With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: The chairman of the Republican Party in Belmont County, Ohio, resigned in protest on Monday after President Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
I remain a proud conservative and Republican, but I resigned today as Belmont Co Ohio GOP Chairman. I did so as a matter of conscience, and my sense of duty.— Chris Gagin (@cgagin) July 16, 2018
The President is entitled to GOP party leaders, at all levels, fully committed to his views and agenda. Following today’s press conference with Pres. Putin, as well as certain policy differences, most especially on trade, I could no longer fulfill that duty. Thus, I resigned.— Chris Gagin (@cgagin) July 16, 2018
Former congressman Joe Walsh, a Republican from Illinois who has previously supported the president, called the surreal 46-minute news conference in Helsinki “the final straw for me.”
Look, I'm no big deal, but today is the final straw for me. I will never support Trump again. If that makes me a NeverTrumper, so be it.— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) July 16, 2018
I am a tea party conservative, that will never change. But Trump was a traitor to this country today. That must not be accepted.
They are among the exceptions. Many elected Republicans expressed disappointment as Trump flew back to Washington from Finland, but it remains unclear whether they will actually take any action to tie his hands or prod him to change course when it comes to the Kremlin. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for example, has refused to allow a vote on a bill that could protect special counsel Robert Mueller III, a target of Trump’s ire during the news conference.
The most outspoken critics of the president on Monday were conservatives who were already Never Trumpers or retiring members of Congress who have little or nothing to lose. In 2016, Trump boasted: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” Here's the question: If they’ve backed him through the “Access Hollywood” tape, the false moral equivalency after Charlottesville and the forced separations of families at the southern border, what would make this time different?
Those who have had his back — in hopes of securing tax cuts and making the Supreme Court more conservative — show no signs of abandoning him, even as they distance themselves from his comments.
Fox News Sean Hannity said the Republicans who criticized Trump’s handling of Putin are not true conservatives. “These Republicans have been so pathetically weak, they have been so feckless, they have been so visionless, they have been so uninspiring, they can’t keep the simplest of promises, and the only reason that there’s not a massive blue wave developing … is because Donald Trump has single-handedly dragged them all kicking and screaming,” Hannity said on his radio show, according to the Washington Examiner.
Monday’s spectacle offered another data point that Trump was correct: The Fifth Avenue Republicans appear to be holding. Just like when he defended Nazi sympathizers in Charlottesville during a dispute over Confederate statues last summer by noting that counterprotesters were also violent, Trump again engaged in both-sides-ism when asked if he blames Russia for attempting to undermine American democracy. “I hold both countries responsible,” he said, “and I think we’re all to blame.”
The cover of today’s New York Daily News depicts Trump shooting Uncle Sam on Fifth Avenue:
Front page of the New York Daily News for Tuesday: "OPEN TREASON" pic.twitter.com/f1IdjYk6g8— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) July 17, 2018
-- Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), considering a Republican primary challenge against Trump in 2020, said Trump’s presser was “depressing” and “really unlike anything we’ve seen in my lifetime.” But he added that he knows most Republicans probably won’t feel that way or won’t do something about it. “A president of the United States saying, ‘You know, I kind of believe a former KGB agent over our intelligence community,’” Kasich told Robert Costa. “I’m wondering what the congressional impact will be, what the reaction of his base will be. It has seemed that regardless of what he says, they stay with him. We will have to wait and see.”
-- Most national GOP leaders who weighed in expressed confidence in the consensus of the intelligence community but stopped short of criticizing Trump for his comments on foreign soil. “He’s president of the United States; he is the choice of the voters,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), the No. 2 Republican, told reporters.
“At the Capitol on Monday, [McConnell] declined to respond to a reporter’s questions about whether he was disappointed with Trump’s statements,” Michael Scherer reports. He would only say, “As I have said repeatedly, the Russians are not our friends, and I entirely agree with the assessment of our intelligence community.”
“The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally,” House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement.
-- Senate GOP leaders are discussing a resolution that would endorse the intelligence community findings that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, according to Fox’s Chad Pergram. The specifics are unknown, but this could put every member on the record without formally rebuking Trump.
-- On Twitter this morning, Trump thanked Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for defending him:
Thank you @RandPaul, you really get it! “The President has gone through a year and a half of totally partisan investigations - what’s he supposed think?”— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 17, 2018
-- To be sure, many Trump supporters are mad. But there’s no indication of a real rupture in support. Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House whose wife serves as Trump’s ambassador to the Vatican, called it “the most serious mistake of his presidency.”
President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin. It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected—-immediately.— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) July 16, 2018
Tweets by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) epitomize the caution. “This answer by President Trump will be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness and create far more problems than it solves,” Graham tweeted. He called for congressional hearings to explore whether Russia and Iran are working together in Syria. Later, he posted another follow-up tweet to emphasize that he’s seen no evidence of collusion between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign: “Russia didn’t beat Clinton. Trump beat Clinton.”
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), daughter of the former vice president, was one of several GOP lawmakers who pronounced herself “deeply troubled”:
As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I am deeply troubled by President Trump’s defense of Putin against the intelligence agencies of the U.S. & his suggestion of moral equivalence between the U.S. and Russia. Russia poses a grave threat to our national security.— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) July 16, 2018
-- Veterans of the intelligence community and the military expressed alarm.
Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana who was appointed to his job by Trump, released a statement distancing himself from Trump’s comments: “The role of the Intelligence Community is to provide the best information and fact-based assessments possible for the President and policymakers,” Coats said. “We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.”
Rep. Will Hurd (R-Tex.), a former CIA agent who is up for reelection in a district Hillary Clinton carried by four points, leveled some of the strongest criticism:
I've seen Russian intelligence manipulate many people over my professional career and I never would have thought that the US President would become one of the ones getting played by old KGB hands.— Rep. Will Hurd (@HurdOnTheHill) July 16, 2018
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), battling brain cancer, called the Helsinki summit “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory”: “No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant,” said McCain, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. “The damage inflicted by President Trump’s naivete, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake. President Trump proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin. He and Putin seemed to be speaking from the same script as the president made a conscious choice to defend a tyrant against the fair questions of a free press, and to grant Putin an uncontested platform to spew propaganda and lies to the world.”
From the senator's daughter (and a host of “The View”):
I don’t have anything quippy to tweet. I’m horrified - and have never been more proud of the fact that Putin hates my father so much he personally sanctioned him on Russia’s enemies list.— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) July 16, 2018
This is hands down the worst day of the entire Trump presidency. A dark day for any patriot who is a defender of freedom and democracy. I should be less shocked but somehow I still am.— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) July 16, 2018
-- As always, the most critical Republican lawmakers of Trump are the ones who have announced their retirements at the end of this Congress.
“I would guess he’s having caviar right now,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said of Putin.
From Arizona’s retiring junior senator:
I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression. This is shameful.— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) July 16, 2018
From Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), a retiring member of the House Intelligence Committee:
I strongly disagree w/ statement that Russia did not meddle in 2016 election. With all I have seen on House Intel Comm & additional indictments of 12 Russian officers last week, it is clear Russia's intentions. President Trump missed opportunity to hold Putin publicly accountable— Frank LoBiondo (@RepLoBiondo) July 16, 2018
From Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), a retiring member of the Foreign Affairs Committee:
No, @POTUS. Mueller investigation on election manipulation by #Russia is not “a disaster for our country.” It is law enforcement doing work our country needs it to do. What has “kept us apart” is failure to condemn Russia, lack of any sign that you’ll stop it from happening again https://t.co/M6R3vC8fuK— Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (@RosLehtinen) July 16, 2018
-- Many Never Trump Republicans more forcefully critiqued the president:
From a former chairman of the Republican National Committee:
"My people came to me...they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this, I don't see any reason why it would be."— Michael Steele (@MichaelSteele) July 16, 2018
That's how a press conference sounds when an Asset stands next to his Handler.
From a GOP strategist:
Let me tell you, if Barack Obama had said the crap Trump said today there would already be 10, 000 hypercaustic elected Republican press releases, Facebook posts, and tweets. There would be a hundred calls for impeachment by close of business today.— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) July 16, 2018
From another Republican strategist:
If you’re an American, if you’re a Republican, and you’re not disgusted by Trump’s undermining of US Intellegence Agencies, his dismissal of Russia’s cyber-terrorism against our democratic institutions, and his deference to the murderous Russian leader, YOU ARE A CULT MEMBER.— Ana Navarro (@ananavarro) July 16, 2018
From a House Republican who represents Michigan:
A person can be in favor of improving relations with Russia, in favor of meeting with Putin, and still think something is not right here.— Justin Amash (@justinamash) July 16, 2018
-- Will anyone in the administration resign? At least this morning, it seems unlikely. After Charlottesville, some thought Gary Cohn might step down as the president’s chief economic adviser. He stuck it out. Trump’s tariffs wound up being his final straw.
This tweet from the daughter of Trump’s ambassador to Russia raised eyebrows:
No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus.— Abby Huntsman (@HuntsmanAbby) July 16, 2018
-- Keep an eye on Mitt Romney. He called Russia our No. 1 geopolitical foe as the GOP nominee for president in 2012. Last month, he won the Republican primary for Senate in Utah. He faces no serious opposition in the general. So he may become empowered to speak up on foreign policy:
My statement on today's summit in Helsinki. pic.twitter.com/WSxFGDKMau— Mitt Romney (@MittRomney) July 16, 2018
-- A Cook Political Report editor made this point:
To some extent, the focus on the "Blue Wave" has overshadowed an equally important 2018 trend: the slow, steady purge of Trump skeptics from the GOP owing to 1) retirements 2) primary losses 3) Nov. losses.— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) July 16, 2018
*except in Utah.
-- Prominent Democrats openly said the Russians must have kompromat on Trump. “President Trump’s weakness in front of Putin was embarrassing, and proves that the Russians have something on the president, personally, financially or politically,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on his GOP colleagues to do four things, per John Wagner: “Ratchet up sanctions against Russia; end their attacks on the FBI, Justice Department and Bob Mueller; invite Trump’s national security team to testify before Congress about preparations for the summit with Putin; and push the president to call on Putin to extradite the 12 military intelligence officers who were indicted last week on charges they hacked Democrats’ computers, stole their data and published those files to disrupt the 2016 election.”
From a former senior adviser to Obama:
Things Republicans could do instead of send sad tweets— Dan Pfeiffer (@danpfeiffer) July 16, 2018
1. Pass legislation to protect the Mueller investigation
2. Subpoena Trump's tax and business records to see what leverage Russia may have on him
3. Pass a tougher sanctions law that doesn't let Trump wriggle out of them
WASHINGTON POST TEAM COVERAGE:
-- “Trump defies advisers in embrace of Putin,” by Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey and Carol D. Leonnig: “Ahead of the meeting, staffers provided Trump with some 100 pages of briefing materials aimed at laying out a tough posture toward Putin, but the president ignored most of it, according to one person familiar with the discussions … Trump’s remarks were ‘very much counter to the plan,’ the person said. ‘Everyone around Trump’ was urging him to take a firm stance with Putin, according to a second person familiar with the preparations. Before Monday’s meeting, the second person said, advisers covered matters from Russia’s annexation of Crimea to its interference in the U.S. elections, but Trump ‘made a game-time decision’ to handle the summit his way …
“Signs that things might not go according to plan were evident during the two days Trump spent holed up at his luxury seaside golf resort in Turnberry, Scotland. The president spent much of the weekend ‘growling,’ in the words of one White House official, over the Justice Department’s indictment Friday of 12 Russian intelligence officials for interfering in the 2016 election. He fretted that the release of the indictments just before the meeting could hurt him politically … Trump had grown frustrated that his own government had been so negative about meeting with Putin and wanted a one-on-one meeting so it would not leak, aides said. One senior White House official described Trump’s public remarks as striking a deliberately ‘contrarian’ tone.”
-- “Trump hands Putin a diplomatic triumph,” by Philip Rucker, Anton Troianovski and Seung Min Kim: “Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the summit ‘fabulous’ and ‘better than super,’ according to Russian news agencies, while Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was snickering with exuberance as he watched the news conference from the sidelines.”
-- “Trump repudiates U.S. intelligence community by according equal weight to Putin,” by Greg Miller and Shane Harris: “U.S. officials had only days earlier released some of the most detailed intelligence on Russia that America’s spies have ever allowed the public to see: information on bitcoin deposits, names of cyber-operatives even a description of a keyboard used to hack the 2016 U.S. election campaign. Then the nation’s top intelligence official warned that Russia’s cyber-intrusions were not only real but have continued unabated. None of it has been enough to persuade President Trump to believe his government over the claims of the Kremlin. … Questioned about Russia’s attack, Trump said, ‘I don’t see any reason why’ Moscow would have even attempted to intervene in the 2016 campaign. … Current and former U.S. officials were staggered by the spectacle, with some accusing Trump of having crossed a line into betrayal of his country.”
-- “The facts missing from Trump and Putin’s news conference,” by Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly: “Overwhelming evidence shows that Russia orchestrated a campaign of cyber-espionage and propaganda to interfere in the U.S. presidential election in 2016. The U.S. intelligence community, the Department of Justice, and the House and Senate intelligence committees have all arrived at this conclusion.”
-- “Trump slammed Angela Merkel over a pipeline from Russia. But with Putin, he demurred,” Dino Grandoni notes in the Energy 202.
-- “Putin did not explicitly deny that Russia has compromising information about Trump or his family,” Rosalind S. Helderman reports. “Instead, he offered a winding response about how little he knew of Trump’s travels to Russia. Putin said that he ‘did hear these rumors’ about Russia collecting compromising material on Trump. But, he said, ‘when President Trump visited Moscow back then, I didn’t even know that he was in Moscow.’ … However, Russian government officials — including Putin’s top spokesman — knew Trump was in Moscow in November 2013 to host the Miss Universe pageant and were told about the real estate developer’s eagerness to meet with Putin while he was there, according to people familiar with the conversations who have recounted them to congressional investigators. Trump had also visited Russia to explore the possibility of building a Trump Tower in Moscow on several previous occasions. Russia is known to collect information on foreign government officials and business leaders through surveillance at hotels and other locations.”
-- “Fox News’s Chris Wallace gives Putin the grilling Trump won’t,” by Aaron Blake: “The host on Trump’s favorite cable channel jousted ably with the Russian president — despite the use of interpreters — in an interview airing Monday night. He pressed Putin on the questions Trump has played off, including during Monday’s news conference with Putin in Helsinki. The interview turned heated at points, with Wallace clearly frustrated by Putin’s trademark filibustering and Putin clearly frustrated by a journalist actually challenging him.
“Perhaps the most notable exchange came toward the end, when Wallace probed Putin on why many of his critics wind up dead or near death. Putin, rather remarkably, compared these alleged assassinations to the assassinations of Americans such as President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1960s. He blamed ‘side effects’ of his country’s ‘maturing’ process. He even defended himself by saying his foes do ‘not always’ end up as casualties.
“At another tense point early in the interview, Wallace produced a copy of [the] indictments of 12 Russian military intelligence officers … detailed it briefly, and Putin began smirking — which Wallace noted. Then Wallace offered it to Putin, and Putin froze for a moment. Rather than accept the documents, he told Wallace to set them on the small table between them.
“Wallace tried to keep Putin on topic, and Putin kept suggesting he wasn’t being heard. A sampling of Putin’s responses: “I will get to it. Just have a little bit of patience. Then you will get a full answer to your question. … This is utterly ridiculous. … If you will have some patience, you will hear the entire response. … If you don’t like my answer, you can give it to me straightway, and I’ll just keep silent. And if you want Americans to listen to my opinion, could you please wait for a little bit? … Well, let me finish. Just let me finish. Well, you’re trying to drive, but I will finish.”
-- “Responding to a question … about interference in the 2016 election, [Putin] distilled his worldview: ‘You can’t believe anyone.’ For once, Putin had a Western leader standing next to him who rejects his critics in the same way,” Anton Troianovski reports: “[B]eyond Putin’s tactical gains, the Helsinki meeting highlighted the global ascendance of Putin’s ruthless approach to politics and to facts — the posture that any truth can be an illusion, that any journalist or public servant is likely pursuing an ulterior motive. That worldview, driven for years by state-controlled television in Russia and by Russian officials led by Putin himself, has long helped the former KGB agent consolidate power at home and buck Western criticism of his regime. It has driven Russia’s international influence efforts, such as on the airwaves of pro-Kremlin television network RT.
“Putin can use the boost. Despite the triumph of the just-ended soccer World Cup in Russia, Putin faces head winds at home because of his government’s plan to raise the retirement age. The president has seen his domestic approval rating slide to 49 percent this month from close to 70 percent earlier this year, according to the FOM polling institute, showing that the wave of patriotism that boosted Putin in the wake of the Crimea annexation in 2014 may not be enough to secure his popularity.”
-- “The moment called for Trump to stand up for America. He chose to bow,” by Dan Balz: “On a day when the setting called for a show of strength and resolve from an American president, Trump instead offered deference, defensiveness, equivocation and weakness. If anyone can recall a performance by a U.S. president that rivaled the one seen around the world Monday, let them come forward. … That’s not to say it will fundamentally change the course of his presidency, given the fluidity of events, the reality that attention spans are short and the probability of more shocks from various directions that will put the focus elsewhere.
“Nothing much changes minds about the president, and this trip and Monday’s news conference might not, either. But as a reportable moment, as a measure of character and leadership, what the world witnessed will help to shape ultimate judgments about Trump. Time and again, in the face of strong and direct questions by two American reporters, Jeff Mason of Reuters and Jonathan Lemire of the Associated Press, the president refused to stand up for the country he was elected to represent and protect. … If the president’s comments in Helsinki reflect his true thinking, if he sees the United States as being as responsible for poor relations with Russia as the Russians are, if he is not willing to stand behind the intelligence agencies sworn to protect this country, what exactly does ‘America First’ really mean?”
HOW IT’S PLAYING:
- The Post’s Editorial Board: “Trump just colluded with Russia. Openly.”
- Anne Applebaum: “Trump has just composed the most elaborate thank-you note in history.”
- Dana Milbank: “We are a deeply stupid country.”
- Eugene Robinson: “Trump is a Putin fanboy. Someday we’ll know why.”
- Aaron Blake: “Trump’s news conference with Putin was everything Putin could have dreamed.”
- David Ignatius: “‘Who do you believe?’ a reporter asked Trump. His answer was stunning.”
- Ruth Marcus: “If you work for Trump, quit now.”
- Greg Sargent: “Trump is now repaying Putin for helping him win the presidency.”
- The New Yorker’s Joshua Yaffa: “An Easy Win for Putin in Helsinki.”
- The New York Times’s Michelle Goldberg: “Trump Shows the World He’s Putin’s Lackey.”
- USA Today: “Friends or foes? Trump's embrace of Putin prompts backlash.”
- AP: “Trump's 'America First' morphs into 'Me First.'”
- The Atlantic’s Quinta Jurecic: “Trump said nothing new in Helsinki — but his remarks clarified and distilled into a single frame his appalling disregard for an assault on America.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Bryce Harper won the Home Run Derby in dramatic fashion last night. Jorge Castillo reports: “The baseball universe had converged on Washington, and the city’s beloved slugger put on a show. Swinging a bat emblazoned with the American flag and with his father, Ron, pitching to him, Harper delivered the resounding performance the 43,698 people in attendance wanted. He mashed his way through two rounds before hitting nine home runs on 10 swings in a 90-second span to tie Kyle Schwarber in regulation in the final, then passed him with a blast to straightaway center field during bonus time to claim his first career Home Run Derby title, 19-18.”
-- The All-Star Game is tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern at Nationals Park. Max Scherzer will be the NL’s starting pitcher. He’ll face Chris Sale of the Red Sox, who is again the American League’s starting pitcher.
GET SMART FAST:
- At least 23 people were injured near the site of a Hawaiian volcano, after it sent a basketball-sized “lava bomb” crashing through the roof of a tour boat. (Eli Rosenberg)
A government watchdog group filed a complaint against the first lady’s spokeswoman for allegedly using her official Twitter account to conduct political activity. Stephanie Grisham tweeted last week to celebrate her three-year anniversary of joining the Trump team. The message contained a picture from a 2015 Trump campaign rally and his campaign slogan, which Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) claimed ran afoul of the Office of Special Counsel’s guidance on the Hatch Act. (Michelle Ye Hee Lee)
A City Council candidate in St. Paul, Minn., was arrested for posting “revenge porn” of his wife on his campaign website. David Martinez allegedly posted a topless photo of his wife, who has accused Martinez of physical abuse and was recently granted a restraining order against him. (Erin B. Logan)
- Amazon’s Prime Day was weighed down by worker strikes and a website crash. The company’s site and app both crashed shortly after the sale kicked off at 3 p.m. yesterday, while nearly 1,800 Amazon workers in Spain went on strike to protest for better working conditions, pay and health benefits. (Abha Bhattarai)
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is investigating Uber over a gender inequity complaint. The commission launched the probe last August and has been interviewing former and current Uber employees about hiring practices and pay disparities. (Wall Street Journal)
- Tesla shares fell 3 percent as investors expressed concern about chief executive Elon Musk’s latest Twitter fight, in which he accused a Thai cave rescuer of being a pedophile without evidence. Musk’s baseless allegation came just four days after one of Tesla’s biggest shareholders recommended “a time of quiet and peace.” (Drew Harwell)
- Apple and Google made money from an app promoting an offshoot of the “Pizzagate” conspiracy theory for months. The app, called “QDrops,” has lingered at the top of Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store. It sends users updates on a conspiracy theory called Qanon, which also centers on the falsehood that Hillary Clinton ran a child sex trafficking ring out of a D.C. pizza shop. Apple removed the app from its app store on Sunday. (NBC News)
- Papa John’s founder John Schnatter was kicked out of his office at the pizza chain’s Louisville headquarters. The company also announced that Schnatter, who resigned from his role as chairman of the board last week after admitting to using the n-word during a conference call, would “cease all media appearances, and not make any further statements to the media regarding the company, its business or employees.” (CNN)
- A new study found that patients at urgent care clinics are being prescribed antibiotics to treat conditions that do not require them, such as the cold or flu. And researchers found patients at the walk-in clinics are also being prescribed those antibiotics three times as often as patients in traditional doctors’ offices. (Lena H. Sun)
- Southwest Airlines said it will begin serving pretzels instead of peanuts on all its flights beginning Aug. 1, moving to phase out its signature snack since many people have severe peanut allergies. (Andrea Sachs)
- After an Indonesian man was killed last week by a crocodile, mourning townspeople gathered rudimentary weapons — and then slaughtered nearly 300 of the giant reptiles in an act of violent, bloody revenge. In video footage, outraged villagers can be seen hacking at the animals with hoes and machetes, despite the dozens of police officers that attempted, in vain, to stop the mass slaughter. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
Blackened crumbs discovered at an ancient stone building in the Middle East indicated people were baking bread thousands of years earlier than previously known. The food scraps were estimated to be about 14,400 years old, which would place them roughly 4,000 years before the dawn of agriculture. (Ben Guarino)
THERE'S (STILL) A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Russian national Maria Butina was charged in the District on Monday with conspiracy to act as an agent of Russia — including by building ties with NRA leadership and other conservative political organizations. Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Jackman and Devlin Barrett report: “Butina is accused of trying to cultivate relationships with American politicians to establish ‘back channel’ lines of communication and seeking to infiltrate U.S. political groups … to advance Russia’s agenda. The case, which is not part of the special counsel investigation … lays out the strongest allegations to date of American involvement in Russia’s influence operations. Butina was allegedly assisted in her efforts by a U.S. political operative who helped introduce her to influential political figures. That person … is not named in court papers, but the description matches that of Paul Erickson, a GOP consultant who sought to organize a meeting between then-candidate Donald Trump and Alexander Torshin, Butina’s Russian colleague and a former Russian senator, at a May 2016 NRA convention.
“In an affidavit filed with the court, FBI Special Agent Kevin Helson outlined a two-year alleged effort by Butina to penetrate and influence the U.S. political system for Russia’s benefit by building ties to the American conservative movement . . . A former furniture store owner from Siberia … Butina was the first to publicly quiz [Trump] about his views on Russia when she asked him a question at a town hall in July 2015. She also briefly met Donald Trump Jr. [at an NRA convention]. Court filings … [also recounted her attendance at the] National Prayer Breakfast … After attending the event, [Butina] wrote to an organizer to offer ‘important information for you to further this new relationship’ with Russia, according to court filings. … Over the weekend, law enforcement officials became increasingly concerned that Butina appeared to be planning to leave the Washington area . . . Investigators were concerned such a trip could pose operational challenges for their work and decided to make an arrest[.]”
-- The gun-safety group founded by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords blasted the NRA in a statement, saying Butina’s arrest “raises serious questions about whose interests the gun lobby is advancing in our democracy.” “Congress must get to the bottom of whether the NRA used Russian money in its record-breaking 2016 election spending to advance its priorities,” said the group’s director, Peter Ambler. “As a criminal investigation continues to produce indictments that show Russia meddled in our democracy, the NRA owes their members a detailed explanation on who they helped and what they did.”
-- Although this case would have almost certainly been under Robert Mueller’s jurisdiction, the fact that he chose to leave it to the Justice Department highlights the careful discipline he has taken in the Russia probe. From the Lawfare Blog: “These decisions reflect discipline and modesty on Mueller’s part; he is not building an investigative empire the way Kenneth Starr did, to Starr’s own great cost. And they have a very happy collateral effect: They significantly reduce the potential consequences of a Mueller firing. If Trump were to fire Rod Rosenstein or Mueller or both in a fit of pique tomorrow, the Michael Cohen investigation would continue. This prosecution would continue. The Russian hacking indictment has been passed to the [Justice Department's National Security Division]. There is no investigative Fort Knox here that the president can easily disrupt. He cannot fire his way to impunity any longer — if he ever could.”
-- Walter Pincus says he expects more indictments soon in his column for Cipher Brief: "[T]he Mueller team has yet to disclose what they have learned from three already-known key witnesses — Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn. It's got to be highly relevant to the investigation because all three have earned reduced jeopardy for crimes to which they each have pleaded guilty.”
-- Several Russians participated in the January 2017 Seychelles meetings being investigated by Mueller’s team, which was attended by Trump ally and Blackwater founder Erik Prince. The Star-Ledger's Erin Banco reports: “[Much] speculation has centered on one particular meeting between [Prince] and Kirill Dmitriev, the director of one of Russia's sovereign wealth funds; and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan [of the UAE]. Participants of other meetings that week … which focused generally on Syria, energy and sanctions, hailed from Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and the U.S. … Sources say several Russians participated in meetings on the need for the lifting of U.S. sanctions to facilitate trade. … It's unclear how many representatives from each country attended the meetings[.] But new information points to more than 10 Russians, some linked to the Kremlin, participating in discussions.
“[Earlier reports stated that an] aircraft linked to the Russian government landed in the Seychelles the day before Prince allegedly met with Dmitriev . . . The Russian plane in question departed from Moscow, stopped in Dubai, and landed in the Seychelles … one day before Prince arrived[.] That same plane … returned to the island days later and departed Jan. 19 with a total of 16 passengers. The World Economic Forum began Jan. 20 in Switzerland. Two individuals … said several of the [passengers] who flew out on Jan. 19 participated directly in meetings that focused on international trade and sanctions.”
-- The wife of George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign aide who pleaded guilty in October to lying to FBI agents in connection with the Russia probe, said she has agreed to testify before the House Intelligence Committee tomorrow. CBS News’s Olivia Gazis reports: “[Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos, a] 33-year-old self-described lawyer, model and actress … indicated she would pay her own way to travel to Washington, D.C. from Chicago, where she and her husband reside, to overcome a snag over the reimbursement of her travel expenses. Disagreement over the costs of her travel last week appeared to divide the committee's Republican and Democrat factions, and momentarily derailed plans for her testimony. Mangiante Papadopoulos will be the second known witness to appear before the committee since the investigation was concluded; Democrats interviewed Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Chris Wylie in April. It is unclear whether Republicans will participate in this interview[.]”
-- Twitter suspended two accounts that Mueller’s team tied to Russian election interference. Hamza Shaban reports: “Mueller’s investigation found that Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks were digital fronts created by [Russian] intelligence officers to launder hacked information. The conspirators used Twitter and other social media platforms in attempts to influence American voters, the indictment says. It links the Twitter accounts @dcleaks_ and @Guccifer_2 to other nefarious activity in the Russian operation, citing a common networking tool and bitcoin address that were tied to Russian hacking and disinformation efforts.”
-- Concord Management and Consulting, the Russian company indicted on a charge of election interference, argued the fraud charge against it should be dropped because it was just supporting free political speech. Tom Jackman reports: “Concord’s lawyers argued Monday in a motion to dismiss the case that the company hadn’t committed any crime. Defense attorneys Eric A. Dubelier and Katherine J. Seikaly noted that American case law and the Justice Department’s own manual on prosecuting election crimes state there must be ‘proof that the defendant was aware that his or her conduct was generally unlawful.’ Concord argued that there is no proof that it knew of laws requiring foreign agents to file reports with the Justice Department or the Federal Election Commission.”
INVESTIGATING THE INVESTIGATORS:
-- Two Trump loyalists on the House Freedom Caucus, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), are urging an investigation into Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who they claim “threatened” congressional aides during a January meeting. Mike DeBonis reports: “[The lawmakers] made the request of Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz on Monday[.] ‘This notion Mr. Rosenstein threatened to use his official investigative powers as Deputy Attorney General to retaliate against rank-and-file staff members for sending written oversight requests raises concerns he has abused his authority in the context of this investigation,’ they wrote. … Members of the Freedom Caucus, particularly Jordan and Meadows, have been among the most persistent critics of the [Mueller probe]. … [And] some of the group’s members have floated the idea of impeaching Rosenstein over what they call a lack of transparency and cooperation[.] [Still], the letter delivered Monday appears to have delayed any impeachment effort for the time being.
The allegations against Rosenstein were first reported last month by Fox News. But Rosenstein flatly denied them during a recent congressional appearance — and seemed slightly amused when Jordan angrily pressed him on whether he threatened “to subpoena [the staffers’] calls and emails. 'No, sir, and there’s no way to subpoena phone calls,' Rosenstein said. Rosenstein also noted that several other law enforcement officials were in the room at the time.”
THE DOMESTIC AGENDA:
-- FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said he has “serious concerns” about Sinclair’s proposed acquisition of Tribune Media — delivering a significant blow to the conservative firm's expansion strategy. Pai said he will send the transaction through a lengthy administrative process that is “often viewed as a deal-killer,” Politico’s Margaret Harding McGill explains: “As originally proposed in May 2017, the $3.9 billion deal would see [Sinclair], already the largest U.S. TV station owner, gobble up 42 Tribune stations in key markets like New York and Chicago, adding to its existing footprint of more than 170 stations … But the regulatory review dragged on for more than a year, as Sinclair revised the deal several times, offering to sell off 21 stations in an effort to gain government approval. Critics took issue with some of the proposed sales, which were so-called sidecar arrangements that would allow Sinclair to keep a stake in the revenue and programming of the spun-off stations … Another two of the sales would have been to a company with close ties to Sinclair. The FCC's decision is a significant blow for Sinclair, which has been a frequent target for Democrats [disturbed] by reports that it favors [Trump] in its coverage via ‘must-run’ segments … It’s also a surprising turn of events for Pai, who was nominated for the agency's top post by Trump.”
-- A federal judge agreed to temporarily halt the Trump administration's speedy deportations of newly reunited immigrant parents and children and will weigh whether to adopt longer-term protections for those families. BuzzFeed News's Zoe Tillman reports: “US District Judge Dana Sabraw's order came in response to arguments by the [ACLU] in recent days that deporting parents and children immediately after they were reunited would not give a parent enough time to decide what was best for their child — to leave the country with the parent or to stay behind to pursue other options, such as asylum claims. The ACLU asked the judge for an order delaying deportations for one week once a family is reunited. Sabraw agreed to a temporary hold while he considers that request in the coming days. At a hearing on Monday, Sabraw slammed the government for a declaration filed Friday by Christopher Meekins, an official with the [DHS], who argued that the judge's reunification order and deadlines could put children in danger of being placed with someone was not actually their parent or who posed some other risk. Sabraw called the government's response ‘exasperating’ and ‘deeply troubling.’”
-- Paul Ryan quashed efforts to force a vote on “abolish ICE” legislation in the House. Politico’s Rachael Bade and Kyle Cheney report: “[Ryan] was concerned … that Democrats wouldn't vote [on the bill] at all, or uniformly oppose it, making Republicans look silly. Last Friday, he told House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) he didn’t want to put the measure … on the floor — even though McCarthy told reporters just hours before that House Republicans would do just that. … Instead, GOP leaders will hold a vote on a bill sponsored by Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) expressing support for ICE, a move McCarthy announced publicly Monday. … GOP leaders now argue that allowing lawmakers to support ICE rather than rebuke it will put Democrats on record in the same manner.”
-- The Trump administration advised lawmakers against lifting budget limits, which could lead to another stopgap spending bill later this year. Politico’s Sarah Ferris and Jennifer Scholtes report: “Top Trump administration officials sent a letter Monday cautioning lawmakers against raising spending caps to accommodate shifts in funding for a popular veterans health program, though they stopped short of threatening a veto. Many Democrats — and some powerful Senate Republicans — are insisting billions of dollars be spent beyond the limit agreed upon in this year’s grand budget deal. The White House’s public stand draws battle lines in the first major showdown ahead of this fall’s funding deadline, endangering congressional efforts to clear updated spending levels before fiscal 2018 cash runs out Sept. 30.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- “The Trump administration is making a renewed push to jump-start peace talks in Afghanistan and is considering restarting direct negotiations with the Taliban, a move that in the past has drawn protests from the Afghan government,” Greg Jaffe and Antonio Olivo report. “U.S. and Afghan officials described the possibility of talks between the United States and the Taliban as being in the early stages. ‘There is renewed attention . . . but no clear negotiating strategy [and] no personnel to carry out real talks,’ said a U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations. The peace effort is being spurred by concerns that the current Afghanistan strategy, approved by President Trump last summer, and the addition of several thousand U.S. troops have not been enough to break the stalemated conflict or reverse Taliban momentum. Meanwhile, a peace effort led by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has been stymied by the Taliban’s refusal to negotiate with the Afghan government. U.S. and Afghan officials described the possibility of one-on-one talks with the Taliban as a way of breaking the logjam.”
-- A U.S. military official said the remains of up to 55 soldiers killed in the Korean War will be repatriated from North Korea in the next two weeks. Adam Taylor reports: “It would be the first time that the remains believed to be U.S. troops have been directly returned by North Korean officials in 13 years. The official … cautioned that the timing and the number of remains could still change. Citing practical difficulties, the official said that 55 was a ‘ballpark’ figure and that it would require further testing by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency to confirm the number.”
-- China has filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization in response to Trump’s plans to place tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. NPR’s Bill Chappell reports: “China says the tariffs are illegal attempts at protectionism. China's Ministry of Commerce announced it is pursuing legal remedy against the U.S. in a brief statement on its website — the latest in an escalating trade conflict between the world's two largest economies.”
-- The Trump administration announced it would also file WTO complaints against China, the European Union, Canada, Mexico and Turkey. From the Wall Street Journal’s Vivian Salama: “[U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s] office said that the other countries’ retaliatory tariffs appear to breach commitments made by WTO members, and added that the tariffs imposed by the U.S. ‘are justified under international agreements the United States and its trading partners have approved.’”
-- British Prime Minister Theresa May tried to look the other way after Trump publicly attacked her. Josh Dawsey reports on her “charm offensive”: “As Trump castigated other NATO leaders in Brussels last week for not spending enough on national defense, [May] sat next to him backing him up. ‘Donald has a point,’ she said, according to two officials with knowledge of the exchange . . . Then came the screaming headline in the Sun tabloid Thursday night: ‘May has wrecked Brexit . . . US deal is off!’ … But U.K. officials pressed on with the charm offensive. … By the end of the trip, May told advisers that it was her best visit yet with Trump, according to officials with knowledge of the meetings … In a rare move after the [Sun] story published, Trump authorized a White House statement praising May that seemed to back off some of the criticisms. May did not want to create a fight over the article, officials said, and it was barely discussed the next day.”
-- “If Trump is itching for a fight, Elizabeth Warren is happy to give it to him,” by Michael Scherer: “No other Democrat seems to get under the president’s skin quite like Warren, 69, or to revel as much in the give and take, a fact chronicled in recent months as the two have exchanged cross-country taunts of ‘Pocahontas’ and ‘bully’ on Twitter and in the media. … The suspense now is whether Warren’s brand of pugilistic populism is what Democratic voters outside of her home state want in their next presidential candidate. … She is not the only one with a fighting spirit in her party, but none of her potential rivals has so identified with bare-knuckle combat, against banks and credit-card companies, Democrats and Republicans.”
-- Another potential 2020 hopeful, former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, spent his weekend in Texas campaigning for a congressional candidate. The Boston Globe’s Annie Linskey reports: “He was ostensibly here on Sunday to buck up volunteers for Colin Allred, the former Tennessee Titans linebacker who is trying to unseat Representative Pete Sessions, a Republican in one of the most closely watched House districts in the country. It was a quick stop on his way to San Antonio, where Patrick gave a keynote speech during a lunch at the NAACP convention on Monday. … This swing through Texas gives Patrick a chance to try out his message of hope and unity and to see if it strikes a chord amid a rancorous political moment in which partisan attacks and arguments reign. It is also to determine whether he’s got the stamina and the desire to spend the next two-plus years traveling the byways of the nation and traversing airports, contending with security hold-ups and flight delays on the path to a Democratic nomination for president.”
-- Alabama will hold its GOP primary runoff today in Rep. Martha Roby’s district. From David Weigel: “[Roby] came to Congress in the 2010 Republican wave but won just 39 percent of the vote in this year’s primary. The reason: Roby had condemned Trump in 2016, after the release of a videotape that caught him bragging about sexual assault, and urged him to ‘step aside and allow a responsible, respectable Republican to lead the ticket.’ … But now the president has backed Roby, and she and her allies claim that she has seen the light.”
-- New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is traveling to Michigan later this month to campaign for gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed. El-Sayed, a former director of Detroit’s health department, is facing off against former state Senate leader Gretchen Whitmer and first-time candidate Shri Thanedar. From David Weigel: “El-Sayed said that bringing Ocasio-Cortez to Michigan would help clarify the stakes in the Aug. 7 primary. The two of them are scheduled to begin their campaign trip in Grand Rapids and continue to Flint and Detroit to highlight how the state’s poorer cities are being served by the state.”
-- Major Trump donor Robert Mercer gave $500,000 to a super PAC backing Kelli Ward in Arizona’s GOP Senate primary. From Politico’s Alex Isenstadt: “Polls have shown Ward, a conservative former state senator, trailing GOP Rep. Martha McSally. … With his latest contribution, [Mercer] has given KelliPAC a total of $800,000 in support of Ward this election cycle. Mercer also funded Ward during the 2016 election season, when she waged an unsuccessful primary challenge against Sen. John McCain.”
-- Several Republican incumbents in Texas are being significantly outraised by their Democratic challengers. The Texas Tribune’s Abby Livingston and Patrick Svitek report: “The numbers only became more striking when compared to their rivals: Some Democratic challengers raised two, three or even four times what their Republican incumbent rivals posted. … Along with [Sen. Ted Cruz], the six congressional incumbents who were outraised are delegation fixtures: U.S. Reps. John Carter of Round Rock, John Culberson of Houston, Will Hurd of Helotes, Pete Olson of Sugar Land, Pete Sessions of Dallas and Roger Williams of Austin.”
-- But a Bloomberg News analysis found Republicans in key House races hold a financial advantage over their Democratic opponents. From Bloomberg News's John McCormick and Bill Allison: “Republicans had more cash-on-hand in 13 of 18 congressional districts where primaries have been held and that are rated as general election tossups by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. … GOP candidates in the 18 districts collectively had $26.6 million in their bank accounts at the end of June, while Democrats have $16 million.”
-- The Treasury Department announced it would no longer require politically active nonprofit groups to disclose their donors. From Reuters: “The policy change, heralded by conservatives as an advance for free speech, maintains donor disclosure requirements for traditional charity groups … The change protects the privacy of wealthy donors of ‘dark money’ donations to politically active groups. Conservatives have complained that the disclosures to the IRS, though not public, were susceptible to media leaks.”
-- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) appears to be undercutting Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous’s campaign promise of free college tuition by offering to expand a community college scholarship program. Ovetta Wiggins and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel report: “On Monday, [Hogan] said graduates of [the College Promise program, which will allow some students to go to community college tuition-free] should be able to also attend four-year public state colleges at no cost. Maryland would become the second state, after New York, to guarantee free tuition for bachelor’s degrees for certain students who meet income and other eligibility requirements. The proposal is one of three initiatives, totaling $386 million over five years, that the governor is pushing to make college more affordable and reduce student debt.”
THE SUPREME COURT:
-- The conservative group Judicial Crisis Network will spend another $1.4 million this week to support Brett Kavanaugh, upping its spending to $3.8 million. The ads will target four Democrats: Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Doug Jones of Alabama.
-- Manchin’s office set up a website and email address to allow constituents to comment on Kavanaugh’s nomination. “As I did when Merrick Garland and Neil Gorsuch were nominated, I am evaluating Judge Kavanaugh’s record, legal qualifications, judicial philosophy and particularly, his views on health care, in particular,” the West Virginia Democrat said in a statement. (West Virginia MetroNews)
-- As Kavanaugh prepares to testify in his confirmation hearing, he could be taken to task for some of his past actions in the George W. Bush White House — including accusations that he misled Congress over his role in crafting controversial, Bush-era detention policies. NBC News’s Alex Seitz-Wald reports: “In 2006, when Kavanaugh was up for confirmation for his [job on] the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, he denied under oath having any involvement in formulating the [terrorism] detainee policy … A media report later cast some doubt on that denial, leading two Democrats … to accuse Kavanaugh of having ‘misled me, the [Judiciary Committee] and the nation,’ as Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., wrote in a 2007 letter … Now, the question is being revived by the lawmakers ahead of the release of reams of new documents that will offer a much wider window into Kavanaugh's work for the Bush White House as it pushed legal boundaries while trying to respond to the threat of terrorism after the Sept. 11 attacks."
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Top elected Democrats suggested that the Russians have compromising material on the president. From the Senate minority leader:
Millions of Americans will continue to wonder if the only possible explanation for this dangerous behavior is the possibility that President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) July 16, 2018
Hillary Clinton answered her own question after the news conference:
From Barack Obama's former chief strategist:
I always resist these comparisons but Trump’s performance today will go down with Neville Chamberlain’s at Munich.— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) July 16, 2018
He just gave aid and comfort to a despot who invaded our elections.
From a writer for the New Yorker:
Just received an email from a senior, currently serving US official in Europe: "It's a dark day for any patriotic American."— Susan Glasser (@sbg1) July 16, 2018
From the former CIA director:
Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???— John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan) July 16, 2018
From the former deputy attorney general, who was fired by Trump:
Our President today not only chose a tyrant over his own Intel community, he chose Russia’s interests over the country he is sworn to protect. All Americans should raise their voices. Let the world know what we stand for.— Sally Yates (@SallyQYates) July 16, 2018
From Obama's former U.S. ambassador to Russia:
After many hours of watching and the commenting on the #Helsinki2018 , my mood has morphed from outrage to sadness. President Trump embarrassed our great country today. He advanced no US national interest. His senior national security advisors enabled that behavior. Sad.— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) July 16, 2018
And lets be clear @realDonaldTrump , you looked weak in the eyes of Putin and the world. Putin respects strength. Ergo...— Michael McFaul (@McFaul) July 16, 2018
Even Trump's former lawyer, who is under federal investigation, distanced himself:
As I said to @ABC @GStephanopoulos, “I respect our nation’s intelligence agencies who determined that Russia, had in fact, interfered or meddled in our democratic process. I repudiate Russia’s effort...and call on all Americans to do the same.”— Michael Cohen (@MichaelCohen212) July 16, 2018
An investigative journalist at Yahoo News noted this of Maria Butina's arrest:
Maria Butina, arrested by FBI on charges she is Russian agent, was first to ask Trump about sanctions. Later, as @DavidCornDC and I write in Russian Roulette, Trump advisors fretted over video of Butina's interaction with the candidate. https://t.co/9WaKnjSojt pic.twitter.com/Z4eDjlD5uO— Michael Isikoff (@Isikoff) July 16, 2018
A presidential historian remembered a Watergate milestone:
Nixon’s secret tapes were revealed to the public 45 years ago tomorrow: pic.twitter.com/h0FAk0QIz3— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) July 16, 2018
-- New York Times, “He Preyed on Men Who Wanted to Be Priests. Then He Became a Cardinal,” by Laurie Goodstein and Sharon Otterman: “Suddenly, last month, [Cardinal Theodore McCarrick] was removed from ministry, after the Archdiocese of New York deemed credible an accusation that he had molested a 16-year-old altar boy nearly 50 years ago. … But while the church responded quickly to the allegation that Cardinal McCarrick had abused a child, some church officials knew for decades that the cardinal had been accused of sexually harassing and inappropriately touching adults, according to interviews and documents.”
-- “The unlikely crime-fighter cracking decades-old murders? A genealogist,” by Justin Jouvenal: “The developments are all the more remarkable because genetic genealogy was not pioneered by the FBI or elite forensic experts but by a loose network of citizen scientists and genealogists like [CeCe Moore] and a professional guardian from Florida, who came up with the idea for a genealogy database available for all to search. But the novel turn to crime-fighting has raised a host of issues: Could the technique finger the wrong person? Who will ensure police use genetic data responsibly? Should authorities rely on a public database that could be hacked or manipulated?”
-- Wall Street Journal, “Whirlpool Wanted Washer Tariffs. It Wasn’t Ready for a Trade Showdown,” by Andrew Tangel and Josh Zumbrun: “Put into practice, tariffs are a complex economic weapon that can ricochet through an economy in ways even proponents don’t expect. That’s what happened with washing machines, which were among the first consumer products targeted by the Trump administration.”
-- “‘Why are you still here?’: Inside the last Blockbuster in America,” by Alex Horton: “A man parked his motorcycle on the sidewalk Saturday morning, ruining the aesthetic of the last remaining Blockbuster in the contiguous United States. ‘You can’t park there,’ general manager Sandi Harding told the man as he walked into the store in Bend, Ore. ‘People are trying to take pictures.’ The man paused for a beat. There was confusion in his response. ‘Trying to take pictures?’ Somehow he had missed the past decade, when Blockbuster the video rental behemoth became Blockbuster the fallen victim of modernity.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Trump launches another birther conspiracy theory — this time about his own dad,” from Aaron Blake: “[Trump] has never been one to just casually accept people's accounts of their birthplaces. Apparently that now extends to his father. Despite his dad being born in the United States to German American parents, Trump has gone around in recent days suggesting — and even outright stating, bizarrely — that Fred Trump was born in Germany. In a new interview … Trump names the European Union as one of America's biggest foes. …. [And] in making that case, Trump sought to emphasize his personal affinity with Europe.” “Maybe the thing that is most difficult — don't forget both my parents were born in E.U. sectors okay?” he said. “I mean, my mother was Scotland, my father was Germany. And — you know I love those countries.” On Thursday, he echoed those claims: “I have great respect for Germany; my father is from Germany,” Trump said.
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“‘Gropey, grabby, disgusting’: Anthony Bourdain unloaded on Bill Clinton and Trump in interview,” from Kyle Swenson: “On Sunday, the online magazine Popula published a long, wide-ranging discussion between the CNN star and journalist Maria Bustillos. The conversation, which happened last February, darts around from Bourdain’s thoughts on usual topics like travel and local customs to his relationship with girlfriend Asia Argento and #MeToo. Bourdain also tackled the current political state, unleashing his thoughts not only President Trump and his supporters, but President Obama and Bill Clinton’s ‘gropey, grabby, disgusting’ behavior surrounding the Monica Lewinsky scandal, particularly looking at the case from the hindsight of the current #MeToo movement. Both Bill and Hillary Clinton, according to Bourdain, were guilty of discrediting the president’s accusers. ‘I would never under any circumstances vote for Bill Clinton today,’ he told Bustillos."
Trump has an afternoon meeting with lawmakers at the White House. He has no other events on his public schedule.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I never saw or imagined so uneven a handover of American security interests and principles with nothing in return . . . It was like watching the destruction of a cathedral.” — Former defense secretary Ash Carter on the Trump-Putin news conference. (Politico’s Bryan Bender)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Washington will see some scattered thunderstorms this afternoon, but they should clear out before the All-Star Game. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Partly to mostly cloudy and muggy as temperatures climb through the 80s during the morning hours. Highs are in the upper 80s to low 90s by early afternoon before showers and thunderstorms scatter around the area. Some of these storms could be strong with gusty winds and maybe a heavy downpour.”
-- The Metro union said it did not intend to “disrupt” the MLB All-Star Game tonight, but officials did not address questions over whether it would strike after the nationally televised event. Faiz Siddiqui and Martine Powers report: “The union’s decision Sunday to authorize a strike capped two years of escalating animosity between Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld and the agency’s workforce, and it threatened to lure the system’s hundreds of thousands of daily commuters into the dispute. Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans said the agency is taking the union’s strike vote seriously and does not view it as an ‘empty threat.’ ‘I think it’s a real, legitimate concern,’ he said.”
-- District officials defended their response to last week’s boil-water advisory. From Fenit Nirappil: “But local lawmakers want to know why city officials did not use two powerful tools at their disposal to directly reach the public last week, leaving many unaware of potential danger in the drinking supply as they brushed their teeth and drank water Friday morning. Officials chose not to issue a wireless alert to cellphones or ‘reverse 911’ calls to landlines, as recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”
-- A shooting in Northeast Washington left a 10-year-old girl dead and four adults injured. The girl was identified as Makiyah Wilson. (Martin Weil)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Late-night hosts mocked Trump for his news conference with Putin:
One C-SPAN caller thanked Russia for interfering in the 2016 presidential election:
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez struggled to answer an interview question about Israel:
Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attacks Israel, calls them the occupiers of Palestine.— Ryan Saavedra 🇺🇸 (@RealSaavedra) July 16, 2018
When pressed on what she meant she struggled to give an answer and then admitted she does not know what she is talking about. pic.twitter.com/e3Uq1eupD3
An anti-ICE protest was held in Washington's Columbia Heights neighborhood:
A fire tornado was captured on video in California:
And Obama made his first post-presidency trip to Kenya, where he recalled his first visit to his father's native country: