HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!

Morning Jumpstart

  • Trump vetting Gingrich, Christie for VP
  • Lawyer to sue gun makers: Orlando massacre
  • AG’s meeting with Bill Clinton creates firestorm
  • Betrayal! Backstabbing! Boris’s bruising Brexit
  • Obama to release some drone strike deaths
  • Judge blocks Mississippi anti-gay law
  • Pentagon ends transgender ban
  • DHS: Increased security for July 4th travel
Trump Vetting Gingrich, Christie for VP (AP, NYT, Politifact, TMN, me)
• Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is considering former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga) and Gov Chris Christie (R-NJ) for VP, as part of a short list. Their inclusion was confirmed by people with direct knowledge of the vetting process – anonymous (Christie is unpopular in New Jersey. Gingrich is just unpopular)
• Trump has said he would unveil his pick at the GOP convention in three weeks’ time. Gingrich and Christie, who both received vetting paperwork in the last 24 hours, emerged as prominent Trump allies in recent months, even as the mogul faced deep and sustained skepticism from many GOP leaders
• Trump on Thursday said of Christie, “I’m certainly looking at him [for VP] and I always will. Whether it’s for that or something else,” Trump told right-wing radio host Howie Carr. He also described Gov Mike Pence (R-Ind) as “somebody we like a lot.”
• His VP pick could be crucial to easing the concerns of Republicans who worry about his lack of political experience, as well as his temperament to be commander in chief. Tapping a political insider would also be a way for Trump to signal a willingness to work with the party establishment he has thoroughly bashed
• Christie was vetted in 2012 by nominee Mitt Romney’s research team. The Christie admin’s recent involvement in “Bridgegate” could complicate his 2016 prospects. Gingrich, who ran in 2012, served as speaker from 95-99. He left under a cloud, with ethics problems, miscalculations on elections strategy, unpopularity with the public and a failed agenda (good start there, Newt)
• VP Joe Biden says on NPR this weekend: “I’ve talked to Bernie, Bernie’s going to endorse her [Hillary Clinton], this is going to work out.” News to Bernie. Asked about what Biden said on MSNBC, Sanders said he’d talked with Biden about three weeks about, and: “As of this moment we’re not quite there yet.” (everybody has a shelf life, Benrie) (Hill, Hill, me)

 

Lawyer to Sue Gunmakers Over Orlando Massacre (NBC News, AP, Bloomberg, me)
• A Texas lawyer said Thursday that he plans to sue two gun makers for “aggressively marketing” the kind of weapons used in the Orlando nightclub massacre. Robert Hilliard will represent the family of Miguel Angel Honorato, one of the 49 people shot to death 12 June at the Pulse nightclub. Honorato’s family includes a wife and three young children, seven siblings and parents
• Gunman Omar Mateen used a Sig Sauer MCX rifle and a Glock pistol. Hilliard didn’t detail the legal argument he planned to make, but his statement focused on the companies’ marketing campaigns: Sig Sauer touted the MXC as highly accurate and prolific, he said, while Glock boasted that its semiautomatic handguns were made for military use
• The plan, Hilliard said, was to hold “manufacturers to account for their product designs and marketing – just as we as a society hold all other manufacturers to account for their products and marketing.” The families of nine children and adults killed in the 2012 Newtown, Conn, massacre are already pursuing such a strategy (guns have a carve-out law protecting them)
• Their lawsuit against Remington Arms, the parent of the company that makes the Bushmaster rifle, alleges that it was aware the gun was meant for the military and not civilians. Remington has asked a judge to dismiss on the grounds it’s protected by a 2005 law that shields gun makers from most lawsuits involving crimes committed with their products (unlike everybody else)

• Meanwhile, the House will hold election-year votes next week on a Republican proposal aimed at keeping suspected terrorists from obtaining guns, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis) told GOP lawmakers Thursday, after a Democratic sit-in. “Bringing up a bill authored by the NRA just isn’t going to cut it,” a spox for Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) said in a statement

• Watch: Naked man takes over Times Square, climbs to top of Tkts Booth, rants about Donald Trump – demands a meeting – taunts police (very funny), jumps off building, misses airbag. Man’s current condition unknown…(maybe he’s in a meeting with Donnie) (NYP, me)

 

AG’s Meeting with Bill Clinton Creates Firestorm (WaPo, Politico, NYT, Hill, Bloomberg, TMN, me)
• AG Loretta Lynch described her Monday meeting with Bill Clinton aboard a private plane as “primarily social,” but some Democrats are struggling to stomach the optics of the AG’s meeting with the former president while his wife is under federal investigation – and Republicans are pouncing (don’t blame them – this was a surprisingly dim misstep by Lynch – but Clinton is most to blame)
• The FBI and Justice Dept are in the midst of a high-profile investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her tenure as SecState – a probe that has, at times, been the subject of intense focus on the campaign trail. The decision on whether to bring charges would ultimately run through Lynch (unlikely she’ll step down, but she’s damaged herself)
• “It’s [investigation] being handled by career investigators and career agents, who always follow facts and the law, and do the same thorough and independent examination in this matter that they’ve done in all,” Lynch said Wednesday in Los Angeles. “So that’s how that’ll be handled.” (there’ll always be a taint now – and she had the respect of most GOP lawmakers)

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• WH spox Josh Earnest refused to second-guess Lynch’s meeting when pressed by reporters. “I think the bottom line is simply that both the president and the AG understand how important it is for the Dept of Justice to conduct investigations that are free of political interference.” (bet the WH is absolutely livid – Bill Clinton should have known better)
• “In light of the apparent conflicts of interest, I have called repeatedly on AG Lynch to appoint a special counsel to ensure the investigation is as far from politics as possible,” Sen John Cornyn (R-Texas) and a member of the Judiciary Committee, said in a statement on Thursday. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La) said Lynch should recuse herself – special prosecutor
• Lynch said the meeting with Clinton was unplanned, largely social – golf, grandchildren, travel – and didn’t touch on the email investigation. She suggested that he walked uninvited from his plane to her govt plane, which were both parked on a tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (she prob didn’t have a choice. Big Dog shows up – you can’t turn him away)

• Donald Trump said on the Mike Gallagher Show that the meeting was “really a sneak,” “so terrible” and “so horrible.” “This is terrible and nobody can understand why nothing’s happened. And you see a thing like this and, even in terms of judgment, how bad of judgment is it for him or for her to do this, I mean, who would do this?”

• President Obama signed the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act, or PROMESA, in the Oval Office on Thursday, saying that although there’s still “some tough work” to dig Puerto Rico out of its hole, “this indicates how committed my admin is to making sure that they get the help they need.” (Reuters)
Betrayal! Backstabbing! Boris’s Brexit (BBC, BBC, Daily Beast, Guardian, Telegraph, me)
• Ex-London Mayor Boris Johnson on Thursday ruled himself out of the race to be the next Conservative leader and prime minister. In a speech in London – billed as his campaign launch – Johnson stunned supporters – some of whom appeared to weep – when he said he didn’t believe he could provide the leadership or unity needed (because he’d just been stabbed)
• It comes after Justice Secretary and fellow Brexit campaigner Michael Gove’s surprise announcement on Thursday morning that he would run for leader. Home secretary (interior minister) Theresa May is among the candidates (Gove is – was – a 30-year friend of Johnson’s from Oxford University. They were both friends with PM David Cameron, too)
• Also in the running are Energy minister Andrea Leadsom and former Defense Secretary Liam Fox – Leave – and Work and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb – Remain. The contest was sparked when Cameron announced he would resign following the EU referendum result, which saw the UK vote by 52% to 48% to leave the EU
• Johnson learned that his old pal Gove had betrayed him at the same time as the public did. Johnson was still favorite to be Britain’s next PM at 9:01 am, as he prepared to launch his campaign at a London hotel. There are also suggestions that Gove may have had weekly meetings behind the scenes with Treasury secretary George Osborne during the campaign
• Commemorations are being held today in Britain and France to mark the centenary of the 1 July 1916 start of the Battle of the Somme in which 1 million men died over 5 months in the First World War. Britain lost 20,000 men on the first day. The UK fell silent for two minutes today to mark the moment when the battle began – bloodiest day in British military history (BBC)
Gove Ambushes Boris for PM Post
• But unbeknown to Johnson, Gove, his Brexit running mate, had already decided to run against him about nine hours beforehand. Gove had given no hint of his plans the night before as he attended the Conservative summer party. The justice sec had also repeatedly said that he had no ambitions to be the Tory leader (don’t trust em when they say that)
• Confirming his ambitions for Downing Street, Gove in his statement brutally cast Johnson as lacking he qualities and character to lead. He portrayed the decision as an agonizing, last-minute choice after senior Johnson backers pressured him to enter the race. “Michael, it should be you,” he claimed they said (Boris was feckless and a liar – Gove is a backstabber – take your pick)
• However, furious MPs in Camp Johnson believed it was a long-planned coup by Gove and his advisers after the justice secretary had his head turned during the EU referendum campaign by surveys suggesting he was the darling of the Tory membership. Plus he had the endorsement for PM from newspaper owner Rupert Murdoch (hugely influential in the UK
• “Gove is a cu+t who set this up from the start,” one friend of Johnson texted a political journalist at the Sun. More publicly, Jake Berry, Conservative MP and one of Johnson’s closest allies, tweeted: “There is a very deep pit in Hell reserved for such as he. #Gove.” (let’s be clear – Johnson’s no innocent. The former journalist was fired twice for lying in articles)
Boris “Ripped the Party Apart”
• “He’s ripped the Tory party apart, he has created the greatest constitutional crisis in peacetime in my life. He’s knocked billions off his value of the savings of the British people. He’s like a general who marches his army to the sound of the guns and the moment he sees the battleground he abandons it,” ranted Lord Heseltine, former Conservative deputy prime minister
• Johnson, in his speech, included a reference to Brutus in “Julius Caesar” and spoke of “a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” (Brutus and his pals stabbed Caesar to death) Johnson played Brutus to Cameron’s Caesar. Then he was Caesar, and got stabbed by Gove’s Brutus (Johnson’s a history wonk – should have figured it out)
• The five candidates will be winnowed down to two by successive votes by Conservative Party MPs, beginning on 5 July. One of those two will then be chosen as the next leader by the 150,000 or so registered members of the party, with an outcome to be announced on 9 Sept (voting off the island – pretty brutal stuff)
• In a BBC interview, Gove said he “came in the last few days, reluctantly and firmly, to the conclusion that while Boris has great attributes he was not capable of uniting that team and leading the party in the way that I would have hoped.” Gove didn’t speak to Johnson ahead of the announcement. Stay tuned for the next episode of Game of Thrones: Brexit
• Fifty-eight retired generals and admirals called on both Republicans and Democrats to “unequivocally” reject the use of torture on prisoners of war in letters to the two party platform committees. The letters follow calls by GOP 2016er Donald Trump to bring back waterboarding and “much worse” in the wake of the Istanbul airport terror attack (TMN)
Obama to Release Some Drone Strike Deaths (AP, me)
• President Obama is expected to disclose as early as today the number of civilians killed in U.S. military and CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Africa since he took office and will issue an executive order that makes protecting civilians a more integral part of planning U.S. military operations, according to activists and other individuals familiar
• The WH is to disclose the casualties with a range of numbers indicating that an estimated 100 civilians have been inadvertently killed by 500 drone strikes since 2009. The estimate is said to cover drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. It doesn’t cover ones in Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria where U.S. forces have conducted thousands of air attacks (so – what’s point, then)
• While sketchy details often emerge about individual drone strikes, the full scope of the U.S. drone program – a key tool of Obama’s counterterrorism strategy – has long been shrouded from view. Still, the new info isn’t likely to answer all the questions that have been raised and human rights groups have long claimed the admin undercounts civilian casualties
• Reprieve, an international human rights organization based in New York, said, “The numbers without the definitions to back up how the admin is defining its targets is useless, especially given reports the Obama admin has shifted the goalposts on what counts as a ‘civilian’ to such an extent that any estimate may be far removed from reality.” (maybe it’s not about reality)
• Weak leadership, poor judgment and a lack of “warfighting toughness” led to the capture of 10 U.S. sailors by Iran in the Gulf in January, the U.S. Navy says in a report. The sailors weren’t even aware they had entered Iranian waters, the report says. Six officers and three sailors have been disciplined or face action (BBC)
Judge Blocks Mississippi Anti-Gay Law (AP, me)
• A federal judge has blocked a Mississippi law that would let merchants and govt employees cite religious beliefs to deny or delay services to same-sex couples
• U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves filed orders in two lawsuits blocking the law just moments before it was to take effect today. State attorney are expected to appeal his decision
• The law would protect three beliefs: That marriage is only between a man and a woman; that sex should only take place in such a marriage; and that a person’s gender is determined at birth and cannot be altered
• Reeves wrote that the law is unconstitutional because “the state has put its thumb on the scale to favor some religious beliefs over others.” He also wrote that it violates the Constitution’s equal protection guarantee

• Quick quiz! Which congressional leader are you? Paul Ryan? Nancy Pelosi? Mitch McConnell? Harry Reid? Take Roll Call’s quiz and find out  (I was Harry Reid – better get out my shades – and I’m apparently never afraid to throw a punch and I always make time for date night…)

 

Pentagon Ends Transgender Ban (NYT, Hill, TMN, WaPo, me)
• SecDef Ash Carter on Thursday removed one of the final barriers to military service by lifting the Pentagon’s ban on transgender people serving openly in the armed forces
• The decision pushes forward a transformation of the military that Carter has accelerated in the last year with the opening of all combat roles to women and the appointment of the first openly gay Army secretary. Transgender people who want to join the military will be required to wait 18 months after a doctor certifies that they are stable in their new gender before they can enlist
• Lifting the ban on transgender people has faced resistance from some at the highest ranks of the military, who have expressed concerns over what they consider a social experiment that could potentially harm the military’s readiness and effectiveness in combat
• Several studies have reached the opposite conclusion, however, finding that lifting the ban is unlikely to have any appreciable effect on the readiness of the armed forces. A study by the RAND Corp, commissioned by Carter, found that out of the approx. 1.3 million active duty service members, an estimated 2,450 were transgender

• Sen John McCain (R-Ariz) said Thursday said he had had no notice before the announcement. “I happen just to be the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, and it’s customary in all the years I’ve been on it to give members, particularly the chairman, a briefing.” He said he intends to hold hearings and raised the potential for “some legislation” on the issue (he’s not happy)

 

DHS: Increased Security for July Fourth Travel (Reuters, Hill, me)
• Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said Thursday that the TSA, state and local enforcement would all beef up their efforts at U.S. airports over the Fourth of July weekend, days after suicide bombings killed 44 people at Turkey’s Istanbul airport. Johnson was speaking at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing
• But Johnson also warned the govt and American public not to limit their attention on security threats to the aviation sector, despite two major terrorist attacks on airports abroad recently. “My caution is that when it comes to public spaces and public events, we should not focus our attention on airports to the exclusion of other public events,” Johnson said
• “We continue to encourage the public to travel, to celebrate, to continue to go to public events,” Johnson said. “Public awareness can and does make a difference.” Johnson emphasized that airport security wouldn’t be compromised in the face of long lines at checkpoints, which he said had improved recently (we’ll be the judge of that, thank you)
• The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees operations at the three major airports in the New York City area, said in a statement that police had added “high visibility patrols with tactical weapons and equipment.” Agencies in charge of other major airports emphasized that security remains their top priority

• Meanwhile, Amtrak said it had “robust security measures” in place and was working with other agencies to gather intelligence following the Istanbul attacks. A record number of Americans, 43 million, are expected to travel between 30 June and 4 July, according to AAA. The vast majority will go by car, but 3.3 million are expected to fly

• Rocking into the Fourth of July weekend with “Made in America” – JAY Z, Kanye West – Otis ft. Otis Redding

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Victoria Jones – Editor

Victoria Jones created and edits Quick Morning News. She is chief White House correspondent with Washington DC-based Talk Media News, where her insight and analysis are made available to over 400 news talk radio stations around the country and internationally.

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