Washington Brief: Trump Says 2016 Trump Tower Meeting’s Focus Was to ‘Get Information on an Opponent’

Top Stories

  • President Donald Trump said that a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between top campaign aides and a Kremlin-connected lawyer, hosted by his eldest son, was designed to “get information on an opponent,” but the president defended it as “totally legal” and said he did not know about it. The comment, made in a Sunday morning tweet, contrasts with a statement issued by Donald Trump Jr. in July 2017 that said the meeting was focused on the issue of the adoption of Russian children. (The New York Times)
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the White House is set to detail today the implementation of sanctions against Iran. The “snapback” sanctions are expected to be reimposed against Iran’s government at 12:01 a.m. EDT tomorrow, according to a Treasury Department official. (Reuters)
  • Rick Gates, a former senior Trump campaign official, is expected testify this week in the financial fraud trial of his former boss, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.  Gates – a key cooperator for special counsel Robert Mueller’s team – agreed to a plea deal earlier this year, admitting to two felony charges. (The Associated Press)

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Events Calendar (All Times Local)

No events scheduled
Hudson Institute hosts events on Pakistan after its July 25 elections 2 p.m.
CSIS hosts event on U.S. arms transfer policy 10:30 a.m.
Cato Institute hosts event on short-term health care plans 12 p.m.
Former Kavanaugh clerks participate in Heritage Foundation event 12 p.m.
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Consumer Views on Alcohol, Marijuana, and Tobacco

Get access to three new reports from Morning Consult with key insights into what Americans think about smoking and drinking.


Judge’s ruling invalidates FEC regulation allowing anonymous donations to ‘dark money’ groups
Brent D. Griffiths, Politico

A U.S. District Court judge on Friday issued a ruling invalidating a Federal Election Commission regulation that has allowed donors to so-called dark-money groups to remain anonymous, the latest development in a years-long legal battle that could have major implications for campaign finance. Judge Beryl A. Howell ruled the FEC’s current regulation of such groups, including 501(c) 4 non-profits, fails to uphold the standard Congress intended when it required the disclosure of politically related spending.

Fired-up liberals raise $1 billion on website for candidates, causes ahead of midterms
Fredreka Schouten, USA Today

The online fundraising platform ActBlue this week surged past the $1 billion mark in contributions to Democratic candidates and causes in this election cycle. The fundraising milestone, shared first with USA TODAY, offers a sign that the liberal activism fueled by President Donald Trump’s election isn’t slowing down.

U.S. Officials Push New Penalties for Hackers of Electrical Grid
Rebecca Smith, The Wall Street Journal

Top administration officials are devising new penalties to hit back more forcefully at state-sponsored hackers of critical infrastructure to deter attacks such as the successful penetration of U.S. utilities by Russian agents last year. The push for explicit action is coming from top federal agencies to fight worsening threats to the country’s electricity system and other critical industries, particularly menacing actions from Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

Russia tasks actor Steven Seagal with improving U.S. ties
Saphora Smith, NBC News

Russia has appointed actor Steven Seagal as a special envoy to improve Russian-U.S. ties. The Russian Foreign Ministry announced the appointment on Saturday saying Seagal’s role would be to develop Russian-U.S. relations in the “humanitarian” sphere, including in the fields of culture, art and youth exchanges.

A ‘Rainbow Wave’? 2018 Has More L.G.B.T. Candidates Than Ever
Liam Stack and Catie Edmondson, The New York Times

Sharice Davids, a leading Democrat in a key congressional primary election on Tuesday, finished a White House fellowship in the early months of the Trump administration. As a lesbian and a Native American, she became convinced that hard-won progress on issues like gay rights and the environment would erode under Mr. Trump, and thought Kansans in her district might support her as a counterforce to the president.

Democrats’ 2020 presidential fight gets an early dress rehearsal
David Siders, Politico

An unwieldy field of top Democrats clamored for critical ground in the run-up to the 2020 presidential primary over the weekend, courting progressive activists as they tilt toward a full-on campaign. In a three-day audition of presidential campaign themes at the annual Netroots Nation conference, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) pledged not to be “shut up” by critics of “identity politics,” while Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) lamented “things that are savagely wrong in this country.”

Judge upholds ruling that DACA must be restored
Tal Kopan and Dan Berman, CNN

A federal judge on Friday upheld his order that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program should be fully restored, setting a 20-day deadline for the administration to do so. DC District Judge John Bates said the Trump administration still has failed to justify its proposal to end DACA, the Obama-era program that has protected from deportation nearly 800,000 young undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children.


Trump tweet blaming water diversion for fires baffles experts
Jonathan Kauffman, San Francisco Chronicle

When President Trump sent his first tweet about the current California wildfires, which have killed nine people and destroyed more than 1,000 homes, he chose the moment to zero in on water policy — leaving some scratching their heads. “California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized,” he tweeted Sunday.

The real lesson Trump learned from Charlottesville
Annie Karni, Politico

The content of President Donald Trump’s dig at basketball superstar LeBron James might have been standard Trump fare — questioning the intelligence of a prominent African-American who has been critical of him — but the timing of the tweet made it stand out on Friday night. The post landed almost exactly a year after the deadly clash between white nationalists and Black Lives Matter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, when the president refused to condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis outright.


Rubio signals changes to election meddling bill
Martin Matishak, Politico

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Sunday signaled he is willing to alter bipartisan legislation that would automatically sanction Russia, or any other country, for any future election meddling in order to get it passed. The proposed bill, known as the DETER Act and backed by Rubio and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), would bar foreign governments from buying ads to influence U.S. elections and would also give the director of national intelligence the power to deploy “national security tools,” such as sanctions, if the Kremlin interferes in another American election.

Scaled-back Senate recess creates a ‘coalition of the cranky’ in Congress
Paul Kane, The Washington Post

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray knew exactly what she would miss the most because of the Republican leadership’s decision to eliminate much of the previously sacrosanct tradition of August recess. “The ability to decompress and remember why I like this job,” Murray (Wash.) said.

In Deeply Blue New Jersey, an Unexpected Battle for Senate
Nick Corasaniti, The New York Times

Senator Robert Menendez’s corruption trial had barely ended at the federal courthouse in Newark, but his team was already feverishly working the phones. Within 24 hours, nearly every major Democratic public official in New Jersey — from the newly elected governor to influential state legislators to powerful county chairs — had pledged their endorsement.

White Nationalists Love Corey Stewart. He Keeps Them Close.
Danny Hakim and Stephanie Saul, The New York Times

Corey Stewart stands at the end of a long driveway that leads back in time, to his 18th century plantation manor hidden in woods behind a modern housing development. Mr. Stewart, the Republican Senate nominee from Virginia, treats the brick home like a living museum, complete with buttons from Redcoats, a Civil War soldier’s belt buckle and a room dedicated to George and Martha Washington, who were once visitors.


Balderson won’t address Kasich claim he did not invite Trump to central Ohio
Jack Torry, Columbus Dispatch

A spokesperson for Republican congressional candidate Troy Balderson said Sunday he was “honored” to have President Donald Trump campaign for him despite Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s claim that Balderson did not invite the president to the Saturday rally in Delaware County. With Balderson finding himself at the center between an ongoing feud between Kasich and Trump on the eve of Tuesday’s special election in central Ohio, Balderson said that he “welcomed” the president to the Saturday rally where “he highlighted his support for” Trump and his agenda.

Democratic Aides on Hill Sour on Pelosi, Survey Finds
Shawn Zeller, Roll Call

In a sign of the growing unrest on the left, a plurality of Democratic congressional aides surveyed by CQ Roll Call last month said the party should replace Nancy Pelosi as leader whether Democrats win a House majority in November or not. The Capitol Insiders Survey, which CQ Roll Call emailed to aides on July 13 and remained open till July 18, drew responses from 191 aides, 103 of them Democrats, 84 Republicans and four independents.


Tossing aside skepticism, Democratic candidates for governor push for state-based universal health care
David Weigel, The Washington Post

Wherever he takes his campaign for governor, Abdul El-Sayed is followed by activists handing out information about “Medicare for all.” When he grabs the microphone, El-Sayed makes a promise: He’ll bring universal health care to Michigan.

Is Cuomo Threatening NRA’s Existence? He Says: ‘I’d Like To Believe It’s True.’
Merrit Kennedy, NPR News

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the National Rifle Association’s federal lawsuit against him is “frivolous.” The lawsuit claims that Cuomo’s policies are trying to deprive the NRA of its First Amendment rights by making it more difficult for the organization to function in the state.

Accused of Harassment, and Seeking Redemption at the Ballot Box
Julie Turkewitz and Alan Blinder, The New York Times

In Arizona, the list of women accusing former State Representative Don Shooter of sexual harassment includes a Republican colleague, a Democratic legislator, at least two lobbyists, a newspaper intern and the former publisher of The Arizona Republic. “I’m a sucker for the pretty ladies,” Mr. Shooter is said to have told one woman while shaking his pelvis in her face.

Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders work to elect first Muslim governor
Daniel Strauss, Politico

Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are joining forces to elect an underdog but potentially history-making candidate on the ballot in Michigan next week: Abdul El-Sayed, a 33-year-old physician who would be the nation’s first Muslim governor. Sanders is spending the final weekend of the race in the state, and Ocasio-Cortez was there last week to campaign with El-Sayed ahead of Tuesday’s Democratic primary.


Corporate America hikes contributions to key Democrats
Theodoric Meyer, Politico

Corporate PACs are increasing their contributions to several Democrats who are in line to lead powerful committees if their party retakes the House in November, another sign of the burgeoning expectations for Democrats’ showing in the midterms. The uptick comes as tensions grow in the party between lawmakers who rake in money from corporate PACs and the activists who decry such contributions as a corrupting influence.

America First Policies to target red-state Dems with TV ads backing Kavanaugh
Christopher Cadelago, Politico

President Donald Trump’s allies are escalating their support of his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, sinking millions more into pressure campaigns on red-state Democrats facing tough re-election fights in November. America First Policies, a Trump-aligned advocacy group promoting the president’s nominee with a seven-figure effort, will take to broadcast TV beginning Wednesday with ads against Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, according to information the group provided to POLITICO.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

In 2008, America Stopped Believing in the American Dream
Frank Rich, New York Magazine

If you were standing in the smoldering ashes of 9/11 trying to peer into the future, you might have been overjoyed to discover this happy snapshot of 2018: There has been no subsequent major terrorist attack on America from Al Qaeda or its heirs. American troops are not committed en masse to any ground war.

Friess right choice for Wyoming
Donald Trump Jr., Casper Star Tribune

From the plains to the mountains, Wyoming is filled with hard-working and God-loving Americans, and the people of Wyoming are those who make up the backbone of our country. I love Wyoming, and that is why I believe that a strong, effective and conservative leader will help keep Wyoming successful and free.

North Korea’s Complaint
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

The U.S. and North Korea are again publicly disagreeing about progress toward the North’s denuclearization, and that’s no surprise. This was likely to happen once President Trump agreed to “phased” progress and dropped demands that the North agree up front to reveal and dismantle weapons.

Migrant kids were stripped, drugged, locked away. So much for compassion.
Editorial Board, The Washington Post

When accounts of abuse emerged in June from a detention center for migrant minors in Virginia — children as young as 14 stripped naked, shackled, strapped to chairs, their heads encased in bags, left for days or longer in solitary confinement, and in some cases beaten and bruised — it sounded like a scene from the Soviet gulag. This institution, the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center, near Staunton, couldn’t possibly be in America.

Research Reports and Polling

A Database on the Passage and Enactment of Recent State Minimum Wage Increases
Jeffrey Clemens et al., American Enterprise Institute

This paper presents a dataset that tracks effective minimum wage rates across the U.S. states, including the District of Columbia, from January 1, 2011 to January 1, 2018. We link minimum wage changes to their underlying legislation or ballot initiative and document key dates in their legislative histories. 

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