Last night, the New York Times reported: “Before arranging a meeting with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer he believed would offer him compromising information about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr. was informed in an email that the material was part of a Russian government effort to aid his father’s candidacy, according to three people with knowledge of the email. The email to the younger Mr. Trump was sent by Rob Goldstone, a publicist and former British tabloid reporter who helped broker the June 2016 meeting. In a statement on Sunday, Mr. Trump acknowledged that he was interested in receiving damaging information about Mrs. Clinton, but gave no indication that he thought the lawyer might have been a Kremlin proxy. Mr. Goldstone’s message, as described to The New York Times by the three people, indicates that the Russian government was the source of the potentially damaging information."
New details from others involved in arranging the meeting point to additional Trump links to Moscow. Our Rosalind S. Helderman, Tom Hamburger and Greg Miller report: “The session was set up at the request of Emin Agalarov, a Russian pop star whose Kremlin-connected family has done business with Trump in the past … Emin Agalarov and his father, Aras Agalarov, a wealthy Moscow real estate developer, helped sponsor the Miss Universe pageant, then owned by Trump, in Russia in 2013. After the pageant, the Agalarovs signed a preliminary deal with Trump to build a tower bearing his name in Moscow, though the deal has been on hold since Trump started his campaign for president. ...
“The involvement of the Agalarovs brings the meeting closer to Trump’s past business interests and to the Kremlin. Trump has spent time with both Emin Agalarov and his father — appearing in a music video for the pop singer that was filmed at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton hotel in 2013. … The Agalarovs are also close to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Aras Agalarov’s company has been awarded several large state building contracts, and shortly after the 2013 pageant, Putin awarded the elder Agalarov the ‘Order of Honor of the Russian Federation,’ a prestigious designation.”
-- Trump Jr., 39, has hired criminal defense lawyer Alan Futerfas to represent him in the Russia probes. His past clients have included alleged organized-crime associates. In a statement sent late last night, the New York-based attorney neither confirmed nor denied the Times story about the email on Russia’s intentions. He called the June meeting “much ado about nothing” and said Trump Jr. believed he was being offered information about “alleged wrongdoing” by Clinton in her dealings with Russia. “Don Jr.’s takeaway from this communication was that someone had information potentially helpful to the campaign and it was coming from someone he knew,” he said.
-- Eugene Robinson calls the Russia meeting “a legal game-changer”: “From now on, ignore the conventional wisdom about how the Russia scandal is not ‘resonating’ with President Trump’s still-loyal base. The question at this point is what strikes a chord with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — and what kind of legal jeopardy Trump’s closest associates, including his eldest son and son-in-law, might eventually face. … Is this all too complicated for voters to follow? Would Americans beyond the Beltway rather hear about jobs or health care? Perhaps so. But the questions that should be concentrating the minds of the president’s inner circle are legal, not political — and Mueller’s high-powered team of lawyers is experienced at connecting dots.”
-- Don Jr. must also contend with the ongoing congressional investigations. A Republican senator on the Intelligence committee, Susan Collins of Maine, said the panel “needs to interview” the president’s namesake and the others who attended the meeting. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), the vice chairman of the committee, gaggled outside his office yesterday afternoon to explain the significance of the latest revelation: “This is the first time the public has seen clear evidence that senior-level officials of the Trump campaign met with potentially an agent of a foreign government to try to obtain information that would discredit Hillary Clinton,” he said.
-- What did the president know and when did he know it? Administration officials, who spent months vehemently and categorically denying that there was any contact between the campaign and Russians, are now trying to downplay the significance of an encounter that undercuts many of their previous claims.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed during her off-camera briefing that the president only learned of his son’s meeting with Veselnitskaya “in the last couple of days.” Don Jr. also said in his Sunday statement that his father “knew nothing of the meeting or these events.”
This is very hard to believe. Don Jr. pulled in his brother-in-law, Jared Kushner, and campaign chairman Paul Manafort. “This was three people who were closer to him and to the campaign than just about anybody else,” Aaron Blake explains. “This meeting was seen as significant enough for all three of them to make a point to attend, and yet nobody shared details of the meeting with the guy whose campaign they were acting as members of? The president is going to have to address this.”
Why has the White House failed to get its story straight on so many occasions? “When you are treading water in situations like these, the best strategy is generally to get all the bad news out at once, and to understand the truth so that you don't keep getting caught in falsehoods that make it look like you have something to hide,” Aaron writes. “There are basically two options for the White House officials here: They are trying to hide something, or they are completely derelict in dealing with — and getting out in front of — all of this.”
-- John Wagner and Ros Helderman quickly turned a good profile of Don Jr.: “As an executive in his father’s company, Trump Jr. was active in pursuing Trump Organization business prospects in Russia. He traveled to Moscow along with Ivanka Trump in 2006 and also helped pitch Trump-branded real estate to Russians. ‘Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,’ Trump Jr. told a real estate conference in 2008, according to a trade publication. ‘We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.’ In the speech, he said he had traveled to Russia half a dozen times in the previous 18 months. In October 2016, just weeks before his father’s election, Trump Jr. delivered a paid speech in Paris to a group whose leaders are close to Russia.”
John and Ros capture an emerging naive defense: “An adviser to President Trump on Monday characterized the meeting … with the Russian lawyer as a ‘rookie mistake.’ … Another Trump adviser described Trump Jr.’s actions as ‘well-meaning but naive.’ ‘You have to remember, the campaign was very unsophisticated at that point,’ said the second adviser.”
-- “The metastasizing Russia scandal,” Dana Milbank writes, “keeps rendering previous Trump White House statements inoperative, as Richard Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler used to say.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) meets with FBI Director nominee Christopher Wray on June 29. Grassley will chair his confirmation hearing on Wednesday. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
-- The Post’s Editorial Board says the latest news further raises the stakes for FBI nominee Chris Wray’s confirmation hearing tomorrow: “The latest revelations only intensify the questions surrounding Mr. Trump’s firing of FBI Director James B. Comey after Mr. Comey, according to his own testimony, declined to pledge personal loyalty to the president. They also intensify the urgency of a careful Senate vetting of Mr. Trump’s nominee to replace Mr. Comey, Christopher Wray, who will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Mr. Wray must commit to the independence of the FBI by detailing any conversations he had with Mr. Trump, and in particular whether the president asked him for his loyalty. He must be able to say that he made no such commitment. And he must promise that he will do everything to cooperate with, and nothing to impede, the special counsel’s Russia investigation.”
Donald Jr. speaks at last summer's Republican National Convention in Cleveland. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)
-- More than ever, a Russia sanctions bill that’s floundering in the House is becoming a test of congressional will to stop Trump from continuing to cozy up to Putin. “Popular legislation that would limit President Trump’s ability to lift financial sanctions on Russia is mired in a partisan dispute in the House, with Democrats charging that a recent change would weaken the bill,” Karoun Demirjian and Mike DeBonis report this morning. “The pending legislation, which passed the Senate on a 98-to-2 vote last month, is effectively a congressional check on Trump: any time the president wants to make a change to sanctions policy on Russia, lawmakers would have a chance to block him. House Democrats said they do not trust that House GOP leaders are serious about the effort — and are now worried a recent change to the bill would effectively rob them of their ability to raise objections to Trump’s Russia sanctions moves in the future.”
The state of play: “(Speaker Paul) Ryan has spoken in favor of the Senate sanctions bill but has not specifically pledged to bring it to the House floor intact, deferring instead to the House committees with jurisdiction over the matter. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is close to the president, has also officially deferred to the committees. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward R. Royce (R-Calif.) is in favor of holding a floor vote soon.”
-- A Marine Corps cargo plane crashed in western Mississippi, killing at least 16. Thomas Gibbons-Neff reports: “Mississippi Emergency Management Agency Director Lee Smithson told the Clarion-Ledger that the aircraft crashed on the Leflore-Sunflower county line, a rural stretch of woods and fields with dense underbrush and vegetation about 85 miles north of Jackson. Earlier, Sheriff Ricky Banks told the Ledger that five of the crew members were confirmed dead. It is unclear where the plane took off from. Andy Jones, a local resident, told the Associated Press that he was working on his family’s catfish farm just before 4 p.m. when he heard a boom and looked up to see the plane corkscrewing downward with one engine smoking.”
-- The federal government is canceling the search for a new FBI headquarters, putting the effort that's dragged on for more than a decade to move out of the crumbling J. Edgar Hoover Building back at square one. Jonathan O'Connell reports: “The decision follows years of failed attempts by federal officials to persuade Congress to fully back a plan for a campus in the Washington suburbs paid for by trading away the Hoover Building to a real estate developer and putting up nearly $2 billion in taxpayer funds to cover the remaining cost. … For years, FBI officials have raised alarms that the decrepit conditions at Hoover constitute serious security concerns. But the plan to replace the building grew mired in a pit of government dysfunction. … Officials and executives involved in the process also said a lack of permanent leadership at both agencies could have hindered the case for funding. Both agencies are operating under transitional leadership, as [Trump’s] appointee to the FBI, Christopher Wray, has not yet been confirmed, and Trump has not appointed a permanent GSA administrator.”
A Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jet is displayed at the Paris Air Show last month. (Christophe Archambault//AFP/Getty Images)
Thousands of California residents have been forced to evacuate their homes this week, forced out by 14 wildfires that are currently raging across the state. The fires were triggered by an abundance of grasses and plants, which boomed after a winter of heavy rains but quickly withered up in an intensely hot summer. (Amy Westervelt)
One of Germany’s biggest companies, Siemens, said it became an unwitting pawn in a scheme to evade sanctions against Russia and break a de facto blockade of electricity to the annexed territory of Crimea. The Russian customer, which has close ties to the Kremlin, illegally shipped two power plant turbines to Crimea instead of their intended destination in southern Russia. (New York Times)
A new study suggests women who are unable to conceive because of uterine fibroids may be able to improve their chances of fertility through a minimally invasive procedure in which doctors block the arteries supplying the fibroids with blood. Uterine fibroids are one of the most common causes of infertility. (Lisa Rapaport)
A Minneapolis mother has vowed to get “justice” after police, responding to a mistakenly triggered house alarm, opened fire on both of the family’s emotional support dogs. A police statement claimed the dogs “charged” at the officer – but now-viral footage released by the homeowner appears to show a very different sequence of events. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
MSNBC “Morning Joe” host and Trump sparring partner Mika Brzezinski signed a three-book deal. The agreement with Weinstein Books is said to be in the “high six figures." (Page Six)
Jane Sanders routinely campaigned at her husband's side in 2016. Here they are in Los Angeles. (David McNew/Getty Images)
-- “A federal investigation into a land deal led by Jane Sanders, the wife and political adviser of Sen. Bernie Sanders, has accelerated in recent months — with prosecutors hauling off more than a dozen boxes of records from the Vermont college she once ran and calling a state official to testify before a grand jury,” Shawn Boburg and Jack Gillum report: “A half-dozen people said in [recent interviews] that they had been contacted by the FBI or federal prosecutors, and former college trustees [said] lawyers representing Jane Sanders had interviewed them to learn what potential witnesses might tell the government. The investigation centers on the 2010 land purchase that relocated Burlington College to a new campus on more than 32 acres along Lake Champlain. The questions from government investigators [suggest] the investigation is focused on Jane Sanders … But the inquiry could nonetheless create a political liability for the senator.”
-- News of the accelerated probe comes as Bernie begins a cross-country tour to promote his latest book, “Guide to Political Revolution.” A bookstore in Iowa said he will appear there next month, marking his first return to the state since last year’s presidential election. (Iowa City Press-Citizen)
Reince Priebus and Jared Kushner walk together on the South Lawn of the White House. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
1. Shortly before a diplomatic rift pitted Middle Eastern countries and the United States against Qatar, Jared Kushner’s real estate company tried and failed to obtain a half-billion dollar bailout from one of the richest and most influential men in the country. The Intercept’s Ben Walsh, Ryan Grim and Clayton Swisher report: The president's son-in-law “has reportedly played a key behind-the-scenes role in hardening the U.S. posture toward the embattled nation. That hardline comes in the wake of the previously unreported [negotiations] … Throughout 2015 and 2016, Jared Kushner and his father, Charles, negotiated directly with a major investor in Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, [known as HBJ], in an effort to refinance the property on Fifth Avenue … The former emir of Qatar summed up HBJ’s power with a quip: ‘I may run this country, but he owns it.’ The negotiations continued long after the election, carried out as recently as this spring by Charles Kushner...
“The revelation of the half-billion dollar deal raises thorny and unprecedented ethical questions. If the deal is not entirely dead, that means [Kushner] is on the one hand pushing to use the power of American diplomacy to pummel a small nation while on the other his firm is hoping to extract an extraordinary amount of capital from there … If, however, the deal is entirely dead, the pummeling may be seen as intimidating to other investors on the end of a Kushner Companies pitch.”
2. The New York Times and ProPublica have an extensive look at the deregulation teams in the Trump administration -- and those meeting with them.Trump’s effort to scale back government regulations is “being conducted in large part out of public view and often by political appointees with deep industry ties and potential conflicts,” Danielle Ivory and Robert Faturechi report. “Most government agencies have declined to disclose information about their deregulation teams. But The New York Times and ProPublica identified 71 appointees, including 28 with potential conflicts … Some appointees are reviewing rules their previous employers sought to weaken or kill, and at least two may be positioned to profit if certain regulations are undone. The appointees include lawyers who have represented businesses in cases against government regulators, staff members of political dark money groups, employees of industry-funded organizations opposed to environmental rules and at least three people who were registered to lobby the agencies they now work for.”
2. Trump’s top advisers at the White House recruited business executives who profit from military contracting to devise “options” for the war in Afghanistan – seeking alternatives to the Pentagon’s plan to deploy thousands of additional troops. The New York Times’ Mark Landler, Eric Schmitt, and Michael R. Gordon report: “Erik D. Prince, a founder of the private security firm Blackwater Worldwide, and Stephen A. Feinberg, a billionaire financier who owns the giant military contractor DynCorp International, have discussed their proposals to rely on contractors instead of American troops [with both Steve Bannon and Kushner]. ... On Saturday morning, Mr. Bannon sought out [Jim Mattis] at the Pentagon to try to get a hearing for their ideas, an American official said. Mr. Mattis listened politely but declined to include the outside strategies in a review of Afghanistan policy … Soliciting the views of Mr. Prince and Mr. Feinberg certainly qualifies as out-of-the-box thinking in a process dominated by military leaders ... But it also raises a host of ethical issues, not least that both men could profit from their recommendations.”
3. Dubai billionaire-turned real estate developer Hussain Sajwani is busy working to strengthen his relationship with the Trump Organization — and has unapologetically touted his ties with the first family in the press, despite potential conflict-of-interest concerns. Bloomberg’s Stephanie Baker and Sharon R. Smyth report: “‘Mr. Trump getting elected definitely enhanced the profile of his organization’s brand,’ he said in the London office of his company … ‘Being his partner, we get a benefit.’ Sajwani has two golf-course development deals with the president’s family company in Dubai, which netted Trump as much as $10 million in 2015 and 2016 … The tie-up with Trump has transformed Sajwani from a little-known Dubai developer into someone who describes himself [as] ‘Trump’s Middle Eastern business partner.’ .... In May, he hosted [Donald Jr.] in Dubai to discuss the recently opened golf course … There are plans for a small boutique hotel and a school attached to the golf course, all operated by Trump International. Another Trump golf course designed by Tiger Woods is due to open next year.”
-- Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said the GOP will release a new draft of its proposal this week, “and then we’ll vote on it next week.”
-- Senate Democrats have been reaching out to the Republican governors of states who expanded Medicaid under Obamacare to enlist their help in killing Mitch McConnell's effort. Juliet Eilperin, Sean Sullivan and Ed O’Keefe report: “The development shows Democrats moving beyond rhetorical calls for bipartisanship to insert themselves into a legislative process that Republicans have dominated. It also reflects continuing divisions within the GOP, with Republican governors emerging as potential allies for Democrats and others who oppose the current GOP proposal.”
-- McConnell has an unofficial deadline to get a bill passed. The New York Times’ Margot Sanger-Katz reports: “There are legal and political reasons that Republicans really do need to decide in the next few weeks whether their legislative effort will succeed or go back on the shelf … Leaders want to use the same budget procedure [as they’re using to repeal Obamacare] to pass tax reform, but Senate rules allow only one such reconciliation maneuver at a time. That means that, as long as health care drags on, tax reform can’t move forward … But so far, it looks as if consensus is weakening even as the time pressures build.”
-- At least 80 people were arrested Thursday while protesting the Republican health-care push at the Capitol. (Clarence Williams)
A demonstrator is taken into custody by Capitol Police outside the office of Ted Cruz. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
-- “Senate Republicans have offered increasingly dour assessments of their bill’s prospects due to a push from conservative Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah to drag the bill rightward and distaste from more moderate senators for future Medicaid spending cuts,” Politico’s Burgess Everett, Jennifer Haberkorn and Josh Dawsey report. “The party spent Monday sniping over the future of the Lee and Cruz amendment, which would allow the sale of cheap insurance plans outside Obamacare’s regulatory structure. GOP critics like Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Susan Collins of Maine and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia have worried that Cruz’s and Lee’s amendment would make it harder for people with pre-existing conditions to get covered … Opposition from those senators alone would tank the amendment … The White House continues to talk up the Cruz-Lee amendment. Pence told Rush Limbaugh on Monday that it was an example of ‘what freedom looks like.’”
-- Sarah Kliff at Vox says the Cruz amendment boils down to a simple philosophy: “ask sick people to pay more.” “Cruz's Consumer Choice Amendment sets up a cruel reality for Americans who are sick and poor,” she explains. “In practice, this would mean some plans exclude expensive benefits like maternity care and mental health coverage … Health policy experts know exactly how this would play out: Healthy people would pick the skimpier plan, and sicker people would enroll in the more robust plan … There is no theory in Cruz's policy of what happens to Americans with significant health care needs, no grand plan to rein in the costs of a plan that only covers sick people. Premiums would rise, as each member would require significant spending.”
-- “Defunding Planned Parenthood could leave women with few options,” by Kim Soffen: “Planned Parenthood would be cut off from Medicaid funding for one year under the Senate’s health-care bill. That would leave other clinics scrambling to pick up the organization’s Medicaid clients, in some cases needing to more than triple their contraception caseloads. And in the likely event that clinics can’t expand that much that quickly, the bill would leave many of Planned Parenthood’s 2.4 million annual patients without care, at least temporarily.”
-- Insurers in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces earned an average of nearly $300 per member in the first quarter of 2017, more than double what they earned in a similar period in the marketplaces’ previous three years, according to new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. “That figure puts insurers on track to make a profit in the marketplaces after years of losses,” Soffen reports.
-- Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) has become one of the most vocal Democratic opponents of Obamacare repeal. (Antonio Olivo)
Trump greets Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who is co-chairing his embattled voter fraud panel. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
-- Trump’s voting commission on Monday asked states and the District to hold off submitting the sweeping voter data the panel requested until a federal judge in Washington decides whether the White House has done enough to protect Americans’ privacy. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “The Electronic Privacy Information Center … has asked U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to block the commission’s data request, arguing that the panel had not conducted the full privacy impact statement required by federal law for new government electronic data-collection systems. Separately Monday, two civil liberties groups filed lawsuits to prevent the commission from holding its first scheduled meeting next week, alleging that the panel had been working in secret and in violation of government regulations on public transparency."
-- Senior DHS officials are floating a proposal that would require foreign students to reapply for permission to stay in the United States each year, a plan that could subject visa holders to a slew of new costs and paperwork and deliver a major financial blow to universities. Maria Sacchetti and Devlin Barrett report: “Officials caution that the plan is in the preliminary stages and would require regulatory changes that could take a minimum of 18 months, [and may also] require agreement from the State Department, which issues visas. The officials say the proposal seeks to enhance national security, [but the] discussions are emerging at a time when foreign student enrollment has reached a historic high in the United States and is injecting billions of dollars into the economy … Foreign students make up 5 percent of the 20 million students attending colleges and universities across the United States [and] added more than $35 billion to the U.S. economy in 2015[.]”
-- In the Trump administration, an internal battle has emerged over which part of the government should be in charge of deciding who gets into the United States. Josh Rogin reports: “A document crafted by senior White House advisers … includes proposals to move the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs and Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration over to the Department of Homeland Security. White House policy adviser Stephen Miller, who helped craft the document, has reportedly been pushing [Rex Tillerson] to get ‘tougher’ on immigration, vetting and refugee policy at the State Department. One White House official cautioned that these proposals … were far from being approved. Another White House official told me that if Tillerson doesn’t go along with changes that Miller and others in the White House are pushing the State Department to implement internally, the plan to strip Foggy Bottom of its role supervising these functions could gain traction.”
--The United States is preparing to go it alone on punishing North Korea for its expanding nuclear program. The Wall Street Journal’s Ian Talley reports: “The Trump administration is moving toward unilaterally tightening sanctions on North Korea, targeting Chinese companies and banks the U.S. says are funneling cash into Pyongyang’s weapons program.”
-- The White House announced that it would nominate Randy Quarles to a vacant seat on the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors. Ana Swanson reports: “Quarles would take the lead on rolling back any banking regulation under the Trump administration as vice chairman for supervision, a post created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act … Supporters have hailed Quarles as a less ideological pick for the banking job, someone who would take a moderate, practical approach to implementing Trump’s promise to reduce financial regulation. But Jordan Haedtler, campaign manager for the Center for Popular Democracy’s Fed Up coalition, criticized Quarles in a statement Monday night for his close connections with Wall Street and his opposition to banking rules, including the Volcker Rule, which restricts speculative investments by banks.”
-- “The Trump administration said it would delay, and probably eliminate, a federal rule that would have let foreign entrepreneurs come to the United States to start companies,” the New York Times’ Nick Wingfield reports. “The decision, announced by the federal government on Monday ahead of its official publication on Tuesday, was quickly slammed by business leaders and organizations, especially from the technology sector, which has benefited heavily from start-ups founded by immigrants … The policy being delayed by the Department of Homeland Security, known as the International Entrepreneur Rule, was to go into effect next week.”
-- Trump’s state visit to the United Kingdom could be postponed until next year. Sky News’ Jon Craig reports: “It is possible the President - who owns two golf courses in Scotland - may make an unofficial visit before then, according to Government insiders. While Theresa May continues to insist she is staying put in Downing Street, the timing of the visit may depend on how long she survives as Prime Minister.”
-- The Democratic National Committee has decided to invest in its state-level parties earlier with an eye toward 2018. David Weigel reports: “In October, the DNC will give a $10,000 monthly grant to each state party, running through the 2018 midterms — a one-third increase over its 2016 commitments ... The DNC is also launching a State Party Innovation Fund, with $10 million earmarked for grants that state parties can compete for by organizing and modernizing; funds, according to the party, will be devoted to ‘innovation, best practices and organizing in base, rural, millennial and youth communities, in addition to help with building technical infrastructure.’”
-- Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D) ended his campaign for governor of Colorado just three months after he started it. Perlmutter’s decision came one month after his House colleague, Jared Polis, a multimillionaire capable of self-funding, announced that he would run. (Denver Post)
-- Rep. Stevan Pearce (R) announced that he will run for governor of New Mexico. Pearce has represented New Mexico’s 2nd district for 12 years and is a member of the House Freedom Caucus. While he is the first Republican to announce a bid, four Democrats are running to replace Gov. Susana Martinez (R). (Albuquerque Journal)
-- “Rep. Ann Wagner’s decision not to run for Senate has left Republicans in Missouri scrambling to lock down a candidate to challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill, with many turning first to the state’s young attorney general with sterling academic credentials, Josh Hawley,” Morning Consult’s Eli Yokley reports: “A Supreme Court clerk-turned-law school professor who won his first elected office last fall, Hawley secured a comfortable margin of victory over his Democratic rival after a brutal primary campaign against a state senator who had long angled for the job. But against McCaskill, an agile red-territory Democrat who has been on the Show Me State’s political scene for nearly four decades, Republicans are hoping to avoid such an intra-party fight. If Hawley wants [to] take the reins of his presumed status as heir apparent to the Senate nomination with Wagner out of the way, a mix of more than a half-dozen Republican strategists and officials in Missouri … agree he should decide sooner rather than later, in order for the party to refocus its efforts against McCaskill, [who] is currently … traveling the state in a long, campaign-style town hall tour.”
-- “Sen. Jon Tester raked in more than $2 million in the second quarter of this year … currently giving the Montana Democrat $4.7 million on hand for one of the most closely watched Senate races in the 2018 cycle,” Politico’s Seung Min Kim reports. “Tester, whose home state of Montana went for Donald Trump by 20 points last November, is one of the top targets for Republicans next year — yet the GOP has struggled to recruit a top-tier candidate to run against the farmer and former chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee … As was true in the first quarter of this year, a slew of Senate Democrats in competitive races next fall have already reported significant fundraising sums in the three-month period that ended June 30.”
-- An internal Democratic dispute over how to win white working-class voters is about to get real, as lawmakers work to develop an economic agenda that will unify the party ahead of next year’s midterms. Max Ehrenfreund reports: “Led by [Chuck Schumer], Democrats in Congress are developing an economic agenda that could serve as a statement of the party's principles ... But [lawmakers] are split over an agenda of their own — particularly when it comes to bringing back working-class, white voters who flocked to Trump in 2016. After decades of relying on free-market solutions to achieve liberal aims, Democrats have shifted to the left in recent years, and many are calling for more government intervention in the economy. Yet despite the emerging consensus around more progressive policies, it is unclear whether Democrats can form a winning electoral coalition around those ideas ... ‘People don’t like Trump,’ Schumer told ABC News. ‘But they say, ‘What the heck do the Democrats stand for?’’”
-- Ben Terris profiles Jason Kander, the 35-year-old who failed to oust Roy Blunt in Missouri last year but has still emerged in the Democratic Party as a rising star. “Jason Kander doesn’t feel like a loser. He doesn’t feel much like a millennial either, whatever that means. But having lost his bid to represent Missouri in the United States Senate at the age of 35 last year, he is, technically, both of those things. And so, on a recent Wednesday evening, one of the oldest, losing-est millennials in American politics headed to the annual gathering of the High School Democrats of America to speak about, what else, the future of their party. He might seem like an odd person to deliver this message … But Kander still has a lot to offer … Democrats are desperate for something, for someone, to get excited about — and these days, some of their most thrilling figures are losers. None more so than Jason Kander.”
-- “Battle of Mosul: How Iraqi forces defeated the Islamic State,” by Dan Lamothe, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Laris Karklis and Tim Meko: “Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared the city of Mosul liberated from Islamic State control on Sunday, a watershed moment in the U.S.-backed Iraqi military campaign against the extremist group. The battle, which stretched nine months, was marked by fierce urban combat, the discovery of Islamic State atrocities and the use of small drones, ‘Mad Max’-style suicide vehicles and other tactics that prompted U.S. and Iraqi forces to adapt their operations as they fought. The primarily Sunni city, with an original population of more than 2.5 million, was the biggest prize claimed by the Islamic State in its violent, chaotic sweep across northern and western Iraq in 2014.”
-- “North Korea’s surprising, lucrative relationship with Africa,” by Kevin Sieff: “Near the southern tip of Africa, 8,000 miles from Pyongyang, this capital city is an unlikely testament to North Korean industry. There’s the [sleek] presidential palace, the sprawling defense headquarters and the shadowy munitions factory. They were built — or are still being constructed — by North Korea, for a profit. For years, North Korea has used African nations like this one as financial lifelines, building infrastructure and selling weapons and other military equipment as sanctions mounted against its authoritarian regime. Although China is by far North Korea’s largest trading partner, the smaller African revenue streams have helped support the impoverished Hermit Kingdom … Since the 1960s, when North Korea began providing support for African nations during their independence struggles with European colonial powers, the regime has fostered political ties on the continent that have turned into commercial relationships.”
-- “New Jersey is calling Chris Christie names. And now he’s calling them names right back,” by Aaron Blake: “New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, fresh off his beach blunder last week, isn't at all interested in taking your criticisms. During an appearance on WFAN radio Monday afternoon, callers began mixing it up with the Republican governor, who was severely criticized last week for using a state beach that was closed to the public during a government shutdown and then appearing to hide that fact. In response to the first caller, Christie reportedly called Hillary Clinton a ‘criminal.’ During the second, he labeled the caller — Mike from Montclair — a ‘communist’ and a ‘bum.’”
--"This Town" scribe Mark Leibovich has a New York Times magazine cover pieces out this morning called “This Town Melts Down:" “To some degree, Washington will always learn how to adapt to the distinct styles, personalities and expectations of a new president. It will ascertain how decisions are made, the processes leading up to them and the factors that influence a White House organization. This is next to impossible in Trumpland, mainly because ‘process,’ such as it is, resides purely with the whims of one man. It is all about Trump. Everything is at his mercy, and little about it is comfortable. It creates an overwrought environment to perform in, and the closer in you have to operate, the more intense it becomes.”
Leibovich offers a brutal assessment of Sean Spicer, who he met with in June for the first time since Trump’s election: “I once described the pre-Trump Spicer as being a ‘lower-wattage aide,’’ which he would often remind me of whenever I used to see him around the city. He never appeared overly bothered by this and spoke in a tone somewhere between stage-wincing and sarcastic pride that he even rated a mention at all … . In the same way that a dog can take on a resemblance to its owner, Spicer has acquired a swollen, hopped-up and somewhat persecuted countenance, as if he were the physical embodiment of a news cycle on steroids."
When Leibovich insisted on interviewing Spicer, the press secretary declined, saying it would not be helpful to Spicer's "current status." "This phrase — 'current status' — struck me as a perfectly of-the-moment representation of the city from which Spicer had derived a creditable identity for himself until he (and it) had become otherwise occupied ... And yet in keeping with the Trump-era rule stipulating that ‘‘the enemy of the enemy of the people is my friend,’’ the mockery directed at this blandly ubiquitous greenroom denizen — just the kind of Washington political hack Trump ran against — propelled him to a golden status with 'the base.’ At Trump’s postelection rallies across the country, the press secretary was engulfed by squealing, selfie-seeking fans and drew a fuss meriting its own headlines."
-- Foreign Policy, “Trump’s Trolls Are Waging War on America’s Civil Servants,” by Kate Brannen, Dan De Luce and Jenna Mclaughlin: “Career civil servants often endure stressful working conditions, but in the Trump White House, some of them face online trolling from alt-right bloggers who seek to portray them as clandestine partisans plotting to sabotage the president’s agenda. The online attacks often cite information that appears to be provided by unnamed White House officials or Trump loyalists. The trend has unnerved the career intelligence analysts, diplomats, security experts, and military officers who are accustomed to operating outside the political arena. Coupled with White House talking points accusing government employees of jeopardizing the country’s security through leaks to the media, the online abuse threatens to damage morale and politicize institutions long seen as impartial and above partisan combat.”
-- New York Times, “Breaking the Opioid Habit in Dentists’ Offices,” by Tina Rosenberg: “Every year, oral surgeons remove the wisdom teeth of about three million people. The majority are under 25. And virtually all leave surgery with a prescription for opioids. Dentists and oral surgeons are by far the major prescribers of opioids for people ages 10 to 19. That’s an age when the growing brain, which doesn’t mature until 25, is particularly susceptible to being taken over by opioids — even if the dosage seems too small to produce addiction. In fact, even very short-term prescriptions have been associated with later drug misuse among teens who have not used illegal drugs before.”
Trump has an afternoon meeting with Steve Mnuchin, Jim Mattis and H.R. McMaster.
Pence will meet with Senate Repubicans on the Hill before joining the president’s afternoon meeting.
And Sen. Lindsey Graham will hold a hearing entitled, “Concurrent Congressional and Criminal Investigations: Lessons from History.”
-- D.C. will see some sunshine and some pretty intense heat today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Partly sunny, breezy, and hot with increasing humidity as highs reach the middle to upper 90s. Heat index levels increase to about 100 or slightly higher … Be very careful with outdoor activities and stay plenty hydrated with sufficient skin protection too … A slight afternoon/evening thunderstorm chance exists, but most areas won’t see anything.”
-- The victims of Rabbi Barry Freundel, who is currently serving a prison sentence for secretly taping women undressing as they prepared for a Jewish ritual bath, are outraged by a play that recounts the crimes. Julie Zauzmer reports: “The show, called ‘Constructive Fictions,’ is 48-year-old graphic designer A.J. Campbell’s first staged work. The day after the debut performance for an audience of about 30 people, who filled half the seats in the Gallaudet University theater where it was staged, Campbell said that Freundel’s crimes called out to her as a fitting subject for a play almost immediately.”
-- A 1-year-old boy was shot in Northeast D.C. last night. The child was described as conscious and breathing when he arrived at a nearby hospital. (Martin Weil)
-- “‘Leave us alone!’ That’s the message city leaders and their progressive allies brought to Congress on Monday as part of an annual news conference to decry what they see as lawmakers’ meddling in D.C. business. Jenna Portnoy reports: “Mayor Muriel E. Bowser and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city’s nonvoting representative, both Democrats, are fighting efforts to block District laws that govern legal marijuana, firearms, assisted-suicide, abortion for low-income women and sewer-clogging disposable wipes.”
-- D.C. businesses are speaking out against proposed pay-to-play regulations. Peter Jamison reports: Their view — voiced in a hearing before the D.C. Council’s judiciary committee — is at odds with that of most District residents. It may also strike some as odd in a city whose political life has been visited with clocklike regularity by campaign-finance scandals involving wealthy contractors (or, in one case, FBI agents posing as wealthy contractors).
-- “A second Potomac River bridge connecting Montgomery County and Northern Virginia — an idea that has been studied and debated since the 1950s — is again drawing both interest and criticism, as elected officials and transportation planners search for ways to ease the region’s notoriously heavy traffic,” Bill Turque reports. “Next week the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, the body that helps set transportation priorities for the metropolitan area, will consider listing the bridge project for further analysis.”