SNEAK PEEK … HAPPENING THIS MORNING … HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER KEVIN MCCARTHY will tell a group of House Republicans at an event on Capitol Hill they are getting big checks from PROTECT THE HOUSE, his joint fundraising committee with VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE. McCarthy will hand out a massive $1.36 MILLION directly to 22 members. The average check the members will get is $62,000.

PTH, as the committee is called internally, has doled out $3.2 million directly to members between March and June of 2018.

Story Continued Below

OUCH … PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP on JOE CROWLEY last night in Fargo, North Dakota: “One of my biggest critics, a slovenly man named Joe Crowley, got his ass kicked … By a young woman who had a lot of energy. She had a lot of energy. I guess he didn’t see it. They couldn’t find him.”

ATTN HOUSE REPUBLICANS, YOU’RE CHOPPED LIVER NOW! Trump last night in Fargo: “Justice Kennedy’s retirement makes the issue of Senate control one of the vital issues of our time. The most important thing we can do.”

ANOTHER INCREDIBLY CONSEQUENTIAL NEWS CYCLE … ANTHONY KENNEDY’S decision to retire in the middle of an election year hands Capitol Hill a summer brawl that will be unlike anything we’ve seen in some time. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY.) said the chamber will give Trump’s nomination quick consideration this fall.

DEMOCRATS are jumping all over him, because he’s moving swiftly now — in an election year — when he left a seat open for months during the Obama administration, because the vacancy was in an election year. McConnell has drawn a distinction between a nomination in a presidential year and one during a midterm election year.

SENATE DEMOCRATS aren’t going to care much about about that argument, and they’re going to paint McConnell as a hypocrite.

WHO TO WATCH … Obviously Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) are going to be key, given their views on abortion and the potential that a pro-life justice could overturn Roe v. Wade. ON THE DEM SIDE:Keep an eye on Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.).

— CBS’S ALAN HE (@alanhe): “Senator Collins to reporters: ‘First of all I view Roe v. Wade as being settled law. It’s clearly precedent. I always look for judges who respect precedent.’”

WHAT TO WATCH … In a tight-as-a-tick nomination, could the Senate Republican leadership convince Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to retire early in order to get someone in the seat who could vote in D.C.? Or, can McCain come back?

TRUMP on Kennedy: “I’m very honored that he chose to do it during my term in office because he felt confident for me to make the right choice and carry on his great legacy.”

SPRINTING OUT OF THE GATE … FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: SCOTUS AIR WARS — ONE NATION, a McConnell-aligned nonprofit, is launching a multistate digital blitz this morning to support a conservative to replace Anthony Kennedy on the bench. The $100,000 buy is running in Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, West Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

— THE SCRIPT: “A new vacancy on the Supreme Court … And our freedom hangs in the balance. But the far left will stop at nothing to block President Trump’s choice. Sen. Bill Nelson voted against Justice Neil Gorsuch the last time. Will he cave to the extreme left again? Tell Sen. Bill Nelson, say no to the left and help put another great justice on the Supreme Court.” Example of the Florida ad https://bit.ly/2N7FpYj

— BURGESS EVERETT: “Conservative group launches SCOTUS ad to pressure Dems”: “A leading conservative group is going up with a million-dollar ad buy to pressure vulnerable Senate Democrats to support President Donald Trump’s next Supreme Court nominee. The Judicial Crisis Network is beginning a seven-figure campaign on national cable and digital platforms intended to boost Trump’s second court pick in as many years, according to a person familiar with the effort.” https://politi.co/2Mr1CPZThe ad http://bit.ly/2yOf9z3

— WHAT THIS TELLS US: Two groups are jumping in the day after the seat came open! This is going to be an expensive few months.

— THE IMPACT: JOSH GERSTEIN and JEN HABERKORN — “Kennedy’s exit could upend abortion rights and end affirmative action”: https://politi.co/2lGu45e

— THE POLITICS: JONATHAN MARTIN, JEREMY PETERS and ELIZABETH DIAS: “Kennedy Retirement Injects an Inflammatory New Issue Into Midterms”: Republicans are “daring red-state Democrats to oppose the nominee to replace Justice Kennedy, and Democrats warning that a rush to seat a new justice before the election would further galvanize moderate and liberal voters.” https://nyti.ms/2Kpcz3U

ANDREW RESTUCCIA and LORRAINE WOELLERT, “‘Even Trump can’t screw this up’: Kennedy retirement unites GOP”: https://politi.co/2Iv73ep

— THE BIG PICTURE: “Trump Gets Chance to Influence American Life for Generations Through Supreme Court Pick,” by NYT’s Charlie Savage: “[No] matter what else happens in the Trump presidency, the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the Supreme Court’s swing voter, set up Mr. Trump to cement a lasting legacy. Given a second Supreme Court vacancy to fill, he appears likely to go down in American history as an unusually influential president.

“As the first Republican president to get his judicial nominees confirmed by a simple majority vote, thanks to the abolition of the Senate filibuster rule, Mr. Trump has already broken records in appointing young and highly conservative appellate judges.” https://nyti.ms/2tLPwZU

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POLITICO MAGAZINE – “Did Anthony Kennedy Just Destroy His Own Legacy? 17 legal thinkers argue about why the retiring justice mattered—and what his exit could mean for his most consequential decisions”: https://politi.co/2lDLGOT

CHEAT SHEAT — “Who’s on Trump’s short list to replace Supreme Court Justice Kennedy?” by Matt Nussbaum and Josh Gerstein: https://politi.co/2Iy4ckE

THE IMMIGRATION TICK TOCK … RACHAEL BADE … — “‘This is bull—-’: Inside the GOP’s immigration meltdown”: https://politi.co/2Mt2OlN

VICE NEWS – “Listen to a distraught Guatemalan child call his mother from a U.S. immigration shelter”: http://bit.ly/2KxmggY

DAN DIAMOND – “Federal officials launch two reviews into Trump’s handling of migrant children”: “The GAO and the Health and Human Services inspector general both launched reviews Wednesday into the Trump administration’s handling of thousands of migrant children separated from their families at the border.” https://politi.co/2yRNP32

OCASIO CORTEZ TO PELOSI: YOU’RE WRONG … House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters Wednesday that voters made a choice in “one district” when they chose Alexandria Ocasio Cortez over Joe Crowley. Ocasio Cortez, appearing on CNN, said: “Yeah, well, you know, I think that we’re in the middle of a movement in this country. I feel this movement. But that movement’s going to happen from the bottom up. That movement is gonna come from voters. There are a lot of really exciting races with extremely similar dynamics as mine. It’s not just one district. You look at Ayanna Pressley out in Massachusetts. Same exact situation.” The clip http://bit.ly/2lDk4JR

BOSTON GLOBE’S JAMES PINDELL: “Should Ocasio-Cortez’s upset have Michael Capuano worried?”: “A woman of color challenges an entrenched white male US representative more than 20 years her senior in a Democratic primary in an urban district where the majority of the population is made up of racial minorities. In New York City on Tuesday, 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Boston University alumna, pulled off the greatest upset yet in the 2018 election cycle by defeating Representative Joe Crowley …

“On Sept. 4, Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who also attended BU, will attempt to repeat that success, over Representative Michael Capuano, a 10-term Democrat, in the primary for the Seventh District, which includes Somerville, Chelsea, Everett, Randolph, half of Cambridge, one-third of Milton, and the majority of Boston. Right on cue [Tuesday] night, Pressley tweeted a picture of herself with Ocasio-Cortez and offered congratulations. Hours later, Ocasio-Cortez responded with her own plea: ‘Vote her in next, Massachusetts.’” http://bit.ly/2KrFofY

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK – After Joe Crowley’s loss, the Center for American Progress and End Citizens United are calling for Democrats to refuse all corporate PAC campaign money. https://politi.co/2yZoh4f

HEATHER CAYGLE and JOHN BRESNAHAN: “Pelosi’s path to speakership gets even harder”: “Rep. Joe Crowley’s stunning loss on Tuesday night to a first-time candidate makes this crystal clear: Nancy Pelosi’s path back to the speaker’s chair is getting more narrow by the day. But it may not ease the route for the leaders directly below her either. …

“The septuagenarian troika that has run the House Democratic Caucus since the early 2000s reacted to Crowley’s defeat in different ways, but the stakes for all of them this November are high. Pelosi will either be speaker or she will be out. Hoyer hopes that he can somehow cobble together a coalition to vault him to the top spot, or at least keep him in the game. Clyburn, while always loyal to Pelosi, may find himself as her successor or sidelined as well.

“Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond and Reps. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Cheri Bustos of Illinois, Marcia Fudge of Ohio, Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts, Adam Schiff of California and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, leader of the Progressive Caucus, are names already being mentioned by their colleagues. Many other lawmakers could raise their hand and have a shot at winning a leadership post.” https://politi.co/2lIwccl

— JONATHAN MARTIN and SHERYL STOLBERG on A20 of the NYT: “Top Democrat’s Defeat Throws Party Leadership Into Turmoil”: “[R]ank-and-file House Democrats made clear in dozens of interviews that whether the party takes back the majority or not in November, there would be a push to depose Ms. Pelosi, the 78-year-old former speaker.

“‘There will be an insurgency; I just don’t know who’s leading it,’ said Representative Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri. ‘But I can assure you that I am as certain of that as I am that today is Wednesday.’ …

“House Democrats suggested a host of challengers, including one veteran lawmaker who commands deep respect in the caucus: Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland. Mr. Cummings said in an interview that he would not challenge Ms. Pelosi, but, notably, he did not bat down the possibility that he would put himself forward should she fail to secure the votes to become speaker or leader.” https://nyti.ms/2KoDakS

WAPO’S MICHAEL SCHERER and DAVE WEIGEL: “The worst thing to be in many Democratic primaries? A white male candidate.” https://wapo.st/2Kck0iO

POLITICO GOES TO CANADA — from JOHN HARRIS and CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN: “POLITICO Pro Canada is a response to vigorous interest we have heard on both sides of the border for journalism that illuminates the complex and consequential U.S.-Canada relationship and the vast cross-border economy. This new venture will have all the signatures of other Pro verticals: timely news, analysis, and intelligence on issues of vital importance to policy professionals. …

“Among [Luiza Savage’s] first moves was to recruit a powerful new voice to POLITICO. Alexander Panetta is one of Canada’s most respected journalists, with extensive experience reporting in Washington from a Canadian perspective. He’s a veteran of the Canadian Press news service, fluent in French as well as English, and a regular presence on Canadian television and radio. He’ll be with us in the Washington newsroom soon, as will another reporter still to be hired for the Canada vertical. The news content of POLITICO Pro Canada will report up to Marty Kady, editorial director of POLITICO Pro.”

THE INVESTIGATIONS …

— “Mueller reveals closer Manafort ties to Russian oligarch,” by Josh Meyer: “Federal court documents unsealed Wednesday reveal that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had much closer ties to a Russian oligarch linked to Vladimir Putin than had been previously disclosed.

“A company jointly owned by Manafort and his wife received a $10 million loan in 2010 from the oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, according to the documents, which also alleged that the Russian billionaire provided financial backing for Manafort’s consulting work in Ukraine as far back as 2005.” https://politi.co/2KsPrBC

OBAMA WATCH — “Obama expected to hit the campaign trail for Democrats with help from Pelosi and Schumer,” by NBC’s Brian Schwartz: https://cnb.cx/2MwlK3j

TRUMP’S THURSDAY — The president is participating in a roundtable and breakfast with supporters in Milwaukee. He will then travel to Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin, for the Foxconn groundbreaking event. Trump will then travel to Washington.

LAST CHANCE — Join us, along with Playbook Florida co-author Marc Caputo, for a Playbook Elections event TOMORROW at the InterContinental Miami. It’s part of the POLITICO-AARP “Deciders” series. We’ll talk with Nelson Diaz, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, David Richardson and Donna Shalala about their candidacies. Doors open at 8 a.m. RSVP https://bit.ly/2K0E3AN

FAIR QUESTION! … NBC’S KEN DILANIAN and COURTNEY KUBE: “If North Korea is denuclearizing, why is it expanding a nuclear research center?”: “North Korea continues to make improvements to a major nuclear facility, raising questions about President Donald Trump’s claim that Kim Jong Un has agreed to disarm, independent experts tell NBC News. New satellite images made public by 38north, a web site devoted to analyzing North Korea, show that ‘improvements to the infrastructure at North Korea’s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center are continuing at a rapid pace,’ three 38north analysts concluded in a paper.

“The analysts cautioned that the continued work at the Yongbyon facility ‘should not be seen as having any relationship to North Korea’s pledge to denuclearize. The North’s nuclear cadre can be expected to proceed with business as usual until specific orders are issued from Pyongyang.’ However, other experts argue that ongoing work on the site of a reactor that is producing fuel for nuclear weapons shows that North Korea has no intention of disarming.” https://nbcnews.to/2MpWSKv

THE LATEST ON GUNS — The families of the victims at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are launching an advocacy group “Stand with Parkland” to stop gun violence. Their goal: enact legislation around school safety, mental health screenings and support responsible gun ownership. https://bit.ly/2MvzVWkRolling Stone’s Andy Kroll with a deeper look https://rol.st/2KiO7FD

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FOR YOUR RADAR — “As Summit Nears, NATO Allies Have One Main Worry: Trump,” by NYT’s Steven Erlanger in Brussels: “NATO has been preparing for its July summit meeting for a year now, but there is one wild card: President Trump. Nobody knows which president will show up — the truculent one railing about inadequate military spending by the allies or the boastful one taking credit for recent spending increases.

“Either way, NATO members say they fear that all the preparation and the desire to show solidarity in the face of a new Russian threat will be overshadowed, if not undone, by a divisive encounter followed by Mr. Trump’s prospective summit meeting with the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin.” https://nyti.ms/2lCYGnS

INSIDE FOX … JASON SCHWARTZ: “New Fox chief cracks down on inflammatory statements”: “Amid growing backlash against inflammatory statements by Fox News commentators, network CEO Suzanne Scott summoned top show producers to a meeting last week and delivered a clear message: They need to be in control of their hosts and panelists. Scott told the producers that they would be held accountable for anything said on their air, and that it was their job to head off any inappropriate remarks, according to two people with knowledge of the meeting.

“Appearing via video conference from Washington, D.C., to the group in New York, which also included programming executives, Scott read from a prepared script, explaining that she wanted to make sure she communicated her message precisely.” https://politi.co/2KuQIIy

SPOTTED IN ASPEN at the Aspen Institute’s Speakers Reception in the courtyard of the Hotel Jerome last night: Jeff Goldberg, Dan Porterfield, David Bradley, Evelyn Farkas, Jeffrey Rosen, Wajahat Ali, Kyle Dropp, Jennifer Pahlka, DJ Spooky, Dan Senor and Campbell Brown, David Folkenflik, Amy Walter, Larry Summers, Steve Clemons, Andrea Mitchell, Casey Schwartz, Jason Furman, Gloria Dittus, Charles Duhigg, Richard Socarides, Emily Bazelon, Natalia Oberti Noguera, Bob Cohn, Meredith Carden, Gary and Laura Lauder, Elizabeth Economy, Peter Feaver, Brian Stelter working on his newsletter near the pool (pic https://politi.co/2lGn3B2), Orville Schell, Graham Veysey and Brian Goldsmith.

SPOTTED: Wolf Blitzer at Cafe Milano last night … Darrell Issa yesterday on the South Lawn of the White House waiting for the president’s departure. He visited the White House to meet with the WH counsel’s office about the Judicial Conference’s recommendations for additional judge slots around the country, including 17 district and 5 appellate judges in California.

TRANSITION: MEDIAWATCH — Madeleine Morgenstern is joining CNN Politics as deputy editor. She most recently has been digital editor at the Washington Examiner.

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Anna Edgerton (@AnnaEdge4), a Congress reporter for Bloomberg. A fun fact about her: “I knew I wanted to marry my now-fiancé when he chased off charging mountain goats after we climbed Snow Creek Wall in Washington state many years ago. Now we spend most of our weekends heading west on I-66 to go climbing and trail running.” Read her Playbook Plus Q&A: https://politi.co/2N4UgTi

BIRTHDAYS: Marc Kasowitz is 66 … Ashley Marquis, mother to Grace (hubby tip: Garrett) … NYT’s David Kirkpatrick is 48 … former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is 8-0 … former Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) is 84 … Laura Tyson, professor at Berkeley’s Haas business school … Ziad Ojakli, Ford Group VP of gov’t and community relations (hat tip: Christin Baker) … Jane Harman, director, president and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars … Bill Greener … AP’s Jesse Holland … Climatewire’s Scott Waldman … former Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) is 6-0 … former Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Penn.) is 55 … former Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) is 76 … author Kurt Eichenwald is 57 … Erin McPike (h/t Elrod) … Nancy Payne, COO at PeaceTech Lab (h/ts Jon Haber and Ben Chang) … Carolyn Coda of Swiss Re … Steve Johnson, EVP of corporate affairs at American Airlines (h/t Hilary Rosen) … Stephanie Benedict … Lara Kline …

… Brian L. Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast is 59 … Stuart Burns … Mike Lurie is 31 … Paul Morrell … Dan King (h/ts Rebecca Coffman) … B. Scott Tilley … John Lee is 25 … Pete Nonis of the Business Council for International Understanding … Rob Tappan, president of the Tappan Group … Coddy Johnson is 42 … Pelosi policy adviser Kenneth DeGraff … Jason Roe is 48 … Brian Jodice … Paul Bonicelli … Allison Aprahamian … CNN’s Yaffa Fredrick … Megan Bloomgren, VP of comms at API … Daisy Capps … Matt Mele … Al Eisele … Aaron Banks … Bob Russell … Quinn McCord … Kevin Kaiser … Jing Ulrich of JPMorgan Chase … Sean Bartel … AP’s Brendan Farrington … photographer Cecilie Olaussen … Nick Anton … Dusky Terry … Brenda Vilmain … Meagan Mahaffey … Chuck Shuford … Dave Olsen … Eli Reyes … Christina Martin … John Elway is 58 … Eric Zwiener … Jas Sajjan of the San Francisco 49ers (h/t Nihal Krishan)

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