Two federal inspectors general want the Justice Department to investigate whether classified information was mishandled in relation to then–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's now-famous emails. There are two parts to the story that are worth noting.
First, the ongoing probes of Clinton and her email are at the very least a political problem that's not going away anytime soon. She'll have the unique challenge of running for president while being investigated by Congress, and perhaps at some point by the Justice Department. The Obama administration is in the uncomfortable position of either investigating the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination or taking hits for stonewalling on her behalf. Some of the reporting Friday morning suggests that Secretary of State John Kerry, who isn't a big Clinton fan, is getting tired of his agency looking bad. As the Wall Street Journal reported, the investigators' memo revealed "hundreds of potentially classified emails within the collection" and that there may be classified material in one of the emails the department already has made public.
Second, the Clinton rules are in full effect again. This case would fall under the umbrella of No. 3: The media assumes that Clinton is acting in bad faith until there's hard evidence otherwise. The New York Times, which got the scoop, rewrote its original story and is taking a beating from political observers and other media outlets for it. The first version said the inspectors general want a criminal investigation into Clinton's actions specifically, while the revised copy says they want the Justice Department to open a probe, more broadly, into whether the email was mishandled. It may turn out that Clinton is responsible for mishandling sensitive material, but the inspectors general didn't ask for an investigation into her, as the first version of the Times story said. Here are the two versions:
Politico's Dylan Byers has more:
The Times also changed the headline of the story, from "Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email" to "Criminal Inquiry Is Sought in Clinton Email Account," reflecting a similar recasting of Clinton's possible role. The article's URL was also changed to reflect the new headline.
If Clinton was sending classified email from her personal account, attached to a personal server, that's a political problem — and possibly a legal one — that will be difficult to mitigate. She has said she wasn't sending and receiving classified information, but there's a catch to that — since her email was on her personal server, there was no way for anyone to know and mark it classified.
Still, when the media gets the story wrong, it gives Clinton an out in terms of the public relations war.
Here are 9 more things you should know before you start the day.
1) Bush softens talk, but not position, on Medicare phase-out
Earlier this week, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said he wanted to "phase out" Medicare. Vox's Matthew Yglesias explains why his phase-out phrasing was so important to those who have closely watched recent policy debates over the health insurance program for the elderly.
For years now, Republicans in Congress have been unified around a plan to promise continued Medicare benefits to everyone over the age of 55 while phasing out the program for everyone else. This is the famous — or perhaps infamous — Paul Ryan plan for Medicare. But denying that this is what their plan amounts to has been an important part of the political strategy for getting it done. Except Jeb Bush messed up, and in a talk at an Americans for Prosperity event Wednesday night he said that America needs to "phase out" Medicare.
His argument is that once Medicare is phased out, the GOP can offer the 54-and-under set "something," because the alternative will be to get "nothing."
It seemed to Yglesias, and to others, like a rookie mistake, especially for someone who spent eight years running a state in which 19 percent of residents — and a higher percentage of voters — are Medicare recipients.
It must also have seemed that way to Bush, who cleaned it up when he was questioned about his remarks by a woman at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire on Thursday, according to an account in Politico.
"Here’s what I said: I said, ‘We’re going to have to reform our entitlement system.’ We have to."
"It’s not an entitlement," the woman shot back. "I earned that."
"It’s an actuarially unsound health care system," said Bush, who said something must be done before the system burdens future generations with $50 billion of debt. "Social Security is an underfunded retirement system; people have put money into it, for sure.
"The people that are receiving these benefits, I don’t think that we should touch that; but your children and grandchildren are not going to get the benefit of this that they believe they’re going to get, or that you think they’re going to get, because the amount of money put in compared to the amount of money the system costs is wrong."
But Bush appears to have learned his lesson. He phased out the phase-out talk.
2) More Bush unplugged: O'Malley shouldn't have apologized for #BlackLivesMatter remarks
It shouldn't take more than about a minute to figure out that there's a deep cultural divide between those who think it's completely appropriate to say "all lives matter" and those who think it dilutes the impact of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley apologized for saying it at Netroots Nation last weekend, but Bush thinks that was unnecessary, as my friend Jon Ward reports for Yahoo.
Bush, after a town hall event here in this north country town where Hillary Clinton marched in a Fourth of July parade a few weeks ago, laughed almost in disbelief when asked by Yahoo News if O’Malley should have apologized.
"No, for crying out loud, no. I mean we’re so uptight and so politically correct now that you apologize for saying lives matter?" Bush said. "Life is precious. It’s a gift from God. It’s one of the most important values that we have."
"I know in the political context it’s a slogan, I guess, and should he have apologized? No," Bush continued. "If he believes that white lives matter, which I hope he does, then he shouldn’t apologize to a group that seemed to disagree with it."
For all the expectation that Bush would be slick and packaged, he's saying what he thinks on the campaign trail — for better and worse. The style, if not always the positions he takes, may be pleasantly surprising to voters when The Donald fever breaks.
3) Speaking of The Donald, his border run was quick and relatively uneventful
Never one to let facts get in the way of a good story, Donald Trump visited Laredo, a small Texas city on the Mexican border, to highlight his hard-line position against unauthorized immigrants. James Hohmann of the Washington Post records the low-grade Trumpisms of the day.
During a whirlwind visit — it was less than three hours from when his jet touched down to when it took off — Trump blazed around in a presidential-style motorcade that included seven SUVs and even more police cars. Local officers blocked off roads, including Interstate 35, for Trump’s entourage.
The Republican presidential candidate, leading the GOP field in national polls but increasingly under fire from the establishment wing of his party, said repeatedly that he had been told he would be in "great danger" if he visited this town of 236,000 in southern Texas — even though Laredo, which is roughly 96 percent Hispanic, has a significantly lower murder rate than Trump’s home town of New York City. He would not say who had told him that he was at risk. ...
A few minutes later, another reporter asked why the magnate would not apologize to the Hispanics he has offended.
"They weren’t insulted," Trump said, "because the press misinterprets my words."
Latinos aren't monolithic, but it's safe to say Trump doesn't speak for the vast majority of them.
4) Rubio, Kerry clash at hearing on Iran nuclear deal
Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio went after Secretary of State John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Thursday, pressing the former Massachusetts senator to concede that if a GOP president is elected, he or she could easily undo the international nuclear nonproliferation deal with Iran. Per Bloomberg:
[Rubio] repeatedly warned that the next president could overturn the deal, which isn't a binding treaty.
"This deal is your deal with Iran," Rubio said. "The Iranian regime and the world should know that the majority of members of this Congress do not support this deal, and that the deal could go away on the day President Obama leaves office."
Kerry wasn't buying it. "I am confident that the next president of the United States" won't "arbitrarily end" the Iran nuclear accord, he said, arguing that doing so would mean the U.S. sacrifices inspections inside Iran and enhances the country's incentive to build a nuclear bomb.
"I don't think any president would do that," Kerry said.
Rubio said that if he's elected president, he would immediately reimpose any lifted sanctions on Iran. But Kerry mocked Republicans for suggesting that there's another way to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, as CNN reports.
Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that there is no "unicorn" or "fantasy" alternative if the U.S. rejects the deal, which the administration maintains will keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon but which many Republicans see as providing Iran a path to a bomb.
But Committee Chairman Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said that the U.S. had been "fleeced" and that Kerry had "turned Iran from being a pariah, to now Congress being a pariah" in the course of making the agreement.
5) Senate moves away from train safety in wake of fatal wreck
The New York Times shines a spotlight on a small provision in the new Senate highway bill that would prevent an important rail safety upgrade.
Two months after the high-speed derailment of an Amtrak train killed eight people and injured hundreds more in Philadelphia, a Senate transportation bill headed for debate this week calls for a three-year delay of the deadline for installing a rail safety system that experts say would have almost certainly prevented the Pennsylvania accident.
Lawmakers from the Northeast and train safety experts expressed outrage over the provision, which is included in the 1,000-page legislation to finance highway and transit projects for the next three years. Several lawmakers vowed to fight the extension of the deadline to install the safety system, called positive train control, beyond December 2015.
6) Harry Reid and trial lawyers, a match made to fight the Koch brothers
Anna Palmer and John Bresnahan of Politico have a scoop that helps explain the big-money fight for the Senate in 2016. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's crusade against the Koch brothers, who helped Republicans win control of the Senate in 2014, took a detour to Canada so that he could collect checks — an excursion that shows once again he's not one to unilaterally disarm.
For years, Harry Reid has railed against the Koch brothers as the worst example of the corrupting influence of special interest money in politics. But the Senate minority leader’s crusade against the conservative barons recently yielded big bucks for his own party.
Reid invoked the Republican megadonors during a July 12 fundraiser in Montreal for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In the end, he raised more than $1 million from one special interest — trial lawyers — by criticizing another. Reid flew to the event in one lawyer’s private jet.
7) Three dead, including gunman, in Louisiana mass shooting
A shooter turned his gun on himself after killing two movie-goers and injuring nine others in Lafayette, Louisiana, as the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports.
Police are not yet publicly identifying the shooter, who was described as a 58-year-old white male. Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft, speaking at a news conference at about 1:45 a.m. Friday, said investigators have multiple addresses for the suspect -- including in different states -- and are working to follow up on all of those leads.
Craft provided more details early Friday about how the series of events unfolded. Witnesses told police the shooter was "seated in the theater just like everybody else," apparently watching the comedy "Trainwreck" with the rest of the audience, when he stood up and started shooting with a semi-automatic handgun. The first two people he shot were directly in front of him, Craft said.
8) Sandra Bland's injuries are consistent with a suicide, not a homicide
There are a lot of details surrounding the death of Sandra Bland in a Texas jail that require more investigation, thought, and perhaps action — particularly the routine traffic stop that turned physical and ultimately led to her being found hanged in her cell. But whether her death was a suicide is not one of them, according to the local prosecutor. Per AP:
The autopsy of a black woman who was found dead in a Texas jail revealed no injuries that would suggest she was killed by someone else, authorities said Thursday.
Waller County prosecutor Warren Diepraam said the autopsy showed that 28-year-old Sandra Bland had no defensive injuries on her hands that would typically indicate a struggle. … She was arrested in a traffic stop three days before she was found in her cell on July 13. Her family and friends dispute the official finding that she killed herself using a noose fashioned from a plastic garbage bag.
9) The strangest story today involves Bowe Bergdahl and a pot raid
Military officials say Bowe Bergdahl was on approved leave when this happened, according to Fox News.
Bergdahl, the U.S. soldier who was released in a prisoner exchange in Afghanistan for five Taliban detainees, wound up in the middle of a pot raid earlier this week in northern California.
Captian Greg Van Patten with the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office told Fox News Thursday that the county’s marijuana eradication team encountered Bergdahl on Tuesday while serving a search warrant on a home in Redwood City, Calif.
Van Patten said Bergdahl was detained, but ultimately was "determined not to be connected to the operation, at least there was no evidence to suggest he was involved."