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July 2, 2018

In June, President Trump sent strongly worded letters to the leaders of several NATO countries, calling on them to increase their defense spending before the United States runs out of patience.

Trump sent letters to Canada, Norway, Belgium, and Germany, and a person who saw the note to German Chancellor Angela Merkel told The New York Times Trump wrote there is "a growing frustration in the United States that some allies have not stepped up as promised. Continued German underspending on defense undermines the security of the alliance and provides validation for other allies that also do not plan to meet their military spending commitments, because others see you as a role model."

In 2014 during a summit in Wales, NATO members committed to spending two percent of gross domestic product on national defense, but not every country has done so. The next NATO summit will start July 11 in Brussels. Catherine Garcia

9:49 a.m.

NASA's planned first all-female spacewalk isn't happening anymore, and it's all because the right-sized spacesuit isn't available.

It had previously been announced that the first all-female spacewalk at the International Space Station would take place on March 29 with astronauts Anne McClain and Christina Koch. But that's now off because NASA doesn't have the proper spacesuit size available for McClain.

As NASA explains, McClain "learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso — essentially the shirt of the spacesuit — fits her best." Since Koch also wears a medium, and only one suit in that size will be ready by Friday, the mission will now consist of Koch and a male astronaut, Nick Hague. NASA says that McClain is "tentatively scheduled" for a spacewalk on April 8 with a male astronaut, David Saint-Jacques.

While it might sound odd that McClain would just now be finding out what the right size for her is, Engadget points out that "there is no way to simulate the extended effects of zero gravity" on the body beforehand, also observing that McClain said in early March she had grown by two inches since she launched. And there actually are two medium sizes on the station; it's just that only one is configured for a spacewalk, and the other won't be ready in time for Friday, The New York Times reports.

NASA spokesperson Stephanie Schierholz told The Washington Post, though, that despite this setback, the first all-female spacewalk is "inevitable." Brendan Morrow

8:42 a.m.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) has revealed details of her proposal to give public school teachers a raise.

The 2020 Democrat is proposing an increase in federal spending with the goal of funding an average salary increase of $13,500 for public school teachers by the end of her first four years in office, CNN reports. The Harris campaign says this will cost $315 billion over 10 years, and she plans to pay for it with changes to estate tax, per NBC News.

Harris' proposal involves the federal government in the first year providing 10 percent of the funding to states to close what she has described as the salary gap between teachers and other college-educated graduates, Vox explains. States would receive incentives to contribute, and in subsequent years, the federal government would provide $3 for every $1 from the state.

Harris said during a recent speech per The Wall Street Journal that with this proposal, the question is "what's the return on the investment," and "on this, the investment will be our future." Brendan Morrow

7:42 a.m.

MMA fighter Conor McGregor just announced his retirement — for the second time.

McGregor, who earned himself a six-month suspension in January for his role in a post-fight brawl after UFC 229, announced early on Tuesday that he is retiring "from the sport formally known as 'Mixed Martial Art.'" He added that he wishes "all my old colleagues well going forward in competition" and now joins "my former partners on this venture, already in retirement."

But no one was sure whether to take McGregor's announcement at face value, especially because he previously said he was retiring in 2016. "I have decided to retire young," he tweeted at the time. McGregor took this back just two days later, but his retirement could be real this time, with the phrasing of his tweet suggesting he could continue his career in boxing or wrestling. It's a real boy-who-cried-wolf scenario.

McGregor's Tuesday announcement also came just hours after his appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, during which he said he's "in talks" for his next UFC fight in July and that he's "ready" for it, although "we'll see what happens" because "there's a lot of politics." The timing led fans to speculate McGregor's retirement announcement is simply a negotiating tactic.

UFC President Dana White reacted to McGregor's news Tuesday by saying that "it totally makes sense" and that "if I was him, I would retire too," per MMA Junkie. It remains to be seen how real all of this is, but if this retirement announcement is anything like the previous one, we may only need to wait two days to find out. Brendan Morrow

7:05 a.m.

The hope among some Democrats that President Trump might be removed through impeachment took a hit when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) poured cold water on the idea earlier this month. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's final report, as filtered through Attorney General William Barr, appears to have quashed those hopes completely, "at least for now," The Washington Post reports.

Pelosi "and members of her leadership team agreed in a Monday night huddle that the caucus needs to stop talking about collusion with Russia because it was distracting from their legislative agenda." Notably, three people familiar with the meeting told the Post, liberal Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Trump-district Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) "both argued that the House needs to megaphone pocketbook issues that won them the majority."

House Democrats still plan to demand Barr release Mueller's complete report and supplemental material, and members of all ideological stripes say it's important to continue investigating Trump's administration and actions, the Post said. "Some House Democrats suggested Monday that they will double down on a strategy of attempting to cripple Trump with what one aide described as 'a thousand cuts.'"

The group of Democrats least affected by Mueller's report may be the 2020 presidential candidates, who haven't been talking much about Mueller or impeachment and aren't being asked about the subject. "Indeed, Democratic strategists have long said their party's best message for next year's election — absent a stunning revelation from the Mueller report — would focus on pocketbook issues like health care," McClatchy reports. "Polls show voters care more about those subjects, and Democrats were able to use a message fixated on protections for pre-existing conditions to gain 40 seats in the House last year." In that realm, at least, Trump is providing plenty of fodder. Peter Weber

5:53 a.m.

President Trump "may not be indicted," Stephen Colbert said on Monday's Late Show, "but one person is facing consequences for his alleged crimes": Michael Avenatti. "You may remember Avenatti as the man who used to represent Stormy Daniels in her suit against the president, using the cunning legal strategy of spending 24 hours a day on cable news talking about himself. At the time, he got such a high profile that he announced he was exploring a run for president. Now, come on! A man that egotistical and self-promoting ... had a pretty good shot."

Well, "ladies and gentlemen, take off that Avenatti 2020 shirt, because today Avenatti was arrested for an alleged $20 million extortion scheme against Nike," Colbert said. "So everyone who comes in contact with Donald Trump becomes a criminal, is that how this works? ... First Mueller finds no collusion, now Avenatti gets arrested. Did Donald Trump recently find a genie? What's going to be his third wish?" He had two suggestions.

Colbert ran through the alleged "bold" scheme, including Avenatti's suggestion he was holding Nike's "balls" in his hands. "I did not realize holding your clients balls was a standard part of legal services," he joked. "I need a new attorney." He wrapped up by not making a Stormy Daniels joke.

"Wow, wow, wow," Trevor Noah said at The Daily Show. Avenatti "sends out a tweet, and then 14 minute later they arrested him. Sounds like everyone's fantasy of what should have happened to Donald Trump." Instead, it was a banner weekend for Trump. "Mueller is done; ISIS is done; Avenatti is done," he said. "Trump is winning so hard right now. Actually, can someone check on Hillary? Because at this rate, she's going to be locked up by the end of the day." Watch below. Peter Weber

5:03 a.m.

On Monday's Late Show, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) quickly shot down Stephen Colbert's suggestion that she was wearing purple as a sign of red-blue unity. This is a moment where we have to acknowledge Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report and demand that it be made public, she said. "If we don't see it, then millions of people around this country are going to keep asking, 'What's in it that nobody wants us to see?'"

Colbert asked if Warren was surprised Trump wasn't indicted, given all the public obstruction and collusion smoke. "For me, it was never about running against somebody who was indicted," Warren said. "It's really about running against somebody who is making the government work better and better and better for a thinner and thinner and thinner slice at the top and leaving everybody else behind."

Colbert asked about her wide array of policies, and she enthusiastically promoted her plan for a wealth tax. On the right's claim that Democrats are turning socialist, Warren said she believes in markets, but "markets without rules are theft, and we can't have that."

Warren told Colbert she doesn't trust Attorney General William Barr's judgment on whether Trump obstructed justice but said that of about 100 questions she got from voters of the weekend, none were about the Mueller report. The Mueller report "is important," she said, "but what people are focused on is what's happening in their lives," and what America will look like after 2020.


"What do you think you could do to appeal to more older voters, other than appearing on a CBS show?" Colbert asked puckishly. Warren returned to the importance of ideas, explaining she isn't taking money from PACs or asking wealthy donors for help because "I think the problem is money has too much influence in Washington," and "right now, in a Democratic primary, we have a chance to walk the walk." Watch below. Peter Weber

3:56 a.m.

In a court filing Monday, the Justice Department shifted its legal position on the Affordable Care Act, asking the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to strike down the entire 2010 law, commonly known as ObamaCare. In December, U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor in Texas ruled that ObamaCare became effectively unconstitutional when Republicans zeroed-out the individual mandate in their 2017 tax overhaul. In Monday's filing, the DOJ said it had "determined that the district court's judgment should be affirmed."

"The Department of Justice has determined that the district court's comprehensive opinion came to the correct conclusion and will support it on appeal," spokeswoman Kerri Kupec underscored in a statement. Previously, President Trump's Justice Department had argued for scrapping ObamaCare's protections for pre-existing conditions but not the rest of the law. When the Trump DOJ declined to defend ObamaCare in court, a group of 21 Democratic state attorneys general stepped in, and House Democrats also threw legal support behind the law after winning the House.

Many legal scholars, including conservatives, doubt O'Connor's ruling will stand. If it's upheld, it "would potentially eliminate health care for millions of people and create widespread disruption across the U.S. health-care system — from removing no-charge preventive services for older Americans on Medicare to voiding the expansion of Medicaid in most states," The Washington Post notes. The Trump administration advocating that chaos "could prove to be a gift for Democrats," Bloomberg News suggests.

The Justice Department asking the courts to strike down ObamaCare is "crazy" and "legally untenable," Washington and Lee University law professor emeritus Timothy Jost tells the Post. "It would be like invalidating the Interstate Highway System, causing chaos on an unimaginable scale. It's conceivable that the entire Medicare payment system would collapse." The DOJ's new position looks like "a strictly political decision, not a legal decision," he added. "Trump has wanted to get rid of the ACA, and I guess he sees an opportunity here." Peter Weber

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