Sanctuary cities stand firm against Trump

 

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Lucia Quiej joins demonstrators on Nov. 16 to rally against President-elect Donald Trump, asking that the city of Homestead, Florida, be a sanctuary city.

At least three dozen so-called sanctuary cities across the country are standing firm against President-elect Donald Trump’s pledge to crack down on them, according to a POLITICO analysis.

Trump has pledged that one of the top priorities for his first 100 days in office is to “cancel all federal funding to sanctuary cities,” an unspecific term for jurisdictions that limit, in one way or another, their cooperation with federal immigration enforcement agents.

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But with six weeks to go until the inauguration, POLITICO identified not one city that is reconsidering its “sanctuary” policies — such as not asking residents about their immigration status or detaining people solely because of that status — on account of the presidential election.

Instead, officials in at least 37 cities listed below have doubled down since Trump’s election, reaffirming their current policies or practices in public statements, despite the threat of pushback from the incoming administration, and at least four cities have newly declared themselves sanctuary cities since Trump’s win. Ten other cities have said they will wait to see what Trump does but are not currently making any changes, according to local news reports and inquiries from POLITICO.

There is no definitive list of U.S. sanctuary cities because of the term’s flexible definition. The 47 total sanctuary cities POLITICO identified were compiled from multiple sources, including a 2006 Congressional Research Service report, a 2014 Department of Homeland Security report and a 2016 Department of Justice memo. They range from small towns like Aberdeen, Washington, and Ashland, Oregon, to big cities like New York and San Francisco.

Some city officials just don’t take Trump’s threat seriously, while others are openly flouting a president-elect they see as hostile to immigrants. Regardless, legal experts say Trump would have a lot of trouble fulfilling his promise to withhold federal funds.

“It depends on how serious they get, but whatever is going to happen, this is going to end up in court,” said Bill Ong Hing, a law professor at the University of San Francisco and the founder of the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

The Trump transition team did not respond to requests for comment.

Most local leaders avoid the ambiguous term “sanctuary city,” including Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer, who said he thinks it is somewhat of a misnomer because it implies that such cities offer blanket protection from deportation when that is not the case. In reality, Dyer said Fresno’s policy limits police officers’ cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but they, as in almost every other sanctuary city, still must and do cooperate with federal authorities “when it is to assist them with criminal activity other than immigration status.”

Dyer doubts that Trump will follow through with his threat to withhold funds — and he’s not alone. Leaders of several cities — including Baltimore; Long Beach, California; Mesa, Arizona; and Springfield, Oregon — are satisfied with putting off any conversation about their sanctuary practices until Trump can prove that his funding threat is real. Tyler Gamble, the communications director of the New Orleans Police Department, said the city’s current policies have been approved by the Department of Justice, and he sees no reason to speculate on the future.

Legal experts seem to agree that the Trump administration would have a difficult time enacting the type of defunding it wishes to see. The most basic argument against the federal government’s ability to do that is nested in the Tenth Amendment. “It’s about federalism. It’s about separation of powers,” Hing said. Phil Torrey, a lecturer at Harvard Law School and the supervising attorney of the Harvard Immigration Project, explained that the Tenth Amendment gives broad powers to the states that include the ability to set policy agendas for local law enforcement, while it gives broad powers to the federal government to decide how to tax and spend dollars. The Supreme Court comes in when these powers collide, and the court has established precedent that the federal government cannot be overly coercive, Torrey said.

One such example is South Dakota v. Dole, a 1987 case that clarified what rules Congress must follow when attaching conditions to federal funds. In that case, the court ruled that the federal government could withhold some highway funding from cities that did not enforce the federal drinking age because it wouldn’t be enough money to be considered coercive and because it did not violate the “germaneness rule” since the drinking age condition was determined to be germane to the purpose of the funds: safe interstate travel. That second rule, in particular, will be harder to satisfy with sanctuary cities, Hing argues, because “most federal funds to cities and local governments are not germane to immigration enforcement.”

Another relevant Supreme Court ruling is National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, in which the Supreme Court in 2012 ruled unconstitutional a provision of the Affordable Care Act that would have blocked federal Medicaid funding to states that didn’t accept Obamacare’s proposed Medicaid expansion. Hing suggests that the Supreme Court struck down that provision because it “went too far” and was deemed too coercive.

Torrey said these ruling makes one thing very clear: “What the federal government can’t do at this point is basically pull funding wholesale from states and localities in order to get their local law enforcement agents to basically enforce federal immigration law.” There are, he noted, some Department of Justice grants set aside for local law enforcement that is arguably related to immigration enforcement and “could be at risk.” But Hing said that allotment is equivalent to a drop in the bucket, estimating it to be about $600 million total nationally. For context, San Francisco alone receives more than $1 billion annually in federal funds.

The fact that there’s no clear definition of sanctuary cities means it will be all the more difficult for Trump to implement any sort of defunding, Torrey said. “If the federal government is really looking to do this,” he said, “they’re going to have look at each individual sheriff’s office, and I just think that politically that’s not going to work, and logistically it doesn’t sound tenable at all.”

There are other actions besides the withholding of federal funds that the incoming Trump administration could take to reduce the number of sanctuary cities. Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies for the Center for Immigration Studies, a research group that favors more restrictive immigration laws, said the most basic action the Trump administration could take is to clarify the expectations and obligations of local law enforcement officials. Vaughan said she believes the Obama administration’s “ambiguity” on ICE detainer requests has left sheriffs confused about their legal liability if they comply with such requests. (In many cities, the ACLU has pursued litigation against county jails that hold undocumented immigrants without court orders.) Vaughan said Sen. Jeff Sessions, Trump’s pick for attorney general, could clarify to those sheriffs that detainer requests are not optional and assure them that they will not face prosecution for assisting ICE.

As for what Vaughan describes as the “most egregious” sanctuary cities — those like Los Angeles or Chicago that openly defy even the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement efforts — she said they will likely lose the Justice Department law enforcement grants that Torrey mentioned and might even face prosecution by the department. It is very likely, she suggested, that the legality of their practices will ultimately be decided by a federal court.

Nevertheless, many leaders are ready to remain steadfast. Mayors or police spokespeople from Aberdeen; Princeton, New Jersey; Northampton, Massachusetts; and Las Vegas all told Politico that they have no plans to reassess their current practices. Similarly, in Ashland, the mayor, the city attorney and the police chief all asserted at a city council meeting on Nov. 17 that they have no intention of changing their sanctuary status because of the election. And in Evanston, an ordinance was adopted just last week that promises the city will remain welcoming to immigrants and limit cooperation with federal immigration officials.

In just the past few weeks, several other cities, including Urbana, Illinois; Northfield, Minnesota; and Pittsburgh, have begun to consider taking steps to formally become sanctuaries in defiance of the president-elect. Santa Ana, California, as well as the Vermont cities of Burlington, Montpelier and Winooski, have already passed resolutions to formalize sanctuary city status since the election.

Trump may have lowered the number of immigrants he hopes to deport from “at least 11 million” to “probably 2 million,” but even then, his administration will have a steep hill to climb without the cooperation of local law enforcement. The top 10 sanctuary cities by undocumented population (Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Seattle, Austin, Newark, Denver, Philadelphia, Minneapolis and San Francisco) account for more than 2 million undocumented immigrants.

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Municipal and police leaders from the following cities have publicly reaffirmed their sanctuary status (even if they don’t all accept the “sanctuary city” designation).

Appleton, Wisconsin
Ashland, Oregon
Aurora, Colorado
Austin, Texas
Berkeley, California
Boston, Massachusetts
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Chicago, Illinois
Denver, Colorado
Detroit, Michigan
Evanston, Illinois
Hartford, Connecticut
Jersey City, New Jersey
Los Angeles, California
Madison, Wisconsin
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Nashville, Tennessee
New Haven, Connecticut
New York, New York
Newark, New Jersey
Newton, Massachusetts
Oakland, California
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Phoenix, Arizona
Portland, Oregon
Providence, Rhode Island
Richmond, California
San Francisco, California
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Seattle, Washington
Somerville, Massachusetts
St. Paul, Minnesota
Syracuse, New York
Takoma Park, Maryland
Tucson, Arizona
Washington, D.C.

The following cities are reported to have no plans at the moment to change their immigration-related policies or practices.

Aberdeen, Washington
Baltimore, Maryland
Fresno, California
Las Vegas, Nevada
Long Beach, California
Mesa, Arizona
New Orleans, Louisiana
Northampton, Massachusetts
Princeton, New Jersey
Springfield, Oregon

The following cities have formally declared themselves sanctuaries since the presidential election.

Santa Ana, California
Burlington, Vermont
Montpelier, Vermont
Winooski, Vermont

McMullin: GOP ignored Russian meddling in presidential election

Congressional Republicans knew about Russian attempts to meddle in the U.S. presidential election as those efforts were ongoing and chose to do nothing about them for fear of hurting the electoral chances of President-elect Donald Trump, former independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin said Wednesday.

“Look, the truth is it’s been very obvious for leaders in Washington on the Republican side that the Russians have been undermining our democracy, or did undermine our democracy,” McMullin said at an event hosted by POLITICO Wednesday morning. “I know because I know for a fact that they know this. It was a topic of discussion during the election and they chose not to stand up.”

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McMullin ran for president as an independent, conservative alternative to Trump, who won the Republican presidential nomination despite lacking traditional conservative bona fides. Before jumping into the race last August, he was the chief policy director for Republicans in the House of Representatives and before that, was an operations officer in the CIA.

In a report released last October, the U.S. intelligence community stated that Russia had attempted to interfere with the American election process, launching cyberattacks against political targets. Trump has refused to concede the intelligence community’s assessment and has sought to push back against a CIA assessment that Russia launched its hacking efforts in an attempt to boost the president-elect’s candidacy.

Russian cyberattacks, which hacked into the email systems of the Democratic National Committee as well as politically influential individuals, were just part of the Kremlin’s efforts, according to McMullin. He said Republicans in Congress were aware that the Russian government also sought to undermine Americans’ faith in the election process and bolster Trump through RT America, the Kremlin-owned cable news station. Congressional Republicans also knew about online accounts created by the Russian government that backed Trump and attacked those who did not.

“They understood what was happening and they understood that that was probably only the tip of the iceberg,” McMullin said. “As a former intelligence officer, it’s hard to overstate how alarming this is and how alarming it should be.”

“We now have the intelligence agencies who have taken, candidly, their sweet time in coming out to say ‘yes, indeed Russia did attempt to undermine our elections, to influence our election’ and then more recently, you know, the reported CIA assessment that they did it on behalf of Donald Trump or to support Donald Trump, which I think, again, is obvious and not something we should need the CIA to tell us, based on all the other information we have.”

McMullin was especially troubled by Trump’s decision to nominate for secretary of state ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who has close business ties to Russia and was awarded the Russian “Order of Friendship” by President Vladimir Putin. McMullin said Tillerson “is a predictable pick” because he is “somebody who will not stand up to what Donald Trump intends to do, which is a realignment, a strategic realignment of the United States with Russia.”

Members of both political parties on Capitol Hill have called for an investigation into Russia’s efforts to meddle in last month’s election, and McMullin said he has more faith in the Senate than he does in the House when it comes to those investigations. He said specifically that he trusts Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and that more lawmakers should join them in investigating Russian interference. He said the issue should be bipartisan and should get more attention from the media, lines that earned him applause from the audience.

“This is what Russia does in Europe and has done with effect. The Republicans are sticking their heads in the sand on this issue as they did during the campaign,” McMullin said. “I will tell you, this is not a new issue. They knew during the campaign that this was happening and they chose not to say anything because they knew it would harm them politically. That is the issue, the sacrifice of principle for power, the sacrifice of the country’s interests for the party’s interests.”

Nerdcast: The bully pulpit

 

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It’s time for Episode 46 of the Nerdcast, POLITICO’s podcast on the White House and politics. Tune in each week to geek out with us as we dive deep into the political landscape, the latest numbers that matter, plus backstage dope on how politics really works.

We’re the people who spend Friday nights poring over poll numbers or the latest Federal Election Commission reports — so if you want to understand how the modern politics game is played, this is the podcast for you.

 

The POLITICO nerds discuss Donald Trump’s approval rating according to a new Fox News’ poll, the number of senate Democrats that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch needs to avoid getting stuck in a filibuster and more.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski is one of the most important swing votes in the health care debate, making her position on Planned Parenthood potentially pivotal to the shape of the final bill.

Murkowski ‘committed’ to funding Planned Parenthood

Sen. Lisa Murkowski has assured an Alaska constituent that she’s committed to preserving Planned Parenthood funding as part of a health care bill — the strongest line she’s drawn yet over one of the most controversial elements of the Obamacare repeal effort.

“I am committed to ensuring that important provisions of the ACA, such as covering those with pre-existing conditions, continued support for Medicaid expansion, coverage for dependents and no lifetime limits, and funding for Planned Parenthood remain intact,” Murkowski wrote in the constituent letter obtained by POLITICO.

Murkowski is one of the most important swing votes in the health care debate, making her position on Planned Parenthood potentially pivotal to the shape of the final bill. Most Republicans, as well as anti-abortion groups, want the organization defunded as part of the health bill.

In the past, Murkowski has said publicly that she doesn’t think Planned Parenthood defunding should be part of the repeal effort. But she hasn’t said that she would automatically vote against a bill that included it.

When asked about the letter this week, Murkowski repeated that she wouldn’t make a promise on a bill she hasn’t seen. Instead, she said she is a “strong proponent [of Planned Parenthood] and I will fight to keep the funding in. I can’t make promises or representations on bills that I don’t know the contents of. I guess I’d have to see. But I have been solid on Planned Parenthood. It’s all about access.”

Murkowski told POLITICO that she supports funding the organization “because what that does is it provides greater access for more women, more men and in my state, anything that you do to reduce access is a bad thing.”

Murkowski has emerged as one of the greatest skeptics of the Obamacare repeal bill, publicly chastising the effort as too secretive and warning against the defunding provision. Senate Republican leaders need 50 of the group’s 52 members to support the legislation to get it through the Senate.

Murkowski’s voting record on Planned Parenthood funding has shifted over time. She has repeatedly pleased and angered the anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights groups in Washington and Alaska.

Earlier this year, she joined Democrats, as well as fellow Republican moderate Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, to oppose an effort to make it easier for states to defund the program.

In 2015, shortly after sting videos were released alleging that the organization sells body parts, she voted in support of a procedural measure to allow defunding of Planned Parenthood. She later said she cast the vote only to offer an amendment that would have required a Justice Department investigation before the group was actually defunded.

She also supported the 2015 Republican Obamacare repeal bill, which defunded Planned Parenthood. Murkowski and Collins supported an unsuccessful amendment to allow funding. But Republicans knew the measure would be vetoed by former President Barack Obama.

In May, the RNC spent $10.5 million, finishing with $41.8 million in cash on hand and with no debt.

RNC announces raising $10.8M in May

The Republican National Committee raised $10.8 million in May, upping its 2017 fundraising total to $61.9 million, the committee said on Friday.

The RNC said it was its best fundraising haul in May of a post-presidential year. RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel credited the “network of loyal grass-roots donors across the country and bold leadership from President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans,” she said in a statement.

“We are incredibly grateful to the unprecedented number of donations that continue to pour in from across America,” said RNC Finance Chairman Steve Wynn. “Breaking yet another fundraising record would not be possible without the unwavering commitment from Republican supporters, who know the president and Republican leadership are dedicated to improving and strengthening our country.”

In May, the RNC spent $10.5 million, finishing with $41.8 million in cash on hand and with no debt.
In May, the RNC spent $10.5 million, finishing with $41.8 million in cash on hand and with no debt.

In May, the RNC spent $10.5 million, finishing with $41.8 million in cash on hand and no debt.

The Democratic National Committee hasn’t released its totals for May. In April, the DNC brought in $4.7 million and spent $6.4 million. The committee finished April with $8.8 million in the bank.

Last week, the DNC announced its new finance director, Emily Mellencamp Smith, a veteran Democratic fundraiser who recently worked with New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan in 2016. The DNC said in a statement that it would be building out its finance operation to include 30 staffers and a “new multi-channel grassroots fundraising effort.”

The case comes at a time when mandatory arbitration agreements are attracting media attention because of last year's sexual harassment allegations against Fox News.

Justice Department switches sides in Supreme Court case

The DOJ said Friday that it will switch sides in a Supreme Court case, dropping its previous support for workers to throw its weight behind management.

The case, NLRB v. Murphy Oil, addresses whether an employment contract that requires the employee to waive his or her right to bring a class-action lawsuit against the employer violates the National Labor Relations Act.

The case comes at a time when mandatory arbitration agreements are attracting media attention because of last year's sexual harassment allegations against Fox News.
The case comes at a time when mandatory arbitration agreements are attracting media attention because of last year’s sexual harassment allegations against Fox News.

Last year, the Obama DOJ weighed in on the side of the National Labor Relations Board, which had ruled that such arbitration agreements violated federal labor law. Now DOJ will weigh in on the side of Murphy Oil, which argued that they do not.

In its new amicus brief , the DOJ argues that “nothing in the NLRA’s legislative history indicates that Congress intended to bar enforcement of arbitration agreements like those at issue here.” The DOJ acknowledged that it previously supported the NLRB’s position, but that “after the change in administration, the office reconsidered the issue and has reached the opposite conclusion.”

It is rare for the DOJ to switch positions in a Supreme Court case.

The case comes at a time when mandatory arbitration agreements are attracting media attention because of last year’s sexual harassment allegations against Fox News. Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News anchor, sued Fox Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment, instead of Fox News, to avoid a mandatory arbitration clause in her contract. In that instance, though, the mandatory arbitration clause concerned individual claims against the company, not class actions.

A White House spokesperson said only that the meeting is "part of the ongoing discussions to reduce the burden of the high cost of drug prescriptions and unleash a wave of innovation to develop cures and treatments for patients.

Trump’s drug price ‘remedy’ expected to be industry friendly

Candidate Donald Trump made rising drug costs a signature issue during his campaign and beefed up his criticisms after the election, saying in January that the drug industry was “getting away with murder.”

The comments unnerved drug executives, but six months later, the industry is no longer in a state of panic.

The administration is not proposing, as Trump did on the campaign trail, that the government negotiate drug prices or allow the importation of cheaper drugs from abroad. At a meeting Friday, top Trump administration officials reportedly made little progress on even on more modest goals that are said to be an executive order on drug prices, which the White House is pushing to release.

A White House spokesperson said only that the meeting is "part of the ongoing discussions to reduce the burden of the high cost of drug prescriptions and unleash a wave of innovation to develop cures and treatments for patients.
A White House spokesperson said only that the meeting is “part of the ongoing discussions to reduce the burden of the high cost of drug prescriptions and unleash a wave of innovation to develop cures and treatments for patients.

The meeting which was led by OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and included top leadership of U.S. health agencies, trade officials and senior Trump advisors like Gary Cohn and Reed Cordish, ended with little agreement.

A White House spokesperson said only that the meeting is “part of the ongoing discussions to reduce the burden of the high cost of drug prescriptions and unleash a wave of innovation to develop cures and treatments for patients.”

The bickering among top officials comes amid already low expectations that the White House is willing to take steps that might anger the powerful pharmaceutical lobby.

With Trump still pushing for a quick populist win, some anticipate the administration could take a smaller step next week, such as announcing the FDA will speed generic drug approvals — a move that would spur competition among these cheaper copycats of branded medicines. FDA-centric policies are the one area where there has been more consensus, sources close to the process said.

The administration is not discussing taking “broad action to curb drug pricing,” analyst Terry Haines who follows Washington politics for investment bank EverCore ISI said Friday.

“If anything, the limited scope of the discussions should be good news for the pharmaceutical and bio industries and investors because nothing like sweeping action to curb drug prices is under discussion and the industry probably will not view the subjects of the Trump discussions … negatively. “

There are even some signs the administration proposals under discussion may help — rather than harm the drug industry.

“Our industry sources indicate that pharma expects it has successfully shifted the dialogue from the high price of innovation to transparency and other parts of the supply chain,” Wells Fargo analyst David Maris wrote in a note to investors Thursday evening. “As such, several drug company executives have expressed the belief that Trump’s drug price approach will not include drug re-importation and Medicare negotiation of drug prices.”

The industry’s growing confidence comes in part from the presence of key allies in the White House: Joe Grogan, OMB’s director of health programs, is working on the executive order, according to multiple sources inside and outside of the government. Grogan spent the last five years as the head of federal affairs for Gilead Sciences — the drug company that helped ignite the drug pricing debate in 2013, when it set the price of a new hepatitis C treatment at more than $80,000.

Grogan does not have a White House ethics waiver, meaning that under a policy implemented in January, he is supposed to recuse himself from issues he lobbied on in recent years.

He’s not the only administration official who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Trump on drug pricing.

HHS Secretary Tom Price was part of the congressional effort to kill the Obama administration’s last-ditch attempt to tackle drug pricing last year through a Medicare pilot that would have paid doctors less for some high cost drugs — such as some cancer treatments — administered in physician’s offices.

The White House may decide to do a “check-the-box” type of exercise, said several sources close to the discussion, for instance, issuing an order that calls for FDA, Medicare and Medicaid and other federal programs to work on drug pricing measures. That would demonstrate Trump’s commitment to the issue while more nuanced policies are crafted.

If the order goes into more specifics, most expect it will include a directive for the government to allow agreements between insurers and manufacturers that tie payment for a drug to how well it works.

It’s an idea long promoted by the drug industry itself.

Other ideas floated in an OMB list drafted earlier this spring and seen by POLITICO include policies that read like gifts to the drug industry.

One would allow the drug industry to sell products at lower prices to the U.S. territories without having to offer these discounts to Medicaid programs in all 50 states, which is the current requirement.

Others would curtail the Obama administration’s expansion of programs requiring drug companies to provide steep discounts to hospitals and clinics that serve a disproportionate share of low income patients. One suggests pulling a rule that would force certain drugs to be priced at only a penny to such clinics, for example.

Also on the list of ideas are a proposal that would give companies more flexibility to amend drug patents, which could make it harder – not easier — for cheaper generics to be sold.

The pharma trade policies the administration is looking at are also expected to be relatively industry-friendly, including taking steps to reward U.S. manufacturing or making a stronger effort to go after countries that violate intellectual property protections on drug pricing.

Even if the Trump team wanted to mount an all-out assault on drug makers, there are limits to what they could accomplish without congressional support. That’s particularly true when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid — and there few signs Republicans in Congress want to take any major action against the industry.

But Democrats say that Trump has not only failed to deliver on a key campaign vow, he has caved to industry.

“Another broken Trump promise seems to be in the making, with Medicare negotiation abandoned in favor of Big Pharma’s wish list,” Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), who co-chairs the Democrats’ Prescription Drug Task Force, told POLITICO. “In January, two weeks after declaring that drug makers were ‘getting away with murder,’ Trump was cozying up to pharmaceutical executives at the White House.”

President Donald Trump lashed out at the FBI and his own Justice Department for what he termed a “witch hunt” in a series of tweets that seemed to come out of nowhere.

45 After Dark: The ‘Witch Hunt’ edition

President Donald Trump is on the attack — against his own Department of Justice.

Starting with morning tweets that acknowledged he was the subject of an FBI investigation, Trump struck a defiant tone today. He lashed out at the FBI and his own Justice Department for what he termed a “witch hunt” in a series of tweets that seemed to come out of nowhere. They came hours after Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein put out an odd, vague statement about not trusting anonymous sources last night.

President Donald Trump lashed out at the FBI and his own Justice Department for what he termed a “witch hunt” in a series of tweets that seemed to come out of nowhere.
President Donald Trump lashed out at the FBI and his own Justice Department for what he termed a “witch hunt” in a series of tweets that seemed to come out of nowhere.

But the tension behind the tweets had been building: Trump has “smarted all week” over various stories POLITICO’s Josh Dawsey reports. It was a quintessentially defiant move from Trump.

He’s been told by basically all of his advisers to avoid taking to Twitter to talk about the investigation, to avoid talking about the Russia probe altogether. And yet:

“Trump has been told repeatedly not to post such missives on Twitter but has decided he is in for a political fight, according to one outside adviser briefed on the strategy. Advisers have told him to use his Twitter to boost his political message or attack Democrats instead of talking about the legal case. But Trump doesn’t trust others to share his message, this person said, because they don’t want to share it the way he does.”

The target of Trump’s ire, Rosenstein, likely won’t be affected by Trump’s efforts, his friends say, POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein reports. “Trump’s tweet Friday struck many of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s friends and colleagues as a bid to get him to drop oversight of the special prosecutor investigation into Trump and his campaign’s contacts with Russian officials, but Rosenstein’s allies insist he won’t buckle under such pressure.”

Elsewhere in President Trump’s orbit:

BRAND NEW: Should Rod Rosenstein be fired — or recuse himself — the Russia investigation would fall to a Rachel Brand, a Bush administration veteran who Democrats opposed because they said her legal rulings always sided with big business.

CAST(RO) OUT: President Trump rolled back Obama administration entreaties to Cuba, adding more oversight for Americans who want to visit Cuba and banning Americans from any activities that profit the Cuban military — which controls the majority of the tourism industry.

GATES’ BARBEQUE: Rick Gates, a Paul Manafort protege, has become embroiled in the Russia investigation after seeming to survive his ouster from the Trump campaign. Now he faces scrutiny from federal investigators. (The New York Times)

DOBROE UTRO!: The Trump transition team has been asked to preserve all of its communications related to Russia because of “several pending investigations into potential attempts by Russia interests to influence the 2016 election. Officials were told to keep all documents related to the Russian Federation, Ukraine and a number of campaign advisers and official.

COMEY LATER: BuzzFeed News reports that the FBI turned down a freedom of information request for James Comey’s memos — because they are the subject of an active investigation.

LAWYER’S LAWYER: Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen has hired his own personal attorney as the Russia probe heats up.

There you have it. You’re caught up on the Trump administration. It’s Friday, at last.

Both Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff have been combing the district for additional supporters since the first round.

Early-vote turnout soars in Georgia special election

Over 140,000 people have already voted in the race between Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff, including 36,000 who didn’t vote in the first round.

Early voting in Georgia’s special House election closed Friday evening with over 140,000 ballots cast, with overall turnout looking likely to rise in Tuesday’s closely watched matchup between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel.

The early voters in the second round include over 36,000 people who did not participate in April, according to data from the Georgia secretary of state’s office. That includes past voters who stayed home as well as newly registered voters who added their names to the rolls in Georgia’s 6th District after the primary.

Both Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff have been combing the district for additional supporters since the first round.
Both Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff have been combing the district for additional supporters since the first round.

The total number of voters on Tuesday is expected to surpass the high turnout in the first round, when over 192,000 voters cast ballots, including about 57,000 who voted early. The final turnout on Tuesday could easily exceed the vote total in the 2014 midterm elections, when over 210,500 people voted in the district.

The high levels of voting reflect extraordinarily high local interest in the race. After a $50 million campaign (a national record for a House race), 92 percent of voters said they are watching the race “closely,” including 64 percent following it “very closely,” according to a recent Atlanta Journal Constitution poll. And 52 percent of voters said in the poll that they think the race between Handel and Ossoff is more important than past elections.

Both parties have been combing the district for additional supporters since the first round, when Ossoff got over 48 percent of the vote — 3,612 votes short of a majority that would have won the seat for the Democrat without a runoff. Handel qualified for the June 20 runoff in second place with 20 percent of the vote, though Republican candidates combined for 51 percent support in the first round.

Handel and the GOP have focused on approximately 35,000 voters who cast GOP ballots in Georgia’s 2016 presidential primary but did not vote on April 18. Democrats have fewer outstanding base votes to chase, with about 11,000 2016 presidential primary voters in the district who didn’t cast ballots in April. Ossoff’s campaign is also seeking support from thousands of newly registered voters and some independents who are not regular voters.