The big political news overnight was the release of a letter Hillary Clinton's campaign sent to the New York Times complaining about a story the paper bungled last week. The Times reported that two inspectors general had asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into the former secretary of state's handling of classified or sensitive material on her personal email account. There was no criminal referral, and the subject of the requested probe is the State Department's handling of the email, not Clinton's.
Communications director Jennifer Palmieri laid out a detailed case for how the Times treated Clinton unfairly. You can read the whole letter here.
Probably the most important theme is that the campaign issued a thinly veiled threat to stop dealing with the Times if its grievances are not addressed.
We feel it important to outline these concerns with you directly so that they may be properly addressed and so our campaign can continue to have a productive working relationship with the Times.
Palmieri makes four main points in the letter:
- "First, the seriousness of the allegations that the Times rushed to report last Thursday evening demanded far more care and due diligence than the Times exhibited prior to this article’s publication."
- "Second, in its rush to publish what it clearly viewed as a major scoop, the Times relied on questionable sourcing and went ahead without bothering to seek corroborating evidence that could have supported its allegation."
- "Even after the Times’ reporting was revealed to be false, the Times incomprehensibly delayed the issuance of a full and true correction."
- "Lastly, the Times’ official explanations for the misreporting is profoundly unsettling."
Don't expect the Times to back down. This isn't the first time it's been accused of journalistic malpractice by Clintonworld or a presidential campaign. And we would all suffer if the best paper in the country lost a step. But it's a reminder to the Times and everyone else in media — myself included — that the need to scrutinize public figures should not be confused with the right to treat them unfairly.
Here are 9 more things to know before you start the day.
1) Clinton calls on Congress to lift Cuba sanctions
What a difference five election cycles make on Cuba politics. As she visits South Florida Friday, Clinton is calling on Congress to repeal sanctions it imposed on Cuba to assist in the process of normalizing relations with the island nation about 90 miles from the Florida Keys. As veteran Florida reporter Marc Caputo notes in Politico, the fact that Clinton either sees political advantage or no political harm in advocating for a sanctions repeal is interesting given that her husband signed them into law.
At the time, in 1996, the president faced re-election. He desperately wanted to win Florida, as it started to emerge as the nation’s most-crucial swing state. And early on that year, Cuba became a major flashpoint when Fidel Castro’s regime shot down two Brothers to the Rescue rafter-aid group airplanes over international waters, killing four activists from Miami. The exile community erupted.
Politically speaking, the president felt he had little choice. He had to sign what was known as the Helms-Burton Act.
"Supporting the bill was good election-year politics in Florida, but it undermined whatever chance I might have if I won a second term to lift the embargo in return for positive changes within Cuba," Bill Clinton lamented years later in his autobiography, My Life.
Here's a little snippet of what Hillary Clinton was expected to say Friday — including the politically daring request for Congress to "answer the pleas of the Cuban people." (Usually, presidential candidates are pretty narrowly focused on what the American people want).
"We have arrived at a decisive moment. The Cuban people have waited long enough for progress to come. Even many Republicans on Capitol Hill are starting to recognize the urgency of moving forward. It’s time for their leaders to either get on board or get out of the way.
"The Cuba embargo needs to go, once and for all. We should replace it with a smarter approach that empowers the Cuban private sector, Cuban civil society, and the Cuban-American community to spur progress and keep pressure on the regime.
"Today I am calling on Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell to step up and answer the pleas of the Cuban people. By large majorities, they want a closer relationship with America. They want to buy our goods, read our books, surf our web, and learn from our people. They want to bring their country into the 21st century. That is the road toward democracy and dignity. We should walk it together."
2) Bernie Sanders's Vox interview reverberates in Democratic primary
Bernie Sanders revealed a deep but papered-over split in the Democratic Party this week when he told Vox's Ezra Klein that an open-borders policy is a "Koch brothers proposal." As my colleague Dara Lind explains, that's consistent with the traditional view of the labor movement, which worries that an influx of immigrants will result in lower wages and fewer jobs for workers already in the US. But advocating for restrictions on immigration at a time when the political debate over the issue is so heated and personal can come off as anti-immigrant.
So it's not a particularly helpful political position for a candidate who needs to court Latino voters if he has any chance of expanding his base and becoming a real threat to Clinton's hopes of winning the Democratic presidential nomination. Sanders was asked about it repeatedly in a previously scheduled appearance at the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Thursday. The Washington Post's David Weigel has some of what he said — and the reaction from the man he shared the stage with.
"There is a great difference in saying that we welcome immigrants, that we're going to provide a path toward citizenship to those immigrants that are in this country today, and saying: Oh, we're not going to have any borders at all," said Sanders. ...
Sanders's economic arguments fell flat with Javier Palomarez, president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, who moderated the event.
"I think he's a bit off the mark," said Palomarez. "I think he's likening allowing more immigrants coming into the country to taking American jobs. Our position is that some of these jobs [are some] that some of our young people wouldn't take. We don't see young people lining up to pluck chickens."
3) GOP debate prep: Bush is doing it, Trump is not
With the first Republican presidential primary debate less than a week way, Jeb Bush is cramming to get ready for a style of interaction he hasn't had to think about in a long time. Politico's Eli Stokols and Katie Glueck report on how he and other Republicans are tuning up.
Bush, a policy wonk and admitted micromanager who tends to be involved in most facets of his operation, "doesn’t like being handled," according to one close confidant, "but realized he needs some handling" after struggling to answer a question about the Iraq War during a live television interview back in May. Now, he’s leaning heavily on advisers with experience prepping candidates for televised debates. Bush’s campaign hasn’t said whether he will prepare specifically for how to deal with Donald Trump, as several campaigns currently are. ...
While most candidates aren’t eager to tangle with Trump, they are all preparing for a potential encounter with the current GOP front-runner. Rand Paul, for one, will be sparring with a Trump stand-in, adviser Rex Elsass, who is playing the billionaire in a practice session this week.
Trump stand-in has got to be one of the more fun roles ever constructed in politics or theater. Here's what The Donald has to say about debate prep.
4) John Kasich fills Super PAC coffers
Ohio Gov. John Kasich is on the bubble for getting into that first Republican primary debate Thursday in his home state. But as Eric Lichtblau reports for the New York Times, Kasich's Super PACs have raised the kind of money, $11.7 million, that will give him a chance to be heard in the GOP race either way.
He attracted six-figure donations from wealthy backers from his home state as well as from Wall Street and Silicon Valley, with the bulk of the donations going to his New Day for America political committee.
The biggest gifts to the committees included $1 million from Abigail S. Wexner of New Albany, Ohio, the wife of Leslie Wexner, the founder of The Limited, a clothing company; $500,000 from John P. McConnell of Worthington, Ohio, chief executive of Worthington Industries, an Ohio steel maker; and $500,000 from a Montana company called MMWP12, which appears to be affiliated with Mark Kvamme, an Ohio venture capitalist.
My view: He ends up being an attractive vice presidential candidate if one of the less-experienced Republicans wins the nomination. It's not so much about the swing state of Ohio as his instant credibility as an experienced Washington player, just like Joe Biden, Dick Cheney, Al Gore, George H. W. Bush, and Walter Mondale.
5) Speaking of experienced Washington hands, the government could use them now to avert another shutdown showdown. Right now, Congress is in punt formation.
Lisa Mascaro of the LA Times lays out the low odds of Congress voting to fund the government for a full year by the end of this fiscal year. Here's Lisa:
The next fiscal crisis could come as soon as Oct. 1 unless a new government spending plan is approved. But with House members having left Wednesday for summer recess and senators soon to follow, that leaves only about 10 legislative days next month to fix the problem, and there are no viable solutions in sight.
Republican leaders are resigned to a showdown. House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) on Wednesday allowed his majority to leave a day early for the long August recess, predicting Congress would have little choice next month but to pass a short-term budget extension to keep the government open. "We'll deal with it in September," he said.
6) Taliban leader Mullah Omar is still dead — we just didn't know he was
When reading this news, it's hard not to be reminded of the classic Saturday Night Live news sketch in which Chevy Chase announces that the late Spanish autocrat Francisco Franco "is still dead."
Apparently, the US didn't know that Mullah Omar had died for two years — a sign either of his genius as a fugitive or of the inability of the US to get Pakistan to help locate terrorists. Here's how Greg Miller of the Washington Post put it:
The belated disclosure this week of Omar’s death has added to the legend of the ghostlike Taliban chief, a figure so elusive that it appears to have taken U.S. spy agencies two years to determine that one of their top targets after 9/11 was no longer alive.
But the emerging details of Omar’s death may also help explain the extent to which his ability to remain both influential and invisible was a reflection of the competing and often hidden agendas in the counterterrorism partnership between the United States and Pakistan.
The AP has details on Omar's successor, whom the Taliban apparently elected.
Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansoor, had also been given the title of "Commander of the Faithful," conferring on him the supreme status held by Mullah Omar.
Mansoor has been an "active director" of the jihad, or holy war, for some years, it added. The statement did not give any details of when Mullah Omar died or from what illness.
The Taliban on Thursday confirmed that Mullah Omar died of an illness some time ago and said they elected Mansoor as his successor. The Afghan government announced Wednesday that the reclusive mullah had been dead since April 2013.
7) Confederate flags litter Ebenezer Baptist Church
Authorities found Confederate battle flags at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Martin Luther King Jr. held the pulpit and where there's a national historic site. From the AP:
Atlanta police Chief George Turner said Thursday his officers were working with federal authorities and hadn't determined what, if any, charges might be sought. Turner said they had not ruled out a hate crime, though Georgia has no state hate crimes law.
An officer from the Atlanta FBI's joint terrorism task force was on the scene "to better determine if any specific threats were received" and to provide support to Atlanta police, FBI Special Agent Steve Emmett said in an email.
8) Key Democrat, under pressure at home, backs Iran deal
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who is well-regarded by colleagues for his acumen on Middle East policy, issued a strong endorsement of the nuclear nonproliferation deal with Iran. Van Hollen's opponent in a Maryland Senate primary, Rep. Donna Edwards, was making an issue out of the Iran deal, as the Baltimore Sun's John Fritze writes.
Edwards, an earlier supporter of the deal, had repeatedly criticized Van Hollen for not coming stating his position sooner. For Van Hollen, who has significant support in the Jewish community — particularly among those who oppose the deal — the decision was fraught with political consequences.
Siding with Obama could weaken support from pro-Israel groups that have the resources to run advertising in political campaigns. But if Van Hollen came out against the deal, Edwards — who has attempted to court progressives — could have noted that her opponent sided with Republicans against the president.
The truth is Van Hollen doesn't have much to lose: He's got a good relationship with the Jewish community, particularly in his home base of Montgomery County, while Edwards has little support there.
9) Beijing wins 2022 Winter Games
China's getting another round of the Olympics — this time the 2022 Winter Games — in a decision that's sure to enrage human rights activists. CNN has the story:
Beijing is set to become the first city to have hosted both the Summer and Winter Olympics after it was chosen to stage the 2022 Winter Games.
International Olympic President Thomas Bach confirmed Beijing, which hosted the Summer Games in 2008, had been chosen ahead of Almaty in Kazakshtan at the 128th IOC session in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Friday.