THE BIG IDEA:

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Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins yesterday seemed to lay down a big marker in the Supreme Court fight about to consume Washington. And her comments emphasize just how precarious the hold on the Senate is by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as Democrats seek to gain ground in the midterm elections in November.

Collins said Sunday on CNN's “State of the Union” that she would only support  President Trump's nominee to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy if they respected the precedent set by Roe v. Wade when it comes to abortion rights. (Collins said it would be "inappropriate" to ask the nominee how they would decide future cases, however).

Here are her exact words: “I would not support a nominee who demonstrated hostility to Roe v. Wade,” Collins said . . .  adding that Roe v. Wade established abortion as a “constitutional right.”

The Maine Republican repeated that sentiment on ABC's “This Week,” arguing that any justice seeking to overturn Roe would be acting contrary to the U.S. Constitution and behaving in an unacceptably “activist” fashion. Collins added she shared with Trump at a meeting last week at the White House that she couldn't support some of the 25 names on a conservative list of judges from which Trump says he'll select the nominee — by next Monday, July 9.

Collins added she was assured by Trump that he didn't plan on asking his pick to replace Kennedy their opinion on the case that legalized abortion rights, which many Democrats and abortion rights activists now fear is in danger with Kennedy's departure from the high court. Trump himself said in a Fox News interview with Maria Bartiromo that aired Sunday morning that he wasn't planning on making the ask on abortion.

“Well, that’s a big one, and probably not.  They’re all saying, 'Don’t do that.  You don’t do that.  You shouldn’t do that,'" Trump told Bartiromo when asked directly " . . . I don’t think I’m going to be so specific in the questions I’ll be answering.”

Collins's declaration appears significant in a Senate so closely divided between 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is absent from Washington as he undergoes treatment for brain cancer — meaning for all practical purposes, there are now 50 Republicans and 49 Democrats voting on a regular basis. That means only one Republican vote — like Collins — could kill Trump's SCOTUS wishes.

If a single Republican senator defected — and if, and this is a big if — no Senate Democrats break with their colleagues to back Trump's high court nominee — then the vote to replace Kennedy would stand at 49 “yeas” and 50 “nays.” Vice President Pence, an ardent opponent of abortion rights, would be unable to break a tie.

Yet it's not at all clear such a scenario will ensue. For one, Collins supported Trump's first Supreme Court pick — Neil M. Gorsuch — who some on the left are convinced would overturn Roe if given the chance (the former Denver appeals court judge's specific views on abortion rights were never revealed during the confirmation process but he did say that Roe was precedent that had been repeatedly reaffirmed).

Abortion rights activists found reason to worry in Gorsuch's vote last week in NIFLA v. Becerra in which the justices ruled, 5 to 4, that California could not force the state's crisis pregnancy centers to inform their patients about the availability of state-sponsored abortions. Antiabortion activists were heartened by the decision, seeing it as a major victory.

And the debate over whether Collins is serious played out among observers on Twitter -- with some pointing out the senator's use of the word "demonstrated" suggested that a quietly antiabortion justice, with no obvious track record on the issue, could secure her support, and a win for Trump. This camp says the Federalist Society-approved judges from which Trump intends to pick stand ready to overturn Roe.

From a Bloomberg News reporter:

From Brian Fallon, who was a spokesman for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign and now is head of Demand Justice, which will try and block the SCOTUS nominee:

Nonetheless, Collins repeated yesterday that she believes Gorsuch isn't inclined to overturn Roe, citing a book the justice wrote about upholding legal precedent. “Someone who devotes that much time to writing a book on precedent, I think understands how important a principle that is in our judicial system,” she told CNN's Jake Tapper.

Still, given that it's de rigueur in Washington to allow SCOTUS nominees to dodge specific questions on issues that might come before the high court, it's possible that senators — or activists — won't necessarily know where a nominee stands on abortion rights before voting whether confirm him or her (“Senator, I would’ve walked out the door,” Gorsuch told Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) when asked if Trump or anyone else had asked him to define his abortion position).

And then there are the Democrats.

Trump is already busy courting three Democratic senators from red states — Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.), all of whom are up for reelection this year and went to the White House last week to meet with the president about his thinking. All three of those Democrats, who represent states Trump won in 2016, voted for Gorsuch. It's very possible they'll break ranks and do so again with this SCOTUS pick, despite intense pressure from liberals.

For his part, Trump says that he will select a candidate in the mold of Gorsuch and approach the confirmation battle on Capitol Hill in much the same way. He plans to hew to the list of 25 names already approved by conservatives inside and outside government, most are federal judges with long track records, report my colleagues Philip Rucker and Seung Min Kim.

“The interview process for a half-dozen or so finalists is beginning, including private sit-downs with Trump starting this weekend at his golf course in Bedminster, N.J., as well as sessions with White House counsel Donald McGahn and formal FBI background checks. An announcement date has also been set: July 9, the first Monday after the July 4 holiday and the day before Trump jets to Brussels for a week-long European trip,” wrote Phil and Seung Min. 

Trump is looking for four things, an adviser told my colleagues: someone with a “superlative resume” and possibly an Ivy League pedigree; someone with an extensive background in academic writing (not that Trump is interested in reading it, the adviser said); someone who isn't “weak,” with a strong independent streak; and someone who “will interpret the Constitution the way the framers meant it to be,” according to the adviser.

There are also many other issues besides abortion rights in which senators are interested — but activists are rallying around Roe as the battle cry (with good reason, given Kennedy was a swing vote on two critical abortion decisions).

And it really does come down to a high-stakes numbers game. Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) are the only two Senate Republicans who support abortion rights. Murkowski has said her opinions on Roe won't be the only thing driving her vote despite the fact that she views that case as precedent and settled law. The GOP duo bucked their party in its attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare last summer, but they've also supported Trump and McConnell when push comes to shove (see last December's unanimous Senate GOP support for the tax overhaul).

Heitkamp, Manchin and Donnelly will also be the targets of intense pressure — both from the White House and from the activist Democratic base that is headed into the midterms.

Any combination of the above — or indeed, any single Republican senator — could derail Trump's hopes of confirming his second Supreme Court justice during his time in the White House. And the fight only underscores that McConnell's GOP majority is hanging by a very thin thread that could either be cut or slightly reinforced by voters in November.

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Anti-corruption crusader Andrés Manuel López Obrador surged to a resounding victory in Mexico’s presidential race, becoming the country’s first leftist president since it began its transition to democracy. Joshua Partlow reports: “López Obrador triumphed with a party that didn’t exist at the time of the last election, against opponents from two parties that have ruled Mexico for nearly a century. … López Obrador’s opponents have sought to portray him as a dangerous populist who will lead Mexico back to failed economic models of subsidies and state intervention, while provoking more tension with Trump’s administration. But the unpopularity of President Enrique Peña Nieto and the PRI — which ruled Mexico for most of the past century — hobbled the candidate from the long-dominant party and prompted voters to search for an alternative to traditional political candidates.”

-- “López Obrador, a longtime fixture of Mexico’s left, is no Donald Trump. But the wave of dissatisfaction that carried him to power, with millions of voters seeking the most anti-establishment candidate they could find, sure looks familiar,” Kevin Sieff reports. “Eighteen years after the end of one-party rule, the election of López Obrador makes one thing clear: Mexico’s democratic experiment has failed vast swaths of the country. That period yielded three unpopular presidents and a continued ebbing of confidence in public institutions like the security forces and the judicial system. The rallying cry that won López Obrador the election wasn’t against Trump or the country’s drug cartels. It was against Mexico’s mainstream politicians — ‘the mafia of power,’ he calls them.”

-- “Mexicans have plenty reason to fret,” Dudley Althaus adds. “Corruption is rampant and the justice system woefully inept. Successive governments have proved unable to end the criminal hyper-violence that in a dozen years has killed more than 150,000 people and left tens of thousands more missing. After decades of export-focused industrialization, about half of Mexicans remain poor. And [Trump] has repeatedly threatened to scrap [NAFTA], which has fueled that manufacturing boom. It’s all led to a pitchfork moment for Mexico’s political class — regardless of ideological stripe — and for their allies in the moneyed elite.”

-- Longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen signaled his willingness to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller in his first in-depth interview since the FBI raids on his homes and office. ABC News’s George Stephanopoulos reports: “‘My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will,’ Cohen told me. ‘I put family and country first.’ We spoke for 45 minutes Saturday evening at a Manhattan hotel, where Cohen has been staying for the past several months. … Cohen did not praise the president during our conversation — and pointedly disagreed with Trump’s criticism of the federal investigations. When I asked Cohen directly what he would do if prosecutors forced him to choose between protecting the president and protecting his family, he said his family is ‘my first priority.’ Cohen added: ‘Once I understand what charges might be filed against me, if any at all, I will defer to my new counsel, Guy Petrillo, for guidance.’”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Nine refugees, including six children, were injured in Boise, Idaho, after a man stormed an apartment complex and went on a “stabbing rampage” at a 3-year-old’s birthday party. Local authorities said four people — including the birthday girl — suffered life-threatening injuries. (Amy B Wang)
  2. The Senate’s three black lawmakers — Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) — introduced a bill that would make lynching a federal hate crime. Nearly 200 anti-lynching measures have been proposed in Congress since 1882, lawmakers noted, but none have ever passed. (New York Times)
  3. Seattle became the first major U.S. city to ban plastic drinking straws, following through on an environmentally friendly ordinance 10 years after the city first attempted to implement it. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
  4. Russia delivered a massive World Cup upset by defeating Spain 4-3 in a penalty-kick tiebreaker. The host country’s team will advance to the quarterfinals to play Croatia, which defeated Denmark 3-2 on penalty kicks. (Steven Goff and Cindy Boren)
  5. LeBron James has agreed to a four-year, $154 million contract with the Los Angeles Lakers — changing teams for the third time in eight years. The move also marks James's second departure from Cleveland after he returned to play for the Cavaliers in 2014. (Tim Bontemps)
  6. A man in Huntsville, Ala., was arrested after he shouted “womp, womp” and pulled a gun on immigration protesters. He also held a sign reading “ICE ICE Baby.” (Avi Selk)
  7. A Philippine mayor was shot and killed in front of hundreds during a flag-raising ceremony. Mayor Antonio Halili of Tanauan city was known for forcing drug suspects to be paraded through town, in a campaign called “walks of shame,” as part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. (AP)

  8. A notorious French criminal escaped from prison with the help of several heavily armed men and a stolen helicopter. It was the second audacious prison escape executed by Redoine Faid, who was serving 25 years for the 2010 murder of a police officer during a botched robbery. (AP)

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- U.S. intelligence officials concluded that North Korea does not intend to fully surrender its nuclear stockpile and is instead working to conceal critical aspects of its program. The finding contrasts starkly with Trump’s sweeping declaration that there is “no longer a nuclear threat” from Pyongyang. Ellen Nakashima and Joby Warrick report: “The evidence, collected in the wake of the June 12 summit in Singapore, points to preparations to deceive the United States about the number of nuclear warheads in North Korea’s arsenal as well as the existence of undisclosed facilities used to make fissile material for nuclear bombs, the officials said. The findings support a new, previously undisclosed [Defense Intelligence Agency] estimate that North Korea is unlikely to denuclearize. … Specifically, the DIA has concluded that North Korean officials are exploring ways to deceive Washington about the number of nuclear warheads and missiles, and the types and numbers of facilities they have, believing that the United States is not aware of the full range of their activities.”

  • “Some U.S. intelligence officials have for at least a year believed that the number of warheads is about 65 … But North Korean officials are suggesting that they declare far fewer.”
  • “Meanwhile, the North Koreans also have operated a secret underground uranium enrichment site known as Kangson … believed by most officials to have twice the enrichment capacity of Yongbyon, [the lone uranium-enrichment facility acknowledged by Pyongyang].”

-- National security adviser John Bolton sought to downplay the weapons report, saying the administration is “not naive,” but will “try and proceed to implement” what Trump and Kim Jong Un agreed to in Singapore. “We're very well aware of North Korea's patterns of behavior over decades of negotiating with the United States,” Bolton said on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” adding: “There's not any starry-eyed feeling among the group doing this.” (Politico)

-- Trump insisted in his “Fox News” interview Sunday that North Korea is “very serious” about denuclearization. He also said he had given up “nothing” for the United States in his talks with Kim. “What did I do, really, when you think about it? I went there,” Trump said. (USA Today)

-- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who will make his third trip to North Korea later this week, has proposed a less aggressive timeline for denuclearization. The New York Times’s David E. Sanger and William J. Broad report: “Mr. Pompeo will arrive in Pyongyang with a proposed schedule for disarmament that would begin with a declaration by North Korea of all its weapons, production facilities and missiles. The declaration will be the first real test of the North’s candor, amid increasing concern that it may be trying to conceal parts of its nuclear program. … Advisers to Mr. Pompeo, both outside the government and inside the C.I.A., which he used to direct, have cautioned him that North Korea will not give up its arsenal of 20 to 60 weapons until the last stages of any disarmament plan — if it gives them up at all.

“Many of the plans they have given him call for the North to halt production of nuclear fuel — at a moment that there are signs of increased production — but do not insist on dismantling weapons until Mr. Kim gains confidence that economic benefits are beginning to flow and that the United States and its allies will not seek to overthrow him. It is an approach fraught with risk, and runs contrary to what Mr. Bolton … and Mr. Trump had said the North must do: dismantle everything first, and ship its bombs and fuel out of the country. If the North is permitted to keep its weapons until the last stages of disarmament, it would remain a nuclear state for a long while, perhaps years.”

-- The U.S. ambassador to the Philippines met with North Korean officials in the demilitarized zone. Adam Taylor reports: “The meeting appears to be the first face-to-face contact between U.S. officials and their North Korean counterparts since [Trump] met with leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 in Singapore. … [A statement from the State Department] said that Sung Kim had led a delegation that met with North Korean counterparts in the village of Panmunjom on Sunday, where they discussed the next steps toward implementing the joint declaration signed by Trump and Kim Jong Un last month.

TRUMP'S AGENDA:

-- Trump said he will not sign any NAFTA deal until after the November elections, telling Fox News's Bartiromo that he is “not happy” with a revised version of the deal currently being negotiated with Mexico and Canada. Heather Long reports: "'NAFTA, I could sign it tomorrow, but I’m not happy with it. I want to make it more fair, okay?’ Trump [said] . . . . Many business and world leaders are hoping for a swift end to Trump's tariffs, which they argue hurt economic growth and U.S. relationships around the world. But Trump has shown few signs of pulling back. Instead, he is calling for additional tariffs on China and on imported cars, a move that would hurt Europe, Japan and South Korea. … ‘The European Union is possibly as bad as China, just smaller,’ he said Sunday. When he was asked about whether he would back down on tariffs on China, he replied, ‘No, no, no, no.’”

  • “Every country is calling every day, saying, ‘Let’s make a deal, let’s make a deal. It’s going to all work out,” Trump said. And he disputed a warning from General Motors that the tariffs will force it to cut jobs and damage competition with foreign automakers. “What’s going to really happen is there’s going to be no tax. You know why? They’re going to build their cars in America,” Trump said. 

-- The Trump administration has also written a draft bill, requested by the president, that would allow the United States to abandon fundamental World Trade Organization rules. Axios’s Jonathan Swan reports: “The bill essentially provides Trump a license to raise U.S. tariffs at will, without congressional consent and international rules be damned. … The bill, titled the “United States Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act,” would give Trump unilateral power to ignore the two most basic principles of the WTO and negotiate one-on-one with any country. … ‘It would be the equivalent of walking away from the WTO and our commitments there without us actually notifying our withdrawal,’ said a source familiar with the bill. ‘The good news is Congress would never give this authority to the president,’ the source added, describing the bill as ‘insane.’”

-- "[Meanwhile], the next steps in the escalating trade war are fast approaching,” Long writes. “China plans to hit the United States with tariffs on more than 500 goods on Friday, the same day that Trump will start collecting tariffs on $34 billion in Chinese imports. . . . [And] concerns are growing that Trump’s appetite for tariffs only appears to be expanding . . . [and many] who argued that Trump was just threatening tariffs as a negotiating tactic and would never let the skirmish intensify are now saying they may have miscalculated. Some experts now think the only way Trump will change his approach is if there’s a major drop in the stock market or economy. . . . The E.U. sent Trump’s Commerce Department an 11-page document on Friday threatening that the global community would put tariffs on up to $290 billion of U.S. products if Trump moves forward with tariffs on foreign autos … ‘This is a really dangerous path we’re [going] down,’ said Chad Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. ‘Warning Trump doesn’t seem to be enough. It may actually take the costs of these things to show up before he can be convinced of it.’”

-- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau imposed retaliatory tariffs on $12.6 billion in U.S.-made products, including aluminum, steel and ketchup. To mark the occasion, Trudeau spent July 1 — which was also Canada Day — symbolically traveling to a former Heinz plant in “tomato country,” and visiting steelworkers.

Trudeau is wading into a brewing U.S.-Canada ketchup war between Heinz and French’s. Alan Freeman reports: “Representing the United States is Heinz, which put 700 Canadian workers out of work in 2014 when it closed a plant in Canada’s tomato capital … Representing Canada is French’s, the mustard-maker, which began producing ketchup in Canada after the Heinz closure. … With widespread anger over [Trump’s] imposition of tariffs … there have been growing calls for Canadians to buy local. Maclean’s magazine recently published ‘A Patriot’s Guide to Shopping During a Canada-U. S. Trade War,’ with French’s ketchup topping the list of favored Canadian-made products. ‘Demand is very robust,’ said Andrew Mitchell, president of Select Food Products, which started French’s ketchup production … ‘We can’t keep up with demand, which is a good problem to have. We’re basically going 24/7. The made-in-Canada story is really resonating.’”

-- “The White House’s use of a national security argument to justify the duties against a close ally … [has] offended and angered Canadians,” the New York Times's Ian Austen reports. “On social media, they are calling for boycotts of American products and encouraging one another to look elsewhere for vacation destinations. Mr. Trudeau’s decision to retaliate won a rare endorsement from all three of Canada’s major political parties . . . . The Canadian government said in a statement on Friday that it had reached out to Robert Lighthizer, the United States trade representative, six times this past week in a final bid to resolve the tariff dispute. On Friday, Mr. Trudeau also spoke with the president about Canada’s decision to retaliate. Those efforts, as well as Mr. Trudeau’s earlier attempts to win over Mr. Trump and his advisers, proved unproductive."

-- Some states are taking action to reinforce Obamacare as the Trump administration seeks to erode it. Amy Goldstein reports: A law recently signed by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy “makes New Jersey the first state in a dozen years to compel most residents to carry insurance. … New Jersey’s insurance provision and a similar one that the D.C. Council adopted last week are timed to begin in January, when a federal penalty is scheduled to disappear for Americans who violate the mandate built into the health-care law. … Several states are erecting barriers against rules the Trump administration is writing to promote short-term health plans that are comparatively inexpensive because they lack benefits and consumer protections guaranteed by the ACA. And some states, led by Democrats and Republicans alike, are trying to slow insurance rate increases through methods that Congress considered but did not pass. … Taken together, the moves mean the nation is starting to revert to the insurance landscape of a decade ago — a hodgepodge that created the political pressures that culminated in the sweeping 2010 law.”

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN AND WOMEN:

-- A trove of newly released EPA emails reveals close ties between political appointees and key industry players seeking relief from federal regulations. One consequential result was the agency's shifting stance on mandatory emissions limits for portable generators, which omit more carbon monoxide than cars. Juliet Eilperin reports: “Just before [Obama] left office, the Consumer Product Safety Commission had approved a proposal that would require generators to emit lower levels of the poisonous gas. [But following communication between one of his top policy aides and a team of lobbyists, Scott Pruitt] sent a letter informing Ann Marie Buerkle, the commission’s acting chair, that his agency had primary jurisdiction over the issue. [The emails] . . . open a window on the often close relationship between the EPA’s political appointees and those they regulate. Littered among tens of thousands of emails that have surfaced in recent weeks … are dozens of requests for regulatory relief by industry players. Many have been granted.”

-- Senior White House officials are now reconsidering their previously planned departures in light of Justice Kennedy’s retirement. ABC News’s Tara Palmeri reports: “White House counsel Don McGahn, Legislative Affairs director Marc Short and Domestic Policy director Andrew Bremberg have told colleagues in the days following [Kennedy's] retirement announcement that they plan to stay on staff through the confirmation process. McGahn, who has had a frayed relationship with the president and has signaled his desire to leave, told his staff last week that he plans to stay on through the midterm elections, according to two White House officials. His team will be taking the lead on the confirmation process, the sources said. … Short, who signaled to staffers that he would be exiting in the coming weeks, is now expected to stay on until October 1 to help coordinate with Senate offices, according to multiple White House officials.”

-- Senior Border Patrol official Ronald Vitiello has been tapped to serve as ICE’s acting director. The move is likely to prompt even more criticism of the agency, which has been riven with internal divisions as it seeks to enforce Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policies. The New York Times's Ron Nixon reports: “Mr. Vitiello … will replace Thomas D. Homan, the current acting head of ICE, who retired this month. The Senate must approve a full-time director for ICE, with Mr. Vitiello now viewed as the leading candidate. … Mr. Vitiello’s elevation to lead the immigration agency comes at a critical juncture. Numerous Democrats have called for abolishing the agency and protesters across the country have rallied in front of ICE regional offices and its national headquarters.” And last month, 19 agency investigators asked DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to dissolve the agency, citing concerns that the border crackdown had limited their ability to pursue other threats.

-- Top GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy will stop making payments to his former mistress, who negotiated a hush-money agreement with Michael Cohen. The Wall Street Journal’s Michael Rothfeld and Joe Palazzolo report: “[Broidy] agreed to pay former Playboy centerfold Shera Bechard $1.6 million—in eight installments, beginning late last year—to keep quiet about her affair with the married donor … Now Mr. Broidy, who worked on the RNC with Mr. Cohen, will withhold the third installment of $200,000 that was due Sunday, in response to an alleged breach of the nondisclosure agreement, according to Chris Clark, a lawyer for Mr. Broidy. Mr. Clark said Ms. Bechard’s lawyer at the time of the agreement, Keith Davidson, improperly discussed the hush-money agreement with another lawyer, Michael Avenatti … ”

-- Trump’s former national security adviser H.R. McMaster “is joining Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, where he hopes to develop bipartisan national security ideas,” reports the Wall Street Journal’s Dion Nissenbaum. “Mr. McMaster, who struggled to retain influence in the fractious White House, said, as a senior fellow, he hopes his work can influence national security policy as the U.S. works to combat rising threats from rivals such as Russia and China. … While working at Hoover, Mr. McMaster said he also is planning to write a book. But those looking for a tell-all tale of West Wing intrigue are likely to be disappointed. Mr. McMaster said he plans to write a substantive book about national security.”

-- Susan Thornton, a top State Department official for East Asian and Pacific policy, is retiring at the end of July. Her departure comes after serving more than two and a half decades in Foggy Bottom, which has experienced an exodus of high-profile career diplomats during the Trump administration. (Politico)

THE MIDTERMS:

-- Republican Michael Cloud was elected Saturday as the newest member of Congress, filling the Texas House seat that was vacated in April by Blake Farenthold following claims of sexual harassment. Cloud — a former Victoria County GOP chairman who ran as a staunch Trump supporter — earned nearly 55 percent of the vote, avoiding a runoff and allowing him to serve out the remainder of Farenthold’s current term. (Sean Sullivan)

-- Corey Stewart’s Senate nomination is tearing apart the Virginia GOP. Jenna Portnoy and Laura Vozzella report: “Stewart, chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, catapulted to the U.S. Senate nomination — and nearly won the gubernatorial primary last year — by celebrating guns and Confederate statues, lambasting illegal immigrants, and associating with white nationalist Jason Kessler and Paul Nehlen, a Wisconsin candidate barred from Twitter because of anti-Semitic and racist posts. His perch on top of the ticket has roiled Republican circles inside the state. On Saturday, the head of the Virginia Republican Party resigned his post. John Whitbeck was vague about his reasons. … [The Post] talked to more than 50 Virginia Republicans about the Senate race and found that Stewart’s Trumpian antics thrill supporters but turn off traditional donors and outside groups.”

-- As left-wing Democrats have thrown their support behind demands to “abolish ICE,” it's unclear how well the slogan will play on the trail or if its real power is in dividing Democrats. David Weigel reports: “[So] far, the idea is being endorsed only by left-wing Democrats — among them Rep. Mark Pocan (Wis.), New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, and congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) ... The ‘abolish’ language … was always inspired by conservative efforts to degrade branches of the government by suggesting they be abolished entirely. Just as ‘abolish the IRS’ campaigners imagine some form of revenue collection to replace it, ‘abolish ICE’ campaigners follow the hooky slogan with several replacement proposals. Without polling, many Democrats have admitted that the politics of this are nettlesome; the Congressional Hispanic Caucus has provided talking points on ICE which do not call for abolition. That suggests the risk for Democrats if they get behind the ‘abolish’ campaign and are not ready for tough questions. …”

-- “[Meanwhile], potential 2020 presidential candidates have been trying to redirect the energy,” Michael Scherer reports. “Internal party debates have broken into public view over maintaining civility and the usefulness of liberal slogans like “abolish ICE,” which some Republicans have embraced to argue falsely that Democrats oppose immigration enforcement. At the same time, liberal activists have begun to argue for more radical measures to counter President Trump, who they assert presents an immediate threat to the republic . . . Other Democrats have called for caution, wary that shifting focus from the midterm elections would be counterproductive, as would a divisive intraparty fight over what makes up acceptable policy positions. Obama urged Democrats at a fundraiser in Beverly Hills on Thursday to aim their energies squarely on the ballot box in November, saying that 'it is entirely within our power' to solve the political problems of the moment."

-- The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down mandatory fees for public-sector unions is a big blow to the vast network of progressive groups that benefit from labor funding. The New York Times’s Noam Scheiber reports: “Some of these groups work for immigrants and civil rights; others produce economic research; still others turn out voters or run ads in Democratic campaigns. Together, they have benefited from tens of millions of dollars a year from public-sector unions — funding now in jeopardy because of the prospective decline in union revenue. Liberal activists argue that closing that pipeline was a crucial goal of the conservative groups that helped bring the case … [And] the multipronged effort … has forced many public unions, among the most powerful in the labor movement, to fundamentally rethink their spending. ‘If the progressive movement is a navy, they’re trying to take out our aircraft carriers,’ said Ben Wikler, Washington director of the liberal activist group MoveOn.org.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Trump congratulated Mexico's president-elect:

He also previewed the week ahead:

And Trump reversed himself (again) on the failed House immigration legislation:

A former U.S. ambassador to Russia questioned what Trump has gained from taking his approach to Russian President Vladimir Putin:

One Democratic commentator slammed the idea of abolishing ICE:

The co-director of a liberal nonprofit replied to Sellers:

From the former director of the Office of Government Ethics:

A Post columnist questioned Sen. Collins's claim that Justice Gorsuch would not vote to overturn Roe:

From an Axios editor:

Administration officials can't get on the same page about the deficit:

A Cook Political Report editor says no one can predict who Democrats will nominate in 2020:

Meghan McCain took a moment to thank medical professionals as her father battles brain cancer:

And Sen. Elizabeth Warren added a new member to her family:

GOOD READS:

-- “Rupert Murdoch: The media mogul says goodbye to much of the company he built,” by Sarah Ellison: “Murdoch’s decision to sell part of his empire is the end of an era. It could be viewed as a surrender, a sign that he’s given up trying to match the might of digital companies that are able to pay top dollar to churn out television series, movies and comedy specials like candy. But it might turn out to be Rupert Murdoch’s most deft move yet, the one where he saves his company and fortifies his family fortune.”

-- New York Times, “Fox News Once Gave Trump a Perch. Now It’s His Bullhorn,” by Michael M. Grynbaum: “In 2011, Fox News announced that [Donald Trump] would appear weekly on ‘Fox & Friends,’ its chummy morning show. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Seven years later, the symbiosis between Donald J. Trump and his favorite cable network has only deepened. Fox News, whose commentators resolutely defend the president’s agenda, has seen ratings and revenues rise. [Trump] views the network as a convenient safe space where he can express himself with little criticism from eager-to-please hosts. Now, the line between the network’s studios and Mr. Trump’s White House is blurring further [with the expected hiring of Bill Shine]. … [Though presidents] have long cultivated influencers in the media … The Trump-Fox connection … extends beyond friendship and flattery to outright advocacy. Several former Fox News employees said they did not recall the channel so rigorously supporting a sitting president’s agenda. ‘It’s fair to say that there’s a relationship that’s been forged,’” said former Fox co-host Eric Bolling.

-- Politico Magazine, “Letters from Texas: ‘They Reached In and Tore Out a Piece of My Heart,’” by Julia Preston: “After a night fending off swarms of mosquitoes in swamplands near the river, [Mauricio Posadas] and his son were caught by the Border Patrol [last month]. ‘The first lie,’ as Posadas calls it, came the following day. ‘They said we would only be separated while I was doing the paperwork,’ Posadas said. The child panicked, clinging to his father and crying. … The second lie came when they left the courthouse[.] Border officers told Posadas and the other parents, who were becoming worried, that the bus would take them back to their children. Instead, they were driven an hour down the highway to the detention center. Only after he was booked in to a bed in the barracks, and hours went by with no sign of his son, did Posadas realize that they had been separated. … ‘Anguish,’ Posadas said, ‘like a knife.’”

HOT ON THE LEFT

“Trump Created An Office To Highlight Immigrant Crime. A Year Later, The Results Are Underwhelming,” from BuzzFeed News: “This is the picture that emerges of the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement office, known as VOICE, that President Donald Trump created within the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency soon after taking office. According to its own data and to call logs released to several news organizations through Freedom of Information Act requests, the high demand that the Trump administration anticipated for additional resources for victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants hasn't materialized. Nor has the office recorded any evidence of the widespread ‘victimization by criminal aliens’ as Trump's executive order mandates, one of his favorite themes as he presses his anti-immigration agenda.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

“‘A way of monetizing poor people’: How private equity firms make money offering loans to cash-strapped Americans,” from Peter Whoriskey: “Mass-mailing checks to strangers might seem like risky business, but Mariner Finance occupies a fertile niche in the U.S. economy. The company enables some of the nation’s wealthiest investors and investment funds to make money offering high-interest loans to cash-strapped Americans. Mariner Finance is owned and managed by a $11.2 billion private equity fund controlled by Warburg Pincus, a storied New York firm. The president of Warburg Pincus is Timothy F. Geithner, who, as treasury secretary in the Obama administration, condemned predatory lenders. The firm’s co-chief executives, Charles R. Kaye and Joseph P. Landy, are established figures in New York’s financial world. The minimum investment in the fund is $20 million.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump has a meeting with Mike Pompeo and will then sit down with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“I don't think anybody ought to have a case of the vapors over discussions we have in NATO or the G-7 versus discussions we have with Putin or Kim Jong Un. They're very, very different; the president treats them differently. He understands what the strategic interests are, and that's what he's trying to pursue.” — National security adviser John Bolton, discussing Trump’s upcoming summit with Vladimir Putin on “Fox News Sunday.” (David Nakamura)

 

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

-- It’s the hottest day of D.C.’s heat wave, but temperatures will remain high through Friday. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Hazy, hot and humid. If your morning commute requires much walking, you may feel like you need a shower by the time you get to work. Highs reach the mid- to upper 90s, and factoring in high humidity (dew points 70-74 degrees), it will feel like 100 to 105 this afternoon. There’s little breeze to take much of the edge off the heat, blowing from the south just at around 5 mph.”

-- The Nationals lost to the Phillies 4-3 in 13 innings. (Jorge Castillo)

-- Dockless bike-share systems in D.C. have lost up to 50 percent of their fleets due to theft or vandalism. Luz Lazo reports: “The companies acknowledge that some users have figured out how to cheat their systems, such as using prepaid credit cards or taking bicycles that haven’t been properly locked by paying riders, but they contend the losses are not as high as 50 percent. Some of the companies say they are taking extra measures to improve their locking and GPS tracking systems.”

-- Metro will open a dedicated bus lane along Rhode Island Avenue to compensate for a six-week shutdown of the Red Line’s Brookland and Rhode Island Avenue stations. From Faiz Siddiqui: “The new pop-up lane has transit advocates abuzz about the possibilities for the future of the region’s bus system, which lags behind those in other transit-oriented cities in its lack of an extensive network of bus lanes. Dedicated bus lanes speed travel, making riding the bus a more predictable and reliable experience. Improved service also could help stabilize sagging Metrobus ridership, they say.”

-- Passengers on a United Airlines plane at National Airport were forced to evacuate via emergency slide after smoke was reported in the cabin. (Faiz Siddiqui)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

John Oliver explored the possible benefits and drawbacks of gene editing:

The Post fact-checked Trump's claims about the deal he struck with Kim Jong Un:

A migrant family separated at the border was reunited in Miami:

Annapolis residents gathered to honor the victims of the Capital Gazette shooting:

And Lin-Manuel Miranda sang a "Hamilton" song during the D.C. protest against Trump's immigration policies: