With Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: The swamp has not been drained. A flurry of fresh stories underscores the extent to which the administration has not lived up to its promises to clean up Washington.

President Trump’s announcement this morning that he will not punish White House counselor Kellyanne Conway for repeatedly violating the Hatch Act captures in miniature his apparent belief that the rules don’t apply to him and his loyalists the way they do everyone else. “Well, I got briefed on it yesterday, and it looks to me like they’re trying to take away her right to free speech,” the president said on Fox News.

In fact, Trump’s own appointee at the helm of the Office of Special Counsel, which is tasked with enforcing civil service laws and has nothing to do with Bob Mueller, recommended that Conway be fired for repeatedly and willfully breaking an 80-year-old law. It bars federal employees from engaging in political activity in the course of their official job duties. In addition to attacking declared Democratic presidential candidates with the White House as a backdrop, she’s used her platform — while on the clock — to promote the private clothing line sold by Ivanka Trump.

Special Counsel Henry Kerner said it is “unprecedented” for his office to recommend that someone of Conway’s stature be terminated. “You know what else is unprecedented? Kellyanne Conway’s behavior,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post. “What kind of example does that send to the federal workforce? If you’re high enough up in the White House, you can break the law, but if you’re a postal carrier or a regular federal worker, you lose your job?”

“Legal experts said that if the president refuses to enforce Hatch Act violations, it will reduce the force of the law,” Michelle Ye Hee Lee, Lisa Rein and Josh Dawsey report. “Trump has privately dismissed concerns about the Hatch Act, sympathizing with aides found to have violated it, according to current and former White House officials.”

In turn, Conway has been dismissive as well. “Blah, blah, blah,” she said last month when asked about violating federal law. “If you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work. Let me know when the jail sentence starts.”

A reminder of why this law is on the books: Franklin Roosevelt signed the law, officially known as the Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities, in 1939. Then-Sen. Carl Hatch (D-N.M.) introduced the bill after reports that Democratic politicians had gained an unfair advantage in the 1938 midterms by using employees at the Works Progress Administration.

-- Meanwhile, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao finally sold her shares in Vulcan Materials, a paving-materials supplier, several days after the Wall Street Journal revealed that she had not complied with the ethics agreement she signed with the Office of Government Ethics to get confirmed. The wife of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sold her shares on June 3. “On May 28, the Journal reported Ms. Chao hadn’t yet fulfilled her 2017 pledge to take a cash payout by April 2018 for the deferred share units she earned while serving on the Vulcan board of directors,” the Journal’s Ted Mann and Brody Mullins report. “Vulcan shares rose more than 16% from April 2018 through June 3, netting Ms. Chao a gain of more than $50,000. In notes to the updated filing, Ms. Chao said she had been advised by ethics officials that neither holding represented a conflict of interest, but that she had nonetheless sold the shares ‘thus no longer retaining a financial interest in the company, as indicated in the filer’s ethics agreement.’" Vulcan’s fortunes are closely tied to the road-building and infrastructure projects that Chao's department funds.

-- House Democrats are poised to launch an investigation into Chao over allegations that she used her position to advance the interests of her family and her husband’s political career, the Daily Beast’s Erin Banco and Sam Brodey report. “But even as some members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee say such a probe is inevitable, other Democratic lawmakers have expressed doubts about whether the current evidence is sufficient to warrant it, according to three lawmakers with direct knowledge of the conversations that have taken place over the last several days. And some lawmakers … expressed unease … at calling out the secretary for fear that doing so would affect their ability to advance infrastructure projects in their home districts. … The Department of Transportation did not respond to a request for comment.

The New York Times first reported that Chao repeatedly used her ‘connections and status’ to boost her family’s major maritime company, which has deep ties to China. At one point, Chao asked that her family members be included in a meeting in China. American embassy staffers raised ethical concerns and the trip was canceled. A few days later, Politico reported that Chao had designated one of her staffers to steer federal funds to Kentucky … That aide reportedly helped shepherd grant applications of interest to McConnell in the lead-up to his re-election. Those applications totaled $78 million.” McConnell denied doing anything improper.

-- Follow the money: Trump’s company quietly sold one of his last remaining California properties — a Beverly Hills mansion — to a corporate entity linked to an Indonesian billionaire. Jonathan O’Connell, Alice Crites and David A. Fahrenthold report: “A deed registered with L.A. County on May 31 shows that Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., signed the property over to Hillcrest Asia Ltd., a company registered in the British Virgin Islands. The price tag: $13.5 million, nearly double what Trump paid for the house when he bought it in 2007. The purchaser address listed on the deed is a Beverly Hills condominium owned by a firm belonging to Hary Tanoesoedibjo, a billionaire media executive who ran for vice president of Indonesia in 2014.”

-- Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney pushed the White House Counsel's Office to put up one of his buddies for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, despite alarm from leading conservatives about his judicial record. Politico’s Eliana Johnson and Marianne Levine report: “Mulvaney, who was a groomsman in [Sul] Ozerden’s 2003 wedding, supported the 53-year-old district court judge’s nomination long before he joined the White House this winter, according to four sources familiar with the White House’s internal deliberations. He repeatedly pushed then-White House counsel Don McGahn to tap Ozerden for the [circuit] nomination last summer, while he was still the director of the Office of Management and Budget. … But his nomination sparked concerns in the White House counsel’s office in part due to the high rate at which his opinions have been overturned on appeal, particularly by judges held in high esteem in conservative legal circles.”

-- On Capitol Hill, two prominent Trump allies continue to find themselves in hot water:

-- Margaret Hunter, the wife of Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy and made clear she's been cooperating with prosecutors for months. The 44-year-old will be sentenced Sept. 1 and could spend up to five years in prison and be forced to pay a $250,000 fine. From the San Diego Union-Tribune: "According to the plea deal, Margaret Hunter acknowledged two specific elements of the conspiracy charge — one, that she knowingly and willfully converted campaign funds to criminal use and two, that she knowingly filed false records and concealed material facts. Both Hunters were named in a 60-count federal indictment in August alleging that together and separately they both relied on more than $250,000 donated to the congressman’s re-election fund for personal expenses. Among other things, the campaign funds paid for family vacations, tequila shots, golf outings, resort stays, fine dining and private-school tuition for their children, according to the indictment. ...

"After Margaret Hunter’s plea hearing, Rep. Hunter released a statement saying, 'I do not have the full details of Margaret’s case, but it’s obvious that the Department of Justice went after her to get to me for political reasons.' Duncan Hunter, 42, who was stripped of all of his committee seats after the August indictment but was re-elected in November, did not appear at the courthouse Thursday. His next court date is July 1, and his trial is scheduled for September. The absence was notable because the Hunters began their criminal defense last summer by appearing in court together to deny all charges. At more recent hearings, the Hunters arrived separately and did not sit together. The couple remain legally married and have three children. It was not immediately clear how the couple’s marital standing could affect the case against the congressman. ... In a previous interview with Fox News, Hunter laid the blame for any campaign-filing errors on his wife, who had been paid $3,000 a month to serve as campaign treasurer."

-- And the Office of Congressional Ethics released a scathing report on Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.), claiming that his House office was so badly mismanaged that his chief of staff improperly took home extra pay for years. The Arizona Republic’s Ronald J. Hansen reports: “Oliver Schwab may have collected $60,000 in outside pay over three years above what House rules permitted, and attended the 2015 Super Bowl in Glendale — with [Schweikert] — as part of a taxpayer-paid trip that was reported as official business. … Apart from the alleged wrongful spending, the 424-page report released Wednesday paints the image of a congressional office simmering with discontent as Schweikert pondered a Senate run — he publicly considered in 2015 a primary challenge to then-Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. — and as Schwab took out his frustrations with Schweikert on other staffers.”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- “The perilous contest between the United States and Iran for influence in the Middle East escalated dramatically on Thursday as two tankers were targeted in suspected attacks near the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a vital waterway for global oil shipments,” Erin Cunningham, Anne Gearan and Carol Morello report.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Iran for the ‘blatant assault’ on the vessels and said the United States would defend itself and its allies against Iranian aggression in the region. … Pompeo said that the U.S. assessment of Iranian involvement is based on intelligence, the type of weapons used and the level of expertise needed, and that no Iranian-backed militia in the region has the resources or proficiency to pull off such a sophisticated operation. … At the United Nations, the Iranian mission denied any involvement and called the U.S. claim ‘inflammatory’ and ‘Iranophobic.’

“The blasts appeared to be a coordinated attack, damaging the hull of a Japanese-owned tanker and striking a Norwegian-owned vessel, which caught fire and was left adrift in the Gulf of Oman. The incidents were similar to suspected acts of sabotage carried out against tankers near the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah last month. The crews of both vessels were forced to abandon ship. A U.S. defense official said the USS Bainbridge, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer that was in the area, took on board 21 crew members from the Japanese vessel, the Kokuka Courageous.

“The U.S. Central Command late Thursday released a video and timeline that suggested U.S. military assets observed Iranian vessels returning to the Courageous to retrieve the unexploded mine. … The blast on the Japanese ship appeared timed to undermine diplomatic efforts by Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, who was wrapping up a high-stakes visit to Tehran. He met there with Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and was seeking to help mediate potential talks between U.S. and Iranian officials.”

-- The Toronto Raptors beat the Golden State Warriors, 114-110, in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, giving Canada its first taste of NBA glory. Ben Golliver reports: "Kawhi Leonard, who posted 22 points, six rebounds and three assists, was named Finals MVP for the second time in his career, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James as the only players to win that award while representing multiple teams. The all-star forward, who sealed the title with three free throws in a surreal closing second, previously won in 2014 with the San Antonio Spurs, who traded him to the Raptors last summer. ... The endgame madness was set up by a costly Danny Green turnover with less than 10 seconds left, which granted one last gasp for the Warriors. Stephen Curry got open for a three-pointer, but his attempt rimmed out, setting off a mad scramble for the rebound near midcourt. Draymond Green corralled the loose ball, and the Warriors signaled for a timeout without having any remaining, triggering a technical foul. Leonard converted the free throw, but the interminable final second was only just beginning. Leonard was fouled immediately on Toronto's ensuing inbounds play, triggering a lengthy video review that resulted in two more free throws. He hit both to provide the winning margin and finally set off the celebrations.”

-- The governor of Montana, a Massachusetts congressman and the mayor of a midsize Florida city failed to qualify for the first presidential primary debates of the 2020 cycle, the Democratic National Committee announced. Michael Scherer reports: “The only three major candidates to miss the cut are Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Rep. Seth Moulton (Mass.) and Miramar, Fla., Mayor Wayne Messam. … Twenty other candidates will take the stage June 26 and June 27 in Miami for a sprawling set of debates spread over two nights, formally kicking off a nomination process 222 days before the first caucus is scheduled in Iowa.

Debate hosts NBC News, MSNBC and Telemundo have invited representatives from the campaigns who made the cut to a drawing midday Friday in Manhattan to sort out who will appear onstage each night. … The selection process, which will not be televised, will first sort candidates polling at 2 percent or higher over the two nights, with a separate drawing for those with lower polling numbers.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. New York state ended religious exemptions for school vaccines as it tries to get control of a measles outbreak. “We’re putting science ahead of misinformation about vaccines and standing up for the rights of immunocompromised children and adults, pregnant women and infants who can’t be vaccinated through no fault of their own,” said state Sen. Brad Hoylman (D). (Eli Rosenberg)

  2. The suspect in the New Zealand mosque shootings pleaded not guilty. Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant appeared by video link from New Zealand’s only maximum-security prison and seemed to smirk as his attorney entered the pleas on his behalf. (Emanuel Stoakes)

  3. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that two USDA agencies would move from D.C. to the Kansas City region. Employees at the Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture recently unionized to push back against the move, which they say would spark mass resignations and limit scientists’ influence at the agencies. (Ben Guarino)

  4. The body of a 7-year-old girl from India was found in the Arizona desert. Authorities said the girl was trying to cross into the U.S. with a group of people from her home country. (CNN)

  5. Victims advocates are dismayed by new policies unveiled by Catholic bishops to police sexual abuse. The policies, announced after their national meeting in Baltimore this week, allow senior bishops to determine whether to report a complaint of sexual abuse to law enforcement or to investigate it further. Some advocates say that system would create too many opportunities for bishops to cover up alleged misconduct. (Julie Zauzmer and Michelle Boorstein)

  6. A fecal transplant was linked to a patient’s death, according to the FDA. The agency said two patients received donated stool that wasn’t screened for drug-resistant germs, leading to a halt in a number of clinical trials. (New York Times)  

  7. Tech companies appear to be sidestepping the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act by avoiding asking users for their age. The 1998 law was meant to restrict the tracking and targeting of children under 13, but its enforcement requires “actual knowledge” of a user’s age. Consumer and privacy advocates say that gap has led to rampant violations of the law, including by tech giants like YouTube. (Craig Timberg)

  8. Amanda Knox returned to Italy for the first time since she was freed from prison there after a harrowing murder case that captivated the public for years. In 2009, Knox and her former boyfriend were convicted of the 2007 murder of her roommate, for which she spent four years in prison before her sentence was overturned. She’s back in Italy to speak at a panel at the Criminal Justice Festival. (Kayla Epstein)

  9. The actor Cuba Gooding Jr. was arrested in New York on suspicion of forcible touching. A woman filed a police report after Gooding allegedly touched her without her consent on Sunday night while the pair were at a bar in Midtown Manhattan. His lawyer says there's a video that shows he did not do so. (Elahe Izadi and Sonia Rao)

  10. An Illinois meteorologist lost his job after expressing disapproval of his television station’s “code red” days. Joe Crain claimed that management forced him to issue the “code red” warnings, even when the weather wasn’t particularly severe, to attract more viewers. Crain’s supporters, including late-night host Stephen Colbert, have commended his actions and started a petition to get him reinstated. (Matthew Cappucci)

THERE'S STILL A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- Trump upended long-held views on foreign assistance in elections when he declared his willingness to accept help from outside sources. Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Josh Dawsey report: “It is illegal to accept a campaign contribution from a foreign national, though there is debate over the extent to which information, rather than money, can be counted as such a contribution. It is also illegal to conspire with a foreign government to affect a U.S. election by breaking other laws, such as stealing documents or acting as an agent of a foreign government without registering with the U.S. government. … While some Republicans emphasized that they would notify the FBI if approached by foreign entities offering opposition research, they also sought to highlight the fact that Democrats financed the work of former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, who compiled a dossier about Trump and his alleged ties to Russia.”

Trump stood by his comments, saying that he communicates with other governments every day and that it would be “ridiculous” to contact the FBI every time he held a call or a meeting with a foreign leader: “One close adviser to the White House said there were two key reasons for Trump’s comments: He would never concede that his campaign did anything wrong, and he did not want to implicitly criticize Donald Trump Jr., who had testified on Capitol Hill that day. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said he talked to Trump about his comments Thursday morning and told him he couldn’t take help from a foreign government. Graham said he advised Trump that he would probably be approached by other groups with information, calling it ‘routine.’ ‘We need to send clear signals here: If somebody is trying to provide you information from a foreign government, you don’t take it,’ he said.”

-- “On Thursday afternoon, Sen. Mark R. Warner (Va.), the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, tried to swiftly pass a bill requiring candidates to report attempts of foreign interference in elections — but was promptly blocked by Republicans, led by Sen. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.)," Seung Min Kim and John Wagner report. “Other Republican lawmakers on Thursday dismissed the furor over Trump’s remarks as overblown. ‘That was a hypothetical, and I think it’s an overreaction to the whole thing,’ Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) said. ‘What we do know is that Russia tried to screw with social media during the election, and that’s what we ought to be talking about.’”

-- McConnell is blocking an up-or-down vote on a host of bipartisan measures that could help strengthen election systems for 2020. NBC News’s Ken Dilanian reports: “Some GOP senators have joined with Democrats to co-sponsor legislation designed to shore up voting machines and make it harder for foreign intelligence operatives to hack, leak and manipulate social media the way the Russians did in 2016. But those bills are going nowhere … ‘At this point, I don’t see any likelihood that those bills would get to the floor if we mark them up,’ Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who serves under McConnell in the Senate leadership, said last month. McConnell himself has avoided commenting directly on the bills. He declined to respond to questions about them at his weekly news conference this week, although he announced that senators would get a briefing on election security.”

-- On the House side, Democrats are preparing a major legislative push to counter foreign interference in elections even if McConnell pigeonholes whatever they do. Mike DeBonis and Ellen Nakashima report: “The new campaign, discussed internally as an effort to ‘end crime, corruption and coverups,’ according to two Democrats familiar with the effort, has been in the works for weeks, dating to the submission of [Bob] Mueller’s report in March. It will combine legislative measures with a fresh oversight push from key congressional committees, including hearings meant to highlight foreign threats to U.S. elections.”

-- Members of the House Judiciary Committee will begin reviewing the underlying evidence of the Mueller report. The initial group of lawmakers includes Reps. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and Jamie Raskin (D-Md.). (Politico)

-- Federal Election Commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub released a statement last night making clear that candidates for public office may not receive help from a foreign government. Tweeting her statement, Weintraub wrote, “I would not have thought that I needed to say this.” Colby Itkowitz explains: “The head of the agency responsible for campaign finance laws clarified that any campaign that accepts help from a foreign government ‘risks being on the wrong end of a federal investigation.’ ‘Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office,’ Weintraub wrote. ‘It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election. This is not a novel concept.’

Weintraub, a Democrat, did not clear up the question of whether information is a thing of value, an issue Mueller wrote was difficult to resolve. The warning appears more of a partisan jab given the FEC’s inability to fully enforce election laws in the past decade. For a time, the six-member board was split, with three Democrats and three Republicans, and was paralyzed due to partisan deadlock. There are currently four members, and it takes just one to veto a proposal.”

-- Trump said former White House counsel Donald McGahn “may have been confused” when he told investigators that he directed him to pursue Mueller’s firing. John Wagner reports: “Trump issued a fresh denial of an episode detailed in Mueller’s report that House Democrats have seized upon as they examine whether Trump sought to obstruct Mueller’s probe and should be impeached. ‘I don’t care what he says. It doesn’t matter,’ Trump said of McGahn in the interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. ‘I was never going to fire Mueller. I never suggested firing Mueller.’ ... Asked by Stephanopoulos why McGahn would lie under oath, Trump said: ‘Because he wanted to make himself look like a good lawyer, or, or he believed it because I would constantly tell anybody that would listen . . . that Robert Mueller was conflicted.’”

-- The House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed two former Trump officials who were key witnesses in Mueller's probe. Karoun Demirjian reports: “The summons for Trump’s former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates and former national security adviser Michael Flynn require them to furnish documents to the panel by June 26 and appear for testimony on July 10. The panel’s chairman, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), said Thursday that it was ‘unacceptable’ that neither Gates nor Flynn, both of whom pleaded guilty in Mueller’s probe to lying to the FBI, has appeared before the Intelligence Committee.”

-- Trump dismissed comments from Kamala Harris that, if she's elected president, her Justice Department will have “no choice” but to pursue criminal charges against him. “Oh, give me a break. She's running for president. She's doing horribly. She's way down in the polls,” Trump said on ABC News. Then he said he would make similar comments if he were in Harris’s shoes.

-- Pete Buttigieg said that, if he's elected, he will support a robust criminal investigation into Trump but expressed hesitation about directing his attorney general to bring charges. “To the extent that there’s an obstruction case, then yes, DOJ’s got to deal with it,” the Indiana mayor told the Atlantic. “I would want any credible allegation of criminal behavior to be investigated to the fullest.” But he added: “A lot of this could go back to the U.S. attorneys after he’s president. … You don’t have to go out of the DOJ. And the less it’s done out of the DOJ, the better, because the further away it is from the political body, the better.”

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN AND WOMEN:

-- White House press secretary Sarah Sanders will leave her role at the end of the month. Sanders has, in recent private conversations, floated the possibility of running for Arkansas governor, per CNN's Jeremy Diamond and Kaitlan Collins. “Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson was re-elected just last year, so unless he steps down early -- or is appointed to something -- the governor's office in Little Rock isn't open until January 2023,” they write. Trump, announcing her departure, tweeted that he hopes she runs. 

-- “Sanders, 36, has been among the longest-serving senior officials in Trump’s administration," Paul Farhi and Colby Itkowitz note. "The terms of her departure were unclear, though Sanders told staff around 4 p.m. in her office that it was her choice, according to people with knowledge of her comments ... On her watch, the principal function of a press secretary — representing the White House in media briefings — all but ceased to exist. The White House set a record in January for the longest stretch in modern history without a news briefing, 41 days. It then set a record, 42 days, in March, followed by a third streak, reaching 94 days Thursday. While Sanders scaled back her public role … she became more influential behind the scenes as a trusted adviser to the president. She was one of a few aides who could dissuade Trump from making a questionable decision — and occasionally help him edit a tweet — and regularly attended meetings on foreign policy, trade and health care in the Situation Room or the Oval Office, though she was not particularly versed in the details of the issues.”

-- A Trump administration national security official sought help from a think tank that disavows climate change to challenge widely accepted scientific findings on global warming. From the AP’s Ellen Knickmeyer and Seth Borenstein: “The request from William Happer, a member of the National Security Council, is included in emails from 2018 and 2019 that were obtained by the Environmental Defense Fund under the federal Freedom of Information Act and provided to The Associated Press. That request was made this past March to policy advisers with the Heartland Institute, one of the most vocal challengers of mainstream scientific findings that emissions from burning coal, oil and gas are damaging the Earth’s atmosphere. In a March 3 email exchange Happer and Heartland adviser Hal Doiron discuss Happer’s scientific arguments in a paper attempting to knock down climate change as well as ideas to make the work ‘more useful to a wider readership.’ Happer writes he had already discussed the work with another Heartland adviser, Thomas Wysmuller.”

-- Eric Ueland, currently the deputy director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, will be Trump’s next legislative affairs director. Shahira Knight announced last month that she was leaving the post and is expected to take a job in the private sector. Ueland, who starts the job on Monday, previously served as a Republican staff director of the Senate Budget Committee and as chief of staff to former Senate majority leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). (Felicia Sonmez and Seung Min Kim)

MORE ON 2020:

-- “For Bernie Sanders, the path to power began in a public-housing laundry room,” by Marc Fisher: “On Halloween night in 1980, in a dank laundry room of a public-housing project here in his adopted hometown [of Burlington], Bernie Sanders’s friends sat him down for a serious talk about his future. He had none. Not if he kept going as he had for the previous decade. Sanders readily conceded that, having run for Vermont governor, twice, and for U.S. Senate, twice, never winning more than 6 percent of the vote, he risked getting stuck on the fringe, perceived as a joke. … As he entered a second decade of campaigning, Sanders wanted another shot at running for governor. No, his closest political pals said. Richard Sugarman, a philosopher who taught existentialism and Jewish thought at the University of Vermont, joined with three other allies and urged Sanders to give up on fruitless statewide races and target instead a place where he might actually win — Burlington.”

-- Beto O’Rourke said Joe Biden’s potential nomination represented a “return to the past,” offering his harshest criticism of the former vice president to date. Felicia Sonmez reports: “Asked what he would tell voters in trying to persuade them to vote for him rather than Biden, O’Rourke replied that ‘you cannot go back to the end of the Obama administration and think that that’s good enough.’ The country ‘had real problems before Donald Trump became president,’ O’Rourke said … ‘So, we cannot return to the past,’ O’Rourke said. ‘We cannot simply be about defeating Donald Trump.’ Later in the interview, asked by co-host Willie Geist, ‘So is Joe Biden the return to the past?’ O’Rourke replied, ‘He is.’”

-- Anita Hill said she, “of course,” would vote for Biden over Trump. Colby Itkowitz reports: “Hill, in an interview with NBC News’s Andrea Mitchell, said her criticisms of Biden do not mean she sees any moral equivalency between him and President Trump, who has been accused by more than a dozen women of sexual assault — allegations the president has denied. … ‘What I really want is our leaders to stand up and say, ‘What happened in 1991 will never happen again. What happened in 2018 will never happen again,’’ she told Mitchell, referencing what some believe was similar mistreatment of Christine Blasey Ford during her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee about her allegations that Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school. Hill, who is a professor at Brandeis University, said she had been in contact with Ford. Though Hill still holds Biden, then a senator from Delaware, responsible for how those hearings went, she said his handling of them isn’t ‘disqualifying.’”

-- In related news: Clarence Thomas complained at a public event that a Smithsonian exhibit about him is wrong. But it’s not. The source material is the justice’s own memoir. (Peggy McGlone)

-- Voters in Iowa like Biden — for now. The Times’s Katie Glueck: “Interviews with Democratic Party officials across Iowa, and with nearly two dozen voters attending the former vice president’s five events here this week, reveal a candidate who enjoys deep reservoirs of respect and good will. But officials and voters also indicate his early lead is driven in part by name ID, nostalgia for the Obama years and strategic calculations about how to defeat President Trump, rather than primarily by enthusiasm for his campaign vision, which some struggled to define beyond calling it a return to pre-Trump normalcy and ‘dignity.’”

-- Tulsi Gabbard ducked a question about Trump avoiding military service but said more generally that it was “unfortunate” that some people “found a way to get out of serving their country” in Vietnam. “Look, those who found a way to get out of serving their country, I think is unfortunate,” the Iraq War veteran said during a Post Live interview. “I personally don’t think highly of those who chose to dodge service.”

 -- Gabbard also said she stands by her foreign policy views, dismissing “neocon war hawks” who support increased U.S. military intervention abroad and encouraging engagement with Russia and Syria on counterterrorism efforts. Robert Costa reports: Gabbard “did not waver from positions that have put her outside of the mainstream of her party. She argued that the United States could 'perhaps' work with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russian President Vladi­mir Putin in the coming years to counter the rise of Al-Qaeda-linked fighters and other terrorists in the Middle East. ‘There are others within the region who share that objective. I think that we should be working with them,’ Gabbard said. … When asked Thursday whether she accepts that Assad used chemical weapons, Gabbard said, ‘That has been reported’ and called it a ‘serious issue.’ But, she claimed, there is ‘still more information coming out” from U.N.-affiliated investigations and she is waiting for those probes to finish.”

-- Former housing and urban development secretary Julián Castro said Kellyanne Conway should be fired for violating the Hatch Act — the same act he violated in 2016 when he said Hillary Clinton was the most prepared candidate for president. Fox News’s Gregg Re reports: Castro “argued that his case was different from Conway's, primarily because his violation was an isolated episode and he tried to learn from it. ‘Instead of saying, 'Look, I'm going to take these efforts to make sure that doesn't happen again,'’ Castro said, ‘she said, 'To hell with that, I'm going to keep doing it. They said she had repeatedly done that. That's the difference.’ Castro added that Conway's apparent lack of remorse was disqualifying: ‘I don't think we're gonna find anybody either in this race, or in our homes or in our community, that's never made mistakes. The true test of a leader is, what do you do when you make that mistake? Are you big enough to own up to it and then make sure you correct what you do in the future, or do you do, basically, what she did, and say, 'No, I'm bigger than that?’ … ‘No, she did the wrong thing,’ Castro concluded.”

-- “People In Flint Are Still In Crisis. They Want Presidential Candidates To See Them As More Than A Rallying Cry,” by BuzzFeed News’s Nidhi Prakash: “The people of Flint have, in every presidential cycle for the past two decades, seen their city used as a campaign stop for candidates looking to boost their credibility by showcasing the working-class grit of the Midwest. So far this year, though, the presidential candidates have been completely absent except for former housing secretary Julián Castro, who visited last weekend.”

-- Just yesterday, criminal charges against eight people linked to Flint’s water crisis were dropped. Prosecutors cited the acquisition of new evidence and pledged to start the investigation from scratch, adding that the eight individuals may be charged again.

THE NEW WORLD ORDER: 

-- The House’s defense bill highlights a partisan divide over Iran, the border wall and Guantanamo. Karoun Demirjian reports: “The House Armed Services Committee voted 33 to 24 to advance its $733 billion plan to the full House — a marked departure from previous years, when lawmakers have squabbled over provisions, but ultimately joined hands across party lines to endorse their final product. Republicans voted against the measure after a 21-hour working session — which featured, but did not settle, a heated debate over the prospect of conflict with Iran. Early Thursday, after huddling outside the committee room to discuss their strategy, almost all GOP members present voted no. Only Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Don Bacon (R-Neb.) sided with the Democrats to support the bill. … Republicans failed to increase the bill’s authorization from $733 billion to $750 billion, the size of companion legislation approved last month by the Senate Armed Services Committee. They also attempted unsuccessfully to strip bans on using or moving federal funds for border wall construction. Democrats blocked efforts to insert provisions seeking to expand investment in and deployment of nuclear weapons, including one amendment to allow low-yield nuclear weapons on submarines.”

-- U.S. military intelligence is stepping up its accusations against Russia over nuclear testing. Paul Sonne reports: “The new statement from the Defense Intelligence Agency amounted to a more direct accusation against Russia, compared to hedged comments about Russian nuclear testing that DIA Director Lt. Gen. Robert P. Ashley Jr. made in a speech in Washington in late May. ‘The U.S. Government, including the Intelligence Community, has assessed that Russia has conducted nuclear weapons tests that have created nuclear yield,’ the DIA statement released Thursday said. The agency didn’t give any details about the alleged tests or release any evidence backing the accusation. … Russia has vehemently rejected Washington’s accusations, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov describing them as delusional.”

-- The Pentagon’s $400 billion F-35 Join Strike Fighter program, one of the most expensive weapons programs in history, has resulted in a stealth fighter that can’t fight. The Daily Beast’s David Axe reports: “Startling reports by trade publication Defense News on Wednesday revealed flaws that previously only builder Lockheed Martin, the military, and the plane’s foreign buyers knew about. The newly-exposed problems underscore the potential fragility of American air power as the armed services work to replace more and more old fighters with as many as 2,300 F-35s while also reconfiguring to confront the increasingly deadly Chinese and Russian air forces.”

-- A federal jury convicted the second Benghazi militant of conspiracy in the deadly 2012 attacks that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “The jury in Washington delivered a partial verdict, finding Mustafa al-Imam, 47, guilty on one count each of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and maliciously destroying government property but deadlocking on 15 of 17 other counts, including the most serious charges of murder and attempted murder in the overnight attacks that began Sept. 11, 2012, on a U.S. diplomatic mission and nearby CIA post. … Imam faces maximum penalties of up to 15 years for conspiracy and 20 years for destruction of property.”

-- More than 600 companies and industry trade associations, including Walmart, Gap and Target, wrote to the White House urging Trump to end the ongoing trade war with China. CNN’s Nathaniel Meyersohn reports: “‘We know firsthand that the additional tariffs will have a significant, negative, and long-term impact on American businesses, farmers, families, and the US economy,’ the companies said in the letter. ‘An escalated trade war is not in the country's best interest, and both sides will lose.’ … ‘Tariffs are taxes paid directly by U.S. companies,’ not China, the companies said to Trump. ‘Tariff increases and uncertainty around these trade negotiations have created turmoil in the markets, threatening our historic economic growth.’”

-- Spies using fake accounts and faces generated by artificial intelligence are trying to connect with targets — via LinkedIn. The AP’s Raphael Satter reports: “Katie Jones sure seemed plugged into Washington’s political scene. The 30-something redhead boasted a job at a top think tank and a who’s-who network of pundits and experts, from the centrist Brookings Institution to the right-wing Heritage Foundation. She was connected to a deputy assistant secretary of state, a senior aide to a senator and the economist Paul Winfree, who is being considered for a seat on the Federal Reserve. But Katie Jones doesn’t exist. … Unlike Facebook’s friends-and-family focus, LinkedIn is oriented toward job seekers and headhunters ... That connect-them-all approach helps fill the millions of job openings advertised on the site, but it also provides a rich hunting ground for spies. And that has Western intelligence agencies worried.”

THE REST OF THE DOMESTIC AGENDA:

-- The House voted to block the Trump administration’s ban on fetal tissue research. Colby Itkowitz reports: “Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, sponsored the amendment to a sweeping spending bill. The amendment targets President Trump’s policy requiring federally funded research using fetal tissue from elective abortions to undergo separate screenings by an ethics advisory board. Pocan’s measure restricted funding to set up such panels. The amendment passed 225 to 193, largely along party lines with all Republicans and three antiabortion Democrats — Daniel Lipinski (Ill.), Ben McAdams (Utah) and Collin C. Peterson (Minn.) — voting against it. ‘I get it. You’ve got to make your base happy, especially in the era of Donald Trump,’ Pocan said during House debate. ‘But the bottom line is, you are hurting your constituents by trying to place politics over medical science. That’s just a really bad idea.’”

-- The approaching census has renewed concerns about an undercount of Native Americans. The LA Times’s Kurtis Lee and Ben Welsh report: “Approximately 600,000 Native Americans live on tribal reservations, semi-sovereign entities governed by elected indigenous leaders. Here on the Navajo Nation — the country’s largest reservation, spanning portions of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah — roughly 175,000 people live in a mostly rural high desert area bigger than West Virginia. While other reservations are smaller, most are also remote. And all are home to a longstanding distrust of the U.S. government. Those factors help make Native American reservations among the most difficult places to canvass during the census, the once-per-decade federal effort to find and tally every resident of the U.S.”

-- A new lawsuit centers on the cheaper health-insurance plans that the Trump administration has expanded, which complainants say saddled them with massive medical bills. The New York Times’s Reed Abelson reports: “One Ohio resident paid $240 a month for health insurance that she later learned didn’t cover her knee replacement. Saddled with $48,000 in medical bills, she decided not to get the other knee replaced. … A Kansas resident paid premiums on a policy for two years, then found out his insurance would not cover surgery for a newly diagnosed cancer. The two policyholders have filed a lawsuit in federal court against Health Insurance Innovations, based in Tampa, Fla., accusing the company of misleading them about the kind of policy they were buying. They say they believed they were purchasing Affordable Care Act plans that include coverage guarantees. But they were sold much less comprehensive coverage that left them vulnerable to tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills, according to the lawsuit.”

-- NASA estimates that it will need between $20 billion and $30 billion for a moon landing. (CNN)

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

The Post's Fact Checker columnist posed this question about the Hatch Act:

From the Times's television critic:

From a Post columnist:

A Times reporter added this context:

From the House Intelligence Committee chairman:

From a former senior adviser to Barack Obama:

Meanwhile, a senior Republican senator dodged questions about Trump's comments:

An editor for the conservative website the Bulwark compared a Trump spokesman to Baghdad Bob for his specious attempts to spin what the president actually said (and would repeat hours later):

Trump's eldest son implied he would campaign against Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who is facing a primary after voicing support for the president's impeachment:

Amash replied by quoting Trump Jr.'s response to the offer of information on Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign:

Presidential candidate Andrew Yang appeared to criticize Kamala Harris's recent comments that, if elected, her administration would have "no choice" but to prosecute the president:

Kim Kardashian West attended a White House event on the hiring of former prisoners released under the First Step Act:

A Senate Democrat shared this thought as Joe Biden endorses moderation and bipartisan on the campaign trail:

A Post reporter highlighted how unique the 2020 matchup could become:

Some traditions endure in the Senate:

And a Times reporter cracked this joke after Toronto won the NBA championship: 

GOOD READS:

-- “‘I can’t breathe.’ Five years after Eric Garner died in struggle with New York police, resolution still elusive,” by Wesley Lowery: “Garner’s death, on July 17, 2014, prompted massive protests in New York, and — as a succession of police-involved killings sparked furor across the nation — his final words soon echoed on the streets in dozens of American cities. While outrage came quickly, the bureaucracy of justice has moved at a glacial pace. Nearly half a decade later, Garner’s killing has yet to be fully adjudicated. … The closest Garner’s family will come to some sort of resolution played out in recent weeks in a room on the fourth floor of New York police headquarters, where an internal administrative process will determine whether [Officer Daniel Pantaleo] should be fired for using a chokehold, a maneuver the department has long banned.”

-- Foreign Policy, “The Old Guard Are Killing the World’s Youngest Country,” by Zach Vertin: “Today, South Sudan remains mired in conflict. Hundreds of thousands are dead, and more than 4 million have been displaced. The same group of men continue to battle over a government devoid of legitimacy, and the country’s once special relationship with the United States has been all but erased. How did South Sudan’s story of triumph go so horribly wrong?”

-- “The kidnapped Yazidi children who don’t want to be rescued from ISIS,” by Liz Sly: “Two Yazidi girls, 14 and 11, were said to be living in a tent with a woman loyal to the Islamic State in the al-Hol camp in eastern Syria, where tens of thousands of Islamic State family members are being detained, said Mahmoud Rasho, the Yazidi leader. A few days later, he headed to al-Hol, gathered a group of Kurdish security guards and went to the tent to rescue the girls. They didn’t want to be rescued.”

-- Politico Magazine, “The Escalator Ride That Changed America,” by Michael Kruse: “Four years ago, Donald Trump stepped onto an escalator in the atrium of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York and began descending into a lobby packed with cameras. It’s safe to say the 10 or so seconds that followed are the most consequential escalator ride in American history. The cranked-up soundtrack was Neil Young’s ‘Rockin’ in the Free World.’ The cued-up crowd was made up of loyal staff, bemused reporters, people given 50 bucks to wave signs and make noise, and tourists and bystanders dressed up in early MAGA merchandise they’d just been handed. And they watched Trump, the director and leading man of his own lifelong show, standing and waving and giving a thumbs-up, trailing behind his smiling, stiletto-heeled wife, gliding through his habitat of marble and brass toward his discursive, xenophobic speech, his unprecedented candidacy and ultimately the White House.”

-- A small liberal think tank that’s spent years urging lawmakers to crack down on America’s biggest tech companies is gaining notoriety as the presidential race gains speed and as anger over Silicon Valley’s power grows. Politico’s Nancy Scola reports: “The Open Markets Institute has become one of the most influential drivers of Democratic politics in the fight to rein in Facebook, Amazon and Google, seeing its ideas embraced by Elizabeth Warren and forcing presidential candidates like Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker and Joe Biden to take a side. The idea that Silicon Valley companies are this generation’s monopolies? Open Markets has been banging that drum for a long time. The argument that the internet giants are a threat to American democracy? The group has been making that case way before it became mainstream.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Trump shares mock-ups of a new Air Force One featuring colors remarkably similar to his private jet,” from John Wagner: “‘Take a look at this,’ Trump said to ABC News host George Stephanopoulos as he displayed some options for the makeover. ‘Here’s your new Air Force One.’ The mock-ups swap out the current sky blue and white for a color scheme that includes white, red and dark blue — in nearly identical shades that appear on the jet in which Trump used to fly around the country during his 2016 campaign. The colors are inverted on the Air Force One design, with the white on top and dark blue on bottom. The interview with Trump, conducted in the Oval Office, was broadcast a day after a House committee voted to require congressional approval for changes to the Air Force One paint scheme and interior design. It’s unclear whether the provision will remain in the bill by the time it gets to Trump’s desk.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Michael Avenatti is sued for allegedly siphoning paraplegic's $4 million settlement,” from Reuters: “Geoffrey Johnson is seeking at least $9.5 million, plus punitive damages, from Avenatti and several former colleagues in his civil lawsuit filed with the Orange County Superior Court in California. … Johnson said he obtained the $4 million settlement with Los Angeles County in January 2015 over injuries he sustained by jumping from an elevated floor in a downtown Los Angeles jail, in the second of two attempted suicides in August 2011. He said he had mental health issues when he was wrongly arrested in April 2011, and tried to kill himself after enduring abuse by sheriff’s deputies and other inmates at the jail. The June 11 complaint accused Avenatti of draining nearly all of the $4 million settlement, while paying Johnson roughly $1,900 a month to lull him into thinking his money was safe.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will have lunch with Mike Pompeo before meeting with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. He will later speak on "expanding health coverage options for small businesses and workers."

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“If the Senate is so good, how come all those senators are trying to get out?” — John Hicklenlooper’s response to Democratic entreaties that he run for the Senate in Colorado instead of seeking the presidency. (Yahoo News’s Jon Ward)

 

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

-- Today will be mostly sunny with a bit of a gusty wind. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Today’s the gem during this forecast, even with some wind. Clouds, heat and that humid feeling creep upward each of the next few days. Classic D.C. thunderstorms may return by late Sunday, continuing through next week.”

-- Amazon’s second headquarters is prompting housing prices to spike in Northern Virginia. Taylor Telford, Patricia Sullivan, Hannah Denham and John D. Harden report: “In May, the average home price in Arlington County — the future of home of Amazon’s second headquarters known as HQ2 — was $713,000, up about 7 percent from a year ago. And in April, the average price hit $742,000, or more than 11 percent above the same month in 2018, according to The Post’s analysis. Real estate agents and local economists said inventories are so sparse that some popular Zip codes in Arlington and Alexandria show no homes for sale at all. They added that investors are pouring into the market, looking to turn homes into rental properties.”

-- The Smithsonian is trying to help disabled people get jobs through its SEARCH program, a year-long internship that places high school students and recent graduates with disabilities at sites like the National Museum of Natural History. Emily Esfahani Smith reports: “’We want to diversify our workforce,’ said Ashley Grady, a senior program specialist at the Smithsonian who runs Project SEARCH at the institution. ‘We want to hire young men and women with disabilities who want to work and be included equally in society.’ The Smithsonian’s goal is to prepare the interns for full-time or part-time employment afterward, either at the institution or elsewhere. Smith, a part-time employee, works 30 hours per week.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Trump referred to England's Prince Charles as the “Prince of Whales,” an error Seth Meyers called a “truly mind-bending typo”:

Stephen Colbert said Trump's interest in 2020 election interference might drive Mueller out of retirement: 

"The Daily Show" compiled clips of foreign leaders "enduring" Trump: 

Post columnist Alexandra Petri "interviewed" for the job of White House press secretary:

A valedictorian in San Diego called out staffers at her high school for allegedly neglecting students' needs: