As the group of conservative and libertarian megadonors ramps up its support for initiatives aimed at transforming higher education, the people in charge of spending the money promise it won’t just go to advance their own philosophy.
“If people don't know and understand all the ideas that have influenced history, then how in the world can we have any hope of making progress in the future? Innovation and discovery depend on the collision of different ideas,” said John Hardin, the director of university relations for the Charles Koch Foundation. “This is going to be even more important with the future that we're heading into, where change comes rapidly and students are going to need the skills to adapt quickly.”
Speaking to donors at their retreat in the Rocky Mountains this week, he and other Koch officials went out of their way to criticize groups on the right that are pursuing a more confrontational approach on college campuses. Hardin said it’s not just liberals who are shouting down conservative speakers and trying to crowd out ideas they don’t like. He specifically faulted Turning Point USA, a pro-Trump student group, that has created a “Professor Watchlist” website to identify liberal faculty members.
“Instead of supporting groups that put professors that they disagree with on watch lists,” Hardin said, “we support folks who take those professors to lunch, who co-teach with those professors and who collaborate with those professors.”
The website for the “Professor Watchlist” site says its “mission” is “to expose and document college professors who discriminate against conservative students and advance leftist propaganda in the classroom.” Students are encouraged to “submit a tip” to draw attention to liberal academics in their midst.
Sarah Ruger, the director of Free Speech Initiatives for the Charles Koch Institute, called the site an example of something that “keeps [her] up at night.”
“It’s truly McCarthyism 2.0,” she said, referring to the 1950s red-baiting of the late senator Joe McCarthy (R-Wis.). “It’s a platform that exists to put the names and the profiles of self-identified progressive professors out there and encourages conservative students to intimidate them. … If there’s anything political tribes can agree on today, it’s that they all want to censor someone. They just disagree on who should be silenced. That’s entirely antithetical to who we are.”
-- This explicit criticism is especially notable because Turning Point USA has a lot of juice in Trump World. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley spoke just last week at a “student action summit” that the group organized at George Washington University.
-- Asked for comment, a spokesman for Turning Point USA emailed a statement downplaying differences with the network: “The Koch Organization does many great things for the conservative movement. It is too bad that one of their staffers went out of his way to criticize a grassroots ally on over 1,300 campuses across the country. As 2016 demonstrated, ideas, organic energy and grassroots activism are what win hearts and minds and that has been TPUSA’s mission from day one. While we wish the Koch Network staffer in question would have reached out to us privately before publicly condemning our work, which ironically cites some of the Koch’s own projects and is supported by so many of our mutual friends, we understand his statement is not representative of their entire network at large.”
-- While some individual donors to the Koch network contribute separately to Turning Point USA, Hardin and Ruger were both speaking in their official capacity. Moreover, representatives of the network replied that they directly expressed their concerns in private conversations with Turning Point leaders before deciding to go public.
Hardin, who earned a PhD in U.S. history from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree from Duke, said everyone should push themselves out of their own comfort zones. “I understand how they fall into this trap,” he said of Turning Point USA. “It's tempting to want to fight fire with fire, especially when (liberal students) are trying to censor and silence the professors and the students that this network supports. Let's be honest, our network has the resources. … We could demonize those same professors. We could support policies that limit their influence. We could push colleges that only teach free market ideas, but that would defeat everything that we're working to achieve.”
-- Frustrated by the state of national politics, Charles Koch suggested Sunday that he plans to shift more of his resources toward transforming education, where the money might have a greater impact. The billionaire industrialist has contributed generously to universities since 1963, but he’s really ramped up his giving in the past few years. His foundation now supports around 800 faculty members at 300 institutions, with annual giving of about $90 million. In 2010, the network supported nine university “research centers.” Now it funds 145. “We’re prepared to substantially increase giving based on the quality of the proposals we receive,” said Brian Hooks, president of the Charles Koch Foundation.
Ruger touted a $3.25 million grant the Koch network recently gave to the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. This money will go toward a litigation-focused initiative, which has been suing Trump to prevent him from blocking Twitter followers and trying to force the Justice Department to disclose secret legal memorandums.
-- It’s not just Turning Point USA that they’re worried about. Hardin decried a law enacted by Arizona in April, which says public colleges “may restrict a student’s right to speak, including verbal speech, holding a sign or distributing fliers or other materials, in a public forum.” He also criticized a proposal by a Republican state legislator in Phoenix to pass a bill that would ban faculty members at public universities from teaching classes that advocate for “social justice.”
Notably, Hardin strongly condemned draft legislation that has been circulated by the Goldwater Institute. The libertarian think tank in Arizona has received support from the Koch network in the past to oppose civil forfeiture laws. But he and other leaders of the network are angry about the group’s support for mandating that public universities suspend students if they twice interfere “with the expressive rights of others,” whatever that means. The draft legislation says students must then be expelled on the third “offense.”
Hardin expressed alarm about bills that have been introduced by conservatives from Wisconsin and South Carolina to Nebraska and Michigan, which are modeled on the Goldwater Institute proposal.
