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 631: Optics.

1/ The Trump administration is considering new rules to separate parents and children at the U.S.-Mexico border. One option is for the government to detain asylum-seeking families together for up to 20 days, then give parents a choice to stay in family detention together or allow children to be taken to a government shelter so relatives or guardians can seek custody. Some inside the White House and Department of Homeland Security are concerned about the "optics" of the so-called "binary choice" option. (Washington Post)

2/ Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross discussed adding a citizenship question to the U.S. census with Steve Bannon and Kris Kobach despite previously saying he hadn't spoken with anyone at the White House about the addition. Ross original claimed that a citizenship question would allow the government to better enforce the Voting Rights Act, which is meant to protect voters from discriminatory policies. However, emails reveal that Ross was instead concerned that not adding a citizenship question "leads to the problem that aliens who do not actually 'reside' in the United States are still counted for congressional apportionment purposes." (Washington Post)

3/ Wilbur Ross shifted his explanation for adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census, saying he now recalls discussing it with Steve Bannon. Ross faces a court order to provide a deposition to the plaintiffs in a lawsuit seeking to remove the question from the census. (New York Times / NPR / Politico)

4/ Trump could fire Jeff Sessions and then replace him with a temporary attorney general who would then reduce Robert Mueller's budget "so low that his investigation grinds to almost a halt." Matthew Whitaker made the comments in July 2017. Trump is considering as many as five candidates to replace Sessions if he leaves as attorney general, including Whitaker. Trump declined to deny that he is considering replacing Sessions with Whitaker, but he has talked with Whitaker about replacing Sessions in the past. (Washington Post)

5/ Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a Hatch Act complaint against Sarah Huckabee Sanders for using her official government Twitter account to tweet a photo of herself with Kanye West, who was wearing a "Make America Great Again" hat in the Oval Office. The Hatch Act prohibits any executive branch employee from "us[ing] his official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election." (The Hill / CREW)

poll/ 51% of Americans disapprove of Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court – and 53% favor further investigation by Congress that could lead to efforts to remove him from office. 58% of women and 47% of men support an investigation. (ABC News / Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. The Turkish government told U.S. officials that they have audio and video recordings that prove Jamal Khashoggi was tortured and killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The recordings show that Khashoggi was detained inside the consulate by a Saudi security team before being killed and dismembered. "You can hear his voice and the voices of men speaking Arabic" on the audio recording, one person with knowledge of the recording said. "You can hear how he was interrogated, tortured and then murdered." (Washington Post)

  2. Trump on Khashoggi: "It's in Turkey, and it's not a citizen, as I understand it." Trump later added: "Again, this took place in Turkey, and to the best of our knowledge, Khashoggi is not a United States citizen. Is that right?" (Washington Post)

  3. Two Arizona Republicans tried to make a donation to a Democratic congressman as members of the Communist Party in an attempt to link him to the far left. Two men walked into first-term Democrat Tom O'Halleran with a jar of $39.68 and insisted that the Northern Arizona University Community Party wanted them to get a receipt for the donation. When O'Halleran's finance director drove to the local Republican field office to return the money, one of the men appeared from inside the offices and was identified as the man who tried to donate the money. (The Guardian)

  4. Senate Democrats agreed to confirm 15 lifetime federal judges in exchange for the ability to go into recess through the midterms, allowing Democrats to campaign. (Politico)

  5. Georgia sued for placing 53,000 voter applications – 70% by African-Americans – on hold weeks before November's midterm election. The lawsuit charges that the "exact match" method that Secretary of State Brian Kemp uses to verify new voter registrations is discriminatory. (NBC News)

  6. Melania Trump said she has "more important things to think about" than her husband's alleged affairs, adding that the allegations are "not concern and focus of mine" because she's "a mother and a first lady." (ABC News / CNN / The Guardian)

  7. Trump made 129 false claims last week – his second-most-dishonest week as president. (Toronto Star)

Day 630: Highly unusual.

1/ U.S. intelligence intercepts indicate that the crown prince of Saudi Arabia ordered an operation to coax Jamal Khashoggi back to the kingdom in order to capture him. Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi government, disappeared last week after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. A bipartisan group on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee invoked the Magnitsky Act to force the Trump administration to investigate the disappearance of Khashoggi, which requires the administration to respond within 120 days of potential sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations. Trump said he is reluctant to cut off arms sales to Saudi Arabia, believing it "would be hurting" the U.S. economy. (Washington Post / Politico / CNN / Bloomberg)

2/ Trump pledged to "weed out" individuals inside his administration who he doesn't like or trust. When asked if that included Jeff Sessions, Trump replied that he is focused on the midterm elections. Melania Trump, meanwhile, said Trump has people working in his administration she doesn't trust and it is hard for the president to govern when "you always need to watch your back." Melania added that she is "the most bullied person on the world." #BeBest (Politico / ABC News / CNN / Washington Post)

3/ Trump spoke with Jeff Sessions' own chief of staff about replacing him as attorney general. It is not clear whether Trump wanted Matthew Whitaker to take over on an interim basis or to be nominated in a more permanent capacity. White House officials say they expect both Sessions and Rosenstein to remain in their positions at least until after the midterms. (Washington Post)

4/ Trump is considering as many as five candidates to replace Jeff Sessions if he leaves as attorney general. The candidates include Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Transportation Department general counsel Steven Bradbury, former Attorney General Bill Barr, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and Janice Rogers Brown, a retired appeals court judge from the District of Columbia Circuit. Sessions isn't currently planning to leave, but has privately said he expects to be asked to resign. (Wall Street Journal)

5/ Georgia's Secretary of State is holding more than 53,000 voter registration applications – nearly 70% from black voters – due to the state's "exact match" law, which requires that information on the application must match information on file with the Georgia Department of Driver Services or the Social Security Administration. Brian Kemp's office has cancelled over 1.4 million voter registrations since 2012 and nearly 670,000 registrations in 2017 alone. (Associated Press)

poll/ 35% of young Americans ages 18-29 say they are absolutely certain to vote in the midterms, while 81% of seniors 65+ say they're certain to vote. 69% of Americans say their feelings about the state of the country are primarily negative. (The Atlantic / Public Religion Research Institute)


Notables.

  1. Trump's legal team is preparing written answers to questions provided by Robert Mueller related to the investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and Russians. The two sides have still not agreed on whether Trump will be interviewed in person regarding obstruction of justice related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey. (CNN)

  2. The judge in one of Paul Manafort's criminal cases wants to move ahead with sentencing and whether Mueller's prosecutors will retry him on deadlocked counts. Manafort's plea deal, however, deferred sentencing until after his cooperation with Mueller's team concluded. It also pushed off the decision to retry him on 10 of the 18 counts that Virginia jurors couldn't agree on. Judge T.S. Ellis called the timeline in Manafort's plea deal "highly unusual," saying it didn't adhere to the usual schedule in his court. A hearing is set for next week. (Associated Press / NBC News)

  3. Trump accused Hillary Clinton of colluding with Russia during the 2016 election campaign. "There was collusion between Hillary, the Democrats and Russia," Trump claimed during a campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania. His supporters chanted "lock her up." (NBC News)

  4. Andrew McCabe says the FBI is stalling publication of his book, "The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump." The former deputy director of the FBI said he has been singled out for what he calls "irregular unfair treatment." McCabe was fired in March for what the Justice Department called a lack of candor following an inspector general report accusing him of misleading investigators. He has denied any wrongdoing. (ABC News / NBC News)

  5. Michael Cohen changed his party registration from Republican to Democrat. Trump's former attorney pleaded guilty in August to eight criminal counts of tax fraud, making false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations. He implicated Trump by suggesting that the violations were at his direction. (Axios)

  6. Trump blamed the stock market correction on the "out of control" Federal Reserve, criticizing chairman Jerome Powell for "going loco." Trump said he won't fire Powell, but is "just disappointed." Presidents for more than two decades had avoided publicly criticizing the Fed's interest-rate policies as a way of demonstrating respect for the institution's independence. The Dow traded 200 points lower, bringing its two-day losses to more than 1,000 points (Bloomberg / CNBC)

  7. Instead of discussing prison reform, Kanye West plunged into a 10-minute rant in the Oval Office, referring to himself as "a crazy motherfucker" akin to "tasting a fine wine" with "complex notes" for supporting Trump, complimented the president for making him "a Superman cape" by way of the red "Make America Great Again" hat, pitched the president on replacing Air Force One with a hydrogen-powered "iPlane 1" that he'd like Apple to design, and repeatedly complimented Trump, saying the president "is on his hero's journey right now." After West finished his soliloquy, Trump said: "That was quite something." (Reuters / NPR / Rolling Stone / BuzzFeed News)

Day 629: Inevitable.

1/ Trump claimed the Democratic Party's push for "Medicare for All" would "eviscerate" and "gut Medicare with their planned government takeover of American health care," in a rare presidential op-ed published by USA Today. The op-ed included numerous debunked claims and factual inaccuracies while simultaneously linking to information that directly refuted his claims. Trump suggested that "Medicare would be forced to die" under the plan, devastating the health care industry, and "inevitably lead[ing] to the massive rationing of health care." Medicare provides health care to Americans older than 65 and those with disabilities. (CNN / NBC News)

  • Fact-checking Trump's op-ed. (Washington Post)

  • The Trump administration plans to take down healthcare.gov for maintenance during the sign-up period for the Affordable Care Act. The administration did the same thing last year and drew criticism for it, but officials say the maintenance periods are routine and intended to occur during the slowest periods. (The Hill)

2/ Trump said he will speak to Saudi officials about the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying he was "concerned." While the Saudi government claims that Khashoggi left the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul after his visit last week, top Turkish security officials concluded that Khashoggi was assassinated in the consulate on orders from the highest levels of the Saudi royal court. Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen living in exile in the United States, was a vocal critic of Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Fifteen Saudi agents had arrived on two charter flights the day Khashoggi disappeared and all 15 left just a few hours later. The Trump administration has been largely silent in part because Saudi Arabia is a close American ally and Trump has repeatedly expressed his enthusiasm for Mohammed bin Salman. (New York Times / Politico)

3/ State court judges may be able to grant custody of migrant children to American families without notifying their parents, according to a report drawing on hundreds of court documents, immigration records and interviews in the U.S. and Central America. More than 300 parents were deported to Central America without their children this summer, many of whom allege they were ordered to sign a waiver they didn't understand, which affected their rights to reunify with their children. (Associated Press)

4/ Melania Trump: Women "need to have really hard evidence" before saying they're victims of sexual assault. "I do stand with women," the first lady said, "but we need to show the evidence. You cannot just say to somebody, 'I was sexually assaulted,' or, 'You did that to me,' because sometimes the media goes too far, and the way they portray some stories it's, it's not correct, it's not right." During the 2016 presidential campaign, at least 13 women accused Donald Trump of sexual harassment or sexual assault. (CNN)

  • FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate that the White House limited the Brett Kavanaugh investigation. The FBI's "supplemental update to the previous background investigation was limited in scope and that … is consistent with the standard process for such investigations going back a long ways," Wray said. (Politico)

  • Chief Justice John G. Roberts referred more than a dozen judicial misconduct complaints filed recently against Kavanaugh to a federal appeals court in Colorado. The 10th Circuit will likely dismiss the complaints now that Kavanaugh has joined the Supreme Court. (Washington Post)

poll/ 46% of voters believe the Senate "made the wrong decision" in confirming Brett Kavanaugh, while 40% said it was the right decision. Among Democrats, 78% say the Senate made the wrong decision compared to 73% of Republicans who support the decision. Following the nomination, 77% of Democrats say they are "very motivated" to turn out and vote in the midterms. 68% of Republicans say they're "very motivated." (Politico)

  • Democratic voter turnout in this year's House primaries increased in each of the 19 competitive, comparable House districts compared to 2014, and doubled in more than two thirds of them. (Axios)

poll/ 55% of Americans think Trump is just venting when he calls the press "enemies of the people." 45% said they believe he is being serious. (Los Angeles Times)


✏️ Notables.

  1. The Trump campaign argued that it can't be held legally responsible for the WikiLeaks publication of DNC emails because the First Amendment protects the campaign's "right to disclose information – even stolen information." The lawsuit, filed by two Democratic donors and a former employee of the Democratic National Committee, alleges that the Trump campaign and Roger Stone coordinated release and exploitation of the hacked emails with Russia and WikiLeaks, thereby violating the plaintiffs' privacy. (The Atlantic)

  2. The Republican operative who tried to obtain Hillary Clinton's emails had established a relationship with Michael Flynn as early as 2015, according to emails and interviews. Peter Smith told associates during the presidential campaign that he was using Flynn's connections to help him on the email project. (Wall Street Journal)

  3. A Roger Stone aide says he feels "great" about taking his case to the Supreme Court now that Kavanaugh is on the bench. Andrew Miller, who worked for Stone and was subpoenaed to testify before Robert Mueller's grand jury, is challenging the constitutionality of the special counsel's probe. He filed a suit to invalidate Mueller's authority to act as a prosecutor. A federal judge ruled against him and held him in contempt, so he appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. (CNN)

  4. A federal judge sentenced Richard Pinedo to six months in prison and six months of home confinement after he pleaded guilty to a felony identity fraud tied to Russian trolls. It's the most severe penalty handed down yet in Mueller's investigation into Russian meddling. (Politico)

  5. The infamous Russian troll factory was set on fire by an unknown suspect wielding a Molotov cocktail. The troll farm, run by Yevgeny Prigozhin, known as Putin's "cook," rebranded itself as a media company last year with 16 news websites generating more than 30 million pageviews every month. (Moscow Times)

  6. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will introduce legislation this week to fully fund Trump's $23.4 billion border wall. The bill is currently in draft form, but is expected to be released within the next few days. The House would not be able to consider the bill until after the midterm elections. (CNN)

  7. Trump said the Federal Reserve "has gone crazy" for raising interest rates. The comment comes after the Dow plunged more than 800 points – the worst drop since February. The tech sector, in particular, had its worst day in seven years. The Fed has raised interest rates three times this year and one more is expected before year-end. (Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / CNBC)


📌 The Re-Up.

A few stories worth your attention that were drowned out by the daily shock and awe. Updated occasionally.

  • Day 621: Trump inherited his family's wealth through fraud and questionable tax schemes, receiving the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father's real estate empire. Trump has repeatedly claimed that "I built what I built myself." Trump and his siblings used fake corporations to hide financial gifts from their parents, which helped Fred Trump claim millions in tax deductions. Trump also helped his parents undervalue their real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars when filing their tax returns. In total, Fred and Mary Trump transferred more than $1 billion in wealth to their children and paid a total of $52.2 million in taxes (about 5%) instead of the $550+ million they should have owed under the 55% tax rate imposed on gifts and inheritances. Trump also "earned" $200,000 a year in today's dollars from his father's companies starting at age 3. After college, Trump started receiving the equivalent of $1 million a year, which increased to $5 million a year when he was in his 40s and 50s. Trump has refused to release his income tax returns, breaking with decades of practice by past presidents. There is no time limit on civil fines for tax fraud. [Editor's note: This is a must read. An abstract summary does not suffice.] (New York Times)

  • Day 627: A U.N. report on the effects of climate change predicts a strong risk of an environmental crisis much sooner than expected. The report finds that the atmosphere could warm by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, which would cause sea levels to rise, intensify droughts, wildfires, and poverty, and cause a mass die-off of coral reefs. To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and fully eliminated by 2050. The use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40% today to between 1% and 7% by 2050. Renewable energy would have to increase to about 67%. Trump has mocked the science of human-caused climate change, vowing to increase the burning of coal, and he intends to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement. The world is already more than halfway to the 2.7-degree mark and "there is no documented historic precedent" for the scale of changes required, the report said. (New York Times / Washington Post)


🗳 Register to vote:

  1. If you're not sure if you're registered, check your registration status on vote.org.

  2. If you haven't registered, use vote.org, TurboVote, or pick up a registration form at your local post office or library.

  3. Check your voter registration deadline here or here.


⚠️ Why I'm not covering Hurricane Michael. The scope of what WTF Just Happened Today covers is defined like a set of concentric circles. I start with Trump at the center, expanding outward to include news about his administration followed by the judicial and legislative branches of government. I'll cover natural disasters, like hurricanes and wildfires, as they become intertwined with Trump and his administration (i.e. their response). Breaking news moves fast and rather than regurgitating outdated reporting once a day here, it's better to get your information from the local news outlets reporting from the ground about their communities.

Day 628: Hidden genius.

1/ Rick Gates requested proposals in 2016 from an Israeli company to create fake online identities and use social media to manipulate and influence the election. Gates joined the Trump campaign along with Paul Manafort. Both have been indicted on multiple charges of financial fraud and tax evasion. One proposal from the company, known as Psy-Group, called for the creation of fake online personas to target and persuade 5,000 delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention by attacking Ted Cruz. Another called for opposition research and "complementary intelligence activities" aimed at Clinton and her close allies. There is no evidence that the Trump campaign acted on the proposals, but Psy-Group owner Joel Zamel did meet with Trump Jr. in August 2016. (New York Times)

2/ Nikki Haley resigned as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and will leave at the end of the year. Trump said that Haley informed him about six months ago that she would "take a break" at the end of her first two years. Haley said she doesn't plan to run for president against Trump in 2020 and will support Trump's re-election. Trump plans to name a successor in two to three weeks (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / Axios / NBC News / CNN)

  • After announcing her resignation, Haley called Jared Kushner a "hidden genius that no one understands." She added: "We're a better country because [Jared and Ivanka Trump are] in this administration." (The Hill / Axios)

  • 👋 Who The Fuck Has Left The Trump Administration. A timeline of all the departures so far… (WTFJHT Community Forum)

3/ Trump said he thought there was no one "more competent in the world" than Ivanka Trump for the U.N. ambassador job. While he thinks his daughter would make for an "incredible" ambassador, he also acknowledged that he "would be accused of nepotism." (NBC News / Axios)

  • Senior White House officials have talked with Dina Powell about replacing Haley as U.N. ambassador. Powell is a Goldman Sachs executive and Trump's former deputy national security advisor. (CNBC)

poll/ 54% of likely voters say they support the Democrat in their district while 41% back the Republican in a generic ballot. 62% of Democrats say they're enthusiastic to vote while 52% of Republicans are excited to vote. (CNN)

poll/ 34% of young people ages 18-24 say they are "extremely likely" to vote in the midterm elections – up from 19.9% of 18-to-29 year olds who voted in 2014's midterms. 45% want to vote for a Democratic candidate in 2018 while 26% plan to support a Republican. (Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)


✏️ Notables.

  1. The acting EPA administration repeatedly engaged with racist and conspiratorial content on Facebook and Twitter over the past five years. Andrew Wheeler brushed off his interactions, saying he doesn't remember "liking" or retweeting the inflammatory content. (HuffPost)

  2. The Trump administration will remove a federal ban on the summer sales of high-ethanol gasoline blends. The policy change would allow year-round sales of gasoline blends with up to 15% ethanol – 5% higher than typical blends. The EPA currently bans high-ethanol blends during the summer because they contribute to smog on hot days. The move is seen as a reward to Sen. Chuck Grassley, who chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee and presided over Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court. (CBS News)

  3. Trump apologized "on behalf of our nation" to Kavanaugh "for the terrible pain and suffering" that he and his family endured during the confirmation process. Trump claimed that Kavanaugh was "proven innocent" and said that the confirmation process was based on "lies and deception." (NBC News / ABC News)

  4. More than a thousand noncitizens may have been registered to vote in California due to a processing error. The California Department of Motor Vehicles admitted that a mistake had caused as many as 1,500 noncitizens to be registered to vote in the state. A Canadian citizen and legal permanent resident of the U.S. first brought attention to the mistake after he received a letter in the mail telling him he was registered to vote. (ABC News / Los Angeles Times)

  5. Trump's trade war with China has cost Ford $1 billion. The automaker may have to cut production of some models and potentially eliminate some U.S. jobs as a result. (NBC News)

  6. Kanye West will visit the White House to discuss job opportunities for former convicts with Trump and Jared Kushner. West also hopes to discuss increasing manufacturing jobs in the Chicago area. (New York Times / Reuters)


📌 Re-upping.

A few stories worth your attention that were drowned out by the daily shock and awe. Updated occasionally.

  • Day 621: Trump inherited his family's wealth through fraud and questionable tax schemes, receiving the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father's real estate empire. Trump has repeatedly claimed that "I built what I built myself." Trump and his siblings used fake corporations to hide financial gifts from their parents, which helped Fred Trump claim millions in tax deductions. Trump also helped his parents undervalue their real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars when filing their tax returns. In total, Fred and Mary Trump transferred more than $1 billion in wealth to their children and paid a total of $52.2 million in taxes (about 5%) instead of the $550+ million they should have owed under the 55% tax rate imposed on gifts and inheritances. Trump also "earned" $200,000 a year in today's dollars from his father's companies starting at age 3. After college, Trump started receiving the equivalent of $1 million a year, which increased to $5 million a year when he was in his 40s and 50s. Trump has refused to release his income tax returns, breaking with decades of practice by past presidents. There is no time limit on civil fines for tax fraud. [Editor's note: This is a must read. An abstract summary does not suffice.] (New York Times)

  • Day 627: A U.N. report on the effects of climate change predicts a strong risk of an environmental crisis much sooner than expected. The report finds that the atmosphere could warm by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, which would cause sea levels to rise, intensify droughts, wildfires, and poverty, and cause a mass die-off of coral reefs. To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and fully eliminated by 2050. The use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40% today to between 1% and 7% by 2050. Renewable energy would have to increase to about 67%. Trump has mocked the science of human-caused climate change, vowing to increase the burning of coal, and he intends to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement. The world is already more than halfway to the 2.7-degree mark and "there is no documented historic precedent" for the scale of changes required, the report said. (New York Times / Washington Post)


🗳 Register to vote:

  1. If you're not sure if you're registered, check your registration status on vote.org.

  2. If you haven't registered, use vote.org, TurboVote, or pick up a registration form at your local post office or library.

  3. Check your voter registration deadline here or here.

Day 627: "An insult to the American public."

1/ The Senate confirmed Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court in a 50-48 vote. Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted "present," although she said she opposed the nomination. Joe Manchin was the lone "yes" vote from the Democrats. Kavanaugh is the first justice nominated by a president who lost the popular vote, confirmed by senators representing less than half of the country, while also having his nomination opposed by a majority of the country. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / The Guardian / NPR)

  • Chief Justice John Roberts has already received more than a dozen judicial misconduct complaints against Kavanaugh. Roberts has chosen not to refer the complaints to a judicial panel for investigation. (Washington Post)

  • The campaign to impeach Justice Kavanaugh has begun. A petition to impeach Kavanaugh gathered more than 125,000 signatures, but while it takes majority of the House to impeach a federal official, removing them requires a two-thirds supermajority of the Senate – or 67 votes. (Newsweek / NBC News)

2/ Trump called the allegations against Kavanaugh "a hoax that was set up by the Democrats." He said talk of impeaching Kavanaugh was "an insult to the American public." (The Hill / Washington Post)

  • Mitch McConnell called for an investigation into the leak of Christine Blasey Ford's letter to Diane Feinstein, which alleges that Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her while the two were in high school. (Politico)

  • John Kelly formed a working group to prepare for the possibility of investigations if Democrats win the House. "Subpoenas flowing into a White House create paralysis," said Neil Eggleston, Obama's White House counsel. "The whole system stops while everyone tries to comply with subpoenas and prepare to testify." (Axios)

  • Susan Rice said she'll decide after the midterm elections on whether to run and try to unseat Susan Collins in 2020, who was the deciding vote to confirm Kavanaugh. Rice was Obama's national security adviser. (ABC News / Washington Post)

  • Ford has not been able to return to her home due to constant threats, according to her attorneys. "They are not living at home […] The threats have been unending, it's deplorable." Ford "still believes [coming forward] was the right thing to do." (HuffPost)

3/ Trump won't fire Rod Rosenstein after all, saying they have a "very good relationship." Trump and Rosenstein met following reports that Rosenstein wanted to wiretap the president and using the 25th Amendment to remove him from office. Rosenstein oversees the Russia probe led by Robert Mueller, whose work Trump has labeled a "witch hunt." (New York Times / CNN / Washington Post / Politico)

4/ A U.N. report on the effects of climate change predicts a strong risk of an environmental crises much sooner than expected. The report finds that the atmosphere could warm by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels by 2040 if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, which would cause sea-levels to rise, intensify droughts, wildfires, and poverty, and cause a mass die-off of coral reefs. To prevent 2.7 degrees of warming, greenhouse pollution must be reduced by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030, and fully eliminated by 2050. The use of coal as an electricity source would have to drop from nearly 40% today to between 1 and 7% by 2050. Renewable energy would have to increase to about 67%. Trump has mocked the science of human-caused climate change, vowing to increase the burning of coal and intends to withdraw from the 2015 Paris agreement. The world is already more than halfway to the 2.7-degree mark and "there is no documented historic precedent" for the scale of changes required, the report said. (New York Times / Washington Post)

poll/ 51% of Americans oppose Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court with 41% supporting it. Among Democrats, 91% opposed his nomination, while 89% of Republicans support it. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. North Korea will allow inspectors to visit a nuclear testing site that Kim Jong Un says he destroyed, according to Mike Pompeo. North Korea has not yet agreed to provide a full inventory of their nuclear arsenal, a move widely seen as the first step toward denuclearization. Additionally, South Korea said Trump and Kim agreed to a second summit. (New York Times)

  2. A Republican operative raised at least $100,000 in an effort to obtain Hillary Clinton's stolen emails just weeks before the 2016 election. In an email, Peter W. Smith sent wire instructions to "fund the Washington Scholarship Fund for the Russian students" with the donations days after WikiLeaks and DCLeaks began releasing emails damaging to Clinton's campaign. Robert Mueller's office has been investigating Smith's activities. He killed himself in May 2017 – 10 days after describing his efforts to a reporter. (Wall Street Journal)

  3. Federal officials froze all of Oleg Deripaska's U.S.-based assets, including his mansions in Washington, D.C. and New York City. Deripaska is close with Putin and is allegedly involved in murder, money-laundering, bribery and racketeering. (New York Post)

  4. Fox News hired Hope Hicks as Chief Communications Officer. After she left the White House in February, former Fox News executive Bill Shine took over as deputy chief of staff for communications. (Fox News / CNBC / Variety)

  5. 🇷🇺 What We Learned Last Week in the Russia Probe: GOP operative and anti-Trumper, Cheri Jacobus, said the investigation of an email hacking/catfishing scheme that targeted her has been forwarded to Robert Mueller; Russia's Deputy Attorney General, who allegedly directed the foreign operations of Natalia Veselnitskaya, died last week in a mysterious helicopter crash in Russia; the pilot of the helicopter had two bullet wounds; the Russian sovereign wealth fund leader with whom Erik Prince met in the Seychelles, Kirill Dmitriev, "reached out to at least three additional individuals in close contact with the Trump transition team" in the days before Trump's inauguration; GOP operative Peter Smith, who killed himself in an alleged suicide, solicited and raised at least $100k in his search for Clinton's emails; Randy Credico told the Senate Intelligence Committee he would plead the 5th in response to a subpoena; Reddit's CEO admitted that "suspicious" Russian accounts have been active within the past month on the platform; Russian state TV and Russian trolls supported Kavanaugh and condemned what they call "malignant feminism"; Representative Eric Swalwell wrote an op-ed for the Fresno Bee accusing Devin Nunes of burying evidence on Russian meddling to protect Trump and endorsing his opponent, Andrew Janz; a coalition of voting rights activists announced they are filing a federal lawsuit against Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp for "using a racially-biased methodology" to remove roughly 700,000 voters from the state's voter rolls; and California's Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill on Friday banning companies from secretly using automated social media accounts to sell products or influence elections. (WTF Just Happened Today)


🗳 How to register to vote:

  1. If you're not sure if you're registered, check your registration status on vote.org.

  2. If you haven't registered, use vote.org, TurboVote, or pick up a registration form at your local post office or library.

  3. Check your voter registration deadline here or here.

Day 624: Rock bottom.

1/ The Senate voted 51-49 to advance Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination. Republican Lisa Murkowski voted not to advance the nomination. She called the cloture vote "a mistake," saying Kavanaugh is "not the best man for the court at this time." Flake told reporters he would support Kavanaugh on the final vote, "unless something big changes." A final floor vote is expected to take place on Saturday. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)

2/ Susan Collins will support Kavanaugh's nomination, effectively ensuring enough votes for his confirmation. During a lengthy speech, Collins said the confirmation process has "been in steady decline for more than 30 years," with Kavanaugh's nomination hitting "rock bottom." She said it's her "fervent hope" that Kavanaugh will "work to lessen the divisions in the Supreme Court." Collins added that "the MeToo movement is real," that "it matters," is "needed and it is long overdue," but that Christine Blasey Ford's "allegations fail to meet the more-likely-than-not standard" and "I do not believe that these charges can fairly prevent Judge Kavanaugh from serving on the court." (CNBC / NBC News / Associated Press / Washington Post)

  • A group of Mainers have raised more than $2 million for Collins' future Democratic opponent. (Crowdpac)

3/ Joe Manchin will also vote "yes" on Kavanaugh's nomination, announcing his decision immediately after Collins. Manchin is a Democrat up for re-election in a red state. Machin said he had "reservations about this vote given the serious accusations against Judge Kavanaugh and the temperament he displayed in the hearing," but "found Judge Kavanaugh to be a qualified jurist who will follow the Constitution and determine cases based on the legal findings before him." (Axios / The Hill)

4/ Kavanaugh said that he "might have been too emotional" during his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, arguing that he will be an "independent, impartial judge" in an op-ed he wrote for the Wall Street Journal. (Wall Street Journal)

  • The American Bar Association is re-evaluating Kavanaugh's "well-qualified" rating. In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the ABA referred to "new information of a material nature regarding temperament" stemming from Kavanaugh's hearing. (Business Insider)

5/ Trump mocked former Senator Al Franken for folding "like a wet rag" and resigning following multiple allegations of sexual misconduct last year. (New York Times)


Notables.

  1. The unemployment rate fell to 3.7%, the lowest level since December 1969. The Labor Department reported 134,000 new jobs in September, down from 270,000 in August. (CNBC / Politico / New York Times)

  2. The U.S. trade deficit widened to 6.4% to a six-month high of $53.2 billion in August despite the White House slapping China with $200 billion worth of tariffs. (CNBC)

  3. The Trump administration plans to pay Mexico $20 million to deport migrants from their country in order to prevent them from reaching the U.S. (ABC News)

Day 623: Unfathomable.

1/ The White House is "fully confident" that Brett Kavanaugh will be confirmed by the Senate after receiving the FBI report. The White House said it found no evidence in the FBI report corroborating Christine Blasey Ford's allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh. Mitch McConnell scheduled a procedural vote for Friday. If the motion passes, senators will have 30 hours to debate Kavanaugh's confirmation before making the final decision. (Washington Post / NBC News / Wall Street Journal)

  • More than 1,700 law professors signed onto a letter opposing Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court. The letter to the Senate says "the unprecedented and unfathomable demeanor of Judge Kavanaugh" during his hearing last week displayed a lack of judicial restraint and should disqualify him from serving on the nation's highest court. (Politico / Washington Post)

  • A group of 100,000 Christian churches called for Kavanaugh's nomination to be withdrawn, saying he "exhibited extreme partisan bias and disrespect towards certain members of the committee and thereby demonstrated that he possesses neither the temperament nor the character essential for a member of the highest court in our nation." The National Council of Churches represents 45 million churchgoers in the U.S. (Fortune)

  • Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens doesn't think Kavanaugh belongs on the Supreme Court, saying his performance during the Senate confirmation hearing suggests he lacks the temperament for the job. (Palm Beach Post)

  • A former Kavanaugh classmate at Yale said the Supreme Court nominee lied under oath about his drinking and the meaning of his yearbook entries. "Brett Kavanaugh stood up under oath and lied about his drinking and about the meaning of words in his yearbook," writes James Roche. "He did so baldly, without hesitation or reservation." Roche said there is "zero chance" that Deborah Ramirez made up her accusation that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at a party. He also said Kavanaugh lied about never blacking out from drinking, and about the definition of the word "boofing." (CNN)

2/ Sens. Susan Collins and Jeff Flake called the FBI report "reassuring" and "thorough," adding that they see "no additional corroborating information" to back up Ford's allegations. Democrats called the report "incomplete," saying the FBI – at the White House's direction – limited the investigation to protect Kavanaugh. The two Republican senators said they are still undecided about how to vote, but a "yes" vote from both would secure Kavanaugh's seat on the Supreme Court. (NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post / ABC News)

  • 48 Senators publicly support Kavanaugh's nomination – all Republicans. There are three undecided Republicans – Collins, Flake, and Lisa Murkowski – and one undecided Democrat – Joe Manchin. Kavanaugh needs to pick up at least two of those four votes to advance. Heidi Heitkamp said she will vote "no" on Kavanaugh's nomination. (Politico / Reuters / CNN)

3/ There is a single copy of the FBI's findings available to Senators to review in a vault in the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. The report cannot leave the room, senators can't bring their phones into the SCIF, and if they take notes, the notes must be left in the room when they leave. All 100 senators, four majority committee staffers, four minority committee staffers, and one committee clerk are cleared to view the report. Sen. Dick Durbin called the process "bizarre," although it's a standard process for FBI background reports. This FBI report will likely never be made public. (CNN / MSNBC / Business Insider)

  • Sen. Robert Menendez called the FBI investigation a "bullshit investigation." The New Jersey senator added that "you don't get corroboration if you don't talk to corroborating witnesses at the end of the day, and obviously that didn't happen here." (NJ.com)

Notables.

  1. A federal judge blocked the Trump administration from ending Temporary Protective Status for more than 300,000 immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan. The judge ruled that those TPS recipients and their children would "indisputably" face "irreparable harm and great hardship" if they were to lose protected status. (Politico / New York Times / CNN / NBC News)

  2. Pence accused China of "meddling in America's democracy" because "China wants a different American President." Pence claimed that China is engaging in "a comprehensive and coordinated campaign to undermine support for the president" by using "covert actors, front groups, and propaganda outlets to shift Americans' perception of Chinese policies." (NBC News / Reuters / Politico)

  3. The U.S. Navy wants to put on a global show of force in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait to warn China that the U.S. is prepared to deter and counter their military actions. One official described it as "just an idea." (CNN)

  4. The Justice Department indicted seven Russian military intelligence officials for trying to hack anti-doping agencies in the U.S., Canada and Europe. The agencies exposed Russia's state-sponsored doping scheme that resulted in the country's athletes being banned from the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil and the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. (New York Times / CNBC / CNN / Reuters)

  5. A Russian official linked to the lawyer who met senior Trump campaign officials at Trump Tower in 2016 died in a helicopter crash outside of Moscow. Russian Deputy Attorney General Saak Albertovich Karapetyan was linked to Natalia Veselnitskaya in a Swiss court case earlier this year for running a foreign recruitment operation that involved bribery, corruption, and double agents. It's unclear why Karapetyan and two others took off after nightfall in adverse conditions. (Daily Beast)

  6. Robert Mueller's team gained possession of radio interviews between Roger Stone and radio host Randy Credico, who Stone claimed was his back channel to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The radio interviews took place between August 2016 and April 2017 on local New York station WBAI. Credico has denied Stone's claim that he was the intermediary between Stone and Assange. Mueller is investigating Stone's possible involvement in Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. (CNN)

Day 622: Appalling.

1/ The FBI hasn't interviewed Brett Kavanaugh or Christine Blasey Ford because it doesn't have authority from the White House, despite Trump's comment Monday that "the FBI should interview anybody that they want, within reason." The White House has indicated to the FBI that testimony from Kavanaugh and Ford is sufficient. (Bloomberg)

  • Senate Democrats suggested that previous FBI background checks on Kavanaugh included evidence of inappropriate behavior. Eight of the 10 Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee asked Sen. Chuck Grassley to correct his previous statement that "nowhere in any of these six FBI reports … was there ever a whiff of ANY issue … related in any way to inappropriate sexual behavior or alcohol abuse." The Democrats said the information is "not accurate." (Washington Post)

2/ The FBI is expected to wrap up its investigation into sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh today. Ford has not been interviewed by the FBI. Her attorneys have demanded that the FBI interview her and other witnesses to the alleged incidents. Agents completed a first batch of interviews of four individuals closest to the alleged events, including Mark Judge, and are now interviewing Tim Gaudette, a Georgetown Preparatory School classmate of Kavanaugh who lived in the home where the July 1 party marked on Kavanaugh's 1982 calendar was held. Another friend from Kavanaugh's high school days, Chris Garrett, has also completed an FBI interview. Mitch McConnell plans to vote later this week and has vowed that "only senators will be allowed to look at" the FBI's final report. (Politico / Washington Post)

  • McConnell rejected a request to have the FBI brief all senators on its report on sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh, saying "I believe it would be used to further delay this nomination. Republican Senator John Kennedy called for McConnell to either make the FBI's report public or release an independent synopsis of its findings. (The Hill / Reuters)

  • If the FBI report reaches the Senate by Wednesday, McConnell will file cloture today on the Kavanaugh nomination. The cloture vote would happen on Friday and, if successful, a final vote on Kavanaugh could take place Saturday night at the earliest. (Politico)

3/ The FBI has not contacted at least 40 potential corroborators or character witnesses about the allegations made against Kavanaugh by Ford and Deborah Ramirez. Two sources, however, say more interviews are happening with a focus on Kavanaugh's high school friends who are listed as attending a July 1, 1982, party. (NBC News / CNN)

  • Kavanaugh wrote a letter to his Georgetown Prep friends in 1983 and recommended that one of them "warn the neighbors that we're loud, obnoxious drunks with prolific pukers among us." Kavanaugh and his seven friends were staying in Ocean City, Maryland, for "Beach Week." (New York Times)

  • Two of Kavanaugh's former law school classmates are withdrawing their support for him because of "the nature" of his recent testimony. And, three of Kavanaugh's former clerks who previously supported him told the Senate Judiciary Committee they want to clarify that they are "deeply troubled" by the sexual assault allegations against him. (HuffPost)

  • Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee released an explicit statement about Julie Swetnick's sex life by Dennis Ketterer, who said he was involved in a relationship with Swetnick in 1993. Swetnick alleges that Kavanaugh was at a house party in 1982 where she was gang raped. In his statement, Ketterer said Swetnick told him that she enjoyed group sex and had first engaged in it during high school. Ketterer said the remark "derailed" their relationship. (Washington Post)

4/ At a Mississippi rally Trump repeatedly mocked Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, for not remembering certain details when she was questioned by the Senate Judiciary Committee about the incident. "How did you get home?" Trump asked the crowd. "I don't remember. How'd you get there? I don't remember. Where is the place? I don't remember. How many years ago was it? I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. What neighborhood was it in? I don't know. Where's the house? I don't know. Upstairs, downstairs, where was it? I don't know." (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post)

  • Jeff Flake called Trump's ridiculing of Ford "appalling," saying "there's no time and no place for remarks like that." Susan Collins added that "the president's comments were just plain wrong." (Washington Post / NBC News)

poll/ 41% of Americans oppose Kavanaugh's nomination, 33% support it, and 26% don't have an opinion. (Reuters)

poll/ 45% of Americans believe Ford is telling the truth compared to 33% who believe Kavanaugh. (NPR)

poll/ 56% of Republicans would still consider voting for a candidate accused of sexual harassment as long as they agreed with them on the issues. 81% of Democrats would "definitely not" vote for a candidate accused of sexual harassment. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. The International Court of Justice ruled that sanctions against Iran by the U.S. violated the friendship treaty that was signed by both countries in 1955. The United Nations' highest court ordered the U.S. to ease sanctions on Iran and to not tamper with humanitarian aid efforts by using sanctions, which are due to increase significantly next month. (Politico)

  2. In response, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the U.S. would cancel the treaty. (New York Times)

  3. Two prosecutors with expertise in money laundering cases left Robert Mueller's team and returned to their previous positions. Mueller's team is now down to 13 staffers. (ABC News / Politico)

  4. Rod Rosenstein will meet with the House Judiciary and Oversight committees on October 11 for a joint panel about reports that he proposed to secretly record Trump early last year. (Politico)

  5. A man was arrested in Logan, Utah, as part of the investigation into envelopes filled with ricin that were sent to the Pentagon and Trump. (Salt Lake Tribune)

  6. The White House called the article by The New York Times on Trump's exploitive use of tax schemes and fraud during the 1990s a "misleading attack" on the president's family. Sarah Huckabee Sanders then touted Trump's economic accomplishments. Trump received the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father, helped his parents dodge taxes by setting up a "sham corporation" to take improper tax deductions, and helped undervalue their real estate holdings. (Politico)

  7. New York City "is looking to recoup" any taxes that Trump should have paid for money he received from his father. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city and state would work together on an investigation. (Bloomberg)

  8. The EPA excluded its top science officials when it rewrote its rules about what kind of scientific studies could be used to protect public health. The proposed rule would allow the EPA to only consider studies where the underlying data is publicly available and can be reproduced by other researchers, which would exclude studies that include proprietary information or confidential information about patients participating in private-sector research. (Washington Post)

Day 621: Tired of winning.

1/ Trump inherited his family's wealth through fraud and questionable tax schemes, receiving the equivalent today of at least $413 million from his father's real estate empire. Trump has repeatedly claimed that "I built what I build myself." Trump and his siblings used fake corporations to hide financial gifts from his parents, which helped his father claim millions in tax deductions. Trump also helped his parents undervalue their real estate holdings by hundreds of millions of dollars when filing their tax returns. In total, Fred and Mary Trump transferred more than a $1 billion in wealth to their children and paid a total of $52.2 million in taxes (about 5%) instead of the $550+ million they should have owed under the 55% tax rate imposed on gifts and inheritances. Trump also "earned" $200,000 a year in today's dollars starting at age 3 from his father's companies. After college, Trump started receiving the equivalent of $1 million a year, which increased to $5 million a year when he was in his 40s and 50s. Trump has refused to release his income tax returns, breaking with decades of practice by past presidents. There is no time limit on civil fines for tax fraud. [Editor's note: This is a must read. An abstract summary does not suffice.] (New York Times)

  • 11 takeaways from the investigation into Trump's wealth. (New York Times)

  • A federal judge ruled that a group of nearly 200 Democratic senators and representatives have the legal standing to sue Trump to prove he violated the U.S. Constitution's emoluments clause by doing business with foreign governments while in office. (Washington Post / USA Today)

2/ The New York State Tax officials are investigating the allegations that Trump and his family committed "instances of outright fraud" in order to transfer millions of dollars. "The Tax Department is reviewing the allegations in the NYT article and is vigorously pursuing all appropriate avenues of investigation," a spokesman from New York State Department of Taxation and Finance said. (CNBC)

3/ Paul Manafort met with Robert Mueller's office as part of his cooperation agreement. Following his guilty plea last month to conspiracy against the U.S. and conspiring to obstruct justice, Manafort is required to cooperate "fully, truthfully, completely, and forthrightly … in any and all matters as to which the government deems the cooperation relevant." (Politico)

4/ The intermediary between Roger Stone and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told Senate Intelligence Committee that he will plead the Fifth Amendment in response to its subpoena for testimony and documents. Randy Credico spent more than two hours last month testifying before Robert Mueller's grand jury about stolen Democratic emails. Stone, a longtime Trump adviser, said Credico was his intermediary to Assange and WikiLeaks. (Politico)

5/ Trump directed an effort to prevent Stormy Daniels from publishing a description of her alleged sexual encounter with him. In February, Trump instructed his then-lawyer Michael Cohen to seek a restraining order against Daniels through a confidential arbitration proceeding and to coordinate the legal response with his son, Eric Trump. Direct involvement by Trump and his son suggests that Trump's ties to his company continued into 2018, contradicting public statements made at the time by the Trump Organization, the White House, and Michael Cohen. (Wall Street Journal)

6/ The Trump administration is denying visas to the unmarried same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and foreign staff working at the United Nations, making marriage a requirement for foreign couples to remain in the U.S. together. Diplomats with same-sex partners will have until the end of December to get married, or their partners will be sent home in January. Couples could be exposed to prosecution if they return to a country that criminalizes homosexuality or same-sex marriages. 12% of U.N. members states allow same-sex marriage. (Foreign Policy / USA Today / CNN / HuffPost)

poll/ 49% of voters support the Democratic candidate in their local race for the U.S. House of Representatives while 42% support the Republican candidate. Overall, 50% of voters want Democrats to control the U.S. Senate. 53% of Americans disapprove of the job Trump is doing. (Quinnipiac)

poll/ In the South, 48% of voters support the Republican congressional candidate over the Democratic candidate. 43% support the Democratic candidate. 52% of Southern voters approve the job Trump is doing, compared with 49% who disapprove. (NBC News)

bonus/ Trump: "THE ONLY REASON TO VOTE FOR A DEMOCRAT IS IF YOU'RE TIRED OF WINNING!" Trump issued the all-caps message shortly before departing for an event in Philadelphia. (The Hill)


✏️ Notables.

  1. The White House corrected the official transcript from Trump's press conference in the Rose Garden to include his insult of a female reporter. The transcript initially showed Trump telling Cecilia Vega that she wasn't "thanking" him for calling on her. In reality, Trump told Vega that she was "not thinking. You never do." (Politico / CNN)

  2. The EPA proposed relaxing radiation exposure guidelines, saying it could have a "positive effect on human health." (Associated Press)

  3. The Department of Homeland Security couldn't track separated families because a central database never existed., according to a report by the department's Office of Inspector General. Instead, "a manually-compiled spreadsheet" was maintained by Health and Human Services, Customs and Border Protection, and ICE personnel where they sent information about migrant children in emails as Microsoft Word attachments. (New York Times)

  4. The Pentagon received two pieces of mail that tested positive for ricin, a highly toxic compound that causes nausea, vomiting and internal bleeding of the stomach and intestines, followed by failure of the liver, spleen and kidneys, and death by collapse of the circulatory system. The two envelopes were addressed to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and to the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson. All mail delivered to the Pentagon was put into quarantine. (CNN)

  5. The U.S. accused Russia of developing a banned cruise missile system that could allow Russia to launch a nuclear strike capable of hitting Europe or Alaska. The U.S. ambassador to NATO said Washington is committed to a diplomatic solution but would consider a military strike if Russian continues development of the medium-range system. (Reuters)


👨‍⚖️ Dept. of Kavanaugh.

  1. Christine Blasey Ford's attorneys demanded that the FBI interview her and act on investigative leads they have provided for the inquiry into allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. The FBI has not returned calls from Ford's lawyers and she's not included in its current list of potential witnesses to interview. "It is inconceivable that the FBI could conduct a thorough investigation of Dr. Ford’s allegations without interviewing her, Judge Kavanaugh, or the witnesses we have identified in our letters to you," attorneys Debra Katz and Michael Bromwich wrote to FBI officals. (NBC News / Politico)

  2. Mitch McConnell: "We'll be voting this week." The Senate Majority Leader said "the time for endless delay and obstruction has come to a close." The FBI's investigation could be wrapped up as soon as Wednesday. (The Hill) / Wall Street Journal)

  3. Text messages between Brett Kavanaugh and a former classmate at Yale shows Kavanaugh and his team were working behind the scenes to refute Deborah Ramirez's allegations against him before they were made public. Kerry Berchem tried to get the text messages to the FBI so they can be reviewed as part of the new investigation, but has yet to be contacted by the FBI. The texts suggest that Kavanaugh was personally communicating with former classmates about the allegations before they were made public in a New Yorker article. (NBC News)

  4. Julie Swetnick, speaking publicly for the first time, said she was raped at a party that Kavanaugh and Mark Judge attended, but "cannot specifically say that he was one of the ones who assaulted me." Swetnick said Kavanaugh "was very aggressive — very sloppy drunk, very mean drunk. I saw him — go up to girls and paw on them, try to, you know, get a little too handsy, touching them in private parts. I saw him try to shift clothing." (NBC News)

  5. Republican Sen. Susan Collins called on the FBI to investigate Julie Swetnick's allegations against Kavanaugh as part of its probe. "Senator Collins was encouraged by the president's statements that he would give the FBI agents the latitude they need to do their work," said a spokesperson for Sen. Collins. "It makes sense to start with the four named witnesses from the hearing and then the FBI can follow any leads that it believes need to be pursued, as Senators Flake, Murkowski, and Collins indicated at the time this agreement was made." (Portland Press Herald)

  6. As an undergraduate at Yale in 1985, Kavanaugh was involved in an altercation at a local bar and was accused of throwing ice at another patron. The incident led the New Haven Police Department to question Kavanaugh and four other men. Kavanaugh was not arrested in connection with the incident. (New York Times)

  7. Two ethics complaints have been filed against Kavanaugh in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court on which he sits. One complaint charges that Kavanaugh's attacks on his accusers in written testimony submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 26 "demonstrate his lack of fitness to be a judge." The other complaint involves allegations made by Kavanaugh during his initial confirmation hearing. The complaints are being administered by Merrick Garland. (Law and Crime)

  8. Trump lamented that it's a "scary time for young men in America" while he was defended Kavanaugh. Trump told reporters that "it's a very scary situation where you're guilty until proven innocent." (The Hill / ABC News)

Day 620: A new dawn.

1/ The U.S., Mexico, and Canada reached a deal to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement, which will be known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement. Trump called the agreement "historic news," "an extraordinary agreement," and "a new dawn," claiming that it "solves the many deficiencies and mistakes in NAFTA" and that it's "the most important" trade deal ever agreed to by the U.S. The new trade deal leaves much of the old NAFTA deal intact. Congressional approval, however, is uncertain if Democrats retake control of the House since Congress won't vote to ratify the agreement until 2019. The deal was reached with Canada shortly before a midnight Sunday deadline imposed by the Trump administration. (New York Times / Washington Post / CNBC / Politico / BBC)

2/ Trump said he supports a "very comprehensive" but "quick" FBI investigation into the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh as long as it's "within reason," because "we don't want to go on a witch hunt, do we?" Trump, the White House, and Senate Republicans initially asked the bureau to limit interviews to four people: Mark Judge and P.J. Smyth, high school friends of Kavanaugh's; Leland Keyser, a high school friend of Christine Blasey Ford; and Deborah Ramirez, another of the accusers. The White House, however, has reportedly authorized the FBI to expand its investigation, which Trump wants completed by the end of the week. In a letter to the White House and FBI, Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee listed more than two dozen people they wanted interviewed as part of the investigation. (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News / The Guardian)

3/ Sens. Jeff Flake and Chris Coons said that if the FBI investigation finds Kavanaugh lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee then his nomination would likely not move forward. During an interview, Flake and Coons were asked, "If Kavanaugh is shown to have lied to the committee, nomination's over?" Flake responded, "Oh yes." Coons added: "I would think so." (CNN / Washington Post)

  • One of Kavanaugh's Yale classmates issued a statement saying the Supreme Court nominee was not truthful about his drinking during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Chad Ludington claimed Kavanaugh made a "blatant mischaracterization" about his drinking while in college. (CNN / New York Times)

4/ Trump called the FBI investigation a "blessing in disguise," because "the FBI has a chance reveal a lot of different things," including who leaked the papers. Trump suggested it was Sen. Dianne Feinstein "because certainly her body language was not exactly very good when they asked her that question." The reporter at The Intercept who first broke the story about Ford's allegations tweeted: "Feinstein's staff did not leak the letter to The Intercept." (NBC News / Axios)

poll/ 48% of American voters say Kavanaugh should not be confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court, while 42% say he should be confirmed. 48% of voters believe Ford while 41% believe Kavanaugh. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. Hundreds of migrant children were moved from shelters in various states into a tent city in West Texas. The children were loaded onto buses in the middle of the night and moved from private shelters or foster homes to a camp in Tornillo, Texas. (New York Times)

  2. Devin Nunes' family dairy farm in California was actually secretly relocated to Iowa more than a decade ago and relies heavily on the work of undocumented immigrants. Nunes is the head of the House Intelligence Committee. (Esquire)

  3. Secretary of Defense James Mattis canceled his trip to China for an annual security meeting after China refused a request by an American warship to make a port visit to Hong Kong in October. (CNBC / New York Times)

  4. Trump to a female reporter: "You're not thinking. You never do." He then refused to let Cecilia Vega, ABC News, ask a question about the FBI investigation into Kavanaugh. During the press conference, Trump claimed the news media has treated him "unbelievably unfairly," saying "they're worse now than ever. They're loco." (Washington Post / Politico)

Day 617: Aggressive and belligerent.

1/ The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11-10 to approve the Kavanaugh nomination, sending it to the full Senate for consideration. Jeff Flake asked that the full Senate "delay the floor vote […] in order to let the FBI continue to do an investigation," suggesting that he would not vote for Kavanaugh on the Senate floor without an investigation. He suggested that there were other Republicans who felt the same. Chairman Chuck Grassley abruptly adjourned the committee citing the "two-hour rule" despite confusion by senators about what they had voted for, including Dianne Feinstein, who asked: "What?" (New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post)

  • Dianne Feinstein described Kavanaugh's testimony as "aggressive and belligerent," adding that she's "never seen a nominee for any position behave in that manner." (CNBC)

  • Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee plan to investigate Kavanaugh if they retake the House majority in November. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) would become chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet, which has the authority to subpoena witnesses and documents related to Kavanaugh. (HuffPost)

  • Leaked emails show a Republican aide declined to take phone calls from Deborah Ramirez and her legal team, who alleges that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a party in college. Republicans on the Judiciary Committee claimed that they had "made eight requests" for evidence from Ramirez only to be "stonewalled" by her attorneys. Mike Davis, the senior Republican committee staffer, demanded that Ramirez produce evidence in written form before any conversation about her testifying would be allowed to proceed. (New Yorker)

2/ Trump agreed to order the FBI to investigate the allegations against Kavanaugh. "I've ordered the FBI to conduct a supplemental investigation to update Judge Kavanaugh's file," Trump said in a statement released by Sarah Huckabee Sanders. "As the Senate has requested, this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week." (CNN / Reuters / Axios)

3/ Mark Judge said he will cooperate with an FBI investigation. Judge is Kavanaugh's high school friend, who Ford alleges was in the room during the assault. Judge previously told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he didn't want to testify in public. (Associated Press)

4/ The Senate will take a procedural vote on Saturday to keep the nomination on track pending the outcome of the investigation. (Washington Post)


🔥 Earlier Today.

  1. Trump told senators "to do what they think is right" regarding Kavanaugh's Senate confirmation vote. "I'm going to let them handle that." He added that he is "totally reliant" on Senate leaders to determine whether or not to have the FBI investigate the allegations against Kavanaugh. "I don't know if this is going to continue onward or if we're going to get a vote." He called Christine Blasey Ford a "compelling" and "very credible witness." (Daily Beast / BuzzFeed News / Axios / CBS Philly / CNBC)

  2. Senate Republican leaders agreed to delay Kavanaugh's confirmation vote one week to allow for a "supplemental" FBI background investigation into sexual assault allegations. Mitch McConnell formally asked the White House to instruct the FBI to do a supplemental background check. Trump is the only person who can direct the FBI to do the additional background investigation of Kavanaugh. (Bloomberg / Politico / CNN / NBC News)

  3. Lisa Murkowski said she supported Flake's call for a delay and an FBI investigation. Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate, making it difficult for Mitch McConnell to push ahead with two defecting Republican senators. (Washington Post / Politico / Talking Points Memo)

  4. The American Bar Association called on the Senate to postpone a vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation until the FBI can complete an investigation into Ford's allegations of sexual assault. "The basic principles that underscore the Senate's constitutional duty of advice and consent on federal judicial nominees require nothing less than a careful examination of the accusations and facts by the FBI," the ABA wrote in a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The ABA previously gave Kavanaugh its highest rating of unanimously "well-qualified" for the Supreme Court. (CNN / CBS News / New York Times / Washington Post)

  5. The Jesuit Review rescinded its endorsement of Kavanaugh and called for his nomination to be withdrawn, stating that it "is no longer in the best interests of the country." Kavanaugh repeatedly referenced the Jesuit education he received at Georgetown Prep in yesterday's hearings. (America: The Jesuit Review of Faith and Culture)

  6. The dean of Yale Law School called on the Senate to postpone Kavanaugh's confirmation vote until the allegations against him can be investigated. In a statement, Dean Heather Gerken said: "I join the American Bar Association in calling for additional investigation" and that "proceeding with the confirmation process without further investigation is not in the best interest of the Court or our profession." Yale Law School is Kavanaugh's alma mater. (BuzzFeed News)

  7. Senators Joe Donnelly and Jon Tester, two red-state Democrats, said they would vote against Kavanaugh's Senate confirmation. Donnelly, Joe Manchin, and Heidi Heitkamp were the three Democrats to support Neil Gorsuch's confirmation. Heitkamp's stance on Kavanaugh remains unclear. (Washington Post / CNN/ Reuters)

  8. The White House can't say "for certain" that they have enough Senate votes to confirm Kavanaugh. "We're getting there," Raj Shah said. Republicans Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, as well as Democrat Joe Manchin, have not yet said how they will vote on the Supreme Court nominee's confirmation. (Politico)


✏️ Notables.

  1. Trump signed an $854 billion spending bill to keep the federal government open through Dec. 7, averting a government shutdown before the November midterm elections. (Associated Press)

  2. Election machines used in more than half of U.S. states are vulnerable to a cyberattack, which was disclosed more than a decade ago. A company spokeswoman said it stopped manufacturing the systems in 2008. (Wall Street Journal)

  3. The House voted to permanently extend the tax cuts for individuals and unincorporated businesses from Trump's 2017 tax law. The legislation passed on a vote of 220-191. Three Democrats voted for the legislation and ten Republicans voted against it. (The Hill / Politico)

  4. A Trump Victory Committee donor claimed to be "actively involved" in the presidential campaign and offered to brief a high-ranking Russian official in the final months of the campaign. A series of emails reveal that Simon Kukes, a Russian-born American businessman, requested a face-to-face meeting with Vyacheslav Pavlovsky, vice president of the state-owned Russian Railways. (NBC News)

  5. The House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe's memos, as well as "all documents supporting" claims the FBI made in its application to conduct surveillance on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. (Washington Post)

  6. A cooperating witness in Robert Mueller's probe said he "lives in a constant state of fear" after providing testimony that led to Russian nationals being indicted. Richard Pinedo pleaded guilty to charges of identity fraud in February for his role in unwittingly selling bank accounts to Russians. (ABC News)

  7. The House Intelligence Committee voted to release the transcripts of interviews it conducted as part of its Russia investigation. The 53 transcripts could be released as soon as next week, provided the intelligence community doesn't take issue with releasing the information. (Washington Post / Reuters)

  8. Farmers said aid from the Trump administration won't cover the lost sales due to tariffs. U.S. farm income is expected to drop 13% this year, to $66 billion, despite the USDA saying it would pay farmers nearly $5 billion to offset losses from global trade disputes. (Wall Street Journal)

  9. The EPA will combine the Office of the Science Advisor with the agency's research office in order to "reduce redundancies." (CNN)

  10. The Trump administration predicts the earth's temperature will rise by 7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century. Instead of using the analysis to fight climate change, the administration argued that the fate of the planet is already sealed. (Washington Post)

Day 616: "I am terrified."

1/ Christine Blasey Ford testified that she is "100%" certain that Brett Kavanaugh was her attacker, and that she believed he "was going to rape me" and "was going to accidentally kill me." Ford began her testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee by telling senators: "I am here today not because I want to be. I am terrified." (Politico / New York Times / Washington Post / CNN)

  • Ford's testimony in one sentence: Ford broke her silence after 36 years; described how she was "100%" sure that it was Kavanaugh and Mark Judge who locked her in a bedroom before Kavanaugh "got on top" of her; called it her "civic duty" to come forward despite feeling "terrified"; and described the "uproarious laughter" that Kavanaugh and Judge had at her expense.

  • READ: Christine Blasey Ford's opening statement (NPR)

  • 🔥 LIVE BLOGS: Washington Post / Bloomberg / CNN / New York Times / NBC News / ABC News

2/ In a fiery 45-minute opening statement to the committee, Kavanaugh called the confirmation process "a national disgrace" and said that the sexual assault allegations against him are part of "a calculated and orchestrated political hit." Kavanaugh claimed that his family and his "name have been totally and permanently destroyed" by this process, but he "will not be intimidated into withdrawing." Kavanaugh said he prepared his remarks himself. (Politico / Washington Post)

  • Kavanaugh's testimony in one sentence: Kavanaugh was combative with Democrats, refused to answer questions directly; claimed he'd "do whatever the committee wants" regarding an FBI investigation, but rolled his eyes and stayed quiet for a long time when asked if an investigation was a good idea; denied ever blacking out from drinking; denied every being alone in a room with Ford and his friend Mark Judge; and called Swetnick's allegations "a joke" and "a farce."

  • READ: Brett Kavanaugh's prepared remarks (CNN)

3/ Trump called the accusations against Kavanaugh "all false," but that he could "always be convinced" and "could be persuaded" otherwise" because "it's possible [Ford's testimony] will be convincing." Some Republicans are hoping the White House pulls Kavanaugh's nomination, calling today a "total disaster." Trump, however, said he would only withdraw Kavanaugh's nomination "if I thought he was guilty of something" and that the "false" allegations of sexual misconduct against him "impact my opinion" of Kavanaugh. Trump was reportedly "riveted" watching Kavanaugh's opening statement, telling people in his inner circle,"this is why I nominated him." (NPR / NBC News / New York Times / Bloomberg / Politico / Washington Post)

4/ Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee interviewed two men who claim they, not Brett Kavanaugh, were the ones who assaulted Ford. The two suggested that Ford's allegations against Kavanaugh may have been a case of mistaken identity – a conspiracy floated last week by conservative legal commentator Ed Whelan, a longtime friend of Kavanaugh's. Neither man intends to come forward publicly. (Washington Post / The Hill / NY Post / BuzzFeed News)

5/ Sen. Susan Collins questioned why the Senate Judiciary Committee has not subpoenaed Mark Judge, a close friend of Kavanaugh's and an alleged witness to the incidents described by Ford and Julie Swetnick. The Republican senator told colleagues in a private meeting that she was troubled by the latest accusations by Swetnick, who said that she witnessed Kavanaugh and Judge try to get teenage girls "inebriated and disoriented so they could then be 'gang raped.'" Collins is a key swing vote and joins GOP Senators Jeff Flake and Lisa Murkowski, who have expressed reservations about Kavanaugh's nomination. Kavanaugh can't lose more than one GOP senator if all Democrats vote against his nomination. (CNN / New York Times)

  • Mark Judge's book validates Ford's timeline of the alleged assault by Kavanaugh. "I did see Mark Judge once at the Potomac Village Safeway after the time of the attack," Ford testified, adding that if she knew when Judge worked there she could provide more information about when the attack occurred. In Judge's book, he described working at a grocery store the summer before senior year for a few weeks. He mentions someone named "Bart O'Kavanaugh," who vomited in a car after a party. Ford said she saw Judge at Safeway "six to eight weeks" after the alleged assault. (Washington Post)

6/ An anonymous fourth accuser alleged that Brett Kavanaugh physically assaulted a woman in the D.C. area in 1998 while he was drunk. The sender of the anonymous letter described an incident between her daughter, Kavanaugh, and several friends in which "they were all shocked when Brett Kavanaugh, shoved her friend up against the wall very aggressively and sexually" as they were leaving a bar. The author of the letter said there were "at least four witnesses including my daughter." (NBC News)

7/ Four Republican governors called for the Senate to delay the Kavanaugh vote and take its time to examine the sexual assault allegations against the nominee. The four are Larry Hogan of Maryland, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, John Kasich of Ohio, and Phil Scott of Vermont. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. The House Intelligence Committee will vote on Friday to release dozens of interview transcripts from its now-defunct Russia investigation. The transcripts are from interviews that were conducted between June 2017 and March 2018, and will include testimony from Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Hope Hicks, Roger Stone, and other people who have been close to Trump. The committee is expected to refer the transcripts to the intelligence community for assessment and redaction, which could lead to a rolling release schedule that continues through October. Republicans have called for the documents to be released before the November election. (Politico / Reuters)

  2. Trump postponed his meeting with Rod Rosenstein this week in order to not distract from the Kavanaugh congressional hearings. Trump and Rosenstein will meet next week meeting to discuss the deputy attorney general's future at the Justice Department. (CNBC / New York Times)

  3. House Democrats are preparing to force a vote on a plan to Robert Mueller's investigation from interference by Trump. The proposal would force Republicans to go on the record and decide whether to consider the Mueller-protection proposal or sideline it. (Politico)

  4. Trump claimed that he declined a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ahead of a self-imposed Oct. 1 deadline to strike a new NAFTA deal between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Canada's government said it never requested a meeting. (CNBC)

  5. Trump held a solo press conference on Wednesday, his fourth since taking office. During the rambling 81-minute news event, Trump discussed everything from his plans for Rod Rosenstein, to trade relations between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, to the allegations against Kavanaugh, which he called a "big, fat con job," and more. (Washington Post / New York Times / Mother Jones)

Day 615: "A total low-life."

1/ In a sworn declaration, a third accuser said that between 1981 and 1983 she witnessed efforts by Brett Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge to get girls "inebriated and disorientated" so they could be "gang raped" in side rooms at house parties by a "train" of boys who were lined up and waiting for their "turn" inside the room. Julie Swetnick swore that Kavanaugh and Judge would "'spike' the 'punch' at house parties" with "drugs and/or grain alcohol," and that she witnessed Kavanaugh "being overly aggressive with girls," not taking "No" for an answer, and being "verbally abusive towards girls by making crude sexual comments" intended to demean them. In her declaration, Swetnick describes an incident in 1982 in which she alleges she was the victim of a "gang rape" Kavanaugh was present for. "During the incident, I was incapacitated without my consent and unable to fight off the boys raping me," Swetnick says. "I believe I was drugged using Quaaludes or something similar placed in what I was drinking." Kavanaugh's first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, said Judge was present when Kavanaugh allegedly sexually assaulted her 36 years ago. All 10 Democrats on the Judiciary Committee called for Trump to "immediately withdraw the nomination or order an FBI investigation into all the allegations." (New York Times / CNBC / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / CNN / Yahoo News / ABC News)

  • Read the sworn declaration by Kavanaugh accuser Julie Swetnick: "In approximately 1982, I became the victim of one of those "gang" or "train" rapes where Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh were present." (NBC News)

2/ Kavanaugh dismissed Swetnick's allegations as "ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone," claiming he is the victim of "grotesque and obvious character assassination." "I don't know who this is and this never happened," Kavanaugh said. In prepared testimony ahead of Thursday's Senate hearing, Kavanaugh admits that he was "not perfect" in high school and "in retrospect, I said and did things in high school that make me cringe now." Kavanaugh denied Ford's allegation "immediately, unequivocally, and categorically." (Washington Post / New York Times / Politico)

  • Full transcript: Brett Kavanaugh's opening statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Politico)

3/ Trump attacked Michael Avenatti as a "third rate lawyer" who is "making false accusations" because he's "looking for attention." Avenatti also represents Stormy Daniels, who was paid by Trump's personal attorney to remain quiet about an affair she allegedly had with Trump a decade ago. Trump capped off the tweet by calling Avenatti "a total low-life!" Avenatti responded by calling Trump a "habitual liar and complete narcissist" and a "disgrace as a president." (The Hill)

4/ Kavanaugh's second accuser is willing to testify publicly before the Senate Judiciary Committee, her attorney said. Deborah Ramirez's lawyer expressed concern about her testifying before the FBI is able to conduct an investigation into her claims, saying "we can't even talk to the Senate Judiciary Committee about what that would look like" because "they certainly haven't invited her" to testify. Senate Republicans blew off a scheduled phone call yesterday to discuss Ramirez's claims that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her when they were in college. (Axios / The Hill / CNN / Good Morning America)

5/ Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee selected Arizona prosecutor Rachel Mitchell to question Kavanaugh and Ford. Mitchell is chief of the special victims division of the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, where she has worked for 26 years. Dr. Ford will testify under oath on Thursday, and Kavanaugh will testify separately later in the day. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • Senate Democrats have had no contact with Christine Blasey Ford ahead of her Senate Judiciary Committee testimony on Thursday. Ford's attorneys have been in contact with aides from both parties, but there has been no coordination between Ford's camp and Democratic senators on the Judiciary Committee. (Politico)

  • Ford's attorneys have sworn and signed declarations from four people she told about her claims of sexual assault by Kavanaugh dating back to 2012. The documents were sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee. (USA Today)

  • Jeff Flake said he does not believe that Kavanaugh is a "serial sexual predator," but called on the Senate Judiciary Committee to have an open mind because both Kavanaugh and Ford are "human beings." (USA Today / Politico)

6/ A Democratic senator is seeking an injunction to stop a full Senate vote on Kavanaugh's nomination, citing "unprecedented obstruction of the Senate's advice and consent obligation" by the White House and Mitch McConnell. Jeff Merkley argued the handling of Kavanaugh's nomination is "an assault on the separation of powers" and violates the Constitution because the White House has interfered with the Senate's responsibility by blocking access to documents and labeling some "committee confidential." Merkley's filing is unlikely to succeed in stopping the vote. (Politico / The Hill)

  • Chuck Grassley has scheduled a committee vote on the nomination for Friday and Mitch McConnell is planning to keep the Senate in session this weekend so he can begin the process of bringing Kavanaugh's nomination up for a final vote early next week. Senate Democrats accused Grassley and McConnell of pre-judging Ford's testimony before they heard it. (Politico)

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein accused Kavanaugh of misleading the Senate about his handling of grand jury secrets during his time working for Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr in the late nineties. Feinstein charges that by directing officials to speak to reporters during the Bill Clinton investigation, Kavanaugh may have violated grand jury secrecy laws, even though he told Sens. Feinstein and Whitehouse during his testimony earlier this month that he never broke those rules. (Politico / The Hill)

poll/ 59% of Americans oppose Kavanaugh's confirmation if Ford's claims are true, while 29% said they would support his confirmation either way. Among Democratic men, 54% believe Ford. 57% of Republican women believe Kavanaugh. (NPR / Marist / PBS NewsHour)

poll/ 49% of Americans ages 15-34 say they are anxious about the midterm elections, 36% say they feel helpless, and 24% say they are proud. Overall, 64% of young Americans say they're interested in the upcoming elections. (Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research)


Notables

  1. Trump told advisers he is open to keeping Rod Rosenstein as deputy attorney general and that he wants to hear directly from Rosenstein about reports that he discussed secretly recording the president and recruiting cabinet members to remove him from office. (Wall Street Journal)

  2. Rudy Giuliani posed for pictures with a Canadian white nationalist mayoral candidate. Faith Goldy is a far-right YouTuber running for mayor in Toronto. She posted photos with Giuliani to her Instagram on Tuesday and tweeted about the encounter: "Just like Giuliani cleaned up the streets of NYC, our tough on crime playbook is going to run illegal guns & gangs right out of Toronto!" (Daily Beast)

  3. Former national security adviser H. R. McMaster called it "wholly appropriate" for Gary Cohn to remove documents from Trump's desk. Cohn removed a letter from Trump's desk that would have pulled the U.S. out of a trade agreement with South Korea. (Washington Examiner)

  4. The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency spent $150,000 on government vehicles for personal use to travel to his home in North Carolina and drive him and his family around Hawaii. Kirstjen Nielsen ordered Brock Long to repay the government "as appropriate." (Wall Street Journal)

  5. Sen. Orrin Hatch weighed in on a Supreme Court case that could prevent state and federal courts from prosecuting someone for the same crime. Hatch filed a brief on Sept. 11 in which he says the doctrine should be overturned. Overturning the dual-sovereignty doctrine established in Gamble v. United States would theoretically allow Trump to pardon people like Manafort for his federal crimes and simultaneously protect him from actions at the state level. (The Atlantic)

  6. The EPA placed the head of the Office of Children's Health Protection on administrative leave. The children's health office is tasked with regulations and programs that account for the vulnerabilities of children, babies and fetuses. An EPA spokesman declined to give a reason for the action. (New York Times)

  7. Trump backed down from his threat to shut down the government if Congress didn't appropriate money for his border wall, saying "we're going to keep the government open." Trump previously called the bipartisan spending bill "ridiculous." (Washington Post)

  8. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said he's hearing a "rising chorus of concerns" from businesses about Trump's trade war with China. On Monday, Trump's 10% tariffs on about $200 billion of imports from China took effect. In retaliation, China instituted tariffs on U.S. goods worth $60 billion. (CNBC)

  9. Trump accused China of interfering in the midterm elections, telling the United Nations Security Council that "they do not want me or us to win, because I am the first president to ever challenge China on trade." (New York Times)

Note: My browser crashed before I could save my last WTFJHT update. I'm not even sure what I lost. So instead of pulling my hair out, we're just going to end here. For the latest, visit Current Status.


🗳 Register to Vote. Yesterday was National Voter Registration Day and thanks to Trump's helpful tweet "REMEMBER THE MIDTERMS!", here's your WTF reminder to register to vote today.

  1. If you're not sure if you're registered, check your registration status on vote.org.

  2. If you haven't registered, use vote.org, TurboVote, or pick up a registration form at your local post office or library.

Day 614: But that's okay.

1/ Brett Kavanaugh's high school yearbook page lists him as the treasurer of the "100 Kegs or Bust' club" and a "Renate Alumnius" – a reference to Renate Schroeder, then a student at a nearby Catholic girls' school. "Renate" appears at least 14 times in Georgetown Preparatory School's 1983 yearbook, including on individuals' pages and in a group photo of nine football players. Two of Kavanaugh's classmates say the Renate mentions were football players' boasting about their supposed sexual conquests with girls. (New York Times / CNN / Washington Post)

2/ Kavanaugh claimed he "never sexually assaulted anyone" in high school because he was a virgin at the time and "did not have sexual intercourse, or anything close to sexual intercourse, in high school or many years thereafter." Kavanaugh appeared on Fox News with his wife at his side to fight the "smears" against him and declare: "I'm not going anywhere." (New York Times / ABC News / USA Today / NBC News / Washington Post)

3/ Trump accused Democrats of playing "a con game" and using "false acquisitions" to derail Kavanaugh's nomination. Trump also dismissed the allegation of Deborah Ramirez – the second woman to accuse Kavanaugh of wrongdoing – saying "she was totally inebriated" and "all messed up" when Kavanaugh allegedly exposed himself at a dorm party and "thrust his penis in her face and caused her to touch it." Trump later deleted his misspelled tweet and corrected himself to say Democrats are using "an array of False Accusations the likes of which have never been seen before." Trump called Kavanaugh "a wonderful man," and urged voters to "REMEMBER THE MIDTERMS!" (Politico / New York Times / CNBC / CNN)

4/ A third woman is expected to publicly accuse Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct in the next 48 hours, according to Michael Avenatti, the woman's attorney. Avenatti is currently representing multiple clients and "at least one" is prepared to come forward "relating to what she witnessed and experienced concerning Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge, and ultimately we're going to let the American public decide who's telling the truth." (The Guardian / CNN)

  • Lisa Murkowski: "It's not about whether or not Judge Kavanaugh is qualified. It is about whether or not a woman who has been a victim at some point in her life is to be believed." Murkowski is a key Republican swing vote and one of two Republican women in the Senate who supports abortion rights. (New York Times)

5/ The Senate Judiciary Committee will vote on Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court at 9:30 a.m. on Friday. Senate Republicans have also hired a female attorney to question Christine Blasey Ford at Thursday's hearing on a sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh, but are declining to release her name. (Politico)

6/ Trump bragged that his "administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country" at the United Nations General Assembly – world leaders laughed at him. "I didn't expect that reaction," Trump continued, acknowledging the laughter, "but that's okay." (Politico / ABC News / Washington Post)


Notables.

  1. Ted Cruz was heckled out of a restaurant in D.C. by protesters. A video posted to Twitter shows activists chanting "We believe survivors!" and demanding to know Cruz's stance on Kavanaugh's confirmation. Cruz told the crowd: "God bless you." (Daily Beast / CNN)

  2. Ted Cruz was spotted looking at a photo of Rep. Beto O'Rourke, his Democratic opponent in the race for a U.S. Senate seat. O'Rourke is within four percentage points of Cruz. (Politico / Vice News)

  3. A Justice Department spokesperson drafted a statement in the voice of Jeff Sessions to announce Rosenstein's departure as Deputy Attorney General. The statement does not include the word "resignation." Part of the statement reads: "Rod Rosenstein has served the Department of Justice with dedication and skill for 28 years. His contributions are many and significant. We all appreciate his service and wish him well." The White House received the statement yesterday. (Axios)

  4. The White House's deputy press secretary plans to leave after Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings. Raj Shah has been leading the communications efforts in support of the confirmation process since Kavanaugh's nomination in July. (Yahoo News)

  5. Mike Pence spoke at a conference hosted by a group designated as an "anti-LGBT hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center. He is the first vice president to address the Values Voter Summit, and last year Trump became the first sitting president to do so. (NBC News)

Day 613: Lingering stench.

1/ A second woman publicly accused Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were both freshmen at Yale during the 1983-84 academic school year. Deborah Ramirez said Kavanaugh exposed himself and shoved his penis in her face without her consent at a dorm party. Kavanaugh's roommate at the time said he "cannot imagine [Ramirez] making this up" and that Kavanaugh was "frequently, incoherently drunk." After learning of Ramirez's allegation last week, Senate Republicans called for the Senate Judiciary Committee to accelerate its confirmation vote. (New Yorker)

  • Michael Avenatti tweeted that he represents "a woman with credible information" about Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge, who Christine Blasey Ford alleges was in the room at the time of Kavanaugh's alleged assault. Avenatti said he has "significant evidence" that Kavanaugh and Judge "would participate in the targeting of women with alcohol/drugs." (Axios / Politico)

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein called for the Senate Judiciary Committee to delay the Kavanaugh nomination. In her letter, Feinstein asked "that the newest allegations of sexual misconduct be referred to the FBI for investigation, and that you join our request for the White House to direct the FBI to investigate the allegations of Ford as well as these new claims." (Washington Post)

2/ Kavanaugh and the White House denied Ramirez's allegation, calling it "a smear, plain and simple." Kavanaugh told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he "will not be intimidated into withdrawing" his nomination because of "false and uncorroborated" allegations against him. Ford told lawmakers that "fear will not hold me back from testifying" against Kavanaugh. Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell took to the Senate floor to declare that the Senate will move forward with a vote on Kavanaugh's nomination, accusing Democrats of running "a smear campaign" to derail the confirmation. (CNN / ABC News / Politico / Reuters / New York Times)

3/ Christine Blasey Ford agreed to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Blasey will appear Thursday before a committee of 21 senators for questioning, but no decision has been reached about whether Republicans would use staff attorneys to question Ford about her claim. All the Republicans on the panel are men. (New York Times / Politico)

  • Sen. Lindsey Graham: Ford's testimony won't change my vote. Graham said he wasn't prepared to "ruin this guy's life based on an accusation." (Politico)

  • Kavanaugh will turn over calendars from the summer of 1982 to the Senate Judiciary Committee that don't list a party matching Christine Blasey Ford's account. Kavanaugh's team acknowledged that he could have attended a party he did not list. (New York Times)

4/ Trump called the allegations against Kavanaugh "totally political" and said he believes Kavanaugh "all the way." Trump defended his nominee as "a fine man, with an unblemished past," despite at least two women accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault. (Politico / CNN / ABC News)

  • Mitch McConnell called Trump on Friday to say his tweets about Kavanaugh weren't helpful. Trump said that if Ford's attack "was as bad as she says," then she would have filed charges immediately. (CNN)

  • Ben Carson claimed that socialists plotting to take over America are responsible for the recent allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh. The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development said the allegations "make perfectly good sense" because "going all the way back to the Fabians" there have been "people who've wanted to fundamentally change this country." Now that they see their chance to control the courts slipping away, they "are like wet hornets, just completely lost control off the deep end." The Fabian Society, a British socialist organization, was founded in the 19th century. It is no longer has an active chapter in the U.S. (CNBC)

5/ Rod Rosenstein did not resign, but "offered to resign" in discussions with John Kelly. Rosenstein and Trump will meet on Thursday to discuss the deputy attorney general's future at the Justice Department. Rosenstein went to the White House this morning for a meeting where he "expect[ed] to be fired." The news follows reports that Rosenstein discussed the idea of wearing a wire last year to secretly record Trump in order to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove the President from office. Rosenstein has been overseeing Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether any Trump associates conspired with those efforts. Noel Francisco, the solicitor general, would take on oversight of Mueller's investigation and could fire or limit the investigation. (Axios / New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / CNN / Wall Street Journal / CNBC)

  • On Friday, Trump promised to get rid of the "lingering stench" at the Justice Department and FBI following reports that Rod Rosenstein discussed secretly recording Trump last year. "You've seen what happened in the FBI and the Department of Justice. The bad ones, they're all gone. They're all gone," Trump said at a political rally in Missouri. "But there is a lingering stench and we're going to get rid of that, too." Trump did not explicitly mention Rosenstein in his comments. (Associated Press)

  • Trump wanted to fire Rosenstein in order to take Brett Kavanaugh out of the news cycle, according to a source familiar with Trump's thinking. "The strategy was to try and do something really big." Trump's allies, meanwhile, have been urging him to pull Kavanaugh's nomination in order to save Republicans' electoral chances in the midterms. (Vanity Fair)

poll/ 52% of voters prefer that Democrats control Congress following the midterm elections, 40% want Republicans to control Congress, and 8% are not sure. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. Rob Goldstone said he believes the Trump Tower meeting could have been a set-up by Russian intelligence. Goldstone said Trump Jr. was willing to accept "opposition research" he believed was coming from the Russian government. (NBC News)

  2. Roger Stone attempted to contact WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange following the Democratic National Committee email leaks. Stone emailed Jerome Corsi nine days after the first batch of emails were published to suggest that Ted "Malloch should see Assange." Malloch is a London-based conservative author. (ABC News)

  3. The White House is considering an executive order instructing federal antitrust and law enforcement agencies to open probes into Google, Facebook, and other social media companies. Trump has complained that "Social Media is totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices." (Bloomberg)

  4. A new Trump administration rule would make it more difficult for immigrants to obtain green cards if they legally use public benefits, like food stamps or Medicaid. Millions of immigrants who rely on public assistance for food and shelter could be forced to choose between accepting financial help or obtaining a green card to legally live and work in the U.S. (New York Times / Washington Post / NBC News)

Day 610: As bad as she says.

1/ Trump questioned Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's credibility and contended that if the alleged attack "was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed," adding: "Why didn't someone call the FBI 36 years ago?" Trump also challenged Dr. Ford to produce law enforcement reports "so that we can learn date, time, and place!" of the attack. Trump added Brett Kavanaugh is "a fine man, with an impeccable reputation, who is under assault by radical left wing politicians." (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico / NBC News / CNN / Wall Street Journal)

  • Susan Collins said she was "appalled" by Trump's tweets criticizing Dr. Ford for not coming forward sooner with her allegations against Brett Kavanaugh. The Maine senator is a key swing vote in the larger Senate vote for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. (Press Herald)

  • White House officials: "You have no idea" how hard it's been to keep Trump from attacking Dr. Ford. A few hours before Trump's tweets, a White House official said: "Hopefully he can keep it together until Monday. That's only, like, another 48 hours right?" (Axios)

2/ The Senate Judiciary Committee agreed to meet some but not all of Dr. Ford's conditions in order for her to testify next week about her allegation of sexual assault in the 1980s by Brett Kavanaugh. Republicans have not agreed with Ford's lawyers that she should only be questioned by lawmakers – not an outside counsel – at Wednesday's proposed hearing. (Politico / USA Today / CNN)

  • Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's attorney says her appearance at a hearing on Monday is "not possible" but she could testify later in the week. Ford's lawyer sent a request to top Senate Judiciary Committee staffers asking to set up a call with them to "discuss the conditions under which [Ford] would be prepared to testify next week." Ford has been receiving death threats and has been forced to move out of her home. "She wishes to testify," her attorney wrote to the committee, "provided that we can agree on terms that are fair and which ensure her safety. A hearing on Monday is not possible and the committee’s insistence that it occur then is arbitrary in any event." Kavanaugh also sent a letter to the committee, saying that he will attend the hearing on Monday "so that I can clear my name." (Washington Post / NBC News / New York Times)

  • Sen. Diane Feinstein's office has received threats of bodily and sexual harm against her and her staff as a result of her involvement submitting the allegations against Kavanaugh to the FBI. Some of the threats name specific employees. Feinstein is the second woman senator, after Sen. Susan Collins, whose office has reported receiving such threats. "My office has received some pretty ugly voicemails, threats, terrible things said to my staff," Collins said on Wednesday. (McClatchy DC)

3/ Mitch McConnell predicts that "in the very near future, Judge Kavanaugh will be on the U.S. Supreme Court" despite Ford not yet testifying. The Senate Majority Leader said "We're going to plow right through it and do our job." (Washington Post / ABC News / CNN)

4/ Rod Rosenstein raised the idea of wearing a wire last year to secretly record Trump in the White House and expose the chaos in the administration, according to memos written by Andrew McCabe, then the acting FBI director. Rosenstein also discussed recruiting Jeff Sessions and John Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security, to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove Trump from office. Rosenstein called the report "inaccurate and factually incorrect," adding: "Based on my personal dealings with the president, there is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment." At least one person who was present for the discussions said Rosenstein was joking. (New York Times / Washington Post / Bloomberg / Associated Press)

5/ Trump reversed his demand to immediately declassify documents related to the Russia investigation, including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court application to wiretap Carter Page. Less than a week later, Trump tweeted that the Justice Department inspector general would instead review the documents, adding that he "can always declassify if it proves necessary." Trump said that while DOJ officials told him the "declassification" of documents "may have a perceived negative impact on the Russia probe," he received calls from "key Allies," who asked him not to release the documents. (Washington Post / New York Times / CNN)

6/ Robert Mueller is investigating $3.3 million in bank transactions between two of the men who orchestrated the Trump Tower meeting. On June 3, 2016, the money was moved from Aras Agalarov, a billionaire real estate developer close to both Putin and Trump, to Irakly "Ike" Kaveladze, a longtime Agalarov employee who was once investigated for money laundering – the same day that Trump Jr. received an email from Rob Goldstone offering dirt on Hillary Clinton as part of the Russian government's "support for Mr. Trump." In that email, Goldstone told Trump Jr. he was writing on behalf of a mutual friend, Emin Agalarov – Aras' son. The Trump Tower meeting occurred six days later. (BuzzFeed News)

  • Another Roger Stone associate met with Mueller's federal grand jury. Jerome Corsi is one of at least 11 individuals associated with Stone who have been contacted by the special counsel. His name has surfaced in connection with WikiLeaks. (ABC News)

  • Russian diplomats tried to help Julian Assange escape the U.K. The plan called for the WikiLeaks founder to be smuggled out of Ecuador's London embassy in a diplomatic vehicle and transported to another country – possibly Russia, where he wouldn't be extradited to the U.S. (The Guardian)


Notables.

  1. John Dowd, who at the time was heading Trump's legal team, help pay legal fees for Paul Manafort and Richard Gates. He initially tried to divert money from the White House legal defense fund, but Trump's advisers objected over concerns it could appear aimed at stopping the two former aides from cooperating with investigators. (Wall Street Journal)

  2. Federal immigration officers from July to September arrested 41 undocumented immigrants who came forward to care for undocumented children held in U.S. custody. An ICE official confirmed that the move to fully vet those who step up to care for undocumented children has served as another opportunity to track down and arrest more undocumented immigrants. (CNN)

  3. The Trump administration imposed sanctions against the Chinese military for purchasing fighter jets and missile systems from Russia. The purchases breach U.S. sanctions designed to punish Moscow for interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The Chinese government has demanded that the sanctions be withdrawn. (Reuters)

  4. Top Democrats promised to investigate Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's business dealings, travels, political activities and industry relations if the party wins back the House in the midterms. "Zinke is one the most ethically challenged members of the Cabinet and maybe one of the most ethically challenged secretaries of the Interior we've had in living memory," said Rep. Gerry Connolly. Connolly said there is "rich material here to look into his behavior and his fitness for continued service in the office." (Politico)

  5. The U.S. and Mexico are prepared to move ahead on a new trade agreement without Canada, according to a Trump economic adviser. There is a little more than a week to go before a U.S.-imposed Oct. 1 deadline to publish the updated NAFTA deal, and the U.S. and Canada have still not agreed on terms. (Reuters / CNBC)

Day 609: Such an outstanding man.

1/ Dr. Christine Blasey Ford is "prepared to testify next week" as long as senators offer "terms that are fair and which ensure her safety." In an email sent to committee staff members, Ford's attorney reiterated that it is their "strong preference" that the FBI conduct "a full investigation" before her testimony. (New York Times)

2/ Senate Republicans plan to move forward with Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation despite sexual assault allegations by Ford. Trump, in defending Kavanaugh, said it was "very hard for me to imagine anything happened" with Ford because Kavanaugh "is such an outstanding man." Sen. Chuck Grassley said a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing would begin at 10 a.m. Monday, and gave Ford a deadline of 10 a.m. Friday to submit prepared remarks if she plans to testify. While Ford has not officially declined the committee's invitation, her attorney has asked for a "full, nonpartisan investigation." (Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / New York Times)

3/ Trump insists there is no role for the FBI in investigating Ford's claim. Trump said that investigating Ford's accusation that Brett Kavanaugh covered her mouth while trying to strip her bathing suit off during a high school party in the 1980s "is not really their thing." Former government officials, however, have come forward to contradict Trump's claim that the FBI cannot investigate the allegations against Kavanaugh. While Republican leaders in the Senate have echoed Trump's claim, several officials involved in nomination and background check processes say it's actually common. (Politico / NBC News)

4/ Sen. Dean Heller called the sexual assault allegation against Kavanaugh a "little hiccup" and that he hopes "all senators" will address the accusations "in good faith" so they can "get through this" and "off to the races." The Nevada Republican went on to call Trump "a great leader" despite saying he was "99 percent against Trump" in October 2016. Heller is considered the most vulnerable Senate Republican seeking reelection this year. (Washington Post / The Hill / New York Times)

5/ A former classmate of Ford walked back her claims that she knew about Brett Kavanaugh's alleged assault at the time it happened. "That it happened or not, I have no idea," said Cristina Miranda King. "I can't say that it did or didn't." In a now-deleted Facebook post, King previously said: "The incident DID happen, many of us heard about it in school." (NPR)

6/ Senator Claire McCaskill will vote against Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the Supreme Court, but not because of the allegations against him. McCaskill cited Kavanaugh's "positions on several key issues, most importantly the avalanche of dark, anonymous money that is crushing our democracy," as the reason for her "no" vote. McCaskill says Kavanaugh "revealed his bias against limits on campaign donations" and that she is "uncomfortable about his view on Presidential power," as well as his "position that corporations are people." The Missouri Democrat is running for re-election this year in a state Trump won in 2016. Republicans hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate and could still confirm Kavanaugh's appointment even if all Democrats oppose his nomination. (NPR / Politico / CNN)

7/ Michael Cohen met with Robert Mueller's team multiple times over the last month for interview sessions lasting several hours. The special counsel has focused on Trump's dealings with Russia, including the investigation into collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Mueller's team is also interested in knowing whether Trump discussed the possibility of a pardon with Cohen, who is voluntarily participating in the meetings without any guarantee of leniency from prosecutors. (ABC News)

poll/ 38% of voters say they oppose Kavanaugh's nomination to serve on the Supreme Court compared to 34% who support his nomination. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. Trump told Spain's Foreign Minister to "build a wall across the Sahara" in order to curb migration from Africa. When Spanish diplomats pointed out that the Sahara stretched for 3,000 miles, Trump responded by saying: "The Sahara border can't be bigger than our border with Mexico." The US/Mexico border is roughly 2,000 miles long. (The Guardian / Bloomberg / CNN)

  2. The Department of Health and Human Services wants to reallocate $266 million in funds to pay for housing for detained immigrant children. Funds would be diverted from National Cancer Institute, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, Head Start, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other refugee support programs. (Yahoo News)

  3. Jeff Sessions announced new limits on the ability of immigration judges to dismiss deportation cases, saying judges "have no inherent authority to terminate removal proceedings even though a particular case may pose sympathetic circumstances." (Reuters)

  4. The U.S. says it is ready to resume talks with North Korea after Kim Jong Un pledged on Wednesday to dismantle key missile facilities and suggested that he would close the Yongbyon nuclear complex. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo invited North Korea's foreign minister to meet in New York next week to discuss the possibility of North Korea denuclearizing by January 2021. (Reuters)

  5. Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis (R) is dealing with his campaign's fifth race-related controversy after newly unearthed tweets showed one of his campaign allies using a racial slur to describe Barack Obama. "FUCK THE MUSLIM N—–," wrote Steven Alembik, who has donated more than $20,000 to DeSantis' campaign. A DeSantis campaign spokesperson said that they "adamantly denounce this sort of disgusting rhetoric." (The Hill / Politico)

  6. Trump has named retiring Rep. Darrell Issa to head the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. Issa is the former House Oversight Committee chairman, and has been in Congress for nine terms. He built a name for himself by clashing with the Obama administration for years and by accusing top officials at the IRS of targeting conservative groups for political purposes. (Politico)

  7. A Pennsylvania state representative introduced a bill to ban public school teachers from discussing politics in the classroom. Will Tallman said his bill would stop teachers from discussing "legislation, regulations, executive orders or court cases involving any level or branch of government." (Morning Call)


🇷🇺🇷🇺🇷🇺

The Russia story so far: What we know and what it means. (New York Times)

What We've Learned in the Russia Probe: Week of Sept 9 - 15. (WTF Just Happened Today)

The Trump Russia Investigation. Everything we've learned so far. (WTF Just Happened Today)

Day 608: "What happens at Georgetown Prep, stays at Georgetown Prep."

1/ The Trump administration is unable to account for nearly 1,500 additional migrant children who were placed with sponsors after leaving federal shelters. The revelation comes months after a similar admission in April concerning an initial 1,475 children. Since 2016, HHS officials have called sponsors to check on migrant children 30 days after placements. The department has said it is not legally responsible for children after they are released from government custody. (New York Times)

2/ Dr. Christine Blasey Ford wants the FBI to investigate her allegations against Brett Kavanaugh before senators hold a hearing. Ford has not yet confirmed whether she will attend a public hearing on Monday. (Washington Post / New York Times)

  • Ford's letter to the FBI says she has "been the target of vicious harassment and even death threats" and has been forced to leave her home. (CNN / Washington Post)

  • Kavanaugh in 2015: "What happens at Georgetown Prep, stays at Georgetown Prep." Kavanaugh made the remarks during a speech he gave at Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law. (Politico)

  • One of Ford's former classmates wrote a Facebook post saying she remembers hearing about the alleged assault by Kavanaugh. Cristina Miranda King says she has no first-hand information to corroborate Ford's claims. "I did not know her personally but I remember her," King wrote. "This incident did happen." King has since taken down her post. (NBC News / Law & Crime)

3/ Sen. Chuck Grassley canceled a meeting at which members of the Senate Judiciary Committee were expected to vote to advance Kavanaugh's confirmation. The meeting was originally scheduled for Thursday morning. A new date has not yet been announced. (CNBC / Time)

4/ The FBI and DOJ are expected to defy Trump's order to declassify and release unredacted versions of Carter Page's FISA warrant and text messages sent by James Comey and other agency officials. The agencies are expected to submit their documents and propose redactions to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which will package the materials and send them to the White House for approval and release. Doing so would put the agencies in direct conflict with Trump, who has the power to declassify the materials on his own. (Bloomberg / Daily Beast)

  • Trump said exposing potential corruption in the Russian investigation could become one of the "crowning achievements" of his presidency and called the investigation "a cancer in our country." (The Hill)

5/ A new federal court ruling requires political nonprofits to disclose many of their political donors. The Supreme Court refused to intervene and grant an emergency request to stay a ruling by a federal judge in the District of Columbia. The judge threw out a decades-old FEC regulation allowing nonprofits to keep their donors hidden unless the donations were earmarked for specific purposes. (Washington Post / NPR)

poll/ A growing number of Americans don't want Kavanaugh to be appointed to the Supreme Court. Thirty-six percent of adults surveyed said they oppose Trump's nominee — up six points from a similar poll conducted last month. Thirty-one percent said they were in favor of Kavanaugh's appointment. (Reuters/Ipsos)


Notables.

  1. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao flew on Federal Aviation Administration planes instead of commercial flights on seven occasions in 2017, costing taxpayers almost $100,000. Newly released records show that one set of flights to and around Europe by Chao and her staff cost an estimated $68,892. (Politico)

  2. A senior FEMA official has been suspended without pay in relation to a DHS inspector general investigation into improper use of government vehicles by FEMA administrator Brock Long. John Vetch was informed of his suspension last Friday, just as FEMA was coordinating the response to Hurricane Florence. (Politico)

  3. Trump again lashed out at Jeff Sessions. He criticized the Attorney General on a wide range of issues, including immigration and Sessions' 2017 decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. "I don’t have an Attorney General," Trump said. "It’s very sad." (The Hill)

  4. Kim Jong-un told South Korean president Moon Jae-in he would commit to taking concrete steps toward denuclearization but stopped short of promising to completely relinquish his nuclear weapons. Kim's offer includes a promise to "permanently dismantle" facilities central to fuel production for North Korea's nuclear arsenal. (New York Times)

  5. In a new book, Stormy Daniels writes that Trump didn't “even want to be president.” And, yes, as per The Guardian, the tell-all memoir has Daniels writing in "sometimes excruciating detail about the president’s genitals." We'll save most of the salacious descriptions for the book and leave you only with Daniels' evocation of "the mushroom character in Mario Kart.” (Daily Beast / The Guardian)

Day 607: A great gentleman.

1/ Trump ordered the declassification of the FISA application targeting Carter Page and the release of James Comey's text messages related to the Russia investigation. Trump also called for the release of a senior Justice official's notes from the investigation, as well as unredacted text messages from Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, and former FBI lawyer Lisa Page. (Politico / CNN)

2/ The Trump administration plans to cap the number of refugees allowed into the United States next year at 30,000, the lowest ceiling since the refugee program was created in 1980. The new low represents a reduction of one-third, from 45,000. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the move, arguing the ceiling should not be the "sole barometer” by which one measures the country's humanitarianism. (New York Times / Politico)

3/ Trump says he feels "terribly" for Brett Kavanaugh and that Kavanaugh is "not a man who deserves this," in reference to upcoming Senate testimony from Christine Blasey Ford, who says Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when the two were in high school. Trump called Kavanaugh "a great gentleman" and expressed concern for Kavanaugh's wife and daughters. (Washington Post)

4/ After slapping 10-percent tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods, Trump threatened to impose tariffs on virtually all remaining Chinese imports. "We don’t want to do it," Trump said, "but we probably — we'll have no choice." The threat came after China responded to the latest escalation of the ongoing trade war by imposing tariffs on $60 billion of U.S. goods. (South China Morning Post)


Notables.

  1. The Senate passed a short-term spending bill to keep the government open through Dec. 7 and delay a fight over Trump's border wall. The bill was attached to a larger budget package that includes full-year 2019 funding for the Pentagon, as well as the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The House is expected to take up the bill next week. (Washington Post / The Hill)

  2. Mueller's plea deal with Paul Manafort took unusual steps to prevent Trump from pardoning his former campaign chairman. The deal contains language that would discourage Trump from pardoning Manafort and limit the impact of a pardon if Trump decides to do so anyway. (Politico / NY Post)

  3. Ted Cruz leads Beto O'Rourke by nine points among likely voters, 54–45. One percent of those polled were undecided. (Texas Tribune / Quinnipiac)

Day 606: Full steam ahead.

1/ The author of the letter accusing Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct came forward to tell her story. Christine Blasey Ford is a 51-year-old research psychologist in northern California who alleges Kavanaugh and a friend sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s. "I thought he might inadvertently kill me," Ford said. "He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing." Ford said she felt a "civic responsibility" to speak out about the Supreme Court nominee. (Washington Post / CBS News)

  • Kavanaugh says he is willing to answer questions under oath about Ford's allegations. Both Kavanaugh and Ford have said they would be willing to testify to Congress about the alleged incident. (CNN)

  • Trump has told allies he believes there is a "conspiracy" by Democrats to derail Kavanaugh's nomination process. A senior White House aide says things are still "full steam ahead" for Kavanaugh. (Daily Beast)

2/ Sen. Jeff Flake wants to delay the vote on Kavanaugh's confirmation until Ford has a chance to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Flake is part of the GOP's one-vote majority on the committee. "For me," Flake said, "we can't vote until we hear more." (CBS News / Politico)

3/ Trump's tax cuts have resulted in the repatriation of only 3.5 percent of the cash he predicted they would bring back to the United States. By ending the practice of taxing U.S. companies when they brought home foreign profits, Trump said, "Over $4 [trillion], but close to $5 trillion, will be brought back into our country." The latest analysis shows $143 billion has been repatriated. Two-thirds of the profits are from two companies: networking giant Cisco Systems and a drug company called Gilead Sciences. (Daily Beast / Wall Street Journal)

4/ Ted Cruz's Senatorial campaign sent out hundreds of thousands of donation mailers disguised as official court summonses. The outside of the envelopes read "SUMMONS ENCLOSED—OPEN IMMEDIATELY" and include a return address of "official county summons." The mailers are legal as long as they contain a clear disclaimer indicating who paid for the communication. (Newsweek)


Notables.

  1. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has nearly doubled the number of promotion opportunities for top U.S. diplomats in an attempt to ease relations with the State Department workforce. State employees felt alienated under former Secretary Rex Tillerson's leadership. (Reuters)

  2. Michael Bloomberg is considering a 2020 presidential run as a Democrat. Bloomberg has aligned himself with Democrats in the midterm election and has committed to spend $80 million to help Democrats retake control of the House. (New York Times)

Day 603: Full cooperation.

1/ Paul Manafort pleaded guilty to financial crimes, violating foreign lobbying laws, and attempting to obstruct justice. He agreed to fully cooperate with Robert Mueller, though the details surrounding what kind of information Manafort agreed to provide the special counsel remain unclear. Manafort also agreed to forfeit multiple properties and bank accounts, participate in interviews, provide documents, and testify to the grand jury. Analysts noted the plea deal is "pardon proof" and that the $47 million forfeiture pays for the entire Mueller investigation. (ABC News / NBC News / Washington Post / emptywheel)

2/ Jared Kushner defended the eviction of the Palestine Liberation Organization from its Washington offices by insisting that punishing Palestinians would not affect the chances of a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine. "There were too many false realities that were created — that people worship — that I think needed to be changed," Kushner said during an interview. "All we’re doing is dealing with things as we see them and not being scared out of doing the right thing." (New York Times)

3/ Details emerged about the secret letter concerning Brett Kavanaugh's alleged high-school sexual misconduct, and Republicans released a letter defending his character. The defense letter—sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee—was signed by 65 women who knew Kavanaugh in high school; it argues he always "treated women with respect." Kavanaugh has denied the allegations. (New York Times / Associated Press)

4/ Retired Adm. Bill McRaven resigned from the Pentagon's Defense Innovation Board, days after criticizing Trump for revoking John Brennan's security clearance. McRaven led the Osama bin Laden raid in 2011. In a Washington Post op-ed last month, he wrote he would "consider it an honor" if Trump would revoke his security clearance, too, so he could add his name "to the list of men and women who have spoken up" against the Trump presidency. (ABC News)


Notables.

  1. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo defeated Cynthia Nixon and clinched the Democratic gubernatorial nomination by a 30-point margin. Cuomo spent nearly $25 million to defeat Nixon in the primary. (New York Times)

  2. New York voters voted against six of the eight incumbent Democratic state senators. The incumbents outspent their challengers several times over during the race. (New York Times)

  3. Bob Woodward says he'll release audio tapes of his White House interviews if asked by his sources. Woodward says he has "boxes of recordings and documents" demonstrating the thoroughness of his sourcing. (The Hill)

Day 602: 12,800 children.

1/ Sen. Dianne Feinstein referred a letter to the FBI containing information about possible sexual misconduct between Brett Kavanaugh and a woman when the two were in high school. The letter is said to be from one of Feinstein's California constituents. Feinstein did not show the letter to any of her Democratic colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Newsweek / The Intercept / NPR / BuzzFeed News)

  • Sen. Cory Booker released another batch of confidential documents related to Kavanaugh. The 28 new documents are from Kavanaugh's time in the Bush White House and show his involvement in judicial nominations. (NBC News / Politico)

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee delayed Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation vote until next week. (Washington Post)

2/ The Trump administration quietly redirected $200 million from various DHS programs to ICE accounts despite repeated congressional warnings of ICE's "lack of fiscal discipline" and "unsustainable" spending habits. Of the $200 million, $93 million will go toward immigrant detention and $107 million will go toward deportation expenses. The news comes a day after a financial document showed the administration diverted $10 million from FEMA to ICE in June. (CNN / NBC News)

3/ Meanwhile, the number of unaccompanied minors detained at the southern border has risen to a record high. Since last summer, the administration has increased by more than five-fold the number of children detained at federally contracted shelters dedicated to migrant children. This month, there were more than 12,800 children in custody, compared to 2,400 in May 2017. (New York Times)

4/ The DHS inspector general is investigating whether FEMA administrator Brock Long misused government vehicles during his commutes from Washington to North Carolina. The IG's office, which became interested in the case after one of Long's vehicles was involved in an accident, is looking into whether he misused government resources and personnel during his regular six-hour trips home. (Politico)

5/ Trump accused Democrats of inflating Hurricane Maria's death toll in Puerto Rico. "3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico," Trump tweeted. "When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths." He claimed Democrats added anyone who died for any reason to the list of hurricane-related deaths. He added: "I love Puerto Rico!" (New York Times / CNN / CNBC)


Notables.

  1. Trump has made 5,000 false or misleading claims during his time in office. His 5,000th claim came yesterday in the form of a tweet about Robert Mueller: "Russian ‘collusion’ was just an excuse by the Democrats for having lost the Election!" (Washington Post)

  2. An audio recording revealed the NRA gave Montana Sen. Jon Tester's opponent advance notice that it would be funding efforts to help defeat Tester in the midterms. The move could represent a violation of campaign finance laws, which legally bar the NRA from coordinating its ad buys with a federal campaign. (Daily Beast)

  3. Negotiators from the House and Senate have agreed to a plan that would avoid another government shutdown as long as both sides sign it before the Sept. 30 deadline. Under the agreement, federal funding would be extended through Dec. 7. (NPR)

  4. A report from the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center found that a second round of GOP tax cuts would add $3.8 trillion to the federal deficit over the next two decades. The bill, which the House Ways and Means Committee approved Thursday, would reduce federal revenue by $631 billion over the next year and by another $3.15 trillion by the year 2038. (The Hill)

Day 601: "Totally incompetent."

1/ Trump signed an executive order authorizing sanctions against foreign countries, companies, and individuals interfering with U.S. elections, as determined by U.S. intelligence agencies. The order tasks a range of agencies—including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the CIA, the NSA, and the Department of Homeland Security—with evaluating potential cases of election meddling and requires any federal agency aware of interference to submit this information to the Director of National Intelligence. (Reuters / CNBC / The Hill)

  • Three-quarters of the secret money spent in recent elections came from just 15 groups. An analysis by the campaign-finance reform group Issue One found that many of these same 15 groups remain big players in the 2018 midterm elections, although the sources of their money remain mostly hidden from the public. (USA Today)

2/ The Department of Homeland Security diverted nearly $10 million from FEMA to help ICE pay for detention and removal operations. A newly released budget document shows DHS transferred the funds—at the beginning of hurricane season—from FEMA's operations and support budget to ICE accounts to pay for detention camps and other expenses. FEMA said the money was not meant for disaster relief. A spokesperson for DHS called reporting on the budget document "a sorry attempt to push a false agenda." (New York Times / Axios / Maddow Blog / ABC News)

3/ Trump called San Juan's mayor "totally incompetent" in response to her critique of Trump, who had recently boasted of federal responses to the hurricanes that ravaged Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico last year. Carmen Yulín Cruz had taken issue with him calling the response to Hurricane Maria "an unsung success." Trump also called Puerto Rico "an inaccessible island with very poor electricity." (ABC News)

4/ Federal investigators are looking into a series of suspicious financial transactions involving people who attended the 2016 Trump Tower meeting. The transfers reveal how Aras Agalarov, a Russian billionaire with strong ties to Trump and Putin, used overseas accounts to distribute money through a web of banks to himself, his son, and at least two people who attended the meeting. Investigators are focusing on two bursts of activity: one occurring shortly before the Trump Tower meeting and one immediately after the 2016 election. (BuzzFeed News / The Hill)

5/ Scott Pruitt is in talks to consult for a Kentucky coal-mining tycoon, months after resigning as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt met with Alliance Resource Partners CEO Joseph W. Craft at least seven times in the first 14 months of his tenure as EPA chief. Under an ethics pledge, Pruitt is barred from directly lobbying the EPA for five years—but not from working as a private consultant who advises on matters related to the EPA or works to change regulatory policy at the state level. (New York Times)


Notables.

  1. Manafort is in talks with Mueller's office about a possible plea deal just days before his second trial begins. The negotiations are not guaranteed to result in a deal. Meanwhile, prosecutors submitted a list of evidence they want to present at trial, including memos showing the depth of Manfort's relationships with his Ukrainian employers. (Washington Post / CNN)

  2. The Trump administration is making it harder for Christian refugees to enter the United States. Despite Trump's promise to help vulnerable Christians around the world, many groups remain in legal limbo. The number of Christian refugees allowed to enter the United States has dropped by more than 40 percent over the last year. (NBC News)

  3. A GOP Congressman from New Jersey suggested being raised in an orphanage would be a better option than growing up with LGBTQ parents. Rep. Chris Smith made the remarks in May when addressing a group of students at a high school. (Asbury Park Press)

  4. Independent Sen. Angus King of Maine announced he will vote against Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court confirmation. "After this intensive process," King said, "I have determined that I cannot support this nomination." (Politico)

Day 600: Reckless escalation.

1/ Trump began the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks by tweeting a defense of himself in the Russia investigation while also attacking the FBI. In a string of tweets that appeared to quote from a segment on Fox News, Trump blamed FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page for employing a "media leak strategy" to undermine his administration. He then blamed the FBI and Justice Department for doing "NOTHING" about it. Almost two hours later, Trump tweeted: "17 years since September 11th!" (NBC News / Washington Post / CNN)

  • A history of Trump's comments about 9/11. For instance, in November 2015 he claimed, without evidence, that "thousands and thousands" of Muslims in New Jersey had celebrated the news of the attacks. (HuffPost)

  • Trump bragged that one of his buildings was now the tallest in downtown Manhattan hours after the World Trade Center collapsed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. "40 Wall Street actually was the second-tallest building in downtown Manhattan, and it was actually, before the World Trade Center, was the tallest," Trump said during a telephone interview on the afternoon of Sept. 11 with local New Jersey television station WWOR. "And then, when they built the World Trade Center, it became known as the second-tallest. And now it’s the tallest." (Washington Post / HuffPost)

  • Trump pumped both fists after deplaning Air Force One in Pennsylvania, where Trump paid tribute to victims of crashed Flight 93. (CNN / CNBC / The Independent)

2/ The Trump administration plans to make it easier for energy companies to release methane into the atmosphere. The EPA plans to weaken an Obama-era requirement that companies monitor and repair methane leaks, while the Interior Department wants to repeal a restriction on intentional venting and burning of methane by drilling operations. Methane is among the most potent greenhouse gases and is roughly 25 times more effective than carbon dioxide when it comes to trapping heat in the atmosphere. (New York Times)

  • The United Nations Secretary-General: "We face a direct existential threat" because "climate change is moving faster than we are." António Guterres urged world leaders to combat "the defining issue of our time." (Common Dreams)

3/ The number of White House aides Trump trusts is "much smaller" following allegations that there is a "resistance" inside the Trump administration trying to subvert his agenda. Trump Jr. said he believes the New York Times op-ed authored by an anonymous senior administration official was written by a "low-level person," and that the Justice Department should investigate the author. He called the op-ed "pretty disgusting" and "sad." (Politico / ABC News / Washington Post)

4/ Trump said his administration is "totally prepared" for Hurricane Florence, which he described as "tremendously big and tremendously wet" with "tremendous amounts of water." Trump called the federal government's "incredibly successful" response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico a year ago "one of the best jobs that's ever been done." Nearly 3,000 people died. Meanwhile, the general who oversaw the military response to Hurricane Katrina, said "I will not bet any money that we are prepared." (Roll Call / ABC News / The Hill)

poll/ 36% approve of the way Trump is handling his job, down from 42% in August. Trump's approval with independents went from 47% last month to 31% now. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. Officials consider Russia to be the main suspect behind the mysterious "attacks" on U.S. personnel in Cuba and China. The U.S. believes sophisticated microwaves or other electromagnetic weapons were used against government employees, which led to brain injuries. There is not enough conclusive evidence, however, for the U.S. to officially blame Moscow for the alleged attacks. (NBC News)

  2. Trump has canceled a planned trip to Ireland in November due to "scheduling reasons." However, immediately after Trump's visit was announced, the leader of Ireland's Green Party called on the Irish people to "show their disgust and rejection of the Trump administration's policies by turning out […] in large-scale mass protest around the country." (CNBC)

  3. The Trump administration is considering sanctions against senior Chinese officials and companies over Beijing's detention of hundreds of thousands of Muslims in large internment camps. It would be the first time the Trump administration has taken action against China over human rights issues. (New York Times)

  4. Two political action committees based in Maine raised over a million dollars for Sen. Susan Collins nonexistent opponent if she votes to confirm Brett Kavanaugh. Collins' Democratic opponent raised $2.3 million during Maine's most recent Senate campaign. (Daily Beast)

  5. The Trump administration is expected to close the Palestine Liberation Organization's office in Washington. Senior Palestinian officials strongly condemned the decision and described it as a "reckless escalation." (Wall Street Journal)

  6. Trump told Gary Cohn to "just run the presses" and "print money" in order to lower the national debt, according Bob Woodward's new book, Fear: Trump in the White House. The federal deficit, meanwhile, grew $222 billion – or 32% – in the first 11 months of the fiscal 2018 year to $895 billion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The CBO now estimates that the deficit will approach $1 trillion by the end of this fiscal year. An earlier analysis projected that deficits wouldn't reach $1 trillion until 2020. (CNBC / The Hill / Axios)

Day 599: Quite enthusiastic.

1/ The Trump campaign team was "fully aware" of George Papadopoulos' efforts to set up a Trump-Putin meeting. "I actively sought to leverage my contacts with the professor to host this meeting," Papadopoulos said. "The campaign was fully aware what I was doing" and Trump was "open to this idea," but deferred to Jeff Sessions, who was "quite enthusiastic." (ABC News / NBC News)

2/ Trump is expected to declassify documents about the government's surveillance of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page and the investigative actions taken by Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr. Republicans on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees allege that Ohr was an improper intermediary between the Justice Department, Christopher Steele, and Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm that created the Trump-Russia dossier. (Axios)

3/ Trump won't enforce the $130,000 hush-money nondisclosure agreement between Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen, claiming he has "never taken the position that he was a party" to the NDA because he never signed the agreement. Trump's attorney, Charles Harder, called for Daniels to "immediately dismiss" Trump from her defamation lawsuit. (ABC News / CNN / New York Daily News)

  • Michael Cohen agreed to tear up the nondisclosure agreement barring Stormy Daniels from discussing her alleged affair with Trump and requested that she pay back the $130,000 she received. Michael Avenatti, who represents Daniels, called it a "legal stunt" in order to avoid Trump being deposed in the case. (CNN / ABC News)

  • Stormy Daniels said she "vigorously opposes" Trump and Cohen's offer to not enforce her nondisclosure agreement, claiming their "sudden desire to escape" the agreement is a signal that they have been "shamelessly deceiving this Court and the American public for more than six months." (Daily Beast / Courthouse News)

4/ The Trump administration discussed plans for a coup in Venezuela last year with rebels who were rebuffed by the Obama administration. The secret meetings involved a Venezuelan military commander who is on the American government's own sanctions list of corrupt officials in Venezuela. The U.S. eventually decided not to help the rebels, and the coup plans stalled. (New York Times)

5/ Jeff Sessions defended the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" immigration policy as "perfectly legitimate, moral and decent." He also argued that in order to deter a large number of migrants, the U.S. need to adopt a tougher stance on immigration, saying: "The world will know what our rules are, and great numbers will no longer undertake a dangerous journey." Sessions plans to increase the number of immigration judges by 50% by the end of the year. (NBC News / Politico)

poll/ 38% of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president – down three percentage points since August. 60% say Trump is not honest, 55% say he doesn't care about Americans, 55% also say he is not fit to serve as president, and 42% say Trump is not intelligent. (Quinnipiac)


Notables.

  1. Federal prosecutors admitted that they wrongly accused Maria Butina of trading sex for influence with high-level Republicans on behalf of the Russian government. Butina is a Russian citizen who is currently in custody and facing charges of conspiracy and illegally acting as a foreign agent. Prosecutors acknowledged in court filings that they were "mistaken" in their interpretation of what were apparently joke text messages between Butina and a friend. (New York Times)

  2. The Trump administration is expanding U.S. drone strikes in Africa. President Obama curtailed the program toward the end of his term after a series of highly publicized civilian deaths resulted from the strikes. (New York Times)

  3. John Bolton will threaten the International Criminal Court with sanctions and other penalties if it proceeds with an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Americans in Afghanistan. "The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court," reads a draft of Bolton's upcoming speech. The Trump administration is also expected to announce the closure of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) office in Washington due to concerns over Palestinian attempts to convince the ICC to launch an investigation of Israel. (NBC News / Washington Post / CBS News)

  4. Omarosa Manigault Newman released a recording of Trump discussing Hillary Clinton and the Russia investigation. In the October 2017 meeting with the White House communications and press teams, Trump claimed that the "real Russia story is Hillary and collusion." He alleged that the Clinton campaign paid $9 million for an unidentified "phony report." Manigault Newman added that Trump frequently crashed meetings at the White House, "rambling from topic to topic," because he got bored "very often." (NBC News / The Hill / Daily Beast)

  5. The White House changed its phone policy in a move believed to be in direct response to Manigault Newman's recordings. Staffers will now have to put their White House-issued devices in their offices or in lockers with their personal phones near the West Wing entrances before being buzzed into the Situation Room. (CNN)

  6. Pence said he would take a lie-detector test "in a heartbeat" in order to prove that he wasn't the anonymous author of the New York Times op-ed. He also said he is "more than willing" to sit down for an interview with Robert Mueller's team as part of their investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. (Washington Post / The Hill)

  7. Trump promised to "write the real book" about his administration, calling Bob Woodward's new book a "joke." Trump claimed that Fear: Trump in the White House is "fiction" because it uses "now disproven unnamed and anonymous sources." (Politico)

Day 596: Your fault.

1/ Trump called on Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department to investigate and uncover the author of the anonymous op-ed that described an effort by members of the administration to subvert his agenda. "Jeff should be investigating who the author of that piece was because I really believe it's national security," Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One. He added that he's also "looking at" possible legal action against The New York Times, though he did not elaborate. (ABC News / NBC News / CNBC / CNN / New York Times)

2/ Trump tried to refute the quotes in Bob Woodword's new book, claiming "I don't talk the way I am quoted" in Fear: Trump in the White House. "The Woodward book is a scam," Trump tweeted at 5:30am, claiming the "quotes are made up" because "I would not have been elected President" if they were true. Trump also denied that he called Sessions "mentally retarded" or a "dumb Southerner," as the book reports. However, Trump is on record calling somebody "retarded" on a Howard Stern episode in 2004, and a former deputy editor at the New York Post said Trump once described his in-laws as "an entourage of dumb Southerners." (New York Times / Washington Post)

3/ Trump will not answer Robert Mueller's questions about obstruction of justice, according to Rudy Giuliani. "That's a no-go. That is not going to happen," Trump's lawyer said. "There will be no questions at all on obstruction," whether in person or in writing. (Associated Press)

4/ Hours later Giuliani walked back the comments, saying the possibility of answering questions about obstruction of justice are "not ruled in or out." One person with direct knowledge of Trump's legal strategy said that "there is no strategy" aside from PR tactics of threatening Mueller. If negotiations break down, Mueller could be forced to subpoena Trump to testify. Giuliani previously said they would fight any subpoena up to the Supreme Court, which has never definitively ruled on the question of whether a president can be forced to testify. (NBC News / Axios / Reuters)

5/ Elizabeth Warren called on White House officials to invoke the 25th Amendment and begin the process of removing Trump from office. "If senior administration officials think the President of the United States is not able to do his job," Warren said, "then they should invoke the 25th Amendment." Warren's comments come a day after an op-ed by an anonymous senior administration official who attacked Trump's "amorality" and "anti-democratic" policies, saying staff is "thwarting" Trump's "misguided impulses" and "worst inclinations." (CNN)

6/ Trump told his supporters it'll be "your fault" if he gets impeached. During a rally in Montana, Trump told supporters that they "aren't just voting for a candidate, you are voting for which party controls Congress." He then brought up "the impeachment word" and said "you didn't go out to vote – that's the only way it could happen." (CNN)

7/ Obama called Trump a "threat to democracy" and accused him and his Republican supporters of practicing "politics of fear and resentment" during a speech at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He added that the "resistance" within the administration is not the right way to stop the "crazy stuff" coming out of the White House. He blamed Republicans in Congress for being "utterly unwilling to find the backbone to safeguard the institutions that make our democracy work" and that Republicans "who know better are still bending over backwards" to protect Trump. "This is not normal," Obama continued. "How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad?" (NBC News / New York Times / Politico)

  • Trump on Obama's critical speech: "I fell asleep." (Politico)

Notables.

  1. George Papadopoulos was sentenced to 14 days in jail, having pled guilty in October 2017 to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians. In asking for leniency, Papadopoulos said he made "a terrible mistake, for which I have paid a terrible price, and am deeply ashamed," and that he was motivated to lie to the FBI try to "create distance between the issue, myself, and the president." Papadopoulos was the first campaign adviser to be arrested in connection with Mueller's investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 election. He was also ordered to pay a $9,500 fine and perform community service. His attorney said Trump "hindered this investigation more than George Papadopoulos ever did." (Bloomberg / Washington Post / CNN / New York Times)

  2. Papadopoulos "can't guarantee" that he didn't tell anyone on the Trump campaign that Russia had damaging emails about Hillary Clinton. "I might have," Papadopoulos said, "but I have no recollection of doing so." (CNN)

  3. A former Roger Stone associate and longtime Trump ally appeared before Mueller's federal grand jury. Randy Credico is one of at least 10 people associated with Stone who have been contacted by the special counsel. (ABC News)

  4. Trump "most likely" won't "shut down government over border security" after all. Trump has gone back and forth about the possibility of a government shutdown, and recently said he'd prefer to wait until after the midterms because "we need Republicans elected in the midterms. We are getting the wall done." (NBC News / Politico)

Day 595: Total meltdown.

1/ Brett Kavanaugh challenged whether Roe v. Wade was "the settled law of the land" in a leaked 2003 email he wrote while serving in the George W. Bush White House. A lawyer for Bush deemed the email "committee confidential" when turning it over to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which meant it could not be made public or discussed by Democrats during Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings this week. In the email, Kavanaugh wrote: "I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe v. Wade as the settled law of the land at the Supreme Court level since Court can always overrule its precedent, and three current Justices on the Court would do so." Following the publication of the Kavanaugh email, two Democratic senators unilaterally released several other "committee confidential" emails. (New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ Senator Cory Booker released 12 pages of confidential Kavanaugh emails on racial profiling, affirmative action, and other racial issues. Booker acknowledged that he would be "knowingly violating the rules" for releasing the "committee confidential" emails, adding: "And I understand that the penalty comes with potential ousting from the Senate […] I openly invite and accept the consequences … the emails being withheld from the public have nothing to do with national security." Booker then invited Republican Sen. John Cornyn to "bring the charges." (The Guardian / ABC News / CNN / The Hill)

  • Separately, Senator Mazie Hirono published a "committee confidential" email about policies for Native Hawaiians. The leak was aimed at Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, who guards the interests of Native Alaskans. In that email, Kavanaugh questioned whether Native Hawaiians should be protected like Indian tribes. (CNBC)

  • The records that Booker and Hirono published had already been cleared for public release, according to Democratic and Republican aides on the Senate Judiciary Committee. (Washington Post)

  • READ: The Kavanaugh emails released by Cory Booker. (DocumentCloud)

3/ Kavanaugh refused to answer a yes or no question about whether he had discussed Robert Mueller's investigation with one of Trump's attorneys. During a tense exchange, Sen. Kamala Harris asked Kavanaugh whether he had spoken with anyone at Kasowitz Benson & Torres, a law firm founded by Trump's personal attorney Marc Kasowitz. Kavanaugh dodged the question, responding: "Is there a person you’re talking about?" Harris responded: "I think you are thinking of someone, and you don't want to tell us." A Democratic aide said that some in the party "have reason to believe that a conversation happened and are continuing to pursue it." (Politico / CNN / The Hill)

  • Marc Kasowitz: "There have been no discussions regarding Robert Mueller's investigation between Judge Kavanaugh and anyone at our firm." Sen. Kamala Harris responded to Kasowitz's statement, saying his denial wasn't "under oath." (CNBC)

4/ The White House is in a state of "total meltdown" with Trump "absolutely livid" and reacting to the anonymous op-ed with "volcanic" anger. The op-ed by "a senior official in the Trump administration" who claims to be part of a "resistance" protecting the U.S. from its president, has set off finger-pointing within the West Wing at the highest levels of the administration. Aides and outside allies say "the sleeper cells have awoken" and that "it's like the horror movies when everyone realizes the call is coming from inside the house." (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times / Talking Points Memo)

  • Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo both denied authoring the anonymous op-ed published yesterday in the New York Times. "The Vice President puts his name on his Op-Eds," Pence's spokesperson said on Twitter. "It is sad that you have someone who would make that choice,” said Pompeo. "I come from a place where if you're not in a position to execute the commander's intent, you have a singular option, that is to leave." Social media speculation that Pence wrote the op-ed comes from the use of word "lodestar" in the piece, a word that Pence has used multiple times over the course of more than a decade. (Washington Post / HuffPost)

Notables.

  1. The Trump administration rejected an intelligence report last year showing refugees are not a significant security threat to the U.S. Hardliners inside the White House then issued their own report earlier this year that misstated the evidence and inflated the threat posed by those who were born outside the country. (NBC News)

  2. The Trump administration plans to ignore a court ruling in order to detain immigrant children with their parents indefinitely. The proposed changes by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services would end the Flores Settlement Agreement, a federal consent decree that banned indefinite detention 20 years ago. (NBC News / Washington Post)

  3. A government photographer edited photos of Trump's inauguration to make the crowd look bigger than it was after Trump intervened. The photographer cropped out the empty space "where the crowd ended" after Trump requested a new set of pictures on the first day of his presidency. The details were not included in the final report of the Interior Department inspector general's office on its inquiry into the situation. (The Guardian)

Day 594: The worst mood.

1/ A senior Trump administration official published an anonymous essay in the New York Times claiming cabinet members discussed removing Trump from office early in his presidency "given the instability many witnessed." The official criticized Trump's "amorality" and reckless decision-making, saying "there is a quiet resistance within the administration of people choosing to put country first" and that "Americans should know that there are adults in the room" who "fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won't." (New York Times / CNN)

2/ Trump called the unsigned op-ed a "disgrace" and "gutless." Trump attacked the New York Times for publishing an essay by an unnamed administration official who claims the president's advisers deliberately try to block Trump's misguided impulses. The anonymous official wrote that Trump's "impulses are generally anti-trade and anti-democratic." At a White House event, Trump brought up the op-ed, saying "This is what we have to deal with" and that "they don't like Donald Trump and I don't like them." He later demanded that "the Times must, for National Security purposes, turn him/her over to government at once!" (CNN / Associated Press / New York Times)

3/ Sarah Huckabee Sanders called the author of the "resistance" op-ed a "coward" who should "do the right thing and resign." Sanders accused the author of choosing to "deceive" Trump by remaining in the administration and called on the Times to "issue an apology" for publishing the "pathetic, reckless, and selfish op-ed." (Associated Press / ABC News)

4/ Trump is "in the worst mood of his presidency" and frequently calls confidants to "vent about his selection of [Jeff] Sessions and [FBI Director Christopher] Wray." Trump is criticizing Wray and painting him as another Justice Department official who refuses to protect his interests and is possibly out to undermine his presidency. (NBC News)

5/ Trump suggested that protesting should be illegal after Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing was disrupted by protesters. Trump called it "embarrassing for the country to allow protesters. You don't even know what side the protesters are on." (Washington Post)

6/ Trump called for NBC to lose its broadcast license, tweeting "I have long criticized NBC and their journalistic standards-worse than even CNN. Look at their license?" The FCC lacks legal authority to revoke broadcast licenses over news content. (Politico)

7/ Robert Mueller's office agreed to accept some written answers from Trump, according to a letter from the special counsel's office to Trump's lawyers. The questions would focus on whether his campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election. Mueller still intends to interview Trump in person about questions relating to obstruction of justice at a later date. Editor's note: I added this at the last minute yesterday, but wanted to include more information today. (New York Times / NPR / Washington Post)

  • Robert Mueller subpoenaed a conspiracy theorist linked to both Roger Stone and Alex Jones. Jerome Corsi is expected to testify on Friday before Mueller's grand jury about his discussions with Stone, who has been a subject of Mueller's investigation for seemingly predicting that WikiLeaks would publish material damaging to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. (New York Times)

8/ North Carolina's unconstitutionally gerrymandered congressional maps will be used in the November midterm elections. A federal court concluded that there is "insufficient time" to redraw the maps before the election, even though the same panel of federal judges ruled in August that the maps favored Republicans and were unconstitutional. (Politico / CNN)

forecast/ Democrats have a 77% chance of retaking control of the House. Republicans, meanwhile, have a 22% chance of maintaining control. (FiveThirtyEight)

poll/ 37% of voters approve of the way Trump is handling his job. 59% disapprove. (Kaiser Family Foundation)

poll/ 36% of registered voters approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president. 60% disapprove. (Washington Post)

poll/ Trump's job approval fell 5 percentage points to 36% from August to September. Republicans' approval fell from 83% in August to 76% in September. Overall, 56% of the public disapprove of the job Trump is doing, up three points from August. (IBD/TIPP)


Notables.

  • Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen called out Putin for interfering in the 2016 election, saying it was a "direct attack" on U.S. democracy. (CNN)

  • The U.K. charged two officers in Russia's military intelligence with attempted murder for poisoning a former Russian spy in England in March. Prosecutors did not request the extradition of the men from Russia, which does not send its nationals abroad for prosecution. (New York Times)

  • Putin claimed he doesn't know the two suspects behind the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter. Putin's foreign policy adviser, Yuri Ushakov, said the names of the suspects "do not mean anything to me." (Associated Press)

  • The White House is discussing possible replacements for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. The news follows reports from Bob Woodward's new book, which claims that Mattis said Trump "acted like – and had the understanding of – 'a fifth- or sixth-grader.'" (Washington Post)

  • The EPA failed to justify increased spending on Scott Pruitt's 24-hour security detail, according to the EPA's inspector general. Pruitt's security costs grew by almost $2 million, from $1.6 million to $3.5 million in just 11 months. (ABC News)

  • Trump on a possible government shutdown: "If it happens, it happens." Congress is facing a Sept. 30th deadline to pass spending bills to keep the government open. (Associated Press)

*Note: I'll do a full roundup of the Kavanaugh hearings later this week when we have more perspective on what's happened. *

Day 593: We're in Crazytown.

1/ Bob Woodward's book describes Trump as an "emotionally overwrought, mercurial and unpredictable leader," his presidency as "an administrative coup d'etat," and the executive branch as having a "nervous breakdown" where senior aides hide official papers from Trump's desk so he won't sign them, all in order "to protect the country." In one instance, Gary Cohn, Trump's former top economic adviser, "stole a letter off Trump's desk" that the president wanted to sign that would have withdrawn the U.S. from a trade agreement with South Korea. In another instance, Trump ordered Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to assassinate Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, saying: "Let's fucking kill him! Let's go in. Let's kill the fucking lot of them." Mattis told Trump he would get right on it, but immediately told an aide, "We're not going to do any of that. We're going to be much more measured." John Dowd told Trump he'd be wearing an "orange jump suit" if he sat for an interview with Robert Mueller. And Woodward also reports that John Kelly once called Trump an "idiot," and told colleagues that the president was "unhinged," that "he's gone off the rails. We're in Crazytown. I don't even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I've ever had." Fear: Trump in the White House will be released on September 11th. (Washington Post / CNN)

  • SWAMP SPEAK:

  • Trump called his condemnation of white supremacists and neo-Nazis following the deadly 2017 Charlottesville rally "the biggest fucking mistake I've made." Trump was sharply criticized for initially saying that "both sides" were to blame for the violence. Trump bowed to pressure and gave a second speech in which he called racism "evil" and condemned hate groups. He told aides that it was the "worst speech I've ever given." (The Hill)

  • Trump described Jeff Sessions as a "traitor" and as a "mentally retarded" "dumb Southerner" to aides, according to Woodward's book. (ABC News)

  • Rudy Giuliani to critical Trump advisers: "Why don't they go get another job? That's the kind of disloyalty that leads to you leaving, not staying and undermining the president." (CNBC)

  • 👑 Portrait of a President: An ongoing collection of articles curated by the WTFJHT family that illuminate the Trump presidency.

2/ The White House called Woodward's book about Trump "nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the President look bad." John Kelly issued a statement denying that "I ever called the President an idiot." (CNBC / Wall Street Journal)

  • Trump complained to confidants that he didn't get to speak with Woodward before the book went to print. People close to Trump have speculated that part of the reason an interview never happened was because of a policy instituted by John Kelly after the publication of Michael Wolff's tell-all book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, which portrayed Trump as an ill-equipped leader who refused to read even one-page briefing papers. However, Trump called Woodward in early August, after the manuscript had been completed, to say he wanted to participate. Trump's last interview with Woodward was in 2016, where Trump said: "Real power is, I don't even want to use the word, fear." (CNN / Washington Post)

  • Trump: Woodward has "a lot of credibility problems." (Daily Caller)

3/ Trump attacked Jeff Sessions and the Justice Department on Twitter in connection with the indictments of two GOP congressmen on corruption charges, saying the charges could hurt the Republican Party in the midterm elections. "Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time," Trump tweeted. "Good job Jeff…" Last month, Duncan Hunter (R-CA) was indicted by a federal grand jury on charges that he and his wife used more than $250,000 in campaign funds to pay for personal expenses. Chris Collins (R-NY) was indicted on charges of insider trading. Trump called them "two very popular Republican Congressmen." (Washington Post / New York Times / CNN)

4/ Robert Mueller will accept some written answers from Trump about whether his campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in U.S. elections interference, according to a letter from the special counsel's office to Trump's lawyers. Mueller's investigation will also continue despite Giuliani's claims that the probe should have ended on Sept. 1, based on an informal Justice Department guideline that encourages investigators to avoid affecting elections. The midterm elections will be held on Nov. 6. (New York Times / Bloomberg)

5/ Giuliani: The White House will likely attempt to block a full public release of Mueller's final report on his Russia investigation. Giuliani once again described the special counsel's investigation as a "witch hunt," and said that the White House would "object to the public disclosure of information that might be covered by executive privilege." When asked whether the White House would raise objections to the publication of the full report, Giuliani said, "I'm sure we will," and noted that Trump would be the one who "would make the final call." (HuffPost / New Yorker)

6/ 42,000 pages of documents related to Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, were released hours before Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings were set to begin. The Trump administration claimed executive privilege and withheld some 100,000 documents related to Kavanaugh's time in the George W. Bush administration. Before serving in the Bush administration, Kavanaugh was a key deputy to Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr and supported tough questioning of President Clinton about his encounters with Monica Lewinsky. Later, in 2009, Kavanaugh wrote an article for the Minnesota Law Review that claimed any civil and criminal investigations of a president should take place only once the president is out of office, because they are "time-consuming and distracting." (ABC News / New York Times)

7/ Before Kavanaugh's hearing began, Democrats pushed to adjourn and protesters repeatedly interrupted the Senate Judiciary Committee proceedings. Chuck Grassley's opening remarks were delayed for nearly 90-minutes as Democratic senators interrupted the chairman over the last-minute document dump. "The committee received just last night, less than 15 hours ago, 42,000 pages of documents that we have not had an opportunity to read, review or analyze," Sen. Kamala Harris said moments after the hearing opened. "We cannot possibly move forward with this hearing." Democrats are expected to press Kavanaugh on his positions on Roe v. Wade, the scope of executive power, health care, gun control, and same-sex marriage. Kavanaugh is not expected to offer any commitment to recuse himself from cases involving investigations of Trump, including a possible constitutional fight over a subpoena of the president. (NBC News / New York Times / Washington Post / ABC News)

poll/ 37% of voters say the Senate should vote to confirm Kavanaugh with 29% saying the Senate shouldn't vote, and 34% are undecided. Among Republican voters, 67% support confirming Kavanaugh while 53% of Democrats say the Senate shouldn't confirm him. (Politico)

poll/ 63% of Americans think Trump and the Republican Party are out of touch with most people in the U.S. By comparison, 51% think the Democratic Party is out of touch. (Washington Post)

poll/ Democratic House candidates lead their Republican opponents nationally by 52-38% among registered voters. 60% of voters say they'd rather see the next Congress controlled by the Democrats. (ABC News)


Notables.

  1. Trump kicked off Labor Day by attacking a top union leader. Trump tweeted that AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka "represented his union poorly on television this weekend." Trump added: "It is easy to see why unions are doing so poorly. A Dem!" The attack came after Trumka appeared on Fox News and criticized Trump's attempts to overhaul NAFTA, arguing that the agreement should include Canada. "The things that he's done to hurt workers outpace what he's done to help workers," Trumka said. (ABC News)

  2. The Trump administration is rolling back worker safety regulations affecting underground mine safety inspections, offshore oil rigs, and line speeds in meat processing plants, among other things. Under Obama, workplace inspections at mines had to occur before workers started their shifts, but the Trump administration said it would allow inspections to begin while miners were already working. The Interior Department is seeking to roll back regulations for offshore oil rigs that were put in place after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, rescinding the rule that inspections of blowout preventers must only be conducted by government-approved third parties. And the Agricultural Department is considering lifting line speed requirements in hog processing plants. (Politico)

  3. Republicans are considering dropping an effort to push a second phase of tax cuts that includes a $10,000 annual cap on state and local tax deductions. Party leaders are concerned that the effort may antagonize voters in hotly contested congressional districts. (Bloomberg)

  4. The Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago is being sued by the Illinois attorney general for multiple violations of clean water laws and for endangering fish and other aquatic life in the Chicago River. The tower, one of the city's largest users of river water for its cooling systems, is accused of failing to meet several special-permit requirements that are intended to limit the number of fish pinned against intake screens or killed by sudden pressure and temperature changes. Building managers also failed to renew its permit and have been operating the cooling system without it for almost a year. "Trump Tower continues to take millions of gallons of water from the Chicago River every day without a permit and without any regard to how it may be impacting the river’s ecosystem," Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in a statement. "I filed my lawsuit to make sure Trump Tower cannot continue violating the law." (Chicago Tribune)

  5. The Kremlin dismissed Trump's warning to the Syrian government not to attack a rebel-held stronghold in Idlib province. Trump warned Bashar al-Assad and his allies in Iran and Russia on Monday not to "recklessly attack" Syria's northwestern province, saying that hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. The Kremlin responded by claiming that the province was a "nest of terrorism" and saying that the presence of militants in Idlib was undermining the Syrian peace process. Russian forces resumed air strikes against insurgents in Idlib on Tuesday after a hiatus that lasted a few weeks. (Reuters / CNN)

  6. Former Senator Jon Kyl will fill John McCain's seat. Kyl served three terms in the Senate and was the second-ranking Senate Republican when he left office in 2013. (New York Times)

  7. Nike made Colin Kaepernick the face of its 30th anniversary "Just Do It" campaign, which features a black-and-white close up of the former NFL quarterback with the quote: "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything." No team has signed Kaepernick since he stirred a national debate by taking a knee during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial inequality. In 2017, Trump told supporters he wanted to see an NFL owner "get that son of a bitch off the field right now" and fire any player who refuses to stand during the national anthem. (BuzzFeed News / The Guardian)

  8. Omarosa recorded nearly every conversation she had while working in the White House, including conversations she had with "all of the Trumps." She did so using her personal cellphone, which was almost always on record mode. She carried two phones with her — her personal phone and a government-issued phone — and often put conversations she had on her work phone on speaker, allowing her to record the audio with her personal phone. (Axios)

  9. David Hogg, a Parkland school shooting survivor, helped to raise nearly $10,000 to pin a 2016 tweet from Trump attacking Sen. Ted Cruz on a billboard in Texas. In the tweet, Trump asks: "Why would the people of Texas support Ted Cruz when he has accomplished absolutely nothing for them." (Axios)

Day 589: Over a barrel.

1/ Canada: "We're not there yet" on a NAFTA deal. The Trump administration had given Canada a Friday deadline to join a preliminary, new trade agreement between the U.S. and Mexico. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would only sign a "good" NAFTA deal, while Canada's top trade negotiator added: "We're looking for a good deal, not just any deal. We will only agree to a deal that is a good deal for Canada." A spokesperson from the U.S. Trade Representative's Office described the negotiations as "ongoing," while the Trump administration told Congress that it intends to keep Canada in the pact. (New York Times / Politico / Bloomberg / CNBC)

2/ Trump is unwilling to make any concessions to Canada at all on NAFTA, and said trade negotiations would be done "totally on our terms". The remark was told to Bloomberg reporters off the record, but then reported by the Toronto Star. At the time, Trump said he couldn't admit this publicly because "it's going to be so insulting they're not going to be able to make a deal." He suggested he was forcing Canadian leaders into submission by repeatedly threatening to impose tariffs. Trump followed up by lashing out on Twitter, saying he was "BLATANTLY VIOLATED" due to the leaking of his "OFF THE RECORD COMMENTS" about Canada. He then confirmed the remarks by adding "At least Canada knows where I stand!" (Toronto Star / Politico / Washington Post)

3/ Robert Mueller's investigation is pushing up against the "60-day rule," an unofficial Department of Justice policy that suggests that investigators not take any actions within two months of an election in order to avoid influencing the outcome. Rudy Giuliani previously said that if the special counsel's investigation is not completed by September, then there would be a "very, very serious violation of Justice Department rules," because Mueller "shouldn't be conducting one of these investigations in the 60-day period." The cutoff, however, is not a hard and fast rule and, according to the Justice Department's inspector general, it's "not written or described in any Department policy or regulation." Some of the evidence we've yet to see: Trump's tax returns and bank records; Trump Organization records; other Michael Cohen recordings; cellphone records related to the Trump Tower meeting. (Politico / Axios)

  • Giuliani and Trump's legal team are crafting a "counter-report" to question whether the "initiation of the [Mueller] investigation was … legitimate or not". One section of the report will allege "possible conflicts" of interest by federal law enforcement authorities, while the other section will respond to allegations of collusion and obstruction of justice. (Daily Beast / CNN)

  • Democrats are trying to bring Trump's tax returns into public view following tax fraud charges against both Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen. Trump was the first major party candidate in four decades to refuse to disclose his tax returns. (ABC News)

4/ Trump threatened to "get involved" in the Justice Department and "get in there" if the FBI doesn't "start doing their job and doing it right". Trump again accused top officials at the FBI and Justice Department of being biased against Republicans. "Our Justice Department and our FBI - at the top of each, because inside they have incredible people - but our Justice Department and our FBI have to start doing their job and doing it right and doing it now," Trump told the crowd. "I wanted to stay out, but at some point if it doesn't straighten out properly … I will get involved and I’ll get in there if I have to." (Reuters)

5/ A former associate of Paul Manafort and a Cambridge Analytica employee struck a plea deal and agreed to cooperate with Mueller's office. Sam Patten pleaded guilty to failing to register as a foreign lobbyist while working on behalf of a Ukrainian political party and to lying to a Senate committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. Patten was a business partner of Konstantin Kilimnik, who was indicted along with Manafort on witness tampering charges. In previous court documents, Mueller's team said they believe Kilimnik was a Russian intelligence operative in 2016, when he was communicating with Manafort and Rick Gates as they worked for Trump's presidential campaign. (Politico / Bloomberg / Washington Post / Vox)

  • Patten funneled $50,000 from a Ukrainian oligarch to Trump's Presidential Inauguration Committee using a "straw purchaser" in order to secure four tickets to the inauguration: The tickets were used by Patten, Kilimnik, the oligarch and another Ukrainian. (The Guardian / NBC News / Washington Post)

  • Two prosecutors left Mueller's team. The departures of Ryan Dickey and Brian Richardson did not have to do with any allegations of wrongdoing or political bias. (CNBC / CNN)

6/ A senior Justice Department lawyer said Christopher Steele told him two years ago that Russian intelligence believed "they had Trump over a barrel," according to multiple people familiar with the previously unreported details. Bruce Ohr, who testified behind closed doors this week to the House Judiciary and Oversight committees, also said Trump campaign aide Carter Page had met with more-senior Russian officials than previously acknowledged. Ohr's meeting with Steele occurred on July 30, 2016, and the FBI opened its counterintelligence investigation the next day, but for entirely different reasons: the report that Russian hackers had penetrated Democratic email accounts, and George Papadopoulos' contacts with Russians who said they had "dirt" on Hillary Clinton in the form of emails. Earlier this month, Trump proposed stripping Ohr of his security clearance and has asked "how the hell" he remains employed. (Associated Press / CNN)

  • House Democrats accused Republicans of misusing "sensitive" documents during their closed-door interview with Bruce Ohr. Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Elijah Cummings say Republican lawmakers "never introduced these documents into the official record, never marked them as exhibits, never explained how they obtained them, and never provided copies to Democratic staff participating in the interview." (Politico)

7/ Trump is considering Washington litigator Pat Cipollone as a replacement for White House counsel Don McGahn. Trump interviewed Cipollone earlier this week. Cipollone is a former Justice Department attorney who practices commercial litigation. (Reuters / CNN / Washington Post)

poll/ 60% of Americans disapprove of Trump's job performance. 36% approve, which matches his all-time low, and makes Trump's average approval rating lower than any president since the 1940s. 49% say Congress should begin impeachment proceedings, while 46% say Congress should not. And 53% believe Trump has tried to interfere with Robert Mueller's investigation in a way that amounts to obstruction of justice. 63% support Mueller's investigation. (ABC News / Washington Post)

Day 588: Shape up.

1/ The Trump administration has been denying passports to U.S. citizens and accusing hundreds of Latinos along the southern border of using fake birth certificates to obtain citizenship. The State Department said it "has not changed policy or practice regarding the adjudication of passport applications," but news reports suggest a dramatic shift in both immigration enforcement and the way passports are issued. Some passport applicants with U.S. birth certificates are being imprisoned at immigration detention centers and entered into deportation proceedings, while others have had their passports revoked when trying to reenter the United States. (Washington Post / CNN)

2/ Trump said Jeff Sessions's job is safe at least until the midterm elections in November. Meanwhile, Trump has been lobbying "any senator who will listen" to him about firing and replacing Sessions. It's unclear if the Senate would be able to confirm a replacement for Sessions due to its legislative schedule, which includes a government funding package and the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. (Bloomberg / Politico / CNBC)

3/ George Papadopoulos accepted a plea deal from Robert Mueller and pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts during the campaign with a professor who had "substantial connections to Russian government officials." Papadopoulos was strongly considering backing away from the deal earlier this month, but decided to accept the deal and cooperate with Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. (ABC News)

  • Roger Stone expects Robert Mueller to indict him, claiming that Mueller's team wants "to frame me for some nonexistent crime to silence me and pressure me to testify against the president." There are questions about Stone's interactions with WikiLeaks and the hacker Guccifer 2.0 during the 2016 election campaign. U.S. officials have said that WikiLeaks was acting as an agent of Russia, and Mueller has labeled Guccifer 2.0 a Russian intelligence front. (NBC News)

4/ Trump accused NBC of "fudging" his May 2017 interview where he admitted that the decision to fire James Comey was related to the Russia investigation. Comey was the FBI director at the time and was in charge of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. During the NBC interview, Trump admitted that he had "this Russia thing" in mind when he decided to fire Comey. On Thursday, Trump accused NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt on Twitter of "fudging my tape on Russia," but provided no evidence to support the accusation. (Reuters)

  • Trump appeared to admit via tweet that he tried to fire Robert Mueller. "I am very excited about the person who will be taking the place of Don McGahn as White House Councel! [sic]" Trump tweeted. "I liked Don, but he was NOT responsible for me not firing Bob Mueller or Jeff Sessions. So much Fake Reporting and Fake News!" Trump has denied that he has tried to fire Mueller in the past, calling the claims "Fake News, folks. Fake News." (Washington Post)

  • Trump teased that he was "very excited" to name Don McGahn's replacement, but isn’t ready to share the new White House counsel's name. (Associated Press)

  • Trump also lashed out at top NBC and CNN executives on Twitter and called on AT&T to fire CNN chief Jeff Zucker. "The hatred and extreme bias of me by @CNN has clouded their thinking and made them unable to function," Trump tweeted. "But actually, as I have always said, this has been going on for a long time. Little Jeff Z has done a terrible job, his ratings suck, & AT&T should fire him to save credibility!" He also predicted that NBC News chairman Andrew Lackey will be fired. "What's going on at @CNN," Trump tweeted, "is happening, to different degrees, at other networks - with @NBCNews being the worst. The good news is that Andy Lack(y) is about to be fired(?) for incompetence, and much worse. When Lester Holt got caught fudging my tape on Russia, they were hurt badly!" (Politico)

5/ Trump called on the U.S. Supreme Court chief justice to tell the head of the FISA Court to question FBI and Justice Department officials about the use of the Steele dossier in the Russia probe. "This is a fraud on the court," Trump tweeted. "The Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is in charge of the FISA court. He should direct the Presiding Judge, Rosemary Collier [sic], to hold a hearing, haul all of these people from the DOJ & FBI in there, & if she finds there were crimes committed, and there were, there should be a criminal referral by her." Judge Rosemary Collyer presides over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court, which oversees electronic surveillance and search warrant requests from federal authorities. (Reuters)

6/ In 2016, Trump and Michael Cohen tried to buy all the damaging information that the National Enquirer and American Media Inc. had about Trump, dating all the way back to the 1980s. The plan was never finalized, but Trump and Cohen appear to mention it during a recorded conversation between the two that was released by Cohen's attorney last month. "It's all the stuff — all the stuff, because you never know," Cohen says on the tape. American Media Inc. chairman and CEO David Pecker has reportedly been cooperating with the special counsel's investigators for months. (Axios / New York Times)


Notables.

  1. Trump wants to move ahead with imposing tariffs on $200 billion in Chinese imports next week. China threatened to retaliate with duties on $60 billion of U.S. goods. The U.S. has so far imposed levies on $50 billion in Chinese goods, with Beijing retaliating in kind. Stocks fell when the news was released. (Bloomberg)

  2. Trump threatened to pull out of the World Trade Organization "if they don't shape up" and treat the U.S. better. Trump has long criticized the organization, saying earlier this year that the U.S. has been "treated very badly" by the group, describing it as an "unfair situation." (Bloomberg / CNBC)

  3. Trump canceled pay raises for almost 2 million civilian federal employees in order to "put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course." The 2.1% across-the-board pay increase was scheduled to take effect in January. In contrast to civilian employees, troops are due for a 2.6% pay increase next year, their biggest pay raise since 2009. (CNBC / Axios / Associated Press / Politico)

  4. White House ethics lawyer Stefan Passatino is leaving the Trump administration. Passatino helped several White House officials grapple with a string of ethics violations and controversies, including Kellyanne Conway's March 2017 violation of government ethics laws when she told people to "go buy Ivanka's stuff." (NBC News)

  5. Trump blamed China for derailing the rapprochement process between the U.S. and North Korea, suggesting that China is putting "tremendous pressure" on Pyongyang as a result of the ongoing trade disputes between the two economic superpowers. Trump issued four tweets – what he called a White House statement – saying that he "feels strongly that North Korea is under tremendous pressure from China because of our major trade disputes with the Chinese Government." During the same tweetstorm, Trump said his relationship with Kim Jong Un was "a very good and warm one," and referred to the Chinese leader as "China’s great President Xi Jinping." (NPR)

  6. The Justice Department sided with a group of Asian-Americans rejected by Harvard, who say the university has systematically discriminated against them by artificially capping the number of qualified Asian-Americans from attending the school to advance less qualified students of other races. In July, the Education and Justice Departments said that the Trump administration was abandoning Obama-era policies that called on universities to consider race as a factor when trying to diversify their campuses. (New York Times / Politico / Associated Press)

  7. A California man threatened to shoot Boston Globe employees in the head for their editorial response to Trump's attacks on the news media. According to a phone recording, Robert Chain called the paper and said: "You're the enemy of the people, and we're going to kill every fucking one of you." The FBI arrested Chain on Thursday in California. He owned several guns and had recently purchased a small-caliber rifle. (New York Times / Associated Press / Justice Department)

Day 587: Don't let it happen.

1/ White House counsel Don McGahn will step down after the midterms or after Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court. McGahn was the top lawyer for the Trump campaign and has repeatedly considered resigning as White House counsel. He's played the role of peacemaker between the White House and Robert Mueller's team, as well as acting as Trump's liaison to the Justice Department and Congress. Trump surprised McGahn with his Twitter announcement, since McGahn had not discussed his plans directly with Trump. McGahn's successor will likely be Emmet Flood, an attorney who advised the Clinton administration during his impeachment hearings and served as White House counsel under George W. Bush. McGahn has said privately that after he steps down he plans to continue assisting Trump throughout his reelection campaign. Trump asked former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter "several times" last year if he would take McGahn's position. Porter reportedly told him that he didn't feel "he was qualified for the role." Republicans see McGahn as a stable force and accessible official, and were dismayed by Trump's announcement. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley said he hopes "it's not true" that McGahn is leaving and urged Trump to not "let that happen." (Axios / New York Times / Washington Post)

2/ Betsy DeVos is preparing new education policies that narrow the definition of campus sexual harassment, strengthening the rights of students accused of assault, harassment or rape, while reducing the school's liability. The proposed rules would hold schools accountable only for formal complaints filed with "an official who has the authority to institute corrective measures" regarding conduct that occurred on campuses. The new rules would also establish a higher legal standard to determine whether schools improperly addressed complaints. (New York Times)

3/ Trump accused China of hacking Hillary Clinton's emails during the 2016 presidential campaign. "Hillary Clinton's Emails, many of which are Classified Information, got hacked by China," Trump tweeted. "Next move better be by the FBI & DOJ or, after all of their other missteps (Comey, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Ohr, FISA, Dirty Dossier etc.), their credibility will be forever gone!" In an earlier tweet, Trump joked that Russia might be the culprit: "China hacked Hillary Clinton's private Email Server. Are they sure it wasn't Russia (just kidding!)? What are the odds that the FBI and DOJ are right on top of this? Actually, a very big story. Much classified information!" Trump offered no evidence to support his claims. (Reuters)

  • The FBI refuted Trump's claim that China hacked Clinton's emails, saying "the FBI has not found any evidence that (Clinton) servers were compromised." (NBC News)

4/ Trump said his administration "did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico" despite the official death toll rising to 2,975. Last year, Trump awarded himself a "10 out of 10" on disaster recovery efforts during an Oval Office meeting with Puerto Rico's governor. (CNN)

5/ NATO is considering naming its new headquarters after the late Sen. John McCain, who made frequent visits to NATO member countries throughout his political career. McCain also criticized Russia's efforts to undermine the alliance, and voiced disappointment with Trump's handling of the U.S. relationship with NATO partners. (CNBC)

6/ Leaders from Japan and North Korea met in Vietnam last month without informing the United States. Japan decided not to tell the U.S. about the meeting because of growing concerns that it can't rely on the Trump administration to lobby on its behalf about key domestic issues in North Korea, such as the abduction of Japanese citizens. The decision to keep the U.S. out of the loop about the meeting reportedly caused "irritation" among U.S. officials. (The Telegraph)

7/ Giuliani was paid to lobby the Romanian president on behalf of a global consulting firm, but the position he was paid to take contradicted the U.S. government's official position. Giuliani was being paid by Freeh Group International Solutions when he sent a letter to President Klaus Iohannis last week criticizing the "excesses" of Romania's National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), contradicting the U.S. State Department's support for the Romanian agency. Although Giuliani did not claim to represent the views of the Trump administration, Giuliani did not disclose in the letter that he was acting on behalf of another client. (Politico)

8/ Leaked emails reveal that a former Homeland Security policy analyst who resigned last week has ties to white nationalists. The emails show that Ian M. Smith had previously been in contact with a group that included known white nationalists as they planned some of their events. One email was addressed to, among other people, prominent white nationalist leader Richard Spencer. Another email includes Jared Taylor, founder of the white nationalist publication American Renaissance. "I no longer work at DHS as of last week," Smith said when contacted via email, "and didn't attend any of the events you've mentioned." (The Atlantic)

9/ A second Trump Organization employee discussed a potential immunity deal with federal prosecutors. The employee ultimately did not receive immunity and was not called to testify before the grand jury. Allen Weisselberg was granted immunity for providing information about Michael Cohen. (CNN)

poll/ 55% of voters under 30 say they plan to vote in the midterm elections, about 25% are unsure if they'll vote, and 19% say they will probably not vote. 60% of millennials have an unfavorable impression of the Republican Party. 27% say they approve of the job Trump is doing. 44% of millennial voters have a favorable view of the Democratic Party. (NBC News / Vox)

poll/ 63% of voters think Trump should voluntarily agree to an interview with Robert Mueller. 55% say they believe Mueller's investigation will be fair and accurate, compared to only 35% who say they believe Trump's denials of collusion with Russia during his campaign. (The Hill)


Dept. of Primaries

  1. Rep. Martha McSally easily defeated former Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Kelli Ward in the Arizona Republican primary election. With 58 percent of precincts reporting, McSally received 51.4 percent of the vote (196,452 votes), while Ward received 28.6 percent (109,105 votes), and Arpaio only managed to secure 20 percent (76,517 votes). (NBC News)

  2. A Trump-backed Republican and a Bernie Sanders-backed Democrat won their respective gubernatorial primaries in Florida. Rep. Ron DeSantis won the Republican nomination, while Andrew Gillum, currently the mayor of Tallahassee, will be the Democratic nominee. (Washington Post / Vox / New York Times)

  3. DeSantis warned Florida voters not to "monkey this up" by electing his Democratic opponent. If elected, Andrew Gillum would be the state's first African American governor. (NBC News / Washington Post / CNN)

Day 586: Serious situation.

1/ North Carolina's congressional district maps were unconstitutionally gerrymandered in favor of Republicans and new maps may have to be drawn before the midterm elections, a panel of three federal judges ruled. The judges acknowledged that primary elections have already occurred but said they were reluctant to allow voting to take place in districts that have twice been found to violate constitutional standards. North Carolina legislators are likely to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case. (Washington Post / CNN)

2/ Trump accused Google of being "RIGGED" against him because the "search results for 'Trump News'" show mostly "BAD" coverage about him from the "Fake News Media." Trump charged that Google was limiting "fair media" coverage about him and "suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good," declaring it a "very serious situation" and promising that it "will be addressed!" Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council, said the Trump administration is "taking a look" at whether Google should be regulated. (New York Times / Reuters / Axios / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal)

  • Google Responds: "Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don't bias our results toward any political ideology. Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users' queries. We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment." (CNBC)

  • Trump's Twitter tirade followed a Lou Dobbs segment that aired Monday night, in which the Fox Business host discussed an article titled "96 Percent of Google Search Results for 'Trump' News Are from Liberal Media Outlets." The article's author admitted that the data was "not scientific." (Axios / CNN)

3/ The USDA will pay $4.7 billion to farmers hurt by retaliatory tariffs from China stemming from Trump's trade war. The initial payment is part of some $12 billion in aid Trump promised to farmers in July. Starting Sept. 4, the USDA's Farm Service Agency will provide payments to corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean and wheat farmers. Soybean farmers will receive $3.7 billion, pork producers will get $290 million, and cotton farmers will receive $277 million. A separate program will be used to buy $1.2 billion in products unfairly targeted by "unjustified retaliation," according to the USDA. (NPR / USA Today / ABC News / Wall Street Journal)

4/ Trump urged evangelical ministers to campaign for Republicans from the pulpit, warning them that they're "one election away from losing everything" if Republicans don't retain control of Congress. Trump threatened that Democrats "will overturn everything that we've done and they'll do it quickly and violently. And violently. There's violence." Trump also repeated his debunked claim that he had gotten "rid of" a law prohibiting churches and charitable organizations from endorsing political candidates. The law remains on the books, after efforts to kill it in Congress last year failed. (New York Times / NBC News)

5/ Trump was involved in the decision to cancel a decade-long plan to move the FBI to a new consolidated headquarters in the Maryland or Virginia suburbs, a Government Services Administration inspector general report says. The current FBI headquarters sits across the street from the Trump International Hotel. Last year, the Trump administration announced it would not relocate the FBI to the suburbs and would redevelop the current site instead. The inspector general concluded that "GSA did not include all of the costs in its Revised FBI Headquarters Plan" and the rebuilding proposal selected by the FBI would cost more, rather than less, than the plan to move the FBI to the suburbs. The inspector general also noted that GSA employees were instructed "not to disclose any statements made by the president" as part of its review of the matter, citing executive privilege. (CBS News / CNN / Wall Street Journal / Roll Call / Washington Post)

poll/ 64% of Americans believe Michael Cohen's claim that Trump ordered him to make illegal payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to keep them quiet. 44% believe Congress should start impeachment proceedings. (Axios)


Notables.

  1. New York City's Department of Buildings cited Kushner Companies for 42 violations and $210,000 in fines for submitting false permit information at 17 buildings in an attempt to remove rent-regulated tenants. The company claims that the violations were "paperwork errors" and will have the opportunity to contest the citations. Tenant activists also issued a report that suggests an investment group led by Michael Cohen falsified construction permits by claiming that three buildings in Manhattan were vacant or had no rent-controlled tenants, when in fact they did. (New York Times)

  2. In June, Trump told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: "I remember Pearl Harbor." He then proceeded to condemn Japan's economic policies, bringing up the U.S. trade deficit with the country. (Washington Post)

  3. Paul Manafort's defense team met with prosecutors before he was convicted last week to discuss a second set of charges against him, but they were unable to reach a deal. The discussions over the second set of charges stalled over issues raised by Robert Mueller, although the specific issues in question remain unclear. The point of the talks was to prevent a second, related trial for Manafort, which is scheduled for Sept. 17. Prosecutors and defense attorneys have been arguing over how to describe the second case to the jury, as well as which pieces of evidence can be presented during the trial. (Wall Street Journal)

  4. Lanny Davis says he was an anonymous source for a CNN story published in July that claimed his client, Michael Cohen, privately said that Trump knew in advance about the infamous Trump Tower meeting between Trump Jr. and Russians. The story said Cohen claimed to have personally witnessed Trump Jr. informing his father about the June 2016 meeting. Davis admitted that he served as an anonymous source for multiple news outlets seeking to confirm the story after CNN published it. Now, Davis says he is not certain that the claim is accurate and he regrets his role as anonymous source and his subsequent denial of his involvement in the reporting. Other news outlets that originally confirmed CNN's reporting have since retracted their own stories, but CNN has not. "We stand by our story," CNN said in a statement, "and are confident in our reporting of it." (BuzzFeed News / The Intercept)

  5. Trump privately revived the idea of firing Jeff Sessions earlier this month. Trump's attorneys believe they have persuaded him — for now — not to fire Sessions while Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign is ongoing. (Washington Post)

  6. Trump belatedly issued a proclamation of praise for Sen. John McCain and ordered the American flag to be flown at half-staff following bipartisan criticism and public pressure. Trump had ordered the flag back to full staff two days after McCain's death, sparking outrage from both lawmakers and members of the public, including many in his own party. (New York Times / NBC News)

  7. Republican Sen. James Inhofe said John McCain was "partially to blame" for the controversy over the lowering of the White House flag to honor of his death. Inhofe said McCain was to blame "because he is very outspoken" and "he disagreed with the President." (CNN)

Day 585: A cutthroat death match.

1/ The U.S. and Mexico reached an agreement to end the North American Free Trade Agreement and replace it with the United States-Mexico Trade Agreement. Trump called the new name for the trade deal "elegant," because the NAFTA name had "a bad connotation" and was a job-killing "disaster" for the U.S. The preliminary agreement excludes Canada, as Trump has repeatedly criticized the country's trade practices. Canadian leaders have insisted they will not sign a deal that does not work in their favor. The preliminary deal will last for 16 years and be reviewed every six years. (New York Times / Reuters / Associated Press / CNBC)

2/ A former doorman at Trump World Tower is now free to discuss "information regarding Donald Trump's illegitimate child" – the one he fathered with an ex-housekeeper in the late 1980s. Dino Sajudin entered into a "source agreement" with American Media Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer, on Nov. 15, 2015, but he was "recently" released from the contract, according to his attorney. In April, Sajudin said he had previously been "instructed not to criticize President Trump's former housekeeper due to a prior relationship she had with President Trump which produced a child." At the time, AMI called Sajudin's story "not credible." (CNN / New Yorker / Source PDF)

3/ Trump refused to approve a White House statement honoring John McCain's military service, which called McCain a "hero." Sarah Huckabee Sanders, John Kelly, and other White House staffers advocated for a statement lauding McCain's career, but Trump told them he wanted to tweet instead. Shortly after McCain's death was announced, Trump tweeted: "My deepest sympathies and respect go out to the family of Senator John McCain. Our hearts and prayers are with you!" Trump is not invited to the late senator's funeral. (Washington Post)

4/ A federal judge struck down most of Trump's executive orders limiting the power of federal employee unions. In May, Trump signed three executive orders which made it easier for managers to fire under-performing federal employees and limited the issues that could be bargained over in union negotiations. In her decision, the judge wrote that the president cannot "eviscerate the right to bargain collectively as envisioned" in the federal labor-management relations statute. She added: "The collective bargaining process is not a cutthroat death match." (Politico / Washington Post / New York Times)

5/ Trump added a blue stripe to the American flag during a flag-coloring session at a children's hospital in Ohio. The stripes on the U.S. flag are red and white; the blue is the background to flag's stars. Editor's note: 🇷🇺 or 🇫🇷*?* (The Independent / Yahoo News)

poll/ Trump's approval rating stands at 44% with 52% of Americans disapproving. The research firm that conducted the survey called Trump's approval rating "remarkably stable" despite Paul Manafort's conviction and Michael Cohen now cooperating with federal prosecutors after his guilty plea. (NBC News)

poll/ 60% of voters think it would be inappropriate for Trump to pardon Paul Manafort. 11% say a pardon would be appropriate. (Politico)

  • Trump's advisers expect him to use his unilateral authority to pardon Manafort, although they agree with his lawyers that he shouldn't. (Politico)

poll/ Ted Cruz leads Beto O’Rourke by one percentage point in their Texas Senate race. Cruz leads O'Rourke 38 to 37%. (The Hill)


Notables.

  1. The federal official in charge of protecting student borrowers from predatory lending practices resigned, saying the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the White House have " turned its back on young people and their financial futures." (NPR / Associated Press)

  2. Gun control, teacher and civil rights groups are threatening to sue the Department of Education if it moves forward with its proposal to allow states to spend federal funds on guns for school personnel. (NBC News)

  3. The Democratic National Committee voted to limit the influence of "superdelegates" at the party's 2020 convention. The DNC met this past weekend in Chicago. (CNN)

  4. A government watchdog group has found a discrepancy between Trump's financial disclosures and the payments he made to Michael Cohen. Trump's financial disclosure form states that he "fully reimbursed" Cohen between $100,001 and $250,000 in 2017, but court documents filed by federal prosecutors state that Cohen received $420,000 from the Trump Organization over the course of that year. "It is quite notable," said Scott Amey, general counsel of the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight. "This may constitute a false statement by the president. If they were paying him $420 [thousand] they should have put the whole amount in there." (CNBC)

  5. A House Intelligence Committee member wants Trump Jr. to testify again in light of Trump being implicated by Michael Cohen in a hush money scheme. (CNN)

  6. Stormy Daniels says she would "happily" testify before Congress about the $130,000 hush money payment she received from Trump in 2016 via Michael Cohen. "If Donald Trump has done things he shouldn't have during his campaign, he should be impeached," Daniels told the Daily Mirror. She added: "I'll happily testify under oath and prove my story is true." (The Hill / Daily Mirror)

  7. Trump met with a QAnon conspiracy theorist in the Oval Office last week, according to photos posted on the man's Twitter account. Michael Lebron, known as Lionel in online circles, is described on his own websites as "an avowed conspiracy analyst." Photos posted to Lionel's Twitter account show him with Trump in the Oval Office and touring the White House. "There are simply no words to explicate the profound and ineffable honor of meeting @realDonaldTrump in the tabernacle of liberty, the Oval Office," Lionel tweeted. "@LynnShawProd and I so appreciate @POTUS' kindness and courtesy. #MAGA." (CNN / Daily Beast / GQ)

Day 582: You can do it.

1/ The chief financial officer at the Trump Organization was given immunity by federal prosecutors in New York as part of their criminal investigation into hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal during the 2016 presidential campaign. Allen Weisselberg, who is identified in court filings as "Executive-1," helped authorize $420,000 in reimbursements to Michael Cohen and was granted immunity last month in exchange for his grand jury testimony about his role in the payments. According to prosecutors, Cohen – then Trump's attorney – sent an invoice to Weisselberg in January 2017 for "Payment for services rendered for the month of January and February, 2017," which reflected Cohen's $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels in October 2016, as well as an additional $50,000 for "tech services." Weisselberg directed another Trump Organization executive to "pay from the Trust" and to "post to legal expenses." Executives at the Trump Organization "'grossed up' for tax purposes" the reimbursement, doubling the invoice to $360,000, adding a $60,000 bonus. After he was elected, Trump handed over control of his financial assets and business interests to Eric Trump, Trump Jr., and Weisselberg. (Wall Street Journal / NBC News / Washington Post)

2/ The Manhattan district attorney's office is considering criminal charges against the Trump Organization and two senior company officials in connection with Cohen's hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels. The state's investigation would focus on whether the Trump Organization violated state tax law for listing Cohen's reimbursement as a legal expense. Federal prosecutors have said the payments were based on "sham" legal invoices in connection with a nonexistent retainer agreement, and that Cohen did no legal work in connection with the matter. The New York State attorney general's office is seeking a referral from the state Department of Taxation and Finance, which is needed to conduct the inquiry and to prosecute any violations of state tax law. Trump does not have the power to pardon people and corporate entities convicted of state crimes. (New York Times / Los Angeles Times / CNN)

  • Spiro Agnew's lawyer: Trump should resign from office to keep federal prosecutors from prosecuting his family. "We already have everybody, you know," Martin London said. "The rats are leaving the ship. He's lost [Richard] Gates, [George] Papadopoulos, [Michael] Cohen, [Michael] Flynn, now [David] Pecker. He'll probably lose others from the Trump Organization." (The Hill)

  • New York prosecutors may now pose a more immediate threat to Trump than Robert Mueller does. The offer of immunity to the Trump Organization's chief financial officer is reminiscent to process law enforcement used to take down organized-crime. (The Atlantic)

3/ After Jeff Sessions said he would not be influenced by politics, Trump tweeted that Sessions must "look into all of the corruption on the 'other side,'" adding: "Come on Jeff, you can do it, the country is waiting!" On Thursday, Trump criticized Sessions in a Fox News interview for failing to control the Justice Department, after which Sessions said the Department of Justice "will not be improperly influenced by political considerations." Trump mocked Sessions' response, tweeting, "Jeff, this is GREAT, what everyone wants." In particular, Trump wants Sessions to investigate "deleted Emails, Comey lies and leaks, Mueller conflicts, McCabe, Strzok, Page, Ohr, FISA abuse, Christopher Steele and his phony and corrupt Dossier, the Clinton Foundation, illegal surveillance of Trump Campaign, Russian collusion by Dems - and so much more." Nearly all which Sessions has recused himself from. (Associated Press / New York Times)

  • "Moves are being made" to remove Sessions after the midterm elections, according to Sen. Bob Corker. "It's apparent that after the midterms, [Trump] will make a change and choose someone to do what he wants done." (Politico)

4/ CIA informants close to the Kremlin have largely gone silent ahead of November's midterms, leaving the spy agency in the dark about what Putin's plans for the upcoming elections. Officials said the expulsion of American intelligence officers from Moscow and the outing of an FBI informant has had a chilling effect on intelligence collection. Putin has also said he is intent on killing spies, like the poisoning in March in Britain of a former Russian intelligence. Earlier this year, Devin Nunes, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, demanded that the full House and Senate Intelligence Committees be given access to documents about the FBI informant's role in the Trump campaign. Trump and the White House encouraged the FBI to make the classified information available. (New York Times)

poll/ 35% of Americans think Trump's tariffs will leave them worse off financially, while 19% expect improvement. 40% expect the tariffs to help the economy, while 44% expect them to hurt, and 16% expect them to make no difference. 38% of Americans approve of Trump's handling of the presidency. (Associated Press)


Notables.

  1. Trump canceled Mike Pompeo's planned trip to North Korea citing a lack of "progress" on denuclearization. Trump blamed the canceled meeting to China, which he said was not "helping with the process of denuclearization as they once were." (New York Times / CNBC / Washington Post)

  2. Trump told the Italian prime minister that he is ready to help fund the country's public debt next year by buying Italian government bonds. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told officials about Trump's offer after attending a meeting in Washington about three weeks ago. Conte didn't give any additional details about the plan or say whether he believes it would work. (Il Corriere della Sera / Reuters / NBC News / Bloomberg)

  3. Blackwater founder Erik Prince is still trying to convince Trump to let him privatize the war in Afghanistan. Prince hasn't spoken with Trump recently, but he has been making the rounds in the media and talking up his plan to replace U.S. and coalition forces with private contractors. Very few defense officials think Prince's plan will work, but some are concerned that Trump might entertain the idea. Prince is the brother of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. (The Hill)

  4. The former Air Force contractor who leaked a top-secret government report in 2017 on Russian hacking efforts was sentenced to five years and three months in federal prison. Reality Winner pleaded guilty in June, and is the first person to be sentenced under the Espionage Act since Trump became president. She received the longest sentence ever imposed by a federal court for the unauthorized released of classified information to the media. Trump tweeted about Winner's sentence, comparing her actions to Hillary Clinton's. (New York Times / Gizmodo / Time)

  5. John McCain will end medical treatment for his brain cancer. McCain, 81, was first diagnosed with glioblastoma in the summer of 2017. (New York Times / Politico / CNBC)

Day 581: "It's not fair."

1/ Trump "would consider" pardoning Paul Manafort, according to Fox News host Ainsley Earhardt, who interviewed Trump. "I think he feels bad for Manafort," Earhardt said. "They were friends." Manafort was convicted on eight counts bank and tax fraud. While the White House maintains that Trump is not currently looking to pardon Manafort, Rudy Giuliani said Trump asked his lawyers several weeks ago for their advice on the possibility of pardoning Manafort and former aides under investigation. Trump's personal lawyers cautioned him against considering pardons until Robert Mueller's probe concludes to see if the special counsel's report accuses the president of trying to block the federal probe of his campaign's contacts with Russians. Giuliani said Trump agreed with their advice. (Reuters / Washington Post / New York Times / Mediaite / Politico)

  • Top Republicans in the Senate are warning Trump that it would be a mistake to pardon Manafort. "It would be an enormous mistake and misuse of his power to pardon," said Sen. Susan Collins. The second-ranking Republican senator, GOP Whip John Cornyn also said that a pardon "would be a mistake." Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said that a pardon "would be very damaging to the presidency and to his position as president." (The Hill)

  • One holdout juror prevented Manafort from being convicted on all 18 counts, according to one of the jurors. Paula Duncan, who identifies as a Trump supporter, said the single holdout juror could not come to a guilty verdict on 10 of the charges, leading the judge to declare a mistrial on those 10 counts. (Fox News / The Hill / Newsweek)

  • 👮 Everyone who's been charged as a result of the Mueller investigation. Between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, Mueller has issued more than 100 criminal counts against 32 people and three companies. (New York Times)

2/ Trump complained that "flipping" and cooperating with prosecutors is "not fair" and should "almost be outlawed" during an interview with Fox News. "It's called flipping and it almost ought to be illegal." Trump continued: "It almost ought to be outlawed. It's not fair." Trump also attacked Jeff Sessions, questioning his character for recusing himself in the Russia investigation, and asking "What kind of man is this?" and that the "only reason I gave him the job" was because he felt "loyalty" to Sessions for signing on to the campaign. "I put in an attorney general who never took control of the Justice Department." (CNN / Wall Street Journal)

  • Jeff Sessions pushed back against Trump's latest criticism, saying the Department of Justice would not be "improperly influenced by political considerations." Sessions said in his statement: "I took control of the Department of Justice the day I was sworn in, which is why we have had unprecedented success at effectuating the President's agenda—one that protects the safety and security and rights of the American people, reduces violent crime, enforces our immigration laws, promotes economic growth, and advances religious liberty." (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / CNBC / New York Times)

  • Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham signaled that Trump could fire Jeff Sessions and the Senate's schedule might have an opening for confirming a new attorney general after the midterms, but possibly even earlier. Firing Sessions would open the way for firing Mueller or limiting his probe since a new attorney general would not be subject to Sessions' recusal and would be able to control the investigation. (Bloomberg / Vox)

3/ David Pecker was granted immunity by federal prosecutors for providing information about Cohen and Trump in their criminal investigation into hush-money payments made to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal during the 2016 presidential campaign. In exchange for immunity, the CEO of American Media, Inc., which publishes the National Enquirer, met with prosecutors and shared details about payments Cohen arranged to Daniels and McDougal, including Trump's knowledge of the deals. Dylan Howard, AMI's chief content officer, is also cooperating with federal prosecutors. Together, Pecker and Howard corroborate Cohen's account implicating Trump in a federal crime (campaign-finance violations). Cohen's lawyer Lanny Davis says there are more revelations to come. And, one person close to Cohen claims Cohen wants to tell Mueller that Trump discussed the release of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta's e-mails during the weekend when the Access Hollywood "grab 'em by the pussy" tape dominated the news cycle. Late last night, Trump tweeted: "NO COLLUSION - RIGGED WITCH HUNT!" It's unclear what prompted the tweet. (Wall Street Journal / Vanity Fair / NBC News / New York Times)

4/ The National Enquirer kept a safe with documents about hush money payments and damaging stories it killed as part of its relationship with Trump. Pecker and the company’s chief content officer, Dylan Howard, removed them from the safe in the weeks before Trump's inauguration and it's unclear if the documents were destroyed or simply were moved to a new location. (Associated Press)

5/ Trump warned the stock market would crash and that "everybody would be very poor" if he's impeached. He added that "I don't know how you can impeach somebody who has done a great job." (CNN / Fox News / ABC News)

poll/ 59% of registered voters approve of Mueller's investigation – an 11 percentage point jump since July. 37% disapprove of Muller's investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and possible obstruction of justice charges against Trump and members of his administration. (The Hill / Fox News)

poll/ Democrat Beto O'Rourke trails Republican Ted Cruz by 4 percentage points. 45% of registered voters support O'Rourke while 49% support Cruz. (NBC News)


Notables.

  1. Betsy DeVos is considering a plan to allow school districts to use federal funding to buy guns for teachers. The plan, if enacted, would be unprecedented and would reverse a longstanding position that federal funding should not be used to outfit schools with weapons. Congress passed a $50 million-a-year school safety bill in March that specifically prohibited using the money to buy firearms, but DeVos is apparently looking to a program in federal education law that doesn't mention a specific prohibition on purchasing weapons with federal education funding. (New York Times)

  2. Trump's latest round of tariffs kicked in today, which were followed immediately by retaliatory tariffs from China. The U.S. imposed 25% tariffs on another $16 billion in Chinese goods, affecting 279 Chinese products. China immediately responded with 25% tariffs of their own on an equal amount of American goods, such as chemical products and diesel fuel. Both countries have now imposed tariffs on $50 billion worth of each other's goods — and more tariffs are reportedly on the way. (CNN)

  3. The White House blocked a Senate Rules Committee vote on a bipartisan bill to protect elections from cyber threats. The Secure Elections Act would have changed how states protect their voting systems by giving state election officials security clearances, establishing a channel for sharing information about security with the Department of Homeland Security and other states, and ensuring audits are conducted after federal elections. The vote was unexpectedly canceled yesterday with the Trump administration saying it would not support legislation "that moves power or funding from the states to Washington for the planning and operation of elections." (Yahoo News / Reuters / Vox / CNN)

  4. After claiming that it experienced an attack on its voter database, the DNC now says the apparent phishing attempts were a "test." In a statement, the DNC claimed that it believes the phishing attempt was part of an unauthorized test of its VoteBuilder system by a third party. "We, along with the partners who reported the site," the DNC statement reads, "now believe it was built by a third party as part of a simulated phishing test on VoteBuilder." The statement continues: "The test, which mimicked several attributes of actual attacks on the Democratic party's voter file, was not authorized by the DNC, VoteBuilder nor any of our vendors." (ABC News)

  5. Trump asked Sec. of State Mike Pompeo to study the "seizing land from white farmers" and the "large scale killing of farmers" in South Africa. The BBC found in November that there was "no reliable data to suggest farmers were at greater risk of being murdered than the average South African." South Africa responded and accused Trump of seeking to sow division in the country. The redistribution of land in South Africa was a fundamental principle of the African National Congress after the fall of apartheid. (BBC / Reuters)

Day 580: Individual-1.

1/ Michael Cohen has "knowledge" implicating Trump in a "criminal conspiracy" to hack the Democratic emails during the 2016 election, according to Cohen's attorney. Lanny Davis also said Cohen's knowledge reached beyond "the obvious possibility of a conspiracy to collude" and that Cohen is willing to share "all that he knows" with Robert Mueller's team. (Washington Post / NBC News / Los Angeles Times / Politico)

  • Cohen's lawyer said his client would never accept pardon from "corrupt" Trump because he "is not interested in being dirtied" or bailed out like Trump's "political cronies." (NPR / Politico / Washington Post)

  • Cohen's attorney called for Congress to open an investigation into whether Trump directed Cohen to commit a crime. "There is most certainly enough evidence now" for Congress to open a probe, Lanny Davis said. (Bloomberg)

  • Democrats, meanwhile, have drafted contingency plans should Mueller be fired or Trump tries to end the Russia investigation by firing Rod Rosenstein or pardoning key witnesses. (NBC News)

2/ Trump's real estate company approved $420,000 in "election-related" expenses to Michael Cohen for his effort to silence Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal during the presidential campaign. The documents show an unnamed Trump Organization executive instructing an employee to describe the payments to Cohen as legal expenses "for services rendered for the year 2017." Prosecutors say "the invoices were a sham," and Cohen's own disclosures filed with the Office of Government Ethics report that he had incurred "election-related" expenses in 2016 just before the election, and that Trump fully reimbursed him in 2017. Cohen's reimbursements included the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels, other fees and taxes, and a $60,000 bonus. (Washington Post)

  • What Michael Cohen's plea and Paul Manafort's conviction mean for Trump the Mueller investigation. (Lawfare)

  • Michael Cohen deleted a 2015 tweet mocking Hillary Clinton about going to prison. The now-deleted tweet read: "@HillaryClinton when you go to prison for defrauding America and perjury, your room and board will be free!" A cached version can still be found here. (The Hill / Washington Post)

3/ Cohen coordinated with the CEO of the National Enquirer's publisher, American Media Inc., to pay off Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. David Pecker, known as "Chairman-1" in Cohen's court filings, "agreed to keep COHEN apprised of any such negative stories" that would have been harmful to "Individual-l" regarding "relationships with women." The documents indicate that AMI and Cohen "worked together to keep an individual from publicly disclosing" negative information about "Individual-1." AMI paid Karen McDougal $150,000 in 2016 for her rights to her story about an affair she had with Trump. They didn't publish her story – the practice is known as "catch and kill." The court filings also show that AMI tried to "catch and kill" Stormy Daniels' story in October 2016 when her agent contacted the National Enquirer about going public with her allegations of an affair with Trump. Pecker contacted Cohen, and Cohen negotiated with Daniels' attorney to "purchase [her] silence" for $130,000. Cohen failed to execute the agreement, prompting Pecker to contact Cohen 14 days before the election to tell him the deal needed to be completed "or it could look awfully bad for everyone," according to court filings. The next day, Cohen used $131,000 from a "fraudulently obtained" home equity loan and deposited it in a bank account he had opened in the name of Essential Consultants LLC. While Pecker and AMI are not directly named in the court filings, they describe "Corporation-1" as "a media company that owns, among other things, a popular tabloid magazine." (Daily Beast / CNN)

  • 🔎 In Cohen's plea agreement, Trump is not mentioned by name, but referred to as "Individual-1." Cohen's charging document identifies Cohen as the personal attorney "to Individual-1, who at that point had become the President of the United States." (ABC News / CBS News / New York Times)

4/ Cohen paid an unnamed tech company $50,000 "in connection with" Trump's campaign. Cohen reported the $50,000 expense to the Trump Organization in January 2017, but provided no paperwork. Instead, he provided a handwritten sum at the top of a bank document. Cohen did not have an official role with the Trump campaign's digital operation, nor did he ever have a formal staff position on the campaign itself. The Trump Organization later characterized the $50,000 as a "payment for tech services." (CNBC)

5/ Trump denied that he directed Cohen to buy the silence of Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. Several weeks ago, Cohen released an audio tape of him discussing one of the hush payments with Trump, contradicting the president's current version of events. On the tape, Trump suggests to "pay with cash," as Cohen says, "No, no, no, no, no." In an interview Wednesday on Fox News, Trump said he learned about the payments to the women "later on" and underscored that Cohen was reimbursed from his personal funds and not his 2016 campaign fund. (Wall Street Journal / Daily Beast)

  • Sarah Huckabee Sanders maintains that Trump "did nothing wrong" and called a question about whether Trump lied to the American people "a ridiculous accusation." (CNN)

6/ In a pair of tweets, Trump attacked Michael Cohen and then praised Paul Manafort for refusing to "break" or "make up stories in order to get a 'deal'." Manafort was convicted of tax and financial fraud yesterday. Cohen, meanwhile, pleaded guilty yesterday to eight criminal charges of tax evasion, bank fraud, and campaign finance violations, and told prosecutors he acted at the direction of Trump. Without offering any evidence, Trump claimed that the campaign finance violations were "not a crime." At the same time, Trump said he had "such respect" and feels "very badly" for Manafort, calling him a "brave man!" for not cooperating with federal authorities. Trump capped off his Twitter tirade by taking a shot at Cohen: "If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don't retain the services of Michael Cohen!" (New York Times / NBC News / Reuters / CNBC)

  • Trump didn't mention Paul Manafort or Michael Cohen once during his rally in West Virginia last night. Instead, Trump egged on his supporters in the Charleston crowd as they chanted "drain the swamp" and "lock her up." He also reminded the crowd how smart they are. "We're the smart ones," Trump said at the rally. "Remember, I say it all the time: you hear, 'the elite,' you’re smarter than they are, you have more money than they do…let them have the word elite. You’re the super-elite." Trump also spent a few minutes going after Mueller and calling his investigation a witch hunt. (NY Daily News)

7/ New York state subpoenaed Michael Cohen for information about the Trump Foundation. The New York State Attorney General alleges that Trump illegally tapped his Trump Foundation to settle legal disputes, help his campaign for president, and pay for personal and business expenses, which included spending $10,000 on a 6-foot portrait of himself. (Associated Press)

8/ The Democratic National Committee contacted the FBI after detecting an unsuccessful attempt to hack into its voter database. A cloud service provider and a security research firm alerted the DNC to a fake login page that had been created to gather usernames and passwords that would allow access to the party's database. The fraudulent page was designed to trick people into entering their login details for access to a service called Votebuilder, which hosts the database. (CNN / Wall Street Journal / New York Times)

  • Facebook says it has identified multiple new misinformation campaigns aimed at misleading people. The company removed 652 fake accounts, pages, and groups. Facebook says the campaigns originated in Iran and Russia and targeted people in Latin America, Britain, and the Middle East. (New York Times)

poll/ 61% of adults considered the record-breaking number of female candidates for Congress to be a good thing, with 5% of those surveyed calling it a bad thing. (Politico)

poll/ In a hypothetical 2020 match-up, Trump trails both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders by 12 percentage points each. Trump also trails Elizabeth Warren by 4 percentage points. (Politico)


Notables.

  1. Rep. Duncan Hunter and his wife were indicted for improperly using hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds to pay for personal expenses, like family vacations and dental work. The California GOP congressman is also accused of filing false campaign reports and wire fraud. Hunter was one of the first lawmakers to endorse Trump's 2016 campaign. (Politico / CNN / New York Times)

  2. The first two Congressmen to endorse Trump for president have been indicted, and the next three have also had significant issues of their own. (HuffPost)

  3. Trump and his Trump Tower security force must face claims from a group of human rights activists who say they were attacked by Trump's guards in 2015 while protesting Trump's remarks about the Black Lives Matter movement and Mexican immigrants. A New York State judge denied Trump's motion to dismiss the lawsuit. A jury will now be asked to determine the extent to which the guards were directly ordered to attack the protesters by Trump and whether he personally "authorized and condoned" the attack. (Bloomberg)

  4. Steven Tyler sent Trump a cease-and-desist letter for playing Aerosmith without permission at his political rallies. Tyler's attorney contends that playing an Aerosmith song in a public arena gives the false impression that Tyler is endorsing Trump's presidency. (Variety / Rolling Stone)

Day 579: For the "purpose of influencing the election."

1/ Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations for paying Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal to secure their silence "at the direction of the candidate" for the "purpose of influencing the election" for president in 2016. Cohen used a home-equity line of credit to finance the $130,000 payment to Daniels in October 2016 – one month before the 2016 election – and submitted invoices to Trump's company in order to obtain reimbursement for the unlawful campaign contributions. Two months before the election, Cohen recorded a conversation with Trump in which they discussed a $150,000 payment to Karen McDougal. Rudy Giuliani later confirmed that Trump had discussed the payments with Cohen. While the plea agreement does not require Cohen to cooperate with federal prosecutors in Manhattan, it also doesn't preclude him from cooperating in the future with Robert Mueller's investigation. In total, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight violations: five counts of tax evasion, one count of making a false statement to a bank, and two campaign finance violations for making an unlawful corporate campaign contribution and for making an excessive campaign contribution. He faces between four and five years in jail. Cohen is the fifth Trump associate to have pleaded guilty or been charged since Trump took office. (Washington Post / New York Times / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / Politico / Associated Press / Reuters)

  • Michael Cohen's plea agreement. (DocumentCloud)
  • Michael Cohen entered into a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York in connection with the investigation into bank fraud, tax fraud and campaign finance violations. While Cohen is not expected to cooperate with the government, any cooperation agreement would likely extend to Robert Mueller's investigation. (NBC News / ABC News / CNN / CNBC / Washington Post / New York Times / Wall Street Journal)

2/ Paul Manafort was convicted on eight counts of tax and bank fraud, but the federal jury remained deadlocked on the 10 others charges. Manafort faces the possibility of spending his life in prison, unless Trump intervenes with a pardon. Five of the guilty verdicts were for filing false tax documents; the other three involved bank fraud and foreign bank account registration. The jury returned the decision after deliberating for four days. Manafort is also expected to stand trial next month on a separate set of federal charges in Washington. (New York Times / Associated Press / Politico / Wall Street Journal / Washington Post / NBC News)

  • All the crimes Paul Manafort was convicted of. The first group of charges deals with money Manafort made lobbying for Ukrainian politicians. The second group of charges is about what Manafort allegedly did once he lost his Ukrainian income after the country’s president was deposed. (Vox)
  • The jury in Paul Manafort's trial is having trouble reaching consensus on at least one count and asked the judge for instructions about how to proceed. Manafort faces 18 charges total, including five counts of filing false tax returns, four counts of failing to disclose his offshore bank accounts and nine counts of bank fraud. If convicted on all counts, he could spend the rest of his life in prison. (Reuters / Politico / Washington Post / New York Times)

3/ The Trump administration revealed the details of its new pollution rules for coal-burning power plants, which would replace the Obama-era Clean Power Plan with the Affordable Clean Energy rule. The plan would give states authority to determine how to restrict carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming, as well as relaxing pollution rules for power plants that need upgrades. The technical analysis that accompanies the proposal says that "implementing the proposed rule is expected to increase emissions of carbon dioxide and the level of emissions of certain pollutants in the atmosphere that adversely affect human health," leading to between 470 and 1,400 premature deaths annually by 2030. (New York Times / NBC News / NPR / Politico)

4/ Russian hackers have been targeting conservative American think tanks critical of Trump's interactions with Putin. Microsoft also identified attempts by the Kremlin-linked hacking group Fancy Bear to infiltrate U.S. candidates, campaigns, and political groups by using malicious websites that mimicked the login pages of the United States Senate to try to trick people into handing over their passwords. Microsoft says it has no evidence that the group was successful, but it remains "concerned that these latest attempts pose security threats to a broadening array of groups connected with both American political parties in the run-up to the 2018 elections." (New York Times / Politico)


Notables.

  1. Mick Mulvaney is trying to use his influence to protect a South Carolina company from the negative effects of Trump's trade policies. Mulvaney is a former South Carolina congressman and has been making personal pleas to administration officials to protect Element Electronics, a TV assembly plant in his old district. The company has said that it will have to cease operations because of Trump's tariffs on Chinese goods. (McClatchy DC)

  2. Christopher Steel won his libel case in the U.S. against three Russian oligarchs who sued him over allegations made in his dossier about the Trump campaign and its links with Moscow. The judge concluded that the dossier was covered by the first amendment, ruling that the oligarchs had failed to prove that Steele knew that some information in the dossier was inaccurate and acted "with reckless disregard as to its falsity." (The Guardian)

  3. Trump denied reports that he is considering restricting President Obama's access to intelligence briefings, saying the move is something he "never discussed or thought of." Reports claimed that then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster had previously talked Trump out of the idea, which some in the White House were pushing last year following Trump's false claim that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower during the 2016 campaign. (Washington Post)

  4. Trump threatened to revoke the security clearance of another former U.S. intelligence official. Trump accused former CIA and FBI official Philip Mudd of becoming "totally unglued and weird" during a recent CNN appearance, asserting that "Mudd is in no mental condition to have such a Clearance. Should be REVOKED?" (Washington Post)

  5. Trump's top economic adviser invited a white nationalist to his birthday party a day after a White House speechwriter was fired for speaking at a conference alongside Peter Brimelow in 2016. Larry Kudlow claimed that Brimelow's views on immigration and race are "a side of Peter that I don't know, and I totally, utterly disagree with that point of view and have my whole life. I'm a civil rights Republican." (Washington Post)

Day 578: "Truth isn't truth."

1/ White House counsel Don McGahn has cooperated extensively with Robert Mueller's obstruction of justice investigation and Trump's lawyers don't know what he's told the special counsel. McGahn has given investigators at least three voluntary interviews lasting a total of 30 hours over the last nine months. McGahn was present for Trump's comments and actions during the firing of James Comey and attempts to fire Mueller, and has provided Trump's lawyers with a limited accounting of what he told investigators. Trump tweeted that he "allowed" McGahn to "fully cooperate" with Mueller's investigation into obstruction of justice. Last fall, Mueller's office asked to interview McGahn, which Trump and his lawyers encouraged. McGahn decided to fully cooperate with Mueller on suspicion that Trump was intent on letting him take the fall for any obstruction of justice-related decisions by claiming that he was only following legal advice from counsel. McGahn's cooperation is also meant to protect himself from becoming the next John Dean, the White House counsel for Nixon, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice. Trump and McGahn have a strained relationship and rarely speak one on one. Trump questions McGahn's loyalty while McGahn calls Trump "King Kong." In response to the report, Trump tweeted that McGahn "must be a John Dean type 'RAT' […] I have nothing to hide……" (New York Times / Wall Street Journal / Politico)

  • Trump's lawyers don't know just how much Don McGahn has told Mueller's investigators, reigniting a debate about whether Trump was given bad advice by his former lawyers John Dowd and Ty Cobb to allow full cooperation with Mueller's team, including by waiving attorney-client privilege. Dowd and Cobb believed that cooperation would help prove that Trump had done nothing wrong and would quickly end to the investigation. While Trump had approved the cooperation, he didn't know the conversations stretched for 30 hours or that his legal team didn't conduct a full debriefing with McGahn after the fact. (New York Times / CNN)

  • John Dean: "I think Trump has got a real problem here. And I'm not sure how he's going to handle it." Dean cooperated with prosecutors during the Watergate investigation after serving as White House counsel for Nixon. (CNN)

2/ Trump attacked Mueller's probe, calling the special counsel "disgraced and discredited," and his investigators "thugs." Trump, in a series of tweets, accused the special counsel of "looking to impact" the midterm elections, referring to the investigation as a "witch hunt" and called Mueller's team of prosecutors "a National Disgrace!" (Washington Post / ABC News / Politico)

3/ Giuliani claimed that "truth isn't truth" while explaining why Trump shouldn't testify in Mueller's investigation. Giuliani argued that Mueller could be trying to trap Trump into telling a lie in order to indict him for perjury. "When you tell me that, you know, he should testify because he's going to tell the truth and he shouldn't worry," Giuliani told Chuck Todd, "well that's so silly because it's somebody's version of the truth. Not the truth." When Todd pushed back and said "Truth is truth," Giuliani responded by declaring, "No, no, it isn’t truth. Truth isn’t truth." Giuliani has previously said Mueller's investigation "may have a different version of the truth than we do." (Politico / NBC News)

4/ Trump said he's concerned about potential perjury charges that could be brought against him if he were to sit down with Mueller. "Even if I am telling the truth, that makes me a liar," Trump said. Trump did not comment on whether he would agree to an interview with Mueller. (Reuters)

5/ Michael Cohen is under investigation for more than $20 million in bank and tax fraud related to loans obtained by taxi businesses that Cohen and his family own. Investigators are also looking into whether Cohen violated campaign finance by paying Karen McDougal $150,000 and Stormy Daniels $130,000 in exchange for their silence about their affairs with Trump. Prosecutors are considering filing charges by the end of this month. (New York Times / Associated Press / CNN)

6/ Cohen's attorney has been talking to John Dean, the former White House counsel who was a witness to Nixon's crimes. Cohen has signaled that he might cooperate with Mueller's investigation. "I certainly don't want to raise expectations that Mr. Cohen has anything like the level of deep involvement and detailed knowledge that John Dean had in the Nixon White House as a witness to Nixon’s crimes," Cohen's attorney said, "but I did see some similarities and wanted to learn from what John went through." (Politico)

7/ In a 1998 memo, Brett Kavanaugh outlined 10 explicit questions that he wanted Ken Starr to asked Bill Clinton about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court said at the time that he was "strongly opposed" to giving Clinton a "break." Among the questions Kavanaugh wanted Starr to ask were "If Monica Lewinsky says that you inserted a cigar into her vagina while you were in the Oval Office area, would she be lying?" and "If Monica Lewinsky says that on several occasions you had her give her [sic] oral sex, made her stop, and then ejaculated into the sink in the bathroom off [sic] the Oval Office, would she be lying?" (Washington Post)

poll/ 58% of Americans don't believe that Trump has hired "the best people." 67% of Republicans say that Trump has hired the best people compared with 93% of Democrats who say that Trump has not hire the best people. (Monmouth University Polling Institute)


Notables.

  1. One of Trump's speechwriters was fired for speaking at a conference attended by white nationalists. Darren Beattie was fired after a media inquiry about his speech at the 2016 H.L. Mencken Club conference, where he spoke on a panel alongside white nationalist Peter Brimelow. (Washington Post)

  2. The Justice Department is investigating whether Elliott Broidy tried to sell his influence with the Trump administration. The longtime Republican fundraiser resigned from his RNC position in April after it was reported that he paid a former Playboy model $1.6 million in exchange for her silence about a sexual affair. Michael Cohen arranged the settlement. (Washington Post)

  3. Former CIA Director John Brennan said he is considering legal action against Trump after his security clearance was revoked. Trump tweeted that he'd welcome a lawsuit from Brennan (Politico / Washington Post)

  4. More than 175 former State Department and Pentagon officials signed a statement of opposition to Trump's decision to revoke Brennan's security clearance. The statement reads that they believe that "the country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied" before expert former officials are allowed to voice their views. (Reuters)

  5. Mueller recommended that George Papadopoulos be sentenced up to six months in prison for lying to federal agents. Papadopoulos pleaded guilty in October and is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 7. (Reuters)

  6. Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are questioning whether John Bolton's ties to Russia were properly vetted before he joined the White House this year. The national security adviser worked with a Russian woman who was charged last month for failing to register as an agent of a foreign power in the U.S. (Politico)

  7. Mick Mulvaney suggested that Trump's military parade was canceled for reasons other than the $92 million cost of the event, but would not specify other "contributing factors." (Politico)

  8. The Trump administration plans to propose an overhaul of climate change regulations next week that would allow individual states to decide how – or whether – to curb carbon dioxide emissions from coal plants. (New York Times)

  9. Scott Pruitt called the White House once from his $43,000 soundproof phone booth. The phone call lasted five minutes. (Washington Post)

  10. A Georgia state lawmaker said he doesn't have an issue with Trump using the n-word in the past, arguing that holding a president accountable for mistakes made before entering office would "set a bad precedent." (CNN)

Day 575: A very good person.

1/ Advisers are worried that Trump will back Erik Prince's plan to privatize the war in Afghanistan with Blackwater security contractors. Trump's national security team are concerned that his impatience will cause him to seriously consider proposals like Prince's or abruptly order a complete U.S. withdrawal. Prince hasn't spoken directly to Trump about the plan, but plans to launch an aggressive media "air campaign" in coming days. Prince's sister is Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. (NBC News)

2/ Trump canceled his military parade and blamed "the local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly)" for inflating the cost. "When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade," Trump tweeted, "they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I cancelled it. Never let someone hold you up!" The Pentagon postponed Trump's parade to 2019 yesterday – before Trump "decided" to cancel it via tweet this morning – as the costs ballooned from an estimated $12 million to $92 million. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser called Trump's parade a "sad" plan. (New York Times / Politico / Washington Post)

3/ Trump plans to revoke more security clearances from officials who have been critical of him or played a role in Robert Mueller's Russia investigation. Over the past 19 months, Trump has fired or threatened nearly a dozen current and former officials associated with the probe, which he calls a "rigged witch hunt." According to his aides, Trump believes he came out looking strong after he revoked former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance, adding that Trump shows visible disdain for Brennan when he sees him on TV. (Washington Post)

4/ Trump called a career Justice Department official "a disgrace" and threatened to revoke his security clearance "very soon." Bruce Ohr has no involvement in Mueller's investigation, but conspiracy theorists claim he helped start the investigation into Russian election interference. (New York Times / Washington Post)

  • A dozen former top intelligence officials accused Trump of "attempt[ing] to stifle free speech" and criticized him for revoking John Brennan's security clearance. "We feel compelled to respond in the wake of the ill-considered and unprecedented remarks and actions by the White House," reads the letter from the officials, who served both Democratic and Republican presidents. Trump told reporters he's gotten a "tremendous response" since revoking Brennan's clearance. (Politico / Los Angeles Times)

5/ Trump called Paul Manafort a "very good person" as jurors deliberate charges of tax and bank fraud against his former campaign chairman. Trump criticized the trial as "a very sad day for our country," but declined to say whether he would pardon Manafort if convicted. (Bloomberg / Politico / Washington Post)

  • The judge presiding over Paul Manafort's criminal trial has received threats about the case is now under U.S. Marshal protection. Judge T.S. Ellis said he won't release the names and addresses of the 12 jurors deliberating Manafort's fate because he is worried about their "peace and safety." (CNBC)

6/ A judge in New York ruled that a confidentiality agreement between the Trump campaign and a former staffer is limited in scope, which could impact other non-disclosure agreements signed by former Trump staffers. Due to the wording of the agreement, only disputes over the agreement itself and some other prohibited behaviors were subject to arbitration. A former campaign staffer filed a complaint last November alleging that she was subjected to "harassment and sexual discrimination" while working on Trump's 2016 campaign. Lawyers for the Trump campaign tried to force the case into private arbitration based on the agreement. (Yahoo News / The Hill)

poll/ 57% of Americans think Trump is too friendly with Russia. Overall, 41% consider Russia an enemy of the U.S. (CNN)


Notables.

  1. The State Department will not spend some $230 million that had been planned for Syria stabilization projects and instead shift that money to other areas. (Associated Press)

  2. The White House budget office is attempting to cancel about $3 billion in foreign aid using an obscure budget rule to freeze the State Department's international assistance budget. (Politico)

  3. A federal judge ruled that a Trump official must sit for a deposition in a lawsuit challenging the administration's decision to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 census. New York and 16 other states filed a lawsuit in April challenging the constitutionality of the question, arguing it will lead to skewed numbers. (The Hill)

  4. A federal appeals court ordered the Trump administration to immediately implement the Chemical Disaster Rule, saying the EPA did not have the authority to delay the Obama-era chemical safety rule for 20 months. (Reuters)

  5. Trump asked the SEC to consider scaling back how often public companies must report earnings to investors from a quarterly basis to twice a year. Trump tweeted that he consulted "some of the world's top business leaders" on steps to create jobs and make business "even better." He said one told him to "stop quarterly reporting and go to a six month system." (Wall Street Journal / Reuters / New York Times / Washington Post)

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)

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)

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.

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