With Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro
THE BIG IDEA: Politicians say the darndest things at fundraisers. Hillary Clinton called half of Donald Trump’s supporters “a basket of deplorables.” Mitt Romney claimed 47 percent of the country would never vote for him because they are “dependent upon government.” Barack Obama said “bitter” working-class people in the Rust Belt “cling to guns or religion.”
Joe Biden’s paean to a bygone era — during which he spoke wistfully about working collegially and civilly with racists to find areas of common ground — seems destined to enter this pantheon of campaign-defining gaffes. “I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland. He never called me 'boy,' he always called me ‘son,’” the 76-year-old, who served 36 years in the Senate, told donors in New York on Tuesday night.
Eastland, a Mississippi senator who owned a cotton plantation, described African Americans as an “inferior” race and warned that integration would lead to “mongrelization.” Biden also mentioned Herman Talmadge, the notorious Georgia segregationist who blockaded progress on civil rights for decades.
“You go down the list of all these guys,” he said. “Well, guess what? At least there was some civility. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”
This caused a firestorm on Juneteenth, the anniversary of slaves in Texas finding out they’d been freed. Some of the most vocal criticism came from the two African American senators who are challenging Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination. Cory Booker, who was 3 years old when Biden arrived in the Senate in 1973, said he should apologize. Rather than doing so, however, the former vice president doubled down last night when reporters confronted him on his way into another fundraiser.
Taking a page from the Trump playbook, Biden took umbrage and demanded that Booker apologize to him for asking him to apologize. “Cory should apologize,” he said. “He knows better. There’s not a racist bone in my body; I’ve been involved in civil rights my whole career. Period. Period. Period.”
-- This effort at damage control appears to be making matters worse. Booker, whose parents faced racial discrimination when trying to move into a white neighborhood in New Jersey, appeared on CNN in the 10 p.m. hour and responded with a riff that had the tone of being more in sorrow than in anger. “The fact that he has said something that an African American man could find very offensive and then to turn around and say, you know, ‘I’m not a racist, you should apologize to me’ is so insulting and so missing the larger point that he should not have to have explained to him,” Booker told Don Lemon. “He knows better. And at a time when Donald Trump never apologizes for anything, he’s better than this.”
-- Other 2020 rivals piled on: Kamala Harris said Biden “doesn’t understand the history of our country.” Elizabeth Warren said it’s “never okay to celebrate segregationists.” Bernie Sanders tweeted that he agrees with Booker: “This is especially true at a time when the Trump administration is trying to divide us up with its racist appeals.” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio invoked his mixed-race family.
It’s past time for apologies or evolution from @JoeBiden. He repeatedly demonstrates that he is out of step with the values of the modern Democratic Party. (2/2)— Bill de Blasio (@BilldeBlasio) June 19, 2019
-- Columnist Connie Schultz, who is married to Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), focused on Biden's use of the word “boy”:
There is no punchline here, no emoji or funny meme to soften the harm of your words. That segregationist never called you “boy” because you are white. If you want to boast about your relationship with a racist, you are not who we need to succeed the racist in the White House. https://t.co/gULBDb9kMp— Connie Schultz (@ConnieSchultz) June 19, 2019
-- The latest donnybrook illustrates why Biden has been the least directly accessible to the press of all the 2020 candidates, including President Trump. Biden has been doing fewer public events than his top-tier rivals, preferring to focus on raising money from high-dollar donors. He’s given virtually no sit-down interviews and submitted to relatively few gaggles. The New York Times published a snazzy video feature yesterday, for example, in which reporters posed the same questions to 21 presidential candidates. Biden was the only person who refused to participate.
His fundraisers have been mostly open to a press pool, which means that a reporter is allowed in to watch Biden’s speech and email quotes around to other media outlets. But these are tightly controlled events. Biden can decide to talk about whatever he wants. He’s not facing tough questions. That means these latest comments were entirely unforced errors.
-- Clinton tried this strategy four years ago. It failed. The Times’s Clinton beat reporter, Amy Chozick, wrote an entire memoir after the 2016 election, “Chasing Hillary,” to lament how difficult it was to get access despite covering her for a decade. By Chozick’s count, the Clinton press team rejected 47 interview requests — including for several positive stories.
Biden has a much more tenuous claim to front-runner status than Clinton did at this point. The early polls show his support is softer. In that way, his strategy often feels like a basketball team that’s playing to protect its lead in the first quarter. On the other hand, when Biden keeps stepping on rakes, the logic of holding him back makes more sense. But Biden’s lack of accessibility appears to be adversely impacting the tenor of coverage. It also increases the stakes for him to perform well in the first debates next week.
-- Perhaps more importantly, Biden’s inaccessibility to the press has kept him from answering fundamental questions, such as whether he still supports the death penalty, that voters have a compelling interest in learning the answers to. As a tough-on-crime senator in the 1980s and 1990s, Biden boasted about all the offenses he was trying to make eligible for capital punishment in the crime bill he quarterbacked. “We do everything but hang people for jaywalking,” he bragged in 1992.
During a town hall meeting in New Hampshire earlier this month, a voter asked Biden about criminal justice. As part of his meandering answer, he said offhandedly: “By the way, congratulations to y’all on ending the death penalty here.” A Politico reporter has been asking Biden’s spokespeople whether his views have evolved, and they refused to say either way or shed any light beyond his ambiguous answer.
The Times asked everyone who participated in its video project about the issue. “Though opposition to the death penalty was long seen as politically risky, 20 out of the 21 candidates we interviewed said they were against it for personal, moral or practical reasons,” Alex Burns and Sydney Ember report. “The lone exception was Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, a former prosecutor who said he supported capital punishment in ‘limited circumstances,’ such as for convicted terrorists. … Mr. Biden declined to take our questions.”
Biden has long been viewed by many liberals as a finger-in-the-wind politician who will be with them primarily when he thinks it makes sense politically. This is how they explain why he’s been all over the place on so many of the central issues of our time, including abortion. It wouldn’t be surprising if he flip-flopped on capital punishment after doing so on other hot buttons, for instance, but it would pour gasoline on the burning narrative that he lacks core convictions.
-- Bigger picture, Biden keeps making mistakes that play right into the most potent arguments that his critics on the left and the right can prosecute against him. By highlighting his longevity in Congress — Eastland was first elected to the Senate in the 1940s, for example — Biden gives fodder for the Trump campaign to say that he had a whole career to do what he’s promising and failed. That certainly makes it harder to run as a change agent. But he also gives his Democratic rivals room to argue that the party and the country have passed him by. Biden has struggled to talk about his record on issues like busing and integration, which few of the other presidential aspirants ever needed to stake out a position on.
-- Another observation: Biden’s demand that Booker apologize to him is a reminder that he has several Trumpian tendencies, from overuse of hyperbole to a reluctance to admit when he’s wrong and a tendency to disregard sage advice from political professionals. Like Trump, Biden is running in many ways to take the country back to what he sees as the good ol' days, which for many folks — especially women and people of color — weren’t so good. He wants to make the Senate great again, but the way many people heard it this week, he thinks it was great when it was a boys' club with some racist characters.
-- Can an old dog learn new tricks? Biden’s advisers have heard him privately talk about Eastland before, and they urged him not to do so in public but to use safer examples, like Bob Dole or John McCain. “But he’s not someone you can go to and just say, ‘You’ve been doing this x number of years and you can’t do this anymore,’” said one adviser, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations with my colleagues Matt Viser and Sean Sullivan.
-- “In a separate sign of possible turbulence for Mr. Biden’s candidacy, his campaign experienced the first departure of a prominent political consultant,” Katie Glueck and Astead Herndon report in the Times. “Mark Putnam, a high-profile Democratic strategist and producer of television ads, confirmed in a brief phone call that he had recently left Mr. Biden’s campaign. Mr. Putnam declined to address the reasons for his departure, though they did not appear to be related to Mr. Biden’s struggles over the last few weeks concerning abortion rights and race.”
-- Unlike Trump, Biden has bet his campaign that most Democrats want conciliation more than combat. “But today’s Democratic Party and progressive movement might not be interested in a consensus-builder. … In the Trump Era of politics, ‘civility’ has become a trigger word for liberal activists who believe conservatives haven’t been fighting fair,” notes Politico’s Marc Caputo.
“If you ignore racism and if you don’t address issues of race with racists, then everything is fine, right?” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) told Politico facetiously. “That’s how you work with segregationists: by not confronting the racism and their institutionalization of second-class citizenship and a lack of fully recognizing African Americans.”
-- The reaction to Biden’s comments also reflects a generational divide among African American thought leaders. The old-timers who cut their teeth during the civil rights movement in the 1960s appeared more inclined to say they get where he was coming from and to give him the benefit of the doubt. The new guard that came of age with the Black Lives Matter activism of recent years was far more outraged.
Wesley Lowery, my colleague who was part of the team that earned a Pulitzer for coverage of fatal police shootings, was taken aback that Biden would tell an African American senator to apologize the way he did. Lowery observed that Biden also used Booker’s first name: “Cory should apologize,” he said. Not Booker. Or the senator. Or the gentleman from New Jersey.
“Friends of Caucasian persuasion: if you happen to say a thing that black people find racist or unacceptably coddling of racists, one way to not diffuse things is to decide you are the victim and the black people owe YOU an apology,” Lowery tweeted last night. “Whether you agree with Booker's statement or not, it’s measured and respectful and specific about what he found offensive. It engaged Biden in good faith. … I know of very few black or brown organizers (especially young ones) who'd take well to the declaration from a white septuagenarian that they ‘know better’ than to criticize him on race.”
RACE IN AMERICA:
-- The past is never dead. It's not even past.
-- The House held a hearing yesterday on slavery reparations. Several prominent black lawmakers, writers and activists chastised Mitch McConnell over his suggestion that America addressed its historic racial injustices partly by electing Barack Obama. “The hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties was set to coincide with the observance of Juneteenth," Emily Davies and Felicia Sonmez report.
"It also came as the Democratic-led House is pressing forward with H.R. 40, a measure that would create a national commission to study the legacy of slavery and make proposals on reparations to African Americans. But much of the debate centered on remarks made by [the Senate majority leader]. … Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates responded at Wednesday’s hearing by walking through the social and political environment that grew out of slavery, a system that he called a ‘relentless campaign of terror — a campaign that extended well into the lifetime of [McConnell].’”
An April Fox News poll asked Americans whether they favor “paying cash reparations to descendants of slaves.” A 60 percent majority was opposed while 32 percent favored paying reparations. Fifty-four percent of Democrats approved of paying reparations, while a majority of Republicans — 81 percent — opposed the idea.
-- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for a formal investigation by the Treasury Department's inspector general into whether the White House improperly influenced Steven Mnuchin's decision not to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. Colby Itkowitz reports: “Schumer said he wanted ‘to ensure that political considerations have not been allowed to infect the process for designing American currency.’ He asked [Eric] Thorson to look into any interagency process related to the redesign, including among the Secret Service, the Federal Reserve and the White House.”
-- Pete Buttigieg has taken the past few days away from the campaign trail to address outcry over a police shooting in South Bend, Ind. Wesley Lowery reports: “Instead of showcasing Buttigieg’s ability to lead through a crisis, however, the shooting is exposing what has long been considered an Achilles’ heel of his candidacy: his frosty relationship with South Bend’s black residents. Since arriving on Sunday, Buttigieg has alienated the family of the dead man, Eric Logan, 54, skipped a vigil at the scene of the shooting, and sought advice from outsiders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton of New York. … The shooting has handed Buttigieg the first significant challenge of his charmed campaign. To allies, his decision to leave the campaign trail and then hold two days of private meetings signals deliberate, considerate leadership. But to detractors, including many of South Bend’s black activists, his actions show that he still doesn’t get it.”
-- The Trump administration placed Eric Blankenstein, the former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau official who last year was at the center of a scandal over racially charged blog posts, at Housing and Urban Development. Politico’s Katy O’Donnell reports: “Blankenstein has been hired by HUD’s Office of General Counsel as a senior counsel working on Ginnie Mae matters, making $166,500 a year, according to people familiar with the matter. Democrats and civil rights activists demanded that the CFPB fire Blankenstein after the Washington Post reported in September that he had questioned the veracity of hate crimes and whether the N-word is racist, in blog posts he wrote 14 years earlier.”
-- Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said yesterday that Jeff Sessions has not ruled out running next year to win back his old Senate seat. “I’ve talked to him about it,” Shelby told reporters. “I think if he ran, he would be a formidable candidate. I’ve not encouraged him to run, but he’s a friend, and if he ran, I think he’d probably clear the field.” Sessions declined to comment. Republicans are bracing for Roy Moore’s expected entrance into the race today. Shelby said he would not support Moore. Several Republicans have already jumped into the race: Rep. Bradley Byrne, Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, state Rep. Arnold Mooney and former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville.
Remember: The Senate Judiciary Committee rejected Sessions when Ronald Reagan appointed him for a federal judgeship in 1986 because of allegedly racist comments he made to DOJ colleagues as the U.S. attorney for Alabama, which he's always vigorously denied. Every Democrat on the committee, including Biden, opposed Sessions, as did two GOP senators. Sessions got elected to the Senate a decade later and joined the committee.
“Within days of leaving the Justice Department in November, Sessions was discussing with close friends and advisers whether he should attempt to return to the Senate,” per John Wagner, Devlin Barrett and Erica Werner. “After months of such conversations, it is still unclear which way the 72-year-old Sessions is leaning, according to people familiar with the discussions.”
-- A federal judge said adding a citizenship question to the 2020 Census merits additional consideration in light of new evidence discovered on hard drives belonging to a late Republican redistricting strategist. Tara Bahrampour reports: “Civil rights groups who had sued the government over its addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census had asked U.S. District Court Judge George J. Hazel to reconsider his ruling on whether the government was guilty of conspiracy and intent to discriminate after new evidence in the case emerged last month. … In his ruling Tuesday, Hazel wrote that the plaintiffs’ motion ‘raises a substantial issue’ in the case. … The case is technically closed in Hazel’s court. It now resides with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which can either return the case to Hazel or decide to rule regardless of his recommendation. Hazel’s ruling means plaintiffs’ lawyers can now request that the appeals court return the case to him.”
-- The Philadelphia Police Department put 72 of its officers on desk duty over offensive social media posts. This is the latest fallout after an advocacy group released thousands of Facebook posts made by current and former officers that include overtly racist memes and that celebrate violence. (NPR)
-- A white bicyclist in D.C. was convicted of assaulting a black driver, but a jury deadlocked on whether the attack was racially motivated. Keith L. Alexander reports: “At trial, testimony showed the bicyclist, Maxim Smith, repeatedly called the driver, Ketchazo Paho, the n-word while violently striking him in the head with a metal bike lock. Their confrontation unfolded in the overnight hours as Smith slowly biked in the center lane of the 3100 block of M Street NW ahead of a frustrated Paho, who began honking his horn.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The Supreme Court ruled this morning that the Maryland “Peace Cross” honoring military dead does not constitute a government endorsement of religion. The 40-foot cross in Bladensburg, Md., memorializes 49 local veterans who served during World War I. It sits on land owned by a state commission that pays for the monument’s maintenance and upkeep. The legal challenge began with the American Humanist Association, a nonprofit atheist organization, which had argued that the cross communicates an unconstitutional message that government favors one religion over another. (Developing.)
-- Iran shot down a U.S. Navy drone in the Persian Gulf region. Erin Cunningham reports: “Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps said that it targeted the drone — a RQ-4 Global Hawk — inside Iranian airspace Thursday over the southern province of Hormozgan, next to the Strait of Hormuz. A spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet directed questions to the U.S. Central Command, which was not immediately available for comment. A U.S. official, however, confirmed the incident to the Associated Press and said that the drone was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile over international airspace in the Strait of Hormuz. ‘The downing of the American drone was a clear message to America,’ the Revolutionary Guard’s chief commander, Gen. Hossein Salami, said Thursday. His remarks were carried live by Iranian state television.”
-- The Trump administration is pushing a narrative to Congress that Iran is tied to al-Qaeda, raising fears the alleged connection could be used as either a pretext or legal justification for going to war. The Times’s Edward Wong and Catie Edmondson report: “Briefings by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, backed up by other State Department and Pentagon officials, have led Democrats and some Republicans to ask whether the administration is building a case that the White House could use to invoke the war authorization passed by Congress in 2001 to battle terror groups as legal cover for military action against Iran. … Mr. Pompeo and other administration officials have stopped short of telling lawmakers or aides in large group settings that the 2001 authorization for the use of military force from Congress, which permits the United States to wage war on Al Qaeda and its allies or offshoots, would allow the Trump administration to go to war with Iran.”
-- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who has Trump's ear, said on Fox News last night the president should bomb Iran if the country does more to disrupt shipping activity. “He should put the oil refineries on the target list and look at sinking the Iranian Navy if they attack shipping again,” Graham said. “My red line is: If there's any more disruption of shipping in the [Strait] of Hormuz linked to Iran, take out their Navy [and] bomb their refineries. ... If I were the president, I would tell the Iranians, if there's an attack on a ship or a pipeline or anything like that, we're going to blow up your oil refinery because they're trying to drive up costs by creating chaos.”
-- A counterweight: Fox News host Tucker Carlson has privately pleaded with Trump against taking military action against Iran, according to the Daily Beast’s Maxwell Tani, Betsy Woodruff and Asawin Suebsaeng. “A senior administration official said that during the president’s recent conversations with the Fox primetime host, Carlson has bashed the more ‘hawkish members’ of his administration. While some Fox News hosts have argued that a conflict with Iran would be justified, Carlson has consistently criticized U.S. military intervention abroad, particularly in the Middle East. In recent weeks, he has questioned whether war with Iran would be ‘in anyone’s interest.’”
-- The U.N. Security Council received more details about the attacks on four tankers off the coast of the United Arab Emirates that predated the strikes in the Gulf of Oman, which the U.S. blames on Iran. The report includes evidence that a “state actor” was likely behind the incidents, but no nation was directly blamed. (Bloomberg News)
-- Trump was briefed last night on the details of a missile strike in Saudi Arabia. Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis claimed to have struck a power station in the Saudi province of Jizan. (Reuters)
-- Israel is conducting major war games. Thousands of troops from the army, the navy and the air force simulated a future war with the Lebanese Hezbollah group in a four-day exercise that Israeli forces said had been planned long in advance. (ABC News)
GET SMART FAST:
- Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to economist Arthur Laffer. The former Reagan adviser has championed supply-side economics. (Felicia Sonmez and Colby Itkowitz)
A Navy SEAL convicted in the death of a Green Beret soldier is under investigation for allegedly approaching the slain soldier’s widow at a Las Vegas party. Military documents indicate Chief Special Warfare Operator Adam C. Matthews requested access to the room of Staff Sgt. Logan Melgar’s widow and told her that the SEALs involved in her husband’s death were “good guys,” raising questions about how much freedom the Navy granted Matthews while he was facing a murder charge. (Dan Lamothe)
Federal agents arrested a Syrian refugee accused of plotting an Islamic State-inspired attack on a Christian church in Pittsburgh. The man, Mustafa Mousab Alowemer, allegedly provided an undercover FBI agent documents on how to build improvised explosive devices. (ABC News)
The city of Riviera Beach, Fla., will pay nearly $600,000 in ransom to hackers who paralyzed the city’s computer systems. The small city, home to about 35,000 people, has been crippled by ransomware attacks that extorted municipalities, and it stands to lose years of valuable information. (New York Times)
- Wealthy Manhattan couple Bernard and Lisa Selz have helped to bankroll the anti-vaccine movement. The hedge fund manager and his wife have given more than $3 million in recent years to groups that question (without basis) the safety of vaccines. (Lena H. Sun and Amy Brittain)
Keith Raniere, the leader of the group NXIVM, was found guilty of racketeering and sex trafficking. Raniere claimed to be a self-help guru, but authorities said his Albany, N.Y.-area group was a cultlike secret society of “sex slaves.” (Reis Thebault)
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) formally apologized to Native Americans for the violence and neglect they have suffered in the state. "It is called a genocide. That's what it was," he said. "No other way to describe it and that's the way it needs to be described in the history books. And so I'm here to say the following: I'm sorry on behalf of the state of California." Newsom also announced the creation of a "Truth and Healing Council." (USA Today)
Officials in Oregon said they “lethally removed” a black bear cub who had become known in the area for his “friendly” interactions with humans. Some criticized the state for not doing more to save the young bear’s life, but Oregonian officials insisted they had no choice. (Timothy Bella)
Five NY1 anchorwomen sued the local cable channel for age and gender discrimination. In the suit, the women allege that the network’s managers systematically forced them off the air in favor of younger hosts. (New York Times)
New research suggests horns are growing on young people’s skulls because of increased phone use. A hook or hornlike feature jutting out from some young people’s skulls just above the neck — a buildup that can be compared to the way skin thickens into a callus as a response to pressure — is being attributed to the shifting body posture brought about by the use of smartphones. Researchers believe this is the first documentation of a physiological or skeletal adaptation to advanced technology. (Isaac Stanley-Becker)
“Jeopardy!” champion James Holzhauer donated a portion of his winnings to a pancreatic cancer walk in Alex Trebek’s name. Holzhauer, who won $2,462,216 over his 32 victories, donated $1,109.14 in honor of his daughter’s birthday with the message "For Alex Trebek and all the other survivors.” Trebek announced in March that he was diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer but has since said he is in “near remission.” (CNN)
THERE’S STILL A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- The White House blocked former communications director Hope Hicks from answering dozens of questions from House Democrats. Rachael Bade, Mike DeBonis and Hailey Fuchs report: “During a closed-door interview with the House Judiciary Committee, a White House attorney and Justice Department lawyer argued that Hicks had immunity from questions about her West Wing tenure — although Hicks is a private citizen. The standoff — and the White House assertion of an exemption that Democrats said simply does not exist — immediately raised the prospect of the House asking a court to force her to testify. … Some members of the Judiciary panel emerged from the nearly eight-hour session with Hicks predicting that the episode would only fortify their case that it was time to start [impeachment] proceedings. But impeachment proponents still face one major obstacle: Pelosi. … She insisted she feels little pressure from her caucus to change her mind.”
-- Pelosi ruled out the possibility of a congressional censure, leaving impeachment proceedings as the only option for condemning Trump. “No. I think censure is just a way out,” the House speaker told reporters at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “If you’re going to go, you’ve got to go. In other words, if the goods are there, you must impeach, and censure is nice, but it is not commensurate with the violations of the Constitution, should we decide that’s the way to go.” She added that a censure of Trump would be “a day at the beach for the president, or at his golf club, or wherever he goes.” (Mike DeBonis and John Wagner)
-- Rep. Sean Casten (D-Ill.) joined the call for a Trump impeachment inquiry despite being one of the 44 House Democrats facing tough GOP challenges in 2020. “An impeachment inquiry is saying we need to initiate the process of using every tool we have to get all those facts, of making them transparent, to doing it in a way that the public understands what we’re doing,” he said. “We need to use every tool in our power to get those facts and to get those facts to the American public.” (Chicago Sun-Times)
-- Felix Sater, a former Trump business partner and Russian-born real estate developer, will testify before the House Intelligence Committee tomorrow. Tom Hamburger and Karoun Demirjian report: “The closed-door interview is part of an inquiry by the House panel into President Trump’s long-standing interest in expanding his brand to Moscow, a topic that Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the committee, has said he intends to explore further. … Sater, a U.S. citizen, was originally set to testify before the panel in March, but his appearance was postponed. He worked on two efforts to develop a Trump tower in Moscow, and he escorted Trump’s children Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. during a 2006 visit to the Russian capital. Most recently, Sater worked closely with Trump’s then-personal attorney Michael Cohen on a proposed Moscow development that began in the fall of 2015. … Along with Sater, the House Intelligence Committee is seeking the testimony of another businessman who was part of discussions about a Trump tower in Russia: Giorgi Rtskhiladze, a native of Georgia who is now a U.S. citizen and briefly expressed interest in a Trump Moscow development during a 2015 email exchange with Cohen.”
-- A senior State Department official in charge of U.S. arms control negotiations with Moscow did not disclose to Congress or her superiors a years-long friendship with GOP operative Paul Erickson, the former boyfriend of convicted Russian agent Maria Butina. Josh Rogin reports: “Erickson officiated the June 2017 wedding of Andrea Thompson, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security affairs, and David Gillian, a former senior Australian army officer, three administration officials and Erickson’s lawyer have confirmed. At the time, Thompson was serving as national security adviser to Vice President Pence. Four months before the wedding, Gillian had transferred Erickson $100,000, which federal officials allege Erickson stole from Gillian, FBI and court documents show. Thompson never disclosed these ties to her superiors until approached this week by this columnist, the three administration officials said.”
-- Deutsche Bank is facing a federal investigation into whether it complied with laws meant to stop money laundering and other crimes. The Times’s David Enrich, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum report: “The investigation includes a review of Deutsche Bank’s handling of so-called suspicious activity reports that its employees prepared about possibly problematic transactions, including some linked to President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, according to people close to the bank and others familiar with the matter. … The broader scope of the investigations and many details of precisely what is under scrutiny are unclear, and it is not known whether the inquiries will result in criminal charges. In addition to the F.B.I., the Justice Department’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section in Washington and the United States attorney’s offices in Manhattan and Brooklyn are conducting the investigations.”
-- Michael Dreeben, a key figure on special counsel Bob Mueller’s team, is leaving the Justice Department. Robert Barnes reports: “Dreeben served as deputy solicitor general and was responsible for the criminal docket in the office that represents the government in the courts of appeals and the Supreme Court. He is widely respected for his expertise in the field and trusted by Supreme Court justices, whom he has worked with and opposed in court.”
-- Democrats are attempting to limit contact between the White House and Justice Department over federal investigations. Paul Kane reports: Democrats, including Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) are pushing “legislation that would try to codify lines of communication between presidential advisers and Justice Department officials, requiring the department to keep logs of all discussions. The department aides would keep track of every White House adviser who spoke to a Justice Department official about which investigations, then turn over those logs to the inspector general and Congress every six months.”
THE DOMESTIC AGENDA:
-- The Federal Reserve indicated it may soon cut interest rates as economic growth appears to be slowing. Heather Long reports: “Business investment is slowing, uncertainty has increased and the U.S. economy is growing at a ‘moderate’ pace, the Fed said Wednesday in its official policy statement, a notable downgrade from last month, when the central bank characterized the economy as ‘solid.’ The Fed did not cut rates Wednesday and did not specify exactly when it would. But nearly half of Fed leaders now predict rates will fall by the end of the year, a significant change from March, when none of the 17 Fed policymakers anticipated a cut this year. Seven of the 17 are forecasting two rate decreases by the end of 2019, according to projections also released Wednesday.”
-- Trump appears to believe that he has the authority to replace Jerome Powell as the chair of the Federal Reserve Board. Bloomberg News’s Jennifer Jacobs and Saleha Mohsin report: “In Trump’s line of thinking, he could demote Powell to be a board governor, but isn’t planning to do so right now, the people added. … White House lawyers think there is a way to follow through with a demotion if that’s what the president wants, but there has been some disagreement in the Counsel’s office, according to a person familiar with the matter. … The Federal Reserve Act provides explicit protection for Fed governors against removal by the president except ‘for cause.’ Courts have interpreted the phrase to require proof of some form of legal misconduct or neglect of basic duties. A disagreement over monetary policy wouldn’t meet that bar.”
-- The steel industry will temporarily halt production at two domestic plants, a sign of weakness, despite a boost from Trump's tariffs. Jeff Stein reports: “On Tuesday, U.S. Steel said it would temporarily halt operations at a blast furnace near Detroit as well as one in Gary, Ind., on the shore of Lake Michigan. U.S. Steel will be idling a third plant in Europe, the company said. … The moves come amid broader concerns about a slowdown in the steel industry, which threatens to derail a key economic priority of the Trump administration. Despite initially surging under the tariffs, steel prices have fallen dramatically amid weakening demand from key consumers, including the auto, energy and agricultural industries, said Phil Gibbs, a steel industry analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets. … Trump’s steel tariffs are costing U.S. consumers and businesses more than $900,000 a year for every job created, according to a report by the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a think tank that supports free market policies.”
-- A key budget meeting between bipartisan congressional leaders and the White House produced no progress, as deadlines loom for keeping the government open. Erica Werner and Seung Min Kim report: “White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney exited the meeting … saying the two sides were even further apart than before, contending Democrats were pushing for higher levels of spending than at their last meeting, in May. ‘Last time I checked, that’s not how you compromise,’ Mulvaney said. … ‘While we did not reach an agreement, today’s conversation advanced our bipartisan discussions,’ Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a joint statement. ‘If the House and Senate could work their will without interference from the president, we could come to a good agreement much more quickly.’ … If the debt ceiling is not raised, the Treasury Department won’t have enough money to cover all its payments and could fall behind on bills. This could lead interest rates to spike and could spur another financial crisis.”
-- The EPA finalized its rollback of a crucial Obama-era climate rule that would have set strict carbon emission limits and encouraged the closure of coal plants. Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report: “The Affordable Clean Energy rule, issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, demands much smaller carbon dioxide reductions than the industry is already on track to achieve, even without federal regulation. As of last year, the U.S. power sector had cut its greenhouse gas emissions 27 percent compared with 2005. … Making steeper reductions would be required to meet the goal of keeping global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, a pledge the United States and most of the world’s other nations first made in 1992 and have reaffirmed each year, including in the 2015 Paris agreement.”
-- The Trump administration is threatening layoffs at the Office of Personnel Management if Congress blocks its plan to eliminate the agency. Lisa Rein reports: OPM “is preparing to send the career employees home without pay starting on Oct. 1, according to an internal briefing document obtained by The Washington Post. The employees could formally be laid off after 30 days, administration officials confirmed. The warning of staff cuts is the administration’s most dramatic move yet in an escalating jujitsu between Trump officials and Congress over the fate of the agency that manages the civilian federal workforce of 2.1 million. … Trump officials say that OPM is a broken agency that should be wiped clean and restarted. They cite security weaknesses that led to a massive data breach, inefficient hiring policies and a backlogged system of processing paperwork for retiring employees. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), who leads a panel overseeing government operations on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said [acting OPM director Margaret] Weichert has not made a business case to kill the agency.”
-- The Trump administration scrapped plans to kill a Job Corps program that trains disadvantaged young people for rural work after bipartisan opposition in Congress. Lisa Rein reports: “The Forest Service had planned to begin layoffs of 1,110 employees by September, believed to be the largest number of cuts to the federal workforce in a decade. The offices of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, whose agencies oversee the 25 Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers and dozens of others in urban areas, said in a joint statement that the administration is committed to making the program ‘better and stronger.’”
-- During a congressional hearing, pilots criticized Boeing and said its 737 Max jet shouldn’t have been allowed to fly. From NPR’s David Schaper: “Retired Capt. Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger told a congressional subcommittee Wednesday that an automated flight control system on the 737 MAX ‘was fatally flawed and should never have been approved.’ Sullenberger ... says he understands how the pilots of two 737 Max planes that recently crashed would have been confused as they struggled to maintain control of the aircraft, as an automated system erroneously began forcing the planes into nose dives. … ‘These crashes are demonstrable evidence that our current system of aircraft design and certification failed us,’ Sullenberger told lawmakers. ‘The accidents should never have happened.’”
-- Kevin Plank, the billionaire CEO of Under Armour, is set to save millions because of a provision in the GOP tax overhaul meant to spur investment in underdeveloped areas, known as “opportunity zones.” ProPublica’s Jeff Ernsthausen and Justin Elliott report: “Under a six-lane span of freeway leading into downtown Baltimore sit what may be the most valuable parking spaces in America. Lying near a development project controlled by [Plank], one of Maryland’s richest men, and Goldman Sachs, the little sliver of land will allow Plank and the other investors to claim what could amount to millions in tax breaks for the project, known as Port Covington.”
-- Three senators got a classified Pentagon briefing on UFO sightings. Politico’s Bryan Bender reports: “One of them was Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, whose office confirmed the briefing … ‘If naval pilots are running into unexplained interference in the air, that’s a safety concern Senator Warner believes we need to get to the bottom of,’ his spokesperson, Rachel Cohen, said in a statement.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Trump is losing patience and interest in Venezuela as President Nicolás Maduro remains entrenched. Karen DeYoung and Josh Dawsey report: “Summer arrives this week with Maduro still in place, and little indication that he is imminently on his way out, or that the Trump administration has a coherent strategy to remove him. The president, officials said, is losing both patience and interest in Venezuela. Other officials disputed the report of a chewing-out. National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said, ‘Not only is this patently false, but once more the Washington Post traffics in fairy tales rather than the truth.’ ‘The United States never said that its effort in Venezuela would be limited to one round,’ another senior official said. … But Trump has clearly been frustrated about a foreign policy issue he ‘always thought of . . . as low-hanging fruit’ on which he ‘could get a win and tout it as a major foreign policy victory,” the former official said. “Five or six months later . . . it’s not coming together.’”
-- Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in North Korea for talks with Kim Jong Un ahead of the G-20 summit. Xi is the first Chinese leader to visit North Korea in 14 years, and his meeting with Kim has led some experts to believe the trip is meant to strengthen China’s hand in its trade war with Washington. Jeanne Whalen and Simon Denyer report: “‘Xi has the power to bring Kim back to the negotiating table, which will be welcomed by Trump,’ said Park Byung-kwang, a researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy in Seoul. ‘Xi can use this leverage to strengthen China’s position in trade talks with the United States. But if Xi’s talks with Trump at the G-20 don’t end well, then Beijing can potentially pull Pyongyang away from Washington.’ … South Korea’s government this week welcomed the visit as a sign that the dialogue and peace process over North Korea are resuming.”
-- Four suspects, three of whom have ties to Russian intelligence services, were charged in the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine. Anton Troianovski reports: “Investigators have long suspected a missile from Ukraine’s battle zones was responsible for bringing down the jetliner, killing all 298 passengers and crew on the flight from Amsterdam to Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur. But the charges against the four brings a tighter focus on the alleged decision-making and suspected Russian involvement in the July 2014 disaster. Moscow denies any role.”
-- The U.S. told India it is considering caps on H-1B work visas for nations that force foreign companies to store data locally. Reuters’s Neha Dasgupta and Aditya Kalra report: “Two senior Indian government officials said on Wednesday they were briefed last week on a U.S. government plan to cap H-1B visas issued each year to Indians at between 10% and 15% of the annual quota. There is no current country-specific limit on the 85,000 H-1B work visas granted each year, and an estimated 70% go to Indians. Both officials said they were told the plan was linked to the global push for “data localization”, in which a country places restrictions on data as a way to gain better control over it and potentially curb the power of international companies. U.S. firms have lobbied hard against data localization rules around the world.”
-- Mexico became the first country to ratify a new North American trade deal. Mary Beth Sheridan reports: “Senators voted 114 to 4 to ratify the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which needed only a simple majority to pass. Mexico’s Senate has sole responsibility for approving international treaties negotiated by the country’s president. … Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the treaty would be good for job creation, trade and foreign investment. … While the new treaty sailed through the Mexican legislature, it faces a rougher road in the United States. … If the pact isn’t ratified this year, it risks getting bogged down in the U.S. presidential campaign next year. In Canada, meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants to get the deal through Parliament, but the timing is tight.”
-- Europe’s leaders are set to decide today how they can wean their countries from fossil fuels within the next 30 years. The Times’s Somini Sengupta reports: “Leaders from all 28 countries of the European Union are in Brussels this week, and analysts following the meeting said a large majority of countries were in favor of a proposal to get to net-zero emissions by 2050. The rules of the bloc, however, require that they reach a unanimous decision. Several European Union countries have already announced such targets. Britain became the first among the 20 largest industrial economies to announce its net-zero emissions target this week; Sweden has a similar target. Finland and Norway have set the bar highest, resolving to reach the target by 2035.”
-- A U.N. investigation led by human rights expert Agnes Callamard into the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi laid out in graphic detail how Saudi government agents prepared to kill and dismember the journalist. Carol Morello and Kareem Fahim report: “The planning started days before the killing, after Khashoggi — by then one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent dissidents — startled the staff at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by visiting to obtain a certificate of marriage eligibility. … Saudi authorities participated in the destruction of evidence after Khashoggi was killed and that culpability for the slaying extends beyond the 11 Saudis who are on trial in a closed-door judicial proceeding in the kingdom. … Adel al-Jubeir, the kingdom’s minister of state for foreign affairs, dismissed the findings in posts on Twitter on Wednesday.”
-- A path has been laid out for holding Khashoggi’s murderers accountable, writes the Post’s Editorial Board: “Callamard, who spent five months investigating The Post contributing columnist’s murder, was stonewalled by Saudi authorities. But she collected considerable evidence, including from some 45 minutes of tape recordings made by Turkey inside the Saudi Consulate before, during and after the murder. … Callamard says she did not reach a conclusion about the guilt of Mohammed bin Salman or [crown prince aide Saud al-Qahtani], but she found that ‘there is credible evidence meriting further investigation, by a proper authority, as to whether the threshold of criminal responsibility has been met.’ Neither is among the 11 people being prosecuted in a secret Saudi trial; she says that trial ‘will not deliver credible accountability’ and should be suspended.”
-- All but one Senate Republican voted to confirm a Trump judicial nominee who has called homosexuality “disordered.” Colby Itkowitz reports: “Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), joined every voting Democrat to oppose Matthew Kacsmaryk’s lifetime appointment to the federal bench in the Northern District of Texas. He was confirmed, 52 to 46. ‘Mr. Kacsmaryk has demonstrated a hostility to the LGBTQ bordering on paranoia,’ Schumer said before the vote. … Kacsmaryk most recently served as deputy general counsel at First Liberty Institute, a legal organization that defends religious freedom cases.”
-- Cracker Barrel turned away a Tennessee detective who called for the execution of LGBTQ people. The restaurant refused to host Grayson Fritts and his church group, citing its zero-tolerance policy for discriminatory treatment or harassment. (USA Today)
-- A gay couple was assaulted and robbed on U Street by men the victims said hurled a homophobic slur at them. Lauren Demkovich reports: “All Karl Craven could think to do when he saw his boyfriend, Braden Brecht, getting attacked was to jump on top of him to defend him. … It started as a normal night out. Craven, 24, and Brecht, 21, had just left Hawthorne in the 1300 block of U Street NW around 1:44 a.m. Sunday and paused to talk a block away from Nellie’s Sports Bar, their next stop. As Brecht leaned against Craven, Brecht said in an interview Wednesday, he heard two or three men hurl a homophobic slur. ‘What did you say?’ Craven remembers Brecht yelling. Eventually, Craven said, about 12 men started attacking Brecht. At that point, Craven said, he didn’t know if Brecht was alive or dead.”
MORE ON 2020:
-- GOP officials said Trump raised nearly $25 million in the 24 hours after officially launching his reelection campaign. Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Toluse Olorunnipa report: “Separately, the president appeared at a high-dollar fundraising luncheon at the Trump National Doral hotel in Florida on Wednesday, which officials said raised an additional $6 million. That would give him more than $30 million in a two-day period — nearly as much as the $39 million he raised in the first three months of this year. The flood of cash is helping his campaign quickly expand its staff and finance an early barrage of online ads. The president’s fundraising bonanza this week far eclipsed the $6.3 million that former vice president Joe Biden’s campaign said it pulled in on the day of his late April campaign announcement — the largest 24-hour amount raised by any of the Democratic campaigns this year.”
-- More women of color are writing big checks to campaigns in the hope of changing the makeup of the political donor class, which is dominated by white men. Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports: “No longer content to simply be the Democratic Party’s most loyal voters — 94 percent of African American women voted for Clinton over [Trump] in 2016, for instance — some women of color are seeking to break into the influential but overwhelmingly white and male world of political donors. The efforts are part of a broader campaign to elevate the voices of this group within the Democratic Party, which has had some success. … But the efforts also reflect a worry that, without robust giving by minority women, the party will move on in the general election to focus on white Midwestern Trump voters at the expense of communities of color.”
-- “‘My Whole Life Is a Bet.’ Inside President Trump’s Gamble on an Untested Re-Election Strategy,” by Time’s Brian Bennett: “Once again, Trump is putting his own instincts at the center of his campaign. The political mercenaries who tried to discipline his impulses in 2016 have been shown the door. The 2020 campaign is unmistakably Trump’s show. ‘We all have our meetings,’ the President says. ‘But I generally do my own thing.’ Campaign staff have been hired to follow Trump’s lead, and the President has made it known that when he tweets a new policy or improvises an attack at a rally, everyone had better be ready to follow along. ‘He blows the hole and everyone runs into the breach,’ says an aide. Gone is the rickety operation that eked out an upset victory over Hillary Clinton. In its place, advisers boast, is a state-of-the-art campaign befitting an incumbent President. Trump’s campaign is gearing up to spend $1 billion, and may well get there. … Despite the trappings of convention, however, Trump has for the most part thrown out the playbook for incumbency.”
-- Trump said he had not thought to live-tweet reactions to the first Democratic debates but, now that the media brought it up, he might as well. Politico’s Matthew Choi reports: “Several people close to the president [said] Trump’s closest aides hoped the president wouldn’t unleash a stream of consciousness on Twitter during the debates but were resigned to the fact that restricting the president would be unlikely. Fox News’ Sean Hannity asked Trump on Wednesday night if he will indeed be live-tweeting the debates next week. Trump said he hadn’t planned on it, but said now, he’s warming to the idea. ‘I wasn’t thinking about it, but maybe I will now,’ Trump said during a phone interview broadcast live. ‘Instead of fake news, I’ll make them correct news. And that’s OK.’”
-- Rep. James Clyburn, a top Democrat from South Carolina, still plays the role of presidential kingmaker back home. He is now pondering who will receive his endorsement. The Wall Street Journal’s Joshua Jamerson reports: “Mr. Clyburn is widely credited with securing South Carolina’s ‘first in the South’ primary in 2008. The catch: Mr. Clyburn promised the 2008 field of candidates, and the Democratic National Committee, he wouldn’t pick a favorite in the race. Mr. Clyburn stayed neutral until the primary’s bitter end, only publicly endorsing Barack Obama as the Democratic presidential nominee in June … Mr. Clyburn says he could throw his support behind a 2020 candidate but only after a presidential debate is held in South Carolina, likely next year before the primary. ‘If I were to do it, that’s the time I would be doing it,’ he said.”
Clyburn’s role in the Democratic primary process stands in contrast to the unappreciation he sometimes feels on Capitol Hill. Clyburn still resents the challenge he got from a Colorado representative for House whip. “Some of his critics looked at him as a ‘figurehead,’ he says, which he effectively took as a racial slur—that he was in Mrs. Pelosi’s inner circle only because of his race. Mr. Clyburn said he brings something to the table. ‘I’ve always managed a fully-integrated staff. Pelosi doesn’t have that experience, nor does [House Majority Leader Steny H.] Hoyer have that experience. To them, tokenism is all right with them,’ he said. … Have Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Hoyer been told they should hire more black people? ‘I don’t have to tell them,’ Mr. Clyburn said. ‘They’re grown people. They can read. They can see.’”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Bernie Sanders sparred with the center-left think tank Third Way over its conference in South Carolina, which I covered in yesterday's 202:
We absolutely will - we are proud Democrats. We all strongly supported our nominee against Trump in 2016, and we will do the same in 2020.— Third Way (@ThirdWayTweet) June 19, 2019
Can you say the same of your entire senior team? @ThirdWayKessler https://t.co/Mwz1rZAgxg
And he cited a story about Warren's acceptability to moderates as evidence that he's the true outsider:
The cat is out of the bag. The corporate wing of the Democratic Party is publicly "anybody but Bernie." They know our progressive agenda of Medicare for All, breaking up big banks, taking on drug companies and raising wages is the real threat to the billionaire class. https://t.co/zimci7JRO6— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) June 19, 2019
Booker had this blunt reply to a Twitter user who expressed sadness about potentially needing to vote for Biden:
The New Jersey senator later added this:
As his former No. 2 faced a firestorm, Obama celebrated Juneteenth:
On Juneteenth, we celebrate our capacity to make real the promise of our founding, that thing inside each of us that says America is not yet finished, that compels all of us to fight for justice and equality until this country we love more closely aligns with our highest ideals. pic.twitter.com/2XAKRuRrbG— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 19, 2019
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) waded in:
A history lesson is warranted: Senators James Eastland and Herman Talmadge were *Democrats*—as were other segregationists. @JoeBiden & them have nothing to do with “bipartisanship,” so please leave GOP out of Democrats’ debates about their party’s troubled history on race.— Tom Cotton (@TomCottonAR) June 19, 2019
A House Democrat posed this question to Biden:
In the past, Repubs said it’s unpatriotic to vote against the defense budget in committee. Previously, the committee voted to advance 60-1. But now that Ds are in charge, almost every R voted against defense. Honest question @JoeBiden: What is your strategy for working with them?— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) June 19, 2019
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) kept up her criticism of AOC for her reference to “concentration camps”:
A Bloomberg News reporter flagged this implausible statement from Trump's comments at the White House last night:
"I’ve heard and studied the Laffer Curve for many years in the Wharton School of Finance," @realDonaldTrump (@Wharton '68) said today at the White House as he honored Art Laffer, who famously drew the curve on a napkin... in 1974— Margaret Talev (@margarettalev) June 20, 2019
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger says Trump crossed a line by accusing his newspaper of treason. “The charge, levied on Twitter, was in response to an article about American cyber incursions into the Russian electrical grid that his own aides had assured our reporters raised no national-security concerns. Few paid much attention. Many news organizations, including the Times, determined the accusation wasn’t even worth reporting, a sign of how inured we’ve grown to such rhetorical recklessness. But this new attack crosses a dangerous line in the president’s campaign against a free and independent press. … There is no more serious charge a commander in chief can make against an independent news organization. Which presents a troubling question: What would it look like for Mr. Trump to escalate his attacks on the press further? Having already reached for the most incendiary language available, what is left but putting his threats into action?”
-- Wall Street Journal, “Influx of Women in Congress Gives Spouses Club a Makeover,” by Kristina Peterson and Natalie Andrews: “The record-breaking total of 127 women who now serve in Congress has gotten a significant amount of attention. The corresponding shift in the demographics of their spouses hasn’t. Some of the newly-elected women are single. One, Rep. Angie Craig (D., Minn.), has a wife. But on the whole, they have added an influx of new congressional husbands to what traditionally has been a very female group.”
-- Arrangements to fly senators to their late colleague Thad Cochran’s funeral have caused tension and reportedly demotions on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Politico’s John Bresnahan reports: Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby’s “aides arranged a flight on a private government jet to Mississippi through the Coast Guard, according to multiple sources. Yet Shelby’s staffers allowed only [Sen. Patrick] Leahy on that flight, the sources said. … However, several Shelby staffers who had served under Cochran at the Appropriations Committee were on the flight — meaning a senator was shut out from a flight that Senate staffers were allowed on. Another jet was procured … But then concerns were raised inside the Senate GOP leadership over why two private jets were needed to transport senators to the funeral, at the added cost of thousands of dollars to taxpayers. Shannon Hines, Shelby’s top staffer on Appropriations, quickly gave a choice to the two Senate Appropriations Committee staffers involved in arranging the trip — quit or take a demotion, according to several sources. The two aides … took the demotions.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Most GOP voters admit they are ‘embarrassed’ and ‘concerned’ about things Trump says,” from Aaron Blake: “The Pew survey shows that a majority of Republicans and GOP-leaning voters say they are at least sometimes ‘embarrassed’ (53 percent) and ‘concerned’ (59 percent) about the things Trump says. Large numbers also say they are at least sometimes ‘exhausted’ (41 percent), ‘angry’ (37 percent) and ‘insulted’ (32 percent). Twenty-two percent say they are sometimes ‘frightened’ by Trump’s comments. The numbers are basically unprecedented. Pollsters have asked in the past whether people are embarrassed by Trump, but the numbers haven’t been as high. A February 2017 McClatchy-Marist College poll showed that 12 percent of Republicans said they were embarrassed by Trump’s conduct, for instance. Other polls have asked whether people are ‘proud’ or ‘embarrassed’ of Trump, and Republicans overwhelmingly pick ‘proud.’”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Ex-Hassan aide sentenced to 4 years for doxing senators,” from Politico: “A former aide to Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) was sentenced to four years in prison Wednesday for hacking Senate computers and releasing personal information online about five Republican senators out of anger spurred by their roles in the confirmation hearings for Justice Brett Kavanaugh. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan said the sentence for Jackson Cosko, 27, was needed to send a signal that criminal harassment driven by political motives would be punished severely in an era marked by extreme political polarization. … In April, Cosko pleaded guilty to five felonies, admitting that after being fired last year from his work as a systems administrator on Hassan’s staff, he repeatedly used a colleague’s key to enter the office, install keylogging equipment that stole work and personal email passwords, and downloaded a massive trove of data from Senate systems.”
Trump will meet with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the White House.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I haven’t run for president. My wife told me if I decided to run for president, I needed to get a new wife. And I’ve been married 39 years, and I’m not going to go down that path.” — Sen. John Cornyn. The Republican from Texas is up for reelection next year, and some of his allies fear that his relatively low-key presence on Capitol Hill could give Democrats an opening in the increasingly purple state, the Texas Tribune’s Abby Livingston reports.
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- There will probably be a storm today and lots of humidity. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Today’s sweat fest leads to the potential for some strong late thunderstorms, so be careful out there. Humidity is much less oppressive for the summer solstice, so hurrah for summer! The weekend holds on to the dry weather while temperatures and humidity only slowly climb.”
-- The Nationals beat the Phillies 2-0. (Jesse Dougherty and Sam Fortier)
-- Metro chair Jack Evans acknowledged that he violated the board’s ethics code. Robert McCartney reports: “He also had claimed that his decision to not seek reelection as chairman had nothing to do with the ethics probe. His term ends June 30. … ‘Although it is not my recollection, it is clear from Patricia’s Lee’s memo that the ethics committee found that I violated Code of Ethics Article II. D by failing to disclose a conflict of interest, and that I agreed to not seek reelection as chair of the [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority] board,’ he said, initially reading from a prepared statement. ‘I apologize for any misunderstanding, and I accept the committee’s findings,’ Evans said.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Samantha Bee has a message for some 2020 candidates: "Run for Senate":
Bee also talked to some experts about the possibility of making reparations a reality:
Stephen Colbert reviewed Trump's performance in Orlando:
And former first lady Michelle Obama played dodgeball against some British foes including Harry Styles and Benedict Cumberbatch: