This explains why more and more elected Republicans — especially those facing tough reelection fights — are going on the record to say they oppose splitting up families. Even Paul Ryan declared that he is uncomfortable with the policy. “We don’t want kids to be separated from their parents,” the speaker told reporters during his weekly news conference, though he blamed the courts and not Trump.
While the president could easily direct his administration to stop separating families, Ryan nonetheless pushed for a legislative fix. A few hours later, House GOP leaders circulated a proposal that would, in effect, allow children to be detained alongside their parents. The provision is part of a broader compromise on immigration between conservative and moderate Republicans that would give a path to permanent residency and eventual citizenship for “dreamers,” $25 billion for a border wall and reductions in legal immigration. It’s not clear the measure, which may still change, will have the votes to pass when it comes up on the floor next week.
“The GOP solution released Thursday would keep families united, according to lawmakers and aides familiar with its implications, albeit in federal custody,” Mike DeBonis reports from the Capitol. “It would not permit a return to the previous ‘catch and release’ policy where families were released pending court hearings that were typically scheduled months in the future. A Democratic aide … said that the proposed Republican language would not force the Trump administration to stop its current practice of separating families, which is largely taking place among families apprehended while crossing the border between official ports of entry. Rather, the aide said, it would apply only to families who officially seek asylum.”
-- Historically, whenever a politician has cited Romans 13 to justify public policy, they have lost the debate. It’s never been a winning argument, but that’s what Jeff Sessions did Thursday. Defending the “zero tolerance” policy he unveiled last month, the attorney general said during a speech to law enforcement officers in Fort Wayne, Ind.: “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes.”
This passage was previously used to justify the divine right of kings, oppose the American Revolution and defend slavery. Consider these two quotes from a new story by Julie Zauzmer and Keith McMillan:
“There are two dominant places in American history when Romans 13 is invoked,” said John Fea, a professor of American history at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. “One is during the American Revolution [when] it was invoked by loyalists [to the crown]. … The second spike you see is in the 1840s and 1850s, when Romans 13 is invoked by defenders of the South or defenders of slavery to ward off abolitionists who believed that slavery is wrong. … This is the same argument that Southern slaveholders and the advocates of a Southern way of life made … Whenever Romans 13 was used in the 18th and the 19th century — and Sessions seems to be doing the same thing, so in this sense there is some continuity — it’s a way of manipulating the scriptures to justify your own political agenda.”
“Romans 13 says that the purpose of government is to pursue what is good, and it says that the government should not be a terror for those who are doing good,” said Matthew Soerens, U.S. director of church mobilization for World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals. “The fact that the Apostle Paul, who wrote Romans, wrote several epistles from jail suggests that he was occasionally on the wrong side of an unjust law. … You cannot read Romans 13 without reading Romans 12.”
In Romans 12, Paul wrote: “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. ... Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.”
-- Sessions’s defense led to one of the testiest briefings of Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s tenure as White House press secretary. When CNN’s Jim Acosta asked her about the attorney general’s biblical reference, she eventually told him: “I know it's hard for you to understand even short sentences.”
“Where in the Bible does it say that it's moral to take children away from their mothers?” Acosta asked.
“I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law,” Sanders replied.
“There is no law that requires families to be separated at the border,” said Paula Reid of CBS. “This was the administration's choice!”
“Come on, Sarah, you're a parent,” added Brian Karem, executive editor of the Sentinel newspapers in Maryland. “Don't you have any empathy for what these people are going through?”
“Brian, guys, settle down,” said Sanders. “I'm trying to be serious, but I'm not going to have you yell out of turn.”
“These people have nothing,” replied Karem.
“Hey, Brian, I know you want to get some more TV time, but that's not what this is about,” said Sanders.
“Answer the question,” he replied. “It's a serious question. These people have nothing. They come to the border with nothing, and you throw children in cages. You're a parent. You're a parent of young children. Don't you have any empathy for what they go through?!”
Sanders ignored him and called on another reporter.
-- Fact check: “The Trump administration seems to be caught inside a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode, insisting without evidence that its own policy of separating undocumented immigrant children from their parents is somehow a long-standing law and that any blame should go to Democrats,” writes Salvador Rizzo of The Post’s Fact Checker unit. “These claims are violently divorced from reality, as we’ve explained previously. Alas, [Sanders] seems to have missed or disregarded our fact-check.”
-- Another way to think about it might be the presidential library test: When considering about how Trump’s tenure will be remembered, it’s a useful exercise to consider what he’ll want to highlight in his library. He’s obviously a hard-liner on immigration, but it’s difficult to imagine a display in any museum touting the separation of parents from their children. For example, George W. Bush does not highlight the enhanced interrogation techniques, which many see as torture, that happened on his watch. And Ronald Reagan’s library makes no mention of trading arms for hostages in the Iran-contra imbroglio. The fact that Trump, Sanders and Ryan are all trying to pin this policy on a court order is a proof point that this is not something they want to define their legacies.
From an alumna of George W. Bush’s White House and State Department:
-- Religious leaders, including on the right, are not buying the Romans 13 argument that Sessions is making.
“I think it’s disgraceful, it’s terrible to see families ripped apart and I don’t support that one bit,” the evangelist Franklin Graham, Billy’s son and a staunch Trump supporter, told the Christian Broadcasting Network. “And I blame the politicians for the last 20, 30 years that have allowed this to escalate to the point where it is today.”
The annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, which Vice President Pence addressed Wednesday in Dallas, passed a resolution nearly unanimously afterward that said immigration policy should make “family unity” a “priority.” “We declare that any form of nativism, mistreatment, or exploitation is inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said the resolution, from the country’s biggest Protestant church.
The official Twitter account of the Migrants and Refugees Section at the Vatican tweeted out a verse from Deuteronomy yesterday:
One prominent bishop said during a Wednesday meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Florida that Catholics who carry out Trump’s separation policy are violating the tenets of their faith and perhaps should be denied communion.
The head of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston released his own statement blasting the policy. “This strategy is morally unacceptable and denies the clear danger weighing upon those seeking our assistance,” wrote Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley. “In the year 2018, the moral challenge of immigration is mounting for the United States. On too many occasions our government has taken a posture and established policy which is in principle and in practice hostile to children and families who are fleeing violence, gangs, and poverty.” (The Boston Globe has more.)
Sessions today will travel to Scranton, Pa., to speak on immigration at Lackawanna College. Ahead of his visit, the Catholic bishop for that area sent a separate statement to the local newspaper, the Times-Tribune, that described the administration policy as an “affront to the right to life.”
“These individuals are fleeing violence and chaos in their homelands, only to face policies that are destroying their families and unduly burdening their children,” said Bishop Joseph C. Bambera.
The leaders of 26 separate Jewish groups — from the conservative, reform and reconstructionist movements — have signed a new open letter to Sessions and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen that calls the policy of separating children from their parents “unconscionable.” It was organized by the Anti-Defamation League.
-- Furthermore, the policy is breaking through into popular culture.
Stephen Colbert, a devout Catholic, lambasted the separation of families on his show last night:
“What's going on at our southern border is outrageous,” singer Willie Nelson said in a statement picked up yesterday by Rolling Stone. “Christians everywhere should be up in arms. What happened to 'Bring us your tired and weak and we will make them strong?' This is still the promise land.” (That’s a reference to lyrics from his song “Living in the Promiseland.”)
In an op-ed for CNN, “Top Chef” host Padma Lakshmi recalls immigrating from India when she was a 4-year-old so she could reunite with her mother, who sought asylum in America. “Today, I am far removed from that lost little girl who desperately missed her mother,” she writes. “But as I watch the Trump administration forcibly separating children from parents as they make their way to the United States looking for refuge, my heart breaks.”
-- The press clips continue to be brutal, even in ruby red states like Mississippi. Here’s a taste:
- The Clarion Ledger: “Crisis on the border: Immigration attorney describes families being separated, torn apart.”
- The Detroit Free Press: “‘Where's my mom?' cries girl as immigrant kids separated from parents arrive in Michigan.”
- WHYY (Philadelphia’s NPR affiliate): “Philly mental health experts call for end to separating kids, parents at Mexican border.”
- The American Medical Association Wire: “Doctors oppose policy that splits kids from caregivers at border.”
- The History News Network: “Would the Trump Administration Separate Jesus from Mary and Joseph?”
MEANWHILE, DOWN AT THE BORDER:
-- The Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday that it now has 11,432 migrant children in its custody, up from 9,000 at the beginning of May.
-- To cope with the surge, HHS announced it will open a temporary tent city in the Texas desert. “The shelter site, at the Tornillo-Marcelino Serna port of entry, is about 20 miles east of El Paso along the Mexico border,” Nick Miroff reports. “It was last used in 2016 to house migrant children and families in large, dormitory-style canvas tents. Children will begin arriving in the next few days … The site will have 360 beds, according to HHS officials, with the potential to add more. The Tornillo site will be the only location, to date, where HHS plans to put children in tents, or what the agency calls ‘semi-permanent structures.’
“This is not a place that was built to house children, nor is it a location that has adequate numbers of counselors or therapists to assist these children,” said Texas state Rep. Mary González (D), whose district includes the site.
-- Intelligence and defense contractors are benefitting financially from the family separations, posting jobs focused on building up the infrastructure to house migrant children. The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff and Spencer Ackerman report: “One of them, from Virginia-based MVM Inc., seeks a compliance coordinator to help in San Antonio with the ‘rapid deployment of an Emergency Influx Shelter for unaccompanied children.’ … MVM appears to believe its business is growing. A job posting on Indeed.com from 20 days ago advertises for youth care workers ‘in anticipation of a contract award.’ Matthew Kolken, an immigration attorney who frequently represents undocumented children, [said] he’s deeply concerned about these contractors’ child care work. ‘I’m guessing that in their mission statement, one of the central components isn’t the care of refugee children,’ he said.”
-- “The moral outrages from the Trump administration come so fast that they blur together, but this one stands out,” columnist Eugene Robinson writes on today’s opinion page. “[A] Honduran woman at a Texas detention center was breast-feeding her daughter recently when the child was snatched away. Other migrant families have said their children were purportedly led away for showers and clean clothes — but never returned. This is the kind of behavior we expect from monstrous totalitarian regimes such as the one led by President Trump’s ‘talented’ new friend, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. It is certainly not the policy of any nation that strives to be a ‘shining city on a hill.’”
-- And CNN has just unearthed a bevy of anti-Trump tweets from 2016 by Mercedes Schlapp, who is now the White House's director of strategic communications. Oliver Darcy reports: “Some of the most pointed criticism Schlapp, who is of Cuban descent, directed at Trump was about the uncompromising anti-immigration platform on which he campaigned during the 2016 election. In August 2015 … Schlapp tweeted that she was ‘not sure’ how Trump ‘will lead with Latinos’ in the 2016 election. Days later, Schlapp wrote, ‘One way to lose the Latino support is by saying that U.S. needs to deport all undocumented immigrants #DonaldTrump.’”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Escalating the trade war, Trump announced he would impose a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion in Chinese imports. David J. Lynch reports: “Beijing already has promised to retaliate with equivalent measures of its own, designed to hit the president’s supporters in farm states and the industrial Midwest. If that occurs, the president said that the U.S. would ‘pursue additional tariffs,’ raising the specter of the tit-for-tat trade war that business leaders and many congressional Republicans fear. In a short White House statement, the president said the import tax would apply to ‘goods from China that contain industrially significant technologies.’ The action follows an administration report in March that complained China had forced foreign companies to surrender their technology secrets in return for market access and had pilfered other advanced U.S. technologies through a campaign of cybertheft and investment in Silicon Valey start-ups.”
- Trump’s former top economic adviser Gary Cohn said at a Washington Post live event that the Trump tariffs, over which he left the administration, may “wipe out” all the benefits of the GOP tax law. Jeff Stein reports: “[The ex-Goldman Sachs president] said that retaliatory tariffs between countries could drive up inflation and prompt American consumers to take on more debt, possibly pushing the country into another economic downturn. ‘If you end up with a tariff battle, you will end up with price inflation, and you could end up with consumer debt,’ [Cohn said]. ‘Those are all historic ingredients for an economic slowdown.’ Asked if the trade battle could erase the gains to the American economy from the tax law, Cohn said: ‘Yes, it could.’”
- The Senate defeated a proposal to give Congress greater oversight of business deals that could affect national security, handing a huge win to the Trump administration. Erica Werner reports: “The legislation, pushed by Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.), failed to clear a procedural hurdle when the Senate blocked it with a 62-to-35 vote. … The vote was another instance of the Senate declining to assert authority over Trump administration decision-making on trade-related issues. … The Toomey legislation Thursday involved the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, or CFIUS, an interagency body chaired by the treasury secretary that conducts national security reviews of attempted takeovers of U.S. firms by foreign companies. Toomey wanted to give Congress a vote on major CFIUS regulations.”
-- Trump walked onto the White House lawn this morning for an impromptu live interview on "Fox & Friends":
GET SMART FAST:
- House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) reclaimed his starting position at the Congressional Baseball Game one year after a gunman fired on his team’s practice in Alexandria. Scalise was greeted with a standing ovation as he stepped onto the field, and members of the U.S. Capitol Police security detail, who were with the third-ranking Republican when he was shot, also tossed out ceremonial pitches. Democrats won the game 21-5. (Elise Viebeck)
- The Supreme Court struck down Minnesota’s ban on wearing political apparel to polling sites on Election Day. The justices ruled 7 to 2 that the law was overly broad and thus subject to differing interpretations across the state. (Robert Barnes)
- Facebook’s influential head of policy is stepping down from the company. Elliot Schrage helped craft the company’s response to recent scandals including Russian election interference and Cambridge Analytica’s access to private user data. (Elizabeth Dwoskin)
- AT&T closed its merger with Time Warner five days ahead of its deadline. The swift action could put more pressure on DOJ officials to give up appealing a judge’s decision earlier this week allowing the merger to advance. (Brian Fung)
- A broad coalition of health-care constituencies filed court briefs opposing a lawsuit challenging Obamacare. The group argues that a ruling in favor of the challenge from 20 Republican-led states and the Justice Department would “have a devastating impact on doctors, patients, and the American health care system as a whole,” as one brief put it. (Amy Goldstein)
- The United Nations issued its first report on human rights abuses in Kashmir. The 49-page report calls for an international investigation of abuses in the Himalayan territory and focuses largely on the actions of Indian security forces, who U.N. officials say have enjoyed “almost total impunity” in the region for decades. (Annie Gowen)
- At least six people were injured after a catastrophic tornado ravaged the town of Wilkes-Barre, Pa. The twister gutted entire businesses and damaged houses and vehicles in a scene that reporters compared to a “war zone.” The tornado was categorized as an EF2, according to the National Weather Service, meaning it had winds ranging from 111 to 135 mph. (Lindsey Bever)
- The University of Chicago will no longer require ACT or SAT scores from U.S. applicants, making the school the first top-10 research university to drop its national testing mandate. The university said it will also scrap its in-person admissions interviews and instead allow prospective students to film and send in two-minute video pitches. (Nick Anderson)
- A weeks-long dust storm on Mars has blotted out the sun — causing what scientists called a “spacecraft emergency” for NASA’s Opportunity rover. The 5-foot, solar-powered spacecraft has already defied the odds by surviving on the Red Planet for 55 times longer than originally planned. NASA said it could be weeks or months before Opportunity receives enough charge to wake up, and the project manager for the resilient rover compared it to “having a loved one in a coma.” (Sarah Kaplan)
- A music student at McGill University was awarded $350,000 in damages after his girlfriend posed as him and secretly rejected a $50,000-a-year music scholarship on his behalf. The woman said she was “scared he would move away” to accept the prestigious offer and end their relationship. (Montreal Gazette)
THE I.G. REPORT:
-- The Justice Department inspector general released a 500-page report on the FBI’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, the most exhaustive account yet of the politically charged probe. Among the key findings, per Devlin Barrett, Karoun Demirjian, John Wagner and Matt Zapotosky:
- “The inspector general did not find evidence supporting assertions made by the president and his allies that political bias inside the FBI had rigged the case to clear Clinton, but the report cited numerous instances of unprofessionalism, bias and misjudgment that hurt the bureau’s credibility. In particular, the report singled out lead agent Peter Strzok as showing anti-Trump bias that could have affected his thinking on the case during the immediate run-up to the 2016 election.
- “The report is a blistering rebuke of [former FBI director James] Comey, who has spent recent months on a book tour promoting his brand of ethical leadership. Inspector General Michael Horowitz accused Comey of insubordination, saying he flouted Justice Department practices when he decided that only he had the authority and credibility to make key decisions and speak for the Justice Department. Comey made a ‘serious error of judgment’ in sending a letter to Congress on Oct. 28, 2016, announcing he was reopening the investigation of Clinton’s use of the server while secretary of state, the report found, and called it ‘extraordinary that Comey assessed that it was best’ for him not to speak directly with either the attorney general or the deputy attorney general about his decision beforehand.”
- “Some senior bureau officials, the report found, exhibited a disturbing ‘willingness to take official action’ to hurt Trump’s chances to become president. Perhaps the most damaging revelation in the report is a previously unreported text message in which Strzok, a key investigator on both the Clinton email case and the investigation of Russia and the Trump campaign, assured an FBI lawyer in August 2016 that ‘we’ll stop’ Trump from making it to the White House.”
- “The inspector general found that other FBI personnel also exchanged unprofessional and politically biased messages, singling out two unidentified agents and one lawyer for review and possible punishment by FBI administrators.”
- The report also found “numerous instances in which Comey used a personal email account (a Gmail account) to conduct FBI business."
-- The I.G. seemed to counter Trump’s claims that former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe was biased against the president because McCabe’s wife received political donations from a Democratic group. Matt Zapotosky reports: “Trump has highlighted the donations in recent months, suggesting that Jill McCabe’s taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from a group controlled by then-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) to support her run for a state legislative seat might have biased her husband in favor of Clinton, a longtime McAuliffe ally. … Even an extended, law-enforcement-sensitive version of Horowitz’s report found that McCabe was not required to recuse himself from Clinton-related investigations, though he did so voluntarily in late November. Horowitz also found that McCabe rightly recused himself from a separate investigation into McAuliffe for his finances and possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.”
-- The report presents Trump’s allies with new opportunities to undermine Robert Mueller’s investigation. From Robert Costa: “Particularly notable, from the perspective of Trump’s allies, was the searing criticism in the report reserved for the conduct of one of Trump’s most high-profile critics, [Comey], as well as the revelation that [Strzok] had shown anti-Trump bias. … On Capitol Hill, there was an outcry. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a Trump ally, said Thursday that he would support a new federal probe of Mueller’s special counsel investigation. ‘You’re going to need independent eyes,’ he told reporters. Democrats, as they have for months, sought to defend the sanctity of the special counsel’s inquiry. They said Mueller’s mission should not be attacked because FBI agents behaved inappropriately. ‘None of this reflects on the special counsel’s work,’ said Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.”
-- But Democrats focused on the report’s claim that Comey committed a “serious error of judgment” in announcing the bureau was reopening the case into Clinton’s emails days before the 2016 election. From the New York Times’s Alexander Burns: “In many respects, those findings mirrored Democrats’ own assessments of Mr. Comey — save for the omission of certain four-letter words. But if the report appeared to validate their grievances against Mr. Comey, it offered scant relief to Clinton loyalists. For some of them, it intensified the agony of Mr. Trump’s surprise win — cementing Democratic suspicions about the fairness of his election, but leaving them without recourse to address them.”
-- Comey defended himself in a Times op-ed, while respecting the inspector general’s work: “I do not agree with all of the inspector general’s conclusions, but I respect the work of his office and salute its professionalism. All of our leaders need to understand that accountability and transparency are essential to the functioning of our democracy, even when it involves criticism. This is how the process is supposed to work. This report is important for two reasons. First, the inspector general’s team went through the F.B.I.’s work with a microscope and found no evidence that bias or improper motivation affected the investigation, which I know was done competently, honestly and independently. The report also resoundingly demonstrates that there was no prosecutable case against Mrs. Clinton, as we had concluded. … Second, this report is vital in shedding light for future leaders on the nature and quality of our investigation and the decisions we made.”
HOW IT’S PLAYING:
-- Lawfare: “For all that the document finds fault with the bureau … it never questions that the FBI as an institution was pursuing its proper mission: conducting a serious investigation in good faith.”
-- The Post’s editorial board: “It is not the report President Trump wanted. But there is enough in it for him and his allies to twist and cherry-pick that its actual findings are likely to be lost in partisan noise.”
-- Harry Litman, who served as deputy assistant attorney general under the Clinton administration: “Nothing in the report undermines the legitimacy of the ongoing Mueller probe, as Trump partisans seem poised to claim. If anything, Comey’s misconduct in particular could only have helped Trump.”
-- The Times’s Peter Baker: “The sprawling report … reflected a messier reality than the simple story line promoted by the White House: An array of senior officials at the F.B.I. and the Justice Department made mistakes, the inspector general determined, but he found nothing to conclude that anyone went easy on Mrs. Clinton or tried to harm Mr. Trump out of political bias.”
-- CNN: “The FBI essentially gave itself a bloody nose. But that's on top off the daily punches that the bureau takes from Trump and his Republican allies on Capitol Hill, and gripes from Democrats still seething over the 2016 election loss. No doubt, it'll take time for the bureau to pick itself back up.”
-- The Weekly Standard’s Eric Felten: “Perhaps the most shocking information in the IG’s report is the revelation that Lisa Page and Peter Strzok were not the only amorous agents with a habit of texting. There were also ‘Agent 1’ and ‘Agent 5,’ who were involved in the Clinton investigation and, according to the IG’s report ‘were in a relationship at the time and are now married.’ Their communications make for a searing indictment of the culture of the FBI and paint a portrait of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email practices as fiasco.”
MORE LEGAL TROUBLE FOR POTUS:
-- New York’s attorney general filed a lawsuit against Trump, accusing him of “persistently illegal conduct” at his charitable foundation. Three of his adult children — Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric — were also named in the suit. David A. Fahrenthold reports: “[Attorney General] Barbara Underwood asked a state judge to dissolve the [Trump Foundation]. She asked that its remaining $1 million in assets be distributed to other charities and that Trump be forced to pay at least $2.8 million in restitution and penalties. Underwood said that oversight of spending at Trump’s foundation was so loose that its board of directors hadn’t met in 19 years, and its official treasurer wasn’t even aware that he was on the board. Instead, she said, the foundation came to serve the spending needs of Trump — and then, in 2016, the needs of his presidential campaign.” Underwood also asked that Trump be barred from leading any other New York nonprofit organization for 10 years, and that Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric, be prohibited from serving on nonprofit boards for a year.
“In the suit, Underwood noted that Trump had paid more than $330,000 in reimbursements and penalty taxes since 2016. But she asked the judge to go further, and require Trump to pay millions more. She said a 20-month state investigation found that Trump had repeatedly violated laws that set the ground rules for tax-exempt foundations — most important, that their money is meant to serve the public good, not to provide private benefits to their founders.” “This resulted in multiple violations of state and federal law,” she wrote in the legal complaint.
-- Underwood has referred her findings to the IRS for further investigation, which could lead to federal criminal charges. From the New York Times’s Jesse Drucker: “The investigation’s referral to the I.R.S. theoretically could expose Mr. Trump to a wide range of potential punishments. For example, the I.R.S. could seek to revoke the foundation’s tax-exempt status. The agency could even do so retroactively, which would stick the foundation with a corporate tax bill going back years. Ms. Underwood’s petition noted that Mr. Trump signed the foundation’s tax returns, in which he stated, under penalties of perjury, ‘that the foundation did not engage in transactions with interested parties, and that the foundation did not carry out political activity.’ That is the sort of information that investigators would weigh in determining whether he should be charged with filing a false tax return … ”
“People have gone to prison for stuff like this, and if I were representing someone with facts like this, assuming the facts described in this petition are true, I would be very worried about an indictment,” said criminal tax attorney Jenny Johnson Ware.
-- The New York Court of Appeals also rejected Trump’s request to halt a defamation lawsuit filed by Summer Zervos, a former “Apprentice” contestant who accused him of sexual misconduct during the 2016 campaign. Mark Berman and Frances Stead Sellers report: “The court’s decision marks the third time this year that a judge or court in New York has blocked Trump’s efforts to stymie the lawsuit filed by [Zervos]. … [And the] string of legal stumbles leaves open the possibility that Trump could be deposed in the case. A judge last week set a deadline of January — two years after the suit was filed — for Zervos and Trump to sit for depositions. The courts have also allowed attorneys to move forward in gathering evidence. ... Trump’s attorneys said the latest court decision was procedural and argued that the larger issues they have raised — including whether a sitting president can be sued in state court — were not answered. It was not immediately clear whether Trump had any other appeals pending or what his next legal step would be in the case[.]”
-- Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether Trump's private lawyer and confidante Michael Cohen illegally engaged in secret lobbying. The Wall Street Journal’s Nicole Hong, Jonathan D. Rockoff and Drew FitzGerald report: “[Prosecutors] have contacted companies that hired Mr. Cohen as a consultant after Mr. Trump won the 2016 presidential election, including AT&T Inc. and Novartis AG … The companies paid a total of about $1.8 million to Mr. Cohen in 2017 and early 2018 for his insights into the Trump administration. Investigators [are] examining whether Mr. Cohen violated any federal disclosure laws in connection with his consulting deals, including whether he lobbied for domestic or foreign clients without properly registering[.]… Under federal law, individuals are required to file a federal disclosure form if they contact public officials to try to influence specific policies or legislation on behalf of their clients. Individuals lobbying on behalf of foreign governments must register with the Justice Department … [and any violation] carries penalties of up to five years in prison.”
-- Cohen believes Trump and his allies are turning on him. From CBS News’s Jeff Pegues: “A source says about Cohen, ‘the signals are crystal clear’ that they are turning on him. These new developments come as Cohen fields inquiries about whether he is going to ‘flip’ and cooperate with investigators. Cohen's associates say that in recent days he has become increasingly irritated by statements made in the media by the president's lawyer in the Russia investigation, Rudy Giuliani. A source tells CBS News the president's allies are trying to attack Cohen in the event that he does flip.”
-- Cohen’s lawyer has requested a gag order against Stormy Daniels’s attorney Michael Avenatti. From Politico’s Josh Gerstein: “A lawyer for Cohen, Brent Blakely, asked a judge in Los Angeles Thursday to issue an order barring Avenatti from making public statements about the lawsuit Avenatti's client, porn star Stormy Daniels, filed against Trump and Cohen in March in a bid to void what she called a $130,000 ‘hush money’ deal to keep quiet about a sexual encounter with Trump more than a decade ago. Blakely said an avalanche of inflammatory public comments by Avenatti — including at least 121 TV appearances and 439 tweets — is tainting the court proceeding.”
THE NORTH KOREA TICK TOCK YOU'VE BEEN WAITING FOR:
-- Some of the most intense drama surrounding Trump’s summit with Kim Jong Un came in the days and hours before their Tuesday meeting — and was prompted by the president himself. Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, Carol D. Leonnig and Karen DeYoung uncovered some incredible new details: “After arriving in Singapore on Sunday, an antsy and bored Trump urged his aides to demand that the meeting with Kim be pushed up by a day … and had to be talked out of altering the long-planned and carefully negotiated summit date on the fly[.] ‘We’re here now,’ [Trump said]. ‘Why can’t we just do it?’ Trump’s impatience, coupled with a tense staff-level meeting between the two sides on Sunday, left some aides fearful that the entire summit might be in peril.” Aides ultimately persuaded Trump to stick with the plan after ... warning that altering the date might sacrifice wall-to-wall television coverage of the summit.
“The pageantry and spectacle surrounding [the summit] also obscured the fact that the North Koreans agreed to little in the way of specific or tangible concessions. While some negotiations did continue once on the ground in Singapore, nearly all of the terms — including North Korea’s vague commitment to denuclearize — were part of scripted talking points the leaders could cite as agreement. At least three of the four pledges listed in the Kim-Trump statement were agreed to before Trump’s arrival …
“As part of creating a personal rapport with Kim, Trump also privately talked about wanting to extend an unusual olive branch to the North Korean leader: The president suggested he might be able to orchestrate a meeting or proposal with some of his real estate developer and financier friends, who could bring lucrative development deals to Kim’s country. It is unclear whether he ended up mentioning the idea to Kim.
“At one point, after watching North Korean television, which is entirely state-run, the president talked about how positive the female North Korean news anchor was toward Kim ... He joked that even the administration-friendly Fox News was not as lavish in its praise … and that maybe she should get a job on U.S. television, instead.”
“At another point, Trump marveled at how ‘tough’ the North Korean guards seemed … [One person] recalled the president joking that they could probably take on [John Kelly].”
-- Trump drew criticism after a new video showed him saluting a North Korean general during his meeting with Kim. Adam Taylor reports: “When meeting No Kwang Chol, minister of the People's Armed Forces and a top North Korean military leader, Trump initially tried to shake his hand. No pulled his hand back and then saluted the president. Trump then responded with his own salute, before the two men shook hands as Kim smiles in the background. Presidents aren't required to return salutes to military personnel, even U.S. soldiers ... And it is highly out of the ordinary for a president to return the salute of a member of a foreign military. ... Though only a brief interaction, it was telling that the salute was included in the documentary, [which aired on Pyongyang’s state-run television channel], according to Jean H. Lee, a North Korea scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington. ‘This is a moment that will be used over and over in North Korea’s propaganda as 'proof' that the American president defers to the North Korean military,’ Lee said. ‘It will be treated as a military victory by the North Koreans.’”
-- Meanwhile, the administration continues to insist that the short agreement signed by Trump and Kim signified a solid commitment from North Korea to denuclearize. Anne Gearan and John Hudson report: “Completing a round of diplomatic visits to brief South Korea, Japan and China on the summit outcome, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said sanctions on North Korea will not be lifted until ‘after the full denuclearization, the complete denuclearization’ that he said Kim has agreed to. The document Kim and Trump signed Tuesday in Singapore does not contain an explicit pledge to ‘complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization,’ the standard Pompeo had said would be the only acceptable outcome for U.S. engagement with Pyongyang. Pompeo has since said it is ‘silly’ to think that the document’s wording, which calls for ‘complete’ denuclearization but includes no deadline, does not meet the test he had set. …
“The direction of the post-summit diplomacy was further clouded Friday. An article in a pro-Pyongyang newspaper in Japan, Choson Sinbo, emphasized North Korea’s goal of a ‘complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,’ which in the past has referred to the United States ending its nuclear umbrella for South Korea and Japan. The newspaper, believed to often reflect North Korean state policy, said calls by U.S. officials for CVID — an acronym for complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization — of North Korea alone ‘denies and belittles the historical significance’ of the Singapore summit. The commentary echoed North Korea’s insistence on a phased-in nuclear dismantling in exchange for U.S. concessions. ‘An exchange mechanism, in which one gives in and the other rewards, cannot be established between two countries pointing nuclear arms at each other,’ the Choson Sinbo report said.”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Trump claimed during the G-7 gathering that Crimea was Russian because its residents speak Russian, according to BuzzFeed News’s Alberto Nardelli and Julia Ioffe. “Trump made the remarks over dinner last Friday during a discussion on foreign affairs at the G7 summit in Quebec, Canada, [one diplomat said]. … Russia invaded and then annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, leading to widespread international condemnation and sanctions. … During the dinner, Trump also seemed to question why the G7 leaders were siding with Ukraine. The president told leaders that ‘Ukraine is one of the most corrupt countries in the world,’ the source said. It is unclear whether Trump’s comments were throwaway remarks said in jest, or whether he was signaling a radical departure from current US foreign policy.”
-- The White House and the Kremlin are “exploring” the possibility of a meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin. CNN’s Jeff Zeleny, Zachary Cohen and Michelle Kosinski: “‘I don't think any decisions have been made, or details have been worked out, but I believe both sides are exploring an opportunity to try to do that,’ Richard Hooker, special assistant to the President and senior director for Europe and Russia in the US National Security Council, told Russia's state-owned news outlet TASS when asked if the two sides were preparing for a sit-down. A US official [said] that Moscow is pushing for a meeting. While nothing is imminent, the official acknowledged there are ongoing discussions of setting up a Putin-Trump face-to-face. Another source with the National Security Council said a meeting ‘is being worked on’ and a diplomatic source added that a meeting is likely to happen soon.”
-- One person pushing for a Putin summit: Trump. The New Yorker’s Susan B. Glasser reports: “‘There’s no stopping him,’ a senior Administration official familiar with the internal deliberations said. ‘He’s going to do it. He wants to have a meeting with Putin, so he’s going to have a meeting with Putin.’ Ever since Putin’s reelection to another six-year term in March, Trump has been pressing for a Putin summit, dismissing advisers’ warnings about the political dangers of such a meeting, given the ongoing special counsel investigation … [Trump] has clearly never given up on his campaign vision of closer ties with the Russian strongman, whose autocratic rule he has often praised.” The meeting could occur as early as July, when Trump is scheduled to be in Europe for the NATO meeting.
-- White House legislative affairs director Marc Short is expected to leave his job as early as this summer, according to colleagues, who say he has complained about the “diminishing returns” of pushing Trump’s agenda on Capitol Hill. The Wall Street Journal’s Michael C. Bender reports: “[Short told John Kelly] before the president’s trip to Singapore that he is likely to leave soon, according to the people. Asked to comment, Mr. Short said, ‘There are so many leaks in this building.’ One potential successor to Mr. Short is Shahira Knight, deputy director of the National Economic Council. Mr. Kelly has spoken to Ms. Knight about the job and she expressed her interest, according to one person familiar with the conversation. A hire of former NEC Director Gary Cohn, Ms. Knight had given her notice and was set to join a banking policy and lobbying group. Ms. Knight’s last day at the White House is scheduled for Monday. But she also has spoken to colleagues about potentially staying longer at the White House after [her boss, Larry Kudlow, had a heart attack].”
-- The vice president has offered new opportunities to lobbyists looking to influence the federal government. Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey and Anu Narayanswamy report: “About twice as many companies and other interests hired lobbyists to contact the vice president’s office in Pence’s first year than in any single year during the tenures of Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Richard B. Cheney, filings show. Among those lobbying Pence and his staff were representatives of major drug companies and energy firms, as well as businesses seeking favorable tax treatment. … The approach has allowed Pence, a former congressman and Indiana governor, to emerge as a key ally for corporations inside the Trump White House even as the president vows to ‘drain the swamp.’ … In several cases, the relationships are mutually beneficial, with lobbyists who have charged clients millions of dollars to access his office donating money to Pence-backed political causes.”
-- Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani revealed in a Daily Mail interview that he is dating Jennifer LeBlanc, a political fundraiser in Louisiana who also worked on his 2008 presidential campaign. “I like her a lot, she's a great lady,” Giuliani said, adding that the budding relationship “has potential.” Giuliani also denied an alleged affair with New Hampshire hospital administrator Maria Rose Ryan, suggesting his ex-wife, Judith Giuliani, made the accusation in order to gain an advantage in their divorce proceedings. “My guess is she's going to want more [than 50 percent] and that's what this is about,” he said.
-- The leading GOP candidate in Georgia’s gubernatorial race appears to have bought a condo from a lobbyist at a discount. The New York Times’s Kevin Sack reports: “Real estate records show that [Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle], who faces a runoff for the Republican nomination on July 24, purchased the one-bedroom apartment at 24 percent less than its appraised value — below comparable sales prices — and sold it last year at a 29 percent profit. He was preparing for his first run for governor when, without an agent, he negotiated the deal with Terry E. Hobbs, a longtime lobbyist who represents the natural gas marketer Scana.”
-- Former congressman Michael Grimm, who is running for office again after spending seven months in prison for tax evasion, claimed his Republican primary opponent offered to help Grimm seek a presidential pardon if he dropped out of the race. Politico’s John Bresnahan reports: “[Grimm’s opponent, Dan Donovan] has acknowledged raising the issue of a pardon for Grimm with [Trump] during a trip on Air Force One last summer. … ‘The guy is a confessed liar,’ [Donovan said]. ‘My opponent is trying to interpret that I think he deserves a pardon. But I was a doing a favor for someone who used to be a friend of mine.’ He was referring to Guy Molinari, a former Republican congressman from Staten Island, who was close to both Donovan and Grimm, at least until this campaign, when he sided with Grimm.
“What in many ways is an episode that showcases the incestuous world of New York politics — the quartet of Donovan, Grimm, Molinari and Trump have personal relationships that go back decades — now has become an issue of national import. It involves the president, as well as a House seat Democrats think they can flip this fall, especially if Grimm is the Republican nominee.”
-- Mitch McConnell has already started laying the groundwork for his 2020 reelection campaign. Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports: “For 90 minutes [on Monday], McConnell, his chief of staff Phil Maxson, state director Terry Carmack, and political adviser Josh Holmes talked about the political landscape back home in Kentucky and gamed out how the campaign would be staffed and structured. The early discussions, which were detailed by more than a half-dozen of McConnell’s closest advisers and allies, reflects the leader’s long-held penchant for intensive — some would say obsessive — preparedness and planning. Yet it also underscores a stark reality confronting the Kentucky Republican. At a time when anti-establishment sentiment is roiling the party, the 76-year-old McConnell, who this week became the longest-serving Senate Republican leader in history, has a target on his back and is taking no chances.”
-- “These women have won their primaries. Will they be elected in November?” by Kayla Epstein, Kevin Schaul and Kevin Uhrmacher: “An unprecedented number of women running for office in 2018 has resulted in a slew of primary victories for female candidates. Many of the women who will be on ballots in November have the potential to achieve historic firsts if elected. But how likely are each of these women to win? We used the race ratings for each seat from the Cook Political Report to determine a candidate’s chances.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Responding to the inspector general’s report this morning, Trump highlighted the newly revealed text from Strzok:
He then reveled in the report’s assessment of Comey:
Trump also retweeted six "Fox & Friends" tweets about the I.G. report.
Hillary Clinton responded to Comey's use of a private email account to conduct official business:
The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee reacted to the I.G. report:
This was the report's main takeaway for Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee:
Two House Republicans claimed government agencies showed bias against Trump:
But a former GOP congressman came to the opposite conclusion:
From a former DOJ spokesman during the Obama years:
From a GOP strategist:
Trump's focus returned to the Russia investigation:
Trump responded to the New York A.G.'s lawsuit against him and his foundation:
This morning, Trump celebrated the United States winning the World Cup and thanked the New England Patriots owner for helping the effort:
An NYU professor criticized Trump for saluting a North Korean general:
The Economist declared a victory for North Korea's leader:
Here's a taste of Democratic messaging on immigration from a Virginia congressman:
And Barack Obama's former attorney general:
A Supreme Court reporter for the Economist laid out the busy month ahead for the court:
A Daily Beast reporter hoped for a quiet news weekend:
And Hamilton came to Washington:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- Politico Magazine, “‘This Is a Place That Just Sucks Your Soul,’” by Tim Alberta: “Many are the members of Congress who arrive in Washington wide-eyed and raring with optimism only to depart the institution chafed and cynical. But few have grown disillusioned faster than [Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho)]. ‘I assumed that everyone had the same idealistic mentality that I did,’ he says. ‘But week after week, I realized that most of the people here just want to keep their jobs and hold on to power. And it’s one of the reasons I haven’t fit into this place very well.’ It’s an understatement to say Labrador has failed to fit in. He is, in the words of one friend, ‘the angriest man in Congress,’ an abrasive critic of Washington whose time here only darkened his outlook.”
-- New York Times, “Workers Flee and Thieves Loot Venezuela’s Reeling Oil Giant,” by William Neuman and Clifford Krauss: “Thousands of workers are fleeing Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, abandoning once-coveted jobs made worthless by the worst inflation in the world. And now the hemorrhaging is threatening the nation’s chances of overcoming its long economic collapse. Desperate oil workers and criminals are also stripping the oil company of vital equipment, vehicles, pumps and copper wiring, carrying off whatever they can to make money. The double drain — of people and hardware — is further crippling a company that has been teetering for years yet remains the country’s most important source of income.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Vivint CEO ‘disturbed’ by allegations that employees built a racist fort,” from Peter Holley: “The chief executive of Vivint Solar says he is ‘deeply disturbed’ by allegations that several of his employees were involved in a pattern of racial harassment at a company warehouse in California. In a lawsuit filed Monday … Teshawn Solomon, who is black, said white supervisors called him a racial epithet and compared him to a monkey. The lawsuit also claims that white employees used cardboard boxes to build a protective fort around their desks that was spray-painted with the words ‘white only.’ The structure remained in place for two weeks, the lawsuit claims. Solomon’s lawyer, Corey Bennett … [said] a regional manager was shown a picture of the ‘white pride playhouse’ months ago.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“US weekly jobless claims total 218,000, vs 224,000 expected,” from Reuters: “New applications for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week and the number of Americans on jobless rolls declined to a near 44½-year low, pointing to a rapidly tightening labor market. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 218,000 for the week ended June 9, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Claims data for the prior week was unrevised. … The four-week moving average of initial claims, viewed as a better measure of labor market trends as it irons out week-to-week volatility, fell 1,250 to 224,250 last week. … The claims report also showed the number of people receiving benefits after an initial week of aid declined 49,000 to 1.70 million in the week ended June 2, the lowest level since December 1973.”
Trump will receive his intelligence briefing. He has no other events on his public schedule.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
John McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, criticized the possibility that U.S.-South Korea military exercises will be suspended: “Making unnecessary and unreciprocated concessions is not in our interests — and it is a bad negotiating tactic. … Parroting Chinese and North Korean propaganda by saying joint exercises are ‘provocative’ undermines our security and alliances.” (Anne Gearan and John Hudson)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Today’s weather gets another “Nice Day!” designation from the Capital Weather Gang: “Sunshine should win over any periodic clouds. North-northwest winds should remain moderate, around 10 mph. They help keep the air dry and well away from muggy ‘humid’ conditions. Dew points stay in the upper 40s to low 50s, making high temperatures around 80 to mid-80s feel a degree or two less than the thermometer!”
-- Nationals owner Ted Lerner will hand control of the club over to his son, Mark. From Barry Svrluga: “The transfer, which gives 64-year-old Mark Lerner voting power with MLB, takes place immediately and is the first indication of how the team will be governed by the next generation of the Lerner family, which does not intend to sell the team.”
-- The candidates in Maryland’s Democratic gubernatorial primary participated in their last televised forum. From Steve Thompson: “Lawyer James L. Shea didn’t wait for the first question to take aim at the two front-runners, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and former NAACP president Ben Jealous. During his opening statement, Shea suggested neither Baker nor Jealous can beat popular incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan (R). … Jealous piled on a few minutes later, saying ‘I agree with Jim Shea that if Baker goes up against Hogan, he just can’t win.’”
-- Virginia state Sen. Jennifer T. Wexton held a “Unity Event” with the five other Democrats she beat in the primary to take on Rep. Barbara Comstock. Jenna Portnoy reports: “Despite some awkward embraces and tense laughter, everyone seemed to agree that Comstock, a two-term congresswoman, will be running against Trump as much as Wexton.” The former rivals pledged to support Wexton and assist her campaign.
-- The National Park Service provided a glimpse of the Lincoln Memorial’s $25 million makeover. The work underway now has focused on replacing the monument’s almost 30-year-old roof. (Michael E. Ruane)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Trevor Noah broke down Trump's “mixed birthday”:
One of Trump's lawyers issued a set of demands following the inspector general's report: