THE BIG IDEA: President Trump loudly and repeatedly complained as he traveled to Belgium, Britain, Scotland and Finland over the past week that the continent’s immigration policies are ripping apart the “fabric of Europe” and destroying its culture.
After meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Trump sat down with Tucker Carlson. This was a central theme of the interview, which aired Tuesday night. The Fox News host, who routinely pushes strongly anti-immigrant messages on his program, egged on the president: “As you traveled around Europe and looked at Europe over the years, can you think of a place that has been improved by mass immigration … ?”
“Not one,” said Trump. “In fact, one of my big things – and some people were insulted – … I said the immigration policies in Europe are a disaster. You’re destroying Europe. You’re destroying the culture of Europe. … The culture is changing rapidly, and the crime rate is changing more than rapidly. You better do something. I told them that.”
Carlson then asked whether Putin or German Chancellor Angela Merkel is doing “a better job representing the interests of their countries.” Trump responded by attacking Merkel. “Angela was a superstar until she allowed millions of people to come into Germany,” he said. “That really hurt her badly, as you know. She was unbeatable in any election. … I don’t want to say who is better and who is not, but I will say this: She’s been very badly hurt by immigration. Very, very badly.”
Trump then praised China, Japan and South Korea for not allowing refugees or mass immigration into their countries. “We have the worst laws anywhere in the world,” the American president said. “We have the worst immigration laws in the world. We don’t have any law.”
— Speaking in South Africa on Tuesday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth, Barack Obama also spoke about culture and immigration. Watching Trump’s interview back-to-back with Obama’s address offers a jarring contrast and spotlights the enormous gulf that exists between the two most recent men to occupy the Oval Office. It also highlights the degree to which the post-World War II “Washington consensus,” as it was once known, has shattered in the Trump era.
Obama began by noting that Europe’s culture of yore isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. When Mandela was born, for example, “The dominant European powers … viewed this continent and its people primarily as spoils in a contest for territory and abundant natural resources and cheap labor. And the inferiority of the black race, an indifference towards black culture and interests and aspirations, was a given.”
Speaking to a crowd of 15,000 in Johannesburg, Obama said Mandela changed history because he cultivated a healthy political culture after he was released from prison, pursuing reconciliation with his former captors in the wake of Apartheid. “He understood it’s not just about who has the most votes. It’s also about the civic culture that we build that makes democracy work,” Obama said. “Democracy depends on strong institutions, and it’s about minority rights and checks and balances, and freedom of speech and freedom of expression and a free press, and the right to protest and petition the government, and an independent judiciary and everybody having to follow the law.”
Obama spoke about being inspired as a college student by Mandela, who was then confined at Robben Island. As a law student at Harvard, the future president recalled feeling a wave of hope wash over his heart on the day Mandela emerged from prison. The first African American president noted that Mandela never stopped being proud of his tribal heritage.
“Embracing our common humanity does not mean that we have to abandon our unique ethnic and national and religious identities,” Obama said. “He didn’t stop being proud of being a black man and being a South African. But he believed, as I believe, that you can be proud of your heritage without denigrating those of a different heritage. In fact, you dishonor your heritage. It would make me think that you’re a little insecure about your heritage if you’ve got to put somebody else’s heritage down. … Don’t you get a sense sometimes … that these people who are so intent on putting people down, and puffing themselves up, that they’re small-hearted? That there’s something they’re just afraid of?”
— Trump has not visited Africa as president, and he’s refused to apologize for describing African nations as “shithole countries.” He reportedly blew up at members of his national security team during a meeting last year when he learned the numbers of immigrants who had been given visas to enter the United States. The 40,000 visas given to Nigerians especially bothered Trump. Once they had seen America, they would never “go back to their huts” in Africa, Trump said in the Oval Office, according to the New York Times. (The White House denied it.) The administration has also scaled back U.S. efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.
Before he took office, Trump spent years falsely insisting that Obama was really from Kenya and demanding more and more proof that the then-president was born in Hawaii. Obama spent two days in Kenya on his way to South Africa, including a visit to the small hilltop village – right on the equator – where his absentee father grew up.
— Trump said on Fox that his European tour has given him a fresh sense of urgency to build a border wall and reduce the number of immigrants allowed into the United States. “Democrats are for open borders,” the current president said. “Maybe it’s a political philosophy that they grew up with. Maybe they learned it at school. Maybe they’re fools. I don’t know.”
— Obama squarely addressed this straw man and took a shot at Trump’s family separation policy. “It’s not wrong to insist that national borders matter,” the former president said. “Laws need to be followed. In the public realm, newcomers should make an effort to adapt to the language and customs of their new home. Those are legitimate things, and we have to be able to engage people who do feel as if things are not orderly. But that can’t be an excuse for immigration policies based on race, or ethnicity or religion. There’s got to be some consistency. And we can enforce the law while respecting the essential humanity of those who are striving for a better life. For a mother with a child in her arms, we can recognize that could be somebody in our family, that could be my child.”
— The two presidents also took contrasting positions on the importance of alliances for the United States.
On Fox, Trump criticized NATO extensively. Carlson brought up the hypothetical of Montenegro being attacked by Russia: “Why should my son go to Montenegro to defend it from attack? Why is that?” The small country joined the alliance last year, which means that it is entitled to protection from the other members in such a scenario. “I understand what you’re saying,” Trump replied. “I’ve asked the same question. Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people. … They have very aggressive people. They may get aggressive and, ‘Congratulations, you’re in World War III.’ … That’s the way it was set up.”
Obama took the opposite tack. He said the present moment demands more alliances and cooperation, not less. “The countries which rely on rabid nationalism and xenophobia and doctrines of tribal, racial or religious superiority as their main organizing principle – the thing that holds people together – eventually those countries find themselves consumed by civil war or external war. Check the history books,” Obama said. “Technology cannot be put back in a bottle, so we’re stuck with the fact that we now live close together and populations are going to be moving, and environmental challenges are not going to go away on their own, so that the only way to effectively address problems like climate change or mass migration or pandemic disease will be to develop systems for more international cooperation, not less.”
— While Obama carefully avoided mentioning Trump by name during his speech on foreign soil, Trump has directly blamed Obama for the Russian interference in the 2016 election (when he’s acknowledged it happened). “I wasn’t president when this happened,” he said on Fox. “Barack Obama was the president of the United States … and they informed him of it, and he did nothing. And then after I won, see, he thought Hillary was going to win, after I won, he said, ‘Oh, this is a big deal.’ Well, it wasn’t a big deal as long as she won. So it’s a disgrace, and frankly, it’s a disgrace what’s happening to our country.”
— Obama did not address the Russian interference, but he did criticize leaders who “lie” and attack the free press. “People just make stuff up,” he said in South Africa. “We see the utter loss of shame among political leaders where they’re caught in a lie and they just double down and they lie some more. It used to be that if you caught them lying, they’d be like, ‘Oh, man.’ Now they just keep on lying.”
— The former president situated Trump’s unexpected 2016 victory as just one symptom of a larger global backlash to the forces of globalization, democratization and liberalization. “Russia, already humiliated by its reduced influence since the collapse of the Soviet Union, feeling threatened by democratic movements along its borders, suddenly started reasserting authoritarian control and in some cases meddling with its neighbors,” Obama said. “Within the United States, within the European Union, challenges to globalization first came from the left but then came more forcefully from the right, as you started seeing populist movements … tap the unease that was felt by many people who lived outside of the urban cores; fears that economic security was slipping away, that their social status and privileges were eroding, that their cultural identities were being threatened by outsiders, somebody that didn’t look like them or sound like them or pray as they did.”
He said the 2008 financial crisis supercharged these trends: “And a politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment began to appear, and that kind of politics is now on the move. It’s on the move at a pace that would have seemed unimaginable just a few years ago. I am not being alarmist, I am simply stating the facts. Look around. Strongman politics are ascendant suddenly, whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained – the form of it – but those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning. In the West, you’ve got far-right parties that oftentimes are based not just on platforms of protectionism and closed borders, but also on barely hidden racial nationalism.”
Obama said the human race now finds itself at “a crossroads” and faces a consequential choice between two visions for humanity’s future. He warned that the world is “threatening to return to an older, a more dangerous, a more brutal way of doing business.”
“So we have to start by admitting that whatever laws may have existed on the books, whatever wonderful pronouncements existed in constitutions, whatever nice words were spoken during these last several decades at international conferences or in the halls of the United Nations, the previous structures of privilege and power and injustice and exploitation never completely went away,” Obama said. “They were never fully dislodged. Caste differences still impact the life chances of people on the Indian subcontinent. Ethnic and religious differences still determine who gets opportunity from the Central Europe to the Gulf. It is a plain fact that racial discrimination still exists in both the United States and South Africa. … In other words, for far too many people, the more things have changed, the more things stayed the same.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
— The European Union leveled a record $5 billion antitrust fine against Google. Tony Romm reports: “The steep penalties from Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s competition chief, marks the second time in as many years that the region has found that Google wields its power in a way that harms competition and consumers. In this case, Vestager faulted Google for using Android as a means to solidify its strong foothold in search and advertising, while making it harder for rivals to offer competing apps and services.
— Rep. Martha Roby handily won Alabama’s GOP primary runoff, successfully beating back a challenge from former congressman Bobby Bright, who sought to portray her as insufficiently loyal to Trump. With all the ballots counted, Roby won 68 percent to 32 percent. In 2016, she criticized Trump following the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape that showed him boasting about sexual assault and propositioning married women. “But unlike most other past Trump critics, Roby won the most powerful tool for squashing skepticism about her loyalty to Trump: a runoff endorsement from the president himself,” Sean Sullivan and David Weigel report. “In a June 22 tweet, Trump wrote that Roby had become ‘a consistent and reliable vote for our Make America Great Again Agenda.’”
— The American League beat the National League in the MLB All-Star Game for the sixth consecutive year. The Post reports: “The American League triumphed in a back-and-forth duel between long-ball hitters at MLB’s All-Star Game, the first in Washington in 49 years. Ten home runs were hit in total, including eight solo shots, but the Astros teammates Alex Bregman and George Springer provided the game-winning blows in the 10th inning for the AL team … Nationals ace Max Scherzer started the game for the NL and pitched two innings, giving up a home run to the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, the first of the night. Bryce Harper struck out in his only two plate appearances.”
GET SMART FAST:
- ISIS has been engaging in small-scale attacks in central Iraq that have raised officials’ fears of a new cycle of insurgency. The wave of kidnappings, assassinations and bombings is frighteningly reminiscent of how ISIS captured territory in the years before 2014. (Liz Sly and Mustafa Salim)
- Owners of the Mandalay Bay Resort have filed federal lawsuits against more than 1,000 victims of the Las Vegas massacre, seeking to avoid liability after gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd of concertgoers from the 32nd floor of their hotel. The lawsuit is an effort to stop any potential cases from moving forward. (Mark Berman)
- U.S. death rates from liver cancer increased by 43 percent between 2000 and 2016. Liver cancer has not gotten deadlier, experts say, but the number of people developing the disease is on the rise. Liver cancer is often caused by liver disease, which has risk factors that include obesity, smoking, excess alcohol consumption, and hepatitis B and C infection. (CNN)
- Astronomers have discovered 12 new moons orbiting Jupiter — ranging in size from “shrimpy satellites to whopping space hulks,” Ben Guarino reports. The discovery brings the total number of moons circling Jupiter to 79.
- The NAACP lifted its travel advisory against American Airlines. The civil right organization issued the warning last October after some of the airline’s African American customers complained of discrimination, but the company has apparently made “substantial” progress in addressing these concerns. (Tracy Jan)
Elon Musk apologized for referring to one of the Thai cave rescuers as “pedo guy.” The Tesla chief wrote of British diver Vernon Unsworth over Twitter, “[H]is actions against me do not justify my actions against him, and for that I apologize to Mr. Unsworth and to the companies I represent as leader. The fault is mine and mine alone.” (Allyson Chiu)
Majorities of Republicans and Democrats voice support for measures to make voting easier. For example, 64 percent of Republicans and 82 percent of Democrats say those convicted of felonies should be able to vote after they have served their sentences. And 52 percent of Republicans, along with 83 percent of Democrats, support automatic voter registration when citizens visit a DMV in their state. (Christopher Ingraham)
- A cleaning lady in Lake Forest, Calif., is being hospitalized after she was ambushed outside her car by a swarm of 80,000 angry, Africanized bees. African bees have become notorious in recent years for their extreme levels of aggression and pursuit of victims — and have managed to terrorize entire neighborhoods and stalk their victims even in moving vehicles. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
CLEAN UP ON AISLE NINE:
— “How Trump retreats: Grudging apologies, plus a wink and a nod to the original insult,” by Marc Fisher: “On Tuesday, President Trump felt compelled to pull back on his statement in Helsinki on Monday that embraced [Putin’s] version of the 2016 presidential campaign interference story over the facts presented by U.S. intelligence services. Trump saw that he had to respond to a torrent of criticism from his political base as well as from the opposition. But the way he delivered his statement of retreat was classic Trump, a dual message — a ritual statement of confidence in U.S. intelligence officials for those who insist that the president respect the nation’s systems and mores, but also winks and nods to those who like Trump expressly because he’s eager to smash China and topple tradition.
“As he began to read his statement reversing what he’d said in Helsinki, Trump, who started his appearance with less formal comments about his European trip, made a show of demonstrating to the TV audience that he was now reading from a script. Although he’d been speaking for several minutes, he abruptly changed to a more formal tone of voice, and said, ‘So I’ll begin by stating that I have full faith and support for America’s great intelligence agencies.’ He read from the paper: ‘Let me be totally clear in saying that — and I’ve said this many times — I accept our intelligence community’s conclusion that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election took place.’
“Then he looked up. Change of tone, to the casual Trump, the voice his followers know conveys his true feelings. And he interjected: ‘Could be other people also. A lot of people out there.’ And he was off, riffing as he had in Helsinki, once more re-litigating the 2016 election, asserting that ‘there was no collusion at all, and people have seen that and they’ve seen it strongly.’ He would come back to his script, claiming that his error in Helsinki had been the misstating of a single word — ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t.’ ‘So you can put that in,’ he said, ‘and I think that probably clarifies things pretty good by itself.’”
— Trump deleted a line from his prepared remarks about bringing the election hackers to justice. (Philip Bump)
Trump wrote in big black Sharpie on his printed remarks: “THERE WAS NO COLLUSION” pic.twitter.com/5wiG4ukGce
— David P Gelles (@gelles) July 17, 2018
— “The statement came after some nudging from his senior team, including national security adviser John Bolton, Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo,” Ashley Parker, Robert Costa and Felicia Sonmez report. “Trump was particularly rattled by a critical tweet Monday from Newt Gingrich … Gingrich, long a stalwart ally, urged the president on social media to ‘clarify’ his Helsinki statements, saying they were ‘the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected — immediately.’ On Tuesday, Gingrich praised Trump for his response.
“Kelly also called some Republican senators Tuesday, according to several people familiar with his conversations, and did what one person described as ‘damage control.’ Some of these people said Kelly urged lawmakers to share their candid opinion about Trump’s Helsinki performance, believing that hearing criticism from trusted allies might help the president understand the magnitude of his blunder.
“Inside the White House, aides largely retreated to grim silence after Helsinki. ‘Folks a little freaked out today,’ a Republican operative in frequent touch with the administration wrote in a text message Tuesday. ‘Almost like Zombies about how bad this was.’
— This morning, selling the summit, Trump says Russia has agreed to help with North Korea:
So many people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki. Putin and I discussed many important subjects at our earlier meeting. We got along well which truly bothered many haters who wanted to see a boxing match. Big results will come!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2018
While the NATO meeting in Brussels was an acknowledged triumph, with billions of dollars more being put up by member countries at a faster pace, the meeting with Russia may prove to be, in the long run, an even greater success. Many positive things will come out of that meeting..
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2018
….Russia has agreed to help with North Korea, where relationships with us are very good and the process is moving along. There is no rush, the sanctions remain! Big benefits and exciting future for North Korea at end of process!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2018
Some people HATE the fact that I got along well with President Putin of Russia. They would rather go to war than see this. It’s called Trump Derangement Syndrome!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2018
“Senate Republican leaders raised the possibility of taking legislative action. ‘There’s a possibility that we may well take up legislation related to this,’ said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), pointing to a bill from Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) to head off foreign interference in the 2018 elections. In addition, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), a top McConnell lieutenant who appeared at a weekly news conference with the Republican leader, mentioned a bill he has introduced to require the State Department to consider within 90 days whether Russia should be listed as a state sponsor of terrorism.”
— But Trump’s afternoon statement gave air cover for Republican lawmakers to walk back their criticisms. “I wish he had said it in front of President Putin and the world yesterday, but yeah, I take him at his word if he said he misspoke, absolutely,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) told Fox News.
“I’m just glad he clarified it,” Rubio added. “I can’t read his intentions or what he meant to say at the time, and suffice it to say that for me as a policymaker, what really matters is what we do moving forward.”
— That said, prominent conservatives and national hawks continue to demand that Republicans do more than just look the other way. George F. Will’s column in today’s newspaper is a real doozy, for example: “America’s child president had a play date with a KGB alumnus, who surely enjoyed providing day care. It was a useful, because illuminating, event: Now we shall see how many Republicans retain a capacity for embarrassment.
“Americans elected a president who — this is a safe surmise — knew that he had more to fear from making his tax returns public than from keeping them secret. The most innocent inference is that for decades he has depended on an American weakness, susceptibility to the tacky charisma of wealth, which would evaporate when his tax returns revealed that he has always lied about his wealth, too. A more ominous explanation might be that his redundantly demonstrated incompetence as a businessman tumbled him into unsavory financial dependencies on Russians. A still more sinister explanation might be that the Russians have something else, something worse, to keep him compliant. The explanation is in doubt; what needs to be explained — his compliance — is not.
“Granted, Trump has a weak man’s banal fascination with strong men whose disdain for him is evidently unimaginable to him. And, yes, he only perfunctorily pretends to have priorities beyond personal aggrandizement. But just as astronomers inferred, from anomalies in the orbits of the planet Uranus, the existence of Neptune before actually seeing it, (Robert) Mueller might infer, and then find, still-hidden sources of the behavior of this sad, embarrassing wreck of a man.”
— Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) – who returned to Twitter for the first time in months to encourage Trump to condemn Russian election interference when he met with Putin – said the president’s comments in Helsinki were “disastrous for America.” Paul Kane writes: “At a time when Trump’s Republican critics are either retiring or ailing, Sasse is the prototype to take on the role of leading conservative trying to steer the GOP toward its more traditional beliefs in free trade and strong national security, particularly in the posture toward Russia. … But Sasse is going through a bit of a crisis, in his views of the Senate and traditional party alliances. ‘The country is in a bad way. I think my party is in a bad way, but I think the institution of Congress, and the institution of the Senate, are arguably the second weakest in U.S. history,’ he said in an interview Monday afternoon.”
— Meanwhile, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) — whose moral relativism I wrote about in Monday’s Big Idea — continued to defend Trump’s performance in the original news conference, dismissing critics as “people who hate the president.” (Karoun Demirjian)
— Democrats, who have been wary of making Russia a campaign focus, hope they can turn Trump’s gentle treatment of Putin into a winning issue for the midterms. Mike DeBonis and Sean Sullivan report: “Even lawmakers and strategists who have been skeptical that the Russia investigations would motivate swing voters said Tuesday that the president’s decision to publicly question the conclusions of U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies while standing at Putin’s side represented a watershed political moment. … Citing polls and focus groups that have put Trump and Russia far down the list of voter priorities, Democratic strategists have counseled candidates and party leaders for months to discuss ‘kitchen table’ issues. Now … those strategists believe the ground may have shifted.”
— For perspective: A majority of Americans disapprove of how Trump has handled relations with Russia, according to a new Reuters-Ipsos poll conducted after Monday’s news conference. From Reuters’s Damon Darlin and Chris Kahn: “However, Trump’s performance at the Helsinki summit … did not seem to have an impact on his overall approval rating. Forty-two percent of registered voters said they approved of Trump’s performance in office in the latest opinion poll, compared with a daily average of between 40 and 44 percent so far in July. The poll found that 55 percent of registered voters disapproved while 37 percent approved of his handling of relations with Russia.”
— The T word: A lot more people, including former CIA director John Brennan, are starting to use the word “treason” after Trump’s performance in Helsinki. Peter Baker explores this on the front page of today’s New York Times: “While the accusation of treason has been thrown around on the edges of the political debate from time to time, never in the modern era has it become part of the national conversation in such a prominent way. … Trump’s critics reach for words like treason and traitor because they, like others, are searching for an explanation for actions that are so different from those of his predecessors. … Trump returned to the White House on Monday night as protesters outside the gate shouted, ‘Welcome home, traitor.’ Even Dictionary.com trolled the president, tweeting out a definition: ‘Traitor: A person who commits treason by betraying his or her country.’ It later said that searches for ‘treason’ had increased by 2,943 percent. By Tuesday afternoon, the word ‘traitor’ had been used on Twitter 800,000 times and the word ‘treason’ about 1.2 million times.
“Treason is listed by the Constitution as one of the specific justifications for impeachment along with bribery and other undefined ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ as the framers put it. … No sitting president has ever been formally charged with treason, nor for that matter have many other Americans since the days of Aaron Burr or the political leaders who defected to the Confederacy during the Civil War. The closest was former President John Tyler, who sided with the South against the Union and was elected to the Confederate Congress but died before taking his seat. Franklin Pierce, another former president, was a Southern sympathizer and sometimes accused informally of treason.”
MORE HELSINKI FALLOUT:
— In the hours after the Helsinki summit, no one could clarify what the sit-down would yield for the future of U.S.-Russian relations — not even members of Trump’s own administration. Missy Ryan and Carol Morello report: “The day after Trump huddled with Putin in an extended one-on-one meeting, the Pentagon, State Department and other agencies struggled to publicly reconcile Trump’s friendly treatment of the Russian president with government-wide policies identifying Russia as a chief threat to U.S. security. Further complicating efforts to digest the summit was a statement from the Russian Defense Ministry on Tuesday that said Moscow was ready to implement ‘agreements on international security’ reached by the leaders. The White House has not announced any deals, and spokesmen in Washington said they were unaware of new accords. … [Meanwhile], Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who attended a larger meeting after Trump’s solo encounter with Putin, returned from Helsinki the same night and had no public appearances Tuesday. Despite requests for him to talk to reporters about the summit, Pompeo made no statements.”
— Russian officials are still hopeful that Trump and Putin’s meeting will lay the groundwork for a thaw in relations between the two countries. From Anton Troianovski: “Andrei Klimov, deputy head of the foreign affairs committee in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said in an interview Tuesday that he expected senior U.S. and Russian officials to meet repeatedly in the next six months and hammer out a ‘road map’ toward resolving contentious issues and deepening cooperation. Intelligence agencies, for instance, need to start working together more closely to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Klimov said. Nuclear arms control and solutions to the Syria and Ukraine crises need to be discussed, he added.”
— Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is open to talks with his Russian counterpart. But two U.S. officials said Mattis is not actively seeking a meeting with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. (Reuters)
— “Trump may think of the European Union as America’s primary foe, but the Kremlin identifies the United States as its primary adversary,” Mark Hertling and Molly McKew write in Politico Magazine. “It is using asymmetric means to attack our society and our alliances, and to attack the citizens of the West. More details of this are being exposed daily, and our intelligence, military and national security communities are getting louder and louder in signaling their alarm. For now, our civilian leadership is shrugging this off, even acquiescing, which leaves every individual to defend themselves against the assault of information levied by a foreign attacker. This should not be the way we defend our people and our homeland. This is our Pearl Harbor, our 9/11. In the past, we have risen to the defense of our values, our ideologies and our institutions. It’s time for another fight. The ball — as Putin said — is in our court.”
— Bigger picture: In the past five weeks, Trump has upended the global order as we know it: berating U.S. allies in Brussels, meeting directly with Kim Jong Un in Singapore and defending Putin in Helsinki — despite the consensus of his own FBI and intelligence agencies. David Nakamura and Carol Morello report: “The moves have clearly served Trump’s desired image as a dealmaker willing to upset the status quo and throw conventional wisdom. But what’s less clear to many, including Republican lawmakers and Trump’s own advisers, is what the president is trying to accomplish — and how he expects to get there. Trump has cast his high-stakes geopolitical endeavors as an overdue course correction for a U.S. foreign policy that had become bogged down by groupthink and rendered ineffectual … [And during the 2016] campaign, Trump cast disdain on multilateral institutions for trade and defense that have defined the post-World War II liberal order[.] Once in office, he made clear that he was willing to give the leaders of rival nations the benefit of the doubt, casting their hostile actions as an outgrowth of ‘foolishness’ and ‘stupidity’ of past administrations.”
- Former diplomat Daniel Fried noted that Trump has “rooted his foreign policy in an affinity for nationalism, reducing global relationships to a transactional zero-sum contest among nations. ‘That reduces the U.S. from being the leader of the free world to being just another grasping great power,’ said Fried. ‘It means the world becomes a world of 19th-century power politics, where might makes right. That undoes 100 years of America’s grand strategy, which worked out well for us. It won the Cold War, because people behind the Iron Curtain were inspired by our ideas and ideals.’”
- “A world in flux is also marked by opportunity, experts note — clearing the way for Western coalitions — or autocratic governments, to fill the void. Adversaries can attempt to ‘build a competing image of what a world without American leadership would look like,’ said [the Brookings Institution’s Suzanne Maloney]. ‘It’s one that’s incredibly hostile to our interests and values and those of most of our allies and other democratic countries around the world.’”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
— Russian national Maria Butina spent nearly five years making inroads into elite conservative circles in D.C. — where she sought out leaders of influential, right-wing groups, including the NRA and CPAC. Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger, Shane Harris and Carol D. Leonnig report: “[Butina touted] her interest in U.S. affairs and efforts to promote gun rights in Vladimir Putin’s restrictive Russia. She sidled up to GOP presidential candidates, seeking first an encounter with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and then, after his rising candidacy stumbled, with [Trump]. But by August 2016, when she moved to the United States … the FBI was watching, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter. Rather than question or confront her, they said, officials decided to track her movements to determine whom she was meeting and what she was doing in the United States — the kind of monitoring that is not uncommon when foreign nationals are suspected of working on behalf of a foreign government. … U.S. officials allege that her activities show the breadth and sophistication of Russia’s influence operations in the U.S. At the same time prosecutors say 12 Russian intelligence agents in Moscow sought to affect the 2016 [campaign], Butina was roaming the country, building ties on the Kremlin’s behalf with powerful conservative figures.”
- “By 2017, after she had enrolled as a graduate student at American University … Butina began probing groups on the left … trying unsuccessfully to interview a D.C.-based civil rights group about its cyber-vulnerabilities for what she said was a school project[.]
- “Starting in 2014, Butina began attending annual NRA conventions … [Working as an assistant to Putin ally Alexander Torshin, the two] got unusual access to elite NRA gatherings[.] In recent years, they were regular guests at Golden Ring of Freedom dinners and VIP events reserved for people who typically donate $1 million to the NRA.” She also had access to VIP areas at events such as CPAC, giving her unique, personal access to leaders and other influential attendees.
“Acting as Torshin’s assistant and interpreter, Butina soon began forming her own connections to the NRA, becoming friendly with David Keene, a past chairman of the American Conservative Union who served as the NRA’s president from 2011 to 2013. In 2013, Butina and Torshin invited Keene and other American gun enthusiasts to Moscow to attend the annual meeting of her organization … There, Butina met Paul Erickson, a South Dakota-based Republican operative who was well known to Republican insiders, going back to the work he did as national political director for Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign in 1992. She told the Senate Intelligence Committee in April that she began a romantic relationship with the American operative, people familiar with her testimony said. … Erickson, who has not been charged, did not respond to requests for comment.”
Robert Driscoll, an attorney for the 29-year-old Butina, said she is not a Russian agent but a student with an interest in politics and a desire to network with Americans.
— “[Butina and Torshin’s] work to establish a back channel between the Kremlin and Republican politicians progressed far enough, prosecutors noted, that she passed information to Moscow about who might be chosen as U.S. secretary of state and took unsuccessful steps to arrange a secret meeting between [Trump] and Putin during the campaign,” Bloomberg News’s David Kocieniewski, Greg Farrell, and Polly Mosendz report, noting that before he became Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton even appeared in a video on behalf of Butina’s Russian gun-rights group. “Although U.S. authorities described broad efforts to infiltrate the political system, the charge against Butina was narrow. That fueled speculation about the potential reasons — a rush because she was planning to leave the area, a desire to protect intelligence sources, or an effort by federal prosecutors to pressure her into cooperating against others, including Torshin, who was placed under U.S. sanctions in April.”
— An aide to Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), known for his pro-Kremlin leanings, confirmed that he met with Torshin in 2015. Butina’s affidavit claimed that she was part of “discussions about the RUSSIAN OFFICIAL’s plans to meet with a U.S. Congressman during a Congressional Delegation trip to Moscow in August 2015.” The official is widely believed to be Torshin, and Rohrabacher aide Ken Grubbs confirmed the congressman met with him during an August 2015 trip to Russia. “All he could recall about Ms. Butina is that she was an aide to Torshin who arranged a [breakfast] meeting and was of no consequence other than that. His CODEL [congressional delegation] as well as his meeting with Torshin all came under the normal, fact-finding auspices of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats,” Grubbs said. (Daily Beast)
— John Gizzi (@johngizzi) November 2, 2016
— Exactly two weeks before the 2016 election, Butina dined with France 24 reporter Philip Crowther. He says Butina appeared “awfully confident” that Trump would win the presidency: “Her message to me after our lunch, on October 28, was this: ‘Some people say that Russians have this sixth sense and sometimes can predict great things ahead — this is what I feel after our meeting. I feel that we will be having some interesting and important deals together.’ I don’t know what kind of deals she might have been alluding to, as we never met again. But I think I know what she meant by ‘great things ahead.’ In fact, her optimism … had manifested itself much earlier. According to court papers, Butina emailed an American political operative in March 2015 about her belief that the Republican Party would likely win the White House in 2016.”
THE GOVERNMENT’S RESPONSE:
— The director of the NSA and U.S. Cyber Command, Paul Nakasone, has quietly directed the two organizations to coordinate actions to defend the United States against potential Russian interference in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections. Ellen Nakashima reports: “The move, announced [last week] … is an attempt to maximize the efforts of the two groups[.] It is the latest initiative by national security agencies to push back against Russian aggression in the absence of direct guidance from the White House on the issue. . . . Nakasone wants to better coordinate NSA intelligence-gathering on Russian cyberactivities and CyberCom’s plans to thwart Kremlin operations. When directed by the president or defense secretary, the military unit … may also take offensive action such as disrupting an adversary’s computer networks. The joint CyberCom-NSA Russia group is working with the FBI, the CIA and Department of Homeland Security, each of which has its own initiative to detect and deter Russian influence operations. FBI Director Christopher A. Wray last year set up the foreign-influence task force to counter such attempts.”
Key quote from Michael V. Hayden, who has led the NSA and CIA: “Nakasone, and the heads of the other three-letter agencies, are doing what they can in their own lanes, absent an overall approach directed by the president. As good as it is, it’s not good enough. This is not a narrowly defined cyberthreat. This is one of the most significant strategic national security threats facing the United States since 9/11.”
— The National Security Council’s intelligence chief is leaving the White House. The Daily Beast’s Kate Brannen and Spencer Ackerman report: “[Michael] Barry’s departure adds to the growing list of vacant senior NSC positions since the appointment of [John Bolton] … Barry’s departure is on ‘very good terms,’ one source said, but it will be a ‘tough loss for the NSC.’ According to the source, Barry is returning to the Central Intelligence Agency, where he served before joining the NSC staff. … Barry, a CIA veteran, was well received on the NSC when he joined last fall, largely because he was replacing Ezra Cohen-Watnick, who had repeatedly clashed with the CIA, fellow NSC staffers, and Cabinet officials during his tenure.”
— Trump told Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to announce the Russian election-hacking indictments before his meeting with Putin, in the hopes of strengthening his hand for the summit. Bloomberg News’s Chris Strohm and Jennifer Jacobs report: “Rosenstein went to Trump last week and offered him the choice: before or after the Putin summit on Monday in Helsinki? Trump chose before, ultimately putting the issue into the spotlight just 72 hours before the high-stakes meeting, [people familiar with the decision] said. … The episode involved a rare move by Rosenstein, who invoked an exception on national security grounds that allowed him to brief Trump about ongoing grand jury proceedings.”
A BRAVE NEW WORLD:
— The country’s top voting machine vendor admitted it installed remote-access software on some election-management systems it sold to states, raising security concerns. Kim Zetter reports for Vice News’s Motherboard: “In a letter sent to Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) . . . Election Systems and Software acknowledged that it had ‘provided pcAnywhere remote connection software … to a small number of customers between 2000 and 2006,’ which was installed on the election-management system ES&S sold them. … Wyden [said] that installing remote-access software and modems on election equipment ‘is the worst decision for security short of leaving ballot boxes on a Moscow street corner.’”
— A British Parliament member said Cambridge Analytica’s data was accessed from Russia. CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan, Drew Griffin and Patricia DiCarlo report: “Damian Collins, the Conservative MP leading a British parliamentary investigation into online disinformation, [said] that a British investigation found evidence that the data, collected by Professor Aleksandr Kogan on behalf of Cambridge Analytica, had been accessed from Russia and other countries. … Kogan denies handing over the Facebook data he gathered for Cambridge Analytica to any Russian entity, saying it is possible that someone in Russia could have accessed data from his computer without his knowledge.”
— Twitter suspended at least 58 million accounts in the final months of last year. The AP’s Barbara Ortutay and Ken Sweet report: “The figure highlights the company’s newly aggressive stance against malicious or suspicious accounts in the wake of Russian disinformation efforts during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. … [But the] cavalcade of suspensions has raised questions as to whether the crackdown could affect Twitter’s user growth and whether the company should have warned investors earlier.”
— Top officials at Facebook, Google and Twitter appeared before the House Judiciary Committee, where they were grilled over “filtering” practices used to stifle offensive speech on the platforms. Republican lawmakers largely used the hours-long hearing to hone in on what they perceive as bias against conservative voices. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.) accused Google of censoring the word “Jesus” in some search results. (Tony Romm)
— Facebook plans to dramatically ramp up its research into artificial intelligence. The social network’s chief AI scientist said of the move, “AI has become so central to the operations of companies like ours, that what our leadership has been telling us is: ‘Go faster. You’re not going fast enough.’” (Drew Harwell)
THE MANAFORT TRIAL:
— A federal judge rejected Paul Manafort’s effort to have his trial moved from Alexandria, Va., to a courthouse in Roanoke. Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports: “U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III ruled that media attention to Manafort’s prosecution and to [Robert Mueller’s probe] has not been so intense that it threatens the veteran lobbyist’s ability to get a fair trial. Ellis said the ‘substantial media attention’ was understandable but had not produced the ‘carnival or circus atmosphere’ deemed to warrant a change of venue in other cases.” Ellis also took issue with some of the Manafort lawyers’ presumptions about jury selections, writing that “there is no reason to believe that fair and impartial jurors cannot be found in the Eastern District of Virginia.”
— Meanwhile, Mueller’s team has requested immunity for five witnesses slated to testify against Manafort in the Alexandria trial. CNN’s Katelyn Polantz reports: “Mueller is keeping the names of the witnesses undisclosed at this time so as not to create ‘risk of undue harassment’ and because the details ‘could lead to reputational harm,’ according to a proposal from the prosecutors. In theory, the move to grant the witnesses immunity prevents them from invoking their Fifth Amendment rights and staying silent on certain questions when testifying against Manafort. … Mueller says the witnesses haven’t been publicly identified in the case, and haven’t been charged.”
THE REST OF THE AGENDA:
— Trump’s stay at his Scotland golf resort last weekend cost the U.S. government $68,800, according to a new report in the Scotsman newspaper. David A. Fahrenthold and Drew Harwell report: “The money came from the State Department, the Edinburgh-based paper reported, and it paid for hotel rooms used by Trump and his staff. The president stayed at the resort — which he bought in 2014 — from Friday night to Sunday afternoon. Reached on Tuesday afternoon, the Trump Organization did not dispute the paper’s findings. Instead, it issued a one-sentence statement saying that it did not derive profits from business with the government. ‘For United States government patronage, our hotels charge room rates only at cost and we do not profit from these stays,’ [it read]. Trump still owns his businesses, including Trump Turnberry, but he has given over day-to-day control to [his adult sons]. The Turnberry club has been one of his biggest investments — costing him $205 million in cash . . . But, so far, it has lost millions of dollars and has never reported a profit. Trump made no public appearances [at Turnberry, where staff said he focused on preparations for the meeting with Putin]. Photos showed he also played golf.”
— Members of a DHS advisory council resigned this week in protest of Trump’s immigration crackdown and forced family separations, which they described in a letter as “morally repugnant.” David Nakamura reports: “Richard Danzig, former secretary of the Navy in the Clinton administration, and Elizabeth Holtzman, a former Democratic congresswoman, were among the group that announced their resignation [in a letter to DHS Secretary] Kirstjen Nielsen. The group noted that the [DHS] did not consult its advisory council before implementing the policy, which separated more than 2,500 children until [Trump] reversed his endorsement of the practice amid an international outcry … Two former Obama administration officials — David Martin, a former DHS deputy general counsel, and Matthew Olsen, who served as director of the National Counterterrorism Center — also signed the letter.”
- “Were we consulted, we would have observed that routinely taking children from migrant parents was morally repugnant, counter-productive and ill-considered,” the group wrote. “We cannot tolerate association with the immigration policies of this administration, nor the illusion that we are consulted on these matters.”
— House Republicans want to provide $5 billion in 2019 funding for Trump’s border wall. Erica Werner reports: “The $5 billion would be included in a House homeland-security spending bill expected to be released Wednesday. The Senate included only $1.6 billion for the wall in its version of the bill last month, a figure that displeased Trump, who told senators he might shut down the government this fall if he does not get more. … Trump never formally requested $5 billion for the wall, instead communicating the number privately to lawmakers in recent weeks. … [But] Republicans acknowledged it might be a struggle to get their number through the Senate.”
— The Army reversed its decision to discharge Lucas Calixto, a citizenship-seeking immigrant soldier. From Alex Horton: “Calixto, a 28-year-old reservist from Brazil, had faced an uncertain future in the United States before the reversal, which was reported by the Associated Press. An abrupt discharge was likely to knock him off his path to citizenship, which the military promises in exchange for the skills of immigrants who enlist.”
— The EPA finalized a rule this week to overhaul requirements for the treatment of coal ash waste across the United States. Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report: “The far-reaching rule will dictate how coal ash, which has contaminated waterways in two high-profile spills in Tennessee and North Carolina in the past decade, is stored at more than 400 coal-fired power plants around the country. The new standards — the first major rule signed by EPA acting administrator Andrew Wheeler — will extend the life of some existing ash ponds from April 2019 until October 2020, empower states to suspend groundwater monitoring in certain cases and allow state officials to certify whether utilities’ facilities meet adequate standards. EPA officials estimate that the rule change will save the industry between $28 million and $31 million a year in compliance costs.”
— Leaders of Japan and the European Union signed a trade deal, creating one of the world’s largest liberalized trade zones — a stark contrast to Trump’s increasingly protectionist actions. The Wall Street Journal’s Alastair Gale and Emre Peker report: “While the signing in Tokyo on Tuesday was largely ceremonial, it marked a rare moment of unity on trade. …. The EU and Japan’s answer to Mr. Trump’s trade policies has been the biggest trade deal struck by Brussels that will eliminate some €1 billion ($1.17 billion) in tariffs for European companies annually and double that amount for Japanese exporters to the 28-member bloc, according to EU officials.”
— A Post analysis found Democratic challengers in competitive House races have raised impressive amounts of money. From Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy: “In 11 of the 17 competitive House races where a Democratic challenger has already been selected, those Democrats have outraised the GOP incumbents in donations from individuals … In another of the districts, the Democratic challenger came within about $13,000 of the GOP incumbent. That is consistent with a broader national trend, in which more than 70 congressional Democrats have outraised their Republican opponents in the second quarter of 2018, according to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.”
— Republicans are working frantically to prevent an upset in Ohio’s special election next month, where GOP nominee Troy Balderson has fallen short of both fundraising goals and expectations — and faces a real threat from upstart Democratic nominee Danny O’Connor. David Weigel reports: “Ohio’s 12th Congressional District … is giving both parties a sense of deja vu. Four months after first-time candidate Conor Lamb won a strongly Republican district in Pennsylvania, rattling the president and his party, Republicans are working to prevent another upset by a young Democrat running as a moderate — all health care, no hot buttons. The Aug. 7 special election in central Ohio, which was called after longtime Republican Rep. Patrick J. Tiberi resigned … will be the last gut check for both parties ahead of November’s midterms. … Republicans, who presided over a 2011 gerrymander that appeared to turn the district safely red, concede that Democrats have put it in play. A Republican super PAC has been on the air for five weeks; both [Mike Pence and Paul Ryan] have flown in to help Balderson raise money and wake up voters.”
— Rep. Linda T. Sánchez of California announced her intention to run as House Democratic Caucus chair, seeking to replace outgoing Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), after he was defeated by political newcomer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in the June primary election. Amy B Wang reports: “Sánchez acknowledged in the letter that it might seem early to talk about changes in party leadership — particularly with so much of the Democrats’ focus turned outward, intent on winning back a majority — but described it as essential. … Sánchez has served as vice chair of the caucus for 18 months and said she was ‘encouraged by the conversations I have had with many members about continuing that work.’ Since 2013, Sanchez has represented California’s 38th Congressional District, which covers southeastern Los Angeles and parts of the San Gabriel Valley. More pertinent, perhaps, Sánchez has been among the most vocal members of the party when it comes to pushing for new leadership. [In October], Sánchez … cited [Nancy Pelosi ](D-Calif.), House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) and House Assistant Minority Leader James E. Clyburn (S.C.) as Democratic leaders who should consider stepping aside.”
— Former senator Joe Lieberman penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed encouraging Crowley to continue campaigning for his congressional seat. Lieberman writes: “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s surprise primary victory over Rep. Joe Crowley seems likely to hurt Congress, America and the Democratic Party. It doesn’t have to. … Fortunately, Joe Crowley and the voters in his district can prevent this damage. On Election Day, his name will be on the ballot as the endorsed candidate of the Working Families Party. But for Mr. Crowley to have a chance at getting re-elected, he will have to decide if he wants to remain an active candidate. I hope he does.”
— A DNC commission advanced new primary rules rendering superdelegates essentially irrelevant. David Weigel reports: “The compromise … would prevent the hundreds of unpledged delegates — figures as diverse at former presidents and low-ranking DNC members — from voting on the first ballot of a presidential nomination. While they would be free to make endorsements, their support would not count toward a candidate’s delegate total, except in the event of a brokered convention.”
— The Heritage Foundation’s political sister organization plans to get significantly involved in congressional races for the first time. The Wall Street Journal’s Kristina Peterson reports: “Heritage Action plans to spend $2.5 million, starting in early September, to help Republicans win in 14 congressional districts. … The hope is that the campaign efforts will create allies on Capitol Hill and give Heritage Action ways to reward lawmakers, not just criticize them when the group views their voting records as not conservative enough.”
— A candidate running for a seat in Arizona’s state legislature who was previously charged with the murder of his mother and sister claimed the tragedy demonstrated the importance of having “a good guy there with a gun” rather than gun-control legislation. From the Arizona Republic’s Alison Steinbach: “[Bobby] Wilson … took the mic [at a recent event on gun control] and told a story of how he shot and killed a crazed attacker in an act of self-defense while a teenager. That attacker, it turned out, was his mother. … Court records and newspaper articles from the time suggest there may be more to the story than Wilson’s account. Those records show he was charged with the murder of his mother and sister, and soon after his arrest he confessed to those charges. He later recanted his confession and claimed he had amnesia about the events of the night in question. The charges against him ultimately were dismissed by an Oklahoma judge.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump took credit for Martha Roby’s runoff victory:
Congratulations to Martha Roby of The Great State of Alabama on her big GOP Primary win for Congress. My endorsement came appropriately late, but when it came the “flood gates” opened and you had the kind of landslide victory that you deserve. Enjoy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2018
The Senate’s top Democrat slammed Trump’s reversal on Russian election interference:
President Trump tried to squirm away from what he said yesterday. It’s twenty-four hours too late, and in the wrong place.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) July 17, 2018
Trump made a joke after his remarks about Helsinki were interrupted:
WHAT A MOMENT: lights in the room go black just as Trump says he has “full faith” in US intelligence agencies.
Trump looks around, confused. “Must be the intelligence agencies,” he jokes.
— Michael M. Grynbaum (@grynbaum) July 17, 2018
A Post photographer explained the real reason why the lights went off, which allowed him to snap this shot:
A New York Times photographer captured this:
The President wrote in sharpie “THERE WAS NO COLUSION” during a meeting with congressional members. pic.twitter.com/dYk88Ot9h8
— Tom Brenner (@tombrennerphoto) July 17, 2018
A Democratic senator wants to speak to Trump’s interpreter in Helsinki:
I’m calling for a hearing with the U.S. interpreter who was present during President Trump’s meeting with Putin to uncover what they discussed privately. This interpreter can help determine what @POTUS shared/promised Putin on our behalf.
— Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (@SenatorShaheen) July 17, 2018
(Executive privilege would seem to make this infeasible.)
The Boston Globe’s deputy Washington bureau chief called Trump’s Russia cleanup ludicrous:
President Trump didn’t correct what he says is “a key sentence” after he said it. He didn’t correct it in not one but two Fox News interviews afterward. He didn’t correct it in the long flight home on Air Force One.
— Matt Viser (@mviser) July 17, 2018
Matt imagined if other historic moments were derailed by a double negative:
“I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or don’t not give me death!”
— Matt Viser (@mviser) July 17, 2018
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you cannot not do for your country.”
— Matt Viser (@mviser) July 17, 2018
One of the top GOP attorneys in town, who is married to senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, seemed skeptical:
And yesterday: “I have confidence in both parties.” https://t.co/44WGBjmGd0
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) July 17, 2018
The White House sought to capitalize on Trump’s reversal:
Inbox from WH: PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP IS PROTECTING OUR ELECTIONS AND STANDING UP TO RUSSIA’S MALIGN ACTIVITIES
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) July 17, 2018
From a conservative HLN host:
Let me get this straight. The big idea today in the WH comms shop was: “Just say you meant to say ‘wouldn’t'”? No one should be hired from here, ever.
— S.E. Cupp (@secupp) July 17, 2018
The Post’s White House bureau chief forecasts what’s next:
If this is Charlottesville redux, then expect Trump to get mad tonight that this afternoon’s do-over, wrong-word excuse didn’t garner glowing headlines, and then come out tomorrow doubling down on what he really wants to say, which is what he said alongside Putin.
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) July 17, 2018
A Vox reporter sarcastically replied to Paul Ryan’s claim that Russian interference did not meaningfully affect the election:
Famously, Richard Nixon served out his second term because we all agreed that McGovern was going to lose anyway and Watergate didn’t make a difference https://t.co/CrWxoQnA7v
— Dylan Matthews (@dylanmatt) July 17, 2018
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman re-upped his push for Congress to check Trump’s protectionist agenda:
The dam is finally breaking. Thankfully.
As the president taxes Americans with tariffs, he pushes away our allies and further strengthens Putin.
It is time for Congress to step up and take back our authorities.
We have legislation to do that. Let’s vote.
— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) July 17, 2018
The former FBI director criticized Republican inaction and called for the election of Democrats in November:
This Republican Congress has proven incapable of fulfilling the Founders’ design that “Ambition must … counteract ambition.” All who believe in this country’s values must vote for Democrats this fall. Policy differences don’t matter right now. History has its eyes on us.
— James Comey (@Comey) July 18, 2018
A GOP strategist explained Republicans’ hesitation to call out Trump’s comments:
I’m furious R’s are cowardly about Trump. But here is what they say in private: 1.) Trump is a disgrace. 2.) I give fiery press conf tmmrw saying that. 3.) Nothing changes, Trump remains nuts and remains POTUS. 4.) A nut beats me in next primary. So how does my pol suicide help? https://t.co/ZitCfRogHd
— Mike Murphy (@murphymike) July 17, 2018
From a Weekly Standard reporter:
Stop talking about a “final straw.”
This president endorsed a credibly accused child molester for the Senate.
He defended racists and neo-Nazis after Charlottesville.
His decision to cozy up to a murderous dictator isn’t a surprise to Republican lawmakers. They know who he is.
— Haley Byrd (@byrdinator) July 17, 2018
A Russian reporter’s description of Fox News attracted attention:
A Kremlin pool reporter says Putin gave an interview to Fox News, “which belongs to the president of the US.” https://t.co/h4c2fXwzyr
— Julia Ioffe (@juliaioffe) July 17, 2018
Bill Browder, the British financier who pushed for the U.S. law punishing Russian human rights violators, fact-checked Putin:
BREAKING: After Putin accused me at the Helsinki Summit of donating $400m to the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Russian General Prosecutor clarified that Putin should have said $400k. The real answer is I donated ZERO. Total amateur hour. https://t.co/xqxsglR7sj
— Bill Browder (@Billbrowder) July 17, 2018
A New York Times reporter noted this timing:
Interesting timing: On the same day that a Russian woman, Maria Butina, was indicted for infiltrating a pro-gun rights organization believed to be the N.R.A., the administration says groups like NRA no longer have to report who their big donors are. https://t.co/0zfPsxH6qN
— Patricia Cohen (@PatcohenNYT) July 17, 2018
A presidential historian marked an astronomical anniversary:
— Michael Beschloss (@BeschlossDC) July 17, 2018
And a former congressman reflected on the day he was there:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
— New York Times, “Sexual Assault Inside ICE Detention: 2 Survivors Tell Their Stories,” by Emily Kassie: “In 2014, a 19-year-old asylum seeker, ‘E.D.,’ was staying in a family detention center in Pennsylvania with her 3-year-old son. A few months into her seven-month stay, she was sexually assaulted by a male guard. ‘I didn’t know how to refuse because he told me that I was going to be deported,’ she said. ‘I was at a jail and he was a migration officer. It’s like they order you to do something and you have to do it.’”
— Politico, “How Sacha Baron Cohen fooled the nation’s leaders,” by Ben Schreckinger and Didi Martinez: “Fifteen years after ‘Da Ali G Show’ fooled prominent politicians into sitting for embarrassing TV interviews, the British comedian’s new show is again wreaking havoc in American politics. Voters could rightly wonder how the people charged with governing them keep falling for Cohen’s ruses. In [former congressman Joe Walsh’s] case, Cohen’s team used fake identities and dummy websites, and concocted media opportunities over the course of several months. It also leaned on flattery, intrigue and the disarming use of the word ‘Liberty’ to reel the former congressman into a TV appearance in which he endorsed arming young children with heavy weaponry.”
— The Daily Beast, “How Michael Avenatti Joined Forces With a Border-Town Lawyer to Fight for Immigrant Kids,” by Michael Daly: “The pair found themselves delivering letters from mothers to their children, including one to a 7-year-old Honduran boy … named Samir. [When they met for the first time, Samir made a drawing] for the lawyers to give to his mother, [who was being detained more than 1,000 miles away]. The main figure was a woman with considerable muscles and a sword. ‘The muscles are because my mother is a powerful woman,’ Samir told them … ‘The sword is what she’s going to use to protect us after we are back together again.’”
— Poynter, “Meet the next misinformation format: Fake audio messages,” by Daniel Funke: “Over the past year, fake audio messages have been slowly making the rounds on WhatsApp, a Facebook-owned messaging platform with more than 1 billion users in more than 180 countries. Gisela Pérez de Acha first noticed them in the aftermath of an earthquake in [Mexico City], when she helped run the collaborative verification project Verificado 19S. ‘I think it was a colleague or friend that forwarded me a WhatsApp audio message regarding … a kindergarten school that collapsed during the earthquake,’ [she said]. ‘It was this person saying, ‘I’m outside of the collapsed kindergarten school, there’s this and this happening and we need this. …’ For WhatsApp users, audio messages are a popular way to update their family and friends … [and the] medium has a special significance on WhatsApp, whose predominantly non-U.S. user base uses it to communicate with almost everyone in their lives. That intimacy, and its encryption, is part of what makes it hard to fact-check viral claims.”
— Cosmopolitan, “The Great CNN Baby Boom,” by Patti Greco: “At least eight of [CNN’s] most high-profile anchors, correspondents, and reporters are expecting or have given birth in the past year and a half.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Queen Elizabeth wore brooch the Obamas gave her as Trump arrived in the U.K.,” from New York Daily News: “Queen Elizabeth was donning some interesting jewelry the day The Donald arrived on British soil. Her Royal Highness’s choice in brooch the day President Trump landed in England has made waves, as the floral piece was a personal gift from former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama on their 2011 state visit. The 1950 vintage piece is in the shape of a green flower, and features 14-karat yellow gold, diamonds and moss agate, according to Politico. It’s also known as the American State Visit brooch. The queen wore it Thursday at Windsor Castle, where she received the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“Ocasio-Cortez draws ire from Democrats: ‘Meteors fizz out,’” from the Hill: “Frustrated Democratic lawmakers are offering Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez some advice: Cool it. … [A] number of House Democrats are up in arms over her no-holds-barred approach . . . Some legislators are voicing concerns that Ocasio-Cortez appears set on using her newfound star power to attack Democrats from the left flank, threatening to divide the party — and undermine its chances at retaking the House — in a midterm election year when leaders are scrambling to form a united front against President Trump and Republicans. The members are not mincing words, warning that Ocasio-Cortez is making enemies of soon-to-be colleagues even before she arrives on Capitol Hill, as she’s expected to do after November’s midterms.”
Trump will hold a Cabinet meeting at 11:30 a.m. EST. He has no other events on his public schedule.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Trump said he wants to change the paint job on Air Force One. “I said, ‘I wonder if we should use the same baby blue colors?’ And we’re not. You know what colors we’re using? Take a guess,” Trump told CBS. “Red, white and blue!” (Felicia Sonmez)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
— Washingtonians will get a nice break from the humidity today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “We’re looking at a less humid and more comfortable day, with dew points dropping into the upper 50s compared with yesterday’s low-to-mid 70s. Temperatures rise through the 70s this morning on their way to afternoon highs in the mid-to-upper 80s, with mostly sunny skies and a pleasant breeze from the north-northwest around 10 mph.”
— District lawmakers want to make it illegal to use someone’s immigration status against them. Marissa J. Lang reports: “The proposed amendment to the District’s existing extortion statute would make it a crime for landlords and employers to wield a person’s undocumented status to get someone to work extra hours or pay more in rent, among other things. Threatening to report someone for being in the United States illegally — or actually doing so — would be punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 and as many as 10 years in prison.”
— Police continued to search for the shooters who killed 10-year-old Makiyah Wilson and injured three others in Northeast D.C. From Michael Brice-Saddler, Justin Jouvenal and Perry Stein: “The motive of the shooting, and whether the gunmen had targeted anyone, remained unclear. Makiyah’s mother, Donnetta Wilson, cried as she talked about her daughter on Tuesday morning. ‘She was an amazing little girl, an outstanding, bright 10-year-old,’ Wilson said.”
— A T. Rex skeleton will be the focal point of the Fossil Hall at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History when it reopens next June. (Peggy McGlone)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Late-night hosts reveled in Trump’s “clarification” on Russian election interference:
Obama showed off some dance moves in Kenya:
Obama dancing in Kenya is the perfect antidote to today pic.twitter.com/mP7WqTTo7Q
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) July 17, 2018
Baseball falls had to wait out heavy rains to see their favorite players at the All-Star Game:
Heavy rains also left cars stranded with water up to their doors:
And lava flowing from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has created a tiny new island: