Washington Brief: Trump Defends Son’s Role in Russia Email Scandal

Washington Brief

  • President Donald Trump came to the defense of his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., after emails revealed he was offered damaging information on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in June 2016 from a Russian lawyer. Following Trump Jr.’s interview on Fox News, the president said his son “was open, transparent and innocent.” (The New York Times)
  • Christopher Wray, Trump’s nominee to lead the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is scheduled to be on Capitol Hill today for what could be a tough Senate confirmation hearing over issues like the Russia investigation and morale of FBI agents. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who canceled the Senate’s first two weeks of August recess, said revised text for the leadership-backed health care bill will be introduced Thursday. He said his goal is for the Congressional Budget Office to score the measure early next week before proceeding to a vote that same week. (The Hill)
  • The House Appropriations Committee introduced legislation that would fund Trump’s border wall, a provision that could spark a government shutdown fight if the bill makes it to the Senate intact. Senate Democrats are likely to object to including the provision in a government spending bill for fiscal 2018, which begins on Oct. 1. (Politico)
  • A plurality of registered voters (40 percent) said North Korea is the top threat to the United States, according to a new poll. Thirty percent said the Islamic State terror group is the biggest threat, while 16 percent said it’s Russia. (Morning Consult)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Wednesday
Sen. Casey, former Sen. Lugar speak at CSIS event on global food security 8:30 a.m.
Confirmation hearing for FBI director nominee Christopher Wray 9:30 a.m.
Sens. Flake, Kaine speak at Wilson Center event on ISIS 9:30 a.m.
Fed’s Yellen testifies before House Financial Services Committee 10 a.m.
Alaska Gov. Walker speaks at National Press Club 10 a.m.
Heritage Foundation event on causes, costs and consequences of U.S. debt 12 p.m.
Thursday
Rep. Cicilline speaks at Brookings Institution event on manufacturing 9 a.m.
House Ways and Means Committee hearing on tax reform 10 a.m.
Fed’s Yellen testifies before Senate Banking Committee 10 a.m.
Friday
No events scheduled

 

General

How will FBI nominee Wray deal with Trump?
Devlin Barrett and Ellen Nakashima, The Washington Post

When Christopher A. Wray hired a new deputy at Justice Department headquarters in the summer of 2003, he issued a warning: There could come a moment when they might have to resign rather than carry out an order that violated their sense of the law. Within a year, that warning proved prophetic.

Donna Brazile to publish book on 2016 titled ‘Hacks’
Edward-Isaac Dovere, Politico

Donna Brazile will celebrate the one-year anniversary of President Donald Trump’s election with the publication of her book “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House.” Brazile was chosen as interim Democratic National Committee chair after the Wikileaks release of internal party emails last year precipitated the resignation of Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Russian diplomacy about to get tougher edge in Washington
Ali Watkins, Politico

A new — and likely more aggressive — chapter in Russian diplomacy is about to begin in Washington with the departure of Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, whose soft-power approach to D.C. will be taken over by noted hardliner Anatoly Antonov. The switch in what has become one of Washington’s most scrutinized jobs comes as the controversy over President Donald Trump and his allies’ ties to Moscow intensifies, especially with the revelation that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer at the height of the campaign after being told she could provide damaging information on Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Sources: Cohn is Trump’s top candidate to replace Yellen at Fed
Ben White and Victoria Guida, Politico

President Donald Trump is increasingly unlikely to nominate Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen next year for a second term, four people close to the process said. National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn is now the leading candidate to succeed Yellen as the world’s most important central banker, these people said.

‘Morning Joe’ co-host Joe Scarborough is leaving the Republican Party
Katie Mettler, The Washington Post

Joe Scarborough, the conservative co-host of MSNBC’s political commentary show “Morning Joe,” is leaving the Republican Party. He made the announcement Tuesday night during an appearance on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” alongside his co-host Mika Brzezinski.

Presidential

Russian Dirt on Clinton? ‘I Love It,’ Donald Trump Jr. Said
Jo Becker et al., The New York Times

The June 3, 2016, email sent to Donald Trump Jr. could hardly have been more explicit: One of his father’s former Russian business partners had been contacted by a senior Russian government official and was offering to provide the Trump campaign with dirt on Hillary Clinton. The documents “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father,” read the email, written by a trusted intermediary, who added, “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

Even in the take-no-prisoners world of opposition research, Trump Jr.’s meeting was highly unusual
David A. Fahrenthold, The Washington Post  

Donald Trump Jr. said Tuesday that he agreed to a meeting with a Russian lawyer during last year’s campaign because he believed that the individual had information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. “I thought [the information] was Political Opposition Research,” Trump Jr. wrote on Twitter, in a statement explaining why he’d agreed to meet the lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya.

Trump-Russia investigators probe Jared Kushner-run digital operation
Peter Stone and Greg Gordon, McClatchy DC

Investigators at the House and Senate Intelligence committees and the Justice Department are examining whether the Trump campaign’s digital operation – overseen by Jared Kushner – helped guide Russia’s sophisticated voter targeting and fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton in 2016. Congressional and Justice Department investigators are focusing on whether Trump’s campaign pointed Russian cyber operatives to certain voting jurisdictions in key states – areas where Trump’s digital team and Republican operatives were spotting unexpected weakness in voter support for Hillary Clinton, according to several people familiar with the parallel inquiries.

The Everybody-Does-It Defense of Collusion
McKay Coppins and Rosie Gray, The Atlantic

As evidence continues to mount suggesting the Trump campaign worked with Russia to influence the 2016 election, the president’s allies have shifted to a new defense: Collusion is no big deal. For months, the White House has fervently denied allegations of collusion, with President Trump routinely dismissing Russia stories in the press as “fake news,” and calling himself the victim of an historically unprecedented “witch hunt.”

Paris, much maligned by Trump, set to welcome him
Matthew Nussbaum, Politico

Since before there was a United States, Americans have had a love affair with Paris. President Donald Trump, who will leave for the French capital on Wednesday, does not share that affection.

Senate

Christopher Wray to Face Tough Questions at Confirmation Hearing as FBI Chief
Aruna Viswanatha, The Wall Street Journal

Christopher Wray, President Donald Trump’s pick to lead the FBI, is set to appear before lawmakers Wednesday morning in what is likely to be a contentious session exploring the firing of the last director, James Comey, and the relationship between the bureau and the White House. Mr. Wray, a low-profile former Justice Department official and a successful defense lawyer, is expected to face questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee about how he plans to maintain independence from the White House and how he can steady an agency that has come under fire from all sides of the political spectrum.

Senate GOP to release updated ObamaCare repeal bill Thursday
Jordain Carney, The Hill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Republicans will unveil a new draft of a healthcare reform bill on Thursday. “We’ll be laying out … the text of that on Thursday morning,” McConnell told reporters following a meeting of his conference.

Graham drafting alternative heath care plan
Austin Wright, Politico

Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Tuesday that he’s working with other senators to draft an alternative plan to replace Obamacare — and he hopes to win Democratic support. The surprising comments by the South Carolina Republican come as Senate GOP leaders struggle to come up with the 50 votes necessary to pass their bill to repeal and replace the 2010 health law.

Republicans Reluctantly Acknowledge a Failure of Governing
Carl Hulse, The New York Times

Republicans are failing at governance. And they know it. Their senatorially painful decision announced on Tuesday to sacrifice some of lawmakers’ usually sacrosanct August recess was a public confession that they have not gotten the job done even while controlling the White House, Senate and House of Representatives.

Missouri Senate race catches Vice President Pence’s attention
Deirdre Shesgreen, USA Today

The Missouri Senate race is getting attention from powerful players in Washington — including Vice President Mike Pence. Pence and Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., discussed the race over the weekend, while they were horseback riding together in Washington.

House

GOP ready to fund border wall, setting up shutdown fight
Rachael Bade and Seung Min Kim, Politico

House Republicans are ready to provide a down payment on President Donald Trump’s border wall with Mexico, reigniting a fight that could lead to a government shutdown this fall. In a nod to Trump’s signature campaign promise, the House Appropriations Committee unveiled a bill to fund homeland security Tuesday that matches the administration’s request for $1.6 billion for the next fiscal year.

Gowdy fumes at Trump administration over latest Russia controversy
Rachael Bade, Politico

House Oversight Chairman Trey Gowdy lashed out at the Trump administration Tuesday over the “drip, drip” in the ongoing Russia controversy, sarcastically suggesting that officials get checked for amnesia about any contacts with Russia. The South Carolina Republican first appeared on Fox News Tuesday night expressing concerns about email traffic showing that Donald Trump Jr. was not only aware that the Russian government was gathering intelligence on Hillary Clinton to help his father’s election, but that he also knowingly met with a Kremlin-backed lawyer claiming to want to share incriminating documents with the Trump campaign.

Fed’s Yellen Likely to Discuss Rates, Balance Sheet in Congressional Testimony
David Harrison, The Wall Street Journal

Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen heads to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to address the House Financial Services Committee in her twice-yearly Humphrey Hawkins testimony and to take questions from lawmakers. She will deliver the same testimony at a separate hearing of the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday.

States

Ed Perlmutter cites shooting of Steve Scalise, lack of “fire in belly” as reasons to exit politics
John Frank, The Denver Post

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, shaken by the shooting of colleague Steve Scalise, announced Tuesday he is exiting the governor’s race and relinquishing his seat in Congress at the end of his term. The six-term Arvada Democrat launched his 2018 gubernatorial bid three months ago only to see his momentum blunted by the entry of his friend, U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat with deep pockets to fuel a campaign.

Amid Missouri U.S. Senate chatter, Eric Schmitt pans Illinois budget
Jason Hancock, The Kansas City Star

Missouri Treasurer Eric Schmitt told reporters Tuesday that Illinois lawmakers had created a state budget disaster in recent years. At a news conference along the Mississippi River in St. Louis, the first-term Republican urged Missouri legislators to learn from Illinois’ experience and plot a different course that included further cutting taxes, shrinking government and addressing state worker pensions.

Advocacy

AT&T joins net neutrality rally organized by groups that oppose its views on open internet rules
Tom Benning, The Dallas Morning News

The scores of tech companies and consumer activist groups who are launching an online “day of action” on Wednesday to promote net neutrality have received a surprise addition to their ranks: Dallas-based AT&T. Yes, the same telecom giant that has clashed with those entities over how to exactly enforce an open internet.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

Do you know how the Durbin amendment is affecting you? For nearly six years, big-box stores have used this policy to pocket more than $42 billion instead of passing along savings to consumers as promised. Check out the Electronic Payments Coalition’s video to learn more.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Keystone Kops Collusion
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

President Trump’s critics claim to have uncovered proof, finally, of 2016 collusion between the campaign and the Kremlin. Another reading of the meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a well-connected Russian lawyer is, well, political farce.

Donald Trump Jr. Makes the Russian Connection
The Editorial Board, The New York Times

All along, the truth was right there in the emails — Donald Trump Jr.’s emails, that is, which he released publicly on Twitter Tuesday morning after learning that The New York Times was about to publish their contents. In language so blunt and obvious it would make a Hollywood screenwriter blush, the emails confirm what the president, his son and others have denied repeatedly for more than a year: that top members of the Trump campaign met with representatives of the Russian government in the expectation of help in damaging Hillary Clinton and getting Donald Trump elected.

There Is Now Evidence that Senior Trump Officials Attempted to Collude With Russia
David French, National Review

Just hours ago, Donald Trump Jr. released one of the more astounding e-mail chains of the entire Russia controversy. The end result is that Americans may now be introduced to the term “attempted collusion.”

The Swamp Looks Pretty Good Compared to Trumpistan
Matt Lewis, The Daily Beast

Modern democratic politics, with its emphasis on things like transparency and full participation, has spawned a cottage industry of ironic “think pieces” lamenting the fall of the “good ol’ boy” network. Generally, these essays argue that smoke-filled backrooms where bosses and cronies would horse trade and get things done weren’t so bad after all.

Cruz-Lee consumer choice amendment helps Republicans keep Obamacare promise
Jim Jordan, The Resurgent

For the past six years, Republicans have been consistently campaigning on a promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. We won the House of Representatives in 2010, the Senate in 2014 and the White House in 2016 in no small part due to this one promise. Now it is time to keep that promise.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition:

Debit interchange convenience fees – the small charges retailers pay for the flexibility of accepting cards – make card transactions possible, secure, and reliable. Yet, the Durbin amendment changed the way this once reasonable cost of business is calculated, without providing any benefits to customers, small businesses, community banks, or credit unions. Find out why the Durbin amendment must be repealed in a video from EPC.

Research Reports and Polling

North Korea More Dangerous Than ISIS, Plurality of Voters Say
Cameron Easley, Morning Consult

A plurality of registered voters view North Korea as the greatest threat to America’s national security following the Asian country’s successful test last week of a intercontinental ballistic missile, according to a new Morning Consult/POLITICO survey. In the survey, conducted days after the July Fourth holiday launch of “Hwasong-14,” 40 percent of registered voters said North Korea was the top threat to the United States, followed by 30 percent who considered the Islamic State terror group in Iraq and Syria to be the biggest threat and 16 percent who said Russia.

Voters Sour on GOP Senators From Medicaid Expansion States
Jon Reid, Morning Consult

Most Republican senators are less popular than they were earlier this year — regardless of their position on GOP leaders’ plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. But some of the largest dips in approval have occurred among Republicans hailing from states that opted to expand Medicaid under Obamacare, according to the new Morning Consult Senate Approval Rankings.

Briefings

Washington Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

President Donald Trump defended his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., after it was revealed that in June 2016 he met with a Russian lawyer who has ties to the Kremlin. The meeting came after he was led to believe the lawyer would provide damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and that the information was part of the Russian government’s effort to assist his father’s presidential campaign. The meeting included a Russian-American lawyer who’s a former Russian intelligence officer

Washington Brief: Trump Says He Didn’t Learn of Son’s Meeting With Russian Lawyer Until This Week

President Donald Trump said he did not hear “until a couple of days ago” about a June 2016 meeting between his son, Donald Trump Jr., and a Russian lawyer who might have had damaging information on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. He also said he spent more than 20 minutes of his two-hour meeting last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin pressing him on election meddling.

Washington Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

The Supreme Court allowed part of President Donald Trump’s travel ban to take effect, while saying the temporary restrictions could not be imposed on people who have a “bona fide relationship” with a person or entity in the United States. Hawaii brought forth a legal challenge that asked a federal judge to clarify whether the Department of Homeland Security violated the Supreme Court’s instructions regarding which family members qualify as having bona fide relationships.

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