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Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency "whistle-blower"/accused traitor (depending on your viewpoint), officially became an international man of mystery on Monday. After Hong Kong authorities let him leave and issued an in-your-face rebuke to the United States—saying Washington's arrest papers were not in order—Snowden continued his tour of capitals that are less than friendly to the U.S.
He landed in Russia but was not on a reported connection to Havana on his way to Ecuador, whose left-leaning government has offered Snowden asylum.
As the Obama administration pursued him, Secretary of State John Kerry and White House spokesman Jay Carney played a game of good cop/bad cop. Kerry reminded Russia of all the cooperation that led to the U.S.'s return of "seven criminals" over the last two years, while Carney severely criticized China's decision to let Snowden go, suggesting that Moscow would be seen the same way if it didn't turn him over.
Meanwhile, Snowden appeared to benefiting from the same underground network that led WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the protection of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.
WHITE HOUSE: SNOWDEN ESCAPE 'UNQUESTIONABLY' DAMAGES RELATIONS WITH CHINA. White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is believed to still be in Russia and that Snowden's departure from Hong Kong has soured the U.S.'s relationship with China, Politico reports. The Chinese government made "a deliberate choice to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the U.S.-China relationship," Carney said, adding that the White House expects Russia to explore options to expel Snowden to the U.S. to face espionage charges. Read more
- A petition on the White House website calling for a pardon of Snowden has exceeded 100,000 signatures, the threshold which triggers an official administration response, The Hill reports. Read more
CHINA BELIEVED TO HAVE MADE CALL LETTING SNOWDEN FLEE. The Chinese government made the final call allowing former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to leave Hong Kong on Sunday, The New York Times reports. Hong Kong maintains its "judicial process remained independent of China," but the Times cites unnamed sources insisting Beijing exercised its authority over foreign-policy matters to allow Snowden safe departure. Read more
- Edward Snowden's departure from Hong Kong is chock-full of intrigue, surprises, and lingering questions, The Washington Post reports. Read more
SCOTUS KICKS AFFIRMATIVE ACTION CASE BACK TO LOWER COURT. In what is being considered a "reprieve" for affirmative action – at least for the time being – the Supreme Court on Monday told a lower court to take a more rigorous view of race-based admissions policies at colleges and universities and determine whether the policies violate the rights of white students, The New York Times reports. Still, the decision will likely prompt new challenges to admissions programs, The Times reports. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the university's admissions policy "echoes the hollow justifications advanced by the segregationists." Read more
- In its next term, the Court will review a January ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that President Obama overstepped his authority by issuing recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board. Read more
SOME LAWMAKERS SHIFT ON IMMIGRATION, GIVING REFORM A SHOT. As the Senate prepares to vote Monday to end debate on a border-security amendment, the about-face of some of the chamber's members, such as Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., illustrates a new alliance between conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans to ease passage, The New York Times reports. While defections helped sink an immigration-reform bill six years ago, most Democrats are expected to fall in line with party leadership this time around. Their shifts on the issue are made easier in part by a cessation of Republican "demagoguing against immigrants," said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and an unlikely congressional pair could be the key to saving immigration reform in the House. Read more
- Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, Mike Johanns, R-Neb., and Richard Burr, D-N.C., said they will oppose a border-security compromise brokered by Sens. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and John Hoeven, R-N.D., The Washington Post reports. Read more
WHY IMMIGRATION REFORM WON'T PASS THIS YEAR. Nothing less than a miracle will get major immigration legislation through Congress this year, National Journal's Fawn Johnson writes. It's not the Senate's fault, not this time. But the House is slogging along on a piece-by-piece approach that does nothing but stretch out the debate until all that's left are wisps of ideas on work visas, local police enforcement, and electronic verification of workers. Indeed, the House might not kill the bill outright, but the GOP players are passing the ball around until the clock runs out. Read more
- Hotline's Reid Wilson writes about why the August congressional recess should scare immigration-reform backers.
REPUBLICANS: BOEHNER'S TO BLAME FOR GOP'S FOOT-IN-MOUTH DISEASE. A handful of House Republican lawmakers seem unable to stop making headlines on abortion and gay marriage. And Republicans on and off the Hill know who's to blame: House Speaker John Boehner. GOP lawmakers, strategists, and insiders say Boehner and House leadership are enabling foot-in-mouth disease by allowing divisive social issues to reemerge at a time when Republicans were finally winning the daily messaging war against a controversy-plagued White House, National Journal's Chris Frates reports. The current controversy began during debate on a bill to ban abortion after 20 weeks. But a House GOP leadership aide defended the decision to put the bill on the floor. Read more
CONSERVATIVE DONORS–AND THEIR CHECKBOOKS—STILL SORE FROM 2012 ELECTION LOSS. "Seven months after the 2012 election, a lingering hangover among conservative donors has stalled efforts by right-leaning independent groups to fill their coffers,"The Washington Post reports. Donor fatigue is making fundraising more challenging for conservative operatives, but the phenomenon is not limited to just the political right: Organizing for Action, launched by former Obama advisers, has halved a $50 million goal for its first year, the paper reports. Read more
ON EVE OF SPECIAL ELECTION, GOMEZ AND MARKEY DASH FOR FINAL VOTES. Former Navy SEAL Gabriel Gomez and Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., continued campaigning across the state leading up to Tuesday's special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry, The Boston Globe reports. Both candidates remain confident they will win if voters turn out tomorrow, although a poll released over the weekend shows Markey leading the Republican Gomez by 49 percent to 41 percent among likely voters. Vice President Joe Biden attended two Markey rallies Saturday, while Gomez urged supporters to stay positive despite unfavorable poll numbers. Read more
OBAMA TO OUTLINE CLIMATE POLICY. After putting climate change on the back-burner since his legislative efforts failed in Congress three years ago, President Obama appears ready to again expend political capital on the issue, National Journal's Amy Harder reports. Obama announced in a Web video that he will give a speech Tuesday at Georgetown University to "lay out my vision for where I believe we need to go: A national plan to reduce carbon pollution, prepare our country for the impacts of climate change and lead global efforts to fight it." The cornerstone of the administration's plan will be regulating greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants, which account for almost 40 percent of the country's carbon emissions, according to sources familiar with the forthcoming plan. Read more
"There is really no sitting Democrat that I can think of right now that has the firepower, monetarily, or has enough gravitas to take him on significantly. I'd be surprised if anybody can run against him who thinks they have a further career in politics." –Bruce Lunsford, who ran against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in 2008 (ABC News)
CAN DEMOCRATS MAKE A LONG-TERM PLAY FOR THE SOUTH? Democrats are hoping a handful of Mississippi elections are the first sign of a Southern Democratic wave, The Atlantic's Molly Ball reports. Three groups—the Southern Project, South Forward, and the Southern Progress Fund—are launching separate efforts to reclaim the "solid South." The groups' biggest area of potential impact could be in races that go unnoticed by national Democrats. As Ball notes, any kind of resurgence is "a tall order," with President Obama winning only four of the 16 states, plus Washington, D.C., considered by the Census Bureau as the South. But he lost Georgia by single digits, and the region is undergoing demographic changes, which could help the party. Read more
THE SNOWDEN FLIGHT THAT WASN'T. The flight from Moscow to Havana on which Edward Snowden was reportedly booked (and which was full of reporters) would have taken him over Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida. Turns out Snowden wasn't on the flight. See it here
NATIONAL ZOO FINDS WANDERING RED PANDA. Rusty, a baby red panda who was reported missing today by the National Zoo Monday, has been found in D.C. neighborhood of Adams Morgan. Meanwhile, the news took over Twitter, spawning multiple parody accounts. Read more