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Vox Sentences: What meeting with the Russians? Oh, that meeting with the Russians?

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Donald Trump Jr. faces new Russia scrutiny; Mosul is liberated from ISIS; a big gerrymandering case kicks off in Texas.

“It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information”

Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images
  • Over the weekend, the New York Times reported that the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner, and former campaign chair Paul Manafort all met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer during the 2016 election, in pursuit of information that could be damaging to Hillary Clinton. [NYT / Jo Becker, Matt Apuzzo, and Adam Goldman]
  • Donald Trump Jr. initially told Times reporters that the June 2016 meeting between campaign officials and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was to discuss adoption issues between the two countries. [NYT / Jo Becker, Matt Apuzzo, and Adam Goldman]
  • But after being confronted by more of the Times’s reporting, the younger Trump later changed his story, admitting that Veselnitskaya offered up potentially compromising information on Clinton and the Democratic National Committee, but the information was too “vague” to be useful. [NYT / Jo Becker, Matt Apuzzo, and Adam Goldman]
  • US intelligence agencies including the FBI, CIA, and NSA have established that the Russians worked to interfere in the 2016 election to try to get Trump elected (in part because of Putin’s animus toward Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton). What we still don’t know — and what the FBI and congressional committees are investigating — is whether the Trump campaign actively worked with them. [Intelligence Community Assessment]
  • The latest Times story is notable because it’s the first to suggest that members of Trump’s campaign actually met with a Russian contact to get information that could have damaged Clinton and the Democrats. [Vox / Andrew Prokop]
  • It’s also notable because Trump Jr.’s story keeps changing, and is contradicting many previous denials from the Trump administration about contact with the Russians. The New York Times story made it clear they did. [Washington Post / Aaron Blake]
  • Russia news is bad for President Trump and his popularity. A new poll found that the majority of Americans now believe the president did something either illegal or unethical related to Russia, with another 36 percent saying they think he did nothing wrong. [NPR / Jessica Taylor]
  • That poll is also showing a starkly partisan divide on the Russia issue, with 72 percent of Republican voters saying they think Trump did nothing wrong. A much smaller sample size interviewed in Northern Michigan by Vox’s Lindsay Maizland said the same thing, adding they think the media is making too much out of the story. [Vox / Lindsay Maizland]

Mosul, liberated

Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images
  • After nine months of fighting, the Iraqi government and US-led coalition have succeeded in their battle to liberate Mosul from ISIS. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi formally declared victory on Monday, just hours after US-led coalition airstrikes dropped bombs on the terror group’s last stronghold in Mosul’s Old City. [Associated Press / Susannah George]
  • ISIS had control of the city since 2014, when Islamic State fighters conquered Mosul for part of its self-declared caliphate. The group’s territory stretched across parts of Iraq and Syria. [Brookings Institution / Cole Bunzel]
  • At the start of the Iraqi army offensive in November 2016, there were between 3,500 and 5,000 ISIS fighters in Mosul. Their number gradually dropped to a couple hundred before the city was recaptured, according to the US coalition. [CNN / Kara Fox]
  • The fighting has completely reduced parts of a once-bustling city to rubble. More than 5,000 building have been destroyed, and civilians are in desperate need of food, water, and basic shelter. [BBC]
  • The civilian toll has been brutal. Mosul used to be home to 2.5 million residents. More than 800,000 fled as the fighting intensified, but many left behind were either killed by ISIS militants who hid in highly populated areas or accidentally killed by US-led airstrikes. [NBC News / Petra Cahill]
  • Even though physical ISIS territory is being wiped out, the terror group is not likely to go away quietly. [Reuters / Isabel Coles and Stephen Kalin]
  • Iraq is a politically unstable region with a power struggle happening between current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. ISIS fighters using guerrilla-style warfare tactics like suicide bombs could make a tenuous situation even worse. [Foreign Policy / Renad Mansour]
  • There are also fears that ISIS may move to other unstable parts of the Middle East like Libya, or that individual fighters will spread to other countries to carry out smaller attacks. Even though the ISIS caliphate has been dealt a fatal blow, it’s no less active trying to radicalize new recruits over the internet. [CNN / Tim Lister]

Liberal cities have no representation in Texas

Ron Jenkins/Getty Images
  • A major gerrymandering case in Texas gets off the ground today, as three judges will decide whether state lawmakers intentionally bypassed thousands of Hispanic and black voters when it drew up voting districts. [Texas Tribune / Cassandra Pollack]
  • Texas is a deeply Republican state, but it also has millions of Hispanic and black voters; white voters have actually been in the racial minority since the mid-2000s. [NPR / Farai Chideya]
  • Hispanic and black voters tend to cast their ballots for Democratic candidates, but Texas’s state legislature and its congressional delegation have remained deeply Republican for decades. [New Yorker / Lawrence Wright]
  • Texas maps have been very advantageous to Republicans, who won four more seats in the US House than they would if they hadn’t tweaked the districts, according to analysis from the Associated Press. [Associated Press / Will Weissert]
  • That’s in large part due to some very confusing voting districts. Most recently, when the time came to redraw voting districts in 2012, lawmakers produced maps with some very squiggly district lines. [Houston Chronicle / Matt Levin]
  • The result? Liberal cities like Austin get just a fraction of the representation of more Republican areas, because they are lumped in with conservative areas to dilute the power of Democratic voters. [KUT / Ashley Lopez]
  • Gerrymandering to give one political party an advantage is nothing new. Maps are typically drawn up by state legislatures, so they tend to reflect whichever party is in power. As a result, states that are split pretty evenly between Democrat and Republican voters end up heavily represented by one party or the other. [Vox / Andrew Prokop]
  • The key question in Texas isn’t whether this was done to disadvantage a certain political party; instead, it’s about whether it disadvantages people of a certain race.
  • Hispanic and black voters tend to lean Democratic, so separating them into weakened voting districts can prompt the argument that lawmakers are discriminating on a racial basis. [Washington Post / Robert Barnes]
  • This argument has played out in other states. Most recently, the US Supreme Court ruled that North Carolina’s redistricting was racially motivated and without proper cause, which gave Democrats and voting rights activists alike a major win. That decision could also substantially weaken the Texas legislature’s case for keeping its districts as they are. [Vox / German Lopez]
  • Three federal judges in San Antonio are set to decide the case in a week. They already decided that the maps violated federal law earlier this year, but the issue is back in court because they want the maps to be redrawn before 2018. [Texas Tribune / Cassandra Pollack]


  • Some federal hospitals for Native American tribes don’t have even the most basic health equipment or supplies, and the people who seek care at them are dying. [WSJ / Dan Frosch and Christopher Weaver]
  • For everyone who hasn’t been keeping count (I’m guessing most of us), Game of Thrones has killed off 1,243 characters since its start six years ago. Lucky for you, the Washington Post has been tracking every single offed character. [Washington Post / Shelly Tan]
  • After the 2016 election, West Virginia became the prime example of disenchanted rural white Trump voters in the 2016 election. But people there don’t think the national media accurately captured the reasons behind their revolt, so they began their own news startup. [Columbia Journalism Review / Catherine Moore]
  • Cholera, polio and measles are being used as weapons of war in the Middle East as governments in Syria and Yemen target hospitals and doctors and leave large regions ever more impacted by outbreaks of disease. [Stat / Homer Venters]
  • Prisoners across the country have to pay a lot to make phone calls to their families. The Obama administration had placed a cap on fees, but under Trump, the Federal Communications Commission is letting phone companies jack prices. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune / Gail Rosenblum]


Watch this: Why government agencies should move from DC to the Midwest

Midwestern cities need jobs. DC is too crowded. A simple solution. [YouTube / Matt Yglesias, Liz Scheltens, Silvia Philbrick, and Liam Brooks]

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