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The Daily 202: Race continues to be a blind spot for Trump one year after Charlottesville

President Trump called Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif) a "real beauty" and suggested that she had a "low IQ" during a rally in Ohio. (Video: The Washington Post)
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with Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: One week before the first anniversary of his botched response to the fatal violence in Charlottesville, President Trump again sparked controversy this weekend with personal attacks on the intelligence of three prominent African Americans: basketball great LeBron James, CNN anchor Don Lemon and 13-term California congresswoman Maxine Waters.

Vacationing at his golf club in New Jersey late Friday night, Trump reacted angrily to an interview James gave CNN about a charter school he’s opened for underprivileged kids in Ohio. Lemon asked the star, who recently moved from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Los Angeles Lakers, if he had a message for the president. “I would never sit across from him,” James replied. That prompted Trump to tweet, “Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television … He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do.”

At a rally the next night in Ohio, Trump had the good political sense not to attack James. But he knew accusing Waters, a California Democrat who has called for his impeachment, of having a low IQ would be a crowd pleaser.

-- The comments dominated the Sunday shows. Jake Tapper asked former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, a potential Democratic candidate for president in 2020, whether he agreed with “a lot of observers out there who saw the president's tweet as yet another example of the president's racism.”

“Well, you know, it's hard to argue with that,” Patrick replied Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But it's nothing new. And the tweets are all the same. They’re all about division, and they're often — or usually — about the president.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said Trump is wrong about Waters, who he served with in the House. “[There are] a lot of things ... you could say about Maxine Waters, but to indicate she’s not a bright person is not one of them,” Blunt said on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” adding later that the GOP is “not anti-black.”

-- As a national leader of the “birther” movement during the first half of this decade, Trump also routinely questioned Barack Obama’s intelligence. He claimed with no basis in reality that the first black president was “a terrible student” and demanded the release of his transcripts from Columbia University and Harvard Law School. (Trump has declined to produce his own transcripts.)

Obama and his advisers were perennially nervous about engaging on race-related matters. This was especially true during the 2008 campaign and through the first term, though he became more emboldened in the twilight of his presidency. Consider Obama’s carefully crafted Philadelphia speech to address his former pastor Jeremiah Wright’s sermons and “the beer summit” after his criticism of a white cop who arrested Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. outside his home in Cambridge, Mass.

Trump, in contrast, has seemed almost gleeful at times about picking fights with prominent black athletes, from Colin Kaepernick to Steph Curry. Aides have repeatedly said that the president sees the culture war over whether it’s acceptable to kneel for the national anthem as a great way to gin up his core supporters. He first seized on the issue during a rally last fall in Alabama.

Twitter users blasted President Donald Trump on Saturday after he questioned LeBron James's intelligence in a tweet. (Video: Reuters)

-- Michael Powell, on the front of the sports section in today’s New York Times, calls the criticism of James “more evidence that a master of the dog whistle occupies the White House and that black athletes are a favorite target.”

“There was a breathtaking quality to this attack, and not just because white men demeaning the intelligence of black people is one of the oldest and ugliest tropes in American history,” writes Powell. “Some of my colleagues in the news media seem at pains to avoid detecting a whiff of race-baiting in Trump’s attacks. … The eminent Stanford University historian George M. Fredrickson wrote a groundbreaking book, ‘The Black Image in the White Mind,’ in which he documented the white obsession during the 19th and early 20th centuries with measuring the supposedly deficient size of black brains, the better to undergird ‘scientific racism.’”

-- Trump praised James on Twitter multiple times, right up until the NBA star called him a “bum.”

-- In the CNN interview, James complained that Trump is using sports to divide Americans. “Sports has never been something that divides people. It’s always been something that brings people together,” he said. “Sports was the first time I was ever around someone white. I got an opportunity to see them and learn about them, and they got the opportunity to learn about me. … And I was like, 'Oh, wow, this is all because of sports.’”

-- This weekend’s back-and-forth illustrates how Trump has not really changed in the year since he said there were “some very fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville. He was speaking about a group of white nationalists who were carrying Tiki Torches to protest the removal of a Confederate statue near the University of Virginia campus. A young woman, Heather Heyer, was killed when a car rammed into a crowd of counter protesters.

-- Trump appears to have felt emboldened by his political resiliency after the Charlottesville firestorm. “Three former aides said the takeaway from Charlottesville is the nihilistic notion that nothing matters except for how things play,” Politico’s Annie Karni reported Sunday. “‘The lesson of the Trump presidency is that no short-term crisis matters long term,’ said one former White House official who worked in the administration last year during the racial crisis. Indeed, the Republicans in Congress who distanced themselves from Trump during the height of the controversy last summer have since embraced the president on tax reform and his Supreme Court selection … Many of the executives who walked away from Trump’s business councils have simply taken their hobnobbing behind closed doors … His supportive gang of Fox News hosts have become more ethno-nationalist in their rhetoric than they were a year ago.”

-- Since Charlottesville, in addition to his fights with mostly black athletes, Trump has found himself in other race-related controversies. In January, Trump reportedly referred to predominantly black nations in Africa, plus Haiti, as “shithole countries” while asking during a meeting why the United States cannot take more immigrants from European countries. “I’m not a racist,” he told reporters after the story broke. “I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed.”

-- A Quinnipiac University national poll last month found that 49 percent of registered voters believe Trump is “racist,” while 47 percent think he is not. Half the country thinks the main motive for Trump's immigration policies is “a sincere interest in controlling our borders,” while 44 percent said his main motivation is “racist beliefs.” That follows a Washington Post-ABC News poll last year, which found that 2 in 3 Americans think Trump is the most divisive president in recent history, and a Pew poll that found 6 in 10 Americans believe Trump's election has led to worse race relations.

-- Many Trump supporters came to his defense over the weekend. “LeBron DOES have a high I.Q., but that's Trump being wrong, not racist,” tweeted Ann Coulter.

-- On the other hand, Trump is galvanizing more African American athletes to become politically engaged. For his induction into the NFL Hall of Fame this weekend, Randy Moss wore a tie with the names of several African Americans who have been killed in police custody.

-- The president’s tweet even prompted Melania Trump’s spokeswoman to release a statement praising James and saying that the first lady is considering a visit to his school as part of her “Be Best” initiative. “It looks like LeBron James is working to do good things on behalf of our next generation and just as she always has, the First Lady encourages everyone to have an open dialogue about issues facing children today,” said the spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham.

THE DOWN BALLOT IMPACT:

-- “White Nationalists Love Corey Stewart. He Keeps Them Close. The Republican nominee for Senate in Virginia likes to engage the racial fringes of his party,” Danny Hakim and Stephanie Saul report on the front page of today’s New York Times: “While Mr. Stewart has disavowed some on the extreme right, interviews with dozens of his friends, colleagues, supporters and fellow Republicans yielded a portrait of a political opportunist eager to engage the coarsest racial fringes of his party to advance his Trumpian appeal. Some white nationalists volunteer for Mr. Stewart’s campaign, and several of his aides and advisers have used racist or anti-Muslim language, or maintained links to outspoken racists like Jason Kessler, the organizer of last year’s violent rally in Charlottesville … Mr. Stewart has not distanced himself from those aides.

Mr. Stewart praised President Trump’s statement that there were ‘very fine people on both sides’ at the … protests in Charlottesville … ‘I don’t think he said anything bad there,’ Mr. Stewart, 50, said during a 90-minute interview last month. ‘In fact I was one of the few people in the country that actually said pretty much the same thing.’ … [Stewart] does not accept that slavery was at the heart of the Civil War. ‘We can debate about the causes of the Civil War,’ he said, adding, ‘But the causes of it were much more complex’ than only slavery. … He contended that the term ‘white supremacist’ was a concoction of the left.

“In an extraordinary sign of discomfort with Mr. Stewart, some Republicans have been eager behind the scenes to provide opposition research aimed at discrediting him … Shaun Kenney, former state party executive director, lamented that ‘the alt-right has taken over the Virginia Republican Party.’ After Mr. Stewart secured the nomination in June, John C. Whitbeck, Jr., the party chairman who once accused Mr. Stewart of ‘racist’ language, resigned. But many Republican leaders haven’t publicly disavowed Mr. Stewart, mindful that Mr. Trump is supporting him…

A ‘Corey Stewart for Senate’ sign flanks the gravel driveway leading to George and Donna Randall’s southern Virginia home. An avowed secessionist, Mr. Randall is eager to explain himself, welcoming a visitor onto his porch. ‘I’m a secessionist because the federal government is anti-Christian and we’re different culturally,’ explained Mr. Randall, a retired heavy equipment operator whose forebears include Confederate veterans. ‘The government never surrendered, only the Army. We’re still under Reconstruction.’ Interviews with Mr. Randall and his twin brother Gregory helped explain Mr. Stewart’s appeal to his die-hard supporters. ‘I liked Corey because he’s a Trump supporter,’ said Gregory Randall, who plays Stonewall Jackson in Civil War re-enactments, in an interview at his home in Fredericksburg.

George Randall and his wife Donna have helped organize ‘meet and greets’ for Mr. Stewart. The 60-year-old brothers have been seen frequently with him and are known to provide volunteer security for Mr. Stewart at public events, a task they both confirmed, though Mr. Stewart denied it, saying ‘that was one of those crazy rumors.’ Both brothers took part in the Unite the Right rally and also belong to the League of the South, a Southern nationalist organization that honors John Wilkes Booth ‘for his service to the South’ and seeks to secure ‘a future for white children.’”

-- Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon also defended Trump’s “both sides” comments in an interview with The Hill that published Friday. “I still support what he said,” he said. “Antifa is just as bad, if not worse, than the quote-unquote fascists that they try to stop.”

Crowds of right-wing and antifascist demonstrators squared off on Saturday in Portland, Ore, where four people were injured in similar rallies on June 30. (Video: Reuters)

AMERICA, DIVIDED:

-- Portland, Ore., police deployed flash grenades and pepper spray to disperse a crowd of clashing protesters from the right and left. Authorities declared the tense standoff a “civil disturbance” and made four arrests. (Leah Sottile)

-- Under pressure, the D.C. Metro transit system has ruled out transporting white nationalists in separate train cars during Saturday's “Unite the Right” rally in the District. After the board chairman said the idea was being considered to prevent violence, many complained about “special treatment.” (Reis Thebault, Martine Powers and Teo Armus)

-- A man accused of participating in last year’s Charlottesville rally was discharged from the Marines. Lance Cpl. Vasillios Pistolis allegedly attacked protesters while marching in the “Unite the Right” rally. (Jacksonville Daily News)

-- Charlottesville businesses suffered for months after the rally. “[O]ur lines of credit are maxed out,” said Wilson Richey, owner of the local establishment the Whiskey Jar. “If anything even close happens again, it’s going to kill off a lot of businesses.” (Daily Progress)

A Smith College employee called police July 31, after noticing Oumou Kanoute, a black student and teacher's assistant at the school, eating lunch on campus. (Video: WBZTV)

-- A black student at Smith College had the campus police called on her because a university employee thought she appeared “out of place.” “Today someone felt the need to call the police on me while I was sitting down reading, and eating in a common room at Smith College,” the student, Oumou Kanoute, wrote on Facebook. “I did nothing wrong, I wasn’t making any noise or bothering anyone. All I did was be black.” (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)

-- The sign marking the spot where Emmett Till’s body was recovered has once again been vandalized. The marker outside Glendora, Miss., which was pierced by four bullets late last month, is the third version of the sign after the first was stolen and the second also destroyed by gunfire. (Alex Horton)

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GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Venezuela detained six more people in connection with what the government said was a “failed assassination” attempt on President Nicolás Maduro. But opposition leaders cast doubt on the government’s version of events and suggested it was an effort to distract from the country's growing economic crisis and food shortage. (Rachelle Krygier and Anthony Faiola)
  2. Indonesia’s Lombok island was rocked by a powerful earthquake, leaving 82 dead and hundreds more injured. One week ago dozens were killed in another quake on the same island. (AP)
  3. Saudi Arabia ordered the expulsion of its Canadian ambassador after Ottawa said it was “gravely concerned” about recent arrests of women’s rights activists. Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry also recalled its own ambassador to Canada and said it reserved “its right to take further action.” (Amanda Coletta and Kareem Fahim)

  4. At least 65 people were shot and 10 killed in shootings since 5 p.m. Friday in Chicago, part of a surge in weekend violence tied to gang wars. (ABC 7)
  5. California’s wildfires have sparked a debate over who should pay for the damage caused by the blazes that are becoming increasingly common as the climate changes. Public utilities say they cannot continue to afford massive payouts for fires caused by their equipment, but insurance companies argue they can't solely shoulder the burden either. (Scott Wilson)
  6. Osama bin Laden’s son, Hamza bin Laden, married the daughter of the lead hijacker in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Their marriage was confirmed by bin Laden’s half-brothers in an interview with the Guardian.
  7. Indra Nooyi is stepping down as the CEO of Pepsi after 12 years at the company’s helm. As one of the few minority women to lead a major corporation, her departures sheds light on the absence of women in the business world’s upper echelons. (Rachel Siegel)

  8. Eleven children were rescued this weekend from armed extremists who were holding them captive in a hidden New Mexico compound. The county sheriff called the facility “the saddest living conditions and poverty I have seen.” (Avi Selk)
  9. The Post’s Greg Miller is writing a book on Russian election interference, which will be published in October. Miller estimates that around 80 percent of the book, entitled “The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy,” will be original reporting based on hundreds of interviews. (Sonia Rao)

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- Trump acknowledged that a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son and a Kremlin-aligned lawyer was designed to “get information” on Hillary Clintona move that he claimed was “totally legal.” “Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower,” Trump tweeted. “This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics — and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!” The Trump Tower meeting, which was attended by Don Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, is a subject of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

“Trump was responding to a Washington Post report this weekend that although he does not think his eldest son intentionally broke the law, he is worried that Trump Jr. may have unintentionally stumbled into legal jeopardy and is embroiled in Mueller’s investigation largely because of his connection to the president,” Philip Rucker, Robert Costa and Ashley Parker report. “But Trump’s tweet conflicts with a statement that Trump Jr. had released to the New York Times in July 2017 [indicating] that the meeting had been ‘primarily’ about the issue of the adoption of Russian children by Americans. The Washington Post reported a few weeks later that Trump Jr.’s initial misleading statement had been ‘dictated’ by Trump. The president’s attorneys at first denied Trump’s involvement in drafting the response … but months later, in a letter intended to explain why Mueller should not interview Trump, they agreed that the president had, in fact, been the author of the statement.”

-- Trump attorney Jay Sekulow defended the meeting, arguing that no laws bar campaign officials from meeting or working with foreign agents. He also admitted on ABC's “This Week” that he misled the public last year by adamantly insisting the president had “nothing do with” Trump Jr.’s false statement. “I had bad information at that time,” the president's lawyer said. “Sekulow added that he has ‘no knowledge’ of the president’s son testifying to the special counsel’s grand jury or being told that he is a ‘target,’ which is an official designation the Justice Department would use to tell someone that they are likely to be indicted,” Ashley and Rosalind S. Helderman report.

Sekulow said that if Mueller tries to subpoena Trump, it will trigger a legal battle that would end up before the Supreme Court. “A subpoena for live testimony has never been tested in court as to the president of the United States,” the president's lawyer said on ABC. “Obstruction of justice by tweet is absurd. The president has the First Amendment right to put his opinion out there.”

-- As former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s trial enters its second week, all eyes are on ex-campaign aide Rick Gates, who could appear in court as early as today to testify against his former boss. Devlin Barrett reports: “Gates’s testimony … will do more than lay bare the end of a long relationship that made both men millions of dollars as political consultants. The prosecution’s theory is that, time after time, Manafort instructed Gates to lie, and many of those lies were crimes. If the jury agrees, [Manafort] could spend the rest of his life in prison. Prosecutors plan to use Gates to explain what Manafort knew and what he instructed others to do over years of the alleged fraud. To prove Manafort is a liar, prosecutors will rely in part on Gates — someone with a long track record of lying[.] His plea documents count at least five specific falsehoods he told authorities … [And] Gates will carry the weight of those lies with him to the witness stand, and defense lawyers have made clear their strategy is to blame Gates for any crimes that may have occurred.”

DANGER FOR THE GOP IN OHIO:

-- The Republican Party has deployed its full machinery in Columbus in hopes of avoiding yet another defeat in tomorrow’s special election in the 12th District. Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports. “But in the final days [of the race], signs were everywhere that Democrats are surging — from recent polling to the private and public statements of many Republicans[.] At a Saturday evening rally, [Trump] tried to juice conservative excitement for mild-mannered Republican candidate Troy Balderson … Earlier in the week, [Mike Pence] made the trek, while [Donald Trump Jr.] recorded a robocall, and Gov. John Kasich endorsed Balderson in a TV ad. The [RNC] has opened two offices in the district, launched a $500,000-plus get-out-the-vote effort, and dispatched one of its top officials, Bob Paduchik, who ran Trump’s 2016 Ohio campaign. The all-out push underscores the GOP’s trepidation about the final special election before the midterms.”

-- John Kasich claimed Balderson had not invited Trump to campaign for him and said the president’s appearance in the district could scare off key voters because “the chaos that seems to surround Donald Trump has unnerved a lot of people.” The Columbus Dispatch’s Jack Torry reports: “With Balderson finding himself at the center between an ongoing feud between Kasich and Trump ... Balderson said that he ‘welcomed’ the president to the Saturday rally where ‘he highlighted his support for’ Trump and his agenda. Balderson's statement did not address Kasich's claim Sunday on ‘ABC's This Week’ in which the governor said he asked Balderson last week why he invited Trump to campaign for him. According to Kasich, Balderson replied, ‘No I didn't.’”

-- Even if Republicans can secure victory in Ohio, it may not allay midterm concerns among GOP candidates. The New York Times’s Alexander Burns reports: “The district has elected Republicans to Congress for decades and favored Mr. Trump in 2016 by 11 percentage points, surpassing his powerful margin statewide. If Mr. Balderson prevails, it could offer scant comfort to scores of Republicans in more closely-drawn districts, where firing up Trump-applauding conservatives would likely not be enough to defeat a Democrat.”

OTHER PRIMARIES TOMORROW:

-- Gov. Jeff Colyer (R), who is facing Kris Kobach in tomorrow's Kansas Republican gubernatorial primary, demanded the secretary of state repay taxpayers for $26,000 in legal fees tied to a judge’s contempt finding. The underlying case addressed an ACLU challenge to Kansas’s proof-of-citizenship law, which Kobach implemented and defended. The law requires Kansans to provide evidence of their citizenship before registering to vote. (Topeka Capital-Journal)

-- Two GOP political consultants allege Kobach's campaign has employed white nationalists. The Topeka Capital-Journal’s Sherman Smith reports: “Kobach spokeswoman Danedri Herbert rejects the accusation as a baseless distraction from real news in the closing days of a contested GOP primary race. The consultants in early July independently named the three men, all in their early 20s, as members of American Heritage Initiative, a splinter of Identity Evropa, which the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as a campus-based white supremacy group that builds community from shared racial identity. Kurtis Engel, Collin Gustin and Michael Pyles received $1,250 to $3,100 in payments from Kobach’s campaign between June 8 and July 26, according to expense reports made public this week. Herbert said their role with the campaign is to walk in parades, deliver yard signs and knock on doors.”

-- GOP strategists are concerned the president will weigh in on Kobach's behalf. Axios’s Jonathan Swan reports:Kobach is as far right as a Republican gets on immigration and voting rights, and Democrats view his potential victory as an opportunity to steal centrist voters. A source close to Trump told me they thought the president had been convinced to hold off on supporting Kobach. But he added he couldn't be confident, given that Trump is in Bedminster with a cell phone and plenty of Executive Time.”

-- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) traveled to Michigan to headline a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed, who has lagged in polling ahead of tomorrow's primary. The Detroit News’s Beth LeBlanc reports: “‘I understand there has been some discussion here in Michigan about the polling and the fact that Abdul is behind in some of the polls,’ Sanders told the crowd ... ‘So let me give you the personal perspective of somebody who experienced Michigan polls a few years ago.’ The Vermont democratic socialist said polls had him 27 points behind the day before he won the 2016 presidential primary in Michigan. ‘We won that election and, by the way, so will Abdul,’ Sanders said.”

-- The former mayor of Flint, Mich., best known for switching the city’s water supply with disastrous results, is trying to launch a comeback statehouse bid. Politico Magazine’s Edward McClelland reports: “[Dayne Walling] is facing off against five opponents in the August 7 Democratic primary, and while there hasn’t been any polling in the race, Walling is considered an underdog. He still has name recognition and goodwill left over from his time as mayor, but he also faces the skepticism and anger of voters who felt he didn’t do enough to prevent the biggest disaster in his city’s history. Some activists argue he was complicit with state officials in a cover-up and should even be criminally indicted.”

THE MIDTERMS:

-- Mitch McConnell officially announced his 2020 reelection bid at the annual Fancy Farm picnic. The AP’s Adam Beam reports: “McConnell chose Jonathan Shell, the 30-year-old majority leader of the Kentucky House of Representatives, as chairman of his campaign. Shell made national news in May when he was ousted in a Republican primary by a high school math teacher who had never run for office before.”

-- The Iowa State Fair opens this week, but some big-name Democratic presidential contenders are conspicuously absent. The AP’s Thomas Beaumont reports: “The fair’s time-honored mix of late-summer family fun and high-wattage political pageantry will instead feature the Democratic backbench of presidential hopefuls, including Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan. The visit generating the most buzz this week is Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for the adult-film actress suing Trump who is attending the state Democratic Party’s annual summer fundraiser. For now, top-tier prospective Democratic presidential candidates, including former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kamala Harris of California and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York are largely steering clear of Iowa.”

-- Several Democratic gubernatorial candidates are embracing "Medicare for all" to distinguish themselves from their primary and Republican rivals. David Weigel reports: “The single-payer Democrats are on the ballot in red and blue states and from California, where Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is the heavy favorite to win in November, to Massachusetts, where Democrat Jay Gonzalez believes the issue will give him an opening against a popular Republican governor. … [W]hile Democrats running for the House and Senate talk about Medicare for all in aspirational terms, as a post-Trump national goal, liberal candidates for governor suggest that their states could quickly become laboratories for universal coverage.”

-- More than a dozen state legislators are running for reelection this year despite being accused of sexual misconduct. The New York Times’s Julie Turkewitz and Alan Blinder report: “Among them are a Kentucky legislator accused of sending racy text messages to an aide, a Pennsylvania lawmaker involved in a six-figure sexual harassment settlement and a Wisconsin representative accused of forcible kissing. Some candidates hope that voters will accept their apologies. Others believe constituents will dismiss the allegations as untrue — or deem them unimportant at a time when state legislatures could play crucial roles either in advancing the Trump administration’s agenda or forming bulwarks against it.”

-- Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) is facing a surprisingly difficult reelection campaign in the wake of his recent corruption trial. The New York Times’s Nick Corasaniti reports: “Facing a deep-pocketed Republican challenger, a blitz of negative ads and lingering concerns over a lackluster performance in an uncontested primary, Mr. Menendez’s race has started to concern some Democrats. After weathering a criminal indictment and a harsh ethics rebuke from his Senate peers, Mr. Menendez may find himself in a tough enough re-election fight that will force the party to devote money and energy needed in other races critical to the party’s quest to retake Congress.”

-- Donald Trump Jr. endorsed Wyoming gubernatorial candidate Foster Friess. “Foster embodies the leadership skills necessary to run a prosperous and efficient Wyoming that puts its people first,” the president’s son wrote in a Casper Star Tribune op-ed. “My father needs a fighter by his side in Wyoming, someone who is committed to enacting his America First agenda and I know that Foster will fight tooth and nail to help make that a reality.”

TRUMP’S AGENDA:

-- Two major U.S. steel companies with ties to the Trump administration have helped to kill tariff exemption requests from hundreds of American companies. The New York Times’s Jim Tankersley reports: “Charlotte-based Nucor, which financed a documentary film made by a top trade adviser …, and Pittsburgh-based United States Steel, which has previously employed several top administration officials, have objected to 1,600 exemption requests filed with the Commerce Department over the past several months. To date, their efforts have never failed, resulting in denials for companies that are based in the United States but rely on imported pipes, screws, wire and other foreign steel products for their supply chains. Since May, companies have filed more than 20,000 requests for steel tariff exemptions. As of the end of July, [Commerce] had denied 639 requests. Half of those denials came in cases where United States Steel, Nucor or a third large steel maker, AK Steel Holding Corporation, filed an objection.”

-- “Trump promised to fix veterans’ problems. Now they call his hotline desperate for help,” by Jessica Contrera: “The calls came from veterans who were about to be evicted. Veterans who couldn’t get hold of their doctors. Veterans who needed to talk about what they saw in Afghanistan or Iraq or Vietnam. … Here in a small West Virginia town, 74 miles from the White House, a [Trump] campaign promise is being fulfilled. He told the country’s 20 million veterans that if they had an issue with the Department of Veterans Affairs, there would be a number they could call 24 hours a day to talk to a real person. … Listen. Type. Send. This was what the 60 customer service agents could do for the 107,000 calls that had come in since June 2017. On this day, there would be 584 more.”

-- Democrats are seeking to highlight Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s decades-long relationship with a former judge ousted over sexual misconduct allegations. Politico’s Elana Schor reports: “It’s not just what, if anything, Kavanaugh saw during his time as a [clerk for former Judge Alex Kozinski] in the early 1990s that’s on Democratic minds. They also want to know how [Trump’s] high court pick would address the judiciary’s ongoing internal reckoning with sexual misconduct that was sparked by Kozinski — one of Kavanaugh’s early mentors who introduced the younger appellate court judge at his Senate confirmation hearing in 2006.”

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- Some national security experts fear the U.S. government’s increasing reliance on sanctions is harming the effectiveness of the measures. Carol Morello reports: “The reliance on them has led to concerns that they are being overused as the foreign policy of first resort, hurting U.S. credibility among allies who complain that they are being forced to bow to U.S. policies and potentially undercutting the U.S. dollar.”

-- Vladimir Putin has tapped action-movie star Steven Seagal as a “special envoy” to the United States in an effort to improve strained relations between Washington and Moscow. The New York Times’s Melissa Gomez reports: “The Russian Foreign Ministry announced the appointment on Facebook, saying [Seagal's] mission will include promoting ‘relations between Russia and the United States in the humanitarian field, including cooperation in culture, arts, public and youth exchanges.’ The position is unpaid, said Russian officials, who compared the role to that of a United Nations good-will ambassador — a distinguished volunteer who calls attention to the work of the United Nations. Mr. Seagal, who occasionally appears on Russian state television, said he welcomed the appointment[.] ‘I’ve always had a very strong desire to do all I can to help improve Russian-American relations,’ he told the Kremlin-backed television station RT. … He called Mr. Putin a personal friend and expressed a desire to improve relations between the United States and Russia.”

-- Senior administration officials are pushing tougher punishment for state-sponsored hackers of infrastructure systems. The Wall Street Journal’s Rebecca Smith reports: “The push for explicit action is coming from top federal agencies to fight worsening threats to the country’s electricity system and other critical industries, particularly menacing actions from Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. … Spearheading the effort are the departments of State, Treasury and Defense, among other major agencies, according to government officials.”

-- Colombia’s new president could become a crucial South American ally for the Trump administration. Anne Gearan reports: “[Iván Duque], a conservative, hopes to turn Trump’s concerns about drugs and safe borders into a stronger partnership with Washington, while promising to revisit elements of a historic peace agreement with rebels struck in August 2016 with the vigorous support of the Obama administration.”

THE FOURTH ESTATE:

-- “The local-news crisis is destroying what a divided America desperately needs: Common ground,” by Margaret Sullivan: “One problem with losing local coverage is that we never know what we don’t know. Corruption can flourish, taxes can rise, public officials can indulge their worst impulses. And there’s another result that gets less attention: In our terribly divided nation, we need the local newspaper to give us common information — an agreed-upon set of facts to argue about.”

-- “Newseum pulls 'fake news' shirt after backlash,” by Politico: “The Newseum on Saturday pulled the sale of a T-shirt bearing the message ‘you are very fake news’ following an online backlash against the merchandising of the slogan frequently employed by [Trump] to undermine journalists' work. ‘The Newseum has removed the [T-shirts] from the gift shop and online,’ a statement posted on the media-focused museum's website read. ‘We made a mistake and we apologize. A free press is an essential part of our democracy and journalists are not the enemy of the people.’ [The Newseum's] galleries and collections are sponsored by a number of news organizations, including NBC, ABC, Bloomberg and The New York Times[.]”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

There was bipartisan blowback on social media to Trump’s attacks on LeBron James. Don Lemon responded:

So did many basketball players. From the Minnesota Timberwolves:

The Utah Jazz:

A senior fellow at the conservative Ethics & Public Policy Center, who worked for the previous three Republican presidents:

A Republican talking head on CNN:

The Republican governor of Ohio:

The short-lived Trump White House communications director:

A senior writer for Rolling Stone:

 A former aide in Bill Clinton’s White House who now teaches at Columbia:

A generation ago, conservatives wore shirts that said: “Better dead than red.” At Trump's Ohio rally on Saturday night, people wore shirts that said they'd rather be a Russian than Democrat. In case you needed another illustration that this is not your father's GOP, a writer for Bloomberg News snapped this photo:

A former top speechwriter to George W. Bush summed up just some of the information known about the Trump Tower meeting:

From Obama's former foreign policy adviser:

From a former undersecretary of state in the Obama administration:

From an Obama-era DOJ spokesman:

A former House GOP staffer, who ran for president as an independent, put it more succinctly:

A House Democrat edited Trump's tweet:

A Weekly Standard editor criticized statements from Trump's lawyer about the meeting:

The moderator of "Meet the Press" reacted to Trump's media criticism: 

From a former deputy CIA director:

From a CNN reporter:

A familiar face accompanied Trump from New Jersey to his rally in Ohio:

A Weekly Standard reporter sought Republicans' thoughts on dealing with the national debt:

And one House Republican actually replied:

A CNN reporter noted the prominent people in this old photo:

The former FBI director offered some social media advice:

And Barack Obama received some birthday messages:

GOOD READS:

-- Politico Magazine, “‘They Were All Lawyered Up and Rudy Giuliani’d Up,’” by Beth Macy: “The first time Ed Bisch heard the word ‘OxyContin,’ his son was dead from it. Within months, Bisch would find himself at the forefront of a parent-led nationwide pushback against Purdue Pharma, the maker of the powerful opioid OxyContin, organizing other parents of the overdosed dead and soon funneling their stories to a nascent federal investigation centered in western Virginia. ... The Virginia-led federal investigation culminated in a plea agreement in 2007 and a $634.5 million fine against Purdue’s parent company and its top executives for criminally misbranding the drug. Since then, more than 20 states have sued Purdue Pharma, and recently, the company dismissed most of its sales staff in response to mounting allegations over its marketing tactics. A federal judge in Cleveland is now presiding over massive multijurisdictional litigation against opioid distributors, retailers and manufacturers, including Purdue.

“But the story of this first federal investigation illuminates how holding Purdue Pharma accountable was so hard in the first place, and why it took so long to rein in the marketing practices that led to widespread addiction and saddled local communities with costs that have overwhelmed law enforcement, hospitals and even indigent burial funds. It also looks different 10 years on: We now know, in a document only recently made public, that federal prosecutors had originally recommended felony charges that could have sent top Purdue execs to prison if they were convicted. In that report, the prosecutors said the company had knowingly concealed OxyContin abuse shortly after the drug’s 1996 release. We also know that top Justice Department officials in the George W. Bush administration did not follow the Virginia prosecutors’ recommendations — and refused to indict the executives on felony charges, instead pursuing lesser misdemeanor charges for them and no jail time.

Purdue had hired Republican insider Rudy Giuliani and his consulting firm, Giuliani Partners, in 2002. … Giuliani and crew continued trying to influence the case when and where they could. In 2005, Purdue lawyers called then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey to question Brownlee’s investigatory tactics, and Comey called Brownlee with concerns. The young attorney responded by personally driving four hours to Washington to lay out his strategies. 'Brownlee, you are fine. Go back to Virginia and do your case,' Brownlee said Comey told him."

-- New York Times, “Cities’ Offers for Amazon Base Are Secrets Even to Many City Leaders,” by Julie Creswell: “Across the country, the search for HQ2, as [Amazon’s] project has been nicknamed, is shrouded in secrecy. Even civic leaders can’t find out what sort of tax credits and other inducements have been promised to Amazon. And there is a growing legal push to find out, because taxpayers could get saddled with a huge bill and have little chance to stop it. … Eventually, the taxpayers whose area wins will have to be told how much money Amazon was promised. And when they discover how much they will have to hand over, [Toronto-based professor Richard Florida] said, ‘there is going to be hell to pay.’”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Apple Is Removing Alex Jones And Infowars' Podcasts From iTunes,” from BuzzFeed News: “Apple has removed the entire library for five of Infowars' six podcasts from its iTunes and Podcast apps, BuzzFeed News has learned. … Apple's decision to remove all episodes of Jones' popular show — rather than just specific offending episodes — is one of the largest enforcement actions intended to curb conspiratorial news content by a technology company to date. Apple did not host Jones's shows, but it offered an index that allowed anyone with an iPhone to find and subscribe to them. Though Apple is far from Jones and Infowars' only distribution platform, the decision to pull Jones' content will considerably limit the outlet's audio reach — as of 2018, Apple's Podcasts platform amassed 50 billion all-time downloads and streams.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Twitter Suspends Candace Owens — Then Says It Was ‘An Error’ After Backlash,” from the Daily Caller: “Twitter suspended conservative commentator Candace Owens on Sunday for imitating New York Times editorial board member Sarah Jeong’s anti-white tweets, but restored Owens’ account access following a backlash on social media. Owens, the communications director for conservative activist group Turning Points USA, on Saturday sent out a pair of tweets quoting Jeong’s anti-white statements — which did not earn her a Twitter suspension — but swapped out the word ‘white’ with ‘Jewish’ and ‘black.’ Twitter on Sunday suspended Owens’ account for 12 hours, citing her tweet about Jewish people as a violation of Twitter rules. Twitter restored Owen’s access following a sharp backlash. The social media company chalked up Owens’ suspension as an ‘error.’”

DAYBOOK:

Trump has a dinner with supporters tonight in Bedminster, N.J. He has no other events on his public schedule.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“It is so sad. Like many men, he suffers from premature confirmation. And like a man, he claims it never happens to him.” — Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, who previously ran for the Senate against Mitch McConnell, on the majority leader’s efforts to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. (AP)

 

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

-- Prepare for another hot and humid day in the District. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “It’s a typical hot summer day in Washington. We’ll see temperatures make a run up to and just past 90. Factoring in the humidity, it may feel as hot as 100 this afternoon. A pop-up shower or storm can’t be ruled out late, especially out toward the mountains. Light winds mean not much relief from the steamy conditions.”

-- The Nationals beat the Reds 2-1. (Chelsea Janes)

-- An investigation into allegations that a major Virginia seafood supplier was cutting its Chesapeake blue crab meat with cheaper foreign crab revealed a massive fraud worth millions of dollars, authorities said. From Justin Jouvenal: “Federal prosecutors allege in a case unsealed this year that the Newport News, Va., company sold a whopping 398,000 pounds of Chesapeake blue crab mixed with cut-rate crab from as far away as Indonesia or Brazil and labeled it as an American product. The retail value of the crab is roughly $14 million at current prices. It is difficult to ascertain how widespread such problems are, but watermen, seafood suppliers, lawmakers and environmental groups have all expressed concerns about crab fraud in recent years and whether enough is ­being done to stop it.”

-- A Prince George’s County activist who lost her Democratic primary by 55 votes is launching a write-in campaign for a council seat. Tamara Davis Brown lost the primary race to Clerk of the Court Sydney Harrison in June. (Rachel Chason)

-- A Maryland collector obtained a Mickey Mantle 1955 baseball card worth at least $50,000. (Fredrick Kunkle)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

John Oliver highlighted the power of prosecutors in the criminal justice system:

Two neighbors in California described their heroic efforts to protect the homes on their block against the Carr Fire:

Rodger Grey and Gary Lion, a Navy veteran and retired firefighter, stayed in their homes through the blazing Carr Fire and defended their block from the flames. (Video: Zoeann Murphy, Jon Gerberg/The Washington Post)

Lava "belching" in Hawaii continues:

Lava flowing near Kilauea Volcano, on Hawaii, was recorded by the U.S. Geological Survey on August 2. (Video: USGS Volcanoes)

Chinese firefighters rescued drivers after their trucks were caught in a flash flood:

Elephants enjoyed the perks of a “health camp” in central India:

Elephants in central India's Kanha National Forest enjoyed a seven-day rejuvenation camp. (Video: Reuters)

And bears get overheated, just like us:

A bear was spotted taking a break near South Lake Tahoe, Calif, on July 31, amid hot, smoky conditions caused by California’s wildfires. (Video: Toogee Sielsch)
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