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First Read’s Morning Clips: Kushner Says ‘I Did Not Collude’

TRUMP AGENDA: “I did not collude,” Kushner says

Here are the highlights of Jared Kushner’s new statement this morning regarding the Russia investigation.

The Wall Street Journal, on Kushner’s newly disclosed meeting with the Russian ambassador: “In the newly disclosed April encounter—shortly before Mr. Trump would become the Republican party’s effective nominee—Mr. Kushner met ambassador Sergei Kislyak at an event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. Mr. Kushner said he was introduced to Mr. Kislyak and three other ambassadors by Dimitri Simes, the publisher of a foreign-policy magazine who was hosting the event, at a reception held directly before it. A spokesman for Mr. Kushner had previously denied that the two met privately at that event. A separate Kushner spokesman said Monday that the statement doesn’t contradict the previous denial because the two met at a reception, not one-on-one.”

“President Donald Trump's new White House communications director and one of his attorneys insisted on Sunday that Trump was not thinking about pardoning himself, members of his family or anyone else in connection with the Russia investigation,” writes NBC’s Daniella Silva.

The New York Times: “Throughout 2016, both Donald J. Trump and President Vladimir V. Putin complained that American-led sanctions against Russia were the biggest irritant in the plummeting relations between the two superpowers. And the current investigations, which have cast a shadow over Mr. Trump’s first six months in office, have focused on whether a series of contacts between Mr. Trump’s inner circle and Russians were partly about constructing deals to get those penalties lifted. Now it is clear that those sanctions not only are staying in place, but are about to be modestly expanded — exactly the outcome the two presidents sought to avoid.”

And from the Washington Post: “The White House offered conflicting views Sunday of whether President Trump supports the Russia sanctions legislation in Congress, with his top spokesmen contradicting one another just days after launching plans for a more effective messaging strategy. If Trump was hoping his communications shake-up would bring a fresh approach for a White House that has struggled to respond to a constant state of turmoil, the debut of the team on the Sunday political talk shows was a rough one. Adding to the confusion, one of Trump’s lawyers appeared to contradict his new top spokesman on whether Trump has been discussing his power to issue presidential pardons.”

Can Trump pardon himself and his family? Jonathan Turley writes in the Washington Post that he can — but he shouldn’t.

POLITICO: “Reince Priebus took the punishing job of President Donald Trump's chief of staff with the idea that he would stick it out for at least one year. Six months in, with one of his top allies in the West Wing — press secretary Sean Spicer — on his way out, Priebus is in defensive mode, his role diminished and an internal rival hogging the limelight.”

Over the weekend, Trump complained that GOP lawmakers “do very little to protect” him.

“Last week, President Trump’s senior Cabinet officials and top national security advisers met for a contentious meeting to finally agree on a new strategy for America’s longest war. After months of wrangling, they would ask Trump for a modest troop increase and a more intense commitment to the seemingly endless struggle in Afghanistan,” writes POLITICO. “But the session of the National Security Council Principals Committee, described by two sources briefed on it as a “s*** show” that featured what a third source, a senior White House official, confirmed was a heated debate where “words were exchanged,” proved no more successful than months’ worth of previous Afghan policy debates.”

The latest on health care? Well, writes the Wall Street Journal: “Senate Republicans are expected to vote as early as Tuesday to begin debate on their sweeping health-care legislation—but they don’t know yet what measure they will be voting on.”

OFF TO THE RACES: Gillespie, Northam battle over Trump

NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald lays out the important governors’ races to watch in 2018.

Democrats are launching a new effort today to refocus the party’s messaging on the economy, largely in response to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss. The AP: “Democratic leaders believe they lost to President Donald Trump partly because voters don’t know what the party stands for. So they’re trying to rebrand themselves with a new slogan and a populist new agenda as they look ahead to the 2018 midterms.”

POLITICO writes that Blue Dog Democrats are hoping that Trump’s election means that the time is ripe for a comeback.

AL-SEN: Roy Moore says that Luther Strange and Mo Brooks are “fighting for second place.”

GA-GOV: John Lewis is endorsing state Rep. Stacey Abrams, who would be the nation’s first female African-American governor.

MI-SEN: POLITICO writes that we should all be taking Kid Rock’s possible Senate bid more seriously.

MO-SEN: Claire McCaskill is focusing on scrutiny of the opioid epidemic as her reelection race looms.

VA-GOV: “Democrat Ralph Northam stood by his sharp critiques of President Donald Trump on Saturday during the first debate of Virginia’s gubernatorial election, while Republican Ed Gillespie suggested that having a governor who insults the president would hurt the state’s ability to secure federal dollars,” writes the Richmond Times-Dispatch. More: “Noting that Trump was in Norfolk on Saturday for the commissioning of a newly completed aircraft carrier, Gillespie, a political consultant and former chairman of the Republican National Committee, said Virginia needs a governor who will work with Trump and other D.C. Republicans to protect the naval base there and keep federal transportation dollars flowing to the state.”