The Daily 202: Trump team cannot get its story straight on separating migrant families

June 18, 2018

by James Hohmann, The Washington Post

THE BIG IDEA: “We do not have a policy of separating families at the border,” Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tweeted last night. “Period.”

This formulation is striking because President Trump’s top domestic policy adviser, Stephen Miller, was quoted in Sunday’s New York Times touting the crackdown. “It was a simple decision by the administration to have a zero tolerance policy for illegal entry,” he said. “Period.”

DHS announced last week that around 2,000 children have been taken from their families during the six weeks since the policy went into effect, and officials acknowledge the number may be even higher.

More than a month after Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Trump’s new “zero tolerance” policy to great fanfare, members of the administration continue to struggle with how to talk about it – alternating between defending the initiative as a necessary deterrent, distancing themselves, blaming Democrats, trying to use it as leverage for negotiations with Congress or denying that it exists at all.

On Sunday alone, which happened to be Father’s Day, here’s a taste of what current and former members of Trump’s team had to say about taking kids away from their undocumented parents:

“The policy is incredibly complicated, and it is one we need to do a better job of communicating,” said Marc Short, the president’s liaison to Capitol Hill, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “We've not talked about the history of how we got to this point.”

“Nobody likes seeing babies ripped from their mothers’ arms,” said Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “As a mother, as a Catholic, as somebody who has got a conscience... I will tell you that nobody likes this policy.” Then she blamed the legislative branch. “Congress passed a law that it is a crime,” Conway said. “This is a congressional law from many years ago. It is a crime to enter this country illegally. So if they don’t like that law, they should change it.”

Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that Sessions is “not giving the president the best advice” on how to handle this situation. “I know President Trump doesn't like the children taken away from their parents,” he said. “Jeff is not giving the president the best advice!”

In a very rare statement, first lady Melania Trump (an immigrant herself) called for the government to show “heart” when enforcing the law. “Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform,” her spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, told CNN. “She believes we need to be a country that follows all laws, but also a country that governs with heart.”

“The first lady’s decision to step into the debate makes the silence of another Trump family member all the more telling,” notes columnist Karen Tumulty. “Where is Ivanka Trump, who is actually an official adviser to her father — and the one who claims that family issues are her portfolio?”

“I don’t think you have to justify it,” countered former chief White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon on ABC’s “This Week.” “We have a crisis on the southern border. … They are criminals when they come here illegally. … He has a zero-tolerance situation. He has drawn a line in the sand. I don't think he's going to back off from it.”

On Twitter, the president has continued to falsely blame Democrats for the separations. “I hate the children being taken away," Trump insisted Friday on the White House lawn. “The Democrats have to change their law. That's their law.”

But nonpartisan fact checkers agree that the recent surge in separations is the result of Trump’s order. He signed off on prosecuting all migrants who cross the border, including those with young children. Once they’re locked up, the administration declares the kids to be unaccompanied minors and turns them over to a division of the Department of Health and Human Services to care for. The White House has also begun interpreting a 1997 legal agreement and a 2008 bipartisan human trafficking bill as requiring the separation of families. Neither George W. Bush or Barack Obama took this posture.

Sessions, who continues to vigorously defend the policy he pushed for internally, freely acknowledges that Bush and Obama did not interpret the law the same way that Trump is doing now. “The previous administration wouldn’t prosecute illegal aliens who entered the country with children,” he said last Thursday in Fort Wayne, Ind. “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes.” (Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended using religion to justify the policy. “I can say that it is very biblical to enforce the law,” the White House press secretary told reporters that afternoon.)

“Senior Trump strategists” told my colleagues who cover the White House on Friday that Trump believes he can use these kids as bargaining chips to force Democrats to negotiate a broader deal, which might include money for the border wall he desperately wants and reductions in the number of legal immigrants who are allowed into the United States. “The thinking in the building is to force people to the table,” a White House official said. “If they aren’t going to cooperate, we are going to look to utilize the laws as hard as we can,” said a second White House official.

Remember that Trump also sought to use the “dreamers” as bargaining chips earlier this year. After ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that protected undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, Trump blamed Democrats and dangled a DACA fix as he demanded massive concessions. Miller subsequently torpedoed a bipartisan compromise.

-- What’s undeniable at this point is that the separations have created both escalating humanitarian and political problems for the president. Period.

-- Former first lady Laura Bush compares what’s happening to Japanese internment in an op-ed for today’s Washington Post: “I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart. Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso. These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history. We also know that this treatment inflicts trauma; interned Japanese have been two times as likely to suffer cardiovascular disease or die prematurely than those who were not interned.

“Americans pride ourselves on being a moral nation … If we are truly that country, then it is our obligation to reunite these detained children with their parents — and to stop separating parents and children in the first place. … Recently, Colleen Kraft, who heads the American Academy of Pediatrics, visited a shelter run by the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement. She reported that while there were beds, toys, crayons, a playground and diaper changes, the people working at the shelter had been instructed not to pick up or touch the children to comfort them. Imagine not being able to pick up a child who is not yet out of diapers.

“People on all sides agree that our immigration system isn’t working, but the injustice of zero tolerance is not the answer. I moved away from Washington almost a decade ago, but I know there are good people at all levels of government who can do better to fix this.”

It’s hard to overstate how rare it is for Mrs. Bush to weigh in on a policy matter this way. What’s especially striking is how clear she is on the cause. There’s none of the obfuscation or ambiguity about Congress needing to fix the problem that we’re hearing from others.


-- Our Sean Sullivan got a brief tour of one facility in McAllen, Tex., on Sunday: “They divided the young children who had been separated from their parents, placing 20 or more in a concrete-floor cage and providing foil blankets, thin mattress pads, bottled water and food. The migrant children, some confused or expressionless, watched as uniformed officials led reporters on a brief tour … of a processing center and temporary detention facility. Some 1,100 undocumented individuals were being held, including nearly 200 unaccompanied minors, according to estimates. Detainees are being kept in bare-bones cells surrounded by tall metal fencing inside a sprawling facility with high ceilings.

“The facility resembled a large warehouse divided into cage-like structures housing different groups of people. The detainees had been sorted into groups — unaccompanied boys 17 and under; unaccompanied girls 17 and under; male heads of household with their families; and female heads of household with their families.

“Officials took away the shoelaces of the undocumented immigrants, fearful about the safety of those in custody. One woman fought back tears as she spoke to reporters. One child clutched a water bottle and a bag of chips. Several of the detainees wrapped themselves in the foil blankets as they sat on benches, the ground, or on modest mattress pads on the floor of the cells.”

-- The AP’s Nomaan Merchant, who was also on the tour, adds: “Michelle Brane, director of migrant rights at the Women's Refugee Commission, met with a 16-year-old girl who had been taking care of a young girl for three days. The teen and others in their cage thought the girl was 2 years old. ‘She had to teach other kids in the cell to change her diaper,’ Brane said. Brane said that after an attorney started to ask questions, agents found the girl's aunt and reunited the two. It turned out that the girl was actually 4 years old. Part of the problem was that she didn't speak Spanish, but K'iche, a language indigenous to Guatemala. ‘She was so traumatized that she wasn't talking,’ Brane said. ‘She was just curled up in a little ball.’

“Brane said she also saw officials at the facility scold a group of 5-year-olds for playing around in their cage, telling them to settle down. There are no toys or books. But one boy nearby wasn't playing with the rest. According to Brane, he was quiet, clutching a piece of paper that was a photocopy of his mother's ID card.”

-- “[A]gents would not give many details about the process, saying only that families brought in together remain together until the parents go to court,” Politico’s Elana Schor adds from McAllen.

-- Anne Chandler, executive director of the Houston office of the immigrant rights nonprofit Tahirih Justice Center, told Texas Monthly what she has heard from migrant parents: “Judging from the mothers and fathers I’ve spoken to and those my staff has spoken to, there are several different processes. Sometimes they will tell the parent, ‘We’re taking your child away.’ And when the parent asks, ‘When will we get them back?’ they say, ‘We can’t tell you that.’ … In other cases, we see no communication that the parent knows that their child is to be taken away. Instead, the officers say, ‘I’m going to take your child to get bathed.’ … I was talking to one mother, and she said, ‘Don’t take my child away,’ and the child started screaming and vomiting and crying hysterically, and she asked the officers, ‘Can I at least have five minutes to console her?’ They said no.”

From the president of, a pro-immigration advocacy group:

-- “‘I Can’t Go Without My Son,’ a Mother Pleaded as She Was Deported to Guatemala,” by the New York Times’s Miriam Jordan: “They’d had a plan: Elsa Johana Ortiz Enriquez packed up what little she had in Guatemala and traveled across Mexico with her 8-year-old son, Anthony. … ‘I am completely devastated,’ Ms. Ortiz, 25, said in one of a series of video interviews last week from her family home in Guatemala. Her eyes swollen from weeping and her voice subdued, she said she had no idea when or how she would see her son again.”

-- A major Latino charity is facing a firestorm over its connection to the family separations. The Boston Globe’s Annie Linskey explores the moral quandary: “The $240 million-a-year Southwest Key organization has big contracts with the government to house immigrant minors in its two dozen low-security shelters in Texas, Arizona, and California, a population that in recent weeks has exploded with infants and children removed from their parents.”

-- Jose Luis Garcia, a Mexican immigrant who has been a legal U.S. resident since the 1980s, spent Father’s Day in jail after he was arrested by immigration officials last week. “They are kidnapping people from their home, starting with my father, who has the legal status,” Garcia’s daughter, Natalie, said. (New York Times)


-- Trump will go to the Capitol on Tuesday to speak with GOP lawmakers ahead of votes in the House on two immigration bills.

-- Two GOP senators, Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Susan Collins (Maine), sent a letter yesterday to Nielsen and HHS Secretary Alex Azar asking for clarification about why immigrant children are reportedly being separated from parents who are seeking asylum, despite denials that this is happening.

“Secretary Nielsen recently appeared before the U.S. Senate and testified that immigrant parents and children who present themselves at U.S. ports of entry to request asylum will not be separated,” they write. “Despite Secretary Nielsen's testimony, a number of media outlets have reported instances where parents and children seeking asylum at a port of entry have been separated. These accounts and others like them concern us.”

-- Vulnerable House members who are already facing tough reelection fights this year are looking for ways to distance themselves. Rep. Erik Paulsen, who represents the affluent and well-educated suburbs west of the Twin Cities, is exactly the sort of Republican who could lose his seat because of backlash to Trump’s policy. What’s happening on the Southern border will likely not play very well with moms in Minnetonka. So it’s no surprise Paulsen tweeted strong opposition:

-- Against a notable silence on the part of many Republicans who usually defend Trump, more Democratic lawmakers fanned out across the country on Sunday, visiting a detention center outside New York City and heading to Texas to inspect facilities where children have been detained. Shane Harris, David Weigel and Karoun Demirjian report: “In McAllen, Tex., where several Democratic lawmakers toured a facility, Rep. Vicente Gonzalez of Texas estimated that he saw about 100 children younger than 6. ‘It was orderly, but it was far from what I would call humane,’ he said. Seven Democratic members of Congress spent Sunday morning at the Elizabeth Contract Detention Facility in New Jersey, waiting nearly 90 minutes to view the facilities and visit five detained immigrants.”

From Vermont's Democratic congressman:

-- The separation of families continues to be a trending topic across all social media platforms:

A former director of the CIA and NSA, Michael Hayden, went so far as to invoke Nazi Germany by tweeting this photo of Auschwitz:

One of The Post's national security reporters responded to the DHS secretary's tweet:

From an NBC News reporter:

Contesting Nielsen’s assertion that asylum seekers are safe, lawyers and civil rights activists pointed to instances of asylum seekers having kids taken from them at ports of entry:

A Democratic senator from Maryland also pushed back on Nielsen's claims about asylum:

From the former chief strategist to Obama:

A former top strategist for John McCain and John Kasich suggested locking up members of the Trump administration:

From a former NSA lawyer who now runs Lawfare:

The circus: Stormy Daniels's attorney Michael Avenatti offered his legal services to migrant parents: Listen to James's quick summary of today's Big Idea and the headlines you need to know to start your day:


Colombia President-elect Ivan Duque celebrates with supporters last night in Bogota. (Fernando Vergara/AP)

-- Conservative Ivan Duque was elected as the new president of Colombia. His victory promises an aggressive new era in the country's drug war that could endanger the major peace accord struck in 2016 with former FARC rebels, Anthony Faiola reports from Bogota: “Duque stopped the rise of his leftist opponent, Gustavo Petro. At a time when the production of coca — the source of cocaine — is soaring to record highs here, Petro, a former guerrilla turned senator turned mayor of Bogota, had pledged a break with what he called the 'militaristic' drug war backed by the United States. . . . U.S. officials see Duque — a protege of right-wing former president Alvaro Uribe, who launched a widespread offensive against guerrillas and narco-traffickers in the 2000s — as a reliable partner. He could bring back a version of the controversial practice of aerial spraying, banned in 2015 for health reasons. Duque — who also pledged to lower corporate taxes and boost police forces — brings with him this nation’s first female vice president, former defense minister Martha Lucia Ramirez, 63.

“Educated at American and Georgetown universities, Duque spent years living in Chevy Chase, Md., and working for the Washington-based Inter-American Development Bank. He hails from a staunchly pro-American segment of Colombian politics. ‘You could call him a ‘D.C. Colombian,’’ said Juan Felipe Celia, a Colombia expert at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank.”


At least five people died after a vehicle carrying undocumented immigrants flipped during a car chase with Border Patrol agents and a sheriff’s deputy. Officials said the vehicle had been traveling around 100 mph at the time of the accident, which occurred in South Texas about 50 miles from the Mexico border. (Samantha Schmidt)

Two gunmen opened fire at a 24-hour arts festival in Trenton, N.J., injuring 22 people before police killed one suspected attacker and took the other into custody. Authorities said the shooting appears to be related to a dispute involving festival attendees but declined to release additional details or motives. (Kristine Phillips)

A 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck the Japanese city of Osaka. Two people are feared dead — including a 9-year-old girl — and at least 41 others were injured. (AP)

Taliban leaders rejected the Afghan government’s proposal to extend a three-day cease-fire. The Taliban said it instead will order all insurgent fighters to resume operations at midnight, when the current truce is slated to expire. (Pamela Constable)

An Ohio county that expanded opioid overdose antidote availability has seen a decline in its overdose death toll. Hamilton County saw a 34 percent decrease in overdose deaths in the first five months of this year compared with the same period in 2017. (AP)

Wynn Resorts board member John Hagenbuch, who helped oversee the investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against former CEO Steve Wynn, has decided not to seek reelection to the board. The news comes after complaints from some witnesses and employees that they weren’t initially told how to contact investigators. And critics have argued for weeks that Hagenbuch, Wynn's longtime friend, was the wrong person to oversee the probe. (Wall Street Journal)

A group of behavioral scientists and former Silicon Valley developers are creating apps to help smartphone users cut down on screen time. The counterintuitive method is called “digital wellness,” and Google and Apple have already announced plans to incorporate elements of the apps into their new smartphone operating systems. (William Wan)

Mexico stunned international soccer fans after it pulled off a 1-0 victory against Germany, toppling the star-studded team — and defending World Cup champions — for the first time since 1985. Crowds in Mexico City were so enthusiastic about the victory that local seismologists even registered a small man-made earthquake, believed to be caused by their collective celebration. (Steven Goff and Ava Wallace)

Brooks Koepka won his second straight U.S. Open. The victory makes him the first golfer to secure back-to-back tournament victories since Curtis Strange, who netted two consecutive wins in 1988 and 1989. (Sally Jenkins)

An Indonesian woman was swallowed whole by a 23-foot python while checking on her cornfield last week. The incident marks the second time in just over a year that Indonesian villagers have fallen prey to the massive snakes. (Avi Selk)


-- Longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone says he met with a Russian national during the 2016 campaign who offered dirt on Hillary Clinton. Stone says the man, who identified himself as Henry Greenberg, offered the political dirt in exchange for $2 million. Stone, who did not previously disclose the meeting to congressional investigators, now says he believes he was the target of a setup by U.S. law enforcement officials hostile to Trump. Manuel Roig-Franzia and Rosalind S. Helderman scoop: “'You don’t understand Donald Trump,’ Stone recalled [telling Greenberg] before rejecting the offer at a restaurant [in] Sunny Isles, Fla. ‘He doesn’t pay for anything.’ Later, Stone got a text message from Michael Caputo, a Trump campaign communications official who’d arranged the meeting after Greenberg had approached Caputo’s Russian-immigrant business partner. ‘How crazy is the Russian?’ Caputo wrote . . . Noting that Greenberg wanted ‘big’ money, Stone replied, ‘waste of time.’” Two years later, the Florida meeting has resurfaced as part of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, according to Caputo, who says he was asked about the meeting by prosecutors last month.

“Interviews and additional documents show that Greenberg has at times used the name Henry Oknyansky. Under that name, he claimed in a 2015 court filing … that he had provided information to the FBI for 17 years. … There is no evidence that Greenberg was working with the FBI in his interactions with Stone, and in his court filing, Greenberg said he had stopped his FBI cooperation sometime after 2013.”

The meeting with Stone took place two months before the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation officially opened. And news of the meeting also contradicts Stone’s remarks in a videotaped interview with The Post last year, in which Stone denied having any contacts with Russians during the 2016 campaign. “I’ve never been to Russia. I didn’t talk to anybody who was identifiably Russian during the two-year run-up to this campaign,” he said.

Stone and Caputo’s interactions with Greenberg mean that at least 11 Trump campaign associates or officials have so far acknowledged interactions with a Russian during the 2016 race or presidential transition.

Rudy Giuliani waves to people on the South Lawn of the White House. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

-- Rudy Giuliani suggested Sunday that Trump may pardon Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman who was sent to jail Friday for alleged witness tampering if he is convicted. Karoun Demirjian reports: “When it’s over, hey, he’s the president … he retains his pardon power, nobody’s taking that away from him,” Giuliani said. “I couldn’t, and I don’t want to take any prerogatives away from him.” But Giuliani stressed that Trump “has not issued, would not issue and should not issue any pardons” while the special counsel investigation is ongoing, so as not to give the appearance that he has anything to hide. “The president has not issued pardons … and my advice to him as long as I am his lawyer is not to do it because you just cloud what is becoming now a very clear picture of an extremely unfair investigation with no criminality involved of any kind,” he said.

Giuliani dismissed the notion that, by discussing his pardon power, Trump is “suggesting doing anything untoward.": “You’re not going to get a pardon just because you’re involved …” he said. “But you’re certainly not excluded from it if the president and his advisers, not me, come to the conclusion that you’ve been treated unfairly.”

Meanwhile, fellow Republicans are pleading with Trump to stop discussing pardons. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that she thinks it would be more helpful “[If Trump] never mentioned the word ‘pardon’ again with respect to the [Mueller] investigation.”

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) prepares to ask questions at a subcommittee hearing. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

-- Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who was removed from Mueller’s probe for sending anti-Trump text messages, said he is willing to voluntarily testify before Congress, according to his attorney. Matt Zapotosky reports: “[Strzok], who was singled out in a recent Justice Department inspector general report for the politically charged messages, would be willing to testify without immunity, and he would not invoke his Fifth Amendment rights in response to any question, his attorney, Aitan Goelman, said in an interview Sunday. Goelman said Strzok ‘wants the chance to clear his name and tell his story.’ ‘He thinks that his position, character and actions have all been misrepresented and caricatured, and he wants an opportunity to remedy that,’ the lawyer said. If Strzok were to testify publicly, the hearing could be explosive, perhaps exposing new details about investigators’ thinking on some of the FBI’s most high-profile probes. . . . Goelman said that if asked to testify, Strzok ‘intends to answer any question put to him, and he intends to defend the integrity of the Clinton email investigation, the Russia collusion investigation to the extent that that’s a topic, and his own integrity.’”

But the details of Strzok's possible testimony remain unclear: “Politico reported that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) had started the process to subpoena Strzok, though Goelman said [he] had done so without having asked whether Strzok might appear voluntarily.” In a letter to Goodlatte, Goelman said a subpoena would be “wholly unnecessary.”

-- On another front: House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) promised “action on the floor of the House this week if FBI and DOJ do not comply with our subpoena request.” The Judiciary Committee has also requested more than a million documents from the FBI and DOJ on other matters including the probe into Hillary Clinton's emails and the firing of senior FBI official Andrew McCabe. “Under the heading of minor miracles, you had members of the House working on a Friday night,” Gowdy said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Paul Ryan led this meeting. You had [House Intelligence Committee Chair] Devin Nunes, Bob Goodlatte, myself and everyone you can think of from the FBI and the DOJ, and we went item by item on both of those outstanding subpoenas.” (Fox News)

National security adviser John Bolton arrives for a signing ceremony between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Trump in Singapore. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)


-- The U.S. Cyber Command has started taking a more aggressive approach to preventing cyberattacks. The New York Times’s David E. Sanger reports: “Until now, the Cyber Command has assumed a largely defensive posture, trying to counter attackers as they enter American networks. In the relatively few instances when it has gone on the offensive, particularly in trying to disrupt the online activities of the Islamic State and its recruiters in the past several years, the results have been mixed at best. But in the spring, as the Pentagon elevated the command’s status, it opened the door to nearly daily raids on foreign networks, seeking to disable cyberweapons before they can be unleashed, according to strategy documents and military and intelligence officials.

“The change in approach was not formally debated inside the White House before it was issued, according to current and former administration officials. But it reflects the greater authority given to military commanders by President Trump, as well as a widespread view that the United States has mounted an inadequate defense against the rising number of attacks aimed at America. It is unclear how carefully the administration has weighed the various risks involved if the plan is acted on in classified operations. Adversaries like Russia, China and North Korea, all nuclear-armed states, have been behind major cyberattacks, and the United States has struggled with the question of how to avoid an unforeseen escalation as it wields its growing cyberarsenal.”

But, but, but: “Under the Trump administration, the traditional structure of White House oversight of American offensive and defensive cyberactivities is being dismantled. Days after taking office in April, the new national security adviser, John R. Bolton, forced out the homeland security adviser, Thomas P. Bossert, in part because of his discomfort that Mr. Bossert had direct access to the president. Mr. Bolton then eliminated the position of White House cybercoordinator, who had overseen the complex mix of cyberactivities run by the American government.”

Jared Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump. (Sebastian Scheiner/AP)

-- An American financier living in Singapore approached the Trump administration last summer in hopes of setting up a communications channel between Jared Kushner and North Korea. The New York Times’s Mark Mazzetti and Mark Landler report: “The financier, Gabriel Schulze, explained that a top North Korean official was seeking a back channel to explore a meeting between [Trump] and Kim Jong-un . . . [Mr. Schulze] had built a network of contacts in North Korea on trips he had taken to develop business opportunities in the isolated state. For some in North Korea … Mr. Kushner appeared to be a promising contact. As a member of the president’s family, officials in Pyongyang judged, Mr. Kushner would have the ear of his father-in-law and be immune from the personnel changes that had convulsed the early months of the administration. Mr. Schulze’s quiet outreach was but one step in a circuitous path that led to last week’s handshake between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim … a path that involved secret meetings among spies, discussions between profit-minded entrepreneurs, and a previously unreported role for Mr. Kushner … In reaching out to Mr. Kushner, the North Koreans were following the example of the Chinese, who had early on identified the 37-year-old husband of Ivanka Trump as a well-connected ‘princeling,’ someone who could be a conduit to Mr. Trump and allow them to bypass the bureaucracy of the State Department.”

-- Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, may have provided Kushner with the speech he wrote for Trump’s AIPAC appearance during the 2016 campaign. Politico’s Annie Karni reports: “Kushner was widely credited for the content and unusual style — a rare-at-the-time teleprompter moment — of his father-in-law’s speech in front of the hard-line Jewish lobbying group AIPAC. But writer Emily Jane Fox, whose book ‘Born Trump’ is set for release Tuesday, writes that it was Dermer who essentially dictated the speech for Kushner, who then loaded it into the teleprompter for Trump. On a call with Kushner ahead of the speech, Fox writes, Dermer ‘talked for a solid hour about the U.N., about Iran, about hard lines and language that was very important to the Israelis, and about many people who would be in the audience that day.’” According to Fox, Trump’s speech was “like a transcript of what [Dermer] had told Jared in their phone call, right down to the jokes.”

-- South Korean business executives are itching to jump into the North Korean market if economic sanctions are lifted. Brian Murphy and Michelle Ye Hee Lee report: “Companies of every stripe — construction, shipping, mining, hotel groups, automaker Hyundai and others — have started to weigh the potential windfalls and risks. Many industry officials see South Korean food companies as among the most likely to make the first possible forays, using common culture and tastes as calling cards. … Perhaps no company has a more ready fan base in the North than the South Korean makers of the original Choco Pie, a cake-and-marshmallow sandwich dipped in chocolate, somewhat like an American MoonPie. An executive at Orion, which introduced the Choco Pie to South Korea in the 1970s, said last month that its most-famous snack could be the advance guard in North Korea for the company’s full line of crackers, cookies and other munchies.”

-- A majority of Americans say it’s too early to judge the success of Trump’s summit with Kim, according to a new Post-ABC News poll. Dan Balz writes: Among respondents, “55 percent [says] it is too early to tell whether the summit was a success for the United States and an almost identical majority (56 percent) says it was too early to tell whether it was a success for North Korea. About 1 in 5 (21 percent) say it was a success for the United States, and nearly 3 in 10 (29 percent) say it was a success for North Korea. And 16 percent say it was not a success for the United States, and a mere 5 percent say it wasn’t a success for the North Koreans. The net positive margin on what the summit means for North Korea extends across partisan lines.

“The survey found the public gives Trump the benefit of the doubt, narrowly, on how to interpret the give-and-take of the summit. Just over 4 in 10 (41 percent) say Trump made reasonable compromises at the summit, while about a third (34 percent) say he gave away too much to the North Korean leader. The other 25 percent offered no judgment about the bargaining that took place. Partisan leanings colored these perceptions. Seven in 10 Republicans say the president made reasonable compromises compared with 11 percent who say he gave away too much. In contrast, almost half of all Democrats (49 percent) say he gave away too much, compared with 17 percent who say he made reasonable compromises. Independents are evenly split, 39 percent to 39 percent, on the question.”

-- “In four days, between Quebec and Singapore, Trump showed that the liberal order is hateful to him, and that he wants out,” the New Yorker’s George Packer writes. “Trump, with his instinct for exploiting resentments and exploding norms, has sensed that many Americans are ready to abandon global leadership. The disenchantment has been a long time coming. Barack Obama saw that the American century was ending and wanted to reduce U.S. commitments, but he tried to do so within the old web of connections. In pulling back, he provided Trump with a target. Now Trump is turning retrenchment into rout. … The alternative to an interconnected system of security partnerships and trade treaties is a return to the old system of unfettered power politics. In resurrecting the slogan ‘America First’ from prewar isolationists who had no quarrel with Hitler, Trump was giving his view of modern history: everything went wrong when we turned outward.”

-- Moments before Trump said during a March speech in Ohio that U.S. forces would be “coming out of Syria, like, very soon,” Chief of Staff John Kelly said back at the White House, “He swore to me that he wouldn’t announce anything on Syria.” Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin replied to Kelly, “Well, we’ve heard promises like that before. We really won’t know till he’s done talking.” To that, Kelly responded, “I think he knows he can’t f--- us on this.” (Axios)

-- U.S. officials are warning of catastrophic consequences if the leftist populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador wins the Mexican presidential election. The New Yorker’s Jon Lee Anderson writes: “Ironically, [López Obrador’s] surging popularity can be attributed partly to [Trump]. Within days of Trump’s election, Mexican political analysts were predicting that his open belligerence toward Mexico would encourage political resistance. … Officials in the [current Mexican administration] warned their counterparts in the White House that Trump’s offensive behavior heightened the prospect of a hostile new government—a national-security threat just across the border. If Trump didn’t modulate his behavior, the election would be a referendum on which candidate was the most anti-American. In the U.S., the warnings worked.” But American officials’ criticisms of López Obrador have only served to bolster his electoral position.

The Department of Veterans Affairs in Phoenix. (Matt York/AP)


-- The VA has withheld quality rankings of its nursing homes from the public. Donovan Slack of USA Today and Andrea Estes of the Boston Globe report: “The agency has tracked detailed quality statistics on its nursing homes for years but has kept them from public view, depriving veterans of potentially crucial health care information. Nearly half of VA nursing homes nationwide — 60 — received the agency's lowest ranking of one out of five stars as of Dec. 31, 2017 … The VA made some of its ratings public last week after receiving questions from the Globe and USA TODAY about all the secrecy. VA officials said [Trump] wanted to release the ratings all along and blamed the Obama administration for not making them public earlier.”

-- Budget cuts from the Trump administration have required some prisons to use teachers, nurses and secretaries as backup security guards. The New York Times’s Danielle Ivory and Caitlin Dickerson report: “It was not uncommon in the past for prisons to occasionally call upon support workers as substitute guards, especially in emergencies. The practice, which leaves other prison functions short-handed, came under criticism during the Obama administration, which moved in its final year to cut back. But as the shortage of correctional officers has grown chronic under President Trump — and the practice of drawing upon other workers has become routine — many prisons have been operating in a perpetual state of staffing turmoil, leaving some workers feeling ill-equipped and unsafe on the job, according to interviews and internal documents from the Bureau of Prisons. Dozens of workers from prisons across the country said inmates had become more brazen with staff members and more violent with one another.”

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) speaks at a 2016 campaign event in Philadelphia. (Matt Slocum/AP)


-- “Senate Republicans are all but conceding that Democratic senators will be coasting to reelection in Midwestern states that Trump narrowly carried,” writes the National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar. “Mitch McConnell, notably, has left off Democratic seats in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio when he listed off the most competitive races for this year’s midterms. The Democrats’ leading Senate super PAC, so confident of its prospects in the region, isn’t reserving any time for Sens. Tammy Baldwin, Bob Casey, Debbie Stabenow, or Sherrod Brown.”

-- Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) blasted GOP challenger Corey Stewart for his ties to white supremacists, earning cheers from an audience of more than 1,000 Democrats. Laura Vozzella reports: “'My opponent likes to praise and encourage white supremacists, those who organize hate-filled rallies like the tragedy in Charlottesville and perpetrate online filth and anti-Semitism,’ Kaine said. ‘This week the American press was filled with stories about his bizarre connections to spreaders of hate. And Israeli newspapers were filled with articles about his ties to notorious anti-Semites. Is this who Virginia is in 2018? Is this what the Senate needs?’ Kaine made the remarks at a gala headlined by Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.). Kaine … never mentioned his opponent by name, saying he did not want anyone to confuse him with ‘the good Cory.’”

Stewart, a staunch defender of the Confederate flag, who has touted himself as a candidate “more Trump than Trump,” responded in a text message Sunday. “I challenge Tim Kaine and his left-wing media buddies to find one racist thing I’ve ever said,” Stewart said. “Kaine’s obsessed with me and doesn’t want to talk about his own record. Why? Because Tim Kaine has done nothing over the last six years other than run for Vice President and call people racist.”

-- A heated congressional race in Iowa’s 1st District has come down to the voters who flipped from supporting Obama in 2012 to backing Trump in 2016. Jenna Johnson reports from Dubuque: “Nearly 40 percent of voters here are not affiliated with a political party, making them unpredictable in this era of sharply partisan politics. The group includes Iowans who are fed up with the federal government, tired of gridlock in Congress and distrusting of the major political parties. They are credited with playing a major role in Trump’s victory in the district and are expected to decide this fall’s midterm elections in the state. Of the 20 counties in Iowa’s 1st District, 15 moved from Obama to Trump. More than 200 of these ‘pivot counties’ exist nationwide, but they are heavily concentrated in the Upper Midwest. Political strategists are watching voters in these counties for clues about how they might vote in future elections and what messages from candidates they will find most compelling.”

-- The number of television campaign ads are up more than 50 percent compared to this point in 2014. From Bloomberg News's John McCormick: “The surge reflects the high stakes faced by both parties and special interests trying to influence the first midterm election of [Trump’s] presidency … The increase is also being driven by the unusually large number of retirements among House members. The open seats created by those departures have prompted scores of Republican and Democrats to jump into competitive primaries, sometimes with multiple candidates competing in a district for their party’s nomination.”

-- Organizers with March for Our Lives have started their 20-state summer bus tour to register young voters. Mark Guarino reports from Chicago: “The students and recent graduates of Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School … said they don’t want a repeal of the Second Amendment or to banish guns. Instead, they want to galvanize the youth vote to make their peers understand how they can play an important role in getting more sensible gun reform laws on the books. … Partnering with teenagers from Chicago anti-violence groups, packs of young people canvassed surrounding blocks and rang doorbells.”

Steve Bannon speaks during a debate with Lanny Davis at Zofin Palace on May 22 in Prague. (Sean Gallup/Getty Images)


-- The Narrative: “He was fired 10 months ago, but Stephen K. Bannon has won,” writes WaPo Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt: “Truculent, anti-immigrant nationalism; disdain for the ‘deep state’; disparaging democratic allies while celebrating dictators: These are now the pillars of President Trump’s rule. In his administration’s policy, foreign and domestic, and in the compliant Republican Party, Bannonism is ascendant. Corey Stewart, the xenophobic, Confederate-celebrating Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Virginia, is cheered by Trump as the face of this new party. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), tweeting on behalf of old principles, is a total outsider. Supposed leaders such as Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in the Senate and Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) in the House fall abjectly into line. This is the victory not only of a Trump personality cult, as it has been described, but also of an ideology, one closer to Putinism than Reaganism.

“Bannonism is not just a snarling attitude. It encompasses a contempt for democracy and a respect for authoritarianism. When Trump refused to sign a statement of solidarity with the world’s other six leading industrial democracies and then proceeded to slather praise on North Korea’s dictator (‘a tough guy . . . a very smart guy’), this was not just a sign of personal pique or favoritism: The U.S. president raised questions in the minds of other leaders about whether the concept of the West itself can survive his presidency…

“How has Bannonism prevailed without Bannon? In part, with the help of true believers who remain in the White House, including Stephen Miller (on immigration) and Peter Navarro (on trade). But another answer came from Trump himself, who said after Bannon’s firing: ‘Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my presidency. … Steve was a staffer.’ Even discounting for Trump’s normal petulance and self-aggrandizement, there may have been an element of truth in what he said. The anti-democratic, protectionist, anti-immigrant, pro-authoritarian administration that has now taken shape, in other words, is not only Bannonism. It is raw and unvarnished Trumpism, too.”

-- Morale among White House press staffers has plummeted amid constant turnover. From Politico’s Nancy Cook: “Only one of the top five senior press and communications staffers, Raj Shah, was in the office on Friday afternoon, hours after the president decided to emerge from his post-Singapore sequester for an impromptu 20-minute gaggle on the White House lawn. Inside the two areas of the White House where reporters can freely roam, almost no one was available to comment as Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort was ordered into jail custody while awaiting trial on fraud charges, or as House Republicans scrambled to hold together an immigration deal on the Hill. At one point, two young staffers huddled in the office of absent deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters, with one styling the other's hair. An hour later, a brunette examined her full head of curls in a mirror as she stood near two rows of mostly empty White House desks." As some aides leave, "other aides, many of them veterans of the Trump campaign, have been fired, sent to agencies or nudged to look for other employment, or have simply left for more lucrative, less stressful jobs. At least two additional staffers are expected to leave in the coming weeks, according to administration officials and Republicans close to the White House."


Trump tweeted 18 times yesterday. Among other things, he defended the agreement he signed with Kim Jong Un:

-- “Saudi women on the front line of change: But how much is really changing?” by Liz Sly and Iman Al-Dabbagh: “In interviews, dozens of Saudi women from all segments of society nonetheless said the reforms are changing their lives in ways they had once thought impossible. They are entering careers, starting businesses and, in one of the least noticed but most appreciated of the reforms, seeking and securing divorces and child-support payments. … The interviews with the women also raised many questions that it is still too early to answer. Will the changes endure? Will they go far enough to make a real difference? Or are they perhaps going too far for this conservative society, risking a backlash that could unwind the clock?”

-- New York Times, “A Shadow System of Tracking by School Feeds Segregation,” by Winnie Hu and Elizabeth A. Harris: “New York, in essence, has replaced tracking within schools with tracking by school, where children with the best records can benefit from advanced classes and active parent and alumni associations. According to the city, of the more than 830 middle schools and high schools, roughly 190 screen all of their students. Many of these screened schools are clustered in Manhattan and Brooklyn, with enrollments that are more white, Asian and affluent than the overall school population.”

-- HuffPost, “Political Fundraisers Face Harassment From An Endless Stream Of Men With Money,” by Molly Redden: “In a profession dominated by young women, in which intimate meetings are the norm and powerful men direct a tidal wave of cash, enduring widespread sexual harassment has long been seen as just a cost of doing business. The options for recourse, many fundraisers [said], are limited. Fundraisers don’t share a common employer with the donors, and rebuking a benefactor in person risks losing access and money.”


“A black woman was at the pool on vacation. A white man asked whether she showered before swimming,” from Eli Rosenberg: “Carle Wheeler was … hanging with her 5-year-old daughter in the pool of the hotel in Pasadena, Calif., where they were staying, when a man approached them. The man, who is white, asked Wheeler and her daughter, who are black, if they had showered before getting into the pool[.] The two moved to the other end of the pool, but he approached again and she confronted him on what appeared to be ‘blatant racism,’ she said. He claimed he worked for the health department when she asked, Wheeler said … ‘I let him know that being black is not a disease and showering would not wash the BLACK off our skin,’ [said Wheeler, a 33-year-old] software engineer ... "


“Pope Francis says abortion to avoid birth defects is similar to Nazi crimes,” from CNN: “Pope Francis compared having an abortion to avoid birth defects to the Nazi era idea of trying to create a pure race. Speaking to a delegation of Italy's Family Association in Rome … he also reiterated the Roman Catholic belief that a true human family is comprised of a man and woman. ‘I have heard that it's fashionable, or at least usual, that when in the first months of pregnancy they do studies to see if the child is healthy or has something, the first offer is: let's send it away,’ Pope Francis [said]. ‘I say this with pain. In the last century the whole world was scandalized about what the Nazis did to purify the race. Today we do the same, but now with white gloves.’ … The off-the-cuff comments were confirmed by the Vatican after the meeting.”


Trump will meet with the National Space Council and participate in a bill signing ceremony. He also has an afternoon meeting with Sens. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.).


“'I don’t know, should I run for president?’ A laugh. And then: ‘The terrifying thing is I might win.’” -- Stormy Daniels, discussing how her life has changed since her alleged affair with Trump became public. (Chicago Tribune)


-- Temperatures in D.C. could near triple digits today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Hazy, hot and very humid. Temperatures soar well into the 90s and, depending on how much sun beats down on us, records could be in jeopardy. Washington would need to hit 97 to match the mark set in 1944. The combination of heat and humidity push the heat index to 100 or so in the mid- to late afternoon, so take it easy and stay hydrated.”

-- The Nationals lost to the Blue Jays 8-6, completing a sweep by the Toronto team. (Chelsea Janes)

-- D.C. will hold its primary elections tomorrow, but turnout has so far been exceptionally low. Peter Jamison, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel and Fenit Nirappil report: “Roughly 3 percent of registered voters cast early ballots, compared to an already low 4 percent in 2014, the last mayoral primary. The total voter turnout in 2014, including early and absentee ballots, was 27 percent. That District residents are not flocking to the polls this year is not necessarily surprising: Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) faces nominal oposition and is poised to become the first mayor to win two terms since 2006, and most of the other races appear to favor incumbents — although two face credible challengers.”

-- District voters will also decide the fate of Initiative 77, a measure aimed at raising tipped workers’ minimum wage from $3.33 to $15 over seven years. From Fenit Nirappil and Tim Carman: “The question may be the most contentious — and confusing — issue on the ballot Tuesday in the District’s primary election. It also is a fight that extends beyond the nation’s capital, playing out in statehouses, city halls and polling places around the country as the restaurant industry and labor advocates tussle over how servers should be paid.”

-- Frank Harden, one part of a dynamic duo that run a popular Washington radio program from 1960 to 1992, died at the age of 95. (Marc Fisher)