'Start Here': Iranian drone destroyed, 'send her back' chants disavowed by Trump

It's Friday, July 19, 2019. Let's start here.

1. A drone for a drone?

In the latest escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Iran, the USS Boxer destroyed an Iranian drone that came within 1,000 yards of the amphibious assault ship in the Strait of Hormuz.

"This is the latest of many provocative and hostile actions by Iran against vessels operating in international waters," President Donald Trump said Thursday. "The United States reserves the right to defend our personnel, facilities and interests, and calls upon all nations to condemn Iran's attempt to disrupt freedom of navigation and global commerce."

U.S. officials used counter-drone jamming equipment to destroy the Iranian drone, which ABC News Chief Global Affairs Correspondent Martha Raddatz tells "Start Here" was far less sophisticated than the U.S. military drone that Iran shot down in international airspace over the Gulf of Oman less than a month ago.

2. 'Send her back'

The president has now distanced himself from "send her back" chants that began at a campaign rally this week after he targeted four Democratic congresswomen of color with racist tweets, telling them to "go back" to where they came from.

Three of the women were born in the U.S., and the other came to the U.S. as a refugee as a child. All four won a popular vote to claim seats in Congress.

"I was not happy with it, I disagree with it," Trump told reporters on Thursday, claiming no responsibility for his supporters starting the chant.

Trump's disavowal came after several members of his own party expressed concern over the chants, including House Republicans who were uncomfortable with the substance and wary of the political blowback, according to ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Jonathan Karl.

"The president was hearing from a lot of people, hearing publicly, even more so privately from his own friends and supporters, that this had gone too far," Karl says.

3. Cohen docs released

Federal prosecutors in New York have unsealed documents related to their investigation into hush-money payments that Michael Cohen, the president's former fixer and lawyer, made to adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, who both said they had sexual relations with Trump, who's denied all allegations of sexual misconduct.

The trove of documents reveal that then-candidate Trump was involved in a series of phone calls during the 2016 campaign with Cohen, National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, and then-press secretary Hope Hicks, who denied having knowledge about the payments in her testimony before Congress last month. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. sent a letter to Hicks on Thursday calling on her to clarify her testimony.

The documents also appear to show "the panic that happened around that time," ABC News Senior Editorial Producer John Santucci tells us: "As for Hope Hicks, that is a new name that has emerged as ... we're starting to fill out what Donald Trump knew, and when, and how close to Election Day these payments were."

Sources familiar with the probe tell ABC News that Hicks will not be charged, nor will anyone else as it relates to the investigation in the Southern District of New York.

4. Crossing the streams

Netflix shares tumbled this week after announced its U.S. subscriber base decreased for the first time, raising concerns over the streaming service's growth and whether it can compete with several upcoming platforms.

Major media companies are taking their content back from Netflix and launching their own streaming services after years of Netflix dominating the marketplace. The future of streaming will have a lot of options, which is good news and bad news for consumers, says Recode Senior Editor Peter Kafka.

"They're going to have to decide, and pick and choose, what streaming services they want," he says. "They can't just go to Netflix and Hulu and get everything. But it means for Netflix they're going to have to compete with a lot of people who haven't been around up until now."

"Start Here," ABC News' flagship podcast, offers a straightforward look at the day's top stories in 20 minutes. Listen for free every weekday on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or the ABC News app. Follow @StartHereABC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for exclusive content and show updates.

Elsewhere

'What is going on is, it's just abominable': A 90-year-old nun is among 70 people arrested for protesting immigration policies at Capitol Hill.

'It definitely wasn't the plan initially': A U.S. woman accused of posing as a doctor in Uganda is being sued.

'Too appalling for words': At least 33 die in Japan after a man, authorities say, set fire to an animation studio.

From our friends at FiveThirtyEight:

Mitch McConnell is the only senator more unpopular than Susan Collins: Only 45% of Mainers said they approved of her compared with 48% who said they disapproved.

Doff your cap

When a pod of 20 whales began turning up on a beach in Georgia Tuesday afternoon, hundreds of volunteers sprang into action , pushing them back out to sea, according to Glynn County EMA and Homeland Security.

Several videos posted to social media show the volunteers surrounding the whales as they collectively heaved them from the sand.

Two whales died, including one that had to be euthanized, but the rest were safely returned to the water, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. They were last seen swimming in the St. Simons Sound "and it is hoped they will continue to keep moving out to sea."
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