POLITICO Playbook PM: Shakeup in the White House legislative affairs shop

BREAKING … TRUMP CAMPAIGN SPOX TIM MURTAUGH: “The rally scheduled for Saturday in Portsmouth, New Hampshire has been postponed for safety reasons because of Tropical Storm Fay. It will be rescheduled and a new date will be announced soon.”

-- THE FORECAST in Portsmouth on Saturday evening, via the Weather Channel: “Partly cloudy skies during the evening will give way to cloudy skies overnight. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Low around 70F. Winds S at 10 to 20 mph.”

NEW FROM JAKE … SHAKEUP IN LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: “White House liaison to Hill out amid allegations of contacts with lobbyists”: “Chris Cox, President Donald Trump's top liaison to the House of Representatives, has told associates he is leaving the White House, 15 hours after POLITICO raised questions about his alleged contacts with a former lobbying client while in government.

“On multiple occasions, Cox suggested while working in the White House that he was collecting intelligence or doing work after speaking to representatives and lobbyists from corporate interests, multiple sources said. …

“On Thursday afternoon, POLITICO raised a further series of questions about whether and how Cox was involved in a matter last month involving a former lobbying client that was pushing for help in the Trump administration; the White House declined comment. By Friday morning, he said he was leaving the White House.” POLITICO

-- THE LEG AFFAIRS SHOP has been a bit of a revolving door of late. BEN HOWARD left to go downtown, and ERIC UELAND left for the State Department. AMY SWONGER -- who runs Senate-side outreach -- is the acting director.

ANTHONY FAUCI gets the LUNCH WITH THE FT treatment, by HANNAH KUCHLER in Brooklyn: “Fauci last saw Trump in person at the White House on June 2 — and says he has not briefed the president for at least two months. He tells me this in a matter-of-fact tone, but I suspect that his indifference is feigned.

“While Trump holds potential superspreader events, Fauci meets with the task force run by the vice-president. He says he is ‘sure’ that his messages are passed along -- but Trump is evidently not listening. On July 4, the president declared that 99 per cent of Covid-19 cases were ‘harmless’. Stephen Hahn, the US Food and Drug Admin­istration commissioner, refused to tell CNN whether this was right or wrong. So I try Fauci: ‘Is Trump wrong?’

“He chuckles, deflecting by calling it the ‘famous question’. Fauci tries to account for it as an accidental error, rather than part of a pattern of the president playing down the pandemic. ‘I’m trying to figure out where the president got that number. What I think happened is that someone told him that the general mortality is about 1 per cent. And he interpreted, therefore, that 99 per cent is not a problem, when that’s obviously not the case,’ he says.”

LATEST FROM THE PRESIDENT -- @realDonaldTrump at 11:49 a.m.: “Too many Universities and School Systems are about Radical Left Indoctrination, not Education. Therefore, I am telling the Treasury Department to re-examine their Tax-Exempt Status…” “... and/or Funding, which will be taken away if this Propaganda or Act Against Public Policy continues. Our children must be Educated, not Indoctrinated!”

PARDON WATCH -- TRUMP to reporters this morning on Roger Stone: “Well, I’ll be looking at it. I think Roger Stone was very unfairly treated, as were many people, and in the meantime Comey and all these guys are walking around, including Biden and Obama, because we caught them spying on my campaign. Who would have believed that one?”

-- AS MARC CAPUTO reported this morning, commutation seems more likely than pardon. But after the election? All bets are off.

TRADE WARS -- TRUMP SAYS PHASE TWO TRADE DEAL IS OFF, per pooler Jerome Cartillier of AFP: “I don’t think about it now. … Relationship with China has been severely damaged. They could have stopped the plague, they could have stopped it, they didn’t stop it. … Honestly, I have many other things in mind.”

Happy Friday afternoon.

ABC’S WILL STEAKIN (@wsteaks): “Trump to bring in $10M at today’s Florida fundraiser, Republican official tells @ABC News.”

HEADS UP -- “Planned for a Year and Bigger Than First Thought: The Strike on Iran’s Nuclear Program,” by NYT’s David Sanger, Eric Schmitt and Ronen Bergman: “As Iran’s center for advanced nuclear centrifuges lies in charred ruins after an explosion, apparently engineered by Israel, the long-simmering conflict between the United States and Tehran appears to be escalating into a potentially dangerous phase likely to play out during the American presidential election campaign. …

“Two intelligence officials, updated with the damage assessment for the Natanz site recently compiled by the United States and Israel, said it could take the Iranians up to two years to return their nuclear program to the place it was just before the explosion. … Western officials anticipate some type of retaliation, perhaps against American or allied forces in Iraq, perhaps a renewal of cyberattacks.”

HMM -- “A plasma shot could prevent coronavirus. But feds and makers won’t act, scientists say,” by L.A. Times’ Emily Baumgaertner: “Scientists have devised a way to use the antibody-rich blood plasma of COVID-19 survivors for an upper-arm injection that they say could inoculate people against the virus for months. … The two scientists who spearheaded the proposal — an 83-year-old shingles researcher and his counterpart, an HIV gene therapy expert — have garnered widespread support from leading blood and immunology specialists …

“But the idea exists only on paper. Federal officials have twice rejected requests to discuss the proposal, and pharmaceutical companies — even acknowledging the likely efficacy of the plan — have declined to design or manufacture the shots, according to a Times investigation. … There is little disagreement that the idea holds promise; the dispute is over the timing.” LAT

HUNT FOR A VACCINE -- “German Biotech Sees Its Coronavirus Vaccine Ready for Approval by December,” by WSJ’s Bojan Pancevski in Berlin: “The German biotech firm that has partnered with Pfizer Inc. to develop a coronavirus vaccine is confident it will be ready to seek regulatory approval by the end of the year, according to its chief executive. Several hundred million doses could be produced even before approval, and over 1 billion by the end of 2021 …

“The vaccine BioNTech is developing uses experimental technology known as messenger RNA, or mRNA. Pending approval by authorities, BioNTech expects to begin the final stage of the testing process, known as Phase 3 trials, at the end of July. … BioNTech’s candidate showed better-than-expected results in the early-stage study that was published on July 1, the company said.” WSJ

TRUMPIFYING GOVERNMENT -- “Homeland Security Turns to Defending Statues Amid Questions Over Priorities,” by NYT’s Zolan Kanno-Youngs: “[I]n the past few weeks, with the commander in chief striking up a divisive defense of statues and monuments, the department redeployed some of its officers again, this time to guard granite and steel sculptures and property in Seattle; Portland, Ore.; and Washington, D.C.

“And on each move, the president has found the warm embrace of Chad F. Wolf, his acting homeland security secretary. … Mr. Wolf and other current leaders have embraced their assignments with enthusiasm. That has led former Department of Homeland Security officials from both parties to fear that a department created from the ashes of Sept. 11, 2001, to guard against terrorism has been transformed into an engine of Mr. Trump’s political whims.”

MICHAEL FLYNN LATEST -- @joshgerstein: “JUST IN: DC Circuit orders Flynn to reply by 7/20 to Judge Sullivan’s en banc motion aimed at reclaiming authority to have a hearing on the government’s motion to dismiss Flynn's false-statement prosecution. Panel order on hold for now.”

EYES ON THE SKIES -- “American Airlines Has Threatened to Cancel Some Boeing 737 MAX Orders,” by WSJ’s Andrew Tangel: “American Airlines Group Inc. has threatened to cancel some of its orders for Boeing Co. ’s troubled 737 MAX jets, people familiar with the matter said, a sign of deepening financial stress in the aviation industry.

“The Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier has struggled to secure financing for 17 jets it had expected Boeing to deliver this year, some of these people said. The coronavirus pandemic has led to a sharp drop in air-travel demand and left global airlines fighting to survive, with many unable to afford planes they no longer need.” WSJ

THE REOPENING -- “Pediatricians split with Trump on school reopening threats,” by Nicole Gaudiano: “The American Academy of Pediatrics is joining teachers unions and school superintendents in blasting Trump administration threats to withhold federal funds from schools that do not fully reopen.” POLITICOTheir statement

CLICKER -- “Is Your State Doing Enough Coronavirus Testing?” by NYT’s Keith Collins: “The number of daily coronavirus tests conducted in the United States is only 39 percent of the level considered necessary to mitigate the spread of the virus, as many states struggle to ramp up testing to outpace the record number of cases in recent weeks. …

“The level of testing recommended by the researchers at Harvard would require about double the number of daily tests currently being performed. That level of testing, according to the researchers, is the minimum necessary to mitigate the disease. Their estimates for the testing required to suppress the spread of the virus are much higher.” NYT

WHO GOT PAID -- “After lobbying, Catholic Church won $1.4B in virus aid,” by AP’s Reese Dunklin and Michael Rezendes: “The U.S. Roman Catholic Church used a special and unprecedented exemption from federal rules to amass at least $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed coronavirus aid …

“The church’s haul may have reached -- or even exceeded -- $3.5 billion, making a global religious institution with more than a billion followers among the biggest winners in the U.S. government’s pandemic relief efforts, an Associated Press analysis of federal data released this week found. … By aggressively promoting the payroll program and marshaling resources to help affiliates navigate its shifting rules, Catholic dioceses, parishes, schools and other ministries have so far received approval for at least 3,500 forgivable loans, AP found.” AP

BACKSTORY: “‘Pleading’ from aides led to Trump agreeing -- after months -- to wear a mask,” by CNN’s Jeremy Diamond and Kevin Liptak

THE NEW POLITICS OF RACE -- “Trump Is Selling White Grievance. The Suburbs Aren’t Buying It,” by NYT’s Katie Glueck in Cornelius, N.C.: “From North Carolina to Pennsylvania to Arizona, interviews this week with more than two dozen suburban voters in critical swing states revealed abhorrence for Mr. Trump’s growing efforts to fuel white resentment with inflammatory rhetoric on race and cultural heritage. The discomfort was palpable even among voters who also dislike the recent toppling of Confederate statues or who say they agree with some of Mr. Trump’s policies. …

“‘It’s a disgrace,’ said Jane Scilovati, a schoolteacher from Devon, Pa., who called the president’s recent handling of racial issues ‘deplorable.’ ‘He doesn’t have any compassion or empathy. He doesn’t reference historical facts correctly. He’s brought more division to this country than we’ve seen since the Civil Rights Act.’ Ms. Scilovati, 54, voted for Mr. Trump in 2016 but said she now regrets the decision.” NYT

FRIDAY AFTERNOON READ -- “A racial reckoning arrived at West Point, where being black is a ‘beautifully painful experience,’” by WaPo’s Alex Horton: “Black alums have described racist encounters with their classmates loud and subtle, from the chow hall to the parade field. But a letter to administrators from recent top graduates underscores the entrenched racism that minority cadets endured to become part of the Long Gray Line.

“Several cadets in the Class of 2020 said they were called the n-word, according to a letter signed by nine recent graduates, some of whom are black and all held leadership positions. ‘I was told that I was going to rob someone because I was Black,’ one unnamed cadet said. Others reported similar language and veiled threats, such as nooses hidden in desks as bleak practical jokes, followed by inaction by faculty.” WaPo

PLAYBOOK METRO SECTION -- “In private letter to Redskins, FedEx said it will remove signage if name isn’t changed,” by WaPo’s Liz Clarke

CASH DASH … ILLINOIS PLAYBOOK’S SHIA KAPOS: “An uber exclusive fundraiser Thursday for Joe Biden raised more than $3 million, second only to an event in Silicon Valley, according to a source in the Zoom. The event had Gov. J.B. Pritzker and former President Barack Obama in conversation about where the country is headed and what a Biden presidency could mean for the future.”

-- GOP CHALLENGER JOHN JAMES outraised Sen. GARY PETERS (D-Mich.) in Q2, $6.4 million to $5.2 million. (h/t James Arkin)

STAFFING UP -- “Biden campaign hires first top cybersecurity official to protect against digital threats,” by WaPo’s Joseph Marks: “The campaign's decision to delegate security to an industry heavy hitter reflects the intense pressure to avoid a repeat of the Russian hacking and leaking operation that upended Hillary Clinton’s presidential effort four years ago. …

“The new CISO, Chris DeRusha, will be running a team focused exclusively on security. … The campaign is also hiring a new chief technology officer: Jacky Chang will lead a team that develops products and ensures campaign tech runs smoothly.” WaPo