Clinton leaves a private meeting in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

THE BIG IDEA: Hillary Clinton has still not settled on who will play Donald Trump in her debate prep sessions.

Campaign manager Robby Mook said Sunday that “it’s very hard to find someone” who can mirror the Republican nominee’s temperament and instincts. “Preparing for a debate with him is a challenging task,” he acknowledged on “CNN’s State of the Union.”

Lots of names are being floated from inside and outside of Clinton’s orbit, and the campaign is even considering having multiple people play the role of Trump.

Trump has not technically agreed to compete in the debates yet, though since he’s trailing in the polls and getting dramatically outspent on television he’d be insane not to. His new manager, Kellyanne Conway, said on Friday that the campaign has selected its stand-in for Clinton, but she would not reveal who it is.

Who plays the role of stand-in for Trump and Clinton is more than just the hot D.C. parlor game of the moment. It will offer a window into how seriously each campaign is taking this process and how they expect the other side to approach the debates.

The person who plays the role of sparring partner for the winner also typically winds up with a plum administration job. John Kerry played Mitt Romney for Barack Obama in 2012. He’s now Secretary of State. (Rob Portman, who had been on the V.P. shortlist, played Obama for Mitt Romney.) Greg Craig, who played the part of John McCain for Obama in 2008 (and George W. Bush for Kerry before that), became the president’s first White House Counsel.

There is not much time. The first debate is five weeks from today. On Sept. 26, Trump and Clinton will square off for 90 minutes at Hofstra University on Long Island. There will be no commercial breaks from 9 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. There will be a single moderator, and that still-to-be-announced person will pick six topics to cover for 15 minutes each. The Commission on Presidential Debates promises to announce these topics at least one week beforehand.

Donald Trump arrives at his Saturday rally in Fredericksburg, Va. (Gerald Herbert/AP)

-- So who will play The Donald for Hillary?

Someone like Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a trusted friend with a penchant for hyperbole and practice debating a conservative firebrand, would make sense. Or maybe Joe Biden, who could bring unpredictability and has experience being bombastic (Remember how he went after Paul Ryan at the 2012 V.P. debate?)

Clinton allies are also floating New York Rep. Joe Crowley, strategist James Carville (the Ragin’ Cajun!), Sen. Al Franken, Ebola czar Ron Klain and ex-Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, according to Politico’s Annie Karni.

The radio station WNYC reported over the weekend that Clinton selected Alan Dershowitz, but the Harvard law professor said Sunday that no one has reached out to him.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, a bombastic billionaire with a reality TV show, told Politico he would be “happy to do it.”

-- The first rule of debate prep is you don’t talk about debate prep. Leaks that telegraph debate strategy are particularly damaging. That probably makes picking someone from outside Clinton’s inner-circle too risky, especially for someone as preternaturally cautious and mistrustful of others as the former secretary of state.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama spar during the second presidential debate in Oct. 2012. That debate was at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., the site of the first debate in 2016. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

-- Much of the punditry about how to prepare for a debate comes from people who have never debated competitively. The most important thing a stand-in brings to rehearsal is an ability to broach everything Trump will – and more. The worst thing that can happen to you on stage is to be caught flat-footed. You avoid surprises by painstakingly planning for every possible line of questioning and attack.

Debates are remembered for just one moment, and most of the time it is a moment that one of the participants was not prepared for. Michael Dukakis was ready to talk about his opposition to the death penalty, for example, but he was not ready for Bernard Shaw to ask whether he’d favor the death penalty for a man who raped and murdered his wife.

-- That’s why good prep is less about mimicking Trump’s mannerisms and more about mirroring his personality. You’re not preparing for “Saturday Night Live.” Clinton needs someone in this role who can get in her head, interrupt her, throw her off her game, make her feel uncomfortable and angry, challenge assertions she’s not used to having challenged and make the best possible arguments against her. (They need a stand-in for the moderator who can do the same.)

-- But Trump is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. His unpredictability makes this always-difficult process even more so. 

He doesn’t have a set debate style. Think back to the primaries. Sometimes he was muted; sometimes he was bombastic.

His campaign says he’s going to try to come across as substantive. Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t.

He never sticks to the same talking points, and he doesn’t consistently make an argument the same way. He’s more improvisational than any nominee in modern times.

-- Trump has never debated a political opponent one-on-one. That experience will be profoundly different than the 11 primary debates he competed in. Remember, Trump did not agree to debate his GOP rivals again after March 10. That night in Florida, he was one of four candidates on stage. Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Marco Rubio had much more pressure on them than he did. In contrast, Clinton debated Sanders, Obama and Rick Lazio one-one-one.

Rick Lazio offers Hillary Clinton a pledge to stop using "soft money" during their first debate in Buffalo, N.Y. It was a disastrous gambit. (Richard Drew, AP File)

-- Without a doubt, Trump is willing to go places Bernie Sanders and no other GOP nominee would. The stand-in must be willing to wade into personally painful and politically uncomfortable territory. That could be everything from Vince Foster’s suicide to Monica Lewinsky’s blue dress, with Paula Jones, Juanita Broderick, Gennifer Flowers and the Clinton Foundation in between. She also needs to prepare for Trump to traffic in whacky online conspiracy theories, including but not limited to questions of her physical stamina and mental acuity.

The more desperate he becomes to reverse his flagging fortunes, the more willing Trump will be to throw some Hail Marys. He’s also someone willing to insist vehemently that he never said something he is on tape saying. And he relishes the chance to use a moderator as a foil.

-- Ever the showman, Trump will find a way to spring some kind of surprise. He could open the debate with a dramatic proclamation or announcement. He might try to unveil a policy plan in the debate to look presidential. He could bring up some seemingly random issue that he’s never broached before.

-- Additionally, Clinton’s inaccessibility and insulation increase the likelihood she will stumble during the give-and-take with Trump.

Let’s face it: Sanders was not a good debater. Not only did he let her off the hook on her “damn emails,” but he lacked a killer instinct and the 74-year-old did not think very quickly on his feet. He nonetheless managed to beat her during a few of the primary debates.

Clinton’s last real press conference was also 260 days ago, which makes her more vulnerable to getting caught off guard. “A woman who conceived on Dec. 5, 2015, would be 8½ months pregnant today,”  Chris Cillizza notes.

Trump mixes it up with Ted Cruz on March 10 in Coral Gables, Fla. (Pedro Portal/The Miami Herald via AP)

-- Women are going to decide who wins this election. Can Trump use the first debate to win back females who have defected? Donald will lose if he comes across as too rude or condescending to Hillary. While his new campaign manager is a woman who specializes in helping conservatives reach out to women, many in his inner-circle do not have a good track record at closing the gender gap…

-- Steve Bannon, the new chief executive of Trump’s campaign, has used one of the most vulgar words in the English language (c***) to describe certain people, including Republicans. (The Daily Beast writes up one such exchange.)

-- Roger Ailes, who left Fox News exactly one month ago amidst a sexual harassment scandal, has been giving Trump advice in preparation for the debates, the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and Ashley Parker reported last week. Trump told the Times that Ailes was not formally involved. “I don’t have a debate coach. I’ve never had a debate coach,” he said.

Ailes’s informal involvement is instructive. He was involved in the prep session that helped Ronald Reagan formulate his quip about Walter Mondale’s “youth and inexperience” ahead of the second debate in 1984, helped soften George H.W. Bush in 1988 (“a kinder, gentler America”) and prepped Rudy Giuliani for his mayoral debates in 1989. Gabriel Sherman wrote in a 2014 book that Ailes urged Bush 41 to model himself after Gary Cooper, directing him to slow his sentences and deepen his voice.

-- And Trump may need to answer for a host of comments he’s made about Clinton that could be described as sexist. Remember the Reagan library debate last September when Carly Fiorina reacted to what he had said about her face?

A refresher:

Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning newsletter.

Written with Breanne Deppisch (@breanne_dep) and with contributions from Elise Viebeck (@eliseviebeck).

Sign up to receive the newsletter.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Using Trump's own words, a new Clinton ad makes the case that Trump is too reckless to lead. A 30-second spot features clips of the GOP nominee saying he "would bomb the s---" out of ISIS, bragging that he knows "more about ISIS than the generals do," and saying "you can tell them to go f--- themselves." A narrator says, "In times of crisis, America depends on steady leadership, clear thinking and calm judgment. Because all it takes is one wrong move. Just one." Watch here, or by clicking the above image.

-- Obama’s vacation is over. He arrived at the White House at 8:35 p.m. Tomorrow he heads to Louisiana to tour flooding damage.

Here's a recap of how Obama spent his two weeks on the Vineyard:

GET SMART FAST:​​

Residents carry damaged furniture through flood waters in Sorrento, Louisiana. (Reuters/Jonathan Bachman)
  1. Twenty-two school districts in southern Louisiana were forced to close, delaying the start of the school year for tens of thousands of children. (Ashley Cusick)
  2. Today is the 20th anniversary of welfare reform.

  3. The head of the NIH said the Zika virus could “hang around” the U.S. for "a year or two," saying on ABC’s “This Week” that other Gulf Coast states such as Texas and Louisiana are vulnerable to the spread of the disease. “I would not be surprised if we see cases in Texas and Louisiana, particularly now where you have the situation with flooding in Louisiana,” Anthony Fauci said. “There are going to be a lot of problems getting rid of standing water.” (AP)
  4. Pills found inside Prince’s Paisley Park compound were labeled hydrocodone but actually contained fentanyl, the powerful opioid that was found to have killed the singer. Investigators said they are unsure how Prince obtained the deadly fentanyl dosage, but they are leaning towards the theory that his overdose was accidental. (Star Tribune)
  5. A child suicide bomber attacked a wedding in Turkey this weekend, killing more than 50 and wounding scores more. Officials said the attacker was reportedly between 12 and 14. The government blamed ISIS. (Erin Cunningham)
  6. Pfizer is nearing a deal to buy the biotech company Medivation for $14 million, the latest in a long run of blockbuster deals as the company seeks to boost its oncology portfolio. (Wall Street Journal)
  7. Challenged by the rise of charter programs, public schools in Los Angeles have been forced to deploy billboards, flyers and even hire a marketing director to keep competitive on enrollment. In other words, competition fundamentally changes the nature of their jobs. (LA Times)
  8. A federal judge in California rejected a proposed $100 million settlement in a class-action suit over whether Uber's drivers should be classified as contractors or employees. The district judge said Uber's offer is only 10 percent of what lawyers for the drivers estimate that Uber could owe them and provided only $1 million toward state penalties that could add up to more than $1 billion. ( Andrea Peterson)
  9. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has already hired the four clerks who will assist her through June 2018, evidence that she’s not going to retire before then. (Robert Barnes)
  10. The 83-year-old father of Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) was sentenced to one year and a day in prison for illegally funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to his son's congressional campaigns. (Amber Phillips)

  11. Katie Couric took a $1 million salary cut during her tenure as anchor of the CBS Evening News to save jobs at the network during a budget shortage, Page Six reports. She insisted that there be “no public or private acknowledgement” of the gesture.
  12. A Cape Cod fugitive nearly evaded authorities by dressing up as an elderly man -- complete with a face mask and fake liver spots -- when they raided his house. Police at first fell for his disguise, which they later referred to as “Hollywood quality," but were tipped off after realizing he was carrying $10,000 in cash. (Peter Holley)
Fireworks explode over the Maracana stadium during the closing ceremony in Rio. (AP/Leo Correa)

THE OLYMPICS ARE OVER:

-- Team USA took first place in Rio by an overwhelming margin, netting 121 medals by the end of Day 17. The final U.S. haul includes 46 gold, 37 silver and 38 bronze. China won second place with 70 medals, and Britain fell to third with 67. (Check out the Post’s interactive graphic here.)

“Dominance of the medal table has come to be expected of Team USA — which has led the overall standings in every Olympics since Seoul 1988 … but this year’s runaway seemed to take even the USOC brass by surprise, Dave Sheinin reports. “Old, standby American programs reasserted their dominance in Rio — the 32 medals in track and field and the 33 in swimming accounted for more than half of the overall U.S. medal total and represented sizable increases over London 2012 — while at the same time, U.S. squads in sports such as equestrian and fencing outperformed expectations. …For Team USA as a unit, there is a good argument to be made that Rio 2016 was the best Olympics that ever was. Even if Ryan Lochte wouldn’t necessarily agree.”

-- "It was arguably the most remarkable collection of champions ever collected in one place," Sally Jenkins writes in a column. "‘There you go; I am the greatest,’ Usain Bolt crowed after winning his ninth gold in the 4x100-meter relay, but he had to share the claim with the dolphin-backed Michael Phelps, the epic sojourner Katie Ledecky, the human pinwheel Simon Biles and a titanic U.S. women’s basketball team that won its sixth straight gold medal.”

-- U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun promised “further action” will be taken against Ryan Lochte and his three U.S. swimming teammates who fabricated a story about being robbed. “We all understand they let down our athletes and they let down Americans, and they really let down our hosts in Rio,” Blackmun told reporters. “We feel very badly about that. We will have further action on that when we get back to the United States.” (Dave Sheinin)

-- The U.S. men’s basketball team won its third straight gold on Sunday, cruising to a 96-66 win against Serbia. Kevin Durant emerged as the all-star during the Games, leading the team with 30 points – and a 19.4 points-per-game scoring average that ranks the highest in Team USA Olympic history. (Candace Buckner)

Matt Centrowitz wins Olympic gold in the men's 1,500-meter in Rio. (Photo by Jonathan Newton /Washington Post)

-- Matthew Centrowitz Jr. became the first U.S. man to win the Olympic 1,500 meters since 1908, beating out both a three-time defending world champion and a 2012 gold medalist. Centrowitz said he expected a silver medal, at best, coming in. “I’m a confident guy,” he said, laughing in disbelief. “But I don’t know if I’m this confident.” (The Baltimore Sun)

-- Former Oregon Ducks star Galen Rupp bounced back from his disappointing fifth-place finish in the 10,000 meter race earlier last week, managing to score a bronze medal in his second career marathon.  (Barry Svrluga)

-- Ethiopia’s Feyisa Lilesa made an “X” with his arms as he crossed the finish line in Rio – a protest gesture that he says now could put his life in danger when he returns home. The move was a show of solidarity for members of his Oromo tribe who have reportedly been marginalized by the Ethiopian government. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 400 people have been killed since November. But he knows his very public gesture will have consequences: "If I go back to Ethiopia maybe they will kill me. If not kill me, they will put me in prison. I have not decided yet, but maybe I will move to another country," Lilesa offered. His suggestion is not the first time an Ethiopian athlete has considered defecting after competition. In 2014, four of the country’s runners applied for asylum in the U.S. after disappearing from the international junior track championships in Eugene, Oregon. (Kevin Sieff)

Colin Powell (Susan Walsh/2008 AP file)

THE DAILY HILLARY:

-- Colin Powell fires back at Clinton. The New York Times reported Friday that Clinton told the FBI that Powell had advised her to use a personal email account as secretary of state. A People Magazine reporter spotted Powell at a fundraiser in the Hamptons and asked for a response. "Her people have been trying to pin it on me," the 79-year-old complained. "The truth is, she was using [the private email server] for a year before I sent her a memo telling her what I did.” This doesn’t sound like someone about to endorse her…

-- “Signs suggest Clinton may be more open to lobbyists in her administration,” by Catherine Ho: “Lobbyists who are part of Clinton’s deep network of Washington contacts have raised millions of dollars for her campaign — suggesting that a President Clinton may be more open to appointing lobbyists to positions in her administration.” One of Clinton's first orders of business would be to decide how to tackle an existing executive order put in place by Obama that largely bars lobbyists from working in the executive branch. “The question is how Clinton could loosen the restrictions without appearing to endorse outside influence peddling … There is some speculation that Obama could lift or loosen the restrictions on lobbyists before leaving office, which would save Clinton the political trouble of having to do it herself.” 

-- Sanders said he plans to return to the campaign trail for Clinton after Labor Day. In an interview, the Vermont senator said he will do “everything he can” to help his former Democratic rival win the presidency, and will focus on energizing his former base of young and working-class voters among states where he won or performed well. (John Wagner)

Hillary lands at the Provincetown Municipal Airport in Massachusetts Sunday for a fundraiser. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

-- The Clinton campaign announced $80 million in advertising reservations for the battleground states this morning. The purchase is a continuation of her current flights in Florida, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, North Carolina and the Omaha market in Nebraska. It includes $3 million through August and nearly $77 million for September and October. Notably, Virginia and Colorado, where she’s up double digits, are not included. Though they could buy more airtime if the polls tighten. The Clinton campaign also said it plans to air “upwards of $15 million” in radio ads across these states. (John Wagner)

-- How she's paying for it:

This was another weekend of very aggressive fundraising for Clinton. Yesterday afternoon, she spoke to 1,100 donors at the Pilgrim Monument and Museum in Provincetown, Massachusetts, with special guests Cher and Billie Jean King.

On Saturday, HRC appeared at three fundraisers on Martha’s Vineyard. About 300 came to see her at the home of Ambassador Elizabeth Bagley in Nantucket. Then 700 came to the home of Carol and Frank Biondi in Edgartown. And the day ended with a dinner at the home of Lynn Forester de Rothschild. About 30 people paid $50,000 each to attend.

She's doing a West Coast swing this week to keep filling her coffers. Leonardo DiCaprio was supposed to host an event for Clinton at his house on Tuesday, but he decided to stay in New York to finish work on his documentary about climate change, called “Before the Flood,” which is supposed to premiere on Sept. 9. Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel agreed to fill in for him, and the event will be at their home. (People)

Trump rallies in Dimondale, Michigan, on Friday night. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

THE DAILY DONALD:

-- “Trump’s campaign wavered Sunday on whether he would continue to call for the mass deportation of 11 million illegal immigrants from the United States, the latest in a series of sometimes clumsy attempts to win over moderate GOP voters without alienating millions who have flocked to his hard-line views,” Jenna Johnson reports. “After insisting for more than a year that all illegal immigrants ‘have to go,’ Trump met with a newly created panel of Hispanic advisers on Saturday and asked for other ideas — making clear that his position is not finalized."

-- Meanwhile, campaign surrogates struggled to clarify Trump's position on the Sunday shows: 

  • Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway demurred when asked if Trump still wants "a deportation force removing the 11 million or so undocumented immigrants” that he has called for: “To be determined,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that he will be “fair and humane for those who live among us in this country.”
  • Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions said Trump is “wrestling” with the issue but has yet to change his position: “People that are here unlawfully, came into the country against our laws, are subject to being removed,” he said on CBS. “That’s just plain fact.”
  • The Clinton campaign circulated clips of him praising Dwight Eisenhower's "Operation Wetback."

-- Why is Trump always changing his positions on the biggest issues? Obviously he's trying to improve his standing with suburban moderates who are scared of him. But he also lacks core principles, except for a desire to win. That makes it harder for him to stay in one place, even on his most signature issue. Because he does not really feel strongly about anything. 

-- This is just the latest big issue on which Trump has tried to obfuscate and shade his position. He's already done it on terrorism, abortion and gun control. "Trump has thrived in part by staying vague on most of his policy positions, vacillating between extreme rhetoric and assurances of reasonableness," Jenna notes. “He lets people fill in the blanks mentally for what they think he’s saying, not what he’s actually saying,” longtime GOP strategist Rick Wilson said. “So when you hear him saying one day: ‘I’m going to ban all Muslims,’ but then you hear him say another day, ‘Well, I’m going to ban the dangerous, bad ones,’ … it always flips, and then the people that are fanatics about Trump just say, ‘Oh, well, he meant the one that I liked.’”

-- Meanwhile, the Trump campaign continues to be racked by internal turmoil and more senior people could be out this week. “Political director Jim Murphy and pollster Tony Fabrizio are among a handful of Trump staffers known to have expressed frustration to close friends in recent days -- suggesting the new team has pushed them out of the loop to the point that they have learned of some new campaign plans either from the media or by watching the candidate on television,” CNN’s John King reports. “National GOP leaders are worried more departures will cause more questions about a campaign team already considered not up to the challenges of the final months of the campaign. There is talk of trying to resolve these internal conflicts, or perhaps shift some operatives to the national party payroll. But several sources familiar with the internal Trump campaign turmoil said they would not be surprised if one, two or a few current staffers headed for the exits in the days ahead.”

-- When she ran a pro-Ted Cruz Super PAC, Kellyanne Conway hammered Trump for not releasing his tax returns. Now that she's his manager, Conway says she no longer wants him to release any records until an IRS audit is complete. "I've learned since being on the inside that this audit is a serious matter and that he has said that when the audit is complete, he will release his tax returns," she said on ABC’s “This Week.” Her position comes as a reversal from five months ago. She also said on CNN that she does not want Trump to release his returns from 2002-2008, despite a statement from Trump’s attorneys that those are no longer under audit. But she declined to offer an explanation for why. (Jenna Johnson)

-- More trouble for Trump on the ground in the Buckeye State: Ryan Shucard, brought onboard by the RNC to be Ohio communications director just a few weeks ago, is being moved to Pennsylvania because he was unable to “establish a productive relationship” with Trump state director Bob Paduchik. (Plain Dealer

-- A CBS News poll shows Clinton up 6 in Ohio (46-40). She was up 4 points last month. Meanwhile, the two are tied in Iowa with 40 percent each – the only state in recent polling where Clinton does NOT have an outright lead. On the shows, Reince Priebus predicted Trump will pull even in the polls with Clinton around Labor Day. “Trump’s been disciplined and mature, and I think he’s going to get this thing back on track,” the RNC chairman said on ABC's “This Week.”

Trump gols with Bill Clinton and Billy Crystal in 2008. (Rick Odell/Getty Images)

-- If you read one thing on Donald today --> “How much does Trump claim his golf courses are worth? It depends who needs to know,” by Drew Harwell: “When [Trump] submitted financial disclosure forms to election regulators, he bragged that his portfolio included some of the ‘finest and most iconic properties in the world.’ Among them was Trump National Golf Club Jupiter in Jupiter, Fla., which Trump valued at more than $50 million. That came as a surprise to officials in Palm Beach County, where the golf course is located. A few months earlier, for the third straight year, Trump’s attorney had gone to court to argue that, for the sake of calculating his tax bill, the property was worth ‘no more than $5 million.’” A Post review of local property records revealed the same pattern across most of Trump’s U.S. golf courses: “For eight of the 10 courses on which he pays taxes, Trump reported in his May filing to the FEC that the courses were worth tens of millions … even as his attorneys have pressed local tax officials to value the properties at a fraction of those amounts.”

-- Also: Trump's dad pretended to be Swedish to help his business --> “For Trump’s Family, an Immigrant’s Tale With 2 Beginnings,” by the New York Times's Jason Horowitz: “In the middle of the night, Friedrich Trump left his house in Kallstadt, a small Bavarian town … for a northern port city that served as Germany’s gateway to America. It was an immigrant tale that would make any family proud. But for decades, the Trumps almost never talked about it. Friedrich Trump’s son, Fred, came of age between the World Wars, a period marked by resentment of and even discrimination toward Germans in the U.S. More important, he was marketing his properties to the growing Jewish middle class filling up the old farmsteads of central Brooklyn and Queens. ‘He had thought, ‘Gee whiz, I’m not going to be able to sell these homes if there are all these Jewish people,'’’ said Donald J. Trump’s cousin John Walter … And once they started portraying themselves as Swedish, they could not stop. ‘After the war, he’s still Swedish,’ Mr. Walter said. ‘It was just going, going, going.’”

Sean Hannity (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

-- Fox News’s Sean Hannity is helping Trump. He has for months peppered Trump, his family members and advisers with suggestions on strategy and messaging, Jim Rutenberg writes in today’s Times. Three people in Trump world told Jim that they believe Hannity is behaving as if he wants a role in a possible Trump administration. “Do I talk to my friend who I’ve known for years and speak my mind? I can’t not speak my mind,’’ Hannity says in the story. “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States. … I never claimed to be a journalist.”

-- Big Oil is trying to water down a bill that would restrict a President Trump’s ability to go soft on Vladimir Putin. The Stand for Ukraine Act was introduced in April. It cleared the House Foreign Affairs Committee in July. Hawks are terrified that a potential Trump administration would unilaterally lift sanctions put in place by Barack Obama after Putin seized Crimea. The bill would allow for the lifting of sanctions only if Putin gives up Crimea. Now BuzzFeed reports that energy companies have won an early fight to weaken the legislation: “The US–Russia Business Council, a trade association of about 150 businesses and other organizations, including oil industry giants ExxonMobil and Chevron … asked lawmakers not to make the sanctions against Russia permanent. And in documents filed in late July, ExxonMobil itself disclosed plans to lobby on the bill.”

-- This story is in today’s Raleigh News & Observer --> “In North Carolina, Audience Shrinking for Trump’s Message,” by the AP’s Thomas Beaumont: "Clinton 'owes the state of North Carolina a very big apology,' Trump thundered in Charlotte, condemning the loss of manufacturing jobs. But the attack line drew no more than polite applause. 'In the state that may be the most pivotal to Trump's White House bid, the audience for the Republican's chief economic pitch is shrinking by the day. Textile and furniture manufacturing no longer dominates the state's economy as it did a generation ago. Banking, technology and others industries have driven North Carolina's economic output to grow faster than any state in the past three years. Voters are flowing into the state at a fire hose rate - young, educated and many to take high-paying jobs when they arrive. They're coming from everywhere and quickly diluting North Carolina's conservative political underpinnings. Clinton's statewide advantage among such younger and college educated voters is also helping tighten the race in what were once the more conservative regions."

-- “Hope for Trump: GOP winning registration race in key states,” by Politico’s Ben Schreckinger: “Trump’s poll numbers remain dire, but he can point to at least one ray of hope for a turnaround: Republicans have continued gaining ground in recent months in voter registration in Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Iowa, while the late surge in Democratic registrations relative to Republican registrations that occurred in battleground states the final months of the 2012 election had not materialized in numbers released in early August.”

-- At an RGA donor retreat in Aspen, Haley Barbour urged governors to rally behind Trump to improve the party’s down-ballot prospects and said the RNC should continue to stick with him, at least until October. (Jonathan Martin/New York Times)

Trump supporters cheer as he speaks at a campaign rally in Fredericksburg, Va. (AP/Gerald Herbert)

FOLLOW THE MONEY -- FEC reports poured in Saturday night. Here's what you need to know:

-- Pro-Clinton super PACs have sustained a massive cash advantage over several groups supporting Trump, lapping contributions from outside groups for July. From Matea Gold and Anu Narayanswamy: “Priorities USA Action, the main super PAC aligned with Clinton, brought in $9.3 million in July, giving it a total of $110 million for the 2016 cycle … The group headed into August with nearly $39 million in the bank. Meanwhile, two of the main pro-Trump groups, Make America Number 1 and Great America PAC, together just pulled in $4.4 million last month. Nearly half the money came from conservative hedge fund magnate Robert Mercer, who gave $2 million. Rebuilding America Now, which files on a quarterly basis, reported raising $2.16 million through the end of June, but has spent $11.4 million on anti-Clinton and pro-Trump ads through Friday."

-- Clinton outspent Trump by a wide margin last month, funding a costly television blitz and deploying hundreds of field staffers, Matea and Anu report. Her team spent nearly $49 million in July through her campaign committee and her joint fundraising committee with the DNC. “Almost $26 million of her monthly expenses went to produce and air a blizzard of television and online commercials — part of what has been a $120 million ad bombardment by her campaign. Clinton’s operation also spent nearly $5 million to pay 705 staffers in July and $2 million on travel.”

-- Trump, in his biggest spending month yet, still paid out $18.4 million. “Nearly half of the money, $8.4 million, went to one company: Giles-Parscale, a web-design firm whose president, Brad Parscale, serves as the Trump campaign’s digital director.” Other large sums spent went to travel and merchandise: “The campaign doled out $773,000 to reimburse various Trump-owned companies for expenses. In all, nearly $7.7 million has been paid out to Trump companies or Trump family members to cover campaign expenditures."

-- Ousted campaign manager Corey Lewandowski received his regular $20,000 monthly salary on July 6 – two weeks after he officially left the campaign and joined CNN as a political commentator. (He says it was severance.)

-- Trump is still not building an infrastructure to win, and his frugality in July has forced the RNC to effectively serve as his campaign’s organizing arm,” Matea and Anu note. “The party’s field operation — and its top strategists — are emerging as even more essential as the campaign copes with its second leadership upheaval of the summer. But Trump allies fear that the real estate tycoon is leaving himself vulnerable by outsourcing his voter mobilization program to the party." If he gets cut off, there's nothing he can do.

-- Silicon Valley hates Trump, and major Republican tech donors are keeping their distance. On the front page of today's Wall Street Journal: "PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, who spoke in support of the Republican nominee in Cleveland last month and previously donated $2 million to Carly Fiorina's campaign, said he has no plans to donate or raise money for Trump. Others in Silicon Valley have faulted Trump’s campaign for not releasing a tech policy program (Clinton outlined hers in June), and said the Republican nominee has not reached out to discuss policy or fundraising. 'For Silicon Valley Republicans, this is just an extremely unattractive candidate,' said Alex Slusky, founder of venture-capital firm Vector Capital, who previously donated $100,000 to a super PAC supporting Marco Rubio."

  • "In the current election cycle through June, GOP presidential candidates, including those who exited the race, and allied super PACs collectively raised nearly $18 million from the communications and electronics sector, which includes the tech industry … Mr. Trump’s share: $336,000. Mrs. Clinton’s haul from the industry in the same period: $30 million.”

-- Sheldon Adelson is also staying away. The billionaire casino magnate has still not donated to Trump’s campaign. The high-dollar donor was slated to support Trump at the Republican National Convention in July, NBC News reports, but he was scared off by Trump's lack of discipline and self-inflicted wounds.

-- In a Friday news dump, the Democratic National Committee said finance director Jordan Kaplan is leaving. His emails were among those posted by Wikileaks. (Politico’s Edward-Isaac Dovere)

Senate candidate Jim Gray (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call) 

THE BATTLE FOR THE SENATE:

-- Rand Paul's Democratic challenger in Kentucky is openly gay. Elise Viebeck profiles him: “Here in the Bible Belt, voters surprisingly do not seem to care that their Democratic candidate for Senate, Jim Gray, is gay. Gray is the only openly gay candidate running for Senate from a major party this cycle, a status that is drawing the spotlight to his otherwise longshot Democratic bid. ... He says that his sexuality is simply not an issue in the race. Gray’s sexuality is not a matter of public discussion among prominent Republicans, either. Paul and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) have not made it an issue.” Even Kim Davis declined to comment: “She’s not getting into that,” a spokeswoman said.

-- "Sen. Kelly Ayotte is stuck between Trump and a hard place,” Kelsey Snell reports from New Hampshire: “At a rally here last week, Mike Pence showed the crowd a clip of Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) awkwardly trying to defend [Clinton’s] honesty. ‘And that’s why we need Kelly Ayotte back in the U.S. Senate!’ [he declared]. It was the perfect set piece for Ayotte … Except the Republican senator wasn’t there to reap the benefits. Ayotte, in fact, is staying as far away from [Trump’s whole campaign] as she possibly can in a fiercely competitive race in which she would normally be embracing whatever attention and help she could get from the top of the ticket ... It’s a risky position that makes her one of the only Republicans in the country who has refused to take a firm stand either for or against her party’s standard-bearer. Many loyal Republicans … empathize with Ayotte’s hold-your-nose vote for Trump. But they aren’t the ones she needs to convince.” Around 17 percent of voters are still undecided in the Senate race.

-- Georgia Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, who has taken his reelection for granted, suddenly has a race. “Isakson holds a single-digit lead over first-time candidate Jim Barksdale, a wealthy investment manager,” the AP reports. “The 71-year-old Isakson, who disclosed he has Parkinson’s disease … made a two-day trip around the state in late July … with low-key stops at large companies in five cities to tour factory floors…”  

Isakson tells the AP that he’ll support Trump but won’t answer for the nominee: “If Donald Trump or anybody else makes a stupid statement, I’m not going to be their apologist and let the press beat up on me. They’ll have to go to the person who made the stupid statement. I’ll apologize when I do something stupid because I should. But I’m not going to be the volunteer apologist for anybody else.”

-- Florida Democratic Senate candidate Patrick Murphy's father is continuing to pour huge sums of money into outside groups so they help his son. New FEC filings show Thomas Murphy Jr. threw $1 million into a Democratic super PAC last month, the Tampa Bay Times reports. And his benevolent donation came just two days before the very same super PAC announced a $1 million ad buy in Florida to support Murphy’s Senate race. (Murphy’s father has previously donated $500,000 to a pro-Murphy super PAC this year, and threw $550,000 behind outside groups in 2012.)

-- Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk (R) slammed Obama as a “drug dealer in chief” for the $400 million cash payment to Iran that was tied to the release of four U.S. prisoners: "We can't have the president of the United States acting like the drug dealer in chief," Kirk said, "giving clean packs of money to a … state sponsor of terror. Those 500-euro notes will pop up across the Middle East. … We're going to see problems in multiple (countries) because of that money given to them." Kirk has previously drawn scrutiny for his controversial remarks, comparing the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement to Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Germany’s Nazi Party prior to World War II. (Chicago Tribune)

-- Indiana internal has Evan Bayh up 18: A poll conducted by the Democratic firm Global Strategy Group for Senate Majority PAC shows the former senator getting 54 percent to 36 percent for Republican Todd Young among likely voters. Ten percent are undecided. Bayh is viewed favorably by 55 percent and unfavorably by 23 percent. Even 40 percent of Republicans view him positively in this poll. The survey of 801 was in the field Aug. 10 to Aug. 14. Politico reports separately this morning that the Bayh campaign’s own internal has him up 16 (55-39).

A Republican told me last week that their initial internal polling had Bayh up in this range early on, but that he’s come down to earth as outside groups spend money on attack ads. Undoubtedly, the race will continue to tighten. The question is how firm and entrenches the positive views are of Bayh, who was a governor before he went to the Senate and whose father remains a beloved figure in the Hoosier State.

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

In case you needed another reminder that Trump is incapable of changing, he tweeted this at 9:08 p.m. last night:

And then followed up this morning:

Many Republicans mocked Kellyanne Conway for insisting with a straight face on the Sunday shows that Trump never hurls personal insults at people:

Quite a contrast: Just one minute apart from Trump's tweet, the outgoing president also tweeted...

The cover of today's Daily News:

From the Kansas City Royals hall of famer:

An important reality check:

Bill Clinton celebrated his 70th birthday:

John McCain seized on the now-viral photo of the boy in Aleppo (the 5-year-old's brother died in the air strike):

Here are a few summer photos from members of Congress:

GOOD READ FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- The Arizona Republic, “Can Sheriff Joe Arpaio win re-election in the face of a criminal-contempt referral?,” by Rebekah L. Sanders and Dennis Wagner: “With less than two weeks to go before the primary, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's re-election campaign suddenly faces an exceedingly rare political handicap for a lawman: a possible criminal charge. U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow on Friday referred Arpaio and several aides to the U.S. Attorney's Office for potential contempt prosecution for violating previous court orders in a racial-profiling case. The latest slap from the federal judge heightens speculation that the polarizing sheriff could be in for the toughest race of his 23-year career, handing his Republican challengers a late-in-the-game primary gift — and a cudgel for the Democratic contender in the fall if Arpaio, as expected, survives the Aug. 30 primary. Civil-rights activists took the Sheriff's Office to court eight years ago, accusing it of profiling Latinos during traffic stops and workplace raids, and detaining them without probable cause … Snow has already held Arpaio and top aides in civil contempt in that case for failing to implement changes to remedy the situation.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“White Lives Matter group protests outside NAACP in Houston's Third Ward,” from the Houston Chronicle: “The Confederate flag waved in front of the NAACP office Sunday. The red flag with its blue X holding white stars hung over the shoulder of a White Lives Matter member who was joined by others in his group in a protest against the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The protest drew much attention as people took photos of the group which held assault rifles and ‘White Lives Matter’ signs on [Houston’s] Third Ward block. ‘The Confederate flag throws me off,’ [one bystander] said. ‘You're saying Black Lives Matter is a racist organization but when you're throwing the Confederate flag up and saying White Lives Matter, are you saying you're racist?’”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

 “West Virginia University: Calling Someone The ‘Wrong’ Prounoun Is A Title IX Violation,” from the Daily Caller: “Referring to someone by the ‘wrong’ gender pronoun is a violation of federal anti-discrimination law, according to West Virginia University’s Title IX office. Title IX … prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. Today, Title IX is used to coerce individuals into affirming transgender persons’ self-defined gender identity. Although Title IX only prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, some on the left have argued that the term ‘sex’ should be understood to include ‘gender identity’ and ‘gender expression.’ WVU’s Title IX office informs students that federal law — as interpreted by WVU — guarantees students ‘the right to be called by the name and pronouns consistent with your gender identity.’”

DAYBOOK:

On the campaign trail: Trump is in Akron, Ohio; Pence is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Kaine is in Las Vegas.

At the White House: Vice President Biden holds a bilateral meeting with President Luis Guillermo Solis of Costa Rica. Obama has no public events scheduled.

On Capitol Hill: The Senate and House are out.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

"Go online and put down Hillary Clinton illness. Take a look at the videos for yourself." – Rudy Giuliani on Fox

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

-- The high humidity is finally beginning to fade away! The Capital Weather Gang brings today’s good-news forecast: “It may feel a tiny bit muggy early on, but humidity levels drop throughout the day. While it’s not as hot as it has been, it’s still pretty warm as highs target the mid-80s.”

-- The Nationals lost to the Braves, 7-6.

-- A Washington Post poll finds that 53 percent of Virginia voters approve of Terry McAuliffe’s performance as governor, but that’s weaker and more partisan than what nearly all of his predecessors enjoyed over the past two decades.

Six in 10 Virginians support the governor’s effort to restore voting rights to more than 200,000 felons. But they are evenly split on whether he was motivated by altruism or politics: 45 percent say he did it because he thinks it is the right thing to do, while 42 percent say he did it because it would help Democrats win elections. (Laura Vozzella, Gregory S. Schneider and Emily Guskin)

-- “Efforts to choose a successor to D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier, who is retiring next month, are beginning with an early focus on the department’s assistant chiefs, including one just promoted to that position this month,” Peter Hermann and Clarence Williams report. “D.C. officials involved in the selection process said most of the attention so far has been on selecting an interim leader to take over when Lanier leaves in mid-September to oversee security for the National Football League, ending her nearly decade-long tenure as chief. That announcement could come any day. But a parallel effort is just underway to fill the post permanently. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) has said she is inclined to name a chief from within the department, citing a ‘deep bench’ of candidates. But she also said she would entertain applicants from elsewhere.” The mayor does NOT plan to tap a national search firm. Whoever she picks must be confirmed by the Council.

-- United Bankshares will purchase Cardinal Financial for $912 million. The acquisition is United’s 10th in the Washington area, making it one of the largest banking players in the region. (Thomas Heath)

-- D.C. rapper Swipey, an 18-year-old who had risen to local prominence and performed alongside big-name acts such as Wale and Fat Joe, was fatally shot on Sunday in Prince George’s County. His death triggered an outpouring of grief on social media, Faiz Siddiqui reports. The circumstances surrounding his death remain unclear.

-- Wonder how Facebook targets ads to you? Our tech reporter got the list of 98 filtering options that the social network lets advertisers choose from, a chilling reminder of how much information they have about you. (See the full list here.)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

The National Zoo celebrated Bei Bei's first birthday:

Here's another clip:

Surveillance footage shows Australian men breaking into a high school and releasing three crocodiles:

An Olympic contender stopped mid-run when he heard the U.S. national anthem

Usain Bolt sealed his triple sweep of sprint titles:

Watch as a regular guy tries to race an Olympic swimmer:

There is a funny parody of an Irish commentator talking about sailing during the Olympics but having no idea what he's talking about. Watch here

Finally, here's 25 years of the Internet in 25 memes: