With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.
THE BIG IDEA: Bernie Sanders was the runner-up for the Democratic nomination to be president in 2016, and he’s considering another try in 2020, but the Vermont senator remains adamant that he will not become a member of the party.
Sanders criticized Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez on Wednesday for endorsing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo over primary challenger Cynthia Nixon. He said this sort of interference by party bosses makes it harder to trust that progressives will get a fair shake in 2020.
That was the biggest news from Bernie’s Daily 202 Live interview, but he uncorked a more systemic critique of the Democratic Party during our hour-long conversation that underscored the festering tensions between many grass-roots activists and the establishment. In a word, it kept coming back to money.
For example, Sanders cited the fact that 17 Senate Democrats recently voted to roll back Dodd-Frank — the law passed after the Great Recession to prevent another financial crisis — as evidence of the sway special interests hold over the party. “At the end of the day, it’s not complicated,” he said. “Folks say, ‘Well, you know, I need that vote from you. You want campaign contributions? You want help for your Super PAC? I will expect you to vote to deregulate Wall Street.’ People will do that unfortunately.”
While Sanders caucuses with Senate Democrats, he insisted that he remains proudly and fiercely independent. He said he made a commitment to voters when he first ran for office in the 1980s to stay that way, but his refusal to technically join the party even as he works to remake it in his image irks many former supporters of Hillary Clinton.
“According to polling that I have seen, there are more people who now consider themselves independents than who are Democrats or Republicans,” replied Sanders. “There is not a lot of love, frankly, for either the Democratic or Republican Party and many people are discouraged with both. They’re turning away from both. So I think it is not a bad idea to have somebody who says, ‘I understand that. I am an independent. … I have had to run against Democrats. But I want you, as independents, to come into the Democratic primaries and transform the Democratic Party.’”
-- Sanders has become much more polished since he launched his presidential campaign three years ago. His answers are crisper and punchier. He’s developed more message discipline. He’s savvier about using his platform to advance his priorities than he gets credit for from most D.C. elites and the mainstream media.
Asked when he’ll decide whether to run again in 2020, he answers: “At the appropriate time.”
When the crowd laughed, he quipped: “How's that for a good political answer? Is that good?”
“Believe me, there will be more than enough candidates, I'm quite confident, running for president,” he added, “and at the appropriate time, I will make that decision as to whether I do it or not.”
In 2018, the 76-year-old says he is focused on coasting to a third term as Vermont’s junior senator. His name will appear on the Democratic primary ballot in the state’s August primary. But when he wins, he will formally decline the nomination and run as an independent in the general election. Doing it this way ensures he will have no Democratic challenger.
-- The senator said he’s not just leery of billionaires like industrialist Charles Koch and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson prodding Republicans to embrace their agenda. He is also nervous about the growing number of Democratic billionaires who are wading into politics and pushing the party toward more plutocratic policies. He fears this will entrench what he sees as an oligarchy that already controls the country.
“I see many of my colleagues, good people, spending half … of their lives not dealing with their constituents, not studying up on the issues. They’re on the damn phone, and they hate it. But that’s the system that we are in right now. They’d be the first to admit it to you,” he said. “We are moving toward a system where, especially if you are in a large state, you’re going to have to be either dependent upon billionaire contributors or be a billionaire yourself. Does anybody really think this is what American democracy is supposed to be about?”
Several mega-rich people have been floated — sometimes by themselves or the political retainers they’ve put on their payrolls — as potential 2020 presidential candidates, from Howard Schultz to Mike Bloomberg, Mark Cuban, Tom Steyer, Bob Iger, Mark Zuckerberg and Oprah Winfrey.
“Look, there are billionaires out there who are very decent people, who are smart people, who are well-intentioned people,” said Sanders. “But they shouldn’t have the right to run for office any more than a working stiff, who is also decent and bright, but can’t afford to raise the millions of dollars that are needed for a campaign. So, yeah, I do have real concerns about that.”
-- Sanders emphasized that big issues like health care and education can never be properly addressed until there is campaign finance reform, “because so long as you continue to have a handful of billionaires … who can dump huge amounts of money into a Senate race, a congressional race or a governor’s race, we’re not going to have the kind of democracy that this country deserves.”
“If you look at what goes on in the Senate … or in the House, what you find is that virtually every major piece of legislation that comes to the floor is paid for by wealthy and powerful special interests,” he said.
-- The senator believes many politicians in both parties don’t criticize Israel’s treatment of Palestinians because they’re afraid of missing out on campaign cash from deep-pocketed donors. He suggested that was at play when more Democratic lawmakers did not join him in speaking against the treatment of demonstrators in Gaza on the day the U.S. Embassy moved to Jerusalem.
“That was, I think, money in politics,” he said. “Look, here is the reality: I am Jewish. I lived in Israel when I was a young man for a while. I think I have a cousin who is living in Israel. I absolutely believe in the need for Israel to be independent, to be free, to be secure from terrorist attacks. … But I also believe that when you have almost two million people living in Gaza, where the water is filthy, where youth unemployment is at 60 percent, where people can't even leave the area, that that is unacceptable.”
-- He said the two major parties are jointly responsible for trade deals that he thinks hurt workers. “The reality is that, for many decades, Republicans and Democrats allowed this country into trade agreements which benefited corporate America, the pharmaceutical industry and Wall Street but were disastrous for working people,” said Sanders. “I believe in trade; trade’s a good thing. But I do not believe in unfettered free trade.”
-- Sanders also warned about the lobbying prowess of defense contractors and their influence over foreign policy. “We've got the military-industrial complex with huge power,” he said. “The Congress, against my vote, just increased military spending by $165 billion. They're talking now about tactical nuclear weapons on submarines! So I think we have a lot to be concerned about.”
-- For Democrats to be united in 2020, Sanders said it is imperative the party reduce the number of superdelegates who will be able to choose the nominee. “There is agreement among Tom Perez and a lot of the Clinton people, as well as our people,” he said. “Clinton and I formed what we called a Democratic Unity Reform Committee to say that we should substantially reduce the number of superdelegates, actually, by about 70 percent. Some people think we should eliminate them all, and I could certainly support that. Will that happen? We will see. Pay attention to that.”
He also wants to open more primaries so that people who aren’t registered as members of the party can still participate. He argues that closed primaries in states like New York disenfranchise millions of people and benefit establishment candidates.
-- Sanders has had mixed success this year as he’s traveled the country endorsing candidates in Democratic primaries. Pete d’Alessandro, who helped organize Bernie’s near upset of Clinton in the Iowa caucuses, finished third on Tuesday in a Democratic primary to take on GOP Rep. David Young. The senator traveled to the state to stump with him and helped raise money for him. But there have been victories: John Fetterman, a Sanders supporter in Pennsylvania, defeated the sitting lieutenant governor in a primary last month, for example.
Sanders said that even candidates who he’s not endorsing or that don’t align with him are embracing the ideas he ran on, which he sees as a positive development. “You win some and you lose some,” he said. “The most important thing, and what we try very hard to do, is bring millions of more people … into the political process.”
By his count, he’s visited about 30 states since President Trump got elected and most were carried by the president. “Because I think it's important to talk to Trump supporters and to say to them, ‘Look, we understand,’” he said. “No question about it, some Trump supporters are racist, are sexist, are homophobes. … I don't think the majority of them are. I think these are people in many cases who feel the establishment has ignored them. And you know what? The establishment has ignored them! Both political parties have ignored them!”
GET SMART FAST:
Several Americans are being evacuated from China after they heard unusual noises in the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou and later developed unexplained ailments. The State Department would not clarify the number of people being evacuated but said that they would return to the United States for further evaluation of their symptoms. (Carol Morello and Paul Sonne)
The National Security Council contractor arrested this week was wanted on attempted murder charges in connection with a shooting involving his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. Martese Edwards, 29, has been wanted on a warrant since May 17, but the Secret Service said it just learned of it on June 4. The Daily Beast reports Edwards received a security clearance despite a previous assault charge and allegations of domestic violence. (Lynh Bui and Peter Hermann)
Melania Trump appeared alongside her husband during an event at FEMA headquarters, marking her first public appearance in nearly a month since she was hospitalized for what was described as a benign kidney condition. “She went through a little rough patch, but she’s doing great,” Trump said of his wife, adding: “She’s done a fantastic job as first lady — the people of our country love you.” (Emily Heil)
The Supreme Court will review a petition today from a Washington state florist who refused to provide her services to a gay couple. If the justices accept the case, it could give them an opportunity to issue a much broader ruling than they did in the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision. (Robert Barnes)
U.S. officials plan to release an American citizen accused of supporting ISIS back into Syria against his will. The ACLU is attempting to block the man’s release, calling it a de facto “death warrant.” (Spencer S. Hsu)
At least 192 people remain missing in Guatemala following Sunday's volcanic eruption. The disaster killed at least 75 people and forced thousands to flee their homes. The government estimates that some 1.7 million people have been affected by the explosion. (BBC)
- Argentina’s national soccer team canceled its highly anticipated match against Israel due to political pressure and death threats toward players, which the Argentine foreign minister described as “worse than ISIS.” The cancellation drew outrage from Israeli officials, who accused Argentina of bowing to pressure from Palestinian protesters. (Ruth Eglash)
The speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives ousted his longtime chief of staff after a House staff member accused him of sexual harassment. Tim Mapes’s departure marks the fourth time in recent months that Speaker Michael Madigan has had to distance himself from an associate over misconduct allegations. (Chicago Tribune)
Kate Spade’s husband revealed she “suffered from depression and anxiety for many years.” But Andy Spade said his wife’s suicide still came as a “complete shock.” (Eli Rosenberg)
-- Trump had a tense phone call late last month with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the steel and aluminum tariffs, during which the president erroneously blamed Canada for the War of 1812. CNN’s Jim Acosta and Paula Newton report: “Trudeau pressed Trump on how he could justify the tariffs as a ‘national security’ issue. In response, Trump quipped to Trudeau, ‘Didn't you guys burn down the White House?’ referring to the War of 1812. The problem with Trump's comments to Trudeau is that British troops burned down the White House during the War of 1812. Historians note the British attack on Washington was in retaliation for the American attack on York, Ontario, in territory that eventually became Canada, which was then a British colony.” (I've previously written about how Trump's lack of historical knowledge complicates his diplomatic outreach.)
-- Trump is planning to adopt a confrontational stance during Friday’s G-7 meeting in Quebec, which will put him face-to-face with leaders he has antagonized with a set of increasingly protectionist policies. Damian Paletta and Anne Gearan report: “[The two-day meeting] has crystallized into a showdown over trade after Trump’s recent insistence on new barriers that the other nations see as petty and insulting. Most of the other countries represented have a trade beef with Trump that is unlikely to be resolved at the summit — and for each the standoff is one more sign that the United States is pulling back from traditional global leadership roles. In a sign that Trump is looking to stoke divisions, White House officials are discussing ways to impose additional economic penalties against Canada — the host nation for the summit — in retaliation for Ottawa’s threat to levy tariffs next month on roughly $13 billion in U.S.-made products. White House officials are also considering whether to have Trump refuse to sign onto a customary joint agreement at the end of the G-7 summit, one senior administration official said, as a signal that the old ways of doing business are over.”
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Trump is “untroubled” by all the blowback, adding that the president will meet with Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the meeting. Notably, the White House has not announced any individual meetings between Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May or German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
-- The president has been complaining to aides about having to attend the G-7 summit at all, describing it as a distraction from his planned sit-down with Kim Jong Un. From Josh Dawsey, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker: “In particular, the president said Tuesday to several advisers that he fears attending the [G-7 summit] may not be a good use of his time because he is diametrically opposed on many key issues with his counterparts — and (he) does not want to be lectured by them. Additionally, Trump has griped periodically both about [Merkel] — largely because they disagree on many issues and have had an uneasy rapport — as well as [May], whom he sees as too politically correct, advisers say. Behind the scenes at the White House, there have been staff-level discussions for several days about whether Trump may pull the plug on the trip and send Vice President Pence in his stead, as he did for an April summit of Latin American leaders in Peru. ... Furthermore, he prefers visiting places where he is feted — such as on his trips last year to Beijing, Paris and the Saudi capital — over attending summits where the attending leaders are treated as equals.”
-- Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) released his bill that would subject tariffs to congressional approval, despite a personal appeal from Trump to quash it. Erica Werner reports: “The legislation, which Corker released with a total of nine Democratic and Republican co-sponsors, is the most forceful congressional response to date to Trump’s protectionist trade agenda. For the first time, at least some Republicans are uniting behind a concrete plan to force the president to change course on trade, after months of pleas and appeals achieved little. … Trump attempted Wednesday to stave off the legislation. Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who is not seeking reelection, said the president called him Wednesday morning and asked him not to file the bill. But Corker rebuffed Trump’s request.”
-- “This Ohio factory thought it could bring U.S. jobs back from China. Then Trump got involved,” by David J. Lynch: “Bill Adler was invited last year to bid on a contract to make commercial sausage stuffers for a company that wanted to replace its Chinese supplier. The customer had just one nonnegotiable demand: Match China’s price. Adler, owner of metal-parts maker Stripmatic Products, thought he could. But even as he readied his proposal, talk of President Trump’s steel tariffs sent the price of Stripmatic’s main raw material soaring. In April, with prices up nearly 50 percent from October and the first wave of tariffs in place, Adler’s bid failed. His costs were too high. Today, instead of taking business from China, Adler worries about hanging onto the work he has.”
-- House Republicans failed to craft a compromise immigration bill that would satisfy both conservatives and moderates, whose discharge petition could soon force a vote on legislation. Mike DeBonis reports: “Leaders huddled with about a dozen moderate and conservative lawmakers for two hours and emerged without a clear resolution on the divisive issue, a day before all Republican lawmakers are set to meet behind closed doors in hopes of ending the standoff. … One idea that Republicans are exploring is providing a route to citizenship for the young immigrants in exchange for cuts to existing legal immigration programs. That is meant to address conservative objections to the demand from the moderates — offering a path to permanent legal residency, and eventually citizenship, for those known as ‘dreamers.’”
-- U.S. border agents made more than 50,000 arrests in May for the third month in a row, according to a new DHS report. The figures represent a blow to Trump’s “zero tolerance” crackdown on illegal immigration, which has not yet proved itself as a successful deterrent. The number of arrests last month is also triple that of May 2017, when immigration rates plunged in the aftermath of Trump’s inauguration. (Nick Miroff)
-- ICE officials arrested 114 employees at an Ohio garden and landscaping company, in one of the largest workplace immigration raids since Trump took office. According to local reports, an estimated 200 federal officials blitzed the company’s locations, loading suspected undocumented immigrants onto buses, and leaving dozens of children stranded at day-care facilities and with babysitters. (Samantha Schmidt)
-- The ACLU’s lawsuit against the Trump administration over its policy of separating migrant families was allowed to proceed. From Bloomberg News's Erik Larson: “U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw in San Diego on Wednesday denied a motion to dismiss the suit, in which the American Civil Liberties Union argues that splitting up families at the border violates their due process rights. … ‘These allegations sufficiently describe government conduct that arbitrarily tears at the sacred bond between parent and child,’ the judge wrote. The conduct, if true, ‘is brutal, offensive, and fails to comport with traditional notions of fair play and decency.’ … The judge rejected the ACLU’s argument that the separation practice violates the Asylum Act and the Administrative Procedure Act, but gave the rights group permission to amend its complaint to address deficiencies in those claims.”
DEBUNKING TRUMP'S CLAIMS:
-- Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said he has seen “no evidence” to support the president's assertion that the FBI planted a spy inside his 2016 campaign, agreeing with the assessment of Trey Gowdy, the chairman of the Oversight Committee. Both have received top secret briefings on the matter. Karoun Demirjian and Mike DeBonis report: The Wisconsin Republican “was referring to last week, when Gowdy (R-S.C.), [said] on Fox News that ‘the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do’ in investigating information alleging certain Trump campaign advisers had suspicious ties to Russia, ‘and that it has nothing to do with [Trump].’ Trump’s assertions [began] last month, after [Rep. Devin Nunes] (R-Calif.) demanded [an FBI briefing on the confidential source]. In delivering his rebuke … Ryan was careful not to disparage all of Nunes’s complaints with the Justice Department. Those include several unfulfilled demands for documents unrelated to the spying accusations — but which Democrats still feel are intended to undermine the federal law enforcement agencies and, by extension, the foundations of [Robert Mueller’s investigation].” “Let me say it this way: I think Chairman Gowdy’s initial assessment is accurate,” Ryan said.
-- Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee who is retiring from Congress, chastised Trump for pushing false conspiracy theories about the FBI with no evidence: “What is the point of saying that there was a spy in the campaign when there was none?” Rooney told Politico’s Kyle Cheney and Rachel Bade. “You know what I’m saying? It’s like, ‘Lets create this thing to tweet about knowing that it’s not true.’ … Maybe it’s just to create more chaos but it doesn’t really help the case.”
-- DOJ officials plan to brief lawmakers again next week on the early days of the FBI’s investigation into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Devlin Barrett reports: “In late May, [Rosenstein] briefed senior members of both parties about how the FBI pursued the case. The Justice Department will give those lawmakers a follow-up briefing next week, partly to answer questions raised by [Paul Ryan]. A senior Justice Department official said the briefing will allow lawmakers ‘to review certain supporting documents that were made available during the prior briefing.’”
-- Muddying the waters: Rudy Giuliani, the president's lawyer, claimed that Robert Mueller’s team is trying “very, very hard to frame” Trump — the latest salvo in the White House’s ongoing effort to discredit the Russia investigation. John Wagner reports: “Speaking at an investment conference in Tel Aviv … Giuliani echoed Trump’s claim that Mueller’s team is dominated by Democrats who are out to get him. And then Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, suggested the team is going to extraordinary lengths to do so. ‘They are a group of 13 highly partisan Democrats that make up the Mueller team — excluding him — [who] are trying very, very hard to frame him, to get him in trouble when he hasn’t done anything wrong,’ Giuliani said. (Four members of Mueller’s team are either politically unaffiliated or their affiliation is unknown, and both Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein are registered Republicans.)”
Giuliani also doubled down on his assertion that Trump could pardon himself of any federal crimes: “Does he have the power to do it? Yes,” Giuliani said. “Is he going to do it? No. He’s not going to do it. … He’s innocent. He hasn’t done anything wrong.”
-- But, but, but: Both Ryan and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have now disputed Trump’s ability to self-pardon. “Obviously, the answer is he shouldn't and no one is above the law,” Ryan said. McConnell struck a more subtle note, but his message was clear: “I don't think the president needs any advice on pardoning himself,” he said. “He obviously knows that would not be something that he would or should do.” (Amber Phillips)
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Mueller’s investigators have requested that witnesses in their investigation turn in their personal cellphones to inspect any encrypted messaging programs and potentially view conversations tied to Trump. CNBC’s Brian Schwartz reports: “Since as early as April, Mueller's team has been asking witnesses in the Russia probe to turn over phones for agents to examine private conversations … Fearing a subpoena, the witnesses have complied with the request and have given over their phones, the sources said. While it's unclear what Mueller has discovered, if anything, through this new request, investigators seem to be convinced that the apps could be a key to exposing conversations that weren't previously disclosed to them.” The revelation comes just days after prosecutors accused Paul Manafort of attempted witness tampering through the same types of encrypted programs.
-- The Atlantic’s Franklin Foer has a great read on Konstantin Kilimnik, a former Manafort associate identified by Mueller's team only as “Person A”: “For a decade, Kilimnik was a fixture in Manafort’s meetings with the region’s leading politicians and oligarchs, [and] would come to earn the title ‘Manafort’s Manafort' ... During that entire period, he has been dogged by suspicions. There were always hints that he might be serving another master, providing a set of surveilling eyes for Russian intelligence. … It was easy enough to dismiss those old hunches as conspiracy theories. The immediate post-Soviet period was a time rife with unfounded accusations. But [Mueller] has begun to state them as fact. In a brief Mueller submitted to a U.S. District Court, [he] went one step further, [describing] Person A’s ties to Russian intelligence as ‘active’ through the 2016 presidential election. Or to put it even more bluntly than Mueller: Donald Trump’s campaign chairman had a pawn of Russian intelligence as his indispensable alter ego.”
-- Stormy Daniels filed a lawsuit against her former attorney Keith Davidson, accusing him of being a “puppet” for Trump and releasing text messages that she says show “collusion” between Davidson and longtime Trump fixer Michael Cohen. Beth Reinhard reports: “In the final days of the 2016 election, Davidson and [Cohen] negotiated a deal in which Daniels was paid $130,000 [to stay silent about an alleged affair with Trump]. The text messages — beginning in January, after the non-disclosure agreement was publicly revealed — show Cohen at one point pressing for Daniels to appear on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News. ‘This is no good,’ Cohen writes, after Davidson says she won’t be available until the following day. ‘We need her as by doing tomorrow you just create another news cycle instead of putting an end to this one.’ In a statement … Davidson said he views the lawsuit as a waiver by Daniels of attorney-client privilege, an interpretation that suggests he is now free to discuss the case with federal prosecutors scrutinizing the payments as part of an investigation of Cohen for potential bank and wire fraud.”
-- Ivanka Trump was in contact with a Russian who offered to facilitate a meeting between her father and Vladimir Putin to help expedite a possible Trump Tower in Moscow. BuzzFeed News’s Anthony Cormier, Jason Leopold and Emma Loop report: “[During the 2016 campaign, Ivanka Trump] connected her father's personal lawyer with a Russian athlete who offered to introduce Donald Trump to Putin to facilitate a 100-story Trump tower in Moscow, according to emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News … There is no evidence that Ivanka Trump's contact with the athlete — the former Olympic weightlifter Dmitry Klokov — was illegal or that it had anything to do with the election. Nor is it clear that Klokov could even have introduced Trump to the Russian president. But congressional investigators have reviewed emails and questioned witnesses about the interaction, according to two of the sources, and so has [Mueller’s team] …”
-- “Meet the New York architect who was a key figure in Donald Trump's deals and connections in Eastern Europe,” by CNBC's Christina Wilkie: “Architect John Fotiadis designed some of Trump's most ambitious luxury developments there. A master of glass-encased towers and monumental entrances — hallmarks of Trump's properties — the New York architect supplied vision and technical expertise that complemented Trump's salesmanship and attorney-fixer Michael Cohen's brass-tacks negotiating. Fotiadis' work offers a window into Trump's dealings in the complex, opaque world of Eurasian real estate.”
DRIP, DRIP, DRIP:
-- Two of Scott Pruitt’s top aides announced they are leaving the EPA, amid growing scrutiny of the administrator's spending and management decisions at the agency. Brady Dennis, Josh Dawsey and Juliet Eilperin report: “The departures of Sarah Greenwalt, Pruitt’s senior counsel, and Millan Hupp, his director for scheduling and advance — both of whom had worked with Pruitt since his days as Oklahoma attorney general — leave the EPA chief increasingly isolated as he faces a dozen federal spending and ethics probes. The departures are the latest and possibly most significant in a growing list of political appointees who have left the agency. Trump praised Pruitt at [the FEMA event] and said the EPA is ‘doing very, very well.’”
-- Congressional Republicans are now publicly questioning Pruitt’s job security. From Politico’s Anthony Adragna and Emily Holden: “While acknowledging that [Trump] would ultimately make any decision about Pruitt's job, several Republicans indicated Pruitt’s support was waning in their conference. ‘I’m not going to come down here, just because he happens to be a nominee of a president I support or a nominee from my party, and try to defend the indefensible,’ Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said. ‘I thought that Mr. Pruitt would have learned his lesson.’ … [E]ven staunch Pruitt allies like Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) said the mounting scandals had them rethinking their support. ‘Some are true, some are not true. Whether he can weather the storm, I’m not sure,’ Inhofe said. ‘The accusations are all troubling. They are.’ … [Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.)] raised a possible reason why Republicans weren’t abandoning Pruitt: getting a replacement confirmed by the Senate would be nearly impossible.”
-- Pruitt rankled White House officials by eating too often at the White House mess, according to Politico’s Holden, Andrew Restuccia and Adragna. “In response to Pruitt's recurring use of the restaurant next to the Situation Room in the basement of the West Wing, a member of the White House’s Cabinet affairs team told agency chiefs of staff in a meeting last year that Cabinet members shouldn't treat the mess as their personal dining hall, according to three people with knowledge of the issue. The message was clear, according to one person close to Pruitt: ‘We love having Mr. Pruitt, but it’s not meant for everyday use.’”
THE PRESIDENT'S PRIORITIES:
-- Trump commuted the sentence of Alice Marie Johnson, a 63-year-old woman serving a life term for a nonviolent crime, after meeting with Kim Kardashian West last week to discuss the case. John Wagner and Sari Horwitz report: “The action was the latest in a recent string of pardons and other acts of clemency from Trump, and aides haves suggested that more could soon be on the way. Johnson, 63, was convicted in Tennessee in 1996 and sentenced to life in prison on federal drug possession and money laundering charges. She was denied clemency by the Obama administration in January 2017 in one of the administration’s last batches of clemency denials. Others in the West Wing, including White House counsel Donald McGahn, had cautioned against the action. … Trump’s acts of clemency have been scattershot, driven by television segments, celebrities, friends and White House advisers[.] ... Last fall, Johnson was interviewed on Skype from prison … In October, Kardashian West just happened to spot the interview on Twitter, according to [a member of Johnson’s legal team].” Kardashian West welcomed Trump’s action on Twitter, writing: “BEST NEWS EVER!!!!”
-- Mick Mulvaney fired all 25 members of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s advisory board. Renae Merle reports: “The CFPB said it will revamp the Consumer Advisory Board, known as the CAB, in the fall with all new members. The panel has traditionally played an influential role in advising the CFPB’s leadership on new regulations and policies. But some members, who include prominent consumer advocates, academics and industry executives, began to complain that Mulvaney was ignoring them and making unwise decisions about the agency’s future. … On Wednesday, group members were notified that they were being replaced — and that they could not reapply for spots on the new board.”
-- A forthcoming report from the Trump administration will propose consolidating safety-net programs and renaming the Department of Health and Human Services. Politico’s Helena Bottemiller Evich and Andrew Restuccia report: “The report, set to be released in the coming weeks by the White House Office of Management and Budget, seeks to move safety-net programs, including food stamps, into HHS … The plan would also propose changing the name of the sprawling department, while separately seeking cuts at the U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department. … The report, which is expected to recommend big changes at many federal agencies, is almost complete and is expected to be introduced this month … The biggest changes outlined by the White House are unlikely to be implemented because moving multibillion-dollar programs and renaming federal departments generally requires congressional action.”
-- Trying to have it both ways: Trump is fighting a bipartisan plan to fund the much touted expansion of veterans' health care he signed into law on Wednesday, as the White House argues against a boost in federal spending to fund the new initiative. Erica Werner and Lisa Rein report: “The VA Mission Act authorizes and expansion of veterans’ access to private health care, but the bill does not reserve federal money to pay for it. A group of powerful Senate committee chairmen from both parties aims to remedy that by advancing a separate measure for the new $50 billion law, saying this is the best way to ensure the new programs give veterans access to medical care. But the White House has been lobbying Republicans to vote the plan down, instead asking Congress to pay for veterans programs by cutting spending elsewhere.
“The opposition to the funding plan is the latest demonstration of Trump’s variable approach to the longtime stated Republican goal of fiscal discipline. On some issues, most prominently last year’s $1.5 trillion tax bill or immigration measures such as the border wall, Trump has signed off on legislation projected to massively increase the federal deficit. On others, such as the veterans bill and emergency legislation to support communities impacted by last year’s devastating hurricanes and the California wildfires, he has demanded offsetting spending cuts. Without passage of the veterans funding bill soon, lawmakers and veterans groups warn that Veterans Affairs will be forced to make difficult trade-offs about which veterans programs should be funded.”
-- What else is on Trump's mind: The president turned a closed-door discussion on hurricane preparedness at FEMA headquarters yesterday into “soliloquies on his prowess in negotiating airplane deals, his popularity, the effectiveness of his political endorsements, the Republican Party’s fortunes, the vagaries of Defense Department purchasing guidelines, his dislike of magnetized launch equipment on aircraft carriers, his unending love of coal and his breezy optimism about his planned Singapore summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un,” Josh Dawsey reports. “The president’s 40-minute briefing session behind closed-doors came after he spoke to cameras for about 15 minutes. He briefly referred to Puerto Rico — where authorities now say thousands died as a result of last year’s hurricane. … Trump did not mention Puerto Rico’s victims but thanked Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) for helping and noted that the power company was ‘in bankruptcy prior to the hurricane.’”
THE NORTH KOREA SUMMIT:
-- Rival world powers are scrambling for influence as Trump prepares to meet with Kim. David Nakamura reports: “The leaders of China, South Korea, Japan and Russia are determined to make their presence felt at the Singapore summit Tuesday, lining up their own meetings with Trump and Kim and pushing agendas that are, in many cases, at odds with one another. … The flurry of diplomacy has raised hopes that the major powers can navigate a treacherous set of technical, political and emotional issues and ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula, after rising fears last year that the North’s rapid nuclear advancements would lead to a military confrontation with the United States. But amid deep uncertainties — including doubts about Kim’s intentions and Trump’s preparedness — analysts have warned that the process could lead to a fundamental reordering of security alliances in one of the world’s most populous and economically proficient regions.”
-- Trump is open to expanding the summit with Kim into a second day if it goes well, according to CNN’s Jeremy Diamond and James Griffiths. “Trump and Kim are due to meet on June 12 for the first time and the US leader is due to return home the next day, but US officials in Singapore have established a contingency plan for a second day of discussions. … It's not clear if Trump is eager for a two-day summit with Kim, but he has expressed a desire for flexibility in the negotiations and has stressed to aides and US allies that he plans to follow his gut as he negotiates with the North Korean leader.”
-- Giuliani told attendees at the investment conference in Israel that Kim got “on his hands and knees and begged” to reschedule the summit after Trump abruptly canceled it last month. The Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz reports: “'They also said they were going to go to nuclear war with us, they were going to defeat us in a nuclear war,’ Mr. Giuliani said. ‘We said we’re not going to have a summit under those circumstances.’ After Mr. Trump canceled the meeting, Mr. Giuliani said: ‘Well, Kim Jong Un got back on his hands and knees and begged for it, which is exactly the position you want to put him in.’ With the summit plans back in place the U.S. has the upper hand, Mr. Giuliani said. Mr. Giuliani told the Israeli audience that a similar approach should be taken with the Palestinians in the decades-old conflict with Israel. ’That’s what needs to happen with the Palestinian Authority. They have to be seeking peace. You’ve got to change the dynamic and put the pressure on them,’ he said.”
-- Trump’s deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin, who has been negotiating the logistics of the summit, will soon leave the White House. Carol D. Leonnig, Ashley Parker, Philip Rucker and Josh Dawsey report: “One close Trump adviser said Hagin is eyeing the job of deputy director of the CIA and plans to leave his White House post almost immediately after returning from the Singapore summit. One close associate also said Hagin is seriously eyeing the now-vacant CIA leadership position, adding that Hagin has not decided on a date to depart but does plan to leave the White House. ‘Joe is ready to go,’ said this confidant … ‘This could be his crowning achievement, this summit. It’s time. Joe Hagin has served his time.’”
-- National security adviser John Bolton has not yet called a Cabinet-level NSC meeting to discuss the summit. Politico’s Eliana Johnson reports: “For decades, top presidential advisers have used a methodical process to hash out national security issues before offering the president a menu of options for key decisions. On an issue like North Korea, that would mean White House Situation Room gatherings of the secretaries of state and defense along with top intelligence officials, the United Nations ambassador, and even the treasury secretary, who oversees economic sanctions. But since Trump agreed on a whim to meet with [Kim] on March 8, the White House’s summit planning has been unstructured, according to a half-dozen administration officials. Trump himself has driven the preparation almost exclusively on his own … ”
-- Democrats’ chances of retaking the House are improving, even as the odds of a “blue wave” diminish, Michael Scherer writes. “After votes in 21 states, including California and seven others that held primaries Tuesday, Democrats have avoided potential pitfalls and secured general-election candidates in many Republican-held districts who have compelling biographical stories and political profiles that party leaders hope will have broad appeal in a nation that tends to vote for change in off-year contests. Many of the Democratic nominees are younger, more diverse and less tied to Washington than their GOP rivals. … Republicans are counting on an improving economy and the local roots of their incumbents, buttressed by a financial advantage among outside fundraising groups. Their fears of an electoral catastrophe in November have been eased by declining concern among voters about the direction of the country and rising approval ratings for [Trump] … ”
-- “[T]he degree to which Trump remains the organizing figure around which the election will be fought and the power of women in this election cycle are not in question. Nothing that happened Tuesday suggests otherwise,” Dan Balz writes. “In election after election, whether primary contests or special elections, women have provided energy at the ballot box and, increasingly, the leadership as candidates for the Democrats. That was in evidence again Tuesday, another day of validation that the dynamics of American politics have shifted under this president. If Democrats are to win the House in November, they must hope that is maintained through Election Day, although there have been no signs that this energy is abating.”
-- Latino voters in California turned out to vote at higher-than-usual rates, but that did not translate to success for Latino candidates. Scott Wilson reports: “The state’s most accomplished Latino politician, Antonio Villaraigosa (D), lost the second-place spot on the gubernatorial ballot to John Cox, a little-known Republican business executive. The former mayor of Los Angeles won one county after an expensive campaign, finishing well behind the winning Democrat, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. State Sen. Kevin de León (D) fared little better in his race for the U.S. Senate. He secured the second slot on the November ballot, but by Wednesday clung to 11 percent of the vote, to incumbent Democrat Dianne Feinstein’s 44 percent. … The results suggest that, in a state where the Latino electorate is large and varied, political allegiance to ethnicity was far less important than the quality of the candidates in each race.”
-- Trump is looming large over local races previously walled off from Washington, writes the Boston Globe’s Matt Stout. “In the race for governor, Trump is wielded as a political cudgel. For secretary of state, he’s a call to action. In the attorney general’s race, he’s both. If all politics was local in the era of Tip O’Neill, the reverse may be true under Trump. ‘It’s Trump 24/7, and it’s very hard for the Democrats to get through the wall of noise,’ said Phil Johnston, a former chair of the state Democratic Party. … [Massachusetts] Secretary of State William F. Galvin, facing his most serious primary fight in two decades in office, hung his pitch at the party’s convention, in part, on telling Democratic activists that he’s the best defense against any Russian or Trump election meddling in 2020.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump once again railed against the Russia probe:
Isn’t it Ironic? Getting ready to go to the G-7 in Canada to fight for our country on Trade (we have the worst trade deals ever made), then off to Singapore to meet with North Korea & the Nuclear Problem...But back home we still have the 13 Angry Democrats pushing the Witch Hunt!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 7, 2018
After Trump congratulated Republican John Cox on making the runoff in California's gubernatorial race, Cox's opponent, Democrat Gavin Newsom, offered a suggestion:
Please come campaign for him as much as possible. https://t.co/82iQN3shg6— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) June 6, 2018
Former independent presidential candidate and CIA officer Evan McMullin blasted Trump's pardons:
Trump’s pardons are not only intended desensitize the electorate to frequent interventions on behalf of his political allies, but also to make a mockery of the federal justice system, to suggest that law enforcement and the courts are incapable and illegitimate to begin with.— Evan McMullin (@Evan_McMullin) June 6, 2018
From a CNN reporter:
So why didn't Obama commute Alice Johnson's life sentence? The DOJ recommended three times against it: once in first term, twice in second. The last denial came only days before he left office: 1/6/17. Under Obama, the request didn't reach the Oval Office because DOJ denied.— Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) June 6, 2018
Nancy Pelosi highlighted a Republican senator's statements about Scott Pruitt:
Statements like this mean nothing if the @HouseGOP & @SenateGOP refuse to take concrete action in response to @EPAScottPruitt’s abuses. #CultureOfCorruption https://t.co/i5eeP3TzbB pic.twitter.com/dUxR1xGrk1— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) June 6, 2018
From the House Democrat representing Flint, Mich.:
Scott Pruitt's priorities:— Rep. Dan Kildee (@RepDanKildee) June 6, 2018
✅ Used Trump Hotel mattress
✅ Chick-Fil-A franchises
✅ Pay raises for political cronies
✅ $130 pens
✅ First-class flights
✅ $43,000 soundproof booths
✅ $50/night condo
❌Addressing PFAS contamination#PollutingPruitt must resign.
Joe Scarborough responded to Trump's complaints that the media had been “unfair” and “vicious” to the first lady:
I agree that it would be “vicious” and “unfair” to lie about a loved one having a facelift for the purpose of causing pain and embarrassment. Mr. President, can you imagine anyone would be so cruel to do such a thing? https://t.co/zfqjt1LKw2— Joe Scarborough (@JoeNBC) June 6, 2018
Mika Brzezinski who was the target of Trump's previous attacks on her appearance, replied:
This Trump tweet turned two years old:
Crooked Hillary Clinton has not held a news conference in more than 7 months. Her record is so bad she is unable to answer tough questions!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 6, 2016
From a CNN host:
Happy 2nd anniversary to this tweet.— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) June 6, 2018
President Trump hasn’t held a full solo news conference in 16 months — since February 2017. https://t.co/4pB8zlbn92
Jeff Sessions missed out on accolades from Trump, per a CNN reporter:
President Trump went around the table at FEMA, praising members of his cabinet individually, except Jeff Sessions who got nothing more than a quick "thank you."— Shimon Prokupecz (@ShimonPro) June 6, 2018
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Thank You Jeff, thank you very much," Trump said.
Another CNN reporter evoked "Mean Girls" in reply:
The White House recognized a Muslim holiday:
Chefs outside the West Wing prepping for tonight’s White House iftar. President Trump will host 30-40 guests to celebrate the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. pic.twitter.com/0uzr6A1uKw— Vivian Salama (@vmsalama) June 6, 2018
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) celebrated Immigrant Heritage Month:
America is the land of the immigrant’s dream. For centuries, people have come to this country for the opportunities freedom provides & they have become Americans. Our great country wouldn’t be the beautiful, bountiful, blessed place we love without them. #ImmigrantHeritageMonth— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) June 6, 2018
An American Urban Radio Networks reporter shared this picture of famed NBA player Bill Russell:
And Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) returned to the baseball field:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- Politico Magazine, “What Bill Clinton Was Really Thinking,” by John F. Harris: “We can now see the Clinton of the 1990s as a man far ahead of his times. Whose side are you on — mine or the people who want to destroy me — was the question that Clinton asked to successful effect in 1998. And it is the same question Donald Trump has made the basis of his presidency 20 years later.”
-- New York Times, “‘Are We Going to Die Today?’ Inside a Parkland Classroom as Bullets Flew,” by Audra D.S. Burch: “Months after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, one history class seeks to heal through modern technology, old-fashioned socializing — and time.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“A Pizza Delivery Man Brought Pies To A Military Base. Then He Was Arrested And Turned Over For Deportation,” from BuzzFeed News: “A pizza delivery man was arrested and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation after delivering a pizza to a military base in Brooklyn on June 1. Pablo Villavicencio was asked for identification when he delivered the pizza to Fort Hamilton military base, and when he couldn't provide it, staff there called ICE, his wife, Sandra Chica, said Wednesday. He was arrested and is currently in ICE custody in Manhattan, and is expected to be deported to Ecuador. New York City Council Member Justin Brannan, who represents the area, said [Villavicencio] had provided his ID NYC, which is available to New Yorkers regardless of immigration status, to enter the base, as he had on previous occasions — but was asked for further identification after he was on the premises. Fort Hamilton representatives refused to answer why this delivery was different from any other delivery Villavicencio had made there, and also refused several other questions.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“College offers master's of elementary education concentration in ‘anti-racism,’” from the Washington Examiner: “While most aspiring grade-school teachers might choose to concentrate in subjects such as math, history, or science, one university is now offering students the option of specializing in anti-racism. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte is currently offering a concentration of ‘Anti-Racism In Urban Education’ for students pursuing master’s degrees in elementary education. According to the program website, students take 12 credit hours of courses focused on various topics related to racism in education. While the program claims to focus on topics such as anti-racism activism and improving educational opportunities for urban students, a significant portion of the courses appear to be devoted to themes of ‘white-supremacist ideologies,’ ‘unconscious racial bias,’ and ‘awareness of privilege.’ Another required course, ‘History and Psychology of Racism’ … investigates the ‘notion of Whiteness as normative’ through various research methodologies.”
Trump will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today and hold a joint news conference. He will then sit down with Mike Pompeo.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr criticized Trump for disinviting the Philadelphia Eagles from the White House. From Cindy Boren: “Kerr was asked about the Minnesota Lynx, the WNBA champions who were not invited to the White House and spent their day in Washington helping underprivileged children in a southeast D.C. school. … ‘I think what you’re seeing is, I think the athletes are showing patriotism through their community service,’ Kerr told reporters … Kerr admitted that he was ‘blown away by the irony of the Eagles being disinvited. When you read about their good deeds in their communities — Malcolm Jenkins addressing lawmakers, really trying to get to the root of some of the issues that we have — and instead we just have these military sing-a-longs at the White House to show how patriotic we are — even though we don’t know the words.’”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- It should be sunny and dry in the District today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Clouds are scarce to start but pop up as the day warms. Highs in the upper 70s to low 80s should be comfortable, given the low humidity. Winds are mainly calm.”
-- The Nationals beat the Rays 11-2. (Jorge Castillo)
-- The Capitals’ Devante Smith-Pelly said he would not want to attend a White House ceremony if Washington wins the Stanley Cup. “The things that he spews are straight-up racist and sexist,” Smith-Pelly said. “Some of the things he's said are pretty gross. I'm not too into politics, so I don't know all his other views, but his rhetoric I definitely don't agree with. It hasn't come up here, but I think I already have my mind made up.” (AP)
-- Virginia GOP Senate candidate Corey Stewart has twice had to disavow white supremacists with whom he associated. From Antonio Olivo: “Most recently, Democrats and supporters of state Del. Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) — Stewart’s chief opponent in Tuesday’s primary — have used social media to highlight a 17-month-old video of Stewart calling Paul Nehlen, an alt-right candidate for Congress in Wisconsin, his ‘personal hero’ … [The video was shot] before Nehlen posted a host of inflammatory comments on Twitter later in the year. Those posts attacked Muslims and Jews, and one photoshopped the face of ‘Cheddar Man,’ the dark-skinned man believed to be the first modern Briton, over a picture of Meghan Markle, England’s new Duchess of Sussex.”
-- Ovetta Wiggins profiles Ben Jealous, who has taken the lead in The Post’s most recent poll of Maryland’s Democratic gubernatorial candidates: “Jealous, the child of an interracial couple who left Maryland for California because they couldn’t be married in their home state, is seeking support from two distinct groups: white liberals who backed Sanders in the 2016 presidential race and African American voters who largely stayed home in 2014 because they were less than inspired by Anthony G. Brown, that year’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee.” But some worry Jealous, who has been endorsed by Bernie Sanders, is too far to the left to defeat Gov. Larry Hogan (R).
-- The D.C. Council approved an emergency measure allowing high school seniors who missed more than six weeks of class to still graduate. The proposal was introduced after the District started enforcing long-ignored attendance policies in the middle of the year. (Perry Stein)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Samantha Bee issued an on-air apology for using an epithet against Ivanka Trump but then pivoted to discuss the Trump administration's immigration policies:
Conan O'Brien imagined a full album from Trump of patriotic songs:
Maryland gubernatorial candidate Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D) released an ad targeting Trump that ends with him kissing his husband:
White House adviser Kellyanne Conway had an unfortunate verbal slip:
I am literally dead now. Kellyanne Conway just called Trump "the Commander of Cheese" pic.twitter.com/zM9UqO0dnt— Tommy Christopher (@tommyxtopher) June 6, 2018
Giuliani appeared to enjoy his trip to Israel: