With Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: First lady Melania Trump, who has appeared increasingly emboldened to assert her independence from President Trump, referred to the concept of a “global society” twice on Monday, as she decried cyberbullying in the morning and when she announced plans last night to travel to Africa without her husband in October.
“This will be my first time traveling to Africa and I am excited to educate myself on the issues facing children throughout the continent, while also learning about its rich culture and history,” Melania Trump said in a statement distributed by the East Wing. “We are a global society, and I believe it is through open dialogue and the exchanging of ideas that we have a real opportunity to learn from one another.”
In January, Trump reportedly described African nations as “shithole countries” while telling members of Congress that he wanted to restrict immigration from the continent. The president denied it, even though multiple people in the room confirmed the comments. POTUS also spent years falsely peddling the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama, a native of Hawaii, was born in Kenya. In 2011, she defended her husband's birtherism.
During the antibullying event in the D.C. suburb of Rockville, the first lady warned that sites like Facebook and Twitter “can be used in many positive ways but can also be destructive and harmful when used incorrectly.”
“In today’s global society, social media is an inevitable part of our children’s daily lives,” the 48-year-old said. “It can be used in many positive ways but can also be destructive and harmful when used incorrectly. … Let’s face it: Most children are more aware of the benefits and pitfalls of social media than some adults, but we still need to do all we can to provide them with information and tools for successful and safe online habits.”
She didn’t mention Trump. She didn’t need to. As the roundtable discussion was still going, her septuagenarian husband taunted former CIA director John Brennan as a “hack” on Twitter and dared him to file a lawsuit over his revoked security clearance. Just before her speech, the president claimed that Robert Mueller III, a decorated Marine who served in Vietnam and has devoted most of his life to public service, is “disgraced and discredited.” He also called the career federal prosecutors who work for the special counsel “Angry Democrat Thugs.”
The president has personally attacked at least 487 people, companies or institutions on social media since launching his campaign three summers ago, according to a running tally by the New York Times. Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman joined that list last week after publishing “Unhinged,” a tell-all about her time working for him. Trump called her a “dog” and a “crazed, crying lowlife” on Twitter, among other insults.
This dissonance is jarring — and would have been inconceivable in recent White Houses. “It was as though Nancy Reagan had given a ‘Just Say No’ speech while her husband honored the occasion back at the White House by snorting cocaine during a live news conference,” columnist Dana Milbank wrote from the Rockville event. “Summit participants avoided mention of the cyberbully in chief — the equivalent of having a summit on election hacking with no mention of Russia.”
The film producer Adam Best likened Melania Trump’s comments to someone saying, “My husband is an arsonist who keeps burning down everything in sight, but we really need to set a better example so kids stop playing with fire.”
“It would be like a hot dog salesman's wife starting a national campaign aimed at highlighting all the gross stuff they put in hot dogs,” added CNN’s Chris Cillizza.
Melania Trump’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, replied:
It’s a sincere campaign meant to help children w the many issues they face today. https://t.co/OoQ4z8HJ4C— Stephanie Grisham (@StephGrisham45) August 20, 2018
In a separate statement, Grisham added: “She is aware of the criticism but it will not deter her from doing what she feels is right. The President is proud of her commitment to children and encourages her in all that she does.”
Sort of like George and Kellyanne Conway, it often feels like Donald and Melania Trump are part of different administrations.
In June, during the family separation crisis created by her husband, the first lady visited a facility near the Mexican border where kids who had been taken from their parents were being held. She wore a jacket that said, “I really don’t care, do u?”
Her parents became U.S. citizens this month by taking advantage of a family reunification policy that Trump derisively calls “chain migration” and is trying to stop other families from using.
There are many other examples and illustrations of the first couple’s distance. “One person who has spent a considerable amount of time around her said Melania Trump was far more relaxed outside the presence of her husband than when he was around,” Katie Rogers, Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Maggie Haberman reported in Sunday’s Times. “She maintains a separate bedroom from her husband, and when the two travel, they stay in separate hotel suites.”
Melania Trump has only about 10 aides, compared to the 25 who worked for Michelle Obama and Laura Bush. Her policy director was apparently pushed out a few weeks ago. It’s the smallest staff for any first lady since Mamie Eisenhower, per Emily Heil.
Taken together, Melania Trump is poised to become perhaps the most iconoclastic first lady since at least Betty Ford. In 1975, Gerald Ford’s wife lobbied for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment to the consternation of the White House political team. “Being ladylike does not require silence,” she said during a speech in Cleveland.
Ronald Reagan was challenging the accidental president from the right for the Republican nomination. The former California governor’s team capitalized on Betty Ford’s outspokenness on issues like premarital sex to galvanize social conservatives such as Phyllis Schlafly, who picketed the Ford White House as part of her STOP ERA campaign. Internal polls conducted by the Reagan campaign in 1976 showed that Betty Ford was a drag on her husband among conservatives in several key primaries that Reagan narrowly won, especially in the South.
Other first ladies have gotten burned when they staked out positions that put them at odds with their husbands. “In 1971, Richard Nixon had two Supreme Court vacancies to fill,” Jill Hummer recalled recently. “Pat Nixon wanted him to nominate a woman, and she went public about it. ‘Don’t you worry; I’m talking it up. … If we can’t get a woman on the Supreme Court this time, there’ll be a next time,’ she told reporters. Ultimately, Richard Nixon nominated Lewis Powell and William Rehnquist. Pat Nixon was upset and embarrassed that her advice, which she had boldly proffered publicly, had gone unheeded.”
Finally, the timing of the Africa trip suggests that Mrs. Trump does not plan to be a surrogate for Republican candidates on the campaign trail during the run-up to the midterms. The East Wing isn’t saying yet exactly where or when in October she’s going, but it seems clear that she’d rather be overseas than on the stump promoting her husband’s policies.
-- I’m back from vacation. Thank you to my colleagues who wrote Big Ideas while I was away: Joanie Greve, Heather Long, Dave Weigel, Sean Sullivan and Paul Kane.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Microsoft said it discovered and disabled fake websites connected to a group with ties to the Russian government. They were apparently created to hack into the computers of those who visited, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg report: “The effort by the notorious APT28 hacking group, which has been publicly linked to a Russian intelligence agency and actively interfered in the 2016 presidential election, underscores the aggressive role Russian operatives are playing ahead of the [midterms] … Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit, which is responsible for the company’s response to email phishing schemes, took the lead role in finding and disabling the sites, and the company is launching an effort to provide expanded cybersecurity protection for campaigns and election agencies that use Microsoft products.
“Among those targeted were the Hudson Institute, a conservative Washington think tank active in investigations of corruption in Russia, and the International Republican Institute (IRI), a nonprofit group that promotes democracy worldwide. Three other fake sites were crafted to appear as though they were affiliated with the Senate, and one nonpolitical site spoofed Microsoft’s own online products. … Microsoft said Monday that it had found no evidence that the fake sites it recently discovered were used in attacks, but fake sites can carry malware that automatically loads onto the computers of unsuspecting visitors.”
-- Meanwhile, Trump has gone back to doubting the intelligence community’s consensus that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. In an interview with Reuters yesterday, the president complained that the special counsel’s ongoing investigation into whether his campaign colluded with the Kremlin and he obstructed justice in the probe has played into the hands of the Russians. “If it was Russia,” he said.
GET SMART FAST:
- Protesters toppled a Confederate statue last night on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Many students, faculty and alumni had called for the removal of the “Silent Sam” memorial, which they condemned as racist, but university officials said state law prevented them from taking it down. (AP)
- Cardinal Donald Wuerl has faced severe backlash since being accused in the Pennsylvania grand jury report of enabling sexual abuse. The Washington archbishop’s upcoming book was canceled by his publisher, and officials in Pittsburgh are considering removing his name from a local high school. (Michelle Boorstein)
- Federal prosecutors charged two men for allegedly acting as agents of the government of Iran. The men are accused of monitoring a Jewish center in Chicago and American members of an Iranian opposition group. (Spencer S. Hsu)
U.S. officials are confident al-Qaeda's chief bomb maker was killed in an American drone strike in Yemen last year. But Ibrahim al-Asiri, who designed the “underwear bomb” that nearly took down a U.S. plane in 2009, is believed to have taught his bombmaking skills to other terrorists. (CBS News)
- Nearly 90 South Korean families reunited with relatives across the border in North Korea, almost seven decades after they were separated. “Brothers, sisters, cousins, nephews and nieces cried and embraced each other in the first family reunions to take place in three years, a symbol of thawing ties across the Korean Peninsula. Some relatives could not even recognize each other,” Simon Denyer and Min Joo Kim report from Seoul.
Michigan health and welfare chief Nick Lyon will stand trial on felony charges including involuntary manslaughter for his handling of the Flint water crisis. Judge David Goggins said in announcing his decision that Lyon had been “corrupt” in his handling of an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in the Flint area that allegedly killed two men. (Detroit News)
- Three recent studies have found that rising sea levels are undermining the value of coastal properties. One of the studies estimated that homes facing the highest risk of flooding were selling at a 14.7 percent discount. (John Tibbetts and Chris Mooney)
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said his employees tend to be “more left-leaning,” but he dismissed accusations from the president that their political beliefs affect how the social network determines what is inappropriate content. “We do not look at content with regards to political viewpoint or ideology. We look at behavior,” Dorsey said. (Kristine Phillips)
CBS CEO Les Moonves could receive nearly $180 million in severance if he is fired without “cause.” But if Moonves, who is facing several accusations of sexual harassment, was fired for cause, he would receive no severance. Experts said Moonves would likely contest such a termination. (CBS News)
One out of every three high school seniors in the U.S. did not read a book for pleasure in 2016, according to the American Psychological Association. But 82 percent visited social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram every day. (Hannah Natanson)
- California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill making surfing the official state sport. “Nothing represents the California Dream better than surfing,” said Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, who wrote the bill. “I’m stoked that we’re celebrating an iconic sport.” (Los Angeles Times)
THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- White House counsel Don McGahn does not believe anything he said in his extensive interviews with Robert Mueller's team would implicate the president in any kind of legal wrongdoing. Carol D. Leonnig, Rosalind S. Helderman and Josh Dawsey report: “McGahn’s attorney, Bill Burck, told Trump’s lawyers this weekend that McGahn did not assert that Trump engaged in any wrongdoing when he spoke to Mueller’s investigators in three lengthy interviews since last November . . . 'He did not incriminate him,' Burck wrote in one email, which was described by multiple people. . . . Burck has assured Trump’s lawyers that McGahn did not witness Trump engaged in any crime and would have resigned from his White House post if he had ... At the same time, Burck has cautioned them that McGahn is only one witness and he does not know all the evidence Mueller has gathered that could pose problems for Trump, or how the information McGahn has provided could fit into the broader case.”
-- Trump told Reuters he is worried about walking into a “perjury trap” if he talks to Mueller and gives an account that contradicts what others have told investigators. “Even if I am telling the truth, that makes me a liar,” Trump said. “That’s no good.”
The president also declared that he could run the Mueller investigation himself if he wanted to. “I can go in, and I could do whatever — I could run it if I want,” he said in the Reuters interview. “But I decided to stay out.” He added: “I’m totally allowed to be involved if I wanted to be. So far, I haven’t chosen to be involved. I’ll stay out.” (Felicia Sonmez)
-- There was still no verdict in the Paul Manafort trial as the jury ended its third day of deliberations. The jury in the trial of Trump's former campaign manager on bank fraud and tax evasion charges will reconvene again today.
-- Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani tried to clarify what he meant by saying “truth isn't truth” in a “Meet the Press” interview on Sunday. “My statement was not meant as a pontification on moral theology but one referring to the situation where two people make precisely contradictory statements, the classic ‘he said she said’ puzzle,” Giuliani said on Twitter. “Sometimes further inquiry can reveal the truth other times it doesn’t.”
TRUMP VS. THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY:
-- Trump said he would welcome a lawsuit from former CIA director John Brennan over his revoked security clearance. From Shane Harris, John Wagner and Josh Dawsey: “Trump also has threatened to pull the clearance of Bruce Ohr, a senior Justice Department official, a move that former officials said would amount to an unprecedented attack on career civil servants and mark a significant escalation in the president’s campaign to retaliate against his real and perceived critics. If Brennan files suit, Trump said, ‘it will then be very easy to get all of his records, texts, emails and documents to show not only the poor job he did, but how he was involved with the Mueller Rigged Witch Hunt.’”
-- An increasing number of former national security officials are expressing support for Brennan: “Not since dozens of former national security officials questioned Trump’s credentials during the 2016 campaign have so many from their ranks taken a stand against him, accusing him of an assault on basic democratic values. Trump’s tweet on Monday came as a bipartisan outcry over his revocation of Brennan’s security clearance continued to grow, with the release of a statement of opposition signed by more than 175 people who had held a wide range of national security jobs. Several dozen former CIA officers, as well as former directors who served under presidents of both parties, had signed public letters of opposition.”
-- There is even mounting pushback inside the West Wing to Trump's push to revoke clearances: “[McGahn] has expressed some qualms internally about the clearance revocations, and John Bolton, the national security adviser, and John Eisenberg, the legal adviser for the [NSC], have not been involved in the clearance decisions … McGahn has argued that the White House should have a formal process for revoking a clearance, rather than taking action solely at the president’s command and without a specific accusation of violating rules about protecting classified information . . . White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly also has expressed concern about revoking more clearances.”
-- But Trump appears to be ignoring these concerns, musing last night about revoking former CIA and FBI official Phil Mudd's security clearance after watching him on CNN:
Just watched former Intelligence Official Phillip Mudd become totally unglued and weird while debating wonderful @PARISDENNARD over Brennan’s Security Clearance. Dennard destroyed him but Mudd is in no mental condition to have such a Clearance. Should be REVOKED? @seanhannity— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2018
He also suggested the security clearance of a former director of national intelligence could be on the chopping block:
Even James Clapper has admonished John Brennan for having gone totally off the rails. Maybe Clapper is being nice to me so he doesn’t lose his Security Clearance for lying to Congress!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2018
-- Supporters encouraged Trump last year to revoke Obama-era officials’ security clearances, but he was persuaded not to do so. “The idea was rebuffed by the national-security adviser at the time, H.R. McMaster,” Adam Entous reports in the New Yorker. “As Trump stepped up his public and private attacks on Obama, some of the new President’s advisers thought that he should take the extraordinary step of denying Obama himself access to intelligence briefings that were made available to all of his living predecessors. Trump was told about the importance of keeping former Presidents, who frequently met with foreign leaders, informed. In the end, Trump decided not to exclude Obama, at the urging of McMaster.”
Trump denied the New Yorker report this morning:
Fake News, of which there is soooo much (this time the very tired New Yorker) falsely reported that I was going to take the extraordinary step of denying Intelligence Briefings to President Obama. Never discussed or thought of!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 21, 2018
-- Trump believes Brennan is an unsympathetic foil, who he can use as part of his public-relations campaign against Mueller. From the AP’s Zeke Miller, Catherine Lucey and Jonathan Lemire: “Where Mueller’s disciplined silence creates a void, Trump is eager to fill that empty space with Brennan. Trump has long been unable to resist a fight with a foe who publicly challenges him, particularly on television, and Brennan got under Trump’s skin with his declarations and innuendos about Trump’s fitness for office and ties to Russia. But White House aides and Trump confidants say Trump’s attack on Brennan is as much strategic as it is impulsive.”
-- Lawfare's Jack Goldsmith, a Harvard Law professor and former assistant attorney general, argues Brennan’s criticisms of Trump have strengthened the president’s hand in trying to dismiss the intelligence community’s expertise: “[H]owever understandable or admirable the motivation, the fact is that for many Americans the relentless attacks on Trump by scores of senior long-term intelligence officials lend credibility to the president’s claims of a politicized ‘Deep State’ bureaucracy that seeks to preserve its elite authority and reverse the results of the election by non-democratic means. It is not clear what these attacks on Trump add to the loud chorus of his other elite critics. But I do think that the credibility of the intelligence community as neutral and trustworthy suffers as a result.”
-- The Cipher Brief’s Walter Pincus predicts that Trump revoking Brennan’s clearance could make officials in the intelligence community more likely to leak to reporters: “I base that on my experience reporting on intelligence, national security and federal law enforcement for the past 50 years. I found active and retired officials were more open discussing what was actually going on when superiors or Members of Congress were publicly distorting classified information, inaccurately describing events that took place in private, or misusing their authority. That was the case when I covered Watergate during the Nixon administration, Iran-contra under Reagan and George W. Bush’s Iraq invasion.”
THE SUPREME COURT:
-- “Kavanaugh proposed graphic questions for Clinton about the Lewinsky affair,” by Michael Kranish: “A 1998 memo written by Brett Kavanaugh proposed a series of tough, sexually explicit questions for President Bill Clinton to answer about his affair with Monica Lewinsky, shedding new light on the Supreme Court nominee’s moralistic outlook and his view of presidential power. Kavanaugh, as associate counsel in the office of independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr, wrote in the memo that he was 'strongly opposed' to giving Clinton any 'break' and suggested 10 questions, including: 'If Monica Lewinsky says that you inserted a cigar into her vagina while you were in the Oval Office area, would she be lying?' The memo provides a contrast to the genial, soft-spoken nominee who chooses every word carefully as he makes the rounds of the Senate before his Sept. 4 hearing before the Judiciary Committee. It reveals a hardball tactician who argued forcefully that Starr had the right to press the president for answers, a view he later shifted, saying presidents are too busy to be subject to such investigations while in office. Kavanaugh’s views on executive power could be newly relevant if he is confirmed and asked to rule on matters related to [Mueller's] investigation of [Trump]." Read the full memo here.
-- Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) plans to ask Kavanaugh about abortion when she sits down with him today. Bloomberg News’s Steven T. Dennis reports: “Collins said she intended to talk to Kavanaugh about his praise for the then-Justice William Rehnquist’s dissent in Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 abortion-rights case. ‘I’m going to talk to him about that,’ she said on Monday. Earlier, she said that she was looking for a justice whose judicial philosophy ‘respects precedent.’ … Collins said she’s read hundreds of pages of documents related to Kavanaugh over the weeks since he was nominated by [Trump]. ‘I have not seen anything that is disqualifying, but I have seen a number of issues that raise questions that I need to explore with him and that’s what I’ll do tomorrow,’ Collins said.”
-- Former University of Chicago law professor Albert W. Alschuler describes Kavanaugh as “the man who created the super PAC:” “[B]efore there was Citizens United, there was Emily’s List v. FEC, the 2009 case that allowed unlimited contributions to super PACs. Kavanaugh wrote the opinion in Emily’s List as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, striking down restrictions on contributions to independent political committees. In the opinion, he declared that these committees ‘are constitutionally entitled to raise and spend unlimited money in support of candidates for elected office.’ He reasoned that it was ‘implausible’ that contributions to independent groups could corrupt candidates.”
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN AND WOMEN:
-- Guess how many times Scott Pruitt called the White House from his soundproof phone booth? Turns out: Exactly once. For a five-minute call. Juliet Eilperin reports: “The $43,000 phone booth that former EPA administrator Scott Pruitt installed in his office may not have been worth all the headaches it caused him. He only placed one phone call to the White House, newly released records from the agency show . . . He made the five-minute call on Jan. 29, according to Verizon phone logs released in response to litigation filed by the Sierra Club . . . The new documents do not show how many incoming calls Pruitt received in the soundproof booth, which he installed last year. In April, Pruitt testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee that he used the booth sparingly.”
-- Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) is working overtime to kill a bipartisan effort to ease prisoner reentry into society. Politico’s Burgess Everett reports: “Cotton is lambasting the proposal as a ‘jailbreak’ that would ‘let serious felons back on the streets,’ taking on a daunting coalition fighting for the package that includes the Koch political operation, White House adviser Jared Kushner and a number of powerful GOP senators. But Cotton believes that, in the end, [Trump and Mitch McConnell] will side with him. … Even opponents of sentencing reform will privately admit it would likely pass if McConnell brings it up. But Cotton’s loud opposition may determine whether or not McConnell even allows a vote given his reluctance to summon up legislation that divides the conference — right before the election, no less.”
-- White House budget director Mick Mulvaney is attempting to pull strings to save a business in his home district that could be harmed by Trump’s trade policies. McClatchy’s Emma Dumain reports: “Mulvaney, a former South Carolina Republican congressman, has been making personal pleas to administration officials to protect the viability of Element Electronics, a television assembly plant in his old district that has said it will halt operations because of tariffs. … South Carolina State Sen. Mike Fanning, a Democrat who represents Fairfield County where Element is headquartered, said Mulvaney’s involvement is well known. ‘I know that he is actively pleading on our behalf, because people we’ve talked to in D.C., they say, ‘Yes, yes, yes, we’ve already heard this from Mick Mulvaney,’’ said Fanning.”
-- Omarosa said she plans to spend the midterms laying out the case for opposing Trump. The Wall Street Journal’s Peter Nicholas interviewed her: “Ms. Manigault Newman ... said she isn’t intimidated by legal actions taken by the president’s campaign as she promotes [her book] … ‘I’m going to go toe-to-toe because I stand on the truth and I stand on what’s right,’ she said. … Ms. Manigault Newman didn’t say whether she would release more secretly recorded conversations. ‘I’m going to continue to blow the whistle about the things I saw,’ she said, adding that ‘hopefully we can save the essence of the presidency without the president doing way too much damage to it.’”
-- Trump's former personal lawyer John Dowd got a warning letter this month from the Federal Election Commission after he donated twice this year to the president's reelection campaign even though he had already reached the $2,700 contribution limit, Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports. “Dowd’s additional donations of $3,700 were included in a list of contributions to Trump’s committee in the second quarter of 2018 that the FEC categorized as 'excessive, prohibited and impermissible.' In its letter to the Trump campaign, the FEC flagged at least 180 other cases in which individuals gave multiple donations beyond the limit. Dowd gave to the campaign in April and May, bringing his total contributions for the cycle to $6,400. When asked whether he was aware that he had exceeded the limit, Dowd responded in an email that he was 'not aware.' . . . This is the second instance in which the FEC has flagged impermissible donations from Dowd to the Trump campaign.”
-- In response to the criminal indictment of Rep. Chris Collin (R-N.Y.), House lawmakers are introducing a bipartisan resolution today that would ban members from sitting on the boards of publicly traded companies. From Mike DeBonis: “Under current House rules, there is no prohibition on a lawmaker serving on a corporate board as long as the position is uncompensated. … The measure … would bring House rules in line with Senate restrictions dating to 1991, which bar a member of that chamber from serving on the board of any ‘publicly held or publicly regulated corporation, financial institution, or business entity.’”
THE TRADE WAR:
-- “Businesses beg for tariff relief as trade war with China rolls on,” by David Lynch: “The U.S. Trade Representative’s office Monday began an extraordinary six days of public hearings on [Trump’s] plans to tax an additional $200 billion in Chinese products . . . As the economic impact of the confrontation with China mounts, opponents are becoming more vocal in their opposition to the president’s chosen tariff remedy. The planned escalation 'dramatically expands the harm to American consumers, workers, businesses, and the economy,' the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in its prepared testimony. At the USTR hearings, sporting goods manufacturers, candle makers, footwear companies, semiconductor producers and others will plead to be excluded from the next tariffs. More than 1,300 comments already have been filed in response to the president’s proposed action, most opposing the plan.”
-- Trump is persevering with plans to impose tariffs nearly half of Chinese imports despite wide opposition to the proposal. The Wall Street Journal’s Bob Davis and Andrew Duehren report: “The twin administration initiatives—pursuing tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods while relaunching talks to scrap tariffs—underscore a split within the U.S. administration, with negotiators in the U.S. Treasury Department offering a carrot, while the office of the U.S. trade representative threatens with a stick, both with the approval of President Trump, according to people familiar with the administration’s internal deliberations. … The U.S. is considering tariffs of either 10% or 25% on thousands of categories of products, including for the first time a substantial number of consumer goods, including furniture, computer parts and luggage.”
TRUMP VS. THE FED:
-- Trump publicly criticized Jerome Powell, who he appointed as chairman of the Federal Reserve, for raising interest rates. “I’m not thrilled with his raising of interest rates, no. I’m not thrilled,” the president told Reuters. “Asked on Monday if he believed in the Fed’s independence, Trump said: 'I believe in the Fed doing what’s good for the country.' Powell took over as Fed chief earlier this year. 'Am I happy with my choice?' Trump said. 'I’ll let you know in seven years.'”
-- The president has been privately complaining about Powell to donors and friends. “Trump said he expected Jerome Powell to be a cheap-money Fed chairman and lamented to wealthy Republican donors at a Hamptons fundraiser on Friday that his nominee instead raised interest rates,” Bloomberg News's Jennifer Jacobs and Saleha Mohsin report. “The Federal Reserve has raised rates five times since Trump took office, including twice this year under Powell.”
-- Three final highlights from Trump's Reuters interview:
- There will be “no concessions” to Turkey in the standoff over the release of a detained American pastor.
- It's “very dangerous” for companies like Twitter and Facebook to regulate content on their own platforms.
- There's “no time frame” for the trade feud with China: “I’m like them, I have a long horizon.”
-- The New York Times obtained nearly 350 pages of emails showing that lobbyist Todd Howe, who has since pleaded guilty to eight felonies in a cooperation deal, had access to the top levels of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration. The Times's Jesse McKinley reports: “Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat seeking a third term in November, has repeatedly downplayed his relationship with Mr. Howe, who became a key figure in a pair of federal corruption cases after pleading guilty and reaching a cooperation deal with prosecutors. But in nearly 350 pages of emails[,] . . . it was clear that Mr. Howe had entree to the top levels of Mr. Cuomo’s administration — a period that included the years and months leading up to the news of the federal investigation. The Cuomo administration had fought against releasing the emails for two years, spending more than $200,000 to hire outside counsel — Greenberg Traurig, a loyal Cuomo campaign donor — after The Times went to court seeking the documents. A state judge last year ruled against the administration, and ordered that the documents be released; the state appealed the ruling, but subsequently agreed to a settlement that allowed for the emails’ release. The emails showed how Mr. Howe used his access to gain help for clients.” Here are the emails.
-- “Four term-limited Republican governors in swing states have kept a surprising distance between themselves and the nominees picked by their party to replace them,” David Weigel reports. “In Nevada, Gov. Brian Sandoval, who broke with much of his party to oppose the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, has said he will stay neutral in the November election between Republican Adam Laxalt and Democrat Steve Sisolak. In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder has declined to endorse Bill Schuette, who defeated Snyder’s lieutenant governor to win the GOP nomination. … New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, who, like Sandoval, opposed the repeal of the ACA, said that Republican nominee Stevan Pearce was ‘the best candidate’ in the race but demurred on whether she’d campaign for him. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has defended the state’s Medicaid expansion from some Republican criticism, has endorsed GOP nominee Mike DeWine, but did so only after DeWine clarified that he would not undo the policy. …
“Democrats, who are defending just nine governors’ mansions in 2018, see the discord in the GOP as an opening. Republicans, defending 26 states this year, enjoy a cash advantage — their party committee ended the summer with $87 million to spend, while the Democratic Governors Association had $18 million. But where Sandoval, Snyder, Kasich and Martinez cultivated moderate images — all of them supported the expansion of Medicaid, and most criticized [Trump] — their would-be successors won primaries or effectively cleared fields by running as allies of the president.”
-- Hillary Clinton intends to participate in a series of DNC fundraisers ahead of the elections. NBC News’s Heidi Przybyla reports: “The 2016 Democratic presidential nominee will headline three events — in San Francisco, Chicago and New York — for the DNC this fall to boost the party’s chances of seizing control of the U.S. House and Senate. Billed as ‘intimate dinners with discussion,’ the first invitations were set to go out Monday night for a September event in San Francisco. … She is also planning fundraisers for some women running for Congress in key races, according to a Democratic source close to her.”
-- Billionaires Sheldon and Miriam Adelson donated $25 million to the main super PAC supporting Senate Republicans. From Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Anu Narayanswamy: “The $25 million from the casino magnate and his wife, a physician, marked their first donations this cycle to the Senate Leadership Fund, the super PAC aligned with [Mitch McConnell] that is working to maintain the GOP majority in the Senate this fall, according to Federal Election Commission records filed Monday evening. In May, the couple gave $30 million to the Congressional Leadership Fund, the super PAC that backs GOP House candidates and is aligned with [Paul Ryan]. That contribution placed the Adelsons at the top of the wealthy donors who have poured money into the midterm fight.”
-- The Miami Herald endorsed a Republican congressional candidate who claimed aliens kidnapped her when she was seven. The editorial board said Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera's previous comments about extraterrestrials were a “non-issue" and that she is "a strong candidate in the race with plausible conservative ideas." (Kristine Phillips)
-- “Carol Hafner has never been to Alaska, but she could make history as the state’s first female congresswoman,” by Torey Van Oot for The Lily: “Carol Hafner’s longshot bid for Congress has the potential to make her Alaska’s first female U.S. Representative in history. There’s one catch: Hafner doesn’t live in the state. In fact, she’s never even visited. … The move may be unconventional, but it’s technically legal, as the United States Constitution only requires that representatives meet age and residency requirements at the time they are elected, according to AP. … Hafner, who is currently in New York but described her living situation as ‘in transition,’ defended her strategy of campaigning from afar. Alaskans, she argues, have more in common with residents of the lower 48 than they might realize, especially when it comes to issues like the opioid epidemic and the cost of healthcare.”
-- Another former official from Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s administration has endorsed his Democratic opponent. The AP’s Scott Bauer reports: “The latest online ad, released Monday, features former Department of Financial Institutions Secretary Peter Bildsten blasting Walker as only caring about pleasing donors and calling for administration officials to dodge the open records law. The spot comes after former Corrections Secretary Ed Wall also recorded a video backing Democrat Tony Evers and wrote a tell-all book making numerous allegations of mismanagement against Walker's administration and others.”
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- Trump called ICE officials “heroes” at a White House event, showing he's eager to raise the agency as a campaign issue ahead of the midterms. David Nakamura and Seung Min Kim report: “In a speech at the 'Salute to the Heroes,' Trump called the estimated 150 officers and agents from [ICE] and Customs and Border Protection 'great patriots' who have sought to protect the nation against crimes by undocumented immigrants. The president also denounced Democrats who have called for the abolition of ICE over concerns that the agency has acted recklessly and cruelly in its efforts to round up and deport those living here illegally. 'For you having to be demeaned by people who have no idea what strength is really very sad,' Trump said. 'They have no courage; they have no guts. They just have big, loud mouths. We don’t want to put up with that. I just want to know you are loved and respected.'"
-- Pentagon officials are raising national security concerns about the steep drop in U.S. admissions of Iraqi refugees who have assisted American troops abroad. From Reuters’s Yeganeh Torbati: “The Pentagon is concerned that not providing safe haven to more of the Iraqis, many of whom interpreted and did other key tasks for U.S. forces, will harm national security by dissuading locals from cooperating with the United States in Iraq and other conflict zones, the officials said. In a closed-door White House meeting last week devoted to the Iraqi issue, officials focused largely on the [FBI’s] method of conducting certain deep background checks on the Iraqis, and identified it as a major source of the drop in admissions … As of Aug. 15, just 48 Iraqis have been admitted to the United States this fiscal year through a special refugee program … More than 3,000 came last year and about 5,100 in 2016.”
-- Trump's changes to a seasonal worker policy have hurt crab houses on the Eastern Shore this summer. Teo Armus reports: “Changes to a foreign-worker visa program have left businesses like Russell Hall without the seasonal laborers — mostly from Mexico — who help drive Maryland’s signature industry . . . About a third of picking jobs remain unfilled across the Eastern Shore this summer, as few Americans have responded to openings and Mexican laborers are stranded at home without permission to come here to work. The situation illustrates a general unwillingness among U.S. workers to perform certain kinds of labor, some of the business owners here in Dorchester County say. It also demonstrates how President Trump’s 'America First' policies have not necessarily helped those workers or small-business owners but instead have dealt them a new economic reality.”
-- The MS-13 gang is trying to organize like a large corporation. From the Wall Street Journal's Del Quentin Wilber: “For years, MS-13’s impact on the U.S. was local — confined to specific neighborhoods and cities scattered across the country as the gang used violence to secure and hold turf. Then, federal officials tracked an alarming development. As MS-13’s influence grew, so did its ambition to leverage its network of local franchises into a cohesive, national brand. That would vault MS-13 into territory once occupied by the Mafia, and now held by Mexican drug cartels. A series of trials that wrapped up this summer in Boston shows how MS-13 is pushing to make that leap by streamlining its management structure and creating uniform standards, much like a multinational company. The question, one that will determine whether MS-13 can make the jump to national significance, is whether that transformation can impose order on its unruly, violent young members.”
-- U.S. officials have deported a Nazi war crimes suspect to Germany. The AP’s Michael R. Sisak, David Rising and Randy Herschaft report: “The deportation of the 95-year-old former concentration camp guard, Jakiw Palij, came 25 years after investigators first confronted him about his World War II past and he admitted lying to get into the U.S., claiming he spent the war as a farmer and factory worker. Palij lived quietly in the U.S. for years, as a draftsman and then as a retiree, until nearly three decades ago when investigators found his name on an old Nazi roster and a fellow former guard spilled the secret that he was ‘living somewhere in America.’ … [U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell] told reporters that there were ‘difficult conversations’ because Palij is not a German citizen and was stateless after losing his U.S. citizenship, but ‘the moral obligation’ of taking in ‘someone who served in the name of the German government was accepted.’”
-- Also on Trump's agenda: The president demanded the Republican-controlled Senate immediately pass a bill to stop shipments of illicit fentanyl passing through the international postal system. He wrote on Twitter, “It is outrageous that Poisonous Synthetic Heroin Fentanyl comes pouring into the U.S. Postal System from China. We can, and must, END THIS NOW! The Senate should pass the STOP ACT – and firmly STOP this poison from killing our children and destroying our country. No more delay!" John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez report: “Leaders from both chambers announced a bipartisan agreement in June on the Synthetics Trafficking and Overdose Prevention Act, which the House passed shortly thereafter. The Senate has yet to act on the bill, as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has focused on confirming federal judges and passing appropriations bills . . . David Popp, a spokesman for McConnell, said that Senate Republicans are working on reaching an agreement on the timing of the legislation."
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump's lawyer appeared to taunt a former CIA director:
To John Brennan: Today President Trump granted our request (Jay Sekulow and me) to handle your case. After threatening if you don’t it would be just like Obama’s red lines. Come on John you’re not a blowhard?— Rudy Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) August 20, 2018
From a CNBC reporter:
Wow. The president's private attorney claims Trump has given him permission to handle a non-existent lawsuit that, if it existed, would be argued by govt lawyers. Then he seems to threaten the potential plaintiff of this non-existent lawsuit. Wow. https://t.co/g1TMhm3nxO— Christina Wilkie (@christinawilkie) August 20, 2018
A Wired contributor analyzed former national security officials' warnings about Trump:
2) This is no ordinary political criticism. Do not fall into Trump's trap that this is just more of the same, more partisan sniping from the Swamp from swamp creatures....— Garrett M. Graff (@vermontgmg) August 20, 2018
4) What they are doing is offering the clearest warning they can, speaking—as intel officials are supposed to do—truth to power, telling hard truths, that America faces a dire situation.— Garrett M. Graff (@vermontgmg) August 20, 2018
The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee defended Mueller's record of public service:
You’ll never hear Mueller talk or tweet about this, but the author @Vermontgmg managed to dig up the citation for Mr. Mueller’s Bronze Star with Valor that he earned in Vietnam for “courage, aggressive initiative, and unwavering devotion to duty.” It reads:— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) August 20, 2018
"…and, on one occasion, personally led a fire team across the fire-swept area terrain to recover a mortally wounded Marine who had fallen in a position forward on the friendly lines.”— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) August 20, 2018
A House Democrat criticized Trump's “disgraceful” attacks:
The President of the United States is now calling law enforcement "Thugs."— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) August 20, 2018
These repeated attacks by @realDonaldTrump on law enforcement are disgraceful and inconsistent with that of an innocent person.
Also, the leaders of the investigation happen to be Republicans. https://t.co/Q5klpySvkf
From Obama's former senior strategist:
Sorry that Omarosa has seized on the word “unhinged” for her own purposes because, reading the hysterical Twitter screed @POTUS has unleashed this morning, the term seems really apt. https://t.co/WlihykQh4h— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) August 20, 2018
The director of The Post's Fact Checker unit posed this question:
“Disgraced and discredited Bob Mueller”. Notice that no matter what language Trump flings, Mueller never engages. He just stays silent and keeps working. Has Trump ever faced an opponent like this? https://t.co/guepSFZy8m— Glenn Kessler (@GlennKesslerWP) August 20, 2018
Trump's former aide, who previously pleaded guilty in Mueller's probe, sent this ambiguous tweet:
Been a hell of a year. Decisions.— George Papadopoulos (@GeorgePapa19) August 20, 2018
The first lady drew attention to her “Be Best” initiative:
#BeBest is dedicated to the well-being of children. Thank you to @HRSAgov @SecAzar for allowing me the opportunity to be part of the efforts in providing a safer & healthier online presence at the #CyberbullyingSummit pic.twitter.com/R3dJxhcarV— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) August 20, 2018
Trump made an unusual error during his "salute" to ICE and CBP officials:
This is odd. At a ceremony honoring Customs and Border Protection (CBP) @realDonaldTrump is repeatedly referring to the organization as "CBC".— John Roberts (@johnrobertsFox) August 20, 2018
From a Bloomberg News reporter:
It’s not the speechwriter’s fault.— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) August 20, 2018
I’m standing next to the teleprompter Trump is reading from in the East Room and it says CPB.
But Trump has said “CBC” over and over. https://t.co/mqdW417VR2
The president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund highlighted Trump's significant influence on the federal judiciary:
That’s why we focus our attention on what Trump is NOT talking about - judges, housing, education, voter suppression. While he tweets insults, real and long-term damage is being done. Few things more impt than the takeover of the federal bench. https://t.co/qTEXnO3ME4— Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) August 20, 2018
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) slammed recent business decisions by McDonald's:
McDonald's just announced it is spending $6 billion on makeovers of its restaurants while still refusing to pay its workers a living wage. pic.twitter.com/ieJUgZ7NBK— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) August 20, 2018
A Cook Political Report editor noted an issue with the Senate:
A long-term problem for Democrats: a majority of the Senate now represents 18% of the country’s population.— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) August 20, 2018
Former presidential candidate Ron Paul celebrated his 83rd birthday:
And Brooklyn confronted a goat problem:
(The goats were later rescued by Jon Stewart — yes, that Jon Stewart — and taken to a shelter for farm animals.)
-- New Yorker, “Paul Singer, Doomsday Investor: The head of Elliott Management has developed a uniquely adversarial, and immensely profitable, way of doing business,” by Sheelah Kolhatkar: “Activist investing is controversial: critics believe that it can force companies to lay off workers and curtail investment in new products in favor of schemes that boost short-term profits, while proponents view it as a useful source of pressure on C.E.O.s to reduce waste and manage their companies more effectively. In the press, Singer and similar investors have been compared to vultures, wolves, and hyenas. Bloomberg has called Singer 'aggressive, tenacious and litigious to a fault,' anointing him 'The World’s Most Feared Investor.' Singer’s ventures have been consistently successful, with average annual returns of almost fourteen per cent, making him and his employees enormously wealthy. The mere news that Elliott has invested in a company often causes its stock price to go up — creating even more wealth for Elliott. Singer has been deploying his riches in Republican politics, where he is one of the G.O.P.’s top donors and a powerful influence on the Party and its President. According to those who know Singer, in politics, as in business, he is intent on doing whatever it takes to win.”
-- World Magazine, “Papered over,” by Charissa Crotts, Elizabeth Rieth and Isaiah Johnson: “Biblical truth-telling at college newspapers can sometimes conflict with the way administrators want to portray the school. Here’s a case study of how Liberty University handled the tension last spring.”
-- “The presidency in pictures: How news photographers freshen up mundane White House moments,” by David Nakamura: “The presidential walk from Marine One to Air Force One is a routine that rarely offers surprises. The helicopter lands. A Marine opens the door for the president, who is greeted by an Air Force officer who escorts him to the presidential plane. The commander in chief salutes, bounds up the stairs and, with a wave, disappears into the cabin. … For news photographers in the White House press pool, there lies the challenge: how to make the routine look fresh and interesting.”
HOT ON THE LEFT
“A leading Republican urges reform for Medicare and Social Security as deficits balloon after the GOP's tax cut,” from CNBC: “Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, has the toughest job in politics right now: trying to stop a Democratic ‘blue wave’ at the polls this fall. Stivers, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, sat down to talk to CNBC's John Harwood about the campaign and other factors. Here is an excerpt from the interview: … Harwood: No misgivings about a tax cut that was not paid for, that's allowing debt and deficits to rise like it is now? Stivers: I do think we need to deal with our some of our spending. We've got to try to figure out how to spend less. Harwood: Entitlements? Social Security, Medicare? Stivers: Yeah, I mean, what I think we need to do is get some people who are now on government programs jobs, we have more open jobs than we have people on unemployment. So if we could get people to go from unemployment, or a government program, to become a taxpayer, it's a twofer because not only are they getting less government assistance, they probably have a better life economically and they're actually paying taxes.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“He brought an American flag to protest fascism in Portland. Then antifa attacked him,” from the Oregonian: “Paul Welch came to the downtown protest Aug. 4 to let his political leanings be known. With pride he clutched his U.S. flag as he moved among the crowd of like-thinking demonstrators. Soon a group of black-clad anti-fascist protesters, also known as antifa, demanded he lose the flag, calling it a fascist symbol. Welch refused, and a tug-of-war ensued. It ended with Welch taking a club to the back of the head, lying on the ground in a pool of his own blood. Only Welch was not a Proud Boy, a Patriot Prayer supporter or among the other conservative activists who descended into the area that day, many from out of town. He was one of hundreds of progressive Portlanders who had turned out to oppose the right-wing rally held at the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. … Anger following the demonstration has largely been directed at Portland police, whose use of ‘less-lethal’ riot-control weapons on counter-protesters hospitalized at least three people and injured several others. But others, like Welch, became targets of violence at the hands of protest participants, even as police kept rival political factions apart.”
Trump will meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then have lunch with him and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley. He will also meet with union leaders before traveling to Charleston, W.Va., for a roundtable with supporters and a campaign rally.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Trump received criticism for noting that a Border Patrol agent who appeared to be Hispanic “speaks perfect English.” (Philip Bump)
The author of the Harry Potter series reacted to Trump's quote over Twitter:
‘Study hard, Mr President, and I might one day say the same about you.’ https://t.co/Yii3LPPNjG— J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling) August 20, 2018
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Storms could resume this afternoon in Washington. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Partly to mostly cloudy skies with moderate humidity and scattered showers or thundershowers by midday into the afternoon (very scattered, hit-and-miss activity). Highs manage to reach around 80 or into the middle 80s in spots. More widespread thunderstorms late this afternoon into the evening might be strong to severe, with gusty winds and heavier downpours.”
-- Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is calling a special session for the General Assembly to redraw legislative districts. Gregory S. Schneider reports: “A three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled on June 26 that the lines for 11 House of Delegates districts had been drawn with the purpose of concentrating black voters. … The court ordered that new legislative boundaries be drawn by Oct. 30 for use in next year’s state elections. ‘It is in the public interest for the General Assembly to finalize constitutional maps as soon as possible — Virginians deserve that clarity,’ Northam wrote in the proclamation he signed Monday to call the legislature back to Richmond.”
-- Some U-Md. alumni are calling for the resignation of President Wallace D. Loh following the death of Jordan McNair. From Nick Anderson: “A 19-year-old offensive lineman for the University of Maryland is dead after athletic trainers failed to give him proper treatment for heatstroke, officials acknowledge, during a spring workout. The state university system’s governing board has seized control of investigations into the football program. Restive alumni, faculty and students are expressing concern about a crisis in College Park.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Planned Parenthood released a video in partnership with Funny or Die mocking Brett Kavanaugh’s views on abortion rights:
Trevor Noah dove into the importance of the midterms:
The Post took a look at what Barack Obama has been up to since leaving office:
The Post's Department of Satire analyzed Rudy Giuliani's “Meet the Press” interview:
The Indian Air Force captured its dramatic rescue of a child stranded by severe flooding in Kerala that has already killed hundreds:
And a nun threw out the perfect first pitch before a White Sox game in Chicago this weekend: