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1 big thing: Trump's retaliation

Comey is greeted by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) at the beginning of yesterday's hearing (AP's Andrew Harnik)

President Trump's advisers feared Jim Comey had held back some devastating cards, and would unfurl new facts that could speed Trump's legal or political troubles. Instead, they considered yesterday's mesmerizing testimony a damaging but not cataclysmic public spectacle.
  • "The threat level to the presidency is less than it was," a White House adviser said.

Mainly, they were relieved that POTUS didn't tweet yesterday.

  • Trump tweeted this morning: "Despite so many false statements and lies, total and complete vindication...and WOW, Comey is a leaker!"

Look for Trump and his allies to scream four things:

  • Comey's a liar: After the hearing, Marc Kasowitz, Trump's personal lawyer, escalated the combat: "The president ... never told Mr. Comey, quote, 'I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.'"
  • Comey's a leaker: Kasowitz also said: "Comey admitted that he unilaterally and surreptitiously made unauthorized disclosures to the press of privileged communications with the president."
  • Clinton did it, too: Republicans instantly jumped on Comey's charge that Loretta Lynch, Obama's attorney general, had encouraged him to echo Clinton campaign lingo in discussing the email probe.
  • Comey agrees: Fake news! If Trump enjoyed any moment of the hearing, it was surely when Comey said a memorable New York Times story was untrue.

But don't lose sight: There is no way to spin away that this was a very dark and damning day for Trump. The head of the FBI testified he so distrusted his own president and White House that he took detailed notes of his conversations to prove he felt pressure to drop an investigation of collusion with the Russians. He then felt so strongly he leaked those notes to the press to force a special prosecutor. Imagine Act 2!

  • Be smart: This wasn't the end but the beginning of a long, agonizing process for the Trump White House. What they fear most is the probes into central figures around Trump, and what happens when investigators dig into the context for so many meetings with the Russians.
  • Up next: Attorney General Jeff Sessions' testimony before a Senate appropriations subcommittee becomes high drama. And the Senate Intelligence Committee expects Jared Kushner to meet with committee staffers.

Top Comey quote: "[T]here should be no fuzz on this whatsoever. The Russians interfered in our election during the 2016 cycle. They did it with purpose. They did it with sophistication. They did it with overwhelming technical efforts. And it was an active-measures campaign driven from the top of that government. There is no fuzz on that."

N.Y. Times Quote of the Day ... Comey: "The president surely knows if there are tapes. If there are, my feelings aren't hurt. Release the tapes."

  • The buzz: Is the flat denial by Trump's lawyer that he said something Comey attributed to him during the Green Room dinner ("I need loyalty") a clue that there aren't tapes?

2. New threats to Trump

Marc Kasowitz, Trump personal attorney, makes a post-Comey statement at the National Press Club (AP's Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Many of Trump's mounting perils are self-inflicted:

  • From a New York Times front-pager by Peter Baker, "For Trump, a Looming 'Cloud' Just Grew That Much Darker": "Comey ... revealed that he had turned over memos of his conversations with Mr. Trump to that newly appointed special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, suggesting that investigators may now be looking into whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice by dismissing the F.B.I. director."
  • Comey testified that he arranged the leak of his private conversations with Trump after the president tweeted a threat at Comey.
  • CNN: "Comey told senators in a closed hearing [after his public testimony] that Attorney General Jeff Sessions may have had a third interaction with Russia's ambassador to the US."

Sound smart: Imagine how much the public would never have known if Trump hadn't canned Comey.

3. Media hit, too

Comey declared that a New York Times front pager from Feb. 14 — "Trump Aides Had Contact With Russian Intelligence" — was "in the main ... not true. ... [W]e don't call the press to say, 'Hey, you got that thing wrong about this sensitive topic.' We just have to leave it there."

  • The article's lead: "Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials."

In today's paper, the same three authors write: "Comey did not say exactly what he believed was incorrect about the article ... The original sources could not immediately be reached after Mr. Comey's remarks, but in the months since the article was published, they have indicated that they believed the account was solid."

  • On the other hand, Comey said another Times scoop — reporting that Comey had written an in-the-moment memo saying Trump had asked him to shut down the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn — had been spoon-fed to the paper through a friend.

CNN had to backtrack from an article originally headlined "Comey expected to refute Trump," with this correction: "The article and headline have been corrected to reflect that Comey does not directly dispute that Trump was told multiple times he was not under investigation in his prepared testimony released after this story was published."

  • Be smart: CNN's lapse, and the charge against The New York Times, provide ammunition for Trump partisans to shout "Fake news!" in an effort to discredit other reporting that is perfectly valid.

4. "Gut feel ... it's ... important ... that I make records"

Comey is sworn in (Reuters' Jim Bourg)

Two of the most memorable exchanges ... Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.): "You're big. You're strong. I know the Oval Office, and I know what happens to people when they walk in. There is a certain amount of intimidation. But why didn't you stop and say, 'Mr. President, this is wrong. I cannot discuss this with you'?"

Comey: "Maybe if I were stronger, I would have. I was so stunned by the conversation that I just ... took it in. ... [L]ook, ... I've seen the tweet about tapes. Lordy, I hope there are tapes." ...

"I remember saying, 'I agree [Flynn is] a good guy,' as a way of saying, 'I'm not agreeing with what you just asked me to do.' Again, maybe other people would be stronger in that circumstance ... I hope I'll never have another opportunity. Maybe if I did it again, I would do it better." ...

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.): "Do you believe there were any tapes or recordings of your conversations with the president?"

Comey: "It never occurred to me until the president's tweet. ... I'm not being facetious, I hope there are, and I'll consent to the release of them."

5. Britons break the anti-elite fever

Breaking ...

Get smart fast ... Axios' Steve LeVine: "The U.K.'s repudiation of Theresa May marks a definitive break in the wave of anti-establishment politics that for more than a year have roiled Brazil to the Philippines, and the U.S. to Austria. European elections have now spurned the trend in three straight elections in the Netherlands, France and the U.K."

  • What's next: "Elections are scheduled in the fall in Germany and Austria, and Italy may hold one, too. But while extremist and anti-establishment politics are not dead, they no longer seem to threaten the major institutions created in the aftermath of World War II."
  • The takeaway: "Europeans remain restless — 'unhappy with the status quo and seeking change, but they don't know what that change should be.'"

"Softer Brexit" possibleReuters: With Brexit talks with Brussels set to begin June 19, the result increases chances of "a softer deal on Britain's planned departure from the European Union than the 'hard Brexit' that markets have worried May would deliver."

  • "[I]f we get more of a softer Brexit or more of a globalist stance from the UK ... it's good for Europe, the UK and U.S. assets."
  • Malcolm Barr, economist at JPMorgan, in a research note: "Perhaps the most obvious conclusion is that the likelihood of the UK needing to request a delay in the Brexit process has risen substantially, given the chance that political developments in the UK disturb what is already a time-compressed process," said Malcolm Barr, economist at JPMorgan, in a research note." (Via Reuters)

6. Expert voices: Death of bricks and mortar

Rebecca Zisser / Axios

With sales plunging, more than 8,000 U.S. brick-and-mortar stores could close this year — twice the number as 2016, per Axios' Steve LeVine.

  • Why it matters: Among the chief victims are retail workers. Amazon says it's adding 100,000 employees, but a multiple of that number have lost their jobs in recent years. One in 9 Americans work in bricks-and-mortar retail, almost 16 million people in all.
  • Five experts weigh in.

7. A debate that'll get louder

Economist cover leader (editorial) ... "Terror and the internet: Tech firms could do more to help stop the jihadists":

[T]he firms can act when they want to. Before Edward Snowden exposed them in a huge leak in 2013, they quietly helped American and British intelligence monitor jihadists. Whenever advertisers withdraw business after their brands ended up alongside pornographic, violent or extremist material, they respond remarkably quickly. ...

In the past, internet firms have tended to "build it first, figure out the rules later". However, the arguments about terrorism and extremist content are a stark reminder that the lawless, freewheeling era of the early internet is over. Technology firms may find that difficult to accept. But accept it they must, as part of the responsibility that comes with their new-found power and as part of the price of their success.

8. The talk of tech

Sheryl Sandberg speaks in Paris in January (Reuters' Philippe Wojazer)

"Facebook Is Determined to Build Ties With Automakers," by Bloomberg's Jamie Butters and Sarah Frier:

  • COO Sheryl Sandberg, in Detroit yesterday for an annual Facebook Automotive Summit, "shared a stage with [GM CEO] Mary Barra at a women's-only event ... before the two toured a factory and spoke with about 200 GM employees."
  • Sandberg: "Our industries are converging. Detroit's writing software and Silicon Valley is building hardware."
  • "Mark Zuckerberg visited Ford ... headquarters and an F-150 truck plant in April to rub elbows with Executive Chairman Bill Ford."
  • The plot: "Facebook is focused on boosting sales for video advertising, ... which should help take a cut of the $70 billion television ad market."
  • Key stat: "The U.S. automotive industry is the second-largest spender on digital advertising behind retail."
  • Why it matters: "Autos and real estate are among the last categories that aren't transacting online, and it's taken longer for Facebook to break into categories with expensive purchases like travel and cars."

9. Warming to Gore

Al Gore interview in Interview magazine, by editor-in-chief Nick Haramis, ahead of the July 28 nationwide release of the documentary "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power":

On not getting stale while traveling the world leading seminars for climate activists:

I update my slide show almost every day. I have a personal staff of ten in Nashville that helps me scour the internet and other media around the world for the latest scientific peer-reviewed findings, the latest examples of climate-related extreme weather events, and the latest examples of progress.

On maintaining a positive outlook:

I had the privilege of working with the late economist Rudi Dornbusch, who once said, "Things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then they happen faster than you thought they could." Where solar energy is concerned — and wind energy and battery storage and electric vehicles and efficiency technologies — that is what we are now seeing.

On parallels between climate deniers and gay-rights opponents:

I think they're more similar than different. The gay rights movement of recent years has been an inspiring victory for humanity and it is in the tradition of the civil rights movement ...

God intends for us to take responsibility for how we treat God's creation, and if we choose to use the thin shell of atmosphere surrounding our planet as an open sewer for 110-million tons of global-warming pollution every day, the consequences are attributable to us.

10. 1 fun thing

"Trevor Noah strikes a nerve — and ratings gold — as he steers 'The Daily Show' into the Trump era," by L.A. Times' Greg Braxton: "[A]lmost two years after his debut [as Jon Stewart successor], Noah ... notched his most-watched week ever in May, with more than 1 million viewers."

Is there any potential danger of "Trump fatigue"?

I definitely think so. But I believe people aren't often good with separating Trump from what is happening within the the world he inhabits. Donald Trump is the president of the United States. That is something that some people still refuse to acknowledge, nor do they wish to accept as a reality. That's the first mistake people make, in my opinion. And this president in particular has an impressive ability to create and sustain scandal and news like no one before.

I don't think of Donald Trump as the story. I see this as America's story, and Donald Trump is the antagonist. America is dealing with Donald Trump, not the other way around. That character offers up the opportunity to have conversations about things that people may not have otherwise been interested in. On the griddle of "The Daily Show's" barbecue, we cook different foods every day. But the fuel we use to cook that food is Donald Trump.

What are you reading these days?

  • "The Hip Hop Wars" by Tricia Rose.
  • I'm re-reading "The Autobiography of Malcolm X."
  • "The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander.

Featured

Roy Moore refuses to concede

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore looks at election returns. Photo: Brynn Anderson / AP

Republican candidate Roy Moore said late Tuesday night that the election for Alabama's U.S. Senate seat wasn't over.

"God is always in control. Part of the problem with this campaign is we've been painted in an unfavorable and unfaithful light. We've been put in a hole, if you will...what we've got to do is wait on God, and let this process play out...The votes are still coming in and we're looking at that." However, Alabama's Secretary of State told CNN the people of Alabama had spoken, and Doug Jones was the winner.

Go deeper: How Alabama elected Doug Jones.

Featured

Winners & losers from the Alabama special election

Photo: John Bazemore / AP

A Democrat will serve as an Alabama Senator for the first time in two decades after Republican Roy Moore's campaign collapsed following allegations of child sexual abuse.

Why it matters: This is a big, unexpected win for Democrats, and follows another key victory in the Virginia governor's race. It's bad news for the Steve Bannon brand of conservatism and President Trump, who went all in for Moore in the closing weeks.

​Winners:

  • Doug Jones, who had never run for public office before, and won as a Democrat in a red state.
  • Democrats​ now have another important notch on their belt, and will close the gap in the Senate to 51-49.
  • #MeToo: Many voters believed Moore's accusers, and the accusations brought down his campaign.
  • Mainstream Republicans: Moore's baggage would have presented plenty of problems for the GOP down the road, even if they are losing a vote in the Senate.

Losers:

  • Roy Moore: He did the unthinkable, and lost to a Democrat in a statewide Alabama race.
  • Steve Bannon: He was the one promoting Moore from the beginning, over fierce objections within his own party.
  • The Republican Party: The RNC and the president backed an accused sexual predator, and lost. They're also now down a Senate seat.
  • President Trump: He decided to throw his full-throated support behind Moore, and in so doing made his second incorrect bet on the Alabama race. Not to mention, he was the one who appointed Jeff Sessions as Attorney General — considering it a safe seat.
Featured

Trump, Biden, Clinton react to Doug Jones' victory over Roy Moore

Democrat Doug Jones pulled out a victory over Republican Roy Moore on Tuesday night, after a race that was turned on its head by allegations of child sexual abuse against Moore. Moore was the second Alabama Republican endorsed by President Trump to lose, after he Moore defeated Trump-backed Luther Strange in the primary. Trump congratulated Jones on "a hard fought victory."


Featured

Both Trump-endorsed candidates lose in Alabama

Trump told voters to elect Roy Moore. Photo: AP

President Trump has now twice endorsed the losing candidate in Alabama. He backed Luther Strange in the Republican primary, and threw his weight behind Roy Moore for the general election. Moore was defeated by Democrat Doug Jones tonight.

The big picture: Trump won Alabama by almost 20 points in the 2016 election, but Alabama voters rejected his favored candidates in the Senate race. The same thing happened on Nov. 8 in Virginia, when voters elected Democrat Ralph Northam over Trump-backed Republican Ed Gillespie by a 9-point margin.

Featured

FBI agents on Russia probe called Trump an "idiot"

Photo: AP

Two FBI agents who were assigned to investigate alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin exchanged text messages in which they referred to President Trump as an "idiot," Politico reports, citing copies of the messages provided to Congress by the Justice Dept.

The backdrop: Special Counsel Robert Mueller fired one of the agents, Peter Strzok, from the investigation in late July, "immediately" after he learned of the text exchange, the Justice Dept. told Congress. Lisa Page, the other agent in question, had already left Mueller's team by that point.

Featured

In tax plan negotiations, corporate rate currently sits at 21%

Rubio. Photo: Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

The corporate tax rate currently stands at 21%, according to three sources familiar, as lawmakers work to finalize the tax bill they hope to vote on by next week.

  • Why it matters: Both the House and Senate passed bills that would cut the top corporate rate to 20%, but hours after the Senate bill passed, President Trump said he would accept a 22% rate.
  • Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted on Tuesday, likely referring to reports that the individual rate is being lowered to 37%: "20.94% Corp. rate to pay for tax cut for working family making $40k was anti-growth but 21% to cut tax for couples making $1million is fine?" Rubio had wanted to raise the corporate tax to pay for a more generous child tax credit, but was shut down.
Featured

Charming Charlie becomes 20th major retailer to file for bankruptcy this year

Charming Charlie, the Houston-based jewelry and accessories retailer, announced Tuesday that it reached an agreement with lenders and equity sponsors to clear the way for its filing of Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

What went wrong: Charming Charlie's bread-and-butter, affordable jewlery, is an ideal product for online sellers, given that it can be warehoused and shipped cheaply. What's more, even as business migrated online, Charming Charlie overextended itself, opening 79 stores between 2013 and 2015.

Why it matters: It's the twentieth major retailer to have filed for bankruptcy protection in 2017.

Charming Charlie burst onto the retail scene in 2004, with stores uniquely organized by color, and offering products at prices between high-end jewlery stores and discount shops like Claire's, which is aimed at the teenage market.

Featured

Tillerson says he'd meet with North Korea without preconditions

Photo: Susan Walsh / AP

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday that the U.S. was dropping the precondition that North Korea give up its nuclear weapons before sitting down together, according to CNN.

"We are ready to have the first meeting with precondition...Let's just meet, and we can talk about the weather if you want. Talk about whether it's going to be a square table or a round table, if that's what you are excited about. But can we at least sit down and see each other face to face, and then we can begin to lay out a map, a road map of what we might be willing to work towards."

Why it matters: Tillerson said demanding North Korea denuclearize is "unworkable," and that Trump agrees it isn't plausible. Tillerson did demand, however, that North Korea "ensure a period of quiet during talks," per CNN.

  • The White House released a statement in regards to Sec. Tillerson's comments, saying: "The President's views on North Korea have not changed. North Korea is acting in an unsafe way not only toward Japan, China, and South Korea, but the entire world. North Korea's actions are not good for anyone and certainly not good for North Korea."
Featured

Washington Post reporters barred from Moore's election night party

Photo: Brynn Anderson / AP

The Moore campaign has revoked press credentials from reporters for the Washington Post and asked them to leave an election party tonight in Alabama. The campaign also reportedly notified the Post on Monday that its reporters' credentials were denied. It was the Post that broke the story of the first sexual misconduct allegations against Moore.

Featured

Trump's lawyer says Mueller is done interviewing White House staff

Photo: Andrew Harnik / AP

Ty Cobb, President Trump's White House lawyer, says "all the White House interviews are over” in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe, NBC reports.

  • The big picture: Trump's team has repeatedly tried to take the president out of the spotlight of Mueller's investigation and stated that the probe will wrap up this year.
  • The backdrop: Jay Sekulow, one of Trump's private lawyers, told Axios' Mike Allen that he believes a second special counsel is needed, to investigate potential conflicts of interest in the FBI and Department of Justice.