With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve 

THE BIG IDEA: President Trump said during a private meeting with House Republicans last night that his daughter, Ivanka, told him the images from the border of kids being taken from their parents are terrible. “Can we do anything to stop this?” she asked her dad, according to a lawmaker who recounted Trump’s account of the conversation.

Nonpartisan factcheckers and experts agree that the president could stop the separations, a result of his administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy, with a simple phone call. Even a tweet would probably do the trick.

Instead, Trump continues to falsely blame Democrats for his unpopular decision and has punted what he describes as “a tough issue” and “sad situation” to Congress. A source in the room said he told lawmakers that the politics are not good and that’s a reason to act as soon as possible. White House officials have also said privately that the president sees the children who have become wards of his government as bargaining chips that give him leverage in negotiations for a bigger deal.

Trump’s refusal to unilaterally reverse his own policy leaves Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell holding the bag. Both likely recognize, in a way Trump apparently does not, that the family separation policy threatens to imperil GOP control of Congress in the midterm elections. And each is trying to fashion a solution that can unite their respective conferences.

It’s harder than it sounds, and there is no guarantee a bill will pass either chamber. Overhauling the immigration system, one of the defining issues of our time, has proved to be an intractable problem. George W. Bush and Barack Obama both failed despite making good faith efforts to work across the aisle to enact comprehensive changes to the system. Trump continues to show no appetite for making such an effort.

Hill insiders in both parties understand that if Congress tries and fails to pass legislation to end the separations, Trump will have more ammunition to blame the legislative branch for the problem. Republicans know, however unfair that argument might be, it will resonate with their base.

This is just the latest example of Trump delegating hard issues to the Republican-controlled Congress when he appears content with inaction. He ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and then said it was up to Congress to find a solution. He did the same thing when he discontinued the cost-sharing reduction payments that have helped keep the Obamacare system functioning.

-- After lunching with all 50 Republican senators yesterday afternoon, McConnell endorsed the concept of “a narrow agreement to fix a problem that we all agree needs to be fixed.”

“I support, and all of the members of the Republican conference support, a plan to keep families together while their immigration status is determined,” the Kentucky Republican said at a news conference.

Optimistically, McConnell said he hoped to pass such a bill by the end of the week. His challenge is fashioning as clean a bill as possible that does not include poison pills (i.e. stuff conservatives want that would drive away some of his moderates and prevent any Democratic buy-in). A compromise would likely involve allowing families to be detained together while streamlining the process for immigration courts. McConnell, who this month became the longest-serving GOP leader in Senate history, also probably wants to give his incumbents air cover to say they voted against separations.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), along with a dozen GOP colleagues, signed a letter asking the administration to pause the separations while Congress works out a legislative fix. Every Democrat has signed onto a carefully tailored bill that would accomplish what McConnell says he wants, but no Republican has endorsed it.

-- The real action right now is in the House, which is poised to vote on two competing immigration proposals. While supporting action generally, Trump did not give a full-throated endorsement to a compromise measure that Ryan has been negotiating — which would provide $25 billion for Trump’s border wall, offer a pathway to citizenship to young undocumented immigrants and keep migrant families together. The alternative bill, written by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), would not guarantee “dreamers” a path to permanent legal residency but would require the mandatory use of a worker verification program.

Both bills would require the Department of Homeland Security to keep families together, even when a parent is charged with the misdemeanor crime of illegally entering the United States, and would remove a 20-day cap on custody for accompanied children,” Mike DeBonis, Philip Rucker, Seung Min Kim and John Wagner report. “The bills would also allow DHS to use the $7 billion appropriated in the measures for border technology to house families.

Adding to the confusion on Capitol Hill, some House Republicans left the evening meeting with the impression that Trump was endorsing the compromise bill. Yet when Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) asked Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) in front of reporters whether he knew which bill Trump was promoting at the meeting — the compromise or the hard-line measure — Sensenbrenner said he did not.”

Right now, neither bill has the votes it needs to pass. One challenge is that Ryan is a lame duck who will be gone in six months. He’s been willing to yank legislation from the floor to spare his members an embarrassing vote, as he did when the first attempt to repeal Obamacare looked poised to go down in flames last year. But to avert a discharge petition that would have forced an up-or-down vote on protecting dreamers from deportation, the Wisconsinite gave his word to several moderates that he’d allow a vote on the compromise proposal. So there is a very real prospect the bill could fail in a very public vote. That’s why leaders hoped for a more explicit endorsement from Trump.

CASCADING POLITICAL FALLOUT:

-- Donald Trump Jr. canceled a scheduled appearance at a fundraiser for George P. Bush amid escalating tensions between the two families. He was planning to headline a June 25 finance event in New York for the Texas land commissioner, who is running for reelection this fall, but he got mad over Jeb Bush's tweet criticizing his dad's family separation policy as heartless and former first lady Laura Bush's op-ed that said Trump's policy reminds her of Japanese internment.

Philip Rucker has more backstory on the family feud: “Trump Jr. had forged a political friendship with George P. Bush despite the open hostility between their fathers after the bruising 2016 Republican presidential primaries. In the general election, George P. Bush endorsed Trump, even as some in his family resisted the then-nominee, and earlier this year the president endorsed Bush’s reelection as land commissioner. But after Jeb Bush took what Trump family members interpreted as a swipe at Trump — saying in a March appearance at Yale University that he goes home to children 'who actually love me' — Trump Jr. warned George P. Bush that if Jeb Bush did not stop attacking his father there would be consequences, according to a person close to Trump Jr. . . . This person described George P. Bush as apologetic and said he told Trump Jr. that he already had talked to Jeb Bush about the situation. For Trump Jr., Jeb Bush’s tweet Monday about family separation was the last straw, according to this person.”

-- At least eight governors, including Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), are pulling their National Guard troops from the border in protest of the separation policy. Steve Thompson and Mark Berman report: “‘Immigration enforcement efforts should focus on criminals, not separating innocent children from their families,’ [Hogan] said on Twitter. Hogan was the second Republican governor to take action against the Trump administration policy. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) on Monday scrapped plans to send a National Guard helicopter and military analysts to the border. His spokeswoman cited ‘the inhumane treatment of children’ as the reason. Many Democratic governors have made similar pledges. On Tuesday, [Northam] recalled four Virginia National Guard soldiers and a helicopter.” (Democratic governors in Colorado, Delaware, New York, North Carolina and Rhode Island have also pulled their troops.)

-- But several GOP governors, even while criticizing the separations, are refusing to recall their Guard troops. The New York Times’s Matthew Haag and Jess Bidgood add: “In Illinois, Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican who is expected to face a difficult election challenge this fall, said he opposed the policy and called on President Trump to halt it. (The state did not respond to questions about sending the National Guard to the border.) In Nebraska, Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, issued a series of messages on Twitter voicing his dismay: ‘While there seems to be a lot of misinformation and propaganda regarding the situation on our border, one thing is clear: Children should not be separated from their families.’ But other Republican governors in deeply conservative states voiced strong support for the president’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy. ‘America is a nation of laws, and I am grateful is administration is enforcing them,’ said Gov. Phil Bryant, Republican of Mississippi.”

-- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), trying to fend off a primary challenge from his left, announced that the Empire State will file a multiagency lawsuit over the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families, on the argument that doing so violates their constitutional rights. “The Trump Administration's policy to tear apart families is a moral failing and a human tragedy,” Cuomo said in a statement. “[Following] the callous and inhumane treatment of immigrant families at the border, New York is suing to protect the health and well-being of children being held at least 10 different facilities across the state and at others throughout the nation.”

THE HUMAN TOLL:

-- Separately from the family separations, federal figures show the federal government has likely lost track of nearly 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children. McClatchy’s Franco Ordoñez and Anita Kumar report: “Federal officials acknowledged last month that nearly 1,500 unaccompanied minors arrived on the southern border alone without their parents and were placed with sponsors who did not keep in touch with federal officials, but those numbers were only a snapshot of a three-month period during the last fiscal year. ‘There is a lot more,’ said a field specialist who worked in the Office of Refugee Resettlement until earlier this year and was tasked with reaching out to sponsors and children to check on their well-being. ‘You can bet that the numbers are higher. It doesn’t really give you a real picture.’”

-- A former acting director of ICE says Trump's policy of splitting up parents and children at the border could result in “permanent separation.” From NBC News’s Julia Ainsley: “‘You could easily end up in a situation where the gap between a parent's deportation and a child's deportation is years,’ [former acting ICE director John Sandweg] said. As a result, parents may find themselves back in their home countries struggling to find their children. Many do not have access to legal counsel or understand the U.S. immigration or judicial systems. Children who stay in the foster system for lengthy periods of time may become wards of the state and finally adopted. ‘You could be creating thousands of immigrant orphans in the U.S. that one day could become eligible for citizenship when they are adopted,’ Sandweg explained.”

-- “[Child welfare] agencies have ways of minimizing the trauma that aren’t being employed by the Trump administration in separating immigrant families at the Mexican border,” reports the AP’s David Crary. “Among other things, child welfare agencies often try to arrange visits between parents and children and keep communication open. … And parents could offer advice to the children’s caregiver — their food preferences and bedtime rituals, for example.”

-- The cost of holding migrant children in newly created “tent cities” is far higher than the cost of housing them in more permanent buildings — with their parents. NBC News’s Julia Ainsley reports: “The cost of holding migrant children who have been separated from their parents in newly created ‘tent cities’ is $775 per person per day, according to an official at the Department of Health and Human Services … It costs $256 per person per day to hold children in permanent HHS facilities like Casa Padre in Brownsville, Texas. And keeping children with their parents in detention centers like the one run by U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement in Dilley, Texas cost $298 per resident per day, according to an agency estimate … At those prices, the additional cost to operate a 400-bed temporary structure for one month at capacity would be more than $5 million.”

-- Babies and young children separated from their parents at the border are being housed in three “tender age” shelters in South Texas. The AP’s Garance Burke and Martha Mendoza report: “Lawyers and medical providers who have visited the Rio Grande Valley shelters described play rooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis. … The three centers — in Combes, Raymondville and Brownsville — have been rapidly repurposed to serve needs of children including some under 5.”

  • MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow become emotional as she attempted to read the AP’s report on air. From Samantha Schmidt: “‘This has just come out from the Associated Press,’ the MSNBC television host said as she began reading the report in front of her. She paused, swallowing. ‘This is incredible. Trump administration officials have been sending babies and other young children …’ Her voice catching, Maddow covered her mouth. She tried to keep going. ‘ … to at least three …’ Then she stopped again, visibly tearing up. ‘Put up the graphic of this,’ she asked, pointing to the camera, her lips quivering. ‘Thank you. Do we have it? No.’ Maddow continued reading: ‘ … three tender age shelters in South Texas. Lawyers and medical providers …’ She stopped again. ‘I think I’m going to have to hand this off.’ ‘Sorry, that does it for us tonight. We’ll see you again tomorrow,’ she said, handing the show over to host Lawrence O’Donnell.”

-- Another facility for immigrant children is in the works for Houston, as the number of family separations continues to surge. Meagan Flynn reports: “Southwest Key Programs, the same contractor that operates the facility in South Texas where hundreds of undocumented children are being confined, plans to operate a new facility for children at a vacant warehouse in Houston’s east downtown . . . The warehouse, at 419 Emancipation Ave., was previously used as a homeless shelter for women and children and … as a shelter for Hurricane Harvey refugees.” The U.S. government plans to pay Southwest Key more than $458 million this fiscal year for managing child migrant centers.

-- A 10-year-old with Down syndrome was taken from her mother after an illegal border crossing and sent to a Texas shelter, even though her father is a legal U.S. resident who lived just an hour away, Mexican officials said. Joshua Partlow reports: “In another [case], a handful of Mexican children were shipped to holding facilities in Texas and Pennsylvania while their mothers, who had entered the United States with them illegally, were moved to detention facilities near Seattle, officials said. … In Mexico’s first public response to the ‘zero tolerance’ policy, Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray called the family separations ‘cruel and inhumane.’ He said Mexico has lodged complaints at the highest levels of the Trump administration, including with [Secretary of State Mike Pompeo] and [DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen], as well as with the United Nations …” “The government of Mexico cannot remain indifferent to a situation of this nature,” Videgaray added.

-- A Honduran woman named Ana Rivera has not seen her 5-year-old son Jairo in over a month. The New Yorker’s Jonathan Blitzer tells her story: “During the first twelve days that she spent in federal custody, Rivera had no idea where her son was. She stopped eating, could barely sleep, and cried constantly. ‘The stress was too much,’ she told me. No one could give her any information about her child, and she didn’t have a lawyer to help her press the point. By the time that she arrived at the ICE facility, on May 18th, she’d become so upset that she had trouble speaking.”

-- The deterrence effect: Some migrant parents are starting to turn away from the U.S. border out of fear of losing their children. BuzzFeed News’s Karla Zabludovsky reports: “As Claudia walked past Mexican immigration agents at the bridge connecting [Reynosa, Mexico] and Hidalgo, Texas, ready to show their US counterparts proof of her brother’s murder and the risk it presented to the rest of the family, they advised her to turn around because ‘your kids will be taken from you.’”

-- A California couple’s Facebook fundraiser, which aimed to raise $1,500 to help one migrant parent post bail, has already raised more than $8 million. Darlena Cunha and Avi Selk report: “Just like arrested Americans, detained migrant parents can often post bond and simply walk out of jail. They can then, presumably, collect their children from government custody and live in the United States until their court hearings, which are often months away. Or they could, if they had the money. … Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is among the more than 100,000 people who had contributed by Tuesday morning. Private donors have matched at least $250,000 of the total, but [the couple who started the fundraiser] said the average donation is just $40.”

PERSONNEL IS POLICY:

-- “Trump didn’t invent family separation, but his administration was willing to try it,” by Nick Miroff and Sari Horwitz: “It was an idea conceived by senior immigration enforcement officials and U.S. border agents who had confronted the migrant crisis of 2014. Their idea went to top Obama administration officials … Then it went into a drawer, like a blueprint for a weapon too terrible to use. . . . It took the alignment of four distinct personalities to dust off the idea and turn it into a legal, operational and message-driven system for family separation at the border. [Trump, Jeff Sessions, Stephen Miller and John Kelly] played crucial roles in resurrecting the proposal and making it actionable. In Border Patrol terminology, it was based on the concept of ‘consequence delivery’ — the notion that illegal acts can be deterred only if they trigger negative consequences.”

-- “The Outrage Over Family Separation Is Exactly What Stephen Miller Wants,” by The Atlantic’s McKay Coppins: “Though he keeps a relatively low profile compared to the cast of camera-muggers and Twitter warriors in … Trump’s orbit, the 32-year-old speechwriter and senior adviser has cultivated a reputation as the most strident immigration hawk in the West Wing. … A seasoned conservative troll, Miller told me during our interview that he has often found value in generating what he calls ‘constructive controversy — with the purpose of enlightenment.’ This belief traces back to the snowflake-melting and lib-triggering of his youth. As a conservative teen growing up in Santa Monica, he wrote op-eds comparing his liberal classmates to terrorists and musing that Osama bin Laden would fit in at his high school. In college, he coordinated an ‘Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week.’ These efforts were not calibrated for persuasion; they were designed to agitate. And now that he’s in the White House, he is deploying similar tactics.”

-- A bipartisan pair of senators came out publicly in opposition to Trump’s nominee to oversee the State Department’s refugee admissions and resettlement programs. From CNN’s Jamie Ehrlich: “In the letter sent Tuesday, Arizona Republican John McCain and Delaware Democrat Chris Coons urged the withdrawal of Ronald Mortensen's nomination to the position of assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration. … ‘We are deeply concerned about the possibility of a virulent opponent of immigration serving as the United States' senior diplomat for migration and refugee policies,’ the letter reads. ‘Mr. Mortensen has spread misinformation about immigrants and displayed a lack of empathy for innocent men, women and children fleeing violence and oppression.’”

THE WORLD IS WATCHING:

-- The “zero-tolerance” policy has aligned the Trump administration with Europe’s anti-immigration, blood-and-soil movements. David Nakamura and Griff Witte report: “As Trump on Tuesday defended his administration’s strategy to separate immigrant families by warning that lax immigration laws are ‘destroying our country,’ Italy’s new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, was announcing plans to conduct a national census with the aim of deporting ethnic Romani who had not attained citizenship. This comes after the Italian government earlier this month blocked a rescue ship carrying hundreds of migrants from docking in its ports. ‘The good times for illegals are over — get ready to pack your bags,’ Salvini said shortly after being sworn in on June 1.”

-- One day after the U.N. human rights chief slammed Trump’s immigration policy as “unconscionable” and akin to child abuse, the United States withdrew from the U.N. Human Rights Council. Administration officials cited “bias” against Israel, as well as a willingness to grant membership to known human rights abusers. Carol Morello reports: “[U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley] issued a blistering critique of the panel, saying it had grown more callous over the past year and become a ‘protector of human rights abusers, and a cesspool of political bias.’ She cited the admission of Congo as a member … and the failure to address human rights abuses in Venezuela and Iran. ‘I want to make it crystal clear that this step is not a retreat from our human rights commitments,’ she said during [an appearance with Mike Pompeo]. ‘On the contrary. We take this step because our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization …’” Haley also blamed Russia, China, Cuba and Egypt for opposing efforts to reform the council.

“The decision to leave the 47-nation body was more definitive than the lesser option of staying on as a nonvoting observer,” Carol explains. “It represents another retreat by the Trump administration from international groups and agreements whose policies it deems out of sync with American interests … And it leaves the council without the United States playing a key role in promoting human rights around the world.”

-- The pope criticized the separations, supporting a recent statement from U.S. bishops who called the policy “contrary to our Catholic values” and “immoral.” “It’s not easy, but populism is not the solution,” Pope Francis said in a Reuters interview.

THE CREDIBILITY CHASM:

-- Speaking to the National Federation of Independent Business yesterday, Trump again falsely painted the immigration crisis as a “binary choice,” Ashley Parker reports. “’We can either release all illegal immigrant families and minors who show up at the border from Central America, or we can arrest the adults for the federal crime of illegal entry,’ he said. ‘Those are the only two options.’ … [Meanwhile], the discordant noise . . . from members of his administration, who are contradicting him and one another, has further eroded his credibility on the issue. On a conference call Tuesday morning, for instance, a senior [HHS] official said the new policy was focused on deterrence and was working — contradicting the public comments of [Nielsen], who has publicly said that family separation is not a policy, is not new and is not about deterrence. . . .

“Trump — a man already known for trafficking in mistruths and even outright lies — has been outdoing even himself with falsehoods in recent days, repeating and amplifying bogus claims on several of the most pressing controversies facing his presidency,” Ashley writes in today's newspaper. “Since Saturday, Trump has tweeted false or misleading information at least seven times on the topic of immigration and at least six times on a Justice Department inspector general report into the FBI’s handling of its investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. That’s more than a dozen obfuscations on just two central topics — a figure that does not include falsehoods on other issues, whether in tweets or public remarks.”

THE RESISTANCE:

-- Demonstrators are planning to gather in 132 U.S. cities on June 30 to protest Trump’s immigration crackdown. Activists have already begun organizing events at city centers, state capitols and Washington's Lafayette Square, where protesters will gather outside the White House. It was not immediately clear how many people will attend the event in Washington, though “tens of thousands” have expressed interest on Facebook. (Marissa J. Lang)

-- As she tried to eat dinner at a Mexican restaurant in D.C. last night, Nielsen encountered protesters who chanted “Shame!” and “End family separation!” Meagan Flynn reports: “Protesters, roughly 10 to 15 of them, entered MXDC Cocina Mexicana about 8 p.m. while Nielsen finished her meal with one other person. … The secretary did not look up and did not appear to acknowledge the protesters as they began their chants of shame. At one point, she made a phone call. ‘If kids don’t eat in peace, you don’t eat in peace!’ the protesters yelled. ‘In a Mexican restaurant, of all places!’ one said. ‘Have you listened to it? Do you hear the babies crying?’ one said … ”

A DHS spokesman tweeted this comment about the incident:

-- A liberal super PAC set up speakers outside Trump's Washington hotel to blast the audio of migrant children who were taken from their parents:

-- Hundreds of members of Sessions’s church filed a formal complaint against the attorney general, accusing him of “child abuse.” A letter signed by more than 600 members of the United Methodist Church also accuses Sessions of “immorality,” “racial discrimination” and the “dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of doctrines.” (ABC News)

Listen to James's quick summary of today's Big Idea and the headlines you need to know to start your day:
Subscribe to The Daily 202’s Big Idea on
Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple Podcasts and other podcast players.
 
Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning briefing for decision-makers.
Sign up to receive the newsletter.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Eating out may soon become even more expensive in Washington. D.C. voters approved a controversial ballot initiative in yesterday's primary intended to raise wages for restaurant workers that could have unintended, negative consequences. Paul Schwartzman and Fenit Nirappil report: “But the District’s political leadership has expressed opposition to Initiative 77, as the measure is known, and restaurant owners and workers are expected to pressure the D.C. Council to halt its enactment even though it passed 55 to 44 percent. … The fate of Initiative 77 was the showcase drama on a day when Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, facing nominal opposition, won nearly 80 percent of the vote and cruised to victory in the Democratic primary. Her triumph positions her to become the first D.C. mayor in a dozen years to capture a second term. A half-dozen council incumbents also won, including Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) and council member Anita Bonds (D-At Large).”

-- Initiative 77 passing was by far the biggest surprise in a low-turnout primary election in which every incumbent on the ballot handily prevailed: Voters in the wealthier western part of the city narrowly rejected the measure, while more than 6 in 10 voters in poorer neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River favored it,” Fenit reports. “Initiative 77 phases out the ‘tipped wage’ that allows D.C. employers to pay workers as little as $3.33 an hour and count tips toward their minimum wage. Under existing law, employers must make up the difference if tips do not bring a worker’s pay to the $12.50-per-hour mandate. Under the measure passed Tuesday, the minimum wage for tipped workers would gradually increase to $15 by 2025.

  • Restaurant associations and owners who bankrolled the opposition campaign said that the tipped-wage system helps them stay open in an industry where profit margins are slim and that the passage of Initiative 77 could lead to higher prices, layoffs and shuttered businesses. Perhaps surprisingly, hundreds of workers agreed that a higher base wage could threaten their livelihoods and mobilized against the measure.
  • “Initiative 77’s success provides momentum to the Restaurant Opportunities Center’s ‘One Fair Wage’ campaign to eliminate the restaurant industry’s exemption from minimum-wage laws. Officials in New York and Michigan are also considering ending their tipped-wage system this year, as is already law in seven states — California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Nevada, Montana and Minnesota. Voters in Maine approved a ballot measure to eliminate the tipped wage in 2016, but the legislature voided the results.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Global markets sank on fears that the United States and China may be veering toward an all-out trade war. The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 287 points after plunging 419 points earlier in the day. With the sell-off, the Dow has wiped out all its gains for the year. This was the sixth straight daily loss for the blue-chip composite — its longest sustained slide in 15 months. (Thomas Heath)
  2. Canada’s Senate approved a bill legalizing recreational marijuana. The legislation’s passage clears the way for Canada to become the first advanced industrialized nation to legalize marijuana nationwide. (Amanda Coletta)
  3. Hundreds of detainees in UAE-controlled prisons in Yemen have suffered sexual abuse from security forces, according to an AP investigation. But despite widespread accounts of such torture, a Pentagon spokesperson said the United States has seen no evidence of detainee abuse committed by the United Arab Emirates, a key U.S. ally.

  4. Several prominent TV show creators associated with Rupert Murdoch's entertainment empire voiced scathing criticism of Fox News. “Modern Family” creator Steve Levitan, whose show is produced by Fox’s television studio, said he is “disgusted to work at a company that has anything whatsoever to do with @FoxNews.” (New York Times)
  5. Federal prosecutors said they will not subpoena journalists or Senate aides in the prosecution of former Senate Intelligence Committee staffer James Wolfe, who was charged with making false statements to the FBI about his contacts with reporters. Meanwhile, Wolfe's defense team requested a gag order on Trump, seeking to preempt any remarks from the president that they argue could be harmful to his case. (Spencer S. Hsu)
  6. A Maryland woman pleaded guilty this week to using personal information obtained in a massive 2015 OPM hack to obtain fraudulent personal and vehicle loans from a federal credit union. A co-defendant, Marlon McKnight, pleaded guilty earlier this month to the same charges. Both face up to 30 years in prison. (Rachel Weiner and Derek Hawkins)
  7. Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint said they will no longer share customers’ location information with several third-party companies, after one of their third-party customers — a prison phone company, Securus – was caught misusing it. (Brian Fung)
  8. Costco stores across the Midwest are rolling out new technology that doubles the shelf life of avocados. Developers say the product has the potential to make other fruits and vegetables less perishable as well — enabling fruits and veggies to travel farther, and with less refrigeration. (Caitlin Dewey)
  9. An invasive plant species with sap so toxic it can cause blindness has been found in Virginia for the first time. Agricultural experts quickly issued warnings about the “giant hogweed,” which must be removed with special protective gear, and requires a permit to be moved across the state. (Justin Wm. Moyer)
  10. At least 230 civilians have died in Libya in thousands of airstrikes since the ouster of Moammar Gaddafi, according to a new report from researchers in London and Washington, which sought to capture the chaotic and violent aftermath of the dictator's toppling in 2011. (Missy Ryan)
  11. Police seized 553 guns from the residences of a California felon, after a tipster called authorities to report a suspected “large arsenal of firearms.” Authorities said they also seized computers, cellphones and hard drives from the felon, which they suspect had been tied to the illegal purchases. (Amy B Wang)

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- A fresh USA Today-Suffolk University Poll finds that 64 percent of U.S. voters believe Trump does not have the power to pardon himself — breaking with president’s assertion that he has the “absolute” power to do so. (Just 18 percent of respondents agreed with that claim.) Meanwhile, 58 percent of respondents, including 31 percent of Republicans, said that Congress should impeach Trump if he issues a self-pardon.

-- Longtime Trump lawyer and consigliere Michael Cohen has hired New York attorney Guy Petrillo to represent him in the federal investigation into his business dealings — and has told associates he wants the president to foot the cost of his legal bills. The Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Ballhaus and Rebecca Davis O’Brien report: “Mr. Cohen has frequently told associates in recent months he is frustrated that the president hasn’t offered to pay his legal fees, which he has said are ‘bankrupting’ him[.] He has said he feels that Mr. Trump owes him after his years of loyalty to the former real-estate developer, whom he served for nearly a decade at the Trump Organization. [There has been no indication Trump plans to do so]. … Mr. Cohen for weeks had been seeking to hire a lawyer with connections to the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, which is leading the probe into his business dealings … Before tapping Mr. Petrillo as his lawyer, he had consulted with the attorney on a number of issues in recent weeks … Mr. Petrillo is a civil and criminal lawyer who a decade ago served as chief of the criminal division for the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office.”

-- Cohen has signaled to friends he is “willing to give” information on Trump to investigators, according to CNN’s MJ Lee, Kara Scannell and Gloria Borger. “‘He knows a lot of things about the President and he's not averse to talking in the right situation,’ one of Cohen's New York friends who is in touch with him [said]. ‘If they want information on Trump, he's willing to give it.’ … According to another Cohen friend, whether he decides to cooperate with federal investigators would depend on what is ultimately in any indictment. If the indictment is deemed relatively less serious than expected, for example, it's possible that Cohen would choose to plead guilty.”

-- Follow the money: Buyers tied to Russia and former Soviet republics have made 86 all-cash sales at 10 Trump-branded properties in Florida and New York City, totaling nearly $109 million. McClatchyDC’s Anita Kumar reports: “Many of them made purchases using shell companies designed to obscure their identities. … Aleksandr Burman, a Ukrainian who engaged in a health care scheme that cost the federal government $26 million and was sentenced to a decade in prison, paid $725,000 cash for a condo at a Trump Tower [in] Sunny Isles Beach, Fla. in 2009. Leonid Zeldovich, who has reportedly done extensive business in [Crimea], bought four Trump units outright at a cost of more than $4.35 million [between 2007-2010]. And Igor Romashov, who served as chairman of the board of Transoil, [a] company subject to U.S. sanctions, paid $620,000 upfront for a [Sunny Isles unit] in 2010. There's nothing illegal about accepting cash for real estate. But transactions that do not involve mortgages … raise red flags for law enforcement officials … [Fusion GPS co-founder Glenn Simpson] told the House Intelligence Committee in November that his group uncovered ‘patterns of buying and selling that we thought were suggestive of money laundering’ at Trump-branded properties around the globe.”

-- Blackwater founder Erik Prince said in an interview with the Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff that he has “cooperated” in Robert Mueller’s probe — speaking publicly about his interactions with investigators for the first time in months. “I have spoken voluntarily to Congress and I also cooperated with the special counsel,” Prince said. “I have plenty of opinions about the various investigations but there’s no question some people are taking it seriously and I think it’s best to keep my opinion on that to myself for now. All I will add is that much of the reporting about me in the media is inaccurate, and I am confident that when the investigators have finished their work, we will be able to put these distractions to the side.”

INVESTIGATING THE INVESTIGATORS:

-- FBI agent Peter Strzok, who was removed from Mueller’s investigation after the revelation that he sent text messages critical of Trump, was escorted Friday from department headquarters and effectively relieved of his responsibilities. According to his attorney, Strzok still remains an FBI agent. Matt Zapotosky reports: “His lawyer, Aitan Goelman, said in a statement, that Strzok was ‘being put through a highly questionable process,’ and [the] public should be concerned about how politics had ‘been allowed to undermine due process and the legal protections owed to someone who has served his country for so long.’ 

-- Goelman penned a USA Today op-ed entitled, “Donald Trump is wrong. My client Peter Strzok is a patriot, not a 'sick loser.’” “Despite the obvious partisan gamesmanship going on, the reality is that Pete did nothing more than express his personal opinions in private conversations with a friend and colleague,” Goelman writes. “And what his attackers fail to ever mention is that, among the many other texts, Pete criticizes a range of both Democratic and Republican figures, including Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Loretta Lynch.”

-- “Republicans and Democrats sparred for a second day Tuesday over an internal Justice Department report that sharply criticized [former FBI Director James Comey] for the bureau’s work investigating Hillary Clinton in 2016,” Devlin Barrett, Karoun Demirjian and Matt Zapotosky report: “Inspector General Michael Horowitz answered questions for more than five hours at a joint hearing of the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, a day after he testified before a Senate panel about his 500-page report. Horowitz found no evidence that specific investigative decisions in the case were affected by the political biases of some at the FBI, but Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), who chairs the House Oversight Committee, said the bias that was found strikes at the integrity of the criminal-justice system. ‘If someone is prejudging the outcome of an investigation before it ends and someone is prejudging the outcome of an investigation before it even begins, what is more textbook bias?’ Gowdy said after reading text messages between [Strzok and another senior FBI official, Lisa Page].”

-- Rudy Giuliani said he was questioned by FBI agents earlier this year about his prediction of a “surprise” in the final days of the 2016 presidential election. HuffPost’s S.V. Date and Ryan J. Reilly report: “‘That’s all they asked about. What was I talking about in terms of ‘surprise’?’ Giuliani [said] Tuesday. ‘What was I talking about when I was talking about new information?’ … His disclosure of the February interview confirms the existence of a Justice Department investigation into leaks from the bureau’s New York field office that may have cost [Clinton] the election. … FBI and Justice Department officials have long suspected that disgruntled anti-Clinton forces in the FBI’s New York field office were feeding Giuliani and James Kallstrom, the pro-Trump former head of that office, information that hurt the Clinton campaign. … But Giuliani said he told the FBI agents who interviewed him that he had neither inside knowledge of the Clinton probe’s status nor advance warning of [James] Comey’s Oct. 28 announcement [that he was reopening the email investigation].”

THE REST OF THE AGENDA:

-- “Companies can escape Trump’s steel tariffs. But it won’t be easy,” by David Lynch: “Trump is ready to escalate his trade war with China by imposing tariffs on almost all Chinese goods shipped to the United States. But his administration is still struggling to manage a pair of smaller trade actions announced more than three months ago, casting doubt on the president’s ability to wage a broader conflict. At the Commerce Department, officials have been overwhelmed with pleas from U.S. companies for waivers from levies on foreign steel and aluminum that the president introduced in March. Only last week did the department begin training the roughly 30 evaluators who must review 21,000 petitions from U.S. companies that want to continue importing the metals on a duty-free basis, said one senior Commerce Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak to the news media.

“The department’s predicament highlights the disconnect between the president’s expectation of easy victory in any trade war and what is happening in the real economy, where production at hundreds of factories could be disrupted by Washington’s administrative sluggishness. Swamped by a flood of applications — more than four times the number initially expected — Commerce Department officials have cobbled together a team of employees and outside contractors with varying levels of technical expertise to review the waiver requests, according to a senior department official. The evaluators — including trainees with limited experience in complex steel and aluminum markets — have found the subject matter confusing. Some industry executives and department officials expect that the overworked reviewers probably will approve applications that no domestic metals producer contests and reject the roughly one-third that draw objections — whatever their technical merits.”

Key quote: “It’s going to be so unbelievably random, and some companies are going to get screwed,” the senior Commerce Department official said. “These people are making multibillion-dollar, unbelievably uninformed decisions.”

-- A bipartisan group of lawmakers is asking Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to investigate the Chinese technological firm Huawei’s partnerships with U.S. colleges. “China is using Huawei to position themselves to steal American research,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who organized the letter to DeVos, said. “They are using so-called ‘research partnerships’ with over 50 American universities to exploit the openness of our schools.” (Josh Rogin)

-- House Republicans released a budget proposal that would balance the budget in nine years — but only by slashing funding for entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security, which Trump has refused to touch. Erica Werner reports: “The House Budget Committee is aiming to pass the blueprint this week, but that may be as far as it goes [this year]. It is not clear that GOP leaders will put the document on the House floor for a vote, and even if it were to pass the House, the budget would have little impact on actual spending levels. Nonetheless the budget serves as an expression of Republicans’ priorities at a time of rapidly rising deficits and debt. Lawmakers of both parties agree that spending that is not subject to Congress’s annual appropriations process is becoming unsustainable. [But] Democrats have little interest in addressing it except as part of a larger deal including tax increases — the sort of ‘Grand Bargain’ that eluded [Obama].”

-- The U.S. military’s budget is growing to $716 billion for 2019. Jeff Stein reports: “The 2019 military budget, approved [in the Senate] by an overwhelming 85 to 10 margin, gives America's armed forces a substantial $82 billion increase from 2017. The military has called the additional funding necessary to improve its ability to respond to international crises, while critics say Congress should not be giving a significant boost to spending at the Department of Defense at a moment of relatively diminished American military involvement around the globe. … Budget experts said the dramatic increase in military spending will exacerbate America's debt hole, by pushing the government further into the red and increasing the amount the federal government spends on debt interest payments.”

-- The Trump administration issued new rules allowing small businesses and self-employed people to use health-insurance plans that do not meet Obamacare requirements. Amy Goldstein reports: “The rules, throwing the doors wide open to a type of insurance known as association health plans, accomplish through executive power what congressional Republicans have tried and failed to write into law over the past two decades. … [Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta’s] central talking point in the announcement was that the expansion of these plans will ‘level the playing field’ between health insurance rules that apply to large companies and ones that pertain to small businesses. The new rules allow plans to exclude coverage for maternity care, prescription drugs, mental-health services and other ‘essential health benefits’ the ACA requires of coverage sold to ­individuals and small businesses. Acosta emphasized that the rules keep the same ‘consumer protection and health-care anti-discrimination that currently apply to large companies.’”

-- Joe Hagin — Trump’s deputy chief of staff for operations who planned the president's summit with Kim Jong Un last month and was seen as a rare steady hand in the administration — is departing the White House next month. Josh Dawsey reports: “[Hagin] orchestrated the administration’s foreign trips, handled operational issues such as security clearances and served as a top ally to [John Kelly] — though he was distrusted by some Trump loyalists because of his ties to past Republican presidents. … A White House official said Tuesday that Hagin would be retiring from the federal government and returning to the private sector . . . [He] worked for presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. Many of Trump’s key aides had never worked in government and frequently relied on Hagin for operational questions and for planning trips, current and former officials said.”

THE MIDTERMS:

-- In his closed-door meeting with House Republicans, Trump sarcastically congratulated Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.), who recently lost his primary bid, on “running a great race.” Josh Dawsey reports: “Hearing silence from the room, Trump then piled on and said, ‘What, nobody gets it,’ and added that Sanford is a ‘nasty guy.’ There were boos — a rarity for Trump in a room where he is largely loved. The president’s remarks to Republicans on Capitol Hill were designed to assuage lawmakers on immigration … But the president showed more enthusiasm for touting his summit in North Korea, marveling at his rising poll numbers and excoriating Sanford, who was not in the room.” “I would say the comment goes to the core of why I have at times agreed with policies of the administration but at the same time found the president’s personal style so caustic and counterproductive,” Sanford said of the president’s comment, adding that he was heartened by some of his colleagues’ choice to boo the remark.

-- “Tim Pawlenty’s Trump problem: How closely to embrace?” by Amy Gardner in Babbitt, Minn.: “Trump was due in a few days, but Tim Pawlenty was not ready to say if he would share the stage in Duluth on Wednesday with his party’s leader. He’s never been to a Trump rally. Does he even want to go? He was noncommittal. ‘Yeah, I’ve been to a lot of these rallies over the years, and they’re always fun and interesting,’ he said in an interview a few days ago, with the agreeability that defined his two terms as governor and his short-lived 2012 presidential campaign. Pawlenty is hoping to revive his political career this year with a triumphant return to the Minnesota statehouse. But like many Republican veterans, he is struggling to navigate a party that has been completely transformed since the last time he hit the campaign trail, and he is hoping that his brand of electoral magic still works.

“At 57, he is facing a primary challenge from the party’s pro-Trump wing, and also a general election in a closely divided state whose politics demand balance. His approach has been to embrace Trump enough to placate him and his supporters, but not so much that he scares away the voters who don’t like the president. … Trump will have a chance to pick a side on Wednesday, when he is scheduled to appear in Duluth with Pete Stauber, a 52-year-old local business owner and retired police officer who is running for Congress. In the area Trump will visit, the major industry is iron mining, and residents cheer the president’s threats of a trade war with China over steel. Trump enjoys soaring popularity across Minnesota’s rural and industrial northern tier. The Iron Range used to be solidly Democratic territory, in part because of the historic sway of the mining unions. Not anymore; Trump’s popularity here is one major reason he came within less than two points of winning the state.”

-- A political newcomer backed by the Democratic Party won a seat on the Miami-Dade County Commission — a sign, some Florida GOP strategists fear, that the crucial district is shifting away from them. From the Miami Herald’s Douglas Hanks: “[Eileen] Higgins, a Spanish-speaking Ohio native who adopted the campaign moniker ‘La Gringa,’ won by six points over Zoraida Barreiro, the Cuban-born wife of Bruno Barreiro, who resigned to run in a Republican congressional primary. With all 60 precincts reporting, Higgins had 53 percent of the vote, and Barreiro 47 percent. … With the Democratic Party deploying money, office holders, candidates and volunteers to boost Higgins early on in the special election, an officially nonpartisan contest became a proxy battle with Republicans. The GOP used [Marco Rubio] in robo-calls and mailers. Her husband's Republican congressional campaign also became her top donor, with at least $95,000 in contributions.

“District 5 straddles parts of Miami and Miami Beach, with a heavy concentration of active voters in Little Havana and other enclaves where older Cuban-American voters are considered vital to win in low-turnout elections. … Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district, and Hillary Clinton carried District 5 by double digits in 2016. But Republicans tend to turn out in low-profile, local elections.” With Higgins’s win, a Politico reporter covering Florida declared, “[T]he era of Cuban-American GOP dominance in Florida’s most-populous county is officially in its twilight.”

-- Ben Terris profiles Pennsylvania’s Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor, John Fetterman, “the giant who lives in an abandoned car dealership beside a steel mill": “He’s 6-8, arms covered in ink, head as bald as a wrecking ball. When he strolls through town, everyone knows his name: the boys from the foundry, the brewers, the carpenters. … The kind of anti-politician a Democratic wizard might conjure to grab the dispossessed Americans who tipped the 2016 election to [Trump]. … The problem with being a political folk hero is that you’re bound to disappoint people. Fetterman is not a man out of time. He belongs to 2018, a year that has made at least one truth truer than it was before: No reality can ever quite live up to a myth. Today, under a new statewide spotlight, Fetterman has had his progressive bona fides questioned, he says, for the first time in his career.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

As he again tried to avoid taking responsibility for his own policy, the president claimed that illegal immigrants “infest” the United States. It's the latest example of Trump using a dehumanizing term to describe immigrants: 

He also said that “only” 2,000 kids were separated from their families. DHS has said 2,342 children have been separated from their parents since last month.

Many took issue with Trump's use of the word “infest” to describe immigration. From a House Republican:

From one of her Democratic colleagues:

From Bill Clinton's former secretary of state:

The Post's fact-checking columnist had this to say about the White House's insistence that family separations are a Democratic policy:

Trump also applauded his DHS secretary's appearance in the White House briefing room:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also came to Nielsen's defense:

A key Republican senator expressed hope for a unanimous vote to end the policy in the Senate:

A CNN reporter shared this detail from Capitol Hill:

From a Politico reporter:

The Post's book critic recalled a dystopian front page that the Boston Globe Editorial Board produced before Trump's inauguration: 

Trump's 2020 campaign manager called for firing the attorney general and ending the special counsel's investigation:

A senior strategist for John McCain’s 2008 presidential run left the Republican Party:

A musical legend visited the House majority whip's office:

A CNN reporter caught this C-SPAN exchange:

And an Upworthy writer joked about a coffee shop's name:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- “Gazans have survived years of war. Now depression is killing them,” by Erin Cunningham: “Fathi Harb wanted to commit suicide by soldier. So he went to a protest this spring along Gaza’s border, hoping Israeli snipers would shoot him, his grandfather recalled. When they didn’t, Harb, 22, tried again, returning to another protest soon after and again he survived. Then, last month, he set himself on fire on a busy street in Gaza City, later succumbing to his wounds. … A mental health crisis is gripping the Gaza Strip, experts say, born of repeated wars and the stress of meeting daily needs in this besieged and impoverished Palestinian enclave.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Sign to report employees not speaking English at doughnut shop creates a stir,” from Dana Hedgpeth: “A sign asking customers at a Dunkin’ Donuts store in Baltimore to report employees who were heard not speaking English has set off a controversy. The sign … [offered] coupons to customers who reported workers at a doughnut store on West 41st Street if they were heard yelling in foreign languages. Views of the sign were posted on Twitter. It read, ‘If you hear any of our staff SHOUTING in a language other than ENGLISH Please call 443-415-7775 immediately with the name of the employee to receive a coupon for FREE Coffee and a pastry.’ The sign was spotted Monday at the store and has apparently since been removed after it went viral on social media[.]” In a statement, Dunkin’ Donuts called the sign “inappropriate,” and noted that it was posted by the store’s general manager to deal with a “customer service and satisfaction issue.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“A West Point grad wrote ‘Communism will win’ in his cap. The Army kicked him out,” from Alex Horton: “The alumni of the United States Military Academy at West Point span presidents, generals and astronauts … [But] Spenser Rapone, 26, became notable a bit faster than most graduates. On Monday, the Army’s 10th Mountain Division accepted the resignation of 2nd Lt. Rapone less than a year after he posted photos of himself at his 2016 graduation, posing in a Che Guevara shirt under his uniform, along with a fist salute to underline a message written in his cap: ‘Communism will win.’ The photos … created a fierce backlash, sparked death threats and drew calls from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to investigate Rapone’s online writing … His other than honorable discharge, which is highly unusual for a West Point graduate … also may block him from many veterans benefits despite his years of service, including in combat.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will meet with members of Congress and then have lunch with Pence and Mike Pompeo. He will later travel to Duluth, Minn., for a roundtable on “protecting American workers” and a campaign rally.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

Footwear News reports: Speaking to the NFIB on Tuesday, “Trump suggested that Canadians are illegally moving U.S. goods, particularly footwear, across the border into Canada to avoid tariffs — which the president said were ‘so high, they have to smuggle them in.’ ‘They buy shoes, and they wear them. They scuff them up to make them sound old, look old,’ Trump remarked …” (Yes, Footwear News is a real publication and, yes, Trump said that.)

 

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

-- It won’t be quite as hot in D.C. today, but Washingtonians could still see storms. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “The heat and humidity relent just a bit today under partly cloudy skies. But we’re still quite warm with highs in the mid-80s to near 90, and moderately humid with dew points in the mid-60s. Much of the day should be dry, but scattered showers and storms seem likely late this afternoon into the evening, as low pressure rides east along a nearby front.”

-- The Nationals beat the Orioles 9-7. (Jorge Castillo)

-- Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) attended a D.C. book event featuring his rumored girlfriend, Instagram-famous poet Cleo Wade. The Reliable Source’s Sarah Polus reports: “The New Jersey senator dropped by the Politics and Prose bookstore at the Wharf where Wade spearheaded a panel in promotion with her new book, ‘Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom for A Better Life.’ Booker tried to keep a relatively low profile, confining himself to a back section reserved for family and friends, but he didn’t seem to be fooling anyone. … The poet hasn’t publicly confirmed her relationship with Booker, who she said she considers her ‘family’ in an April New York Times profile.”

-- HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s proposal to raise rents on those in federally subsidized housing could hit the District particularly hard. From Hannah Natanson: “Local housing experts say the rent increase would hit D.C. residents particularly hard, given the high cost of living in the District amid rapid gentrification. And in a city where falling behind on rent by as little as $25 can lead to eviction, Carson’s proposal probably would force many tenants into homelessness, experts said. Roughly 10,000 D.C. households could be affected.”

-- A super PAC supporting Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous has launched attack ads against Rushern Baker, Jealous’s chief rival in the Democratic primary. Arelis R. Hernández reports: “The mailers and Facebook videos by a super PAC called Maryland Together We Rise have injected a negative tone into Democratic primary campaign that the candidates have largely kept positive. … The fliers attempt to link Baker to recent problems in the [Prince George’s County] school system, namely grade-fixing, giving large raises to school administrators and the loss of a federal grant for Head Start.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Stephen Colbert had harsh words for the administration officials defending family separations:

Survivors of the Parkland, Fla., shooting visited "The Tonight Show":

The French president confronted a teenage heckler:

Trump's former campaign manager appeared apathetic to the story of one migrant child separated from her mother:

Freedom Partners, which is part of the Koch network, is launching its ad campaign to oppose the Trump tariffs. The six-figure buy will target the D.C. market and conservative talk radio:

The king and queen of Spain visited the White House: