given notice to dozens of scientists who advise the agency that they will not be renewed in their roles. Chris Mooney and Juliet Eilperin report: “Members of the EPA’s Board of Scientific Counselors (BOSC) whose terms end in August will not see them renewed, according to an email sent to members and obtained by The Washington Post, though they can reapply for their posts. Moreover, five meetings of subcommittees of the board, planned for the late summer and the fall, will now be canceled because of lack of membership. They will be held once the board is reconstituted, according to EPA officials. ‘It effectively wipes out the BOSC and leaves it free for a complete reappointment,’ said Deborah Swackhamer, the current chair of the board’s executive committee.”
- One of the EPA’s attorneys also this week told the agency’s union leaders that they planned to make buyout offers to as many as 1,228 employees, or 8 percent of the entire EPA workforce, Brady Dennis reports.
THE TRUMP AGENDA:
-- Attorney General Sessions announced yesterday that 12 cities would be receiving increased federal manpower to combat crime in their communities. Sari Horwitz reports: “The first round of cities chosen for the new initiative, the National Public Safety Partnership, are Baton Rouge; Birmingham, Ala.; Buffalo; Cincinnati; Houston; Indianapolis; Jackson, Tenn.; Kansas City, Mo.; Lansing, Mich.; Memphis; Springfield, Ill.; and Toledo. ‘Our nation’s violent-crime rate is rising,’ Sessions said. ‘In many of our urban areas, this increase is staggering’ … The 12 chosen cities will not receive more money from the Justice Department. But the department will send agency employees and experts to work with them to develop strategies and tactics to best fight violent crime, Sessions said.”
- Sessions’s promise to crack down on crime, particularly drug-related crime, has already impacted the marijuana industry. Nicole Lewis reports: “One of the nation’s leading marijuana legalization groups says PNC Bank has notified it that it will close the organization’s 22-year-old accounts, a sign of growing concerns in the financial industry that the Trump administration will crack down on the marijuana business in states that have legalized it.”
-- Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Tuesday defended the $1.6 billion in funding cuts that President Trump has proposed for his department, telling a Senate hearing that ‘this is what a balanced budget looks like,'" Darryl Fears reports. "But Democrats on the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources took issue with the $400 million that the national parks would lose in fiscal 2018 … Republicans, on the other hand, applauded the Trump administration’s proposals to invest in energy exploration on public lands … One of the most pointed exchanges came as several senators singled out the reductions proposed for Indian Affairs … ‘Those of us who serve on an Indian Affairs committee just know how woefully underfunded the tribes are,’ said Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.). ‘How do these cuts support sovereignty?’ Zinke repeated himself: ‘This is what a balanced budget looks like.’”
-- During a private moment at Monday’s White House tech summit, Apple chief executive Tim Cook told Trump that tech employees are “nervous” about his administration’s approach to immigration. CNBC’s Eamon Javers reports: After Trump reportedly said the health-care bill needs more “heart,” “Cook replied that the immigration approach by the administration also ‘needs more heart.’ Cook cited the [DACA or DREAMers] program, which is under review by the Trump administration. He also said people in tech and their co-workers were nervous about their status, and added that it ‘would be great’ if the president could ‘send them a signal.’ According to the source, Trump replied that he wants to see comprehensive immigration reform and urged the CEOs to call their senators and congressmen to push for it.”
-- As much of Trump’s key agenda, including health care and a tax overhaul, has stalled, he has returned to friendlier territory (literally): rallies in states that he won in November. John Wagner and Ashley Parker report: “The latest example will come Wednesday, when Trump’s campaign committee plans to stage an old-fashioned political rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where the president is likely to get the kind of public adulation that he isn’t experiencing much of the time in Washington … The president’s travels throughout the country often garner more generous — and positive — headlines in the local press. ‘Trump talks health care, technical jobs in local visit,’ was the next-day headline on the front page of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — far more favorable than the cascading Russia-related stories that dominated national news reports.”
DRAINING THE SWAMP?:
-- A controversial anti-sharia group is capitalizing on the Trump business brand to publicize an upcoming Washington conference. Amy Brittain and Abigail Hauslohner report: “For $10,000, sponsors of the ACT for America gathering can enjoy ‘pre-conference cocktails’ and a ‘private tour of the historic Trump International Hotel’ alongside the group’s founder, Brigitte Gabriel, among other benefits … The promotion represents a new twist in the story line of Trump’s luxury hotel, which has sparked several lawsuits and criticism from ethics experts alleging that the president is improperly profiting from foreign governments and other interest groups holding events at the property … The October event offers ACT, which has drawn headlines this month for its ‘March Against Sharia’ rallies across the country, a chance to associate itself with a president who campaigned on banning many Muslims from entering the United States.”
-- “[Trump’s] budget calls for sharply reducing funding for programs that shelter the poor and combat homelessness — with a notable exception: It leaves intact a type of federal housing subsidy that is paid directly to private landlords.” Shawn Boburg reports: “One of those landlords is Trump himself, who earns millions of dollars each year as a part-owner of Starrett City, the nation’s largest subsidized housing complex. Trump’s 4 percent stake in the Brooklyn complex earned him at least $5 million between January of last year and April 15 … The federal government has paid the partnership that owns Starrett City more than $490 million in rent subsidies since May 2013, according to figures provided by a [HUD spokesman] ... Nearly $38 million of that has come since Trump took office in January. While there is no indication that Trump himself was involved in the decision, it is nonetheless a stark illustration of how his financial interests can directly rise or fall on the policies of his administration.”
-- A Russian fighter jet on Monday came within several feet of an Air Force reconnaissance plane over the Baltic Sea. Dan Lamothe reports: “The incident comes amid increased tensions between Russia and the United States following the shoot-down Sunday of a Syrian fighter jet by a U.S. Navy Super Hornet after the Syrians bombed U.S.-backed fighters in northern Syria. Russia, which is aligned with the Syrian government and is carrying out military operations in Syria alongside it, condemned the incident and said Monday that it would track U.S. aircraft over Syria.”
-- The U.S. destroyed another Iranian-made drone over Syria, marking the third time the U.S. military has downed a pro-regime aircraft this month. Thomas Gibbons-Neff reports: “[A U.S. defense] official … said the drone was in the area where a U.S. plane shot down the same type of unmanned aircraft — an Iranian Shahed 129 — this month. The drone, roughly the size of a U.S. Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, was armed and within range of striking U.S.-led coalition troops and their Syrian allies, according to the official, who said the strike was in ‘self-defense.’”
-- The Trump administration is ramping up efforts to free two Iranian Americans being held in an Iranian prison. Josh Rogin reports: “Siamak Namazi, an Iranian American businessman, was arrested in Tehran in October 2015 and charged with espionage and collusion with an enemy country — the United States. When Secretary of State John Kerry negotiated for the release of five American hostages to coincide with the announcement of the Iran nuclear deal, Namazi was not among them. The following month the Iranians arrested his father Baquer Namazi, a former longtime United Nations official who is 81 years old and in poor health. Both have been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Now, as the Trump administration conducts a comprehensive review of its Iran policy, the White House is considering new action to bring them home.”
-- The State Department issued an unusual public warning to Saudi Arabia and the UAE over a diplomatic rift with Qatar, suggesting that the Saudis may have drawn the U.S. into the dispute under false pretenses. Anne Gearan and Karen DeYoung report: “Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the administration was ‘mystified’ that — two weeks after announcing a diplomatic and economic embargo against Qatar over its alleged support for terrorism — Saudi Arabia and the UAE have not publicly detailed their complaints. ‘The more that time goes by, the more doubt is raised about the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and the UAE,’ Nauert said. ‘At this point, we are left with one simple question: Were the actions really about their concerns about Qatar’s alleged support for terrorism, or were they about the long-simmering grievances between and among the GCC countries?’ The diplomatic crisis has been a test of the new U.S. administration’s pull with Arab allies, and has pitted [Trump’s] public support for the Saudi-led action against [Tillerson’s] preference for quiet, backroom diplomacy. Tillerson has had more than 20 calls and meetings devoted to helping resolve the crisis, Nauert said, but now sees little further room for U.S. mediation.”
-- Ford said Tuesday that it will move production of its next-generation Ford Focus to China rather than Mexico, the New York Times reports. The shift will occur in 2019, after production ends at its current location in Michigan, and appears to bet on stable long-term U.S.-China relations. “The company was building a $1.6 billion assembly plant for the next Focus model in Mexico, but it ran into stiff opposition from [Trump] and then canceled the project ..."
-- Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner have been invited to visit China later this year – a trip that could help prepare for a future visit from President Trump. Bloomberg News reports: “Details of the possible trip by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, both of whom have official jobs in the White House, were still under discussion, according to a U.S. official and a Chinese official … Kushner and Ivanka Trump hosted the U.S.’s newly sworn-in ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, for an introductory dinner Sunday at the Trump Hotel in Washington, [according to the U.S. official]. At the same time, Kushner’s family business, the Kushner Cos., has been criticized over its use of a visa program to woo wealthy Chinese with green cards in exchange for investing in U.S. projects. The real estate company has seen talks for three major projects quashed, including negotiations with China’s Anbang Insurance Group Co. to refinance the family’s marquee Manhattan office tower[.]"
-- The president also tweeted this message to China yesterday:
While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi & China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 20, 2017
-- But Trump has also suggested decreasing confidence in China’s ability to pressure North Korea following the death of Otto Warmbier, who was detained by North Korea for 17 months. David Nakamura and Carol Morello report: “[Trump’s] spokesman said the White House is ‘moving further away’ from direct engagement with Pyongyang, throwing into question the administration’s strategy to contain the rogue nation’s growing nuclear threat. The death of American college student Otto Warmbier … has injected new political complications into Trump’s bid to persuade dictator Kim Jong Un to curb his regime’s behavior. Trump called the treatment of Warmbier, who reportedly was in a coma for most of his captivity, ‘a total disgrace’ and suggested that he has given up hope that Beijing could exert meaningful leverage on Kim.”
-- Politico Magazine, “Why the White House Is Reading Greek History,” by Michael Crowley: “Last month, a Harvard academic slipped into the White House complex for an unusual meeting … The subject was America’s rivalry with China, cast through the lens of ancient Greece. The 77-year-old [Graham] Allison is the author of a recent book based on the writings of Thucydides, the ancient historian famous for his epic chronicle of the Peloponnesian War between the Greek states of Athens and Sparta. Allison cites the Greek scholar’s summation of why the two powers fought: ‘What made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused in Sparta.’ He warns that the same dynamic could drive this century’s rising empire, China, and the United States into a war neither wants.”
-- “Two horrific acts of violence and a debate: What is a hate crime?” by Cleve R. Wootson, Jr.: “An abaya-wearing Muslim teenager on her way home from a mosque was beaten to death with a metal bat before her body was found dumped in a pond. Her Sunday morning killing is being investigated as an extreme case of road rage — but not as a hate crime. A day earlier, three teenagers in Boston were accused of beating a street musician who dressed in a bear costume and played a keytar. They removed the black man’s mask, slammed his face into the ground while yelling racial slurs, then ran off with his money. After the boys were arrested, the district attorney’s office said it is investigating whether they should face hate crime charges. The legal system’s differing reactions to the attacks on Nabra Hassanen and the unidentified performer near Faneuil Hall spotlight the sometimes fuzzy line between what is a hate crime and what is not.”
-- “What happened to Otto Warmbier? When the unthinkable is unknowable,” by Susan Svrluga: “Several neurologists agreed that there is no way to know for certain what caused Warmbier’s coma — it could have been anything from an allergic reaction to a drug overdose to strangulation or some other kind of torture. And they agreed that if that trigger could have been avoided, minimized or treated properly at the time, or if he could have been evacuated to the U.S. immediately after it happened, the outcome might have been very different.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
The DNC sent out an email yesterday that highlighted Republican lawmakers who criticized the 2010 ACA negotiations for being too secretive and have now flip-flopped:
It's simply wrong for legislation that'll affect 100% of the American people to be negotiated behind closed doors - http://ow.ly/W9gq #hcr— Governor Mike Pence (@GovPenceIN) January 13, 2010
More then and now:
With Democrats discussing health care in secret, they're sacrificing the trust of the American people.— Tom Price (@RepTomPrice) January 14, 2010
The people have a right to know what is happening behind closed doors with secret HC negotiations— JohnCornyn (@JohnCornyn) January 7, 2010
Sen. Ted Cruz argued yesterday there wasn't much merit in publicly debating the health care bill:
Cruz: If we were debating ACA repeal publicly, ppl would be "grandstanding for the cameras, drawing lines in the sand" & attacking ea. other— Patrick Svitek (@PatrickSvitek) June 20, 2017
This from the senator who read Dr. Seuss hours into a filibuster against ACA https://t.co/FStHGSAMQe— Trip Gabriel (@tripgabriel) June 20, 2017
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) responded to Trump's request that the Senate health-care bill have more "heart":
John McCain went to the Senate floor to explain the significance of Russia's alleged election interference:
Wondering why we should care about Russia's election interference? Look no further than attempted coup in Montenegro https://t.co/VQht4Z6rae— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) June 20, 2017
Twitter went nuts over the Steve Bannon saying that press briefings were being cut back as Sean Spicer got "fatter:"
From the former first daughter:
The White House using fat shaming to justify increased opacity. 2017. https://t.co/pWqupoAOXu— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) June 20, 2017
A reporter from Breitbart, Bannon's former workplace, found the remark simply humorous:
But Clinton doubled down:
Oh ok. So using fat shaming to avoid answering questions about increasing opacity. Got it. 2017. https://t.co/RbUSc6ipZS— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) June 20, 2017
And a request:
I will venmo any WH reporter $45 if they ask spicer about bannon saying he got fatter— Mдтт Иegяiи 🔮 (@MattNegrin) June 20, 2017
During last night's U2 concert near the nation's capital, Bono offered his wishes for Rep. Steve Scalise's speedy recovery:
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ivanka Trump shared a "failed hug:"
Ivanka Trump arriving at the Capitol greeted by Sen Rubio. She's now meeting with lawmakers on child tax credit. pic.twitter.com/shhrD9kOnW— Erica Werner (@ericawerner) June 20, 2017
Just left Intel comm & informed meeting 2day with @IvankaTrump blowing up twitter over alleged failed hug! Investigating. Will respond soon— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) June 20, 2017
New photo emerges providing more insight into alleged failed hug. (Faces blurred for security purposes) pic.twitter.com/GzSLe3JD3I— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) June 20, 2017
Fake news! Marco is an excellent hugger... https://t.co/Dk7XXRQlX8— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) June 20, 2017
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- Buzzfeed News, “Secret Government Report: Chelsea Manning Leaks Caused No Real Harm,” by Jason Leopold: “Prosecutors said WikiLeaks' disclosures about Iraq and Afghanistan posed a major threat to US national security. But it turns out the classified document they cited … said almost the exact opposite.”
-- Politico Magazine, “Jill Stein Isn’t Sorry,” by Ben Schreckinger: “Had a few thousand votes in key Midwestern states gone to [Clinton] instead of Jill Stein, many on the left believe, America might be having a very different conversation today. So does Stein, with the benefit of hindsight, have any regrets? ‘I don’t think so,’ [she tells me], projecting a Trump-worthy level of defiance. … [Still] some Democrats would like to see Stein hauled in front of Congress to explain mysteries like what, exactly, she was doing at [the same] 2015 Moscow gala [that got] Michael Flynn in such trouble. Stein didn’t just attend the gala—dressed in a shimmering silver shawl, she sat at the same table as [Putin] ... And she recorded a video from Moscow’s famous Red Square, in which she talked about the need [to] replace ‘a U.S. policy based on domination’—words that sounded like they were ripped from Putin’s talking points. Stein isn’t sorry about any of it …”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Eric Holder joins the anti-Trump resistance — and mulls a presidential campaign of his own,” from Yahoo News: “More than two years after leaving the Obama administration, former Attorney General Eric Holder is reentering the political fray. His goal: to lead the legal resistance to Donald Trump’s agenda — and perhaps even run against the president in 2020. Seized by a sense of urgency to oppose Trump and restore what he regards as America’s best self, Holder is mulling a White House bid of his own, according to three sources who have spoken to him and are familiar with his thinking. ‘Up to now, I have been more behind-the-scenes,’ Holder told Yahoo News in an exclusive interview about his plans. ‘But that’s about to change.’”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“CMT Won’t Be Helping Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing Get Back Up Again After All,” from Vulture: “Looks like Tim Allen’s ABC sitcom Last Man Standing is taking what might be a permanent seat. The show, which featured the Home Improvement star as a conservative patriarch grappling with liberal modern culture, was cancelled in May around the network’s upfronts after six seasons on the air. ABC’s decision inspired a boycott of the network by viewers who took the move as a slap to the face for conservative viewers and the show’s star. ‘Stunned and blindsided by the network I called home for the last six years,’ Allen tweeted at the time. Now CMT’s rumored interest in reviving the sitcom has also fizzed due to the show’s prohibitively high budget. According to Deadline, the Last Man Standing cast would have had to agree to a reduced salary to bring down costs, a stipulation that stymied the show’s pickup …”
President Trump will receive a cybersecurity briefing in the morning before flying to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for a speech on agriculture and a rally.
The vice president will remain in D.C., speaking at the DOJ’s National Summit on Crime Reduction and Public Safety and speaking by phone with the president of Northern Cyprus.
The Congressional Women’s Softball Game takes place tonight.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
John McCain’s response when asked whether he has seen the Senate health bill: "No, nor have I met any American that has. I’m sure the Russians have been able to hack in and gotten most of it."
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Temperatures could reach almost 90 in D.C today, and there’s a chance of an afternoon shower, the Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “The humidity increases just a bit compared with yesterday. But it’s still fairly comfortable out there, with partly sunny skies and the chance of a passing afternoon shower or thundershower. Highs should reach the upper 80s to near 90.”
-- Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III will announce today that he is running for governor, Arelis R. Hernández reports. If elected, he would be Maryland’s first African-American governor.
-- D.C. police forced out the homeless residents a tent city in NoMa yesterday. Ian Shapira reports: “The homeless men and women living in tents beneath a rail bridge by the NoMa-Gallaudet University Metro station — in the heart of gentrifying Washington, D.C. — slept under the shade. They didn’t worry about the rain. And they could live in relative privacy. On Tuesday, though, their time was up.”
-- Two D.C. jail inmates separately found dead in their cells last month died of opioid overdoses, Keith L. Alexander reports.
-- Note-passing bank robbers attempted three robberies this week, two of which succeeded, Martin Weil reports.
-- The Nationals beat the Miami Marlins 12-3, Chelsea Janes reports.
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Upon learning that several members of Trump’s HIV/AIDS advisory council had resigned, James Corden sent 297 copies of the movie “Philadelphia” to Mar-a-Lago:
Stephen Colbert lamented reports that Sean Spicer is stepping away from the podium:
Arnold Schwarzenegger reignited his feud with the president, this time over the Paris climate deal:
Trump met with the president of Ukraine:
Paul Ryan promised in a speech to the National Association of Manufacturers that tax reform would get done this year:
He also gave a very positive update on Rep. Steve Scalise's condition:
The dashcam footage of Philando Castile's traffic stop was released:
The Alexandria ballpark where last week's shooting occurred reopened:
The Post gathered some of the highlights from 2017's best commencement speeches: