First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter
Democrats run against Trump in Virginia
Tomorrow’s gubernatorial primaries in Virginia have offered several different storylines to watch — even through the fall. On the Democratic side, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and former Rep. Tom Perriello both have run to the left in this increasingly blue state, as state Democrats (including Gov. Terry McAuliffe) have backed Northam, while national Democrats (Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Obama alums) are behind Perriello. On the Republican side, GOP frontrunner Ed Gillespie has had to navigate some difficult headwinds in this state that Hillary Clinton won by more than five points in 2016. But maybe the biggest storyline is how the Democrats have run against Trump, whose approval rating in Virginia has been stuck in the 30s. One of Perriello’s closing TV ads ends with this line: “Let’s prove that Donald Trump’s values are not Virginia’s values.” Northam, meanwhile, has called the president a “narcissistic maniac,” and says in his most recent TV ad: “As governor, I won’t let Donald Trump stand in our way.”
The difference between Northam vs. Perriello in Virginia and Ossoff in Georgia
By contrast, Democrat Jon Ossoff in next week’s special congressional election in Georgia has backed away from making Trump a central part of his campaign. "I hope to have the opportunity to work with the president to get things done for Georgia,” Ossoff said in last week’s televised debate. Now there’s a significant difference between the races in Georgia and Virginia: Ossoff is running in a district that Trump narrowly won in 2016, while Northam and Perriello are slugging it out in a PRIMARY in a state where the GOP has gone 1-9 in top statewide races over the last 12 years. Still, it’s striking that a GUBERNATORIAL primary is so focused on the president of the United States.
Macron scores another big win in France
Speaking of running against Trump, guess whose party scored a big victory in France over the weekend. “New French President Emmanuel Macron's fledgling party is set to trounce traditional mainstream rivals in parliamentary elections and secure a huge majority, according to projections after Sunday’s first round of voting,” per Reuters. “Projections by three pollsters of the final outcome, based on the first round, gave Macron’s movement and allies between 390 and 445 of the national assembly's 577 seats — potentially the biggest majority since president Charles De Gaulle's conservatives won more than 80 percent of seats in 1968.” As FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten observed, “There's more to this than this, but Macron trashes/stands-up to Trump and crushes.” Meanwhile, [Theresa] May touches Trump & plummets.”
Trump forced to fight multi-front war
So Democrats are battling President Trump. Ditto European leaders. There’s special counsel Bob Mueller’s probe into Russia and Trump, for which James Comey’s testimony provided a potential roadmap last week. And today, the attorneys general of DC and Maryland are bringing a lawsuit against Trump, alleging that he’s violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause. “The suit says Trump’s continued ownership of a global business empire has rendered the president ‘deeply enmeshed with a legion of foreign and domestic government actors’ and has undermined the integrity of the U.S. political system,” the Washington Post writes. “If a federal judge allows the case to proceed, Racine and Frosh say, one of the first steps will be to demand through the discovery process copies of Trump’s personal tax returns to gauge the extent of his foreign business dealings.” Partisan politics. International dustups. The Russia probe. And now another lawsuit aimed at Trump’s business conflicts of interests. No modern American president has had it easy. But President Trump is fighting a war on several fronts — 144 days into his presidency.
Trump “100%” willing to testify under oath on Comey allegations
Here’s NBC’s Ali Vitali on the Trump/Comey/Mueller news from Friday: “President Donald Trump said he was ‘100 percent’ willing to testify under oath about his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey, and committed to do so if he were asked by special counsel Robert Mueller. Speaking at a joint press conference in the Rose Garden with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Trump called Comey a "leaker" and maintained that the fired FBI director lied under oath about his claim the president asked him to drop the agency's investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.”
Trump’s personal lawyer makes presence felt in West Wing
Meanwhile, the New York Times profiles Trump outside attorney Marc Kasowitz, who has taken on a prominent role — even inside the White House. “He is a personal lawyer for the president, not a government employee, but he has been talking about establishing an office in the White House complex where he can run his legal defense,” the Times says. “His visits to the White House have raised questions about the blurry line between public and private interests for a president facing legal issues. In recent days, Mr. Kasowitz has advised White House aides to discuss the inquiry into Russia’s interference in last year’s election as little as possible, two people involved said. He told aides gathered in one meeting who had asked whether it was time to hire private lawyers that it was not yet necessary, according to another person with direct knowledge.”
President Trump holds a cabinet meeting at 11:00 am ET, and he welcomes Clemson’s championship-winning football team to the White House at 3:00 pm ET; White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer holds a press briefing at 1:30 pm ET.
Special Election Watch: Health care on my mind
While Jon Ossoff might not be making Trump a central part of his race in Georgia’s special congressional election, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s poll shows that health care is definitely on the minds of Georgia voters. “More than 80 percent of the 745 likely voters surveyed last week in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll listed health care as an ‘extremely important’ or ‘very important’ issue for them as they’ve determined whether to vote for Republican Karen Handel or Democrat Jon Ossoff in the upcoming special election... Sixth District voters held particularly negative opinions about the GOP proposal to overhaul Obamacare that narrowly passed the House last month. Only one in four of the likely voters surveyed, and one-half of Republicans, said they approved of the American Health Care Act. The disapproval rating is 7 percentage points higher than the national Kaiser Health Tracking Poll released late last month.”