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Washington Brief: China Urges US to Talk to North Korea


Top Stories

  • As the U.S. pressures it to act on the growing North Korean threat, China is dodging the blame. A state-run newspaper said the U.S. should talk to North Korea rather than “hurling insults,” seemingly a jab at President Donald Trump’s rhetoric. (The Washington Post)
  • Federal investigators sought cooperation from the son-in-law of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, as they investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 elections as well as Manafort’s own business and real estate transactions. (Politico)
  • A number of rank-and-file Democrats, and some Republicans, have said Trump should go to Congress to request an authorization of military force should he try to make good on his threat of “fire and fury” on North Korea. Congressional leaders have been largely silent on the issue. (The Hill)
  • A group of American diplomats posted in Cuba are said to be suffering from severe hearing loss attributed to a covert sonic device. The U.S. re-opened diplomatic relations with the country in 2015. (The Associated Press)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Thursday
House Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing on rural care 9:30 a.m.
Public Citizen event on the Regulatory Accountability Act 10 a.m.
Friday
Mitchell Institute event on nuclear deterrence 8 a.m.
Heritage Foundation event on U.S.-Taiwan relations 1:30 p.m.
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General

Dodging blame, China urges U.S. to stop hurling threats at North Korea
Simon Denyer, The Washington Post 

In the eyes of many Americans, China bears a huge responsibility for the North Korea crisis for failing to rein its aggressive and volatile ally in Pyongyang. But in Beijing, the story is told very differently.

Feds sought cooperation from Manafort’s son-in-law
Josh Dawsey and Darren Samuelsohn, Politico 

Federal investigators sought cooperation from Paul Manafort’s son-in-law in an effort to increase pressure on President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, according to three people familiar with the probe. Investigators approached Jeffrey Yohai, who has partnered in business deals with Manafort, earlier this summer, setting off “real waves” in Manafort’s orbit, one of these people said.

Hearing loss of US diplomats in Cuba blamed on covert device
Matthew Lee and Michael Weissenstein, The Associated Press 

The two-year-old U.S. diplomatic relationship with Cuba was roiled Wednesday by what U.S. officials say was a string of bizarre incidents that left a group of American diplomats in Havana with severe hearing loss attributed to a covert sonic device. In the fall of 2016, a series of U.S. diplomats began suffering unexplained losses of hearing, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation into the case.

North Korea Says It Might Fire Missiles Into Waters Near Guam
Choe Sang-Hun, The New York Times 

North Korea said Thursday that it was drawing up plans to launch four intermediate-range ballistic missiles into waters near Guam in the Western Pacific to teach President Trump a lesson, a day after the president warned of “fire and fury” against the North if it persisted in threatening the United States. If the North were to follow through on its threat to launch an “enveloping strike” in the vicinity of Guam, it would be the first time that a North Korean missile landed so close to an American territory.

U.S. envoy to U.N. will go to Vienna to review Iran nuclear activities – U.S. official
Michelle Nichols, Reuters 

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley will travel to Vienna later this month to discuss Iran’s nuclear activities with U.N. atomic watchdog officials, a U.S. official said on Wednesday, as part of Washington’s review of Tehran’s compliance with a 2015 nuclear deal. The official told Reuters that Haley, a member of President Donald Trump’s cabinet, would meet with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials and the U.S. delegation in Vienna to further explore the extent of Iran’s nuclear activities.

Russian surveillance plane soars over the Pentagon, Capitol and other Washington sights
Dan Lamothe, The Washington Post 

A Russian surveillance plane soared through secure airspace over Washington on Wednesday, presumably collecting intelligence as it traveled near the Pentagon, the Capitol and other government buildings, two U.S. officials said. The Russian Air Force Tupolev Tu-154 aircraft made the flight through the Treaty on Open Skies, which Russia, the United States and 32 other nations have signed.

Presidential

Trump sparks debate over war resolution for North Korea
Scott Wong, The Hill 

President Trump’s warning that North Korea could “face fire and fury like the world has never seen” has reignited a debate about whether the commander in chief needs congressional approval before launching a preemptive military strike. So far, congressional leaders from both parties have been silent on the issue.

Trump’s Threat to North Korea Was Improvised
Glenn Thrush and Peter Baker, The New York Times 

President Trump’s aides knew he planned to deliver a tough message to North Korea on Tuesday, but they did not expect a threat that rivaled the apocalyptic taunts often used by his target, Kim Jong-un. The president’s language, which aides say he had used in private, escalated the long-running dispute with North Korea to a new level and left members of the Trump administration scrambling on Wednesday to explain what he meant.

Inflatable Trump chicken takes roost outside White House
The Associated Press 

President Donald Trump may be out of town, but one plucky protester is keeping an eye on the White House. A giant inflatable chicken bearing the unmistakable hairstyle of the commander in chief transfixed tourists and television cameras in the nation’s capital Wednesday afternoon.

Senate

Top Trump donor ponies up to take out Flake
Alex Isenstadt, Politico 

One of Donald Trump’s most generous political benefactors is providing a six-figure donation to a super PAC devoted to unseating Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who has been fiercely critical of the president. Robert Mercer, a reclusive hedge fund billionaire who was intimately involved in Trump’s rise and helped to bankroll his 2016 campaign, is contributing $300,000 to a super PAC supporting former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who is challenging Flake in a Republican primary next year.

Jenkins Maintains Morrisey Attacks in W.Va. Race Despite New Circumstances
Eli Yokley, Morning Consult 

Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) is continuing a line of attack against his rival for the Republican nomination to challenge Sen. Joe Manchin (D) next year, even though political circumstances in his state have eliminated a core assumption of his case. Even before West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) entered the race, Jenkins suggested such a campaign would jeopardize the party’s hold on the office.

Ted Cruz’s Democratic challenger tries to steal his tea party
Andrea Drusch, McClatchy DC 

Ted Cruz’s Democratic challenger is working overtime to drive a wedge between the senator and his base on one of his central issues — criminal justice reform. Over the past six months, Rep. Beto O’Rourke has reached out to members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus to collaborate on the issue, hosted a Facebook Live event with them to talk marijuana policy, and sought support from the conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks for a criminal justice bill he introduced in the House.

House

FBI searched campaign office tied to Duncan Hunter
Rachael Bade, Politico 

The FBI in late February raided the offices of GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter’s campaign treasurer as part of an ongoing criminal investigation into allegations the California Republican used tens of thousands of dollars in campaign funds for personal expenses, court documents show. Federal law-enforcement officials on Feb. 23 seized several computers, tablets and iPads, bills and disbursement records, as well as a computer hard drive, from Election CFO, an Alexandria, Virginia.-based company that handled the California Republican’s campaign finances.

Blowback from staffer scandal burns Wasserman Schultz
Marc Caputo, Politico 

The chatter about a House leadership post is gone. So is talk of statewide office. After Hillary Clinton’s defeat, there’s no prospect of an administration job for Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Rep. Holding won’t have a town hall. Democrats are trying to make that a big issue
Brian Murphy, The News & Observer 

U.S. Rep. George Holding doesn’t plan to hold a town hall meeting with constituents during Congress’ August recess.The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee wants to make sure voters in North Carolina’s 2nd District know that.

States

West Virginia Gov. Justice Asks Trump for $4.5 Billion to Save Eastern Coal
Dan Molinski, The Wall Street Journal 

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice is asking President Donald Trump to extend his support for the coal industry by providing some $4.5 billion a year in federal funding for Eastern coal, a proposal miners in Western states say goes against free-market principles. The governor, who days ago switched parties to Republican from Democrat, said in an telephone interview Wednesday that Mr. Trump’s elimination of burdensome regulations have been very helpful in starting to get the U.S. coal industry back on its feet.

Senate Republican leader raises questions on Foxconn deal, says he doesn’t have votes yet
Patrick Marley et al., The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

The leader of the state Senate said Wednesday that he does not yet have the votes to approve a $3 billion incentive package to lure Foxconn Technology Group of Taiwan to southeastern Wisconsin and raised serious concerns about elements of the deal. “We should be cautious,” Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) told reporters after privately meeting with Gov. Scott Walker for an hour.

Democratic Fight in California Is a Warning for the National Party
Adam Nagourney, The New York Times

For Democrats across the nation, California has offered a bright if lonely light this year. The party controls every statewide office and commands supermajorities in the Legislature.

Kansas Senate GOP leader Fasano will not run for governor in ’18
Mark Pazniokas, The Connecticut Monitor 

Senate Republican leader Len Fasano of North Haven said Wednesday he will not join the crowded field of Republicans in the open race for governor in 2018, simplifying life at the Capitol should his House GOP counterpart decide to run. Fasano, 59, a lawyer elected to the state Senate in 2002, publicized his decision in a press release after informing members of the Senate GOP caucus Tuesday night.

Whitmer replaces manager in campaign shake-up
Jonathan Oosting, The Detroit News 

Democratic gubernatorial front-runner Gretchen Whitmer has replaced her campaign manager, the latest shake-up for the former state Senate minority leader working to solidify support ahead of the 2018 primary. Michigan native Keenan Pontoni is coming home to work for Whitmer, her campaign said Tuesday.

Advocacy

Emanuel warns those emailing him for favors about Chicago’s ‘strict lobbyist rules’
Bill Ruthart, Chicago Tribune

As Chicago ethics officials were reviewing nearly 30 cases of possible lobbying violations in his personal emails, Mayor Rahm Emanuel warned at least two people writing him for government favors that they should be careful not to break City Hall lobbying laws, newly released emails show. Late last year, Emanuel made public a trove of emails from his personal accounts under pressure from lawsuits from the Chicago Tribune and Better Government Association.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Women Will Pave the Path to Democratic Gains 
Stephanie Schriock, Morning Consult 

In the past six months, congressional Republicans have illustrated just how little they consider the needs of the women and families they were elected to represent. Despite peddling a deeply unpopular repeal of the Affordable Care Act, a vast majority of Republicans in the House forced through a bill that would leave tens of millions without health coverage.

It’s Not Too Late on North Korea
Susan E. Rice, The New York Times 

North Korea’s substantial nuclear arsenal and improving intercontinental ballistic missile capacity pose a growing threat to America’s security. But we need not face an immediate crisis if we play our hand carefully.

Trumpian Fury on North Korea
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal 

When Donald Trump threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” Tuesday if it continues to menace the U.S. with nuclear weapons, he provoked almost as much backlash at home as in Pyongyang. The usual diplomatic suspects, including some American lawmakers, claimed his remarks hurt U.S. credibility and were irresponsible.

McConnell’s Nasty Piece of Sanctimonious Balderdash
The Editors, The Weekly Standard 

On August 15, Alabama Republicans will begin to choose their candidate for the race to fill Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat. If none of the 9 candidates wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two will face each other in a runoff on September 26.

Perle of Wisdom on North Korea
Jonah Goldberg, National Review

Back in 1994, I was a young producer on a new PBS program called “Think Tank with Ben Wattenberg.” One of our first shows was “Defusing the North Korean Bomb” and one of our guests was Richard “Prince of Darkness” Perle.

Who are you calling a ‘warmonger’?
James Kirchick, The Los Angeles Times 

Do you believe that economic sanctions are necessary to prevent the Iranian government from obtaining nuclear weapons? That small, Eastern European democracies living in the shadow of an aggressive Russia ought have the choice to join a defensive military alliance?

Research Reports and Polling

Republicans’ Approval of Congress Drops to New 2017 Low
Justin McCarthy, Gallup 

Despite their party controlling both chambers of Congress, only one in six Republicans (16%) approve of the job Congress is doing, the lowest yet in 2017. GOP approval has sharply declined this legislative session as congressional Republicans have struggled to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Most Americans Think US-North Korea Relations Have Worsened Under Trump
Eli Yokley, Morning Consult 

Most Americans think the United States’ relations with North Korea have deteriorated since President Donald Trump took office in January amid new provocations and U.S. military activity near the peninsula. According to a new Morning Consult/POLITICO poll conducted last week, 62 percent of voters said U.S. relations with North Korea have gotten worse since Trump’s inauguration.