with Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
During his 38 years in the Senate, Russell was remarkably effective at denying African Americans their ability to cash what King that day called “a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.”
Russell successfully filibustered anti-lynching bills. He voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which he called “shortsighted and disastrous.” He blocked bills to eliminate poll taxes. He co-authored the “Southern Manifesto” to slow the integration of public schools after the Supreme Court unanimously ordered it in Brown v. Board of Education.
“White supremacy and racial segregation were to him cardinal principles for good and workable human relationships,” the historian Gilbert Fite wrote in his definitive 1991 biography of Russell. “He had a deep emotional commitment to preserving the kind of South in which his ancestors had lived. No sacrifice was too great for him to make if it would prevent the extension of full equality to blacks.”
Fite, who passed away in 2010, held the Richard B. Russell chair in American history at the University of Georgia.
It was Russell’s savviness as a legislator, his mastery of the Senate, that prompted his colleagues to honor him by naming one of three Senate office buildings after him when he died at 73 of emphysema in 1971. The Beaux Arts structure on Constitution Avenue, with grand marble staircases and spectacular Corinthian columns, had been open since 1909 without a name. Harry Truman used to tell constituents in Missouri when he was a senator that they could send him a letter with his name and “SOB,” as in Senate Office Building, and it would get delivered.
John McCain’s office was in the Russell Senate Office Building during all six of his terms representing Arizona. It also houses the Armed Services Committee, which he chaired. Moments after McCain’s death on Saturday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) proposed renaming the building in honor of the late 81-year-old. “Russell, a towering figure in the Senate of his day, was nonetheless an avowed opponent of civil rights,” Schumer said in a floor speech. “It is time we recognize that as the times change, so do our heroes.”
But the idea has encountered resistance from elected Republicans, including the two senators who represent Russell’s home state of Georgia and other Southerners. Congress has suddenly found itself in a thicket akin to what other august institutions like Princeton and Yale have faced in recent years. It’s also coming against the backdrop of a continuing national debate about what to do with monuments honoring Confederate soldiers.
“Yes, Dick Russell was a racist. But he was much more than that. And all of the things he did for the country and the state benefit black people now,” said Sally Russell, the 76-year-old niece of Richard Russell.
In a phone interview from Canada last night, where she’s retired with her husband after a career as a professor of French and English, Russell said it’s important to look at her uncle’s full record: He supported many of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal programs during the 1930s and authored the National School Lunch Act, which still gives low-income students access to meals and created a subsidy system for farmers. He also played key roles in defense policy during World War II, as well as the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. Russell, who ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1952, was an early mentor to Lyndon Johnson.
She also noted that, four decades ago, naming the building for Russell was entirely noncontroversial. The resolution passed 99 to 1. Ironically, the one holdout was Sen. Philip Hart (D-Mich.), who said it was “unwise to anticipate history’s verdict.” One of the other two Senate buildings is now named for him.
“Nobody loved the U.S. Senate more than Dick Russell did, and he really and truly gave his life to it,” said Sally Russell, who wrote a 2011 book about him called “A Life of Consequence.” “They joked that he was married to the Senate, and that was pretty much true. I don’t think it’s really appropriate to disregard what all those people who knew him thought.”
She added that Sen. Russell had good relationships with the African Americans who worked for him. “The people that worked for him and the people in the Senate Dining Room — the black people who worked for him — they liked him,” said Sally Russell. “They loved him, some of them. They talked about how courteous he was to them. … I just think he had a very deep courteous attitude, which probably came from being raised in the South. And we just don’t have that so much anymore.”
-- Politics can make for strange bedfellows. It’s surreal to watch Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and the San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Board champion the cause of renaming a building after the 2008 GOP nominee for president, as many Republicans stay noncommittal or say that changing a building’s name should be a deliberate process.
Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) pledged to “resist” any quick moves to rename the building, saying there must be time to “talk about all the options.”
“This is a man who made tremendous contributions,” Perdue said of Russell in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “In hindsight, today we can say he was wrong on any issue, but I think you’ve got to measure that in the full picture of his contributions, just like John McCain. I think that’s why I think we ought to consider what is the right way to honor John’s legacy.”
The office of Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) did not respond to a request for comment, but the senator told his home-state paper that “it’s not the time to talk about it.”
“We owe it to the McCain family to talk about John McCain and his contributions to the country and not anything else, and that’s what I intend to do,” said Isakson.
This now-is-not-the-time talking point echoes what lawmakers often say to oppose new gun-control measures after mass shootings. Tabling the issue when passions run high will sap momentum for the change.
In addition to Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, McCain’s junior senator, Sens. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) also expressed support for changing the name. All three are retiring at the end of this year. Senate Rules Committee Chairman Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), whose panel would need to approve a change, also told Fox News he is open to it.
Other GOP senators pumped the brakes on pursuing the idea: “We've honored John McCain, but Richard Russell was an icon,” Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told Gabriel Pogrund. “I didn't serve with him, but he was an icon in his day.” Asked about Russell's support for segregation, Shelby said: “You go back to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, just about anyone, nobody's perfect.”
Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) added: “I think I’d be in favor of naming almost any building for McCain, but I’m not sure that I want to make a decision on a specific building at this point.”
-- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has more to say over the outcome of this debate than anyone else, also demurred. The Kentucky Republican said Monday that McCain’s memory should be honored but declined to specify how, saying that’s a question for down the road. “This week will be dedicated to remembering him. … As the days turn to weeks, I know we’re all eager to come together and collaborate on ways we can continue to honor his memory,” McConnell said in an afternoon floor speech, which his spokesman pointed to when asked whether he’ll endorse the change. The senator ignored follow-up questions from a Hill reporter as he walked to his office after the speech.
McConnell knows as much about the men who have run the institution — and they still are all men — than any of his 99 colleagues. He’s a history buff – and a proud Southerner. The leader got his start as a junior Hill staffer when Russell was at the pinnacle of his power. He interned for the legendary Kentucky Sen. John Sherman Cooper in the early 1960s and served as Sen. Marlow Cook’s legislative director in the late 1960s.
-- Another complicating factor: McCain is also unpopular with many conservative activists, so there’s not going to be significant grass-roots pressure to change the name. “McCain had been dead only a few hours before hard-line critics in his own party began to pounce,” Greg Jaffe and Jenna Johnson report in today’s paper. “Some tore apart McCain’s unsuccessful first marriage and his military service, reveling in long-debunked conspiracy theories about his time as a prisoner of war. A few suggested that he should ‘rot in hell.’ ‘Sorry, phony, fraud and a traitor,’ Shawn Halan, a Southern California real estate agent, wrote in a social media post. ‘He was a pathetic egomaniac bent on fighting conservatism and did it as a pretender!’ ‘Faux conservative,’ added another supporter of President Trump. … The torrent of outrage came in response to a Saturday evening post on Instagram from Lynne Patton, a longtime associate of the Trump family working in the administration, who had taken to social media to praise McCain.
“McCain’s longtime staffers in Arizona offered varied explanations for McCain’s unpopularity with his own party and the partisan drift of American politics. Some blamed the proliferation of Internet media outlets, which elevate the loudest and most outraged voices. ‘Look at Alex Jones,’ Mike Noble, a Republican pollster in Arizona, said of the well-known right-wing conspiracy theorist. … Other McCain partisans blamed Trump, who has remade the Republican Party in his pugilistic image. Trump’s overwhelming popularity among Republicans has increased the demand for party members — even elected ones — to fall into line. But McCain had bucked in the opposite direction on some issues, such as the efficacy of torture. … ‘It’s a cult of personality,’ said Wes Gullett, McCain’s former state director in Arizona.”
-- The debate is refocusing attention on Russell’s record on race. In 1949 and then again in 1958, for example, the senator introduced legislation that would have formed a Voluntary Racial Relocation Commission to create incentives for African Americans to leave the South and move to the North. “If the Negro population were spread more evenly over all sections of the nation — thus giving each state an equal share of the race problem, it would be a substantial contribution to the easing of racial tensions and to providing a permanent solution,” the senator reasoned at the time.
Louisiana State University professor Robert Mann writes about this bizarre episode in his political history of the civil rights movement, “The Walls of Jericho: Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Richard Russell and the Struggle for Civil Rights.”
“Russell was an extraordinary legislator and, among his colleagues, one of the most admired senators of his generation,” Mann emailed Monday. “Many who knew him thought he had the leadership skills to be a great president. He was a good man and great leader in many ways. But he was also a racist and the leader of the Southern bloc that delayed the advance of civil rights for 20 years. That’s a permanent stain on his record. While his many worthy accomplishments deserve recognition, his name should never have been placed on a federal building. And while we debate whether Russell’s name should come off the Senate office building, it’s worth noting the federal building in Atlanta also bears his name. I don’t know if John McCain is the best person to have his or her name on that building, but I’m certain we shouldn’t name buildings after people who devoted a significant portion of their careers to denying African Americans and others their constitutional rights.”
-- This isn’t the first time people have tried to take Russell’s name off the building. To commemorate Black History Month in 2003, civil rights activist Dick Gregory organized a group called Change the Name. That campaign went nowhere.
Last October, political journalist Walter Shapiro proposed renaming Russell for late Maine Sen. Margaret Chase Smith (R) in a piece for Roll Call. “When I wrote the original column, I had hoped that John McCain, despite a dire diagnosis, would prove indomitable and eternal,” Shapiro emailed Monday. “While still believing that Margaret Chase Smith should be honored for her courage in standing up to Joe McCarthy and for her career as the first significant woman senator, I think it would be even better to recast the Russell Building as the John McCain Building.”
In 2015, Syracuse history professor emeritus David Bennett and his son Matt Bennett, a co-founder of the Third Way think tank, wrote a Washington Post op-ed calling for the building to be renamed for Ted Kennedy. “I think honoring McCain in this way is equally worthy,” the younger Bennett emailed yesterday. “I still think Kennedy deserves a major honor, but given the politics of the moment I think Schumer’s offer is great.”
Powell Moore, who was Russell’s press secretary from 1966 to 1971, responded to the Bennett piece with a letter to the editor that quoted from the late Massachusetts senator’s glowing eulogy after Russell died. “Kennedy was an accomplished and likable man, but his personal deportment did not always rise to Senate standards. In contrast, Russell placed a high value on honor, decorum and respectability,” said Moore. “There is no question that segregation and slavery are a stain on U.S. history. But Russell didn’t invent segregation, he inherited it.”
Also in 2015, Michael Tomasky made the case in the Daily Beast that the building should be renamed for former senator Bob Dole (R-Kan.), who voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. (Dole yesterday endorsed renaming Russell for McCain during an appearance on Fox News.)
Times have changed pretty rapidly. Arguing against changing the name of the Russell building, Jonathan Bronitsky pointed out in the Weekly Standard that a huge ceremony was held in 1996 when a statue to Russell was unveiled in the rotunda of the building that was already named for him. “Dick Russell had a heart of gold and was one of the most honorable individuals ever to serve in the United States Senate throughout its more than 200-year history,” then-Vice President Al Gore said at the event. Bronitsky wonders, “Was America still that bigoted then?”
-- Sally Russell said her uncle must be viewed in the context of his era. She said he wouldn’t have been able to get reelected if he hadn’t supported racist policies, and she also believes he would have continued evolving with the times. Sally Russell said that she considers herself an independent and votes more for the candidate than the party. In 2008, she considered voting for McCain — until he picked Sarah Palin as his running mate. Then she voted for Barack Obama. She supported him again in 2012. Now she’s critical of Trump.
“In my era and certainly in his, they didn’t learn about ‘the Civil War.’ We weren’t even allowed to call it the Civil War. It had to be ‘The War Between the States,’” she said of her uncle. “Now we’re told they’re not heroes, but I don’t agree with that.”
-- “Trump turns McCain’s death into another political firestorm about Trump,” by Felicia Sonmez, Josh Dawsey and John Wagner: “It’s the standard Washington protocol — a member of Congress dies, and the flags over official buildings are flown at half-staff. That’s what happened when John McCain died Saturday. But first thing Monday morning, the flag over the White House was back at full-staff, and a barrage of bitter criticism soon followed, with detractors — including the American Legion — interpreting the fleeting tribute as a sign of President Trump’s pettiness. … Then, suddenly, the flag was back at half-staff Monday afternoon, and the president issued a statement offering ‘respect’ for McCain. …
“ 'It’s all a self-inflicted wound, especially the flag,' said Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary under George W. Bush. 'The ceremonial things, the traditional things that keep a lot of people together — even if you have policy or personal disagreements, you have to know where to draw that line. He too often draws that line in a way that hurts himself because he thinks he is hurting others.' …
“Trump is not expected to attend the funeral or memorial services in Washington for McCain. … Vice President Pence will speak at a ceremony Friday at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. … Several administration officials said Trump was frustrated with the TV coverage and felt besieged — that nothing he said about McCain would be enough. … Trump told advisers over the weekend that lavishing praise on McCain would not be genuine because he did not feel that way. ‘Everyone knows we don’t like each other,’ the president said. … Even so, after speaking with a number of close advisers Monday, including [John] Bolton, [Jim] Mattis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders — all of whom urged him to clean up the mess — the president backtracked. Trump wrote much of Monday’s statement, White House officials said, and wanted to express that he disagreed with McCain on policy and politics.”
-- The muted statement came after an emotional news conference in Phoenix at which McCain’s longtime adviser Rick Davis read a farewell statement from the late senator with a thinly veiled critique of Trump: “We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sown resentment and hatred and violence in all the corners of the globe,” McCain wrote. “We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been. … We are citizens of the world’s greatest republic, a nation of ideals, not blood and soil. We are blessed and are a blessing to humanity when we uphold and advance those ideals at home and in the world.”
-- Trump is quickly becoming “president non grata,” Ashley Parker writes. “Less than two years into his first term, Trump has often come to occupy the role of pariah — both unwelcome and unwilling to perform the basic rituals and ceremonies of the presidency, from public displays of mourning to cultural ceremonies. In addition to being pointedly not invited to McCain’s funeral and memorial service later this week … Trump was quietly asked to stay away from former first lady Barbara Bush’s funeral earlier this year. He also opted to skip the annual Kennedy Center Honors last year amid a political backlash from some of the honorees and has faced repeated public rebuffs from athletes invited to the White House after winning championships.”
-- Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) is trying to find a replacement for McCain that will please Trump without alienating moderate voters. Politico’s Christopher Cadelago, Daniel Strauss and Theodoric Meyer report: “Republicans with knowledge of the governor’s thinking say he’ll have to remain deferential to Trump and the White House while also taking care not to alienate a statewide electorate ahead of a tough reelection fight in November. … In interviews, more than a dozen Republican advisers, White House aides and people who have worked with Trump and the governor said the president and Ducey have come to view each other as, if not friends, then allies — with Ducey seen as somebody the White House could rely on to get its message to the public.”
-- A large number of McCain tributes have come from Vietnam. Even though McCain was tortured there, he became one of the most vocal supporters of normalizing relations between D.C. and Hanoi. Those efforts have not been forgotten. Adam Taylor reports: “On Monday, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh visited the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi and offered his own tribute to the late senator, calling him a ‘symbol of his generation of senators, and of the veterans of the Vietnam war’ in a message in a condolence book. At Hanoi’s Truc Bach Lake, a monument marks [the spot of McCain’s 1967 capture]. Over the past couple of days, a number of Vietnamese well-wishers and foreigners have visited the spot to pay their respects to the late senator, leaving flowers and incense at a makeshift shrine.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- A three-judge panel ruled that North Carolina’s congressional map is a partisan gerrymander favoring Republicans and said new district lines may have to be drawn before the midterms. Robert Barnes reports: “The judges acknowledged that primary elections have already produced candidates for the 2018 elections but said they were reluctant to let voting take place in congressional districts that courts twice have found violate constitutional standards. North Carolina legislators are likely to ask the Supreme Court to step in. The court traditionally does not approve of judicial actions that can affect an election so close to the day voters go to the polls. But the Supreme Court has just eight members since Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s retirement last month; a tie vote would leave the lower court’s decision in place.”
GET SMART FAST:
- David Katz, who was known as a quiet member of the tightknit gaming community, has been identified by authorities as the suspected shooter of two people, with 11 others injured, at a “Madden NFL 19" tournament in Jacksonville, Fla. (Kyle Swenson and Antonia Noori Farzan)
- A federal judge in Seattle blocked the blueprints for 3-D-printed guns from being published online, siding with 19 attorneys general and D.C. in a case that has sparked fierce debate. In his ruling, Robert Lasnik cited risks to public safety, writing that the “proliferation of digital weapon files … will hamper law enforcement efforts to prevent and/or investigate crime.” (Deanna Paul)
- American Catholics are calling for the resignation of bishops and sweeping investigations after Pope Francis was accused of knowing for years about sexual abuse allegations against Cardinal Theodore McCarrick before they became public. The latest claims, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania grand jury report, have caused some American clerics to publicly criticize top Catholic officials. (Julie Zauzmer and Michelle Boorstein)
- Trump chose to cancel Mike Pompeo’s trip to Pyongyang after the secretary of state received a hostile letter from a top North Korean official. The president is not giving up on diplomacy, but insiders say he might soon side with officials in his orbit who want to apply more pressure to Kim Jong Un through increased sanctions or other means. (Josh Rogin)
- The United Nations said that Myanmar’s top military officials should be tried for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with the violent crackdown against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority. Investigators concluded the military engaged in countless atrocities in an “ethnic cleansing” campaign. More than 700,000 people ultimately fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape the violence. (Reuters)
- Meanwhile, Facebook blocked the account of Myanmar’s top general and 17 other military leaders without warning. The social network said the swift move was an attempt to “prevent them from using our service to further inflame ethnic and religious tensions.” (Timothy McLaughlin)
- The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has whittled its print production schedule down to five days a week. The paper's elimination of Tuesday and Saturday editions makes Pittsburgh the largest U.S. city without a daily newspaper. (The Incline)
- Disney has agreed to raise the minimum wage for its workers to $15 an hour. The announcement follows more than a year of tense negotiations between Disney’s management and employees. (Danielle Paquette)
- A surviving Apple I will be put up for auction next month and is expected to fetch upward of $300,000. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak made 200 of the computers in the mid-1970s, about 60 of which have survived. (Alex Horton)
THE SWAMP GETS SWAMPIER:
-- A damning new inspector general's report concludes the head of the General Services Administration may have misled Congress about the president's role in scuttling plans for a new FBI headquarters outside Washington by giving “incomplete” answers to questions from lawmakers. “GSA officials also misrepresented the costs of their replacement plan — to build a new downtown headquarters — making it seem as though it would cost less than the original plan when it would actually cost more,” Jonathan O'Connell writes of the IG report. “Emily Murphy, administrator of the General Services Administration … met with President Trump, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and budget director Mick Mulvaney over the course of two meetings on Jan. 24. In a congressional hearing discussing the project three months later, Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) asked Murphy, ‘To your knowledge, was the president or anyone else at the White House involved in those discussions, either with your predecessors, people you’re working with now, or yourself?’ Murphy responded by saying: ‘The direction that we got came from the FBI. ... ' ”
Some employees believed the conversations were covered by executive privilege. “A GSA attorney prevented agency officials from disclosing any statements made by the president after receiving instruction from White House lawyers, according to the report. But to Murphy the takeaway was clear [from her meeting with Trump] — the Hoover Building would be demolished to make way for a new headquarters, and some FBI personnel would be relocated out of the Washington area. Although Trump has personally taken an interest in promoting the new plan with legislators, it has not received traction yet — in part because Democrats from Virginia and Maryland are so furious at the scuttling of the original plan.”
The report does not note the FBI headquarters' proximity to the Trump International Hotel, which not coincidentally is on land that the president's company leases from the GSA. The FBI staying downtown, as opposed to moving to the suburbs, could have a direct impact on Trump's bottom line.
This is exactly the kind of subject you should expect Democrats to launch a formal investigation into if they win the House.
-- The top student loan watchdog at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau resigned in protest over the administration’s policies toward student borrowers. Laura Meckler and Jeff Stein report: “Seth Frotman wrote in a scathing letter that he would leave his position as student loan ombudsman at the [CFPB] at the end of the week. … ‘Unfortunately, under your leadership, the Bureau has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting,’ Frotman wrote to Mick Mulvaney, the bureau’s acting director. ‘Instead, you have used the Bureau to serve the wishes of the most powerful financial companies in America.’ Among his charges is that the bureau squashed publication of data showing banks are ripping off college students with ‘legally dubious’ debit card fees.” Frotman’s deputy resigned alongside him.
-- The FCC inspector general found no evidence that Chairman Ajit Pai acted inappropriately in handling Sinclair Broadcast Group’s attempted merger with Tribune Media. From Brian Fung: “But Monday’s report also raised further questions for Pai as it confirmed his communications with some White House staff, and revealed fresh details about other interactions with Trump and those close to him. … Prior to his appointment as FCC chairman, Pai met with Trump at Trump Tower. While the meeting was publicized at the time, the report newly revealed that Trump ‘was interested in the legal framework’ of AT&T’s proposed merger with Time Warner, a deal Trump had criticized publicly. Months later the Justice Department would go on to sue to block the deal.”
-- A top Trump appointee at the Interior Department who pushed to expand oil and gas production on public lands has left her post to join BP’s government affairs team. Juliet Eilperin reports: “Former deputy chief of staff Downey Magallanes served as a top adviser to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke from the time he took over the department. Her portfolio included policy as well as operations, which encompassed a push to expand oil, gas and mining production on public lands and in federal waters. … Magallanes, a former aide to Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), [will] work on congressional relations.”
THE TRADE WAR:
-- The Trump administration announced it has reached a stand-alone 16-year trade deal with Mexico that could replace NAFTA — a move that appears to have split his own staff as Canada isn't yet a party to the deal. Damian Paletta, Erica Werner and David J. Lynch report: “White House officials said the agreement, centered largely on manufacturing, would help American workers by making it harder for countries like China to ship cheap products through Mexico and then into the United States. … [But a] number of key factors remain unresolved in Trump’s effort to replace [NAFTA]. … Trump and Mexican leaders also failed to resolve whether the U.S. tariffs on metals imports will remain in place.
“Top White House officials appeared split on whether they would proceed at all if Canada didn’t sign on to the deal. Trump left open the possibility of cutting Canada out of the final deal. … But U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer told reporters later that every effort would be made to include Canada, even if it took weeks or longer for them to sign on to changes. And Mexican leaders also said Canada must be included in the deal.”
-- The deal, which officials described as a “preliminary agreement in principle,” also still faces the high hurdles of approval from Congress and Mexico, Heather Long notes. “Trump would have to formally submit a deal to Congress, which would have 90 days to make an up-or-down decision on it. And what lawmakers are willing to approve may have a lot to do with how talks go with Canada. … Mexico also needs to sign off on the deal, and that’s more complicated because Mexico is in the midst of a change of government. Mexico’s current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, is set to be replaced by President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Dec. 1. And Nieto’s administration has been racing to finish a deal so Mexico’s Congress will have time to ratify it before the newcomer takes office.”
Hypocrisy alert: “Several trade experts noted that many provisions in Monday’s agreement resemble what was in President Barack Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal Trump pulled out of as soon as he took office.”
-- Trump tried to mark the moment with a celebratory phone call with Peña Nieto. “But when he punched a button on a phone on the Resolute Desk, the line was dead,” David Nakamura reports. “ ‘Enrique?’ Trump said, with television cameras rolling. There was no response. ‘You can hook him up,’ he called out to aides. ‘You tell me when. This is a big deal. A lot of people are waiting.’ The audience, including top White House advisers and Mexican diplomats, would have to wait a touch longer — ‘Hellooo,’ the president tried again. ‘Do you want to put that on this phone please? Hellooo?’ — before an aide finally took the receiver and patched Peña Nieto through. The awkward, real-time sequence in the Oval Office offered another example of Trump’s willingness to discard protocol and conduct his presidency like a reality show playing out in real time, conscripting those around him in service of the spectacle.”
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- In eulogizing his 20-year-old daughter Mollie, Rob Tibbetts shared his positive feelings about Iowa’s Hispanic community, offering a rebuke to those who have used his daughter’s death to call for stricter immigration laws. Eli Rosenberg reports: “‘The Hispanic community are Iowans. They have the same values as Iowans,’ he said, according to the Des Moines Register. He said that during the nearly six weeks he spent in Iowa while authorities searched for his daughter, he ate at a number of Mexican restaurants. ‘As far as I’m concerned, they’re Iowans with better food.’ The line drew applause from the crowd of more than 1,000 … and stood in contrast to the heated political debate about immigration as it related to Tibbetts’s death.”
-- “This toddler got sick in ICE detention. Two months later she was dead,” by Vice News’s Taylor Dolven and Kathleen Caulderwood: “When Yazmin Juárez arrived at the South Texas Family Residential Center, in Dilley, Texas, in March, her 18-month-old daughter, Mariee, was a healthy toddler with plump cheeks who liked dancing and singing with her mother, and was blissfully unaware of her confinement. Yazmin, 20, had crossed the Rio Grande with her daughter in hopes of seeking asylum to escape the violence that had engulfed her home country of Guatemala. … One week after arriving at Dilley, Mariee developed a cough, congestion, and a fever of over 104 degrees. During the next two weeks of her confinement, Yazmin felt powerless as her daughter got sicker, rebounded, and got sick again, battling a virus that started with a common cold. Six weeks after being released from the facility, relocated to New Jersey, and shuffled between three hospitals, Mariee was finally unhooked from a ventilator and died at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The cause of death, ultimately, was viral pneumonitis, according to hospital records.”
-- The Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC aligned with House GOP leadership, is running an attack ad against a Democratic candidate in Kansas for supporting the abolition of ICE. The candidate is trying to clarify her statement. From David Weigel: “In the spot, which began running last week, a CLF narrator warns that ‘[Sharice Davids] wants to abolish ICE — the law enforcement agency that deports criminal illegal aliens,’ making her ‘liberal on illegal immigration.’ … But Davids now says that she does not support abolishing ICE at all, and that the CLF ad mangled her position by chopping up a couple of seconds of throat-clearing while leaving out her answer. … [In the clip, the interviewer] asks to clarify if Davids wants to abolish ICE; her full answer is ‘I do, I would, I would — well, you asked me about defunding, which is essentially the same thing, you know?’ ”
-- Arizona and Florida voters will head to the polls today for two crucial primaries that will help determine the Senate's balance of power.
-- Rep. Martha McSally, who is vying for Arizona’s GOP Senate nomination, originally asked the White House to keep Trump out of the race — only to go back and ask for the president's endorsement. The New York Times’s Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman report: “Ms. McSally’s shifting requests illustrate Mr. Trump’s ability to play kingmaker and effectively decide competitive primaries. But, more consequentially, they demonstrate the willingness of mainstream Republicans like Ms. McSally, who will not say whether she even voted for Mr. Trump in 2016, to link themselves to the president if they want to win. The Republican nominating season will largely conclude on Tuesday with the Arizona Senate race and the Florida governor’s contest, leaving a paradox looming over Washington: Even as legal questions swirl around the presidency, Mr. Trump’s grip on G.O.P. primary voters is as strong as it has been since he seized the party’s nomination a little over two years ago.”
-- “ ‘It Is the Era of Trump’: How the President Is Remaking the Republican Party,” by the Wall Street Journal's Janet Hook: “After more than two decades of tension within the GOP between a restive base and its traditional establishment, Trumpism, the archetypal grass-roots movement, is winning. … With the 2018 primaries about to end, all but two of the 37 Republicans Mr. Trump has endorsed for House, Senate and governor during their primary campaigns have won. … [And] in a spate of gubernatorial endorsements this summer … he has been at odds with the party establishment’s favorites and, for the most part, has gotten the best of them. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said he is delighted. ‘Almost all their candidates for governor have shackled themselves to the … Titanic, which is the Donald Trump party,’ he said. ‘That makes it easier for us to defeat them.’ ”
-- Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who is a lock to win the state’s Republican Senate primary today, and his wife earned at least $2.9 million last year from hedge funds in the Cayman Islands. The Miami Herald’s Steve Bousquet reports: “The investments had a minimum total value of $25 million and a potential value of $62 million, according to the financial disclosure statement Scott filed last month as a U.S. Senate candidate. The 125-page statement included details of Scott’s blind trust, managed by a New York trustee who’s a former business associate of the governor’s. ‘The governor had no role in selecting that investment,’ said a spokesman for Scott’s campaign, Lauren Schenone. … The governor has not said whether he will continue to have a blind trust if he’s elected to the U.S. Senate. … Foreign investors park money in the Cayman Islands to avoid U.S. taxes.”
-- In Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, Andrew Gillum is trying to score an upset as he seeks to become the state’s first black governor. BuzzFeed News’s Darren Sands reports: “Gillum is young at a moment when Democrats seem to be looking for something new; he is backed by a famous progressive champion and two liberal billionaires, and running on the ideas of the new left at a time when the weight of the party has rapidly shifted toward populist economics and a renewed embrace of big government; he is black at a moment when Democrats are taking seriously candidates of color. That’s all in his favor. And yet — for one or a hundred reasons — if Andrew Gillum wins the nomination on Tuesday, it will be a late-innings, come-from-behind, walkoff win.”
-- David Trone, the Potomac businessman and Democratic nominee running to succeed Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), announced that he is undergoing cancer treatment. He said he plans to continue his campaign and is “confident” that he will make a full recovery and return to the campaign trail soon. “Nothing will interfere with my being fully engaged as a candidate and as a member of Congress after the recovery,” he said. (Paul Schwartzman)
-- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) released a new attack ad against Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) aimed at his challenger's comments about NFL protests staged during the national anthem. O’Rourke recently said at a Houston town hall, “I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up, or take a knee, for your rights, any time, anywhere, in any place.” From Des Bieler: “Cruz’s ad claims that ‘liberal Hollywood,’ as depicted in approving tweets from talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres, singer Khalid and actress Julie Louis-Dreyfus, was ‘thrilled’ at O’Rourke’s comments. … The ad moves on to show comments from Tim Lee, a military veteran and Texas-based evangelist who lost his legs to a land mine during the Vietnam War. ‘I gave two legs for this country. I’m not able to stand,’ he tells an audience. ‘But I sure expect you to stand for me when the national anthem is being played.’”
-- Cruz has been skipping Senate votes recently to spend time on the trail as Mitch McConnell’s decision to cancel much of the chamber’s August recess hurts at least one Republican. From Roll Call’s Niels Lesniewski: “Cruz was in the Senate chamber for part of last week, but he missed floor votes on both ends. He was among 15 senators to miss votes the evening of Aug. 20."
THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Paul Manafort’s attorneys held talks last week with special counsel Bob Mueller's team in hopes of resolving a second set of charges before Manafort was convicted. But the two sides ultimately failed to reach a deal and are ramping up for a second federal trial next month in D.C. The Wall Street Journal’s Aruna Viswanatha reports: “ The plea talks on the second set of charges stalled over issues raised by [Mueller]. It isn’t clear what those issues were, and the proposed terms of the plea deal couldn’t immediately be determined. The talks were aimed at forestalling a second, related trial for Mr. Manafort, which is scheduled to begin on Sept. 17 in Washington. Prosecutors and defense lawyers have been arguing over how to describe that case to the jury and what evidence can be presented at trial.”
-- In 2008, McCain denied Manafort the opportunity to manage the Republican National Convention because he “couldn’t abide” Manafort’s pro-Russian clients, including close Vladimir Putin ally Oleg Deripaska. The Atlantic's Franklin Foer reports: “Manafort lobbied desperately to become manager of the Republican National Convention. … But McCain didn’t want any further association with Manafort, so he denied him the job, a rejection that sent Manafort into a fit of rage and depression. All the evidence for rejecting Paul Manafort as a man of dubious character was amply available in 2008 — and McCain acted upon it.”
-- “Bruce Ohr Fought Russian Organized Crime. Now He’s a Target of Trump,” by the New York Times’s Adam Goldman and Katie Benner: “In nearly three decades at the Justice Department, Mr. Ohr has made a career of supporting and facilitating important cases that targeted Russian organized crime. Now he is a target of President Trump, who has … cast Mr. Ohr and his wife [as] villains, part of a pro-Clinton cabal out to destroy the president. But Mr. Ohr, 56, is far from corrupt. … An experienced law enforcement official, he has a deep understanding of the underworld of Russian organized crime … including raising concerns about at least one oligarch whose name has resurfaced amid the [Trump-Russia probe]. As part of this work, Mr. Ohr met a British spy who specialized in Russia, Christopher Steele, and the two men developed a bond based on their shared expertise."
-- Roger Stone posted an Instagram video in which he preemptively denied an apparently imminent story in the New Yorker, which he said will report that he “explicitly” told Trump in October 2016 about WikiLeaks' plan to release hacked emails from John Podesta. The Hill reports: “Stone in the video says The New Yorker's Ronan Farrow is working on the piece based on claims from an unnamed source. He also says The New York Times and The Washington Post have been pursuing the claim, but neither outlet has reported it yet.” “Someone is saying that they overheard a conversation in which I told [Trump] in October of 2016 what exactly would be in the WikiLeaks disclosures and when they would be disclosed. This is categorically false,” Stone says to the camera. “This is exactly the epitome of fake news.”
-- Michael Cohen’s attorney Lanny Davis acknowledged that he was an anonymous source for a CNN story last month reporting that Cohen claimed Trump had advance knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer. BuzzFeed News’s Steven Perlberg reports: “Davis has backed away from the story in recent days, telling the Washington Post that he is not certain if the claim is accurate, and that he could not independently corroborate it. Last week, Davis told Anderson Cooper, ‘I think the reporting of the story got mixed up in the course of a criminal investigation. We were not the source of the story.’ On Monday evening, Davis [said] that he regrets both his role as an anonymous source and his subsequent denial of his own involvement. Davis [said] that he did, in fact, speak anonymously to CNN for its story, which cited ‘sources with knowledge’ — meaning more than one person.”
-- The front page of the New York Times: “Seeing Jury as ‘the Public,’ Giuliani Defends His Defense of Trump,” by Dan Barry, Benjamin Weiser and Alan Feuer: “Speaking by telephone from Scotland last week, the erstwhile icon, now 74, offered the first detailed look at his strategy for representing the president, in blunt and divisively political terms. Mr. Giuliani said he believes that since Mr. Trump is essentially having his day in court, in real time, his ‘jury is the public.’ The aggressive defense ‘starts with his base, then it stretches out to independents — then to Democrats,’ Mr. Giuliani said. He readily acknowledged that he would never win over many on the left, but maintained that for others, impeachment was ‘going too far.’ ”
THE PROLIFERATION OF FAKE NEWS:
-- An online movement that targets small businesses in “Pizzagate”-style harassment campaigns appears to be inspired in part by a far-right media outlet. Now, the conspiracy theorists have again ramped up their efforts — this time taking aim at a Toronto ice cream shop and a doughnut store in Portland, Ore. NBC News’s Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins report: “[The] group, whose members are also largely followers of the Qanon conspiracy theory, has flooded [Voodoo Doughnut’s] Instagram and Facebook. … Last week, the chain’s original Portland outpost received more calls from conspiracy theorists than customers. … The group is fueled in part by a website called Big League Politics, a far-right media outlet that often publishes conspiracy content and has been used to raise funds for prominent Republican politicians. Some of the website’s stories appear to be sourced from a secret message board created by a Big League Politics staffer, in which members concoct elaborate, pedophilia-based conspiracy theories they hope will be published to a wider audience. The harassment campaigns highlight how conspiracy theories that form in deep corners of the internet can have real-world consequences.”
- “Run by former Breitbart News reporter Patrick Howley … Big League Politics has amassed a readership that prominent Republicans and their supporters have increasingly found attractive.”
- Meanwhile, the GOP groups and lawmakers that have used the Big League Politics email list this year for fundraising include the National Republican Congressional Committee, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), among others.
-- BuzzFeed's Craig Silverman unmasked a former award-winning journalist with a potential grudge against the FBI as the author of True Pundit, the notorious pro-Trump site known for peddling misinformation (and helping spread the rise of Pizzagate): “The FBI is [a] favorite target. The site published a series of conspiracy-laden stories alleging that the bureau’s leadership covered up evidence suggesting that Las Vegas mass shooter Stephen Paddock was not alone. The site also speculated that Orlando Pulse Nightclub shooter Omar Mateen was an FBI informant. … More recently, True Pundit has been focused on stories that paint the picture of a broad conspiracy involving every US intelligence agency, [including the FBI, DHS, British intelligence, Preet Bharara, Sally Yates], and others in an illegal plot to prevent Trump from winning the election. … Unmasking [journalist Michael D. Moore] and revealing his criminal history, potential grudge against the FBI, lack of recent work in journalism or investigations, and string of false stories attributed to anonymous sources should cause many to discount True Pundit as a source. [But] as Moore has demonstrated over the last two years, there’s a fake angle for every real story.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
John McCain's wife shared an image from the U.S. Senate, where her late husband's desk was draped in black:
Before Trump relented and lowered the flag, a former CIA and NSA director criticized the president for raising the flag at the White House so shortly after McCain's death:
An NBC News reporter compared flags around Washington:
Vietnam's minister of foreign affairs remembered McCain:
A GOP lobbyist tweeted this factoid:
McCain’s death leaves the Senate with just one Vietnam veteran: Delaware’s Tom Carper (D). It’s part of a generational change that soon will include the departure of the last Korean War veteran in Congress: Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) isn’t running for re-election.— Bruce Mehlman (@bpmehlman) August 27, 2018
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who is retiring, struggled to name a colleague who would stand up to Trump as McCain had, per a Post reporter:
Corker struggled to name a colleague who could fill the role of challenging Trump - with McCain's death and his own retirement.— Erica Werner (@ericawerner) August 27, 2018
"I don't know, I mean, uh, Ron Johnson maybe?"
This drew a quizzical response from reporters. Corker said he'd keep thinking about it.
A HuffPost reporter appeared to question Republican senators' tributes to McCain:
A reminder that neither McConnell nor *any* other Senate GOPers defended McCain during a private lunch in May with Trump, whose comms staffer had just said McCain's opposition to Gina Haspel didn't matter because "he's dying anyway."— Jennifer Bendery (@jbendery) August 27, 2018
Not a single one. https://t.co/FVEInJDlj2
A Toronto Star reporter highlighted Trump's unique ability to turn a usually apolitical moment into a controversy:
A defining feature of the Trump presidency is how he turns little things we never used to think about - condolence statements! flag-lowering decisions! stakeholder roundtables! - into controversies and brawls. Everything has to be something.— Daniel Dale (@ddale8) August 27, 2018
The Onion mocked Trump's response to McCain's death:
But a Cook Political Report editor noted this:
The amount of attention national media is paying to Trump snub of McCain is disproportionate by a degree of 10 to amount voters care about this issue.— amy walter (@amyewalter) August 27, 2018
A New York Times podcast host questioned Trump's celebration of the latest NAFTA news:
Who announces a partial trade deal? Somebody trying to change the topic, maybe?— Michael Barbaro (@mikiebarb) August 27, 2018
A Politico reporter replied:
A Democratic senator expressed dismay about the White House's reported involvement in the plan for a new FBI headquarters:
The Trump Hotel is across the street from the current FBI HQ. Trump will benefit financially from this new plan to keep the FBI where it is and not redevelop it into commercial space. Yet GSA and FBI refused to answer when asked if he was involved in this decision. Why? pic.twitter.com/G6RZQagCdY— Senator Chris Van Hollen (@ChrisVanHollen) March 1, 2018
From a liberal pollster:
In any other administration, a president personally interfering to cancel a new FBI HQ simply because it’d impact the ability of his private business to make more money would be a 24/7 national scandal.— Matt McDermott (@mattmfm) August 28, 2018
Melania Trump shared images from her visit with the first lady of Kenya at the White House:
A New York Times writer suggested a new life motto after Roger Stone posted his video to preemptively call Farrow's forthcoming, still-unpublished story "fake news":
Live your life like Ronan Farrow's gonna find out what you did eventually.— James Poniewozik (@poniewozik) August 27, 2018
A filmmaker set Trump's attempt to reach the Mexican president to the closing theme song of “Veep":
The show's lead actress approved:
-- Vogue, “Stormy Daniels Isn’t Backing Down,” by Amy Chozick: “Lately, if Daniels takes more than a couple days off from her highly publicized nationwide strip-club tour, people assume she is at her home outside Dallas. ‘I’d bet by tomorrow afternoon there will be people at my house,’ Daniels tells me. … The people she means—paparazzi and men in red trucker hats who want her to stop talking about her alleged affair with the president—began circling last spring when Daniels decided to take on Trump. In doing so she became globally known by a single name: Stormy, the unlikely, embattled symbol of our tempestuous times.”
-- New York Times Magazine, “The N.F.L. Stiff-Armed Trump. Now He Is Heckling From the White House,” by Mark Leibovich: “By those early days of the Trump presidency, I had embarked on writing a book about the N.F.L., the country’s most popular and prosperous sports league. In every empire, there comes a time when, despite all its riches and power and apparent invincibility, a catastrophic downfall seems to loom. I wanted to know: Had Peak Football been achieved? In a matter of years, the N.F.L. had for a variety of reasons (many of them self-inflicted) gone from being one of the most unifying institutions in America to the country’s most polarizing sports brand. This was true before Donald Trump ever ran for anything. Still, I held out some naïve hope that this book project would offer me a respite from the perennial silly season of my day job, which is writing about politics. Maybe next book.”
-- BuzzFeed News, “We Saw Nuns Kill Children: The Ghosts of St. Joseph’s Catholic Orphanage,” by Christine Kenneally: “From former residents of America’s Catholic orphanage system, I had heard stories about these deaths — that they were not natural or even accidents, but were instead the inevitable consequence of the nuns’ brutality. [One woman] described witnessing at least two incidents in which she said a child at St. Joseph’s died or was outright murdered.”
-- “A stark, white room: Sutherland Springs still struggles with church massacre,” by Emily Wax-Thibodeaux: “Fiddling with her ‘Sutherland Springs Strong’ charm necklace, Michelle Shields opens the door to the sterile, bright-white memorial that used to be her church. … There are 26 white chairs in the stark room now, each bearing the name of someone who died in the Nov. 5 massacre, the deadliest church shooting in U.S. history. There’s a rose on each seat and teddy bears where eight of the children — including 17-month-old Noah Grace — were killed with a military-style rifle. A tissue box sits at the altar.”
HOT ON THE LEFT
“ ‘Rachel Maddow Show’ Tops Cable For Fourth Consecutive Night, Even With Guest Host,” from Deadline: “No Rachel Maddow, no problem for MSNBC. The Rachel Maddow Show extended its winning streak over all of cable to four nights on Friday, despite Ali Velshi filling in as its host. Buoyed by last week’s tsunami of news related to President Donald Trump and the Russia investigation, TRMS was the most-watched program on cable again as the work week ended. Airing at the 9 PM ET/6 PM PT. it drew 2.62 million viewers, beating out Fox News’ Hannity and Tucker Carlson Tonight. That was down from near-record number of 3.89 million on [last] Tuesday,” the day of the Cohen and Manafort convictions.
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“Jerry Falwell Jr. says Sessions has lost evangelical support,” from Politico: “Jerry Falwell Jr., a top conservative religious leader, said Monday he urged [Trump] to fire Jeff Sessions over his handling of investigations into Russian election meddling, saying the attorney general has lost evangelicals' support. ‘He really is not on the president’s team, never was,’ Falwell, the president of Liberty University, said of Sessions. ‘He’s wanted to be attorney general for many, many years. I have a feeling he took a gamble and supported the president because he knew he would reward loyalty.’ Falwell said he has urged the president to fire Sessions and [said] he planned to bring up the subject again Monday evening at a small gathering with Trump and the first lady.”
Trump will have lunch with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and meet with the president of FIFA.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Tiger Woods was asked for his opinion of Trump: “Well, I’ve known Donald for a number of years. … We’ve played golf together. We’ve had dinner together. I’ve known him pre-presidency, and obviously during his presidency. … He’s the president of the United States. You have to respect the office. No matter who is in the office, you may like, dislike personality or the politics, but we all must respect the office.” (Matt Bonesteel)
Trump tweeted his appreciation for Woods’s comments:
The Fake News Media worked hard to get Tiger Woods to say something that he didn’t want to say. Tiger wouldn’t play the game - he is very smart. More importantly, he is playing great golf again!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2018
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- It will be another hot and humid day in the District. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Temperatures advance upward through the morning faster than yesterday, reaching their afternoon peaks mid-90s most spots, but a few could hit the upper 90s if things come together right. We could see some slight filter to the sunshine in the morning due to high-altitude smoke again, but less of that in the afternoon, although air quality won’t be great. High humidity means the heat index goes into triple digits and all outside activity should involve both caution and hydration. Light winds come from the south.”
-- The Nationals beat the Phillies 5-3. (Jorge Castillo)
-- Last month’s shooting that killed 10-year-old Makiyah Wilson appears to be linked to a feud between two rival D.C. neighborhoods. Keith L. Alexander, Peter Hermann and Michael Brice-Saddler report: “The crew from Wellington Park had been planning a drive-by shooting in rival Clay Terrace turf for weeks, police say, even buying a stolen car to use. On the afternoon of July 16, it was time to recruit some gunmen. ‘Let’s Go Do Wat We Do,’ one leader texted a friend. There was a reminder to bring the ‘100 Roun’ — a gun capable of holding 100 rounds of ammunition. … At 6 p.m., a text announced it was time to ‘go put some work in.’ Two hours later, four masked shooters leaped from a carjacked Infiniti and sprayed a crowded D.C. courtyard with gunfire.”
-- A Metro train separated on the Silver Line this weekend. No injuries were reported after the train’s front five cars separated from the three in the rear while it was traveling through the McLean area, a Metro spokeswoman said. (Martin Weil)
-- The National Zoo’s naked mole rats will receive a new exhibit starting later this week, which will help zoo staffers distinguish between the almost identical animals. (Martin Weil)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Americans for Prosperity, which is part of the Koch network, is putting half a million bucks behind a new ad that touts the work Matt Rosendale, the GOP challenger to Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, has done to expand access to affordable health care as state auditor. It shows how the messaging around health care has shifted in 2018 after several cycles of purely anti-Obamacare ads from outside groups on the right:
A city council member in California responded to an anonymous critic who posted photos mined from her social media accounts showing her in her underwear:
A photographer captured the progression of the Sturgeon Full Moon rising over the Jefferson Memorial on Sunday:
And an exterminator destroyed a massive hornets' nest built inside an old Chevrolet El Camino: