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Russian meddling (in Afghanistan) and a racist retweet. It’s Monday, and this is your tip sheet.
Where things stand
President Trump has jumped the shark: That’s how top Democrats framed things on Sunday, condemning the president for failing to act in response to Russian interference in Afghanistan.
A Times investigation, published Friday, found that Trump was briefed on an intelligence report three months ago showing that Russia had offered cash rewards to Islamic militants launching attacks on American forces in Afghanistan. But the White House still hasn’t taken any steps to retaliate or make the Russians stop.
“This is as bad as it gets,” Nancy Pelosi said on ABC’s “This Week,” pointing out that Trump denied having been briefed on the intelligence. “Whether he is or not, his administration knows, and our allies — some of our allies who work with us in Afghanistan — had been briefed and accept this report.”
Joe Biden weighed in during a virtual town hall event held by Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote, a voters organization. “His entire presidency has been a gift to Putin, but this is beyond the pale,” Biden said. “It’s a betrayal of the most sacred duty we bear as a nation, to protect and equip our troops when we send them into harm’s way.”
Intelligence officers and Special Operations commandos had been reporting since at least January that they suspected the Russians might be offering payments to Taliban fighters. This would represent a significant escalation in Russia’s known involvement in conflicts between American forces and Afghan rebel fighters. Back in March, administration officials discussed registering a diplomatic complaint with Moscow or implementing new sanctions, but they’ve ultimately chosen to do nothing.
Is Trump bothered by the fact that a solid chunk of his supporters consistently hold racist beliefs? He seemed pretty OK with it on Sunday morning, when he retweeted a video featuring a man in a golf cart bearing a “Trump 2020” sign yelling “White power!” in response to a counterprotester who had asked him, “Where’s your white hood?”
The two-minute video featured clips from a golf-cart parade in support of Trump at The Villages, a Florida retirement community. Counterprotesters jeer at and taunt the Trump supporters and wave signs calling the president a bigot and a racist, drawing a bilious response.
The president retweeted the video just after 7:30 a.m. Tim Scott, the only black Republican in the Senate, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” shortly after 9 a.m. that he thought Trump should remove it. “We can play politics with it or we can’t,” he said. “I’m not going to. I think it’s indefensible. We should take it down.” Trump later deleted the tweet.
The president’s decision to circulate the video was notable not only for the unvarnished white-supremacist language (heard within the first 10 seconds), but also because it so clearly depicted a nation torn apart, full of anger and resentment on both sides of the political spectrum.
The counterprotesters seen in the video also reflected Trump’s difficulties with older white voters, a typically Republican constituency that has long been uncomfortable with his political style, and could be key to a Biden victory in November.
Starting July 1, students who say they were defrauded by for-profit colleges and universities will still have to pay back the loans they took out for school. That’s because of a policy put in place by Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary.
Congress passed a bipartisan bill rejecting the rule, but Trump vetoed that legislation last month. So on Friday, House Democrats tried to override Trump’s veto. The vote was 238 to 173 — well short of the two-thirds majority needed.
“It was important to try,” said Representative Susie Lee, Democrat of Nevada. “You have 350,000 students in this country who are waiting for relief.”
With Michael Flynn possibly on the verge of going free, a team of Times reporters dug up a private correspondence between William P. Barr, the attorney general, and Sidney Powell, Flynn’s attorney, who’s also a frequent Fox News commentator and is well-liked by Trump. In the letter, Powell asked for “utmost confidentiality” while suggesting that Barr open an investigation into the “political” nature of the charges against Flynn.
Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, had already pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I., but Barr took Powell up on the idea anyway. He ultimately ordered the Justice Department lawyers on the case to drop the charge.
But the judge in the case, Emmet Sullivan, didn’t immediately accept Barr’s request, saying he was unconvinced that there was no case against Flynn. So Barr’s lawyers appealed the decision to an appeals panel, which ordered Sullivan to end the trial. Sullivan hasn’t yet followed through on that, and the full appeals court could still choose to reverse the panel’s ruling.
Protesters held signs referencing a forthcoming tell-all book by Mary Trump, the president’s niece, as his motorcade entered the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va.
A protest in Michigan over the church’s firing of a lesbian employee, days after the Supreme Court’s decision.
The story of Terry Gonda and her dismissal from her job as a music director at St. John Fisher Chapel, a Catholic Church in Auburn Hills, Mich., didn’t end when the Archdiocese of Detroit fired her last week.
Her termination because she is married to a woman has gained national and international attention. On Saturday evening, a couple hundred people came out for Mass and a demonstration of support for Gonda and her wife, Kirsti Reeve, who had a symbolic wedding in 2003 and have been legally married since 2011.
The demonstrators carried signs proclaiming “Love is Love,” “Restore the Dignity of the Church” and “Jesus had 2 Dads and He turned out fine.” They listened to music and speeches and honked their horns from the church parking lot.
Monsignor Michael LeFevre, the pastor of the church, who was celebrating his last Mass before being transferred to another parish later this week, paid tribute to Gonda during his sermon.
“What we celebrate this weekend is a celebration of making room in our lives for prophets. That one has been a prophet for many of us for many years,” he said, pointing to Gonda. “And you have made room for Terry and she has prophetically been that presence for many, many years. We can’t take that away. No one can take that away.”
LeFevre received word from the archdiocese that it would end Gonda’s employment just days before the Supreme Court ruled that employers couldn’t fire workers based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. But in his decision, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that what the ruling meant for religious institutions specifically was a question “for future cases.”
Brian Clark, a retired professor and a member of the parish council, said the council was preparing an open letter to the Archdiocese to express its dismay.
“What would Jesus do?” he asked the crowd assembled after the Mass. “This isn’t complicated, we know what he would do. Somebody would be getting a time out.”
Gonda and Reeve said they planned to remain members of the parish and hoped that leaders of the Archdiocese, who have declined to discuss the firing, would have a change of heart. Gonda has played a leadership role in the parish for the last 30 years.
“I’ve had my moments of yelling at God because this is heartbreaking. This is my family,” Gonda said. “But honestly, right now, I’m filled with hope because something is happening here. Something really, really important is going on. And I feel love and hope and forgiveness and excitement, because God’s will is moving here.”