The Daily 202: Missile test underscores the failure of Trump’s naive approach to North Korea – Washington Post

With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: Donald Trump made a bold pronouncement in the weeks before he became president that is not aging well.

The U.S. government confirmed last night that North Korea successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile, crossing a chilling threshold and underscoring Trump’s failure to change the trajectory of dictator Kim Jong Un’s nuclear program over the past six months.

— “The latest missile flew higher and remained in the air longer than previous attempts — enough to reach all of Alaska,” Anne Gearan and Emily Rauhala report on our front page. “The launch follows a string of recent actions by Pyongyang, including a salvo of missiles last month and three tests in May. Kim has now launched more missiles in one year than his father and predecessor in the family dynasty did in 17 years in power. North Korea has also conducted five nuclear weapons tests since 2006, including two last year.”

— Experts say the missile was a “real ICBM” and showed technical sophistication that Western experts believed North Korea was years away from mastering. “North Korea’s apparent accomplishment puts it well ahead of schedule,” Joby Warrick explains. “The Hwasong-14 tested Monday could not have reached the U.S. mainland, analysts say, and there’s no evidence to date that North Korea is capable of building a miniaturized nuclear warhead to fit on one of its longer-range missiles. But there is now little reason to doubt that both are within North Korea’s grasp.”

— The U.S. Army and South Korean military responded last night with a show of force, launching their own missiles into South Korean territorial waters along the country’s eastern coastline. U.S. Pacific Command called this a direct response to “North Korea’s destabilizing and unlawful actions.” (Dan Lamothe has more.)

— The past three presidents have tried to negotiate, only to learn that Pyongyang can never be trusted. Reflecting the hubris of someone who believes he alone can fix things, Trump’s “it will not happen” tweet came two months after Barack Obama warned him privately that North Korea would likely be the single most urgent problem he confronted as president. Several aides from the last administration also told their incoming counterparts that the missile program should be their top national security priority.

— Trump naively thought he could persuade China to pressure North Korea to stop its nuclear activities. Then President Xi Jinping tutored him on the history of the region when they met at Mar-a-Lago in April. “After listening for 10 minutes, I realized that it’s not so easy,” the president admitted afterward, recounting the history lesson. “You know, I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power over North Korea. But it’s not what you would think.”

— During the transition, Trump appeared to embrace “the madman theory” of foreign policy. The president-elect believed he could use his reputation for unpredictability to unnerve and intimidate America’s adversaries into making concessions that they would not otherwise make. Some people close to Trump thought, for example, that North Korea might come to the table out of fear that the American president might just be crazy enough to take preemptive military action. (I wrote last December about why  this was both risky and likely to fail, as it did when Richard Nixon first tried it during Vietnam.)

— During the campaign, Trump also expressed openness to South Korea and Japan developing their own nuclear weapons. “They’d probably wipe them out pretty quick,” Trump said during a Wisconsin rally in March 2016, musing flippantly about a thermonuclear confrontation with North Korea. “If they fight, you know what, that’d be a terrible thing. … But if they do, they do. Good luck, enjoy yourself, folks.”

— As the first president in U.S. history with no prior military or government experience, Trump has clearly never studied “deterrence theory”: If he thought a show of force would deter North Korea, he thought wrong. If anything, the president’s previous saber-rattling has only driven the regime to accelerate its efforts to build a nuclear weapon capable of striking the mainland United States.

North Korea’s ability to bomb American population centers — whether Seattle, San Francisco or Los Angeles — would dramatically change the Washington calculus and massively constrain our ability to use military force. That’s the whole point of these tests. “The fear is not that Mr. Kim would launch a pre-emptive attack on the West Coast; that would be suicidal, and if the 33-year-old leader has demonstrated anything in his five years in office, he is all about survival,” David Sanger writes on the front page of today’s New York Times. “As he looks around the world, he sees cases like that of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya — an authoritarian who gave up his nascent nuclear program, only to be deposed, with American help, as soon as his people turned against him. That is what Mr. Kim believes his nuclear program will prevent — an American effort to topple him. He may be right.”

“There is no good option here,” former acting CIA director Michael Morell said on “CBS This Morning.” “There is no military option here to destroy the nuclear program (or) his missile program. There is no option to do that that wouldn’t start a second Korean War and wouldn’t raise the possibility of him using nuclear weapons against his neighbors. The risks are extraordinarily high in a military standoff.”

As Jim Mattis put it in March, “A conflict in North Korea would be probably the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes.” “The bottom line is it would be a catastrophic war if this turns into a combat if we’re not able to resolve this situation through diplomatic means,” the secretary of defense said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

— Trump administration officials have been saying for months now that “the era of strategic patience is over,” a reference to Obama’s approach, but no one has explained what exactly will replace it.

After visiting the demilitarized zone in April, Vice President Pence first announced that “the era of strategic patience is over” and declared that “all options are on the table.” “North Korea would do well not to test (Trump’s) resolve — or the strength of the armed forces of the United States in this region,” said Pence, whose dad fought in the Korean War.

North Korea has repeatedly tested Trump’s resolve during the intervening three months and not suffered any discernible consequences. During a joint statement in the Rose Garden last Friday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Trump reiterated the talking point: “The era of strategic patience with the North Korean regime has failed.” He added that he wants “peace, stability and prosperity” for the region but said ambiguously that the U.S. will “always” defend itself and its allies.

Last week, the Trump administration put in place sanctions on a China-based bank accused of laundering money for the North Korean government. In a statement over the holiday weekend, the White House also implicitly threatened to reassert U.S. complaints about Chinese economic practices that Trump has largely set aside in recent months as he has sought to engage Xi.

While China pledges cooperation with the United States over North Korea, Beijing has not fundamentally shifted away from a strategy that balances pressure on the Kim regime with keeping the regime afloat, said Chris Steinitz, a research scientist at the federally funded, nonprofit Center for Naval Analyses. “It’s kind of how China looks at everything. They have a very long view,” Steinitz told my colleagues Anne and Emily. “They will wait. They will bide their time. They have a lot of priorities.”

Don’t forget that the U.S.-Sino relationship involves far more than North Korea: China yesterday vowed to step up its air and sea patrols after a U.S. warship sailed near a disputed island in the South China Sea, and last week the United States announced a new arms deal with Taiwan. “The bromance is over,” Evan Medeiros, a former adviser to Obama on Asia policy, told Simon Denyer and Thomas Gibbons-Neff. “The honeymoon is clearly over, but the next phase is less clear.”

— In response to the missile test, Trump yesterday ridiculed Kim and ratcheted up rhetorical pressure on China to apply more pressure. He did this on Twitter:

The president offered no additional specifics. His aides, meanwhile, called for an emergency public session of the U.N. Security Council. The international response will also certainly be high on the president’s agenda at the Group of 20 economic summit this week. “Global action is required to stop a global threat,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement yesterday afternoon. “Any country that hosts North Korean guest workers, provides any economic or military benefits, or fails to fully implement UN Security Council resolutions is aiding and abetting a dangerous regime. All nations should publicly demonstrate to North Korea that there are consequences to their pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

Many Democrats called on the administration to offer a clearer strategy. “Instead of vague Twitter bluster, President Trump should answer North Korea’s dangerous test with a coherent strategy of direct diplomacy with Pyongyang and increased economic sanctions pressure from China,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations East Asia subcommittee, said in a Facebook post yesterday.

— U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, for her part, grumbled that she had to work on the Fourth of July — a tone-deaf comment considering both the gravity of the threat and the reality that tens of thousands of American soldiers serve vigilantly every holiday without ever complaining:

— Is Trump’s mental health “immaterial”? At the Aspen Ideas Festival last week, during a panel on U.S. national security in the Trump era, former CIA director David Petraeus defended the president’s foreign policy. He said Trump’s national security team is the strongest he had ever seen, and he argued that Trump is far more decisive than Obama, who he said was indecisive to the point of paralysis.

David Rothkopf, who teaches at Columbia University and was previously chief executive at Foreign Policy magazine, was moderating the panel. He noted that, for the first time, he’s getting regular questions about the mental health of the president. He asked Petraeus if he thought the president was fit to serve. “It’s immaterial,” he reportedly replied, arguing that because the team around Trump is so good, they can offset whatever deficits he might have.

“I was floored. It was a stunningly weak defense,” Rothkopf writes in an op-ed for today’s Post. “Daily he shows he lacks the character, discipline, intellect, judgment or respect for the office to be president of the United States. In normal times, this would be worrying. But look at the news. … A confrontation is coming that will be a test of character pitting North Korea’s unhinged leader, Kim Jong Un, against our leader. … There is no precedent for one whose character is so obviously ill-suited to the presidency.”

At the end of the Aspen session, a gentleman approached Rothkopf and asked why he made the conversation so ad hominem by questioning Trump’s fitness. “I explained that when we have a system in which the chief executive is endowed with so much power, we regularly find that our fate in crises turns on the character of the president,” he writes.

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Missouri Rep. Ann Wagner (R) announced that she will not challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) in 2018, opting to stay in the House. She’s the latest high-profile recruit to pass on running against a Democratic incumbent in a red state after concluding that the political environment will be bad for Republicans next year. (Washington Examiner)
  2. U.S.-backed fighters breached the wall of Raqqa’s Old City in Syria, marking new progress in a weeks-long battle to wrest Islamic State militants from their most important strongholds. (Liz Sly)
  3. The United States has lifted the in-cabin ban on laptops and other large electronic devices on U.S.-bound flights from Dubai and Istanbul, Emirates and Turkish Airlines said this morning. The announcements come three days after restrictions were lifted on Etihad Airways’ hub Abu Dhabi International Airport. (Reuters)
  4. Popular cyclist Peter Sagan was disqualified from the Tour de France after he appeared to elbow fellow racer Mark Cavendish off his bike during the final sprint. It’s unclear whether Cavendish, who suffered serious injuries in the crash, will be able to continue. (Marissa Payne)

  5. Chicago is implementing a new graduation requirement for its high school students. Before receiving their diplomas, each student must show that they’ve secured a job or acceptance into college, a gap-year program, or the military. (Emma Brown)
  6. SpaceX aborted a second launch of its Falcon 9 rocket, shuttering another attempt just 10 seconds before liftoff. Elon Musk said his company will conduct a full review of rocket and launchpad systems before trying again. (CNBC)
  7. The Canadian government will apologize and pay nearly $8 million in compensation to a former Guantanamo Bay inmate, who pleaded guilty to killing a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan when he was 15. The former prisoner, Omar Khadr, spent 10 years behind bars. His case gained international attention after some dubbed him a child soldier who was questioned under “oppressive circumstances.” (The Guardian)
  8. Prosecutors asked a Brooklyn judge to silence Martin Shkreli, the pharmaceutical-industry executive currently on trial for securities fraud. The feds say the boisterous businessman has embarked on a “campaign of disruption” that has made it difficult to find an impartial jury. They either want the judge to silence Shkreli or the jury to be semi-sequestered for the remainder of his case. (Renae Merle)
  9. The $19 billion bid to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and restore its health could be derailed by a dam. A new report finds that the Conowingo Dam, which sits at the top of the bay in Maryland and blocks massive amounts of sediment, is filling up 15 years earlier than expected — and could cease protecting the bay within the next three years. (Darryl Fears)
  10. The Irish prime minister’s socks stole the show during his news conference with Canadian leader Justin Trudeau. Leo Varadkar’s socks were decorated with Canadian Mounties and maple leaves in honor of his guest. (The New York Times)
  11. A Michigan man burned down his garage while attempting to remove a bees’ nest with fireworks. Homeowner Mike Tingley had hoped that the fireworks would act as a smoke bomb to spur the bees’ departure. (AP)
  12. One Kentucky town is expecting up to 100,000 visitors for this summer’s solar eclipse. The expected rush of guests has earned Hopkinsville, Ky., the nickname “Eclipseville.” (The Wall Street Journal)
  13. Archaeologists in Mexico City have unearthed a massive tower of human skulls believed to have been displayed in a 16th century Aztec temple — raising a host of new questions about the nature of Aztec human sacrifice and their gruesome displays of power. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
  14. Tribalism alert: A new poll finds that 9 in 10 Republicans think Trump is more trustworthy than CNN. A nearly identical proportion of Democrats hold the opposite view. (Axios)

HEALTH-CARE LATEST:

— Most GOP senators, home for recess with the health-care bill in limbo, seem to be hiding from their constituents. David Weigel, Murray Carpenter and Julia O’Malley report from around the country: “[Republicans] are spending the Fourth of July recess fending off protesters, low poll numbers and newspaper front pages that warn of shuttered hospitals and 22 million people being shunted off their insurance. … When Congress broke for the long holiday, just four of the Senate’s 52 Republicans — Collins, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — announced appearances at Fourth of July parades. … After the parades, there will be few chances for Better Care Reconciliation Act critics to face their senators during the recess … Activists are encouraging one another to get more ambitious — and creative.”

— “It is a tough summer for Senate Republicans, who are trying to combine a long-promised repeal of the Affordable Care Act with a replacement that has, in legislation drafted so far, been as popular as sunburn,” the New York Times adds in its version of the same story. “Many lawmakers seem to have given up on town hall-style meetings and parades. … While the receptions they receive may vary, judging by those in the streets on Tuesday, the primary subject will not.”

— The reactions that the senators who braved parades received is revealing:

Constituents of Collins, who has tried to moderate the bill, expressed gratitude for her stance against the original version. Collins said after her parade: “There was only one issue. That’s unusual. It’s usually a wide range of issues. … I heard, over and over again, encouragement for my stand against the current version of the Senate and House health care bills. People were thanking me, over and over again. ‘Thank you, Susan!’ ‘Stay strong, Susan!’”

Cruz, who opposed the original draft of the legislation and has strived to pull the bill to the right, heard many complaints from constituents while visiting a liberal-leaning town. The Texas Tribune’s Patrick Svitek reports: “Cruz, who has a knack for confrontation with his political opponents in Washington and far outside it, had to speak over the demonstrators for most of his speech at an Independence Day ceremony, twice pausing to address the commotion. They were countered by a similarly vocal group of Cruz supporters, who sought with varying success to drown them out with chants of ‘USA!’”

— Activists are making their displeasure with the idea of repealing Obamacare heard in other, more creative ways. The Indianapolis Star’s Ryan Martin reports: “The Indiana Republican Party posed a question to Facebook on Monday: ‘What’s your Obamacare horror story? Let us know.’ The responses were unexpected. ‘My sister finally has access to affordable quality care and treatment for her diabetes.’ ‘My father’s small business was able to insure its employees for the first time ever. #thanksObama’ ‘Love Obamacare!’ ‘The only horror in the story is that Republicans might take it away.’”

— A major concern popping up in voter interviews relates to the CBO’s projection that, under the original Senate bill, premiums for a mid-level insurance plan would rise by 20 percent next January. The Wall Street Journal’s Stephanie Armour and Kristina Peterson report: “That means many people who don’t get insurance through work would see their premiums increase just a few months before the midterm elections. …  Premiums would fall in later years, in part because less-comprehensive plans would be offered by that time. This highlights what some Republicans privately concede is a Catch-22 as GOP Senate leaders work to assemble a bill they can bring to the floor when Congress returns to Washington: Both passing a bill and not passing one carry political peril. … The fate of Republican health-care efforts now may hinge on whether GOP leaders can persuade enough Republican senators that forging ahead is their best political bet.”

— A few GOP senators had a very good reason for missing parades: John McCain and Lindsey Graham visited Kabul with a bipartisan Senate delegation on Tuesday. The Arizona senator called for more U.S. troops and aggressive military action, as well as pressure on neighboring Pakistan, to create a “winning strategy” and end the 16-year war, Pamela Constable reports. Elizabeth Warren and two other senators are on the trip. Graham said he plans to tell the president that “he needs to pull all our troops out” or add even more than the 3,000 to 4,000 troops U.S. military officials have asked for. But Graham also stressed that the Trump administration needs to put more effort into understanding and influencing regional leaders. â€œRex needs to come here quick,” Graham said, referring to the secretary of state who has not yet visited the region.

PREVIEWING TRUMP’S PUTIN MEETING:

— As Trump prepares for his meeting with Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg on Friday, he finds himself severely constrained — and facing few options in his talks with the Russian president that will leave him politically unscathed. Abby Phillip and Carol Morello have a curtain-raiser: “If Trump attempts to loosen sanctions against Russia … Congress could defy him by pursuing even stronger penalties. And if he offers platitudes for Putin without addressing Russia’s election meddling, it will renew questions about whether Trump accepts the findings of his own intelligence officials. … There is also a risk that Trump could choose to freelance in the meeting, diverting from the more balanced objectives that his advisers have laid out for the bilateral relationship. If Trump prioritizes his desire to build camaraderie with Putin as he has with other world leaders, it may put him at a stark disadvantage with a former KGB operative known for his unflagging focus on Russia’s primacy…

“Among the foreign policy experts who support Trump’s push for improved relations with Russia, there is growing frustration that the current political climate and Trump’s actions have made that goal all but impossible. Rex Tillerson has tried to ward off Congress from imposing more sanctions on Russia for its involvement in Ukraine, saying that getting tough now could hamper cooperation on other issues like fighting the Islamic State.” 

Bottom line: “The president is boxed in,” said Nicholas Burns, who was U.S. ambassador to NATO under President George W. Bush. “Why would you give Putin any kind of concession at the first meeting? What has he done to deserve that? … If you try to curry favor, offer concessions, pull back on the pressure, he’ll take advantage. He’ll see weakness in a vacuum.”

— Our David Filipov has a preview from Moscow this morning on what Russia hopes to gain from the meeting with Trump: “From Moscow’s point of view, since Trump took office, the relationship has gone from abysmal to worse, amid growing tensions over the increasingly assertive role of the U.S. military in Syria. Heading into Friday’s meeting, Moscow has dismal hopes of any marked improvement … The most deliverable item on Putin’s agenda will be the Kremlin’s demand that Washington return two Russian diplomatic compounds shuttered in retaliation for Moscow’s election meddling … No one in Moscow expects any progress anytime soon on recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the lifting of U.S. sanctions, the U.S. abandonment of regime change in Syria, the acknowledgment of Russia’s ‘sphere of influence’ in Ukraine or a reduction of support for the NATO military alliance … Moscow observers believe that even if Trump wanted to make progress on these issues, his political situation at home would make it impossible.”

— Trump has asked his aides to draft a list of concessions that he could offer to Putin during their meeting, Thomas Wright of the Brookings Institution writes for Politico: â€œLess clear is what Trump wants in return. [Putin] is the arch manipulator — ‘deft at psyching people out’ as a former U.S. official put it — and his meetings with foreign leaders are frequently notable occasions. Putin brought his Labrador, Konni, to his first meeting with Angela Merkel, who has a lifelong fear of dogs. In his first meeting with Nicholas Sarkozy, he personally threatened to ‘smash’ the French leader ‘to pieces,’ leaving him dazed and confused in the news conference that followed. One former [Bush administration] official who dealt with Putin told me there is a risk that Putin might trick Trump into doing a deal on Syria and Ukraine in the meeting. The agreement might only last a few days … [But] such a scenario would likely expose divisions within the Trump administration, it would discredit the president, and it could also heighten his suspicion of his own government who Trump would perceive as undermining his partnership with the Russian president.”

— The White House confirmed yesterday that Trump’s meeting with Putin is going to be an official bilateral meeting, rather than an informal pull-aside. CNN’s Jeremy Diamond notes that it will be the first in-person meeting between the two leaders and the first official bilateral meeting between a U.S. and Russian president in nearly two years: “‘It is planned as a fully-fledged, ‘seated’ meeting,’ Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday, according to the state-run TASS news agency. National Security Council spokesman Michael Anton also confirmed that the two leaders will sit down together for a bilateral meeting. The format remained an open question through this weekend. Homeland security adviser Thomas Bossert said Sunday on ABC’s ‘This Week’ that the parameters of the meeting had not yet ‘been set.’ An informal pull-aside — the setting in which Obama and Putin met at the G20 last September — would have sent signals to Russia that it must do more to change its behavior to engage on a higher level diplomatically with the U.S.”

— Post columnist David Ignatius argues that working with Russia might be the best path to peace in Syria“The Euphrates marks the informal ‘deconfliction’ line between the Russian-backed Syrian regime west of the river, and the U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led SDF to the east. U.S.-Russian agreement on this buffer zone is a promising sign. It allows, in effect, for the U.S. and its allies to clear the Islamic State’s capital, Raqqa, while Russia and the Syrian regime take the city of Deir al-Zour … The line keeps the combatants focused on the Islamic State, rather than sparring with each other. What Trump and Putin should discuss at the Group of 20 summit is whether this recent agreement on the separation line is a model for wider U.S.-Russian cooperation in Syria. Russian-American cooperation on Syria faces a huge obstacle right now. [And against all the] negatives, there’s only one positive argument: Working with Russia may be the only way to reduce the level of violence in Syria and to create a foundation for a calmer, more decentralized nation that can eventually recover from its tragic war.”

— Trump’s decision to visit Poland ahead of the G-20 summit — instead of more powerful allies like Germany, France or Britain — is making waves across Europe. The New York Times’ Rick Lyman reports: “For Mr. Trump, the stop in Poland on Thursday is something of an appetizer before the main course, a visit to a friendly right-wing, populist government with a kindred approach on any number of key issues, from immigration to global warming and coal mining. Opponents worry that the visit will be seen as a tacit endorsement of a Polish government that has been criticized by its E.U. partners for moves to co-opt the news media, its political opponents and, most recently, the courts. Some fear that the visit may further widen a fissure between East and West in the European Union, which Mr. Trump has disparaged previously, and embolden leaders like (Jaroslaw) Kaczynski and Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, who has been similarly criticized for a light authoritarianism.”

— For her part, Angela Merkel also faces a difficult test in Hamburg this week: defending the principles of economic and political integration, whose critics now include not just the presidents of Turkey and Russia, but also the United States. Isaac Stanley-Becker reports: “It is an unsettling scenario for Germany, a nation that owes its modern existence to transatlantic ties. Merkel … recognizes that the U.S. now stands apart from Europe on multilateral cooperation, particularly when it comes to the environment. To make the E.U. strong enough to stand on its own is among the main reasons she is asking German voters for a fourth term in a September election. But achieving her ambition, and fortifying Europe in the face of a combative Russia and inward-looking U.S., will be a new challenge for the unassuming tactician who disclaims grand visions. ‘People are expecting her to stop the world from moving in this protectionist direction, and to stand up for democracy,’ said Hans Kundnani, a senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund. ‘But the idea that the German chancellor can replace the [U.S.] president is nonsense.’”

— “Trump’s unpopularity abroad is forcing leaders to consider their own political positions, before getting too close to the [U.S. president] — even if they seek to preserve Washington’s still vital global role as the guarantor of liberal market economics and democracy,” CNN’s Stephen Collinson explains. “But increasingly, top foreign policymakers from Germany to Iraq and Canada to Asia are contemplating a period when US leadership that many took for granted may be less evident in global affairs. … [Canadian] Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland profoundly thanked the U.S. for being ‘truly the indispensable nation’ that had ensured 70 years of peace and prosperity in a speech to parliament last month. But she acknowledged that halcyon period was ending[:] ‘The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership, puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course,’ Freeland said.”

TRUMP AGENDA THWARTED BY STATES, COURTS:

— A federal appeals court on Monday blocked the EPA’s 90-day suspension of new emission standards on oil and gas wells, delivering a possible setback to the Trump administration’s broad legal strategy for rolling back Obama-era rules. Juliet Eilperin and Steven Mufson report: “In a 2-to-1 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the [DC] Circuit concluded that the EPA had the right to reconsider a 2016 rule limiting methane and smog-forming pollutants emitted by oil and gas wells but could not delay the effective date while it sought to rewrite the regulation.  The EPA … had argued that the stay [Scott] Pruitt imposed last month was not subject to judicial review, because it did not constitute final action on the rule. But the court rejected that interpretation … The ruling could affect myriad agencies that have delayed the Obama administration’s regulations, some for long periods. And it underscores the extent to which activists are turning to the courts to block [Trump’s] most ambitious policy shifts.”

— Forty-four states have now refused to provide certain types of voter information to Trump’s voter fraud panel, after vice chairman Kris Kobach sent a letter requesting a bevy of voter information, which he said will eventually be made public. CNN’s Liz Stark and Grace Hauck report: “State leaders and voting boards across the country have responded to the letter with varying degrees of cooperation … But the commission … seemed to misunderstand voter privacy laws nationwide. Every state that responded to the commission’s letter said it could not provide Social Security numbers, for example. Others said they consider information such as birth dates and party affiliations to be private. What’s more, Kobach asked states to supply the information through an online portal. Many states have rejected this specific request, noting that the commission should file a voter information request through established state websites, as any other party would.”

STATE BUDGET BATTLES:

— Republican governors across the country are facing standoffs with their legislatures over budgets.

— Live by the New York media market, die by the New York media market: None of the governors have gotten nearly as much attention as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who signed a budget agreement early yesterday after he was photographed lounging on one of the beaches closed to the public. Robert Costa reports: “The scene … again revealed the indifferent defiance that has both lifted and hobbled Christie’s political career. That attitude thrust him into stardom and then out — and into President Trump’s inner circle and then to its edge. â€¦ Christie has not been humbled by his waning support or inclined to keep a lower profile as he serves out his final months. Instead, he has been as dismissive and as unflinching as ever.”

— The scandal, which has been dubbed “Beachgate” in New Jersey, threatens to only worsen Christie’s approval rating, which has trended sharply downward since the Bridgegate scandal first broke. The numbers have earned Christie the moniker “America’s most unpopular governor” and forced pundits to all but write off the possibility of a Republican victory in New Jersey’s gubernatorial election later this year. Philip Bump charts his political fall:

— As a sign of how toxic he’s become, Christie’s Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, the Republican nominee to succeed him in this November’s off-year election, felt compelled to criticize her running mate on social media:

— The deal in New Jersey was mainly held up because of the governor’s demand that state’s largest health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, put $300 million of its reserves toward an opioid treatment program. The New York Times’ Kate Taylor and Annie Correal report: “Although the final deal was described as a compromise, Mr. Christie got little of what he wanted. Instead of having to hand over some of its reserves, Horizon accepted some new, relatively minor requirements, including submitting to annual independent audits. The deal also imposed a cap on Horizon’s reserves … It was clear on Tuesday that what was likely to linger in people’s minds was not the details of the budget debate, but the image of the governor and his family enjoying a perfect day at a beach, while the public was barred.”

— While Christie was forced to compromise with his legislature, Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s simply moved on without him. The state Senate just overrode his veto and will raise the income tax to balance the budget and avoid a downgrade in Illinois’s credit rating, the Chicago Tribune’s Monique Garcia and Kim Geiger report: “The measures now await action in the House, where 15 Republicans broke ranks with the governor over the weekend to approve the budget package. … Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan, the Republican governor’s chief nemesis in a budget battle that’s consumed state government for more than two years, said he expected the package of bills to eventually become law. … Rauner did not appear in public Tuesday and has not taken journalists’ questions for weeks. He announced his veto via Facebook.” (Rauner already faces a difficult reelection next year. Unlike in many Senate races, there is no shortage of Democrats chomping at the bit to run against him.)

— In Maine, both Republican Gov. Paul LePage and Democratic legislators are claiming credit for ending their own state shutdown early Tuesday. The Portland Press Herald’s Penelope Overton and Kevin Miller report: “Members of both parties rushed to claim victory for ending the impasse while telling voters they had stood strong on the issues that mattered most. Those included getting state employees back to work, a $162 million increase in public education funds, and elimination of both the 3 percent income-tax surcharge on the state’s wealthiest residents and a 1½ percentage point increase in the lodging tax … While Republicans took pride in standing firm, Democrats claimed it was they who ended the shutdown by conceding on issues such as the lodging tax in exchange for getting state employees back to work, securing $4.2 million in additional funding for Head Start and the Maine Clean Elections Fund, and fending off cuts to education funding and behavioral health services.”

WAPO HIGHLIGHTS:

— “Independence Day celebration in nation’s capital begins on a note of unity,” by Rachel Chason, Ellie Silverman and Mary Hui: “Americans, enduring a time of painful political division, still came together by the thousands in the nation’s capital Tuesday to celebrate the messy, maddening and marvelous independence they have shared for 241 years. In the shadow of a Capitol many view as more frustrating than functional, citizens of every hue and party found unity in the red, white and blue of hats, socks, face paint — and at least one cape. In a marathon day of marching bands, beach music and portable toilets, partisans didn’t so much put their causes away for the Fourth of July — with ‘Make America Great Again’ caps and ‘Resist’ signs sharing space in the crowd — as find ways to celebrate side by side in spite of them.”

— “Despite bravado and big promises, the economy that President Trump is touting this week looks a lot like the one he lambasted as a candidate: a slow, largely steady grind that has chipped away at the damage done by the 2008-2009 recession but failed to produce the prosperity of decades past,” Damian Paletta and Ana Swanson report: “Now, as he approaches the six-month marker of his presidency, Trump faces several new warning signs that key areas of the economy could be losing steam, including in industries he specifically promised to revitalize. Automobile sales, the heart of the manufacturing economy, are in a months-long swoon. Both General Motors and Ford on Monday reported that their sales had slid 5 percent in June as the industry’s workers continue to be hit with layoffs. U.S. factory output fell in May … [and] construction of new homes fell to an eight-month low.” Economist Lindsey Piegza said she believes there is a sense of “pessimism fatigue”: “There’s a sense where, it’s not fantastic, but this may be as good as it gets, so let’s celebrate mediocrity.”

— “The winning entry in Iran’s Trump cartoon contest shows a drooling president wearing a jacket made of U.S. dollars,” by Adam Taylor: “Iranian artist Hadi Asadi has beaten hundreds of other contestants to win first place in a ‘Trumpism’ cartoon contest held in Tehran — his winning caricature depicting President Trump as a flame-haired man wearing a suit made of dollar bills, drooling onto a pile of books … Organizers claim that artists from 75 countries took part in the contest, where 1,600 artworks were considered — including four from the United States. Many of the cartoons compared Trump to Hitler — a deliberate theme at the event, which used a logo based on the Nazi emblem.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Lawmakers celebrated the Fourth of July:

From the president’s daughter:

And a less unifying message from the president’s son:

From the ex-U.S. attorney who was fired by Trump:

From a HuffPost reporter:

From the British Embassy:

From a Rolling Stone reporter:

The president talked up the country’s “great jobs numbers” and the price of gas:

He also offered support for Charlie Gard, a terminally ill baby in the United Kingdom. A hospital is threatening to turn off his life support because of his poor prognosis, and his parents would like permission to bring him to the United States for an experimental treatment:

People from the fever swamps of the Internet attacked CNN for tracking down the Reddit user who posted the wrestling video that the president tweeted over the weekend. The user has since apologized. The op-ed editor at the New York Post is trying to keep the focus on the stories that matter: how White House social media editor Dan Scavino came across the video and why the president shared it.

As a New York Times reporter notes:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

— The New Yorker, “America’s Future Is Texas,” by Lawrence Wright: â€œFor more than a century, Texas was under Democratic rule. The state was always culturally conservative, religious, and militaristic, but a strain of pragmatism kept it from being fully swept up in racism and right-wing ideology. Economic populism, especially in the rural areas, offered a counterweight to the capitalists in the cities. But in the nineteen-seventies the state began shifting rightward … [Tom] Craddick was the first Republican speaker since 1873. With his election to the post, the coup was complete. ‘But it wasn’t just about winning elections,’ he told me. ‘We had a redistricting plan.’”

— Politico, “Inside the White House’s policy-making juggernaut,” by Nancy Cook and Andrew Restuccia: “Under director Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs banker, the once-staid and process-oriented [National Economic Council] has become a central force in the vicious policy battles playing out in President Donald Trump’s White House. While Cohn has stocked the NEC with strong policy hands — a relative rarity at the top levels of Trump’s team — he’s also made it a target for conservatives in the West Wing who fear that Cohn is pushing the president to moderate his campaign promises.”

— BBC, “The day a mysterious cyber-attack crippled Ukraine,” by Christian Borys: “This time last week, an online attack brought chaos to Ukraine’s banks, hospitals and government, before spreading worldwide. The evidence suggests that money was not the aim — the real intention was disguised. Could it be a sign of something more serious to come?”

— The New York Times, “Coast Guard Faces Challenges at Sea, and at the Budget Office,” by Ron Nixon: “Halting drugs is becoming increasingly difficult for the Coast Guard, which has operated with flat budgets even as its mission has expanded.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will travel to Warsaw today to kick off his second trip abroad as president.

Pence has two phone calls on his schedule today: one with the president of Afghanistan and another with the high representative of the E.U.

 

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

— “It’s a fitting way to return to the office, with clouds, as well as on-and-off showers,” the Capital Weather Gang forecasts. “We’ll likely see more showers throughout the day. While it won’t be raining everywhere at all times, it’ll happen enough to make you wish you had brought an umbrella along. Shower activity could be occasionally moderate to heavy, especially across our western or southern suburbs, so please use extra caution if you get caught in a heavier downpour. Highs are held in check, settling in the mid-80s or so. Notably, humidity remains moderate, and that won’t be changing anytime soon.”

— D.C. authorities are investigating at least six shootings and a stabbing that took place last night, Justin Jouvenal reports.

— The Nationals beat the Mets 11-4, their 1,000th regular season victory as a team, Chelsea Janes reports.

— The official Nats scorekeeper, David Vincent, died Sunday from stomach cancer. Chelsea writes a nice tribute: “He was 67 years old, and I will miss him.”

— Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. has been offered a four-year, $106 million contract by the Brooklyn Nets. The Wizards are expected to match the offer, which does not become official until Thursday, to keep Porter on the team. (Tim Bontemps)

— The Republican running in Virginia’s attorney general race, John Adams, is trying to strike a delicate balance in his campaign. Laura Vozzella reports: “A former Naval officer and federal prosecutor trying to unseat Attorney General Mark Herring (D), Adams is running as both blunt conservative and strict adherent to the rule of law. The premise of his campaign is that Herring is neither — that the sitting attorney general has bent the law to advance a liberal agenda, starting just 12 days into his term, when he refused to defend the state’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.”

— The plan to temporarily relocate Kimball Elementary school students to Adelaide Davis Elementary as Kimball undergoes reconstruction has some locals running scared. Joe Heim and Clarence Williams report: “The ‘swing’ school sits in a working-class Southeast neighborhood of well-kept single-family homes. But it is a block from a public housing complex, Benning Terrace, that for decades has been plagued by crime and regarded as one of the city’s more dangerous places. To locals, it’s known as Simple City. Or Simp. Or Baby Vietnam.”

— A female firefighter in the Arlington County Fire Department helps to organize a girls-only summer camp meant to get more teenage women interested in the profession, Dana Hedgpeth reports.

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Dogs offered a fireworks PSA on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show:

The Consumer Product Safety Commission blew up mannequins and watermelons on the Mall to demonstrate the danger posed by fireworks:

Trump said that he has never heard the term “second lady”:

The doctored footage that the president tweeted out of beating up the CNN logo comes from an actual WWE fight in 2007:

The Post’s fact-checker team annotated the White House’s spin on health care:

A gun control group released a rebuttal ad to the NRA spot that caused controversy:

Police rescued a pit bull trapped inside a hot car in Florida:

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