with Brent D. Griffiths

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Breaking 🚨: "Iran has threatened to increase its uranium stockpile limit set by the 2015 nuclear deal in the next 10 days, amid escalating tensions with the United States and so far unsuccessful European efforts to salvage the deal. Iran said it had already sped up its production of low-enriched uranium," The Post's Rick Noack reports.

  • "Iran has denied claims by the Trump administration and others that it is seeking to build a nuclear bomb. But on Monday, Iran also announced enrichment targets that would put it in the proximity of the levels needed to build a weapon. It was unclear how long Iran would need to reach those targets."

At the White House

RED FLAGS: Trumpworld is trying to wave a red flag in front of the president to warn him that his 2020 reelection battle is going to be a tougher fight than he's willing to acknowledge. That's why, people close to the campaign said, that unflattering internal poll numbers leaked about matchups with Joe Biden and other Democratic contenders in key states.

Trump at first denied the internal numbers existed (his campaign manager Brad Parscale confirmed they did indeed exist, but were from March) and his campaign then took action to dismiss those suspected of revealing them.

After the 17-state internal poll was outed, NBC News first reported that his campaign is “cutting ties with some of it's own pollsters” going into the week of Trump's official reelection kickoff event tomorrow in Orlando. 

  • “Days ahead of Trump’s official launch of his reelection bid on Tuesday, the campaign is severing its relationship with Brett Loyd, Mike Baselice and Adam Geller while keeping pollsters Tony Fabrizio and John McLaughlin,” my colleagues Felicia Sonmez, Josh Dawsey and Ashley Parker report of the personnel changes

The real deal: A source close to the Trump campaign told Power Up that the leaks — and the way they were handled — are of more concern than the actual numbers: 

  • “Polls are simply snapshots in time, and the election is still a year and a half away. I'm not worried about the polling numbers as much as I'm worried about the volume of damaging leaks coming from within the campaign,” a source close to the campaign told Power Up. 

However, campaign sources speculated the bleak poll numbers were leaked for a purpose: to send a wake up call to Trump about his poor standing. 

  • "2020 will be exponentially more difficult than 2016 and everyone needs to realize that,” the source close to the campaign explained. 
  • The message is clearly not one Trump has been receptive to, telling Fox News in an interview last week that the polling was “incorrect.”
  • Last week, Trump unloaded on “several campaign officials, telling them the numbers they had were incorrect and not an accurate reflection of how he's polling throughout the country,” CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Sarah Westwood, Jeremy Diamond and Jeff Zeleny report
  • But public polling tells the story of a similarly difficult reelection climb. In a Fox News poll released this weekend, “Trump trails the Democrat in each of the possible 2020 head-to-head matchups tested and never gets above 41 percent support. At the same time, none of the challengers hits 50 percent.” 

Leaking to the press as a way to expose pertinent information, back stab colleagues, influence policy, or send a message to the president is not a new phenomenon in the Trump administration. Funneling information through the one medium that Trump is most likely to consume is a surefire way to get through to him. 

Deny at all costs: Trump's response to the poll numbers surfacing fits into a pattern of the president denying reports in the “fake news” media he frequently doesn't like or paint an unflattering portrait of the administration.

After the New York Times's David Sanger and Nicole Perlroth reported over the weekend that the United States is “stepping up digital incursions into Russia’s electric power grid,” Trump called the report “NOT TRUE” and “a virtual act of Treason.” 

  • But Trump's national security adviser John Bolton and U.S. Cyber Command head Gen. Paul Nakasone “declined to answer questions about the incursions into Russia’s grid.” 
  • And moreover: “Officials at the National Security Council also declined to comment but said they had no national security concerns about the details of the New York Times’s reporting about the targeting of the Russian grid, perhaps an indication that some of the intrusions were intended to be noticed by the Russians,” per Sanger and Perlroth. 
  • Pentagon and intelligence officials also described “broad hesitation” to divulge details to Trump about the operation, worried he'd “countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials.” 

Scorched-earth approach: Trump's “willingness to act with impunity in his drive for re-election,” was encapsulated in his interview with ABC News's George Stephanopoulos that aired in a Sunday special edition.

Some highlights

  • “I mean it was all phony polling. It’s actually phony polling and I believe it’s suppression. They suppress, they want to suppress the minds of people so they don’t bother going out and voting,” Trump said, continuing to complain of the coverage of the leaked internal polls. 
  • “Yeah, uh, my life has always been a fight. And I enjoy that I guess, I don’t know if I enjoy it or not, I gue — sometimes I have false fights like the Russian witch hunt. That’s a false fight. That’s a made-up, uh, hoax. And I had to fight that.” 
  • “Abraham Lincoln was treated supposedly very badly. But nobody's been treated badly like me.”

Trump to his chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, after he coughed in the middle of the interview: "If you’re going to cough, please leave the room. You just can’t, you just can’t cough. Boy oh boy. Okay, do you want to do that a little differently than uhh--" 


A 2016 campaign staffer sent me a text in response to Trump's reaction to the coughing episode:

"I was told by multiple people when I came aboard to never cough or sneeze while in the presence of Trump. He thinks it’s a sign of weakness and lack of control. Nobody ever recovers.”


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Global Power

TRUMP HEIGHTS, ISRAEL — “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took his first steps Sunday to express his gratitude to President Trump, unveiling, at a specially convened cabinet meeting, a plaque marking the spot where Israel’s newest town — Trump Heights — will sit,” my colleague Ruth Eglash reported over the weekend from Jerusalem. 

  • “The new community is located on the occupied Golan Heights, which — in a highly controversial move that upended decades of U.S. foreign policy — Trump recognized as being part of sovereign Israel last March.” 

However, Haaretz's Noa Shpigel reports that, “Despite the fanfare in the Golan Heights, the current government is temporary, and cannot officially approve the community. At this point, it can only start the administrative work on the project." 

  • “The legal opinion accompanying the proposal states that the decision to establish the community in practice will be up to the next government, which will be formed after new elections take place in September. It also states that the finance ministry and the National Planning and Construction Commission will have to carry out large-scale administrative work before a final decision can be made.”

“Israbluff”: MK Zvi Hauser, of the Blue and White Party who served as cabinet secretary under Netanyahu from 2009 to 2013 told the Jerusalem Post that the establishment of
“Ramat Trump” is “fictitious.”

  • “Whoever reads the fine print in this ‘historical decision’ will understand that it is nothing more than a fictitious and non-obligatory resolution (fake policy),” Hauser said. “There is no budget, there is no plan, there is no location for the settlement and there isn’t really any binding decision to execute the project.”

The People

HONG KONG PROTESTERS RETURN: Nearly 2 million protesters filled Hong Kong's streets again on Sunday, demonstrating against the government's proposal to allow extraditions to China  "even after the city’s leader said she would suspend the bill," my colleague Shibani Mahtani reports. 

  • "Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam, said Saturday she would suspend debate on the bill in an effort to “restore calm and peace” to Hong Kong. After protests swelled on Sunday, she apologized to the people of Hong Kong for “deficiencies in the government’s work” and promised to “adopt a most sincere and humble attitude to accept criticisms and make improvements.”
  • "But she has stopped short of withdrawing the bill altogether. She has insisted the proposal — which would allow fugitives to be extradited to countries without a formal treaty with Hong Kong, including China — is “laudable."
  • Click here for more stunning images of the historic protests from the New York Times. 
A fired-up crowd including families with children and the elderly joined demonstrations in Hong Kong on June 16, despite the city's leader's apology. (The Washington Post)

The Investigations

IMPEACHMENT UPDATE: A poll released by the Wall Street Journal/NBC News over the weekend found support is growing among Democrats to initiate an official impeachment inquiry into Trump. 

  • "The share of Americans in the survey calling for immediate impeachment hearings jumped 10 points, to 27%, since last month. The share of those who believe Congress should avoid hearings and allow Mr. Trump to finish his term stood at 48%, unchanged since May," per The Journal's Joshua Jamerson. 
  • "The change is being driven by Democrats. Some 48% of Democrats said there is enough evidence to begin impeachment hearings now, up from 30% last month."

But as the New York Times's Sheryl Gay Stolberg points out, it's the centrist Democrats who delivered the House majority in 2018 -- "majority makers" she calls them -- who might have the final say on whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) relents in her opposition to an official inquiry.

  • "More than 40 Democratic newcomers captured Republican seats last year, and nearly all are on a list of 44 incumbents known as “front-line Democrats” who are deemed endangered by the House Democrats’ campaign arm. Many say their constituents have expressed little interest in impeachment, and polls back that up: A Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday found that Americans oppose opening an impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump by nearly a two-to-one ratio."
  • And then there's also the Pelosi fear factor, according to my colleague Rachael Bade: "The reluctance to oppose the speaker, according to interviews with more than 20 lawmakers and aides, has undermined the push for impeachment despite the growing support for ousting Trump among the party’s liberal base and several 2020 presidential candidates."

However, there are some newcomers who are considering casting their caution and desire to keep their seats aside -- especially as voters start to ask more about the "I-word."

  • "Representative Harley Rouda, a freshman Democrat from California who defeated the veteran Republican Dana Rohrabacher, has set a June 30 deadline for himself: If the White House is still stonewalling by then, he said, he will advocate opening an impeachment inquiry — even if it costs him his seat." 
  • "Both [Elissa] Slotkin, who ousted a veteran Republican incumbent, and Representative Katie Porter, who flipped a Southern California district, said they had noticed a recent uptick in questions about impeachment on trips back home." 

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Hope Hicks will testify behind closed doors before the House Judiciary Committee this Wednesday, "the first former Trump aide to go before the committee investigating whether Trump tried to obstruct a probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election."

In the Media