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The Daily 202: Russian meddling in U.S. election backfiring on Putin, hurting Trump

A man passes by a graffiti mural in Lithuania that depicts Donald Trump kissing Vladimir Putin outside a barbecue restaurant earlier this month. (Valda Kalnina/EPA)

THE BIG IDEA: Eight years ago this month, Barack Obama’s high command became very worried after Russia invaded Georgia.

The first-term senator, then 47, had no meaningful national security experience, a liability Hillary Clinton had highlighted throughout the Democratic primaries. And he happened to be vacationing in Hawaii.

Campaigning in Pennsylvania, John McCain recounted a phone call he had just had with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. "Today, we are all Georgians,” the hawkish war hero said, drawing cheers from the crowd of several thousand.

The Obama team was worried about losing voters of Eastern European descent as a result of McCain's hard-line rhetoric on Russia. There are lots of Polish Americans, Ukrainian Americans and Lithuanian Americans who live in swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. Many came to the United States to escape the Iron Curtain.

Jon Seaton, McCain’s regional campaign manager responsible for Pennsylvania and Ohio, vividly remembers pushing the pro-Georgia and anti-Vladimir Putin message. “We also were hopeful that the ethnic communities, particularly the Polish Americans in the Cleveland suburbs, would be a hidden block for us, and did a lot of coalition work there,” he recalls. “It wasn’t ultimately enough to overcome the massive Obama [get out the vote] effort in Cuyahoga County, but it was definitely part of our strategy to drive up our numbers.”

Now the script is completely reversed. Those voters for whom McCain fought so hard in 2008 are still out there. They normally would be very inclined to vote for someone like Trump — on paper, they look just like his core supporters — but Putin’s clear preference for him over Clinton (combined with Trump’s naiveté on all things Russia) gives them great pause.

John Weaver, who was John Kasich’s chief strategist this year and advised both of McCain’s presidential bids, thinks the blowback is starting to show up in polls, specifically Trump’s weakness among Catholics who regularly attend Mass.

“In and around Cleveland, Akron, Toledo, Detroit and all throughout Wisconsin, you’re talking about voters with family in Poland, the Baltics, Ukraine and the Czech Republic,” said Weaver. “These voters are key to any narrow path that Trump has left.”

-- Trump alarms Americans of Eastern European ancestry for many reasons. Among them:

  • He has suggested that America will only conditionally live up to its obligations under the NATO charter and questioned the value of the alliance.
  • He’s said he’ll look into whether Putin should be allowed to keep Crimea, which he annexed with complete disregard for international law. “Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing,” he said this month.
  • Just three weeks ago, Trump pleaded directly with the Russian government to find and release tens of thousands of Clinton’s private emails. Asked whether Russian espionage into the former secretary of state’s correspondence would concern him, he replied: “No, it gives me no pause.
  • Trump’s campaign chairman until last Friday, Paul Manafort, orchestrated the ill-fated political comeback of Putin ally Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine and is closely linked with other Putin cronies.
  • At the Republican National Convention last month, the Trump campaign stripped the party platform of language calling for the United States to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine to resist Russian belligerence.

-- This is not some silly political issue. The stakes are enormous. My colleague Andrew Roth reports from Kiev that “Russia is set to hold large military drills on the peninsula next month. And in eastern Ukraine, the use of heavy weapons between Russian-backed separatists and the army has increased as opposing trenches have crept so close that opposing fighters can shout across the breach. … And in Kiev, it is not unusual to hear again that Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine.”

-- Putin clearly likes what he sees. U.S. intelligence officials believe very strongly that Russian intelligence agencies were behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee and other Democratic entities before the stolen emails were then published by WikiLeaks. Many Democratic members of Congress are getting new phones and emails after their pilfered personal contact info was mysteriously posted online. Trump has not spoken out as Russia has become increasingly aggressive in this vein.

“Kremlin-controlled media outlets have stated publicly their preference for Trump,” former U.S. ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul notes. “RT, Russia’s state-controlled television station broadcasting in the United States, has a clear preference for Trump. In one of many pro-Trump reports, the Russian state-controlled news service, Sputnik, said it confirmed Trump’s claim about Obama being the ‘founder’ of the Islamic State and tweeted the hashtag: #CrookedHillary. With vigor and volume, pro-Kremlin bloggers echoed these same messages on Twitter and Facebook. Putin himself has weighed in, praising Trump as a ‘colorful’ (‘yarkii’) and talented politician (though not as a genius, as Trump has claimed).”

-- Eastern Europeans are keenly aware of these developments, perhaps nowhere more so than in Ohio, a must-win state for Trump. “If there is an effect, Ohio is a good place to see if it has resonance,” said Kyle Kondik from the University of Virginia Center for Politics, who has written a book about the demographics of the Buckeye State.

If you were in Cleveland for the RNC last month, you noticed many monuments that showcased how much of the region’s cultural identity is tied to the east. The Ohio delegation, for example, stayed next to a monument to those harmed by the 1956 Soviet crackdown on Hungary.

-- A story in today’s New York Times chronicles the despair about Trump in the suburb of Parma: “Ukrainian-Americans have felt at home in the Republican Party since Franklin D. Roosevelt and Stalin divided control of Europe at Yalta. But … they are watching (2016) with a mix of confusion and fear,” Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports.

The best vignette from her piece: “As a proud Ukrainian-American, Taras Szmagala has worked for decades to elect Republicans, the party he associates with freedom. He ran an ethnic outreach program for Richard M. Nixon’s 1972 campaign, and advised President George Bush as the Soviet Union crumbled, when Ukraine became an independent state. Mr. Szmagala, 83, will mark Wednesday’s 25th anniversary of statehood at a parade and festival on Saturday in this Cleveland suburb, where the blue and yellow flag of Ukraine flies along the main thoroughfare in ‘Ukrainian Village.’ But there is a pall over the festivities. His name is Donald J. Trump. ‘The party’s dead as far as I’m concerned,’ Mr. Szmagala declared.”

Quote du jour: “Oksana Zavhorodnyuk, 44, was serving schnitzel and jumbo pirogi from behind a counter. She wrinkled her nose when asked about the presidential race. ‘I don’t like Trump,’ she volunteered, in English that is still halting, though she has been here for 25 years. ‘He likes Russia; he likes Putin. He’s not in his mind, you know?’

-- I hear anecdotes like this almost every day now. It’s important to reiterate that these would probably be Trump supporters if they did not find his position on Russia so repugnant. Most of these folks do not like Obama or Clinton.

-- Democrats see a major opening, and they are planning intensive outreach to these voters this fall. “You can get rid of Manafort, but that doesn't end the odd bromance Trump has with Putin,” Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook said in a statement. “Trump still has to answer serious questions hovering over his campaign given his propensity to parrot Putin’s talking points, the roster of advisers like Carter Page and Mike Flynn with deep ties to Russia, the recent Russian government hacking and disclosure of Democratic Party records, and reports that Breitbart published articles advocating pro-Kremlin positions on Ukraine. It's also time for Donald Trump to come clean on his own business dealings with Russian interests.”

The campaign has prepared a web video showing how Trump and Putin often echo one another:

-- Joe Biden could also play a key role in this effort. It was no coincidence that, appearing with Clinton in his home town of Scranton last week, he attacked Trump for expressing fondness toward Putin. “He would have loved Stalin,” Biden told the crowd. Watch for him to make a similar cast post-Labor Day.

The vice president landed in Latvia overnight. While in Riga today, he will participate in a summit with the leaders of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. Biden’s mission is to reassure these fearful allies in what was formerly the Warsaw Pact — who know all too well what it’s like to be under the yoke of Soviet oppression and whose national survival depends on an American security guarantee — that the United States still has their back, no matter what Trump says.

-- At least two Ukrainian activists were given credentials to the Democratic National Convention by the DNC office responsible for taking care of coalitions and allied groups. One wrote a first-person account for the Ukrainian Weekly about their efforts to work media row drawing attention to Manafort’s ties with the Viktor Yanukovych. “We were very happy to see many friends of Ukraine on the convention floor,” wrote Ulana Baluch Mazurkevich. “It is clear that the decisions the U.S. electorate will make regarding its next president will invariably determine … the future of Ukraine.”

-- The Trump campaign pushes back: Asked for comment, the campaign responded by highlighting an allegation in the book “Clinton Cash” that donations to the Clinton Foundation influenced the handling of the sale of U.S. uranium mines to a Russian-backed company. “Hillary Clinton, who effectively sold U.S. uranium to Russia for cash, is complicit in large-scale criminal activity,” adviser Stephen Miller said in an email. “Therefore, anything she says should be regarded as untrue.” (The Clinton campaign replied with a link to a nonpartisan fact check, as well as another story that offered a partial refutation of the book.)

-- 1976 offers a precedent that should worry Trump. Gerald Ford’s insistence during a debate with Jimmy Carter that there was “no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe” — mild compared to what Trump has said — hurt him badly with white ethnic voters. “Ohio and Wisconsin were two of the closest states that year, and both of those states had a fair number of white Eastern European ethnics,” the University of Virginia’s Kondik notes. “So in close races (Ohio was decided by less than a point, and Wisconsin by about two), there are all sorts of things that could have been decisive.”

A refresher:

-- Many experts in the political and national security realm are baffled by what they believe is Putin’s myopia. “I don’t quite understand what kind of long game he is playing,” said Weaver, the Republican strategist who has worked for Kasich and McCain. “She’s going to win. How does Putin think this is going to help his relationship with the next president?”

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

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

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-- Trump radically altered his proposed immigration policy last night, advocating for the enforcement of laws that are “already on the books” and continuing to do what Obama is doing, “perhaps with a lot more energy.” A "deportation force" that is not...

The Republican nominee told Fox News’s Bill O'Reilly he would separate the country's undocumented immigrants into two groups: The "bad ones" who would be kicked out as soon as he takes office, and "everybody else," who will be subject to the same process used by the current administration. “The first thing we're going to do, if and when I win, is we're going to get rid of all of the bad ones," Trump said. "We’re going to get them out, and the police know who they are. … They go around killing people and hurting people and they're going to be out of this country so fast your head will spin. We have existing laws that allow you to do that." (Jenna Johnson)

-- The nominee is expected to go more into depth on "illegal immigration and border security" at a town hall moderated by Sean Hannity today in San Antonio. But, as Trump continues to figure out what his precise stance on the issue will be for the fall, he indefinitely postponed an immigration policy speech that was scheduled for Thursday in Nevada. The campaign also canceled rallies scheduled for Vegas on Friday and Portland, Oregon, next week, Jenna reports.

-- The town hall with Hannity, who has been privately giving him campaign advice, underscores the extent to which Trump has been talking only with Fox News lately. Since Trump’s July 31 interview on ABC, in which he sparked controversy after questioning why the mother of a slain American Muslim soldier did not speak up, Trump has stopped appearing on the network," the Huffington Post notes. "The last appearance Trump made on CNN was June 13…. The last time he was on NBC News was July 24.... He hasn’t appeared on MSNBC since a May 20 episode of ‘Morning Joe'.... And he hasn’t been on CBS since July 17, as part of the rollout for vice presidential pick Mike Pence."

-- Trump also continued to make an explicit appeal for minority votes during his rally in Ohio last night, using pretty provocative language: “You can go to war zones in countries that we are fighting and it's safer than living in some of our inner cities that are run by the Democrats,” he said in Akron. “And I ask you this … to the African Americans, who I employ so many, so many people, to the Hispanics, tremendous people: What the hell do you have to lose? Give me a chance. I'll straighten it out.… What do you have to lose?" Jenna notes that Trump’s mostly white crowd loved it.

The Clinton campaign’s Marlon Marshall responds that African Americans have much to lose: “This is a man who questions the citizenship of the first African American president, has a disturbing pattern of courting white supremacists, and has been sued for housing discrimination against communities of color."

-- Clinton laughed off conspiracy theories about her health during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, offering up her wrist so the host could feel for a pulse and “make sure" she’s still alive. "Back in October, the National Enquirer said I'd be dead in six months. So with every breath I take I feel like it's a new lease on life," she joked, while pretending to have trouble opening a pickle jar. "I do feel sometimes like this campaign has entered into an alternative universe."

She also suffered some good-natured jabs over her email server, with Kimmel suggesting she consider “FaceTime” as an alternative: "I think that's actually really good advice," she laughed. (NBC News)


  1. President Obama flies to Louisiana today, visiting the scene of a week-long storm that has displaced thousands. Officials estimate it will take some areas a full year to recover from damage sustained last week. (Times-Picayune)
  2. Four companies, including Speedo, severed ties with Ryan Lochte after he fabricated a story about being robbed in Rio. Speedo will donate $50,000 that would have gone to the swimmer to Save the Children. (Matt Bonesteel)
  3. A federal judge in Texas issued a nationwide injunction to block Obama’s transgender bathroom policy, temporarily barring the policy from taking effect just as the public school year begins. (Dallas Morning News)
  4. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe individually restored voting rights to 13,000 felons in Virginia after the state’s Supreme Court thwarted his previous attempt. The close ally of Clinton is trying to give clemency to 200,000 non-violent convicts so that they can get back on the voting rolls. (Laura Vozzella)
  5. FBI officials are investigating a possible ISIS-inspired knife attack in Roanoke, Va, this weekend. The suspect apparently shouted “Allah Akbar” while stabbing a man and woman. The 20-year-old Wasil Farooqui, of Roanoke County, seems to have chosen the his victims at random. (Rachel Weiner)
  6. Andrea Tantaros became the latest former Fox News host to file grievances against her former employer, naming Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly in a sexual harassment lawsuit. “The suit, which describes Fox News as a ‘misogynistic, sex-fueled cult,’ also alleges that newly appointed Fox News co-president Bill Shine encouraged her to drop her harassment claims,” CNN Money’s Dylan Byers reports.
  7. A University of Virginia student said she was sexually assaulted at knifepoint over the weekend, roiling the Charlottesville campus just days before classes are scheduled to begin. The assailant remains at large. (T. Rees Shapiro)
  8. Three men in Nice received medals for trying to stop a terrorist from plowing down scores of Bastille Day celebrators last month. The men independently chased down the truck. One began to climb in and hit the terrorist, who tried to shoot him. (New York Times)
  9. The British government announced it will separate radicalized prison inmates from other convicts, housing criminals who preach terrorism and other forms of extreme ideology in high-security “specialist units.” (The Telegraph)
  10. Federal prosecutors plan to argue in court that Dylann Roof “self-radicalized” by reading white supremacist tracts online before carrying out the massacre at a historically black church in Charleston. The feds are seeking the death penalty. The trial will start later this year. (Mark Berman)
  11. The Iranians said Russia will no longer use their air base to launch strikes over Syria. Tehran was angry that Moscow announced the deployment in the press last week. It was apparently supposed to stay secret. (Andrew Roth)
  12. U.S. Marine gunships have deployed into Libya to join the fight against ISIS, helping root out militants from dense areas in Sirte. U.S. forces conducted nine strikes over the weekend, targeting ISIS positions and vehicles. (Thomas Gibbons-Neff)
  13. On the political side, Libya’s parliament refused to support a new U.N.-backed government, the latest in a series of setbacks as the country seeks stability despite roiling conflict and a sinking economy. (Sudarsan Raghavan)   
  14. John Kerry threatened to cut off humanitarian aid to South Sudan if leaders do not commit themselves to the peace process. (Kevin Sieff)
  15. Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy announced he will seek the presidency again in 2017, mounting a comeback bid after being unseated by Francois Hollande in 2012. Hollande, who is toxically underwater, has not said whether he will seek reelection. (AP)
  16. Flooding in India has killed at least 40 and forced the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of others. (AP)
  17. The California Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging teacher tenure laws, a major victory for the teacher unions. (Emma Brown)
  18. Thousands of student-loan borrowers will receive refunds from Wells Fargo after the bank was fined for illegal loan practices. Wells Fargo charged borrowers with illegal fees and “deprived” others of critical information needed to responsibly manage loans. (Danielle Douglas-Gabriel)
  19. Texas land commissioner George P. Bush wrapped up a three-day visit to Israel, his first overseas excursion since taking office last year. The scion met last week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. A spokesman said Bush “expressed his strong support for Israel” while thanking Netanyahu “for all he is doing to fight terrorism.” (CBS DFW)
  20. Surgeons in India were expecting to operate on a tumor when a patient complained of a painful abdominal mass. Instead, they encountered 40 intact pocket knives in the man’s stomach. A disease called pica could be the problem. (Fred Barbash)


-- The FBI uncovered 14,900 new emails in its year-long investigation of Clinton’s private email server that were not disclosed by her attorneys. And a federal judge ordered that the State Department expedite the release of the documents so that voters can see them before the election. This is nearly 50 percent more documents than the roughly 30,000 emails that Clinton’s lawyers deemed work-related and returned to the department in December 2014, Spencer S. Hsu reports. "Now, the State Department and conservative legal group Judicial Watch are negotiating a plan for the release of the emails in a civil public records lawsuit before U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg of Washington.”

  • Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton: "We’re trying to work with the State Department here, but let’s be clear: They have slow-walked and stonewalled the release of these records. They’ve had many of them since July 25 ... and not one record has yet been released."
  • Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon: “We are not sure what additional materials the Justice Department may have located, but if the State Department determines any of them to be work-related, then obviously we support those documents being released publicly as well.”

-- “Government lawyers disclosed last week that the FBI has turned over eight computer discs of information: one including emails and attachments that were sent directly to or from Clinton, or to or from her at some point in an email chain, and were not previously turned over by her lawyers; a second with classified documents; another with emails returned by Clinton; and five containing materials from other people retrieved by the FBI. The 14,900 documents at issue now come from the first disc.”

-- How the sausage is made at Clinton, Inc. --> “Emails reveal how foundation donors got access to Clinton and her close aides at State Dept.,” by Rosalind S. Helderman, Spencer S. Hsu and Tom Hamburger: “A sports executive who was a major donor to the Clinton Foundation wanted help getting a visa for a British soccer player with a criminal past. The crown prince of Bahrain wanted a last-minute meeting with Clinton. U2 rocker Bono wanted high-level help broadcasting a live link to the International Space Station during concerts. In each case requests were directed to Huma Abedin, who engaged with other top aides and sometimes Clinton herself about how to respond. The emails show that, in these and similar cases, the donors did not always get what they wanted, particularly when they sought anything more than a meeting. But the exchanges … illustrate the way the Clintons’ international network of friends and donors was able to get access to Hillary Clinton and her inner circle during her tenure running the State Department."

-- A senior executive at the Clinton Foundation left almost 150 telephone messages for Clinton’s top aide at the State Department, Fox News reports, outpacing the activity from any other individual or non-profit organization in the log. State Department call logs for Cheryl Mills, who served as chief of staff for the entirety of Clinton’s four-year tenure as America’s top diplomat, reflect “at least” 148 messages from Laura Graham – then the Clinton Foundation’s chief operating officer – between 2010 and 2012.

  • One of the messages Graham left Mills in 2011 referenced “our boss” – without further identification. Another January 2012 message referenced Bill: “Please call. WJC is looking for her [Graham] and she wants to talk to you before she talks to him.”
  • State Department spokesman Mark Toner said he could not provide “a read-out of every one of those messages or every one of those calls,” but he acknowledged that Mills and Graham never shared the same boss.

-- Trump last night called for a special prosecutor to investigate the Clinton Foundation, accusing the FBI and Justice Department of a “whitewash” to protect her. “They certainly cannot be trusted to quickly or impartially investigate Clinton’s crimes,” he told supporters at an Akron, Ohio rally. (USA Today)

-- Obama decided to skip this year’s Clinton Global Initiative in New York, snubbing Bill Clinton’s post-presidential project for just the second time in eight years. He sat out last year following the launch of Hillary's presidential campaign. But now there's more heat with the extra attention to all the foreign money that the Foundation took. Bill said last week that this will be the last CGI. (Politico)

-- Sneak peek: The Clinton campaign will unveil a package of tax breaks and other small business-friendly incentives in Denver today, John Wagner reports, the start of a push by the Democratic nominee to market herself as friendlier to small business interests than Trump. "The package — a mix of new and previously released proposals, will be the focus of a planned event by Tim Kaine. Among the key initiatives the ticket plans to highlight … is a new standard deduction that would be available for small businesses as they file tax returns. The two will also propose quadrupling an existing tax deduction aimed at lowering the costs of starting a business, calling for an existing health-care tax credit that is part of the Affordable Care Act … Other proposals being highlighted also aim to expand other tax credits and increase the access to financing for small businesses."

-- Clinton plans to tie Trump to racist elements of the alt-right in a speech on Thursday in Reno. An advisory that just went out says the Democratic nominee will deliver a speech “to address Trump and his advisors' embrace of the disturbing ‘alt-right’ political philosophy. This ‘alt-right’ brand is embracing extremism and presenting a divisive and dystopian view of America which should concern all Americans, regardless of party.”

-- New York Times, “After Shake-Up by Trump, Clinton Camp Keeps Wary Eye on ‘Conspiracy Theories,’” by Amy Chozick and Matt Flegenheimer: “For the better part of two decades, the invocation of a ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ against the Clintons, as Mrs. Clinton famously called it ... has elicited eye rolls even among some of the couple’s allies. [Any] discussion of a secret plot to undercut the Clintons risked sounding like paranoia, peevishness or just an attempt to duck responsibility. But with Mr. Trump’s appointment of [Breitbart News’] Stephen K. Bannon … there is a sense of vindication, bordering on the surreal — a we-told-you-so impulse that cannot be suppressed as purveyors of conspiracy theories seize the reins of an actual Republican presidential campaign. Yet after more than two decades of attacks … others worry that an even darker turn is possible."

-- The founding director of the George W. Bush Institute endorsed Clinton on MSNBC last night, praising her as “far superior" to Trump. “She has the experience. She’s got the character. She has the values,” said James Glassman, who formerly served as Bush’s undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. “She is the kind of candidate I support and that, as I say, millions of Republicans are supporting.”

-- The Clinton campaign opened a field office in Salt Lake City in an effort to advance the narrative that the map is expanding.

-- As many as eight staffers have resigned from Bernie Sanders’s newly-formed political group “Our Revolution,” the organization meant to help further progressive policies following the suspension of his presidential bid. The Vermont senator tapped former campaign manager Jeff Weaver to oversee the efforts. (BuzzFeed)


-- THE STAFFERS: “Racism and talk of religious war: Trump staff's online posts,” by the AP's Jeff Horwitz: “Trump's paid campaign staffers have declared on their personal social media accounts that Muslims are unfit to be U.S. citizens, ridiculed Mexican accents, called for John Kerry to be hanged and stated their readiness for a possible civil war,” according an AP review of more than 50 current and former campaign employees. “A graphic designer for Trump's advance team approvingly posted video of a black man eating fried chicken and criticizing fellow blacks for ignorance, irresponsibility and having too many children. A Trump field organizer in Virginia declared that Muslims were seeking to impose Sharia law in America and that ‘those who understand Islam for what it is are gearing up for the fight.’”

-- Trump’s new campaign CEO, Steve Bannon, berated Speaker Paul Ryan on his radio show this March. The Hill’s Scott Wong and Jonathan Swan report that he repeatedly questioned whether Ryan was "manifestly unfit" to be president and said that the Wisconsin Republican was "rubbing his social-justice Catholicism in my face every second."

-- THE CHECKBOOK: “Trump Jacked Up His Campaign’s Trump Tower Rent Once Somebody Else Was Paying It,” by the Huffington Post's S.V. Date:  “After bragging for a year about how cheaply he was running his campaign, Trump is spending more freely now that other people are contributing ― particularly when the beneficiary is himself. Trump nearly quintupled the monthly rent his presidential campaign pays for its headquarters at Trump Tower to $169,758 in July, when he was raising funds from donors, compared with March, when he was self-funding his campaign. … The rent jumped even though he was paying fewer staff in July than he did in March. ‘If I was a donor, I’d want answers,’” said one prominent RNC member. 'If they don’t have any more staff, and they’re paying five times more?'"

-- In addition to the Trump Tower space, Trump has paid his golf courses and restaurants more than $260,000 since a mid-May fundraising deal was struck with the RNC: “On May 18, the day the fundraising deal was announced, Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach was paid $29,715; Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, was paid $35,845; and Trump Restaurants LLC was paid $125,080." Trump also began increasing rent at Trump Tower starting May 31.

-- THE SURROGATES: Rudy gets the street brawl with Hillary that he’s always wanted, by Philip Rucker and Robert Costa: “Giuliani is finally running the race against Clinton that he first contemplated some 17 years ago: a brutish bout under a white-hot spotlight. Only he’s doing it at the behest of his longtime friend. The former New York City mayor … has emerged this summer as one of Trump’s most incendiary advocates and alter egos, channeling and feeding the Republican nominee’s pugnacious instincts and dark suspicions. ... On Trump’s plane, in his private office and on the golf course, Giuliani has provided the candidate with counsel as well as Clinton stories and hearsay. In closed-door fundraisers, the former U.S. attorney has introduced Trump with a prosecutorial case against Clinton’s record and character. And on television, he has relentlessly drawn attention to unsubstantiated theories about Clinton’s health."

The Washington Post spoke to veterans in the battleground state of North Carolina about the upcoming election and their choice for the next commander-in-chief. (Video: Dalton Bennett/The Washington Post)

-- THE SUPPORTERS: “Why many veterans are sticking with Trump, even after he insulted a Gold Star family,” by Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Dan Lamothe: "He received five draft deferments during the Vietnam War. … But among many of the people who have actually fought in this country’s wars, particularly on the front lines of Iraq and Afghanistan, Trump offers a refreshing alternative to 15 years of seemingly endless conflict marked by uncertain goals, fleeting victories and constant personal sacrifice, according to interviews with dozens of veterans who remain unfazed by the Republican candidate’s recent behavior." Some good vignettes:

"Evan McAllister was 23 years old when he fought in the Iraqi city of Ramadi in 2006. He killed men and buried friends. Eight years later, he watched the same city fall to the Islamic State. To McAllister, a former Marine staff sergeant and scout sniper instructor, the war he fought was a harebrained mission planned by Republicans, rubber-stamped by Democrats and, in the end, lost to al-Qaeda’s brutal successor. The foreign policy establishment of both parties got his friends killed for no reason, he said, so come Election Day, he is voting for the man he believes answers to neither Democrats nor Republicans. ... 'Most veterans . . . they see their country lost to the corrupt,' he said. 'And Trump comes along all of a sudden and calls out the corrupt on both sides of the aisle.'" 

Why Ex-Democratic Virginia Sen. Jim Webb's son is supporting Trump: "I think there’s a pretty sour taste in a lot of guys’ mouths about Iraq and about what happened there," said Jim Webb Jr., a Marine veteran. "There’s a mentality that they don’t want to see more of that. ... You pour time and effort and blood into something, and you see it pissed away, and you think, ‘How did I spend my twenties?’" Webb, whose dad initially tried to challenge Hillary in the Democratic primaries, said a Clinton presidency would result in “continued adventurism,” given her record supporting interventions in Iraq and Libya.

-- Another data point that Donald is not actually a good businessman. --> “Trump the Mortgage Broker Was in Trouble From Start,” by Bloomberg's Heather Perlberg: “He had heard all the chatter, the idle talk about how the U.S. housing market was overheating and trouble was looming. He was unfazed. It was the spring of 2006 and he was pushing a new mortgage business. 'It’s a great time to start a mortgage company,' he told CNBC, dismissing questions about emerging cracks in the housing market. “A year and a half later, Trump Mortgage was out of business. Along with dozens of other lenders and brokerages, the firm unraveled when the housing market imploded and the U.S. economy sunk into its worst recession since the Great Depression. Of all of Trump’s ventures outside his core real estate business … it is this one, perhaps more than any other, that clashes with the image of financial guru that he’s cultivated ... Not only did the episode expose the billionaire’s rush into a market on the verge of collapse but it came in an industry that’s intimately linked to real estate. When the firm closed, Trump took a now-familiar approach, distancing himself from the outcome and reversing his earlier sentiments completely. 'The mortgage business,' he said, 'is not a business I particularly liked or wanted to be part of in a very big way.'"

-- Melania Trump threatened to sue The Daily Mail and other outlets for making “false and defamatory statements” that she was an “escort” in the 90s. “All such statements are 100 percent false, highly damaging to her reputation, and personally hurtful,” Trump’s lawyer said. “She understands that news media have certain leeway in a presidential campaign, but outright lying about her in this way exceeds all bounds of appropriate news reporting and human decency.” He said no suit had been filed, but added, “That may change.” (New York Times)

-- Another way to think about 2016: “In the battle of spouses, it is Bill ‘blue dress’ Clinton vs. Melania ‘no dress’ Trump. Vote your conscience, America.” (Neely Tucker)

-- Trump ally Roger Stone said on a Miami radio station that he thinks his candidate is making a mistake by not releasing his tax returns, giving Democrats an issue to bludgeon him. (BuzzFeed)


-- Clinton leads Trump by 8 points nationally (50-42) in an NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll out this morning. That's virtually unchanged from her 9-point lead last week, and similar to numbers she’s received since July. 

-- In Ohio, Clinton leads by 4 points (43-39) in a Monmouth University survey.  

  • John Kasich, in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup, leads Clinton 57 percent to 33 percent.
  • Just 17 percent of Buckeye State voters said it bothers them that their governor will not endorse Trump, while 44 percent said it made no difference. (Four in 10 say the snub makes them think more highly of him.)
  • More evidence of ticket splitting: Sen. Rob Portman holds an 8-point lead over Democratic challenger Ted Strickland (48-40), which means he's outperforming Trump by 9 points.


-- First in the 202 – Chuck Grassley challenger Patty Judge is going on TV with her first ads of the general election: The latest CBS/ YouGov Battleground Tracker poll put the Republican incumbent up just 7 points (45-38). Judge is launching two spots to make the case that Grassley has changed, that he’s an obstructionist and that he’s not effective:

-- The anti-gun violence PAC formed by former congresswoman Gabby Giffords endorsed two Republican senators, lauding Pat Toomey and Mark Kirk for their 2013 vote following the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. "In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook, Republican Sens. Pat Toomey and Mark Kirk broke from the gun lobby and supported a bill to help prevent felons, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill from obtaining firearms at gun shows and online," Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly, write in a CNN op-ed. "This week, they are earning our organization's endorsement."

-- Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said the GOP should shift resources away from Trump toward saving the Senate sooner than later, invoking Bob Dole’s 1996 bid. “I can tell you, it’s gonna be tough to see, if we see Hillary Clinton in office appointing Supreme Court nominees. It’s gonna be even tougher if she does so and they are confirmed by a Democratic Senate,” he said. “So I do hope that we shore up the Senate. Right now, if the election were today, it would be very dicey.” (Buzzfeed)

-- How big of a House wave will there be? “Following changes in the ‘generic ballot’ poll question is one way to track the fight for the House, but an alternate way is to look at key races at various levels of competitiveness that should indicate whether a wave is developing, and, if it is, how big it might be,” writes our in-house handicapper Stuart Rothenberg.

Stu breaks down the “tiers” of GOP-held House seats to watch in the next two months:

  • Should be a slam dunk: “These Republican seats are likely to flip in November even if 2016 turns out to be a surprisingly disappointing year for Democrats: “Illinois 10, Bob Dold … Nevada 4, Cresent Hardy.”
  • Shouldn’t need a wave: “Even without a wave, these swing districts give Democrats good opportunities. If Democrats lose any of them, Republican strategists will be relieved”: “Minnesota 2, John Kline, Open. Nevada 3, Joseph J. Heck, Open. Maine 2. Bruce Poliquin.”
  • Even a small wave could flip ’em: “These seats ought to stay Republican in a neutral year, but even a small partisan wave is likely to turn them blue: New Jersey 5, Scott Garrett. New York 22, Richard L. Hanna, Open. Wisconsin 8, Reid J. Ribble, Open. Iowa 3, David Young.”
  • Savvy GOP incumbents vs. a moderate wave: “You know things are getting bad for Republican — and that the House is truly at risk — if these very strong GOP incumbents in difficult districts are losing: Minnesota 3, Erik Paulsen. Virginia 10, Barbara Comstock. New York 24, John Katko. Arizona 2, Martha McSally.”
  • Tsunami wave upsets only: “Given the weak Democratic challengers here, these districts should stay with Republicans. If they don’t, the House probably is in the process of flipping — and a huge Democratic wave is hitting: California 21, David Valadao. New York 23, Tom Reed. California 49, Darrell Issa.”

-- Even if this election is a calamity for Republicans, the RNC is poised to reward Reince Priebus with a fourth, two-year term. He has been canvassing the 168 members of the committee to see if they'll support him in January, saying he's not totally made up his mind but giving the distinct impression he wants it. Each state and territory gets three votes, no matter whether it's the Virgin Islands or Texas. "In interviews and email exchanges with 50 members, dozens of the party’s leaders indicated that they wouldn’t blame Priebus for the second straight presidential defeat on his watch," Politico’s Kyle Cheney and Kenneth P. Vogel report. "Rather, they credit him with turning around a broken party apparatus, raising boatloads of cash and standing by the party’s polarizing nominee despite fierce headwinds."


-- “Ethiopia’s Feyisa Lilesa won an Olympic medal, then protested his government. Can he go home?,” by Kevin Sieff and Paul Schemm: “One day after winning silver in the Olympic marathon, Feyisa Lilesa faced a much different decision than other medalists: Would it be safe for him to return home? As he finished the race Sunday, Lilesa held his arms above his head in an ‘X,’ a sign of protest used against the Ethiopian government for its persecution of the Oromo ethnic group. Lilesa took a brave stand, and at a news conference, it was clear he knew the price he might have to pay. ‘If I go back to Ethiopia, maybe they will kill me,’ he said Sunday. ‘If not kill me, they will put me in prison.’ On Monday, faced with an avalanche of international attention, the Ethiopian government said they would not punish Lilesa upon his return. ‘He is an Ethiopian hero who has done his all to make us all proud — as far as his political views are concerned, he is entitled to them,’” said a government spokesperson, emphasizing that he had nothing to fear. But Ethiopians remain deeply concerned – and there was almost no mention of Lilesa’s victory in the state media’s Olympic reports."

-- “Islamic State, losing fighters and territory, increasingly turns to child bombers,” by Loveday Morris: “The boy burst into tears as police apprehended him after he was spotted nervously pacing up and down a street in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk. When they cut open the Barcelona soccer shirt he was wearing, they found a suicide belt. He was just 15, according to local officials. Tragedy was averted Sunday evening, but numerous young bombers have carried out attacks in recent months, as the Islamic State militant group has enlisted children in suicide missions. Analysts say it is one of the consequences of the Islamic State’s campaign of indoctrination. The United States estimates that U.S. and coalition jets have killed 45,000 Islamic State militants since an air campaign began two years ago. [Now], the ‘cubs of the caliphate,’ as the Islamic State labels its child fighters, are being used to fill the gap."


Trump went after The Post:

In case you missed it, Morning Joe was his target Monday morning:

Joe Scarborough responded on Twitter:

The Weekly Standard's Jay Cost thought Scarborough's response (including changing his Twitter photo) was a little over the top:

From a senior producer at Morning Joe:

Social media jumped on this moment from a Pence interview:

A historical parallel to consider:

Trump posted this photo from Louisiana:

Dan is a close adviser to Paul Ryan and was a senior foreign policy adviser on Romney's 2012 campaign:

The Green Party candidate is attacking Clinton over her emails:

Lawmakers celebrated U.S. Olympic wins:

Lisa Murkowski celebrated her wedding anniversary:

Cheri Bustos and House colleagues spent time campaigning:

A note for "Acela Corridor" travelers:

Finally, in honor of back-to-school season, check out this teacher's homework policy:


-- The Atlantic, “The Biden Doctrine,” by Steve Clemons: “The Biden Doctrine … contains some familiar elements. He can sound like a realist in the mold of George H.W. Bush’s national security advisor … [while] his contention to me that ‘you do not commit force unless you can demonstrate that the use of that force is sustainable and will produce an outcome’ sounds nearly identical to the views [Obama] expressed … When I asked Biden recently to define for me what he thought the ‘Biden Doctrine’ was, he opened in a Bidenesque way: ‘My dad used to say to me, ‘Champ, if everything is equally important to you, nothing is important to you.’ So the hardest thing to do … is to prioritize what really are the most consequential threats and concerns [:] Americans, he said, tend to over-respond to the ‘wolf at the door’ without recognizing that there are other wolves out in the field. The other striking element of the Biden doctrine is the degree to which it depends on establishing personal relationships."

-- Variety, “Michelle Obama Interview: How FLOTUS Used Pop Culture Stardom to Make an Impact,” by Ted Johnson: “She has done potato-sack races in the East Wing with Jimmy Fallon; she made a recent cameo on ‘NCIS,’ and her office cleared the way for the show to shoot on the White House grounds; she did ‘random dancing’ on Nickelodeon’s ‘iCarly’ … Obama, 52, calls herself ‘a product of pop culture.’ She is convinced of its influence on the public consciousness — in her case to build awareness of her signature policy initiatives, specifically ones tied to healthy eating and exercise, girls’ education, support for military families, and college advancement. She’s not the first first lady to tap the entertainment industry to deliver a message. Obama, however, has taken things a step further — not just in magnitude, but with a certain degree of mirth. ‘What I have never been afraid of is to be a little silly, and you can engage people that way,’” Obama said. “’My view is, first you get them to laugh, then you get them to listen."

Two interesting takes on Trumpism by academics, via the Monkey Cage—

-- “Economic anxiety isn’t driving racial resentment. Racial resentment is driving economic anxiety,” by Michael Tesler, a political scientist at the University of California, Irvine: “Racial attitudes have increasingly structured public opinion about a wide array of positions connected to Barack Obama, including subjective perceptions of objective economic conditions. … For one, racially sympathetic white Americans were far more likely than racially resentful whites to correctly conclude that the unemployment rate was declining in the year leading up to the 2012 election. Before Obama’s presidency, racial attitudes were uncorrelated with perceptions of the election-year unemployment rate. .. In an era where racial attitudes have become increasingly associated with so many of the president’s positions, Obama’s race is largely responsible for the association between racial resentment and economic anxiety. And this racialized political environment undoubtedly aided Trump’s rise.”

-- The key ingredients of opposition to free trade are prejudice and nationalism, according to Harvard postdoctoral fellow Shahrzad Sabet: “Many observers have noted that Trump’s anti-trade language is decidedly ‘us versus them.’ … A series of studies by both economists and political scientists confirms this link between nationalistic sentiment and opposition to global markets. Negative attitudes toward ‘out-groups’ — ethnocentrism, generalized prejudice and chauvinistic nationalism, for example — are some of the strongest predictors of protectionism in individuals. Several of these studies suggest that attitudes toward outsiders affect opinion about globalization more than economic self-interest does. … Even with no discussion of immigration, those who are hesitant about outsiders are far more likely to oppose open markets than those with a more welcoming outlook.”


“NC Investigating Police Shooting of Deaf Man,” from the Daily Beast: “North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation has been called in to investigate a police shooting that took place on Aug. 18 after a car chase with a deaf man in Charlotte. Police say they tried to pull over Daniel Kevin Harris for speeding, but after a brief chase and a confrontation, a state trooper shot and killed the motorist. It is not clear if police knew at the time that Harris, who leaves behind a 3-year-old, was deaf. “Worst thing is... my brother Daniel is deaf. How he can communicate with polices and able to feel safe and protect himself from polices? My brother is UNARMED and still get shot by police,” Harris’ brother, Charles Harris, wrote on Facebook about the incident. He said his brother was “really scared” of police and the family could not understand why Daniel was shot.”



“Hundreds of Americans wash up illegally in Canada after river party,” from Reuters: “About 1,500 Americans floating down a river that separates the U.S. from Canada had to be rescued from the water when strong rains and winds sent them illegally into Canadian territory … The Americans were taking part in the annual Port Huron Float Down on Sunday in the St. Clair River, which runs between the U.S. state of Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario. The winds blew the flotilla of inflatable rafts and inner tubes off course and toward the Canadian shore. Some rafts deflated, spurring a rescue effort by the Canadian Coast Guard as well as federal and provincial police … ‘They were terrified of entering another country without documentation. No one carries their passport or any ID, and a lot were drinking alcohol,’” a spokesman said.”


On the campaign trail: Trump is in Austin, Texas; Pence is in King of Prussia and Pipersville, Pa. Kaine is in Lakewood, Colo.

At the White House: Obama travels to Baton Rouge, La. Vice President Biden is in Latvia.

On Capitol Hill: The Senate and House are out.


Trump’s coarse rudeness is not playing well in Virginia, E.J. Dionne argues in his column: “Rep. Don Beyer, a Democrat from Northern Virginia, cited an adage: ‘Virginians will vote for someone they feel comfortable having in their home for a cocktail party.’ Trump, he says, doesn’t make the cut, adding: ‘All the defects of Trump hit home most securely with people who are smart, educated and sophisticated.’”


-- Another BEAUTIFUL day ahead! The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Just a few clouds about as temperatures again dip into the more comfortable 60s. Humidity holds up just a notch compared to prior nights, but still not enough to be uncomfortable yet. You’ll probably be able to get away with open windows this one more night.”

-- Health officials in Maryland reported its first case of West Nile virus this year, sickening an adult resident of western Maryland who was infected but survived. (Martin Weil)

-- The Nationals lost to the Orioles 4-3.


Kelly Ayotte's new ad, going on the air in New Hampshire today, shows her doing batting practice and hitting away baseballs that are supposed to represent "false attacks":

Here's how Trump's relationship with 'Morning Joe' went downhill:

Donald Trump was once seen as being a little too cozy with "Morning Joe" hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski. Not any more. (Video: Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

Watch Bad Lip Reading's take on the Democratic convention:

Priorities USA released another anti-Trump ad:

Pro-Clinton super PAC Priorities USA released a video suggesting Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is "unfit to be president" based on televised comments Trump made. (Video: Priorities USA)

Thousands flocked to Mexico City streets for Pokemon Go:

With phones and tablets in hand, thousands of Mexicans gather in the capital's Chapultepec Park on Sunday to play the worldwide hit Pokemon Go. (Video: Reuters)

A waitress is receiving love from around the world after a customer wrote "We only tip citizens" on a receipt:

Thousands of people around the world reacted to the story of an 18-year-old waitress in Harrisonburg, Va., who received a hateful message scrawled on a receipt. (Video: WUSA9)