Trump’s Selling A Russia Story, But Most Americans Aren’t Buying It – HuffPost

WASHINGTON – Having told falsehood after falsehood about everything from inaugural crowds to FBI Director James Comey’s firing, why would anyone believe a single word coming from this White House?

That’s the fundamental problem a beleaguered communications team faces as it tries to respond to claims that Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to help win the presidency last year, with the public appearing to settle into the view that White House statements simply cannot always be taken as fact.

“Credibility may be repairable around the margins ― if, for example, someone misspeaks,” said Ned Price, a former CIA analyst and spokesman for former President Barack Obama’s National Security Council. “But there’s a point of no return after which credibility will always be tarnished. The White House passed that point long ago.”

An email released last week showing that Donald Trump Jr. not only knew the Russian government was helping his father but also that Trump’s eldest son actively encouraged it came after a full year of candidate Trump and his campaign team initially denying any contact with Russians, let alone collusion.

“If it’s what you say I love it,” Trump’s eldest son wrote just minutes after receiving the June 2016 email from a business associate offering “very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”

President Trump, as he has for days, again tried to defend himself and his son on the issue with a Monday morning statement on Twitter: “Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don jr attended in order to get info on an opponent. That’s politics!”

Most politicians would have gone to a meeting like the one Don jr attended in order to get info on an opponent. That’s politics!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 17, 2017

That was followed hours later by press secretary Sean Spicer claiming in the daily White House press briefing: “There was nothing, as far as we know, that would lead anyone to believe that there was anything except for a discussion about adoption and the Magnitsky Act.”

The narrative of the “adoption” agenda was crafted by top White House staff as they flew back from Germany on July 8 ― even though they knew that the email was offering negative information about presidential rival Hillary Clinton and didn’t mention adoption or the Magnitsky Act, which had imposed sanctions on Russians.

The White House press office did not respond to queries about the Trump White House’s pattern of false statements, and Spicer did not respond to a request for clarification about Monday’s adoption claim from the White House lectern.

What Spicer or anyone in the press office could do at this point to regain credibility is unclear. Spicer’s aggressive insistence on provably untrue assertions began the day after the Jan. 20 inauguration, when he told reporters in the White House briefing room that the crowd attending Trump’s inaugural was the largest ever ― even though photographs clearly showed it was a fraction of the size of Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

In just his first month in office, Trump went on to make false claims about the “standing ovation” he received Jan. 21 at CIA headquarters, the “millions” of “illegal” votes cast in the November election, the murder rate, the news coverage given to terrorist attacks and a nonexistent terrorist incident in Sweden.

Trump had the lowest percentage of truthful statements of any recent presidential candidate, according to the fact-checking group PolitiFact. Of the more than 400 Trump claims the group has analyzed since he entered the race in 2015 through his first six months in office, a full 69 percent are rated “mostly false,” “false” or “pants on fire.”

A new poll shows that the repeated dishonesties appear to have taken their toll on the Russia issue.

In an ABC News/Washington Post survey released Sunday, 63 percent of respondents said the meeting Trump Jr. had with a Russian lawyer and a former Russian spy, among others, at Trump Tower in June 2016 was inappropriate, compared with 26 percent who did not see a problem. That meeting also included Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and now a top White House adviser, and Paul Manafort, who was then chairman of the Trump campaign.

A full 66 percent of Americans are mistrustful of Trump negotiating with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, while only 32 percent trust he would do a good job.

More broadly, only 36 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing as president, a 6-percentage-point drop from what that poll found three months ago. “Lies/false statements/dishonest” was tied for second among the characteristics that Americans most disliked in Trump, according to the poll results. “Inappropriate way he talks and acts” and “everything” were tied for first.

Mike McCurry, a press secretary in the Bill Clinton White House, said Clinton was able to bounce back after being caught lying about his sexual involvement with an intern by, in part, focusing on his work. 

“When faced with a tough crisis about things personal, President Clinton over and over said that he would get back to his job as president,” said McCurry, now a theology professor at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. “And he did. And the results were pretty good, and the American people were very forgiving. That’s the best lesson this White House should take away.”

Whether Trump or his White House staff is capable of that, McCurry said, is an open question. “An ironclad commitment to telling the truth would be helpful, but I am not sure how you would get this team to commit to that responsibility.”

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The Daily 202: Only 1 in 4 Americans strongly support Trump – Washington Post

Donald Trump walks across the South Lawn last night after arriving back at the White House on Marine One from a weekend at his golf club in New Jersey. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

With Joanie Greve and Breanne Deppisch

THE BIG IDEA: President Trump is not Teflon, and the conventional wisdom that “nothing matters” is wrong.

fresh Washington Post/ABC News poll underscores the softness of Trump’s support as he prepares to mark six months in the White House on Thursday.

It also highlights a growing intensity gap. Support for the president is more tepid, but opposition is increasingly inflamed.

The president’s overall approval rating has slipped to 36 percent from 42 percent in April. For context, George W. Bush and Barack Obama both held 59 percent approval ratings in Post/ABC polls conducted around their six-month anniversaries.

Media coverage often focuses on how rank-and-file Republicans, as well as elected officials, continue to stand behind Trump. While true, a close examination of the results suggests that no more than 1 in 4 Americans believe passionately in him or his presidency at this juncture.

Trump’s disapproval rating has risen to 58 percent in the national survey, which was conducted last Monday through Thursday. Overall, 48 percent disapprove strongly of how he’s doing. But while 36 percent approve of Trump overall, only 25 percent approve strongly.

Consider the partisan breakdown: 82 percent of self-identified Republicans approve of how Trump is doing, including 62 percent who approve strongly. Meanwhile, 85 percent of Democrats disapprove of Trump, but a larger 75 percent disapprove strongly.

Where Trump really differs from Obama is that his approval leans more heavily on strong backers. Obama’s average “strong” approval was 28 percent during his presidency, not much different than Trump today. But Obama averaged 21 percent “somewhat” approval, 10 points higher than Trump.

Across the battery of questions in the survey, Trump’s hardcore base of support appears to be about a quarter of the public, give or take:

  • 24 percent say that, since taking office, Trump has “acted in a way that’s fitting and proper for a president of the United States.” Seventy percent say Trump has acted in a way that is “unpresidential.”
  • 24 percent approve of Trump’s use of Twitter. Just 13 percent strongly approve. Two-thirds disapprove of the president’s use of social media, and 53 percent strongly disapprove.
  • Compared with previous presidents, 23 percent think “Trump is doing a better job than most.” While 17 percent say he’s doing a “much better” job, 38 percent think he’s doing “much worse.”
  • 3 in 10 believe Trump is “a positive role model for young people.” For perspective, 18 percent said the same of Bill Clinton in a Post/ABC poll conducted the week after the salacious Starr Report was released in 1998.
  • 27 percent think “America’s leadership in the world has gotten stronger” under Trump.
  • 26 percent believe it was appropriate for Trump’s son, Donald Jr., to meet last summer with a Russian lawyer who said she had damaging information about Hillary Clinton. (This includes just less than half of Republicans.)
  • Despite all evidence to the contrary, just over 3 in 10 Americans still do not think the Russian government tried to influence the outcome of last fall’s U.S. presidential election.
  • While 34 percent trust Trump to negotiate on America’s behalf with other world leaders, only 19 percent trust him “a great deal.” The other 15 percent trust him just “a good amount.” Two-thirds of the country does not trust Trump at all in negotiations, which is remarkable when you think back to how heavily he emphasized his negotiating skills during the campaign.
  • On health care, 24 percent favor the Republican plan over Obamacare. Seventeen percent “strongly” favor the GOP plan, which was not explained in detail.

Would you say that the more you hear about Trump, the more you like him? Or the more you hear about Trump, the less you like him? Asked that question, roughly 3 in 10 adults said more. Nearly 6 in 10 said less.

The poll, based on a sample of more than 1,000 adults, has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

— Responding on Twitter, Trump said his 36 percent approval rating – which he rounded up to 40 percent – “is not bad at this time.” But he also attacked the Post-ABC poll as “just about the most inaccurate poll around election time!” In fact, The Post and ABC’s final poll was well within the sampling error and correctly showed Clinton ahead in the national popular vote.

Trump waves to the crowd during the U.S. Women’s Open golf tournament at his golf course in New Jersey. (Kelvin Kuo/USA Today Sports)

— What Americans love and hate about Trump: A job approval rating can be an unsatisfyingly vague barometer. What exactly are people thinking when they say they approve or disapprove of the way a president is handling his job? Our new poll included an open-ended question asking Americans what they have either liked or disliked most about his presidency so far.

The most common answer for why people think Trump is doing a good job was “strong leadership,” a variation of which was offered by 11 percent. “Speaking his mind” and “not being politically correct” was a close second, at 9 percent. “In total, 30 percent of Trump approvers mentioned his overall leadership or personality traits when asked what they approve of most. But a somewhat larger group of Trump approvers, 40 percent, mentioned a policy-related reason for approving of Trump’s performance,” pollster Scott Clement explains. “Some 7 percent said foreign affairs, while 6 percent apiece cited the economy, creating jobs (and) preventing illegal immigration … Slightly fewer mentioned fighting terrorism (or) his efforts on health care legislation.”

Americans who disapprove of Trump focused heavily on the president’s personal and character traits. “Topping the list of non-policy criticisms is the way Trump talks and acts (13 percent), laments about him not being informed or knowledgeable (12 percent), while another 12 percent mentioned concerns about lies, false statements or general dishonesty,” Scott writes in a story that just published. “Among disapprovers who named issues as their biggest criticism, the most common were immigration (8 percent) and health care (7 percent), the travel ban at 3 percent and others at 2 percent or less. Altogether, 46 percent of Trump disapprovers criticized something about his personality, honesty or style, while 25 percent mentioned a policy-related concern.

The country may seem hopelessly divided, butthepeople who strongly approve and disapprove of Trump have something in common: When asked what they love or hate most about the president, 12 percent of strong approvers and 14 percent of strong disapprovers volunteered “everything.”

Listen to James’s quick summary of today’s Big Idea and the headlines
you need to know to start your day:

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani, at the Sea Palace in Doha, Qatar, last week. (Alexander W. Riedel/State Department via AP)

— U.S. intelligence officials believe the United Arab Emirates orchestrated the hacking of the Qatari government’s news and social media sites to post incendiary quotes attributed to the country’s ruler that were then used as a justification to blockade Qatar. Karen DeYoung and Ellen Nakashima report: “The hacks and posting took place on May 24, shortly after President Trump completed a lengthy counterterrorism meeting with Persian Gulf leaders in neighboring Saudi Arabia and declared them unified. Citing the emir’s reported comments, the Saudis, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt immediately banned all Qatari media. They then broke relations with Qatar and declared a trade and diplomatic boycott. … In a statement released in Washington by its ambassador, Yousef al-Otaiba, the UAE said the Post article was ‘false.’ … The conflict has also exposed sharp differences between Trump — who has clearly taken the Saudi and UAE side in a series of tweets and statements — and (Rex) Tillerson, who has urged compromise and spent most of last week in shuttle diplomacy among the regional capitals that has been unsuccessful so far…

“Officials became aware last week that newly analyzed information gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed that on May 23, senior members of the UAE government discussed the plan and its implementation. The officials said it remains unclear whether the UAE carried out the hacks itself or contracted to have them done. The false reports said that the emir, among other things, had called Iran an ‘Islamic power’ and praised Hamas.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Iran sentenced a Chinese-American student accused of espionage to 10 years in prison. The harsh punishment of the Princeton graduate student is certain to raise tensions between Iran and the Trump administration. (Erin Cunningham and Carol Morello)
  2. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray was formally accused by an Oregon child-welfare investigator of having sexually abused his foster son in the 1980s. At the time, Murray was a paralegal who had worked as a counselor to troubled children, including the child he is accused of abusing. (Seattle Times)
  3. Elon Musk called artificial intelligence a “fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.” The Tesla chief executive suggested at the National Governors Association meeting that states need to begin regulating AI. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
  4. The team of Afghan girls blocked from coming to a robotics competition in the United States because of Trump’s travel ban got a last-minute reprieve when the State Department intervened. They were greeted with deafening applause at the D.C. competition. (Moriah Balingit)
  5. Roger Federer and Garbine Muguruza won Wimbledon. It was a record eighth title for Federer and the first for Muguruza. (Chuck Culpepper and AP

  6. NPR avoided a strike.The organization reached a tentative three-year deal with the union representing its employees on Saturday night. (Politico)  

  7. New research suggests that the stress of poverty and racism raises the risk of dementia among African Americans. Scientists found risk factors that disproportionately apply to African Americans, including poor living conditions and stressful life events like the death of a sibling, have severe consequences for brain health. (Fredrick Kunkle)
  8. A group of Pennsylvania nuns started an outdoor chapel at the site of a planned pipeline construction. The move sets the nuns up for a legal fight against the energy company building the pipeline. (Julie Zauzmer)
  9. British doctors removed 27 contact lenses from one patient’s eye. The patient had worn monthly lenses for about 35 years and — surprisingly — hadn’t complained of eye irritation, other than that connected to her planned cataracts surgery. She — not surprisingly — reported increased comfort after the dozens of lenses were removed. (NPR)

WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE WANTS TO TALK ABOUT THIS WEEK:

— “President Trump, whose company outsources the manufacturing of many of its products to overseas factories, is unveiling ‘Made in America’ week at the White House to promote products made in the United States,” Philip Rucker reports. “In keeping with the ‘America First’ theme of Trump’s inauguration, the administration will highlight U.S. manufacturing in the coming week, the latest of its theme weeks orchestrated by aides to bring discipline to the White House and focus Trump’s schedule and message on a set of policies. … Trump’s advisers also hope that by highlighting U.S. manufacturing they can underscore the need to overhaul the nation’s tax code, including substantially reducing the corporate tax rate.”

Peter Navarro. (Photo by Leonard Ortiz/The Orange County Register)

— Front and center will be Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro, who has dragged the president even more to the right on trade issues. Nancy Cook and Andrew Restuccia with one Politico’s top stories: “Navarro has earned a reputation for stalking the halls of the West Wing at night and on the weekends to find a moment to slip into the Oval Office to privately discuss trade with the president, according to one White House official and a close adviser to the administration. It’s his way of maintaining influence through proximity. His clout, dating back to the campaign, has informed the president’s thinking on everything from NAFTA to new lumber tariffs to potential trade restrictions on steel and aluminum … He has since pulled the president so far right on trade that more moderate aides worry his proposals could launch a global trade war if Trump takes them too seriously.” 

ANOTHER BUMP IN ROAD TO A HEALTH-CARE VOTE:

— With no votes to spare, Mitch McConnell postponed plans late Saturday night for a key vote on his health-care bill after John McCain announced that he will be at home in Arizona this week recovering from surgery to remove a blood clot from above his left eye.

— The delay caused by McCain’s absence may be longer than initial reports implied. “A statement released by Mr. McCain’s office on Saturday had suggested that he would be in Arizona recovering for just this week, but neurosurgeons interviewed said the typical recovery period could be longer,” the New York Times’ Denise Grady and Robert Pear report.

— Despite the hurdles, McConnell’s second-in-command vowed that there would be a vote. The New York Times’ Robert Pear reports: “‘I believe as soon as we have a full contingent of senators, that we’ll have that vote,’ the No. 2 Senate Republican, John Cornyn of Texas, said on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ … The timing of the Senate vote is crucial … Moreover, the Senate schedule will soon be packed with other legislation … In addition, Republicans are eager to cut taxes and simplify the tax code … Mr. Cornyn acknowledged that ‘there’s uncertainty about what the final outcome will be.’ Asked what would happen if the bill did not pass, he said: ‘I assume we’ll keep trying. But at some point, if Democrats won’t participate in the process, then we’re going to have to come up with a different plan.’”

— The delay, combined with continuing complaints about McConnell’s bill from its Republicans opponents, further imperiled the legislation’s prospects. Elise Viebeck reports: “A vocal conservative opponent of the measure, Sen. Rand Paul, predicted the delay would strengthen critics’ position by giving them more time to mobilize against the bill … The bill’s dramatic cuts to the Medicaid program are a significant concern for [Republican] governors such as [Nevada’s Brian] Sandoval as well as moderate senators such as Susan Collins (R-Maine) … ‘This bill imposes fundamental, sweeping changes in the Medicaid program, and those include very deep cuts that would affect some of the most vulnerable people in our society, including disabled children and poor seniors,’ Collins said … Collins estimated Sunday that there are eight to 10 Republican senators with ‘serious concerns’ about the bill. ‘At the end of the day, I don’t know whether it will pass,’ she said.”

— Administration officials attempted to convince Nevada’s Gov. Sandoval to support the Senate bill during the National Governors Association meeting over the weekend, but their efforts failed. Sean Sullivan and Dan Balz report from Providence, R.I.: “More than any other Republican in the country right now, the centrist governor of Nevada could hold the power to sink or salvage the health-care bill … The Trump administration mounted a full-court effort here … recognizing the resistance not only by Sandoval but other Republican governors who are potentially influential with their state’s senators. Despite a heavy public and private effort, however, the administration appeared to have changed no minds — and may even have hardened some of the opposition … Some Democratic colleagues who know Sandoval well are deeply skeptical that he will support the Senate bill.” Why this matters: Nevada GOP Sen. Dean Heller, who is up for reelection next year, appeared with Sandoval when announcing his opposition to the Senate’s original draft. Heller’s vote seems directly tied to Sandoval’s position, and, if Heller votes no, that will probably be enough to sink the entire bill.

Amy Goldstein has a great story this morning on Nevada’s rural counties, where health care has been revolutionized by the Medicaid expansion: “The stakes in this land of dusty winds and scarce jobs attest to the special vulnerability of rural communities to the health-care politics of Washington. The toehold that insurance has gained, even here in strong Trump country, suggests why [Heller] became an early, overt critic of what his Republican Party leaders want to do. It also explains why even sustained pressure from the White House has not altered Gov. Brian Sandoval’s opposition to the Senate’s bill.”

— Police are investigating a break-in at Heller’s Las Vegas office on Saturday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

— Revenge watch, Jeff Flake edition. Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports: “The White House has met with at least three actual or prospective primary challengers to Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake in recent weeks, a reflection of Donald Trump’s strained relations with the senator and the latest sign of the president’s willingness to play hardball with lawmakers who cross him — even Republican incumbents … The bad blood between Trump and Flake dates back to the 2016 presidential race, when Flake was frequently critical of the president … An administration-backed primary challenge to Flake would also further inflame tensions with [McConnell], who over the last several weeks has had several run-ins with the White House over political planning.

— If McConnell passes a bill through the Senate, count on it becoming law, Paul Kane reports: “At least that’s the assessment of two key House negotiators, one from the conservative and one from the moderate flank.‘I have no doubt in my mind that if it passes the Senate — in something close to what it’s like now — that it will pass the House,’ said Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.), a moderate who negotiated portions of the bill that passed the House in early May. His conservative counterpart, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), called the latest Senate version ‘a step in the right direction’ and suggested it would ‘have to be a big move’ away from the current draft to sink the bill in the House. Either way, he said, conservatives will not object if House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) takes the Senate bill and places it on the House floor in a take-it-or-leave-it moment.”

— As Republican senators weigh whether to risk their political careers on McConnell’s revised proposal, the unpopularity of the bill is crystal clear. Philip Bump writes: “In the new Washington Post-ABC News poll released Sunday, we decided to ask the question directly: Which do you prefer, Obamacare or the Republican replacement plan? By a 2-to-1 margin — 50 percent to 24 percent — Americans said they preferred Obamacare. There’s a split by party, as you might expect, with Democrats broadly favoring the existing law and Republicans the latter. But that split wasn’t even, with 77 percent of Democrats favoring the legislation passed in 2010 by their party and only 59 percent of Republicans favoring their party’s solution. Independents in this case came down on the side of the Democrats, with 49 percent favoring the existing law vs. 20 percent backing the GOP alternative.”

— But the bill’s unpopularity likely won’t stop Republicans. John Holmes, a former top staffer to McConnell, put it this way to the Post’s Aaron Blake: “A poll on a complex legislative issue three weeks after it is unveiled has next to no ability to pick up the lasting sentiment. Conversely, over the course of seven years, Republicans have promised to repeal and replace Obamacare and won multiple elections in large part due to that specific promise. A failure to address a conviction among the base of the Republican Party, seven years in the making, is infinitely more damaging than the ramifications of a three-week snapshot that starts well underwater because of partisan polarization.”

THERE IS A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

— As new revelations continue to surface about Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with the Russians, the president’s lawyer Jay Sekulow offered bizarre new defenses on the Sunday shows. “Well, I wonder why the Secret Service, if this was nefarious, why the Secret Service allowed these people in,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” Sekulow also put the responsibility for the initial incomplete response regarding last summer’s meeting squarely on the shoulders of the president’s son, Greg Jaffe reports. The president’s lawyer disputed press reports that Trump signed off on the inaccurate statement that was initially given to the New York Times. He also said that there was nothing illegal about taking the meeting with the Russians.

Sekulow wouldn’t rule out that Trump might pardon his son or former associates like Paul Manafort if they’re found guilty of crimes: “He can pardon individuals, of course. That’s because the founders of our country put that in the United States Constitution: the power to pardon. But I have not had those conversations, so I couldn’t speculate on that.”

— The Secret Service pushed back on Sekulow’s odd statement about its failure to vet the Russian lawyer with whom Trump Jr. met, thinking he was going to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. From Reuters: “In an emailed response to questions about Sekulow’s comments, Secret Service spokesman Mason Brayman said the younger Trump was not under Secret Service protection at the time of the meeting, which included Trump’s son and two senior campaign officials. ‘Donald Trump, Jr. was not a protectee of the USSS in June, 2016. Thus we would not have screened anyone he was meeting with at that time,’ the statement said.”

— A new lawyer has joined the White House to take charge of the burgeoning Russia probes. Carol D. Leonnig reports: “Ty Cobb, a former prosecutor and defense lawyer at Hogan Lovells, will seek to play the role of crisis manager and disciplinarian in a White House that has struggled to deal with continuing questions about the federal and congressional probes that have dominated the early months of Trump’s presidency.”

— “President Trump’s campaign committee made a payment to the law firm of an attorney representing Donald Trump Jr. last month, nearly two weeks before it was announced that the same attorney would be representing the president’s son in Russia-related probes,”Mark Berman and Matea Gold report. “The committee reported in the filing to the Federal Election Commission that it paid $50,000 to the law firm of attorney Alan Futerfas on June 27 … The filing also revealed that the campaign committee paid the Trump Corporation — a company being run by Trump Jr. and his brother Eric — more than $89,000 on June 30 for ‘legal consulting.’ … It is permissible under federal law for Trump’s reelection committee to pay for legal expenses related to the Russia inquiries, as along as the costs resulted from campaign activity … The huge legal outlays by Trump’s campaign committee came as it has been repeatedly tapping Trump’s small donor base for contributions.”

— More details are emerging about the attendees of the June 2016 meeting. The Atlantic’s Julie Ioffe writes: “Natalia Veselnitskaya has a tendency to appear from out of nowhere and become the center of attention. Before a now-infamous meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower last summer … Veselnitskaya was a relatively unknown figure, even in Moscow. When her name did find its way into the international news, it was because of her spirited defense of some of Russia’s least defensible actions … Veselnitskaya, 42, once served as a prosecutor in the Moscow region … Few people in Moscow had heard of Veselnitskaya until she burst onto the pages of The New York Times this week. Those who had, though, spoke of her fearsome reputation.”

— “Rinat Akhmetshin, the Russian-American lobbyist who met with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower in June 2016, had one consistent message for the journalists who met him over the years at the luxury hotels where he stayed in Moscow, London and Paris, or at his home on a leafy street in Washington: Never use email to convey information that needed to be kept secret,the New York Times’ Andrew Higgins and Andrew E. Kramer report. “While not, he insisted, an expert in the technical aspects of hacking nor, a spy, Mr. Akhmetshin talked openly about how he had worked with a counterintelligence unit while serving with the Red Army after its 1979 invasion of Afghanistan and how easy it was to find tech-savvy professionals ready and able to plunder just about any email account.”

— Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intel Committee, said yesterday he “sure as heck” would like to hear from every attendee of the meeting. Politico’s Zachary Warmbrodt reports: “‘I would like to hear from all of these individuals,’ he said. ‘Whether we will be able to get the Russian nationals to come over and testify is an open question.’ Asked whether the security clearance of Jared Kushner, who also attended the meeting, should be suspended, Warner said he is trying to give ‘all these people the benefit of the doubt’ until the committee interviews them. ‘But it’s very bothersome to me that Jared Kushner has forgotten not once, not twice, but three times to put down this information,’ he said.” 

Ultimately, the question of whether Kushner gets to keep his security clearance may rest with TrumpPolitico’s Austin Wright and Josh Dawsey report: “Kushner’s actions — including initially failing to disclose meetings with Russian officials — would be more than enough to cost most federal employees their security clearances, according to people familiar with the security-clearance process … But Kushner isn’t your average federal government employee … The security clearance process is ultimately rooted in executive authority, not law, meaning the president himself is the ultimate arbiter. It is extremely rare for a president to wade into such an issue, experts said, but Trump does have the power, if he wanted to, to demand that Kushner keep his clearance.” 

Alexa Corse reports for the Wall Street Journal on the hundreds of thousands of attempts to hack individual states’ voting systems during last year’s election: “On Election Day alone, there were nearly 150,000 attempts to penetrate the state’s voter-registration system, according to a postelection report by the South Carolina State Election Commission … In harder-fought Illinois … hackers were hitting the State Board of Elections ‘5 times per second, 24 hours per day’ from late June until Aug. 12, 2016, when the attacks ceased for unknown reasons … Hackers ultimately accessed approximately 90,000 voter records, the State Board of Elections said … South Carolina’s and Illinois’s cases aren’t unique, as many states faced virtual threats. There is evidence that 21 states were potentially targeted by hackers.”

— Trump still blames Attorney General Jeff Sessions, at least in part, for his Russia woes. Axios’s Jonathan Swan reports: “Sessions’ administration allies were hoping President Trump could, as he himself might say, see his way clear to letting it go. But that’s not happening. Trump’s initial fury about Sessions’ recusal from the Russia probe has turned to a simmering resentment that may have permanently poisoned their relationship, according to sources close to both of them. … In Trump’s mind, Sessions bowed to political pressure and gave an opening to his enemies (Democrats and the media) … This tension hasn’t had any visible impact on Sessions’ agenda at the Justice Department, where he has taken a sledgehammer to Obama’s legacy … Also, it was never true — and it remains untrue — that Trump ever wanted to get rid of Sessions. He appreciates his value, even if it’ll never quite be the same again.”

— Ousted FBI Director Jim Comey is writing a book about his career — including his time in the Trump administration. The New York Times’s Alexandra Alter reports: “The book is expected to go to auction this coming week, and all the major publishing houses have expressed keen interest … The book will not be a conventional tell-all memoir, but an exploration of the principles that have guided Mr. Comey through some of the most challenging moments of his legal career. Among those are his investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server during a contentious election, and his recent entanglement with the president over the F.B.I.’s inquiry into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.”

Donald Trump met British Prime Minister Theresa May on July 8.

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

— During a conversation with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Trump reportedly said that he would not make his state visit to the United Kingdom until he was guaranteed better coverage and a more positive reception. The Sun’s David Wooding reports: “A transcript of the chat, seen by senior diplomats, reveals his touchiness. Mr. Trump says: ‘I haven’t had great coverage out there lately, Theresa.’ She replies awkwardly: ‘Well, you know what the British press are like.’ He replies: ‘I still want to come, but I’m in no rush … So, if you can fix it for me, it would make things a lot easier … When I know I’m going to get a better reception, I’ll come and not before.’”

— Trump’s comment to the first lady of France that she was “in such great shape” raised many eyebrows, including those of Australia’s foreign minister. Avi Selk reports: “‘You’re in such good shape, such good physical shape, beautiful,’ the [Australian Broadcasting Corporation] host told Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, quoting Trump. ‘Would you be flattered or offended?’ This was arguably a politically sensitive question, what with alliance and all. But the foreign minister didn’t hesitate. ‘I’d be taken aback,’ Bishop said. And then this zinger: ‘I wonder if she could say the same of him?’”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Trump tweeted a lot over the weekend, and reprised his attacks on Hillary Clinton to defend Don Jr.’s behavior:

HillaryClinton can illegally get the questions to the Debate & delete 33,000 emails but my son Don is being scorned by the Fake News Media?

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2017

He also gave props to his former campaign aide for fiercely rejecting allegations of collusion in the campaign with Russia:

Thank you to former campaign adviser Michael Caputo for saying so powerfully that there was no Russian collusion in our winning campaign.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2017

His son wasn’t the only subject of the president’s tweets. Trump tweeted eight times since Friday about the Women’s U.S. Open, an event being held at one of his golf courses:

Thank you to all of the supporters, who far out-numbered the protesters, yesterday at the Women’s U.S. Open. Very cool!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 16, 2017

McCain is recovering from the surgery that delayed the Senate health-care vote:

Thanks to @MayoClinic for its excellent care – I appreciate your support & look forward to getting back to work! https://t.co/eUkFr7jKYB

— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) July 16, 2017

The vice president made a misleading claim about the Senate’s health-care bill:

Let me be clear: The Senate health-care bill strengthens and secures Medicaid for the neediest in our society. #BetterCarepic.twitter.com/rThIZtB9zi

— Vice President Pence (@VP) July 14, 2017

From a New York Times columnist:

Multiple senior Ohio Republicans now Tweeting at Mike Pence asking him to stop lying about Medicaid in their state.

— (((Ron Lieber))) (@ronlieber) July 15, 2017

From a Democratic senator:

I’m going to say it – there is real evil in the epidemic rate of lying that is going on right now. This is not normal. https://t.co/ifkV1GWAUH

— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) July 15, 2017

From a New York Times reporter after the delay:

Aide to a M’caid expansion state GOP governor, seeing their opening, texts:

“McConnell should take it as good excuse to move on”

— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) July 16, 2017

The author of “Wild” noted the irony in the postponement:

Republicans delay vote to take healthcare from millions because one of them is having surgery funded by taxpayers. https://t.co/r3XNH5qK5Q

— Cheryl Strayed (@CherylStrayed) July 16, 2017

Paul Ryan criticized Senate Democrats for obstruction of Trump’s appointments:

It is high time Senate Democrats stop their partisan obstruction of the president’s appointments. https://t.co/3C4aVT3GWs

— Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) July 13, 2017

From a writer at Vox:

Merrick Garland says hi. https://t.co/2BW7W5Z2R0

— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) July 15, 2017

This, from the chief strategist on Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign, about Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow’s claim that the Secret Service (which wasn’t actually protecting Trump Jr. at the time) should have vetted the people at Don Jr.’s meeting:

Pretty sure no one has claimed the RUSSIAN lawyer was there to physically harm them. Offensive/ridiculous/laughable/embarrassing. https://t.co/aRpRhufzj1

— Jason Johnson (@jasonsjohnson) July 16, 2017

A note on the Trump campaign paying Don Jr.’s legal fees:

N.B. If Trump campaign can pay for Donald Jr.’s legal fees, it means the meeting was campaign related.

— Nick Confessore (@nickconfessore) July 15, 2017

From a Tennessee state senator:

The Constitution anticipates a President like this. It does not anticipate a Congress so indifferent to a President like this.

— Jeff Yarbro (@yarbro) July 14, 2017

Kellyanne Conway praised Trump for allowing in the Afghan girls participating in the robotics competition:

Thank you, @POTUS, for helping these girls. Others talk (and talk and talk). You act. https://t.co/2ea6bdWjCk

— Kellyanne Conway (@KellyannePolls) July 15, 2017

From a left-leaning pollster:

The audacity: White House wants credit for intervening to help girls that had difficulty entering country because of Trump’s own Muslim Ban! https://t.co/GsJQLyejGm

— Matt McDermott (@mattmfm) July 15, 2017

A flashback to Kellyanne Conway lamenting Bill Clinton’s reelection victory:

Look who I found on election night 1996 CNN coverage… pic.twitter.com/R2cMh7hJZz

— (((Harry Enten))) (@ForecasterEnten) July 15, 2017

Female members of Congress went sleeveless in protest of the Capitol’s dress code, which Paul Ryan has now said he will modernize:

Thank you to all my colleagues who joined me for #SleevelessFriday — because women have the right to bare arms! pic.twitter.com/PhMEf2v4ZP

— Jackie Speier (@RepSpeier) July 14, 2017

Sen. Susan Collins joined Cyndi Lauper onstage in Maine:

What a thrill having @cyndilauper in Bangor! I will back you up anytime — on stage or off. #truecolorsfundpic.twitter.com/jLOsxtqkR3

— Sen. Susan Collins (@SenatorCollins) July 15, 2017

And a House Democrat introduced some new paws to the office:

Welcome to #DogTwitter Teddy and Stevie! These #CapitolHillDogs doggos can be found in the office of my @HouseJudDems colleague @RepCohen. pic.twitter.com/n5RKwJ9I4c

— Rep. Jamie Raskin (@RepRaskin) July 14, 2017

And Ann Coulter had a Twitter meltdown directed at Delta after being asked to switch seats on a Delta flight:

“Why are you taking me out of the extra room seat I specifically booked, @Delta?’ Flight attendant: “I don’t know.” pic.twitter.com/a0M1faZXMu

— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) July 15, 2017

.@Delta didn’t give my extra room seat to an air marshall or tall person. Here’s the woman given my PRE-BOOKED seat: pic.twitter.com/iDNB8xXXOd

— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) July 15, 2017

So glad I took time investigate the aircraft & PRE-BOOK a specific seat on @Delta, so some woman could waltz at the last min & take my seat.

— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) July 15, 2017

Suckiest @Delta moved me from my PRE-BOOKED SEAT & gave it to some woman, not elderly, child, or sick. I have pictures so don’t lie, @Delta!

— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) July 16, 2017

Hey @Delta, you mind telling me why it was an “emergency” to move someone else into the seat I had carefully chosen in advance and booked?

— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) July 15, 2017

Delta issued this statement and the below tweet:

@AnnCoulter Additionally, your insults about our other customers and employees are unacceptable and unnecessary.

— Delta (@Delta) July 16, 2017

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

— The New Yorker, “How Trump Is Transforming Rural America,” by Peter Hessler: “The region is a Republican stronghold in a state that is starkly divided. Clinton won the Colorado popular vote by a modest margin, but Trump took nearly twice as many counties. The difference came from Denver and Boulder, two populous and liberal enclaves on the Front Range, the eastern side of the Rockies—the Colorado equivalents of New York and California. ‘Donald Trump lost those two counties by two hundred and seventy-three thousand votes, and he won the rest of the state by a hundred and forty thousand votes,’ Steve House, the former chair of the state Republican Party, told me. ‘That means that most of Colorado, in my mind, is a conservative state.’” 

— The Atlantic, “What The ‘Crack Baby’ Panic Reveals About The Opioid Epidemic,” by Vann R. Newkirk II: “‘Crack baby’ brings to mind hopeless, damaged children with birth defects and intellectual disabilities who would inevitably grow into criminals. It connotes inner-city blackness, and also brings to mind careless, unthinking black mothers who’d knowingly exposed their children to the ravages of cocaine. Although the science that gave the world the term was based on a weak proto-study of only 23 children and has been thoroughly debunked since, the panic about ‘crack babies’ stuck. The term made brutes out of people of color who were living through wave after waves of what were then the deadliest drug epidemics in history … Today’s opioid epidemic presents a mostly-white face to the world, and the larger ‘epidemic of despair’ tends to target communities in vaunted ‘Middle America,’ as opposed to inner-city Baltimore and Detroit. And with that changing face comes better results.” 

— New York Magazine, “How ‘Neoliberalism’ Became the Left’s Favorite Insult of Liberals,” by Jonathan Chait: “The neoliberalism of the 1980s and 1990s has faded into memory, as its adherents failed to settle on a coherent set of principles other than a general posture of counterintuitive skepticism … [But the term] has returned to American political discourse with a vengeance. Then, as now, it is an attempt to win an argument with an epithet. Only this time, it is neoliberal that is the term of abuse. And the term neoliberal doesn’t mean a faction of liberals. It now refers to liberals generally, and it is applied by their left-wing critics. The word is now ubiquitous, popping up in almost any socialist polemic against the Democratic Party or the center-left. Obama’s presidency? It was ‘the last gasp of neoliberalism.’ Why did Hillary Clinton lose? It was her neoliberalism. Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz? Neoliberals both.”

— Los Angeles Times, “Darrell Issa was Obama’s toughest critic. Here’s why he’s suddenly sounding like a moderate,” by Sarah D. Wire: “As chairman of the committee charged with overseeing the executive branch, Issa was once known as President Obama’s toughest critic. Now the richest man in Congress has found himself with protesters at his door, no committee to lead, and a tough race expected in 2018. It has forced the nine-term congressman to walk a shaky line, reassuring his conservative base that he’s not moderating his positions while showing the growing number of independents and Democrats in his district that he’s not as partisan as people think.”

HOT ON THE LEFT

“Head Of Trump Voter Fraud Probe Wanted To Change Law To Make Registering More Difficult,” from HuffPost: “Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R), the official leading President Donald Trump’s voter fraud probe, apparently sought to amend federal voting law to make it possible to require proof of citizenship during the voter registration process, according to an email made public Friday as part of an ongoing lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union. The email offers the firmest evidence yet that Kobach was interested in amending the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, as has been speculated.” 

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

“Carville: It would be ‘very, very difficult’ for Dems to retake Senate in 2018,” from The Hill: “Democratic operative James Carville is expressing doubt that his party will take back the Senate in 2018, saying Saturday that it would be ‘very, very difficult,’ to do so. ‘I think right now most Democrats are trying to focus on the 2018 elections and trying to recruit people and keep incumbents, and you know I would say we have a pretty good chance of taking the House back. The Senate is very, very difficult,’ Carville told John Catsimatidis on AM 970 in New York.”

DAYBOOK:

Trump will have lunch with the vice president followed by a meeting with the secretary of state. He will also have his “Made in America” product showcase later in the afternoon.

Pence will attend the lunch and the showcase, after which he will have a meeting with the president of Serbia. He is scheduled to give a speech at the Christians United for Israel summit in the evening.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough wrote an op-ed for The Post on how “Trump is killing the Republican Party”: “I did not leave the Republican Party. The Republican Party left its senses. The political movement that once stood athwart history resisting bloated government and military adventurism has been reduced to an amalgam of talk-radio resentments. President Trump’s Republicans have devolved into a party without a cause, dominated by a leader hopelessly ill-informed about the basics of conservatism, U.S. history and the Constitution.”

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

— Temperatures remain stagnant in D.C. today, but the humidity will rise sharply. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Peak afternoon temperatures are very close to where they were over the weekend: in the upper 80s to near 90. But today feels several degrees hotter as humidity surges back into the region (dew points rise to around 70). Skies are partly sunny, but a few storms bubbling up in our western areas late in the day could jog eastward into the metro (20 to 30 percent chance).”

— The Nationals beat the Reds 14-4, Jorge Castillo reports.

— Hundreds of protesters who completed a 17-mile march from the NRA’s Northern Virginia headquarters to the Justice Department Saturday morning were met by counter-protesters. Rachel Chason reports: “Men sported National Rifle Association hats and signs declaring ‘free speech is under attack’ and ‘no jihad against our freedoms.’ They said the protesters — who had completed [the match] to denounce a controversial recruitment video — didn’t respect free speech if it challenged their views.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Stephen Colbert weeded through Rob Goldstone’s Facebook page and offered Cliffnotes for the latest book on Steve Bannon:

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Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton participated in a talk on leadership:

The French president and Israeli prime minister remembered those lost in the Holocaust:

At least nine people died in a flash flood in Arizona:

A program in Italy offers CPR training and swimming classes to migrants traumatized by their crossing:

Flamingoes flocked to their new habitat at D.C.’s National Zoo:

Here’s a recap for the first six seasons of “Game of Thrones,” in case you got lost during last night’s debut:

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Trump officials open border to 15000 more foreign workers – Washington Post


Migrant workers on H-2B visas Adan Pozos Lopez, left, and Rafael Ramirez Cortes work on the assembly line at Harris’s Seafood Co’s oyster shucking plant in Grasonville, Md., in 2015. (Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post)

The Department of Homeland Security on Monday announced a one-time increase of 15,000 additional visas for low-wage seasonal workers for the remainder of this fiscal year, a seeming about-face from President Trump’s “Hire American” rhetoric, following heavy lobbying from fisheries, hospitality and other industries that rely on temporary foreign workers.

The increase represents a 45 percent bump from the number of H-2B visas normally issued for the second half of the fiscal year, said senior Homeland Security officials in a call with reporters.

The visas are for workers taking temporary jobs in the seafood, tourism, landscaping, construction and other seasonal industries — but not farm laborers.

[Despite Trump’s ‘Hire American’ pledge, budget bill would dramatically expand the number of foreign workers]

Businesses can begin applying for the visas this week, but must first attest that their firms would suffer permanent “irreparable harm” without importing foreign workers. They will be required to retain documents proving that they would not otherwise be able to meet their contractual obligations, or provide other evidence of severe financial loss, the officials said.

Asked how allowing more foreign workers aligns with Trump’s America First policies — especially as the White House kicks off what it has promoted as “Made in America” week — one of the Homeland Security officials said the increase “absolutely does” fit in with Trump’s campaign promises.

“We’re talking about American businesses that are at risk of suffering irreparable harm if they don’t get additional H-2B workers,” he said. “This does help with American businesses continuing to prosper.”

Another official said the government made the decision after “considering the interest of U.S. workers” and has created a tip line for reports of worker exploitation and abuse.

“[Secretary John Kelly] first and foremost is committed to protecting U.S. workers and strengthening the integrity of our immigration system,” she said.

The officials briefed reporters in advance about the new policy on the condition that they not be named.

Businesses’ petitions will be reviewed on a first-come, first-served basis, and granted without regard to industry type, geographic location or firm size, the officials said. Given that the summer is half over and that normal processing time takes 30 to 60 days, the officials recommended that businesses pay the $1,225 fee for expedited processing within 15 days.

But the increase may come too late for some Virginia seafood processing plants that pick crab, shuck oysters and pack bait, said Mike Hutt, executive director of the Virginia Marine Products Board, which represents the state’s seafood industry.

“This could be light at the end of the tunnel. But here we are in July, and some of these companies still don’t have workers,” Hutt said.

The lack of workers has led to at least one company shutting down an assembly line this summer, he said, hurting not just the processing plant but also workers involved in hauling, packaging and refrigerating the seafood.

Congress paved the way to increasing the number of H-2B workers in May when it passed an omnibus budget to avert a government shutdown. Part of the deal included giving the secretary of homeland security the authority to increase the number of seasonal foreign workers, after consulting with the secretary of labor, “upon determination that the needs of American businesses cannot be satisfied in fiscal year 2017 with United States workers who are willing, qualified, and able to perform temporary nonagricultural labor.” (Farm workers enter the U.S. under a different visa, known as the H-2A.)

Current law limits the number of such visas issued to 66,000 a year — split between the two halves of the year. The cap has already been reached this year. Visas for more than 120,000 positions have been requested so far in fiscal 2017, according to Department of Labor statistics. The seafood industry, which began its hiring season in April, competes with other industries, such as landscaping and tourism, that rely heavily on temporary summer workers.

The H-2B program previously drew strong bipartisan support because lawmakers have a vested interest in supporting their home state industries — whether it’s crab-picking in Maryland, ski resorts in Colorado or logging in Washington. But some senators have criticized their colleagues’ efforts to bypass public debate about changing immigration law.

Other critics dispute that there really is a labor shortage in the industries that rely most on the seasonal guest worker visas, accusing the industries of exploiting foreign workers at the expense of American jobs.

“This is yet another example of the administration and Congress failing to keep the Trump campaign promise of putting American workers first,” said Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, which lobbies to lower immigration levels.

Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, said that instead of “propping up unsustainable businesses by allowing them to become so dependent on foreign workers,” the Trump administration should be providing incentives for such employers to hire the “hundreds of thousands” of teenagers, seniors and others looking for entry-level work.

“Is it really that no one will do the work?” Vaughan said. “Or is it just easier for them to use the body shops that find the workers?”

While some companies use the H-2B program to hire lifeguards, carnival workers and maids, others used it to import engineers, tax preparers and occupational therapists — “jobs that clearly are not unskilled and not so exotic that no Americans can be found to fill them,” Vaughan and her colleagues wrote in an analysis of H-2B data released last week.

“These cases suggest that the level of scrutiny for visa approval is inadequate and that employers may be using the program as a way around the rules of other guestworker programs,” Vaughan wrote.

Some of Trump’s closest allies on immigration on Capitol Hill have also called for cuts to the H-2B program, citing the president’s campaign as evidence that American workers are opposed to increases in temporary, low-skilled workers from abroad.

In May, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) gave a blistering speech on the Senate floor opposing a measure in the omnibus spending bill that authorized the doubling of H-2B visas that could be issued during the remainder of fiscal 2017.

“A lot of the arguments for this kind of program boil down to this: No American worker will do that job. That is a lie. It is a lie. There is no job that Americans will not do,” Cotton said. “If the wage is decent and the employer obeys the law, Americans will do the job. And if it’s not, they should pay higher wages. To say anything else is an insult to the work ethic of the American people who make this country run.”

Cotton and Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) are working on an immigration bill that would, over the coming decade, slash by half the current number of 1 million foreigners each year who received green cards allowing them to live permanently in the United States. The senators met twice with Trump on the bill, and Cotton said in a recent interview that the president supported their efforts but also asked them to address temporary workers. The senators are working closely with the White House on a new version of the legislation that could be unveiled by the end of summer.

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the committee, in May beseeched their congressional colleagues to remove the H-2B provision and give the Judiciary Committee time to consider any changes to immigration laws.

“This move by leadership and appropriators cedes portions of this authority to the executive branch without a public debate,” Grassley and Feinstein said. “We understand the needs of employers who rely on seasonal H-2B workers if the American workforce can’t meet the demand, but we are also aware of the potential side effects of flooding the labor force with more temporary foreign workers, including depressed wages for all workers in seasonal jobs.”

Trump in February had called on Congress to pursue a “merit-based” immigration system that would favor high-skilled workers and close off avenues to lower-skilled immigrants and extended family members of permanent U.S. residents.

But Trump himself has used H-2B visas to hire temporary workers at his golf resorts in Palm Beach, Fla., and Jupiter, Fla.

“I’ve hired in Florida during the prime season — you could not get help,” Trump said during a 2015 primary debate. “Everybody agrees with me on that. They were part-time jobs. You needed them, or we just might as well close the doors, because you couldn’t get help in those hot, hot sections of Florida.”

President Trump has called for a re-examination of the visa process that allows skilled workers to work in the U.S. Here’s why the skilled worker visa program is so controversial. (Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)

Washington Post reporter David Nakamura contributed to this report. 

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Trump’s Standing Takes a Hit, Even in Places He Won in 2016 – NBCNews.com

First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.

Trump’s standing takes a hit, even in places he won in ’16

There are two ways to view our new

The rest of our “Trump Counties” poll comes out later this week

This NBC/WSJ poll’s sample was taken from 439 counties in 16 states — Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin — that either flipped from Barack Obama to Trump, or where Trump greatly outpaced Mitt Romney’s performance in 2012. The rest of the poll, which has an overall margin of error of +/- 4.0 percentage points, comes out later this week.

The Trump White House’s changing stories about that Russia meeting

As “Meet the Press” noted on Sunday, the Trump White House has told several DIFFERENT stories when it comes to that June 9, 2016 meeting with Russians:

Story #1: There were no contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian entities: “I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does,” Trump said back in January.

What we later found out: Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort did indeed meet with a Kremlin-connected layer on June 9, 2016.

Story #2: That June 2016 meeting was a short one on the subject of Russian adoptions: “It was a very short meeting. It was a meeting apparently about Russian adoption. And after about 20 minutes the meeting ended. And that was the end of it,” White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said a week ago on Sunday, July 9.

What we later found out: After Priebus’ interview, the New York Times reported that Trump’s son — as well as Kushner and Manafort — met with that lawyer after being promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Story #3: The comments at that meeting about Clinton were “vague” and “meaningless”: “The comments this woman is making about any type of information on Hillary Clinton were vague. They were meaningless,” the White House’s Kellyanne Conway said last Monday.

What we later found out: According to the email chain setting up the meeting, Trump Jr. is told: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information, but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” And Trump Jr replied, “If it’s what you say, I love it.”

Story #4: After he releases the email chain, Donald Trump Jr. says he’s been transparent about the meeting and everything has been told about it: “This is everything. This is everything,” Trump Jr. told Fox’s Sean Hannity.

What we later found out: NBC News reported that, in addition to the Kremlin-connected lawyer, a former counter-intelligence officer turned lobbyist, Rinat Akhmetshin, was also there. And there was a translator present, too.

Senate health care vote gets delayed after McCain’s surgery

“The Senate expects to hold a vote on the revised Republican health care bill once Sen. John McCain recovers from surgery for a blood clot above his left eye, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said Sunday,” per NBC’s Kailani Koenig. “The Arizona senator’s unexpected announcement Saturday that he needs time to recover from the minimally invasive procedure led Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to say he was postponing a planned vote related to the bill this week. McCain’s sudden absence also shows the fragility of the GOP coalition on health care legislation.” By the way, the New York Times is reporting that McCain’s surgery might be more serious than previously thought.

Trump’s Day

President Trump participates in a “Made in America” event at the White House at 3:00 pm ET.

That federal investigation into Bernie Sanders’ wife isn’t going away anytime soon

“A federal investigation into a long-ago land deal by Senator Bernie Sanders’s wife is threatening to take some of the luster off the senator’s populist appeal, attaching the phrase ‘bank fraud’ to the biography of a politician practically sainted on the left for his stands against ‘millionaires and billionaires,’” the New York Times writes. “[Sanders] has been shadowed by talk of a deepening investigation into his wife’s role in a 2010 land deal for a Vermont college that ultimately contributed to her ouster as its president. His wife, Jane Sanders, has hired a lawyer to represent her as federal authorities look into a $10 million sale of about 33 acres of lakefront property by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington to Burlington College.”

Previewing next month’s GOP primary in Alabama

NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald: “In Alabama, where Republican dominance is unchallenged, Donald Trump carried every county in the state’s presidential primary last year and defeated Hillary Clinton by an almost 2-1 margin. Now, ahead of the August 15 primary to fill the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the leading GOP candidates are accusing each other of showing insufficient loyalty to the president, whom they speak of with divine reverence. Incumbent Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed to fill the seat temporarily in February, called Trump’s election a ‘Biblical miracle.’ Roy Moore, the twice-elected, twice-deposed Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, said, ‘God…sent Donald Trump in there.’ And Rep. Mo Brooks, a Tea Party favorite, has vowed to read the King James Bible on the Senate floor until the president’s border wall gets built.”

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How the White House and Republicans underestimated Obamacare repeal – Politico

The longer Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare flounder, the clearer it becomes that President Donald Trump’s team and many in Congress dramatically underestimated the challenge of rolling back former President Barack Obama’s signature achievement.

The Trump transition team and other Republican leaders presumed that Congress would scrap Obamacare by President’s Day weekend in late February, according to three former Republican congressional aides and two current ones familiar with the administration’s efforts.

Story Continued Below

Republican leaders last fall planned a quick strike on the law in a series of meetings and phone calls, hoping to simply revive a 2015 repeal bill that Obama vetoed.

Few in the administration or Republican leadership expected the effort to stretch into the summer months, with another delay

The transition had just a handful of health policy people, who were also tasked with working on the confirmation processes for Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma. The administration official said the lengthy confirmation process, which he blamed on Democrats, hurt the White House because it meant the administration did not have two key health policy experts in place.

Helping sort through the process were Marc Short, now the White House legislative affairs director; Rick Dearborn, the White House deputy chief of staff; and Stephen Miller, a senior adviser for policy. All three had congressional experience, but several Republicans said Trump’s staff lacked experience negotiating or moving major legislation.

“I just don’t have confidence that the administration had the health care expertise and policy advice that they needed there,” said G. William Hoagland, former staff director for the Senate Budget Committee and former leadership aide to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. “The result is what we are seeing today.”

On the Hill leading up to the inauguration, one leading idea was to resurrect the 2015 House and Senate bills that repealed much of the law. Republicans were already on the books supporting the bills, which needed only 50 votes in the Senate instead of 60.

But when GOP leaders in January pitched the idea — which involved repealing the law and figuring out a replacement later — they were met with stern resistance from lawmakers worried about constituents who had gained insurance through the 2010 law and who could lose coverage if it were suddenly revoked.

“Health care looks much easier when you’re at the talking point level,” said Larry Leavitt, a senior vice president at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation and senior health policy adviser during the Clinton administration. “It always gets more difficult as you start filling in the details.”

This was the first hint of real trouble for the Republican health care efforts. Passing a bill they knew would be vetoed under Obama was easy; passing one that would thrust their constituents into uncertainty was riskier.

“When you’re six years into a program, to change it when people are relying on it, there’s a fear that it may affect their own policies or their own families,” said Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). “This is tough; this is complex. We knew it would be, but it’s really tough.”

In late January, lawmakers at a closed-door session at a Republican retreat in Philadelphia raised a myriad of concerns about tackling Obamacare, from the contours of the replacement plan to ways to keep premiums affordable. One former Republican Senate aide later called that meeting with Andrew Bremberg, the head of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, prescient, because lawmakers privately raised many of the concerns that have since dogged the bill.

At the same policy retreat, House Speaker Paul Ryan laid out a three-pronged approach to scrapping Obamacare. He wanted to repeal as much of the legislation as possible, eliminate more through deregulation, and then work with Democrats on a replacement, said one former Republican aide.

Many Republican lawmakers doubted Democrats would work with them on redoing the health care law.

The president and one of his former campaign rivals also unexpectedly helped undermine the GOP’s repeal plans. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said on television the GOP needed a replacement plan if it was going to repeal the law. Then Trump