With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: Sen. Jeff Flake believes Donald Trump is a modern-day Robert Welch.

To understand why the Arizona Republican is risking his political career this week to publish a book lambasting the president requires familiarity with a pivotal but largely forgotten episode in the early history of the modern conservative movement.

It was 1962 — the same year Flake was born. Robert Welch, a retired candy maker, had won a massive following on the right as the leader of the extremist John Birch Society. The Birchers were trying to attach themselves to the emerging presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater. William F. Buckley, the founder of National Review, wanted to write Welch and his kooky ideas out of the movement.

Recognizing that it could cost him crucial support, Goldwater nonetheless endorsed the effort. “We cannot allow the emblem of irresponsibility to attach to the conservative banner,” the Arizona senator wrote for the magazine.

Flake considers himself an ideological heir to Goldwater, who once held his seat. He served as the executive director of the Goldwater Institute think tank in Phoenix for seven years before getting elected to the House. He worked closely with the then-retired senator, who passed away in 1998. The 54-year-old often asks himself, “What would Goldwater do?” And feels confident that his hero “would not be pleased or amused” by either the state of the GOP or Trump.

Halfway through his new book, published yesterday, Flake notes that Goldwater’s stand against Welch inspired him to speak out against Trump — even though he knows the risks: “We now have a far-right press that too often deals in unreality and a White House that has brought the values of Robert Welch into the West Wing. As a certain kind of extremism is again ascendant in our ranks, we could do well to take a lesson from that earlier time. We must not condone it. We must not use it to frighten and exploit the base. We must condemn it, in no uncertain terms.”

As an homage, Flake titled his book “Conscience of a Conservative” — the name of Goldwater’s seminal work. He mostly wrote the 140-page manifesto in secret. He did not even tell some of his advisers that he was working on it lest they try to talk him out of putting these ideas on paper.

“I feel compelled to declare: This is not who we are,” the senator writes. “Too often, we observe the unfolding drama along with the rest of the country, passively, all but saying, 'Someone should do something!' without seeming to realize that that someone is us. … The question is: Will enough of us stand up and wrest it back before it is too late? Or will we just go along with it, for our many and varied reasons? Those are open and unresolved questions. … This is not an act of apostasy. This is an act of fidelity.”

To paraphrase Buckley, Flake now stands athwart Trump, yelling stop, at a time when few others in his movement are inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.

-- The border-state senator became inspired to immerse himself in this project during a trip to Mexico City two weeks after the election, where he struggled to soothe Mexican concerns about NAFTA, the wall and anti-immigrant sentiments. “That conservatism has become compromised by other powerful forces — nationalism, populism, xenophobia, extreme partisanship, even celebrity — explains part of how and why we lost our way,” Flake writes. “That we who call ourselves conservative have been willing partners in that compromise explains the rest.”

Just how bad have things gotten in his view? The Republican fears that the term Orwellian “seems quaint now” and “inadequate to our moment.” He muses about the need to devise a new word for the new age “to describe the previously indescribable.”

“Never has a party so quickly or easily abandoned its core principles as my party did in the course of the 2016 campaign,” writes Flake, who has never been known for hyperbole. “And when you suddenly decide that you don’t believe what had recently been your most deeply held beliefs, then you open yourself to believing anything — or maybe nothing at all. Following the lead of a candidate who had a special skill for identifying problems, if not for solving them, we lurched like a tranquilized elephant from a broad consensus on economic philosophy and free trade that had held for generations to an incoherent and often untrue mash of back-of-the-envelope populist slogans.”

As Flake sees it, “We were party to a very big lie.” “Seemingly overnight, we became willing to roll back the ideas on the global economy that have given America the highest standard of living in history,” he writes. “We became willing to jettison the strategic alliances that have spared us global conflict since World War II. … We gave in to powerful nativist impulses that have arisen in the face of fear and insecurity. … We stopped speaking the language of freedom and started speaking the language of power. … Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior was excused and countenanced as ‘telling it like it is,’ when it was actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified.

“Rather than fighting the populist wave that threatened to engulf us, rather than defending the enduring principles that were consonant with everything that we knew and had believed in, we pretended that the emperor wasn’t naked,” he adds. “Even worse: We checked our critical faculties at the door and pretended that the emperor was making sense. … It is a testament to just how far we fell in 2016 that to resist the fever and to stand up for conservatism seemed a radical act.”

-- Flake’s conservative credentials are sterling. As a leading crusader against earmarks during the aughts, he was a favorite of the Club for Growth and a thorn in the side of GOP leaders like Tom DeLay and Dennis Hastert. He was one of only two dozen House conservatives in 2003 who had the courage to buck George W. Bush, then hugely popular with the base, on Medicare expansion.

But Flake is not angry, he believes in working across the aisle to tackle intractable issues like immigration, and most significantly he’s against Trump. These are cardinal sins in the eyes of someone like conservative radio host Laura Ingraham:

That is crazy talk. Flake has a 93 percent lifetime rating from the American Conservative Union, 95 percent from FreedomWorks, 100 percent from National Right to Life and an “A” from the National Rifle Association. The idea that he’d change parties is laughable to any serious person — and all 99 of Flake’s Senate colleagues. Not only did he vote for the “skinny repeal” of Obamacare last week, he tried to persuade Arizona’s senior senator, John McCain, to join him.

-- In dire terms, Flake argues that the conservative movement has “succumbed to what can only be described as a propaganda-fueled dystopian view of conservatism.” While National Review’s editors have spoken out against Trump, even when it cost the magazine subscribers, many outlets on the right that now get more traffic and make more money found it lucrative to promote his candidacy. Flake is disturbed, for example, by the large audience that Infowars radio host Alex Jones attracts. Jones promotes outlandish conspiracy theories, including that the Sept. 11 attacks were an inside job and that the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary school was a false flag operation designed to confiscate guns. Flake is floored that Trump has publicly praised Jones, gone on his show and phoned to thank him for his support last November.

-- With a fusillade of frenzied attacks on Flake yesterday, many right-wing pundits unwittingly validated the senator’s underlying message about the intellectual rot of the conservative-industrial media complex that facilitated the Trump takeover:

“Jeff Flake is a liberal,” Mark Levin said at the top of his radio show, accusing him of hijacking a sacred conservative title to “justify his liberal sellout agenda.”

“Since entering the Senate in 2013, Jeff Flake has, time and again, proven he is part of the indulgent hypocrisy in Washington,” Media Research Center president Brent Bozell said in a statement. “I also call on my conservative brethren to denounce this impostor, who dishonorably claims to speak for conservatism, in the strongest possible terms.”

-- The vitriol of the commentary underscores how brave Flake is to tackle this topic. He got ripped by many of these same pundit types for congratulating Tim Kaine after Hillary Clinton named his colleague as her running mate. He got nasty texts from constituents when he sat next to fellow Arizonan Gabby Giffords during a State of the Union address after she had been wounded. He helped her stand up for Barack Obama’s applause lines because she couldn’t get up on her own, and a surprising number of people misinterpreted that as support for Obama’s agenda. Flake recalls one Republican voter telling him: If you don’t have anything bad to say about Obama, don’t say anything at all. The picture he paints vividly is of a GOP base gripped by grievance and animated more by what they are against than what they are for.

Flake said he became “heartsick” watching former free-market conservatives, in philosophical resignation, jump aboard the populist bandwagon, “turning the Republican Party into Trump’s Party with reckless abandon”: “This transformation seems less a genuine instance of Saul on the road to Damascus than an example of, ‘Oh, those core principles I’ve professed my entire career? Never mind!’”

-- Many conservative intellectuals have cogently made the case against Trumpism over the past 26 months, but Flake is the first sitting senator to do so since the president took office. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who declined to endorse Trump last year, tweets a fair amount of criticism, but his book “The Vanishing American Adult” this spring steered clear of the president. And he’s not up for reelection until 2020.

Flake is in cycle right now, and his already tough primary just got much tougher. The White House political team has been actively talking with potential GOP challengers, with the goal of coalescing behind the most credible challenger. Trump has reportedly told people that he’ll put up $10 million of his own money to topple Flake. (We’ll believe that when we see it ...) The president is still fuming that he called on him to drop out of the race last October after the emergence of the “Access Hollywood” video. This book might help improve Flake's numbers back home with independents and even win some crossover Democratic support. It could also help create a maverick image that has worked for McCain.

-- If he hated Flake before, though, Trump will loathe him even more now. “When we excuse on our side what we attack on the other, then we are hypocrites,” Flake writes. “If we do that as a practice, then we are corrupt. If we continually accept this conduct as elected officials, then perhaps we shouldn’t be elected officials.”

-- The senator postulates that Trump is not an authentic conservative: “Far from conservative, the president’s comportment was rather a study in the importance of conflict in reality television — that once you introduce conflict, you cannot deescalate conflict. You must continually escalate. That was an important principle of his campaign, and it defined at least his early approach to governing, too. … We must recognize that government and the process by which we go about electing our leaders ought never be confused for entertainment or graded for its entertainment value or its ratings. We degrade our politics enough as it is without turning our democracy over to carnival barkers and reality television.”

-- In the money quote that has gotten the most initial press attention, Flake said the GOP made “a Faustian bargain” by embracing Trump that has already proved to be not worthwhile: “If by 2017 the conservative bargain was to go along for the very bumpy ride because with congressional hegemony and the White House we had the numbers to achieve some long-held policy goals — even as we put at risk our institutions and our values — then it was a very real question whether any such policy victories wouldn’t be pyrrhic ones. If this was our Faustian bargain, then it was not worth it. If ultimately our principles were so malleable as to no longer be principles, then what was the point of political victories in the first place?

“Meanwhile, the strange specter of an American president’s seeming affection for strongmen and authoritarians created such a cognitive dissonance among my generation of conservatives—who had come of age under existential threat from the Soviet Union—that it was almost impossible to believe,” he goes on. “Even as our own government was documenting a concerted attack against our democratic processes by an enemy foreign power, our own White House was rejecting the authority of its own intelligence agencies, disclaiming their findings as a Democratic ruse and a hoax. Conduct that would have had conservatives up in arms had it been exhibited by our political opponents now had us dumbstruck.”

-- Flake warns ominously that Republicans will suffer a long-term crash from the “sugar high” they’re getting off allowing an interloper to lead the party. The electorate gets about two percentage points less white every four years, Flake notes, and Republicans have come to increasingly depend on older white men. “We are skidding with each passing election toward irrelevance in terms of appealing to a broad electorate,” he writes. “Instead, we demonize them, marginalize them, blame them for our country’s problems. We knew all this before the last election, but we quickly set it aside for the sugar high of populism, nativism and demagoguery. The crash from this sugar high will be particularly unpleasant.

“But it’s deeper than that,” he continues. “We have given in to the politics of anger—the belief that riling up the base can make up for failed attempts to broaden the electorate. These are the spasms of a dying party. Anger and resentment and blaming groups of people for our problems might work politically in the short term, but it’s a dangerous impulse in a pluralistic society, and we know from history that it’s an impulse that, once acted upon, never ends well.”

-- Flake criticizes the administration for introducing the notion of “alternative facts” into the bloodstream and explains why it is “tremendously damaging” every time Trump dismisses an accurate newspaper story that he simply does not like as “fake news.”

“We’re only as good as our information, and if we lose our sense of objective truth, we lose everything,” Flake cautions. “Whatever the source, a steady diet of bad information, conveyed in bad faith, can over time become a serious threat to a democracy. Over time, a determined effort to undermine the very idea of truth softens the ground for anti-democratic impulses. … Enduring democracies depend on the acceptance of shared facts, facts such as: certified elections are valid, millions of votes were not illegally cast in the 2016 election, vaccinations don’t cause autism, and two Hawaiian newspapers announcing the birth of Barack Obama more than 50 years ago probably means that Obama was born in Hawaii — just to highlight a few of the more colorful examples of nonsense that has made the rounds in recent years.”

-- Flake is profoundly worried about Trump’s temperament: “There is a trust your gut, shoot from the hip approach to political decision-making, and then there is the fly off the handle approach. As evidenced by the 2016 presidential campaign, flying off the handle is a big, big hit right now — at least in terms of its entertainment value and ratings. … As a governing philosophy, the instability of flying off the handle is a disaster for the United States and is profoundly unconservative.”

-- He also does not believe Trump has a strategy, or that there is a method to the madness: “Influencing the news cycles seems to be the principal goal; achieving short-term tactical advantage, you bet. But ultimately, it’s all noise and no signal. … We have quite enough volatile actors to deal with internationally as it is without becoming one of them.”

-- Flake’s narrative about the decay of conservatism is bigger than Trump. It begins with Newt Gingrich. “The truth is, the slide into political entropy was a long time coming,” he writes. “Any honest accounting of how we got to this new day has to reckon with Newt, whose talent for politics exceeded his interest in governing.”

He faults GOP leaders in Congress for refusing to work with Obama, even on issues where they agreed: “It was we conservatives who, upon Obama's election, stated that our No. 1 priority was not advancing a conservative policy agenda but making Obama a one-term president — the corollary to this binary thinking being that his failure would be our success and the fortunes of the citizenry would presumably be sorted out in the meantime.”

-- Uncharacteristically for a sitting lawmaker of any party, Flake is both introspective and self-critical. “Any honest accounting of his this happened — of how we made ourselves so susceptible to rank demagoguery and of how we were accessories before, during, and after the fact to the collapse of conservative principles — must begin with me,” he writes.

He spends the better part of a chapter expressing regret for voting against TARP as the economy was collapsing in 2008. “TARP was actually a modest price to pay to forestall a global depression,” Flake acknowledges. “My TARP vote was more an act of cowardice than conscience. I knew what needed to be done. I just left it up to my colleagues to do it. … I was an occasional practitioner of voting no and hoping yes.”

Flake even faults himself for ducking when reporters asked for reaction to Trump’s tweets during the first months of his presidency: “As I layered in my defense mechanisms, I even found myself saying things like, ‘If I took the time to respond to every presidential tweet, there would be little time for anything else.’ Given the volume and velocity of tweets from both the Trump campaign and then the White House, this was certainly true. But it was also a monumental dodge. It would be like Noah saying, ‘If I spent all my time obsessing about the coming flood, there would be little time for anything else.’ At a certain point, if one is being honest, the flood becomes the thing that is most worthy of attention. At a certain point, it might be time to build an ark.”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- “The Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants,” the New York Times’s Charlie Savage reports: “The document, an internal announcement to the civil rights division, seeks current lawyers interested in working for a new project on ‘investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions.’ The document does not explicitly identify whom the Justice Department considers at risk of discrimination because of affirmative action admissions policies. But the phrasing it uses, ‘intentional race-based discrimination,’ cuts to the heart of programs designed to bring more minorities to university campuses. Supporters and critics of the project said it was clearly targeting admissions programs that can give members of generally disadvantaged groups, like black and Latino students, an edge over other applicants with comparable or higher test scores.”

-- “Two people familiar with the internal discussions at the Justice Department’s civil rights division said that the move came after career staffers who specialize in education issues refused to work on the project out of concerns it was contrary to the office’s long-running approach to civil rights in education opportunities,” Sari Horwitz and Emma Brown report. “As a result, political leadership within the department decided to run the effort themselves, these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.”

-- The news prompted some on social media to recirculate this ProPublica story from November: “The Story Behind Jared Kushner’s Curious Acceptance into Harvard,” by Daniel Golden, who wrote a 2006 book entitled “The Price of Admission.” “My book exposed a grubby secret of American higher education: that the rich buy their under-achieving children’s way into elite universities with massive, tax-deductible donations. It reported that New Jersey real estate developer Charles Kushner had pledged $2.5 million to Harvard University in 1998, not long before his son Jared was admitted to the prestigious Ivy League school. … I also quoted administrators at Jared’s high school, who described him as a less than stellar student and expressed dismay at Harvard’s decision. ‘There was no way anybody in the administrative office of the school thought he would on the merits get into Harvard,’ a former official at The Frisch School in Paramus, New Jersey, told me.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Ben Sasse, one of the Senate’s leading anti-Trump Republicans, was approached by the Heritage Foundation’s board of directors about potentially serving as its president. Their overture was rejected by the Nebraska Republican, but signals that the conservative think tank may be looking for a reset. (Politico)
  2. The asking price for Trump’s beachfront property on the Caribbean island of St. Martin has been reduced by $11 million. The original asking price of $28 million was considered well above the going rate, and ethics experts worried that a buyer would be incentivized to overpay for the property to curry favor with the president. (Matea Gold)

  3. A new Pew Research Center study found that climate change is tied with the Islamic State as the most-feared security threat around the world — with the exception of the United States, where both ISIS and cyberattacks far outranked global warming. (New York Times)
  4. Top Venezuelan opposition leaders were taken to prison by masked security forces in predawn raids on Tuesday — sparking fears of a wider crackdown against dissenters just two days after President Nicolás Maduro held an internationally condemned election to boost his government. (Anthony Faiola)
  5. U.S. aid workers and Korean Americans are voicing concerns about new North Korean travel restrictions slated to be announced today, which will require all American citizens to receive approval from the State Department before entering the country. Some have complained that the rule will cause private, nonpolitical work to be viewed with even more suspicion in the country. (Anna Fifield)
  6. A former U.S. diplomat has, for the second time, been found liable for sexually enslaving a housekeeper while posted at the U.S. embassy in Yemen. Linda Howard was ordered by a federal court on Monday to pay $3 million in damages to the woman. (Rachel Weiner)
  7. About 50 employees at Wisconsin’s Three Square Market agreed to be implanted with microchips. The chips were placed between employees’ index fingers and thumbs, and they will allow workers to enter the building or make a payment with simply a wave. (Danielle Paquette)

  8. A Texas couple was ordered to pay $1 million in damages to their wedding photographer. Andrew and Neely Moldovan had complained to numerous media outlets that Andrea Polito was withholding their wedding photos, causing Polito’s business to dry up. But a Texas jury agreed with Polito’s argument that the Moldovans’ ruined her business over a small fee that they had long known about. (Avi Selk)

  9. The last of a dozen inmates who escaped from an Alabama jail using peanut butter was captured. Brady Kilpatrick was only one of the escapees to make it out of the state and was captured by law enforcement officials in Florida. (Kristine Phillips)

  10. State and federal authorities are investigating a burglary at the Armstrong Air and Space museum in Ohio after criminals stole a host of historic artifacts that once belonged to Neil Armstrong. Authorities said the thieves made off with rare medals, coins and a solid-gold replica of a lunar module. (Andrew deGrandpre)

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- The White House defended Trump's involvement in issuing a statement about his eldest son’s meeting with a Russian lawyer during the presidential campaign, telling reporters on Tuesday the president was simply acting “like any father would do.” (Donald Trump Jr. is 39.) Abby Phillip reports: “’The statement that Don Jr. issued is true. There's no inaccuracy in the statement,’ said [Sarah Huckabee Sanders]. ‘The president weighed in just as any father would based on the limited information that he had.’ ‘This is all discussion, frankly, of no consequence,’ Sanders added. The comments seem to confirm that Trump participated in the drafting of the statement on Air Force One and contradict past statements from Trump's attorneys denying that he had any involvement.” 

BUT, on July 16, Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow insisted the president had no hand in crafting the response, saying on “Meet the Press” that “the president was not — did not — draft the response.” He added, “The response came from Donald Trump Jr. and — I’m sure — in consultation with his lawyer.”

-- “The paternal invocation seeks to harness — it hijacks — the primal ferocity of parental love in the service of political self-preservation,” Ruth Marcus writes in her column. “Your kid’s in a bit of trouble — no matter that he’s a 39-year-old man, he is still your child — so he turns to you for help[.] ... Who can fault a parent for rising to a child’s defense? But of course for all of Sanders’s treacly effort to Hallmarkize this touching family moment, it was anything but. This was less 'Father Knows Best' than 'Father Stonewalls Best.' Parents everywhere, fathers and mothers alike, should be repulsed by this playing of the parent card.”

-- The Senate voted to confirm Christopher Wray as FBI director on Tuesday, filling a post that has remained vacant since Trump’s ousting of James Comey earlier this year. The chamber voted 92 to 5 in his favor. Karoun Demirjian reports: “Wray, a former senior Justice Department official known for his low-key demeanor, pledged to lawmakers during his confirmation hearing that he would never pledge loyalty to the president and that if Trump ever pressured him to drop an investigation, he would push back or resign. This pledge appeared to gain him the confidence of Senate Judiciary Committee lawmakers, who unanimously approved his nomination and urged their colleagues to vote in favor of his confirmation. ‘He told the committee that he won’t condone tampering with investigations, and that he would resign rather than be unduly influenced in any manner. Mr. Wray’s record of service, and his reputation, give us no reason to doubt him,’ Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) said Tuesday. ‘He made no loyalty pledges then, and I expect him never to make such a pledge moving forward.’”

-- Meanwhile, special counsel Robert Mueller is adding to his team a former Justice Department lawyer who targeted illegal foreign bribery. Reuters’s Karen Freifeld reports: “Greg Andres started on Tuesday, becoming the 16th lawyer on the team … Most recently a white-collar criminal defense lawyer with New York law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, Andres, 50, served at the Justice Department from 2010 to 2012. He was deputy assistant attorney general in the criminal division, where he oversaw the fraud unit and managed the program that targeted illegal foreign bribery. That Mueller continues to expand his team means the probe is not going to end anytime soon, said Robert Ray, who succeeded Kenneth Starr as independent counsel for the Whitewater investigation … ‘It's an indication that the investigation is going to extend well into 2018,’ said Ray. ‘Whether it extends beyond 2018 is an open question.’”

  • Small world: The announcement that Andres would join Mueller's team offered an explanation for why U.S. District Court Judge Ronnie Abrams, Andres's wife, recused herself last month from two lawsuits challenging Trump's business dealings with foreign governments. (Politico's Josh Gerstein)

WEST WING INTRIGUE:

-- John Kelly is considering DHS spokesman David Lapan to serve as White House communications director, following the ouster of Anthony Scaramucci earlier this week. CNNMoney’s Dylan Byers reports: Lapan, who has worked with Kelly for over a decade, is at the top of a short list to serve as the White House's top official on messaging and communications. Lapan has a background that, like Kelly's, is steeped in years of military experience. Before DHS, he led press operations at the Defense Department and the Marine Corps. Reached for comment, Lapan [said] he had not spoken to Kelly or anyone else at the White House about the position. ‘I've seen speculation, but at this point it's only speculation. I haven't talked to him or to anybody else about it,’ he said. When asked if he would accept the position if it were offered, Lapan said he would have to consider it. ‘Obviously I've known [Kelly] for a long time,’ Lapan said. ‘I would take seriously anything he asked. But I would also have to understand more about what it would be and all of those things.’”

-- Also being considered: Fox News co-president Bill Shine, who was forced from the network in May after being accused of dismissing harassment complaints against Roger Ailes. The New York Times’s Michael M. Grynbaum reports: “Mr. Shine has no political experience outside of producing cable news ... But [he] has an influential ally in [Sean Hannity] … who dined with Mr. Shine, the president and the first lady at the White House last week. Mr. Hannity … said that the topic of Mr. Shine’s employment did not arise at their dinner with the president. ‘Bill Shine is talented enough that he doesn’t need my help in getting a job in the White House or any other position,’ [he] said in a statement. Unlike the bombastic Mr. Scaramucci, Mr. Shine is known as a low-key operator with a nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic and an allergy to the spotlight. … Mr. Shine was also a loyal deputy to Mr. Ailes ... [and] although Mr. Shine denied knowing that Mr. Ailes had sexually harassed employees, his presence at the network was eventually seen as a symbol of a tainted era that the Murdoch family, which controls Fox News, was trying to leave behind.”

-- Sean Spicer still plans to leave the White House at the end of the month. (Reuters’s Steve Holland and John Walcott)

-- Amid the staff upheavals, Trump’s female advisers appear to have the greatest staying power. Politico’s Annie Karni writes: “Kellyanne Conway’s office has a different vibe than other corners of the West Wing. … The comfy digs are a sign that Conway, the White House counselor who recently has been keeping a lower profile, is planning on being here for the long haul[.] … The quiet endurers of Trump’s tumultuous White House, by and large, are the women who serve in his administration. That fact that may seem ironic in an administration run by a man who has launched sexist attacks on everyone from morning show host Mika Brzezinski to his former campaign opponent Hillary Clinton — and who in the past has been accused by more than a dozen women of groping or kissing them against their will.”

-- Don't miss this oral history of the era of The Mooch's by Post Style writers Monica Hesse, Ben Terris and Dan Zak: “Last week, July 24 to 28, was a news and spectacle avalanche. … So we tried to wrap our arms around each bonkers news cycle and re-create for posterity what it was like to be alive for just one week in 2017. Presenting: An oral history of the Era of the Mooch — condensed and edited for clarity — as told by senators, Boy Scouts, soldiers, journalists, parents, talking heads, Wall Street traders and the CEO of an arcade-game company in Florida.”

-- Retired Army Col. Michael Bell has been promoted to the top Middle East adviser on Trump’s National Security Council, Politico’s Connor O’Brien and Andrew Restuccia report: “Bell, who was most recently the NSC director of Persian Gulf affairs, is now senior director for the Near East. He succeeds Derek Harvey, who was dismissed last week by national security adviser H.R. McMaster, as the three-star Army general continues to overhaul an NSC he inherited from his predecessor, Michael Flynn. Bell had stepped in to temporarily fill Harvey’s role until a replacement could be found. But he has now been tapped for the job on a permanent basis …”

 

INSIDE THE EXPLOSIVE SETH RICH LAWSUIT:

-- “The Fox News Channel and a wealthy supporter of President Trump worked in concert under the watchful eye of the White House to concoct a story about the death of a young Democratic National Committee aide,” NPR’s David Folkenflik reports: “The explosive claim is part of a lawsuit filed against Fox News by Rod Wheeler, a longtime paid commentator for the news network. Wheeler alleges Fox News and the Trump supporter intended to deflect public attention from growing concern about the administration's ties to the Russian government. His suit charges that a Fox News reporter created quotations out of thin air and attributed them to him to propel her story. Fox's president of news, Jay Wallace, told NPR on Monday that there was no 'concrete evidence' that Wheeler was misquoted by the reporter, Malia Zimmerman. ..."

-- “Wheeler alleges in his suit that he met with then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer on April 20, along with Ed Butowsky, a conservative financier who had been bankrolling Wheeler’s investigation of the Rich slaying,” David Weigel and Paul Farhi report. “Butowsky is a frequent guest on Fox business programs. Butowsky … urged Wheeler in emails and texts to push the bogus Rich story, according to Wheeler’s lawsuit, and suggested that Trump was paying attention. ‘We have the full attention of the White House on this,’ he told Wheeler in one message, shortly before the meeting with Spicer. Spicer acknowledged on Tuesday that he met with Butowsky and Wheeler in April and was told about the Rich story, despite telling reporters in May that he was unaware of it when Fox News ran several segments about it. At the time, he told reporters, ‘I don’t — I’m not aware of — generally, I don’t get updates on DNC — former DNC staffers. I’m not aware of that.’” (The Post's Philip Bump has a full timeline of the lawsuit here.)

-- Meanwhile, the lawyer for Rod Wheeler said Tuesday that he will seek to depose both Trump and Spicer over their roles in the affair. Yahoo’s Michael Isikoff and Hunter Walker report: “We’re going to litigate this case as we would any other,” and that means “we’ll want to depose anyone who has information,” including the president, said attorney Douglas Wigdor, who is representing [Wheeler]. Wigdor told Yahoo News that Trump and Spicer are among a half dozen key witnesses he will seek to depose.”

TWO TAKES ON THE RICH CASE:

-- “You don’t have to believe everything in that Seth Rich lawsuit. What’s been confirmed is bad enough,” by Margaret Sullivan: “Given Wheeler’s mutating role throughout this ugly saga, he cannot be considered a reliable narrator. So, no, you can’t believe everything his suit says. But some of it rings true. And some of it is now undeniable: An outrageously bogus news story was known about, and apparently not discouraged, within the West Wing well before it was published. And once it was published, it become endless fodder for the president’s staunchest defenders[.] … One of the ugliest falsehoods of the current political era may have been cheered on by the White House. At the very least, it got tacit approval. And that’s bad enough.

-- “Donald Trump Has Finally Erased the Line Between Conservatism and Conspiracy Theories,” by New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait: “Trump of course built his political brand by stoking a conspiracy theory about Barack Obama’s birthplace. Trump’s birtherism gave him the authentic connection to the conservative base that made his many past ideological heresies forgivable. He has continued to spread wild and baseless rumors[.] … These bizarre lies are not merely a symptom of Trump’s idiosyncratic verbal diarrhea. They grow out of a long tradition of paranoia that once lurked on the margins of American politics. Paranoid thinking can be found on both the far right and the far left. But while left-wing paranoia remains mostly confined to the margins — Jill Stein’s candidacy acted as a magnet for the left-wing sort — the right-wing variety has made deep inroads into Republican politics.

HEALTH-CARE SQUABBLING, PART Z:

-- Senate Republicans now appear to be openly defying Trump’s demand that they “let ObamaCare implode,” as they work toward a bipartisan compromise on fixes for the health-care market. Sean Sullivan reports: “Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), head of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, announced Tuesday that he would work with his Democratic colleagues to ‘stabilize and strengthen’ the individual insurance market under the Affordable Care Act ... Alexander also urged the White House to keep up payments to insurers that help low-income consumers afford plans, which Trump has threatened to cut off. … Some [Republican senators] are describing the dynamic in cold, transactional terms, speaking of Trump as more of a supporting actor than the marquee leader of the Republican Party. ... ‘We work for the American people. We don’t work for the president,’ Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said. …”

“Senate GOP leaders have openly flouted Trump’s attempts to steer them back to repealing and replacing the ACA[.] … On Tuesday, McConnell laid out the rest of the Senate’s plans before adjourning for the summer recess. Health care was not among them ... ‘It’s pretty obvious that our problem on health care was not the Democrats. We didn’t have 50 Republicans,’ [McConnell] told reporters. He added, more forcefully, ‘There are not the votes in the Senate, as I’ve said repeatedly to the president and to all of you, to change the rules of the Senate.’”

-- A ruling from a federal appeals court could further complicate Trump's threats to ending cost-sharing payments for low-income Americans to insurers. Amy Goldstein reports: “The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that a coalition of 16 state attorneys general, all of whom want to preserve the subsidies, may intervene in the appeal of a lawsuit over the fate of cost-sharing subsidies … In practical terms, the ruling could make it more difficult for the Trump administration and House Republicans to abandon the payments without a court fight.”

-- Real world: the ongoing uncertainty has many insurers requesting premium hikes as high as 30 percent for ACA exchange plans next year. The Wall Street Journal’s Anna Wilde Mathews and Louise Radnofsky report: “Big insurers in Idaho, West Virginia, South Carolina, Iowa and Wyoming are seeking to raise premiums by averages close to 30% or more, according to preliminary rate requests published Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Major marketplace players in New Mexico, Tennessee, North Dakota and Hawaii indicated they were looking for average increases of 20% or more. …  Insurers face a mid-August deadline for completing their rates.”

-- Bernie Sanders plans to introduce a single-payer bill in the Senate. David Weigel reports: “Sanders is ramping up his campaign for single-payer health care, starting with digital ads that ask voters to endorse his planned ‘Medicare for All’ legislation ahead of the Senate’s August recess. The six-figure buy, paid for by Sanders’s 2018 Senate reelection campaign, will direct readers to his website, where they can sign on to his bill. That will tee up legislation that [Sanders] has promised, then delayed, since March — a version of single-payer health care that, he hopes, will avoid some of the pitfalls that have made previous bills politically untenable.”

-- Even with the repeal push stalled, angry constituents are still packing town halls during the congressional recess. Detroit Free Press reports of Republican Rep. Justin Amash’s latest town hall in Michigan: “The Cascade Township Republican heard from constituent after constituent that his support for a repeal was an injustice and that he should represent their interests. … But Amash, who has held multiple town halls filled with people angry about the possible repeal of Obamacare, was undeterred. ‘We should work together. I do think we should start over,’ he said during the town hall at East Grand Rapids High School. ‘But I do think we should repeal the ACA.’”

THE TRUMP (DELAYED) AGENDA: 

-- “The White House’s push to quickly pass a major package of tax cuts through Congress is facing a fall calendar full of legislative land mines, potentially delaying a key part of [Trump’s] agenda into at least 2018,” Damian Paletta and Kelsey Snell report: “The Trump administration sees tax cuts as an achievable victory after a string of failed attempts to pass other parts of the president’s legislative agenda, as well as a proposal that could unite a party fractured over Senate Republicans’ failure last week to vote through a repeal of parts of the Affordable Care Act. Trump touted the tax proposal Tuesday in a meeting with business executives, saying his team was ‘pursuing bold tax cuts’ to help companies grow.”

“Republican leaders in Congress, however, face a pair of deadlines that are delaying any action on taxes. The current budget is set to expire at the end of September … [and] Congress’s most immediate concern … is the debt ceiling, which the Treasury Department says must be raised by Sept. 29 to ensure that the government can pay its bills. Failing to raise the ceiling could spark a global financial crisis, leading to a stock market crash, a spike in interest rates and a potential economic recession.

“[Steven Mnuchin] met with [Sens. Mitch McConnell and Chuck] Schumer on Tuesday, pressing them to raise the borrowing limit as soon as possible. But the talks ended without progress or even a clear sense of what the Senate leaders must do to deliver votes to raise the limit … Some more conservative Republicans are demanding that any increase in the debt ceiling … come coupled with broad plans to cut spending and shrink the federal government, provisions that would probably preclude any Democratic support for the increase.”

-- Mnuchin has been lobbying for a "clean" debt ceiling increase without any policy strings attached, such as the federal spending cuts that some conservatives have demanded. (Politico's John Bresnahan and Seung Min Kim)

-- “There seem to be two kinds of Republicans: those who think that the full faith and credit of the United States can be the subject of political experimentation, and sensible ones,” writes The Post’s Editorial Board. “Mnuchin fits in the latter category. … The stability of the financial system, domestic and international, depends on preserving the ‘risk-free’ status of U.S. debt, earned over centuries. A failure to raise the debt limit would imperil this status, causing a ‘serious problem,’ as Mr. Mnuchin has put it with considerable understatement. Lawmakers have so far declined to follow his advice, however[.] … The hour is getting late, and the stakes are immense.”

-- Senate Democrats are demanding that Mitch McConnell include them in any broad rewrite of the tax code. Kelsey and Damian report: “Democrats unveiled their request in a letter calling on the GOP to work with them to update the tax code without reducing federal revenue or cutting taxes on the wealthy. … The letter follows a call from White House legislative director Marc Short for conservative activists to pressure vulnerable Democrats to support the tax overhaul plan or face political peril in the 2018 midterm elections. … But Senate Democrats hope that Republicans will be wary of an aggressive push on taxes following last week’s dramatic failure of the GOP effort to repeal and replace the [ACA]. … Democrats plan to unify around policy demands that they say will be appealing enough to keep the entire party in line[.]”

-- No go: McConnell intends to move ahead with a party-line tax bill. Politico's Elana Schor reports: “McConnell on Tuesday reaffirmed the GOP’s long-standing intention to shield any tax overhaul from a likely Democratic filibuster by using the procedural protections of budget reconciliation. … McConnell also said that unlike the closed-door process the Senate GOP employed to write its Obamacare repeal bill, the party would hold hearings in both chambers on taxes after lawmakers return from their recess next month. Republicans hope to finish work on tax reform ‘some time this year,’ McConnell said.”

-- Working in McConnell’s favor, “[c]onservative and business-aligned advocacy groups plan to spend millions of dollars boosting tax reform in August,” reports Politico’s Nancy Cook. “The push by Washington-based interest groups, President Donald Trump’s White House, the Treasury Department and Republicans on the Hill aims to get better results from tax reform by engaging stakeholders from the outset — and by pitching their plans to voters aggressively and early. … The Business Roundtable … and the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity have also pledged to spend millions on TV and radio ads and social media campaigns and ensuring grass-roots turnout at town halls over the congressional recess. They would not confirm the exact amounts they will spend. Those ads will focus on how tax reform will hit consumers’ pocketbooks, boost American jobs and help economic growth broadly, not on the benefits for the big businesses helping to fund the campaign.

-- “The Trump administration said Tuesday that it will waive environmental reviews and other laws to replace a stretch of border wall in San Diego, moving to make good on one of the president’s signature campaign pledges,” AP’s Elliot Spagat reports: “The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement it will publish in ‘the coming days’ in the Federal Register a notice exempting the government from the National Environmental Protection Act, which calls for extensive reviews of environmental impacts, and a host of other laws on 15 miles of border extending east from the Pacific Ocean. It will mark the sixth time that the department has exercised that authority since 2005 and the first time since 2008.”

-- “A federal judge on Tuesday declined to temporarily bar [Trump’s] voting commission from collecting voter data from states and the District, saying a federal appeals court likely will be deciding the legality of the request,” Spencer S. Hsu reports: “U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the District denied an emergency motion by Common Cause, a nonprofit government watchdog group. The group alleged the request for voting history and political party affiliation by the Trump administration violates a Watergate-era law that prohibits the government from gathering information about how Americans exercise their First Amendment rights.”

-- Lobbyists for doctors and their insurers have been boasting about the House passage of a bill that would overhaul national medical malpractice laws. Kimberly Kindy reports: “It isn’t unusual for industry stakeholders to draft legislation. But in this case, lobbyists were able to rapidly shepherd their bill to House passage with minimal input from the public or even members of Congress. Lobbyists then crowed about the achievement, boasting that the House-passed measure was nearly identical to one they provided to the House Judiciary Committee and that Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) introduced on Feb. 24. … With Republicans in full control of Washington for the first time in 10 years, lobbyists for business and conservative causes are pushing aggressively for changes in laws and regulations long resisted by Democrats. After just six months, they have scored dozens of victories.

-- Betsy DeVos dropped her plan to overhaul student-loan servicing on Tuesday after growing bipartisan resistance. Politico’s Michael Stratford reports: “The Trump administration announced that it was scrapping plans to award a massive contract to a single company to manage the monthly payments of all student loan borrowers, and said it would come up with a new proposal aimed at improving customer service for student loan payments. … DeVos had pitched her initial loan servicing plan in April as an effort to simplify a complicated student loan system ... [saying] that hiring a single servicer would make it easier for the Education Department to hold that company accountable. But the plan ran into stiff opposition from industry groups and Capitol Hill … The Education Department announcement came several hours after a bipartisan group of senators unveiled legislation that would have blocked DeVos’ plans.”

-- The head of the Coast Guard said Tuesday that he would not “break faith” with transgender troops, despite Trump’s recent announcement that he would ban such members from serving. Thomas Gibbons-Neff reports: “[Adm. Paul F. Zukunft] said that following the tweets, he had his office contact the 13 service members in the Coast Guard who identified as transgender, including Lt. Taylor Miller, the branch’s first openly transitioning officer. ‘I reached out personally to Lt. Taylor Miller, who was featured on the cover of The [Post] last week,’ Zukunft said. ‘… And I told Taylor, "I will not turn my back. We have made an investment in you, and you have made an investment in the Coast Guard, and I will not break faith."' ... With the Pentagon awaiting direction from a White House that has provided little clarity beyond the president’s three tweets last week, Zukunft’s pledge could easily be construed as the opening salvo in a military-led push to prevent a total rollback of the 2016 decision that allowed transgender troops to serve openly.”

-- Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg wrote in a weekend email to staff that Trump had “condoned police violence” in his Friday speech to law enforcement officers. Matt Zapotosky and Mark Berman report: “Rosenberg wrote that he felt obligated to respond to the president’s comments ‘because we have an obligation to speak out when something is wrong.’ He cited the agency’s core values — among them integrity, accountability and respect and compassion. ‘This is how we conduct ourselves. This is how we treat those whom we encounter in our work: victims, witnesses, subjects, and defendants. This is who we are,’ Rosenberg wrote. … Rosenberg wrote that his email was not meant to advance any ‘political, partisan, or personal agenda,’ and he said he did not believe a DEA agent would mistreat a defendant. But he made clear in the first line his remarks were directed at Trump.”

-- In a speech yesterday at the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives conference, Jeff Sessions stopped short of criticizing Trump’s remarks, but he did mention police brutality, a rarity for the attorney general. Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports: “Sessions often chastises others for badmouthing police and, indeed, his remarks to an African-American law enforcement group in Atlanta included just such a passage. But what was more notable was his public acknowledgment that ‘bad’ officers were contributing to a lack of community trust. ‘We all know the cases of the last several years when, in confrontations with police, lives have been cut short,’ Sessions told [the conference]. ‘Just as I’m committed to defending law enforcement who lawfully have to use deadly force to defend themselves while engaged in their work, I will also use the power of the office I’m entrusted with to hold any officer responsible who violates the law.’

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- Rex Tillerson delivered a wide-ranging speech Tuesday at the State Department in which he called for a dialogue with North Korea, telling reporters that the administration has been attempting to exert “peaceful pressure” on the country “because the options available to us are limited, particularly if we think we are operating under a short period of time.” Carol Morello and Anne Gearan report: “During [his remarks], Tillerson told reporters that the United States does not aim to depose the government in Pyongyang or use military force. ‘We do not seek a regime change, we do not seek a collapse of the regime, we do not seek an accelerated reunification of the peninsula, we do not seek an excuse to send our military north of the 38th Parallel,’ he said. 'We are trying to convey to the North Koreans: “We are not your enemy, we are not your threat. But you are presenting an unacceptable threat to us, and we have to respond."' Tillerson added that the United States hopes that ‘at some point,’ North Korea will understand and sit down for a dialogue.”

He also acknowledged that U.S. relations with Russia have worsened during the Trump administration, but said there is still room for cooperation on Syria and counterterrorism: “[Both items will be on the agenda] when Tillerson meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov this weekend at a summit in the Philippines. ‘I don’t think the American people want us to have a bad relationship with a huge nuclear power, but I think they are frustrated,’ he said.”

-- Tillerson is also resisting pleas from State officials to spend nearly $80 million provided by Congress to fight terrorist propaganda and Russian disinformation, Politico’s Nahal Toosi reports. “[M]ore than five months into his tenure, Tillerson has not issued a simple request for the money earmarked for the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, $60 million of which is now parked at the Pentagon. Another $19.8 million sits untouched at the State Department as Tillerson’s aides reject calls from career diplomats and members of Congress to put the money to work against America’s adversaries. The $60 million will expire on Sept. 30 if not transferred to State by then[.] … One Tillerson aide, R.C. Hammond, suggested the money is unwelcome because any extra funding for programs to counter Russian media influence would anger Moscow, according to a former senior State Department official.”

-- The Trump administration wants to force Beijing to crack down on intellectual-property theftthe Wall Street Journal’s Jacob M. Schlesinger and Bob Davis report. “The administration is considering invoking a little-used provision of U.S. trade law to investigate whether China’s intellectual-property policies constitute ‘unfair trade practices,’ according to people familiar with the matter. That would pave the way for the U.S. to impose sanctions on Chinese exporters or to further restrict the transfer of advanced technology to Chinese firms or to U.S.-China joint ventures. … Many organizations have complained that the Trump administration hasn’t pushed hard enough in areas like intellectual property[.] … One big question hanging over the White House review is whether the administration pursues any complaint through the World Trade Organization, or whether it chooses to impose penalties on its own[.]”

  • NYT’s Keith Bradsher adds: “The move, which could come in the next several days, signals a shift by the administration away from its emphasis on greater cooperation between Washington and Beijing, in part because administration officials have become frustrated by China’s reluctance to confront North Korea over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

After Golf.com published a story claiming that Trump referred to the White House as a “real dump,” Chelsea Clinton responded on Twitter:

Trump once again criticized media coverage of his presidency:

(According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the president's tweeting.)

One powerful GOP senator signaled he will pursue a more bipartisan solution to the problems facing the health-care system:

Sen. Susan Collins agreed:

Big change in stance from GOP leadership:

From a writer at Vox:

George W. Bush’s former ethics lawyer commented on the White House's confirmation that Trump helped to craft the misleading statement about his son's meeting with a Russian lawyer:

From The Post's Fact Checker:

The House speaker endorsed a wall along the southern border:

The endorsement represented quite the 180 for Ryan:

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus responded to Ryan's suggestion:

From the Democratic members of the House Committee on Homeland Security 

A House Democrat responded to an article from The Post's Josh Rogin on the State Department revising its mission statement to omit any mention of promoting democracy:

The vice president visited with embassy staff in Georgia:

The Toronto Star's Washington correspondent reported this on Trump's claim that he "got a call from the head of the Boy Scouts saying it was the greatest speech that was ever made to them:"

From a White House reporter for the New York Times:

This detail came to light about the new chief of staff:

Organizing for America's communications director reveled in the pain of Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who's up for reelection next year:

And NBC News's Andrea Mitchell celebrated an anniversary:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- HuffPost, “Why The Mooch Lost His Cool,” by Vicky Ward: “When I spoke to Scaramucci on Tuesday afternoon, the financier was more interested in justifying his recent past. From the beginning of his time in the Trump White House, way back on July 20, critics said that Scaramucci was too similar to Trump, too eager to be on TV, to last. Scaramucci was keenly aware of that particular liability. It explains why his opening news conference was so filled with compliments for the president. He knew there was only one person watching whose opinion of him mattered.”

-- The New York Times, “Trump Loyalist Mixes Businesses and Access at ‘Advisory’ Firm,” by Nicholas Confessore and Kenneth P. Vogel: “About a week after leaving his old firm, [Corey] Lewandowski started a new consulting business, according to corporate filings. And now, as he takes on an increasingly broad role as an unofficial White House adviser, he is building a roster of clients with major interests before the Trump administration, including an Ohio-based payday lender seeking to block or overturn new federal financial regulations.”

-- Washingtonian, “How the Hollywood Reporter Became a Must-Read in DC,” by Elaina Plott: “[On] June 16, 2015—Donald Trump had descended the gilded escalator of Trump Tower to announce his improbable bid for President. In photos from the event, [Angelo] Carusone had noticed someone who looked to be an acquaintance—a background actor. The activist suspected Trump had hired people to cheer him on … The [subsequent] scoop marked the beginning of a banner season of political coverage for the Los Angeles publication, not previously known for trenchant campaign correspondence. Suddenly, people such as Tom Barrack and Steve Bannon weren’t just players in the LA zeitgeist or dial-a-quotes for stories about Cannes—they were stars in what was quickly becoming one of the strangest events in modern political history. What’s more, unlike most outlets, whose correspondents lacked good sourcing among Trump’s inner circle, the Hollywood Reporter had a fat Rolodex at the ready.” 

-- The New York Times, “France, Facing Criticism, Promises the Bare Essentials for Migrants,” by Adam Nossiter: “After banking on neglect, hostility and mistreatment to discourage a steady trickle of migrants, the new French government was ordered by France’s highest administrative body to do better this week and at least provide water and toilets to the people. That order has defused, for now, a new migrant crisis brewing at the northern port of Calais, the favored would-be jumping off point for Britain. Yet a permanent solution to France’s slow-boiling migrant problem still appears to be distant.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“An anti-immigrant group mistook empty bus seats for women wearing burqas,” from Adam Taylor: “Last week, a photograph that appeared to show six women wearing burqas on a bus sparked a heated debate in a private Facebook group for Norwegians critical of immigration. For many members of the group, which is called ‘Fedrelandet viktigst’ or ‘Fatherland first,’ the image encapsulated the problems Norway was facing after an influx of Muslim immigrants in the past few years. … However, when you look at the photograph above more closely, it may become apparent that the photo itself is irrelevant to any debate about Islam in Norway. Why? Well, those are not burqas. They're bus seats.

 

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

“Prosecutors inappropriately inquired about ex-congressman Aaron Schock’s sex life, defense attorneys say,” from Matt Zapotosky: “Defense attorneys for former congressman Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) have asked a federal judge to dismiss the criminal charges against him, arguing in a court filing Tuesday that investigators acted inappropriately in the case, including by exploring Schock’s sex life and whether he was gay. Schock’s defense attorneys asserted that prosecutors made ‘repeated inquiries to witnesses into who he has slept with and whether he is gay[.]’ … The attorneys argued the inquiries were so inappropriate that they could have affected witnesses who testified before the grand jury, and thus the indictment against Schock should be thrown out.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will make an announcement with Republican Sens. Tom Cotton (Ark.) and David Perdue (Ga.) in the morning. (Washington Examiner reports that the trio will “unveil legislation that proposes a skills-based immigration system and seeks an overall lower level of legal immigration[.]”) Trump also has an afternoon meeting with Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio.).

Pence begins the day in Montenegro. He will meet with U.S. embassy staff and then have a meeting with Montenegro’s prime minister in the morning. He will later give a speech and participate in sessions at the Adriatic Charter Summit. He and the second lady will return to D.C. late tonight.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

Jared Kushner on attempts to understand the Israeli-Palestine conflict, taken from a recording of Kushner’s speech this week to congressional interns: “Everyone finds an issue, that 'You have to understand what they did then' and 'You have to understand that they did this.' But how does that help us get peace? Let's not focus on that. We don’t want a history lesson. We’ve read enough books. Let’s focus on, How do you come up with a conclusion to the situation?"

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

-- D.C. may get another afternoon storm today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “The heat and humidity have settled back into the area. Although both could certainly be a lot worse. We’ll see partly sunny skies as highs head for near 90 to the low 90s, with moderate humidity and a light wind from the south around 5-10 mph. Could see an isolated storm or two late this afternoon.”

-- The Nationals lost to the Marlins 7-6, despite an earlier six-run lead. (Jorge Castillo)

-- The ACLU of Maryland is suing Gov. Larry Hogan for blocking users on Facebook. Ovetta Wiggins reports: “[The deleted users] argue that Hogan ‘arbitrarily’ censored their free speech by deleting their comments and blocking them from his Facebook page after they questioned his position on education policy and President Trump’s controversial travel ban."

-- An Alexandria attorney is partnering with a Mississippi entrepreneur in an attempt to trademark the n-word. The Supreme Court ruled in June that derogatory terms can receive trademark protection, and the pair hopes to keep the n-word out of the hands of racists. (Justin Wm. Moyer)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Jimmy Fallon launched KickedOut, a LinkedIn for fired members of the Trump administration:

Sen. Al Franken recounted last week's dramatic health-care vote for Stephen Colbert:

Trump promised a "new era of American prosperity" to small-business owners:

His daughter Ivanka added that the administration is “committed to supporting the American worker," despite her company's extensive ties to factories overseas:

The Post's fact-checking team examined the president's claims about the stock market:

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) unveiled a long-shot bill to legalize marijuana nationally:

The Post compiled some of California Rep. Maxine Waters's most viral moments:

Retired Marine Lt. Col. Amy McGrath announced that she would challenge Republican Rep. Andy Barr in the Kentucky Sixth:

Surveillance footage showed Tennessee police officers using a taser on a restrained 18-year-old:

And a 103-year-old woman in Minnesota finally got to fufill her wish of riding a motorcycle: