Frustration with Donald Trump’s lackadaisical and even antagonistic response — he vilified the mayor of San Juan and threatened to cut off funding for Puerto Rico at one point — prompted even some Republicans to warn that the episode could doom his presidency. After all, George W. Bush’s numbers never really recovered after Hurricane Katrina.
Because they’re already U.S. citizens, Puerto Ricans are eligible to vote as soon as they move to the mainland. The thinking last fall was that they’d be so angry at Trump that they’d be champing at the bit to vote against Republicans in the midterms. Operatives from both parties said that this could prove decisive in a perennial battleground like Florida where elections are always close.
Once again, the conventional wisdom turns out to have been wrong. Trump appears to be defying the old rules of politics. In this case, it’s because most of the Puerto Ricans who have come to Florida are not registering to vote or otherwise getting involved in politics. At least for now.
-- The freshest data reveals that there has been no surge in new Puerto Rican voters. During the nine months before the hurricane — January through September of 2017 — there were 343,000 people who registered to vote in Florida, and 18 percent were Hispanic, according to Daniel Smith, the chairman of the political science department at the University of Florida. During the nine months after the hurricane — from last October through the end of June — there were 326,000 new registered voters. Just 21 percent were Hispanic. That’s a pretty small uptick — and not necessarily explained by Puerto Rican registration at all.
The Puerto Ricans emigres have mostly gravitated toward the Orlando area, mainly because so many other Puerto Ricans already lived there. The number of people of Puerto Rican origin living in Florida surpassed 1 million in 2015, which is more than double what it was in 2000. The sprawling settlement of expats outside Orlando is in the heart of the Interstate 4 corridor, which bisects Florida. This swingiest region of the swingiest state in America has determined the outcome of multiple presidential elections.
But in the two Orlando-area counties with the highest concentration of Puerto Ricans, there has not been any meaningful increase in Democratic registration. In fact, because inactive voters are removed from the rolls, there are 12,315 fewer registered voters in Orange County today than on Election Day in 2016. In Osceola County, there are 3,400 more Democrats, 800 more Republicans and 9,200 more independents than the last election. For context, there are more than 200,000 registered voters in Osceola.
Steve Schale, a Tallahassee-based Democratic strategist who directed Barack Obama’s 2008 victory in Florida and was a senior adviser on his 2012 reelection campaign, has been closely tracking these numbers in Excel spreadsheets, which he shared Thursday.
“The concern I’ve had for a while is that … the Maria impact was probably not going to be as significant as people initially thought,” he said. “We’ve got two-and-a-half months left for voter registration. But these numbers show it’s not going to happen organically. … This is a warning flare that there’s real work to be done. … Dems need to be registering around the clock, which they clearly aren't doing.”
He’s not alone. Many of the savviest Democrats in Florida are growing anxious that a blue wave might sweep across America in November but bypass their state. Outgoing Gov. Rick Scott (R) is challenging Sen. Bill Nelson (D) in what will surely be one of 2018’s most expensive contests. Republicans and Democrats both have competitive primaries Aug. 28 to pick their nominees for the open governor’s race, which will likely remain a toss-up until the end.
-- State Rep. Amy Mercado (D), who is of Puerto Rican descent and represents Orlando, said that many of the folks who came last fall have been struggling to find affordable housing and jobs. “Their main focus obviously is going to be survival,” she said. “They have to contend with trying to figure out their day-to-day lives. So, honestly, the last thing they’re thinking about is politics.”
Mercado praised groups like Vamos4PRAction for trying to educate the new arrivals about how the system works on the mainland. She said Puerto Rico’s elections are very different from Florida’s. “They don’t understand that there’s a soil and water board, let alone why it’s important,” she said. “They don’t always realize that the local issues affect them first, before the national issues.”
-- Democratic National Committee officials said they are trying to make inroads with a population that’s highly transient. Chairman Tom Perez visited Orlando in May to announce a $100,000 grant for the Florida Democratic Party to register Puerto Ricans. To boost outreach, the DNC also just paid to get a list of cellphone numbers with Puerto Rican area codes that are being used in Florida. And the party is partnering with Democratic operative Luis Miranda Jr., the father of “Hamilton” playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda, to conduct focus groups of Puerto Ricans.
-- Another factor is that Florida Republicans have not taken Puerto Ricans for granted. Mindful of the potential political impact of these new arrivals, Scott has courted the community aggressively, traveling to the island at least half a dozen times since the storm and flooding Spanish-language media with ads. (Nelson is also running ads talking about his work to help Puerto Rico.) The LIBRE Institute, which is part of the constellation of political groups funded by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, has been offering free “Welcome to Florida” classes to teach newly arrived Puerto Ricans how to speak English and search for jobs — with some lessons about the virtues of free markets thrown in. The RNC also hired three staffers to reach out to displaced people.
-- Unrelated to the storm, Puerto Ricans on the mainland have long been less politically engaged than other part of the Hispanic diaspora. In 2016, 70 percent of eligible registered voters cast ballots in Florida. Research from Smith at the University of Florida shows that the turnout rate among Puerto Rican-born registered voters was only 62 percent. That was considerably less than the turnout rates among registered voters who immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba, Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico.
Smith believes “it is fanciful” at this point to think the influx of Puerto Ricans could tip the fall elections to Democrats. He noted that the political fallout of the hurricane is smaller than the fallout from the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., which has inspired a push to register new millennial voters. “And I’m skeptical of that to begin with,” Smith said of what's dubbed the Parkland Effect.
-- Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló flew to Orlando in April to unveil a new initiative called Poder to encourage displaced Puerto Ricans to register to vote and participate in Florida’s elections. The hope is that, if they do, this could help the island get more resources to recover from the hurricane and, in the governor’s dream scenario, statehood. “We're trying to get Puerto Ricans on the mainland to get out the vote because that's really the way we can make changes on these critical issues,” he said.
Rosselló lamented in an interview that “upwards of 90 percent” of adults who live on the island are registered to vote there, but it’s so low in the states. “So what we're trying to do is make sure that we identify those in the community that haven't registered,” he said. “We have a digital platform that can enable that. We’ve been doing both digital and grass-roots work on that front to get those numbers up.”
The 39-year-old governor, an MIT-trained scientist and son of a former governor, said he is “still hopeful” that they can move the needle before the Oct. 5 registration deadline. “If you see the margin of victory in Florida in the major races over the last decade, you could see that 200,000 Puerto Ricans can certainly swing that outcome one way or the other,” he said.
-- There’s no denying that successful voter registration drives could mean the difference between winning and losing. One percentage point separated the winners from the losers in the Sunshine State for each of the past two presidential and gubernatorial contests. In 2008, the Obama campaign oversaw efforts to add nearly 250,000 new voters to the rolls. Obama carried the state by about 230,000 votes. In 2012, he beat Mitt Romney by about 70,000 votes. “Had we not done the work that we did in both 2008 and 2012 on registration, we probably wouldn’t have won Florida in '12,” Schale said. “I’m fairly certain that, in those 70,000 votes, you can find the people we registered over the preceding two cycles.” Trump carried Florida by 112,000 votes — out of 9.4 million ballots cast — two years ago.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The U.S. military now has what are believed to be the remains of 55 U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War, the result of an agreement Kim Jong Un made with Trump during their Singapore summit. Adam Taylor and Dan Lamothe report: “A U.S. Air Force plane carrying [the remains] arrived at Osan Air Base in South Korea on Friday morning, the 65th anniversary of the armistice that ended the fighting. The U.S. Air Force C-17 aircraft departed for the Kalma Airport in the North Korean city of Wonsan before 6 a.m. Friday. It returned about 11 a.m. local time, where it was greeted by a crowd of several hundred U.S. service members and their families — U.S. service members from throughout South Korea had been invited to the event. . . . The remains are expected to remain at Osan for a few days for initial testing before a repatriation ceremony is held Aug. 1 and they are sent on to Hawaii.” Trump tweeted, “After so many years, this will be a great moment for so many families. Thank you to Kim Jong Un.”
-- The U.S. economy grew at a rate of 4.1 percent last quarter, a significant jump from the first three months of the year. Heather Long reports: “The quarterly growth is the fastest since the third quarter of 2014 and provides President Trump and Republicans a boost as they make the economy a key part of their campaign message heading into November’s midterm elections. But economists caution the growth was driven by one-time factors and is likely to be short-lived. The uptick was largely driven by solid consumer spending and a big expansion of U.S. products sold overseas.”
GET SMART FAST:
- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is moving to eliminate an Obama-era rule protecting students from predatory for-profit colleges. The rule cut off federally guaranteed student loans to colleges if their graduates do not earn enough to pay them off — and it also requires schools to say whether they meet federal standards for job placement in promotional materials. (New York Times)
- Facebook’s market value plummeted by more than $100 billion, marking the largest single-day loss in Wall Street history. The drop comes as the social network struggles to correct years of privacy missteps and regain public trust — both from users and newly spooked investors alike. (Craig Timberg and Elizabeth Dwoskin)
- Temperature records are being broken as the globe faces a dangerous summer that, scientists say, is being supercharged by climate change. “The old records belong to a world that no longer exists,” said Martin Hoerling, a research meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. (Joel Achenbach and Angela Fritz)
- The Syrian regime has recently begun issuing death notices for its political prisoners at an “unprecedented” rate, according to monitoring groups. Experts say the spike reflects President Bashar al-Assad’s belief that he has all but prevailed in Syria’s civil war, and that he will not provoke fiercer resistance by publicizing the death of tens of thousands of detainees. (Louisa Loveluck and Zakaria Zakaria)
- A federal judge denied a request from lawyers for a former Senate security official to place a gag order on Trump. The request came after the president made inaccurate statements about James Wolfe, who has been charged with lying to the FBI about his communications with Washington reporters. (Tom Jackman)
- The Missouri duck boat that capsized last week and killed 17 passengers was designed by a self-taught businessman with no engineering or mechanics credentials, according to court documents. It is unclear whether the boat’s design was a factor in its sinking, which is currently being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board. (Kristine Phillips)
- Northrop Grumman’s chief executive struggled to answer questions from lawmakers about the delayed launch of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope. Wes Bush admitted to members of the House Science Committee that the company's errors had helped delay the telescope’s launch until 2021 at the earliest. (Joel Achenbach)
- Former Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter is suing the company. Court filings say Schnatter wants to inspect company documents “because of the unexplained and heavy-handed way in which the company has treated him since the publication of a story that falsely accused him of using a racial slur." But Schnatter admitted to using the n-word during a conference call, prompting him to step down as chairman of the company’s board. (CNN)
- An attorney for Brock Turner, who was convicted of sexual assault in 2016, is trying to have the former Stanford swimmer’s conviction overturned by arguing he just wanted “outercourse.” Attorney Eric S. Multhaup described outercourse as a “version of safe sex” with no “penile contact,” indicating that Turner did not intend to commit rape. But the appellate judges seemed skeptical of the argument. (Meagan Flynn)
- Cops in Maryland were offered Krispy Kreme doughnuts as a bribe to release suspects. (They did not accept.) After police in Frederick subdued two men who were looking into cars, one suspect told the officers he worked at Krispy Kreme and offered them doughnuts and cash if they let him “just go home.” (Dana Hedgpeth)
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- The Trump administration said it has reunited more than 1,440 migrant children with their parents in time for yesterday's court deadline for families separated at the U.S. border. Nick Miroff and Samantha Schmidt report: “But 711 children remain in government shelters because their parents have criminal records, their cases remain under review or the parents are no longer in the United States, officials said. The latter group includes 431 parents. Chris Meekins, an official at the Department of Health and Human Services . . . told reporters that ‘hundreds of staff have worked 24/7’ to meet the court’s 30-day deadline. Administration officials said they would work with the court to figure out how to return the remaining children, including those whose parents have been deported. One hundred twenty parents declined to be reunited with their children, the government said, a decision some parents make to allow their children to remain in the United States with other relatives while their immigration claims are adjudicated.”
-- Children led a sit-in at a Senate office building to protest migrant family separations. Marissa J. Lang reports: “About 100 people, many of them very young, marched, toddled and, in some cases, were carried from St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Southeast Washington to the building where about 50 senators have offices. When they arrived, they gathered in a circle, hoisting signs that declared, ‘I AM A CHILD.’ They sang songs that riffed on familiar nursery rhymes — ‘If you’re powerful and you know it, clap your hands’ — and cheered, stomped and danced.”
-- A GOP-led House committee unanimously passed a resolution aimed at reversing Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s guidance that immigrants may not use claims of domestic or gang violence to qualify for asylum. Seung Min Kim reports: “The provision was adopted as part of a larger spending bill that funds the Department of Homeland Security, an already contentious measure because of disputes over funding for [Trump’s] border wall. But one influential Senate Republican and ally of the White House warned that keeping the asylum provision could sink the must-pass funding bill, and other conservatives who support a tougher line on immigration began denouncing it Thursday.”
-- A federal judge allowed a multistate lawsuit against the citizenship question on the 2020 Census to proceed. NPR’s Hansi Lo Wang reports: “More than two dozen states and cities, plus other groups and individuals, are suing the Census Bureau and the Commerce Department, which oversees the census, to get the question about U.S. citizenship status removed from forms for the 2020 census. … In his opinion released on Thursday, [the judge] said that the plaintiffs ‘plausibly allege that [Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross's] decision to reinstate the citizenship question was motivated at least in part by discriminatory animus and will result in a discriminatory effect.’”
THE TRUMP-COHEN DIVORCE:
-- Michael Cohen says Trump knew in advance about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting in which Russians offered “dirt” on Hillary Clinton. And Cohen is willing to speak to Robert Mueller about Trump’s advance knowledge, CNN's Jim Sciutto, Carl Bernstein and Marshall Cohen report. “Cohen's claim would contradict repeated denials by Trump, Donald Trump Jr., their lawyers and other administration officials who have said that the President knew nothing about the Trump Tower meeting [until a July 2017 New York Times report]. Cohen alleges that he was present, along with several others, when Trump was informed of the Russians' offer by Trump Jr. By Cohen's account, Trump approved going ahead with the meeting with the Russians, according to sources. To be clear, these sources said Cohen does not have evidence, such as audio recordings, to corroborate his claim, but he is willing to attest to his account. According to people who have discussed the matter with Cohen, he has expressed hope that this claim about the Trump Tower meeting will help him reach out to Mueller and possibly lessen his legal troubles.”
-- Trump denied knowledge of the meeting in a morning tweet storm, in which he also implied Cohen was just making the accusation to get out of legal troubles:
-- Rudy Giuliani went a step further last night, calling Cohen “a pathological liar.” Appearing on CNN, the president's current lawyer said this of his former lawyer: “He's been lying all week, he's been lying for years. I don't see how he's got any credibility.” The former New York mayor added that Cohen is “the kind of witness that can really destroy your whole case,” despite the fact that Cohen was the top lawyer for the Trump Organization for a decade.
Host Chris Cuomo replied that the president is not exactly trustworthy:
A former Obama speechwriter summarized Giuliani's message this way:
-- “Two sources who have spoken to Trump about Cohen this week said the president was furious — hurling ‘expletives,’ per one confidant — after CNN revealed Cohen had covertly recorded at least one of their conversations,” The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff and Asawin Suebsaeng report. “On Tuesday, the cable network published audio, provided to it by Cohen’s attorney, of Trump and his former fixer discussing purchasing the rights to [Karen McDougal’s story] … After audio of the call surfaced, the president conveyed to those close to him that he felt betrayed by Cohen. He was particularly irate at being clandestinely recorded and that audio had found its way to, of all places, CNN, a frequent target of Trump’s tweets. Trump also vented his frustration that there are apparently other tapes out there, and that he doesn’t know exactly what could be on them, or when they’ll drop in the press. … Trump allies are already gaming out how to, in the words of one outside adviser to the president, ‘bury’ Cohen.” “They’re dead to each other [now],” said another source close to Trump, who also knows Cohen.
-- Longtime Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg has been called to testify before a federal grand jury in the criminal probe of Cohen's business dealings, which is being overseen by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York. The Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Davis O’Brien, Rebecca Ballhaus, Michael Rothfeld and Alexandra Berzon report: “Mr. Weisselberg is considered a witness in the investigation . . . It isn’t known whether he has already appeared before the grand jury or what questions [prosecutors] have had for him. … For decades, Mr. Weisselberg has served as executive vice president and chief financial officer at the Trump Organization, and was once described by a person close to the company as ‘the most senior person in the organization that’s not a Trump.’ After Mr. Trump was elected, he handed control of his financial assets and business interests to his two adult sons and Mr. Weisselberg.”
Weisselberg “has handled personal financial matters for Mr. Trump and has also been linked to payments made to two women who alleged they had sexual encounters with Mr. Trump. Last year, Mr. Weisselberg arranged for the Trump Organization to pay Mr. Cohen, who [had made a $130,000 hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels]. . . . The other instance emerged this week, in a [2016 audio recording between Trump and Cohen] in which the two men discussed buying the rights to a former Playboy model’s story of another affair[.] In the recording … Mr. Cohen said he would set up a company to make the payment, adding, ‘I’ve spoken with Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up,’ before Mr. Trump interrupts him.”
-- Mueller is scrutinizing Trump’s tweets about Sessions and James Comey as part of his investigation into whether the president sought to obstruct justice through intimidation or other means of pressure. The New York Times’s Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman report: “Several of the remarks came as Mr. Trump was also privately pressuring the men … Mr. Mueller wants to question the president about the tweets. His interest in them is the latest addition to a range of presidential actions he is investigating as a possible obstruction case: private interactions with Mr. Comey, Mr. Sessions and other senior administration officials about the Russia inquiry; misleading White House statements; public attacks; and possible pardon offers … None of what Mr. Mueller has homed in on constitutes obstruction, Mr. Trump’s lawyers said." . . . But privately, some of the lawyers have expressed concern that Mr. Mueller will stitch together several episodes, encounters and pieces of evidence, like the tweets, to build a case that the president embarked on a broad effort to interfere with the investigation.”
“The special counsel’s investigators have told Mr. Trump’s lawyers they are examining the tweets under a wide-ranging obstruction-of-justice law beefed up after the Enron accounting scandal … The investigators did not explicitly say they were examining possible witness tampering, but the nature of the questions they want to ask the president, and the fact that they are scrutinizing his actions under a section of the United States Code titled ‘Tampering With a Witness, Victim, or an Informant,’ raised concerns for his lawyers about Mr. Trump’s exposure in the investigation.”
-- Paul Manafort described the work he did for pro-Russia Ukrainian politician Viktor Yanukovych, who won a presidential election in 2010, as the “most satisfying” campaign of his career, according to documents released by Manafort’s defense team. From Rachel Weiner: “The documents … show how political operatives from both sides of the aisle use the lessons they learn on American campaigns for sometimes unsavory foreign clients. … After winning power in 2010, Yanukovych saw his presidential rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, put in prison.”
THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- The Russian GRU intelligence agency that was responsible for hacking during the 2016 presidential race attempted to target Sen. Claire McCaskill’s office last year as the Missouri Democrat kicked off her reelection campaign. The Daily Beast’s Andrew Desiderio and Kevin Poulsen report: “The precise purpose of the approach was also unclear. The senator later released a statement asserting that the cyberattack was unsuccessful. ‘Russia continues to engage in cyber warfare against our democracy. I will continue to speak out and press to hold them accountable,’ McCaskill said[.] ‘While this attack was not successful, it is outrageous that they think they can get away with this . . . I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Putin is a thug and a bully.” In August 2017, around the time of the hack attempt, Trump traveled to Missouri and chided McCaskill, telling the crowd to ‘vote her out of office.’”
-- A bipartisan group of senators unveiled a bill meant to block Trump from pulling the U.S. out of NATO as part of some kind of grand bargain with Putin. Karoun Demirjian reports: “The bill would require the president to secure the support of two-thirds of the Senate — the same threshold required to enter into a treaty — before he could withdraw from the nearly 70-year-old alliance. It also authorizes the Senate’s legal counsel to represent the body in any court cases needed to prevent a withdrawal from NATO without the Senate’s approval.”
-- “Putin wanted to interrogate me. Trump called it ‘an incredible offer.’ Why?” by former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul: “Putin already has done real damage to my professional and personal life. I once was a scholar of Russian politics, but now I can’t travel to that country to conduct research, at least in the Putin era. … Since 1983, I have traveled and lived in the U.S.S.R. and Russia constantly, residing roughly half a dozen years there. … That chapter of my life, spanning more than three decades, is now over. I hope Trump, [Mike Pompeo], [Jeff Sessions] and national security adviser John Bolton don’t give Putin another victory in his personal vendetta against me by allowing him to throw around false charges, bogus indictments and improper Red Notices issued in third countries.”
-- Federal investigators say they have more than 1 million files related to their case against Maria Butina, the 29-year-old accused of being a Russian agent, many of which were collected from her computer. WTOP’s J.J. Green reports:
- Retired CIA official John Sipher described Butina as an “access agent” for Russia: “’Her job was to make a wide variety of contacts, and then report back to her handlers so they could be targeted.”
- Former CIA covert operative Robert Baer said her deployment illustrates the lengths to which Russia has gone to infiltrate political circles in Washington. He said “the whole point of getting in the NRA was to spot potential recruits”: “She used the NRA as a platform, identified people of interest to the FSB … whether they were political figures or military, and invited them to come to Russia, to see if they could be recruited. All of their information we now know from the prosecutor was going back to the FSB through a couple layers.”
-- Butina dined in February 2017 with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), but it wasn’t the first time the two had met. ABC News’s Ali Dukakis reports: “Two years earlier, Butina had helped arrange a meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia that included Rohrabacher and her mentor, Kremlin-connected banker Alexander Torshin[.] To Rohrabacher’s critics, these repeated interactions … have added more fuel to longstanding questions about his Kremlin connections. … In January 2017, Rohrabacher hosted an inaugural ball at the Library of Congress that attracted several Russian figures whose names have since surfaced [in Mueller’s probe]. The event was organized by his close aides, and tickets bought by guests were counted as campaign donations. Among the guests were two of the participants in the now-infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting[:] Russian-American lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.”
THE SPEAKER'S RACE:
-- Rep. Jim Jordan, a member of the House Freedom Caucus who is embroiled in controversy about his knowledge of sexual abuse within Ohio State’s wrestling program as an assistant coach there, launched a long shot bid for House speaker. Elise Viebeck and Mike DeBonis report: “Jordan (R-Ohio) argued that the GOP-led Congress has let Trump down in a letter to colleagues that announced his plans. ‘President Trump has taken bold action on behalf of the American people,’ he wrote. ‘Congress has not held up its end of the deal, but we can change that. It’s time to do what we said.’ Specifically, Jordan vowed to fully repeal the 2010 health-care law, build a wall along the southern border, make the 2017 tax cuts permanent and cut federal spending to avoid large deficits if he becomes speaker. . . . His run represents a challenge to [Paul] Ryan’s preferred successor, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who has not yet announced his candidacy.”
-- Paul Ryan came out against House conservatives' effort to impeach Rod Rosenstein, saying that he believes DOJ officials are working “in good faith” to comply with congressional oversight requests. DeBonis and John Wagner report: “But two other leaders angling to succeed Ryan after he retires next year were more sympathetic, offering support to the effort to unseat a top law enforcement official of their own party as they continue wooing support from conservatives. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) voiced support for the impeachment measure, calling it ‘leverage’ to get the [DOJ] to provide Congress with more documents related to the origins of the [Mueller] probe . . . [McCarthy] suggested slowing down the process, saying that [DOJ] should comply with House requests but that the resolution should be dealt with in a committee first before being considered in the full House.” But Trump has complimented the House Freedom Caucus’s efforts to defend him, praising Jordan in a June closed-door meeting as “a warrior for me.”
THE TRADE WAR:
-- When European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker visited the White House this week to negotiate with Trump on trade, his pitch involved a winning combination: simple cue cards, colorful materials and a line out of Trump’s own playbook. The Wall Street Journal's Valentina Pop and Vivian Salama report: “Mr. Juncker grabbed the opportunity to argue that both sides need to refrain from further punitive tariffs or they would foolishly harm themselves. ‘If you want to be stupid,’ he told Mr. Trump, ‘I can be stupid, as well.’ Backing up his points, Mr. Juncker flipped through more than a dozen colorful cue cards with simplified explainers, the senior EU official said. Each card had at most three figures about a specific topic, such as trade in cars or standards for medical devices. ‘We knew this wasn’t an academic seminar,’ the EU official said. ‘It had to be very simple.’ . . . The Europeans also had an ally in Larry Kudlow, Trump’s chief economic adviser. … Mr. Kudlow had met with a member of Mr. Juncker’s team the previous evening and hinted at a possible deal over Diet Cokes at a D.C. hotel.”
-- The temporary truce between Trump and Juncker has flummoxed European officials. Quentin Ariès and James McAuley report: “In capitals across Europe, a number of national officials [heralded] the meeting as having prevented a trade war. German Finance Minister Peter Altmaier, for instance, called it a ‘breakthrough.’ But others were wary, wondering whether it’s realistic to expect Europe to buy more soybeans from the United States, as Juncker signaled, or to become ‘a massive buyer’ of U.S. liquefied natural gas, as Trump declared.”
-- Trump touted the agreement during an appearance at an Illinois steel plant — but not much may have changed. Jeanne Whalen and Damian Paletta report: “Trump’s agreement this week with the European Union and a renegotiation earlier this year of a trade deal with South Korea bear similarities to deals that were in place or being negotiated before Trump took office, [European and American] analysts and diplomats said. A key piece of the agreement Trump reached with [Juncker] to ease escalating trade tensions and forestall further tariffs called for both sides to ‘work together toward zero tariffs’ on non-auto industrial goods, such as aircraft engines and turbines. That was also a goal of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, a proposed deal that the United States and the European Union were negotiating under the Obama administration and that subsequently withered.”
-- Meanwhile, the Senate approved lowering trade barriers for hundreds of items made in China. From Reuters: “With no debate, the Senate unanimously passed a bill that would cut or eliminate tariffs on toasters, chemicals and roughly 1,660 other items made outside the United States. Nearly half of those items are produced in China, according to a Reuters analysis … The White House has not publicly taken a position on the so-called miscellaneous tariff bill, which has now passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives unanimously.”
-- In eastern China, some 90,000 Trump reelection banners have been stitched, packaged and are ready to ship to the United States well in advance of the 2020 presidential race. But the banners, emblazoned with the words “KEEP AMERICA GREAT,” could be the latest item hit by Trump’s own tariffs. Reuters reports: “The factory has turned out [tens of thousands of Trump 2020] banners since March, said manager Yao Yuanyuan, an unusually large number for what is normally the low season … and Yao believed the China-U.S. trade war was the reason. ‘It’s closely related,’ she said. ‘They are preparing in advance, they are taking advantage of the fact that the tariffs haven’t gone up yet, with lower prices now.’”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Australian officials said they believe the U.S. military is preparing to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities as soon as next month. Andrew Probyn and Andrew Greene report for the Australian network ABC: “The ABC has been told Australian defence facilities would likely play a role in identifying targets in Iran, as would British intelligence agencies. But a senior security source emphasised there was a big difference between providing accurate intelligence and analysis on Iran's facilities and being part of a ‘kinetic’ mission. … [Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull] said . . . he had no reason to believe the US was preparing for a military confrontation.”
-- A powerful Iranian general took aim at Trump, describing his all-caps threat to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as “cabaret-style rhetoric.” From the New York Times’s Rick Gladstone: “The commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, who wields enormous influence in Iran, may emerge as its future leader and is considered a terrorist mastermind by the United States. He said that Mr. Trump should pick a fight directly with him and not [Rouhani].”
-- Trump threatened to “impose large sanctions” on Turkey after a deal fell apart to release American pastor Andrew Brunson. Carol D. Leonnig, Ashley Parker, Kareem Fahim and Karen DeYoung report: “[Trump’s] NATO meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this month had ended with a smile, a fist-bump and what Trump thought was an agreement to free [Brunson], the American pastor imprisoned in Turkey for the last two years on what the administration considered bogus terrorism charges. The deal was a carom shot, personally sealed by Trump, to trade a Turkish citizen imprisoned on terrorism charges in Israel for Brunson’s release. But it apparently fell apart on Wednesday, when a Turkish court, rather than sending the pastor home, ordered that he be transferred to house arrest while his trial continues. Thursday morning, after a rancorous phone call with Erdogan, Trump struck back. The United States ‘will impose large sanctions’ on Turkey, he tweeted. ‘This innocent man of faith should be released immediately.’”
An Israeli official confirmed a key component of The Post’s story:
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN AND WOMEN:
-- Former Trump aide and “Apprentice” contestant Omarosa Manigault Newman has written a surprise tell-all book, which will be released next month. Gallery Books first announced the book yesterday. Its title, “UNHINGED: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House,” suggests it certainly won't be a love letter. (CNN)
-- Ken Kurson, a close friend of Jared Kushner’s, withdrew from consideration for a seat on the board of the National Endowment for the Humanities after the FBI started probing harassment allegations against him. The New York Times’s Jesse Drucker, Emily Steel and Danny Hakim report: “As part of [Kurson’s background check], the [FBI] learned about allegations that he had harassed a New York doctor in 2015, according to Mount Sinai Hospital, where the doctor worked. In late spring, the F.B.I. interviewed Mount Sinai doctors and others about the alleged harassment, according to several people familiar with the matter … The female doctor had become so worried that Mount Sinai arranged for someone to accompany her to and from the hospital for at least a few days, two of the people said.”
-- “The reporters who cover Ivanka Trump have spent as much time as anybody trying to figure out how to meaningfully cover Ivanka Trump: the deep moat surrounding her, the careful way she measures her words like a Weight Watchers subscriber trying not to go over her daily allotment of almonds,” columnist Monica Hesse writes of the White House adviser as she shutters her clothing brand. “In public interviews, Ivanka’s been a master of careful excellence, the artful dodge, the well-phrased nothing. As for her influence: She’s said only that if she disagrees with her father, it’s expressed privately and ‘with total candor.’ … But the biggest question surrounding Ivanka has always been this one: How much of her identity is about herself? Her own name, her own brand, her own legacy? And how much of her identity is tied up in being her father’s daughter?”
-- Pentagon reporters are complaining about declining access to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and other senior U.S. military officials. Politico’s Jason Schwartz reports: “Mattis has not briefed reporters on-camera in the Pentagon since April, while his chief spokesperson, Dana White, has not done so since May. Mattis used to regularly pass through the Pentagon press area to conduct gaggles with reporters, but reporters say those have all but dried up in recent weeks.”
-- A boat owned by Betsy DeVos's family was vandalized. The Toledo Blade reports: “[The] captain of the 163-foot yacht, [Seaquest, which is] worth a reported $40 million, called police at about 6 a.m. Sunday, telling them that he and the crew realized at sunrise that someone had untied Seaquest from the dock, setting it adrift. The crew eventually got control of the yacht, but not before it struck the dock, causing an estimated $5,000 to $10,000 in damage from large scratches and scrapes, according to the police report.”
-- According to new NBC News-Marist polling, Republican gubernatorial candidates in the Midwest — including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker — are badly trailing their Democratic opponents. NBC News’s Carrie Dann reports: “[J]ust 34 percent of Wisconsin’s registered voters say Walker should win re-election in the fall, while 61 percent say a new person should be given the chance to lead the state. The crowded Democratic field to take on Walker has a clear frontrunner in state schools superintendent Tony Evers. … If Evers faces Walker in the general election, the poll shows the Democrat would start the contest with a significant advantage. Evers leads Walker 54 percent to 41 percent in a hypothetical matchup among registered voters.”
-- Sen. Tom Carper, who entered Delaware politics over 40 years ago, has attracted his first Democratic primary challenge — leading some to wonder if he will be ousted by a younger, more progressive candidate. David Weigel reports: “This year, Carper is the No. 1 target of the people who helped Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez oust the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House, with one of her top staffers relocating to Delaware to help challenger Kerri Evelyn Harris in the Sept. 6 primary. He’s being watched closely by Republicans, who are running as Trump-style outsiders, and who wonder if a Democrat who once ran as ‘a senator for our future’ may stumble or show his age. The senator, who says that a fourth term would probably be his last, argues that none of his opponents understand what Delaware wants — and none can seriously accuse a former governor, congressman and state treasurer of failing to deliver for his state.”
-- Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.), who helped engineer the GOP’s 2010 takeover of the House, is at risk of losing his seat. Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports: “[Sessions] is confronting a treacherous political landscape back at home — a well-funded Democratic opponent with a boffo résumé, a rapidly diversifying and more liberal district, and, perhaps most critically, a constituency of well-educated and upper-income suburban voters who increasingly are turning on the president.”
-- The main super PAC aiding Senate Democrats’ midterm efforts is investing heavily in field programs for red states. The New York Times’s Alex Burns reports: “Senate Majority PAC … intends to steer at least $20 million into the voter-mobilization campaign ahead of the midterm elections … The program, which follows a similar — successful — Democratic effort in Alabama last year, underscores the degree to which outside groups that can take massive donations have supplanted the traditional role of political parties. The initiative by Senate Majority PAC … will span more than a dozen states where Senate seats are at stake. But it is to focus on four states above all: Missouri and Indiana, where endangered Democrats are seeking re-election, and Arizona and Tennessee, where strong Democratic challengers are running for open seats currently held by Republicans.”
-- Formerly imprisoned coal baron Don Blankenship will not appear on West Virginia’s November ballot as a third-party Senate candidate. Politico’s James Arkin reports: “Secretary of State Mac Warner said Blankenship’s bid would violate the state’s ‘sore loser law’ preventing a candidate who lost a primary from running again in the general election. Blankenship ran in the May GOP primary but finished a distant third, and submitted signatures earlier this week to run in November as the Constitution Party candidate. … The decision is expected to kick off a legal battle over the law itself as Blankenship seeks to continue his campaign.”
-- Less than 24 hours after reports in December that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had been hospitalized for the “normal effects” of cancer treatment, Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) reached out to the governor to express interest in McCain’s Senate seat. The Arizona Republic’s Yvonne Wingett Sanchez reports: “Gosar's chief of staff, Thomas Van Flein, conveyed the northern Arizona congressman's interest in replacing McCain ... to Gov. Doug Ducey's then-attorney, Mike Liburdi. …The requested conversation did not occur, said Daniel Ruiz, a senior adviser to Ducey. … Ducey, a Republican, has rebuked the behind-the-scenes jockeying for the seat. He and his staff, who have fielded questions for months about the issue, have said any discussion is ‘disgraceful’ since McCain remains a member of the U.S. Senate.”
-- Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels’s attorney, announced he will speak at an annual Democratic dinner in Iowa as he tries to gin up speculation that he'll try to run for the Democratic nomination in 2020. From Elise Viebeck: “[Avenatti] said on Twitter that he will be a speaker at the Iowa Democratic Wing Ding on Aug. 10 in Clear Lake, Iowa. The dinner is known for attracting White House candidates and those contemplating bids to a state that is considered one of the most important presidential proving grounds. … Reached by phone, Avenatti said he has been invited to speak at a ‘number of Democratic fundraisers’ and plans to attend events in Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan. He said he has been asked to stump for Democratic candidates in the midterm elections but would not say which ones. He said he has not decided whether to formally launch a 2020 presidential bid.”
-- Trump’s taxpayer-funded trip to Illinois, where he endorsed electing Republicans to Congress, raised fresh questions about him mixing official and political events. Seung Min Kim reports: “‘You’ve got to vote Republican, folks, you’ve got to vote Republican,’ Trump said during the speech at a steel plant in Granite City, Ill. . . . ‘Vote for these two congressmen; they know what we’re doing. They know what they’re doing. They’re tough, and they’re smart' … White House spokesman Hogan Gidley told reporters on Air Force One that ‘there is no legal prohibition’ on endorsing political candidates at official, taxpayer-funded events.”
-- “Stacey Abrams Could Become America's First Black Female Governor — If She Can Turn Georgia Blue,” by Time’s Molly Ball: “Describe someone as ‘commanding the room’ and you generally conjure an image of gravitas — a man, likely white, in a suit, emitting soaring oratory. Abrams is a big-boned, natural-haired, youthful-looking woman with a quizzical smile and a gap between her front teeth. She’s as likely to geek out about tax policy or Star Trek as she is to summon the spirit of justice. Yet when she speaks, all kinds of people — from black folks in rural communities to yuppie ‘resistance’ moms around Atlanta to this crowd of rough-handed electrical workers — go quiet and listen. In a Democratic Party divided and desperate for fresh faces, Abrams is already becoming a national star.”
-- “Why So Many People Are Betting on Beto O'Rourke,” by Matt Viser in Town & Country: “’Beto is often referred to as the best-looking Kennedy in Washington,’ says Joe Kennedy, who is now close enough friends with O’Rourke to have borrowed his dress shirt one time when he arrived at an event while covered in coffee stains. ‘Which wouldn’t be so bad if I weren’t standing right next to him when it happens.’ [But now], O’Rourke is running a U.S. Senate campaign a world away, in Texas—a race that resembles one run by another Kennedy. It’s not just the toothy grin, the tall stature, and the shock of hair swept over his brow. With a disdain for highly paid consultants, a willingness to travel to unexpected places, and an inspiring message for an extraordinarily divided electorate, it’s hard to look at O’Rourke and not think of Bobby Kennedy in 1968. He has been to all of Texas’s 254 counties — including ones no Democratic candidate has seriously contested in decades[.] If he can meet every person, knock on every door, he thinks he can win.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump endorsed recent comments from the Dallas Cowboys’ owner that players on the team would be required to stand for the national anthem:
A Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee jumped on reports that Cohen claims Trump knew of the Trump Tower meeting:
A Post reporter spoke to one of Trump's lawyers about the report:
A Washington Examiner reporter considered asking the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee about the report:
Stormy Daniels's lawyer claimed more women were paid hush money by Trump and Cohen:
Trump allies sounded alarms about Weisselberg's subpoena, per a Post reporter:
Missouri's former Democratic secretary of state used reports of Russian cyberattacks on Claire McCaskill's campaign as a fundraising opportunity:
A Republican lawmaker made a bet with the Commerce secretary:
The Toronto Star's Washington correspondent fact-checked Trump's statements at an Illinois steel plant:
A House Democrat accused the Trump administration of "psychological terrorism" for separating migrant families:
A GOP senator denounced a House committee's efforts to reverse the attorney general's guidance on asylum claims:
The vice president's press secretary offered a window into her average day:
Politico's Capitol bureau chief tweeted this moment from the House:
And the son of The Post's book critic recognized a character in his children's book:
-- “U.S. allies have killed thousands of Yemeni civilians from the air. After 22 died at a wedding, one village asks, ‘Why us?’” by Sudarsan Raghavan: “The ground where the wedding tent once stood was covered with children’s slippers, broken musical instruments, pieces of festive clothing and other detritus of destroyed lives. Teeth, still attached to the jawbone, lay near some tattered decorations. ‘There is even some flesh left,’ said Elan Yahya, the bride’s father, pointing at blackened shards hanging from a tree branch. An airstrike hit the wedding in this remote mountain village on April 23, killing 22 civilians, including eight children, and injuring dozens, according to interviews with 17 villagers in late May. More than three years into Yemen’s civil war, more than 16,000 civilians have been killed and injured, the vast majority by airstrikes, the U.N. human rights office estimates, adding that the figures are likely to be far higher.”
-- Gizmodo, “When a Stranger Decides to Destroy Your Life,” by Kashmir Hill: “Other than a strong Polish accent, [Huntsville resident Monika Glennon] fits a certain stereotype of the All-American life. Her husband is a veteran Marine [and her two children joined the military]. She sells houses … helping others realize their own American dream. But in September 2015, she was suddenly plunged into an American nightmare. She got a call at 6 a.m. one morning from a colleague … telling her something terrible had been posted about her[.] Glennon thought at first she meant that a client had left her a bad review, but it turned out to be much worse. [It was a highly detailed – yet completely fabricated — story accusing her of being a homewrecker.] ‘I was looking at every person in my life … wondering who did it to me and why,’ Glennon [said]. ‘It makes you rethink every relationship in your life.’ Eventually, after $100,000 in attorney’s bills, Glennon was able to unmask the culprit. It turned out to be a complete stranger who had been offended by a comment Glennon had made about a news article on Facebook.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“A Single Trump Appointee Was Responsible For Keeping Hundreds Of Kids Locked Up Longer,” from HuffPost: “A Trump appointee’s decision to personally review requests to release migrant children from jail-like ‘secure facilities’ created a bureaucratic bottleneck that dramatically increased the amount of time kids spent locked up. Office of Refugee Resettlement chief E. Scott Lloyd … told subordinates last year that he’d have to personally sign off before any kids could be released from ORR’s secure facilities. As a result, hundreds of kids spent extra time in the jail-like facilities, which have been associated with far more allegations of abuse and mistreatment than the shelters and homestays that hold most of the children in ORR custody. Over the past two years, migrant children in federal custody have been forcibly injected with psychotropic drugs at a [center] outside Houston, according to court filings. Others were pepper-sprayed or locked in restraints with bags over their heads as punishment for misbehaving at [a center in] Virginia.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Roseanne Barr on her Valerie Jarrett tweet: ‘I was so sad that people thought it was racist,’” from Emily Yahr: “In a wide-ranging interview with Sean Hannity on Thursday night, Roseanne Barr attempted to defend her tweet about Valerie Jarrett (‘muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj.’) that got her fired two months ago from her sitcom. ‘I was so sad that people thought it was racist,’ Barr said, in her first televised interview since the ‘Roseanne’ revival was shut down after ABC deemed the tweet ‘abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values.’ Barr repeatedly told Hannity that to her, the tweet was a political statement and had nothing to do with race. ‘That is a tweet about asking for accountability from the previous administration about the Iran deal, which Valerie Jarrett is the author of, and that was what was in my head,’ Barr said. Barr also used her previous defense that she didn’t know Jarrett, adviser to former president Barack Obama, was African American: 'I thought she was Middle Eastern,' she said."
Trump will meet with Jim Mattis before sitting down with the National Security Council to discuss election interference. He and the first lady will later travel to Bedminster, N.J., for the weekend.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“[W]hen I say it, they can’t do anything about it. Because I say it. So at least they hear our point of view, and it’s really our point of view, not my point of view. It’s our point of view.” — Trump on why he prefers live coverage of his speeches.
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Washingtonians should prepare for more strong storms this afternoon and evening. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Please stay tuned. Strong to severe storms are likely in the afternoon to evening period, with a focus likely on the 4 to 10 p.m. time frame. A cold front is moving toward us, and it’s the trigger. Morning hours should be okay, with partly to mostly sunny skies — only an isolated morning chance of a quick shower is expected at that point. … Downpours may get going by rush hour, unfortunately.” If storms do occur, the region could be particularly susceptible to tree falls given the fully saturated soil from days of rain.
-- The Nationals beat the Marlins 10-3. (Jorge Castillo)
-- An employee of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) was fired after getting into a violent altercation at City Hall. Peter Jamison and Peter Hermann report: “Russell Rowe, a Ward 3 liaison in the mayor’s Office of Community Relations, was ‘immediately placed on administrative leave’ after the July 20 incident and has since then ‘received a notice of termination,’ mayoral spokeswoman LaToya Foster said. … According to a report released Thursday by D.C. police, Rowe entered the John A. Wilson Building about 6:30 p.m. after drinking at a nearby lounge. He told a woman in the building’s elevator, ‘I’m going where ever you’re going, so I can get a kiss,’ the police report states, prompting the woman to find her supervisor. After her supervisor asked Rowe whether he worked in the building, Rowe cursed and ‘balled his fist up and took a swing’ at the man, although he failed to land his punch, according to the report.”
-- Fentanyl-related deaths reached an all-time high in Maryland last year and continue to climb this year. Fatalities linked to fentanyl jumped 42 percent in 2017 to 1,594. But Maryland saw 500 such deaths in the first three months of 2018 alone. (Rachel Chason)
-- Warren Brown — a former Post reporter and columnist who received two kidney transplants, the second from a colleague — died at the age of 70. Brown, who received his first kidney transport from his wife, covered the auto industry and its connection to American race relations. Defending the 2008 bailout of the industry, Brown, who was black, said, “We would not have a black middle class had we not had General Motors, Ford and Chrysler.” (Adam Bernstein)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Late-night hosts reveled in the coverage about the Trump-Cohen tape:
Stephen Colbert offered advice to Robert Mueller as he combs through Trump's tweets:
Ivanka Trump touted a bill that will provide money for job training, prompting the president to joke he may veto it:
Sean Spicer faced a heckler during a New York event for his new book:
And video of a group of children in Colorado went viral after they were shown returning a wallet — with the cash still inside — to its rightful owner: