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June 10, 2019

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) touts his ability to steer federal money to his home state. For example, after the city of Owensboro named a plaza for him in 2003, McConnell steered $40 million to the city in 2005, and Owensboro's support helped him survive a close 2008 election. That kind of patronage became harder after congressional Republicans banned earmarks — or "pork" — in 2011, but not impossible. Last year, Owensboro won an $11.5 million Transportation Department grant on its third try, with some help from McConnell's wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Politico reports, citing emails obtained though a public-records request.

Chao appointed a top aide in 2017 as special liaison to help McConnell "and local Kentucky officials on grants with special significance for McConnell," Politico reports, "paving the way for grants totaling at least $78 million for favored projects as McConnell prepared to campaign for re-election." The aide, Todd Inman, lived in Owensboro from 1993 to 2017, worked on McConnell's 2008 and 2014 campaigns, and is now Chao's chief of staff. His intercession for Kentucky is "a privilege other states did not enjoy," Politico notes.

The Transportation Department insists "no state receives special treatment" and Owensboro won the grants through an open, competitive process. But McConnell and local officials publicly tout the key role McConnell, Chao, and Inman played in steering federal transportation grants to Owensboro, and a former career official involved in the grant review process told Politico that after the professional staff hand grant recommendations in to a Cabinet secretary's office, politics often determine the outcome, regardless of party.

"Where a Cabinet secretary is doing things that are going to help her husband get re-elected, that starts to rise to the level of feeling more like corruption to the average American," John Hudak, a Brookings Institution expert on political influence on grant-making, tells Politico. "I do think there are people who will see that as sort of 'swamp behavior,'" even if it isn't illegal. Read more at Politico. Peter Weber

10:12 p.m.

President Trump has directed two of his former aides to ignore subpoenas and skip a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday.

Democrats on the committee are seeking information on an incident described in former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report, when Trump allegedly attempted to coerce then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions into redirecting the Russia investigation away from Trump's presidential campaign, Reuters reports.

The committee sent subpoenas to former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Dearborn and former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter, but in a letter sent to House Judiciary Chair Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said they will not appear, as the Department of Justice has decided they "are absolutely immune from compelled congressional testimony with respect to matters related to their service as senior advisers to the president."

Nadler called Trump's order a "shocking and dangerous assertion of executive privilege and absolute immunity." Another former Trump aide, Corey Lewandowski, also received a subpoena to appear Tuesday, and Cipollone said he can testify, just not about any conversations he had with Trump after his election or with any of Trump's senior advisers. Catherine Garcia

9:28 p.m.

The Islamic State released a 30-minute audio recording on Monday, purportedly made by its elusive leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

SITE Intelligence, a monitoring group, said Baghdadi uses the recording to encourage fighters to free ISIS detainees and their families being held in detention camps. Their efforts "must be redoubled," he directed the militants, and they should attack judges and interrogators questioning ISIS members. Baghdadi also brought up the United States, saying the country is "drowning in a quagmire" and losing troops in conflicts around the world.

It's unclear when the recording was made, but SITE says Baghdadi refers to events that took place in August. There is a $25 million reward for Baghdadi's capture, and Iraqi intelligence officials believe he is hiding somewhere along the border between Iraq and Syria. In April, video footage of Baghdadi was released, the first time he was seen on film in nearly five years.

ISIS is no longer in control of large portions of Syria and Iraq, but is still carrying out attacks in the countries, and has money and fighters to spare, authorities warn. The Pentagon's Office of Inspector General sent a report to Congress in August, saying the group's resurgence is linked to the Trump administration taking troops out of Syria and removing diplomats from Iraq, The Wall Street Journal reports. Catherine Garcia

8:13 p.m.

Last October, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) sent FBI Director Christopher Wray a letter stating that he had relevant information regarding the allegations of sexual assault made against President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, but the FBI appears to have ignored him, The New York Times reports.

The Times obtained a copy of this letter, which states that Coons heard from multiple people who said they had information on Kavanaugh. He told Wray that he "cannot speak to the relevance or veracity of the information that many of these individuals seek to provide, and I have encouraged them to use the FBI tip portal or contact a regional FBI field office. However, there is one individual whom I would like to specifically refer to you for appropriate follow-up."

Coons was asking the FBI to contact one of Kavanaugh's former Yale classmates, Max Stier, Coons' spokesman Sean Coit confirmed. Over the weekend, the Times reported that during Kavanaugh's freshman year, Stier saw Kavanaugh with his pants down, and his friends pushed his penis into a female student's hand. Stier notified senators and the FBI about the incident, the Times says. The incident has similarities to an allegation made by a former classmate named Deborah Ramirez, who said Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a party at Yale their freshman year.

Several Democratic presidential candidates have called for Kavanaugh's impeachment, while Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.) on Monday said there should be a "full, fair investigation, as was never done at the time. It was a sham, as we said then, and there should be a full inquiry now." Catherine Garcia

7:14 p.m.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was greeted by the sound of protesters booing him when he arrived in Luxembourg on Monday, and the reception he received from the country's top leaders wasn't much friendlier.

Johnson was in Luxembourg for his first face-to-face meeting with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker, The Associated Press reports. With Britain scheduled to leave the European Union on Oct. 31, the two are trying to come up with a divorce agreement, but the European Commission said in a statement the meeting ended with no plan in place. Johnson has not offered any "legally operational" solutions to the so-called "backstop," which would guarantee that goods and people are able to freely cross the border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.'s Northern Ireland.

Johnson was scheduled to attend a news conference with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, but refused to attend due to the rowdy anti-Brexit protesters. Bettel met with him privately, and said Johnson needs to "stop speaking and act," adding, "You can't hold their future hostage for party political gains." A no-deal Brexit could have catastrophic economic repercussions, but Johnson is adamant that Britain will leave the EU by Halloween, with or without a deal.

An EU summit will be held in mid-October, and hopes are high that a deal will be reached then. Johnson suspended Parliament until Oct. 14, in order to give himself distance from lawmakers who are trying to block a no-deal Brexit, and on Tuesday, Britain's Supreme Court will mull whether that decision was lawful. Catherine Garcia

5:30 p.m.

Some Asian Americans laughed when entrepreneur Andrew Yang's said on the debate stage Thursday night in Houston that he knew a lot of doctors because he's Asian. But others find that that the presidential candidate's supposedly self-deprecating humor — which has also included jokes about being good at math and loving to work — too often reinforces racial stereotypes, The Washington Post reports.

"I found this part galling, because here he is sort of obtusely reinforcing the model-minority myth and model-minority stereotypes," Jenn Fang, who runs the blog Reappropriate, told the Post, referring to the debate line. Fang added that, in making a comment like that, Yang also "implicitly suggests that the Asian American experience is only represented by his specific middle-to-wealthy-upper-class East Asian American experience," which in the process "completely flattens all of the other ways people are Asian American and don't have access to health care and access to higher education."

Yang, though, has defended himself. In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper over the weekend, the candidate said the "Asian American American community is very diverse, and certainly I would never claim that my individual experience would speak to the depth and breadth of our community." In fact, Yang argues, by "poking fun" at the myth surrounding Asian Americans, he's "making Americans reflect more on it."

Janelle Wong, a professor of Asian American studies at the University of Maryland, said it's "certainly dangerous" for Yang to "deploy stereotypes," but he is also "breaking stereotypes by seeking the presidential nomination." Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

5:23 p.m.

John Bolton might be ready to drop a (thankfully metaphorical) bombshell.

President Trump fired/accepted the resignation of his national security adviser last Tuesday amid reports that Bolton was fighting with just about everyone in the White House. Bolton eerily left his position with a promise that he would "have my say in due course," and less than a week later, The Daily Beast is reporting that "due course" could be sooner than expected.

Bolton is already talking with literary agents in hopes of writing a memoir of his time working for Trump, two people with knowledge of the situation tell The Daily Beast. "He has a lot to dish," one of the sources said, though both what was on the menu and when it will be served have yet to be revealed. Bolton would join a long line of former Trumpers to give an inside scoop on their White House tenures, and judging by the rocky way Bolton went out, it wouldn't be the softball former Press Secretary Sean Spicer tossed out there.

When asked about a possible book deal, Bolton only told The Daily Beast he had "no comment." Read more at The Daily Beast. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:40 p.m.

President Trump still doesn't want to go to war with Iran, he said, but the U.S. is prepared for it nonetheless.

Saudi Arabia announced Monday that its initial investigation into the drone strikes against two of the country's major oil production facilities revealed that Iranian weapons were used in the attack. The kingdom will now reportedly invite United Nations and other international "experts" to further investigate the situation.

Yemen's Iran-backed Houthi rebels initially claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the U.S. has accused Iran of orchestrating them. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have alleged that Tehran supplies the Houthis with arms in Yemen's civil, however, so — even if the weapons are Iranian — it will likely remain unclear exactly what Iran's role was.

Trump, meanwhile, said there are "some very strong studies" being conducted on the attacks and that it looks like Iran is behind them. The president, when asked if the U.S. is ready for war, said the country is more prepared for a conflict than anyone in "any history."

He said the attack on Saudi Arabia could be "met with an attack many, many times larger" by the U.S. Tim O'Donnell

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