Donald Trump concludes his speech last night in Wisconsin. (John Ehlke/West Bend Daily News via AP)

THE BIG IDEA: Shaking up his campaign once again, Donald Trump has decided to let Trump be Trump.

The Republican nominee knows he’s losing. Congenitally unable to take personal responsibility, he blames his slide in the polls on the people who have prodded him to act “presidential” and wage a more traditional campaign.

In a 5:38 a.m. press release, Trump announced that Stephen Bannon, who got rich on Wall Street but has never worked on a race before, will take a leave of absence from running Breitbart.com to become the campaign’s “chief executive.” Pollster Kellyanne Conway, who worked for Ted Cruz’s super PAC during the primaries but has been friendly with Trump for years, will become campaign manager.

Paul Manafort will retain his titles as campaign chairman and chief strategist, but Trump advisers told Robert Costa overnight that his status has diminished internally due to the candidate’s unhappiness and restlessness in recent weeks. The aides told Costa that Trump has grown to feel “boxed in” and "controlled" by people who barely know him.

Paul Manafort exits Trump Tower. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

Trump plans to redouble his focus on holding big rallies and doing lots of TV hits. He’ll also more aggressively attack Hillary Clinton, to the extent that’s possible, and he’ll reembrace his role as an outsider, making less of an effort to be nice to GOP graybeards.

During the primaries, when Trump was winning, then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski always said "let Trump be Trump." He now wants to get back to that type of campaign culture. The moves send “a signal, perhaps more clearly than ever, that the real-estate magnate intends to finish this race on his own terms, with friends who share his instincts at his side,” Costa writes.

-- This is another proof point that Trump is not trying to run the kind of serious campaign that can actually win the presidency. That’s why it will frighten the GOP establishment, scare off some mainstream donors who have been playing footsie with the billionaire and push congressional leaders like Mitch McConnell a little closer to cutting Trump loose — maybe even before Labor Day. (Bannon’s site single-mindedly went after Paul Ryan in the run-up to his primary.)

-- Both of the newly elevated advisers are conservative populists who will never discourage Trump from following his id. It’s hard for a 70-year-old man to change his ways, especially this one. Donald’s id demands instant gratification more than most people’s, and he’s long struggled to control his impulsiveness.

-- The shake-up also suggests that Trump realizes Manafort’s Ukraine connections have become problematic and undercut the credibility of his attacks on the Clinton Foundation.

The Associated Press reports this morning that “Trump’s campaign chairman helped a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine secretly route at least $2.2 million to two prominent Washington lobbying firms.”

“The project was structured in ways that obscured the foreign party's efforts to influence U.S. policy,” Jeff Horwitz and Desmond Butler report. “The revelation was described to the AP by people directly knowledgeable about the effort. … Under federal law, U.S. lobbyists must tell the Justice Department if they represent foreign leaders or their political parties. A violation is a felony and can result in up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.” (Read the whole story here.

In Wisconsin last night, Trump announced that he would require “senior officials” in his administration “to sign an agreement not to accept speaking fees from corporations with a registered lobbyist for five years after leaving office or from any entity tied to a foreign government.”

Stephen Bannon in 2013. (Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP, File)

-- Another important storyline: Breitbart News has long been Trump’s Pravda, and he just put the guy who runs the site in charge of his campaign staff. Amusingly, Trump’s press release this morning cites a somewhat unflattering 2015 profile from Bloomberg BusinessWeek that calls Bannon “the most dangerous political operative in America.” The release says “he will oversee the campaign staff and operations, in addition to strategic oversight of major campaign initiatives.”

Recall that Breitbart took the side of the Trump campaign after Lewandowski grabbed the arm of one of its reporters (he then lied about it until surveillance footage undercut his story). That reporter, Michelle Fields, subsequently left, and several employees resigned in protest.

Roger Ailes in 2006 (Fred Prouser/Reuters)

-- Roger Ailes, the pugilistic and recently ousted founder of Fox News, is also reportedly moving closer to the inner circle. The New York Times reports that Ailes, still embroiled in a sexual harrassment scandal, is acting as a presidential debate adviser to Trump as he prepares to face off against Clinton. “Two [sources] said Mr. Ailes’s role could extend beyond the debates,” Maggie Haberman and Ashley Parker report. “For Mr. Ailes, being connected with Mr. Trump’s campaign could be a form of redemption after he was pushed out of the powerful network that he helped build.” The Trump campaign, naturally, publicly denies that Ailes has any role on the campaign, per Jose DelReal.

-- Trump is cozying up to Ailes and Bannon after months of being unable to hire A-level talent. The smartest and most ambitious operatives know that having his name on their resume will probably become a scarlet letter that may doom their future prospects. Politico’s Katie Glueck writes that top Republicans in several critical battleground states say, at best, they've never heard of Trump's state directors or have only limited familiarity with them — and at worst, they know them, and question their ability to do the job. Three telling examples from Katie’s piece:

  • Nevada state director Charles Munoz, a graduate of the University of Las Vegas-Nevada, is in his mid-twenties and has no meaningful experience. (Clinton’s is Jorge Neri, who was Obama’s 2012 Nevada field director and then held a White House job focused on Latino outreach.) 
  • New Hampshire state director Matt Ciepielowski previously worked as a field director at Americans for Prosperity and a Youth for Ron Paul regional coordinator in Louisiana. “Matt who?” asked New Hampshire state Sen. Andy Sanborn. (Clinton’s point guy, Mike Vlacich, managed Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s reelection campaign in 2014.)
  • Virginia state director Thomas Midanek was until July managing the congressional campaign of Carl Domino in Florida, who in 2014 lost the Republican-leaning district by 20 points. (Clinton’s is Brian Zuzenak, who previously ran Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s political operation.)

-- Trump offered a revealing window into his management style when he said in 2007 that you should never hire people who are smarter than you. “You have to keep great people around you,” Trump told CNBC. “You always have to be on top of them. And you have to be smarter than they are. I hear so many times, ‘Oh, I want my people to be smarter than I am.’ It’s a lot of crap. You want to be smarter than your people, if possible.”

Hillary Clinton volunteers attend a recent event emphasizing the importance of early voting. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

-- An important reminder of how little time Trump has to right the ship: Voting actually starts in less than six weeks, on Sept. 23 in Minnesota and South Dakota, the first of some 35 states and the District of Columbia that allow people to cast ballots at polling sites or by mail before Nov. 8,” Patrick Healy writes on the front page of today’s Times. “Iowa is expected to have ballots ready by the end of September, as are Illinois and two other states. The electoral battlegrounds of Arizona and Ohio are to begin voting on Oct. 12, nearly four weeks before Election Day. And North Carolina and Florida will be underway before Halloween. … Nearly 32 percent of voters cast their ballots before Election Day in 2012 … compared with 29.7 percent in 2008 and 20 percent in 2004.”

-- The Trump campaign says it will (finally) begin airing its first television ads since the end of the primaries next week. The first ads will run in Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. The buy will then expand to cover other battlegrounds in September, per the Wall Street Journal.

-- Today Trump will receive his first classified intelligence briefing in a SCIF at the FBI’s New York field office. He plans to bring New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Defense Intelligence Agency chief Michael Flynn with him. “Career staffers from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence … will be leading the briefing, which is expected to cover major threats and emerging concerns around the world,” ABC News reports.

Michael Flynn, who will attend a classified security briefing with Trump today, eats lunch with Vladimir Putin last December. He's seated to the left of the Russian president. (Photo by Michael Klimentyev/Sputnik via AP)

-- Like Trump, Flynn has advocated forging closer ties with Russia,” Dana Priest and Greg Miller note in their excellent profile of the retired general. “In interviews with The Washington Post, Flynn acknowledged being paid to give a speech and attend a lavish anniversary party for the Kremlin-controlled RT television network in Moscow last year, where he was seated next to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Asked why he would want to be so closely associated with a Kremlin propaganda platform, Flynn said he sees no distinction between RT and other news outlets. ‘What’s CNN? What’s MSNBC? Come on!’ said Flynn.”

Dismayed by Flynn’s behavior since he left the military, former colleagues have contacted him to urge him to show more restraint. Among them are retired Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who relied heavily on Flynn in Iraq and Afghanistan, and retired Adm. Michael Mullen, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Dana and Greg report.

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

Liz Cheney gets a hug from her father, Dick, at his home in Wilson, Wyo., after the primary got called overnight. David Hume Kennerly provided the photo to the AP.

-- Liz Cheney is poised to become a congresswoman after winning the nine-way Republican primary for Wyoming’s open House seat. From the Casper Star Tribune: “Cheney overcame criticism about her ties to Wyoming and won the Republican primary for the U.S. House, a seat once held by her father.” Cheney only got about 40 percent of the vote, but there’s no runoff and it doesn’t matter.

-- Some of the most powerful espionage tools created by the NSA’s most elite group of hackers have mysteriously appeared online, Ellen Nakashima reports, a development that could pose “severe consequences” for the agency’s operations and government security. “The file contained 300 megabytes of information, including several ‘exploits,’ or tools for taking control of firewalls in order to control a network. … The disclosure of the file means that at least one other party — possibly another country’s spy agency — has had access to the same hacking tools used by the NSA and could deploy them against organizations that are using vulnerable routers and firewalls. It might also see what the NSA is targeting and spying on.” Former NSA personnel who worked in the agency’s division said the file appeared to be legitimate. “Without a doubt, they’re the keys to the kingdom,” said one former employee. “The stuff you’re talking about would undermine the security of a lot of major government and corporate networks both here and abroad.”

Serbian Radicals wear pro-Trump shirts as they protest Joe Biden. (AFP/Alexa Stankovic)

-- As Vice President Biden arrived in Serbia, hundreds of ultranationalists marched through the streets of Belgrade chanting "Vote for Trump!" Biden is there to encourage the country's government to normalize relations with Kosovo, which split from Serbia in 1999 and claimed independence in 2008, Adam Taylor reports.

  • Quote du jour, from a guy accused of war crimes: "Trump is the alternative to globalization. He will destroy old centers of power in the United States and he is a supporter of Russia," Vojislav Seselj, head of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party, told Reuters. Seselj, who was acquitted in March of war crimes by a U.N. tribunal, said Serbian Americans should vote for Trump.
  • Biden heads to Kosovo today. The government is naming a road after his son Beau. 

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Aetna announced it will cut back its participation in the Affordable Care Act exchanges, delivering a major blow to Barack Obama’s signature healthcare program. Aetna is the third major insurer to pull out of the money-losing plans. (Carolyn Y. Johnson and Juliet Eilperin)
  2. Both waters and the death toll continued to rise in southern Louisiana after historic flooding swept the state, leaving 11 people dead and more than 40,000 homes damaged. Officials called the scope of the disaster “unprecedented,” with miles of still-unpassable roads and thousands of residents in shelters. (Emma Brown, Ashley Cusick and Mark Berman)
  3. Russian bombers flying from an Iranian air base struck rebel targets across Syria, underscoring the two countries’ growing military ties and highlighting Vladimir Putin’s ambitions for greater influence in the Middle East. “Both countries are staunch allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but the flights marked the first time Russia has launched strikes from Iranian territory.”(Erin Cunningham and Karen DeYoung).
  4. Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane also resigned, hours after she was found guilty on nine criminal charges related to leaking information about a grand jury probe and then lying about it under oath. (Amy B Wang)
  5. Univision purchased Gawker Media for $135 million, outbidding Ziff Davis for control of the online gossip and news publisher. Univision wants to broaden its influence among young people, buying a stake in The Onion earlier this year. (AP)
  6. UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks announced his resignation, following widespread criticism over his handling of sexual misconduct cases and a major budget deficit while in office. Dirks assumed the post in 2013. (LA Times)
  7. Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling said he is weighing a 2018 bid to unseat Elizabeth Warren, saying in a radio interview that he would “love” to topple the Massachusetts senator. “I think that the left is holding her up as the second coming of Hillary Clinton, but Lord knows we don't even need the first one,” he said. (WRKO)
  8. The White House finalized new fuel-efficient standards for heavy-duty trucks and buses, moving forward with efforts aimed at slashing greenhouse gas emissions. Officials said they expect fully-implemented standards to eventually cut more than 1 billion tons of carbon pollution, and reduce oil consumption by an estimated 84 billion gallons. (Brady Dennis)
  9. Ford promised to mass produce driverless cars in the next five years. The company’s CEO announced a goal to have the vehicles in commercial operation in a ride-hailing service by 2021.  (New York Times)
  10. And speaking of innovative cars: Select 2017 Audi models will be outfitted with a revolutionary new traffic system that predicts when stoplights will turn green. (Jacob Bogage)
  11. The only female enrolled in the Marine’s Infantry Officer's course has dropped out from the program after failing to complete two conditioning hikes. So far, no woman has completed the notoriously grueling course. (CNN)
  12. A notorious Islamic extremist in Britain was found guilty of eliciting support for ISIS. His conviction comes as a significant example of Europe’s expanding counter-terrorism operations, as officials move to target sleeper cell militants as well as voices of incitement. (Anthony Faiola)
  13. The son of jailed drug kingpin “El Chapo” was reportedly abducted by an armed gang in Puerto Vallarta, according to Mexican officials. His abduction comes as a blow to the elder Guzmán, who has hoped to keep the family business running from behind bars. (Nick Miroff)
  14. A majority of Americans want additional spending on the Zika virus, according to a CBS News poll: 65 percent said they think the U.S. government is currently unprepared to deal with an outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus, and 57 percent said Congress should approve additional funding to help combat its spread. Just 27 percent said enough money is already being spent.
  15. A woman in Texas was convicted of keeping two Mexican slaves for 14 years, threatening the women with death – and a subsequent “eternity in hell" -- should they ever attempt to flee her estate. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
  16. When the city of Rome empties out in August, so do many of its soup kitchens and volunteers. So Pope Francis has stepped in to help pick up the slack. The pontiff has spent the last two weeks throwing pizza parties for the homeless and shuttling them to and from the beach each day. Guests are outfitted with new swimsuits and towels for the occasion. (USA Today)
  17. Amber Heard and Johnny Depp announced they are privately settling their divorce, with Heard moving to withdraw abuse allegations just one day before Depp was scheduled to appear in court for a restraining order hearing. “Our relationship was intensely passionate and at times volatile, but always bound by love,” the two said in a statement. (Elahe Izadi)
  18. The Playboy Mansion officially sold for $100 million: Neighbor Daren Metropoulos purchased the famous property, shelling out for what is believed to be the most expensive residential sale in L.A. history. (WSJ)
Team USA's Ashley Spencer wins her heat in the 400m hurdle semifinal yesterday. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

THE LATEST FROM THE OLYMPICS:

-- The U.S. has settled comfortably into a first-place lead in Rio, with 84 MEDALS total (that’s 28 gold, 28 silver, 28 bronze.) Meanwhile, the race for second is getting tighter: China is now edging out Britain by just ONE SINGLE MEDAL, up 51 to 50. (See the Post’s live medal count here.)

-- The U.S. women’s volleyball team beat Japan in the quarterfinals, advancing after a 25-16, 25-23, 25-22 victory in straight sets. They’ll play Russia/Serbia in the semifinals on Thursday. (Barry Svlruga)

-- Simone Biles claimed her FOURTH gold medal in the women’s gymnastics floor competition, capping off a week of stunning Olympic performances with a score of 15.966. Aly Raisman took home a silver medal and a 15.500 score – her highest marks of the Games. Britain was a distant third. “It’s pretty insane," Biles said, eyes widening when asked how she felt about winning four golds and a bronze in her five events. "What I’ve accomplished in my first Olympics, I’m very proud of myself. I don’t know. It’s crazy." She also got to meet longtime crush Zac Efron. (Liz Clarke)

-- Jenny Simpson made history after becoming the first American to medal in the women’s 1,500 meter race. "Elsewhere on the track, Americans Tori Bowie and Deajah Stevens qualified for the women’s 200-meter final, Des Bieler reports. "Dalilah Muhammad and Ashley Spencer advanced to the women’s 400-meter hurdles final and Kerron Clement did the same for the men’s version."

-- The U.S. women’s basketball team beat Japan 110-64, advancing to the semifinals.

-- Rio continues to fail as a host city. Tens of thousands of volunteers have stopped showing up to the Games, grumbling they were overworked and underfed – pulling eight and nine hour shifts with only a small snack provided to break up the minutiae. One volunteer cited what he called the organizing committee’s lack of “consideration for people’s lives and welfare.” They “use us for free labor,” he told reporters. (Marissa Payne)

Clinton speaks to voters at a West Philadelphia rally. ( Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

THE DAILY HILLARY:

-- The FBI forcefully defended its decision not to criminally charge Clinton for her use of a private email server at the State Department, outlining their rationale in a letter to House Oversight Committee lawmakers. From Matt Zapotosky and Karoun Demirjian: “FBI Director James Comey announced in early July that he was recommending Clinton not be charged, and the letter … largely repeated statements he had made previously in public. But it also notably seemed to take aim at some ongoing conservative criticisms of Clinton – particularly that she was negligent in her handling of classified information and thus deserving of criminal charges.”

Jason Herring, who directs the FBI’s Office of Congressional Affairs, wrote that someone else who engaged in the type of conduct of which Clinton was accused might face “severe administrative consequences,” and the FBI was in the process of providing relevant information to other government agencies. But Herring also asserted that investigators found no evidence Clinton intended to mishandle classified information, noting that even three emails marked as classified did not originate with her and that State had determined two of them did not contain classified information.” (Read the four-page letter here.)

“The FBI’s letter to the Judiciary Committee makes clear this is much ado about nothing,” Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who released the letter, said in a statement last night.

House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz said the documents provided by the FBI yesterday left him “unpersuaded,” and “while members of his committee would were ‘not investigating the investigators,’ they were ‘trying to figure out what happened so that we can try to solve it.’ ‘We got to make sure this never ever happens again,’ Chaffetz said.”

-- Overplaying their hand: Trump adviser Al Baldasaro doubled down on his comment that Clinton should be “shot for treason” for using a private email server. "The liberal media took what I said and went against the law and the Constitution and ran with it, and they said that I wanted her assassinated, which I never did," Baldasaro said. "I said I spoke as a veteran, and she should be shot in a firing squad for treason." (MassLive.com)

-- For the first time, the Clinton campaign pushed back against conspiracy theories from the fever swamps of the right that her health is frail. The evening press release included a statement from the former secretary of state’s doctor, Lisa Bardack, who maintained that she is in “excellent” health and that documents circulating online under her name are fake. “While it is dismaying to see the Republican nominee for president push deranged conspiracy theories in a foreign policy speech, it’s no longer surprising,” said Jennifer Palmieri, the campaign's communications director. “Trump is simply parroting lies based on fabricated documents promoted by Roger Stone and his right wing allies." (David Weigel)

-- Hillary won the endorsement of the Working Families Party, a progressive group that worked to defeat her in the primaries. The group said 68 percent of members voted to endorse her. (David Weigel

-- The campaign says it is “seriously” eyeing Utah as a potentially winnable state this year: On Bloomberg’s “Masters of Politics” podcast, field director Marlon Marshall confirmed the campaign sees opportunity in the state. “Are we going to win Utah? I don't know. But is it something that's on our radar? Yeah, we're gonna take a look,” he said. (Bloomberg)

-- Tim Kaine is fretting about Democratic complacency: He notes that few pundits predicted Trump would win the Republican nomination, and that few elites actually believed the British would vote to exit the European Union. He worries about a last-minute infusion of nasty ads from outside groups. “This is going to be a close race, I predict,” the senator said at a rally in Asheville, N.C. “We’re doing really good in some polls right now. … But you’ve just got to remember, this has been a season of surprises.” Yesterday, Kaine visited Fayetteville, home to the Army’s Fort Bragg. On Monday night, he played his harmonica at a bar. (John Wagner)

-- Clinton still won't say whether she'll stick with Merrick Garland if she wins. “Five months after winning nomination to the Supreme Court and becoming the object of a pitched partisan battle, Garland now finds himself in a surprising position: irrelevance," Mike DeBonis reports. "The name of the mild-mannered appeals court judge … has been almost entirely absent from the campaign trail ... If she wins, Clinton will face pressure from her party’s left wing to select someone younger or more liberal than Garland. Standing by Obama’s man could alienate liberal Democrats, including those who backed Sen. Bernie Sanders. ... Still, others remain convinced she will stand by her support of Garland: 'I would think that she and all the people around her would say, ‘Why do we need to rock the boat here? Let’s get him confirmed quickly and move on to the next one, whenever that comes,' Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid told reporters last week."

-- Citing the inherent conflicts of interest, the Boston Globe’s editorial board today calls for the Clinton Foundation to stop accepting donations – and shut down entirely if Clinton wins the presidency.

Trump chats with military veterans in Milwaukee. (AP/Gerald Herbert)

THE DAILY DONALD:

-- Several members of Trump’s newly-unveiled Agriculture Advisory Committee have been strong supporters of giving legal status to undocumented workers, Jose A. DelReal reports. “The 64-person committee will meet regularly, according to the campaign, and advise the GOP presidential nominee on food production issues. But several of those listed seem to be opposed to Trump's calls for mass deportation and strongly supported the comprehensive immigration reform package passed by the Senate in 2013 … Immigrant labor is a bedrock of the agriculture industry in the United States, many members of the newly formed committee have argued, and a shortage in the already scant agriculture labor pool would raise consumer prices.”

-- On Fox News, Trump said his proposed Muslim ban would not be able to stop everyone. "Will people go through the cracks? Perhaps," he said. "But it can be very, very tough. It's got to be very tough to come into this country."

-- “Clinton’s and Trump’s approaches to racial politics mirror the fault lines of a nation,” by Abby Phillip and Jose A. DelReal: She campaigned in some of the most predominantly African American sections of Philadelphia yesterday, trying to run up the score with base voters. In the midst of racial turmoil in Milwaukee, Trump made a point to campaign last night in the predominantly white suburb of West Bend. "Before the event, he met with local law enforcement officers to emphasize his commitment to being the ‘law and order’ candidate. The vastly different approaches to minority outreach by the candidates and their campaigns mirror the fault lines of a divided nation."

-- New York Times, “Trump Casinos’ Tax Debt Was $30 Million. Then Christie Took Office,” by Russ Buettner: “By the time Chris Christie became governor of New Jersey, the state’s auditors and lawyers had been battling for several years to collect long-overdue taxes owed by [Trump’s casinos] … The total, with interest, had grown to almost $30 million. The state had doggedly pursued the matter through two of the casinos’ bankruptcy cases and even accused the company led by Mr. Trump of filing false reports with state casino regulators about the amount of taxes it had paid. But the year after [Christie] took office, the tone of the litigation shifted. The state entertained settlement offers. And in December 2011 … the state agreed to accept just $5 million, roughly 17 cents on the dollar of what auditors said the casinos owed."

A coincidence? “Mr. Christie was close to the attorney general at the time, Paula T. Dow, whom he had appointed and who [previously] worked for him .... A week after the settlement was signed, Mr. Christie announced that he was appointing Ms. Dow to the counsel’s office of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey until he could find her the judgeship that she desired. ... The following month, Page Six reported that the Christies and the Trumps were seen double dating."

-- Another crazy scenario to think about: Faithless Republican electors could become a problem for Trump. From Politico’s Kyle Cheney: Peter Greathouse, a Republican from Utah, says he’s not “comfortable” with Trump as his party’s nominee. Jane Lynch of Arizona says she’ll likely cast her personal vote for Gary Johnson. Texas Republican Loren Byers calls Trump “a loose cannon.” “Their critiques rank as mild in this polarized election year – until you consider who they are. All three are members of the Electoral College, and if Trump wins their states in November, they’ll be asked to cast the formal ballots that could make him president. Interviews with Republican members of the Electoral College – all from the red states Trump has his best chance of winning – reveal that the divisions that have wracked the GOP for months have also reached this oft-overlooked body with the ultimate authority to decide the election. All of the members contacted … insisted they would cast their electoral vote for Trump if he prevailed … But most indicated they would do so through gritted teeth – if only to reject [Clinton] or to uphold oaths they took to their party.”

-- More than 120 Republicans have now signed a letter urging the RNC to divert financial resources from Trump’s campaign, calling on party officials to shift funds to down-ballot Republicans instead. The letter, while first reported last week, was delivered to the RNC yesterday. (Katie Zezima)

-- Lindsey Graham predicted Trump will lose because of his incendiary rhetoric about minorities. “Reality is reality,” the South Carolina senator said in a radio interview. “Mitt Romney got 27% of the Hispanic vote. By 2050, a majority of the country will be African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and others, and we’re losing demographically. We’ve gone from 44% with Bush to 27% with Romney, and I don’t think Trump is going to get 20%.” Graham added that Trump’s candidacy has put the Republican Party on a course for a “demographic meltdown.” (Buzzfeed)

-- Rick Perry came to Trump’s defense in his dispute with the father of a slain Muslim American soldier, saying Khizr Khan “struck the first blow” and is therefore fair game. "In a campaign, if you’re going to go out and think that you can take a shot at somebody and not have incoming coming back at you, shame on you," the former Texas governor said on CNN. His remarks break with current Gov. Greg Abbott, who has issued a statement saying the service of families like the Khans "cannot be questioned." (Texas Tribune)

-- Gary Johnson’s campaign said it raised $2.9 million online in the first two weeks of August. They claimed 90,000 donors contributed an average of $32. (Time)

-- Looking to 2020: John Kasich will travel to New Hampshire later this month, returning for the first time since the state’s February primary to stump on behalf of gubernatorial hopeful Chris Sununu.  (The Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Henry J. Gomez)

Pat Toomey is greeted by supporters at the Cambria County Republican Headquarters in Johnstown, Pa.. (John Rucosky/AP)

BATTLE FOR THE SENATE:

-- “The Trump two-step: How a GOP senator is trying, awkwardly, to keep his job,” by Philip Rucker: “As Sen. Patrick J. Toomey convened a roundtable discussion with local law enforcement leaders here in Western Pennsylvania, he made no boasts about a big, beautiful wall, or rounding up illegal immigrants … Instead, Toomey asked questions and listened. He spoke softly and judiciously. The message he hoped voters in this battleground state would take away was clear: I may be a Republican, but I’m no Trump. ... Once celebrated by his party’s grass-roots activists as a conservative purist, Toomey has labored throughout his first term to soften his image, most prominently by co-authoring gun-control legislation backed by Democrats." Still, the two men’s fates are intertwined: Trump sees Pennsylvania as a must-win state, and the outcome of Toomey’s race could determine whether Republicans maintain control of the Senate. “Pat Toomey had positioned himself extremely well to win reelection,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.). “The challenge for Pat is things outside his control." (Al Hunt writes his Bloomberg column today on Clinton's big edge in the Philly suburbs.)

-- Another vulnerable senator, New Hampshire's Kelly Ayotte, explained the difference, as she sees it, between voting for someone and "endorsing" them. “There’s actually a big distinction: Everyone gets a vote, I do too,” Ayotte told CNN. “And an endorsement is when you are campaigning with someone.” She says she “endorsed” Mitt Romney by campaigning with him but would not appear with Trump. “While he has my vote he doesn’t have my endorsement,” Ayotte said of Trump. Most would say this is a distinction without a difference. 

Cecile Richards in her New York office (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

WAPO HIGHLIGHTS:

-- “The abortion rights movement is bolder than it’s been in years. That’s Cecile Richards’s plan,” by Caitlin Gibson: “In person, 59-year-old [Cecile] Richards exudes both a warm authenticity and a subtle impenetrability; there’s the sense that she means everything she says, but she isn’t saying everything. Polarizing? The word could have been invented for her. It’s a safe bet that how you view her depends on where you stand on abortion: She’s composed, heroic, a righteous defender of the vulnerable; or she’s cold, unfeeling, a cunning apologist for baby murderers. She gets standing ovations. She also gets death threats. In a lineup of past presidents of Planned Parenthood … Richards stands out: her background isn’t in women’s health care. It’s in organizing and politics. And she has deployed her skills in those fields to win major battles for abortion rights. Planned Parenthood endorsed Clinton in this year’s Democratic primary, taking sides for the first time … [Now], most strikingly, Richards has set her sights on the Maginot Line of the abortion wars — federal funding for abortions.

Abbey D'Agostino is helped up by Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand after a collision during the Women's 5000m race. (Ian Walton/Getty)

TWO GOOD READS FROM RIO:

-- Yesterday's most touching moment came after U.S. runner Abbey D’Agostino and New Zealander Nikki Hamblin collided during a women’s 5,000-meter heat. Both athletes stopped to help each other up – urging the other to continue in a show of remarkable sportsmanship and camaraderie. “I’m never going to forget that moment,” Hamblin said. “When someone asks me what happened in Rio in 20 years’ time, that’s my story.” And the story has a happy ending – despite being the last two competitors to cross the finish line, both girls will be allowed to compete in the final this Friday. (Rick Maese)

-- "For two Olympians, a humiliating journey to Rio filled with gender-questioning," by Cindy Boren: "Caster Semenya of South Africa and India’s Dutee Chand have fought lengthy, tough battles to earn their spots in Rio this week. In addition to the grueling training required of an Olympic athlete, they have been subjected to indignities and the public perusal of intensely intimate information. Both have a condition called hyperandrogenism, characterized by natural levels of testosterone … that are high enough to place them in the male range as far as international track and field officials are concerned.” Semenya, favored to win gold in the women’s 800-meter race today, was subject to a high-profile spate of testing after she was called a man by one of her 2009 competitors. Chand had to endure a legal battle. “All the scientific study detracts from what is an intensely personal journey for women, who want to compete in the bodies in which they were born." Chand has said she “cried for three straight days” after reading what people said about her online.

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

The TV and political worlds mourned John McLaughlin, best known as host of "The McLaughlin Group," who died Tuesday in Washington at 89 (see "Videos of the Day" for some great tributes):

From the right to the left, reaction to reports that Roger Ailes is advising Trump on debate preparation--

From Ted Cruz's former communications director:

From a former Obama adviser:

This is NOT The Onion:

David Copperfield held a press conference with Dina Titus and Mark Pocan urging Congress to designate magic as an art form:

Here's how a few other lawmakers are spending their breaks:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

Passengers hide at immigration control during false reports of a shooter at JFK Airport. (AFP/Brigitte Dusseau)

-- New York Magazine reporter David Wallace-Wells gives a terrifying, first-person account of the JFK Airport shooting scare: “I can’t remember what happened first — the flashing light of a fire alarm, the yelled warnings of a bomb and a shooter, the people turning around in a mob panic. I thought I saw smoke. I know I saw bags dropped, people falling to the floor and others stomping past them, through them, on them. The word stampede comes from the animal kingdom — gazelles running away from lions, horses running from some other threat. But there is really no other word for what happened last night at JFK, because panic turned us all into animals. Not only did police and security fail to prevent the spectacle of mob hysteria; on some level, given the way they pressed a hysterical crowd right back into a compressed space, they staged it. The way they handled the fallout, though, might have been even worse.”

One scene: “One man I talked to had darted down a jet bridge to take cover, inspiring others to follow, running and yelling. Only when he reached the end did he realize that the door was locked, and that, because there was no plane on the other side of it, he was actually suspended 20 feet or more in the air, like at the end of an unfinished bridge, with dozens or maybe even hundreds coming behind him. He’d have to smash the window, he figured … then just jump. That’s when he heard the screams of the crowd storming toward him: ‘They’re coming this way!’”

Huma Abedin (Seth Wenig/AP)

-- Vogue got a surprising amount of access to Huma for a profile --> “Huma Abedin On Her Job, Family, and the Campaign of a Lifetime,” by Nathan Heller: “Powerful, glamorous, and ubiquitous, Abedin is in many ways the engine at the center of Clinton’s well-run machine, crucial and yet largely out of sight. To onlookers, Clinton and Abedin seem to travel the world as a single entity joined by complementary strengths. If Clinton spends her life at the microphone, Abedin is constitutionally circumspect. If Clinton, in her bold suits and impeccable coifs, distills a certain era of feminist empowerment, Abedin, with her breezy downtown dresses and mobile power-dialing, is the professional face of a younger, more wired-in female generation. As Clinton’s longest-serving staffer, she is both the campaign’s deepest memory and its farthest-seeing eye—a woman who, more than anyone besides the Clintons themselves, can envisage the sort of president that Hillary will be … To hear Abedin tell it, though, she’s just a kind of accidental Forrest Gump of politics.”

HOT ON THE LEFT

“This Region Is Twice Flint’s Size—And Its Water Is Also Poisoned,” from Mother Jones: “In two of California's most productive farming regions, at least 212,000 people rely on water that's routinely unsafe to drink, with levels of a toxin called nitrate above the federal limit. And even if the pollution source could be stopped tomorrow, these communities—representing a population more than twice as large as that of Flint, Mich.— would endure the effects of past practices for decades. That's the takeaway of a major new assessment by researchers at the University of California-Davis. The toxin in question is nitrate, which leaches into aquifers when farmers apply synthetic nitrogen fertilizers … Nitrate-laced water has been linked to a range of health problems, including birth defects, blood problems in babies, and cancers of the ovaries and thyroid.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

“What Do American Schools Teach About Islam? PC Or Nothing,” from The Federalist: “Jenny McKeigue’s youngest child enters seventh grade this fall, and she plans to excuse him from a world history class requirement to recite a Muslim conversion prayer called the shahada. McKeigue spent four years attempting to convince her school board in Olmsted Falls, Ohio, to alter some lessons and replace history textbooks after her oldest son in 2012 showed her a reality TV episode his teacher had played in class. [In it] … an imam tells a Christian man … that Muslims and Christians worship the same god. The Christian struggles with that idea but ultimately accepts it. Independent reviewers McKeigue requested also found errors in the district’s textbooks such as listing eleven biblical commandments.”

DAYBOOK:

On the campaign trail: Clinton is in Cleveland; Kaine is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Pence is in Henderson, Nev.

At the White House: Obama is in Martha's Vineyard, Mass. Vice President Biden is in Kosovo.

On Capitol Hill: The Senate and House are out.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“I am committed to doing whatever it takes to win this election, and ultimately become president.” –Trump in the press release announcing his shake-up

 D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier greets friends and colleges after announcing her resignation. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

-- D.C. police chief Cathy Lanier announced she is stepping down from her position next month to work for the NFL. Lanier, who has spent 26 years as a law enforcement officer in the District, and became the first permanent female chief to lead the department, will take over as head of security for the football league. (Peter Hermann, Clarence Williams and Ann E. Marimow)

The mayor paid tribute:

-- Even MORE hot and sticky weather ahead today, the Capital Weather Gang reports: “We experience yet another day of heat and humidity, but more cloud cover compared to recent days helps cap temperatures a bit. It’s still unseasonably hot, with highs mainly in the low to mid-90s, and we could even see the week-long streak of 95-degree highs extend itself for an eighth straight day in the city. Factor in moderate humidity and the heat index will touch or exceed 100 this afternoon”

-- The Nationals lost to the Rockies 6-2.

-- Fairfax City Council appointed Eric Cantor’s former chief of staff, Steven Stombres, to temporarily fill in as mayor after Scott Silverthorne resigned over his alleged involvement in a meth-for-sex scheme. Members unanimously voted in support of Stombres, a former city councilman. (Antonio Olivo)

-- A widespread Sprint outage struck the D.C. and North Capital region overnight, leaving some callers unable to dial 911. “The problems were related to Sprint service, a spokesman for the department said, and recommended that anyone who needed emergency assistance text should use a landline or a cellphone with service from another provider.” Officials said the glitch was caused by “an extensive commercial power outage and fire.” (Justin Wm. Moyer and Victoria St. Martin)

-- Victims of a D.C. rabbi who was convicted of videotaping naked women as they prepared for ritual baths are demanding at least $100 million in a class-action lawsuit. Prosecutors say the disgraced Georgetown rabbi, Barry Freundel, is believed to have recoded more than 100 victims over a three-year period. (Julie Zauzmer)

-- Maryland prosecutors announced the shutdown of a major regional human-trafficking ring, nabbing three top actors in a years-long operation that victimized girls as young as 15. Police said the trio recruited women under false assurances such as modeling or debt repayment, then held them hostage at “dozens” of local hotels. (Lynh Bui)

-- A seventh body was found from last week's Silver Spring apartment explosion. Authorities ontinue to search for victims in rubble from the deadly blast.  The explosion left more than 30 injured and about 100 displaced. (Luz Lazo)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

"Morning Joe" created a devastating mash-up of Trump contradicting himself on foreign policy. He was for invading Iraq before he was against it, for pulling out all the troops before he said Obama doing just that created ISIS, and pushed to invade Libya before he came out against it.

Watch SNL's four excellent spoofs of the McLaughlin Group, with Dana Carvey as John McLaughlin:

--McLaughlin Group, 1990 (Phil Hartman, Kevin Nealon, John Goodman, Jan Hooks)
--Halloween Cold Open, 1991 (Phil Hartman, Kevin Nealon, Mike Myers)
--The McLaughlin Group Cold Open, 1991 (Phil Hartman, Kevin Nealon, Jan Hooks, Chris Farley)
--Pat Buchanan Returns, 1992 (Phil Hartman, Kevin Nealon, Mike Myers, Chris Farley)

Here's a Last Week Tonight cut of McLaughlin angrily introducing discussion topics:

In case you missed it, Kaine joined in a rendition of "Wagon Wheel" with his harmonica in Asheville, N.C. (click to watch):

His wife Anne did some clogging (click to watch):

In a cringe-worthy interview with CNN, Democratic Senate candidate Maggie Hassan (the governor of New Hampshire) declined to directly answer if Clinton is honest:

(Kelly Ayotte's campaign turned a web video about it.)

Ann Kirkpatrick, the Democratic candidate against John McCain, also would not say:

Finally, scientists couldn't help giggling at this funny looking squid: