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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

Twitter CEO retweeted suspected Russia propagandist account

Jack Dorsey. Photo: Richard Drew / AP

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey retweeted a Twitter account that was identified as being created by the Kremlin, according to the Daily Beast.

The account, @Crystal1Johnson, tweeted mostly positive and encouraging stories, but then would occasionally tweet "inflammatory stories about Hillary Clinton," the Beast reports. This played into the method of other Russian propaganda accounts, in which they would build an audience with shareable content, and were then "weaponized for divisive political messages."

Why it matters: This follows a string of instances in which Russia created fake accounts on Twitter for influence. Dorsey's retweets prove "just how pervasive Russian propaganda became on major American social media platforms," per the Daily Beast.


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Cellular internet service in Puerto Rico now available via Project Loon

A Project Loon balloon being readied for deployment to Puerto Rico. Photo: Alphabet

AT&T and Alphabet said late Friday that they have begun to offer limited mobile Internet service using the Google parent company's Project Loon balloons.

Apple is issuing a cellular settings update that will allow iPhones to activate the currently unused Band 8 to access the Loon-based service. It's the second time Project Loon has been activated to assist with an emergency (the first was in Peru) and the first time Loon has been used in the U.S. The FCC earlier granted temporary approval for Loon to operate in Puerto Rico.

Why it matters: Connectivity and power remain major challenges for Puerto Rico and communications are seen as a necessary starting point for other parts of recovery and rebuilding to move forward. Without cellular service, even first responders and humanitarian groups are forced to use pricey satellite phones.

"We've never deployed Project Loon connectivity from scratch at such a rapid pace, and we're grateful for the support of AT&T and the many other partners and organizations that have made this possible," the Loon team said in a blog post.

In general, Loon is designed to bring Interest service to remote and rural areas not easily served with cell service, though aid groups say they are excited to have more options for disaster relief efforts.

What's covered: Project Loon supports basic internet communications including text messaging, basic web access and e-mail. AT&T said there is no added cost to its customers for the service.

The downside: Because they are solar powered, the Loon balloons only offer service during the daytime.

Separately, AT&T said Friday that more than 60% of the population in Puerto Rico and 90% of the population in the U.S. Virgin Islands has cell service.

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Mattis met with McCain about the Niger ambush

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Secretary of Defense James Mattis met with Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham on Friday after the ambush in Niger more than two weeks ago that resulted in the death of four American soldiers, according to CBS.

Why it matters: There are still several unanswered questions about the ambush, and the FBI has joined the investigation. Sen. McCain said on Thursday that the investigation may "require a subpoena," but Sec. Mattis maintained that didn't prompt their meeting.

In Mattis' meeting with Graham, per the Washington Post, Graham supported Mattis' new rules of engagement that were presented in their meeting. The new rules includes putting "decision-making authority in the hands of commanders in the field," and expanding "the ability to use lethal force against suspected terrorists."

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ISIS may be dispersed, not destroyed

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

In November 2001, the Taliban abandoned Kabul without a fight, and a month later the U.S. triumphantly installed Hamid Karzai as the new Afghan president. But in reality, the Taliban and their al Qaeda brethren had dispersed, not been killed or crushed. Sixteen years later, they represent a grave threat to the U.S.-backed order in Kabul.

Why it matters: Some Trump administration officials are crowing over the capture of Raqqa, the official capital of ISIS, and the surrender of hundreds of its fighters. But given the escape of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi along with many other fighters, there is a nagging question whether celebration is premature. The group may merely be scattered.

Don't underestimate the victory: ISIS rose to be at once the most brutal and successful terror group in history, earning billions of dollars in oil sales, extortion and taxes, and governing a swath of Syria and Iraq the size of Belgium. The 2014 sweep that produced that state — and its announcement of a caliphate — was a big part of what attracted acolytes the world over. And now it's gone.

  • Perhaps the biggest loss is not Raqqa but its aura of invincibility: The loss of almost all its territory, and the surrender of fighters who formerly vowed to fight to the death, "really brings into question the core ideology," Doug Ollivant, a former director for Iraq on the National Security Councils in the Bush and Obama administrations, says in an email exchange. "This is not to say that violent Islamism disappears, but that groups like al Qaeda might see a resurgence and shift of priority to them."
  • Baghdadi is missing but that does not mean he is safe: Aki Peritz, a former CIA officer for Iraq, notes that the last three terror leaders of Iraq were all killed in the fighting, and that there is a $25 million reward for the current ISIS chief's capture. "No one will give [Baghdadi] refuge; he'll be mercilessly hunted down, along with his entire shura council, in the increasingly small space that ISIS still controls," said Peritz.

But, but, but ... The trouble with dancing on the grave of ISIS is that it fails to understand the history of fights with Islamic extremists.

What to watch: According to Nick Heras of the Center for a New American Security, a think tank, it may appear that ISIS is in retreat mode now, but it's probably just transitioning "from a quasi-state actor … back down to an insurgency."

When to fight, when to flee: It would be madness for ISIS to attempt to hold territory now, given the demonstrated resolve of combined U.S., Russian and Syrian forces. Raqqa-based ISIS fighters had retreated to the neighboring area of Deir al-Zour, but in recent days, they have been largely pushed out of there, according to the NYT's Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad.

  • But it would equally be a mistake, given the history of Iraqi militant groups and their Baathist collaborators managing to resurrect themselves, to treat ISIS as dead.

Look far afield: We can likely expect more suicide bombers in the Middle East and more terrorist attacks linked to ISIS abroad from now on, Heras warned. David Sterman, a fellow at New America, the D.C. think tank, noted that ISIS affiliates remain active in Libya, Mali, Afghanistan, the Philippines, and elsewhere.

  • Plus, ISIS retains followers in Europe, where attacks over the last three years have killed more than 350 people. They're "hoping to use … these trump cards to undermine the narrative that its caliphate has been crushed," Heras said.

The ground remains fertile for militants: In the mishmash of overlapping interests in the region — among Assad, Russia, Iran, Turkey, and the U.S. — a destabilizing force could rise, just as ISIS arose amid unhappiness with bad governance and the Sunni-Shia divide.

"There is the real risk of seeing the next generation — the son of ISIS," said Melissa Dalton of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. CIA director Mike Pompeo echoed this possibility, noting this week that it would be "foolish" to think a "son" of ISIS couldn't crop up.

What's next: The Trump administration is going to face pressure to figure out its long-term strategy. Brian McKeon, a former Defense Department official and National Security Council staffer under Obama, says a lack of policy for the region from the Trump administration poses problems moving forward, especially since "the military campaign is by no means over."

For now, the U.S.-led coalition is in talks with Syrian Democratic Forces about continuing the anti-ISIS campaign into some of the territory still held by ISIS along the Euphrates River, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, Col. Ryan Dillon, told reporters this week. That could potentially engage U.S. service members further.

Featured

Volcanic activity created a cave under the moon's surface

Photo: Charlie Riedel / AP

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) discovered a chasm beneath the surface of the moon, measuring 50 km long and 100 meters wide, according to The Guardian.

Why it matters: Jaxa identified the cave as a lava tube created by volcanic activity over three billion years ago. A senior Jaxa researcher, Junichi Haruyama, said lava tubes could be "the best candidate sites for future lunar bases."

People and equipment are at risk from extreme temperatures on the moon, varying from 107 degrees Celsius during the day and -153 degrees Celsius at night. The lava tubes could protect astronauts from those extremes, as well as from sun's radiation. But, the inside of the chamber hasn't been seen yet, and Haruyama said further examination would provide more details. It could also offer "insights concerning the evolutionary history of the moon."

The cave's discovery "will boost plans by several countries to send astronauts to the moon almost half a century after the Apollo 11 mission," the Guardian reports. While the U.S. is the only country to have put humans on the moon, Japan has made it a goal for 2030, the same year that Russia expects to begin work on a human colony on the moon's surface.

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FBI joins investigation into Niger ambush

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis answers a question about the ambush of U.S. troops in Niger. Photo: Alex Brandon / AP

The FBI is assisting in investigating the ambush in Niger more than two weeks ago that left four U.S. soldiers dead; specifically, the Islamist militants believed to be responsible for the attack, and how they learned of the U.S.-Niger patrol, according to the Wall Street Journal.

What happened: The WSJ reports that the American team was on a routine patrol with Nigerian soldiers, when they "gave chase to a small group of men on motorcycles" heading towards Mali's border. The group was a decoy; when the joint patrol returned, they were ambushed by "several technical vehicles and dozens more armed men on motorcycles."

Go deeper: What happened during this month's Niger attack..

Featured

Snap reduces headcount, plans slower hiring for 2018

Evan Spiegel speaks at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in Beverly Hills. Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images

Snapchat parent company Snap has laid off employees as it slows its growth heading into 2018, Business Insider reports. The company has grown fast over the past two years: it had 600 employees at the end of 2015 and ended last quarter with 2,600.

Why it matters: Snap believes the company has reached a size that is functioning well, so it is reducing its rate of hiring and therefore cutting some staff recruiter roles. The company said it will continue to hire aggressively in engineering and sales roles, but the overall pace of those hires will also slow next year.

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White House: We "won't rest" until we get answers on Niger ambush

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders in the White House briefing room. Photo: A

Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Friday that the White House "won't rest" until they get to the bottom of what happened during the Niger ambush.

When pressed for more answers from reporters, Sanders pointed to the investigation initiated by the Department of Defense, which she said "occurs any time an American is killed in action" and stated that "frankly, the entire country and government wants to know what happened."

Briefing highlights:

  • On Gen. Kelly's incorrect statement on Rep. Wilson: "If you want to get into a debate with a four-star marine general, I think that's highly inappropriate," adding that Kelly "absolutely" stands by his comments.
  • Did Trump misstep in his condolence call? "If the spirit of which the comments were intended [was] misunderstood, that's very unfortunate."
  • Gen. Kelly's thoughts on Rep. Wilson's rebuke of Trump's call to the widow of a fallen soldier: "General Kelly said he was stunned that she made the comments about herself."
  • On George W. Bush's speech: "Our understanding is that those comments were not directed at the president."
  • Next disaster relief supplemental funding bill will be sent to Congress "in the coming weeks."
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John Kelly told incorrect story about Florida congresswoman

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly takes questions during a surprise damage-control appearance at the daily briefing. (AP's Susan Walsh)

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly incorrectly told reporters from the White House podium that Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson claimed she "got the money" for a new FBI building in Miramar, Florida, at its dedication in 2015. The Sun-Sentinel unearthed video of Wilson's speech at the dedication event, where she took credit for securing quick approval for naming the building after deceased FBI agents but never mentioned funding.

Timing: Kelly's misrepresentation of what happened comes amid the White House's current feud with Wilson and the Gold Star widow of a soldier killed in Niger, which began over President Trump's alleged thoughtless choice of words.

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Body cams fail to curb police aggression

A photo of the screen during the trial of Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown who shot and killed 23-year-old Sylville Smith after a routine traffic stop last August. Photo: Milwaukee Police Department / AP

Police officers in D.C. who were given body cameras were just as likely to use force and receive civilian complaints as those who did not wear cameras, according to a newly released study of more than 1,000 police officers over seven months by the Lab @ D.C.

Why it matters: Previous studies bolstered the idea that body cameras were extremely effective for cutting back the use of force and civilian complaints. This led to body cam companies like Axon and Watchguard selling hundreds of thousands of body cameras across the country — Watchguard even filed for an IPO yesterday. Now this latest study calls into question the real impact body cameras have in changing aggressive policing culture.

On the other hand: Even if body cams are ineffective at keeping law enforcement from using force, they still provide a layer of accountability and have provided useful evidence in police shooting cases.