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In the GOP presidential primary, the math will matter. In a candidate field dominated by former President Trump and perhaps nine or 10 others by the end of the month, it will be a rare race if more than one Trump challenger can stockpile voter support in excess of the “hard 25 percent” of the GOP base Trump is said to command.
Presidential candidate Nikki Haley suggested in March that “there are 75 percent other Republicans there that are looking for a place to be.” That was before the GOP field began to expand to the size of the Rockettes.
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who made his campaign official Monday (The Hill), has for months said in somber tones, “I’m confident we’ll have better choices than my old running mate.” There will at the very least be more of them.
“I think the times call for different leadership,” Pence added in February.
The question is whether the GOP primary sprawl leaves a lane for the former vice president, who was known for being unfailingly loyal to Trump through impeachment, four years of lies about election fraud (which Pence was assigned to uncover in 2017 before a special Trump commission was quietly disbanded) as well as the physical risk during the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, unleashing new attacks on Trump, on Monday criticized the former president for not firing Anthony Fauci, former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. But Pence, leader of the Trump administration’s COVID-19 task force, was often in the White House briefing room and in meetings with Fauci, before effective vaccines and after. “We couldn’t be more grateful for his steady counsel,” the former vice president said of Fauci in July 2020. He repeated his praise for the infectious disease expert during an NBC News interview seven months ago but criticized the Biden administration’s efforts to mandate COVID-19 restrictions. “The American people, I think they recoiled at that approach,” he said, suggesting with careful phrasing that Biden had gone too far in heeding Fauci’s caution.
The GOP pack is ripping into Trump from all sides. Pence wants to celebrate Trump’s record, which is his own, while defeating his old boss on other grounds. It’s a strategy with many hurdles.
More 2024: Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a prominent Trump antagonist who was once an ally, today in New Hampshire plans to enter the GOP presidential primary (The Wall Street Journal). … New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Trump critic and GOP moderate who considered a White House run, said Monday he will not enter the presidential contest (The Hill). Sununu told NewsNation’s “Cuomo” on Monday, “Oh, goodness, yeah … but believe me, nothing I’m thinking about now,” when asked if he’d consider running on a ticket as vice president. … Liberal professor emeritus at Princeton University and activist educator Cornel West, 70, on Monday said he will mount a People’s Party campaign for the White House (Politico). … Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has not said if he will seek Senate reelection or jump into the presidential contest, but he is 22 points behind Senate challenger Jim Justice, the state’s GOP governor. The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports why Manchin has been called “dead man walking.” … Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), a presidential candidate, was booed by a studio audience on “The View” for praise he offered DeSantis in his battle with Disney (The Hill).
Persuading voters: In the months ahead, the political news media will track how candidates and their campaigns and supporters use technology and new tools to identify small slices of the electorate and tailor messages to try to win votes, often by attacking opponents.
Thus, it’s no surprise that the rapid growth of artificial intelligence threatens to flood 2024 campaigns with fake videos (The Wall Street Journal). Synthetic media has become far easier, faster and cheaper to create with sophisticated-looking videos, photos, music and text. Campaign officials tied to 2024 candidates and advocacy are bracing for a level of digital creation and proliferation — and disinformation — unlike any previous election season, according to the Journal.
The rise of generative AI systems has prompted tech leaders to call for a new labeling system, allowing users to see whether a piece of content is AI-generated. The Republican National Committee’s “What If” video depicting a Biden reelection with alarmist fake photos and video related to the economy, China and the border, for example, came with a disclaimer in small white text stating “built entirely with AI imagery.” Political campaigns are allowed to lie, CNN reported while showing a clip of the RNC ad.
Meanwhile, through the end of June, Meta, parent of Facebook, is running a test to temporarily block some Canadian users from receiving news content on FB and Instagram. Meta said last week it is prepared to permanently block news content for Canadians on those two platforms if the country’s proposed Online News Act passes and is enacted (ABC News, The Associated Press).
Editor & Publisher and Press Gazette report that about half of newsrooms (49 percent) are “actively working” with generative AI tools such as ChatGPT. The transition is being driven by newsroom leaders rather than individual journalists, according to about a third of respondents who took part in a survey by the World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA). Asked how their colleagues felt about generative AI, 10 percent of respondents said the journalists they work with had expressed “significant resistance” to its use in the newsroom. Only 4 percent reported that level of resistance among their editors.
▪ The Hill and CNN: House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) said the panel’s majority will push to hold FBI Director Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress. The FBI calls the contempt reaction “unwarranted.”
▪ Fox News: Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Monday if the entire House Oversight Committee cannot view an administration whistleblower document, Republicans will move to hold the FBI in contempt of Congress.
▪ The Hill: California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) highlighted his state’s statute on kidnapping and suggested Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis was behind a planeload of South American migrants who arrived last week in Sacramento with Florida state paperwork. Newsom called DeSantis a “small, pathetic man” on Twitter.
▪ The Associated Press: After missteps with some Hispanic voters in 2020, Biden faces pressure to get 2024 outreach right.
▪ The Hill and CBS News: Spy and former FBI agent Robert Hanssen, in custody since 2002, was found dead in his Colorado prison cell on Monday.
LEADING THE DAY
Trump’s lawyers were spotted meeting with federal prosecutors Monday to discuss the Justice Department’s probe into his handling of White House documents after leaving office, according to multiple reports from Washington.
Trump attorneys John Rowley, James Trusty and Lindsey Halligan were first spotted at the D.C. federal courthouse Monday morning by CBS News. The Justice Department personnel at the meeting included special counsel Jack Smith, but not Attorney General Merrick Garland or Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. Rowley and Trusty sent a letter to Garland in late May asking for a meeting to discuss what they call the unfair treatment of Trump by Smith, who is leading the criminal probe (The Washington Post).
Prosecutors appear to be nearing a charging decision in the case, which probes whether Trump mishandled the materials after leaving the White House, and whether government requests to turn over records to the National Archives were obstructed. Prosecutors have interviewed various witnesses in Trump’s orbit, and CNN reported late last month that prosecutors possess an audio recording in which Trump suggests that he shouldn’t show a classified document to two authors because they didn’t have security clearances (The Hill).
Former Watergate prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks said over the weekend that she thinks Trump is “toast” after prosecutors secured a tape recording of Trump discussing what seemed to be classified material on a potential military strike in Iran (MSNBC and The Hill).
“This evidence just adds to the mound of stuff that already exists, and no one piece is the ‘be all and end all,’ but when you put them all together, the case is so strong,” Wine-Banks said on MSNBC. “You cannot imagine his getting away with this.”
▪ CNN: Mar-a-Lago pool flood raises suspicions among prosecutors in Trump classified documents case.
▪ NBC News: Trump asks “How can DOJ possibly charge me” after his lawyers meet with the feds.
▪ Vox: The Georgia Trump election investigation keeps getting bigger. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis could pursue charges using the state’s RICO law.
▪ The Washington Post: Trump-funded studies disputing election fraud are the focus in two probes.
▪ USA Today: “Trump too small.” A small slight from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) makes its way into a Supreme Court case.
A vast dam on the front lines of the war in southern Ukraine has been destroyed, unleashing flooding that threatened hundreds of thousands of residents as well as a nearby nuclear plant. Ukrainian officials say damage to the dam is causing water to rise to “critical levels” in parts of the country, prompting bus evacuations for communities threatened with inundation. Kyiv accused Russian forces of blowing up the Nova Kakhovka dam, which sits in a Russian-controlled area of the front-line Kherson region, while Moscow played down the situation but accused Ukraine of severely damaging the dam with overnight shelling. Neither side’s claims could be immediately verified (NBC News and The Washington Post).
The Associated Press (with video): Ukraine accuses Russia of destroying a major dam near Kherson in territory Russia controls. A nearby nuclear power plant is stable but in danger.
Ukraine dismissed claims Monday that Russia has repelled its counteroffensive, insisting that the long-awaited assault has not yet begun. The Russian defense ministry on Monday reported that Kyiv’s forces had attempted to storm several Russian positions on the front lines Sunday, and according to Moscow, Russia repelled what it called Ukraine’s counteroffensive (Politico EU and Reuters).
“Moscow is already actively involved in repelling … a global offensive that ‘does not yet exist,’” tweeted Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Ukraine has remained silent about military operations after months of preparing for a major counteroffensive in the war. But American officials told The New York Times that the surge in attacks at the front line was a possible indication that the counteroffensive had indeed begun.
▪ The Washington Post: Defend “every inch” of NATO territory? The new strategy is a work in progress.
▪ The New York Times: Nazi symbols on Ukraine’s front lines highlight the thorny issues of history.
▪ The Wall Street Journal: Ukraine’s next target: Russian trenches.
▪ The Hill and Punchbowl News: The Republican-led House intends that any additional Ukraine funding from the U.S. must go through the Pentagon budget appropriations process, not a supplemental funding measure, setting up a clash with Senate Republicans.
The growing tensions between the U.S. and China has had a major impact on various sectors, including cyberspace, now becoming an integral part of modern warfare. The Hill’s Ines Kagubare reports that as the two powers continue to spar over trade, technology, sanctions and Taiwan, they are increasingly using cyber to achieve some of their goals in the defense, economic and political realm. Last week, a number of U.S. intelligence agencies released a joint advisory based on a Microsoft report that found that a Chinese state-sponsored cyber actor has been accessing credentials and network systems of critical infrastructure organizations in parts of the U.S., including the territory of Guam.
“It’s interesting that China is caught doing it in Guam that certainly fits with their military planning, but this is just the future of conflict,” James Lewis, senior vice president and director with the strategic technologies program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Hill.
▪ Al Jazeera: Iran will reopen its embassy in Saudi Arabia after seven years. The move comes in accordance with a China-brokered agreement between Tehran and Riyadh.
▪ BBC: Indian Railways are seeking a police probe into last week’s deadly crash.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
As the federal government works to contain financial market turmoil, the next risk looming over the nation’s banks is in plain sight: the $20 trillion commercial real estate market. Some $1.5 trillion in mortgages are scheduled to come due in the next two years, resulting in a potential time bomb as property values sink due to higher interest rates and office vacancies.
A write-down in commercial loans could spell big trouble for the financial system and spill over into the larger economy just as the 2024 presidential campaign gets underway, because 70 percent of bank-held commercial mortgages sit on the balance sheets of regional and smaller lenders (Politico).
▪ Vox: The “return to the office” won’t save the office. More people are going to offices more of the time. Offices are still in trouble.
▪ The New York Times: The S&P 500 ended the day nearly 20 percent above its low last year, within a hair of a milestone for some market watchers. But assessing a bona fide bull market is not so simple.
▪ Reuters: The U.S. sues cryptocurrency exchange Binance and its founder over a “web of deception.”
▪ Bloomberg News: Inside the SEC’s allegations against Binance and CZ.
U.S. crude oil exports, already running close to a record level since March, should get a further boost next month from deep production cuts in Saudi Arabia. Analysts noted the increase will also further deplete U.S. crude inventories, which have been hovering near historic lows. Saudi Arabia, de facto leader of oil producer group OPEC, said Sunday it would drop its production by about 10 percent, to 9 million barrels per day in July.
Riyadh said it might sustain the cut to support lowering oil prices due to worries about a potential economic recession.
“This could and should incentivize higher U.S. exports, which were looking like they would be under downward pressure given the looming peak of summer refining activity,” Matt Smith, an oil analyst at data provider Kpler, told Reuters.
▪ The Wall Street Journal: Saudi output cut to boost oil prices could be costly.
▪ Bloomberg News: How midnight OPEC dealmaking won Gulf Unity at Africa’s expense.
▪ Axios: Top COP28 official: Oil, gas should be at the climate table.
■ Russian forces picked a dangerous time to feud, by Leonid Bershidsky, guest essayist, Bloomberg Opinion.
■ What’s keeping special counsel Jack Smith? by James D. Zirin, opinion contributor, The Hill.
WHERE AND WHEN
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The House will meet at 10 a.m.
The Senate will meet at 3 p.m. to resume consideration of the nomination of David Crane to be under secretary of Energy.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 11:45 a.m. He will convene a meeting of the Cabinet at 2:15 p.m.
Vice President Harris will travel to Philadelphia for a moderated conversation at 10:40 a.m. with the Service Employees International Union about the administration’s pro-labor agenda. She will participate in a White House Cabinet meeting at 2:15 p.m. She will speak during Israel’s Independence Day reception at 7 p.m. held at the National Building Museum in Washington, hosted by the Israeli Embassy.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken is traveling to Saudi Arabia today through Thursday. He wants to talk to the Saudis about normalizing relations with Israel, among other topics (The New York Times).
The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 1 p.m.
🍄 As planet-warming carbon emissions rise, a major solution to climate change is growing beneath our feet, writes The Hill’s Saul Elbein. A study published in Current Biology on Monday found that fungi gobble up more than a third of the world’s annual fossil fuel emissions. As such, fungi “represent a blind spot in carbon modeling, conservation, and restoration,” coauthor Kate Field, a professor of biology at the University of Sheffield, said in a statement. “The numbers we’ve uncovered are jaw-dropping,” Field added. Field’s team found that fungi pulled down 36 percent of global fossil fuel emissions — enough to cancel out the yearly carbon pollution from China, the world’s largest carbon emitter.
▪ The Hill: The Commerce Department today announced $2.6 billion toward coastal climate resistance drawn from the Inflation Reduction Act to help habitat restoration, fisheries and jobs, plus federal data collection through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
▪ The New York Times: For these bird flu researchers, work is a day at the very “icky” beach. The H5N1 virus poses “a great unknown threat” to birds and humans alike. Understanding and thwarting it begins with excrement collection.
▪ The Atlantic: Super-rare angel sharks are thriving in a fake beach full of tourists.
📈 Rich industrialized countries, which are responsible for excessive levels of global greenhouse gas emissions, could be liable to pay $170 trillion in climate reparations by 2050 to ensure the planet meets targets to curtail climate change. As a new study published in the journal Nature Sustainability calculates, the proposed compensation, which amounts to almost $6 trillion annually, would be paid to historically low-polluting developing countries that must transition away from fossil fuels despite not having yet used their “fair share” of the global carbon budget.
“It is a matter of climate justice that if we are asking nations to rapidly decarbonise their economies, even though they hold no responsibility for the excess emissions that are destabilizing the climate, then they should be compensated for this unfair burden,” said Andrew Fanning, lead author and visiting research fellow at the University of Leeds’s Sustainability Research Institute (The Guardian).
And finally … On this day in 1944, more than 156,000 American, British and Canadian troops stormed 50 miles of beaches in Normandy, northern France, marking a critical turning point in World War II. Historians now refer to D-Day as the “beginning of the end” of the war in Europe.
Despite their success on that day, some 4,000 Allied troops were killed by German soldiers defending the beaches and thousands more were wounded. The D-Day invasion was the largest naval, air and land operation in history at the time. Within a few days, about 326,000 troops, more than 50,000 vehicles and some 100,000 tons of equipment had landed.
By August 1944, all of northern France had been liberated, and in spring of 1945 the Allies had defeated the Germans (History).
The Associated Press: Remembering D-Day: Key facts and figures about the epochal World War II invasion.
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