with Mariana Alfaro
Discretionary spending is growing at a faster clip under Trump than Obama. The budget deficit and the national debt are growing at even more distressing rates, however, because the Republican tax cuts have reduced revenue even more starkly than the dire forecasts. The Trump administration estimates the deficit this fiscal year will top $1 trillion, up from $779 billion last year. It was $587 billion in 2016, Obama’s last full year in office. The national debt was $19 trillion when Trump took power and surpassed $22 trillion this month. Even with rock-bottom interest rates, the federal government will pay out more than $350 billion this year to service that debt.
If we’re running these kinds of deficits when the economy is supposedly booming, think about how bad they’ll become when a recession arrives and revenues inevitably shrivel. “This agreement is a total abdication of fiscal responsibility by Congress and the president," said Maya MacGuineas, president of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “It may end up being the worst budget agreement in our nation's history, proposed at a time when our fiscal conditions are already precarious.”
-- There is little, if any, evidence that Trump himself personally cares that the federal balance sheet is drowning in red ink. Undoubtedly, many people who work in the White House – led by acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney – want spending cuts. And these administration officials insist that Trump has told them he wants to make big cuts in 2021 if he wins a second term. But watch what the president does, not what his aides say. Trump also promised before he took office that he’d balance the budget and pay off the entire national debt by the end of a hypothetical second term.
Trump, who has referred to himself as “the king of debt,” drove multiple businesses into bankruptcy before becoming the first president in U.S. history with no prior governing or military experience. Earlier in his term, advisers presented him with a chart that projected a hockey stick spike in the national debt unless major changes are made. Trump shrugged. “Yeah, but I won’t be here,” he reportedly said.
Lately, the president has been recounting the advice he got from McConnell about spending money to West Wing aides. Two people with direct knowledge confirmed to my colleagues recently that the Kentucky Republican delivered that message during a private phone call last month.
-- Republican leaders are quick to blame Democrats, noting that Speaker Nancy Pelosi negotiated the deal with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. They say they needed to agree to higher spending levels to get support in the House. That’s true to some degree, of course, but Republicans were also on their borrowing binge when they had unified control of government during the first two years of the Trump presidency. This will forever taint Paul Ryan’s legacy as speaker.
To be sure, the Trump administration has proposed steep spending cuts in each of his budget blueprints, and some of the deficit hawks on his staff tried to insist on cuts during this most recent round of negotiations. “Acting budget director Russell Vought sought last week to force Democrats to commit to $150 billion in budget changes in exchange for the new spending, but his demand was rejected. Instead, negotiators agreed to $77 billion in accounting changes that probably wouldn’t constrain any future spending,” Damian Paletta and Erica Werner report in their story on the deal. “But the deal locked in more spending for the military, something Trump has tried to make a hallmark of his first 30 months as president.”
But the only thing the president has really gone to the mat for on Capitol Hill – triggering the longest-ever government shutdown – was to get billions in additional spending to build his proposed border wall. When he couldn’t get the money that way, he diverted it from the military construction budget – the legality of which continues to be challenged in court.
-- Leaders from both parties touted goodies they got as they tried to sell their members on the bill. “Democrats have always insisted on parity in increases between defense and non-defense, and we are pleased that our increase in non-defense budget authority exceeds the defense number by $10 billion over the next two years,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a joint statement. “It also means Democrats secured an increase of more than $100 billion in funding for domestic priorities since President Trump took office.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made a contrary claim as he endorsed the deal. “Given that sequestration cut defense spending more than non-defense, we are pleased that the agreement provides $20 billion more for defense than non-defense over two years,” he said in a statement. “While this deal is not perfect, compromise is necessary in divided government.”
McConnell emphasized the new spending he got for Kentucky for military installations in his state, citing Fort Knox, Fort Campbell and the Blue Grass Army Depot. Missing from his statement was any mention of the debt or the deficit. “While the reality of divided government means this is not exactly the deal Republicans would have written on our own, it is what we need to keep building on that progress,” he said.
-- This new deal, assuming it passes before Congress leaves town for the month-long August recess, will end the Budget Control Act, which Obama signed into law after House Republicans pushed the government to the brink of defaulting on its debt in 2011. “That law, once seen as the Republicans’ crowning achievement in the Obama era, set strict spending caps, enforced with automatic spending cuts,” the New York Times notes. “But since 2014, a succession of budget deals have waived those caps, and the new deal not only lifts them again but also allows the whole law to expire in 2021. And this time around, the approach of the debt limit hardly caused a ripple of consternation about the rising red ink.”
- “I’ve seen no evidence that it’s even being discussed,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.). “That’s the hard part for me.”
- “It’s pretty clear that both houses of Congress and both parties have become big spenders, and Congress is no longer concerned about the extent of the budget deficits or the debt they add,” said Club for Growth President David McIntosh, a former Republican congressman.
-- A few members of the House Freedom Caucus strategized last night about ways to tank this deal, which they see as a betrayal of the tea party principles that they got elected on and warn will “sabotage the fiscal future of our nation.” Freshman Rep. Chip Roy (R-Tex.), who was formerly Sen. Ted Cruz’s chief of staff, is circulating a letter around Capitol Hill offices to collect signatures before sending it to the White House. “You should veto this bill because it is fiscally irresponsible,” the letter says, “indulging our national spending addiction.”
“Other likely backers include GOP Reps. Andy Biggs of Arizona, Michael Cloud of Texas and Debbie Lesko of Arizona, who, like Roy, are members of the hardline House Freedom Caucus,” Politico reports. “Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FLa.), a top Trump ally on Capitol Hill, is also expected to sign on to the letter.”
Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina governor and congressman who lost reelection last year after Trump endorsed his primary challenger, suggested last week that the growing debt and government spending would be a centerpiece of the long-shot primary challenge that he’s mulling against Trump.
-- Other fiscal conservatives who don’t need to worry about running for reelection lamented the direction that the GOP has taken under his stewardship. “There are no small government conservatives left in Washington,” tweeted Joe Scarborough, who represented the Florida Panhandle in Congress as a Republican from 1995 to 2001 and now hosts a morning show on MSNBC. “If Newt Gingrich agreed to this deal, we would have run him out of DC on the same day. We balanced the budget four years in a row. These Big Government Republicans are bankrupting us.”
Conservative talk radio host Erick Erickson from Georgia noted that his party demands fiscal discipline only when Democrats are in the White House. “This is a bad deal that puts us many steps closer to bankruptcy,” he tweeted. “No leaders in Washington want to restore any fiscal sanity. Why is it always only a [Democrat] in the White House and [Republicans] in Congress that get us fiscal sanity, i.e. [Bill] Clinton balanced budget & sequestration under Obama?”
-- Social media buzzed about the deal:
Nancy Pelosi was spotted negotiating while sitting on a delayed flight:
Speaker Pelosi was negotiating the fine print of this budget deal from her aisle seat of a delayed Delta flight from Detroit. She’s had the phone pressed to her ear for much of the last three hours. For those wondering, she’s in coach. https://t.co/0W7xyy71qE pic.twitter.com/gYWs1gwtss— Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) July 22, 2019
An editor for the Bulwark, a conservative publication, noted how Trump has changed his tune entirely on the debt ceiling:
There is always a tweet. Always. https://t.co/UwqmJwT2KB— Charlie Sykes (@SykesCharlie) July 23, 2019
Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) criticized the deal by sharing a GIF of the Joker lighting a pile of money on fire from the 2008 Batman movie “The Dark Knight.” In the scene, the Joker says: “All you care about is money. This town deserves a better class of criminal. And I'm going to give it to them.”
Budget deal. pic.twitter.com/PHa754iGRJ— Rep. Mark Walker (@RepMarkWalker) July 22, 2019
Cruz, who has already abandoned in the Trump era several of what he used to call his core principles, refused to talk about the deal when approached by CNN:
Asked Ted Cruz if he’s OK with extending the debt limit for two years (as outlined in budget deal), and he said: “Just call our press office.” He led the charge during Obama years to prevent debt ceiling hike— Manu Raju (@mkraju) July 22, 2019
There was also criticism from the left:
Notice how whenever we pursue large spending increases + tax cuts for corporations, contractors & the connected, it’s treated as business as usual.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 22, 2019
But the moment we consider investing similar💰 in working class people (ex tuition-free college) they cry out it’s “unrealistic.” https://t.co/aypyYps9pM
WHILE YOU WERE IN YOUR MORNING MEETINGS:
-- The U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed new rules this morning to limit access to food stamps for households with savings and other assets, a measure that officials said would cut benefits to about 3 million people. Laura Reiley reports: “In a telephone call with reporters, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Acting Deputy Under Secretary Brandon Lipps said the proposed new rules for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) were aimed at ending automatic eligibility for those who were already receiving federal and state assistance. Forty-three states now grant automatic eligibility to low-income people already receiving other government benefits, without undergoing income or asset tests. Lipps said the proposal would result in an annual budgetary savings of $2.5 billion.”
Putting the numbers in perspective: “Current rules give states latitude to raise SNAP income eligibility limits so that low-income families with housing and child care costs that consume a sizable share of their income can continue to receive help affording adequate food. This option also allows states to adopt less restrictive asset tests so that families, seniors and people with a disability can have modest savings or own their own home without losing SNAP benefits. … To be eligible for SNAP, a household’s gross income must be below 130 percent of the federal poverty line. In 2019, that works out to $32,640 a year for a family of four. Democrats pointed out that the benefit amounts to $1.40 per person per meal.”
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, says Trump is making an end run around Congress, which blocked his earlier proposals to slash food stamps in the farm bill. “This rule would take food away from families, prevent children from getting school meals, and make it harder for states to administer food assistance,” she said.
-- Another huge flip-flop: After spending half a century advocating for capital punishment, former vice president Joe Biden this morning proposed abolishing the death penalty at the federal level and offering incentives for states to follow suit. It’s one of several ideas in a new criminal justice plan that are at odds with the 1994 crime bill he quarterbacked. “Convicted criminals who would face execution under current law would instead be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole,” Sean Sullivan reports.“Biden’s plan also would decriminalize marijuana and expunge past cannabis-related convictions; end the disparity between sentences for powder and crack cocaine; and do away with all incarceration for drug use alone. … Biden’s proposal also calls for ending cash bail and terminating the federal government’s use of private prisons. … The plan would invest $1 billion annually in juvenile justice reform. It also would seek to give states incentives to stop incarcerating minors.”
-- In a profile for the New York Times Sunday Magazine, Biden says that the general election will be a “referendum” on Trump and his fitness for office. Michael Steinberger reports: “I asked if he thought he would have beaten Trump in 2016. ‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘Everybody says that. But look, I don’t know. You’ve got to be in the game. I thought Hillary would have made a good president.’ … Biden prefers to talk about next year’s face-off with Trump — ‘a battle for the soul of America’ — in place of the ongoing fight for the soul of the Democratic Party. … When I caught up with him in New Hampshire this month, he dismissed claims of a rift between hard-line progressives and less strident ones as an ‘artificial division.’ He also spoke admiringly of [Rep. Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez, describing her as ‘smart as the devil.'"
-- Boris Johnson is the next British prime minister. William Booth and Karla Adam report from London: “The bombastic, Latin-quoting, Oxford classicist with the mop of intentionally mussed yellow hair, who made his name as an over-the-top journalist in Brussels and then as London mayor and galvanized the successful Brexit campaign in 2016, will likely walk through the black enameled door of 10 Downing Street on Wednesday — fulfilling what his biographers describe as his relentless ‘blond ambition’ to follow his hero, Winston Churchill, into the top spot. … On Wednesday, Theresa May will deliver her last remarks at a question-and-answer session in the House of Commons and then she will travel to Buckingham Palace to resign. Johnson will follow her to the palace, where Queen Elizabeth II will name him prime minister and ask him to form a new government. Johnson will be 14th prime minister during the queen’s long reign. …
“Writing in Monday’s Telegraph, Johnson said, ‘it is time this country recovered some its can-do spirit.’ He said that if the Americans could land men on the moon 50 years ago using hand-sewn bits of computer code, then 21st century Britain could imagine a way to provide for frictionless trade across the Northern Irish border, which has been one of the stumbling blocks of the Brexit deal. ‘Things are really about to kick off again in a massive way because the irresistible force of Boris Johnson’s ego is about to meet the immovable force of the House of Commons,’ said Rob Ford, a politics professor at the University of Manchester.”
GET SMART FAST:
The Army revealed that it is conducting a secret mission that requires Black Hawk helicopters to fly around the D.C. area. The classified operation was disclosed when the Pentagon asked Congress for approval to shift funds to provide more aircraft maintenance. (Bloomberg News)
As homophobic and transphobic sentiments proliferate under Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, LGBT people are taking personal defense into their own hands. Many members of the LGBT community are joining self-defense courses because they don’t feel as safe as they did in the past. (Terrence McCoy)
Thousands of California women and teenagers seeking free or discounted reproductive health services through a federal program could find themselves in clinics that focus on abstinence and natural family planning as methods of birth control. Operated by the California-based Obria Group, the centers encourage young clients to use online apps developed with funding from religious conservatives. Some of these centers participating in the federal family planning program, known as Title X, also offer “abortion pill reversal,” which experts say is not supported by scientific research. (Ariana Eunjung Cha)
Centrist Democrats are worried that Medicare-for-all will imperil their chance to keep control of the House. The current debate over the health-care proposal that’s playing out in the 2020 field shows how tricky it is to find a balance between exciting voters and reassuring them. (Sean Sullivan and Emily Davies)
- Swimmer Katie Ledecky withdrew from two races at the FINA world championship, citing unspecified medical issues. The announcement that the Olympic gold medalist, who is now studying at Stanford, was pulling out of the race came 90 minutes before she was scheduled to hit the pool. (Rick Maese)
Hong Kong police have faced protester anger for weeks. But some officers would rather be on the other side of the picket fence. Once respected as “Asia’s Finest,” members of the Hong Kong Police Force are thinking of quitting after being caught between the government’s pro-Beijing stance and the fury of the people they swore to protect. (Shibani Mahtani and Tiffany Liang)
The Vatican appointed a new bishop to lead a West Virginia diocese rocked by allegations of sexual harassment and financial abuse under its previous bishop. Bishop Mark Brennan will take over the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston 10 months after Bishop Michael Bransfield retired in the face of serious allegations of wrongdoing. (Chico Harlan)
- A woman bled to death in Utah after her family was told that her open-heart surgery was a success. The 62-year-old patient, who was getting a metal heart device removed, was in “severe distress” after the surgery because surgeons failed to notice that the blood that was being pumped into her body was flowing directly into the operating table’s trash, according to a new lawsuit brought against St. Mark’s Hospital. (Timothy Bella)
Peak fire season in California is near, and the Department of the Interior is short hundreds of firefighters. The agency has about 500 fewer firefighters available than expected. (LA Times)
- Chris Kraft, the aeronautical engineer widely considered the godfather of NASA’s Mission Control, died at 95. His death came just two days after the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. (Eryn Brown)
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN AND WOMEN:
- Remember when Vice President Pence abruptly canceled a trip to New Hampshire earlier this month? He reportedly did so to avoid shaking hands with an alleged interstate drug dealer. Pence was set to visit an opioid addiction treatment center in New Hampshire, where Jeff Hatch — a man under investigation for moving more than $100,000 of fentanyl — worked. Hatch, a former player for the New York Giants, agreed last week to a plea deal that could put him behind bars for up to four years. (Politico)
- Judy Shelton, whom Trump intends to nominate for the Federal Reserve Board, is calling for a massive interest-rate cut at the Fed’s July meeting. While Wall Street traders are anticipating a 25-basis-point cut, Shelton is publicly pushing for a 50-basis-point cut. (Heather Long)
- Kelly Craft, Trump’s nominee to be U.N. ambassador and the wife of a billionaire coal magnate, spent more than half of her days as ambassador to Canada outside of Canada. During her confirmation hearing, she attributed much of her absence to the demands of negotiating the new North American free-trade pact. But Senate investigators discovered Craft spent a significant amount of time in places around the United States where she has homes. (Politico)
- Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and other members of her family, heirs to the Amway fortune, have seen their gross incomes rise massively in the wake of the Trump tax cuts, according to her latest financial disclosure report. (CNBC)
- Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is prone to falling asleep during meetings. The 81-year-old secretary, who has for months endured whispers that he is on the outs, spends much of his time at the White House to try to curry Trump’s favor, leaving the department adrift. There’s also constant infighting among top officials and sudden departures of senior staffers without explanation. (Politico)
- Former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders showed up at a retreat of the Republican Governors Association, fueling rumors that she's preparing to run for governor of Arkansas. (Politico)
- Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani said that the expanded investigation into sex offender Jeffrey Epstein could “implicate a lot of people.” “I can’t tell you who, but it’s not going to end up with just Jeffrey Epstein,” said the former New York mayor. “Maybe some were innocent — maybe some weren’t, but I think they’re going to investigate everybody.” (The Hill)
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- Bypassing immigration judges, the Trump administration is significantly expanding its power to quickly deport undocumented immigrants who entered the country illegally within the past two years. Maria Sacchetti reports: “Officials are calling the new strategy, which will take effect immediately, a ‘necessary response’ to the influx of Central Americans and others at the southern border. It will allow immigration authorities to quickly remove immigrants from anywhere they encounter them across the United States, and they expect the approach will help alleviate the nation’s immigration-court backlog and free up space in Immigration and Customs Enforcement jails. … Immigrants apprehended in Iowa, Nebraska or other inland states would have to prove to immigration officials that they have been in the United States continuously for the past two years, or they could end up in an immigration jail facing quick deportation. And it could be relatively low-level immigration officers — not officers of a court — making the decisions.”
-- An 18-year-old U.S. citizen has been in Border Patrol detention for three weeks in Dallas. His family fears he may be deported. The Dallas Morning News’s Obed Manuel reports: The teen, Francisco Erwin Galicia, was detained at a checkpoint while traveling with his 17-year-old brother, Marlon Galicia, who lacks legal status. Marlon signed a voluntary deportation form and was sent to Mexico, but Francisco, who was born in Texas, is still in detention with little access to a phone. “The ICE detainee locator system shows Francisco is being held at the South Texas Detention Facility in Pearsall and lists him as being born in Mexico. Sanjuana Galicia, Francisco’s mother, said she lived in Dallas from 1998-2001 and moved to South Texas after his birth. ‘I need my son back,’ she said. ‘I just want to prove to them that he is a citizen. He’s not a criminal or anything bad. He’s a good kid.’”
-- A 17-year-old Guatemalan boy, Abner, described 11 days of hunger, confusion and thirst at a Border Patrol station in Yuma, Ariz. NBC News’s Julia Ainsley and Didi Martinez report: “He describes them as filled with hunger and thirst, extreme temperatures and fear of the guards manning the facility. They refused to give him food when he asked, mocked him if he asked what time it was, and, on one occasion, punched another boy in the stomach, Abner said. ‘With a punch they knocked the wind out of him ... But I don't know why,’ Abner said, describing what he said happened to the 16-year-old. Abner said he and his cellmates were only fed twice a day, leading him to become very hungry. … Abner said he lost track of whether it was day or night because the lights were always on in his cell and they were yelled at for going near the windows.”
-- In Tennessee, ICE agents attempted to arrest a man after he entered his van with his son. But their neighbors formed a human chain to allow them to get home. The neighbors, over four hours, brought water and food to the man as he and his son sat in the van, but eventually they created a chain that allowed the father and son to get home without being stopped by the federal agents, who had an administrative warrant, which doesn’t allow them to forcibly remove someone from their home or vehicle. (WTVF)
-- Montgomery County in Maryland just passed the region’s toughest ban against cooperation with ICE agents. Rebecca Tan reports: “Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) on Monday signed the Promoting Community Trust Executive Order, prohibiting all executive-branch departments from, among other things, using local government resources to assist federal agents in civil immigration investigations. That means they cannot allow [ICE] officers into nonpublic spaces in government buildings or give them access to individuals in county government custody — unless they are in possession of a court order or criminal warrant.”
-- Another side effect of Trump’s deportation threats: Immigrants are avoiding reproductive health care because they fear encountering immigration authorities. Vox’s Anna North reports: “Dr. Anjani Kolahi, a family medicine physician and fellow with the group Physicians for Reproductive Health, works with a federally qualified health center in Southern California that provides affordable care regardless of immigration status. But, she told Vox, ‘patients are not coming for care.’ She’s seen patients with cancer who only come to the doctor after experiencing significant weight loss. ‘They know that they’re very sick, but they’re so concerned about deportation that they will be scared to come into the hospital,’ Kolahi said. In an environment where people are afraid to go to the doctor even when they’re desperately ill, routine screenings for breast and cervical cancer can fall by the wayside.”
-- A new report from the Center for American Progress — the left-wing think tank — warns that the Democratic Party is losing the immigration messaging war to Trump. The report suggests Democrats’ decision to cede the “rule of law” ground to Republicans “creates ‘the false dichotomy of America as either a nation of immigrants or a nation of laws’—making the party and its candidates appear soft on enforcement, and potentially weakening future attempts for humanitarian-focused immigration reform. In doing so, writes Tom Jawetz, vice president of immigration policy at the Center for American Progress, supporters of humane immigration policy ‘have ceded powerful rhetorical ground to immigration restrictionists, who are happy to masquerade as the sole defenders of America as a nation of laws.’" (Daily Beast)
THERE'S STILL A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- The Justice Department told Bob Mueller not to answer a wide variety of questions about his Russia investigation when he testifies before lawmakers on Wednesday. Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky report: “Associate Deputy Attorney General Bradley Weinsheimer said in Monday’s letter that he was responding to a request earlier this month from Mueller for guidance on how to handle questions ‘concerning privilege or other legal bars applicable to potential testimony in connection with’ subpoenas for Mueller’s congressional testimony. … Weinsheimer then went on to spell out the categories of information that should be off-limits in Mueller’s testimony on Wednesday before two House committees. ...
"The Justice Department expects that Mueller will ‘not go beyond’ the public version of his March report of his findings. ‘Please note there should be no testimony concerning the redacted portions of the public version of your report,’ the letter said, reminding Mueller that the prosecution of Trump adviser Roger Stone and a separate case are still awaiting trial, 'and local court rules and specific orders issued in those cases substantially restrict the Department’s ability to make public statements about those cases.’ … The final portion of the letter makes a broader, vaguer admonition not to discuss matters that could be covered by executive privilege — a legally and factually complicated assertion that could, in theory, cover many topics, given that Mueller’s task was to investigate President Trump while working in the executive branch.”
-- Jim Popkin, who has been tapped to help Mueller handle media inquiries in advance of his testimony, said the former counsel will read an opening statement in addition to submitting his full report for the record. Popkin said no one at DOJ has seen Mueller’s opening statement, and it will probably not be released until Mueller starts his testimony. (CNN)
-- “The media is getting a second chance to cover Robert Mueller’s findings — and this time get it right,” writes media columnist Margaret Sullivan: “Recall how gullible — and therefore misleading to the public — the news media was in March when Attorney General William Barr characterized the unreleased report in a four-page letter. Coverage of that letter set in place an inaccurate narrative that has been almost impossible to dislodge. Many news organizations, including some of the most prominent, took what Barr said at face value or mischaracterized the report’s findings. … Some damage is irretrievable. Many Americans have made up their minds already about Mueller’s findings — and about Trump himself, no matter what he is or does. … But hearing from Mueller directly is important, even if it does nothing other than reiterate what’s in his report. And this new round of media coverage is important, too, if only because it can clarify and drive home what Mueller originally said.”
-- Trump said he’ll watch “a little” bit of the Mueller testimony. “I’m not going to be watching Mueller because you can’t take all those bites out of the apple,” he told reporters at the Oval Office. (AP)
-- Among the questions Mueller may face: Why didn’t his team interview Donald Trump Jr., the only American participant of the Trump Tower meeting that didn’t talk to investigators? A former Department of Justice official said in the past that it is likely Trump Jr. didn’t get interviewed because he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right, but this is a question Mueller can finally put to rest on Wednesday. (NBC News)
-- Neal Katyal, a former acting solicitor general in the Obama administration, said Mueller can speak volumes with just three answers. In an op-ed for the Times, he writes: “There are just three simple yes-or-no questions Congress should ask Robert Mueller: Mr. Mueller, the president said your report found, in his words, ‘no collusion, no obstruction, complete and total exoneration.’ First, did your report find there was no collusion? Second, did your report find there was no obstruction? Third, did your report give the president complete and total exoneration? That’s it. That’s the ballgame.”
-- John Podesta, the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, calls Mueller’s testimony “vital" to stop future election interference: “He can provide guidance on how Russia operates and how to prevent further attacks. But Americans must face the truth: Trump, in broad daylight, has encouraged the destruction of the nation’s fundamental democratic institutions, and he continues to do so," he writes in an op-ed for The Post.
-- Trump recently met with Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, to discuss who should replace Dan Coats as the next director of national intelligence. Politico's Natasha Bertrand and Eliana Johnson report that Fred Fleitz, a former CIA analyst who was national security adviser John Bolton’s chief of staff and now runs a far-right think tank, is in the running for the job: "Some on Capitol Hill and in the intelligence community think Nunes himself could be in the mix for an intelligence post, even if it’s not for this job. ‘The president would certainly consider Devin Nunes for the director’s position and I eventually see him serving in some capacity in this administration,’ said one member of Congress who speaks to Trump frequently. He noted, however, that he sees ‘all of Devin’s efforts being directed towards a reelection effort in Congress.’ Such speculation has provoked some anxiety [inside the intelligence community], according to one person with direct knowledge.”
-- South Korean fighter jets fired 360 warning shots at an intruding Russian military aircraft, according to Seoul’s Defense Ministry.Simon Denyer reports: “The South Korean fighters fired 80 warning shots the first time, and a further 280 shots when the aircraft returned a few minutes later, according to the Defense Ministry. Seoul said it was the first time a Russian military plane had violated its airspace, and experts said the incident complicated simmering regional tensions.
THE DIVIDED STATES (AND TERRITORIES) OF AMERICA:
-- The Louisiana cop who called Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.) a “vile idiot” who “needs a round” on Facebook was fired, along with another officer who “liked” the post. The officer had just completed social media training when he shared a fake article about Ocasio-Cortez. (Vice News)
-- Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), another member of the four-person "Squad," told the NAACP convention in Detroit that she has a message for those wanting to “send her back”: "I'm not going nowhere, not until I impeach this president." She noted that she was "born and raised" in Motor City. (CBS News)
-- “I don’t feel like an outsider, and I haven’t been treated like one,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), one of the four congresswomen targeted by the president, tells the Boston Globe for a profile: “Pressley has been the least controversial of the four, all women of color. But her association with them has set her apart from House colleagues, including other female lawmakers who also entered Congress this year for the first time. ‘She doesn’t make waves for the wrong reasons by herself and that to me is a very interesting and significant point. She knows what she’s doing,’ said Ian Russell, the former political director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which helps elect party members to the House. ‘There is no reason why she can’t deliver on legislation while also running this outside game too,’ he said. ‘It’s just a delicate balance.’”
-- Many voters in Port Huron, Mich., have embraced the president’s “love it or leave it” message, one that they do not see as racist even as he continues to rally against the four congresswomen of color, who he told last week to “go back." The Times’s Stephanie Saul and Jeremy W. Peters report: “Though they dismiss Mr. Trump’s Twitter broadsides as excessive or juvenile, they voiced strong support for his re-election and expressed their own misgivings about the four women. ‘They happen to be black or colored,’ Dennis Kovach, 82, said of the women, as he watered the lawn of his home near the lake this weekend. ‘But I don’t think that viewpoint is a racist viewpoint. I think it’s — quit the bitching, if you don’t like it, do something different about it.’ … Michigan is an important piece of Mr. Trump’s path to re-election and is already the focus of some of the Republican Party’s most extensive get-out-the-vote efforts. … In Port Huron, many residents said they were willing to ignore Mr. Trump’s outbursts, pointing to strong hiring in local factories as evidence he was doing a good job. Some raised fears about a move toward socialism within the Democratic Party, and suggested that Mr. Trump’s remarks might even gain him support by showcasing just how far left the Democratic Party has shifted.”
-- “The president and his followers lack the moral authority to tell anyone to leave this country because they are not indigenous to this land,” writes Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress, in an op-ed for the Times. "The fact that the president claims this country as his own and wants to keep everyone in their place proves that he doesn’t understand his place. I question the standing of anyone who would call to send my sisters and colleagues ... or any other American 'back.' As a 35th-generation New Mexican and a descendant of the original inhabitants of this continent, I say that the promise of our country is for everyone to find success, pursue happiness and live lives of equality. This is the Pueblo way. It’s the American way."
-- Joe Kaeser, the chief executive of Siemens AG, said Trump is turning into the “face of racism and exclusion." Hamza Shaban reports: “’I find it depressing that the most important political office in the world is turning into the face of racism and exclusion,’ Kaeser said in a Twitter post over the weekend. ‘I have lived in the USA for many years, experiencing freedom, tolerance and openness as never before.’ Kaeser, who worked for Siemens in San Jose, from 1995 to 1999, previously has used his position as the head of one of Europe’s most powerful manufacturers to take a stand on political issues.”
-- The city council in Charlotte, which will host the Republican National Convention next year, just condemned Trump’s “racist and xenophobic” comments. Felicia Sonmez reports: “James Mitchell Jr., one of the council members who supported the resolution, said the move was intended to send a message to the White House: ‘We may not be able to control what you say, but we’re going to tell you how we feel about it in Charlotte, North Carolina.’ All nine of the city council’s Democrats voted for the measure, while the two Republicans on the council opposed it.”
-- After a week of backlash over his comments, Trump privately met with former NFL player and conservative commentator Jack Brewer at the golf course to talk about “black America,” according to Brewer. ABC News’s Tara Palmeri reports: “’My goal is to help calm this wave,’ Brewer told ABC News in a phone interview about the tensions between the black community and Trump. ‘It's all about emotion.’ Brewer said he and the president did not specifically speak about the latest controversy regarding the four congresswomen and the rally chant, saying that his agenda was criminal justice reform and how it's impacting the African American community. ‘I came to talk about what's been done. Thousands of black families have their dads now,’ said Brewer, referring to the announcement on Friday that 3,100 inmates were released from prison under the First Step Act.”
-- In Puerto Rico, protesters shut down a major highway and paralyzed most of San Juan as they continued demanding the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. The Times's Frances Robles and Alejandra Rosa report: "The protest was one of the largest ever seen on the island, as Puerto Ricans streamed into the capital on buses — and some on planes from the mainland — in a spontaneous eruption of fury over the years of recession, mismanagement, natural disaster and corruption that have fueled a recent exodus. Ignoring sporadic deluges, demonstrators launched impromptu line dances, paraded on horseback, banged pots and carried banners along several miles of highway, many shouting: 'Ricky, renuncia, el pueblo te repudia!' — Ricky, resign, the people reject you. ... 'Governor, Puerto Rico Demands Your Resignation,' the island’s largest-circulation daily newspaper, El Nuevo Día, said in an unusual front-page editorial on Monday. ... In an interview with Fox News on Monday, Mr. Rossello said he had apologized to some of those named in the chat but still has work to do as governor."
-- After criticizing Rosselló, Trump credited himself as "the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico." From HuffPost's Julian Shen-Berro: "Trump falsely stated that Congress 'gave Puerto Rico $92 billion last year' as evidence of their incompetence. ... Trump later claimed to be 'the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico,' citing a number of bizarre reasons while trying to justify the statement 'They don’t like to give me the credit for it, but we did a great job [in Puerto Rico],' he said. 'I have many Puerto Rican friends. I have a real understanding of Puerto Rico. I’ve had jobs in Puerto Rico.' Trump did not delve into specifics of the 'great job' he believed his administration had accomplished, but did refer to what he saw as a 'tremendous' success that occurred before his presidency began. 'I own the Miss Universe contest and we had them in Puerto Rico, twice. And I’ll tell you, we had tremendous successes,' the president said. 'In fact, they said literally 100% — this never happens — almost, I think it was close to 100, but 100% of the island itself was watching. They like those pageants.'"
-- Other mainland politicians also criticized Rosselló, including New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. The 2020 hopeful said the Puerto Rican governor "has exhibited a pattern of sexist, homophobic and entirely inappropriate behavior." (CNN)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Chelsea Clinton announced the birth of her third child:
This morning we welcomed our son, Jasper Clinton Mezvinsky. We are overflowing with love and gratitude and can’t wait to introduce him to his big sister and brother.— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) July 22, 2019
The Post's Fact Checker commented on Trump's misleading statements on a conversation he had with India's prime minister:
For India, this is a huge red line. No Indian PM would ever make such a suggestion. https://t.co/BGmKaCpPos— Glenn Kessler (@GlennKesslerWP) July 22, 2019
Trump commented on the most recent clashes in Hong Kong:
The day after thugs attack Hong Kong demonstrators with iron bars, sending 45 to the hospital, Trump endorses China's handling of mass protests: "I think President Xi has acted very responsibly...he's allowed that to go on for a long time."— Jackson Diehl (@JacksonDiehl) July 22, 2019
And a Democratic presidential hopeful trolled Ivanka Trump:
Will never get used to @Hickenlooper dunking on Rs on Twitter pic.twitter.com/E5eNwFH4oP— Nick Riccardi (@NickRiccardi) July 22, 2019
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"If I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the earth, it would be gone, it would be over literally in 10 days and I don’t want to go that route," Trump said during his meeting with the Pakistani prime minister. "I just don't want to kill 10 million people." (Anne Gearan and John Hudson)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Hasan Minhaj took a look at the problematic names of some American places:
Seth Meyers took a closer look at Trump's attacks against four congresswomen of color:
Presidential hopeful Marianne Williamson sat down with Stephen Colbert:
Footage showed parts of New York flooded a day after temperatures hit over 100 degrees:
At 4th Ave and Carroll Street in Brooklyn. Courtesy of Adrienne Zhao pic.twitter.com/wEU4RFwqfQ— Julie Chang (@BayAreaJulie) July 22, 2019
And the Los Angeles Times shared satellite images that show how the Ridgecrest earthquake shattered the desert floor:
Animated slides show how the quake permanently jolted a huge block of earth along the fault away from the other. Here, the image shows how one block of ground slid past the other in the Ridgecrest earthquake. https://t.co/P7AKfmReIe (@SotisValkan / Google Earth / DigitalGlobe) pic.twitter.com/YopQ76PLJP— Los Angeles Times (@latimes) July 22, 2019