With Mariana Alfaro and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: Nineteen presidential candidates got five minutes each on Sunday to make an extended elevator pitch to the most devoted Democratic activists in Iowa. When their time was up, music began playing loudly to force them offstage — just like at the Oscars, the Emmys or the Golden Globes.

The format forced the White House hopefuls to deliver an abridged version of their stump speech. In doing so, the event previewed what the first Democratic debates will look like on June 26 and 27. Most of the contenders will struggle to get a word in as they seek to introduce themselves on their own terms while looking for ways to stand out before a national audience from a crowded stage.

During a ceremony in Cedar Rapids hosted by the state party to honor grass-roots activists who have gone above and beyond, a crowd of 1,400 partisans — poised to become fervent volunteers for whomever they endorse — attentively endured a three-hour program in a dark DoubleTree ballroom on a sunny spring afternoon.

Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price, who emceed the cattle call, noted that his Republican counterpart called the gathering a “circus” in a news release. “Well, you know what, we’re going to be the ones who have the last laugh,” he said.

Here are eight takeaways from the biggest 2020 gathering so far this year:

1) This race is fluid and wide open. Joe Biden, who skipped the event to attend his granddaughter’s high school graduation, has a vastly weaker claim to “front-runner” status than Hillary Clinton or Al Gore did at this point.

The Des Moines Register-Mediacom-CNN Iowa poll that came out on Saturday night showed the former vice president leading the field with support from 24 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers. Bernie Sanders is in second place, with 16 percent, but he’s in a statistical tie with Elizabeth Warren (15 percent) and Pete Buttigieg (14 percent). Biden and Sanders have both seen their numbers fall in recent weeks, but no one else broke into double digits.

Clinton led with 57 percent in the same poll at this point four years ago. Just as she experienced, there appears to be no palpable excitement about Biden’s candidacy. Only 29 percent of his supporters describe themselves as extremely enthusiastic about their choice, meaningfully lower than others. The best thing going for Biden is that Democrats want to beat President Trump, and they still believe Biden can do that. But the poll was in the field before last week’s Hyde Amendment fiasco, which raised new questions about whether the 76-year-old has what it takes to wage a modern campaign.

There are 238 days until the Iowa caucuses, which are shaping up to be as important as ever in winnowing the field. Without a clear front-runner, whoever wins will be a viable contender for the nomination. Biden's campaign says it will have 50 staffers on the ground in Iowa by the end of this month. Trump and Biden will both travel to the state tomorrow.

2) Abortion has emerged as a premier issue in the primaries, and almost every speaker paid lip service to the importance of upholding Roe v. Wade.

Reproductive rights were mentioned as much as any other issue, including health care, climate change and gun control. This is a change from earlier in the year when it seemed to be an afterthought for many of the candidates. In several cases, invoking the issue appeared to be an implicit rebuke of Biden, who flip-flopped last week to endorse federal funding for abortions.

“In fact, I don’t think there is room in our party for a Democratic candidate who does not support women’s full reproductive freedom,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, who promised that repealing the Hyde Amendment would be a top priority.

“Make no mistake: Abortion is health care, and health care is a right, not a privilege,” said Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey.

“I’ve got a practical plan to protect the rights of women under Roe v. Wade, regardless of what the United States Supreme Court does,” said Warren, the senator from Massachusetts.

“All of us, especially men, ought to be standing up to defend” women against “this attack on reproductive freedom,” said Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind.

“Health care also means that every woman makes her own decision about her own body and has access to care that allows that to be possible,” said Beto O’Rourke, the former congressman from Texas.

“It’s my wife’s body,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell of California. “It’s a woman’s body. It’s her choice. I will only appoint judges that will uphold Roe. Let’s repeal the discriminatory Hyde Amendment.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee highlighted legislation he signed to expand access to abortion and called for a national “reproductive parity bill.”

“A woman’s right to control her own body is under constant assault,” said former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper.

3) Biden’s opponents suggested that his moderation and cautiousness make him unelectable. But that argument didn’t seem to resonate with the crowd.

The quote getting the most pickup in stories about the event came from Sanders. “I understand there are some well-intentioned Democrats and candidates who believe the best way forward is a middle-ground strategy that antagonizes no one, that stands up to nobody and that changes nothing,” said the independent senator from Vermont. “In my view, that approach is not just bad public policy, but it is a failed political strategy that I fear would end up with the reelection of Donald Trump.” This was an unmistakable shot at Biden, but there was very little applause.

Trying to be forward-looking, Buttigieg said Democrats can no more promise to take the country back to the 1990s than Republicans can promise to take America back to the 1950s. “We’re not going to win by playing it safe or promising a return to normal,” he said. “We are where we are because normal broke.” That played a little better.

“I’m not spending my time with high-dollar donors and with corporate lobbyists,” said Warren, apparently referring to Biden’s high-dollar fundraiser on the same night he announced his candidacy. “I’m spending my time with you.”

“For too long, we’ve had warmongers in both parties,” said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), a potential reference to Biden’s vote authorizing the Iraq War.

Only one of the 19 speakers named the former VP. “Joe Biden must really not like to travel,” said tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang, whose platform revolves around a universal basic income of $1,000 every month for every American. “Each of you is worth about 1,000 Californians. This room to me looks like a million Californians.”

4) Most of the candidates remain largely unknown, so they’re still introducing the very basics of their résumés.

In the Iowa poll that came out this weekend, seven candidates garnered 1 percent support, and nine earned no support. Not one of the 600 poll respondents, for example, mentioned Bill de Blasio as their first or second choice. Trying to remedy this, the New York mayor brought his wife onstage – noting that they just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary – and touted her crusade to increase funding for mental-health services.

Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, in one of the best-received performances, talked about his wife, as well. She is a first-grade teacher whose dad was laid off from a steel mill. “It’s been a pleasure speed-dating with you tonight,” Ryan said. “If you want a second date, go to timryanforamerica.com.”

Other candidates touted Iowa connections. Swalwell noted that he was born in the western part of the state before transplanting to California. His dad was a cop, and he became the first in his family to go to college.

“My grandma was born and raised in Iowa,” Booker began. “My family comes from a mining town called Buxton where blacks and whites went into the mines together to carve out of the earth their American Dream.”

5) The candidates can be divided into two categories: angry and sunny.

Sen. Michael Bennet hates the label “mild-mannered.” Overcompensating, he now yells. Constantly. His face reddens as he talks. He’s trying to capture the zeitgeist and grab the base by its lapels, but the Howard Beale shtick comes across as inauthentic and overly strident. “Trump is the star of his own three-ring circus in Washington, but there is no doubt who the ringmaster actually is, and that is Mitch McConnell,” boomed the senior senator from Colorado, who tried to look feistier by ditching his suit coat.

Gillibrand described herself as “a formerly well-behaved woman” as she leaned into her rage. “Women are on fire in America today,” she said, constantly raising her arms. “Now is not the time to be polite. Now is the time to fight like hell!”

Spiritual guru Marianne Williamson, a self-help author who is friendly with Oprah Winfrey and who just leased a condo in Iowa to boost her campaign, presented herself as the temperamental opposite. “If you think that our job is simply to find someone who is tough enough to beat Donald Trump, you are naive about the nature of the opponent,” she said. “Trump has touched people in a very, very fearful place. Only one thing can cast out that fear: It is love. … Last time, we won with hope. This time we will win with love. Trump has built a career harnessing fear. I have made a career harnessing love.”

Likewise, Booker goes out of his way to be jovial. “Trump wants this election to be about him, on his terms and on his turf. That’s how he wins. We win when we rise with grace and grit,” he said. “The election must not just be about who we’re against but what we are for. Beating him will get us out of the valley, but it will not get us to the mountaintop. … We will not stay in the valley of darkness and fear.”

Historically, sunny wins out in the end. But Trump won on anger, and this remains an angry time.

6) Almost everyone attacked Trump by name as they made the case for why they’d post up best against him in a general election.

Scores of news stories were written earlier this year about how few of the candidates were talking about Trump because they wanted their campaigns to be about themselves, not him. But Biden found success when he trained his fire on Trump as part of his rollout with a video that decried the president’s response to the racial violence in Charlottesville. Then Warren got political mileage out of being the first top-tier candidate to call for Trump’s impeachment. Now basically everyone talks about Trump by name all the time.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock emphasized that he won reelection in 2016 even as Trump won his state by double digits. He noted that more than a quarter of his supporters also voted for the president. “The path to victory isn’t just through the coasts,” he said. “Almost a third of your counties voted for [Barack] Obama twice and then Trump. If we can’t fire up Democrats and win back places we lost in 2016, we may as well fold up that great big tent right now.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota has been dining out since February on what Trump called her on Twitter when she announced her candidacy in the snow: “Snowman(woman)!” She recounted in Cedar Rapids how she tweeted back that she’d love to see how Trump’s hair fares in a blizzard. “I don’t come from money, but I have grit,” she told her fellow Midwesterners. Touting the nickname from the president seems intended to signal both that she’s viable and that he fears her.

Even many of the most liberal Democratic voters prioritize picking a candidate who can win over someone who shares their positions on the issues. Sen. Kamala Harris of California said her background as a prosecutor makes her well suited to debate Trump. “We need to prosecute the case and let me tell you: There’s a rap sheet,” Harris said. “I’m prepared to prosecute the case against Donald Trump.”

Gillibrand said she can tee up the clearest contrast. “I have voted against President Trump more than any other U.S. senator on this stage,” said the senator. “Trump’s kryptonite is a strong woman who stands up for what she believes in.”

Yang disagreed. “The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math,” said Yang, pointing at himself.

As he did last weekend in San Francisco, Hickenlooper urged Democrats to repudiate socialism. “Trump is the worst president our country has ever had, but defeating him is far from guaranteed,” he said. “I’m the only person running who has actually done what everyone else is talking about, so I can tell you that you don’t do big things with big government.”

7) We got a taste of the grievance to come.

There’s always someone on the debate stage in the primaries who complains about process. They say they’re not getting enough questions or that the questions they’re getting are dumb, rather than make their case to the people watching at home. This never persuades voters, but it always happens.

Bullock was that guy when he took the stage on Sunday. The governor may not get into the first debates after the Democratic National Committee tightened the criteria to qualify. “Thanks for not changing the rules this week for who gets to be on this stage,” Bullock quipped to the chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party at the start of his speech.

8) This is still Barack Obama’s party.

For all the generic criticism of the Democratic establishment and the lamentations of missed opportunities, the base still adores the former president.

It’s striking when you watch so many candidates speak back to back how many have internalized Obama mannerisms and cadences. This is especially true with Buttigieg, who is 37 but turned 27 the day before Obama was inaugurated. In other words, the boy mayor came of age during the Obama era. If you watch closely, he talks a little like Obama, pauses like Obama and even gestures his hands a little like Obama.

I had the same feeling watching Joe Kennedy III deliver the Democratic response to the State of the Union. An earlier generation of Democrats mimicked Bill Clinton’s mannerisms, down to the lip biting, and the generation before that sough to emulate JFK or RFK.

Biden had served in the Senate for 36 years when he became vice president. His political persona and speaking style were fully developed. But he’s leaning on his eight years as Obama’s No. 2 to appeal to the nostalgia for the former president. His campaign even tweeted this out yesterday, prompting former Obama chief strategist David Axelrod to wonder if it was a joke.

Obama has stayed neutral in the race to replace him as the Democratic standard-bearer. He’s met privately with several of the presidential candidates, as well as the class of House Democratic freshmen. Speaking at Sunday’s event, Rep. Cindy Axne (D) – who unseated a GOP incumbent last year – said Obama has been the neatest person she’s met since arriving in D.C. “He’s as cool as you think he is,” she said.

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Trump threatened this morning to impose large tariffs on $300 billion in imports if Chinese leader Xi Jinping does not meet with him in Japan later this month, showing how he plans to immediately pivot from his trade war with Mexico back to Beijing. Damian Paletta reports: “Trump, in a wide-ranging and apparently impromptu interview with CNBC, said he was ‘scheduled to have a meeting’ with Xi during the G-20 summit in Osaka, but Chinese officials have refused to publicly confirm the gathering. ‘We do not want a trade war, but we are not afraid of fighting one,’ said Geng Shuang, spokesman for China’s ministry of foreign affairs. ‘If the U.S. is ready to have equal consultations, our door is wide open. But if it insists on escalating trade frictions, we will respond to it with resolution and perseverance.’”

-- He also tweeted that he could still slap tariffs on Mexico:

-- National Rifle Association money flowed into the pockets of its own board members amid allegedly lavish spending by top officials and vendors over the past three years. Beth Reinhard, Katie Zezima, Tom Hamburger and Carol D. Leonnig have a must-read story: “A former pro football player who serves on the National Rifle Association board was paid $400,000 by the group in recent years for public outreach and firearms training. Another board member, a writer in New Mexico, collected more than $28,000 for articles in NRA publications. Yet another board member sold ammunition from his private company to the NRA for an undisclosed sum. … A firm run by White House communications aide Mercedes Schlapp, who resigned from the board when she joined the administration in 2017, received a total of $85,000 in 2016 and 2017 for media strategy consulting. ... In all, 18 members of the NRA’s 76-member board, who are not paid as directors, collected money from the group during the past three years, according to tax filings, state charitable reports and NRA correspondence reviewed by The Washington Post.

Tax experts said the numerous payments to certain NRA directors create potential conflicts of interest that could cloud the board’s independent monitoring of the organization’s finances. ... The payments received by about one-quarter of board members, the extent of which has not previously been reported, deepen questions about the rigor of the board’s oversight as it steered the country’s largest and most powerful gun rights group, according to tax experts and some longtime members. ... Compounding the situation are signs that the NRA’s finances are under strain.

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. American Airlines extended flight cancellations through Sept. 3 because the Boeing 737 Max jet continues to be grounded, affecting 115 flights per day. This suggests airlines are planning for the jets’ reentry to take longer than expected. (Aaron Gregg)
  2. Raytheon, the defense contractor known for manufacturing the Patriot missile defense system, will merge with United Technologies to create a combined company with annual sales of $74 billion. This would make it the second-largest U.S. aerospace company, behind Boeing, with more than 60,000 engineers and about 38,000 active patents. (Aaron Gregg)
  3. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao created a special path for husband Mitch McConnell’s favored projects. Chao helped pave the way for grants totaling at least $78 million for projects McConnell favored as he prepared for a reelection campaign. (Politico)
  4. The Tony Award for best musical went to “Hadestown,” based on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. The Tony for best play went to Jez Butterworth’s “The Ferryman.” (Peter Marks)
  5. Red Sox legend David Ortiz was shot and injured in the Dominican Republic. He was wounded in the back at an entertainment center in Santo Domingo while hanging out with friends, but his father says doctors expect a full recovery. (Des Bieler)
  6. Kevin Durant might return to the court tonight to play injured for Game 5 of the NBA Finals, raising hopes of a storybook comeback. The Warriors desperately need a boost, with the Raptors leading the series 3-1. (Ben Golliver)  
  7. For the first time since 2011, the Stanley Cup finals are going to seven games after the Bruins beat the Blues 5-1. The teams will meet Wednesday to decide who gets the cup. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)
  8. Rafael Nadal won his 12th French Open title. Despite losing one set, the Spanish tennis player beat Austria’s Dominic Thiem on the red clay. (Liz Clarke and Ava Wallace)
  9. A study found that Google made $4.7 billion from the news industry in 2018. The News Media Alliance reported that the amount made from the works of news publishers found through search and Google News was nearly as large as the $5.1 billion brought in by the U.S. news industry as a whole from digital advertisement in 2018. (New York Times)
  10. A crane collapsed into an apartment building in Dallas, killing one person and injuring at least five others. Severe winds triggered the collapse. (Dallas Morning News)
  11. The arrest of Scot Peterson, the only armed officer stationed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the 2018 shooting in Parkland, Fla., has raised a new question: Should “cowardice” be criminalized? Peterson, who has been called the “Coward of Broward” County because of his non-action during the shooting, faces 11 charges, surprising some lawyers who are skeptical that the prosecution will be successful. (Deanna Paul)
  12. Starbucks will begin charging for disposable cups in London’s Gatwick Airport to persuade consumers to use reusable ones. Gatwick said it already recycles a majority of the 7 million disposable coffee cups that travelers leave behind each year. (Bloomberg News)
  13. Hillary Clinton’s brother Tony Rodham died at 64. He served as an outreach coordinator for the Democratic National Committee when his brother-in-law was president. (AP)

THE WAR ON WOMEN:

-- Alabama, the state that just passed a law to ban abortions for victims of rape, also protects parental rights for the rapists. Emily Wax-Thibodeaux reports: “Alabama is one of two states with no statute terminating parental rights for a person found to have conceived the child by rape or incest, a fact that has gained fresh relevance since its lawmakers adopted the nation’s strictest abortion ban in May. [The other is Minnesota.] … Last month, Alabama lawmakers considered a bill that addressed ending parental rights in cases of rape that result in conception, but the legislature removed that language, limiting the law to cases in which people sexually assault their children.”

Jessica Stallings said she was 12 when her mother’s half brother began climbing into her bed at night: “Before she turned 18, she had endured four pregnancies. The first ended in miscarriage, and one son died of a disease more likely to occur in cases of incest. Then her family forced her to marry her uncle, she said. Stallings later fled, and a court deemed the marriage illegal because of a ‘familial relationship.’ She built a stable home in Fort Payne, Ala., for her sons, now 15 and 12. But in the winter of 2017, she discovered that she was not yet free of the man she calls ‘Uncle Lenny.’ Despite DNA tests that proved incest, he maintained parental rights to the boys and fought Stallings for visitation. A judge ruled he was entitled to see them for three days during Christmastime. … Her uncle recently was released from jail on bail after being charged with possession of methamphetamine and suboxone. Their 12-year-old son was in the car with [the father] when he was arrested.”

Stallings describes herself as “100 percent pro-life” but says she feels compelled to “speak out and help other women” by showing that Alabama’s abortion ban is grievously unfair without changes in child-custody laws. “I had so much shame,” said Stallings, 32. “I spent my entire childhood pregnant and terrified he was going to kill me. … It’s sickening. I’ve spent my entire life scared to death of my rapist, and now, I’m fighting him for custody of my children.”

Forcing women to deliver their rapist’s child is not an academic debate: “The estimated number of rape-related pregnancies in the United States ranges from 7,750 to 32,000, but there’s no accurate data for how many women keep those children, experts say. For those who do raise their children, it’s not unheard of for the men to seek involvement in their lives. As many as 90 percent of rapes are committed by attackers whom the victims know.”

-- A hotel in Michigan is offering free stays to women seeking abortions. Antonia Noori Farzan reports: “From Yale, Mich., a conservative meat-processing town with less than 2,000 people in the state’s eastern ‘thumb,’ the nearest abortion providers are roughly an hour drive away. For Shelley O’Brien, the manager of the Yale Hotel, that was close enough to be of help. ‘Dear sisters that live in Alabama, Ohio, Georgia, Arkansas, Missouri, or any of the other states that follow with similar laws restricting access,’ the 55-year-old mother of three wrote on the hotel’s Facebook page in May. ‘We cannot do anything about the way you are being treated in your home state. But, if you can make it to Michigan, we will support you with several nights lodging, and transportation to and from your appointment.’”

-- Houston-based Bible teacher Beth Moore, a Southern Baptist, has highlighted the issue of sexual abuse for years, gaining national prominence and followers. But rather than celebrate her contributions, her church is debating whether she should be allowed to “preach,” because its rules prohibit women from holding the role of pastor. As Moore attempts to advance the discussion on sexual abuse, many in her church are crusading against her. (Sarah Pulliam Bailey)

­-- Afghan officials issued an arrest warrant for Keramuddin Keram, the former national soccer chief, amid allegations that he sexually abused members of the women’s national soccer team. Siobhán O’Grady and Sharif Hassan report: “The warrant came a day after FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, fined Keram about $1 million and banned him for life. At least five players said he assaulted and harassed them between 2013 and 2018. … Khalida Popal, who captained the team before fleeing Afghanistan in 2016 and seeking asylum in Denmark, said she learned about the alleged culture of abuse when several players confided in her at a training camp in Jordan last year. … When several players threatened to go to the media, Popal said, nine were kicked off the team and accused of being lesbians, in an apparent attempt to intimidate them into silence. She said several of the players were abused by Afghan soccer officials while in Jordan for the training she organized.”

THE NEW COLD WAR WITH CHINA:

-- China added The Washington Post and the Guardian to its “Great Firewall,” blocking the sites to its 1.4 billion citizens, on the same day that Trump denounced the media as “truly The Enemy of the People!” David Nakamura reports: “The ongoing fade-out of public information coincided with the 30th anniversary this month of the bloodshed of the Tiananmen Square protests, a free-speech demonstration that the Communist Party crushed with military force as the world watched in horror. …The president’s hostility toward the press in the United States again stood as a striking companion to the antagonism that authoritarian regimes display toward the free flow of information. Trump’s tweets came as an estimated 1 million people in Hong Kong took to the streets to protest a new extradition law announced by the Communist Party, fearing further erosion of the one-country, two-systems autonomy that has existed since the British returned control of the island to Beijing in 1997.”

-- The protesters in Hong Kong included corporate lawyers, students, housewives and religious leaders who stood against the proposed extradition laws that many fear could finally break the dam holding back China’s creeping influence over the political haven. Gerry Shih and Timothy McLaughlin report: “Many said they were joining a demonstration for the first time because they viewed it as a last chance to voice their outrage as Hong Kong’s political freedoms shrivel. Shortly after midnight, when the government permit for the demonstration expired, clashes broke out between police and hundreds of protesters at Hong Kong’s legislative building. Police in riot gear charged in with shields and fired pepper spray to disperse the crowd. Legislators in Hong Kong — which was promised semiautonomy by the Chinese government under a 1997 handover agreement with Britain — are expected to vote this month on a bill that would allow local courts to consider extradition requests from countries including mainland China. Critics of the bill, including many members of the city’s legal and judicial community, say the measure is being rushed through Hong Kong’s legislative process. They say it would give Chinese authorities the power to extradite political opponents without local legislative oversight.”

-- China is considering restricting U.S. access to its technology. The AP’s Ken Moritsugu reports: “The People’s Daily newspaper said Sunday that the system will build a strong firewall to strengthen the nation’s ability to innovate and to accelerate the development of key technologies. ‘China ... will never allow certain countries to use China’s technology to contain China’s development and suppress Chinese enterprises,’ the main paper of the ruling Communist Party said, without directly referring to the United States. No details have been released about what China is calling a national technological security management list. The plan was announced Saturday evening in a brief three-paragraph dispatch by the official Xinhua News Agency.”

-- The head of OMB is seeking a two-year delay of the ban prohibiting companies that do business with Chinese telecom giant Huawei from providing services to the U.S. government. Felicia Sonmez and Damian Paletta report: “In a letter to Vice President Pence and nine members of Congress, the office’s acting director Russell T. Vought said the delay would give companies more time to comply with the ban, which is set to take effect in one year and one month. If the delay is approved, the ban would take effect in three years and one month. ‘The Administration believes, based on feedback from impacted stakeholders, that this additional preparatory work will better ensure the effective implementation of the prohibition without compromising desired security objectives,’ Vought said in the letter.”

THE IMMIGRATION WARS:

-- Trump and his acting homeland security secretary defended their agreement with the Mexican government to curb migration at the border after press reports that at least some parts of the deal were actually inked before the public threat of tariffs. Mike DeBonis, Felicia Sonmez and Juliet Eilperin report: “Trump said that Mexico ‘was not being cooperative on the Border’ before the deal reached Friday. Now, he said, ‘I have full confidence, especially after speaking to their President yesterday, that they will be very cooperative and want to get the job properly done.’ He also said he could move to reimpose tariffs if Mexico doesn’t follow through on its promises. Some aspects of the deal, he added, remain to be announced — ‘one in particular,’ he said, ‘will be announced at the appropriate time.’ Meanwhile, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan credited Trump’s tariff threats with producing a breakthrough.”

-- Trump’s “deal” with Mexico will do little to curb the crisis at the southern border, critics said. Felicia Sonmez, Mike DeBonis and Nick Miroff report: “The president’s tweet seemed to hint at a possible component of the deal that would transform asylum rules across the region and make applicants seek refuge in the first country they reach. Such an accord would allow the United States to deport most asylum seekers from Guatemala to Mexico, and those from Honduras and El Salvador would be flown to Guatemala. … Immigrant rights advocates argued Sunday that while it was important that the United States and Mexico pledged to invest resources in Central America, the deal fails to address the root cause of the problem, which is poverty and violence in the region that the migrants are fleeing.”

-- A watchdog found that ICE has been deporting veterans without checking their service status. From Military.com’s Richard Sisk: “The Government Accountability Office has a recommendation for [ICE]: Check to see whether the people it picks up are military veterans before kicking them out of the country. ‘We recommended that ICE collect and maintain data on veterans’ in accordance with long-established rules at the agency to avoid deporting individuals who may be eligible to stay, the 40-page GAO report states. …From 2013 to 2018, ICE failed to follow its own policies requiring agents to consider a veteran's military record before beginning the process of removal from the country, according to the report. Time in service, awards and deployments are all among factors that are supposed to be weighed when making a deportment decision. The policies also call for deportation cases that might involve veterans to be referred to higher headquarters for a decision.”

-- Adding it up: At least 24 migrants have died in ICE custody during the Trump administration. NBC News’s Hanna Rappleye and Lisa Riordan Seville report: “The deaths of three ICE detainees since April, along with the release of several internal and watchdog reports documenting dismal conditions at ICE detention centers, have prompted an outcry from advocates who say the Trump administration is pushing growing numbers of immigrants into a detention system ill-equipped to care for them. … At least four others, including Medina Leon, died shortly after being released from ICE custody. The number of in-custody deaths remains below the peak of 32 deaths in 2004, the first full calendar year records were kept. The tally does not include migrants, including five children, who have died in the custody of other federal agencies.”

-- California will become the first state to pay for health benefits for some undocumented adult immigrants. The AP’s Adam Beam reports: “Democrats in the state Legislature reached an agreement Sunday afternoon as part of a broader plan to spend $213 billion of state and federal tax money over the next year. The legislature is expected to approve the deal this week. The agreement means low-income adults between the ages of 19 and 25 living in California illegally would be eligible for California’s Medicaid program, the joint state and federal health insurance program for the poor and disabled. Only those in that age group whose incomes are low enough to qualify for the program would get the health benefits. State officials estimate that group will be about 90,000 people at a cost of $98 million per year.”

-- Central American migrants are also fleeing to Europe. The Times’s Melissa Vida reports: “The distance may be greater, but many have found that the journey to Europe is safer and much cheaper than paying smugglers to get through Mexico to the United States. … Suyapa Portillo, an associate professor at Pitzer College who has studied Central American migration, said that the bar for entering Europe was lower because a visa is not required for entry, as it is for the United States. Spain is the first choice for many Central Americans because of the shared language, established networks of friends and family and opportunities to work in the informal economy. Another draw is the perception that the authorities are more tolerant, particularly after considering the danger and expense likely to be involved in a journey to the United States. For those traveling outside migrant caravans, that trip can cost as much as $10,000.”

­-- In Italy, German boat captain Pia Klemp faces prison time for rescuing migrants. Klemp is being accused of aiding illegal immigration after she saved migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean. The captain, who with some of her crew members has rescued thousands of migrants at sea, said she intends to fight the case up to the European Court of Human Rights in France if needed. (DW.com)

THERE'S STILL A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- House Democrats have a week packed with hearings on Bob Mueller’s report. The AP’s Mary Clare Jalonick reports: “The hearings will focus on the two main topics of Mueller’s report, obstruction of justice and Russian election interference. The House Judiciary Committee plans to cover the first topic at a Monday hearing on ‘presidential obstruction and other crimes.’ The House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday intends to review the counterintelligence implications of the Russian meddling. Mueller said there was not enough evidence to establish a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, but he said he could not exonerate Trump on obstruction. On Tuesday, the House has scheduled a vote to authorize contempt cases against [Attorney General Bill Barr] and former White House counsel Donald McGahn for failing to comply with subpoenas from the Democratic-controlled House.”

-- Barr is emerging as the most influential figure in the second half of Trump’s presidential term. While many try to figure out who he really is, the attorney general is busy stockpiling power. The Times’s Sharon LaFraniere, Charlie Savage and Katie Benner report: “Is he the upright defender of the presidency who used his discretion to disclose nearly all of the 448-page Mueller report, even though it hurt Mr. Trump? Or is he a manipulator who has skewed the special counsel’s evidence in Mr. Trump’s favor and is now endorsing questionable legal arguments to fend off legitimate congressional inquiry? An examination of his record, coupled with interviews of more than two dozen associates, suggests elements of both: He is neither as apolitical as his defenders claim, nor as partisan as his detractors fear. Instead, he is a complex figure whom the right cannot count on to be a Trumpland hero and whom the left cannot dismiss as nothing more than a political hack.”

-- Mueller never interviewed John Dowd, the president’s lawyer who left the voice mail for Michael Flynn’s lawyer that some legal experts say could be considered evidence of obstruction of justice. The Times’s Michael S. Schmidt and Charlie Savage report: “Dowd fished in his message for a heads-up if Mr. Flynn was telling investigators negative information about Mr. Trump — while also appearing to say that if Mr. Flynn was just cutting a deal without also flipping on the president, then he should know Mr. Trump still liked him. … Legal experts were divided on whether Mr. Mueller’s team should have sought to question Mr. Dowd. The investigators compiled substantial evidence that Mr. Trump tried to obstruct justice even without Mr. Dowd’s testimony, and an attempt to interview him could have set off a lengthy court battle with an uncertain outcome. … But questioning Mr. Dowd about whether Mr. Trump wanted him to dangle pardons or other favorable treatment to witnesses might have been a worthy investigative pursuit because it would have cut to the heart of whether the president abused his power.”

-- A real estate company partly owned by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, has received $90 million from unknown offshore investors since 2017. The Guardian’s Jon Swaine reports: “Investment has flowed from overseas to the company, Cadre, while Kushner works as an international envoy for the US, according to corporate filings and interviews. The money came through a vehicle run by Goldman Sachs in the Cayman Islands, a tax haven that guarantees corporate secrecy. Kushner, who is married to Trump’s elder daughter Ivanka, kept a stake in Cadre after joining the administration, while selling other assets. His holding is now valued at up to $50m, according to his financial disclosure documents.”

THE NEW WORLD ORDER: 

-- Some U.S. embassies found ways to fly rainbow flags, despite directions not to from Washington. Carol Morello reports: “Since the State Department began rejecting all embassy requests to hoist rainbow flags outside the mission buildings during LGBTQ Pride Month this year, some U.S. diplomats have been finding ways to defy, or at least get around, the new policy. The facades of the U.S. missions in Seoul and Chennai, India, are partially hidden behind large rainbow flags, while the embassy in New Delhi is aglow in rainbow colored lights. The website for the embassy in Santiago, Chile, shows a video of the chief diplomat raising a rainbow flag last month. … The Vienna embassy’s website features a photo of a rainbow flag flying below Old Glory on a mast jutting from the building. … U.S. diplomats in Jerusalem joined a March for Pride and Tolerance, and several ambassadors have tweeted photos of themselves in local Pride parades or standing outside the embassies surrounded by employees holding up letters spelling PRIDE.

“‘This is a category one insurrection,’ said one diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of being fired."

-- In Saudi Arabia, a teenager who has been held for more than four years without charges faces execution for acts he committed when he was 10 years old, according to human rights groups. The Times’s Megan Specia reports: “A death sentence for the teenager, Murtaja Qureiris, now 18, would be what the groups called one of the most egregious violations of legal protections for children in the world. ‘There are few more serious breaches of international law than the execution of a child,’ said Maya Foa, director of Reprieve, one of the rights groups. She said that in seeking the death penalty for Murtaja, ‘the Saudi regime is advertising its impunity to the world.’”

-- More Republican senators are getting on board with the effort to stop Trump from circumventing congressional objections to sell arms to the Saudi regime. From NBC News’s Dan De Luce: “The bill, sponsored by Sens. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who both sit on the Foreign Relations Committee, marks the latest counterpunch by lawmakers who strongly oppose selling weapons to Saudi Arabia and who are outraged at the Trump administration's recent decision to sidestep Congress on an arms deal worth billions of dollars. … Last week, a bipartisan group of senators, including Murphy and Young, proposed nearly two dozen resolutions that would require votes on each of the arms sales that make up the $8.1 billion weapons package to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan announced by the Trump administration on May 24.”

-- Saudi Arabia is expecting a visit from Russia’s Vladimir Putin in October. The Saudi minister of energy, industry and mineral resources said both countries have come to terms on a range of projects in petrochemistry, petroleum services and agriculture. (Tass)

-- Terrorists linked to Iran were caught stockpiling explosives in northwest London. From the Telegraph’s Ben Riley-Smith: “Radicals linked to Hizbollah, the Lebanese militant group, stashed thousands of disposable ice packs containing ammonium nitrate - a common ingredient in homemade bombs. The plot was uncovered by MI5 and the Metropolitan Police in the autumn of 2015, just months after the UK signed up to the Iran nuclear deal. Three metric tonnes of ammonium nitrate was discovered - more than was used in the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people and damaged hundreds of buildings.”

-- An Iranian activist was believed to be behind dozens of articles published in outlets such as Forbes, the Hill, the Daily Caller and the Federalist. But he wasn’t a real person. The Intercept’s Murtaza Hussain reports: “Heshmat Alavi appears not to exist. Alavi’s persona is a propaganda operation run by the Iranian opposition group Mojahedin-e-Khalq, which is known by the initials MEK, two sources told The Intercept. ‘Heshmat Alavi is a persona run by a team of people from the political wing of the MEK,’ said Hassan Heyrani, a high-ranking defector from the MEK who said he had direct knowledge of the operation. ‘They write whatever they are directed by their commanders and use this name to place articles in the press. This is not and has never been a real person’ … Alavi, whose contributor biography on the Forbes website identifies him as ‘an Iranian activist with a passion for equal rights,’ has published scores of articles on Iran over the past few years.”

-- The commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East is weighing a return to a larger American military presence in the area to counter Iran. The Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold reports: “Gen. Frank McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, asked in early May that the carrier, bombers, troops and an antimissile system be sent to the region after learning of ‘specific’ threats against U.S. and allied forces and interests in Iraq and elsewhere. The rapid U.S. buildup for now has stabilized the threat from Iran, Gen. McKenzie said during a swing through the region this week, but he said the dangers posed by Tehran remain real and an attack could be imminent.”

-- Qatar warned that a U.S.-Iran stalemate could trigger conflict. Both sides, Qatar’s foreign minister said, have to compromise to avoid a “miscalculation” that could trigger a conflict. (Financial Times)

-- New Zealand will pull its troops out of Iraq “alongside of Australia.” “I think their deployment has changed but it's not for me to ultimately put a date on their decision,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. (SBS News)

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

George Conway, husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, once again wondered who is paying for the wall: 

A Post reporter captured the scene in Iowa:

Also in Iowa, a former governor had fighting words for a sitting senator:

A Times reporter paid her respects to a late senator: 

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) had a bit of trouble understanding the Twitter algorithm: 

Actor Bryan Cranston, who won a Tony for the play "Network," had a few words about journalism: 

And a Pepperdine professor had a bit of bird trouble in Maine:

GOOD READS:

-- The New York Times, “She Left the Education Dept. for Groups It Curbed. Now She’s Back, With Plans,” by Erica L. Green: “Depending on whom you ask, Diane Auer Jones has returned to the Education Department with either a mission or a vengeance. A little more than a decade ago she resigned as an assistant secretary for postsecondary education in the George W. Bush administration, after protesting the department’s treatment of an accreditor that oversaw religiously affiliated, liberal-arts colleges. Department officials saw accountability in their crackdown; Ms. Jones saw bias against a gatekeeper for nontraditional college degrees. Now, as the chief architect of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s higher education agenda, Ms. Jones is leading the charge to overhaul the accreditation system, and, to critics, revive the fortunes of for-profit organizations that operate low-quality education programs that have a track record of shortchanging students and taxpayers.”

-- “‘I hate elephants’: Behind the backlash against Botswana’s giants,” by Max Bearak: “This southern African country of savannas and swamps is home to roughly one-third of Africa’s elephants, thanks in part to strict anti-poaching enforcement and a trophy hunting ban that have made it a darling of conservationists and a mecca for high-priced tourism. But the population spike has not been easy for the people who live alongside them, and a backlash has erupted. ‘I hate elephants,’ said Lumba Nderiki, a farmer well into her 80s, as she strolled through her modest and barren field in the Chobe enclave, a strip of mostly farmland between the river and national park of the same name. ‘Two simple reasons: They have widowed me, and they have left me without a harvest.’”

-- The Wall Street Journal, “The South’s Economy Is Falling Behind: ‘All of a Sudden the Money Stops Flowing,’ by Sharon Nunn: “The American South spent much of the past century trying to overcome its position as the country’s poorest and least-developed region, with considerable success: By the 2009 recession it had nearly caught up economically with its northern and western neighbors. … Behind the reversal: The policies that drove the region’s catch-up—relatively low taxes and low wages that attracted factories and blue-collar jobs—have proven inadequate in an expanding economy where the forces of globalization favor cities with concentrations of capital and educated workers. … Higher taxes and education spending aren’t a cure-all, as many northern states now suffering population loss have found. Nor is the South alone in its economic troubles: Automation and globalization have wiped out millions of good-paying factory jobs around the country, especially in the Rust Belt.”

-- You might not be able to tell because the justices are pretty courteous to one another, but things have gotten snippy at the Supreme Court. USA Today’s Richard Wolf reports: “The court's four liberals have displayed irritation at its new, more conservative majority – including once in the middle of the night. And some of the five conservatives are showing impatience with the incremental pace of change. … This term, tempers have frayed on a variety of issues, from workers' rights to the sanctity of Supreme Court precedents. In April, the court voted 5-4 along ideological lines to block workers from banding together in arbitration disputes. The four liberal justices were so incensed that each wrote a separate dissent. Their feud with [the] majority opinion featured what Scott Nelson of Public Citizen Litigation Group, which represented workers seeking to sue as a class, called ‘pointedness in the punctuation.’”

HOT ON THE LEFT

“Liberals Begin Lining Up Young Judges for a Post-Trump Surge,” from The Times’s Carl Hulse: “Liberal activists, hoping for a chance to offset the growing conservative presence in the courts, have identified a pool of potential judicial vacancies that could remain out of Mr. Trump’s reach — scores of seats held by veteran judges appointed by Democrats who may be biding their time, awaiting the outcome of the 2020 presidential race. … ‘It is essential to be ready on Day 1 of a new administration with names to fill every vacancy,’ said Nan Aron, the president of the Alliance for Justice, the 40-year-old liberal judicial advocacy group. ‘This is to start identifying people so the new president won’t waste a minute in addressing this need.’ The initiative is called Building the Bench, and the Alliance for Justice is being joined in underwriting and supporting it by a number of other liberal advocacy groups and labor unions. A group of more than 30 law professors and lawyers will serve as an advisory board.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

"Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants to make it easier to study magic mushrooms, other psychedelic drugs," from Fox News's Andrew O'Reilly: “In an amendment to a large-scale appropriations bill, Ocasio-Cortez wants to end the rider that prohibits federal money being spent on 'any activity that promotes the legalization of any drug or other substance in Schedule I' of the Controlled Substances Act. 'Academics and scientists report that provisions like this create [stigma] and insurmountable logistical hurdles to researching Schedule I drugs,' her summary states. While certain entheogenic substances – such as mushrooms and peyote – have been used for centuries by Native American communities, the drugs were widely made illegal across the globe during the 1960s and 1970s. The tide, however, seems to be turning on these substances amid research at numerous universities into their efficacy in treating mental health issues and addiction.

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will receive his intelligence briefing and have lunch with Pence before participating in a meeting on the MLB’s efforts to combat human trafficking. He will later greet Team Penske, the Indianapolis 500 champions.

Pence will start the day off by participating in the commissioning ceremony for Reince Priebus as ensign in the U.S. Navy. After lunch, he will participate in a Smithsonian Board of Regents meeting before greeting Team Penske.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“They’re dividing it into the A group and the B group ... I’m proud to be in the A group,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) on the two groups of 2020 candidates: those who consistently break 2 percent in polls and those who don't. (New York Times)

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

-- Don’t forget your umbrella. Today will be muggy and showery. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Three cold fronts sweep through the region this week. This keeps it from ever getting that hot, but the fronts bring rounds of showers and storms today and tonight, Wednesday night and Thursday, and again Saturday night into Sunday. In between, Tuesday and Wednesday, and Friday and Saturday, should be quite nice!”

-- The Nationals made Major League Baseball history with four consecutive home runs in a 5-2 win over the Padres. Jesse Dougherty was there to witness it all: “A sunny afternoon was quiet, a dragging game was still tied, and the Washington Nationals’ offense was on the verge of wasting a dominant start by Stephen Strasburg until . . . Boom. And boom. And boom. And another big, loud boom. That was the Nationals slugging back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs in the eighth inning, breathing life into their lethargic bats and burying the San Diego Padres in a 5-2 win Sunday at Petco Park. The four consecutive homers — the ninth time that has happened in major league history — were smacked by pinch hitter Howie Kendrick, Trea Turner, Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon, all coming against former Nationals reliever Craig Stammen.”

-- You can expect a different kind of Metro shutdown on the water taxi. Kery Murakami reports: “As Metro’s summer-long shutdown of six rail stations ended its second full week, the roughly 19,000 Yellow and Blue line commuters who use the closed stations continued figuring out how to navigate their new reality. Somewhere, others were packed in Metro’s free shuttles, which are proving to be transit’s equivalent of snail mail. But for the nearly 2,275 people who Alexandria’s transportation department said commuted on the Potomac Riverboat Company water taxi last week, the shutdown is very different — one with lingering views and beer. Potomac Riverboat said the number of trips since the shutdown has increased by 43% over the same period last year.”

-- Nearly 6 in 10 Washington-area residents said drivers frequently violate traffic laws in the region, more than pedestrians, cyclists or scooter riders, according to a new poll. Luz Lazo and Emily Guskin report: “Perhaps surprisingly, drivers are more likely to fault other drivers as scofflaws than they are to complain about other road users. And while frequent cyclists are critical of drivers, they are nearly as likely as drivers to say their fellow cyclists often break the rules of the road. … The results suggest low confidence in the region’s drivers at the same time there has been an uptick in traffic fatalities in the area — including sharp increases in deaths of pedestrians and bicyclists. The findings also provide some insight into road users’ experiences, where tensions between drivers, cyclists and pedestrians have escalated amid the growth in bike commuting and the use of newer transportation services such as ride-hailing and scooters.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Actress Ali Stroker became the first actor in a wheelchair to win a Tony: 

John Oliver noted that there's nothing in the Constitution that explicitly prohibits sex discrimination:

Hasan Minhaj talked about the fight for democracy in Sudan: 

And a mall in Mexico flooded, but the musicians there didn't lose their sense of humor: