National Political Correspondent

With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: “Just remember,” President Trump said on Tuesday in Kansas City, Mo., “what you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

He was complaining about the escalating fallout from his trade war. The president is angry that the press is telling the stories of farmers who are facing financial hardship because of the predictable retaliation by other countries to his tariffs. Speaking to a crowd of 4,000 at the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Trump specifically cited a package he saw earlier in the day on NBC. “It was heart-throbbing,” he said. “In fact, I wanted to say, ‘I got to do something about this Trump. Terrible.’” He then claimed NBC’s piece was “done by the lobbyists and by the people that they hire” and argued that the time to push for better trade deals is when the economy is growing. “This country is doing better than it's ever done before,” Trump said.

He asked Americans who are struggling to “just be a little patient.” Pointing to the press riser, Trump attacked what he called “the fake news” media. “Stick with us,” the president said. “Don’t believe the crap you see from these people.”

-- Trump’s quote reminded many people — including a former CIA case officer — of “1984,” the dystopian novel. “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command,” wrote George Orwell. “And if all others accepted the lie, which the party imposed, if all records told the same tale, then the lie passed into history and became the truth.” 

HuffPost likened Trump’s comment to Obi-Wan Kenobi’s “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for” in “Star Wars” and the Wizard of Oz’s admonition, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

-- Trump often isolates himself by creating an alternative universe in which he and his policies are beloved. No president enjoys being challenged, but this one avoids people and situations where he might be challenged more than his predecessors. Consider the carefully planned itinerary when he visited the U.K. Or his decision to disinvite championship sports teams from the White House because their star players criticized him. Or to cancel the bipartisan congressional picnic at the White House while families were being separated at the border, which meant that he didn’t need to engage with Democratic lawmakers.

Today’s New York Times has a fresh illustration of this reality from last week’s Europe trip: “Melania Trump’s television aboard Air Force One was tuned to CNN. President Trump was not pleased. He raged at his staff for violating a rule that the White House entourage should begin each trip tuned to Fox — his preferred network over what he considers the ‘fake news’ CNN — and caused ‘a bit of a stir' aboard Air Force One,” according to a private email obtained by Katie Rogers and Maggie Haberman. “The email, an internal exchange between officials in the White House Military Office and the White House Communications Agency last Thursday, also called for the ordering of two additional televisions to support Beam, a TiVo-like streaming device, to make sure the president and first lady could both watch TV in their separate hotel rooms when they travel. At the end of the email chain, officials confirmed that tuning the TVs to Fox would be standard operating procedure going forward.”

-- Another classic Trump move: The president is now trying to flip the script on Russia. After getting hammered from leaders of his own party for being overly cozy with Vladimir Putin, Trump has now begun claiming that the Kremlin will be “pushing very hard for the Democrats” in the midterms because “no president has been tougher on Russian than me.” Eight days ago, Putin acknowledged at their joint news conference in Helsinki that he favored Trump in the 2016 election and the American president cast doubt on the consensus of his own intelligence community. Trump’s official position has shifted repeatedly, but he tweeted his latest stance on Tuesday: “I’m very concerned that Russia will be fighting very hard to have an impact on the upcoming Election. … They definitely don’t want Trump!”

-- “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening” has essentially been an organizing principle of the Trump administration. It was already apparent on the first full day of the Trump presidency, when then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer pushed back on pictures and estimates that showed the crowd for the inauguration was smaller than Barack Obama’s in 2009. “This was the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration,” Spicer said. “Period.”

Asked about Spicer’s comment on “Meet the Press” the next day, counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway said Spicer was giving “alternative facts.” Host Chuck Todd replied, “Alternative facts aren't facts, they are falsehoods.”

But the “alternative facts” have continued. Other terms like “post-fact” and “truth decay” have also entered the lexicon.

-- Some of the Trump administration’s most specious claims get relatively little attention because they’re communicated to the president’s base outside the filter of the mainstream media. For example, the U.S. is headed for trillion-dollar annual deficits as the new normal because of the dangerous mix of big spending increases and massive tax cuts that have characterized the Trump era. But Larry Kudlow, Trump’s director of the National Economic Council, claimed falsely on the Fox Business Network last month that the tax cuts are actually generating such massive growth that “the deficit … is coming down. And it’s coming down rapidly.” In fact, the Congressional Budget Office — led by a GOP appointee — estimates that the new tax law will reduce federal tax revenue by $1.2 trillion over the next decade. Kudlow later clarified he was saying that he hopes deficits come down in future years because of growth. But he didn’t say it on Fox.

-- In a new story, The Washington Post Fact Checker dissects 14 false or misleading Trump tweets from just the past four days — ranging from the Russia investigation to NATO funding, North Korea and the price of soybeans. Through the end of May, covering Trump’s first 500 days in office, our in-house team documented 3,251 instances of the president making false or misleading statements.

-- The Carter Page FISA warrants that were released over the weekend undercut many of the president’s previous assertions and further undermine the credibility of the partisan memo released in the winter by House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.). But as I documented in Monday’s Big Idea, Trump falsely insisted that the newly released court filings prove his past claims. He tweeted that they show the FBI “misled the courts” when, in fact, they do the opposite.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) said Tuesday that there were “sound reasons” for judges to approve the FISA warrant on Page. “I don't think I ever expressed that I thought the FISA application came up short,” Burr told CNN, bursting the bubble of Nunes and Trump. Marco Rubio, another Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, made similar comments on the Sunday shows.

-- This week has also showcased the president’s willingness to erratically change positions: After tweeting yesterday morning that “tariffs are the greatest,” Trump said last night that he’d love to get rid of tariffs altogether.

He also continued to celebrate the success of his summit with Kim Jong Un. While publicly claiming that North Korea no longer poses a nuclear threat and that the problem has been “largely solved,” he rages privately over the lack of progress and Pyongyang’s failure to follow through on what he believes Kim agreed to in Singapore.

-- After the president’s speech in Kansas City yesterday, the nonpartisan VFW rebuked its members for booing the press and distanced itself from the president’s comments. “We were disappointed to hear some of our members boo the press during President Trump’s remarks,” the organization said in a statement. “We rely on the media to spread the VFW message, and CNN, NBC News, ABC News, Fox News, CBS News, and others on site today, were our invited guests. We were happy to have them there.”

The Daily 202's BIG IDEA> Get James' insight into Washington every weekday on your smart speaker or favorite podcast player.
Subscribe on Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple HomePod and other podcast players.
 
Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning briefing for decision-makers.
Sign up to receive the newsletter.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who secured Trump’s endorsement for his gubernatorial bid, won the Republican primary runoff to face Democrat Stacey Abrams. Sean Sullivan and David Weigel report: “Kemp, an immigration hard-liner who won Trump’s support less than a week before the vote, defeated Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in a runoff that resonated loudly beyond the state’s borders. Kemp led Cagle by more than 2 to 1 with most of the votes tallied. … Kemp advances to a showdown against [Abrams], who, if she wins, will be the first female African American governor of any state. The victory by Kemp instantly turned the general election race into a sharp contrast capturing the cultural, racial and political divides that have gripped the country in the Trump era — all in a rapidly diversifying state. 

“Further down the ballot Tuesday, Democrats were picking nominees in two suburban Atlanta congressional districts that were crafted to elect Republicans but swung away from the president’s party in 2016. In the 7th Congressional District, former congressional aide Carolyn Bourdeaux defeated education company CEO David Kim for the right to challenge Rep. Rob Woodall (R). In the 6th Congressional District, where first-time candidate Jon Ossoff lost a close special election last year, gun-safety activist Lucy McBath defeated Kevin Abel.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. The woman killed Saturday during a standoff at a Trader Joe’s in Los Angeles was unintentionally shot by police. Authorities released dashboard and body-camera footage from the standoff. (Alex Horton)
  2. A federal appeals court ruled the Second Amendment guarantees a right to openly carry a gun in public. The 9th Circuit is now the sixth federal appellate court to interpret the Constitution this way. (Reuters)
  3. Israel said it shot down a Syrian warplane after it entered the airspace above the Golan Heights, sending the civil war-torn country a firm message about its “red lines.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Bashar al-Assad “blatantly violated” a 1974 cease-fire agreement. (Loveday Morris)
  4. The Georgia state lawmaker who used the “n-word” and dropped his pants on Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Showtime” series has resigned. Republican Jason Spencer wrote in an email to the speaker of the Georgia House that he would be resigning “effective July 31, 2018.” (Meagan Flynn)
  5. Jason Kessler, who organized last year’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, withdrew his request to hold a sequel rally next month. But one of Kessler’s attorneys said he still could show up at the site of last year’s deadly rally with a small group. (Ian Shapira)
  6. The Trump Organization wants to revive plans to build hundreds of new homes near the president’s golf course in Aberdeen, Scotland. The development could become the largest expansion of Trump’s own real estate empire since he took office. (David A. Fahrenthold and Karla Adam)
  7. The Catholic Church and lawyers for sex-abuse survivors are privately battling over the release of an 800-page Pennsylvania grand jury report, which provides details of alleged clerical abuse there. The holdup comes as people who were named in the report, but not charged, have petitioned the state Supreme Court to argue their names should be redacted. (Michelle Boorstein)
  8. A sick, 62-year-old man in Detroit was arrested for missing a court date — that occurred 29 years ago. Video footage of his arrest quickly went viral, as local authorities attempted to tamp down the outrage by noting he has “three outstanding criminal charges.” (Erin B. Logan)
  9. Scientists believe that a rare, white-naped crane named Walnut is the most genetically valuable bird of her species in captivity. But for years, she struggled to produce chicks — and gained a reputation for murdering her mates — until something changed: She fell in love with a human. (Sadie Dingfelder)
  10. Demi Lovato is conscious and recovering following reports the pop singer was hospitalized due to a drug overdose. “Demi is awake and with her family who want to express thanks to everyone for the love, prayers and support,” Lovato’s representative said in a statement. “Some of the information being reported is incorrect and they respectfully ask for privacy and not speculation as her health and recovery is the most important thing right now.” (Elahe Izadi)

LORDY, THERE ARE TAPES:

-- CNN broadcast an audio recording last night in which Trump and his longtime attorney, Michael Cohen, can be heard discussing how to buy the rights to a Playboy model's story about her alleged affair with Trump. The tape, made in September 2016, was provided by Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis. Chris Cuomo, Kara Scannell and Eli Watkins report for CNN: “The recording offers the public a glimpse at the confidential discussions between Trump and Cohen, and it confirms the man who now occupies the Oval Office had contemporaneous knowledge of a proposal to buy the rights to the story of Karen McDougal, a woman who has alleged she had an extramarital affair with Trump about a decade ago. Cohen told Trump about his plans to set up a company and finance the purchase of the rights from American Media, which publishes the National Enquirer. ‘I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David,’ Cohen said in the recording, likely a reference to American Media head David Pecker. Trump interrupts Cohen asking, ‘What financing?’ . . . When Cohen tells Trump, ‘We'll have to pay.’ Trump is heard saying ‘pay with cash’ but the audio is muddled and it's unclear whether he suggests paying with cash or not paying. Cohen says, ‘no, no’ but it is not clear what is said next.” (Read the transcript of the tape.)

-- Rudy Giuliani denied that the recording proves Trump knew about the McDougal deal. “It doesn’t,” the president's lawyer said in an interview with The Washington Post. “That’s open to interpretation, and we can have a fight about that. To me it sounds like Cohen is explaining something to [Trump] that he doesn’t understand . . . He doesn’t seem that familiar with anything. There is nothing to indicate he knew anything in advance.” (Carol D. Leonnig and Robert Costa)

-- Trump commented on the tape this morning and seemed to imply there could be more recordings:

-- Davis said Cohen released the tape because of negative statements Giuliani has recently made about Cohen: “It became necessary to rebut false statements. We were not going to let Michael become a punching bag.” Will Cohen release more recordings of Trump in the coming weeks? Davis declined to comment, except to say: “There are a lot of other tapes.” 

-- Four things stand out to Philip Bump: This was a conversation about the campaign. Cohen appears to be an agent of the campaign. How and when Cohen and AMI spoke about the MacDougal payment becomes even more interesting. Was Trump’s impulse to pay in cash?

THE TRADE WARS:

-- The European Union said overnight that it is preparing retaliatory tariffs if Trump goes forward with duties on its cars and auto parts. From the AP: “EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said Thursday in an interview with Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter that she hoped a solution is found and ‘things wouldn’t go that far.’ If not, she said the EU would slap tariffs on a range of U.S. products including agricultural and high-tech products and machinery. She said specific U.S. states would not be targeted.”

-- The White House announced yesterday that it is readying a $12 billion emergency aid package for farmers caught in Trump’s escalating trade war — prompting fierce criticism from many Republicans and free traders. Damian Paletta and Caitlin Dewey report: “The aid is designed to help farmers facing tariffs in China, Mexico and other countries that imposed the levies on U.S. products in response to Trump’s new tariffs . . . White House officials say farmers will begin seeing payments by September, and they hope the payments will quiet protests by farm groups and lawmakers — many of them Republicans — who contend that Trump’s confrontational trade policy is harming American farmers months before the 2018 midterm elections. … But many Republicans criticized the administration’s aid package, saying the president should back off his trade war and help farmers regain more access to foreign markets, rather than offering them government payments.”

  • “The trade war is cutting the legs out from under farmers and White House’s ‘plan’ is to spend $12 billion on gold crutches. America’s farmers don’t want to be paid to lose — they want to win by feeding the world,” said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.).
  • “If tariffs punish farmers, the answer is not welfare for farmers. The answer is remove the tariffs,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said in a tweet.
  • “This is becoming more and more like a Soviet type of economy here," Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) told Politico. "Commissars deciding who’s going to be granted waivers, commissars in the administration figuring out how they’re going to sprinkle around benefits. I’m very exasperated. This is serious.”

“It is unusual for the government to extend financial bailouts to U.S. farmers on the basis of trade-related circumstances precipitated by the White House,” Damian and Caitlin note. “Other countries could try to bring a World Trade Organization case against the United States . . . alleging that the Agriculture Department has created an improper subsidy.”

-- Irony alert: Shares of Whirlpool, the washing-machine company that initially pushed Trump to impose harsher tariffs, saw its worst day in over 30 years. The company’s stock fell 14.5 percent, which Whirlpool executives blamed on rising aluminum and steel prices. “Global steel cost has risen substantially and, particularly in the US, they have reached unexplainable levels,” Whirlpool CEO Marc Bitzer said during a conference call with shareholders. (CNBC)

-- What a headline: “America's last flatware maker invited to White House; guests dine with spoons from China,” by the Syracuse Post-Standard’s Mark Weiner: “Matt Roberts stood in a corner of the State Dining Room at the White House on Monday, showing samples of his company's Liberty Tabletop stainless steel silverware, when Rep. Claudia Tenney rushed over with a spoon in her hand. Roberts, president of Sherrill Manufacturing, the Upstate New York firm that's America's last flatware maker, looked closely at the spoon with the eye of an experienced craftsman. … ‘It says Oneida Ltd.,’ Roberts said, shaking his head in disappointment. ‘It's made in China.’”

-- Trump once again took to Twitter this morning to defend his policies and blame China for the impact on farmers:

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN AND WOMEN:

-- Attorney General Jeff Sessions, on the clock as the nation's chief law enforcement officer, laughed and egged on a group of students who chanted “Lock her up!” as he delivered a speech. Devlin Barrett reports: “Sessions, in the midst of a speech castigating universities and colleges for what he called excessive political correctness, at one point told the students: ‘I like this bunch. Go get ’em.’ With that, some in the crowd began chanting ‘Lock her up.’ … [T]he attorney general laughed and said: ‘Lock her up . . . I heard that a long time over the last campaign.’ He then returned to the text of his speech attacking college officials … Sessions was speaking to a high school leadership summit of Turning Point USA, a conservative student group, at George Washington University.”

-- Newly released documents from the Commerce Department contradict Wilbur Ross's sworn testimony and reveal he actively pushed to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. Tara Bahrampour reports: “The documents, released as part of a multistate lawsuit against the addition of the question, also reveal deeper involvement of senior administration officials in pushing for the question than earlier indicated, and attempts to drum up support from experts in the face of overwhelming criticism from former Census Bureau directors and the bureau’s own chief statistician. In a May 2, 2017, email to Earl Comstock, director of the department’s Office of Policy and Strategic Planning, Ross wrote: ‘I am mystified why nothing have [sic] been done in response to my months old request that we include the citizenship question. Why not?’ Comstock responded the same day, promising to ‘get that in place’ and adding, ‘We need to work with Justice to get them to request that citizenship be added back as a census question, and we have the court cases to illustrate that DoJ has a legitimate need for the question to be included.’ This appears to contradict Ross’s testimony in March … saying that the Justice Department had initiated the request for the question.”

-- Ivanka Trump announced she is shutting down her eponymous clothing line. Drew Harwell and Abha Bhattarai report: “Her brand … suffered from how polarizing it became during the campaign and the administration, enduring boycotts, lost sales and controversies that saw its goods yanked from retailers' shelves. On Tuesday, Ivanka Trump said her ‘focus for the foreseeable future will be the work I am doing here in Washington.'"

-- OMB Director Mick Mulvaney appears to be a top contender to take over as chief of staff if John Kelly leaves. Politico’s Nancy Cook reports: “Long rumored to be on his way out, Kelly has no clear plans to resign — but Mulvaney has been discreetly lobbying for the job, asking Republicans outside the White House to put in a good word on his behalf with the president. In recent weeks, Trump has been asking around about both Mulvaney and Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s current chief of staff and a longtime political operative who’s also in the running for the job, according to one person who recently spoken directly with the president.”

-- Sean Spicer criticizes a Wall Street Journal story in his new book that he says “falsely accused” him of stealing a mini-fridge while in the White House from junior staffers. But six former White House staffers say the story is true. Vice News’s Alex Thompson reports: "'It’s very Sean-like to lie about something that he just could have just ignored,’ said one of those staffers. … Spicer had asked for the fridge early on in his White House tenure, and sent an aide over to retrieve it, only to be rebuffed. Then around 7:30 p.m. one evening, a former White House official saw Spicer carry the fridge out of the office — electrical cord dangling behind — outside the EEOB, down the stairs, and over to the West Wing. The same official saw it in Spicer’s office soon after.”

-- A senior Trump appointee at VA was found to have previously spread birther conspiracy theories and made anti-Muslim comments on social media. CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski reports: “Thayer Verschoor, the VA's executive director of intergovernmental affairs, is a former Arizona state Senate majority leader and longtime ally of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a well-known birther who is currently running in the Republican primary for US Senate in Arizona. Shortly after joining the Trump campaign in 2016, Verschoor shared a Facebook post that praised then-candidate Trump for thinking ‘Obama's birth certificate is a fraud’ and understanding there's a Muslim ‘problem’ in the US.”

-- Former White House adviser Steve Bannon is trying to develop a cryptocurrency geared toward the “deplorables,” as one investor put it. Wired’s Gian Volpicelli reports: “‘It would provide financial services, and a reward for political activity,’ says blockchain investor and businessman Jeffrey Wernick. ‘Not necessarily for one party, but just for participating in the process: for supporting independents, not just democrats or republicans.’ Wernick … said he would meet Bannon over the next two weeks to further define how the populist cryptocurrency will work.”

-- Fox News host Kim Guilfoyle confirmed she is leaving the network to join the pro-Trump America First PAC. Guilfoyle, who is dating the president’s eldest son, announced she will serve as vice chairwoman of the PAC. (Emily Heil)

THE SUPREME COURT:

-- White House counsel Don McGahn huddled with key Senate Republicans yesterday to discuss minimizing the number of documents produced for review from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's tenure as a top aide to George W. Bush. Seung Min Kim reports: “Democratic senators are demanding that Kavanaugh hand over any document he touched during his time at the [Bush] White House, where he served in the counsel’s office and as staff secretary. That document production could top 1 million pages, and Republicans have deemed the Democrats’ demand a fishing expedition that will not be particularly revelatory. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee … said that documents from Kavanaugh’s time in the White House Counsel’s Office were ‘fair game’ but that the paperwork from his service as staff secretary was not.” Cornyn's rationale was that, “He was more or less a traffic cop.”

In May 2010, however, Kavanaugh singled out his tenure as Bush’s staff secretary as particularly “instructive” in his role as a federal judge and explained why it was relevant: “When people ask me which of my prior experiences has been most useful to me as a judge, I tell them that all of them have been useful, and I certainly draw on all of them,” Kavanaugh said. “But I also do not hesitate to say that my five and a half years in the White House — and especially my three years as Staff Secretary for President Bush — were the most interesting and in many ways among the most instructive.”

-- Kavanaugh met with Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) for 90 minutes yesterday. He has expressed concern about the judge's views on the Fourth Amendment and privacy.

THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- As a graduate student at American University, Maria Butina drew attention for her almost zealous embrace of Russia. Rosalind S. Helderman, Moriah Balingit, Shane Harris and Tom Hamburger report: “Butina’s cellphone case was emblazoned with a famous photo of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin riding shirtless on a horse. She would buy friends rounds of vodka at the Russia House, the Dupont Circle restaurant popular with the Russian diplomatic set, sometimes challenging male friends to down horseradish-infused shots. She bragged to classmates that she had worked for the Russian government. … Butina’s embrace of Russia was so public that people affiliated with AU worried about possible links to the Kremlin and alerted school officials during her tenure there, according to three people familiar with the conversations. University officials did not appear alarmed and did not appear to take any immediate action, they said.”

-- “Maria Butina was the ultimate NRA Cool Girl,” by Monica Hesse: “Spend an hour or three scrolling through Butina’s prodigious social media presence, and certain themes emerge. Her Instagram is a series of strategic fitness selfies — a sculpted deltoid, a Lycra’d thigh — showcasing both strength and femininity. Here, she brandishes a handgun and wears a cowboy hat. There, she crouches in the snow, leaning a rifle over a dead boar. Do wingtipped eyeliner and bombshell-red lipstick pair well with semiautomatic weapons? On Maria Butina’s Facebook feed they do. … In her photos she is almost always alone, like a Realtor’s open house left purposefully devoid of furniture so prospective buyers could imagine themselves living there.  Maria Butina is an NRA Cool Girl, a unicorn dream of what a man who loved guns might be seeking in a woman to love him[.] The men who championed her were so pleased to meet a woman who fit an ideal mold, they never stopped to think that maybe she was an ideal mole.”

-- Before he was charged in Robert Mueller’s Russia probe last October, Rick Gates was paid at least $125,000 by a top Trump fundraiser, Elliott Broidy, for advice on the new administration. The New York Times’s Kenneth P. Vogel, Mark Mazzetti, Maggie Haberman and David D. Kirkpatrick report: “For that money Mr. Gates advised Mr. Broidy on how to pursue both a contract for his business and appointments for his associates and provided insight into the new administration’s foreign policy plans . . . Their financial arrangement, not previously reported, was emblematic of the way a small circle of Mr. Trump’s associates at the beginning of his presidency aggressively marketed their administration access to well-paying clients, and sheds light on the activities of Mr. Gates, who has emerged as a key figure in [the Mueller probe].”

-- Mueller’s team plans to call witnesses from the IRS, FBI and the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network next week during Manafort’s federal trial in Alexandria, Va. Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn reports: “The details on which government officials might be asked to testify in [Manafort’s] July 31 trial on bank and tax fraud charges came as the federal judge presiding in the case outlined some of its broad parameters to potential jurors, including the timeline of the alleged crimes.”

-- Congressional Republicans released a version of the defense authorization bill to allow Trump more ability to scale back Russian sanctions. Karoun Demirjian reports: “House and Senate lawmakers agreed to give the president the power to waive sanctions, without first checking with Congress, against certain entities that still do business with Russia.”

-- The Kremlin went after Army Gen. Joseph Votel, the top U.S. military commander in the Middle East, after he expressed hesitancy about working with Russia in Syria. “With his statements, General Votel not only discredited the official position of his supreme commander-in-chief, but also exacerbated the illegality under international law and US law of the military presence of American servicemen in Syria,” the Russian Ministry said in a statement. Votel previously said of working with Russia to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees, “I am not recommending that. And that would be a pretty big step at this point.” (CNN)

THE IMMIGRATION WARS:

-- The Trump administration said it is on track to reunite a majority of migrant families by tomorrow’s court imposed deadline. Nick Miroff reports: “Government attorneys told U.S. District Court Judge Dana M. Sabraw, who mandated the reunifications last month and has overseen the process, that the government has given 1,012 parents their children back so far, out of 2,551 who were separated. Hundreds more families are due to be reunited by the judge’s Thursday deadline, the attorneys said, which Sabraw praised as ‘a remarkable achievement.’ But the judge was less pleased with the government’s inability to say how many migrant parents have already been deported, or released from custody by [ICE] into the interior of the United States.”

-- A handful of nonprofit groups are now helping these reunited families figure out what comes next. Michael E. Miller reports: “At the former Sisters of Loretto convalescent home, in drab rooms that once housed aging nuns, more than 100 immigrant children and parents were reconnecting after weeks or months apart. … Some [parents] had been given GPS ankle monitors just an hour or two earlier. All of them were required to check in with [ICE] — the agency that had just released them. For now, they were here, in a place that was part emotional respite, part logistical staging ground.”

-- A visa program that has helped thousands of Afghan and Iraqi citizens, many of whom served as battlefield translators to U.S. soldiers, has seen a sharp drop in arrivals since Trump took office. The Atlantic’s Priscilla Alvarez reports: “Two months into the Trump administration, then–Secretary of State Rex Tillerson directed American embassies around the world to double down on visas and ‘increase scrutiny of visa applicants for potential security and non-security ineligibilities.’ Since then, there’s been a stark decline in [special immigrant visa] arrivals. From January to June of 2017, 10,267 immigrants came to the U.S. on special immigrant visas. Over the same period in 2018, the number had fallen by more than half, to 4,166.” Matt Zeller, a veteran who credits a translator with saving his life in Afghanistan, said of the SIV decline, “Republicans talk about merit-based immigration. I’m not going to get involved in the greater immigration debate, but how much more merit do you need than saving American lives?”

-- The DOJ is asking its U.S. attorneys to use the term “illegal alien” rather than “undocumented” immigrant. CNN’s Tal Kopan reports: “According to [an agencywide email], [Justice] uses terms in the US Code to describe an individual who is illegally in the US, and thus refers to them as ‘an illegal alien.’ ‘The word 'undocumented' is not based in US code and should not be used to describe someone's illegal presence in the country,’ the email states.”

-- A new Pew poll finds Democrats and Republicans starkly divided in their opinions of ICE. While 77 percent of conservative Republicans view the agency favorably, a nearly identical share of liberal Democrats — 82 percent — view the agency unfavorably.

-- A federal judge ordered the immediate release of an undocumented pizza delivery man who was detained by ICE last month while delivering food to an Army base in Brooklyn. The judge granted 35-year-old Pablo Villavicencio Calderon a stay of deportation while he pursues permanent residency. (New York Times)

-- Thousands of scientists expressed fear that building a border wall could harm plant and animal life in the sensitive region along the U.S.-Mexico divide. Robert Peters of the conservation advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife wrote a report for BioScience about how a continuous and impermeable wall could destroy habitats and ruin scientific research in the region. After the report posted, over 2,700 scientists signed on to its findings. (Kate Furby)

THE REST OF THE AGENDA:

-- The White House has suspended its long-standing practice of publishing public summaries, or “readouts,” of Trump’s phone conversations with foreign leaders. CNN’s Kaitlan Collins reports: “It's unclear if the suspension is temporary or permanent. Official descriptions of the President's calls with foreign leaders … offer administrations the chance to characterize in their own terms the diplomacy conducted at the highest levels between countries. While news is rarely contained in the rote, often dry descriptions, they do offer the only official account that a phone call took place. Readouts are still released internally.”

-- More show votes: House Republicans are exploring plans to make permanent the individual rate cuts passed under last year’s tax law. Erica Werner reports: “The proposal stands little chance in the Senate. Nonetheless, House Republicans intend to bring it to a vote ahead of the November midterm elections, with the aim of refocusing attention on what they say are positive impacts from a new tax law that has not proved particularly popular with voters.”

-- Trump slammed the FCC’s move to block Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed merger with Tribune Media, a decision made by one of the president’s own appointees. From Tony Romm: “In a tweet, Trump said Tuesday it was ‘so sad and unfair’ that the FCC, an independent agency, did not approve the merger, a $3.9 billion transaction that would create a conservative television giant that originally hoped to reach roughly 70 percent of U.S. households. Last week, however, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai — a Republican whom Trump appointed to lead the telecom agency — found that Sinclair and Tribune had exhibited a ‘lack of candor,’ seeking to skirt the U.S. government’s restrictions on media ownership by divesting key stations in cities like Chicago to allies of Sinclair.”

THE LEFT IS WINNING THE DEMOCRATIC CIVIL WAR:

-- House Democrats will not hold leadership elections until December. The decision, made by a voice vote at a party meeting, will delay potentially divisive choices about the party’s future until a month after the midterms. (Elise Viebeck)

-- The Democratic Socialists of America is having a very successful summer, most notably with the primary victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, David Weigel notes. “DSA, founded in 1982 and nearly moribund before 2016, has never had more adherents or more clout. It’s not a political party, although members are often asked if it is. It’s not directing the Democratic Party’s agenda, but rather is the most visible and organized force in politics for an ideology that both major parties have previously viewed with hostility. Republicans have jumped on the socialist victories to impugn all Democrats. Democrats in the party’s centrist wing have likewise been rattled, worried that the democratic socialists’ prominence will define every party candidate as far left in competitive districts that are not.”

-- “Can a Bronx socialist help a campaign in Kansas? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will find out soon,” by Ben Terris: “It’s one of the top theories among Democrats that the way to win back majorities in Congress is to move toward the center, maybe peel off some moderates or at least not freak them out so much that they vote Republican in 2018. [James Thompson, a progressive congressional candidate in Kansas,] doesn’t buy it. He’s working with the other prevailing theory on how a Democrat should run in 2018. ‘They’re going to call me a socialist anyway,’ he said he told Ocasio-Cortez. ‘You might as well come out so we can all have a good time.’ … Depending on whom you ask, Ocasio-Cortez is either going to save the Democratic Party or destroy it from the inside. She's the Pariah Messiah, loved and hated, feared and praised.”

-- One potential 2020 contender, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), is increasingly embracing populist economic policies. The New York Times’s Shane Goldmacher reports: “She was among the first this year to endorse a federal jobs guarantee that is newly in vogue on the left. She was the first senator to introduce legislation to require that every post office in the country offer retail banking services in an effort to curb the predatory payday loan industry. She has announced a push to provide training to help those who lose their jobs to automation, embraced legalizing marijuana, pushed to tax drug companies for prescription drug price hikes, backed the Wall Street tax and announced that she would reject all future corporate political action committee money. … Her leftward thrust on economics — coming on the heels of her progression from a first-term congresswoman with an A rating from the [NRA] and guns under her bed to a gun-free senator with an F rating — is likely to resurrect questions about where her convictions end and political convenience begins.

THE MIDTERMS:

-- An analysis by the Kansas City Star found businesses connected to Sen. Claire McCaskill’s husband have been awarded more than $131 million in government money since the two-term Missouri Democrat took office. Kelsey Ryan and Lindsay Wise report for the Star: “Joseph Shepard’s personal income from his investments in those businesses has grown exponentially during his wife’s two terms in the Senate. The federal payments don’t go directly into Shepard’s pocket. Most of the money goes toward operating costs for government-subsidized housing projects Shepard is invested in. Those companies then distribute the profits to Shepard and other investors.” McCaskill is facing a difficult reelection this year in a state Trump carried by 18 points.

-- Trump’s approval rating appears to be slipping among some key constituencies, including white voters without college degrees. According to the latest Quinnipiac poll, such voters only approve of Trump by a 2-point margin (49 percent to 47 percent). Last month, 57 percent of these voters said they approved of Trump’s job performance, while only 36 percent said they disapproved.

-- Due to Pennsylvania’s redrawn congressional maps, the state’s 17th district will host the nation’s only House race where two incumbents will face off. And the Democratic candidate, Conor Lamb, currently has a significant lead in polling, according to a new poll from Monmouth University. Lamb, who has only been in Congress for three months, has a 12-point advantage over his GOP opponent, three-term incumbent Rep. Keith Rothfus. Fifty-one percent of potential voters said they supported Lamb, while 39 percent are supporting Rothfus.

-- Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) is suing the IRS over a recent rule change allowing “dark money” groups to shield the names of their major donors from the government. The New York Times’s Alexander Burns reports: “[I]n a lawsuit filed on Tuesday in Federal District Court in Montana, Mr. Bullock and his administration alleged that the Trump administration had flouted proper government process in eliminating the disclosure requirements. The suit asked the court to issue a judgment voiding the new I.R.S. policy. Mr. Bullock … argued that if the new procedure were allowed to take effect, it would undermine Montana’s ability to regulate nonprofits and would make it harder to police illegal spending in political campaigns.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Trump congratulated Brian Kemp on his runoff victory:

The communications director for Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) made an argument for why senators should receive all of Brett Kavanaugh's documents:

From the former head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division:

Sean Spicer's description of his former boss caught some by surprise:

From the Republican former director of the Congressional Budget Office:

Trump endorsed a Fox News host's new book:

A member of the New York Times's editorial board mourned the layoffs at the New York Daily News:

An NBC reporter noticed new street art in his neighborhood:

And Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) delighted in being alive after Google falsely described him as dead:

GOOD READS:

-- “I reported alongside soldiers in foxholes. The president can’t take that away,” by Martha Raddatz: “It is the job of the press to rigorously cover the military and to ask hard questions. But I could never have told those stories if the military did not open its doors to me. … I am proud to have gained the hard-won respect of so many of those I have met over the years. But as I listen to the vitriol aimed at the press by our president, I worry that those days of mutual respect will disappear for the next generation of reporters.”

-- GQ, “The Spy Who Drove Me,” by Julia Ioffe: “Last week, as America’s top national security experts convened in Aspen, a strangely inquisitive Uber driver showed up, too. And caused a minor freak-out. Was the mystery woman some kind of covert agent — or simply a figment of these hyper-paranoid times?”

-- New York Times, “As Greek Wildfire Closed In, a Desperate Dash Ended in Death,” by Jason Horowitz: “As wind-fueled wildfires that killed at least 79 people in vacation areas outside Athens bore down on their seaside resort, 26 men, women and children gathered in the hope that they could find the narrow path leading to a small staircase down to the water. The gated entrance stood only a dozen paces away, but with smoke blotting their vision and choking their lungs, they appear to have lost their way. Officials found their bodies the next day, Tuesday; several were still clinging to one another.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Facebook Said Alex Jones' Threatening Rant Against Robert Mueller Doesn't Violate Its Rules,” from BuzzFeed News: “With his latest accusations of pedophilia, [conspiracy theorist] Alex Jones and Infowars continue to test the limits of Facebook's rules. And Facebook continues to allow it. [On Monday], Jones issued a prolonged rant against [Robert Mueller], accusing him of raping children and overseeing their rape, and then pantomiming shooting the former FBI director. The show was streamed live on Jones' personal, verified Facebook page, which has nearly 1.7 million likes. … Jones then pantomimed shooting Mueller ‘politically, at high noon’ in an Old West — style shoot-out. ‘Make the move first, and then it's going to happen. It's not a joke. … ' [A Facebook spokesperson later told BuzzFeed News] that Jones' comments do not violate the company's community standards.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Sean Spicer book tour stop at Massachusetts BJ's store nixed over 'political climate,’” from Fox News: “A scheduled stop on Sean Spicer’s book tour at a Massachusetts BJ’s Wholesale Club has been canceled over apparent concerns about the ‘political climate.’ … ‘Of course, we were very disappointed, but also surprised since we have had such a terrific response to all of the other events we have scheduled around the country,’ [a spokesperson for Regnery Publishing told Fox News]. Saturday’s book signing at the BJ’s in Seekonk was to be one of more than two dozen promotional events for the former White House press secretary’s book, ‘The Briefing,’ between now and the end of September. There has been some confusion about the possibility of re-booting the event, but as of Tuesday afternoon it is still off the books.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will meet with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell in the Oval Office before having lunch with Mike Pompeo and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. He will then meet with the president of the European Commission and later sit down with lawmakers.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“Have you ever been vacuum-packed into a shrunken coach seat wishing the airline CEO had to endure the same discomfort? We did that for you, sort of.” The Wall Street Journal’s Scott McCartney, who interviewed the CEOs of American and Delta — in their own coach cabins — to discuss complaints from passengers about the increasingly cramped conditions. (United’s CEO, Oscar Munoz, declined the interview.)

 

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

-- Showers and storms will return to Washington this afternoon after a drier morning. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “We’re stuck in this same pattern for one more day, although we may get through the morning hours with just a few passing showers, as the juiciest air shifts to our east. Scattered showers should increase again during the afternoon, with a line of heavier showers and storms likely approaching from the west toward evening, as a cold front approaches from that direction. Highs top out in the low 80s under mostly cloudy skies, with dew points steady in the very muggy low 70s and a breeze from the south around 10 mph.”

-- The Nationals lost to the Brewers 5-4. (Chelsea Janes)

-- A D.C. government employee previously convicted of stealing federal funds is being investigated for potentially repeating the offense. Peter Jamison reports: “Rhayda Barnes-Thomas, 48, worked until recently at Project Empowerment, a program within the D.C. Department of Employment Services that provides jobs for the homeless, former criminal offenders and others who face obstacles finding work. Her employment ended in the spring, a department spokeswoman said. D.C.’s inspector general is investigating whether Barnes-Thomas used her access to internal information about Project Empowerment to steal money from the program.”

-- A Metro worker fatally stabbed a man who allegedly “attempted to attack” her while complaining about late service. The man, who was identified as 28-year-old Jeremy Bond of Rockville died at the hospital, authorities said. (Peter Hermann, Faiz Siddiqui and Dana Hedgpeth)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Stephen Colbert mocked Trump's advice to supporters to ignore what the “fake news” is reporting:

Seth Meyers took a look at what Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has done since she took office:

A BBC anchor threw tough questions at Sean Spicer:

The Post fact-checked the HHS secretary's comments about Trump's “zero tolerance” immigration policy:

A survivor of a nerve agent attack in Britain spoke out:

And more than 150 Santas gathered in Copenhagen for the World Santa Claus Congress: