THE BIG IDEA: More women are choosing to come forward with accounts of sexual assault, and many authorities appear to be taking such allegations more seriously than they once did. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta's resignation this morning is another data point of how far society has come since the #MeToo movement began. But several stories this week have also laid bare some of the persisting systemic challenges in combating what advocates call rape culture. There are daily reminders of how much still has not changed both at home and abroad.

-- Acosta stepped down in the face of mounting scrutiny over his role in negotiating a 2008 deal with Jeffrey Epstein that allowed the financier to plead guilty to lesser offenses in a sex trafficking case. “I don’t think it’s right or fair to have this administration’s labor department have Epstein be the focus instead of the incredible economy we have today,” Acosta said on the White House lawn. “It would be selfish for me to stay in the position and continue talking about a case that is 12 years old.”

Standing at his side, Trump emphasized that the decision to resign was made by Acosta and that he was not fired. “This was him, not me,” the president said. “I said to Alex, ‘You don’t have to do this.’”

-- Acosta tried to save his job with a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, but the reality turned out to be much more complicated than the version of events he outlined. Matt Zapotosky, Devlin Barrett, Kimberly Kindy and Renae Merle reported last night: “Current and former law enforcement officials expressed concerns about the number of unusual decisions made in Epstein’s favor more than a decade ago. Court documents show that Acosta’s office was amenable to the demands of Epstein’s defense team even as it kept Epstein’s alleged victims in the dark. And where Acosta would not bring a federal case, federal prosecutors in New York did — on the basis of at least some of the same allegations and evidence that Acosta was considering.

Acosta said during his news conference that his office intervened in the early 2000s to make sure Epstein would be jailed after a grand jury convened by the Palm Beach County state attorney recommended a single charge that would have resulted in no jail time and no requirement that Epstein register as a sex offender. Former Palm Beach County state attorney Barry Krischer disputed that version of events, saying Acosta’s ‘recollection of this matter is completely wrong.’ … And Acosta’s characterization is somewhat undercut by internal Justice Department emails that became part of the public court record in subsequent lawsuits. Those messages show some coordination between federal prosecutors and the Palm Beach County state attorney. They also show a prosecutor in Acosta’s office, A. Marie Villafana, acceding to demands from Epstein’s attorneys not to inform alleged victims that the federal criminal investigation had been settled with a non-prosecution agreement.”

-- Meanwhile, at least a dozen new victims have come forward since the weekend to claim they were sexually abused by Epstein, according to the Miami Herald’s Julie K. Brown and David Smiley, “even as the multimillionaire money manager tries to convince a federal judge to allow him to await a sex trafficking trial from the comfort of the same $77 million Manhattan mansion where he’s accused of luring teenage girls into unwanted sex acts. Following Epstein’s arrest Saturday in New Jersey, four women have reached out to New York lawyer David Boies, and at least 10 other women have approached other lawyers who have represented dozens of Epstein’s alleged victims in the past. Jack Scarola, a Palm Beach attorney, said at least five women, all of whom were minors at the time of their alleged encounters with Epstein, have reached out to either him or Fort Lauderdale lawyer Brad Edwards.”

-- One of the new accusers, Jennifer Araoz, spoke with Savannah Guthrie this morning on NBC’s “Today” show. She said she believes she was “groomed” for Epstein. “I was a pretty happy child, but I had some pains growing up because my father had passed when I was 12 years old, so that definitely took an effect on me as a kid,” Araoz said. “It was [a process]. It wasn’t an overnight thing and that’s why I feel like it was really well thought out, well planned to really make me feel as comfortable as possible to almost keep me coming back. I didn’t really think her and him would conspire to have me go there to do such weird things that ended up happening.”

-- Federal prosecutors are being more aggressive against others accused of sex crimes. For example, the R&B singer R. Kelly was arrested last night in Chicago after a federal grand jury indicted him on 13 new counts, including enticement of a minor and obstruction of justice. This is in addition to the charges he’s already facing from local authorities in Illinois. “The 52-year-old Grammy winner, whose real name is Robert Kelly, was arrested in February on 10 counts in Illinois involving four women, three of whom were minors when the alleged abuse occurred. He pleaded not guilty to those charges and was released on bail,” the AP notes. “Then on May 30, Cook County prosecutors added 11 more sex-related counts involving one of the women who accused him of sexually abusing her when she was underage. …

Kelly has faced mounting legal troubles this year after Lifetime aired a documentary ‘Surviving R. Kelly,’ which revisited allegations of sexual abuse of girls. The series followed the BBC’s ‘R Kelly: Sex, Girls & Videotapes,’ released in 2018, that alleged the singer was holding women against their will and running a ‘sex cult.’ Soon after the release of the Lifetime documentary, Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx said her office had been inundated with calls about the allegations in the documentary. Her office’s investigation led to the charges in February and additional counts added in May.”

THE NEXT BIG #METOO FIGHT IN WASHINGTON:

-- “Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee said Thursday that they want to hear from the Army colonel who has accused Trump’s pick to become the military’s No. 2 officer of sexual misconduct before they let his nomination proceed, putting them firmly at odds with the panel’s Republican chairman,” Karoun Demirjian and Paul Sonne report. “The allegations against Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten prompted a probe by the Air Force criminal investigative service. Based on the results, no disciplinary actions against him were taken. Air Force officials briefed senators on the findings Wednesday. Hyten, who was nominated in April to become the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has denied the allegations.”

  • “I think she’s very believable, and I think she deserves to be heard,” said Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).
  • “No, I don’t think that’s necessary,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the committee chairman. When asked Thursday if he wanted to hear directly from the Army colonel, Inhofe said: “I think the examination’s been very thorough.”

Several members have publicly and privately raised questions about the way the investigation was conducted. In particular, they are concerned that Hyten may have received ‘preferential treatment,’ as Duckworth put it, while he was being investigated. Unlike others facing similar allegations, he wasn’t removed from duty during the probe, several senators and aides said. … Members of both parties are acutely aware that if Hyten’s nomination proceeds to a public confirmation hearing, it could be dominated by the sexual misconduct allegations regardless of whether the Army colonel receives an audience before the panel — and some Republicans would rather avoid that inevitability.”

-- “Attorneys for Donald Trump say the video of the president embracing then-campaign staffer Alva Johnson in 2016 refutes her allegations that Trump forcibly kissed her without consent. Johnson’s attorneys say that, if nothing else, the footage proves her claims were truthful,” Michael Brice-Saddler reports.

Far from providing clarity, the 15-second video released Wednesday by Charles Harder, an attorney for Trump, only led to conflicting interpretations. In a February lawsuit and interview with The Washington Post, Johnson alleged the president grabbed her hand and leaned in for a kiss before a Florida rally on Aug. 24, 2016. She turned her head, which caused Trump to kiss the side of her mouth, she said, claiming she was humiliated. In a Wednesday court filing, Harder brushed off Johnson’s battery claim as ‘unmeritorious and frivolous.’ The video, he argued, shows an ‘innocent interaction that is mutual — and not forcible.’ … Johnson is one of 16 women to accuse the president of sexual misconduct. Many of the accusations came following the release of the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape.”

A REMINDER OF THE HURDLES THAT FACE SURVIVORS:

-- The New Jersey Supreme Court held a disciplinary hearing to mull how a superior court judge should be sanctioned for asking a rape victim if she “knew how to stop somebody from having intercourse with” her and if she could have just “closed her legs.” The attorney for Judge John Russo Jr. said he is remorseful and ready to take whatever punishment the higher court sees fit, according to NJ.com’s Amanda Hoover: “Russo did not speak during the 20-minutes of oral arguments; he sat with his hands crossed, twiddling his thumbs. … An advisory panel for the court in April recommended the Ocean County family court judge receive three months suspension and wrote that his conduct demonstrated ‘an emotional immaturity wholly unbefitting the judicial office and incompatible with the decorum expected of every jurist,’ in its 45-page recommendation detailing four incidents of misconduct.

In off-the-record comments following the testimony, the nonchalant attitude toward sexual assault continued. ‘As an exotic dancer, one would think you would know how to fend off unwanted sexual…’ was picked up on a recording. Laughter was heard in the conversation as well, which Russo maintained he was using as a teaching moment to educate a clerk when he said, ‘it’s not all fun and games out there.’ … Separately, a former law clerk is also suing him for sexual harassment and discrimination.”

-- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) vowed yesterday to end the nationwide rape kit backlog by the end of her first term as president by offering a total of $100 million in annual federal assistance to states that commit to improving their testing procedures. “Her new federal plan, funding for which would have to be approved by Congress, would require states that opt into her proposal to count and report their untested rape kits each year, test their cases in a timely fashion, keep victims informed and increase access to rape kits in underserved areas,” Chelsea Janes reports. Harris would also encourage states to require law enforcement agencies to keep rape kits in evidence files until the alleged crimes could no longer be prosecuted under statutes of limitations.

According to End the Backlog, a project sponsored by the Joyful Heart Foundation, which seeks to assist crime victims, hundreds of thousands of rape kits collected from victims are sitting untested in evidence storage or crime labs nationwide. As advances in DNA testing placed strain on crime labs, there are no national standards for keeping and testing the evidence. Efforts by individual jurisdictions to eliminate the backlogs have shown benefits: When New York City committed to eliminating a backlog of 17,000 rape kits in 1999, the process yielded 200 arrests. As California attorney general, the job she held before being elected to the Senate in 2016, Harris sought to help local police agencies to clear backlogs by introducing new testing technology. Her office’s Rapid DNA Service team said it cleared all 1,300 untested rape kits in the state’s backlog in one year and earned national recognition and grants for its efforts.”

THE CHALLENGES FOR WOMEN OVERSEAS:

-- The BBC published a deeply unsettling story yesterday about endemic sexual harassment in the Afghanistan government, based on interviews with six women in Kabul. The whole thing is worth reading, but here’s what two of the women had to say:

“In a house near the foot of the dusty mountains that surround Kabul, I meet a former government employee. … She says her former boss, a senior minister in the government, repeatedly harassed her, and one day when she went to his office, tried to physically assault her. ‘He directly asked me for a sexual favour. I told him I'm qualified and experienced. I never thought you would say such things to me. I stood up to leave. He grabbed my hand and took me to a room at the back of his office. He pushed me towards the room and told me, 'It'll take only a few minutes, don't worry, come with me.’ I pushed him by his chest and said enough. Don't make me scream. That was the last time I saw him. I was so angry and upset.’

“Did she file a complaint after the incident? ‘No, I resigned from my job. I don't trust the government. If you go to the court or to the police, you will see how corrupt they are. You can't find a safe place to go and complain. If you speak out, everyone will blame the woman,’ she tells me.

“In an office by a small park, I met another woman who was willing to share her story. She had applied for a job in government and had all but secured it when she was asked to meet a close aide of President Ashraf Ghani. ‘This man appears in pictures with the president. He asked me to come to his private office. He said, come and sit, I'll approve your documents. He moved closer to me and then said let's drink and have sex,’ she says. ‘I had two options, to either accept the offer or leave. And if I had accepted, it wouldn't have stopped at him, but multiple men would have asked to have sex with me. It was really shocking. I got scared and left.’ …

“She breaks down into tears during our conversation. ‘If you go to complain to a judge, the police, a prosecutor, any of those, they will also ask you for sex. So if they're doing that, who can you go to? It's like it's become a part of the culture now, that every man around you wants to have sex with you,’ she says. … The president's office declined a request for an interview, and didn't respond to emailed questions either.”

-- “Ignored at Home, Battered Russian Women Take Cases to Europe,” Andrew Higgins reports in today’s New York Times: “He beat her. He kidnapped her. He threatened to kill her. But this was Russia, where domestic violence is both endemic and widely ignored. Every time Valeriya Volodina went to the police for protection from her ex-boyfriend, she got nowhere. ‘Not once did they open a criminal case against him — they would not even acknowledge there was a case,’ she says. So Ms. Volodina turned her sights out of the country, and this week, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled emphatically in her favor. Rejecting arguments from Russia that she had suffered no real harm, and that she had failed to file her complaints properly, the court awarded her 20,000 euros, about $22,500.

“The ruling was the European court’s first on a domestic violence case from Russia — but it may be far from its last. Ten more Russian women have similar cases pending before the court.A report last year by Human Rights Watch described the problem as ‘pervasive’ in Russia but rarely addressed because of legal hurdles, social stigma and a general unwillingness by law enforcement officers to take it seriously. In Ms. Volodina’s case, it was her boyfriend who finally shed light on why her complaints were being ignored by the police. ‘With all the money I have spent on the cops, I could have bought a new car,’ she remembers him complaining. … ‘Justice has been achieved,’ said Ms. Volodina, 34, ‘but it is sad that this was done in a foreign country, not in Russia.’”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- House Democrats and former special counsel Bob Mueller are in discussions about delaying his testimony for one week in exchange for more time for questioning. Mueller had been scheduled to testify Wednesday before the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees about his report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. The panels planned back-to-back hearings of four hours of testimony. Multiple congressional officials said this morning that he has offered to delay his testimony to July 24 to spend more time answering lawmakers’ questions. (Developing.)

-- “As New Orleanians recover from floodwaters that inundated the city on Wednesday, residents are preparing for an unprecedented triple whammy this weekend: heavy rain, an already engorged Mississippi River and a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico that is expected to make landfall in Louisiana on Saturday, with a storm surge that could reach six feet,” Tim Craig and Frances Stead Sellers report: “Fourteen years after Hurricane Katrina killed more than 1,800 people and swamped this city, the deluge will be a major test of the updated drains and pumps that remove water from the streets, the earthen levees that hold back the river, and the elaborate system of barriers that prevents tidal surges from sweeping in — all part of a $14 billion investment in the city’s flood-fighting infrastructure.

“On Thursday, the National Weather Service forecast that the river would crest at 19 feet, one foot lower than previously predicted, reducing concerns that river levees would be topped or breached. But residents, their memories of Katrina reawakened by Wednesday’s downpour, are still worried about Tropical Storm Barry. Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), who declared a state of emergency Wednesday, said that expected rainfall ‘is extremely serious’ and the system will ‘likely produce storm surge, hurricane-force winds and up to 15 inches of rain,’ putting the entire state at risk.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she will attempt to finalize a deal that would raise the debt ceiling in the next few weeks instead of delaying until fall, heeding dire warnings from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that the government could fall behind on its bills by early September. She wants to get it done before the August recess. (Erica Werner and Damian Paletta)
  2. The sudden removal of William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s head of human exploration, is a clear sign that the White House is increasingly frustrated with the agency’s efforts to return humans to the surface of the moon by 2024. The Trump administration is laser-focused on that date, which would come during a second term of the Trump presidency, should he be reelected. But despite the mandate, NASA has continued to struggle with delays and cost overruns that have threatened the program. And the purge of one of the longest-serving stalwarts in the agency shows how far the White House is willing to go. (Chris Davenport)

  3. A raging fire in Maui has led to massive evacuations of people and animals. The fire had scorched 3,000 acres in central Maui, leading to evacuations of residents of Kihei and Maalaea as it burned out of control on Thursday night. (KGMB)

  4. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department released a 158-page report nearly two years after the shooting at a music festival that left 58 victims dead. It includes a minute-by-minute review of what happened that night and 93 recommendations for law enforcement officials to respond more effectively to any future massacres. (ABC News)

  5. The American Federation of Teachers sued the Department of Education over student loans that weren’t forgiven. The union asked a judge to order Betsy DeVos to comply with existing legal standards for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. (NPR)

  6. Jair Bolsonaro, the Trumpian president of Brazil, has invited his son to become ambassador to the U.S. Eduardo Bolsonaro, 35, who is currently serving as a congressman, told reporters he would accept the post if it were offered. The position of ambassador has been vacant since April. The 35-year-old has been dubbed Brazil's "shadow foreign minister" because of the influence he has over his father. (BBC)

  7. At least 37 people were injured on board an Air Canada flight today after the plane hit severe turbulence and had to make an emergency landing. The plane, carrying 284 passengers and crew, was traveling from Vancouver to Sydney but was diverted to Hawaii. (BBC)

  8. All 25 female senators, Republicans and Democrats, invited the U.S. women’s national soccer team to meet with them on Capitol Hill to talk about the “challenges women face on and off the field.” This presumably includes the players’ high-profile fight for equal pay. (HuffPost)

  9. A robot umpire officially called balls and strikes for the first time in baseball’s history at a minor league all-star game. Major League Baseball has signed a three-year agreement with the independent, eight-team Atlantic League to install experimental rules in line with Commissioner Rob Manfred’s vision for a faster, more action-packed game. Among the first changes discussed was an automated balls and strikes regime, run via a panel above home plate. (Jacob Bogage)

  10. A Japanese spacecraft has landed on an asteroid after blasting it with a bullet. The mission will bring rock samples back to Earth. (Business Insider)

  11. Colin Kaepernick’s skin appears to have been darkened in a National Republican Congressional Committee advertisement. The fundraising solicitation promoted a “Betsy Ross mug,” referencing the football player’s opposition to Nike issuing shoes with the flag. (Yahoo News)

THE IMMIGRATION WARS:

-- Trump backed down from his push to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, effectively conceding defeat in a battle he had revived just last week and promised to continue despite a recent string of legal defeats. “Trump announced that he instead plans to order every federal agency to give records to the Commerce Department that detail the numbers of citizens and noncitizens in the United States,” Seung Min Kim, Tara Bahrampour and John Wagner report. “But the political tensions over Trump’s push to collect citizenship data and concerns he may have already scared immigrant communities from fully participating in the census are likely to continue even if they are reduced for now. …

“Earlier Thursday, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said the Democratic-led chamber will vote Tuesday to hold Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Attorney General William P. Barr in contempt of Congress for not complying with subpoenas related to the administration’s decision to include the citizenship question. The White House has asserted executive privilege over the information. House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), whose panel oversees the census, said the president’s announcement would not alter the planned vote. …

While Trump portrayed his executive order on data collection as a new proposal, it is similar to the very approach that the Census Bureau recommended after Ross said he was exploring adding a citizenship question to the form. … Barr, who stood alongside Trump and Ross in the Rose Garden, defended the administration’s plan to add the question, but said the effort had to be abandoned because a protracted legal fight would impede the administration’s ability to conduct the 2020 survey. … Gone unmentioned in the Rose Garden announcement Thursday was the administration’s initial rationale for seeking to add the citizenship question to the census: that the data was needed for the Justice Department to enforce the Voting Rights Act.” (Read Sal Rizzo’s fact check on Trump’s announcement.)

-- The Trump administration wound up changing its story on the census citizenship question 12 times in four months. (JM Rieger)

-- Immigration attorneys claim ICE raids have already begun in the Bay Area. KRON4’s Dan Kerman and Dan Thorn report: “A group of Bay Area immigration attorneys entered federal ICE offices in San Francisco during the noon hour Thursday to demand information about the threat of immigration raids this weekend. ‘We want to know what their plans are, who they are targeting and where individuals will be process so they can have access to attorneys,’ said immigration attorney Siobhan Waldron. Attorneys say these raids are already underway in the Bay Area, beginning in Contra Costa County this past Sunday.”

-- George Shultz, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, says Trump needs to pour more U.S. foreign aid into Central America — not cut it off — if he wants to reduce the number of people trying to cross the southern border. “Make Central America Great Again” is the headline of Shultz’s op-ed for today’s Wall Street Journal: “Illegal immigration from the Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras is understandable. If you were there, you would leave too. Aliens often come for the economic opportunities in the U.S., and many times are fleeing crime and violence. President Trump has urged the three countries to stop this illegal migration, but it is doubtful that they have the capacity to do so on their own.” His advice is to go to the source of the crisis.

-- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) released an immigration plan that calls for remaking two major immigration enforcement agencies “from top to bottom” and establishing independent immigration courts, and she reiterated her support for decriminalizing border crossings. (Annie Linskey)

-- New York Mayor Bill de Blasio called for abolishing ICE. (MSNBC)

BIG TECH IN THE CROSSHAIRS:

-- Trump assailed Facebook, Google and Twitter, accusing them of exhibiting "terrible bias" and silencing his supporters, at a White House "Social Media Summit” that critics chastised for giving a prominent stage to some of the Internet’s most controversial, incendiary voices. Tony Romm reports: “For Trump, the conference represented his highest-profile broadside against Silicon Valley after months of accusations that tech giants censor conservative users and websites. With it, the president also rallied his widely followed online allies — whom he described as ‘journalists and influencers’ and who together can reach roughly half a billion people — entering the 2020 presidential election. ‘Some of you are extraordinary. The crap you think of is unbelievable,’ Trump said.” (Here’s a list of attendees.)

-- Trump also sharply criticized Facebook’s plans to enter the cryptocurrency market, tweeting that the United States has “one real currency” and suggesting the company may need to submit to heightened banking regulation. Romm and Paletta report: “In a series of tweets, Trump said Facebook’s plans to help launch the currency, called Libra, would have ‘little standing or dependability,’ warning that if Facebook wanted to become a bank it should seek ‘new Banking Charter and become subject to all Banking Regulations, just like other Banks, both National and International.’ Facebook announced its plans for Libra and Calibra, a subsidiary that shares the name of a virtual wallet service, earlier this month. The social networking giant plans to make the cryptocurrency available to its roughly 2 billion users worldwide, and it will be run through an association based in Switzerland.”

-- Meanwhile, the price of bitcoin fell by more than 10 percent after Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell told Congress that Facebook’s planned cryptocurrency raises “many serious concerns.” (Hamza Shaban)

-- “Trump revels in his love-hate relationship with Twitter,” by Ashley Parker: “Several minutes into [the White House summit], the president grew nostalgic, reminiscing on some of his greatest Twitter hits. ‘Remember when I said somebody was spying on me?’ he asked. That ‘somebody’ was President Barack Obama. And Trump was referring to a series of his own tweets in March 2017 in which he falsely — and with no evidence offered — accused his predecessor of committing what would probably have been an illegal act. ‘This is Nixon/Watergate,’ Trump wrote in one missive. ‘Bad (or sick) guy!’ But to hear Trump tell it now, the entire controversy — which gripped the nation for weeks to come — was simply a lark, a convenient way for him to boost his social media following into the stratosphere while dominating the conversation here on Earth.

Trump repeated the bogus spying claim and continued. ‘I used to watch it,’ Trump said Thursday. ‘It’d be like a rocket ship when I put out a beauty. … That thing was like a rocket,’ he said, popping up his right thumb and shooting it skyward. ‘I get a call two minutes later: “Did you say that?” I said, “Yeah, I said that.” “Well, it’s exploding. It’s exploding.”’ The crowd laughed. The mind reeled. Trump’s entire presidency has been something of a social media summit.”

-- Despite pressure from the United States, the French Parliament adopted a new tax aimed at tech giants such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. James McAuley reports from Paris: “The French government has argued that taxes on big tech firms should be based on where they do business, not just where they’re headquartered — as has been the case up to now. And so the measure would levy a 3 percent tax on certain revenue the companies earn in France. The Trump administration warned on Wednesday that it would investigate whether the tax unfairly discriminates against U.S. businesses. French officials stood firm Thursday, brushing off the criticism. … The tax will apply to tech companies with revenues of more than $850 million, with at least $28 million earned in France. It will affect about 30 companies.”

-- Contractors employed by Google listen to recordings of conversations customers have with their Google voice-activated devices, the company said. Greg Bensinger reports: “Google said contractors review a small percentage of the recordings made by customers through Google Assistant devices, such as Google Home and phones using Android software. The disclosure follows a report from a Belgian news site that obtained samples of the recordings. Though Google said just two-tenths of a percent of recordings are used for human review, it also disclosed that customers may occasionally be recorded even when they aren’t using Assistant. Human review of the recordings is necessary to improve the software’s understanding of various languages, Google said in a blog post.”

-- Amazon, which has 275,000 full-time U.S. employees, will retrain a third of its domestic workforce. The goal is to get ahead of technological changes that could overhaul warehouses, retail stores, transportation networks and corporate offices alike. The company announced the $700 million initiative that will cover 100,000 workers by 2025. Amazon’s founder and chief executive, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post. (Rachel Siegel)

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- Turkey has begun taking delivery of Russia’s S-400 air-defense system, completing a deal that has unnerved Turkey’s NATO allies and that could trigger sanctions from the United States. Kareem Fahim reports from Istanbul and Amie Ferris-Rotman reports from Moscow: “The first components for the system arrived at an air base in Ankara, the Turkish capital, on Friday, the defense ministry said in a statement. … U.S. officials have fretted that Turkey’s possession of the S-400 could give Russia access to secrets of the F-35’s stealth technology. Last month, the Pentagon said it would halt the training of Turkish pilots to fly the warplane.

There was no immediate reaction from the Trump administration, which had given mixed signals about how the United States might respond if Turkey went through with the deal. American officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, had warned of dire repercussions, including canceling sales of U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets to Ankara and the imposition of sanctions under a 2017 law on cooperation with adversaries. But Trump has been publicly supportive of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and last month expressed sympathy for Erdogan’s decision to purchase the S-400s. Erdogan, after meeting Trump at the Group of 20 Summit in June, said he did not believe that the United States would sanction Turkey. Erdogan has defended his $2.5 billion acquisition of the Russian system as part of Turkey’s sovereign right to defend itself, and said he tried to purchase the U.S.-made Patriot air defense system but was not offered favorable terms.”

-- “North Korea called the planned mid-July delivery of two U.S. stealth jet fighters to South Korea an affront to last year’s pledge by the two countries to tone down military tensions on the peninsula, saying it had no choice but to develop arms to counter them,” the Wall Street Journal reports. “Pyongyang, which frequently makes exaggerated threats against Seoul and Washington, said it would develop ‘special armaments’ to destroy the jets in a state-media report Thursday. Seoul has plans to buy 40 of the F-35A jets.”

-- The Pentagon says it is discussing military escorts for vessels in the Gulf, a day after Iranian ships allegedly tried to block a British oil tanker near the strategic Strait of Hormuz. (Al Jazeera)

-- The United States has decided not to impose sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for now, in what Reuters calls “a sign Washington may be holding a door open for diplomacy.”

-- The visiting emir of Qatar, who met with Trump on Tuesday, did not renew an earlier offer to mediate between the United States and Iran because the White House indicated a belief that ever-harsher sanctions would force Tehran to negotiate, according to Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani. (Karen DeYoung)

-- The United Arab Emirates is pulling its troops out of Yemen, a major blow to the Saudi war effort. “Emirati forces led almost every major advance the coalition made. Now they have decided they can go no further,” the Times’s Declan Walsh and David Kirkpatrick report. “The Emiratis are withdrawing their forces at a scale and speed that all but rules out further ground advances, a belated recognition that a grinding war that has killed thousands of civilians and turned Yemen into a humanitarian disaster is no longer winnable. Emirati officials have been saying for several weeks that they have begun a phased and partial withdrawal of forces estimated at 5,000 troops a few years ago. But Western and Arab diplomats briefed on the drawdown say a significant reduction has already occurred, and that the Emiratis are driven mostly by their desire to exit a war whose cost has become too high, even if it means angering their Saudi allies.”

-- More than 20 nations signed a letter this week forcefully condemning China’s apparent systematic detention of minority Uighurs and other Muslims — but not the United States. Rick Noack reports: “The letter to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights was also notable for another reason: that it was written at all. The United States has typically taken the lead in criticism of China’s human rights record, sparing smaller nations the task of facing down Beijing’s economic and political might. But the Trump administration withdrew from United Nations Human Rights Council last June over the body’s frequent criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.”

-- American businessmen are facing growing harassment from China when visiting Beijing. The Times’s Paul Mozur, Alexandra Stevenson and Edward Wong report: “A Koch Industries executive was told he could not leave China. An ex-diplomat who helped organize a technology forum in Beijing was hassled by authorities who wanted to question him. An industry group developed contingency plans, in case its offices were raided and computer servers were seized. Business executives, Washington officials and other frequent visitors to China … expressed increasing alarm about the Chinese authorities’ harassment of Americans by holding them for questioning and preventing them from leaving the country. They worry that trade tensions between Washington and Beijing could turn businesspeople and former officials into potential targets. Some companies are reviewing or beefing up their plans in case one of their employees faces problems.”

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- The House Judiciary Committee voted to subpoena 12 people with connections to Trump, including his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, as part of the ongoing investigation into whether the president obstructed justice or otherwise abused the power of his office. On a party-line vote, the committee authorized Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) to summon John Kelly, Michael Flynn, Corey Lewandowski, Jeff Sessions, Rod Rosenstein, Rick Dearborn, Jody Hunt and Rob Porter. (John Wagner)

-- During a tense exchange last month, Flynn’s new legal team accused a federal prosecutor of trying to coerce the former Trump national security adviser to lie under oath. Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports on new court documents: “‘You are asking my client to lie,’ new Flynn attorney Sidney Powell told prosecutors during the June 27 conference call, according to notes taken by another Flynn lawyer. ‘No one is asking your client to lie,’ prosecutor Brandon Van Grack shot back, the notes say. ‘Be careful about what you say.’ Van Grack, a former member of Mueller’s team who is still assigned to Flynn’s case, became ‘very heated’ during the call, according to Flynn lawyer Lindsay McKasson. Her notes were submitted Thursday to the federal judge in Washington, D.C., who is expected to sentence Flynn on a felony false statement charge he pleaded guilty to in 2017 as part of a plea deal with Mueller’s team.”

-- Zainab Ahmad, a prosecutor on Mueller’s team who worked on the Flynn case, is leaving the Justice Department for a job at a private law firm. Ahmad, a veteran New York prosecutor of complex terrorism cases, said in an interview that she is joining Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to work on international legal matters. (Devlin Barrett)

TRUMP'S TAKEOVER OF THE GOP:

-- Tim Alberta’s new book, “American Carnage,” a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post ahead of its scheduled release Tuesday, details how many Republicans who once criticized Trump changed their tune after his election and struck a Faustian bargain. Josh Dawsey highlights some of the choicest nuggets: “Few people have more power in President Trump’s White House than Madeleine Westerhout, his executive assistant who controls access to the Oval Office, delivers the president’s marker-scribbled messages, sends orders to top military officials, prints emails and articles to show Trump, and seeks to keep a tight grip on his schedule. But she was not always a staunch supporter of the president. On election night, Westerhout, then a Republican National Committee aide, broke down crying, ‘inconsolable’ over Trump winning the election. … Westerhout now tells others she would do almost anything for Trump, and he calls her ‘my beautiful beauty.’”

Alberta reports that the vice president’s wife, Karen Pence, did not want to appear in public with her husband after the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape and that Pence disagreed with Trump on many key issues, from immigration to trade. Now, Pence’s oldest friends joke about whether Trump has blackmail material on him.”

Ted Cruz “told confidantes there was ‘no way in hell’ he was prepared to subjugate himself to Trump in front of tens of millions of viewers,” Alberta writes. “‘History isn't kind to the man who holds Mussolini's jacket,’ Cruz told friends in 2016.

Alberta traces the ascent of Trump to the final stretch of the George W. Bush presidency. … He recounts a scene where Bush, while meeting with advisers in his second term, said he was worried about protectionism, isolationism and nativism. ‘These isms,’ Bush told his team, ‘are going to eat us alive.’ He recounts Bush even asking conservative radio hosts in a 2008 meeting to ‘go easy on the new guy,’ referring to his successor, Obama, because he was worried the ‘isms’ would drive the opposition to Obama.

At his core, Alberta depicts Trump as a transactional, cynical and cunning person, who understands what his supporters want by consuming large amounts of media and watching how Republicans failed in the past. He reports that Trump pressured the head of the Iowa GOP in 2016 to invalidate the results after he lost the caucus. In November 2016, Henry McMaster, then South Carolina’s lieutenant governor, told Trump he wanted to be governor of the state — after being the first statewide official to endorse Trump for president. ‘That’s it?’ Trump replied. ‘Well that should be easy. You’re already the lieutenant governor!’ McMaster explained that it was not so easy — and that he could only become governor if Nikki Haley were not around. ‘Within days, seemingly out of left field, Trump announced Haley as his pick for ambassador to the United Nations.’

In 2016, Trump described why then-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie could not become attorney general. ‘Because that guy would prosecute my own kids and not think twice about it,’ Trump told campaign chairman Paul Manafort, according to the book.”

-- “Why Pence spiked a Trump judge,” by Politico’s Eliana Johnson: “In January 2018, Judge Michael Kanne received an unexpected call from the White House. Kanne, an Indiana native who sits on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, was then 79 years old. … Rob Luther, a [Don] McGahn deputy responsible for nominations, had phoned Kanne to suggest he retire. Luther told the judge the White House had a successor in mind: Tom Fisher, Indiana’s solicitor general and a former clerk for Kanne. ‘I had not intended to take senior status because that wasn’t my plan, but if I had a former clerk who had the chance to do it, then I would,’ Kanne said in an interview. ‘On the consideration that he would be named, I sent in my senior status indication to the president.’ … Pence’s aides got wind of it and scuttled Fisher’s nomination, according to five people familiar with the events.

As solicitor general of Indiana, Fisher had defended Gov. Mike Pence’s policies in court, and aides to the now-vice president feared his nomination would dredge up events and information politically damaging to Pence. In a series of tense conversations with the White House counsel’s office, Pence’s lawyers, Matt Morgan and Mark Paoletta, and his then chief of staff, Nick Ayers, objected to Fisher’s nomination, which died before it ever became a reality. Pence himself was kept apprised of the conversations. … In this case, Pence’s private political considerations cost the administration a chance to elevate a fresh conservative to the federal bench when Kanne, who was nominated by President Ronald Reagan in 1987, revoked his senior status upon learning that Fisher wouldn’t be nominated to replace him.”

2020 WATCH:

-- What is Joe Biden trying to hide? Matt Viser reports: “Biden’s effort to make his lengthy experience the central issue of his campaign has been confounded by questions about his actions during almost four decades as a U.S. senator, on issues including criminal justice, busing and the hearings into the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Those questions might be answered in the massive trove of Senate records he donated eight years ago to the University of Delaware under an agreement that they could be made public by early this year. But the records are being kept secret, following new terms the university posted on its website just before Biden made his presidential campaign official in April. …

The collection of documents that Biden donated to his alma mater fills 1,875 boxes and also includes 415 gigabytes of electronic records. It includes committee reports, drafts of legislation and correspondence. … The documents also could showcase his foreign policy views, including the internal deliberations that led to his support for the Iraq War … Biden has at times played down or misrepresented his record — saying last weekend, for example, that he did not support more funding for state prisons, even though in 1994 he argued for $6 billion in such funding.”

-- Biden used the first big foreign policy speech of his presidential run to blast Trump for embracing autocrats and to promise that his administration would make the defense of democracy a priority. Greg Jaffe and Cleve Wootson report: “He accused Trump of ‘walking away from American responsibility, lying about matters big and small’ and bankrupting ‘America’s word.’ Biden’s alternative largely involved a return to traditional American principles such as the promotion of democracy and cooperation with allies. Instead of focusing exclusively on the United States’ unilateral interests, he spoke of a return to spreading American values. ‘No army on Earth can match the electric idea of liberty,’ Biden said in his speech at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York.”

THE SENATE:

-- Kentucky’s lone Democratic congressman said he’d like to see other candidates get in the race to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Colby Itkowitz and Paul Kane report: “Rep. John Yarmuth’s comments came after a rocky start to Amy McGrath’s campaign, which launched on Tuesday. McGrath had a strong first 24 hours in fundraising but then stumbled when answering whether she would have supported the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. Yarmuth, who said he is not going to run for the Senate seat, said he was asked earlier ‘whether a primary might be helpful in this race.’ ‘I said, ‘Yeah, I think it might be,’’ Yarmuth said.”

-- Trump is “not on board” with Sessions running to win back the Senate seat he gave up when he became attorney general, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told the Hill.

-- Former congresswoman Cynthia Lummis announced that she is running for the open Senate seat in Wyoming, jumping into what could turn into a contentious Republican primary against Rep. Liz Cheney. Roll Call reports: “Longtime GOP incumbent Michael B. Enzi announced in May he would not run for re-election. Whoever wins the GOP primary would be the favorite to replace him given the state’s strong Republican lean.Lummis told reporters on a conference call Thursday afternoon that she spoke to Cheney recently and informed her that she would be running for Senate. She said that if Cheney did get in the race, the primary would be a ‘real barn burner.’ Lummis said she is more libertarian than Cheney, especially when it comes to international intervention. The former lawmaker also noted that both Cheney and Wyoming’s junior senator, John Barrasso, are members of congressional Republican leadership, and argued it would benefit the state to have a member of their delegation who is not and ‘can take leadership on.’”

-- With former Tennessee governor Bill Haslam announcing that he will not run for the Senate seat that’s opening with Lamar Alexander’s retirement, the Republican primary is wide open. The Tennessean reports: “While U.S. Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty and U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, are the most widely circulated names considering a run, others are also mulling their options.  Green removed himself from the race Thursday morning, hours after Haslam's decision was announced. Hagerty did not answer questions Thursday about his potential interest in the race but thanked Haslam for his leadership, passion and service. U.S. Rep. David Kustoff said Thursday morning he was thinking about the opportunity to run for the Senate. At least one former member of Congress is out: Diane Black. Teresa Koeberlein, who served as Black's longtime chief of staff, told The Tennessean on Thursday the former congressman is not considering a Senate bid.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Germany's ambassador to the U.S. showed solidarity with Kim Darroch by inviting the departing U.K. ambassador to breakfast alongside the French and European Union's top diplomats. She tweeted out this photo of her “friends” in what one European diplomat called a subtle but “pretty clear” message:

Trump attacked Paul Ryan for making critical comments about him in Alberta’s new book. “He had the Majority & blew it away with his poor leadership and bad timing,” the president said of the former speaker. “Never knew how to go after the Dems like they go after us. Couldn’t get him out of Congress fast enough!”

Senators, they’re just like us. We’ve all felt this way:

The White House social media summit was the top trending topic on Twitter:

A former secretary of defense under Bill Clinton, who now teaches at Stanford, replied to Trump’s latest criticisms of the Iran nuclear agreement:

A photo of Canada's premiers raised concerns about diversity in leadership roles:

On the other hand, many celebrated a scientific expedition that will embark this fall and consist entirely of women:

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“Arlington is full of our comrades, and we understand absolutely full well the hazards of our chosen profession. We know what this is about, and we will not be intimidated into making stupid decisions. We will give our best military advice and not keep the consequences to ourselves.” — Gen. Mark Milley, who serves as Army chief of staff, promised independence during his confirmation hearing to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Missy Ryan and Dan Lamothe)

 

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

The U.S. Coast Guard boarded a vessel suspected of drug smuggling in the eastern Pacific Ocean last month: 

Scientists say samples taken from the wreck of a Soviet nuclear submarine in the Norwegian sea last week showed levels of radiation up to 800,000 times the normal level. Check out footage from the bottom:

Former Trump White House aide Sebastian Gorka argued with Playboy Magazine’s Brian Karem about journalism in the Rose Garden yesterday:

Our video team produced a compilation of 2020 Democrats calling for a “conversation,” which is politicians’ classic cop-out when they don't want to take a firm stand: