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--> A midday take on what's happening in politics and how to have a sense of humor about it.*

*Ha. Haha. Hahah. Sniff. Haha. Sniff. Ha--breaks down crying hysterically.


The Hill's 12:30 Report: Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulTrio of NFL players intern on Capitol Hill as part of league program Trump keeps tight grip on GOP GOP moves to rein in president's emergency powers MORE to support Kavanaugh | Manchin to become first Dem to meet with court pick | Why the meeting is so important for Dems | Giuliani says 'collusion is not a crime' | Trump pushes border security after shutdown threat | Big test for Mueller as Manafort trial starts Tuesday | What to watch for | Sessions forms 'religious liberty task force' | National Cheesecake Day



If Kavanaugh were strategic, he would make 'Take Me Home, Country Roads' his ringtone today:


Democratic Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinManchin says he won't support LGBTQ protection bill as written Senators offer bipartisan bill to fix 'retail glitch' in GOP tax law Murkowski, Manchin call for 'responsible solutions' to climate change MORE (W.Va.), who voted for President TrumpDonald John TrumpDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals to visit White House on Monday Transportation Dept requests formal audit of Boeing 737 Max certification MORE's last Supreme Court nominee, now-Justice Neil Gorsuch, is meeting with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh this afternoon. Keep in mind: Manchin is up for reelection this year. Why Manchin is getting special treatment: Manchin is known to vote independently from his party. Manchin's decision about Kavanaugh could embolden other Democratic senators to throw their support for Trump's nominee.


Breaking -- Rand Paul is a yes!:

GOP Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) just announced he will support Supreme Court nominee Brett KavanaughWhy this is important: Paul has been undecided on Kavanaugh -- and is known for causing headaches for Republican leadership. Paul said in a statement: "After meeting Judge Kavanaugh and reviewing his record, I have decided to support his nomination."


It's Monday -- welcome back! I'm Cate Martel with a quick recap of the morning and what's coming up. Send comments, story ideas and events for our radar to and on Facebook.



Giuliani's new argument -- 'collusion is not a crime':

During an interview on "Fox & Friends," President Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani dismissed the Russia investigation, saying that collusion is "not a crime."  In Giuliani's words: "I have been sitting here looking in the federal code trying to find collusion as a crime. Collusion is not a crime." Watch the back and forth:

GIULIANI ALSO SAID: "Everything that's been released so far shows the president to be absolutely innocent. He didn't do anything wrong. The last two tapes are evidence in his favor."


When I say 'wall,' you say 'shutdown' -- 'wall!' 'shutdown!': 

This morning, President Trump doubled down on his call to increase border security and overhaul the United States' immigration system. He tweeted: "We must have Border Security, get rid of Chain, Lottery, Catch & Release Sanctuary Cities - go to Merit based Immigration. Protect ICE and Law Enforcement and, of course, keep building, but much faster, THE WALL!"

WHY THIS TWEET MAKES EVERYONE ON CAPITOL HILL NERVOUS: This tweet comes a day after the president threatened to shut down the government over border security funding.


Task forces sound so hard-core:

Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRosenstein still working at DOJ despite plans to leave in mid-March Juan Williams: Don't rule out impeaching Trump O'Rourke on impeachment: 2020 vote may be best way to 'resolve' Trump MORE announced that the Department of Justice is creating a task force on religious liberty. Keep in mind: This is to implement President Trump's executive order last year to direct agencies to protect religious liberty and political speech.



It's been more than four years and we still don't know what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370:

An independent investigative report on the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was released this morning. The gist: A third party likely played a role in the plane's disappearance, but there are no definitive answers on what happened. Was anyone on the flight involved?: No evidence was found to suggest the pilots or any passengers were involved in the disappearance. Keep in mind: A few remnants of the plane were found in Africa and around the Indian Ocean.



Why every news network will suddenly become 'Court TV' tomorrow: 

The trial against President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortHill-HarrisX poll: 76 percent oppose Trump pardoning former campaign aides New York prosecutors throw out Constitution to charge Manafort Another prosecutor leaves Mueller investigation in latest sign probe may be winding down MORE, begins on Tuesday. 


What charges: Bank and tax fraud charges. For example: "Allegations [Manafort] laundered $30 million from work on behalf of pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians and then stashed money overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes."

Why this case is especially important for Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE: This is the first courtroom test for special counsel Robert Mueller

What a win for the prosecution would mean: "If prosecutors secure a conviction -- even on just a few of the 18 counts against Manafort -- it will be seen as a preliminary victory for an investigation that has led to the indictment of 32 people, with more potentially on the way." 

How many witnesses?: 35 witnesses. For example: "The list includes names ranging from Richard Gates, who was indicted alongside Manafort but pleaded guilty, to a Democratic operative Tad Devin, who served as Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersAlan Dershowitz: In defense of Chelsea Clinton O'Rourke: Decisions on late-term abortions 'best left to a woman and her doctor' CNN to host town hall with Cory Booker in South Carolina MORE's (I-Vt.) chief strategist when he ran for president in 2016."

More details and context from The Hill's Lydia Wheeler:



A different kind of August on Capitol Hill:

Via The Hill's Jordain Carney, senators are racing to finish work to head out for a week in August. What they still have to finish: "The Senate is poised to wrap up work on two must-pass bills, pass another government funding package, confirm Trump's 24th appeals court judge and go to conference with the House before leaving Washington for a week." Womp: The House is out until September, but the Senate is only taking off the week of Aug. 6.


Appropriations: The Senate is hoping to finish another government funding package. Keep in mind: This bill is the second of 12 bills that must be passed before October to avoid another shutdown.

Flood insurance: The Senate will vote on a bill to extend the National Flood Insurance Program through November.

Defense policy: The Senate is planning to vote on its annual defense bill.

Nominations: The Senate will work on judicial nominations.

Farm bill: A vote hasn't been scheduled yet, but the Senate is expected to vote to go to conference on the farm bill. 

Context and details for each:



What a STEAL:

She then added after the tweet went viral: “Yes I know I played myself here. I was hungry! And lazy” Haha, we’ve all been there.


Wow, this is a cool photo:



The Senate meets later today. The House is out.

10:40 a.m. EDT: Vice President Pence left for Newark, Ohio, for a campaign event.

11:15 a.m. EDT: President Trump received an intelligence briefing.

12:15 p.m. EDT: President Trump meets with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and holds an expanded bilateral meeting.

1 p.m. EDT: Vice President Pence campaigns for congressional candidate Troy Balderson in Newark, Ohio.

3 p.m. EDT: The Senate meets.

3:40 p.m. EDT: Vice President Pence arrives back in Washington, D.C.

4:30 p.m. EDT: President Trump swears in Robert Wilkie as the new Veterans Affairs secretary. Vice President Pence also attends.

5:30 p.m. EDT: The Senate votes. The Senate's full schedule today: 

6:30 p.m. EDT: Vice President Pence participates in an America First Action dinner in Washington, D.C.



2 p.m. EDT: President Trump holds a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe ConteLivestream:



Today is National Cheesecake Day.


A Starbucks for the deaf community:

Starbucks is opening its first U.S. signing store in Washington, D.C. When: Later this year. What that means: "The chain is expected to hire 20 to 25 deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing partners from across the country to work at the signing store. Additionally, all partners will be fluent in American sign language." Where: Near Gallaudet University. Details:


And because you made it to the end, here's a toddler wearing my rain outfit goals. I. Need. This.: