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June 15, 2019

President Trump on Friday told Fox News that "it doesn't matter" if China's President Xi Jinping meets with him at the G-20 summit in Osaka in June. But, Bloomberg reports, Trump is indeed thinking long term when it comes to trade negotiations with China.

Vice President Mike Pence was reportedly set to give a speech on June 4, the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, criticizing China's human rights record. The president, though, reportedly stepped in before it could happen in an effort to avoid upsetting Beijing before the summit, four people familiar with the planning told Bloomberg. Trump also reportedly postponed sanctions on Chinese surveillance companies that Pence planned to preview in his speech.

Pence's remarks were then tentatively rescheduled for June 24, just a few days before Osaka, but there is now debate within the Trump administration over when Pence should deliver the speech and, perhaps more importantly, how much he should challenge Beijing during it. If Pence ultimately does go ahead with his remarks, experts, such as Robert Daly, the head of the China program at the Wilson Center, say Beijing's officials would watch it very closely, monitoring for signs that the White House is willing to resume trade negotiations. Read more at Bloomberg. Tim O'Donnell

10:00 p.m.

A protester armed with pictures of President Trump and Jeffrey Epstein with the words "CHILD RAPIST" disrupted Trump's Wednesday night rally in Greenville, North Carolina.

CNN reports that the man was "removed in a more aggressive manner than most protesters and pulled down behind a sign where he remained for a while as supporters took pictures." After the demonstrator was taken away with his hands behind his back, Trump said he was going "home now to mommy, and he gets reprimanded and that's the end."

Epstein, a financier, was arrested earlier this month and charged by prosecutors in New York with sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy. More than a decade ago, Epstein was accused of sexually abusing girls, but pleaded guilty to felony prostitution charges instead and received a lenient 13-month jail sentence.

In 2002, Trump told New York magazine, "I've known Jeff for 15 years, terrific guy. He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side." After Epstein's arrest, Trump said he "knew him like everybody in Palm Beach knew him. I had a falling out with him. I haven't spoken to him in 15 years. I was not a fan of his, that I can tell you." Earlier on Wednesday, MSNBC aired footage from NBC's archives showing Trump and Epstein in 1992, laughing at a party. Trump appears to point at a woman and say "she's hot," and is also seen grabbing another woman in attendance. Catherine Garcia

8:59 p.m.

President Trump continued to lob insults at four Democratic congresswomen, calling them out by name during a rally Wednesday night in North Carolina.

On Sunday, he tweeted racist comments targeting Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), saying they need to "go back" to their home countries. The lawmakers — all outspoken Trump critics and women of color — are fueling "the rise of a dangerous, hard left," Trump said Wednesday.

After blasting Omar — who came to the U.S. from Somalia as a child and is a naturalized American citizen — and accusing her of "launching vicious anti-Semitic screeds," the crowd erupted in chants of "Send her back!" This not only echoed Trump's tweets, but also "Lock her up!" the longtime rallying cry of Trump supporters aimed at Hillary Clinton.

Trump referred to Ocasio-Cortez as "Cortez" because "I don't have time to go with three different names," and said she is a liar and behind "outrageous attacks against the men and women of law enforcement." He also asked if Pressley is "related in any way to Elvis" (who spelled his last name with just one "s") and said she "thinks that people with the same skin color all need to think the same. She said we don't need any more brown faces that don't want to be brown voices. ... Can you imagine if I said that? It would be over, right? It would be over." Catherine Garcia

7:44 p.m.

The Democratic National Committee announced on Wednesday which 2020 presidential candidates will take the stage during CNN's primary debates later this month.

The candidates are: Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.); former Vice President Joe Biden; Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.); Montana Gov. Steve Bullock; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro; New York Mayor Bill de Blasio; former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.); Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii); Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.); Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.); former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper; Washington Gov. Jay Inslee; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.); former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas); Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio); Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.); author Marianne Williamson; and businessman Andrew Yang.

As with the first debate in June, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass) and Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam did not qualify for this round. Newcomers to the race Tom Steyer, a billionaire investor, and former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Penn.) also did not make the cut.

The debates will be held in Detroit over two days: July 30 and 31, with both starting at 8 p.m. E.T. On Thursday night, CNN will hold a live drawing during Anderson Cooper 360 to determine the candidate lineup for each night. Catherine Garcia

6:52 p.m.

The House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress for their refusal to hand over subpoenaed documents related to the Trump administration's attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census.

The 230-198 vote was along party lines. Before the vote, Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) said he did "not take this decision lightly. Holding any secretary in criminal contempt of Congress is a serious and sober matter, one that I have done everything in my power to avoid. But in the case of the attorney general and the secretary, Secretary Ross, they blatantly obstructed our ability to do congressional oversight into the real reason Secretary Ross was trying for the first time in 70 years to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census."

After weeks of back and forth, with the Department of Justice saying it was giving up the census fight only to have President Trump say he was considering an executive order to ensure the question was included, Trump announced last week he will instead have federal agencies turn over to the Commerce Department records on how many citizens and non-citizens are in the U.S. Catherine Garcia

6:04 p.m.

The House on Wednesday afternoon voted overwhelmingly to table a resolution proposed by Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) on whether to immediately consider articles of impeachment against President Trump, effectively killing the measure.

The final vote tally was 332-95 in favor of tabling. Every Republican voted to table, while Democrats were somewhat split with 95 showing support for considering impeachment, while 137 were opposed.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has long opposed immediately pursuing impeachment against Trump, fearing it will harm the Democrats' legislative agenda. Her camp seemingly held firm on Wednesday.

Green's resolution was focused primarily on the president's recent racist tweets targeting four Democratic congresswomen. It made no mention of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into 2016 Russian election interference, which has generally been the driver behind calls for impeachment in the past. Instead, Green said Trump had simply brought "contempt, ridicule, disgrace, and disrepute" upon the office of the presidency. Tim O'Donnell

5:58 p.m.

President Trump on Wednesday hosted an unannounced meeting with 27 survivors of religious persecution from 17 countries in the Oval Office, the timing of which has prompted speculation from his critics.

The meet and greet was televised, with Trump listening momentarily to stories of survival from several different people. Those gathered included people from the Uighur community in China, the Yazidi community in Iraq, and the Rohingya community in Myanmar, all religious groups that have recently been subject to brutal persecution either from their state governments or, in the Yazidis case, the Islamic State.

Also in attendance was Paula White, a non-denominational pastor who reportedly advises Trump spiritually. White, speaking after a few of the victims, thanked Trump for his "courageous leadership" in the fight for religious freedom for all people before specifically mentioning that, because of Trump, people in the U.S. could say "Merry Christmas" again.

The surprise event's timing has some people speculating that it could be a way for the president to stave off criticism from his racist tweets targeting four Democratic congresswomen. Tim O'Donnell

5:37 p.m.

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) has exactly one touchy subject.

The 2020 contender isn't too worried that he didn't make the first Democratic debates, he told Politico in a Q&A published Wednesday. He's happy to say he thinks he was "Taylor Swift's No. 22" in reference to the number of Democrats who entered the 2020 race before him. And he won't shy away from his record of pushing ObamaCare to small-town Montanans while also promising to work with Republicans in Washington, D.C.

But don't you dare ask Bullock about what's on his feet, as Politico found out with this question:

On his monogrammed cowboy-style boots

A: "They're just custom boots."

Q: "No, come on. It sounds like there's a story."

A: "I'm happy to answer anything else but the boots."

Q: "Did you get them from a lobbyist?"

A: "Well, they're alligator boots. And I hunted an alligator...Yeah, so let's not write that."

Q: "Are you going to wear them at the debate?"

A: "Probably not now, thank you. I'm going to wear wingtips at this point."

Bullock has secured enough donors to make the second Democratic debates at the end of this month, where it will be an absolute crime not to ask him about the boots. Read the whole interview with Bullock at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

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