During a news conference on July 27, 2016, Trump said a foreign power would be “rewarded mightily” if it hacked Hillary Clinton’s private email server and released her messages. “Russia, if you're listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing,” the then-Republican nominee declared.
“Within approximately five hours of Trump's statement, GRU officers targeted for the first time Clinton's personal office,” then-special counsel Bob Mueller wrote in his report, referring to Russian military intelligence.
During an interview in the Oval Office that aired last night on ABC News, Trump said that he would “want to hear” whatever information a foreigner was offering and that accepting compromising information about a challenger does not count as foreign interference. “The FBI doesn't have enough agents to take care of it,” he said. “When you go and talk, honestly, to congressmen, they all do it. They always have, and that's the way it is. It’s called oppo research.”
Trump added: “You don't call the FBI. … Oh, give me a break – life doesn't work that way.”
In response to rebukes, including from Republicans, Trump claimed in the summer of 2016 that he had been joking when he encouraged Russia to hack his opponent’s emails. Watch last night’s clip, and you’ll see that Trump is clearly not joking about welcoming dirt from foreigners. Once again, this puts him crosswise with the FBI.
At a Senate hearing on May 7, FBI Director Chris Wray said such attempts should be reported. Trump appointed Wray after firing James Comey. “My view is that, if any public official or member of any campaign is contacted by any nation-state or anybody acting on behalf of a nation-state about influencing or interfering with our election, then that is something that the FBI would want to know about,” Wray testified.
Asked about this statement by ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos, Trump said, “The FBI director is wrong.”
An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment.
-- The president dismissed the idea that his son Donald Trump Jr. should have told the FBI about his 2016 contacts with the Russians, including the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. Trump Jr. welcomed a Russian lawyer after he was promised damaging information about Clinton as part of the Russian government effort to elect his father. “You’re a congressman, someone comes up and says, ‘I have information on your opponent,’ do you call the FBI?” Trump asked rhetorically.
“If it’s coming from Russia, you do,” replied Stephanopoulos, noting that Al Gore’s campaign contacted the FBI when it received a stolen briefing book in 2000 about how George W. Bush planned to answer questions in the debates.
-- This is the latest illustration of Trump’s lack of respect for the career professionals in the national security firmament, from law enforcement field agents to intelligence gatherers, who are charged with keeping this country safe.
-- It’s not just the FBI. The CIA is in Trump’s crosshairs, too. We’re learning today that the Justice Department intends to interview senior CIA officers as part of its investigation of the investigators that Attorney General Bill Barr ordered after Trump publicly urged him to do so.
“The interview plans are the latest sign the Justice Department will take a critical look at the C.I.A.’s work on Russia’s election interference,” the New York Times’s Julian Barnes, Katie Benner, Adam Goldman and Michael Schmidt report. “Investigators want to talk with at least one senior counterintelligence official and a senior C.I.A. analyst. ... Both officials were involved in the agency’s work on understanding the Russian campaign to sabotage the election in 2016. While the Justice Department review is not a criminal inquiry, it has provoked anxiety in the ranks of the C.I.A. … Senior agency officials have questioned why the C.I.A.’s analytical work should be subjected to a federal prosecutor’s scrutiny. ... Barr, who is overseeing the review, assigned the United States attorney in Connecticut, John H. Durham, to conduct it.”
-- Still awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to lying to the FBI, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn has hired Sidney Powell to replace the lawyers he fired last week. She has been an outspoken critic of the bureau. “Powell, a former Justice Department attorney who has written extensively about overzealous prosecutors, has claimed that Flynn was spied on as part of a ‘set-up’ by the FBI, and that his entire case should be ‘dismissed,’ taking a far more aggressive public stance than Flynn’s previous lawyers, Robert Kelner and Stephen Anthony, ever did,” Politico’s Natasha Bertrand reports. “Powell, meanwhile, has made a cottage industry out of attacking Mueller and his team. She has a website called ‘creepsonamission.com’ that sells T-shirts and books attacking former FBI and Justice Department officials involved in the Russia probe and Flynn’s case specifically. And she’s called Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissmann ‘the poster boy for prosecutorial misconduct.’”
This morning, Trump praised Flynn — whom he has not ruled out granting a pardon to — for hiring Powell:
-- Perhaps Trump has staked out this polarizing position vis-a-vis alerting the FBI to foreign overtures because he does not want to acknowledge that what his son, son-in-law, campaign chairman and several others did to help get him elected in 2016 was improper. Current and former aides and advisers say he’s worried about anything that could call into question the legitimacy of his victory. This is not an academic discussion about some hypothetical:
- The Trump campaign refuses to sign on to a pledge promising not to use hacked material that all the leading Democratic candidates have endorsed.
- White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, the son-in-law who participated in the June 2016 meeting, said last month that he doesn’t know whether he’d go to the FBI if it happened again. “I don't know,” he told Axios. “It's hard to do hypotheticals, but the reality is that we were not given anything that was salacious.”
- Rudy Giuliani, who has been trying to get dirt on Joe Biden from Ukraine, went further in April. “There’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians,” the president’s personal lawyer told CNN.
-- Foreign governments are indisputably eager to curry Trump’s favor. To wit: Representatives of at least 22 foreign governments appear to have spent money at Trump Organization properties. NBC News published its tabulation yesterday: “At least nine foreign governments were involved in hosting events at a Trump property: Afghanistan, Cyprus, Ireland, Japan, Philippines, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. At least nine foreign governments rented or purchased property in buildings or communities owned by Trump businesses: Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, China, Malaysia, Slovakia, Thailand, India and the European Union. Representatives of at least five foreign governments have stayed at a Trump property: Georgia, Nigeria, Malaysia, Romania and Saudi Arabia. Foreign governments have improved infrastructure in a way that benefited Trump properties in Indonesia and Panama. At least eight foreign governments or their representatives attended parties or gatherings at Trump properties: Brazil, Dominica, Georgia, Nigeria, Russia, Turkey, Malaysia and Qatar.”
-- Trump told reporters yesterday that he plans to meet with Russian leader Vladimir Putin at the upcoming Group of 20 summit.
-- Last time, it was the Russians. Next time, it might be the Iranians, the Chinese, the North Koreans, the Venezuelans, any number of non-state actors or, frankly, all of the above. Last time, it boosted Trump. Next time, it might doom him. No one can know.
-- The ABC interview offers a fresh proof point that Trump is not using the moral power of the presidency to model good behavior. Republican operative Stuart Stevens, the chief strategist on Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, worked for Bush in 2000 when the Gore campaign went to the FBI about the briefing book. His father was also an FBI agent. “Trump is telling every kid to cheat when you can get away with it, every employee to steal when no one’s looking, every American to cheat on taxes because you won’t get caught [and] every politician to betray America if it helps you win,” Stevens tweeted.
-- This is also another case of Trump employing false moral equivalency to justify his win-at-any-cost approach to politics. The president used the everybody’s-doing-it defense, but there’s no evidence that members of Congress would directly accept information from American adversaries to help their campaigns and hurt their opponents.
“He calls it ‘opposition research.’ The rest of us call it subversion and espionage,” said University of Minnesota law professor Richard Painter, who served as the chief ethics lawyer in Bush’s White House and who has emerged as a vocal Trump critic.
“This is sad and cynical,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who is running for president. “To think every politician would accept research from a sworn enemy shows how demented and amoral this president is.”
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) said every House Republican needs to answer for whether they agree with Trump that any member of Congress would take the help. “I will never take dirt from a foreign adversary — EVEN if it means beating someone as corrupt as you,” he tweeted.
-- Bill Weld, the former GOP governor of Massachusetts who is primarying Trump, called for the president’s resignation after watching the interview. “Under no circumstance should any candidate accept or use information about a political opponent gained from a foreign power — especially one who seeks the destruction of our democracy like Russia or China — to influence the outcome of an American election,” he tweeted. “This latest statement again proves we have a president with no respect for the rule of law and lacking a basic sense of right and wrong. … For once in your life put the good of the country first. America deserves better.”
-- This latest kerfuffle has also fueled a fresh round of calls for impeachment from the left, especially by the Democratic presidential candidates. At least 15 of the 23 candidates have released statements attacking Trump for what he said.
“This isn't about politics. It is a threat to our national security,” said Biden. “An American president should not seek their aid and abet those who seek to undermine democracy.”
“When the president of the United States openly welcomes foreign help to win an election, he threatens the very core of our democracy,” said former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke. “If we are to secure justice and ensure this never happens again, we must impeach him.”
“China is listening. Russia is listening. North Korea is listening,” said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who sits on the Select Committee on Intelligence. “Let’s speak the truth: this president is a national security threat.”
“We have a president who thinks he is above the law,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). “The House should immediately begin impeachment inquiries.”
“It’s time for Congress to begin impeachment hearings,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).
“It's time to impeach Donald Trump,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
“Dangerous and un-American,” said Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.).
“Weak and pathetic,” said Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).
“Disgraceful,” said Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).
“The definition of collusion from the man guilty of obstruction,” said Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.).
“Trump is now essentially calling for an open season on our 2020 elections,” said Julián Castro, the former housing secretary. “Once again, he's putting his interests above our nation's.”
-- No new laws have passed since 2016 to criminalize some of the attack vectors used by the Russians. More significant than impeachment, Trump’s posture might create some momentum for legislative efforts on the Hill to improve election security or to create a legal duty for campaigns to report foreign influence efforts to the FBI.
“It is illegal to accept foreign campaign contributions, although an exchange of information is a more murky matter,” Tom Hamburger and Colby Itkowitz explain. “Mueller found that it was not clear whether courts would accept that opposition research provided free by a foreign government constituted a ‘thing of value’ and thus an illegal foreign campaign contribution. Ultimately, Mueller also found that he could not sustain a criminal case around the meeting, in part because it would be difficult to prove that Trump Jr. knew it could violate the law.”
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the co-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that if the president “does not have enough of a moral compass” to understand this is wrong, “perhaps we need legislation saying that there is a duty to report such offers of assistance to law enforcement. I just can’t understand this. I think every past presidential campaign — Republican or Democrat — would have recognized that obligation.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said Trump’s comments on ABC underscore the need to pass her election security bill that Mitch McConnell is blocking. “This is inexcusable. The President of the United States just effectively gave permission to foreign agents to interfere in our elections,” the presidential candidate tweeted. “We need my Secure Elections Act and Honest Ads Act passed immediately. The 2020 elections are not secure.”
-- For his part, Trump continues to materially mischaracterize the conclusions of the Mueller report. He did so again yesterday by claiming falsely that it says his campaign “rebuffed” Russia’s outreach. Fox News anchor Shepard Smith told viewers yesterday that “everyone in America should read” all 448 pages for themselves. “Everyone,” he said on his show. “The special counsel did not exonerate the president. He said if they could have, they would have, but they couldn’t, so they didn’t.”
-- Trump Jr. said after his second interview with the Senate Intelligence Committee that he is “not at all” worried he might face perjury charges. “I don’t think I changed anything of what I said because there was nothing to change,” the president’s eldest son told reporters after three hours of closed-door questioning at the Capitol. Karoun Demirjian and Tom Hamburger report: “According to people familiar with Trump Jr.’s Wednesday interview, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee asked him questions about his relationship with George Nader, who functioned as a liaison between foreigners hoping to make inroads with the Trump transition team and was a key witness in Mueller’s report. … Trump Jr. said he was not familiar with the details of plans to construct a Trump Tower in Moscow and told the panel that the Trump Organization often considers several potential international proposals at the same time. In general, people in the room for the interview said, Trump Jr. frequently claimed to be unable to recall several interactions and other episodes he was queried about.”
-- Former White House communications director Hope Hicks agreed to appear before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Josh Dawsey and Rosalind S. Helderman report: “Hicks will be the first former Trump aide to go before the committee investigating whether Trump tried to obstruct a probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. But Hicks might not answer many of the panel’s questions, citing the president’s assertion of executive privilege on events that occurred inside the White House. … The testimony will occur behind closed doors ... but a transcript will be released to the public. A member of the White House Counsel’s Office will be present for the testimony as part of the deal between Hicks and the committee, according to an individual familiar with the planning.”
-- “Trump’s latest efforts to defend himself ran into new obstacles as a House panel moved to hold two Cabinet officials — Attorney General William P. Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross — in contempt of Congress over the administration’s efforts to shield documents related to its decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census,” David Nakamura, Josh Dawsey and John Wagner report. “The committee vote came several hours after Trump asserted executive privilege over the material related to the 2020 Census. … Trump was unable to mask his anger with the congressional investigations during a photo op ahead of a bilateral meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda in the Oval Office. ‘I don’t know if you have this, Mr. President, but we have people that are totally out of control,’ Trump told Duda, referring to Democrats.”
More on the contempt vote: “The 23 Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, along with Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who has accused Trump of impeachable acts, voted to hold Barr and Ross in contempt in a nearly party-line vote. The 15 other Republicans on the committee objected. … The developments marked a further escalation in the fight over the investigatory powers of Congress that is playing out in multiple committees and the courts. The committee and the Justice Department could still work out a deal for the documents related to the 2020 Census decision and testimony from a senior Justice Department official. Absent an agreement, the full House would vote on the contempt resolution, though the timing is unclear.”
-- Conservative lawyer George Conway, who is married to senior White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, argues in an op-ed for today’s newspaper that an argument advanced in court this week by Trump’s lawyers proves he is unfit to be president.
“On Tuesday, Trump gave us direct evidence of his contempt toward the most foundational precept of our democracy — that no person, not even the president, is above the law,” Conway writes with Barack Obama’s former acting solicitor general Neal Katyal. “He filed a brief in the nation’s second-most-important court that takes the position that Congress cannot investigate the president, except possibly in impeachment proceedings. It’s a spectacularly anti-constitutional brief, and anyone who harbors such attitudes toward our Constitution’s architecture is not fit for office. Trump’s brief is nothing if not an invitation to commencing impeachment proceedings that, for reasons set out in the Mueller report, should have already commenced.
“The case involves a House committee’s efforts to follow up on the testimony of Trump’s now-incarcerated former attorney, Michael Cohen, that Trump had allegedly committed financial and tax fraud, and allegedly paid off paramours in violation of campaign finance laws. The House Committee on Oversight and Reform subpoenaed Trump’s accountants in mid-April for relevant documents, and Trump tried to block the move, only to be sternly rebuked in mid-May by a federal judge in Washington. … He argues that Congress is ‘trying to prove that the President broke the law’ and that that’s something Congress can’t do, because it’s ‘an exercise of law enforcement authority that the Constitution reserves to the executive branch.’”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The St. Louis Blues ended their half-century wait for the Stanley Cup with a decisive 4-1 victory over the Boston Bruins in Game 7. Isabelle Khurshudyan reports: “Center Ryan O’Reilly was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the postseason MVP after he scored eight goals with 14 assists in 26 playoff games. O’Reilly’s first-period deflection made him the first player since Wayne Gretzky in 1985 to score in four straight Stanley Cup finals games. But Binnington was the best player of this Game 7, the first Stanley Cup finals Game 7 since 2011, with 32 saves. … After players passed around the Stanley Cup on the ice, they did the same with a bottle of rye. Defenseman Colton Parayko found Blues superfan Laila Anderson, an 11-year-old with a life-threating immune disease, and skated her over to the trophy. Patrick Maroon, the one St. Louis native on the roster who had taken a hometown discount to play for the Blues, held the Cup over his son’s face so he could kiss it. ‘St. Louis fans, we’ve been waiting for this for so many freaking years,’ Maroon said with through tears in his eyes. ‘We did it.'”
GET SMART FAST:
Stanford's former sailing coach received a one-day sentence for his role in the college admissions bribery scandal. The feds had recommended that John Vandemoer receive 13 months in the clink. But a judge disagreed, on the grounds that Vandemoer did not pocket the bribes for his own personal gain. (Karen Weintraub and Nick Anderson)
Margaret Hunter, who is married to Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), appears to have reached a plea agreement in the couple’s campaign finance case. The congressman’s attorney would not comment on whether the change of plea meant that Margaret Hunter intended to testify against her husband about the alleged misuse of campaign funds. The two have arrived separately to recent court appearances. (San Diego Union-Tribune)
Dozens of police officers were injured in Memphis after the U.S. Marshals Service fatally shot a young black man. At least two dozen police officers were injured by concrete rocks thrown during protests over the death of 21-year-old Brandon Webber. (Timothy Bella)
Park Police detained an on-duty Secret Service agent in 2015, and he believes it was because he’s black. Agent Nathaniel Hicks was waiting to join a motorcade for then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson when two Park Police officers detained him for an hour, causing him to miss the motorcade. (Meagan Flynn)
Five were detained in the shooting of Red Sox legend David Ortiz in the Dominican Republic. The suspected gunman and his accomplices were paid less than $8,000, but the motives of whoever paid them remains unknown. (Dave Sheinin)
The National Institutes of Health director said he would no longer appear on all-male panels at public scientific meetings. Francis S. Collins said that it is time to end “manels” and that more effort must be made to include women and other underrepresented people in speaking engagements. (Lenny Bernstein)
Actress Jessica Biel said she’s an anti-vaccination activist. The wife of Justin Timberlake joined forces with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to lobby against SB 276, a California state bill that would limit medical exemptions from vaccinations without approval from a state public health officer. (The Daily Beast)
Dallas police officers arrested a suspect in the death of a transgender woman. Kendrell Lavar Lyles has been charged in the killing of 23-year-old Muhlaysia Booker and two other people. Booker’s death has brought national attention to the perils faced by the black LGBTQ community. (Michael Brice-Saddler)
New York announced plans to build a statue honoring Marsha Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, two transgender women who played a vital role in the Stonewall riots. The statue — which was announced as the city celebrates the 50th anniversary of the riots that helped kick off the modern-day gay rights movement — will be the first permanent, public monument honoring transgender women in the world. (Gillian Brockell)
Trip bookings to Ukraine’s Chernobyl have surged since the release of HBO’s miniseries on the 1986 nuclear disaster there. A company that organizes trips to the nuclear power plant said bookings last month were 30 percent higher than in May 2018. (Rick Noack)
Visitors to Chicago’s Willis Tower panicked when the protective coating on the Skydeck’s ledge, located on the 103rd floor, cracked into thousands of pieces. Tower officials said no one was ever in danger because the protective layer served its purpose, but the incident left many visitors very rattled. (CBS Chicago)
The severed head of a prehistoric wolf was found perfectly preserved in Siberia. Paleontologists believe the wolf’s head is exactly as it was 30,000 years ago. (Marisa Iati)
Archaeologists have found signs of ritualized cannabis use in China from 2,500 years ago. Residue of cannabis burned in western China was discovered in wooden containers used with stones that could’ve been heated to create smoke from plant material. (Joel Achenbach)
MORE ON 2020:
-- Bernie Sanders defended democratic socialism. Sean Sullivan reports: “In an impassioned speech explaining his long-standing political philosophy, the independent senator from Vermont said, ‘Democratic socialism means to me requiring and achieving political and economic freedom in every community in this country.’ Sanders said he understood he would face ‘massive attacks from those who attempt to use the word ‘socialism’ as a slur.’ He added: ‘I have faced and overcome these attacks for decades. And I am not the only one.’ The address, coming from a major presidential contender two weeks before the first Democratic debate, reflected a party that is in the midst of an internal battle to shape its identity ahead of the next election.”
-- Howard Schultz laid off most of his campaign staff and suspended his exploration of an independent presidential bid through at least the end of the summer. HuffPost’s Amanda Terkel reports: “Schultz came into the office Wednesday for the first time in months and met with the staff, according to a person in the room. He announced that he was letting everyone go except those in senior leadership positions, adding he would not make a decision about running for president until after Labor Day. Shortly thereafter, Schultz sent an email to supporters, saying that medical reasons had taken him out of commission for months, and he still needed time to recover. … Schultz told his staff Wednesday that he was closely watching [Biden] … Schultz said that if Biden does not appear to be the nominee, he would think about jumping into the presidential race after Super Tuesday.”
-- Pete Buttigieg is expected to post a big second-quarter fundraising number that cements his place in the top tier of candidates. By the end of this month, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., will have headlined 70 in-person fundraisers. (CNN)
-- The Trump campaign’s expansive digital presence is unnerving Democratic operatives. The Los Angeles Times’s Noah Bierman and Evan Halper report: “[Trump’s] campaign is testing all manner of iterations, algorithms and data-mining techniques — from the color of the buttons it uses on fundraising pitches to the audiences it targets with short videos of his speeches. By the time Democrats pick a nominee, some of the party’s top digital strategists warn, Trump will have built a self-feeding machine that grows smarter by the day. His campaign has run thousands of iterations of Facebook ads — tens of thousands by some counts — sending data on response rates and other metrics gleaned from the platform to software that perpetually fine-tunes the campaign messages.”
-- At least 10 city governments have asked Trump's reelection campaign to reimburse costs incurred from the president’s rallies, but Trump's team has paid none of the invoices. From the Center for Public Integrity’s Dave Levinthal: “When Lebanon City Hall sent Trump’s campaign a $16,191 invoice for police and other public safety costs associated with his event, Trump didn’t respond. Trump’s campaign likewise ignored Lebanon officials’ follow-up reminders to cover the sum. … At least nine other city governments — from Mesa, Arizona, to Erie, Pennsylvania — are still waiting for Trump to pay public safety-related invoices they’ve sent his presidential campaign committee in connection with his political rallies, according to interviews with local officials and municipal records. ... In all, city governments say Trump’s campaign owes them at least $841,219.”
-- Republicans have dodged a nasty Senate primary in North Carolina after Rep. Mark Walker decided not to challenge Sen. Thom Tillis. Politico’s James Arkin and Melanie Zanona report: “Walker met with Tillis in his Senate office Wednesday afternoon to deliver the message that he would not challenge him, according to Jack Minor, a Walker spokesman. Minor also said Walker is still requesting a second meeting with Trump this week to speak directly to the president about his decision.”
-- A conservative PAC is behind a recent poll asking Republican voters in Kansas to choose between Rep. Roger Marshall and a lobbyist with connections to Trump in a possible Senate primary. The Kansas City Star's Bryan Lowry reports: “The Club for Growth PAC touted Tuesday the results of a poll testing American Conservative Union chair Matt Schlapp against Marshall, a Republican who represents western Kansas, in the race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Pat Roberts next year. Schlapp said last week that he had no involvement in the poll, but confirmed his interest in the race if a conservative standard-bearer doesn’t emerge. Marshall is weighing a run, but hasn’t yet decided. In a statement, the Club For Growth presented Schlapp as the best option if Secretary of State Mike Pompeo doesn’t enter the race. Pompeo, a Wichita Republican, has repeatedly downplayed his interest in the race despite a public recruitment campaign from national Republicans.”
THE ABORTION WARS:
-- Five men outlawed abortion in a small East Texas town, declaring it a “sanctuary city for the unborn.” Isaac Stanley-Becker reports: “There are no abortion clinics in Waskom, Tex., a city of about 2,200, which lies on the border with Louisiana. But the all-male, all-white city council decided unanimously on Tuesday that prohibiting abortion was necessary as a preventive measure. The municipal prohibition, which plainly contradicts the judgments of the U.S. Supreme Court, joins statewide bans on abortion sweeping the country in the wake of the solidification of a conservative majority on the nation’s top court. Supporters of the city ordinance say it is the first of its kind in the Lone Star State.”
-- Pop superstar Ariana Grande donated $250,000 in proceeds from a June 8 concert in Atlanta to Planned Parenthood after some fans criticized her for performing in Georgia after the governor signed a law to curtail women's rights. (Sarah Polus)
-- Groups that help women who can't afford abortions have received a flood of donations as red states pass abortion bans. The National Network of Abortion Funds said more than $1 million in donations have poured in since Alabama passed its abortion ban on May 14. The funds are used to cover women’s medical expenses and often transportation and lodging, as heightened abortion restrictions have forced patients to travel out of state for access to the procedure. (Lenny Bernstein)
-- Eleven Democratic presidential candidates will participate in a Planned Parenthood forum on reproductive rights in South Carolina next week. The event will take place in Columbia on June 22, coinciding with the South Carolina Democratic Party convention. (AP)
-- Buttigieg, Gillibrand, Booker and others are using their religion to justify liberal positions on abortion, same-sex marriage and other policy areas that have traditionally animated the religious right. (Politico)
BIG TECH IN THE CROSSHAIRS:
-- Facebook executives are frightened that emails could get out that show CEO Mark Zuckerberg not just knew but approved of questionable privacy practices. The Wall Street Journal’s John D. McKinnon, Emily Glazer, Deepa Seetharaman and Jeff Horwitz report: “Within the company, the unearthing of the emails in the process of responding to a continuing federal privacy investigation has raised concerns that they would be harmful to Facebook—at least from a public-relations standpoint—if they were to become public ... The potential impact of the internal emails has been a factor in the tech giant’s desire to reach a speedy settlement of the investigation by the Federal Trade Commission ... Facebook is operating under a 2012 consent decree with the agency related to privacy, and the emails sent around that time suggest that Mr. Zuckerberg and other senior executives didn’t make compliance with the FTC order a priority.”
-- Google is firing several of its lobbying firms as it tries to protect itself from intensifying federal scrutiny. The Journal’s Brody Mullins and Ted Mann report: “In the past few months, the company has shaken up its roster of lobbying firms, restructured its Washington policy team and lost two senior officials who helped build its influence operation into one of the largest in the nation’s capital, according to people familiar with Google’s Washington strategy. The firms Google has dumped make up about half of the company’s more than $20 million annual lobbying bill. People familiar with the matter say the revamp is part of a continuing modernization of the influence operation Google built over the last 15 years, but it comes as Google faces a number of government investigations into its affairs.”
-- Top artificial-intelligence researchers across the country are racing to beat the creation of “deepfake” videos — but they say they’re outgunned. Drew Harwell reports: “The researchers have designed automatic systems that can analyze videos for the telltale indicators of a fake, assessing light, shadows, blinking patterns — and, in one potentially groundbreaking method, even how a candidate’s real-world facial movements — such as the angle they tilt their head when they smile — relate to one another. But for all that progress, the researchers say they remain vastly overwhelmed by a technology they fear could herald a damaging new wave of disinformation campaigns, much in the same way fake news stories and deceptive Facebook groups were deployed to influence public opinion during the 2016 election.”
-- Facebook decided that a “deepfake” video of Zuckerberg would remain online. The company would have faced criticism had it protected the firm's founder while refusing to take down the fake videos of Nancy Pelosi and others. Allyson Chiu reports: “‘We will treat this content the same way we treat all misinformation on Instagram,’ a spokesman told The Post in a statement late Tuesday. ‘If third-party fact-checkers mark it as false, we will filter it from Instagram’s recommendation surfaces like Explore and hashtag pages.’”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Kim Jong Un’s half brother went from casino playboy to slain CIA informant. John Hudson and Anna Fifield go deep: “Kim Jong Nam, the exiled firstborn son of the late North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il, lived among the gamblers and gangsters of the Chinese enclave of Macau. Because he was the only high-profile member of the Kim dynasty living outside the territory and employment of the regime, Japanese and South Korean reporters would flock to him on sight. He was a bon vivant who enjoyed expensive watches, wine and cigars. On Facebook, he posted photos of himself outside various casinos and resorts. ‘Living Las Vegas in Asia,’ he captioned one. But behind the veneer of a high-rolling North Korean card shark was a man supplementing his income with a job as an informant to the CIA, said two people familiar with his activities. Kim Jong Nam provided information to the intelligence agency, often meeting his handlers in Singapore or Malaysia.
“Kim Jong Nam is believed to have met with an American intelligence agent on a Malaysian island a few days before he was killed in Kuala Lumpur’s airport, according to a Malaysian official ... The backpack he was wearing in the airport held $120,000 in cash, raising immediate suspicions of shadowy dealings.” Bruce Klingner, a former CIA deputy division chief for Korea, joked in an interview yesterday that a payment of that magnitude would show that the “CIA pays its assets better than its employees.”
-- “Two oil tankers near the strategic Strait of Hormuz were reportedly attacked on Thursday, an assault that left one ablaze and adrift as sailors were evacuated from both vessels and the U.S. Navy rushed to assist amid heightened tensions between Washington and Tehran,” the Associated Press reports. “In Iran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that while Tehran doesn’t seek nuclear weapons, ‘America could not do anything’ to stop Iran if it did. The comments came during a one-on-one meeting capping Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s high-stakes visit in Tehran that sought to ease Iran-U.S. tensions, suggested the efforts had failed.”
-- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he’s ready to revoke the president’s emergency power on arms sales. Karoun Demirjian reports: “Doing so, he added, would prevent the executive branch from repeating such a move in the future. ‘I would not have agreed to that before, but after this maneuver by the administration, count me in.’ Graham is one of several leading lawmakers conferring over how to change the rules governing congressional oversight of arms sales to prevent end runs around Congress, after Democrats and Republicans objected to the administration citing an unspecific threat from Iran to expedite more than $8 billion worth of weapons sales.”
-- Trump said he will expand the military’s relationship with Poland — at Germany’s expense. Anne Gearan and Paul Sonne report: “The plan, although vague and incomplete, was announced as part of a day-long White House visit for Poland’s right-wing leader that included a F-35 jet turning loops near the Washington Monument as Trump and his guests clapped on the White House lawn. ‘I just have a very warm feeling for Poland. I always have,’ said Trump, adding that he may make his second trip to the country as president in September. Trump was explicit that his goal was to boost Poland and punish neighbor and close U.S. ally Germany, where about 34,000 U.S. forces are stationed.”
-- British Prime Minister Theresa May promised to pass legislation committing her country to reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The pledge, among the most ambitious in the world, is one of May’s final acts as prime minister and comes amid protests in Britain to raise awareness about the effects of climate change. (Karla Adam)
THE NEW COLD WAR WITH CHINA:
-- Hong Kong’s legislature postponed a debate on an extradition bill again after police clashed with protesters. Shibani Mahtani reports: “Hong Kong’s legislative body on Thursday canceled a debate for the second day in a row on a controversial bill that would allow extraditions to mainland China, a day after demonstrations around the legislative complex brought central areas of the city to a standstill and provoked a violent response from riot police. … Andrew Leung, president of the Legislative Council, Hong Kong’s lawmaking body, said he would postpone the meeting to an unspecified date. The body was due once again to sit for a reading on a deeply unpopular bill that will allow extraditions from Hong Kong to other countries even without a formal treaty, effectively allowing mainland law to govern the semi-autonomous territory. The legislature had previously said it would bring the bill to a vote by June 20, and Leung said he had reserved 66 hours for debate. It is unclear whether that timeline will be affected.”
The CEO of Telegram, a secure-messaging app used to coordinate the protests, reported a massive cyberattack likely originating in China: “Police arrested Ivan Ip, the administrator of a Telegram messaging group involving thousands of members, and charged him with conspiracy to commit public nuisance, according to the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post newspaper. Local news outlets said injured demonstrators were being questioned by police upon arrival at nearby hospitals, prompting some to seek treatment further from central Hong Kong.”
-- Federal prosecutors are developing a potential national security case against Yujing Zhang, the Chinese woman charged with unlawfully entering Mar-a-Lago with a stash of electronic equipment. The Miami Herald’s Jay Weaver and Sarah Blaskey: “They asked a federal judge to allow them to file ‘classified information’ under seal without the public — or the defendant — seeing it. If the motion is granted, prosecutors will present the evidence directly to the federal judge in Zhang’s trespassing case during a private, closed meeting in the judge’s chambers. The prosecution’s motion indicates that she is a focus of a widening U.S. probe of possible Chinese espionage and suggests that authorities have evidence she was likely not simply a ‘bumbling tourist’ who accidentally found her way into Trump’s private estate in Palm Beach.”
-- In addition to Putin, Trump announced plans to meet again with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G-20 summit. But Beijing has not confirmed the sit-down, per John Wagner.
PERSONNEL IS POLICY:
-- The rising influence of Trump’s protectionist trade adviser Peter Navarro has alarmed conservatives who support free trade and the business community. Josh Dawsey and Damian Paletta: “The showdown with Mexico marks a high point in Navarro’s tumultuous tenure in the White House as Trump’s increasingly aggressive actions on trade, including toward China, mirror policies that the man he calls ‘my Peter’ has pushed since the beginning of the administration. Navarro, along with White House adviser and immigration hawk Stephen Miller, helped devise the proposed Mexican tariffs and beat back arguments from other aides that Trump did not have the legal authority to implement the trade penalties, and that the fight could derail the new trade deal with Mexico and Canada, according to White House aides. … Navarro’s ascension is frightening his critics, who have derided him as an ideologue who doesn’t let facts get in the way of his agenda, while cheering supporters of the president eager for Trump to emphasize his nationalist agenda ahead of his 2020 reelection campaign.”
-- White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney took shots at both of his predecessors, saying he's created a happy medium between the extremes of Reince Priebus and the domineering era under John Kelly. The Journal’s Vivian Salama reports: “'We’re back now in sort of a mix between the complete free-wheeling, wild, wild west of Reince Priebus and the militaristic Marine camp of John Kelly. We found a happy medium between those two things. And I think the president is happy.’ The president ‘likes the environment we’re in now because there is a lot less in-fighting,’ Mr. Mulvaney said. ‘We had a morale problem when I took over.’ He said that Mr. Kelly made a management mistake when he ‘let everyone around him know he hated his job,’ adding that it was terrible for morale. ‘The president fixed it,’ he said. He said that he tells staffers: ‘Unless you are Jared and Ivanka,’ referring to the president’s son-in-law and daughter, ‘this is the best job you’ll ever have.’”
-- Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue denied having ever met Brazilian businessman Wesley Batista, whose embattled meatpacking company has collected a windfall of millions in U.S.-taxpayer-funded farm bailouts. The New York Daily News’s Chris Sommer reports: “A spokesman for Perdue contradicted a press release put out when the agriculture secretary served as Georgia governor about a powwow he had with Wesley Batista — who, with his brother, Joesley, controls the world’s largest meatpacker, Brazil’s JBS SA. ... But the May 26, 2010, release from then-Gov. Perdue’s office states that he met with Wesley Batista for the opening of a JBS-owned chicken plant in Douglas, Ga. … The bailouts have prompted outrage from congressional Democrats and industry watchdogs, as the cash came from a federal program — established by Trump — that was supposed to help American farmers having a hard time selling products because of the administration’s tariff-heavy trade wars with China and other countries.”
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- Mexican officials relied on Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner as a source of White House information during months of immigration talks. The Daily Beast’s Erin Banco and Asawin Suebsaeng report: “Most times they ignored the missives, believing that Trump’s public statements were often divorced from the reality of the negotiations, according to individuals with direct knowledge of that strategy. … Tapping on Kushner for clarity has become a semi-official policy in the top ranks of the offices of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, those same sources said. One person familiar with the bilateral interactions said that senior Mexican officials had sought aggressively to cultivate Kushner as a primary contact and possible ‘good cop’ since at least early 2017.”
-- Mexico's López Obrador said he will use proceeds from selling off his presidential plane to fund efforts to curb migration under a deal his government struck with Trump. From Reuters: “‘About how much this plan is going to cost, let me say, we have the budget,’ Lopez Obrador said at his regular daily news conference. ‘It would come out of what we’re going to receive from the sale of the luxurious presidential plane.’ Lopez Obrador said the price tag of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner used by his predecessor Enrique Pena Nieto would start at $150 million, citing a United Nations evaluation. The plane has been on sale for several months.”
-- The Trump administration wants to move hundreds of TSA employees to the southern border, but the agency is already short-staffed heading into the busy summer travel season. Columnist Joe Davidson writes: “[TSA] officials expect a 4.5 percent increase in airline passengers in fiscal 2020 but have requested only a 2.5 percent staffing increase over the current 46,000 officers. … Understaffing isn’t good for anyone, but it might be worse for passengers in long lines than for the officers who inspect them and their belongings.”
-- Organizations challenging the government’s decision to put a citizenship question on the 2020 Census form asked the Supreme Court to put off a ruling on whether the Trump administration can do so. Robert Barnes reports: “Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union said that if justices are not prepared to affirm lower court rulings keeping the question off the census form, they should send the issue back to a lower court to consider new allegations that the question was added at the behest of a Republican operative to benefit the party and white voters in general. ‘If ever there were a case that should be decided on the basis of a true and complete record, it is this one,’ ACLU lawyer Dale Ho wrote in the brief. ‘Even an appearance that the government has manipulated the census for partisan and racially discriminatory purposes would undermine public confidence in our representative democracy.’”
-- Art installations in New York blasted audio of sobbing, detained children across the city. Alex Horton reports: “It is a pop-up art installation of the most dystopian kind: Small kids curled up underneath foil survival blankets in chain-link cages, with audio of crying detained children wailing through speakers, dropped onto sidewalks throughout New York City. The guerrilla art installations, 24 in all, were plopped in front of the offices of news organizations, Google and highly trafficked areas of the city on Wednesday, depicting the most vivid sounds and migrant children detained by federal authorities at the U.S. southern border. The audio was so ‘haunting’ and ‘disturbing,’ a local TV station said, a camera crew kept its distance from one installation to prevent capturing the audio on their broadcast. ‘Brought me to my knees just now,’ one passerby said.”
-- Kamala Harris said she would try to give citizenship to “dreamers” through an executive order if elected president. “It needs to happen. It’s the right thing to do,” Harris said Wednesday in an interview with Bloomberg News. “Until Congress can get its act together, I’m prepared to take executive action to get it done.”
THE DEMOCRATIC CONGRESS:
-- A House panel voted to replenish a fund for 9/11 victims a day after emotional testimony from first responders. Devlin Barrett reports: “Anger and frustration over the fund have been growing since February, when it was announced that future payouts would be cut as much as 70 percent to offset surging claims from those who are ill and the families of those who have died. Lawmakers said they expect a full House vote next month. The bill is expected to pass easily in the House, but its prospects are less certain in the Republican Senate.”
-- Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) wore a firefighter jacket during the hearing. “I consider it fashion with a purpose,” Maloney said on Wednesday as she sat in her office between committee obligations, swaddled in the enormous black coat with neon-yellow accents. (Kayla Epstein)
-- Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) appears to have successfully thwarted Trump’s plans to paint Air Force One red, white and blue instead of its traditional color scheme. (CT Mirror)
-- The House scheduled a hearing on reparations for slavery next week. Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and actor Danny Glover are expected to testify before the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, civil rights and civil liberties. (AP)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) proposed making birth control available over the counter:
And Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) responded with a tweet that surprised many:
HuffPost's Washington bureau chief criticized Joe Biden's comments to a young girl in Iowa:
From a CNN reporter:
An ABC News reporter noted this trend among Trump officials:
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) recognized another woman who served as a congressional “first:
And George H.W. Bush's former service dog wished his late owner a happy birthday:
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Happy 95th Birthday to my best friend❤️ I think of you & honor your memory in my work everyday. I cherish our time together...our moments of quiet reflection, our family time or just enjoying Walkers Point, but especially my daily head rubs 🐶 I am thankful to be able to continue your legacy reminding people of the importance of the ADA & helping veterans and military families during their recovery. Thank you for your service to our country...for being my best friend. 🇺🇸 (📸 @evansisley)
-- “Bribery scandal points to the athletic factor: A major force in college admissions,” by Nick Anderson and Susan Svrluga: “The University of Michigan, a charter member of the Big Ten, is widely regarded as an athletic powerhouse. Brown University is not. … But federal data show the Ivy League school equals Michigan on one measure: They each had 910 varsity athletes in 2017. Because Brown is smaller and more exclusive, that means a far larger share of its coveted admission offers every year — nearly 9 percent — are set aside for recruiting in sports from baseball to water polo. The athletic portion of admissions for Michigan’s public flagship is 2 percent. These are two examples among many — drawn from interviews, documents and a Washington Post survey — that illuminate the powerful and pervasive role sports play in admissions to the nation’s most prestigious private colleges and universities.”
-- USA Today, “Seniors were sold a risk-free retirement with reverse mortgages. Now they face foreclosure,” by Nick Penzenstadler and Jeff Kelly Lowenstein: “In a stealth aftershock of the Great Recession, nearly 100,000 loans that allowed senior citizens to tap into their home equity have failed, blindsiding elderly borrowers and their families and dragging down property values in their neighborhoods. In many cases, the worst toll has fallen on those ill-equipped to shoulder it: urban African Americans, many of whom worked for most of their lives, then found themselves struggling in retirement.”
-- ProPublica and AL.com, “Wasted Funds, Destroyed Property: How Sheriffs Undermined Their Successors After Losing Reelection,” by Connor Sheets: “AL.com and ProPublica interviewed nine of the 10 new sheriffs who won elections against incumbents last year. All nine said that last-minute actions by their predecessors had negative impacts on their offices and, by extension, the public. … Many of the sheriffs alleged that their predecessors acted in ways that could be described as vindictive hazing … But seven of the sheriffs made more serious accusations against their predecessors, many of which were corroborated by internal office records. Among their claims: Outgoing sheriffs pocketed public money, fudged financial reports, wasted sheriff’s office funds and destroyed or stole public property.”
-- The White House Correspondents’ Association is looking for ways to push back against Trump as the president continues making false official statements. Paul Farhi reports: “We as an organization need to be more concerned about getting lied to as a matter of course — and the American public getting lied to, through us — than about access,’ HuffPost correspondent S.V. Date wrote in an email touting his candidacy to the WHCA’s 425 voting members. He added, ‘I’ve been in this business more than three decades, and what’s happening now is unprecedented. We are attacked on a near daily basis using Stalinist language. We are called corrupt and dishonest. We are given false information from staff who often know full well that it is false.’ CBS News Radio reporter Steven Portnoy, 38, uses less explosive language in his pitch for support but makes clear his disappointment that the White House hasn’t held a press briefing in a record 93 days as of Wednesday.”
-- “Steve King’s proof he’s not racist? Diamond and Silk,” by Dana Milbank: “It has been five months since Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) lost his committee assignments over his support for white supremacy, and on Wednesday he took a step toward rehabilitation. He gave a news conference on the Capitol grounds — with two real, live, actual black people! Not African Americans, mind you. ‘You ain’t gotta call me African American ’cause I ain’t never been to Africa,’ explained Lynette Hardaway. ‘You can call me black.’ Hardaway and her sister, Rochelle Richardson, form the ‘Diamond and Silk’ YouTube sensation, a duo whose outrageous conservative commentary has won them frequent airtime on Fox News and promotion from President Trump. King had recruited Diamond and Silk ostensibly to help launch a new piece of legislation, the so-called Diamond and Silk Act — designed to shift funds from sanctuary cities to homeless veterans — but really King needed them to inoculate him from the whole racism thing.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“DeSantis does about-face after omitting LGBTQ from Pulse proclamation,” from Politico: “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis did an about-face on Wednesday after coming under withering criticism from the LGBTQ community, issuing a revised proclamation to commemorate the anniversary of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub that left 49 dead. The Republican initially had issued a proclamation on the eve of the anniversary of the June 12, 2016, attack on Orlando's Pulse nightclub that included no reference to the LGBTQ community or LGBTQ victims of the attack. By mid-day Wednesday, he reversed course, issuing a ‘corrected’ document before heading to Orlando for a visit to the Pulse memorial. ‘Florida will not tolerate hatred towards the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities,’ the new proclamation reads.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Ilhan Omar's credibility takes another hit,” from the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s editorial board: “U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar is back in the news again, and not in a good way. The former state representative who won a seat in Congress last fall continues to be dogged by past missteps, this time eight violations of Minnesota campaign-finance law that will cost her nearly $3,500 in reimbursements and civil penalties. … Omar, for two years running, filed joint tax returns with a man she was living with but not legally married to. Complicating matters further, she was legally married to another man at the time. … Omar’s political rise has been marred by a series of unforced errors, including intemperate remarks and tweets earlier this year that were widely perceived as anti-Semitic. Every month seems to bring a fresh problem.”
Trump will have a working lunch with governors on “workforce freedom and mobility” and later give a speech on second-chance hiring.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“It is tiring to hear from so many sex-starved males on this floor talk about a women’s right to choose.” Rep. Norma J. Torres (D-Calif.) on Republicans opposing abortion rights. She later said, at the urging of a GOP colleague, that she would withdraw the statement. (Colby Itkowitz and Mike DeBonis)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- It’s a rainy day with bouts of warmth. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Steady rain ends early today before a break in the action into the afternoon. But then a closing round of showers and storms may cycle through before dark. The weekend gets off to a great start with a lack of heat and humidity causing some to question the calendar. But fear not, muggy air returns for Father’s Day, along with a few pop-up showers. It turns even more humid Monday with increasing thunderstorm chances.”
-- A longtime D.C. chef who owns the San Lorenzo Ristorante and Bar in Shaw faces felony cocaine charges after being arrested in a Delaware beach town. Massimo Fabbri had served Barack Obama on several occasions. (Tim Carman)
-- There might be a second Fourth of July fireworks show at the Mall that will go with the original, relocated display at the Lincoln Memorial. Michael E. Ruane reports: “It was not immediately clear if the second display would also be launched from behind the Lincoln Memorial, which could provide Trump a dramatic backdrop for any speech there, or exactly when it would occur. ‘We are looking forward to an announcement from the White House that has all the details of the events, including any information on, perhaps, more fireworks,’ National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst said Tuesday.”
-- Northern Virginia voters endorsed a new mandate on criminal justice. Rachel Weiner and Justin Jouvenal report: “On Tuesday, two Northern Virginia prosecutors with decades of experience lost to newcomers pledging to put fewer people behind bars. In off-year primaries in a state often watched as a barometer of the national political mood, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti beat Theo Stamos in Arlington, and Steve Descano defeated Ray Morrogh in Fairfax with messages focused on racial inequities in the criminal justice system and excessive incarceration as a problem both national and local. ‘The results are going to send such a message to the rest of the country,’ said former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe (D), who supported both challengers. ‘It’s a great message of who Virginia is; we’re righting many of the wrongs of the past.’”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Samantha Bee tackled YouTube's algorithm and the recent controversies the platform has faced:
Stephen Colbert took a look at the 2020 polls: