‘I do not know this woman’: Trump allies rally to Kavanaugh’s defense

President Donald Trump was counting on being able to deliver on one core promise to his supporters ahead of November’s crucial midterms: Locking in a conservative Supreme Court majority.

The White House went into overdrive late Sunday trying to keep that pledge alive, even as Republican senators joined Democrats in calling to delay a committee vote on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination after Christine Blasey Ford stepped forward to publicly to accuse the judge of sexual assault decades ago.

Immediately after The Washington Post published an explosive story featuring an on-the-record interview with Ford that detailed her allegations, Trump’s allies – both inside and outside the White House – launched a campaign to cast doubt on her account.

More than half a dozen current and former White House officials or people close to the president said that Trump will continue to stand behind Kavanaugh, even as they were increasingly resigned to the likelihood that the Senate Judiciary Committee will be compelled to examine the allegations in detail.

“Of course we’re not going to pull the nomination,” said one White House official involved in the confirmation process after retiring Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, a member of the Judiciary Committee, told POLITICO that he wasn’t comfortable moving ahead on the original timetable.

Four people close to the White House said they expected Republicans to question Ford’s vague recollections of some parts of the episode and why California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, the ranking member on Judiciary, sat on the accusations for months.

Three of them also said they expect the president – still shadowed by the pre-election “Access Hollywood” tape scandal – to go after Ford rather than to turn on Kavanaugh, who was among the judicial candidates pre-vetted and offered to Trump by the Heritage Foundation. They pointed to Trump’s history of denouncing his accusers and those who accused others, including the women who came forward last year to say then-Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore had assaulted them years ago.

Kavanaugh’s defenders on Sunday included Meghan McCaleb and Stephanie Conway McGill, two of the 65 high-school acquaintances of Kavanaugh who signed an open letter last week vouching for his character after the allegations were first reported.

“I stand by the letter I signed. I do not know this woman,” said McGill by email on Sunday, referring to Ford. McCaleb added, “I absolutely stand by the letter we signed.”

More than two dozen of the women who signed onto the letter did not immediately respond when contacted by POLITICO on Sunday about whether they still stood behind their defense of Kavanaugh. Two of the women who signed the letter declined to comment.

Trump has become convinced that many of the negative developments that have plagued his administration are the result of an all-out assault by Democrats to undermine his presidency at any cost, according to the people close to the president. The people close to the president said he’s likely to see the allegations against Kavanaugh as simply another element of the supposed conspiracy against him.

Ford told the Washington Post that Kavanaugh groped her, tried to pull off her clothes and covered her mouth when she tried to scream at a party in Maryland more than three decades ago.

The White House issued the same statement Sunday on Kavanaugh’s behalf that it did last week when the allegations against him first surfaced: “I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation. I did not do this back in high school or at any time.”

A lawyer close to the White House said the nomination will not be withdrawn. “No way, not even a hint of it,” the lawyer said. “If anything, it’s the opposite. If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried. We can all be accused of something.”
This lawyer added: “It’s not even going to slow him down if that’s all she’s got.”

The lawyer, who was in touch Sunday with White House staffers, pointed at Kavanaugh’s steadfast denials that anything happened: “It’d be one thing if Kavanaugh said I made out with her. But Kavanaugh is saying this didn’t happen. He’s saying this is not true.”

Democrats and Republicans on the Judiciary panel were already at odds over Democratic complaints that Kavanaugh’s nomination was being rushed through with incomplete access to records of his service in President George W. Bush’s White House.

It’s highly unusual for Supreme Court nominees to withdraw. The last to do so was Harriet Miers, who was nominated in 2005 by Bush to replace departing Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. The nomination drew a sharply negative reaction from conservatives, who feared Miers, who was Bush’s White House counsel, was too moderate, lacked a record of originalist legal interpretation and was appointed chiefly because she was a “crony” of the president.

Bush aides were taken aback by the criticism and initially tried to move ahead. But after more than three weeks of withering criticism, the White House pulled the nomination, ostensibly at Miers’ request. Four days later, Bush nominated 3rd Circuit Judge Samuel Alito, who was confirmed after an uneventful three-month process, 58-42.

The Ford allegations have raised stark parallels to the harassment claims made in 1991 by Anita Hill shortly before the scheduled vote on Clarence Thomas’ nomination.

Hill’s gripping public testimony set a potentially dangerous precedent for Trump – though Trump allies said they were confident that if Ford speaks to the committee, it would be in a closed session.

One outside Trump adviser was quick to suggest an effort to have Ford testify publicly amid the ongoing #MeToo wave would backfire on Democrats. “They’re playing a high-stakes game right now,” this adviser said. “You know there are a lot of people in this country who are parents of high school boys. This is not Anita Hill.”

Rettig takes over IRS amid budget challenges, regulatory crunch

Veteran tax lawyer Chuck Rettig has an overflowing plate awaiting him as IRS commissioner after the Senate confirmed him Wednesday for the agency’s top job.

While assessing budget needs and reviewing its information technology and security weaknesses, Rettig will also need to immediately make sure the IRS is ready for the upcoming filing season and continue the guidance assembly line that’s producing rules and regulations for the new tax cuts law which took effect this year.

Rettig could also find himself in an uncomfortable position if Democrats take control of the House and try to force the release of President Donald Trump’s tax returns to lawmakers, as some have threatened to do.

“People used to sometimes ask, ‘How complicated is tax administration? People file or they don’t file,'” said former IRS commissioner John Koskinen, Rettig’s immediate predecessor. “I’d tell them to just sit in my office for a day, any day of the week, and look at the range of issues.”

The Senate voted 64-33 to approve Rettig’s nomination, which Trump announced in February, giving the IRS a full-time leader for the first time since November, when Koskinen exited the post at the end of his five-year term. David Kautter has been serving as acting IRS commissioner in addition to his duties as the Treasury Department’s top tax policy official.

Preparing for next year’s tax filing is likely to consume much of Rettig’s early attention, according to Koskinen.

The upcoming filing season is particularly fraught considering the lower personal and business tax rates and myriad other changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which Trump signed at the end of last year. No one wants a filing mess-up on their watch, especially with all the moving parts in play this season, said a former IRS official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of current job sensitivities.

The agency, along with Treasury and the OMB, is still in the midst of preparing many crucial regulations, notably for some complex international provisions of the new law. Some commissioners have been more hands on than others when it comes to rulemaking, and while it’s not clear where Rettig may fall on that spectrum, he’s at least expected to take stock of how the process is progressing and who’s involved in the effort for the IRS as taxpayers seek clarity as soon as possible.

Improving data security and combating tax-related identity theft are also part of Rettig’s portfolio, and he is certain to keep close tabs on those issues. As Kautter and others have noted, the IRS is subjected to more than 2 million attempted cyberattacks a day.

Outdated information technology systems at the IRS will also garner Rettig’s attention. Part of the system crashed on the last day of this year’s tax filing season. Though it was traced to a newer piece of equipment, parts of the overall setup at the IRS infamously date to the 1960s.

As an initiative is under way to install a more modern, agency-wide case management system for taxpayers, Koskinen said it’s important that IT staffers continue coordinating with the agency’s business staff to optimize the end product.

To support all of this, the IRS will need sufficient resources from Congress, which has starved the agency of funding, cutting it by some 20 percent since 2010. Increases this year and next year are tied to implementing the new tax law, and largely fail to address chronic underfunding for the agency.

Rettig, at his confirmation hearing in June, said he wouldn’t be shy about pushing to boost spending for the IRS, which stands to get between $11.3 billion and $11.6 billion for the 2019 federal fiscal year.

Koskinen, who clashed frequently with Republicans in Congress, mostly over the aftermath of a political targeting controversy during the Obama administration, expects his successor to have an easier time securing better spending levels for the agency.

“A new commissioner with a clean slate will be able to have meaningful discussions with members of Congress, particularly the appropriators, about the challenge of underfunding the IRS,” Koskinen said.

Rettig, a tax controversy specialist who’s been with the same California law firm for more than 35 years, is the first tax lawyer to helm the IRS since the late 1990s, when a series of business management executives began leading the agency following a 1998 law that restructured IRS operations.

Congress is again contemplating a raft of changes to how the IRS operates, and Rettig has a chance to weigh in now that he’s confirmed. Among provisions he signaled support for at his Finance Committee confirmation hearing is funding for employee training, language to regulate paid tax preparers, and authority for a more competitive and accelerated hiring process known as streamlined critical pay, which the agency has previously used to bring on new IT employees.

Rettig will also get the chance to surround himself with new deputies, should he choose to make changes, and select a handful of tax technicians from within and outside the IRS to help guide decisions, the former IRS official said. (Tax attorney Michael Desmond is still awaiting confirmation as IRS chief counsel, the only other political appointee at the agency.)

The new commissioner is also expected to take the measure of the agency’s legislative and public affairs staff to ensure their effectiveness in advocating his vision for the agency, the former IRS official said.

While Rettig’s confirmation wasn’t in doubt, it was long coming, most recently due to some Senate Democratic opposition not connected to Rettig’s professional credentials. Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, and some of his colleagues protested a recent Treasury decision to stop most donor disclosure requirements for nonprofit groups, as well as a legal limit on the federal deduction for state and local taxes imposed this year. Both policy changes were made without Rettig’s involvement.

Wyden and 30 other Democrats, along with the chamber’s two independents, voted against Rettig’s confirmation. Another 15 Democrats voted for him, as did every Republican voting.

Trump Is Russia’s Weapon—Not Its End State

For half of a divided America, it’s conventional wisdom that Vladimir Putin had a master plan to install Donald Trump as president. A measured 2017 analysis from the intelligence community documents just how Russia intervened in the U.S. system. More breathlessly, New York magazine has floated the theory that Putin was Trump’s active handler.

It’s not incorrect that Russia gave Trump a boost. But it’s now clear that his presidency isn’t the Kremlin’s endgame at all. He is a useful disruption in a broader campaign—and that’s the one we need to worry about.

In July, Facebook shut downdozens of pages and profiles whose activity resembled previously identified false Russian accounts. These weren’t pro-Trump groups, but feminist, minority rights and “anti-fascist” groups. This is consistent with the patterns observed in 2016, when Kremlin information campaigns supported Trump but also Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein; amplified “white nationalist” groups but also fomented protests against them; engaged veterans and military but also antiwar groups. If there were two sides of a thing, Russia was on both.

It’s chaotic—but chaos is the strategy. Putin’s goal isn’t a puppet president so much as a U.S. society permanently at war with itself. Russia can’t compete in the rules-based international order, but if the American bulwark of that order fractures, a weakened Russia has more space to act as a global power. Its new form of warfighting is evident in the details of special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictments and across the Russian investigation writ large: information warfare conducted by the Internet Research Agency and Russian intelligence; widespread hacking of campaigns and election systems by Russian military hackers; the new informal “illegals,” represented by Mariia Butina and Konstantin Kilimnik, each of whom has been the focus of an indictment.

Now it appears that the metrics of success for the Kremlin’s online campaigns have shifted from likes and clicks to physically mobilizing Americans—and that should worry us, deeply. Multiple lines of effort are underway—targeting us as individuals, as citizens, testing us to see how we react. And right now, unfortunately, they like what they see.

LEGAL Inside Kavanaugh’s hearing prep: Mock hearings and faux protesters

The White House is making last-minute preparations for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s Senate confirmation hearings next week, holding final prep sessions and setting up a pair of rapid-response war rooms.

Kavanaugh, a Washington veteran who worked for President George W. Bush and helped write the Starr Report, has called on his vast network to help him get ready for the hearings. His former clerks, lawyers from the conservative Federalist Society and even Republican senators have participated in nearly a dozen practice sessions designed to mimic the conditions of the often grueling hearings, according to a White House official.

On Monday, Kavanaugh participated in his last full moot court session, which lasted nearly the entire day. Sitting in a large office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, he took questions from aides who played key members of the committee, mimicking their style of questioning. The mock hearing room has been outfitted with a dais, nametags, microphones and a clock with red and green lights meant to keep his answers within the allotted time limit.

The sessions, which are often referred to as “murder boards,” have also featured faux protesters to make sure Kavanaugh stays cool in the event of a midhearing outburst.

Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolinia, Rob Portman of Ohio and Dan Sullivan of Alaska have all helped Kavanaugh practice and critique his performance, according to people familiar with the sessions. Another source said that Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah — a former Judiciary Committee chairman — played the role of chairman in a mock hearing, which included GOP senators standing in for Judiciary members and zeroing in on topics that Democrats are expected to grill Kavanaugh about.

It’s not uncommon for senators to help Supreme Court nominees of their own party prepare for confirmation hearings. Graham, for example, has participated in practice sessions for John Roberts, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first nominee for the high court, while Sullivan also helped with Gorsuch’s preparations.

The White House is organizing a war room in the Senate near the committee room that will be staffed by administration officials, Senate leadership aides and Judiciary Committee staff. A second war room is being set up in Vice President Mike Pence’s Senate office. Staffers will be ready “in case there’s a surprise,” the White House official said.

Kavanaugh’s prep work for the confirmation hearings began in earnest soon after President Donald Trump nominated him in July. Staff from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy and the White House counsel’s office, along with Kavanaugh’s former clerks, prepared dozens of binders packed with information and suggested answers about everything from the establishment clause to environmental law. Kavanaugh took one or two binders home each night, the official said.

The prep work largely mirrored the process Gorsuch underwent before his largely noncontroversial confirmation hearings last year. Gorsuch was confirmed in a 54-45 vote, and Trump has subsequently described the confirmation as one of the high points of his presidency.

Opening statements from Judiciary Committee lawmakers will begin on Tuesday. The committee is preparing for two full days of questioning on Wednesday and Thursday before a panel of outside witnesses, including the American Bar Association, testifies about the nominee on Friday, Sept. 7.

Kavanaugh, a federal appeals court judge, will be introduced to the committee on Tuesday by Portman, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Lisa Blatt, a former clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who wrote a recent op-ed urging liberals to support the nomination.

Civil rights organizations, abortion advocates and consumer watchdogs have mounted a vigorous fight to trip up Kavanaugh’s confirmation, but their efforts have failed to get serious traction. The White House and Kavanaugh’s outside supporters are sanguine that his hearings — and ultimately the Senate vote — will go smoothly.

Senators have pored over an estimated 1 million pages of Kavanaugh’s writings, including legal opinions from his tenure on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington and emails from his career as a White House attorney and assistant to the prosecutor who investigated former President Bill Clinton and the suicide of Clinton aide Vince Foster.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has called the volume of documents a record for any high court nominee. The Senate vetting of Neil Gorsuch, by contrast, produced about 170,000 pages.

An estimated 287,000-plus pages of documents from his service in the Bush administration have been made public so far, much to the consternation of Democrats,who have charged the GOP with blocking a more transparent assessment of Kavanaugh’s complete record.

Kavanaugh has faced tough questions before. In 2006, it took three years for the Senate to confirm him to the U.S. District Court in Washington. Back then, Democrats took aim at his lack of experience. This time, Republicans have the advantage of his 12 years on the bench and a volume of legal opinions that they say will show him to be a seasoned jurist. Last week, he was endorsed by 41 veteran appellate lawyers, Republicans and Democrats.

New Manafort docs appear to contradict own lobbying claims

New documents filed in court by Paul Manafort’s lawyers appear to contradict his legal team’s own claims that the former Trump campaign chairman’s team only lobbied on behalf of the Ukrainian government in Europe.

The revelation could be important as Manafort is trying to fend off charges from special counsel Robert Mueller that Manafort failed to register as a foreign agent in connection with his lobbying work for the Ukrainian government. Earlier this year, Mueller accused Manafort and his former deputy, Rick Gates, of secretly organizing a group of former European politicians known as the “Hapsburg group” to lobby in the U.S. for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his party.

But, according to prosecutors, Manafort and his longtime associate, Konstantin Kilimnik, pressed those involved in the lobbying campaign to stress that the effort was focused exclusively on the European Union. A federal judge later ruled that Manafort was attempting to tamper with the testimony of potential witnesses and ordered him jailed over the incident.

Thursday’s documents — filed as part of a motion in court seeking to withhold more than 50 pieces of evidence from the jury in the upcoming trial — could complicate the EU-focused narrative. Several exhibits included in the court filing seem to contradict Kilimnik’s assertion that the Hapsburg group never lobbied in Washington.

“The Hapsburg team will also do a series of events between March and May in Washington DC designed to change the public rhetoric directed at Ukraine, but to also influence key members of the US Government through private meetings held at the highest levels,” Manafort wrote to Yanukvych in a memo dated Feb. 21, 2013. “This will include major speeches, participation in key events, and private meetings with senior US officials including Secretary of State John Kerry, and other members of the Administration.”

A spokesman for Manafort declined to comment.

The memo isn’t the first evidence that the Hapsburg group — which included a former Austrian chancellor and a former Italian prime minister — lobbied in the U.S. Manafort wrote in another memo made public by Mueller’s team last month that he had “organized and leveraged” the visits of two Hapsburg group members to Washington. And disclosure reports retroactively filed by two Washington lobbying firms show that members of the Hapsburg group met with lawmakers in Washington around the same time.

Manafort is not set to face trial on his lobbying-related charges until September. However, he will face trial next week on separate Mueller charges of tax evasion, bank fraud and failing to report foreign bank accounts.

The documents filed by Manafort’s lawyers on Thursday comprise hundreds of pages and offer the most detailed look yet into the lobbying campaign he orchestrated in Europe and Washington.

In a memo to Yanukovych dated Feb. 4, 2013, Manafort wrote that John Kerry’s confirmation as secretary of state “is a positive development for us and will be a dramatic change from former Secretary Clinton.”

The Feb. 4 memo isn’t the only one in which Manafort appeared wary of Hillary Clinton, who had stepped down as secretary of state days earlier.

“It is important to understand that holdovers from the Clinton days and the US Embassy in Kyiv are not objective and are conspiring to identify options to get sanctions as a tool to pressure the Yanukovich Government,” Manafort wrote in another memo to Yanukovych.

Manafort also described Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the incoming chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), the incoming chairman of the Europe, Eurasia and emerging threats subcommittee, as good for Ukraine.

Manafort was more pessimistic about Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), the new chairman of another subcommittee, suggesting that he’d use his position to raise the issue of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister and Yanukovych’s political rival. Yanukovych’s government imprisoned Tymoshenko on what were widely condemned at the time as politically-motivated charges.

“It is highly likely that Smith uses this subcommittee as a vehicle to hold hearings on [Tymoshenko’s] situation and possibly promote legislation,” the memo reads.

Smith had previously introduced a bill to encourage free and fair Ukrainian elections. Lobbyists hired by Manafort and Gates had lobbied against bills in 2012 condemning Yanukovych’s imprisonment of Tymoshenko.

Some of the documents are more cryptic.

One document, dated Jan. 15, 2013, lists four consultants in the U.S.: “Podesta/Devine/Weber/ Barry Jackson.”

The lobbyists Tony Podesta of the Podesta Group and Vin Weber of Mercury and the consultant Tad Devine have all confirmed that they worked with Manafort and Gates. But Jackson, a former chief of staff to one-time House Speaker John Boehner, has not been tied to Manafort.

Jackson said he had no idea why his name was there.“I have done no work with or for Paul Manafort nor on behalf of the Yanukovych regime and know of no reason why my name shows up in a document,” Jackson wrote in an email to POLITICO on Thursday evening.

Congress grapples with debt ceiling crisis, July 23, 2011

On this day in 2011, President Barack Obama summoned congressional leaders to an emergency meeting at the White House to deal with a federal debt crisis after failed efforts to strike a bipartisan “grand bargain” — one that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had said would have cut $3 trillion to $4 trillion in spending over 10 years.

“I want them here at 11 a.m. tomorrow,” Obama told reporters after his talks with Boehner had reached an impasse. “They are going to have to explain to me how it is that we are going to avoid default.”

Obama told congressional leaders at their Saturday meeting that global markets could react adversely to the failure on Friday to strike a deal, a point reinforced by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. The hourlong meeting broke up shortly before noon without resolving the impasse.

“We have run out of time for politics. Now is the time for cooperation,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, (D-Nev.) said after the failed session.

Later that day, Boehner met separately with key Republican lawmakers in a further bid to cobble together a deficit-reduction package that could pass muster in the GOP-controlled House. “We are working, and I’m confident there will be a resolution,” Boehner told fellow House Republicans during an afternoon conference call. “There has to be.”

They deadlocked over major elements of an agreement even as several lawmakers said they were determined to make a new compromise public on Sunday before financial markets opened in Asia. But that bid also soon foundered.

On July 31, Obama and Boehner announced that an agreement had been reached to raise the $14.3 trillion U.S. debt ceiling until after the 2012 election. The president signed the Budget Control Act of 2011 into law on Aug. 2, the date Treasury officials said the nation’s borrowing authority would have expired.

On Feb. 9, 2018, President Donald Trump signed into law the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, suspending the debt limit through March 1, 2019.

Absent further action by Congress, when the suspension expires, the U.S. Treasury will once again find itself up against the debt limit. At that point, the secretary would begin deploying so-called extraordinary measures, accounting maneuvers that allow for full government operations to continue for an additional, but necessarily limited, period.

When such extraordinary measures run out and Treasury depletes its cash reserves, the federal government would reach the “X Date” — the day when the U.S. government is unable to meet its obligations in full and on time. A preliminary analysis by the Bipartisan Policy Center indicates Treasury will have enough cash on hand, given its ability to deploy extraordinary measures, to operate the federal government through at least the summer, if not the fall of 2019, thus encompassing most of Trump’s term in the White House.

As of April 30, the total national debt amounted to about $21 trillion.

Robert D. Ray, longtime Iowa governor, dies at 89

DES MOINES, Iowa — Former longtime Iowa Gov. Robert D. Ray, who helped thousands of Vietnam War refugees relocate to the state and defined Iowa’s Republican politics for years, has died. He was 89.

Ray, who never faced a serious election challenge during his 14 years as governor, died Sunday morning at a nursing home in Des Moines, said his former chief of staff David Oman. Ray had been battling Parkinson’s diseas for several years, Oman said.

Ray once said that his approach to governing was simple: leave politics out of the decision-making process.

“I used to tell the staff, whenever we would talk about something like that, that you don’t start talking about politics at all,” Ray told The Associated Press during an interview in November 2011. “Let’s just decide what the right thing to do is, and then we’ll decide how to promote it.”

During his 14 years as governor, Ray never faced a serious election challenge before he decided not to again seek re-election in 1982.

Recalling his time at the state’s helm, Ray said he was especially proud of his work beginning in 1975 to resettle refugees from the Vietnam War in Iowa. The state became one of the largest resettlement locations in the U.S., and Ray dismissed any notion that relocating thousands of people fleeing Vietnam to his largely rural Midwestern state would carry political risks.

“It was saving the lives of refugees,” Ray said. “People would say that you might not get re-elected and I would say I can make more money if I don’t get re-elected.”

He was born Robert Dolph Ray in Des Moines on Sept. 26, 1928. Ray graduated from the Drake University law school in 1954, and became active in Republican politics while practicing law. He eventually was considered a leader of the party’s moderate wing.

He became chairman of the Iowa Republican Party and was credited with rebuilding it after the devastating GOP losses in 1964, when Barry Goldwater headed the party’s national ticket and lost in a historic landslide to President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Ray was rewarded for his efforts with his gubernatorial win. He also served as chairman of the National Governors Association, the Republican Governors Association, the Midwestern Governors Association, the Education Commission of the States and the Council of State Governments. And in 1976, he and his wife, Billie, and their three children were the first family to live in the governor’s mansion in Terrace Hill.

Although Ray was a strong Republican throughout his life, some of his decisions seemed to run counter to GOP leanings at the time.

He signed into law the state’s bottle deposit system, which encouraged recycling by tacking a fee on soda and beer bottles that was repaid upon their return. He also created the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women, which advocates for policies that benefit women and girls. He also signed executive orders promoting civil rights and energy conservation.

“Obviously he was intelligent and a good politician, but he also had this compassion and forward thinking,” veteran Republican activist Becky Beach said in 2011. “To be a conservative Republican and talk about women’s rights was not something that everybody looked favorably on.”

But she noted that Ray “always had such a presence and generosity that kind of transcended whatever the chaos of the day was.”

Jerry Fitzgerald, who served as Democratic House majority leader during part of Ray’s tenure, said the former governor was reasonable and wanted to solve problems.

“He was an honorable man who did a lot of good things for the state,” Fitzgerald said a November 2011 interview.

Current Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds praised Ray’s leadership.

“His civility, courage and common-sense governing set a high standard for those who followed,” Reynolds said Sunday.

Ray remained active in public life after leaving the governor’s office, including serving as interim mayor of Des Moines in 1997, the same year he helped form the Institute for Character Development at Drake University. A year later, he served as the university’s interim president.

What attracted him to politics, he said, was the chance to work with people and improve their lives.

“There’s an excitement about being able to help other people, particularly in the governor’s office,” Ray said. “Money isn’t the only reason you exist.”

Melania Trump attends Ford’s Theatre gala

First lady Melania Trump attended the Ford’s Theatre annual gala on Sunday evening, paying tribute to President Abraham Lincoln’s legacy. It was one of her first public appearances since surgery last month.

“Tonight reminds all of us about the power the arts have in cultivating the American voice,” the first lady, who served as the honorary chairman, said in a statement. “Thank you to Ford’s Theatre Society for tonight, and your continued dedication to education and leadership in the arts — the impact they have on society is invaluable and something we will continue to cherish throughout time.”

Trump attended the event with President Donald Trump last year, but went solo due to the commander in chief’s presence in Singapore for his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

The first lady is beginning to return to a more public schedule after spending nearly three weeks out of the limelight following a kidney procedure.

Robert Kennedy laid to rest at Arlington, June 8, 1968

On this day 50 years ago, Sen. Robert Kennedy (D-N.Y.), three days after being felled by an assassin in California, was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, 30 yards from the grave of his assassinated older brother, President John F. Kennedy.

Robert Kennedy, 42, was struck down at a Los Angeles hotel while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination. He died two months after civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Like King, Kennedy had stressed the need for social justice and had called for an end to the Vietnam War.

Thousands of mourners attended Kennedy’s funeral mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. In his eulogy, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) said, “My brother need not be idolized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life. [He should] be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering, and tried to heal it, saw war, and tried to stop it.

“Those of us who loved him, and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us, and what he wished for others, will someday come to pass for all the world. As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him: ‘Some men see things as they are and say, “Why?” I dream of things that never were and say, “Why not?”’”

A special funeral train then brought Kennedy’s casket from New York to Washington, D.C., while hundreds of thousands of people lined the tracks. It took the train eight hours to make the usually four-hour journey. Members of Kennedy’s large family walked through the train to talk with the invited travelers who made the sad trip with them.

In the April 3 issue of The New Yorker, Louis Menand wrote: “Trains in the Northeast corridor do not run through upscale neighborhoods. The people who spontaneously turned out to watch the funeral train pass by — Kennedy’s biographer Evan Thomas says there were a million — were, by appearance, mostly working class, and there were whites and African-Americans often standing in clusters together.

“In 2018, looking back at those images, as the train approaches the terminal and the light begins to fade, you realize that you are watching the final hours of the great Democratic coalition that had dominated American politics since the election of Franklin Roosevelt, in 1932 — the coalition that would fracture six months later with the election of Richard Nixon, and which is now as dead as Robert Kennedy.”

The train arrived at Union Station shortly after 9 p.m. Many mourners who had made the 210-mile journey walked from the station down Constitution Avenue to Arlington to attend the only nighttime burial in the cemetery’s history.

Patrick Henry dies in Virginia at age 63, June 6, 1799

On this day in 1799, Patrick Henry, the first post-colonial governor of Virginia and, for a time, an outspoken critic of the federal government, died at Red Hill, his 520-acre plantation near Brookneal, Virginia, in Charlotte County. He was 63.

Capitalizing on his courtroom skills, Henry launched his political career in 1765 by winning a seat in the Virginia House of Burgesses, where he challenged the British Parliament’s colonial tax policies. In 1774 and 1775, he represented Virginia at the First and Second Continental Congresses, respectively, in Philadelphia. On the eve of the American Revolution, Henry famously proclaimed: “Gentlemen may cry, peace, peace — but there is not peace. The war is actually begun! … I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

In 1784, Henry was again elected governor of Virginia and served until 1786. He declined to attend the Constitutional Convention of 1787, reputedly saying that he “smelt a rat in Philadelphia, tending toward the monarchy.”

Henry sought to sway his fellow Virginians against ratifying the U.S. Constitution. He nearly succeeded, arguing that it gave away too much power to the federal government. Once it passed, however, he was instrumental in attaching the Bill of Rights to the founding document.

President George Washington offered him multiple posts, including secretary of state, chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and minister to Spain. Henry turned them all down.

In the wake of the French Revolution, which took a radical turn, Henry, fearing a similar fate could befall the new republic, which was beginning to experience popular unrest, altered his views and became a Federalist. He supported the policies of Washington and John Adams and denounced the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions, which argued that states had the right to nullify federal laws that they regarded as unconstitutional.

As historian Richard Beeman noted in a 1974 biography, Henry was a man who “did not bother to write much of anything down.” The lack of primary source materials regarding Henry — only a handful of papers and a few of his speeches survive — has frustrated Henry’s biographers.

Two years before publishing his biography of Henry in 1817, William Wirt (1772-1834), a historian who also served as a U.S. attorney general, commented, “It is all speaking, speaking, speaking. ‘Tis true he could talk — Gods! how he could talk! but … to make the matter worse, from 1763 to 1789 … not one of his speeches lives in print, writing or memory.”

For his part, Beeman wrote that “the revolutionary firebrand, whatever his achievements, possessed a miserable sense of history.” By contrast, Beeman noted, Thomas Jefferson, who survived Henry by a quarter century, got to fill the paucity of historical information about Henry with his own largely negative recollections and opinions.