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Opinion

Capitol Ink | MAGA Correction

By Robert Matson
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Eager for a win after his controversial summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, President Donald Trump on Wednesday took credit for an incumbent Republican’s primary victory.

Alabama Rep. Martha Roby easily won her Republican primary runoff Tuesday evening by 36 percentage points.

Her victory came after she initially clashed with the GOP president. For instance, in 2016 she announced she would not vote for candidate Trump after a video surfaced of him bragging about grabbing women by the genitals.

But the two sides worked to improve relations, and Trump eventually endorsed her in the GOP primary runoff race against former Rep. Bobby Bright, a Democrat-turned-Republican in the Yellowhammer State.

To be sure, Roby had plenty of help from outside groups to defeat Bright. That list included the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Winning for Women, a group backing Republican female candidates. But, according to Trump, it was his endorsement that propelled her to victory.

“My endorsement came appropriately late, but when it came the ‘flood gates’ opened and you had the kind of landslide victory that you deserve,” Trump wrote Wednesday. “Enjoy!”

Congratulations to Martha Roby of The Great State of Alabama on her big GOP Primary win for Congress. My endorsement came appropriately late, but when it came the “flood gates” opened and you had the kind of landslide victory that you deserve. Enjoy!

Roby will be a big favorite against Democratic business analyst Tabitha Isner in November’s general election. Trump carried the 2nd District, which stretches from the Montgomery metropolitan area to southeastern Alabama’s wiregrass region, by 32 points in 2016.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Republican.

— Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.

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Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan was named in a new class-action lawsuit regarding allegations of sexual abuse at Ohio State University.

The Republican congressman, who was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State from 1986 to 1994, is one of three former school officials named in the lawsuit, Rolling Stone reported, including former team physician Richard Strauss, who has been accused of sexually abusing male athletes over two decades. He died in 2005.

The lawsuit, filed in district court Tuesday on behalf of an unnamed former Ohio State wrestler, says school officials stood by while the athletes were repeatedly “sexually abused, harassed, and molested” and “forced” to seek treatment from Strauss. The unnamed plaintiff says he was abused by Strauss at least 20 times. 

The lawsuit cites the initial report from NBC News from other victims who said they told Jordan about the abuse but were ignored

Watch: Ryan Defends Jordan as ‘Man of Honesty and of Integrity’

While some former wrestlers have said Jordan knew or should have known about the abuse, others have disagreed. Fifteen former athletes issued statements on a website last week, defending him against the allegations. 

Four former Ohio State wrestlers filed a separate lawsuit Tuesday that said the school knew about Strauss’ abuse, but Jordan was not named in that lawsuit. 

So far, Jordan has insisted he did not know about the abuse and never had any abuse reported to him. He has received support from Speaker Paul D. Ryan and members of the the hard-line conservative House Freedom Caucus that he co-founded.

Jordan has said he will assist in the investigation by Ohio State in any way possible.

Ohio Rep. James B. Renacci, the Republican Senate nominee this year, defended Jordan in an email last week as “an honorable and good man who has a long record of speaking truth to power.”

“While there is no place in Congress for individuals who have engaged in acts of physical or sexual abuse in their past, no one has accused Jim Jordan of abuse and he’s made clear that if he had knowledge of the conduct taking place at Ohio State he would not have hesitated to address it,” Renacci said.

A spokeswoman for Renacci’s fall opponent, Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown, said the accusations should be taken seriously.

 “We owe it to any victims and their families to get the bottom of what happened and figure out who's responsible,” Jenny Donohue said in an email.

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At least two Republican senators are urging their colleagues to do what President Donald Trump was unwilling to do at his joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday: hold Russia accountable for interfering in the 2016 election and its hyper-aggressive foreign policy.

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake is working on a measure that would “reaffirm support for the intelligence community,” he said on “Good Morning America” on Tuesday.

The measure would be a resolution, not a bill, and would carry no legislative weight other than to act as an official Senate rebuke to the president for siding with Putin over his intelligence agencies.

On Tuesday, Trump tried to walk back a comment he made at the Helsinki news conference where he said he saw “no reason to believe" Russia hacked the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2016.

The president told reporters at a White House meeting with GOP members of the House Ways and Means Committee that he has “full faith” in America’s intel apparatus.

Flake’s resolution would also call for “some kind of hearing or briefing by those involved” in the two-hour, one-on-one meeting between Trump and Putin in Helsinki “to try to find out what happened in that private meeting,” Flake said.

Senators could not enforce such a summons through a resolution.

Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado — who was widely panned by critics for not addressing the Helsinki summit or mentioning Trump by name in a statement after the press conference Monday — re-upped his calls for the Senate to force the State Department to determine whether Russia is a state sponsor of terrorism under U.S. law.

“I believe Russia is a state sponsor of terror,” Gardner said in his statement, “and I’ve introduced legislation that would mandate the State Department to determine whether Russia merits this designation, along with their allies Iran and Syria that are already designated.”

Gardner proposed a bill in April that would give the State Department 90 days to determine whether Russia's actions constitute such a label.

Countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism incur a number of penalties, including “restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports and sales; certain controls over exports of dual use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions,” according to the State Department.

Sen. Marco Rubio delivered a floor speech Tuesday renewing efforts to garner support for his bipartisan legislation that outlines immediate sanctions for any country that the director of national intelligence concludes interfered in a U.S. election.

“The only thing that Vladimir Putin understands is deterrence,” Rubio said.

“What the DETER Act does is it says, here is a list of sanctions, and these sanctions will go into effect immediately if the Director of National Intelligence, after intelligence assessment, determines that Russia is once again interfering in our elections,” Rubio said. “Before [Putin] even does it, he has a very clear understanding of what the price is going to be.”

Senate Majority Mitch McConnell has not indicated he will schedule a vote on Rubio’s bill, introduced alongside Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

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Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar has endorsed Kelli Ward over fellow Arizona Rep. Martha McSally ahead of the state’s Republican primary next month.

Gosar criticized McSally in his announcement, saying “we cannot afford another establishment patsy who promises one thing and votes differently,” AZCentral reported.

Gosar said while he liked McSally personally, he found her to be “inconsistent politically.”

“None of us can count on Martha keeping a campaign promise as she will fall for whatever the D.C. elite tells her to do at the time. I have seen that firsthand,” he said.

McSally’s spokeswoman Torunn Sinclair criticized Gosar's voting record, saying she supported President Donald Trump's agenda more than Gosar did.

“The fact is Congresswoman McSally votes with the president 97 percent of the time while Congressman Gosar only votes with the president 77 percent of the time,” Sinclair said. “If he voted with the president as much as Martha, we could accomplish even more for Arizonans.”

Ward and McSally are competing against each other along with former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for the Republican nomination for Arizona’s senate seat. Sen. Jeff Flake is retiring in 2019.

Ward also has the backing of former White House political strategist and Breitbart executive Steve Bannon and Republican megadonor Robert Mercer, who contributed $500,000 to a super PAC supporting Ward, Politico reported Monday.

Some in the Republican establishment fear a Ward win would lessen the chances of the GOP keeping the seat. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is the front-runner in the Democratic primary.

Polls have shown McSally leading the Republican race ahead of Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

A member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Gosar is also known for pulling ostentatious stunts and making xenophobic remarks.

During this year’s State of the Union, Gosar asked Capitol Police to arrest “illegal aliens” since many Democrats invited undocumented immigrants to the address.

Over the weekend, Gosar traveled to London for a rally to support Tommy Robinson, a far-right activist who has frequently made divisive and inflammatory remarks about Islam.

Gosar criticized “disgusting and depraved individuals” who commit acts of sexual violence from Muslim communities, Phoenix New Times reported.

“We know these men come from commonly Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Muslim backgrounds,” the newspaper reported Gosar.

Correction 2:37 pm.| A previous version of this story misstated Sinclair's employer.

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Alabama Rep. Martha Roby survived her Republican primary runoff Tuesday night, rebounding from her sharp criticism of President Donald Trump in 2016 that sparked several challenges this year. 

With 47 percent of precincts reporting, Roby led with 67 percent of the vote to 33 percent for party-switching former Rep. Bobby Bright, when The Associated Press called the 2nd District race. 

Bright, who served a term in Congress as a Democrat before losing to Roby in 2010,  took heat for previously voting for Nancy Pelosi for speaker.

Roby had originally looked in danger of losing in the primary after she drew several GOP challengers. She sparked a backlash from Alabama Republicans in 2016 after she joined a slew of GOP lawmakers in declaring she would not vote for Trump after the leak of the Access Hollywood tape, in which the GOP candidate bragged about grabbing women by the genitals. 

She won a fourth term that fall by just 9 points, with a last-minute anti-Roby write-in campaign taking 11 percent of the vote.

After careful efforts to improve her working relationship with the White House and to remind voters of her conservative credentials, Roby won Trump’s endorsement last month. But it didn’t come until after after she was forced into the runoff, following her failure to win a majority of the GOP primary vote on June 5.

Roby did have some help from outside groups in her race against Bright. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was up on television supporting her. Winning for Women, a group backing Republican female candidates, also invested in digital ads on her behalf.

Roby will be the heavy favorite in the fall against Democratic business analyst Tabitha Isner. Trump carried the 2nd District, which stretches from the Montgomery metropolitan area to southeastern Alabama’s wiregrass region,  by 32 points in 2016.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Solid Republican.

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House Republican leaders have scheduled a Thursday vote on an anti-carbon tax resolution in hopes of putting vulnerable Democrats on record in favor of the tax, but they’re going to put some of their own members in a tough spot too.

“I’m voting against that,” Florida GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo, said of the resolution, which expresses the sense of Congress that “a carbon tax would be detrimental to American families and businesses, and is not in the best interest of the United States.”

Curbelo voted to support a similar resolution the House adopted in 2016. No Republicans voted against it at the time, but six Democrats joined the GOP in passing the resolution 237-163.

Roll Call includes Curbelo on its list of the 10 most vulnerable House Republicans. Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales rates his race Tilt Republican.

Curbelo has drafted legislation he plans to introduce soon that would halt federal regulations on climate change in exchange for an escalating tax on carbon emissions, according to E&E News.

Whether Curbelo will be the lone Republican “no” vote on Thursday remains to be seen, but he’s hoping that other members of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus he co-chairs with Florida Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch vote against the anti-carbon tax resolution too.

The Climate Solution Caucus has 84 members, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. The group’s mission is to “educate members on economically-viable options to reduce climate risk and to explore bipartisan policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate.”

Deutch issued a statement Tuesday urging the caucus to vote against the resolution, which is authored by Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana. “This is an important moment for the Climate Solutions Caucus to show the American people that Democrats and Republicans can stand together against anti-climate efforts,” he said. “It is the very mission of the caucus to explore all viable options to address the growing threat of climate change.”

Deutch also took a dig at Scalise, saying, “When a climate denier who represents the oil industry tries to squash even a discussion about a possible strategy for curbing emissions, my caucus colleagues must rise above politics and do what’s right.”

The Climate Solutions Caucus is unlikely to be united in support of a carbon tax. Most House Republicans have taken pledges upon being elected to Congress promising not to impose new taxes.

Scalise admitted Tuesday that the point of the vote was to have everyone on record on the issue.

“There are still people talking about trying to impose a carbon tax, which would be devastating to our manufacturing economy, one of the great bright spots we see in our economy, where we’re bringing jobs back to America, rebuilding our middle class,” he said. “A carbon tax would destroy that.”

Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer called the anti-carbon tax resolution a “political effort” designed to help Scalise, who is considered a potential candidate to replace Speaker Paul D. Ryan.

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Lawmakers and media personalities from both parties roundly criticized President Donald Trump’s performance at a joint press conference Monday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But some House conservatives, who remained mostly silent immediately after that meeting, have managed to extract at least one silver lining from the Helsinki summit: At least there was one.

“The good news is there was a summit,” Rep. Warren Davidson of Ohio said Tuesday at a panel on Capitol Hill with other House Republicans, including members of the hard-line conservative Freedom Caucus.

Davidson emphasized that Trump’s meeting with Putin “is consistent with efforts under George W. Bush and Barack Obama” to engage the mercurial Russian leader one-on-one and build a working relationship with him.

“Putin’s been in power for a long time in Russia, and … he’s been an adversary of the United States that entire time,” Davidson said. “I think it was good for the president to be engaged in diplomacy.”

The Republicans on the panel attempted to minimize the importance of the Trump-Putin press conference, which current and former GOP lawmakers have variously referred to as “shameful,” “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory,” and “the most serious mistake of his presidency.”

Watch: Next to Putin, Trump Defies U.S. Intel on Russian Election Interference

Despite numerous prompts from reporters, none of the GOP panelists could bring themselves to criticize Trump for his comments refuting the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that Russia engaged in an extensive influence campaign in the 2016 election and siding with Putin as the Russian president denied that the Kremlin issued any such directives.

“I don’t see any reason why it would be” Russia that hacked the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2016, Trump said, standing mere feet from Putin.

But the House Republicans on the panel didn’t exactly give Trump’s performance at the press conference a resounding endorsement either.

“I think anyone who watched that press conference, including the president himself, would say that was not his finest hour,” Davidson said. “I don’t think anyone in the Freedom Caucus is going to say, ‘Hey, we thought that was an amazing press conference.’”

“But we support the fact that the president was there on the stage having the press conference and having the dialogue,” the congressman added. “He’s brought us to the point where we have a chance to make this a better path.”

House conservatives urged reporters to look beyond Trump’s press conference and highlight what they see as the president’s foreign policy wins in the U.S.-Russia sphere: negotiating a joint pullout of operations in Syria once the Islamic State militants have been eradicated there; imposing sanctions on Russian oligarchs connected to Putin; and ousting 60 Russian officials in the wake of a nerve agent attack against a double agent and his daughter in the United Kingdom.

“There’s times when foreign policy sounds bad and works good and there are times when it sounds good and works poorly,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows of North Carolina said. “I’d rather have the first than the latter.”

House conservatives, unlike some of the more moderate members of their conference and the Democrats, do not think Trump has fallen for Putin’s sway of personality, despite his apparent affinity for the Russian president.

“This president is great at reading people — he knows that Mr. Putin is not a choir boy,” South Carolina Rep. Ralph Norman said. “[Putin] will do whatever he can to advance Russia.”

Trump met Tuesday with a handful of House Republicans  to talk about taxes, but he was expected to address his time in Helsinki as well.

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Nineteen members of Congress spoke Tuesday against the Commerce Department’s tariffs on Canadian newsprint, telling the U.S. International Trade Commission the import tax hurt local newspapers.

The bipartisan group of legislators asked the ITC to reverse tariffs the Commerce Department imposed on Canadian newsprint imports. Opponents of the tariffs say they would deal a major blow to local newspapers, which already struggle to stay afloat, by increasing the cost of newsprint.

The tariffs already substantially increase the cost of newsprint, leading newspapers to shrink the size of their pages and plan for job cuts in response, the lawmakers said. The tariffs would hasten the decline of local news, they said, harming journalists and communities served by small local publications rather than major newspapers.

“In these communities, there are no big newspapers to bring people their local news,” said Rep. John Moolenaar, a Republican from Michigan. “These tariffs, if continued, would do lasting damage to these local institutions.”

The Commerce Department imposed tariffs in March on Canadian newsprint or uncoated groundwood paper. The department’s action came after the North Pacific Paper Company, a mill in Washington state, complained that Canadian manufacturers were harming their business by selling newsprint at non-competitive prices. The ITC held today’s hearing while it reviews the tariffs.

Tariffs have been a point of friction between the Trump administration and Congress, including some Republicans, who traditionally favor free trade with minimal government interference.

At Tuesday’s hearing, legislators said the news media’s shift to digital platforms is chiefly responsible for declining business for paper mills, not the cost of Canadian groundwood paper. The tariffs may create some jobs at North Pacific Paper Company, but would cause lost jobs across the country, lawmakers said.

Speakers against the tariffs included House Republican Conference chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Alaska and Democratic Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. The group comprised 13 Republicans, five Democrats and independent Maine Sen. Angus King.

Collins was the first to raise the issue in Congress. Several of the testifying lawmakers noted it is unusual to find agreement across the aisle on economic matters.

A representative for the North Pacific Paper Company, the petitioner for the tariffs, said the tariffs have allowed paper mills to ramp up production and re-hire American workers.

But King said the tariff on newsprint is a cure “worse than the disease,” and asked the commissioners to think of the issue as the local newspapers “that will be one inch smaller next year.”

Lawmakers noted the issue of tariff-driven cost increases are particularly sensitive in the newspaper business, given the impact on independent journalism.

“The freedom of the press is one of the central tenets of the First Amendment,” Rep. Brian Higgins, D-N.Y., said.

The publishing industries employ about 600,000 people in the United States, according to Stop Tariffs on Printers & Publishers, a group of companies in the printing and publishing industry leading the charge against the newsprint tariffs.

The group says 11,000 people from all 50 states have signed a petition against the tariffs, and more than 80 members of Congress, including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, have raised concerns.

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What’s the quickest way to find out whether the House is in session? What committee hearings are scheduled? The name of a district’s congressional representative?

Soon, you might be able to ask Alexa.

A project in the House Clerk’s office would make it as easy to get information about Congress from a voice-activated smart speaker as it is to ask about the weather.

“This data should be usable and user-friendly,” said Sean Conaghan, a clerk’s office employee who demonstrated a pilot program Thursday at a conference devoted to data transparency in Congress.

The clerk’s office already stockpiles information on the internet, but much of it is in formats like JSON and XML that are not in general use. “We were thinking, how could we make this more publicly available and of more interest to the public?” he said.

Also watch: Trump Says He ‘Misspoke’ on Russian Election Meddling

Conaghan said the project started as a joke among colleagues. Wouldn’t it be great, they thought, if they could find out whether they could wear jeans to work — frowned upon when Congress is in session — as they hit their snooze buttons in the morning.  

Turns out, a lot of people thought the same thing. A version he and his co-workers created as an internal team-building exercise has sparked interest among other offices, bringing with it the possibility that the project might expand and eventually be introduced to the public on an array of platforms including the popular Amazon service, he said. 

Conaghan demonstrated the potential from the podium.

He asked his device, “Alexa, ask US House, is the House in session today.” The anodyne, female voice responded: “the House is currently in session. The last action is, the speaker announced that the House will now recess.” And the crowd of about 100 burst into enthusiastic applause.

Granted, these were people who had signed up for eight hours of presentations about “how agencies use technology well and how they can use it better in the future.”

But Conaghan said he was soliciting ideas for features that would make the program useful for a wider audience.

Such an embrace of new technology would be unusual on the Hill, but it’s not unheard of.  Another decision in the House — the post-9-11 distribution of BlackBerries to all member offices — is widely considered to have sparked the smartphone revolution in Washington.

Whether the Alexa project will become such a game-changer remains to be seen, but there is a clear market. More than 43 million people in the United States own a smart speaker, according to NPR’s smart audio report—a count that may soon eclipse the number of people who could name their local representative.

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The chairman of the House Agriculture Committee said Tuesday that public pressure in support of expanded work requirements for food stamp recipients could help move Senate negotiators on the 2018 farm bill toward accepting the House legislation.

“I need 70 percent of Democrats in this world who believe work requirements are a proper thing and 90 percent of Republicans in this world who believe work requirements are a proper thing to tell their senator, ‘Hey, that work requirement makes a lot of sense,’” Agriculture Chairman K. Michael Conaway told the audience at an Axios forum.

The Texas Republican said he is ready to go to conference on the farm bill with the Senate soon. The schedule for voting on a motion to go to conference is shifting, he said, because ranking member Collin C. Peterson has to be in his district on Thursday. The vote could take place Wednesday or be delayed until July 23, Conaway said.

The vote on the motion would be to reject Senate changes to the House bill and request negotiations to develop a compromise bill. The goal is to produce a final bill that sets policies for farm, conservation, crop insurance, rural development and other programs before the current farm law expires Sept. 30.

Once the House votes to start negotiations, Conaway said the Senate is expected to respond quickly and agree to the motion. Each chamber would then name conferees, but Conaway, Peterson and their Senate counterparts, Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts and ranking member Debbie Stabenow, are expected to be the primary negotiators.

The Senate version of the farm bill, however, does not include new work requirements. Many states already have work requirements, Roberts and Stabenow said during a CQ on Congress podcast last week.

“The House bill takes $8 billion and sends it to the states,” Roberts said. “I don’t know who is going to implement this. I don’t know who in the Department of Agriculture has the capability to send that money out to states. ... Who is going to conduct the job training?”

[Listen: Two Senators on How They Got a Bipartisan Farm Bill]

In light of the ongoing trade disputes that are threatening U.S. exports, a new farm bill would provide anxious farmers and ranchers with a safety net, Roberts added. “Any other issue that comes up ... that has to come secondary to our overall mission, which is again to provide our farmers predictability and certainty.”

Roberts and Conaway agree that getting the farm bill done by September is important to provide a sense of stability to farmers.

The most sharply contested difference between the House and Senate farm bill versions is the treatment of work requirements under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program.

In the CQ on Congress podcast interview, Roberts and Stabenow said they believe they have found a pragmatic and workable approach to SNAP.

The Senate bill keeps the current 20-hour work requirements for able-bodied adults and would incorporate findings from 10 state demonstration projects that are trying to incorporate work and education requirements for working-age adults. The bill would fund an additional eight state pilot projects that focus on SNAP recipients with problems finding work.

The legislation would make it easier for state agencies to work with the private sector in training SNAP recipients for jobs. It would also end a bonus program that rewarded states with low error rates in benefit payments because of Justice Department concerns that several states manipulated data to collect rewards.

The House bill would expand work requirements to able-bodied adults ages 18 to 59 so that they keep their food benefits, requiring at least 20 hours a week of work that would be increased to 25 hours a week. The legislation also would tighten eligibility requirements, change the way monthly benefits are calculated and shift billions of dollars from food benefits into funding for state SNAP job-training and education programs.

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Opinion

Capitol Ink | Under The Trump Bus

By Robert Matson
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Ahead of a potential wave election, few House Democrats have declared their interest in running for specific leadership positions. But more than a dozen are keeping their options open as the caucus members consider how much change they wants to see in their top ranks next Congress.

The number of potential Democratic leadership contenders has ballooned since Caucus Chairman Joseph Crowley lost his primary in New York’s 14th District late last month. His leadership position is the only one guaranteed to be open for the next Congress, but his loss has also raised questions about who can usher in the next generation of Democratic leaders

If Democrats retake the majority, their top six leadership positions would be speaker, majority leader, majority whip, assistant leader, caucus chair and caucus vice chair. In the minority, they would have equivalent positions except for speaker. 

Other leadership positions Democrats could run for include Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair, one of three Democratic Policy and Communications Committee co-chairs and a post reserved for a member who’s been in Congress for five terms or less. 

ICYMI: Pelosi Praises Crowley and His Concession Following Primary Defeat

Democrats are expected to hold their leadership elections sometime after Thanksgiving. 

The following is a list of members who have either said they’re considering running for leadership or have left open the possibility that they might. It will be updated on a rolling basis.

The first female speaker said she intends to seek the gavel again if Democrats retake the House in November. 

“We will win. I will run for speaker. I feel confident about it. And my members do, too,” the California Democrat said during a Boston Globe editorial meeting May 1

Pelosi, who has been minority leader since 2011 and the top-ranking House Democrat since 2003, has not indicated what she would do if Democrats fail to win the majority, choosing instead to project confidence that the midterm results will favor her party.

If Pelosi were to reconsider her decision to run for speaker or otherwise falter in that quest, Hoyer will undoubtedly run to succeed her.

“Of course, you know that,” the Maryland Democrat said in an April interview. “The fact of the matter is we’re focused, as you know, on taking back the majority. … I think we’re going to take back the majority, then we’ll worry about what we’re going to do with it — see what everybody’s doing.”

Behind the scenes, Hoyer has been pitching himself as someone who could serve as a “bridge” speaker, helping the caucus transition to a new generation of leaders.

While Hoyer is not expected to challenge Pelosi, he did not explicitly rule it out when asked during that same April interview. Instead, he dodged the question, saying, “We’re focused on winning back the majority.”

If Hoyer doesn’t run for speaker, he is expected to run for majority leader.

The assistant Democratic leader is also considered a potential candidate for speaker should for some reason it not be Pelosi. Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus have approached the South Carolina Democrat recently, saying he could be a bridge speaker.

Clyburn has suggested he is open to that, although he’s said he definitely would not challenge Pelosi. 

“I’m hoping to do anything the Congressional Black Caucus thinks is in the best interest of the caucus,” he said July 11. 

If Clyburn doesn’t run for speaker, he would probably run for majority whip, unless he decided to challenge Hoyer for the No. 2 spot.

The Ohio Democrat ran against Pelosi for caucus leader in 2016 and is considering challenging her again, potentially this time for speaker. 

“I think there are a lot of people talking now, a lot of people thinking about it, which, you know, I’m one of them,” Ryan said in an interview July 10.

Ryan had previously said he would not challenge Pelosi again but said he has reconsidered since Crowley’s loss. 

“A lot of us who were friends with him thought that he had a lot of support moving forward,” he said.

“The people are clamoring for new leadership, and we need it,” Ryan added. “And so I think it’s important that we give them it, we give them what they want.”

The current vice chairwoman of the Democratic Caucus has suggested she could run for Crowley’s post, but she’s not ready to definitively declare a bid. 

“I think I’d do a good job as chair of the caucus, but I am not prepared to make a decision,” the California Democrat told reporters July 11. “I’m still talking with colleagues among the caucus.”

Sánchez said she doesn’t have a timeline for making a decision.

The California Democrat has made clear her interest in running for caucus chair. She is still talking to colleagues about it and does not have a timeline for making a final decision. 

“I don’t want to make any decisions unless it seems like I could win,” Lee said in an interview July 6. 

Lee ran against Sánchez for vice chair in 2016 and lost by two votes.

Swalwell is the third California Democrat potentially interested in running for caucus chair. He told the Los Angles Times that is something he would consider after November

“Those are decisions I hope to be able to make in the majority,” said Swalwell, who currently co-chairs the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee that doles out committee assignments. The Steering co-chairs have traditionally been nominated by the Democratic leader, with the full caucus then affirming the choice.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman is the member with the most visible role in trying to help Democrats retake the House, so if they’re successful, he will be in a good position to move up the ranks.

The New Mexico Democrat said colleagues have encouraged him to remain involved in leadership next year but he avoided questions about specific positions he might be interested in.

“We’re all open to seeing how we can be open to being part of a strong majority if we’re fortunate enough to be in that position,” Luján said July 11.

The House Intelligence ranking member said he “certainly” would be interested in being chairman of that panel if Democrats retake the majority, but he seemed to leave the door open to other possibilities as well. 

“I’m a team player,” the California Democrat said July 11. “And right now, I think all of us should be spending more time making sure this is not an academic discussion.”

Typically, leaders in the top posts give up their committee posts to focus on their leadership duties. Both committee and leadership posts involve fundraising and some travel to help get others elected.

“I want to be in the majority, and so I’m traveling the country, doing everything I can to help our candidates and don’t think too much beyond that,” Schiff said. 

The Illinois Democrat wouldn’t say whether she plans to run for anything, but she did note the importance of having geographic diversity in leadership. 

Bustos, one of the three DPCC co-chairs, pointed out that she’s the only member of leadership now who is from the Midwest and from a district President Donald Trump carried.

“Where we need more Democrats is in these districts that are a little tougher to navigate,” she said June 27. “I think it’s very important that we don’t lose sight of that.”

Jeffries, another DPCC co-chair, is more focused on midterm messaging but acknowledged that some colleagues have approached him to talk about running for leadership. 

“I think there are several of us who have been engaged in conversations, and certainly people have reached out to me and others just to talk generally about the future of the House Democratic Caucus,” the New York Democrat said July 11.

Jeffries said there’s not a specific position he’s eyeing at this time. 

The Congressional Black Caucus chairman isn’t ruling anything out but said he has no interest in talking about leadership races now.

“The fact that Dems are talking about leadership is just premature, and it means that we’re not talking about the issues that matter so we can get to 218,” the Louisiana Democrat said July 11. 

“Does everybody and their grandmother want to be in leadership? Probably,” Richmond added. “But the question is would everybody pursue it. I don’t know. Right now it’s just not a priority.”

The Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chairman said it’s important progressives be more represented in leadership next year, and he has not ruled out running for something himself. 

“I think we’re going to talk to lots of progressives to see who has interest,” the Wisconsin Democrat said June 27.

The Ohio Democrat said people have asked her what she wants to do and she has not defined anything or closed any doors.

“If we take back [the House], there will be a lot of room for leadership,” Beatty said July 13. “And I’m not saying ‘no’ or ‘yes’ at this time. I’m honored that colleagues and people have thought about me.”

Beatty said she is not currently looking at any specific positions, but she said she would not run for the top two positions, nor would she run against Lee if she runs for caucus chair. 

“What I can tell you is we will be lockstep as a Congressional Black Caucus in all our votes,” she said.

The Colorado Democrat is considering running for whip, and according to National Journal, she has begun asking her colleagues for support in that quest.

DeGette declined to comment for the Journal story, saying only that she was focused on winning the House in November. She is one of the Democrats’ chief deputy whips, an appointed position. 

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Executives from the world’s top social media companies tried to reassure Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday that their platforms do not censor or control conservative content and commentary, contrary to assertions by some lawmakers about the companies’ practices.

While social media companies such as Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter have been removing false accounts, fake ads, and banning foreign government-owned propaganda outlets, lawmakers said some of them also have been restricting conservative content.

There are “numerous stories in the news of content that’s still being unfairly restricted,” Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said in his opening remarks at the hearing to examine the content filtering practices of social media companies. “For example, Facebook automatically blocked a post from a Texas newspaper that it claimed contained hate speech” when in fact the newspaper had published the Declaration of Independence just before Independence Day on July 4, Goodlatte said.

In a committee hearing held in April to examine the same topic, Goodlatte said that while social media companies were “exercising great care and discretion to ensure that their services are not abused,” there is a “fine line between removing illegal activity and suppressing free speech.”

Goodlatte and other Republicans on the panel at Tuesday’s hearing also pushed company executives to say why content on their platforms cannot be considered as publishing or broadcasting and therefore subject to rules that apply to television and other broadcasting platforms.

Laws, including Sec. 230 of the Telecommunications Communications Act (PL 104-104) that says providers of internet services shall not be treated as publishers, may need to be reexamined, Goodlatte said. And operators of social media platforms need to “do a better job explaining how they make decisions to filter content and the rationale for why they do so,” he said.

Company executives said they use a combination of advanced artificial intelligence-based technologies and human operators to monitor and filter content that may violate company rules.

“Our policies do not target particular political beliefs,” Jennifer Downs, director of public policy and government relations at YouTube told the committee. “To determine when videos should be removed, demonetized, or age restricted, we look at the context, including whether content is clearly documentary, educational, or satirical.”

At Facebook, which has hired thousands of fact checkers, “discussing controversial topics or espousing a debated point of view is not at odds with our community standards,” said Monika Bickert, the company’s vice president for global policy told the committee.

Twitter, which has been removing hundreds of thousands of fake accounts and bots operated by Russian troll factories, is making sure legitimate voices can be heard, Nick Pickles, senior strategist at Twitter told the committee.

“Due to technology and process improvements during the past year, we are now removing 214 percent more accounts for violating our spam policies on a year-on-year basis,” Pickles said. “At the same time, the average number of spam reports we received through our reporting flow continued to drop — from an average of approximately 25,000 per day in March, to approximately 17,000 per day in May. We’ve also seen a 10 percent drop in spam reports from search as a result of our recent changes.”

Democrats on the committee said Republicans should be more concerned about President Donald Trump’s comments at the news conference in Helsinki where he backed Russian President Vladimir Putin while challenging U.S. intelligence agency assessments that the Kremlin had interfered in the 2016 election.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the top Democrat on the panel, offered a motion that the committee hold a closed door hearing to examine evidence from Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s latest indictment in light of Trump’s dismissal of U.S. intelligence findings. But the motion was rejected 10-12 on a party line vote.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said the hearing was “motivated by a sense of persecution by Republicans and conservatives, when they have a majority” in Congress, and won the White House. Lofgren cited analysis that showed conservative views have three times more user engagement on social media platforms than liberal views. She said Republicans have not provided any evidence of bias against conservative views on social media platforms.

Nevertheless, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said Google’s practice of scraping information from sites like Wikipedia and others and offering it up to users searching for information, instead of just providing links, means that Google and others could be made responsible for content on their platform and should be subject “to litigation under the standards of care that other media are held to.”

Facebook’s Bickert and YouTube’s Downs said that the protection offered to internet and online companies under current law is essential and has enabled their companies and others to thrive. Both of them said that social media companies only enable content created by users to be disseminated through their platforms.

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Following outcry from Republicans and Democrats over his remarks at the Helsinki summit, President Donald Trump told reporters on Tuesday he has “full faith” in U.S. intelligence agencies and that he “misspoke” when saying he didn’t think Russia interfered in the 2016 elections.

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Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison wants Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to ask about the website’s sale of white nationalist propaganda and toys.

Ellison, who is running for Minnesota attorney general, sent a letter to Bezos asking about the sale of literature published by organizations billed as “hate groups” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“I would like to know whether Amazon is committed to ceasing the sale of all products that promote hateful and racist ideologies,” Ellison’s letter said.

Despite Amazon’s policy of prohibiting the sale of “products that promote or glorify hatred, violence, racial, sexual, or religious intolerance or promote organizations with such views,” there was a “shocking” amount of SPLC designated hate groups using Amazon, Ellison said.

The letter cited a study from the Action Center on Race and the Economy and the Partnership for Working Families that found Amazon was selling baby onesies, toys and Halloween costumes with Nazi, anti-Semitic and white nationalist imagery.

Amazon has plenty of white supremacist literature for sale both in hard copy and e-book format, Ellison’s letter said.

“I am alarmed that hate groups can make money by selling propaganda on Amazon, and that Amazon is able to profit from these transactions,” he said.

Among the questions in the letter, Ellison said he wanted to know how much Kindle Direct Publishing made from the sale of “SPLC-identified hate groups since 2015,” how Amazon will enforce its policies and whether Amazon will destroy merchandise with hate symbols.

Before They Were Lawmakers: Unexpected Careers of Some Senators and Representatives

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Speaker Paul D. Ryan told reporters Tuesday he stands by the United States’ NATO allies and “all those countries facing Russian aggression.”

"Vladimir Putin does not share our interests; Vladimir Putin does not share our values," Ryan said a day after President Donald Trump met with the Russian president in Helsinki.

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Heard on the Hill

Lawmakers Drop the D-Word After Trump and Putin Meet

By Maria Mendez
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