To Helsinki and back

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On the roster: To Helsinki and back - Time Out: ‘Raise somebody else up with you’ - Scott brings in $22M in first fundraising quarter - Van Hollen, Rubio Russia sanctions bill gains support - Hellooo!?!?

TO HELSINKI AND BACK 
Well, now that was a week. Woosh! After seven days of gorging on news like hungry stoners at the all-you-can-eat buffet, perhaps some small plates are in order. With that in mind, here are a few nibbles to savor over the weekend. 

Remember, summer is one-third of the way over as of today, so make sure you’re going slowly enough to enjoy it all – festina lente! 

Lordy, there are tapes. President Trump’s former fixer, Michael Cohen, secretly recorded at least one conversation with then-candidate Trump about how to arrange a payment of hush money to a former nude model, Karen McDougal. Theories abound as to whether it was the Trump or Cohen legal team that leaked the two-minute clip to the NYT. One of Trump’s lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, claims it vindicates his client’s claim that he never paid McDougal or sex worker Stormy Daniels for their silence. As a political matter, the tape is something of a fizzle since Trump is far past the point of shocking the consciences of his supporters by word of his satyrism. As a legal matter, though, it becomes more interesting. If a candidate used a secret slush fund to prevent damaging revelations from emerging during a campaign, he or she would be committing a crime. 

- Does anyone think this was the first or only time Cohen hit the “rec” button on Trump? If it wasn’t, prosecutors have probably had some very interesting listening sessions since the Cohen raid.  

- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s blockade of Judge Merrick Garland’s 2016 Supreme Court nomination was a big motivator for hold-your-nose Trump voters. Now, McConnell has put Democrats on notice that if they don’t pick up the pace on Trump’s second nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, McConnell will hold the vote over until just before the midterm election and then jam it through before voters decide. The argument is that Democrats will be kept off the campaign trail in the fall and then suffer a depressing blow just before voters decide. Maybe… But early voting is becoming the norm, and Democrats would probably love to have ongoing hearings as the backdrop for GOTV. It’s also possible that the Democratic response would be rage rather than deflation. The other danger is that if there’s a hiccup, the seat might be open on Election Day. If the GOP lost in a Senate race contested over a Supreme Court seat, a lame duck confirmation would be a bad look and bad precedent. 

Buuutttt… The campaign trail threat is the most real for the handful of Democrats who are likely to end up voting for Kavanaugh anyway. This threat may work as a pry bar to get them to put the pressure on Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.   

- Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, wrote a tough op-ed about the president’s vassalage in Helsinki and subsequent incoherence on Russia. Hurd, a former undercover CIA operative, sates plainly that Trump is being “manipulated” by Russian intelligence. It’s an important piece, yes, but the response is perhaps more interesting. If Democrats are sincere in wanting to create a bulwark against Trump’s accommodations of Vladimir Putin, they would focus on finding Republican allies on that count. Those that decry Republicans who oppose Trump on Russia but still support normal conservative initiatives backed by the White House show themselves to be insincere in their outrage. If you want the president impeached, that’s fine. But Trump’s Russia problem doesn’t sound like a very good argument for Republicans to oppose a Supreme Court nominee, etc.

- Matthew Continetti offers a useful reminder today that arguments over the size, scope and value of NATO are hardly anything new. And unlike some of his fellow supporters of the mutual-defense pact, Continetti takes the trouble to actually make the argument in favor of Western nations having an all-for-one-one-for-all arrangement. He keys in on the part of NATO that its proponents are usually to uncomfortable to make: America is an empire without subjects and our power in the world is the guarantor of peace. As James Brown said, you’ve got to pay the cost to be the boss. The other bosses on offer just now do not look so appealing. Unlike the empire that birthed our nation, there is no one to provide a soft landing for America if we choose decline as Britain once did.

- We don’t know whether to congratulate or condole Charlotte for having been picked to host the 2020 Republican National Convention. Given the current barbarism in politics, we are certain that both parties will see major civil unrest during the conventions. Charlotte has experience from the DNC in 2012, but our guess is that this cycle will bring more malign actors to the fore. But, on the other hand: Barbeque. Also, please credit Brianna McClelland with all future uses of the phrase “Char-LIT 2020!”

- In light of President Trump’s attacks on the anti-inflation measures underway at the Federal Reserve, James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute offers a brief and useful history of presidential interference in the policies of the central bank, including the browbeating ways of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. His verdict: do not sock it to the Fed.

- The parallels between our moment and the civic meltdown of the summer of 1968 are obvious to anyone. The situation then was far direr, but the rhythms are the same. What happened in America 50 years ago was turbulent, heartbreaking and left scars we still live with today. But just one year later, our nation achieved one of its crowning triumphs: We sent men to the moon and returned them safely home. And it was on this day in 1969 that we showed the world what Americans united in common purpose can do anything.

Today, our dear friend Judge Andrew Napolitano lost his father, Andrew Alexander Napolitano, devoted husband and father and Navy veteran of World War II. “Andy” was 92 and truly had a life well lived. He is survived by his wife of 70 years, Rita, their three sons, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Remember him and his family in your prayers, if you are the praying kind. And even if you’re not, it’s a great excuse to shower some love on the people who made you who you are. R.I.P.

THE RULEBOOK: ALL THE FEELS
“Every unbiased observer may infer, without danger of mistake, and at the same time without meaning to reflect on either party, or any individuals of either party, that, unfortunately, PASSION, not REASON, must have presided over their decisions.” –Alexander Hamilton or James MadisonFederalist No. 50

TIME OUT: ‘RAISE SOMEBODY ELSE UP WITH YOU’ 
Garden & Gun: “As the proclaimed Queen of Creole Cuisine, Leah Chase reigns at Dooky Chase’s, the seventy-seven-year-old New Orleans restaurant where the famous (Mahalia JacksonBeyoncé, several presidents) and the familiar (her neighbors in Tremé who have eaten there for decades) come to dine and pay homage. But Chase is more than the sum of her gumbo and fried chicken—she embodies the city and its history. During the segregated civil rights era, Dooky Chase’s was one of the few public places in New Orleans where activists such as the Freedom Riders and Martin Luther King, Jr., could meet with people of other races. ‘You did things back in those days and you didn’t consider yourself changing anything,’ Chase says. Now, at age ninety-five—after earning just about every honor possible, including the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America, and the Southern Foodways Alliance’s lifetime achievement award—she can still be found in the kitchen at Dooky Chase’s every day.”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
42.2 percent 
Average disapproval: 
51.8 percent 
Net Score:
 -9.6 points
Change from one week ago: 
up 1.2 points
[Average includes: Gallup: 43% approve - 52% disapprove; Fox News: 46% approve - 51% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 40% approve - 55% disapprove; IBD: 41% approve - 54% disapprove; CNBC: 41% approve - 47% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 
40.4 percent
Democratic average: 48.2 percent
Advantage: 
Democrats plus 7.8 points
Change from one week ago: 
no change 
[Average includes: Fox News: 48% Dems - 40% GOP; Quinnipiac University: 50% Dems - 41% GOP; IBD: 48% Dems - 40% GOP; USA Today/Suffolk University: 45% Dems - 39% GOP; CNN: 50% Dems - 42% GOP.]

SCOTT BRINGS IN $22M IN FIRST FUNDRAISING QUARTER
Politico: “Gov. Rick Scott brought in $22 million during his first quarter as a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, a staggering number that is likely the biggest federal quarterly haul of campaign contributions in Florida history. That figure includes $14 million in personal funds from Scott’s $232 million fortune. The governor’s personal wealth has been part of his political identity, and helped fuel his rise from relatively unknown businessman in 2010 to a two-term governor well known among national Republicans. Even without his personal money, Scott’s campaign raised $8 million, which is double what opponent Bill Nelson, the three-term Democratic incumbent, raised. Nelson raised $4.4 million in the second quarter, his biggest number since joining the Senate. The biggest fundraising quarter Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has ever had produced $5.6 million, during his 2016 reelection. Scott has also spent $18 million during the first quarter through his official campaign, which is more than the $17 million Nelson spent during his entire 2012 reelection, the most expensive of his career.”

Ocasio-Cortez hits campaign trail with Bernie Sanders -
 Fox News: “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is hitting the national campaign trail this week with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to stump for other left-wing candidates, even as the upstart 28-year-old democratic socialist's rising profile continues to rankle top Democrats. Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez are expected to campaign on July 20 for two congressional candidates seeking to unseat Republican incumbents in Kansas: James Thompson in Wichita, and former Sanders delegate Brent Welder in the suburbs of Kansas City. But Ocasio-Cortez is also set to support several progressives seeking to supplant Democratic incumbents elsewhere -- alarming Democratic leaders and pundits who worry that her rising national profile and far-left politics might fracture the party ahead of critical midterm elections.”

Poll shows Republican candidate leading in race to replace Issa - Roll Call: “The open-seat race in California’s 49th District is already close, according to an internal poll from Republican Diane Harkey’s campaign, obtained by Roll Call. Harkey, an elected member of the California State Board of Equalization that oversees taxation, led Democratic environmental lawyer Mike Levin, 46 percent to 43 percent. Nine percent of respondents were undecided. California will be central to the Democrats’ path to a House majority this year, since it is home to seven GOP-held seats that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016. The largely coastal 49th District, which includes parts of San Diego County and Orange counties, is one of them. Voters here backed Clinton by 7 points while re-electing GOP Rep. Darrell Issa by less than 1 point. Issa is retiring this year after nine terms.”

Dems eye attorney general races - US News: “Democrats are eyeing a half a dozen pickups of state attorneys general around the country this fall in campaigns that fly largely below the radar and often break from results at the top of the ticket. If there's a blue wave coming, they see these contests as the undercurrent below the surface. Attracting far less attention than congressional races that will determine the balance of power in Washington and slotted beneath gubernatorial choices on the ballot, this year's campaigns for attorneys general offer Democrats an opportunity to capture a nationwide lead in controlling the chief law enforcement offices in states. And, arguably, they present more favorable turf for Democrats than governorships, where Republicans have built overwhelming dominance over the last decade. While the GOP controls two-thirds of governorships, attorneys general offices are split more evenly.”

VAN HOLLEN, RUBIO RUSSIA SANCTIONS BILL GAINS SUPPORT
Politico: “Sens. Marco Rubio(R-Fla.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) are stepping up a push for action on their bipartisan proposal to hit Russia with automatic new sanctions if it interferes in future U.S. elections. Rubio and Van Hollen have asked bipartisan leaders of the Banking and Foreign Relations committees, which share jurisdiction over sanctions legislation, to hold a hearing on and mark up their plan to impose new penalties on Moscow within 10 days after the director of national intelligence determines that further electoral meddling has occurred. Introduced in January, the Rubio-Van Hollen bill picked up eight new cosponsors on Thursday, evenly divided between both parties. The bill’s momentum has grown steadily since Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) mentioned it on Tuesday as one option on the table for the Senate to respond to President Donald Trump’s warm posture toward Vladimir Putin’s government, although some senators have raised concerns that its broad reach may hit U.S. allies.”

Is Coats grabbing his coat? - 
Vanity Fair: “Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was being interviewed onstage at the Aspen Security Forum Thursday when Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin had been invited to the White House… All of a sudden, the conversation took on the contours of an exit interview. Coats, after all, had protested forcefully when Trump, during his joint press conference with Putin on Monday, publicly denigrated the United States intelligence community that Coats leads. … The strong response whipped up speculation that Coats might be eyeing an exit. … As one senior White House official told the Post, ‘Coats has gone rogue.’ For many White House watchers, the only remaining question is whether Trump will defenestrate Coats before he can flee.”

Pompeo promises Trump won’t hand Democrats over to the Kremlin - Fox News: “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said President Donald Trump ‘understands’ that the Russians interfered in U.S. elections in 2016 -- and fired back at criticism that the president appeared weak at this week's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin. ‘I think those allegations are absurd,’ Pompeo told Fox News’ Shannon Bream during an interview Thursday night on ‘Fox News @ Night.’ Pompeo asserted that Trump has been ‘relentless’ against Russia, and subtly criticized the media for overdramatizing its coverage of the Helsinki meeting. ‘This administration has been relentless in its efforts to deter Russia from its bad behavior,’ he said. ‘We inherited a situation where Russia was running all over the United States. These last few days have been, frankly, more heat than light.’”

Rosenstein announces DOJ strategy for foreign meddling - USA Today: “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein unveiled a 156-page report Thursday evening on cybersecurity operations and a strategy moving forward on foreign actors influencing U.S. elections, including notifying the American public of attacks. The report, which was part of an effort set up by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in February, focuses on the different types of cyberthreats and what the Justice Department and intelligence agencies are doing to counter these efforts, along with what it could be doing better. The first chapter is dedicated to countering malign foreign influence operations, specifically when it comes to elections. Rosenstein, while announcing the report at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, said Russian interference in the 2016 election was not going to be a one-time issue. It's something that has been happening for years and will continue to get worse with the advance of technology.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY

Read this: "Maggie Haberman: Why I Needed to Pull Back From Twitter" NYT

Senate Finance committee hold on IRS nomination vote - Politico

AUDIBLE: RUN FOR OFFICE AND HAVE A BLAST
“My initial impression was that it's not rocket science. ... Well, I changed my mind about that.” – Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez, who is running in Texas' 6th District, on the struggles of running a campaign as a newcomer. 

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY

This weekend Bret Baier, in for Mr. Sunday, will sit down with Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C. and Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J. Watch “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.  
 
#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. ET.

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HELLOOO!?!?

KIRO: “Thieves stole more than $10,000 worth of property from a home in Magnolia that’s being renovated, including tools from the contractor and electronics. The victims found their stuff on Offerup.com. They claim the Seattle Police Department recommended they set up a meet up with the sellers, and an officer would be there for the sting. But say police never showed up – putting them in a potentially dangerous position. A spokesperson with the SPD said there must have been some miscommunication, because that recommendation is against department policy. It all has the victims incredibly frustrated by this situation. Burglars climbed a ladder to get inside a bathroom window. In the tub, you can still see the suspect’s footprints. … If your stuff is stolen, police encourage you to look for the stolen items online and tell officers. But they advise against setting up a meeting.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“On the moon there is nothing but dust and rock, forever. And then — just about all the astronauts talk about this — you look up and see this beautiful blue marble, warm and fragile, hanging in the black lunar sky. And you long for home. The astronauts brought back that image in the famous photo, ‘Earthrise’ — and, with it, that feeling of longing.” – Charles Krauthammer writing in the Washington Post, Oct. 5, 2007.  

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C.