A man sunbathes last week in view of the Space Needle, which is partially obscured by wildfire smoke covering the region from British Columbia fires. Soggy Seattle clocked the wettest winter on record just months ago. Then the city went in the other extreme: its longest dry streak ever. (Elaine Thompson/AP)
SEATTLE — This city known for its rain just went a record-breaking 55 days without any.
The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport had not measured any precipitation since June 18 until the wee hours of Sunday morning, when it drizzled. Barely. Some sprinkles also allowed Portland to break its own 57-day dry streak.
Climate change is leading to more extreme weather, and no other region has experienced that so much over the last year as the Pacific Northwest. Seattle got 44.9 inches of rain between Oct. 1 and April 30, the wettest such period ever. That means, even with the record dry streak, 2017 remains above normal for rainfall.
America faces many grave challenges. The horrifying events in Charlottesville this weekend highlighted several, including racism and the enduring stain of America’s original sin. (Much more on that below.) Climate change is another.
For long stretches last week, I had no cell service as I hiked around some of the most beautiful places in the world on vacation — from Mount Hood to Mount St. Helens. That meant that I missed real-time updates on President Trump’s brinkmanship with North Korea and his suggestion that “a military option” is on the table to deal with Venezuela. But while Trump was threatening to unleash “fire and fury” against Pyongyang, I was adjusting my planned route to avoid real fires in central Oregon.
Burn bans are in effect, and signs warn of extreme fire danger. Local TV stations are extensively covering the poor air quality. And there are widespread concerns that wildfires around the region might lead to smoky skies during next week’s solar eclipse.
Irrigation sprinklers water a field early Sunday morning as a wildfire burns on a hillside above stopped rail cars near Othello, Wash. This has been another awful fire season in the Pacific Northwest. (Ted S. Warren/AP)
-- Fires happen every summer, but they’ve been getting worse in these parts. “Wildfires in the western half of the United States, including Oregon, have been burning hotter, faster and twice as large over the last 30 years and a good heap of the blame belongs to climate change brought on by humans,” The Oregonian reported last October, citing a study by the University of Idaho and Columbia University. The researchers found that “rising temperatures due to climate change have increased fire activity and burned an additional 16,000 square miles, an area larger than the state of Maryland, that otherwise would have gone unscorched.”
“Since 1984, about 4 percent of the land in Oregon has burned per decade. The changing climate is likely to more than double the area in the Northwest burned by forest fires during an average year by the end of the 21st century,” the Environmental Protection Agency said in a report published last summer. “Higher temperatures and a lack of water can also make trees more susceptible to pests and disease, and trees damaged or killed burn more readily than living trees. For example, climate change is likely to increase the area of pine forests in the Northwest infested with mountain pine beetles in the next few decades. Pine beetles and wildfires are each likely to decrease timber harvests. … The combination of more fires and drier conditions may expand deserts and otherwise change the landscape … Many plants and animals living in arid lands are already near the limits of what they can tolerate. Warmer temperatures and a drier climate would generally extend the geographic range of the Great Basin desert.”
-- The Pacific Northwest has also been experiencing record heat this month. “Salem, Oregon, topped its previous record streak of 90-degree-plus highs of 10 days set in 1967 and 1938 by reaching 13 days in a row. Oregon's capital city averages just 17 such days in a year, but has already recorded 23 this year,” notes Jonathan Erdman, a senior meteorologist for the Weather Channel. “Spokane, Washington, has broken its record 90-degree-plus high streak of 14 days that stood since 1894, when Grover Cleveland was president. … The first nine days of August were the hottest such period on record in Seattle, Portland … Eugene, Oregon, and Yakima, Washington, according to data compiled by the Southeast Regional Climate Center.”
Ironically, it would have been a few degrees hotter over the past few weeks if not for all the smoke from the forest fires, including some big ones in British Columbia. The haze reflects sunlight back into the atmosphere.
This infrared satellite photo, released by NOAA last Thursday, shows an immense cloud of smoke from wildfires burning in British Columbia drifting southeastward. (AFP/Getty Images)
-- This is all happening as the Trump administration moves to pull out of the Paris climate agreement and rolls back Obama-era environmental rules. “A climate report based on work conducted by scientists in 13 federal agencies is under active review at the White House, and its conclusions about the far-reaching damage already occurring from global warming are at odds with the Trump administration’s views,” Steven Mufson reported last week. “The report, known as the Climate Science Special Report, finds it is ‘extremely likely’ that more than half of the rise in temperatures over the past four decades has been caused by human activity — in contrast to Trump Cabinet members’ views that the magnitude of that contribution is uncertain. The draft report, which has undergone extensive review, estimates that human impact was responsible for an increase in global temperatures of 1.1 to 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit from 1951 to 2010.” (Read the draft here.)
In Washington State, Oregon and Idaho specifically, the government report says that the average annual temperature has already gone up 1.51 degrees since 1901-1960 and is projected to rise another 4.67 degrees by midcentury and 8.51 degrees by the end of the century if carbon pollution continues unabated. “Extreme rainfall has increased 3 percent since the first half of the 20th century and is projected to go up 19 percent by the end of the century if carbon pollution continues unabated,” the AP reported last week in its story on the draft. “If carbon emissions are somewhat reduced it would be 10 percent.”
Tim Weyer tours his ranch, which was consumed by wildfires last month, in Sand Springs, Mont. (Rion Sanders/Great Falls Tribune/AP)
“Local officials across the United States worry that it is becoming more difficult to secure help from FEMA for all sorts of natural disasters. Since January, members of Congress and state officials have protested initial FEMA denials following a tornado outbreak in Louisiana, flooding in North Carolina, and snowstorms in Pennsylvania and Oregon. … The Trump administration has been hinting that it might limit federal spending on disaster relief and preparation, and FEMA is considering whether to draft regulations to shift more responsibility for rebuilding to the states.”
Soldiers launch an operation against suspected jihadists in Burkina Faso. (Ahmed Ouoba/AFP/Getty Images)
-- “Gunmen riding motorcycles roared up to a Turkish restaurant in the capital of the African nation of Burkina Faso and opened fire, eventually killing 18 people in a standoff with security forces that lasted into the early hours of the morning Monday,” Paul Schemm reports.
-- Trump will briefly return to Washington from New Jersey today. “The president plans to sign an executive memorandum Monday afternoon, directing his top trade negotiator to determine whether to investigate China for harming intellectual property, innovation and technology,” Ana Swanson and Simon Denyer report. “The measure would seek to address what the U.S. business community has described as flagrant trade violations by China, which employs a variety of rules and practices to wall its market off from foreign competition and pressure U.S. companies to part with valuable product designs and trade secrets — or to steal them outright. … [T]rade and national security experts widely noted that the announcement appeared to have been delayed until after China joined the United States in voting for sanctions against North Korea at a United Nations Security Council session on Aug. 5.” After signing the order, he will meet with the National Economic Council and Chief of Staff John F. Kelly before flying to New York this evening to stay at Trump Tower.
-- China announced a ban on North Korean iron, lead and coal imports as it moves to implement new U.N. sanctions. Simon Denyer reports: “The ban will take effect from Tuesday, the Ministry of Commerce announced. But at the same time, Beijing warned the Trump administration not to split the international coalition over North Korea by provoking a trade war between China and the United States.” The warning came in light of Trump’s planned memorandum today: “In China, these proposed measures were seen as an attempt to put pressure on Beijing to act more strongly against North Korea, and at the same time an attempt to shift the blame for the world’s failure to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs onto China alone. ‘It is obviously improper to use one thing as a tool to imposing pressure on another thing,’ Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news conference Monday. ‘There will be no winner from a trade war, it will be lose-lose.’”
The Obama administration was warned as early as 2014 that the Russians would attempt to intervene in foreign elections. A 2014 NSC report outlined Russian expansion of its disinformation resources. (Politico)
Beginning Aug. 21, Big Ben will go silent for four years. The iconic clocktower, believed to be the most photographed building in the U.K., requires extensive renovation. (Reuters)
“By the weekend’s finish, Fields had become the face of one of the ugliest days in recent U.S. history. After marching through the University of Virginia’s campus carrying torches and spewing hate Friday night, hundreds of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members gathered Saturday in downtown Charlottesville to protest the planned removal of a statue memorializing Robert E. Lee. … A sedan and a minivan rolled to a stop in a road packed with activists. Suddenly, a 2010 Dodge Challenger smashed into the back of the sedan, shoving tons of metal into the crowd and launching bodies through the air. The Dodge then rapidly went into reverse, hitting more people. Fields, now the subject of a federal civil rights investigation, was arrested shortly after and charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding and another count related to the hit-and-run, police said. He is being held without bail and is scheduled for an arraignment Monday.”
“His father was killed by a drunk driver five months before the boy’s birth, according to an uncle … [Fields was] raised by a single mother, Samantha Bloom, who is a paraplegic. … Saturday’s horror was just the latest for her family. Aside from losing Fields’s father in a crash, Bloom’s parents died in a murder-suicide — 33 years ago this month — according to a pair of 1984 newspaper articles. After an argument, Marvin Bloom, a self-employed contractor, killed his ex-wife, Judy, with a 12-gauge shotgun, then put the gun to his head. He was 42, and she was 37. Their daughter, Samantha, was 16.”
-- Bloom, Fields’s mother, told the Toledo Blade that her son had texted her Friday to say he had dropped his cat off at her apartment so he could attend the Virginia rally, which he described as an “alt-right” gathering: “’I told him to be careful,’ Ms. Bloom said. ‘[And] if they’re going to rally to make sure he’s doing it peacefully.’ It didn’t appear that happened, she said tearfully.” Bloom said in an other interview that her son had told her about the rally last week, but said she was not aware of its extremist nature: “I thought it had something to do with Trump,” she told the Associated Press. “Trump's not a white supremacist,” she added. “He had an African-American friend so,” she added, before her voice trailed off.
“For Bro, Saturday’s terror came home in a phone call. Justin Marks, a longtime friend of Heyer, was sobbing and screaming on the line. Bro didn’t understand what was happening. Then, finally, Marks said he understood that the hospital was trying to reach next of kin and needed a number. Bro said she remembered telling her son, ‘Your sister is either dead or she’s unconscious because …’ She paused to cry while recounting her ride to the hospital Saturday. … 'she would know my number.’ ... Bro was in such shock that she couldn’t remember Heather’s middle name when a hospital staffer first asked her. It’s Danielle.”
“Marks said he and Heyer had previously agreed not to attend the protests, because they thought it would be too dangerous. Everyone was on edge about it, he said. But the night before, Heyer texted Marks, 30, saying that she felt compelled to go, and who was Marks to say she shouldn’t? 'She talked about these things constantly. It weighed on her,' he said.
“Even as a quiet young girl, Heyer stood up for people who were picked on while riding the schools bus, (childhood friend) Felicia Correa said. ... Correa said she recently was swamped with medical bills after complications related to her multiple sclerosis, so she went to a Charlottesville law firm. When Heyer, who was working as a paralegal there, walked out to meet her, she was ecstatic to see the friend she had known growing up in Greene County, Va. Heyer jumped in and guided Correa, who was uninsured and is a mother of six, through the daunting financial process. She was a 'young white woman who died standing up not just for people of color in general, but also the people of color that I love, that I worry about,' said Correa, who is biracial, black and Hispanic.”
Heyer leaves behind a dog. The chocolate chihuahua’s name is Violet, “because purple is Heather’s favorite color,” said her mother. She loved mac and cheese, cigarettes, scented candles, and products for her curly hair.
Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, left, of Quinton, Va., and Lt. H. Jay Cullen, of Midlothian, Va. (Virginia State Police/AP)
-- Two Virginia state troopers also died Saturday when their surveillance helicopter crashed on the outskirts of Charlottesville. Rachel Weiner reports: “H. Jay Cullen, 48, was a veteran pilot who spent several years shepherding the governor around Virginia. Berke Bates, who would have turned 41 on Sunday, was just beginning to realize a lifelong dream of becoming a helicopter pilot. ‘I was close to both of those state troopers,’ [Virginia Gov. Terry] McAuliffe (D) said at a memorial service in Charlottesville on Sunday morning. ‘Jay Cullen had been flying me around for three-and-a-half years. Berke was part of my executive protection unit. He was part of my family. The man lived with me 24-7.’ … The Bell 407 helicopter that Cullen piloted crashed about 5 p.m. Saturday in a wooded area on Old Farm Road in Albemarle County. … The National Transportation Safety Board also is investigating the helicopter incident.”
-- Others are still being treated: “On Saturday evening, five people were in critical condition and 14 others were being treated for lesser injuries received when the car struck the crowd,” per our lead story. “By Sunday, 10 were in good condition and nine had been discharged from the University of Virginia Medical Center. At least a dozen other people were treated after they were injured in street brawls.”
-- “Charlottesville woke up early Sunday morning groggy and wondering, praying even, that the pitched battles in the streets, the full decibel race-based hate, the people crushed under cars and the helicopter that fell from the sky were all just mad scenes from an end-times nightmare,” Joe Heim reports. “But the truth was darker. The city had a body count. The rally that almost no one in Charlottesville wanted and many here protested ended in death and sorrow and, for the time being at least, a fruitless search to make sense of it all for those who call it home. ... Overnight, Charlottesville had become known for something for which it never wanted to be known. America struggles with race everywhere, but here the full fury of its most committed racial antagonists had been displayed. It no longer hid in the shadows or barked from anonymous Twitter handles. It marched with torches at night and with shields, clubs and guns in broad daylight. It shouted out [the n-word] and ‘Faggots!’ and ‘Kikes!’ and it raised its arms straight out in Nazi salutes … How, they wondered, did their quiet and beautiful little city on the lap of the Blue Ridge Mountains become the focal point of so much anger and misery?”
-- “‘Look at the campaign he ran’: Charlottesville mayor is becoming one of Trump’s strongest critics,” by Kristine Phillips: “A white nationalist site calls him ‘anti-white.’ An article it published in May outlines some highlights of Michael Signer’s term as the mayor of Charlottesville: his endorsement of a $10,000 donation to pay for legal costs to help immigrants and refugees, and his decision to declare his city a ‘capital of the resistance’ just days after President Trump was sworn into office. For those reasons and others — including Signer’s Jewish heritage — the writer declared: ‘This is what the enemy looks like.’ … For Signer, Trump’s repeated failure to ‘condone, denounce, silence, put to bed’ the white supremacist voices that invoked his name during the campaign and after he won the White House is why Charlottesville was besieged with violence.”
-- The statue that set off the white nationalist protest remains standing — for now. The New York Times’s Jacey Fortin reports: “At the center of the chaos is a statue memorializing Robert E. Lee. It depicts the Confederacy’s top general, larger than life, astride a horse, both green with oxidation. The white nationalists were in Charlottesville to protest the city’s plan to remove that statue, and counterdemonstrators were there to oppose them. … [I]n February, the City Council voted to remove the statue from the park. Opponents of the move sued in March, arguing that the city did not have the authority to do so under state law. That court case is continuing, and the statue has remained in place. It was the focal point for a gathering held in May by the white nationalist Richard Spencer, who was among the demonstrators in Charlottesville this weekend. In June, the City Council gave Lee Park a new name — Emancipation Park.”
-- Lexington, Ky., Mayor Jim Gray announced Saturday that two statues of Confederate veterans in front of a local courthouse would be relocated to a park commemorating veterans. “As a mayor, you always must be prepared,” Gray told The Post. “So we’ll be prepared for the pushback and for the challenge. But this is the right thing to do.” (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
-- The White House on Sunday sought to stem the fallout from Trump's response to the violence — issuing a second statement after the president failed to condemn white supremacists for inciting the “hate-fueled melee.” John Wagner, Jenna Johnson, Robert Costa and Sari Horwitz report: “The President said very strongly in his statement yesterday that he condemns all forms of violence, bigotry, and hatred,” the White House said Sunday. “Of course that includes white supremacists, KKK Neo-Nazi and all extremist groups.” Vice President Pence was far more forceful in his condemnation of the violence last yesterday in Colombia: “We have no tolerance for hate and violence from white supremacists, neo Nazis or the KKK. These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and in the American debate, and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms.” The Justice Department, meanwhile, faced continuing questions Sunday about why it took Attorney General Jeff Sessions as long as it did Saturday to announce a hate-crime investigation and why the FBI has not labeled a deadly car-ramming incident Saturday as an act of “domestic terrorism.” Sessions is scheduled to appear on three network morning shows today to talk about his department’s response. Notably, the White House's statement yesterday was not signed by Trump.
-- Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum said it is “Time for Republicans to Leap From the Boat” in a piece for The Atlantic: “Trump now stands not between the parties, or above the parties, but beyond the parties — in some strange political twilight zone where neo-Nazis are seen as a constituency not to be insulted. … The conventional wisdom is that dissension is a party killer; safer to stay united around even a low-polling president than to act against him. But what if it is the president who is fomenting the dissension, because his ego requires that every failure be blamed on somebody else? … What if he is branding his entirely flag-waving party with the flags not of the United States but of Russia, the Southern Confederacy, and now amazingly even Nazi Germany?”
-- Bad optics: Against the backdrop of Charlottesville, Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign committee unveiled a new commercial on Sunday that accuses “the president’s enemies” of trying to undermine his success in office. John Wagner reports: “The 30-second spot, produced six months into Trump’s term, targets Democrats and the news media, and touts what the campaign says are successes that the president has managed to achieve, including a low unemployment rate and record stock-market closes. ‘Democrats obstructing. The media attacking our president. Career politicians standing in the way of success. But [Trump’s] plan is working,’ the narrator says. [The ad] includes a montage of [Democratic politicians] and television hosts, including Joe Scarborough, Rachel Maddow and Brian Williams of MSNBC, and Anderson Cooper and Don Lemon of CNN, among others. ‘The president’s enemies don’t want him to succeed,’ the ad says, ‘but Americans are saying, ‘Let president Trump do his job.’”
White nationalists and white supremacists chant “You will not replace us,” “Jews will not replace us,” and “white lives matter” as they march through U-Va. (Evelyn Hockstein for The Washington Post)
-- As establishment Republicans criticized Trump’s equivocal remarks, white nationalists cheered them. Amy B Wang reports: “On the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website, updates about Saturday’s events unfolded quickly[.] … ‘WE HAVE AN ARMY!’ the website posted to a live blog shortly after 11 a.m., along with photos of people carrying Confederate flags and neo-Nazi paraphernalia. ‘THIS IS THE BEGINNING OF A WAR!’ … Less than a half-hour after Trump’s live remarks, the Daily Stormer had declared the president’s words as a signal of tacit support for their side: ‘Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us.’ … The neo-Nazi live blog also noted that Trump had refused to respond when a reporter asked about white nationalists who supported him. ‘No condemnation at all,’ the Daily Stormer wrote. ‘When asked to condemn, [Trump] just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.’”
-- The Web hosting company GoDaddy announced that it would not longer allow the Daily Stormer to use its services. The neo-Nazi site was given 24 hours to move its website domain. (Katie Mettler)
-- The violence in Charlottesville was condemned by all major Virginia politicians of both parties — with one notable exception. “Corey A. Stewart, who is running for U.S. Senate (against Tim Kaine) and nearly won the Republican nomination for governor of Virginia on a pledge to preserve the state’s Confederate monuments, said white nationalists had been unfairly singled out for their role in the weekend chaos in Charlottesville that left three dead and dozens injured,” Laura Vozzella and Fenit Nirappil report.
-- Fear of the “antifa,” or the “violent left,” preceded the violent events in Charlottesville, Dave Weigel explains: “On Saturday afternoon, shortly before her camera captured a car plowing through left-wing activists in Charlottesville … Faith Goldy warned that the left was spinning out of control. ‘Hundreds and hundreds of antifa, weird BLM, idiots dressed like clowns,’ said Goldy, a reporter for the Canadian alt-right news site The Rebel. ‘This is okay, as long as you’re not the alt-right. The alt-right wasn’t allowed to demonstrate any show of force.’ Goldy’s report … was representative of a theme that had risen from far-right media to the mainstream since [Trump’s] inauguration. The growth of ‘antifa,’ a loose and often ad hoc network of left-wing ‘antifascist’ groups, has been covered as a rising danger to law and order, a justification for alt-right organizations to organize armed rallies — and for ordinary Americans to arm themselves, too.”
-- “Syria’s Assad has become an icon of the far right in America,” from Liz Sly and Rick Noack in Beirut: “Assad’s politics — and those of his father before him — have historically been associated more with the left than the right. … In recent months, however, Assad has become an icon also for the far right, whose leaders and spokesman have heaped praise on the ferocity with which he has prosecuted the war, his role in fighting the Islamic State and his perceived stance against Muslims and Jews. That Assad’s harsh methods have resulted in tens of thousands of civilian casualties seems only to have enhanced his stature.”
-- An American tourist in Germany was reportedly beaten by a stranger after he attempted to perform the Nazi salute outside a cafe. Authorities said they are investigating both the U.S. national for his gesture — in Germany, the Nazi salute is prohibited by law — and are searching for the man who attacked him. (Amy B Wang and Rick Noack)
-- The Pentagon continues to push for a diplomatic resolution with North Korea even as it prepares for military steps against Kim. The Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold reports: “‘As a military leader, I have to make sure that the president does have viable military options in the event that the diplomatic and economic pressurization campaign fails,’ Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford said in his first public remarks since the crisis escalated with North Korea’s launch of a second intercontinental ballistic missile late last month. … Gen. Dunford began a scheduled swing through the region Sunday, with a stop to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, along with newly appointed defense officials and commanders. Gen. Dunford leaves Monday for Beijing and will also visit Tokyo this week.”
-- Cabinet members Jim Mattis and Rex Tillerson penned a Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled, “We’re Holding Pyongyang to Account”: “The object of our peaceful pressure campaign is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The U.S. has no interest in regime change or accelerated reunification of Korea. We do not seek an excuse to garrison U.S. troops north of the Demilitarized Zone. We have no desire to inflict harm on the long-suffering North Korean people, who are distinct from the hostile regime in Pyongyang. Our diplomatic approach is shared by many nations supporting our goals, including China, which has dominant economic leverage over Pyongyang. … China has a strong incentive to pursue the same goals as the U.S.”
-- Top Trump administration officials on Sunday sought to downplay the idea that the United States and North Korea are on the verge of a nuclear war, seeking to tamp down fears after a week of incendiary rhetoric between the two leaders. Carol Morello reports: “The officials projected calm, a message directed as much to North Korea as to Americans, in a concerted effort to be more cautious in the language they use about the nuclear-armed nation and not further escalate an already perilous situation.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo said an attack from North Korea is “not something that is imminent”: “What I’m talking about is, I’ve heard folks talking about being on the cusp of a nuclear war,” he said on “Fox News Sunday,” “[But] no intelligence that would indicate that we’re in that place today.”
National security adviser H.R. McMaster said Trump’s bellicose remarks towards Kim Jong Un were an attempt to remove any “ambiguity” about what Pyongyang could expect if it continues to threaten the United States. “I think we’re not closer to war than a week ago,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “But we are closer to war than we were a decade ago.” Asked to respond to Trump’s remarks last week that the U.S. military was “locked and loaded” for an attack on North Korea, McMaster pivoted to diplomacy: The U.S. military is “locked and loaded every day,” he said, “But the purpose of capable, ready forces is to preserve peace and prevent war.” The assessments from Pompeo and McMaster the one made by Rex Tillerson, who told reporters last week that there was “no imminent threat” from North Korea and that Americans “should sleep soundly.”
Many experts, meanwhile, continued to blame Trump for fanning the flames. “I think it eliminates maneuver space for him, because it looks like brinkmanship to me,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on “Meet the Press.” “And it looks like clearly he’s, at least verbally, focused very specifically on the military options with the rhetoric that’s out there. It’s almost a fire and brimstone, ‘Don’t make another move or else.’”
-- “[T]he magnitude of the challenges that Mr. Trump faces has grown dramatically, but his tone has not,” write the New York Times’s Glenn Thrush and Peter Baker. “And it remains to be seen if the don’t-mess-with-me attitude that cowed Republican primary rivals like Jeb Bush will have a similar effect on a regime that has managed to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the United States while making progress toward miniaturizing a nuclear warhead that would fit on top. In this case, Mr. Trump has told people around him that he thinks Kim Jong-un, the unpredictable North Korean leader, will ultimately be prodded to cut a deal, and that the bluntness of his language is intended to create a crisis that drives him to negotiate before North Korea perfects a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the American mainland.”
-- The vice president opened his week-long trip to South and Central America Sunday with a stern message for Venezuela’s autocratic government to end “the tragedy of tyranny.” Philip Rucker reports: “Pence vowed to increase economic and diplomatic pressure on Venezuela and work with Colombia and other regional democracies to isolate the government of President Nicolás Maduro. He also sought to reassure the region after President Trump warned last week of a ‘possible military option’ in Venezuela, a comment that stoked anti-American sentiment by reviving dark memories of U.S. interventionism on the continent. ‘Venezuela is sliding into dictatorship, and as President Trump has said, the United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles,’ Pence said.”
Pence downplayed the possibility of U.S. military intervention in Venezuela as the president of Colombia openly criticized the suggestion: “[A]s he stood next to Pence, [Colombian President Juan Manuel] Santos denounced Trump’s threat of military action, and told the visiting vice president that such a possibility ‘shouldn’t even be considered’ and would be ‘unacceptable.’ … Pence’s six-day visit to Colombia, Argentina, Chile and Panama is expected to be dominated by the turmoil in Venezuela, although he also is planning to highlight trade and security partnerships throughout the hemisphere. … Pence said he and Santos discussed during a private meeting additional economic sanctions and other measures to increase pressure on Venezuela. … Although the Venezuelan crisis is top of mind, Pence plans to highlight other issues as well. For instance, Pence pressured Santos to curb the flow of drugs into the United States[.]”
-- “One of Venezuela’s most powerful leaders may have put out an order to kill Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a fervent critic of the South American country’s government,” the Miami Herald’s Patricia Mazzei reports. “Though federal authorities couldn’t be sure at the time if the uncorroborated threat was real, they took it seriously enough that Rubio has been guarded by a security detail for several weeks in both Washington and Miami. Believed to be behind the order: Diosdado Cabello, the influential former military chief and lawmaker from the ruling socialist party who has publicly feuded with Rubio. … The death threat was outlined in a memo to several law enforcement agencies disseminated last month by the Department of Homeland Security. … The memo revealed an ‘order to have Senator Rubio assassinated,’ though it also warned that ‘no specific information regarding an assassination plot against Senator Rubio has been garnered thus far[.]’”
-- The administration is clearing the way for further deregulation of America’s financial institutions. The Wall Street Journal’s Ryan Tracy and Dave Michaels report: “Several agencies are reviewing the Volcker rule, a part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act that limits banks’ trading. Some regulators also recently dropped a plan to restrict bonuses on Wall Street that had been opposed by banks and brokerage firms. And the Labor Department on Wednesday disclosed an 18-month delay in the so-called fiduciary rule that requires brokers to act in retirement savers’ best interests rather than their own. The moves show that while President Donald Trump is struggling to advance his legislative agenda in Congress, his administration has begun laying the groundwork to change some of the myriad rules that Wall Street has sought for years to overturn or water down.”
-- Even as Trump officials project an air of confidence about getting legislation passed, they are predicting a “brutal” September. Politico’s Josh Dawsey reports: “Aides hope to have a better blueprint for how the president wants to proceed on a series of thorny issues — the nation’s debt ceiling, the 2018 federal budget, tax reform, infrastructure spending and perhaps another stab at repealing Obamacare — after a series of meetings in New York this week. Their goal is to partially temper Trump’s expectations, hammer out some compromises and get a competing band of aides on the same page. … Trump, who is impatient, wants it all done immediately, said people close to the president — and he has ratcheted up pressure on aides in recent weeks, even though he doesn't always engage with the substance of issues. What makes the month harder is that many of the fights are in Congress, where the president and his team have little control.”
-- “Congressional Republicans need to think again if they're hoping tax reform will offer them an easy victory after their bungled Obamacare repeal effort,” Politico’s Rachael Bade and Bernie Becker report. “Rewriting the tax code will be just as difficult as health care — maybe even more so. While every Republican loves a tax cut, the GOP is divided over how — or even whether — to pay for them. The fault lines are as much about lawmakers' parochial concerns as they are about party identity, further complicating the task of cobbling together a majority. That's not to mention the procedural hurdles that could stall the tax debate, or the crowded congressional calendar that could push reform to the back burner.”
-- “In South Texas, Threat of Border Wall Unites Naturalists and Politicians,” by the New York Times’s Michael Hardy: “[Marianna Wright, the executive director of the privately owned National Butterfly Center] said she also learned, for the first time, that a section of the proposed wall on the border with Mexico — and a pair of parallel roads on either side of it — would run through the butterfly center. The wall’s placement would cut off two-thirds of the center’s property, leaving a 70-acre no man’s land between the wall and the Rio Grande. … The specter of a border wall has loomed over the Rio Grande Valley since 2006, when President George W. Bush signed the Secure Fence Act authorizing 700 miles of fencing along certain stretches of the southern border. But the election of [Trump], who made completing the wall a centerpiece of his campaign, has spurred renewed concern about the economic and environmental consequences of such a wall.”
-- “Two senior Trump advisers -- one inside the White House and another who recently departed -- signaled Sunday that the knives are out for Steve Bannon,” CNN’s Dan Merica, Jim Acosta and Kaitlan Collins report. “The comments come as a source inside the White House tells CNN that White House chief of staff John Kelly has soured on Bannon[.] … Bannon is seen as pursuing his own agenda, which does not mesh with the power structure Kelly is putting in place[.] … National security adviser H.R. McMaster was asked three times by NBC's Chuck Todd on Sunday whether he can work with Bannon in the White House. McMaster dodged the question each time[.] … The more blunt comments came from recently ousted White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who told ABC that Trump needs to ‘move away’ from Bannon and Breitbart. … One source said rumors of Bannon's demise have been exaggerated in the past, but that there are serious conversations happening now about whether there is a place for him in the administration going forward.”
-- House conservatives are attempting to force Paul Ryan to hold a vote on a clean repeal of Obamacare. Kelsey Snell reports: “Conservatives say they believe a repeal measure can pass without a replacement, despite warnings from Ryan and other leaders that the votes aren’t there. The long-shot effort gained momentum last week with support from influential outside groups. … The strategy they are using requires that a majority of the 434 members of the House sign a petition calling on Ryan to bring the bill to the floor. No Democrats are expected to sign the document, meaning that conservatives would have to win support from all but 22 of the 240 House Republicans. … If successful, the petition would allow conservatives to bring their bill to the House floor for a vote without intervention from leadership. The legislation they have proposed would gut the majority of the ACA[.]”
-- Even as Trump continues to call for the repeal of Obamacare, his Department of Health and Human Services is helping to shore up the exchanges. Politico’s Rachana Pradhan reports: “Alaska will get $323 million over the next five years to coax its lone Obamacare insurer to remain in the market and hold down premiums. At least four other states, including some that have vociferously opposed the Affordable Care Act, are seeking similar deals. The efforts come as the GOP push to repeal and replace the law is in disarray and state officials in both red and blue states seek ways to shore up their shaky markets. They have the blessing of the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services — even as the president himself is threatening to cut off key subsidies as early as this week. … The White House said Thursday it applauds the stabilization efforts[.]”
-- The deadline for insurers to set 2018 rates has been extended by almost three weeks. The New York Times’s Robert Pear reports: “The extension was announced in a memorandum that insurers received on Friday from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services[.] … It was the clearest evidence to date that the politics of health care in Washington could disrupt planning for 2018. Insurers are struggling to decide whether to participate in the marketplace next year and, if so, how much to charge. In addition to the usual price increases to keep up with medical inflation, many insurers are demanding higher rates because of the possibility that President Trump might take away the subsidies known as cost-sharing reduction payments. … In its latest bulletin, the Trump administration said that many state insurance commissioners had allowed insurers to increase rates for 2018 to account for the ‘uncompensated liability’ that they might face for the cost-sharing reductions.”
-- Despite Trump’s endorsement of incumbent Sen. Luther Strange, the heated Alabama primary continues to pit the establishment GOP against the Trump base. Robert Costa reports: “Strange, despite the Trump bump, is unlikely to win the nomination outright Tuesday. A bruising one-month runoff campaign looms for the top two finishers, and Trump’s die-hard supporters in the state are divided. For Republicans, the Alabama contest is a snapshot of the party’s churning base at this moment in the Trump presidency. In a deep-red state, the dominant squabbles are not over ideological purity — that GOP test of old — but over loyalty to Trump and over who has the most visceral connection with his core voters. … Strange’s Republican challengers include former state Supreme Court justice Roy Moore, who has a passionate following among religious voters, and Rep. Mo Brooks, a prominent conservative in the U.S. House. … Moore has jumped ahead in the latest polls with about 30 percent support, with Strange close behind and Brooks just trailing him.”
-- Politico’s Seung Min Kim has a profile on Roy Moore this morning: “Moore’s national notoriety stems primarily from his stormy tenure on the Alabama Supreme Court. He was removed as chief justice in 2003 for opposing the removal of a Ten Commandments statue from the state Capitol. But Moore was nevertheless reelected to the court, and then suspended for declining to enforce the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriages. After losing an appeal, he resigned in April. Moore embraces the controversies as a badge of honor. … He’s also prone to teeing off rhetorically. In a recent interview with the Guardian, Moore mused that Vladimir Putin is ‘maybe … more akin to me than I know’ when told about the Russian president’s opposition to gay marriage. And at a candidate forum here in the Birmingham suburbs, Moore went after transgender troops in the military, telling the crowd of local party faithful: ‘If we’re going to file for hormone treatments and medical surgeries, that’s not making your military stronger. You’ve got to have a disciplined military.’”
-- “Can Jeff Flake survive the role of chief Republican antagonist to Trump?” by Ed O’Keefe in Prescott, Ariz.: “Over two months, Sen. Jeff Flake has dodged bullets on a baseball field, buried his elderly father and watched one of his political mentors, Sen. John McCain, battle terminal brain cancer. And that was all before he published a book that doubles down on his criticisms of President Trump.”
Kelli Ward believes she has a chance to defeat Flake in next year’s GOP primary: “An osteopathic physician and former state lawmaker, Ward tried and failed to defeat McCain in a primary (last year) … In an interview, Ward said that Flake’s national television interviews to promote the book are helping her. ‘Every time he’s on, I’m gaining money and manpower.’ While she won nearly 40 percent of the primary electorate in 2016, Ward says her support will grow this year because of Flake’s decision to lash out at Trump.”
Democrats, meanwhile, might have caught a break in their bid to unseat Flake: “On Friday, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who represents a Phoenix-area district, said in a statement that she is ‘seriously considering’ entering the race, and several Democrats now think she is all but certain to run. Despite coming up short in statewide races since 2010, Democratic leaders think that Sinema’s moderate voting record and $3 million campaign war chest can help them capitalize on the growing anti-Trump and anti-Washington sentiment among voters.”
-- Politico, “Inside the Elizabeth Warren merchandising empire,” by Lauren Dezenski: “Prayer candles. Action figures. Temporary tattoos. Coloring books. Elizabeth Warren isn’t just a progressive icon, she’s a merchandising industry unto herself. The Massachusetts senator and presidential prospect is at the center of a sprawling business built around her appeal to liberals across the country[.] … It’s impossible to know the true size of the Warren merchandising-industrial complex. The bulk of it exists beyond the Democratic senator’s control on sites like online marketplace Etsy. And her campaign, which hosts its own online store, declined to disclose the exact amount of money it raises from merchandise sales. But it’s safe to say no other senator has anything like it.”
-- The New Yorker, “Julian Assange, a Man Without a Country,” by Raffi Khatchadourian: “Assange is not an easy man to get on the phone, let alone to see in person. He is protected by a group of loyal staffers and a shroud of organizational secrecy. One friend compared him to the central figure in Philip K. Dick’s ‘The Man in the High Castle’—a recluse trying to reset the course of history. In many ways, the Embassy has become a surreal redoubt: a place of extreme seclusion in the center of a bustling world capital; a protective stronghold that few can enter, even though it is the target of millions of dollars’ worth of covert surveillance.”
-- The Atlantic, “A Trump Aide Draws Jeers at a Convention of Black Journalists,” by Vann R. Newkirk II: “The proceedings immediately plunged into the bizarre. [BET’s Ed] Gordon largely ignored the other panelists for a one-on-one theatrical debate with [Omarosa] Manigault-Newman, who attempted to evade the topic of the panel in order to discuss murders of her father and other family members (carried out by private citizens) that shaped her childhood. ‘Let me tell my story,’ she chided Gordon after his attempt to ask questions about police brutality.”
-- It will be cloudy for most of the day in D.C., with showers possible. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Clouds are many through much or all of the day, although it may be sunnier for a while this morning. Some showers should break out and move through during the afternoon into evening, but they probably won’t amount to a whole lot. High temperatures range from near 80 to the mid-80s.”
-- The Nationals split a doubleheader against the Giants, losing the first game 4-2 and winning the second 6-2. The team also reported that Bryce Harper’s knee, which he had badly twisted, was merely bruised. (Chelsea Janes)
-- Both Democrats and Republicans in Maryland are enthusiastically testing new strategies to boost turnout for next year’s state elections. Josh Hicks reports: “Armed with lists of independents and party affiliates who sat out recent midterm elections, party volunteers and candidates are canvassing neighborhoods virtually every weekend to convince voters that the upcoming races matter, focusing largely on battleground districts but also reaching into each other’s strongholds. Democrats, who outnumber Republicans by 2 to 1 in Maryland, want to oust Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and shore up their veto-proof majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly[.] … [Republicans] want to reelect Hogan and break the Democratic supermajority by flipping at least five Senate seats held by Democrats.”