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Cows are sacred to India's Hindu majority. For Muslims who trade cattle, that means growing trouble.

By Annie Gowen
Cows are sacred to India's Hindu majority. For Muslims who trade cattle, that means growing trouble.
Buffaloes are penned outside the cattle fair at Pinjari village on May 4 before being taken away for slaughter in Aligarh in the state of Uttar Pradesh. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Poras Chaudhary

MAHABAN, India - In the year since an extremist Hindu monk was tapped to lead one of India's biggest states, the country's Muslim cattle traders have seen their lives change in ways they could not have imagined.

First mobs of Hindu vigilantes emboldened by the monk's victory began swarming buffalo trucks on the road, intent on finding smugglers illegally transporting cows, which are sacred to the Hindu faith and protected from slaughter in many places in India. Some Muslim men were killed by lynch mobs, as recently as June 18.

Then dozens of slaughterhouses and 50,000 meat shops were closed, severely limiting access to red meat, a staple of the Muslim community's diet. Hundreds from the Qureshi clan, Muslims in the meat trade for centuries, lost their jobs.

Recent moves led by the Hindu nationalist party of Narendra Modi to tighten "cow protection" laws have contributed to a 15 percent drop in India's $4 billion beef export industry, until recently the largest in the world, disrupting the country's traditional livestock economy and leaving hundreds without work at a time when India needs to add jobs, not lose them.

The changes in the cattle industry mirror what's happening nationally for many of India's 172 million Muslims, for whom lynchings, hate speech and anti-Muslim rhetoric from a host of legislators from Modi's party have taken a toll. In Mahaban, the Muslim cattle traders say their way of life is being slowly strangulated by the policies of a government and its allies intent on establishing Hindu supremacy.

"It's undeniable that the last four or five years, it has become much worse for Muslims in India," said Nazia Erum, the author of a recent book about Muslim families. "It's okay to hate now. Hatred has been given a mainstream legitimacy."

---

Bhurra Qureshi, 40, loaded the last of the buffaloes on the truck, having negotiated the terms of their passage from the village's livestock market to the meat-processing plant in Aligarh, about two hours away.

He was happy to get $80 to transport the 14 hulking black buffaloes because his hauling business was way down. Buffaloes can be legally slaughtered in this part of India, where cows cannot, and it is buffalo meat that drives India's beef export industry. But when he climbed into the rig, Qureshi's mind turned to the pitfalls of the drive ahead.

There is new danger on State Highway 80, the only way to Aligarh. Once a sleepy backwater of religious pilgrims and camel carts, it has become a minefield of Hindu zealots waving bamboo sticks and police allegedly exacting hefty bribes.

"I'm always apprehensive before I start," Qureshi said. "My wife asks me to stop driving and do something else, but I tell her I know no other work."

Traders who run buffaloes legally - buffaloes are not revered in India as cows are - have been beaten and thrown in jail, and their animals and trucks confiscated by either Hindu activists or the police, risks that have contributed to a 30 percent rise in transportation costs in the past year, according to Fauzan Alavi, vice president of the All India Meat and Livestock Exporters Association.

To buy "peace on the highway," as he puts it, these middlemen are paying less to the farmers in livestock markets and charging more to the meat exporters upon delivery.

Qureshi piloted the rusty truck through the village, past its three mosques, past tiny shops, past out-of-work men on stoops, past the sherbet-orange Hindu temple. He hung a left at the cow shelter at the end of the road, a sort of Humane Society for bovines, overflowing these days since farmers can no longer sell their old cows to smugglers because of government crackdown and have begun turning them loose in the streets.

His first test came at the railway junction at Bichpuri, where khaki-uniformed police stopped the truck and asked: "What are you doing? Where are you taking this truck?"

To Aligarh, he told them politely. They waved him on, but a man on a motorcycle followed the truck and exacted a small bribe.

Even as India attempts to move beyond its rigid social order of caste, critics charge that elite upper-caste Hindus, many of whom eschew meat, are increasingly imposing their vegetarian culture on a country where many eat meat and where buffalo is a cheap source of protein for Muslims and those from lower castes. Modi once derided India's soaring meat exports as a "pink revolution."

When Yogi Adityanath - known for his inflammatory statements about Muslims - came to power last year, he ordered slaughterhouses closed, and 50,000 meat shops also shut their doors. Some but not all of the butchers were unlicensed, part of India's thriving informal economy.

The move has had long-standing repercussions for the 2,200 Muslims of Mahaban, a third of whom lost their jobs. The local slaughterhouse run by the municipal council was closed, along with four meat shops. Since then, Adityanath's government has made it harder for slaughterhouses to reopen, rescinding laws that required municipalities to run them and mandating that they be moved outside cities for hygienic reasons.

"The government has sent a message: Whatever facilities we were providing to Muslims, we're not going to provide them anymore," said Yusuf Qureshi, president of the All India Jamiatul Quresh Action Committee, a civil society group. Adityanath's chief spokesman defends the move, saying they were enforcing existing environmental norms mandated by the courts in 2015. He also noted that the state is modernizing its 16,000 madrassas, or Islamic schools.

"Adityanath ordered a crackdown on illegal slaughterhouses, it was not an 'anti-Muslim' drive," Mrityunjay Kumar, the chief spokesman, said in a statement to The Post. "There was some disruption, but then nobody can make a case for unlicensed butcher shops. After the initial hiccups, the meat business is back on track."

But the villagers disagree, and during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, known as Ramzan in India, the traders were outraged that their evening meal did not include beef. The town butcher, Yunis Qureshi, who closed his shop last year during the crackdown, now sells fried snacks on the side of the road.

"We've been forced to become vegetarians!" he said.

Worse, he said, the government's actions have deepened the divide in the village between Hindus and Muslims.

"Ever since this government has come in, I feel like people look at me and see a Muslim for the first time," the butcher said. "They've shut down our businesses, changed the food we eat. . . . Of course we're going to feel persecuted because we're Muslims."

---

As Bhurra Qureshi's truck rattled through the small town of Iglas, he was glad to see that the dusty lot where the Hindu cow vigilantes normally lie in wait next to a sign that says "Yogi's Army" - with bamboo sticks at hand, saffron scarves obscuring their faces - was empty.

"We don't go after innocents," Bobby Chaudhary, a leader of the vigilantes, said in a later interview. "We go in groups so there is no need to beat them. We catch them and call police."

A few miles after that post comes the Aasna police station, where two dozen traders said in interviews that police officers have begun demanding bribes and beating them if they refuse to pay. Outside, officers man a barricade and wave the truckers to stop. Inside, beyond the temple dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, an officer sits behind a desk, writing dozens of tickets.

The traders have a fistfuls of these tickets for offenses such as reckless driving or speeding, even though the police have no radar equipment and the closed-camera television monitor shows only the front of the station, where the trucks are already stopped. One day in May, half of the screen was obscured by a giant spider.

"We are estimating," explained R.N. Tiwari, the sub-inspector in charge, who denied that he or his officers roughed up the traders or asked for money above the ticketed amount.

"Everybody says we take more money, but we don't," Tiwari said. "Whatever tickets we cut, that is the money we take, and that goes into government coffers."

He said police are just following state officials' orders: "We've been told to cut as many tickets as possible."

Qureshi alleged that officers attempting to negotiate a bribe recently beat him with a baton and forced him to squat like a chicken, with his arms woven through his legs and gripping his ears - a common punishment for schoolchildren. He left the station humiliated, wondering again whether he should leave this work.

Just as Qureshi approached the city limits of Aligarh, he was stopped again and asked for cash by a state police officer parked in a black sport utility vehicle under the highway overpass. (The officer later denied taking money.)

By the time Qureshi arrived at the gates of the meat-processing plant, the temperature soared to 105 degrees, but his face shone in relief. He had to pay only $6 in bribes this trip, which dented but didn't wipe out his day's pay of $80. He would drive again the next day, Qureshi said, and began pulling the buffaloes off the truck. He was smiling as the animals lumbered to their fate.

---

The Washington Post's Swati Gupta, Farheen Fatima and Tania Dutta contributed to this report.

Giant pork pile awaits Americans as trade wars risk exports

By Megan Durisin and Justina Vasquez
Giant pork pile awaits Americans as trade wars risk exports
The helicopter of Donald Trump flies over a pork chop on a stick stand at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, on Aug. 15, 2015. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer.

Donald Trump's trade wars are making pork a bargain.

American production is poised to reach an all-time high this year, and output is forecast to surge again in 2019. The supply boom comes as tariffs from China and Mexico threaten to curb export demand, leaving Americans with a mountain of cheap meat.

On Saturday in Dallas, as many as 30 people on a local bacon-focused food tour were set to traverse the city chomping down on bacon donuts, bacon brown sugar ice cream, bacon jam and candied bacon. While retail bacon prices are down in the past 12 months, they're still up from six years ago, so any relief from higher costs will be welcome news to the pork enthusiasts.

"It's almost like a bonding experience," said Jeanine Stevens, the owner of Dallas Bites! Tours, which takes participants to little known restaurants and other eateries. "Bacon is a kind of food that people just feel a little bit lighthearted about. It's a fun food."

Other Americans might agree. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is predicting overall pork consumption next year will climb to 53.3 pounds a person. That's the highest since the early 1980s.

But the demand swell isn't enough to make up for the gains in production, and hog futures are trading near their lowest for this time of year since 2002. "Unprecedented change" is expected for global pork exports in the second half of 2018, and rising pork supply will pressure the U.S. market the rest of the year, Rabobank analysts including Chenjun Pan said in a report emailed on Friday. Hedge funds just more than doubled their wagers on price declines.

Part of the reason demand hasn't rescued prices is because pork is vying against cheap chicken and burgers. Total U.S. meat production is forecast at a record in 2018 and is set to climb again next year, the USDA estimates. Cash hogs may average about 42 cents a pound in 2019, down 7.7 percent from this year, the department predicts.

For hog futures, "the risk going forward is we have huge numbers of hogs coming at us and huge numbers of beef and poultry," said Don Roose, president of U.S. Commodities in West Des Moines, Iowa.

Hedge funds raised their net-short position in hogs to 8,718 futures and options in the week ended July 10, according to U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission data published Friday. The holding, which measures the difference between bets on a price increase and wagers on a decline, compares with 3,260 a week earlier. Total short holdings jumped 12 percent to the highest since the data begins in 2006.

Hog futures for October settlement fell for five straight weeks through July 13 on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. On Monday, the price dropped 0.7 percent to 54.9 cents a pound at 8:46 a.m.

The glut of meat isn't likely to shrink soon. U.S. pork packers have been opening more processing plants and another is expected to come online in 2018, CoBank analysts said in a June report.

"With that increased capacity, producers are unlikely to pull back hog numbers as long as prices are covering variable costs," the analysts said.

Still, what's been a boon for carnivores is hurting American farmers.

Tariffs from China and Mexico mean "40 percent of total American pork exports now are under retaliatory tariffs, threatening the livelihoods of thousands of U.S. pig farmers," the National Pork Producers Council said in an emailed statement on July 6. "We now face large financial losses and contraction because of escalating trade disputes."

That spells trouble for Maschhoff Family Foods, a pig producer in Carlyle, Illinois. The hog unit could post a loss of $100 million in the year that stared on July 1, according to Ken Maschhoff, chairman of the company. That would be a record loss in a 12-month period for the operation, which sells about 5.5 million hogs a year from 550 farms across nine states.

Rather than expand domestically, the company may invest in hog production in Europe or South America if trade tensions persist, he said.

"We had anticipated kind of a decent 2018 year, with a break-even 2019 year, and now both years will be in the red for us," Maschhoff said.

Oklahomans kill an active shooter, but it's not as simple as it sounds

By Frances Stead Sellers and Mark Berman
Oklahomans kill an active shooter, but it's not as simple as it sounds
Juan Carlos Nazario, left, and Bryan Whittle speak on June 21, 2018, about their experience of confronting and killing a gunman on May 24 outside Louie's On the Lake in Oklahoma City. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Nick Oxford

OKLAHOMA CITY - Juan Carlos Nazario was sitting on a lakeside bench waiting to play soccer when he heard the staccato popping of gunshots outside Louie's On the Lake, a popular waterfront grill and pub. He ran to his car to get his gun and moved toward the sounds.

Bryan Whittle was driving with his wife, heading off for a Memorial Day weekend getaway, when he saw a commotion outside Louie's. He thought someone might be drowning, so instead of turning his truck onto the highway, he barreled into the parking lot to offer help. As he jumped out, what he learned stunned him: There was an active shooter just yards away, and wounded victims were holed up in the restaurant's bathroom.

Whittle, too, grabbed his gun.

In a matter of seconds, the two armed citizens became self-appointed protectors, moving to take up positions around the shooter, drawing their weapons and shouting for him to drop his. Time stretched and warped. There was an exchange of gunfire. The gunman was hit several times and fell. As Nazario and Whittle converged over the man to restrain him, police arrived. Unsure who was who, officers handcuffed all of the men and put them on the ground as the shooter bled out into the grass and died.

"I was just doing what I was supposed to do," recalled Nazario, a former police officer who said he now works as a security guard, always has his gun in the car and usually carries it with him.

"I just reacted," said Whittle, who has served for nearly 20 years in the Oklahoma Air National Guard and works for the Federal Aviation Administration. "There's a guy with a gun. I've got a gun. Stop the threat."

Though they were loaded into police cars and taken downtown for questioning, they were soon hailed as heroes. They were also called champions of Second Amendment rights, gun-carrying examples of why Oklahoma's Republican governor should not have vetoed a bill two weeks earlier that would have eliminated the need for a permit and training to carry a gun in public.

In a nation grappling with frequent mass shootings, Second Amendment activists have urged that more people carry guns so that they are prepared, like Nazario and Whittle, to respond to an armed threat. The morning after the May 24 Oklahoma City shooting, the National Rifle Association tweeted that it was "just another example of how the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."

Local police also praised Nazario and Whittle, saying their swift response ended what a police spokesman called "a very dangerous situation."

But police also noted that armed citizens can complicate volatile situations. The first of 57 uniformed police officers arrived just a minute after the initial 911 calls and found a complex scene with multiple armed people and no clear sense of what had happened or who was responsible.

"We don't want people to be vigilantes," Bo Mathews, a spokesman for the Oklahoma City Police Department, said in a recent interview. "That's why we have police officers."

Both men did what they believed was right, but that meant they had killed a man they did not know. Whittle wondered whether he was going to jail. Nazario went over ways that the confrontation could have ended differently - perhaps with his own death. They both marveled that amid the chaos, the result was as intended: The attacker was stopped before he could hurt anyone else.

- - -

Louie's sits on Lake Hefner, a northwest Oklahoma City reservoir dotted with sailboats and surrounded by parks. The restaurant is next to a jetty and a lighthouse, its large parking lot a jumping-off point for runners and cyclists who use a 10-mile path that rings the water.

It was about 6:30 p.m. when the shooting began. A man stood outside the main entrance of the restaurant and fired bullets at the facade, hitting a woman and two adolescent girls as they walked toward the glass doors. People inside panicked, rushing two of the wounded to a bathroom.

Nazario, 35, said he heard five or six shots before he retrieved his .40-caliber Glock handgun from his car and headed for the restaurant.

He entered on the building's lakeside corner, diagonally opposite the shattered main entrance, assuming the tactical stance he learned in firearms training. He crossed the room, assuring customers who had taken cover that he was there to help and asking where the gunman was.

Whittle, 39, learned about the shooting from Ron Benton, a Louie's patron who had slipped out to the parking lot after the shooting began. Benton pointed out the gunman, who was standing on a grassy slope, still holding a Ruger pistol.

Whittle grabbed his .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun from his truck, ran toward the gunman, and took cover among parked vehicles to the west.

Nazario, emerging from the restaurant's shattered entrance, also spotted the 6-foot-5 Benton pointing out the gunman and approached from the south.

Both men shouted at the gunman, with Whittle yelling: "Drop your weapon! I will shoot. Just drop it!"

When the man did not respond, Whittle noticed he was wearing protective earmuffs. Whittle took his left hand off his gun and began signaling his command. The man tilted his head, looked sideways and raised his weapon. Whittle was staring directly down the barrel.

"It looked like a cannon," Whittle said.

He dove behind an SUV as the man fired.

Nazario then fired, and he believes he hit the gunman in the thigh. He saw the man stumble forward, then right himself and raise his gun again. Whittle, now crouched beside the SUV, took aim and fired. Nazario fired four rounds and Whittle seven. The gunman collapsed.

As Whittle lurched forward to kick away the shooter's gun and check for other weapons, he heard a shout: "I got you covered. Clear him!"

It was the first Whittle and Nazario knew of each other, and both made the snap decision that they were friends, not foes.

Whittle dropped his gun. Nazario holstered his. Nazario grabbed the dying man's right arm while Whittle took his left, just as the first police officer arrived, yelling at them both to get down.

"He doesn't know how many active shooters there were," Nazario said. "He could have gotten out of his car and shot me."

As police gained control of the scene, Jabari Giles, father of one of the wounded girls, rushed to the scene. Seeing Whittle and Nazario handcuffed on the ground and a bloodied body that he took to be a victim next to them, he exploded.

"Which one of you did it?" Giles shouted. "You f---ing shot my kid, didn't you!"

Giles did not have a gun, but police turned theirs on him and briefly handcuffed him before helping him locate his child.

One officer broke the news of the gunman's death to Nazario.

"I was kind of shaken up," Nazario recalled. "I thought he had made it."

Confusion was still rampant inside the restaurant. A waitress didn't know which way to run amid the shattering glass, upturned tables, volleys of gunfire. "We were told there were three shooters," she said.

"In all reality, there were three shooters," Benton said.

From the parking lot, he and others tried to help police tell the three apart.

"Those are good guys," they called, pointing to Whittle and Nazario, who were now officially suspects in a homicide investigation.

- - -

The NRA has brandished the "good guy with a gun" argument after several recent mass shootings. Wayne LaPierre, the group's chief executive, invoked the phrase after the 2012 massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school. He repeated it after the rampage in which 17 people were killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in February, even though an armed school resource officer was present and did not enter the school or engage the gunman during that attack.

The FBI examined 160 shootings between 2000 and 2013 and found that most of the violence ended when the assailant stopped shooting, committed suicide or fled. Unarmed citizens successfully restrained shooters in 21 of those incidents, according to the FBI. Two attacks stopped when off-duty officers shot and killed the attackers. Five ended in much the way the attack at Louie's did - when armed civilians, mostly security guards, exchanged fire with the shooters.

In two prominent recent examples, civilians have, as in Oklahoma City, successfully intervened in mass shootings. In November, Stephen Willeford, a former NRA instructor, shot a gunman who killed more than two dozen people inside a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church, hitting the attacker twice. The shooter fled and later shot himself in the head while under chase. And in June, a pastor and volunteer firefighter who had been through active-shooter training killed a carjacker who opened fire inside a Walmart store in Tumwater, Washington.

But interventions by "Good Samaritans" also have ended in tragedy.

In 2014, husband-and-wife attackers killed two Las Vegas police officers before going into a nearby Walmart and firing a shot in the air. Joseph Wilcox, 31, a civilian with a handgun and a concealed-carry permit, pulled his weapon to confront the male shooter, but the man's wife shot Wilcox in the chest, killing him.

When Prince George's County police detective Jacai Colson responded to a 2016 attack on a police station in his street clothes, another officer mistook him for a threat and shot him.

"The shot that struck and killed Detective Colson was deliberately aimed at him by another police officer," the police chief said.

Ronal Serpas, former police chief in New Orleans and Nashville who lived near Tumwater when he was chief of the Washington State Patrol, said such situations raise life-or-death concerns for police officers.

"How is the officer going to discern who is the Good Samaritan and who is not?" Serpas said. "They don't have placards on the front of their shirts that say 'I'm the good guy' or 'I'm the bad guy.' "

Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty expressed relief at the quick resolution at Louie's. "I admire an individual willing to defend other people," he said.

But he also has seen how quickly things can go wrong. In August 2013, Oklahoma City police officers responding to the sound of gunshots opened fire on a man shooting at a car before realizing he was the owner of a liquor store who had been robbed.

At Louie's in May, the situation could have been far worse, police say. It is unclear why the shooter targeted the restaurant or what he wanted to accomplish, but he was out in the open in a busy area with a loaded gun - and was firing at Whittle when Whittle and Nazario shot him.

- - -

Three patched bullet holes on an outside wall at Louie's show where the gunman - later identified as Alexander Tilghman, 28 - had fired on customers. The restaurant's glass entryway has been repaired. The three people who were shot as they walked in are expected to make full recoveries, though the two girls have undergone several surgeries.

Customers, employees and community members have thanked Nazario and Whittle, who met at the scene on a recent afternoon for the first time since the shooting. They had kept largely to themselves - discussing the case only in broad terms - because there was a possibility they could be charged.

Nazario and Whittle had no idea who Tilghman was when they killed him. Tilghman did not kill anyone, and any sentence he might have faced had he been apprehended certainly would have been less than death.

Though Tilghman did not have extensive interactions with police, his behavior had been raising concerns in Oklahoma City. Local news reports before the shooting indicated that Tilghman had posted fliers around the city alluding to "demons in cloned transsexual bodies," and a local FOX television investigative reporter alerted authorities to Tilghman's "bizarre" online postings.

In videos, Tilghman complained that he was "under hardcore demonic attack," noting in one recording: "I'm not doing well . . . doing really, really bad right now."

Gerald Konkler, general counsel of the Oklahoma Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training, confirmed that Tilghman was licensed to carry a weapon and had been through training that would have included a psychological evaluation. Tilghman's relatives could not be reached for comment.

Police do not know what would have happened had they arrived before Tilghman was shot. Would he have fired on officers? Was he attempting "suicide by cop"? Would he have given up and been taken into custody? Could there have been far worse carnage?

"We don't know what he was going to do," said Mathews, the police spokesman.

Prosecutors took three weeks to conclude that Whittle and Nazario would not face charges; authorities determined that the men had been protecting themselves or others when they opened fire on Tilghman.

"The two civilians who engaged, and ultimately neutralized the threat . . . were justified and compliant with the law when they employed deadly force," Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater wrote in a press release on June 18. He did not respond to requests for further comment.

Neither Nazario nor Whittle knows who fired the fatal round or rounds. The medical examiner listed the manner of the gunman's death as "homicide" as the result of "multiple gunshot wounds."

"It is what it is," Whittle said. "You'd better be damn sure that what you are doing is right, because you'll pay the consequences if you are wrong."

An Oklahoman who grew up among family members who taught him how to handle guns, Whittle vigorously defends the right to bear arms. He notes that not everyone takes action in perilous moments, even in a place where many people carry weapons.

"Think about all the people that probably had a gun and didn't go to the situation," Whittle said, looking out over a full parking lot at Louie's. "I was comfortable enough to just react."

Nazario, who also grew up with guns, emphasizes the importance of the numerous firearms training courses he has taken. "Not everybody knows what they are doing," he said.

In the weeks since the shooting, he has replayed in his head different endings to the incident. What if instead of retreating to the grassy bank, the gunman had followed his initial shots through the broken glass door into the restaurant? And what if Whittle had followed the gunman inside?

"Bryan would have entered the front," Nazario said. "I would have entered the back."

There they would have been, two good guys with guns, face to face.

"He could have thought I was the shooter," Nazario said. Or vice versa. And if Nazario had asked - and Whittle refused - to drop his weapon, Nazario said, "I would have had to take action."

- - -

Berman reported from Washington.

Pulitzer-winning opinion from the most respected voices in the world.

If you work for Trump, quit now

By ruth marcus
If you work for Trump, quit now

RUTH MARCUS COLUMN

(SPECIAL COLUMN FOR IMMEDIATE PRINT AND WEB RELEASE)

(For Marcus clients only)

By RUTH MARCUS

WASHINGTON -- Everyone who works for President Trump: Quit now. Save your souls. Save your honor, such as it is. Save your reputation, such as it remains. Russia attacked our democracy. Trump has demonstrated repeatedly, and did so again with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, that he doesn't care and won't defend his country.

If you work for this man and you call yourself a patriot, it is time for you to go.

This may sound excessive, even irresponsible. Indeed, for months I have agonized over the question of public service in the age of Trump.

Of course, as a general matter, it is better to have more grown-ups around Trump, mitigating his worst impulses, providing wisdom born of experience to counter his ignorance and petulance.

But that assessment assumes facts not in evidence: that Trump is educable or containable. Actually, it contravenes the available evidence. There is none that Trump has done anything but what Trump wants to do. Monday's news conference made that clear.

Extreme times call for extreme measures, and these are the extreme-est of times.

A foreign adversary -- not a competitor, as Trump would have it, an adversary -- mounted a sustained and multifront assault on the presidential election, specifically to help elect Trump. We knew this before Friday's indictment of 12 Russian intelligence officers for hacking into Democratic computers and emails to help secure Trump's election.

So I would ask those who continue to serve Trump: What is the impact and message of your continued presence? Are you mitigating Trump's excesses or enabling them?

Think about it. You are a Republican who loves your country. Or you are a foreign policy or intelligence professional. What do you do in the face of Trump's craven capitulation to an adversary? It is a hard choice but one that Trump is making easier every day. On Monday, he all but forced it.

Specifically, U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, you cited "the need to hold the Russians accountable for what they did." In what way did Trump do that? Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, you said Friday that, much as with rumblings of a terrorist attack on the United States before 9/11, "the warning lights are blinking red again," this time on the danger posed by Russian cyberattacks to the 2018 elections. How do you continue to serve a president so determined to ignore those flashing lights?

And others: CIA Director Gina Haspel; national security adviser John Bolton; gulp, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis? You understand the Russian threat; combating it has been part of your life's work. How do you get up every morning and go to work for a man who's so heedless of his responsibilities to his country?

How heedless? Before his two hours alone with Putin, Trump tweeted, "Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!"

Things went downhill from there. At his post-meeting news conference, Trump stood side by side with Putin and, asked about holding Russia accountable, instead replied: "I think we're all to blame. ... I do feel that we have both made some mistakes." On the investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, he added, "the probe is a disaster for our country. I think it's kept us apart, it's kept us separated."

And challenged directly about whether he would, "with the whole world watching, tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again," Trump flat-out refused. He not only resorted to his usual misdirection about the Democratic National Committee's computer server, but he also refused to back up the claims of his intelligence director against Putin's denials.

"My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it's not Russia," Trump said. "I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be. But I really do want to see the server."

God save us.

Certainly, Congress won't, at least not from the extensive evidence of GOP spinelessness so far. Sure, we saw some post-summit head-shaking from the likes of South Carolina Sen. Lindsey O. Graham and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, who chairs the Foreign Relations Committee. Better than nothing, but we have suffered months of tut-tutting followed by capitulation.

Perhaps mass resignations of administration officials would rouse a supine Congress. Perhaps this would alarm even some Trump voters, who thought they elected a crockery-breaker and got, in the most charitable interpretation, a Putin-enabler. Perhaps not, but really, administration officials, what good are you doing, for yourselves or your country, by sticking around for this?

Ruth Marcus' email address is ruthmarcus@washpost.com.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

Trump's stunning answer to 'who do you believe'?

By david ignatius
Trump's stunning answer to 'who do you believe'?

DAVID IGNATIUS COLUMN

(FOR IMMEDIATE PRINT AND WEB RELEASE. Usually would advance for Wednesday, July 18, 2018.)

(For Ignatius clients only)

By DAVID IGNATIUS

WASHINGTON -- President Trump was doing pretty well in Helsinki, really, laying out a modest but achievable agenda for improving U.S.-Russia relations. And then came the final question about whether Trump believed his own intelligence chiefs or Russian President Vladimir Putin -- and in his weird, waffling answer, you could almost hear the fabric of his presidency rip at the seam.

Jonathan Lemire of the Associated Press was the reporter who asked Trump bluntly: "who do you believe" about Russian election interference, Putin or U.S. intelligence? Trump initially spun some conspiratorial nonsense about missing Democratic computer servers and Hillary Clinton emails. And then this unforgettable statement:

"My people came to me, [Director of National Intelligence] Dan Coats came to me and some others, they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin; he just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be. ... I have confidence in both parties."

"It was unbelievable," said a stunned Will Hurd, a Republican congressman from Texas and former CIA officer. "I would never have thought I'd see an American president being played by a foreign adversary in that way."

You could argue charitably that Trump was just being polite and didn't want to offend the Russian leader standing next to him. But that doesn't excuse how Trump chose to end the press conference, by attacking former FBI special agent Peter Strzok as a "disgrace" and calling the Russia investigation a "total witch hunt" -- while the man who our intelligence agencies say ordered the covert-action assault looked on.

Direct questions have a way of eliciting telling behavior, even from practiced liars. That's the theme of a book called "Spy the Lie" by three former CIA officers. They argue that a practiced observer can detect deception without wiring the subject to a polygraph machine. One sign is verbal deflection, as in Trump's immediate, spurious mention of missing servers and emails; another is visible stress on the subject's face, as some might describe Trump's smirks and grimaces. Taken together, such indicators can reveal deception.

As Trump said, "this will probably go on for a while," before special counsel Robert S. Mueller III delivers conclusive evidence. But Mueller has already taken the Russia investigation to a new level with Friday's indictment of 12 GRU military-intelligence officers for seeking to manipulate the 2016 campaign by working with co-conspirators "known and unknown."

Until Lemire's fateful question, I thought Trump and his advisers were managing the Helsinki summit quite sensibly. The two leaders discussed the right agenda: extending the SALT treaty and beginning other arms-control talks; cooperating on stability and humanitarian relief in Syria, including Syria-Israel peace negotiations to stabilize their border; sponsoring contacts between U.S. and Russian militaries to reduce dangerous confrontations.

Trump didn't make any egregious concessions on these issues, so far as I could tell. Before the summit, he had seemed ready to endorse Russia's seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. But according to Putin, "he continued to maintain that it was illegal to annex it." Bravo for that. Trump even pushed for U.S. gas exports that would challenge Russia's energy dominance in Europe.

On the larger question of Russian-American dialogue, the Helsinki meeting also seemed headed in the right direction. Moscow and Washington do need to improve relations, in a way that doesn't appease Russia or legitimize its bad behavior. What sensible person would disagree with Putin's hope that "the Cold War is a thing of the past"? Or Trump's argument that "we're going to have to find ways to cooperate in pursuit of shared interests"?

It was the right music, until the record skipped when Trump was asked the "who do you believe" question. Then this summit became crazy time, and those last few minutes are all that many people will remember. As former national security adviser Tom Donilon put it: "The president of the United States was standing next to a foreign adversary rejecting the judgment of his own intelligence and law enforcement services. We've never had anything like this in American history."

What was reassuring Monday was that the U.S. intelligence official Trump had just undercut affirmed his oath of office, after his commander-in-chief equivocated. Coats issued a one-paragraph statement in mid-afternoon. "We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence."

Coats' simple, stirring words were a reminder of how and why America endures.

David Ignatius can be reached via Twitter: @IgnatiusPost.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

Trump's kowtowing only strengthens 'Vladimir the Great'

By eugene robinson
Trump's kowtowing only strengthens 'Vladimir the Great'

EUGENE ROBINSON COLUMN

(FOR IMMEDIATE PRINT AND WEB RELEASE)

(For Robinson clients only)

By EUGENE ROBINSON

WASHINGTON -- President Trump is succeeding wildly in one clear, if unannounced, objective: to Make Russia Great Again.

Trump's summit in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin went a long way toward achieving Putin's most cherished goal, which is to return his vast and complicated nation to the exalted geopolitical status it long enjoyed as part of the Soviet Union.

That should be a tall order. Russia's economy, measured by gross domestic product, is about the same size as that of Texas. Moscow retains a nuclear arsenal that enjoys mutually assured destruction status, but its conventional military forces no longer have the global reach of the Soviet years. Former president Obama once dismissively called Russia a "regional power" -- a slight that Putin appears to have never forgotten.

Trump, however, treats Putin as an equal -- a "good competitor," Trump said Monday, clarifying that he means the term as a compliment. This only strengthens Putin at home, where he wants to be remembered as Vladimir the Great, while minimizing his attempts to undermine Western democracies, including ours.

The most charitable analysis is that Trump, for Putin, is simply a useful idiot. Trump bolsters this view with his breathtaking ignorance of history and context. "Our relationship has never been worse than it is now. However, that changed as of about four hours ago," Trump said in Helsinki at his joint appearance with Putin -- apparently never having heard of the Cuban Missile Crisis or even the decades-long Cold War.

What Trump does know and care about is his own titanic ego, which was on display Monday as usual. He did raise the issue of Russia's election meddling in his lengthy private meeting with Putin, both leaders agreed, but Putin obviously played him like a violin.

On Friday, Special Counsel Robert Mueller revealed an extraordinarily detailed indictment naming 12 Russian intelligence officers and specifying their roles in "large-scale cyber operations to interfere with the 2016 presidential election."

In copious and specific detail, Mueller laid out how Moscow's spies allegedly hacked the email account of Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta, and rummaged through the computer networks of the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee -- then leaked "tens of thousands of the stolen emails and documents" in a way that was designed to help Trump's candidacy.

The fact that Mueller could name individual Russian agents -- for example, Aleksandr Vladimirovich Osadchuk, "a colonel in the Russian military and the commanding officer of Unit 74455 ... located at 22 Kirova Street, Khimki, Moscow, a building referred to ... as the 'Tower'" -- must have impressed Putin, a career intelligence officer. He maintained his poker face, however, saying Monday that "I will look into it" and knowing that Trump is eager to accept his "powerful" denial.

Putin countered with what Trump, unbelievably, called "an interesting idea." Mueller could come to Russia and question the indicted agents, Putin offered, if Russian authorities were given similar access to U.S. spies. Of course, Putin knows this will never happen. As for Trump's comprehension, we just have to hope.

The other, more sinister explanation for Trump's fanboy behavior is that Putin knows something that Trump desperately does not want revealed -- something, perhaps, about Trump's attempt to build a skyscraper in Moscow, his business dealings with wealthy Russians, his behavior on Russian soil or his actual collusion in the election meddling.

In Helsinki, Trump described the Mueller probe as nothing but a search for "a reason why the Democrats lost an election." Trump went on to declare, "There was no collusion. I didn't know [Putin]. There was no one to collude with."

Yet the Mueller "witch hunt" continues to find witches. Judging by the frequency and vehemence of Trump's denials, I wonder if he worries the investigation is getting uncomfortably close to him or his family.

Look at what Trump "accomplished," and I use the word ironically, in a brief foreign trip. He weakened the NATO alliance, bashing other member countries at a contentious meeting in Brussels. He undermined British Prime Minister Theresa May, saying she was taking the wrong approach to Britain's exit from the European Union. He showed up late for tea with Queen Elizabeth II. He parroted and amplified the racist anti-immigration views of the European far right. He described the EU as a geopolitical "foe."

It was fitting, then, that he ended his journey by kowtowing to Putin. It is not paranoia to point out that no world leader benefits more from Trump's foreign policy. Someday, and I hope it's soon, we will learn why.

Eugene Robinson's email address is eugenerobinson@washpost.com.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

Will the blue wave start in Jersey?

By e.j. dionne jr.
Will the blue wave start in Jersey?

E.J. DIONNE COLUMN

(Advance for Monday, July 16, 2018, and thereafter. Web release Sunday, July 15, 2018, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Dionne clients only)

WRITETHRU: New 5th to last graf reflecting the partisan source of the poll in New Jersey's seventh congressional district.

By E.J. DIONNE JR.

BORDENTOWN, N.J. -- "Do you feel like there is a steady hand at the wheel? Do you feel like you're in good hands right now?"

Andy Kim, a Democrat challenging Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur for a congressional seat in south-central New Jersey, sees these questions as pivotal to November's election. They are singularly appropriate after a week of dangerous chaos ignited by President Trump's European trip and new indictments in the Russia probe.

In an interview at a diner here before picking up his 2-year-old son Austin at a daycare center nearby, Kim predicts that by November, voters will view electing a Democratic-controlled House as essential to providing "a check against this administration" and restoring some "stability" to Washington.

With three highly competitive House races, New Jersey is key to this effort. Democrats have fielded candidates with long histories of public service who were encouraged to join the electoral fray by the sense of emergency Trump's presidency has created.

Kim was assigned by the State Department in 2011 to work with the U.S. military in Afghanistan. Having experienced first-hand the role our NATO allies have in supporting the war effort, he says he was especially horrified by Trump's attacks on the alliance.

Mikie Sherrill, who served nearly a decade in the Navy as a helicopter pilot, is the Democrats' nominee to the north in the 11th District. "We're used to getting missions accomplished working with people across many different backgrounds," she says in a telephone interview, adding calmly but -- in light of current circumstances -- pointedly: "We've all taken an oath to the Constitution."

And nearby in the 7th District, Tom Malinowski, who served in the State Department during the Obama administration working on issues related to democracy and human rights, is taking on Republican Rep. Leonard Lance. Malinowski is eloquent during an interview in describing "the all-American middle-ground issues that the Trump Republicans" have ceded to Democrats in moderate districts.

"We're now the party of fiscal responsibility in America, we didn't just add $2 trillion to the national debt for that tax cut that Warren Buffett didn't want," he tells me. "We're the party of law enforcement in America, we don't vilify the Federal Bureau of Investigation every single day. We're the party of family values, we don't ... take kids from their parents at the border. We're the party of patriotism in America that wants to defend this country against our foreign adversaries."

It is a sign of the power of the activism Trump has unleashed that the popular incumbent in Sherrill's district, Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, decided to retire after months of demonstrations at his district office. The protestors underscored how vexing this year's climate would be even for popular incumbents.

Contesting an open seat against Republican state legislator Jay Webber, Sherrill appears to have the best chance of the three. But at least one Democratic-sponsored poll last month showed Malinowski with a 2-point lead. Kim appears to be within striking distance of MacArthur, whose staunch conservatism, Kim argues, puts the incumbent well to the right of his district.

For his part, Lance notes that he is on the "center right," distinguishing himself from his party's right-wing radicals. In an interview, Lance lists a series of votes he cast against Republican bills, including the GOP tax cut. It is deeply unpopular in New Jersey, a high tax state, because of its near-elimination of the state and local tax deduction. He has also been assailing Malinowski as a "carpetbagger" (the Democrat grew up just outside the district, in Princeton).

Malinowski says the electorate understands that the carpetbagger charge is a distraction. He cites the many times Lance fell in with conservatives, and makes the broader case that change in Washington will be impossible if Republicans maintain control of the House. "If we want different results," he says. "we're not going to get them by re-electing him."

Yet if Trump looms over the election, all three New Jersey Democrats are campaigning primarily on bread-and-butter issues -- health care, state and local taxes (that GOP tax bill), economic insecurity felt even by the relatively affluent, and infrastructure. The last of these has particular power in these commuter-heavy districts, given the failure of Republican budgets to finance the Gateway tunnel between New Jersey and New York City.

In Malinowski's view, the public is already so aware of the election's stakes that Democrats don't need to mention Trump very much. "You just need to affirmatively champion core American values," he says.

Day by day, the president is making this strategy ever more plausible.

E.J. Dionne's email address is ejdionne@washpost.com. Twitter: @EJDionne.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

Trump's narcissism has become our foreign policy doctrine

By michael gerson
Trump's narcissism has become our foreign policy doctrine

MICHAEL GERSON COLUMN

(Advance for Tuesday, July 17, 2018, and thereafter. Web release Monday, July 16, 2018, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Gerson clients only)

By MICHAEL GERSON

WASHINGTON -- Defining a foreign policy theory that might merit the title of "doctrine" is difficult in the Trump administration, which is dismissive of reflection, consistency and precedent. But in practice, it is the replacement of national pride with personal vanity.

Any diplomatic outcome -- no matter how useless or harmful -- is claimed by President Trump as a victory. Any complications are pinned on the "stupidity" of previous presidents. Trump's negotiating style is a panting desire for the appearance of accomplishment, making him the easiest mark of modern presidential history.

This was on full display at the Helsinki summit. Trump set the vague objective of "improved relations." Russian President Vladimir Putin continued pursuing his long-term, strategic goals: acceptance of occupied Crimea as part of Russia, the easing of international sanctions, impunity for the 2016 Russian attacks on the American electoral system, the sowing of discord within NATO and the European Union, global amnesia about murder with a nerve agent in Britain, the weakening of the transatlantic alliance, the disruption of U.S. global economic leadership and the further legitimization of his regime as a world power.

In the run-up to Helsinki, Trump actively advanced many important national objectives -- of Russia. He claimed Crimea to be Russian, credited Putin's denials of cyberaggression, attacked NATO, called the EU a "foe," openly supported Brexit, disparaged Angela Merkel's leadership, pushed for a trade war with Europe and blamed tension in the U.S./Russian relationship on the U.S. At Helsinki, having imitated Neville Chamberlain in every detail but the umbrella, he declared a famous victory. And so our president, who shows how tough he is by abusing migrant children, was a cringing coward before a dictator.

One of the problems with narcissism as a foreign policy doctrine is that it hides national challenges from the president that are blindingly obvious to everyone else. While Trump employs a mirror, others in the federal government have been using a magnifying glass to find a direct and growing threat to American national security.

Speaking recently at the Hudson Institute, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats (for whom I once worked) warned that we have reached a "critical point" similar to the situation before the 9/11 attacks, when the warning lights are "blinking red." Citing continual cyberattacks on the government, the military and U.S. businesses, Coats said, "These actions are persistent, they're pervasive, and they are meant to undermine America's democracy on a daily basis." The Russians in particular, he explained, have the "intent to undermine our basic values, undermine democracy and create wedges between us and our allies."

Meanwhile, special counsel Robert Mueller issued indictments for 12 named Russian intelligence agents engaged in a systematic assault on American democracy in 2016. That effort (among other things) included the illegal downloading of data related to half a million American voters, the hacking of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Clinton campaign, and the carefully timed release of information to benefit the Trump campaign.

The President remains in total denial about Russian intentions and actions. This is unexplainable in strategic terms. Why would an American president so regularly praise and excuse a dictator dedicated to the overthrow of American influence? It is also unexplainable in political terms. Why wouldn't a president facing an investigation of Russia influence on his campaign find opportunities to distance himself from Russian aggression? There is no rational explanation for Trump's surrender to Russian designs. Perhaps Mueller will supply some type of unexpected, unsavory reason. But we know that Russia is Trump's Rosetta Stone -- the key that will eventually explain the refusal of an American president to defend American interests.

In the process, the Republican Party is becoming something unimaginable just five or 10 years ago. By following Trump into this strange, unhealthy Russian fetish, it is proving its loyalty while forfeiting its legitimacy. Much of the GOP is downplaying Russian aggression. And it is actively undermining the investigation of that aggression. Trump's political tools have become Putin's useful idiots. The party of national strength has become an obstacle to the effective protection of the country.

If Mueller finds evidence of Trump's complicity, obstruction or corruption, Republicans in Congress must support the removal of the president from office. If Republicans in Congress can't make that simple pledge today, they must be removed from office. If the GOP proves unequal to this national security threat, it has ceased to be a responsible, governing party.

Michael Gerson's email address is michaelgerson@washpost.com.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

What Donald Trump shares with Frank Sinatra

By richard cohen
What Donald Trump shares with Frank Sinatra

RICHARD COHEN COLUMN

(Advance for Tuesday, July 17, 2018, and thereafter. Web release Monday, July 16, 2018, at 8 p.m. Eastern time.)

(For Cohen clients only)

By RICHARD COHEN

Franklin Roosevelt had "Happy Days Are Here Again," Harry Truman had "I'm Just Wild About Harry," John Kennedy had "High Hopes," Richard Nixon had the unsingable "Nixon's The One," and Barack Obama had several theme songs, but none that stick. That is the case, too, with Donald Trump. He's tried the Rolling Stones hit "You Can't Always Get What You Want," but that, sadly, should be Hillary Clinton's. My suggestion for Trump is "My Way." It is, among other things, also his foreign policy.

Trump evokes the song. One cannot watch his innocents abroad swagger through the China shop of bespoke diplomacy and not hum the tune. He cuts himself free from precedent. He says one thing in one place and another in another place. He criticizes Theresa May for the way she's handling Brexit and then praises her for doing what she had been doing all along.

He attacks the very worth of NATO and then says the U.S. is in for good. He pals up to Vladimir Putin and blames the previous administration for Putin's bad behavior, which is sort of like blaming the IRS for someone's tax cheating. He's at odds with his own Justice Department over the Russia investigation, calling it a "Witch Hunt" and then a "Rigged Witch Hunt," stopping short, for now, of a "Very Rigged Witch Hunt," which is surely on its way.

He lies when he chooses or tells the truth when he chooses. He chooses, in other words, whatever works. He is widely viewed to have been an adulterer, a deadbeat with banks (but who loves banks?) and a man who abjures physical exercise. He is a confirmed sexist who appraised women's bodies with Howard Stern, and at least one Playboy playmate claims to have had an affair with him. In short, what guy would not want to be Donald John Trump?

That's a trifle hyperbolic because many men would not want to be anything like him. But to those whom life has constrained, who feel as tied down by precedent and expectations as Gulliver did by the Lilliputians, Trump is what used to be called "The Free Man." I first heard the term applied to the Frenchman Jean Genet, a literary darling of the 1960s, who had been a petty criminal and male prostitute before he became a writer. He was seen as someone who had prevailed over bourgeoise morality and done pretty much as he damned well pleased. Jean-Paul Sartre, the quintessential French leftist intellectual of the 1960s, dubbed Genet "Saint Genet." Sartre was also for a time one of the Kremlin's most useful of useful idiots.

Trump, too, is a Free Man. He doesn't use those words, of course -- the literary allusion is beyond him. But several times he has declared himself a "genius," by which he means that he sees things others don't -- including an opponent's weak point. He sensed, as the TV audience did, Jeb Bush's lack of energy. He sensed Marco Rubio's boyish hesitation and so he became "Little Marco." Hillary Clinton became "Crooked Hillary," which was a calumny and unfair, but stuck because to many Americans it seemed fitting.

This meanness, this love of the extemporaneous, this belief in the virtue and brilliance of one's own instincts, are the hallmarks of the demagogue and why, over time, they come to grief. They are never as smart as they think and no one person can embody a nation. This will be the case with Trump. For the moment, though, he is the tribune of the loser.

To the cognoscenti, to those panels of cable TV experts, Trump's performance in Europe is appalling, not to mention risky. But others may see it differently. He's a bull all right, but they have contempt for the China shop. Let someone else sweep up.

Sinatra, who did everything his way (except hold on to Ava Gardner), understood the message of "My Way." It became his anthem because he had come back from a dead career, because he had his heart broken by a woman, because he brawled and cursed, drank too much and set his own hours. The rules did not apply to him. His picture hung in countless rec rooms and his song was sung by countless men, heroes to themselves -- if only in the shower.

"I've loved, I've laughed and cried, I've had my share of losing," says the song. It goes on, "And may I say -- not in a shy way, oh no, not me, I did it my way."

Say what you will about Donald Trump, he did, too.

Richard Cohen's email address is cohenr@washpost.com.

(c) 2018, Washington Post Writers Group

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