Your Wednesday Briefing

Good morning.

We’re covering the start of President Trump’s re-election campaign, a new leader at the Pentagon, and New York’s ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

21 Democrats, 18 questions

Before the Democratic presidential candidates face off in their first debates next week, The Times asked most of them the same questions on camera, including about income equality, gun ownership, climate change and how they relax.

It was like a job interview to learn why they believe they should lead the U.S. (Joe Biden declined to participate.)

The details: In one area, they were nearly unanimous: 20 of the 21 candidates interviewed said they were against capital punishment for personal, moral or practical reasons. There were some also telling differences and disclosures. Here are seven takeaways from the project.

With 2020 bid, President Trump echoes 2016

The president formally opened his re-election campaign on Tuesday, mocking Democrats and citing a familiar list of grievances, including the “witch hunt” by the special counsel, and his 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Trump introduced a new slogan, “Keep America Great,” and pledged to fight for his supporters during the rally in Orlando, Fla., that was similar to the dozens he has held over the past two years.

He also extolled his record as president — naming the growing economy, tax cuts and deregulation — but didn’t offer new policies or a cohesive agenda for a second term.

Quotable: “Our political opponents look down with hatred on our values and with utter disdain for the people whose lives they want to run,” Mr. Trump said. Watch excerpts from his 76-minute speech here.

Catch up: Here are eight takeaways from the rally and a fact-check of his remarks.

The Daily: Today’s episode features Maggie Haberman, a reporter who was at the event.

Pentagon nominee is out

President Trump on Tuesday withdrew the nomination of Patrick Shanahan, the acting defense secretary, to fill the role permanently as the F.B.I. continued a background investigation involving episodes of domestic violence.

Mr. Shanahan’s former wife accused him of punching her in 2010, which he has denied. A year later, the couple’s teenage son attacked his mother with a baseball bat.

Mr. Shanahan, a former Boeing executive, said on Tuesday that his “continuation in the confirmation process would force my three children to relive a traumatic chapter in our family’s life and reopen wounds we have worked years to heal.”

What’s next: Mark Esper was elevated from his job as Army secretary to be acting defense secretary. Mr. Esper, 55, is a former lobbyist for Raytheon, one of the largest U.S. military contractors.

New York to approve ambitious climate plan

State lawmakers have agreed to pass one of the most ambitious climate targets by a legislature anywhere in the world.

Under a deal reached this week, the measure would require the state to virtually eliminate its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and shift entirely to carbon-free power. New York reduced its emissions only 8 percent from 1990 to 2015, according to the most recent state inventory.

The details: The measure has been criticized by business leaders as costly and impractical. If it passes, New York would join a handful of states that have passed bills aiming to get 100 percent of their electricity from carbon-free sources by midcentury or sooner.

If you have 6 minutes, this is worth it

The college essay of a school-shooting survivor

As a generation of Americans has become familiar with mass shootings, their experiences appear regularly in college admission essays.

Our reporters spoke with several students, including Taylor Ferrante-Markham, above center, a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, about the tragedies that have shaped them.

Here’s what else is happening

The global economy: President Trump accused the European Central Bank of trying to prop up Europe’s economy and weaken the euro to gain an edge over the U.S. Mr. Trump also suggested that he would consider demoting the Federal Reserve’s chief, Jerome Powell, if the bank didn’t move toward easing policy. The Fed is expected to leave interest rates unchanged today.

Hope Hicks to testify: One of President Trump’s closest former advisers is scheduled to appear before the House Judiciary Committee today behind closed doors. Mr. Trump has instructed her to avoid answering questions about her work in the White House or on the presidential transition.

ICE bulks up: Immigration and Customs Enforcement is preparing for the mass arrests of undocumented immigrants in the coming weeks, two Department of Homeland Security officials said. They noted that the agency could not immediately deport “millions of illegal aliens” as President Trump has promised.

Hong Kong protests: The territory’s top security official defended the police’s use of tear gas and pepper spray, saying that the officers had been in a “life-threatening situation.”

Snapshot: Above, Wally, an alligator that was approved by his owner’s doctor in York, Pa., as an alternative to taking medication for depression. Most emotional support animals are dogs, but some Americans turn to a wide variety of species.

Lifeless, not dead: Emergency medical responders in New York City took hours to determine that a baby they declared dead in a Queens park was actually a doll.

52 Places traveler: In his latest dispatch, our columnist takes a midnight train to Aberdeen, Scotland, where he finds an underappreciated city that’s quietly exploding with creativity.

Late-night comedy: Stephen Colbert was among the hosts who were skeptical about Facebook’s plans for a cryptocurrency: “Finally, something for everyone thinking, ‘I wish there was a way to give that company stained by years of privacy abuse my bank information!’”

What we’re reading: This investigation from Reveal. Mike Isaac, one of our technology reporters, calls it “a deeply reported look at the sheer number of hate groups harbored by Facebook — and the many members of law enforcement across the country who are active participants in them.”

Now, a break from the news

Cook: There’s nothing complicated about this potato salad with a Dijon vinaigrette.

Go: New stagings of “Don Giovanni” and “Rigoletto” in Paris and Berlin are co-productions with the Metropolitan Opera. Both are improvements over what’s on offer in New York, our critic writes.

Watch: Jim Jarmusch’s “The Dead Don’t Die,” starring Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton and others, respects the zombie genre without committing to it.

Eat: Van Da, in the East Village, explores regional Vietnamese cooking. Read our critic’s review.

Smarter Living: New research shows that breast-fed milk may nourish an infant’s microbiome in ways that bottled breast milk can’t, possibly setting the course for the baby’s growing immune system and metabolism. In some ways, pediatric experts say, it’s a signal to society to make breast-feeding a real option for many more women.

And try our seven-day money challenge, with one task each day to strengthen your financial well-being.

And now for the Back Story on …


Today, the U.S. celebrates a day that has come to be known for the end of slavery.

June 19, 1865, was the day that enslaved Texans got the news that President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation. It declared the freedom of the enslaved in rebelling states — two and a half years after its signing, and a few months before the 13th Amendment abolished slavery.

Juneteenth is now celebrated around the country with cookouts, music and dancing.

But African-Americans in Houston who wanted to commemorate the occasion shortly after emancipation ran into a problem: There were few, if any, public spaces where they could gather.

So a group led by the Rev. Jack Yates, a formerly enslaved Baptist minister, pooled together $1,000 in 1872 to purchase 10 acres of land for annual Juneteenth celebrations.

Those 10 acres are called Emancipation Park. The park, which completed a $33 million renovation two years ago, is considered Houston’s oldest.

You might say it is the spiritual epicenter of Juneteenth festivities.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Chris

Thank you
Melina Delkic helped compile today’s briefing. Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford wrote the break from the news. John Eligon, a national correspondent covering race, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at [email protected]

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is about President Trump’s rally on Tuesday.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: British prime minister who recently announced her resignation (3 letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Michael Barbaro, the host of “The Daily,” appeared last week on the BBC podcast “Beyond Today.”

Chris Stanford writes the U.S. edition of the Morning Briefing. He also compiles a weekly news quiz. He joined The Times as a home page producer in 2013, before which he worked at The Washington Post and other news outlets. He is now based in London. @stanfordc

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