With Breanne Deppisch
James Hohmann is on vacation. He will be back tomorrow.
THE BIG IDEA: Michigan Republicans in 2011 had a clear mission: to ensure GOP majorities by drawing partisan election maps. Emails recently discovered in a lawsuit brought in part by a group of Democratic voters, which alleges the maps Republicans drew were unconstitutional, revealed startling details of their attempts to minimize Democratic power in the purple state. One GOP staffer boasted about cramming “Dem garbage” into four of the five congressional districts that Democrats control today. Another email compared the shape of one district to an obscene gesture. “Perfect. It’s giving the finger to Sandy Levin,” the author wrote, referring to the longtime Democratic congressman. “I love it.”
The gambit appears to have worked: Republicans today maintain a tight grasp on virtually all levers of power in the state. Though President Trump carried the Wolverine State by only 0.2 percent in 2016, Michigan Republicans enjoy a 9-to-5 advantage in Congress and a 63-to-47 advantage in the state House.
Throughout American history, both parties have routinely used reapportionment to consolidate their power. Republicans made major gains in the tea party wave of 2010 because of backlash to Barack Obama’s first two years in office, which put them in the driver’s seat to draw the maps for the rest of the decade across several swing states. That’s helped the GOP to maintain a solid House majority and control two-thirds of the nation’s state legislative chambers. Last November, Virginia Republicans managed to narrowly hold on to their majority in the House of Delegates despite Democrats beating their GOP opponents by a 10-point margin across all 100 House districts. Some Democratic lawmakers and strategists blamed the gap on an allegedly gerrymandered map.
If Democrats pick up governorships and state legislatures in 2018 and 2020, they will be well positioned to use that newfound power to solidify their gains for the next decade. That’s why the party out of power is aggressively pursuing an array of efforts this year to overhaul the redistricting process — from ballot initiatives to legal challenges and down-ballot elections — that make the midterms even more consequential.
Key Democrats — such as Barack Obama and former attorney general Eric Holder — have waded deeper into the fight than they did in the past. Early last year, Holder launched the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. Obama has endorsed the work of the NDRC and appeared at a fundraiser for the group, which has bankrolled a number of redistricting-related efforts, including legal challenges to allegedly partisan maps.
The NDRC celebrated after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court tossed out the legislative lines drawn by the state’s GOP in 2011, ruling that the map “clearly, plainly and palpably” violated the state constitution. The Keystone State will hold elections this November using a map widely considered much more favorable to Democrats after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block the map's implementation. Republicans are also planning to take redistricting battles to court. A new organization called the National Republican Redistricting Trust formed last September to promote the GOP’s redistricting priorities. The group has already suggested it will launch legal battles after 2020 in states like Illinois and Maryland, where Democrats have traditionally drawn the maps.
But the Supreme Court — which heard redistricting challenges this year from Maryland (where Democrats drew the legislative lines in 2011) and Wisconsin — has never thrown out a map over partisan gerrymandering.
That inaction by SCOTUS raises the stakes for ballot initiatives meant to overhaul redistricting practices at the state level. In Michigan, a group of activists gathered the signatures for a ballot measure that would create an independent redistricting commission, similar to those that exist in California and Arizona. Voters in Colorado, Utah and Missouri will also vote on ballot initiatives aimed at overhauling how legislative lines are drawn. Ohioans earlier this year approved a constitutional amendment crafted to force both parties to compromise on the map.
The NDRC has included the ballot measures in its list of 2018 targets, which also includes a number of statewide and down-ballot elections happening this fall. According to the group, half of the people who will draw maps in 2021 will be elected this year. This means the winners in 2018, as much as 2020, could fundamentally reshape U.S. politics for the next decade.
Holder, who has called gerrymandering the “biggest rigged system in America,” has planned an active travel schedule through November to promote candidates who could play key roles in 2021 redistricting. The former attorney general recently visited Ohio to campaign on behalf of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray and will soon travel to Nevada, Texas and Kansas to promote down-ballot candidates and keynote a fundraising gala.
Holder has received some assistance in his campaign from his former boss. When Obama announced his first round of midterm endorsements earlier this month, his aides noted that one of the former president’s priorities for the fall is to provide support in the NDRC’s target races. “If we don’t elect leaders who support fairer elections, then we could see a repeat of what happened ten years ago,” Obama said in an ad for the group last month. “Of course that’s good for special interests who want to protect tax breaks for the most powerful or the gun lobby or environmental polluters, but it’s not good for our children.”
Historically, fights over reapportionment don’t activate the grass roots. But there’s evidence that progressive activists recognize the high stakes more than they did a decade ago. In Michigan, the group “Voters not Politicians” gathered nearly 400,000 signatures for its ballot initiative to change the state’s redistricting process. If approved, the measure would allow for the creation of an independent, citizen-led redistricting commission composed of four Democrats, four Republicans and five independent members. The commission would draw legislative lines every 10 years after the decennial census is complete — a power that currently lies with whichever party controls the Michigan legislature.
Patrick Rodenbush, an NDRC spokesman, said average Americans are starting to see the impact of this “admittedly wonky subject.” He said in an interview, “I think there’s actually a growing awareness among people in the states that this matters, that this affects their day-to-day lives.”
While the Democratic-aligned NDRC has endorsed the ballot initiative, Republican-aligned groups have organized a coordinated campaign against it. A group bankrolled by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce launched a lawsuit to keep the initiative off the November ballot, but the state Supreme Court ruled late last month in favor of allowing a vote on the measure.
Executives from the chamber were also heavily involved in deliberations over drawing the lines back in 2011. They insist the maps do not represent an unconstitutional gerrymander and that they followed the law in drawing legislative boundaries. “Would I say that we participated in a gerrymandering effort? No. Have we been involved in discussions every 10 years about redistricting? Yes,” Rich Studley, the chamber’s president and CEO, said last month. The chamber’s executive vice president, Jim Holcomb, added that the organization is transparent about its preference for “a business-friendly majority in the U.S. Congress.”
Elizabeth Battiste, a consultant for “Voters not Politicians” and former Democratic staffer in the Michigan state Senate, argues that the ballot initiative backed by her group is aimed at taking “special interests” out of the redistricting equation. “We really think this is an important first step to fixing our state so that we can have elected officials who are accountable to the voters,” she said.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Shots were fired at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, but no injuries were reported. Kareem Fahim reports: “The embassy confirmed it was investigating a ‘security incident’ that took place Monday morning. It said in a statement there were no injuries and praised Turkey’s police for their ‘rapid response.’ The attack came as Turkey and the United States remained locked in a vicious feud over Turkey’s prosecution of an American pastor on terrorism-related charges. … The governor’s office said that during the 5:30 a.m. attack, a gunman fired six shots at the mission from a moving white car that then fled the scene. The rounds struck an iron door and a window, the statement said.”
GET SMART FAST:
- Pope Francis declared “no effort must be spared” to fight sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. The pope described in a letter “the abuse of power and the abuse of conscience” perpetrated by a “significant number of clerics.” “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them,” he wrote. (Chico Harlan)
- Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced that his government will offer a two-month cease-fire to the Taliban. His offer comes just days after Taliban insurgents waged a violent attack on the city of Ghazni, leaving at least 200 people dead. In a televised address Sunday, Ghani said the truce could take effect as early as today and last until October, provided that the Taliban reciprocate. (Pamela Constable)
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s plan to curb spiraling inflation could send the country into deeper economic chaos. Experts said Maduro’s proposal failed to address the underlying issues causing the inflation, including the excessive minting of bolívares and a lack of confidence in his government. (Rachelle Krygier and Anthony Faiola)
- Officials ordered evacuations at Glacier National Park as the Howe Ridge Fire grew to nearly 8,000 acres. (Missoulian)
- “Fire bomber” planes have been stretched thin as the West Coast battles record-breaking wildfires. Officials trying to contain the Ferguson Fire that threatened Yosemite Valley last month requested air support but were told no planes were available. (Jennifer Oldham)
Barack Obama released his summer reading list. The former president's selections include some recent bestsellers, such as Tara Westover's “Educated” and “An American Marriage,” by Tayari Jones. (Ron Charles)
- A British woman told reporters that she fell off a cruise ship off the coast of Croatia and spent nearly 10 hours in the Adriatic Sea before she was pulled onto a rescue boat. But the woman’s ordeal has sparked plenty of unanswered questions — including how she fell into the water, and how she was able to continue treading the deep water for nearly half a day. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Trump’s lawyers do not know how much White House counsel Don McGahn has shared with Robert Mueller’s team during 30 hours of interviews, the New York Times’s Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt report. It's “a lapse that has contributed to a growing recognition that an early strategy of full cooperation with the inquiry was a potentially damaging mistake . . . Mr. Trump’s lawyers realized on Saturday that they had not been provided a full accounting after [the New York Times] published an article describing Mr. McGahn’s extensive cooperation with Mr. Mueller’s office. After Mr. McGahn was initially interviewed by [Mueller’s team] in November, Mr. Trump’s lawyers never asked for a complete description of what Mr. McGahn had said, according to a person close to the president. Mr. McGahn’s lawyer, William A. Burck, gave the president’s lawyers a short overview of the interview but few details, and he did not inform them of what Mr. McGahn said in subsequent interactions . . . Mr. McGahn and Mr. Burck feared that Mr. Trump was setting up Mr. McGahn to take the blame for any possible wrongdoing, so they embraced the opening to cooperate fully with Mr. Mueller in an effort to demonstrate that Mr. McGahn had done nothing wrong. . . .
“On Sunday, [Rudy Giuliani] appeared to acknowledge that he had only a partial understanding of what [McGahn] had revealed. Mr. Giuliani said his knowledge was secondhand, given to him by a former Trump lawyer, John Dowd, who was one of the primary forces behind the initial strategy of full cooperation.” “I’ll use his words rather than mine, that McGahn was a strong witness for the president, so I don’t need to know much more about that,” Giuliani said [on] NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “But Mr. McGahn, who as White House counsel is not the president’s personal lawyer, has repeatedly made clear to the president that his role is as a protector of the presidency, not of Mr. Trump personally.”
-- Giuliani said that he will not allow Mueller to “rush” Trump into an interview as part of his ongoing Russia probe, telling NBC News's Chuck Todd, “I am not going to be rushed into having him testify so that he gets trapped into perjury.” Elise Viebeck reports: “Giuliani’s exchange with [Todd] produced an odd back-and-forth on the meaning of truth in the context of the Russia investigation. ‘When you tell me that [Trump] should testify because he’s going to tell the truth and he shouldn’t worry, that’s so silly — because it’s somebody’s version of the truth. Not the truth,’ Giuliani said. Todd responded, ‘Truth is truth.’ … ‘No, it isn’t truth. Truth isn’t truth,’ Giuliani said.”
-- Giuliani’s comments came the same day Trump lashed out against Mueller’s probe over Twitter, calling it a “Fake Story” and comparing it to McCarthyism. “The Failing New York Times wrote a story that made it seem like the White House Councel had TURNED on the President, when in fact it is just the opposite - & the two Fake reporters knew this. This is why the Fake News Media has become the Enemy of the People. So bad for America!” Trump tweeted. He later added, “Study the late Joseph McCarthy, because we are now in period with Mueller and his gang that make Joseph McCarthy look like a baby! Rigged Witch Hunt!” From David Nakamura: “Some of Trump's critics have suggested it is the president, who last week stripped the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan and has vowed to pursue similar actions against a list of other critics, is the one who is acting like McCarthy.”
-- Federal investigators are probing whether former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen illegally obtained over $20 million in loans for his taxi business. The New York Times’s William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess and Maggie Haberman report: “The inquiry has entered the final stage and prosecutors are considering filing charges by the end of August, two of the people said. … The bank loans under scrutiny … came from two financial institutions in the New York region that have catered to the taxi industry, Sterling National Bank and the Melrose Credit Union … Federal investigators in New York are seeking to determine whether Mr. Cohen misrepresented the value of his assets to obtain the loans … They are also examining how he handled the income from his taxi medallions and whether he failed to report it to the [IRS].”
-- Cohen’s lawyer Lanny Davis has been reaching out regularly to John Dean, Richard Nixon’s former White House counsel who famously flipped against the former president. “I reached out to my old friend John Dean because of what he went through with Watergate, and I saw some parallels to what Michael Cohen is experiencing. I wanted to gain from John’s wisdom,” Davis said of his outreach. “I certainly don’t want to raise expectations that Mr. Cohen has anything like the level of deep involvement and detailed knowledge that John Dean had in the Nixon White House as a witness to Nixon’s crimes, but I did see some similarities...” (Politico)
TRUMP VS. THE NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY:
-- John Brennan said that he is willing to take Trump to court to prevent him from revoking the security clearances of other current and former U.S. officials. Felicia Sonmez and Carol Morello report: “'If my clearances — and my reputation, as I’m being pulled through the mud now — if that’s the price we’re going to pay to prevent [Trump] from doing this against other people, to me, it’s a small price to pay,’ Brennan said [on 'Meet the Press']. He did not immediately elaborate on what such a legal move would look like.” Asked about the possibility of such a lawsuit on Fox News, meanwhile, Giuliani described it as a “welcome opportunity:” “I would volunteer to do that case for the president. I would love to have Brennan under oath,” Giuliani said. “We will find out about Brennan, and we will find out what a terrible job he did.”
-- Former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden said he thinks the relationship between Trump and the national security community is “dangerously close to being permanently broken.” “If we're back in our old agencies, we're trying to say to our workforce: 'We have nothing to do with what John Brennan says on TV and we have nothing to do with what the president has done in response,'" Hayden said on CNN. “But that has to be harder and harder each day as the administration takes these kinds of actions.” (The Hill)
-- Trump’s action against Brennan has recalled for some the “enemies list” Nixon kept. Michael E. Miller reports: “‘This memorandum addresses the matter of how we can maximize the fact of our incumbency in dealing with persons known to be active in their opposition to our Administration,’ [former White House counsel John Dean] wrote on Aug. 16, 1971. ‘Stated a bit more bluntly — how we can use the available federal machinery to screw our political enemies.’ … Within a few weeks, Nixon’s special counsel, Charles Colson, had prepared a list of 20 people whose screwing was a priority. Next to their names were notes explaining their inclusion. Among them were labor leaders, top Democratic fundraisers and journalists. CBS reporter Daniel Schorr was ‘a real media enemy.’ Washington Star (and future Washington Post) columnist Mary McGrory, who would later win a Pulitzer Prize for writing about Watergate, made the cut because of her ‘daily hate Nixon articles.’ …
Dean said he saw parallels between Trump and Nixon: “But while Trump attacks his enemies openly, in daily tweets, Nixon railed in private, only to be exposed by White House recordings. And while Trump is a political outsider who has vowed to ‘drain the swamp,’ Nixon was a Washington insider who had been a U.S. representative, senator and two-term vice president before becoming commander in chief, Dean pointed out. ‘The big difference between Trump and Nixon is that Trump doesn’t have a clue how government works,’ Dean said. ‘Nixon did.’ Dean, who has emerged as a prominent critic of the current president, said Nixon was a master at using the machinery of the government to go after people, as evidenced by the enemies list. But he was loath to go into greater detail lest it give Trump ideas.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- National security adviser John Bolton said that U.S. officials are concerned about election interference from Russia and three additional foreign adversaries — China, Iran and North Korea — in the run-up to this year’s midterms. Bolton added that threats expand beyond just U.S. election systems, citing a “whole range of vulnerable systems” in the public and private sphere. “What we want is … peace in cyberspace,” he said. “And to do that, I think you need to establish structures of deterrence so that our adversaries who have conducted cyber operations against us or who are contemplating it come to understand they will pay a much higher price if they do that than if they simply refrain.”
Bolton also said that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is slated to soon visit North Korea for the fourth time, where he is expected to meet with Kim Jong Un. Pompeo is expected to sit down with Kim within a year to press him on the country’s denuclearization efforts. (Carol Morello)
-- In case you missed it: “After detente with North Korea, Trump increasingly takes aim at a new foe — China,” by David Nakamura: “After 18 months of treating North Korea as the top national security threat, [Trump] has increasingly turned his attention to China, taking a more confrontational approach that experts said shows a risky shift in U.S. policy. … From an escalating trade war to a new defense budget that counters Chinese maritime expansion, the Trump administration has taken aim at the East Asian power in a contest of wills that has led to a growing consensus in Beijing that the United States is seeking to contain China’s rise. Trump’s rhetoric has grown sharper since last year, when he attempted to strike a rapport with his ‘good friend' President Xi Jinping. Last week, Trump cited the Chinese military as the rationale for creating a new ‘Space Force’ at the Pentagon, and in a tweet on Saturday he injected China into the specter of foreign influence of U.S. elections. ‘All of the fools that are so focused on looking only at Russia should start also looking in another direction, China,’ [Trump wrote], without offering evidence of any Chinese conspiracy.”
-- As Turkey suffers from U.S. sanctions, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to have successfully convinced Turkish people to blame the problems on the United States. Kareem Fahim reports: “The feud has been costly for Turkey, pushing its currency, the lira, to record lows against the dollar. But Erdogan’s ability to benefit from the crisis has raised questions about whether Trump underestimated the Turkish leader, a ‘nimble tactician’ who is convinced that Western powers are bent on crippling Turkey because of its status as a strong Muslim nation, said Lisel Hintz, a professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. ‘Trump has played exactly into Erdogan’s hands,’ she said.”
-- The White House rejected Turkey’s offer to release American pastor Andrew Brunson in exchange for the U.S. abandoning an investigation into a major Turkish bank. The Wall Street Journal’s Michael C. Bender reports: “The rejection of a possible trade sets the stage for the U.S. to impose another round of penalties against Ankara as soon as this week. … [Turkey] asked the U.S. to drop an investigation into Halkbank, which is facing potentially crippling fines for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions on Iran. The White House official said the U.S. made clear to Turkey that areas of dispute between the two nations, including the fines Halkbank faces, won’t be discussed until Mr. Brunson has been released.”
-- Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, a key architect of the nuclear deal, accused the United States of having an “addiction to sanctions.” From CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh, Shirzad Bozorgmehr and Salma Abdelaziz: “Zarif retained a clear belief during the hourlong [CNN] interview in the foreign ministry that the nuclear deal could be revived regardless of the Trump administration denunciation of it. … Zarif expressed his dismay that the United States has not learned that sanctions are ineffective in changing the political climate in Iran.”
-- Trump told Jordan’s King Abdullah that a one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could soon lead to Israel having a prime minister named Mohammed. Barak Ravid reports for Axios: “On August 2nd, King Abdullah hosted French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian in Amman. During the meeting, the king briefed the French minister on his meeting with Trump a month earlier. … The king said he warned Trump during their meeting in June that ‘many young Palestinians don’t want the two-state solution anymore, but would rather live together with the Israelis in one state with equal rights for all.’ The king added he told Trump: ‘The result will be that Israel will lose its Jewish character’. The king told the French foreign minister Trump answered sarcastically — half joking, half serious: ‘What you say makes sense. … [In a one-state scenario,] the prime minister of Israel in a few years will be called Mohammed’.”
-- European officials have struggled in their mission to quash the Islamic State’s online presence. Joby Warrick reports: “In [a] two-day operation in April, police seized computers and network servers across Europe and North America and blocked Internet portals used by the terrorist group’s radio broadcaster, al-Bayan, and its official news agency, Amaq. Yet, less than a week later, Amaq suddenly reappeared at a different Web address, forcing the governments to pounce again. Then it surfaced a third time. And a fourth. … The decision by Europol to target Amaq was an acknowledgment that the Islamic State is still regarded as a particularly dangerous presence online — and one that often uses the West’s own computer networks to reach its followers, officials and counterterrorism experts said.”
PERSONNEL IS POLICY:
-- Trump speechwriter Darren Beattie was fired last week amid revelations that he had spoken at a conference alongside well-known white nationalists in 2016. Robert Costa reports: “[Beattie], who was a visiting instructor at Duke University before he joined the White House speechwriting team, was fired Friday [following inquiries] about his appearance at the 2016 H.L. Mencken Club conference, where Beattie spoke on a panel alongside Peter Brimelow. Brimelow, founder of the anti-immigrant website Vdare.com, is a ‘white nationalist’ and ‘regularly publishes works by white supremacists, anti-Semites, and others on the radical right,’ according to the Southern Poverty Law Center[.] Earlier this year, Brimelow described himself as a believer in ‘racial nationalism’ who sees the future of the United States ‘precipitating out on racial lines.’ Beattie worked for Vince Haley, the head of speechwriting at the White House and at times worked on speech projects for [Trump policy adviser Stephen Miller].”
-- “'We owe these people’: Trump loyalists find soft landings after getting ousted,” by Politico’s Nancy Cook and Andrew Restuccia: “When Carl Higbie’s degrading comments about African Americans, women, gays, and Muslims surfaced in January, he resigned from his job in the Trump administration. Yet just two months later, the former Navy SEAL landed at the pro-Trump group America First Policies, earning roughly the same amount as his White House salary, he says. … ‘Trumpworld is still very small, and people within Trumpworld generally try to stay within it. Because of my profile, I could never go to a company like Deloitte or McKinsey,’ Higbie [said]. ‘When you are publicly supporting Trump you close a significant number of doors, given how adamantly some people hate the president. Once you’re on Trump’s bandwagon, 80 percent of companies do not want political baggage when they hire you,’ he added.”
-- As Gov. Rick Scott campaigns for the U.S. Senate, the Florida Republican is jumping through hoops to distinguish himself from Trump — especially among bilingual voters. Michael Scherer reports: “[Scott] steals time every day as he campaigns for the Senate to practice a skill his old friend [Trump] once dismissed as a bad Republican habit — speaking in Spanish. Back in 2015, Trump frowned upon this sort of politicking … But Trump has not objected this year as Republicans like Scott in tight races with large Latino voting blocks carefully try to distance themselves from his nativist rhetoric and polarizing tactics. Unlike Trump’s 2016 electoral college map, which depended heavily on working-class whites in the Midwest, the midterm elections will run through many parts of the country where Hispanics make up double-digit shares of the voting electorate. … The result has been a remarkable bifurcation between the continued rhetoric of the Trump administration and local messaging of some Republican campaigns. It has also lead to confusion about the policy focus of the party … 'It’s encouraging that candidates and elected officials that are running for reelection don’t disrespect large swaths of their population to win an election,’ said Jeb Bush, [who is supporting Scott] and Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) in the midterms. ‘But not long ago that would have been a given.’”
-- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is hitting the campaign trail as he angles for the speakership. Mike DeBonis reports: “He has spent his August trekking across the country, campaigning with embattled candidates in multiple states, adding to a fundraising haul that already exceeds $40 million for the election cycle and doling out advice, encouragement and occasional ultimatums to the Republicans who will determine whether the GOP will hold on to its precarious 23-seat majority. If he is successful, McCarthy is confident he will have a bulletproof case for the speaker’s gavel: With the head winds of political history, an unpopular president and an energized Democratic electorate standing against the GOP, no one did more to keep Republicans in power. … But McCarthy faces persistent doubts among the most conservative GOP voters, who have long seen him as part of an establishment that has sought to sideline their views.”
-- Attacks against first-time Democratic congressional candidates are turning increasingly personal. Politico’s Elena Schneider reports: “[W]ith so many first-time candidates running on the Democratic side — without the baggage of legislative voting records or controversial positions adopted over a long public career — and the political environment tilting toward them, GOP efforts to keep them out of the House may hinge on specific personal critiques, vetting them publicly for the first time. That’s how Congressional Leadership Fund, the Republican super PAC, is starting its campaign against Democrat Sean Casten in Illinois, blasting him for ‘mismanagement, fraud, greed’ at his company in a TV ad released Wednesday. (Casten’s campaign called it ‘false attacks’ in a statement.) The group is also hammering Randy Bryce, the Democratic nominee in Speaker Paul Ryan’s district, over drunk driving arrests.”
-- Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, widely considered a Democratic 2020 contender, said he would support a ban on assault weapons. “If we really step back for a minute, I think most folks — be it in Montana or elsewhere — that are firearm owners want to keep themselves and their families safe,” Bullock said on CNN. “It’s not unlike folks that say that all of these school tragedies and everything that’s been happening, what do they really want? Those same values.” From Felicia Sonmez: “Bullock has typically touted his moderate bona fides, including the fact that he was reelected in 2016 by four percentage points in a state that [Trump] won by 21 points. … Yet his declaration of support for an assault weapons ban is a sign that he also is attuned to calls among the Democratic base for a more liberal candidate to challenge Trump in 2020.”
THE REST OF TRUMP’S AGENDA:
-- Two lawsuits will likely soon determine the fate of “dreamers.” Arelis R. Hernández reports: “On Friday, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates ruled that the Trump administration does not have to accept new applications for [DACA] but must continue processing renewals while the future of the program is under appeal. … But a competing lawsuit in Texas that questions DACA’s constitutionality now sits before U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen. He blocked a similar executive action by Obama that would have shielded the undocumented parents of U.S.-born children. If Hanen rules that DACA is unconstitutional in the next few weeks, the decision will probably fast-track the issue to the Supreme Court.”
-- Customs and Border Protection has faced several lawsuits in recent years over allegedly invasive body searches. The Center for Public Integrity’s Susan Ferriss reports: “Tameika Lovell was retrieving luggage at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport when [CBP] officers detained her for a random search. … What happened next is the subject of a harrowing lawsuit pending in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York . . . Lovell has accused CBP officers of violating her constitutional rights and sidestepping the agency’s rules prohibiting officers from conducting invasive body searches. Her case is one of at least 11 since 2011 examined by the Center for Public Integrity.”
-- Trump is planning to propose that states establish emission standards for coal plants rather than retiring them, as the Obama administration had recommended. Juliet Eilperin reports: “Trump plans to announce the measure as soon as Tuesday during a visit to West Virginia … The [EPA’s] own impact analysis, which runs nearly 300 pages, projects that the proposal would make only slight cuts to overall emissions of pollutants — including carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides — over the next decade. The Obama rule, by contrast, dwarfs those cuts by a factor of more than 12. The new proposal, which will be subject to a 60-day comment period, could have enormous implications for dozens of aging coal-fired power plants across the country.”
-- “Inside Trump’s Judicial Takeover,” by the Rolling Stone’s Andy Kroll: “Trump has put 26 new judges onto the appellate courts, more than any other chief executive at this point in the presidency. He has also nominated over 100 district-court judges and gotten 26 of those picks confirmed. These judges are overwhelmingly young, ideological and now set to serve lifetime appointments. And then, of course, there’s Justice Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s first pick for the Supreme Court, and Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the president’s second Supreme Court nominee, who stands a strong chance of confirmation. ‘Whatever anyone wants to say about President Trump, he was very explicit about which judges he wanted, and he’s gone about appointing them,’ says Michael Gerhardt, a law professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. ‘He made a promise and they’re keeping it.’”
-- OMB Director Mick Mulvaney said he believes money wasn’t the “only factor” in delaying Trump’s planned military parade, citing unspecified “contributing factors.” “If the parade had been canceled purely for fiscal reasons, I imagine I would have been in the room when that was made, and I wasn’t,” Mulvaney said on Fox News. “So my guess is there were other contributing factors.” His comments come after Trump took to Twitter on Friday to accuse D.C. officials of unfairly raising the cost of the parade, which had originally been planned for this November. (USA Today)
THE #METOO MOVEMENT:
-- Italian actress and director Asia Argento, who accused Harvey Weinstein of rape, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars paying off her own accuser, according to the New York Times’s Kim Severson. “Ms. Argento quietly arranged to pay $380,000 to … Jimmy Bennett, a young actor and rock musician who said she had sexually assaulted him in a California hotel room years earlier, when he was only two months past his 17th birthday. She was 37. The age of consent in California is 18. That claim and the subsequent arrangement for payments are laid out in documents between lawyers for Ms. Argento and Mr. Bennett, a former child actor who once played her son in a movie. The documents, which were sent to The New York Times through encrypted email by an unidentified party, include a selfie dated May 9, 2013, of the two lying in bed. As part of the agreement, Mr. Bennett, who is now 22, gave the photograph and its copyright to Ms. Argento, now 42. …
“Mr. Bennett’s notice of intent asked for $3.5 million in damages for the intentional infliction of emotional distress, lost wages, assault and battery. Mr. Bennett made more than $2.7 million in the five years before the 2013 meeting with Ms. Argento, but his income has since dropped to an average of $60,000 a year, which he attributes to the trauma that followed the sexual encounter with Ms. Argento, his lawyer wrote.”
-- Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party endorsed Rep. Keith Ellison’s bid to become state attorney general, despite the recent domestic abuse allegations against him. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s Stephen Montemayor: “Ellison, who handily won Tuesday’s primary election, won over 82 percent of the delegates voting at the DFL state executive committee meeting. … In his speech to a packed auditorium, Ellison again denied abusing ex-girlfriend Karen Monahan … ‘I want to tell you, face to face, that I never abused Karen,’ Ellison said Saturday. ‘Despite everything, I still care about her as a person and I don’t want anybody to say anything insulting to her at all.’ Earlier Saturday, about a dozen protesters gathered outside Cambridge-Isanti High School before the meeting, shouting ‘Ellison beats women.’”
-- In a deposition earlier this month, former congressman Blake Farenthold, who resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct, blamed the #MeToo movement for his ouster. From HuffPost’s Jennifer Bendery: “[T]he former GOP lawmaker says he ‘took a bullet for the team’ by resigning. He insists he’s right not to repay $84,000 in taxpayer money he spent on a sexual harassment settlement. He ripped the House Ethics Committee for not caring about facts. … And that’s just a sample of Farenthold’s comments in an Aug. 1 deposition he gave in a lawsuit over his new job at a Texas port authority. The Victoria Advocate, a local newspaper, sued the port authority in May for not giving required public notice that it was hiring Farenthold and creating a $160,000-a-year lobbyist job for him.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump kept up his attacks on Mueller’s probe over Twitter this morning, calling the investigators a “National Disgrace”:
Disgraced and discredited Bob Mueller and his whole group of Angry Democrat Thugs spent over 30 hours with the White House Councel, only with my approval, for purposes of transparency. Anybody needing that much time when they know there is no Russian Collusion is just someone....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 20, 2018
....looking for trouble. They are enjoying ruining people’s lives and REFUSE to look at the real corruption on the Democrat side - the lies, the firings, the deleted Emails and soooo much more! Mueller’s Angry Dems are looking to impact the election. They are a National Disgrace!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 20, 2018
Where’s the Collusion? They made up a phony crime called Collusion, and when there was no Collusion they say there was Obstruction (of a phony crime that never existed). If you FIGHT BACK or say anything bad about the Rigged Witch Hunt, they scream Obstruction!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 20, 2018
An LA Times reporter questioned the president's language:
It’s not normal for presidents to describe someone who cooperates with law enforcement as a “rat.” https://t.co/o4ZYDZKbHN— Chris Megerian (@ChrisMegerian) August 19, 2018
From Obama's former ethics czar:
Channelling Tony Soprano not a good look for a POTUS https://t.co/6s68GRFme8— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) August 19, 2018
A Fox News analyst criticized Trump's tweet about McCarthyism:
From the moderator of “Meet the Press”:
Take his advice, study McCarthy and specifically focus on the individual who connects the two via just one degree of separation: Roy Marcus Cohn https://t.co/tFhJE4Qz84— Chuck Todd (@chucktodd) August 19, 2018
The Post's book critic charted the progression of Trump aides' comments on the truth:
*When @seanspicer said inaugural crowd was the biggest, he wanted us to believe a specific untruth.— Carlos Lozada (@CarlosLozadaWP) August 19, 2018
*When @KellyannePolls invoked “alternative truths,” it meant we could choose any truth.
*When Giuliani says “truth isn’t truth,” he means there is no truth but Trump’s.#StepByStep
The former FBI director gave a defense of the truth:
Truth exists and truth matters. Truth has always been the touchstone of our country’s justice system and political life. People who lie are held accountable. If we are untethered to truth, our justice system cannot function and a society based on the rule of law dissolves.— James Comey (@Comey) August 19, 2018
A Post reporter analyzed Giuliani's comments on the Trump Tower meeting:
Basically the story has gone from “the meeting was about adoptions” to “we really wanted to get dirt from the Russians but they only wanted to talk adoptions and we weren’t interested.” https://t.co/bqGPEeAuGN— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) August 19, 2018
A CNBC reporter fact-checked Giuliani's comments:
Giuliani: “All they knew was that a woman with a Russian name wanted to meet. They didn’t know she was a rep of the Russian” govt.— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) August 19, 2018
False. Rob Goldstone 2016 email to Don Jr: Mtg is w a “Russian government attorney” and “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.”
From an NBC News reporter:
Stunned by the number of people, including Rudy Giuliani, who confess the belief that anyone in politics would take stolen information from an adversarial foreign government to win an election. In this view, there are no means to victory that are not justified by victory.— Jonathan Allen (@jonallendc) August 19, 2018
A New York Times reporter noted the week's progression:
Shades of 1974? The week started with an enemies list, then came secret White House tapes and it finishes with a White House counsel spilling to a special prosecutor.— Peter Baker (@peterbakernyt) August 19, 2018
The House majority leader accused Twitter of censoring conservative voices:
A Princeton professor blamed the issue on McCarthy's account settings:
That's not Twitter censoring her tweets. It's Twitter following your own personal account settings.— Kevin M. Kruse (@KevinMKruse) August 18, 2018
My God, this is just embarrassing.
Nancy Pelosi mocked McCarthy's claim:
Rather than adjust his Twitter settings, Kevin McCarthy chooses to perpetuate an outrageous conspiracy theory. Shows he sadly doesn't know how to use the platform. That's insane.🤦♀️ pic.twitter.com/sEwo1pkYLs— Nancy Pelosi (@TeamPelosi) August 19, 2018
But McCarthy defended his assertion:
A Cook Political Report editor made a midterm prediction:
Ultimately, I think Ds either fall a few seats short of House majority or win 35 seats. Tons of single digit races that will break overwhelmingly to D or R on Election Day - won’t break 50-50.— amy walter (@amyewalter) August 19, 2018
And a House Republican marked National Aviation Day:
-- “‘Wasted our lives’: Catholic sex abuse scandals again prompt a crisis of faith,” by Julie Zauzmer, Michelle Boorstein and Michael Brice-Saddler: “She thought about not coming. Disillusioned by the sex abuse scandal again consuming the Catholic Church, Claartje Bertaut considered skipping Sunday Mass for the first time in more than four decades. In fact, she even considered leaving Catholicism. But the 87-year-old D.C. woman sat in the pews Sunday at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament — one of the region’s most prominent Catholic churches — as a young, impassioned priest urged more than 200 churchgoers not to lose their faith in God or Catholicism amid a ‘period of darkness’ for the church.”
-- New York magazine, “David Hogg, After Parkland,” by Lisa Miller: “Hogg was good on TV — great, even — and in the marathon of coverage that followed the Parkland shooting, he honed his persona. Angry, edgy, righteous, relentless, he was the warrior who would take anyone on and refused to be knocked off message. The White House called to invite him to the president’s ‘listening session’ on guns, and he hung up on them. … Right-wing conspiracy theorists accused him of being a ‘crisis actor,’ a pretender, a fake. Ted Nugent took a special dislike. Death threats became a regular part of his life.”
-- Politico Magazine, “The Doomed Island That Loves Trump,” by Earl Swift: “Tangier Island, climate change-denying and threatened by rising waters, became a thing of media fascination in 2016. Here’s what it looked like on their side.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“C-SPAN Caller Unleashes Racist Rant About Barack Obama On Air,” from HuffPost: “C-SPAN bleeped the audio of a caller who phoned in to use a racial slur and call for the death of [Obama] on Sunday. During the network’s morning program Washington Journal, host Paul Orgel took a call from a person he identified as Christopher of White Haven, Pennsylvania on the Republican phone line. Callers are meant to phone in with questions for guests based on the discussion, but Christopher instead falsely claimed that Obama was an ‘illegal alien.’ As Orgel responded, ‘How do you know this?’ Christopher proceeded to talk over him. The audio then cut out for a few seconds as the guests looked visibly stunned. … Following the program, [Post opinion writer] Paul Waldman, a guest on the program, tweeted that a caller shouted for Obama’s death and called the former president the N-word.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Congressman Alcee Hastings says ‘something is tragically wrong’ with Donald Trump’s mind,” from the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: “Congressman Alcee Hastings, an outspoken South Florida Democrat, zeroed in one of his favorite topics on Sunday: President Donald Trump. Hastings has frequently lambasted the president, and he had an appreciate audience at a ‘Stronger Together’ rally in Sunrise sponsored by 16 of Broward’s Democratic clubs. ‘There is no question that something is tragically wrong with the president of the United States in his mind,’ said Hastings, who emceed the event that attracted four of the five Democratic candidates for governor and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who is seeking re-election. … He began the afternoon by explaining the difference between a ‘crisis’ and a catastrophe. A crisis, he said, is if the Trump falls into the Potomac River in the nation’s capital. A catastrophe, Hastings said, would be if ‘anybody saves his a--.’”
Trump will have lunch with Pence and then participate in a “salute” to officials from ICE and Customs and Border Protection.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“Donald Trump doesn’t want to debate me on a national stage. That’s for sure. There’s no question about that. … I think he’s a bully and I think he doesn’t like people who punch back and I think I’d be incredibly effective against him. … I don’t think he’s very quick on his feet. I don’t think he’s that intelligent and I think he’d be completely outclassed.” — Michael Avenatti headlining a Democratic Party event in New Hampshire. (Fox News)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Cloud cover in the District will keep temperatures a bit lower than normal. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Skies are a bit murky because of air flow from the northeast. That said, some peeks of sun can’t be ruled out at times. The considerable cloud cover probably will hold highs to the low 80s in most spots.”
-- A growing backlog of citizenship applications has acutely affected immigrants in D.C. and Maryland. Teo Armus reports: “[A]pplication forms doubled in length during the Obama years, with dozens of new questions about ‘good moral character,’ and the Trump administration has been scrutinizing those documents more closely, advocates say. The result is a growing backlog of citizenship applications at a time when Trump’s immigration crackdown has made even permanent residents feel like they may be at risk. … The backlog is especially pronounced in immigrant-heavy jurisdictions like Washington, D.C., and Maryland, where wait times can reach 16 or 17 months.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
John Oliver accused Trump of failing to understand the far-reaching implications of his trade policy:
Floodwaters submerged roads in Wisconsin:
A father and son captured on video their narrow escape from the Howe Ridge Fire:
"Dad, we can't get out!"— ABC News (@ABC) August 20, 2018
A father and son make a mad dash to escape the Howe Ridge Fire in Glacier National Park through the only road out from their campsite, flanked by flames. They were ultimately rescued by park rangers after abandoning their vehicle. https://t.co/NWXbDaEsjo pic.twitter.com/knSoZhNbDu
And Vladimir Putin waltzed with the Austrian foreign minister at her wedding: