With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve.

THE BIG IDEA: 

Hope Hicks announced her departure as White House communications director in February, but President Trump has yet to name a replacement. Instead, he continues to do the job himself.

He drafts talking points. He organizes surrogates. He oversees rapid response. He maintains relationships with key media figures over dinners, rounds of golf and long phone calls. And, of course, he manages his own social media presence.

Since the 2016 election, five people have now done six stints as Trump’s communications director. One reason it’s an impossible job is that the former reality television star who occupies the Oval Office will always consider himself his own best spokesman.

-- The Jim Comey kerfuffle spotlights the extent to which Trump sees press as central to his portfolio.

After watching media coverage of the fired FBI director’s book, which comes out today, Trump has now blasted him on Twitter three of the past four days.

A senior administration official said the president was personally involved in drafting the scorching statement attacking Comey that White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read from the podium on Friday.

Last June, when Comey testified before the Senate intelligence committee, Trump cleared his schedule to watch live from a White House dining room and oversee the pushback. “Ultimately, the best messenger is the president himself,” press secretary Sean Spicer said at the time. “He's always proven that.”

Last May, several White House officials insisted adamantly and on the record that Comey had been fired because of a memo by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. But then Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt the next day that he already had decided to fire his FBI director before Rosenstein’s recommendation and would have done it regardless.

It’s now just one of dozens of examples of the president undercutting, contradicting and otherwise embarrassing the people who are paid to speak for him. “As a very active President with lots of things happening,” Trump explained at the time on Twitter, “it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!”

-- In January 2017, when Comey traveled with leaders of the intelligence community to New York to brief the president-elect on Russian efforts to interfere in the election, he was struck by how quickly Trump tried to change topics from national security to communications.

Jim Clapper, then the director of national intelligence, told Trump that the Russians had tried to hurt Hillary Clinton and help him. “President-elect Trump's first question was to confirm that it had no impact on the election,” Comey told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in the interview that aired Sunday night. “And Director Clapper explained, as I think he already had, ‘No, we didn't do that analysis. We found no Russian manipulation of vote count. We didn't do an analysis of whether their work was effective in changing votes [or] changing the sentiment of the electorate.

“And then the conversation, to my surprise, moved into a PR conversation about how the Trump team would position this and what they could say about this. They actually started talking about drafting a press release with us still sitting there,” Comey recalled. “And the reason that was so striking to me is that's just not done. The intelligence community does intelligence, the White House does PR and spin, and the searing lesson … of the Iraq War is you don't mix the two. We give you facts and then we leave and then you figure out what you're going to tell people about them, if anything. But it moved right into this, ‘Let's figure out what to say about it,’ kinda deal.”

Comey was also taken aback at what Trump and his top advisers, including Mike Pence and Reince Priebus, did not ask during the briefing at Trump Tower. “You're about to lead a country that has an adversary attacking it,” the former FBI director said, “and I don't remember any questions about, ‘So what are they going to do next? How might we stop it? What's the future look like? Because we'll be custodians of the security of this country.’ There was none of that! It was all, ‘What can we say about what they did and how it affects the election that we just had?’”

-- For decades, Trump famously masqueraded as his own publicist to brag about himself. From the 1970s through the 1990s, the president would call up reporters claiming to be “John Miller” or “John Barron.” The “spokesman” for Trump would boast that women were drawn to Trump sexually, among other things.

-- The president naturally gravitates toward being his own spokesman because he believes he can talk his way out of any pickle. That’s why he’s been more willing to sit down for an interview with Bob Mueller’s team than his lawyers, who openly fret that he’ll walk into what they call a “perjury trap.”

“My primary consultant is myself,” Trump said in March 2016.

“Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it,” he declared at the Republican National Convention in July 2016.

Last November, Fox News host Laura Ingraham asked the president about all the vacancies in high-level jobs at the State Department. “I'm the only one that matters,” Trump replied. “Let me tell you, the one that matters is me … because when it comes to it, that's what the policy is going to be. You've seen that. You've seen it strongly.”

-- But Trump also seeks out others to speak for him, a task typically performed by apparatchiks in the press shop. He’s known to call and thank people who say positive things about him on television. He’s put Fox Business host Lou Dobbs on speakerphone during meetings in the Oval Office to seek his perspective. A CBS reporter tweeted last week:

Trump spent last Monday glued to cable news coverage of the FBI raid of his attorney Michael Cohen’s home, office and hotel room. This made him agitated and led him to vent to reporters that evening. He also worked the phones. One person he is in touch with is Joseph diGenova, even though the firebrand lawyer did not formally join his legal team. Last Wednesday, the president tweeted: “Big show tonight on @seanhannity! 9:00 P.M. on @FoxNews.” Hannity is close with Trump, and it turns out they share Cohen as a lawyer. (More on that below.) But the president appears to have been promoting that night’s show because Hannity’s guest was diGenova. He declared that Attorney General Jeff Sessions “has a duty to fire Rod Rosenstein,” called Comey a “dirty cop” and described Mueller's team as “legal terrorists.”

-- To be sure, every president has an outsized view of his own abilities. You don’t seek the job unless you have excessive self-regard and think you’re more qualified to lead the country than 300-plus million other people. “I’m LeBron, baby,” Barack Obama said on the day he gave the keynote at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. “I can play on this level. I got some game.”

When he was interviewing Patrick Gaspard to be his first political director, Obama told him: “I think that I’m a better speechwriter than my speechwriters. I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors. And I’ll tell you right now that I’m gonna think I’m a better political director than my political director.”

To succeed in office, though, the commander in chief must learn to delegate. One reason Jimmy Carter struggled as president was that he micromanaged. Even 40 years later, he’s still mocked for controlling the White House tennis court schedule.

-- Trump trying to be his own flack has already created myriad problems. The president made his own legal headaches worse last summer when he personally dictated the misleading statement claiming that his son Don Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in June 2016 was primarily about adoption. Three days later, Trump Jr. was forced to acknowledge that he accepted the meeting only after receiving an email promising dirt about Clinton as part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign.

-- It’s also especially easy to get under his skin. The rollout of Comey’s book was designed to get Trump’s goat and force an over-the-top response that would boost sales. The president has walked right into the trap.

“It’s just like everybody wakes up every morning and does whatever is right in front of them,” a West Wing aide told The Post last week for a story on the president’s impulsiveness. “Oh, my God, Trump Tower is on fire. Oh, my God, they raided Michael Cohen’s office. Oh, my God, we’re going to bomb Syria. Whatever is there is what people respond to, and there is no proactive strategic thinking.”

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GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. The Pulitzer board awarded The Washington Post two prizes: for investigative reporting on Roy Moore's accusers and for national reporting on Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, which was shared with the New York Times. (Read The Post’s Pulitzer-winning articles here. A complete list of winners is here.)
  2. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) had surgery after contracting an intestinal infection. Aides for the 81-year-old lawmaker, who is currently battling brain cancer, confirmed he is in “stable” condition. (Paul Kane)
  3. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) underwent a follow-up medical procedure as part of his recovery from the Alexandria shooting. The procedure will keep Scalise away from Capitol Hill for a few days, but he told colleagues, “Rest assured that I plan to be fully engaged in my work as I recover from this surgery.” (Paul Kane)
  4. HHS Secretary Alex Azar was discharged from an Indianapolis hospital after an overnight stay to treat an “unspecified minor infection.” His staff refused to disclose the nature of his infection, but insisted the secretary is “fully functional” and plans to return to work today. (Amy Goldstein)
  5. Starbucks said the Philadelphia store manager who called the police on two black men waiting in the coffee shop “is no longer at that store.” Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson also called for store managers to receive “unconscious bias” training in the wake of the incident. (Rachel Siegel and Alex Horton)
  6. Police in Cambridge, Mass., are being criticized for the arrest of a black Harvard student after a video showed him being pinned down and struck repeatedly in the stomach by an officer. The university's president said the student — who was found naked in the street — was “in obvious distress.” (Eli Rosenberg)
  7. Lung-cancer patients can greatly improve their chances of survival if they receive immunotherapy alongside chemotherapy. The findings of a new study prompted some experts to suggest that chemotherapy alone is “no longer a standard of care” for those suffering the deadliest type of cancer. (New York Times)
  8. Chinese social media giant Sina Weibo reversed its decision to ban gay-themed content. The move, which the company argued would create a more “harmonious” environment, sparked intense public backlash and protests. (Allyson Chiu)
  9. Long Island police seized an “arsenal” of weapons and high-capacity magazines from a pizza delivery man after he threatened the employee of a school he formerly attended. Officers found 19 long guns — including one equipped with a bump stock — as well as bulletproof vests, gas masks and night vision goggles. (Fred Barbash)
  10. Desiree Linden became the first American woman to win the Boston Marathon in 33 years. Linden finished the race in 2:39.54, while Japan’s Yuki Kawauchi won the men’s race in 2:15:58. (Rick Maese)

*CORRECTION: The win time for Yuki Kawauchi in the Boston Marathon has been updated to reflect a change in the original article, which incorrectly said his time was 2:10:46.    

 

 

THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- Trump halted a plan to impose new sanctions on Russia, reversing an announcement made by U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley the day before. Philip Rucker, Carol D. Leonnig, Anton Troianovski and Greg Jaffe report: “Trump was upset the sanctions were being officially rolled out because he was not yet comfortable executing them ... Administration officials said the economic sanctions were under serious consideration, along with other [measures], but said Trump had not given final authorization to implement them. Administration officials said Monday it was unlikely Trump would approve any additional sanctions without another triggering event by Russia, describing the strategy as being in a holding pattern. Sometime after Haley’s [comments], the Trump administration notified the Russian Embassy in Washington that the sanctions were not in fact coming ... The Trump team decided to publicly characterize Haley’s announcement as a misstatement. But other administration officials expressed skepticism.”

-- A Post poll shows nearly 70 percent of Americans support tougher U.S. sanctions on Russia. Scott Clement reports: “The Post-ABC poll finds uncommonly broad support for tougher sanctions on Russia, with 74 percent of Democrats along with 68 percent of Republicans and independents favoring tougher penalties. A 66 percent majority of those who strongly approve of Trump back such measures, as do 73 percent of those who strongly disapprove of him. … The Post-ABC poll finds 49 percent saying Trump has done ‘too little’ to criticize Russia for allegedly violating international law, 38 percent saying he’s handled the issue ‘about right’ and 4 percent thinking that Trump has criticized Russia ‘too much.’”

-- Meanwhile, the United States and Britain issued a public statement accusing Russia of conducting a massive campaign targeting millions of computer routers and firewalls across the globe for espionage purposes. Ellen Nakashima reports: “[Officials say the targets] include ‘primarily government and private-sector organizations, critical infrastructure providers, and the Internet service providers (ISPs) supporting these sectors.’ ‘We have high confidence that Russia has carried out a coordinated campaign to compromise … routers, residential and business — the things you and I have in our home,’ said Rob Joyce, the White House cybersecurity coordinator. The warning … is part of a broader ongoing effort by the U.S. government to call out bad behavior in cyberspace and impose costs as a deterrent.”

-- A Russian journalist who has been reporting recently on secretive Russian paramilitary groups in Syria died suspiciously on Sunday after falling from his fifth-floor apartment balcony in Yekaterinburg. The New York Times’s Matthew Luxmoore reports that local investigators said they are not treating his death as suspicious: “[That] assertion was met with derision in some quarters. The doubters pointed to a telephone call [Maxim] Borodin made the day before he fell. In the call … he told a friend, Vyacheslav Bashkov, that there was a man with a gun on his balcony, and that several others in masks and camouflage clothing were lurking in the stairwell leading to his apartment. … Around the same time, Mr. Borodin reached out to another friend, Yulia Fedotova, about the armed men surrounding his apartment.”

-- A group of international chemical weapons experts who traveled to Syria on Saturday was blocked from accessing the site where the alleged chemical attack took place. CNN’s Jamie Tarabay, Angela Dewan and Holly Yan report: “The [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] is tasked with determining whether banned substances were used in the attack ... But the US expressed concerns that Russia may have tampered with evidence at the site. And the UK accused Syria and Russia of preventing [the experts] from entering Douma.”

-- A bipartisan pair of senators proposed replacing the current authorizations for use of military force (AUMF) in the wake of the U.S. strikes on Syria. Karoun Demirjian reports: “Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) joined with Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), one of Congress’s most vocal advocates for a new AUMF, to draft the proposal authorizing operations against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Islamic State and affiliated groups. Their legislation would replace the 2001 and 2002 authorizations Congress approved to greenlight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — legislation many lawmakers argue has been inappropriately stretched and strained in the years since to cover military engagements that were never envisioned under the original authorizations.”

-- Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will visit Capitol Hill today to brief lawmakers on Syria. (Politico)

-- The Trump administration wants Arab troops to replace U.S. forces in Syria. The Wall Street Journal’s Michael R. Gordon reports: “John Bolton, President Donald Trump’s new national security adviser, recently called Abbas Kamel, Egypt’s acting intelligence chief, to see if Cairo would contribute to the effort, officials said. The initiative comes as the administration has asked Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to contribute billions of dollars to help restore northern Syria. It wants Arab nations to send troops as well, officials said.”

-- A new poll shows that approval for special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe is dropping, largely driven by Republicans. NPR’s Jessica Taylor reports: “There's been a net-negative swing of 11 points over the past month, with 32 percent of all Americans holding a favorable view toward Mueller, 30 percent viewing him unfavorably, and a 38 percent plurality still not knowing enough to have an opinion. Among Democrats, though, Mueller's favorability is at 56 percent, with just 19 percent viewing him unfavorably and a quarter unsure. But nearly half of all Republicans hold an unfavorable view of the Justice Department special counsel — up from 30 percent last month — with only 16 percent viewing him favorably and another 35 percent undecided.”

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN:

-- A federal judge in Manhattan denied Trump’s request to unilaterally review materials seized from the office of his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, before prosecutors could review them. But the judge indicated she may appoint an outside attorney to assess claims of attorney-client privilege. Philip Bump and Devlin Barrett report: “[U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood] said she was considering appointing a special master — not because of legal precedent but in the interest of avoiding the appearance of bias in the politically charged case. Wood said she wanted more information before ruling. ‘I have faith in the Southern District U.S. Attorney’s Office that their integrity is unimpeachable,’ she said. But she added that to address concerns about ‘fairness’ raised by Trump and Cohen’s attorneys, ‘a special master might have a role here. Maybe not the complete role, but some role.’”

-- The hearing took another unexpected turn when Fox News host Sean Hannity was named as one of Cohen’s three clients — a revelation that prompted audible gasps inside the courtroom. Hannity sought to downplay the relationship. “[Cohen] has never represented me in any matter,” he wrote on Twitter. “I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees. I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions … I assumed those conversations were confidential, but to be absolutely clear they never involved any matter between me and a third-party.”

-- Hannity had previously condemned the raid on Cohen’s office without disclosing their business relationship. From Politico’s Michael Calderone: “The omission raised questions about whether Hannity had violated journalistic ethics — or whether he was a journalist at all. Hannity has shifted in recent years on that point. ‘I never claimed to be a journalist,’ Hannity told The New York Times in 2016 when asked about his informal advising of then-candidate Trump. The next year, Hannity referred to himself in a Times magazine profile as an ‘opinion journalist’ or ‘advocacy journalist.’ … Kathleen Bartzen Culver, director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin, said … commentators should still be expected to maintain independence from subjects they are covering and disclose relevant ties.”

-- Frequent Fox News guest and Trump defender Alan Dershowitz called out Hannity on the omission during his show. “I really think you should have disclosed your relationship with Cohen,” Dershowitz said. “It was minimal,” Hannity responded. “I understand that, and you should’ve said that,” Dershowitz replied. (The Hill)

-- White House cybersecurity coordinator Rob Joyce said he will return to the NSA — becoming the latest senior national security adviser to depart Trump’s team since John Bolton took over as national security administrator. Ellen Nakashima reports: “Joyce, who was detailed to the White House from the NSA at the start of the Trump administration, has served more than 25 years at the spy agency, [where he] headed the elite hacking or ‘offensive’ division … which penetrated networks overseas to gather foreign intelligence.”

-- The government’s chief ethics watchdog said the EPA broke the law by installing a $43,000 secure phone booth inside the office of Administrator Scott Pruitt without notifying lawmakers. Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin report: “In an eight-page letter to lawmakers, [Government Accountability Office] general counsel Thomas H. Armstrong said the agency failed to notify lawmakers that it was exceeding the $5,000 limit for agency heads to furnish, redecorate or otherwise make improvements to their offices. In addition, Armstrong wrote, the agency also violated the federal Antideficiency Act, ‘because EPA obligated appropriated funds in a manner specifically prohibited by law.’”

-- Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke formerly hosted a radio show where he invited on a birther as a guest, questioned Obama’s college record and engaged with other fringe, conspiratorial viewpoints. CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski reports: “[Zinke] interviewed fellow former Navy SEAL and political activist Larry Bailey … [a] co-founder of the anti-Obama group Special Operations Speaks, [who said] falsely that Obama wasn't born in the United States. … Bailey then claimed without evidence that a black Muslim man arranged for Obama to get admitted to Harvard Law School and that he paid for schooling with a grant from the Saudis. ‘I'd like to see his transcripts. I'd like it definitive,’ Zinke responded. In another radio interview in April 2013, Zinke discussed a conspiracy theory about the Boston bombing terrorist attacks that alleged a third person, a Saudi national, was involved in the attack. [His guest] also linked Michelle Obama to the Saudi national — a conspiracy floated on fringe websites following the attack.”

-- The Interior Department’s inspector general ruled that Zinke’s chartered travel “generally followed relevant law, policy, rules, and regulations” — with one exception. From Darryl Fears: “[The investigation] showed that an exorbitantly priced charter flight from Las Vegas to Montana last year ‘could have been avoided’ had the department’s ethics officials known [Zinke’s] true reason for speaking in Vegas. In a report released Monday, the [IG] determined that ethics officials who reviewed the trip before the secretary’s departure ‘likely would not have approved’ it as an official event since it ‘did not mention Zinke’s position as Interior secretary or the activities of the DOI.’ Had the speech in Las Vegas … been rejected as an agency-sanctioned event, that would have eliminated the need for the $12,357 chartered flight from Las Vegas to Kalispell, Mont.”

-- Senate Republicans plan to advance Mike Pompeo’s nomination as secretary of state even if he receives an unfavorable recommendation in committee. From Politico’s Elana Schor and Burgess Everett: “After a confirmation hearing marked by contentious exchanges with Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) — one of 15 members of the minority who backed Pompeo to lead the CIA — became the fifth Democrat on the panel to announce he would vote no. Coupled with opposition from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), unified resistance to Pompeo from the committee’s 10 Democrats would deal him an unfavorable recommendation, but top Republicans are still vowing to ensure his confirmation. ‘He’s got the votes once he gets to the floor,’ Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, the No. 3 GOP leader, told reporters.”

-- Filling the swamp: Former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Rick Dearborn has been named a partner at a D.C. “consulting” firm. The Cypress Group specializes in laws and regulations affecting businesses. (Wall Street Journal)

-- Ex-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus was named a visiting fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics. (Harvard Crimson)

TRUMP’S AGENDA:

-- The president hosted a roundtable in Florida to sell his tax overhaul to Hispanic voters in the crucial swing state. David Nakamura reports from Hialeah, Fla.: “‘Are there any Hispanics in the room?’ President Trump grinned. ‘No, I doubt it,’ he said with a chuckle, but he knew there were. His was a rhetorical question. On stage with him here at Bucky Dent Park were Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, the only Latino member of the Cabinet, and several local Hispanic business leaders. The crowd, filled with dozens of the Americans of Cuban and Venezuelan descent who populate South Florida, cheered. … The people onstage with Trump told of their personal journeys as immigrants who arrived in the United States seeking opportunity. … The scene might have come as a surprise given Trump’s strong ­anti-immigration rhetoric … Yet in this part of South Florida, many voters are supportive of Trump because of his tough rhetoric on Cuba and the regime of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.”

-- Meanwhile, the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census has sparked palpable fear across immigrant communities. Maria Sacchetti reports: “When the 2020 Census lands in Langley Park and asks residents whether they are U.S. citizens, the response is likely to be no — if residents respond at all. ‘I wouldn’t answer it,’ said a 42-year-old undocumented construction worker from Guatemala. ‘Nobody is going to do this. Nobody,’ said a jewelry saleswoman from El Salvador. In this Maryland enclave less than 10 miles from the White House, 58 percent of residents are not U.S. citizens, the highest percentage of any city, town or unincorporated community in the United States. … Many are undocumented and afraid of federal immigration agents, community leaders say. Now, they are also afraid of the census.”

-- California rejected the initial terms of the Trump administration’s request to deploy National Guard troops to the southern border. Nick Miroff reports: “The troops in California are under the command of Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who last week said he would send up to 400 personnel in a limited role. Just how limited became clearer Monday after California’s National Guard told Homeland Security officials the state will not allow soldiers to do the types of things they’re doing elsewhere on the border: monitoring surveillance cameras, performing maintenance and transporting U.S. border agents.”

-- Trump contradicted his own Treasury Department on currency manipulation. From Damian Paletta: “‘Russia and China are playing the Currency Devaluation game as the U.S. keeps raising interest rates. Not acceptable!’ the president wrote on Twitter. The accusation, delivered without any evidence or corroboration, directly contradicts a report issued Friday by Trump’s Treasury Department, which did not accuse either country of artificially lowering the value of its currency. Instead, the report found that China’s currency had recently moved in a direction that should benefit U.S. exporters.”

THE MIDTERMS:

-- House Democrats have backed away from replacing Nancy Pelosi as their leader — for now. From Dave Weigel: “[Paul Ryan’s] surprise announcement last week that he would retire at the end of his term boosted Democrats’ hopes that they could wrest back control of the House this fall. The possibility of majority control also gave new life to a looming question: Will Pelosi, or someone else, lead the party? Democrats say they are focused on one task — winning — and have clamped down on talk of replacing Pelosi … Even Pelosi’s fiercest critics in the Democratic ranks grudgingly say she will be the presumptive candidate for speaker for the next seven months.”

-- Trump’s presidency has sparked a “blue Muslim wave” of midterm candidates. From Abigail Hauslohner: “More than 90 American Muslims, nearly all of them Democrats, are running for public office across the country this year. Many are young and politically inexperienced, and most are long shots. But they represent a collective gamble: that voters are so disgusted by America’s least popular president on record that they’re willing to elect members of America’s least popular religious minority group. Although their number seems small, the candidacies mark an unprecedented rise for the nation’s diverse Muslim community that typically has been underrepresented in American politics.”

-- Since 2015, Trump-owned businesses in the United States have pulled in more than $15 million from Republican groups and federal agencies. McClatchyDC’s Anita Kumar reports: “The money went to Trump’s airplanes, hotels, golf courses, even a bottled water company during the presidential campaign and the first 15 months of his presidency, according to a compilation of known records of the spending by Public Citizen … It also includes more than $717,000 from the [RNC]; nearly $595,000 from Trump Victory, the joint fundraising committee set up by the RNC and Trump’s campaign; and $9,000 from the [NRSC]. By comparison, in 2013 and 2014, political spending at his properties was less than $20,000. … Federal agencies that spent money include the National Security Council, Secret Service, Defense Department, General Services Administration and U.S. embassies.”

-- The leading Republican super PAC focused on House races has booked $48 million in airtime ahead of the midterms. Mike DeBonis reports: “Most of that — $38 million — is reserved for television airtime in 20 battleground House districts. In five of them … the reservations are extensive enough to keep [the Congressional Leadership Fund] on air from Labor Day, the unofficial start of campaign season, all the way through Election Day on Nov. 6. The remaining $10 million will be spent on digital advertising in 30 districts.”

-- “Power to the party: Why political reforms can be bad for democracy,” by Yahoo News’s Jon Ward: “Most people think of political parties as powerful, when in fact they have been losing power for 50 years. Populism is popular these days, and many Americans … want to make the political system more fair. They want to empower the average voter and reduce the influence of the wealthiest. But it’s become increasingly clear to many that anti-party reforms have gone too far and are now having a multitude of negative impacts on our politics, even as idealists push for still more reductions of party power.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Kellyanne Conway was the one whose old tweet resurfaced yesterday in the wake of GOP attacks on James Comey:

After denying paying Michael Cohen anything, Sean Hannity suggested that perhaps he did, per the Washington correspondent for the Toronto Star:

From a Post columnist:

From an MSNBC anchor:

Fox News sidestepped the connection between Cohen and Hannity:

From a former House Democrat:

The judge overseeing Cohen's hearing has an odd connection to the case, per a Wall Street Journal reporter:

From a former spokesman for Hillary Clinton:

A Politico reporter clarified his own history with Cohen:

Set your televisions this morning:

Passengers on Air Force One were treated to views of Trump properties:

John McCain's wife provided an update on his status:

One former first lady sent her thoughts to another:

The Post's owner, Jeff Bezos, offered his congratulations to The Post's Pulitzer winners:

And it was another standout year for California journalists:

GOOD READS:

-- “Bob Corker is free to speak his mind about Donald Trump, if he could only make it up,” by Ben Terris: “[A]s Corker heads to retirement at the end of this year, he’s beginning to realize his legacy may be inextricably linked to Donald Trump. Would the senator have voted for Trump, knowing that it would turn out like this? That his fate — his party’s, his country’s — would be bound up in the balled fists of a 71-year-old chaos agent? Corker excused himself to the restroom. He returned a few minutes later in doubt. ‘I want to think about that answer,’ he said. ‘It’s a pretty defining thing.’”

-- New York Times Magazine, “Dan Scavino, the Secretary of Offense,” by Robert Draper: “Scavino was [one] of the ‘originals’ on Trump’s 2016 campaign, and I saw him numerous times on the trail, but I could never quite ascertain what he was doing to further his boss’s presidential ambitions. … Scavino’s sole task, from what I could tell, was to document Trump’s popularity. … [In the White House], he has learned how to fend off any negativity with a ready supply of superlatives. Scavino’s old friend offered an example: ‘Dan would scroll through his Twitter feed and if Franklin Graham says something particularly complimentary, he’ll say, ‘Look what Franklin Graham just wrote.’ Or if [CNN show host] Brian Stelter says something particularly stupid, he’ll run over and say, ‘Look what Fake News is doing.’ … No one else, besides Trump himself, had access to the most consequential and controversial social media account in the world.”

-- Wired, “How Russian Facebook ads divided and targeted U.S. voters before the 2016 election,” by Issie Lapowsky: “When Young Mie Kim began studying political ads on Facebook in August of 2016 — while Hillary Clinton was still leading the polls — few people had ever heard of the Russian propaganda group, Internet Research Agency. Not even Facebook itself understood how the group was manipulating the platform's users to influence the election. For Kim … the goal was to document the way the usual dark money groups target divisive election ads online ... She never knew then she was walking into a crime scene.”

-- Poynter, “This photojournalist won a Pulitzer for an image he made on his last day in the newsroom,” by Kristen Hare: “Photojournalist Ryan Kelly won a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography for an image he made at The (Charlottesville, Virginia) Daily Progress on Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. It was the day of a white supremacist rally. It was the day a man plowed his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer. And it was Kelly’s last day in the newsroom. Kelly left to run social media for a Richmond brewery and still works as a freelancer.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Fake news inquiry raises concerns over targeting of voters in Brexit referendum,” from The Guardian: “The parliamentary committee investigating fake news has published excerpts of interviews with individuals connected to Leave. EU and SCL that it says raise concerns about how voters were targeted in the Brexit referendum. In one clip, the founder of SCL, Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, can be heard comparing Donald Trump’s political campaigning strategy to that of Adolf Hitler. The committee chair, Damian Collins, said the interviews provided ‘a unique insight into the private thoughts of key people at Leave. EU and SCL’ and that some of the statements would ‘raise concerns that data analytics was used to target voters’ concerned about immigration.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Lieu Apologizes For Inviting Parkland Student to Try California Pot,” from Roll Call: “Rep. Ted Lieu issued a quick apology on Twitter Sunday after inviting a Parkland, Florida, school shooting survivor, Kyle Kashuv, to California to experience the state’s ‘awesome cannabis’ when he turns 21. In a previous tweet … Lieu touted California’s economic achievements before telling Kashuv, ‘When you get to 21, come here and experience our awesome #cannabis,’ adding that, in the meantime, he can drink ‘butterbeer’ in Harry Potter World … ‘While I am proud of California’s legal cannabis law, I can see why saying this to you can be misinterpreted because you are not 21,’ Lieu wrote in reply to Kashuv about the post. ‘I hereby apologize. You should listen to your parents.’”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will greet and meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Mar-a-Lago. The president and first lady will later have dinner with Abe and his wife.

Mitch McConnell has an interview today at 4 p.m. E.T. with Fox News’s Neil Cavuto.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

After the crowd in Florida applauded Trump’s new national security adviser John Bolton for his role in the Syria strikes, Trump said: “John, that’s pretty good. I didn’t expect that. I’m a little jealous. Are you giving him all the credit? You know that means the end of his job, you know.” (John Wagner)

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

-- The District will see more unseasonably low temperatures today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Early morning starts off brisk. Mainly sunny skies quickly give way to numerous clouds as soon as temps start to climb. Gusty winds out of the west are strong enough to make highs in the low-to-mid 50s feel uncomfortable.”

-- The Nationals beat the Mets 8-6, in their biggest comeback to win since 2016. (Chelsea Janes)

-- A Post examination found enrollment fraud in D.C. has repeatedly been committed by school officials entrusted to prevent it. From Peter Jamison and Emma Brown: “[R]ecords dating back five years, as well as interviews with current and former school officials, indicate that residency fraud in the public schools is widespread and enforcement is spotty. The system has been abused even by public officials well versed in the rules. Among those alleged to have improperly enrolled their children are a celebrated principal and a teacher of the year. Even when fraud has been confirmed, it can take years for the city to recover its money.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Late-night hosts reveled in Sean Hannity's connection to Michael Cohen:

Stormy Daniels's attorney pledged to keep up their legal fight:

The DCCC released a new ad making fun of the GOP tax bill:

D.C. police released footage related to the possible anti-gay hate crime committed this weekend near the U Street Metro station:

The National Zoo welcomed a new baby gorilla, a male named Moke:

And a young Capitals fan finally received her hockey puck: