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July 12, 2018

President Trump's attendance at the NATO summit in Brussels wasn't exactly smooth sailing, but it went about as well as European leaders had hoped given their concerns, officials told Axios on Thursday.

Perhaps the disastrous G7 summit had NATO allies expecting more aggressive conflict with the U.S. leader, making it a relief when Trump merely badmouthed the treaty agreement, criticized Germany, and falsely claimed that everyone had promised to up their defense spending. One senior European official said that NATO members didn't take Trump completely seriously when he began talking about increased spending.

"It was more a rant '2 percent immediately' than a formal demand ... there was no clear threat of withdrawal," the official told Axios. "Usual Trump: a stream of incoherent sentences. ... The allies looked the other way as when the old uncle gets nuts."

Ol' Uncle Trump certainly rubbed some allies the wrong way, but they're reportedly just glad he hasn't withdrawn from the entire agreement. Despite the president's attacks on European allies, officials are willing to weather the storm if it means NATO is still safely intact. The summit was "the best it could be considering the person [Trump]," said the official. Read more at Axios. Summer Meza

10:13 a.m.

The House's top Republican won't give Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) his committee assignments back. So King's appealing to an even higher power.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) revoked King's committee spots after King made racist remarks to The New York Times last month. King tied the issue into a prayer for McCarthy when speaking to supporters on Monday, saying he hoped McCarthy would "separate his ego from this issue and look at it objectively," the Sioux City Journal reports.

In the Times interview, King pondered the terms "white nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization," asking, "how did that language become offensive?" The House nearly unanimously condemned King's language and some even called for him to step down. McCarthy, meanwhile, announced the House Steering Committee decided King could not serve on any committees.

King defended his comments yet again on Monday, alleging the Times reporter "'at best' misquoted him," the Sioux City Journal writes. King also declared "the language police are out there day after day ... searching the internet for something to be offended by," and said McCarthy made a "bad decision ... based upon one comment misquoted in The New York Times, reported as fact."

Even before January's situation, King has called for a "homogenous" America and has occasionally retweeted white nationalists. Perhaps most notably, he's said that "we can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies" — something David Duke really seemed to like. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:08 a.m.

A collection of about 800 emails shared with Politico by a watchdog organization called American Oversight shows coordination between the offices of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

On at least 10 occasions, politicians, business executives, and lobbyists from the couple's home state of Kentucky have been referred by McConnell's office to Chao's office, where a meeting with the transportation secretary has been arranged. Some, but not all, of these meetings were followed by the Kentucky constituent successfully obtaining their requested grant or other assistance from Chao's department.

Politico has not obtained records to show whether Chao is more responsive to this sort of request from McConnell's office than from other congressional offices or whether she meets with Kentuckians more often than people from other states. Nevertheless, American Oversight concluded Chao has "built a political operation in her office to favor Kentucky," such that constituent requests are processed through "a normal channel and a Kentucky channel," with the latter receiving extra care.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) denied the accusation of favoritism, noting that any federal agency "would be responsive to the requests of the majority leader of the U.S. Senate," and that Chao's office "is responsive to all members [of Congress] and their staff." An unnamed Democratic Senate staffer agreed, telling Politico "DOT will talk to anyone," and "people know they can pick up the phone and call DOT themselves." Bonnie Kristian

10:07 a.m.

Developing new policy platforms that might appeal to a larger swath of on-the-fence voters? That's not how President Trump campaigns.

Trump has more or less been gearing up for re-election already, holding rallies to excite his base. But now that the field of his potential 2020 Democratic opponents is taking shape, Trump is turning his attention to them. And he's going back to his ace-in-the-hole: nicknames.

Two anonymous sources told The Associated Press that the president has tested out some new monikers for the Democrats on them. Besides using his aides and advisers as a focus group, he's also using his rallies as a workshop for other "lines of attack" that could expose his opponent's "vulnerabilities."

Some of the candidates, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have long been on the receiving end of Trump's insults. But others — such as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) — have so far proven themselves immune to the president's infamous smears. Either way, it appears that it'll soon be time to update your running political nickname list. Tim O'Donnell

9:04 a.m.

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe has revealed that when he opened an investigation into President Trump, members of Congress didn't object.

In a Tuesday appearance on Today, McCabe was asked whether Congress' "Gang of Eight" raised any issues when he briefed them on his opening of a counterintelligence investigation into the president in 2017. This group consisted of a number of prominent Republicans including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and former House Speaker Paul Ryan.

"No one objected," McCabe said. "Not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds, not based on the facts."

McCabe reiterated that he's the one who made the decision to open the investigation and that FBI officials "thought it might be possible" that Trump was working for Russia. His new book is titled The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump, and when McCabe was asked whether he believes Trump is a threat like the book title could suggest, he said, “I think it's entirely possible.”

Watch a portion of McCabe's interview below. Brendan Morrow

8:26 a.m.

Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld has died at 85, The New York Times reports. Chanel confirmed his death Tuesday morning.

Lagerfeld, an icon in his industry who referred to himself as a "caricature," served as the creative director for Fendi and Chanel into his 80s, per The Associated Press. The Times in its obituary described him as "the most prolific designer of the 20th and 21st centuries and a man whose career formed the prototype of the modern luxury fashion industry," while AP noted he had an "almost unprecedented impact" on the world of fashion.

During his time at Chanel, Lagerfeld worked with everyone from Madonna and Lady Gaga to Justin Bieber and Kristen Stewart,notes The Hollywood Reporter. No cause of death has been announced, but Lagerfeld had reportedly been ill and missed a number of recent events.

Tributes poured in for Lagerfeld on Tuesday, with Donatella Versace saying, "Karl your genius touched the lives of so many, especially Gianni and I. We will never forget your incredible talent and endless inspiration." Brendan Morrow

7:54 a.m.

On Monday night, Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear outlined plans to improve how America's largest Protestant denomination handles sexual abuse, especially of minors. His proposals, presented to the Souther Baptist Convention's executive committee at a meeting in Nashville, include providing free training for pastors and other ministry leaders, encouraging member churches to revisit their sexual abuse policies, breaking fellowship with member churches that show "wanton disregard for sexual abuse," and taking a look at how Baptist ministers are ordained.

Greear's presentation follows a bombshell report by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News about widespread sexual abuse in Southern Baptist churches, including by some ministers who are both registered sex offenders and active pastors. But Greear, elected president in June following the surprise resignation of a previous leader who stepped down amid sexual misconduct and a broader #MeToo furor, had commissioned a study on the topic months before the reports were published. "The reason I formed this group last summer was we have known there was a problem and whatever had been done in the past, clearly was not enough," he told his fellow Southern Baptist leaders.

"If we don't get this right, our churches will not be a safe place for the lost," Greear said, according to his prepared remarks. "That's not something I'm okay with, and I know it's not something you're okay with." Southern Baptists "need to regard any exposure, any shining of light on abuse, as our friend, even if it makes us ask some uncomfortable questions about ourselves, publicly," he added. "This is not a fabricated story made up by people with a secular agenda. We've not taken reports of abuse in our churches as seriously as our gospel demands, and sometimes even worse, outright ignored or silenced victims." You can learn more about the Southern Baptist abuses and abusers in the sometimes disturbing Houston Chronicle report below. Peter Weber

7:41 a.m.

Most Americans disapprove of President Trump's declaration of a national emergency, a new poll shows.

Sixty-one percent of U.S. adults said in a survey released Tuesday by NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist that they disapprove of Trump's declaration, with 36 percent approving. Among Republicans, 12 percent disapprove, while 94 percent of Democrats disapprove, and 63 percent of independents disapprove.

In general, respondents weren't convinced there really is a national emergency at the southern border, with 39 percent saying there is but 58 percent saying there is not. Additionally, 57 percent said Trump is misusing his presidential power by declaring a national emergency to fund a border wall, while 39 percent he's using it correctly.

Finally, 60 percent of respondents said the declaration should be challenged in court, and 54 percent of registered voters said it makes them less likely to vote for Trump in 2020; this includes 55 percent of independents.

NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist conducted its poll by speaking to 807 adults over the phone from Feb. 15-17. The margin of error is 4.6 percentage points. Read more at NPR. Brendan Morrow

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