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The Morning Dispatch: Bolton Spills the Beans 
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The Morning Dispatch: Bolton Spills the Beans 

Plus, the Republicans introduce police reform legislation.

Happy Thursday! Major League Baseball players and owners are inching closer to a deal that would bring back America’s best sport in mid-July. [Editor: Hockey?] Don’t turn back now, just get this thing done!

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • As of Wednesday night, 2,163,290 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the United States (an increase of 25,574 from yesterday) and 117,717 deaths have been attributed to the virus (an increase of 755 from yesterday), according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Dashboard, leading to a mortality rate among confirmed cases of 5.4 percent (the true mortality rate is likely much lower, between 0.4 percent and 1.4 percent, but it’s impossible to determine precisely due to incomplete testing regimens). Of 24,937877 coronavirus tests conducted in the United States (488,570 conducted since yesterday), 8.7 percent have come back positive.

  • Senate Republicans unveiled on Wednesday the JUSTICE Act, a police reform bill spearheaded by Sen. Tim Scott that aims to restrict law enforcement’s use of chokeholds and expand methods for data collection on policing practices throughout the country.

  • Kim Reynolds, the Republican governor of Iowa, signed an executive order restoring voting rights for former felons. Iowa was the last remaining state in the country that denied ex-felons voting rights for life.

  • Garrett Rolfe—the Atlanta police officer who was fired on Saturday for fatally shooting Rayshard Brooks the night before—has been charged with murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The altercation turned deadly after Brooks, who had been detained for suspected drunk driving, punched Officer Rolfe in the face and grabbed his taser, leading to Rolfe firing at Brooks three times, hitting him twice in the back as Brooks attempted to flee the scene.*

  • Senate Republicans released the Limiting Section 230 to Good Samaritans Act, which seeks to curb some of the liability protections given to internet platforms by Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act by requiring platforms to prove a “duty of good faith” in their content moderation.

  • Marjorie Green, the Republican candidate for Georgia’s 14th congressional district, was condemned by GOP leaders this week after her history of racist comments surfaced. Greene—who is a frontrunner for the deep-red district’s Republican nomination—has suggested that Muslims don’t belong in government, called African-Americans “slaves” to the Democratic Party, and argued that blacks should be “proud” of Confederate statues. She’s also a proponent of the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Bolton Spills the Beans 

During the saga of President Trump’s impeachment earlier this year, one of the most dramatic questions on both the House and Senate sides was: Will John Bolton testify? As a former member of the president’s foreign policy inner circle, Bolton likely had more authoritative knowledge than any other witness on the question of whether the president had refused to allow military aid to be sent to Ukraine until President Volodymyr Zelensky announced an investigation into Joe Biden’s son Hunter. But Bolton refused to testify before the Democrat-controlled House, and his belated announcement that he was willing to testify before the Senate went unheeded by its GOP majority. Impeachment passed without us hearing from him.

Now, however, Bolton has a book coming out. And it turns out that Bolton did indeed have something to say about a quid pro quo: According to the book, President Trump said on August 20 that “he wasn’t in favor of sending [Ukraine] anything until all the Russia-investigation materials related to Clinton and Biden had been turned over.” The whole affair, he writes, “was bad policy, questionable legally, and unacceptable as presidential behavior.”

That sounds like it might’ve been helpful testimony to provide to Congress during impeachment, but Bolton is dismissive of that effort: in fact, says he, the House committed “impeachment malpractice” by focusing solely on the Ukraine affair and declining to cast their nets to cover the rest of the Trump administration’s foreign policy. In effect: There’s more where that came from.

It’s a self-serving posture, of course, from a man who decided a book launch was a more appropriate setting than an impeachment inquiry to share what he knows. But reading through the host of other claims from Bolton, at least those included in leaked excerpts and early reviews, it’s hard not to start feeling like he has a point.

Bolton claims that Trump sometimes would freely discuss his own re-election chances with foreign adversaries, sidetracking one June 2019 trade negotiations call with Chinese President Xi Jinping and “pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win.”

This focus on domestic political fortunes bled into those negotiations themselves, too: Bolton claims that Trump’s single-minded focus in endlessly complicated trade discussions was to ensure China committed to buying U.S. agricultural products to shore up the farm vote at home.

“I am hard pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by re-election calculations,” he writes.

The general indictments pile up: Trump liked to “give personal favors to dictators he liked,” and he once complained that “scumbags” in the media “should be executed.” Perhaps the most horrifying allegation is that President Trump at one point encouraged Xi to “go ahead” building concentration camps for ethnic minorities in China, “which he thought was exactly the right thing to do.”

Bolton should be criticized for his timing, but Trump’s might be even worse. On Tuesday—after the book had already been printed and shipped to distributors, and after advance copies had apparently already gone out to a number of media outlets—the Trump administration suddenly announced a lawsuit against its Bolton to block its publication. This suit, of course, didn’t stop the juicy excerpts from coming out Wednesday, but it did make the White House look nervous about the book’s contents. Which, as any political writer could tell you, is about the best gift your book can receive.

‘We Missed [Our Moment] Five Years Ago. We Don’t Have to Miss It Now.’

George Floyd’s death under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer—and the nationwide protests it sparked—has generated a sense of political urgency at the federal level uncommon in these polarized times. House Democrats announced their Justice in Policing Act last week, and on Tuesday afternoon President Trump signed an executive order shaping law enforcement practices. Yesterday, Senate Republicans entered the fray, introducing the JUSTICE Act at a morning press conference.

In a press conference introducing the bill, Sen. Tim Scott argued accumulating data about police practices and misconduct must be the first step to any legislation. “Today, only 40 percent of the departments report that information to the FBI,” he said. “When we hear about the Breonna Taylor case in Louisville, Kentucky, we don’t have any information around no-knock warrants. So for us to start a conversation with banning no-knocks, doesn’t sound like a solid position based on any data because we don’t have that data.”

To remedy this information gap, the JUSTICE Act mandates state and local governments record and share data with the FBI. The George Floyd and Walter Scott Notification Act—part of the broader package—would require departments to report any use of police force that results in death or serious injury (civilian or police), as well as any discharge of a firearm.

Similarly, the Breonna Taylor Notification Act (not to be confused with local legislation in Louisville, Ky.) requires states and localities to share data with the attorney general about the issuances of no-knock warrants: their rationale, whether force was used, the demographic information of those found at the specified location, whether the officers entered the correct address. House Democrats’ proposal would ban these warrants altogether.

In another break from the Democrats’ Justice in Policing Act, the Republican plan does not ban chokeholds outright, opting instead to incentivize their discontinuation by withholding federal grants from states and law enforcement agencies that do not ban the practice themselves except in situations “where deadly force is authorized.”

The bill also provides grants to state and local governments to subsidize both the purchase of body cameras and the training of officers in how to use them, noting that studies have shown body cameras can reduce law enforcement’s use of force by 60 percent. To bolster accountability even further, the Department of Justice would oversee de-escalation training for police departments across the country.

The package would also make lynching—the “ultimate expression of racism in the United States following Reconstruction”—a federal crime.

Democrats argue the legislation doesn’t go far enough. “We don’t need a study about chokeholds. We don’t need a study about … no-knock warrants and the rest. We know what we need to do,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told CNN. “We don’t need a window dressing, toothless bill. We need to take action that is real.”

To Scott, Democratic criticism amounts to little more than barefaced partisanship. Those opposing the JUSTICE Act, he declared yesterday on the Senate floor, “would rather have a conversation about tearing this country apart, making it a binary choice between law enforcement and communities of color instead of working for the American people, bringing the reforms to the table so that we have a chance to balance this nation and direct her towards due north.”

“This bill, the JUSTICE Act, is a serious nationwide effort tackling the issues of police reform, accountability, and transparency,” he continued. “It is grounded in bipartisan principles because I believe the other side has some stuff we have to hear and that our side has some stuff they need to hear. And if we do that, we’ll have the votes to have a real debate next week on this bill. But if we don’t do that, we’ll just talk about scoring political points. You’ll go on MSNBC or CNN and we’ll go on Fox and everybody [will] have their chatter, and more people in communities of color will have less confidence in the institutions of power and authority in this nation because we missed the moment. We missed it five years ago. We don’t have to miss it now.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to proceed with the vote, signaling to Senate Democrats they can either go forward with the JUSTICE Act or risk forgoing any police reform whatsoever.

A Sino-Indian Border Squabble 

A security dispute between China and India along the two countries’ 2,000 mile Himalayan border turned deadly for the first time since 1975 this Monday. Fueled by several recent skirmishes that occurred along the border just weeks ago, the fighting highlights the geopolitical tension that has persisted for six decades between the two countries. We spoke to some experts this week about the conflict, but be sure to also get Tom Joscelyn’s analysis in this week’s Vital Interests (🔒) newsletter.

The squabble broke out Monday after Indian troops tore down a Chinese tent on the Galwan river valley in Ladakh, near where Sino-Indian tensions erupted into a month-long war in 1962. Security forces on both sides brandished guns at the scene but reportedly resorted to stones, nail studded clubs, and fists as their weapons of choice so as not to break the nations’ decades-old agreement banning firearms. Twenty Indian soldiers died, and dozens more were captured, per an Indian military spokesman. The Indian government said Chinese forces faced casualties as well, but China has not confirmed either way. 

The Sino-Indian border is currently disputed in at least 13 different points, according to Yan Bennett, the assistant director for the Paul and Marcia Wythes Center on Contemporary China at Princeton University. India has been building infrastructure in the Galwan river valley since 2008, with the most recent development being the construction of a road to an airbase on one of these disputed border points. China views this as an incursion into its territory. This particular infraction is of the utmost import to China, Bennett said, because of the location in question’s strategic placement on the Belt and Road Initiative and proximity to Pakistan, a key ally to China and enemy of India.

“Given its responsible approach to border management, India is very clear that all its activities are always within the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC),” said India’s Ministry of External Affairs Anurag Srivastava. “We expect the same of the Chinese side.”

China is equally concerned with preserving its territorial sovereignty in the area and claimed no responsibility for the attack. “Indian troops seriously violated our consensus and twice crossed the border line for illegal activities and provoked and attacked Chinese personnel which led to serious physical conflict between the two sides,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijan said Tuesday.

That both parties are nuclear powers increases the stakes of future military combat. Bennett believes China will likely try to de-escalate tensions with India. China’s military has been untested for decades and has not engaged in any significant military combat since the Vietnam War. Chinese media—a mouthpiece for the CCP—has devoted hardly any coverage to the issue, and the PRC has expressed interest in diplomatic talks with India.

Considering India fared much worse during the 1962 Sino-Indian war than did China, it is also in India’s best interest to defuse the situation, according to a former U.S. State Department official. It’s worth noting, however, that Prime Minister Modi has shown himself to be much more assertive on foreign policy than previous Indian leaders.* The United States’ bipartisan relationship with India is “one of the few areas where policy doesn’t shift substantially between administrations,” the source said, and “the concern about China is driving India frankly even closer to the West.”

This skirmish confirms China’s hegemonic tendencies in the region, recently made clear via its territorial feuds over Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the South China Sea. American Enterprise Institute scholar Oriana Skylar Mastro—who also recently spoke with Jonah about Chinese hegemony in the region on The Remnant—told us that China is pressing its claims along the Sino-Indian border “more actively than they have in recent years,” which has puzzled many experts. Mastro said the United States should “urge caution on all sides and not play too strong of a stance in support of one side or another because it really is unclear who is at fault here.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly met with top Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi yesterday.

Worth Your Time

  • David Brooks’ latest piece in The Atlantic describes the “broken” culture in police departments throughout the country. The national conversation about police reform seems to be divided between those who argue that police misconduct is the result of individual “bad apples”—and that reforms should therefore reduce protections for individual bad cops—and those who see the issue as systemically inherent, and thus argue for initiatives like defunding the police. “Both theories contain some truth,” Brooks writes. “But the evidence suggests that the bulk of the problem is on a different level, neither individual or systemic.” It’s cultural, Brooks argues: “The problem lies in the organizational cultures of some police forces. … A cultural regime of dehumanization has been constructed in many police departments.”

  • An editorial at Commentary has an important message about the roots of the chaos in our cities, which the editors trace back to the rise of “a distorted and grotesque version of American history” popularized by “school textbooks and curricula [that] tell of an unredeemable America founded not on the promise of human liberty but human bondage.” The anarchic destruction wreaked by “social-justice mobs” in our streets, the article argues, stems from “the violent politicization of all aspects of American life.” And perhaps most worrying of all, many of our elite cultural institutions have been complicit in the rise of this pervasive anti-Americanism. Our republic is fracturing before our eyes, the editors argue; we must stop the great unraveling before it’s too late.

Presented Without Comment

Also Presented Without Comment

Toeing the Company Line

  • Check out the most recent episode of The Dispatch Podcast to hear the team discuss police reform, the landmark Title VII Supreme Court decision, and … grammatical pet peeves!

  • Abby McCloskey looks at the kerfuffle over the most recent jobs report, where the numbers were better than expected but still bore bad news, and predicted that both parties will be using economic indicators to their advantage during the campaign.

  • Emanuele Ottolenghi offers up a helpful primer on a recent Justice Department forfeiture complaint to seize a $20 million advance payment made to purchase a hotel in Tbilisi, Georgia, by three Iranian businessmen on grounds that it came from funds laundered on behalf of the regime in Iran.

Let Us Know

Who do you think is telling the truth, John Bolton or Donald Trump? Do his allegations change your mind on anything? What do you make of Bolton’s decision to forego impeachment trial testimony and opt instead to disclose his experiences in a book months later?

Reporting by Declan Garvey (@declanpgarvey), Andrew Egger (@EggerDC), Sarah Isgur (@whignewtons), Charlotte Lawson (@charlotteUVA), Audrey Fahlberg (@FahlOutBerg), Nate Hochman (@njhochman), and Steve Hayes (@stephenfhayes).

Corrections, June 18, 2020: The item on former Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe being arrested in the death of Rayshard Brooks incorrectly stated that he shot Brooks three times. He fired three times and hit him twice. Also, in our item about the border conflict between India and China, we mistakenly referred to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as President Modi.