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The Daily 202: Trump tries to avoid blaming Russia, even as Moscow continues operations against U.S.

In his forthcoming memoir, former CIA director John Brennan reveals that President-elect Donald Trump repeatedly tried to avoid blaming Russia during a classified briefing in January 2017 on the Kremlin’s interference in the previous year’s election.

“It could have been the Chinese,” Trump asserted on several occasions, according to Brennan’s book.

After he and three other leaders from the intelligence community “took turns debunking his counterclaims,” according to Brennan, Trump sought to cast doubt on their sources and methods. “Anyone will say anything if you pay them enough,” he purportedly said.

“I stared at Trump, shook my head in disgusted disagreement and bit my tongue nearly hard enough to draw blood,” Brennan writes. “It was one of the few times in my professional career that I successfully suppressed my Irish temper when dealing with a politician. I wish I hadn’t.”

Fast forward three-and-a-half years. During an interview on Tuesday, Trump said he has never raised U.S. intelligence that Russian bounties have been offered to Taliban-linked militants to kill American troops in Afghanistan during any of his conversations with Vladimir Putin, including a call with the Russian president last week. Trump demurred when Axios’s Jonathan Swan asked whether he believes the U.S. intelligence assessment that Russia was behind the deadly program. Instead, just as Brennan says he did at Trump Tower, the president pivoted to China.

“You know, it’s interesting,” Trump said. “Nobody ever brings up China. They always bring up Russia, Russia, Russia. If we can do something with Russia in terms of nuclear proliferation, which is a very big problem, a much bigger problem than global warming in terms of the real world, that would be a great thing.”

These Russian bounties are believed to have resulted in the deaths of several U.S. service members, according to intelligence gleaned from U.S. military interrogations of captured militants in recent months. “It never reached my desk,” Trump claimed in the interview, a portion of which was posted this morning and will air in full on HBO next week. The Washington Post and other outlets reported last month on the apparent bounty program, but Trump’s aides argued that the intelligence was inconclusive.

Trump went on to engage in the whataboutism that has been a hallmark of his tenure. When his interviewer noted that the former commanding general of U.S. forces in Afghanistan has said publicly that Russia is supplying weapons to the Taliban, Trump replied that the United States supplied weapons to the Taliban when they were challenging the Russian occupation in the 1980s. “We did that too,” he said. In a statement at odds with both history and the facts on the ground, Trump added: “Russia doesn’t want anything to do with Afghanistan.”

The president’s continuing unwillingness to challenge the Kremlin comes as anonymous U.S. government officials are sounding the alarm that Russian intelligence services are using a trio of English-language websites to spread disinformation about the novel coronavirus pandemic. The Associated Press reports that “two Russians who have held senior roles in Moscow’s military intelligence service known as the GRU have been identified as responsible for a disinformation effort meant to reach American and Western audiences,” citing U.S. officials who are not authorized to speak publicly.

“Between late May and early July, one of the [U.S.] officials said, the websites singled out Tuesday published about 150 articles about the pandemic response, including coverage aimed either at propping up Russia or denigrating the U.S.,” per the AP. “Officials described the Russian disinformation as part of an ongoing and persistent effort to advance false narratives and cause confusion. They did not say whether the effort behind these particular websites was directly related to the November election, though some of the coverage appeared to denigrate Trump’s Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, and called to mind Russian efforts in 2016 … 

“Though U.S. officials have warned before about the spread of disinformation tied to the pandemic, they went further on Tuesday by singling out a particular information agency that is registered in Russia, InfoRos, and that operates a series of websites — InfoRos.ru, Infobrics.org and OneWorld.press — that have leveraged the pandemic to promote anti-Western objectives and to spread disinformation. Officials say the sites promote their narratives in a sophisticated but insidious effort that they liken to money laundering, where stories in well-written English — and often with pro-Russian sentiment — are cycled through other news sources to conceal their origin and enhance the legitimacy of the information. … A headline Tuesday on InfoRos.ru about the unrest roiling American cities read ‘Chaos in the Blue Cities’ … Another story carried the headline of ‘Ukrainian Trap for Biden,’ and claimed that ‘Ukrainegate’ — a reference to stories surrounding Biden’s son Hunter’s former ties to a Ukraine gas company — ‘keeps unfolding with renewed vigor.’”

Brennan’s new memoir, “Undaunted: My Fight Against America’s Enemies, at Home and Abroad,” is scheduled to be published on Oct. 6. My colleague Shane Harris, who has reviewed portions of the book, reports this morning that when Brennan asked the CIA, where he had worked for nearly 30 years, to review his official records, the agency said no. Brennan learned that this break with decades of tradition resulted from a directive issued by Trump in August 2018 to prohibit anyone in the intelligence community from sharing classified information with him. A White House spokesman confirms that Trump issued the order, tailored at one of his most outspoken critics.

“In January of this year, Brennan says, he wrote to the current CIA director, Gina Haspel, after learning about the president’s order,” Shane reports. “Brennan says Haspel never responded to his letter or contacted him to discuss the situation, a silence he found ‘very disappointing’ given their years working together at the CIA. ‘So much for my fervent hope that interactions with my successors would be unencumbered by Washington’s partisan waters,’ Brennan writes, in a dig at Haspel, who current and former officials say has made it her practice to stay on Trump’s good side.”

In the section of his book recounting the Jan. 6, 2017, briefing at Trump Tower, Brennan writes that Trump seemed more interested in challenging the intelligence assessment than in understanding the threat posed by Russia. “Trump’s alertness never faded during the briefing, but his demeanor as well as his questions strongly revealed that he was uninterested in finding out what the Russians had done or in holding them to account,” Brennan writes. “It was also my clear impression that he was seeking most to learn what we knew and how we knew it. That deeply troubled me, as I worried about what he might do with the information he was being given.”

Asked by Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.) about the appropriateness of foreign election interference, Attorney General William P. Barr first says, "It depends." (Video: The Washington Post)

Attorney General Bill Barr said Tuesday that Americans “have to assume” Russia is trying to interfere in the looming election, though he offered no specifics. During an acrimonious House Judiciary Committee hearing, Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) asked Barr whether it would be appropriate for the president “to solicit or accept foreign assistance in an election.” Barr answered that “it depends what kind of assistance.” Cicilline said he was referring “any kind” of assistance, to which Barr answered more definitively: “No, it’s not appropriate.” Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) asked Barr if he believes the election will be “rigged.” Trump has repeatedly suggested as much. “I have no reason to think it will be,” Barr said.

The attorney general also defended his interventions in the criminal cases of Trump’s friends and allies, including the president’s longtime political adviser Roger Stone and former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Barr claimed he was unaware at the time that the Justice Department’s Bureau of Prisons had decided Trump’s ex-attorney Michael Cohen should go back to prison for refusing to agree not to talk to the media or write a book, which will accuse Trump of making racist and anti-Semitic comments. 

Stone was convicted of tampering with a witness and lying to Congress about his efforts to learn of Democratic emails that had been hacked by the Russians during the 2016 campaign. Trump commuted Stone’s sentence this month shortly before he was due to report to prison. Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents to conceal conversations he had with the then-Russian ambassador during the transition. Barr has moved to dismiss the case against Flynn altogether. Cohen, who flipped on the president, pleaded guilty to lying to Congress about a Moscow real estate project that Trump and his company pursued as he ran for president in 2016. In his plea deal, he said he knowingly lied under oath to hew closely to Trump’s public denials of his business interests in Russia. 

“The president’s friends don’t deserve special breaks," Barr said during the hearing, “but they also don’t deserve to be treated more harshly than other people.”

The coronavirus contagion

President Trump has repeatedly claimed that his actions would ultimately save millions of lives amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Coronavirus cases are on the rise in the Midwest as they ebb in the Sun Belt.

“Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious-disease expert, warned that positive coronavirus tests were rising in Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky as the number of new cases is showing signs of leveling off in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California,” Carol Morello reports:

“A few hours later, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) said Fauci’s appraisal was correct as he announced limits on county fairs, barring grandstand events, rides and games. He noted that emergency visits are decreasing and new cases have plateaued, but hospitalizations are on the upswing. Stressing the highly infectious nature of the virus, DeWine told reporters at his televised briefing about a 40-minute car ride that four people recently took to an Ohio lake. One person had the virus but didn’t know it. Within days, 10 people were sick, with two hospitalized and in intensive care, and three businesses had to be temporarily shuttered. … Ohio State University told season ticket holders that any football games at Ohio Stadium this year will be at 20 percent capacity, with no tailgating allowed. … DeWine, who put a mask mandate into effect two weeks ago, said two good friends contracted the disease, one of whom died. A member of his cabinet, the director of Ohio’s prison system, announced Monday that she had tested positive for the coronavirus."

“Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) on Monday announced that bars would be shut down for two weeks and that restaurants’ indoor dining would be restricted to 25 percent capacity. He also recommended schools postpone in-person instruction until late August. In Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced new restrictions on restaurants and gatherings in the Hampton Roads area as new coronavirus cases rise. … Nationwide, the number of cases appears to have leveled off to a seven-day moving average of around 66,000 new cases daily. The slight decline registered Tuesday followed five weeks of steadily rising numbers. At least 4,315,000 coronavirus cases have been reported in the United States, with more than 54,000 added to the tally on Monday. More than 1,000 new fatalities were recorded Monday, raising the U.S. death toll to more than 145,000.”

  • Evidence is growing that young people who work outside the home, or who surged into bars and restaurants when states relaxed shutdowns, are infecting their more vulnerable elders, especially family members. (Lenny Bernstein)
The Miami Marlins outbreak has forced Major League Baseball to shuffle the schedule of five teams.

“The Marlins, who have seen fully half their 30-man roster test positive for the coronavirus in the past five days, were shut down through Sunday, and the Philadelphia Phillies, who hosted the Marlins for three games over the weekend, through Thursday,” Dave Sheinin reports. “Meanwhile, the Yankees, who were expecting to play the Phillies in New York on Wednesday and Thursday, will instead travel to Baltimore to play the Orioles on those days as MLB moved to keep as many teams playing as possible. … 

The Marlins’ shutdown also avoided a potential clash between MLB and the Washington Nationals, whose players voted near-unanimously Monday against playing in Miami against the Marlins this weekend in their scheduled series — which has now been postponed, with the Nationals getting the weekend off. It was unclear, and may remain so, whether the Nationals were willing to go so far as to boycott the series had MLB insisted it go on. …

“With a total of 11 postponements so far, and with an already-compressed schedule that makes it difficult if not impossible to make them all up, it appears increasingly probable some teams could play fewer than 60 games — in which case MLB would probably determine division standings and playoff spots by winning percentage. That would be similar to the strike-shortened 1981 season, in which some teams played as many as 111 games and some as few as 103.”

New England Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower has opted out of playing the 2020 NFL season. “Hightower, a two-time Pro Bowl selection and a three-time Super Bowl winner in eight seasons with New England, becomes one of the more accomplished players to choose against playing this season as teams open their training camps,” Mask Maske reports. Hightower, 30, said: “Me and my fiancee are just more concerned with the health of our family than football — especially the new addition to our family.” Their son was born this month.

The American Federation of Teachers threatened to strike “as a last resort” if schools reopen too soon.

The executive council of the 1.7 million-member union approved a resolution giving local affiliates across the country authorization to stage strikes — even as Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos push schools to fully reopen. AFT President Randi “Weingarten gave a blistering speech at the organization’s annual convention, being held virtually this year, saying Trump’s response to the covid-19 pandemic ‘has been chaotic and catastrophic’ and DeVos has ‘zero credibility,’” Valerie Strauss reports. “Some small districts in Tennessee, Mississippi and other states have started the school year, with in-person learning, but major school districts have opted to start online because of spiking covid-19 rates. Weingarten noted Trump canceled the Republican presidential convention that was to be held in August in Jacksonville, Fla., because of skyrocketing covid-19 rates in that state — but still insists schools there open.”

Trump retweeted a video with false covid-19 claims. A doctor in it has said demons can cause illness.

“It turns out Stella Immanuel has a history of making particularly outlandish statements — including that the uterine disorder endometriosis is caused by sex with demons that takes place in dreams,” Travis Andrews and Danielle Paquette report. “The video showed a group that has dubbed itself America’s Frontline Doctors, standing on the steps of the Supreme Court and claiming that neither masks nor shutdowns are necessary to fight the pandemic, despite a plethora of expertise to the contrary. It was live-streamed by the conservative media outlet Breitbart and viewed more than 14 million times — fueled by a tweet by Donald Trump Jr. and multiple retweets by President Trump, which have since been deleted. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have removed the various iterations of the video. Twitter told The Washington Post that they were ‘in violation of our covid-19 misinformation policy.’

“As the Daily Beast’s Will Sommer first noted, Immanuel has asserted that many gynecological issues are the result of having sex with witches and demons (‘succubi’ and ‘incubi’) in dreams, a myth that dates back at least to the ‘Epic of Gilgamesh,’ a Sumerian poem written more than 4,000 years ago. She falsely claims that issues such as endometriosis, infertility, miscarriages and STIs are ‘evil deposits from the spirit husband.’ … In a news conference Tuesday, Trump addressed the video, saying: ‘I think they’re very respected doctors. There was a woman who was spectacular.’"

Quote of the day

During the same news conference, Trump also questioned why he isn’t as popular as Fauci. “He’s got this high approval rating,” the president grumbled. “So why don’t I have a high approval rating?” (Antonia Farzan and Katie Shepherd)

Trump also brushed off the $1 trillion Senate GOP coronavirus proposal as “sort of semi-irrelevant.”

“At the Capitol, meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) disavowed a key Trump administration priority in the bill — funding for a new FBI headquarters,” Erica Werner, Seung Min Kim and Jeff Stein report. “Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said Congress might have to pass a stand-alone extension of the unemployment benefits, a piecemeal approach that administration officials have floated but that Senate Republican leaders had avoided publicly embracing before now. … If the wheels were not entirely off Tuesday, negotiations were not off to a great start. Democratic leaders accused McConnell of not wanting a deal at all, while one Republican senator called the new GOP bill ‘a mess.’ … Democratic leaders also balked Tuesday at a five-year liability shield included in the GOP plan, aimed at protecting health-care providers, schools, employers and others from lawsuits from people who become ill from the virus. McConnell has repeatedly described the liability provision as his one ‘red line’ in the talks.”

  • California lawmakers are weighing whether to provide a supplemental unemployment benefit with the extra $600 per week the federal government now pays in a benefit expiring Friday. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Across the country, unemployment systems are collapsing under an unprecedented number of claims. But some state systems, like North Carolina’s, have long made it harder to receive unemployment benefits. (ProPublica)
The GOP bill includes hundreds of millions in Pentagon spending to backfill what Trump took for his wall.

“Projects involving Navy aircraft and ships and Air Force planes that the Trump administration canceled this year so the money could pay for the wall have reappeared in the GOP package, introduced Monday. The programs are part of $30 billion in defense spending in the GOP plan to which Democrats are objecting,” Erica and Karoun Demirjian report. “Senate Republicans, led by Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), have taken the opportunity presented by the coronavirus stimulus package to restore spending for some of the programs … In one example, the administration sought to zero out a $261 million account for the Navy’s Expeditionary Fast Transport ship. The coronavirus bill would put $260 million back into this program. The ship is built by Austal USA, based in Shelby’s home state, Alabama."

  • Public transportation providers — including D.C.’s Metro system — sounded a unified alarm after the Senate excluded transit from its proposal, a move that transit leaders warned would result in catastrophic service cuts and layoffs. (Justin George)
  • The GOP bill would not extend pandemic food stamps, even as it doubles what’s widely known as the ‘three-martini lunch’ deduction. (Laura Reiley)
A scathing SBA inspector general report details “pervasive” fraud in a coronavirus disaster-loan program.

“A federal watchdog reported Tuesday that it has identified $250 million in taxpayer-subsidized coronavirus loan funds given to ‘potentially ineligible recipients,’ pointing to a strong likelihood of widespread fraud in an important but troubled economic assistance program,” Aaron Gregg reports. “The Small Business Administration’s office of inspector general launched numerous investigations after receiving more than 1,000 hotline complaints about potentially fraudulent transactions … It also criticized the agency for allegedly failing to put in place internal controls to prevent abuse. Among the potentially fraudulent transactions detailed in the report are $1.9 million in pending SBA transactions made to accounts outside the United States, roughly 3,000 ‘suspicious’ transactions worth $73 million that were flagged by a banking service provider. 

“A credit union told the Justice Department that 59 out of 60 SBA deposits it received appeared to be fraudulent. … The Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program was the first federal small-business assistance program activated to fight the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. It is different from the $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program in that it has fewer restrictions on how the loan funds can be spent, and loans are processed by the government rather than private banks.” (Read the report here.)

A fraught relationship with masks is at the heart of the dismal U.S. response.

“Faulty guidance from health authorities, a cultural aversion to masks and a deeply polarized politics have all contributed. So has a president who resisted role modeling the benefits of face coverings, and who belittled those who did,” Griff Witte, Ariana Eunjung Cha and Josh Dawsey report. “The result, experts say, is a country that squandered one of its best opportunities to beat back the coronavirus pandemic this spring and summer. In the process, the United States fell far behind other nations that skipped the fuss over masks, costing lives and jeopardizing the recovery heading into the fall. … The country hit a tipping point on widespread mask use only this month, with a majority of states and the nation’s largest retailers all mandating them. But the science has long been pointing toward the efficacy of masks — even if the guidance from health authorities wasn’t.”

Labor unions representing transportation workers are pleading with the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue an emergency rule ordering passengers to wear masks on planes, buses and trains or be denied a ride. “The Transportation Department has been willing to waive existing safety rules at the request of industry groups to ease the transportation of freight on trucks, trains and airplanes. But [Secretary Elaine] Chao has said she doesn’t generally support the idea of writing new rules in response to the pandemic, saying they could prove difficult to undo once the crisis passes,” Ian Duncan reports.

Police in New York City arrested two men who they say attacked workers at a Trader Joe's after they were told they had to wear masks in the store. (NBC)

Several European countries that had their outbreaks under control have begun to see a rise in cases.

“A spike in infections has led Belgium to ramp up restrictions on social contact, while Spain has closed gyms and nightclubs in Barcelona. Meanwhile, German health officials have called a rise in infections in the past two weeks deeply concerning,” Loveday Morris, Michael Birnbaum and Fiona Weber-Steinhaus report. “On the tree-lined streets of Brussels, masks have been a rare sight. In Berlin, famed for its 24-hour pre-pandemic party scene, police have struggled to break up crowds of weekend revelers who gather in parks and open spaces for illicit dance parties. Spanish nightclubs and beaches brimmed with vacationers after European travel restrictions eased. … The number of new cases is still far below what European countries saw during the peak of their outbreaks — or what is happening in the United States."

  • Hong Kong was a pandemic poster child. Now it’s a cautionary tale. (Shibani Mahtani)
  • The president of Belarus, who previously said drinking 50 milliliters of vodka a day could protect people from getting the coronavirus, has been diagnosed with covid-19. (Mirror)
  • In a deal aimed at reducing U.S. reliance on China, Trump announced plans to give Eastman Kodak a $765 million loan to start producing the chemical ingredients needed to make pharmaceuticals. The company plans to establish a new division, Kodak Pharmaceuticals, that will focus on the building blocks used to produce generic drugs. (Jeanne Whalen)

Divided America

Peter Diaz is the founder of “American Wolf,” a roving group of civilians who have anointed themselves “peacekeepers” of the Pacific Northwest. (Video: The Washington Post)
Conservative armed groups are moving into politics as backlash builds against protests.

“Before his political awakening this spring, Peter Diaz lived a quiet life near this leafy liberal bastion at the base of the Puget Sound. He ran a tree-trimming service and a business that built office cubicles. He was 37 and had never voted,” Josh Partlow reports from Olympia, Wash. “Now he has formed his own political party and is the leader of American Wolf, a roving band of civilians who have anointed themselves ‘peacekeepers’ amid months of tense protests over racism and policing. In the name of law and order, members of his informal group have shot paintballs at demonstrators and carry zip ties and bear spray as they look for antifascists. Diaz has done ‘recon’ in Minneapolis and Seattle’s ‘autonomous zone,’ and drove his American Wolf mobile home to Mount Rushmore to celebrate Independence Day with President Trump.

“America’s summer of anxiety and rage has swept up men like Diaz, energizing conservatives who are deploying to the front lines of the culture war. Across the country, conservative armed civilians have surged into public view — marching on statehouses, challenging Black Lives Matter protests, chasing Internet rumors — and bringing the threat of lethal force to local politics. Their emergence has prompted congressional hearings on the surge in anti-government militias and domestic extremism and has alarmed researchers who track hate groups. Unlike the old image of militiamen as fringe elements motivated by a desire to overthrow the federal government, these groups often rally in defense of the president and see themselves as pro-government allies of local law enforcement.”

Trump is limiting DACA work permits, as his administration looks into ways to end the program.

“The White House said Tuesday it will limit work permits for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children to one year instead of two, as administration officials reconsider whether to terminate an eight-year-old program that protects such immigrants from deportation,” Maria Sacchetti reports. “The move comes more than a month after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that the Trump administration could not carry out its plans to end the Obama-era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, because it had not provided proper legal justification for terminating it. … Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf published a memo on Tuesday limiting the work permits and signaling that DACA ‘presents serious policy concerns that may warrant its full rescission.’ He said he would continue to bar new applications. … Approximately 640,000 people remain in the program, and many are health-care workers, teachers and emergency responders.”

How would the armed forces respond if Trump pulled them into a disputed election?

“Trump’s refusal to commit to accepting the results of the November election, paired with his penchant for plunging the military into the partisan fray, has prompted scholars and legal experts to ask a once-unthinkable question,” Missy Ryan and Paul Sonne report. “Scholars cautioned that they are not suggesting that the military would proactively seek to influence the vote, but rather that Pentagon leaders could be forced in a disputed election to become involved in a way that would appear partisan, similar to what occurred in the nation’s capital in the wake of protests in June. History suggests military involvement is unlikely, experts say. But since the first days of Trump’s presidency, when he used the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes to sign a ban on travel from majority-Muslim nations, the president has repeatedly defied civil-military norms, treating troop events like campaign rallies and intervening in military justice cases.”

Viral video shows NYPD officers forcing protester into unmarked van.

“When an unmarked Kia minivan screeched to a stop near protesters marching in Manhattan on Tuesday evening, the demonstrators’ surprise swiftly gave way to alarm. Several New York Police Department officers wearing T-shirts and shorts spilled out of the van and grabbed one of the protesters, dragging her toward the vehicle, according to videos filmed by bystanders,” per Allyson Chiu. “The videos of the chaotic scene, which bore a marked similarity to the controversial tactics used by federal officers to detain demonstrators in Portland, Ore., quickly went viral. Protesters who witnessed the incident described it as a ‘kidnapping,’ while a number of New York’s elected officials, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), decried the officers’ actions and publicly demanded further explanations from the NYPD. … 

“The police department confirmed in a statement on Twitter that its officers had used an unmarked van in the arrest, adding that the woman who was taken into custody was ‘wanted for damaging police cameras during 5 separate criminal incidents in & around City Hall Park.’ In an email to The Washington Post, authorities identified the protester as 18-year-old Nikki Stone, who has also been referred to online as Nicki. Police said Stone is facing charges of criminal mischief related to the five incidents and will be receiving a desk appearance ticket.”

  • “Umbrella Man” went viral breaking windows at a protest in Minneapolis. Police say he was a white supremacist trying to spark violence. (Jaclyn Peiser)
  • A Nevada library wanted to back Black Lives Matter. The sheriff said he wouldn’t respond to 911 calls there. (Tim Elfrink)
After protester-motorist encounters, activists press authorities to step up.

“Two violent encounters over the weekend between motorists and racial justice demonstrators are the latest in a string of incidents that have left activists injured or dead, in some cases attracting criticism that police and prosecutors aren’t taking such threats seriously enough,” Tim Craig reports. “Authorities in Aurora, Colo., and Austin — where the weekend incidents occurred — have not yet filed charges against the motorists who engaged with protesters. They say the cases highlight the difficulties they often face in trying to unravel these incidents, which are often clouded by claims of self-defense or lost or disoriented drivers. … 

“Since the eruption of coast-to-coast protests after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, dozens of motorists have been recorded driving their vehicles into marchers on city streets or highways. The encounters have produced terrifying videos of protesters leaping to safety or being rammed by vehicles, the latest sign of the nation’s political and cultural division. Researcher Ari Weil, of the Chicago Project on Security and Threats (CPOST) at the University of Chicago, has documented 75 cases of drivers moving into protests between May 27 and July 7 — 68 involving civilians and seven involving law enforcement. But prosecutors had filed charges in just 33 of those cases, with drivers accused of recklessness or felony assault and, in one case, facing a state hate-crime charge. … The incidents highlight just how dangerous some protests have become, including demonstrators now arming themselves to try to self-police their events.”

The elections

Joe Biden said he will make a decision on his running mate by the end of next week.

“Biden said he was not sure whether he would be able to meet face-to-face with the women vying to be his running mate, considering coronavirus concerns,” Annie Linskey and Sean Sullivan report. “‘We’ll see,’ he said, speaking to reporters in Wilmington, Del., after giving an address on his new economic plan for racial equality. He added that if he does hold interviews, he and any interviewees will have to wear masks if they sit down in person. … Some close to Biden have been urging him not to rush the decision. … Had Biden stuck to his initial Aug. 1 deadline, Democrats acknowledge, it would have provided the GOP a longer window to criticize his pick and scrutinize her record, potentially allowing the Republicans to dominate news cycles and putting the new Democratic team on the defensive. This reality has meant there was little incentive for moving swiftly to name a running mate.”

Biden’s talking points for the news conference were captured by a photographer. On personal stationery, the former vice president wrote “Kamala Harris,” and under the California Democratic senator’s name he had jotted down five points to make if asked about her as his potential pick: “Do not hold grudges.” “Campaigned with me & Jill.” “Talented.” “Great help to campaign.” “Great respect for her.” Under “Justice Department,” as Barr testified, Biden wrote: “the people’s lawyer not the president’s lawyer.” Under “Last 100 days,” a reference to the final stretch of the campaign, he’d written “tell the truth,” “take responsibility,” “listen to scientists” and “restore soul.” (Colby Itkowitz)

Cynicism alert: Trump is running conflicting ads aimed at white and black audiences.

“Black voters watching daytime television will hear that Biden is the architect of mass incarceration polices that ‘destroyed millions of Black lives,’ while White voters watching different shows will hear that his liberal ideas will let dangerous criminals run amok in the suburbs,” Bloomberg News reports. “ ‘Break In’ features an elderly White woman calling 911 but getting no answer as a burglar breaks in to her home. It makes the false claim that Biden is ‘absolutely onboard’ with defunding police departments. The ad is running in swing-state markets like Atlanta, Orlando, Tampa, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, on shows like ‘Judge Judy,’ ‘Jeopardy!’ and ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show.’ Another ad, ‘We Remember,’ begins with images of Black men behind bars, followed by clips of Biden arguing in the Senate for mandatory minimum sentencing … That ad is also running in Atlanta but also Charlotte, North Carolina, and Philadelphia, other cities with large Black populations. And it’s running on daytime talk shows popular with Black audiences, like those hosted by Maury Povich, Steve Harvey and Wendy Williams.”

Biden has made a long list of promises of what he could do on his first day as president.

“Presidential candidates have long made ‘Day 1’ pledges that don’t actually occur during the first 24 hours — and often instead guide their first 100 days. But Biden is stretching even the usual limits, with his growing list of far-reaching and wide-ranging commitments. His advisers acknowledge that he will likely be unable to cram it all in, especially with his attention fixed on the novel coronavirus, but they have been keeping a running tally and reviewing his speeches to determine how to prioritize the Day 1 agenda,” Matt Viser reports. “Biden’s top advisers, many of whom came to work in the White House as the Obama administration dawned, are well underway in their planning. They are identifying which jobs he can fill as soon as he takes office and listing their needs by agency. … Much of the planning has centered around responding to the coronavirus, without knowing at this point its full scope at the next inauguration.”

Social media speed read

That doctor in the video shared by Trump did not dispute news reports about her dubious views. She embraced them:

Political types were abuzz about a new “campaign team” line of Barbies:

The communications director for Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) offered a more realistic look at campaign life:

With a potential hurricane approaching his state, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) offered a sentiment that people across the ideological spectrum can agree with:

Videos of the day

The 2020 Emmy nominations were released, and a mix of new and old rounded out the top categories:

The 2020 Emmy nominations are in and a mix of new and old are rounding out the top categories. Here’s what you need to know. (Video: The Washington Post)

Seth Meyers featured Nancy Pelosi mocking Trump:

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