With Emily Davies
THE BIG IDEA: The stories coming out of Hong Kong this morning shock the conscience.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting was in a subway station near the area he represents on Sunday night, responding to reports of a violent mob in the area. Suddenly, dozens of white-shirted men appeared, surrounding the station.
“Armed with bats, batons and wooden rods attached to Chinese flags, they chased protesters who were returning home from a largely peaceful anti-government march into a subway train and around the station,” our Shibani Mahtani reports from the island. “As they kicked, hit and punched people, commuters pleaded for mercy and hid behind umbrellas. One witness said several women were wailing and hyperventilating in fear, some separated from their family members. Video shared with The Washington Post showed the men beating people with sticks so violently that they fell to the ground, clutching injured limbs. Chinese flags that had fallen from the sticks littered the floor. Surgical face masks and tissues drenched in blood lay abandoned on subway cars.”
“There were so many passengers, so many ordinary people,” Lam told The Post from a hospital where he’s recovering from broken fingers, a deep gash near his mouth and other injuries to his arms and body. He could not remember how many had surrounded and pummeled him, but he said they were using vulgar language and telling people to stay away from the neighborhood, Yuen Long. What’s worse is that police, suspiciously, did not respond to emergency calls for help until more than an hour and a half afterward and when all the assailants had left. No arrests have been made.
This thuggish violence against peaceful protesters, combined with accusations that it was condoned by the Beijing-backed government, will plunge Hong Kong deeper into a political crisis that has gripped the city all summer. It also amplifies pressure on President Trump and senior administration officials to stop averting their gaze. This popular uprising began in response to a proposal that would allow people on the island to be more easily extradited to mainland China. That legislation has been tabled, but it’s led to a broader movement to challenge Hong Kong’s diminished autonomy and to call for the resignation of the island’s China-backed leader.
-- The Financial Times has reported that Trump promised Chinese President Xi Jinping when they met in Osaka, Japan, that the United States would muzzle its criticisms of Beijing’s attacks on Hong Kong’s already limited freedoms while trade talks are ongoing. That reportedly led Mike Pompeo’s State Department to nix a planned speech by the outgoing U.S. consul general for Hong Kong that would have offered support for the protest movement, despite Pompeo’s strong statement for human rights on the 30th anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square in early June.
-- Kurt Tong, who spent three years as consul and is now out of government, has chosen to go public with his concerns this morning. “Put the short-term politics aside,” Tong pleads in a piece for Bloomberg Opinion that just posted. “The U.S. has more at stake here than many Americans realize. Opening doors to free and fair trade, with China and other partners, has been a consistent core interest of the U.S. in the western Pacific. … The city’s value is buttressed by its rule of law -- not just rule by law -- and by its independent judiciary and sense of fair play. That’s why more U.S. businesses – close to 1,400 of them – now operate in Hong Kong than when the British returned their onetime colony to China in 1997. Many important American firms, especially in finance and services, continue to favor the city for their Asian headquarters. …
“In my final message home to Washington, I urged colleagues to recognize the city’s abiding strengths,” Tong concludes. “After all, a couple million people validated last month that Hong Kong remains very different from mainland China. Most important, U.S. leaders should always remember that the city isn’t a card to be played against Beijing -- neither a means of highlighting flaws in the mainland’s governance when it suits us, nor a token to be exchanged for concessions in trade talks. Rather, Hong Kong is a vision of what we should want China, and indeed much of the rest of Asia, to look like. We should seek ways to bolster its strengths.”
-- The threat posed to American power in Asia by a rising China is real and growing. Every day brings fresh headlines that put Beijing’s military and economic ambitions in stark relief. Consider these seven stories that just posted:
-- The Post reports this morning that Huawei Technologies Co., the Chinese tech giant embroiled in Trump’s trade war with China, secretly helped the North Korean government build and maintain the country’s commercial wireless network. Ellen Nakashima, Gerry Shih and John Hudson report: “Huawei partnered with a Chinese state-owned firm, Panda International Information Technology Co. Ltd., on a variety of projects there spanning at least eight years, according to past work orders, contracts and detailed spreadsheets taken from a database that charts the company’s telecom operations worldwide. Taken together, the revelations raise questions about whether Huawei, which has used American technology in its components, violated U.S. export controls to furnish equipment to North Korea. In a statement, Huawei said it ‘has no business presence’ in North Korea. Spokesman Joe Kelly declined, however, to address detailed questions …
“Discovery of a link between North Korea and Huawei, whose activities, ambitions and suspected ties to the Chinese government have alarmed U.S. and European security officials, is likely to fuel even deeper suspicion among Western nations contemplating whether to ban the company, in full or in part, from their next-generation 5G wireless networks. … Since its founding in 1987 by a former engineer with the People’s Liberation Army, Huawei has grown from a humble phone switch maker into an icon of China’s technological prowess — the world’s largest telecom equipment manufacturer. Today, it is a ‘national champion’ promoted by Beijing and does business in more than 170 countries.”
-- The Wall Street Journal reports that China has signed a secret agreement allowing its armed forces to use a Cambodian navy base, as Beijing works to boost its ability to project military power around the globe: “The pact—signed this spring but not disclosed by either side—gives China exclusive rights to part of a Cambodian naval installation on the Gulf of Thailand, not far from a large airport now being constructed by a Chinese company.”
-- China’s military capacity will surpass that of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command within the next few years unless American policy changes significantly, according to Adm. Phil Davidson, the top U.S. commander in the region. Speaking over the weekend at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, he cited China’s “explosive growth” in the air, land, and maritime domains, along with its increased capability in space and cyber. “We run the risk, if we don’t take proactive action, that China will indeed surpass our capabilities in the middle of the next decade,” Davidson said, according to Air Force Magazine. The admiral reportedly disclosed that, within the past 28 months, Chinese naval ships have made more port visits to more countries than in the previous 28 years.
-- China has reached parity with the United States on this year’s Fortune Global 500 list, which dropped this morning. “As the Chinese Century nears its third decade, Fortune’s Global 500 shows how profoundly the world’s balance of power is shifting,” Geoff Colvin writes in the magazine. “American companies account for 121 of the world’s largest corporations by revenue. Chinese companies account for 129 (including 10 Taiwanese companies). For the first time since the debut of the Global 500 in 1990, and arguably for the first time since World War II, a nation other than the U.S. is at the top of the ranks of global big business. That shift is transforming not just the business world but the whole world. … The No. 1 nationality among the top 50 companies in this year’s Global 500 is American; among the bottom 50, it’s Chinese. Those companies near the bottom are rising quickly, and like their country, they’re burning with ambition.”
-- The Los Angeles Times looks at how U.S. video game companies are building tools for China’s surveillance state.
-- The New York Times reports that Chinese investment in the United States has plummeted by nearly 90 percent since Trump took office: “The falloff, which is being felt broadly across the economy, stems from tougher regulatory scrutiny in the United States and a less hospitable climate toward Chinese investment, as well Beijing’s tightened limits on foreign spending. It is affecting a range of industries including Silicon Valley start-ups, the Manhattan real estate market and state governments that spent years wooing Chinese investment, underscoring how the world’s two largest economies are beginning to decouple after years of increasing integration."
-- “Trading on China’s new Nasdaq-style stock market began today, with 25 tech companies listed on the Science and Technology Innovation Board, operated by the Shanghai Stock Market,” TechCrunch reports. “Called the STAR Market, the board is an initiative by the government to encourage more Chinese tech companies to list domestically. … Some of the highest-profile Chinese tech IPOs, including Alibaba, Tencent, Xiaomi, JD.com and Pinduoduo, have taken place in New York City or Hong Kong, and the STAR Market may encourage more local stock debuts and investment—a goal that holds especially high stakes as China’s trade war with the U.S. continues.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- White House and congressional negotiators rushing to hammer out the final details of a sweeping budget and debt deal are unlikely to include many — if any — actual spending cuts, even as the debt limit is lifted for two years. Damian Paletta and Erica Werner report: “The agreement appeared likely to mark a retreat for White House officials who had demanded major spending cuts in exchange for a new budget deal. But the process remained in limbo while negotiators awaited final approval late Sunday from President Trump. The pending deal would seek to extend the debt ceiling and set new spending levels for two years, ratcheting back the budget brinkmanship that led to a record-long government shutdown earlier this year. In practical terms, the budget agreement would increase spending by tens of billions of dollars in the next two years.”
What to watch for when the deal is officially announced: “As some White House officials backed away from demands for spending cuts, their focus shifted to trying to block an attempt by Democrats to restrict funding for a wall along the Mexico border. As part of the deal to raise military and spending levels for two years, White House officials were attempting to convince House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to back off on certain policies Democrats hoped to include in future must-pass spending bills. One point of contention involved the administration’s authority to transfer money between budget accounts to finance construction of the wall. Democrats have fought to limit or eliminate the White House’s ability to transfer money in this way, but White House officials have pushed hard to retain the flexibility to do so. The exact resolution was uncertain.”
If the agreement is finalized and gets Trump’s approval, Pelosi will have less than a week to muscle it through the House before the chamber adjourns for a scheduled six-week summer recess on Friday. The Senate will be in session for an additional week after the House departs.
GET SMART FAST:
- Two Ohio counties will soon be at the center of the biggest civil trial in U.S. history, testing how much responsibility drug companies bear for the opioid epidemic. Barring a settlement, Cuyahoga and Summit counties are scheduled to go to trial in October as the first case among the consolidated lawsuits brought by about 2,000 cities, counties, tribes and other plaintiffs. U.S. District Judge Dan Polster, who is presiding over the consolidated case in Cleveland, selected the counties to represent the legal arguments that other plaintiffs have made. The two counties alone are asking for billions of dollars from companies to help stem the crisis. (Jordan Heller and Lenny Bernstein)
- Equifax has agreed to pay as much as $700 million to settle a series of state and federal investigations into a massive 2017 data breach that left more than 147 million Americans’ Social Security numbers, credit-card details and other sensitive information exposed. The punishment includes payments to affected consumers, fines to peeved regulators and a host of required changes to the credit-reporting agency’s business practices, government officials said, as they faulted Equifax for putting more than half of all U.S. adults at risk for identity theft and fraud. (Tony Romm)
- A network of out-of-state political consultants, secret donors and activists with close ties to Trump is behind an effort to change the Florida constitution to explicitly state that only citizens may vote in elections, a measure that would amplify the issue of immigration in the battleground state. In recent months, organizers said they have collected nearly twice the signatures needed to qualify for the ballot next year — and more than any other ballot initiative in Florida state history. (Amy Gardner and Alice Crites)
- The lawyer for Anthony Comello, who is facing trial on charges of killing a Gambino crime family boss, says he became obsessed by far-right QAnon conspiracy theories and was trying to help Trump by conducting a citizen’s arrest. (New York Times)
- A former Democratic candidate for state House in Florida claimed that she removed 77 bullets from Pulse night club shooting victims. It was all a lie. (Antonia Noori Farzan)
- A woman hiking the Billy Goat Trail in Montgomery County died from what authorities believe was a heat-related medical emergency. It was the hottest weekend of the year in the Washington region. (Fenit Nirappil, Rebecca Tan and Cortlynn Stark)
- A man attending his child's baptism was shot while trying to stop a car thief outside a church in Northeast D.C. The suspect got away in a Toyota Corolla. The victim is in the hospital. (NBC4)
- Two Southwest Airlines planes collided at the Nashville airport when their wings “came into contact” on the tarmac. No injuries were reported. (USA Today)
- “The Lion King” remake shattered several records, bringing Disney an estimated $185 million in its North American debut for a 10-day worldwide total of $531 million. It opened a week early in China, where it has earned about $100 million. (Hollywood Reporter)
POWER PLAYERS IN THE NEWS:
- Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who is facing the threat of impeachment as the streets fill with anger, frustration and impatience, announced last night that he will not seek reelection in 2020 and stepped down as leader of his party, but he said he wants to finish his term. Organizers say they expect more than 1 million residents — about a third of the U.S. territory’s population — to join an unprecedented national march tonight. (Arelis R. Hernández)
- As vice president, Joe Biden said Ukraine should increase gas production. Then his son Hunter got a job with a Ukrainian gas company. (Michael Kranish and David Stern investigate.)
- Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have a similar message, but they’re battling different weaknesses and appeal to different audiences. Sanders’s supporters are largely male, between the ages of 18 and 39, with a household income under $50,000 a year. Warren’s support is stronger among voters over 40, women and those with a college education. The Vermont senator is trying to make inroads with seniors. The Massachusetts senator is trying to convince skeptics she can win by campaigning in some of the reddest parts of the country — and drawing big crowds. (Annie Linskey)
- A key architect of the Trump administration’s efforts to weaken federal climate rules is under scrutiny by a federal watchdog for his dealings with industry players who lobbied the government to ease carbon pollution limits. It is the third inquiry into whether Bill Wehrum, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency’s air policy division from November 2017 until last month, violated federal ethics rules. The EPA’s inspector general is looking at Wehrum’s interactions with his former law firm as well as several of its clients, who rank among the nation’s major emitters of greenhouse gases linked to climate change. (Juliet Eilperin)
- Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) was discharged from the hospital, five days after he fell in his D.C. apartment and fractured four of his ribs. The 74-year-old will now enter an inpatient rehabilitation program, his office said in a news release.
THE DIVIDED STATES OF AMERICA:
-- “During America’s ‘most segregated hour,’ preachers grapple with Trump’s politics,” by Greg Jaffe and Cleve Wootson in Greenville, N.C.: “Trump’s Greenville rally and the ‘Send her back’ chants it inspired, divided much of the country, and Greenville was no exception. … The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once called church services one of the ‘most segregated hours’ in America. Decades later, King’s quote holds true. One of the biggest events to hit Greenville in decades was barely mentioned in at least two white churches here, where pastors were reluctant to blend politics and faith. … Many of the congregants at the Unity Free Will Baptist Church … thought the accusations of racism over the president’s remarks weren’t fair. … At Greenville’s lone mosque, members spent a portion of Friday prayers talking about racism and Islamophobia.”
In black churches, the political, the spiritual and the moral were unavoidably intermixed: “The Rev. Stephen Howard knew Trump’s speech was going to be unsettling for his city and his mostly black church the moment he saw people had lined up at 4 a.m. Wednesday to get into the arena. These were his congregants’ neighbors and co-workers. Soon, they would be cheering for a president whom Howard and many of his flock at Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church considered a racist. He knew he would have to say something. … Howard, 51, came to the United States in the 1980s from Liberia and has experienced the country as both a black man and an immigrant with an accent. As a pastor at churches throughout the Southeast, he said, he has learned that being asked, ‘Where are you from?’ is not always a sign of harmless curiosity.
“Just before Howard stepped to the pulpit on Sunday, Trump fired off a new tweet accusing the four congresswomen of not loving America and demanding they apologize for the ‘horrible’ and ‘hateful’ things they had said. … There was an hour of singing, a pause for tithing and then Howard’s sermon, which began with the 37th Psalm’s advice ‘not to fret of those who are evil.’ Howard reminded his congregants that God had delivered African Americans from darker periods in the nation’s history. That salvation, he said, was even more reason to stand with [Ilhan] Omar and the other congresswomen amid Trump’s attacks. … The worshipers called out amens. … He promised his congregants that if they were steadfast in their faith, their deliverance from evil and sin would be heavenly. And in a nod to the previous week, he noted, it could also be earthly. ‘November 2020 ain’t that far away,’ he said. ‘The wicked shall soon be cut off.’
“Across town, Brad Smith, the pastor at a 192-year-old predominantly white Baptist church, got his first inkling that something had gone wrong when his wife returned home from the speech. She was there as an employee of East Carolina University, where the rally was held, and was shaken by the anger in the auditorium. … The chants at the rally were ‘disturbing’ and ‘probably racist,’ but they didn’t represent the Greenville that he knew. … He was upset that Trump had chosen his city to hold such a divisive rally. And he wondered how the country had become so divided. ‘Was it because a black president won?’ he asked. ‘Maybe we weren’t ready for it?’
“Smith spent two days thinking about whether he should scrap his prepared sermon on Noah and the flood in favor of a speech focused on the rally and its aftermath. … When Sunday came, he took the pulpit and told the story of God’s disappointment, the flood and the one good man he had chosen to save to start anew. The only mention he made of Trump’s rally was a fleeting one. ‘When those who protest to open borders and those who chant ‘Go back home’ can’t seem to be on the same page, it is the love and grace and mercy found in the very body of Christ’ that can mend divisions, he said. This was the message of Noah’s story: ‘To love God is to love all of us,’ he said. ‘It is hard to do, but it is beautiful.’”
-- Trump’s aides defended his behavior on the Sunday shows. Cat Zakrzewski and Felicia Sonmez report: “Stephen Miller, the White House senior adviser who oversees immigration policy, had a heated back-and-forth with ‘Fox News Sunday’ host Chris Wallace over the president’s tweets as well as the North Carolina Trump rally where the crowd chanted ‘Send her back!’ Miller defended Trump and said the term ‘racist’ has become a label used to silence and punish people. Vice President Pence, meanwhile, reiterated that he and Trump were not pleased with the chanting but declined to directly address supporters and tell them not to do it again. ‘The president was very clear that he wasn’t happy about it and that, if it happened again, he might make an effort to speak out about it,’ Pence said on CBS News.
“On ABC News’s ‘This Week,’ Mercedes Schlapp, an adviser to Trump’s reelection campaign, defended Trump, saying he ‘disavowed’ the chants at his rally. Host George Stephanopoulos pushed back, noting the president did not speak out against the chants during the rally and later retweeted a tweet that said, ‘Send her back is the new lock her up.’ Schlapp responded: ‘He made it very clear that he disagreed with the chant, and I will tell you he stands with those people in North Carolina, across the country who support him.’” Read that again: How can Trump both disagree with and stand with “those people in North Carolina”? Schlapp’s message shows how the Trump team is trying to have it both ways.
-- “The reality is this is a guy who is worse than a racist,” Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “He’s actually using racist tropes and racial language for political gain, he’s trying to use this as a weapon to divide our nation against itself.” Booker compared Trump to George Wallace. “He’s using the exact same language,” Booker said. “We have a demagogue, fearmongering person who is using race to divide.”
-- Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) said the president’s behavior reminds him of when he was beaten up and called racial slurs while trying to integrate a pool in Baltimore 50 years ago. “I heard the same kind of chants, ‘Go Home,’ ‘You don’t belong here,’ and they called us the n-word over and over again,” the House Oversight Committee chairman said on ABC. “What it does when the president does these things, it brings up the same feelings I had over 50-some years ago. It’s very, very painful, it’s extremely divisive.”
-- A new CBS News-YouGov poll shows 59 percent of Americans disagree with Trump’s tweets about the congresswomen, while 40 percent of respondents agree with the remarks. Views were split sharply along party lines: 82 percent of Republicans agree with Trump’s remarks, while 88 percent of Democrats disagree.
-- Conservative intellectuals explain why rank-and-file Republicans should be more upset about Trump’s racist comments:
- Max Boot: “Why ‘send her back’ is even worse than ‘lock her up.’”
- Charlie Sykes for America magazine: “Dante, Trump and the moral cowardice of the G.O.P.”
-- A Louisiana police officer posted a comment on his Facebook page calling Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a “vile idiot” who “needs a round, and I don't mean the kind she used to serve.” The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reports: “The comment, which alludes to the freshman Democrat's past work as a New York City bartender while apparently saying she should be shot, comes amid increasing scrutiny of racist and violent social media posts by police officers in departments across the country. Charlie Rispoli, who has been on the Gretna police force since 2005, could not be reached for comment, but Chief Arthur Lawson called the post ‘disturbing’ when it was shown to him. … Lawson said he does not think the comment constitutes an actual threat, but it appears to violate the department's social media policy, which he said all officers have read and signed. …
“Rispoli's comment referred to a fake news story he posted to his personal Facebook page on Thursday at 1:51 p.m. The story's headline attributed a fabricated quote to Ocasio-Cortez saying, ‘We pay soldiers too much.’ The photo on the post is marked as ‘satire’ and it had been labeled ‘false’ by the website snopes.com on Wednesday, but Rispoli appeared to be upset by it.”
-- Undeterred: AOC proposed a “9/11-style commission” to investigate family separations at the border during a town hall meeting in her New York congressional district. (Vox)
-- Miss Michigan Kathy Zhu was stripped of her title after several insensitive and racist tweets surfaced. The 20-year-old received an email Friday from the pageant removing her from her position. (CBS News)
-- The Illinois Republican County Chairmen’s Association shared a movie poster-style meme that labeled the four lawmakers Trump continues to go after the “Jihad Squad.” In the wake of scrutiny from the Chicago media and attacks from Democrats, the Hill reports that the post was deleted and condemned by the chairmen of the state party and the association.
-- ESPN is making sure that all its employees know there has been no change in the network’s policy to avoid talking about politics unless it intersects with sports after radio talk show host Dan Le Batard criticized Trump and his recent racist comments and ESPN itself on the air this week. “ESPN has not spoken publicly about Le Batard’s comments, including whether he faces any disciplinary action,” the AP reports.
THERE’S STILL A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said that he and his contacts at the top intelligence agencies were unaware of Russian attempts to hack Senate campaigns in 2018 until the issue came up publicly at a conference. Hannah Knowles reports: “Speaking to NBC journalist Kristen Welker at the Aspen Security Forum — an annual Colorado gathering of government officials, industry experts and reporters — Schiff recalled his surprise when a Microsoft representative said at last year’s forum that three Senate campaigns had been attacked by what seemed like the same Russian group that interfered in the 2016 election. ‘That should not be the first time the Intelligence chair is hearing that,’ Schiff said at the Aspen conference. The hacking attempts were also news to the National Security Agency and CIA officials he talked to later, the lawmaker said. ‘And that told me, as a matter of quality control, that something is broken here,’ Schiff added.” (Todd Purdum interviews Schiff for a profile in the Atlantic that popped this morning.)
This revelation alarmed experts, including former CIA counterterrorism analyst Aki Peritz:
This is actually rather important. Did the FBI know? Did DHS’s CISA know? Did ODNI? If not, why not? If so, how was this intel disseminated to the rest of the community?— Aki Peritz (@AkiPeritz) July 21, 2019
(The CIA, the NSA and Microsoft did not immediately respond to our requests for comment Sunday.)
-- Hostile witness or Democratic hero? Bob Mueller will probably be neither. “On Wednesday, when he delivers long-awaited testimony about his investigation, Democrats are hoping to coax from the former special counsel the kind of dramatic moments that could galvanize public opinion against the president. Republicans, meanwhile, are eager to elicit testimony that shows the investigation was biased from its inception. Those who know him best are skeptical he will meet either side’s expectations,” Devlin Barrett reports.
“For anybody hoping he’s going to provide new information or evidence against the president, I think many people will be very disappointed,” said John Pistole, who served as Mueller’s deputy for years when he was FBI director. “And then on the other side of the aisle, some may be disappointed to find out that he’s not a demagogue of the left.”
“Mueller is set to appear before the House Judiciary Committee for three hours — a hearing that aims to focus on the question of whether the president obstructed justice. Mueller will also spend two hours before the House Intelligence Committee answering questions about Russia’s election interference,” Barrett explains. “The back-to-back hearings will probably be the last public word from the special prosecutor, whose two-year tenure was marked by long silences and fevered speculation about his work. Mueller’s past, particularly his congressional appearances during his 12 years as FBI director, offer a number of clues about how he will approach Wednesday’s task. Does Mueller like appearing before Congress? ‘Oh no, no, no, no, no,’ answered Pistole, now the president of Anderson University, who said he often appeared in Mueller’s place at hearings. ...
“A central question for Mueller will be whether he, as a prosecutor, would have filed charges against Trump were he not the president. Mueller also probably will face questions about his interactions with Attorney General William P. Barr. Democrats have accused Barr of mischaracterizing Mueller’s findings in the weeks before the report’s public release — a political move, they say, that blunted its impact. At one point, Mueller wrote to Barr complaining that the attorney general’s statements had created confusion among the public about the investigation’s results, but Barr has tried to play down the disagreement, calling Mueller’s letter ‘a bit snippy.’”
-- While politicians anxiously prepare for Wednesday, Mueller has had a lifetime of preparation. The New York Times reports: “A review of dozens of hours of his hearings — Mr. Mueller has appeared before Congress 88 times dating back to 1990, according to the Senate Historical Office, among the most of any official ever — offers insight into what kind of witness he will be this week. ... Mr. Mueller brings a longstanding commitment to preparation to Wednesday’s hearings. He met into the evenings with F.B.I. colleagues for days ahead of congressional appearances, poring over thick binders in a large conference room next to the bureau director’s office on the seventh floor of the J. Edgar Hoover Building. Aides role-played as members of Congress who might have wanted to squabble with him on camera.”
THE #METOO RECKONING:
-- In his first interview since leaving the Senate in December 2017, former senator Al Franken opened up to the New Yorker about his clinical depression since his fall from grace and the regrets that plague him to this day. Jane Mayer reports: “When I asked him if he truly regretted his decision to resign, he said, ‘Oh yeah. Absolutely.’ He wishes that he had appeared before a Senate Ethics Committee hearing, as he had requested, allowing him to marshal facts that countered the narrative aired in the press. Holding his head in his hands, he said, ‘I don’t think people who have been sexually assaulted, and those kinds of things, want to hear from people who have been #MeToo’d that they’re victims.’ Yet, he added, being on the losing side of the #MeToo movement, which he fervently supports, has led him to spend time thinking about such matters as due process, proportionality of punishment, and the consequences of Internet-fueled outrage. …
“He told me that his therapist had likened his experience to ‘what happens when primates are shunned and humiliated by the rest of the other primates.’ Their reaction, Franken said, with a mirthless laugh, ‘is ‘I’m going to die alone in the jungle.’”
Franken’s downfall has left a bad taste for many who initially cried for his resignation: “Seven current and former U.S. senators who demanded Franken’s resignation in 2017 told me that they’d be wrong to do so. Such admissions are unusual in an institution whose members rarely concede mistakes. Patrick Leahy, the veteran Democrat from Vermont, said that his decision to seek Franken’s resignation without ﬁrst getting all the facts was ‘one of the biggest mistakes I’ve made’ in forty-ﬁve years in the Senate. Heidi Heitkamp, the former senator from North Dakota, told me, ‘If there’s one decision I’ve made that I would take back, it’s the decision to call for his resignation. It was made in the heat of the moment, without concern for exactly what this was.’ … The Presidential candidacy of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has been plagued by questions about her role as the ﬁrst of three dozen Democratic senators to demand Franken’s resignation. … Gillibrand told me, ‘I’d do it again today,’ adding, ‘If a few wealthy donors are angry about that, it’s on them.’”
-- Jeffrey Epstein allegedly continued to bring underage girls to St. Thomas as recently as this year. A Vanity Fair investigation reported that “on nearby St. Thomas, locals say Epstein continued to bring underage girls to the island as recently as this year -- a decade after he was forced to register as a convicted sex offender -- and that authorities did nothing to stop him”: “Two employees who worked at the local airstrip on St. Thomas tell Vanity Fair that they witnessed Epstein boarding his private plane on multiple occasions in the company of girls who appeared to be under the age of consent. According to the employees, the girls arrived with Epstein aboard one of his two Gulfstream jets. Between January 2018 and June 2019, previously published flight records show, the jets were airborne at least one out of every three days. They stopped all over the world, sometimes for only a few hours at a time: Paris, London, Slovakia, Mexico, Morocco. When they left St. Thomas, the employees say, they returned to airports near Epstein’s homes in Palm Beach and New York City.”
-- On Friday, the Palm Beach County sheriff announced an internal affairs investigation into the actions of deputies assigned to monitor Epstein while he was on work release during his sentence in Palm Beach in 2008. Lori Rozsa reports: “Participation in the work-release program was a privilege granted to him at the discretion of the sheriff’s office. Though inmates on work release are not generally accompanied by deputies, Epstein was ‘monitored by a deputy the entire time he was out,’ said Teri Barbera, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office. Epstein paid $128,136 for the deputies to watch him, according to the records. One deputy wrote that he sought clarification of his duties and was told his job was to ‘provide security’ for Epstein. The deputies who monitored him were required to wear suits and to “greet inmate Epstein upon his arrival,” documents show. In internal reports about the work-release program, the deputies often describe Epstein as ‘the client’ or ‘Mr. Epstein.’ Two deputies refer to him as ‘Jeffrey.’”
WORLD NEWS THAT SHOULD BE ON YOUR RADAR:
-- Islamic State militants who escaped the defeat of their self-declared caliphate in Syria earlier this year have been slipping across the border into Iraq, bolstering a low-level insurgency the group is now waging across the central and northern part of the country. About 1,000 fighters have crossed into Iraq over the past eight months, most of them in the aftermath of the caliphate’s collapse in March, said Hisham al-Hashimi, a security analyst who advises Iraq’s government and foreign aid agencies. These fighters, mostly Iraqis who followed the Islamic State into Syria, are returning home to join militant cells that have been digging into rugged rural areas, sustained by intimate knowledge of the terrain, including concealed tunnels and other hiding places. (Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim)
-- A British warship tried but failed to prevent Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps from seizing a British tanker in the Strait of Hormuz last week, intercepted radio communications show, fueling a wave of recriminations in London on Sunday over who was to blame for the incident last week. In recordings obtained by the shipping consultancy Dryad Global and posted on its website, a member of the Revolutionary Guard is heard ordering the British-flagged Stena Impero tanker to divert course toward Iran. (Liz Sly and William Booth)
-- British Airways and Lufthansa canceled all flights to Cairo over unspecified security concerns. The British government warned of a “heightened risk of terrorism against aviation.” (BBC)
-- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was on his way to winning a convincing mandate for his agenda in parliamentary elections, matching his landslide victory in the presidential race three months ago. Exit polling showed that Zelensky’s Servant of the People party, named for the television comedy in which he played an unknown schoolteacher who is catapulted to the presidency overnight, winning 44 percent of the vote. (David Stern)
-- Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will call on Trump at the White House today during his first trip to the United States as the country’s leader. It’s a meeting of two celebrity gadflies turned rabble-rousing, nationalist politicians. Khan, a wildly popular former captain of the Pakistani cricket team, appeared yesterday at a rally before thousands of cheering overseas Pakstanis at a packed Capital One Arena in Washington, vowing to tackle graft and redeem the nation. (Ishaan Tharoor)
-- Israeli work crews are demolishing dozens of Palestinian homes in an east Jerusalem neighborhood today in one of the largest operations of its kind in years. The AP reports: “The demolitions capped a years-long legal battle over the buildings, built along the invisible line straddling the city and the occupied West Bank. Israel says the buildings were erected too close to its West Bank separation barrier. Residents say the buildings are on West Bank land, and the Palestinian Authority gave them construction permits. In the wake of a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for the demolitions, Israeli work crews moved into the neighborhood overnight. Massive construction vehicles smashed through the roofs of several buildings, and large excavators were digging through the rubble.”
-- Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became Israel’s longest-serving leader over the weekend, eclipsing Israeli founder David Ben-Gurion. (Loveday Morris and Ruth Eglash)
-- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is set to become the nation’s longest-serving leader after elections for the upper house of Parliament favored Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. The coalition won 71 of 124 seats in the election, bringing its total to 141 out of 245 seats in the upper house. (Wall Street Journal)
-- Johnson & Johnson’s experimental Ebola vaccine is sitting unused in a Dutch warehouse. The latest Ebola epidemic has killed more than 1,700 people. World Health Organization officials say they have 245,000 doses of an experimental vaccine from Merck that’s already in use and that they need additional options. But health leaders in the Democratic Republic of Congo are reluctant to roll out the second vaccine because their differing regimens may lead to confusion. (Bloomberg News)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Iran’s intelligence ministry claimed that it detained 17 citizens that it accuses of acting as spies for the CIA. The ministry said some of them will be executed, per CNN. Trump flatly denied Tehran’s claims:
The Report of Iran capturing CIA spies is totally false. Zero truth. Just more lies and propaganda (like their shot down drone) put out by a Religious Regime that is Badly Failing and has no idea what to do. Their Economy is dead, and will get much worse. Iran is a total mess!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2019
Ahead of his Wednesday testimony, Trump criticized Mueller as “conflicted”:
....But the questions should be asked, why were all of Clinton’s people given immunity, and why were the text messages of Peter S and his lover, Lisa Page, deleted and destroyed right after they left Mueller, and after we requested them(this is Illegal)?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2019
And he again referred to the media as “the enemy of the people”:
Fake News Equals the Enemy of the People!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 22, 2019
Southern Command said that a U.S. Navy intelligence aircraft was “aggressively shadowed” by a Venezuelan fighter jet over the Caribbean Sea. A Sunday news release said that an EP-3 Aries II aircraft was flying a mission in international airspace on Friday when it was approached “in an unprofessional manner” by a Russian-made SU-30 Flanker:
1 of 2 JUST RELEASED #Venezuela SU-30 Flanker “aggressively shadowed” a U.S. EP-3 aircraft at an unsafe distance July 19, jeopardizing the crew & aircraft. The EP-3 was performing a multi-nationally recognized & approved mission in international airspace over #CaribbeanSea. pic.twitter.com/edjmPqXbmP— U.S. Southern Command (@Southcom) July 21, 2019
2 of 2: This action demonstrates #Russia’s irresponsible military support to Maduro's illegitimate regime & underscores Maduro’s recklessness & irresponsible behavior, which undermines int’l rule of law & efforts to counter illicit trafficking. Pics & vids https://t.co/848FdmAeaE pic.twitter.com/1W9syCd1xs— U.S. Southern Command (@Southcom) July 21, 2019
Venezuela’s defense minister replied on Twitter that the incident created a safety risk for commercial aircraft from his country's main airport:
Esta aeronave ingresó a la Región de Información de Vuelo (FIR Maiquetía) controlada por Venezuela sin reporte de frecuencia aeronáutica, incumpliendo las normas de la Organización de Aviación Civil Internacional (OACI), constituyendo un riesgo aeronáutico para otras aeronaves. https://t.co/KU652nFZmV— Vladimir Padrino L. (@vladimirpadrino) July 20, 2019
The Venezuelan Operational Strategic Command claimed that the U.S. plane was in its airspace and that there have been 76 similar incidents this year:
🛑ALERTA| Sistema de Defensa Aeroespacial CODAI detectó e interceptó aeronave EE.UU. EP-3E de inteligencia y exploración radio electrónica en nuestra región de información de vuelo Maiquetia, violando Tratados Aéreos Internacionales en franca provocación a la RBV.#DialogoAvanza pic.twitter.com/GFbN4He7YM— CEOFANB (@ceofanb) July 20, 2019
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who has worked closely with Trump on trying to remove Nicolás Maduro from power, warned Caracas not to mess with U.S. planes:
Prince George turned 6, and the palace shared some photos that Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, took of her son:
These two photographs were taken recently in the gardens at Kensington Palace by The Duchess of Cambridge.— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) July 21, 2019
Thank you everyone for your lovely messages on Prince George’s Birthday! 🎂 pic.twitter.com/2LBr0wdzy1
Taylor Swift fans are ripping Kamala Harris for holding a fundraiser at the home of Scooter Braun, with whom Swift has been fighting over the fate of her master recordings, the New York Post reports. The senator’s husband posted a photo of her at the fundraiser with Katy Perry, Demi Lovato and Ariana Grande:
Sanders attacked Biden on Twitter, but the two won't be onstage together for the next debate:
Joe Biden is attacking Medicare for All with misinformation straight out of the playbook of Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and the health insurance industry. pic.twitter.com/JqPRt80LzX— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) July 21, 2019
Beto O'Rourke did push-ups at the airport with his staff after their flight was delayed:
Pete Buttigieg sat for an interview with a popular country radio host in Nashville. But Cumulus Media refused to air it and cut the segments completely from his show:
View this post on Instagram
I'm not a political guy. My radio show isn't political, nor does it aspire to be. I'm just the host of a syndicated Country music program who loves his country - both the amazing land in which we live, and the outstanding music from today's Country artists. The phrase, "I love my Country" is one that I state proudly and without reservation. I mean it to my core. I was stunned when we were contacted by Mayor Pete's team requesting an interview. Absolutely stunned. Since Country music tends to lean in a conservative direction, I was surprised. But more than surprised, I was EXTREMELY flattered. One of the few truly viable candidates in the race raised his hand and asked for a place at the table. I was willing to give him that seat. I would have also given a seat to any other viable candidate, from both sides. The only condition? They must also value and appreciate our listeners, and never treat them as pawns. Nobody else reached out. I assume nobody else even thought to reach out. The interview is twenty minutes in total length. I was proud of it. But in the end, I was told that I couldn't air it. Again, I would have GLADLY welcomed any other viable candidates to be a guest, especially President Trump. To my thinking, the best way to a reasoned, thoughtful position on any topic, is to hear from both sides. Regardless, the interview was killed. I did, however, ask for permission to post the interview on my own personal SoundCloud account. I was given that blessing, and I am happy to share it with you there. (Link in Bio) #buttigieg #petebuttigieg #mayorpete #pete #peteforamerica #presidentpete #chastenbuttigieg #warren #democraticprimary #firstgent #biden #peteforprez #bootedgeedge #harris #election #beto #iowa #joe #sanders #bernie #runningforpresident #nextgeneration #policies #democracy #hope #youthvote #democrats #partywithpete #mayorpetebuttigieg
Several Democratic presidential candidates called on the governor of Puerto Rico to resign this weekend, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) joined the protesters in the streets:
Ricardo Rosselló must listen to the people of Puerto Rico and resign. https://t.co/ET5e8hptFy— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) July 21, 2019
There really is a tweet for everything. Before turning on him, Trump had kind words for the governor of Puerto Rico in 2017:
The Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rossello, is a great guy and leader who is really working hard. Thank you Ricky!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2017
Tributes poured in for the late senator Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) on what would have been his 75th birthday:
that every child I hold in my hands, will have the same chance to reach her full potential or his full potential. That is the goodness of our country. That is the essence of the American dream." pic.twitter.com/dXokHvAAau— Beth-Ann Bloom (@beth_annbloom) July 21, 2019
And Trump dropped in on a wedding at his New Jersey golf club, where he spent the weekend. Fox News has more details, but an attendee posted his picture on Instagram:
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“There's no question that he is stoking racial divisions,” “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace told Stephen Miller, referring to the president. (USA Today)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
For years, Trump admonished America’s shortfalls, stupidity and “carnage.” Now, he wants people who do the same to leave:
Ted Cruz said Fox News, at the behest of the late Roger Ailes, "went all in for Trump" in March 2016:
In his new book ‘American Carnage,’ @TimAlberta quotes Senator @tedcruz as saying: “I think it was Roger’s dying wish to elect Donald Trump president.”— Firing Line with Margaret Hoover (@FiringLineShow) July 20, 2019
Now Senator @tedcruz tells @FiringLineShow: “I think Fox News went all in for Trump. That was the decision they made.” pic.twitter.com/6aDSzC7quD
Many Democrats likened Stephen Miller's talking points to comments George Wallace made on the Sunday shows 51 years ago this week:
On this day 51 years ago (7/21/68).— Doug Gordon (@dgordon52) July 21, 2019
George Wallace on Face the Nation: "No, I don't regard myself a racist. The real racists are the ones who call other people racists."
This week's rhetoric from Republicans sounds awfully similar. (h/t @arlenparsa) https://t.co/tvGnP8yIDz
A Philadelphia man made a daring escape after a fire broke out on an upper floor of a high-rise apartment block: