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The Daily 202: GOP candidates caught in a bind on Medicaid

Gov. Paul LePage (R-Maine) delivers his 2018 State of the State address in Augusta. (Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

with Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) declared Thursday that he will go to jail before he allows the expansion of Medicaid in his state.

Six in 10 Mainers voted for a ballot initiative last November to expand eligibility for the program. But LePage has refused to respect the will of the voters and blocked all implementation efforts. The state House voted 85 to 58 on Monday to override his seventh veto of Medicaid expansion, but that was short of the two-thirds required.

A superior court judge has ordered LePage to submit a Medicaid expansion plan, but he’s refused. Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court will hear the governor’s appeal next week.

“The one thing I know is nobody can force me to put the state in red ink, and I will not do that,” LePage said in a radio interview yesterday, referring to the case. “I will go to jail before I put the state in red ink. And if the court tells me I have to do it, then we’re going to be going to jail!”

Medicaid for all this is not. The expansion LePage is willing to go to jail to resist, which was supposed to take effect at the start of July, would allow residents who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level – an annual income of just $16,753 for individuals – to qualify for coverage. In Maine, that modest change would make about 70,000 additional poor people eligible for health care.

This has become the dominant issue in the Maine governor’s race. LePage is termed out. The winner of last month’s crowded Republican primary, whose spokeswoman is LePage’s daughter, has endorsed his hard-line approach. It could cost him the general election.

-- Across the country, Republican gubernatorial candidates have struggled to thread the needle on Medicaid expansion. Their base wants to destroy anything connected to Obamacare, but the general electorate supports Medicaid expansion by a large margin. A predictable pattern has emerged in some places: Candidates attack Obamacare when they’re trying to lock up the nomination and then backpedal on Medicaid in the general.

The failure of the Republican-controlled Congress to repeal Obamacare has created momentum in state capitals to accept money from the federal government, which offers to pick up 90 percent of the costs, to expand Medicaid. Virginia joined the herd in May after key GOP legislators from rural areas announced they couldn’t bear to deny coverage for their low-income constituents any longer and Democrats made massive gains in November’s off-year elections. There could be several referendums on the ballot this year like the one in Maine that would let voters decide whether to expand Medicaid, including in some of the reddest states in America.

-- In Ohio on Wednesday, Attorney General Mike DeWine – the GOP candidate for governor – embraced Medicaid expansion and called for adding work requirements. DeWine, a former U.S. senator, often said during the primary that the Medicaid expansion was “unsustainable” and attacked his Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, for supporting it.

The extension of health-care benefits to about 700,000 low-income Ohioans is one of the proudest achievements of outgoing Gov. John Kasich. Kasich said after the primary that he was holding off on endorsing DeWine until he received assurances he would continue the program, according to the Associated Press. The shift also helped DeWine lock down the endorsement this week of the Ohio State Medical Association PAC, the largest organization of doctors in the state. He’ll take any support he can get: Public and private polls show that the battle in the Buckeye State is close.

Democratic nominee Richard Cordray’s campaign tabulates that DeWine spent more than $1 million on ads before the Republican primary that attacked Taylor for supporting Medicaid expansion. “He’s a political opportunist who just can’t be trusted to protect our health care,” said Betty Sutton, the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor and a former congresswoman who voted for the Affordable Care Act in 2010. “He’s spent 42 years running for office … It’s pretty clear his reversal is political.” We spoke last night as she drove from Steubenville to Columbus.

“It doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that ripping health care away from hundreds of thousands of people is a bad general election message,” added Jared Leopold of the Democratic Governors Association. “Unfortunately for candidates like Mike DeWine, they can't erase the videotape of opposing Medicaid expansion during the primary.”

-- In Minnesota on Thursday, Tim Pawlenty – looking to make a comeback – launched an attack ad against his Republican primary opponent on health care. Jeff Johnson is widely perceived as the more conservative alternative to the former governor, so Pawlenty is going negative before the August primary to portray his rival as weak on issues important to the base. Johnson was the GOP nominee for governor in 2014, and he said during an interview at the state fair that year: “I can’t repeal Obamacare.” He added, “We’ll still have [the Minnesota health care exchange] whether I like it or not.” That is the citation in the ad to justify this claim: “Jeff Johnson supported spending millions of taxpayer dollars to support Obamacare. Higher taxes. Wasteful spending. Supporting Obamacare. That's the real Jeff Johnson.”

-- In addition to Ohio, two of the other most consequential governor’s races in 2018 are taking place in Michigan and Nevada. All three will be presidential battlegrounds in 2020. In each of them, a moderate GOP governor who was elected in 2010 – Rick Snyder, Kasich and Brian Sandoval – opted to expand Medicaid over the opposition of their right flank. In all three, the state’s Republican attorney general – elected separately – was involved in anti-Obamacare lawsuits. Each is now positioned to the right of their outgoing GOP governor on health care.

In Nevada, Attorney General Adam Laxalt – who didn’t have to face a credible primary challenger in the governor’s race – has said he disagreed with Sandoval’s decision to expand Medicaid but that he will not try to roll it back. “We’re a number of years into this system,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal earlier this year. “I think the important part for the coming years is to make sure we can pay for all of it.”

In Michigan, Attorney General Bill Schuette has attacked Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, his opponent in the Aug. 7 primary, for supporting Medicaid expansion. A narrator says in one commercial, “Calley brought Obamacare to Michigan.”

-- DeWine insists that his new position is not a flip-flop. His allies note that he was always careful with his language. He often said, for instance, that Medicaid “will not exist as we know it.” DeWine argues that calling for a work requirement and incentives for people to be healthy means that the system would be more accountable and sustainable. Many Republicans who have come to embrace Medicaid expansion cite the work requirement as a reason.

A veteran Republican operative in Ohio explained that “the messaging shift is a nod to Medicaid being a popular program” and added that “the work requirement piece is popular with the base.” He told me that Medicaid is inextricably linked to combating the opioid epidemic, so embracing the expansion four months before the election might help blunt attacks on that front in the fall. “DeWine is a practical guy,” the operative said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to more freely discuss the dynamics of the race. “He’s not a fire-breathing ideologue.”

-- A federal judge ruled the Friday before last that the Trump administration acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner when it allowed Kentucky to become the first state in the country to impose work requirements on Medicaid beneficiaries. The decision by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg sent the state program back to the federal Department of Health and Human Services. Since giving Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) the green light in January, the Trump administration has also given permission to Indiana, Arkansas and New Hampshire to add work requirements. Several states, including Virginia, are putting together similar plans. But there is uncertainty now about whether all, or any, of these will hold up when challenged in court.

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-- Jared Kushner has still not been granted the level of permanent security clearance required for him to review some of the government's most sensitive intelligence — including portions of the President’s Daily Brief. Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker scoop: “For the first year of the Trump administration, Kushner had nearly blanket access to [such intelligence], even as he held an interim security clearance and awaited the completion of his background investigation. But when White House security officials granted him a permanent clearance in late May, he was granted only ‘top secret’ status — a level that does not allow him to see some of the country’s most closely guarded intelligence. … Kushner has not yet been approved to review ‘sensitive compartmented information,’ better known as SCI. The [CIA] determines who can access this information, which primarily involves U.S. intelligence sources and surveillance methods. … The reasons for the constraints on Kushner’s intelligence access are unclear, including whether they are related to the ongoing special counsel investigation, which has examined his interactions with foreign officials.”

-- Some residents of Northeast and Northwest D.C. are advised to not use their tap water for cooking or drinking until further notice. Dana Hedgpeth reports: “Officials at [D.C. Water] said residents should ‘boil their water for cooking and drinking until further notice’ if they live in certain areas. … The problem happened around 8:30 p.m. Thursday when an open valve was discovered at the Bryant Street pumping station.” Here is a map of the impacted area.


  1. Prosecutors in Ohio dismissed charges against adult-film actress Stormy Daniels after she was accused of “fondling” patrons and undercover police officers during a Wednesday-night performance at a strip club in Columbus. Daniels claims she had an affair with the president while he was married to the first lady, and her attorney said the arrest was politically motivated. (Samantha Schmidt and Lindsey Bever)

  2. The Justice Department is appealing its loss in the AT&T-Time Warner merger case. AT&T completed its acquisition of Time Warner a few weeks ago after a federal judge rejected the government's argument that the deal would be anti-competitive. (Brian Fung)

  3. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said he would sell all his stock holdings after the Office of Government Ethics strongly reprimanded him for failing to completely divest earlier in his tenure. David J. Apol, acting director and general counsel of the ethics office, told Ross that “your failure to divest created the potential for a serious criminal violation on your part and undermined public confidence.” (Steven Mufson)

  4. Inflation over the past year has wiped out any gains from workers’ higher paychecks. Prices rose by 2.9 percent, roughly the same rate as wages. (Heather Long)

  5. FEMA released a report acknowledging systematic failures on its part in responding to Hurricane Maria. The agency said the responses to Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida left them short-handed for assisting Puerto Rico after Maria hit. (Arelis R. Hernández)

  6. Former Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore indicated that he was also duped by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who is producing a new series with Showtime. Moore said he accepted an expenses-paid trip to Washington to receive an award for his support of Israel. “I did not know Sacha Cohen or that a Showtime TV series was being planned to embarrass, humiliate, and mock not only Israel, but also religious conservatives such as Sarah Palin, Joe Walsh, and Dick Cheney,” he wrote in a statement. (Eli Rosenberg)

  7. Sources say a 2017 book on Emmett Till’s murder prompted federal investigators to reopen the case into the black teenager’s 1955 murder. The book, “The Blood of Emmett Till,” includes an interview in which Carolyn Bryant admitted that Till never made sexual advances toward her, accusations that allegedly caused Bryant’s husband and brother-in-law to torture and murder the young boy. (Kristine Phillips, Wesley Lowery and Devlin Barrett)

  8. A family of woodchucks that took refuge in Paul Ryan’s Chevy Suburban ate through the car’s wiring, rendering it useless. “My car was eaten by animals,” the speaker said during an event hosted by the Economic Club of Washington D.C. “It's just dead.” Ryan said he plans to replace the car with a Ford truck once he leaves office early next year. (NPR)

  9. Researchers detected a high-energy neutrino, also known as a “ghost particle” because it's so small and difficult to find, at the South Pole and were able to trace it to the galaxy that created it. Scientists hailed the discovery as marking a new era of astronomy in which researchers can learn about the universe using neutrinos as well as ordinary light. (Sarah Kaplan)

  10. The CDC issued a warning for consumers to avoid Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal because of a salmonella outbreak. The cereal has been the subject of a recall since last month and has sickened 100 people. (Eli Rosenberg)

  11. Netflix broke HBO’s 17-year streak of garnering the most Emmy nominations. The streaming service picked up 112 nominations, but an HBO show — “Game of Thrones” — earned the most recognition for a show with 22 nods. (Emily Yahr, Bethonie Butler and Travis M. Andrews)


-- Trump blasted British Prime Minister Theresa May in an explosive tabloid interview — which was published by the Sun just after he touched down in London for his first official state visit. William Booth, Karla Adam and Josh Dawsey report: “The remarks cast an immediate pall over a visit that included a lavish dinner with business leaders Thursday night and plans to meet Queen Elizabeth II for afternoon tea on Friday. … The blunt language and harsh dismissal in Trump’s interview stunned 10 Downing Street. In the interview, done earlier this week, Trump disparaged May’s Brexit plan: ‘I would have done it much differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn’t listen to me.’ "

Trump also said May's approach could jeopardize a future trade deal with the U.S.: “If May has Britain align its rules and regulations for goods and agricultural products with Europe, following 'a common ­rule book' with Brussels, as May puts it, then, Trump said, that could derail a trade deal with Washington. 'If they do a deal like that, we would be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the U.K., so it will probably kill the deal,' Trump told the Sun, which published its splash at 11 p.m. in Britain. Trump was scheduled to meet with May for talks on Friday. …

“The U.S. contingent expected the story to post Friday morning and was startled to leave the dinner Thursday and see it online. … [Sarah Huckabee Sanders] told the British government about the interview but thought it would be somewhat more positive. … White House officials were scrambling for what to say to May on Friday. ‘There’s no way Trump will apologize,’ a senior U.S. official said. ‘But we also don’t want to blow everything up.’ "

-- Here's the cover of today's Sun:

-- Trump’s brief tea with Queen Elizabeth today marks the culmination of a sometimes-tortured fascination with the British royal family, dating back two decades to the divorce of Princess Diana, Seung Min Kim and Ashley Parker report: “In his 1997 book, ‘The Art of the Comeback,’ Trump wrote that his only regret ‘in the women department’ was that he ‘never had the opportunity to court Lady Diana Spencer.’ Shortly after her death that same year, Trump boasted to Howard Stern on his radio show that he ‘could have’ slept with the late princess.” (The princess reportedly told a close friend that Trump “gave her the creeps.")

-- “The last time Buckingham Palace had high-profile dealings with Donald Trump, it was to swat down a lie,” the Boston Globe's Annie Linskey reports: “It was December 1994 and … Trump told the New York Times that Prince Charles and Princess Diana had both separately joined his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, which was set to open in the coming months. ‘I handled the applications myself,’ Trump was quoted saying in an article that appeared on B2 of the paper. But Buckingham Palace denied that either had joined. In the face of flat denials, the story shifted. Trump explained he’d offered honorary (and free) memberships to the royal couple.”

-- Trump’s arrival has sparked massive protests across the capital. The New York Times’s Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura reports: “The protesters began assembling even before Air Force One touched down outside London on Thursday. They inflated a giant orange balloon depicting [Trump] as a pouting baby, wearing a diaper and wielding a smartphone. They jeered as the helicopter Marine One took off to ferry Mr. Trump to a black-tie gala dinner outside Oxford with [May]. … The demonstrations will culminate in a march on Friday — with the baby balloon flying overhead — that is expected to be one of the nation’s largest rallies since the 2003 protests against the American- and British-led invasion of Iraq.”

President Trump held a news conference at the 2018 NATO summit in Brussels July 12, where he answered reporters' questions on international issues. (Video: Joyce Lee/The Washington Post)


-- “Inside Trump’s NATO ambush, a signature spectacle casting allies as bit players,” by Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Michael Birnbaum: “The NATO summit was concluding on course (in Brussels) Thursday, with European leaders pleased that their unruly American counterpart had been surprisingly well behaved, if not truly conciliatory. Their planes were getting gassed up at the airport, and they were ready to call the whole shebang a success and jet home. Then [Trump] showed up, a half-hour late and with another agenda. He effectively took a meeting over Georgia and Ukraine hostage by seizing the floor and, one by one, scolding and shaming countries for their defense spending. Trump was on such a tear that some diplomats said they feared he could well try to withdraw the United States from NATO, rupturing the existing world order. For more than an hour, the transatlantic alliance was caught in the chaos of Trump’s making — until the president called an impromptu news conference to announce that everything, in fact, was just fine. …

“Thursday’s events in Brussels were a signature Trump spectacle. ... Trump was unpredictable and unreliable. He was direct and at moments crass with the United States’ historical partners, vague on substance and misleading with facts and figures. He grabbed the spotlight for himself, sending the entire Western alliance scrambling to satisfy his whims and desires — ‘whiplash,’ as one attending diplomat put it. And he declared unprecedented victory, though his partners said little new had actually been agreed upon. … Several officials who had been in the room when Trump amped up the temperature appeared physically exhausted afterward. One let out a full-body shudder. Another, a long, nervous belly laugh. In Thursday’s session, as Trump commandeered the conversation, he berated and harassed individual leaders over defense spending."

Analyzing the coverage of his tantrum as he traveled to Britain, Trump predicted the chaos would play well with his base: “As he departed Brussels and scrolled through Twitter, read headlines and watched U.S. cable news coverage, Trump saw an upside: The president was depicted as fighting for the United States and knocking heads in Old Europe. For Trump, his advisers said, there is no benefit to traveling overseas and playing nice.” (Context from Jeff Stein: “What America could do with European levels of military spending.”)

-- U.S. military officials went into “damage control” mode after Trump left Brussels to reassure allies of the United States' continued commitment to international defense. NBC News’s Carol E. Lee, Courtney Kube and Geoff Bennett report: “The overall message from senior military officials in a series of phone calls to members of [NATO] has been that U.S. military bases in their countries will remain open and American troop levels in the region will not be reduced. … ‘One thing you need in this alliance is predictability,’ one diplomatic official said. The direct conversations were aimed at ‘reinforcing alliance commitments,’ after Trump ‘made it clear alliance commitments were on the table,’ according to one U.S. official familiar with the discussions.”

-- Trump’s unpredictable performance at the summit left many NATO officials with the distinct impression that there is little method to Trump's “rhetorical madness,” Politico’s David M. Herszenhorn and Jacopo Barigazzi report: “While Washington has long ago grown numb to Trump’s unrelenting mayhem, the president’s two days of undulations in Brussels, rolling between enraged criticism and boastful, happy proclamations, left many leaders feeling queasy. … Trump also committed a cardinal sin of diplomacy by conflating issues that are typically kept in silos — like military spending and trade, or energy policy, in the case of the German gas pipeline project — to reduce the chance of rupturing negotiations.”

One telling anecdote to explain why our European allies are so offended by Trump's diatribes: “In the NATO leaders’ meeting that focused on spending — what the alliance refers to as ‘burden sharing’ — Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen said he confronted Trump, noting that the Danish military had suffered casualties participating in the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan roughly in the same proportion as the U.S. military. In an emotional presentation, Rasmussen told the president that he had attended the funerals and could not accept Trump telling him that Denmark was not doing enough for NATO. ‘In direct and clear speech, I have made it clear to him that Denmark’s contribution cannot be measured in money,’ Rasmussen said.”

On July 12, President Trump said he would ask Russian President Vladimir Putin "again" whether Russia had meddled in the 2016 presidential elections. (Video: The Washington Post)


-- Ahead of Trump’s Monday meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, some administration officials fear the president will sign off on a deal that will tighten Russia’s grip on Syria. Josh Rogin reports: “Trump’s national security team has been battling internally over a proposed deal that Trump discussed with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Washington last month. It would fulfill Trump’s wish to withdraw most U.S. troops from Syria ‘very soon’ while endorsing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s and Russia’s brutal takeover of southern Syria, a direct violation of Putin’s last deal with the Trump administration. Russia, in turn, would promise to limit the Iranian presence near Syria’s borders with Jordan and Israel. … Military officials worry the deal would leave the fight against the Islamic State unfinished, allowing their resurgence in a repeat of what happened after President Barack Obama withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011.”

-- Trump promised in Brussels yesterday that he would bring up election interference with Russia's leader, but emphasized he would have little recourse if Putin denied his government interfered. “Look, he may. What am I going to do? He may deny it,” Trump said at his news conference. “All I can do is say, ‘Did you?’ And, ‘Don’t do it again.’ But he may deny it.” (Seung Min Kim and Josh Dawsey)

-- “Putin could not have set up the summit better if he had scripted it himself,” the New Yorker’s Susan B. Glasser writes. “ … There is no agreed-upon substantive agenda for the meeting, as Trump himself confirmed on Thursday, and the session will take place only a couple weeks after the date was finalized. The sum total of the preparation was a single trip by Trump’s national-security adviser, John Bolton, to Moscow. He came out of the trip with none of the ‘deliverables’ typically determined in advance of such high-level summits. (‘The meeting is the deliverable,’ the Russians apparently told Bolton.) … Washington usually spends months, or even years, working up to a meeting between the President and the leader of Russia.” One former State Department official said, “I’m afraid [that] … our guy here is like an amateur boxer going up against Muhammad Ali.”

-- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) issued a stern statement criticizing Trump’s performance in Brussels and demanding he “hold Putin accountable for his actions.” “Putin is not America’s friend, nor merely a competitor,” McCain said. “Putin is America’s enemy — not because we wish it so, but because he has chosen to be.” He added: “The president’s task is to reverse his disturbing tendency to show America’s adversaries the deference and esteem that should be reserved for our closest allies. … It is up to President Trump to hold Putin accountable for his actions during the meeting in Helsinki. Failure to do so would be a serious indictment of his stewardship of American leadership in the world.” (John Wagner)

The House hearing with FBI agent Peter Strzok devolved into personal attacks, partisan exchanges and a perjury accusation. Here's a look at the biggest moments. (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)


-- FBI agent Peter Strzok feuded with lawmakers on the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, where he sought to defend his conduct as the lead agent in the FBI’s probes of both Hillary Clinton and the Trump campaign. Devlin Barrett and Karoun Demirjian report: “The day-long hearing, which featured far more heated accusations than new information, was a naked display of the animus and agitation in Washington that surrounds the ongoing [Russia investigation]. Republicans accused Strzok and the FBI of pursuing politically motivated probes aimed at harming [Trump]. Democrats called the entire hearing part of a GOP attempt to protect the president by tainting the work of [Robert Mueller]. Lawmakers talked over each other and the witness, in sometimes starkly personal and intemperate terms. … As Republicans berated Strzok over his work on the probes, Democrats sought to defend him through unsuccessful objections and parliamentary maneuvers, leading to arguments among lawmakers about Strzok while he sat listening at the witness table.”

-- Tribalism watch:

  • Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) raised the issue of Strzok’s affair with former FBI attorney Lisa Page: “I can’t help but wonder, when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife’s eyes and lie to her about [Page]?” he asked.
  • Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) compared Strzok to a war hero: “If I could give you a Purple Heart, I would. You deserve one,” Cohen said. “It’s astonishing to me that you would be put on trial as you have today.”

-- Strzok denied that his political opinions altered his work, telling lawmakers that FBI personnel are “trained not to let their opinions influence their work.” “There is simply no evidence of bias in my professional actions,” he said, calling the hearing “just another victory notch in Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.” It was, he said, “profoundly painful to watch … and even worse to play a part in.”

-- “Through it all, Strzok emerged as a largely unflappable, if unlikely, champion of the very bureau that removed him from his role in the Russia investigation last July,” Felicia Sonmez notes. “He prompted cheers from some in the room when he called attacks on the FBI’s integrity ‘deeply destructive.’ … He came prepared to defend the bureau’s political neutrality, making note of the various layers of supervisors and analysts involved in its work. ‘They would not tolerate any improper behavior in me, any more than I would tolerate it in them. That is who we are as the FBI,’ Strzok said.”

The House Judiciary Committee hearing for FBI agent Peter Strzok quickly devolved into a shouting match over procedures and rules. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

-- How it’s playing:

  • New York Times: “F.B.I. Agent Defends Actions in Russia Inquiry in Contentious House Testimony.”
  • Wall Street Journal: “Strzok Denies Claims of Bias in Acrimonious House Hearing.”
  • Fox News: “Fireworks at Strzok hearing as GOP reps fume at anti-Trump FBI agent, threaten contempt.”
  • The Fix’s Aaron Blake breaks down seven key moments from Strzok’s wild hearing. (Read them all here.)
  • The Post’s Editorial Board: “The Strzok hearing damaged our democracy.”
  • Jason Chaffetz for Fox News: “Strzok testifies, but ex-lover Lisa Page snubs Hill subpoena thanks to a bad call by Sessions.”
  • Philip Bump: “Strzok just gave a hard-to-rebut defense of the objectivity of the Russia investigation’s origins.”
  • Vanity Fair’s Tina Nguyen: “The Peter Strzok Hearing was a WWE-Style Bipartisan Beatdown.”
  • The New Yorker’s John Cassidy: “The G-Man Fights Back: Peter Strzok Zaps His Republican Inquisitors.”
  • GOP strategist Rick Wilson for the Daily Beast: “Republicans Thought Peter Strzok Would Be a Punching Bag. He Just Knocked Them Out.”
  • Paul Waldman: “The Peter Strzok fiasco wrecks the GOP’s bogus conspiracy theory.”


-- Paul Manafort was transferred from the Northern Neck Regional Jail to a detention center in Alexandria — located just blocks from the federal courthouse in the Eastern District of Virginia, where his trial is slated to begin later this month. Rachel Weiner reports: “ 'Because he is a high-profile inmate, Mr. Manafort will be placed in protective custody which limits his interactions with other inmates,’ Sheriff Dana Lawhorne said in a statement. [Manafort had] resisted being brought to Alexandria. His lawyers argued that he was safe in the Warsaw, Va., facility, where according to prosecutors he has a private phone and laptop. … Judge T.S. Ellis III rejected those concerns, [however]. ‘The professionals at the Alexandria Detention Center are very familiar with housing high-profile defendants including foreign and domestic terrorists, spies and traitors,' he wrote. … ‘All these defendants were housed safely in Alexandria pending their respective trials and defendant’s experience at the Alexandria Detention Center will presumably be no different.’”

-- The Trump White House has demanded that more lawmakers be given access to classified information about an FBI informant who played a critical role in the Russia investigation. The New York Times’s Mark Mazzetti reports: “Both the director of national intelligence and the director of the F.B.I. tried to keep the classified documents tightly restricted, fearing that a broader dissemination of operational reports and other sensitive material could lead to more leaks of detailed information about the role of the confidential F.B.I. informant. Some American officials believe, in fact, the reason the White House made the decision was to provide political ammunition to [Trump’s] Republican allies. … The F.B.I. files about the informant will now be available to all members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, instead of to just a group of congressional leaders known as the Gang of Eight. It is unclear whether Mr. Trump or a lower-level White House official authorized the move.”

-- The SEC is investigating whether Facebook should have warned investors that Cambridge Analytica and other third-party companies had obtained users’ private data, in violation of the social media site’s policies. The Wall Street Journal's Dave Michaels and Georgia Wells report: “The SEC has requested information from Facebook seeking to understand how much the company knew about Cambridge Analytica’s use of the data … [and wants] to know how the company analyzed the risk it faced from developers sharing data with others in violation of Facebook’s policies[.] ... The agency has taken the position, most recently in a case filed against Altaba Inc., Yahoo Inc.’s successor company, that public companies must disclose material data leaks or breaches they know about. Telling investors that such incidents could happen isn’t good enough. … The Justice Department and the [FTC] are also probing the data leak and how Facebook and other parties handled it.”

-- Russian operatives who sought to sow disinformation during the 2016 election also targeted local news sources, in hopes of exploiting the higher levels of trust that Americans traditionally place in their hometown publications. NPR’s Tim Mak reports: “The information operatives who worked out of the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg … created a number of Twitter accounts that posed as sources for Americans' hometown headlines. NPR has reviewed information connected with the investigation and found 48 such accounts. They have names such as @ElPasoTopNews, @MilwaukeeVoice, @CamdenCityNews and @Seattle_Post. ‘A not-insignificant amount of those had some sort of variation on what appeared to be a homegrown local news site,’ said Bret Schafer, a social media analyst [whose group] tracks Russian influence operations … Another example: The [IRA] created an account that looks like it is the Chicago Daily News. That newspaper shuttered in 1978.”

-- In April, former Trump attorney Michael Cohen bought a $6.7 million Tribeca apartment being developed by two of Trump’s longtime friends, Howard Lorber and Steve Witkoff. The Wall Street Journal’s Katherine Clarke reports: “On the 19th floor, Mr. Cohen’s unit is about 2,697 square feet, with four bedrooms and 4½ bathrooms … Amenities in the building include a Turkish bath, a private dining room, a 75-foot lap pool, a fitness center, an arcade and a concierge service that books private aircraft. The glassy condominium project launched sales in the summer of 2015, and more than 70% of its 157 units were sold as of May … Mr. Cohen’s purchase is the only closing in the building thus far, according to public records. Mr. Cohen financed the purchase by securing a $3.5 million short-term mortgage from the developers, rather than getting financing from a bank, according to public records. While developers occasionally offer to finance purchases in their projects … people familiar with the deal said Mr. Cohen would have had trouble securing traditional financing because the unit did not yet meet the city’s legal requirements for occupancy.”

Fresh off the Whitewater investigation, Brett Kavanaugh discussed his views on indictment versus impeachment for a sitting president in February 1998. (Video: C-SPAN)


-- Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh gave a speech last year in which he praised Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist for dissenting in Roe v. Wade. L.A. Times’s David G. Savage reports: “He also praised the late chief justice’s unsuccessful effort to throw out the so-called ‘exclusionary rule,’ which forbids police from using illegally obtained evidence. … Kavanaugh’s comments are significant because they were in a speech, not a court opinion in which he was bound by precedent, said David S. Cohen, a law professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia. ‘He is not writing as a judge. This is him telling us his own views. And while he doesn’t come out and say ‘the dissent is right,’ it is pretty clear he agrees with Rehnquist,’ Cohen said. Agreeing with the dissent, however, would not necessarily mean that Kavanaugh would now vote to overturn a long-standing precedent.”

-- A fresh Gallup poll finds that nearly two-thirds of the American public — 64 percent — want Roe to stand. Just 28 percent of respondents said they would prefer to see the ruling overturned. The findings are consistent with previous Gallup surveys, which since 1989 have found majority public support for the decision.

-- Kavanaugh’s former classmates at Yale Law remembered him as a “sports junkie” who ate pasta with ketchup. The Yale Daily News's Hailey Fuchs and Adelaide Feibel report: “Over the last two days, nearly 500 Yale Law alumni, students and faculty members … have signed a petition criticizing Yale for celebrating its alumnus’s nomination. But to those who knew him personally during his time at law school, the federal judge … was not a fire-spitting conservative but a sports junkie with picky eating habits. In the 1989-90 school year, about eight male law students, Kavanaugh among them, shared a brownstone house, divided into several apartments … All the housemates leaned Democrat — except for Kavanaugh. Jim Brochin … a housemate of Kavanaugh’s, said he can count on one hand the number of political conversations the two have had in the more than 25 years that they have known each other.” “The most controversial issue I’ve discussed with him is the designated hitter,” said Brochin, a former partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

-- Democrats are divided over how to best attack Kavanaugh. Sean Sullivan reports: “Democrats trying to defeat ­Kavanaugh were still searching for a potent line of attack Thursday. Some have focused on portraying him as a threat to take away health-care protections and abortion rights. Others have emphasized concerns about his views on presidential power and how he might apply them to Trump. So far, their arguments have shown no explicit signs of winning over the two Republican senators seen as most likely to break ranks and oppose Kavanaugh: Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Centrist Democrats trying to survive reelection in states Trump won, meanwhile, have said little about Kavanaugh, seeking to avoid the wrath of the president’s loyal supporters or a backlash from ­liberals bent on defeating Kavanaugh’s nomination. … The battles underscore the chaotic state of a Democratic Party with no clear leader and plenty of ambitious politicians with contrasting ideologies. The party is grappling with dual pressures to win control of the Senate in the midterms, which requires bolstering vulnerable centrists, and to position itself for the 2020 presidential race, which entails firing up the party’s base.”


-- The Trump administration has released more than half of the youngest migrant children separated from their parents, but they claim the remaining children cannot be reunited with their parents. Maria Sacchetti reports: “Federal officials say they could not return 45 of the 103 children for safety reasons or because their parents were deported or in criminal custody. One parent could not be found. … A report filed with the court late Thursday showed 58 children were reunified across the country, some late at night and across great distances. … [A federal judge] told the government to reunite the older children with their parents by July 26. The government has said there are ‘under 3,000’ such children. Officials say they will provide a list of their names by Friday to the American Civil Liberties Union.”

-- But the ACLU says the administration has not allowed the organization’s lawyers to verify the reunifications. From Politico’s Ian Kullgren: “Immigration officials broke a promise to notify attorneys when and where each reunification would take place, the ACLU said, and to allow third parties to witness them. Instead, the ACLU said, authorities ‘only provided a general prediction,’ making the reunifications impossible to confirm.”

-- Republicans believe they can use to their advantage a bill proposed by House Democrats to abolish ICE, and they may schedule it for a vote in an effort to divide the Democratic caucus. Mike DeBonis reports: “[Paul Ryan] told reporters Thursday that the bill showed that Democrats are ‘out of the mainstream of America.’ ‘This is the agency that gets gangs out of our communities, that helps prevent drugs from flowing into our schools, that rescues people from human trafficking,’ Ryan said. ‘They want to get rid of this agency? It’s the craziest position I’ve ever seen.’ The Democrats sponsoring the bill were quick to point out that abolishing ICE would not mean ending all immigration enforcement: The bill sets up a bipartisan commission that would consider how to reassign its responsibilities to other federal organs.”

-- George W. Bush said he is “disturbed” by the current immigration debate, saying that it “undermines the goodness of America.” “I think it doesn't recognize the valuable contributions that immigrants make to our society. And it obscures the fact — the rhetoric does — that the system is broken and needs to be fixed,” the former president said in response to a question at the Clinton Presidential Center. (CNN)

-- Detaining immigrant children has transformed over the past 10 years into a billion-dollar industry, according to the AP’s Martha Mendoza and Larry Fenn. “[HHS] grants for shelters, foster care and other child welfare services for detained unaccompanied and separated children soared from $74.5 million in 2007 to $958 million in 2017. The agency is also reviewing a new round of proposals amid a growing effort by the White House to keep immigrant children in government custody. Currently, more than 11,800 children, from a few months old to 17, are housed in nearly 90 facilities in 15 states.”


-- Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told lawmakers that trade talks with China had “broken down.” The New York Times’s Alan Rappeport and Jim Tankersley report: “[Mnuchin] suggested it was now up to China to come to the table with concessions. President Trump, speaking in Brussels on Thursday, described the trade talks with China as a ‘nasty’ battle. The Chinese, meanwhile, accused the United States of ‘acting erratically’ and said the administration had ‘blatantly abandoned the consensuses that two sides have reached and insisted on fighting a trade war with China.’ Republicans and Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee showed little patience for Mr. Mnuchin’s answers about the lack of progress, repeatedly pressing him about whether there was a strategy to resolve the trade war and expressing concern that it was starting to hurt parts of the economy.”

-- Republicans fear they will suffer electorally as Trump expands the trade war. Bloomberg News’s Joshua Green writes: “The bulk of punitive tariffs from around the globe falls heavily on Farm Belt and Rust Belt states that went for Trump. Many of the new measures are designed, with almost surgical precision, to harm his supporters. Of the 30 congressional districts hit hardest by Chinese tariffs on U.S. soybeans, 25 are represented by Republicans, five by Democrats — but all 30 voted for Trump. … The longer the trade war goes on, the larger the backlash is likely to be. The question that will preoccupy Republican politicians is how long they’ll have to endure it.”

-- Trump’s trade war with China could have disastrous effects on Michigan’s economy, the New York Times’s Ana Swanson reports. “Over the past several years, Beijing has steadily pumped billions of dollars’ worth of investment into Michigan, buying crumbling factories, building new ones and supporting more than 10,000 jobs in the state. … As Mr. Trump tries to punish China with tariffs and other restrictions, Michigan is caught in the cross hairs, with its ability to remain competitive and develop emerging technologies like autonomous vehicles, robotics and artificial intelligence highly dependent on ties to international markets, including China.”

-- “Trade War With China in Aisle 12,” by the New York Times’s Jim Tankersley: “The administration’s trade fight with China may soon be fought in the aisles of Walmart, Best Buy, REI and Costco. [Trump’s] latest round of proposed tariffs on Chinese goods would finally pull American consumers into an escalating trade war that they have, thus far, mostly watched from a distance. Administration officials took pains in their first batch of Chinese tariffs to largely shield consumers from seeing immediate price increases on products they buy. … But the list of $200 billion worth of products administration officials proposed hitting with tariffs on Tuesday would push up prices at many American retailers. The tariffs would be lower than the previous round … But they include electronics, food, tools, housewares and a wide range of other consumer goods. [And] retail groups say a prolonged trade war could accelerate price increases on a wide range of consumer goods, giving Americans sticker shock on some of their favorite items.”


Paul Manafort's mugshot went viral:

From a CNN reporter:

One historian added a Watergate comparison:

Trump shared a “very nice note” from Kim Jong Un the same day reports emerged that North Korean officials had skipped a meeting with the U.S. military about repatriating troop remains from the Korean War:

A "Morning Joe" host noted this of the failed repatriation meeting:

Trump also retweeted two pictures from a New York Times photographer capturing the president's Europe trip:

Trump's former communications director criticized his comments during the NATO summit:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) of holding a grudge after losing the primary to her:

Crowley responded to his former opponent's criticism:

A pro-Bernie Sanders group came to Ocasio-Cortez's defense:

A Post Capitol Hill reporter provided “proof” that Crowley is not running for office:

Trump endorsed one of his fiercest congressional defenders, who is facing a primary challenge:

From an MSNBC anchor:

From a former spokesman for Obama's Justice Department:

Even a fellow Republican on the committee was critical of one line of questioning:

From a Fox News analyst:

A GOP strategist took a moment to thank the FBI:

Reporters struggled to get a comment from Republican lawmakers after the hearing:

The new NASA administrator visited Israel:

And Stormy Daniels adjusted her performance schedule after her arrest in Ohio:


-- “How to keep going after a mass shooter kills your husband,” by Andrea Chamblee: “The text messages that begin arriving on June 28 end my ordinary life. ‘Where does your husband work?’ ‘What’s happening in Annapolis?’ ‘Have you seen the news?’ My husband, John McNamara, is a reporter for the Capital Gazette. I am at my office, a government agency just outside Washington. I Google. Then I close my laptop and run toward the parking lot.”

-- “Nothing else Melania Trump wears will ever matter again,” by Robin Givhan: “Can there be fashion diplomacy after detonating the nuclear option? After the crude fashion equivalent of throwing up the middle finger? That, after all, is what Mrs. Trump did in June when she flew off on a humanitarian mission to visit detained migrant children wearing a fast-fashion jacket inscribed with ‘I Really Don’t Care. Do U?’ … Her disaffection was writ large as she walked across the tarmac in clear view of photographers. She didn’t aim her disdain with the precision of a sniper. She sprayed everything within range with scorn. How does a de facto diplomat recover from such rhetorical carnage?”

-- “ ‘What a crazy country’: Trump makes being a D.C. tour guide a tough gig,” by Steve Hendrix: “It started, as it often does, when the D.C. Nation Tours bus passed the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House. … Some groups have erupted in boos when passing the Trump-emblazoned hotel, while others have nearly emptied the souvenir carts of Make America Great Again caps. It falls to beleaguered tour guides to keep peace on the bus during a broiling, roiling tourist season.”

-- “Abuse, neglect and a system that failed: The tragic lives of the Hart children,” by Joe Heim and Julie Tate: “Programs designed to protect children ushered six siblings to their deaths — and no one has been held accountable since their adoptive mother drove them off a cliff.”

-- National Review, “Battle of the Chesapeake,” by Alexandra Desanctis: “In late June, John Whitbeck, chairman of the Republican party of Virginia since 2015, resigned his post with little explanation. … For the GOP in Virginia, Whitbeck’s departure was the latest in a string of troubling events that have called into question whether the state — long considered one of the most significant swing states in the country — can remain winnable for Republicans during and after the presidency of Donald Trump. … Mike Murphy, a longtime GOP political consultant, says: ‘The state is turning blue, and the Republicans are responding to that by turning crazy.’”

-- New York Times, “[The] Story of the Thailand Cave Rescue,” by Hannah Beech, Richard C. Paddock and Muktita Suhartono: “It took plastic cocoons and anti-anxiety pills, bravery and providence, to save the soccer team. … ‘So many things could have gone wrong,’ said one official."


“ ‘Roe v. Wade’ Movie Crew Member Assaulted Reporter,’ ” from the Daily Beast: “A crew member of a controversial anti-abortion movie stole my notes while I reported from a shooting location in Washington, D.C., on Thursday morning. It was the latest embarrassment for the production of the movie, entitled Roe v. Wade. … Some crew members were also kept in the dark about cameos from conservative provocateurs Tomi Lahren and Milo Yiannopoulos. [Shortly after cameras began rolling on Thursday], a man later identified by police as a member of the crew came over … and grabbed my notepad out of my hand by force. … A Park Police officer eventually stopped the man, who slipped the notes into his bag and claimed he didn’t have them. He eventually surrendered the notes to the officer after being searched.”



“Obama Loses 2 Million Followers in Twitter’s Crackdown on Fake Accounts,” from the Daily Beast: “Obama lost more than 2 million Twitter followers on Thursday as the social-networking platform launched a new crackdown on fake accounts, according to a preliminary analysis … At press time, the Twitter purge had cost Obama 2,346,119 followers, or more than two percent of his audience on the site. With more than 101 million remaining followers, Obama remains the third most-followed person on the site, a few million followers behind singers Katy Perry and Justin Bieber. Other major political accounts were also hit by the purge, with President Trump losing 325,038 followers so far, a 0.7-percent decrease. As the first day of the Twitter purge wrapped up, Trump had more than 53 million followers left.”



Trump is still in Britain. He will hold a joint news conference with Theresa May and later have tea with Queen Elizabeth II before traveling to his resort in Turnberry, Scotland, for the weekend.


“Why would anyone want to discard an Air Force One design that evokes more than a half-century of American history? … Every time you see that blue trim and the words 'UNITED STATES OF AMERICA' spelled out in that same typeface as an early version of the Declaration of Independence, it brings back JFK landing in Germany to speak at the Berlin Wall … Ronald Reagan stepping off the plane to see Gorbachev … and a thousand other scenes of Presidents in our past.” —  Presidential historian Michael Beschloss, after hearing that Trump wants to redesign Air Force One to look “more American.” (Axios)



-- It will be quite hot in the District today, but without the extreme humidity we’ve been getting recently. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Typical July heat with mid-80s to around 90 degrees. Dew points may dip below 60 degrees, keeping our heat index around the same reading as the air temperature! Not too many clouds to speak of, but a few.”

-- The Nationals beat the Mets 5-4. (Chelsea Janes)

-- Leaders of Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration apologized for a system glitch that affected up to 80,000 voters ahead of last month’s primary. Rachel Chason reports: “Christine Nizer, head of the MVA, described an error-riddled process that began with a programming mistake made by a contract employee in April 2017 and culminated with officials’ announcement on the eve of the election that as many as 80,000 voters — nearly quadruple the amount estimated days before — were affected by the error and would have to file provisional ballots. ‘I am personally sorry,’ said Nizer, who testified before lawmakers in a joint committee hearing in Annapolis. ‘Clearly, we failed in this case.’”

-- The D.C. Council approved a bill banning the practice of suspending drivers' licenses if they have unpaid parking tickets. From Reis Thebault: “The District joins a handful of jurisdictions that have rejected a practice deemed discriminatory against the poor. The decades-old policy has affected thousands of D.C. drivers each year.”

-- D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser issued her first-ever veto on legislation meant to allow chronically absent high school seniors in the District to graduate. Bowser said the bill, which was aimed at helping students who were negatively affected after school officials started enforcing long-ignored attendance policies, sent “an inconsistent message” about the District’s attempts to promote school attendance. (Fenit Nirappil)


NBC News has released a portion of the harrowing video that helped spark an investigation into former Ohio State wrestling doctor Richard Strauss, who has been accused of sexually abusing multiple athletes. The video contains testimony from two former wrestlers, who described Strauss’s behavior, and the school's inaction, as a “cesspool of sexual deviance”: 

In one of many heated moments from the Strzok hearing, the FBI agent called out Trump's “horrible, disgusting behavior” during the campaign when he criticized a Gold Star family:

Mitch McConnell brushed off reports about the Supreme Court nominee accumulating tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt:

Protesters gathered at the British palace where Trump attended a gala dinner for his state visit:

Protesters gathered at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire July 12 to protest President Trump’s Britain trip. Trump attended a black-tie dinner there that evening. (Video: Reuters)