What to Know in Washington: Trump Says Border Woes Exaggerated

President Donald Trump said yesterday that problems at U.S. border facilities have been exaggerated by the news media, and he demanded that Democrats in Congress change asylum laws to make it more difficult for migrants to claim refuge in the U.S.

“The Fake News Media, in particular the Failing @nytimes, is writing phony and exaggerated accounts of the Border Detention Centers,” Trump said on Twitter, in reference to the New York Times, which published a report yesterday describing squalid conditions at one Texas facility. “They are crowded (which we brought up, not them) because the Dems won’t change the Loopholes and Asylum.”

Trump also told reporters before returning to Washington from his golf club in New Jersey that the Times story was “a fabrication.” He said the administration will start showing detention centers to the news media to demonstrate the conditions. The Times stood by its story in a tweet yesterday.

The president’s tweets and comments to reporters came after top immigration officials yesterday morning defended conditions at the migrant processing facilities in response to media reports and criticism from Democrats about the treatment, including a lack of food for some children.

“We have no evidence that children went hungry,” acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said on ABC’s “This Week.”

The House Oversight and Reform Committee plans a hearing Wednesday on migrant children detained by Customs and Border Protection and the allegations of inhumane treatment. Read more from Erik Wasson.

Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Migrants are loaded onto a bus by Border Patrol agents.

Meanwhile, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) last week asked DHS Acting Inspector General Jennifer Costello to start a probe into current and former Customs and Border Protection leadership after reports showed that Border Patrol agents created Facebook groups to share racist comments about migrants and members of Congress.

Thompson requested in the letter to Costello that the OIG investigate Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan, Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan, and Border Patrol Chief Carla Provost to “find out what leadership knew about the groups, when they knew it, what action they took, if any,” according to a statement from Thompson. Read more from Ben Livesey.

Politics & Policy

Campaign Trail Update: Joe Biden spent the weekend apologizing for his remarks about his civil relationships with segregationist senators in the hopes of putting the issue behind him. Trump wasn’t ready to let it go. “Sleepy Joe Biden just admitted he worked with segregationists,” tweeted Trump, who himself is often accused of using racially charged rhetoric and would love to make the issue a wash with independent voters in a face-off with Biden. One day earlier, Trump called Biden a “reclamation project” who “Won’t win!”

Despite his missteps, Biden remains the party’s front-runner and is seen by many Democrats as the safest bet to defeat Trump. That perception was reinforced yesterday by a Washington Post-ABC News poll that found Biden is the only top-tier Democrat clearly leading Trump in hypothetical general-election match-ups. Biden led Trump by 10 points among registered voters, while Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Pete Buttigieg were all statistically tied with the president. Read today’s campaign update from Sahil Kapur and Jennifer Epstein.

Steyer Plans 2020 Run, Costa Says: Tom Steyer, the billionaire hedge fund manager turned liberal activist, has privately told friends and associates in recent days that he plans to enter the race for the Democratic nomination, the Washington Post’s Robert Costa said on Twitter, citing two Democrats familiar with the talks. He plans to announce tomorrow although talks are ongoing. Steyer said in January he wouldn’t run for the nomination and instead would focus his money and energy over the next two years on an effort to impeach Trump.

Democrats Pitch at Essence Fest: A half-dozen Democratic presidential hopefuls spent the weekend pitching themselves and their plans to an audience of voters they ignore at their peril: black women. The annual Essence Festival in New Orleans is the country’s largest gathering of African-American women, a group that votes in greater numbers than any other demographic in the Democratic party. The star-studded event — it featured an interview of Michelle Obama by broadcaster Gayle King — is now in its 25th year.

The primary message was that black women as a voting bloc are not to be taken for granted. The candidates were quizzed on their plans to create sustainable economic growth for the black community and to narrow the wealth gap between white and black Americans. Read more from Emma Kinery.

Amash Won’t Rule Out Presidential Run: Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.) said he “wouldn’t rule out” a run as a third-party presidential candidate but plans to seek re-election to Congress in his Michigan district as an independent after leaving the Republican Party. “I believe that I have to use my skills, my public influence, where it serves the country best,” Amash said on CNN’s “State of the Union” yesterday, days after he declared his “independence” from the GOP in a July 4 Washington Post column. “I believe I have to defend the Constitution in whiche ver way works best.” Read more from Ben Brody and Laura Davison.

Trump on Occasio-Cortez: Trump has compared Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) to former Argentine first lady Eva Perón, according to a report on a new book about the president’s rise in a fractured Republican Party. The forthcoming book contains a claim by Trump that he first noticed the liberal firebrand from the Bronx while watching TV, and that she was “ranting and raving like a lunatic on a street corner,” according to a report by the Guardian newspaper about “American Carnage: On the Front Lines of the Republican Civil War and the Rise of President Trump.” Perón, the wife of Argentine President Juan Perón, was a former actress known for her popular appeal and power in her husband’s administration. Read more from Ben Brody.

In the Courts

Obamacare Case: The fate of Obamacare, the law that Trump campaigned on repealing and replacing, could hinge on several technical points of law as a federal appeals court prepares to decide whether it’s unconstitutional. And the appeal of whatever the three-judge panel rules may land the Affordable Care Act back at the U.S. Supreme Court and in the public eye as the 2020 presidential election season is in full swing.

Several legal observers say they don’t expect the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to toss out a December decision from a federal judge in Texas invalidating the entire law. Obamacare critics say Congress never had the authority to require people to buy health insurance, and that argument was strengthened when lawmakers zeroed out the penalty for not doing so.

The three appellate judges — two appointed by Republican presidents and one by a Democrat — will consider the arguments tomorrow. But before they get to the meat of the claim, they’ll wrestle with a more basic question: Who has the right to even be in the case. Read more from Lydia Wheeler and Laurel Calkins.

Trump Fights to Keep Finance Records: Time is tight for Donald Trump’s lawyers in their fight to keep the president’s financial records out of the hands of congressional Democrats. Attorneys for the president on Friday will ask a U.S. appeals court panel in Washington to reverse a trial judge’s decision giving a House committee access to documents dating back to 2011, currently held by Trump’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA.

If the panel rules against them, the lawyers might not get another shot. The Supreme Court, seeing settled law in the case, wouldn’t be eager to take it up, some legals experts say, making the appeals court ruling final. Either way, the outcome of the Mazars dispute, and of two others involving the president’s records, will likely have far-reaching consequences. Read more from Andrew Harris.

Census Citizenship Question: The Justice Department is still searching for a way to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, with Trump saying he might issue an executive order after the Supreme Court put his effort on hold. The administration’s uncertainty played out in tweets and court filings on Friday as government lawyers scrambled to meet a federal judge’s afternoon deadline to explain what it was planning to do.

Department of Justice spokesperson Kerri Kupec said in an e-mailed statement yesterday that DOJ is shifting matters related to adding the citizenship question to the census to a new team of Civil Division lawyers going forward.

Epstein Prosecutors Eye Edge If Judge Denies Bail: Jeffrey Epstein’s fate may rest partly on whether his lawyers convince a judge he should be freed while he faces federal sex-trafficking charges. Epstein was taken into custody on Saturday in a surprise arrest after years of accusations of child molestation. Prosecutors are expected to unseal the case today when Epstein appears in federal court in Manhattan.

The first issue for the judge is likely to be whether to release the 66-year-old fund manager on bail. While the defense and the government may agree he can go free after posting a sizable bond, prosecutors are likelier to try to keep him behind bars, warning he could tap his fortune and flee, according to New York defense lawyer Marvyn Kornberg. Leaving Epstein locked up would give the government added leverage in any plea negotiations in coming months, said Kornberg, who isn’t involved in the case. Read more from Patricia Hurtado.

What Else to Know Today

U.K. to Probe Leak of Envoy’s Memos on Trump: The U.K. Foreign Office is investigating a leak of memos in which the British ambassador to the U.S. described Trump and his administration in unflattering terms, an official with the agency said. Kim Darroch, a career diplomat who’s been his country’s top representative in Washington since 2016, described Trump as “inept” and “incompetent,” among other things, in diplomatic cables and briefing notes to his bosses, the Mail on Sunday reported.

Trump, speaking to reporters yesterday said “we’re not big fans of that man, and he has not served the U.K. well.” The president added that “I can say things about him but I won’t bother.” Read more from Ros Krasny and Kitty Donaldson.

Trump on Fed: Trump wrapped up the weekend as he started it, jawboning the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates at a time when he may be sizing up his two latest picks for Fed governor as successors to Chairman Jerome Powell. If the Fed “knew what it was doing” it would cut rates, Trump told reporters. Fed policy is putting the U.S. at a disadvantage versus Europe and suppressing gains in the stock market, Trump said. Yesterday’s comments came after Trump said on Friday that the central bank “doesn’t have a clue” and was “our most difficult problem.” Read more from Josh Wingrove and Saleha Mohsin.

World Cup Celebration: Trump joined a national celebration of the winning U.S. women’s national soccer team, little more than a week after clashing on social media with one of the team’s stars who said she wouldn’t visit the White House if invited. Trump tweeted that “America is proud of you all!” after “great and exciting play.”

Meanwile, New York City will throw a ticker-tape parade for the players this week, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office announced shortly after the team clinched its fourth World Cup title. “You have inspired the entire country — and New York City knows how to celebrate champions,” de Blasio said on Twitter. Read more from Ros Krasny.

Iran Uranium Enrichment: Iran may choose to enrich uranium at a higher purity level as its next step in a new policy that’s gradually undoing the restrictions imposed by the 2015 nuclear deal. It’s “among the options considered” as part of Iran cutting back on its commitments within the accord, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported today, citing Behrouz Kamalvandi, the spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. In a separate report, Kamalvandi told state-run Iranian Students News Agency that the country reached enrichment levels of 4.5% purity earlier today, which meets the needs of Iran’s nuclear reactors. Read more from Ladane Nasseri.

To contact the reporter on this story: Zachary Sherwood in Washington at zsherwood@bgov.com

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

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