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🚨: “Iran’s Revolutionary Guard shot down a U.S. drone on Thursday amid heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington over its collapsing nuclear deal with world powers, American and Iranian officials said, while disputing the circumstances of the incident,” the Associated Press's Nasser Karimi and Jon Gambrell report.
- “The Guard said it shot down the drone over Iranian airspace, while two U.S. officials told the Associated Press that the downing happened over international airspace in the Strait of Hormuz. The different accounts could not be immediately reconciled.”
- Mounting tension: “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has privately delivered warnings intended for Iranian leaders that any attack by Tehran or its proxies resulting in the death of even one American service member will generate a military counterattack, U.S. officials said,” my colleagues Missy Ryan, Greg Jaffe and John Hudson reported earlier this week.
COME OUT SWINGING: We're a week away from the first Democratic debate(s) and there's a new sense of urgency in the Democratic primary as the 2020 candidates are sharpening their knives before the precious few minutes each will have to differentiate themselves — and maybe if they're lucky, even have a breakout moment — on prime-time cable TV.
Yes, voters have been packing town halls in the early voting states, testing each candidate like an ice-cream sampler. But it was impossible to miss the uptick this week in pointed rebuttals, acerbic jabs and not-so-sub tweets before everyone heads to Rep. James E. Clyburn's (D) annual fish fry in South Carolina for "4,400 pounds of fish and 6,4000 slices of white bread” like one big happy family, per McClatchy's Emma Dumain.
The polls are tightening, positions are shifting and tiers are taking shape. And the candidates have finally come out swinging, some more unapologetically than others.
- “Some candidates announced six months ago, but feels like the campaign is really beginning today,” Brian Fallon, the executive director of We Demand Justice, noted on Twitter.
Most of the criticism yesterday was directed at Joe Biden after he touted his bipartisan work with two segregationist senators at a fundraiser in New York City.
- “I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Biden said at the Carlyle Hotel, per a pool report. “He never called me 'boy'; he always called me 'son.'”
The inflammatory comment, made on the eve of Juneteenth, is the second time Biden has been slammed this month for a lack of sensitivity toward and understanding of communities of color, leaving some questioning his judgment.
- Earlier in June, Biden abruptly reversed his position on the Hyde amendment, calling for its repeal, but only after “Symone Sanders, one of Biden’s senior advisers, confronted him, she confirmed to me Thursday night, telling Biden that he was missing how his position disproportionately affected poor women and women of color without easy access to abortion.” per The Atlantic's Edward-Isaac Dovere.
- “While he has cited President Trump’s racially divisive rhetoric as an inspiration for his candidacy and drawn strong early support from African Americans, Biden, 76, has also struggled to explain his past views on issues of importance in the black community, such as criminal justice and school integration,” my colleagues Matt Viser and Sean Sullivan write. “Now, his history of collegiality with racists is being seen by many in his party as a reason to question his judgment — not, as Biden says, a sign of his civility.”
- (Read CNN's Andrew Kaczynski for some examples of Biden's previous controversial rhetoric surrounding the black community and civil rights.)
BOOKER V. BIDEN: This time around, however, Biden refused to reverse course on his comments after Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who jabbed most pointedly, called on Biden to apologize.
- “You don't joke about calling black men 'boys,' " Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said in a statement. “Vice President Biden's relationships with proud segregationists are not the model for how we make America a safer and more inclusive place for black people, and for everyone. I have to tell Vice President Biden, as someone I respect, that he is wrong for using his relationships with Eastland and [ex-Georgia Sen. Herman] Talmadge as examples of how to bring our country together.”
- “And frankly, I'm disappointed that he hasn't issued an immediate apology for the pain his words are dredging up for many Americans. He should,” Booker added.
- “Apologize for what? Cory should apologize. He knows better,” Biden told reporters outside of a fundraiser in Chevy Chase, Md. “There's not a racist bone in my body, I've been involved in civil rights my whole career, period, period, period.”
- Biden tweaked his comments at another fundraiser on Wednesday night. "We in fact detested what they stood for in terms of segregation and all the rest,” he said when mentioning his time on the Senate Judiciary Committee with "all those segregationists and all of that."
- But he refused to apologize, which is likely to come up at the South Carolina fish fry in a state where African Americans make up a large share of the vote.
Hmmm: Booker pointed out the whole episode and refusal to apologize was rather Trumpian.
- “He knows better. And at a time when Donald Trump never apologizes for anything . . . I know Joe Biden. He’s better than this,” Booker said on CNN late last night.
“I know that I was raised to speak truth to power, and that I should never apologize for doing that, and Vice President Biden shouldn’t need this lesson,” Sen. @CoryBooker says after Biden defends his remarks about working with segregationist senators. https://t.co/AZIbTbVBxo pic.twitter.com/IajUhVZBGq— CNN (@CNN) June 20, 2019
PRIMARY WITHIN THE PRIMARY: Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders took a shot across bow at Elizabeth Warren, as she has surged in recent polls.
- “A series of recent polls have shown the Massachusetts senator on the rise, placing slightly behind Sanders in Iowa and Florida, and leading him in a recent survey out of Nevada. A pair of nationwide polls released Wednesday showed them either in a statistical dead heat or with Sanders' holding a small advantage,” per CNN's Gregory Krieg and MJ Lee.
- “Warren’s support has jumped five points to 15% from 10% in May. Sanders holds onto 14% support, which is similar to his 15% support last month. Warren’s biggest gain has come from self-identified liberals (25%, up from 14% in May)," per a Monmoth University Poll released today.
- At the New Hampshire Progressive Summit, Warren also came out on top of the presidential straw poll, per WMUR's John DiStaso.
- “Warren received the support of 34.6 percent of those who participated, while Bernie [Sanders] received 24 percent. Trailing with 6 percent each were [Booker] and Tulsi Gabbard."
- And in a survey conducted by digital firm Avalanche, Warren was the top choice of voters if “they had a magic wand and can make any of the candidates president — they don't have to beat anyone or win the election.”
In response to Politico's Natasha Korecki and Charlie Mahtesian's report of centrists warming to Warren, Sanders oddly tweeted:
- “The cat is out of the bag,” Sanders tweeted. “The corporate wing of the Democratic Party is publicly 'anybody but Bernie.' They know our progressive agenda of Medicare for All, breaking up big banks, taking on drug companies and raising wages is the real threat to the billionaire class.”
On Wednesday night, Sanders denied to CNN's Chris Cuomo that the tweet was directed at Warren but rather at Third Way, a centrist think tank that has praised Warren recently. Sanders's team has been reticent to directly criticize Warren but Post opinion columnist Liz Bruenig's piece was shared by members of his team last week.
- “With all of those policy positions, there’s little for a progressive stalwart to object to in Warren. But there’s still a distinction to be drawn between her approach and Sanders’s, and much of it comes down to the matter of regulation vs. revolution,” Bruenig writes.
Bottom Line: “I think the reason much of the stuff is coming to a head now is the debates are days away, and most of them are doing prep and so a lot of them are probably getting into the head space that a certain amount of contrast will be unavoidable very soon,” Fallon told Power Up.
The cat is out of the bag. The corporate wing of the Democratic Party is publicly "anybody but Bernie." They know our progressive agenda of Medicare for All, breaking up big banks, taking on drug companies and raising wages is the real threat to the billionaire class. https://t.co/zimci7JRO6— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) June 19, 2019
From the Courts
CENSUS CITIZENSHIP UPDATE: "A federal district judge in Maryland on Wednesday ruled that new evidence in the case of a census citizenship question merits more consideration, opening the possibility that the question could come before the Supreme Court again even after it rules as expected this month," my colleague Tara Bahrampour reports.
- "Civil rights groups who had sued the government over its addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census had asked U.S. District Court Judge George J. Hazel to reconsider his ruling on whether the government was guilty of conspiracy and intent to discriminate after new evidence in the case emerged last month."
- "Files discovered on hard drives belonging to a deceased Republican redistricting strategist suggested he had communicated with the Trump administration about how to get the citizenship question onto the survey and that the strategist had determined that adding the question would create an electoral advantage for Republicans and non-Hispanic whites."
NEXT STEPS: "The Supreme Court is expected to rule this week or next on a New York judge’s decision that a question should not be on the form. If Hazel or the appeals court agrees with the Maryland plaintiffs that the administration intended to cause an undercount and deprive racial minorities of their rights, that would raise an issue not currently before the court and potentially create an additional avenue for seeking further Supreme Court review."
On The Hill
ICYMI: Writer and activist Ta-Nehisi Coates, speaking at a powerful House hearing yesterday, took issue with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) dismissal of reparations and characterization that American slavery "was something that happened 150 years ago."
- "We grant that Mr. McConnell was not alive for Appomattox... But he was alive for the electrocution of George Stinney. He was alive for the blinding of Isaac Woodard. He was alive to witness kleptocracy in his native Alabama in a regime premised on electoral theft," Coates said.
- "McConnell cited civil rights legislation yesterday, as well he should, because he was alive to witness the harassment, jailing and betrayal of those responsible for that legislation...He was alive for the redlining of Chicago and the looting of black homeowners of some $4 billion. Victims of that plunder are very much alive today. I am sure they'd love a word with the majority leader."
- "While emancipation dead-bolted the door against the bandits of America, Jim Crow wedged the windows right open," he added. "It was 150 years ago and it is right now."
UF-WHAAAT?: "Three more U.S. senators received a classified Pentagon briefing on Wednesday about a series of reported encounters by the Navy with unidentified aircraft, according to congressional and government officials — part of a growing number of requests from members of key oversight committees," Politico's Bryan Bender scooped last night. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) was one of them.
- “If naval pilots are running into unexplained interference in the air, that’s a safety concern Senator Warner believes we need to get to the bottom of,” his spokesperson, Rachel Cohen, said in a statement.
- "The interest in 'unidentified aerial phenomenon' has grown since revelations in late 2017 that the Pentagon had set up a program to study the issue at the request of then-Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.). Officials interviewed multiple current and former sailors and aviators who claim to have encountered highly advanced aircraft that appeared to defy the laws of aerodynamics when they intruded on protected military airspace — some of which were captured on video and made public."
Trump was asked over the weekend whether he had been briefed on increased UFO reports during his interview with ABC News's George Stephanopoulos.
"I think it’s probably -- I want them to think whatever they think. They do say, and I've seen, and I’ve read, and I’ve heard. And I did have one very brief meeting on it. But people are saying they’re seeing UFOs. Do I believe it? Not particularly," Trump said.
Outside the Beltway
HARSH APPRAISAL FOR MAYOR PETE IN SOUTH BEND: My colleague Wes Lowery traveled to South Bend to cover Mayor Pete Buttigieg's response to a white police officer killing a black man this past weekend. The police officer's body camera was been turned on to capture video of Eric Logan's death.
What Lowery found was a mayor struggling to connect with his town's black community -- the "Achilles' heel of his candidacy":
- "Instead of showcasing Buttigieg’s ability to lead through a crisis, however, the shooting is exposing what has long been considered an Achilles’ heel of his candidacy: his frosty relationship with South Bend’s black residents. Since arriving on Sunday, Buttigieg has alienated the family of the dead man, Eric Logan, 54, skipped a vigil at the scene of the shooting, and sought advice from outsiders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton of New York."
- “How’s he handling it?” said Oliver Davis, the longest-serving black member of the South Bend Common Council. “Well, he talked to the media before the family. He skipped the family vigil, full of black residents. And then he then gave a speech to the police. So, how do you think that went over?”
- “(He) ain’t done nothing,” Logan’s mother, Shirley Newbill, later recounted. “He ain’t recognize me as the mother of nothing. He didn’t say nothing to me.”
In the Media
THIS IS COOL: The New York Times's Climate Fwd newsletter provided readers with some additional, small things they can do to be a better environmentalist.
The Times's Tik Root talked with Carina Barnett-Loro of the Climate Advocacy Lab to find out how to stop what she calls "single-action bias."
- "That’s when the sense of satisfaction from a good deed — say, installing that energy-efficient light bulb — diminishes or eliminates the sense of urgency around the greater problem."
- "To help counteract that, she suggested a guide from Columbia University’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions. Among the tips: Make a climate action checklist, or organize potential actions in tiers so they can be tackled incrementally."
- "A related problem is disproportional 'climate compensation,' when everyday positive actions are used to mentally justify high-impact negative actions. As an example, Patrik Sorqvist, co-author of a recent study of the phenomenon, pointed out that flying halfway around the world on vacation has a huge impact on climate no matter how many bike trips or meatless Mondays you do."