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National Govt & Politics

    President Donald Trump says a U.S. warship destroyed an Iranian drone in the Strait of Hormuz amid heightened tensions between the two countries. Trump says it's the latest 'hostile' action by Iran. He's calling on other countries to condemn what he says are Iran's attempts to disrupt the freedom of navigation and global commerce in the strategic waterway in the Persian Gulf region. Trump says the USS Boxer took defensive action after the drone closed to within 1,000 yards of the warship and ignored multiple calls to stand down. The president says the drone threatened the safety of the American ship and its crew. Iran recently shot down a U.S. drone that it said was flying over Iran. Trump called off a planned retaliatory airstrike at the last minute.
  • A Dutch collector is at the White House presenting the United States with an American flag flown on the stern of a boat during the World War II D-Day landing on Utah Beach. The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History says a hole right through the middle of the tattered flag's field of stars is believed to have come from a German machine gun bullet. The flag was presented Thursday during Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's (Ruh-te) visit with President Donald Trump. The skipper of the D-Day boat — Lt. Howard Vander Beek of Cedar Falls, Iowa — had the flag until he died in 2014. Dutch collector Bert Kreuk (Ker-OHK) later bought the flag for $514,000 at the family's estate auction with hopes of giving it to the U.S.
  • Senators from both parties say they have an agreement to vote on a bipartisan bill to ensure a victims' compensation fund related to the Sept. 11 attacks never runs out of money. Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, both of New York, say they've agreed with Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky to bring up the bill next week. The GOP senators had been blocking a vote. Paul was concerned about its effect on the deficit. Lee wanted to ensure the fund has proper oversight in place to prevent fraud and abuse. Gillibrand said 9/11 first responders and their families have had 'enough of political games.' The bill would extend though 2092 a fund created after the 2001 attacks, essentially making the fund permanent.
  • President Donald Trump says he won't address the NAACP convention because of changes in the date and format of an appearance. Trump says Thursday that 'I very much wanted to go' speak to the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization as members gather next week in Detroit. He says an agreed-upon date for his appearance was changed and 'unfortunately, they want to do it in the form of a question and answer.' Trump says he agreed to deliver a speech. Trump often speaks about policies he says are helping African Americans, including low unemployment and sentencing reform. Several Democratic and one other Republican presidential candidate are slated to participate in an NAACP's forum on July 24. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is also scheduled to address the convention.
  • President Donald Trump says the administration will 'take a very long look' at a massive multibillion-dollar contract the Pentagon is about to award for a cloud computing system. Amazon Web Services Inc., a division of Amazon, and Microsoft Corp. are finalists for the contract estimated to be worth as much as $10 billion over a decade. Trump says Thursday at the White House that he's been hearing 'tremendous complaints' from other companies that the contract was not competitively bid, among other issues. Some Republican lawmakers also took their concerns about the Pentagon's handling of the contract directly to Trump. Trump is a critic of Amazon, which is owned by Jeff Bezos. Bezos also owns The Washington Post, and Trump has criticized the paper's coverage of the administration.
  • So far this week, an anticipated nationwide sweep has not materialized at the expected magnitude. Yet the mere prospect of such action has prompted legions of pastors, rabbis and their congregations across the United States to stand ready to help vulnerable immigrants with offers of sanctuary and other services. Here's a look at some of the recent developments: ___ Rabbis have organized a network of more than 70 synagogues nationwide committed to supporting immigrants and asylum seekers, whether through providing sanctuary or other assistance, such as accompanying people to check-ins with immigration authorities. Some rabbis have been arrested during a series of protests organized by Jewish activists to oppose immigration crackdowns, including a demonstration Tuesday at the headquarters of Immigration & Customs Enforcement in Washington. The network — T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights headquartered in New York City — says it represents more than 2,000 rabbis and cantors. 'I've never seen an issue that has so mobilized the Jewish community all over the country — it's reached a breaking point,' said T'ruah's director of organizing, Rabbi Salem Pearce. 'A lot of our families went through the things immigrants are experiencing today.' ___ Baltimore-based Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, which has been assisting uprooted people since 1939, has launched a United Sanctuaries of America campaign, seeking to recruit places of worship willing to provide sanctuary to anyone fearful of deportation without due process. LIRS also is reaching out to community organizations and nonprofits which would help ensure that sanctuary providers have needed resources such as legal assistance and logistical support. 'The response has been incredible,' said LIRS president Krish O'Mara Vignarajah. 'Churches are saying they want to be part of this — some have offered to provide safe spaces or meals. Some who have existing sanctuary spaces are now saying they need the legal services.' ICE considers churches and some other places to be 'sensitive locations' and generally does not pursue people inside who are seeking sanctuary. In Seattle, the Gethsemane Lutheran Church provided sanctuary for more than a year for a Mexican immigrant, Jose Robles, who was targeted for deportation. On Tuesday, Robles — accompanied by his wife and three daughters, Gethsemane's pastor, and dozens of other supporters — presented himself to an ICE office in a Seattle suburb, where he was detained after applying for a stay of deportation. Robles' fate is uncertain. The pastor, Joanne Engquist, said efforts would continue to get him a U-visa that would enable him to avoid deportation. Of course, we are deeply disappointed in the outcome,' Engquist said. 'What keeps us going is hope for justice.' ___ At the Church of the Epiphany in Los Angeles, Father Tom Carey says housing people in the sanctuary is an 'option of last resort.' Carey is a member of an organization called Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, or CLUE, which advocates for low-income families and immigrants. Ahead of the announced raids, eight Christian congregations publicly offered their buildings as sanctuaries through the organization. Even in his sermons, Carey takes a stance. By chance, this week's reading was the story of the good Samaritan. 'According to the parable that Jesus told, our neighbors are not the people we know. Our neighbors are the people we don't know who are in trouble,' Carey said. 'And the commandment is to love your neighbor.' Carey's church also connects immigrants needing legal help with an immigration lawyer who works pro bono. Of his 70 or so congregants, Carey estimates a third are in the U.S. illegally. __ Pastor Robert Stearns at Living Water International Apostolic Ministries in Houston has also said his church can be a sanctuary, but his offer comes with caveats. 'The only people who will be allowed in are those who want to participate in becoming American citizens,' Stearns said. Stearns opened his small church as a sanctuary at the request of his representative, Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee. If a person in the U.S. illegally approached him, he said they'd find shelter at the church but they would also have to meet with lawyers or with Jackson Lee's staff. He believes it would be hypocritical to preach against doing wrong and then aid someone trying to break the law. 'We're not going to throw you to the wolves. What we're going to do is set the attorneys in place for you if you're willing to go through that process,' he said. 'If you don't want to do that, there's nothing I can do for you.' ___ In Chicago, the diocese's Catholic Charities has seen a noticeable decline in the number of people taking advantage of its social aid programs, spokeswoman Brigid Murphy said. On an agency-wide call Wednesday, concerned staff soberly discussed the downtick in mothers at its Women, Infants and Children Food and Nutrition Centers and identified ways the human services arm of the diocese can help. Murphy said the organization will try to provide more remote assistance for people afraid to leave their homes. They'll work to educate about immigrants' rights and provide as much legal assistance as can be discussed over the phone. In some ways, however, they're stymied: food can't be distributed by phone. 'Depending on how long this environment continues, we'll be looking at the best ways to serve people in need while staying within the bounds of the law,' Murphy said. 'But I don't know that we've come up with an answer to that yet.' ___ Utah's dominant religious denomination, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, doesn't offer sanctuary to immigrants, but it tries to stake out a compassionate stance on immigration and said last year it was 'deeply troubled' by the family separations at the border. The religion allows local lay leaders to provide 'life-sustaining' help to church members regardless of immigration status, while encouraging people to get legal help to resolve their immigration situation, said church spokesman Eric Hawkins. Members of the faith, widely known as the Mormon church, account for a large portion of the volunteers who help immigrant and refugee resettlement programs run by Catholic Community Services of Utah. Said spokeswoman Danielle Stamos, 'They're help is really critical to what we do.' ___ Associated Press writer Brady McCombs in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.
  • With GOP lawmakers in Congress publicly expressing their concerns about a campaign rally chant aimed at Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), President Donald Trump on Thursday made clear he did not endorse the 'Send her back' call, as Democratic leaders expressed fears for Omar's security. 'I wasn't happy with that message that they gave last night,' the President told reporters at the White House. Asked several times by reporters why he didn't stop the chant, Mr. Trump said it was a 'packed arena,' very specifically saying he did not endorse the message against Omar. 'I was not happy with it,' the President added. 'I didn't like that they did it.' Here was the moment the chant started during his rally, in response to his criticism of four minority women Democratic House members, including Omar: On Capitol Hill, a number of Republicans expressed their concern about the message from the Trump crowd. 'No American should ever talk to another American that way,' said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK). 'That's a very inappropriate sentiment in this country,' Cole told reporters just off the House floor. “The tweet was wrong & the chant last night grotesque,” wrote Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Twitter. “What I’m hearing from Capitol Police is that threats are up across the board for all members,” said Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), who expressed his concern about the ‘send her back’ chant just a few hours after the rally had ended. As for Omar, she met on Thursday morning with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as reporters pressed her to respond to the chant. “We have said this President is racist,” Omar said as she walked from the Capitol back to her House office. Democrats said they were concerned about Omar’s safety and possible threats against her. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), the head of the House Democratic Caucus, encouraged lawmakers and the Capitol Police to quickly share any information about threats to police back in their home districts. “We got to make sure every single person, Democrat, Republican, progressive, conservative, the left and the right, get through it together,” Jeffries said.
  • The Latest on President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats (all times local): 1:55 p.m. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says President Donald Trump's attacks on her and three other Democratic congresswomen are putting millions of Americans at risk of physical harm. The New York Democrat says Trump 'put millions of Americans in danger' at a rally in Greenville, N.C., where Trump supporters chanted 'send her back' about Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, an immigrant from Somalia. Ocasio-Cortez told reporters Trump's 'rhetoric is endangering lots of people. This is not just about threats to individual members of Congress, but it is about creating a volatile environment in this country through violent rhetoric that puts anyone, like Ilhan, anyone who believes in the rights of all people in danger and I think that he has a responsibility for that environment.' Trump claims he 'was not happy' when his supporters at a rally Wednesday night in North Carolina chanted 'send her back' in reference to Omar. Trump said last weekend that Omar and other progressive Democratic lawmakers of color should leave the country and 'go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came' over their criticism of his administration. __ 1:25 p.m. Rep. Ilhan Omar, the Somali-born congresswoman and target of 'send her back' chants at President Donald Trump's campaign rally, is lashing out at Trump, calling him 'fascist.' The Minnesota Democrat made the remark to reporters Thursday, a day after Trump accused her and other progressive Democratic lawmakers of color of disliking the U.S. During his Wednesday night rally, Trump slowly surveyed the crowd but did nothing to stop the 'send her back' chants after his remarks about Omar. Omar told reporters: 'We have condemned his remarks. I believe he is fascist.' Omar cited the chants, saying, 'This is what this president and his supporters have turned our country' into. She says Trump's taunt that she and others should return to their native countries is 'to every single person who shares an identity with me. He's telling them that this is not their country.' __ 1:10 p.m. President Donald Trump says he 'was not happy' when his supporters at a rally Wednesday night in North Carolina chanted 'send her back' in reference to Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar. Trump is claiming that he thought he ended the chant at the rally, saying ''I felt badly about it.' But video shows him pausing his remarks and not admonishing his supporters. He adds he 'would certainly try' to stop the chant should it return. Trump said this weekend that Omar and other progressive Democratic lawmakers of color should leave the country and 'go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came' over their criticism of his administration. The racist message sparked days of controversy, as the president sought to make the progressive lawmakers the face of their party.
  • A-list celebrities seem to be opening their hearts — or at least their wallets — to Pete Buttigieg. The South Bend, Indiana, mayor was a virtual unknown months ago. But he used breakout town hall performances, viral moments and his biography as a millennial, gay military veteran and a former Rhodes scholar to get the attention of the entertainment industry and rake in cash for his 2020 Democratic presidential campaign. Among the more than 50 celebrities who gave Buttigieg money during the second quarter are rocker Joan Jett ($150), recording industry mogul David Geffen ($5,600), fashion icon Anna Wintour ($2,800), designer Tom Ford ($5,600), actress Sharon Stone ($5,600) and comedian Ellen DeGeneres ($5,600). They helped fuel his field-leading $24.8 million fundraising haul. Democratic politicians — and particularly White House hopefuls — have long leaned on the entertainment industry's home of California to serve as an ATM for their political ambitions. During the second quarter, Buttigieg proved to be particularly effective at it, outraising home-state Sen. Kamala Harris on his way toward collecting $3.8 million there, according to an analysis of Federal Election Commission data. 'We're very interested in Pete. People are drawn to civility and intelligence in this moment more than ever before,' said Michael S. Smith, a designer and major Democratic donor who has cut checks to several 2020 candidates and hosted a fundraiser for former Vice President Joe Biden that raised over $750,000. It's unclear whether Buttigieg's early popularity in Hollywood is sustainable for a campaign that's still in its early stages. Many entertainment industry heavyweights who have given to Buttigieg are keeping their options open and have also given to others in the race. Smith and his husband, James Costos, the former ambassador to Spain, both gave to Buttigieg. They are also among the co-hosts of another Biden fundraiser in Los Angeles on Thursday at the home of Sony's Motion Picture Chairman Tom Rothman. The event also has drawn super-agent Bryan Lourd, Warner Bros. Chairman Toby Emmerich and former Sony chair Amy Pascal. Buttigieg was supposed to have a massive LGBT fundraiser last month that included Lourd, showrunner Ryan Murphy and actor Billy Eichner, among others. But it was canceled — and has yet to be rescheduled — so that Buttigieg could deal with unrest at home after a white South Bend police officer shot and killed a black man who police say was armed with a knife. Still, when it comes to the sizzle of celebs, Buttigieg appears to be surpassing his rivals. During the second fundraising quarter, Buttigieg kept up an aggressive fundraising schedule, often hitting multiple events in one day, including one held by actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who gave him $2,800. He also collected money from Star Trek actor George Takei ($1,250); DreamWorks co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and his wife, Marilyn ($5,600); Full House star John Stamos ($1,000); actress and singer Barbra Streisand ($1,000); and comedian and writer Larry David ($2,800). He was also given $5,600 by Playboy heir Cooper Hefner and collected $250 from actress Jennifer Aniston, records show. Other presidential contenders have drawn celebs of their own. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has sworn off attending big-dollar fundraisers, received donations from actress Scarlett Johansson ($2,800), comedian Amy Schumer ($5,600), television personality Rosie O'Donnell ($355), Jett ($235), actress and singer Bette Midler ($2,800), actor and producer Ryan Reynolds ($2,000), television producer Shonda Rhimes ($2,800) and musician Jackson Browne ($1,200). New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker collected $732 from his girlfriend, the actress Rosario Dawson, $500 from actress Alicia Silverstone and $2,800 from actor Ben Affleck. Actress Jane Fonda gave $1,000 apiece to Warren, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, for whom she co-hosted a fundraiser. Fonda gave $2,000 to Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, records show. Inslee also collected $5,600 from Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard. New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, who was late to enter the race and languished in fundraising, collected at least one contribution from a celebrity. Actor Steve Buscemi gave him $5,600, records show. ___ Follow Slodysko on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/BrianSlodysko
  • The Latest on legislation to raise the federal minimum wage (all times local): 12:05 p.m. The House has approved legislation to raise the federal minimum wage for the first time in a decade, to $15 an hour. Democrats pushed through the bill Thursday with a party-line vote of 231-199, but it has almost no chance in the Republican-controlled Senate. A hike in the $7.25 hourly wage has been a top Democratic campaign promise. It's intended to address income inequality that's driving the 2020 political debate. The legislation, for the first time, would pay tipped workers the same as others earning the minimum, boosting their pay to $15 an hour, too. It's now $2.13. Republicans balked at the wage hike, saying it would cost jobs. States are already able to raise the wage beyond the federal minimum, and many have done so. __ 11 a.m. For the first time in a decade, the House is set to approve an increase in the federal minimum wage — to $15 an hour, including for tipped workers. Passage was expected Thursday after centrists won concessions for a slower phase-in, over six years instead of five. They also won assurances the pay hike could be halted midway if a study shows job losses or other adverse effects. A minimum wage hike has been a top Democratic campaign promise, intended to address income inequality that's driving the 2020 political debate. Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland said raising the wage is the 'right thing to do.' Some 30 million workers would see bigger paychecks, according to a budget report.