-- Speaking to an audience of more than 500 donors who each agree to give at least $100,000 annually to Koch initiatives, Hardin asked for a show of hands from people who financially support the network’s higher education efforts. More than a third of the people in the grand ballroom at the Broadmoor Hotel here raised their arms. He encouraged members of the network to focus less on funding vanity projects at their alma maters so that they can make more strategic investments. The network has created eight “funds,” with portfolios of projects that advance different objectives. So a donor could give to support “open inquiry” on campuses, undergraduate student research, training for future professors, “principled entrepreneurship,” criminal justice and policing reform, economic studies or foreign policy studies.
Brown University professor John Tomasi spoke to the group about a political theory project he directs on campus with funding from the Koch network. A liberal and conservative student first organized it in 2005. Charles Koch recently spoke to students on the Ivy League campus about his business philosophy. Then the group brought the liberal founders of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream to discuss their approach a few days later. Tomasi said the project is now preparing to hire its own faculty, but he told the donors that he faces constant blowback because of its Koch ties. “Doing this kind of thing at Brown,” he said, “I have my days when it’s not the best of the times.”
-- The network announced last week that it will begin publishing future major grant agreements with universities online. Officials hope this transparency will destigmatize Koch money and demonstrate that there are fewer strings attached to their giving than many think.
-- Ralph Wilson, a co-founder of UnKoch My Campus, which has aggressively sought to counter the network’s influence, complained that previous agreements will remain secret. “Naturally we’re not only skeptical, but we see it as basically a just P.R. move,” he said by phone on Tuesday. “It’s not a step in the wrong direction; it’s just a false solution. … These contracts are like teeth with which they enforce their leverage. These contracts are losing some teeth. But they still have higher education by the throat.”
-- Hardin called the response from liberal activists predictable. “Rather than applaud this effort and suggest others consider it, they’re panning it,” he said. “Sadly, it suggests that they are no different from those on the right that harass scholars simply because they don’t like their ideas. They’re two shades of the same gray.”
MORE FALLOUT FROM THE SEMINAR:
-- Most Republican lawmakers treaded carefully Tuesday after Trump ripped into the Koch network on Twitter, seeking not to alienate either the president or their party’s biggest donors. Robert Costa and Sean Sullivan report from Capitol Hill: “On Monday, GOP senators privately deliberated about the path the Koch network has charted and its implications … In a private meeting at the Capitol, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) recounted his visit to the Koch conference to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other GOP senators and aides, and described the frustration he encountered over Trump’s trade policies and conduct … Some senators in the meeting struggled to make sense of the Koch network’s new strategy of limiting its work for GOP candidates. ‘These guys want to change the direction of the country. They don’t understand how hard that is,’ McConnell said.”
Trump loyalists, meanwhile, ripped into Koch leaders for publicly complaining about the president’s trade war, nativist immigration policies and massive increases in federal spending.
- Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon: “The donor class controlled the Republican Party — that is, until the rise of Trump. The Kochs see that being ripped away, thus the open contempt for the president and his movement.”
- Former House speaker Newt Gingrich: “Charles and his people are drawing the line in the sand. They know Trump represents a fundamental break with their approach.”
-- And Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said he can still unseat Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp without help from the Koch network this fall. “My voting record may not be exactly what every national organization wants, but it is exactly what the majority of North Dakotans expect,” he said Tuesday in a statement.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- A federal judge has blocked the publication of blueprints for 3-D-printed guns, issuing a temporary restraining order just hours before the schematics were expected to be posted online. Deanna Paul, Meagan Flynn and Katie Zezima report: “U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik granted [the order] on Tuesday night barring a trove of downloadable information about creating the do-it-yourself weapons. Eight attorneys general and the District of Columbia argued that the instructions posed a national security threat. New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) on Tuesday also issued a cease-and-desist order against the man who was scheduled to post them online. . . . The firearms, which are mostly made of plastic, are untraceable because they do not have serial numbers, would not require a background check to print and are easily destroyed after use. The available blueprints include guides for making guns akin to assault-style rifles such as AR-15s and AR-10s, a pistol called the ‘Liberator,’ and a Ruger 10/22. The technology could herald an era of DIY guns that can be produced — and amassed — in secret.”
GET SMART FAST:
- A hearing will be held today in a Sandy Hook family’s defamation lawsuit against Infowars founder Alex Jones. Veronique De La Rosa and Leonard Pozner, who lost their 6-year-old son Noah in the Newtown, Conn., shooting, are suing Jones for allegedly helping to spread false claims that the parents were “crisis actors.” Jones wants the case dismissed and to receive more than $100,000 in court costs from the Pozner family. (New York Times)
- U.S. workers received their biggest pay increase since September 2008 over the past 12 months. In the year up to June, the employment-cost index, which measures wages and benefits, rose 2.8 percent, according to the Labor Department. (Wall Street Journal)
- Popular genetic testing companies such as Ancestry and 23andMe have adopted new guidelines requiring them to obtain “separate express consent” from users before sharing their DNA information with third parties. The new rules come just three months after California police tracked down the suspected Golden State Killer using DNA information from a similar site. (Tony Romm and Drew Harwell)
- Two D.C. residents were among the victims in the Sunday attack on bicyclists in Tajikistan. Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan had quit their office jobs last years to bike around the world. Rene Wokke from the Netherlands and Markus Hummel from Switzerland were also killed in the attack, for which ISIS claimed credit. (Amie Ferris-Rotman, Michael Brice-Saddler and Rachel Chason)
- Analysts expect Tesla could post second-quarter losses of up to $900 million in its earnings report today. The company, which has not made a profit in 15 years, is also confronting investors’ fears that the automaker’s frenetic pace is burning out employees — including, possibly, CEO Elon Musk. (Drew Harwell)
- Uber is shuttering its self-driving truck program, which made history in 2016 after it completed the first-ever autonomous truck delivery. Instead, the company said it plans to refocus its efforts on self-driving cars, a program that was temporarily suspended in March after a pedestrian was struck and killed by one of the autonomous vehicles. (Peter Holley)
- Samsung reported a 22 percent drop in mobile revenue, and company officials said it's because fewer people than expected are buying its newest smartphones — the Galaxy S9 and S9+. (Hayley Tsukayama)
- American adults spend over 11 hours per day consuming media, according to a Nielsen report.
- Parents are fretting over the rise of “Fortnite,” a new hit video game that has inspired an almost cultlike following among adolescents. But it’s not the violence causing parents to lose sleep: It’s the fear of losing. A fear so deeply held, in fact, that many have begun shelling out cash to hire their children video game tutors. (Wall Street Journal)
DAY ONE OF THE MANAFORT TRIAL:
-- A jury of six men and six women was seated for the federal trial of Trump's former campaign chairman in Alexandria, Va., which is expected to last three weeks. The jurors then heard opening statements from both sides. Rachel Weiner, Justin Jouvenal, Rosalind S. Helderman and Matt Zapotosky report:
Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye highlighted Manafort’s extravagant lifestyle — including his purchase of a $15,000 jacket “made from an ostrich.” “A man in this courtroom believed the law did not apply to him,” Asonye said. “Not tax law, not banking law.” Asonye said that Manafort was an “active participant in his financial fraud, paying close attention to the filing of his financial documents, issuing orders to associates and subordinates. … He said some of Manafort’s wealth remains hidden and untaxed to this day.” Asonye accused Manafort of failing to pay taxes on the millions he earned while working on behalf of Ukrainian political candidate and Vladimir Putin ally Viktor Yanukovych — whom he later referred to as Manafort’s “golden goose.” After Yanukovych fell from power, the prosecution alleged, Manafort turned his attention to creating millions of dollars in “sham loans.” “He created cash out of thin air,” Asonye said of Manafort.
Defense attorney Thomas Zehnle sought to place blame on Manafort’s former deputy, Richard Gates, who took a plea deal earlier this year. “Zehnle returned to the topic of [Gates] repeatedly, saying Manafort’s one time protege and partner had made a deal to lie about Manafort’s actions to hide his own wrongdoing. Zehnle said Gates had even lied to federal investigators in the process of negotiating his plea deal. Notably, Zehnle also for the first time accused Gates of embezzling millions of dollars from Manafort’s business and then working to hide the income. 'Rick Gates had his hand in the cookie jar and he couldn’t take the risk that his boss might find out,'” Zehnle said.
-- The federal judge overseeing Manafort’s trial is known for his sharp manner, which was on display yesterday. Rachel Weiner reports: “‘He has torn my head off in front of my wife multiple times,’ said Kevin Mikolashek, who recently left the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria to start his own consulting firm. With degrees from Princeton, Harvard and Oxford and 31 years on the bench, [Judge T.S. Ellis III] is formidably sharp. And although he might scold prosecutors for not meeting his high standards, in trials Ellis often uses his intellect to their benefit. … Ellis regularly interrupts trial testimony with his own questions and demands that certain lines of inquiry be cut short, clearing up ambiguity that defense attorneys hoped to create.”
-- No one mentioned Trump. Mueller, either. "The word ‘Russia’ was not uttered,” Marc Fisher notes. “Instead, on the ninth floor of the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va., the first defendant to face a jury in the year-and-a-half-old investigation ... looked pale as he tried to make eye contact with the just-seated, racially mixed jury of six men and six women. He smiled wanly. The jurors did not smile back.”
-- Mueller has asked federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York to take over a collection of cases concerning whether several high-profile U.S. lobbyists failed to register their work for the Ukraine government. CNN’s Erica Orden reports: “The transfer of the inquiries marks an escalation of Mueller's referrals to [SDNY] in the period since he turned over a case involving [Michael Cohen]. Since the spring, Mueller has referred matters to SDNY involving longtime Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta and his work for his former firm, the Podesta Group, and former Minnesota Republican Rep. Vin Weber and his work for Mercury Public Affairs . . . One source said that former Obama White House counsel Greg Craig, a former partner at law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, is also part of the inquiry. None of the entities involved have been charged with wrongdoing, and there is no indication the SDNY inquiry will result in criminal charges. It's not clear whether they are considered one case or separate matters . . . though all involve inquiries into whether the men improperly performed work on behalf of groups associated with Ukraine[.]”
-- “The referral to prosecutors in New York centers on lobbying work done years ago to try to improve the image of the Ukraine government,” Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky report. “The Podesta Group and Mercury had claimed in lobbying disclosure reports that they represented the European Center for a Modern Ukraine, a Brussels-based nonprofit organization that sought to help Ukraine improve its image in the West from 2012 to 2014. Prosecutors allege that behind the scenes, however, the lobbying work was being directed by Manafort and [Gates], and that their real client was the government of Ukraine. … The two firms have said they are cooperating with the special counsel’s investigation.”
-- Trump has been sending Twitter messages to Michael Cohen saying that he won’t pardon his former lawyer and fixer. “He’s just letting him know, you’re done,” one source told Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman: “Meanwhile, Trump is acting increasingly besieged. Advisers I spoke with said the president is ‘furious,’ ‘frustrated,’ and ‘flustered’ that the Mueller probe is grinding on, and he’s personally hurt by Cohen’s betrayal. Last week, sources told me that Trump told Deputy Chief of Staff Bill Shine to ban CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins from a White House event because he was angry that she asked questions about Cohen.”
THERE’S (STILL) A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Facebook acknowledged that there is an ongoing and “coordinated disinformation operation” on its platform, which is seeking to sow discord and deepen political divisions ahead of the midterms. Elizabeth Dwoskin and Tony Romm report: “Facebook said it discovered 32 false pages and profiles that were created between March 2017 and this May, which lured 290,000 people with ads, events and regular posts on topics such as race, fascism and feminism — and sought to stir opposition to [Trump]. The company informed law enforcement before it deleted the profiles Tuesday morning. It also notified lawmakers of the activity this week, and said it would notify the real Facebook users who were swept up in the operation. One of the most popular pages had links to the [Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency, which flooded the platform with disinformation during the 2016 race] . . . Yet the operators of the newly banned pages … were more clever about covering their tracks.”
-- But Facebook’s report did not include some of the most divisive content used to stoke racial tension. NBC News’s Ben Collins and Ben Popken report: “A review of some of the deleted pages from groups identified by Facebook as part of the ‘inauthentic coordinated behavior’ found efforts to target people based on liberal politics as well as Hispanic and African heritage. One deleted post called for protesters to occupy the headquarters of [ICE]. Posted by a group called ‘Resisters,’ an event that was initially titled ‘Stop Ripping Families Apart! DC,’ was later retitled ‘Stop Ripping Families Apart! Take over ICE HQ’ after Facebook users said they would attend.”
-- Alleged Russian operative Maria Butina pushed American businessman Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, the former New York Fed chairman and AIG CEO, to invest more heavily in his Moscow bank that was in trouble with Russian authorities. The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff reports: “Sources familiar with Butina’s activity [said] that she approached [Greenberg’s] Starr investment empire and recommended he invest more money in the flailing bank. The move left observers shocked and disturbed — a little-known twenty-something who was closely linked to a top official in the Russian Central Bank appeared to be telling a major American financier how to handle his Russia investments. These sources said it was unclear if she was acting alone, providing a covert message on behalf of the Russian government, or looking to enrich herself through a potential transaction. … Regardless, Butina’s efforts to influence Greenberg’s investment decisions did not succeed.”
Why it matters: “The encounter … paints a more detailed picture than previously known of the actions of the alleged foreign agent in the United States. It indicates that courting American politicos wasn’t her only mission. She also took keen interest in contentious, complex matters involving international finance — all while attempting to influence the primary financier of what would become Washington’s most Trump-friendly foreign policy think tank.” [That's the Center for the National Interest.]
-- Federal investigators are examining financial transactions linked to Butina and GOP political operative Paul Erickson. BuzzFeed News’s Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier report: “[C]ounterintelligence officers say the duo’s banking activity could provide a road map of back channels to powerful American entities such as the [NRA], and information about the Kremlin’s attempt to sway the 2016 US presidential election. Cash withdrawals, most of them from Erickson’s personal and business accounts, make up $107,000 of the financial transactions now being investigated. The largest of those withdrawals — $14,000 — occurred in December 2015, when Erickson reportedly traveled to Moscow as part of an NRA delegation. The visit was sponsored by a Russian gun rights organization started by Butina, federal authorities say.”
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- The HHS official in charge of the agency’s migrant family reunification efforts said he warned Trump appointees for months about the potential trauma to children separated from their parents. Bloomberg News’s Jennifer Epstein reports: “‘There is no question that separation of children from parents entails significant potential for traumatic psychological injury to the child,’ Commander Jonathan White … told the Senate Judiciary Committee at Congress’s first hearing on the separations of thousands of families at the border. … White said that during deliberations before the policy began in April, he raised concerns ‘about any policy that would result in family separation.’ He said he was told that ‘there was no policy that was going to result in family separation.’”
-- Many migrant children separated from their parents have shown continued signs of anxiety and trauma even after being reunited with their families. The New York Times’s Miriam Jordan reports: “Before they were separated … Ana Carolina Fernandes’s 5-year-old son loved playing with the [Minion] characters from the ‘Despicable Me’ movies. Now his favorite game is patting down and shackling ‘migrants’ with plastic cuffs. After being separated from his mother for 50 days, Thiago isn’t the same … When they first got home after being reunited, the boy — whom she hadn’t nursed in years — pleaded to be breast-fed. When visitors showed up at the family’s new home in Philadelphia, he crouched behind the sofa. ‘He’s been like that since I got him back,’ Ms. Fernandes said. ‘He doesn’t want to talk to anyone.’ … [In the days since Trump reversed his family separation policy], the children released to their parents are exhibiting signs of anxiety, introversion, regression and other mental health issues[.] A 3-year-old boy who was separated from his mother has been pretending to handcuff and vaccinate people around him, behavior he almost certainly witnessed in [ICE custody]. A pair of young siblings burst into tears when they spotted police officers on the street …
“Most children who are experiencing problems so far display acute anxiety around routines that separate them briefly from their parents, such as when the adult bathes or goes into another room[.]” “Our volunteers are seeing the significant and real toll that these traumatic separations have had on these children’s and these families’ lives, which persist even after reunification,” said volunteer coordinator Joanna Franchini.
-- Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) called on DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to resign over the family separations. “Someone in this administration has to accept responsibility,” Durbin said during yesterday’s Judiciary Committee hearing. From Politico’s Ted Hesson: “Durbin quoted U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who in June ordered the Trump administration to reunite families split apart at the border. Sabraw called the separations ‘a chaotic circumstance of the government’s own making.’ Several Democratic lawmakers have urged Nielsen to resign over the crisis, including [Nancy Pelosi], who tweeted about it in June.”
-- The administration is weighing another steep reduction in refugee admissions. The New York Times’s Julie Hirschfeld Davis reports: “This time, the effort is meeting with less resistance from inside the Trump administration because of the success that [Stephen Miller] has had in installing allies in key positions who are ready to sign off on deep cuts. Last year, after a fierce internal battle that pitted Mr. Miller, who advocated a limit as low as 15,000, against officials at [DHS], the State Department and the Pentagon, Mr. Trump set the cap at 45,000, a historic low. Under one plan currently being discussed, no more than 25,000 refugees could be resettled in the United States next year, a cut of more than 40 percent from this year’s limit. It would be the lowest number of refugees admitted to the country since the creation of the program in 1980.”
-- Trump revived his threat of a government shutdown over border wall funding, calling it “a very small price to pay for a safe and Prosperous America” in a tweet yesterday. Felicia Sonmez and Seung Min Kim report: “On Capitol Hill, [Mitch McConnell] and other Senate Republican leaders told reporters Tuesday afternoon that they are sticking to their plan to approve nine of the dozen spending bills on Congress’s plate by the end of August … GOP lawmakers have tried to make the case that threatening a shutdown was not a helpful tactic. Few Republicans think Trump will actually force a shutdown in September anyway, noting that Trump has repeatedly declined to put a time frame on when exactly he would force a confrontation over his border wall funding.”
-- The Justice Department formally acknowledged that there are “no responsive records” to support Trump’s claim in last year's State of the Union that “the vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country.” Lawfare’s Benjamin Wittes writes: “Presumably, if the Justice Department had provided the White House with data to support the president’s claims [which he attributed to the Justice Department], the request would have gone through the department’s top brass. If there was some data ‘provided by the Department of Justice’ to the White House showing that ‘the vast majority of individuals convicted [in all] terrorism and terrorism-related offenses since 9/11’ — including domestic terrorism cases — ’came here from outside of our country,’ there would be some record of it either in the attorney general’s office or the deputy attorney general’s office. I was confident the search would produce no responsive documents. And it, in fact, produced none. Because what the president of the United States said before a joint session of Congress was not true.”
-- Trump is making more false statements than ever: The Washington Post Fact Checker team says in a new report that the president has made at least 4,229 false or misleading claims during his 558 days in office. Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo and Meg Kelly go deep: “That’s an average of nearly 7.6 claims a day. When we first started this project for the president’s first 100 days, he averaged 4.9 claims a day.”
THE REST OF THE AGENDA:
-- The Senate voted to approve yet another short-term extension of the federal flood insurance program — scrambling to move the stopgap measure just hours ahead of this year’s hurricane season. Mike DeBonis reports: “The 86-to-12 vote preserves access to flood insurance for U.S. homeowners, but it again punts reforms to a program that covers more than 5 million households and collects more than $3 billion in premiums yearly. The bill [which was slated to sunset Aug. 1], extends the authorization for the program and its ability to borrow funds through Nov. 30. Lawmakers have been unable to move forward on changes to the program nearly a year after a string of hurricanes — Harvey, Irma and Maria — highlighted the fiscal stress on the program. Claims in 2017 exceeded $8.7 billion, with more claims from last year’s storms expected to be filed in 2018. The National Flood Insurance Program has more than $20 billion in public debt on its books; an additional $16 billion was canceled last year to avoid a $30 billion ceiling on the program’s borrowing. The extension approved Tuesday is the seventh stopgap Congress has passed since the previous long-term authorization lapsed last year. . . . In Congress, fault lines have developed within the Republican majorities in the House and Senate, dividing staunch fiscal conservatives who want to end the federal role in the flood insurance market from coastal-state lawmakers whose constituents rely on the federal subsidy to keep their premiums down.”
-- The Trump administration is considering raising the threatened tariff rate on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese imports from 10 percent to 25 percent. Chinese officials responded to the reported escalation by saying that “blackmailing and pressuring” will never work. Bloomberg News reports: “At the same time, representatives of U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He are having private conversations as they look for ways to reengage in negotiations … China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it will fight back should the U.S. further increase tariffs. ‘If the U.S. takes measures to further escalate the situation, we will surely take countermeasures to uphold our legitimate rights and interests,’ spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press conference on Wednesday. … Trump directed trade representative Robert Lighthizer to raise the tariff rate to 25 percent, [sources] said, adding that the change isn’t final yet and may not go forward after a public review.”
-- Trump defended tariffs on China at his Tampa rally yesterday, saying, “the days of plundering American jobs and American wealth — those days are over.” Ashley Parker and Felicia Sonmez report: “‘China and others have targeted our farmers,’ Trump said. ‘Not good. Not nice. And you know what our farmers are saying? ‘It’s okay. We can take it.’ ‘Trump argued that previous administrations had allowed the United States to ‘truly get ripped off, but we’re not going to let that happen.’ ‘I’m not like other politicians,’ he said. ‘You’ve seen what happens. I’ve kept my promises.’”
-- An administration proposal to cut taxes on investment income would be a huge windfall for the wealthiest Americans. Christopher Ingraham reports: “An analysis earlier this year by the Wharton School found the proposed cut would reduce tax revenue by more than $100 billion over 10 years. Sixty-three percent of that money would flow to the pockets of the top 0.1 percent of income earners, those who had adjusted gross incomes of at least $7.31 million in 2015, according to the [IRS]. Another 23 percent of it would go to the next 0.9 percent, those with adjusted annual gross incomes of more than $1.48 million. All told, 86.1 percent of the tax cut, or more than $80 billion, would be captured by the top 1 percent of earners.”
THE SUPREME COURT:
-- Attempting to bypass their Republican colleagues, Democratic senators sent a request to the National Archives requesting all of Brett Kavanaugh’s White House documents before his Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Seung Min Kim reports: “The letter, sent Tuesday, asks for all of Kavanaugh’s records from his time as an associate White House counsel under [George W. Bush], as well as his years as staff secretary. … The Democrats also want the National Archives to turn over documents drafted by Kavanaugh that can be ‘readily found’ in the files of other White House officials or offices. … It’s also unclear how much the archives may be willing to entertain the Democrats’ request, considering they aren’t in the Senate majority and do not control the committee.”
-- Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), considered a key swing vote in Kavanaugh’s confirmation, sided with GOP leadership in the document debate. Bloomberg News’s Laura Litvan and Katherine Scott report: “Maine told reporters Tuesday that she has no objection to a decision late Friday by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, to leave out of a federal document request all the paperwork and emails from Kavanaugh’s time as staff secretary … ‘I met with Senator Grassley yesterday about the document request and, as he described it to me, it seems eminently reasonable,’ Collins said. She said Grassley’s request to staff at the National Archives still is far more extensive than for any previous Supreme Court nominee.”
-- Kavanaugh has been privately telling senators he considers Mueller’s appointment as special counsel to be appropriate. CNN’s Manu Raju reports: “But Kavanaugh has also stood by his stated views that question whether a sitting US president can be indicted on criminal charges, instead saying Congress should play the lead role in impeaching and removing a president — and also enact a law ensuring a president can be indicted after leaving office. … The sources say the nominee is careful not to tip his hand on his views of the Mueller investigation's constitutionality, given that he could rule on matters stemming from the probe, leaving ample questions about his views.”
-- “Should Democrats Bother Fighting [Kavanaugh’s] Confirmation? History Suggests Yes,” by the New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin: “If framed in the clearest terms, … the politics of the Kavanaugh nomination favor rejection, not confirmation. … [T]he current Republican margin in the Senate (owing to John McCain’s absence) is just a single vote, and Kavanaugh’s long paper trail, both as a judge and as a Republican political appointee, gives Democrats a great deal of material to exploit. Most of all, they need to remember that fighting Supreme Court nominees, even against formidable odds, can succeed — and produce a better Court than anyone might have expected.”
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN AND WOMEN:
-- John Kelly intends to remain in his post as White House chief of staff through Trump’s 2020 reelection bid. Philip Rucker and Robert Costa report: “Kelly, who on Monday celebrated his first anniversary as chief of staff, told West Wing staff that day that he will be staying in his post at Trump’s request through the remainder of the president’s first term, said [two White House] officials … Kelly had been widely expected by many Trump associates to leave his job this summer, either because he had tired of the intense post or the president had tired of him — or both. But his announcement this week … ends for now what had become rampant chatter in Washington about Kelly’s fate. …
“Trump and Kelly have privately argued at times and complained about one another to confidants. But the relationship between generational peers — Trump is 72, and Kelly is 68 — appeared to have stabilized somewhat in recent months, as the president felt more empowered to call his own shots and the chief loosened some of his restraints. They also have bonded over shared grievances toward some members of the media and various political figures, according to people close to them. … Privately, however, Trump has openly weighed replacing Kelly in recent months.”
-- Trump administration officials are bracing for the release of Bob Woodward’s new book. Politico’s Annie Karni reports: “[T]he process for managing the book has not been as formal in [Trump’s] White House [as in past administrations] … Woodward was never officially granted access to the White House or to the president, and the communications department did nothing to help him in researching or writing his book. … The result is what often happens in Trump world: Senior officials, acting as lone wolves concerned with preserving their own reputations, spoke to Woodward on their own — with some granting him hours of their time out of a fear of being the last person in the room to offer his or her viewpoint. As one former administration official put it: ‘He hooked somebody, and that put the fear of God in everyone else.’ Another former official added: ‘It’s gonna be killer. Everyone talked with Woodward.’”
-- Rudy Giuliani’s recent erratic media appearances have attracted the president’s unfavorable notice. Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman reports: “‘Trump thinks he’s saying too much,’ one Republican close to the White House told me. Another Trumpworld figure elucidated: ‘Trump likes that Rudy is a fighter. He knows there’s a give and take. The give is Rudy is going to fight for him. The take is that you’re going to get some crazy, too.’ The crazy on show in the last few days has given ammunition to his West Wing critics. Two of his most vocal detractors are Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House counsel Don McGahn. ‘Kelly [has] been trying to get rid of Rudy for two months,’ one outside adviser to the White House told me. ‘And Don McGahn hates Rudy with intensity of 1,000 burning suns.’”
-- Breaking with tradition, the Trump White House refused to invite Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) — who is up for reelection in a state the president won — to the signing ceremony for a bill he sponsored. The Patriot-News’s John L. Micek writes: “Casey was the lead Senate sponsor [of] the first update to the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act since 2006 . . . The reauthorized bill was the product of years of bipartisan negotiations between Casey, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. …. At least two people close to the matter confirmed that the White House invited all the Republican and Democratic lawmakers who worked on the bill — except for Casey. That led to immediate speculation that the White House was playing political favorites.” Casey is being challenged by Rep. Lou Barletta, a Trump favorite.
-- “Will Democrats lurch to the left? Watch Michigan,” columnist Karen Tumulty writes from Grand Rapids: “This state has long been known as an early indicator of emerging trends in politics — and for upending expectations. … the Wolverine State is once again worth watching this year, starting with next Tuesday’s Democratic primary for governor. The result is likely to be the clearest indicator yet of how Democrats are regrouping and how hard the party is turning to the left. Their choice will also help show whether the party establishment or the grass-roots forces of resistance has a stronger hand in the Democrats’ efforts to navigate their way out of electoral irrelevance. … Though all three of the gubernatorial contenders come from the liberal end of the political spectrum, their sharply contrasting profiles demonstrate how crosscurrents of pragmatism and passion are tugging at Democrats this year. … One crucial unknown is how engaged Michigan’s African American voters are in the race. Black turnout in 2016 was more than 12 percent lower than  . . . and may well have accounted for Clinton losing the state . . . However the primary comes out, Democrats say they must quickly close ranks behind the winner[.] The state party has already booked a restaurant in Detroit for a day-after unity luncheon — because if there is any lesson Michigan Democrats should have learned from 2016, it is that nothing should ever be taken for granted.”
-- The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that an initiative to create an independent redistricting commission will appear on the November ballot. The Detroit News’s Jonathan Oosting reports: “The 4-3 decision is rife with political implications in Michigan, where Republicans have maintained or grown congressional and legislative advantages since last drawing the state's political boundaries in 2011. Volunteers with the Voters Not Politicians committee gathered nearly 400,000 valid signatures to put the anti-gerrymandering plan before voters. The Board of State Canvassers certified the group’s petitions, but the proposal was challenged as being overly broad. … An opposition group bankrolled by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce had urged justices to keep the measure off the November ballot, arguing it was too expansive to be considered a simple amendment to the state constitution.”
-- Trump is planning to travel to Ohio this weekend to campaign in a special election that GOP strategists are growing increasingly worried about. From Politico’s Alex Isenstadt and Elena Schneider: “A Republican loss, coming after special election defeats in Pennsylvania and Alabama, would be deeply deflating for the conservative base and party donors, and provide more evidence that a wave is building against them heading into the midterms. National Republicans have bombarded the suburban Columbus district with more than $3.3 million in TV ads in an effort to boost [Troy] Balderson, a state legislator, and attack his Democratic opponent, Danny O’Connor, ahead of the Aug. 7 special election.”
-- Joe Biden leads Trump by seven points in a hypothetical 2020 matchup, according to a new poll. Politico’s Stephanie Murray reports: “A plurality of registered voters, 44 percent, said they’d choose Biden in the 2020 presidential election, while 37 percent of voters said they would vote for Trump. The percentage of Democrats who would choose Biden — 80 percent — was slightly higher than the 78 percent of Republicans who would vote for the president‘s reelection. … Biden holds a less-than-commanding position within his own party: Among Democrats, an unnamed generic Democrat runs 9 points better than Biden in a match-up with Trump.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
The RNC chairwoman said the DNC had backed out of the organizations' annual softball game:
Iran's foreign minister slammed Trump's suggestion of talks between the United States and Iran:
The vice president is traveling to Hawaii for the ceremony marking the repatriation of U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War:
A Senate Republican spoke out against 3-D printing firearms:
Bill Clinton's former Treasury secretary criticized a tax cut the Trump administration is considering:
The Post's Fact Checker columnist offered a clarification on Trump's recent tweet about immigration:
A Tampa Bay Times editor noted the number of people at Trump's rally supporting a conspiracy theory that alleges Democrats have ties to a pedophilia network:
Journalists at Trump's rally faced hostility from his supporters. A CNN reporter shared this video and warning:
A reporter for a local Fox News affiliate backed up Acosta:
This moment from Trump's rally sparked mockery:
From an AP reporter:
HuffPost's Washington bureau chief used Obama's recent lunch trip with Biden to take a swipe at Trump:
A Time editor made a joke about one of the points prosecutors made during the first day of the Manafort trial:
Michelle Obama applauded LeBron James for helping to open a public school in Akron, Ohio:
And Nationals pitcher Sean Doolittle addressed recent instances of MLB players having old social media posts containing slurs or insensitive language emerge:
-- “How chyrons took on a life of their own,” by Paul Farhi: “The on-screen banners known as chyrons (kai-rahns) were once flat, artless labels (‘President Holds Press Conference,’ ‘Fire Destroys Home,’ etc.) that were about as exciting as an airport arrival-and-departure board. But in an era of shrinking viewer attention spans, chyrons seem almost to have come to life and achieved self-awareness. Now chyrons not only tell viewers what the news is, they tell them what to make of it.”
-- “Are 300 recipes enough to counter anti-Muslim sentiment? One author is giving it a try,” by Louisa Loveluck: “Taken together, the recipes chronicle how a history of trade routes and migration throughout the Islamic world plays out on the dinner table, from simple suppers to festival fare.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Are Stock Buybacks Starving the Economy?” from the Atlantic: “[A] new paper contributes to a growing body of research that might help explain why economic growth is so sluggish … even as the stock market is surging and corporate profits are at historical highs. . . . The new Roosevelt Institute and [National Employment Law Project] research examines public firms in three major but notoriously low-wage industries — food production, retail, and restaurants — weighing buybacks against worker compensation. … How much might workers have benefited if companies had devoted their financial resources to them rather than to shareholders? Lowe’s, CVS, and Home Depot could have provided each of their workers a raise of $18,000 a year, the report found. Starbucks could have given each of its employees $7,000 a year, and McDonald’s could have given $4,000 to each of its nearly 2 million employees.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“NRA shoots back: These 3D printed untraceable guns have been illegal for three decades,” from the Daily Caller: “The National Rifle Association had to point out Tuesday that any untraceable gun is outlawed in reference to the recent legal settlement that will allow for the blueprints on how to print and set up a gun from a 3D printer to be available to the public. 'Many anti-gun politicians and members of the media have wrongly claimed that 3D printing technology will allow for the production and widespread proliferation of undetectable plastic firearms. Regardless of what a person may be able to publish on the Internet, undetectable plastic guns have been illegal for 30 year’ Chris Cox, the NRA-ILA Executive Director, said, according to Stephen Gutowski. He continued, 'Federal law passed in 1988, crafted with the NRA’s support, makes it unlawful to manufacture, import, sell, ship, deliver, possess, transfer, or receive an undetectable firearm.'"
Trump will sit down with HUD Secretary Ben Carson and then meet with inner-city pastors. He also has an afternoon meeting with Senate Republicans.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“While other nations certainly possessed the capability, the fact is Russia meddled in our 2016 elections. … That is the unambiguous judgment of our intelligence community, and as the president said, we ‘accept the intelligence community’s conclusion.’” — Vice President Pence speaking at a government cybersecurity conference. (Ellen Nakashima)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Washingtonians should prepare for another day of intense mugginess. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “August begins today much like July ended yesterday, with just a passing shower or two possible through much of the day (once any lingering early-morning showers clear out). Mostly cloudy morning skies should give way to partial afternoon sun, helping highs to the mid-80s to perhaps near 90 with enough sun, plus very high humidity. Shower and storm chances increase after 5 p.m. or so and into the evening, although they may try to pass west and north of the metro area.”
-- The Nationals beat the Mets 25-4 (not a typo), bringing Washington’s record back up to .500. (Jorge Castillo)
-- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) criticized Trump’s trade policy during a visit to Montgomery County. Jennifer Barrios reports: “He said that as newly elected vice chair of the National Governors Association, he would work with other governors to lobby the federal government for ‘common sense’ in U.S. trade policy. ‘Some of the policy isn’t very well thought-out,’ he said.”
-- A federal appeals court ruled Metro can ban religious ads on its buses and trains. The ruling upheld the transit system’s practice of prohibiting issue-oriented advertisements. (Ann E. Marimow)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert worried that Trump's recent comments on collusion would complicate the chants at his rallies:
Trevor Noah reflected on the state of public education after LeBron James helped to open a new school in Akron, Ohio:
Thieves were caught on camera attempting to steal a shark from the San Antonio Aquarium:
An interaction between a supermarket employee and an autistic man went viral:
And a 2-year-old in Texas spoke for many when he threw a tantrum over the recent heat wave: