Merrick Garland meets yesterday with Pat Leahy in the Capitol. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

With Breanne Deppisch

THE BIG IDEA: For six months, the Democratic push to move Merrick Garland has gone nowhere.

Using the awesome power of the bully pulpit, the White House yesterday deployed Joe Biden to Capitol Hill. The vice president appeared at a press conference with 75 members of Congress, including Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Garland himself met with Pat Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, for a photo opp and pep talk. It was his first visit to the Capitol since the spring.

Lawmakers used social media to demand a vote, as seen in this cloud tracking the tweets of every Democratic senator:

-- But the day-long push unintentionally underscored what relative non-issues the Supreme Court generally and Garland specifically have been in the 2016 campaign, despite Democrats talking a big game in the spring.

No Democratic Senate candidates are talking about Garland in paid television ads.

No one mentioned Garland during the Democratic National Convention in July, including Barack Obama.

Hillary Clinton has not committed to re-nominate Garland if she’s elected. While she talks about the Supreme Court, she almost never talks about him.

-- Some Democrats privately fear that Obama blew an opportunity to help re-activate the coalition that elected him twice by not picking a more progressive nominee – especially a minority candidate – to replace the late Antonin Scalia. Had Obama nominated someone who really ginned up the Democratic base, perhaps Clinton and the party would have more whole-heartedly embraced him or her.

Obama announces Merrick Garland as his pick on March 16. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

-- This counterfactual is worth considering.

The National Organization for Women signed onto an open letter urging Obama to appoint an African American woman to the court after Scalia died. When Garland was announced, the group expressed concern that he is “more or less a blank slate” on core women’s issues like reproductive rights.

NOW President Terry O'Neill wants the Senate to confirm Garland but she also thinks about how different the dynamic might be right now had the president gone with a more progressive black woman instead of a 63-year-old moderate white man.

“I’m not going to say there wasn’t some disappointment,” she said in an interview last night. “I am very positive that the progressive community would be extremely active in promoting a more left-leaning appointment.”

O’Neill posited that an African American woman might have provided a clearer contrast. “Suppose he had nominated an African American woman,” she said. “No matter how moderate she might be, Republicans would say she’s way too out there and way too radical. The same way they talked about President Obama. … I don’t think you can eliminate race from understanding what these senators are doing. There’s no white president that’s ever been treated so disrespectfully.”

She lamented the paucity of media coverage about the vacancy.

“Any African American woman who might have been nominated would have been viciously attacked,” O’Neill added. “It’s possible, if those vicious attacks would have happened, then the American public would have been much better informed of the outrageousness of what the Republicans are doing.”

Bernie does not love Merrick. (Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

-- Many of the same progressives who are not enthusiastic about Clinton are also not enthusiastic about Garland. Bernie Sanders said this spring as he campaigned for the Democratic nomination that he would ask Obama to withdraw Garland if he got elected so he could pick someone more liberal.

“We saw some of the highest grassroots energy in our eight year history in the run up to the president's Supreme Court nomination, and when the choice was Merrick Garland that energy completely plummeted,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

Leaders in the African American community have called for a vote on Garland, but a lot of the key groups were also less than thrilled with his selection.

Other liberal organizations like Democracy for America, which was founded by Howard Dean, said when Garland was nominated that it was “deeply disappointing that President Obama failed to use this opportunity to add the voice of another progressive woman of color to the Supreme Court.”

Barack Obama boards Air Force One yesterday in Vientiane, Laos. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

-- To be sure, Obama may still have the last laugh. People close to the White House say the president made the appointment with getting his pick through the Senate in mind, rather than helping out Clinton.

Once Mitch McConnell staked out a firm position that the nominee would not get a hearing, Obama always felt that his best shot would come in the lame-duck session after the elections. The former law school professor loves the idea that one-third of the court could be there because of him. And he thought picking a centrist would be tantamount to making Republicans an offer they could not refuse, to borrow a line from one of Obama’s favorite movies.

-- There is also a possibility that a more liberal nominee would have become a lightning rod, galvanizing the right more than the left and putting down-ballot Democrats in the uncomfortable position of having to answer for his or her most controversial opinions. Judge Garland has spent decades positioning himself for this dream job. In a town of cautious lawyers who avoid creating a paper trail, he might be the most cautious.

“Garland is the most qualified nominee to the Supreme Court in American history,” said Emma Shapiro of the #WeNeedNine coalition, which has been organizing events this week to drum up public support for him. “Compared to the histrionics of this election and Donald Trump, Merrick Garland is boring, which is the exact reason to confirm him."

The prize (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

-- The GOP’s base cares more about the Supreme Court this year than the Democratic base does. While liberal elites in D.C. are appropriately obsessed with the court, many rank-and-file Democrats see judicial selection as an esoteric issue and don’t fully grasp how directly the court’s decisions impact their lives.  Republicans, on the other hand, constantly tell me as I travel the country that they hate Trump but will vote for him anyway because of the Supreme Court. (See Monday’s 202 for a few illustrations of that from Iowa. I also explored this dynamic on the ground in Wisconsin back in March.)

“The direction of the Supreme Court is a key motivator for Republicans voters,” said National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Andrea Bozek. “Democrats have handled this Supreme Court fight so poorly they forgot to even mention Garland’s name once during their entire convention. If it was such an effective message, why hasn’t Chuck Schumer told the DSCC to mention it in their TV ads?”

As another GOP operative, who is involved in the court fight, puts it: “Garland did nothing to inspire the left wing of the Democratic Party, which was already vocal and restless, while McConnell picked a fight that united his base. It’s increasingly rare in D.C. that the GOP grassroots is united with party leaders. This did it.”

Mitch McConnell at the RNC (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

-- Democrats involved in the races think Garland may help motivate center-left independents more than core base voters. In blue state Senate races, they say it will be a data point during the fall to show that Republicans are not as independent as they claim. “This obstructionism is yet another proof point our candidates have in making the case against their Republican opponents, who continue to walk lockstep with their party at the expense of the people they were elected to serve,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokeswoman Lauren Passalacqua.

-- Polls show that the Supreme Court is not a top-tier issue. In a July AP-GfK poll, 55 percent said Supreme Court nominations are extremely or very important, meaningfully below the economy (85), health care (74) and the threat of ISIS (68). A Gallup poll last month found that only 2 percent named "Judicial System/Courts/Laws" as the most important issue facing the country.

While majorities want Garland to get a hearing, it’s not something most voters care much about. A CBS/New York Times poll in May showed the country divided along partisan lines: 48 percent said the Senate should vote on whether to confirm Garland, and 45 percent said the chamber should wait until next year for the new president to nominate somebody. The issue has moved so far to the back burner that a lot of pollsters have actually stopped asking about it.

-- Latinos may not care about Garland specifically, but community leaders say they are nonetheless galvanized by the Supreme Court. The Spanish-language media, for instance, paid more attention to the vacancy after a deadlocked court in June failed to revive Obama’s stalled plan to shield millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation and give them the right to work legally in the United States.

“If Garland had been confirmed … we probably would have won,” said Marielena Hincapié, the executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

Hincapié suggested that Garland was not her first choice, but that she would like to see him confirmed in the lame-duck. The group has petitioned for a rehearing of the immigration case. “Having a ninth justice sooner than later is important,” she said.

-- There could be tensions in the Democratic coalition after November on this point. Assuming Clinton wins, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee does not want Garland confirmed in the lame-duck. "As Republican Sen. Jeff Flake said just recently, Garland was the most conservative possible Democratic nominee,” Green, the group’s co-founder, emailed. “It makes no sense for that to be who Democrats offer the nation after winning a fresh mandate -- and would symbolize a return to a Democratic Party intent on squandering leverage and blowing an opportunity to inspire the public.”

-- McConnell’s spokesman reiterated yesterday that Republicans do not plan to allow a vote on the Garland in the lame duck, even if Clinton wins. “The majority leader has been clear: The next president will make the nomination for this vacancy,” said Don Stewart.

Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning newsletter.
With contributions from Elise Viebeck (@eliseviebeck).

Sign up to receive the newsletter.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- North Korea conducted another nuclear test this morning, its fifth since 2006 and potentially the most powerful yet. The move “underscores North Korea’s continued defiance,” Anna Fifield reports from Tokyo, “but also the ineffectiveness of even the most recent waves of tough sanctions imposed after the nuclear test in January." 

South Korean and Japanese governments both convened emergency meetings to discuss the test, which was first mistakenly reported as a 5.3 magnitude earthquake. Scientists are now working to determine what kind of test it was, with Japan immediately sending two “sniffer” planes into the air. “The US Air Force is expected to start flying the WC-135 Constant Phoenix Aircraft in the coming hours to take air samples,” CNN reports.

Bigger picture: The recent missile launches are adding up to something very troubling“It seems like North Korea is trying to qualitatively improve its missiles and develop options to evade or fool U.S. missile defenses,” said Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association. “If this continues unchecked, they could develop an inter-continental ballistic missile that could pose a threat to the United States in the next decade.”

-- The test came just as President Obama wrapped up his 10th – and final – trip to Asia. (David Nakamura)

-- In a new commercial going up today, Clinton criticizes Trump for saying: “I, alone, can fix it” at the RNC. She says she will work across party lines to get things done.

-- The number of retired generals and admirals backing Clinton has grown to 110, with an additional 15 high-ranking officials endorsing her this morning. The Clinton campaign attributes the fresh support to Trump’s performance in Wednesday night’s “Commander-in-Chief” forum. Today the Democratic nominee is “convening experts on foreign policy and national security to discuss real solutions to the threat of terrorism,” an advisory says. They’ll meet at the New York Historical Society.

For the first time in years, Bob McDonnell wakes up this morning not worried about going to prison. (Norm Shafer/For The Washington Post)

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. The feds will not retry former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell or his wife on public corruption charges. The U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia had pushed to move forward with another trial despite a Supreme Court ruling that would have made their case substantially more difficult. But Justice Department higher-ups overruled the prosecutors. McDonnell, 62, said in a statement that the “final day of vindication has arrived.” (Matt Zapotosky, Rachel Weiner and Rosalind S. Helderman)
  2. The Pentagon announced that special operations forces conducted a secret raid to rescue Western hostages in Afghanistan. The August operation resulted in the deaths of seven militants, but no hostages were located. (Missy Ryan)
  3. Wells Fargo must pay nearly $200 million in penalties, and has fired at least 5,300 employees, for opening millions of unauthorized bank and credit card accounts without customer authorization. (New York Times)
  4. In a memoir coming out today, Benedict XVI explains why he became the first pope to retire in 600 years: “In reality I am more a professor, one who reflects and mediates on spiritual questions. Practical governance is not my strong point and this is certainly a weakness. But I do not see myself as a failure. For eight years I carried out my work.” (Michael Alison Chandler)
  5. John Kerry will meet with his Russian counterpart today in Geneva, State Department officials say, signaling that the two countries may be getting closer to a cease-fire agreement in Syria. (Karen DeYoung)
  6. A Palestinian court postponed municipal elections, delivering another big setback to democracy in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The elections would be the first in a decade to pit Hamas against its bitter rivals. (William Booth)
  7. Armenia’s prime minister announced his resignation, clearing the way for a new government after weeks of civil unrest and street protests. (AP)
  8. NASA launched a spacecraft from Cape Canaveral last night, sending a 19-story, $800 billion probe on an ambitious mission to land on an asteroid and return to Earth. The trip, just the second of its kind, is expected to take seven years. (Sarah Kaplan)
  9. Yosemite National Park announced that it is growing by 400 acres – making its largest expansion since 1949 after a donation to its western boundary. Park officials said the new territory will help preserve critical wetland territory and a number of protected species. (New York Times)
  10. In the U.S., 28 percent of fish sold are incorrectly named on the menu or label – often deliberately. The number comes in a new report from Oceana. (Ben Guarino)
  11. Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera apologized to Gretchen Carlson and New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman for his defense of Roger Ailes, saying he is “filled with regret” for saying that her sexual harassment lawsuit against the ousted Fox CEO was “crap.” If the allegations are true, he wrote, then Ailes “is a deceitful, selfish misogynist.” (Politico)
  12. Four Oakland, Calif. police officers were fired, and seven more suspended, after a “sprawling” sexual misconduct probe revealed that some officers were linked to sexual assault and abetted prostitution. Officers reportedly accessed law enforcement databases “for personal reasons,” helped people evade arrest for prostitution, and “failed to report allegations of sexual contact between a minor and an Oakland police officer,” according to the findings. (Mark Berman)
  13. An IG report says that a former top trade official at the Commerce Department, Stefan Selig, continually busted the government per diem while traveling abroad, with a special penchant for luxury hotels. He even had an employee send an email to a hotel manager in the Middle East complaining that a drink wasn't refilled with fresh ice and an orange peel. ( Lisa Rein)
  14. The president of San Francisco’s board of education has been receiving threats since proposing to change the name of George Washington High School because the first president was a slaveholder. (Travis Andrews)
  15. Dozens of tourists spent the night trapped midair above the French Alps, after cable cars stopped working at a high altitude over the Mont Blanc massif. Officials said they could not complete rescue operations until morning, citing rough flight conditions. (AP)

-- Polling continues to tighten in key swing states with eight weeks to go. A fresh batch of Quinnipiac University surveys shows the candidates tied 47 to 47 in Florida, which Obama barely grabbed in 2012 against Mitt Romney. Trump is up 4 points in Ohio, and Clinton is up 5 points in Pennsylvania and 4 points in North Carolina. A Suffolk poll has Trump up 3 points in the Tar Heel State.

These are just the latest data points showing signs of life for Trump in the swing states, and Philip Bump notes that the Florida numbers are especially important: "He essentially can't win the presidency without winning the state. Clinton's outperforming President Obama in 2012 at this point in the race (relative to how Obama fared against Romney), but the trend has shifted back toward Trump."

THE DAILY DONALD:

-- In an interview with a state-owned Russian television network, Trump criticized U.S. foreign policy and the "dishonest" American political press corps. “RT, which airs in several countries in English and Russian, is funded by the Russian government; though it characterizes itself as independent, the network has been regularly accused of pro-Kremlin bias," Jose DelReal reports.

The GOP nominee also said on RT that he doubts the U.S. intelligence officials who say Russia hacked the DNC. "I think it’s probably unlikely. I think maybe the Democrats are putting that out. Who knows? But I think that it’s pretty unlikely," he said. 

-- The Trump campaign excused the interview by saying they did not realize it would air on the network.

From a Bloomberg reporter:

-- Congressional Republicans expressed dismay about Trump's bizarre but abiding admiration for an adversary of the United States. From Jose A. DelReal, Karoun Demirjian and John Wagner:

  • Speaker Paul Ryan: "Putin is an aggressor that does not share our interests" (though Ryan was very careful not to mention Trump in his remarks).
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Trump's "calculation unnerves me to my core." He joked about Putin: “Other than destroying every instrument of democracy in his own country, having opposition people killed, dismembering neighbors through military force and being the benefactor of the butcher of Damascus, he’s a good guy,”
  • Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker: "I think one has to be a little careful to let flattery affect one's judgment," he told Jake Tapper. “President Putin has operated in ways that very much have been against our interests."

-- Mike Pence defended his running-mate's praise for Putin. "I think it's inarguable that Vladimir Putin has been a stronger leader in his country than Barack Obama has been in this country,” Pence told CNN’s Dana Bash. "And that's going to change the day that Donald Trump becomes president." Trump was not advocating for a dictatorship, he added.

Trump adviser Michael Flynn, center, sits with Vladimir Putin during a Dec. 2015 visit to Moscow (paid for by the Russians) to mark the 10th anniversary of RT, the same channel Trump gave an interview to. (Photo by Michael Klimentyev/Sputnik via AP)

-- NBC News reports that Michael Flynn, the retired general who accompanied Trump to the two classified intelligence briefings, repeatedly interrupted the briefers to ask pointed questions: Two sources said Chris Christie, who was also there, told Flynn to cool it. One said Christie told Flynn to shut up. The other relayed that he said, "Calm down." NBC has two other sources saying that Christie touched Flynn's arm in an effort get him to calm down and let the officials continue. Christie called the report “categorically untrue," and Flynn told NBC that their report was "total b__s___.”

-- Former U.S. intelligence officials say it’s very unlikely that analysts betrayed disdain for Obama or Clinton using “body language” during Trump’s classified briefings. From Greg Miller: "Doing so would represent an almost inconceivable violation of training and tradition, they said. 'Those selected for this task would have been the most professional of an elite corps of intelligence officers,’ said Paul Pillar, a former high-ranking CIA analyst. ‘One of the last things they would do is express either verbally or through body-language preferences’ about candidates or policy. Michael Morell, a former deputy CIA director who has endorsed Clinton, put it more bluntly, saying that Trump’s comments ‘show that he’s got zero understanding of how intelligence works.’”

Trump's claim, made during NBC's commander-in-chief forum, amounts to an accusation of a serious breach of professional ethics. "Officials said it was the first time they could recall a presidential candidate providing a readout of a briefing he had been given, let alone exploiting it to make a political point. 'This is unprecedented,' said David Priess, a former CIA officer. 'We’ve had other presidential candidates mention that they got a briefing and talk in platitudes about it. We’ve never had somebody talk about what happened in a session.'"

-- Pence will receive a classified intelligence briefing today. Tim Kaine received his first briefing as a veep contender yesterday, NBC reported. The Virginia senator traveled to New York for what will likely be his only briefing before the election.

-- “Inside the collapse of Trump’s D.C. policy shop,” by Josh Rogin: “The Trump campaign built a large policy shop in Washington that has now largely melted away because of neglect, mismanagement and promises of pay that were never honored. Since April, advisers never named in campaign press releases have been working in an Alexandria-based office, writing policy memos, organizing briefings, managing surrogates and placing op-eds. They put in long hours … to help the campaign look like a professional operation. But, shortly after the convention, most of the policy shop’s most active staffers quit.” Although they signed non-disclosure agreements, several said the Trump policy effort was a “mess from start to finish.”

“The last straw came in early August, when the Washington policy shop held two marathon work sessions to plan out how to get Trump ready for the policy portions of the upcoming presidential debates. The [team] worked overtime to come up with detailed plans about who would brief Trump on specific policy topics over the course of several weeks. But campaign leadership decided to go in a different direction. ‘The New York office realized that their candidate would not be receptive to that level of intense preparation,’ one former adviser said.”

-- Briefing lobbyists for the big banks on K Street, Chris Christie said 400 people have already been identified for key posts in the Trump administration. From Politico: “Christie was asked about the GOP’s shocking decision to include language in its party platform supporting the reinstatement of the 1933 Glass-Steagall law … Christie responded … by saying it reflected new kinds of Republican delegates participating in the nominating convention this year.”

Trump meets with students and educators before speaking about school choice in Cleveland yesterday. (Evan Vucci/AP)

-- Trump delivered a pitch for school choice yesterday at a charter school that has received failing grades from Ohio for its students’ poor performance and lack of progress on math and reading benchmarks. From Sean Sullivan and Emma Brown: The Republican nominee announced that his first budget would dedicate $20 billion in federal funding to create a state-run block grant that he said would help poor children in low-performing public schools to enroll at charter and private schools. “Ohio's charter schools are nationally ridiculed, and they should be,” said Sandy Theis, of left-leaning ProgressOhio. “But Cleveland actually has some good ones … He goes to this lousy one and uses African American kids as props.”

-- Of the $90 million that the Trump campaign raised in August, $70 million came from small donors. Finance director Steven Mnuchin told Matea Gold in an interview that the small dollar gifts all came in either online or through direct mail. The candidate himself also chipped in another $2 million of his own money, Mnuchin said, bringing Trump's total investment to just over $54 million.

As a point of comparison: Clinton raised $142 million last month, $52 million more than Trump. And the pro-Clinton super PAC announced yesterday that it raised $21.6 million in August – its best month yet. Priorities USA's combined donations and pledged donations for 2016 are $161 million.

Melania delivers her plagiarized speech at the RNC. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

-- Melania Trump will stay sidelined through the election. After her convention stumble, she has largely vanished from the campaign trail, Mary Jordan and Stephanie McCrummen note. “It was late July when voters last heard from the potential first lady of the United States. ... Even as the campaign declines to fill in details of her life story, Melania Trump has deployed an attorney to beat back news reports probing her past. Otherwise, the woman who could oversee a White House staff and command a global platform on behalf of the United States has said almost nothing. And there is no sign that Melania Trump will play a significant role in the final stretch of her husband’s campaign — a striking departure from tradition in which candidates’ spouses serve as key surrogates in the effort to turn out voters. In many ways, Melania Trump’s approach to campaigning is in keeping with a paradoxical pattern in her life — one in which she has both sought the spotlight and recoiled from its glare."

-- “The Inside Story of How 'The Apprentice' Rescued Trump,” by the authors of the new "Trump Revealed" book, Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher: “Going back to his first appearances on Page Six … Trump always took pride in knowing how to win attention for himself, knowing how to feed the media’s insatiable appetite for stories about wealth, sex, and controversy—and ideally, all three blended together. Dabbling with investments in Broadway shows and making cameo appearances on TV sitcoms and in movies seemed like novelties, good for a quick injection of celebrity juice. The Apprentice, however, was a sustained development of a character, a powerful mainline into the American consciousness, an essential bridge on the journey from builder to politician. … Trump had been famous for more than a generation, but a TV show of his own would allow him to mold his image as never before, giving Americans the chance to see him in a way they perceived as unmediated. Without a show of one’s own, a celebrity is but a product of editors’ headlines and journalists’ takes. Being the star of a show would let Trump remake himself as he saw fit.”

-- “Republicans warn that Trump’s critique of Clinton’s ‘look’ fuels accusations of sexism,” by Matea Gold and Jenna Johnson: “He claims that she lacks ‘the strength or the stamina’ to run the country. He questioned in a tweet this week why the media was not covering a coughing fit she had at a rally in Cleveland. His party’s chairman scolded her for not smiling enough. And Trump insisted that the former senator and secretary of state does not resemble a commander in chief: ‘I just don’t think she has a presidential look.’ The escalating attacks by Trump and his allies on Clinton’s vigor and appearance are providing new fodder for critics who say the real estate developer is trafficking in sexist stereotypes and fueling false Internet rumors in attempts to undermine her image with voters. Many Republican strategists warn that the approach is perilous for a GOP nominee who already has low standing among women across the political spectrum, saying his jabs could resonate in a negative way for those who have encountered similar put-downs from men in their own lives.”

THE DAILY HILLARY:

-- Clinton spoke about her faith journey to the National Baptist Convention in Kansas City last night – the first in a series of new speeches designed to break out of an “echo chamber” dominated by Trump and to lay out her "larger goals" for the country. "She talked about seeing her father pray on his knees nightly, about how her mother taught Sunday school, and about her introduction as a young woman to civil rights and an ‘activist, social-justice faith, a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-dirty faith,’” Anne Gearan reports.

Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri told reporters aboard Clinton’s plane to Kansas City that they have to work "extra hard" to get attention for a positive message when Trump sucks up all the oxygen. Clinton’s will speak next week about what Palmieri calls the “inclusive economy” and "the importance of national service.” The campaign is planning another speech for September to discuss her ideas to help children and families.

-- The Associated Press deleted a two-week-old tweet about the Clinton Foundation, saying "it fell short of AP standards and [omitted] essential context.” The offending tweet linked to an AP story about the number of Clinton Foundation donors who met with Clinton during her State Department tenure. AP's standards editor John Daniszewski said the wire service is revising practices to “require removal and correction of any AP tweets found not to meet AP standards … including tweets that contain information that is incorrect, misleading, unclear or could be interpreted as unfair, or having a problem in tone.” (Politico)

-- The Justice Department granted immunity to the computer specialist who deleted Clinton's emails: "Republicans have called for the department to investigate the deletions, but the immunity deal with the specialist, Paul Combetta, makes it unlikely that the request will go far,” the NYT's Adam Goldman and Michael S. Schmidt report. “According to the F.B.I. documents, Mr. Combetta told the bureau in February that he did not recall deleting the emails. But in May, he told a different story. In the days after Mrs. Clinton’s staffers called Platte River Networks in March 2015, Mr. Combetta said realized that he had not followed a December 2014 order from Mrs. Clinton’s lawyers to have the emails deleted. Mr. Combetta then used a program called BleachBit to delete the messages, the bureau said."

-- Colin Powell said he was not trying to “influence” Clinton when he told her that he used a personal device to do business at the State Department, offering no apologies for a newly-released 2009 email exchange that undercuts his previous public account. “I have been interviewed by the State Department … and the FBI about my actions and decisions,” he said in a statement. “I stand by my decisions and I am fully accountable.” (Matt Zapotosky)

-- The Post’s editorial board declares this morning that “the Hillary Clinton email story is out of control" and complains that media coverage has “vastly exceeded the boundaries of the facts”: “Imagine how history would judge today’s Americans if, looking back at this election, the record showed that voters empowered a dangerous man because of . . . a minor email scandal. There is no equivalence between Ms. Clinton’s wrongs and Mr. Trump’s manifest unfitness for office.”

-- How Hillary tamed her friends,” by Politico’s Annie Karni: “The vast landscape of ‘FOHs’ (‘Friends of Hillary’) and ‘FOBs’ (‘Friends of Bill’) — a network the Clintons have cultivated since their 20s — was excluded from the campaign, but its members were driven to act like insiders, talking without the benefit of insight and creating trouble for her campaign. Bringing those freelancing friends back into the fold — while keeping them far from the daily 7:30 a.m. senior staff strategy conference call — was one of the changes Clinton vowed to make after taking stock of everything that went wrong in 2008. And that starts with a ‘friends and family’ list that exceeds 1,000 Clinton ‘insiders’ — a group whose activities and access is overseen by an entire department at the Brooklyn headquarters. The organization of the chatterers has been a huge innovation for Clinton, whose last presidential campaign was plagued by what David Axelrod called ‘open mic night, and anyone could grab it.”

Moazzam Raja, left, and Zakariya Hassouneh, right, volunteer at a Clinton phone bank in Orlando last week during a gathering of American Muslims working to organize. (Phelan M. Ebenhack/For The Washington Post)

THE BATTLEGROUNDS:

-- “The real swing vote in the presidential election? It could be Muslim American voters,” by Abigail Hauslohner in Florida: In the Democratic primary, many Muslim voters backed Bernie Sanders. Clinton was too hawkish for them — and may still be even if she earns their votes. The Clinton campaign hired a 34-year-old Muslim outreach director last month to reach out to the starkly diverse community. "Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia ‘alone add up to almost 1 million Muslim voters,’ said Khurrum Wahid, a Miami-based lawyer. ’With a decent voter turnout in those states, Muslims will be the swing vote in both the presidential and many close House races.’”

-- The nation's fastest-growing counties for Latinos are in North Dakota, Alabama and Georgia, Ed O'Keefe reports. "A new study on the growth of Hispanics across the United States highlights how they're dispersing into areas of the country where they haven't normally lived, causing a handful of rural counties far from major metropolitan areas dominated by Latinos to see huge percentage-point increases in their Hispanic populations. Hispanic population growth beyond states long dominated by Latinos is likely to start reshaping the political contours of rural states in the coming years. Already in an acknowledgment of the changing growth patterns, Clinton's campaign has hired Latino outreach directors in Georgia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania — a first for a presidential campaign — and until this week spent most of its advertising budget targeting English-proficient Hispanics. Only this week did the campaign start airing Spanish-language ads in Florida and Nevada."

-- “Can Clinton Win Texas?,” by Clare Foran in The Atlantic: “Texas Democrats understand the odds are steep, but that hasn’t stopped enthusiastic speculation that Clinton might pull off an upset and win the state. ‘Is there a chance for her to win in Texas? Yes, I believe there absolutely is,’ said [former state senator and failed 2014 gubernatorial candidate] Wendy Davis. [Other] Texas Democrats hope Trump’s candidacy can also be used to broadly discredit Republicans. ‘Our mission is to remind voters that Trump is a reflection of the Republican Party in Texas. They are cut from the same cloth, and they believe the same things,’ said Crystal Perkins, the executive director of the Texas Democratic Party.”

-- “With No Edge on the Economy, Clinton and Trump Focus Elsewhere,” by John Harwood in the New York Times: “This year, it’s not the economy. And actually, there’s nothing stupid about that. … In 2016, neither [Trump] nor [Clinton] has established a clear advantage when it comes to the economy. So while voters tell pollsters that the economy remains their most important issue, the candidates focus on other subjects. That reflects the unique contours of the race this year and the middling state of the United States economy.” (Read more)

-- President Obama will campaign for Clinton in Philadelphia next Tuesday. At a public event at Eakins Oval, just in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, he will encourage Pennsylvanians to register to vote ahead of the October 11 deadline, according to an advisory.

-- The League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund and United Steelworkers Works formed a new super PAC designed to boost Democratic Senate candidates in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Ohio and North Carolina: “The groups have committed nearly $4 million to an effort, which marks a rare partnership between two wings of the Democratic base,” Abby Phillip scoops this morning.

A U.S. aircraft flies over northern Iraq after conducting airstrikes in Syria against Islamic State targets. (AP Photo/Senior Airman Matthew Bruch, U.S. Air Force)

THE 15TH ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11 IS SUNDAY:

-- “A reminder of the permanent wars: Dozens of U.S. airstrikes in six countries,” by Missy Ryan: “While Americans savored the last moments of summer this Labor Day weekend, the U.S. military was busy overseas as warplanes conducted strikes in six countries in a flurry of attacks. The bombing runs across Asia, Africa and the Middle East spotlighted the diffuse terrorist threats that have persisted into the final days of the Obama presidency — conflicts that the next president is now certain to inherit. Militants in each of those countries have been attacked before, but the convergence of so many strikes on so many fronts in such a short period served as a reminder of the endurance and geographic spread of al-Qaeda and its mutations. ‘This administration really wanted to end these wars,’ said Paul Scharre, a former Army Ranger and Pentagon official … ‘Now, we’ve got U.S. combat operations on multiple fronts and we’re dropping bombs in six countries. That’s just the unfortunate reality of the terrorism threat today.’”

-- The House will vote today on a bill that would allow families of 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia in U.S. courts over its alleged support for terrorism: “The bill, which the Senate passed in May despite indications the White House would veto it, would let courts waive foreign officials’ claims to sovereign immunity in cases involving terrorist acts on U.S. soil,” Karoun Demirjian reports. Obama is expected to veto the measure.

-- A Walmart in Florida is getting rid of a display of the American Flag and the Twin towers using Coca-Cola products -- which is being criticized as tone-deaf marketing. (Travis M. Andrews)

-- The number of Americans who feel unsafe has spiked. Nearly half the country thinks we are less safe than before the 2001 attacks, according to a national survey from the Chicago Council. In 2014, it was just 27 percent. In the new survey, 75 percent said they viewed terrorism as a critical threat -- its highest percentage in the survey since 2004. (Adam Taylor)

-- Neither Trump nor Clinton will visit Ground Zero for the annual 9/11 commemoration, breaking with past precedent for presidential candidates to make an appearance at the site. Both plan to not campaign that day. (AP)

-- More than 3,000 children lost a parent in the deadliest terror attack on American soil. Fifteen years later, most are now adults. From the AP. “Many have been guided by a determination to honor the parent they lost or the awareness they so painfully gained. And they have done it in ways as varied as working with refugees, studying the forces that led to the attacks and pursuing a parent’s unrealized pro-sports dream. Here are some of their stories.

-- The retired rear admiral who directed the White House Situation Room on 9/11 announces that she will vote for Clinton in a Cincinnati Enquirer op-ed because HRC has some of the same qualities that helped George W. Bush lead the country after 9/11. “Clinton not only has a deep understanding of the immeasurable power of the presidency, but she also possesses the discretion and judgment to know how to use it,” writes Deborah Loewer, a 31-year Navy veteran and lifelong Republican. “As someone who directed the White House Situation Room for 26 of the most significant months in our nation’s recent history, I know the type of person it takes to live up to the demanding job of the presidency, and execute the duties of that office with strength, intelligence, thoroughness, discipline and compassion. Hillary Clinton is that person.”

-- The Smithsonian Museum of American History is hosting a special one-day exhibit to commemorate the anniversary of the attacks, featuring nearly 40 artifacts from the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the United 93 flight that crashed in Pennsylvania. (WTOP)

-- Footage from a George Carlin HBO special filmed on Sept. 10, 2001 – called “I Kinda Like It When A Lotta People Die,” is being released for the first time next week. Carlin scrapped the unfortunately-timed material, which told of a comic, doomsday scenario in which Earth collapses. (Geoff Edgers)

Native Americans ride this week with raised fists to a sacred burial ground that was disturbed by bulldozers building the Dakota Access Pipeline. It is near an encampment where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest of the oil pipeline slated to cross the nearby Missouri River. Protestors were attacked by dogs and sprayed with an eye and respiratory irritant when they arrived. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

WAPO HIGHLIGHT:

-- “Showdown over oil pipeline becomes a national movement for Native Americans,” by Joe Heim in North Dakota: “The simmering showdown between the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the company building the Dakota Access crude-oil pipeline began as a legal battle. It has turned into a movement. Over the past few weeks, thousands of Native Americans representing tribes from all over the country have traveled to this central North Dakota reservation to … show solidarity with a tribe they think is once again receiving a raw deal at the hands of commercial interests and the U.S. government.” The pipeline was approved to cross under the Missouri River one mile north of their reservation. “The reservation sued in July, saying that the agency had not entered into any meaningful consultation with the tribe as required by law and that it had ignored federal regulations governing environmental standards and historic preservation. ‘This pipeline is going through huge swaths of ancestral land,’ [the tribe’s attorney said.] ‘It would be like constructing a pipeline through Arlington Cemetery or under St. Patrick’s Cathedral.’

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) is the biggest user of heart emojis in the House. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

— ZIGNAL VISUAL: Zignal Labs is tracking every tweet from every member of Congress. Over the last two weeks, they’ve seen hundreds of smiley faces, hand claps and thumbs ups from the 538 House and Senate members. In the House, members are more likely to use hearts. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) is the most aggressive heart-emoji user in the House, tucking it into tweets about everything from the state fair to her college-bound nephew. And in the Senate, the Gang of 100 appears to be ready for some football. Zignal tracked more than a dozen football tweets from senators, from Nebraska to Wisconsin, just yesterday. We expect these numbers to grow as the NFL season gets under way this weekend…

Essence features the Obamas on its October cover:

Clinton participated in Humans of New York -- read the captions that accompany the pictures:

Reince Priebus faced a day of attacks on Twitter after criticizing Clinton for not smiling during the national security forum. According to the Huffington Post, she actually smiled more than Trump:

Donald Trump Jr. tweeted out an obviously untrue story from a web site full of conspiracy theories:

The Clinton campaign responded:

Gary Johnson explained why he blanked on Aleppo, Syria:

The New York Times also struggled:

Another way to think about things:

Madeleine Albright celebrated Star Trek's birthday:

Tim Kaine posted this photo celebrating back-to-school season:

Cheri Bustos and colleagues held a watch party for the NBC forum:

Marco Rubio was excited for the Broncos-Panthers game:

Fall is coming to northern Wisconsin:

Here are a few Capitol Hill photos from returning lawmakers:

Elizabeth Warren at the DNC (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- Boston Globe, “Elizabeth Warren was passed over for VP. But she doesn’t seem to mind,” by Victoria McGrane and Annie Linskey: “For the first time in a long time, Warren is no longer at the center of frenzied political speculation about her place in the 2016 campaign, and she seems thrilled. The Massachusetts Democrat has dived back into the work of being a senator with visible gusto since being passed over to be Clinton’s running mate shortly before the party’s national convention. She is taking on a list of high-profile issues from health insurance to passage of corporate tax reform — which she thinks is increasingly possible — that move her beyond her traditional portfolio of Wall Street reform and consumer protection.  It’s been a whirlwind couple of years for Warren in the national spotlight, from liberals trying to draft her to run for president, to hand-wringing on the content and timing of her endorsement … Now, Warren is digging back into policy … both at home and in Washington.'If you’re asking, ‘Do I keep developing more capacity to take on more issues?’ the answer is yes,’ she said. 'That’s what getting better at your job should be all about.'"

-- Buzzfeed, “Could Sheriff Joe Arpaio Actually Lose This Time?” by Adrian Carrasquillo: “Before [Trump] returned to the state for the fifth time, Latino groups here kept coming back to an old saying: ‘Dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres’ — tell me who you’re with, and I’ll tell you who you are. In Arizona, the activists are quick to tell you, Trump is with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the infamous hard-line sheriff of Maricopa County. And across the street from Trump’s recent rally last week, protesters …  held signs bearing things like, ‘Arizona rejects your racism. Dump Trump. Dump Arpaio.’ Some groups drop the distinction: ‘Trumpaio.’ That idea — Trump and Arpaio as two-headed monster — is just the thing those activists hope could defeat Arpaio, deliver unprecedented Latino voting, and upend the landscape of Arizona politics. If 2016 has given new life to hardline immigration policies, activists think their community, who is also listening, can produce a sharp turn in the other direction. ‘It’s about ending Arpaio’s reign and stopping Trump’s rise,’” said [activist] Carlos Garcia. “Taking two people out with one vote.”

HOT ON THE LEFT

“Arizona State Revokes Undocumented Student's Scholarship an Hour Before His First Class,” from Mother Jones: “An hour before his first day of class at Arizona State University, Eduardo Lujan-Olivas' dream of receiving a college education came crashing down. In a cruel last-minute twist, ASU officials informed the young man that he would not, in fact, have the scholarship that was his best hope, maybe only hope, to make it through a four-year college.” Lujan-Olivas is a beneficiary of DACA. But under a measure Arizona passed in 2006, undocumented students may not receive financial aid from the state. School officials said the revocation may have been due to “miscommunication” about his status.  

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

“Iranian Millionaire Prince Got American Welfare,” from the Daily Beast: "The wealthy son of an Iranian prince is under investigation for food-stamp fraud in Ohio. ‘It’s outrageous to see a situation where somebody is living in a house almost worth a million dollars, a horse barn, driving luxury cars, have millions of dollars in overseas bank accounts and here they are accepting this type of assistance,’ Geauga County prosecutor James R. Flaiz [said] … Prosecutors claim Mahvi is a millionaire who gamed the system for two years to snag $300 a month in food stamps—or $8,358 to date, authorities say—as well as Medicaid for his wife and three adult children.”

DAYBOOK:

On the campaign trail: Trump speaks in Washington, D.C. and Pensacola, Fla. Tim Kaine holds a rally in Hampton Roads, Va.; Bill Clinton campaigns in Pittsburgh.

At the White House: Obama arrives back from his Asia trip. Vice President Biden participates in a roundtable on job training and speaks at an event for Jason Kander for Senate in St. Louis. Later, in Los Angeles, Biden speaks at the Stand Up to Cancer Live Event at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

On Capitol Hill: The Senate is out. Last House votes on the Investment Advisers Modernization Act expected by 12:30 p.m.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“You know, we didn’t have to get our guys back." -- Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), explaining why the Obama administration should not have sent $400 million in cash to Iran that coincided with the release of four detained Americans. “We shouldn’t have paid the ransom.” (BuzzFeed)

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

-- It will be another MISERABLE and DISGUSTING day, the Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “In a near copy of yesterday, high temperatures soar to the mid-to-upper 90s under mostly to partly sunny skies. It may feel closer to 100-105 as the heat index gets boosted higher by gross (very muggy) dew points in the low 70s. Breezes of 5 to 10 mph from the west-southwest don’t help us cool off much.”

-- The Nationals lost to the Phillies, 4-1.

-- Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg’s elbow pain which sent him home early during Wednesday night’s game was revealed to be a flexor mass strain – not the season-ending injury that some had feared. Dusty Baker called the strain the “best case scenario,” adding that Strasburg will also see an orthopedic surgeon for a second opinion. (Chelsea Janes)

-- The D.C. public library launched an “UNCENSORED banned books” scavenger hunt this week, hiding several hundred copies of previously-banned books across the city. And should you find a copy, it’s yours for the keeping: “Each book is wrapped in a cover that explains why that book was banned or challenged,” Perry Stein writes. “For example, J.D. Salinger’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ will say ‘Anti-White’ because in 1963, parents of high school students in Columbus, Ohio, asked the school board to ban the novel for being ‘anti-white.’ D.C. public libraries will dole out clues about the books’ whereabouts on its social media accounts throughout the month with the hashtag #UncensoredDC.”

Police sketch of a man who sexually assaulted a woman at Great Falls, provided by the U.S. Park Police

-- Be careful out there: A man sexually assaulted a woman on the Billy Goat Trail in Great Falls. About 1 p.m. on April 27, a woman was jogging on the trail when she was approached by a man who asked her a question, the U.S. Park Police said in a statement. When she stopped to respond, the man grabbed her and began assaulting her before fleeing when several hikers approached the area. The cops just learned about the incident. (Justin Wm. Moyer)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

In a heated interview on MSNBC last night, Chris Matthews went hard at Rudy Giuliani for his claims about Clinton’s health. Giuliani also suggested Trump doesn’t really have any questions about Obama’s birthplace — something Trump himself has yet to say. Story here. Video below:

Today in offensive videos -- a San Antonio mattress store is promoting a "Twin Towers" sale coinciding with Sept. 11:

Clinton held a news conference on a tarmac in New York. Here's the moment she laughed at Gary Johnson's gaffe:

Klingon creator Marc Okrand translated and recorded a 60-minute highlights tour for the Air and Space Museum. Here are some outtakes from his promotional video:

Finally, in honor of election season, Kid President gave instructions on how to disagree without making everybody feel terrible:

Metropolitan Opera competition winner Krista Clouse was arrested in Alexandria for singing opera without a permit. The city of Alexandria apologized to her yesterday. Here's the footage of her singing while being placed under arrest:

Finally, The Hill released its annual "50 most beautiful" list.