With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: The Trumps are congenitally unable to take personal responsibility.
“In retrospect, I probably would have done things a little differently,” Donald Trump Jr. told Sean Hannity on Fox News last night.
But don’t mistake that for a mea culpa. Because it wasn’t. The president’s namesake dismissed his sitdown last summer with someone he believed to be an agent of the Russian government as “a nothing.”
“Someone sent me an email,” the First Son said. “I can't help what someone sends me. I read it. I responded accordingly. And if there was something interesting there, I think that's pretty common. … I wouldn’t have even remembered it until you started scouring through this stuff. It was literally just a wasted 20 minutes, which was a shame.”
Trump Jr. posted on Twitter earlier in the day what he claimed was the entirety of the exchange in which he agreed to take a meeting with a “Russian government attorney” who could provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton as part of “Russia and its government’s support” for his dad’s presidential campaign.
“The email exchange showed clearly that Trump Jr. understood he was taking the meeting as a way of channeling information directly from the government of a nation hostile to the United States to his father’s campaign,” Rosalind S. Helderman and John Wagner note. “It is the most concrete public evidence to date suggesting that top Trump campaign aides were eager for Russia’s assistance in the campaign. [Music publicist Rob] Goldstone offered to send the information directly to Trump, who had then largely sealed the Republican nomination for president, but said that because the information was ‘ultra sensitive’ he wanted to contact Trump Jr. first instead.”
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government support for Mr. Trump,” Goldstone wrote.
“If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer,” Trump Jr. replied enthusiastically.
He appears to have then forwarded the entire exchange to both campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his brother-in-law, Jared Kushner, who both attended the meeting.
-- Perhaps the biggest conceit of Donald Sr.’s rationale for seeking the presidency was his competence as a manager. Many voters assumed that because he is rich and once hosted a successful reality-television show, Trump could effectively lead an organization. The more details that emerge about how his campaign really operated behind the scenes — and how paralyzed his White House is now — the clearer it becomes that the president is in way over his head.
Even more than in normal organizations, the person at the top of any campaign or White House sets the tone that everyone else follows. When the leader plays fast and loose with the rules and the truth, it creates a problematic culture.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who believes Trump Jr. needs to testify before Congress as soon as possible, said yesterday that no one on his 2008 presidential campaign would have ever agreed to take such a meeting. “Another shoe drops from the centipede every few days,” the Arizona senator told The Weekly Standard. “I can assure you the people around me would not be inclined to do that kind of thing, especially not one of my sons. 'Cause my sons — they're in the military. You know, they'd probably be court-martialed.”
-- Five juicy stories posted overnight about deep dysfunction inside the Trump orbit. To varying degrees, each shows a president and his family blaming others for problems they themselves are responsible for creating. It’s the continuation of a pattern that goes back decades.
1. "The president’s frustration is based on the media coverage of his son’s actions, as opposed to the actions themselves," The Post’s Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker report. Based on interviews with more than a dozen West Wing officials, outside advisers, friends and associates of the president and his family, they relay that Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and senior adviser; Jared Kushner, her husband and another senior adviser; and first lady Melania Trump have been privately pressing the president to shake up his team — most specifically by replacing Reince Priebus as the White House chief of staff.
- The mind-set of Trump Jr. over the past few days has evolved from distress to anger to defiance, according to people close to him.
- In the West Wing, meanwhile, fear of the Mueller probe effectively paralyzed senior staffers as they struggled to respond.
2. “Advisers said the president was annoyed not so much by his son as by the headlines. But three people close to the legal team said he had also trained his ire on Marc E. Kasowitz, his longtime lawyer, who is leading the team of private lawyers representing him,” per the New York Times’s Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman. “Mr. Trump, who often vents about advisers in times of trouble, has grown disillusioned by Mr. Kasowitz’s strategy … The strain, though, exists on both sides. Mr. Kasowitz and his colleagues have been deeply frustrated by the president. And they have complained that Mr. Kushner has been whispering in the president’s ear about the Russia investigations and stories while keeping the lawyers out of the loop … The president’s lawyers view Mr. Kushner as an obstacle and a freelancer more concerned about protecting himself than his father-in-law … While no ultimatum has been delivered, the lawyers have told colleagues that they cannot keep operating that way, raising the prospect that Mr. Kasowitz may resign.”
3. Despite the fact that the Russian investigations involve “reams” of classified material, Kasowitz does not have a security clearance, nor does he expect to seek one. ProPublica’s Justin Elliott and Jesse Eisinger report: “Several lawyers who have represented presidents and senior government officials said they could not imagine handling a case so suffused with sensitive material without a clearance. ‘No question in my mind — in order to represent President Trump in this matter you would have to get a very high level of clearance because of the allegations involving Russia,’ said Robert Bennett, who served as President Bill Clinton’s personal lawyer. One possible explanation for Kasowitz’s decision not to pursue a clearance: He might have trouble getting one. Past and present employees of [Kasowitz’s firm] said in interviews that Kasowitz has struggled intermittently with alcohol abuse, leading to a stint in rehab in the winter of 2014-15. Several people [said] that Kasowitz has been drinking in recent months…”
4. “The president is using his relatively light schedule to watch TV and fume about the latest scandal,” Politico’s Tara Palmeri and Josh Dawsey report. “Top West Wing aides are exasperated by their limited ability to steer the damage control and the risk that more damaging news has yet to emerge. … One Trump adviser said the White House was ‘essentially helpless’ because the conduct happened during an “anything goes” campaign that had few rules. This person said he had spoken to several people in the White House on Tuesday and that ‘none of them knew anything about Donald Trump Jr.'s meetings’ … Since Trump Jr. is not a White House employee and is represented by his own lawyer, the White House communications operation has had to take a back seat, while holding its breath for the next batch of revelations. … The lack of full-throttle response from the White House has lowered morale internally. ‘How much longer can we assume that the American people don't care about Russia?’ one White House official mused.”
5. “The president, in conversations with confidants, has questioned the quality of advice he has received from senior staff, including (Priebus)," the Associated Press’s Jonathan Lemire and Julie Pace report. "An unusual statement Saturday night from the legal team's spokesman Mark Corallo appeared to claim Trump Jr., Kushner and Manafort were duped into meeting with the Russian lawyers, and was viewed as particularly unhelpful by senior White House officials.”
-- Trump rallied to his son’s defense on Twitter this morning:
My son Donald did a good job last night. He was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2017
Remember, when you hear the words "sources say" from the Fake Media, often times those sources are made up and do not exist.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2017
WHO IS THE RUSSIAN LAWYER?
-- How Natalia Veselnitskaya ended up in the meeting with Trump Jr. can be traced to her role as an attorney representing a Russian company, Prevezon Holdings — in a high-profile case that brought her to New York in June 2016. Michael Kranish, Tom Hamburger, David Filipov and Rosalind S. Helderman have a great profile: “[She] represented Prevezon, which had been sued by the U.S. attorney in New York’s Southern District in a money-laundering case. It was while she was in that role that she also became an outspoken advocate for lifting economic sanctions imposed by Congress against Russia for human rights violations. Veselnitskaya, 42, has deep experience in Russian political and legal matters. She served in the prosecutor’s office of Moscow Region for three years, where she has said her work included ‘overseeing the legality of statutes’ adopted by legislators.”
Speaking to The Post in Moscow on Tuesday, Veselnitskaya maintained that she has no connection to the Kremlin: “We sat and talked to each other for a few minutes, and it was clear we were talking about two different things,” Veselnitskaya said of the June 2016 meeting, adding that Goldstone’s statement that she was a government attorney is wrong. She told The Post that she once worked in the prosecutor’s office of the province that surrounds“but does not include” Moscow. “A regional prosecutor is not the Kremlin,” she said.
-- But before she was widely depicted as a “one-issue activist,” Veselnitskaya built a reputation as a “fearsome” Moscow insider who was trusted to win prominent cases. The New York Times’ Neil MacFarquhar and Andrew E. Kramer report: “She earned a reputation as a fearsome opponent, intimidating both inside the courtroom and in the corridors, where she was known to threaten adversaries with the wrath of the government. … For years, she has been a lawyer to the Katsyv family, [whose patriarch] was minister of transportation of the Moscow region … and whose son was caught up in the New York money laundering case. [In] Russia, lines between career, loyalty and government service tend to blur. ... U.S.-born hedge fund manager William Browder described the elder Katsyv as Russia’s “equivalent of a Chris Christie[:] no formal relationship to the Kremlin, but with very strong relations to the powers that be.”
-- Former spooks say the way Veselnitskaya's meeting with Trump Jr. went down fits with everything we know about Russian spycraft: The Kremlin was probably using this lawyer as a dangle to see if Trump Jr. would bite. And he did. Just Security’s Rolf Mowatt-Larssen and Ryan Goodman explain in a smart piece that the media is asking the wrong questions about Trump Jr.'s meeting: “It is difficult to conceive of a scenario in which a private citizen in Russia has access to derogatory information on a U.S. presidential candidate. The act of offering such information was likely, at minimum, a trial balloon, and at best (from Moscow’s perspective), a chance to pass certain information from an agent of the Russian government to the Trump campaign through the candidate’s campaign manager and son, thereby also implicating Donald J. Trump himself. Vesilnitskaya may have had her own agenda in requesting a meeting with Trump. That part could be legitimate. But Russian intelligence practice is to co-opt such a person by arming them with secret intelligence information and tasking them to pass it to Trump’s people and get their reaction. Did Trump’s associates like it? Do they want more? … In sum, Vesilnitskaya’s advocacy of other causes is irrelevant to her mission on behalf of the Russian government. Based on what we now know, this interaction had all the hallmarks of an overture by Russian intelligence to the campaign, and it is utterly damning that Trump Jr. took the meeting, brought in Manafort and Kushner to the meeting, and none of them reported the events immediately.”
IS DON JR. IN LEGAL JEOPARDY?
-- The president's son sought to defend himself by claiming the promised information was “political opposition research.” But that argument doesn't square with many ethics lawyers and former Washington campaign veterans, who told David Fahrenthold that, even in the “take-no-prisoners” world of opposition research, such a meeting is highly unusual: “Election lawyers and campaign veterans said they would have advised the younger Trump to avoid a meeting with someone identified as an emissary of the Russian state. The intent [of opposition research] is usually to produce a report that can be handed to reporters, along with documentation that would stand up to a journalist’s scrutiny. Campaign lawyers said it was very uncommon to have a foreign state offer to provide incriminating information. Could the meeting also have been against the law? Legal experts said that depends on whether the aid promised by Veselnitskaya could be counted as a ‘thing of value’ for legal purposes and whether Trump Jr. could be said to have ‘solicited’ it by agreeing to the meeting.”
- “It's a shocking admission of a criminal conspiracy,” Jens David Ohlin, the associate dean of Cornell Law School, told The Fix’s Amber Phillips. “The conversation will now turn to whether [Trump] was personally involved or not. But the question of the campaign's involvement appears settled now. The answer is yes.”
- “We have smoking gun evidence of collusion,” former federal prosecutor Paul Butler, a professor at Georgetown’s law school, told CNBC. “That collusion becomes a crime under federal law if you solicit a contribution from a foreign national.”
- Jeffrey Jacobovitz, a lawyer who represented officials in Bill Clinton's White House, said the emails are “as close as you can get to a smoking gun.”
-- Former Obama White House Counsel Bob Bauer, a partner at Perkins Coie and professor at New York University, explains why the Trumps' legal troubles could worsen: “This is not an individual venture of Trump Jr.’s that the Trump campaign can somehow disavow,” Bob writes for Fortune. “While the individuals in question may not escape liability, the serious issue raised by the meeting exposes the campaign as an organization to criminal legal jeopardy. Under campaign finance regulations, the meeting could without question be considered a solicitation (at least under the facts so far known). The law defines a solicitation to include any request for a contribution or ‘anything of value’ from a foreign government or entity, even if the request is implicit in the circumstances rather than expressly communicated. The regulations provide specifically that the solicitation ‘may be made directly or indirectly,’ based on all relevant factors, including the ‘conduct of the persons involved in the communication.’”
-- Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) even used the “T” word: Hillary Clinton’s running mate, who attended Harvard Law School and taught at the University of Richmond School of Law before going into politics, said the investigation has now moved beyond obstruction of justice. “This is moving into perjury, false statements and even potentially treason,” he told reporters.
-- Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators plan to examine the meeting and email exchanges disclosed yesterday as part of the broader Russia investigation, CNN reports: “The details of the interactions between Trump Jr., (Rob) Goldstone and Veselnitskaya weren't fully known to federal investigators until recently, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the probe. The FBI, as part of its counter intelligence probe and the investigation into Russian meddling, has scrutinized some of Donald Trump Jr.'s business dealings and meetings even before the latest meeting was disclosed.”
-- “No one should presume to draw definitive conclusions from the contents of the emails as to possible jeopardy for Trump Jr.; where the overall investigation, which includes various threads, is heading; or most specifically how it will end,” The Post's chief correspondent Dan Balz cautions. “But in terms of public disclosures, what came out Tuesday was [both] breathtaking and surreal … For those who had grown tired of the Russia issue or who believed it was losing potency or who thought the biggest surprises were in the past, Tuesday’s revelations provided dramatic proof that the investigation is alive with no end in sight.”
-- Back on the Capitol Hill, most Republican lawmakers did their best to duck the questions about Don Jr.'s emails from reporters, either avoiding them or issuing vague justifications for Jr.'s behavior, David Weigel reports. Another safe response from Republicans bemoaned how the “endless Russia story” was distracting from the party’s agenda:
- “He’s not given any particular assignment in the administration,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said of Trump Jr., adding: “I think this can be way overblown.”
- “That’s the very thing that we need to not be distracted by,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.).
- Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) called the revelations a “terrible distraction”: “Is it the end of the world? No. … It’s another little stumbling block,” he said on Fox Business.
- “Not right now,” Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) told the New York Times.
- “Talk to others about politics,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).
-- Meanwhile, Vice President Pence – who in the past has vigorously defended Trump when asked about the Russia scandals – tried to distance himself: "He was not aware of the meeting,” Pence press secretary Marc Lotter said in a statement. “He is also not focused on stories about the campaign -- especially those pertaining to the time before he joined the campaign.”
-- There were distinct camps on the Hill, Monica Hesse and Ben Terris write in a colorful piece for Style: “Democrats, who had oodles of time to talk about the tweets in question, and GOP lawmakers, who had not even heard of the tweets in question, and who is Donald Trump Jr., and what is a Twitter anyway? … Sen. Dianne Feinstein gravely told reporters that the context of the meeting was ‘pretty clear,’ while behind her, Sen. Ted Cruz was shuffling past with his hands clamped on the shoulders of two small children walking in front of him. ‘I’m just trying to have lunch with my daughters,’ he explained. Elsewhere, Sen. Rand Paul had no daughters to lunch with, and so he kept his hand clamped firmly to his cellphone as he strode past … (We are working on the assumption there was a person on the other end of the line.) We are reminded of Winston Churchill: This is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, a sign that reality has become untethered from itself and we have fallen into a parallel dimension where there is no beginning or end.”
-- Some elected Republicans did speak out: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called Don Jr's email chain setting up the meeting “disturbing.” “On its face, this is very problematic,” he said. “Anytime you’re in a campaign and you get an offer from a foreign government to help your campaign, the answer is ‘no.’” Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), who on Monday dismissed Trump Jr.’s meeting as a “big nothing burger,” appeared to retreat on that claim. “I voted for @POTUS last Nov. & want him & USA to succeed,” he wrote on Twitter, “but that meeting, given that email chain just released, is a big no-no.”
-- “In conservative media, a very different and parallel conversation unfolded: about the ‘Destroy-Trump Media’ and its Wile E. Coyote-like attempts to bring down a president,” Weigel reports. “On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh told listeners that he was ‘watching people lose their minds’ because ‘they’ve got nothing.’ On ‘Fox and Friends’ … co-host Brian Kilmeade asked Trump attorney Jay Sekulow if 2016 campaign veterans could vet themselves and release any more information about meetings with Russians, ‘so this drip-drip-drip doesn’t fuel other haters.’ ‘The Destroy-Trump-Media’s Russia psychosis is now back, and it’s worse than ever,’ Sean Hannity [said Monday]. On conservative media, from Reddit to Fox News, the story has largely been covered as a conspiracy theory … In pro-Trump coverage of the story, any theory has been plausible — so long as it absolved the president. [One theory] advanced by Sekulow and by Hannity, was that Clinton’s team was obscuring its own ‘collusion’ — meetings between campaign staff and representatives of Ukraine and China.”
Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones had the most creative explanation for why Jr. took the meeting with the Russian lawyer: he was trying to suss out whether she was a Kremlin spy. From Media Matters: “That’s Donald Jr. doing his job. So that he’s trying to find Russian spies, he is now a Russian spy,” Jones said yesterday on his radio show.
HOW IT'S PLAYING:
-- The Post’s Editorial Board says the Russia meddling story is “no longer just smoke — it’s fire.”
-- “The future of the Trump presidency is in the hands of — wait, who is this guy?” by Kathleen Parker: “So, apparently, the future of the Trump presidency is in the hands of [Rob] Goldstone. He set up the meeting; he brought Trump Jr. into a damning email exchange; he promised dirt. Wait, who is this guy again? Well, that’s a very good question. He’s an intermediary for Veselnitskaya, who either (a) works for the Kremlin and possibly even Vladimir Putin; or (b) is just a lawyer/lobbyist interested in U.S. policy. Wouldn’t we like to know?”
-- “This is no ‘rookie mistake.’ The Trump team shouldn’t even be on the field,” by Dana Milbank: “There have been enough rookie errors to send this whole team back to Double-A ball. The longer this goes on — we’re now six months into Trump’s term — the less it looks like growing pains than incompetence and mismanagement aggravated by nepotism and dishonesty.”
-- “The Donald Trump Jr. emails could hardly be more incriminating,” by Ruth Marcus: “By explicitly linking the source of the information to the Russian government and by describing it as ‘part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump,’ Goldstone made crystal clear that he was offering the campaign a chance to collude — yes, that word is appropriate here — with a foreign government to ‘incriminate Hillary’ Clinton and help win the presidency. By reacting as he did, eagerly accepting the offer of this foreign aid, Trump Jr. made clear that he was a willing part of this incipient conspiracy — and yes, that word is appropriate here, too.”
-- “Trump Jr probably believes his own talking points, a trait that he has inherited from his father. … The leaders of the Republican Party, however, cannot claim similar ignorance,” Walter Shapiro writes for The Guardian. “Enough with the furrowed brows and expressions of ‘deep concern.’ A single prominent Republican in Congress saying flatly, ‘This is unconscionable and forever unsupportable,’ is more important than 873 liberal law professors chattering about ‘a textbook case of collusion’ and ‘obstruction of justice.’ In a sense, the Republicans fit Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn rule about Iraq: ‘You break it, you own it.’ Republican leaders, from Paul Ryan to Reince Priebus, allowed Trump to break the Republican Party and now they own the consequences. … Where have you gone Howard Baker? Our nation lifts its lonely eyes to you. Baker, who died in 2014, was the senior Republican on the Senate Watergate Committee. His oft-repeated question (‘What did the president know and when did he know it?’) is suddenly as apt today as it was in 1973.”
-- “Sometimes the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” writes New York Times columnist Frank Bruni. “Sometimes the apple is also considerably dimmer than the tree. And sometimes the apple must be thrown under the bus so that the tree and a few of its most crucial limbs don’t tumble to the forest floor, where they’ll be chopped up and used as firewood by Democrats. Is that the fruity fate of Donald Trump Jr.? … Enamored of loyalty and deaf to charges of nepotism and conflict of interest, [President Trump] has kept his kids in a tight circle around him. But to survive, he may have to push this bad apple away.”
-- “Here is a good rule of thumb for dealing with Donald Trump: Everyone who gives him the benefit of the doubt eventually regrets it,” adds Times columnist Ross Douthat. “[The] mix of inexperience, incaution and conspiratorial glee on display in the emails suggests that people in Trump’s immediate family — not just satellites like Roger Stone — would have been delighted to collude if the opportunity presented itself. Indeed, if the Russians didn’t approach the Trump circle about how to handle the D.N.C. email trove, it was probably because they recognized that anyone this naïve, giddy and 'Burn After Reading'-level stupid would make a rather poor espionage partner. … But right now, the 2018 congressional elections promise to be a de facto referendum on impeachment. There are enough sparks in the smoke; there will probably be fire for some of Trump’s intimates...”
-- “This is a very simple test of the common English understanding of the term ‘collusion,’” New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait writes. “Your campaign is told that Russia wants to help you win the election. If you refuse to take the meeting, or perhaps take it only to angrily tell your interlocutor you want no part … then it isn’t collusion. If you take the meeting on the proposed terms, you are colluding. If somehow the information on offer turned out to have no value … then the meeting was ineffectual collusion. But Donald Trump Jr.’s response clearly indicates that he accepted the meeting in order to collude. The most sinister versions of the collusion scenario have been treated as unlikely or paranoid hypotheses. But it is the explanation most consistent with distinct sleaziness that defines Trump … To imagine that [he] might have had the chance to benefit politically from Russian espionage, and turned it down out of a sense of responsibility, is the unlikeliest scenario of all.”
-- National Review Editorial: “If the Trump team affirmatively wanted to stoke suspicions of the worst, it wouldn’t be acting any differently. One meeting doesn’t prove collusion, but it does demonstrate the seriousness of this matter and the public interest in getting to the bottom of it — now more than ever.”
-- The New York Post Editorial Board: “We see one truly solid takeaway from the story of the day: Donald Trump Jr. is an idiot. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb. As were Junior’s shifting, incomplete accounts of the meeting under days of Times questioning. Democrats and the media are frothing to find something criminal in it all, with the most unhinged talking treason. What it clearly was, was criminally stupid.”
-- The Washington Examiner’s Byron York: “Trump-Russia investigation takes sharp turn toward the dumb.”
-- National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar: “Trump Becoming Toxic for GOP. Republicans are panicking that the political environment could get even worse.”
-- Holman Jenkins Jr. in the Wall Street Journal: “Surprise, he didn’t run his campaign any smarter than his government.”
-- Lawfare: “The Wall Begins to Crumble: Notes on Collusion.”
-- ABC News political director Rick Klein: “Amid shifting explanations and even shifting policy on Russia -— all creating a suspicious backdrop -— Trump now has his own family members to blame for the major escalation of a scandal he wants desperately to be done with.”
-- Wired Magazine: “In Donald Trump Jr.'s Emails, Intent Matters More Than Intel.”
-- Daily Beast: “Trump Keeps Doing Things He Criticized Clinton For.”
-- HuffPost: “Trump Teased ‘Major’ News On Clinton Hours After Don Jr. Set Meeting On Russian Dirt. ‘I think you’re going to find it very informative and very, very interesting.’”
TRACKING THE BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- American and Russian officials will meet next Monday to address "irritants,” a term often used to describe diplomatic differences and sanctions. Karen DeYoung reports: “The Monday meeting between Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov follows the cancellation of a session scheduled last month in St. Petersburg. Russia shelved the meeting after the Trump administration announced an expansion of sanctions in response to the ongoing Ukraine crisis. In a news conference Tuesday in Vienna, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov characterized the continued barring of Russian officials from [their compounds] on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and on Long Island as ‘outrageous.’ He said that ‘we are thinking of concrete steps’ to retaliate if they are not returned.”
-- Growing concerns over Moscow’s mischief have prompted former leaders in the national-security community from both parties to launch a new project. Josh Rogin reports: “The idea is to create a platform and repository of information about Russian political influence activities in the United States and Europe [and] aims to be able to eventually map out Russian disinformation on social networks, cyber-efforts, financial flows, broader state-level cooperation and even Russian government support for far-left or far-right parties in other countries. ... The advisory council includes former Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff; former acting CIA director Michael Morell; former House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers; Adm. James Stavridis, former NATO supreme Allied commander, Europe; Jake Sullivan, former national security adviser to Joe Biden; and former Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves. The project … will be run day to day by a staff led by Laura Rosenberger, a former [State Department] official in the Obama administration, and Jamie Fly, former national security counselor to Sen. Marco Rubio.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough announced on Stephen Colbert’s show that he is formally leaving the Republican Party. Katie Mettler reports: “Scarborough tore into what he characterized as a complacent Republican Party unwilling to stand up to President Trump. ‘You have to ask yourself, what exactly is the Republican Party willing to do?’ Scarborough said to Colbert. ‘How far are they willing to go? How much of this country and our values are they willing to sell out?’ ‘Aren’t you a Republican?’ Colbert asked. ‘I am a Republican, but I’m not going to be a Republican anymore,’ Scarborough said to loud applause from the audience. ‘I’ve got to become an independent.’”
-- The American League won the MLB All-Star Game. Dave Sheinin reports: “It was the first All-Star Game in 15 years that did not come with home-field advantage in the World Series attached to its outcome, so the American League’s 2-1 victory, secured when Seattle’s Robinson Cano homered leading off the top of the 10th against Chicago Cubs closer Wade Davis, brought nothing more than bragging rights. The pennant-winners will once again be on their own, their regular season record the only criterion, when Game 1 finds them either in home whites or road grays some 14 weeks from now.”
GET SMART FAST:
- A group monitoring the war in Syria said it has “confirmed information” that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, is dead. But U.S. officials have not yet verified the report — and though U.S. Central Command said in a statement that they “hope the information” is true, the ISIS leader’s death has been falsely reported on a number of previous occasions. (Kareem Fahim)
- Two Americans fighting alongside Kurdish forces died last week while fighting ISIS in Syria. Nicholas Warden, 29, and Robert Grodt, 28, were killed on the outskirts of Raqqa as anti-ISIS forces sought to take back the group’s de-facto capital. (Thomas Gibbons-Neff)
- Hundreds of New York police officers once again turned their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio during a funeral for a fallen cop. The demonstration came one week after de Blasio traveled to Hamburg for G-20 protests the day after Officer Miosotis Familia’s death. (New York Post)
- Nevada’s Department of Taxation declared a state of emergency over a diminishing supply of marijuana. The drug was decriminalized in Nevada just two weeks ago but retail dispensaries are already running dangerously low, threatening to deprive the state of tax revenue to be used for schools and general reserves. (LA Times)
- Oklahoma Democrats flipped two seats in special elections for the state legislature. The state will hold several more special elections before the midterms due to resignations and a death. (The Oklahoman)
- Former “Celebrity Apprentice” contestant Clay Aiken claimed that Trump did not make the ultimate decision on when to fire people on his hit reality TV show. Aiken said that Trump deferred the decision to NBC producers for the show’s most climatic moments. (Samantha Schmidt)
- Pitbull teamed up with Jeb Bush in an attempt to buy the Miami Marlins. The pop star and former presidential candidate are two members of a larger group led by Wayne Rothbaum and Tagg Romney trying to buy the baseball team, and Derek Jeter and Michael Jordan are on the other side. (Miami Herald)
- A judge in Texas was suspended after she admitted to “sexting” her bailiff and using him to buy drugs. She’s also being accused of hiring prostitutes and bringing home marijuana that prosecutors say was seized from a defendant. (Avi Selk)
- An American tourist killed at a bar on a Greek island last week appears to have been beaten to death over a selfie. Bakari Henderson asked to take a picture with a waitress, setting off a confrontation with other bar customers and two employees. Nine men have been charged with his murder. (Kristine Phillips)
- Members of a Penn State fraternity who waited nearly 12 hours to call for help for an unconscious pledge texted one another in the hours before his death about “how much trouble” they were going to be in. “He looked f—ing dead,” said one text, reportedly sent by the former president of the fraternity. “At the end of the day, I’m accountable for it all,” he said. "[I’ll] be the one … maybe put in jail.” (Susan Svrluga)
- A dying judge who vowed to officiate his daughter’s wedding ceremony was able to make good on his lifelong promise — marrying his eldest daughter and her partner from a hospital bed in the ICU. (AP)
- A crowd of Florida beachgoers teamed up to save a family of six that was swept away by a powerful and deceptive riptide, with more than 80 people — some of whom could not swim — linking arms to form a human chain and drag them to safety. The family was stranded in the tide for nearly an hour before the intervention, causing one woman to blackout and another to suffer a heart attack, telling rescuers in what she thought would be her final moments to “just go” and save themselves. (Katie Mettler)
- The first object was teleported to Earth’s orbit. Chinese researchers teleported a photon from the Gobi desert to a satellite over 300 miles above the Earth’s surface. (BBC)
DRIVING THE DAY:
-- The confirmation hearing for Trump’s pick to lead the FBI starts later this morning. Devlin Barrett and Ellen Nakashima have a new profile of Christopher Wray: “[In 2003,] Wray, then the head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, heard that the higher-ups at the department — including then-Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey and then-FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III — were preparing to resign in a dispute with the Bush administration. Wray pulled Comey aside to tell him he would follow his lead. If Comey resigned, he would, too … Questions about Wray’s ability to be an independent leader, resistant to political pressures, are expected to dominate his hearing. … Friends of Wray’s say his career has prepared him to manage White House expectations while preserving the traditional independent operations of federal law enforcement.”
CRUNCH TIME ON HEALTH CARE:
--Senate Republicans plan to introduce a revised version of their health-care bill on Thursday, despite the fact that the debate's outlines seem pretty firmly drawn in the sand, Thomas Kaplan and Robert Pear report in the Times, adding that pessimism “pervaded" the Capitol: “Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, said Tuesday that he was 'very pessimistic' about passing a bill, while Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said it was 'very possible, very probable' that the Senate bill was dead ... The revised bill is expected to include a $45 billion fund to help combat the opioid epidemic, as well as a provision allowing consumers to use health savings accounts to pay for premiums ... Senate Republicans are also likely to keep a pair of taxes imposed by the Affordable Care Act on people with high incomes ... But the largest changes to the health care system are likely to remain in the bill.”
-- Mitch McConnell announced that the Senate would remain in session for the first two weeks of August. Kelsey Snell, Sean Sullivan and Juliet Eilperin report: “McConnell’s announcement appeared designed to give Republicans time to move to other matters, such as raising the federal debt ceiling, after dispatching with a health-care vote … But the ideological disagreement over how to revise the ACA continued among Republicans … Senate GOP leaders are trying to convey to members that they face a ‘binary choice’ … between getting a deal done among themselves or having to work with Democrats.”
-- McConnell’s decision to draft the health-care bill outside of the normal order of committee hearings has left the legislation “orphaned” without any real defenders. Paul Kane writes: “For less than 25 seconds [Tuesday], McConnell gave a basic update on the timing of the legislation, never made the case for why Republicans should support it and then moved on for another minute to attack Democrats on unrelated issues. That’s the way it has gone for the Better Care Reconciliation Act ever since it was unveiled nearly three weeks ago. In public appearances, and often in private GOP meetings, Republican after Republican outlines the reasons that they stand opposed to the legislation, as written, with almost no one taking up the mantle of defending a proposal that was unpopular from Day One … As a result, it has no real parent figure, no one invested in its success, no one primarily responsible for promoting it to other colleagues and the media.”
--The Times's Carl Hulse says “Republicans are failing at governance and they know it”: “In deciding to forgo at least the first two weeks of their regular summer getaway, [McConnell] and his colleagues essentially admitted that they could not afford to go home to face constituents without making a concerted effort to pass contentious health care legislation and put some other points on the board.”
-- Several major questions have yet to be answered about what will actually be in the Senate bill. Axios’s Caitlin Owens reports: “The Medicaid portions of the revised bill likely will stay largely the same as the first version — including the growth rate for new per-person funding caps and the process for phasing out the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion. This is a loss for several moderates … A small tweak is likely to be added that would benefit Louisiana … This would help with Sen. Bill Cassidy's concerns … The jury's still out on whether to include Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee's Consumer Freedom Option in the bill, but there's a strong chance it doesn't meet Senate budget rules anyways.”
-- A little-noticed provision in the Senate bill could allow those with preexisting conditions to be charged more than healthy Americans. Vox’s Sarah Kliff reports: "[The provision] lets self-employed Americans opt out of the individual market and buy into the health plans that large employers provide, which have more lax regulatory standards. Health policy experts at the Kaiser Family Foundation and Georgetown University have recently analyzed this provision, and concluded that these ‘small-business health plans’ could siphon off healthy consumers.”
-- The uncertainty has led Lindsey Graham to consider devising an alternative plan that could garner enough Democratic votes to pass the Senate. Politico’s Austin Wright reports: “'I'm working with some senators to come up with a new approach to deal with how to replace Obamacare,’ Graham told reporters. ‘I think it will be fundamentally different. I think it will potentially attract some Democrats’ … He said he would begin unveiling details of his plan in ‘24 to 48 hours.’”
THE TRUMP AGENDA:
-- The House Appropriations Committee released a bill allocating $1.6 billion for construction of a border wall, setting up a budget showdown. The Hill’s Niv Elis reports: “Conservative lawmakers in recent days had begun warning that they would pull their votes from a budget and spending plan that failed to fund the wall. House Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) went so far as to tell Breitbart News that Trump would not sign a spending measure if a wall were not funded, though the White House has not commented on the matter. The bill's accompanying report, to be released next week, will specify where the segments of the wall are to be built and their associated funding. In total, the bill allocates $13.8 billion to customs and border protection.”
-- “Trump and his economic advisers have proposed ending the individual federal tax deduction for state and local taxes paid — a write-off with Civil-War era roots that has survived past attempts to kill it,” Bloomberg’s John McCormick reports. “Advocates for Trump’s plan have sold it in part as a way to shift more taxes onto high-income, high-tax states like California, New York and New Jersey, all of which lean Democratic. But in reality, some of the most vulnerable House Republicans in next year’s midterm elections represent districts that heavily use the state-and-local deduction … For them, the tax-overhaul legislation that Republican leaders have promised to unveil in September could damage their standing with voters.”
-- “The Trump administration took a step toward blocking stricter enforcement of estate and gift taxes Friday, describing a set of proposed rules as overly burdensome,” Max Ehrenfreund reports. “The new rules, put forward last year by the Obama administration, would increase the taxes owed by some wealthy families. Lawyers and experts on the estate tax say that taxpayers have substantial leeway in determining how much their estates are worth and, as a result, how much they have to pay. The Obama administration's rules were intended to enforce the tax more strictly, but the new administration might prevent them from going into effect. The rules were among eight regulations put forward under Obama that Trump's Treasury Department will try to modify or rescind.”
-- Trump is leaning away from renominating Janet Yellen as Fed chair and leaning toward choosing Gary Cohn as her replacement. Politico’s Ben White and Victoria Guida report: “If Trump taps Cohn for the Fed, it could enrage economic nationalists in the White House and some staunchly conservative Republicans on Capitol Hill who don’t like the former Goldman Sachs president’s background as a Democrat who generally favors free trade. And it would spur a backlash from progressive lawmakers who have blasted the president for picking multiple Goldman alums to run economic policy. But sources on Capitol Hill and inside the White House and the Treasury Department said that, at least as of now, if Cohn decides he wants the job, he is likely to get it.”
-- “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is in the early stages of launching a debate about climate change that could air on television — challenging scientists to prove the widespread view that global warming is a serious threat,” Reuters’ Valerie Volcovici reports. “[EPA Administrator Scott] Pruitt said his desire for the agency to host an ongoing climate change debate was inspired by two articles published in April — one in the Wall Street Journal by theoretical physicist Steve Koonin, who served as undersecretary of energy under Obama – and one by conservative columnist Brett Stephens in the New York Times. Koonin’s article made the case that climate science should use the ‘red team-blue team’ methodology used by the national security community to test assumptions. Stephens’ article criticized claims of complete certainty in climate science, saying that it ‘traduces the spirit of science.’ Pruitt said scientists should not scoff at the idea of participating in these debates.”
-- The decision to end the FBI’s search for a new headquarters has drawn widespread criticism as many parties suffer the consequences of the change in course. Jonathan O'Connell, Robert McCartney and Jenna Portnoy report: “The FBI is not the only loser in this outcome. It’s joined by state officials, county officials, real estate developers, architects and engineers, and of course, taxpayers. The decision drew wide condemnation from officials in Maryland and Virginia who have spent years pushing for the bureau to move its 11,000 headquarters employees to one of three final locations: Greenbelt, Md., Landover, Md., or Springfield, Va. … Real estate developers who devoted more than two years to their proposals and spent millions of dollars designing and planning a new campus threw up their hands. One official estimated that $50 million had been spent by local companies and jurisdictions on the now-dashed project.”
-- The Justice Department reached its first settlement with a major opioid manufacturer that has helped contribute to the growing drug crisis. Lenny Bernstein and Scott Higham report: “The Justice Department and Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals reached a $35 million settlement Tuesday to resolve allegations that the company failed to report signs that large quantities of its highly addictive oxycodone pills were diverted to the black market in Florida, where they helped stoke the opioid epidemic. The agreement is the first with a major manufacturer of the opioids that have sparked a crisis of overdoses and addictions across the country … The settlement and the relatively small fine reflected the government’s difficult legal challenge in proving that Mallinckrodt — or any drug manufacturer — knew its product was being sold and used illegally by people far down the supply chain.”
-- The attorney general suggested yesterday that the anti-drug program D.A.R.E., which has been widely panned as ineffective, should be reinstated. New York Daily News’ Elizabeth Elizalde reports: “Sessions, speaking at the Drug Abuse Resistance Education training conference in North Texas Tuesday, stressed the program has helped prevent drug abuse among young adults. ‘D.A.R.E. is, I think, as I indicated, the best remembered anti-drug program today,’ Sessions said. ‘In recent years, people have not paid much attention to that message, but they are ready to hear it again’ … D.A.R.E. has been previously criticized for not providing effective results as it was being featured in schools nationwide.”
NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Qatar signed a “memo of understanding” with the United States, agreeing to take steps to stop the funding of terrorism that has prompted a rift between it and other Arab states. Carol Morello reports from Kuwait City: “The memo was announced in the Qatar capital of Doha, where [Rex Tillerson] spent the day working to resolve a regional feud that the United States fears could derail efforts to fight groups like the Islamic State and could embolden Iran. Tillerson flies to the Saudi city of Jiddah on Wednesday to discuss the crisis with foreign ministers from the four Arab states leading the boycott — Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. The Arab countries placed a trade and diplomatic embargo on Qatar a month ago, accusing it of providing financial support to terrorist groups. Qatar has denied the charges, and considers the embargo an infringement on its sovereignty and independence. Though [Trump] has sided with Saudi Arabia in the row, Tillerson told reporters in Doha that Qatar's views were ‘reasonable’ and that he is optimistic the differences can be reconciled.”
-- Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates laid out his theory of engagement with North Korea in a recent Wall Street Journal interview: “First: There simply is no good pure military option for attacking North Korea … Second: ‘China is still the key no matter how you slice it,’ Mr. Gates says … But Mr. Gates also says he agrees with President Donald Trump and his aides that it’s time to ‘disrupt the status quo’ by trying a different approach with the Chinese. Which leads to the third principle: ‘It seems to me the need is for a comprehensive strategy you would lay out to the Chinese at a very high level, which would basically have both a diplomatic and a military component.’ In other words, make a deal with China before you deal with North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Un, directly.”
-- “Cancer researcher was held at Boston airport. Now he is being sent back to Iran,” by Maria Sacchetti: “U.S. Customs and Border Protection has detained an Iranian cancer researcher and his family — including a baby — for more than 24 hours at Boston’s Logan International Airport and will force them to leave the country, federal officials and a grass-roots organization said Tuesday. Mohsen Dehnavi, a 32-year-old father of three, was traveling to Massachusetts on an exchange visa to conduct postdoctoral research at Boston Children’s Hospital, a world-renowned facility affiliated with Harvard University … Federal officials said Dehnavi’s imminent expulsion had nothing to do with the travel ban. But they would not say why he was being deported, citing privacy laws.”
-- “Women of color face staggering harassment in space science,” by Sarah Kaplan: “When anthropologist Kathryn Clancy saw the results of her recent survey on harassment in the space sciences, she burst into tears. Forty percent of women of color said that they felt unsafe in their current job as a result of harassment about their gender. ‘It shocked and saddened me,’ said Clancy, an associate professor at the University of Illinois. She called the statistic ‘one of the strongest pieces of evidence that something is terribly wrong.’”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Upon learning that the Times was about to publish his emails setting up a meeting with a Kremlin lawyer, Don Jr. asked for more time so he could comment and then shared the messages on his own Twitter account first:
Here's my statement and the full email chain pic.twitter.com/x050r5n5LQ— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 11, 2017
And he was thorough:
Here is page 4 (which did not post due to space constraints). pic.twitter.com/z1Xi4nr2gq— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 11, 2017
Trump tweeted this, but some commentators noted it seemed like a bland defense of his son:
My son, Donald, will be interviewed by @seanhannity tonight at 10:00 P.M. He is a great person who loves our country!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 12, 2017
This is the EXACT reason they viciously attack our family! They can't stand that we are extremely close and will ALWAYS support each other. https://t.co/1f7JqxScMr— Eric Trump (@EricTrump) July 11, 2017
But the bombshell developments unleashed a firestorm online. From this Dartmouth professor and contributor to the NYT's Upshot:
We've veered back from Veep into Homeland - unbelievable. How can this be real? Reads like villain's exposition of his plan in a bad movie https://t.co/toPlBahxOp— Brendan Nyhan (@BrendanNyhan) July 11, 2017
We've read tens of thousands of Hillary's emails; FBI spent a year investigating too. Not a single speck as troubling as Don Jr's one email.— Garrett M. Graff (@vermontgmg) July 11, 2017
From this MSNBC host:
Just about every single member of the Republican congress has signed on to a coverup without knowing what they're covering up.— Christopher Hayes (@chrislhayes) July 11, 2017
From the W.H. correspondent for Time:
.@SHSanders45 won’t say whether Jared Kushner’s security clearance is still operative.— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) July 11, 2017
From Lawfare's managing editor:
We have a right, as American citizens, to know if White House staffers like Kushner and Gorka hold clearances. It's a simple yes or no. https://t.co/REEl2J92KY— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) July 11, 2017
John Podesta engaged with Julian Assange:
Well that escalated quickly pic.twitter.com/JZSMqFCZiF— 🤔Jake Laperruque😒 (@JakeLaperruque) July 11, 2017
More react from the mainstream media:
True thing I just remembered: Barbara Walters once asked Donald Trump which kid was "the troublemaker." He immediately replied, "Don."— Molly Ball (@mollyesque) July 11, 2017
This nothing-burger is turning out to be fairly juicy.— Matt Viser (@mviser) July 11, 2017
turns out the nothingburger was made from a...mos-cow— Ariel Edwards-Levy (@aedwardslevy) July 11, 2017
Donald Trump Jr. saga had 6 episodes in past 48 hours. As DC cabbie told me "We don't even need Showtime or HBO now" https://t.co/XoBKPBNQia— Carol Leonnig (@CarolLeonnig) July 11, 2017
A fmr Clinton Campaign official says news of Donald Trump Jr. emails "is the SNL version of what we always suspected was going on."— Kristen Welker (@kwelkernbc) July 11, 2017
There are literal storm clouds gathering over the West Wing right now. pic.twitter.com/s9KrCC64wo— Annie Linskey (@AnnieLinskey) July 11, 2017
sad we won't get to see Spicer argue that Don Jr. was only tangentially involved in the Trump family for a very limited period of time— Simon Maloy (@SimonMaloy) July 11, 2017
From a California Republican strategist:
Don Jr met with a foreign agent to get compromising data on a former Secretary of State. This is called treason. Just say it everybody.— Robert J Molnar (@RobertJMolnar) July 11, 2017
From two House Democrats:
If this isn't treasonous, I'm not sure what is. https://t.co/QrBaaf4psM— Seth Moulton (@sethmoulton) July 11, 2017
Multiple Senate Democrats weighed in:
No longer a question that the Trump campaign sought to collude with a hostile foreign power to subvert American democracy.— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) July 11, 2017
A notable exchange with the longest-serving Republican senator:
Sen. Hatch says DJT Jr story "overblown." I asked if he would take a similar meeting advertised as Russian help for his own campaign. "No!"— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) July 11, 2017
A couple of Trump, Jr.’s old tweets were making the rounds again in light of the latest revelations:
"Life's tough. Its even tougher if you're stupid" John Wayne— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) December 21, 2011
From July 4 of this year:
Out of curiosity, what exactly are Big Govt, opprressive taxation, anti 2A left wing socialists celebrating today?— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 4, 2017
One of the U.S. attorneys fired by Trump, after being told he'd stay on, replied to that post:
Well, sadly, many today are now celebrating your apparent misdirection, duplicity, ignorance, arrogance, nonchalance, and comeuppance. https://t.co/zAed69PxYM— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) July 11, 2017
Vice President Pence quickly sought to distance himself from the controversy:
.@VP spox says Pence is "not focused on stories about the campaign, particularly stories about the time before he joined the ticket."— Steven Portnoy (@stevenportnoy) July 11, 2017
Shorter VP: I would very much like to be excluded from this narrative https://t.co/poyvnHQSCS— Andrea Peterson (@kansasalps) July 11, 2017
From a former senior adviser to Al Gore and Joe Biden:
For comparison, when one of Gore’s associates received sensitive information about George W. Bush in 2000, he immediately reported it to the FBI:
Everything looks more damning in retrospect:
The email shows: They knew. All along, they knew. They knew Russia preferred Trump. They knew Russia offered to help. All along, they knew.— Matt Viser (@mviser) July 11, 2017
FLASHBACK: Don Jr. July 24, 2016. On the Clinton campaign's claims that the Russians were helping Trump: "It's disgusting. It's so phony." pic.twitter.com/xnD386ewMq— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 11, 2017
Mr. Manafort added, “It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.’”https://t.co/i4JkHAiZYh— Zach Wahls (@ZachWahls) February 15, 2017
2016: Her emails— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) July 11, 2017
2017: His emails
From the editor of Talking Points Memo:
President Obama's official photographer, who has been trolling Trump on Instagram, posted this:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- The Atlantic, “Did a Glowing Sea Creature Help Push the U.S. Into the Vietnam War?” by Chris Reeves: “On a gray summer day in 1966, Todd Newberry was watching seabirds squabble above the kelp forests of California’s Monterey Bay, when a sailor struck up a conversation that changed his understanding of the Vietnam War. The stranger turned out to be a Navy sonar engineer assigned to the destroyer USS Turner Joy. Just two years prior, Turner Joy, along with USS Maddox, had reportedly been attacked by Vietnamese boats in a mysterious battle known as the Gulf of Tonkin incident. This encounter was pivotal in plunging the [U.S.] into the decade-long war … But even today, it’s still not clear whether the Turner Joy and Maddox had actually been under fire. As Newberry tells it, the sonar engineer spoke of strange shapes picked up on the Turner Joy’s sonar displays during the supposed attack. The objects were the size of torpedoes, but they didn’t move like any torpedo the engineer had ever seen before. They seemed to have a will of their own — to come at the ship, then drift right under. The engineer was convinced that the military had been mistaken about the attack. What they thought were torpedoes, he insisted, were in fact living things.”
-- New York Times, “North Koreans in Russia Work ‘Basically in the Situation of Slaves,’” by Andrew Higgins: “Across Western Europe and the United States, immigrants from poorer countries, whether plumbers from Poland or farmhands from Mexico, have become a lightning rod for economic anxieties over cheap labor. The Russian city of Vladivostok on the Pacific Ocean, however, has eagerly embraced a new icon of border-crushing globalization: the North Korean painter. Unlike migrant workers in much of the West, destitute decorators from North Korea are so welcome that they have helped make Russia at least the equal of China — Pyongyang’s main backer — as the world’s biggest user of labor from the impoverished yet nuclear-armed country.”
-- Wall Street Journal, “Paying Professors: Inside Google’s Academic Influence Campaign,” by Brody Mullins and Jack Nicas: “Google operates a little-known program to harness the brain power of university researchers to help sway opinion and public policy, cultivating financial relationships with professors at campuses from Harvard University to the University of California, Berkeley. Over the past decade, Google has helped finance hundreds of research papers to defend against regulatory challenges of its market dominance, paying $5,000 to $400,000 for the work, The Wall Street Journal found. Some researchers share their papers before publication and let Google give suggestions … The professors don’t always reveal Google’s backing in their research, and few disclosed the financial ties in subsequent articles on the same or similar topics.”
-- The Atlantic, “When the Nation's Capital Came Together for the MLB All-Star Game,” by Frederic J. Frommer: “Not many fans are still around to remember it, but 80 years ago this month, Washingtonians got to witness Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Dizzy Dean, and other future Hall-of-Famers at Griffith Stadium, as the city pretty much shut down to host the fifth All-Star Game in history. The star power was equally bright in the stands that afternoon. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, getting a respite from the brouhaha surrounding his controversial plan to ‘pack’ the U.S. Supreme Court with extra justices, threw out the first ball. Much of official Washington was also there — including FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, members of Congress, Cabinet secretaries, and military leaders — to watch ‘the most thrilling event of the summer social season,’ as The Washington Post society editor put it.”
HOT ON THE LEFT
“Oregon bill decriminalizes possession of heroin, cocaine and other drugs,” from Nicole Lewis: “First-time offenders caught with small amounts of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and other illegal drugs will face less jail time and smaller fines under a new bill approved by the Oregon legislature that aims to curb mass incarceration. The Oregon legislature passed a bill late last week that reclassifies possession of several drugs from a felony to a misdemeanor, reducing the punishments and expanding access to drug treatment for people without prior felonies or convictions for drug possession.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“Writer claims Chelsea Clinton stole book idea,” from New York Post: “Christopher Janes Kimberley, 56, of Albany, is suing the former first daughter and Penguin Random House for copyright infringement, seeking up to $150,000 … The little-known writer claims he sent a pitch for his illustrated kids book, ‘A Heart is the Part That Makes Boys And Girls Smart,’ to the president of Penguin Young Readers US, Jennifer Loja, in May 2013, according to the lawsuit. Instead of publishing it, she passed the idea off to Clinton, who cashed in on his hard work, he claims in court papers.”
Trump will travel to Paris later this evening for Bastille Day celebrations.
Pence will give a morning speech at a student leadership conference in D.C. before flying to Lexington, Ky., for a discussion with local business leaders and lawmakers on repealing Obamacare.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
John McCain on his party’s attempts to reach a consensus on health care: “We’re in gridlock … Now we’re going to look at a new approach. And we’re going to get a CBO estimate on Monday. Yay!”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- D.C.’s heat wave will continue today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Highs head for the low to mid-90s under partly sunny skies, and with humidity still in the soupy range, the heat index could peak in the upper 90s to near 100. Can’t rule out a brief shower or thundershower at any point during the day.”
-- Don Lipman looks back on D.C. before, gasp, the age of air conditioning: “Throughout history, there were hundreds of legendary efforts to cool and dehumidify the air during the torrid heat waves that enveloped the region. Most of these efforts, however, fell short, as they were impractical, of limited value, or quite expensive.”
-- Hate-based incidents are surging in the Montgomery County school system. Donna St. George reports: “School incidents involving hate symbols and racial slurs appear to have more than tripled during the past school year in a suburb outside Washington and are helping drive a surge in bias-related acts investigated by police. Since October, more than three dozen bias incidents have been reported by or linked to schools in Montgomery County, mostly involving vandalism with swastikas, racial epithets or other bigoted message.”
-- “The D.C. Council voted unanimously Tuesday to reject demands for information about District voters from a commission formed by President Trump, joining scores of states refusing to comply with the White House’s efforts to investigate allegations of widespread voting fraud,” Peter Jamison reports.
-- Bernie Sanders is expected to endorse former NAACP President Ben Jealous in Maryland’s gubernatorial race today. The endorsement was somewhat expected given Jealous’ involvement with Sanders’ presidential run. (Ovetta Wiggins)
-- D.C. police are still investigating the shooting in Northeast that wounded a 1-year-old toddler. The boy was treated for his injuries and returned home yesterday. (Peter Hermann)
-- Prince George’s County Police Department is stepping up its patrol presence after 12 homicides were recorded in the first 11 days of the month, Lynh Bui reports.
-- Arrests for the public use of marijuana in the District nearly tripled in 2016 and are on track to remain high in 2017. (Justin Wm. Moyer)
-- Construction will begin this month on a new interchange at Interstate 270 and Watkins Mill Road. (Katherine Shaver)
-- Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch is recovering nicely from his liver transplant last month. (Ovetta Wiggins)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Late-night hosts had a field day with the latest revelations about Don Jr.:
McConnell blamed the recess delay on Democrats’ obstruction:
But Chuck Schumer said that a two-week delay would not be enough to address the health-care bill’s underlying issues:
In a new ad, the NRA criticized “organized anarchy”:
Watch beachgoers in Florida form a human chain to save a family swept up in a riptide: