But there are also principled conservative politicians who are proving that they follow the same moral compass whether Republicans are in power or in the wilderness.
The past week has brought a career-defining litmus test for secretaries of state in capitals across the country. By refusing to participate in the fishing expedition of a panel that was created by Trump to bolster his absurd claim that he “won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally,” several Republicans in ruby-red states are demonstrating a politically courageous commitment to federalism.
Pushback from the right, more than any other factor, has now imperiled the nascent work of the “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.”
“I denied the Obama Justice Department’s request, and I’m denying President Trump’s Commission’s request because they are both politically motivated,” Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler (R) said in a statement. “The release of private information creates a tremendous breach of trust with voters who work hard to protect themselves against identity fraud. … This Commission needs to understand clearly (that) disclosure of such sensitive information is more likely to diminish voter participation rather than foster it. I have been fighting this kind of federal intrusion and overreach, and will continue to fight like hell for the people who trust me with the integrity of our election process.”
“It’s not sitting well with me,” said Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Murray (R). He told the Casper Star-Tribune that he will not turn over any voter data: “Elections are the responsibility of states under the Constitution. I’m wondering if this request could lead to some federal overreach. … I have not experienced any secretary of state who has expressed any concerns or worry about fraud or some type of nefarious activity occurring that jeopardizes their respective election process.”
Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan (R) called the commission a “hastily organized experiment.” “I share the concerns of many Arizonans that the Commission’s request could implicate serious privacy concerns,” she wrote in an open letter. “Centralizing sensitive voter registration information from every U.S. state is a potential target for nefarious actors who may be intent on further undermining our electoral process. … Without any explanation for how Arizona’s voter information would be safeguarded or what security protocols the Commission has put in place, I cannot in good conscience release Arizonans’ sensitive voter data for this hastily organized experiment.”
The bluntest statement of all came from Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann (R). Setting the tone for his counterparts, he announced before the commission’s letter even arrived at his office that he wouldn’t comply. “They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico,” he said of Trump’s panel. “Mississippi residents should celebrate Independence Day and our State’s right to protect the privacy of our citizens by conducting our own electoral processes.”
“The states that won’t provide all of their voter data grew to a group of at least 44 by Wednesday, including some, such as California and Virginia, that said they would provide nothing to the commission,” our Mark Berman and John Wagner tabulate. “Others said they are hindered by state laws governing what voter information can be made public but will provide what they can. … More than two dozen states said they will provide some of the requested information, according to interviews, public statements and media accounts. Others have not announced decisions or elaborated on what they plan to provide. … Partial responses from the states could lead to further problems, experts say, because the commission could ultimately assemble disparate — and incomplete — information in an effort to draw a national picture. The partial data could make it all largely worthless or misleading."
Vice President Pence is the chair of the panel and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), a former state GOP chairman who has long insisted without proof that there is widespread voter fraud, is the vice chair. Just last month, a federal judge fined Kobach $1,000 for making “patently misleading representations” to the court about documents relevant to an ongoing voting rights case. (The Kansas City Star has more.)
The White House blasted out a statement last night attacking stories about states refusing to hand over data to the panel as “more fake news.” Responding to whip counts being kept by media outlets like CNN, the Associated Press and The Post, Kobach said: “At present, only 14 states and the District of Columbia have refused the Commission’s request for publicly available voter information.” That’s some lawyerly parsing if you read closely. “Despite media distortions and obstruction by a handful of state politicians,” Kobach added, “this bipartisan commission on election integrity will continue its work to gather the facts through public records requests to ensure the integrity of each American’s vote because the public has a right to know.”
Southern states, of course, have historically had more antagonistic relationships with the central government. This dates to before the Civil War, but the Clarion-Ledger of Jackson explains the more recent context of the “go jump in the Gulf of Mexico” statement from Mississippi’s chief election officer: “In 2014, the Texas-based organization True the Vote and some Mississippi residents sued the state, Hosemann and the state Republican Party seeking birth dates of Mississippi voters after Chris McDaniel's primary loss to incumbent U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran. The state claimed voter's birth dates were private. The lawsuit claimed they fall under federal voting laws on disclosure. A specially appointed federal judge sided with the state and Hosemann.”
Likewise, Schedler fought a lawsuit by the Obama Justice Department that Louisiana was not aggressively enough trying to register voters who receive public benefits. “The President’s Commission has quickly politicized its work by asking states for an incredible amount of voter data that I have, time and time again, refused to release,” Schedler explained in his statement. “My response to the Commission is, you're not going to play politics with Louisiana’s voter data, and if you are, then you can purchase the limited public information available by law, to any candidate running for office. That’s it.”
He’s defended himself in a round of local interviews. “Tom Schedler’s being consistent in saying if it’s not good enough for Obama, it’s not good enough for Trump,” Schedler said during an appearance on a New Orleans talk radio station. “It’s a state’s rights issue …”
Whether you substantively agree with these guys is beside the point: They are demonstrating ideological consistency in an era of rampant tribalism, when many Republican politicians keep their fingers in the wind and contort their positions like pretzels to match whatever Sean Hannity is saying on Fox News.
It takes pluck, especially because the president – who remains overwhelmingly popular with the Republican base – has been lashing out at them on Twitter:
Trump carried Louisiana by 20 points, Mississippi by 18 points, Wyoming by 46 points and Arizona by four points. Nevertheless, these Republican secretaries of state have persisted.
It’s not without risk. Chief election officers rarely get much national attention — unless they’re Katherine Harris — but ambitious politicians often seek this statewide office as a steppingstone to something bigger. Kobach, for example, is running for governor of Kansas next year to succeed Sam Brownback. On the other side of the debate over states’ rights, Murray is weighing whether to run for governor of Wyoming in 2018. South Dakota Secretary of State Shantel Krebs (R), who says she “will not share voter information with the commission,” is running for the state’s lone U.S. House seat. (The president got 62 percent of the vote there.) All surely understand that resisting the Trump panel opens them up to possible attacks in GOP primaries.
-- Democrats appear largely unified in opposition to the requests. “This entire commission is based on the specious and false notion that there was widespread voter fraud last November,” said Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.). “At best this commission was set up as a pretext to validate Donald Trump's alternative election facts, and at worst it is a tool to commit large-scale voter suppression.”
From Maryland’s Democratic attorney general:
-- Under mounting scrutiny, even some members of Trump’s own 15-member panel are now balking:
Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap (D), for example, has changed course and decided against releasing information.
Maryland's deputy secretary of state resigned from the panel on Monday. The appointment of Luis E. Borunda, a former Baltimore County school board member, had prompted some head scratching. “Unlike in many other states, the Secretary of State's office in Maryland has no role in voter registration or the administration of elections,” the Baltimore Sun noted.
Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson (R), from Pence’s home state, announced that she will withhold most of the information requested by the commission (which she sits on), including Social Security numbers, birth dates, political affiliation and voting history. Lawson told the Indianapolis Star that state law only allows her to share voter names, congressional districts and addresses.
Even Kobach himself, pressed by the Kansas City Star, said he won’t turn over Social Security information to his own commission.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was readmitted to the ICU at MedStar Washington. Hospital officials said in a statement last night that the Louisiana congressman was moved amid new concerns about an infection. He is listed in “serious” condition. Another update is expected today. He was wounded last month during baseball practice by a gunman in Alexandria, Va. (Clarence Williams)
-- During his press conference this morning with Polish President Andrzej Duda, Trump threatened North Korea with “severe” consequences if Kim Jonh Un continues his “very, very bad behavior.” Emily Rauhala reports: “Two days after North Korea defied the international community by testing an intercontinental ballistic missile, hope for a unified response is fading as the Trump administration’s plans meet with firm opposition from Russia and China … With key players at odds, Trump must now find a way forward as he heads into Group of 20 meetings in Germany this week. He is expected to have his second meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping and his first with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin … But U.S. tough talk seems unlikely to bring Beijing on its side, experts said … Over the years, Trump has said again and again that China is the key to squeezing the regime into submission. However, China does not appear willing to topple Kim.”
-- Trump also declined to definitively blame Russia for interference in the 2016 election during his Duda presser. Abby Phillip reports: “‘I think it was Russia. I think it was probably other people and or countries,’ Trump said … ‘Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows for sure’ … Trump's comments come just one day before he is expected to hold a bilateral meeting with Putin during a G-20 summit in Germany, and questions remain about whether he will confront Russia over the issue. Trump cited intelligence reports about weapons of mass destruction in the lead-up to the Iraq War as evidence that the intelligence communities findings might not be accurate … But Trump did go on to strongly criticize then President Barack Obama for claiming he did ‘nothing’ about the election interference. He claimed that Obama did not act because he believed the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, would win.”
GET SMART FAST:
- A mob of pipe-wielding government supporters burst into the halls of Venezuela’s congress Wednesday, violently attacking lawmakers who oppose President Nicolás Maduro and leaving at least 15 lawmakers injured. The scene comes amid months of political unrest and appears to mark a dangerous new escalation of violence against opponents of the leftist government. (Mariana Zuñiga and Nick Miroff)
- At least 14 people were killed yesterday in a shootout in northern Mexico. It is the latest mass killing near the border amid a sharp resurgence of violence related to the country’s ongoing drug war. (Joshua Partlow)
- At least 102 people were shot in the city of Chicago over the July 4 weekend. Police are conducting a review of the shootings, which left 15 dead and 86 wounded. (Chicago Tribune)
The pay gap between male and female White House staffers has more than tripled in the first six months of Trump’s administration, according to a new analysis, with women earning a median of just $72,650 compared to the median male salary of $115,000. According to the Pew Research Center, that’s a bigger divide than the national gender pay gap in 1980. (Christopher Ingraham)
- A Louisiana congressman sparked criticism after he shot and narrated a “selfie” video inside the Auschwitz gas chambers. Rep. Clay Higgins (R) used the video to call for strengthening the U.S. military. (Politico)
Virginia Rep. Dave Brat (R) posted an Instagram photo with a constituent who held up a sign reading, “Hillary for U.S. Ambassador to Libya.” The caption on the photo, which has since been deleted, was, “Sign says it all.” (CNN)
- Oklahoma Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R) announced this week that he will seek reelection, reversing on a campaign promise he made to only serve six years in Congress. (KTUL)
- New York City officials are investigating whether police anger is to blame in the shooting of Officer Miosotis Familia, who was killed in an early-morning ambush that authorities described as an assassination. The suspect, Alexander Bonds, was on parole after serving seven years in prison for robbery. He was shot and killed Wednesday by police. (Kristine Phillips and Mark Berman)
- Hobby Lobby has agreed to pay a $3 million fine after it was accused in a court filing of importing thousands of smuggled Iraqi artifacts into the United States. (AP)
- A newly recovered photograph suggests legendary aviator Amelia Earhart and her navigator, who vanished 80 years ago while attempting to fly around the world, may have survived a crash-landing in the Marshall Islands. Independent analysts who have studied the photo say it appears undoctored and believe it is legitimate. (NBC News)
- A massive iceberg the size of Delaware is about to detach from one of Antarctica’s largest ice shelves. Scientists are divided over how much climate change affected the detachment. (Chris Mooney)
- Two North Carolina police officers made headlines over the holiday weekend after they were called to investigate a homemade slip-and-slide that was allegedly blocking a road. But after determining there were no issues, they decided to join in the fun — one-upping the children by sliding down in full uniform; guns, badges, and all. (Alex Horton)
- Beginning in 2019, all of Volvo’s new models will run on electricity. The announcement, made yesterday, positions Volvo to become the first car manufacturer to abandon the traditional combustion engine. (Hamza Shaban)
- United Airlines apologized after it erroneously gave a toddler’s seat away and made his mother hold him for the duration of the flight. The mother — who shelled out nearly $1,000 for her son’s plane ticket — said she considered protesting but was “scared to make a scene.” “I started remembering all those incidents with United on the news. The violence. Teeth being knocked out,” she said. (Avi Selk)
-- Sen. Ted Cruz’s proposal to allow some insurance plans to skirt consumer protection standards is picking up traction with the White House but not necessarily Senate leadership. The New York Times’ Robert Pear reports: “[The Cruz proposal] could help bring balking conservatives, such as Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ben Sasse of Nebraska, aboard, but it may do little to ease the concerns of moderates like Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska … Mr. Cruz says his plan would fix a problem he sees in the Affordable Care Act. ‘Obamacare’s insurance mandates caused premiums to skyrocket,’ he said in a summary given to Republican senators … But insurance experts worry that the proposal would bifurcate the insurance market, sending the healthy to cheaper, less comprehensive insurance and the sick to plans that comply with all the federal mandates.”
-- The chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, Mark Meadows, tweeted out his support of the Cruz proposal yesterday.
-- Conservative groups like FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth have also encouraged Mitch McConnell to take up the Cruz amendment: “The move is significant: Without at least a neutral stance from conservative groups, it could be impossible for McConnell to find the 50 votes needed to pass a repeal this month.” (Politico’s Burgess Everett)
-- Cruz’s negotiations for a more conservative deal on health care contrast sharply with his attempts to stop Obamacare implementation four years ago, which culminated in a government shutdown. Politico’s Burgess Everett reports: “[Cruz and Utah Sen. Mike Lee] aren’t firebombing McConnell on TV or on the Senate floor after many tangles with him in the past, but instead are intent on using their status as conservative negotiators inside the room as part of McConnell’s working group … But Republican leaders are trying to avoid reopening the party to criticism over pre-existing conditions, given that such protections poll well … Cruz and Lee met with McConnell’s staff to discuss their proposal in detail on Thursday before the Senate headed home. Republican insiders say it’s almost certain to lose more votes than it gains if it’s included in the repeal bill.”
-- The CBO will likely analyze Cruz’s proposal over the recess, during which congressional Democrats are holding more than seven times as many town halls as congressional Republicans. Even though Republicans outnumber Democrats in Congress by over 50 seats, they are holding only seven town halls in comparison to Democrats’ 52. (Politico’s Dan Diamond)
-- Wavering moderates, including Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, are using the recess to consider which way they will vote. Heller’s decision will likely turn on the recommendation of the state’s Republican governor, Brian Sandoval, who reiterated yesterday his opposition to the bill as it currently stands. Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Sean Whaley reports: “The governor said with no proposed changes that would address Nevada’s decision in 2013 to expand Medicaid, he cannot support the legislation. Sandoval said both he and [Heller] remain opposed as they announced at an event in Las Vegas last month.”
-- As the health-care overhaul remains in limbo, some Republican senators have proposed repealing Obamacare now and replacing it later, but former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen writes in his column for today's Post that the strategy would kill the GOP’s hope of an overhaul: “When King Solomon proposed splitting the baby, he knew that actually splitting the baby would have killed it. It was a ruse to save the child. Yet some Republican senators don’t seem to understand that splitting the GOP health-care bill — the ‘repeal then replace’ approach — will similarly kill both the prospects of health-care reform and quite possibly the GOP’s control of Congress.”
-- Even if Republicans can manage to get a repeal through, it’s unlikely to address the underlying causes of rising health-care costs. Politico’s Joanne Kenen reports: “In the race to make insurance premiums cheaper, [Republicans] ignore a more ominous number — the $3.2 trillion-plus the U.S. spends annually on health care overall. Republicans are betting it’s smart politics to zoom in on the pocketbook issues affecting individual consumers and families. But by ignoring the mounting expenses of prescription drugs, doctor visits and hospital stays, they allow the health care system to continue on its dangerous upward trajectory. That means that even if they fulfill their seven-year vow to repeal Obamacare and rein in premiums for some people, the nation’s mounting costs are almost sure to pop out in other places — including fresh efforts by insurers and employers to push more expenses onto consumers through bigger out-of-pocket costs and narrower benefits.”
-- The ongoing health-care debate has highlighted rifts within the GOP and jeopardized other major agenda items. The New York Times’ Alan Rappeport reports: “When members of Congress return next week from their Fourth of July break, they will be greeted by a mammoth legislative logjam. Republicans are increasingly skeptical that they can get everything done. There are even calls from some to forgo their sacred August recess — a respite from the capital in its swampiest month … The grappling over how to proceed has laid bare deep divisions within the party and stalled progress for the next items on the agenda, a federal budget deal and a tax overhaul … The straggling health bill has backed up other major priorities, setting the stage for a government shutdown or even a default in the fall if the debt ceiling is not raised in time.”
MORE ON TRUMP'S TRIP TO POLAND:
-- The populist, nationalist Law and Justice party in Poland has called for the country to “rise from its knees” — a phrase carrying echoes of Trump’s campaign slogan, Abby Phillip reports from Warsaw. “Trump’s decision to visit Poland ahead of a Group of 20 meeting in Hamburg this week is widely viewed as a pointed embrace of his ideological allies here — and a shot across the bow at Europe’s establishment. For both governments, the visit is a chance to bolster their alliance at a time of heightened tensions with the rest of Europe. The leader of Law and Justice, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, played up the significance of Trump’s visit ahead of the G-20 summit and bragged that it has made Poland the ‘envy’ of other nations …” “We have new success — Trump’s visit,” he said this weekend. “Others envy it; the British are attacking us because of it.”
-- Trump’s speech this morning was drafted by speechwriter Stephen Miller and two additional staffers on his team, The Weekly Standard’s Michael Warren reports. “Tony Dolan, the former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, is advising the White House on both the trip and the speech … Trump’s address in Warsaw will be an ‘uplifting speech’ that will focus on Poland’s history of perseverance and its national identity. There will be a contrast, with some degree of subtlety, between the Polish example and what Trump perceives as a globalist outlook embraced by leaders in Western Europe.”
-- Poland is transporting groups of supporters to Warsaw to ensure Trump will be greeted by a cheering crowd. The AP’s Vivian Salama and Ken Thomas report: “According to Polish media reports, Poland’s government promised the White House a reception of cheering crowds as part of its invitation. To make good on that pledge, ruling party lawmakers and pro-government activists plan to bus in groups from the provinces to hear Trump’s speech. …”
- “Trump needs some nice pictures from Europe and the Polish government promised him that there would be cheering crowds in Warsaw,” Piotr Buras, head of the Warsaw office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Abby Phillip. “The Polish government also needs nice pictures. … It needs certain high-level events which would show that Poland is not isolated in Europe and isolated in the world.”
- Some lawmakers in Poland have described Trump’s Thursday speech as a “great patriotic picnic,” and Newsweek reports all members of the ruling party were told to bring 50 supporters to Warsaw for the event.
- The perception of a positive Polish opinion of Trump may be deceptive. Aaron Blake reports on a recent Pew poll: “Fully 57 percent of Poles said they don't have confidence in Trump to do the right thing on the world stage, while just 23 percent said they do.”
PREVIEWING TRUMP'S PUTIN MEETING:
-- What's it like to negotiate with Vladimir Putin? Consider this anecdote from his 2011 meeting with Vice President Joe Biden — who was then working to ease strained relations between Russia and Georgia. David Nakamura reports: “Biden had laid the groundwork to ease tensions and made the case to Putin, then Russia’s prime minister, that Georgian leader Mikhail Saakashvili was not seeking to provoke the Kremlin. ‘I just spoke to him,’ Biden declared across a large conference table. Putin was unmoved. ‘We know exactly what you’re saying to Saakashvili on the phone,’ he shot back. Biden laughed, but Putin didn’t ... The American delegation took him at his word that Russian intelligence agents were wire-tapping their calls.”
-- “As [Trump] prepares for his first face-to-face meeting this week with [Putin], those who have negotiated with the Russian leader caution that Trump must be ready for a shrewd, well-prepared and implacable adversary,” Nakamura writes. “Those who have met Putin describe him as a direct and forceful negotiator ... While Trump is known to use forceful presidential handshakes to show dominance, Putin’s strategy is more subtle. He was 40 minutes late for a meeting with Obama at the G-20 Summit in Mexico in 2012 and kept Kerry waiting for three hours in Moscow in 2013.” “Our staff was really upset,” one former Obama aide recalled. “The president was like, ‘Who cares?’ It’s only a dis and a power play if you allow it.”
Another major frustration for the Americans was that Putin did not always have a high regard for facts: Former Obama aide Antony Blinken recalled several times when Putin claimed there were “no Russians in Ukraine.” “[Obama] would say to him, ‘Vladimir … We know it’s not true.’ He would just move on.” “You have two of the most powerful leaders with the most adversarial relationships with the truth,” Blinken added. “Trump does things in a theatrical way. Putin is the antithesis of that. But the objective is the same: Whatever advances the ends you’re trying to achieve, it’s fine.”
-- While White House aides may be fretting about the prospect of Trump’s meeting with Putin, the president himself appears to be harboring no such concerns. “He has told aides he is more annoyed by the prospect of being scolded by [Angela Merkel] and other leaders for pulling out of the Paris climate accords and for his hard line on immigration,” the New York Times’ Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Glenn Thrush report. “Mr. Trump’s team said he might bring up Russia’s documented meddling in the 2016 election, but he is unlikely to dwell on it ... Aides expect him to focus on Syria, including creating safe zones, fighting [ISIS] and confronting Mr. Putin’s unwillingness to stop the government of President Bashar al-Assad from using chemical weapons … The biggest concern, people [said], is that Mr. Trump, in trying to forge a rapport, appears to be unwittingly siding with Mr. Putin.”
-- One area of potential cooperation: Rex Tillerson said last night that the United States is prepared to consider joint operations with Russia in Syria, including no-fly zones, cease-fire observers and coordinated humanitarian aid deliveries. Karen DeYoung reports: “In a statement issued as he departed for Europe … Tillerson said that the U.S. and Russia have successfully cooperated in establishing deconfliction areas in Syria to avoid contact between their air operations. Tillerson’s statement appeared designed to set an agenda for [Trump’s bilateral meeting with Putin], framing the discussion in ways that the White House has declined to do in public. ‘We’re at the very beginning,’ he said of Trump’s first face-to-face meeting with Putin, and ‘at this point it’s very difficult to say what Russia’s intentions are in this relationship. And I think that’s the most important part of this meeting, is to have a good exchange between [Trump and Putin] over what they both see as the nature of this relationship between our two countries.’”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Trump and top global leaders are on a collision course ahead of this week’s G-20 summit in Hamburg, with Trump’s brash “America First” messaging on trade and climate change likely to clash with an increasingly united opposition front overseas. Damian Paletta and Ana Swanson report: “Trump reiterated his threats on Wednesday to pull the United States back from existing trade deals … [But] as Trump threatens to retreat from global trade, other world powers are exploring new economic ties. The European Union and Japan are expected on Thursday to announce plans for a major new free trade agreement. The E.U.-Japanese deal … would create a free trade area similar in size to North America, which is linked by the 1994 NAFTA agreement. If completed, the E.U.-Japan trade deal would be a sign of other top economies adjusting to a new world order in which they attempt to work around the United States instead of looking to it for direction on building global trade.”
Trump advisers also plan to push attendees to agree on concrete steps to crack down on the way China exports steel. “[If] Trump is successful in this effort it could buttress his willingness to challenge other countries on a range of issues. But if the attempt backfires and numerous countries reject the U.S. push, it could further isolate the country. The divergent trade approaches have set up the G-20 as a potential crossroads for the international economic order.”
-- As the G-20 summit nears, Hamburg is preparing for massive protests. Isaac Stanley-Becker reports: “[The city’s] trademark openness will be tested as up to 100,000 protesters turn the old merchant city into a site of a global contest over capitalism, the environment and political and ethnic nationalism. Their protests draw on a tradition of left-wing activism in Germany’s second-largest city and the birthplace of its chancellor, Angela Merkel … Trump is a particular flash point. Planning for protests began before his November victory, but ‘it became clear after his election that the action would have to be much bigger,’ said Emily Laquer, a spokeswoman for Interventionistischen Linken, a radical left-wing group in Germany and Austria.”
THE TRUMP AGENDA:
-- “Trump’s aides build their own empires in the West Wing,” by Politico's Tara Palmeri: “Chief strategist Steve Bannon has two special assistants, a deputy assistant, an executive assistant and a body man working in his ‘war room’—plus his external press hand, something his predecessors under Barack Obama, David Axelrod and David Plouffe, never had while working in the White House. Senior adviser Jared Kushner has seven staffers below him, including his own communications adviser. … The expansion of staff assigned to individual senior advisers has helped the people closest to Trump build up their own brands and policy portfolios – such as Kushner’s focus on technology and Middle East peace – but also reinforces factionalism within the West Wing. The aides help bolster competing camps when they’re squaring off to influence the president on everything from climate change to trade and health care.”
-- But, but, but: The Trump White House has set one of the slowest records in presidential history for staffing the administration more broadly. Elise Viebeck reports: “Only about one in five of President Trump’s civilian nominations [have received] confirmation from the Senate, and committees [are] waiting on paperwork for more than two dozen nominees … The research suggests that the significant number of vacancies in the Trump administration — and the concerns about policymaking that accompany them — are likely to persist unless both the White House and the Senate markedly accelerate their pace. And while Senate Democrats have worked to slow down the process, it appears some of the fault could lie with the Trump administration’s failure to turn around necessary documents … The Senate is preparing to spend much of the next week focused on nominations.”
-- Trump has largely continued Obama’s strategy in the fight against ISIS, working to take down top leaders as a means of weakening the entire group. The Daily Beast’s Kimberly Dozier reports: “U.S. special operations forces have removed roughly 50 top ISIS leaders off the battlefield since President Donald Trump took office, down from 80 killed in the last six months of the Obama administration … The lower numbers of high-value targets killed points to the deadly success of the strategy built by the Obama White House … The effectiveness of the current Obama-era strategy of attacking ISIS via local forces together with allies calls into question whether there’s a need for more dramatic revision. That’s presented a dilemma for those working on the Trump anti-ISIS strategy and slowed its public unveiling … The White House has asked defense officials to come up with new ideas to help brand the Trump campaign as different from its predecessor.”
-- Since Trump took office, Congress has passed more one-page bills than almost any other Congress at this point in its first year. Philip Bump writes: “One rough metric we can use to assess [the impact of legislation Trump has signed] is the page-count of each bill signed into law. It takes a lot less language to, say, name a courthouse after former senator (and ‘Law and Order’ actor) Fred Thompson than it does to repeal and replace Obamacare … On average, the bills passed since 1993 have been about 5.9 pages long. If we consider the number of bills that are above average — six pages or longer — the current 115th Congress is among the four Congresses that have passed the fewest bills of that length.”
-- Trump has also taken fewer domestic trips than expected since he became president. Philip Bump writes: “The president of the United States has not only been across the traditional east-west boundary of the continental United States only once during the first six months of his term, but, when he did, he was fewer than 50 miles beyond it … Trump has traveled a fair amount in the eastern half of the country. That said, most of that travel has been on the weekends to properties that are owned by Trump’s private business. As of Tuesday, Trump had visited a Trump Organization property on 49 of the 166 days of his presidency — about 30 percent of the total.”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- “Trump faces renewed scrutiny of the riches that flowed into his real estate empire from the former Soviet Union,” the Financial Times’ Tom Burgis reports: “Felix Sater, a Russian-born dealmaker with organised crime connections who worked on property ventures including Trump Soho in Manhattan, has attracted attention in recent months as efforts continue to chart the links between the US president’s circle and moneymen from Russia and its neighbours. … Mr. Sater had helped the family of Viktor Khrapunov, a former Kazakh minister now exiled in Switzerland, invest millions in US real estate through front companies. The Khrapunovs have spent heavily across the US, including, records indicate, buying apartments in Trump Soho. Mr. Khrapunov is accused by Kazakhstan’s rulers of embezzling government funds and hiding the cash around the world. … Mr. Sater has now agreed to co-operate with an international investigation into the alleged moneylaundering network.”
-- Robert Mueller earned near-universal praise when he was appointed to lead the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia — but as he seeks to build out his special counsel team, his every hire is under scrutiny. Matt Zapotosky reports on the latest additions to the team: “At least seven of the 15 lawyers Mueller has brought on to the special counsel team have donated to Democratic political candidates, five of them to Hillary Clinton — a fact that [Trump] and his allies have eagerly highlighted. These critics also point to some of the lawyers’ history working with clients connected to the Clintons and Mueller’s long history with [James Comey] as they question whether those assigned to the investigation can be impartial. Many lawyers and ethics experts say they can see no significant legal or ethical concerns with the team’s political giving or past work, and they note that Trump often misstates the facts as he casts aspersions. [But] by raising questions about the investigators early, legal analysts said, Trump is laying the groundwork to question any results that are not to his liking.” “By staking out the position of partisanship through campaign contributions, the president simply is setting a stage for a public relations assault down the road,” said Jacob Frenkel, a defense lawyer who previously worked in the now-defunct Office of the Independent Counsel.
-- The New York Times Magazine, “All the President’s Lawyers,” by Jonathan Mahler: “Trump’s entire career has effectively been one long legal entanglement. He filed his first major lawsuit more than 40 years ago … [and] thousands of legal actions followed. ‘Does anyone know more about litigation than Trump?’ Trump [once said of himself]. ‘I’m like a Ph.D. in litigation.’ But there may never be enough Trump Lawyers to get the job done. The work is hard, sometimes even humiliating. In fact, the one irreducible character trait of a Trump Lawyer is that he or she is willing to take on Trump as a client, one who often either doesn’t solicit their advice or simply ignores it; who subverts their legal strategy on national television ... [and] it’s a lot to ask of a professional. As [veteran Washington lawyer] Robert Luskin … explains: ‘There are folks who come to you because you have a certain expertise and folks who come to you because they have already figured out what they want and need, and they want to use you as a dinner fork.’”
-- “The Trump Organization has renewed its claim on more than 1,000 of the web domains registered by its general counsel, including some politically sensitive websites such as TrumpRussia.com and TrumpTowerMoscow.com,” Politico’s Madeline Conway and Tyler Fisher report. “This is the first time the company has renewed the Russia domains since Trump entered the White House. The Trump Organization says it will not pursue any new foreign business deals while Trump is in the White House, and the president has repeatedly denied that he has any inappropriate business entanglements in Russia, but given that a special prosecutor is currently investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to the country, it’s nonetheless politically sensitive. According to experts, it’s common for large companies to buy up hundreds or even thousands of web domains, often to claim URLs for products they think they may want to develop in the future.”
OFF TO THE RACES:
-- Democrats have landed on a mantra for the 2018 midterms: “A Better Deal.” Politico’s Elena Schor and Heather Caygle report: “The rebranding attempt comes as Democrats acknowledge that simply running against Trump wasn’t a winning strategy in 2016 and probably won’t work in 2018 either. The slogan, which is still being polled in battleground House districts, aims to convince voters that Democrats have more to offer than the GOP and the self-proclaimed deal-maker in the White House. But even as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi prepare a jobs package centered on infrastructure, trade and the minimum wage, some of their most vulnerable members are making other plans. … Leadership may not find universal support for the left-leaning platform, particularly from those trying to defend seats in Trump-friendly states.”
-- The DCCC also tried out new slogans on social media yesterday, including, “I mean, have you seen the other guys?” The Hill’s Josh Delk reports: “The sticker slogan, one of several floated as part of a fundraising effort by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), caused a stir on social media, where many wondered why the party would try out such a self-deprecating campaign line … Another sticker slogan referenced Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) opposition to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s confirmation in ‘She persisted, we resisted.’ ‘Make Congress blue again,’ urged another.”
-- On the Republican side, the party hopes to increase its majority in the Senate, but the possibility of a Democratic wave election is scaring off valuable candidates. The Wall Street Journal’s Natalie Andrews reports: “GOP lawmakers are turning down challenges in states in which President Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton … Midterms are often referendums on the president and Mr. Trump currently has a 37% approval rating, according to Gallup. And history shows the midterm elections more often than not go poorly for the party that controls the White House … The prospect has left many potentially vulnerable Democratic incumbents without serious challengers. In North Dakota, a state where Mr. Trump won 63% of the vote, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, a Democrat, has no challenger from the GOP.”
-- “An inside look at One America News, the insurgent TV network taking ‘pro-Trump’ to new heights,” by Marc Fisher: “One America — a tiny father-and-sons operation that often delivers four times as many stories per hour as its competitors — promises ‘straight news, no opinion,’ … But since its inception, [One America’s owner, Robert Herring Sr.], has directed his channel to push Trump’s candidacy, scuttle stories about police shootings, encourage antiabortion stories, minimize coverage of Russian aggression, and steer away from the new president’s troubles … ‘News anchors are not allowed to express opinions,’ [said Robert’s son, Charles Herring]. ‘They simply deliver the news and we leave it up to the viewers to decide.’ Nonetheless, Robert Herring has repeatedly shaped the news on OAN. During the campaign, for example, he banned stories about polls that showed anyone other than Trump in the lead …” Last March, for example, Herring directed producers not to air Mitt Romney’s remarks denouncing Trump: “Do not carry the Romney speech live,” Herring wrote. “Romney has no standing. … He is a loser. We will let the people decide.”
-- “For Muslims looking to date, the Trump era sparks interest in matchmaking services,” by Julie Zauzmer: “Beyond Chai and other Muslim dating services are seeing a surge of interest right now, as they cater to a generation hovering in between two norms — not interested in the customs their immigrant parents followed in the Muslim world, but also uninterested in finding a non-Muslim partner on a general-interest dating app. Some young Muslims, who might have once considered marrying outside their faith, have become increasingly interested in finding a partner who shares their religion due to the political focus on Muslims in America in the past two years, the people behind these dating services say. ‘I think what happens in any community that’s under attack is people pull back into that community,’ said Haroon Mokhtarzada, the CEO of Minder, an app named because it strives to be a sort of Muslim Tinder.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
The president addressed trade over Twitter:
First daughter Ivanka Trump traveled to Poland for her father's diplomatic trip:
The RNC went after an old enemy:
And she hit right back:
From a former Clinton and Obama White House official on Nikki Haley's complaint about spending her July 4 holiday in North Korea meetings:
On Trump donating his presidential salary:
The Democratic Senate leader offered some advice to the president ahead of his meeting with Putin:
This 2013 tweet was making the rounds again in advance of the Putin meeting:
The Health and Human Services tweeted out this statistic on Obamacare:
Democratic senators met with constituents to denounce an Obamacare repeal:
Donald Trump Jr. criticized CNN for its story on the identity of the Reddit user who created the CNN clip tweeted out by the president:
From a writer for The New York Times and New Republic:
This parody of a religious poem went viral:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- Bloomberg Businessweek, “The Remaking of Donald Trump,” by Joshua Green: “Right out of the gate, The Apprentice was a hit. During its first season, the show drew an average of more than 20 million viewers a week. It was the dawn of the reality-TV era, and Trump’s cartoonish persona lent itself perfectly to the new medium … The show’s fast success produced significant economic benefits for the network. It did so for Trump, too—but it also did something more. It indelibly established his national image … But there was an additional aspect of Trump’s appeal that received almost no mainstream media attention—and yet was a key part of why advertisers found his show so desirable, and why Trump, even though he was politically dormant during this period, managed to build a national profile that was dramatically different from any other major Republican figure, then or since: Trump was extremely popular with minority audiences.” (The story is adapted from Green’s new book, “Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency.”)
-- The New York Times, “After Backing Trump, Christians Who Fled Iraq Fall Into His Dragnet,” by Vivian Yee: “A few Sundays ago, federal immigration agents walked through the doors of handsome houses here in the Detroit suburbs, brushing past tearful children, stunned wives and statuettes of the Virgin Mary in search of men whose time was up. If the Trump administration prevails, more than 100 of these men may soon be deported … But [these] arrests may have stunned this community more than most. While [Trump] was hurling verbal napalm at Mexico and vowing to keep out Muslims … he was also promising to look out for people from these men’s besieged corner of the world. They are Christians from Iraq — a land that they and their families fled decades ago because, they say, to live as a Christian in Iraq is no life at all, and sometimes means death. Even so, they, too, are subject to American immigration law — despite what the Chaldean community took to be an ironclad promise from a president whose election many of them saw as a miracle from God, helped along by their donations [and] their prayers ...”
-- The New York Times Magazine, “Hated by the Right. Mocked by the Left. Who Wants to Be ‘Liberal’ Anymore?” by Nikil Saval: “‘Liberal’ has long been a dirty word to the American political right … Its target is always clear. For the people who use these epithets, liberals are, basically, everyone who leans to the left: big-spending Democrats with their unisex bathrooms and elaborate coffee. This is still how polls classify people, placing them on a neat spectrum from ‘extremely conservative’ to ‘extremely liberal.’ Over the last few years, though — and especially 2016 — there has been a surge of the opposite phenomenon: Now the political left is expressing its hatred of liberals, too. For the committed leftist, the ‘liberal’ is a weak-minded, market-friendly centrist, wonky and technocratic and condescending to the working class.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“On Anniversary of Alton Sterling Killing, Protesters Arrested, Pepper Sprayed,” from NBC News: “Police reportedly used pepper spray and a stun gun as seven people were arrested in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Wednesday during a march to memorialize Alton Sterling, the black man who was shot dead by a white police officer exactly a year ago. Baton Rouge Police Department said that three women and four men were taken into custody at the conclusion of the march after they allegedly tried to break through barriers set up outside police headquarters.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“Chelsea Handler to Debate Tomi Lahren Live at Politicon,” from The Daily Beast: “Comedian and TV host Chelsea Handler will take on controversial conservative pundit Tomi Lahren in a live conversation later this month at Politicon … Handler, who previously hosted the celebrity-driver Chelsea Lately on E!, has become an increasingly political critic of Trump since launching her Netflix show 'Chelsea' last spring, leading the Women's March at Sundance. In September 2016, she planned a showdown with another prominent female conservative, Ann Coulter, who canceled at the last minute.”
Trump will begin his day in Warsaw. He has a meeting and joint news conference planned with Polish President Andrzej Duda before his speech at the Three Seas Initiative Summit and a meeting with the Croatian president. Following a speech to the Polish people, Trump will travel to Hamburg for the G-20 summit. Once in Germany, he’ll meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and attend the Northeast Asia Security Dinner with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Pence will travel to Florida’s Kennedy Space Center for a tour and a speech today.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Trump once again returned to talking about his electoral victory during a press conference this morning with the Polish president: "Polish Americans came out in droves. They voted in the last election, and I was very happy with that result."
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Heavy rain is likely in D.C. today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Showers are possible any time, but the greatest risk of more vigorous storms is in the afternoon. The strongest cells could produce strong wind gusts and even small hail. Most of the time winds are quite light from the southeast. Highs range from upper 70s to lower 80s, depending on when rains occur at any location.”
-- Yesterday’s matchup between the Nationals and the Mets was postponed due to inclement weather. No makeup date has yet been announced. (Jorge Castillo)
-- A police officer shot and wounded a man in Northwest D.C. last night. Clarence Williams reports: “The wounded man was taken to a hospital with injuries not believed to be life threatening, [D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham] said. The officer, who was not immediately identified, was not injured, police said. Newsham said police were still working to find out what led to the shooting, but said the officer came across the man armed with a weapon.”
-- Maryland became the first state to outlaw scholarship displacement for public universities. Tim Prudente reports: “Again and again, college financial aid offices would frustrate Jan Wagner and Michele Waxman Johnson. As executives of Central Scholarship, a nonprofit in Owings Mills that provides scholarships and interest-free loans to Maryland students, they would award a student money, and a university would reduce that student’s financial aid by the same amount. ‘It totally undermines our very existence,’ said Wagner, Central Scholarship’s president. The common practice provoked Wagner and Johnson, the organization’s vice president, into a two-year campaign to stop it.”
-- A Maryland mother has begun hosting “CPR parties” to allow fellow parents to learn the lifesaving technique after her son nearly drowned, Victoria St. Martin reports.
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
The Post delved into the president's many contradictory statements on North Korea:
Trump has developed a “friendship” with the Chinese president, but it seems to be on fragile footing now:
The Post’s Abby Ohlheiser explains the origins of the CNN meme tweeted by the president:
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie virtually traveled to some interesting places after photos of his recent beach trip went viral:
Protesters took to the streets of Hamburg ahead of the G-20 summit there:
A Baltimore Police Department spokesperson had to speak to the press about the shooting death of his own brother:
Peru revealed its facial replica of an ancient leader who died approximately 1,700 years ago:
Longtime couple Louis Varnado and Andy Pittman recounted competing against each other in the Keystone State Gay Rodeo: