The daily trail is grinding on for another two months. The Daily Trail, on the other hand, is switching gears. From now on, you'll be getting a comprehensive daily roundup of the day's headlines every afternoon. You can also follow the latest campaign news and analysis from the Post political team in real time here and here.
In the meantime, here's a glimpse of where things stand with 81 days to go until the end of the road.
THIS BIRD YOU CANNOT CHANGE: "Donald Trump, following weeks of agitation over his advisers’ attempts to temper his style, moved Wednesday to overhaul his struggling campaign by rebuffing those efforts and personally elevating two longtime associates who have encouraged his combative populism," reported Robert Costa, Jose DelReal and Jenna Johnson.
"...Guiding Trump as he turns to the fall will be a new campaign chief executive, Stephen Bannon, a former banker who runs the influential conservative outlet Breitbart News and is known for his right-wing, nationalist politics. Kellyanne Conway, a veteran Republican pollster who has been close to Trump for years, will assume the role of campaign manager.
"Trump’s decision sent a powerful signal to Republicans and Democrats alike that the real estate magnate intends to finish the presidential race on his own terms and that his closing argument to voters will defy the usual partisan template of general-election campaigns.
"In its place will be a political pitch with ire directed at both parties and a fierce anti-establishment ethos, coupled with harsh critiques of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. ..."
(Here's the man who'll help craft that message: Meet Steve Bannon, "a fighter’s fighter...somebody who wants to be the first boots on the beach," as David Bossie says, per Karen Tumulty and Dave Weigel.)
"Trump’s reset effectively ended a monthslong push by campaign chairman Paul Manafort to moderate Trump’s presentation and pitch for the broader electorate. And it comes just 12 weeks before Election Day, and after weeks of self-inflicted wounds that have caused some members of the GOP establishment to panic that Trump may severely damage the chances of down-ballot Republican candidates across the country.
"Despondent or unsure of Trump’s willingness — or ability — to broaden his national appeal, several Republican consultants have urged the Republican National Committee to consider redirecting funds in the fall if his campaign appears irredeemable.
"Manafort, a seasoned operative who joined the campaign in March, will keep his job title, but advisers described his status as diminished as a result of Trump’s unhappiness and restlessness in recent weeks over his drop in the polls and reports over lagging organization in several key states. The candidate has privately told friends that he was unsure whether he was being given candid assessments of news stories and of the campaign’s management.
"Although Trump respects Manafort, aides said, he grew to feel 'boxed in' and 'controlled' by people who barely know him. Moving forward, he plans to focus on rousing his voters at boisterous rallies and through media appearances. ..."
So, to summarize: following a period focused on a strategy of rousing voters at boisterous rallies and through media appearances, Donald Trump has decided to address sagging poll numbers by...focusing on a strategy of rousing voters at boisterous rallies and through media appearances.
Also: the Donald Trump you have seen since June has felt a bit "boxed in" and "controlled." But no longer. [Then again: some hints of a kinder, gentler Trump were on display late Thursday night; stay tuned for details at the end of this message.]
And here's your weekly reminder that rallies and TV hits are important — but the parts of the campaign you can barely see, or can't see at all, might be even more so. And Trump still finds himself lagging on just about every key measure on those fronts, from ad spending, data, infrastructure and field operations to fundraising and basic party unity. Yes, he's made (slow) progress on some of those fronts — just today, we learned his campaign had made its first ad buy of the season. Here's the problem: just today, we learned his campaign had made its first ad buy of the season.
The general election is more than half over. Clinton's campaign has been on the air for months. And the Trump team's $4 million buy represents roughly 7 percent of the $61 million her campaign has already spent on airtime stretching into the fall.
A campaign isn't like a chem final — you can't put off the work all semester and get all your prep in the night before the final. The test may be graded the night of Nov. 8. But the first questions hit next month, when early voting begins in a string of states.
Philip Bump has created a tracker that you can use to follow which states have started voting, and what the polls say about who's ahead there. You can bookmark it here, for the rest of the cycle. Here's a glimpse:
By the way, here's a riddle: when is a shake-up not a shake-up? When it happens to the Trump campaign, and you ask a surrogate about it. (If you have not seen this video: you want to see this video. You just don't know it yet.)
THE QUIET AMERICAN (yes we were English Lit minors, why do you ask?):
The presidential campaign may seem like a zero-sum game, where bad news for one candidate is automatically good news for their opponent. But that doesn't mean it's all good news for them.
Hillary Clinton has had several reminders this week of past controversies that continue to haunt her — and, were Trump to ever to steady the ship, become likely to draw more public notice. Yesterday, it was the "substantial amount" of material that the FBI delivered to Congress about the Clinton email investigation — including a summary of agents' interview with top aide Huma Abedin — which appears to be unclassified, and could possibly be released to the public (which Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Charles Grassley appears very eager to do.)
Today, it was the Clinton Foundation. Former president Bill Clinton told staffers that if his wife were elected president, the group would no longer accept foreign or corporate donations, and that its annual Clinton Global Initiative will end no matter who wins in November. But the announcement served as a reminder that the group has accepted those donations for years — and that there are still questions swirling around some of the gifts received while Hillary Clinton served as secretary of state. You can expect that discussion to take center stage next month, when Bill Clinton convenes international power brokers for one final CGI.
Still, you probably have the feeling that you haven't heard nearly as much from or about Hillary Clinton recently as you have her opponent. There's a very good reason for that. Clinton and Trump are independently pursuing an identical campaign strategy right now, report John Wagner and Abby Phillip: Let Trump be Trump. And make sure he grabs the spotlight.
"'When your opponent is making news that hurts him, then give the press and voters every opportunity to pay attention to it,' said Mary Anne Marsh, a Democratic consultant. 'Why would you do anything to distract them?'
"Clinton has kept a relatively light campaign schedule in August, during a stretch when Trump’s missteps have helped hurt him — and lift her — in the polls. ...[she] and her aides regularly rebuke Trump, and they are poised to move quickly to capitalize on his negative headlines. But they seem far less interested in grabbing headlines of their own."
That doesn't mean she hasn't made missteps. But when she does, Trump seems to be ready to bail her out. Take last month, when she "suffered a self-inflicted wound by suggesting in an interview that FBI Director James B. Comey had called her statements to the public about her email controversy 'truthful.'...On July 31, the same day that Clinton faced renewed questions about her email arrangement at the State Department, Trump fired back at Khizr Khan, the Muslim father of a fallen U.S. soldier, prompting consternation and condemnation from Democrats and Republicans alike.
"[The] incident highlights a recurring theme for her campaign: Even unflattering headlines are often overshadowed by controversies created by Trump. ..."
THE $33 MILLION (AND COUNTING) MAN:
There's at least one GOP bright spot, reports Amber Phillips: "House Speaker Paul Ryan is actually popular with Republicans right now. Really, really popular."
"In politics, one of the best measures of popularity is how much money you convince other people to give you. And since he became speaker last fall, Ryan has been doing a fantastic job at convincing GOP donors to give him a lot of money.
"Ryan is well on his way to outpacing Boehner's 2014 fundraising haul. If he keeps up this pace, he'll more than double it....
"Of course, Ryan has the benefit of fundraising in a world literally without limits. In 2014, the Supreme Court decided that limits on how many candidates and committees a donor could give to in a two-year cycle was unconstitutional (McCutcheon vs. FEC).
"But the broader point is that in this year of Trump, there are a lot of Republicans willing to bet on Ryan — and the particular Republican Party brand he represents. ...
"As Trump steers his campaign down a road that Ryan and others think will doom his White House bid, it's a real possibility the GOP could cut Trump loose and devote its resources to helping Republicans hold on to Congress.
"If that happens, Ryan's fundraising could become a sort of proxy battle between the pro-Trump and anti-Trump forces in the party. It may already be one."
TRUMP CHARITY BEAT UPDATE:
This is the year when we read about the Kardashians for totally valid work reasons, because 2016.
"The time had come to fire Khloé Kardashian," reported David Fahrenthold. "But first, Donald Trump had a question.
"'What’s your charity?' Trump asked.
"They were filming 'The Celebrity Apprentice,' the reality-TV show where Trump schooled the faded and the semi-famous in the arts of advertising, salesmanship and workplace infighting. Most weeks, one winner got prize money for charity. One loser got fired.
"Kardashian told Trump that she was playing for the Brent Shapiro Foundation, which helps teens stay away from alcohol and drugs.
"Trump had a pleasant surprise. Although Kardashian could not win any more prize money, he would give her cause a special, personal donation. Not the show’s money. His own money.
"'I’m going to give $20,000 to your charity,' Trump said, according to a transcript of that show.
"After the show aired in 2009, Kardashian’s charity did receive $20,000. But it wasn’t from Trump. Instead, the check came from a TV production company, the same one that paid out the show’s official prizes.
"The same thing happened numerous times on 'The Celebrity Apprentice.' To console a fired or disappointed celebrity, Trump would promise a personal gift.
"On-air, Trump seemed to be explicit that this wasn’t TV fakery: The money he was giving was his own. 'Out of my wallet,' Trump said in one case. 'Out of my own account,' he said in another.
"But, when the cameras were off, the payments came from other people’s money.
"In some cases, as with Kardashian, Trump’s 'personal' promise was paid off by a production company. Other times, it was paid off by a nonprofit that Trump controls, whose coffers are largely filled with other donors’ money.
"The Washington Post tracked all the 'personal' gifts that Trump promised on the show — during 83 episodes and seven seasons — but could not confirm a single case in which Trump actually sent a gift from his own pocket.
"Trump did not respond to repeated requests for comment. ..."
(You'll want to read the whole thing here, including a vintage Jose Canseco moment.)
If you'd like to keep track of Fahrenthold's quest to track down Trump's charitable donations: here's a running, updated list of the more than 250 charities he's personally contacted to check for Trump gifts — along with a glimpse inside his notepad...
—"Democrats might take their push to force GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump to disclose his recent tax returns to the Senate floor next month, potentially complicating congressional efforts to address the Zika virus and fund the government past Sept. 30," reports Mike DeBonis. "Sens. Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Chris Murphy (Conn.) told reporters Thursday that they would press for consideration of Wyden’s bill requiring major-party presidential nominees to disclose at least three years of tax returns. The bill, if passed, would allow the Treasury Department to release Trump’s returns over the objections of the New York businessman, who has cited an ongoing Internal Revenue Service audit as his reason for breaking with a 40-year tradition of disclosure by presidential candidates...."
—The campaign isn't over — but the transition's in full swing. And the candidates that are taking aim at the same swing states are also laying claim to the same Washington, D.C. office space, reported Lisa Rein. "Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s preparations to take over the government if they’re elected are now in high gear, and their transition teams are working out of the same building a block from the White House at 1717 Pennsylvania Ave. It’s the first time in history that two presidential campaigns have worked to set up their governments in miniature literally side-by-side, riding the same elevators to adjacent floors of the tony, marble-floored building as they plan to govern.
Now that Clinton has announced her five-person, day-to-day transition team led by former Interior secretary and Colorado senator Ken Salazar and Trump has decided to anchor his planning in Washington D.C., not New York — a plan under consideration this spring — the campaigns are moving staff into 1717 Pennsylvania Ave....
"Transition planning has never been so public or deliberate. ...The change is the result of new laws passed by Congress and signed by President Obama that aim to formalize the process of coming up with potential cabinet picks and top political staff for a new administration, so the new president will have a leg up when he or she takes office in January. ..."
—More information is emerging about Trump senior adviser Paul Manafort's complicated history in Ukraine. [Breaking: much, much more information.] "Investigators said this week that they discovered a 'black ledger' showing that $12.7 million had been designated for Manafort between 2007 and 2012 by Yanukovych’s party. The anti-corruption agency published a list Thursday on its Facebook page of the alleged payments, showing 22 installments assigned to Manafort," reported Tom Hamburger, Dana Priest and Andrew Roth.
"Manafort issued a strong denial this week in response to reports of the alleged payments, saying that he never received 'a single off-the-books cash payment' and that he never represented the governments of Ukraine or Russia. He said his firm received payments for political work in the country, and called the alleged secret cash payments, first reported by the New York Times, 'unfounded, silly and nonsensical.'
"Neither Manafort nor his attorney responded to requests for further comment.
"The discovery of the ledger could trigger scrutiny of Manafort’s connections to Ukraine by FBI officials, who have been on the ground in Kiev working under a June agreement with the anti-corruption agency.
FBI officials declined to comment on the specifics of the agency’s involvement. Peter Carr, a spokesman, said that “we remain committed to helping recover stolen assets on behalf of the people of Ukraine. ..."
THE VIEW FROM THE FIELD:
We're not going to show you the full statues of a naked Donald Trump that the anarchist collective INDECLINE placed in public spaces in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cleveland and Seattle today.
This is in part because we recently sought and received guidance from management on Washington Post style for our 14th profane or questionable word of the cycle (yes, that many exist. No, we will not list them for you here.) This is what 2016 has done to us: political or politically-relevant figures use these words — and as word professionals, we need to figure out how to report those words, despite the fact that we remain a family newspaper. That we can't avoid. Naked art, however, isn't part of our job description (though if you feel as though you really need to see it for some reason, you can find it here.)
Now, back to the words: we will now show you what feels like it might be a somewhat NSFW — but is a totally genuine — statement from New York City's Parks Department, after one of these statues appeared on the edge of Union Square Park:
Re: the naked Trump statue — that statement from the NYC Parks Department is indeed real pic.twitter.com/IttBvtXXGy— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) August 18, 2016
Tonight, Trump himself was in Charlotte, N.C.
There's a new t-shirt at Donald Trump's rallies labeling Hillary Clinton a "bitch." pic.twitter.com/sPZBCA9p9l— Jenna Johnson (@wpjenna) August 18, 2016
This little kid just asked why the crowd is chanting "Lock her up!" The adult in front of him explained why. pic.twitter.com/EA4X6ehGIn— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) August 18, 2016
Hamid, wearing head scarf, handing out flowers here at Trump's rally. She said she was having positive conversations with Trump supporters.— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) August 18, 2016
She wasn't the only one asked to leave before the rally began.
Jake's a Trump supporter. Was just kicked out of Trump's Charlotte rally. Told he matched profile of known protester pic.twitter.com/jzaTJqRahF— Candace Smith (@CandaceSmith_) August 18, 2016
Breaking late Thursday at that rally, a 2016 first for Trump — a statement of regret (though he did not specify precisely what situations he might be referring to):
WOW. Trump expressed regret for having caused "personal pain" during speech tonight. Here's the text: pic.twitter.com/GHfi4RtCy2— Jose A. DelReal (@jdelreal) August 18, 2016
And here's that moment:
More reporting from The Post's Robert Costa:
I'm also told that Trump personally decided to express regret tonight and brought riff to Conway, Manafort as something he wanted to do...— Robert Costa (@costareports) August 19, 2016
Tonight also brought news that on Friday, Trump and running mate Mike Pence will be headed to Louisiana, which has been devastated by floods in recent days (and which has not yet been visited by Hillary Clinton, or by President Obama, still on vacation in Martha's Vineyard):
Trump, per sources, also monitored Louisiana closely and decided to go. More trips like that are in the works...— Robert Costa (@costareports) August 19, 2016
YOUR DAILY TRAIL PIT STOP: #ThrowbackThursday time! Earlier this week, Chris Cillizza broke down the most recent electoral college forecast, based on current polls. (His prognosis: "Donald Trump’s already-narrow path to victory is rapidly disappearing.") But just in case you're looking for an even deeper dive into the mechanics, we'll leave you with the Schoolhouse Rock explainer. Happy trails.