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

Washington Brief

  • 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. (Reuters)
  • Elizabeth MacDonough, the Senate’s parliamentarian, said the House-passed health care bill complies with Senate rules, meaning the chamber can take up the House measure and amend it with a revised Senate GOP proposal that’s set for release today. (Roll Call)
  • Speaking at his Senate confirmation hearing, Federal Bureau of Investigation director nominee Christopher Wray said he had not been asked to pledge his loyalty to Trump, who nominated him, and said he would report any attempts to interfere with the FBI’s Russia investigation to the special counsel. Wray received bipartisan praise at the hearing, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said he would like to see Wray confirmed before the August recess. (Politico)
  • Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen will be back on Capitol Hill today, this time on the Senate side, for a Banking Committee hearing that could be her last. Trump is considering replacing her when her term expires in February. (The Wall Street Journal)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

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.
No events scheduled



Wray: I’ve given no loyalty oath to Trump
Seung Min Kim et al., Politico 

Christopher Wray vowed Wednesday to remain independent of any pressure if he’s confirmed to lead the FBI — pledging to adhere to the “Constitution and the rule of law” as head of the bureau, “no matter the test.” Wray also testified that he did not have any conversations with anyone in the White House about the firing of his predecessor, James Comey.

Email Chain Turns Focus to Trump’s Miss Universe Ally in Moscow
Ilya Arkhipov and Tom Metcalf, Bloomberg  

He’s a real estate mogul with a pop-star son whose Trump Tower-sized ambitions helped bring the Miss Universe pageant to Moscow. But now, Aras Agalarov’s cameo appearance in the emails released by President Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., has drawn him into the firestorm around alleged Kremlin meddling in the U.S. election last fall.


Trump says he does not fault son for meeting Russian lawyer
Steve Holland, Reuters

U.S President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he did not fault his son Donald Trump Jr. for meeting with a Russian lawyer during the 2016 presidential election campaign and that he was unaware of the meeting until a few days ago. Asked if he knew that his son was meeting with lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June last year, the president told Reuters in a White House interview: “No, that I didn’t know until a couple of days ago when I heard about this.”

Russian Officials Overheard Discussing Trump Associates Before Campaign Began
Shane Harris, The Wall Street Journal 

U.S. intelligence agencies starting in the spring of 2015 detected conversations in which Russian government officials discussed associates of Donald Trump, several months before he declared his candidacy for president, according to current and former U.S. officials. In some cases, the Russians in the overheard conversations talked about meetings held outside the U.S. involving Russian government officials and Trump business associates or advisers, these people said.

Conspiracy or Coincidence? A Timeline Open to Interpretation
Peter Baker, The New York Times

At 6:14 p.m. on June 7, 2016, Donald Trump Jr. clicked the send button on an email to confirm a meeting with a woman described as a “Russian government attorney” who would give him “information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia.” Three hours later, his father, Donald J. Trump, claimed victory in the final primary races propelling him to the Republican presidential nomination and a general election contest against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Trump lawyers want wall between Kushner, president
Jonathan Swan, Axios

President Trump’s outside legal team wants to wall off Jared Kushner from discussing the Russia investigation with his father-in-law, according to sources with direct knowledge of the discussions. Members of Trump’s legal team — which is led by longtime Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz, and includes conservative legal firebrand Jay Sekulow — are trying to cloak their startling demand with the two-word message to Kushner: Nothing personal.

Trump loves a military parade — it’s one reason he’s heading to Paris
Jenna Johnson and and James McAuley, The Washington Post  

President Trump was not expected to attend France’s Bastille Day, which this year will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the United States’ entry into World War I. But then he learned there would be a military parade.


Senate Parliamentarian Backs Republicans on Health Law Question
Paul M. Krawzak, Roll Call

Senate Republicans have won an argument before the parliamentarian that will allow a House-passed health care reconciliation bill to be taken up and amended in the Senate next week without any obstacle, CQ Roll Call has learned. After hearing arguments weeks ago from Democratic and Republican aides, Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough issued her opinion that the House bill (HR 1628) complies with jurisdictional requirements within Senate reconciliation instructions.

Yellen Set to Testify Before Senate Panel on Interest Rates, Regulation
Nick Timiraos, The Wall Street Journal

Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen returns to Capitol Hill Thursday for a second day of testimony on the economy, monetary policy and financial regulation, this time before the Senate Banking Committee. The hearing begins at 9:30 a.m. EDT, with Ms. Yellen delivering the same prepared remarks she gave Wednesday to the House Financial Services Committee.

After near miss in Va. governor’s race, Corey Stewart says he will challenge Sen. Tim Kaine in 2018
Antonio Olivo and Jenna Portnoy, The Washington Post

Corey Stewart, the Prince William Republican who nearly won the GOP nomination for Virginia governor last month by running a populist campaign that celebrated the Confederacy and slammed illegal immigrants, says he will challenge Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) in 2018. The move pits a hard-charging supporter of President Trump against Hillary Clinton’s former running mate in a state that often embodies the nation’s political crosscurrents.

Stabenow fundraising off rumored Kid Rock challenge
Judy Kurtz, The Hill 

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is already fundraising off of the possibility that she may face a surprising contender in her 2018 reelection bid…Kid Rock. “This afternoon, Kid Rock tweeted out that he was going to have a big announcement and hinted that he was going to challenge me for the U.S. Senate,” a Wednesday email from Stabenow’s campaign read.

Alabama GOP Senate Candidates Fight Over Loyalty to Trump
Simone Pathé, Roll Call

President Donald Trump may be embroiled in scandal in Washington, D.C. But in Alabama — a state he won by nearly 30 points last fall — he remains extremely popular. Look no farther the the state’s midsummer Republican Senate primary, where 10 candidates are running for the nomination to fill out the term of former Sen. Jeff Sessions, now Trump’s attorney general.


Ryan tries to control growing movement to re-open war debate
Austin Wright, Politico 

House Speaker Paul Ryan met with anti-war Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee on Wednesday as he sought to take control of growing bipartisan demands for a new debate on the 16-year-old military fight against terrorism. Ryan and Lee had a “robust discussion” on the House floor about an amendment she pushed through the House Appropriations Committee last month that would repeal Congress’ 2001 authorization for force against groups like Al Qaeda, Lee spokesman Christopher Huntley said.

Paul Ryan: Russian meddling in U.S. election is ‘absolutely unacceptable’
Erin Kelly, USA Today

House Speaker Paul Ryan said Wednesday it is “absolutely unacceptable” that Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election and urged congressional investigators and special counsel Robert Mueller to get to the truth. “I think it’s very important that these professionals and these (House and Senate) committees do their jobs so that we can get to the bottom of all of this,” the Wisconsin Republican told reporters at the weekly news conference held by GOP House leaders.


Ducey is ‘very concerned’ with how GOP health bill could affect Arizona

Amid talks on Capitol Hill to pass a Republican health care bill to replace Obamacare, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey expressed concerns. In his monthly visit with KTAR News’ Mac and Gaydos on Monday, Ducey was asked whether he’d had ongoing discussions with Arizona Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain over the recent GOP proposal.

Gillespie’s primary scare has White House, others urging ‘Trump world’ hires
Laura Vozzella, The Washington Post

Alarmed that Ed Gillespie barely won the Virginia GOP primary for governor in June, top Republicans from the White House on down are pushing him to hire some of the president’s strategists and more aggressively court Trump voters, according to Republicans with direct knowledge of those efforts. In addition, the Republican National Committee has taken charge of field operations for the Gillespie campaign, according to two Republicans who called it a sign that the national party is worried about Gillespie’s team.

Treasurer won’t pay two Hogan Cabinet secretaries who weren’t confirmed
Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun  

Maryland Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp is refusing to pay the salaries of two of Gov. Larry Hogan’s cabinet appointees who failed to win Senate confirmation this year — a move that sets up a potential court battle over the constitutional powers of the executive and legislative branches of government. Doug Mayer, a spokesman for the Republican governor, called the decision of the Democratic treasurer to cut off pay for the health and planning secretaries “unprecedented and wrong on many levels.”

Teen Abortions Surged In Texas After Republicans Defunded Planned Parenthood
Laura Bassett, The Huffington Post 

Republicans are trying to find a way to defund Planned Parenthood as part of an overall effort to limit abortion in America. But doing so had the opposite effect in Texas, according to a new study based on research from Texas A&M University.


Ad Campaign Targets Brady, Roskam on Border Adjustment Tax
Ryan Rainey, Morning Consult

The conservative group Freedom Partners is for the first time targeting individual lawmakers involved in the tax-reform debate, with digital advertisements calling for them to support a proposal that does not include a border adjustable tax on imports. The border tax ad campaign focuses on two Republicans — House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Ways and Means tax policy subcommittee Chairman Peter Roskam (R-Ill.).

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

Trump Vision for America Abroad
Gary D. Cohn and H.R. McMaster, The New York Times

President Trump just concluded a second overseas trip to further advance America’s interests and values, and to strengthen our alliances around the world. Both this and his first trip demonstrated the resurgence of American leadership to bolster common interests, affirm shared values, confront mutual threats and achieve renewed prosperity.

How to make the Islamic State’s defeat last
Ash Carter, The Washington Post

After months of tough urban combat, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared victory Monday over the Islamic State in its last strategic stronghold in Iraq. Iraqis celebrated in the streets, and Americans should cheer as well. The liberation of Mosul and the inevitable, approaching liberation of Raqqa in Syria will not be the end of the Islamic State and its evil ideology.

There’s Nothing Bipartisan About Medicaid Cuts
Gene B. Sperling and Chris Jennings, The Atlantic

With Republican senators’ Affordable Care Act replacement, the Better Care Reconciliation Act drawing as little as 12 percent approval nationwide—and even majorities of Republicans disapproving of their assault on Medicaid—it is understandable that the plan’s defenders would be looking far and wide for political cover. But arguing that the approach is “borrowed from a nearly identical 1995 proposal by President Bill Clinton,” as Avik Roy recently did in The New York Times, distorts Clinton’s efforts to protect Medicaid from then-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich beyond recognition.

There’s no way to replace Planned Parenthood
Editorial Board, The Washington Post

Of all the magical thinking that has gone into Republican proposals to replace Obamacare, none has been more fanciful than the argument accompanying efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. The yarn that has been spun is that other health-care providers would easily absorb the patients left adrift if Planned Parenthood.

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

Americans’ Approval of Congress Remains Low, Steady
RJ Reinhart, Gallup

The 20% job approval rating that Americans give Congress is essentially unchanged from June. Approval of Congress has hovered near 20% since August 2016, apart from a brief bump to 28% in February after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. These data come from Gallup’s July 5-9 survey, conducted after the U.S. Senate delayed a vote on legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).