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First Read’s Morning Clips: Summing Up Sessions’ Testimony

TRUMP AGENDA: Summing up Sessions’ testimony

Ken Dilanian and Corky Siemaszko sum up Sessions’ testimony yesterday. “Embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday blasted allegations that he or anybody in the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians as an ‘appalling and detestable lie’ — and defended the decision to fire the FBI chief who was leading the probe of Moscow's meddling in the presidential election. "Let me state this clearly: I have never met with or had any conversations with Russians or any foreign officials concerning any ... interference with any campaign or election," Sessions testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee.”

Democrats are not happy with Sessions’ refusal to answer questions (without formally invoking executive privilege) in his testimony yesterday.

POLITICO’s takeaways included noting the daylight between Sessions and Rod Rosenstein — and marking some of the important questions that weren’t asked.

And the Washington Post notes that there could be risks for Sessions’ strategy.

Bloomberg: “For those who suspect that the Trump campaign and the Kremlin colluded, [Trump lawyer Michael] Cohen offers an alluring target. New York business filings list him as an officer of two family financial companies in Ukraine incorporated in 1998, and he and his younger brother were directors of International Ethanol of Ukraine, according to 2006 filings. Cohen visited Georgia in 2010 with the aim of building either a Trump hotel or residential tower on the Black Sea. His wife of 23 years is of Ukrainian extraction, he was long involved with a Ukrainian businessman in the rough-and-tumble New York City taxicab business and he was named in an uncorroborated dossier about Russian interference compiled by a former British spy.”

Donald Trump called a Virginia mayor who expressed concern about his island hometown’s shrinking size.

The New York Times: “Nearly 200 Democratic members of Congress are expected to file a federal lawsuit on Wednesday accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution by profiting from business dealings with foreign governments. The plaintiffs — believed to be the most members of Congress to ever sue a sitting president — contend that Mr. Trump has ignored a constitutional clause that prohibits federal officials from accepting gifts, or emoluments, from foreign powers without congressional approval.”

“President Trump has given Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to determine troop levels in Afghanistan, three administration officials said Tuesday, opening the door for sending more American forces to a war that the Pentagon chief acknowledged the United States was ‘not winning,’” writes the New York Times.

POLITICO reports that the president is shifting towards smaller proposals that can give him solid wins. “For months, executive branch actions to unwind or rewrite regulations got little notice. But in recent weeks, wonkier policies are getting more fanfare, with briefings for reporters and appearances by Cabinet officials in the press room … An administration official said the White House is planning more policy-themed weeks in the coming months, including one on energy tentatively scheduled for late June. The official said the weeks are aimed at unifying the White House’s message.”

How are House Republicans who voted for the health care bill feeling about this story today? Leigh Ann Caldwell: “In a meeting with Republican senators Tuesday to discuss health care reform, President Donald Trump gave them support to move in a different direction from the House-passed version of the legislation which he described as "mean," according to two Senate aides whose bosses attended the lunch.”

OFF TO THE RACES: It’s Northam vs. Gillespie in Virginia

VA-GOV: Well, that wasn’t quite what folks expected. The Washington Post, on the surprisingly close win for Ed Gillespie and the far more comfortable one for Ralph Northam: “Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam won the Democratic nomination for governor of Virginia Tuesday by an unexpectedly wide margin, and Republican Ed Gillespie held off a surprising challenge from Donald Trump acolyte Corey A. Stewart for that party’s nomination. The nation was watching Virginia as a political laboratory for how the political parties handle the deep divisions that followed last year’s election of President Trump. The establishment forces seemed to win out, as Virginia voters resisted efforts to pull further to the right or left.”

Stewart’s message last night, per the Washington Post: “There is one word you will never hear from me, and that’s unity. We’ve been backing down too long. We’ve been backing down too long in defense of our culture, and our heritage and our country.”

The Richmond Times-Dispatch: “Coasting to a surprisingly easy win for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam heads into the fall election with an unexpected boost: Ed Gillespie’s difficult — and perhaps disputed — Republican victory, one viewed as fresh evidence of candidate-crippling discord within the GOP over President Donald Trump.”

GA-6: Karen Handel’s latest TV spot calls Ossoff an outsider who “doesn’t share our values.”

The GOP health care bill is taking a central role in the Sixth District election.

SC-5:The Hill notes that, with Georgia taking up all of the oxygen, the South Carolina race is getting little airtime.