A guy from Idaho wearing a “Make Potatoes Great Again” hat stood appreciatively at the president’s side. So did producers of corn, soybeans, wheat and pork. They’re all getting another round of handouts from the Department of Agriculture.
But many of King’s constituents have also been suffering, and they’re getting the shaft from their government. Lobster exports to China, which had been booming for years, have plummeted 84 percent since Beijing imposed retaliatory tariffs last July, according to new data from the Maine International Trade Center. The growing Chinese middle class is eating more lobsters from Canada, which now cost them a quarter to a third less but taste no different.
“We’ve got an industry that’s suffering exactly the same kind of negative effects,” King said in an interview. “Why not lobsters? There’s no logical distinction that I can see. … I’m sure a lot of people in Maine had the same reaction I did watching that press conference: What are we, chopped lobster?”
To be sure, chopped lobster from Maine sounds delicious – especially if it’s thinly coated in mayonnaise and stuffed into a hot dog bun that’s been lightly toasted in butter. But, in all seriousness, King’s frustration underscores the degree to which Trump and his political appointees in Washington have been picking winners and losers. The lobster industry has been one of the losers.
Advocates for lobstermen in Maine say they feel like they’re getting ignored because they’re not as politically valuable to Trump as farmers in the Midwest. They think it’s only fair that seafood should get the same treatment as soybeans. The administration’s two big bailout packages have appeared designed to get relief to farmers in battleground states who supported him in 2016 and who will be critical to his reelection next year. Because he remains unpopular in the suburbs, the president’s narrow path to a second term requires running up the score again in rural areas of swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa.
King, who caucuses with the Democrats, called me from France yesterday after attending the ceremony to honor the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Today he will send a letter to Trump with the three other members of the Maine congressional delegation, including Republican Sen. Susan Collins and Democratic Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden. They are asking for “relief similar to the aid you are providing to our nation’s farmers,” as well as more federal help to grow domestic demand for lobsters and assist with the development of new markets. For example, the Canadians negotiated a trade agreement with the European Union that allows them to significantly undercut the Maine lobsters on price. They want the U.S. government to cut a deal that rectifies that. Two spokeswomen for the USDA did not respond to a request for comment.
Collins said the retaliatory tariffs have caused “tremendous harm” to Maine’s economy. “Lobster dealers have told me that their business with the Chinese … has virtually disappeared as the Chinese are now going to Canadian dealers to get their lobster,” the four-term senator said in a statement. “While the administration has provided financial relief to our nation’s farmers, the lobster industry has not been included. The administration should provide similar relief to the thousands of Mainers from harvesters to dealers to processors and others.”
Just like with farmers, there are other challenges beyond trade that are complicating the lives of people who depend on lobsters for their livelihoods – including climate change. Harvesters are concerned about new regulations related to whales, as well as “rapidly changing ocean conditions, shifting stock patterns, and an expected shortage of bait,” the lawmakers note in their letter. The price of lobster traps has also gone up because of the steel tariffs. “This confluence of factors is a serious threat and the federal government should play a stabilizing role to ensure its continued success,” the letter said. There are 4,500 licensed lobstermen in Maine, and one study found that the industry has an economic impact of $1.5 billion on the state.
For his part, Trump continues to dig in. He told reporters yesterday in Ireland that he could raise tariffs on China by another $300 billion, prompting Beijing to say it would respond in kind. “We’ll see what happens,” the president said. “But I think China wants to make a deal.”
Analysts say it would be surprising if the lobster world got the help being requested. Where do you draw the line? Would anyone who sells food to China get a piece of the pie? The International Monetary Fund estimated on Wednesday that $455 billion in gross domestic product will be lost – and global economic output could be cut by 0.5 percent in 2020 – because of the trade war between the world’s two biggest economies. In other words, a lot of people could legitimately claim harm and ask for government help.
There are some political reasons it might make sense for Trump to help Maine: The president carried one of the state’s four electoral votes in 2016, because they’re divided up by congressional district, and Collins is a top target of national Democrats in 2020. Collins, a moderate, is the only Republican survivor among the 33 members of Congress from New England.
She’s favored still to win reelection in the blue state, which is why some of the top Democratic recruits appear to be taking a pass on running, but it will be tougher for the incumbent than the last few cycles. Her approval rating has taken a hit because of her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh, despite Christine Blasey Ford’s testimony, and other judicial nominees who have demonstrated hostility toward abortion rights. On the other hand, those votes have improved her standing among Republicans back home who eyed her skeptically after she declined to vote for Trump in 2016 and offered a decisive vote to save Obamacare from being repealed in 2017.
Economically, what’s happening in Maine captures in miniature both the long-term damage and the unintended consequences that the trade war could bring. The congressional letter cites the struggles of Maine Coast, a lobster wholesaler in York. About a quarter of the company’s business a year ago was with China. It has lost 90 percent of that because of the tariffs. It is dealers like these that have taken the biggest hit. So far, prices have stayed somewhat stable for the people who go out on boats to collect lobsters from traps and sell them when they get back to the wharf, but everyone involved expects the decline in demand will inevitably cause that to change.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” said Sheila Adams, who runs sales and marketing for Maine Coast. “That’s probably been the part that’s worn us down the most. The uncertainty. We’ve had to do everything differently.”
The Chinese market had been the fastest-growing export market. Chinese customers bought $128.5 million of Maine lobster in 2017, the last full year without the tariffs. Thanks partly to unexpectedly large harvests of the crustaceans, lobster exports to the country were on track to be up 169 percent year over year based on sales during the first half of 2018. Then sales screeched to a halt.
Now Maine Coast is trying to expand sales domestically, as well as in other Southeast Asian countries like South Korea and Vietnam. “But every U.S. lobster dealer has had to look to the same markets, so it’s a little scrappier, and it takes a lot of those other markets to match the one market of mainland China,” said Adams.
In an interview last night, she worried that her biggest Chinese customers are forging new relationships with her Canadian competitors, but she said she can’t blame them because this is a totally rational thing for consumers to do. “We spent five years on marketing and operational expansions to support the needs of Chinese customers. It took years to build those markets. You don’t recover overnight.”
Adams and her husband, Tom, who founded the company, desperately do not want to lay off any of their 45 employees in a small town of 12,500. “Mainers find a way. Resilience is the Maine way,” she said. “Certainly, the longer this goes, the more challenging it becomes. … Relief funds could allow us to ride it out.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Hiring dipped in May, the Labor Department announced this morning, as firms cooled off on hiring amid the concern over the trade war. Heather Long reports: “The U.S. economy added 75,000 jobs in May, a significant pullback from 224,000 jobs added in April. The unemployment rate remained at a five decade low of 3.6 percent. Manufacturing and construction saw anemic job growth in May with less than 5,000 jobs added in each sector, one of the clearest signs that Trump’s tariffs are having a negative impact on blue-collar sectors the president has been trying to boost. ‘This looks like an economy that is slowing down, which doesn’t mean that we’re necessarily entering a recession. It does mean that we likely will not have the strength that we had in past years,’ said Martha Gimbel, research director for Indeed.com’s Hiring Lab.”
GET SMART FAST:
A tactical vehicle overturned at the U.S. Military Academy, leaving one dead and more than 20 injured. Twenty cadets and two soldiers were hurt, but their injuries were not considered life-threatening. The cadet who was killed has not been identified, and the incident is under investigation. (Marisa Iati)
New York City’s police commissioner apologized for the raid of the Stonewall Inn in 1969. “The actions taken by the NYPD were wrong, plain and simple,” Commissioner James O’Neill said. The incident caused the riot that is credited with sparking the modern gay rights movement. (Gillian Brockell)
Michael Bloomberg will donate $500 million to a new campaign to close every coal-fired power plant in the U.S. and halt the growth of natural gas. The former New York City mayor hopes to spend most of the money over the next three years to fund lobbying efforts by environmental groups in state legislatures. (New York Times)
Walmart introduced a self-driving floor scrubber at a Georgia store to mixed reactions from its customers and human staffers. Workers have said the robot, “Freddy,” named after the janitor who was let go shortly before it arrived at the store, often has breakdowns and needs regular retraining sessions, while shoppers don’t really know how to interact with it. Freddy is part of an army of robots unleashed into more than 1,500 Walmart stores. (Drew Harwell)
- Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling is trying to get back into the energy business after serving a dozen years in prison for his starring role in one of the biggest corporate frauds in U.S. history. Skilling has been meeting with former Enron executives and others just weeks after being released from federal custody. (Wall Street Journal)
Autopsies show similarities linking the deaths of three Americans in Dominican Republic resorts. Each of the victims experienced similar symptoms and internal trauma before their deaths, according to authorities. (Arelis R. Hernández)
- About 700 people in Pakistan, mostly children, have been infected with HIV in recent weeks. Health experts blame the outbreak partly on unsterile syringes being reused on children in the country’s southern Sindh province. (Shaiq Hussain and Siobhán O'Grady)
Southwest and American airlines said the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max jets has hurt their on-time performance. The two airlines said its practice of bumping passengers had been declining in the months before the jets were grounded after crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. (Ashley Halsey III)
The biggest fire in California history was started by a man trying to plug a wasp nest with a hammer and stake. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said that on July 27, 2018, as firefighters were battling fires in the north and south of the state, a rancher working on a hot day in a field of waist-high cured grassland drove a stake into the ground and created a spark that grew into the 410,000-acre Ranch Fire. (Los Angeles Times)
The Great Lakes broke records for water levels last month. Record- or near-record-high water levels are expected to continue in the summer. (Ian Livingston)
- A new study found that smartphone passwords could be uncovered by listening to fingers typing on the screen. Researchers at Cambridge University and Sweden’s Linkoping University said a spying app can allow malicious actors access to the smartphone’s microphone. “We showed that the attack can successfully recover PIN codes, individual letters and whole words,” the researchers wrote. (Hamza Shaban)
The NBA banned Warriors investor Mark Stevens from attending any games for a year after he shoved Raptors player Kyle Lowry. Stevens, who shoved Lowry with his left arm and engaged him in a verbal exchange, was also fined $500,000. (Ben Golliver and Matt Bonesteel)
A Utah man was arrested on allegations he threatened to kill members of Congress. Scott Brian Haven was accused of making thousands of calls to the U.S. Capitol over a three-year period about Democrats threatening Trump’s presidency. (HuffPost)
Charges have been filed in connection to the 1993 murder and sexual assault of 9-year-old Angie Housman. Earl W. Cox, a convicted child molester who had relatives living just blocks from Housman’s home in 1993, was charged with first-degree murder, kidnapping and sodomy. Authorities say they identified Cox as a suspect thanks to advances in DNA testing that allowed them to analyze a tiny sample taken from Housman’s clothing. (Antonia Noori Farzan)
Emily Doe, the anonymous woman who was assaulted by former Stanford University student Brock Turner, is writing a memoir to “reclaim” her story. The book is expected to be published in September by Viking Books. (USA Today)
The Women’s World Cup begins today in France at a pivotal time for the sport, as women around the world demand better pay and more support from their federations. More than 100 of this year’s players reflected on their jobs, the money they’re making and the sacrifices they made to play soccer professionally. (New York Times)
- The FBI released its four-decade-old Bigfoot files. The bureau analyzed hairs believed to have been ripped from the infamous sasquatch in 1976. But according to a February 1977 letter written by a senior FBI official, “It was concluded as a result of these examinations that the hairs are of deer family origin.” (Reis Thebault)
-- Well, that was quick: Joe Biden declared last night he no longer supports the ban on federal funding for abortions, capitulating quickly to pressure from the left after searing criticism from his 2020 rivals and women's groups. “Circumstances have changed,” he said, literally a day after his campaign put out a statement reiterating his commitment to the Hyde Amendment. Colby Itkowitz reports: “The former vice president announced the change during a speech at the Democratic National Committee’s African American Leadership Council summit in Atlanta, telling the crowd that, in an environment where the Roe v. Wade decision on abortion is under attack in Republican-held states, he could no longer support a policy that limits funding. ‘We’ve seen state after state including Georgia passing extreme laws,’ Biden said. ‘It’s clear that these folks are going to stop at nothing to get rid of Roe.’”
This is a risky move because it feeds into the emerging narrative that Biden lacks core convictions and is a finger-in-the-wind career politician. On the other hand, if he hadn't reversed himself, you'd be reading stories all weekend and watching cable discussions about his problems with Democratic women voters. And the first debate would have been dominated by attacks over his apostasies. Yesterday's Daily 202 laid out several data points to suggest Biden would probably cave on this issue, but we didn't think it would be this fast and this clunky. The awkward handling of the issue suggests the 76-year-old's political instincts may be rusty.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) says she's “not surprised” by Biden’s reversal. “I think it would have been a big problem for him,” she said last night on MSNBC.
-- Montana Gov. Steve Bullock’s manager complained the campaign was blindsided by a rules change for debate qualifications, a charge the DNC denies. Michael Scherer reports: “The initial debate rules did not limit the types of polls that could be used to qualify, and they included polls by The Washington Post and ABC News, which had already conducted January polling in which respondents volunteered which candidate they support rather than choosing from a list of candidates. But the DNC publicly announced Thursday that such open-ended polls will not count to meet the debate threshold, since voters can include non-candidates in their responses. As a result, Bullock cannot use a Post-ABC poll from January, in which he scored 1 percent, as his third qualifying poll. 'We notified the Bullock campaign in early March, so they have known for months,' said Xochitl Hinojosa, the party’s communications director. [Bullock's campaign manager] criticized the party for 'excluding an open-ended poll that’s actually harder to register in, and by not sharing the rule in writing with all presidential campaigns.'”
-- They call this pulling a Chris Dodd: Marianne Williamson, the spiritual guru who is running for president, has moved to Iowa in the hope of gaining more support from the Hawkeye State’s voters. CNN’s Donald Judd reports: “Her campaign indicated that the candidate has claimed a Des Moines condominium as her residence for nearly three months. ‘Marianne has moved to Des Moines and our campaign is fully committed to the Iowa caucus process,’ Brent Roske, Williamson's Iowa chair, told CNN in a statement Thursday, ‘as well as to the other early states including New Hampshire where former US Representative Paul Hodes is our State Director.’”
-- After drifting out of the top tier, Kamala Harris is shifting strategy and staffing up in Iowa. She initially appeared to think she could do minimal work there and instead focus on winning South Carolina. The Californian aims to send 65 paid staffers into the state by July. The Des Moines Register’s Brianne Pfannenstiel reports: “‘It's game on,’ said Harris' Iowa campaign chairwoman, Deidre DeJear. Harris so far has lagged behind some campaigns, which have sought to aggressively add staff in the state. … She's also made fewer visits to Iowa than many of her competitors … DeJear said the slower build-up here was an intentional effort to conserve resources, ensure organizers don't burn out, and wait for potential caucusgoers to become more engaged.”
-- “For many black voters, 2020 isn’t about pride or making history. It’s about beating Trump,” by the Los Angeles Times’s Mark Z. Barabak: “Black voters, and black women in particular, are the bedrock of the Democratic Party. Given their large numbers in early-voting states such as South Carolina, Alabama and Louisiana, they will have tremendous sway in choosing the party’s nominee. Some believe that tilts the race away from Biden, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke or other relatively centrist white males in favor of a more progressive candidate or person of color. But nationwide polling, focus group interviews and conversations with campaign strategists, voters and political activists across Alabama suggest many African Americans aren’t focused on policy or making history by, say, putting Harris or another woman in the White House.”
-- The Democrats running for president are wooing Silicon Valley executives for donations even as they bash their companies on the trail. The Times’s Shane Goldmacher and Stephanie Saul report: “The progressive base has already soured on Wall Street, fossil fuel and pharmaceutical cash. Silicon Valley had been, until recently, one of the last relatively untainted wellsprings from which to draw campaign contributions. Now, some, particularly on the left, say tech money is suspect, too. ‘Many of the candidates are trying to have it both ways,’ said Rebecca Katz, a Democratic strategist from the party’s progressive wing, who recently called on Democratic political consultants to stop representing corporate clients, ‘but it will be hard to be taken seriously as strong on this issue when you’re taking money hand over fist from Big Tech.’”
INSIDE KOCH WORLD 2020 PLANNING:
-- Americans for Prosperity, the political arm of the constellation of organizations backed by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, says it will focus its 2019-2020 activities on supporting certain candidates in state and federal primary races, regardless of party. Michelle Ye Hee Lee emails this dispatch for the 202: Officials said in a memo on Friday morning they plan to help candidates who are “Republican, Democrat, independent or otherwise,” who have shown they will “stick their necks out to lead diverse policy coalitions,” and help take the pressure off of candidates who may worry about making certain policy decisions because they are worried about backlash from their party. “Our criteria is not about Republican or Democrat. It's about what people are doing and how they lead. ... The way they win re-election matters,” Emily Seidel, chief executive of AFP, said in an interview.
The announcement is a part of an ongoing effort by Koch officials to rebrand as less overtly political and more conciliatory after years of being portrayed as boogeymen by the left. The Koch groups are again sitting out of the presidential race, after declining to endorse a candidate in the 2016 presidential elections. The network of political groups, tax-exempt organizations, wealthy donors and political activists recently reorganized under the name of its nonprofit arm, Stand Together. After spending millions to elect Republicans across the country and becoming a stable fixture on the right, the network has shied away from Trump and the Republican Party's move toward protectionism and nativism. Koch has signaled he wants to turn away from partisan politics and focus more on policy priorities that cut across ideologies. “If there ever was a time for a new approach, now is that time,” said Brian Hooks, who leads the network of Koch-backed groups, in an interview yesterday.
It remains to be seen whether any non-Republicans will receive the full backing of AFP, its wealthy donors and its network of activists. So far, the super PAC AFP Action has endorsed one Koch ally for reelection for this election cycle: Republican Gov. Matt Bevin of Kentucky. AFP reiterated Friday it will help candidates whose track records are most closely aligned with their major policy priorities, such as overhauling the criminal justice system, a permanent solution for the status of “dreamers” and free trade. They plan to release their slate of candidates in the coming months.
As part of the rollout for 2020, four new issue-based political action committees will be created: Uniting for Economic Opportunity, Uniting for Free Expression, Uniting for Free Trade and Uniting for Immigration Reform. These four PACs, which can make direct contributions to candidates, would be created in addition to the existing efforts by AFP and AFP Action.
MORE ON THE TRADE WARS:
-- Mexico is trying to avoid American tariffs from going into effect next week by offering to deport more Central American asylum seekers. Nick Miroff, David J. Lynch and Kevin Sieff report: “Mexican officials have pledged to deploy up to 6,000 national guard troops to the area of the country’s border with Guatemala, a show of force they say will immediately reduce the number of Central Americans heading north toward the U.S. border. The plan, a sweeping overhaul of asylum rules across the region, would require Central American migrants to seek refuge in the first country they enter after leaving their homeland, the two officials said. For Guatemalans, that would be Mexico. For migrants from Honduras and El Salvador, that would be Guatemala, whose government held talks last week with acting Homeland Security secretary Kevin McAleenan. Any migrants who made it to the U.S. border generally would be deported to the appropriate third country. And any migrants who express a fear of death or torture in their home country would be subjected to a tougher screening standard by U.S. asylum officers more likely to result in rejection.”
-- An analysis showed that America could lose more than 400,000 jobs if Trump follows throw on imposing tariffs against Mexico. Rachel Siegel reports: “The Mexican tariffs alone could erase more than $41 billion in gross domestic product for the United States, along with $24.6 billion in income each year, according to the [Texas-based economic consulting firm] Perryman Group. Overall job losses could hit 406,000.”
-- Trump has the upper hand in the trade war, but only until September. Heather Long reports: “There’s a case to be made that Trump has the upper hand in these trade disputes because the United States buys more from China and Mexico than those countries buy from the United States. To put it another way, China and Mexico need Trump economically more than he needs them. But that’s just the raw economic calculation. Trump is also facing a campaign for reelection in 2020, and he’s banking on a strong economy to propel him to victory. There are already signs that Trump’s trade policies are making the markets and economy jittery, and the pain is likely to escalate if he doesn’t make some deals by September.”
-- The Federal Reserve, which Trump has frequently derided, might put the brakes on the president’s trade war. Long reports: “Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell and other Fed officials have signaled this week that they may have to cut interest rates in coming months to keep the economic expansion going — and counter any economic harm from Trump’s escalating trade war. Such a move would be highly unusual. It would come at a time when the economy has been growing quickly, and inflation and unemployment are low. And it could serve almost as an insurance policy on the impact of actions taken by the president, potentially facilitating his use of tariffs in unpredictable ways. … The Fed is likely to signal its next step at its policy meeting this month, and markets are forecasting at least three interest-rate cuts by the end of the year.”
-- Russia’s leading meat producer told China that it’s ready to fill the food supply gap left by the U.S. as the trade war drags on. The South China Morning Post’s Laura Zhou reports: “Cherkizovo Group, the largest meat producer in Russia, began shipping poultry products to China last month, and is now looking forward to selling pork and soybeans there, according to CEO Sergey Mikhailov … Hopes that China would buy more pork, soybean and other protein products from the U.S. were dashed last month after trade negotiations with the Trump administration fell apart.”
-- “Trump is not winging it. Or at least he’s not totally winging it,” John Harris argues in Politico with Luiza Ch. Savage: “In Trump’s case, that strategy is intuitive. He’s been saying since the 1980s — and by all evidence genuinely believes — that the United States is letting itself be played for the fool by foreign adversaries, on trade specifically and global competition generally. … In the case of his advisers, the theory of the case is more intellectual. They believe that the big bet free trade advocates made in the 1990s — that welcoming China into the WTO would encourage it to integrate into a rules-based global economy — has proved to be a loser.”
“I and many others had deceived ourselves that China wanted to be just like us,” said Michael Pillsbury, an influential adviser to the Trump administration on China and author of the book, “The Hundred Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower.” “I finally woke up. But I would not say everybody's awakened even at this point.”
-- The president’s economic adviser Larry Kudlow said in 2015 on his radio show that Trump’s proposed trade policies would cause “incalculable damage” to the U.S. economy. CNN’s Em Steck and Andrew Kaczynski report: “In segments on his show, Kudlow said the tariffs Trump then sought and has now moved to impose on China and Mexico would damage the US economy enormously -- and also said that Mexico's government was not to blame for undocumented immigrants coming to the U.S. The comments from Kudlow harshly contradict the administration's current positions on trade, which Kudlow is now tasked with publicly defending. … Kudlow stood by the administration's current policies in a phone interview with CNN's KFile this week. ‘That was then and this is now,’ Kudlow said. ‘I think his trade policies with China in particular have been very strong. They are not damaging the U.S. economy.’”
-- Facebook will no longer allow the pre-installation of its apps on Huawei phones. Reuters’s Katie Paul reports: “Customers who already have Huawei phones will still be able to use its apps and receive updates, Facebook told Reuters. But new Huawei phones will no longer be able to have Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram apps pre-installed. Smartphone vendors often enter business deals to pre-install popular apps such as Facebook. Apps including Twitter and Booking.com also come pre-installed on Huawei phones in many markets ... The move by Facebook dampens the sales outlook for Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, whose smartphone business became its biggest revenue generator last year, powered by strong growth in Europe and Asia.”
TRUMP IN EUROPE:
-- European leaders have refined their approach to Trump as they await the results of the 2020 election. Anne Gearan, Toluse Olorunnipa and James McAuley report: “European leaders kept the three-country trip mostly to parades and pageantry, which seemed to suit Trump and his hosts just fine, rather than view the American president’s arrival in Europe for D-Day commemorations as an opportunity to engage on policy debates. Brian Klaas, who teaches global politics at University College London, said many European leaders are taking a ‘wait-and-see approach,’ with the 2020 presidential election looming. ‘Don’t poke the bear and hope there’s going to be a change in leadership,’ he said. In ways big and small, world leaders found ways to manage the unpredictable American president …
“When Trump said that Britain’s National Health Service would be ‘on the table’ in a potential U.S.-Britain trade deal — a prospect that would be highly unpopular there — May didn’t directly contradict him. ‘But the point about making trade deals is, of course, that both sides negotiate and come to an agreement about what should or should not be in that trade deal for the future,’ May said during a news conference in London. … When Trump suggested that Ireland have a ‘wall’ to mark its border with Northern Ireland — a prospect that ginned up memories of bloody clashes between the two neighbors — Varadkar offered a swift but gentle pushback. … And when reporters pointed out to Trump Thursday that he and Macron had different views about how to deal with Iran, Trump downplayed the differences — and Macron followed suit. ‘I think we do share the same objectives on Iran,’ Macron said during his meeting with the president in Caen.”
-- May officially stepped down today as the leader of the Conservative Party. From the BBC: “Eleven Conservative MPs are vying to replace her as party leader and, ultimately, prime minister. The winner of the contest is expected to be announced in the week of 22 July. Mrs May remains acting party leader during the leadership election process.”
-- Several members of Trump’s family joined him on his trip this week, which has raised questions about whether taxpayers are picking up the tab. David Nakamura, Toluse Olorunnipa and Amanda Ferguson report: “They sat for the white-tie dinner with Queen Elizabeth, toured the Churchill War Rooms, attended the 75th anniversary commemoration of the D-Day invasion in Normandy and, for the Trump sons, checked in on the family business at Trump International Golf Links & Hotel in Doonbeg … The question of who is paying for the family members’ participation — and whether American taxpayers will be on the hook — has emerged as an unresolved subplot, with newspapers in Scotland and London scouring State Department databases and reporting on the fancy hotels and expensive limousines contracted by the U.S. government.”
-- During an interview with Fox News at the site of the D-Day landing, Trump called Bob Mueller “a fool” and Nancy Pelosi “a disaster.” John Wagner reports: “During the interview with Fox News conducted ahead of a ceremony that paid tribute to soldiers who stormed a shore occupied by Nazi Germany 75 years ago, Trump said that Mueller — a former Marine who served in Vietnam — had made 'such a fool out of himself' last week when he made a public statement regarding his investigation into Russian election interference. Trump also referred to the Speaker of the House as 'Nervous Nancy.' 'Nancy Pelosi is a disaster, okay? She’s a disaster,' Trump said … During a brief interview near the cemetery where nearly 10,000 American war dead are buried, [Pelosi told CNN that] she rather not criticize Trump while she is out of the country.”
-- One of the most-read stories on our home page: “Trump’s catastrophic fashion choices in England were not just a sign of bad taste.” Fashion critic Robin Givhan writes: “Fashion is diplomacy, and so what did this wardrobe say? For any man to bungle white-tie dress — something so regimented, so steeped in tradition, so well-documented — he must be a man who doesn’t bother with the details, who doesn’t avail himself of ready expertise, who refuses to be a student of history or even of Google. … The president’s iteration of white tie at the state banquet at Buckingham Palace was, in a word, a mess. The waistcoat was too long and too tight. The tailcoat did not fit. The trousers were voluminous. And the man himself looked so ill at ease in the whole unfortunate kit that his awkwardness loomed over him like Pig-Pen’s dust cloud. The visual was of a man who looked out of place — by his own hand — at a moment of high formality and ceremony intended to convey comity.”
THE DOMESTIC AGENDA:
-- Trump touted the passage of the $19.1 billion disaster aid bill, despite opposing money for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico for months. Colby Itkowitz reports: “The package will provide billions of dollars to areas struggling to recover from wildfires, hurricanes, flooding and other natural disasters. … Trump tweeted a picture of himself holding the legislation and wrote, ‘Puerto Rico should love President Trump. Without me, they would have been shut out!’ In fact, the areas of the country ravaged by natural disasters have had to wait months for the assistance because Trump pushed back against including more money for Puerto Rico.”
-- The Federal Communications Commission approved new rules that could make it easier for telecom giants to block suspected robocalls on behalf of their subscribers. Tony Romm reports: “Under the order, telecom carriers have a legal greenlight to enroll consumers in their call-blocking services by default, as opposed to waiting for customers to sign up for such tools on their own. The change would ‘make it easier for consumers’ to get robocall relief, said FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, noting that many people often are unaware such technology exists. ‘There is one thing in our country that unites Republicans and Democrats,’ Pai said. ‘They are sick and tired of being bothered by unwanted robocalls.’”
-- The Department of Veterans Affairs owes at least $189 million to 53,000 disabled veterans who overpaid on their home loans. Colby Itkowitz reports: “A review by VA’s Office of Inspector General released Thursday found that from 2012 through 2017, more than half of the veterans entitled to this added benefit paid the fee and never received reimbursement from the government. The Veterans Benefits Administration, in its response to the inspector general report, agreed to identify the exempt veterans who paid the fee and issue them refunds. The VBA noted that the financial impact to the veterans was minimal over the life of the loan, the inspector general report says.”
-- Automakers told Trump that his pollution rules could mean “untenable” instability and lower profits. The Times’s Coral Davenport reports: “In a letter signed by 17 companies including Ford, General Motors, Toyota and Volvo, the automakers asked Mr. Trump to go back to the negotiating table on the planned rollback of one of President Barack Obama’s signature policies to fight climate change. The carmakers are addressing a crisis that is partly of their own making. They had sought some changes to the pollution standards early in the Trump presidency, but have since grown alarmed at the expanding scope of the administration’s plan.”
-- Stephen Moore, who last month abandoned his bid for a Federal Reserve seat amid a firestorm over his comments about women, is still eyeing a job with Trump. Felicia Sonmez reports: “Moore, a Heritage Foundation fellow, said Thursday in an interview with Fox Business Network’s Stuart Varney that he ‘may do something at the White House or in the campaign.’ Moore added that he spoke with Trump a few weeks ago — before Kevin Hassett, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, announced his departure — and that he is not seeking to succeed Hassett in the role, which requires Senate confirmation. ‘Well no, no one has,’ Moore said when asked whether anyone from the White House had contacted him about potentially taking Hassett’s place.”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, fired his attorneys and retained a new counsel. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “Flynn’s defense team of Robert K. Kelner and Stephen P. Anthony declined to comment Thursday beyond a one-page filing in which they requested that their law firm withdraw as counsel, advising the federal court in Washington that Flynn ‘has notified the undersigned that he is terminating Covington & Burling LLP as his counsel and has already retained new counsel for this matter.’ Kelner and Anthony asked U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of Washington to allow them to withdraw. Flynn’s new counsel was not identified but would be expected to notify the court through a filing on the public docket. On Thursday, Sullivan also directed that court officials release an audio version of a previously released transcript of a sensitive call between lawyers for Trump and Flynn. … A new sentencing date has not been set. Flynn is expected to testify in Alexandria, Va., at the federal trial of his former business partner Bijan Kian in July. Kian has been charged with working as an unregistered agent of Turkey; he has pleaded not guilty.”
-- Ukrainian businessman Konstantin Kilimnik, a key figure in the Mueller report, was a State Department intelligence source. Hundreds of pages of government documents reviewed by Mueller’s team describe Kilimnik as a “sensitive” informer for the Pentagon on Ukrainian and Russian matters. (The Hill)
-- House Democratic leaders are preparing to grant broader power to committee chairmen to sue the Trump administration over its refusal to comply with congressional subpoenas. Kyle Cheney and Andrew Desiderio report: “The most dramatic proposal will empower the chairs of all House committees to initiate legal action each time a witness or administration official defies a committee subpoena, a move to streamline and speed up the House’s ability to respond to a mounting list of confrontations with the White House. Under the proposal, committee chairs seeking to enforce its subpoenas in federal court would still be required to obtain the approval of a bipartisan — but Democrat-controlled — panel of House leaders.”
-- House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D) told other Democratic leaders that Mueller could be subpoenaed in the next two weeks. Politico’s Desiderio and Heather Caygle report: “The sources cautioned that the committee has not settled on a timetable for a potential subpoena to Mueller. Speaker Nancy Pelosi hosted the meeting, and four other committee chairs were in attendance. On Wednesday, Nadler told reporters that he was ‘confident’ Mueller will appear before his panel, and that he would issue a subpoena ‘if we have to.’ ‘We want him to testify openly. I think the American people need that,’ Nadler added. ‘I think, frankly, it's his duty to the American people. And we'll make that happen.’”
-- During the meeting, Nadler — who has publicly resisted calls to kick off an impeachment inquiry — made the case to Pelosi for opening one. From CNN’s Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb: “First, Nadler argued opening an impeachment probe would centralize the House's sprawling investigations now spread across various panels into just one: The House Judiciary Committee. He argued that the other committees looking into various Trump controversies and scandals could instead focus on moving the party's legislative agenda, while his panel -- with its unique expertise -- would investigate the alleged crimes of Trump before deciding whether to formally vote on articles of impeachment. Secondly, Nadler made a technical argument that it would be easier for lawmakers to discuss the President's alleged offenses on the House floor and in committees during a formal impeachment inquiry because House rules forbid members from disparaging individuals. But Nadler met powerful resistance.”
-- Pelosi is defending her methodical approach to impeachment by offering a history lesson on how the process has worked before. From Paul Kane: “There are just two precedents for such actions in the past 100 years, under the presidencies of Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton. One resulted in Nixon resigning, forced out by senior congressional Republicans who warned they would vote to remove him. The other resulted in a 50-50 Senate vote, well short of the two-thirds majority required by the Constitution to convict and remove Clinton from office. The Clinton impeachment moved at warp speed; the Nixon proceedings crawled along for many months. … Pelosi has for months explained her opposition to impeachment and asserted that Trump is baiting Democrats into a Clinton-style impeachment on party lines, in a bid to boost his reelection chances. This week, again trying to hold back impeachment forces, she tried to at least steer those Democrats toward a process more closely resembling Nixon’s implosion.”
-- Three pieces published yesterday — from Ronald Brownstein for the Atlantic, Kyle Kondik for the University of Virginia's Crystal Ball and Walter Shapiro for the New Republic — make the argument that Republicans did not pay as high of a price for Clinton’s impeachment in the 1998 elections as conventional wisdom suggests. Kondik writes: “The conventional wisdom about 1998 is that the Republicans were on track for big gains, but their pursuit of impeachment prevented them from realizing them. … Perhaps in the absence of impeachment, the GOP would’ve won the majority of the closer races and could’ve netted seats instead of losing a small number. But even without impeachment they may not have performed way better than they otherwise did given Clinton’s high approval and conditions of relative peace and prosperity.”
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- The House now appears certain to hold Attorney General Bill Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt over their refusal to turn over documents that could establish a discriminatory intent behind adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. “The Justice Department said that certain documents the Democrats subpoenaed are protected by attorney-client privilege and therefore cannot be released,” Colby Itkowitz reports. House Oversight Chairman Elijah “Cummings had given the agency until 5 p.m. Thursday to produce them or he would schedule a vote to hold Barr in contempt. The Commerce Department later said that it was also rejecting the committee’s demands and accused the committee of ‘playing politics.'”
-- A new study shows that the addition of the citizenship question to the 2020 Census could lead to an undercount of 6 million Hispanics nationwide, including nearly 5 percent of the total populations of California and Arizona. Ted Melinik and Kate Rabinowitz report: “’It’s just a really simple experiment where individuals are receiving a census form that looks remarkably similar to what people actually receive in 2020,’ said Bryce Dietrich, a Shorenstein research fellow. ‘And half the time that form includes a question about household members’ citizenship, and in the other half of the time the question is not present.’ … A significant Hispanic undercount would change how many congressional seats go to some states, starting with the 2022 elections. California, with a projected Hispanic undercount of 1.8 million people, would lose two of its 53 House seats under this scenario. Texas, with an undercount of 1.1 million, would gain one rather than two seats from its overall population growth. The undercount would erase Arizona’s projected gain of one seat. On the other hand, Montana could gain a second congressional seat, and three states could avoid losing a seat: Alabama, Minnesota and Ohio.”
-- The files found on the hard drives belonging to deceased Republican strategist Thomas Hofeller detail GOP gerrymandering in North Carolina. The Times’s Michael Wines reports: “The advocacy group Common Cause said in court documents submitted in Raleigh on Thursday that the Hofeller files include new evidence showing how North Carolina Republicans misled a federal court to prolong the life of their map of state legislative districts, which had been ruled unconstitutional. The Republicans told the federal court hearing the map case that they would not be able to draw new legislative districts and hold public hearings on them in time for a proposed special election in late 2017 or early 2018. In fact, Common Cause said, Mr. Hofeller’s files show that almost all the work had already been done.”
-- The U.S. opened a new mass facility in Texas to hold migrant children. The AP’s Garance Burke reports: “The new emergency facility in Carrizo Springs, Texas, will hold as many as 1,600 teens in a complex that once housed oil field workers on government-leased land near the border, said Mark Weber, a spokesman for Office of Refugee Resettlement. The agency is also weighing using Army and Air Force bases in Georgia, Montana and Oklahoma to house an additional 1,400 kids in the coming weeks, amid the influx of children traveling to the U.S. alone.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- The top commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said American forces face an “imminent” threat from Iran. NBC News’s Courtney Kube reports: “’I think the threat is imminent,’ Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie said ... ‘We continually evaluate our force posture in the region.’ … McKenzie stressed that tensions remain high. ‘I don't actually believe the threat has diminished,’ McKenzie said after holding a series of meetings with the Iraqi prime minister and defense chief. ‘I believe the threat is still very real.’ McKenzie said he was 'heartened' by the efforts of the Iraqi government to protect American forces and its allies in the region. Roadside bombs have posed the major danger to American forces in Iraq, McKenzie added, but he said the threat from the Iranians is evolving.”
-- The U.S. spent two weeks on edge over Iran boats ferrying missiles around the Persian Gulf. The Wall Street Journal’s Dion Nissenbaum reports: “American surveillance kept constant watch on the two vessels after U.S. officials said they saw Iranian forces load missiles into launchers on their decks, according to U.S. officials. As tensions climbed, the Iranian ships eventually pulled into a harbor and unloaded the missiles that had set off alarms for the U.S. military. This protracted face-off in the Gulf, details of which haven’t been reported, was the catalyst for a cascade of steps by the Trump administration that have fueled concerns of an armed clash.”
-- Acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan said no additional officers will be disciplined over the deadly Niger attack that killed four American soldiers. Shanahan also said he has completed a review of the events surrounding the 2017 ambush. His final decision was greeted by Gold Star families who lost loved ones with a mix of frustration and disappointment. (Dan Lamothe)
-- A new book from our Beijing bureau chief recounts how Kim Jong Un enjoyed French pastries and Sony televisions while North Koreans suffered. Here's an excerpt from Anna Fifield's “The Great Successor”: “Even in the 1980s, before the Soviet Union collapsed and before famine struck North Korea, the population was riven with hunger. But Kim Jong Un experienced none of its privations and probably never saw the suffering of his fellow North Koreans in person. Instead, he grew up in a world of walled compounds where everything revolved around him and life was pure luxury. In the kitchens, there were cakes and French pastries, smoked salmon and pate, and tropical fruits like mangos and melons. They wore clothes made especially for them with British fabric that arrived by the Samsonite suitcase load. … There were Sony televisions, computers, and video games so they could play Super Mario.”
-- The Trump effect: El Salvador’s new president, Nayib Bukele, is wielding power via Twitter, firing senior officials over the social media site. Reuters’s Nelson Renteria reports: “His targets so far have included relatives of former president Salvador Sánchez Cerén and figures from the outgoing political party, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front. … While some of Bukele’s supporters have cheered the new form of presidential communication, his opponents on the right and the left describe the practice as autocratic. ‘This is not a monarchy,’ Norman Quijano, the right-wing president of the Salvadoran congress, told reporters. ‘The absolutist monarchies were a thing of the Middle Ages and we are in the 21st century, where institutionality must be respected.’”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Planned Parenthood celebrated Biden's reversal on the Hyde Amendment:
One of Biden's primary opponents got in this jab for flip-flopping:
Another brought up Iraq:
The Senate minority leader fired back at Trump for touting the passage of the disaster aid bill:
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) slammed Elizabeth Warren's economic proposals:
One of the candidates is going to campaign in Flint, Mich., this weekend:
A Times photographer captured this incredible shot from the D-Day commemoration:
A presidential historian reminded his Twitter followers of this quote from a World War II general:
And Gizmodo issued this tongue-in-cheek correction:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- Wall Street Journal, “Chamber CEO’s Rare Washington Perk: Private Jet Service, Even for Vacations,” by Brody Mullins: “One Saturday morning last month, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Thomas Donohue arrived in Greece with his girlfriend and another couple after an overnight flight on a Gulfstream jet provided by the chief advocacy group for American corporations. After a week sailing in the Greek islands, Mr. Donohue continued on the jet to Tokyo and Beijing for three days of business meetings before returning on it to Washington. The total cost? At least $600,000, according to estimates by four private-jet-service companies. … It is an unusual perk granted to Mr. Donohue: the use of a corporate jet service for personal and business trips. The Chamber pays for all of Mr. Donohue’s business trips. But the group also picks up nearly all the costs when Mr. Donohue is flying on vacation.”
-- New York Times, "An Australian Doctor’s Dream: Curing America’s Opioid Curse," by Isabella Kwai: "The hazy-eyed sheep shearer was shifting in his seat in a clinic in Western Australia, unsure if he could do what the doctor said would save his life. A heroin user for 20 years, he was now in the depths of a detoxification treatment. 'I’m all alone,' he said. In a soft voice, the doctor, George O’Neil, pleaded with the man to continue to the next stage: an implant of the drug naltrexone, a device that the physician himself had invented and that is an emerging facet of an impassioned debate over the best way to treat addiction. 'I don’t win with everybody,' the doctor said after the man had left. 'But I try.' Over almost two decades, Dr. O’Neil, 70, has implanted his device — which is unlicensed but legal in Australia — into thousands of people who have traveled to his nonprofit clinic in Subiaco, a suburb of Perth. The implant delivers naltrexone, which blocks the effect of opioids, into patients’ stomach for months, eliminating the need for addicts to remember to take a pill or receive an injection."
-- Politico, “How a renegade Chinese billionaire became a center of D.C. intrigue,” by Ben Schreckinger: “It began when a firm tied to the billionaire, real estate magnate Guo Wengui, allegedly hired a private intelligence firm to dig up dirt on Chinese nationals — including their bank records, porn habits and any illegitimate children — then sued, saying the firm failed to deliver. In turn, the intelligence firm has claimed Guo’s side gave it a thumb drive loaded with sophisticated malware and that he sought information on people whose records were deemed sensitive by the U.S. government. … An ally of Steve Bannon’s and a fugitive from Chinese authorities, Guo now lives in New York. His presence in the U.S. has exacerbated tensions between China’s ruling Communist Party and the administration of President Donald Trump.
-- New York Times, “Japan’s Extreme Recluses Already Faced Stigma. Now, After Knifings, They’re Feared,” by Motoko Rich: “After the stabbing of 17 schoolgirls and two adults at a bus stop near Tokyo last week, a shocked public has been grasping for answers as to what could possibly have driven someone to commit such a horrific act. Investigators and the news media have zeroed in on the fact that the attacker, who killed himself after the assault, which left two dead, lived as an extreme recluse — or ‘hikikomori,’ as the condition is known in Japan. … Even before these spasms of violence, Japan’s hundreds of thousands of hikikomori faced a stigma in a country that has retained a strong taboo against even acknowledging mental illness. Now, psychiatrists and advocates worry that a new wave of fearmongering will leave hikikomori even more vilified and painted falsely as prone to heinous crimes.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Spotify strikes deal with Barack and Michelle Obama to produce exclusive podcasts,” from CNN: “Barack and Michelle Obama's production company will start working with Spotify to produce podcasts, similar to its multi-year production deal with Netflix to produce TV shows and films. The production company, Higher Ground, announced the Spotify partnership on Thursday. The Obamas will ‘develop, produce, and lend their voices to select podcasts, connecting them to listeners around the world on wide-ranging topics,’ Higher Ground said. ‘Lend their voices’ means the former president and first lady will sometimes be heard on the new podcasts -- but their primary role will be in the development and production phases. The first podcasts from Higher Ground Audio are likely to debut in 2020 at the earliest.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Uniformed sheriff's deputy turned away from jewelry store because of service weapon,” from Fox 46 Charlotte: “An Iredell County sheriff's deputy was told he could not come into a jewelry store while he was in uniform because of his service weapon. Despite telling the store employees it would be a violation of policy for him to remove his gun while in uniform, he says he was denied service. On Wednesday, the Iredell County Sheriff Darren Campbell posted on Facebook, saying the deputy was told an engagement ring he had bought had been sized and was ready for pickup at the Kay Jewelers on Turnersburg Highway in Statesville. ‘It is a special time in his life and he was trying to do a nice thing for someone he loved,’ said Melissa Hollar, who lives in Statesville. ‘Now it’s this negative thing.’”
Trump and the first lady are flying back to Washington from Ireland today.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Pete Buttigieg said that Stacey Abrams was robbed of Georgia’s governorship: “Stacey Abrams ought to be the governor of Georgia. … When racially motivated voter suppression is permitted, when districts are drawn so that politicians get to choose their voters instead of the other way around, when money is allowed to outvote people in this country, we cannot truly say we live in a democracy.” (Politico)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- It’s warm and a little cloudy with slight rain chances over the weekend. The Capitol Weather Gang forecasts: “Clouds may dominate the days ahead. One could argue this time of year that they aren’t necessarily bad to have around? The clouds should help shield us from the strongest sun of the year, providing still-comfortable conditions. Shower chances are around but it’s not until Sunday into Tuesday where we perhaps face some threat of flooding.”
-- The Nationals lost 5-4 to the Padres. (Jesse Dougherty)
-- A vigil for the Virginia Beach shooting victims sent a message of unity. Jim Morrison and Clarence Williams report: “The thousands at Rock Church stood in silence, listening to the names — with the quiet broken, at the end, by the agonized wail of a woman amid the victims’ families. ‘Oh my God,’ she sobbed. Thursday night’s service was the largest of a series of memorials to those killed in last Friday afternoon’s shooting. State and local politicians, including Gov. Ralph Northam (D), Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) and a host of faith leaders spoke to the assembled, offering messages of healing and unity for a city reeling from the devastating loss of life. ‘Amid the horrors created by one person, we saw the good of so many others,’ Northam said. ‘Over the past several days, we have seen great kindness and love in this community.’”
-- Issues of race and scandal are pulsing through a primary contest in Virginia. Gregory S. Schneider reports: “Rosalyn R. Dance is a black state senator facing a tough Democratic primary challenge in one of the most heavily African American districts in Virginia. And she is getting help from an unlikely source: Gov. Ralph Northam, the white Democrat spurned by his party over a racist yearbook photo and blackface incident from his past. He toured a hospital with Dance, went to her church one Sunday morning and joined her for breakfast at a bakery. She appeared with him at a civil rights memorial. The unusual public pairing is only made stranger by the man trying to unseat Dance: former lawmaker and lawbreaker Joe Morrissey, who is white and once won an election from jail but has rock-star status among many African American voters in the district. At a time in Virginia when issues of race are especially raw, the fight between Dance and Morrissey is a spectacle that upends expectations. It creates headaches for Democrats, who would like to move past scandal and try to take control of the legislature in November.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert took a look at what products will take a hit from Trump's tariffs on Mexico:
An abortion rights group released a video of Rep. Ron Wright (R-Tex.) saying women should "absolutely" be punished for getting abortions:
Listen to House Republicans talk about subpoenas when they're in the majority vs. when they're in the minority:
A House Democrat shared this incredible moment from Normandy:
Cory Booker described experiencing racial profiling and explained why he should play himself in a movie:
And this touching moment is warming the hearts of many tennis fans: