What The Fuck Just Happened Today?

Today's essential guide to the daily shock and awe in national politics. Read in moderation.
Curated by @matt_kiser

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Day 574: Hogwash.

1/ Rudy Giuliani said Trump's legal team is prepared to fight a subpoena all the way to the Supreme Court. "We would move to quash the subpoena," Giuliani said, "and we're pretty much finished with our memorandum opposing a subpoena." Giuliani added that Trump's legal team is ready to "argue it before the Supreme Court, if it ever got there." Trump's lawyers plan to argue that a sitting president cannot be indicted by citing Article II of the Constitution and a 2000 memo from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel following Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky. (Washington Post / Business Insider)

2/ Robert Mueller doesn't have to shut down his investigation before the midterms despite claims by Trump's lawyers that he faces a September 1st deadline, according to current and former U.S. officials. Giuliani, meanwhile, said that if Mueller "doesn't get it done in the next two or three weeks we will just unload on him like a ton of bricks." (Bloomberg)

  • Jurors began deliberations in Paul Manafort's trial, who is charged with 18 counts of bank and tax fraud. The prosecution called 27 witnesses and presented 388 documents. The defense rested without calling any witnesses. (New York Times / Politico / CNN)

3/ Trump admitted that he revoked John Brennan's security clearance because of his role in the Russia investigation. "I call it the rigged witch hunt, [it] is a sham," Trump said. "And these people led it. So I think it’s something that had to be done." Brennan called Trump's claims of "no collusion" with Russia to influence the 2016 election "hogwash" and that Trump "clearly has become more desperate to protect himself and those close to him, which is why he made the politically motivated decision to revoke my security clearance in an attempt to scare into silence others who might dare to challenge him." (ABC News / New York Times)

  • The retired commander of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command who oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden: "I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency." (Washington Post)

  • Trump has fired or threatened most senior officials related to the Russia investigation. Sally Yates was fired for refusing to defend Trump's travel ban and her security clearance threatened. Trump has repeatedly threatened to fire Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein. James Comey, Andrew McCabe, and Peter Strzok were fired and their security clearances threatened. Trump has twice threatened to fire Robert Mueller. James Clapper and Susan Rice's security clearances were threatened and John Brennan's security clearance was revoked. (Washington Post)

4/ Trump defended his trade policies and claimed that his steel tariffs will save the U.S. steel industry because the United States was "built on Tariffs, and Tariffs are now leading us to great new Trade Deals." He said steel prices in the short term will be "a little more expensive," but claimed they will eventually drop. He also said competition will be "internal, like it used to be in the old days when we actually had steel, and U.S. Steel was our greatest company." (Wall Street Journal / Yahoo News / New York Times)

poll/ 37% of Americans say they'd like to see the Senate confirm Brett Kavanaugh's nomination. The public's support is lower than nearly every nominee from the last four administrations. 40% say the Senate should not vote to confirm Kavanaugh, while 22% have no opinion. (CNN)

Forecast/ Democrats have a 75.4% of winning the House in the midterms while Republicans have a 24.6% chances of retaining control. (FiveThirtyEight)


Notables.

  1. Trump's military parade is now estimated to cost $92 million – $80 million more than original $12 million estimate. (CNBC)

  2. China and the U.S. will restart trade talks later this month, but expectations are low as Trump's economic adviser Larry Kudlow dismissed the talks as "second-level." (Politico)

  3. The Senate confirmed the 25th and 26th appellate court judges during Trump's tenure – setting a record for the most confirmed during a president's first two years in office. (Washington Post)

  4. Omarosa Manigault Newman released a tape of campaign official Lara Trump offering her a $15,000-a-month job after she was fired from the administration. The job offer required her to sign a nondisclosure agreement, which she said she did not accept. (NBC News / Washington Post)

  5. More than 300 newspapers nationwide published editorials pushing back against Trump's attacks on the news media, saying "this dirty war on the free press must end." Predictably, Trump tweeted that the newspapers were "in collusion" to publish "FAKE NEWS, pushing a political agenda or just plain trying to hurt people." (ABC News / Washington Post / New York Times)

  6. The Senate unanimously passed a resolution affirming that "the press is not the enemy of the people." Trump tweeted that "THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA IS THE OPPOSITION PARTY." (CBS News)

Day 573: Erratic.

1/ Trump revoked former CIA director John Brennan's security clearance, citing what he called Brennan's "erratic conduct and behavior." Brennan has been one of Trump's most prominent critics. Last month, the White House threatened to revoke the clearances for Brennan, Susan Rice, and James Clapper. Trump is also reviewing James Comey's security clearance. Revoking their access to classified information could impact their ability to work as consultants, lobbyists and advisers in Washington. (Washington Post / New York Times / CNBC)

  • John Brennan: Trump is "trying to get back at me" for criticism of his conduct and actions. (CNBC)

2/ The FBI has investigated several cyberattacks over the past year targeted at the Democratic opponent of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher. The 15-term incumbent is widely seen as the most pro-Russia and pro-Putin member of Congress, who has voted against Russian sanctions and was warned by the FBI that Moscow was trying to recruit him as an asset. Last month, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats said the warning lights for future cyberattacks aimed at the U.S. were "blinking red" and last week Sen. Bill Nelson said that Russian hackers had "penetrated" county voting systems in Florida. (Rolling Stone)

3/ The Treasury Department has delayed turning over financial records related to the Russia probe and has refused to provide an expert to make sense of the money trail. Some of the department's personnel have questioned whether the Treasury is intentionally impeding the investigation. At one point, the Treasury went at least four months before responding to a Senate Intelligence Committee request for sensitive financial documents. (BuzzFeed News)

4/ The Treasury Department retweeted-and-then-deleted a Trump tweet celebrating Republican midterm chances this fall, which experts say was a potential violation of federal campaign law. The department's official Twitter account shared a tweet from Trump touting an upcoming "Red Wave." The Hatch Act bans federal employees from engaging in political activity while on duty or serving in an official capacity. (The Hill / CNBC)

5/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders apologized for claiming that Trump has created three times as many jobs for black people as Obama did during his tenure. Sanders claimed that Obama created 195,000 jobs for black people during his eight years in office, while "Trump in his first year and a half has already tripled what President Obama did in eight years." The statement was false, as black employment between January 2009 and January 2017 increased by 3 million jobs. Since then, black employment has increased by about 700,000 jobs. (Washington Post / NBC News / CNBC)

poll/ 51% of Republicans say the news media is the enemy of the people and not an important part of democracy. Overall, 65% of Americans say the news media is an important part of democracy and not the enemy of the people. (Quinnipiac)

poll/ In nationwide generic Congressional ballot, Democrats lead Republicans 52% to 41% – up three percentage points since June. (CNN)

poll/ 75% of Republicans and 72% of Democrats said they are "very motivated" to vote in the midterms. The difference between the two is within the poll's margin of error. 41.9% of eligible voters turned out in the 2014 midterms. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Omarosa claimed Betsy DeVos said black students who booed her 2017 commencement speech lack the "capacity to understand" what she's trying to accomplish, "meaning, all those black students were too stupid to understand her agenda." She also goes after DeVos for being "woefully inadequate and not equipped for her job" in her book, "Unhinged." (Politico)

  2. Roger Stone posted a Nazi Space Force meme on his Instagram before deleting it after public outcry. "I love this," Stone wrote in his original post. "Proud to be in this crew — but the only lies being told are by liberal scumbags." The caption in the photo read: "In space no one can hear you lie." Stone said he didn't notice the swastikas in the photo. (Washington Post)

  3. One of James Mattis' most senior civilian advisers is under investigation for allegedly retaliating against staff members after she used some of them to run personal errands and conduct personal business. Dana White, the Pentagon's chief spokeswoman, has been under investigation for several weeks and is alleged to have misused support staff by asking them to, among other things, fetch her laundry, go to the pharmacy for her, and take care of her mortgage paperwork. She is also alleged to have inappropriately transferred and reassigned personnel after they filed complaints about her. (CNN)

Day 572: Lowlife.

1/ Omarosa released audio of Trump campaign aides discussing how to handle the potential release of a tape where Trump used the "n-word." Trump claims he never said the word, tweeting that "I don't have that word in my vocabulary and never have" and that Omarosa "made it up." The audio appears to corroborate Omarosa's claims that Trump aides were aware of the recording and talked about how to handle it. Trump tweeted that, according to "The Apprentice" producer Mark Burnett, the long-rumored tape of him using a racial slur doesn't exist. (CBS News)

2/ Trump called Omarosa "that dog" and a "crazed, crying lowlife" after she released a recording of his campaign aides in October 2016 discussing how to handle a tape on which Trump is said to have used the n-word. In recent weeks, Trump has attacked several African-Americans, calling Don Lemon "the dumbest man on television," questioning the intelligence of LeBron James, repeated said Maxine Waters has a "low I.Q.," among others. (New York Times / Washington Post)

3/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders can't "guarantee" that Trump hasn't been recorded using the n-word. Sanders also insisted Trump was not using racially coded language when he disparaged Omarosa, who is African-American, as a "dog." (ABC News / CNN / Washington Post)

4/ Trump called Trump Jr. "a fuckup" after he released his emails about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer, according to Omarosa's forthcoming book. The book says Trump erupted in anger after Omarosa mentioned that Trump Jr. had released screenshots of his email exchanges with Rob Goldstone on Twitter. "He is such a fuckup," Omarosa claims Trump said. "He screwed up again, but this time, he’s screwing us all, big-time!" (New York Daily News)

5/ The Trump campaign filed an arbitration action against Omarosa, alleging that her tell-all book broke a 2016 confidentiality agreement. Manigault Newman's book, "Unhinged," portrays Trump as bigoted and racist and questions his mental capacity. Hours after the campaign filed the arbitration action, Manigault Newman declared: "I will not be silenced," "[I] will not be intimidated," and "I'm not going to be bullied by Donald Trump." The Trump campaign hired attorney Charles Harder in its arbitration fight. Harder is best known for representing wrestler Hulk Hogan in his sex tape lawsuit against now-defunct gossip site Gawker. (Politico / Associated Press / Washington Post / CNBC)

  • White House officials were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements that prevents them from writing tell-all books once they leave the Trump administration. The clause was embedded in the White House's two-page non-disclosure agreement that prohibits top aides from disclosing confidential information in the form of books without Trump's permission. If aides violate those terms, the non-disclosure agreement stipulates that they would be required to forfeit any royalties or earnings to the U.S. government. (Politico)

6/ Paul Manfort sent recommendations for senior White House positions to Jared Kushner in late 2016. Manafort sent Kushner a recommendation to appoint the chair of the Federal Savings Bank, Stephen Calk, as Secretary of the Army around the same time that Manafort received the first part of what would be $16 million in loans from Calk's bank. He also suggests two other appointees: Pat Sink and Vernon Parker. "The 3 indivituals (sic) are people who I believe advance DT agenda," Manfort wrote in an email to Kushner. "They will be totally reliable and responsive to the Trump White House." That same day, Kushner responded: "On it!" (Politico / Bloomberg)

7/ Manafort's lawyers declined to call any witnesses to defend him against charges of bank and tax fraud, resting their defense without presenting their own evidence. Manafort is letting the case go to the jury because he and his lawyers "do not believe that the government has met its burden of proof." (New York Times / ABC News)

poll/ 66% of Americans think Robert Mueller should try to complete his investigation before the midterm elections. 70% believe Trump should testify under oath in Mueller's investigation and 34% approve of Trump's handling of the Russia investigation, compared to 55% who disapprove. 56% say Trump has interfered with the investigation. (CNN)

poll/ 31% of Americans like Trump as a person; 51% dislike him. (Quinnipiac)

Day 571: Nothing but problems.

1/ The FBI fired Peter Strzok for violating bureau policies. Strzok is the FBI senior counterintelligence agent who sent text messages critical of Trump to a former FBI lawyer, Lisa Page. Strzok helped lead the bureau's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election until officials discovered his text messages. FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich ordered Strzok fired even though the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility concluded he should be suspended for 60 days and demoted. (New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ A federal judge appointed by Trump ruled that Robert Mueller's investigation is constitutional and legitimate, rejecting an effort by a Russian company to invalidate the ongoing investigation. Concord Management is accused of financing a massive political influence operation in the U.S. The ruling marks the fourth time a federal judge has ruled that the Mueller investigation is constitutional. (Politico / Axios)

  • Rudy Giuliani: "I think he will give us a decision this week on our counterproposal." Trump's legal team sent Mueller a counteroffer last week, proposing terms for a possible presidential interview. (Politico)

3/ Omarosa Manigault Newman secretly taped John Kelly firing her in December in the Situation Room, as well as a phone call she had with Trump after she was fired. On the recording, Kelly suggests that she could be facing "pretty significant legal issues" and that he wants to "see this be a friendly departure" so it doesn't "develop into something that, that'll make it ugly for you." On the second recording, Trump asks: "Omarosa what's going on? I just saw on the news that you're thinking about leaving?" He added: "Nobody even told me about it… I didn't know that. Goddamn it. I don't love you leaving at all." Trump called Omarosa "wacky" and "vicious," and claimed that Kelly called her a "loser" and "nothing but problems" in a series of tweets following the release of the tapes. (NBC News / New York Times / ABC News / Washington Post)

  • Omarosa claimed she has tapes of private phone calls with Ivanka and Jared Kushner, too. The former White House aide says the two offered emotional support after she was fired. (Politico)

4/ The White House is looking into legal options to stop Omarosa from releasing more tapes and to punish her for recording her conversation with John Kelly. The Situation Room is supposed to be free of personal electronic devices and former national security officials said it was not clear is she had broken any laws. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that, if true, it "shows a blatant disregard for our national security." (ABC News / New York Times)

  • A few months into his presidency, Trump required his senior staff to sign nondisclosure agreements. Donald McGahn, the White House counsel, drew up the document barring White House officials from publicly disclosing what they heard and saw at work. He privately told staff that the agreement could not ultimately be enforced. Trump tweeted that "Wacky Omarosa already has a fully signed Non-Disclosure Agreement!" (New York Times)

5/ The government rested its case in the tax and bank fraud trial of Paul Manafort. Robert Mueller's prosecutors called 27 witnesses over 10 days. Manafort's defense will now have the opportunity, if it chooses, to present witnesses. (USA Today)

📰 Paul Manafort's Trial: Day 10.


Notables.

  1. Stephen Miller's uncle wrote an op-ed calling his nephew an "immigration hypocrite." David Glosser wrote: "If my nephew's ideas on immigration had been in force a century ago, our family would have been wiped out." (Politico)

  2. Kellyanne Conway said "none of us would be" at the White House if Trump was a racist. When asked to name an African-American in a prominent White House role, Conway couldn't. (ABC News / CNN)

  3. Trump signed defense legislation named after John McCain but didn't mention the Senator's name during the ceremony. Trump praised the U.S. military and took credit for the $716 billion defense bill, which represents a $16 billion increase in authorized funding for the Pentagon over the current year. The bill is formally named the "John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2019." (Bloomberg / Washington Post)

  4. The White House is proposing to rollback a law designed to protect military personnel from getting cheated by shady lending and financial practices. The administration is also wants to curtail enforcement of the Military Loan Act, which protects service members from predatory loans. Critics say the changes would leave service members vulnerable to getting ripped off by car dealers, among others. (NPR)

  5. White House staffers receive discounts on Trump-branded merchandise sold at his Bedminster golf club. The discounts range from 15% off of any merchandise sold in the store, to 70% off of clearance items. One ethics expert called the discounts "absolutely wrong." (Politico)

  6. White House counsel Don McGahn exempted its new communications director from ethics rules, saying it was in the "public interest" for Bill Shine to have meetings with their former colleagues at Fox News. (Daily Beast)

  7. The interior secretary blamed environmentalists for California's wildfires and claimed – contrary to scientific research – that climate change had "nothing to do" with the fires. Instead, Ryan Zinke said the fires were exacerbated by limits on logging. (The Guardian)

Week of Aug 5 - 11: What We Learned in the Russia Probe

Mueller Investigation

Interview negotiations continue. Trump's lawyers responded to Mueller's terms for an interview with Trump, sending him a counteroffer at the end of last week. In the latest terms, Mueller's team held firm on the need to question trump about coordination with Russia and obstruction of justice, but agreed to accept some written answers. Trump's counteroffer did not reject an interview, but essentially stated that Trump will not be asked questions about obstruction of justice. Trump's lawyers fear that obstruction of justice questions, in particular, are a perjury trap set for Trump.

  • Rudy Giuliani told Axios that in order for Trump to be interviewed by Mueller, the following topics would have to be ruled out: (1) Why Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, and (2) What Trump said to Comey about the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn. As Jonathan Swan astutely notes, "Giuliani is publicly setting up Mueller with expectations he must know Mueller can't meet."
  • Bizarrely, Giuliani tried to claim on Hannity that if Mueller's probe is not complete by September, it would be a "very, very serious violation of Justice Department rules." In fact, there is no law or rule that states investigations cannot be conducted within 60-days of an election. There is a custom that a prosecutor is not supposed to take overt public action with the purpose of affecting a candidate in an election. Not only is this not a firm rule, but it also says nothing about terminating an investigation because an election is upcoming.

Trump joins Manafort trial. The Paul Manafort trial continued in Virginia. The week started with Trump being referenced by name for the first time and ended with a mysterious delay that may or may not be significant.

  • Most of the discussion about Trump related to Manafort's attempts to benefit from their relationship. Rick Gates, who is cooperating with investigators, described Manafort's work for Trump's 2016 campaign and transition, including the selection of people to fill various posts. Prosecutors laid out a quid pro quo scheme in which Manafort received $16 million in loans from Federal Savings Bank in exchange for installing the CEO in an important Trump campaign position.
    • Manafort first told Gates to push for the CEO, Stephen Calk, to be Secretary of the Army. When that was unsuccessful, Manafort and Gates got the Trump campaign to accept Calk on the economic advisory board.
    • Prosecutors also released an email in which Calk asked Manafort for 11 tickets to Trump's inauguration. Manafort added the names to a "lengthy list" which was forwarded to Gates. Evidence such as this shows that Manafort still had significant pull in Trump's team, even after he formally resigned from the chairman position.
  • Trump has tried to downplay Manafort's role and their relationship, tweeting, "He worked for me for a very short time." However, prosecutors introduced a document showing that "Manafort planned to share his New York Yankee season tickets" with Trump in 2013, something one would not expect from a stranger.

Manafort: Mueller discussed. Thursday, the judge in Manafort's case, T.S. Ellis, sealed a portion of conversation that occurred during a sidebar between himself and lawyers from the prosecution and defense. The sidebar was called after prosecutors objected to the defense's cross-examination of Rick Gates in which they asked him about the nature of Mueller's interviews. Normally, sidebar discussions are transcribed and released to the public. However, the prosecutors asked the judge to seal the content of this sidebar because "substantive evidence pertaining to an ongoing investigation was revealed."

Manafort: Unexplained delay. Friday began with Judge Ellis calling a brief bench conference with lawyers from both sides, before the jury had arrived. After, Manafort and his lawyers huddled in an animated, yet hushed, group. Manafort was described as smiling. Judge Ellis then summoned the lawyers to his bench for a second conference, this time all of Manafort's lawyers attended, leaving their client sitting alone. Fueling more speculation, the judge asked the court security officer to join the discussion. The security officer oversees any logistical issues that involve the jury.

  • When the conference broke, Judge Ellis left the room to "consider an issue" for what he estimated would take 15 minutes. As Politico noted, "Oddly, he exited the courtroom through a door opposite his own chambers and in the direction of the jury room. The court's stenographer followed." Nearly 45 minutes had passed by the time he returned, at which point he announced an early lunch break.
  • After lunch, attorneys from both sides again met with Judge Ellis, this time in his chambers for about 45 minutes. Court reconvened with no explanation for the day's delays. However, at the end of the day, "Ellis delivered another unusually emphatic warning to the jury not to discuss the case with others or to do internet research about the case"
  • The events described have triggered many avenues of speculation, from an incoming plea deal to juror replacement. While most experts seem to agree that it seems like a juror may have broken the rules by discussing the case with someone, the fact of the matter is that we just don't know.

Trump worried about his son. From the AP: "Trump has seethed to confidants that he views the Manafort charges as "a warning shot" from Mueller. He has told those close to him that as he watches the courtroom proceedings, he fears that Donald Trump Jr. could at some point be the one on trial, according to two people familiar with his thinking but not authorized to discuss private conversations."

Grand Jury. There have been numerous developments in Mueller's grand jury proceedings.

  • A federal judge has held Andrew Miller, an associate of Roger Stone, in contempt for refusing to testify before Mueller's grand jury.
  • Randy Credico, another associate of Roger Stone, revealed that he had also received a subpoena but did not plan on challenging it. He is scheduled to testify before the grand jury on September 7h. Credico is alleged to have been a go-between for Stone and Wikileaks.
  • Roger Stone's close friend, Kristin Davis, also known as the 'Manhattan Madam,' testified before the grand jury on Friday.

New information on Peter Smith. Buzzfeed has reviewed documents that reveal GOP operative Peter Smith made thousands of dollars in suspicious transactions during the time frame he was in contact with at least two sets of what he believed to be Russian hackers. A person close to Smith "stated that he was prepared to pay hackers 'many thousands of dollars' for Clinton's emails — and ultimately did so."

  • It's been over a year since the story of Peter Smith first broke, so here's a quick summary to refresh your memory. Smith began looking for Clinton's emails in the summer of 2016, telling Matt Tait, a former information security specialist in Britain's spy agency GCHQ, that he believed Russian hackers stole Clinton's emails from her private server. Smith reached out to numerous people and assembled a team to find the emails. He claimed to be working with Michael Flynn in this quest. Unfortunately, Smith died May 14, 2017, only 10 days after being interviewed by the WSJ. According to Buzzfeed, three law enforcement officials say Smith "remains an important figure in the government's investigation. FBI and Senate Intelligence Committee investigators are trying to follow the money to learn whether Smith paid anyone connected with the Russian government."

Michael Cohen

Cohen's tax fraud? The Wall Street Journal reported that Michael Cohen is now also being investigated for tax fraud. Sources say Cohen may have underreported income from his taxi medallion business - "income which included hundreds of thousands of dollars received in cash and other payments over the last five years."

  • Investigators are also reportedly probing if Cohen inflated the value of his assets in order to obtain loans, and whether any banks "improperly allowed Mr. Cohen to obtain loans for which he didn't provide adequate documentation." Of particular interest is Sterling National Bank, which financed Cohen's taxi-medallion business.
  • Federal prosecutors subpoenaed Cohen's former accountant, who prepared many financial statements submitted to banks on behalf of Cohen. The same accountant also worked for Cohen's taxi-medallion business partner Evgeny "Gene" Freidman. Sources say that Freidman is cooperating with investigators.

Special Master. In the investigation by the SDNY of Michael Cohen, the special master has completed her review of items seized from Cohen in an FBI raid. While Cohen and Trump claimed 4,080 items as privileged or highly personal, Jones agreed that "just 2,260 of those should be kept from prosecutors: 1,972 of those items are privileged, 285 are highly personal, and three are partially privileged." This means that prosecutors have been given all the items they're allowed to review and can now decide whether to prosecute Cohen.

More Russian connections

Rand Paul in Moscow. Senator Rand Paul traveled to Russia on a "diplomatic mission" this past week. He announced on Twitter that he delivered a letter from Trump to Putin's administration, emphasizing "the importance of further engagement in various areas including countering terrorism, enhancing legislative dialogue and resuming cultural exchanges." However, hours later, the White House contradicted Paul's statement, saying the letter was in fact requested by Paul to introduce himself to Putin.

Leaked sanctions draft. The Russian newspaper Kommersant published a leaked draft of proposed U.S. sanctions against Russia, called the 'Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act'. The goal of the draft bill is to impose "crushing sanctions," including banning Russia's state banks from U.S. operation and penalizing investments in Russian energy projects. While no media outlet has touched on how the newspaper got the draft bill, the timing of Rand Paul's visit and this leak is suspicious to me.

Leaked Helsinki document. Politico obtained a Russian document that allegedly lists topics for negotiation that Putin proposed to Trump during the Helsinki summit. Most of the list relates to traditional cooperation between Russia and the U.S., which Politico says "points to a surprising normalcy in the priorities of Putin."

  • Opinion: There is reason to be suspicious of this document and its authenticity. The person who gave it to Politico "obtained it from Russian officials who described it as what Putin had conveyed to Trump in Helsinki." The main reason for the Kremlin to leak such a document is because it furthers their agenda. The "surprising normalcy" Politico notes could be the picture both Putin and Trump wish to convey about Helsinki. Nothing untoward happened, just two leaders discussing normal priorities. The reality is that only Putin and Trump know what was discussed, and unfortunately both have huge credibility problems. [Technically, the translator also knows what transpired, but the GOP has refused to call her to testify.]
    • Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov blamed "the America side" for leaking the document. If true, I think the same thinking above applies.

Russians in Charlottesville. Monday, August 12, is the one-year anniversary of the deadly 'Unite the Right' Charlottesville rally. Republican Rep. Tom Garrett stated on CNN that FBI Director Wray told him that Russian hackers contributed to "fomenting the flames" of the Charlottesville events. Garrett continued, "[Russia uses] events like this divisive racial fight … and this is the sort of thing they do."

  • Perhaps an important fact to note: One of the organizers of last year's Unite the Right rally and white nationalist, Richard Spencer, is married to a Russian woman who was described by Business Insider in 2016 as a "self-proclaimed 'Kremlin troll leader'". Nina Kouprianova has expressed support for her husband's neo-Nazi views and penned a letter to a local newspaper calling the criticism surrounding Spencer a "witch hunt."
  • As many of you may know, a book written by Alexander Dugin called Foundations of Geopolitics is required reading for every person of Russia's General Staff Academy. In it, Dugin lays out what he sees as Russia's path to power in part through weakening the West. Some of this involves cutting the UK off from Europe, annexing Ukraine, and "supporting all dissident movements" within the US to destabilize internal political processes. Spencer's wife, who goes by the pen name Nina Byzantina, has translated pieces of Dugin's work on her blog and has tweeted specific passages.
  • Richard Spencer himself has extolled Putin for being a protector of the white race, telling the Nation, "I think we should be pro-Russia because Russia is the great white power that exists in the world."

Unite the Right: Discord subpoena. Due to the likely Russian connections, I think it's appropriate to include other news related to Charlottesville. Counterprotesters who were injured last year at the rally have sued the organizers of Unite the Right. However, the identity of many of the organizers is unknown because they participated through anonymous, invite-only threads on a chat service called Discord. Lawyers for the counterprotesters filed a subpoena to obtain the Unite the Right's Discord messages and account information.

  • One anonymous woman countersued, arguing that revealing her identity would infringe on her First Amendment rights to engage in "anonymous speech" and put her in fear of her own safety. A U.S. magistrate disagreed with her, allowing account information to be obtained but kept under seal. While he quashed the part of the subpoena that requested the content of the messages, an online media collective published hundreds of their leaked messages, which are now included in the lawsuits. The messages reveal organizers encouraging participants bring homemade weapons, like rocks in a sock, and sharing racist and Nazi-themed memes and images.

Russian trolls support Stein. A collection of 3 million tweets from accounts run by the Internet Research Agency (IRA) in 2016 reveal an organized push to support Jill Stein's candidacy, while also attempting to decrease support for Hillary Clinton.

  • Two professors from Clemson University published the 3 million tweets with 538 at the end of last month. The data gives the fullest picture so far of the strategies the of the IRA. They impersonated both left- and right-wing trolls, as well as localized news aggregators. Side note: This is a pattern we see on Reddit too, with suspicious accounts infiltrating certain local subreddits to antagonize and inflame divisions (however, as far as I'm aware, there's been no proof these are of Russian origin, yet).
  • The article has many examples of the type of tweets the Russian accounts made in support of Stein. For example, they made extensive use of hashtags like: #GoGreen #GreenParty #Democrats #DemExit #Republicans #GOPexit #ItsInOurHands.
  • Other examples:
    • @Aiden7757: Why waste your vote on lying, corrupt, racist oligarchs? #InvestYourVote in DrJillStein #ElectionFinalThoughts
    • @Muslims_in_USA: Anti-republican and anti-Hillary, Vote green!! Jill Stein 2016 #JillStein #JillStein2016
    • @CassIsHere: Susan B. Anthony wouldn't have voted for Clinton, she would have opted for someone like @DrJillStein, but go ahead and pretend otherwise.
  • Significantly, after the election the Russian accounts turned critical of her attempt for a recount. Example: Mich voters rejected @DrJillStein's candidacy and her refusal to accept verified results poses an expensive & a risky threat to MI taxpayers.

Congress/States

Nunes secret recording. Rep. Devin Nunes was secretly recorded speaking to donors about his plans for Deputy AG Rosenstein's impeachment, which the House recently seemed to give up on. Nunes told donors that in fact, they only delayed the impeachment proceedings in order to clear the way for the anticipated confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Additionally, Nunes explained that it is crucial for the GOP to hold their seats in order to protect Trump from Mueller.

  • On the audio Nunes can be heard saying, "if Sessions won't unrecuse and Mueller won't clear the President, we're the only ones. Which is really the danger…I mean we have to keep all these seats. We have to keep the majority. If we do not keep the majority, all of this goes away."

Assange interview. According to Wikileaks' Twitter account, the Senate Intelligence Committee sent a letter to Assange in London requesting an interview as part of its Russia investigation.

Florida compromised. Senator Bill Nelson claims that Russian operatives have "penetrated" the voter registration systems of certain counties in Florida "and they now have free rein to move about." The Florida Department of State says it has received no information that confirms Nelson's statements. Senator Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott's top elections official in which he did not confirm nor deny Nelson's claims.

  • At the 26th annual DEFCON meeting this past weekend, hackers attempted to break into voting machines. Notably, "In a room set aside for kid hackers, an 11-year-old girl hacked a replica of the Florida secretary of state's website within 10 minutes — and changed the results."

Georgia's voting mess. Election security activists have filed a federal lawsuit against Georgia for failing to accurately maintain and secure their electoral system. The court filings reveal a litany of problems that call into question the results of both past and future elections.

  • For example, according to the Secretary of State's website, one precinct recorded a turnout of 243% in May's primary elections. The 276 registered voters of Habersham County's Mud Creek precinct somehow managed to cast 670 ballots. Nothing was done about this discrepancy until this past Tuesday, when at 10 a.m. the secretary of state's website changed the number of registered voters to 3,704.
  • The lawsuit also includes sworn statements of voters who experienced problems when they attempted to vote, including being turned away from their polling station, encountering frozen voting machines (which happen to be 16 years old), and finding their ballots to be incorrect.
  • Georgia is one of four states that use voting machines without a paper record. Last year, during the same federal lawsuit, Georgia officials wiped the voting servers that contained key evidence, even degaussing two backups.
  • Georgian's voter information was found to be "open to the public" and vulnerable to manipulation by bad actors way back in August of 2016. Despite being immediately notified of the problem, it was not resolved until March 2017.

Low drug prices for Russia. The pharmaceutical executive and GOP candidate running for New Jersey Senate, Bob Hugin, raised the prices of a critical cancer drug 20% in America while reducing them by 45% in Russia last year.

  • In the U.S., a 21 day supply of Revlimid costs $14,529. In Russia, the same dosage cost $4,175. The Russian agency that oversees drug prices claims that Celgene agreed to "voluntarily reduce the inflated prices" last year.
  • The pharmaceutical company, Celgene, "spent a record amount of money to help defeat legislation that would have made it easier for generic companies to get drug samples" under Hugin's leadership.
  • Hugin is running against Democratic Senator Bob Menendez in New Jersey this November.

Day 568: Be happy, be cool.

1/ Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing is set to begin September 4th and should last three to four days, according Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley. The Supreme Court nominee's hearing aligns with Mitch McConnell's plan to get Kavanaugh on the bench before the midterm elections. (Axios / Politico)

  • Brett Kavanaugh urged Ken Starr not to pursue a criminal indictment of Bill Clinton until after he left office. Judge Kavanaugh delivered a private memorandum on Christmas Eve in 1998 which correctly predicted that the Senate would fail to convict the president for the "high crimes and misdemeanors." (New York Times)

2/ A federal judge held a Roger Stone associate in contempt for refusing to testify before Robert Mueller's grand jury hearing. Andrew Miller lost an attempt earlier this month to block a subpoena to testify before the grand jury. Miller worked for Stone during the 2016 presidential campaign, and is one of at least a half-dozen of Stone’s associates to be called to testify. (Washington Post)

  • Kristin Davis will testify before a grand jury in Robert Mueller's investigation today. The "Manhattan Madam" met with Mueller's team last week for a voluntary interview. She has ties to Trump's former political adviser Roger Stone, who is under suspicion in the Russia investigation. (CNN / Politico)

3/ The federal judge overseeing the Paul Manafort trial granted Robert Mueller's team a request to seal the transcript of a private discussion in front of his bench after prosecutors argued that they needed to protect an "ongoing investigation." Defense attorney Kevin Downing had asked Rick Gates, "Were you interviewed on several occasions about your time at the Trump campaign?" Prosecutors objected, arguing that they needed to protect the secrecy of their investigation and limit the "disclosure of new information," suggesting that Gates may also be helping Mueller in the Russia investigation. The judge, T. S. Ellis III, ruled in their favor. (New York Times / CNN)

4/ Eleven newly released top-secret cables show interrogators waterboarded prisoners in Thailand while it was overseen by Gina Haspel, who is now CIA director. The cables describe the waterboarding of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the suspected mastermind behind the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole. As al-Nashiri cried and pleaded that he was trying to recall more information, the "water treatment was applied" in order to make him "suffer the consequences of his deception." While she was trying to win confirmation for CIA director, Haspel claimed the techniques worked, but said their use "should not have been undertaken." (New York Times)

5/ Omarosa: Trump is a "racist" who frequently used the n-word and there are tapes to prove it. In her new book, the former White House aide said Trump can be heard using the racial slur during the making of his reality TV show, Celebrity Apprentice. "My certainty about the N-word tape," Omarosa writes, "and his frequent uses of that word were the top of a high mountain of truly appalling things I'd experienced with him, during the last two years in particular." Omarosa also said she refused a $15,000-a-month offer from Trump's campaign to stay silent after being fired from her job by John Kelly last December. (The Guardian / New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Omarosa said she walked in on Trump eat paper in the Oval Office after a meeting with Michael Cohen. "I saw him put a note in his mouth," Omarosa claims, suggesting that "it must have been something very, very sensitive," since Trump is "ever the germaphobe." (Talking Points Memo)

6/ Senior national security officials tried to prevent Trump from upending a policy agreement between NATO allies last month by pushing the alliance's ambassadors to complete the joint communiqué before the forum began. The plan worked, to some degree, even though Trump questioned a major pillar of the defense alliance by questioning whether an attack on one NATO ally was an attack on them all. (New York Times)

7/ Trump doubled tariffs on steel and aluminum from Turkey, tweeting the announcement from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. The Treasury Department sanctioned two Turkish officials last week after the country refused to release American pastor Andrew Brunson, who faces charges in Turkey of attempting to overthrow the government and espionage. Turkey's currency fell by more than 14% and hit a record low against the U.S. dollar. All three major U.S. indexes also closed lower. (Washington Post / New York Times / CNBC)

8/ Trump Jr. shared a doctored image making Trump's Gallup presidential approval rating look 10 points higher than it actually is. Trump's actual approval was 40%, compared with Obama's 45% at the same point in his presidency. Trump Jr. called the inflated 50% approval rating "amazing" and said "I guess there is a magic wand to make things happen and @realdonaldtrump seems to have it." (Washington Post)

poll/ More Americans believe Stormy Daniels than Trump. 34% believe Daniels, 30% believe Trump, and 30% don't believe either one. (The Hill)


Notables.

  1. Betsy DeVos moved to rescind an Obama-era "gainful employment" regulation meant to hold for-profit colleges accountable and protect students from overwhelming debt and poor job prospects. The 2014 rule required for-profit colleges to publish information on how much student debt graduates took on and how much they were earning after leaving school. If the average debt-to-income ratio did not meet government standards, the school's federal funding would be revoked. (CNN / Politico / Washington Post / New York Times)

  2. Michael Avenatti: "I'm exploring a run for the presidency of the United States." Avenatti made the statement while in Iowa, where he said he wanted to "listen to people and learn about some issues that are facing the citizens of Iowa and do my homework." (Des Moines Register / New York Times)

  3. Trump attacked NFL players for protesting during the national anthem at preseason games, accusing them of being "unable to define" their "outrage" and suggesting that the athletes should instead "be happy, be cool!" (Politico / Washington Post)

  4. The Russian Embassy mocked Trump's Space Force, tweeting "Good Morning, Space Forces!" along with a graphic of a rocket being launched and features the Russian flag. Trump's 2020 reelection campaign asked supporters to vote on one of six logos that could be displayed on future Space Force merchandise, including one the resembles the NASA logo. (Politico)

Day 567: Space Force all the way.

1/ Mike Pence detailed Trump's proposal to create a "Space Force" as the sixth branch of the U.S. military by 2020. Pence said the creation of the Space Force, the first new branch of the military since 1947, represented a response to new and emerging threats. The new branch would require a significant reorganization of the Department of Defense and how it handles space operations. Pence said that the U.S. must not only increase its involvement in space-related affairs, but that "we must have American dominance in space." After the announcement, Trump tweeted: "Space Force all the way!" (Washington Post / USA Today / Fox News / Associated Press / ABC News)

2/ Russia threatened to cut off a supply of rocket engines crucial to the U.S. space program in response to new sanctions stemming from the poisoning of Sergei Skripal in March. The U.S. announced new sanctions against Russia after determining that Moscow used a nerve agent against the former MI6 spy and his daughter. (Daily Beast / Times of London)

3/ Devin Nunes was caught on a secret recording explaining that the effort to impeach Rod Rosenstein had stalled because it would delay the Senate's confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. "So if we actually vote to impeach, OK," Nunes said, "what that does is that triggers the Senate then has to take it up." He continued: "The Senate would have to drop everything they're doing … and start with impeachment on Rosenstein. And then take the risk of not getting Kavanaugh confirmed." Nunes reiterated his belief that Rosenstein should be impeached, but said that "the question is the timing of it right before the election." He also warned that "if Sessions won’t unrecuse and Mueller won’t clear the president, we’re the only ones" protecting Trump from the Mueller investigation. (MSNBC / Los Angeles Times / CNN)

  • The first batch of documents from Brett Kavanaugh's time serving in George W. Bush's White House were released. The Bush team provided the Senate Judiciary Committee with 5,700 pages. The Committee expects to release more than 125,000 pages total over the next "several days." Democrats said Bush's lawyer selectively released documents on an expedited basis without oversight from the National Archives and Records Administration. (CNN / Associated Press)

4/ A federal judge threatened to hold Jeff Sessions in contempt after learning that the Trump administration had put two asylum seekers on a plane to El Salvador and deported them while their appeal was underway. U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan blocked the administration from deporting the two plaintiffs, ordered the government to "turn the plane around," and called the entire situation "outrageous." (CNN / Washington Post)

poll/ The majority of Americans believe tuition-free college (66%) and a $15-an-hour minimum wage (65%) would be "very effective" or "somewhat effective" solutions to social barriers. A combined 55 percent said a government-run health care system would be a very or somewhat effective policy. (The Intercept)

Notables.

  1. The Trump administration cut staff for the watchdog tasked with identifying looming financial risks. Forty staff members from the Office of Financial Research will lose their jobs as part of a broader reorganization of the agency, which was created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. (Reuters)

  2. A federal appeals court ordered the Trump administration to revoke the approval of a widely used pesticide that can harm the brains of children, saying Scott Pruitt's EPA had endangered public health by keeping chlorpyrifos on the market. The former EPA chief had reversed an Obama-era effort to ban chlorpyrifos. (Associated Press / Los Angeles Times)

  3. Melania Trump's parents were sworn in as U.S. citizens. Amalija and Viktor Knavs used family sponsorship to obtain their green cards, which is sometimes called "chain migration." In January, Trump proposed ending most family-based immigration and replacing it with a skills-based system. (Associated Press / New York Times)

  4. Trump's decision to impose tariffs on Canadian newsprint is starting to hurt local news publications across the country. At the Gazette in Janesville, Wis., for example, the newsprint tariffs have increased annual printing costs by $740,000. (New York Times)

  5. News organizations are starting to employ security details and guards while covering Trump's rallies as Trump continues to ramp up his attacks on the media, even in the wake of the shooting at the Capital Gazette newsroom. (Politico)

  6. Kris Kobach's lead over Gov. Jeff Colyer in the Kansas Republican primary was cut in half after election officials discovered an an error in transmitting votes from Thomas County. Kobach, a Trump ally, originally had a 191-vote advantage over incumbent Colyer. Kobach's lead was reduced to 91 votes after the adjustment. (CBS News / Washington Post)


📰 Paul Manafort's Trial: A daily recap. Instead of writing summary recaps of the trial, I'm going to provide a few daily links to the live coverage. At the conclusion of the trial, I'll write a proper abstract.

Day 566: Kiss the ring.

1/ Trump's legal team rejected Robert Mueller's request for a voluntary presidential interview, saying questions about possible obstruction of justice are legally inappropriate. Trump's lawyers instead offered an "avenue" of a narrower set of questions that they'd accept. Both Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow declined to describe the details of their counteroffer other than "it is a good faith attempt to reach an agreement." According to Giuliani, it's ultimately "his decision" – Trump's – as to whether or not to grant Mueller an interview. Giuliani added that "this should be over by September 1," because "we do not want to run into the November elections." (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Politico / ABC News)

  • Why Trump really wants his Mueller interview. The president, who's pushing his lawyers to let him meet with the special counsel, has a long history of dealing with investigators directly. (Politico)

2/ Omarosa Manigault-Newman secretly recorded conversations with Trump in the West Wing on her smartphone. The former Apprentice star has played the recordings for people, who describe them as inoffensive. (Daily Beast)

3/ The Trump administration will sanction Russia for its use of a chemical weapon against a former Russian spy living in England. Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a rare and toxic nerve agent on March 4th. British authorities accused Russia of being behind the attempt, a charge Moscow has denied. The new sanctions are expected to go into effect on Aug. 22. (NBC / New York Times)

4/ Putin lobbied Trump on nuclear arms control, banning weapons in space, and several other issues during their private two-hour meeting in Helsinki last month, according to a leaked Russian document. Putin shared the document of proposed topics for negotiation with Trump during their two-hour conversation, which Trump's top advisers were not privy to at the time. Among the priorities, Putin wanted to extend an Obama-era nuclear-reduction treaty to ensure the "non-placement of weapons in space," which would hamper Trump's ability of establishing a Space Force. (Politico)

  • Rand Paul delivered a letter from Trump to Putin during his trip to Moscow earlier this week. Paul said he was "honored" to share the letter from Trump, which "emphasized the importance of further engagement in various areas including countering terrorism, enhancing legislative dialogue and resuming cultural exchange." Rand also said members of the Russian Federation agreed to visit Washington at his invitation despite the White House recently announcing that Trump would delay any meeting with Putin until the Russia investigation concludes. (NBC News)

  • Russians have "penetrated" some of Florida's election systems ahead of the 2018 midterms, according to Sen. Bill Nelson, "and they now have free rein to move about." Florida's primary is Aug. 28. (Tampa Bay Times)

5/ China announced 25% tariffs on $16 billion worth of U.S. goods, including large passenger cars and motorcycles, various fuels, and fiber optic cables. China is targeting 333 goods in total, including coal, grease, Vaseline, asphalt and plastic products, and recyclables. The latest round of Chinese tariffs are a direct response to the $16 billion worth of Chinese goods that will be hit with tariffs by the U.S. starting on Aug. 23. (CNBC)

6/ Three Mar-a-Lago members with no official government roles act as an informal council, exerting influence at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Freedom of Information Act and interviews with former administration officials show that the "Mar-a-Lago Crowd" speaks with VA officials daily regarding policy and personnel decisions. VA officials have also travelled to Mar-a-Lago at taxpayer expense to hear their views. As one former administration official said: "Everyone has to go down and kiss the ring." (ProPublica)

poll/ 55% of voters say race relations have gotten worse under Trump. 51% of white voters, 59% of African-American voters, and 60% of Hispanics all say race relations have gotten worse since Trump took office. 35% of Republicans, meanwhile, say race relations have improved. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. GOP Rep. Chris Collins was charged with insider trading by the Justice Department. Collins turned himself in to the FBI on Wednesday and was charged in a case related to Innate Immunotherapeutics, an Australian biotech company where Collins served on the board. Prosecutors say Collins provided his son with nonpublic information about drug trial results in order to help him "make timely trades in Innate stock and tip others." A grand jury indictment also charges Collins' son, Cameron, as well as Cameron's father-in-law-to-be. (NBC News / CNBC / CNN)

  2. The Congressional Budget Office expects the federal debt to surpass an unprecedented 200% of gross domestic product by 2048, according to its long-term report on "alternative scenarios" stemming from the GOP tax cuts. (The Hill)

  3. An ICE cargo van transporting eight mothers separated from their children crashed into a pickup truck on July 18th. ICE denied the crash happened for nearly three weeks and ignored requests for information. (Texas Observer)

  4. Trump praised his "fantastic!" and "great relationship" with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. A Justice Department spokeswoman described it a "productive working relationship." Trump has publicly considered firing Rosenstein, who is currently overseeing the Mueller investigation. (Wall Street Journal)


📰 Paul Manafort's Trial: A daily recap. Instead of writing summary recaps of the trial, I'm going to provide a few daily links to the live coverage. At the conclusion of the trial, I'll write a proper abstract.

Day 565: Reluctance.

1/ Rudy Giuliani to Robert Mueller: "We have a real reluctance about allowing any questions about obstruction" of justice. Trump's lead attorney plans to largely rebuff Mueller's latest offer for an in-person interview with Trump, which included questions about obstruction of justice. Instead of simply rejecting Mueller's request out of hand, Giuliani expects to continue negotiating with Mueller since "the president still hasn't made a decision and we’re not going to make a final decision just yet." (Washington Post)

2/ Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating Michael Cohen for tax fraud and whether income from his taxi-medallion business was underreported in federal tax returns. Cohen's bank loans are also being scrutinized by prosecutors to see if Cohen made misrepresentations or false statements on loan applications. (Wall Street Journal)

3/ The Trump administration wants to make it harder for legal immigrants to become U.S. citizens. Trump's proposal would prevent legal immigrants from obtaining citizenship or green cards if they've ever used social programs like the Affordable Care Act, children's health insurance, or food stamps. The proposal is the brainchild of Stephen Miller and would not require congressional approval. If enacted, it would represent the biggest change to the U.S. legal immigration system in decades, and more than 20 million immigrants could be affected. (NBC News)

4/ Brett Kavanaugh argued that it's a "traditional exercise of power by Presidents" to ignore laws they view as unconstitutional. "If the President has a constitutional objection to a statutory mandate or prohibition, the President may decline to follow the law unless and until a final Court order dictates otherwise," Kavanaugh wrote in an August 13, 2013, opinion. Trump's Supreme Court nominee made the 2013 assertion while defending George W. Bush's use of signing statements to ignore laws passed by Congress. Kavanaugh served as White House staff secretary and had a role in coordinating Bush's statements accompanying legislation he signed into law. (CNN)

poll/ 43% of Republicans think Trump "should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior." 36%, however, disagreed with the statement. 48% said they believed "the news media is the enemy of the American people" with 79% saying they believe "the mainstream media treats President Trump unfairly." (Daily Beast)


Notables.

  1. Jared Kushner used to delete "critical" stories about his friends and real estate peers while he was in charge of the New York Observer. Kushner would sidestep editors and instead order web developers to remove the stories directly from the Observer's website. (BuzzFeed News / New York Magazine)

  2. Voters will cast ballots in five states today — Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Washington, and Ohio. Here's what to watch for. (NBC News / New York Times)

  3. Wilbur Ross has been accused of stealing as much as $120 million from former business partners. A lawsuit by David Storper alleges that Ross stole his interests in a private equity fund, transferred them to himself, then tried to cover it up with bogus paperwork. (Forbes)

  4. The EPA will allow manufacturers to use asbestos to create new products. The agency will no longer consider the effect or presence of substances in the air, ground, or water in its risk assessments when assessing new products. Asbestos-related deaths total nearly 40,000 annually. (Architects Newspaper)

  5. The Mendocino Complex fire is now the largest wildfire in California history, and stretches across more than 283,000 acres. So far, firefighters have only been able to contain 30% of the fire. Trump, meanwhile, blamed the fires on "bad environmental laws which aren't allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized," complaining that the water needed is being "diverted into the Pacific Ocean." Cal Fire refuted Trump's claim, saying "We have plenty of water to fight these fires … The current weather is causing more severe and destructive fires." (Los Angeles Times / ABC 7 News)


📰 Paul Manafort's Trial: A daily recap. Instead of writing summary recaps of the trial, I'm going to provide a few daily links to the live coverage. At the conclusion of the trial, I'll write a proper abstract.

Day 564: A complete fabrication.

1/ Trump admitted that the 2016 Trump Tower meeting between top campaign aides and a Russian lawyer was to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. "This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics - and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!" Trump's tweet contradicted Trump Jr.'s original statement about the meeting – which was dictated by Trump – that the meeting was to discuss the adoption of Russian children. (New York Times / New Yorker / NBC News / NPR)

2/ Trump told confidants that he is worried about how the Robert Mueller probe could impact Trump Jr.'s life. Mueller is investigating Trump Jr.'s role in organizing the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with Russians promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. One adviser said Trump doesn't believe his son intentionally broke the law, but that Trump Jr. may have inadvertently wandered into legal ­jeopardy. Trump tweeted that his concern about Trump Jr.'s potential legal exposure from the meeting was "Fake News reporting" and "a complete fabrication." (Washington Post / ABC News)

  • Senate Judiciary Committee Chuck Grassley this week said that if Trump Jr. "misled the committee, he's lying to Congress. That's a crime. And that'd be up to the prosecutors, not me." (CNN)

  • Why this weekend's Trump Tower tweet matters. The tweet comes at a time when Trump is increasingly anxious about Robert Mueller's investigation and how it may impact him and his family. (CNN / Washington Post)

  • Hope Hicks was spotted boarding Air Force Once ahead of Trump's departure for a campaign rally in Ohio. The former White House communications director resigned from her role in February, a day after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee and saying she told white lies on the job. (The Hill / CNN)

3/ Trump has raised more than $200,000 for his Patriot Legal Expense Fund Trust, but hasn't spent any money on legal services. The fund was launched in late February 2018 to pay for legal expenses incurred by White House officials and allies caught up in Robert Mueller's investigation. Through June, the only expenditures have been to an insurance provider and an accounting firm, totaling less than $50,000. (Daily Beast / ABC News)

4/ Documents from Trump's voter fraud commission "do not contain evidence of widespread voter fraud," according to Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, one of the panel's 11 members. After reading through more than 8,000 pages of documents, Dunlap said he believed that the goal of the commission "wasn’t just a matter of investigating President Trump's claims that 3 to 5 million people voted illegally" but that it "seems to have been to validate those claims." The panel was disbanded in January, and the White House claimed at the time that despite "substantial evidence of voter fraud," the commission was shut down due to legal challenges from states. The panel never presented any findings or evidence of widespread voter fraud. Kris Kobach, the commission's vice chair, however, said at the time that the panel was shut down because "some people on the left were getting uncomfortable about how much we were finding out." (Washington Post)

  • A district judge has struck down a Federal Election Commission rule that allowed for anonymous donations to "dark money" groups. Judge Beryl Howell ruled that the FEC regulation allowing for those donors to remain anonymous fell below the standard that Congress meant to set when it passed laws on disclosing the sources of political donations. (Politico)

  • Marco Rubio said he'd consider altering bipartisan legislation to automatically sanction Russia for any future election meddling in order to get the DETER Act passed. The measure would bar foreign governments from buying ads to influence U.S. elections and would give the director of national intelligence the ability to deploy "national security tools," such as sanctions. (Politico)

  • Trump tweeted that Kris Kobach has his "full and total Endorsement!" for governor of Kansas, despite warnings from aides that it would alienate Republicans loyal to incumbent Gov. Jeff Colyer. Kobach is an advocate of stricter voter identification laws in his state, including a requirement that new voters provide proof of citizenship when they register, which a federal judge recently struck down. (Associated Press / NPR / Politico)

5/ Trump signed an executive order to reimpose several sanctions against Iran. Three months after unilaterally pulling the U.S. out of the "horrible, one-sided" Iran nuclear deal, Trump said today's move is meant to exert "maximum economic pressure" on Iran. Trump also warned all other countries "to make clear that the Iranian regime faces a choice: either change its threatening, destabilizing behavior and reintegrate with the global economy, or continue down a path of economic isolation." (Associated Press)

6/ Two of the largest American steel companies, both of which have deep ties to the Trump administration, successfully objected to hundreds of tariff exemption requests by American companies that buy foreign steel. Nucor and United States Steel objected to 1,600 exemption requests filed with the Commerce Department over the last several months, arguing that companies should not be exempt from the tariffs because the imported products are readily available from American steel manufacturers. The Trump administration established a process for companies to request "exclusions" from the metal tariffs, but the Commerce Department also allowed American companies to challenge exclusion requests. Not a single exclusion challenge by the two companies has failed to date. (New York Times)

7/ A federal judge ruled on Friday that the Trump administration must fully restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, setting a 20-day deadline for the administration to do so. DC District Judge John Bates said the Trump administration failed to justify its proposal to end DACA and that its rationale for dropping the program was inadequate. Jeff Sessions said in a statement that the Justice Department will "take every lawful measure" to defend the decision to terminate the Obama-era program. (NPR / Washington Times / CNN / Politico)


Notables.

  1. Trump blamed Gov. Jerry Brown and "bad environmental laws" for California's catastrophic wildfires. In a tweet, Trump claimed that "vast amounts of water," which "can be used for fires," are "foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean." Firefighters have not raised concerns about the availability of water. (Politico)

  2. Maria Butina, the alleged Russian spy, socialized with a former Trump campaign aide weeks before the 2016 election. At the time, J.D. Gordon planned to join Trump's transition team, but ultimately never did. From March 2016 until August 2016, Gordon was the point person for an advisory group on foreign policy and national security for the Trump campaign. Paul Erickson, a GOP operative with whom Butina was in a romantic relationship, told her that Gordon was "playing a crucial role in the Trump transition effort and would be an excellent addition to any of the U.S./Russia friendship dinners" that might be held. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  3. Rand Paul invited Russian lawmakers to Washington after meeting Russian members of parliament in Moscow. Paul is also expected to meet with Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov and State Duma Foreign Affairs committee head Leonid Slutsky during his visit. (CNN)

  4. The Russian Foreign Ministry tapped Steve Segal to help improve "relations between Russia and the United States in the humanitarian field, including cooperation in culture, arts, public and youth exchanges." (New York Times)

  5. Kristin Davis, the "Manhattan Madam," is scheduled to testify before Robert Mueller's grand jury in Washington this week. Last week an investigator on Mueller’s team questioned Davis, an associate of former Trump adviser Roger Stone, about Russian collusion. (NBC News)

  6. The DNC warned Democrats running in November's midterms not to use devices made by Chinese manufacturers ZTE and Huawei. Top officials from the CIA, NSA, FBI and the Defense Intelligence Agency all testified in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee in February that the Chinese smartphone makers posed a security threat to American customers. (CNN)

  7. Apple removed five of Infowars' six podcasts from its iTunes directory for violating its hate speech guidelines. A few hours later, Spotify, Facebook, and YouTube also removed Alex Jones' conspiratorial content. (BuzzFeed News / The Guardian)

  8. The Newseum stopped selling the "You Are Very Fake News" T-shirts from its store. The online store is still selling "Make America Great Again" hats. (Politico)

  9. A Trump supporter threatened "to shoot" CNN reporters Brian Stelter and Don Lemon during an on-air call with C-SPAN. The caller, identified as "Don from State College, Pennsylvania," accused Stelter and Lemon of "calling Trump supporters all racists." (HuffPost / The Hill)


Dept. of Paul Manafort's Trial.

Instead of writing summary recaps of the trial, I'm going to provide a few daily links to the live coverage.

  • Day Five.

  • 🚨 Rick Gates testified that he and Paul Manafort committed crimes together and held 15 foreign bank accounts that were not disclosed to the federal government, which were not submitted "at Mr. Manafort's direction." Gates admitted to a wide variety of crimes, including bank fraud, tax fraud, money laundering, lying to federal authorities, lying in a court deposition and stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from Manafort's accounts by falsely claiming expenses. (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post)

  • Rick Gates to take the stand. Gates is considered the star witness for the prosecution against Manafort. (Politico)

  • Manafort's defense team attempts mission impossible. His legal team is mounting a case to exonerate him in Virginia — an uphill battle, experienced attorneys say. (Politico)

  • Trial resumes with more testimony from Manafort's former accountant; Manafort's lawyer implies Rick Gates embezzled "millions" (CNN)

  • Day Four.

  • Prosecution dives into alleged tax, bank fraud. (CNN)

  • Manafort Trial Turns to Tax Returns Mueller Says Are Phony. (Bloomberg)

  • Judge Ellis Loses Patience with Mueller Prosecutors and Ends Court Early Over Screw-Up. (Law and Crime)

  • Accountant concedes possible wrongdoing, Manafort's double life. 'They never told us about any income deposited in foreign accounts,' Manafort's accountant told jurors. (Politico)

  • Day Three.

  • Prosecution has "every intention" of calling Richard Gates as witness. (Washington Post)

  • Manafort's trial turns to accountants and tax preparers. (CNN)

  • Judge says showing jury flashy suits could "besmirch the defendant." (NBC News)

  • Day Two.

  • Prosecution Cites Lavish Spending by Paul Manafort in His Fraud Trial. (New York Times)

  • A fake bill, a banned word, and a Rick Gates surprise. (Politico)

  • Executive at 'most expensive store' testifies that Manafort paid for suits via wire transfers. (Washington Post)

  • Day One.

  • Jury selection, first witness called and a $15,000 ostrich jacket. (Washington Post)

  • Manafort's defense team opened by blaming Rick Gates. (New York Times)

  • Prosecutors accused Manafort of being a "shrewd" liar who lived an "extravagant lifestyle" fueled by "secret income" that he earned from lobbying work in Ukraine. (CNN)

Week of July 29 - Aug 4: What We Learned in the Russia Probe

Mueller Investigation

Reporter Murray Waas wrote a piece for The New York Review revealing the existence of evidence in Mueller's possession that implicates Trump in obstruction of justice. He states, "Several people who have reviewed a portion of this evidence say that, based on what they know, they believe it is now all but inevitable that the special counsel will complete a confidential report presenting evidence that President Trump violated the law."

  • The evidence consists of a confidential White House memo that "explicitly states" Trump was told by Reince Priebus and Counsel Don McGahn that Flynn was under criminal investigation right before Trump pressured Comey to let Flynn "go." Waas states not only that Mueller has this memo in his possession, but also that Priebus and McGahn testified to Mueller that they personally gave this information to Trump during a meeting on January 26, 2017.
  • Such details contradict Trump's version of events, as laid out in a letter to Mueller from January 29, 2018. In the letter, "two of Trump's attorneys say that the President knew only that Flynn had been interviewed by the FBI. Trump believed the bureau's investigation was over and that Flynn had been cleared…"

On Wednesday, Trump tweeted that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should immediately end Mueller's investigation.

  • Trump's tweet: "This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further. Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!"
  • In response to questions of Trump's intent, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said: "The president's not obstructing, he's fighting back."
  • Congressmen and -women either ignored or downplayed Trump's Twitter attack on Sessions and Mueller. Most said, "you'll have to ask the president what he means." Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) tried to interpret Trump's meaning, saying, "[Trump] wants to see the investigation closed. He didn't say anything in the record that I've reviewed this morning that said he wants [Mueller] fired. There's a difference."

ABC reported that Trump's tweetstorm was likely sparked by his lawyers briefing him just hours earlier on the latest developments in Mueller's investigation. In order to obtain an interview with Trump, Mueller has reportedly offered to decrease the number of questions about obstruction of justice and accept some responses in written form. CNN notes, "However, Mueller wants obstruction to be addressed in person, not just in written answers." The two sides are still negotiating.

Trump's lawyers are creating a "counter-report" to refute any allegations Mueller's upcoming report may contain. Rudy Giuliani told USA Today that Mueller's team is "writing the report as we speak," but admits he has no firsthand knowledge of Mueller's plans.

Rudy Giuliani, Trump's lawyer, did another media tour last week.

  • He started off Monday by appearing on CNN, where he tried to make the argument that not only is colluding not a crime, but Trump is innocent because he didn't personally hack the DNC himself.
    • Giuliani: "…colluding with Russia, which, I don't even know if that's a crime, colluding about Russians. You start analyzing the crime—the hacking is the crime. The President didn't hack."
  • Next, Giuliani showed up on Fox & Friends, where he said: "I have been sitting here looking in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime. Collusion is not a crime." Technically, he is correct, but he is intentionally ignoring that conspiring with foreign nationals to interfere with an election is a felony offense - collusion is often used as shorthand for that crime.
    • Note: Trump repeated this claim on Twitter the following day, writing: "Collusion is not a crime, but that doesn't matter because there was No Collusion (except by Crooked Hillary and the Democrats)!"
  • Moments later on Fox & Friends, Giuliani brought up a claim allegedly made by Michael Cohen as if it was public knowledge…but it wasn't, until Giuliani said it on national television. According to Giuliani, Cohen has stated that at least five Trump aides - including Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, and Richard Gates - plus himself held a planning meeting prior to the meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in 2016. Giuliani seemed to confirm the meeting actually took place by clearly stating that Trump Sr. was not at the planning meeting.
  • Later that day, it seemed the implications of Giuliani's admission had sunk in, and so he called into another Fox News show to try to mitigate the damage. The host asked him why he brought up a second meeting when the question "had not been asked, or even suggested." Giuliani responded that he was trying to get ahead of a story about the planning meeting that he said was being shopped around. Giuliani then changed his story, denying that the planning meeting (which Trump was not at) never took place.
  • As the Daily Beast sums up nicely: "… the Trump team had long insisted that the actual meeting itself was so innocent and irrelevant as to barely even register in their memories—which likely would not have been the case if they had been planning for it."

On Saturday, the Washington Post reported that Trump is worried his son, Don Jr., is a target of Mueller's probe for his role in the Trump Tower meeting. " As one adviser described the president's thinking, he does not believe his son purposefully broke the law, but is fearful nonetheless that Trump Jr. inadvertently may have wandered into legal ­jeopardy."

The next day, Trump responded to the Washington Post report via Twitter, saying: "Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics - and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!"

  • Trump's tweet is the first time he admitted that the Trump Tower meeting was organized to "get information on an opponent," and not to discuss adoptions as he first claimed. The adoptions assertion was part of a statement issued by Don Jr. after the meeting became publicly known. The fact that Trump Sr. drafted the statement makes the contradiction in his tweet even more galling.
  • A second noteworthy aspect of Trump's tweet is the last line - "I did not know about it!" Right after asserting that the meeting was "totally legal," Trump tries to distance himself from it. As the Washington Post points out, "Trump seems to be arguing against his own point by assuring us that he had nothing to do with this meeting, which — oh, by the way — was totally on the up-and-up."

Mueller is seeking an interview with Emin Agalarov, the Russian pop star who helped arrange the 2016 Trump Tower meeting. Agalarov's lawyer says "conversations are ongoing" and it is "unclear how this will play out."

On Wednesday, Mueller's team interviewed Kristin Davis, also known as the Manhattan Madam. Davis is a close friend of Roger Stone. CNN reports, "investigators expressed interest in having Davis testify before a grand jury – the latest indication that prosecutors are still aiming to build a case against Stone."

Andrew Miller, a former aide to Roger Stone, has been ordered to testify before Mueller's grand jury. He tried to block Mueller's subpoena but the judge rejected his challenge on Thursday.

A person impersonating a staff member of the Latvian foreign ministry contacted Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to arrange a phone call between her and the Latvian foreign minister to discuss the sanctions against Russia. Shaheen's staff contacted the ministry directly and found the person to be an imposter. As the Daily Beast characterizes the incident, the intent of the call was to "get inside information" on the sanctions.

  • "Lawmakers are on high alert for suspicious emails after a number of attempted hack attacks linked to the Russian government. Last week, The Daily Beast reported that Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections, was the target of an unsuccessful hacking attempt by Russia's military intelligence agency, the GRU."

The Manafort trial continues this week. There were a variety of tidbits from the four days of trial so far, but nothing connected to the Russia probe. For a review of Friday's events, see here.

Michael Cohen

More pay-for-access: The Wall Street Journal revealed another deal Cohen had made to profit off his close relationship with Trump. Franklin Haney, "a major donor" to Trump, was going to pay Cohen $10 million if Cohen secured funding for Haney's unfinished nuclear-power project. Cohen was not able to obtain the government funding, but may have been paid a monthly retainer for an unknown length of time.

More Russian Connections

A recent report by the Atlantic Council details how the U.S. government, namely the Department of Homeland Security, has been doing Russia's dirty work for them by prosecuting and extraditing Russian government dissidents in America.

  • Russia's abuse of Interpol has been well-covered in relation to Bill Browder. They issue Red Notices - an approximation of an International arrest warrant - against Kremlin opponents. Normally, the U.S. " does not consider a Red Notice alone to be a sufficient basis for the arrest," but recently Trump's Homeland Security has been using them to facilitate "backdoor extraditions" at the Kremlin's request.
  • "…as the abuse of Interpol by Russia and other nations has increased, DHS and DOJ have more and more put themselves in the position of doing Vladimir Putin's dirty work for him by using his abusive Red Notices as the basis for arresting dissidents and businessmen who fled to the U.S. after they fell foul of Putin's regime."

Maria Butina, the gun-rights advocate and accused Russian spy, "socialized in the weeks before the 2016 election" with former Trump campaign aide J.D. Gordon. Gordon released a statement on the matter, calling the story "a sensationalized click bait story meant to smear a steady stream of Republicans and NRA members…"

Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, intimated that Russia has inside information on military plans of the U.S. and its allies while speaking at a Russian forum.

Congress/FBI

The Republican-controlled Senate voted against a Democratic amendment to the annual appropriations bill "that would provide $250 million in election security grants to states" to upgrade their voting systems and protect against hacking/cyberattacks. The amendment was put forward by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont. It received 50 approval votes but needed 60 to pass.

Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, refused to bring Donald Trump Jr. back to testify about the Trump Tower meeting in light of the new information revealed by Michael Cohen and Rudy Giuliani.

  • Cohen claimed that Don Jr. told Trump Sr. about the meeting in advance and that Trump Sr. approved of going forward with it. Giuliani admitted in a televised interview that Cohen claims there was a planning meeting prior to the previously known Trump Tower meeting (see Giuliani section above).
  • Grassley told CNN: "If he misled the committee, he's lying to Congress. That's a crime…And that'd be up to the prosecutors, not me."

Senator Rand Paul is going to Moscow today (Monday, Aug. 6) to meet with Russian lawmakers and "discuss common ground with their leaders and help prevent further, unnecessary escalation of tensions." It's hard to believe Paul will actually hold the Russians accountable, though, based on his past statements. For example, "last month on CNN, Paul said it was a 'waste of time' to try to hold Vladimir Putin responsible for election interference."

Other

The Department of Homeland Security has reallocated $750 million meant for a new polar icebreaker for the U.S. fleet to instead be used for Trump's border wall. The Arctic is rich in natural resources and an invaluable transport route; the nation that is capable of controlling this territory will profit greatly. As the U.S. intentionally ignores the Arctic, Russia is expanding into the area.

  • Russia is currently boosting their spending on icebreakers, with one company in the process of "creating a minimum of fifteen 1,000-foot-long, $320 million tankers to break the ice." Putin fully backs the company's objectives, giving a speech at the opening of their facility. "This is perhaps the largest step forward in our developing of the Arctic…Now we can safely say that Russia will expand through the Arctic this and next century. This is where the largest mineral reserves are located."
  • Russia is also expanding its military power in the Arctic, with "numerous military installations and airbases as well as generous additions to Russia's Northern Fleet." Along with commercial vessels, Russia is building military ships capable of patrolling the icy waters while also carrying weapons like cruise missile launchers.
  • Meanwhile, America's icebreaking fleet only contains one working ship and one disabled one, "each of which have exceeded their 30-year service lives." Democratic lawmakers and the Coast Guard criticized the move. "'We need that ship now,' Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said Wednesday during a speech in Washington."

An online poll of over 2,500 Americans conducted by Yahoo found that of Republicans, 11% "say it's 'appropriate' for Russia to help Republicans keep control of Congress in the upcoming elections." An additional 29% "say it's 'not appropriate, but wouldn't be a big deal' for the Russians to help." Thus, a total 40% of Republicans in this poll were at least okay with Russian interference on their party's behalf.

  • The same poll also asked Democrats how they would feel if Russians illegally assisted their party in elections. Compared to the 40% of Republicans who said "they'd approve or only mildly object, 14% of Democrats felt the same."

To note…

Activist Emma Best published over 11,000 of Wikileaks Twitter direct messages, most between Assange and his supporters. While it is a lot to sift through, it seems like there's nothing too big in the dump. There are various interesting tidbits, like Assange pushing his conspiracy theories (Peace Corps is a front for the CIA), multiple instances of Hillary Clinton being described as a "sadistic sociopath," and some anti-Semitic sentiments.

Day 561: Pervasive.

1/ Trump's national security team said Russia is behind "pervasive" and "ongoing" attempts to interfere in upcoming U.S. elections. "The threat is real. It is continuing," said Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence. Hours later, Trump defended his "great meeting with Putin," saying "the Russian hoax" is getting in the way of improved relations with the world's second-ranked nuclear power. (Reuters / CNBC / CNN)

  • The Treasury Department sanctioned a Russian bank, two North Korean entities and one North Korean citizen for facilitating "illegal financial activity." The Russian-registered AgrosoyuzCommercial Bank was sanctioned for doing business with a North Korean who was the "Moscow-based chief representative of Foreign Trade Bank, North Korea's primary foreign exchange bank." (CNBC)

2/ The NRA is in financial jeopardy and may "be unable to exist … or pursue its advocacy mission." Since May, the gun group has been suing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state's financial regulators, claiming the state of New York subjected it to a "blacklisting campaign" that resulted in "tens of millions of dollars in damages" from the loss of insurance coverage it needs in order to "maintain its physical premises, convene off-site meetings and events, operate educational programs," and "hold rallies, conventions, and assemblies." The association overspent by almost $46 million in 2016. (Rolling Stone)

  • The "National March on the NRA" rally will begin at noon on Saturday in front of the association's Virginia headquarters. It is expected to last three hours. (National March on NRA)

3/ China will impose retaliatory tariffs on $60 billion worth of U.S. imports if Trump goes ahead with his latest threat to increase tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. The Trump administration imposed 25% duties on $34 billion of Chinese goods on July 6, which prompted Beijing to retaliate with similar charges on the same amount of U.S. products. A senior administration official said there was "zero" engagement between the Trump administration and China. Another official said there has been "one call in the past few days," and that it resolved nothing. (Associated Press / Politico / Washington Post / CNBC)

4/ A Trump donor agreed to pay Michael Cohen $10 million if he could secure a $5 billion loan from the federal government for a nuclear power plant in Alabama. The loan application by Franklin Haney's company is still pending at the Energy Department. The agreement, which is no longer in effect, was made shortly before Cohen's home, office and hotel room were raided by federal agents on April 9. Haney donated $1 million to the Trump inaugural fund through a corporate entity. Nuclear Development LLC and Franklin L. Haney Co., have spent nearly $1.1 million since the end of 2016 lobbying the federal government and Congress on issues related to nuclear power. (Wall Street Journal / CNBC)

5/ The judge overseeing the reunification of the 2,551 migrant children separated from their parents called the Trump administration's lack of a plan "unacceptable at this point." 572 children remain in government custody and the parents of 410 children are currently outside the U.S. They've likely been deported. (NBC News)

6/ Revenue at the Trump International Hotel in Manhattan was up 13% in the first three months of 2018 thanks to "a last-minute visit" by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. The Crown Prince, however, didn't stay at the hotel, because the suites weren't big enough to accommodate his family. However, "due to our close industry relationships," the hotel's general manager wrote, "we were able to accommodate many of the accompanying travelers." (Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. The National Archives won't be able to provide all of the 900,000 documents on Brett Kavanaugh requested by the Senate until the end of October. Senate Republicans say they're still on track to hold September confirmation hearings. (Washington Post)

  2. Robert Mueller's team interviewed Kristin Davis, the woman famously known as the "Manhattan Madam," about her ties to longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone. (CNN)

  3. Mike Pompeo said North Korea's continued production of fuel for nuclear weapons was "inconsistent" with its "commitment to denuclearize." U.S. spy satellites had detected renewed activity at the North Korean factory that produced the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States. (Reuters)

  4. Trump denied that he left Queen Elizabeth II waiting. Instead he blamed the Queen for being late, saying that he arrived "a little early" and was waiting because "Hey, it's the queen, right?" The truth is, the 92-year-old monarch was waiting for about 15 minutes before Trump and Melania arrived. Trump called the reports "fake, fake disgusting news." (Washington Post)

  5. A former contestant on "The Apprentice" claims Trump is in "mental decline" in her new tell-all book, "Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House." Omarosa Manigault-Newman is not a doctor. (USA Today)

  6. Melania Trump’s top policy aide left the White House after six months on the job. Reagan Hedlund helped Melania launch the "Be Best" anti-bullying initiative. (Politico)

  7. Steve Bannon accused the Koch brothers of running "a conscious scam" and a "con job." Trump's former chief strategist went on to call Paul Ryan a "lame duck" who "should be removed" as Speaker. (The Hill)

  8. Trump Jr. falsely claimed that the Democratic Party looks "awfully similar" to the Nazi party in the 1930s, saying that "when you actually look at that platform versus the platform of the modern left, you say wait a minute, those two are really heavily aligned." (CNN)

  9. The Newseum is selling "Fake News" t-shirts and "Make America Great Again" hats. The interactive museum in Washington, D.C. is dedicated to educating citizens about the free press and recording important moments in news history. (Poynter / CBS)


Dept. of Paul Manafort's Trial.

Instead of writing summary recaps of the trial, I'm going to provide a few daily links to the live coverage.

Day Four.

  1. Prosecution dives into alleged tax, bank fraud. (CNN)

  2. Manafort Trial Turns to Tax Returns Mueller Says Are Phony. (Bloomberg)

  3. Judge Ellis Loses Patience with Mueller Prosecutors and Ends Court Early Over Screw-Up. (Law and Crime)

  4. Accountant concedes possible wrongdoing, Manafort's double life. 'They never told us about any income deposited in foreign accounts,' Manafort's accountant told jurors. (Politico)

Day Three.

  1. Prosecution has "every intention" of calling Richard Gates as witness. (Washington Post)

  2. Manafort's trial turns to accountants and tax preparers. (CNN)

  3. Judge says showing jury flashy suits could "besmirch the defendant." (NBC News)

Day Two.

  1. Prosecution Cites Lavish Spending by Paul Manafort in His Fraud Trial. (New York Times)

  2. A fake bill, a banned word, and a Rick Gates surprise. (Politico)

  3. Executive at 'most expensive store' testifies that Manafort paid for suits via wire transfers. (Washington Post)

Day One.

  1. Jury selection, first witness called and a $15,000 ostrich jacket. (Washington Post)

  2. Manafort's defense team opened by blaming Rick Gates. (New York Times)

  3. Prosecutors accused Manafort of being a "shrewd" liar who lived an "extravagant lifestyle" fueled by "secret income" that he earned from lobbying work in Ukraine. (CNN)

Day 560: A low point.

1/ Robert Mueller offered to reduce the number of obstruction of justice-related questions his team would ask Trump during a sit-down interview. Mueller's team would also allow some answers to be provided in written form. Negotiations over a potential presidential interview have been ongoing since March, and Mueller still plans to press Trump on topics related to obstruction, including questions about the firing of then-FBI Director James Comey. In response to the proposal Mueller sent Monday, Rudy Giuliani told reporters that it's time for the special counsel to "put up or shut up." (Washington Post / ABC News / CNN)

  • Robert Mueller has requested an interview with the Russian pop star who helped set up the 2016 Trump Tower meeting. Emin Agalarov's lawyer said the "conversations are ongoing" but that it's "unclear how this will play out." Agalarov's father, Aras Agalarov, is a billionaire with ties to Putin; he partnered with the Trump Organization to bring the 2013 Miss Universe pageant to Moscow. (NBC News)

  • A federal judge ruled that a former Roger Stone aide must testify before Robert Mueller's grand jury. Andrew Miller tried to challenge the legitimacy of Mueller's appointment in an effort to block subpoenas from the special counsel related to the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. (Washington Post / Politico)

2/ Trump told his advisers in recent days that he is eager to meet with Mueller and has urged his lawyers to reach an agreement on a sit-down interview with the special counsel, despite their warnings that he should not answer the Mueller team's questions. (New York Times)

3/ Hours after his lawyers updated him on the Mueller investigation, Trump called on Jeff Sessions to end the special counsel's investigation into Russian election interference. On Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, Trump's lawyers updated him on the latest developments, including Mueller's proposal to limit obstruction-related questions. Shortly thereafter, Trump tweeted that Sessions should end the Mueller investigation "right now," calling it a "terrible situation" and a "disgrace to USA!" (CNN)

4/ The Trump administration plans to roll back Obama-era fuel efficiency and emissions standards on new cars. Under the Obama administration, the EPA and the Transportation Department set requirements for new cars to average at least 35 mpg by 2020 and to continue improving efficiency up to 50 mpg by 2025. The policy was intended to combat global warming. Trump's plan would freeze the fuel economy standards after 2021 at about 37 mpg and would revoke a waiver granted to California and 13 other states to set more aggressive tailpipe pollution standards. (Los Angeles Times / New York Times / ABC News / Washington Post)

5/ The Senate Intelligence Committee unanimously approved the release of documents related to the arrest and prosecution of alleged Russian agent Maria Butina. The documents contain records of the committee's interviews with Butina, who is accused of working as an unregistered Russian agent while attending American University in Washington from 2015 to 2017. (Politico)

  • A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation to "impose crushing sanctions" on Russia meant to stop Putin from "meddling in the U.S. electoral process." The measure also would impose new sanctions on oligarchs who aid corrupt activities on Putin's behalf, and require the State Department to determine whether Russia should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called it a "sanctions bill from hell." (Bloomberg / Reuters)

  • Two senators say Trump "hasn't been paying attention" to Russia's threat to the 2018 elections. Republican senator James Lankford contended that nearly every senator has been a target of Russian hackers, calling it a "pretty regular thing around here." (CNN)

6/ A Russian spy worked for the Secret Service at the U.S. embassy in Moscow for more than a decade. She was having regular, unauthorized meetings with members of the FSB, Russia's security agency, and is believed to have had full access to the agency's intranet and email systems. The Secret Service waited months to let her go and didn't launch a full inquiry after the State Department's Regional Security Office flagged the suspected spy in January 2017. (The Guardian)


Notables.

  1. The Senate voted to increase the military's 2019 budget to $716 billion – an $82 billion increase from last year. The 9.3% increase is one of the largest in modern U.S. history, second only to the 23% increase in 2003 during the build-up to the Iraq War. (Washington Post)

  2. Ivanka Trump called her father's "zero tolerance" policy of separating families at the U.S.-Mexico border "a low point" for her. Ivanka, who remained publicly silent on the topic in June when Jeff Sessions announced the policy, claimed she was "very vehemently against family separation." (CNN)

  3. A new lawsuit filed against the Trump administration charges that Trump's efforts to "let Obamacare implode" were unconstitutional. The complaint argues that Trump has "waged a relentless effort to use executive action alone to undermine and, ultimately, eliminate the law," and is in violation of Article II of the U.S. Constitution, which requires the president to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." (NBC News)

  4. Trump said he's looking forward to a second meeting with Kim Jong Un. In a late-night tweet, Trump thanked Kim for returning the remains of more than 50 U.S. service members, ending with "Also, thank you for your nice letter - I look forward to seeing you soon!" (Washington Post)

  5. Trump tweeted support for a Republican Congressman who is not on the ballot. The tweet supporting Steve Stivers' reelection has since been deleted. (Politico)

  6. Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to say the press isn't "the enemy of the people," a phrase Trump has repeatedly used to attack the media. Instead, Sanders rattled off a list of somewhat unrelated grievances about how her life and the president's life have been affected by media coverage, which she characterized as "personal attacks" intended "to incite anger." Earlier in the day, Ivanka Trump said she didn't share her father's belief that the media is the "enemy of the people." (HuffPost / Washington Post)


Dept. of Paul Manafort's Trial.

Instead of writing summary recaps of the trial, I'm going to provide a few daily links to the live coverage.

Day Three.

  1. Prosecution has "every intention" of calling Richard Gates as witness. (Washington Post)

  2. Manafort's trial turns to accountants and tax preparers. (CNN)

  3. Judge says showing jury flashy suits could "besmirch the defendant." (NBC News)

Day Two.

  1. Prosecution Cites Lavish Spending by Paul Manafort in His Fraud Trial. (New York Times)

  2. A fake bill, a banned word, and a Rick Gates surprise. (Politico)

  3. Executive at 'most expensive store' testifies that Manafort paid for suits via wire transfers. (Washington Post)

Day One.

  1. Jury selection, first witness called and a $15,000 ostrich jacket. (Washington Post)

  2. Manafort's defense team opened by blaming Rick Gates. (New York Times)

  3. Prosecutors accused Manafort of being a "shrewd" liar who lived an "extravagant lifestyle" fueled by "secret income" that he earned from lobbying work in Ukraine. (CNN)

Day 559: A terrible situation.

1/ Trump urged Jeff Sessions to end the Mueller investigation and "stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now." In a morning tweetstorm, Trump called Mueller's probe "a terrible situation" that should be stopped "before it continues to stain our country any further." Rod Rosenstein has been overseeing the probe since Sessions recused himself last March – before Mueller was appointed. Trump has said he would have never hired Sessions had he known he would recuse himself from the Russia investigation. Mueller, meanwhile, has been scrutinizing Trump's tweets and statements about Sessions and James Comey as potential evidence in an obstruction of justice case. Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Trump's lawyers claimed that the message was not a formal order, but rather just the President of United States expressing his opinion. (New York Times / CNBC / CNN / Washington Post)

  • Trump tweets that the prosecution of Paul Manafort is "a hoax." Meanwhile, the federal jury in Virginia is hearing evidence in Manafort's trial on tax evasion and fraud charges. (Washington Post)

2/ Mueller offered to reduce the number of questions in exchange for an interview with Trump. Trump has continued say he'd willing to speak with Mueller, but his lawyers keep moving the goal posts. [This story is developing…] (Washington Post)

2/ Robert Mueller has referred three investigations into possible illicit foreign lobbying to New York prosecutors handling the Michael Cohen case. All three cases are linked to Paul Manafort, who brought other Washington lobbyists and lawyers into his work on behalf of Ukrainian politicians. The cases are examining whether those lobbyists also failed to register as foreign agents and how they were paid. None of the three men involved in the cases has been charged with a crime, but Mueller's team has subpoenaed or requested documents from all three of their firms. (CNN / New York Times)

3/ The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Trump's executive order to withhold federal funding from "sanctuary cities" was unconstitutional. The case now heads back to the District Court for hearings on whether there is enough evidence to support a nationwide ban on the order to withhold funding from cities that limit cooperation with immigration authorities. (Associated Press / Politico)

4/ The Trump administration is considering reducing the number of refugees admitted into the U.S. by 40%. The proposal calls for no more than 25,000 refugee resettlements next year, which would mark the lowest number of refugees admitted to the country since the program started in 1980. (New York Times)

poll/ 44% of Americans said they'd vote for Joe Biden in the 2020 election compared to 37% who said they'd vote for Trump. 80% of Democrats would choose Biden while 78% of Republicans would choose to reelect Trump. (Politico)

poll/ An average of 7% of Democrats approve of Trump's job performance, compared with an average of 84% of Republicans who approve. The 77-percentage-point gap makes Trump's job approval by party the most polarized performance dating back to Eisenhower. (Pew Research Center)


Dept. of Paul Manafort's Trial.

Instead of writing summary recaps of the trial, I'm going to provide 2-3 daily links to the coverage. At the conclusion of the trial, I'll write one summary. Sound good?

Day One.

  1. Jury selection, first witness called and a $15,000 ostrich jacket. (Washington Post)

  2. Prosecutors accused Manafort of being a "shrewd" liar who lived an "extravagant lifestyle" fueled by "secret income" that he earned from lobbying work in Ukraine. (CNN)

Day Two.

  1. Manafort's defense team opened by blaming Rick Gates. (New York Times)

  2. A fake bill, a banned word, and a Rick Gates surprise. (Politico)

  3. Executive at 'most expensive store' testifies that Manafort paid for suits via wire transfers. (Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Mike Pence vowed to protect the midterm elections from foreign interference. According to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, existing Homeland Security resources and budget will be used to set up a national cyber risk management center that will work with financial firms, energy companies and telecommunications providers to conduct security weakness assessments. (Reuters)

  2. Senate Republicans rejected a bid to spend an extra $250 million on election security for the 2018 midterms. The 50 to 47 vote fell far short of the 60 votes needed despite intelligence officials warning that foreign governments will try to interfere in the election. (Washington Post)

  3. A scammer called a U.S. senator and pretended to represent a Latvian official in an attempt to get information about U.S. sanctions on Russia. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen was contacted by "Arturs Vaiders," who claimed to be working for the Latvian foreign ministry and needed to discuss the "prolongation of anti-Russian sanctions" and "general security with Kaspersky laboratory case." Shaheen contacted the Latvian government to confirm the caller's credentials, but the embassy responded that the outreach attempt was fake. (Daily Beast)

  4. The Trump administration issued new insurance rules that encourage more Americans to buy inexpensive health plans originally designed for short-term use. These short-term plans don't have to cover pre-existing conditions, and they circumvent some of the Affordable Care Act's coverage requirements and consumer protections. (Washington Post)

  5. The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on two Turkish officials over the detention of an American pastor who was arrested in October 2016 on accusations of spying and attempting to overthrow the Turkish government. (Bloomberg / CNBC)

  6. While defending stricter voter ID laws, Trump claimed you need photo identification to buy groceries at supermarkets. "if you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card, you need ID," he said. "You go out and you want to buy anything, you need ID and you need your picture." The White House did not respond to questions about when the president last bought groceries himself. (Associated Press)

  7. Trump has made 4,229 false or misleading statements in the first 558 days of his administration — an average of 7.6 claims per day. In the last two months alone, Trump added 978 claims to the tally. During his first 100 days, Trump clocked in at an average of 4.9 claims per day. (Washington Post)

Day 558: Unhinged.

1/ Facebook identified a coordinated political influence campaign involving 32 "inauthentic" pages and profiles engaging in divisive messaging ahead of the midterm elections. While the social media company said it couldn't directly link the activity to Russia, company officials told Capitol Hill that Russia was possibly involved. "It's clear that whoever set up these accounts went to much greater lengths to obscure their true identities than the Russian-based Internet Research Agency (IRA) has in the past," Facebook wrote. The company removed 32 pages and accounts. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)

2/ Trump repeated Rudy Giuliani's defense that "Collusion is not a crime, but that doesn't matter because there was No Collusion." For months, Trump has repeatedly denied that there was collusion between his campaign and Russia. In December, Trump said that "collusion is not a crime," but legal experts believe that anyone found collaborating with Russia could be charged with other crimes, such as conspiracy, fraud and computer hacking. (CNN / Politico)

3/ [Developing] Paul Manafort's tax and bank fraud trial started today. The trial is the first in connection with Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Collusion and Russia, however, are not likely to come up during the trial. Mueller is expected to focus on Manafort's business dealings and his lobbying work on behalf of the pro-Kremlin Ukrainian government. It is unclear whether Manafort will take the stand at any point during the trial. The jury was selected and sworn in. The prosecution's opening statements began with "Paul Manafort lied." (Politico / NPR / ABC News / Reuters)

4/ John Kelly agreed to remain as chief of staff through Trump's 2020 reelection campaign, quieting at least for the moment speculation that he would leave the White House sometime this summer. Trump, however, has recently expanded his shortlist for potential Kelly replacements, which includes Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows, budget director Mick Mulvaney, and Nick Ayers, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence. Kelly marked his first anniversary as chief of staff on Monday. (Wall Street Journal / CNBC / Washington Post)

5/ Trump continued his tiff with A.G. Sulzberger, publisher of the New York Times, tweeting that the media was "totally unhinged" and "crazy." The two held an off-the-record meeting to discuss Trump's "deeply troubling anti-press rhetoric," but Trump broke their agreement by tweeting about the meeting, prompting the newspaper publisher to release his own account of the talk. (Politico)

6/ Trump lashed out at the Koch brothers, calling them "globalists" who "have become a total joke in real Republican circles." Trump's Twitter tirade was in response to Charles Koch's criticism that the "divisiveness of this White House is causing long-term damage." Trump called their political network, which plans to spend as much as $400 million on policy issues and political campaigns during the 2018 cycle, "highly overrated." (Washington Post / Bloomberg / CNN)

  • Tom Steyer plans to spend at least $110 million in 2018 building out his two political organizations, NextGen America and Need to Impeach. (Politico)

poll/ 63% of Americans under 34 years old say that voting in the 2018 midterms will allow their generation to effect change, while 36% think voting won't really affect what the government does. Likely young voters are more likely to be excited to vote for a candidate who cares about issues that affect them (77%), is a woman (46%), looks like the people they represent (43%), is a teacher (40%), is black (38%) or is a member of the LGBT community (26%). (MTV/AP-NORC)


Notables.

  1. Russia's top diplomat claimed his country has access to insider information about U.S. military plans. Sergey Lavrov said Moscow would be "provided with information about the schemes harbored by the militaries of both the U.S. and other Western countries against the Russian Federation." (Newsweek)

  2. A federal judge ordered the government to transfer all but the most troubled migrant children from an immigration detention facility that allegedly forced children to take psychotropic drugs regardless of their conditions and without their parents' consent. U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee found the conditions at the Shiloh Treatment Center in Texas to be in violation of a 1997 settlement known as Flores v. Reno, which requires officials to place detained minors "in the least restrictive setting appropriate to (each Class Member's) age and special needs." (NBC News)

  3. Senate Democrats asked the National Archives to provide Congress with all of Brett Kavanaugh's records from his tenure in the George W. Bush White House. Democrats accused Republicans of concealing a significant portion of Kavanaugh's White House tenure that could provide insight into how the nominee advised Bush on contentious issues that occurred during that administration. (Washington Post)

  4. The U.S. and China are trying to restart trade talks in hopes of averting a trade war. Another $16 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports kick in as soon as Wednesday. (Bloomberg)

  5. North Korea is building at least one and possibly two liquid-fueled ICBMs at the same factory that produced the country's first intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States. (Washington Post)


🇷🇺 What We Learned in the Russia Probe last week.

Day 557: "Trump Derangement Syndrome."

1/ Rudy Giuliani: "Collusion is not a crime." Trump's lawyer told Fox and Friends "I don't even know if that's a crime, colluding about Russians," and that he's been "looking in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime." Giuliani asserted that "the hacking is the crime. The president didn't hack. He didn't pay them for hacking," suggesting that Trump would have had to pay for Russia to interfere on his behalf. Trump has argued for more than a year that there was "no collusion" – not that collusion wasn't a crime. On Sunday, Trump tweeted that "There is No Collusion!" and that "the Witch Hunt is an illegal Scam!" (The Hill / Washington Post / CNN)

  • Trump didn't tell the truth about the Russia investigation 7 times in 1 tweet. Despite the tweet's brevity, there are at least seven examples of exaggerations, mischaracterizations and outright falsehoods contained in it. (CNN)

2/ Trump claimed that Robert Mueller's investigation has multiple "conflicts of interest," including a "very nasty and contentious business relationship" between the two men. Giuliani said the dispute remains unresolved "even to this day," but refused to detail the alleged conflict. Last year, White House advisers said Mueller had a dispute over membership fees at Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia in 2011. Trump tried to fire Mueller in June 2017 over alleged conflicts of interest. (The Hill / CNN / Washington Post)

  • Why Giuliani's "collusion isn't a crime" statement doesn't matter for Mueller's probe. While Giuliani is technically correct that there is no charge called "collusion," Mueller has a number of possible criminal statutes, including conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making false statements, that he could cite to charge such collusive conduct or a cover-up thereof. (CNBC)

  • GOP Rep. Darrell Issa: "Nobody is going to be surprised" if Trump lied about Russia. "If he's proven to have not told the whole truth about the fact that campaigns look for dirt, and if someone offers it, you listen to them, nobody's going to be surprised," Issa said. "Businessmen listen to almost everyone who might be helpful." (Mediate / Think Progress)

  • Trump and his legal team have cut ties to Michael Cohen for "violat[ing] the attorney-client privilege, publicly and privately." Giuliani confirmed the two sides have ended their joint defense agreement to share information. (Politico / ABC News)

  • Giuliani called Cohen a "pathological manipulator" and "a liar" following reports that Cohen is prepared to allege Trump knew about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting. Last week, Trump claimed that he had no prior knowledge of the meeting with a Russian lawyer, which Trump Jr. had attended in the hope of collecting negative information about Hillary Clinton. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Robert Mueller's office said Paul Manafort earned $60 million from his work as a political consultant in Ukraine. The indictment against Manafort says $75 million flowed through offshore accounts controlled by Manafort and his former business partner Rick Gates. (CNN)

3/ Trump accused journalists of being "driven insane by their Trump Derangement Syndrome" and suggested that they are endangering American lives by revealing "internal deliberations of our government." He charged that journalists were "very unpatriotic!" for their negative media coverage of his administration. In a tweetstorm, Trump singled out the New York Times and the Washington Post after A. G. Sulzberger – publisher of the Times – released a statement about an off-the-record meeting between the two. Sulzberger disclosed the details of the meeting after Trump "put the meeting on the record" when he tweeted about his "very good and interesting meeting" with Sulzberger. Trump claimed the two discussed "the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media and how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, 'Enemy of the People.' Sad!" (Washington Post / The Hill / New York Times)

  • Statement of A. G. Sulzberger, Publisher, The New York Times, in Response to President Trump's Tweet About Their Meeting (New York Times Communications)

  • Trump has repeatedly tried to punish journalists for how they ask him questions, directing White House staff to ban reporters from covering official events or to revoke their press credentials. (Washington Post)

4/ Trump threatened to shut down the federal government if Democrats don't agree to sweeping changes to U.S. immigration laws and appropriate money to build his proposed border wall. "I would be willing to 'shut down' government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall!" Trump tweeted on Sunday. "Must get rid of Lottery, Catch and Release etc. and finally go to system of Immigration based on MERIT! We need great people coming into our Country!" Trump faced immediate words of caution from top Republican lawmakers, including the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee and the chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • 4 reasons Republicans should worry about Trump's government shutdown threat: Republicans control all levers of government; it's a distraction from the economy; a shutdown would occur 36 days before the midterm elections; and Trump is an unreliable negotiator. (CNN)

5/ Top Koch officials criticized the Republican Party and the Trump administration for their "divisiveness" and "tremendous lack of leadership," saying "this White House is causing long-term damage." Charles Koch said he "regrets" supporting some Republicans who "say they're going to be for these principles that we espoused and then they aren't," adding that the network will be "much stricter" with their financial support in the future. The Koch network still plans to spend as much as $400 million on policy issues and political campaigns during the 2018 cycle. (Washington Post / NBC News / CNN)

  • The Koch's political network said it cannot support the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in North Dakota, citing Kevin Cramer's "inconsistency" on key issues important to Americans for Prosperity, such as trade and spending. (ABC News / Washington Post)

  • Steve Bannon accused the Koch network of undermining Trump's presidency ahead of the midterms, demanding that they "shut up and get with the program." (Politico)


Notables.

  1. The government has been secretly monitoring U.S. citizens when they fly since at least 2010 as part of a secret TSA program called "Quiet Skies." The program targets travelers who "are not under investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base," but all U.S. citizens who enter the country are automatically screened for potential inclusion in the program. (Vox / Washington Post)

  2. A federal judge ordered the Trump administration to provide detailed information by Wednesday about the location of "missing parents" the government deemed "ineligible" for reunification. As of Friday, 650 of the 2,551 migrant children separated from their families at the border remain separated because their parents have been deemed ineligible. (NBC News)

  3. A group of 36 people representing all five of the Muslim-majority countries affected by the current travel ban are suing the Trump administration in the first lawsuit since the ban was upheld by the Supreme Court in June. The suit names Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and other government agencies as the defendants. While the suit doesn't challenge the constitutionality of the ban, it instead asks the administration to explain how it grants waivers under the ban. (Vox)

  4. Trump said he's be willing to meet with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani hours after Iran said "there will definitely not be the possibility of dialogue and engagement." Rouhani said "the United States has shown that it is totally unreliable." (New York Times)

  5. Brett Kavanaugh sided with Trump Entertainment Resorts in a 2012 case that stopped a unionization drive at one of its casinos. Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court voted to ignore an order from the National Labor Relations Board that would have required the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City to bargain with the United Auto Workers. (Bloomberg)

  6. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she hopes to stay on the Supreme Court until the age of 90 or "about at least five more years." (CNN)

  7. Jeff Sessions announced that the Department of Justice is creating a "religious liberty task force" to "ensure all Justice Department components are upholding" Trump's executive order to respect and protect religious liberty and political speech. (The Hill)

  8. The Trump administration is considering a $100 billion tax cut to the wealthy by allowing Americans to account for inflation in determining capital gains tax liabilities. The move would bypass Congress and instead require Steven Mnuchin and the Treasury Department to change the definition of "cost" for calculating capital gains to adjust the initial value of an asset for inflation when it sells. (New York Times)

  9. Corporate executives have been receiving "eye-popping" payouts since Trump's new tax law went into effect and slashed the corporate tax rates to 21%. Since the tax cuts were enacted, companies have announced more than $600 billion in buybacks – doubled from the same period a year ago. (Politico)

  10. The Treasury Department is considering lifting sanctions on a Russian company founded by one of Putin's closest allies. Rusal's former owner, oligarch Oleg Deripaska, was sanctioned this year by the U.S. in an attempt to punish the Kremlin for interfering in the 2016 election. Rusal was also sanctioned in April because of its ties to Deripaska. (CNN)

  11. Trump's golf resort in Scotland "partially destroyed" protected sand dunes. Scottish Natural Heritage acknowledged that serious damage has been done to the site, which is of special scientific interest. Locals say Trump failed to honor promises to protect the site and that the development did not justify destroying the delicate ecosystem. (The Guardian)


Trump's Sunday Media Tweetstorm.

Week of July 22 - 28: What We Learned in the Russia Probe

Introducing What We Learned in the Russia Probe, a weekly recap written by Adrienne Cobb. Let us know what you think by using the chat icon in the lower right-hand corner.


Mueller Investigation

Mueller is reportedly examining Trump’s tweets as part of the obstruction of justice case his team is investigating. Of particular interest are Trump’s tweets and “negative statements” about Jeff Sessions and James Comey.

  1. Mueller’s team has told Trump’s lawyers they “are examining the tweets under a wide-ranging obstruction-of-justice law beefed up after the Enron accounting scandal,” which is interesting because Mueller himself led the case against Enron.

In the upcoming trial of Paul Manafort, Mueller’s team has released a list of 35 potential witnesses. Here is the complete list and below is a quick rundown of some notable people. Keep in mind that this trial is about proving Manafort made millions working as a consultant in Ukraine, didn’t disclose the income nor his offshore accounts to the U.S. government, and committed fraud to get a $20 million loan. The witness list reflects this focus.

  1. Rich Gates: Manafort’s ex-business partner, who has pleaded guilty to fraud-related charges and is cooperating with Mueller. According to Bloomberg, Gates “will guide jurors through bank records and other financial documents.”

  2. Tad Devine: Political consultant who worked with Manafort in Ukraine. Also was chief strategist for Bernie Sanders. Note that Devine is “serving as a fact witness and had been assured he did not have legal exposure.”

  3. Alex Trusko: Manafort’s former personal assistant, who is cooperating with the FBI and helped them get search warrants for Manafort’s home and storage locker.

  4. Wayne Holland: real estate agent who helped Manafort buy his Alexandria condo

  5. Irfan Kirimca: director of ticket operations for the New York Yankees

  6. Five accountants and bankers who were involved in Manafort’s finances or loaned him money.

Behind on Manafort’s situation or simply need a refresher? The New York Times has a simple and straightforward FAQ about Manafort’s trial that is worth checking out.

Giuliani stated that Trump would only sit for an interview with Mueller if obstruction of justice questions were omitted. Trump’s lawyers are worried witnesses who contradict Trump’s account of events might be more believable to Mueller, leaving Trump to face perjury charges. On Monday, Giuliani said Mueller hadn’t responded yet.

Michael Cohen

Cohen claims Trump knew ahead of time of the Trump Tower meeting to get dirt on Hillary Clinton from a Russian lawyer, contradicting the denials of Trump and Trump Jr. Further, Cohen states that Trump himself approved of the meeting.

  1. It is important to note that the sources who spoke with CNN said Cohen does not have evidence of his claims.

  2. Trump Jr. testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Trump Sr. “was not aware” of the meeting. If Cohen’s account can be corroborated, it potentially opens Trump Jr. up to perjury charges for lying to Congress.

  3. Just hours before news of Cohen’s claim broke, the AP revealed that the Russian lawyer from Trump Tower, Natalia Veselnitskaya, “worked much more closely with senior Russian government officials than she previously let on.”

The former chief financial officer and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, has been subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury in the Michael Cohen investigation.

  1. Weisselberg set up a $35,000 monthly retainer from the Trump Organization to Cohen in order to pay him back for using his own finances to fund the hush payment to Stormy Daniels. Additionally, in the September 2016 audio recording of Cohen and Trump (see below), Cohen twice mentions having set up the plan to pay Karen McDougal with Weisselberg.

  2. “Mr. Weisselberg’s ties to the Trump family date back to days of working for the real-estate firm owned by Mr. Trump’s father, Fred, in the 1980s. He later came to the Trump Organization, where he reported directly to Donald Trump and worked out of an office in Trump Tower…” He “was once described by a person close to the company as ‘the most senior person in the organization that’s not a Trump.’”

On Friday, prosecutors received 12 audio tapes seized from Cohen in the raid. Trump’s legal team withdrew their objection to prosecutors listening to the audio, no longer claiming them as privileged.

  1. Trump is reportedly only heard on one recording (discussing the $150,000 hush payment to Playmate Karen McDougal). It’s not known why Trump’s team decided not to pursue the privilege claims.

On Wednesday, Cohen’s lawyer gave CNN the recording with Trump, made in September 2016. Cohen and Trump are heard deliberating about how to buy Karen McDougal’s story of her affair with Trump. The plan Cohen lays out involves setting up a company and financing to purchase the rights to the story from American Media, the publisher of the National Enquirer, which would first buy the story from McDougal. Full transcript.

  1. The main controversy surrounding the audio is that Trump suggests paying with cash, to which Cohen says “no, no” in what might be characterized as a disapproving tone. Then Trump says, “check.” This has been interpreted as Trump wanting to use cash to pay for the story because, compared to a check, it would leave no paper trail (so to speak). If Trump essentially paid McDougal hush money to keep the story from affecting the election, and then further never disclosed the payment, it would violate campaign finance laws. Paying with cash would make it much harder to prove such a payment happened.

  2. Former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade: “If this expenditure was made on behalf of the campaign and it was not disclosed, and it was done willfully, that’s a crime,” McQuade said. If Trump wanted that done in cash, McQuade continued, “it suggests an effort to conceal the payment. If you’re hiding things, prosecutors often see that as some indication that you believe you were guilty, that you knew what you were doing was illegal. Taking steps to cover it up does tend to establish that willfulness. That could be incriminating.”

Giuliani told Face the Nation that there are 183 "unique conversations" on tape, 12 of which include discussion of Trump. However, only one tape contains Trump himself speaking, according to Giuliani.

Michael Avenatti is representing three other women who claim to have been paid hush money by Donald Trump, AMI, and Michael Cohen.

More Russia Connections

Homeland Security officials announced that Russian hackers have been conducting a massive campaign against the U.S. in which they have reached the control rooms of U.S. electric utilities. Wall Street Journal: “They got to the point where they could have thrown switches” and disrupted power flows, said Jonathan Homer, chief of industrial-control-system analysis for DHS.

Putin announced that he is “ready to go to Washington…if the right conditions for work are created.” He also invited Trump to Moscow, saying Trump “has a desire to have further meetings.” The White House responded that "President Trump looks forward to having President Putin to Washington after the first of the year, and he is open to visiting Moscow upon receiving a formal invitation."

After Trump tweeted that he is “very concerned” the Kremlin “will be pushing very hard for the Democrats” in the midterm elections, news broke that Russian hackers have actually been targeting red-state Democrat Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri. She is “widely considered to be among the most vulnerable Senate Democrats facing re-election.”

  1. Hackers used similar phishing techniques as was used in 2016, sending targets forged notification emails that trick them into entering their credentials on a fake website, which then collects this data.

  2. Here is a screenshot of one of the fake password change websites Senate targets have been directed to.

According to Sarah H. Sanders, Trump would like to revoke the security clearances of several former national security officials who have commented on the Russia probe in what Trump considers an ‘inappropriate’ manner. Those officials are John Brennan, James Comey, James Clapper, Susan Rice and Michael Hayden, and also former FBI official Andrew McCabe. However, Comey and McCabe no longer have security clearances.

  1. There are legitimate reasons for former officials to still have their security clearances after leaving an agency. The first: “They still have inactive clearances from their government service.” For a whole year after leaving their job, the clearance is considered inactive but can easily be reactivated should they get a new job that requires it. In that sense, they still have the clearance, but don’t use it. The second reason: Directors of intelligence agencies have unique expertise that is often called upon by their successors for guidance. This taps into the “need to know” rule of clearances; officials have to prove they need the information in order to do their job. Hypothetical: Susan Rice, for example, cannot use her security clearance to access classified UFO information when she’s working on a financial crimes case. A clearance is not an open pass to see every piece of classified intel in the United States’ history.

Russian spy Maria Butina dined with Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in February 2017. Her emails reveal it was part of a plan "to arrange 'friendship and dialogue dinners' with influential Americans."

The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office has confirmed that in 2016 Russian agent Anatoliy Sergeyevich Kovalev visited election websites in Cobb and Fulton counties. Kovalev is one of the 12 Russian officials Mueller recently indicted for interfering with the 2016 election. Georgia not only does not have a verifiable paper ballot system, it was also “one of two states nationwide that didn’t accept the federal government’s offer to scan state election networks ahead of the presidential election to look for vulnerabilities.”

The Trump administration is considering lifting sanctions on Rusal, a major Russian aluminum company founded by Putin ally and oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Congress/FBI

Republican Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, sent a letter to Trump “chastising” him for ignoring a deadline to determine if Russia violated international law in poisoning ex-spy Skripal and his daughter in Britain. If Trump decides Moscow did violate the law, additional sanctions would immediately be applied.

  1. Royce “said Trump’s administration had already blown through the statutory deadline by more than a month, and gave the president a new deadline of two weeks to tell Congress of his decision.”

Other

CNN obtained the emails of a Columbus Police officer who was involved in the arrest of Stormy Daniels earlier this month. The officer was researching Daniels and the strip club in the days before the arrest, suggesting Daniels was actually targeted by the police department. This contradicts the PD’s statement that they were conducting a “long-term investigation” that just so happened to catch Daniels committing a violation. The emails also reveal the officer “sent emails to colleagues seemingly giddy about the arrest after the fact.”

A study by the Brennan Center for Justice found that almost 16 million voters were removed from voter rolls in just two years, from 2014-2016. This represents a 33% increase - four million more voters - compared to the period of 2006-2008, outpacing “both population growth and the growth in total registered voters.”

  1. Additionally, the report found that the voter purges of eight states had violated either the National Voter Registration Act or “had policies that violate the law.” Included in the eight states are New York, Alabama, and Maine.

  2. “Jonathan Brater, a counsel in the nonpartisan center’s Democracy Program and a co-author of the report, said it’s hard to know how many voters were purged in error, ‘which is part of the concern’ … the Brennan Center found that as the rates of voters removed increased, so did the number of people who showed up to vote but were unable to.”

  3. Derrick Johnson, the president and CEO of the NAACP: “It is our belief that there is an over-representation of African American, Latino and lower and working-class individuals,” he said. “It is unfortunate that this nation has refused to honor the sacred right to vote and proactively protect that right for all citizens.”


To note…

The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed an FEC complaint alleging that the company which made a $325,000 donation to Trump Super PAC 'America First Action' is illegally masking the true source of the funds. According to CLC, the company - Global Energy Producers LLC. - "was illegally used as a pass-through entity to mask the original sources of the contributions."

  1. Global Energy Producers also donated large amounts of money to the GOP fundraising committee 'Protect the House', the re-election campaigns of Republican Reps. Pete Sessions (Texas) and Joe Wilson (SC), and the Senate campaign of Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R).

Kazakhstan has begun a trial of the former mayor of one of their cities and his wife, accused of various crimes including using purchases in Trump Tower and Trump SoHo hotel to launder stolen money. The couple is in Switzerland, so are being tried in absentia. They reportedly have close ties to other people in Trump world, including Giuliani and Felix Sater.

Day 554: "Never even heard about it."

1/ Michael Cohen says Trump knew in advance about Trump Jr.'s meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton. Cohen doesn't have evidence to back up his claim, but he is reportedly willing to make the assertion as part of his testimony to Robert Mueller. Cohen claims that he, along with several others, were in the room when Trump Jr. told Trump about the Russian's offer. According to Cohen, Trump approved the meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Cohen's claim contradicts Trump, Trump Jr., their lawyers, and administration officials who have repeatedly said Trump didn't know about the meeting until he was asked about it in July 2017. Trump's response at the time was: "No. That I didn't know. Until a couple of days ago, when I heard about this. No I didn't know about that." A few days later, Trump was again asked whether he knew about the meeting. His response: "No, I didn't know anything about the meeting…. must have been a very unimportant meeting, because I never even heard about it … nobody told me."(CNN / NBC News / Washington Post)

  • 19 times Trump and his allies denied he knew of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting. If true, Cohen's claim would contradict repeated denials from Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and lawyers for both, as well as other administration officials, who maintain that Trump learned about the meeting in 2017. (CNN)

  • Michael Cohen: "I'm not going to be a punching bag anymore." Cohen's actions appear to be driven by his outrage over Trump's indifference, his feelings of betrayal, and the personal and financial weight of the criminal case being assembled by federal prosecutors. (Washington Post)

2/ Trump tweeted that he "did NOT know" in advance about Trump Jr.'s Trump Tower meeting, disputing Michael Cohen's assertion that he did and accusing him of "trying to make up stories." Cohen said he's willing to testify that then-candidate Trump knew in advance about the 2016 meeting in Trump Tower. In July 2017, it was reported that Trump personally dictated Trump Jr.'s statement about the latter's meeting with the Russian lawyer, claiming they had "primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children." (Washington Post / CNN)

  • Natalia Veselnitskaya served as a ghostwriter for top Russian government lawyers and received assistance from senior Interior Ministry personnel. In the U.S., Veselnitskaya tried to overturn the Magnitsky Act, but denied acting on behalf of Russian officials and told Congress that she operates "independently of any government bodies." (Associated Press)

3/ Russians unsuccessfully hacked Sen. Claire McCaskill as she began her 2018 re-election campaign, making her the first known target of the Kremlin's 2018 election interference campaign. There is no evidence that the attempt to penetrate her campaign or staff systems was successful. (Daily Beast / NPR)

4/ Accused Russian spy Maria Butina had dinner last year with Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican congressman on the House Foreign Relations Committee. Two years earlier, Butina arranged a meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, that included Rohrabacher and her mentor Alexander Torshin, who is one of Putin's closest allies. Rohrabacher also met Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya during an official trip he made to Moscow in April 2016. Later that summer, Rohrabacher traveled to London to meet with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. WikiLeaks released Hillary Clinton's hacked emails on July 22, 2016. (ABC News)

5/ Nineteen months into the Trump presidency, there is no single person or agency in charge of combatting foreign election interference. This afternoon Trump presided over the first National Security Council meeting devoted to defending American democracy from foreign manipulation. Trump has called Russian election interference a hoax and its investigation a witch hunt. (NBC News)

6/ Putin invited Trump to Moscow days after the White House postponed its plans to host the Russian president. Sarah Sanders said Trump is "open to visiting Moscow" and that "Trump looks forward to having President Putin to Washington after the first of the year." Putin said he was ready to meet either in Washington or Moscow. (New York Times / CNN / Reuters)


Notables.

  1. The acting EPA administrator reversed Scott Pruitt's final policy decision to grant a loophole to pollution-emitting trucks. Andrew Wheeler formally vacated the agency's decision not to impose a pollution cap on "glider" trucks — vehicles with older and less efficient engines installed. (New York Times)

  2. The arrest of Stormy Daniels was planned months in advance, according to documents released by a whistleblower from the City of Columbus, who sent the Fayette Advocate emails and news clippings discussing Daniels' scheduled appearance, as well as pictures of her with Trump and videos of her dancing. The documents also included a map of the club where she was scheduled to perform. (Newsweek / Fayette Advocate)

  3. Trump administration issued 38 permits allowing 33 hunters to import lion trophies into the U.S. from two African nations. More than half of the individuals issued trophy hunting permits have been donors to the GOP or Trump. (HuffPost / The Hill / NPR / Friends of Animals)

  4. Trump used a taxpayer-funded trip to campaign for Republican congressional candidates in Illinois. He didn't name the candidates, but three Republicans were with him: Mike Bost, Rodney Davis and John Shimkus. (Washington Post)

  5. Trump again attacked NATO and Germany and complained about the news coverage of his recent trip to Europe. He told the crowd he was tough on Russia. "One thing I know about NATO, for sure," Trump said, "is that it's better for Europe than it is for us." (Independent)

  6. Trump Jr. falsely claimed that quarterly gross domestic product never passed 2% growth under Obama. It did. 15 times. (The Hill)

Day 553: "Enough is enough."

1/ House Freedom Caucus leaders Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows introduced articles of impeachment against Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. "The DOJ is keeping information from Congress. Enough is enough," Jordan said in a statement. "It's time to hold Mr. Rosenstein accountable for blocking Congress’s constitutional oversight role." The resolution is unlikely to pass, as top GOP lawmakers have not signed on to the effort, but it represents the strongest step that conservative allies of Trump have taken so far in their feud with Rosenstein and the Justice Department. (Politico / CNN / Washington Post)

  • Jim Jordan plans to run for speaker of the House of Representatives "to bring real changes to Congress." Jordan vowed to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act, build a wall along the southern border, make the 2017 tax cuts permanent and cut federal spending to avoid large deficits if he becomes speaker. At least four Ohio State wrestlers have accused him of knowing about sexual abuse by a team doctor while he was an assistant wrestling coach at the university three decades ago. (CNN / Washington Post)

2/ Paul Ryan rejected the efforts by House conservatives to impeach Rosenstein, saying "I don't think we should be cavalier with this process or with this term." 11 of the 236 Republicans in the House accused Rosenstein of withholding documents and being insufficiently transparent in his handling of the Russia probe led by Robert Mueller. Ryan added that the House Republicans document request doesn't rise to the level of "high crimes and misdemeanors" that warrant impeachment under the Constitution. (Associated Press / Vox / Washington Post / Politico)

3/ Robert Mueller is scrutinizing Trump's tweets and negative statements about Jeff Sessions and James Comey as part of his obstruction of justice investigation. Mueller is trying to determine whether Trump's statements and actions constitute attempts to obstruct the investigation via witness intimidation and pressuring senior law enforcement officials to impede the inquiry. Mueller also reportedly wants to question Trump about his tweets. (New York Times)

4/ A federal grand jury subpoenaed the CFO of the Trump Organization to testify as a witness in the ongoing probe into Michael Cohen's business practices. Allen Weisselberg's name was mentioned on the recently released audio recording of one of Cohen's conversations with Trump from September 2016, during which the two discussed buying the rights to Karen McDougal's story about her alleged affair with Trump. Weisselberg is a long-time financial gatekeeper for Trump, and has been working for the Trump Organization since at least the 1980s. (Wall Street Journal / CNBC / Law and Crime)

  • The government seized more than 100 recordings from Michael Cohen. They include conversations Cohen had with reporters and others who were discussing matters related to Trump and his businesses. Cohen made some of the recordings with an iPhone, without telling anyone he was taping them. Most of the recordings involve conversations between Cohen and reporters who asked him about Trump during and after the 2016 election. (Washington Post / The Hill)

5/ The lawyer Trump Jr. met with at Trump Tower during the campaign had worked more closely with Russian government officials than she previously let on. Natalia Veselnitskaya, who previously denied acting as a representative of Russian authorities, served as a ghostwriter for top Russian government lawyers and received assistance from senior Interior Ministry personnel. [This story is developing…] (Associated Press)

6/ The Trump administration failed to document consent in most cases where migrants were deported without their children. The new information contradicts repeated claims by the White House that migrant parents gave consent to leaving their children behind. This has been a key talking point for Trump administration officials who have defended the separations and deportations. (Politico)

7/ A multi-state lawsuit challenging the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 census will be allowed to move forward in court. The suit, brought by more than two dozen states and cities and other groups, is the largest of six lawsuits arguing against the new citizenship question. In his opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Jesse Furman said the plaintiffs "plausibly allege that Secretary Ross's decision to reinstate the citizenship question was motivated at least in part by discriminatory animus and will result in a discriminatory effect." (NPR)

poll/ Trump's job approval rating is below 40 percent in three politically important Midwest states: Michigan (36%), Wisconsin (36%), and Minnesota (38%). (NBC News/Marist)


Notables.

  1. Mike Pompeo refused to provide details about what Trump discussed with Putin last week. The Secretary of State took exception to questions by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about Trump's private one-on-one with Putin, but claimed he is "very confident that I received a comprehensive debriefing from President Trump." (New York Times / Washington Post)

  2. Newly disclosed emails reveal Michigan Republicans planning to gerrymander district maps to their party's advantage, while celebrating the plight of their Democratic opponents. A federal lawsuit unearthed records that show Republicans intent on drawing boundaries that would explicitly help their party, including by packing African-Americans into a metropolitan Detroit House district. "Perfect. It’s giving the finger to Sandy Levin,” one of the Republicans wrote. "I love it." (New York Times)

  3. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos proposed rolling back Obama-era loan forgiveness rules for students who were defrauded by for-profit colleges. The proposal would require that in order to receive loan forgiveness student borrowers prove that they have fallen into hopeless financial straits or prove that their college knowingly deceived them. The proposal is set to go into effect a year from now. (New York Times)

  4. Someone untied Betsy DeVos' 163-foot yacht and set it adrift on Lake Erie. The captain of the Seaquest called the police to report that the yacht had been untied and set adrift. By the time the police arrived, the $40-million yacht had hit a dock, causing large scratches and scrapes that are estimated to cost between $5,000 and $10,000 to repair. The yacht is one of ten boats owned by the DeVos family. (Detroit News / Toledo Blade)

  5. The man who used a pickax to vandalize Trump's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this week was bailed out of jail by the man who vandalized Trump's star in 2016. Austin Clay was booked on suspicion of felony vandalism and held on $20,000 bail for the incident, but he was bailed out shortly after his arrest by James Otis, who pleaded no contest to felony vandalism charges in 2017 for a similar incident. (The Hill)

  6. The White House banned network pool reporter Kaitlan Collins from the Rose Garden because of the questions she asked Trump during a photo op. In a statement, Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the dis-invitation, claiming that Collins "shouted questions and refused to leave despite repeatedly being asked to do so." Sanders continued: "To be clear, we support a free press and ask that everyone be respectful of the presidency and guests at the White House." (CNN)

  7. Coca-Cola Company announced that it will raise prices in response to the financial strain caused by Trump's tariffs. Coca-Cola's CEO said they are increasing prices due to the rising costs of delivery and metal prices after the U.S. imposed $50 billion in duties on Chinese products earlier this year. (The Hill)

  8. The White House corrected the official transcript of Trump's press conference with Putin in Helsinki to include a previously omitted question about whether Putin wanted Trump to win in 2016. Ten days after the press conference, the transcript has been updated to include the full question. (The Hill / CNN)

  9. Meta: Trump used Twitter to accuse Twitter of "shadow banning" Republican voices after the social platform fixed an issue related to improving "conversation health," which limited the reach of "troll-like behaviors." The president vowed to spend his time to "look into" the matter he called a "discriminatory and illegal practice." Twitter responded: "We do not 'shadowban.'" (CNBC / Vice News)

Day 552: All the stuff.

1/ A federal judge ruled for a second time that Trump must face a lawsuit accusing him of improperly profiting from his Washington hotel. U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte denied the dismissal request. The attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia claim that Trump is violating the U.S. Constitution's foreign emoluments clause by taking payments from foreign governments at the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown Washington. Trump faces a separate emoluments case in Washington, filed by about 200 Congressional Democrats. The administration argued last month that this case should also be dismissed. (Bloomberg / Washington Post)

2/ Michael Cohen's lawyer leaked one of the recordings of his conversations with Trump. Trump is heard discussing how he and Cohen would buy the rights to former Playboy model Karen McDougal's story about her alleged affair with Trump. The recording confirms that Trump had knowledge about the proposal to buy McDougal's story and suppress it. On the tape, Cohen tells Trump "I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David," a reference to David Pecker, the head of American Media, which publishes the National Enquirer and had paid McDougal $150,000 for the rights to her story. Trump then asked, "What do we got to pay for this? One-fifty?" Cohen confirms the amount and says it's for "all the stuff." Trump muses that "maybe he gets hit by a truck." (CNN / New York Times / Washington Post / Politico)

  • The Trump-Michael Cohen tape transcript, annotated. Trump and Michael Cohen reportedly discussed paying for the rights to Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal's story of an alleged affair with Trump. The story at the time belonged to the publisher of the National Enquirer, American Media Inc., and the tape provides the first evidence that Trump spoke with Cohen about purchasing the rights to women's stories – apparently to silence them – before the 2016 election. (Washington Post)

  • Cohen created a shell company in September 2016 to buy the rights to Karen McDougal's story about having an affair with Trump. Cohen created Resolution Consultants on Sept. 30, 2016, and then dissolved it on Oct. 17, 2016 – the same day he created Essential Consultants LLC, which he used pay Stormy Daniels $130,000. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Federal investigators are scrutinizing Cohen's relationship with David Pecker, head of American Media, which publishes the National Enquirer. The Justice Department is examining whether American Media acted more like an extension of Trump and his campaign in their coordination to keep Karen McDougal's account of her affair with Trump under wraps ahead of the 2016 presidential election. (Wall Street Journal)

3/ Trump tweets that it is "so sad" Cohen recorded their private conversations and suggested that the audio had been doctored to exclude the "positive things" that he was "presumably" saying. "What kind of a lawyer would tape a client?" Trump asked. "I hear there are other clients and many reporters that are taped - can this be so? Too bad!" It is unclear what other recordings Trump was referring to. Cohen has previously represented Fox News host Sean Hannity and former Republican National Committee deputy finance chair Elliott Broidy. Cohen's lawyer confirmed that "there are certainly more tapes" of his interactions with Trump. (Politico / CNN)

4/ The White House deleted a key exchange between a reporter and Putin from the official transcript and video of Trump's recent summit with Putin in Helsinki. During the press conference in Helsinki, a Reuters reporter asks Putin, "Did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?" Putin then responds, "Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal." The White House omitted the first part of the question, leaving only the second part in the official transcript and video. The Russian government removed the entire exchange from their official record. [Editor's note: Apparently this was due to the audio feed switching between only the right channel and both channels. Regardless, it's unclear why the feed switched. White House transcripts are considered the official record of the president's comments.] (The Atlantic / MSNBC / HuffPost)

  • The White House will no longer publish public summaries of Trump's phone calls with world leaders. It's unclear if the change will be temporary or permanent. Trump has had at least two calls with foreign leaders in the last two weeks — one with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu — but he has declined to elaborate on what was said. (CNN)

5/ Trump erupted at his staff because Melania Trump's television on Air Force One was tuned to CNN during his recent trip overseas. Trump's standing rule is that all TVs on Air Force One should be tuned to Fox News whenever he's on board. The incident reportedly caused "a bit of a stir" for breaking Trump's programming rule. A spokeswoman for Melania said the first lady will watch "any channel she wants." (New York Times / CNN)

6/ Newly disclosed government emails reveal that the Trump administration began a hard push to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census within months of Trump taking office. Steve Bannon began prodding Wilbur Ross as early as May 2017 to "talk to someone about the census." A month later Ross started demanding that a citizenship question be added. The emails cast doubt on the administration's initial explanation that the Justice Department requested a citizenship question to comply with the 1965 Voting Rights Act. (New York Times)

7/ Trump called the FCC "disgraceful" for raising "serious concerns" about the proposed $3.9 billion merger between Sinclair and Tribune Media. Trump called it "so sad and unfair" that the FCC didn't approve the merger that, he says, would provide a "conservative voice for and of the People." The merger would have created a conservative TV network that would have reached approximately 70% of U.S. households. FCC chair Ajit Pai, a Republican appointed by Trump, found Sinclair had engaged in a "lack of candor" in an attempt to skirt restrictions on media ownership. Sinclair divested key stations to allies of Sinclair, which "would allow Sinclair to control those stations in practice, even if not in name." (Washington Post / CNN Money)

poll/ 64% of Americans don't think Trump has been tough enough on Russia. 47% of Republicans and 82% of Democrats surveyed also said Trump hasn't been tough enough on Russia. (NPR)

poll/ Voters are divided on whether the Senate should confirm Trump's nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. 40% say the Senate should confirm the nomination and 41% say the Senate should not confirm the nomination. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. The Trump administration will resume risk adjustment payments to health insurers that enroll higher-risk people. The administration suspended the program, which pays billions of dollars to insurers to stabilize health insurance markets under the Affordable Care Act, less than three weeks ago. (New York Times)

  2. Two Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee want to examine whether NRA officials knew about Russia's attempts to contribute money to the Trump campaign through the gun rights group. The request from Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Sheldon Whitehouse come after federal authorities indicted Maria Butina last week for allegedly acting as a Kremlin agent. (The Hill)

  3. Trump's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was vandalized. It's at least the second time the star has been physically destroyed. (Politico)

  4. Trump wants to put 25% tariffs on nearly $200 billion in foreign-made cars later this year. His senior economic advisers have warned him that the move could damage the economy, but he's told advisers and Republicans to simply trust his business acumen. (Washington Post)

  5. The U.S. and E.U. agreed to work on lowering tariffs with the Europeans agreeing to lower industrial tariffs and import more U.S. soybeans. Trump called the development a "new phase" in the relationship. (CNBC / New York Times)

  6. Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee: "I think that Donald Trump has too much power and I think Congress needs to reassert their authority." Rep. Jeb Hensarling disagrees with Trump's plan to provide $12 billion in bailout relief to farmers and ranchers, saying "We have a policy now that is taxing the American consumer and then bailing out U.S. farmers with welfare." (CNBC)

  7. Trump wants to delay his planned follow-up meeting with Putin until after the Robert Mueller investigation concludes. Yesterday, the Kremlin said it wanted the "dust to settle" on a follow-up meeting given the current "atmosphere" in Washington. (New York Times / Washington Post)

Day 551: Concerned.

1/ The Trump administration will provide over $12 billion in emergency aid to farmers hurt by retaliatory tariffs from China and other countries in Trump's escalating trade war. The aid package, expected to go into effect by Labor Day, provides assistance to soybean farmers, dairy farmers, pork producers, and others. Hours before the announcement, Trump tweeted that "Tariffs are the greatest!" (Washington Post / Politico / Associated Press)

  • How to tell if the trade war starts to hurt the economy. Early indicators include executive surveys and futures markets. If you want a dashboard for evidence of economic damage from the trade war, here’s what should be on it. (New York Times)

  • Trump urged farmers to "be a little patient" with his trade policies, urging people not to believe the news, because "what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what’s happening." (Washington Post)

2/ The Trump administration deported as many as 463 parents without their children, who were taken from them at the border. Those parents may not be eligible to be reunited with their children. The report to U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw said the 463 cases do not represent the final tally of migrant parents who have been deported while their children remain inside U.S. detention centers. (Washington Post / NBC News)

3/ Trump claimed in a tweet that he is "concerned" Russia "will be pushing very hard for the Democrats" in the midterm elections, because "no President has been tougher on Russia than me." Last week, Trump cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Russia tried to help him get elected. Trump also told reporters "no," he doesn't believe Russia was still a threat. Trump capped his tweet off with "They definitely don't want Trump!" He offered no evidence to support his claims. (Reuters / The Hill / Washington Post)

  • Russian hackers broke into "hundreds" of secure networks owned by U.S. electric utilities, where they could have caused blackouts, according to the Department of Homeland Security. (Wall Street Journal)

4/ Trump would agree to an interview with Robert Mueller as long as there were no questions about obstruction of justice, according to Rudy Giuliani. The only questions Trump would be willing to answer, according to Giuliani, are about potential collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Mueller has not responded to Giuliani's proposal. (Bloomberg)

  • Fake news host Alex Jones threatened that Robert Mueller is "going to get it, or I'm going to die trying, bitch" during an episode on Infowars. "It's going to happen, we're going to walk out in the square, politically, at high noon, and he's going to find out whether he makes a move man, make the move first, and then it's going to happen," Jones said, miming a pistol with his hand. (The Hill)

  • Facebook said Alex Jones' rant doesn't violate its community guidelines. The show was live-streamed on Jones' personal, verified Facebook page, which has nearly 1.7 million likes. Jones accused Mueller of participating in child rape and pantomimed shooting the special counsel. (BuzzFeed News)

  • ✌️ How to delete Facebook. First, download your archive by going to "Settings," click "Download a copy of your Facebook data" at the bottom of General Account Settings, and then click "Start My Archive." When you're ready to delete your account, click this link, which will take you to the account deletion page. Once you delete your account, it cannot be recovered. (The Verge)

5/ Two top Trump donors paid Rick Gates more than $300,000 for help navigating the new administration. Tom Barrack, a friend and business associate of Trump's, paid the former Trump campaign aid $180,000 over nine months, while Elliott Broidy, a top donor for Trump, paid Gates at least $125,000 over five months. In the final months of 2017, Michael Cohen arranged a $1.6 million payment to silence a former Playboy model who became pregnant during an affair with Broidy. Gates also received nearly $37,000 from the Trump campaign leading up to the election for "strategic consulting," despite been a volunteer. The campaign later claimed the payment was reimbursement for "travel, meals and other appropriate expenses." Gates pleaded guilty in February to financial fraud and lying to investigators, and is cooperating with Robert Mueller's investigation. (New York Times)

  • Robert Mueller plans to call witnesses from the IRS, FBI and the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network in Paul Manafort's trial. The trial on bank and tax fraud begins July 31st. (Politico)

6/ Richard Burr: There were "sound reasons" for the FISA court to approve surveillance on Carter Page. The Senate Intelligence Committee chairman's comments put him at odds with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, who spearheaded the memo on FISA abuses. (CNN)

  • The Kremlin wants to "let the dust settle" before accepting Trump's invitation to hold a summit with Putin in Washington later this year. (Reuters)

poll/ 47% of Americans have an unfavorable view of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, while 44% have a favorable view. 72% of Republicans view ICE favorably, while 72% of Democrats view ICE unfavorably. (Pew)

poll/ 71% of voters believe Roe v. Wade should not be overturned, while 23% say the ruling should be reversed – the highest level of support for the decision in the poll's history, which dates back to 2005. 88% of Democrats, 76% of independents and 52% of Republicans support the ruling. (NBC News)

poll/ 51% of Americans believe that Russia has compromising information on Trump. 35% of voters don't believe Moscow has compromising information on the president. Among Republicans, 70% don't believe there is compromising information. 52% of voters say Trump's summit with Putin in Helsinki was a failure for the U.S., with 73% saying it was a success for Russia. (Quinnipiac)

poll/ 58% of voters disapprove of the job Trump is doing with 38% of voters approving. 82% of Republicans and 72% of white evangelical Christians approve. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. High school students broke out into a "lock her up" chant while Jeff Sessions was addressing a student leadership summit. The top law enforcement officer in the country stopped, chuckled, and repeated the words "lock her up." (CNN)

  2. A federal appeals court upheld the right to openly carry a gun in public for self-defense – the sixth U.S. circuit court to interpret the Second Amendment this way. (Reuters)

  3. An unofficial shortlist of possible replacements for Sarah Huckabee Sanders is starting to emerge, although she says she has no plans to step down. At the top of the list is former Fox News host Heather Nauert, who is the current State Department spokeswoman. (Politico)

  4. Paul Ryan on Trump's threat to revoke security clearances of former top officials who have criticized him: He's just "trolling people." (Washington Post)

  5. Ivanka Trump will close her fashion brand due to frustration with restrictions required to avoid conflicts of interest while she is serving in the White House. (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / New York Times)

  6. States purged almost 16 million voters from the rolls between 2014 and 2016 – four million more voters than removed from 2006 to 2008. (Brennan Center for Justice / ABC News)

Day 550: Reality distortion field.

1/ The Justice Department released a previously classified application to wiretap Carter Page, which shows that "the FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government" to "undermine and influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election." According to the October 2016 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act application, the FBI believed "the Russian government's efforts are being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated" with the Trump campaign to establish "relationships with Russian government officials, including Russian intelligence officers." The application says that Page "has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government." (New York Times / Washington Post / ABC News)

2/ Trump – providing no evidence – claimed the released documents prove the Justice Department and FBI "misled the Court" as a "pretext to SPY on the Trump Team." Trump, dismissing the claims in the FISA application, charged that it shows his campaign "was illegally being spied upon (surveillance) for the political gain of Crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC." (New York Times)

3/ Trump tweeted that Russia's interference in the 2016 election was "all a big hoax," again reversing his position on whether he believes the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Russia interfered in the election. Instead, Trump deflected and placed blame on Obama, asking: "Why didn't he do something about it? Why didn't he tell our campaign?" Answering his own questions, Trump posited that it was because Obama "thought Crooked Hillary was going to win!!!" (Washington Post)

4/ Trump renewed his call to end the Robert Mueller investigation, tweet-claiming that it's "totally conflicted and discredited." Trump cited the release of the FISA application to wiretap Carter Page, who was under suspicion by the FBI of being a Russian agent, as evidence that the investigation is both "a fraud and a hoax." (Politico / Washington Post)

5/ Carter Page acknowledged working as "an informal adviser to the staff of the Kremlin" in a 2013 letter. On Sunday, Page said "there may have been a loose conversation" with Russian officials," but dismissed allegations that he was a Russian agent as "spin," a "ridiculous smear campaign" and "literally a complete joke." (Politico)

6/ A federal judge granted immunity to five witnesses expected to testify in the Paul Manafort trial. Judge T. S. Ellis approved Robert Mueller's request and ordered that the names of the five prospective witnesses be made public, as well as the names of all 30 prospective witnesses for the trial. The trial was delayed until July 31. (ABC News / CNBC / CNN / Washington Post)

7/ Russia's foreign minister told Mike Pompeo that the charges against Maria Butina were "fabricated" and she should be released. Butina was charged in federal court last week of acting as a Russian agent "for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian federation." Butina told the Senate Intelligence Committee in April that she received financial support from Konstantin Nikolaev, a Russian billionaire "with deep ties to the Russian Presidential Administration." While Nikolaev has never met Trump, his son, who is studying in the U.S., volunteered for Trump's 2016 campaign and was spotted at the Trump International Hotel in Washington during the inauguration. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • The Senate Intelligence Committee last year requested details on any financial transactions by Maria Butina and Alexander Torshin that banks deemed to be "suspicious" or "derogatory." (BuzzFeed News)

8/ In an all-caps tweet, Trump threatened Iran with "CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED." The tweet was in response to a speech by President Hassan Rouhani, who warned the U.S. that any conflict with Iran would result in the "mother of all wars." Trump responded, informing Rouhani to "NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN" and to "BE CAUTIOUS!" (New York Times)

poll/ 50% of Americans disapprove of Trump's handling of his meeting with Putin, while 33% approve. (Washington Post)

poll/ 52% of voters disapprove of Trump while 45% approve. Among Republican voters, 88% approve of Trump – the highest of his presidency. (NBC News)

poll/ 56% of voters disapprove of Trump's doubting the U.S. intelligence community's conclusions that Russia tried to influence the 2016 election. 29% approve. (ABC News)


Notables.

  1. Trump suggested that Michael Cohen could face consequences for recording a discussion they had two months before the 2016 election about paying a former Playboy model who said she had an affair with Trump. Trump tweeted that it's "inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client," calling it both "totally unheard of and perhaps illegal." New York state law allows one party to a conversation to tape it without the other knowing. Trump added: "The good news is that your favorite president did nothing wrong!"(New York Times)

  2. Trump's lawyers waived his attorney-client privilege regarding the taped conversation he had with Michael Cohen in September 2016, in which they discussed payments to an ex-Playboy model. (CNN)

  3. At least 12 audio tapes from Cohen were released to federal prosecutors. The tapes were seized by the FBI in the raids on Cohen's home and office in April. The Justice Department is considering whether the payments to Karen McDougal violated federal campaign finance laws. (The Guardian / Politico / The Hill)

  4. Robert Mueller wants to subpoena Kristin Davis, the former prostitution mogul who went to prison after being linked to former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. When Davis ran for New York governor in 2010, her campaign manager was Andrew Miller, who was subpoenaed by Mueller a month ago. Roger Stone worked for her campaign pro bono. Miller is also a former Stone aide. (TMZ / New York Times)

  5. Brett Kavanaugh suggested several years ago that the unanimous SCOTUS decision that forced Richard Nixon to turn over the Watergate tapes may have been wrongly decided. In a 1999 transcript, Kavanaugh asked, "Should U.S. v. Nixon be overruled on the ground that the case was a nonjusticiable intrabranch dispute? Maybe so." He also said, "Nixon took away the power of the president to control information in the executive branch by holding that the courts had power and jurisdiction to order the president to disclose information in response to a subpoena sought by a subordinate executive branch official." (Associated Press)

  6. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke dismissed the benefits of national monuments, instead focusing on the value of logging, ranching and energy development that could be unlocked if their designations were changed. In April, President Trump signed an executive order instructing Zinke to review 27 national monuments established over a period of 21 years. (Washington Post)

  7. John Kelly signed off on an effort to remove three officials loyal to Scott Pruitt after the EPA secretary resigned earlier this month. The White House removed the trio, in what one administration official described as a "purge." (Daily Beast)

  8. Trump has complained privately about the lack of progress on North Korea, despite publicly declaring that the country is no longer a nuclear threat and that the crisis had been "largely solved." North Koreans have canceled meetings, asked for more money, failed to maintain communication, and haven't demolished a missile-engine testing facility that Trump promised would be destroyed. (Washington Post)

  9. Trump is considering revoking the security clearances of James Comey, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and other Obama-era national security officials who have criticized him. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump believed that the former officials "politicized" their positions by accusing him of inappropriate contact with Russia. (Bloomberg / Politico)

Day 547: Lordy, I hope there are tapes.

1/ Michael Cohen recorded a conversation with Trump two months before the presidential election in which they discussed payments to Karen McDougal, the former Playboy model who had an affair with Trump. In the September 2016 conversation at Trump Tower, Cohen told Trump that American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer, had bought the rights to McDougal's story about her affair with Trump for for $150,000 in August 2016. Cohen suggested that they acquire the rights to McDougal's story themselves and Trump asked how to proceed and whether he should write a check. The FBI seized the recording during the raid on Cohen's office. Rudy Giuliani confirmed that Trump had discussed the payments with Cohen on the tape, but said the payment was ultimately never made. Prosecutors want to know if Cohen's efforts to limit negative stories about Trump during the campaign violated federal campaign finance laws. When informed about the recording today, Trump responded: "I can't believe Michael would do this to me." (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / CNN)

  • WTF REWIND:

  • Four days before the 2016 election, it was first reported that the company that owns the National Enquirer had paid McDougal $150,000 for her story about a Trump affair a decade ago, but then didn't publish the story – effectively silencing McDougal for the remainder of the campaign. At the time, Hope Hicks said of the agreement, "We have no knowledge of any of this," adding that McDougal's claim that she had an affair with Trump was "totally untrue." (Wall Street Journal)

  • In April 2018, the FBI raided Cohen's office, seizing his computers and phones. Cohen was known to have sometimes recorded conversations and store them as digital files. (Washington Post)

2/ The FBI reopened the Hillary Clinton email investigation 11 days before the election because they were focused on investigating the Trump campaign's connections to Russia, according to the report of the Justice Department's inspector general. In late September 2016, FBI agents learned about a new batch of Clinton emails from the laptop of former congressman Anthony Weiner, who was under investigation for sexting a minor and was married at the time to Clinton aide Huma Abedin. The bureau was evidently overwhelmed with the urgency of the Trump-Russia investigation so that management lapses and communication breakdowns caused a monthlong delay in looking into the new Clinton emails. Nine days after announcing he was reopening the probe, James Comey said the FBI found nothing in the new emails to change the original July decision against bringing charges. (The Intercept)

3/ The Justice Department will alert American companies, private organizations, and individuals when they are being targeted by foreign actors attempting to affect elections or the political process. "Exposing schemes to the public is an important way to neutralize them," Rod Rosenstein said. "The American people have a right to know if foreign governments are targeting them with propaganda." (Washington Post / USA Today)

4/ The Trump administration has reunited 364 of the 2,500+ children who were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. The administration has a week left before the court-imposed deadline to reunite the families. Of the 1,607 parents eligible for reunification, 719 have received final orders of deportation, meaning they could be deported as soon as they are reunited with their children. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. Trump: "I'm ready to go to $500" billion in tariffs on Chinese goods. "I'm not doing this for politics, I'm doing this to do the right thing for our country," Trump claimed. "We have been ripped off by China for a long time." So far, the U.S. has imposed tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese products, to which China has responded with tariffs of their own. (CNBC)

  2. Republican lawmakers backed down from reinstating sanctions on Chinese telecom firm ZTE, allowing Trump's personal favor to Chinese President Xi Jinping to remain in place. ZTE was found guilty in 2016 of violating American sanctions on Iran and North Korea. (Bloomberg / Reuters / New York Times)

  3. The Department of Defense estimated that between 5,000 to 7,000 service members could march in Trump's military parade, scheduled for Saturday, November 10. (ABC News)

  4. Starting August 1, Americans can legally download plans for 3-D printable guns. These "ghost guns" don't have serial numbers and are untraceable. (CNN)

  5. A Russian company cited a decision by Trump's Supreme Court nominee arguing that the charges against the firm should be thrown out. The ruling by Brett Kavanaugh prohibited foreigners from contributing to candidates or political parties, but it did not rule out donations or expenditures on independent advocacy campaigns. Concord Management and Consulting is one of 16 Russian individuals or companies indicted by Robert Mueller. It is charged with paying $1.25 million a month to the Internet Research Agency to interfere with the 2016 election. (Washington Post)

  6. Mitch McConnell threatened to delay Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation vote until just before the midterms to keep vulnerable red-state Democrats off the campaign trail if Democrats keep pushing for access to related documents. (Politico)

  7. Scott Pruitt's staff tried to protect him from formaldehyde exposure while he was suppressing the release of a report on the health dangers from the same chemical. Staff at the EPA arranged for Pruitt's new office desk to be aired out in a warehouse so he wouldn't have to breathe in any of the carcinogenic chemical. (Politico)


Week in Review:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein revealed indictments against 12 Russians for the hacks of the Democratic National Committee, and we learned that Russian hackers went after Hillary Clinton's private office for the first time on the very day Trump said, "Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing." At the NATO summit in Brussels, Trump attacked a close European ally—Germany—and generally questioned the value of the alliance. Next, he visited the United Kingdom and trashed Prime Minister Theresa May. Then, in Helsinki, he met with Vladimir Putin privately for two hours, with no U.S. officials present other than a translator. After this suspicious meeting, he sang the Russian strongman's praises at a news conference at which he said he viewed Putin’s denials on a par with the unanimous and unchallenged conclusions of America’s intelligence agencies. (Politico)

Day 546: An incredible offer.

1/ Two weeks before his inauguration, Trump was briefed that Putin had personally ordered the cyberattacks to influence the 2016 election. The intelligence briefing included texts and emails from Russian military officers, as well as evidence from a source close to Putin, who had described how the Kremlin executed the hacking and disinformation campaign. After flip-flopping on whether he believed Putin's denial that Russia interfered in the election, Trump indirectly blamed Putin for meddling, "because he's in charge of the country." (New York Times)

  • A Senate Republican blocked passage of a non-binding, bipartisan resolution backing the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn called the resolution "purely a symbolic act," sinking the effort to pass the resolution by unanimous consent. (The Hill / CNN)

2/ Trump now "disagrees" with Putin's "incredible offer" to allow Moscow to interrogate 11 Americans in exchange for access to the 12 Russian military intelligence officers indicted for their role in trying to sabotage the 2016 election, according to Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Yesterday, the White House said Trump was entertaining Putin's proposal to swap officials for questioning, calling it "an interesting idea," which prompted a backlash from both Republicans and Democrats. It took Trump three days to come this conclusion. (Washington Post / New York Times / Reuters)

  • The Senate unanimously approved a non-binding, bipartisan resolution warning Trump not to honor Putin's request to let the Russian government question American diplomats and other officials. (Axios / The Hill)

3/ Russia's ambassador to the U.S. claimed Trump and Putin had reached several "important verbal agreements" on issues in the Middle East and nuclear proliferation. Senior U.S. military leaders, however, have little to no information about what the two leaders discussed or agreed to. (Washington Post / The Guardian)

4/ Trump invited Putin to visit the White House this fall for a second summit despite his advisers struggling to ascertain what Trump and Putin agreed to. Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted that he is already looking "forward to our second meeting so we can start implementing some of the many things discussed." Sarah Huckabee Sanders then tweeted that Trump had asked National Security Adviser John Bolton to invite Putin, adding, the "discussions are already underway." (New York Times / Bloomberg / Associated Press)

5/ Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee blocked an attempt to subpoena the interpreter who sat in on Trump's one-on-one meeting with Putin. Chairman Devin Nunes ruled that Adam Schiff's motion was out of order. (Politico / ABC News / The Hill)

6/ FBI Director Christopher Wray: Russia is the "most aggressive actor" in election interference and is "very active" at "sowing discord and divisiveness in this country." Wray added: "My view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted to interfere with the last election and that it continues to engage in malign influence operations to this day." (CNN / NBC News / The Hill)

  • Sean Spicer contradicted Trump's claim that the Robert Mueller investigation is a witch hunt, saying that "I see no evidence that it is" and that "I think it's very important to be clear that Russia meddled in our election and there's no evidence of collusion." (NBC News)

  • Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen claimed she hasn't "seen evidence" that Russia tried to swing the 2016 election in Trump's favor. DHS later clarified her comments, saying she "agrees with" the U.S. intelligence agencies' conclusions that Russia tampered with the election. (HuffPost)

7/ New York State is investigating whether the Trump Foundation violated state tax laws. The investigation by the Department of Taxation and Finance will focus on some of the same issues as the New York attorney general's lawsuit: campaign finance violations, self-dealing, and illegal coordination with the Trump campaign. If the investigation finds possible criminal activity, it could refer the findings to the state attorney general or to a district attorney. Trump's tax returns could possibly be revealed as part of a criminal investigation. (New York Times / Reuters)

poll/ 79% of Republicans approve of the way Trump handled his press conference with Putin while 7% of Democrats of approve. Overall, 40% of Americans approve of Trump's performance. (Axios)

poll/ 70% of Americans believe the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Russia interfered in the 2016 elections. And 61% are very or somewhat concerned about Russia interfering in the 2018 elections. (CBS News)


Notables.

  1. Robert Mueller released an itemized list of more than 500 pieces of evidence prosecutors are considering using against Paul Manafort, who has been charged with a number of financial crimes, including bank fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors are using the items to demonstrate expensive purchases Manafort made with money he attempted to hide from U.S. authorities after working for pro-Russia political parties in Ukraine. (Politico / The Hill)

  2. The Interior Department's internal watchdog is investigating whether Ryan Zinke violated conflict of interest laws for his role in a real estate deal with Halliburton chairman David Lesar. (Reuters / Politico)

  3. The Trump administration plans to strip the Endangered Species Act of provisions that extend protections to species in decline regardless of whether they are listed as endangered or threatened. (Washington Post)

  4. The White House withdrew the nomination of Ryan Bounds to serve on the 9th Circuit appeals court after Republicans realized they didn't have the votes needed. As an undergraduate at Stanford, Bounds ridiculed multiculturalism and groups concerned with racial issues. (Politico / Washington Post)

  5. Trump criticized the Federal Reserve for raising interest rates, saying he was "not thrilled" by the rate hikes, which he argues will put the U.S. at a "disadvantage" and implied that the moves could hurt his efforts to increase economic growth. (CNBC / New York Times)

  6. Devin Nunes spent nearly $15,000 in political donations on Boston Celtics tickets, winery tours, and trips to Las Vegas. All charges were listed as fundraising expenses. (McClatchy DC)

Day 545: Big results.

1/ Trump said "no," he does not believe Russia is still targeting the U.S. with efforts to undermine American democracy, contradicting his director of national intelligence. Last week, Dan Coats said that "the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack." And, in particular, Russia is the "most aggressive foreign actor, no question. And they continue their efforts to undermine our democracy." Coats described Russia as one of the "worst offenders." Sarah Sanders said the Russian "threat still exists" and that Trump was saying "no" to answering more questions. Intelligence officials in the U.S. and U.K. also believe Russia is planning to ramp up digital operations targeting western countries now that the World Cup and the Trump-Putin Helsinki summit have ended. (Reuters / CNN / New York Times / Los Angeles Times)

  • Trump claimed he told Putin "we can't have meddling" when they met and that he believes it's "true" that Russia tampered with the 2016 presidential election and that he "would" hold Putin personally responsible for future interference. [Editor's note: I bet.] (CBS News)

2/ Trump defended his summit with Putin, tweeting that "people at the higher ends of intelligence loved my press conference performance in Helsinki." The claim comes less than 24 hours after Trump attempted to backtrack and spin his statements that he mispoke and meant to say "I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia" that interfered in the election. Trump promised "big results" and "many positive things." (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • Trump crossed out a line about bringing those responsible for election hacking to justice in his statement correcting his remarks during his press conference with Putin. Trump prepared four pages of handwritten notes for his meeting with congressional leaders yesterday, part of which read "I have on numerous occasions noted our intelligence findings that Russians attempted to interfere in our elections. A̶n̶y̶o̶n̶e̶ ̶i̶n̶v̶o̶l̶v̶e̶d̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶m̶e̶d̶d̶l̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶j̶u̶s̶t̶i̶c̶e̶." Trump used a black marker to cross out the part about bringing the hackers to justice. (Washington Post)

  • European newspapers described Trump as "weak," a "poodle," and a "stooge" following his summit with Putin. (ABC News)

  • Putin also claimed he misspoke about his claim that Hillary Clinton’s campaign had received $400 million in donations from investors accused of tax evasion in Russia. According to the Russian government, Putin "meant" to say that U.S.-born investor William Browder had donated $400,000 to Clinton’s campaign, which also appears to be inflated. (The Intercept)

3/ The woman charged with secretly acting as a Russian intelligence official offered "sex in exchange" for influence at "a special interest organization" the FBI referred to as a "gun rights organization." Prosecutors argue that Butina "engaged in a yearslong conspiracy to work covertly in the U.S. as an undeclared agent of the Russian federation to advance the interests of her home country." Her actions are believed to have been directed by Alexander Torshin, one of Putin's closest allies, who the U.S. sanctioned in April. Butina and Torshin were also frequent attendees at NRA conventions. Butina is believed to have "cohabited and been involved in a personal relationship" with an unnamed U.S. person for the purpose of developing an influence operation. Her partner is believed to be Paul Erickson, a conservative activist and NRA member from South Dakota. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / ABC News / Washington Post)

  • A federal magistrate judge ordered that Maria Butina must be jailed ahead of her trial after prosecutors argued she was "an extreme risk of flight" and should be held without bond during her appearance in federal court. Prosecutors said she was ready to move out out of the country, had her boxes packed, terminated her lease, and wired money from her bank account back to Russia. (NPR / New York Times)

  • The Justice Department added a second charge against Russian national Maria Butina of acting as an unregistered foreign agent of the Kremlin since at least 2015. Butina was charged on Monday with conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government. Butina was arrested on Sunday because she appeared to have plans to flee the U.S. (Politico / Washington Post)

4/ Democrats want the interpreter from Trump's private meeting with Putin to testify before Congress. "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," Sen. Jeanne Shaheen tweeted. Rep. Joe Kennedy echoed Shaheen's calls: "And that was only what we saw on live TV. @realDonaldTrump's translator should come before Congress and testify as to what was said privately immediately." (CNN / HuffPost)

5/ Trump questioned why NATO should come to the defense of smaller alliance members like Montenegro if it came under attack. "Montenegro is a tiny country with very strong people," Trump said when asked whether the U.S. would come to the country's defense. "They're very aggressive people. They may get aggressive, and congratulations you're in World War III." The only time NATO invoked Article Five – an "armed attack" on one member "shall be considered an attack against them all" – was after the U.S. was attacked on 9/11. (NBC News / CNN / Washington Post)

poll/ 71% of Republicans approve of Trump's handling of Russia following his Helsinki summit with Putin, compared to 14% of Democrats. Overall, 55% of voters disapproved of Trump's handling of relations with Russia while 37% approved. (Reuters)

poll/ 68% of Americans consider Russia either unfriendly or an enemy of the U.S., a 9% increase from last year (59%). (NBC News / SurveyMonkey)

poll/ 54% of voters from 48 Republican-held congressional districts said Republicans are "more corrupt" than Democrats, compared with 46% who said Democrats are "more corrupt." (Politico)

poll/ 41% of adults overall think the Senate should confirm Trump's Supreme Court pick while 36% opposed it. 71% of Republicans, meanwhile, support the confirmation compared to 17% of Democrats. (Politico)

poll/ 28% of young adults ages 18 to 34 say they are "absolutely certain" that they'll vote in midterms, compared to 74% of seniors. (Vox)


Notables.

  1. The Democratic National Committee has been trying and failing for months to notify Jared Kushner that it is suing him and others for allegedly colluding with the Russians to meddle in the 2016 election. The Secret Service has turned away DNC lawyers. (Bloomberg / Talking Points Memo)

  2. A federal judge denied Paul Manafort's request to suppress evidence seized by the FBI from his home as part of Robert Mueller's ongoing Russia probe. Manafort's lawyers claimed the search warrant was overly broad and unconstitutional. (Reuters)

  3. Lawyers for a former Roger Stone associate and at least five prosecutors from Mueller's office spent almost 90 minutes in a sealed court proceeding. It is not clear what Wednesday's closed-door proceeding were about, but Andrew Miller's attorneys have been fighting a grand jury subpoena. (Talking Points Memo / CNN)

  4. Trump loyalists at the Department of Veterans Affairs are trying to purge or reassign staff perceived to be disloyal to Trump ahead of the confirmation of Robert Wilkie. More than a dozen career civil servants have been moved from the leadership group at VA headquarters and reassigned to lower-visibility roles. (Washington Post)

  5. Two American conservatives helped launch the Macedonia pro-Trump "fake news" websites sites in 2016 that used spammy misinformation techniques go viral on social media. (BuzzFeed News)

  6. Cambridge Analytica's Facebook data set was accessed from Russia. Cambridge Analytica had gathered data on tens of millions of Americans. (CNN Money)

  7. Eric and Trump Jr. cost taxpayers nearly $250,000 in Secret Service protection for two business trips. In February 2017, the two traveled together to Dubai to open a golf club under the Trump brand. Eric also traveled to the Dominican Republic in February 2017 to potentially relaunch a Trump resort. (Politico)

  8. Trump's military parade will cost nearly as much as the "tremendously expensive" canceled military exercises with South Korea that Trump once said cost "a fortune." The parade is expected to cost approximately $12 million. (CNN)

  9. Until today, the "daily" White House press briefing has been held only three times in the past 30 days: on June 18, June 25, and July 2. (CNN Money)

Day 544: Strange and uncertain times.

1/ Trump backtracked and tried to spin his Helsinki summit comments. Reading from prepared remarks, Trump claimed he misspoke yesterday and meant to say "I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia" that interfered in the election. Trump also said "I accept" the intelligence community's conclusion that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, but it "could be other people also." Trump asserted that "Russia's actions had no impact at all" on the election outcome. During yesterday's news conference, Trump said he doesn't "see any reason" why Russia would have meddled during the last election. Prior to that, Trump blamed the U.S. for acting with "foolishness and stupidity" toward Russia in the past. Trump also rejected the consensus of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election. Instead, Trump said he believed Putin's denial. (Bloomberg / CNBC / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / Washington Post)

  • The top voting machine maker admitted to installing remote-access software on election-management systems from 2000 to 2006 it sold in the U.S. In a letter sent to Sen. Ron Wyden in April 2018, Election Systems and Software admitted that it had "provided pcAnywhere remote connection software … to a small number of customers between 2000 and 2006." The statement contradicts previous claims by the company in February that "none of the employees, … including long-tenured employees, has any knowledge that our voting systems have ever been sold with remote-access software." (Motherboard)

2/ Trump tweeted that his meeting with Putin was "even better" than his "great meeting with NATO" allies while blaming the media for being "rude" and "going Crazy!" (Washington Post / Bloomberg / Reuters)

  • Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer called on Republicans to "immediately" convene a public hearing and "demand testimony" from Trump's national security team "to assess what President Trump might have committed to President Putin in secret." (CNN / The Hill)

  • Mitch McConnell suggested the Senate might move forward on new sanctions against Russia following Trump's meeting with Putin. (Politico)

  • Paul Ryan would consider additional sanctions on Russia, saying that "Russia is a menacing government that does not share our interests and it does not share our values." (Reuters)

  • A Southeast Ohio county GOP chairman resigned in protest over Trump's meeting and press conference with Putin. Chris Gagin announced his resignation on Twitter: "I remain a proud conservative and Republican, but I resigned today as Belmont Co Ohio GOP Chairman. I did so as a matter of conscience, and my sense of duty." (Newsweek)

  • Protests erupted outside the White House as Trump returned from Helsinki, with dozens of demonstrators chanting "Traitor! Traitor!" until late into the night. The impromptu protest was dubbed #OccupyLafayettePark, and some protesters say they plan to remain outside the White House until Trump resigns. (The Hill)

3/ Obama on Trump: "Those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning." Obama, delivering the 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Johannesburg, warned that "strongman politics are ascending suddenly, whereby elections, some pretense of democracy, are maintained, the form of it." He added that these are "strange and uncertain" times. (ABC News / The Hill)

4/ The U.S. Treasury will no longer require nonprofits like the NRA, Koch network's Americans for Prosperity, and Planned Parenthood to identify their financial donors to the IRS. Super PACS and other 501(c)(4) organizations will no longer have to provide the IRS with the names of donors who give them $5,000 or more. Critics said the measure increases the likelihood of illegal donations of "dark money" from both domestic and foreign contributors. (Reuters / New York Times / CNN)

5/ Robert Mueller requested immunity for five potential witnesses in Paul Manafort's trial on charges of bank fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and tax crimes that is due to begin July 25 in Alexandria, Virginia. Mueller didn't identify the witnesses, but said the five would invoke their constitutional right against self-incrimination and remain silent unless Judge T.S. Ellis III grants them immunity. (CNBC / Bloomberg / Washington Post)

  • [Speculation] Several legal experts think Manafort could be cutting a plea deal after the judge overseeing the federal court case delayed a hearing to discuss postponing the trial and moving the venue. According to court documents, no party had submitted a request for such a delay. (Law and Crime / Politico)

Notables.

  1. The 20-foot-tall inflatable "Trump Baby" blimp is coming to America for a nationwide tour starting in August. (NBC News)

  2. Trump plans to give Air Force One a "red, white, and blue" makeover after negotiating a $3.9 billion "fixed price contract" with Boeing for the planes. The current baby blue color scheme dates back to John F. Kennedy. (CBS News)

  3. The U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem will cost almost 100 times more than Trump claimed in March. "They put an order in front of my desk last week for $1 billion," Trump claimed at the time, "We’re actually doing it for about $250,000, so check that out." But a Maryland construction firm has now been awarded a $21.2 million contract to design and build "compound security upgrades" at the embassy. (Newsweek)

  4. The federal government spent more than $65,000 at Trump's Turnberry golf club and resort in Scotland during his visit to the UK. (The Scotsman)

  5. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said there's "a rising chorus of concern" from business over Trump's tariffs and that "countries that have gone in a more protectionist direction have done worse." (CNBC)

  6. The White House's mid-year budget projections see the federal deficit crossing $1 trillion in 2019. Previous estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office forecasted the deficit to near $1 trillion in 2019, but not pass it until 2020. (The Hill)

Day 543: A disaster for our country.

1/ Trump rejected the consensus of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, saying he doesn't "see any reason why" Russia would have interfered, and that Putin "was extremely strong and powerful" in denying it during their summit in Helsinki. Trump's refusal to condemn Moscow clashed with the conclusions of U.S. intelligence agencies, and comes days after the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian intelligence agents for hacking the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in an attempt to help Trump. Putin confirmed the he wanted Trump to win the election. Prior to the summit, Trump blamed "U.S. foolishness and stupidity" for poor Russian relations. The Russian foreign ministry responded to Trump's tweet with "We agree." (New York Times / Washington Post / Reuters / Politico)

  • Trump said he never thought of asking Putin to extradite the 12 Russian intelligence agents charged with hacking Democratic emails. Instead, he blamed blaming Democrats for "bad defenses" and for getting hacked during the 2016 campaign. (Washington Post)

  • Shortly before the summit with Putin began, Trump removed a senior official who is hawkish on Russia and supportive of NATO from his National Security Council. The circumstances surrounding retired Army Col. Richard Hooker's departure from the NSC on June 29 remain in dispute. It's not clear whether he was fired or whether his term was simply over. (Daily Beast)

  • Hannity will interview Trump following his summit with Putin, and their discussion will air Monday night of Fox News. Trump will also sit down with Tucker Carlson, which will air on his show Tuesday night. (The Hill / Fox News)

  • WTF Rewind:

2/ Dan Coats: "We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election," saying the intelligence community "will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security." The comment from the director of national intelligence came following Trump's refusal to back the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia meddled in the U.S. 2016 election. Aboard Air Force One, Trump tweeted that he had confidence in his own intelligence officials, saying "I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people," but "the world's two largest nuclear powers, we must get along!" (Axios / CNN)

3/ GOP senators called the Trump-Putin press conference "tragic," "bizarre," "flat-out wrong," "shameful" and a "missed opportunity" to hold Russia accountable for 2016 election meddling. Jeff Flake tweeted: "I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression." Lindsey Graham tweeted that Trump's response "will be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness and create far more problems than it solves." Ben Sasse added that "the United States is not to blame […] When the President plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs." And, John McCain called Trump's appearance "tragic" and "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory." (CNN / ABC News / Politico)

  • Paul Ryan: "Russia is not our ally" and the U.S. must be "focused on holding Russia accountable." (The Guardian)

  • Mitch McConnell: "The Russians are not our friends. And I entirely believe the assessment of our intelligence community." (The Hill)

  • Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer called Trump's comments "thoughtless, dangerous, and weak." House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, meanwhile, called on Americans to "vote out the sell-outs" in the GOP and asserted that "the Russians have something on the president." (Associated Press / Reuters / The Hill)

  • Former U.S. intelligence chiefs condemned Trump's comments during his news conference with Putin. Former C.I.A. director John Brennan called Trump's performance "nothing short of treasonous." (CNN)

4/ Trump called Robert Mueller's probe "ridiculous" and "a disaster for our country" during his press conference with Putin. "Getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing," Trump said. "I think the world wants to see us get along." Prior to meeting with Putin, Trump called Mueller's probe a "rigged witch hunt." On Friday, Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, said that "the warning lights are blinking red again" from cyberattacks by Russia and other nations" and that "the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack." White House National Security Adviser John Bolton added that he finds it "hard to believe" Putin didn't know about top Russian intelligence officials' efforts to interfere in the 2016 election. (NBC News / New York Times / ABC News)

  • Mueller has charged 32 people, including 26 Russians, since his May 2017 appointment. It's unlikely that 25 of the Russians will be arrested anytime soon. (Washington Post)

  • Twitter suspended Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks – two accounts that Robert Mueller has linked to a Russian intelligence operation to disrupt the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (Washington Post)

  • Maryland's voter registration system runs on software owned by a Russian-financed firm. There is no evidence there has been any breach or fraud in voter registration or voting, but state officials are concerned about the Russian connection to sensitive systems. (WBAL)

5/ The Justice Department charged a Russian national and accused her of acting as a Russian agent "for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian federation." Maria Butina tried to infiltrate the NRA and "create a back-channel line of communication" back to the Kremlin. Charging documents say Butina was directed by a "high-level official in the Russian government," who has been previously identified as Alexander Torshin, a senior official at the Russian central bank, who is also a longtime associate of the NRA. The charges were filed under seal the day after 12 Russian intelligence officers were indicted by the Justice Department for hacking Democratic computers. They were unsealed following Trump's press conference with Putin where he said he saw no reason the Russian leader would try to influence the presidential election. (Bloomberg / The Guardian / New York Times)

  • Department of Justice: Russian National Charged in Conspiracy to Act as an Agent of the Russian Federation Within the United States. (Justice.gov)

6/ Trump: "I think the European Union is a foe." Days before his meeting with Putin, Trump capped off a contentious NATO summit in the U.K. by naming the European Union when asked to identify his "biggest foe globally right now." Speaking at his golf course in Turnberry, Scotland, Trump added: "Well, I think we have a lot of foes. I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now, you wouldn't think of the European Union, but they're a foe." (CBS News / CNN)

  • Trump fist-bumped Recep Erdogan and said he "does things the right way." The Turkish president is a strongman, purging his critics while consolidating power. (CBS News / Vice News)

7/ A federal judge temporarily halted deportations of families who were recently reunited after being separated by the Trump administration. The ACLU asked that deportations be stalled for at least a week after the families were reunified, to allow time to ensure no family was being improperly deported. (The Guardian / Washington Post)

poll/ 52% of Fox News viewers agree that immigrants are an important part of our American identity, compared to 78% of CNN viewers and 73% of ABC, CBS, and NBC viewers. Overall, 69% of Americans agree that immigrants are an important part of American identity. (NPR)


Notables.

  1. Rep. Trey Gowdy ruled out the possibility of impeaching Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, citing a lack of support for his ouster. "Impeach him for what?" Gowdy said. "I'm not convinced there is a movement," he added. (The Hill / Politico)

  2. China filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization over Trump's plan for tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods. China says the tariffs are illegal attempts at protectionism. (USA Today / NPR)

  3. Trump told his top diplomats to initiate direct talks with the Taliban in the hope of jump-starting negotiations to end the ongoing 17-year war in Afghanistan. The Taliban has long said that they will only discuss peace with the U.S. government, but the U.S. has, until now, mostly insisted that the Afghan government take part in the negotiations. (New York Times)

  4. Jared Kushner's family firm emptied or sold more than 250 rent-stabilized apartments over the last three years as the Kushner Companies converted one of its buildings into luxury condominiums. The sales from those apartments inside one of the Kushner Cos.' largest residential buildings in New York totaled more than $55 million, an average of $1.2 million per apartment. (Associated Press)

  5. The FCC has "serious concerns" about Sinclair Broadcast Group's acquisition of Tribune Media. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said the $3.9 billion deal, which would consolidate nearly three-quarters of U.S. households, will now go through a lengthy administrative process often viewed as a deal-killer. (Politico)

  6. In the six months following the passage of Trump's Tax Cut and Jobs Act, worker pay has fallen while businesses have spent roughly $700 billion to repurchase their own stock. When inflation is accounted for, the reduction in worker pay is even steeper. The drop has affected 80 percent of industries and two-thirds of metro areas. (CBS Money Watch)

  7. Trump's 2020 reelection campaign has spent nearly $1.2 million on legal fees this year, including $340,000 in the last three months. (BuzzFeed News)

  8. Trump has already raised more than $88 million for his reelection campaign over the last year and a half. The sum gives him a substantial head start when compared to prospective Democratic challengers in the 2020 election. (New York Times)

Day 540: Unwelcome.

1/ Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced that a grand jury returned indictments against 12 Russian intelligence officials on charges of hacking into the DNC, DCCC, and state election offices to steal and release documents in an attempt to influence the 2016 presidential election. The defendants worked for the Russian intelligence service known as the GRU. They used a tactic called "spearphishing" to trick users into revealing their account information. They used keystroke loggers and other malicious software to obtain account information and access sensitive U.S. computer systems and email accounts, which they later released to the public. (Washington Post / New York Times / Daily Beast / BuzzFeed News / USA Today / Law & Crime / ABC News / Politico)

  • Read the full, searchable text of the indictment. (DocumentCloud)

  • Pages 2-3: "Beginning in or around June 2016, the Conspirators staged and released tens of thousands of the stolen emails and documents. They did so using fictitious online personas, including 'DCLeaks' and 'Guccifer 2.0.'"

  • Page 6: "The object of the conspiracy was to hack into the computers of U.S. persons and entities involved in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election."

  • Page 8: "Beginning in or around March 2016, the Conspirators, in addition to their spearphishing efforts, researched the DCCC and DNC computer networks to identify technical specifications and vulnerabilities."

  • Page 16: "The Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, also communicated with U.S. persons about the release of stolen documents. On or about August 15, 2016, the Conspirators, posing as Guccifer 2.0, wrote to a person who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump."

  • Page 21: "Although the Conspirators caused transactions to be conducted in a variety of currencies, including U.S. dollars, they principally used bitcoin when purchasing servers, registering domains, and otherwise making payments in furtherance of hacking activity."

  • Page 25: Two of the defendants "knowingly and intentionally" conspired to "hack into the computers of U.S. persons and entities responsible for the administration of 2016 U.S. elections, such as state boards of elections, secretaries of state, and U.S. companies that supplied software and other technology related to the administration of U.S. elections."

  • Page 26: "In or around July 2016, KOVALEV and his co-conspirators hacked the website of a state board of elections ('SBOE 1') and stole information related to approximately 500,000 voters, including names, addresses, partial social security numbers, dates of birth, and driver's license numbers."

  • Russian hackers went after Hillary Clinton's servers for the first time on the same day Trump said, "Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing." (New York Times)

2/ Top Democrats are calling on Trump to cancel his planned one-on-one meeting with Putin next week in the wake of the indictments against 12 Russian intelligence officials. “President Trump should cancel his meeting with Vladimir Putin until Russia takes demonstrable and transparent steps to prove that they won’t interfere in future elections,” said Chuck Schumer. Mark Warner, Jack Reed, Dina Titus and others called on Trump to cancel the July 16 summit. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi did not echo their calls for cancellation, and instead called on Trump to "demand and secure a real, concrete and comprehensive agreement that the Russians will cease their ongoing attacks on our democracy." (NBC News / The Hill)

  • Russians tried to hack Clinton's emails on the same day Trump publicly asked them to. "Russia, if you are listening," Trump said on July 27, 2016, "I hope you are able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by the press." One portion of the indictment notes that "on or about July 27, 2016, the Conspirators attempted after hours to spearphish for the first time email accounts . . . used by Clinton's personal office. At or around the same time, they also targeted seventy-six email addresses at the domain for the Clinton Campaign." (The Hill / Vox)

3/ Trump said he won't rule out ceasing NATO military exercises in the Baltic States if Putin requests it during their upcoming meeting in Helsinki. Joint exercises involving 17 nations, including hundreds of U.S. troops and several warships, are currently underway in the Black Sea. If Trump chooses to pull the U.S. out of the military exercises, NATO allies could still conduct them on their own, but they would likely be forced to carry them out under a different banner since the U.S. can veto labeling them as NATO exercises. (CNN)

4/ The White House ordered the FBI to give lawmakers more access to classified information about the informant used in 2016 to investigate possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. The director of national intelligence and the director of the FBI have tried to keep access to the classified documents tightly limited, but the files will now be made available to all members of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees. (New York Times)

5/ Trump said he told British Prime Minister Theresa May how to negotiate the U.K.'s exit from the E.U. but she went "the opposite way." Trump also blamed London Mayor Sadiq Khan for spiraling crime and for not standing up to terrorists, insisted that former UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson would make "a great Prime Minister," and accused EU leaders of destroying its culture and identity by letting in millions of migrants. Trump also said he felt "unwelcome" in London, referring to anti-Trump protesters that have flooded the streets of the capital during his visit. Later, during a joint press conference with Theresa May, Trump dismissed his interview with The Sun as "fake news." (The Sun / Fox News / ABC News / NBC News)

  • Trump’s comments on European immigration mirror white nationalist rhetoric. That argument — that immigration changes existing “culture” for the worse — is a staple of white nationalist rhetoric in the United States. (Washington Post)

6/ The Trump administration argued in federal court that it has the right to hold detainees at Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba for up to 100 years — without charging them with a crime. The administration argued that as long as operations continue against Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, the U.S. retains the right to hold detainees at GTMO indefinitely. When the judge asked the Justice Department's attorney if the government thought the war could last 100 years, Ronald Wiltsie said, "Yes, we could hold them for 100 years if the conflict lasts 100 years." There are still 26 prisoners who remain in GTMO without charge or trial, including the eight men represented in court on Wednesday, all of whom have been held at the facility for between 10 and 16 years. (The Intercept)


Notables.

  1. A federal auditor for the Department of Health and Human Services released a report urging the agency to recover at least $341,000 spent by its former secretary Tom Price on 20 trips that did not comply with federal requirements. Price was forced out last year following media reports of his extravagant use of private and military aircraft, and has voluntarily repaid about $60,000 to the government. (Politico / New York Times)

  2. Trump's pick to be the No. 2 official at NASA is a long-time Senate aide with little-to-no experience in space operations or technology. James Morhard, who currently serves as the Senate's deputy sergeant at arms, was chosen by Trump for the role of deputy administrator at NASA. (The Hill / Washington Post)

  3. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that he will sell all of the remaining stock he holds after he received a letter from the government's top ethics watchdog warning of "potential for a serious criminal violation." The letter also faulted Ross for shorting certain positions that "appear to have been an ineffective attempt to remedy your actual or apparent failure to timely divest assets per your ethics agreement." (NPR)

  4. Jared Kushner doesn't have the security clearance required to review some of the government's most sensitive secrets. Kushner had nearly unfettered access to highly classified intelligence until May while he awaited the results of his background check. Now, he has "top secret" clearance, but that doesn't allow him to see some of the nation's most classified intelligence, known as "sensitive compartmental information," or SCI. (Washington Post)

Day 539: Go it alone.

1/ FBI agent Peter Strzok rejected accusations that he let his personal political views bias his actions in the Hillary Clinton email and Russia investigations during a joint House Judiciary and Oversight Committee hearing. Strzok labeled the Republican attacks against him "another victory notch in Putin's belt and another milestone in our enemies' campaign to tear America apart." Republicans threatened Strzok with contempt after the committee devolved into partisan, chaotic arguments about what questions he could answer about the ongoing Russia investigation. Strzok has come under scrutiny after the Justice Department's inspector general discovered text messages critical of Trump that he exchanged during the 2016 campaign with Lisa Page, a senior FBI lawyer he was having an affair with. Republicans and Trump charge that Strzok's text messages undermine the integrity of Robert Mueller's investigation. Strzok was immediately removed from Mueller's probe when the text messages came to light. Page declined to comply with a subpoena from Republican lawmakers to appear for an interview on July 11. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / NBC News / CNBC)

  • READ: Peter Strzok's statement before Congress. (Politico)

2/ Trump threatened NATO allies with "grave consequences" if they don't boost their military spending by January, warning alliance members that otherwise the U.S. could "go our own way." Trump arrived late, hijacked a meeting in progress, and delivered what one official called a "prolonged rant." He then praised the alliance as a "fine-tuned machine." (Politico)

3/ Trump reaffirmed his support for NATO, calling his threat to withdraw from the alliance "unnecessary" after he pressured members to increase their defense budgets "like they never have before." He offered no specifics, and some leaders rejected his claim. Trump called himself a "very stable genius" and said he deserved "total credit" for pushing allies to increase their military spending by more than previously agreed to while also warning members that the U.S. "would go it alone" if countries did not meet the 2% target by January. In 2014, NATO members committed to each spend 2% of GDP on defense by 2024. French president Emmanuel Macron said that "Trump never at any moment, either in public or in private, threatened to withdraw from NATO." (New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / NBC News)

4/ NATO allies dispute Trump's claim that they pledged to "substantially" raise their defense budgets, saying they simply reaffirmed their commitment to a 2014 deal to reach the 2% of GDP target by 2024. (BBC)

5/ The Trump administration reunited 57 of the 103 children under age 5 who were "eligible" to be reunited with their families. The remaining 46 children were "ineligible" for reunification because their parents failed background checks or had criminal records, or because of logistical issues, like having already been deported. (New York Times / Politico)

6/ Thousands of asylum seekers will be turned away before they have an opportunity to plead their case in court under a new Trump administration policy. The new guidance instructs officers to reject asylum claims based on fears of gang and domestic violence. Officers will also consider whether an asylum seeker crossed the border illegally and take that into consideration when weighing their claim. The new guidance also applies to refugees. (CNN)

7/ Brett Kavanaugh racked up tens of thousands of dollars in credit card debt from buying baseball tickets over the last decade. At times, Trump's Supreme Court nominee reported liabilities may have even exceeded the value of his cash and investment accounts. Kavanaugh's debts reached between $60,000 and $200,000 in 2016, but the loans were either paid off or fell below the reporting requirements by the following year. (Washington Post)

  • Kavanaugh on abortion: In a recent speech, he described Roe v. Wade as part of the "tide of freewheeling judicial creation of unenumerated rights." (Daily Beast)

Notables.

  1. Bill Shine's wife mocked victims of sexual harassment in the military and pushed conspiracy theories about vaccines on her radio show between 2008 and 2009. Darla Shine, the wife of Trump's deputy chief of staff for communications, declared herself a "sexist" and said women serving with men in the military should expect to be sexually harassed. Her husband was ousted from Fox News for mishandling reports of sexual harassment at the network. (CNN / Mediaite / HuffPost)

  2. Trump's top economic adviser will be named the White House's legislative affairs director. Shahira Knight will replace Marc Short when he steps down later this month to join a D.C. consulting firm and teach at UVA. (Politico)

    👋 Who else has left the Trump administration.

  3. Stormy Daniels was arrested during a performance at an Ohio strip club and charged with three misdemeanor sex offenses for touching three undercover police officers. The charges were later dismissed. Daniels' attorney called the charges a politically motivated setup. (CNN)

  4. Robert Mueller asked a federal court in Virginia for 100 blank subpoenas in the case against Paul Manafort. The subpoenas would require the recipients to testify in federal court on July 25 – the day Manafort's trial is set to begin. Mueller asked for 150 blank subpoenas about a month ago. (The Hill)

  5. Trump called recognizing Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea "an interesting question." Congress, however, has legislated that it is U.S. policy "to never recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Government of the Russian Federation." Trump will meet with Putin on July 16. (Bloomberg)

Day 538: Tremendous relationships.

1/ Trump accused Germany of being "totally controlled" and "a captive of Russia" because it pays "billions and billions of dollars a year" to Russia for energy. Germany doesn't meet its NATO spending commitments, but has started construction on a second natural gas pipeline to Russia. Germany argues that it has increased its contributions to NATO and plans to spend even more on the alliance in the coming years. A few hours later, Trump told reporters that the United States has a "tremendous relationship" with Germany. (Washington Post / NBC News / Politico)

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected Trump's accusation, saying "I have witnessed" Soviet occupation. (Politico / CNN)

  • This is the Russian pipeline to Germany that Trump is mad about: an 800-mile-long, planned pipeline beneath the Baltic Sea. The project would roughly double Russia's gas export volume via the Baltic route. (Washington Post)

2/ Trump wants NATO allies to double their military-spending target to 4% of gross domestic product despite allies not meeting the current 2% target. The 29 members – including the U.S. – agreed to a joint summit declaration to move toward the 2% target by 2024. The U.S. contributes 3.5% of its GDP. (Wall Street Journal)

  • NATO Summit Live Updates: Trump Pushes Allies to Increase Spending. (New York Times)

3/ The Senate approved a non-binding motion in support of NATO. The symbolic 97-2 vote expresses the Senate's support for NATO and calls on negotiators to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to it. (The Hill / Axios)

4/ The Trump administration plans to hit China with roughly $200 billion in additional tariffs. Beijing's Commerce Ministry said it was "shocked" by the U.S. action and that China "has no choice but to take necessary countermeasures." Days ago the U.S. imposed 25% tariffs on Chinese goods worth $34 billion, which Beijing immediately responded to with its own tariffs on $34 billion in U.S. goods. The latest tariffs will undergo a two-month review process, with hearings on Aug. 20-23. (CNBC / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / CNN / Politico)

  • The Senate voted to give Congress a role in overseeing Trump's tariff decisions when imposed in the name of national security. The 88-11 vote in favor is non-binding and part of an effort by members of Congress who are concerned that trade disputes with China, western European nations, and Canada could damage the U.S. economy by harming U.S. employers and raising prices for consumers. (Reuters / Washington Post)

5/ The Department of Justice admitted that it may have mistakenly separated a family of U.S. citizens for as long as a year "because the parent's location has been unknown." (The Guardian)

  • U.S. government officials told four immigrant women that they would have to pay for DNA tests in order to be reunited with their children. The tests are part of the Trump administration's latest effort to reunite families that it had separated at the U.S. southern border. The tests are being administered by a private contractor on behalf of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which the Department of Health and Human Services has refused to name – a possible violation of federal law. (Daily Beast)

  • Some children have been unable to recognize their mothers when reunited with their families. Other children who had been potty-trained before being separated have regressed back to diapers. (New York Times)

  • From the moment it went online in 2014, the web portal designed to keep track of unaccompanied children and process their release has experienced major technological problems. Among the issues users have encountered are a limited number of total concurrent users, lost saved data, poor searchability, and significant manual work for minor updates and patches. That same system is now being used as a key part of the Office of Refugee Resettlement's efforts to track the thousands of migrant children who were separated from their parents at the border under the Trump administration's "no tolerance policy." (Reuters)

6/ Rod Rosenstein asked federal prosecutors to help review the government documents related to Judge Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing. Rosenstein's email to the nation's 93 United States attorneys included the sentence: "We need your help in connection with President Trump's nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to serve on the Supreme Court." Former law enforcement officials described Rosenstein's request as "flat-out wrong." Mitch McConnell privately expressed concerns that Kavanaugh's years of public service might be used against him in his Senate confirmation hearings. (New York Times)

poll/ 54% of voters think the government should keep ICE, 25% believe ICE should be abolished, and 21% are undecided. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Paul Manafort will be moved from the jail where he says he's being treated like a "VIP" with access to a phone, computer, private bathroom and shower, and does not have to wear a uniform. Manafort filed to delay his July 25 trial, claiming that his incarceration at Virginia's Northern Neck Regional Jail left him without adequate time to prepare for trial, but resisted being moved to the Alexandria Detention Center. (Washington Post / The Hill)

  2. The Senate confirmed Brian Benczkowski to lead the Justice Department's Criminal Division despite concerns about his ties to a Russian bank run by oligarchs with close ties to Putin, which was also referenced in the Steele dossier. The 51-48 vote ended an 18-month delay in which the criminal division operated without a permanent leader. (NPR / Washington Post / CNN)

  3. Trump pardoned the two Oregon cattle ranchers who were sentenced to five years in prison for committing arson on federal land — punishments which led to the armed occupation of a wildlife refuge by the Bundy family in 2016. The pardons were the result of a months-long campaign by agricultural groups like the Oregon Cattlemen's Association, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. The White House issued a statement claiming that the Obama administration had been "overzealous" in its pursuit of the cattle ranchers. "This was unjust," said Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (New York Times)

  4. Pfizer said it would delay drug price increases for no more than six months after speaking with Trump. The conversation came after Trump tweeted that Pfizer and other U.S. drug manufacturers "should be ashamed" for raising prices on some of their medications. (Reuters)

  5. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit to Pyongyang last week went "as badly as it could have gone." North Korea accused the U.S. of a "gangster-like mindset" following the denuclearization negotiations. Pompeo described the talks as "productive." (CNN)

Day 537: "Putin may be the easiest."

1/ Trump nominated federal appeals court judge Brett Kavanaugh to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh served under Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who investigated Bill Clinton. Kavanaugh also worked on the 2000 Florida recount litigation that ended in a Supreme Court decision that handed George W. Bush the presidency. "What matters is not a judge's personal views," Trump said, "but whether they can set aside those views to do what the law and the Constitution require. I am pleased to say I have found, without doubt, such a person." Trump called Kavanaugh a judge with "impeccable credentials," and said he is "considered a judge's judge." (New York Times / NBC News / Politico / Washington Post)

  • Brett Kavanaugh's track record. A sampling of Kavanaugh's most important decisions and past statements about policy issues. (Politico)

  • Where Brett Kavanaugh might fit on the Supreme Court. According to at least one measure, Kavanaugh may be less conservative than Neil Gorsuch. (New York Times)

  • Brett Kavanaugh, explained. He's a veteran of every conservative fight from the Clinton impeachment to the fight against Obamacare. (Vox)

  • Who is Brett Kavanaugh? Bio, facts, background and political views. (Politico)

2/ Chuck Schumer: "I will oppose [Brett Kavanaugh] with everything I've got." The Senate minority leader said Kavanaugh's potential opposition to Roe v. Wade and the Affordable Care Act is "far against what the American people want. When they learn this, they're going to oppose the nominee." (Washington Post)

  • Republicans control a 51-49 majority in the Senate, and Democrats need at least two GOP lawmakers – plus every Democrat – in order to block Kavanaugh's confirmation. With Sen. John McCain undergoing cancer treatment, the Republican majority is trimmed to 50-49. However, several Democratic senators are up for reelection in states where Trump won in 2016. Three Democratic senators (Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, and Joe Donnelly) broke with the party last year to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch. (Politico)

  • If the Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade, 22 states will likely ban abortions. Reversing the case wouldn't automatically make abortion illegal; instead, the decision about abortion legality would be returned to the states. Four states — Louisiana, Mississippi and North and South Dakota — have "trigger laws," which would immediately make abortion illegal if and when the Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade. (NPR)

  • Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins signaled their comfort with Kavanaugh. Murkowski said "there were some who have been on the list that I would have had a very, very difficult time supporting." Collins touted Kavanaugh's experience, saying: "It will be very difficult for anyone to argue that he’s not qualified for the job." (Politico)

3/ A federal judge rejected Trump's request to allow long-term detention of children who entered the U.S. illegally with their parents. A 1997 consent decree limits the time children can be held in immigration detention to no more than 20 days. Judge Dolly M. Gee called the legal reasoning behind Trump's attempt to get out from under the legal agreement "tortured," and said it was "a cynical attempt" to shift immigration policy. Trump responded to the ruling: "I have a solution: Tell people not to come to our county illegally. That's the solution." (Politico / New York Times / Reuters)

  • The ACLU accused the Trump administration of unnecessarily delaying the reunification of immigrant children and parents by DNA testing every family, which violates their privacy and civil liberties, slows down the reunifications, and is not required either by law or by current circumstances. (Talking Points Memo)

  • The Pentagon said it would not pay for housing some 32,000 immigrants detained due to the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy. The Defense Department "is not going to have any involvement, any interaction with the children or the families." Instead, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services would be responsible for their care. (Foreign Policy)

  • A federal judge ordered the U.S. government reunite 63 children under the age of five or face penalties, but didn't specific what penalties could be applied. "These are firm deadlines," the judge said. "They are not aspirational goals." (Reuters)

4/ A senior European Union official told Trump that "US doesn't have and won't have a better ally than EU." European Council President Donald Tusk's comment came shortly before Trump tweeted that American military spending on NATO was "very unfair!" Tusk added that "it is always worth knowing who is your strategic friend and who is your strategic problem." (Associated Press / New York Times)

5/ Trump said his sit-down with Putin will probably be easier than his meeting with NATO allies. "I have NATO. I have the UK, which is in somewhat turmoil. And I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all," Trump said. "Who would think?" He added that he sees Putin as a "competitor." (Politico / CNN / Axios)

  • Green Day's "American Idiot" is topping the UK charts in time for Trump's visit on Thursday. (Slate / HuffPost)

6/ During their trip to Moscow last week, an all-Republican delegation of U.S. lawmakers met with at least two Russian individuals who are currently sanctioned by the United States. Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama spoke with Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin, who has been sanctioned since 2014 for Russia's "illegitimate and unlawful" activities in Ukraine. The group also heard from Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Konstantin Kosachev, who complained about the latest round of U.S. sanctions against Russian individuals. Kosachev was sanctioned in April over Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 election and other "malign activity." (BuzzFeed News)

  • Two Republican senators are downplaying Russian election interference after their July 4th trip to Moscow. Sen. Ron Johnson suggested that Congress went too far in punishing Russia for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, calling the meddling "unacceptable," but "not the greatest threat to our democracy" and that "we've blown it way out of proportion." Rep. Kay Granger, meanwhile, said she met with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and said the U.S. and Russia "can be competitors without being adversaries." (Roll Call / Law and Crime)

  • One Republican told Russian government officials to "stop screwing with our election." Sen. John Kennedy said he warned Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov that Congress will "double down on sanctions … if you screw with the elections this fall." (CNN)

poll/ Democrats face long odds to take back the Senate with three Democratic senators poised to lose their seats to Republicans. Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, Bill Nelson in Florida and Joe Donnelly in Indiana are all behind in the polls. To win the Senate, Democrats need to keep all 10 seats they're defending in states that Trump won in 2016 – plus pick up two more seats. (Axios) / SurveyMonkey)


Notables.

  1. Rudy Giuliani continues to work on behalf of foreign clients both personally and through his law firm while serving as Trump's personal attorney. Giuliani said in recent interviews that he is working with clients in Brazil and Colombia, among other countries, in addition to giving paid speeches for an Iranian dissident group. Giuliani has never registered with the Justice Department on behalf of his overseas clients, saying that it's not necessary because he does not directly lobby the U.S. government and he doesn't charge Trump for his services. (Washington Post)

  2. A federal judge delayed the sentencing of Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty in December to making false statements to Robert Mueller's investigators. Flynn could be sentenced by late October. (NPR / NBC News / Los Angeles Times)

  3. A federal judge ordered that Paul Manafort be moved to a detention center in Alexandria, Virginia, "to ensure that the defendant has access to his counsel and can adequately prepare his defense." (Politico / Washington Post)

  4. The EPA sent a proposed rule to relax carbon dioxide emissions standards for power plants to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review. The rule would replace the Clean Power Plan, an important part of Obama's climate change agenda to reduce carbon emissions by 32% from America's energy sector by 2030, with a more industry-friendly alternative. (The Hill)

Day 536: Piece of trash.

1/ Trump says he is "very close to making a decision" on his Supreme Court nominee. Aides, however, have prepped rollouts for multiple Supreme Court nominees knowing that Trump could change his mind at the last minute. Trump has narrowed his list down to two potential nominees: Brett Kavanaugh and Thomas Hardiman. The White House expects to hit the ground running once Trump makes his 9 p.m. announcement – a time he selected for maximum TV exposure. "I have long heard that the most important decision a U.S. President can make is the selection of a Supreme Court Justice," Trump tweeted. As he boarded Air Force One after a weekend of golfing at his private club in Bedminster, N.J., Trump said: "You can't go wrong." (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico)

  • Judge Amy Coney Barrett's prospects are slipping over confirmation concerns. Trump said he would settle on a nominee by noon Monday, but aides said they were unsure as recently as Sunday night where he would land. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Trump has been lobbied in the final hours of his selection process by both supporters and opponents of the Supreme Court candidates. Trump has also been working the phones seeking input about Brett Kavanaugh and Thomas Hardiman. (New York Times)

  • Mitch McConnell told Trump that Judges Raymond Kethledge and Thomas Hardiman present the fewest obvious obstacles to being confirmed to replace Justice Anthony M. Kennedy on the Supreme Court. (New York Times)

2/ The Trump administration will miss a court-ordered deadline to reunite immigrant children under age 5 who were separated from their parents at the U.S. border. About half of the children under 5 years old will be reunited by Tuesday's court-ordered deadline. The administration doesn't know when the rest will be reunified. The federal judge who set the deadline said he was "very encouraged" by the administration's progress. (Reuters / CNN / Los Angeles Times)

  • A one-year-old child who was separated from his father at the southern U.S. border appeared in immigration court. The child is one of several toddlers who have had to appear in court without their parents present. (Associated Press / NPR)

  • Five pregnant women in immigration detention said they were denied adequate medical care while they were obviously miscarrying. ICE and Customs and Border Protection guards were either unwilling or unable to respond to medical emergencies. (BuzzFeed News)

3/ Trump lashed out at NATO on Twitter two days before the alliance's summit, saying NATO members "must do much more" and up their defense spending contributions. "The United States is spending far more on NATO than any other Country. This is not fair, nor is it acceptable." (Axios / Politico)

4/ The U.S. opposed a United Nations resolution encouraging breast-feeding, siding with manufacturers of infant formula and stunning public health officials and foreign diplomats in the process this past spring. American officials wanted to soften the resolution by removing language that called on governments to "protect, promote and support breast-feeding." When the effort failed, the United States threatened to withdraw military aid and hit Ecuador and other countries with punitive trade measures if they didn't drop support for the resolution. The U.S., however, backed off when Russia introduced the resolution. (New York Times)

  • Trump defended the report that the U.S. tried to undermine the World Health Organization resolution in support of breastfeeding, saying "the U.S. strongly supports breast feeding but we don't believe women should be denied access to formula." The U.S. wanted the resolution to remove language calling on governments to "protect, promote and support breast-feeding." (BBC)

5/ Rudy Giuliani appeared to confirm that Trump asked then-FBI director James Comey to drop the probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Trump has previously denied saying to Comey "I hope you can let this go." "He didn't direct [Comey] to do that," Giuliani said. "What he said was, can you, can you …" Giuliani continued: "He said a lot of other things, some of which has turned out to be untrue. The reality is, as a prosecutor, I was told that many times, 'can you give the man a break,' either by his lawyers, by his relatives, by his friends. You take that into consideration. But you know that doesn't determine not going forward with it." (CNN / ABC News)

6/ Giuliani: Michael Cohen "should cooperate" with prosecutors as long as he tells the truth. Giuliani repeatedly downplayed the possibility that Cohen could provide damaging information to prosecutors. "As long as he tells the truth, we're home free." Two people familiar with Cohen's thinking say he has already "hit the reset button" and will continue to speak the "real truth." (NPR / CNN)

  • Why does Michael Cohen keep publicly hinting that he’ll flip on Trump? There have been some reports that Cohen wants Trump to pay his legal fees. (Vox)

7/ Giuliani: Trump is close to refusing to sit down for an interview with Robert Mueller. On Friday, Giuliani set new conditions for an interview with the special counsel, saying Mueller needs to prove – before Trump would agree to sit for an interview – that Trump committed a crime and that his testimony is essential to completing the investigation. Giuliani also claimed that the Mueller investigation was the "most corrupt I've ever seen." He called prosecutors working on the investigation "very, very severe partisans working on an investigation that should have been done by people who are politically neutral." (The Guardian / New York Times)

poll/ 65% of women said they disapproved of Trump's job as president, while 32% said they approved. 54% of men say they approved of Trump, while only 45% said they disapproved. (Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Protesters chased Mitch McConnell through a restaurant parking lot, calling him "turtle head," and asking "Where are the babies, Mitch?" – a reference to the infant migrant children who were separated from their families at the southern U.S. border. (Washington Post)

  2. Steve Bannon was called a "piece of trash" by a woman at a bookstore in Richmond, Virginia. The owner of Black Swan Books called the police after the woman refused to leave. (CNN)

  3. Stephen Miller threw away $80 of takeout sushi after a bartender raised both middle fingers and cursed at him while he was picking up takeout in his DC neighborhood. (Washington Post)

  4. The Trump administration is freezing billions of dollars in payments to Affordable Care Act insurers. The so-called risk adjustment payments are meant to protect insurers from incurring big losses from many unexpected high-cost patients. (Politico)

  5. White House communications director Bill Shine will attend Trump's meeting with Putin in Helsinki on July 16. The West Wing delegation also includes John Kelly, deputy chief of staff Zach Fuentes, national security adviser John Bolton, Stephen Miller, social media director Dan Scavino, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Melania Trump, and other high-level staffers and their aides. (Politico)

  6. Trump: "I have confidence" that Kim Jong Un will honor our "contract" and handshake agreement to denuclearize, but China may be working against it. (CNBC)

  7. Trump's tariffs on Chinese goods don't apply to Ivanka Trump's foreign-made products for her fashion line. The goods to be levied with tariffs were apparently chosen based on what would disrupt the U.S. economy the least and have the least impact on consumers. (HuffPost / Fortune)

  8. Members of Trump's Florida clubs appear to have been invited to tour Air Force One. Two separate tours were scheduled at the Atlantic Aviation FBO at Palm Beach International on Feb. 18, 2017. Those attending would have paid Trump's exclusive clubs thousands of dollars annually. (BuzzFeed News)

  9. Trump's personal driver for more than 25 years sued the Trump Organization for more than $200,000 in unpaid overtime wages over the past six years. Noel Cintron received two raises in 15 years, but had to give up his Trump Organization health insurance in order to get a $7,000 pay increase. (Bloomberg / Washington Post)

  10. The EPA granted "super polluting freight trucks" a loophole in the final hours of Scott Pruitt's tenure as administrator. The move by the EPA will allow a significant increase in the production of a diesel freight truck that produces as much as 55 times the air pollution of trucks with modern emissions controls. (New York Times)

Day 533: Totally prepared.

1/ Trump mocked the #MeToo movement in a speech in Montana on Thursday, repeatedly attacked Elizabeth Warren over her heritage, suggested Maxine Waters had an I.Q. in the "mid-60s," derided both John McCain and George H.W. Bush, and vouched for Putin. "You know what? Putin's fine," Trump told the crowd, referring to his upcoming meeting with the Russian leader. "He's fine. We're all fine. We're people. Will I be prepared? Totally prepared. I've been preparing for this stuff my whole life." (New York Times / CNN / Washington Post)

  • Trump challenged Sen. Elizabeth Warren to take a DNA test to prove that she has Native American ancestors, reviving his "Pocahontas" nickname for the Massachusetts Democrat, who has claimed Native American ancestry. Trump taunted Warren with an imaginary presidential debate, telling the crowd that he would toss her a DNA kit, "but we have to do it gently because we're in the #MeToo generation, so we have to be very gentle." He made a throwing motion and said: "We will very gently take that kit, and we will slowly toss it, hoping it doesn't hit her and injure her arm." (NBC News)

  • The 11 most dangerous things Donald Trump said in his Montana speech. (CNN)

2/ The U.S. and China each levied $34 billion in tariffs on each other's exports as Trump's trade war with China officially began today at 12:01 a.m. China's Ministry of Commerce accused the U.S. of "typical trade bullying" for having "launched the biggest trade war in economic history so far." Trump has threatened to target another $400 billion in Chinese products with tariffs if Beijing retaliates further. (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Politico)

  • Russia imposed tariffs on U.S. goods in response to Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs. Russia's economic development minister said that additional tariffs, ranging from 25% to 40%, have been applied to some U.S. construction equipment, oil and gas equipment, metal processing instruments, drilling equipment, and optical fiber. (The Independent)

3/ The U.S. Army started discharging some immigrant recruits who were promised a path to citizenship in exchange for enlisting. Some were labeled a security risk and discharged because they have relatives abroad. Others have been told they are being discharged because the Department of Defense had not completed their background checks. The number of soldiers who have been discharged is unclear, but immigration attorneys say they know of more than 40. It's also unclear whether there have been policy changes in any of the military branches. (Associated Press)

  • The Trump administration created a task force to revoke the citizenship of some naturalized immigrants and then eventually deport them. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' new task force and will identify what it calls bad naturalization cases to refer to the Justice Department for denaturalization proceedings. The purported targets are people who had already been rejected by the U.S., but then created a new identity in order to gain citizenship afterward. (WNYC / CNN)

  • Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club applied for permission to hire 61 foreign workers to serve as waiters and cooks. The Florida resort requested H-2B visas, which are for temporary non-agricultural workers. In order to obtain H-2Bs, employers must prove that there are not enough US workers who are "able, willing, qualified, and available" to do the temporary work. (Washington Post / CNN / ABC News)

4/ The Trump administration requested more time to reunite families it separated at the border. The Justice Department said it has dedicated "immense" resources to reunifying families. A federal court ordered the administration to return all children under 5 to their parents by July 10, and all others by July 26. (Los Angeles Times / Washington Post / ABC News)

5/ Many of the records linking separated children to their parents have either disappeared or been destroyed, leaving the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security scrambling to identify connections between family members. DNA testing is now being used on children and parents in an attempt to reunite migrant families separated at the US border. (New York Times / CNN)

poll/ 47% of voters overall prefer to vote for a Democrat over a Republican for the House in the midterms. 37% of voters prefer a Republican. (Washington Post)

  • 59% of Democrats say the midterms are extremely important, compared with 46% of Republicans.

  • 55% disapprove of the job Trump is doing, compared to 43% who approve. 54% of men approve; 32% of women approve.

  • 69% of Americans oppose the policy that separates immigrant children from their parents, compared with 29% who support the policy.

  • 52% agree with Trump that America's long-term trading partners have taken advantage of this country. Only 41% of Americans, however, approve of Trump's handling of trade issues.


Notables.

  1. Michael Cohen doesn't expect Trump to offer him a presidential pardon. "I brought up the pardon, and he said, 'I don't think so. I just don't think so,'" said one friend of Cohen's. "[Cohen's] certain in his mind that he has been dismissed." Cohen has not been charged with a crime, but is under criminal investigation in New York. (CNN)

  2. Peter Strzok will testify before the House Judiciary Committee next week. The FBI agent was the subject of criticism in the Department of Justice inspector general's report on the handling of the Clinton probe. Strzok has been criticized for sending text messages critical of Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. (CBS News)

  3. Paul Manafort spends "at least 23 hours per day" in solitary confinement while he waits for his July 25 trial because "the facility cannot otherwise guarantee his safety." (Axios / New York Daily News)

  4. A fourth Ohio State wrestler said Rep. Jim Jordan knew about sexual abuse when he was an assistant coach, because he took part in locker-room conversations where athletes discussed the abuse. (NBC News)

  5. Trump on Jim Jordan: "I don't believe [the accusations] at all; I believe him. Jim Jordan is one of the most outstanding people I've met since I've been in Washington. I believe him 100 percent. No question in my mind. I believe Jim Jordan 100 percent. He's an outstanding man." (Washington Post)

  6. Mike Pompeo brought Kim Jong-un an Elton John CD with the song "Rocket Man" on it. Trump called Kim "little rocket man" following a series of nuclear tests and missile launches by North Korea last year. (Chosun Ilbo / NBC News)

  7. The unemployment rate ticked up to 4% after falling to 3.8% in May. The Labor Department reported 213,000 new jobs in June, down from 244,000 in May. (Politico)

  8. London's mayor gave activists permission to launch the "Trump Baby" blimp when Trump visits the U.K. starting on July 13. The blimp will be allowed to fly for two hours at a maximum height of about 100 feet from Parliament Square Garden. (NPR)

  9. Trump will almost entirely avoid London – and the planned protests against him – during his four-day visit to the UK next week. (The Guardian)

Day 532: "My staff told me not to say this."

1/ Scott Pruitt resigned from the EPA following months of controversies regarding his spending, ethics and management at the agency. Andrew Wheeler will take over as acting administrator. In his resignation letter, Pruitt blamed "unrelenting attacks" on himself and his family. (New York Times / Washington Post / The Hill / Vox)

I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this. The Senate confirmed Deputy at EPA, Andrew Wheeler, will on Monday assume duties as the acting Administrator of the EPA. I have no doubt that Andy will continue on with our great and lasting EPA agenda. We have made tremendous progress and the future of the EPA is very bright! –TRUMP

  • One of Scott Pruitt's aides was fired last summer for questioning the practice of retroactively deleting meetings from the official calendar. Madeline Morris was Pruitt's senior scheduler and was fired after she raised objections about the deletions, which she believed were illegal. (New York Times)

  • How Andrew Wheeler differs from Scott Pruitt. Wheeler is viewed as a Washington insider who avoids the limelight and has spent years effectively navigating the rules. Wheeler is also a veteran coal lobbyist for Murray Energy, whose chief executive, Robert Murray, has been a supporter and adviser of Trump's. (New York Times)

  • WTF Discussion:

  • Scott Pruitt - in or out?

  • Who The Fuck Has Left The Trump Administration

2/ Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer urged Trump to nominate federal Judge Merrick Garland to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy in a private phone call last week. Garland, Obama's nominee to the Supreme Court, was blocked by Senate Republicans in 2016. The conversation lasted less than five minutes. (Washington Post)

3/ Trump narrowed his Supreme Court shortlist to Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Raymond Kethledge and will announce his nominee on Monday, July 9, at 8 pm Eastern time. Aides, however, said they wouldn't be surprised if Trump announced his nominee ahead of the scheduled prime-time event. (ABC News / Axios / Vox)

  • Trump wants the whole package in a Supreme Court nominee, with the search process playing out like a political campaign as he considers a candidate's appearance as well as the look and feel of his or her family. (Politico)

4/ Trump asked his advisers last August why the U.S. couldn't invade Venezuela. Trump's aides, including then-national security adviser H. R. McMaster and then-secretary of state Rex Tillerson, warned against an invasion. One official said Trump was simply thinking "out loud." Trump, however, raised the issue three more times last year, including in September at a private dinner with the leaders from four Latin American countries during the U.N. General Assembly. Despite being briefed not to raise the possibility of an invasion at the dinner, the first thing Trump said was: "My staff told me not to say this." (Associated Press / CNN)

5/ Trump hired former Fox News executive Bill Shine to lead his communications team. Shine was forced to resign from Fox News in May 2017 over his mishandling of sexual harassment claims at the company. Shine will take over for Hope Hicks, who left in March. (Politico / CNBC / BuzzFeed News)

6/ Trump's first tariffs will hit $34 billion of Chinese imports starting tomorrow. China accused the United States of "opening fire" on the world with the tariffs and vowed to respond the moment the duties on Chinese goods kick in. (Washington Post / Reuters)

  • Mexico imposed the second part of their $3 billion retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods in response to Trump's duties on Mexican steel and aluminum exports to the United States. (Politico)

7/ The owner of a Chinese factory says it has been hired to make flags for Trump's 2020 presidential campaign. The factory has reportedly made flags for the campaigns of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in 2016. "We also make flags for Trump for 2020," the factory owner said. "It seems like he has another campaign going on in 2020. Isn't that right?" It is unclear whether the official Trump reelection organization is the one who ordered the flags. (The Hill / Business Insider)


Notables.

  1. Robert Mueller is utilizing additional career Justice Department prosecutors, in a sign that he may soon hand off parts of his investigation. (Bloomberg / Axios)

  2. Trump said he would decide by July 4th if he would sit down for an interview with Robert Mueller's team. Rudy Giuliani said there was "no decision" to announce. (CBS News)

  3. Michael Cohen dropped the reference "personal attorney to President Donald J. Trump" from his social media accounts. His bio is now blank on Twitter with an image of an American flag. (CNN)

  4. A federal judge rejected a Trump administration request to block three California sanctuary laws, allowing the state to counter Trump's crackdown on illegal immigration by limiting the kinds of immigration-related information state and local law enforcement can share with federal officials. (Politico / Associated Press)

  5. Trump lied when he tweeted that Obama granted citizenship to 2,500 Iranians in an attempt to sweeten the Iran nuclear deal. Trump provided no evidence to support his tweet, but three senior Obama administration officials who were involved in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action negotiations pushed back on the claim, which seems to have originated with a hard-line cleric in Iran's parliament. (Washington Post)

  6. Trump's co-author for The Art of the Deal tweeted that Trump "is incapable of reading a book, much less writing one." The Twitter criticism came after Trump bragged about "my ability to write" and having "many best selling books." (HuffPost)


Wondering what happened to Day 531? WTF Just Happened Today publishes Monday-Friday, except on market holidays.

Day 530: Shredded.

1/ The Trump administration will rescind Obama-era guidelines that encourage college admissions to consider race as a factor in order to diversify their student bodies. Trump administration officials contend the current policies "mislead schools to believe that legal forms of affirmative action are simpler to achieve than the law allows." The reversal would restore George W. Bush's policy that "strongly encourages the use of race-neutral methods" for student admissions. Jeff Sessions said Justice Department prosecutors will investigate and sue universities over discriminatory admissions policies. Schools that don't follow the new policy could also lose federal funding. (Wall Street Journal / New York Times / Reuters)

2/ Leaked copies of Michael Cohen's shredded documents were reconstructed by the FBI and appear to confirm Cohen's $62,500 payment to a former Playboy model on behalf of Republican fundraiser Elliot Broidy. The documents were seized during a raid by the FBI on Cohen's home and office in April and include handwritten notes about a taxi business, as well as insurance papers, correspondence from a woman described as a "vexatious litigant," who claims she is under government surveillance, and other documents that prosecutors already had in their possession. (BuzzFeed News)

  • READ: Michael Cohen's Reconstructed Shredded Documents. (DocumentCloud)

3/ Scott Pruitt and his aides kept "secret" calendars and schedules to hide controversial meetings and calls with industry representatives. Staffers routinely met in Pruitt's office to "scrub" records from Pruitt's calendar because they might "look bad." "We would have meetings [about] what we were going to take off on the official schedule," said Pruitt's former deputy chief of staff Kevin Chmielewski. "We had at one point three different schedules. One of them was one that no one else saw except three or four of us. It was a secret … and they would decide what to nix from the public calendar." (CNN)

4/ Two of Pruitt's top aides told congressional investigators that he leveraged his position for personal benefit and ignored warnings about potential ethical issues. The staffers testified to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week, sharing details about Pruitt's spending and management decisions, his efforts to secure a six-figure job for his wife at a conservative political group, enlisting aides to perform personal tasks, and seeking high-end travel despite objections and warnings from staffers. (Washington Post)

5/ Scott Pruitt asked Trump this spring to fire Jeff Sessions and let him run the Department of Justice. Advisers shot down Pruitt's proposal to temporarily replace Sessions for 210 days under the Vacancies Reform Act, saying he would return to Oklahoma afterward to run for office. (CNN)

6/ ICE agents are forcing parents to choose between leaving the country with their children — or leaving the country without them. The new instructions from the Trump administration to agents don't allow parents separated under the "zero tolerance" policy to reunite with their children while they await a decision on asylum – effectively preventing them from making an asylum claim. (NBC News)

7/ A federal judge ordered the U.S. government to stop the blanket arrests of asylum seekers and immediately release or grant hearings to more than 1,000 asylum seekers who have been jailed without individualized case reviews. (Washington Post)

  • The White House used its official Twitter account to attack two Democratic senators who oppose Trump's immigration agenda, equating their criticisms of Immigration and Customs Enforcement with support for criminals. (New York Times)

8/ Trump threatened several NATO allies in June that they increase defense spending and meet their security obligation or face consequences. Trump hinted that one consequence could be an adjustment to the United States' military presence around the world. In his letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump warned that it would "become increasingly difficult to justify to American citizens why some countries do not share NATO's collective security burden while American soldiers continue to sacrifice their lives overseas or come home gravely wounded." (New York Times)

  • NATO allies defend military spending amid Trump criticism. NATO officials are concerned that trans-Atlantic divisions over trade tariffs and the U.S. pullout from the Paris global climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal could undermine alliance unity. (Washington Post)

9/ Trump ordered American flags to be lowered to half-staff to honor the victims of last week's shooting at the Capital Gazette newsroom, after initially denying the request last week. Annapolis mayor, Gavin Buckley, submitted the flag request through Maryland representatives in Congress and was told Monday that it had been denied. (New York Times)

poll/ 49% of voters say Trump is racist while 47% say he is not racist. 44% say the main motive for Trump's immigration policies are "racist beliefs." (Quinnipiac)

poll/ 58% of Americans disapprove of the way Trump has handled immigration, frequently describing the practice of separating children from their parents as "sad," "terrible," "bad," and "wrong." (Quinnipiac)

poll/ 64% of voters want Trump's Supreme Court nominee to "limit the amount of money corporations and unions can spend on political campaigns." The Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision allowed businesses to spend unlimited money on political campaigns. (Daily Beast / Ipsos)

poll/ 62% of Americans say they want the Republican-led Senate to vote on Trump's Supreme Court nominee before the November midterm elections. 33% said the Senate should wait until after the elections. 66% of Democrats and 60% of Republicans said Trump's nominee would be an important factor in their vote in the midterms. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. Rep. Jim Jordan was accused of failing to stop sexual abuse by the team doctor when he was the Ohio State wrestling coach. Republican congressman from Ohio was the assistant wrestling coach at the university from 1986 to 1994 and has repeatedly said he didn't know about the abuse until former students began speaking out this spring. (NBC News)

  2. Wilbur Ross shorted two more stocks – five in total – during his time as Commerce secretary. Ross maintains that made the trades to avoid the impression that his financial holdings were a conflict of interest. (CNBC)

  3. Trump, again, criticized Harley-Davidson for moving some operations overseas in response to retaliatory EU tariffs against U.S. goods. Trump tweeted that he's talking with other motorcycle companies about moving them to the U.S. (CNBC)

  4. The top aide to Rod Rosenstein will leave the Justice Department for a job in the private sector. The DOJ's previous third-in-command, Rachel Brand, resigned earlier this year. TALK: Who else has left the Trump administration. (NPR)

  5. A federal judge set a pre-sentencing hearing for Michael Flynn. Trump's former national security adviser will head to court next Tuesday. Flynn pleaded guilty last December to one felony count of making false statements to the FBI. (Politico)

  6. The Senate Intelligence Committee backed the intelligence community's assessment that Putin was trying to help Trump when Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, breaking with their House Republican counterparts. (Politico / CNN)

  7. Trump plans to meet one-on-one with Putin during their July 16 summit in Helsinki, Finland. Some US officials expressed concern that without aides present, the meeting will be without an official record — making it difficult to determine whether they reached any agreements. (CNN)

Day 529: Art of the FART.

1/ Michael Cohen will "put family and country first," saying his "first loyalty" isn't to Trump. "I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone's defense strategy," Cohen said. "I am not a villain of this story, and I will not allow others to try to depict me that way." Cohen, signaling his willingness to cooperate with Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York, said his decision to cooperate will not be based on loyalty to Trump, but rather his attorney's legal advice. Guy Petrillo, who is expected to take over as Cohen's lead counsel this week, once led the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan, which is the office currently investigating Cohen. (ABC News / Washington Post)

  • Paul Manafort's personal assistant gave the FBI access to his storage locker in Virginia. The judge rejected Manafort's argument that Robert Mueller had been improperly appointed and lacked authority to prosecute him. (Reuters)

  • Konstantin Kilimnik helped strategize Paul Manafort's lobbying to clients in Russia and Ukraine. Robert Mueller's team has alleged that Kilimnik's ties to Russian intelligence remained active through the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, which Kilimnik has denied. Among Manafort's clients was Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and other wealthy Russians with close ties to Putin. (Associated Press)

  • Robert Mueller's team has likely already gained access to the NRA's tax filings and so-called "dark money" donors list, who financed $21 million of the group's $30 million-plus pro-Trump spending. The NRA's nonprofit status allowed it to hide those donors' names from the public, but not the IRS. Mueller's team is reportedly looking into NRA donors with links to Russia and whether they used the organization to illegally funnel foreign money to Trump's campaign. (McClatchy DC)

2/ Susan Collins will not support a Supreme Court nominee who has displayed "hostility" toward Roe v. Wade. "A candidate for this important position who would overturn Roe v. Wade would not be acceptable to me," Collins said, "because that would indicate an activist agenda that I don't want to see a judge have." Collins said she views Roe v. Wade as a precedent that should not be overturned. Trump, meanwhile, will not ask possible nominees for Justice Anthony Kennedy's seat whether they would overturn Roe v. Wade. (New York Times / ABC News / Reuters)

  • Trump wants to replace Justice Kennedy with someone who has a portfolio of academic writing — but he doesn't want to read any of it himself. Trump also said it's essential that his nominee be "not weak" and that they "interpret the Constitution the way the framers meant it to be." (Washington Post)

  • Trump will temporarily reorganize his White House staff to focus on confirming a Supreme Court nominee. Don McGahn, the White House counsel, will lead the process with Raj Shah, deputy press secretary, focusing on coordinating Trump's message. (New York Times)

3/ North Korea has increased its production of enriched uranium for nuclear weapons in recent months, leading U.S. intelligence officials to conclude that North Korea does not intend to surrender its nuclear stockpile and that it is trying to conceal the number of weapons and production facilities it has. Satellite imagery also shows that North Korea is finalizing the expansion of a ballistic missile manufacturing site; the expansion started after Kim Jong-un's summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in but before he met Trump. (NBC News / Washington Post / CNN)

  • Trump's national security adviser believes North Korea could dismantle all of its nuclear weapons "in a year," despite signs of increased nuclear fuel production. John Bolton's timeline is at odds with what Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlined to Congress recently. Pompeo said North Korean denuclearization could happen within two and a half years – or around the time Trump's first term ends. (New York Times / Reuters)

  • Trump may hold a second summit with Kim Jong-un in New York in September, when world leaders are in town for the U.N. General Assembly. (Axios)

4/ The Trump administration drafted a bill that would abandon America's commitment to the World Trade Organization. The bill, called the "United States Fair and Reciprocal Tariff Act," is affectionately referred to as the FART Act on Twitter and would allow Trump to unilaterally raise tariffs without congressional consent. The source described the bill as "insane." (Axios / Business Insider / The Guardian)

  • Trump's commerce secretary said Trump won't change his trade policy even if the stock market keeps falling. "There's no bright line level of the stock market that's going to change policy," Wilbur Ross said. Stocks slipped lower during the first trading day of the third quarter with markets concerned about Trump's tariffs. (CNBC)

5/ Trump said he's not happy with the revised NAFTA deal with Canada and Mexico and he won't sign it until after the midterm elections. "NAFTA, I could sign it tomorrow, but I’m not happy with it," Trump said. "I want to make it more fair, okay? I want to wait until after the election." (Washington Post)

6/ Canada imposed new tariffs on $12.5 billion worth of American exports and goods. The new tariffs are meant to be a proportional response to Trump's recent steel and aluminum tariffs. Some U.S. products, mostly steel and iron, will face 25% tariffs, and other imports, like ketchup, pizza, and dishwasher detergent, will face a 10% tariff. (CNN Money / Associated Press)

  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will launch a campaign to oppose Trump's trade tariff policies. The business lobbying giant is using a state-by-state analysis to argue that Trump is risking a global trade war that will affect the wallets of U.S. consumers. (Reuters)

7/ Trump tried to pretend that he never urged House Republicans to vote for an immigration bill — even though he tweeted that exact thing just three days earlier. On Saturday, Trump tweeted: "I never pushed the Republicans in the House to vote for the Immigration Bill, either GOODLATTE 1 or 2, because it could never have gotten enough Democrats as long as there is the 60 vote threshold." From Wednesday: "HOUSE REPUBLICANS SHOULD PASS THE STRONG BUT FAIR IMMIGRATION BILL, KNOWN AS GOODLATTE II, IN THEIR AFTERNOON VOTE TODAY, EVEN THOUGH THE DEMS WON'T LET IT PASS IN THE SENATE." (Politico / Slate)

poll/ 63% of voters overall support the Supreme Court's decision on Roe v. Wade. Among Republicans, 58% disagree with the Supreme Court's decision. (Quinnipiac)

poll/ 47% of U.S. adults say they are "extremely proud" to be American – the lowest share since Gallup started asking that question nearly two decades ago. In particular, 32% of Democrats say they are "extremely proud" to be American — down from 56% in 2013. 74% of Republicans, meanwhile, say they're extremely proud to be Americans – up from 71% in 2013. (Gallup)


Notables.

  1. Senior Border Patrol official Ronald D. Vitiello will replace Thomas D. Homan and serve as the new acting director of ICE. Vitiello currently serves as acting deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection; he previously served as the chief of the Border Patrol. Homan retired last month after serving as the acting head of ICE. The Senate must now approve a full-time director for ICE, and Vitiello is considered the leading candidate. (New York Times)

  2. The White House is walking back Trump's call for Saudi Arabia to "increase oil production, maybe up to 2,000,000 barrels" per day, to make up for decreases in production by Iran and Venezuela. Trump claimed that he had spoken to Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz and that Salman had agreed to Trump's request. The White House later issued a statement saying that, while Saudi Arabia has the capacity to increase production if necessary, the Saudis will use it "prudently" and only "if and when necessary to ensure market balance and stability, and in coordination with its producer partners, to respond to any eventuality." (HuffPost)

  3. A podcast host tricked Trump into calling him from Air Force One by telling the White House switchboard operator that he had Sen. Bob Menendez on the line for him. The radio shock jock claimed to represent the Democratic senator from New Jersey and said he had an urgent legislative matter to discuss. The result was a six-minute phone conversation between Stuttering John and the President of the United States aboard Air Force One, during which they talked about immigration and the Supreme Court. The White House has since launched an internal investigation into how the comedian was able to get through to Trump so easily. (New York Times / Stuttering John Podcast / The Hill)

Day 526: Totally screwed.

1/ Trump has been privately telling top White House officials that he wants the US to withdraw from the World Trade Organization. "He's [threatened to withdraw] 100 times," a person who's discussed the subject with Trump. "It would totally [screw] us as a country." Trump's economic advisers have pushed back when he raises the idea of withdrawing from the WTO. which regulates international trade. (Axios / CNN)

2/ The Trump administration ran a family separation "pilot program" months before the announcement of the "zero tolerance" policy. At least 1,768 children were separated from their parents between October 2016 and February 2018; it is not known how many of these separations took place after Trump took office because the Department of Homeland Security will not release month-by-month figures. An additional 2,342 children have been separated since May 5, bringing the total number of separated kids to more than 4,100. (NBC News)

3/ The Department of Justice is drafting a plan to overhaul the U.S. asylum policy, which would prevent people from getting asylum if they entered the country illegally. It would also make it extremely difficult for Central Americans to qualify for asylum, and would codify an opinion written by Jeff Sessions that restricts asylum for victims of domestic abuse and gang violence. (Vox)

  • The UN migration agency voted down Trump's candidate to lead the International Organization for Migration, which is responsible for coordinating assistance to migrants worldwide. (CNN)

  • Pence told the leaders of three Central American countries that "this exodus must end" and to respect U.S. borders. "Our nation needs your nations to do more," Pence added. (NBC News)

4/ Justice Anthony Kennedy's son, Justin, worked at Deutsche Bank for more than a decade, helping loan Trump more than $1 billion at a time when other banks wouldn't. Since 1998, Deutsche has helped loan Trump at least $2.5 billion, of which at least $130 million is still owed to the bank. In 2017, Deutsche Bank AG agreed to pay $425 million to New York's banking regulator over a money laundering scheme that helped Russian investors move $10 billion out of Russia. Trump later waived the fines for the bank after Robert Mueller issued a subpoena to Deutsche for the banking records of people affiliated with him. Following Trump's first address to Congress in February 2017, he stopped to tell Justice Kennedy: "Say hello to your boy. Special guy." (New York Times)

poll/ 67% of Americans do not want the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. 53% of Republicans want to see Roe v. Wade overturned, while 81% of Democrats and 73% of independents do not. (Kaiser Family Foundation / Vox)

  • The Iowa Supreme Court ruled that a law requiring a 72-hour waiting period for women seeking an abortion was an unconstitutional burden. "Autonomy and dominion over one's body go to the very heart of what it means to be free," the justices wrote. "At stake in this case is the right to shape, for oneself, without unwarranted governmental intrusion, one’s own identity, destiny, and place in the world. Nothing could be more fundamental to the notion of liberty." (Associated Press)

Notables.

  1. Rep. Maxine Waters cancelled multiple events after receiving what she described as a "very serious death threat" against her. Waters was scheduled to speak Friday at the conference of the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women in Birmingham and another event in Texas. Last week Waters encouraged protesters to confront Trump officials in public. (Washington Post / CNN)

  2. George Papadopoulos will be sentenced by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 7. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and has agreed to cooperate with Robert Mueller's investigation. (NBC News)

  3. Trump wants to make a deal with Putin on Syria that would allow the US to "get out ASAP." Trump's plan would let the Russians help Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad take back a region where the US-led coalition is experiencing increased opposition from "an unidentified hostile force" despite a previous ceasefire. (CNN)

  4. Trump's chief economic adviser lied on Fox Business that the federal budget deficit was "coming down rapidly," contradicting all available data. The deficit from January through April was $161 billion, up from $135 billion at the same point last year. The deficit in fiscal year 2017 was $665 billion. In fiscal year 2016, the deficit was $587 billion. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that the deficit will climb to $1 trillion annually by 2020. There is no publicly available data to justify Larry Kudlow's claim. (Washington Post)

Day 525: Completely unacceptable.

1/ Paul Manafort owed $10 million to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who was sanctioned by the U.S. in April 2018. The unsealed search warrant application from July 2017 shows that Deripaska financially backed Manafort's consulting work in Ukraine when it started in 2005-06. Robert Mueller also indicted Konstantin Kilimnik, a political operative who served as an intermediary between Manafort and Deripaska, as well as allegedly having ties to Russian spy agencies. The search warrant also confirmed that Mueller has been investigating Manafort's role in the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer. (Reuters)

  • Several billionaires with Kremlin ties attended exclusive, invitation-only receptions during Trump's inauguration festivities – events typically reserved for top donors and close political allies. Robert Mueller's team has expressed interest in the Russian guests who had no obvious place in Trump's diplomatic orbit (ABC News)

2/ Trump and Putin will meet on July 16 in Helsinki to discuss a "range of national security issues," as well as "further development of Russian-American relations." Before the summit meeting was announced, Trump reported via Twitter that "Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!" He added: "Why isn't Hillary/Russia being looked at?" The Helsinki talks will follow a NATO meeting in Brussels on July 11 and 12. Trump told leaders at the recent G7 summit in Canada that "NATO is as bad as NAFTA," stoking fears that Trump plans to undercut the alliance's values and commitments. (New York Times / Washington Post / Axios)

  • Mike Pompeo: Trump will warn Putin that it is "completely unacceptable" to interfere in U.S. elections. "I'm confident that when the president meets with Vladimir Putin he will make clear that meddling in our elections is completely unacceptable," the secretary of state said. (Politico)

3/ Immigrant children as young as three are being ordered to appear in court for their own deportation hearings without legal representation. The children are being served with notices to appear in court, but they are not entitled to an attorney. Instead, they are given a list of legal services organizations that might help them. Requiring unaccompanied minors to go through deportation alone is not new, but the number of children who are affected by this process has gone up during the Trump presidency. (Texas Tribune)

4/ Federal officials have launched two reviews into Trump's handling of families at the border. The Government Accountability Office and the Health and Human Services inspector general both launched reviews. The GAO will audit the systems and processes used to track families as they were separated, while the HHS inspector general announced that it will review the safety and health protections in the agency's shelters for migrant children. (Politico)

5/ The Pentagon said the Department of Homeland Security requested that it help "house and care for an alien family population of up to 12,000 people." The Pentagon has been asked to "identify any available facilities that could be used for that purpose," and "identify available DoD land and construct semi-separate, soft-sided camp facilities capable of sheltering up to 4,000 people, at three separate locations." (CNN)

6/ Trump is considering Utah Senator Mike Lee to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court. Lee has publicly denounced Roe v. Wade. Mitch McConnell said Senate Republicans plan to hold a confirmation vote before November's midterms, when the party is at risk of losing its 51-to-49 majority. (Bloomberg / Washington Post)

  • Who's on Trump's short list to replace Supreme Court Justice Kennedy? Trump will replace Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy with one of 25 people from a previously released list. "We have to pick one that's going to be there for 40 years, 45 years," Trump said. (Politico / NBC News)

  • The fate of the Supreme Court could hinge on Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. Republicans control the Senate by one seat and with Arizona Senator John McCain's absence the two moderate Republicans hold enormous sway over Trump's Supreme Court pick. (Politico)

poll/ 54% of Republicans think it's "very likely" that social media platforms intentionally censor political views they consider "objectionable." 64% of those surveyed believe tech companies support liberal views over conservative ones. (Axios)


Notables.

  1. A former aide to Roger Stone was subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury in Robert Mueller's investigation and to hand over documents. Andrew Miller worked for Stone during the campaign and plans to argue that Mueller's appointment "was unconstitutional." (New York Times)

  2. The House passed a resolution demanding that the Justice Department turn over documents related to the Russia investigation, potentially setting up Rod Rosenstein for impeachment if he doesn't comply within seven days. During a separate House Judiciary Committee meeting, Republicans accused Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray of withholding details about surveillance tactics during the Russia investigation. (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News)

  3. A former ICE spokesman turned whistleblower was interrupted at his home by Homeland Security officials during a television interview. James Schwab was explaining why he quit in March following pressure from the Trump administration "to flat-out lie" when DHS unexpectedly interrupted the interview. (CBS News)

  4. Lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill to make Puerto Rico the nation's 51st state by 2021. The Puerto Rico Admission Act of 2018 was authored by Puerto Rico's resident commissioner, Jennifer González-Colón, a Republican nonvoting member of Congress. The bill is cosponsored by 22 Republicans and 14 Democrats, and calls for the creation of a task force of nine members of Congress to look into the changes necessary to incorporate Puerto Rico as a state. (NBC News)

  5. Trump's pick to run the IRS owns properties at the Trump International Hotel Waikiki and Tower in Hawaii. Chuck Rettig had previously disclosed his 50% stake in a pair of Honolulu rental units, but he did not specify their location. Rettig is scheduled to testify in front of the Senate Finance Committee today, where his ownership of the Trump-branded hotel properties is expected to come up during questioning. (Politico)

  6. Nearly 600 protesters were arrested by Capitol Police for unlawfully demonstrating against Trump's immigration policies inside the Hart Senate Office Building. Chanting "WE CARE" and "ABOLISH ICE," the protesters demanded that Congress end Trump's policies that criminalize and detain undocumented immigrants and separate detained families. (ABC News)

  7. Two days ago, former Breitbart writer Milo Yiannopoulos encouraged "vigilante squads to start gunning journalists down on sight." Today, at least five people were killed and several others "gravely injured" in a shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland. (The Observer / Capital Gazette / New York Times / Baltimore Sun)

Day 524: Bad idea.

1/ Justice Anthony Kennedy will retire from the Supreme Court at the end of July, giving Trump a second chance to fundamentally shift the court to the right for decades by creating a five-member conservative majority. Kennedy was the court's leading champion of gay rights, who also joined the court's liberals in cases on abortion, affirmative action and the death penalty. Kennedy's decision to retire will impact the midterm elections, as Democrats and Republicans seek control of the Senate, which confirms Supreme Court justices. Senate Democrats currently lack the number of votes needed to deny the seat to Trump's nominee. (CNBC / Washington Post / New York Times)

  • What Kennedy's departure from the Supreme Court will mean for abortion, gay rights, and more. Kennedy has been the swing vote on many of the Court’s most ideologically charged decisions. (Vox)

  • Mitch McConnell promised a Senate vote on a new Supreme Court nominee by the fall. Trump added that the search for Kennedy's successor will begin "immediately." (The Hill / New York Times)

  • Charles Schumer called McConnell's determination to vote a Supreme Court nominee before the November midterm elections the "height of hypocrisy" for Republicans. McConnell kept Justice Antonin Scalia's seat vacant for more than a year after he died, arguing that voters should weigh in during the 2016 presidential election on the ideological balance of the high court. (The Hill)

2/ The House rejected the latest Republican immigration bill in a 301 to 121 vote despite a last-minute tweet, all caps tweet of support from Trump. Lawmakers will now leave for their 10-day Fourth of July recess with no resolution on the fate of the Dreamers, who were brought to the country illegally as children. (CNBC / New York Times / Washington Post)

3/ A federal judge ordered the federal government to reunite migrant families separated under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy and to end most family separations. U.S. District Court Judge Dana Sabraw issued a nationwide injunction requiring that all children under the age of five be reunited with their parents within 14 days and that older children be reunited within 30 days, and temporarily stopping the practice of separating children from their parents. The judge also ordered that all children who have been separated be allowed to talk to their parents within 10 days. (Politico / New York Times / CNN / Washington Post)

  • Melania Trump will visit more immigration holding centers this week. [Editor's note: I really don't care, do u?] (Politico)

4/ Jeff Sessions called the outrage over separating migrant children from their families a "radicalized" issue championed by the "lunatic fringe" living in "gated communities." Sessions was speaking to the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Los Angeles where he suggested that those those who condemn the division of families who cross the border illegally are hypocrites. "These same people live in gated communities, many of them, and are featured at events where you have to have an ID to even come in and hear them speak," Sessions said, "They like a little security around themselves, and if you try to scale the fence, believe me, they'll be even too happy to have you arrested and separated from your children." (Washington Post / New York Daily News)

5/ The Supreme Court ruled that non-union public-sector workers cannot be required to pay union fees despite being represented by the union in collective bargaining negotiations. A 1977 decision made the distinction that forcing nonmembers to pay for a union's political activities violated the First Amendment, but that it was constitutional to require nonmembers to help pay for the union's collective bargaining efforts. More than one-third of public employees are unionized, and public-sector unions stand to lose tens of millions of dollars as a result of the ruling. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / NBC News)

6/ A former Fox News executive is expected to be the next White House communications director. Bill Shine was forced out as Fox News co-president for how he handled sexual harassment claims at the network. Shine is good friends with Sean Hannity. (CNN / Washington Post / New York Times)

7/ Trump will meet Putin in the next few weeks, according to national security adviser John Bolton. The meeting is expected to take place in mid-July, when Trump will be in Europe for a previously scheduled NATO summit in Brussels on July 11-12. America's European allies are worried that Trump's meeting with Putin will undermine the NATO summit in the same way Trump clashed with allies at the G7 summit and then praised dictator Kim Jong-un. Asked why the meeting was taking place, Bolton replied: "I'd like to hear someone say this is a bad idea." (New York Times / CNN / Axios / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

8/ First-time candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary for New York's 14th Congressional District on Tuesday. Ocasio-Cortez's grassroots victory is being called one of the most shocking political upsets of the year, marking the first time in 14 years that a member of Crowley's own party attempted to unseat him. Crowley outspent Ocasio-Cortez by a 10-to-1 margin. (CNN / Vox)

  • Top takeaways from Tuesday's primaries. (Politico)

  • Former NAACP chief Ben Jealous won Maryland's Democratic primary for governor and will now take on Republican Gov. Larry Hogan in the November election. Jealous promised to deliver a progressive agenda that includes free college, legal marijuana and a $15-an-hour minimum wage. (Baltimore Sun)

poll/ 37% of voters support the GOP tax overhaul – down from 44% in April. 55% of voters say they have not noticed an increase in their paychecks as a result of the law. (Politico)

poll/ 74% of voters support Trump's decision to reverse his administration's own policy of separating children from their family when they're caught crossing the border illegally. 44% approve of the way Trump is handling immigration, compared to 48% who disapprove. (Politico)

poll/ 92% of Republicans believe the news media frequently and intentionally reports false or misleading stories. Overall, 65% of Americans think fake news is reported because "people have an agenda," 30% believe it's due to laziness or "poor fact-checking," and 3% think fake news is reported by accident. (Axios)


Notables.

  1. Sarah Huckabee Sanders will receive temporary Secret Service protection for an unspecified period of time. The protective detail comes days after Sanders was asked to leave the Red Hen restaurant in Lexington, VA, over her role in the Trump administration. (CNN)

  2. Conservatives unsuccessfully lobbied Scott Pruitt last year to remove a career staffer in hopes of derailing the 13-agency National Climate Assessment, which concluded that human activity is "extremely likely" to be driving climate change. Conservatives wanted Pruitt to "recall and replace" the staffer, who worked for the committee overseeing the congressionally mandated report. (Politico)

  3. The man charged with murder of a woman at last year's "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, now faces federal hate crime charges. The Department of Justice indicted James Alex Fields Jr. with a hate crime resulting in death, 29 charges for hate crimes involving an attempt to kill dozens of people, and one charge of "racially motivated violent interference" with a federally protected activity. (Associated Press / Vox / New York Times)

  4. Trump's voter fraud commission was ordered to hand over documents demanded by Democrats by July 18. The now-defunct Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was set up after Trump's inauguration in order to investigate his unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2016 election. It was dissolved after some states refused to hand over voter information. (The Hill)

  5. North Korea continues to make upgrades to its nuclear reactor "at a rapid pace," despite pledging to denuclearize. Satellite imagery shows infrastructure improvements to the site, including the cooling system for the plutonium production reactor. (The Guardian)

  6. Trump made 103 false statements last week, setting a new one-week record for his presidency. His previous record for false claims in a week was 60, which he set in early March. By some counts, that brings Trump's total to 1,829 false claims in the first 521 days of his presidency, an average of 3.5 per day. Other counts put the number of false or misleading statements above 3,000. (Toronto Star)

Day 523: Common ground.

1/ The Supreme Court upheld the third iteration of Trump's travel ban in a 5-4 ruling along ideological lines. The ban was issued last fall and prevented travelers from eight counties – including six majority-Muslim countries – from entering the U.S. Several states challenged the ban, claiming the order constituted a "Muslim ban," violated Trump's executive authority and the Constitution, and harmed U.S. citizens and educational institutions. Trump seemed surprised by the decision, tweeting "SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS TRUMP TRAVEL BAN. Wow!" (CNN / Washington Post / New York Times / CNBC)

2/ The Supreme Court ruled that "crisis pregnancy centers" don't have to provide women with information about the availability of abortions. California required that centers post notices about state-offered abortion, contraception and prenatal services available to low-income women, and to provide phone numbers for more information. The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates argued that the law violated their right to free speech by forcing them to convey messages at odds with their beliefs. The Supreme Court agreed in a 5-4 vote. "Crisis pregnancy centers" are essentially anti-abortion facilities that seek to prevent abortions that are often located next to or across the street from a traditional, full-service women's reproductive health center. (Washington Post / New York Times / NPR)

3/ Robert Mueller's team plans to produce conclusions and possible indictments related to the Trump-Russia investigation by fall. Mueller and investigators will then determine whether there is sufficient evidence to conclude that Trump attempted to obstruct justice. At least 13 people associated with Trump's presidential campaign had suspicious contacts with Russians. (Bloomberg)

  • Michael Cohen wants to prevent prosecutors from reviewing 12,000 files from the more than four million seized by authorities as part of their criminal investigation. Cohen claims the documents either are covered by attorney-client privilege or are part of legal work being done in preparation for litigation. (Reuters)

  • A federal judge refused to dismiss charges brought against Paul Manafort by Robert Mueller. Manafort's lawyers tried to discredit Mueller's probe by accusing Rod Rosenstein of violating Justice Department rules governing the appointment of special counsels. (Associated Press / Reuters / Politico)

4/ Seventeen states sued the Trump administration to force officials to reunite migrant families who have been separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Health and Human Services Secretary, however, said the Trump administration will not reunite any children with parents held in detention facilities unless current federal law changes or their parents drop their asylum claims and agree to be deported. (Reuters / NBC News / Los Angeles Times)

5/ Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Oath, Snap and Twitter met with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security to discuss the upcoming midterm elections in an effort to ensure there is not a repeat of Russian interference. The eight tech companies shared details about disinformation campaigns they were witnessing on their platforms. However, neither the FBI nor the DHS provided the tech companies with information about specific threats, prompting frustration from Silicon Valley that intelligence officials weren't preparing them for the midterm elections. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Reality Winner was sentenced to 63 months in prison for leaking to the media a classified report about Russian interference in the 2016 election. The report described hacks by the GRU against local election officials and a company that sold voter registration-related software. (New York Times)

poll/ 55% of Americans see U.S. democracy as "weak" and 68% believe it's "getting weaker." 50% say America is in "real danger of becoming a nondemocratic, authoritarian country." (Democracy Project)


Notables.

  1. Sean Spicer seeks "Common Ground" in his new talk show, where he plans to interview notable guests in an informal setting. The pilot shoots in July. "In this current environment," Spicer said, "I think it's important to have a platform where we can have civil, respectful, and informative discussions on the issues of the day." (New York Times)

  2. Trump threatened a "big tax" on Harley-Davidson, "like never before," for planning to relocate some of its production overseas in response to retaliatory tariffs it faces in the escalating trade dispute between the US and the European Union. Trump accused the company of using tariffs "as an excuse" and that moving its motorcycle production overseas "will be the beginning of the end." (ABC News / The Guardian)

  3. Federal debt is expected to exceed the size of the economy within a decade due to recent changes to tax and spending laws. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said "the prospect of large and growing debt poses substantial risks" that include an increasing likelihood of a fiscal crisis. (Politico / Los Angeles Times)

  4. The United Nations estimates 18.25 million Americans are living in "extreme poverty." The Trump administration called the estimate "exaggerated" and that only 250,000 Americans live in extreme poverty. (Washington Post)

  5. Fox News suspended Trump's former deputy campaign manager for telling a black Democratic strategist "You're out of your cotton-picking mind" during a segment on Fox & Friends Weekend. David Bossie has been suspended for two weeks. (Daily Beast)

  6. A Chicago bar banned Make America Great Again hats in an effort to maintain "a classy environment." Since the announcement, the bar has not had to enforce the rule. (NBC Chicago)

Day 522: Inhumane and unethical.

1/ Trump: "We must immediately" send immigrants who illegally enter the U.S. "back from where they came" with "no Judges or Court Cases." Trump likened immigrants and asylum seekers to intruders trying to "break into" the country, saying "we cannot allow all of these people to invade our Country. When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came." (Reuters / Washington Post / New York Times)

2/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that "just because you don't see a judge doesn't mean you don't receive due process," as she defended Trump's statement that people who illegally cross the border should be removed "with no Judges or Court Cases." Trump tweeted that "hiring manythousands [sic] of judges, and going through a long and complicated legal process, is not the way to go - will always be disfunctional [sic]. People must simply be stopped at the Border and told they cannot come into the U.S. illegally." (The Hill / ABC News)

3/ The commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection will stop referring immigrants with children to the Justice Department for prosecution until CBP and the DOJ can "agree on a policy that would allow parents to be prosecuted without separating them from their children." Sarah Huckabee Sanders said there was no change to the administration's "zero tolerance" policy and that "we're not changing the policy. We're simply out of resources." Jeff Sessions, meanwhile, told a group of school resources offers in Reno, Nevada that "we're going to continue to prosecute those adults who enter here illegally. We're going to do everything in our power, however, to avoid separating families. All federal agencies are working hard to accomplish this goal." (New York Times / CNN)

  • The Department of Homeland Security said it's reunited 522 children with parents. 2,053 separated children remain in the care of the Department of Health and Human Services. The government "knows the location of all children in its custody and is working to reunite them with their families," according to a DHS fact sheet. (Reuters / New York Times)

  • Jeff Sessions warned activists against "obstructing" ICE or Border Patrol, saying "free speech, assembly, and protest are and will be protected," but other crimes will not be tolerated." Activists online have threatened to dox ICE employees and publicly shame those who work for the agency. (Politico)

4/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders was kicked out of a Virginia restaurant because she publicly defends the Trump administration's "inhumane and unethical" policies. The Red Hen's owner, though "not a huge fan of confrontation," said, "This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals." The owner's actions "say far more about her than about me," Sanders tweeted. Trump criticized the restaurant on Twitter, saying that "the Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person." He then offered his personal advice to those dining out: "I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!" (The Guardian / New York Times / Washington Post / Associated Press)

5/ Trump ally and Blackwater founder Erik Prince provided Robert Mueller with "total access to his phone and computer." Mueller's team has been scrutinizing allegations that Prince tried to establish a backchannel between the Trump administration and the Kremlin during a January 2017 meeting in the Seychelles. In April 2017, it was reported that the United Arab Emirates had arranged the meeting between Prince and a Russian close to Putin. The two-day meeting took place about nine days before Trump's inauguration. Last week, Prince said he had "spoken voluntarily to Congress" and has "cooperated with the special counsel." (ABC News)

6/ Trump plans to block Chinese companies from investing in U.S. technology firms and on the technologies that can be sold to China. The Dow dropped more than 300 points in response to the aggressive restrictions favored by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and White House trade adviser Peter Navarro over the more conservative approach favored by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. On Sunday, Trump warned America's trade partners to remove trade barriers and tariffs or face the consequences. (Wall Street Journal / Politico / CNBC / MarketWatch)

  • Harley-Davidson will shift some production of motorcycles for European customers out of the U.S. to avoid E.U. retaliatory tariffs, saying it stood to lose as much as $100 million a year. (CNN Money)

poll/ 51% of Americans approve of Trump's handling of the economy. 54% believe the economy is in good or excellent condition. (CNBC)

  • The bond market's yield curve is warning of a possible recession. Wall Street is watching the gap between two-year and 10-year interest rates shrink. When long-term interest rates will fall below short-term rates, the yield curve has "inverted" and it's "a powerful signal of recessions." Curve inversions have “correctly signaled all nine recessions since 1955. (New York Times)

poll/ Trump's job approval ratings fell to 41%, down four percentage points from his personal best of a 45% approval from a week ago. (Gallup / The Hill)


Notables.

  1. Trump has sidelined James Mattis and is no longer listening to or including his defense secretary on several major foreign policy issues. Trump is relying on his own instincts or those of National Security Adviser John Bolton or Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over Mattis's advice. "They don't really see eye to eye," said a former senior White House official. (NBC News)

  2. Scott Pruitt considered hiring a friend of the lobbyist couple that owned the condominium he was renting in D.C. for $50 a night, according to previously undisclosed emails. The records also show communications about the lobbyist's client's interests, suggesting a closer relationship between Pruitt and the agency than previously acknowledged. (New York Times)

  3. Pruitt is facing another probe from the Office of Special Counsel into claims that he retaliated against a handful of EPA employees who pushed back against his spending and management. At least six current and former agency officials were fired or reassigned for questioning Pruitt's need for 24-hour security protection, as well as for questioning his spending practices. The OSC probe is the latest in the list of roughly two dozen other inquiries into Pruitt's actions as head of the EPA. (Politico)

  4. The Supreme Court granted an appeal for a florist who refused to sell flowers to a gay couple, sending the case back to the Washington state courts "for further consideration in light" of the June 4th decision in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a gay wedding. (NBC News)

  5. The Supreme Court mostly upheld congressional and state legislative districts in Texas that trial courts previously ruled discriminatory. The Supreme Court also declined to rule on North Carolina redistricting plan that a lower court had found overly favored Republicans (New York Times / Washington Post)

  6. The FBI turned over to House Republicans classified documents related to the Russia investigation, including the details about the FBI's justification to obtain a court-authorized warrant to spy on a former Trump campaign aide in October 2016. Lawmakers had threatened to hold Justice Department officials in contempt of Congress or impeach them if they didn't comply with the document request. (Politico / Associated Press)

  7. Robert Mueller wants George Papadopoulos to be sentenced in September on the false-statement felony charge he pleaded guilty to last fall. Papadopoulos could be the second defendant sentenced in the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. (Politico)

  8. Trump called Rep. Maxine Waters "an extraordinarily low IQ person" after the California Democrat called on her supporters to confront Trump officials in public spaces like restaurants to protest the administration's policies. (ABC News / Washington Times / CNN)

Day 519: Phony stories.

1/ Paul Ryan abruptly delayed a vote on a "compromise" immigration package until next week, as Republicans search for a way to get 218 votes to pass the measure. The bill would provide $25 billion for Trump's border wall, offer a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, and keep migrant families together in detention centers. It was the second time the bill has been delayed this week. (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times)

2/ Trump told Republicans to "stop wasting their time on Immigration" until after the midterms, predicting that more Republicans will be elected to Congress, and accusing Democrats of creating "phony stories of sadness and grief" on the border. Three days ago, Trump tweeted that "now is the best opportunity ever for Congress to change the ridiculous and obsolete laws on immigration." Trump's comments came shortly after Republican House leaders postponed a vote on a broad immigration bill. (NBC News / Washington Post)

3/ Trump autographed photos of Americans who were killed by undocumented immigrants. Trump autographed 11 photos, which were held up by family members during a White House event. (CNBC)

4/ About 500 of the more than 2,300 children who were separated from their parents have been reunited. The Department of Homeland Security said it has stopped referring members of detained families to the Department of Justice for prosecution. (ABC News)

5/ The Pentagon will house up to 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children at military bases "for occupancy as early as July through December 31, 2018." The Navy is also preparing plans to construct "temporary and austere" tent cities to house 25,000 migrants at abandoned airfields in Florida and Alabama. The proposed plans also call for camps near San Francisco and at Camp Pendleton along the Southern California coast that would hold as many as 47,000 people each. (New York Times / Washington Post / Time)

6/ The National Enquirer regularly sent Michael Cohen copies of stories related to Trump in advance of publication during the 2016 presidential campaign. The company denied the practice, but three sources say it continued even after Trump took office. If "it was a story specifically about Trump," one person said, "then it was sent over to Michael, and as long as there were no objections from him, the story could be published." Cohen's efforts to limit negative stories about Trump during the campaign has prosecutors looking into whether he broke campaign finance laws. (Washington Post)

  • Comedian Tom Arnold after meeting with Michael Cohen: "This dude has all the tapes – this dude has everything" and they are teaming up to "take down" Trump. Arnold met with Cohen as part of a show he is working on for Vice, in which he searches for incriminating videos of the president. (NBC News / The Hill)

  • Robert Mueller's team is worried about whether "widespread media attention" has biased potential jurors for Paul Manafort's upcoming criminal trial. (Politico)

poll/ 41% of Americans approve of the way Robert Mueller is handling the Russia investigation, down from 48% in March. 55% of Americans, however, believe Mueller's investigation is a serious matter that he should continue to investigate. 35% think the investigation is an effort to discredit Trump's presidency. (CNN)

poll/ 42% of Americans say Trump should be impeached and removed from office. The public support is on par with a March 1974 poll that found 43% of Americans supported impeaching Richard Nixon – five months before he resigned. Trump's approval rating stands at 39%. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was dropped by his speakers bureau following his "womp womp" comment about a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome who had been separated from her parents at the border. (CNN)

  2. The House passed a package of bills to address the opioid epidemic, which killed 42,000 people in 2016. (NBC News)

  3. The New York Police Department was sued for refusing to disclose information about Trump's handgun licenses after a Freedom of Information Law request. Trump Jr. and Eric Trump also have guns. (New York Post)

  4. The Supreme Court ruled that the government generally needs a warrant to obtain cellphone location data used to track the past location of criminal suspects. (Reuters / Washington Post / New York Times)

  5. The Treasury Department changed a Nevada county's zoning designation after lobbying by Nevada Republicans and a GOP donor. (Washington Post)

  6. Trump tweeted another tariff threat targeting automobile imports from Europe. Trump's threat to impose a 20% tariff on autos comes in response to Europe imposing tariffs on $3.2 billion in U.S. goods. (CNBC / Washington Post)

  7. The EPA claims Scott Pruitt has sent one email during his first 10 months in office, according to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Sierra Club. (Politico)

Day 518: Shared values.

1/ Melania Trump made an unannounced trip to the southern border to visit a detention center for immigrant children wearing a jacket that says "I really don't care, do u?" Melania was seen wearing the $39 jacket from Zara as she boarded her plane from Andrews Air Force Base where the temperature was 80 degrees, but was changed her outfit before she disembarked in McAllen, Texas. Her spokeswoman responded to questions about the jacket with: "It's a jacket." Donald Trump, meanwhile, tweeted that Melania's jacket "refers to the Fake News Media." (CNN / New York Times / Variety / Daily Mail)

2/ The Trump administration has not provided a plan to reunite at least 2,300 undocumented children with their families. The executive order Trump signed yesterday temporarily stopped his policy of separating children from their parents at the border, but does not address the uniting of families already separated. Instead, existing policies put the onus on parents to find their children in Department of Health and Human Services custody. In a letter to Trump, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said: "It seems that the administration lacks a plan, intention, and a sense of urgency to begin reuniting these children." (CNN / Politico / Los Angeles Times)

  • Ivanka Trump thanked her dad for ending his family separation policy while calling on Congress to "find a lasting solution that is consistent with our shared values." (HuffPost)

3/ Immigrants as young as 14 years old who are being housed at a detention center in Virginia say they were beaten while in handcuffs, stripped nude, and placed in cold solitary confinement cells for extended periods of time. The abuse claims are detailed in federal court filings, which include allegations from multiple detainees that guards stripped them of their clothes, strapped them to chairs, and placed bags over their heads. (Associated Press)

  • Hundreds of separated children have been sent to New York even after Trump signed an executive order ending his administration's policy of separating parents and children who have illegally crossed the border. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Cayuga Centers in East Harlem is currently caring for 239 children separated from their parents at the border. The center has cared for 350 children in total over the last two months. Cayuga Centers has $76 million in contracts with the federal government to care for immigrant children. (New York Times / New York Daily News)

4/ Border Patrol will stop sending parents illegally crossing into the U.S. with children to federal courthouses for prosecution because ICE lacks the detention capacity needed. Solo adults who cross illegally will continue to face misdemeanor charges under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy. (Washington Post)

  • The Defense Department sent 21 military lawyers to Arizona, Texas and New Mexico to help prosecute illegal immigration cases. Lawyers will be given basic training in immigration law and federal criminal procedure in order to help the current federal prosecutors. (NBC News)

  • The Defense Department will house up to 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children on military bases starting "as early as July through December 31, 2018." (Washington Post)

5/ Trump questioned the "purpose" of two House immigration bills that he previously said he supported "1,000 percent." Trump tweeted that both bills don't matter, because they will likely fail in the Senate where Republicans hold 51 seats, but need 60 votes. Hours later, the House voted down its conservative immigration bill and then postponed a vote on a Republican compromise measure. Trump repeated his call to eliminate the filibuster, telling Republicans that "it is killing you!" and that Senate Democrats "are only looking to obstruct," because they think it "is good for them" in the midterm elections. (CNBC / NBC News / Politico)

  • After Trump ended his administration's practice of separating immigrant children from their parents, he says that "we're sending them the hell back" and that "the border is going to be just as tough as it has been." (ABC News)

6/ Trump accused Democratic leaders via Twitter of being unwilling to negotiate a "real deal" on immigration. Last year, Trump appeared to have reached a deal with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer that would have addressed the "Dreamers'" situation. The White House later backed off, saying they wanted to take a hard-line position on immigration. Trump also tweeted that "we should be changing our laws, building the Wall, hire Border Agents and Ice and not let people come into our country." (Washington Post / New York Times)

poll/ 57% of Texas voters oppose the practice of separating children from their parents at the border. 28% support the practice. (Texas Tribune)

poll/ More Democrats and independents now say immigration is the most important issue facing the country. 18% of Democrats and 11% of independents say immigration is their highest priority, up 10 and 4 percentage points since last week, respectively. (Axios)


Notables.

  1. Trump will meet with Putin next month in Vienna, either before the NATO summit in Brussels on July 11 or after Trump's visit to the U.K. on July 13. Both the White House and the Kremlin declined to comment, but Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, will visit Moscow next week. (Bloomberg / New York Times)

  2. A federal judge denied Paul Manafort's request to suppress evidence seized from a storage unit by Robert Mueller's investigators. Manafort argued that the evidence was improperly seized after an FBI agent convinced one of Manafort's employees to open the storage unit, instead of asking Manafort for permission or seeking a warrant. Judge Amy Berman Jackson rejected that argument, saying, "Law enforcement agents do not need a warrant to enter a location if they have voluntary consent." (Reuters)

  3. The Trump Organization and Kushner Companies dropped plans for a joint oceanfront hotel at the Jersey Shore, terminating an arrangement where the Trumps would manage a hotel the Kushners were building. (New York Times)

  4. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he was unaware of any steps taken by North Korea towards denuclearization since Trump's summit with Kim Jong Un, who pledged to dismantle one of his missile installations. (Reuters / The Guardian)

  5. The "Unite the Right" organizer received initial approval to hold a "white civil rights" rally on the National Mall on August 12. The National Park Service approved Jason Kessler's request but has not issued a permit, yet. The "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville last year led to violence as white nationalist marchers clashed with counter-protesters. (Washington Post)

  6. Scott Pruitt spent more than $4.6 million in taxpayer money on security, including $2,749.62 on "tactical pants" and "tactical polos." The amount represents a $1.1 million increase in Pruitt's total security costs disclosures from last month. Pruitt's security expenditures also include $80,000 on radios, $700 on shoulder holsters for the radios, a kit to break down doors, and more. (The Intercept)

  7. The White House plans to merge the Education and Labor Departments. The new, combined agency will be announced as part of a broader government reorganization plan. Congress would likely have to approve the merger, but it remains unclear whether lawmakers would be in favor of such a major reorganization of the government so close to the midterm elections. (Politico / Reuters / Wall Street Journal)

  8. The Supreme Court rules that states can charge people to pay sales tax when they make online purchases, overruling a pair of decades-old decisions that if a business was shipping to a state where the business didn't have a physical presence, the business didn't have to collect sales tax for the state. (Associated Press)

Day 517: A public relations nightmare.

1/ Trump signed an executive order to reverse his administration's policy of separating families at the border. Trump said that while the order "will solve that problem" of children being separated from their parents, it wouldn't end his administration's "zero tolerance" policy of prosecuting everyone caught attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. The plan potentially violates a 1997 consent decree that prohibits the federal government from keeping children in immigration detention for more than 20 days. (New York Times / Politico / Washington Post / NBC News)

2/ Separating migrant children from their parents costs the Trump administration more than keeping them with their parents. The "tent cities" to house children cost $775 per person per night, compared with $256 per person per night to hold the children in a permanent housing facility. To house children with their family costs $298 per person per night. The increased cost is due to additional security, air conditioning, medical workers, and other government contractors to staff the tent cities. (NBC News)

  • Babies and young children separated from their families at the border are being sent to "tender age" shelters in South Texas. Doctors and lawyers who visited the shelters described the facilities as clean and safe, but that the kids were hysterical, crying and acting out. (Associated Press)

  • Corey Lewandowski replied "womp womp" to mention of a 10-year-old girl with Down syndrome being separated from her parents by the Trump administration's immigration policy. Trump's former campaign manager later clarified his remark, saying he simply "mocked a liberal who attempted to politicize children as opposed to discussing the real issue which is fixing a broken immigration system." (Politico)

  • Kirstjen Nielsen was heckled by protesters who chanted "Shame!" and "End family separation!" while she was having dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Washington, D.C. Diners at the restaurant applauded the protesters. The Homeland Security secretary paid her check and was escorted out of the restaurant by Secret Service agents after 15 minutes of chanting. (Washington Post / Politico)

3/ Michael Cohen resigned from his post as the deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee's Finance Committee. Cohen cited the ongoing special counsel investigation as one reason for his departure. (ABC News / Politico)

4/ Federal prosecutors subpoenaed the publisher of the National Enquirer as part of their Michael Cohen investigation. Investigators requested information regarding American Media Inc.'s August 2016 payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal for the rights to her story alleging an affair with Trump. Prosecutors want to know if Cohen coordinated with American Media to pay McDougal and whether the payment violated campaign finance laws. (Wall Street Journal)

5/ Michael Bloomberg will spend $80 million to support Democratic congressional candidates in the 2018 midterms in order to flip the House of Representatives. (New York Times)

poll/ 51% of Americans say they are "more enthusiastic about voting than usual" in the midterm elections. In particular, 68% of voters are focused on which party controls Congress. 60% of voters say they consider their midterm vote either a vote either for Trump (26%) or against him (34%). (Pew Research Center)


Notables.

  1. The Senate rejected a White House plan to cut $15 billion in previously approved spending from the budget. The House had approved the rescissions package earlier this month, but the measure failed after two Republicans joined all Democrats in voting no. (Washington Post / CNN)

  2. A lobbyist for the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska visited Julian Assange nine times at the Ecuadorian embassy in London last year. Adam Waldman had more meetings with Assange in 2017 than almost anyone else. Deripaska is currently subject to U.S. sanctions. (The Guardian)

  3. The Trump administration released its report on toxic water contamination, months after White House officials said they feared the findings would spark a "public relations nightmare." (Politico)

  4. Trump rescinded Obama's rules meant to protect the Great Lakes and the oceans bordering the U.S. The order encourages more drilling and other industrial uses of the oceans and Great Lakes. (The Hill)

Day 516: Infestation.

1/ Michael Cohen has signaled that he is "willing to give" investigators information on Trump in order to alleviate pressure on himself and his family. Cohen has hired New York lawyer Guy Petrillo to represent him in the federal investigation into his business dealings and wants Trump to pay his legal fees. (CNN / Wall Street Journal)

2/ Trump accused Democrats of wanting "illegal immigrants … to pour into and infest our country." Trump also rejected a proposal by Senator Ted Cruz to end family separations, calling the plan to hire thousands of new immigration judges "crazy" and suggesting the judges could be corrupt. Trump argued that undocumented immigrants could "game the system" by taking counsel from immigration lawyers and reading statements prepared for them. (CNN / BuzzFeed News / New York Times / Washington Post)

3/ The Trump administration has lost track of nearly 6,000 unaccompanied migrant children – thousands more than the Department of Health and Human Services had previously acknowledged. HHS placed more than 42,497 unaccompanied children with sponsors in fiscal year 2017. Officials tasked with reaching out to sponsors and children to check on their well-being said 14% of calls were not returned – meaning the Trump administration has lost track of 5,949 children. (McClatchy DC)

4/ More than 600 members of Jeff Sessions' church filed a formal complaint accusing him of "child abuse," "immorality," and "racial discrimination" for his "zero-tolerance" immigration policy that has led to children getting separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. (ABC News)

  • A bipartisan group of former U.S. attorneys called on Jeff Sessions to end the policy of separating families at the border. "Like a majority of Americans," they wrote, "we are appalled that your Zero Tolerance policy has resulted in the unnecessary trauma and suffering of innocent children." (Medium)

5/ Trump threatened to shut down the government in September if Congress doesn't provide $25 billion for his border wall. Senators are currently willing to send Trump $1.6 billion this fall. If Trump follows through with his threat, a government shutdown would happen weeks before the midterm elections. (Politico)

  • Trump Jr. has withdrawn from a fundraiser for George P. Bush because of criticism from the Bush family over immigration policy. Yesterday, Jeb Bush tweeted: "Children shouldn't be used as a negotiating tool. @realDonaldTrump should end this heartless policy and Congress should get an immigration deal done that provides for asylum reform, border security and a path to citizenship for Dreamers." (CNN)

6/ The U.S. backed out of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called the council "a cesspool of political bias" that is a "hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights" and "is not worthy of its name." The withdrawal comes a day after the U.N.'s human rights chief called Trump's policy of separating children from parents crossing the southern border illegally "unconscionable." (Bloomberg / Politico / Reuters / ABC News / Washington Post / CNN)

7/ Trump threatened China with another $200 billion in tariffs if Beijing refuses to narrow the trade deficit, which he says has put the U.S. "at a permanent and unfair disadvantage." China's Commerce Ministry accused Trump of initiating a trade war. In total, the Trump administration has threatened to impose tariffs on as much as $450 billion worth of goods. The U.S. imported $505 billion in goods from China last year. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNBC)

  • The Dow fell nearly 300 points after Trump asked for $200 billion worth of additional tariffs on Chinese goods. The index erased all of its gains for the year and was on pace to post a six-day losing streak, its longest since March 2017. (CNBC)

Notables.

  1. The Trump administration rolled back consumer protections mandated by the Affordable Care Act that health plans provide certain "essential health benefits" like mental health care, emergency services, maternity and newborn care and prescription drugs. The new rule will make it easier for small businesses to set up health insurance plans that are cheaper, but offer fewer benefits. (New York Times)

  2. Former CIA engineer Joshua Schulte was indicted on charges that he was responsible for providing classified documents to Wikileaks. Schulte faces a grand jury indictment for handing over a massive trove of U.S. government hacking tools known as "Vault 7" to Wikileaks, the details of which were published by the organization in March 2017. Schulte was already facing child pornography charges in New York. (Politico)

  3. A foundation established by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and run by his wife is spearheading a real-estate deal backed by the chairman of the oil giant Halliburton, which stands to benefit directly from any decision by the Interior Department to open public lands for oil exploration. Zinke and his wife also own the property next door to the proposed resort. (Politico)

  4. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross shorted stock in a Kremlin-linked shipping firm after learning that journalists were investigating his offshore investments in Navigator Holdings. (Forbes / New York Times)

  5. The Trump administration intentionally nominated a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director who might not be confirmed by the Senate, which would allow Mick Mulvaney to stay at the bureau for as long as two more years. (Wall Street Journal)

  6. The Senate passed a defense budget bill to reinstate penalties against Chinese telecom giant ZTE. The vote is a rebuke of Trump's attempt to make a deal with ZTE. (ABC News)

  7. Erik Prince has "spoken voluntarily to Congress" and has "cooperated with the special counsel" as part of the ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign's ties to Russia during the 2016 election. Prince reportedly met with Trump Jr., George Nader, and Israeli social media specialist Joel Zamel at a secret meeting in the Seychelles during the campaign. He also met with Russian sovereign wealth fund manager Kirill Dmitriev during the transition period to set up a backchannel between the Trump administration and Russia. (Daily Beast)

  8. Rudy Giuliani said he was just posturing when he called on Trump to suspend Robert Mueller's investigation. "That's what I'm supposed to do," Giuliani said. "What am I supposed to say? (Politico)

  9. Trump's 2020 reelection campaign manager called on Trump to fire Jeff Sessions and end Robert Mueller's investigation. "Time to fire Sessions," Brad Parscale said in his tweet. "End the Mueller investigation You can't obstruct something that was phony against you The IG report gives @realDonaldTrump the truth to end it all." (Politico / Washington Post)

  10. John Kelly has given up hope of trying to control Trump and has resigned himself to the possibility of Trump being impeached. The two are reportedly "barely tolerating one another." (Politico / Vox)

Day 515: Not on my watch.

1/ Hundreds of children separated from their parents are living inside cages in an old warehouse in south Texas while they wait to be turned over to shelters funded by the Department of Health and Human Services. The cages were described as the the type you'd see at a batting cage or a dog kennel. More than 1,100 people are being held inside the facility, which is divided into separate wings for unaccompanied children, solo adults, and mothers and fathers with children. (Associated Press / NBC News)

  • Ann Coulter called the children crying at the border after being separated from parents "child actors." Trump Jr., meanwhile, liked a Breitbart tweet that quoted Coulter, who said the separated children had been "coached" by liberals and "given scripts to read." (The Hill / Newsweek)

  • Audio from inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility captures a Border Patrol agent joking above crying children: "Well, we have an orchestra here. What's missing is a conductor." (ProPublica)

2/ Lawmakers from both parties demanded that Trump stop his policy of separating children from their parents at the border. Republican lawmakers, Laura Bush, a conservative newspaper, and a former Trump adviser joined with Democrats in condemning the policy that has removed nearly 2,000 children from their parents over the last six weeks. Melania Trump, meanwhile, placed the blame on "both sides," saying that she "hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together." (New York Times)

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he will not deploy National Guard troops from his state to the U.S.-Mexico border, citing the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy as justification for the move. (The Hill)

  • Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker canceled the deployment of the state's National Guard troops to the border, "because the federal government's current actions are resulting in the inhumane treatment of children." (WGBH)

  • Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed an executive order barring state resources from being used for the purpose of separating children from their families for violating federal immigration law. (ABC News)

  • All four living former first ladies condemn Trump's border policy. (NBC News)

  • Jeb Bush called on Trump to end the "heartless policy" of separating parents and children who cross the U.S. border illegally, saying "children shouldn't be used as a negotiating tool." (Politico)

3/ The White House continued to falsely blame Democrats for the Trump administration's policy of separating migrant children from their families. The separations stem from Jeff Sessions' "zero-tolerance" policy announced last month. Via tweet, Trump blamed Democrats for being "weak and ineffective with Border Security and Crime" while urging them to agree to immigration legislation and to fund his border wall. Trump added that "the United States will not be a migrant camp… not on my watch." (Washington Post / New York Times / NBC News)

  • Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended the Trump administration's immigration policy, saying "we will not apologize for the job we do or for the job law enforcement does for doing the job that the American people expect us to do." Nielsen added: "Illegal actions have and must have consequences. No more free passes, no more get out of jail free cards." (CNN)

4/ The United Nations' top human rights official called for the U.S. to immediately stop separating children from their families at the border. Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein condemned the practice as "government-sanctioned child abuse," saying "the thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable." Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the U.N., called al-Hussein's statement hypocritical, saying that "neither the United Nations nor anyone else will dictate how the United States upholds its borders." (New York Times / The Hill)

5/ Trump warned that the U.S. must avoid Europe's immigration problems, falsely claiming that "crime in Germany is way up." The opposite, however, is true. Germany's crime rate has fallen to its lowest level since 1992. (New York Times / Vox)

6/ The Trump administration thought its zero-tolerance policy would deter immigrants from trying to enter the country illegally. Instead, internal Department of Homeland Security documents show a 5% uptick in the number of people caught crossing the border illegally since April, when Jeff Sessions' policy was announced. (CNN)

7/ White House policy adviser Stephen Miller said the Trump administration is planning additional immigration crackdowns before the midterm elections. Miller and officials from the Justice Department, Department of Labor, Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of Management and Budget have been meeting for months to find ways to use executive authority and rule changes to strengthen hard-line U.S. immigration policies. (Politico)

8/ Peter Strzok said he would be willing to testify without immunity and without invoking the 5th Amendment before the House Judiciary Committee and any other congressional committee. Strzok was removed from Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election for sending anti-Trump texts. Strzok's lawyer said: "He thinks that his position, character and actions have all been misrepresented and caricatured, and he wants an opportunity to remedy that." Trump, meanwhile, tweeted that Strzok was a "sick loser." (Washington Post / CNN)

9/ Roger Stone met during the 2016 campaign with a Russian national who wanted Trump to pay $2 million for the political dirt on Hillary Clinton. Stone failed to disclose the May 2016 meeting with Henry Greenberg, who also goes by the name Henry Oknyansky, to congressional investigators. The meeting was set up by Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo. Stone rejected the offer, and soon after Caputo texted Stone asking if anything interesting came of the meeting. Stone replied: "waste of time." Both Stone and Caputo did not disclose the Greenberg meeting during testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Caputo said he failed to disclose the encounter because he had "simply forgotten" about the meeting. Mueller is now investigating the previously undisclosed meeting. (Washington Post / NBC News)

  • Roger Stone is "not concerned" that he failed to tell Congress about his 2016 meeting with a Russian national offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. "I just didn't remember. 2016 was a pretty busy year," Stone said. "I don't think a failure of memory constitutes a perjury." (ABC News)

poll/ 56% of Americans oppose the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy of separating undocumented children from their parents. 27% of respondents, meanwhile, said they agreed with the policy. (Daily Beast)

poll/ 54% of Americans believe it's unlikely that Trump's sit-down with North Korea's Kim Jong Un will lead Pyongyang to give up its nuclear arms. 42%, however, believe the meeting lessened the chance of war. (ABC News)

poll/ 57% of Americans approve of how Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau is handling Trump's personal attack and trade dispute. 37% approve of how Trump is handling the situation. (Globalnews.ca)

poll/ 45% of Americans approve of Trump's job performance, his highest approval rating since shortly after he took office. 50% disapprove. (Gallup / The Hill)


Notables.

  1. The Supreme Court declined to decide two challenges to partisan gerrymandering, allowing controversial district maps to stand and be used in the midterm elections. The justices sidestepped the question of whether the the maps are legal. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)

  2. The Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to overturn a nationwide injunction that blocks the government from punishing sanctuary cities for declining to help the federal government enforce immigration laws. (NBC News)

  3. FBI Director Christopher Wray stands by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, saying "I do not believe Special Counsel Mueller is on a witch hunt." (Bloomberg)

  4. Trump signed a space policy directive making it easier for commercial companies to operate in space. The directive also asks NASA to establish new guidelines to avoid the creation of new space debris. (Politico)

  5. Trump directed the Department of Defense and the Pentagon to establish a Space Force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces, saying: "We are going to have the Air Force and we're going to have the Space Force, separate but equal. It is going to be something, so important." (The Verge / CNBC)

  6. The Trump Tower in Chicago has never followed EPA rules for documenting how its use of the Chicago River for cooling water impacts fish. The Trump International Hotel and Tower is one of the largest users of Chicago River water for its cooling systems and is the only one that has failed to comply with the fish-protecting regulations. (Chicago Tribune)

  7. Steve Bannon said Trump has never lied to the American people, because he "speaks in a particular vernacular that connects to people in this country." In reality, Trump has made more than 3,000 false or misleading claims since taking office. (ABC News / PolitiFact)

Day 512: Fickle.

1/ A federal judge revoked Paul Manafort's bail and sent him to jail while he awaits trial after Robert Mueller accused Trump's former campaign chief of witness tampering. "I cannot turn a blind eye to this," Judge Amy Berman Jackson said. Manafort had posted a $10 million bond to remain at home while awaiting his September trial on charges that include money laundering and false statements. He will now remain in pretrial detention until his trial. (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post)

2/ Rudy Giuliani on Mueller's investigation: "When the whole thing is over, things might get cleaned up with some presidential pardons." The comment came shortly after Manafort was sent to jail and his bail revoked following an attempt to tamper with two witnesses in the Russia investigation. Giuliani claimed he had seen no evidence to warrant Manafort being sent to jail. (New York Daily News / Axios)

3/ Giuliani called on Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein to "redeem themselves" by suspending the Robert Mueller investigation today. Giuliani also called for Peter Strzok to be put in jail over a series of text messages he exchanged with fellow FBI agent Lisa Page during the 2016 election campaign. "Mueller should be suspended and honest people should be brought in, impartial people to investigate these people like Strzok," Giuliani said. "Strzok should be in jail by the end of next week." (Politico)

4/ A federal judge refused to grant Michael Cohen a restraining order against Michael Avenatti to stop him from speaking to the media about the Stormy Daniels case. Cohen argued that Avenatti's "publicity tour" of more that 100 television interviews since March is unethical, and harms Cohen's ability to have a fair trial by turning the case into a "media circus." U.S. District Judge James Otero said Cohen had not shown he would suffer "immediate, irreparable injury." (Politico / CNN / Reuters)

5/ Federal prosecutors have pieced together 16 pages of shredded documents seized from Michael Cohen and recovered 731 pages of encrypted text messages during the FBI's April raids of his home, office, and hotel room. Cohen has argued that most of the material is subject to attorney-client privilege. (New York Daily News / Business Insider / BuzzFeed News)

  • Michael Cohen has told family and friends that he is willing to cooperate with federal investigators. The treatment from Trump and Rudy Giuliani has left Cohen feeling isolated, angry, and more open to cooperating. Cohen has not met with prosecutors to discuss any potential deal and is currently looking for a new legal team. (CNN)

  • Federal prosecutors are investigating whether Cohen violated federal disclosure laws as part of his consulting deals, including whether he lobbied for domestic or foreign clients without properly registering. (Wall Street Journal)

6/ Trump "certainly wouldn't sign" the Republican immigration proposal that would protect young undocumented migrants and end the policy of separating families at the southern border. Paul Ryan plans to bring up two immigration measures for a vote next week: a hard-line conservative bill, which will likely fail, and "a very good compromise" bill. Trump said he "wouldn't sign the more moderate one." The White House, meanwhile, tried to walk back the comments, saying Trump "misunderstood the question." (Reuters / New York Times / The Guardian / Washington Post / The Hill)

7/ Homeland Security has separated at least 2,000 children from parents at the border since the Justice Department implemented its "zero tolerance" policy. Under its new policy, the Justice Department charges every adult caught crossing the border illegally with federal crimes and separates them from their children, as opposed to referring those with children to immigration courts. (Associated Press / CNN)

8/ The Trump administration announced a 25% tariff on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports as Trump vowed to respond to what he called China's unfair trade practices. China retaliated with $50 billion worth of tariffs with "equal scale, equal intensity" on U.S. imports, calling Trump "fickle" and "provoking a trade war." The Dow fell 250 points in response to rising trade tensions. (Associated Press / Bloomberg / CNBC)

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel hinted of an escalation in the trade dispute between the U.S. and the European Union. Merkel warned that Europe's strategic interests are tied to the future of the car industry shortly after Trump cited national security concerns as a reason to place tariffs on German cars. "We should think about the strategic significance of the auto industry for the European Union," Merkel said, "so we can prepare an exchange with the U.S." (Reuters)

9/ Trump held an interview with "Fox and Friends" on the White House lawn after musing on Twitter that "maybe I'll have to make an unannounced trip down to see them" and live-tweeting segments from the show. Trump called James Comey a criminal, said the FBI is a "den of thieves," blamed Democrats for the separation of families at the US border, said it's "great to give" Kim Jong-un credibility, and again blamed Obama for Russia's annexation of Crimea. (New York Times / CNN / Vox / The Hill)

  • Trump called a CBS News reporter "so obnoxious" and told her to be "quiet at least five times." CBS correspondent Weijia Jiang tried to ask Trump "why he declared the nuclear threat from North Korea was already 'over.'" (The Hill)

  • Trump said he wants "my people" to "sit up at attention" like the North Koreans do when Kim Jong Un speaks. When asked by reporters to clarify what he meant by "my people," he replied: "You don't understand sarcasm." (The Hill / CNN)

Notables.

  1. EPA senior staffers said they frequently felt pressured by Scott Pruitt to help in personal matters and obtain special favors for his family. The officials said Pruitt "had a clear sense of entitlement." (New York Times)

  2. Trump took credit for winning the bid to host the 2026 World Cup with Canada and Mexico. "Thank you for all of the compliments on getting the World Cup to come to the U.S.A., Mexico and Canada," Trump tweeted. "I worked hard on this, along with a Great Team of talented people." (Politico)

  3. The Trump administration is expected to withdraw from the UN Human Rights Council due to "chronic anti-Israel bias." (Reuters)

  4. A U.S. District Court judge ruled that a Russian company is not entitled to review grand jury materials. Concord Management and Consulting LLC has been charged with meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. (Reuters)

  5. Trump's 2020 re-election is working with a company run by former Cambridge Analytica officials. At least four former Cambridge Analytica employees are affiliated with Data Propria, which specializes in voter and consumer targeting similar to Cambridge Analytica. (Associated Press)

Day 511: Persistent illegal conduct.

1/ The New York State attorney general sued Trump and his three eldest children for "persistent illegal conduct" at the Donald J. Trump Foundation. The lawsuit alleges that Trump repeatedly misused the nonprofit, violating campaign finance laws, engaging in self-dealing to decorate one of his golf clubs, and illegally coordinating with his presidential campaign to stage a multimillion-dollar giveaway during a 2016 campaign event. The state asked to dissolve the foundation and distribute its remaining $1 million in assets to other charities, and force Trump to pay at least $2.8 million in restitution and penalties. Trump attacked the lawsuit on Twitter, calling it an attempt by the "sleazy New York Democrats" to damage him. He vowed not to settle the case. (New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ The Inspector General Report: James Comey "deviated" from FBI and Justice Department procedures while investigating Hillary Clinton and her use of a private email server. The report concluded that Comey's decisions were not "the result of political bias," but that his "decisions negatively impacted the perception of the FBI and the department as fair administrators of justice." Trump has argued that FBI agents tried to rig the Clinton investigation to help her win the presidency. The report also concludes that the text messages exchanged by FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page did not improperly affect the investigation, but "the conduct by these employees cast a cloud over the entire FBI investigation." (Bloomberg / New York Times)

  • Comey Responds: I was wrong, but disagree with some of the conclusions. (New York Times)

  • Comey used a personal Gmail account to conduct official FBI business while serving as the agency's director, which was "inconsistent" with a policy by the Justice Department. (CNBC)

3/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders and deputy press secretary Raj Shah are planning to leave the White House,according to a CBS News report. Sanders plans to leave by the end of the year, while Shah hasn't settled on an exact date. Sanders denied the report, tweeting: "Does @CBSNews know something I don't about my plans and my future? I was at my daughter's year-end Kindergarten event and they ran a story about my 'plans to leave the WH' without even talking to me. I love my job and am honored to work for @POTUS." (CBS News)

  • The White House sent out a flyer asking if conservatives are "interested in a job at the White House." The email, advertising a job fair, promises "representatives from across the Trump administration will be there to meet job seekers of every experience level." (Politico)

  • Marc Short, the White House's top liaison to Capitol Hill, will leave his job this summer citing "diminishing returns" of pushing Trump's agenda. (Wall Street Journal)

  • 👋 Who The F*ck Has Left The Trump Administration

4/ Jeff Sessions cited the Bible in his defense of the Trump administration's policy of separating undocumented immigrant children from their families. Sessions invoked the Apostle Paul for his "clear and wise command" to say people should "obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes." Sarah Huckabee Sanders also defended separating parents from their children, saying it's "very biblical to enforce the law." She then proceeded to blame on Democrats for refusing to "close the immigration loophole." (NBC News / Talking Points Memo / Axios / CNBC)

5/ White House Counsel Don McGahn recused his entire staff from Robert Mueller's investigation last summer because many staffers "had been significant participants" in the firings of Michael Flynn and James Comey. Former White House lawyer Ty Cobb said McGahn's recusal was a key reason why he was hired last summer to manage Trump's response to the Russia investigation. (Politico)

  • Trump Jr. told the hosts of "Fox and Friends" that "it would be stupid" of Trump to agree to an interview with Robert Mueller. "I don't think any proper lawyer would say, 'Hey, you should go do it,' because it's not about collusion anymore," Trump Jr. said. "It's about, 'Can we get him to say something that may be interpreted as somewhat off or inaccurate, and after 50,000 questions, maybe you make a mistake, and that's how we get you, and that's ridiculous." (Politico)

6/ The White House launched a campaign to discredit Michael Cohen as speculation that he is preparing to flip on Trump continues to mount. The plan involves discrediting Cohen by arguing that whatever compromising information he shares with prosecutors about Trump is a lie meant to please Mueller in order to save his own skin. The plan includes everything from Trump's tweets, to comments from Alan Dershowitz, to front-page stories in the National Enquirer, all apparently intended to cast doubt on Cohen's credibility and motives. (Washington Post)

  • Michael Cohen believes Trump and his allies are turning against him and that he feels increasingly isolated. (CBS News)

Notables.

  1. John Kelly revoked Rudy Giuliani's son's West Wing access after Trump ordered Andrew Giuliani be promoted to special assistant to the president. (Axios)

  2. The New York Court Appeals denied Trump's motion to dismiss Summer Zervos' defamation lawsuit against him. This is the third time Trump has tried and failed to get the case tossed or delayed. (ABC News / Vox)

  3. The Justice Department will not stop the AT&T-Time Warner merger, clearing the way for the deal to be completed as soon as Friday. (CNBC / Reuters)

  4. Trump told G7 leaders that Crimea is Russian because everyone who lives there speaks Russian. In 2014, Russia invaded and annexed Crimea from Ukraine, leading to international condemnation and sanctions, and directly leading to Russia being kicked out of the then-G8. (BuzzFeed News)

  5. Mike Pompeo said sanctions on North Korea will remain until the country has completely denuclearized. The statement contradicts North Korean state media reports that Kim and Trump agreed to a plan of "step-by-step and simultaneous action" to achieve peace and denuclearization on the Korean peninsula. (Reuters)

  6. Representative Darrell Issa is a candidate to run the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The California Republican would replace Mick Mulvaney, the agency's interim leader. (Bloomberg)

  7. The Supreme Court struck down Minnesota's law barring voters from wearing political badges, buttons and other insignia inside a polling place. The court's 7-2 decision said Minnesota's interpretation of the word "political" was too broad. (NPR)

  8. A construction company owned by the Chinese government was hired to work on the Trump golf club development in Dubai. China State Construction Engineering Corp. received a $19.6 million contract from DAMAC Properties, a Trump Organization partner. (McClatchy DC)

Day 510: Sleep well tonight.

1/ Michael Cohen is expected to cooperate with federal prosecutors in the criminal investigation into his business dealings as the law firm handling his case is not expected to represent him moving forward. No replacement counsel has been named at this time. Cohen has until Friday to complete a review of over 3.7 million documents seized in the April 9 raids of his New York properties and law office. (ABC News / Wall Street Journal / CNBC)

2/ A State Department appointee has been compiling a list of career diplomats who are loyal to Trump. Mari Stull, better known as the wine blogger "Vino Vixen," has been reviewing social media posts from State Department staffers and UN workers for signs of deviating political views. Stull was appointed two months ago by the Trump administration. (Foreign Policy)

3/ Trump Twitter declared there is "no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea" a day after meeting with Kim Jong Un. Trump said that "everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office," and claimed his meeting with Kim was an "interesting and very positive experience." He urged Americans to "sleep well tonight!" (CNN / Washington Post)

4/ Rod Rosenstein plans to call on the House general counsel to investigate the conduct of House Intelligence Committee staff. Committee staffers claimed Rosenstein threatened to "subpoena" emails, phone records and other documents during a tense meeting earlier this year, which one aide described as a "personal attack." The Justice Department disputes the account, saying Rosenstein "was making the point – after being threatened with contempt" by House Republicans that "he would have the right to defend himself, including requesting production of relevant emails and text messages and calling them as witnesses to demonstrate that their allegations are false." (CNN)

5/ Former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe is suing the Justice Department and the FBI. His lawyers claim McCabe has been denied access to materials related to his firing that he needs to defend himself in connection with allegations of misconduct. McCabe was fired from the FBI in March, less than two days shy of his retirement date. (Politico / CNN)

6/ Robert Mueller revealed new evidence that Paul Manafort directed an unregistered lobbying campaign in the U.S. on behalf of Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. Mueller's team released two memos from 2013 that detail Manafort's involvement in influencing debate in Congress and the press about the imprisonment of Yanukovych's main political rival, Yulia Tymoshenko. (Politico)

  • Mueller filed a request for 150 blank subpoenas in the Eastern District of Virginia, where Paul Manafort lives. The two-page filing says each subpoena recipient must appear in the Alexandria, Va., courthouse on July 25 to testify in the case. The 150 blank subpoenas represent 75 total possible witnesses. (Washington Examiner)

7/ Mueller's office claimed that Russian intelligence agencies are trying to meddle in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. Prosecutors are trying to block foreign intelligence agencies and defendants from seeing evidence in the investigation of interference in the 2016 election, lest this "result in the release of information that would assist foreign intelligence services" and others in future operations against the U.S. Last February, Mueller obtained a grand jury indictment of three Russian companies and 13 Russian individuals on charges they sought to influence the 2016 presidential race. The only defendant in that case is the Russian firm Concord Management and Consulting, which is controlled by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian businessman known as Putin's chef. The pretrial process entitles a defendant the material assembled during the investigation. (Politico)

poll/ 36% of voters overall have an unfavorable view of Robert Mueller's probe, while 32% of voters hold a favorable view, and 32% don't have an opinion. Mueller's unfavorable numbers have hit highs among Republicans (53%), Democrats (24%), and independents (33%) from this time last year. (Politico)

poll/ 43% of Ohio voters approve of the job Trump is doing while 54% disapprove. In the 2016 election, 51% of Ohio voters voted for Trump, while 43% voted for Clinton. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. The Federal Reserve will raise interest rates today to 2% – the highest level since the 2008 financial crisis. The rate increase will be the second one this year, and the seventh since the end of the Great Recession. (New York Times)

  2. ZTE lost nearly $3 billion in market value after lawmakers restored penalties on the telecom and smartphone maker for violating American sanctions on Iran and North Korea. Last week, the Trump administration made a deal to save the firm. (New York Times)

  3. Scott Pruitt had an EPA aide contact Republican donors in order to get his wife a job. Marlyn Pruitt eventually worked "temporarily as an independent contractor" for the Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative political group which was one of Pruitt's Oklahoma-based PACs. JCN said it was pleased with Marlyn's work. (Washington Post)

  4. The House will vote next week on two competing immigration bills after Republican moderates fell two votes short of forcing a vote on bipartisan measures aimed at directly helping young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children. (New York Times / Washington Post)

Day 509: A very special bond.

1/ The Justice Department argued that Trump could continue to profit from foreign governments visiting his hotel in Washington, D.C., if he didn't explicitly provide something in return. A federal judge criticized the argument that Trump's financial interest in the Trump International Hotel in D.C. is constitutional. The lawsuit, brought by the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland, claims that Trump's profits from the hotel violate the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits government employees from receiving financial benefits outside of their official salary. The judge promised to decide by the end of the July whether to allow the case to proceed to the next stage. (New York Times / BuzzFeed News / CNN)

2/ Michael Cohen told friends he believes he will soon be indicted and arrested as part of Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump's campaign and Russia. Investigators are probing Cohen for bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations. (NY Daily News)

  • Michael Avenatti claimed that the Russian government is trying to plant false stories about him in the press. Avenatti said people in the Russian government claimed that he traveled to Moscow and had questionable encounters with women there, and that he previously represented Russian and Ukrainian legal interests before the U.S. government. "I've never been to Moscow in my life," Avenatti said. "I've never traveled to Russia in my life." (Daily Beast)

3/ Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump earned at least $82 million in outside income while serving as Trump's advisers during 2017. Kushner reported more than $5 million in income from a Kushner Companies apartment complex in Plainsboro, N.J. (Washington Post)

4/ Ivanka Trump personally made $3.9 million last year from her stake in the Trump International Hotel. She made an additional $5 million from businesses connected to her personal brand, as well as roughly $2 million in 2017 in pay and severance from the Trump Payroll Corp. Her reported income in 2017 was up "substantially" from spring 2017, when she reported about $2.4 million in income from the hotel since it opened in September 2016. (Politico)

5/ Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee want to interview Ivanka Trump as part of the investigation into Russian election interference. The committee wants to interview Ivanka about "two separate national security questions." Sen. Ron Wyden said investigators should ask about her role in connecting a Russian weightlifter, Dmitry Klokov, with Michael Cohen. Klokov offered to connect her father to Putin in order to facilitate building a Trump Tower in Moscow1. The other issue Wyden said investigators should ask about is China's decision to grant Ivanka trademarks around the same time her father promised to help Chinese telecom manufacturer ZTE stay in business. (BuzzFeed News)

6/ The Senate blocked Trump's deal with Chinese telecom giant ZTE. The Senate's move comes less than a week after Trump struck a deal with ZTE that would keep the company in business with U.S. companies and markets2. The ZTE deal would have forced the company to pay $1 billion in penalties, reorganize itself, and insert U.S. compliance officers into the company in exchange for access to U.S. consumers. ZTE is considered by the U.S. intelligence community to be a mechanism for espionage by selling phones that can be tracked and enabled to steal intellectual property. (NBC News)

7/ Trumps said Justin Trudeau's comment that Canada "will not be pushed around" will end up costing Canadians "a lot of money." Trump added that Trudeau "probably didn't know that Air Force One has about 20 televisions," in reference to Trudeau's comment after the G7 meeting that the aluminum and steel tariffs imposed by the U.S. on Canada on national security grounds were insulting. Trump added the Trudeau "learned" his lesson for criticizing him. (CNBC / Globe and Mail)

  • White House trade adviser Peter Navarro apologized for his "special place in hell" comments directed at Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau. (Reuters)

8/ A federal judge ordered Robert Mueller to identify all the key figures referred to but not named in an indictment accusing Paul Manafort of acting as an unregistered foreign agent of Ukraine and of laundering millions of dollars. Mueller's team has until Friday to turn over the names to Manafort's lawyers. (Politico / CNBC / Washington Post / Bloomberg)

  • Paul Manafort will be arraigned on Friday for witness tampering charges lodged by Robert Mueller. It's the third superseding indictment by Mueller against Manafort and the arraignment coincides with Manafort's previously scheduled hearing on whether his $10 million bail should be revoked due to witness tampering accusations. (Reuters)

🇰🇵🇺🇸 Dept. of USA vs DPRK.

  1. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a joint statement agreeing to pursue the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. In the agreement, Kim vows to give up his nuclear weapons program in exchange for U.S. security guarantees, but fell short of outlining concrete measures. (NBC News)

  2. Trump believes Kim Jong Un will give up his nuclear weapons because they have a "terrific relationship" and he's "developed a very special bond" with the North Korean leader. Trump said Kim "reaffirmed" his commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and that "we're ready to write a new chapter between our nations." (Washington Post / New York Times)

  3. Trump agreed to suspend regular military exercises with South Korea as part of his concessions to Kim Jong Un, contradicting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis's campaign to make U.S. troops more combat-ready. Trump described the decision as "very expensive" but also "very provocative." Trump's decision caused consternation among some military experts, who believe the troops provide security for South Korea and Japan. Trump used the term "war games," a phrase preferred by Pyongyang, which characterizes them as rehearsals for an invasion. (New York Times / Politico / Associated Press)

  4. Trump claimed that Kim Jong Un "loves his people" and the imprisoned North Koreans are "going to be one of the great winners" of the denuclearization talks. Trump said life is "rough" in North Korea, but that "it's rough in a lot of places, by the way, not just there." Human Rights Watch describes North Korea as "one of the most repressive authoritarian states in the world." (Washington Post / CBS News / CNN)

  5. Trump didn't use notes for his meeting with Kim Jong Un because he has "one of the great memories of all time." Trump characterized his meeting with Kim as a "great conversation." (The Hill)

  6. Trump pitched Kim Jong Un that North Korea "could have the best hotels in the world." Trump showed Kim a "tape that was done on the highest level of future development." (ABC News)

  7. The White House restricted press access to parts of Trump's summit with Kim Jong Un. The Associated Press, Reuters and Bloomberg were kept out of the pool, as were the representatives for radio and the foreign press corps. (Associated Press)

  8. The White House made a Hollywood-style movie trailer to depict a story about "two men, two leaders and one destiny." The short video shows images of warplanes and artillery with a narrator suggesting that "a new world can begin today, one of friendship, respect and goodwill." Some journalists assumed they were watching a propaganda films by Pyongyang. (Associated Press / Washington Post)

  9. Read the full text of the joint statement signed by Trump and Kim. (Politico)


✏️ Notables.

  1. Five states are holding primaries today: Nevada, Virginia, Maine, South Carolina and North Dakota. This is everything you need to know about key races in each state.

  2. Trump's economic adviser suffered a heart attack. Larry Kudlow is currently being treated at Walter Reed Medical Center in Maryland. A White House spokesperson said Kudlow is "doing well" after suffering a "very mild heart attack." (Politico / Bloomberg / CNBC)

  3. The Department of Justice will likely issue a public report next month on foreign efforts to interfere in U.S. elections and how to combat them. Jeff Sessions convened a cyber-digital task force in February, after facing criticism from Democrats that not enough was being done to address future foreign interference. (The Hill)

  4. A federal judge ruled that AT&T can move forward with its $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. AT&T has agreed not to complete the acquisition for six days to allow time for an appeal from the Justice Department. (CNN)

  5. Ted Cruz defended the Trump administration's policy of separating families at the border, saying it can be avoided if people stop crossing the border illegally. The separation happens regardless of whether a migrant is seeking asylum. (The Hill)

  6. The Trump administration is looking to build tent cities to shelter the growing number of migrant children being held in detention. The Department of Health and Human Services is considering building a tent city to hold between 1,000 and 5,000 children at Fort Bliss, an Army base near El Paso. (McClatchy DC)

  1. Day 503: Obsessed. Ivanka Trump connected Michael Cohen with a Russian who offered to introduce Trump to Putin during the campaign in 2015 in order to facilitate a 100-story Trump Tower in Moscow. 

  2. Day 480: A fucked-up feedback loop. Trump instructed the Commerce Department to help ZTE – the world's fourth-largest maker of cellphones – get "back into business" after the Chinese company was penalized for violating U.S. sanctions against North Korea and Iran. 

Day 508: Sobering and a bit depressing.

1/ Trump refused to endorse the G7 statement, threatened to impose tariffs on foreign auto imports, and accused Justin Trudeau of being "meek," "very dishonest and weak" after Canada's prime minister pledged to retaliate against U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum products. In a pair of tweets aboard Air Force One, Trump said he believes that countries are ripping off the U.S. through high tariffs and threatened to stop all trade with any country that did not lower or eliminate tariffs. The pair of tweets came hours after Trump and European leaders had agreed on a joint communiqué, which included a pledge to engage in "free, fair, and mutually beneficial trade and investment." (Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal / NBC News)

  • Trump delivered "a long, frank rant" to trade allies at the G7 that the United States has been treated unfairly by its trading partners. (Reuters)

  • German chancellor Angela Merkel said Europe will implement counter-measures against U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum. Merkel characterized Trump's Twitter withdrawal as "sobering and a bit depressing." (Reuters)

  • In April, Trump told French president Emmanuel Macron that the European Union is "worse than China." In their bilateral meeting in the White House's Cabinet Room, Macron said to Trump, "Let's work together, we both have a China problem." Trump "then went on a rant about Germany and cars." (Axios)

  • France: Trump's "incoherence and inconsistency" would not upend international cooperation, said a statement released by French president Macron's office. It added that partnerships "cannot depend on fits of anger or little words. Let us be serious and worthy of our people." (Politico)

2/ Trump's economic adviser accused Justin Trudeau of "betrayal" for making Trump look weak before his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Trudeau promised to "move forward with retaliatory measures" in response to Trump's decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Canada, the European Union and Mexico. Trudeau called the tariffs "kind of insulting" and saying that Canadians "are nice" but "we will not be pushed around." Larry Kudlow said Trudeau "stabbed us in the back," and that Trump "is not going to let a Canadian prime minister push him around. He is not going to permit any show of weakness on a trip to negotiate with North Korea." Kudlow went on to call Trudeau "amateurish" and "sophomoric." (New York Times / Reuters / CNN)

  • Trump's "bully" attack on Trudeau outrages Canadians. "It was extremely undiplomatic and antagonistic," Frank McKenna, a former Canadian ambassador to the United States, said. "It was disrespectful and ill informed." (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is "unconcerned" about the diplomatic crisis caused by Trump's insults directed at the Canadian prime minister, saying "there are always irritants in relationships." (Washington Post)

3/ White House trade adviser Peter Navarro: "There's a special place in hell" for Trudeau and world leaders who double cross Trump. "And that's what bad-faith Justin Trudeau did with that stunt press conference." When asked whether the president agreed, Navarro said the sentiment came "right from Air Force One." (Politico)

  • Putin: Criticism of Russia's "so-called destabilizing efforts" in the West is "unfounded," and that "this creative babbling" by world leaders has so far "led to nothing." Putin said he'd welcome a meeting with Trump. (Politico)

4/ Jeff Sessions ordered immigration judges to stop granting asylum to most victims of domestic abuse and gang violence. The move effectively blocks tens of thousands of people – women in particular – from seeking refuge in America. Sessions ruled that a 2014 Board of Immigration Appeals decision protecting women from Central America from domestic violence was wrongly decided, saying victims of "private" crimes like domestic violence do not qualify for asylum. Immigration courts are housed under the Justice Department – not the judiciary branch – which means Sessions has the authority to refer cases to himself and overturn earlier decisions. (New York Times / Los Angeles Times / CNN)

5/ Trump will leave the North Korea summit a day early because nuclear negotiations have moved "more quickly than expected." The White House said Trump and Kim Jong Un will hold a one-on-one meeting, accompanied only by translators, followed by a "working lunch" with an expanded group of officials. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lowered expectations, saying the summit might yield little in the way of concrete success. (Associated Press / Politico)

  • 🔮 Live Updates: Trump will meet Kim Jong Un at 9 a.m. on Tuesday — 9 p.m. Eastern on Monday in the first-ever meeting between leaders of their two countries. (New York Times / CNN)

  • Trump will not bring up human rights issues at the North Korea summit. Kim Jong Un's country has committed "unspeakable atrocities" on a scale reminiscent of Nazi Germany, according to a 2014 United Nations investigation. (NBC News)

  • Trump is willing to consider establishing official relations with North Korea and eventually opening an embassy in Pyongyang. "It would all depend what he gets in return," said a source close to the White House. "Denuclearization would have to be happening." (Axios)

  • Sean Hannity will host Trump's first sit-down TV interview following his summit with North Korea. Hannity is already in Singapore. (Axios)

poll/ 26% of voters think Trump will demand too much to secure a deal with North Korea. 31% believe Trump will secure a deal that is either fair or better for the U.S. (NBC News)


✏️ Notables.

  1. A federal judge ruled that the Trump and Michael Cohen legal teams cannot secretly object to documents protected by the attorney-client privilege, which were seized from Cohen during a series of raids by the authorities in April. Judge Kimba Wood ruled that the legal teams had to publicly submit their objections to the special master "except for those portions that divulge 'the substance of the contested documents.'" (New York Times)

  2. The millionaire businessman who bankrolled the Brexit campaign "met Russian officials multiple times before Brexit vote." Arron Banks gave about $16 million to the campaign, becoming the biggest donor in UK history. (The Guardian)

  3. Several prominent Russians, including some in Putin's inner circle, met with NRA officials during the 2016 U.S. election campaign. The contacts have emerged as the Justice Department investigates whether Russian banker and lifetime NRA member Alexander Torshin illegally channeled money through the gun rights group to help Trump's 2016 presidential bid. (McClatchy DC)

  4. The Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on five Russian entities and three individuals, saying they worked with Moscow's intelligence service on ways to conduct cyber attacks against the U.S. and its allies. (Reuters / CNN)

  5. The Supreme Court upheld Ohio's method of purging voters from its voting rolls. The court ruled that a state may kick people off the rolls if they don't vote in a few elections and fail to respond to notices from election officials. The vote was 5 to 4, with the more conservative justices in the majority. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  6. The FCC's repeal of net neutrality rules took effect today. The rules prohibited internet providers such as AT&T, Charter, Comcast and Verizon from charging more for certain content and required providers to treat all web traffic equally. (New York Times)

  7. A federal judge is set to rule on Tuesday on whether AT&T can buy Time Warner for $85 billion, which was announced in October 2016. AT&T is the country's second-largest wireless network and would gain content trove from Time Warner, which includes HBO and CNN. The Justice Department, which filed the lawsuit, argued that the consolidation could harm its rivals. (Washington Post)

  8. Comcast plans to make an all-cash offer for Twenty-First Century Fox if AT&T's bid for Time Warner is approved. Comcast is preparing to raise $60 billion in a deal for Fox while simultaneously pursuing a $31 billion offer for the 61% of Sky that Fox doesn't already own. (CNBC)

  9. Betsy DeVos reinstated a for-profit college accreditor a month after an Education Department report said the organization failed to meet federal standards. The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools failed to meet 57 of the 93 criteria that accreditors are required to meet under federal law. (Politico)

  10. Nearly 1,800 immigrant families were separated at the U.S.-Mexico border from October 2016 through February of this year. (Reuters)

  11. Trump routinely rips up papers that need to be preserved. He does it so much that some aides are specifically tasked with taping the papers back together. (Politico / New York Post)

  12. Several West Wing aides, including John Kelly, are said to be eyeing the exits as Trump has grown more emboldened to act on instinct alone. Kelly told visiting senators last week that the White House was "a miserable place to work." (New York Times)


👀 Watching.

A list of stories I'm keeping an eye on.

💬 What stories are you noticing? Let me know using the chat icon in the lower right-hand corner.

Day 505: We have a world to run.

1/ Robert Mueller filed witness tampering criminal charges against Paul Manafort and Russian national Konstantin Kilimnik. The superseding indictment charges the two men with obstructing justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and witness tampering. Kilimnik was indicted as part of the existing money laundering case against Manafort, who is also accused of illegal foreign lobbying and lying to federal officials. It's the first time Kilimnik was named, who was referred to as "Person A" and described as having links to Russian spy agencies in previous court filings. (CNBC / Bloomberg / New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Reuters)

2/ A former Senate Intelligence Committee aide was arrested and charged with lying to the FBI about contacts with three reporters as part of an investigation into leaks of classified information. James Wolfe repeatedly denied contacts with the reporters despite having been in a three-year relationship with New York Times reporter Ali Watkins. The Justice Department seized Watkins' phone and email records, which news media advocates consider to be an intrusion of First Amendment freedoms. (New York Times / NPR / NBC News)

3/ Trump called on the G7 to reinstate Russia after it was kicked out for annexing Crimea four years ago, putting him at odds with world leaders who have insisted that Moscow remain ostracized. "Russia should be in this meeting," Trump said. "Why are we having a meeting without Russia being in the meeting? … Whether you like it or not, and it may not be politically correct, but we have a world to run." Trump also threatened to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement, and is now engaged in a series of trade wars with numerous countries in Europe, North America and Asia. Trump will leave the G7 summit early. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico)

4/ The Trump administration will not defend the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate from a legal challenge to its constitutionality brought by Texas and 19 other states. The Justice Department said the ACA provision requiring most Americans to buy health insurance has become unconstitutional. The Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate in 2012 as the government's power to tax. The Justice Department argues that since Congress repealed the tax last year, the mandate and the law's consumer protections are no longer justified. California and 15 other states have filed a brief defending the law and its consumer protections. (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico / Axios)

5/ Stormy Daniels' former attorney filed a defamation claim against her and Michael Avenatti. Keith Davidson's lawsuit against Daniels and Avenatti is in response to Daniels' accusation that he colluded with Michael Cohen to help Trump. Davidson filed a separate claim against Cohen for allegedly illegally recording their phone calls. (CNN)

6/ Rudy Giuliani claimed Melania Trump "believes her husband, and she knows it’s untrue [that Trump had an affair with Stormy Daniels]." Melania's office responded: "I don't believe Mrs. Trump has ever discussed her thoughts on anything with Mr. Giuliani." (ABC News / New York Times)

  • Robert Mueller sees Giuliani as more of a spokesman than a lawyer with legal authority due to his haphazard approach to making demands and then changing what he wants. (Bloomberg)

poll/ 48% of voters favor the Democratic candidate in their congressional district while 39% favor the Republican. The 9-point lead is up from a 5-point edge Democrats held in March (46-41%). (Fox News)

poll/ 67% of voters say the country would be better off if more women were elected to political office. 24% of voters disagree. 87% of Democrats and 49% of Republicans say the country would be better off with more women in office. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is temporarily sending about 1,600 detainees to five federal prisons while they await civil immigration court hearings. It's the first large-scale use of federal prisons to hold detainees. (Reuters)

  2. Trump said he is considering posthumously pardoning boxer Muhammad Ali, who was convicted in 1967 after refusing military service in Vietnam. Ali's attorney called it "unnecessary." Ali is one of 3,000 individuals Trump is considering pardoning. (CNN)

  3. Trump wants to ask NFL players and other athletes who kneel during the National Anthem to recommend people they think he should pardon due to unfair treatment by the justice system. (CNN)

  4. Trump said he likely will support a congressional effort to end the federal ban on marijuana, putting him at odds with Jeff Sessions on the issue. (Los Angeles Times)

  5. Scott Pruitt had aides frequently fetch him protein bars, sweets, cookies, and Greek yogurt. Pruitt would often direct an aide to brew him pour-over coffee. (Daily Beast)

  6. After both the Warriors and the Cavaliers said they don't want to be invited to the White House after the NBA finals, Trump says the Warriors and the Cavaliers won't be invited to the White House. (CNBC)

  7. Mitt Romney predicted that Trump will win reelection in 2020, citing an improving economy and the likelihood that Democrats will choose an outside-the-mainstream candidate. (Politico)

Day 504: Acid-wash.

1/ Rudy Giuliani to Stormy Daniels: "I don't respect a porn star the way I respect a career woman or a woman of substance." He added that being a porn star "entitles you to no degree of giving your credibility any weight." Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, called Giuliani an "absolute, disgusting pig" and demanded Trump fire him "immediately." He added that "it doesn't matter what a woman's profession is. It has nothing to do with their credibility or whether they should be respected." Giuliani defended his statement, saying: "I don't have to undermine her credibility. She's done it by lying." (NBC News / ABC News / CNN)

  • Trump has appeared in three softcore porn videos. (CNN)

2/ The Justice Department will brief lawmakers next week about the FBI's use of an informant in connection with its investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. The new offer is a concession to Republican demands for more information about the probe. The Justice Department and FBI "are prepared to brief members on certain questions specifically raised by the speaker and other members" and allow lawmakers "to review certain supporting documents that were made available during the prior briefing." Democrats are concerned that the briefings could allow Trump's legal team access to sensitive details of the investigation. (Washington Post / CNBC)

  • Paul Ryan insisted that there was "no evidence of collusion" between Trump's campaign and Russia, but that there is "more digging to do." (Associated Press)

  • The classified briefing comes a day after Paul Ryan disputed Trump's assertion that FBI "spies" had infiltrated his campaign, saying evidence suggested the Bureau had acted appropriately. (Wall Street Journal)

  • Officials from the Justice Department and the FBI will brief the Republican and Democratic "Gang of Eight" leaders from the House and Senate and the intelligence committees. The documents won't be shared with other lawmakers. (Bloomberg)

3/ Adam Schiff called on Republicans to release the House Intelligence Committee interview transcripts related to the Russia investigation, saying they could shed "additional light on the issues of collusion and obstruction of justice." Schiff said some witnesses "may have testified untruthfully" and that Robert Mueller and his team "should consider whether perjury charges are warranted." (NBC News)

4/ Sean Hannity suggested that witnesses in Robert Mueller's probe "follow Hillary Clinton's lead" by destroying their personal phones before handing them over to prosecutors. Hannity told witnesses to "delete all your emails and then acid-wash your emails and hard drives on the phones, then take your phones and bash them with a hammer to little itsy bitsy pieces." Hand them over to Mueller, Hannity continued, "and say, Hillary Rodham Clinton, this is equal justice under the law." Hannity later insisted that he was kidding. (The Hill / Business Insider)

  • George Papadopoulos' Russian contact called him "unprofessional" and "unprepared," adding that "we did not close the door to the guy, but we did not take it seriously." (CNN)

5/ Colin Kaepernick's lawyers plan to subpoena Trump and Pence as part of his collusion case against the NFL in an attempt to gain information about Trump's political involvement with NFL owners. One of Kaepernick's attorneys recently claimed that an unnamed NFL owner admitted under oath during a deposition that he decided not to offer Kaepernick a contract after Trump called for the firing of players who refused to stand for the national anthem. (Yahoo! Sports / USA Today / Axios)

6/ France and Germany won't sign the joint G7 statement without major concessions from the U.S. on tariffs, the Iran nuclear deal, and the Paris climate accord. The joint statement details a range of policy issues that all leaders of the G7 group agree on. French president Emmanuel Macron urged the other members of the G7 to stand up to the U.S. over Trump's decision to impose steel and aluminum tariffs against the European Union, Canada, and Mexico. The G7 summit is scheduled for June 8-9 in Quebec. (Bloomberg / Politico)

  • A White House analysis concluded that Trump's tariffs will hurt economic growth. Top White House officials, however, insist that Trump's trade approach will be "massively good for the U.S. economy." (New York Times)

  • U.S. renewable energy companies shelved more than $2.5 billion in renewable energy projects following Trump's tariff on imported solar panels. (Reuters)

7/ Trump complained to aides about having to spend two days in Canada for the G7 summit, saying the Friday trip is a distraction from his upcoming meeting with North Korea. White House staff has discussed sending Pence to Canada instead of Trump. (Washington Post)

8/ Trump's new national security adviser has not had a Cabinet-level National Security Council meeting on North Korea in his two months on the job. In April, Trump blamed John Bolton for derailing the upcoming summit with North Korea after Bolton said the U.S. would make no concessions unless North Korea denuclearized. Trump instead has driven the preparation for the summit almost exclusively on his own, consulting with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (Politico)

poll/ 48% of voters say they're more likely to back a congressional candidate who promises to serve as a check on Trump. 53% say they're less likely to vote for a candidate who supports Trump on most issues. (NBC News)


🐊 Dept. of Swamp Things.

  1. Mick Mulvaney fired all 25 members of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's advisory board days after some of the members criticized his leadership as acting director of the watchdog agency. The CFPB plans to revamp the Consumer Advisory Board in the fall by hiring all new members. "The outspoken members of the Consumer Advisory Board seem more concerned about protecting their taxpayer funded junkets to Washington, D.C., and being wined and dined by the Bureau than protecting consumers," said a spokesperson for the agency. (Washington Post)

  2. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says the U.S. has signed a deal with Chinese telecom giant ZTE to end the crippling sanctions against the company. The deal includes a $1 billion penalty against ZTE and requires that U.S.-chosen compliance officers be placed inside the company. ZTE will also be required to change its board of directors and executive team within 30 days. (CNBC)

  3. The Trump administration will scale back how the federal government evaluates hundreds of potentially toxic chemicals. Instead of assessing the risk of potential chemical exposure in the air, ground or water, the EPA will focus on possible harm caused by direct contact. (New York Times)

  4. A U.S. district judge ordered the EPA to provide documents used by Scott Pruitt to claim that human behavior is not a "primary contributor" to climate change. (Scientific American / The Hill)

  5. The White House asked Scott Pruitt to stop visiting a West Wing restaurant. Pruitt has complained that EPA doesn't have a cafeteria of its own or private dining quarters. (Politico)

  6. Pruitt had his 24/7 security detail pick up his dry cleaning and help him find his favorite moisturizing lotion. The protective detail cost taxpayers nearly $3.5 million during Pruitt's first year on the job. (Washington Post)

Day 503: Obsessed.

1/ Stormy Daniels filed a new lawsuit against her former attorney and Michael Cohen, saying the two men "colluded" and "acted in concert" to "manipulate" her in order to benefit Trump. The lawsuit alleges that as a part of the effort to deny Trump's affair with Daniels, her former attorney, Keith Davidson, and Cohen "hatched a plan to have Ms. Clifford appear on Mr. Sean Hannity's program to falsely deny the accuracy of the In Touch article" in January. In Touch magazine published excerpts from its 2011 interview with Daniels in which she said she had an affair with Trump starting in 2006. It was revealed in April that Cohen also represents Hannity. Daniels' current attorney, Michael Avenatti, called the private messages evidence that "prior denials by Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen relating to what Mr. Trump knew, and about the honesty of my client, were absolute lies," adding that "there was a significant cover-up here as part of an attempt to deceive the American people and Mrs. Trump and we intend on getting to the bottom of it." (New York Times / NBC News / CNN)

2/ Ivanka Trump connected Michael Cohen with a Russian who offered to introduce Trump to Putin during the campaign in 2015 in order to facilitate a 100-story Trump Tower in Moscow. Mueller's team and congressional investigators have reviewed emails and questioned witnesses about the interaction. There is no evidence that Ivanka's contact with former Olympic weightlifter Dmitry Klokov was illegal or election related. (BuzzFeed News)

3/ Robert Mueller requested that witnesses turn in their personal phones so investigators can inspect their encrypted messages on WhatsApp, Confide, Signal and Dust. The revelation comes as the special counsel filed a claim that Paul Manafort tampered with witnesses through the same types of programs. (CNBC)

4/ Giuliani claimed Mueller's team is "trying very, very hard to frame [Trump] to get him in trouble when he hasn't done anything wrong." He added that Mueller's team "can't emotionally come to grips with the fact that this whole thing with Russian collusion didn't happen. They are trying to invent theories of obstruction of justice." Giuliani also reiterated the claim that Trump has the power to pardon himself, but won't do so because "he's innocent" and "he hasn't done anything wrong." (Associated Press)

5/ Paul Ryan agreed that there is "no evidence" to support claims that the FBI spied on Trump's 2016 campaign for political purposes by using a confidential informant to contact members of the campaign while investigating its ties to Russia. Ryan added that Trump should not try to pardon himself, saying, "I don't know the technical answer to that question, but I think obviously the answer is he shouldn't. And no one is above the law." (New York Times / Politico)


Notables.

  1. The Justice Department's internal watchdog has concluded that James Comey defied authority while FBI director and was "insubordinate" at times. (ABC News)

  2. Mexico imposed new tariffs on roughly $3 billion worth of American pork, steel, cheese, and other goods in response to Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs, complicating efforts to renegotiate NAFTA with Mexico and Canada. Trump's chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said the president's "preference now, and he asked me to convey this, is to actually negotiate with Mexico and Canada separately." (New York Times)

  3. Facebook has had data-sharing agreements with at least four Chinese electronics companies since 2010, including Huawei, which has close ties to the Chinese government and was flagged by U.S. intelligence agencies as a national security threat. The partnerships with Huawei, Lenovo, Oppo and TCL are all still active, but Facebook says it plans to wind down the deal with Huawei by the end of the week. (New York Times)

  4. More than 118,000 California primary voters were left off the voter rolls due to a random printing error. Those voters can still cast provisional ballots, but the process of counting and verifying a large number of provisional ballots could delay the vote tally in some local races. "We apologize for the inconvenience and concern this has caused," said the Los Angeles County Clerk in a statement. "Voters should be assured their vote will be counted." (CNN / Politico)

  5. Trump commuted Alice Marie Johnson's life sentence for a nonviolent drug crime after meeting with Kim Kardashian last week to discuss the case. A White House official said Trump is "obsessed" with his power to pardon people, describing pardons as Trump's new "favorite thing" to talk about. The administration has prepared the pardoning paperwork for at least 30 people. (Washington Post / CNN / Associated Press)

  6. Scott Pruitt's top aide resigned from the EPA shortly after portions of her House Oversight Committee testimony were made public in which she says regularly did personal tasks for Pruitt. Millan Hupp for Pruitt in Oklahoma before joining him in Washington. (The Atlantic)

  7. Jeff Sessions defended the Trump administration policy of separating migrant children from their families when they arrive at the southern U.S. border. "If people don't want to be separated from their children, they should not bring them with them," Sessions said. "We've got to get this message out. You're not given immunity." (Washington Post)

  8. The Trump communications aide who mocked John McCain's deteriorating health has left the White House. The White House said Kelly Sadler is "no longer employed within the executive office of the president," but two people familiar with Sadler's departure said she was not fired because of her comments about McCain. Instead, they suggested that Sadler was pushed out for accusing her boss, White House strategic communications director Mercedes Schlapp, of leaking her McCain comments to the press. (New York Times / CNN)

Day 502: Witness tampering.

1/ Trump blamed Jeff Sessions for the ongoing Russia investigation into possible collusion, lamented asking Sessions to lead the Justice Department, and suggested that the probe would have been shut down by now if Sessions had not recused himself. In a tweet, Trump said the "Russian Witch Hunt Hoax continues, all because Jeff Sessions didn't tell me he was going to recuse himself." (Washington Post / Reuters / Politico)

  • Trump demanded to know "what is taking so long" in the release of the Justice Department inspector general's report into the FBI's investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server. He complained about "numerous delays" and said he hopes it's not being "made weaker." (Politico / The Guardian / Washington Post)

  • George Papadopoulos' wife asked Trump to pardon her husband, who pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians. (The Hill)

  • The Trump administration ended its effort to appoint the Justice Department's No. 3 official after at least two potential candidates said they weren't interested in the position. The associate attorney general position would be responsible for overseeing the Mueller probe if Rod Rosenstein were to depart. (Wall Street Journal)

2/ Robert Mueller's team accused Paul Manafort of felony witness tampering in his federal tax and money laundering case. Prosecutors say Manafort attempted to contact witnesses by phone through an intermediary and through an encrypted messaging program in order to "suborn perjury," otherwise known as trying to convince someone to lie under oath. (New York Times / Reuters / The Atlantic)

3/ A federal judge scheduled a hearing for June 15 on whether to revoke bail for Manafort for allegedly trying to tamper with potential witnesses while on a $10 million pretrial release. Judge Amy Berman is expected to rule on whether Manafort will have to go to jail pending his trial or whether the terms of his bail are further restricted. (NBC News / CNBC)

4/ Putin claimed that he and Trump have a close working relationship and "regularly talk over the phone." When asked why there has not been a bilateral summit between Putin and the Trump administration, he said "this is the result of the ongoing acute political struggle in the United States." Putin continued: "Indeed, Donald Trump and I have, firstly, met more than once at various international venues and secondly, we regularly talk over the phone." (Axios / Kremlin Presidential Executive Office)

5/ Mitch McConnell canceled most of the Senate's August recess due to "the historic obstruction by Senate Democrats of the president's nominees, and the goal of passing appropriations bills prior to the end of the fiscal year." The move will keep Democrats up for re-election off the campaign trail while pushing through confirmations for as many of Trump's judicial and executive branch nominees as possible. (CNBC / Axios / Politico)

6/ A New York state judge has ruled that Trump can be deposed in a defamation lawsuit brought last year by Summer Zervos, the former contestant on "The Apprentice" who accused Trump of kissing and groping her. The judge set a Jan. 31, 2019, deadline for discovery in the lawsuit and ordered both parties to submit to depositions. Zervos sued Trump for defamation after he called her accusations "100% false" and began calling her "phony people coming up with phony allegations." (Politico / BuzzFeed News / The Hill)

7/ Trump canceled the Philadelphia Eagles planned White House visit to celebrate their Super Bowl championship less than 24 hours before the players were expected to arrive. Several Eagles players said they would skip the ceremony. Trump had "insist[ed] that they proudly stand for the National Anthem, hand on heart." (Philly.com / Washington Post)

  • LeBron James said neither the Cleveland Cavaliers nor the Golden State Warriors want an invite to the White House. "I know no matter who wins this series, no one wants an invite anyway. It won't be Cleveland or Golden State going." Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr added that "it will be nice when things get back to normal in three years." LeBron called Trump a "bum" last year after Trump disinvited Stephen Curry and the Warriors from the White House. (CBS Boston / The Hill)

8/ Betsy DeVos told lawmakers that the White House's school safety commission will not examine the role of guns in school violence, saying "that is not part of the commission's charge, per se." Trump established the Federal Commission on School Safety in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. to "study and make recommendations" on a variety of topics, including age restrictions for certain gun purchases." (Associated Press / Politico / The Hill)

poll/ Overall 68% of Americans feel worn out by the news these days. 62% of those who follow the news most of the time report feeling fatigued by the news, while 78% of those who follow the news less often report being worn out. 34% say they follow the news only when something important is happening. (Pew Research Center)

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Notables.

  1. Hundreds of migrant children have spent more than the legal maximum of 72 hours in custody at U.S. border stations. Border agents and child welfare workers are running out of space to keep the children who have been separated from their parents at the border under the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy. (NBC News)

  2. The Justice Department will appeal a ruling that Trump can't block people on Twitter based on their political views. The seven original plaintiffs in the suit against Trump have had their accounts unblocked, but the DOJ will still contest the ruling in federal appeals court. (Reuters)

  3. David Koch will retire from Koch Industries and other Koch-affiliated groups due to health reasons. Koch was diagnosed with prostate cancer more than two decades ago. (CNBC / New York Times)

  4. Scott Pruitt had an EPA aide arrange a meeting for his wife about becoming a Chick-fil-A franchisee. Pruitt's wife "started, but did not complete, the Chick-fil-A franchisee application," a company representative said. (Washington Post)

  5. Melania Trump made her first public appearance since surgery for a kidney ailment in mid-May. (ABC News)

  6. Sarah Huckabee Sanders called herself "an honest person" while refusing to correct her August 2017 statement that Trump wasn't involved in drafting a misleading statement about Trump Jr.'s meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower. (Politico / CNN)

Day 501: Absolute right.

1/ Trump tweeted that Robert Mueller's appointment is "totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!" and asserted that he has the "absolute right to PARDON myself." Trump, however, said he would "play the game" because he has "done nothing wrong." Over the weekend, Giuliani said Trump "probably" has the power to pardon himself, but that it would be "unthinkable" for him to do so and would "lead to probably an immediate impeachment." He added that Trump "has no need to do that. He didn't do anything wrong." (New York Times / CNBC / CNN / Washington Post)

2/ Trump's lawyers sent a 20-page letter to Mueller's office asserting that Trump cannot be compelled to testify. The letter also argues that it's impossible for Trump to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation because the U.S. Constitution empowers the president to, "if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon." Giuliani responded to news of the leaked letter, saying that "if Mueller tries to subpoena us, we're going to court" and that "our recollection keeps changing" about the 2016 Trump Tower meeting and that "this is the reason you don't let this president testify in the special counsel's Russia investigation." The letter confirms that Trump dictated a "short but accurate" statement issued by Trump Jr. about his 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer who an intermediary claimed had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton. (New York Times / ABC News)

  • Annotated: The Trump Lawyers' Confidential Memo to Mueller. (New York Times)

3/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to answers about her August 2017 claim that Trump "certainly didn't dictate" the Trump Tower statement. At the time, Sanders said Trump only "weighed in" on Trump Jr.'s statement about the Russia meeting, saying "the statement that Don Jr. issued is true, there's no inaccuracy in the statement." (The Hill)

  • Day 194: Dictated. Trump personally dictated Trump Jr.'s statement about his meeting with the Russian lawyer, saying they had "primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children" when they met in June 2016. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump only "weighed in" on Trump Jr.'s statement about the Russia meeting. (What The Fuck Just Happened Today)

4/ Giuliani bragged that Trump could shoot James Comey in the Oval Office and still wouldn't be indicted for it. "In no case can he be subpoenaed or indicted," Giuliani said. "I don’t know how you can indict while he’s in office. No matter what it is." Giuliani claimed that the only way Trump could be indicted is if he is impeached first. "If he shot James Comey, he’d be impeached the next day," Giuliani said. "Impeach him, and then you can do whatever you want to do to him." (HuffPost / The Hill)

5/ The White House ordered Cabinet members to publicly support Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate deal last year. Emails reveal that the White House told all of Trump's top secretaries to "prep statements of support for the decision being announced," saying there were "no exceptions." (The Hill / E&E News)


Notables.

  1. Trump's phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron on trade and immigration was described as "terrible" after Macron candidly criticized Trump's policies. (CNN)

  2. The White House is "very concerned" about Trump's base showing up for the midterm elections in November, according to Rick Santorum. (Washington Examiner)

  3. The Koch brothers unveiled a multiyear, multimillion-dollar campaign to oppose Trump's tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. (CNBC)

  4. Scott Pruitt tasked an EPA aide with finding a discount on a used "Trump Home Luxury Plush Euro Pillow Top" mattress for personal use from the Trump International Hotel in Washington. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  5. The Pentagon's inspector general is investigating Ronny Jackson, Trump's one-time personal White House physician whose nomination as Veterans Affairs secretary was withdrawn amid allegations of misconduct and poor administration of the White House medical office. (CNN / CBS News)

  6. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Colorado baker who refused to create a wedding cake for a gay couple based on his Christian beliefs. The justices, in a 7-2 decision, said the Colorado Civil Rights Commission showed hostility toward religion when it found that baker Jack Phillips violated the state's anti-discrimination law. The state law bars businesses from refusing service based on race, sex, marital status or sexual orientation. (Reuters)

  7. Melania Trump will skip the G7 summit in Quebec and does not plan to attend the planned June 12 summit in Singapore with North Korea. Melania has not been seen in public since May 10. (Reuters / ABC News)

  8. Trump to Kim Kardashian: You and Kanye West are boosting my popularity with African-Americans. Trump's approval among African-Americans is up from 12% in April to 18% in May. (Bloomberg)

Day 498: "Totally unacceptable."

1/ The European Union opened a case at the World Trade Organization in response to Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs. The EU is also expected to announce retaliatory tariffs against the U.S. on products such as Levi's jeans, bourbon whiskey, cranberries, and peanut butter. "The European Union is not at war with anyone," said the EU high representative on foreign policy. "We don’t want to be; for us this is out of the question … The European Union is a peace project, including on trade." (The Guardian)

  • Trump's tariffs on US allies will shrink the savings Americans gained from tax cuts. "Combined with additional tariffs on Chinese imports and retaliatory steps taken by U.S. allies, economists across the political spectrum agree these levies will have a negative impact." (CNBC)

2/ Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau refused to attend a meeting with Trump to discuss the renegotiation of NAFTA because Mike Pence told him the meeting would only happen if Trudeau agreed to include a five-year sunset clause into the deal. Trudeau said it was a "totally unacceptable" precondition. "I had to highlight there was no possibility of any Canadian prime minister signing a NAFTA deal that included a five-year sunset clause and obviously the visit didn't happen," Trudeau said. (Tampa Bay Times)

3/ American employers added 223,000 jobs in May, bringing the national unemployment rate to an 18-year low of 3.8 percent. Average hourly pay rose by 2.7 percent compared to last year, but pay rates remain below typical levels when the unemployment rate is this low. Some economists are concerned that Trump's aggressive actions on international trade could disrupt the recent economic progress, but most employers have not suspended hiring yet. (Associated Press / CNN Money)

4/ Trump broke with decades of protocol by publicly commenting on the jobs report data 69 minutes before they were released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Treasury yields shot up just seconds after Trump tweeted that he was "looking forward to seeing the employment numbers at 8:30 this morning." Ari Fleischer, former press secretary to George W. Bush, said Trump's tweet was "certainly a no-no. The advance info is sacrosanct – not to be shared." Labor Department rules state that executive branch employees are barred from publicly commenting on jobs reports until "at least one hour" after its official release. (Washington Post / Politico / ABC News)

  • Trump’s wildly inappropriate (and possibly corrupt) jobs report tweet, explained. (Vox)

5/ The Pentagon says 499 civilians were killed and 169 were injured in U.S. military operations during Trump's first year in office. The report also says that "more than 450 reports of civilian casualties from 2017 remained to be assessed," which suggests those numbers may be low. The report includes both air strikes and ground combat operations. There were also 11,585 more drone strikes in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan last year than there were in 2016. (CNN)

6/ Jared Kushner's close friend Andrew Gerson has come under scrutiny from Robert Mueller's team. Mueller is interested in Gerson's supposed knowledge of meetings in January 2017 between Trump associates and foreign officials in the Seychelles. Gerson was in the Seychelles around the same time that Erik Prince secretly met with Russian and UAE officials, including Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, also known as MBZ. Gerson met with MBZ and Lebanese-American businessman George Nader, who organized the meeting with Erik Prince. (NBC News / Daily Beast)

7/ Trump announced that the June 12 nuclear summit with North Korea is now back on, less than a week after he canceled it via letter to Kim Jong Un. "We’re over that," Trump told reporters, "totally over that, and now we’re going to deal and we’re really going to start a process." (New York Times / CNN / ABC News)

8/ Trump made 3,251 false or misleading statements during his first 497 days in office — an average of more than 6.5 false or misleading claims per day. During his first 100 days, Trump made an average of 4.9 claims a day. His average for May 2018 was about eight per day, including a record 35 false or misleading claims in a single day at his rally in Nashville on May 29. (Washington Post)


Notables

  1. Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office in D.C. recently interviewed James Comey as part of a probe into whether Andrew McCabe broke the law by lying to federal agents. The decision to interview Comey suggests prosecutors are seriously considering whether to charge McCabe with a crime. The Inspector General accused McCabe of lying to investigators on four occasions about authorizing a disclosure to the media. McCabe was under oath for three of those instances. (Washington Post)

  2. Scott Pruitt spent $1,560 on twelve custom fountain pens from a D.C. jewelry store called The Tiny Jewel Box. The exchange reveals that Pruitt's top aides were the ones signing off on such lavish purchases, contradicting Pruitt's previous claims. (Washington Post)

  3. A federal study found signs of sophisticated cellphone surveillance devices operating near the White House and other sensitive locations in the D.C. area last year. Authorities aren't sure who the culprit is or where it came from, but the breach is virtually unstoppable. (Washington Post)

  4. The price tag for the Mueller investigation so far is about $16.7 million, while the security and travel costs for Trump's visits to Mar-a-Lago have cost $17 million. (Washington Post)

  5. Trump called for Samantha Bee to lose her job over her comments about Ivanka Trump. Trump claimed there was a "total double standard" when it comes to the reaction to Bee's comments versus the reaction to Roseanne Barr's racist tweet. "Why aren’t they firing no talent Samantha Bee for the horrible language used on her low ratings show?" Trump tweeted. "A total double standard but that’s O.K., we are Winning, and will be doing so for a long time to come!" (ABC News / CNN / Washington Post)

  6. After receiving a full pardon from Trump for violating campaign finance laws, Dinesh D'Souza said his pardon is proof that Trump wants him to have "a bigger voice than ever" in the conservative movement. D'Souza on Fox and Friends: "The president said, 'Dinesh, you have been a great voice for freedom. And he said that 'I got to tell you man-to-man, you’ve been screwed.'" (The Hill)

  7. An independent candidate for Virginia's 10th Congressional District named Nathan Larson admitted he's a pedophile. Larson ran multiple online forums for pedophiles and misogynists, including incels. Larson has also bragged online about raping his ex-wife and wanting to have sex with their 3-year-old daughter. (HuffPost)

  8. At least eight white nationalists are running in 2018 for federal and state offices across the country. Many of them are running openly on messages of hate, including one who is preaching Holocaust denial and wants to make Chicago's neighborhoods 90 percent white. (NBC San Diego)

Day 497: Third-party status.

1/ Former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe wrote a confidential memo about a May 2017 conversation he had with Rod Rosenstein regarding the firing of James Comey. The memo says Trump originally asked Rosenstein to reference Russia in the public memo used to justify firing Comey. McCabe thought that seemed like evidence that Comey's firing was actually about the Russia investigation and that Rosenstein was helping to provide a cover story by writing about the Clinton investigation. (New York Times)

2/ Trump repeatedly pressured Jeff Sessions to reclaim control over the Russia investigation on at least four separate occasions. Three of those occasions were in-person, and the fourth was over the phone. The constant pressure made several other officials uncomfortable at the time, because they felt it was improper and could present its own legal and political problems. Two sources familiar with the conversations said Trump never directly ordered Sessions to reinsert himself into the investigation, but would instead ask Sessions whether he had "thought about" stepping back in. (Axios)

  • Trump once again claimed that he did not fire James Comey because of the Russia investigation, despite his earlier admissions that the investigation was at least part of his decision-making. "Not that it matters," Trump tweeted, "but I never fired James Comey because of Russia! The Corrupt Mainstream Media loves to keep pushing that narrative, but they know it is not true!" (The Hill)

3/ The White House announced a new 10% tariff on metal imports from the European Union, Canada, and Mexico, which supply nearly half of all U.S. metal imports. The steel and aluminum tariffs will go into effect at midnight on Thursday. The European Union immediately announced that it would impose countermeasures against the U.S. as a response. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNBC)

4/ Trump is preparing to block German luxury carmakers from the United States. Trump told French president Emmanuel Macron last month that he planned to stop Mercedes-Benz from driving down Fifth Avenue in New York. No further details are currently available about the specific policies Trump might pursue in order to effectively prevent German automakers from selling in the U.S. (NBC News / WirtschaftsWoche)

5/ Trump offered a full pardon to conservative pundit Dinesh D'Souza for violating campaign finance laws. D'Souza illegally used straw donors to funnel additional money into the campaign of a GOP Senate candidate in 2012, and pleaded guilty to the charges in 2014. He was sentenced to five years of probation and a $30,000 fine. "Will be giving a Full Pardon to Dinesh D’Souza today," Trump tweeted. "He was treated very unfairly by our government!" (Washington Post)

6/ Trump is also considering pardoning Martha Stewart commuting the sentence of former Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Trump brought up the commutation and additional pardon while talking to reporters on Air Force One, shortly after he announced D'Souza's pardon via Twitter. Blagojevich began a 14-year prison sentence for corruption in 2012 and was scheduled to get out in 2024. Stewart was convicted in 2004 of obstruction of justice and lying to the government about her insider trading. Blagojevich is a former contestant on "The Apprentice," and Trump said Stewart "used to be one of my biggest fans." (Associated Press)

  • President Trump keeps pardoning his political friends. Beyond breaking the seal on the pardon power much earlier in his presidency, publicly teasing them before carrying through, and so far using them for very political ends, Trump's pardons are also different because they have occurred one at a time. (CNN)

7/ Audio recordings of Michael Cohen making legal threats to a reporter have been released to the public for the first time. The recording features Cohen threatening a then-Daily Beast reporter with legal action in 2015 over an article the reporter wrote about one of Cohen's clients at the time. "Mark my words," Cohen warns, "I will make sure that you and I meet one day while we're in the courthouse, and I will take you for every penny you still don't have." Cohen continues: "And I will come after the Daily Beast and everybody else that you possibly know." (NPR)

  • The FBI is reconstructing shredded documents seized last month in the raids on Michael Cohen's apartment, office, and hotel room. A small amount of shredded materials were seized, and agents are currently working to piece together the contents of at least one paper shredder that was recovered during the raid. (The Hill)

8/ The largest federal employees union in the country is suing Trump to block an executive order that severely restricts the time employees are allowed to spend on union activities while on the clock. The suit, filed by the American Federation of Government Employees, claims the president's order violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and goes beyond the constitutional powers of the executive branch. (Washington Post)

9/ The White House is not cooperating with the Government Accountability Office, the government's chief watchdog. The GAO's general counsel sent a letter to White House counsel Don McGahn earlier this month and said attorneys for the White House and the National Security Council "will not respond to inquiries or otherwise engage with GAO staff during the course of our reviews." The GAO says it has inquired about vacancies at the inspector general's office, the president's security and travel costs, and the NSC's conflict-prevention efforts abroad, but staff have "either refused to have any discussion … or not responded at all." (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Mike Pompeo's meeting with a high-ranking North Korean official ended two hours earlier than planned because the talks "went well" and "made progress," according to a U.S. official. (Associated Press)

  2. The White House once cited the FBI's informant in Trump's campaign in order to help advance Trump's trade agenda with China. A White House press release from August 14, 2017 features Stefan Halper as a prominent voice of support for Trump's call to investigate allegations that China was stealing U.S. intellectual property. (Politico)

  3. Newly-released voter registration data from California show the Republican party trailing behind both Democrats and "no party preference" voters. The California Republican Party has effectively been relegated to third-party status, falling behind independent voters by at least 73,000, leaving them with only 25.1 percent of registered California voters. (Politico)

  4. The White House has been sending its talking points about the Iran deal to foreign policy heavyweights on both sides of the aisle, including former Obama administration officials and advisers for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. White House communications aide Kelly Sadler forgot to BCC recipients of an email blast about Trump's Iran strategy, revealing the uncharacteristically inclusive email list and confusing frequent critics of the administration. (Politico)

  5. Samantha Bee apologized for calling Ivanka Trump a "feckless cunt" during a segment on her show about immigration issues. Bee was referring to a photo Ivanka posted that depicts her holding her child amidst a flurry of news stories about migrant children being separated from their mothers at the southern border. (New York Times / Daily Beast)

  6. Joy Reid's blog published a Photoshopped image of John McCain as the Virginia Tech shooter in October 2007. The post is one of several archived items from Reid's now-defunct website that have continued to resurface in recent months. (BuzzFeed News)

Day 496: "An absolute, total tool."

1/ Robert Mueller is investigating Trump's request to Jeff Sessions that he reverse his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation in March 2017. Trump berated Sessions in public and in private over his decision to step away, but Sessions refused Trump's request. Mueller is investigating the previously unreported confrontation as part of the ongoing obstruction of justice probe. Mueller's interest in Sessions suggests the investigation may be even more broad than Trump's interactions with and subsequent firing of James Comey. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Trump again expresses regret for choosing Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Trump said Wednesday that he wishes he had picked someone else to be attorney general. (Washington Post)

2/ Federal prosecutors investigating Michael Cohen are set to receive 1 million files from three of Cohen's cell phones that were seized last month in raids on his apartment, office, and hotel room. A court filing submitted by special master Barbara Jones on Tuesday says investigators for the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York have already received nearly 300,000 pieces of potential evidence from the raids. So far, only 252 seized items have been flagged by Cohen's or Trump's attorneys as privileged materials. An additional 292,006 items were turned over to prosecutors on May 23. (Washington Post)

3/ A federal judge in Manhattan ordered Michael Cohen's lawyers to complete their review of the huge trove of seized documents and data within two weeks. Judge Kimba Wood warned that she would allow the government to take control of the review process if Cohen's attorney's don't meet her June 15 deadline. The purpose of the review is to determine whether any of the materials seized by the FBI last month should be protected under attorney-client privilege. (New York Times / Washington Post)

4/ The Senate Intelligence Committee wants to interview Roger Stone. The committee also wants Stone's attorneys to hand over certain electronic communications. The email from the committee to Stone's lawyers includes a list of search terms it wants his attorneys to use to identify which communications to hand over. Stone says he hopes the interview with the committee will be public, and that he has "already begun to think about what to wear." (Daily Beast)

5/ Trump bragged about a classified battle between U.S. forces and Russian mercenaries in Syria while speaking to donors at a closed-door fundraiser. Trump said he was amazed by the actions of American F-18 pilots, suggested that the strikes lasted "10 minutes," and claimed they killed up to 300 Russians. The details of the battle remain classified. (Politico)

6/ The Trump administration will impose restrictions on Chinese visas as part of its attempt to counter alleged theft of U.S. intellectual property by Beijing. Under the new policy, U.S. consular officers may limit how long the visas will be valid, instead of simply issuing them for the maximum possible length. Chinese graduate students studying robotics, aviation, and other high-tech fields will be limited to one-year visas. Chinese citizens seeking visas will require clearance from multiple U.S. agencies in order to work as researchers or managers at certain companies. The restrictions are set to go into effect on June 11. (Associated Press)

7/ A new U.S. intelligence assessment concludes that North Korea does not intend to give up its nuclear arsenal any time soon. The CIA analysis is consistent with expert opinion on the subject, but it conflicts with Trump's recent claims that Kim intends to give up his nuclear stockpile in the near future. The assessment does note, however, that Kim Jong Un might open up a burger joint inside North Korea as a display of good will. (NBC News)

8/ Senior House Republican Trey Gowdy said the "FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got" from an informant inside Trump's 2016 campaign. Gowdy attended last week's highly classified Justice Department briefing about the FBI informant who approached multiple members of Trump's foreign policy team, including Carter Page and George Papadopoulos. Contrary to Trump and Giuliani's "spygate" conspiracy claims, Gowdy said the effort to place an informant inside the campaign had "nothing to do with Donald Trump." (Politico / Daily Beast / Washington Post)

9/ Trump accused Democrats of siding with MS-13 gang members over the American people during a rally in Nashville. "They don’t want the wall, they want open borders," Trump said. "They’re more interested in taking care of criminals than they are in taking care of you." Trump also reiterated his claim that immigrants who commit crimes are "animals," turning it into a chant for the crowd: “What was the name?” Trump called to the crowd. “Animals!” they shouted back. Trump also called Marsha Blackburn's Democratic opponent Phil Bredesen "an absolute, total tool" of Chuck Schumer, and referred to the House Democratic leader as "the MS-13 lover Nancy Pelosi." (New York Times)

10/ Federal bank regulators announced a plan to considerably weaken the Volcker Rule, which was put in place after the financial crisis to prevent risky trading. The rule also dictates that banks can't be the ones to make the rules about what constitutes a risky trade. The revisions make it so banks no longer have to prove that each trade serves a clear purpose — that it's not just a speculative bet. (New York Times)


Notables.

  1. Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens resigned after a series of personal and political scandals. He gave a brief but defiant statement at the governor's office on Tuesday: "I am not perfect, but I have not broken any laws," he said. Greiten's resignation will go into effect on Friday at 5 p.m. (Washington Post)

  2. Kim Kardashian will meet with Trump at the White House and ask him to pardon a woman serving a life sentence without parole for a first-time drug offense. The meeting is the result of months of back-channel talks between Kardashian and Jared Kushner. (Vanity Fair)

  3. The Russian journalist who was believed to have been killed yesterday in Kiev showed up at a press conference today, very much alive. Arkady Babchenko apologized to friends and family who believed he was dead. "I'm still alive," he said. Babchenko's death was faked as part of a sting operation by the Ukrainian Security Service. (NPR / Associated Press)

  4. Ivanka Trump abruptly left a conference call about an upcoming fitness event after reporters asked her about her company's trademarks in China. A White House official previously said Ivanka would take a few questions before leaving for a meeting, but reporters started asking questions about the trademarks, which she refused to answer. Ivanka was gone by the time they got around to questions about her father's fitness regime. (New York Times / CBS News)

  5. Paul Manafort's friends launched a legal defense fund to help Manafort fight the charges brought against him by the special counsel. In an email announcement, fund organizers wrote, "The Defense Fund is urging anyone who values civil liberties and wishes to show the 'Deep State' that they cannot exert their will on ordinary citizens, to join them in supporting the Manafort family as they grapple against the Special Counsel to clear their name." (NPR / BuzzFeed News)

  6. Trump complained that Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, apologized to Valerie Jarret for Roseanne's racist tweets but hasn't apologized to Trump for all the mean jokes people have made about him on Disney-owned networks. During a press conference, Sarah Huckabee Sanders went through a laundry list of things Trumps feels warrant an apology from Iger. (Boston Globe / Salon)

Day 495: 1,475 children.

1/ The U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement lost track of nearly 1,500 unaccompanied immigrant children between October and December of 2017. The acting assistant secretary of the Administration of Children and Families, Steven Wagner, claimed during testimony in April that the agency was not legally responsible for the 1,475 missing children. "I understand that it has been [the Department of Health and Human Service's] long-standing interpretation of the law that ORR is not legally responsible for children after they are released from ORR care," Wagner said. The children are not lost, said Deputy HHS Secretary Eric Hargan, their sponsors "simply did not respond or could not be reached when this voluntary call was made." The comments come as the Trump administration have been defending the policy of separating immigrant children from their families as part of increased border enforcement efforts at the U.S.-Mexico border. (CNN / Reuters / NPR)

  • How federal authorities track undocumented minors. "My experience both in the Obama administration and under prior administrations, both Republican and Democratic," said former head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement under Obama, Bob Carey, "was that the law was not interpreted in the same way. And children were not being separated from their parents unless there was a very strong body of evidence that indicated that they were not their parents." (NPR)

  • ACLU: Border patrol beat, kicked and threatened migrant children with sexual abuse during Obama administration. Migrant children under the care of United States Customs and Border Protection were allegedly beaten, threatened with sexual violence and repeatedly assaulted while in custody between 2009 and 2014, according to a report from the ACLU. (Newsweek)

2/ The White House said it "continues to actively prepare" for the proposed-but-canceled summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12. White House officials have been characterizing the cancellation letter Trump sent to Kim as a negotiating tactic, one that is purportedly designed to bring the North back to the table. (Associated Press)

  • A nuclear weapons expert says North Korean disarmament could take up to 15 years to complete. Former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico, Siegfried S. Hecker, is warning that North Korea's sprawling atomic complex could take 15 years to dismantle, and argues that the best the United States can hope for is a phased denuclearization that goes after the most dangerous parts of the North’s program first. (New York Times)

3/ A top North Korean official is headed to New York to discuss the possibility of reviving the canceled nuclear summit with Kim Jong Un. Kim Yong Chol is a vice chairman of the North Korean ruling party's central committee on inter-Korean relations, and is expected to meet with Mike Pompeo this week to try and dispel skepticism and develop a joint agenda that would put the June 12 nuclear summit back on the table. (Associated Press / New York Times / ABC News)

4/ Rep. Thomas Garrett of Virginia announced that he is an alcoholic and will not seek reelection in November. Unnamed former staffers recently accused Garrett and his wife of mistreating them and making them into their personal servants while they worked for Garrett's office. Garrett insists his departure from politics was spurred solely by his addiction. Garrett will be the 48th Republican to retire or refuse to seek reelection to the House this year. (Washington Post)

5/ Rep. Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania will not seek reelection in November, because "all I do is answer questions about Donald Trump." Costello, a Republican from Pennsylvania's 6th congressional district, originally announced in March that he would not be running for Congress again this year. "No matter what I say or do," Costello said recently, "I feel all I do is answer questions about Donald Trump rather than health insurance or tax policy." Costello also cited the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision to redraw the his district as a major factor in his decision not to run again. (CNN / The Hill)

6/ Trump will impose investment restrictions against China, file litigation against China at the World Trade Organization, and impose tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese goods by the end of June. The trade dispute between Trump and China had become somewhat muted in recent weeks, and Washington and Beijing announced a tentative solution to their dispute just days ago. Trump's decision, however, contradicts that truce and is seen as an escalation in an ongoing tit-for-tat between the two largest economies in the world. (Politico / CNBC)

7/ China awarded Ivanka Trump's company seven new trademarks just days before her father vowed to find a way to save the Chinese telecom giant ZTE, even though the company violated U.S. sanctions against countries like Iran and North Korea. The trademarks span a wide range of businesses, including books, housewares, and cushions. Ivanka Trump already held more than a dozen trademarks in China, as well as multiple pending trademark applications. Her father holds more than 100 trademarks in China. (New York Times / The Guardian)

8/ More than 60 House Democrats are calling for an ethics probe into the "extremely short time frame" between Trump's pledge to save ZTE and a $500 million loan made by the Chinese government to an Indonesian theme park that includes Trump Organization properties. Trump vowed to save ZTE just three days after China approved the massive loan to the theme park, which will include a Trump-branded hotel and golf course, as well as residences and shops. Democrats sent a letter to the U.S. Office of Government Ethics calling for an investigation into the timing of Trump's statements. "We believe that these events raise several potential constitutional and ethical violations," the letter reads. Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island tweeted out the full text of the letter on Sunday. (Newsweek)

9/ Trump claimed that Robert Mueller's team will meddle in the 2018 midterm elections in favor of Democrats. "The 13 Angry Democrats (plus people who worked 8 years for Obama) working on the rigged Russia Witch Hunt," Trump tweeted, "will be MEDDLING with the mid-term elections, especially now that Republicans (stay tough!) are taking the lead in Polls. There was no Collusion, except by the Democrats!" (CNN / Washington Post)

10/ Giuliani admitted that Trump's "Spygate" conspiracy theory is part of a public relations campaign aimed at discrediting the Mueller investigation in the eyes of the public. Dana Bash pressed Giuliani to acknowledge that he and Trump were using a "very specific, very political strategy to undermine [the Mueller] investigation" and using political tactics to shape public opinion. "It is for public opinion," Giuliani admitted, "because eventually the decision here is going to be impeach or not impeach." He continued: "Members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, are going to be informed a lot by their constituents. And so our jury is — as it should be — is the American people." (New York Magazine / The Guardian / CNN)

poll/ Roughly 4 out of 5 gun owners and non-gun owners in the U.S. support the following gun control measures: universal background checks, stronger accountability for missing guns, a safety test for concealed carry permits, improved mental health reporting, preventing people with temporary domestic violence restraining orders from obtaining guns, and a civil process that allows families to petition the court to remove a firearm from someone deemed to be at serious risk of harming themselves or others. (Reuters)

poll/ Twenty-two percent of Republicans think Trump provides somewhat or very little moral leadership. Fifty-nine percent of Americans believe that, and 60% of Independents and 91% of Democrats feel the same way. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. Former President George H.W. Bush was taken to a hospital in Maine on Sunday after he experienced low blood pressure and fatigue. Bush will likely remain in the hospital for observation over the next few days. “The former president is awake and alert, and not in any discomfort,” a family spokesperson wrote on Twitter. (Reuters)

  2. Rudy Giuliani was booed at Yankee Stadium when the announcer wished him a happy 74th birthday over the loudspeaker. (NY Daily News)

  3. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to Arkansas' restrictive abortion law. The law requires providers of medication-based abortions, which use pills to induce abortions in the first nine weeks of pregnancy, to have contracts with doctors who have admitting privileges at a hospital in the state. (New York Times)

  4. The Supreme Court ruled that in general, police must get a warrant in order to search someone's driveway. The Court ruled that Officer David Rhodes violated the law when he entered the property of a Virginia motorcyclist without a warrant or an invitation. (New York Times / Collins v. Virginia)

  5. The Trump administration refused to acknowledge the conclusions of the scientific community when it comes to dealing with climate change. An internal White House memo revealed the only three options the administration is considering when it comes to dealing with federal climate science reports. They are: (1) consider "debating" the established climate science; (2) cast doubt on scientists' conclusions; and (3) simply ignore those conclusions. (The Guardian)

  6. A new Harvard study estimates at least 4,645 people died as a result of Hurricane Maria. The official U.S. government death toll still only lists 64 people. (Washington Post)

  7. Roseanne Barr tweeted that former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett was a cross between Planet of the Apes and the Muslim Brotherhood. Barr later apologized on Twitter, but ABC still cancelled the show "Roseanne" hours after the racist tweet and her subsequent apology. (Snopes / NPR / New York Times / ABC News)

  8. A GOP Congresswoman from Tennessee said pornography was a "big part" of the reason for the recent spike in school shootings. Rep. Diane Black: “It’s available on the shelf when you walk in the grocery store. Yeah, you have to reach up to get it, but there’s pornography there,” she said. “All of this is available without parental guidance. I think that is a big part of the root cause.” (HuffPost)

Day 491: A colossal waste.

1/ Mitch McConnell said he supports the Mueller investigation and that nothing in Thursday's secret briefing on the Russia probe changed his mind. "The two investigations going on that I think will give us the answers to the questions that you raise — the [inspector general] investigation in the Justice Department and the Mueller investigation," McConnell said. "I support both of them, and I don't really have anything to add to this subject based upon the Gang of Eight briefing that we had today, which was classified." (NPR / NBC News)

  • After a closed-door briefing with top Justice Department officials, Congressional Democrats said there is "no evidence" that the FBI placed a spy in the Trump campaign. "Nothing we heard today has changed our view that there is no evidence to support any allegation that the FBI or any intelligence agency placed a spy in the Trump campaign or otherwise failed to follow appropriate procedures and protocols," said Adam Schiff. (The Hill)

  • Lindsey Graham: "A confidential informant is not a spy." Graham undercut Trump during an interview and issued a subtly strong rebuke of Trump's evidence-free claim that the FBI was “spying” on his presidential campaign. (Washington Post)

2/ The head of the national Border Patrol union called Trump's decision to deploy the National Guard to the U.S.-Mexico border "a colossal waste of resources." Roughly 1,600 National Guard troops were deployed to the border in April. "We have seen no benefit," said union president Brandon Judd. Another 750 troops may soon be added to fill support roles and the total deployment could reach nearly 4,000 troops, according to Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis. (Los Angeles Times)

3/ Trump wanted to call off the North Korean summit before Kim Jong Un could beat him to the punch. "There was no hint of this yesterday," said a person briefed on the summit preparations. Defense Secretary James Mattis was not involved in the discussions on Wednesday about canceling the meeting, but Trump said he called Mattis about it Thursday morning. The decision happened so quickly that the White House was unable to give congressional leaders and key allies advance notice, and the letter to Kim was sent out while more than two dozen foreign journalists and several U.S. citizens were still inside North Korea covering the demolition of a nuclear test site. (NBC News / Politico)

  • A day after he bailed on a summit with North Korea’s leader, Trump is now saying that the meeting could still take place after all. “We’ll see what happens. We are talking to them now,” Trump said. “They very much want to do it. We’d like to do it.” He added: "It could even be the 12th." (Washington Post)

  • Trump’s cancellation of the summit with Kim raises fears of renewed tensions and destabilization between the two countries. Trump left the door open for the summit to be rescheduled, but senior White House aides said rescheduling the meeting was highly unlikely, at least not any time soon. (Washington Post)

  • ‘A lot of dial tones’: The inside story of how Trump’s North Korea summit fell apart. “Trump has a morbid fear of being humiliated and shamed," said Tony Schwartz, who co-authored "The Art of the Deal" with Trump. "This is showing who’s the biggest and the strongest, so he is exquisitely sensitive to the possibility that he would end up looking weak and small. There is nothing more unacceptable to Trump than that." (Washington Post)

4/ Mueller's team has been investigating Roger Stone's finances as part of the probe into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians during the 2016 election. Mueller has questioned Stone's associates about his finances, including his tax returns. Stone claims he has not been contacted by the special counsel's office, and that he played no role in colluding with Russia. (CNN)

5/ Roger Stone tried to get damaging information on Hillary Clinton from Julian Assange during the 2016 campaign. Emails revealed that Stone used a mutual acquaintance as an intermediary between himself and Assange in order to ask Assange for any emails related to Clinton's role in disrupting a purported peace deal in Libya while she was serving as secretary of state in 2011. Stone testified last year that he had only "wanted confirmation" that Assange had information about Clinton in his possession. (Wall Street Journal / CNN)

  • Assange's refuge inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London is "in jeopardy." Sources say his current situation is "unusually bad" and that Assange could leave the embassy "any day now," either because he will be forced out or made to feel so restricted that he might just choose to leave on his own. (CNN)

6/ A Russian billionaire with ties to the Kremlin met with Michael Cohen at Trump Tower 11 days before Trump's inauguration. Viktor Vekselberg met with Cohen to discuss their mutual desire to improve Russia's relationship with the U.S. under the incoming Trump administration, according to Andrew Intrater. Intrater is an American businessman who invests money on behalf of Vekselberg and was present at the meeting in question. A few days after Trump's inauguration, Intrater’s private equity firm, Columbus Nova, signed a $1 million consulting contract with Cohen. (New York Times)

7/ The Trump administration told lawmakers that it has reached a deal to keep Chinese telecom giant ZTE alive. The deal would allow ZTE to pay a fine as punishment for violating international sanctions against Iran and North Korea. ZTE would also have to make changes to its management team, hire American compliance officers and place them at the firm. In exchange, ZTE would be again able to do business with American companies. The deal is expected to face considerable resistance from Congress. (New York Times)

8/ Someone has been circulating letters to dozens of wealthy entrepreneurs in China and offering access to the Trump administration in exchange for a $100,000 contribution to Trump's reelection campaign. Republican Party officials say they had nothing to do with the letter, which is one of at least three such offers that have been circulated in the past week. The letter promises a handshake and a one-on-one photo with the president in exchange for $100,000 donation — a “VVIP” trip “to be remembered for a lifetime.” (Washington Post)

9/ Internal documents from inside a shadowy Israeli firm reveal details of a plot to discredit Obama officials involved in the Iran deal and, ultimately, the deal itself. Black Cube operatives befriended architects of the deal and their associates and tried to obtain evidence of improper behavior, including financial or sexual impropriety. Black Cube has two arms, one for corporate clients and one for government and political actors, and is the same Israeli private intelligence and investigation firm hired by Harvey Weinstein to intimidate and disparage his accusers. The plan to sabotage the Iran deal is the first public example of the firm’s attempts to meddle in U.S. politics. (NBC News)


NOTABLES.

  1. The suspect in the shooting that injured three people at an Indiana middle school is now in custody. At least three people, including a teacher and a student, were injured in the shooting. (CNN)

  2. A group of Republican lawmakers and advocacy groups plan to release a new proposal in yet another attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a different plan. The replacement plan is aimed at giving individual states more control over healthcare policy and is the product of eight months of behind-the-scenes planning by a coalition of conservative organizations. (Wall Street Journal / MarketWatch)

  3. Harvey Weinstein turned himself in to police and was arrested by the NYPD on charges of rape, criminal sex acts, and other lower level sex abuse and sexual misconduct charges. The charges stem from his 2004 encounters with actress Lucia Evans and another woman who has not been identified or spoken publicly. Evans confirmed that she was pressing charges. "At a certain point," Evans said, "you have to think about the greater good of humanity, of womankind." (NBC News / CBS News / CNN)

  4. Former staffers for Republican Congressman Tom Garrett say Garrett and his wife made them their personal servants, often ordering them to pick up groceries, clothes, and even dog poop — all during work hours. Garrett and his wife are both known to have explosive tempers, and the aides say they were afraid that Garrett might prevent them from advancing in their careers if they refused his or his wife’s orders. (Politico)

  5. Trump nominated immigration hard-liner Ronald Mortensen to become the next assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration. Mortensen has been highly critical of the DACA program. Among other things, Mortensen has claimed that "Illegal aliens commit felonies in order to get jobs," that "illegal immigration and high levels of identity theft go hand-in-hand," and that "children are prime targets" of identity theft committed by undocumented immigrants. (CNN)

  6. The Republican nominee for a US House seat in Illinois is a 9/11 truther who once claimed that Beyonce had ties to the Illuminati. Bill Fawell, who is running against incumbent Democrat Cheri Bustos in Illinois' 17th District, won an uncontested primary in March. Fawell said Jay-Z "has a long history of serving up the godless Illuminati" and shared a YouTube video that claimed Beyonce's halftime performance at the Super Bowl used Illuminati symbolism. (CNN)

  7. Montana Democrats called for a Congressional ethics probe of Rep. Greg Gianforte to determine whether he "violated House Ethics Rules by making false statements to the police and the public" regarding Gianforte's assault of a reporter and other actions last year. (CNN)

  8. A turf war between Jared Kushner and Jeff Sessions drove the director of the federal prison system to resign. Mark Inch told Rod Rosenstein that he was tired of administration officials flouting "departmental norms," and complained that Sessions had excluded him from major staffing, budget, and policy decisions. Inch also felt excluded by Kushner when it came to drafting prison reform legislation. (New York Times)

🙃 WTF, right?

Don't forget: We're off next Monday for Memorial Day. We'll pick things back up again on Tuesday.

Editor's note: This post originally stated that Vekselberg met with Cohen 11 days before Trump's election. Vekselberg actually met with Cohen 11 days before Trump's inauguration.

Day 490: "They're not innocent."

1/ Trump canceled the planned nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and accused North Korea of "tremendous anger and open hostility." In a letter to Kim, Trump wrote: "Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting." Trump was apparently referring to North Korea's recent statement, in which it called Mike Pence a "political dummy." Most of the letter uses seemingly friendly language, but Trump also appeared to include a veiled threat that the U.S. might someday use its nuclear weapons against North Korea, if necessary: "You talk about your nuclear capabilities," Trump wrote, "but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used." (CNBC / NPR)

  • The letter Trump sent to Kim Jong Un canceling the summit, annotated. (Washington Post)

  • Trump dictated 'every word' of the letter canceling North Korea summit. (The Hill)

  • North Korea demolished its nuclear test site just hours before Trump announced that he was canceling the proposed nuclear summit. North Korea officially closed down the site with a series of explosions that caused landslides near the tunnel entrances to the facility. The closure of the site is not irreversible, and several follow-up measures would be required in order to ensure the facility meets Trump's demands for true denuclearization. Kim also did not invite international nuclear weapons inspectors to the demolition. (Associated Press)

2/ Trump says the U.S. military "is ready if necessary" to respond to any provocation by North Korea after Trump cancelled the proposed North Korean nuclear summit. "I've spoken to General Mattis and the Joint Chiefs of Staff," Trump said during a press conference, "and our military, which is by far the most powerful anywhere in the world that has been greatly enhanced recently, as you all know, is ready if necessary." Trump also said he consulted with Japan and South Korea which, according to Trump, are prepared to respond in the event that Kim Jong Un commits any "foolish or reckless acts" in response to Trump calling off the summit. (NBC News)

  • South Korean President Moon Jae-In said he was "very perplexed" by Trump's decision to cancel the summit. Moon called the cancellation "very regrettable." He continued: "Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the establishment of permanent peace are historic tasks that can neither be abandoned nor delayed." (NPR / Yonhap)

  • The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 250 points after Trump called off the North Korean nuclear summit. The S&P 500 fell 0.9 percent as a continued drop in oil prices and bond yields dragged down energy and financials stocks, respectively. (CNBC)

  • The commemorative North Korea summit coins are now being sold at a discount. The White House Gift Shop put its commemorative coins on sale for $19.95 — down from $24.95 — after Trump announced he was canceling the proposed summit. (Daily Beast)

3/ Trump said migrant children entering the country at the southern border are "not innocent," and warned that letting them in exposes the nation to increased gang crime. "They look so innocent," Trump said at a roundtable meeting at the Morrelly Homeland Security Center. He added: "They're not innocent." (Washington Post)

4/ Trump insisted that he will not sign any immigration bill that emerges from Congress unless it includes "a real wall" on the southern border. Trump was responding to an ongoing effort in the House to force a vote on certain bills aimed at protecting young undocumented immigrants from deportation. Factions of the House GOP are at odds over certain provisions in the various bills under consideration, including whether or not to provide permanent legal status for "Dreamers" under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. (Washington Post)

  • House Republicans holds last-ditch immigration talks as internal showdown looms. House GOP leaders have temporarily halted an internal rebellion to force votes next month on protecting young undocumented immigrants from deportation while they negotiate with the GOP renegades to find a different path forward. (Washington Post)

  • The House broke for an 11-day recess as majority Republicans remain deadlocked over proposed legislation to protect "Dreamers" from deportation. So far, 23 House Republicans have signed a petition to force a debate and votes on a series of immigration bills as soon as next month. (Reuters)

5/ Trump called for sweeping changes to the U.S. immigration legal process and questioned why immigrants should go through the legal system at all. "Other countries have what's called security people," Trump said. "People who stand there and say you can't come in. We have thousands of judges and they need thousands of more judges. The whole system is corrupt." Trump also suggested eliminating courts and judges from the immigration process: "Whoever heard of a system where you put people through trials? Where do these judges come from?" He continued: "So it's ridiculous, we're going to change the system. We have no choice for the good of our country." (CNN)

6/ Trump said athletes who refuse to stand for the national anthem shouldn't be allowed to play and suggested that maybe they "shouldn't be in the country." Trump said he doesn't like the provision in the NFL's new policy that allows players to remain in the locker room while the anthem is played. "I don't think people should be staying in locker rooms," Trump said, "but still I think it's good. You have to stand, proudly, for the national anthem or you shouldn't be playing, you shouldn't be there, maybe you shouldn't be in the country." (Washington Post / NPR / Fox News)

7/ The FBI seized control of a key server in Russia's global botnet of 500,000 hacked routers. One of the goals of the operation was to use the information from the seized server to build a comprehensive list of victims in order to short-circuit the Kremlin's ability to reinfect targets. The FBI went after a complicated malware program called "VPN Filter" that has been linked to the Russian hacking group responsible for the breach of the DNC and the Clinton campaign during the 2016 election. (Daily Beast)

8/ Trump signed the largest rollback of federal banking regulations since the 2008 financial crisis. The legislation exempts scores of banks from strict federal regulations put in place under the Dodd-Frank Act. The bill eases restrictions on all but the largest banks and raises the standard by which banks are designated too important to fail by $250 billion, up from $50 billion. It also eases the reporting requirements for mortgage loan data for the overwhelming majority of banks. The bill was co-authored by three Senate Democrats and passed the Senate in March before clearing the House on Tuesday. (The Hill / CNN / Chicago Tribune / CNBC)


Notables.

  1. An ally of Vladimir Putin suggested that the meeting in the Seychelles with Blackwater founder Erik Prince was more than a simple chance encounter "over a beer," as Prince told Congress. Kirill Dmitriev, a Russian fund manager who was present at the January 2017 meeting, said he had wanted to meet with Prince in order to improve relations between the U.S and Russia. (ABC News)

  2. Jared Kushner spent nearly seven hours with Mueller's team in April for his second interview with the special counsel. Both times, Kushner met with investigators as a witness, not a target, of the investigation. The most recent interview focused on the 2016 campaign, the transition, the firing of James Comey, and other topics. Kushner's financial dealings and family business were not discussed. (ABC News)

  3. GOP Rep. Tom Garrett may not run for reelection in November. Garrett abruptly split with his chief of staff on Tuesday and has been unable to raise as much money as his Democratic opponent in Virginia's 5th congressional district. (Politico)

  4. Newly obtained documents and interviews provide the first public on-the-ground accounting of a battle between American forces and around 500 pro-Syrian government forces and Russian mercenaries. The incident was one of the single-bloodiest battles the American military has faced in Syria since deploying to the country to fight the Islamic State. (New York Times)

  5. Democrats will be allowed to join Republicans at today's White House briefing on the secret FBI source who aided Mueller's Russia probe. After a day of negotiations, the White House reversed its earlier decision to only invite Republican lawmakers the briefing. (Washington Post)

  6. Trump is considering imposing new tariffs on imported cars. Trump told Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to consider an investigation into additional protections for domestic automakers, saying American auto workers have "waited long enough." (NPR)

  7. Trump's ban on global abortion funding has led to more abortions. Healthcare workers in Kenya say Trump's "Mexico City" policy of cutting abortion funding has left thousands of women in Kenya without access to contraception, forcing many to rely on risky, backstreet abortions as a form of birth control. (CNN)

😨 WTF, right?

Day 489: Taxi King.

1/ Michael Cohen's business partner took a plea deal that requires him to cooperate with the government as a potential witness in state and federal investigations. Evgeny Freidman is a Russian immigrant known as the "Taxi King," and he specifically agreed to assist government prosecutors in state or federal investigations, according to a person briefed on the matter. Freidman was disbarred earlier this month, has been accused of failing to pay $5 million in taxes, and is facing multiple counts of criminal tax fraud and one of grand larceny. Freidman's cooperation is seen as potential leverage to pressure Cohen into working with Mueller's team on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 elections. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / CNBC / Vox)

  • Cohen distances himself from business associate who struck plea deal. (The Hill)

  • Who is Evgeny Freidman? Michael Cohen's "Taxi King" business partner may be key to Russia investigation. (Newsweek)

2/ Cohen received a secret payment of at least $400,000 to arrange talks between Trump and the president of Ukraine. The payment was arranged by intermediaries acting on behalf of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko. The meetings occurred at the White House last June. Cohen has denied the allegation. There is no indication that Trump was aware of the payment. (BBC)

3/ Robert Mueller asked the courts to begin the sentencing process for former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos. Mueller asked the judge to order a standard investigative report and to begin moving forward with sentencing process. The judge will ultimately decide what Papadopoulos' sentence will be. Papadopoulos has been cooperating with the special counsel for months, but the move suggests that his cooperation may no longer be necessary. (CNN)

4/ A federal district court judge ruled that Trump can't block people on Twitter over their political views. Judge Buchwald of the Southern District of New York said Trump's Twitter account is a public forum and blocking people based on their political opinions amounts to viewpoint discrimination and a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (The Hill)

5/ Trump said he constantly bashes the press in order to "demean" and "discredit" journalists so the public won't believe "negative stories" about him. Lesley Stahl says she asked Trump, "Why are you doing it over and over?" She continued: "And he said: 'You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.'" (Yahoo! Finance)

6/ The White House did not invite Democrats to a private briefing on the FBI informant involved in the investigation into the Trump campaign's contacts with Russians during and after the 2016 election. Two senior House Republicans were invited to the briefing, which was coordinated by John Kelly and will be held on Thursday. Democrats are demanding that Democratic lawmakers be included in the briefing. Sarah Huckabee-Sanders said Democrats weren't invited because they didn't specifically ask for details about the informant. (Politico)

  • Donald Trump turned a rumor into a full-blown government conspiracy in just 5 days. Trump went from having heard a rumor about the FBI's use of a confidential source to claiming that it was an intentional and political attempt to install a "spy" within his ranks on behalf of Obama's Justice Department. (Politico)

7/ John Kelly signed off on a plan to fire a handful of mid-level and junior aides after Trump demanded changes to the White House communications team in order to limit the leaks coming out of his administration. The plan would remove some of the department's low-level employees, while keeping high-level staffers such as Sarah Huckabee-Sanders and other officials on board. (Politico)

8/ Jared Kushner’s prison reform plan passed in the House of Representatives with bipartisan support. The "First Step Act," which has Trump's support, passed with a 360-59 vote. The bill would provide training programs for prisoners and would be the first major bipartisan success for the Trump administration. Mitch McConnell, however, has indicated that he is unlikely to bring up the bill in the Senate unless Republicans can find a way to resolve their differences. (Politico)

  • Congress’s prison reform bill, explained: The First Step Act has Trump’s support — but faces some Democratic opposition. (Vox)

  • Is the “First Step Act” real reform? The bill addresses the dire need for rehabilitative services in the federal prison system, proves there is strong bipartisan support for at least modest criminal justice reform and underscores a strategic debate that has split the Democratic Party. (The Marshall Project)

9/ Scott Pruitt spent at least $9,600 on decorations and furniture for his personal office. Pruitt bought Smithsonian artwork, a refurbished desk, and other framed items. He paid the Smithsonian Institution $1,950 in labor and delivery charges to rent out three art pieces for his executive suite, and spent more than $2,500 on frames for various items, including a photo of himself with Trump and an American flag. The internal document with the list of expenditures also confirmed earlier reports that Pruitt spent $2,963 on a standing "captain's" desk and $2,075 on a different desk. (The Hill)

poll/ A majority of Americans — 59% — don't think Mueller's investigation into Russia and the 2016 presidential campaign has uncovered evidence of any crimes, even though the special counsel has already secured five guilty pleas and issued 17 criminal indictments. (Vox / Navigator Research)

poll/ Thirty-six percent of voters say they would vote for Trump over a generic Democratic candidate in 2020. Forty-four percent would choose the generic Democrat, and 20 percent of voters remain undecided. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Jared Kushner received his security clearance after a year of background checks conducted by the FBI. (New York Times / CNN)

  2. NFL teams will be fined if players kneel during the national anthem. Players will be allowed to remain in the locker room during the anthem, but their teams will be fined by the NFL if they go out and kneel on the field. (New York Times)

  3. Mike Pompeo says the U.S. will fight back against what he called "continued efforts" by Russia to interfere in the 2018 midterm elections. Pompeo did not provide any details as to what the "appropriate measures" would entail, but he said the U.S. has so far been unable to establish "effective deterrence" to halt Russia's efforts. (Associated Press)

  4. Senate negotiators have released legislation to overhaul policies for handling sexual harassment complaints in Congress. The deal includes requirements that lawmakers be held personally liable for some financial settlements, and requires lawmakers to repay any awards and settlements stemming from acts of harassment that they personally commit. (NPR)

  5. New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal says he is ready to fill the prosecutorial void left in the wake of Eric Schneiderman’s sudden resignation earlier this month. Grewal has jurisdiction over 20 Trump properties. (Politico)

  6. A sinkhole appeared on the White House lawn near the office of White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gridley. (CBS News)

  7. Michael Avenatti's law firm was hit with a $10-million judgment in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. (Los Angeles Times)

  8. Trump offered his support to Tomi Lahren after someone threw a drink at the Fox News pundit while she was eating at a restaurant in Minneapolis over the weekend. (Washington Post)

  9. Stacey Abrams won the Democratic nomination to become the next governor of Georgia, making her the first African American woman to be a major party nominee in the state. (New York Times)

😳 WTF, right?

Day 488: Too inconvenient.

1/ Trump uses White House cellphones that lack the proper security features required to protect his communications, thus leaving him open to potential hacking or surveillance. Trump uses at least two different iPhones — one for calls and one for Twitter and news — and has resisted staff efforts to beef up phone security. Aides have urged Trump to swap out his Twitter phone on a monthly basis, but Trump argues the disruption is "too inconvenient." Trump has gone as long as five months without a Twitter-phone security check-up. (Politico)

  • Trump is essentially doing the same thing he demanded Hillary Clinton be locked up for doing. Trump's actions are identical to Clinton’s, but Trump's situation is an easier target for foreign hackers, especially since Trump is particularly vulnerable to espionage and blackmail due to his concealed business interests and alleged adultery. (New York Magazine)

  • Trump's communication security practices illustrate the clear double standard between Hillary Clinton’s emails and his own cell phones. Whether or not convenience was actually Clinton's reasoning for the use of her private server is a fair question, but there are still clear parallels between what Trump attacked Clinton for and what he's doing now. (Washington Post)

  • The White House pushed back on the report that Trump's cell phones are not secure: “The White House is confident in the security protocols in place for the President’s use of communications devices,” a senior White House official said. (ABC News)

2/ White House employees who draft tweets for Trump intentionally incorporate poor grammar and spelling errors to mimic their boss. Overuse of exclamation points, random capitalization of words, and use of fragmented sentences are all elements of a process intended to make the tweets appear genuine. (Boston Globe)

3/ The EPA barred the Associated Press and CNN from a national summit on harmful water contaminants convened by Scott Pruitt. One AP reporter was grabbed by the shoulders and forcibly removed from the building after asking to speak to a public affairs representative. "This was simply an issue of the room reaching capacity," said EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox. Wilcox later announced the afternoon session would be open to all press. (Associated Press / NBC News / Axios / CNBC)

4/ The Interior Department plans to reverse a 2015 ban prohibiting hunters on some public lands in Alaska from using cruel hunting techniques, including the use of spotlights to shoot mother black bears and cubs during hibernation, the hunting of black bears with dogs, the killing of wolves and pups in their dens, and the use of motor boats to kill swimming caribou. The Interior Department will accept public comments on the proposed rule changes for the next 60 days. (NBC News)

5/ The Government Accountability Office approved a proposal to cut more than $7 billion in unused funding from the Children's Health Insurance Program. The GAO report approved the vast majority of the Trump administration's $15.3 billion plan to reduce government spending. The plan will likely avoid filibuster in the Senate and is expected to pass with a simple majority vote. The House version of the bill has been drafted and is expected to head to the floor in June. (Politico)

6/ Elliot Broidy's company received its largest U.S. government payout while Broidy was selling access to Trump to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In 2017, in addition to securing nearly $1 billion in contracts from Saudi Arabia and the UAE (in exchange for lobbying against Qatar), Broidy and George Nader locked down more than $4 million in contracts from the Department of Defense. The most Circinus LCC had received in defense contracts prior to Broidy's lobbying work in Washington, D.C. was $7,501. (Daily Beast)

  • More evidence that Broidy may Have been covering for Trump in that Playmate affair. (New York Magazine)

7/ A bipartisan group of lawmakers say they will try to stop Trump from reducing penalties against ZTE, the Chinese telecom giant. "We will begin working on veto-proof congressional action," Marco Rubio tweeted. Dick Durbin said lawmakers are considering several options and plan to act "soon." (Reuters)

  • China has already reduced its import tariff on passenger cars from 25% to 15% following a truce between Trump and Chinese officials. The move opens up a market that has been a major target of the United States in its ongoing trade battle with the world’s second-largest economy. (Bloomberg)

  • How China acquires ‘the crown jewels’ of U.S. technology: The U.S. frequently fails to police foreign deals over the cutting-edge software that powers the military and American economic strength. (Politico)

8/ James Clapper said the FBI did not spy on the Trump campaign at any point. "They were not," Clapper told The View. "They were spying — a term I don't particularly like — on what the Russians were doing." (Politico / The Hill)

  • James Clapper: Trump tweets are a 'disturbing assault' on the Justice Department's independence. (CNN)

9/ Harley-Davidson took a tax cut, closed a factory in Kansas City, and rewarded its shareholders with a $700-million stock buyback plan. Following the windfall of the federal tax bill, the company laid off 800 workers, moved its factory to Pennsylvania, and announced a dividend increase and stock buyback plan for 15 million of its shares. (Vox)

  • An increase in gas prices easily outpaces the benefits of the tax bill for lower-income Americans. It’s not yet clear whether — or how much — this is a function of the Iran deal as opposed to the normal increases typically seen during the summer months. (Washington Post)

  • Gas prices reach $5 per gallon in Manhattan. One gas station in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood listed its gasoline for $4.999 per gallon. (The Hill)


Notables.

  1. The Supreme Court ruled in a 5–4 decision that private-sector workers may not band together to challenge violations of federal labor laws. In the majority opinion, Justice Neil Gorsuch argued the 1925 Federal Arbitration Act trumps the National Labor Relations Act. As such, employees who sign agreements to arbitrate claims must waive their rights to join a class action lawsuit and instead go through arbitration on an individual basis. (NPR / Politico)

  2. Purdue Pharma hired Giuliani in the mid-2000s to head off a federal investigation into its marketing of OxyContin, which has been at the center of the national opioid crisis. Purdue turned OxyContin into a multibillion-dollar drug after its launch in 1996 and undertook an unprecedented marketing campaign to pitch the painkiller to doctors. (The Guardian)

  3. Bob Corker turned down an offer to become the next U.S. ambassador to Australia. "I had a number of conversations with both President Trump and [Mike] Pompeo," Corker said. "At the end of the day though … it just felt like it wasn't the right step." (The Tennessean)

  4. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen pushed back on the intelligence community's assessment that Vladimir Putin intervened in the 2016 presidential elections in an attempt to help Trump and hurt Clinton. "I don't believe that I have seen that conclusion … that the specific intent was to help President Trump win," Nielsen said. (CNN)

  5. Senior GOP lawmakers are questioning Paul Ryan's ability to lead the party through the 2018 midterm elections. While Ryan continues to insist he is not planning on stepping down as Speaker, many Republicans — including moderates — have become increasingly willing to defy Ryan, whom they view as a lame-duck leader of the party. (Politico)

Day 487: Walking into a trap.

1/ Trump demanded that the Justice Department investigate whether the FBI "infiltrated or surveilled" his presidential campaign under Obama's orders. After accusing the FBI on Friday of sending a "spy" to infiltrate his campaign, Trump tweeted Sunday afternoon: "I hereby demand, and will do so officially tomorrow, that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes, and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!" The FBI opened its counterintelligence investigation into Russia's efforts to influence the 2016 campaign on July 31, 2016. They sent an informant, a retired American professor, to talk to George Papadopoulos, Carter Page, and Sam Clovis after receiving evidence that the pair had contacts linked to Russia during the campaign. (New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ The Justice Department asked the inspector general to review the FBI's counterintelligence investigation of the 2016 Trump campaign hours after Trump demanded that the agency investigate whether his campaign was "infiltrated" by the FBI. Rod Rosenstein said in a statement: "If anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action." The suspected informant is Stefan Halper, an American who was a foreign policy scholar at the University of Cambridge until 2015. (Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

3/ Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats met with Trump at the White House. The meeting comes a day after Trump tweeted that he would "demand" the Justice Department investigate whether his campaign was improperly "infiltrated or surveilled" for political purposes. Rosenstein agreed that John Kelly would set up a meeting where congressional leaders can review "highly classified and other information they have requested" related to the Russia probe. (ABC News / CBS News / CNN / Bloomberg)

4/ Rudy Giuliani: Robert Mueller will end his investigation into possible obstruction of justice by Sept. 1 if Trump agrees to sit down with investigators for an interview. A source familiar with the probe called the deadline "entirely made-up" and "another apparent effort to pressure the special counsel to hasten the end of his work." Giuliani added that questions about the FBI informant who approached campaign aides in 2016 need "to be cleared up before we even approach the idea of doing an interview" because Trump could be "walking into a trap." (New York Times / Reuters / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

5/ Three months before the 2016 election, Trump Jr. met with representatives of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates who offered to help the Trump campaign, proposing a multimillion-dollar social media manipulation campaign. The group comprised Joel Zamel, an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation; George Nader, an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes; and Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater and brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Following the meeting, Nader became a close ally of Trump campaign advisers. While it's illegal for foreign governments or individuals to be involved in American elections, two people familiar with the meetings said Trump campaign officials weren't bothered by the idea of cooperation with foreigners. (New York Times)

6/ Robert Mueller expanded his probe into Joel Zamel's role. Mueller has issued a subpoena for documents related to Zamel's work, but not for Zamel himself. Zamel previously met with Mueller's team to discuss his relationship with George Nader, who paid Zamel $2 million shortly after Trump was elected. The payment has been described as unrelated to the campaign. (Wall Street Journal)


Notables.

  1. Incoming NRA president Oliver North blamed school shootings on "youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence" and young boys who have "been on Ritalin" since early childhood. "They've been drugged in many cases," North said. North, who is best known for his role in the Iran-Contra "guns for drugs" scandal, told Fox News, "You are not going to fix it by taking away the rights of law-abiding citizens." (Washington Post)

  2. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick blamed school shootings on violent video games, removing religion from schools, abortion, broken families, too many entrances to schools, unarmed teachers, and irresponsible gun owners. Patrick did not blame guns for school shootings. (CNN)

  3. Trump signed a bill that will undo efforts by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to discourage discrimination in auto lending. CFPB acting Director Mick Mulvaney called the guidelines "misguided" while praising the rollback. (Politico)

  4. A border patrol agent detained two U.S. citizens after overhearing them speaking Spanish at a gas station in Montana last week. (Slate)

  5. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the US will aim to "crush" Iran with economic and military pressure if it doesn't change its behavior in the Middle East. Pompeo demanded that Iran halt all uranium enrichment, stop its ballistic-missile program and give nuclear inspectors access to the entire country. (Bloomberg / CNN)

  6. The Trump administration suspended its plan to impose tariffs on China. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, said: "We're putting the trade war on hold." (New York Times)

  7. The RNC paid roughly half a million dollars to a law firm representing former White House communications director Hope Hicks and others involved in the Russia probe. Trout Cacheris & Janis received $451,780 from the RNC after Hicks hired the firm's founder as her personal attorney in September. The money used to pay the firm was originally meant to be used for election recounts and other legal matters, but RNC officials concluded that the money could be used to pay for the president's legal fees. (Washington Post)

Day 484: Really bad stuff.

1/ The Trump administration will withhold federal funding for family planning clinics that provide abortions or refer patients to places that perform them in a change to how Title X family planning funds are awarded. The rule will resurrect a Reagan-era policy that requires abortion services to have "separate personnel" and require a "bright line" of "physical separation" from other family planning services. Title X serves about 4 million women a year and costs taxpayers about $260 million. (New York Times / Washington Post / Associated Press)

2/ Trump tweets: The Justice Department put "an embedded informant" inside his campaign in order to "spy" on him in an effort to "frame" him "for crimes he didn't commit." Giuliani tried to clarify Trump's tweets, saying the president doesn't "know for sure" if there was an FBI informant in his campaign. He added that Trump's legal team was told "off the record" that there was not one informant but two informants. Trump tweeted that if the reports are true, then it would be the "all time biggest political scandal!" He called the allegations "really bad stuff!" (NBC News / Washington Post)

3/ Trump Jr. called a blocked number before and after the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. On June 6, Trump Jr. was in contact with a blocked number for three to four minutes. Immediately after ending that call, Trump Jr. called Emin Agalarov, the pop star son of Russian oligarch Aras Agalarov. Two hours after the Trump Tower meeting occurred on June 9th, Trump Jr. placed another call to a blocked number that lasted three minutes. Then-candidate Trump spent that day at Trump Tower, where the private residence has a blocked number, and held no public events. (CNN / Washington Post)

4/ Rudy Giuliani: A president can commit obstruction of justice, contradicting Trump's now-former lawyer John Dowd, who said that "the president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer." According to Giuliani, Mueller's appointment was "really about the firing of Comey," which wouldn't count as obstruction – regardless of Trump's reason for doing so – because Comey was "replaced by somebody else on an acting position immediately." (CNBC / Washington Post)

  • Avenatti to Giuliani: "Please retire. Today." You're becoming an "embarrassment." (The Hill)

5/ Giuliani said Robert Mueller agreed to limit the scope of a potential interview with Trump to two topics instead of five. Mueller, according to Giuliani, is not interested in Michael Cohen or his business dealings. "The main focus we want is Russia," Giuliani said, adding: "The President would testify tomorrow if it was about the truth. The truth is he had nothing to do with Russia. The President is not going to lie." (CNN / Associated Press)

  • Mueller subpoenaed another Roger Stone assistant. John Kakanis has worked as a driver, accountant, and operative for Stone was questioned by the FBI on the topics of possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, the WikiLeaks website, its founder Julian Assange, and the hacker or hackers who call themselves Guccifer 2.0. (Reuters)

6/ Summer School: Trump's lawyers are planning a series of summer prep sessions to get the president ready for a possible sit-down interview with Mueller. The planning meetings will be held during off-hours at the White House and will mirror his 2016 debate preparation, where aides briefed Trump in short sessions over many weeks. (Politico)

7/ Michael Cohen's suspicious activity reports (SARs) aren't missing – the Treasury Department has restricted access to them. Earlier this week, a law enforcement official admitted to leaking some of Cohen's banking records over concerns they had been removed from a Treasury Department database as part of a cover-up. The official could only access one SAR related to Cohen, but knew that two more should have been available. The Treasury Department also restricted some law enforcement agencies from accessing the database despite memorandums of understanding that allow agencies, including the DEA, the FBI, and the IRS, to access the information. (BuzzFeed News)

  • 🤔 Let's work together to answer your vexing questions about the curious case of Cohen's SARs, where Avenatti got his information, and whether Mueller may already have Coehn's reports. (WTF Community Center)

8/ At least 10 people were killed and 10 more wounded in a shooting at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas. Trump offered his "support to everyone affected" and said mass shootings have been "going on too long in our country." Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, called for legislative action, saying that by failing to act, "we are failing our children." And, in an open letter to Trump and federal lawmakers, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo wrote: "You were elected to lead – do something." (New York Times / CNN / The Hill / ABC News)

  • An armed man ranting "anti-Trump" rhetoric opened fire on police officers at the Trump National Doral Miami Golf Club in South Florida before he was wounded and apprehended. (New York Times / Sun Sentinel)

Notables.

  1. Trump personally asked the postmaster general to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com. Megan Brennan has resisted, explaining multiple times that the rates are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission. Brennan also told Trump that the Amazon relationship is beneficial for the Postal Service. (Washington Post)

  2. Senate Democrats called for a multi-agency inspector general investigation into the Trump administration's failure to implement mandated sanctions against Russia. In a letter addressed to the inspectors general of the State Department, Treasury Department and Intelligence Community, Democratic lawmakers said the administration has not complied with the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. (Daily Beast)

  3. Cambridge Analytica and SCL Group filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Emerdata, a company that was registered in August with Jennifer and Rebekah Mercer on the board, is footing the legal bills for the two companies. (BuzzFeed News / CNN)

  4. Trump tapped Robert Wilkie as next Veterans Affairs secretary after conduct issues sank Ronny Jackson's nomination. Wilkie has been leading the VA in an acting capacity since March. (Politico)

  5. The White House is considering shrinking its communications team in part to reduce the number of leaks. While most staffers are not expected to be fired outright, there's a sense that a few staffers will pay a price for the leaked comment about John McCain's brain cancer – even if there's no evidence they were involved in the leak. (Politico / CNN)

  6. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross tried to demonstrate how benign the effects of a 25% levy on steel imports and 10% tariff on aluminum would be by holding up a can of Campbell's Soup. Today, Campbell said it expects profits to decline by 5% to 6% this year – worse than earlier projections of between 1% and 3%. (CNBC)

  7. The House failed to pass the Republican-written farm bill. The measure died in a 198 to 213 vote that saw 30 House Republicans join 183 Democrats in voting against the legislation. The House Freedom Caucus wanted assurances that the House would vote on a tough immigration plan in exchange for their votes, which they didn't receive. (CNBC / Washington Post)

Day 483: Disgusting, illegal and unwarranted.

1/ Trump marked Robert Mueller's one-year anniversary as special counsel by offering "congratulations" to America on "the greatest Witch Hunt in American History." Trump charged that the FBI had "SPIED" on his campaign with an "EMBEDDED INFORMANT," which makes the Russia investigation "bigger than Watergate!" Trump claimed he's had the "most successful first 17 month Administration in U.S. history," overcome a "disgusting, illegal and unwarranted Witch Hunt," and noted there is "still No Collusion and No Obstruction." He added that "the only Collusion was that done by Democrats who were unable to win an Election despite the spending of far more money!" (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / NBC News)

  • The Secret Origins of the Trump Investigation. Days after the F.B.I. closed its investigation into Hillary Clinton in 2016, agents began scrutinizing the presidential campaign of her Republican rival, Donald J. Trump. (New York Times)

  • Inside year one of the Mueller investigation. As the Mueller probe hits its one-year anniversary, the special counsel's team has brought charges against 22 people and companies, notched five guilty pleas and seen one person sentenced. While a number of those charges were related to Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election, so far none of them has extended to potential collusion between the Russian government and Trump associates. (CNN)

  • Is Trump's rhetoric about an informant in his campaign warranted? On the first anniversary of the appointment of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to take over the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and any overlap with Donald Trump’s campaign, now-President Trump used his preferred political superlatives to disparage that inquiry on Twitter. (Washington Post)

  • Last Year Today: Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Bob Mueller to oversee the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. (WTF Just Happened Today)

2/ Mueller's office filed under seal an unredacted memorandum that outlines the scope of his probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The filing was made as part of Mueller's criminal case against Paul Manafort, and was requested by the judge overseeing the case. (Reuters)

  • Manafort's former son-in-law cut a plea deal with the Justice Department, requiring him cooperate with other criminal probes. Jeffrey Yohai, a former business partner of Manafort, divorced Manafort's daughter last August. (Reuters)

  • Mueller's team is examining a series of meetings that took place in the Seychelles, which have been characterized as an attempt by the U.S. to set up a backchannel with Russia. A Russian plane, owned by Andrei Skoch, a Russian billionaire and deputy in the Russian State Duma, the country's legislative body, flew into the Seychelles a day prior to the 2017 meeting. (NJ.com)

3/ Trump referred to some undocumented immigrants as "animals," saying "these aren't people. These are animals." Trump also suggested that the mayor of Oakland, California, should be charged with obstruction of justice for warning her constituents about ICE raids in February. "You talk about obstruction of justice," said Trump. "I would recommend that you look into obstruction of justice for the mayor of Oakland." (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • Kellyanne Conway: Trump is owed an apology from those who criticized him for calling undocumented immigrants "animals," because he was referring to gang members. (The Hill)

4/ Michael Avenatti: Two more women claim they have agreements with either Trump or Michael Cohen to stay quiet about an affair with the president. Avenatti said he is in talks with the two women, but has not confirmed the allegations and is working to substantiate their claims. (The Hill)

  • A New York appeals court rejected Trump's request to stay proceedings in a defamation suit filed by a former contestant on "The Apprentice" who claimed he sexually harassed her. (Washington Post)

5/ The unnamed law enforcement official who leaked confidential financial records about Michael Cohen and his shell company last week did so because the official was worried that information was being withheld from law enforcement. Two suspicious activity reports filed by Cohen's bank were missing from the database managed by the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. "I have never seen something pulled off the system," the official said. "That system is a safeguard for the bank. It's a stockpile of information. When something's not there that should be, I immediately became concerned." The official continued: "That's why I came forward." (New Yorker)

6/ Michael Cohen solicited a payment of at least $1 million from the Qatari government in late 2016. Cohen offered to provide access and advice about the then-incoming Trump administration in exchange. Qatar declined the offer, which came following a Dec. 12, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower between Qatar's foreign minister and Michael Flynn. Cohen didn't attend the meeting, but did speak separately to Ahmed al-Rumaihi, who was head of the Qatari sovereign wealth fund at the time. (Washington Post / Reuters)

  • Jared Kushner's family company is close to a deal with the Qatar government to bailout the family's financially troubled tower in New York City. The building generates about half its annual mortgage payment, and 30% of the 41-story tower is vacant. (New York Times)

7/ The Cambridge Analytica whistleblower testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that the data company offered services intended to discourage voting and suppress voter turnout. Christopher Wylie didn't provide specifics about the services offered by Cambridge Analytica, but he did allege that African-American communities were particular targets of the company's "voter disengagement tactics." He also said that political action committees requested such voter suppression services from Cambridge Analytica. (CNN)

  • Paul Ryan postponed a congressional briefing on election security. Democrats pressed GOP leadership to make the briefing classified so that officials could go into sufficient detail about the scope of the threat and the Trump administration's efforts to protect digital election systems from hackers. (The Hill)

poll/ 13% of Americans consider Trump honest and trustworthy – down 3 points since February 2017. (The Hill)


Notables.

  1. The Senate confirmed Gina Haspel as the next CIA director, approving her nomination in a 54 to 45 vote despite bipartisan concerns about her role in the agency's detention and interrogation programs. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  2. North Korea called the South Korean government "ignorant and incompetent" and threatened to break off peace talks with the South if they don't halt U.S.-South Korean air combat drills. (Reuters)

  3. Scott Pruitt hired a white-collar defense lawyer to help him navigate a dozen federal investigations into his activity and behavior as EPA administrator. (Politico)

  4. Trump blamed Democrats for immigration laws that force federal immigration agents to break up families, saying "we have to break up families. The Democrats gave us that law. It's a horrible thing, we have to break up families. That Democrats gave us that law and they don't want to do anything about it." (CNN)

  5. The White House canceled its daily communications morning meeting in response to the leak of a joke about John McCain being close to death. (New York Times)

  6. A Republican lawmaker suggested that rocks falling in the ocean are causing sea levels to rise. Representative Mo Brooks from Alabama: "Every time you have that soil or rock or whatever it is that is deposited into the seas, that forces the sea levels to rise, because now you have less space in those oceans, because the bottom is moving up." (Science)


👀 Watching.

A list of stories I'm keeping an eye on.

💬 What stories are you noticing? Let me know using the chat icon in the lower right-hand corner.

Day 482: Russian assistance.

1/ Trump "fully reimbursed" Michael Cohen between $100,001 and $250,000 in 2017 for an unspecified payment to a third party in 2016, according to Trump's financial disclosure report. The disclosure corroborates Rudy Giuliani's claim that Trump personally reimbursed Cohen between $460,000 or $470,000 for "incidental expenses" that he had incurred on Trump's behalf. Trump reported assets of at least $1.4 billion and income of at least $593.3 million for the 2016 calendar year and the early months of 2017. Trump owes at least $310 million to various financial institutions, including $130 million to Deutsche Bank. (CNBC / New York Times)

  • Trump's 2017 financial disclosure report. (CNN)

2/ The Senate Intelligence Committee endorsed the U.S. intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election in order to help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton. The Senate committee's bipartisan conclusion contradicts Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee, who dispute the intelligence community's findings that Putin was trying to help Trump. "We see no reason to dispute the conclusions," the Senate committee's chairman, Richard Burr, said. "There is no doubt that Russia undertook an unprecedented effort to interfere with our 2016 elections." (Washington Post / Politico / CNN / Wall Street Journal)

3/ Senate Judiciary Democrats say the evidence is clear that the Trump campaign "was willing to accept Russia's assistance." The committee's preliminary findings on the Trump Tower meeting also suggest they found "evidence of multiple contacts" between the Trump campaign and Russia, including "offers of assistance and purported overtures from Vladimir Putin." The committee also found that Trump Jr. and the White House misled the public about the June 9, 2016, meeting with Russians at Trump Tower, and that Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner were frustrated "that more damaging information was not produced" at the meeting. (Feinstein / Senate.gov)