What to Know in Washington: Summit Brings Fringe to White House

The White House is holding a closed-door social media summit today that’s short on social media companies and long on fringe conservative voices that back up President Donald Trump’s claims of being silenced online.

While Facebook and Twitter and other internet platforms weren’t invited, several presidential fans, provocateurs, leaders of conservative groups, media figures, and lawmakers have said they’re going — including some who’ve faced allegations of racism and anti-Semitism, trolling and conspiracy theories.

Trump is scheduled to address the gathering, which was billed by the White House as a way to “bring together digital leaders for a robust conversation on the opportunities and challenges of today’s online environment.” But the confirmed attendees are primarily conservative tech critics who echo Trump’s own complaints that social media systematically silences conservative voices.

The summit is expected to attract figures like Bill Mitchell, a Twitter booster of Trump’s who has promoted the conspiracy theory known as QAnon; as well as the person behind a pro-Trump meme account known as @CarpeDonktum, whose work has attracted retweets from the president. Brent Bozell, who heads an organization devoted to exposing alleged liberal media bias and once compared President Barack Obama to “a skinny, ghetto crackhead,” was also expected, alongside another Twitter personality who has said the media was pushing a civil war.

The conservative nonprofit Project Veritas, which uses undercover sting operations in attempts to expose wrongdoing, said founder James O’Keefe would be there. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a frequent Google critic, is scheduled to attend, as is Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). Traditional Washington conservative organizations such as the Heritage Foundation will be represented. So will a fairly new one, the youth-focused group Turning Point USA, which has been accused of promoting baseless claims against liberals.

After the meeting, “we will all go to the beautiful Rose Garden for a News Conference on the Census and Citizenship,” Trump tweeted this morning. Read more on the event from Ben Brody

Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

Happening on the Hill

Small Business Tax Credit: Negotiations continue over House Democrats’ $15-an-hour minimum wage bill, with a new tax credit pitched for small businesses as the proposal moves toward a floor vote next week. The bill is one of the Democratic Party’s signature workforce reforms this year. Some in the party have continued to express concern that the bill goes too far in rural communities and for small businesses. In an attempt to address those concerns, Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.) is floating a proposal that would introduce a tax credit for small businesses to help them absorb the increase to the minimum wage. Read more from Jaclyn Diaz.

Senate Education Bill May Be Squeezed Out: Preventing patients from being hit with surprise medical bills may be crowding out legislation to update higher education policy as a Senate committee with broad jurisdiction sets priorities for this year. “That is using a lot of our time,” Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said in an interview, referring to the health-care bill his committee approved on a bipartisan vote last month. He said he hopes the Senate this month can finish the measure, which would protect patients who see out-of-network doctors during emergencies from unforeseen, high medical bills, Emily Wilkins reports.

Testimony Shows Human Side of Border Crisis: Partisan accusations over border security and migrants’ human rights fell silent for a moment yesterday to hear the testimony of a grieving mother whose 2-year-old daughter died after being detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Speaking before the House Oversight Committee, Yazmin Juárez tearfully recounted her journey from Guatemala to Dilley, Texas, where she said she and her daughter, Mariee, slept on the floor and were “locked in a cage with about 30 other people.” Juárez told the committee she fled Guatemala to seek asylum and create a better life for her daughter but instead watched her die “slowly and painfully.” Read more from Jarrell Dillard.

Meanwhile, criminal charges are among the consequences that a subcontractor could face in connection with a data breach that exposed more than 100,000 photos of travelers’ faces and license plates collected at a land border crossing for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the agency said. John Wagner, Customs and Border Protection deputy executive assistant commissioner, told House Homeland Security Committee members at a hearing that the agency is weighing both civil and criminal action against the vendor over the breach announced last month. Read more from Michaela Ross.

White House Yet to Brief on Cyberattack Rules: The Trump administration hasn’t permitted members of Congress to read a classified order the president issued almost a year ago outlining new rules for the military’s use of cyber weapons, despite repeated requests, The Wall Street Journal reports, citing lawmakers and others familiar with the matter. The issue has spurred concern on Capitol Hill that the Pentagon is increasingly deploying offensive cyber operations against enemies, including against Iran last month, without informing congressio nal overseers regularly. Read more from Kim Chipman.

Probe of Chamber of Commerce: Two key Democratic senators yesterday called on congressional officials who oversee federal lobbying disclosures to investigate whether the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is violating transparency laws. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a presidential candidate, called on the secretary of the Senate and the clerk of the House to determine if the chamber is adequately disclosing which of its members fund and participate in lobbying, according to a statement. Read more from Naomi Nix and Bill Allison.

Politics & Elections

2020 Money Race: In the crowded 2020 Democratic presidential field, campaign bank accounts are beginning to separate the contenders from the also-rans. When the candidates report their second-quarter fundraising totals to the Federal Election Commission on Monday, the numbers will show who’s catching fire — and who’s not.

While it’s still early in the election cycle, the figures are likely to cement Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris as the big five –though political fortunes can change quickly. Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke seemed like a rising star in the first quarter. But his poll numbers dropped before and after a shaky performance in the June 26 Democratic debate and his campaign hasn’t released a number for the second quarter. Read more from Bill Allison.

Warren Appeals to African Americans: Sen. Warren’s trademark pitch of her personal story blended with wonky policy proposals has helped her win over white liberals. Now, she’s hoping her message will resonate with African Africans, a crucial Democratic constituency that will play a large role in deciding who will challenge Trump next year. More important, Warren is trying to avoid the missteps of her chief progressive rival Bernie Sanders in 2016, when his campaign was ultimately doomed by his inability to win over black voters.

“When you lay out these plans and you can connect those plans to people’s everyday experiences, they tend to react to them,” said Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.). “Bernie had a tremendous emotional following in some parts of the black community, but people listen to his words and they were never able to connect those 30,000-foot policies with everyday practical plans.” Read more from Tyler Pager.

Sanders’ Hiring Spree: Sen. Sanders’s campaign has been on a hiring spree in New Hampshire in the last two months, as he tries to fend of challenges from Warren and other rivals who also are investing heavily in the first-in-the-nation primary state. The campaign now has 45 staffers there, a nearly 45% jump since May, according to Carli Stevenson, deputy director of Sanders’s New Hampshire operation. Joe Caiazzo, the campaign’s state director, said the new hires primarily will be used to connect with the thousands of Granite State voters who volunteered for Sanders’s 2016 primary race against Hillary Clinton. Read more from Laura Litvan.

What Else to Know Today

Trump’s 7% Deregulation Win Rate: The Trump administration won’t be able to rescind or change any major rule from a previous administration that has been upheld by a court, a veteran administrative law attorney predicted yesterday. Administrative law experts on a panel hosted by the American Bar Association were highly skeptical that much, if any, of Trump’s rhetoric about cutting regulations would materialize before the next presidential election.

Agency deregulatory actions have been successfully challenged in 39 cases and upheld in three cases, for a 7% win rate for this administration, according to a tracker maintained by the Institute for Policy Integrity at the New York University School of Law. This compares with what attorneys said yesterday is a historic win rate of about 70% by past administrations. Read more from Cheryl Bolen.

Census Case: The Maryland federal court judge presiding over a challenge to the Trump administration’s plan to add a citizenship question to next year’s census denied the Justice Department‘s request to replace its slate of attorneys with new lawyers drawn from elsewhere in the department — at least for now. U.S. District Judge George Hazel‘s ruling comes a day after a New York federal judge hearing a related case barred the government attorneys’ exits because they hadn’t satisfied local court rules requir ing them to provide an acceptable reason for stepping down. Hazel told the U.S. lawyers on Wednesday that he wanted assurances of an orderly transition between the incoming and outgoing teams and that those leaving would remain available to help their replacements. If the Justice Department satisfies those criteria, Hazel said, he would allow the withdrawal. Read more from Andrew Harris.

White House Nominations: The White House yesterday announced Trump’s intent to nominate Sung Kim, current U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, to be U.S. ambassador to Indonesia. Kim has previously served as ambassador to South Korea and led the State Department’s Office of Korean Affairs, according to a statement. Read more from Karl Lester M. Yapto.

Trump also intends to nominate Adam Boehler, current senior adviser to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, to be CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, according to the statement. Boehler founded several businesses, including home-based group Landmark Health, prior to joining the Department of Health and Human Services in April 2018. He was also a leader at investment groups Francisco Partners and Accretive. Boehler has been head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation and served as a senior adviser to Secretary Alex Azar on value-based care. Boehler has been heavily involved in the creation of the administration’s top health policy initiatives. Read more from Shira Stein.

Trump Says Lockheed CEO to Keep Plant Open: Trump said yesterday that the CEO of Lockheed Martin agreed to keep a helicopter plant in Pennsylvania open. “I was just informed by Marillyn Hewson, CEO of Lockheed Martin, of her decision to keep the Sikorsky Helicopter Plant in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, open and humming! We are very proud of Pennsylvania and the people who work there,” Trump tweeted. The company announced early last month that it would shut down the plant. Trump tweeted at the time that he had spoken with Hewson about keepin g the plant in operation and that she would “be taking it under advisement.” Read more from John Harney.

Trump Defends Refinery Waivers: Trump has cited his move to allow year-round sales of high-ethanol gasoline as farmers pressure him to dial back decisions to exempt oil refineries from biofuel-blending mandates, signaling the president sees the two issues as related. Agriculture advocates have told Trump that his ethanol change, which could expand U.S. sales of the corn-based fuel, is not enough to offset government decisions to waive refineries from annual biofuel quotas. Read more from Mario Parker and Jennifer A. Dlouhy.

U.S. Sends Defiant Signal to Beijing: Trump administration officials signaled support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong—and defiance toward the Chinese government—by granting a series of high-level meetings this week to a Hong Kong bookseller who has drawn Beijing’s ire. Jimmy Lai, a publisher and democracy advocate, met with National Security Adviser John Bolton yesterday, after meetings earlier this week with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas), Cory Gardner (Colo.) and Rick Scott (Fla.). Read more from Nick Wadhams.

U.S. to Probe French Digital Tax: The U.S. will investigate a French plan to impose taxes on technology companies, a move that has been a prelude to new U.S. tariffs under the Trump administration. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will have as long as a year to examine whether the plan would hurt U.S. technology firms, and suggest remedies. The so-called 301 investigation is the same tool Trump used to impose tariffs on Chinese goods because of the country’s alleged theft of intellectual property. Read more from Jenny Leonard and Laura Davison.

Ex-White House Counsel Asks to Toss Lobbying Case: Gregory Craig, the former White House counsel accused of misleading the U.S. about work he did for a pro-Russia government in Ukraine, asked a judge to throw out the two-count criminal indictment against him. Craig’s lawyers told U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson yesterday the charges are technically flawed and their client is being accused of failing to disclose information he hadn’t been asked about and had no duty to reveal to enforcers of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Read more from Andrew Harris.

Iran Tries to Seize British Tanker: Five armed Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps boats attempted to seize a British oil tanker in the Persian Gulf, CNN reported, amid heightened tensions in the region. The British Heritage was crossing into the Strait of Hormuz area when the Iranian vessels approached it, demanding that the tanker change course and stop in nearby Iranian territorial waters, CNN said. A U.S. aircraft was overhead and recorded footage of the episode, the network said. The tanker, operated by BP Plc, is able to haul some 1 million barrels of oil. Read more from Karen Leigh and Ana Monteiro.

Epstein Accuser Seeks to Question Him: The woman who came forward yesterday on national TV to claim Jeffrey Epstein raped her when she was 15 wants to question him under oath to learn more about his alleged enablers before filing a lawsuit. Jennifer Araoz, 32, filed a petition the same day in New York state court in which she seeks not only to question Epstein but also to find out the identity of a young woman she calls “the recruiter” who she said lured her into his clutches when she was 14. Epstein “committed repeated sexual assault and battery” against her in 2001 and 2002, she alleges in a draft of her suit, to be filed next month. Read more from Patricia Hurtado.

To contact the reporters on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com; Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Loren Duggan at lduggan@bgov.com

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