States look to ex-cons to relieve labor shortages - Axios
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States look to ex-cons to relieve labor shortages

Sue Ogrocki/AP

South Carolina's unemployment rate is at such historic lows that the state's employers are complaining of labor shortages, reports Charleston's The Post and Courier. The state is responding with job training programs for convicts that have helped participants find jobs at a 75% rate, well above the 25%-40% employment rates for ex-convicts nationwide.

South Carolina's push is just one of several efforts by governments around the country to combat joblessness among ex-offenders, a population that includes one-in-fifteen working age adults, per the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Why this is happening now: Policymakers are hoping to respond to complaints from employers about a lack of qualified workers, but economists are also warning that ex-convicts' absence from the labor force could be a long-term headwind for the economy too.

  • The U.S. prison population has increased five-fold over the past 50 years, and it's estimated that there may be close to 5 million working-age adults with felony convictions.
  • If these would-be workers are being kept from jobs because of the effects of the justice system, that means lost wages for families and communities that need it most.
  • The growth of the labor force is slowing as the U.S. population ages, and that means the U.S. economy could benefit from job re-entry programs now more than ever.
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General: "unimaginable" to allow North Korea capability to nuke U.S.

Wong Maye-E / AP

Comments yesterday at the Aspen Security Forum from Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, via Politico's Nahal Toosi:

"Many people have talked about military options with words like 'unimaginable'... I would probably shift that slightly and say it would be horrific... [A]nyone who's been alive since World War II has never seen the loss of life that could occur if there's a conflict on the Korean Peninsula.
"[I]t is not unimaginable to have military options to respond to North Korean nuclear capability. What's unimaginable to me is allowing a capability that would allow a nuclear weapon to land in Denver, Colorado. That's unimaginable to me. So my job will be to develop military options to make sure that doesn't happen."

Go deeper: We asked experts how to deal with North Korea.

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Lawmakers agree on Russia sanctions for election-meddling

Evan Vucci / AP

A group of bipartisan lawmakers agreed today to move forward with legislation that would impose sanctions against Russia for their meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, NYT reports. Congress will vote on Tuesday. The expansive sanctions are also for continuing to deploy military forces in Ukraine, annexing Crimea, and abusing human rights.

  • The White House has argued that Congress should allow Trump to have flexibility in his ability to adjust these sanctions as a way to handle Russia how he sees fit. Trump has tried to manage the U.S.' relationship with Russia on his own terms, and these sanctions would make that more difficult.
  • Why it matters: Congress will force Trump into a difficult decision: veto the bill, or move forward and risk his efforts to improve our relationship with Russia. The legislation includes sanctions on North Korea and Iran.
  • Paul Ryan's spokeswoman AshLee Strong told Axios: "This a tough sanctions package that includes measures overwhelmingly supported on a bipartisan basis that would hold three bad actors to account: Iran, Russia, and North Korea. We look forward to moving these sanctions next week before the August work period."
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Major problems plague start of Pokemon Go Fest

Credit: Niantic

The creators of Pokemon Go held their first major in-person event in Chicago on Saturday but things got off to a rough start. Many of those who paid to attend the event reported being stuck in line or unable to log into the app. Attendees would have a chance to catch rare Pokemon — including a Pokemon "monster" if certain goals were met, per Chicago Tribune.
CEO John Hanke was booed as he took the stage in Grant Park, and festival attendees reportedly started chanting "fix the game" at him when they realized they were unable to log on. Niantic is currently working on the issue and the company will reportedly refund participants for their tickets and give them $100 in virtual currency for the game.
Why it matters: Live events are seen as a big part of the company's strategy to keep the game's most active players engaged, so technical issues during a highly-anticipated event do not bode well for the company.
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Scaramucci goes full Breitbart

Breitbart / YouTube

Anthony Scaramucci gave his first interview as White House communications director to Breitbart's Matt Boyle. The two sounded like old friends, with Scaramucci kicking off the early-morning SiriusXM's "Breitbart News Saturday" interview by jokingly asking Boyle, "Did you send your job application form in yet, Matt?...Do you need my email so I can get your resume over here?"

Boyle laughed and replied: "Anthony, I'm honored, maybe we can talk about that later." Scaramucci praised Breitbart for capturing "the spirit of what is actually going on in the country, where there's a large group of people...who've been disaffected from the economic franchise." (FWIW: I asked Boyle whether he'd seriously consider a job in the White House press shop and he declined to comment.)

Between the lines: Sean Spicer had a terrible relationship with Breitbart, the right-wing outlet whose alumni, including Steve Bannon, now work in the White House. Scaramucci now appears to want to elevate the outlet in general, and Boyle in particular. By giving Boyle (Breitbart's most unrestrained attack dog) such prominence from the outset, Scaramucci is signaling that the President wants to make better use of conservative/friendly media outlets to transmit his messages without a critical filter.

Interview highlights:

  • Breitbart First: Scaramucci told Boyle that he and the President talked Friday about the fact that there are "enough outlets, whether it's Breitbart, the President's social media feed, all of the different apparatus that we have where people will allow us to deliver our message to the American people unfiltered."
  • Fresh start: Scaramucci also called his appointment a "fresh start" and said he wanted to see if he could "de-escalate" tensions with mainstream media outlets.
  • Bonding over "fake news": At the end of the interview Boyle asked Scaramucci how he planned to "combat" the "fake news" given he was a "victim of fake news" recently on CNN. Boyle was referring to CNN's recent retraction of a story about Scaramucci, which resulted in CNN management firing three employees. Boyle wrote more than a dozen pieces bashing CNN during that period. Scaramucci said to Boyle: "You've also been a great help in terms of exposure and I do appreciate what you did for me during that incident...I want to thank you publicly in front of your listeners."
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Inside the White House "rival gangs"

Mark Von Holden/Invision via AP

On this week's episode of The New Yorker Radio Hour, Editor David Remnick talks with the N.Y. Times' Maggie Haberman (transcript here):

  • On the White House atmosphere: "We're used to a team of rivals. We are not used to a team of the Bloods and the Crips. ... [T]hese are rival gangs. ... I need to add in some new gang names, too, because Bloods and the Crips makes it sound like there are only two teams. There's something like six."
  • On Trump's mental state: "I think that he has an amazing belief in his own ability to will what he thinks into reality. And I think that he thinks of reality as something that is subjective. So I think that what people characterize as 'he's out of touch' or 'he's not understating this' or 'he seems off,' or whatever — I think he has an amazing capacity to try to draw the world as he wants it."
  • How Trump really feels about the press: "I think that he loves the press. I think he lives, at least loosely, by the theory that, if not all press is good press, that most press is good press. I think you find the press has been his nurturer and validator for thirty to forty years."
  • "This is a person who courted the tabloids aggressively in New York City in the nineteen-eighties. He found a way to make himself a commodity for the gossip pages and play the tabloids off each other. He likes attention, and he likes media. He loves to manipulate the media. He's a master at it."
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Spicer: resigning was "the right thing to do"

Alex Brandon / AP

After his sudden resignation yesterday, former press secretary Sean Spicer sat down for an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity. The one exchange you need to know:

HANNITY: Have you been thinking about this for a while?

SPICER: No.

HANNITY: So it was really sudden?

SPICER: Well, I knew what the right thing to do is. I think I have a pretty good compass, and I made a decision that it was in the best interest not of just myself, but ... for the President and for this administration, was to step aside and let Anthony and Sarah lead the team.

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Trump finds a new favorite member among divided WH

Laurent Gillieron / Keystone via AP

The day's stunning dominoes ("Abrupt chain reaction for Trump" is the five-column head in the WashPost):

Trump, backed by Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, settles on "Mooch" to head comms, largely because he likes the financier's feistiness defending POTUS on cable.

  • Trump doesn't consult his senior aides. They flip out, both because of personal grievances with Mooch, and their belief that heading White House comms requires Washington skills and experience. Some staff learns about the move when Axios' Jonathan Swan pops the story Thursday night.
  • In a 10 a.m. meeting, chief of staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Steve Bannon and press secretary Sean Spicer object vehemently. Trump ignores them.
  • Spicer quits ("the last straw," a source close to Spicer told me), drawing applause when he graciously tells his staff he wants Scaramucci to have a clean slate.
  • Scaramucci goes to the podium in the White House briefing room and announces that Sarah Huckabee Sanders (daughter of Mike Huckabee), who has been Spicer's top deputy, will be press secretary.
  • Asked by ABC's Jon Karl about the time on Fox Business in 2015 that he called Trump "another hack politician," Scaramucci parries: "[H]e brings it up every 15 seconds, OK? (LAUGHTER) ... So, Mr. President, if you're listening, I personally apologize for the 50th time for saying that."

Phew. As Spicer told Fox's Sean Hannity last night (not as a quip, but as part of an argument about working tirelessly to advance Trump's agenda): "We had a very successful Made in America week this week, garnering over millions of impressions."

Some atmospherics from all-terrain Jonathan Swan:

  • Trump thought Mooch killed it. He was pumped about it.
  • Very bipolar West Wing. Source tells me Reince's people seemed "kind of freaked" about what happened. And certainly in the dark.
  • They were trying to spin the new narrative that Reince and Anthony are BFFs and that Reince was "100%" supportive of Trump making Mooch comms director. The President would laugh if you told him that.
  • Jared, Ivanka and Hope Hicks were all pushing for Mooch and very happy with it.
  • Bannon went in hard, lost badly but seemed to have moved on very quickly. Doesn't want to dwell on it.
  • What we're watching: Will Mooch add to the team, and possibly some unexpected names from outside of politics?
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What Trump's tweeting after a week of WH leaks

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

President Trump knows how to use Twitter to his advantage, particularly when he wants to control the news narrative. After Press Secretary Sean Spicer abruptly resigned yesterday following Anthony Scaramucci's appointment as communications director, the news about the White House only got worse.

The Washington Post dropped a late-evening story claiming Attorney General Jeff Sessions — who Trump had dismissed earlier in the week, saying he wouldn't have hired Sessions if he had know he'd recuse himself from the Russia investigation — had discussed campaign-related issues with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak during the 2016 election. Later, reports surfaced that the House Intelligence Committee (in addition to the Senate Intelligence Committee) is now inviting Jared Kushner to testify on Tuesday regarding the Russia probes. And, new reports detailed Kushner had failed to disclose more than 70 assets in his security clearance forms and that Ivanka Trump is benefiting financially while she serves in the administration.

Here's what President Trump has decided to focus on this morning:

  • "ObamaCare is dead and the Democrats are obstructionists, no ideas or votes, only obstruction. It is solely up to the 52 Republican Senators!"
  • "The Republican Senators must step up to the plate and, after 7 years, vote to Repeal and Replace. Next, Tax Reform and Infrastructure. WIN!"
  • "In all fairness to Anthony Scaramucci, he wanted to endorse me 1st, before the Republican Primaries started, but didn't think I was running!
  • "My son Donald openly gave his e-mails to the media & authorities whereas Crooked Hillary Clinton deleted (& acid washed) her 33,000 e-mails!"
  • So many people are asking why isn't the A.G. or Special Council looking at the many Hillary Clinton or Comey crimes. 33,000 e-mails deleted? ... What about all of the Clinton ties to Russia, including Podesta Company, Uranium deal, Russian Reset, big dollar speeches etc."
  • "While all agree the U. S. President has the complete power to pardon, why think of that when only crime so far is LEAKS against us.FAKE NEWS."
  • "This morning I will be going to the Commissioning Ceremony for the largest aircraft carrier in the world, The Gerald R. Ford. Norfolk, Va."
  • "The Failing New York Times foiled U.S. attempt to kill the single most wanted terrorist,Al-Baghdadi.Their sick agenda over National Security."
  • "A new INTELLIGENCE LEAK from the Amazon Washington Post,this time against A.G. Jeff Sessions.These illegal leaks, like Comey's, must stop!"
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Trump is building a Cabinet ready for political, legal war

AP

When President Trump makes more changes in his West Wing (insiders suspect August or September, but who knows?), any new faces are likely to be in the mold of Anthony Scaramucci, age 53, the pugilistic Wall Streeter known as "Mooch" who was named White House communications director, beginning Aug. 15.

The announcement: "Scaramucci, a successful entrepreneur, financier, and founder of SkyBridge Capital, ... will oversee the entire communications operation, including message development and strategy. He will report directly to the President." (Usually would report to the chief of staff.)

The President is building a wartime Cabinet, for political and legal war. One longtime ally who's likely to have a more visible, frequent role: Newt Gingrich, husband of Callista Gingrich, Trump's choice for ambassador to the Vatican.

Trump relishes fights, and creates plenty of them. But now he's in a real one, with special counsel Bob Mueller signaling that he plans an expansive, exhaustive investigation aimed at Trump, his relatives, and current and former political lieutenants.

One West Wing confidant says Trump really might dismiss Mueller. So POTUS needs "a group that can fight through what could end up being something quite amazing."

"We're going to see out-and-out political warfare, and not over ... Medicaid," the confidant said.

Be smart: As Matt Miller, the MSNBC contributor and former Obama Justice Department official, tweeted after the revelation that Trump was digging dirt on Mueller and contemplating pardons: "Takeaway from the Post & NYT pieces is we are headed for certain crisis. Trump just will not, cannot allow this investigation to go forward."

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Dems want to rebrand as the economic party

Senate and House Dems, after an intensive process spanning seven months, on Monday will unveil a new economic agenda, Axios has exclusively learned, meant to counter the perception that Democrats are only the anti-Trump party, with no message of their own.

Top Dems see the new message as the key to turning things around after their losses in the presidential race and this year's House special elections.

An opening theme/frame: "excessive corporate power and its impacts."

Pollster Geoff Garin writes in a memo kicking off the project: "[T]he Democratic policies related to curbing excessive corporate power that are being highlighted in the first day of the rollout have real resonance with voters and are strongly supported by a significant majority of Americans."

The agenda's big idea: "Too many families in America today feel that the rules of the economy are rigged against them. Special interests have a strangle-hold on Washington — from the super-rich spending unlimited amounts of secret money to influence our elections, to the huge loopholes in our tax code that help corporations avoid paying taxes."

"If the government goes back to putting working families first, ahead of special interests, we can achieve a better deal for the American people that will raise their pay, lower their expenses, and prepare them for the future."

See Garin's two-page memo.