With Mariana Alfaro
THE BIG IDEA: Tech investor Peter Thiel, whose long-running hostility toward Google is well known in Silicon Valley, dubiously accused the search giant of committing treason during an interview last week on Fox News. When host Tucker Carlson asked Thiel whether he has any evidence to support his accusation that Google is working in cahoots with the Chinese government, the PayPal co-founder responded that he was just “asking questions.” Moments after “Fox & Friends” aired a clip from that sit-down the next morning, President Trump – who has routinely criticized the company – called Thiel “a great and brilliant guy who knows this subject better than anyone!” He tweeted: “The Trump Administration will take a look!”
The Department of Justice announced last night that it is opening an antitrust review of “market-leading online platforms” to take a look at “widespread concerns … about search, social media, and some retail services.” Prosecutors said they will “seek redress” if their investigation finds that these companies violated any federal competition laws. “Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands,” Makan Delrahim, the DOJ’s assistant attorney general for antitrust, said in a statement.
“It did not mention any major tech giant by name, but its stated interests track closely with Google’s dominance in search, Facebook’s leadership in social media and Amazon’s position as the country’s e-commerce leader,” Tony Romm, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg report. “To start, DOJ officials are planning a meeting this week with attorneys general from states such as Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa to examine the potential for bringing state-level cases against tech giants.”
“Another way to read this is that the administration doesn’t like any of these tech firms because they think they all lean Democratic and stifle conservative voices, and this is just pure, raw-knuckles payback,” said Bob Litan, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the DOJ antitrust division who helped prosecute Microsoft.
Investigations at the DOJ are supposed to be independent of political influence from the White House, and Justice Department officials have been adamant that these inquiries are not politically motivated. But the president has not inspired confidence in this regard by reportedly trying to interfere in past competition-related matters, including AT&T’s purchase of Time Warner Cable, a deal that included CNN, a frequent target of Trump’s attacks. Trump appointees at the Justice Department used a novel antitrust theory to try thwarting that merger, but the government lost in both lower court and on appeal.
The appearance alone that the federal government’s law enforcement apparatus is being marshaled against America’s most successful innovators because Trump doesn’t like them threatens to further erode public confidence that Lady Justice is truly blindfolded. It feels like the plot of a dystopian Ayn Rand novel, with Mark Zuckerberg or Sergey Brin as Hank Rearden. But who is John Galt?
The New Yorker reported in March that Trump pressured Gary Cohn, the former director of the National Economic Council, to tell the Justice Department to block the AT&T-Time Warner deal a few months before DOJ filed that suit. According to the magazine, Trump called Cohn and then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly into his office and said, “I've been telling Cohn to get this lawsuit filed and nothing's happened! I've mentioned it fifty times. And nothing's happened. I want to make sure it's filed. I want that deal blocked.” Cohn reportedly told Kelly after they left the Oval Office not to follow through with the president's request. As a point of contrast, the Justice Department did not try to stop Trump ally Rupert Murdoch when Disney purchased 21st Century Fox. “Under Trump, the government has consistently furthered Murdoch's business interests, to the detriment of his rivals,” Jane Mayer wrote in her piece.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post. Trump has repeatedly sought to link the online store and this newspaper, whose coverage he has criticized, even though they are separate entities that operate independently. Last year, Trump personally pushed the U.S. postmaster general to double the rate that the Postal Service charges Amazon to ship packages, which could cost the company billions. The postmaster general pushed back by showing the president how profitable the partnership is for the government.
-- Trump is not just maneuvering behind the scenes to undermine his perceived enemies in tech. There are many examples of the president invoking partisan politics as he explicitly advocates, in sometimes chilling terms, for the heavy hand of the state to be used against private industry.
At the White House social media summit the week before last, for example, Trump ominously threatened to do battle with technology firms who he says treat conservatives unfairly. “They’re not using what we gave them fairly, and they have to do that,” Trump told a crowd of his supporters. “We certainly don’t want to stifle free speech, but that’s no longer free speech. See, I don’t think the mainstream media is free speech either because it’s so crooked. It’s so dishonest. To me, free speech is not when you see something good and then you purposely write something bad. To me, that’s very dangerous speech.”
On June 26, Trump phoned into Fox Business and attacked Google and Twitter for being “totally biased” against him. "Let me tell you, they're trying to rig the election," he alleged. “That's what we should be looking at, not the phony witch hunt.” He added that the companies seek to foment “hatred for the Republicans.”
On June 10, Trump telephoned into CNBC’s “Squawk Box” and said that there is "something going on in terms of monopoly” vis-a-vis Facebook, Google and Amazon. “I can tell you they discriminate against me,” the president said. “People talk about collusion. The real collusion is between the Democrats and these companies. They were so against me during my election run. Everybody said, ‘If you don't have them, you can't win.’ Well, I won. And I'll win again.”
-- Prominent Democrats have expressed broad-based support for DOJ’s antitrust probe into the major technology companies, which they believe have accumulated too much power. But some prominent lawmakers, including Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), emphasized last night that any investigation by the Justice Department must be entirely free of political interference. A House Judiciary subcommittee is already conducting its own bipartisan investigation of the companies. Elizabeth Warren has made breaking up the big tech companies a central plank of her platform.
-- The tech companies face a multi-front assault from the feds: Attorney General Bill Barr attacked encrypted messaging programs, singling out Facebook-owned WhatsApp, during a blistering speech yesterday at the International Conference on Cyber Security in New York. The attorney general said that one Mexican cartel “started using WhatsApp as their primary communication method, preventing U.S. law enforcement from conducting wiretaps that would enable us to locate fentanyl shipments and seize them at the border.” That same cartel, he said, created a WhatsApp group chat “for the specific purpose of coordinating the murders of Mexico-based police officials. The cartel ended up murdering hundreds of these police officers. Had we been able to gain access to the chat group on a timely basis, we could have saved these lives.”
“It marks a forceful return by the Justice Department to the encryption debate it has shied away from in recent years, after a bruising fight between the FBI and Apple over the locked phone of a dead terrorism suspect,” Devlin Barrett reports. “Last year, the FBI acknowledged that while they had repeatedly claimed investigators were locked out of nearly 7,800 devices connected to crimes, the correct number was much smaller, between 1,000 and 2,000.”
In response, a WhatsApp spokesman sent a statement from Facebook executive Gail Kent: “Cybersecurity experts have repeatedly proven that it’s impossible to create any backdoor that couldn’t be discovered — and exploited — by bad actors. It’s why weakening any part of encryption weakens the whole security ecosystem.”
-- To be sure, the tech companies don’t have totally clean noses: The Federal Trade Commission alleges that Facebook misled billions of users about its handling of their data as part of a wide-ranging complaint that accompanies a $5 billion settlement announced this morning.
“The agency argued that the social-networking company was not upfront about the ways that app developers, advertisers and others gained access to users’ personal data — from the content they ‘liked’ to the phone numbers they stored — in breach of Facebook’s previous promise to improve its privacy protections online,” Romm reports. “As a result, the settlement between the FTC and Facebook includes the largest fine in U.S. history for a privacy violation, and it grants federal regulators unparalleled access to the social-networking giant’s business decisions for the next two decades — allowing regulators to scrutinize the actions of Facebook’s leaders, including chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, and its efforts to launch new products and services. Facebook, however, did not have to admit guilt for its misdeeds.”
-- You may notice some changes below: We’re experimenting with several formatting adjustments to the Daily 202 this summer. Starting today, for example, there’s not a Get Smart Fast section. The overarching goal is to better serve readers by putting more of an emphasis on insightful analysis and less on traditional aggregation. I will pick three core themes for the body of each day’s newsletter and explore them in depth, rather than trying to cover everything.
As 2020 approaches, we want to continually modernize to keep up with the ever-changing media and technology landscapes. Nothing is ever set in stone, and what you’re seeing is a work in progress. That’s why I’d sincerely appreciate your feedback and advice to help make this as useful as possible for you. You can reach me directly at James.Hohmann@washpost.com. Thank you so much for reading.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Puerto Rican newspapers expect Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to resign today after two weeks of mass protests: El Nuevo Día reports that Wanda Vázquez, the justice secretary, will be Rosselló’s successor. Sources told the local newspaper that Rosselló has recorded a goodbye message that will be broadcast today. Another local paper, El Vocero, also says the governor will step down. “Since the disclosure almost two weeks ago of the text messages, the administration has lost its investment officer, press secretary and two fiscal agency heads -- one of whom lasted just five days. The governor’s chief of staff quit Tuesday night,” Bloomberg News reports.
- Puerto Rican law enforcement authorities seized cellphones belonging to several people in Rosselló’s inner circle. They are believed to be connected to the exchange of sexist and homophobic messages that triggered the uprising, per the New York Times.
- Civil rights leaders in Puerto Rico want investigations into the use of tear gas on protesters. “Police have fired tear gas at mostly peaceful protesters every night for more than a week, according to the ACLU of Puerto Rico and Amnesty International Puerto Rico, which have both had observers at the protests in San Juan. They said police have also used rubber bullets on some nights,” BuzzFeed News reports.
THERE’S STILL A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Today’s the big day: Former special counsel Robert Mueller is testifying before Congress this morning, and he’s bringing his longtime aide with him. Rachael Bade and Matt Zapotosky report: “Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee agreed to allow Aaron Zebley, a former top deputy to Mueller, to sit beside him and advise him in his answers. The accommodation came after Mueller asked that Zebley be allowed to testify as a witness next to him, a request Judiciary Democrats rejected. The House Intelligence Committee, meanwhile, has agreed to let Zebley be sworn in for its hearing later in the day, according to a committee aide. Zebley was Mueller’s chief of staff when Mueller was FBI director, and he played largely the same role inside the special counsel’s office. … ‘The special counsel’s office has made it clear for some time, they’d like to have him present, they would like to allow him to answer questions,’ said House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.). ‘We want this hearing to be about Director Mueller.’”
Trump didn’t react well to the news of Zebley’s addition: “Just got back only to hear of a last-minute change allowing a Never Trumper attorney to help Robert Mueller with his testimony before Congress tomorrow,” he tweeted. “What a disgrace to our system. Never heard of this before. VERY UNFAIR, SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED. A rigged Witch Hunt!” While many in Mueller’s team gave political donations to Democratic candidates in the past, Zebley has no political donation history and there is no evidence that he is a “Never Trumper.” Bade and Zapotosky reported last night that “one person familiar with the matter said that Mueller made the request to have Zebley be sworn in and testify in the last 24 hours or so. The Justice Department did not authorize Zebley to testify and objects to his doing so, said the individual. Republicans decried the move as an 11th-hour trick, arguing Democrats would have had to announce another witness days ago under traditional procedures in the House.”
-- An adviser to Trump’s transition team was convicted on foreign-agent charges. From Politico: “A federal jury on Tuesday convicted Bijan Rafiekian, a former business partner of Michael Flynn, on a pair of foreign-agent felony charges stemming from work the two men did for Turkish interests during the final months of the Trump presidential campaign in 2016. … Rafiekian, 67, faces up to 15 years in prison on the two felony counts against him: acting as an unregistered foreign agent in the U.S., and conspiracy to violate that law as well as to submit false statements to the Justice Department in a foreign-agent filing. … The Iranian-American businessman, who was Flynn’s main partner in his short-lived consulting firm, also served as an adviser to the Trump transition team on national security issues.”
-- Most Americans still believe Congress should not begin impeachment hearings against Trump. Here are four other takeaways from Emily Guskin on how Americans view Mueller and impeachment going into the hearing:
- Americans largely see Mueller as credible, and Republicans’ view of him turned more positive after the investigation ended.
- A plurality of Americans (46 percent) said Mueller's findings will not change their 2020 vote.
- Yet most Americans believe that Mueller didn't exonerate Trump and that Trump lied about matters the special counsel investigated.
- Americans are more divided over whether Trump tried to obstruct Mueller’s probe. An April poll showed that 47 percent of Americans believe Trump tried to interfere in the investigation.
-- Ousted FBI director James Comey expressed hope that House Democrats would ask Mueller about Barr's misleading summary of the former special counsel's report and how the attorney general has "slimed the FBI.” From Fox News: “Comey insisted that he and everyone at the DOJ ‘should have been fired’ if they didn't pursue an investigation in Russia's meddling in the 2016 election and whether there was an ‘American connection’ in its efforts. … ‘This is a chance for the American people to learn what he found,’ Comey told MSNBC host Nicolle Wallace. ‘It's too bad that having published a 450-page report, that didn't get the job done, but it didn't. Folks don't know what he found. And you can ask him in a simple and straightforward way and get those details in front of the American people.’”
-- What critics, pundits and journalists are expecting from Mueller’s hearing:
- The testimony could be revolutionary — or it could put us to sleep. “The biggest surprise of Robert Mueller’s testimony on Capitol Hill on Wednesday will be if it contains any surprises at all,” writes the New Yorker’s John Cassidy. “We already have a good idea of what Mueller is going to say, because he has told us.” On May 29, Mueller said, “Any testimony from this office would not go beyond our report.” “What we won’t get from Mueller, it is safe to assume, is a straightforward answer to the fundamental question he dodged in his report: Did the President’s behavior detailed in Volume 2 satisfy a prosecutor’s definition of obstruction?” continues Cassidy. “In this, ostensibly his last public act, Mueller could theoretically cast aside his constricted view of a special counsel’s role and state the truth of the matter in plain English.”
- There might be some fireworks, but will the hearing be a turning point? Ask the Times’s Peter Baker and Sheryl Gay Stolberg: “For all the anticipation, for all the fighting that it took to get to this day, many in Washington assume it will be more fizzle than sizzle. … That is not to say it will be free of fireworks. Democrats will use Mr. Mueller to argue that Mr. Trump benefited from Russia’s help in the 2016 election even if investigators did not establish a criminal conspiracy and that his efforts to impede the investigation amounted to obstruction of justice even if Justice Department rules bar indictment of a sitting president. Republicans will grill the former special counsel to press their case that the entire investigation represented an illegitimate, partisan coup attempt even though Mr. Mueller himself is a lifelong Republican.”
- That debate between Democrats and Republicans will play over and over on TV, and anchors are ready for it. CNN’s Brian Stelter writes: “I asked new ‘CBS Evening News’ anchor Norah O'Donnell what she's doing to prep -- she replied, ‘Reading, reading, reading. I bought the bound version of the report on Amazon, and the abridged version by Thomas Patterson, and our special events team put together an excellent briefing book ahead of our coverage.’ … How should newsrooms approach hearing? Wednesday's Mueller biographer Garrett Graff told me: ‘The media needs to stay focused on the *substance* of the hearing, not the circus. The GOP is going to try to throw up as much mud and smoke as they can, but we know most of their pet theories (Chris Steele!) have already been debunked. The GOP's goal is to make this as muddy as possible. Don't help them. Don't let them distract.’”
-- You can keep up with The Post’s live coverage of Mueller’s testimony here.
-- The president, while complaining about the Mueller probe, falsely told a room full of teenagers at the Turning Point USA Teen Student Action Summit that the Constitution gives him “the right to do whatever I want.” Michael Brice-Saddler reports: “Trump lamented the duration and cost of the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, which he has repeatedly said found 'no collusion, no obstruction.' 'Then, I have an Article II, where I have to the right to do whatever I want as president,' he said. 'But I don’t even talk about that.' ... Article II grants the president 'executive power.' It does not indicate the president has total power. Article II is the same part of the Constitution that describes some of Congress’s oversight responsibilities, including over the office of the presidency. It also details how the president may be removed from office via impeachment.”
-- House Democrats are preparing to formally endorse Trump-related subpoenas to strengthen their court case to access the president’s personal financial information. From Politico: “The proposal, filed Tuesday afternoon by Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), would formally declare that any committee subpoenas related to Trump, his family, current and former White House officials and the Trump Organization are presumed to have the blessing of the full House of Representatives. The Rules Committee is expected to advance the measure Tuesday night, and the House is expected to pass it on Wednesday. … The measure, recommended by House counsel Doug Letter, responds to a line of questioning by [former Trump administration official] Neomi Rao, a judge on the federal appeals court in Washington, who is one of three judges weighing a Democratic subpoena to access records from Trump's personal accounting firm. During oral arguments earlier this month, Rao repeatedly wondered why the full House hadn't voted to authorize the probe of Trump's finances, which is being led by the House Oversight Committee.”
-- Democrats are growing more and more frustrated as House investigators struggle to hold Trump accountable. Rachael Bade reports: “In more than seven months of investigating Trump, a half-dozen Democratic-led House committees have struggled to unearth major findings, hold high-profile hearings that move public sentiment or follow up on inquiries they laid out when the party took the majority in January. … Investigators blame Trump’s historic stonewalling for their difficulties. … Two of the committee chairmen leading investigations — Judiciary’s Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Ways and Means’ Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) — have drawn primary challengers who dismiss glacial-paced oversight and demand the ultimate step: impeachment proceedings against Trump. … The bitterness is expressed by party challengers and far-left groups, but it extends beyond the most liberal voices. A core group of aides to President Barack Obama who dealt with relentless GOP investigations of their former boss have questioned whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s aversion to impeachment has created what Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior adviser to Obama, recently called a ‘bizarre abdication’ of congressional duties.”
-- House investigators blame Trump’s stonewalling for their difficulties making any breaks. Case in point: Trump sued the House Ways and Means Committee, as well as New York's attorney general, to block disclosure of his tax returns. From CNBC: “The president’s lawsuit, which was filed ‘in his capacity as a private citizen,’ came less than a month after the [committee] sued the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service to obtain Trump’s federal returns. … Trump’s lawyers argue that the House panel ‘lacks a legitimate legislative purpose’ to use a recently passed New York state law to get Trump’s returns. They also claim that state law violated the president’s First Amendment rights, because it was enacted to ‘discriminate and retaliate against President Trump for his speech and politics.’”
-- Trump is at odds with Senate Republicans over how to impose sanctions on Turkey for purchasing a Russian antimissile system. Karoun Demirjian, Seung Min Kim and Josh Dawsey report: “Senate Republicans, led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman James E. Risch (Idaho), are urging Trump not to waive mandatory sanctions against Turkey for purchasing the Russian-made S-400 system, which they argue would jeopardize the security of NATO’s F-35 stealth fighter technology. … Trump appeared to be advocating negotiations with Turkey instead of harsh sanctions — leading to a ‘robust discussion’ and the open dispute between Risch and the president, according to people familiar with the closed-door meeting.”
-- A high-profile Chinese fugitive, billionaire and member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club is accused of being a Communist spy. From the Miami Herald: “Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui, who also goes by Miles Kwok, fled to the United States four years ago after learning an associate had been arrested on corruption charges. He is now one of China’s most-wanted, accused of myriad crimes by the Chinese government, including paying bribes and sexual assault. He maintains his innocence, saying the charges are politically motivated. Guo, who made his money in real estate, has long promoted himself as a dissident being hunted by the Chinese government for his opposition to the ruling Chinese Communist Party. He is currently seeking political asylum in the United States, where he reportedly avoided deportation by the Trump administration after the president learned Guo was a member of Mar-a-Lago.”
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- A record number of Americans, 27 percent, believe immigration is the top problem facing the country. Since Gallup began regularly polling people's top worries in 1993, immigration has been cited by an average of 6 percent of Americans as their top concern. But that issue has spiked since Trump took office.
-- Francisco Galicia, the American teenager who spent three weeks held in detention by Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was finally released. From the Dallas Morning News: “Sanjuana Galicia, Francisco’s mother, said Tuesday an ICE official called her around 2 p.m. and told her that they had found his documents and citizenship to be valid and that he had been freed. ‘The first thing he said to me was, 'Mommy, they let me go. I'm free,’’ she said by phone. Galicia's detention appears to have been a bureaucratic mix up related to the fact that he had a U.S. birth certificate and also, years earlier, a Mexican visitor's visa to travel to the U.S. from Mexico.”
-- Thousands of undocumented, unaccompanied migrant children are at risk of spending the rest of their childhoods in custody, according to the head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. From CBS News: “The federal government is required to pursue ‘prompt and continuous efforts toward family reunification’ of unaccompanied migrant children, according to a landmark court settlement, but for thousands of kids in ORR care, that reunion may never happen. ‘Unfortunately, I have well over 4,000 of those children in my care at this time at the Office of Refugee Resettlement,’ the director, Jonathan Hayes, told CBS News in June. ‘So conceivably someone could come into our care at 15 years old and not have an identifiable sponsor in the United States and remain with us for a few years.’ On their 18th birthdays, many of the children will be taken from ORR's youth holding facilities, referred to as shelters, to adult detention centers operated by (ICE).”
-- Trump vowed to deport “millions” of immigrants. The final tally from the ICE raids that sowed fear in communities across the country: 18 family members detained and 17 “collateral” arrests. Maria Sacchetti reports: “ICE announced the data Tuesday morning, tucking it into a news conference that included information about worksite enforcement and routine criminal arrests. Aside from the 35 immigrants apprehended in the much-anticipated family operation, immigration agents separately picked up nearly 900 adults — most of them convicted criminals — and delivered more than 3,000 notices to companies nationwide that authorities will audit their records to ensure that workers are in the United States legally. Acting ICE Director Matthew T. Albence called the criminal operation successful and said the family operation, Operation Border Resolve, will continue, although the number of arrests were lower than in the past. The first such operation, over New Year’s weekend in 2016 under the Obama administration, led to the arrests of 121 adults and children in Georgia, Texas and North Carolina.”
-- While touting his Senate bid, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach talks often about the nonprofit group he advises aimed at building a border wall with citizen donations. The organization, however, is tangled in problems at all levels of government. From the Wichita Eagle: “In building the first segments of its promised barrier, the group has angered officials in a New Mexico border town and prompted a Florida agency to investigate consumer complaints lodged against it. What’s more, the federal agency tasked with enforcing boundary and water treaties between the United States and Mexico has identified a number of problems with We Build The Wall. … Kobach has said Trump blessed the effort, but the White House continues to decline to confirm that. As his Senate candidacy gears up, Kobach appears likely to remain an ambassador for We Build the Wall. His aides say there is no connection between the campaign and the group. But his continuing involvement creates the potential for blurred lines.”
THE DIVIDED STATES OF AMERICA:
-- The House passed a resolution condemning efforts to boycott and economically isolate Israel over its policies toward Palestinians. Mike DeBonis reports: “The 398-to-17 vote comes after months of turmoil centering on Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), two Muslim freshmen who have stood accused of anti-Semitism over public remarks they have made referencing Israel and the Holocaust. The congresswomen, repeatedly singled out by President Trump in the past week, opposed the resolution, arguing that it infringes on free speech and the right to participate in boycotts for human and civil rights. Trump renewed his attacks on Omar on Tuesday, calling her an ‘America hating anti-Semite’ in a tweet. … ‘You want to criticize the government? That’s your right. You want to stop buying products from a certain country? That’s also your right,’ said House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.). ‘But participating in an international commercial effort that undermines Israel’s legitimacy and scuttles the chances of a two-state solution isn’t the same as an individual exercising First Amendment rights.’”
-- Omar’s Republican challenger in Minneapolis, a special education teacher, appears to be a QAnon conspiracy theorist. Danielle Stella’s Twitter account follows a number of prominent QAnon promoters and twice last week posted using a hashtag referencing the QAnon motto. On Monday, she shared a picture of herself wearing a “Q” necklace, symbolism that didn’t go unnoticed by QAnon trackers. (Daily Beast)
-- Khizr Khan, the Gold Star father attacked by Trump in 2016 after he spoke at the Democratic convention, called on Trump to visit Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery so he can see “all races, all faiths defending this country.” (ABC News)
-- FBI Director Chris Wray said that the bureau has recorded about 100 domestic terrorism arrests this year and that most of those investigations involve white supremacy. Matt Zapotosky reports: “Asked for more specific data, an FBI spokeswoman clarified after Wray’s testimony that the bureau has recorded about 90 domestic terrorism arrests, compared with about 100 international terrorism arrests. … Wray said the bureau does not investigate any group merely for its beliefs. But when those beliefs produce violence, he said, ‘we’re all over it.’”
-- Fox News helped radicalize terrorist Cesar Sayoc, who pleaded guilty in March to mailing improvised explosive devices to 13 people, his lawyers claim in a sentencing memo: “Mr. Sayoc began watching Fox News religiously and following Trump supporters on social media. He became a vocal political participant on Facebook, something he had not done previously. He was not discerning of the pro-Trump information he received, and by the time of his arrest, he was ‘connected’ to hundreds of right-wing Facebook groups. Many of these groups promoted various conspiracy theories and, more generally, the idea that Trump’s critics were dangerous, unpatriotic, and evil … They deployed provocative language to depict Democrats as murderous, terroristic, and violent … Fox News furthered these arguments. For example, just days before Mr. Sayoc mailed his packages, Sean Hannity said on his program that a large ‘number of Democratic leaders [were] encouraging mob violence against their political opponents.’” (Erik Wemple)
-- Dallas financier and political schmoozer Ed Butowsky was a central promoter of the Seth Rich conspiracy theory, urging Fox News to dedicate airtime to the inflammatory and unsubstantiated story that Rich leaked Democratic National Committee documents to WikiLeaks and was killed for doing so. Butowsky, who at the time was on friendly terms with former White House officials Steve Bannon and Sean Spicer, pursued and promoted his theory to Fox News and members of the Trump administration as he offered to foot the bill for a private investigator for Rich’s parents. (Yahoo News’s “Conspiracyland”)
-- A group of environmental activists superglued themselves to the walls of the U.S. Capitol in a call for action on the “climate emergency.” Felicia Sonmez and Mike DeBonis report: “Some of the protesters were draped in bright yellow police tape, while others were wearing placards reading, ‘Due to the climate emergency, Congress is shut down until sufficient action is taken to address the crisis.’ A group of activists had used Gorilla Glue to fasten their hands to the doorjambs of a tunnel connecting the Capitol to the House office buildings, according to a participant who declined to give his full name. About 15 other people were helping, he said. … Members of the group said they are calling for a vote on legislation introduced by Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) that would declare a climate emergency. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is running for president, is also a backer of the measure.”
-- People are throwing buckets of water at New York police officers, and the department’s leaders are blaming politicians’ “anti-police rhetoric” for the attacks. Timothy Bella reports: “Police Department Chief Terence Monahan described the water-tossers as ‘reprehensible.’ New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democratic presidential contender, also condemned the actions. ‘Completely unacceptable,’ de Blasio tweeted on Monday about the Manhattan incident. ‘The NYPD kept New Yorkers safe through the heat wave and last night’s outages. We won’t tolerate this kind of disrespect.’ But some police union leaders seized on the videos as a reason to slam elected leaders, including de Blasio, whom they have frequently criticized for his stance on controversial police shootings and other policy matters.”
-- Sexism watch: The women running for president are constantly being asked how being a woman may affect their chances of winning the race. So far, none of them are emphasizing the “glass ceiling.” From the Times: “In politics, the phrase became associated with the aspirations of Hillary Clinton, who spoke at key moments of success and defeat about cracking the glass ceiling. But in this barrier-breaking field of female candidates, it is noticeably absent. … Nobody has used the allegory quite like Mrs. Clinton, who has for years talked about the ‘highest, hardest glass ceiling’ she was determined to crack … And then, of course, there was the fateful night at the Javits Center in Manhattan, under a literal glass ceiling where confetti shaped like glass shards was supposed to rain from above as Mrs. Clinton acknowledge victory … ‘I remember thinking that the symbolism was going to feel so satisfying,’ said Emma Gray, 31, who reports on women’s issues for HuffPost and remembers staring upward during a quiet moment at the Javits Center on election night. ‘We were under a literal glass ceiling and that ceiling was going to metaphorically shatter. And then it did not.’”
-- Maya Harris, a former ACLU leader and one of the editors of a book about mass incarceration, is exactly the type of person you think would criticize former prosecutor Kamala Harris for her policies. Instead, she’s managing her sister's campaign for president. Ben Terris profiles their relationship: “’If people knew who Kamala was, and really what she believes and really where her heart is,’ Maya said. ‘I think it would be hard not to reach the conclusion that this is the person who would be the most passionate advocate for the things we’ve been fighting for for a long time.’ … Questions of who [Kamala] is, what sits at her core, and why exactly she wants to be president have become central to her campaign and chances of winning. Few, if anyone, have had these concerns about Maya, and Maya doesn’t have these concerns about Kamala. Her trick then, in her own words, is this: ‘How do you bridge the gap between what you know about someone, and what people think about someone?’”
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“You don’t have to be Euclid to understand the math here. We’re like Thelma and Louise in that car headed toward the cliff,” Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) said as his Republican colleagues shrug at new deficits brought on by Trump. (Robert Costa and Mike DeBonis)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
A Bloomberg News reporter said the congressional GOP's lack of seriousness about deficits predates Trump:
Donald Trump isn’t an aberration from Republican orthodoxy on fiscal matters; he’s following in the tradition of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush by boosting deficits via tax cuts and more military money.— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) July 24, 2019
The president congratulated Boris Johnson for becoming the new British prime minister:
Congratulations to Boris Johnson on becoming the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He will be great!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2019
And even though Trump called Johnson “the British Trump,” U.S. and U.K. policy differences remain and may outlast the friendliness between the leaders. (Anne Gearan and Laura Hughes)
A Politico editor shared this fun anecdote about a former Michigan congressman:
Fun fact: Rep. David Bonior (in the middle) didn't know who Urkel was. So when he and President Clinton left the Capitol and Urkel walked up, Bonior put himself in between the two of them, thinking he was deranged.— Zack Stanton (@zackstanton) July 22, 2019
Clinton waved him off, explaining it was a planned photo op. pic.twitter.com/xOWOrbjroy
The Post’s Beijing bureau chief commented on the demographics of the latest meeting between Trump and the Pakistani government:
Comedian Jon Stewart, who has been an outspoken advocate for New York's finest, was seen in the Capitol, as the Senate gave final approval to extend lifetime compensation to the 9/11 first responders who became ill after the attacks:
.@McConnellPress walks past Jon Stewart at the Ohio Clock Corridor in the Capitol. The Senate will be voting later today on HR 1327: Never Forget the Heroes: Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act. pic.twitter.com/bZ0FaOhTSl— Bill Clark (@billclarkphotos) July 23, 2019
The Onion poked fun at a 2020 hopeful who last week was criticized for being in Iowa while New York City experienced a major blackout:
Another 2020 Democrat is participating in an annual bike ride across Iowa:
And Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) posted a video of a tracker confronting him to decry politics circa 2019:
This is so dumb.— Doug Jones (@DougJones) July 23, 2019
We need to be working on saving rural healthcare, getting veterans their benefits & helping make life easier for folks who are worrying at their kitchen tables. We should hit a political reset button & get to work for folks who need us.pic.twitter.com/8Ila9Ko8MD
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert grilled Trump for his continued criticism of “the Squad”:
Seth Meyers, giving everyone a pause from political stories, shared a wild story about a mom who stole her car back:
Trevor Noah went through the whirlwind of this week’s news (and it’s only Wednesday):
And for the “aww” moment of the day, here’s a baby flamingo trying to stand on one leg: