By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )
TODAY ON THE HILL: HAGEL AND DEMPSEY PARTICIPATE IN RARE BRIEFING. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey head to Capitol Hill this morning for a rare closed briefing for the Senate Armed Services Committee. It's rare to see both senior leaders go before the committee in a solely closed session, ABC's LUIS MARTINEZ notes. If this ever happens it's usually to touch on classified matters that might have come up during an open hearing. That's not the case today as the committee specifically asked Hagel and Dempsey to talk about Iraq and Afghanistan. It's a flashback to previous years when the U.S. military role in each country was always the main topic. Today's discussion will surely touch on the U.S. military's return to Iraq and the growing concerns about how an election crisis in Afghanistan could affect the planned U.S. military advisory presence after this year.
-AFGHANISTAN: The release of preliminary results of the second round of Afghanistan's Presidential election have triggered a political crisis as first round winner Abdullah Abdullah now trails Ashraf Ghani by a wide margin. Claiming election fraud Abdullah has declared himself the winner and said he would establish a "parallel government". In a statement issued late last night, Secretary of State John Kerry -traveling in China - called those comments of "gravest concern" and said "any action to take power by extra-legal means will cost Afghanistan the financial and security support of the United States and the international community." Hours later Abdullah told supporters that he was the election winner but that he would hold off on naming a parallel government for a few days to give American diplomacy a chance to resolve the election dispute.
-IRAQ: The U.S. military assessment teams continue to do their work in determining what kind of assistance the Iraqi military will need to regain northern and western areas of the country seized by ISIS militants. They'll be sure to ask Gen. Dempsey about his comments last week that left the door open for airstrikes in support of any Iraqi government offensive. Look for the assessment teams to complete their work by the end of this week, with final reports headed to the Pentagon and ultimately to the White House. After the assessments are completed the assessment teams will convert into advisor teams that will work with the Iraqi security ministries and senior military commands.
NEW HILLARY CLINTON NUMBERS LOOK GOOD. Hillary Clinton is in Europe on her book tour, but she has some welcome numbers in this country this morning, ABC's SHUSHANNAH WALSHE notes. With the usual caveats that it is still too early for 2016 polls and presidential polls this early are really just due to name recognition, let's take a look at the numbers. In the Quinnipiac University poll out this morning, Clinton takes 58% of the vote and "tops several possible Republican candidates by margins of 7 to 9 percentage points." This survey finds "no front-runner" in the GOP field. After Clinton, Elizabeth Warren comes in with 11%, Joe Biden has 9%, Andrew Cuomo comes in with 4%, while everyone else is under 1% and 15% are undecided. The GOP field shows Rand Paul with 11%, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee, and Jeb Bush with 10% each, Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, and Paul Ryan with 8% each, Marco Rubio with 6%, and everyone else is under 1% while 20% are undecided. The closest match ups are with Chris Christie and Clinton takes 47% to 38%, as well as Paul and Huckabee where Clinton has 49% to their 40%. With Bush and Ryan, Clinton bests them by 7%. http://bit.ly/1jb2UyJ
-THE SURVEY ALSO TAKES A LOOK AT 2014 and when it comes to control of both the House and the Senate the numbers could not be tighter. 46% of voters want Republicans to win control of the Senate while 44% want Democratic control of the Senate. The same "too-close-to call" margin applies to the House as well. As for whether American voters approve of Congress that answer is still no, but they seem to hate Democrats slightly less. Voters disapprove 73% to 18% of the "job Republicans in Congress are doing" and they disapprove 63% to 29% of the "job Democrats in Congress are doing." The margin of error is 2.6% points.
14 FOR 14: THE MIDTERM MINUTE
-AD BUYS - AND BABIES - IN LOUISIANA. Louisiana Republican Senate candidate Rep. Bill Cassidy is rolling out his second TV ad in his campaign to unseat incumbent Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, ABC's JORDYN PHELPS notes. The ad slams the Affordable Care Act for an exemption that allows members of Congress and their staffers to opt out of using the government exchanges. "It's good enough for us but not for them - that's what's wrong with Washington," Cassidy, himself a physician, says to camera in the ad. The $100,000 ad buy will roll out in New Orleans immediately and then statewide over the next few weeks. The ad's release comes days after the campaign disclosed that Cassidy's teenage daughter is pregnant. Cassidy said in a statement to the local Times-Picayune newspaper that he and his wife "welcome" their forthcoming grandchild, while also noting that his daughter "now faces a more challenging future." WATCH: bit.ly/1n8LTov
-CROSSROADS GPS GOES ON THE AIR IN ARKANSAS AND COLORADO. Today Crossroads GPS, the 501(c)(4) affiliate of the American Crossroads super PAC is launching two fresh attack ads in Arkansas and Colorado. The ads aggressively target Democratic Senators Mark Pryor (Arkansas) and Mark Udall (Colorado) who are running in two hotly contested 2014 Senate races, ABC's SCOTT WILSON notes. "Struggle" appeals directly to Arkansas families-and in a short 32 seconds-does its best to portray Sen. Mark Pryor as a typical Washington-style politician. A concerned narrator talks of canceled health plans and the worry of "higher premiums and medicare cuts." These concerns are contrasted with Mark Pryor's vote to use "tax-payer funded healthcare subsidies"-for members of congress and their staff-to help pay for Obamacare premiums. WATCH: http://bit.ly/VCTWj6 "Good Start" manages to strikes a tone of urgency in describing new EPA regulations as costly and job-killing-criticizing Udall for calling such regulations a "good start." It claims that the "proposed EPA regulations could kill over 26,000 jobs in our region per year-and raise electricity bills as much as seventeen billion." The ad also criticizes Mark Udall for voting against the Keystone XL pipeline four times-and "holding up over 40,000 good-paying jobs." WATCH: http://bit.ly/1kyO2Fn
with ABC's SCOTT WILSON
HILLARY CLINTON SAYS SHE HAD AN 'OBLIGATION' TO DEFEND ACCUSED RAPIST. Hillary Clinton has responded for the first time to recent criticism of her successful 1975 legal defense of an accused rapist, telling a British website that she was "appointed" to the case against her will and that ultimately she was just doing her "professional duty" as an attorney to defend him, according to ABC's LIZ KREUTZ. Last month, the conservative news site the Washington Free Beacon released audio uncovered from the Clinton archives at the University of Arkansas in which Hillary Clinton discusses how as a young lawyer she represented a 41-year-old accused rapist. In the recordings, from more than 30 years ago, Clinton is heard laughing as she describes how she was able to find a loophole in the system to discredit the evidence against her client, despite suggesting she knew he was guilty. Clinton, who is widely expected to run for president in 2016, is in Europe where she is promoting her ne memoir, "Hard Choices." http://abcn.ws/1zkQYiR
SENATE ADVANCES BILL EXPANDING SHOOTING RANGES ON FEDERAL LAND. The Senate cleared the first procedural hurdle on the Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act of 2014, which would allow states to assign more federal funding to create and maintain shooting ranges on federal land, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ reports. The Senate voted 82 to 12 today to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the bill. "This is important because we are currently facing a shortage of public shooting ranges across the country," said Sen. Kay Hagan, D-North Carolina, who along with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is one of the lead sponsors of the bill. The bill also increases access to federal land for hunting and fishing and allows duck hunters to obtain their federal stamps electronically. It also loosens regulations on lead fishing tackle and ammunition. While an overwhelming majority of the Senate voted to move ahead with the measure, the two senators from Connecticut, Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, whose state was shaken after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, said they could not vote for cloture because the measure doesn't address gun violence. http://abcn.ws/1thfsJ6
WORLD CUP AMERICA? WHY A SENATOR CITES 'FAIRNESS' TO STRIP QATAR OF 2022 CONTEST. With this year's World Cup sparking renewed interest in soccer in the United States, a push is brewing to get another World Cup on U.S. soil - sooner rather than later, ABC's RICK KLEIN notes. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., has sent a letter to world soccer leaders calling on FIFA to strip Qatar of the 2022 World Cup and award it to the United States instead. His letter cites widespread reports of corruption in the bidding process, in addition to deplorable working conditions endured by the country's huge number of migrant workers. "I think it just makes sense in the interest of fairness that the United States should be awarded this opportunity," Casey said in the latest edition of the ESPN podcast series "Capital Games." "If you can't have that, then you would at least consider having a revote on the bidding countries." The Pennsylvania senator added that he hopes U.S. interest in this year's event in Brazil will encourage a new conversation about labor standards and fairness that could lead to another World Cup on U.S. soil. http://abcn.ws/1snL2Rk
FEDERAL JUDGE TELLS SUPREME COURT TO 'STFU.' U.S. federal Judge Richard Kopf declared Monday he thinks it's time for the Supreme Court to "STFU."Kopf made his pronouncement in a rather colorful blog post regarding the Supreme Court's recent decision Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, ABC's SCOTT WILSON notes. Kopf was appointed as a federal district judge president George H.W. Bush in 1992. "Next term is the time for the Supreme Court to go quiescent-this term and several past terms has proven that the Court is now causing more harm (division) to our democracy than good by deciding hot button cases that the Court has the power to avoid," Kopf wrote. "As the kids say, it is time for the Court to stfu." In his post, Kopf criticized the Supreme Court's recent decision that closely-held private corporations with sincere religious beliefs are not bound to the mandate, included in President Obama's signature health law, that employers must provide contraception coverage for female employees. "To the average person, the result looks stupid and smells worse," Kopf wrote. http://abcn.ws/VTCgjM
'CUBAN TV AIRPLANE' REPORT REVEALS $36M US BOONDOGGLE. Remember "Cuban Twitter," the ill-fated US test program that would have tried to get Cubans to text each other with subversive anti-government messages? Well, then this is "Cuban Television Airplane" - except it was an actual US-funded project, and existed for almost a decade, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, before it was quietly canned in April 2014, a State Department Office of Inspector General report revealed Monday, according to ABC's ALI WEINBERG Called Aero Martí and purchased in 2006, the program included a single 1960s turboprop plane that tried to transmit US government broadcast signals to Cuba - except for the fact that the Cuban government easily jammed its signal every day so it never really worked. The doomed program was finally cancelled for good in April 2014, today's OIG report said. The plane, whose programming was nicknamed by Cubans as la TV que non se ve , ("the TV that can't be seen,")cost taxpayers a total of almost $36 million in the nine years it was funded. http://abcn.ws/1lP31KS
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
AMERICAN PRESIDENT'S STEAMY AFFAIR RESURRECTED. Better late than never - one of history's weakest American presidents is finally getting the opportunity to stir up a steamy legacy for himself, nearly a century after his death, according to ABC's ALISA WIERSEMA Love letters written by President Warren G. Harding to his mistress, Carrie Fulton Phillips, will be open to the public at the Library of Congress on July 29, revealing a slew of intimate moments that began when Harding was the lieutenant governor of Ohio. According to excerpts of the letters included in "The Harding Affair: Love and Espionage During the Great War" by James David Robenalt, Harding was quite the literary charmer, writing, "My Darling…There are no words, at my command, sufficient to say the full extent of my love for you- a mad, tender, devoted, ardent, eager, passion-wild, jealous…hungry…love." In another excerpt included in the book, Harding wrote: "I do not know what inspired you, but you…resurrect me, and set me aflame with the fullness of your beauty and the fire of your desire." http://abcn.ws/VTeiVI
@Timodc: America Rising PAC Calls For Clinton Foundation Transparency https://www.americarisingpac.org/america-rising-pac-calls-clinton-foundation-transparency/ …
@joshledermanAP: In stagnant second term, Obama's campaign for "hope" becomes fight against creeping cynicism - http://bit.ly/1k22INh
@mkraju: Milton Wolf suggested that he posted the X-ray images on Facebook (and ridiculed them) as a stress reliever. http://www.politico.com/story/2014/07/obama-cousin-tea-party-take-toll-on-pat-roberts-108635.html …
?@TheFix: Hillary Clinton is rich. She isn't Mitt Romney rich. http://ow.ly/yUdqi