On Politics With Lisa Lerer: Mueller Spoke. Was Anyone Listening?

Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.

Take a look at these two headlines, from The Nation and Breitbart:

One could imagine a world where a well-respected government lawyer warning of widespread, ongoing foreign interference in American elections in nationally televised congressional testimony would prompt bipartisan outcries and action. An interagency task force. Some package of legislation. Or even any kind of consensus that there’s a problem.

Instead, yesterday’s appearance by Robert S. Mueller III highlighted how much the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign has become another partisan food fight.

While Mr. Mueller faltered at times, particularly during a morning session that focused on whether the president obstructed justice, his warnings about Russia were clear.

When asked by Representative Will Hurd, a Texas Republican and former C.I.A. officer, whether Mr. Mueller had evidence the Russians could try to interfere again, he answered with no equivocation: “It wasn’t a single attempt. They’re doing it as we sit here and they expect to do it during the next campaign.”

He warned Russia’s effort to undermine the 2016 election could do “long-term damage to the United States that we need to move quickly to address.”

And asked about President Trump’s past praise for WikiLeaks, which served as a conduit for Russia’s interference, Mr. Mueller said, “Problematic is an understatement in terms of what it displays in terms of giving some, I don’t know, hope or some boost to what is and should be illegal activity”

With the exception of Mr. Hurd, that message seemed lost on Republicans, united behind a president who sees any questions about the role Russia played in the 2016 election as undermining his own victory.

Democrats, too, were not heavily focused on election security during the hearing, choosing instead to try and steer their questioning toward proving that Mr. Trump obstructed justice.

In the nearly three years since Russia’s attack, the Senate has not held a single vote on stand-alone election protection legislation. Just last night, Senate Republicans blocked two election security bills that would require campaigns to alert the F.B.I. and Federal Election Commission about foreign offers of assistance.

Mr. Mueller isn’t the only one warning about Russian meddling. Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, offered a similar warning on Tuesday, saying, “The Russians are absolutely intent on trying to interfere with our elections.”

And this evening, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a (heavily redacted) report concluding that election systems in all 50 states were targeted by Russia in 2016.

Much of the coverage from the hearings may have focused on Mr. Mueller’s quiet hesitance, but on this issue he was practically shouting. With the 2020 election already underway, the country would do well to listen.

Read the latest: Russian Hack of Elections System Was Far-Reaching, Report Finds


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Our colleague Thomas Kaplan, who is covering Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, recently chatted with the senator about her famed selfie lines. He sent us this:

Senator Elizabeth Warren has a lot of plans — and one of them is to take a photo with as many voters as possible.

At her campaign stops, Ms. Warren’s team operates a carefully organized “selfie line” in which anyone who wants a picture with Ms. Warren can get one. There has been no shortage of demand: She has taken pictures with more than 38,000 people since entering the race, her campaign estimates.

This week, we published an article that offers a virtual tour of the Warren selfie line. After watching Ms. Warren in action, I spoke to her about her prolific picture-taking. (Our conversation has been lightly edited and condensed.)

KAPLAN: Tell me how this came to be.

WARREN: It started with the pinkie promises, and mommies and daddies who wanted pictures of little girls getting pinkie promises. And as we got near the end of the 2012 campaign [for Senate in Massachusetts] and people were showing up with babies, with teenagers, shoot, sometimes seniors, saying, “I want a pinkie promise” — and of course everyone wanted a picture to memorialize it.

And I love it, because — I just had to get over how many pictures of me looking not great are out there. I just had to kind of suck it up and say, even if my hair is sticking out at a funny angle or one eye is closed, we’ll all survive.

How does this fit into your campaign strategy? Time is precious for a candidate.

This isn’t about strategy; it’s about what I have to do. It’s how I make this real, person to person.

I know I won’t be able to shake the hand of every single person; I know I won’t be able to take a selfie with every single human being in this country. But I’m going to try. It’s the right way to aim even if you know you can’t get there, because it keeps me on the right path.

Do you hope people will post these pictures and it amplifies your reach?

Absolutely. So, I’m delighted for people to post them, because it’s a way for them to open a conversation with a bunch of their friends. A way to say, here’s a plan to pay for child care, and I like that. Or, here’s a plan to create manufacturing jobs and rebuild a manufacturing base in America. Or even just, I felt hopeful today, and here’s why. And I think that’s good.

Is it exhausting?

No, it’s not. It’s energizing. It’s fun! It really is fun. And remember, yeah, I was there two hours, but so was the last person in line. And if that person cared enough to stay for two hours, so do I. We’re in this fight together. That’s what it means to build a movement — to do it together.

Check out the story for yourself: How to Get a Selfie With Elizabeth Warren in 8 Steps


We’re trying out a new feature today: Isabella Grullón Paz (whom you probably recognize from our morning newsletters) fills us in on a story you might have missed.

What’s the story? You may have heard about the protests breaking out in Puerto Rico. But another American island (well, island chain) is having a moment of its own: Hawaiians are protesting to stop the construction of a $1.4 billion dollar telescope on Mauna Kea.

What’s the context? The dormant volcano is the state’s tallest mountain, and its summit is considered sacred in traditional Hawaiian culture. (There are other cultural sites on the mountain, including a sacred lake, significant burial sites and a historic quarry where stone tools were made.) This telescope would not be the first to be built there, and protesters are worried it wouldn’t be the last, either — in Hawaii, like in many other places, economic interests tend to prevail over those of native communities.

What are the politics? The protests in Hawaii and Puerto Rico speak to the greater political moment, as the racial motivations behind marginalization explode into public view. By bringing attention to their causes, the protesters are expanding the conversation around race from a black-and-white discussion to a fuller definition of systemic racism.

Read more: Protesters on Mauna Kea dig in their heels (CNN); Why Native Hawaiians are fighting to protect Maunakea from a telescope (Vox)


In coming weeks, the Trump administration is expected to all but eliminate an Obama-era regulation intended to reduce vehicle emissions that contribute to global warming. But four of the world’s largest automakers have struck a deal with California to cut down on tailpipe pollution.

Never in recorded history has Paris been hotter than it was on Thursday: 108.7 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s 42.6 Celsius). The heat wave shattered records across Europe.

In The New Yorker, the author Héctor Tobar recalls his childhood in East Hollywood, growing up around immigrants, drifters, and James Earl Ray — the man who would kill the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


“There was a senator, I think it was after my pancreatic cancer, who announced with great glee that I was going to be dead within six months. That senator, whose name I have forgotten, is now himself dead, and I am very much alive.” — Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, in an interview with NPR.


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