With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA is by David Weigel today. James will be back next week.

CHICAGO — On Sunday, Democratic Socialists of America got a chance to break away from the Democratic Party. A resolution laid out all of the reasons, from the reported 57 percent of voters who want a third party, to the rapid success of the 2016 presidential bid by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), to the laughable unelectability of the Democrats.

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) said the Democratic Party has become a toxic brand and a failed party,” the resolution read. “The D next to a socialist or progressive’s name places them at a major disadvantage on Election Day. Why tie our strategy to a sinking ship?”

The resolution failed — easily so. While the judgment of 697 delegates to a socialist convention might not seen like a major Democratic Party development, it was telling of something that frequently gets lost. Democrats, for whom self-flagellation starts at birth and continues after death, have been moving as steadily left as Republicans moved right in 2009, when they last lost power.

That story can get lost in the more easily told narrative of Democrats in disarray. Last week provided plenty of material for that narrative, with the third major intraparty brawl of 2017 over abortion rights, and the decision of Gov. Jim Justice (R-W.Va.), who’d become a Democrat to seek his first-ever political office, literally embracing Donald Trump as he switched back to the GOP. A Quinnipiac poll, otherwise larded with good news for Democrats, found that just 40 percent of Democrats had heard of their freshly announced platform, called “The Better Deal.”

There are a number of problems for Democrats, each feeding into the other — but all of them reflect a party continuing to move to the left. First, their Better Deal, which is being amended week to week, has largely built on the left-wing platform that emerged from the 2016 convention. Democrats now endorse a $15 minimum wage; they back $1 trillion in deficit-financed infrastructure spending; they want to create new agencies that could cancel lopsided free-trade deals.

“Building new agencies with targeted missions was a hallmark of the New Deal,” argued the sharp left-wing writer David Dayen last week in The Nation. “Like under FDR, these Better Deal agencies are an admission that the current framework is fatally corrupted, unresponsive to public needs.”

The Better Deal, predictably denounced as thin, actually reflected how regulatory godmother Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and $15-or-fight godfather Sanders now steer the party. The new Democratic proposals outside this framework are left wing, too; the continuum of health-care ideas now ranges from the Medicare buy-in favored by Rust Belt Democratic senators, to the public option favored by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), to the single-payer alternative favored by the majority of House Democrats.

That this hasn’t gotten much attention is a function of two things — the party base’s demands for more, and a media climate in which left-wing policy is seen as insufficiently new and disruptive to be serious. David Von Drehle’s debut column for The Washington Post captured it well, characterizing the Better Deal as “vapid corporation-bashing” and “the same old policies,” in part because the infrastructure plank echoed Trump.

But the policy itself — pure stimulus, not public-private partnerships — did not echo Trump’s policy. And the fact that Trump won votes by advancing even the concept of a $1 trillion infrastructure bill was a night-and-day shift from the Obama-era Republican dogma. Where Republicans used to bemoan “picking winners and losers,” they now gather at the White House to announce $3 billion in tax credits for Chinese companies willing to bring some jobs home. Republicans have shifted left by socializing risk for a job stimulus; it follows that Democrats would move left, too.


The Jim Justice switch also strengthened the left for the fight that will determine whether it actually acts on its platforms. I’m referring to the 2018 primaries, which start in seven months when Illinois starts voting. Justice literally bought his way into the Democratic Party, welcomed by leaders, fresh out of power, who correctly thought that he could win the general election. And after finishing one-sixth of his term, he flipped.

That’s going right into the rhetorical tool kit of left-wing Democrats who, in many districts, are facing crowded primaries against candidates who just arrived in politics; or, in some cases, left the Republican Party. Like every argument inside Democratic politics, the mere fact of having it draws attention to the left’s agenda.

Would any of this backfire on Democrats? Could it deprive them of wins in 2018? That’s possible, but it would cut against recent experience. Democrats lost in 2010, 2014 and 2016 to a Republican Party that had been through waves of purity battles; one that had, in 2016, appeared to be breaking apart. The ongoing Democratic argument, over the long run, is moving it left without doing notable political damage.

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-- “Rex Tillerson said Monday [in Manila] that North Korea could show it is ready for negotiations by stopping missile launches, Carol Morello reports. “In remarks to reporters at a regional conference in which North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests have dominated discussions, Tillerson held out an olive branch to Pyongyang by saying the United States will sit down for talks ‘when conditions are right’ to discuss denuclearization and steps to ensure North Korea can feel secure and prosperous. … Pressed for a time frame, Tillerson said, ‘We’ll know it when we see it.’ … Earlier Sunday, China delivered frank advice to North Korea, its outcast neighbor, telling Pyongyang to make a ‘smart decision’ and stop conducting missile launches and nuclear tests. ... Wang said that the situation on the Korean Peninsula is critical — but that it could be a turning point for negotiations over North Korea’s nuclear proliferation.”

-- North Korea wasn’t the only major issue Tillerson addressed. Carol adds: “Tillerson also said that when he met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Sunday, he tried to drive home the point that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election had a deep and divisive effect on relations between the two countries. He described his conversation with Lavrov as ‘trying to help them understand just how serious this incident had been and how seriously it had damaged the relationship between the U.S. and the American people and the Russian people — that this had created serious mistrust between our two countries and that we simply have to find some way to deal with that.’ Tillerson said he also told Lavrov the United States has still not decided how to respond to Russia’s move to expel hundreds of U.S. diplomats. He said a response would come by Sept. 1.”

-- Tillerson’s comments followed the United Nation's unanimous decision Saturday to further sanction North Korea, a move that was praised by administration officials on the Sunday shows. The Hill’s Olivia Beavers reports: “‘It is time for North Korea to realize, we are not playing anymore,’ [U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki] Haley said … The sanctions largely target North Korea's major exports such as coal, iron and seafood, Haley said. ‘A third of their trade exports have been hit, and we basically gave them a kick in the gut with a billion dollars of sanctions that they are going to begin to feel right away,’ she continued, adding that the measure ‘sends a really strong message.’”

-- North Korea has condemned the sanctions and vowed to not come to the negotiating table with the United States until it ends its “hostile” policies. Bloomberg News's Shinhye Kang, Hooyeon Kim and Ting Shi report: “Kim Jong Un’s government said it would take an ‘action of justice’ in response to the sanctions that were ‘fabricated by the U.S.,’ Korean Central News Agency reported on Monday[.]”

-- But the latest sanctions are part of a race against the clock with North Korea’s rapidly advancing missile technology. Wall Street Journal’s Jake Maxwell Watts and Ben Otto report: “The most recent missile launched by the regime at the end of July would be able to fly more than 6,400 miles[.] … Some experts believe North Korea could develop a nuclear missile capable of handling atmospheric re-entry as early as next year. … The [U.N.] Security Council has passed eight rounds of sanctions since 2006, when North Korea performed its first nuclear test. The sanctions hurt the secretive regime economically but failed to deter Pyongyang from working to become a nuclear power. … The biggest challenge is China, experts say, which hasn’t fully enforced past sanctions, chiefly because it is concerned that if the Pyongyang regime collapses a conflict could draw U.S. troops near the Chinese border or send droves of North Korean refugees across its border.”

Trump was impressed with the sanctions package:


  1. Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) denounced a Minneapolis-area mosque bombing this weekend as a “dastardly, cowardly” hate crime and an act of terrorism. Authorities said the blast, which occurred during Saturday morning prayers, appears to have been caused by an “improvised explosive device.” No one was hurt. (Karin Brulliard and Amy B Wang)
  2. Video from a routine traffic stop in California sparked controversy after a police officer was seen pointing his gun at the driver for more than nine minutes. (Amy B Wang, see the video here)
  3. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to propose a “millionaire's tax” to cover repairs to the city’s subway system. The proposal would include reduced fares for low-income residents. (New York Times)
  4. Fears of fake news, corruption and even murder are casting a shadow over Kenya’s presidential election tomorrow. One top election official has already been found dead, with his body showing signs of torture. (New York Times)

  5. Two Chinese tourists were detained this week for giving the Nazi salute outside the Reichstag in Berlin — one of several areas in Europe where such gestures are considered a criminal offense. Their arrests come just one week after Switzerland’s supreme court upheld the conviction of a man who performed the “Heil Hitler!” salute outside a synagogue in Geneva. (Isaac Stanley-Becker)

  6. Fox News host Eric Bolling was suspended from the network. The suspension came a day after HuffPost published a piece with multiple sources claiming that Bolling sent an “unsolicited” picture of his genitals to female colleagues. (CNN)

  7. Authorities have arrested the alleged kidnappers of Chloe Ayling, a 20-year-old British model who was drugged, handcuffed, and stuffed into a suitcase last month in Milan. She was held captive for six days, prosecutors said, and her captors — who are connected to human trafficking organizations — had already begun auctioning her off on the dark Web. (New York Daily News)
  8. Ten people were hospitalized Saturday after an American Airlines flight jolted in midair — sending passengers into what felt like a temporary “free fall” as they neared the end of a 10-hour international flight. (Avi Selk)
  9. An engineer at Google blamed “genetic differences” for women’s lack of representation at the tech company. In an essay originally published on an internal company forum, a male software engineer argued that Google should stop its campaigns to be more diverse. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)

  10. Usain Bolt took home the bronze in the 100-meter final at the world championships, marking the first time that the Olympic gold medalist has been beaten in the event’s final at the world championships. American Justin Gatlin won first place. (Matt Bonesteel and Bryan Flaherty)

  11. NASA’s new job vacancy for a “planetary protection officer” has piqued the interest of thousands of scientists across the country — but one New Jersey fourth-grader, Jack, has emerged as a favorite applicant. He’s got references, (“My sister says I’m an alien,”) has seen the TV show, “Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” and considers himself a “Guardian of the Galaxy.” Best of all? “I am young, so I can learn to think like an alien,” he wrote. (Amy B Wang)


-- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel formally announced yesterday that the city plans to sue the Justice Department for threatening to withhold law enforcement grants due to Chicago’s status as a sanctuary city. Chicago Tribune’s Hal Dardick reports: “The city plans to file the paperwork ‘first thing on Monday morning,’ officials said. … There’s also a possibility of other sanctuary cities taking the city’s side. Although [Jeff Sessions's] threat to withhold money from the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance grant program from sanctuary cities is not new, the Justice Department late Thursday released conditions for new grant applications[.] … The conditions include complying with a federal law that bars restrictions on local police sharing immigration status information.”

-- Trump’s demands for a border wall are looming over Congress as lawmakers attempt to avoid a government shutdown. Axios’s Jonathan Swan reports: “Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, says the Trump administration has clear expectations for the fall: ‘We get tax reform and we also complete funding of the government which includes rebuilding of the military and securing our border.’ (Read: the wall.) Sources inside and close to Republican Hill leadership, however, are privately less sanguine[.] Some say there's a good chance of a government shutdown before the end of the year because of deep rifts over spending priorities. No one sees Trump's wall getting much more than a symbolic nod, which is sure to anger Trump and the [Stephen K.] Bannon faction, and could lead to a shutdown. … Top Hill sources believe the most likely scenario is that a coalition of Republican leaders, Republican moderates and Democrats cobble together a bill that extends government funding for three months, reauthorizes the Children's Health Insurance Program and raises the debt limit.

The former Mexican president continued to troll Trump on Twitter:

-- Tillerson is a micromanager, reports the New York Times’s Gardiner Harris: “Even skeptics of Mr. Tillerson’s foreign policy credentials thought the State Department, an agency of 75,000 employees, could use some of the management skills he had picked up as the head of a major corporation. … Instead, he has failed to nominate anyone to most of the department’s 38 highest-ranking jobs, leaving many critical departments without direction[.] … Almost from the time of his arrival, Mr. Tillerson has said the department needed to be reorganized, and he has embarked on a wholesale rethinking of its structure. … [But] his reorganization effort has contributed to the paralysis. He has not wanted to appoint under secretaries and assistant secretaries until he understands the new structure.”

-- Trump’s pick to lead the Federal Communications Commission has helped the right-leaning Sinclair Broadcast Group try to grow. Politico’s Margaret Harding McGill and John Hendel report: “Sinclair, already the nation’s largest TV broadcaster, plans to buy 42 stations from Tribune Media in cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, on top of the more than 170 stations it already owns. It got a critical assist this spring from Republican FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who revived a decades-old regulatory loophole that will keep Sinclair from vastly exceeding federal limits on media ownership. The change will allow Sinclair — a company known for injecting ‘must run’ conservative segments into its local programming — to reach 72 percent of U.S. households after buying Tribune’s stations.”

-- Penalties against Wall Street firms were significantly lower in the first six months of Trump’s presidency compared to the first half of 2016. Wall Street Journal’s Jean Eaglesham,  Dave Michaels and  Danny Dougherty report: “Lawyers who defend financial cases said a shift to a business-friendly stance at regulatory agencies in the Trump administration is one of several reasons for the decrease. Other factors include delays resulting from the change in administrations and the winding down of cases from the financial crisis. Penalties levied against firms and individuals by the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in the first half of 2017 were down nearly two-thirds compared with the first half of 2016 — putting regulators on track for the lowest annual level of fines since at least 2010, the Journal found. Fines of $489 million in the first half of 2017 compared with $1.4 billion in the 2016 period.”

-- The Trump administration is pushing for more coal mining on federal lands. New York Times’s Eric Lipton and Barry Meier report: “The intervention has roiled conservationists and many Democrats, exposing deep divisions about how best to manage the 643 million acres of federally owned land[.] … During the Obama administration, the Interior Department seized on the issue of climate change and temporarily banned new coal leases on public lands as it examined the consequences for the environment. … President Trump, along with roundly questioning climate change, has moved quickly to wipe out those measures with the support of coal companies and other commercial interests. … Even with the moves so far, the prospect of coal companies operating in a big way on federal land — and for any major job growth — is dim[.]”

-- Today marks 200 days of the Trump presidency. The Post compiled quotes from members of the administration and from opinion writers to capture how his presidency has progressed so far: “In his words and ours.”


-- Vice President Pence dubbed “disgraceful” the NYT story saying he was laying the groundwork for his own presidential run three years from now should Trump not seek reelection. The White House released an unusual statement in which Pence called the allegations “offensive to me, my family, and our entire team,” adding “the allegations in this article are categorically false.” He added: “The American people know that I could not be more honored to be working side by side with a president who is making America great again. Whatever fake news may come our way, my entire team will continue to focus all our efforts to advance the President's agenda and see him re-elected in 2020. Any suggestion otherwise is both laughable and absurd.”

Kellyanne Conway scoffed at suggestions of a Pence shadow campaign on ABC News’s “This Week,” saying the rumors were “complete fiction” and that she has “zero concerns” Pence would challenge his current boss for a second term. “The president says privately and publicly often, George, that he'll be there for 7½ more years,” Conway said. She also dismissed GOP lawmakers and consultants behind the rumor as people who were “trying to play the parlor game:” “[They’re] not on the — they’re in the I would say Trump inside — inner circle because they did not believe in him,” she said. “They totally missed what was happening in America. … I would tell my Republican brethren: get onboard. Help us with tax reform and health reform and stop looking at 2020.”

-- Here's the original story from NYT's Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, which is worth a read if you missed it over the weekend: “[Trump’s] first term is ostensibly just warming up, but luminaries in his own party have begun what amounts to a shadow campaign for 2020 — as if the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue weren’t involved. The would-be candidates are cultivating some of the party’s most prominent donors, courting conservative interest groups and carefully enhancing their profiles. Mr. Trump has given no indication that he will decline to seek a second term. But the sheer disarray surrounding this presidency … have prompted Republican officeholders to take political steps unheard-of so soon into a new administration. [In] interviews with more than 75 Republicans at every level of the party, elected officials, donors and strategists expressed widespread uncertainty about whether Mr. Trump would be on the ballot in 2020 and little doubt that others in the party are engaged in barely veiled contingency planning.

“Mr. Pence has been the pacesetter. Though it is customary for vice presidents to keep a full political calendar, he has gone a step further, creating an independent power base, cementing his status as Mr. Trump’s heir apparent and promoting himself as the main conduit between the Republican donor class and the administration. The vice president created his own political fund-raising committee … shrugging off warnings from some high-profile Republicans that it would create speculation about his intentions.

“In a June meeting with Al Hubbard, an Indiana Republican [and former Bush official], an aide to the vice president, Marty Obst, said that they wanted to be prepared to run in case there was an opening in 2020 and that Mr. Pence would need Mr. Hubbard’s help … [And Nick] Ayers has signaled to multiple major Republican donors that Mr. Pence wants to be ready.”


Trump took aim at the NYT this morning:

-- Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) continued his outspoken criticism of Trump and the Republican Party on Sunday, saying the GOP’s identity crisis began with the rise of “birtherism” in 2011 — which was spread heavily by Trump. “Some people did stand up, but not enough,” Flake said of his Republican colleagues, adding: “That was particularly ugly.” “Did you do enough?” host Chuck Todd asked. Flake smiled. “On that, I think I did.” (Avi Selk)


-- Rod J. Rosenstein (who is in charge of the Justice Department's Russia probe after Jeff Sessions recused himself) said Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller has full authority to investigate “any crime” he uncovers during his investigation — breaking with Trump, who classified the probe as a “witch hunt” and warned Mueller about digging into his family's financial history. “The special counsel is subject to the rules and regulations of the Department of Justice, and we don’t engage in fishing expeditions,” Rosenstein said on “Fox News Sunday.” The deputy attorney general also said the DOJ is not pursuing journalists as part of its investigation of government leaks, speaking out just two days after Sessions signaled a much harsher stance toward reporters. “We don’t prosecute journalists for doing their jobs,” Rosenstein said. “That’s not our goal here … [We’re] after the leakers, not the journalist.” 

Rosenstein declined to comment Sunday on reports that Mueller has impaneled a grand jury to aid in his expanding Russia probe, though he noted that such a step is routine in “many investigations.” His remarks come as Trump and his aides continue to downplay the mounting investigation, with Conway dismissing it Sunday as a “fabrication.” During a rally Thursday in West Virginia, Trump repeatedly slammed what he called the “totally made-up Russia story.”

-- Republicans are worried, too: “The attacks have raised concerns among Democrats and some Republicans that Trump may be looking for ways to undermine the investigation,” Kelsey Snell and John Wagner report. “Those fears led Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.) to propose legislation that would give a judge the ability to review any decision by the president to fire Muller.” Tillis appeared on “Fox News Sunday” to defend that bill, stressing that the measure is critical to “reestablishing public trust” at the DOJ.

Tillis also declined to characterize the probe as a “witch hunt, telling George Stephanopoulos“I'm not sure that I agree with the witch hunt, and we'll let the facts lead us to whether or not it was a hoax,” Tillis said. “But we are where we are, and I want to see this investigation concluded so that we can get onto doing the good work the president has already started with regulatory reform, health care and tax reform.”

Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence panel, said the grand jury impaneling is “a significant development,” noting on CNN’s “State of the Union” it has been a year since the Russia investigation began. “That means one year later, rather than turning that investigation off, rather than concluding ‘We’ve looked at this for a year; there’s really nothing to see here,’ as the president would claim, instead … it’s moving into a new phase,” said Schiff. “That wouldn’t be taking place if there was really no evidence, no evidentiary basis to move forward.” 

-- “U.S. Troops Train in Eastern Europe to Echoes of the Cold War,” by the New York Times’s Eric Schmitt: “A 10-day exercise last month involving 25,000 American and allied forces spread across three former Warsaw Pact countries — Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria — offered a window into how a generation of senior Army commanders are rehearsing updated tactics and strategies once used to counter Soviet troops, tanks and artillery, including nighttime aerial assaults by hundreds of paratroopers. … These tensions are part of an expanding rivalry and military buildup, with echoes of the Cold War, between Washington and Moscow. Moscow is flowing forces for its own exercises along its western border with Europe and also deploying in Syria and eastern Ukraine[.] … In response, the Pentagon has stepped up training rotations and exercises on the territory of newer NATO allies in the east[.]”


-- Congressional Republicans want to use the recess to talk up a tax revamp, but constituents may work to keep them focused on overhauling the health-care system. Wall Street Journal’s Siobhan Hughes and Janet Hook report: “Many of their constituents and party activists blame Congress, more than [Trump], for the health-care stalemate and are pressing them to find a resolution. … How Republican lawmakers respond to such frustration — and whether they move past the health defeat or get swept back into that fight — will determine whether the GOP-led Congress returns as a unified force … Republicans are divided over whether the battle over the ACA is over or whether they should try again for health changes while pursuing a complicated tax-code rewrite.”

-- Republican Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado got a taste of voters’ frustration during a Friday town hall. The Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reports: “ ... Gardner was shouted at and derided during a Durango town hall Friday afternoon that was slated to center on the Gold King Mine[.] … ‘Why on Earth did you vote for the Republican (health) care bill when the vast majority of your constituents opposed it?’ one man asked Gardner to cheers. … Gardner has been chastised for months by liberal activists for failing to hold an in-person town hall with his constituents, and his first such appearance in more than a year was full of fireworks. … [N]ot one question at the filled town hall was about Gold King, and Gardner — and at times [GOP Rep. Scott] Tipton — were the main focus of everyone there.”

-- Mitch McConnell further muddied the waters by implying that he may consider Sen. Lamar Alexander’s (R-Tenn.) bipartisan proposal. AP’s Adam Beam reports: “McConnell told reporters Saturday there is ‘still a chance’ the Senate could revive the measure to repeal and replace ‘Obamacare,’ but he acknowledged the window for that is rapidly closing. The Kentucky senator noted [Alexander] is working on ‘some kind of bipartisan approach’ that would involve subsidies for insurance companies. … ‘If the Democrats are willing to support some real reforms rather than just an insurance company bailout, I would be willing to take a look at it,’ McConnell said[.]”

-- Will the Trump administration enforce Obamacare as long as its the law of the land? Amy Goldstein and Paige Winfield Cunningham report: “With [the Affordable Care Act] sign-up period less than three months away, the government appears to be operating on contradictory tracks[.] … President Trump continues to stage photo ops at the White House and on travels with people he terms ‘Obamacare victims.’ … Yet many layers down in the government, the part of HHS that directly oversees the ACA’s insurance marketplaces and the federal HealthCare.gov enrollment website has been carrying out much, if not all, of its regular work — convening its annual meeting in June with ‘navigators’ who help steer consumers toward ACA health plans[.] … Officials provided no assurances at that meeting, however, about whether the administration would continue the government’s other usual enrollment activities or promotion.”


-- “Governors can lead on health care plan,” by Colorado Springs Gazette’s Joey Bunch: “Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, and his pal John Kasich, Ohio's Republican governor, said Sunday morning that bipartisanship at the state level could lead Washington out of gridlock over health care. … During the seven-minute segment, Hickenlooper and Kasich named a handful of congressional members on board with the bipartisan pitch, but none of them were from Colorado.”

-- “How Susan Collins’ Obamacare vote could harm her chances to succeed [Maine Gov. Paul] LePage,” by Bangor Daily News’s Michael Shepherd: “Collins has been named the most moderate U.S. senator and has irked conservatives before. If she stays in the Senate through her term’s end in early 2021, this may be little more than a flashpoint, since she regularly registers approval ratings above 65 percent here. But if she runs for governor in 2018, several active Republicans told the Bangor Daily News that they would expect a tough primary fight.”



-- Top administration officials remain at odds with Trump over the path forward in Afghanistan. Reuters’s Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart report: “[O]fficials familiar with the discussions reveal a president deeply frustrated with the lack of options to win the 16-year-old war, described internally as ‘an eroding stalemate.’ The debate carries echoes of the same dilemma Barack Obama faced in 2009. Then, as now, odds are that Trump will ultimately send more troops, current and former officials say. … [Jim Mattis] has had the authority for nearly two months to add thousands more troops[.] … But officials say Mattis won't use his authority until he has buy-in from Trump for a strategic vision for America's longest war. … [T]he discussions — which included a high-level White House meeting on Thursday - could drag out for the rest of the summer, blowing past a mid-July deadline to present a war strategy to an increasingly impatient Congress.”

-- Trump’s delayed decision-making, as well as the possibility that he may fire the U.S. military commander in the country, have Afghans worried. Pamela Constable reports: “[Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr.], 61, the top U.S. military official in Afghanistan for the past 16 months, has become the best-known face of Washington here, working closely with Afghan military and civilian officials, and vocally advocating expanded U.S. military engagement, while the Taliban and other insurgents continue aggressive attacks across the country. Now, with two U.S. service members killed in the past week, Trump’s attack on Nicholson for failing to ‘win’ the 16-year war has stunned Afghan officials and political leaders. They said a clear signal of continued support from Washington is urgently needed to keep the fragile Kabul government on its feet amid an explosion of public unrest and organized opposition from a variety of groups.”


Trump tweeted during the first weekend of his vacation, which he refrained from calling a vacation:

From an NBC News reporter:

From McClatchy's White House correspondent:

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) talked tough against Russia:

Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol addressed questions over Pence’s possible 2020 ambitions:

From one of the New York Times reporters who wrote the Pence story:

Pence’s press secretary dismissed the claims:

Newt Gingrich criticized special counsel Mueller for impaneling a grand jury:

From a National Review writer:

After Gingrich’s complaint, this tweet from May was recirculated:

From the U.S. attorney that Trump fired:

Ivanka Trump touted her dad’s success:

CNBC’s Washington correspondent countered the first daughter’s point:

The White House is undergoing some renovations:

And the anti-Trump GOP strategist Ana Navarro took issue with this “Despacito” remix:


-- CNN, “Here, heroin spares no one, not even the sheriff's wife,” by Poppy Harlow and Zach Wasser: “At first, [Robert] Leahy could not understand why his wife had let herself become an addict, why she had made that choice. But as he watched her struggle for years to stay clean, his knowledge of addiction matured. He began to see it as a disease in need of treatment and compassion. More than a decade later, as Ohio grapples with one of the deadliest drug epidemics in American history, the state's criminal justice system has undergone a similar transformation. Local officers and judges know that they can no longer treat all addicts like criminals. To stop an epidemic, they have to think like medical professionals.”

-- The Atlantic, “Hillary Wants to Preach,” by Emma Green: “Hillary Clinton wants to preach. That’s what she told Bill Shillady, her long-time pastor ... Scattered bits of reporting suggest that ministry has always been a secret dream[.] Last fall, the former Newsweek editor Kenneth Woodward revealed that Clinton told him in 1994 that she thought ‘all the time’ about becoming an ordained Methodist minister. She asked him not to write about it, though: ‘It will make me seem much too pious.’ The incident perfectly captures Clinton’s long campaign to modulate — and sometimes obscure — expressions of her faith. Now, as Clinton works to rehabilitate her public image … religion is taking a central role. After long months of struggling to persuade Americans that she is trustworthy, authentic, and fundamentally moral, Clinton is lifting up an intimate, closely guarded part of herself. There are no more voters left to lose. In sharing her faith, perhaps Clinton sees something left to win, whether political or personal …”

-- Politico Magazine, “The Real History of American Immigration,” by Joshua Zeitz: “The great immigration wave that delivered some 40 million newcomers to the United States between 1830 and 1940 was comprised largely of unskilled workers with minimal English-language proficiency. For every third- or fourth-generation white ethnic family, there is a stunning success story, but in the aggregate, their ancestors experienced little economic mobility in their own lifetimes. Many of them had little interest in even being American; they came to earn money and return home.”

-- The Atlantic, “Why Are There No New Major Religions?” by Jon Emont: “Not since the angel Gabriel visited Muhammad in a cave around 610 AD, informing him that he is God’s prophet, has there been a new globally influential religion with hundreds of millions of followers. Though the world’s religions are very dynamic, and major faiths continue to shift and evolve in ritual and doctrine, the world today is dominated by the same four faiths that dominated the globe a millennium ago: Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. … Why, if creating new faiths is an inextinguishable feature of the human condition, have new religions had such limited recent success?”


“‘Barack Obama Day' Is Now an Illinois Holiday,” from NBC Chicago: “Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law Friday a measure to designate Aug. 4 as ‘Barack Obama Day’ across Illinois. The holiday will be ‘observed throughout the State as a day set apart to honor the 44th President of the United States of America who began his career serving the People of Illinois …’ Senate Bill 55 reads. … Legislators also voted in July to rename part of a Chicago-area highway after their former colleague, designating the stretch of Interstate 55 from the Tri-State Tollway south to mile marker 202 near Pontiac as the ‘Barack Obama Presidential Expressway.’”



“Caitlyn Jenner apologizes for wearing ‘Make America Great Again’ hat,” from the Hill: “Caitlyn Jenner has apologized for a recent photo showing her wearing a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat popularized by President Trump. According to TMZ, Jenner put the hat on prior to a golf outing, but did not realize it was the signature hat sported by Trump supporters. ‘I apologize to all of the trans community. I made a mistake. I will never do it again and I'm getting rid of the hat,’ the Olympic gold medalist and transgender activist told the entertainment news website.”




Trump is on vacation in New Jersey today.

Pence has a lunch with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and a meet-and-greet with department employees.

Congress is on recess.


Jeh Johnson, homeland security secretary under Obama, on leaks within the Trump administration: "The leaks right now are really bad. … I've never seen it this bad. There should be a concerted effort to identify and go after leakers."



-- Rain in D.C. could get intense today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “As the afternoon wears on, we may see some thunderstorms develop, especially in areas east and south of the District. Any storms that develop could be intense with strong wind gusts and the possibility of a tornado or two. … High temperatures range from 75 to 80, or perhaps a few degrees higher if the sun pops out during the afternoon.”

-- The Nationals beat the Cubs 9-4, thanks in part to Matt Wieters’s grand slam. (Jorge Castillo)

-- In addition to eight Democratic challengers, Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) now faces a primary challenger on the right. Jenna Portnoy reports: “Shak Hill, 52, of Centreville hopes to channel the fervor that helped Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart nearly beat out Ed Gillespie this summer for Virginia’s GOP gubernatorial nomination."

-- Environmentalists are protesting a TransCanada pipeline that would briefly run under the Potomac River, causing some to fear that it could contaminate drinking water. Proponents of the pipeline argue that it would provide a needed gas outlet to West Virginia. (Patricia Sullivan)

-- An Advisory Neighborhood Commission member has proposed turning a portion of Adam Morgans’s main street into a car-free zone. (Paul Schwartzman)


John Oliver broke down Trump's plan to hire more Border Patrol agents:

Stephen Colbert took swipes at Trump for going on vacation:

The Post's Glenn Kessler fact checks Trump's claim that Obamacare provides "bailouts" to insurance companies:

The Post presents “Mean Boys II: Mooch ado about nothing”:

Flash floods occurred across New Orleans:

Japan celebrated its Nebuta festival with giant lanterns depicting mythical gods:

And parrots at an Australian zoo use a slide to reach their food: