With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA:

COLORADO SPRINGS — A Republican senator’s private comments during a lunch with his colleagues helped spur a significant shift in the Koch network’s strategy that now threatens to deprive several GOP candidates of significant outside support they’ve been counting on for the fall.

Word got back to billionaire industrialist Charles Koch that the lawmaker, who had received support from the groups he funds, told a meeting of the Republican conference that they could disregard the opposition of the Koch network to a piece of legislation that was coming up for a vote. “Don’t worry about the Kochs,” this senator purportedly said. “They’re going to support Republicans regardless.”

Emily Seidel, the chief executive of Americans for Prosperity, recounted that story as she explained to donors on Monday afternoon why the Koch network does not plan to spend any money helping Kevin Cramer, the Republican candidate in the North Dakota Senate race, even though that contest could determine which party controls the chamber.

For the past decade, the top priority was ensuring Republican majorities in Congress. They believed this was the only to advance the network’s agenda. That meant a lot of candidates who didn’t embrace their specific policy proposals nonetheless received a lot of help. But the leaders of the network now feel taken for granted and frustrated about the direction of the Republican Party under President Trump, especially on trade, immigration and spending.

Cramer, a three-term congressman who is challenging Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, co-sponsored legislation to renew the Export-Import Bank, voted for the farm bill and supported this year’s $1.3 trillion omnibus. He’s also declined to speak out against the Trump tariffs.

“Look, if this were 2016 or 2014, we would likely just have gone ahead and endorsed him, but we’re raising the bar,” said Tim Phillips, the president of AFP, a political arm of the network. “We established that he’s an adversary on corporate welfare, actively leading in the wrong direction. … He’s inconsistent across the board on these issues … And he’s not leading on issues where this country needs leadership the most right now.”

Speaking to more than 500 donors who have each agreed to contribute at least $100,000 annually to Koch-linked groups at the Broadmoor Hotel, Phillips suggested that they’ve offered to open the spigots if Cramer changes his position on these issues. “To be clear, we’ve met with his team, explained this and lobbied them to change their ways,” he said.

The network later announced a surprisingly small list of targeted races it is currently engaged in. There are four Senate races: Wisconsin, Missouri, Tennessee and Florida. And three governor’s races: Michigan, Nevada and Florida.

Notably absent are the Senate contests in Indiana, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Koch leaders have expressed concerns about the GOP nominees in those three states.

Officials say the network still plans to spend between $300 million to $400 million on politics and policy during the 2018 cycle, though it’s unclear how much of that may go toward electioneering versus issue-specific initiatives.

-- It was a shot across the bow for GOP congressional leaders. The goal is to put every lawmaker on notice that they cannot count on Koch largesse if they don’t cast politically difficult votes to advance the priorities of the donors who bankroll the outside groups that do so much to elect them. The show of independence adds another headache for party strategists, who are already struggling to preserve their majorities and have been banking on Koch cash.

-- If the goal was to draw Trump’s attention, it worked. The president lashed out at the “Koch brothers” on Twitter this morning:

-- Indeed, the Cramer rebuke can be interpreted as a protest against Trump’s makeover of the GOP, at least in part. When the president flew to Fargo last month for a rally, the congressman effusively thanked Trump and said he’ll stand with him “100 percent of the time” to advance North Dakota values. He won’t suffer for saying that in a state Trump carried by 36 points, but it’s another proof point for the Koch strategists that Cramer will not be an independent voice for conservatism. (To be sure, there’s also been some tension between Cramer and Trump. The congressman has complained that the president has been too kind toward his Democratic opponent, believing Heitkamp gets preferential treatment because she’s a woman.) 

The benefactors of the Koch network gather twice a year. At their January seminar outside Palm Springs, Calif., leaders treaded very carefully to avoid antagonizing Trump. The network did not support him in 2016 and wanted to preserve good relationships. But a series of moves since then have prodded them to put their frustrations on the record, including the family separation policy at the southern border, the failure to protect the “dreamers” and the trade war.

Koch told reporters on Sunday that he “regrets” supporting some members of Congress, though he declined to name any, and said the network will become much “stricter” about holding people accountable for their promises.

-- Part of the calculus behind being more selective is that the network can now invest even more in politicians who have proven records of championing their issues. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican candidate for Senate in Tennessee, was in the room as Phillips and Seidel briefed donors about cutting off Cramer. Phillips noted that Blackburn voted no on the farm bill, the Export-Import Bank and the omnibus. This garnered applause.

-- The donors at the Koch network are also coming to terms with the likelihood of divided government. The conventional wisdom at this seminar has been that Republicans are probably going to lose the House. Some donors said privately that a Democratic House might not be so terrible because a divided government could check Trump’s protectionist, nativist and isolationist impulses in ways that the current House GOP leadership does not.

-- Strategists with the network also believe that they might be able to optimize their leverage during an election year when politicians need Koch money and the grass-roots infrastructure that they’ve built across 36 states. Seidel told donors that “lawmakers are frequently given a pass” when they vote for something like the farm bill during an election year because it’s hard in a rural state like North Dakota to justify voting against it. But she argued that, “It’s especially important we do this during election years.”

“We can't keep falling into the trap of just doing what we need to do to get through November. That’s short-term thinking. It’s expediency,” Seidel said. “Why would Cramer or any other Republican feel like they need to listen to this network if they knew we’d just support them anyway?”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- The Trump administration is considering another massive tax cut for the wealthiest Americans through a change that would not need congressional approval. Damian Paletta reports: “[The Treasury Department] is studying whether to allow investment income, known as capital gains, to be adjusted for inflation in a way that shields more of it from taxation. Most capital gains are paid by wealthier Americans, who disproportionately hold large portfolios of investments. But the use of executive power on such a significant change to the tax law would be highly unusual and could be vulnerable to a legal challenge. Senior administration officials have discussed whether to proceed but have not concluded they have legal authority to do so. The move was rejected during the George H.W. Bush administration because it was seen as outside the scope of Treasury’s authority and only attainable via an act of Congress . . . Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told the New York Times in an interview that he was reviewing whether to move ahead if Congress doesn’t act on its own."

-- Bob Woodward has been quietly working on a book about Trump, entitled “Fear: Trump in the White House” that will come out Sept. 11. Manuel Roig-Franzia reports: “The hush-hush project derives its title from an offhand remark that then-candidate Trump made in an interview with Woodward and Post political reporter Robert Costa in April 2016. Costa asked Trump whether he agreed with a statement by then-President Barack Obama, who had said in an Atlantic magazine interview that ‘real power means you can get what you want without having to exert violence.’ At first Trump seemed to agree, saying: ‘Well, I think there’s a certain truth to that . . . Real power is through respect.’ But then he added a personal twist: ‘Real power is, I don’t even want to use the word: ‘Fear.' Woodward, who declined to be quoted for this article, has privately described the remark as ‘an almost Shakespearean aside.’

“While working on the book, Woodward has kept a lower profile than usual, limiting cable news appearances and attempting to stay out of the public eye. Instead, the author has told friends, he’s gone back to some of the signature moves of his youthful reporting days. Late at night, he’s been prone to show up at important people’s houses unannounced to ask for interviews. He’s told friends that it feels like a ‘rebirth.’”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Two leading scholars resigned from the University of Virginia’s Miller Center to protest the appointment of former White House legislative director Marc Short, who was selected as a senior fellow earlier this month. (Short previously oversaw political activities for the Koch network.) More than 2,000 people on campus signed a petition to demand his removal. (Susan Svrluga)
  2. Four years after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished while en route to Beijing, a new report from Malaysian authorities says that “someone” was responsible for veering the plane off course. The disappearance of the plane, with more than 230 passengers onboard, touched off one of the biggest aviation mysteries in history. While the report provides little in the way of concrete answers, it does confirm that a mechanical or computer malfunction did not cause the flight's doom. The “possibility of intervention by a third party cannot be excluded,” investigators said. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
  3. Prosecutors declined to file charges against the Minneapolis police officers who fatally shot Thurman Blevins. In body-camera footage of the incident, Blevins, who was black, can be heard pleading, “Please don’t shoot me.” (Antonia Farzan and Mark Berman)

  4. Former congressman and Oakland mayor Ron Dellums died at 82. Over Dellums’s 14 terms in Congress, he became the first African American to chair the Armed Services Committee and helped secure sanctions on apartheid South Africa. (T.R. Goldman)
  5. Zimbabwe held its first presidential election since the 37-year rule of Robert Mugabe ended last year. Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took over after Mugabe’s fall, and activist-turned-politician Nelson Chamisa are considered the front-runners. But if none of the 23 candidates on the ballot receive 50 percent of the vote when results are announced later this week, there will be a two-man runoff. (Max Bearak)
  6. NASA scientist Serkan Golge is detained in Turkey, and his wife is angry that Trump has been more focused on the case of American pastor Andrew Brunson. “When I read the newspapers, I feel frustrated sometimes like they’re only trying to save Brunson but not us,” said Kubra Golge, who like her husband is a dual U.S.-Turkish citizen. In February, Serkan Golge was convicted of terrorism charges that the U.S. says are “without credible evidence” and sentenced to 7½ years in prison. (NBC News)
  7. The e-cigarette producer Juul Labs is facing multiple lawsuits over allegations it marketed its product to teenagers and falsely advertised it as safe. Court documents claim the Juul device got young customers below the legal smoking age addicted to nicotine. (Deanna Paul)
  8. LeBron James celebrated the opening of the I Promise School, a collaboration between his foundation and Akron Public Schools. The school will focus on educating the Ohio city’s most underprivileged children. (Jerry Brewer)

  9. A South Carolina school district has permanently done away with snow days. In the event of inclement weather, students in every grade will now be expected to complete their assignments online. Some parents complained that they lack Internet access at home. (Lindsey Bever)

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- Six weeks after Trump declared that North Korea is “no longer a nuclear threat,” U.S. intelligence agencies are watching as the regime proceeds with new missile development at the Sanumdong research facility outside Pyongyang. That's where they also produced the first high-powered ICBM capable of reaching the mainland United States. “Newly obtained evidence, including satellite photos taken in recent weeks, indicates that work is underway on at least one and possibly two liquid-fueled [ICBMs],” Ellen Nakashima and Joby Warrick scoop. “The new intelligence does not suggest an expansion of North Korea’s capabilities but shows that work on advanced weapons is continuing … The reports about new missile construction come after recent revelations about a suspected uranium-enrichment facility, called Kangson, that North Korea is operating in secret. ...

Senior North Korean officials have discussed their intention to deceive Washington about the number of nuclear warheads and missiles they have, as well as the types and numbers of facilities, and to rebuff international inspectors, according to intelligence gathered by U.S. agencies. Their strategy includes potentially asserting that they have fully denuclearized by declaring and disposing of 20 warheads while retaining dozens more.

Buttressing the intelligence findings, independent missile experts this week also reported observing activity consistent with missile construction at the Sanumdong plant. The daily movement of supply trucks and other vehicles, as captured by commercial satellite photos, shows that the missile facility ‘is not dead, by any stretch of the imagination,’ said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. ‘It’s active. We see shipping containers and vehicles coming and going. This is a facility where they build ICBMs and space-launch vehicles.’”

-- Trump said he is willing to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani “any time” he wants and “without preconditions” — a striking shift in tone that comes just one week after Trump appeared to threaten military action against Tehran in an all-caps tweet. Anne Gearan, William Branigin and Felicia Sonmez report: “[Trump] added that he thinks Iran will want to negotiate with him eventually, opening the door to new talks about its nuclear program. ‘I believe in meeting. I would certainly meet with Iran if they wanted to meet. I don’t know that they’re ready yet,’ Trump said. ‘They’re having a hard time right now.’ That was an apparent reference to economic constraints and the loss of potential markets as a result of [U.S. sanctions]. … Direct presidential negotiations with Iranian leaders would be another break with Republican orthodoxy and a potential point of friction with Israel and the Persian Gulf allies … For months, Trump has told confidantes that he’s interested in opening up dialogue with Iran even as his administration has tried to isolate Tehran financially and politically.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi has said negotiations were “practically impossible” due to what he described as the Trump administration’s “fierce hostility” toward Iran. “With current America and these policies, there will definitely not be the possibility of dialogue and engagement, and the [U.S.] has shown that it is totally unreliable,” he said.

Talks with Rouhani could also produce little in the way of tangible benefits, since Iran’s staunchly anti-American supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei controls nearly every aspect of political and religious life.

-- Trump praised Giuseppe Conte’s hard-line immigration views during the Italian prime minister’s White House visit. David Nakamura and Anne Gearan report: “During a joint news conference, Trump said he is the ‘most closely aligned’ with Conte over any of the other five leaders in the Group of Seven nations, which include U.S. allies France, Germany and Britain. … Trump said his counterpart was doing a ‘fantastic job’ in his efforts to curb immigration levels, as Italy and other European nations have struggled to deal with a spike of migrants from northern Africa and the Middle East in recent years.”

THE #METOO MOMENT:

-- FEMA's former personnel chief Corey Coleman is under investigation after accusations he sexually harassed women and hired some as potential sexual partners for male employees, Lisa Rein reports: “The alleged harassment and other misconduct, revealed through a preliminary seven-month internal investigation, was a ‘systemic problem going on for years,’ said FEMA Administrator William ‘Brock’ Long. … In an interview, Long described a ‘toxic’ environment in the human resources department Coleman had led at FEMA headquarters, hiring dozens of men who were friends and college fraternity brothers and women he met at bars and on online dating sites — then promoting them to roles throughout the agency without going through proper federal hiring channels. Coleman then transferred some of the women in and out of departments, some to regional offices, so his friends could try to have sexual relationships with them, according to statements and interviews with employees … [Long] said he has referred several of the cases to the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, who oversees FEMA, to investigate possible criminal sexual assault.”

-- In his first public appearance in Minnesota since resigning from the Senate, Al Franken received multiple standing ovations and said he has not ruled out running for office again. CBS affiliate WCCO’s Esme Murphy reports: “Franken was joined by three Minnesota members of Congress at the dedication of the new Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig High School on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation. The old school campus was comprised of tin buildings that leaked, were rodent-infested, had heat that often failed in the winter, and plumbing that led to frequent sewage backups. … Repeatedly during the high school’s dedication there were standing ovations for Franken, who for eight years as a member of the Indian Affairs Committee led the fight for the $12 million in funding for the new facility. … [When asked] whether he plans to run for office again, he responded, ‘Well, see, if I say anything there you will put it in the story. I don’t know. I haven’t ruled it out, and I haven’t ruled it in.’”

-- CBS has opted to leave in place embattled chief executive Les Moonves as it investigates sexual harassment allegations that span decades. The New York Times’s Edmund Lee reports: “On Monday … CBS said in a statement that its board was ‘in the process of selecting outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation.’ The company had announced the planned investigation on Friday, hours after The New Yorker published a report that included six women who said Mr. Moonves had asked them for sexual favors and retaliated when they declined. … The CBS statement on Monday added, ‘No other action was taken on this matter at today’s board meeting.’ And so ended the speculation that Mr. Moonves would face immediate consequences for his alleged behavior. Mr. Moonves is well known in the entertainment community … Still, the CBS board could face recriminations from consumers and from those who believe it should have taken immediate action.” 

-- The legal industry often allows those who have been accused of sexual harassment to move on to another job without facing punishment, according to an investigation by Wall Street Journal’s Sara Randazzo and Nicole Hong. “Firms’ sole assets are lawyers and their client relationships. As demand for work from the biggest law firms has softened since the financial crisis, poaching top partners has become one of few ways to boost revenue. Many firms ask about prior complaints in new-hire questionnaires but do nothing to vet the answers, lawyers say. Firms rarely ask partners for references at their old firm, for fear of alerting competitors a star lawyer is in play.”

THE AGENDA:

-- The Education Department is narrowing its approach to civil rights enforcement under Betsy DeVos’s leadership. Laura Meckler reports: “The new approach stems from a view that President Barack Obama’s administration stretched beyond the law in setting rules and guidelines for schools and opened so many discrimination investigations that the system became clogged with cases. Under [DeVos], the agency is also moving away from the sweeping notion, embraced during the Obama years, that discrimination often occurs even if the people involved have no ill intent and that schools should be held accountable when outcomes differ by race.”

-- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he was “confident we can avoid a shutdown,” despite Trump’s threats to block government funding bills unless Congress meets his immigration demands. Seung Min Kim reports: “[A shutdown] could be electorally devastating as the GOP tries to show how productive its majorities can be in delivering on conservative priorities. But Trump’s comments inject uncertainty into an appropriations process that had been, somewhat surprisingly, moving along in Congress with few glitches.”

-- The Pentagon is expected to take steps this week to start creating the Space Force, even though Congress has not yet approved it. Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reports: “In coming months, Defense Department leaders plan to stand up three of the four components of the new Space Force: a new combatant command for space, a new joint agency to buy satellites for the military, and a new warfighting community that draws space operators from all service branches. These sweeping changes — on par with the past decade’s establishment of cyber forces — are the part the Pentagon can do without lawmakers’ approval. Creating the fourth component — services and support functions such as financial management and facilities construction — will require congressional action.”

-- Trump’s personal interest in the FBI’s new D.C. headquarters has left the project in limbo. Jonathan O'Connell reports: “For years, FBI officials have raised alarms that decrepit conditions at its current headquarters, the J. Edgar Hoover Building, constitute serious security concerns. A year ago, federal officials had finally decided on three finalist locations in Maryland and Virginia, and Congress appropriated $913 million toward a project expected to cost more than $3 billion. Six months after Trump entered the White House, his administration abandoned the plan … Those decisions, by the General Services Administration and the FBI, were made after Trump took a personal interest in the project, according to two people … News of Trump’s involvement prompted alarm among Democrats on Capitol Hill, however, with some suggesting the president’s business — which owns his hotel and from which he still benefits financially — may have motivated his interest.”

THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- Happening today: Paul Manafort goes on trial for charges of tax and bank fraud in Alexandria, Va. Manafort's trial is the first stemming from charges brought in Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, and will be heard in the Eastern District of Virginia. The judge, T.S. Ellis, is a Ronald Reagan appointee and has indicated he expects the trial to last three weeks.

-- Mueller’s team claimed in a court filing that Manafort made more than $60 million from his political consulting in Ukraine. Rachel Weiner reports: “Manafort is seeking to keep jurors from hearing details of his years of work in Ukraine for the Party of Regions and President Viktor Yanukovych, saying it is irrelevant and prejudicial. In a filing Monday, prosecutors responded that those details are necessary to prove how much money Manafort made and did not pay taxes on … ‘The government expects to prove that Manafort earned more than $60 million dollars from his Ukraine work during the period at issue and failed to report a significant percentage of it on his tax returns,’ prosecutors wrote.”

-- “Prosecutors intend to show that beginning in 2006, Mr. Manafort used offshore accounts and corporate entities to illegally disguise income,” the New York Times’s Sharon LaFraniere and Emily Baumgaertner add. “In 2012 alone, they have said, Mr. Manafort paid $3 million in cash for a Brooklyn brownstone and nearly $3 million for a Manhattan condominium and he bought a house in Arlington, Va. He also shelled out millions for antique rugs, clothing and home improvements including a waterfall pond and personal putting green, the prosecutors claim. All told, $75 million flowed through offshore accounts that he tapped, they say.”

-- Rudy Giuliani accused Mueller of acting in “bad faith” in his attempts to set up an interview with the president. Politico’s Louis Nelson reports: “[Giuliani said on CNN] that the president would only answer questions about allegations of collusion between his campaign and the Russian government and not about questions related to allegations of obstruction of justice. 'They haven't gotten back to us in 10 days over our recommendation of how to do an interview. I am sure they are in bad faith about an interview at that point,' said Giuliani[.]" 

-- Giuliani's earlier comments that collusion with Russia is not a crime stoked fierce public backlash before the former federal prosecutor walked back his comments. “I have been sitting here looking in the federal code, trying to find collusion as a crime. Collusion is not a crime,” Giuliani said in his original “Fox & Friends” appearance Monday morning. On CNN, he said: “I don't even know if that's a crime — colluding with Russians,” he said. “Hacking is the crime. The president didn't hack. He didn't pay for the hacking.” (Aaron Blake)

-- “Giuliani also seemed to offer a very narrow denial of what happened with the Trump Tower meeting,” Aaron reports. “While discussing Michael Cohen's allegation that Trump knew about the meeting, Giuliani focused his defense on arguing not necessarily that Trump didn't know about it — but that he wasn't physically at meetings at which information from Russians was discussed. And he did it on both shows. … At other times, Giuliani appeared to say that Trump also was not present for a separate alleged meeting before the Trump Tower meeting in which the Trump Tower meeting was discussed. Cohen has reportedly indicated that others can vouch for the fact that Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting, but it's not clear he's talking about the specific meeting Giuliani is referencing . . . Giuliani appeared on Fox News later Monday to clarify [his remarks, saying] he was indeed talking about an allegation of a second, earlier meeting that hasn't been made public — but which he heard about from talking to reporters[.] Asked why he was debunking an allegation that hadn't been made, Giuliani said he was merely getting ahead of the story.”

-- Trump agreed with his lawyer that collusion is not a crime over Twitter this morning:

-- Time Magazine's Ryan Teague Beckwith has a list of the 207 arguments Trump has made against Mueller’s investigation.

-- “A U.S. senator known for her outspoken [Putin criticism] was hit with a bizarre impersonation attempt by someone hoping to get inside information on American sanctions targeting Russia,” The Daily Beast’s Andrew Desiderio and Kevin Poulsen report. “Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) was contacted through her staff last November by an individual who said he worked for the foreign ministry of Latvia, a tiny Baltic nation supportive of efforts to rein in Russian aggression. The man said he was trying to set up a phone call between the senator and Edgars Rinkevičs, the Latvian foreign minister. The purpose of the meeting, he said in an email, was to discuss ‘prolongation of anti-Russian sanctions’ and ‘general security with Kaspersky laboratory case.’ It was a plausible enough reason for a meeting. Shaheen authored the law mandating a government-wide purge of software made by [Kaspersky Lab]. …  A staffer for the senator responded to the email and proposed a date and time for a phone call between Shaheen and Rinkevičs. The supposed Latvian official [agreed] …But before the call could take place, Shaheen’s office contacted the Latvian embassy to confirm Vaiders’ bona fides. The embassy responded that the outreach attempt was fake."

-- The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee laid out 20 proposals to combat disinformation on social media platforms. From Karoun Demirjian: “The proposals from Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) … include initiatives to hold platforms legally liable for keeping fake audio and video off their sites, to give users ownership of their data and require their consent before a third party can access that information, and to commit new funding to the Federal Trade Commission and media literacy campaigns.”

THE TRADE WAR:

-- Executives in other industries are pressuring Trump to extend his trade bailouts beyond U.S. farmers, as more companies are forced to lay off workers because of the president’s tariffs. Heather Long reports: “Extending those bailouts would be an expensive proposition. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday estimated the total price tag could hit $39 billion if Trump compensated the losses across all industries. … Critics of Trump’s trade policy are calling on him to de-escalate the trade war rather than try to bail out the businesses hurt by it. But if the trade fight continues and the midterm elections draw near, the White House stands to face pressure, including from Republicans, to extend more government aid.”

One stark example: “Jane Hardy, the chief executive of a company that makes lawn-care equipment, says she had to lay off 75 employees this summer because of [Trump’s] trade war. … Hardy’s company, Brinly-Hardy, has been in business since 1839. It survived recessions and the Civil War, but it might not survive a prolonged trade war. Hardy buys steel from U.S. companies, but Trump’s tariffs on foreign steel have caused domestic prices to rise, as well.”

-- Soybean farmers have so far managed to escape trade war fallout. Caitlin Dewey reports: “Soybean growers have been cushioned by the widespread use of forward contracts that allowed many to lock in high prices last spring, and analysts predict they will be buoyed at harvest by strong global demand for soybeans. The situation is similar for grain and oilseed crops, as well as pork, which was also hit by Chinese tariffs but enjoyed year-high prices in May and June. … [I]t raises questions about the logic of using payouts to shield farmers in the short term without taking measures to avoid a prolonged trade war. Many of the mechanisms protecting farmers this season will weaken next year if prices remain low.”

THE MIDTERMS:

-- Rep. Ron DeSantis, a GOP gubernatorial candidate in Florida who has been endorsed by Trump, released a campaign ad in which he tells his young daughter, “Build the wall.” Erin B. Logan reports: “‘Build the wall,’ [DeSantis] says while playing with toy blocks with his daughter, Madison, nearly 2, in his Florida home. ‘Then, Mr. Trump said, ‘You’re fired,’ he says while holding his infant son, Mason, in one arm and Trump’s book ‘The Art of the Deal’ in his other. … ‘The ad is just meant to reinforce the fact that the President is endorsing Ron and that Ron has defended the President,’ David Vasquez, a spokesman for DeSantis, told The Washington Post in an email. ‘It’s just a bit of humor.’”

-- DeSantis has pulled far ahead of his primary opponent, Adam Putnam, since Trump offered his endorsement. The New York Times’s Jonathan Martin reports: “Only last month, Mr. Putnam — the state’s agriculture commissioner and a genial conservative tabbed for political stardom since he won a state house seat at 22 — was ahead of [DeSantis] in fund-raising, local endorsements and opinion polls. But then Mr. Trump bestowed his formal blessing on Mr. DeSantis for the Aug. 28 primary. Now, as Mr. Trump prepares to appear with Mr. DeSantis at a rally in Tampa Tuesday night, Mr. Putnam is facing a double-digit deficit in the polls and odds so long that even some of his admirers suggest he should stop spending money attacking his rival and begin pondering a comeback after the Trump era has passed.”

-- Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who became known for his baseless claims of voter fraud, is trying to revive his political career with a gubernatorial bid. Amy B Wang reports: “Kobach finds himself focused back on Kansas, where he spent most of his childhood, and a crowded primary with six other Republicans. All of them must persuade skeptical GOP voters that conservative policies — and perhaps lower taxes — can still succeed in Kansas, even after former governor Sam Brownback’s steep tax cuts left the state’s economy, infrastructure funding and education systems reeling. … Kobach, for his part, isn’t as concerned about separating himself from Brownback as much as he is in showing affinity for the Trumps. ‘Make Kansas Great Again’ isn’t a catchphrase in the state — yet — but he’s trying to make it one with his copious tweets signed #MKGA.”

-- Trump’s election has split the libertarian movement, leaving Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) as the only libertarian congressman willing to break with the president. David Weigel writes: “[Libertarian Ron Paul’s] think tank cheers Trump for fighting ‘globalists’ and questioning the United States’ role in NATO. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), the elder Paul’s son and Amash’s favored presidential candidate in 2016, has become one of Trump’s defenders … That has left Amash as the only consistent representative of a wing of libertarianism that remains alienated by Trump — advocates of a government shrunk down to a pre-New Deal size, and advocates of freer trade and immigration policies.”

-- “Does [Trump] care if Republicans lose the House of Representatives this November?” the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board writes. “If that seems like an odd question, consider that Mr. Trump is running a campaign strategy that puts the House at maximum risk while focusing on the Senate. … Mr. Trump might not welcome a Democratic House, but he also might not fear it as long as Republicans keep the Senate. More than even most politicians, Mr. Trump always needs a foil, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi would be from central political casting.”

-- Hillary Clinton is getting more involved in Democrats’ midterm efforts. CNN’s Dan Merica reports: “Clinton, through her political organization Onward Together, donated the maximum of $5,000 to 19 Democratic House candidates and four secretary of state candidates in June, according to the group's filings with the [FEC]. The donations represent the most concentrated midterm effort the former Democratic presidential nominee has made to date and further thrust Clinton into an election that will be the most potent judgment on Trump since he defeated her two years earlier.”

-- Michigan’s Democrat primaries will be a test of whether Muslim candidates can win in the state, David Weigel writes. “Former state legislator Rashida Tlaib and Obama administration official Fayrouz Saad are competing for a deep-blue seat in Detroit and a GOP-leaning seat in the suburbs. Abdul El-Sayed, 33, a gubernatorial candidate backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), has leaned into identity to explain why the party’s establishment is afraid of him. … Each candidate, as well as some progressive challengers down the ballot, is working to mobilize an electorate that swung decisively toward Democrats after 2001, but has struggled for representation. Two states — Indiana and Minnesota — have sent Muslims to Congress. Michigan, with at least 115,000 Muslims registered as Democrats, has not.”

-- A congressional race in Virginia has been upended by … Bigfoot erotica? Ron Charles writes: “On Twitter this Sunday, [Leslie Cockburn, a Democrat running in Virginia’s 5th District,] accused her Republican opponent, Denver Riggleman, of being a ‘devotee of Bigfoot erotica.’ Her tweet included a crudely drawn image of Bigfoot — with the monster’s genitalia obscured — taken from Riggleman’s Instagram account. She added, ‘This is not what we need on Capitol Hill.’ … Reached by phone Monday morning, Riggleman said he has no interest at all in Bigfoot erotica, and he characterized Cockburn’s accusation as ludicrous. … He said that he did write an ‘anthropological book sort of based on parody and satire,’ which has been a running joke with ‘a bunch of military pals’ for the past 14 years.”

THE SUPREME COURT:

-- Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced he would support Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Sean Sullivan reports: “Paul said that he had concerns about Kavanaugh’s record on privacy and government data collection. But after meeting with him, he opted to back the appeals court judge, despite their differences. ‘No one will ever completely agree with a nominee,’ Paul said in a statement announcing his decision. ‘Each nominee, however, must be judged on the totality of their views, character, and opinions.’ … While many Republicans believed Paul would ultimately fall in line, the possibility that he would hold out until later this year threatened to complicate matters for Trump and top Senate Republicans.”

Kavanaugh also met with his first Democratic senator, Joe Manchin (W-Va.), who left the door open to supporting Trump’s nominee: “‘Two hours — we talked about everything,’ said Manchin, a centrist facing reelection in a state Trump won overwhelmingly. ‘It helped me and my staff understand and gives us a lot to work on.’ Later, in a statement, Manchin said he would not make a final decision on the nomination ‘until I complete a thorough and fair examination of his candidacy.’”

-- Six years ago, Kavanaugh sided with a Trump-branded casino in a case against the National Labor Relations Board, helping the Atlantic City property successfully thwart a unionization drive.  Bloomberg News's Josh Eidelson reports: “Kavanaugh was one of three Republican-appointed judges who in 2012 voted unanimously to set aside an order by the National Labor Relations Board that would have required the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino … to bargain with the United Auto Workers. The casino has since shut down. But labor advocates point to the case . . . as evidence that Kavanaugh may hobble enforcement of workplace laws and the already-embattled union movement.”

-- “Wanna Beat Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee? Focus on Marijuana,” Jeff Hauser writes in a Daily Beast column: “As a political matter, there are few better cards for the Democratic Party to play. According to Gallup, support for legalization [of marijuana] has ‘risen from 12 percent in 1969 to 31 percent in 2000 to 64 percent in 2017.’ … In an environment in which marijuana is salient to the Supreme Court and many voters, the fact that marijuana is not part of the effort to secure red and purple state Senate votes against Kavanaugh is a little perplexing. Not least because it has already proven to be a topic that can compel lawmakers to act.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Trump thanked Rand Paul for supporting Brett Kavanaugh:

From a HuffPost reporter:

Sen. Joe Manchin shared a photo from his meeting with the Supreme Court nominee:

Meanwhile, other Senate Democrats continue to demand more documents from Kavanaugh:

A BuzzFeed News editor noted this of Trump's Iran announcement:

A bipartisan pair of senators called for an investigation into allegations of abuse against migrant detainees:

A House Democrat seconded their recommendation:

The new VA secretary was sworn in:

Variety's new cover highlights the accusations against Leslie Moonves. From the magazine's co-editor in chief:

California's attorney general mourned the loss of Ron Dellums:

And a Post writer celebrated and bemoaned his successful story:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- “White, and in the minority,” by Terrence McCoy: “In a country where whites will lose majority status in about a quarter-century, and where research suggests that demographic anxiety is contributing to many of the social fissures polarizing the United States, from immigration policy to welfare reform to the election of President Trump, the story of the coming decades will be, to some degree, the story of how white people adapt to a changing country. It will be the story of people like Heaven Engle and Venson Heim, both of whom were beginning careers on the bottom rung of an industry remade by Latinos, whose population growth is fueling that of America, and were now, in unusually intense circumstances, coming to understand what it means to be outnumbered.”

-- New York Times, “News From Your Neighborhood, Brought to You by the State of New Jersey,” by Rick Rojas: “[New Jersey] lawmakers have embarked on a novel experiment to address a local news crisis: putting up millions of dollars in the state’s most recent budget to pay for community journalism. … Journalists and public officials described New Jersey’s undertaking as once unthinkable, raising ethical concerns and stirring fears of government intrusion. Yet there has been little outcry, underscoring for many local journalism’s precarious position and a growing willingness to experiment.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Adviser to GOP Senate candidate Corey Stewart used expletive to describe majority-black cities,” from Antonio Olivo: “A controversial campaign consultant working for Virginia GOP Senate candidate Corey A. Stewart faced fresh scrutiny Monday after several social media posts showed him calling majority-black cities ‘s---holes,’ while at least one more post bemoaned the South’s loss of the Civil War. Rick Shaftan, who is advising Stewart in his bid to unseat Sen. Tim Kaine (D) in November, lashed out on Twitter earlier this year against the city of Baltimore for replacing a Confederate statue with a memorial to Harriet Tubman, a key figure in the abolitionist movement to end slavery. ‘The word #S---hole is an appropriate one to describe this particular s---hole,’ Shaftan tweeted in January, above a link to an article about the Tubman memorial, repeating the derogatory term used by [Trump] to describe Haiti and countries in Africa. Previously, Shaftan ... similarly trashed New Orleans and Ferguson, Mo."

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Professor apologizes for calling GOP candidate 'nice guy' on Twitter,” from Fox News: “A journalism professor at the University of Georgia apologized for offending people after calling the Republican candidate for governor a ‘nice guy’ on Twitter.  Charles Davis … tweeted-then-deleted a message about the [Trump]-endorsed candidate for Georgia governor, Brian Kemp, on the night he won the Republican primary. ‘I went to high school with GOP guv candidate @BrianKempGA,’ Davis wrote … ‘We played YMCA ball from childhood. … He is a nice guy, always was. Kind to a fault. He’s a friend, always has been, and will be when we’re old(er) and grey(er). … ’ Liberals on Twitter labeled Davis a ‘racist’ and one user said ‘You’d never vote for a black woman and would much rather vote for the white racist[.]’” Three days later, Davis apologized, saying:  “I’d like to apologize to anyone offended by my tweet shout out to Brian Kemp,” Davis wrote. “It was ill-timed and poorly written. I’ve read and learned so much from you all and will endeavor to be more thoughtful.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will sign a bill and have lunch with the vice president and secretary of state. He will then travel to Tampa to participate in a ceremonial bill signing and deliver a speech before his campaign rally tonight.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“I do not believe that Bigfoot is real. … But I don’t want to alienate any Bigfoot voters.” — GOP congressional candidate Denver Riggleman denying the Bigfoot erotica accusations against him. (Ron Charles)

 

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

-- More of the same: Washingtonians should expect scattered showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “[M]ostly cloudy skies [dominate] through the day, while scattered showers and storms pop into the picture mostly this afternoon and this evening. Highs reach the upper 70s to mid-80s, with moderate humidity and only light breezes from the south around 5-10 mph.”

-- Metro’s largest union won a major concession from management but warned that a strike is still possible. Faiz Siddiqui reports: “Metro has agreed to hold a new ‘pick,’ or job selection, for its 271 union-represented custodians, ATU Local 689 spokesman David Stephen said. … Still, the ‘‘strike threat’ is unchanged until all the local’s issues that were outlined to [Metro general manager Paul] Wiedefeld’s designees at the beginning of this negotiation process are negotiated,’ Stephen said.  … Earlier Monday, Metro announced that it had reached a contract agreement with its second-largest labor group, AFL-CIO Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 2.”

-- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) received the endorsement of another prominent labor group that usually backs Democrats. Erin Cox reports: “Leaders from the International Association of Firefighters on Monday said the union was endorsing Hogan because of his accessibility to firefighters and legislation he helped enact to exempt $15,000 of their retirement income from state taxes. The group said it represents 10,000 current and retired firefighters in Maryland and more than 300,000 worldwide.”

-- District officials are trying to implement a five-star rating system for D.C. schools. Perry Stein reports: “The star system, expected to roll out in December, reflects a strategy to make school data more accessible to families and provide a uniform approach to assessing charter and traditional public schools. Supporters of the plan say the five-star rankings will hold schools accountable while providing parents with a consistent and digestible way to measure hundreds of schools. But critics fear the ranking system’s reliance on test scores will reserve the highest accolades for schools that educate the city’s wealthiest students and give paltry ratings to schools that serve the District’s most vulnerable children — even if students are improving academically and socially on those campuses.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

The former president and vice president grabbed lunch together in Georgetown:

Obama even struck a yoga pose with a fellow customer:

Stephen Colbert called for accountability as his network's CEO, Leslie Moonves, faces sexual harassment allegations:

Seth Meyers considered Giuliani's comments about collusion not being a crime:

LeBron James talked to CNN's Don Lemon about having his home vandalized with the n-word:

A man who lost his wife and two great-grandchildren in the Carr fire described his final interactions with them: