THE BIG IDEA: Corey Lewandowski played a starring role in one of the 10 episodes of possible obstruction of justice that former special counsel Bob Mueller detailed in his report. Donald Trump’s onetime campaign manager never worked in the administration, but that’s not stopping the White House from making an extraordinarily far-reaching legal claim that he’s “protected” by executive privilege. When Lewandowski testifies this afternoon before the House Judiciary Committee, the White House says this protection means he doesn't need to fully answer questions about conversations he has had with the president.
Last night, White House counsel Pat Cipollone sent a letter to Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), the committee’s chairman, saying that Lewandowski has been “directed … not to discuss the substance of any conversations he had with the President or senior Presidential advisers about official government matters, unless the information is expressly contained in the Report.”
Cipollone added the even more dubious claim that conversations Lewandowski had with Trump during the transition, before he even became president, might be protected by presidential privilege. “Discussions during this period may relate to decisions the President-elect would be making once he assumed office,” Cipollone asserts. “Accordingly, Mr. Lewandowski's responses to specific questions relating to this period may implicate deliberative process privilege and other Executive Branch confidentiality interests.”
Cipollone said he will send a White House lawyer to accompany Lewandowski, a private citizen, and “advise, as necessary, with regard to specific questions that implicate privileged matters.”
-- With letters like these, the Trump White House seems to be all but daring Democrats to move forward with impeachment proceedings. Because of decades-old Justice Department guidelines that say a sitting president cannot be indicted, Mueller has said he never saw charging Trump with a crime as an option. But he made a point of writing that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.” The House is trying to use the Mueller report as a roadmap for further inquiry, but the White House has repeatedly stonewalled and flouted their subpoenas.
“There's no such thing as executive privilege in conversations the President has with ... someone who isn't, and never has been, employed in the Executive Branch,” tweeted University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck. “But 2019, I guess??”
-- At the direction of the White House, two former aides who also appeared in the Mueller report and have been subpoenaed by the committee, ex-deputy chief of staff Rick Dearborn and ex-staff secretary Rob Porter, will not appear today at all. Cipollone claimed in separate letters last night that they are “absolutely immune” from needing to testify before Congress.
House Democrats, who call these claims bogus, are not surprised. They’ve already gone to court to compel former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify and hope a federal judge rules in their favor as soon as next month. Porter’s lawyer said in a statement that his client “must respect the White House’s instruction."
-- Nadler called the letter about Lewandowski “a shocking and dangerous assertion of executive privilege”: “The President would have us believe that he can willfully engage in criminal activity and prevent witnesses from testifying before Congress – even if they did not actually work for him or his administration,” the chairman said in a statement last night. “If he were to prevail in this cover-up while the Judiciary Committee is considering whether to recommend articles of impeachment, he would upend the separation of powers as envisioned by our founders. No one is above the law. The House Judiciary Committee will continue our investigation of the President’s crimes, corruption and cover-up and get to the truth for the American people.”
In a radio interview yesterday, Nadler said he “personally” supports impeachment of Trump but acknowledged that the House lacks the votes and expressed concern about dividing the country. “The American people have to be educated and they have to be convinced,” he told WNYC radio. “We cannot impeach the president against the will of the American people.”
-- Must-see TV: Lewandowski, who is mulling a potential Senate bid in New Hampshire, is expected to testify beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern. After lawmakers get a crack at him, staff lawyers for the committee are expected to get one hour to question Lewandowski. Democrats and Republicans will each get half an hour. This is being billed as the first official hearing of what House Democrats are calling an impeachment investigation.
“I am an open book,” Lewandowski told Fox News Radio last month. But don’t expect him to play along with Democrats. “I want to go and remind the American people that these guys are on a witch hunt,” he added during the interview.
-- “Lewandowski testified before the House Intelligence Committee last year behind closed doors in a contentious, profanity-laced session, and he did not answer questions about anything that occurred beyond the 2016 election,” CNN recalls. “The White House has made similar claims about the right to assert executive privilege for someone who didn't work in the White House, including when former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach testified before the House Oversight Committee, when the White House said Kobach's conversations with the President about adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census were ‘confidential.’”
-- Lewandowski’s name appears no less than 100 times in the second volume of the Mueller report. According to the report, Trump met one-on-one in the Oval Office with Lewandowski in June 2017 and dictated a message for him to deliver to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “The message said that Sessions should publicly announce that, notwithstanding his recusal from the Russia investigation, the investigation was ‘very unfair’ to the President, the President had done nothing wrong, and Sessions planned to meet with the Special Counsel and ‘let [him] move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections.’”
“Lewandowski wanted to pass the message to Sessions in person rather than over the phone,” Mueller continued. “He did not want to meet at the Department of Justice because he did not want a public log of his visit and did not want Sessions to have an advantage over him by meeting on what Lewandowski described as Sessions's turf. Lewandowski called Sessions and arranged a meeting for the following evening at Lewandowski's office, but Sessions had to cancel due to a last minute conflict. Shortly thereafter, Lewandowski left Washington, D.C., without having had an opportunity to meet with Sessions to convey the President's message. Lewandowski stored the notes in a safe at his home…”
The next month, in July 2017, Trump asked Lewandowski during a follow-up meeting if he’d delivered the message about getting Sessions to limit the Mueller probe to future election interference, per the Mueller report: “Lewandowski did not want to deliver the President's message personally, so he asked senior White House official Rick Dearborn to deliver it to Sessions. Dearborn was uncomfortable with the task and did not follow through. … Lewandowski recalled thinking that the President had asked him to pass the message because the President knew Lewandowski could be trusted, but Lewandowski believed Dearborn would be a better messenger because he had a longstanding relationship with Sessions and because Dearborn was in the government while Lewandowski was not.”
John “Kelly said that when he was Chief of Staff and the President had meetings with friends like Lewandowski, Kelly tried not to be there and to push the meetings to the residence to create distance from the West Wing,” Mueller wrote.
Reince Priebus, Trump’s first White House chief of staff, “vaguely recalled Lewandowski telling him that in approximately May or June 2017 the President had asked Lewandowski to get Sessions's resignation,” according to Mueller. “Priebus recalled that Lewandowski described his reaction as something like, ‘What can I do? I'm not an employee of the administration. I'm a nobody.’”
-- “The President's effort to send Sessions a message through Lewandowski would qualify as an obstructive act if it would naturally obstruct the investigation and any grand jury proceedings that might flow from the inquiry,” Mueller concluded.
“The manner in which the President acted provides additional evidence of his intent,” he added. “Rather than rely on official channels, the President met with Lewandowski alone in the Oval Office. The President selected a loyal ‘devotee’ outside the White House to deliver the message, supporting an inference that he was working outside White House channels, including McGahn, who had previously resisted contacting the Department of Justice about the Special Counsel. The President also did not contact the Acting Attorney General, who had just testified publicly that there was no cause to remove the Special Counsel. Instead, the President tried to use Sessions to restrict and redirect the Special Counsel's investigation when Sessions was recused and could not properly take any action on it.”
MORE ON THE INVESTIGATIONS:
-- State prosecutors in Manhattan subpoenaed Trump’s accounting firm to demand eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns, the New York Times reports: “The subpoena opens a new front in a wide-ranging effort to obtain copies of the president’s tax returns, which Mr. Trump initially said he would make public during the 2016 campaign but has since refused to disclose. The subpoena was issued by the Manhattan district attorney’s office late last month, soon after it opened a criminal investigation into the role that the president and his family business played in hush-money payments made in the run-up to the election. Both Mr. Trump and his company reimbursed Michael D. Cohen, the president’s former lawyer and fixer, for money Mr. Cohen paid to buy the silence of Stormy Daniels, a pornographic film actress who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump.”
-- The House Oversight and Reform Committee sought documents from Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao as it investigates what it calls “troubling questions” about whether the Trump appointee has misused her position for personal and family benefit. Hannah Knowles reports: “Noting that federal employees are forbidden from using public office for friends’ or relatives’ ‘private gain,’ the committee’s letter to Chao cites media reports that allege the secretary leveraged her position to help Foremost Group — a New York-based shipping company that carries goods between the United States and China and that is owned by her father and sisters — gain ‘influence and status’ with the Chinese government that has given the firm millions in loans. ...
“The committee cites reporting by the New York Times this summer that the Transportation Department canceled a fall 2017 trip to China after State Department staff members grew leery of Chao’s efforts to include relatives in meetings with Chinese officials. House investigators are also examining Chao’s appearances with her father, James Chao, in interviews that featured the DOT’s seal, and Monday’s letter alleges the secretary’s father ‘touted [Chao’s] influence within the United States government and boasted about his access to President Trump on Air Force One.’ … While Chao does not have a formal stake in Foremost Group, James Chao has given millions to his daughter and her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).”
-- Acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire has until the end of today to turn over a whistleblower complaint regarding a “serious or flagrant” abuse involving an intelligence activity and possibly the White House. If he fails to do so, he will be ordered by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) to explain publicly on Thursday his reasons for refusing. Ellen Nakashima reports: “Last week, Schiff subpoenaed Maguire for the complaint, accusing him of violating whistleblower law by failing to have done so earlier. Maguire’s stated reasons have to do with the material involving ‘confidential’ and ‘potentially privileged communications,’ Schiff said in a letter Friday. Schiff has said he is unable to discuss the complaint’s content. The unprecedented standoff raises concerns that the White House, Justice Department or other executive branch officials are trying to block Maguire from transmitting the complaint to cover up serious misconduct, Schiff said.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- At least 24 people were killed when a bomb exploded outside a campaign rally in Afghanistan’s Parwan province, but President Ashraf Ghani was unhurt. Pamela Constable and Susannah George report: "Shortly afterward, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, saying the bombing struck 'a rally for the fake presidential election' and that Afghans had been warned to stay away from campaign rallies and other election events. ... Qasim Sangin, head of the Parwan province health department, said 32 people were wounded in the attack and that women and children were among the dead. ... Presidential elections in Afghanistan are scheduled for the end of the month after the failure of peace talks with the militant Taliban insurgents. ... Also Tuesday, a blast occurred outside the compound housing the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, according to an Interior Ministry statement that did not include information regarding casualties. The Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack as well."
-- “Saturday Night Live” parted ways last night with Shane Gillis, four days after hiring him, over his past use of racist, homophobic and sexist language. “The comedian, who was announced Thursday as a featured player for Season 45, was criticized for using slurs against Asians and the LGBT community in recent podcast episodes,” Elahe Izadi and Bethonie Butler report.
- Statement from a spokesperson for SNL producer Lorne Michaels: “We were not aware of his prior remarks that have surfaced over the past few days. The language he used is offensive, hurtful and unacceptable. We are sorry that we did not see these clips earlier, and that our vetting process was not up to our standard.”
- Gillis responded on Twitter: “Of course I wanted an opportunity to prove myself at SNL, but I understand it would be too much of a distraction.”
STRANGE JUSTICE, REDUX:
-- Four days before Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) urged the FBI to follow up on new information he believed was relevant to the sexual misconduct allegations made against the nominee. Then nothing happened, reports Seung Min Kim: “Not at the FBI, which assured Coons it had received the letter but did not interview the person whom the senator referred to the bureau. Not in the office of then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), which was copied on the letter that contained few in the way of specifics. ... That inaction — made public in recent days through new reports about Kavanaugh’s alleged misbehavior — has renewed a bitter debate about how his confirmation was handled, angering Democrats about a process they felt was rushed and animating Republicans who decried what they viewed as attempts to assassinate Kavanaugh’s character. …
“In an interview Monday, Coons said he was ‘disappointed and upset’ that the scope of the FBI background check — greenlighted by the White House just over a week before Kavanaugh was confirmed at the insistence of Republican senators — was, in his view, ‘so constrained.’ … One person with knowledge of the process said this week that the White House decided what to investigate based on conversations with senators and what they wanted to know. Republican senators — all of whom supported Kavanaugh except for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — were largely satisfied with the probe.”
The new allegation, which was made public in a Times report, was brought up by Max Stier, a Yale University classmate of Kavanaugh’s, who said he saw Kavanaugh’s friends pushing the now-justice’s penis into a young woman’s hand. Stier had tried to reach out to the FBI, Coons said, but in October 2018, Stier said the week-long FBI investigation was almost over and implored Coons for his help. Coons then reached out to FBI Director Chris Wray, requesting “appropriate follow up” with Stier. “Stier was one of several people who went to Yale at the same time as Kavanaugh who reached out to the FBI last year seeking to provide information, but were not interviewed, according to people familiar with the matter," per Seung Min.
-- The new revelations could be another dagger to the reelection hopes of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who provided the decisive vote that put Kavanaugh on the high court for life. (He was confirmed with only 50 votes.) Mike DeBonis reports: “Maine state House Speaker Sara Gideon, her most prominent opponent for reelection next year, posted a photo of Collins and Kavanaugh to Twitter on Sunday with a link to her fundraising page. … The fate of Collins, more than any other senator up for reelection next year, is tied to her handling of Kavanaugh, with Democrats arguing that her strong support provided a key boost for his confirmation and undermined her carefully tended moderate profile. … Collins’s stance on Kavanaugh’s behalf, coming just as she entered a reelection cycle, immediately galvanized both her supporters and detractors. She posted the best fundraising quarter of her 23-year Senate career after Kavanaugh’s confirmation — a fact that Gideon noted in her introductory campaign video.”
-- While House Democrats downplayed the possibility of impeaching Kavanaugh, Trump continued defending his nominee, going as far as saying that the justice is the one who’s “being assaulted.” Rachael Bade, John Wagner and Mike DeBonis report: “Members of the House Judiciary Committee, led by [Nadler], said Monday they will press the FBI about ... whether its inquiry was adequate — but they are deep into proceedings against Trump. … The Judiciary panel’s caution stands in stark contrast to several of the presidential hopefuls, who called for Kavanaugh’s impeachment.”
-- Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) will submit a resolution today calling for an impeachment inquiry of Kavanaugh, per the Boston Globe: Pressley “plans to introduce a proposal that would allow a committee to take affidavits and depositions and issue subpoenas in connection with an impeachment inquiry of Kavanaugh. ‘I believe Christine Blasey Ford,’ said Pressley ... ‘I believe Deborah Ramirez. It is our responsibility to collectively affirm the dignity and humanity of survivors.’ She continued, ‘Sexual predators do not deserve a seat on the nation’s highest court and Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation process set a dangerous precedent. We must demand justice for survivors and hold Kavanaugh accountable for his actions.’”
-- The new allegation against Kavanaugh surfaced in a new book about him, a book packed with real news. But the news got lost in the furor over a botched New York Times excerpt, laments media columnist Margaret Sullivan: The article “was on an inside page of the New York Times Sunday Review section with a soft, feature-story headline: ‘Brett Kavanaugh Fit In. She Did Not.’ Oddly, it was labeled ‘news analysis’ and wasn’t even promoted on the front page of the section. ... The Times has been busy over the past two days fixing the story online, explaining some aspects of what happened, and apologizing for the tweet. … Sadly, what’s been downplayed — or at least less shouted from the rooftops — is the actual news that was in the essay: that Stier notified senators and the FBI about what he witnessed, but the FBI chose not to investigate before Kavanaugh’s ascendancy to his lifetime appointment on the highest court in the land. Other news organizations have followed up on that and confirmed it. But that’s not what’s getting the most attention. Why the Times’s essay was so poorly handled, on so many fronts, is murky.”
-- The FBI’s investigation into Kavanaugh turned out to be more of a sham than it seemed, writes The Post’s Editorial Board: “The Senate was faced with the challenge of evaluating Mr. Kavanaugh’s credibility when he insisted the allegations against him were totally baseless and that he did not ever get so drunk he blacked out. Corroborating witnesses for Ms. Ramirez, along with any accounts of Mr. Kavanaugh’s drinking they had to share, would have spoken directly to this question. Instead, the Senate got a woefully incomplete report. Republicans got their cover. Overheated calls from Democrats for Mr. Kavanaugh’s impeachment, like the chilling calls from Trump for the Justice Department to strike back at accusers, are not productive. But the Justice Department Office of the Inspector General should investigate exactly what marching orders the FBI got and when, and how its agents responded.”
-- A history lesson: Only one Supreme Court justice has ever been impeached. It was 200 years ago, and his nickname was “Old Bacon Face.” Gillian Brockell reports: “President George Washington nominated [Samuel] Chase to the Supreme Court in 1796. At the time, though, the highest court in the land had little to do, so justices still served on lower courts. And those lower courts are where Chase’s problems arose. … He campaigned for [John] Adams’s reelection — an overtly partisan move that raised the ire of Democratic Republicans and their victorious candidate, Thomas Jefferson. … Once they had the reins of power, the Democratic Republicans overturned a law that had created lower courts in a bid to limit the power of Federalist judges installed by Adams. But that didn’t stop Chase. In 1803, before a Baltimore jury, Chase denounced the Democratic Republicans for overturning the law. When Jefferson found out about it, he sent a letter to a congressman friend strongly suggesting that — cough cough, hint hint — only Congress could do something about Chase."
-- Former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe's legal team said Trump’s attacks on him have made a fair prosecution an “impossibility.” Matt Zapotosky reports: “They argued that prosecuting McCabe would be unprecedented, politically driven and contrary to the very legal thinking that Attorney General William P. Barr outlined when he decided Trump should not be charged with obstruction of justice in the special counsel investigation … McCabe’s attorneys threatened to mount a no-holds-barred defense, arguing that the case should be thrown out because of Trump’s frequent personal attacks and raising the prospect that they would demand information that might show investigators were influenced by political bias.”
-- Federal prosecutors are seeking a 15-year sentence for Jeffrey Yohai, the former son-in-law and real estate partner of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. From Politico: Yohai faces fraud charges and a sentence “roughly double the time Manafort received for a slew of crimes prosecuted by [Mueller]. Prosecutors say Yohai swindled numerous individuals and lenders out of a total of more than $13 million through deals to develop real estate in wealthy Los Angeles neighborhoods, as well as more mundane scams like renting out luxury homes he did not own and selling exclusive passes to the Coachella music festival that he did not have.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER
-- Trump stopped short of directly blaming Iran for the attack on Saudi oil installations, momentarily allaying fears of a military conflict between the U.S. and Iran. Shane Harris, Erin Cunningham and Kareem Fahim report: “Officials in Washington and Riyadh spent the day analyzing satellite photos and other intelligence that they said indicated that Iranian weapons were used in the assault on the Saudi Aramco facilities. But they presented no new information that would conclusively show that Iran directed or launched the attack, which Saudi officials said led to a 50 percent reduction in oil production. U.S. officials rejected claims by Houthi rebels in Yemen, who receive Iranian support, that they had launched the strike Saturday, describing it as more sophisticated and powerful than anything the rebels could accomplish on their own. But neither Trump nor Saudi leaders would say unequivocally that Iran was responsible. ‘It’s looking that way,’ Trump told reporters in the Oval Office, during a meeting with Bahrain’s crown prince. ‘As soon as we find out definitively, we’ll let you know.’”
-- Pentagon officials are privately urging caution and a restrained response to the attacks. Missy Ryan and Dan Lamothe report: On Twitter, Defense Secretary Mark Esper “said the U.S. military and other government agencies were ‘working with our partners to address this unprecedented attack and defend the international rules-based order that is being undermined by Iran.’ But military officials are ... seeking to defuse tensions they believe could push the United States into a possibly bloody conflict with Iran at a time when the Pentagon is seeking to wind down insurgent wars in the Middle East and reorient toward competition with China. The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe their views, sought to emphasize the fact that no American personnel or facilities had been targeted in the weekend attacks, suggesting that a direct U.S. military response might not be merited. They also said that, if such a move was deemed necessary, the administration would need to find a valid legal basis to take action.”
-- Trump warns that Iran poses the greatest threat in the Middle East while also eagerly courting a sit-down with its leader for negotiations. Anne Gearan reports on the president's competing instincts: “Trump told reporters ‘we don’t want war with anybody’ and then less than an hour later said he thinks a U.S. military strike on an Iranian oil facility would be a proportional response. The head-spinning contradictions hold a certain logic in Trump’s view, but also throw the imprecision and disarray of Trumpian foreign policy decision-making into high relief. Trump is caught between a political imperative to confront Iran — pleasing hawkish Republican supporters and allies Israel and Saudi Arabia — and his own political instincts against foreign intervention and toward cutting a deal. But uncertainty over where Trump stands has complicated every other foreign policy challenge the United States faces in the Middle East.”
-- Despite Trump’s interest in meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said today that “there will be no talks with the U.S. at any level.” From the AP: “Khamenei [said] this is the position of the entire leadership of the country and that ‘all officials in the Islamic Republic unanimously believe’ this. ‘There will be no talks with the U.S. at any level,’ he said. Khamenei said the U.S. wants to prove its ‘maximum pressure policy’ against Iran is successful. ‘In return, we have to prove that the policy is not worth a penny for the Iranian nation,’ Khamenei said. ‘That’s why all Iranian officials, from the president and the foreign minister to all others have announced that we do not negotiate (with the U.S.) either bilaterally or multilaterally.’”
-- A top State Department official told Congress that the Saudis view the attack on their oil infrastructure as their 9/11, congressional sources told the Daily Beast: “Brian Hook, the Trump administration’s special representative for Iran, made the 9/11 [comment] during a telephone briefing on Capitol Hill about the administration’s latest thinking on the attack. Hook communicated the reaction from Riyadh and said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would be headed to the country soon. Several individuals on the call said Hook’s update was thin, but said the administration had made available to lawmakers intelligence about the attack that they could review under a classified setting. … However, a source with direct knowledge says that Trump was briefed on the situation in Saudi Arabia with an official using the same 9/11 comparison. Trump appeared ‘unmoved’ by the analogy, the source noted.”
-- Trump’s threats of retaliation are dividing Senate Republicans. From Bloomberg News: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) “said on Monday that Trump should consider attacking Iranian oil refineries, but [Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah)] said direct U.S. intervention would be ‘a grave mistake.’ … Coons, a Democrat and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Monday morning that military action against Iran may be warranted, depending on information gathered by U.S. intelligence services. … But Coons faced criticism from liberals for his remarks, and a Democratic colleague, Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz, said on Twitter: ‘There is no imminent threat and the U.S. military is not authorized to retaliate on behalf of another country.’”
-- While we don’t know for sure if Iran was behind the attack, the country’s rapidly evolving and strategic use of drones and missiles is alarming rivals in the Middle East. Erin Cunningham and Rick Noack report: “The Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement that initial investigations ‘indicated that the weapons used in the attack were Iranian weapons.’ The statement said that Saudi authorities were still working to determine the source of the attack. Iran maintains advanced missile and drone programs as part of its national defense strategy and has transferred some of those weapons and technology to allied forces in the region, including Houthi fighters in Yemen, U.S. officials and weapons experts say. Tehran’s drone and missile arsenals allow it to deter adversaries and support regional proxies, who can strike on Iran’s behalf, analysts say. … According to the Brookings Institution, Iran has become a ‘significant exporter of missiles, missile production capability and missile technologies,’ including a long-range land-attack cruise missile experts say may have been used in Saturday’s assault.”
-- The drone attacks will most heavily impact Asian countries, including Japan, China and South Korea. Collectively, Asia imported $131.8 billion of Saudi oil in 2018. The U.S. imported around $21.9 billion of Saudi oil last year. (Harry Stevens, Lauren Tierney, Adrian Blanco and Laris Karklis)
-- News from Baghdad: ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – one of the world’s most wanted men – urged his followers to continue carrying out attacks where they can and storming prisons and camps where the group’s adherents now languish. Louisa Loveluck and Mustafa Salim report: “Baghdadi praised what he described as ‘daily operations’ across ‘different fronts’ spanning the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The provenance of the recording is not known, though its authenticity was not immediately questioned. Since losing control of its self-proclaimed caliphate, which spanned parts of Syria and Iraq, the Islamic State has slipped back to its guerrilla roots: Sleeper cells lie low and strike when they can. Crude bombs target security forces. Places of worship are singled out for mass-casualty attacks. … In the audio recording, Baghdadi urged supporters to ‘teach’ Muslims about the Islamic State’s struggle and not to forget the followers who held out until the caliphate’s final weeks, before U.S.-backed forces trucked them to detention facilities and displacement camps.”
-- The United Kingdom’s Supreme Court is weighing whether British Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke the law when he suspended Parliament. Karla Adam and William Booth report: “Petitioners accuse Johnson of trying to curtail scrutiny by lawmakers. A Scottish court agreed, ruling last week that the five-week suspension was an ‘egregious’ overreach, designed not as a brief pause between parliamentary sessions, as is customary, but to foil the legislature’s ability to shape Brexit plans. An English court, however, dismissed a related case, determining that the issue was a political matter and not one for courts to decide. The Supreme Court is hearing both cases on appeal. Which way will the high court lean? The court proceedings — to be streamed live over three days — could have far-reaching implications for the balance of power between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. The proceedings could also drag into play the role of the queen. And they could impact the direction of Brexit.”
-- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told supporters that voting is more important than sex. Steve Hendrix is on the ground: “Voting day is a national holiday here and Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party posted a last-minute video beseeching supporters not to waste it by going to the beach, lounging on the couch or — as suggested by a shot of four feet intertwining beneath the sheets — engaging in a bit of weekday whoopee. While you’re enjoying yourself, the ad ends, ‘the left is getting ready to take over the government.’ It was part of a closing pitch that could seem strange to American political consultants who seek to convey an air of building momentum at the end of a campaign. By contrast, Netanyahu’s final message has been: I’m losing. The final public polls showed the race between Netanyahu and former army chief of staff Benny Gantz as too close call or even slightly favoring Likud.”
-- This could be a big problem: Canadian authorities are working with allies, including the United States, to contain the potential damage after a top intelligence official was charged with violations of the nation’s rarely used secrets law. Amanda Coletta reports from Toronto: “As director general of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police National Intelligence Coordination Center, Cameron Ortis had access to high-level intelligence from the nation’s international allies, officials said Monday. The center addresses such national security risks as financing terrorism and nuclear threats. Ortis, 47, was arrested last week and charged with offenses including obtaining information to give to a foreign entity or terrorist group, communicating or confirming ‘special operational information’ and breach of trust. ...
“The country is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network with the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Without more details about what information Ortis is accused of trying to leak, who the recipients might have been or whether he was successful, the potential damage is difficult to assess. But Canada is a net consumer of intelligence — it receives more from its allies than it provides — and will probably come under pressure now to ensure that measures are put in place to prevent future breaches. …
“Ortis earned a doctorate in international relations at the University of British Columbia in 2006 and speaks Mandarin Chinese. His doctoral thesis was ‘Bowing to Quirinus: Compromised Nodes and Cyber Security in East Asia.’ The charges stem from activities alleged to have occurred between 2015 and 2019. … Ortis is due to appear Friday in court in Ottawa.”
-- In related news: A Canadian businessman and his company pleaded guilty to charges related to the transfer to China of technical details about a U.S. Navy undersea submarine rescue vehicle. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “Glen Omer Viau, a Canadian citizen, pleaded guilty Tuesday to a misdemeanor in federal court in Washington, admitting to transferring without authorization a thing of value to the United States. In a plea deal with U.S. prosecutors, Viau and the government valued the data as worth less than $1,000.”
-- The Northern Hemisphere just had its hottest summer on record since 1880, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Andrew Freedman reports: “NOAA found the average global surface temperature taken by thousands of thermometers, buoys and other sensors on land and sea tied with that of 2016 for the top spot, with a temperature anomaly of 2.03 degrees (1.13 Celsius) above the 20th-century average. In addition, August was the world’s second-hottest such month, according to both NOAA and NASA, with unusually hot conditions seen from pole to pole and across every ocean. What’s remarkable about 2019′s record warmth is that it comes in the absence of a strong El Niño event in the tropical Pacific Ocean.”
-- Trump keeps telling world leaders the same bizarre anecdote about how North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is a “great guy." From BuzzFeed News: “The story got its latest outing at last month’s summit in Biarritz, France, as the world leaders were gathered around the table for the formal meeting. When the discussion turned to North Korea — which had spent much of the month firing short-range ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan in a serious threat to stability in the region — Trump went off on a tangent, spending some 10 minutes rambling about his great relationship with Kim, leaving the other G7 leaders mostly speechless, three sources with direct knowledge of the discussions (said). All the leaders — apart from new British prime minister Boris Johnson, who was making his G7 debut — had heard Trump tell the exact same story the same way the last time they all gathered round the summit table, in Canada last year.”
-- John Bolton is already talking with book agents. From the Daily Beast: “It hasn’t yet been a full week, but it appears he’s found a vehicle for clearing the air. According to two people with knowledge of the situation, Bolton has already expressed interest in writing a book on his time in the Trump administration, and has been in contact in recent days with literary agents interested in making that happen. ‘He has a lot to dish,’ one of the sources said, adding it was not clear if Bolton had settled on an agency yet.”
-- Trump said the U.S. has reached a trade deal with Tokyo but stopped short of assuring Japan that the new tariffs would not be slapped on auto exports. In a letter to Congress, Trump said he plans on entering into the agreements on tariff barriers and digital trades in the coming weeks. (Reuters)
-- Deep dive: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) grew up in a mostly white world. Then she went to a black university in a black city, an experience she points to when anyone challenges her racial identity. Robin Givhan reports: “Harris wanted to go to a black school. That’s what black folks called Howard University in the early 1980s when Harris was a teenager considering her future. … Harris wanted to be surrounded by black students, black culture and black traditions at the crown jewel of historically black colleges and universities. … It was where Harris could become the woman that her mother always knew her to be: unquestionably, simply, black. … As Harris campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination, Howard is central to the 54-year-old senator’s personal narrative and her political identity. To those who see her white husband, question her time in California as a prosecutor in a criminal justice system that disproportionately punishes people of color and wonder about her empathy for black men, Howard is her rejoinder."
-- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) held the biggest rally of her campaign last night, drawing more than 20,000 people to New York City’s Washington Square Park. Annie Linskey, Amy B Wang and Cleve Woodson Jr. report: “Warren has long faced doubts from some Democratic leaders and voters who wonder if she would be able to defeat Trump, because of her outspoken liberal message and voters’ possible reluctance to embrace a woman as president. Monday’s speech, and the big crowd it attracted, was in part an attempt to rebut such doubts by arguing that liberal women have won big change before. ‘I wanted to give this speech here — but not because of the arch behind me or the president this square is named for,’ Warren said, reading from a teleprompter in Washington Square Park, blocks from where the Triangle fire killed more than 140 workers, including many young immigrant women. ‘We’re not here today because of famous arches or famous men,’ she said. ‘In fact, we’re not here because of men at all — we’re here because of some hard-working women.’ …
“Her speech came hours after she released a wide-ranging anticorruption plan that seeks to dramatically limit the influence of former federal lawmakers and lobbyists while expanding protections for workers. Among the nearly 100 suggested changes in the proposal, lobbyists would be banned from all campaign fundraising activities — including ‘bundling’ the contributions of other donors — and campaigns would not be able to receive ‘intangible benefits,’ such as opposition research, from foreign governments.”
-- The Working Families Party, a group with growing influence in progressive circles that backed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in 2016, endorsed Warren for 2020. Dave Weigel and John Wagner report: “Figures released by the group showed Warren had resoundingly prevailed in its ranked-choice voting system, getting 60.9 percent in the first round, and Sanders trailing with 35.3 percent. Half of the vote share came from the WFP’s national committee, while the other half came from its tens of thousands of rank-and-file members.”
-- Over the weekend, critics questioned Joe Biden’s often-told story of an altercation between himself – then a 19-year-old Wilmington lifeguard – and a gang leader who shared a nickname with a breakfast cereal. But “Corn Pop” really did exist. Robert Samuels reports: “Biden came to the confrontation with a chain; Corn Pop, a razor. To skeptics, the nicknames and the details seemed too cinematic, relying on stereotypes of African Americans. But there was an indeed a man named Corn Pop, and his back-and-forths with Biden have long been part of the folklore of Wilmington’s east side. More than a dozen residents who grew up in Wilmington, including some who worked and swam at the pool, told The Washington Post for a previous story of the contentious relationship between Biden and William Morris, better known as Corn Pop. They said it eventually became a friendship — even if they could not confirm this particular confrontation.”
-- Hoping to put New Mexico on the board in 2020, Trump made a direct appeal to the state’s Hispanic voters. Philip Rucker and Reis Thebault report: “At a rollicking rally in New Mexico, his first visit as president to this border state controlled by Democrats, Trump infused his typical campaign rally attacks on political opponents and the media with sweeping declarations of Latino support for his reelection. ‘Yesterday marked the beginning of the Hispanic Heritage Month — who’s Hispanic here?’ Trump asked the cheering crowd of several thousand supporters at the Santa Ana Star Center on the outskirts of Albuquerque, many of whom waved ‘Latinos for Trump’ signs. ‘Incredible people . . . we have much to celebrate.’ … Trump’s proclamations belie the reality measured in public-opinion surveys, which show overwhelming majorities of Hispanic Americans disapproving of his job performance. … Hispanics make up almost half of the population in New Mexico, the highest share of any state … Trump’s advisers insist that he is serious about contesting the state and expanding his appeal with minority voters, in part on the strength of the economy. … Trump predicted that he would win a far greater share of the Hispanic vote than polls currently suggest because of, not in spite of, his hard-line immigration policies.”
-- Trump will not even consider the House-passed universal background checks as part of his proposed gun package. From Politico: “Trump met again with aides Monday to discuss proposals to address gun violence. The White House expects to release the package of proposals this week but Trump is on a campaign trip to New Mexico and California though Wednesday night. On Friday, he will host an all-day state visit for officials from Australia. His schedule makes Thursday the most likely day, though nothing has been scheduled.”
-- House Democrats dropped plans to block Trump from extending bailouts for farmers who are being hammered by the president's trade war under pressure from moderates who are trying to get reelected. Erica Werner and Jeff Stein report: “The shift comes days after Democrats had sought to prevent the White House from expanding a major component of their farm bailout plan, which the White House has estimated could cost close to $30 billion. Trump had authorized the bailout funds in response to an outcry from farmers who claimed they were caught in the middle of his trade war with China. Democrats are likely to include legislation that would expedite payment of these funds as part of a must-pass spending bill as soon as this week. … The provision in question would now ensure the continuation of a multibillion-dollar White House farm bailout program that was at risk of running short of money.”
-- House Democrats largely agreed to sidestep a fight with Trump over his border wall until November, averting a shutdown this month (if the president backs up their plan). From Politico: “The House is expected to pass a stopgap funding bill this week that maintains the status quo for Trump’s border policies, marking a temporary concession by progressives still fuming at recent hard-line moves on immigration, according to multiple lawmakers and senior aides. Senate Republicans, too, say they’re willing to back the short-term bill — with Trump’s greenlight. That would set up a final showdown around Thanksgiving, which will be Trump’s last chance to deliver on his wall promise before peak campaign season.”
-- Some Asian Americans bristle at entrepreneur Andrew Yang’s use of stereotypes on the national stage. Amy B Wang reports: “Yang, perhaps the highest-profile East Asian presidential candidate in history, regularly makes comments on the campaign trail that play to the stereotype of Asian Americans as studious, math-loving and hard-working. To some, it is a refreshing dose of self-deprecating humor; to many others, such comments are cringeworthy or amplify a stereotype — of Asian Americans as a “model minority” — they say is harmful. … One danger of the myth is that it is weaponized against other minorities to suggest they are not as hard-working, law-abiding or successful, said Ellen Wu, director of the Asian American studies program at Indiana University."
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Former White House press secretary Sean Spicer made his "Dancing With the Stars" debut last night, and Twitter didn't hold back:
Once you leave the White House you're not allowed to testify before Congress but you can do this. https://t.co/vEe3UkaIh8— Joe Lockhart (@joelockhart) September 17, 2019
Happy Hispanic Heritage Month, peeps.— Ana Navarro-Cárdenas (@ananavarro) September 17, 2019
This fool failing at dancing Salsa while dressed like a neon parakeet with ruffles (obviously, the #DWTS wardrobe people are part of The Resistance), just made the argument of why this country needs Hispanics. https://t.co/AINUnSWvgQ
Sean Spicer got paid 6 figures for this. He's also a Harvard Kennedy fellow. He also got a book deal. He was also laughing it up at a DC party for journalists the day before the White House Correspondents Dinner. All will fail up. It's how this town works. https://t.co/ZRgbGe4Cvc— Wajahat Ali (@WajahatAli) September 17, 2019
Move over Rick Perry GIF, we have a new champ. pic.twitter.com/9SRckLCOeN— Schooley (@Rschooley) September 17, 2019
I remember when Rick Perry announced he was going on DWS and I said "guess he's done with politics." Joke's on me. pic.twitter.com/KCicQrEa0j— Mel (@Tweetsnwhatnot) January 19, 2017
But Spicer didn't let the critics bring him down, turning instead to the fans:
Thank you @GovMikeHuckabee Clearly the judges aren’t going to be with me. Let’s send a message to #Hollywood that those of us who stand for #Christ won’t be discounted. May God bless you https://t.co/Qqa9xi3pIM— Sean Spicer (@seanspicer) September 17, 2019
Netanyahu invoked Trump after voting in today’s Israeli elections:
Prime Minister Netanyahu:— PM of Israel (@IsraeliPM) September 17, 2019
"President Trump said yesterday that these elections are close. I can tell you this morning – they are very close. I call on all Israeli citizens to come and vote, like my wife and I have. Good luck." pic.twitter.com/FqShm9xwPx
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang might have scored a deal by offering 10 random families a test run of his Universal Basic Income plan:
For just $10,000 a month, Andrew Yang’s campaign got a whole lot of information about 450,000 people. That is a bargain compared to what other campaigns are spending on Facebook ads. https://t.co/JG9kXjt7aX— Tamara Keith (@tamarakeithNPR) September 17, 2019
Thousands of New Yorkers stood in the rain to hear Warren:
Here’s just half of crowd gathered for Elizabeth Warren in Washington Square Park tonight. pic.twitter.com/kjgZGaK6li— Steve Peoples (@sppeoples) September 17, 2019
They lined up for hours to snap a selfie with the 2020 contender, flooding Washingon Square Park's Instagram location:
If you do a location search of Washington Square Park right now on Insta — it’s selfies upon selfies with Elizabeth Warren: pic.twitter.com/1CZ2AM2in2— MJ Lee (@mj_lee) September 17, 2019
And this is the moment when Warren finished her four-hour selfie queue:
Nearly four hours after she finished her speech, Elizabeth Warren makes it to the end of the selfie line pic.twitter.com/bSqrkum8iM— Thomas Kaplan (@thomaskaplan) September 17, 2019
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “He happens to be Hispanic, but I’ve never quite figured it out because he looks more like a WASP than I do," Trump said during his rally last night of CNN contributor Steve Cortes. "But I’ll tell you what, there is nobody that loves this country more or Hispanics more than Steve Cortes." Addressing Cortes, an outspoken supporter, Trump asked: “Who do you like more: The country or Hispanics? He says the country. I don’t know, I may have to go for the Hispanics, to be honest. We love our Hispanics!” (Rucker and Thebault)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Kamala Harris slow jammed the news with Jimmy Fallon:
Stephen Colbert labeled the president as America's "top unintelligence official":
Trevor Noah quipped that Kavanaugh is the only Supreme Court justice to be sponsored by Bud Light:
Trump told House Republicans last Thursday night that energy efficient lightbulbs make him look orange. Seth Meyers wondered if that means that Trump thinks the sun is a lightbulb: