With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

James Hohmann is on vacation. He will be back on Tuesday.

THE BIG IDEA: In the states Democrats need to win to have a chance of taking back control of the Senate in November, it all comes down to policies vs. personalities.

Although the national political environment favors Democrats, they face a daunting Senate map, with 10 seats to defend in states President Trump won.

In some of these states, Trump has retained his popularity and the national Democratic brand is in bad shape. So, the Republican strategy is simple: Cozy up to Trump and tie Democratic hopefuls to the most polarizing personalities on the left: Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders. Rinse. Repeat.

To counteract that onslaught, Democrats are portraying themselves as champions of important policies they hope will appeal across party lines. Chief among them: health care

Just look at the newest television ad from Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who is in a challenging race in a state Trump won by nearly 36 points. The ad touts Heitkamp as a champion of preserving insurance protections for people with preexisting medical conditions and portrays Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer as a threat to those protections. 

The ad makes no mention of Barack Obama — whose signature health-care law, the Affordable Care Act, enacted protections for people with preexisting conditions — or Trump, who tried unsuccessfully to repeal and replace that law last year.  

Being seen as too supportive of Obama in North Dakota is a political liability. So is being seen as too hostile to Trump.  

Contrast Heitkamp's ad with a commercial unveiled earlier in the week by Cramer’s allies at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which features Trump attacking Heitkamp on immigration. 

On screen, Heitkamp’s photo is shown along with Clinton, Schumer, Obama, Pelosi, Sanders and other recognizable Democratic faces. 

Republicans hold a slim 51-49 majority in the Senate. Democrats are defending 26 seats, compared to just nine for Republicans. Still, the Democrats do have a few opportunities to flip seats from red to blue, giving them a chance at winning back control of the Senate, if a “blue wave” that some have predicted arrives this fall. 

One of their best chances is Tennessee, where well-known former governor Phil Bredesen is the party’s nominee. Bredesen ran an ad earlier this year talking about a policy issue, singling out tariffs Trump has spearheaded as harmful to the state’s automobile, farming and whiskey industries.

 “I’ve said before, if President Trump proposes something good for Tennessee, I’ll be with him,” Bredesen says in the ad. “But if he proposes something that hurts Tennessee, I’ll oppose it.”

Tariffs and trade have been a challenging issue for Republican candidates to deal with. They have tried to strike a tricky balance between Trump and people and industries in their states who could take a hit from them. 

“I support the president's goal here of trying to get better trade deals for the country,” Missouri Republican Senate nominee Josh Hawley said on a conference call with reporters this week, sidestepping questions about his position on tariffs. 

In some places across the country, Democrats will be leaning on personality. In West Virginia, for example, Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III is underscoring his roots in the state as he seeks to fend off a challenger who ran for Congress in New Jersey in 2000. 

There and in other states, Republicans candidates will likely talk policy — potentially underscoring the GOP tax law or Trump’s immigration goals, including building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

But by and large, big name personalities define the Republican strategy in the battle for the Senate. They want Trump’s loyal base to come out for GOP Senate hopefuls, and to convince moderate voters that the Democratic candidates are too far left for them to support and have strayed too far from the president. 

Democrats in red states want to do just the opposite — portray themselves as centrists who will prioritize the policy needs of state residents, whether that means working with Trump or against him. 

Whichever side can most effectively define the terms of the fight is likely to be the one left standing when the dust settles on Nov. 6. 

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Trump this morning blamed the cancellation of a military parade he ordered on D.C. politicians who “know a windfall when they see it”: 

Pentagon officials said yesterday that the parade would be pushed back until 2019, following reports that it could cost far more than the White House’s initial estimate. Missy Ryan and Dan Lamothe report: “’The Department of Defense and White House have been planning a parade to honor America’s military veterans and commemorate the centennial of World War I,’ [Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said in a statement]. ‘We originally targeted November 10, 2018 for this event but have now agreed to explore opportunities in 2019.’ Manning provided no reason for the apparent postponement, which came amid a spate of news reports that the event, which is expected to include aircraft, vehicles, period uniforms and symbols of U.S. power, could cost up to $92 million, far more than originally estimated." (Philip Bump notes that $92 million could fund the Russia investigation — which Trump has condemned as a “very expensive Witch Hunt” — for four and a half years.)

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” died at the age of 76. J. Freedom du Lac writes in her obituary: “One of the most celebrated and influential singers in the history of American popular music, Ms. Franklin secured lasting fame in the late 1960s and early 1970s by exploring the secular sweet spot between sultry rhythm and blues and the explosive gospel music she’d grown up singing in her pastor father’s Baptist church. The result was potent and wildly popular, with defining soul anthems that turned Ms. Franklin into a symbol of black pride and women’s liberation.”
  2. The FDA has approved the first generic version of the EpiPen. The long-awaited move will bring new competition to Mylan, the current EpiPen producer that sparked public outrage last year after severely hiking the price of the lifesaving allergy injection. (Carolyn Y. Johnson and Laurie McGinley)
  3. The judge who ruled that the five suspects arrested at a New Mexico compound could be released to house arrest on $20,000 bonds has received death threats. The courthouse where Judge Sarah C. Backus serves has been inundated with hundreds of calls and emails, criticizing her decision and calling her derogatory words. (Eli Rosenberg)

  4. Hundreds of Google employees signed a letter protesting the company’s decision to build a censored version of its search engine for China. The employees wrote that the capitulation to China’s censorship requirements “raise urgent moral and ethical issues.” (New York Times)

  5. Citing “security concerns,” Denmark has introduced a ban on wearing full-face veils in public.  It is the fifth country in Europe to adopt face-covering legislation — which is widely seen as a way to target Muslim women and prohibit them from wearing religious garments such as the niqab. (Rebecca Tan)
  6. After nearly a decade, Israel has delivered more than 10 tons of Palestinian mail. The backlogged mail dates to 2010 and was released only after protracted negotiations between the two sides. Palestinian authorities estimate it will take them “about a month” to sort through and deliver the long-delayed correspondence. (Loveday Morris)
  7. Some European countries are reconsidering restitution of art taken from former colonies. French President Emmanuel Macron has led the push, pledging in Burkina Faso in November that France would work toward “temporary or permanent restitution of African heritage to Africa.” (James McAuley and Rick Noack)

  8. A 42-year-old woman in Britain who sought treatment for an eye cyst was in for a big surprise when doctors finally discovered what was causing her ailment: a stray contact lens, which had been stuck in her eye for 28 years — or since she was 14. (BuzzFeed News)

TRUMP VS. THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY:

-- Trump is gearing up to strip the security clearances of other current and former national security officials tied to the Russia probe, including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. (Both Clapper and John Brennan, whose clearance was revoked this week, were part of the team tasked with briefing Trump during his White House transition on Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 election.)

-- “Over the past 19 months, Trump has fired or threatened to take actions against nearly a dozen current and former officials associated with the [Russia investigation]," David Nakamura and Josh Dawsey report. “Trump grew increasingly agitated about Brennan and others earlier in the summer, believing they were exploiting their credentials as former national security officials to make money … The president mentioned the Russia investigation when discussing the matter in private and drafted a list of officials who have angered him for [Sarah Huckabee] Sanders to read at the lectern in the White House briefing room, the aides said. … To critics, Trump’s moves carry echoes of President Richard Nixon’s decision to force the abrupt firing of Watergate special counsel Archibald Cox[:] ‘If you did all this in one day, it would have a ‘Saturday night massacre’ odor to it,’ said Benjamin Wittes, a Brookings Institution fellow who oversees the Lawfare Blog … ‘But you spread it out and get people used to the first one, then you do the second one — over a long period of time, it becomes the new normal.’”

-- Rudy Giuliani dismissed suggestions that Trump had developed an “enemies list,” saying in an interview Thursday that any decisions on whether to revoke more clearances will be made on a “case-by-case basis.” “The basis for having it is the president is going to call on you for advice — if that doesn’t exist, there’s no reason for you to have a clearance,” Giuliani said. “We aren’t prohibiting their First Amendment rights. We are just saying, you don’t get to see top-secret government documents.”

-- Retired Navy Admiral William McRaven, who oversaw the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, wrote in a Post op-ed that he would “consider it an honor” for Trump to revoke his security clearance alongside Brennan, “[So that] I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.” “Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation,” McRaven continued. “If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken.” John Sipher, a 28-year CIA veteran who oversaw the agency’s Russia headquarters, responded to McRaven’s op-ed in a tweet, “I wish I still had [my clearance] to give up.”

-- Twelve former senior intelligence officials who have served under Democratic and Republican presidents signed on to a letter of support for Brennan. The letter’s signees include 11 former CIA directors and deputy directors and one former director of national intelligence. “We feel compelled to respond in the wake of the ill-considered and unprecedented remarks and actions by the White House,” the letter reads. “We know John to be an enormously talented, capable and patriotic individual who devoted his entire adult life to the service of this nation.” (CBS News)

-- Members of the intelligence community are worried Trump’s action against Brennan could have a chilling effect on those in law enforcement. The New York Times’s Michael D. Shear and Julian E. Barnes report: “Anxiety about Mr. Trump’s next move could give investigators pause as they pursue cases, and it might hamper recruitment of a new generation of agents, they said. The president’s decision to follow through on his threats to revoke Mr. Brennan’s security clearance, they said, sent a shudder through the spies and intelligence officials he used to lead.”

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN AND WOMEN:

-- Omarosa Manigault Newman released a new tape in which Lara Trump can be heard offering a $15,000-a-month contract from her father-in-law’s campaign, an offer Manigault Newman contends was a bid to buy her silence. John Wagner reports: “On the recording, [Lara Trump] can be heard discussing salary considerations and other aspects of a campaign job with Manigault Newman and makes clear that she expects her to be positive about the president. … According to Manigault Newman, the recording made public Thursday is from Dec. 16, days after she was fired from her White House job by Chief of Staff John F. Kelly … In a statement released after the television appearance, Lara Trump said that after Manigault Newman was fired by Kelly, ‘my entire family was concerned for her because we had no idea about the basis of her dismissal. … We still wanted her on the team because we cared so much about her personally,’ she said.”

Lara Trump ended her statement on a visceral note: “Woman to woman, I shared a connection with Omarosa as a friend and a campaign sister, and I am absolutely shocked and saddened by her betrayal and violation on a deeply personal level. … I hope it’s all worth it for you, Omarosa, because some things you just can’t put a price on.”

-- The publisher of Manigault Newman’s book hit back against “hollow legal threats” from Trump’s campaign, insisting that it “will not be intimidated.” From Felicia Sonmez: “‘Mr. Trump is the President of the United States, with a ‘bully pulpit’ at his disposal,’ Simon & Schuster outside counsel Elizabeth McNamara said in [a] letter … ‘To the extent he disputes any statements in the Book, he has the largest platform in the world to challenge them.’ Simon & Schuster, McNamara added, ‘will not be intimidated by hollow legal threats and have proceeded with publication of the Book as scheduled.’ The letter was addressed to Trump campaign litigation counsel Charles Harder, who on Monday sent a letter to Simon & Schuster executives threatening that the book’s publication would subject the company to liability for ‘substantial monetary damages and punitive damages.’”

-- Manigault Newman is believed to have as many as 200 tapes of conversations with Trump aides. The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and Kenneth P. Vogel add: “Some major donors to Mr. Trump were bothered by the revelations that the campaign may have been used as a slush fund to pay fired or troublesome employees, said Dan K. Eberhart, an Arizona donor and energy executive who serves as an adviser to the America First Policies group created to support Mr. Trump’s agenda. ‘It’s diverting donor money that could be used to wage the midterm election battle or store resources for Trump’s re-election,’ Mr. Eberhart said. ‘Instead, it’s an elongated hush payment.’”

-- One source told Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman that Trump has said he wants the attorney general to arrest Manigault Newman. It’s not clear what law Trump is claiming she broke, Sherman notes. “Another Republican recounted how over the weekend Trump derailed a midterm-election strategy session to rant about Manigault Newman’s betrayal. In an effort to change the narrative, the White House announced yesterday that Trump had revoked [Brennan’s] security clearance. But that only ignited a new public-relations crisis. A former West Wing official compared Trump’s erratic behavior this week to the P.R. nightmare he created by attacking grieving Muslim-American Gold Star parents during the 2016 campaign. It’s a ‘death spiral,’ the former official said.”

-- Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen initially opposed the idea of paying Stormy Daniels’s silence on her affair with Trump but reconsidered after the “Access Hollywood” tape emerged. The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Palazzolo, Nicole Hong, Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Rebecca Ballhaus report: “A day after the recording surfaced[,] … Mr. Cohen, then Mr. Trump’s senior counsel, told a representative for the performer that he was open to a deal, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Within days, [Daniels] signed a nondisclosure agreement that provided her $130,000 for her silence. Mr. Cohen had resisted paying Ms. Clifford when it was floated in September 2016, the person said.”

The timing of Cohen’s reversal could bolster federal investigators’ claim that the payment to Daniels represented an illegal campaign contribution: “Federal prosecutors in New York view the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape as a trigger that spurred Mr. Cohen to bury potentially damaging information about his boss … [Cohen] is under investigation for potential violations of campaign-finance laws … A campaign-finance charge would require prosecutors to prove the payment to Ms. Clifford was meant to help Mr. Trump prevail in the coming presidential election. … Mr. Cohen’s apparent change of heart on buying Ms. Clifford’s silence, after the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape surfaced and nearly capsized Mr. Trump’s campaign, could help investigators make the link … ”

-- A liberal veterans group has filed a lawsuit to block a trio of outside Trump advisers from influencing policy at the VA. ProPublica’s Isaac Arnsdorf reports: “ProPublica reported last week that the advisers — Marvel Entertainment chairman Ike Perlmutter, West Palm Beach doctor Bruce Moskowitz and Washington lawyer Marc Sherman — have been shaping VA personnel and policy decisions despite having no official role or relevant expertise. The trio, sometimes referred to as the ‘Mar-a-Lago Crowd,’ is failing to disclose its activities as required by federal law, according to a lawsuit filed today in federal court in Washington, D.C., by VoteVets, a liberal activist group that says it represents 500,000 supporters.”

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- Frustrated with Turkey’s continued detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson, Trump appeared to acknowledge his administration’s role in securing the release of a Turkish national being held in Israel. Anne Gearan and Felicia Sonmez report: “Trump brought up the dispute at a Cabinet meeting Thursday, requesting an update on sanctions he recently slapped on ­senior Turkish leaders over the detention of [Brunson]. … He then seemed to acknowledge that he was disappointed that Turkey did not release Brunson after the United States helped negotiate the release of the Turkish national jailed in Israel. ‘We got somebody out for him,’ Trump said, referring to [Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan]. ‘He needed help getting somebody out of someplace; they came out.’ ‘They want to hold our wonderful pastor,’ Trump added. ‘Not fair. Not right.’ …

Perhaps unwittingly, Trump opened a window into what is behind the intensity of the standoff with Erdogan, a strongman who shares Trump’s highly personalized, top-down leadership style and emphasis on projecting strength and rallying national pride. Neither wants to be the one who blinks amid hard feelings over who is responsible for the deal falling apart.”

Trump escalated his language against Erdogan in an evening tweet:

-- Trump has signed an order granting the military more latitude to conduct offensive cyber operations against American adversaries — giving commanders the leeway required to disrupt enemies’ networks, or to thwart an attack on U.S. systems. Ellen Nakashima reports: “The new directive … comes as Gen. Paul Nakasone, who heads both the [NSA] and U.S. Cyber Command, has recommended to Pentagon leaders that the two organizations remain under one head for at least two years. … Nakasone, who submitted his recommendation Aug. 5, believes the nine-year-old CyberCom still needs intelligence support from the NSA, [and] that separate leadership would hinder that effort. This would keep in place the structure that has existed since CyberCom’s launch. At the same time, Nakasone has set up a ‘small group’ comprised of people from both organizations to work together to detect and thwart Russian interference in the midterm elections. … Taken together, these moves show a strengthened focus on military cyber capabilities — and reflect a mounting concern on the part of senior security officials about the severity of the threat from foreign adversaries, especially Russia.”

-- The Trump administration is considering pulling back $3 billion in congressionally approved foreign aid — prompting lawmakers in both parties to question the legality of the move as they scramble to allocate the funds. Carol Morello and Karoun Demirjian report: “The [OMB] instructed the State Department and [USAID] earlier this month to provide a balance sheet of foreign aid projects that have not yet been funded. Unless Congress intervenes, the money may be returned to the U.S. Treasury at the end of fiscal year on Sept. 30. … Lawmakers from both parties view the last-minute move as a backdoor attempt to get the cuts, despite their objections, before they can do anything about them. [On Thursday, Sen. Robert Menendez] (D-N.J.) … said that if the administration goes ahead with its plans, [he] will seek to stall Trump’s nominees — further raising the stakes of the move, especially for a State Department beleaguered by vacancies.” And Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said in an interview that the move “would be a step of bad faith”: “I don’t know how they can do that legally,” he added. “We certainly look forward to seeing how to counter that if that’s the case.”

THE #METOO MOVEMENT:

-- Democrats have been hesitant to take a stance on Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) in the wake of allegations that he emotionally and physically abused his ex-girlfriend. Paul Kane writes: “Ellison, a prominent supporter of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential bid, also serves as deputy chairman of the [DNC], the organization that has said it is reviewing the allegations. Does Sanders have an opinion on what Ellison should do? ‘Nope, nothing,’ the Vermont independent said Thursday, rushing for the Senate doors. ‘You’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get going.’ Other Democrats expressed support for the DNC review but much less of a rush to judgment as they did last fall when accusations against other members surfaced at the height of the #MeToo movement. ‘I know that the DNC is investigating it, so we’ll see and let that run its course,’ said Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.). …

“Many Democrats were harsher last year when their Senate colleague Al Franken faced accusations of groping women and other inappropriate sexual advances. Within an hour of the first accusation, Harris and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) forcefully called for the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate, making clear they would not spare the senator from Minnesota just because he was a leading liberal. … So far no congressional Democrat has called for a House Ethics Committee investigation into Ellison, instead settling for the somewhat vague DNC ‘review’ of the situation. … The difference between the two cases illustrates just how inconsistent the approaches have been to allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior with members of Congress.”

-- The Education Department is probing Ohio State’s response to sexual abuse allegations within its wrestling program. Elise Viebeck reports: “The probe by the department’s Office for Civil Rights will examine whether Ohio State responded ‘promptly and equitably’ to allegations by former students that [athletic doctor Richard Strauss] touched athletes inappropriately during appointments and ogled them in a campus locker room, as well as claims that school officials knew or should have known about the alleged abuse, the school said.”

PAUL MANAFORT’S TRIAL:

-- Jurors deliberated Thursday on the fate of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, on trial for 18 federal charges of tax and bank fraud in Alexandria, Va. They ended the day without a verdict. But just before departing, jurors presented U.S. Judge T.S. Ellis with a list of four questions.

-- “First, jurors asked if someone was required to file a form called an FBAR — which is required of people with foreign bank accounts containing more than $10,000 — if they owned less than 50 percent of such an account and did not have signature authority but did have the ability to direct disbursement,” Rachel Weiner, Matt Zapotosky, Lynh Bui, and Devlin Barrett report. "[Second], jurors asked if the judge could define ‘shelf company’ and the filing requirements related to income . . . To that question, the judge said the jury would have to rely on their memory of the evidence presented at trial. Third, they asked if the judge could ‘redefine reasonable doubt.’ The judge told them reasonable doubt ‘is a doubt based on reason,’ but added: ‘The government is not required to prove guilt beyond all possible doubt.’ Fourth, the jurors asked if they could have an updated exhibit list, connecting each piece of evidence to the corresponding charge in the indictment. The judge said they would have to rely on their collective memory to link exhibits to specific charges . . . Outside the courtroom, defense attorney Kevin Downing said that it was ‘overall, a very good day for Mr. Manafort,’ and he was heartened by the jury’s questions.” “I think it’s all a good sign, yes,” he said.

 -- One particularly amusing moment from Thursday’s proceedings occurred when Ellis called out in the courtroom, “Mr. Trump, you're here for what?” “Heads craned around the room,” Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn, Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney write. “Even by the standards of Trump’s wild reality-show presidency, the president’s appearance at Manafort’s trial would be an astonishing spectacle. Perhaps he had come to personally announce that he was granting his disgraced former campaign chairman a pardon? Or might one of his sons, including the publicly combative Donald Trump Jr., be making a theatrical cameo …? [A] Mr. Trump was, in fact, present. It was not the commander in chief, however, but one James Trump (no relation), an assistant U.S. attorney there for a supervised release hearing in an unrelated case.” Even Paul Manafort, he says, “couldn’t contain a burst of laughter.”

-- Manafort’s trial has also provided the first real look at the special counsel's team: an elusive, tight-lipped group, and part of the “central drama of Washington political life,” the New York Times’s Noah Weiland reports: “Tagged by [Trump] as ‘17 angry Democrats,’ they have shown themselves to be typical, if harried, government lawyers, staying at the hotel opposite the courthouse to devote most of their waking hours to trying the case. Other members of the special counsel’s office have joined [lead Manafort prosecutor Greg] Andres in the courtroom, including Andrew Weissmann … who oversaw the prosecution from a seat in the back. Like a basketball coach during timeouts, he huddled with the others during recesses for strategy sessions … [Meanwhile], Mr. Mueller’s spokesman, Peter Carr, whose ‘no comment’ replies have become a running dark joke among the Washington press corps, sat among the spectators and reporters. He would not even confirm [Andres’s Postmates] order from Shake Shack … Nor would Mr. Andres himself. Asked later whether he had in fact ordered Shake Shack, he laughed, then paused.” “I can’t say,” he replied.

THE MIDTERMS:

-- The record number of women running for office this year are still trailing behind their male counterparts in fundraising. Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy report: “Men running for the House had collected almost 17 percent more on average than their female counterparts by the end of June, The Post found in its examination of candidates who showed viability by raising at least $50,000. … One group of female candidates who outraised their male counterparts: Democratic women seeking office in districts that lean left — a sign of the enthusiasm in the base to support women this year. In those districts, women collected an average of $97,000 more than men, The Post found.”

-- “Meet the wealthy donors pouring millions into the 2018 elections,” by Anu, Chris Alcantara and Michelle: “Wealthy donors who have given at least $1 million this election cycle contributed nearly 56 percent of the $640 million that has flowed into super PACs, which can accept unlimited contributions from individuals and corporations. While these groups cannot coordinate their advertising with candidates or political parties, they often work closely with official campaigns, and they are poised to be influential forces in this year’s congressional midterm elections. Casino owner Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam, shot to the top of the list with their $30 million donation to a super PAC that aims to help Republicans retain the House.”

-- “Inside a super PAC that spends on everything but winning,” by the AP's Brian Slodysko: “The two billionaire mega donors poured $1.25 million into a super PAC that was supposed to supercharge Chris McDaniel’s insurgent bid to be Mississippi’s next Republican senator. A year later, much of the money from Illinois shipping supply CEO Richard Uihlein and New York financier Robert Mercer is gone. Only a fraction was spent reaching voters who could boost the former state lawmaker’s uphill battle against Cindy Hyde-Smith, [Mitch McConnell’s] preferred candidate in a November special election … What the Remember Mississippi super PAC has provided, however, is a generous payday for at least 18 campaign consultants who received the lion’s share of the money, according to an analysis of [FEC records]. Since a landmark 2010 Supreme Court ruling, much of the debate over super PACs has focused on how a wealthy cadre of donors can now give unlimited amounts, allowing them to play an outsized role in who gets elected. This case highlights how that money doesn’t always get spent the way it’s intended.”

-- During a Facebook live event last year, Virginia GOP Senate candidate Corey Stewart dismissed protesting NFL players as “thugs” who were “beating up their girlfriends and their wives.” “[Y]ou know, they've got, you know, children all over the place that they don't pay attention to, don't father, with many different women, they are womanizers,” Stewart said. “These are not people that we should have our sons, or any of our children look up to. We need to have our children look up to real role models.” In response to a request for comment, Stewart said in a statement, “It's unsurprising that while Americans and Donald Trump are working to re-establish the rule of law and rebuild civil society in America, CNN once again flies off the handle and tries to make everything about race in order to keep Americans divided." (CNN)

-- Civil rights organizations have filed a lawsuit demanding Florida officials provide Spanish-language ballots for Puerto Ricans who have moved to the mainland. Arelis R. Hernández reports: “In a lawsuit filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, a coalition of nonpartisan groups argue that Florida’s secretary of state and local officials are violating the voting rights of Puerto Ricans, tens of thousands of whom moved to the state in the past year after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. The groups have spent months trying to work with local election officials in 32 counties to provide language services to Spanish-speaking residents.”

-- “There’s a new way of demonstrating loyalty to [Trump] and his Republican Party: Claiming that the president could not only survive an impeachment effort, but that it would guarantee his victory in 2020.” Politico’s Christopher Cadelago reports: “The idea gaining currency on the right is that Trump can be Bill Clinton, not Richard Nixon. It depends on a delicate political calculation — that a Republican-held Senate would never follow a Democratic House and vote to remove Trump, and that voters tired of the long-running Russia scandal will, as they did in the late 1990s with Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal, want to move on. ‘Well-respected thinkers believe that the more extreme the Democrats go, the more middle of the road voters will gravitate to Trump,’ argued one prominent conservative and Trump supporter … [Meanwhile], Trump’s own midterm calculations … are based the belief that the specter of impeachment — not actual impeachment proceedings — will help him rally his base to match anti-Trump enthusiasm.”

-- Time Magazine’s Philip Elliott looks at how the “Trump effect” has upended expectations in the run-up to Arizona’s Senate Republican primary: “If you’re a Republican running in a conservative state, the President’s political clout can mean everything. Nowhere is this more apparent than in [Arizona] … where former state senator [Kelli] Ward, Representative Martha McSally and retired sheriff Joe Arpaio are competing to cast themselves as Trump’s preferred candidate on the Aug. 28 ballot. … This was not what national Republicans had in mind when they recruited McSally to run. They saw the two-term Congresswoman — a retired Air Force colonel who was the first female pilot in U.S. history to fly a combat mission — as the kind of pragmatic legislator who could attract Democratic votes in a state trending purple. In a sense, McSally embodied the fading Republican hope that Trump would not consume the party, and that lawmakers could speak out against the President without paying a price at the polls. … Instead, she may become a cautionary tale.”

-- A campaign staffer for Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) was arrested after getting into an altercation at a fundraiser for his Democratic opponent. From Felicia Sonmez: “A reporter for local TV station WCIA circulated video Thursday morning of Levi Lovell, Davis’s field director, appearing to harass [Davis’s Democratic opponent, Betsy Dirksen Londrigan], her husband and others at the Springfield, Ill., bar where [Londrigan’s] fundraiser was being held. On the video Lovell is shown holding a smartphone in the faces of several attendees, peppering them with questions and then accusing them of being ‘racist.’ He appears to accuse a man trying to get him to leave of committing a ‘hate crime’ before becoming physical with the man outside the venue.”

-- Sen. Kamala Harris, widely considered a 2020 contender, is expected to make her first endorsement in an Iowa campaign today. From Politico’s David Siders: “Harris, a California Democrat edging closer to a run for president, will endorse Deidre DeJear for Iowa secretary of state … Like many top Democrats, Harris has maintained a cautious distance from Iowa, leery of appearing solicitous of attention beyond the midterm elections. She is not expected to appear in Iowa for the endorsement announcement.”

THE REST OF TRUMP’S AGENDA:

-- The Interior Department is considering selling some public land, despite Secretary Ryan Zinke’s previous assurances that he would oppose such proposals. Darryl Fears and Dino Grandoni report: “The Trump administration is proposing to dispose of federal land in Utah that was protected within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument until its boundary was redrawn by the Interior Department earlier this year … The proposal to possibly sell 1,600 acres came to light Wednesday when the Bureau of Land Management released a plan to manage two national monuments that were dramatically reduced by the administration, Grand Staircase and Bears Ears, which is also in Utah. That would appear to directly contradict what Zinke said at his Senate confirmation hearing: ‘I am absolutely against transfer or sale of public land.’”

-- An HHS official said during Senate testimony that the agency is not responsible for ensuring the safety of unaccompanied migrant children once they leave its care. Cmdr. Jonathan White stressed that HHS should not be expected to act as a “law enforcement agency.” Colby Itkowitz reports: “Although White was joined on the panel by witnesses from the [DOJ and the DHS], the senators' attention was primarily on him. Children who cross the U.S.-Mexico border without an adult are placed in government-run shelters overseen by HHS. But after they are turned over to the care of an adult sponsor, there is no formal government system in place to ensure their welfare or safety. Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) [released a report] detailing ways in which they believe HHS, and the federal government, [have] failed to protect these children. At the hearing, the senators said they are considering legislation that would require HHS to take on a greater role in ensuring the well-being of minors … Yet by the end of the hearing, the senators and White were no closer to an agreement on how — or even if — these children should be monitored …”

-- A new CNN-SRSS poll found that Brett Kavanaugh has earned the lowest amount of public support for a Supreme Court nominee since Ronald Reagan’s failed 1987 nomination of Robert Bork. CNN's Jennifer Agiesta reports: “Overall, 37 [percent] of Americans say they'd like to see the Senate vote in favor of his confirmation, [while slightly more, 40 percent, disagreed]. That's lower support for Kavanaugh than similar public assessments of the unsuccessful nominations of Merrick Garland and Harriet Miers . . . Women are a driving force behind the tepid response, with fewer than three in 10 saying Kavanaugh ought to be confirmed.” Support for Kavanaugh was predictably split along partisan lines, with 74 percent of Republican voters saying he ought to be confirmed; 67 percent of Democrats disagreeing; and independents split by an equal 38 percent in each camp.

-- The Senate continues to reshape federal courts at a record clip, confirming its 25th and 26th appellate court judges since Trump took office. Sean Sullivan reports: “The Senate approved A. Marvin Quattlebaum Jr. by a vote of 62 to 28, and backed Julius Ness Richardson on a vote of 81 to 8. Both will join the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. After the confirmation of the two nominees, Republicans highlighted the fact that Trump has chosen one out of seven appeals court judges.”

-- In the Trump era, Cabinet meetings have transformed “into a kind of West Wing performance art,” the New York Times’s Julie Hirschfeld Davis writes. “By now, the ritual has become familiar, like a monthly installment of a faithfully watched reality show with a story line that has become almost comically consistent. ‘Despite the horrible laws, we’re doing very well,’ the president said during Thursday’s episode. … Mr. Trump spent much of the session gently quizzing his cabinet secretaries with lead-ins prodding them to offer positive comments. Past sessions have occasionally featured a sharp comment directed at an unfortunate participant on the receiving end of a televised rhetorical swipe.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Trump said this morning he has asked the SEC to study changing the quarterly reporting system:

He also slammed the New York governor for his recent comments about Trump’s campaign slogan:

Last night, Trump repeated an old attack line on a Democratic senator:

A Toronto Star reporter corrected Trump:

The RNC put together a video of Omarosa Manigault Newman praising the president, which Trump retweeted:

A Post reporter saw into the future:

Another Post reporter summed up the day's news:

Sen. Claire McCaskill's Republican opponent criticized her for "hiding out in Washington":

McCaskill was at the time in a hearing on protecting unaccompanied migrant children from human trafficking:

Journalists and lawmakers defended the press after Trump tweeted, “THE FAKE NEWS MEDIA IS THE OPPOSITION PARTY.” From a conservative CNN host:

Trump also accused newspapers of being in “COLLUSION” after hundred of newspapers published coordinated op-eds defending the freedom of the press. From a New York magazine writer:

From a House Democrat:

An Axios editor mocked Elon Musk's proposal to build a tunnel to Dodgers Stadium:

And many prominent leaders and musicians mourned the loss of Aretha Franklin:

Barack and Michelle Obama shared memories with Franklin:

From Obama's former deputy chief of staff:

From Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.):

Paul McCartney marked the passing of a fellow musical legend:

And a Princeton professor offered a reminder of Franklin's path to becoming an icon:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- New York Times, “Elon Musk, Amid Tesla Furor, Tells of ‘Most Difficult’ Year,” by David Gelles, James B. Stewart, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Kate Kelly: “Elon Musk was at home in Los Angeles, struggling to maintain his composure. ‘This past year has been the most difficult and painful year of my career,’ he said. ‘It was excruciating.’ … At multiple points in an hourlong telephone interview with The New York Times, he choked up … The events set in motion by Mr. Musk’s tweet have ignited a federal investigation and have angered some board members, according to people familiar with the matter. Efforts are underway to find a No. 2 executive to help take some of the pressure off Mr. Musk, people briefed on the search said. And some board members have expressed concern not only about Mr. Musk’s workload but also about his use of Ambien, two people familiar with the board said.”

-- Politico, “Trump wages war against New York,” by Annie Karni: “Trump — raised in Queens, made in Manhattan — in the past week is finding his latest targets back home, turning New York political leaders into liberal punching bags that offer him familiar and useful foils ahead of the midterm elections. It’s an old political playbook — attack elite, liberal New York, and the heartland loves you — but it’s also personal for Trump, whose relationships with some of New York’s political leaders go back generations.”

-- New York Times, “Aretha Franklin Had Power. Did We Truly Respect It?” by Wesley Morris: “Ms. Franklin’s respect lasts for two minutes and 28 seconds. That’s all — basically a round of boxing. Nothing that’s over so soon should give you that much strength. But that was Aretha Franklin: a quick trip to the emotional gym. Obviously, she was far more than that. We’re never going to have an artist with a career as long, absurdly bountiful, nourishing and constantly surprising as hers. We’re unlikely to see another superstar as abundantly steeped in real self-confidence — at so many different stages of life, in as many musical genres.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Fox News Mistakes Patti LaBelle for Aretha Franklin,” from the Daily Beast: “Fox News apparently mistook singer Patti LaBelle for Aretha Franklin on Thursday, including a photo of LaBelle as part of the network’s obituary image for Franklin, who passed away earlier this morning after a battle with pancreatic cancer. At the end of an America’s Newsroom segment memorializing the late singer-songwriter, Fox News cut to a still image of Franklin, captioned ‘Aretha Franklin, Singer, 1942-2018,’ inexplicably featuring a background photograph of LaBelle — who is not Franklin — singing for PBS in 2014. The flub was made all-the-more ironic by the fact that Franklin and LaBelle reportedly had a longstanding feud that only ended on Thursday morning when the 76-year-old legendary diva passed away.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Mich. Rep. Bettie Scott allegedly used racial slur for Asian opponent,” from the Detroit Free Press: “Nineteen community groups called on state Rep. Bettie Cook Scott Tuesday to apologize for using racial slurs to describe her opponent in the Aug. 7 primaries for state Senate, according to a release from Progress Michigan. Both Scott and her opponent, Rep. Stephanie Chang, are Democrats who represent Detroit in the Michigan House of Representatives. Both are running for a state Senate seat. According to Progress Michigan, Scott was heard on Aug. 7 telling people at a primary-day polling place that ‘these immigrants from China are coming over and taking our community from us.’ … Scott is also alleged to have referred to Chang using a racial slur.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will travel to Southampton, N.Y., to participate in a roundtable with supporters and give a speech at a luncheon. He will then fly to Bedminster, N.J., where he will stay for the weekend.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“If you’d like, you can stay. If you’d like, you can leave … freedom of the press.” — Trump, speaking to reporters in the Cabinet Room.

 

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

-- It will be another hot day in D.C. with storms possible later on. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “We warm quickly toward afternoon high temperatures near 90 to mid-90s. Sweaty heat index values may approach 100 in places, like downtown. Oof. Mixing with sunshine may be some clouds — and even some wildfire smoke. Scattered shower and storm chances increase with time, but we’ll have to watch radar. Rush hour impacts in the late afternoon and evening are possible.”

-- The Nationals’ 5-4 win against the Cardinals brought them back up to .500. They are eight games back in their division with six weeks to go. (Chelsea Janes)

-- The Redskins beat the Jets 15-13 in their second preseason game. (Kimberley A. Martin)

-- Maryland’s Goucher College will attempt to cut costs by eliminating several majors, including math and physics. From Christina Tkacik: “The liberal arts school in Towson joins a growing number of institutions removing majors such as math and physics to save money. Seven Texas universities began eliminating their physics programs in 2010. The University of the District of Columbia cut 17 degree programs, including physics, five years ago. Liberal arts colleges in particular have faced closures and cutbacks.”

-- D.C. Water is overhauling its alerts system after facing criticism for how it handled the July boil-water advisory. Peter Jamison, Reis Thebault and Fenit Nirappil report: “[A]n internal report identified multiple shortcomings in the way it handled a potential contamination of the city’s water supply last month. The report — which includes recommendations for improving the agency’s oversight of the water system and protocols for alerting D.C. residents of emergencies — offers the most thorough accounting to date of events that led to tens of thousands of people being warned against drinking their tap water over two days in mid-July.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Late-night hosts reacted to newspapers' coordinated editorials defending the freedom of the press:

CalFire released new footage of the fire tornado that killed a firefighter:

Demonstrators gathered in Poland to protest constitutional changes to the country's court system:

And fans of Aretha Franklin remembered her 2015 Kennedy Center performance that brought Barack Obama to tears: