With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: President Trump found himself at odds on Wednesday with his own people who work at Foggy Bottom, Fort Meade, Langley, the Pentagon and the brutalist J. Edgar Hoover Building.

At the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado last night, FBI Director Christopher Wray responded to Trump’s wishy-washy and inconsistent statements about festering Russian interference in the American political system.

“He’s got his view. He’s expressed his view,” Wray said. “The intelligence community’s assessment has not changed. My view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and that it continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day.”

Wray, who Trump tapped after he fired James Comey, defended the ongoing federal investigation into whether the president obstructed justice and whether his 2016 campaign colluded with the Kremlin. “I do not believe special counsel [Robert] Mueller is on a ‘witch hunt,’” he said. “I think it's a professional investigation conducted by a man that I've known to be a straight shooter.”

NBC anchor Lester Holt asked if he’s ever considered resigning, as has been reported. Wray did not say no. “I'm a low-key, understated guy, but that should not be mistaken for what my spine is made out of,” he said. “I'll just leave it at that.”

It was a stunning ending to another stunning day. Columnist Karen Tumulty calls what’s transpired since Trump left Finland his “worst moment since Charlottesville.

Earlier Wednesday, the president said “no” twice when a reporter asked him if he believes Russia continues to target the United States. That directly conflicts with Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats’s declaration last week that “the warning lights are blinking red again,” comparing the threat matrix to the eve of the Sept. 11 attacks. Coats, a longtime Republican senator from Indiana, said during another appearance on Monday that Russia’s efforts to undermine U.S. democracy are “ongoing and pervasive.”

Two hours later, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders argued that the president was actually just saying “no” to taking questions, not that he was regurgitating Vladimir Putin’s talking points or retracting his post-Helsinki retraction. In fact, Trump continued to take questions from reporters after answering “no.” The ABC News correspondent who asked Trump the original question pushed back on Sanders’s spin.

From the ABC News reporter who asked Trump about ongoing election interference:

Fox News didn’t buy it either. A chyron on the president’s favorite channel blared: “Try, try again: White House and Trump offer different responses on Russia.”


-- During an interview that aired on the “CBS Evening News” a few hours later, Trump claimed that he pushed Putin hard on election interference in private before backing off and accepting his denials during the news conference. Asked if he holds Putin personally responsible for Russia’s election interference, the president replied: “Well, I would, because he's in charge of the country. Just like I consider myself to be responsible for things that happen in this country. So, certainly, as the leader of a country you would have to hold him responsible, yes.”

Note Trump’s use of the word “would” in his response. He didn’t say, “I do hold him responsible.” Or, “I will hold him responsible.” The use of the word “would” conveys that Trump still refuses to admit Russia interfered, despite reading the statement on Tuesday saying that he accepts the conclusion of the U.S. intelligence community.

Asked by CBS whether he agrees with Coats’s assessment, Trump said: “Well, I’d accept it. I mean, he’s an expert. This is what he does. He’s been doing a very good job. I have tremendous faith in Daniel Coats. And if he says that, I would accept that. I will tell you, though, it better not be. It better not be.”

At the risk of being repetitive, Coats has said it — repeatedly and publicly. For whatever reason, Trump does not sound like someone who accepts what he’s been told. Moreover, Trump has been hearing it for a long time in private.

To wit, today’s New York Times reports that, two weeks before his inauguration, Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that Putin personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election. “The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation,” per David Sanger and Matthew Rosenberg. “Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed.”

-- This trio of tweets from sober-minded, retired intelligence professionals is truly remarkable:

Michael Hayden retired in 2008 from the Air Force as a four-star general. He was National Security Agency director from 1999 to 2005. George W. Bush appointed him as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, a job he held from 2006 to 2009:

Steven Hall retired from the CIA in 2015 after 30 years of running and overseeing intelligence operations, including as the chief of Russia operations. He mostly operated in the countries of the former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact:

John Sipher retired in 2014 after a 28-year career in the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, which included serving in Moscow and running Russia operations:


-- The military appears to be out of the loop. Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, told reporters in Moscow yesterday that “important verbal agreements” were reached on a series of national security issues when the two leaders met one-on-one in Helsinki for more than two hours, joined only by translators. He mentioned the preservation of the New Start and INF arms control treaties and said Putin made “specific and interesting proposals” related to Syria.

“But officials at the most senior levels across the U.S. military … had little to no information Wednesday,” Karen DeYoung, Missy Ryan and Anton Troianovski report. “At the Pentagon, as press officers remained unable to answer media questions about how the summit might impact the military, the paucity of information exposed an awkward gap in internal administration communications. … Defense Secretary Jim Mattis did not attend Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting with Trump and has not appeared in public this week or commented on the summit. …

The uncertainty surrounding Moscow’s suggestion of some sort of new arrangement or proposal regarding Syria, in particular, was striking because Gen. Joseph Votel, who heads U.S. Central Command, is scheduled to brief reporters on Syria and other matters Thursday. … Nonmilitary officials who were provided minimal, indirect readouts expressed confidence that no agreement had been struck with Putin on Syria, and that Trump — who early this year expressed a desire to withdraw all U.S. troops from that country — made clear to Putin that no American departure was imminent.

“Some military officials, accustomed a year and a half into the Trump administration to a decision-making process that is far less structured than it was under President Barack Obama, appeared unfazed by the lack of clarity. Unlike Obama, who oversaw a national security process that was famously meticulous and often slow, Trump has presided over a more fluid, less formally deliberative system. Few if any top-level national security meetings, for example, have been held this spring following the administration’s attack on Syrian military facilities in April … That shift … may provide top military officials less regular access to their commander in chief and fewer opportunities to influence the policy process.


-- Perhaps the wildest moment of Wednesday came when Sanders said during her White House briefing that Trump has not ruled out a request from Putin to let Russian authorities interrogate Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia under Obama. “The president is going to meet with his team, and we'll let you know when we have an announcement on that,” she said. “There was some conversation about it, but there wasn't a commitment made on behalf of the United States. And the president will work with his team, and we'll let you know if there's an announcement on that front.”

“Allowing the interrogation of a former American ambassador, who held diplomatic immunity while in Moscow, would be an unprecedented breach in protections traditionally provided to the nation’s foreign service,” Bloomberg News’s Toluse Olorunnipa notes. “In exchange for the opportunity to have McFaul and a number of other Americans questioned, the Russian president offered to let [Mueller] observe interrogations of 12 Russian intelligence agents indicted by a U.S. grand jury last week.”

-- State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters that letting a former diplomat be questioned “would be a grave concern to our former colleagues.” She added that “Russian assertions are absolutely absurd at this point” vis-a-vis the 11 U.S. citizens that Putin wants access to.

-- Current and former U.S. diplomats expressed horror and disgust at the White House’s refusal to flatly rule out handing over McFaul, who has long been a bête noire of Putin. “One serving diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was ‘at a … loss’ over comments that can be expected to chill American diplomacy in hostile or authoritarian countries — a comment echoed by former State Department officials as well,” the Daily Beast’s Spencer Ackerman reports. “It’s beyond disgraceful,” the current U.S. diplomat said. “It’s fundamentally ignorant with regard to how we conduct diplomacy or what that means. It really puts in jeopardy the professional independence of diplomats anywhere in the world, if the consequence of their actions is going to be potentially being turned over to a foreign government.” (There are many similar reactions in the Social Media Speed Read below.)

-- McFaul, a political-science professor at Stanford and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, said he hopes “the White House corrects the record and denounces in categorical terms this ridiculous request from Putin.”

July 17, 2018. Donald TrumpPresident of the United States Mr Trump, you invented and speak a lot about "fake...

Posted by Anthony Maslin on  Tuesday, July 17, 2018

-- One of the most scathing condemnations of Trump’s posture toward Putin this week came from a grieving father in Perth, Australia. “Four years ago, on July 17, 2014, Anthony Maslin and Rin Norris lost all three of their children, who were among the 298 passengers on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur,” Rebecca Tan reports. “The flight was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing Norris's father, the three Maslin children — 12-year-old Mo, 10-year-old Evie and 8-year-old Otis — and all the other passengers. An investigation led by the Netherlands has since found evidence that points toward Russia having ‘direct involvement’ in the plane's downing.” (Putin has denied that the Kremlin was in any way responsible.)

In a Facebook post, Maslin wrote: “It's not anger that I feel towards the two of you. It’s something much, much worse. It's pity. You have no empathy for your fellow man, and you clearly have no idea what love is. So you have nothing.”


-- Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced a nonbinding resolution yesterday. It would commend the Justice Department for its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, reaffirm the intelligence community’s assessment that the Kremlin interfered and say that Moscow must be held accountable (without specifying how). They’re hoping that it can pass by unanimous consent today.

-- “Threats from Republican lawmakers about confronting the president or pushing bills to punish Russia for further election interference are ringing hollow inside the White House, which has grown accustomed to panic, followed by inaction, on Capitol Hill,” Politico’s Burgess Everett and Eliana Johnson report. “A number of hawkish senators alarmed by the president’s remarks have yet to hear from chief of staff John Kelly, who frequently reassures nervous Republicans, and some senators are barreling forward with efforts to combat Russian interference in the fall elections. Increasingly, they view their own efforts to blunt Russia as distinctly separate from whatever Trump or his administration is doing or saying at any given time.”

-- House Republicans are trying to cut funding for election security grants from a spending bill that lawmakers will vote on today. Erica Werner reports: “At issue is a grants program overseen by the federal Election Assistance Commission and aimed at helping states administer their elections and improve voting systems; Democrats want to continue grant funding through 2019, while Republicans say the program already has been fully funded. Republicans argued strenuously in floor debate Wednesday that states had plenty of money from prior congressional allocations to spend on election improvements. But Democrats accused the Republicans of abetting [Trump] in his refusal to take a hard line against [Putin] at this week’s summit in Helsinki.”

-- Most states are not planning on upgrading their election security systems before the midterms, despite having federal money to do so. Politico’s Eric Geller reports: “Only 13 states said they intend to use the federal dollars to buy new voting machines. At least 22 said they have no plans to replace their machines before the election — including all five states that rely solely on paperless electronic voting devices, which cybersecurity experts consider a top vulnerability. In addition, almost no states conduct robust, statistic-based post-election audits to look for evidence of tampering after the fact. And fewer than one-third of states and territories have requested a key type of security review from the Department of Homeland Security.”

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  1. Iran has built a factory that can produce rotors for up to 60 centrifuges a day, the head of its atomic agency announced. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last month that he ordered the government to prepare to increase uranium enrichment capacity after Trump pulled out of the nuclear agreement. (Reuters)
  2. A Turkish court ruled to keep an American pastor being tried on terrorism-related charges in prison. Andrew Brunson has been held by authorities for nearly two years, an imprisonment that critics say is being used by Turkey as a bargaining chip to extract concessions from the United States. (Kareem Fahim)

  3. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said he has been interviewed by lawyers investigating allegations of sexual abuse within Ohio State's wrestling program when he was a coach. But Jordan continues to deny that he knew about the alleged misconduct of doctor Richard Strauss. “No one reported anything to us,” Jordan said in a radio interview. “If they had, if we’d have … dealt with it.” Former OSU wrestlers have filed a class-action lawsuit accusing the school of ignoring the abuse. (Elise Viebck)
  4. The Trump administration is trying again to allow Kentucky to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients, even though a federal judge blocked them weeks ago. In an unorthodox maneuver, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has decided to open a fresh period for public comment on the proposal. (Amy Goldstein)
  5. The Trump Organization has repeatedly missed deadlines to pay property taxes in at least five states over the past year, forcing the company to pay an additional $61,800 in interest and penalties. “Previously, records show, it had a good record of paying them on time,” David Fahrenthold and Jonathan O'Connell report. “The missed deadlines puzzled real estate experts, who said that for a long-established property company such as the Trump Organization, paying property taxes should be a routine task. The bills arrive for predictable sums of money, at predictable times, with predictable penalties for lateness in paying.”
  6. Trump’s proposed military parade could cost as much as the canceled military exercises with South Korea that he described as “tremendously expensive.” Three defense officials said the parade, scheduled for Nov. 10, is currently estimated to cost approximately $12 million. The Pentagon said earlier this month that the now-canceled “war games” were estimated to cost $14 million. (CNN)
  7. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was forced to issue a clarification after he said Holocaust deniers should be allowed to stay on the social network. Zuckerberg, who is Jewish, initially said in an interview with Recode, “I find [Holocaust denial] deeply offensive. But at the end of the day, I don’t believe that our platform should take that down because I think there are things that different people get wrong.” He later clarified, “I absolutely didn’t intend to defend the intent of people who deny [the Holocaust].” (Hamza Shaban)
  8. Before Papa John’s founder John Schnatter was pushed out as chairman last week, the company was in preliminary merger talks with Wendy’s. The talks fizzled after reports emerged of Schnatter using the n-word during a conference call, which forced his resignation. (Wall Street Journal)

  9. Twelve Thai soccer players and their coach spoke publicly for the first time since being rescued from a flooded cave. In a news conference, the boys recounted their harrowing experience — and the routine of digging, water breaks and meditation that helped keep them alive. They also smiled and dribbled soccer balls before the cameras to showcase their good health. (Panaporn Wutwanich and Shibani Mahtani)
  10. Archaeologists have unearthed 95 sets of remains believed to belong to black forced-labor prisoners and slaves in Sugar Land, Tex. Today, the sprawling Houston-area suburb is best known for its shopping malls and master-planned communities — but in the Jim Crow era, it was dubbed the “Hellhole on the Brazos,” where convicts toiled away at plantations and in sugar cane fields, until they literally dropped dead in their tracks under the hot Texas sun. (Meagan Flynn)


-- U.S. prosecutors said that Maria Butina, the Russian national arrested on charges of being a foreign agent, had ties to Russian intelligence operatives, with whom she remained in contact during her time in the United States. Tom Jackman and Rosalind S. Helderman report: “Butina, 29, also cultivated a ‘personal relationship’ with an American Republican consultant as part of her cover and offered sex to at least one other person ‘in exchange for a position within a special interest organization,’ according to a court filing. After a hearing on Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson denied Butina’s request to be released on bail, finding that no combination of conditions would ensure her return to court. … The new allegations laid out Wednesday explicitly link Butina to Russia’s intelligence services for the first time, painting the portrait of a covert agent backed by powerful patrons who created a pretext for her presence in the United States.

“In a court filing that could have been ripped from the television show ‘The Americans,’ prosecutors described her manipulating a South Dakota political operative as part of her scheme and meeting for a private lunch in March with a Russian diplomat suspected of being a Russian intelligence officer — all while FBI agents watched. … In arguing that she should be released, [Butina’s lawyer] revealed that Butina had offered to assist law enforcement with a federal criminal investigation of an unidentified person in South Dakota. A description of that person’s activities in court filings matches that of Paul Erickson, a South Dakota political operative with whom Butina was romantically involved.

“Prosecutors say Butina got help in making contact with influential Americans from Erickson, a political consultant from South Dakota who once helped run Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign and whom Butina met after hosting him and other American gun enthusiasts in Russia in 2013. While the two lived together and had a personal relationship, prosecutors said it was a ‘duplicitous’ one, saying that they found papers in which the 29-year-old ‘expressed disdain’ about having to live with 56-year-old Erickson.

-- “Here is possible Russian political meddling — in the flesh,” Dana Milbank notes. “In court, DOJ prosecutor Erik Kenerson claimed Butina … was considered a covert Russian agent by a senior Russian official, believed based on descriptions in the complaint to be Alexander Torshin, deputy director of Russia’s central bank. … [Kenerson] displayed a photo of Butina at the Capitol on Trump’s Inauguration Day, and described an exchange between the two: ‘You’re a daredevil girl,’ Torshin said in response to the photo. Replied Butina: ‘Good teachers!’ Kenerson said Butina had told the Russian official she was ‘ready for further orders.’

-- This isn’t the first time Erickson’s name has come up in connection with Russia's election interference. In a May 2016 email to Trump campaign adviser Rick Dearborn, Erickson offered to help arrange a back-channel meeting between Trump and Putin. He wrote in the message, which was among a trove of campaign documents handed over to Capitol Hill investigators last year, that Russia was “quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S.” and would try to make “first contact” during the NRA’s annual convention. (New York Times)

-- “Getting entangled in the Trump-Russia investigations would be a strange twist of fate for most South Dakotans, but not Paul Erickson. For him, it might have been predictable,” the Rapid City Journal’s Seth Tupper wrote in a fantastic profile this February. “The highlights and lowlights of Erickson’s past include performing as a warmup act for Ronald Reagan; making an anti-communist action movie with Jack Abramoff, who went on to disgrace as a corrupt lobbyist; working as a top staffer in a Pat Buchanan presidential campaign; lobbying for an African dictator; and representing penile detachment victim John Wayne Bobbitt. Through it all, Erickson has used his charm, charisma and connections to build a reputation as ‘a sort of 'secret master of the political universe' known almost exclusively to the cognoscenti,’ in the words of conservative commentator Ralph Benko.”

-- This is what building a deep cover looks like: “More than three years before she was arrested . . . Butina gave a guest lecture to about a dozen students munching pizza in a setting far removed from the country’s political world: a public university in Vermillion, S.D.,” Eli Rosenberg reports. “The next month she spoke to about 20 business-minded students at a public high school in Sioux Falls. And that summer, she talked to a crowd of teenagers at a politically oriented summer camp organized by South Dakota Republicans. The incidents were documented in bits and pieces at the time — on a university flier, in an appreciation posted to social media … and on Butina’s own social media profiles. While the majority of attention on the accused spy has focused on her efforts to cultivate relationships in Republican-oriented groups like the [NRA and CPAC], these incidents, far removed from the national political sphere and its nodes of power, give a window into the years of planning and attention to detail that undergird what investigators say was Butina’s campaign.”

-- A federal judge denied Paul Manafort’s request to suppress evidence seized from his home. From Reuters: “Manafort’s lawyers had sought to limit the scope of evidence that prosecutors can rely on for his upcoming September trial in Washington, D.C., claiming that the search warrant was overly broad and unconstitutional. ‘Given the nature of the investigation, the warrant was not too broad in scope,’ wrote Judge Amy Berman Jackson for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in her ruling.”

-- Simona Mangiante Papadopoulos, who is married to former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, testified before House Democrats. Politico’s Kyle Cheney reports: “[Papadopoulos] said lawmakers grilled her Wednesday about her husband George’s role in the campaign and that she’s had no contact with the White House about her call for a presidential pardon for him. Papadopoulos described her four-hour interview with Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee as ‘very professional’ and said lawmakers were ‘kind’ and ‘receptive’ to her testimony.”


-- Ahead of Robert Wilkie’s expected confirmation as VA Secretary, Trump loyalists have aggressively moved to purge or otherwise reassign career staffers at the agency into lower-profile roles. Lisa Rein reports: “The transfers include more than a dozen career civil servants who have been moved from the leadership suite at VA headquarters and reassigned to lower-visibility roles. The employees served agency leaders, some dating back more than two decades, in crucial support roles that help a new secretary. None say they were given reasons for their reassignments. The moves are being carried out by a small cadre of political appointees led by Acting Secretary Peter O’Rourke who have consolidated power in the four months since [helping oust David Shulkin]. Other career senior executives with institutional knowledge of VA’s troubled benefits operation also have been sidelined, some to other cities … A high-ranking executive appointed during the Obama administration to a six-year term quit last week after clashing with Trump aides. Even some Trump appointees have been pushed out for challenging the leadership group."

-- The Interior Department’s inspector general launched a probe into a real estate deal involving a foundation established by Secretary Ryan Zinke. Politico’s Ben Lefebvre reports: “The inspector general’s probe will focus on whether Zinke violated conflict of interest laws … ‘You expressed special concern about the reported funding by a top executive at Halliburton and assuring decisions that affect the nation’s welfare are not compromised by individual self enrichment,’ Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall wrote to Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, and other Democrats. ‘My office opened an investigation into this matter on July 16.’ Zinke’s role at Interior places him as one of the chief regulators overseeing oil and gas drilling activities, including those performed by Halliburton, one of the world’s largest fracking and offshore drilling services companies.”


-- Trump’s tariffs on Mexico are already causing layoffs in the United States — including at a factory in Poplar Bluff, Mo., where some 100 workers have been laid off in the month since Trump’s tariffs took effect. “When a Mexican company bought Mid Continent Nail Corp. in 2012, workers at the factory here feared it was the beginning of the end,” Erica Werner and Kevin Sieff report. “Instead, Mid Continent’s factory [doubled in size]. . . . But [Trump’s tariffs] bumped production costs and [prompted] Deacero to reconsider this arrangement. With Mid Continent charging more for nails, orders are down 70 percent from this time a year ago despite a booming construction industry. Company officials say that without relief, the Missouri plant could be out of business by Labor Day — or that remaining production could move to Mexico or another country. And so trade restrictions aimed at preventing U.S. jobs from heading to Mexico … have instead hampered a Mexican company’s multimillion-dollar effort to create jobs in the United States — an unintended consequence of Trump’s trade war that demonstrates the difficulty of attacking trading partners without hurting workers at home.”

-- Trump again raised the possibility of auto tariffs during yesterday’s Cabinet meeting, even as the proposal faces stiff opposition from industry groups and Capitol Hill. The Wall Street Journal’s Chester Dawson and Joshua Zumbrun report: “A coalition of foreign and domestic auto companies, along with auto dealers and auto-parts makers, released a letter on Wednesday urging Mr. Trump to refrain from the tariffs. A bipartisan group of 149 House members also urged the president not to move forward with the tariffs. Auto unions were among the few industry players offering qualified support for the tariffs. Still, at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Trump threatened ‘tremendous retribution’ against the European Union, specifically mentioning auto tariffs, if his meeting with EU officials next week doesn’t yield what he considers a fair auto trade deal.”

-- “There are two reasons to expect that Trump’s impact on the world order will be lasting,” Peter Coy writes in Bloomberg Businessweek’s latest cover story. “One is that his actions are eroding trust among both allies and rivals. Once gone, trust is hard to reestablish, even if the next president turns out to be a devoted internationalist. The other is that he is pushing a boulder downhill — the boulder, of course, being nationalism. Like the politicians behind Britain’s ‘leave’ campaign, he’s both harnessing and amplifying powerful emotions that tend to drive countries apart and keep them apart. … If he chose to, Trump really could wreck the international institutions that have been built up since World War II, because the U.S. is their linchpin.”

-- A handicapper at the Cook Political Report has changed his mind about how Trump's tariffs will affect the midterms:

-- The next front in the trade war? Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said he will launch an investigation into whether limits should be placed on uranium imports in the interest of national security. Steven Mufson reports: “[U]tilities with nuclear plants fear such actions would raise the cost of electricity and nuclear experts said the military already has stockpiles big enough to last for decades. ‘Our production of uranium necessary for military and electric power has dropped from 49 percent of our consumption to 5 percent,’ Ross said in a statement. That change took place over 30 years, he said. Much of the imported uranium comes from friendly nations. In 2017, Canada and Australia provided more than half of U.S. uranium consumption, Commerce said. Russia provided 16 percent.”


-- The House overwhelmingly approved a resolution in support of ICE, as Republicans attempted to force their Democratic colleagues to take a stance on the agency. Mike DeBonis reports: “A handful of Democrats have embraced calls from activists to abolish [ICE] … Most Democrats, including [Nancy Pelosi] and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, have kept their distance from the effort. That caution was on display Wednesday, as most Democrats voted ‘present’ rather than taking a position for or against the resolution sponsored by Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.). The vote was 244 to 35, with 133 Democrats voting present. House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) called the resolution ‘a sham and a distraction’ on Wednesday after urging Democrats to withhold their votes.”

-- “One of the many advantages of being the majority party in the House is the ability to make the minority party furious. That was the play behind Wednesday’s resolution,” David Weigel writes. “Just a dozen House Democrats represent districts where voters rejected Hillary Clinton in 2016. Half of them voted to support ICE agents: Rep. Matthew Cartwright (D-Pa.), Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.), Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-Ariz.), and Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.). While Gottheimer and Kind have drawn second-tier challengers — and while both districts have grown more Democratic since 2016 — the other four are in serious races and taking any chance they can to present themselves as pragmatists.”

-- Since Oct. 1, at least 70 infants have been summoned to court for their own deportation proceedings, according to Justice Department data. Christina Jewett and Shefali Luthra of Kaiser Health News report: “These are children who need frequent touching and bonding with a parent and naps every few hours, and some were of breastfeeding age, medical experts say. They’re unable to speak and still learning when it’s day versus night. … The number of infants under age 1 involved has been rising — up threefold from 24 infants in the fiscal year that ended last Sept. 30, and 46 infants the year before. The Justice Department data show that a total of 1,500 ‘unaccompanied’ children, from newborns to age 3, have been called in to immigration court since Oct. 1, 2015.”


-- During Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, Senate Democrats are expected to resurrect questions about what the former Bush White House lawyer knew about the administration’s “enhanced interrogation” policy. Kavanaugh said during his 2006 confirmation to become an appeals court judge that he was “not involved” in “questions about the rules governing detention of combatants,” but that does not pass the smell test for many people who have studied the program and understand how White Houses work. From Michael Kranish: “Senate Democrats have never fully accepted Kavanaugh’s answers to questions about one of the Bush administration’s most controversial policies … Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), whose questions in 2006 elicited Kavanaugh’s denial, said in an interview this week that ‘what he told us under oath is not accurate.’ Democrats are seeking Bush White House files to pin down specifics of any Kavanaugh involvement in detainee policy discussions, which could slow the Trump administration’s hope to have Kavanaugh confirmed before the Supreme Court reconvenes Oct. 1.

Kavanaugh was involved in at least one contentious meeting at the Office of White House Counsel in 2002, and two former White House officials detailed his role in interviews this week with The Washington Post. Bush was then developing his policy on detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects, and Kavanaugh was asked to interpret an important question about how the detainee policy was likely to be viewed in a Supreme Court challenge, specifically by Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, for whom he had served as a clerk. Kavanaugh weighed in on how he thought Kennedy would vote on whether certain detainees should be denied a chance to be heard and have legal counsel, according to the other participants. Kavanaugh had already been confirmed for the circuit court when the White House meeting became public in a Post report. Democrats including Durbin have sought ever since to question Kavanaugh about whether he misled the Senate Judiciary Committee.

-- Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said senators expect to receive “at least 1 million pages of documents” on Kavanaugh’s time in the Bush White House and as a GOP political operative“To properly vet Judge Kavanaugh, the Senate Judiciary Committee needs access to all documents,” Feinstein added. But Republicans are hoping to jam Kavanaugh through before key documents are turned over and reviewed by Senate investigators. Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said this week, “We’re not going to sit idly by and allow our Democratic colleagues to draw this out by making unreasonable document demands, which would delay this hearing until well past the election.” (Elise Viebeck)

-- Another issue sure to come up during the hearing: Kavanaugh said during a 2016 speech that he wants to “put the final nail” in a 1988 Supreme Court ruling that upheld the constitutionality of an independent counsel. CNN’s Manu Raju reports: “That decision, known as Morrison v. Olson, upheld the constitutionality of provisions creating an independent counsel under the 1978 Ethics in Government Act — the same statute under which Ken Starr, for whom Kavanaugh worked, investigated President Bill Clinton. The law expired in 1999, when it was replaced by the more modest Justice Department regulation that governs special counsels like Robert Mueller.”

-- Packing the court: “Senate Republicans broke a record on Wednesday for the number of appeals court judges confirmed during a president's first two years,” the Hill’s Jordain Carney reports.


-- Trump endorsed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp ahead of the state’s primary runoff election on Tuesday, throwing his weight behind a man who pledged to “round up criminal illegals” in his pickup truck. Felicia Sonmez reports: “Kemp is in a dead heat with Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle ahead of Tuesday’s runoff . . . In a tweet, Trump praised Kemp as ‘tough on crime, strong on the border and illegal immigration.’ … [In] a race in which both candidates have sought to mimic Trump’s combative style, Kemp … has drawn notice for some of his boundary-pushing TV ads. One of the ads shows the candidate wielding a chain saw as he declares that he’s ready to ‘rip up some regulation’ and talking tough on illegal immigration. ‘I’ve got a big truck, just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take ’em home myself,’ Kemp says …. In another TV spot … Kemp points a shotgun at a young man sitting next to him in a room filled with firearms. ‘I’m Brian Kemp, this is Jake, a young man interested in one of my daughters,’ the candidate says, [prompting the teenager] to list the reasons Kemp is running for governor. At the end of the ad, Kemp tells the teenager, ‘We’re going to get along just fine.’” (I wrote a Big Idea about the race last week.)

-- GOP Rep. Jason Lewis, facing a difficult reelection in a Minnesota congressional district near Minneapolis, questioned why it was unacceptable to call women “sluts” in a recently unearthed recording from 2012. Eli Rosenberg reports: “Some of Lewis’s remarks followed the uproar after conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke, then a Georgetown Law student hoping to testify to Congress about how her health-care plan would not pay for birth control, ‘a slut’ in February 2012. Lewis spoke out against the outcry on the syndicated show he hosted the next month. ‘Well, the thing is, can we call anybody a slut? This is what begs the question,’ Lewis said. ‘But it used to be that women were held to a little bit of a higher standard. We required modesty from women. Now, are we beyond those days where a woman can behave as a slut, but you can’t call her a slut?’”

-- A measure calling for California to be split into three states will no longer appear on the November ballot following a unanimous decision from the state’s Supreme Court. The court said it acted “because significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition’s validity and because we conclude that the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election.” (LA Times)

-- Elon Musk called the head of the Sierra Club to ask for help in beating back criticism over donations the Tesla chief executive made to Republicans. Bloomberg News's Josh Eidelson reports: “Musk on Saturday called Michael Brune, the Sierra Club’s executive director, and asked that he make public more than $6 million in contributions to the group that had been anonymous, Brune wrote in the email. Musk also enlisted Brune to vouch for him on Twitter to quell a firestorm over the billionaire’s $38,900 contribution to a committee that benefits congressional Republicans including House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Brune is now dealing with blow-back within his own organization for complying with Musk’s requests.”

-- Lin-Manuel Miranda is joining forces with Michelle Obama and a bevy other famous friends to launch a nonpartisan, voter registration campaign. Entitled “When We All Vote,” co-chairs include Tom Hanks, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, basketball player Chris Paul and singer-songwriter Janelle Monáe. (People)

-- House Democrats unveiled a new campaign slogan for the midterms: “For the People.” From Politico’s Heather Caygle: “The new motto, which Democratic leaders unveiled in a private meeting with members Wednesday morning, is meant to put a finer point on the broad economic-based messaging Democrats have been pushing with mixed success since last summer. That initial message — a ‘Better Deal’ — has largely failed to break through with voters and has been openly mocked by some Democratic lawmakers.”

2020 WATCH:

-- Trump said in the CBS interview that aired last night that it would be “a dream” to face Joe Biden in 2020. “Well, I dream, I dream about Biden. That's a dream. Look, Joe Biden ran three times. He never got more than 1 percent and President Obama took him out of the garbage heap, and everybody was shocked that he did. I'd love to have it be Biden,” the president told Jeff Glor. “I think I'd like to have any one of those people that we're talking about…You know, there's probably – the group of seven or eight right now. I'd really like to – I'd like to run against any one of them, but Biden never by himself could never do anything.”

-- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) has inked a book deal with Penguin, the latest sign that the freshman senator is moving toward a 2020 run. “The Truths We Hold: An American Journey,” is slated for release in January and will focus on “the core truths that unite us … and how best to act upon them.” (Politico)

-- Some Democratic states have begun quietly moving from a caucus system to a traditional primary — a quiet, but significant, shift that could reshape its nominating process and hamper potential insurgent candidates. BuzzFeed News’s Ruby Cramer reports: “By next year, Democrats could see the number of caucus states cut in half. Four states have already moved from a caucus system to a traditional primary … Party officials say two more states — Nebraska and Washington — are now considering the same change. And as Democratic Party members prepare to adopt changes to the nominating process at their annual summer meeting next month — including a new rule to ‘encourage’ the use of primaries over caucuses ‘whenever possible’ — caucus states may face new outside pressure to embrace state-run primaries. The shift could leave just seven caucus states on the nominating calendar. For more than 20 years, Democrats have held caucuses in no fewer than 14 states. The reduction in caucus states could be a critical factor in the 2020 Democratic primary — a race expected to attract a record number of candidates.”


The latest Time cover combines Trump’s face with Putin’s:

Over Twitter this morning, Trump said Democrats have a “death wish” in wanting to abolish ICE:

(In fact, most Democrats withheld their votes from the ICE resolution.)

Trump also dismissed news reports as “total fiction”:

And he sold his administration’s attempts to lower drug prices:

Yesterday, Trump leaned on Turkey to release an American pastor from prison:

He also thanked Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.), who included $5 billion in funding for the border wall in a House appropriations bill and is running for reelection in a district Hillary Clinton narrowly won in 2016:

And he leveled this dramatic charge against Democrats:

Democrats were outraged about the McFaul news. From the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee:

From Warner's counterpart in the House:

From Obama's former national security adviser:

From Obama's former U.N. ambassador:

From a former Pentagon and NSC official:

From a Wired contributor who wrote a biography of Robert Mueller:

A House Democrat implied Sarah Huckabee Sanders should consider resigning over her McFaul comments:

The DNC's former press secretary during 2016, when the committee was hacked by the Russians, made an important observation about Trump's comments on NATO:

John Dean, who served as White House counsel to Richard Nixon, hoped this is a turning point:

Singer Richard Marx mocked Trump's reversal on election interference by referencing his 1989 song:

Merriam-Webster sought to clarify things:

A professor at Claremont McKenna reflected on the week's news:

A Post reporter noted Ivanka Trump's own business practices as she encourages U.S. companies to hire American workers:

The Honolulu Civil Beat's D.C. correspondent shared this photo:

And members of the White House press corps enjoyed a moment of solidarity:


-- “How the Obamas managed to become invisible in Washington,” by Roxanne Roberts: “No modern president has remained in the nation’s capital after leaving office; the last was the ailing Woodrow Wilson in 1921. So the idea of the vibrant, glamorous Obamas — two of the most famous people in the world — living here was a very big deal. Expectations were high. [But instead], the Obamas have created a protective bubble that allows them maximum flexibility and minimum public exposure. … The Obamas have always been careful about controlling their message, and the code of silence extends to almost every aspect of their social lives: Speak without authorization and you could be exiled from Obamaland. ‘Please don’t quote me,” said one local acquaintance, who then admitted she rarely sees the couple. ‘I’m very honored that they are doing well.’”

-- BuzzFeed News, “Alt-Right Troll To Father Killer: The Unraveling Of Lane Davis,” by Joseph Bernstein: “Lane was immersed in the digital chaos of reactionary culture and politics that has become an inescapable part of American life. Writing under the name ‘Seattle4Truth,’ Lane was an indefatigable culture warrior and a wildly inventive conspiracist. … But none of those people, the ones who called him Seattle, the ones who called him a friend, had met Lane in person. None of them knew, nor would most of them know for months, what he had done to his father. And none of them had any idea what this man they spent all day online with was capable of. Including me.”


“Nunes declares war on the media,” from Politico: “Devin Nunes is sitting on an eye-popping pile of money he's raised in recent months, with little reason to spend it yet. Except for one splurge: A unusually aggressive — and sustained — offensive against his local newspaper, which he is tearing into as ‘fake news.’ In a campaign ad running more than two minutes — and appearing not only online, but on radio and TV — Nunes casts the dominant newspaper in his California district as a ‘band of creeping correspondents,’ criticizing The Fresno Bee for its routine reporting practices and for its coverage of a controversy surrounding a winery in which the Republican congressman invests. ‘Sadly, since the last election, The Fresno Bee has worked closely with radical left-wing groups to promote numerous fake news stories about me,’ Nunes says in the ad, though he offers no evidence of collusion between The Bee and any group.”



“Riverside gun store confronts Sacha Baron Cohen after he comes to business in disguise,” from Fox Los Angeles: “Riverside gun store owner has harsh words for Sacha Baron Cohen after he says he caught the actor showing up to his business in disguise and under false pretense, and it was all caught on surveillance video. … It happened at Warrior One Guns & Ammo in February 2017. That’s when owner Norris Sweidan [said] Cohen and a camera met him while claiming to be filming a documentary about a Hungarian immigrant wanting to buy a gun. … Sweidan [said] Cohen said he wanted to buy a gun, but said it with a very odd sounding accent he didn’t find credible. ‘I’m looking at the producer and I’m just like am I being fooled right here?’ Sweidan said. ‘And I just kept looking at the guy and I was like you’re Borat, as soon as I said that his eyes just looked at me like, and he did a turn right out the door.’”



Trump will receive his intelligence briefing and then meet with Jim Mattis. He will have lunch with the secretary of state and later host a Pledge to America’s Workers event.


“In the end, we can present people with information. But you can’t force anyone to say what you want them to say, especially the president of the United States.” — Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) addressing Trump’s mixed messaging on Russia. (Politico)



-- The District will enjoy more low humidity and relatively lower temperatures today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Stepping out today is literally a breath of fresh air, with remarkably low humidity and barely a breeze. A few clouds pop up in the bright blue skies, but rain chances are nil. With our high sun angle, temperatures peak in the mid- to upper 80s.”

-- Fears of a transit strike have temporarily abated as Metro and its largest union enter a “cooling off period,” Faiz Siddiqui reports. “Wednesday afternoon, union leadership issued letters to elected officials in the District, Maryland and Virginia asking them to rally behind the union’s causes: rolling back a policy reassigning hundreds of custodians to Metro stations and outsourcing some of the work, reversing rules requiring a 72-hour notice for sick leave and curbing Metro’s shift toward private contracting of certain services.”

-- Ben Jealous and Rushern Baker, former rivals in the Maryland Democratic gubernatorial primary, made nice during an event in Prince George’s County. From Teo Armus: “‘We’ve been family in politics for a long time,’ said Jealous, who beat Baker and four other Democrats in the June 26 primary. ‘Sometimes you fight like family. But at the end of it, you’re family.’ Baker accompanied Jealous on a tour of Dream Village, a minority-owned co-working space in Hyattsville that typifies the type of economic development Baker has pushed in nearly eight years as county executive.”

-- Police recovered the car used in the shooting that killed 10-year-old Makiyah Wilson. But authorities are asking for the public’s help in identifying and locating the gunmen. (Justin Jouvenal)


Jimmy Fallon had an audience member read Trump's "wouldn't" statement on Russian election interference:

The Post's video department parodied Trump's reversal:

Several House Democrats, who are former service members, criticized Trump's comments in Helsinki:

The group Republicans for the Rule of Law is airing an ad calling on Republicans to “stand with America, not Putin”:

The Kilauea volcano's lava flow is transforming Hawaii's coastline:

And more than 140 women who have accused former sports physician Larry Nassar of sexual abuse were honored at the ESPY Awards: