With Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA:

CHARLESTON, S.C. — As President Trump prepared to take the stage in Florida last night for his 2020 kickoff, Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign manager warned a room of top Democrats here to prepare for a very close election. Jim Messina said Trump’s national job approval rating may be in the low to mid-40s, but a slight majority of voters in the battleground states approve of his handling of the economy.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is that President Trump is outspending us by a devastating amount of money in the battleground states doing exactly what we did in 2011 on driving an economic message,” said Messina, 49. “The winner of the last six presidential races has been the person who wins the single question: Who's better on the economy? … While we have this 917-way primary, we have got to stay focused as a movement on pushing back against Trump on these economic issues in the states that matter, and we really have to be laser-focused about it. … I promise you we will be sitting there on Election Day not sure who is going to win.”

Messina’s comments came at the end of a two-day conference sponsored by Third Way, the center-left think tank, on how Democrats can win in 2020. About 250 people from 30 states came for panels and breakout sessions, from state party chairs to leaders of the major women’s groups, pollsters and envoys of the presidential campaigns.

-- Bernie Sanders may have slipped some in the polls as the field grew, but Third Way continues to see both the Vermont senator and the ideas he espouses as existential threats to the Democratic Party. Jon Cowan, the president and co-founder of the moderate group, said many of the 23 candidates running for president can both excite the party’s base and appeal to disaffected Trump supporters. “I believe a gay Midwestern mayor can beat Trump,” he said in a speech on Tuesday morning. “I believe an African American senator can beat Trump. I believe a Western governor, a female senator, a Latino Texan or a former vice president can beat Trump. But I don’t believe a self-described democratic socialist can win, nor a Democratic Party that embraces those views or allows itself to be easily defined and labeled by them.”

-- Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir replied in an email that this argument about electability is wrong and attacked Third Way: “It's true that there are multiple qualified candidates, but the Democratic Party will be weaker if we take Third Way's advice on a strategy that antagonizes no one, stands up to nobody and changes nothing,” he wrote. “This is a Washington think tank that takes money from Wall Street, so if Third Way is the opposition to Bernie Sanders's campaign, which is leading Trump in over two dozen polls, we welcome the contrast.”

-- Cowan points out that Hillary Clinton bested Trump in 2016 by a combined 7 million votes in California, New York and Massachusetts — two million more than Obama beat Mitt Romney by in 2012. But she underperformed Obama by nearly 3 million votes in the other 47 states. “Blue-state passion is not enough to win the presidency,” he said.

He presented survey research that showed the breakdown by state of how many people identify as liberal, conservative and moderate to make the case that Democrats must persuade moderates. Across Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — which Clinton lost by a total of about 77,000 votes — 26 percent of voters identify as liberal, 34 percent say they’re conservative, and 39 percent say they’re moderate. Cowan said this means that the Democratic candidate will need to win 61 percent of moderates across the blue-wall states that crumbled in 2016 to prevail in 2020. He posited that winning Arizona, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida necessitates an even higher share of moderates. “That is not a far-left strategy: That’s a partisan-plus-persuadables strategy,” he said.

-- Moderates feel ascendant again inside the party after a long stretch in which the left appeared to be dominant. After all the hand-wringing during the year after the 2016 elections, they feel that they delivered the House for Democrats in the midterms by picking up swing districts. Third Way leaders note that the Democrats who won governor’s races in the presidential battlegrounds all ran as pragmatists. While there are litmus tests that have caused a lurch to the left, even the more liberal candidates identify as capitalists, and several of the Democratic presidential candidates have backed off to varying degrees their past support of Medicare-for-all. Other moderates also note that former vice president Joe Biden is leading in the early polls. Even if they don’t support him, they see this as a gauge of voter attitudes.

-- But the tension is real, and the deep divisions in the party will probably be on display at next week’s first debates. Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper got booed earlier this month when he said “socialism is not the answer” during the California Democratic Party’s convention in San Francisco.

-- On race and gender, the crowd at this week’s gathering was diverse. It’s not Joe Lieberman-style centrism. The Black Economic Alliance co-sponsored the conference, and organizers chose South Carolina — where most Democratic voters are African American — because it’s one of the first four states to vote. Steve Benjamin, the mayor of Columbia, S.C., said he’s been advising all the 2020 candidates who ask his advice not to stereotype black voters as liberal, especially in the Palmetto State. “South Carolinians are realists and pragmatists,” he said.

Two moderates who picked up House seats in the midterms spoke on a panel moderated by the executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from last cycle: Joe Cunningham, who won the congressional district that includes Charleston after Mark Sanford lost to a Trump loyalist in the GOP primary, and Abigail Spanberger, who defeated Dave Brat — the slayer of Eric Cantor — in the Richmond suburbs.

-- Former North Dakota senator Heidi Heitkamp, who lost reelection in November, warned that Democrats must make at least some inroads with rural voters to defeat Trump. “Even if we continue to have the success we had in suburbia in ’18, we cannot win the United States Senate and we cannot win the presidency,” she said. “We have stopped talking to the middle of the country. We have taken for granted so many of the people who helped build this party.”

Heitkamp created a new group called One Country Project to take the pulse of rural voters and help Democratic candidates connect better. “We’ve got to have an economic message, and it can’t just be about free stuff,” she said. “People feel like we’ve abandoned the bread-and-butter issues, and people in rural America feel it more accurately. It is hard to find a Democrat in rural America who will go to the coffee shop and stick up for Democrats. … I’m not picking on anyone, but if this were a coffee shop [in my state] and you said write down the three biggest problem in rural America, not one person would say ‘consolidation.’ Not one would say ‘antitrust.’ They’d say we cannot afford our prescription drugs, and we can’t make a living on the farm.”

-- Several Democratic operatives from Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania made presentations about rebuilding the blue wall. All emphasized the importance of winning back some number of rural voters.

Martha Laning, who chaired the Wisconsin Democratic Party in 2018, said the liberal base turned out in Madison and Milwaukee in the midterms, but she said Tony Evers’s margin of victory over Gov. Scott Walker came from outperforming the 2014 Democratic nominee, Mary Burke, in the state’s 19 reddest counties. Laning said focusing on issues like preexisting conditions and roads made this possible.

“We really didn’t talk about Donald Trump,” she said. “People are tired of the fighting about people, and they want to know what you’re going to do for them. … We need to keep working on our brand. It’s a real issue.”

Pennsylvania Democratic chair Nancy Patton Mills said she will encourage the eventual nominee for president to visit every county in her state. “Our rural Democrats in Pennsylvania have been neglected,” she said. “Naturally, you go to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh … but we have not really treated our rural Pennsylvanians the way that they deserve to be treated. So we’re going to suggest seeing all the counties.”

-- Jen Psaki, who was White House communications director under Obama, said Democrats must not talk down to the people who voted for Trump in 2016 but Obama in 2012 if they’re going to win them back. “We need to give them an off-ramp,” she said. “We’re never going to win by saying, ‘You’re immoral and stupid, but come to my party.’”

“There's lots of exciting candidates. If we don't nominate a self-proclaimed socialist, we'll probably be okay. I hope so,” said Psaki. “What I am most worried about, though, is complacency. … I don't know that there's enough urgency happening right now. And I think it needs to be upped.”

-- Austin Keyser, the director of political and legislative affairs for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said a lot of his members “feel threatened” by liberal policy ideas, especially the Green New Deal. He said fewer members of the IBEW identify as Democrats than used to, but they’re not identifying as Republicans yet either. “People don’t want handouts and free stuff,” he said. “They want a level playing field.”

-- Other speakers argued that rejecting the general approach that Sanders espouses is essential to winning over growing constituencies like Latinos. Anna Tovar, the Democratic mayor of Tolleson, Ariz., touted the progress the party has made in Arizona. She remembered being in the state legislature when Republicans had a supermajority. She said they called themselves the “pizza caucus” because all the Democrats could share one pizza. To win Latinos in her state, she said, Democrats must claim the mantle of giving people opportunity. “When you talk about giving something, as a culture we’re very proud and we want to work hard and earn our keep,” she said. “So I would say that message probably doesn’t resonate in our community. They don’t want handouts.”

During a panel on how to talk about the economy in 2020, pollster Jill Normington urged Democrats not to downplay the top-line strength but to instead focus on how costs are rising for housing, health care and other goods. “2020 is not a jobs election,” she said. “It is the cost of everything else election. And at the top of that is health care. … We have to acknowledge the facts on the ground. It is folly for us to suggest that the economy is not in good shape. … Bring it all back to how much things cost. For most of these voters, it’s about the money leaving their pocket — not the money coming in.”

-- Third Way says it firmly rejects “1960s Nordic-style socialism” but also opposes “warmed-over 1990s centrism.” Several Third Way officials are alums of Bill Clinton’s administration. (I wrote about a dozen of the group’s policy ideas for the future last year.)

“No Democrat is satisfied with the status quo,” said Cowan, who was Andrew Cuomo’s chief of staff when he was secretary of housing and urban development. “All agree that we need to offer big ideas to deal with the massive disruption we’re facing. But ‘big and bold’ are not synonyms for ‘good.’”

-- Third Way frames the 2020 nominating contest as a fundamental choice: Do Democrats want to end or mend capitalism? Cowan decried Medicare-for-all, which he described as “the foundational proposal of Sandersism” and said would eliminate private health insurance. He took a shot at Andrew Yang’s idea for a universal basic income and decried federal jobs guarantees. “We shouldn’t be running on these ideas,” Cowan said. “We should be running from them.”

-- Another central theme of the conference was that the conversation on Twitter does not mirror real life. Third Way commissioned a poll that found only 1 in 10 Democratic primary voters regularly post on the medium. Three-quarters of Democratic primary voters have never posted. Just 30 percent of Democratic voters on Twitter identify as moderate while 50 percent of actual Democratic primary voters do. Five times as many Democratic voters on Twitter have protested in the past year than overall. “If you’re talking with your thumbs,” Cowan said, “you’re probably not talking to the people who make majorities.”

ABOUT LAST NIGHT:

-- Trump launched his reelection bid with familiar promises and redoubled efforts to maintain his most avid backers on a day full of headlines that, for any other administration, might have seemed extraordinary. Toluse Olorunnipa, Chelsea Janes and Anne Gearan report from Orlando: “But while the high drama and persistent controversies that have defined the Trump White House are a continuation of how he conducted his successful campaign in 2016, he is now an incumbent with a record of actions that have affected people’s lives and their sense of stability. ... Trump told the crowd that his election in 2016 was the result of a political movement that has been under attack ever since, despite what he described as the great successes of his presidency. ‘We accomplished more than any other president has in the first 2½ years of a presidency and under circumstances that no president has had to deal with before,’ he said, using the hyperbole that has marked much of his career. Trump’s argument for a second term then quickly became a rehash of grievances and false claims from his first campaign, along with a hit parade of Trump rally applause lines …

Trump’s rambling performance was in itself a portrait of his presidency — singular, highly personalized and undisciplined. It’s that approach that appeals to supporters like 36-year-old ­Michelle Best, who described Trump’s brashness as ‘brilliant.’ ‘He knows how to irritate people. He’s very intelligent. He knows how to get to them,’ said Best, a Brandon, Fla., resident who traveled here for Trump’s rally. ‘Trump knows weaknesses, and he knows how to exploit them. Is he the nicest guy? Nice doesn’t get things done. I don’t want a nice president. I want a president that gets things done. And he’s getting things done.’ … Trump chose a 20,000-seat sports arena in central Florida for his formal reelection announcement and said he could have filled it many times over. … Ahead of Trump’s arrival, his son Donald Trump Jr. drew whoops and cheers as he mocked [Joe] Biden and other Democrats … ‘You guys are not sick of winning yet, are you?’ the younger Trump asked, as the crowd waved signs reading ‘Four More Years.’”

-- Outside the Amway Center, a sea of people waring MAGA hats sang along with “God Bless the U.S.A.” “Who doesn’t like Trump? Everybody likes Trump. I wear my hat to Home Depot, Walmart. Everybody comes up to me and shakes my hand,” said Ryan Farley, who drove from West Palm Beach and slept in his car overnight to be there.  

“At around 1:30 p.m., clouds charged in, and with them a heavy breeze that left vendors trying to hold their tents to the ground,” Chelsea Janes, Anne Gearan and Felicia Sonmez report. “Thunderstorms were in the forecast all evening, threatening to dampen the excitement of what the Trump campaign predicted would be a gathering of thousands outside the arena. Rain came and went, but the thousands didn’t arrive. By late afternoon, the area outside the arena was almost entirely devoid of people, filled instead with the folding chairs and coolers attendees had to abandon to go inside. As officials cued up groups of a couple thousand per hour — the most they could move through security safely — the scene remained relatively quiet. The Proud Boys, a self-proclaimed Western Chauvinist group, coalesced outside the arena. Police blocked their path forward. A few anti-Trump protesters assembled in the streets around the arena. By the time Trump took the stage, less than 200 people were gathered outside, many of them choosing against entering the arena, which was still allowing entrants until just before the speech.”

-- At the rally, Trump’s spiritual adviser Paula White said she’s seeking his protection from “demonic networks.” Meagan Flynn reports: “She asked the crowd to join hands, and after a few minutes, interrupted her prayer to speak to the crowd instead of God, like an actress breaking the fourth wall. ‘Now, I need you to really go with me here,’ she said to a cheering crowd. ‘Right now, let every demonic network who has aligned itself against the purpose, against the calling of President Trump, let it be broken, let it be torn down in the name of Jesus!’ she prayed. ‘… I declare that President Trump will overcome every strategy from hell and every strategy from the enemy — every strategy — and he will fulfill his calling and his destiny.’ White didn’t say what demonic networks and enemies Trump was up against.”

-- Hours before Trump’s launch, the Orlando Sentinel published an editorial announcing the newspaper will not endorse the president’s reelection. The Sentinel’s editorial board writes: “After 2½ years we’ve seen enough. Enough of the chaos, the division, the schoolyard insults, the self-aggrandizement, the corruption, and especially the lies. … The nation must endure another 1½ years of Trump. But it needn’t suffer another four beyond that. We can do better. We have to do better.”

While the paper endorsed Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016, the editorial board has a long history of supporting Republicans, including Mitt Romney in 2012. Indeed, with the exception of LBJ in 1964, the Sentinel endorsed every Republican nominee from 1952 through 2004. The paper noted in its editorial that the non-endorsement of Trump “isn’t defaulting to whomever the Democrats choose.”

-- Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale predicted the president will win in an “electoral landslide.” CBS News's Kathryn Watson reports: “Asked to define an electoral landslide, Parscale responded, ‘I think even more electoral points than he did last time.’ … Parscale declined to comment on the polling controversy … ‘I just think the country is too complex now to call a couple hundred people and ask them what they think,’ Parscale said. ‘There are so many ways and different people who show up and vote now. The way turnout works now. The abilities we have now to turn out voters. The polling can't understand that. And that's why the polling was so wrong in 2016. It was 100% wrong. Nobody got it right — not one public poll. The reason why — it's not 1962 anymore.’”

MORE ON 2020:

-- The stage has been set for the Democratic debates, based on polling data. Elizabeth Warren and Beto O’Rourke will occupy center stage on the first night, while Biden and Sanders will take those roles on the second night. Meanwhile, former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper will be sandwiched between self-help author Marianne Williamson and tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang on the second night, highlighting the surprising makeup of the 2020 field. (NBC News)

-- Trump plans to live-tweet responses during the Democratic debates next week. The president’s advisers had previously wanted him to stay away from social media during the two nights of debates, allowing the candidates to go after one another without distraction. But Trump’s campaign appears to be embracing his instincts, especially when it comes to elevating Biden by attacking him. (Wall Street Journal)

-- Biden, defending himself against suggestions that he’s too “old-fashioned” during a high-dollar fundraiser in New York, invoked two segregationist senators as he recalled the past “civility” of the Senate. The Times’s Katie Glueck reports: “Mr. Biden noted that he served with the late Senators James O. Eastland of Mississippi and Herman Talmadge of Georgia, both Democrats who were staunch opponents of desegregation. Mr. Eastland was the powerful chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee when Mr. Biden entered the chamber in 1973. ‘I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,’ Mr. Biden said, slipping briefly into a Southern accent, according to a pool report from the fund-raiser. ‘He never called me ‘boy,’ he always called me ‘son.’' He called Mr. Talmadge ‘one of the meanest guys I ever knew, you go down the list of all these guys.’ ‘Well guess what?’ Mr. Biden continued. ‘At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done.’”

-- As more 2020 Democrats express openness to examining the idea of slavery reparations, Mitch McConnell argued it “would be pretty hard to figure out who to compensate.” Felicia Sonmez reports: “McConnell (R-Ky.) made the remarks at his weekly news conference with reporters ahead of a House subcommittee hearing on the issue Wednesday. ‘I don’t think reparations for something that happened 150 years ago — for [which] none of us currently living are responsible — is a good idea,’ McConnell said when asked whether he supports reparations or, if not, whether he backs the idea of a public apology from Congress. Wednesday’s hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, titled ‘H.R. 40 and the Path to Restorative Justice,’ will include testimony from Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and actor Danny Glover, among others.”

-- Roy Moore will announce tomorrow whether he intends to run for Alabama’s Senate seat again. Moore, who lost to now-Sen. Doug Jones (D) in 2017 amid allegations of sexual misconduct against young girls, would join a crowded GOP primary field that already includes several big names. (Politico)

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- A U.N. investigator called for greater scrutiny of high-level Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in connection with the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Carol Morello and Kareem Fahim report: “Agnes Callamard, a human rights expert who is a special rapporteur for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, released a 101-page report on her months-long inquiry into Khashoggi’s death at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Callamard said the culpability for Khashoggi’s killing extends beyond the 11 unnamed Saudis who are on trial in a closed-door judicial proceeding. She called it an extrajudicial killing, possibly involving torture, for which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible, and said Saudi authorities had participated in the destruction of evidence. … Callamard’s account of Khashoggi’s death is the most definitive to date, even though her inquiry was hampered by Saudi Arabia’s refusal to allow her to visit the kingdom to conduct interviews. The United States has so far avoided apportioning blame, saying it is still learning details.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Four Indiana statehouse employees have filed a lawsuit against the state’s GOP attorney general, Curtis Hill, for alleged sexual harassment. The 11-count federal lawsuit alleges sexual harassment, retaliation, gender discrimination, battery, defamation and invasion of privacy. (Daily Beast)

  2. Some lifesaving drugs cost so little that patients are facing shortages of them. Without the incentive of high profit margins, some pharmaceutical giants are slow to produce drugs that can fight diseases like early-stage bladder cancer. (Laurie McGinley)

  3. The air quality in America is dropping after years of improvement. There were 15 percent more days with unhealthy air in the U.S. both in 2018 and 2017 than there were on average from 2013 to 2016. (AP)

  4. Charitable donations in the United States dropped last year, which many organizations blame on the GOP tax overhaul. After a new report showed that donations dropped an inflation-adjusted 1.7 percent in 2018, some charities cited a provision in the law that kept millions of Americans from qualifying for the charitable deduction. (Todd C. Frankel)

  5. The former president of an influential European soccer governing body was arrested. Former UEFA president Michel Platini was detained as investigators probe whether illegal activities greased Qatar’s 2010 bid. (Rick Noack)

  6. U.S. jails have faced hundreds of lawsuits in recent years for allegedly mistreating mentally ill inmates. An investigation found that, of the lawsuits involving suicides, about a third of the inmates were allegedly denied medications used to manage mental illness before they attempted suicide or took their own lives. (AP)

  7. Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist who said the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting was staged, faces sanctions after claiming that a lawyer for parents of the victims tried to frame him as a child pornographer. Jones claimed the lawyer planted the images in emails that Jones’s team turned over to plaintiffs as part of the discovery process for a lawsuit brought by Sandy Hook parents. (CNN)
  8. A former Republican operative and associate of white nationalist Richard Spencer has been publishing opinion pieces in the Wall Street Journal and Forbes. Marcus Epstein, a former contributor to white-nationalist site VDare, has been writing under the name “Mark Epstein” over the past two years, and his pieces for the Journal make no mention of his past, which includes charges that he assaulted a black woman. (BuzzFeed News)

  9. A Nebraska school district will start randomly testing students for nicotine to crack down on vaping. Students in grades seven through 12 who fail a test could be blocked from participating in extracurricular activities, an option made possible by a 2002 Supreme Court ruling upholding a similar policy on drug testing in Oklahoma. (Antonia Noori Farzan)
  10. San Francisco is trying to ban e-cigarettes, but Juul — the nation’s largest e-cigarette company — already has a plan to fight back. The company is collecting signatures for a ballot measure that would override the ban. (San Francisco Chronicle)

  11. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said the state’s corporate tax incentive system is “rigged” and designed to “benefit special interests,” and he vowed to veto any bill the state legislature sends him to extend the soon-to-expire program. Murphy said he won’t allow the system to “continue for one day beyond June 30,” when it is set to expire. (NJ.com)

  12. Federal prosecutors say Jerry Lundergan, a staunch Kentucky Democratic Party supporter, funneled corporate contributions to his daughter’s 2011 and 2015 bids for Kentucky secretary of state. Lundergan hasn’t been charged in connection with alleged illegal contributions, which federal prosecutors allege amounted to more than $300,000 on things such as campaign mailers. (Lexington Herald Leader)

  13. Google said it will invest $1 billion in land and money to build homes in the Bay Area to ease a growing housing crisis. The company plans on repurposing at least $750 million worth of commercially zoned land over the next 10 years and will create a $250 million investment fund to provide incentives for the creation of more-affordable homes. (New York Times)

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN AND WOMEN:

-- Patrick Shanahan withdrew from consideration to become secretary of defense and will leave the Pentagon. Aaron C. Davis and Shawn Boburg report: “In the months that he has served as Trump’s acting secretary of defense, Shanahan has worked to keep domestic violence incidents within his family private. His wife was arrested after punching him in the face, and his son was arrested after a separate incident in which he hit his mother with a baseball bat. On Tuesday, Trump announced in a tweet that Shanahan would not be going through with the nomination process — which had been delayed by an unusually lengthy FBI background check — ‘so that he can devote more time to his family.’

Shanahan spoke publicly about the incidents in interviews with The Washington Post on Monday and Tuesday. ‘Bad things can happen to good families … and this is a tragedy, really,’ Shanahan said. Dredging up the episode publicly, he said, ‘will ruin my son’s life.’ In November 2011, Shanahan rushed to defend his then-17-year-old son, William Shanahan, in the days after the teenager brutally beat his mother. The attack had left Patrick Shanahan’s ex-wife unconscious in a pool of blood, her skull fractured and with internal injuries that required surgery, according to court and police records. Two weeks later, Shanahan sent his ex-wife’s brother a memo arguing that his son had acted in self-defense. ‘Use of a baseball bat in self-defense will likely be viewed as an imbalance of force,’ Shanahan wrote. ‘However, Will’s mother harassed him for nearly three hours before the incident.’ ... As he wrote in an ongoing custody battle stemming from their divorce, Shanahan said Monday that he does not believe there can be any justification for an assault with a baseball bat, but he went further in the interview, saying he now regrets writing the passage.”

-- Democratic lawmakers said the revelations about Shanahan demonstrated the Trump administration’s failures to properly vet candidates for high-level positions, while Republicans expressed a desire to simply move on. Karoun Demirjian reports: “With his withdrawal and resignation, Shanahan joins several other former candidates for prominent Cabinet and military leadership positions in the Trump administration who bowed out after compromising details came to light. That list includes Trump’s first picks to lead the Army and Navy, and previous nominees to head the departments of Labor and Veterans Affairs. … There was particular consternation among some senators that Congress was not apprised of the incidents by the administration, the FBI or Shanahan himself. As some lawmakers noted, a background check would have accompanied Shanahan’s nomination in 2017 to become the deputy defense secretary, a post he held until the departure of Trump’s first Pentagon chief, Jim Mattis, in December.”

 -- Army Secretary Mark Esper, a former Raytheon executive, will take over Shanahan’s post at the helm of the Pentagon. Missy Ryan, Dan Lamothe and Paul Sonne report: “Esper served 25 years in the Army and the Virginia National Guard and was a deputy assistant secretary of defense under President George W. Bush. He was also national security adviser to then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and legislative director to then-Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb). Esper will officially take over responsibilities on Monday. ... But it was uncertain whether Trump intends to nominate Esper to be confirmed in the job. Individuals familiar with the conversations said other people were also being discussed, including Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie and retired Army Gen. Jack Keane. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has been considered previously, but it’s unclear whether he would leave the Senate for the post.”

-- Trump suggested he might fire Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell as the central bank prepared for an announcement today on whether it would hike interest rates. Heather Long reports: “‘Let’s see what he does,’ Trump said when a reporter asked him whether Powell should be removed as chair. … The White House counsel looked into whether Trump could remove Powell as Fed chair in February, according to a Bloomberg News report Tuesday. Trump started asking advisers whether he could fire Powell in December after markets dipped on fears of the escalating trade war with China and the Fed’s plans for more rate hikes in 2019. Trump’s top economic advisers have told him it’s not legally possible to get rid of Powell and National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow insisted Tuesday that there was no White House push to remove the Fed chair. But the president’s ire about Powell has not subsided. ‘I want to be given a level playing field, and so far I haven’t been,’ Trump said before boarding a plane to Florida to launch his reelection campaign.”

-- Trump’s aides are quarreling with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, an ongoing battle that could derail the president’s health-care agenda. Politico’s Dan Diamond, Anita Kumar, Rachana Pradhan and Adam Cancryn report: “Despite the recent tensions, Azar is not perceived to be at risk of losing his job — although the president is famously fickle and, by some accounts, Trump’s trust in his health secretary has eroded. … Azar has spent months battling White House domestic policy chief Joe Grogan, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and other officials over proposals targeting high drug prices, Medicaid and Obamacare, individuals inside and outside the administration said. ... 'You have two teams with two visions,’ said an individual who’s been in heated meetings with HHS and the White House. ‘Alex is outnumbered and keeps losing.’ HHS downplayed policy disputes between Azar and White House officials.”

-- Ann Marie Buerkle, the chief of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, will step down after criticism that she took too much of a hands-off role. Todd C. Frankel reports: “The head of the nation’s product safety regulator says she’s stepping down when her term ends in October, a surprise announcement that follows criticism for how the agency handled a recall of the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n Play and its decision to not force a recall of a jogging stroller. … Buerkle’s decision comes as she was waiting for Senate confirmation of her renomination by Trump to continue in her role at the CPSC for another seven years. She said in an email to agency staff she had notified the White House that she is withdrawing her pending nomination and plans to step down as acting chairwoman on Sept. 30 and depart entirely on Oct. 27. … In Buerkle’s first two years as chairwoman, the number of companies fined for misconduct declined to five in 2017-2018 from 12 in 2015-2016.”

-- Consolidating his power base in the White House, national security adviser John Bolton is elevating staffers he brought with him to the NSC as some officials who predate him depart. Josh Rogin reports on the most vivid example yet: “The NSC’s top official dealing with Russia, Fiona Hill, will return to the Brookings Institution ... She will be replaced by Tim Morrison, who currently serves as NSC senior director for weapons of mass destruction and nonproliferation-related issues. Anthony Ruggiero, who joined the NSC last year to work on Asia, will take the helm of the WMD bureau as senior director. … Bolton has slowly but surely changed the makeup of the NSC staff and tightened its structure since assuming office. He has replaced senior staff gradually as their details expire, and he now wants his senior team in place to establish stability in the run-up to the 2020 election.”

-- Controversial DHS appointee Katharine Gorka is expected to become the new press secretary for Customs and Border Protection. Gorka, who is married to fired Trump adviser Sebastian Gorka, has stirred controversy with her past Breitbart writings on terrorism. “To date, American and Western leaders have preemptively shut down any debate within Islam by declaring that Islam is the religion of peace and that terrorism has nothing to do with Islam,” she wrote in 2014. Gorka also said in 2014 that the Obama administration had “narrowly defined the enemy as only the most violent jihadists: first Al Qaeda and now ISIS. … This inaccurate assessment of the enemy has its roots in left-wing theories about social movements," she wrote. (CNN)

-- Sarah Sanders is “extremely serious” about running for Arkansas governor. Politico’s Andrew Restuccia and Daniel Lippman report: “Sanders and her allies have started making calls to donors and Republican operatives in the state. Though neither Sanders nor her associates have directly sought support for a potential campaign, some who have spoken with them see the outreach as a sign that she’s weighing a run. … Some of Sanders’ allies countered that she’s just checking in with longtime friends ahead of her upcoming return to the state, and they insisted that she would be making these calls whether she wanted to run for governor or not.”

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- Mike Pompeo privately warned Iran that any attack by Tehran or its proxies resulting in the death of even one American service member will lead to a military counterattack. Missy Ryan, Greg Jaffe and John Hudson report: “One such message about retaliation was delivered during a hastily arranged visit to Baghdad by Pompeo in May after officials detected a spike in intelligence indicating that Iran’s militia proxies might resume assaults on U.S. forces operating in proximity to them across Iraq. While such attacks were common during the Iraq War, Pompeo told Iraqi leaders in a message he knew would be relayed to Tehran that a single American fatality would prompt the United States to hit back. That specific warning has not been previously reported. … Speaking during a visit to U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa on Tuesday, Pompeo said Trump ‘does not want war’ but stressed the United States would act if assaulted. ‘We are there to deter aggression,’ he said. Trump himself has sent mixed messages about the seriousness of Iran’s actions and how he would respond to them.”

-- Pompeo also blocked the inclusion of Saudi Arabia in the U.S. list of countries that recruit child soldiers, despite expert findings saying a Saudi-led coalition has been using underage fighters in Yemen’s civil war. Reuters’s Jonathan Landay and Matt Spetalnick report: “State Department experts recommended adding Saudi Arabia to the soon-to-be released list based in part on news reports and human rights groups’ assessments that the desert kingdom has hired child fighters from Sudan to fight for the U.S.-backed coalition in Yemen ... The experts’ recommendation faced resistance from some other State Department officials who ... argued that it was not clear whether the Sudanese forces were under the control of Sudanese officers or directed by the Saudi-led coalition.”

-- Hunger and sickness are afflicting the children living in one of the last remaining camps of the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate. Liz Sly reports: “Shortages of food, clean water and medicine combined with the early arrival of the scorching summer heat have contributed to worsening conditions in the camp, which houses more than 73,000 family members of the Islamic State fighters who made their last stand in Baghouz, the last village of their self-proclaimed caliphate in March. The vast majority of those — 49,000 — are children, and 95 percent of them are under the age of 12, according to Kurdish and United Nations officials.”

-- The U.N. joined a call for an independent investigation into the death of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president, after he collapsed inside a Cairo courtroom. Sudarsan Raghaan and Claire Parker report: “'Concerns have been raised regarding the conditions of Mr. Morsi’s detention, including access to adequate medical care, as well as sufficient access to his lawyers and family, during his nearly six years in custody,’ said Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. Morsi, who suffered from diabetes and liver disease, was held in solitary confinement for six years. He had complained during earlier court proceedings that he was denied the insulin dosage and special diet he required and that as a result had experienced diabetic comas.”

-- A Muslim family sought help at the Belgian Embassy in Beijing before police officers dragged them out, as China’s government continues cracking down on the Uighur Muslim minority group. The Times’s Jane Perlez reports: “The last time Abdulhamid Tursun spoke to his wife, she was huddled in a Beijing hotel room with their four children, frightened after being evicted from the Belgian Embassy in the dead of night. … Instead of finding protection, Ms. Abula and her children, ages 5 to 17, were dragged away after the Chinese police were allowed to enter the embassy. Now the case is raising alarms back in Belgium, where lawmakers are asking how it could have happened and where Mr. Tursun’s family has been taken.”

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- The House Judiciary Committee will question Hope Hicks, the former White House communications director, about hush-money payments made to women alleging affairs with Trump. Rachael Bade reports: “The session constitutes a breakthrough for Democrats, their first interview with a former White House official since Trump has asserted executive privilege to bar current and former aides’ cooperation. A White House lawyer will be present to keep Hicks from answering questions they say should be kept secret under the broad claims of executive privilege. The committee fully expects Hicks to decline to answer questions about her time at the White House, speaking only about the campaign. … Hicks, however, is of key interest to Democrats because of her closeness to the president. She worked for Trump before he declared his bid for office, served as press secretary on the Trump campaign and then served as White House communications director.”

-- Evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. was expected to endorse Ted Cruz in the 2016 election but chose Trump instead. New details surrounding the behind-the-scenes maneuvering paint a complicated picture. From The Times’s Frances Robles and Jim Rutenberg: “That backstory, in true Trump-tabloid fashion, features the friendship between Mr. Falwell, his wife and a former pool attendant at the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach; the family’s investment in a gay-friendly youth hostel; purported sexually revealing photographs involving the Falwells; and an attempted hush-money arrangement engineered by the president’s former fixer, Michael Cohen. The revelations have arisen from a lawsuit filed against the Falwells in Florida; the investigation into Mr. Cohen by federal prosecutors in New York; and the gonzo-style tactics of the comedian and actor Tom Arnold.”

-- Trump appealed a ruling that would’ve cleared the way for the release of his banking records. Renae Merle reports: “The 54-page appeal filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit challenges a decision last month by U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos that cleared the way for Deutsche Bank, the president’s biggest creditor, and Capital One to hand over years of financial records from Trump, his three eldest children and the Trump Organization to two House committees. … Trump’s attorneys argued in the appeal that the committees were pushing the boundaries of their powers and that the subpoenas didn’t serve a legitimate legislative purpose. ‘The Committees’ subpoenas are sweeping and unprecedented attempts to obtain the private financial information of a sitting President,’ the appeal said.”

-- Trump said the Mueller investigation hurt his approval ratings but fired up his base. From Time’s Tessa Berenson: “’Based on the economy, I should be up 15 or 20 points higher,’ Trump told TIME, arguing that he has a natural base of 45% or 46%. ‘The thing that I have that nobody’s ever had before, from the day I came down the escalator, I have had a phony witch hunt against me … I think it’s cost me.’ … But the President said that even though he believes Mueller hurt him overall, it also strengthened his connection with his supporters, who he believes are as angry about the investigation as he is. ‘The witch hunt has made our base stronger,’ Trump said in an interview in the Oval Office on June 17. ‘It’s made our people more resilient.’”

-- Paul Manafort has moved to the same Manhattan detention center that was used to hold the infamous drug lord “El Chapo.” Matt Zapotosky reports: “The move to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City comes as Manafort is expected to appear in court there on state mortgage fraud charges. The New York Times and Fox News Channel had previously reported that Manafort probably would be headed to the notorious Rikers Island prison, but the district attorney’s office disputed whether that had been decided, and a Justice Department official said it has now been determined that Manafort will remain in federal custody after his attorneys raised concerns about his ‘health and personal safety.’ The official said that the attorneys proposed that Manafort stay in federal custody but be turned over to the state as needed, and that New York prosecutors did not object.”

-- A Ukrainian Russian developer who paid $200,000 for tickets to Trump’s inauguration filed a lawsuit saying he was duped. The Times’s Kenneth P. Vogel reports: “The developer, Pavel Fuks, who once discussed a Moscow real estate project with Mr. Trump, said in the lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, that he had paid the money to a firm at the direction of Yuri Vanetik, a prominent Republican fund-raiser and sometime lobbyist. But, the lawsuit said, Mr. Vanetik failed to come through with the promised tickets, and Mr. Fuks ended up watching the inauguration from a Washington hotel bar. … He never received the tickets he said he was promised to an official inaugural ball, to a dinner with incoming cabinet members or to other exclusive events. His only access to Trump allies came when he posed for photographs with Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Republican leader, and Ed Royce, then a congressman from California, at a post-inauguration reception sponsored by Mr. McCarthy’s political action committee at the Trump International Hotel.”

THE IMMIGRATION WARS: 

-- Though Trump reiterated his pledge to deport “millions of illegal aliens,” the reality at Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is far different. Nick Miroff, Maria Sacchetti, Abigail Hauslohner and Josh Dawsey report: ICE “is averaging approximately 7,000 deportations per month from the U.S. interior, according to the agency’s latest data. With unauthorized border crossings soaring under Trump to their highest levels in more than a decade, ICE has been facing a shortage of funds and detention beds, and experts say that a large-scale push to arrest and deport hundreds of thousands of migrants would be exorbitantly expensive and highly unlikely. For ICE, making ‘at large’ arrests in homes and neighborhoods — the key to chipping away at the ‘millions’ Trump wants to expel — will require significant amounts of planning, coordination and secrecy. By telegraphing plans to begin a nationwide roundup, the president has risked undermining the effectiveness of ICE’s largest and most complex enforcement operation in years.”

-- Ken Cuccinelli, the newly appointed leader of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, appears to be pushing border officers to bar some asylum seekers from entering the country at an initial screening at the border. BuzzFeed News’s Hamed Aleaziz reports: “'Under our abused immigration system if an alien comes to the United States and claims a fear of return the alien is entitled to a credible fear screening by USCIS and a hearing by an immigration judge,’ Cuccinelli wrote to USCIS staffers.”

-- The governments of the three Northern Triangle nations have done little to provide for their poor, driving migration numbers — and the flow of U.S. dollars. Bloomberg News’s Ben Bartenstein and Michael D. McDonald report: “The bond market views the nations -- especially the first two -- as stable, almost safe, investments. In some cases, they can borrow at similar rates to regional powerhouses Brazil and Mexico. It’s an odd thing, almost improbable sounding. And it reveals a surprising truth about these countries: They all have rock-solid fiscal accounts.”

“Patronage and corruption, they say, is compounding the shortfall, siphoning off funds earmarked for the poor. … Lucrecia Mack said she was astonished by how rampant graft was when she took the top job at Guatemala’s Health Ministry in 2016. It’s ‘everywhere,’ she said. Documents are falsified, signatures are forged, invoices are made up. She remembers one scheme where officials bought new tires for ambulances, re-sold them to pocket the cash and left the old ones on the vehicles.”

-- Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, met privately with Senate architects of plans to provide citizenship for “dreamers.” NPR’s Franco Ordoñez reports: “The meeting has raised concerns among immigration hardliners that Trump's immigration policy is being ‘watered down,’ will give Democrats an upper hand and alter the focus of the debate from strictly enforcement to a deal that would include legalization. Kushner was spotted leaving Sen. Lindsey's Graham, R-S.C., office Tuesday morning where he also met with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill… [A] person familiar with details of the discussions said that Graham and Durbin want Kushner to support measures that would include protections for those brought to the United States illegally as children.”

THE REST OF THE DOMESTIC AGENDA:

-- Trump is planning on having Air Force One fly over the Mall as part of his Fourth of July celebration in D.C. Josh Dawsey and Juliet Eilperin report: “Under the arrangements, Trump would not be on board the presidential Boeing jetliner as it flew overhead, the people familiar with the plans said. … Speaking to supporters in Orlando Tuesday night as he launched his reelection campaign, the president touted the Independence Day festivities he’s helped to orchestrate. ‘By the way, on July 4th in Washington D.C., come on down! We’re going to have a big day,’ Trump told the crowd. ‘We’re going to have hundreds of thousands of people.’”

-- Meanwhile, two federal lawmakers warned Congress the District needs more money for security after a fund was depleted by Trump’s failure to pay back more than $7 million in inauguration costs. Peter Jamison reports: “Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), the District’s nonvoting representative in Congress, and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) wrote in a letter to leaders of the House and Senate appropriations committees that the District needs a $6 million infusion to its Emergency Planning and Security Fund. The account covers the cost of protecting the city from terrorist threats and providing security at events such as protests, state funerals and the visits of foreign dignitaries. … Until recently, the security fund regularly carried over unused money from year to year. But federal funding for the account has lagged behind increasing costs for demonstrations and other events in the Trump era.”

-- Congressional leaders say they can reach a funding deal if Trump stays out of the way. Politico’s Heather Caygle and Burgess Everett report: Nancy Pelosi, McConnell “and other top lawmakers will huddle with White House budget negotiators Wednesday. … ‘We’re closer than we’ve been. Ever. It’s positive. The atmosphere is good,’ said Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). ‘But we have to have the president on board. Otherwise he’ll just veto it.’ At the center of the negotiations is an effort to lift stiff budget caps, avoid a shutdown and potentially raise the debt ceiling — actions that if untaken this year could wreak havoc on the U.S. economy.”

-- Trump still won’t apologize for calling for the execution of the Central Park Five. Colby Itkowitz and Michael Brice-Saddler report: “The story is back in the news with a new Netflix miniseries, ‘When They See Us,’ focused on the boys, who were wrongfully convicted and served between six and 16 years of their young adulthood in jail. April Ryan, a White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, tweeted at the president early Tuesday asking if he’d apologize to the five men. Then, as the president left the White House for his reelection kickoff rally in Orlando, Ryan asked him in person. ‘Why do you bring that up now? It’s an interesting time to bring that up,’ Trump responded. ‘You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt . . . some of the prosecutors think the city should never have settled that case, and we’ll leave it at that.’”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

A GOP lobbyist previewed how newsy next week will be:

A Yahoo News reporter reacted to the withdrawal of Patrick Shanahan's nomination as defense secretary:

From a Times reporter:

Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) exchanged these heated words after AOC argued the Trump administration was running “concentration camps” at the southern border:

A BuzzFeed News reporter shared this look from Trump's campaign launch in Florida:

An Atlantic writer also had a run-in with Gorka:

Obama's former ambassador to Denmark made these predictions about Democrats' fundraising numbers:

One 2020 Democrat had some fun with his graphic for the first round of debates:

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) complimented a colleague, as well as himself, on their voting records:

An NBC News reporter shared this image from Capitol Hill:

GOOD READS:

-- “I opened up about my stalker to a true crime podcast. Here’s why it helped me heal,” by Sarah Garone: “Ghosted by almost all my friends, I learned to stay mum about this chapter of my history, and for 14 years, I rarely brought it up. … But earlier this year, in the wake of the Me Too movement and prompted by my own growing fascination with true crime, I decided to go public. Surely, I thought, my story could strike a chord with others who’ve been victimized by trusted family members — or at least provide a grim form of entertainment for criminal justice fans like myself. Since I’d been hooked on the popular podcast “Criminal” for months — hearing stories about criminals getting caught is endlessly satisfying for me — I got in touch with their producers. Would they like to feature my uniquely bizarre experience on their program? The answer was an emphatic and remarkably quick yes.”

-- “We ought to be concerned about preserving the political order of the Supreme Court,” by Leah Litman, Joshua Matz and Steve Vladeck: “It is illegitimate to consider legitimacy. So say many conservatives who seem terrified that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. might care about public perception of the U.S. Supreme Court. Haunted by his vote upholding the Affordable Care Act — a vote they view as unprincipled — they insist that only a weak-willed, weak-kneed judge would ever deviate from right-wing orthodoxy to preserve the court’s legitimacy. They urge the chief justice to stick with the conservative party line and rise above the supposedly cynical warnings that this term’s biggest cases could harm the judiciary. These arguments are profoundly hypocritical. Conservative lawyers and judges have long raised concerns about judicial legitimacy to protest progressive rulings on abortion, the death penalty, same-sex marriage, partisan gerrymandering and many other issues. … But that was then, and this is now.”

-- Vanity Fair, “David Sackler Pleads His Case on the Opioid Epidemic,” by Bethany McLean: “But David, who runs a family investment office and served on Purdue’s board of directors from 2012 to August 2018, thinks it is time for at least one Sackler to share his version of events with the public. … When I ask him why he wants to talk, he cites what he calls the ‘vitriolic hyperbole’ and ‘endless castigation’ of his family. ‘I have three young kids,’ he says. ‘My four-year-old came home from nursery school and asked, ‘Why are my friends telling me that our family’s work is killing people?’ … As he reviews his family company’s history of developing and marketing opioids, Sackler mostly talks in the dispassionate tone of the financier that he is. But the emotion is obvious on his face—and it sometimes breaks through into his words. At times, he appears almost on the brink of tears. At other times, he struggles to control his obvious anger. In his view, his family is being blamed for something they did not do.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Japanese Americans Slam Plans To Detain Migrant Kids In Internment Camps,” from HuffPost: “After the Trump administration announced last week that it will be detaining undocumented immigrant children apprehended at the border at a former World War II-era Japanese American incarceration camp, Japanese American groups are speaking out. Several organizations have slammed the administration’s move to place migrant children at Fort Sill in Oklahoma, where an estimated 700 Japanese Americans were held following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. … Prior to its use as a Japanese American incarceration site, Fort Sill served as a prison camp for members of the Chiricahua Apache tribe, who were forcibly removed and exiled from their lands in the Southwest in the late 1800s.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Billionaire GOP donor and Trump supporter says he rejected Joe Biden’s request for fundraising help in 2020,” from CNBC: “Biden on Monday appealed to a billionaire Republican donor for fundraising help in his presidential campaign. But the financier, Trump-supporting New York supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis, declined. Biden spoke to Catsimatidis, who has an estimated net worth of $3.1 billion, for about 10 minutes at a fundraiser held at the New York home of short seller Jim Chanos, according to the businessman. When Biden asked for his help, ‘I just smiled,’ Catsimatidis said. Catsimatidis, who owns the New York supermarket chain Gristedes and ran for mayor in 2013, had praise for Biden, but he is sticking with [Trump] in 2020.”

DAYBOOK:

Trump will start the day in Doral, Fla., where he will participate in a roundtable with supporters and speak at a fundraising luncheon. He will then fly back to D.C. and present the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Arthur Laffer.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka laughed at Trump’s assertion that unions are “in favor” of the new North American trade pact: “Maybe he’s talking about the unions in some other country?” Trumka told Politico.

 

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

-- Today will be pretty cloudy with scattered storms in the evening. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Our rinse-and-repeat workweek continues, with more muggy air and scattered storms today and tomorrow. We’ll break the cycle with a noticeably nicer Friday and Saturday, and then see how far into Sunday we can hold off the return of higher humidity and another chance of storms.”

-- McConnell seemed to call the prospect of D.C. statehood “full-bore socialism.” Jenna Portnoy reports: “McConnell told Laura Ingraham that the growing support in the Democratic-majority U.S. House of Representatives for making the District of Columbia the 51st state would stall in his chamber. No chance for Puerto Rico, either. 'They plan to make the District of Columbia a state — that would give them two new Democratic senators — Puerto Rico a state, that would give them two more new Democratic senators, and as a former Supreme Court clerk yourself, you’ve surely noticed that they plan to expand the Supreme Court,' McConnell said in the interview last week, which drew increasing attention on social media in recent days.”

-- The D.C. Council delayed a $46 million tax break for a swanky Adams Morgan hotel after finding that the developer failed to fulfill hiring requirements mandated when lawmakers approved the subsidy. Paul Schwartzman and Cortlyn Stark report: “The one-year delay allows the District government time to finalize an audit that examines whether the developer met requirements that included hiring more than 300 District residents to construct the Line, a 220-room boutique hotel. A city review this year found that the hotel failed to meet at least two of seven requirements for the 20-year abatement, which was supposed to begin this year. The owner of the hotel called that review inaccurate and has offered its own audit, from December, which it says proves the hotel deserves the subsidy. The council decision, part of an overall vote on next year’s budget, followed vigorous lobbying from the Sydell Group, the hotel’s owner, which asserted that it may be forced to lay off workers if the tax abatement is rescinded.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Stephen Colbert took a look at Trump's 2020 campaign launch:

Jimmy Kimmel said Trump did more for his supporters in Orlando than he did for the people of Puerto Rico:

Trevor Noah dived into the controversy around Harvard's decision to revoke admission to a Parkland survivor after racist and sexist remarks he made two years ago resurfaced: