President Donald Trump is set to meet Friday with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. The White House insists there’s no formal agenda for the highly-anticipated meeting. Trump’s top aides are pushing him to get tough on Putin, both because of the Russian’s aggression against the U.S. and its allies and to shore up the President’s image at home. But Trump has always believed he could form a relationship with Putin, the veteran spymaster who has bedeviled Trump’s predecessors. The President will be joined in the meeting by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has known Putin for years from his past role as CEO of ExxonMobil but is new to government. Putin will be joined by foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. Translators will be the only others in the room, officials said. Tillerson is expected to brief reporters on the confab later Friday, while the Russian government is typically swift with providing (usually self-serving) read-outs of Putin’s meetings.
While Trump is abroad, Senate Republicans are coming to grips with the fact that time has become their enemy when it comes to passing a healthcare bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. The legislation is the most unpopular major bill in decades. Swing lawmakers are hearing it from their constituents at home and on the phone, and a consensus plan that can win 50 GOP votes appears to be even more elusive than it was just last week. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is signaling that he may be ready to move on to other issues, while working on technical fixes to the legislation that Republicans have derided for seven years.
New York City’s mayor flies to Germany to protest Trump. DeVos gets sued over student loans. And the head of the government ethics office calls it quits.
Here are your must reads:
Ethics office chief critical of Trump steps down [CBS]
Attempts to discover weaknesses in grid [Bloomberg]
Would require working with Democrats [Washington Post]
His overseas criticism of U.S. institutions raises eyebrows [Associated Press]
Efforts to boost US exports weaken Russian [TIME]
After Trump let generals decide number of forces, classified memo put initial cap at 3,900, amid strategy review [Wall Street Journal]
“Any effort by North Korea to start a war would lead to severe consequences.” —Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis
“You can’t be sure, and so it almost doesn’t matter whether they are profiting or not. America should have the right to know what the motivations of its leaders are, and they need to know that financial interests, personal financial interests, aren’t among them.” —Outgoing Office of Government Ethics head Walter Shaub to CBS.
Bits and Bites
Trump hands a victory to Polish nationalists [Politico]
Pentagon: A War Against North Korea Would Be ‘Catastrophic’ [Associated Press]