With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: Responding to the pleas of Republican congressional leaders, President Trump appeared willing on Wednesday to temporarily back off three of his top priorities in a bid to save GOP majorities in the midterms.
The president moved to de-escalate his unpopular trade war, signaled that he’s no longer committed to shut down the federal government in October if the border wall isn’t fully funded and reluctantly relented on his rapprochement with Russia. After inviting Vladimir Putin to visit Washington in the fall with fanfare last week, the White House announced yesterday that he won’t come until 2019.
Taken together, these developments reflect the degree to which official Washington has begun shifting into full-on campaign mode with just over 100 days left until the fall elections and the palpable fear among top Republicans that they will lose the House unless the current trajectory changes.
-- Trump’s afternoon announcement in the Rose Garden that he’s reached a preliminary “agreement” with the head of the European Commission to resolve the trade conflict seemed designed to soothe growing unease in the farm belt. The president specifically brought along lawmakers who were already visiting the White House to complain about the political and economic fallout of his tariffs.
Trump, standing next to Jean-Claude Juncker, said both sides will hold off on threatened automobile tariffs and pursue a new bilateral trade deal. Helping the president save face, Juncker announced that the E.U. would buy more soybeans and, eventually, liquefied natural gas from the United States. “We also will resolve the steel and aluminum tariff issues, and we will resolve retaliatory tariffs,” Trump said.
“[T]here’s a lot of reasons to be skeptical that Trump has suddenly changed his mind on trade,” Heather Long and Steven Mufson report. “The details of the agreement with Europe are thin, there’s still a trade deficit that Trump hates, and only a day before the president tweeted that ‘tariffs are the greatest.’”
This shift also came one day after Trump unveiled a plan to distribute up to $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers who are suffering because of retaliatory tariffs. Notably, the money would go out in September — to ease people’s financial pain shortly before the start of early voting. The proposal was widely panned by conservatives as a bailout.
Gov. John Kasich (R) questioned Trump’s motives as he opened the Ohio state fair yesterday: “You have to wonder: Is this about vote-buying? Is this about the fact that you don’t want farmers turning against you in a midterm when they are suffering the consequences of trade?”
Sen. Mike Rounds (R) warned his colleagues during a private lunch on Tuesday that he’s been seeing fewer red “Make America Great Again” hats when he goes home to South Dakota, which he presented as an ominous signal of dimming enthusiasm among the party faithful. The senator called Trump’s announcement yesterday “a step in the right direction,” per Erica Werner and Sean Sullivan.
-- Fresh NBC-Marist polls published yesterday show that Trump has become a major drag on Republican candidates in three Midwestern states that are heavily dependent on agriculture and host marquee races this year. The president’s job approval rating is 36 percent in both Michigan and Wisconsin, states he narrowly carried in 2016. It's 38 percent in Minnesota, which he came within two percentage points of winning.
With numbers like these, it’s no wonder Trump backed down:
- Democrats enjoy a lead in the generic ballot for congressional preference from 8 points to 12 points across those three battlegrounds.
- In Michigan, only 28 percent of registered voters believe Trump deserves a second term; 62 percent say it’s time to give another person a chance. In Minnesota, it's 30 percent vs. 60 percent on that question. And in Wisconsin, it's 31 percent who say the president should be reelected and 63 percent who say he should not.
- “Majorities in all three states say their vote in November will be a message that more Democrats are needed in Congress to be a check and balance on the president,” NBC's Mark Murray reports. Trade is a top concern.
-- During a meeting yesterday, Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan presented a plan to Trump to avert another shutdown over wall funding until after the elections. The president apparently was receptive. “The Senate majority leader and House speaker laid out to Trump that they will prioritize less controversial bills before this fall's Sept. 30 funding deadline,” Politico’s Burgess Everett reports. “[McConnell] and [Ryan] hope to fund the majority of the government through the appropriations bill process by the end of September, and leave a brutal fight over border wall funding until later in the year. Trump made clear to the GOP leaders that he still wants a $5 billion down payment on his wall this year, but he signaled to the leaders that he might be willing to wage that fight after the midterms. . . . A government shutdown over the border wall could cripple GOP efforts to defend their majorities.”
If this report is correct, it’s a significant cave for Trump. After he signed the last funding deal in April, in which Trump secured $1.6 billion related to the wall, the president declared that he would not accept half measures in the fall: “We come up again on September 28th, and if we don’t get border security we will have no choice, we will close down the country because we need border security.”
While his public posturing on this issue has been somewhat erratic, Trump did tweet on June 22 that “Republicans should stop wasting their time on Immigration until after … November.”
-- Ryan and McConnell also both said publicly this week that Putin would not be welcome at the Capitol if he comes to town, and GOP strategists privately raised concerns with their White House counterparts that a repeat of the Helsinki lovefest could become an October surprise if it depresses base turnout. The decision was made easier by the fact that Putin didn’t want to come.
In addition to saying Putin won’t come until after the election, administration officials also pledged on Wednesday that Trump will never recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea, that he truly does acknowledge Russian interference in the 2016 election and that the president will hold a National Security Council meeting on Friday to demonstrate his seriousness about stopping it from happening again in 2018.
National security adviser John Bolton explained the reversal by saying that Trump decided meeting with Putin should not take place until “after the Russia witch hunt is over.”
-- To be sure, Trump changes his mind all the time. And just because he agrees to something today does not mean he won’t change his mind tomorrow. He’s officially endorsed bills, for example, only to equivocate after seeing a negative segment on Fox News. Remember the last C.R. and the FISA extension.
“It is not clear whether the respite from Trump’s trade conflict will prove sustainable or how significant it ultimately will be,” Erica and Sean note. “And the deal with the E.U. does not end the trade conflict with China. … In the battle for the Senate, Republican officials are (still) particularly worried about the impact of the tariffs in Tennessee, Florida, Missouri and North Dakota.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- A man detonated a bomb outside the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, injuring only himself. Danielle Paquette and Emily Rauhala report: “The bomb, which officers said resembled a firecracker, exploded in a public area at the embassy’s southeast corner, where people wait in line to apply for U.S. visas. As the crowd scattered, police quickly apprehended the suspect, whom they identified as a man from Inner Mongolia with the last name Jiang. The blast hurt his hand, authorities said. A probe into his motives is underway.”
-- Eleven members of the House Freedom Caucus — led by Reps. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) — filed a resolution calling for the impeachment of Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general tasked with overseeing Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Felicia Sonmez, Mike DeBonis and Devlin Barrett report: “(It) sets up a showdown with House Republican leaders, who have distanced themselves from calls to remove Rosenstein from office. But Meadows and Jordan stopped short of forcing an immediate vote on the measure, sparing Republican lawmakers for now from a potential dilemma . . . House Republicans have been ramping up their attacks on [Rosenstein] in recent weeks, accusing him of withholding documents and being insufficiently transparent in his handling of the [ongoing federal investigation into the president]. Justice Department officials said they have provided the vast majority of information sought in subpoenas from two key House committees — and are nearly done with providing all of the outstanding information requested.”
GET SMART FAST:
- Facebook shares tanked by as much as 24 percent in after-hours trading, touching off concerns that the political and social backlash the company has faced in recent months has finally begun to affect its bottom line. (Elizabeth Dwoskin and Hayley Tsukayama)
Islamic State militants killed more than 200 people in southern Syria, unleashing both a ground offensive and string of suicide bombings in a province near the Jordanian border. The massive assault underscored the militant group’s ability to carry out a coordinated strike, even as it continues to be driven from large swaths of its territory. (Louisa Loveluck)
A Swedish student prevented an Afghan man’s planned deportation by buying a ticket for his airplane flight and refusing to sit down until he was escorted off. “[Elin Ersson’s] dramatic act of civil disobedience, which she streamed live on Facebook in English, forced the flight to be delayed by two hours, according to Swedavia, the company that operates the airport. Ultimately, her efforts succeeded — at least for the time being. The Afghan deportee was escorted off the plane before it took off.” (Samantha Schmidt)
Teenagers are bearing the brunt of the worldwide AIDS epidemic, with about 30 adolescents — two-thirds of them female — becoming infected with HIV every hour, according to a new UNICEF report. (Reuters)
- Researchers have detected a 12-mile-wide body of water beneath layers of dust and ice on Mars at its south pole. The discovery raises the possibility that life may have once existed on the Red Planet. (Carolyn Y. Johnson)
- CQ Roll Call is slated to be acquired this year by FiscalNote, a D.C.-based technology start-up. The deal is expected to align Roll Call with a new, subscription-based data business, and offer the publication a degree of financial stability to better compete with rivals. (Aaron Gregg and Thomas Heath)
- A new paper theorizes that Amelia Earhart tried to radio for help after she was stranded on a tiny island in the Pacific — and that her messages were heard thousands of miles away. Earhart’s distress messages could "'skip' off the ionosphere and [carry] great distances, but clear reception is unpredictable.” the paper says. One Toronto housewife claimed she heard the famous aviator on her radio, saying, “We have taken in water . . . We can’t hold on much longer.” (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
- Someone in Silicon Valley won a Mega Millions jackpot worth more than half a billion dollars. (Lindsey Bever)
- The FBI and state investigators have taken over the search for a missing University of Iowa student who disappeared without a trace last Thursday while jogging. Dozens of volunteers have spent the past week combing ditches, cornfields and empty buildings for any possible sign of 20-year-old Mollie Tibbett. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
THE TRUMP-COHEN DIVORCE:
-- Michael Cohen — the president's longtime attorney and consigliere — once vowed he’d take a bullet for his boss. But in making public their recorded conversations, he might be the one pulling the trigger. Philip Rucker, Carol D. Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Ashley Parker have a richly reported inside look at the breakup:
“In the nearly four months since FBI agents raided his [Manhattan properties], Cohen has felt wounded and abandoned by Trump, waiting for calls or even a signal of support that never came. Cohen got frustrated when Trump started talking about him in the past tense, panicked last month when he thought the president no longer cared about his plight, and became furious when [Rudy Giuliani] contradicted some of his accounts[.] In Cohen’s gravest hour, as one associate described it, Trump was ‘leaving him out in the wilderness.’ The result is open warfare.
“Cohen’s actions appear to be driven more by his outrage over the president’s indifference and feelings of betrayal … than by a legal strategy to help his case. Tuesday’s public release of the Trump-Cohen audio came as a surprise to prosecutors handling the Cohen case . . . Current and former law enforcement officials questioned why Cohen — someone seen as angling for a plea deal — would choose to make potential evidence public. That kind of maneuver generally angers investigators and can make it harder to cut a deal.
“Cohen has chosen to morph from Trump’s pugnacious defender to a truth-teller without regard for any possible political or legal ramifications for the president, according to Lanny Davis, one of Cohen’s attorneys. … ‘He had to hit a reset button,’ Davis said[.] ‘He had to say he respected the FBI . . . He had to describe the Trump Tower meeting as extremely poor judgment at best. And, ultimately, he said, ‘I’m not going to be a punching bag anymore,’ which he had been when he said, ‘I’ll take a bullet.’
“The government has seized more than 100 recordings that Cohen made of his conversations with people discussing matters that could relate to Trump and his businesses … Trump’s voice is on several of the recordings, but only in snippets. The only recording in which Trump and Cohen have a substantive conversation is the one that Davis released Tuesday, according to these people.”
-- Davis described releasing the tape as the first step in rebutting claims about Cohen. “Yesterday, we made a decision — a pretty important, legal decision that we will not discuss any legal issues that might be a part of the investigation process,” Davis told Vanity Fair. “However, because President Trump and Rudy Giuliani chose to lie and attack, I am laying down a marker.”
-- “What kind of lawyer would tape a client?” Trump tweeted yesterday. Karen Tumulty writes that it's an easy question to answer: “The kind of lawyer who would thrive as Donald Trump’s longtime fixer. The kind Trump would turn to in the closing weeks of a presidential election, when he needed to buy the silence of a former Playboy model who was claiming that she and Trump had had an extramarital affair. The kind who would fit the description that Trump bestows on the people he finds most impressive, or at least the most useful: ‘a killer.’”
-- Federal investigators are examining Cohen’s years-long relationship with the publisher of the National Enquirer. The Wall Street Journal’s Michael Rothfeld, Joe Palazzolo, Lukas I. Alpert and Rebecca Davis O’Brien report: “Mr. Cohen mediated a dispute between Omarosa Manigault-Newman, who had been a star on Mr. Trump’s ‘Apprentice’ reality TV show, and the Enquirer over a story about her brother’s murder. He intervened in a separate legal case on behalf of David Pecker, chief executive of Enquirer parent American Media Inc. And when American Media paid a doorman who alleged that Mr. Trump fathered a child with one of his employees, a company executive ordered reporters to stop investigating after speaking with Mr. Cohen. The revelations show a relationship characterized by mutual benefit and favor-trading on a greater scale than was previously known.”
ANOTHER BIG LEGAL HEADACHE FOR TRUMP:
-- A federal judge rejected Trump’s efforts to kill a lawsuit that alleges he is violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause by continuing to do business with foreign governments. Ann E. Marimow, Jonathan O'Connell and David A. Fahrenthold report: “The ruling, from U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte in Greenbelt, Md., will allow the plaintiffs — the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia — to proceed with their case … This ruling appeared to mark the first time a federal judge had interpreted those constitutional provisions and applied their restrictions to a sitting president. Messitte’s 52-page opinion said that, in the modern context, the Constitution’s ban on emoluments could apply to Trump — and that it could cover any business transactions with foreign governments where Trump derived a ‘profit, gain or advantage.’ … In the past year, the Trump Organization has held several large events paid for by foreign governments and reported about $150,000 in what it called ‘foreign profits.’
- “The plaintiffs now want to interview Trump Organization employees and search company records to determine which countries have spent money at Trump’s hotel in downtown Washington — and how much they spent. They may also seek to review Trump’s tax returns, which — unlike other recent presidents — he has not made public. …
- “The Trump Organization and the Justice Department had urged Messitte to dismiss the case, arguing that the Founding Fathers had written this clause to stop officials from taking bribes — but not to stop them from doing business. The Justice Department released a short statement saying that it is reviewing the decision and that ‘we continue to maintain that this case should be dismissed.’”
-- A key passage from the opinion: “The historical record reflects that the framers were acutely aware of and concerned about the potential for foreign or domestic influence of any sort over the president,” Messitte wrote. “Sole or substantial ownership of a business that receives hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars a year in revenue from one of its hotel properties where foreign and domestic governments are known to stay (often with the express purpose of cultivating the President’s good graces) most definitely raises the potential for undue influence, and would be well within the contemplation of the Clauses. … [H]ow likely is it that he will not be swayed, whether consciously or subconsciously, in any or all of his dealings with foreign or domestic governments that might choose to spend large sums of money at that hotel property? How, indeed, could it ever be proven, in a given case, that he had actually been influenced by the payments? The framers of the clauses made it simple. Ban the offerings altogether.”
-- What’s next: “The judge ordered both sides to provide a schedule of their next steps within 21 days, including how to handle legal discovery of records,” the AP reports. Brian Frosh, the Democratic AG of Maryland, acknowledged that both the company and the hotel would likely object to any subpoenas for records, which could delay the case. And it’s possible that the DOJ could freeze discovery pending an appeal to the Fourth Circuit.
-- A good history lesson on emoluments, via Erick Trickey: “The ban dates back to America’s first constitution, the Articles of Confederation. (Its inspiration was a 1651 Dutch requirement that foreign ministers reject diplomatic gifts.) The delegates at the 1787 Constitutional Convention included the ban in the new Constitution after Charles Pinckney of South Carolina ‘urged the necessity of preserving foreign ministers and other officers of the U.S. independent of external influence.’”
-- David Post, who recently retired as a Temple University law professor, praises the opinion: “I have to say that, at least on first reading, I find its analysis to be awfully persuasive,” Post writes on the libertarian-leaning Volokh Conspiracy blog. “Judge Messitte looks pretty carefully both at internal, textual consistency and the ‘original public meaning’ of the term at the time of the ratification of the Constitution, and all evidence — including pretty overwhelming evidence from Founding-era dictionaries and legal texts — does seem to point to the broader interpretation. Trump will almost certainly appeal the ruling … and I suspect that Judge Messitte's opinion was written with that very much in mind; he clearly was aiming for an opinion comprehensive and reasonable enough that it would be hard to assail on appeal, and it does look to me like he achieved the goal.”
THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Mike Pompeo was grilled by lawmakers on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where both Republicans and Democrats offered a withering assessment of Trump’s behavior in Helsinki and questioned his ability to lead the United States on the world stage. John Hudson, Anne Gearan and Karoun Demirjian report: “In an effort to reassure lawmakers, Pompeo said the president accepts the views of the intelligence community that Russia interfered in the 2016 [election] and declared that the United States would never recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea … When confronted with specific questions about what Trump and Putin discussed, Pompeo repeatedly recited U.S. policy, prompting senators to accuse him of withholding details about the discussions.
Chair Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told Pompeo that lawmakers are “filled with serious doubts about this White House and its conduct of American foreign policy.” Trump, Corker said, appeared “submissive” in his appearance with Putin and is “antagonizing our friends and placating those who clearly wish us ill.” Corker also challenged Pompeo to satisfy concerns shared by his colleagues that the White House is “making it up as they go” and that Pompeo himself may not know what is happening. “We really need a clear understanding of what is going on,” Corker said.
-- Trump is slated to hold a National Security Council meeting on election security on Friday, which could include a discussion of Russia’s attempts to interfere in the midterms. Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker report: “When he sits down Friday with his national security team — which includes [John] Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and intelligence and military chiefs — Trump is expected to be confronted with the government’s latest intelligence regarding election threats, including from Russia. It was unclear what Friday’s agenda entailed, but it would be striking to convene a meeting on election security without delving into the Russian threat[.]”
-- Trump’s former top homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, said a staff shake-up at the NSC ordered by Bolton has left a dangerous void on cyber policy. Yahoo News’s Michael Isikoff reports: “'On cyber, there is no clear person and or clear driver, and there is no clear muscle memory,’ said [Bossert] … ‘And so, yes, if you’re asking me do I have any concerns? The concern would be who’s minding the store in the coordination and development … of new and creative cyber policies and strategies.’ … Amid the overall [NSC] shakeup, Rob Joyce, a highly regarded former [NSA] cybersleuth who served as Bossert’s deputy for cyber policy, also resigned, leaving the White House with no knowledgeable official directly in charge of organizing government-wide responses to malicious cyberattacks from foreign powers or other criminal hackers.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- American pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been detained in Turkey for nearly two years on terrorism-related charges, was released from prison and placed under house arrest. Kareem Fahim and Karen DeYoung report: “The Trump administration has repeatedly pressed the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to release Brunson, 50, a longtime resident of Turkey who was swept up in a campaign of mass arrests that followed a coup attempt against Erdogan in the summer of 2016. While the decision to place Brunson under house arrest could be a step by the Turkish government toward resolving his case — for instance, by deporting him — he remains on trial.”
-- A U.N. agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees was forced to lay off some 250 employees in Gaza and the West Bank because Trump slashed hundreds of millions of dollars in funding. The drastic cuts triggered a wave of emotional protests outside the agency’s headquarters in Gaza — and in one particularly emotional scene, an employee doused himself in gasoline and attempted to set himself on fire. (Loveday Morris)
-- Bowing to Beijing’s wishes, U.S. airlines have started changing the way they refer to Taiwan. From Danielle Paquette: “American Airlines wiped Taiwan from its website, and United Airlines said it was working to meet China’s requirements. The moves come about three months after Beijing ordered dozens of foreign airlines to refer to the island as a Chinese territory or face consequences in the world’s second-largest aviation market. … The Trump administration has called Beijing’s demand ‘Orwellian nonsense,’ but industry groups suggested Wednesday that more U.S. carriers may comply.”
-- Throwing its weight around, the Chinese government also withdrew its approval for Facebook to open a subsidiary in the country — just hours after the company’s successful registration appeared on a Chinese database. The New York Times’s Paul Mozur reports: “While the about-face does not definitively end Facebook’s chances of establishing the company, it makes success very unlikely … The strange incident underscores how much of a challenge it has become for the globe-spanning social network to get into China — even just to open an innovation center. Its main platform has been blocked in China for almost a decade.”
MORE ON THE MIDTERMS:
-- No strikes, yet: “Over the past few months, Trump has fired off endorsements for 14 primary candidates . . . Of the nine candidates who have already had their primaries, all have won,” Jenna Johnson and Josh Dawsey report. “His decisions sometimes hinge on disciplined study by his staff, sometimes on Trump’s gut reaction to a candidate’s message. Sometimes he has created a wave for a candidate, as the party’s most dominant figure, and sometimes he has surfed an existing one. . . . The White House has a formal process for endorsements: Trump meets a few times a month with a political team armed with written presentations that feature photos of candidates, their positions on certain issues, Trump’s popularity in their districts and an assessment of how loyal they have been to Trump and his positions. Sometimes the team will call candidates from the Oval Office, according to aides. But as with all other aspects of the presidency, Trump’s informal musings often take over, with the president responding to things he sees on television or hears in phone calls with friends or conversations with staff members who follow races in their home states.”
-- The Twitter accounts of prominent Republicans, including RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, have been limited in the platform’s search results in a practice known as "shadow banning." Vice News’s Alex Thompson reports: “McDaniel, several conservative Republican congressmen, and Donald Trump Jr.’s spokesman no longer appear in the auto-populated drop-down search box on Twitter . . . It’s a shift that diminishes their reach on the platform — and it's the same one being deployed against prominent racists to limit their visibility. … Democrats are not being ‘shadow banned’ in the same way.” Asked for an explanation, a Twitter spokesperson cited a May 15 blog post outlining the company’s attempts to combat “troll-like behaviors.”
Trump said in a morning tweet that he will “look into” Twitter for the practice:
Twitter “SHADOW BANNING” prominent Republicans. Not good. We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! Many complaints.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2018
-- Paul Ryan is spending his final months as speaker imploring conservatives to take a high-minded approach to political discourse. At Ryan’s last annual lecture to congressional interns, he told the audience, “Just think about what you’re doing to kind of poison the well of society, think about what you’re doing to try and just degrade the tone of our debate.” Paul Kane reports: “This is the contradiction Ryan faces in his final months in office. For the second time in a week, he held a forum on the favorite topic of his 20-year career, restoring the foundations of ‘civic life’ and reclaiming his ‘raise your gaze’ rhetoric of his first days as House speaker in 2015. But Ryan has struggled with squaring his own ethos of ‘common humanity,’ as aides billed his lecture with interns, with [Trump’s] brutish nature of believing victory is achieved through embarrassing one’s opponents into submission.”
-- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) endorsed Michigan gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed. El-Sayed has enjoyed widespread media attention, but polls indicate former state Senate leader Gretchen Whitmer is leading in the Democratic primary. And chemical testing executive Shri Thanedar, who has self-funded his campaign, has attempted to undercut El-Sayed’s platform by labeling himself the true “progressive” in the race. (David Weigel)
MORE FROM THE TRADE WAR:
-- Some of the largest U.S. companies report that Trump’s trade war has begun eating into their profits — sounding alarm bells during an otherwise-profitable corporate earnings season. Sales of everything from My Little Pony to Maseratis are being affected. Rachel Siegel and Hamza Shaban report: “[Companies] across a broad array of industries are citing tariffs … as the culprit for lower profits, higher prices for consumers and even sweeping changes in their planning and operations, such as moving production out of China. … Some worry that the tariffs could disrupt a healthy economy that, so far, has kept an even keel amid [Trump’s] Twitter storms, a rise in oil prices and anticipation that the Federal Reserve will keep notching up interest rates.”
-- Businesses are also blaming Trump's tariffs for raising prices on U.S. customers: “Brown-Forman said it would raise prices on its whiskeys, including Jack Daniel’s, in parts of Europe because of tariffs on American-made bourbon. Coca-Cola’s [CEO said] Wednesday that it too was being squeezed by the steel and aluminum tariffs. . . . General Motors said Wednesday that it has lowered its outlook for 2018 earnings in part because of significant increases in the costs of raw materials. GM’s stock fell about 6 percent by afternoon trading.”
-- “Farmers like me put Trump in office. Now his trade war is smothering us,” writes Kalena Bruce, a fifth-generation rancher living in Stockton, Mo. “I am a farmer and a Trump supporter. I agree that China needs to be punished for stealing patented U.S. technology. But opening a new front in this trade war, while trying to reduce the blowback on farmers with a Great Depression-era transfer program, is not the right approach. It is the economic equivalent of treating a hangnail by cutting off your finger.”
LIFE IN TRUMP'S WASHINGTON:
-- A CNN reporter was barred from an open-press White House event because officials took issue with questions she asked the president. Paul Farhi and Felicia Sonmez report: “Reporter Kaitlan Collins said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and communications director Bill Shine told her she was banned from a late-afternoon announcement in the Rose Garden involving Trump and [Juncker] a few hours after she sought to question Trump during a press-pool ‘spray’ in the Oval Office. Blocking a credentialed White House reporter from an event open to all members of the media is highly unusual and possibly unprecedented, and it marks another low point in the Trump White House’s highly strained relationship with the news media.” Collins had asked the president questions about two of the biggest news stories of the day: Cohen’s recording of his discussion with Trump about a hush-money payment and Putin’s postponed visit to Washington.
-- Melania Trump’s spokeswoman, appearing to respond to a New York Times report that the president was upset when his wife’s television on Air Force One was tuned to CNN, said the first lady will watch “any channel she wants.” “Did you know that every 15 minutes a baby is born with [neonatal abstinence syndrome]? Maybe you'd like to talk about the 160,000 kids who skip school every day for fear of being bullied, or that 280,000 students are physically attacked in schools every month,” spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told CNN. “Seems kind of silly to worry about what channel she watches on TV (any channel she wants btw) or if she heard some recording on the news.”
-- Despite receiving private warnings that ending “temporary protected status” for Central American immigrants could actually empower MS-13, Trump made the policy change anyway. CNN’s Tal Kopan reports: “The warnings came from experts at the State Department in October 2017, and were attached to a letter from then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to then-acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke. The State Department also warned that ending the [TPS] program could also hurt US national security and economic interests, including by driving up illegal immigration.” Reminder: Trump has referred to MS-13 as “animals” and accused Democrats of trying to “protect” members of the gang.
-- Out of the loop: Newly obtained emails reveal the chaos at the Pentagon when Trump makes a major announcement or policy change without advance warning. BuzzFeed's Vera Bergengruen reports: “The emails document two days of the aftermath of an unusual, and seemingly sudden, statement released by the White House late on the night of June 26 last year. It warned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that he and his military would ‘pay a heavy price’ if they carried out another chemical weapons attack. … But the channels at the Pentagon that usually would have coordinated such a release were in the dark. . . . Jim Mattis and his top spokesperson, Dana White, were on a plane to Germany to attend an event commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan.”
-- One of America’s most feared libel lawyers has emerged as the go-to attorney for the Trump family as the president continues to slam the media. Beth Reinhard and Emma Brown report: “In his first court case for the Trumps, Charles Harder negotiated a $2.9 million settlement from the Daily Mail over its false report in 2016 that Melania Trump had once worked as an escort. Then he made the unusual demand that a publisher cease distribution of a … White House exposé ‘Fire and Fury.’ Now he is representing the president in two lawsuits brought by Stormy Daniels … Harder is best known for helping a Silicon Valley billionaire exact revenge against the gossip website Gawker with a lawsuit that led to the company’s demise. But winning in court is not always necessary to exact a toll on the media. The legal website Above the Law once wrote of him, ‘If you’re looking for a lawyer to bring a publication to its knees, Harder’s the leader in the clubhouse.’ . . . Press advocates say that as Trump seeks to undermine the media … the ‘Gawker effect’ is discouraging newsrooms from publishing negative stories about potentially litigious public figures.”
-- Emails obtained from the Columbus Police Department indicate Stormy Daniels’s arrest may have been planned days in advance. The Fayette Advocate’s Derek Myers reports: “Inside the emails are news clippings discussing Daniels’ planned appearance in Columbus, pictures of Daniels with [Trump], videos of her dancing, and even a map to the club where she would be performing, all sent days before she would pull into town on her tour bus. The bulk of the emails that the whistleblower provided are from the email account of Detective Shana Keckley. Keckley was one of the lead-arresting officers the night that the ‘sting’ operation went down.” In response to the emails, Daniels’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti, pledged to “get to the bottom of this one way or the other.”
-- As the NFL and the NFL Players Association continue to debate a new national anthem policy, there’s a widespread preference among owners for the players to stand during the anthem. Mark Maske reports: “But if the owners plan to seek the players’ agreement to stand for the anthem before games, what is not known is what the rest of that conversation entails. … The latest consternation over the anthem policy plays out as NFL teams report to training camps this week.”
-- Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the team’s players would be required to stand for the anthem. “Our policy is you stand during the anthem, toe on the line,” Jones said in a news conference. (USA Today)
-- Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who has raised his fist during the anthem as his own form of protest, told NBC’s Lester Holt, “We can talk about social issues and … still have a great game.” “We talked about domestic violence for a whole year. We had commercials, we had things on the field. Nobody had an issue with that,” Jenkins added. “ … When we start talking about black issues, and issues of race, now all of a sudden, ‘We just want football. We don't want all the extra stuff, we just want to watch the game.’”
-- An Oregon high school student who was suspended after wearing a “Donald J. Trump Border Wall Construction Co.” T-shirt to class has reached a settlement with his school district. Liberty High School senior Addison Barnes will receive a written apology and $25,000 after his lawyers claimed his First Amendment rights were violated. (Eli Rosenberg)
-- An Arizona town featured in Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Showtime” series said that it would prioritize religious tolerance after a group of its citizens was shown responding negatively to the proposed construction of a mosque. A statement from the city of Kingman accused Cohen of “baiting” its citizens but went on to say, “We’re going to use this opportunity to keep moving our community forward with the help of many community stakeholders … And while we’ve been making progress, the comments in the show, fairly or unfairly, show that we still have more work to do.” (Alex Horton)
-- Rep. Ron DeSantis, a GOP gubernatorial candidate in Florida, continued his feud with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by accusing the Democratic congressional candidate of “trying to play identity politics.” “I don’t care whether she’s Puerto Rican, whether she’s Anglo-Saxon,” DeSantis said on Fox News. “I don’t care whether she’s an Eskimo. Socialism doesn’t work, and it’s wrong.” (John Wagner)
-- Z-Burger franchise owner Peter Tabibian apologized for a “callous” Twitter ad that depicted U.S. journalist James Foley, who was executed by terrorists in the Middle East. Tabibian said the ad was posted by a social media contractor without his knowledge, and that he “almost fell out of his chair and cried” when he saw the offensive content. In a statement, the owner added that he is attempting to “explain and apologize” to many people, including those who knew Foley. (Dana Hedgpeth)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
A Politico reporter had an update on the documents tied to Carter Page's FISA warrant:
DOJ OFFICIALS: 31 lawmakers have viewed a largely unredacted version of the Carter Page FISA applications. Devin Nunes, who has demanded the president declassify large swaths, is *not* one of them.— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) July 25, 2018
A New Yorker correspondent made this observation about the national security adviser:
Reminder: last year John Bolton called the Russian election interference "an act of war."— Susan Glasser (@sbg1) July 25, 2018
Now as national security adviser he puts out an official statement calling investigation of said act of war "witch hunt."
A Republican senator endorsed Trump's trade announcement:
The Post's fact-checker columnist corrected Trump's trade language:
Reminder: The U.S. did not "lose" $817 billion last year on trade. Such language would earn an F in Economics 101. https://t.co/k6MVTFHNDA— Glenn Kessler (@GlennKesslerWP) July 25, 2018
A Senate Democrat criticized Republicans' reasoning for not producing all documents tied to Brett Kavanaugh:
ALERT: Senate Republicans who are NOW arguing that Kavanaugh’s White House Staff Secretary records aren’t relevant—and thus shouldn’t be disclosed—because he was a mere paper shuffler, might want to ask him first. Judge Kavanaugh, IN HIS OWN WORDS: pic.twitter.com/WQp40kKgYa— Sen. Patrick Leahy (@SenatorLeahy) July 25, 2018
News about Trump's emoluments case caused dictionary searches for “emolument” to spike:
📈Our top search is 'emolument' as a federal judge has allowed a case concerning Donald Trump's business ties to move forward.https://t.co/sMEZPxf7lp— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) July 25, 2018
D.C.’s attorney general, one of the plaintiffs in the emoluments case, celebrated the ruling that his lawsuit can proceed:
#BREAKING: Judge allows our #emoluments case to proceed.— AG Karl A. Racine (@AGKarlRacine) July 25, 2018
We are one step closer to stopping President Trump from violating the Constitution’s original anti-corruption provisions.
Stay tuned—more to come.
Thanks to AG @BrianFrosh and co-counsel @CREWcrew. pic.twitter.com/LS474xr2vN
One of Oregon’s Democratic senators cited the emoluments case as another reason to oppose Kavanaugh:
From a liberal constitutional law professor who is running for attorney general of New York:
This opinion in the Emoluments Clause case is a watershed moment. From the moment Trump took office he was in violation of the Constitution, and while DC & MD are leading the way, NY should be part of this fight. It's where most of his businesses are. When I am AG, we will be.— Zephyr Teachout (@ZephyrTeachout) July 25, 2018
The managing editor of Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball analyzed Midwest polling numbers:
wouldn't it be crazy if the Midwest swung from Trump to Ds in 2018, and then back to Trump in 2020?— Kyle Kondik (@kkondik) July 25, 2018
well, actually, it wouldn't be that crazy. We just saw it happen w/ Obama 2008, Republicans 2010, and Obama 2012. https://t.co/8jbTu1VL77
CNN issued a statement after one of its reporters was barred from an open-press event at the White House:
Statement regarding CNN press access at today’s White House event. We demand better. pic.twitter.com/s4lSTcHVak— CNN Communications (@CNNPR) July 25, 2018
A Fox News anchor expressed support for CNN:
A CNN host tweeted the questions reporter Kaitlan Collins was asking:
What @KaitlinCollins asked Trump, hours before being "disinvited" from Rose Garden event:— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) July 25, 2018
— "Did Michael Cohen betray you, Mr. President?"
— "Are you worried about what is on the other tapes?"
— "Why is Vladimir Putin not accepting your invitation?"https://t.co/i6F39WwaDQ
A New York Times reporter questioned the White House's rationale for its decision:
In statement, White House @PressSec acknowledges barring CNN reporter @kaitlancollins because she “shouted questions and refused to leave” Oval Office at end of pool spray. If that’s the standard, they will have to bar every member of the press pool since that’s what all of us do— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) July 25, 2018
From a veteran Post reporter:
Today the White House retaliated against CNN’s @kaitlancollins for doing her job—which was to ask questions of the president about news of the day. The action by WH was totally unjustified and outrageous.— Dan Balz (@danbalz) July 26, 2018
From a former RNC communications director:
Wanna bet that every White House/RNC staffer high-fiving each other over shabby treatment of Jim Acosta & Kaitlyn Collins will be asking to get into CNN events around WHCD and the RNC convention?— Doug Heye (@DougHeye) July 25, 2018
And a presidential historian shared a Newsweek cover from 1973:
Newsweek cover, 45 years ago this week: pic.twitter.com/GoZY80n60s— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) July 25, 2018
-- Sports Illustrated, “The Highest Court in the Land,” by Stanley Kay: “Directly above the nation's most important tribunal is another type of court, where victors emerge not with five votes and a majority opinion but with 21 points and a margin of at least two. Yes, on the fifth and top floor of the [Supreme Court — a] glorious, neoclassical edifice on First Street NE … is a basketball court. At roughly 78 feet long and 37 feet wide, the court is smaller than the regulation 94-by-50 feet, with walls hugging the sidelines and the eagle of the Supreme Court seal spreading its wings across midcourt. … In our current political reality, when the judicial branch often feels like the federal government's last bastion of normality, the Highest Court in the Land embodies Washington as many Americans wish it were: nonpartisan, impartial and amicable. There are no alternative facts in basketball — there are winners, and there are losers. There is justice.”
-- The Atlantic, “Sean Spicer and the Art of Failing Upward,” by McKay Coppins: “On [Tuesday], denizens of Donald Trump’s Washington gathered [to] toast one of the most widely ridiculed White House press secretaries in history. But the event doubled as a more general celebration of Spicer’s lucrative return to D.C.’s polite society — if he’d ever really left — and a reminder that even those who serve in the establishment-reviled Trump administration are guaranteed access to that grand, bipartisan tradition of failing upward in the swamp. . . . Spicer knows this, of course. And so, when it came time for the night’s main event, he took his seat on stage [and] told his story — smiling sheepishly as he cast himself as a cockeyed optimist who came to the nation’s capital brimming with idealism, made a few mistakes along the way, but ended up working in the White House, never losing his sense of awe for the office of the presidency.”
-- “It’s not just about bikinis: Inside the battle for the future of Miss America,” by Amy Argetsinger: “Miss America was founded as a contest for bathing beauties of the Roaring Twenties. But [Gretchen Carlson, the new chair of the Miss America Organization,] warned that in 2018, sponsors and broadcasters would shy away from a show that sent young scholarship seekers traipsing across a stage in bikinis. And could the pageant survive without TV?”
-- “‘My heart, it’s never been fuller’: All black team wins D.C. Little League title,” by Barry Svrluga: “The transactional information isn’t mind-blowing: Mamie Johnson beat Capitol Hill to win the District’s Little League championship. The tournament has been held annually for 31 years. Someone has to win it. Next stop for the 12 boys from Mamie Johnson: Bristol, Conn., for regionals, with the Little League World Series in sight beyond that. That result, though, is enormously important not just for those kids and coaches but for baseball in Washington and beyond, too. This is the first all-African American team to win this tournament.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s Spokeswoman Once Argued Muslims Can’t Be President,” from HuffPost: “A top spokeswoman for Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made Islamophobic comments in a 2015 blog post, arguing that a Muslim ‘could never serve’ as president of the United States, HuffPost has learned. In the post, titled 'Did I offend you?,’ Faith Vander Voort came to the defense of then-Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, who … said: ‘I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.’ ‘A devout Muslim,’ Vander Voort wrote in her post, ‘could never serve in the Oval Office of the United States of America.’ Any Muslim elected to the White House, she added, would ‘either be a shoddy and inconsistent Muslim or subject to impeachment the moment they took office because Shariah Law and the United States Constitution are not compatible.’
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Pickax-Wielding Vandal Smashes President Trump's Hollywood Walk of Fame Star to Pieces,” from NBC Los Angeles: “[Trump's] star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was destroyed Wednesday morning by a man with a pickax that witnesses say he concealed in a guitar case, police said. Officers were called around 3:30 a.m. to the star's location on Hollywood Boulevard near Highland Avenue, where they found a small pile of rubble in place of the star that Trump received in January 2007 … The star-smashing suspect, who reported the crime to police, later turned himself in to Beverly Hills police after leaving the pickax at the scene[.] Witness David Palmer said he is accustomed to seeing the unusual on Hollywood Boulevard … but he was surprised to see the Walk of Fame vandalism.” “I'm like, 'Why are you hitting that star? What did Donald Trump do to you?'" Palmer said. “Then he went around the corner and I think he left.”
Trump will travel to Peosta, Iowa, to tour a manufacturing lab and participate in a roundtable discussion. He will then travel to Granite City, Ill., to tour the Granite City Works steel plant and give a speech on trade before returning to Washington.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“It's the president that causes people to have concerns. … [I]t's the president's actions that create tremendous distrust in our nation, among our allies. It's palpable.” — Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) to Mike Pompeo during the secretary of state’s appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- The District will finally see a dry day. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Morning clouds could still produce a stray shower, but most areas remain dry, albeit humid. The clouds break up enough by afternoon to allow highs to reach the mid- to upper 80s. A west breeze remains very light.”
-- The Nationals beat the Brewers 7-3. (Chelsea Janes)
-- Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) spoke out against a school district’s plan to arm staff members. Perry Stein reports: “The five-member School Board in Lee County, a small system in Virginia’s far southwest, voted unanimously earlier this month to select an undisclosed number of teachers and staff members to carry concealed weapons or store them in safes on school property. But Northam said in an interview Wednesday on WTOP radio’s ‘Ask the Governor’ show that school districts shouldn’t be arming teachers. … The governor said he is awaiting the opinion of Attorney General Mark Herring (D) on the matter.”
-- Mobike became the second dockless bike operator in the District to end operations in the city. Ofo announced earlier this week it was also leaving Washington, as the companies say regulatory challenges have impeded their growth. (Luz Lazo)
-- Hundreds attended the funeral of 10-year-old Makiyah Wilson, who was killed in a Northeast Washington shooting last week. Police have still not made any arrests in the shooting, which also wounded four adults. (Michael Brice-Saddler)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Jimmy Kimmel imagined a mob movie based around the Trump-Cohen tape:
Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler reprised their “Really!?!” segment from SNL's "Weekend Update" to criticize James Comey's advice to the Democratic Party:
Mike Pompeo got into a testy exchange with Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) during his Senate testimony yesterday:
Space experts explained to lawmakers the importance of exploring Mars:
And a London Zoo shared a video of its animals enjoying frozen treats to stay cool in the summer heat: