The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Daily 202: ‘This will divert from Ivanka’: John Bolton's book reveals Trump's impulse to distract

with Mariana Alfaro

President Trump has shown a mastery of distraction and deflection. One anecdote in the new tell-all by former national security adviser John Bolton confirms that his modus operandi is quite deliberate. 

On the evening of Nov. 19, 2018, The Washington Post reported that senior presidential adviser Ivanka Trump had sent hundreds of emails to White House aides, Cabinet officials and her assistants using a personal account, many of them in violation of federal records rules.

The next morning, the White House issued a startling defense of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over the killing and dismemberment, by bone saw, of Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The statement, which included eight exclamation marks, began: “America First! The world is a very dangerous place!” It attacked Khashoggi by repeating the baseless allegations from the regime in Riyadh that the journalist was an “enemy of the state” and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. 

The Post reported earlier that week that the CIA had concluded, with a high confidence, that the prince personally ordered the assassination of Khashoggi. In his statement, Trump said, "[W]e may never know" if Mohammed was involved. But, "in any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally … The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia.” 

Bolton reveals in his new book, whose publication Trump is trying to block, that the main goal of the president’s missive was to take away attention from the story about his daughter’s emails. After all, Trump had not just spent years attacking Hillary Clinton for using a private email server while she was secretary of state but had also said his 2016 rival should go to prison for doing so. As president, he had egged on chants of “lock her up” at his rallies.

“This will divert from Ivanka,” Trump said, according to Bolton’s book, as he drafted his defense of the Saudis. “If I read the statement in person, that will take over the Ivanka thing.”

The president was correct. His gambit worked. The over-the-top defense of the Saudis diverted attention from Ivanka’s email use. It generated front-page stories and outraged editorials. Then the news cycle quickly moved on. 

The crown prince has continued to plunge his country deeper into autocracy. He has never been held accountable for Khashoggi’s killing. And Ivanka Trump, who remains a senior adviser in her dad’s White House, never faced disciplinary action for her conduct. It has also not been an issue in the 2020 campaign.

This is far from the most shocking anecdote in Bolton’s 592-page memoir, “The Room Where It Happened,” nor is it the most politically problematic or potentially embarrassing for the president. But Trump’s purported manipulation of the Khashoggi tragedy to cover for his daughter’s behavior is a telling window into his broader public disregard for human rights.

Bolton writes that Trump said he did not want to weigh in on behalf of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, even when he was told that more than a million people were in the streets. “We have human rights problems, too,” Trump said, according to Bolton. 

These comments are especially notable against the backdrop of Trump’s now-notorious Bible photo op in Lafayette Square, which immediately followed the clearing of mostly peaceful protesters by force.

Trump also declined to sign off on a statement last year commemorating the 30th anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square. He was worried it would hurt trade talks. “Who cares about it? I’m trying to make a deal,” Trump said, per Bolton. “I don’t want anything.”

The biggest headline from the book appears to be that Bolton alleges Trump asked Chinese leader Xi Jinping to help him win reelection, per Josh Dawsey, who obtained a copy of the book. “I would print Trump’s exact words but the government’s prepublication review process has decided otherwise,” Bolton writes. 

At the same meeting, on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in June 2019, Xi defended China’s construction of camps housing as many as 1 million Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang — and Bolton writes that Trump signaled his approval. “According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do,” Bolton writes. “The National Security Council’s top Asia staffer, Matthew Pottinger, told me that Trump said something very similar during his November 2017 trip to China.” Bolton says Trump also told Xi that Americans were clamoring for him to change constitutional rules to serve more than two terms.

Trump denied that he said any of this to Xi during an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday night. “He’s a liar,” the president said of Bolton. 

Shortly after several news stories covered the China-related contents of Bolton’s book, the White House – which has had its own advance copy of the text for months – announced that the president signed a measure to potentially sanction Chinese officials for their role in interning ethnic Uighurs. The Uighur Human Rights Policy Act had passed the Senate and House unanimously.

Joe Biden accused Trump of being “willing to trade away our most cherished democratic values for the empty promise of a flimsy trade deal that bailed him out" of his trade war. “If these accounts are true, it’s not only morally repugnant, it’s a violation of Donald Trump’s sacred duty to the American people to protect America’s interests and defend our values,” the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee said in a statement.

Recounting his 19 months as national security adviser, Bolton describes Trump as “erratic” and “stunningly uninformed.” He says that senior administration officials such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo largely share this assessment. Bolton recalls Trump asking if Finland is part of Russia, expressing surprise to learn that the United Kingdom has nuclear weapons and saying that invading Venezuela would be “cool.”

The Justice Department sought an emergency order on Wednesday night from a judge to block the publication of the book. This follows a civil suit that was filed against Bolton on Tuesday, asking a court to seize his profits from the book and to force him to delay its scheduled June 23 release. Experts say that trying to formally enjoin publication is unlikely to succeed as a legal strategy, but that Bolton could ultimately be forced to turn over proceeds from the book to the government.

“The Justice Department is investigating to see whether any laws regarding the handling of classified information were broken in the course of Bolton writing the book, according to people familiar with the matter,” per Tom Hamburger, Roz Helderman, Devlin Barrett and Spencer Hsu. “Trump, who has called Bolton a ‘traitor’ and was incensed that he walked out of the White House with copious notes, has told allies he’d like to see Bolton be charged, according to people familiar with his remarks.”

Bolton’s publicity tour has already begun. “I don’t think he’s fit for office. I don’t think he has the competence to carry out the job,” he said of Trump during an interview with ABC News, portions of which aired this morning. “There really isn’t any guiding principle that I was able to discern other than what’s good for Donald Trump’s reelection. I think he was so focused on the reelection that longer-term considerations fell by the wayside.”

Programming note

The Daily 202 will not publish on Friday in honor of Juneteenth, one of the oldest celebrations commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. We have done our level best to report on and make sense of the reckoning that has been set in motion by George Floyd's killing in police custody on Memorial Day. We hope the pause in coverage will allow you some time to join us in reflecting on the lingering legacies of slavery and the best path forward not just for our government, but for all of us, to live up to the promises of our founding documents and ideals.

The Trump presidency

The Supreme Court ruled against Trump’s attempt to end DACA.

“The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the Trump administration's attempt to dismantle the program protecting undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, a reprieve for nearly 650,000 recipients known as ‘dreamers.’ The 5 to 4 decision was written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and joined by the court’s four liberals,” Robert Barnes reports. “The administration has tried for more than two years to ‘wind down’ the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, announced by President Barack Obama in 2012 to protect from deportation qualified young immigrants who had been brought illegally to the country. But, as lower courts had found, Roberts said the administration did not follow procedures required by law, and did not properly weigh how ending the program would affect those who had come to rely on its protections against deportation, and the ability to work legally.”

White House divisions are sowing confusion about strategy on stimulus next steps.

“A number of advisers want to reconsider the tremendous amount of spending that they are pumping into the economy, but they face growing demands from economists and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome H. Powell to spend more to prop up the economy,” Jeff Stein reports. “Trump and his senior economic advisers have said they want to pass additional stimulus legislation, but jockeying over that package has intensified as ideological rivals within the administration vie to shape it. [Peter] Navarro’s push comes at a time when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has led the administration’s negotiations with Congress, faces challenges from Republicans on Capitol Hill and inside the administration. A number of GOP lawmakers want Vice President Pence or Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to assume a bigger role in the dealmaking process.”

An additional 1.5 million workers filed for unemployment insurance for the first time last week, a drop of just 58,000 claims from the week before, despite reopening efforts nationwide,” Eli Rosenberg reports. “Since the coronavirus pandemic began earlier this year, there have been 13 straight weeks where more than 1 million people have filed for unemployment for the first time.” 

Multiple government officials fear Trump will block Alex Vindman’s promotion to colonel.

The Army lieutenant colonel, who received a Purple Heart for his actions in Iraq and later served as a White House aide on European affairs before testifying under subpoena in the House impeachment probe and then being escorted out of the White House on Trump’s orders, is among hundreds of officers who have been selected to be promoted to full colonel this year. “The list is now with a Pentagon personnel office,” Shane Harris, Missy Ryan, Josh Dawsey and Greg Miller report. “A senior official said the White House has not received or approved a list of those up for promotions. A second official said that Trump dislikes Vindman more than any other witness in the impeachment proceeding and noted that he was the first one fired when it ended.”

Some of Trump's top advisers wonder whether the president is truly interested in four more years. 

“In a recent meeting with his top political advisers, Trump was impatient as they warned him that he was on a path to defeat in November if he continued his incendiary behavior in public and on Twitter,” the New York Times reports. “Mr. Trump pushed back against his aides. ‘I have to be myself,’ he replied, according to three people familiar with the meeting. A few hours later, he posted on Twitter a letter from his former personal lawyer describing some of the protesters as ‘terrorists.’ … [People close to him] say his repeated acts of political self-sabotage … have significantly damaged his re-election prospects, and yet he appears mostly unable, or unwilling, to curtail them. … Some advisers believe Mr. Trump’s taste for battle will return in the fall, when the general election fight is more engaged. But for now, they said, the president is acting trapped and defensive, and his self-destructive behavior has been so out of step for an incumbent in an election year that many advisers wonder if he is truly interested in serving a second term.  …

Trump has been wallowing in self-pity about news coverage of him since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, people who have spoken with him said. … He has complained that nothing he does is good enough, bristling at criticism that he hasn’t sufficiently addressed the death of George Floyd … Trump has also become consumed, once again, with leaks from the White House, demanding that officials find and prosecute those responsible for information getting out about his trip to the bunker beneath the White House during unruly protests.”

Divided America

The House Judiciary Committee approved an expansive policing bill that would ban chokeholds. 

“Democrats and Republicans dug in in partisan corners Wednesday as they embraced competing versions of legislation to rein in police brutality in a day filled with emotional debate over race and policing. Both bills seek to respond to the public clamor for sweeping action, but the parties remain far apart on whether Washington should mandate local police practices. The Democratic bill would ban chokeholds and certain no-knock warrants. The Republican bill does not prohibit those practices, but rather encourages local police and law enforcement agencies to curtail such practices with the threat of a loss of federal funds,” Paul Kane, Seung Min Kim and John Wagner report. “Wednesday’s actions on Capitol Hill signal the election-year battle ahead could be rocky. In the House Judiciary Committee, Republicans used their debate time to rehash arguments about the FBI’s handling of the Russia investigation, abortion and the liberal movement to ‘defund the police,’ all matters that left Democrats exasperated. … After an 11-hour session, the committee approved the bill on a party-line vote, sending it to the full House.”

  • A new Quinnipiac University poll finds that 68 percent of registered voters nationally believe discrimination against black people in the U.S. is a serious problem: 96 percent of Democrats think so, compared to 34 percent of Republicans. Still, roughly 8 in 10 voters say they oppose eliminating the current police department in their community and replacing it with a new one.
  • Trump said he hasn’t watched the full video of George Floyd’s killing. “It was over eight minutes. Who could watch that? But it doesn’t get any more obvious or it doesn’t get any worse than that,” he told Sean Hannity on Fox News. (Allyson Chiu)
  • White House officials are revisiting the idea of renaming the military bases named for Confederate generals, "spurred by a growing recognition in the West Wing that the names of the bases will eventually be changed — with or without Trump's backing,” NBC News reports.
The former Atlanta police officer who shot Rayshard Brooks was charged with murder.

Ex-officer Garrett Rolfe was also charged with aggravated assault and nine other offenses in the shooting death of the unarmed 27-year-old black man. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard Jr. said Brooks’s killing was unjustified and that he posed no threat to Rolfe’s life. “Howard said Rolfe’s colleague, Officer Devin Brosnan, had been charged with aggravated assault and other related counts. Howard revealed granular details of what investigators found in the case, including a still photo that he said showed Rolfe kicking Brooks, who was prone on the ground after being shot,” Matt Zapotosky, Derek Hawkins and Fenit Nirappil report.

  • Police in Atlanta are calling in sick to protest the charges. It's unclear how many officers did not show up for last night's shift, but social media suggests the move was widespread. (Katie Shepherd)  
  • Terron Boone, half-brother of Robert Fuller, the black man found hanging in Palmdale, Calif., was killed in a shootout with Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies after he allegedly opened fire on detectives. (Los Angeles Times)
As Trump warns of leftist violence, a dangerous threat is emerging from the right-wing ‘boogaloo’ movement. 

“Federal prosecutors have charged various supporters of a right-wing movement called the ‘boogaloo bois,’ with crimes related to plotting to firebomb a U.S. Forest Service facility, preparing to use explosives at a peaceful demonstration and killing a security officer at a federal courthouse,” Craig Timberg reports. “The boogaloo movement was born on fringe social media forums such as 4chan but migrated to more mainstream ones such as Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, where researchers have found some groups had at times hundreds of thousands of followers. … The role of social media in incubating the movement and spreading its ideology has prompted several researchers to compare boogaloo to foreign militant groups, such as the Islamic State, which used memes and other forms of online messaging to spread extremist rhetoric, raise money and recruit new members.” 

Quaker is pulling the Aunt Jemima brand off shelves, acknowledging it is “based on a racial stereotype.” 

“The iconic brand announced on Wednesday that it is changing its name and retiring its mascot, a black woman whose character was originally based on the stereotype of the enslaved ‘mammy’ who raised her master’s white children,” Emily Heil reports. “The brand has been criticized over the years for retaining even the modernized mascot. … The company said that packaging without the image of Aunt Jemima would begin to appear in the fourth quarter of the year and that after that, the company would rebrand.” 

  • Mars Inc. announced that it will change its Uncle Ben’s rice brand, saying it's "the right time to evolve.” The brand’s mascot is a black man modeled after Frank Brown, a waiter at a Chicago restaurant. Black men were often referred to as “boy” or “uncle” to avoid calling them “Mr.” during the Jim Crow era. (NBC News)
  • Conagra announced it has begun a “complete brand and packaging review” of its Mrs. Butterworth's brand. Mrs. Butterworth was modeled after the actress who played Prissy, a slave, in “Gone with the Wind.” (Patch)
Europeans highlight how U.S. influence has waned under Trump. But protests show the country remains a superpower.

“Europeans have lamented that the United States has relinquished its role as a global moral leader under Trump. But the proliferation of Black Lives Matter protests around the world has solidified belief here that American society remains a superpower of influence, even if its politicians do not,” Michael Birnbaum reports. “Nowhere outside the United States has the Black Lives Matter movement forced a more powerful reckoning than in Europe, where increasingly diverse societies have often done little to grapple with their colonial legacies and modern-day discrimination. … There are signs that the European protesters’ demands are gaining traction. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his country’s ‘Black Pete’ blackface Christmas tradition needed to come to an end. The Belgian Parliament approved a ‘truth and reconciliation’ commission to reckon with a bloody colonial past.”

In D.C., some have been protesting for nearly three weeks. Hope is what keeps them coming back.

“Nineteen days had passed since she picked up a bullhorn for the first time, pressed on the trigger and led a crowd of strangers in chants and cheers as they stared down a line of police outside the White House gates. Now, Arianna Evans blinked open her eyes as the soft light of morning leaked through a green-topped tent,” Marissa Lang reports. “She was one of dozens who had spent the night in Freedom Plaza in a days-long sit-in meant to shine a light on the D.C. Council and Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), who has dismissed calls from protesters to defund the city’s police department. As she lifted herself from the air mattress, Evans, 23, could feel the way weeks of nonstop demonstrations have changed her: Her joints ache. Her feet throb with a dull pain from having been on them for days, marching for miles. … There is more gravel in her throat, a deeper tone in her voice that did not exist before. ‘It’s probably from all the yelling,’ she said. ‘It’s physically exhausting being out here. But I feel like if we’re not the ones to do it, then who will be?’"

  • A man angry over vandalism of Richmond’s Confederate statues took credit for spray-painting “white lives matter” on the city’s statue of African American tennis legend Arthur Ashe. After some tried to remove the message and replace it with “BLM,” the man returned and tried to wipe off the Black Lives Matter message. (Laura Vozzella and April Bethea)

Quote of the day

“White people need to listen,” said Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who survived a blackface scandal last year. (NBC News

The coronavirus remains

Trump is pushing officials to speed up an already-ambitious vaccine timeline. The consequences could be fatal.

The president wants top health officials to approve a vaccine by year’s end, and this could lead to cutting corners. “The goal is to instill confidence among voters that the virus can be tamed and the economy fully reopened under Trump’s stewardship. In a meeting last month with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar — who is overseeing the effort called Operation Warp Speed, along with Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper — Trump pushed Azar repeatedly to speed up the already unprecedented timeline," Yasmeen Abutaleb, Josh Dawsey, Laurie McGinley and Carolyn Johnson report. "Some scientists and even several people close to the White House worry that his fixation on the timeline, combined with his past dismissal of scientists’ recommendations, could put regulators under intense pressure to approve some sort of limited use of a vaccine before it has been adequately vetted for safety and effectiveness.”

Trump administration procurement decisions have made supply chains more vulnerable and could increase costs.

“The Trump administration this month announced that one of its largest pandemic-related contracts would go to a little-known biodefense company named Emergent BioSolutions. … The $628 million deal to help manufacture an eventual vaccine cemented Emergent’s status as the highest-paid and most important contractor to the HHS office responsible for preparing for public health threats and maintaining the government’s stockpile of emergency medical supplies,” Robert O’Harrow Jr., Jon Swaine and Aaron Davis report. “Emergent is the only maker of multiple drugs the government deems crucial for the Strategic National Stockpile, and the government is the company’s primary customer, accounting for most of its revenue. … A Post examination found that Emergent’s strategy has been rewarded with a series of large contracts as the Trump administration focused on biodefense over preparations for a natural pandemic. But Emergent’s dominance has fueled new risks for national health preparedness, according to documents and former government officials. The industry consolidation has created ‘vulnerabilities in the supply chain,’ while also raising the prospect of inflated costs because of a lack of competition, according to a confidential report obtained by The Post.” 

  • The U.S. stockpile is now stuck with 63 million doses of hydroxychloroquine and 2 million doses of chloroquine. (CNN)
  • At least 115,000 people in the United States have died of the coronavirus, while more than 2.1 million cases have been confirmed, per our tracker.
Hundreds of health-care workers have lost their lives on the front lines of the fight. 

“There is no official tally of their deaths. More than 77,800 have tested positive for the coronavirus, and more than 400 have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which acknowledges that’s a significant undercount. The nation’s largest nurses union, National Nurses United, puts the total much higher: 939 fatalities among health-care workers, based on reports from its chapters around the country, social media and obituaries. Nurses represent about 15 percent of those deaths, the union said,” Kent Babb, Brittany Shammas and Ariana Eunjung Cha report. "No one can say how many of those people died because of insufficient PPE, inadequate testing or other issues. What is undeniable is that all of them put their lives at risk to care for others because that’s what they do.”

Officials are turning to mandatory mask-wearing in hopes of slowing the spread in the West and the South. 

“In Arizona, where the number of covid-19 patients requiring hospitalization has nearly doubled since Memorial Day, Gov. Doug Ducey (R) gave local officials the authority to introduce their own rules for mandatory mask-wearing on Wednesday. Previously, cities and towns were barred from instituting any policies that would be stricter than state-level rules, which recommend but do not require masks. Many of the state’s largest cities, including Phoenix and Tucson, now plan to make masks compulsory,” Antonia Farzan reports. “The mayors of nine major Texas cities — including Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas and Fort Worth — want to be granted similar latitude. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has banned local governments from imposing any penalties on people who fail to wear masks in public, something that the mayors say needs to be reconsidered as the state’s daily death toll rises. Texas reported 2,793 new hospitalization on Wednesday, a record high.”

The mayor of Tulsa called Trump’s visit an “honor,” despite pleas by public health leaders to cancel or postpone his rally.

“G.T. Bynum, a Republican, told a news conference that ‘I’m not positive that everything is safe’ and urged residents who planned to attend Trump’s Saturday night gathering to wear masks and take other precautions. Bynum said he would not be attending the rally but would greet Trump at the airport. He added that the company managing the venue has ‘sole discretion’ on whether to host the event and that ‘it’s not my decision to make,’” Joshua Partlow, Annie Gowen and DeNeen Brown report. “Tulsa Health Department Director Bruce Dart said at Wednesday’s news conference that he had recommended Trump’s rally ‘be postponed until it’s safer.’ Tulsa County has recorded 1,825 confirmed coronavirus cases, Dart said, including a record-high 96 cases on Wednesday. There have been 64 deaths. … Tulsa is still actively investigating the 1921 white mob violence against African Americans that killed as many as 300 people. Many are calling on Trump to cancel an event they consider an unnecessary provocation at a time of nationwide protests about racism and police brutality.” 

  • Sheriff Mark Lamb (R) of Pinal County, Ariz., tested positive for the coronavirus before a scheduled meeting with Trump. Lamb previously proclaimed that Arizona’s attempt to slow the spread of the virus was unconstitutional and vowed never to arrest people or shut down businesses that violated stay-at-home orders. (Timothy Bella)
  • Kazakhstan’s 79-year-old former leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, who led the nation for nearly 30 years, tested positive. He now holds the newly created – and powerful – position of chairman of the country’s Security Council. Since the nation ended its lockdown last month, the country has seen a spike of about 5,000 infections. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)
Restaurants are closing again after their workers test positive for the virus. 

“From Phoenix to Myrtle Beach, Houston to Orlando, restaurants — most of which were only recently given the go-ahead to welcome diners back in their doors — are closing again. This time, it’s not because owners fear that someone in their midst might catch the coronavirus — it’s because they know that they already have,” Emily Heil reports. “The closures, typically announced on social media, come at the discretion of restaurant owners. Many states and localities do not require restaurants where employees have tested positive to shutter. What steps owners take when faced with a sick employee — whether it’s deep cleaning the entire space, informing customers or testing other staffers — are largely up to them.”

  • Florida has “all the markings of the next large epicenter” for widespread transmission, according to fresh modeling from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Researchers said their latest projections show that the risk of widespread community transmission is the “worst it has ever been” and that Miami, Tampa, Fort Myers, Orlando and counties in southeast Florida are likely to be hit first. (Antonia Farzan)
  • Employers cannot require their workers to take antibody tests before returning to the office, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said. In updated guidance, the agency said employers can test their workers for the virus itself through a nose or throat swab. (Teo Armus)
D.C. expects to enter Phase 2 next week. 

The Democratic mayor said the city could begin to lift more restrictions Monday — a step that will permit indoor dining and the reopening of retail, camps, swimming pools, worship services without singing and gatherings of up to 50 people, Julie Zauzmer, Emily Davies and Dana Hedpgeth report. “Bowser announced during a Wednesday news conference that restaurants and stores will be able to operate at 50 percent capacity. Gyms, tanning salons and tattoo parlors can reopen as long as they keep plety of space between their patrons. According to the District government, the city has met most criteria it set for entering Phase 2, including hospitals filling fewer than 80 percent of beds and a sustained decline in community spread of the novel coronavirus. The major exception is contact tracing.” 

  • The University of Virginia called students back for the fall. They’ll have to wear masks, keep their distance and use assigned sinks, stalls and showers. The school plans to offer online, face-to-face and hybrid classes to its 24,000 students. (Nick Anderson)
  • A covid-19 outbreak forced Arlington County’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court to close. Four of the seven clerks in the office tested positive. (Tom Jackman)
A deal to start the baseball season appears within reach after a secret meeting in Arizona.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred met with Tony Clark, the head of the players' union, to revive talks. "A person familiar with MLB’s latest proposal to the Major League Baseball Players Association on Wednesday — which called for a 60-game regular season beginning July 19 — said no deal has been reached but there is growing confidence on both sides that one is close, potentially arriving by the end of the week," Dave Sheinin reports. "If a deal is reached in the coming days, players could report as soon as next week for a ‘spring training 2.0’ lasting about three weeks, with an Opening Day in the second half of July. … MLB’s 60-game proposal satisfied the players’ demands to be paid full, prorated shares of their original 2020 salaries, but union negotiators are pushing for a longer season, with the calendar leaving room for a regular season of up to 75 games. On Friday, MLB proposed a 72-game season … 

“Both sides have essentially agreed on an expanded, 16-team postseason, and MLB has been consistent in saying it wants the postseason contained within October, as opposed to pushing it deeper into the fall or winter, because of fears that a second wave of the coronavirus could lead to its cancellation. … Because of the deep bitterness that has characterized this negotiation, which has plunged labor relations in the sport to their lowest point since the 1994-95 players’ strike, it would be unwise to assume a deal before one is actually signed.”

  • Pro tennis will return in August with the Citi Open in Washington before moving to New York and culminating with the U.S. Open. It’s unclear how many of the world’s top-10 players will take part even in the Grand Slam event, but tournament officials shared a videotaped commitment from Serena Williams, who said she couldn’t wait to get to New York. (Liz Clarke)
  • Soccer made its return to Britain with a moment of silence for coronavirus victims and players taking a knee for Floyd. Fans were forced to watch the Aston Villa-Sheffield United match at home. (Jennifer Hassan)
  • The Eiffel Tower will reopen next week, with a catch: No elevator. Visitors will have to trek up the stairs. (Teo Armus)
  • Airlines are cutting beverage services – including alcohol – to prevent the spread of the virus. Delta has nixed all beverage service for the time being, except single-serve bottles of water. JetBlue is offering a “pre-sealed bag with water and two snacks,” while Southwest is giving passengers unopened cans of water and sealed packages of snack mix. United is the one exception – it hasn’t gotten rid of its alcohol service, although it now only serves sealed drinks. (Drew Jones)
  • Strip clubs in Providence, R.I., were allowed to offer outdoor dancing, but dancers are reluctant to return to work, because they’re prohibited from offering lap dances to individual customers, which are more lucrative.  (Boston Globe)

Other news that should be on your radar

  • NASA is rushing to complete its Mars launch before the planet moves out of range. The mission will include the first-ever helicopter exploration of the planet. If the launch doesn’t happen next month, the next opportunity won’t come for two years. (Christian Davenport)
  • Jean Kennedy Smith, a former U.S. ambassador to Ireland, died at 92 in Manhattan. Her siblings included John, Robert, Ted and Joe Kennedy. (Vincent Bzdek)
  • The pilot of the helicopter in the Kobe Bryant crash may have become disoriented in the fog and thought he was climbing instead of descending, federal investigators said. (Ian Duncan, Lori Aratani and Michael Laris)
  • Six former eBay employees were charged in association with a cyberstalking campaign to make life miserable for two critics who published negative blog posts about the company. The alleged harassment included shipping them packages of fly larvae, live spiders and cockroaches, and funeral wreaths. The company's representatives also allegedly stalked the couple, with several members of a team traveling to Boston in hopes of installing a GPS monitor on the couple’s car. (Wired)
  • National Republicans are finally distancing themselves from QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Green’s congressional candidacy after the discovery of videos showing her making racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic comments. She finished first in a primary for a deep-red Georgia district but still faces a runoff. (Politico)
  • Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) will oppose Trump D.C. Circuit nominee Justin Walker, a Mitch McConnell protégé. (Politico)
  • George W. Bush will hold a virtual fundraiser for four Senate Republicans facing tough reelection battles – Collins, Cory Gardner (Colo.), Martha McSally (Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (N.C.) (Felicia Sonmez)

Social media speed read

A former top lawyer for the National Security Agency says the White House’s move to block Bolton’s book is a Catch-22:

The Russian Foreign Ministry seized on Bolton's claim that Trump asked if Finland is part of Russia:

Vice President Pence is moving the goal posts on the coronavirus as the administration seeks to move on:

Meanwhile, civilians continue adjusting to the new normal:

Videos of the day

Stephen Colbert, who received a copy of Bolton's new book, said it's “worse than even I imagined”: 

Seth Meyers took a look at the Trump administration's coronavirus cover-up:

Trevor Noah explained the significance of the decision to pull “Aunt Jemima” off shelves: