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Trump’s July Putin dalliance could shake the alliance

President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir

President Donald Trump meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 Summit in Hamburg on July 7, 2017. Credit: AP / Evan Vucci

That Helsink-ing feeling

President Donald Trump and Russia’s Vladimir Putin will hold their summit July 16 in Helsinki, Finland.

Question: Should America’s NATO allies be a little worried?

“Sometimes, our worst enemies are our so-called friends or allies,” Trump told a crowd in North Dakota Wednesday night, while blasting European trade policies.

Answer: Probably.

Trump hasn’t stopped taking jabs at Germany, France, Britain and Canada in particular, and not just about trade. He’s also disparaged migrant policies and military postures. About Putin, he has nothing bad to say.

A NATO summit is scheduled in Belgium before the Trump-Putin meeting, and The Los Angeles Times notes that allies fear it will go as poorly as the recent G-7 gathering — where Trump complained about Russia not being there, too.

Trump seemed to be digging back in Thursday on his periodic stand that the intelligence agencies’ conclusions about Russian election interference should be doubted.

“Russia continues to say they had nothing to do with Meddling in our Election!” tweeted Trump. He previously has remarked of Putin: “He said he didn’t meddle. ... I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it.”

Yet Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — who as CIA chief stood by the interference finding — said Wednesday he was “confident” Trump “will make clear that meddling in our elections is completely unacceptable.”

To borrow a Trumpism: We’ll see. For more on the summit plan, see Laura Figueroa Hernandez’s story for Newsday.

Street justice

Activists from both sides of the political spectrum are preparing to do battle over the conservative-to-be-nominated-soon by Trump to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

A few hundred Trump foes rallied outside the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday morning. “Everything we believe in is on the line,” they were told by Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, a public policy and advocacy group associated with the Democratic Party.

Carrie Severino, chief counsel of the conservative Judicial Confirmation Network, said she has activated a “large-scale effort” among her coalition partners to defend Trump’s call to confirm his nominee before the Nov. 6 midterm elections.

See Tom Brune’s story for Newsday.

Janison: Mitch made it happen

Trump can claim branding rights for the coming, more conservative Supreme Court lineup. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did the most to make it happen.

By refusing to take up Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland in his final year in office, McConnell created the opportunity to push the court rightward that any Republican president would have seized. Trump did his part by winning in 2016. See Dan Janison’s column for Newsday.

Elephants in the room

House Republicans tried to rebuke and embarrass the GOP-led Justice Department over special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein responded in kind.

“Whatever you got, finish it the hell up,” House Oversight Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) said sharply. “This country’s being torn apart.”

Rosenstein countered: “I think the best thing we can do is finish it appropriately and reach a conclusion,”

When Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) accused him of “keeping information from Congress,” the Justice official responded, “Your use of this to attack me personally is deeply wrong.”

As to Trump’s frequent Twitter blasts that Mueller’s team is led by “13 angry Democrats,” Rosenstein said, “I’m not a Democrat, and I’m not angry.”

A steel-trap mind

Touting his economic policies, Trump has twice said recently that U.S. Steel is building and expanding six new facilities.

But it’s not. A spokeswoman avoided directly contradicting the president, but pointed to announcements about restarting parts of an Illinois plant, The Washington Post reported.

On Thursday, Trump joined a groundbreaking for a $10 billion Foxconn Technology Group factory complex in Wisconsin. That was real.

But he repeated a falsehood he also told at a North Dakota rally the night before: that he was the first Republican to win Wisconsin since Dwight Eisenhower. Wrong: Richard Nixon won the state in 1960, 1968 and 1972, as did Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984.

Last days of Kelly?

Trump is shopping around for a new chief of staff, with John Kelly expected to leave the post as early as this summer, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Two front-runners for the job, the Journal’s sources said, are Nick Ayers, who serves as chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, and Mick Mulvaney, who heads the Office of Management and Budget, as well as serving as acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

What else is happening

  • Agents from ICE’s criminal investigative division — who conduct high-level probes for counterterrorism, narcotics enforcement and human trafficking — want to be made a separate agency because the backlash over deportations is costing them needed cooperation, The Washington Post reports.
  • Children as young as 3 are being sent alone into court for deportation proceedings, The Texas Tribune reports. While unaccompanied minors who entered illegally have faced the process before, the latest cases involve kids separated from parents.
  • Melania Trump traveled to Tucson, Arizona, Thursday for her second visit in a week to a detention facility holding immigrants in the country without documentation who had been arrested at the southern border.
  • Court documents revealed that indicted former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had much closer ties to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska than previously known, Politico reports. Deripaska, who also has ties to Putin, lent $10 million to a company owned by Manafort and his wife.
  • A lawsuit by Jared Kushner’s family company accuses Jersey City officials of anti-Trump political bias for canceling their development contract.
  • Trump said the 2020 version of his iconic red campaign hats may be green — “representing cash.”

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