Day 168: Will to survive.
1/ Trump downplayed Russian election meddling, saying it “could be Russia” but “nobody really knows for sure.” He added that it “could’ve been other people and other countries,” casting doubt on the conclusion of 17 US intelligence agencies and likening it to the incorrect assessment that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. He blamed Obama for not doing anything to stop the meddling. (Bloomberg / CNN / The Daily Beast)
2/ Trump to Russia: stop “destabilizing activities” and end support for “hostile regimes,” like Iran and Syria. The remark came during his speech in Poland the day before he meets with Putin for the first time. (New York Times / NBC News)
3/ Democrats are urging Trump to confront Putin, calling it a “severe dereliction of duty” not to do so. Five Senate Democrats, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, sent a letter to Trump telling him to “set the agenda from the start” with Putin “and make absolutely clear that Russian interference in our democracy will in no way be tolerated.” (NBC News / Politico)
4/ Trump reaffirmed NATO’s mutual defense clause, after failing to do so on his first Europe trip. He then called on allies to honored the agreement to contribute at least 2% of their GDP to their own defense. (CNBC / Washington Post)
5/ Trump asks “whether the West has the will to survive,” saying military spending alone is not enough. He told the bused-in, friendly Polish crowd that “radical Islamic terrorism” has threatened “our civilization and our way of life,” adding that “the fundamental question of our time” is whether “we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?” (New York Times)
6/ Meanwhile, the Trump Organization renewed its Russia-related domain names. TrumpRussia.com and TrumpTowerMoscow.com are just two of more than 1,000 domain names renewed by the organization, which has said it will not pursue any new foreign business deals while Trump is in the White House. (Politico)
7/ Trump vs North Korea: They’re “behaving in a very, very dangerous manner.” Trump said he could respond to the North’s missile test with “some pretty severe things,” declining to elaborate. (CNN)
8/ The voter fraud commission may have violated the law, by ignoring federal requirements governing requests for information from states. The failure is potentially significant, since states could argue it means they are under no obligation to respond. (The Hill)
9/ Steve Bannon’s ally on the National Security Council has been reassigned. The move enables National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster to consolidate power by placing another staffer of his choosing on the council. (BuzzFeed News)
10/ Top White House aides have hired public relation staffs to support their own agendas instead of using the traditional White House policy and messaging operation. Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon, and Jared Kushner all have chiefs of staff, assistants, and PR people working for them in an effort to build up their own brands and policy portfolios. (Politico)
11/ 18 states are suing Betsy DeVos for delaying student loan regulations meant to protect borrowers from being defrauded by predatory schools. The regulations were finalized by the Obama administration and were set to take effect on July 1, but DeVos has delayed the implementation of the rules. (Politico)
12/ White House advisers have discussed using CNN as “leverage” in the AT&T-Time Warner merger. Time Warner is CNN’s parent company. Trump’s Justice Department will decide whether to approve the merger. (New York Times)
13/ The government’s ethics director resigns, saying rules need to be tougher. Walter Shaub Jr.‘s resignation follows months of clashes with the White House over Trump’s refusal to divest his businesses and the administration’s delay in disclosing ethics waivers for appointees. He was the government’s top ethics watchdog. (New York Times / Washington Post / NPR)
poll/ A majority of Americans believe Trump has done something either illegal or unethical when it comes to Russia. 54% believe he has done something illegal or unethical, with 25% saying he has done something illegal and another 29% thinking he has done something unethical although not necessarily illegal. (NPR)
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