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.
Trump’s standing takes a hit, even in places he won in ’16
There are two ways to view our new NBC/WSJ “Trump Counties” poll — measuring the counties that fueled Donald Trump’s 2016 win — we initially unveiled on Sunday.
Way #1: President Trump’s approval rating in these counties stands at 50%, which is higher than his 40% overall job rating from our June NBC/WSJ poll, or the 36% that WaPo/ABC had yesterday.
Way #2: His approval rating in these counties is down from his winning percentage in these areas in November 2016. In the Trump "Surge Counties" — think places like Carbon, Pa., which Trump won, 65%-31% (versus Mitt Romney's 53%-45% margin) — 56% of residents approve of the president's job performance. But in 2016, Trump won these “Surge Counties” by a combined 65%-29%. And in the "Flip Counties" — think places like Luzerne, Pa., which Obama carried 52%-47%, but which Trump won, 58%-39% — Trump's job rating stands at just 44%. Trump won these “Flip Counties” by a combined 51%-43% margin a year ago. Bottom line: Even in the places that he won in 2016, he’s taken a hit when it comes to his approval rating.
The rest of our “Trump Counties” poll comes out later this week
This NBC/WSJ poll's sample was taken from 439 counties in 16 states — Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin — that either flipped from Barack Obama to Trump, or where Trump greatly outpaced Mitt Romney's performance in 2012. The rest of the poll, which has an overall margin of error of +/- 4.0 percentage points, comes out later this week.
The Trump White House’s changing stories about that Russia meeting
As “Meet the Press” noted on Sunday, the Trump White House has told several DIFFERENT stories when it comes to that June 9, 2016 meeting with Russians:
Story #1: There were no contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian entities: “I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with does,” Trump said back in January.
What we later found out: Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort did indeed meet with a Kremlin-connected layer on June 9, 2016.
Story #2: That June 2016 meeting was a short one on the subject of Russian adoptions: “It was a very short meeting. It was a meeting apparently about Russian adoption. And after about 20 minutes the meeting ended. And that was the end of it,” White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said a week ago on Sunday, July 9.
What we later found out: After Priebus’ interview, the New York Times reported that Trump’s son — as well as Kushner and Manafort — met with that lawyer after being promised dirt on Hillary Clinton.
Story #3: The comments at that meeting about Clinton were “vague” and “meaningless”: “The comments this woman is making about any type of information on Hillary Clinton were vague. They were meaningless," the White House’s Kellyanne Conway said last Monday.
What we later found out: According to the email chain setting up the meeting, Trump Jr. is told: “This is obviously very high level and sensitive information, but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” And Trump Jr replied, “If it’s what you say, I love it.”
Story #4: After he releases the email chain, Donald Trump Jr. says he’s been transparent about the meeting and everything has been told about it: “This is everything. This is everything,” Trump Jr. told Fox’s Sean Hannity.
What we later found out: NBC News reported that, in addition to the Kremlin-connected lawyer, a former counter-intelligence officer turned lobbyist, Rinat Akhmetshin, was also there. And there was a translator present, too.
Senate health care vote gets delayed after McCain’s surgery
“The Senate expects to hold a vote on the revised Republican health care bill once Sen. John McCain recovers from surgery for a blood clot above his left eye, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn said Sunday,” per NBC’s Kailani Koenig. “The Arizona senator's unexpected announcement Saturday that he needs time to recover from the minimally invasive procedure led Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to say he was postponing a planned vote related to the bill this week. McCain's sudden absence also shows the fragility of the GOP coalition on health care legislation.” By the way, the New York Times is reporting that McCain’s surgery might be more serious than previously thought.
President Trump participates in a “Made in America” event at the White House at 3:00 pm ET.
That federal investigation into Bernie Sanders’ wife isn’t going away anytime soon
“A federal investigation into a long-ago land deal by Senator Bernie Sanders’s wife is threatening to take some of the luster off the senator’s populist appeal, attaching the phrase ‘bank fraud’ to the biography of a politician practically sainted on the left for his stands against ‘millionaires and billionaires,’” the New York Times writes. “[Sanders] has been shadowed by talk of a deepening investigation into his wife’s role in a 2010 land deal for a Vermont college that ultimately contributed to her ouster as its president. His wife, Jane Sanders, has hired a lawyer to represent her as federal authorities look into a $10 million sale of about 33 acres of lakefront property by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington to Burlington College.”
Previewing next month’s GOP primary in Alabama
NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald: “In Alabama, where Republican dominance is unchallenged, Donald Trump carried every county in the state's presidential primary last year and defeated Hillary Clinton by an almost 2-1 margin. Now, ahead of the August 15 primary to fill the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the leading GOP candidates are accusing each other of showing insufficient loyalty to the president, whom they speak of with divine reverence. Incumbent Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed to fill the seat temporarily in February, called Trump’s election a ‘Biblical miracle.’ Roy Moore, the twice-elected, twice-deposed Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, said, ‘God…sent Donald Trump in there.’ And Rep. Mo Brooks, a Tea Party favorite, has vowed to read the King James Bible on the Senate floor until the president's border wall gets built.”