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Tuesday's Mini-Report, 7.10.18

07/10/18 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* Afghanistan: "A suicide bomber in Afghanistan killed at least 12 people, including several children, on Tuesday, in an attack in the eastern city of Jalalabad claimed by Islamic State militants."

* Also in Afghanistan: "The U.S. soldier killed in an insider attack in Afghanistan on Saturday was deployed in support of a new U.S. Army adviser brigade dispatched as part of the Trump administration's strategy for the war, U.S. military officials said."

* Family separations: "A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the Trump administration to abide by an order to reunite dozens of children with their parents by the end of the day, turning down a Department of Justice request for more time."

* In related news: "A federal judge has turned down President Donald Trump's request to alter a decades-old legal settlement to allow long-term detention of children who entered the U.S. illegally with their parents."

* Thailand: "After 17 long nights trapped in a dark and damp cave, four remaining boys and their soccer coach were freed one-by-one by divers in Thailand on Tuesday."

* Among other things, the prosecutor in question reportedly talked about Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) getting shot: "A California prosecutor will be placed on administrative leave as his office investigates offensive comments made on his social media accounts, the county district attorney announced on Monday."

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Image: President Trump and Prime Minister Abe Press Conference at White House

Despite criminal scandal, Michael Flynn joins consulting firm

07/10/18 04:11PM

Michael Flynn is a rather unique figure in American public life. After the retired Army lieutenant general spent much of 2016 as a partisan attack dog, calling for Hillary Clinton's incarceration, Donald Trump chose Flynn to serve as his White House national security adviser.

That didn't work out especially well. Flynn had secret conversations with Russian officials, lied to the FBI about the chats, and according to Team Trump, lied to the White House, too. Flynn was forced to resign in disgrace, and soon after, he pleaded guilty to a felony. The former presidential aide is currently awaiting sentencing.

Flynn also, incidentally, was forced to acknowledge that he worked as an unregistered foreign agent during his time as an adviser to Trump's presidential campaign, among his other controversial activities.

Common sense suggests someone in this situation, finding themselves discredited and humiliated, would simply disappear from public life. But in contemporary American politics, that's apparently not how things work anymore: the Wall Street Journal  reports today that Flynn "has joined a global lobbying and investment advisory firm." [Update: see below]

As he awaits sentencing for lying to federal investigators, he is going into business with Washington lobbyist Nick Muzin and his New York partner Joey Allaham with a new firm called Stonington Global LLC, they told The Wall Street Journal. [...]

Stonington Global will provide consulting and lobbying services for U.S. and foreign clients, Messrs. Muzin and Allaham said in a statement. The firm also will "help private investors and sovereign-wealth funds develop and execute investment strategies."

In other words, people with money, unconcerned with Flynn having lied to the FBI, will voluntarily pay this firm for guidance and investment advice.

The former Trump aide and his partners will be joined by Michael Flynn Jr., who is perhaps best known for peddling ridiculous conspiracy theories online.

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Image: President Trump Departs White House For G7 Summit In Canada

Ahead of NATO summit, Trump again lashes out at American allies

07/10/18 12:44PM

On the eve of the latest NATO summit, European Council President Donald Tusk urged Donald Trump to recognize "who is your strategic friend and who is your strategic problem."

The Associated Press report on this added that the former Polish prime minister, who chairs summits of EU leaders and will take part in the NATO meeting, went on to say, "Dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don't have all that many."

Trump doesn't appear to be listening.

President Donald Trump criticized NATO on Tuesday in a pair of tweets ahead of his seven-day European trip this week, accusing U.S. allies of exploiting America on defense spending.

"Getting ready to leave for Europe. First meeting - NATO. The U.S. is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them. Not fair to the U.S. taxpayer. On top of that we lose $151 Billion on Trade with the European Union. Charge us big Tariffs (& Barriers)!" the president wrote in a tweet, adding in a later tweet, "NATO countries must pay MORE, the United States must pay LESS. Very Unfair!"

I realize fact-checking these little tantrums probably does little good, but the president still doesn't understand, among other things, that a trade deficit does not mean we're "losing" money.

As for the idea that NATO members' defense spending is unfair to American taxpayers, that would only make sense if Trump wanted to decrease defense spending in the United States. He doesn't.

But factual details aside, the American president went on to speak briefly with reporters on the White House's South Lawn this morning, where he commented on his upcoming travel plans. "I have NATO, I have the UK, which is in somewhat turmoil, and I have Putin," Trump said. "Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. Who would think?"

I'll assume that was a rhetorical question.

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Tuesday's Campaign Round-Up, 7.10.18

07/10/18 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* Ahead of Mississippi's "jungle" Senate primary in November, Chris McDaniel (R) has parted ways with Rick Tyler, a veteran GOP strategist, over Tyler's criticisms of Donald Trump. "Senator McDaniel is a loyal and longtime supporter of President Trump, and is wholeheartedly committed to his Make America Great Again agenda," the campaign said. "Tyler, in his role as an MSNBC political analyst, has been and continues to be an outspoken critic of the president."

* According to a new analysis from the Cook Political Report's David Wasserman, Democrats remain "slight favorites" to reclaim the House majority this fall.

* With one week remaining ahead of Alabama's primary runoffs, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is giving Rep. Martha Roby (R) a boost with a new television ad on her behalf. Roby will face former Rep. Bobby Bright a week from today.

* Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) hasn't officially said whether he'll seek a second term next year, but if he does, he'll likely face state Attorney General Andy Beshear (D), who launched his campaign yesterday. If his last name sounds familiar, Andy Beshear is former Gov. Steve Beshear's son.

* Rep. Tim Ryan's (D-Ohio) last effort to derail Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as the House Democratic leader wasn't successful, but the Ohioan is reportedly gearing up to try again.

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Image: US-SYRIA-CONFLICT

Trump provides controversial Oregon ranchers with full pardons

07/10/18 11:24AM

Two Oregon ranchers, Dwight and Steven Hammond, were accused of setting fire to federal lands several years ago. They were convicted, served several months behind bars, and released.

Later, however, a federal judge ordered the father-and-son ranchers back to prison because, under federal law, there was a mandatory minimum for arson on federal land that they had not yet served. Their story later became a leading cause for militia members.

The Oregonian  reported this morning, however, that Donald Trump has intervened in the Hammonds' case.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday commuted the sentences of two eastern Oregon ranchers serving time in federal prison for setting fire to public land in a case that inflamed their supporters and gave rise to the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

The decision will free Dwight Hammond Jr., 76, and son Steven Hammond, 49, convicted in 2012 of arson on Harney County land where they had grazing rights for their cattle.

The article added that, according to prosecutors, the Hammonds' fires were used "to cover up illegal deer poaching," and when the fires burned out of control, they placed firefighters "who had to be airlifted out of the area in grave danger."

According to the former U.S. Attorney in Oregon, the case followed years of alleged "permit violations and unauthorized fires" from the Hammonds, for which "they never accepted responsibility."

Nevertheless, in a press statement, the White House said, "The Hammonds are devoted family men, respected contributors to their local community, and have widespread support from their neighbors, local law enforcement, and farmers and ranchers across the West. Justice is overdue for Dwight and Steven Hammond, both of whom are entirely deserving of these Grants of Executive Clemency."

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A woman casts her ballot during early voting, Oct., 26, 2010, in Atlanta, Ga.

In secret recording, GOP candidate made candid comments about party primaries

07/10/18 10:40AM

In Georgia's Republican gubernatorial primary in May, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle (R) came out on top, but he fell short of the 50% threshold, and he still has to win a runoff to advance to the general election.

That's proving to be a little more difficult than the lieutenant governor probably planned. Cagle had a candid private conversation with one of his rivals, Clay Tippins, two days after the initial primary, not realizing that their chat was being recorded. (Cagle was hoping to secure Tippins' endorsement at the time.)

And what a recording it is. We learned a month ago, for example, that Cagle admitted to Tippins that he deliberately supported "bad public policy" as part of a scheme to hurt a different rival candidate. Yesterday, a new revelation from the recording emerged, and this one may be even more politically damaging.

Cagle can be heard candidly discussing the GOP primary's sharp turn to the right, saying the five-man race came down to "who had the biggest gun, who had the biggest truck and who could be the craziest." [...]

"The issues you talk about are the issues I care about as well. The problem is in a primary -- and you and I are just talking off the record, frank -- they don't give a (expletive) about those things, OK. In the general election, they care about it, OK. But they don't care about it in a primary." Cagle says in the newly released snippet.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Cagle's rival in the runoff primary, said in a statement to the Associated Press that the newly released recording "exposes Cagle's real opinion of Republican voters in Georgia."

All of which leads to a related question: is there anything else on that recording we should know about?

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Image: US-POLITICS-JUSTICE-TRUMP

Kavanaugh already saying what the White House wants him to say

07/10/18 10:02AM

After Donald Trump announced that Judge Brett Kavanaugh would be his nominee for the Supreme Court, the president welcomed the conservative jurist to the podium to deliver some prepared remarks. These were his first three sentences:

"Mr. President, thank you. Throughout this process, I've witnessed firsthand your appreciation for the vital role of the American judiciary.

"No president has ever consulted more widely, or talked with more people from more backgrounds, to seek input about a Supreme Court nomination."

The fight over Kavanaugh's nomination is going to cover an enormous amount of important ground, and I'm sensitive to the importance of not letting trivia detract from what really matters.

But before the debate begins in earnest, it's probably worth pausing to note that these opening comments were quite odd and raise some legitimate concerns about why in the world he'd say something like this.

First, his presidential praise was almost certainly wrong. Conservative interest groups presented Trump with a list of jurists deemed acceptable by the right, and the president chose from his menu of pre-selected options.

Let's not pretend Trump carefully and thoughtfully scrutinized the possible nominees' rulings and academic work. The Washington Post  reported two weeks ago that the president asked aides about prospective nominees' academic writing -- not because he cared to read any of the published pieces, but because Trump simply wanted to know if the work exists.

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The Republican National Committee headquarters, Sept. 9, 2014. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

Following racial controversy, GOP gives up on NJ candidate

07/10/18 09:20AM

The first sign of trouble in New Jersey's 2nd congressional district came two months ago. On the heels of Seth Grossman's Republican primary victory, the public learned that the GOP nominee had delivered remarks in which he said, "The whole idea of diversity is a bunch of crap and un-American."

Grossman went on to describe concerns about diversity as "an excuse by Democrats, communists, and socialists, basically, to say that we're not all created equal."

Yesterday, the story got considerably worse when Media Matters highlighted the fact that the Republican congressional hopeful "previously touted opinion pieces that were published on two leading white nationalist websites." One of those posts, which Grossman praised, claimed that Black people "are a threat to all who cross their paths."

Republican officials had defended Grossman, but last night, as the Washington Post  reported, they officially gave up.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has withdrawn its endorsement of a congressional candidate in New Jersey after reporters dug up offensive comments he'd made about black and Hispanic people.

"Bigotry has no place in society -- let alone the U.S. House of Representatives," NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers said in a statement Monday night. "The NRCC withdraws our support of Seth Grossman and calls on him to reconsider his candidacy."

To the extent that electoral considerations matter in a story like this, it's probably worth emphasizing that New Jersey's 2nd is seen by both parties as a key 2018 battleground. The district is currently represented by Republican Rep. Frank LoBiondo, who's retiring, and with a partisan-voter-index rating of R+1, this should be among the nation's most competitive contests.

Which makes it all the more significant that the National Republican Congressional Committee no longer feels it can support its own candidate.

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