With Mariana Alfaro
THE BIG IDEA:
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Both of New Hampshire’s House members endorsed launching an impeachment inquiry against President Trump on Friday afternoon, bowing to pressure from their left flanks at the start of a 46-day summer recess. But most people in this swing state, including many Democrats, do not support such a move.
Reps. Chris Pappas and Annie Kuster are among about a dozen House Democrats who have come out for the impeachment inquiry since former special counsel Bob Mueller testified last week, despite continued resistance from Speaker Nancy Pelosi. That brings the total to 106 members, by our tally, which is just under half the Democratic caucus.
The divisions in the Granite State capture in miniature the difficult needle that party leaders must figure out how to thread to prevail in 2020. The Wards are Democrats who loathe Trump, for instance, but they don’t support impeachment. “I hate to say this, but I agree with Nancy Pelosi. Not that Congress is doing much of anything anyway, but it would be a waste of Congress’s time and our money to impeach,” said Bryan Ward, 31, an IT network engineer who voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic primary and lives in Penacook.
“In my heart of hearts, I’m pretty sure he’s going to win the next election, but at this point in the term, I’m not sure impeachment is the best use of resources,” said Meghan Ward, 35, a former stage manager who is working odds-and-ends jobs as she studies to get her teacher’s license.
Their 3-year-old son sat between them on Saturday night during a minor league baseball game here. Meghan voted for Hillary Clinton in the primary because she considered Sanders too much of a socialist and thinks his plans are unrealistic. But she refers to Trump as “Cheeto” and laments the president’s remarkably resilient poll numbers despite constant controversies that she’s convinced would cripple any other president.
Bryan is more optimistic than his wife that Trump will lose in November 2020, but he’s not excited about the crop of 2020 alternatives. “I’ll wait until the field gets narrowed down a little bit, but right now not one of the candidates really speaks to me,” he said. “There’s no middle ground anymore. There’s never compromise. It’s so, so, so contentious. It’s red team vs. blue team.”
This was the most frequent refrain during more than 30 conversations I had on Saturday evening with a cross section of New Hampshire voters at Northeast Delta Dental Stadium in the heart of downtown in this small state’s biggest city. The Fisher Cats, an affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays, were playing a doubleheader against the Fightin Phils of Reading, Pa. Every ticket in the stadium cost $14 at the box office, and there was a fireworks show afterward.
All the folks I talked with at the Fisher Cats game said they plan to vote next year, but none are the kinds of people who hang out at political events and yell at politicians. Pappas and Kuster, like so many House Democrats jumping on the impeachment bandwagon, are catering more to the hardened activists who volunteer and donate to their campaigns than the electorate more broadly.
“[Trump’s] choices aren’t great, but I’m not sure he’s done anything that’s deserving of him getting kicked out of office,” said Rich Fortier, 38, a lifelong Democrat from the Lakes Region up north. “There’s probably a protocol for that.” Fortier, a high school special education teacher, is frustrated that politicians in both parties are not paying more attention to education, and he worries about budget cuts as the economy slows down. “To me, it seems they’re distracted by the battles away from the issues that matter,” he said. “They’re not worried about the future of the country or things like that.”
Another Democrat, Beck Bryon, said the country is in a “precarious position” and warned that Trump is turning it into a “dictatorship,” but she considers impeachment a “Catch-22.” She explained that “it could be beneficial,” but the 40-year-old calibration technician worried about what would happen if the president was removed from office by the Senate. Vice President Pence would take over, and she thinks he might more effectively enact the same agenda and perhaps have an easier time winning the 2020 election. “So it’s potentially smarter to wait,” she explained.
As the first state with a primary, New Hampshire will not just be pivotal in determining the Democratic nominee but will probably be a top battleground again in the 2020 general election. Clinton carried the Granite State by just 2,700 votes, or less than half a percentage point, after Barack Obama won it twice by more than five points.
The specter of impeachment galvanizes many Trump supporters. Republican Wayne Jutras, a salesman who lives near the ballpark, appreciates that Trump is running the government like it’s a business. He said Democrats are only coming after him because they resent his success at growing the economy. “They’re just trying to dig up some dirt on him,” said Jutras, 55, between licks of a vanilla ice cream cone. “It’s like anything else: If you’re playing for the New York Yankees, you’re not going to be cheering for the Boston Red Sox. They’re doing their best, but of course they’re going to try to impeach him.”
Many middle-of-the-road voters see impeachment as a distraction. Tom and Suanne Milligan, retirees in their 70s, moved from Indiana last year to live closer to their grandchildren in Canaan, N.H. “We’re non-Trump Republicans,” he said. “I really don’t like any of what’s going on.” In 2016, he voted for Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson and she voted for Green Party nominee Jill Stein. They said it’s hard to imagine voting for Trump in 2020, but they continue to support GOP candidates down the ballot and hope their party breaks out of Trump’s thrall sooner than later. But both disapprove of Democrats trying to impeach the president. “It seems like the Democrats are just trying to appease their own voters,” said Suanne. Tom agreed. “Move on,” he said. “It’s just divisive, and I don’t think it’s really going to amount to anything.”
-- Public and private polling bolsters what I encountered on the ground: Most Americans oppose impeaching Trump, and overall public opinion has been shifting slightly away from impeachment since the release of the Mueller report.
An ABC News-Ipsos poll published on Sunday showed that Mueller’s testimony has failed to move the needle of public opinion. Among those who say they read, saw or heard about Mueller's testimony, just under half said it made no difference in their views about impeaching the president, while 27 percent said it made them more likely to support impeachment (almost all Democrats) and 26 percent said it made them less likely (almost all Republicans). “Independents were much more likely to echo the comments made by Republicans than those made by Democrats,” ABC notes. “A majority of self-described Independents – 60% -- described the testimony as a waste of time and taxpayer money or questioned Mueller’s fitness. About one in five – 19% -- of Independents mentioned that the testimony proved or confirmed Trump’s guilt. The remaining 20% of Independents had more mixed assessments.”
A Washington Post-ABC poll released earlier this month found that 59 percent of Americans said the House should not begin impeachment proceedings. That’s slightly higher than Post polling throughout the year, which found opposition to impeachment at 54 percent to 56 percent. Last summer at this time, 49 percent said Congress should begin impeachment proceedings. That’s down to 37 percent in our latest poll. But, but, but: Among Democrats, the number is 61 percent. About half of Democrats, 49 percent, said they “strongly” support impeachment.
-- Those numbers explain why so many Democratic politicians are staking out a position at odds with the views of most voters. But the ground truth is that, even on the left, there’s less intensity around impeachment than there was a few months ago.
For example, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) was the first major Democratic presidential candidate to endorse impeachment when the Mueller report came out in April, and she saw a spike in small-dollar fundraising because of it. The majority of her 2020 rivals eventually followed, another proof point of the field’s leftward lurch. But Warren did not bring up impeachment during either of the two events she held in New Hampshire on Saturday.
Not a single voter asked the senator about it during a house party in Bow or a town hall in Derry. When a reporter questioned Warren about this during a gaggle, she noted that she endorsed impeachment after reading the Mueller report because she felt she had an obligation to do so. But she added that her campaign is focused on removing Trump at the ballot box in 2020. “I’m not running on impeachment,” she said.
To be sure, each of the dozen voters I interviewed after Warren’s first event, in the grassy backyard of a supporter’s home, said they support impeachment. But their explanations were measured, and several acknowledged the political risks.
“I’m hearing what Nancy says, and I understand where she’s coming from,” said Shannon Mills, 69, a dentist who served 30 years in the Air Force. (Folks in New Hampshire, so accustomed to access, love referring to national political figures like the speaker by their first names.) “But this is not about politics. You’ve sworn an oath to defend the Constitution. You cannot ignore the egregious crimes committed by the president. They have to do their jobs. Look, I’m concerned impeachment could make the president look sympathetic to a certain segment of the voting population. … But the truth has to be told.”
Mills said he believes that Trump welcoming Russian help in 2016, combined with the efforts documented by Mueller to interfere with the investigation that followed, is much worse than the behavior that led House Republicans to impeach Bill Clinton two decades ago. “Clinton lied about an affair, but he didn’t sell our country out to the Russians,” Mills reasoned. “Neither one is something I approve of. I’m not a big fan of Bill Clinton, either.”
State Rep. Rebecca McWilliams (D), who represents Concord, said she was impressed that Kuster, her congresswoman, endorsed an impeachment inquiry. “I didn’t know I’d ever see Annie do that because she’s so cautious,” said McWilliams, 37, a practicing attorney and mother of two, as she waited in line for a selfie with Warren. “I don’t believe the Mueller report has been the big bomb we thought it’d be. I think it’s probably more the 24-hour news cycle we’re barraged with. The weight of it all is that this guy is a liar, he’s been using the presidency to enrich himself, and he doesn’t have our country’s best interests at heart. The Mueller report is only a piece of it. It’s the culmination.”
-- Of the two New Hampshire House members, Pappas is considered much more vulnerable than Kuster. He just got elected last year. Notably, he announced his support for the impeachment inquiry at 6:30 on Friday night – about six hours after Kuster issued her statement. A short video that Pappas posted to YouTube begins with a preamble about how he has “been working hard with members of both parties to bring down the cost of prescription drugs, improve care for our veterans, rebuild our infrastructure and ensure that everyone in our state has access to clean drinking water.” Then he called impeachment “another pressing issue we can’t ignore.”
“After weeks of careful consideration and after countless conversations with my constituents, I believe it is imperative that Congress continues its oversight work by opening an impeachment inquiry,” Pappas continued. “I have said many times that we should not take this step for political purposes and that we should not avoid our responsibility because it might feel politically convenient. It’s up to Congress to put all the facts on the table and hold leaders accountable, and I’m committed to that process while maintaining my focus on the concerns of the people of New Hampshire.”
“Our Democracy is at Stake,” Kuster wrote in an open letter to her constituents on Friday. “The Special Counsel reiterated that he did not exonerate the President, and that because of Department of Justice policy, he could not charge the President with a crime even if he had the evidence to do so. Under the Constitution, that job falls to us.”
-- Both Kuster and Pappas declined interview requests to discuss impeachment, which speaks volumes about how politically delicate the issue is in their state. More significantly, both of New Hampshire’s Democratic senators declined to join their House counterparts. “I think we need to continue to investigate the charges, but I think at this time there is not a consensus to move forward with impeachment proceedings,” said Jeanne Shaheen, who faces a competitive reelection fight next year, in a local radio interview.
“Impeachment is a grave step that should not be taken lightly,” said Maggie Hassan, the former governor who narrowly defeated Republican incumbent Kelly Ayotte in 2016, in a statement. “I am not convinced that initiating an impeachment inquiry is the best course of action at this time, but it is ultimately the House of Representatives’ decision.”
-- Trump has signaled repeatedly that he believes impeachment will help his reelection prospects, and he’s all but dared Democrats to do it by refusing to cooperate with House oversight. Many Republican strategists focused on trying to win back the House also think the issue will unite their base. Trump aides have said that the reelection campaign could tout an acquittal by the Senate, even if it was on party lines, as a form of exoneration. This tracks with what I heard from Republicans I talked with at the Fisher Cats game.
Ken Grenier, a unionized postal worker who supports Trump, is angry that Democrats are trying to remove a president from power outside an election. “I’ve got to keep this PG for the paper, but right now they’re extremely anti-American,” said the 57-year-old. “It’s just wasting more time and money to distract people from the good things that Trump is doing. They pushed ‘collusion’ for so long, and they’re so invested in it, that they can’t back away, even though they know the Republicans in the Senate are not going to vote to remove him from office.”
After voting for Ted Cruz in the 2016 primary, Grenier has been grateful for the president’s tireless efforts to secure the southern border. He was thrilled that the Supreme Court allowed the administration late Friday to move forward with construction of the wall. He’s also pleased about the president’s judicial nominations and efforts to reduce access to abortion.
Grenier volunteered that he disapproves of Trump’s recent attacks on the four minority congresswomen who call themselves the Squad. The president must stop “flapping his gums” on Twitter, he explained, as his wife nodded in agreement. “The Dems were in free fall for a while, and then Trump’s tweets about the Squad unified them. I wish he hadn’t done that.”
-- Nationally, Democrats continue to be divided about the right approach. Four House members from Washington state announced their support on Sunday for opening an impeachment inquiry, prompting Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) to issue her own statement last night saying that she agrees.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) said on Sunday that his “personal view” is that Trump “richly deserves impeachment,” but he says his committee still needs “more evidence” before opening an inquiry. “The question is,” Nadler told CNN, “can we develop enough evidence to put before the American people?”
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) defended Pelosi's approach. “I worry equally about the message of taking an impeachment case to trial, losing that case, having the president acquitted and then having an adjudication that this conduct is not impeachable,” Schiff said on NBC. “There’s no making the case to the cult of the president’s personality that is the Senate GOP, but we should at least be able to make the case to the American people. I want to make sure that that’s true before we go down this path.”
THE LATEST FROM CALIFORNIA:
-- Three people are dead and at least 15 injured after a shooting Sunday evening at a food festival in Gilroy, Calif. Allyson Chiu, Meagan Flynn and Faiz Siddiqui report: “One gunman was killed by officers at the scene, Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said early Monday morning. Police are still searching for a possible second suspect, although it’s unclear if that person also fired on the crowd or assisted the shooter. … The first reports of gunshots at the Gilroy Garlic Festival came in around 5:41 p.m. local time, just as the event was wrapping up its third and final day. Smithee said he has ‘no idea’ what the shooter’s motive was on Sunday. He added that officers already stationed at the festival 'engaged the suspect in less than a minute.'
“Among the dead is a 6-year-old boy named Steven Romero, the child’s father told NBC Bay Area. The boy’s mother and grandmother were also injured in the shooting. … The shooter was carrying an ‘assault-type rifle,’ the City of Gilroy said in a statement early Monday. Investigators believe the suspect entered the festival by cutting through a perimeter fence, Smithee told reporters. He noted that security at the festival’s official entrances is ‘very tight.’ … Many evacuees were left stranded after the festival because their vehicles were parked at what had turned into an active crime scene. Some gathered on a stagecoach outside the festival, while others called ride-hailing services to get home. ...
“Julissa Contreras and her boyfriend, Mario Camargo, were browsing at a food tent when they saw a man in a military-style outfit emerge from a nearby access road and start shooting ‘left to right and right to left,’ Contreras told The Post in a phone interview. Contreras and Camargo ran in different directions, each taking shelter behind tents with crying children and frantic parents. Some people froze and others sprinted. Some appeared to play dead, Camargo said. Once they heard the gunfire stop, Contreras and Camargo each made a run for the entrance, eventually reuniting in the parking lot. Camargo said he saw two wounded people as he fled. … Contreras said there was one moment that she couldn’t stop thinking about. When the gunfire broke out, she looked in the direction of the gunman and saw children fleeing an inflatable slide, all trying to squeeze through the same tiny exit. ‘I’m never going to forget that image,’ she said.”
-- Videos uploaded to social media showed the chaotic scenes:
yo somebody was shooting at the gilroy garlic festival. be safe pic.twitter.com/B39ZIYe8wr— niah ㊝ (@wavyia) July 29, 2019
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN:
-- Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats will leave his position next month, and Trump announced Sunday that he will nominate Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Tex.), a third-term congressman, as his replacement. Coats, a former Republican senator from Indiana and ambassador to Germany, was often at odds with Trump over the wisdom of negotiating with Russia, the status of Iran’s nuclear weapons program and the severity of foreign threats to U.S. elections. Ratcliffe, who sits on the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees, has made his name in Congress as one of the GOP’s most dogged critics of perceived anti-Trump bias at the FBI and in the special counsel’s investigation.
Ratcliffe will probably get confirmed by a Republican-controlled Senate that seems reluctant to challenge Trump, but the appointment of an outspoken partisan loyalist raises a litany of legitimate questions about the president’s politicization of the intelligence community. Ratcliffe launched perhaps the most spirited defenses of Trump during the Mueller hearings last Wednesday, criticizing the former special counsel for providing evidence of the 10 episodes in which Trump possibly obstructed justice when he never intended to decide whether the president had committed a crime. Trump’s announcement that Ratcliffe will get the job came a few hours after the congressman went on Fox News to defend the president and attack the Mueller report as an untrustworthy document written by liberals.
-- “For months, Coats had recognized that his relationship with Trump, which was never strong, had frayed beyond repair. … Coats had felt isolated and excluded from important national security decision-making,” notes Shane Harris, our intelligence beat reporter. Ratcliffe “has no background in intelligence, though he did serve as a terrorism prosecutor and the U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Texas in the George W. Bush administration. He also served as the mayor of Heath, Tex., a town of about 9,000 outside Dallas. … Trump has repeatedly blasted the intelligence agencies as having tried to undermine his campaign and has, without evidence, accused former senior intelligence officials from the Obama administration of illegally spying on him. Ratcliffe echoed those allegations Sunday on Fox News. ‘What I do know as a former federal prosecutor is that it does appear that there were crimes committed during the Obama administration,’ he said, declining to identify anyone by name.”
-- “Last year, Ratcliffe’s name was floated as a possible replacement for former attorney general Jeff Sessions,” Karoun Demirjian notes in a sidebar. “He joined the House Intelligence Committee earlier this year, where he has been considered the GOP’s replacement for former congressman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), an accomplished prosecutor skilled in executing detailed, stinging examinations of witnesses in closed-door interviews and from the dais. … Ratcliffe represents the seventh-most-Republican district in the country, according to the Cook Political Voting Index.”
-- Trump’s nominee to be vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Hyten, is facing a confirmation hearing tomorrow that will force senators on the Armed Services Committee to decide whether they believe an Army colonel’s charges that he sexually assaulted her while she was under his command — accusations he denies. Demirjian reports: “Col. Kathryn Spletstoser has accused Hyten, who is currently responsible for the country’s nuclear arsenal as the head of U.S. Strategic Command, of making unwanted sexual contact with her on several occasions in 2017 while the two were traveling for work. … [Some] Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee [have] said they are wary of taking her uncorroborated word over the categorical denials of a decorated four-star Air Force general endorsed by high-ranking colleagues. … The Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations investigated Spletstoser’s allegations but could not substantiate her claims. …
“Spletstoser said the committee [led by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.)] has denied her request to speak at the hearing, unless she has ‘new information’ to present. Spletstoser’s public remarks would probably mirror much of what she has told the panel in private and alleged in a Washington Post interview. … The first time was in January 2017, she alleges, when Hyten grabbed her left hand as she was exiting a work meeting in his hotel room in Palo Alto, Calif., pulling it in toward his groin so she could feel his erection before she moved her hand away. In June 2017, Spletstoser said, Hyten interrupted a work meeting in his Washington, D.C., hotel room to fondle her breasts and kiss her — and she pushed him away and admonished him, she said. … Yet it was during the Reagan National Defense Forum in December 2017 that Spletstoser said Hyten made his most aggressive move, arriving uninvited at her hotel room in workout clothes carrying a binder, and claiming he wanted to discuss work matters. Within minutes, Spletstoser said, Hyten had pinned her against him and begun ‘grinding on me hard, like he wants to take my clothes off and have sex … and then I realize, he’s ejaculating.’
“If Spletstoser’s account is correct, it would mean Hyten committed a crime, but if she is lying, as an active-duty service member, she will have committed a crime for which she could be court-martialed. … Former Air Force secretary Heather Wilson, who was briefed on investigators’ findings before leaving her position earlier this year, said in an interview Sunday that ‘the Air Force left no stone unturned in its investigation and the Senate has been thorough as well.’ ‘Based on what I know of the complete investigation,’ she continued, ‘I believe General Hyten was falsely accused.’”
-- For this week’s New Yorker, Connie Bruck profiles Harvard law professor and Trump ally Alan Dershowitz, writing about his controversial history as the attorney to men such as O.J. Simpson, Mike Tyson and Jeffrey Epstein and the accusations he’s faced following his close relationship to Epstein. Dershowitz, who was accused by Epstein victim Virginia Roberts Giuffre of abuse, told the New Yorker that he’s innocent and defended his work by saying that “every honest criminal lawyer will tell you that he defends the guilty and the innocent.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- In pressuring Guatemala to accept a deal to absorb vast numbers of asylum seekers, the Trump administration has embarked on a dramatic and risky strategy to slash the number of Central Americans flooding the U.S. border. “The accord — which was negotiated in secret and signed at the White House on Friday — could plunge Guatemala’s young democracy into a constitutional crisis,” Mary Beth Sheridan reports. “It could also saddle one of the hemisphere’s poorest countries with tens of thousands of Salvadoran and Honduran migrants who would be barred from making their claims in the United States. The agreement is one of the boldest steps yet taken by Trump to stanch the flow of migrants to the U.S. border. It aims to close off the U.S. asylum system to the migrants who have crossed through Guatemala en route to the United States. They would instead have to seek protection in Guatemala.
“But the agreement is built on a fragile political and legal base. The Guatemalan Constitutional Court ruled earlier this month that President Jimmy Morales needed approval from the Guatemalan Congress to sign the accord, something he has not received. Some analysts said Morales could get around the ruling with his argument that the deal is simply a cooperation agreement, not a treaty. Others note Morales has at times simply shrugged off court rulings he dislikes. … Guatemala holds a runoff presidential election on Aug. 11, and both candidates have criticized Morales’s negotiation of such a broad agreement in secret. While the next Guatemalan government could cancel the deal, it would face intense pressure from the Trump administration to not do so. … The agreement is also likely to be challenged in U.S. courts by opponents who say Guatemala does not qualify as a ‘safe’ country, because of high levels of violence.
“Morales, who finishes his four-year term in January, is highly unpopular. Guatemalans were startled by a widely published photo showing their government minister, Enrique Degenhart, signing the agreement as Trump loomed over his shoulder, an image suggesting the Central American country’s submission. On Saturday, hundreds of people demonstrated in front of the presidential palace in Guatemala City to protest the agreement. Guatemalan analysts have suggested Morales made the deal with Trump in hopes of winning support from the U.S. government. Morales faces allegations of financial crimes related to his 2015 electoral campaign but has been shielded by presidential immunity, which he loses in January. He says he is innocent.”
- Julián Castro warned that migrants may “end up dead” because of the deal. The Democratic presidential candidate said the country is not safe. (CBS News)
- To try curbing the number of Central American migrants reaching the U.S., Mexico has pledged to help create jobs in Honduras. (Al Jazeera)
- An Arizona Republican state senator apologized for saying that “we’re going to look like South American countries very quickly” because immigrants are “just flooding us ... and overwhelming us.” Sen. Sylvia Allen faced backlash after the Phoenix New Times published an audio recording of her speech at the Arizona Republican Party headquarters in Phoenix. (Morgan Krakow)
-- Federal prosecutors are investigating Trump’s close friend and campaign fundraiser Thomas J. Barrack Jr. in connection to foreign lobbying. From the Times: “Investigators have looked in particular at whether Mr. Barrack or others violated the law requiring people who try to influence American policy or opinion at the direction of foreign governments or entities to disclose their activities to the Justice Department, people familiar with the case said. The inquiry had proceeded far enough last month that Mr. Barrack, who played an influential role in the campaign and acts as an outside adviser to the White House, was interviewed, at his request, by prosecutors in the public integrity unit of the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn.” Barrack’s spokesman said that, in expectation of the Times article, his lawyer had contacted the prosecutor’s office and confirmed it has no more questions for him. “Mr. Barrack has not been accused of wrongdoing, and his aides said he never worked on behalf of foreign states or entities. …
“But as the scrutiny of Mr. Barrack indicates, prosecutors continue to pursue questions about foreign influence. Among other lines of inquiry, they have sought to determine whether Mr. Barrack and others tried to sway the Trump campaign or the new administration on behalf of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia … Investigators have also questioned witnesses about Mr. Barrack’s involvement with a proposal from an American group that could give Saudi Arabia access to nuclear power technology. … Central to the inquiry into Mr. Barrack are his dealings with [Rashid al-Malik, an Emirati businessman], who is well connected in the court of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed. … When Mr. Trump was elected, Mr. al-Malik received a coveted invitation to the inaugural’s most exclusive event — the chairman’s dinner, hosted by Mr. Barrack.”
-- A leading Russian critic of Vladimir Putin was hospitalized with suspected poisoning. From ABC News: Alexei Navalny “was taken by ambulance to the hospital early on Sunday morning from the jail with what authorities said was a ‘severe allergic reaction,’ his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh wrote on Twitter. Initially, one of Navalny's close colleagues suggested the cause was likely unsanitary conditions in the jail, but by the evening Navalny's lawyer released a statement from his long-time doctor saying that his symptoms were the result of ‘an undefined chemical substance.’”
-- A crackdown on Moscow protesters this weekend suggests a new, more hostile approach by Putin toward the Russian opposition. Matthew Bodner reports: “Analysts said the scale of the roundup — nearly 1,400 demonstrators were swept off the streets in Moscow on Saturday, according to the monitoring group OVD-Info — suggested a change in approach for a Russian elite that is increasingly concerned about political stability. … Thousands took to the streets of central Moscow on Saturday to demand that independent candidates be allowed to run in upcoming elections for city parliament. It was the latest demonstration in a protest movement that began two weeks ago after the city election commission rejected the candidacies of several opposition-minded candidates, citing falsified supporter signatures.”
-- In Hong Kong, protesters once again took to the streets and turned neighborhoods into foggy battlegrounds. Shibani Mahtani reports: “The clouds of gas left bystanders — including children, tourists and the elderly — choking and sputtering, underscoring the growing risks of Hong Kong’s deepening political crisis, now in its eighth weekend. Police said that protesters threw paint bombs, corrosive liquid and bricks at them, and that 49 people were arrested. Protesters had convened to demonstrate against what they saw as police brutality over the course of the protests, including in the neighborhood of Yuen Long the day before.”
-- Iran’s deputy foreign minister said an emergency meeting in Vienna between Tehran and other signatories of the 2015 nuclear deal was constructive but inconclusive. Adam Taylor reports: “Earlier Sunday, the head of Iran’s nuclear agency was reported to have told lawmakers that Iran had enriched 24 metric tons of uranium since the nuclear deal was reached in 2015. The remarks by Ali Akbar Salehi of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization were reported widely by state-run and semiofficial media, which cited conservative lawmakers present at the closed-door meeting. The claim, if confirmed, would suggest that Iran has produced far more enriched uranium than was previously known, exceeding the deal’s limit many times over. But some analysts were skeptical.”
-- The targeting of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi was no aberration. Vanity Fair’s Ayman Mohyeldin reports on a targeted campaign by Saudi Arabia against dissidents: “Prince Khaled bin Farhan al-Saud sat in one of the few safe locations he frequents in Düsseldorf and ordered each of us a cup of coffee. With his close-cropped goatee and crisp gray suit, he looked surprisingly relaxed for a hunted man. He described his constant fear of being abducted, the precautions he takes when venturing outside, and how German law enforcement officials routinely check on him to make sure he is all right. … As we sat over coffee, he relayed a story that at first sounded innocuous. One day in June 2018, his mother, who lives in Egypt, called him with what she thought was good news. The Saudi Embassy in Cairo had contacted her, she said, and had a proposal: The kingdom wanted to mend relations with the prince and was willing to offer him $5.5 million as a goodwill gesture. …
“But as tempting as the overture was, he claimed he never considered it seriously. And when he followed up with Saudi officials, he realized the deal had a dangerous catch. They had told him he could collect his payment only if he personally came to a Saudi embassy or consulate. That immediately set off alarm bells. He declined the offer. Two weeks later, on October 2, 2018, bin Farhan saw a startling news report. [Khashoggi] had gone to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to pick up paperwork required for his pending marriage. Minutes after his arrival—as revealed in leaked audiotape transcripts compiled by Turkish authorities—Khashoggi was tortured and strangled by a Saudi hit squad. … Bin Farhan was dumbstruck as he watched television news shows and saw surveillance-camera footage of Khashoggi’s last hours alive. The prince realized all too clearly: By refusing to go to a Saudi consulate to pick up his payment, he might have narrowly avoided a similar fate.”
-- Trump created another racial firestorm by spending the weekend attacking the city of Baltimore and the congressional district of Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, saying it represents a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” City leaders fired back. Fredrick Kunkle and Hannah Natanson report: “Maryland’s political leaders and residents reacted with outrage — and sometimes resignation — to Trump’s tweetstorm … Some said Trump’s language describing a majority black city represented by an African American lawmaker demonstrated his predilection for degrading political opponents. … Others said that even if the president were half right about Baltimore’s woes, he has a duty to do more than use them as a political weapon.”
-- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s (R) muted response to Trump’s comments stirred more anger. Antonio Olivo and Rebecca Tan report: “In a statement delivered by his spokesman, Hogan said: 'Baltimore City is truly the very heart of our state, and more attacks between politicians aren’t going to get us anywhere.’ On social media, where the Twitter hashtag #WeAreBaltimore was trending on Sunday, Hogan’s critics called the governor ‘weak’ and ‘gutless’ for not delivering a forceful rebuke of the president.”
-- Others didn’t hold back their disdain:
- “Better to have a few rats than to be one,” the Baltimore Sun’s editorial board said in response to Trump’s comments: “In pointing to the 7th [District], the president wasn’t hoping his supporters would recognize landmarks like Johns Hopkins Hospital, perhaps the nation’s leading medical center. He wasn’t conjuring images of the U.S. Social Security Administration, where they write the checks that so many retired and disabled Americans depend upon. It wasn’t about the beauty of the Inner Harbor or the proud history of Fort McHenry. And it surely wasn’t about the economic standing of a district where the median income is actually above the national average. No, he was returning to an old standby of attacking an African American lawmaker from a majority black district on the most emotional and bigoted of arguments. It was only surprising that there wasn’t room for a few classic phrases like ‘you people’ or ‘welfare queens’ or ‘crime-ridden ghettos’ or a suggestion that the congressman ‘go back’ to where he came from.”
- “We are African Americans, we are patriots, and we refuse to sit idly by,” 149 African Americans who served in the Obama administration say in an op-ed published by The Post.
- Former president Barack Obama, who doesn’t comment often on politics, shared the op-ed on Twitter: “I’ve always been proud of what this team accomplished during my administration. But more than what we did, I’m proud of how they’re continuing to fight for an America that’s better,” he wrote. Michelle Obama, who also shies away from commenting on the Trump administration, also criticized Trump’s comments. “What truly makes our country great is its diversity,” the former first lady tweeted, “I’ve seen that beauty in so many ways over the years. Whether we are born here or seek refuge here, there’s a place for us all. We must remember it’s not my America or your America. It’s our America.” (Colby Itkowitz)
Chris Wallace: "Infested. It sounds like vermin. It sounds subhuman and these are all six members of Congress who are people of color."— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) July 28, 2019
Mulvaney says he's "spending too much time reading between the lines."
Wallace: "I'm not reading between the lines. I'm reading the lines." pic.twitter.com/cnxzOjPE8X
-- White House acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” that Trump’s tweets had “zero to do with race,” and Wallace called him out. From Mediaite: “‘Nobody objects to the president defending his border policies, but this seems, Mick, to be the worst kind of … racial stereotyping. Black congressman, majority-black district,’ Wallace shot back. ‘No human being would want to live there.’ Is he saying people that live in Baltimore are not human beings?’ Mulvaney again insisted that Trump is going after Cummings for saying ‘things that are not true about the border.’ … Wallace responded by saying, ‘You say it has zero to do with race. There is a clear pattern here, Mick.’”
-- Keeping the story alive on Sunday, Trump accused Cummings and his allies of being the real racists. From the Times: “Trump said Democrats who called him racist as a result were themselves playing ‘the Race Card,’ as he put it on Twitter. The president later specifically referred to Mr. Cummings as a racist without explaining why. ‘If racist Elijah Cummings would focus more of his energy on helping the good people of his district, and Baltimore itself, perhaps progress could be made in fixing the mess that he has helped to create over many years of incompetent leadership,’ Mr. Trump wrote. … Mr. Trump posted repeated tweets throughout the day denying that he was racist and attacking Mr. Cummings and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, herself a Baltimore native and daughter and sister of former mayors. He defended himself by citing record-low unemployment for African-Americans on his watch.”
-- Jared Kushner, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, owns more than a dozen apartment complexes in Baltimore that have been cited for hundreds of code violations and, critics say, provide substandard housing to low-income tenants. Rebecca Tan reports: “Kushner Cos., which started operating in Maryland in 2013, has owned almost 9,000 rental units across 17 complexes, many of them in Baltimore County, the Baltimore Sun reported earlier this year. … In 2017, Baltimore County officials revealed that apartments owned by the Kushner firm were responsible for more than 200 code violations, all accrued in the span of the calendar year. Repairs were made only after the county threatened fines, local officials said, and even after warnings, violations on nine properties were not addressed, resulting in monetary sanctions.” ProPublica and the Times originally reported on Kushner’s Baltimore real estate “empire” in 2017.
-- Wanda Vázquez Garced, the unpopular justice minister who was next in Puerto Rico’s line of succession, announced that she will not take over as governor, hoping to put a stop to continuing street protests. In a tweet, Vázquez said she has no interest in the position and said she hopes the ousted Ricardo Rosselló appoints a new secretary of state who can take over instead. (CNN)
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I understand that everything that Donald Trump says is offensive to some people.” — Mulvaney on Trump’s comments about Baltimore. (Felicia Sonmez)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump attacked Al Sharpton after the reverend said he was traveling to Baltimore:
I have known Al for 25 years. Went to fights with him & Don King, always got along well. He “loved Trump!” He would ask me for favors often. Al is a con man, a troublemaker, always looking for a score. Just doing his thing. Must have intimidated Comcast/NBC. Hates Whites & Cops! https://t.co/ZwPZa0FWfN— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2019
A Post reporter responded to Trump's campaign manager appearing to mock homicides in Baltimore:
A Vox reporter reminded us once again that there's always a tweet. Trump called on Barack Obama to bring Baltimore together during the 2015 Freddie Gray riots:
A Democratic senator from Connecticut decided to unfollow the president:
I’m unfollowing the President of the United States today on Twitter, because his feed is the most hate-filled, racist, and demeaning of the 200 I follow, and it regularly ruins my day to read it. So I’m just going to stop.— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) July 28, 2019
I can’t believe I just typed that.
A Times reporter reflected on the significance of Trump’s words when combined with his accomplishments:
It might-could be a national moment of reflection when the president, whose main (sole?) legislative accomplishment is a tax cut for the wealthy, who inherited a mint built on his dad's segregated housing empire, slags on the poor for the crime of being born poor.— Glenn Thrush (@GlennThrush) July 28, 2019
A Times reporter on a flight to Baltimore shared this moment:
On a flight back to Baltimore.— Annie Karni (@anniekarni) July 29, 2019
Flight attendant welcomes passengers flying to the “spectacular, beautiful, amazing city.”
A reporter for Salvadoran online newspaper El Faro shared images from migrants on the road traveling to the U.S.:
Julián Castro, the 2020 candidate, poked fun at attempts by his twin brother, a congressman, to look different than him:
And Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, guest-edited an issue of Vogue:
The Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, is the Guest Editor for the Sept issue of British Vogue. For the past seven months, Megan curated the content with Editor-in-Chief Edward Enninful.There is also an exclusive interview between The Duchess and former First Lady Michelle Obama👑 pic.twitter.com/dPRTKZlNiC— Dionne Grant (@DionneGrant) July 28, 2019
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
John Oliver explained how the United Kingdom ended up with Boris Johnson as its prime minister:
The former first lady trolled Trump by posting this video of dancers from Baltimore after the president ridiculed the city:
The CEO of Under Armour celebrated Baltimore, the city where the company is headquartered:
A new political advertisement for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu features Trump and Vladimir Putin:
India's prime minister ventured into the wild with Bear Grylls:
People across 180 countries will get to see the unknown side of PM @narendramodi as he ventures into Indian wilderness to create awareness about animal conservation & environmental change. Catch Man Vs Wild with PM Modi @DiscoveryIN on August 12 @ 9 pm. #PMModionDiscovery pic.twitter.com/MW2E6aMleE— Bear Grylls (@BearGrylls) July 29, 2019
And cyclists made their way around the Louvre's pyramid for this year's Tour de France: