With Joanie Greve and Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: Sorry, not sorry. We’ve entered an era of no regrets.

“I have no regrets about anything,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters yesterday as she left a closed-door meeting of the House Democratic caucus. “Regrets is not what I do.”

Trying to save his job, embattled Labor Secretary Alex Acosta didn’t just defend – but touted – a 2008 plea deal he negotiated with wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein that has been heavily criticized as lenient. A federal judge ruled earlier this year that Acosta’s office violated the rights of Epstein’s victims by failing to notify them of the agreement not to bring federal charges. The Justice Department has been probing Acosta’s handling of the case. But the secretary declined to apologize to the victims when offered multiple opportunities during his afternoon news conference.

“Look, no regrets is a very hard question,” Acosta said. “There is a value to a short guilty plea because letting him walk … would have been absolutely awful.”

President Trump, of course, is legendary for not apologizing, which he plainly sees as a sign of weakness. “Under my administration,” Trump said during his State of the Union address in February, “we will never apologize for advancing America's interests.”

Asked last month if he regrets seeking deferments for “bone spurs” to avoid being drafted to serve in Vietnam, Trump said no. “Well, I was never a fan of that war, I’ll be honest with you. I thought it was a terrible war. I thought it was very far away. At that time, nobody had ever heard of the country,” the president told Piers Morgan. “I think I make up for it right now. I think I’m making up for it rapidly because we’re rebuilding our military at a level it’s never seen before.”

“No, not at all,” Trump said in April when asked by the Minneapolis ABC affiliate whether he regretted that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) got death threats after he posted a video that spliced together footage of her with images of the 9/11 attacks. “I don't really care about offending people. I sort of thought you'd know that.”

“No, no. Not at all,” Trump said last October when asked if he regretted his praise for a Montana congressman who physically assaulted a reporter after the Saudis murdered Jamal Khashoggi.

When this president has expressed regret, it has often come across as insincere – a view bolstered by his tendency to later walk back such comments. After initially apologizing for his comments on the “Access Hollywood” tape when it emerged in October 2016, for example, Trump went on the counterattack and subsequently suggested the audio wasn’t authentic.

Trump’s coterie has followed his example, and the no-apologies ethos has become somewhat infectious in these polarized and tribal times. Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway has said she does not care that she’s been accused of violating the Hatch Act by using her official position to do things like tout Ivanka Trump’s clothing line or espouse partisan statements. “Blah, blah, blah,” she quipped to a reporter. “Let me know when the jail sentence starts,” she quipped to a reporter.

During an exit interview last month with NBC News, Sarah Sanders was asked whether she had any regrets about how she did her job. “No, I don’t,” she said. Asked if she would have done anything differently, she elaborated: “Certainly, there are things. I mean, I’ll spend some time thinking about what those are.” But she couldn’t think of any right then, she said.

When Sanders announced she was going home to Arkansas, the owner of the Virginia restaurant who refused to serve food to Sanders — because of the Trump administration’s family separation policy — wrote an op-ed saying she’d do the same thing again, despite all the death threats and the impact on her business. “Resistance is not futile,” wrote Stephanie Wilkinson, the owner of the Red Hen in Lexington.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, refused to apologize in January for describing Trump as “the grand wizard of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” a Ku Klux Klan reference, and suggesting that the president is a nephew of Jim Crow. “I don't regret the use of the language, but I do think we need to move forward,” Jeffries told Chuck Todd on NBC. “Listen, it’s colorful language,” the congressman added, as if that was somehow exculpatory.

-- To be sure, several of the Democratic presidential candidates have apologized as they try to appeal to a party that’s been lurching leftward. Elizabeth Warren said “I am sorry” for identifying herself as a Native American in the past and for taking a DNA test to try to prove her ancestry. When Kirsten Gillibrand launched her campaign around the same time, she apologized for her past positions on immigration and guns. Tulsi Gabbard said she was “deeply sorry” for anti-gay comments she made a few years ago but not sorry for meeting with Bashar al-Assad, the man known as the butcher of Damascus, in Syria.

Joe Biden expressed regret last weekend in South Carolina for his comments about working with segregationists in the Senate. “Was I wrong a few weeks ago to somehow give the impression to people that I was praising those men, who I successfully opposed time and again? Yes, I was,” the former vice president said. “I regret it. I’m sorry for any of the pain or misconception I may have caused anybody. But should that misstep define 50 years of my record fighting for civil rights and racial justice in this country? I hope not. I don’t think so.”

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam apologized for appearing in blackface but refused to resign and then claimed it wasn’t actually him in the 1984 blackface photo on his medical school yearbook page. The commonwealth’s attorney general, Mark Herring, called on Northam to resign. When it came out a few days later that Herring, also a Democrat, had appeared in blackface when he went to a party as a rapper, Herring apologized but also declined to resign. “From the bottom of my heart, I am deeply, deeply sorry,” Herring said.

PELOSI VS. AOC:

-- When Pelosi said, “Regrets is not what I do,” the speaker was referring to comments she made about “the Squad,” as a quartet of liberal freshman women who have been causing her headaches call themselves. Pelosi told Maureen Dowd for a column that ran in last Sunday’s New York Times that the upstarts have “their Twitter world” but lack much influence inside the Democratic caucus. “They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got,” she said.

The Squad — consisting of Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) — replied by calling Pelosi a bully. “The four are struggling with the speaker’s moves to isolate them in recent weeks,” Rachael Bade and Mike DeBonis report. “Pelosi has made at least half a dozen remarks dismissing the group or their far-left proposals on the environment and health care. More recently she scorned their lonely opposition to the party’s emergency border bill last month.”

Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview with The Washington Post: “When these comments first started, I kind of thought that she was keeping the progressive flank at more of an arm’s distance in order to protect more moderate members, which I understood. But the persistent singling out … it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful … the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color.”

“Ocasio-Cortez’s relationship with the speaker has been chilly from the start,” per Rachael and Mike. “After she upset Rep. Joseph Crowley (N.Y.) in the Democratic primary, Pelosi moved to immediately downplay her victory, saying it was a one-off event. Still, Pelosi tried to create a bridge with the New Yorker: During their first face-to-face meeting just before the midterm elections, Pelosi spent nearly two hours trying to convince the liberal that she was just like her, touting her background. It was around that time that Ocasio-Cortez agreed to not only back Pelosi as speaker but also vocally defend her against rebels trying to keep her from the gavel. Now, half a year later, virtually all communication between the two women has ceased.

The two have not spoken one-on-one since February when Ocasio-Cortez declined Pelosi’s personal request that she join her select committee on climate change. Just days after, during a private Progressive Caucus meeting, Pelosi singled out Ocasio-Cortez in front of her colleagues, calling her out for rejecting the select committee offer. Ocasio-Cortez had publicly criticized leadership for refusing to give the committee the power to directly draft legislation. Since then, Pelosi has made several dismissive remarks about Ocasio-Cortez, calling her Green New Deal ‘the Green Dream or whatever,’ and suggesting that a ‘glass of water’ running as a Democrat could win in districts as liberal as hers. ‘The third and fourth time [she insulted me], it was like, ‘‘This is unnecessary, but I’m not going to pick a fight over it. Whatever, I’ll be the punching bag if that’s what they want me to be,’’’ Ocasio-Cortez said. But now people are telling the freshman to talk to Pelosi. She doesn’t want to, however.”

-- Our Sunday magazine has a long profile of Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti. (Read it here first.)

-- New Yorker editor David Remnick interviewed AOC after she returned from her trip to the border last week. The full transcript is interesting, but her suggestion that Biden might be too old is generating the most buzz: “I think age gets used as a proxy for capacity. And so I think there are some folks that are of a certain age where you can kind of question their capacity,” she said. “I think Donald Trump is a perfect example. I don’t think he’s all there. … I think Joe Biden, his performance on the stage kind of raised some questions with respect to that. But I don’t want to say, just because someone is seventy-nine, they can’t or shouldn’t run for President. I don’t want to use those proxies, a number as a proxy for capacity. I think you have to assess a person’s capacity on a case-by-case basis.” For example, Ocasio-Cortez said that Bernie Sanders, whom she worked for in 2016, is not too old.

-- More drama on the Hill that should be on your radar:The White House is pushing congressional leaders to strike a spending deal and increase the debt limit in the next two or three weeks, jolted by a recent report that found the Treasury Department was running out of cash much faster than previously forecasted,” Damian Paletta and Erica Werner report. “But the talks have bogged down amid acrimony between Democrats and the White House, and now Washington’s leaders run the risk of a fiscal pileup that could also imperil Trump’s effort to update the North American Free Trade Agreement. White House officials have said the debt ceiling must be raised by early September to ensure the government can pay its bills. And spending on many federal programs expires at the end of September, requiring a separate deal to prevent a government shutdown. …

Pelosi has also shown little regard for Trump’s top deputies. She has been unsparing in her public criticisms of [acting chief of staff Mick] Mulvaney. At one point during a budget negotiation in May, Pelosi snubbed acting budget director Russell Vought when he spoke up to reiterate a point. Turning to Vought, Pelosi asked, ‘What was your name again, dear?’”

-- Programming note: I am sad to report that this is Joanie Greve’s final edition as a researcher for The Daily 202. Joanie has been indispensable for the past 26 months, pulling hundreds of arduous overnight shifts to relentlessly seek out the highest-quality and most up-to-date information from around the globe to ensure that this newsletter is as informative and comprehensive as possible every day. She’s also written several memorable Big Ideas about delicate issues from abortion to race and redistricting. Joanie has landed a great job as a political reporter for The Guardian of London, based in its Washington bureau, where she’ll help cover the 2020 presidential campaign. You can expect to see many links in this space to what I’m sure will be her excellent reportage, but I will miss her pre-dawn wittiness, thoughtfulness and worldliness. (Follow her on Twitter here.)

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WHILE YOU WERE IN YOUR MORNING MEETINGS:

-- Three Iranian vessels attempted to stop a British tanker traveling through the Strait of Hormuz, Britain said today, in the latest escalation between Iran and the world. Erin Cunningham reports from Dubai: “A British navy ship, HMS Montrose, ‘was forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue to verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away,’ the British government said in a statement. … Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps denied Thursday that it was involved in challenging the British tanker, saying in a statement carried by the Fars news agency that there had been no confrontations with foreign vessels in the past 24 hours. But Iran had previously warned Britain of ‘consequences’ for seizing an Iranian supertanker in the Mediterranean last week, a move it denounced as ‘an act of piracy.’ That vessel was carrying oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions, Britain said.”

-- The Trump administration pulled one of its key proposals to lower drug prices that would have eliminated rebates to middlemen in Medicare, which Trump’s top health official had touted as one of the most significant changes to curb medicine costs for consumers. Yasmeen Abutaleb reports: “The rule is the second major drug pricing effort to get blocked this week, complicating the administration’s efforts to make lowering prescription medicine costs a key 2020 presidential campaign issue. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and top White House policy advisers had disagreed over the merits of the rule, which has been a source of tension between the two camps. Azar proposed the rule in January as a central plank of the administration’s effort to lower drug prices, and had proposed implementing the change next year. But policy advisers at the White House bristled at the rule’s nearly $180 billion estimated price tag over a decade and questioned whether it would be effective.”

-- Amateur hour: Amy McGrath, the Kentucky Democratic Senate candidate who is challenging Mitch McConnell, flip-flopped on whether she would have voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh. John Wagner and Colby Itkowitz report: “First, during a wide-ranging interview with Louisville’s Courier-Journal, McGrath said that while she found Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who alleged Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school, credible, she still probably would have voted to confirm Kavanaugh. But hours later, McGrath said she had changed her mind and actually would not have supported him. 'I was asked earlier today about Judge Brett Kavanaugh and I answered based upon his qualifications to be on the Supreme Court,' McGrath tweeted. 'But upon further reflection and further understanding of his record, I would have voted no.'”

In her first 24 hours as a candidate, her campaign raised more than $2.5 million. Much of that cash came from liberals who loathe McConnell — and would have been unlikely to give her anything if they thought she was the kind of Democrat who would support Kavanaugh. This donnybrook underscores the difficult needle McGrath must thread for her long-shot campaign. Trump remains popular in the state and will probably carry it in 2020 when she's on the ballot. “If President Trump has good ideas, I’ll be for them,” McGrath told the Louisville Courier-Journal. “At the same time, if I think he’s wrong, I’m going to stand up to him, and that’s the difference — one of the major differences — between myself and Senator McConnell.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. The season’s first hurricane, to be named Barry, is expected to strike the coast of Louisiana or Texas on Saturday. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) has already declared a state of emergency and warned that “this is going to be a Louisiana event with coastal flooding and heavy rainfall potentially impacting every part of the state. No one should take this storm lightly.” (Brian McNoldy and Jason Samenow)

  2. Trump’s company has canceled a golf tournament that a Miami-area strip club planned to hold at his Doral, Fla., resort this weekend. The president’s business said it canceled Shadow Cabaret’s tournament after the nonprofit named as the beneficiary of the event — Miami Allstars Foundation — dropped out Wednesday in response to reporting by The Washington Post. (David A. Fahrenthold)

  3. This has been a nightmare summer for American Airlines. Cancellations have skyrocketed. Last month, the world’s largest airline canceled 4 percent of its schedule, or more than 7,500 domestic and international flights. That cancellation rate was 18 times that of Delta. (Wall Street Journal)
  4. A lawsuit filed by D.C.’s attorney general alleges that Marriott has been misleading guests about hotel room prices for more than a decade, earning millions in ill-gotten profits as a result. The filing claims the hotel chain hides the true costs of its rooms from customers shopping online, obscuring extra fees shown only as the consumer selects a room and provides a credit card to reserve it. (Cortlynn Stark and Hannah Denham

  5. PG&E knew for years that hundreds of miles of its high-voltage power lines could spark wildfires, and it didn’t fix them. New documents show that the utility company estimated in 2017 that its transmission towers had gone past their mean life expectancy of 65 years. The failure of a century-old transmission line sparked the wildfire that killed 85 people and destroyed the California town of Paradise. (Wall Street Journal)

  6. A Connecticut Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal of a lower court’s decision sanctioning broadcaster Alex Jones, who spread conspiracy theories about the families whose relatives were killed in the Sandy Hook shooting. An attorney for Jones asked the court to review Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis’s decision to sanction Jones, saying the move was an “obscene mockery of core constitutional values” because the First Amendment has long protected offensive speech. (Susan Svrluga

  7. U.S. stocks hit record highs after Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell said that an interest rate cut is likely at the end of this month. Powell testified before Congress that a cut was likely given Trump’s trade war and slowing growth abroad, comments that came hours before the S&P 500 index crossed 3,000 for the first time. (Heather Long)

  8. A Florida police officer allegedly planted meth on random drivers. In one case, an innocent man lost custody of his daughter because of it. Police say the officer, Zachary Wester, planted meth while feigning “searches.” He’s been charged with 52 counts of racketeering, false imprisonment, misconduct and evidence fabrication, among other charges. (Meagan Flynn)

  9. A new Nature article argued that humans first reached Europe 210,000 years ago, about 160,000 years earlier than previously estimated. But some paleoanthropologists warned the findings, based off a human skull found in Greece in the 1970s, could be a “one-off” and should be viewed skeptically until additional examples are uncovered. (Joel Achenbach)
  10. Police discovered that a missing man was eaten by his dogs. It is unclear whether the 18 large dogs killed the 57-year-old Texas man or devoured him after he died of a “serious medical condition.” (Hannah Knowles)

THE IMMIGRATION WARS:

-- ICE agents are preparing to arrest thousands of immigrants during raids that are scheduled to begin Sunday. The Times’s Caitlin Dickerson and Zolan Kanno Youngs report: The raids “will include ‘collateral’ deportations, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the preliminary stage of the operation. In those deportations, the authorities might detain immigrants who happened to be on the scene, even though they were not targets of the raids. … The officials said ICE agents were targeting at least 2,000 immigrants who have been ordered deported — some as a result of their failure to appear in court — but who remain in the country illegally. The operation is expected to take place in at least 10 major cities. The families being targeted crossed the border recently: The Trump administration expedited their immigration proceedings last fall. In February, many of those immigrants were given notice to report to an ICE office and leave the United States, the homeland security officials said.”

-- A second federal judge blocked the Justice Department’s attempt to swap out its attorneys in the census case. Matt Zapotosky reports: “U.S. District Judge George J. Hazel in Maryland wrote in a six-page order that he shared the concerns of a federal judge in New York who similarly blocked the Justice Department maneuver this week, but noted that in his district, unlike the other judge’s, attorneys do not have to provide ‘satisfactory reasons for withdrawal.’ He wrote he was concerned that ‘a shift in counsel at this late stage may be disruptive to an already complicated and expedited case.’”

-- Trump will hold a news conference today on his administration’s efforts to add the citizenship question to the census. (John Wagner)

-- “I hate this mission,” said an operator of a new emergency shelter for migrant children. Neena Satija reports: “Kevin Dinnin, head of the San Antonio-based nonprofit BCFS Health and Human Services, said on Wednesday in [a] remote Texas town, ‘The only reason we do it is to keep the kids out of the Border Patrol jail cells.’ The Carrizo Springs shelter opened on June 30 to help alleviate cramped conditions in Border Patrol processing facilities, where people were recently seen sleeping head to toe on concrete floors, often lacking access to hot meals, showers and proper medical care. The shelter will be able to hold up to 1,300 teenage children, though it currently has just over 200. … The facility is a scattering of dormitory buildings, trailers and tents that were once housing for oil field workers. Children’s artwork — drawings of cartoon characters, flags and paper flowers — decorated the walls of their sleeping quarters. Lighted soccer fields allow children to play at night and avoid the harsh summer heat.”

-- A Guatemalan woman who alleges her daughter died of an infection after “neglect and mistreatment” in a U.S. detention center told a House panel she begged for help to no avail. Maria Sacchetti reports: “'My baby grew sicker every day,’ Yazmin Juárez, the mother of 19-month-old Mariee, said during an emotional hearing. ‘She was vomiting constantly. … I saw her suffer in a way you can’t imagine.’ … The afternoon hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties — ‘Kids in Cages: Inhumane Treatment at the Border’ — reflected the incendiary tensions between Democrats and the White House over the influx of families and unaccompanied minors at the border. Among the witnesses were lawyers and advocates who described squalid, cramped conditions at U.S. border facilities. … Rep. Chip Roy (Tex.), the subcommittee’s top Republican, offered his condolences to Juárez and said in Spanish that ‘there are no words.’ But he accused Democrats of attempting to ‘score political points’ by claiming children are held in ‘cages’ while in U.S. custody at the border.”

THE DOMESTIC AGENDA:

-- The FBI arrested two former senior officials who served in the administration of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in connection with a corruption scandal that is prompting calls for the governor’s ouster. Jeff Stein reports: “The arrests also spurred concerns on Capitol Hill about the billions of dollars in aid that Congress has approved for the island. The federal indictment says the former officials illegally directed federal funding to politically connected contractors. The arrests come about a month after Congress approved a controversial disaster aid bill that earmarked additional funding for Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria in 2017, which were tied up in part because President Trump called island officials ‘incompetent or corrupt.’ … Six people were charged in the 32-count indictment. They include Julia Keleher, who served as Puerto Rico’s education secretary until April; and Ángela Ávila-Marrero, who was the executive director of the Puerto Rico Health Insurance Administration until late June.

“Prosecutors said Rosselló was not involved in the investigation, according to the Associated Press. The governor said on Twitter he had cut short a vacation to return to the island. … On Twitter, the governor said his administration would fight corruption in all its forms and that nobody is above the law. The island’s allies fear the arrests will give Trump greater justification for curtailing badly needed aid to the island.”

-- Trump’s Fourth of July event — and the weekend protests that surrounded it — bankrupted D.C.’s security fund, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser said. Peter Jamison and Juliet Eilperin report: “Bowser (D) warned that the fund has been depleted and is estimated to be running a $6 million deficit when the current fiscal year ends Sept. 30. The mayor also noted that the account was never reimbursed for $7.3 million in expenses from Trump’s 2017 inauguration. Bowser requested that the White House fully reimburse the fund. Without that money, city officials say, Washingtonians will be put in the unprecedented position of funding federal security needs with local tax dollars.”

-- A State Department intelligence official resigned after the White House blocked him from submitting written congressional testimony about climate change. Juliet Eilperin reports: “Rod Schoonover — who worked in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research’s Office of the Geographer and Global Issues — spoke before the House Intelligence Committee on June 5 about the security risks the United States faces because of climate change. But White House officials would not let him submit the bureau’s written statement that climate impacts could be ‘possibly catastrophic,’ after the State Department refused to cut references to federal scientific findings on climate change. Individuals familiar with the matter, who asked for anonymity to speak frankly, said Schoonover is leaving voluntarily. But the incident that led to his departure underscores the extent to which climate science has become contested terrain under the current administration.”

-- A senior military officer accused the Air Force general tapped as the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of sexual misconduct. From the AP’s Lolita C. Baldor: “The officer told The Associated Press that Gen. John Hyten subjected her to a series of unwanted sexual advances by kissing, hugging and rubbing up against her in 2017 while she was one of his aides. … The Air Force investigated the woman’s allegations, which she reported days after Hyten’s nomination was announced in April, and found there was insufficient evidence to charge the general or recommend any administrative punishment. The alleged victim remains in the military but has moved to a different job. … The accusations against Hyten come at a time when the Pentagon has had an unusual amount of turmoil in its senior ranks, with only an acting defense secretary for the past six months. … It’s unclear when, or if, Hyten’s confirmation hearing will move forward.”

-- The White House picked Adm. Mike Gilday as the next chief of naval operations. The Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold and Nancy A. Youssef report: “In recommending a three-star admiral to be the next chief of naval operations, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer is picking a relatively junior officer to lead the service. A major corruption scandal and two ship accidents that killed 17 sailors in 2017 have shaken the culture of the Navy and deprived it of a number of leaders considered qualified. … But multiple officials said Adm. Gilday was a viable pick and is well-regarded by other service chiefs and inside the Navy. His background in cybersecurity—he had served as the commander of U.S. Fleet Cyber Command and director of operations for U.S. Cyber Command—had persuaded top Navy officials to recommend him to be the Navy’s top officer.”

-- The Trump administration hasn’t briefed Congress on its new rules for cyberattacks, according to lawmakers. The Wall Street Journal’s Dustin Volz reports: “In a bipartisan letter addressed to Mr. Trump in February, the leaders of the House Armed Services Committee said Congress hadn’t been able to see the directive, known as National Security Presidential Memorandum 13, ‘and other related documents on cyber operations’ despite the panel’s requests. Lacking that visibility had impeded the committee’s ability to consider the policy implications of military cyber operations, the letter said.”

-- The Trump administration’s new Commission on Unalienable Rights has sparked alarm among LGBTQ advocates who say it is full of people with a history of “fighting against LGBTQ progress.” NBC News’s Tim Fitzsimons reports: “Critics of the new commission … claim it is a ‘farce’ designed to undermine LGBTQ and abortion rights.” Members of the group include its leader, Harvard Law School Professor Mary Ann Glendon, 'a former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican [and] an outspoken opponent of abortion [who] has spoken out against same-sex marriage on several occasions over the past two decades'; Peter Berkowitz, “who in 2003 called the Supreme Court ruling that decriminalized homosexuality ‘dangerous’; Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, who said in 2011 that same-sex marriage is a sign of the ‘end times’; [and] Meir Soloveichik, who in 2012 wrote in a blurb that an anti-LGBTQ book was an ‘influential defense of marriage as it has been historically and rightly understood.’”

2020 WATCH: 

-- Former vice president Joe Biden took advantage of a loophole in the tax code that Barack Obama tried to plug. The Wall Street Journal’s Richard Rubin reports: “Mr. Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, routed their book and speech income through S corporations, according to tax returns the couple released this week. They paid income taxes on those profits, but the strategy let the couple avoid the 3.8% self-employment tax they would have paid had they been compensated directly instead of through the S corporations. The tax savings were as much as $500,000, compared to what the Bidens would have owed if paid directly or if the Obama proposal had become law.”

-- “Unlike Joe Biden, I was a pro-busing Democrat in 1972,” by Walter Shapiro in Roll Call: “A long time ago — in fact, the same year that Joe Biden ran for the Senate as a precocious 29-year-old — I sought a Michigan congressional seat as an even more precocious 25-year-old. The cause that propelled me into a Democratic primary and a quest to become the youngest member of Congress was my fierce opposition to the Vietnam War. But the issue that upended my congressional race is one that unexpectedly has contemporary relevance — federal court-ordered busing.”

-- In an op-ed for The Post, Bernie Sanders writes that racial equality can be met by attacking the wealth gap: “Example after example shows that corporate exploitation disproportionately affects black people. Black Americans lost 40 percent of their wealth in the 2009 housing crisis, and were the target of predatory lenders. Black Americans are more likely than white Americans to be paid a minimum wage salary, and black Americans stand to benefit disproportionately from a $15 an hour federal minimum wage. … The racial wealth gap lingers in part because the politicians who could close it are funded by the very corporate donors who continue to benefit from it. Gross inequality persists largely unchallenged despite the United States’ massive wealth because myths about racial inferiority and the ‘undeserving poor’ justify the worst effects of unfettered capitalism. As long as corporations can rely on the indifference to black lives as a cover for their exploitation, they will continue to do so.”

-- Pete Buttigieg unveiled his plan to counter systemic racism on NPR this morning. “What we've learned is racist policies being replaced by neutral policies is not enough,” the South Bend, Ind., mayor told Rachel Martin. “That the inequities that we have in our country were put in intentionally by generations and sometimes centuries of racist policy. They're not going to go away just because you replace a racist system with a neutral one. We need to intentionally invest in health, in home ownership, in entrepreneurship, in access to democracies, in economic empowerment. If we don't do these things, we shouldn't be surprised that racial inequity persists because inequalities compound — just like a dollar saved. A dollar stolen also compounds.”

-- After a female candidate was defeated in a North Carolina GOP primary, Liz Cheney the top-ranking woman among House Republicans said the party needs to do more to win the votes of women. Paul Kane and Felicia Sonmez report: “Cheney (Wyo.), chair of the House Republican Conference, was speaking one day after state Rep. Greg Murphy bested pediatrician Joan Perry to win the GOP nomination for a U.S. House seat in North Carolina. Perry had received nearly $1 million in support from an outside group created to boost female Republican House candidates and was endorsed by all 13 female House Republicans. ‘We have to work very hard as Republicans to convince more women to run for office, but also to convince more women to vote for us,’ Cheney said at the Capitol.”

-- Democrats are waging legal fights against GOP-backed voting restrictions in order to unlock the youth vote in 2020. Amy Gardner reports: “Among the states with laws that Democrats fear could hamper the youth vote in 2020 are battlegrounds including Wisconsin, Florida and New Hampshire. Republicans say the rules are meant to prevent fraud and safeguard the integrity of elections, and they deny accusations that they are trying to make it harder for young people to vote. But there is little doubt that Democrats had more to gain when young voters engaged in recent elections. Voters under 30 turned out in record numbers last fall, helping to power a liberal wave that swept Democrats into power in Congress.”

THERE'S STILL A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- A federal appeals court dismissed a case claiming Trump’s D.C. hotel violated the Constitution’s emoluments provision, preventing discovery that could shine some light on the president's foreign sources of income. Ann E. Marimow and Jonathan O'Connell report: “The unanimous ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit is a victory for the president in a novel case brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia involving anti-corruption provisions in the emoluments clauses of the U.S. Constitution. In its ruling, the three-judge panel said the attorneys general lacked legal grounds to bring the lawsuit alleging the president is violating the Constitution when his business accepts payments from state and foreign governments. The decision ... also stops dozens of subpoenas to federal government agencies and Trump’s private business entities demanding financial records related to the D.C. hotel.”

All three judges on the panel were nominated to the bench by Republican presidents, including one by Trump himself. Attorneys General Brian Frosh and Karl Racine said they would consider appealing for a rehearing by a full panel of the 4th Circuit in Richmond and would not be surprised to see the case reach the Supreme Court. Trump quickly took to Twitter to celebrate the ruling, referring to the lawsuit as "ridiculous" and "a big part of the Deep State and Democrat induced Witch Hunt." (Read the full opinion here.)

A separate federal appeals court in Washington is considering a different emoluments lawsuit brought by congressional Democrats, who this week began issuing dozens of subpoenas for financial records from the president’s private entities. They're pursuing a different legal theory related to standing. The lawmakers say the president is violating the Constitution because Congress is supposed to have the power to approve — or withhold — consent before the president accepts payments or benefits from foreign governments.

-- Newly uncovered audio recordings strengthen accounts by Italian reporters that Russian officials had a secret plan to fund the party of Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. The Times’s Jason Horowitz reports: “The report intrigued analysts and liberal politicians, but its cloudy provenance and Mr. Salvini’s continued denials led the questions to taper off, even as Mr. Salvini’s poll numbers and full-throated support of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia increased. But on Wednesday, BuzzFeed News published audio that seemed to confirm the Italian report’s version of the meeting. The recording was the second to come to light in just months that appeared to reveal how Mr. Putin has actively sought to destabilize the European Union by boosting nationalist, populist parties like the League. … For now, in Italy, where Mr. Salvini appears immune to political injury, the audio did not seem likely to threaten his grip on power. But it did raise new questions about Russia’s willingness to meddle in Europe, and the willingness of pro-Russian nationalists in the heart of Western Europe to accept that help.”

-- Special counsel Bob Mueller will testify before Congress in six days, and Democrats are looking for ways to navigate land mines amid concerns over the hearing’s format. CNN’s Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb report: “Mueller's time before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees will be limited, with each panel currently expected to have roughly two hours back-to-back with the former special counsel -- split equally between Democrats and Republicans. Lawmakers are beginning to raise alarms they won't have enough time to press Mueller, who has already warned he would not go beyond the findings in his report. … Behind the scenes, the preparations are intensifying. Aides on both committees are furiously preparing lines of questioning to divide up among the members. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee and on the House Intelligence Committee each have separate closed-door meetings this week to go over their strategy.”

-- “The evolution of a Russian troll,” by Foreign Policy's Amy Mackinnon: “Last summer, when the Russian media manager Alexander Malkevich came to Washington to launch a news website called USA Really—reported to be linked to the infamous Russian troll factory that interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election—he did not receive a warm welcome. He was ejected from his office near the White House—a WeWork rental—within hours of arriving, and Facebook and Twitter blocked access to the website. ... But that hasn’t stopped him. Though Malkevich seems more toy soldier than information warrior, his seemingly amateurish forays into the United States over the past year offer a glimpse at the scrappy but ever evolving nature of Russia’s influence operations around the globe—an effort that has been expanding into Africa.”

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- The Trump administration fears that the new face on the China trade team signals a tougher stance. Robert Costa and David J. Lynch report: “Commerce Minister Zhong Shan, regarded by some White House officials as a hard-liner, has assumed new prominence in the talks, participating in a Tuesday teleconference alongside Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, who has headed the Chinese trade team for more than a year. … Zhong’s sudden emergence comes two months after the U.S.-China trade negotiations collapsed with the Trump administration accusing Beijing of having reneged on a preliminary agreement. … U.S. officials and Trump allies have privately expressed concern this week that the Chinese are digging in and avoiding firm commitments.”

-- The U.S.-U.K. “special relationship” is in tatters now that the British ambassador, Kim Darroch, has resigned. Dan Balz analyzes the situation: Darroch’s resignation “represents a new low point in recent relations between the two countries. … Darroch’s resignation has caused an understandable uproar in Britain. Ahead of his decision to resign, he received strong support from outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May. … But what Darroch lacked, in the face of the attacks from Trump, was a strong endorsement from the man now favored to succeed May at No. 10 Downing Street, Boris Johnson. … Nigel Sheinwald, a former British ambassador to the United States, called Trump’s treatment of Darroch ‘vindictive and undignified,’ adding that the president has repeatedly taken advantage of a government weakened by the Brexit stalemate.”

-- Diplomats in Washington are afraid of putting Trump criticisms in writing. John Hudson and Karen DeYoung report: “Darroch’s resignation has already prompted discussions in embassies about scaling back access to diplomatic cables and moderating the tone of assessments about the Trump administration’s handling of global and domestic affairs. Powerful colleagues and friends of Darroch have also sought to keep their expressions of solidarity for the envoy private to avoid angering the U.S. president, though many admitted to sending similarly disparaging cables to their own capitals. … In Washington, foreign diplomats are tasked with keeping a polite and respectful exterior while passing along classified cables that reveal a candid, warts-and-all view of the U.S. government. Senior British officials have said that job has become much harder in the aftermath of Darroch’s resignation.” 

-- France adopted a controversial tax on revenue from tech giants like Facebook and Google despite U.S. disapproval. James McAuley reports: “Amid escalating trade tensions, the Trump administration announced on Wednesday a formal investigation into whether the tax unfairly discriminates against U.S. businesses. The measure would levy a 3 percent tax on certain revenue that major tech companies earn in France. Despite U.S. pressure, French officials stood firm on Thursday, brushing off the criticism.”

MORE ON THE #METOO RECKONING:

-- A new accuser, Jennifer Araoz, came forward with her story: that Epstein raped her when she was 15 after she was recruited outside her high school to work for him. NBC News’s Sarah Fitzpatrick, Savannah Guthrie and Rich Schapiro report: “Araoz says she was 14 years old when a young woman approached her outside her New York City high school in the fall of 2001. The woman was friendly and curious, asking Araoz personal questions about her family, her upbringing, their finances. Soon she began talking to Araoz about a man she knew who was kind and wealthy and lived nearby. … Araoz would return to [Epstein’s mansion] regularly over the next year, she said, manipulated into stripping down to her panties and giving Epstein massages that ended with him pleasuring himself to completion and her leaving with $300. In the fall of 2002, Epstein pressured her to do more, Araoz said. He told her to remove her panties. Then he grabbed her 15-year-old body. ‘He raped me, forcefully raped me,’ Araoz [said]. ‘He knew exactly what he was doing.’ ‘I was terrified, and I was telling him to stop. 'Please stop,' Araoz, now 32, added. Epstein, Araoz said, ignored her pleas. She never returned to his home after that day and her life spiraled downward over the next several years as a result of the trauma, she said.”

-- Epstein’s new indictment has renewed scrutiny of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.’s treatment of him. The Times’s Jan Ransom reports: “During a hearing in 2011, a seasoned sex-crimes prosecutor from Mr. Vance’s office argued forcefully in court that Mr. Epstein, who had been convicted in Florida of soliciting an underage prostitute, should not be registered as a top-level sex offender in New York. Instead, the prosecutor, Jennifer Gaffney, asked a judge to reduce Mr. Epstein’s sex-offender status to the lowest possible classification, which would have limited the personal information available to the public, and would have kept him from being listed on a registry of sex offenders for life. … Mr. Vance has said the request was a mistake and had been made by Ms. Gaffney without his knowledge. Still, his office’s decision to take Mr. Epstein’s side in the hearing drew renewed criticism this week.”

-- Acosta has advocated a budget that would cut funding for a government agency that fights child sex trafficking by 80 percent. The Guardian’s Ed Pilkington reports: “Acosta’s plan to slash funding of a critical federal agency in the fight against the sexual exploitation of children is contained in his financial plans for the Department of Labor for fiscal year 2020. In it, he proposes decimating the resources of a section of his own department known as the International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB). The bureau’s budget would fall from $68m last year to just $18.5m. The proposed reduction is so drastic that experts say it would effectively kill off many federal efforts to curb sex trafficking and put the lives of large numbers of children at risk.”

-- Federal prosecutors once described Epstein as a “man of nearly infinite means.” That may be an illusion. The Times’s James B. Stewart, Matthew Goldstein, Kate Kelly and David Enrich report: “Even after his 2008 guilty plea in a prostitution case in Florida, he promoted himself as a financial wizard who used arcane mathematical models … At his peak in the early 2000s, a magazine profile said he employed 150 people, some working out of the historic Villard Houses on Madison Avenue. Much of that appears to be an illusion, and there is little evidence that Mr. Epstein is a billionaire. Mr. Epstein’s wealth may have depended less on his math acumen than his connections to two men — Steven J. Hoffenberg, a onetime owner of The New York Post and a notorious fraudster later convicted of running a $460 million Ponzi scheme, and Leslie H. Wexner, the billionaire founder of retail chains including The Limited and the chief executive of the company that owns Victoria’s Secret.”

-- In the Caribbean island of St. Thomas, whispers and suspicion about Epstein abound. From the AP’s Dánica Coto: “The 66-year-old billionaire bought Little St. James Island off this U.S. Caribbean territory more than two decades ago and began to transform it — clearing the native vegetation, ringing the property with towering palm trees and planting two massive U.S. flags on either end. … ‘Everybody called it ‘Pedophile Island,’ said Kevin Goodrich, who is from St. Thomas and operates boat charters. ‘It’s our dark corner.’ Many people who worked for Epstein told The Associated Press this week that they had signed long non-disclosure agreements, and refused to talk. … [A] man said he saw a handful of young women when he was on Epstein’s property but he believed they were older than 18. ‘When he was there, it was keep to yourself and do your thing,’ the man recalled.”

-- The New York Police Department let Epstein skip judge-ordered check-ins. Epstein reportedly never once checked in with city police officers in the eight-plus years since a judge ordered him to do so every 90 days. The NYPD said Epstein wasn’t required to check in in New York because he claims his primary residence is his private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. (New York Post)

-- An investigation found that former Virginia governor Doug Wilder kissed a 20-year-old Virginia Commonwealth University student against her will. Jenna Portnoy reports: “The investigation found Wilder was responsible for 'non-consensual sexual contact' but cleared him of three other allegations made by the woman: sexual exploitation, sex- or gender-based discrimination, and retaliation. The student, Sydney Black, filed a formal complaint with VCU in December 2018, and several months later the university hired an attorney who specializes in federal civil rights law. Black, who is now 22, has said Wilder, 88, kissed her and made other overtures, including suggestions that she could live at his house and accompany him on foreign travel. He also offered to pay for law school, she said.”

-- Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax’s attorney said a witness was present during Fairfax’s sexual encounter with Meredith Watson at Duke University in 2000 and can corroborate that it was consensual. Gregory S. Schneider and Laura Vozzella report: “Barry J. Pollack has written to a prosecutor in Durham, N.C., to say that the witness — whom he did not identify — backs up Fairfax’s claim that Watson’s charge against him is ‘demonstrably false.’ Watson has said Fairfax sexually assaulted her when they were undergraduates at Duke. She is one of two women to make that accusation against Fairfax. He denies both claims. … Watson’s attorney, Nancy Erika Smith, said Fairfax was changing his story, ‘and now for the first time, he implicates his buddy as a participant.’ She renewed her call for a public hearing on the matter before state legislators.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

George Conway, who is married to senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, captioned a photo of Trump looking at the Statue of Liberty:

A freshman Democratic congresswoman kept up her criticism of a Fox News host:

Biden showed off his jersey celebrating the U.S. national women's soccer team's World Cup victory:

One of Trump's closest congressional allies expressed disappointment about the British ambassador's departure but bizarrely blamed the press:

A HuffPost reporter shared a photo of one Democratic senator's unique wall art:

The same reporter spotted a famous actor walking the Senate halls:

And Amy Klobuchar celebrated her anniversary:

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“CNN Tells Digital Staff: Take Some Cues From Fox News,” from the Daily Beast: “In recent months, CNN’s newly revamped audience development team has begun highlighting the top daily stories people are searching for online in a widely seen company Slack messaging channel. The network has begun placing small fox emojis next to stories the right-leaning cable outlet covered online that CNN missed. According to multiple sources who viewed the messages, no other competing news outlet has gotten the same explicit highlighting—a suggestion that network bosses occasionally want CNN to notice or emulate some of Fox’s successful online stories. The suggested stories were, according to people who have viewed them, largely tabloid stories that the network didn’t deem newsworthy. But some were also viral stories meant to outrage the site’s conservative readership.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Ivanka Trump women’s initiative announces $27M in grants,” from the AP: “A White House initiative spearheaded by Ivanka Trump to help women in developing countries get ahead economically is announcing its first batch of grants, $27 million for 14 projects in 22 countries, mostly in Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. … The projects are meant to help women with employment and entrepreneurship, and provide women in business with access to financing and other assistance. They range from an effort in Rwanda to help 1,400 women get into the African country’s fast-growing energy sector, to a Latin American initiative that aims to equip 8,700 women with the skills needed to work tech sector jobs in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, to supporting 5,000 women working in Indonesia’s poultry industry.”

 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“We have a president who is a sexual predator. The idea that he would be offended, morally or ethically troubled by anything that Acosta did, is not going to happen.” — Longtime Republican operative Peter Wehner on whether Trump will ask for his labor secretary’s resignation. (HuffPost)

 

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

-- Thunderstorms are likely today as we continue breathing this muggy air. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Heat and high humidity serve to fuel some strong to severe storms this afternoon and evening. These should be moving a little faster than the flooding ones earlier in the week but still carry the potential for heavy downpours and powerful wind gusts, so be prepared. After that, mainly clear sailing through the weekend with seasonable heat.”

-- The Maryland GOP is beginning to ponder its future without Gov. Larry Hogan. Ovetta Wiggins reports: “Todd Eberly, a political science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said Republicans, who endured debt and internal division before Hogan’s surprise win in 2014, face two daunting challenges over the next couple of years: a popular, term-limited governor, and an unpopular president. … Several Republican elected and party officials have been floating two top members of Hogan’s administration as possible lead gubernatorial contenders: Lt. Gov. Boyd K. Rutherford and state Commerce Secretary Kelly M. Schulz. … Hogan, asked in December about the party’s down-ballot losses and how it would affect the search for his successor, said he did not ‘want to get into picking potential replacements quite yet.’ But he noted that there were several good possibilities. ‘I have an incredible lieutenant governor who could be the first black governor in the state history,’ he said of Rutherford. ‘We have [Barry Glassman], a terrific county executive in Harford County.’”

-- A new report card says the Metrobus service in D.C. continues to be slow and unreliable. Luz Lazo reports: “A report card released Wednesday gives Metrobus a grade of D — barely passing. ‘Transit is really in crisis,’ said Cheryl Cort, policy director at the Coalition for Smarter Growth, which co-sponsored the report along with the MetroHero commute app. ‘We have been losing riders for quite a few years, and the speed and reliability of the bus just continues to decline.’ Metrobus’s grade was pulled down by some of its biggest — and well-known — problems: Buses are commonly stuck in traffic gridlock, they aren’t properly spaced, and they are chronically late.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

The U.S. national women's soccer team celebrated its World Cup victory in New York:

During a speech at the parade, team co-captain Megan Rapinoe encouraged everyone watching to “be better”:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was seen shaking for the third time in a month. Her body shook visibly at a public event, but the unofficial leader of Europe insists that there’s nothing to worry about:

Jimmy Kimmel mocked Trump for “winning” a battle against the British ambassador:

A passenger captured this terrifying footage on Monday aboard a Delta flight from Atlanta to Baltimore. The plane made an emergency landing in Raleigh, N.C., after part of the engine came loose and caused smoke inside the cabin:

A man injured his groin during a gender-reveal party. Ouch!