With Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: James Mattis, on a tour across Asia designed to reassure allies who are panicked about President Trump’s “America First” foreign policy, was asked several hours after Saturday’s terrorist attack on the London Bridge whether he had any reaction.
“I need to confirm everything. I like learning about something before I talk. So let me look into it,” the secretary of defense told a gaggle of American reporters who are traveling with him.
By the time Mattis said that, Trump had already impulsively spouted off several times – retweeting an unconfirmed post from the Drudge Report before British authorities even confirmed the incident was terrorism and then reiterating calls for his travel ban before anything was known about the suspects. Only later did he get around to extending condolences and offering U.S. support.
While undoubtedly unintentional, Mattis declining to comment the way he did represented quite a burn of the president.
It was perhaps the smallest, but most telling, illustration from the past 72 hours of the significant stylistic and substantive contrasts between the secretary of defense and the commander-in-chief.
Speaking in Sydney a few hours ago, Mattis finally responded to what happened in London. “We are united in our resolve, even against an enemy that thinks by hurting us they can scare us,” he declared. “Well, we don’t scare!”
Compare this mindset to Trump’s alarmist messaging yesterday. The president and one of his senior aides basically attacked London’s mayor — Sadiq Khan, a liberal Muslim — for not protecting his citizens:
At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is “no reason to be alarmed!”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2017
We must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people. If we don’t get smart it will only get worse
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2017
“Trump took Khan’s quote out of context,” White House bureau chief Phil Rucker notes. “The mayor had urged Londoners, in a BBC interview that was replayed, not to be ‘alarmed’ by an increased police presence in the city. He said that after condemning the ‘deliberate and cowardly attack’ as ‘barbaric.’”
— Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris agreement underscored another difference. Mattis has acknowledged climate change is happening and argued passionately that the federal government must respond. “The issue is considered especially important in Asia, where the Pacific Ocean dominates life, violent storms are common and several megacities are along coastlines,” reports Pentagon correspondent Dan Lamothe, who is flying aboard Mattis’s plane this week. “The Pentagon has labeled climate change as a threat to national security for years, and Mattis testified in January during his confirmation process that it required a ‘broader, whole-of-government response.’ He was not among the Cabinet secretaries whose comments the White House released Thursday in support of Trump’s decision” to withdraw from the Paris deal.
— In Singapore, after delivering a speech at the Shangri-La defense summit, Mattis signaled strongly that the U.S. will eventually break its isolationist fever. Michael Fullilove of the Lowy Institute in Australia, asked about Trump withdrawing from both the Paris agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as his criticisms of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Mattis replied that “there will be fresh approaches taken” because “we have a new president.” But then he made an impassioned case that the United States will always remain an international leader because Americans accept that, “like it or not, we are part of the world.”
He said Americans learned about the dangers of isolationism after World War II. America was happy “between our two oceans,” he said, until realizing “what a crummy world if we all retreat inside our own borders.”
Then he paraphrased an old quote often attributed to former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. “To quote a British observer of us from some years ago: Bear with us. Once we have exhausted all possible alternatives, the Americans will do the right thing. So, we will still be there. And we will be with you,” Mattis said, per Dan.
— “Perhaps no member of the Trump administration has as much worldwide credibility as … Mattis. But deep down the room did not believe him,” writes The Economist’s David Rennie, who is also accompanying the secretary on the trip. “There was something almost heartbreaking about the questions posed by the audience to the defence secretary … A member of the Japanese parliament wondered aloud whether America still shares ‘common values’ with its allies, or just security interests…
“Mattis is a distinguished man in an unenviable position,” David explains. “The defence secretary is not a dissident within the Trump administration. He is a loyal servant of a democratically-elected president. But in his defence of the post-war order, he was trying to tell his Asian audience that some principles and instincts are so deeply rooted in the American spirit that they can survive the swings and counter-swings of electoral politics.”
— The swashbuckling 66-year-old, who served four decades in the Marines before retiring as a four-star general, is beloved by rank-and-file servicemen for his valor in combat and his blunt style. “The Warrior Monk,” a more fitting nickname than the “Mad Dog” moniker preferred by Trump, is also respected by elites as a well-read intellectual and strategic thinker. Even Democratic alumni of the Obama administration who found him frustratingly hawkish praise Mattis for his honesty and integrity.
Mattis stepped down as head of U.S. Central Command in 2013 after disagreements with Obama’s White House over his desire to intensify the military response to Iranian activities in the Middle East. But, in his new job, he’s defended the nuclear deal with Iran. “It is in an imperfect arms control agreement,” Mattis said in January. “But when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.” Can you imagine Trump saying that?
— Mattis is in Australia today with Rex Tillerson, trying to shore up one of the most special relationships we have. The secretaries of defense and state are going to have dinner with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in the next few hours. Recall that Trump abruptly ended a testy phone call with Turnbull a few days after taking office after badgering him about a refugee deal and bragging about his electoral college win.
— While there is typically tension between the guys who run Foggy Bottom and the Pentagon, Mattis has worked hard to cultivate a close relationship with Tillerson. That’s because the SecDef, who has experienced the scars of battle and the loss of men under his command, believes in using force as a last resort – or at least after exhausting other options. “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately,” Mattis testified in 2013. “The more that we put into the State Department’s diplomacy, hopefully the less we have to put into a military budget.” Clearly, the president feels differently. Trump’s budget proposes slashing the State Department’s budget by more than 25 percent.
— Trump has cited Mattis as the reason he backed away from his campaign pledge to reinstate waterboarding. “He said, ‘I’ve never found it to be useful,’” Trump told the New York Times. Mattis explained to the president-elect during his job interview that he always found more value in building trust and rewarding cooperation with terrorism suspects than torturing them. “Give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers, and I’ll do better,” the retired general said. “I was very impressed by that answer,” Trump recalled later.
— The biggest difference between Trump and Mattis, though, is probably on Russia. At his confirmation hearing in January, Mattis placed Russia first among principal threats facing the United States.
On May 10, he flew to Lithuania to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to NATO. “We will deploy whatever capability is necessary here,” Mattis told leaders of the Baltic States, where he visited U.S. troops massing near the border with Russia and heard from a German colonel about Moscow’s latest subterfuge.
Two weeks later, Trump scolded NATO leaders in Brussels. Instead of embracing the organization’s solemn treaty commitment that an attack on a single alliance nation is an attack on all of them, he lectured about how most members are not paying their fair share – using inaccurate and misleading numbers.
Mattis was not just disappointed but also caught by surprise when Trump did not reaffirm the U.S. commitment to Article 5 mutual defense. Politico’s Susan Glasser reports this morning that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Mattis and Tillerson all supported Trump doing so and had worked hard in the weeks leading up to the trip to make sure it was included in the speech: “They thought it was, and a White House aide even told the New York Times the day before the line was definitely included. It was not until … when Trump started talking … that the president’s national security team realized their boss had made a decision with major consequences – without consulting or even informing them in advance of the change.”
“All of which further confirms a level of White House dysfunction that veterans of both parties I’ve talked with in recent months say is beyond anything they can recall,” Susan writes in a column about the episode. “And it suggests Trump’s impulsive instincts on foreign policy are not necessarily going to be contained by the team of experienced leaders he’s hired.”
“As with so much about this administration, there is a parallel to the Watergate era,” Daniel Kurtz-Phelan writes for New York Magazine. “With Nixon increasingly prone to boozy, paranoid rages, top officials concluded that he should sometimes be taken neither literally nor seriously. Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger told officers to get a second opinion before carrying out presidential orders. … This time around, it falls to Mattis … to check apocalyptic impulses emanating from the Oval Office.”
— “Mattis could well turn out to be a brake on Trump’s impulsive tendencies. But it’s also possible that, with the President uninterested in many details of international affairs, the military will also lack restraint,” Dexter Filkins worries in a good profile of the secretary for last week’s New Yorker. “In the weeks after the Yemen raid, it launched a series of operations on a scale rarely seen in the Obama years. It stepped up air strikes in Iraq and Syria, killing many Islamic militants but also hundreds of civilians. In Afghanistan, the Air Force dropped a bomb weighing twenty-two thousand pounds—the largest conventional weapon ever used—on an ISIS bunker complex. The Navy fired fifty-nine cruise missiles at an airbase in Syria, meant to punish the regime of Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons. An aircraft-carrier battle group was sent to the waters off the Korean Peninsula, in an effort to persuade the North Korean government to scale back its nuclear ambitions. And the decision was made to arm Syrian Kurds against the Islamic State.”
For now, Mattis is still struggling to staff up. The fact that Trump is in the White House has made that much harder: “Four months after he took over the Pentagon, only two of the top civilian jobs—there are fifty-seven in all—have been filled,” Dexter writes. “While Mattis was inclined to bring in people from across the political spectrum, the Trump White House was determined to appoint loyalists. In practice, that excluded nearly all the main-line Republican national-security experts, dozens of whom had signed letters during the campaign declaring that Trump was unqualified for office…
“When Mattis asked Michèle Flournoy, the former Under-Secretary of Defense under Obama, to consider becoming his deputy, she was torn between her admiration for Mattis and her discomfort with the Trump Administration. ‘I lost a lot of sleep and felt sick to my stomach,’ she told me. At Trump Tower, she was interviewed by a group of aides with no national-security experience. Among their first questions was ‘What would it take for you to resign?’ Flournoy, alarmed, told Mattis that she couldn’t take the job.”
OUR EXCITING EXPANSION CONTINUES:
— Joanie Greve has joined The Daily 202 as a full-time researcher. She comes to us from PBS’s “Washington Week,” where she was a production assistant. She previously worked at TIME and ABC News. Joanie grew up in Chicago and graduated from Georgetown University, where she wrote for the Hoya and spearheaded an effort to raise awareness about campus sexual assault. She’s fluent in French and spent a year teaching elementary students in Mâcon. She ran her first half-marathon this spring and cheers for the White Sox. Joanie will work with Breanne Deppisch, who is taking a well-deserved week off. We’ve got some exciting new features and initiatives in the pipeline. Stay tuned!
— Launching tomorrow: The Finance 202. We poached Tory Newmyer, who spent six-and-a-half years as Fortune Magazine’s Washington Correspondent, to anchor a fresh newsletter on the intersection of Washington and Wall Street. Tory is plugged in at the Capitol, where I first got to know him in 2010, and at the key agencies. He has good perspective on the regulatory environment and an intuitive sense of how markets will react to stuff that’s percolating inside the Beltway. Sign up to get his Finance 202 here.
— Thanks to Dave Weigel, Matea Gold, Ed O’Keefe, Rachel Van Dongen, Breanne and Joanie for helping fill the gap while I was on vacation last week. I’m recharged and fired up for Congress’s two-month sprint to its August recess.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
TRUMP TRIPLES DOWN ON “TRAVEL BAN:”
— The president’s lawyers are clearly not vetting his tweets (yet) because there is no way anyone who graduated from even a third-rate law school would have allowed this morning’s latest outburst. Each of these undermines the argument being made be the administration in court that the currently-on-hold travel ban is not actually a travel ban:
People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2017
The Justice Dept. should have stayed with the original Travel Ban, not the watered down, politically correct version they submitted to S.C.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2017
The Justice Dept. should ask for an expedited hearing of the watered down Travel Ban before the Supreme Court – & seek much tougher version!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2017
In any event we are EXTREME VETTING people coming into the U.S. in order to help keep our country safe. The courts are slow and political!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 5, 2017
When Trump tweeted this on Saturday night…
We need to be smart, vigilant and tough. We need the courts to give us back our rights. We need the Travel Ban as an extra level of safety!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2017
The ACLU quickly replied:
— Flashback: “It is NOT a travel ban,” Homeland Security secretary John Kelly said one week ago, after the Fourth Circuit maintained a district court’s freeze of the ban. “Remember, it’s a travel pause!”
“It’s not a travel ban,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer has insisted from behind his podium. “It’s a vetting system!”
— Some Republican senators are suggesting that Trump’s proposed ban is no longer necessary since the administration has had the time it claimed it needed to develop beefed-up vetting procedures to screen people coming to the United States. From Paige Winfield Cunningham:
- “It’s been four months since I said they needed four months to put that in place,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of the Intelligence Committee, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I think you can do that without a travel ban and hopefully we are.”
- “I think the travel ban is too broad, and that is why it’s been rejected by the courts,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said on “Face the Nation.” “The president is right, however, that we need to do a better job of vetting individuals who are coming from war-torn countries into our nation … but I do believe that the very broad ban that he has proposed is not the right way to go.”
— To get the travel ban reinstated, the Justice Department filed two emergency applications with the Supreme Court last week. “If the court allows the development of new vetting procedures to go forward, that could start the clock on another 90 days for the administration to review vetting procedures. But that could also render a Supreme Court decision on the travel ban moot, since the court is not likely to hear that case before October,” Paige explains. “As more time goes by with no appearance of effort toward stronger vetting, it could undermine the administration’s legal justification for a temporary travel ban.”
THERE IS A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
— Vladimir Putin testily rejected the idea that his government interfered in the 2016 U.S. election — or that he is holding compromising evidence against President Trump — in an interview with NBC’s Megyn Kelly that was broadcast last night. “They have been misled,” Putin responded when Kelly said that American intelligence agencies had concluded that Russia interfered in the campaign with the goal of electing Trump. “They aren’t analyzing the information in its entirety. I haven’t seen, even once, any direct proof of Russian interference in the presidential election.”
David Fahrenthold reports that “the interview produced little that was new,” though “it was tense at times,” with Putin calling Kelly’s questions a “load of nonsense.”
When Kelly asked about Russian involvement in the campaign, Putin suggested that U.S. intelligence agencies might have been behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy. “There’s a theory that (it) was arranged by the United States intelligence services. So, if this theory is correct — and that can’t be ruled out —” then the same agencies could fabricate evidence of Russian hacking, Putin said.
Reality check: If you believe anything Putin says, I’ve got some oceanfront property in Arizona that I’d like to sell you…
— The most important event of this week: James Comey testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee at 10 a.m. on Thursday. The fired FBI director then speaks to the group in closed session at 1 p.m. White House aides floated a trial balloon going into the weekend that Trump might invoke executive privilege to keep him from testifying, but they quickly popped it as soon as they got a taste of how bad the backlash would be.
- “His testimony may well join those rare historic moments when frankly the whole country stops to watch,” Chuck Todd said Sunday on “Meet the Press.”
- “Listen, there’s a lot of smoke. We have no smoking gun at this point. But there is a lot of smoke,” Mark Warner (D-Va.), vice-chair of the committee, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
— On the same program, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley insisted that she is out of the loop about Jared Kushner’s reported efforts to establish back-channel communications with the Russians. “I don’t know that to be fact. … What I can tell you is: No, I wouldn’t do that,” she told Jake Tapper. “But at the same time, I’m not in that inner circle in the administration. I do my job at the United Nations, and Jared continues to do his job there at the White House.” This represents a remarkable distancing from someone who wants to look like she has influence.
— In case you missed it over the weekend: “Explanations for Kushner’s meeting with head of Kremlin-linked bank don’t match up.“
— The New York Times looks deeper at the bank in today’s paper: “Vnesheconombank, or VEB, is no normal bank. … It is intertwined with Russian intelligence. And the Russian prime minister is, by law, the chairman of its supervisory board. Now VEB is at the center of an international firestorm that threatens the Trump presidency because the bank’s chief — a prominent graduate of Russia’s spy school — met with Jared Kushner … That meeting is a focus of a federal counterintelligence investigation about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.”
— The Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second game of the NBA Finals, bringing their lead to 2-0. Tim Bontemps reports: “Behind another pair of spectacular performances from Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, as well as Klay Thompson’s emergence from a playoffs-long shooting slump, the Warriors came away with a 132-113 victory in Steve Kerr’s return to active duty as Golden State’s coach. Now, as the series shifts to Cleveland for Games 3 and 4, the immediate focus will not be on whether the Cavaliers can come back and win a second straight championship but whether the Warriors can do what once seemed unthinkable: finish the postseason 16-0.”
— Four Arab nations announced that they will sever diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing their neighbor of stoking regional conflict and supporting terrorist organizations. Kareem Fahim reports: “The four countries — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain — released separate and apparently coordinated statements saying they would cut air, sea and land links with Qatar, which hosts a base for the U.S. military’s Air Forces Central Command and will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Qatar’s Foreign Ministry called the measures ‘unjustified’ in a statement and … ‘based on claims and allegations that have no basis in fact.’ The announcements come just weeks after Trump met with Arab and Muslim leaders in Saudi Arabia and called for a unified front against extremism — a visit that analysts said has bolstered the regional assertiveness of the Saudis.” Multiple airlines, including the Dubai-based Emirates, suspended flights to Qatar following the news, the AP reports.
GET SMART FAST:
- A “free-speech and pro-President Trump” rally in Portland, Ore., drew thousands of counter-protesters. The city’s Democratic mayor attempted to get the rally canceled, arguing that Portland was still “in mourning” from last month’s murder of two men who were attempting to protect two girls, one wearing a hijab, from a knife-wielding attacker. (Leah Sottile)
- A man has been arrested for stealing a wedding ring and backpack from one of the murdered Portland heroes. George Tschaggeny will be charged with second-degree theft, tampering with physical evidence and abuse of a corpse in the second degree. (Susan Hogan)
- The mayor of Los Angeles worries that ICE’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants could lead to riots. “If something goes wrong, I fear a tinderbox out there,” Eric Garcetti said. “That’s dangerous for those officers. That’s dangerous for those agents. And we’re going to have to respond.” (LA Times)
- At least 11 Chinese activists were detained by police for participating in events commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre. The bloody repression of pro-democracy protesters in Beijing took place 28 years ago Sunday. (Simon Denyer)
- Hundreds of demonstrators protested for a third straight day in Kabul. Participants argued that the Afghanistan government should better protect them from violence, such as last Wednesday’s bombing that killed almost 100, and they called for the end of U.S.-backed Ashraf Ghani’s presidency. (Annie Gowen and Sayed Salahuddin)
- Ireland’s governing Fine Gael party elected the gay son of an Indian immigrant as its new leader and the country’s likely next prime minister. ( AP)
- Harvard revoked ten offers of admission to students who exchanged vulgar memes on Facebook. The prospective students connected through Harvard’s official class of 2021 group but then created a smaller online group to exchange images “mocking sexual assault, the Holocaust and the deaths of children.” (Samantha Schmidt)
- A high-school senior from Tennessee who wrote about her love of Papa John’s Pizza in her Yale admissions essay was accepted. “When the delivery person rings my doorbell, I instantly morph into one of Pavlov’s dogs, salivating to the sound that signals the arrival of the cheesy, circular glory,” she wrote. (Herman Wong)
- Kellyanne Conway’s husband, George, withdrew his name from consideration to run the Justice Department’s civil division. (Matt Zapotosky)
- Derek Fisher, the longtime Los Angeles Lakers player and former New York Knicks coach, was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after flipping his 2015 Cadillac in a crash on U.S. 101 in California yesterday. (Cindy Boren)
- A CNN anchor is under fire for implying that the 2017 National Spelling Bee champion, who is Indian-American, is “used to using” Sanskrit. After asking Ananya Vinay to spell “covfefe,” CNN’s Alisyn Camerota said: “It’s a nonsense word. So, we’re not sure that its root is actually in Sanskrit, which is what you’re probably, uh, used to using, so, I don’t know. Anyway.” (Kristine Phillips)
LATEST FROM LONDON:
— The attack took place in the heart of the British capital during a bustling Saturday night. From Karla Adam and Rick Noack: “It was clear that the incident was meant for all the world to see. At around 10 p.m., a white van mowed down pedestrians as it zigzagged across London Bridge … [The three assailants] tore through nearby Borough Market leaving a trail of blood in their wake — seven people died and dozens more were injured. …During the day, it’s a food lover’s paradise — vendors from around the world sell dishes with enticing aromas and tourists from around the world buy them. It is perhaps not surprising that a number of nationalities have been reported among those who were wounded, including French and Australian.”
— The hard truth, via former acting CIA director Michael Morell: “More Lone Wolf Attacks Are Inevitable.” (The Cipher Brief)
— Given the tragic circumstances, Ariana Grande’s Sunday benefit concert for victims of the Manchester attack took on added significance. Jennifer Hassan and Max Bearak report: “The pop star appeared at Manchester’s Old Trafford Cricket Ground, which seats 50,000, alongside Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Usher, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, and many other acts. Proceeds from the show, billed as ‘One Love Manchester,’ will benefit the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund, the British Red Cross and the Manchester City Council. More than 14,000 tickets to Sunday’s concert were set aside for those who attended the original May 22 show. … The crowd at Old Trafford exuded a sense of togetherness. People chanted ‘We love Manchester.’ Almost everyone seemed to be holding someone else’s hand…By the time the main acts reached the stage, the grounds were almost at capacity. The musicians played their most upbeat hits, and it seemed as though everyone listening knew all the words.”
— And the uplifting spirit was not confined to the Manchester show. Peter Holley reports: “On Sunday, some Londoners started pushing back against the notion that their city — if not their country — was trembling in fear. They had a simple message: ‘London is not reeling.’ Their resistance was epitomized by an image that has been shared more than 26,000 times showing a British man casually holding a pint as he joins others fleeing the scene of Saturday night’s attack. … Steely resilience in the face of unforgiving tragedy is considered a fixture of British patriotism. … ’Keep Calm and Carry On’ — the popular World War II mantra that came to define the city’s resolute character — was resurrected online.”
Here’s the picture of the guy with the beer (on right):
— Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party announced that, in light of Saturday’s attack, it would suspend campaigning for Thursday’s general election. But that did not stop politics from seeping into the fallout. Griff Witte and Karla Adam report: “The latest attack to hit Britain this spring became a campaign issue Sunday, with just four days before an unpredictable national election. … Following the May 22 attack in Manchester, Saturday night’s van-and-knife rampage was the second mass-casualty attack to intrude on the homestretch of a parliamentary campaign that was once thought certain to end in a landslide for Prime Minister Theresa May and the Conservatives. The race has tightened in recent weeks, and terrorism has introduced an unexpected variable…
- “With her premiership on the line, May took an aggressive and combative tone Sunday…She blamed the attack on the ‘evil ideology of Islamist extremism,’ called for a thorough review of the nation’s counterterrorism policies and suggested she will take a much tougher line if she wins Thursday’s vote.
- “The speech was criticized by the opposition Labour Party as a thinly veiled jab at their far-left leader, Jeremy Corbyn, whom May has often accused of coddling anti-Western militants. May, Corbyn’s backers said, had politicized the attack.
- But by evening, Corbyn had hit back with his own political response to the killing, accusing May and her Conservative allies of weakening security services through years of austerity.”
Watch a clip of his speech:
HE WHO LIVES IN A GLASS HOUSE SHOULD NOT THROW STONES:
— Trump may be undercutting his own administration’s efforts to be “smart, vigilant and tough” on terror through his sluggish hiring process for key national-security posts. Politico reports: “The president’s counter-terrorism strategy could be hindered by dozens of vacancies across the government, not least a permanent FBI director. Top ranks at the State Department remain largely unfilled, as are some key ambassadorships. Trump has not named anyone to lead the Transportation Security Administration, which screens people at airports, or to run the Homeland Security office charged with protecting the country’s physical and cyber infrastructure.”
— Administration officials defended the president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement on the Sunday shows. Paige reports: “Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, … repeated his refrain that questions about President Trump’s personal views on climate change are beside the point. ‘When we joined Paris, the rest of the world applauded … because it put this country at disadvantage,’ Pruitt told Fox News’s Chris Wallace. ‘It’s a bad deal for this country. We’re going to make sure as we make deals we’re going to put the interests of America first.’”
— Out over her skis again: With every other administration surrogate ducking the question, Nikki Haley said on CNN: “President Trump believes the climate is changing. And he believes pollutants are part of that equation. So that is the fact. That is where we are. That’s where it stands. He knows that it’s changing. He knows that the U.S. has to be responsible with it, and that’s what we’re going to do. Just because we got out of a club doesn’t mean that we don’t care about the environment.”
But Haley’s comments sound more like her position, and they are at odds with the president’s own past statements, Mary Jordan notes: “Trump has made contradictory statements about what exactly he believes amid mounting pressure from other world leaders, the scientific community and even Pope Francis, who has urged urgent action to change human activity causing harm to the environment. The president has said flat out that climate change is ‘nonexistent’ — but at other times has hedged his position and said there could be some connection to human activity.”
— Supporters of the Paris agreement had much blunter words. Trump claimed Thursday night that he’s going to negotiate a better deal after pulling out of the last one. “That’s like O.J. Simpson saying he’s going to go out and find the real killer,” former secretary of state John Kerry said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” (Avi Selk)
— “Trump is finding it easier to tear down old policies than to build his own,” by Jenna Johnson, Juliet Eilperin and Ed O’Keefe: “The president and his fellow Republicans have made little progress in building an affirmative agenda of their own, a dynamic that will be on display when Congress returns this week with few major policies ready to advance. Voters are still waiting for progress on the $1 trillion package of infrastructure projects Trump promised, the wall along the Southern border he insisted could be quickly constructed and the massive tax cuts he touted during the campaign. Even debate over health-care reform is largely focused on eliminating key parts of the Affordable Care Act and allowing states to craft policies in their place. After being the ‘party of no’ during the Obama years, Republicans are still trying to figure out what they want to achieve in this unexpected Trump era — beyond just rolling back what Obama did. Even some Republicans have raised questions about what the party now stands for, as opposed to what it is against. “Asked during a recent interview for a Politico podcast what the Republican Party stands for now, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) responded: ‘I don’t know.’”
— Fears grow about dysfunction in Congress. Politico reports: “Concerns are rising in Washington that Congress may be headed toward the economic and political disaster of a debt default and a government shutdown later this year. And the chamber most likely to get Congress out of the jam — the Senate — is failing to live up to its moniker as the world’s greatest deliberative body.”
THOSE WHO DON’T LEARN FROM THE MISTAKES OF THE PAST ARE DOOMED TO REPEAT THEM:
— Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) is trying to retrieve copies of the committee’s 2014 secret report on the CIA’s brutal detention and interrogation program from federal agencies and return them to Congress. From Karen DeYoung: “By late Friday, most of the copies known to have been distributed had been returned to the committee, including by the CIA and its inspector general’s office, the director of national intelligence, and the State Department. … While a 500-page, redacted summary was eventually released, the bulk of the report remains classified. … Burr’s order to collect copies of the 6,700-page document came weeks after the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the American Civil Liberties Union for the executive branch to release the full report, ending a two-year legal battle. Democrats cried foul, charging that Burr intends to bury the document and ensure that it is never released. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chaired the committee when it was written, said Burr’s intent in collecting copies of what she called ‘the torture report’ was to ‘erase history’ and make sure the document would not be read by current and future officials. … Congress is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, but distribution of the report to federal agencies provided an opening for FOIA requests for its declassification and release.”
— “A tiny Texas border city is leading the charge against the state’s immigration crackdown,” by Maria Sacchetti and Sandhya Somashekhar: “El Cenizo is (working) to block a tough new Texas immigration law that requires police to hold criminal suspects for possible deportation, before the measure takes effect Sept. 1. The lawsuit filed by the city pits Mayor Raul Reyes and his tiny outpost of Democrats against the state’s powerful Republican Party. Almost everyone in town is an immigrant from Mexico — or is related to one — and many are here illegally…The mayor’s move puts this city of 3,300 residents at the heart of a new war raging in Texas over an old issue: illegal immigration…The divisions underscore how illegal immigration has evolved as an issue in Texas, home to an estimated 1.6 million undocumented immigrants.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
The president’s tweets on Saturday night fit a pattern of responding quickly to acts of terror and more slowly to other attacks. “Critics of the president were quick to note how long it took Trump to get around to any mention of the Portland attacks, and from his secondary Twitter account. Compared with violent incidents that were a function of Islamic terrorism, the demure @POTUS tweet was remarkably late,” Philip Bump writes. He made this handy chart:
The White House social media director, from his official account, attacked the mayor of London one day after a terrorist attack in his city. Can you imagine how Americans would have responded if a senior aide to Tony Blair attacked Rudy Giuliani the day after 9/11? You don’t have to. Because it never would have happened. This is not normal:
Here’s the 2016 tweet that prompted the Trump team’s nasty attacks:
Trump’s ignorant view of Islam could make both our countries less safe. It risks alienating mainstream Muslims. London has proved him wrong
— Mayor of London (@MayorofLondon) May 10, 2016
From a former RNC communications director:
The mayor’s office declined to directly respond to Trump’s tweets:
Instead, he posted this video:
There are a lot of people who say Trump’s tweets should not be taken seriously because they’re just tweets. But the anodyne statements that get sent out by the White House press office clearly do not actually come from the president, and his tweets clearly come closer to reflecting what’s really in his heart. If anything, Trump’s tweets are more significant statements of presidential policy than any press release. So someone on the Internet has created a new bot that reformats Trump tweets to look like official White House press releases:
Here’s how Hillary Clinton might have responded if she was president:
The U.S. embassy in London went out of its way to praise the mayor after the White House’s criticism:
Trump also used the tragedy to try making a point about gun control:
Do you notice we are not having a gun debate right now? That’s because they used knives and a truck!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2017
Former Rep. Gabby Giffords responded:
Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum identifies the fatal flaw in Trump’s gun-control argument: “Three men armed with high-capacity firearms would not have killed seven and wounded 48: They would have killed hundreds or even more,” David notes in the Atlantic. “British police could use their firepower advantage to kill the three terrorists in eight minutes. Had the terrorists been equally armed, who knows what the outcome of the gun battle might have been?”
Here they are hanging out afterward:
From the former dean of the House:
Trump still hasn’t appointed an FBI Director, the DOJ is in shambles, and he spent the entire weekend golfing.
But please, lecture London.
— John Dingell (@JohnDingell) June 4, 2017
Many prominent people, from celebrities to cable commentators, apologized for the American president’s behavior:
One of the “Modern Family” stars, for example, criticized Trump for taking the London mayor out of context:
The Connecticut senator:
A former Republican member of Congress from Florida:
A GOP strategist and former top aide to Eric Cantor:
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), meanwhile, praised Trump for not being politically correct:
A chilling thought from a former speechwriter to Barack Obama:
It’s hard to read Trump’s tweets this morning and not think that we’re one domestic attack away from the most dangerous version of this guy
— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) June 4, 2017
While Trump tweeted, the rest of the world showed solidarity:
There were lots of shout outs to Ariana Grande after her relief concert:
A crowd shot:
Some benefit from Trump’s insensitive tweets:
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) responded to Bill Maher’s use of the “n-word” during their interview on Friday night:
On a lighter note:
Trump and Kevin McCarthy attended the Ford’s Theatre gala:
A post shared by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (@repkevinmccarthy) on Jun 4, 2017 at 2:41pm PDT
From Bristol Palin:
A post shared by Bristol Meyer (@bsmp2) on Jun 4, 2017 at 6:29pm PDT
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
— Politico, “How Reince Priebus hangs on,” by Josh Dawsey and Ben White: “It is the fundamental dichotomy Priebus confronts these days. He is a dead man walking, according to senior White House officials, advisers and others close to the president…Yet he continues to show up for work every day as the chief of staff, even as headlines say he will be fired—if not today, then tomorrow or next week. And yet, he remains in place. His greatest job security: There are few takers for what might be an unworkable gig.”
— The Atlantic, “The Republican Dilemma,” by Jay Caruso: “Several miles off Route 41 in Bartow County, Georgia, is the downtown area of Cartersville…Here, the firing of James Comey arouses not support or opposition, but rather, indifference. Nobody I spoke with cared either way; it doesn’t affect them or their families. People shrugged when asked about Trump’s tweetstorms. Most agreed that press treatment of Trump is too harsh. Overall, the focus for Trump voters here is the big picture: the economy, jobs, and border security…This is the predicament now facing conservatives and Republicans in Congress. Trump’s supporters—their own primary voters—are standing by him. But while Trump supporters want him to focus on the big picture issues such as health care and tax reform, the president spends most of his time consumed with the kind of trivialities other presidents leave for spokespeople to handle.”
— Politico, “Why Trump Can’t Keep Comey From Talking,” by Eric Columbus: “Executive privilege is a notorious Gordian knot that has yielded surprisingly few judicial decisions, because courts typically prefer that Congress and the president hash out such disputes themselves. Some have suggested the former FBI director’s testimony is necessary for Congress to fulfill its oversight responsibilities; others say Trump waived any privilege by blabbing about his meetings with Comey. While these theories may help untangle the knot, there’s a way to slice it wide open: Comey can’t be restrained from testifying before the Committee because he’s now a private citizen who wants to talk.”
— In a futile effort to distract the public and press from Russia and Comey’s testimony, White House officials plan to focus on infrastructure this week. (John Wagner has more details on the messaging push.)
— Trump today will announce his Air Traffic Control Reform Initiative in the morning, eat lunch with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and host a reception for Gold Star Families in the evening. In addition to accompanying the president on his three main events, Mike Pence will have a meeting with Montenegro’s prime minister and give a speech to the Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Leadership Awards later tonight.
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
— Some light showers are possible in the afternoon. The Capitol Weather Gang forecasts: “It becomes overcast this morning with showers becoming likely, especially by midday. The heaviest and most persistent rainfall probably focuses south of the metro region. Elsewhere, amounts may end up rather light (a quarter-inch or less). Clouds hold highs mostly in the mid-70s.”
— The Nationals managed to beat back the Oakland Athletics for an 11-10 win. They’ll stay in California to face off against the Dodgers next.
— Kalorama homeowners won resident-only parking in their ongoing battle against limited curb space, which has only gotten worse with the Obamas and Ivanka in the neighborhood. But some say that the resident-only parking does not completely solve the problem in the luxurious enclave, given that Muslim worshippers are often forced to park on their blocks to attend prayers at the nearby mosque.
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
John Oliver talks about Earth:
Watch Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R), who will have a tough reelection fight next year, repeatedly and awkwardly try to deflect questions about Trump:
Check out his LeBron James dunk from last night:
Protesters held a March for Truth in D.C. on Saturday to demand an independent investigation into ties between Russia and the Trump campaign:
Take a walking tour of Washington’s tony Kalorama neighborhood, which houses the Obamas and Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner: