Washington Brief: Trump Meets With Putin at G20 Summit

Washington Brief

  • Syria, Ukraine and global terrorism are expected to be on the agenda today when President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. The meeting comes a day after Trump questioned the consensus of U.S. intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election. (The Washington Post)
  • Speaking at a town hall-style event in Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) downplayed the prospect that Republicans would pass their health care legislation. He said if Republicans do not pass their own bill, he will be forced to negotiate with Senate Democrats. (NBC News)
  • House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black said her panel may mark up its fiscal 2018 budget resolution next week, when lawmakers return to Washington. The Tennessee Republican said the budget resolution would cut 1 percent of mandatory spending over a decade. (Roll Call)
  • Republicans in Missouri want state Attorney General Josh Hawley to decide in the coming weeks whether he will challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill next year, a timeline they hope can help avoid a tough primary campaign as they seek to unseat one of the most vulnerable Democrats up for re-election. (Morning Consult)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Federalist Society event on constitutional war powers 12 p.m.



U.S. ethics chief who pressured Trump resigns
Madeline Conway, Politico

Walter Shaub, the director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics who has criticized the way President Donald Trump has handled his business conflicts, announced on Thursday that he is resigning, effective July 19. Shaub, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama to a five-year term in 2013, is joining the non-profit Campaign Legal Center as the senior director of ethics.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller Taps Broad Range of Talent for Russia Probe
Del Quentin Wilber and Aruna Viswanatha, The Wall Street Journal

In a few weeks on the job, special counsel Robert Mueller has assembled an elite team of lawyers with expertise in national security, public corruption and financial crimes, suggesting he is taking a broad view of his mandate to probe Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 election. Since being tapped by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in May, Mr. Mueller has added 15 attorneys to his staff as well as an undisclosed number of administrative employees, according to spokesman Peter Carr.

Hackers Are Targeting Nuclear Facilities, Homeland Security Dept. and F.B.I. Say
Nicole Perlroth, The New York Times

Since May, hackers have been penetrating the computer networks of companies that operate nuclear power stations and other energy facilities, as well as manufacturing plants in the United States and other countries. Among the companies targeted was the Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating Corporation, which runs a nuclear power plant near Burlington, Kan., according to security consultants and an urgent joint report issued by the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigation last week.

Some Prosecutors Offer Plea Deals to Avoid Deportation of Noncitizens
Corinne Ramey, The Wall Street Journal

For noncitizens, minor crimes like shoplifting can result in deportation. But a growing number of district attorneys say they offer immigrants accused of crimes plea deals to help them avoid that fate. The prosecutors, including at least six in jurisdictions on the East and West coasts, purposely avoid reaching plea agreements or sentences that might trigger a noncitizen’s deportation or prevent his or her re-entry into the country.


Here’s what’s at stake when Trump finally meets Putin
David Filipov and Abby Phillip, The Washington Post

President Trump finally sits down with Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday, and though the square knot-shaped logos decorating this German port city say this is the G-20, the U.S.-Russian summit on the sidelines is the meeting that has the world holding its breath. Syria, Ukraine and the war on terror will no doubt come out when the two presidents hold their first face-to-face talks, a 35-minute chat set for Friday afternoon against the backdrop of antiglobalist protests.

Hawaii judge declines to clarify travel ban guidelines from SCOTUS
Ted Hesson, Politico

A federal judge in Hawaii declined on Thursday to clarify who should be allowed to bypass President Trump’s recently reinstated travel ban — a small victory for the administration in the ongoing legal battle over the policy, which blocks the entry of people from six majority-Muslim nations for 90 days and suspends the refugee resettlement program for 120 days. The Supreme Court issued an order last week that allowed the ban to go forward, but it stipulated that the policy couldn’t be applied to people who maintained “a bona fide relationship” to a person or entity in the U.S.

Trump’s leaks crackdown sends chills through national security world
Ali Watkins and Josh Dawsey, Politico

National security officials across the federal government say they are seeing new restrictions on who can access sensitive information, fueling fears in the intelligence and security community that the Trump administration has stepped up a stealthy operation to smoke out leakers. Officials at various national security agencies also say they are becoming more concerned that the administration is carefully tracking what they’re doing and who they’re talking to — then plotting to use them as a scapegoat or accuse them of leaks.


McConnell Downplays Prospect of Passing Health Care Bill
Leigh Ann Caldwell and Kasie Hunt, NBC News

In his first public comments in nearly a week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Thursday indicated that passing the GOP’s health care bill remains a daunting prospect for a Republican conference so far unable to agree on key details. “I’m in the position of a guy with a Rubik’s cube, trying to twist the dial in such a way to get at least 50 members of my conference who can agree to a version of repealing and replacing” Obamacare, McConnell said at a town hall-style event in Kentucky.

To Avoid Senate Primary Fight, Missouri Republicans Want Hawley to Decide
Eli Yokley, Morning Consult 

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. 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.

Will the ‘Trump 10’ Pay a Price in 2018?
Ronald Brownstein, The Atlantic

Apparently, no one has informed Bob Casey and Claire McCaskill that they should be running scared. Casey and McCaskill are among the 10 Democratic senators facing reelection next year in states that President Trump carried in 2016, often by commanding margins.

Unlikely Holdout Underscores Challenge for Senate Health Bill
Thomas Kaplan, The New York Times

Cheryl Hofstetter Duffy began by telling Senator Jerry Moran that she was a breast cancer survivor. Then she asked why the debate over the Affordable Care Act was focused on repealing and replacing the law, rather than simply making it better.

Cruz Walks Health Care Tightrope, With Eye on 2018
Bridget Bowman, Roll Call

One hour into Sen. Ted Cruz’s town hall meeting on veterans issues in McKinney, Texas, on Wednesday night, a doctor stood up and told him, “You all are scaring the living daylight out of us with the health care nonsense you’re doing.” Cruz, who has been a key player in the Senate’s health care negotiations, responded that he is fighting to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health care law, and working to expand choice and competition to lower insurance premiums.  


Black Predicts Markup of FY 2018 Budget Next Week in House
Jennifer Shutt, Roll Call

The House Budget Committee may mark up its fiscal 2018 budget resolution next week, according to Chairwoman Diane Black. The Tennessee Republican told the Rotary Club in Jackson, Tenn., on Wednesday that she’s “hoping we’re going to bring [it] up this upcoming week, when we get back and pass it out of our committee.” 

Scalise undergoes surgery for infection
Rachael Bade, Politico

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, the Louisiana Republican shot at a congressional baseball practice three weeks ago, underwent surgery to manage growing infection in his wounds, his doctors said Thursday. Scalice’s medical team at MedStar Washington Hospital Center had downgraded his status from “fair” to “serious” on Wednesday night after the infection was discovered.

One-Term Nevada Congresswoman Takes Gamble With Senate Bid
David Mark, Morning Consult

Rep. Jacky Rosen is rolling the dice by launching a Senate bid six months after joining the House. If the Nevada Democrat wins statewide in the nation’s gaming haven next year, she’ll join a select group of senators who were promoted after their first two-year House term.


Illinois Lawmakers Override Budget Veto, Ending Two-Year Stalemate
Julie Bosman and Monica Davey, The New York Times

After more than two years of political sparring, missed payments to creditors and plunging credit ratings, Illinois did on Thursday what most states do every year. It finished a budget.

South Carolina voter data heading to President Donald Trump’s fraud panel despite state election officials’ rejection
Andy Shain, The Post and Courier

What the White House wants, it seems, the White House gets. South Carolina voter information is heading to an election fraud panel started by President Donald Trump despite the S.C. Election Commission declining the group’s data request Thursday.

Maine governor suggests he makes up stories to mislead media
The Associated Press

Gov. Paul LePage lashed out at the media for reporting he planned to leave the state during a budget impasse, and he suggested he sometimes concocts stories to mislead reporters. The Republican governor also characterized the state media as “vile,” ″inaccurate” and “useless.”

EU targets Kentucky bourbon in steel retaliation
Shawn Donnan, Financial Times

EU officials have begun assembling a list of US goods including whiskey, orange juice and dairy products to target for retaliation over Donald Trump’s plans to invoke national security concerns to limit steel imports. The EU’s contingency plans, which have emerged as Mr Trump and other leaders gather at a G20 summit starting on Friday, highlight the tensions set off by the US president’s threat to impose new tariffs or quotas on steel — which analysts say could provoke a new trade war.

Andrew Cuomo Could Beat Trump … If He Can Win Over the Left First
David Freedlander, Politico

The governor of New York suddenly looks like the kind of take-no-prisoners pol his party needs. With one catch.


Square picks up new lobbying firm
Ali Breland, The Hill 

Square, Inc., a digital payments company, is recruiting the help of a new Washington, D.C., lobbying firm, according to a disclosure form released on Wednesday. The Jack Dorsey-led company will bring on Porterfield, Fettig & Sears, LLC, to help it lobby on “issues relating to payment processing, mobile payments, lending” and financial technology.

Even as they criticize Trump’s agenda, tech execs like Eric Schmidt and Elon Musk are backing Republican campaigns
Tony Romm, Recode

Even some of the tech industry’s most prominent critics of President Donald Trump are opening their checkbooks and donating to Republican lawmakers, as Silicon Valley sets its sights on the 2018 midterm election. With the entire House on next year’s ballot — and about one-third of the U.S. Senate up for a vote, too — the stakes are high for those in the Bay Area who seek to erode the GOP’s control of Congress and erect a new bulwark against Trump’s agenda in areas like immigration and climate change.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Trump’s Defining Speech
Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

The White House description of Donald Trump’s speech Thursday in Warsaw was simply, “Remarks by President Trump to the People of Poland.” In truth, Mr. Trump’s remarks were directed at the people of the world.

Surprise Us, Mr. Trump: Name an Ethics Watchdog with Teeth
The Editorial Board, The New York Times

Walter Shaub Jr. announced his resignation as director of the Office of Government Ethics on Thursday, plunging the federal government’s top ethics watchdog agency into limbo. President Trump now has the chance to appoint an accommodating loyalist who’d give him far less trouble than Mr. Shaub has.

A Pope and a President in Poland
Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal

The greatest speeches given in Poland in the modern era were delivered in June 1979 by a pope. Ten months into his papacy, John Paul II sweetly asked the government of Poland for permission to journey home from Rome to visit his people.

Attack of the Republican Decepticons
Paul Krugman, The New York Times 

Does anyone remember the “reformicons”? A couple of years back there was much talk about a new generation of Republicans who would, it was claimed, move their party off its cruel and mindless agenda of tax cuts for the rich and pain for the poor, bringing back the intellectual seriousness that supposedly used to characterize the conservative movement.

Research Reports and Polling

Plurality of Voters Want Congress to Prioritize Medicare Reform
Jon Reid, Morning Consult

More than 4 out of 10 of voters want Congress to make reforming Medicare a top legislative priority, according to Morning Consult/POLITICO polling. But though entitlement reform has historically been a focus for the GOP, congressional Republicans — under President Donald Trump — are choosing to leave the program for older Americans alone, at least in the immediate future.