With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: Tuesday was one of the worst days of President Trump’s 19 months in power. It might also be a harbinger of worse days ahead.

Michael Cohen used to say he’d take a bullet for Trump, but the fixer was in a fix. Told by prosecutors that he could face a dozen years in prison, the president’s longtime attorney pleaded guilty to eight crimes in a Manhattan courtroom: five counts of tax evasion, one count of making a false statement to a bank and two campaign finance violations. Cohen admitted to arranging to pay off two women in 2016 so they’d stay silent about their alleged affairs with Trump, and said he did so “in coordination with and at the direction of” the then-candidate. “I participated in this conduct,” he said, “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.”

Paul Manafort was found guilty almost simultaneously in Alexandria, Va., on eight of 18 tax and bank-fraud charges. The former Trump campaign chairman will face a second trial in the District on separate charges starting in mid-September, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, failing to register as a foreign agent, money laundering and witness tampering. Special counsel Bob Mueller also has until next Wednesday to decide whether to retry Manafort in Virginia on the 10 charges that the jury deadlocked on.

-- Putting aside the political nightmare, Trump himself is unlikely to get indicted. “Under long-standing legal interpretations by the Justice Department, the president cannot be charged with a crime,” Rosalind Helderman, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett report. “The department produced legal analyses in 1973 and 2000 concluding that the Constitution does not allow for the criminal indictment of a sitting president. Those opinions have never been tested in court, and doing so would require a prosecutor to buck the department’s guidance and attempt to bring charges anyway.”

-- But members of Trump’s family can be indicted, and Mueller’s tightening vise nonetheless poses tangible legal problems for the White House. “For the first time, a Trump aide has been found guilty of an offense directly related to the campaign,” notes Aaron Blake.

“The last — and only — time there was a president who was an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal indictment was Richard Nixon in 1974,” adds Richard Stengel, the former managing editor of Time Magazine. 

-- This uncertainty is almost certain to linger beyond November. “Mueller will continue to move forward, at a pace of his own choosing. Justice Department guidelines probably will inhibit him from doing anything dramatic in the early fall, ahead of the midterm elections,” Dan Balz observes. Especially after James Comey’s comments on the Hillary Clinton email investigation seemed to sway the 2016 election, law enforcement leaders will probably be especially cautious about making especially big waves after Labor Day.

-- One outstanding question: What else will Cohen reveal? Lanny Davis, who defended Bill Clinton during impeachment two decades ago and joined Cohen’s legal team earlier this summer, has been making the rounds on television last night and this morning to say that his client still has knowledge that will be “of interest” to Mueller and is “more than happy to tell the special counsel all that he knows.”

Davis hinted that Cohen will talk with prosecutors about Trump’s participation in a “criminal conspiracy” to hack into the emails of Democratic officials during the 2016 election. He told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC last night that Cohen had “knowledge about the computer crime of hacking and whether or not Mr. Trump knew ahead of time about that crime and even cheered it on.”

-- The Cohen deal was negotiated by the Southern District of New York, not Mueller’s team. “The case against him stems in part from work done by Mueller’s team, which examined Cohen’s role in at least two episodes involving Russian interests,” per Devlin, Carol Leonnig, Philip Bump and Renae Merle. “However, special-counsel investigators have indicated to federal law enforcement officials that the office does not require Cohen’s cooperation for its inquiry, according to two people familiar with their work.”

-- Court filings show that Cohen faces a recommended prison sentence of 46 to 63 months, which is around four to five years. As part of the plea deal, he also agreed to pay $1.5 million to the IRS. He was released on bail last night until his sentencing, which is not scheduled until Dec. 12.

-- Many legal analysts speculated that a deal might have been reached which is not disclosed in court documents. From the New Yorker’s legal correspondent: 

A constitutional law professor at Harvard who taught, among others, John Roberts and Elena Kagan:

-- Trump himself had this to say on Twitter:

-- The Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee announced last night that they “recently reengaged” with Cohen after he said Trump knew beforehand about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting that his son Don Jr., son-in-law Jared Kushner and Manafort had with a representative of Russia. Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) suggested that this contradicted Cohen’s closed-door testimony before the committee from last September.

-- Stormy Daniels, one of the women Cohen acknowledged paying off, continues her legal maneuvers to get out of the nondisclosure agreement she signed in 2016. “Buckle Up Buttercup,” Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Daniels, tweeted at Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani. “You and your client completely misplayed this.”

-- Making a bad day worse for Republicans, a grand jury in San Diego agreed last night to indict Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and his wife, Margaret, for allegedly misusing more than a quarter of a million bucks in campaign funds for personal purposes. The 47-page indictment, which is worth reading in full, portrays the couple as living beyond their means on campaign-issued credit cards. His wife was paid a salary of $117,000 from the campaign account for “work” between 2010 and 2017.

They will be arraigned on Thursday. The congressman’s dad, Duncan Hunter Sr., is telling local news outlets that his son and daughter-in-law plan to fight the rap. That would mean a dramatic public trial.

What’s perhaps most galling in the indictment is how the Hunters are alleged to have covered up their purchase: often, by claiming it was for charity, like veteran’s organizations,” Amber Phillips notes. “Margaret Hunter allegedly spent $200 on tennis shoes at Dick’s Sporting Goods, which she then claimed as for an annual dove hunting event for wounded warriors. When Hunter told his wife he needed to ‘buy my Hawaii shorts,’ but he was out of money, she allegedly told him to buy them from a golf pro shop so he could claim they were actually golf balls for wounded warriors. … Margaret Hunter allegedly spent $152 on makeup at Nordstrom and told the campaign it was ‘gift basket items for the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Diego.’ … They allegedly described the payment of their family dental bills as a charitable contribution to ‘Smiles For Life.’ … In an attempt to justify spending campaign funds on a family trip to Italy, Hunter asked the Naval base for a tour. When they said they couldn’t do it then, Hunter said ‘tell the Navy to go f*** themselves.’”

Remember Randy “Duke” Cunningham? He also represented the San Diego area in Congress, and his conviction on corruption charges helped Democrats win the House in 2006. He famously had a “menu” that outlined bribes defense contractors could pay for him to take official actions on their behalf.

Hunter, who inherited this seat from his dad, represents a solidly red district, but now his race for reelection is, at best, a toss-up. It’s too late to take his name off the ballot, so the national GOP – much to their chagrin – is stuck with him. (Speaker Paul Ryan said last night that he will strip Hunter of his committee assignments.)

-- Democrats look increasingly well positioned to pick up the 23 seats they need to win control of the House. If they do, putting the possibility of impeachment aside, they will have subpoena power and can schedule hearings to investigate potential misdeeds of the president. 

-- Hunter was the second member of Congress to endorse Trump. He followed Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) by just a few hours in February 2016. Collins was indicted two weeks ago on insider trading charges. He ended his reelection bid under pressure from Trump allies and GOP leaders who feared a messy distraction, even as he continues to proclaim his innocence.

-- Trivia for the water cooler: The third lawmaker to endorse Trump was then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). He is now the attorney general.

-- The swirling drama raises new questions about Trump’s judgment. He routinely boasts that he hires only “the best people.” Just last week, however, the president called Omarosa Manigault Newman – someone he hired as a senior official in the White House over the objection of other aides – a “dog” after she published an unflattering tell-all about him. His chief economic adviser is under fire today for inviting a prominent white nationalist to a birthday party at his home over the weekend. A White House speechwriter was pushed out last week for appearing on a panel in 2016 with the same white nationalist.

Rick Gates, who was deputy campaign chairman under Manafort and stuck around as a top advisor to Trump during the transition, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and making false statements. He testified against Manafort and continues to cooperate with Mueller for a more lenient sentence.

-- While Trump has sought to minimize role that Gates and Manafort played on his campaign, the former chairman and his aide have had an enduring impact. For example, Manafort played a critical role in persuading Trump to pick Mike Pence as his running mate over Chris Christie and Newt Gingrich. If Manafort had not been running the campaign during that fateful summer, Pence might not be vice president today.

-- Another coming attraction: Mueller’s team quietly moved yesterday to postpone Michael Flynn’s sentencing hearing for the fourth time. The delay is the latest sign that Trump’s former national security adviser continues to cooperate with the special counsel after pleading guilty to making false statements to the FBI about his contacts with the Russians. “Due to the status of its investigation, the Special Counsel’s Office does not believe that this matter is ready to be scheduled for a sentencing hearing at this time,” the two parties said in a joint status report on Tuesday.

The court asked for an update on a sentencing timeline for Flynn by Aug. 24, but the parties asked for that date to be pushed back to Sept. 17,” Politico’s Caitlin Oprysko reports. “On Tuesday evening, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan accepted the request from Mueller and defense attorneys to file their joint status report by that (Sept. 17) date.”

-- That’s a timely reminder that Mueller still knows so much more than we do. And he keeps digging.

From the executive editor of Bloomberg Opinion:

-- All these guilty pleas make it less politically tenable for Trump to shut down the Mueller investigation. That doesn’t mean that Trump won’t try. But it will be harder for his allies to back him up.

-- Trump also has to worry that Manafort might still try to cut a deal to get a more lenient sentence. “His possible prison sentence wasn’t immediately clear, but legal experts said he is likely to face about seven to 10 years in prison under federal sentencing guidelines,” Matt, Lynh Bui, Tom Jackman and Devlin report. “Now that he’s seen how this goes, maybe he is now more likely to want to consider working out a plea deal,” said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney who observed much of the trial.

--Several advisers to Trump had already begun discussing how to use a not-guilty verdict regarding Manafort against the Mueller probe. Now, the challenge will be trying to discredit Cohen, two advisers said,” per Josh Dawsey and Phil Rucker. “For months, aides and advisers to Trump said that Cohen could be the biggest challenge to him. Trump told people that Cohen was not ‘smart or loyal’ and that he wanted to destroy him, said a former senior administration official.

  • One Trump adviser said of Cohen’s plea and the president: ‘It feels very different. This feels like everything has caught up to him. People are having conversations tonight that they weren’t having yesterday. I can promise you that.’
  • The president was angrier about the Cohen news than the Manafort verdict, two officials said. ‘He was unhappy and exasperated,’ an official said.”

-- Trump also has not ruled out pardoning Manafort. “Paul Manafort’s a good man,” the president told reporters when he landed on Air Force One in West Virginia last night for a rally. He emphasized that the verdict “doesn’t involve me, but I still feel, you know, it’s a very sad thing that happened.”

He tweeted this morning:

During his speech last night to a raucous crowd in Charleston, the president didn’t mention Cohen or Manafort. But he did attack the Mueller investigation. “Fake news and the Russian witch hunt. We’ve got a whole big combination,” Trump said. “Where is the collusion? You know, they’re still looking for collusion. Where is the collusion? Find some collusion!”  

You can’t make it up: Supporters chanted “Lock her up” about Hillary Clinton as Trump spoke.

-- Because Trump probably cannot be indicted while in office, whether the president will face formal consequences for allegedly directing one of his subordinates to commit a federal crime is ultimately up to Congress. “Powerful Republican lawmakers have seemed more interested in covering for Mr. Trump than investigating him,” the Washington Post Editorial Board notes. “Tuesday’s events must bring that partisan abdication of public duty to an end. Congress must open investigations into Mr. Trump’s role in the crime Mr. Cohen has admitted to. It is far too soon to say where such inquiries would lead. But legislators cannot in good conscience ignore an alleged co-conspirator in the White House.”

“Anytime your lawyer is convicted of anything it’s probably not a good day,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “It’s important to let this process continue without interference. I hope Mr. Mueller can conclude his investigation sooner rather than later for the benefit of the nation.”

“Paul Manafort is a founding member of the DC swamp and Michael Cohen is the Gotham version of the same,” emailed Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.). “Neither one of these felons should have been anywhere near the presidency.”

Both sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over these matters. So does Sen. Dick Blumenthal (D), a longtime former attorney general of Connecticut. "We're in a Watergate moment,” he said on CNN. “We need bipartisanship now more than ever to protect the special counsel and to stop, and I must underscore stop, any consideration of pardons.”

-- At the very least, the Cohen plea deal has also offered a fresh window into how Trump does business. Court filings show that the president’s real estate business paid $420,000 to Cohen after he submitted “sham” invoices to conceal the true purpose of the payments to the adult actresses. “Trump executives decided Cohen should be paid more than he sought — an additional $360,000 for expenses and other fees and taxes, plus a $60,000 bonus, prosecutors said,” per Carol and Michelle Ye Hee Lee.

In light of this, Trump withholding his tax returns seems like an even bigger deal now than it did 24 hours ago. He is the first president since Richard Nixon to do so.

HOW IT’S PLAYING:

-- The Atlantic’s Frank Foer: “Blind Confidence Couldn’t Save Paul Manafort … But it’s not too late for him to cut a deal.”

-- Karen Tumulty: “Nope, not a witch hunt.”

-- Jennifer Rubin: “Trump’s greatest fear comes true.”

-- Associated Press: “Timeline: From ‘nothing to see here’ to Cohen’s guilty pleas.”

-- Reuters: “Jolted by ex-allies' criminal cases, Trump faces election and legal risks.”

-- The Guardian’s Richard Wolffe: “Trump's reckoning has arrived.”

-- New Republic: “The Worst Day Yet of Trump’s Presidency.”

-- New York Times: “Cohen’s Drink on Eve of Guilty Plea: Glenlivet on the Rocks.”

-- The New Yorker: “Cohen Says That [Trump] Directed His Crimes.”

-- New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait: “‘Law and Order’ Candidate Donald Trump Is Surrounded By Criminals.”

-- Vox: “Cohen’s guilty plea implicates Trump in federal crime. Republicans don’t care.”

-- Trump biographer Michael D'Antonio for CNN: “The swamp slime is oozing toward Trump.”

-- Wall Street Journal D.C. editor Jerry Seib: “Cohen Deals a Blow to His Former Boss.”

-- Politico: “Legal blows fuel impeachment fears.”

-- Obama’s former White House counsel Bob Bauer for Lawfare: “Cohen Plea Agreement: Possible Meanings of the Campaign Finance Counts.”

-- Yahoo Finance’s Rick Newman: “Why the Manafort verdict should worry Trump.”

-- New York Daily News: “Cohen admits that he and [Trump] colluded with National Enquirer publisher to keep Stormy Daniels tryst quiet before the election.”

-- NBC News: “In case of Mueller firing, break glass: Democrats prep an emergency plan.”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Wyoming state treasurer Mark Gordon won the state’s GOP gubernatorial nomination, defeating a candidate who received an 11th-hour endorsement from Trump. David Weigel reports: “Gordon, 61, was declared the winner over five other Republicans, including [investor Foster Friess], who was backed by Trump after securing the support of multiple conservative activists and the president’s eldest son. Democrats nominated Mary Throne, a former state legislator, who became the party’s 10th female nominee for governor in this cycle. But Democrats concede that Gordon, who was outspent more than 2 to 1 by Friess, would be the favorite to win. … Gordon’s win, however, ended a string of successful endorsements for the president in Republican primaries. In Kansas, Michigan and South Carolina, Trump has endorsed Republicans with the same pitch — that they are ‘strong on crime, borders & 2nd amendment’ — and celebrated when they won. While several were leading in the polls before Trump endorsed, the Wyoming race had been considered a toss-up.”

-- Irony alert: As Wyoming voters were still casting ballots, Trump was bragging at his West Virginia rally about how his endorsement is more valuable than Ronald Reagan’s was when he was president. Trump said the 40th president’s endorsements “didn’t move the needle,” while boasting that his own can give a candidate "20, 30, 40 (or even) 50 points.” (Seung Min Kim and Felicia Sonmez)

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Trump's new proposal to relax rules for carbon emissions from power plants could have severe health consequences. Trump's own people at the EPA project that their plan to replace Barack Obama's Clean Power Plan could lead to between 470 to 1,400 premature deaths every year. The plan would allow coal-fired plants to run longer if they become more efficient, which could increase the total amount of soot and smog-forming pollutants they emit. (Juliet Eilperin
  2. Forecasters posted hurricane watches for the eastern Hawaiian Islands as Hurricane Lane, now a Category 4 storm, continued to barrel closer to shore with peak wind speeds of up to 150 mph. It remains unclear whether Lane will graze the islands or directly strike them. (Jason Samenow)
  3. The Arctic’s oldest and thickest sea ice has started to break up for the first time on record. The phenomenon could alter scientists’ predictions about which part of the Arctic will withstand warming the longest. (Guardian)

  4. A former congressional IT staffer who became the target of right-wing conspiracy theories was sentenced to time served for lying on a loan application. In releasing Imran Awan, the judge also condemned continued harassment from the highest levels of government — including from Trump himself, who once suggested on Twitter that Awan was a Pakistani operative who used his congressional gig to “compromise” U.S. files. (Spencer S. Hsu)
  5. A federal judge is expected to rule by Monday on whether to block a company from posting digital blueprints for 3-D printed guns. The State Department had agreed to allow Defense Distributed to publish the blueprints online, but a group of states and the District of Columbia are suing to prevent their release. (Deanna Paul)
  6. Uber has selected a new CFO, filling a position the company has left vacant for three years. Nelson Chai, formerly the CFO of Merrill Lynch and the CEO of the insurance firm the Warranty Group, will help lead the company as it prepares to go public next year. (Engadget)

  7. Two Chicago police officers face possible disciplinary action after they were photographed this weekend sleeping in their patrol vehicles. The photos touched off intense criticism from Chicago residents, who noted that there have been at least 58 shootings in the city since last Friday. (Lindsey Bever)
  8. A former George Mason University professor previously accused of sexual harassment has now been charged with embezzlement. Investigators discovered Peter Pober’s alleged embezzlement while looking into the harassment accusations against him. (Sarah Larimer)

  9. A bipartisan group of lawmakers has proposed posthumously awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to Aretha Franklin. Legislation to honor the “Queen of Soul” was introduced yesterday in both the Senate and the House. (Felicia Sonmez)
  10. Nabisco has redesigned the box of Barnum’s animal crackers to show the featured animals roaming free rather than locked in a cage. PETA pressured the company to change the design, citing allegations of animal abuse within circuses. (Taylor Telford)

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN:

-- Larry Kudlow hosted Peter Brimelow, the publisher of a site that serves as a platform for white nationalism, at a birthday party at his home in Connecticut last weekend. The party came just one day after a White House speechwriter was ousted following revelations that he had spoken on a 2016 panel alongside Brimelow. Robert Costa reports: “Brimelow, 70, was once a well-connected figure in mainstream conservative circles, writing for Dow Jones and National Review. But over the past two decades, he has become a zealous promoter of white-identity politics on Vdare.com, the anti-immigration website that he founded in 1999. Kudlow said Tuesday that Brimelow was an invited guest to his birthday party … and has been someone he has known ‘forever,’ going back to their work in financial journalism. Kudlow expressed regret when he was described details of Brimelow’s promotion of white nationalists[:] ‘If I had known this, we would never have invited him,’ Kudlow said. ‘I’m disappointed and saddened to hear about it.’ Kudlow said that Brimelow’s views on immigration and race are ‘a side of Peter that I don’t know, and I totally, utterly disagree with that point of view … I’m a civil rights Republican.’”

-- A judge ruled that Trump must face a lawsuit filed against him and his security team, who allegedly attacked a group of peaceful protesters in 2015. Deanna Paul reports: “Bronx Supreme Court Judge Fernando Tapia denied Trump’s motion to dismiss allegations of assault and battery and destruction of property, saying that a jury could find that Trump ‘authorized and condoned’ the guards’ conduct. The case was brought against six defendants, including then-presidential candidate Trump, the Trump Organization and Trump security director Keith Schiller, three months after Trump announced his candidacy. On Sept. 3, 2015, Efrain Galicia and four other Mexican demonstrators were confronted outside Trump Tower. The men had gone to protest after the Trump campaign announced that their home country was funneling rapists and drug runners into the United States … Schiller, then-director of security for the Trump Organization, snatched two of the signs from the men, according to court documents. A struggle ensued, ending with Schiller, a former New York City police officer, violently striking Galicia, who went to the hospital.”

THE SUPREME COURT:

-- Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) offered an “upbeat” assessment of her meeting with Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, praising their one-on-one session as “excellent” and telling reporters that he views the landmark Roe v. Wade decision as “settled law.” Elise Viebeck and Gabriel Pogrund report: “[Collins], a centrist who supports abortion rights, appeared to be leaning toward backing [Trump’s nominee] . . . Collins said she would announce her decision after confirmation hearings next month. Collins said Kavanaugh told her that he agreed with Chief Justice [John Roberts], who said during his 2005 confirmation hearing that Roe was ‘settled as a precedent of the court.’ . . . Collins has said that she would oppose a nominee who ‘demonstrates hostility’ to Roe v. Wade. With Republicans holding a slim 51-to-49 Senate majority, favorable votes from Collins and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) would guarantee Kavanaugh’s confirmation …

“There are several signs that Collins will vote to confirm Kavanaugh[:] Despite pressure from both parties, [she] has never opposed a Supreme Court nominee … She voted in favor of Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2006. And both Collins and Murkowski voted to confirm [Neil Gorsuch last year].” A spokeswoman for Murkowski confirmed she will meet with Kavanaugh tomorrow.

-- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also met with Kavanaugh and said he provided no reassurance that he would uphold Roe: “I asked Judge Kavanaugh if he agreed that [Roe] and Casey v. Planned Parenthood were correctly decided. He would not say ‘yes.’ That should send shivers down the spine of any American who believes in reproductive freedom for women,” the senator said.

Schumer also expressed concern over Kavanaugh’s views on executive power, telling reporters that he “would not say that the president should comply with a subpoena.” The Supreme Court could be tasked with weighing in on that matter sooner than later because of Mueller's investigation. “Judge Kavanaugh seems to have just about the most expanded view of presidential power of any nominee that I have ever come across,” Schumer said. “[Even] in a criminal case against the president that would jeopardize national security, he wouldn’t say they should use the subpoena!”

    THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

    -- A judge dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed against dossier author Christopher Steele by the co-founders of a major Russian bank. The Atlantic’s Natasha Bertrand reports: “In his decision to toss the case ‘with prejudice’ — that is, permanently — Judge Anthony C. Epstein of the Washington, D.C., Superior Court concluded that [Steele] acted ‘in furtherance of the right of advocacy on issues of public interest’ when he decided to brief reporters on the dossier’s findings in the summer of 2016. Steele’s conduct is therefore protected by ‘anti-SLAPP’ statutes, according to the judge, which aim to halt lawsuits brought to chill the exercise of constitutionally protected free speech.”

    -- Britain’s foreign minister praised Trump’s sanctions against Russia and encouraged Europeans to follow his example. Karen DeYoung reports: “Russia’s ‘aggressive and malign behavior undermines the international order that keeps us safe,’ Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Tuesday in a speech at the U.S. Institute of Peace. ‘Of course we must engage with Moscow, but we must also be blunt. Russia’s foreign policy under President [Vladimir] Putin has made the world a more dangerous place.’ Trump has a ‘very different style of politics,’ including his prolific use of social media, and has engaged in dialogue with the Russian leader, Hunt said. But ‘I think it’s very important to look at what he does as well as what he says.’”

    -- Meanwhile, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are pushing for more sanctions against Russia. Reuters’s Patricia Zengerle and Doina Chiacu report: “[Members of Congress] held three hearings related to Russia on Tuesday, in the Banking and Foreign Relations committees and a Judiciary counter-terrorism subcommittee. Lawmakers chastised administration officials for doing too little to change Russian behavior. … ‘It’s not often that Congress acts together in such a strong manner,’ said Republican Senator Mike Crapo, chairman of the Banking Committee, which oversees sanctions policy. ‘... But then, Russia is a menace on so many different levels, today, that Congress can be compelled to act with a single voice.’ [Democratic] Senator Bob Menendez noted that the administration has not designated any new oligarchs for sanctions since April and has eased some sanctions.”

    -- Russia is attempting to recover a nuclear-powered missile that was lost in the Barents Sea several months ago in a failed test launch, according to a U.S. intelligence report. CNBC’s Amanda Macias reports: “The operation will include three vessels, one of which is equipped to handle radioactive material from the weapon's nuclear core. … Russia tested four of the missiles between November and February, each resulting in a crash … The U.S. assessed that the longest test flight lasted just more than two minutes, with the missile flying 22 miles before losing control and crashing. If the Russians are able to regain possession of the missile, U.S. intelligence analysts expect Moscow will use the procedure as a blueprint for future recovery operations. It is unclear whether the other missiles are missing at sea, too.”

    CYBER WARS:

    -- Facebook said that it has identified and removed more than 650 fake accounts from its platform that were aimed at spreading misinformation and sowing discord across the globe. The New York Times’s Sheera Frenkel and Nicholas Fandos report: “The activity originated in Iran and Russia . . . Unlike past influence operations on the social network, which largely targeted Americans, the fake accounts, pages and groups were this time also aimed at people in Latin America, Britain and the Middle East . . . Some of the activity was still focused on Americans, but the campaigns were not specifically intended to disrupt the midterm elections in the United States, said FireEye, a cybersecurity firm that worked with Facebook on investigating the fake pages and accounts. The operations ‘extend well beyond U.S. audiences and U.S. politics,’ FireEye said in a preliminary report. The global scale of what was uncovered far exceeded that of an influence operation that Facebook revealed last month, in which the company said it detected and removed 32 pages and fake accounts that had engaged in divisive social issues ahead of the midterms.”

    -- Facebook’s announcement was noteworthy because it revealed a disinformation campaign originating from a country other than Russia — Iran — and affecting those outside the United States. Craig Timberg, Elizabeth Dwoskin, Tony Romm and Ellen Nakashima: “The Iranian effort dated to 2011 and had ties to state media operations in that country, Facebook said, involving hundreds of accounts on both Facebook and its sister site, Instagram. It also spread to Twitter and YouTube, which both companies said they also removed. The fake Iranian accounts bought ads on Facebook and used it to organize events. … The revelations demonstrated how the production of disinformation has become a global endeavor that involves multiple governments and shadowy actors who use sophisticated methods to mask their identities and locations. A recent report from the Oxford Internet Institute, a research lab associated with Oxford University, found active organized disinformation campaigns taking place on social media in 48 countries, up from 28 in 2017.”

    -- Facebook has also started assigning users a score between zero and one to assess their trustworthiness. Elizabeth Dwoskin reports: “The previously unreported ratings system, which Facebook has developed over the past year, shows that the fight against the gaming of tech systems has evolved to include measuring the credibility of users to help identify malicious actors. Facebook developed its reputation assessments as part of its effort against fake news, Tessa Lyons, the product manager who is in charge of fighting misinformation, said … A user’s trustworthiness score isn’t meant to be an absolute indicator of a person’s credibility, Lyons said, nor is there is a single unified reputation score that users are assigned. Rather, the score is one measurement among thousands of new behavioral clues that Facebook now takes into account as it seeks to understand risk.”

    THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

    -- Administration officials plan to announce today a breakthrough in NAFTA talks with Mexico. Politico’s Megan Cassella and Sabrina Rodriguez report: “[S]ources said time has been cleared on the White House schedule for the announcement, where [Trump] is expected to be in attendance. Officials are expected to announce that the U.S. and Mexico, which have been meeting for the past several weeks, have made enough progress on various two-way issues to be able to announce what one source described as a ‘handshake’ deal. The announcement is also expected to include details of when Canadian officials will be returning to Washington to resume talks with the other two nations. It will likely be a U.S.-only announcement rather than one made alongside Mexican officials, who are eager to close bilateral talks but wary of making any formal announcement before Canada is in, one of the sources said.”

    -- Members of the Taliban are slated to travel to Moscow in September for Afghanistan peace talks, Russia’s foreign minister announced — an unprecedented move that would yoke the insurgent group with officials from the Afghan government, as well as other regional heavyweights. Amie Ferris-Rotman reports: “Moscow has invited delegates from 11 countries, including … China, Iran and Pakistan, which border Afghanistan, to attend the Sept. 4 talks in the Russian capital. If the Taliban does come, it would mark its first attendance at such an event. The radical Islamist movement rejected an offer to attend a similar meeting in Moscow last year, as did Washington. The United States indicated Tuesday that it would not attend. ‘We support Afghan-owned and -led initiatives to advance a peace settlement …’ said a State Department spokesman. ‘We believe this initiative is unlikely to yield any progress toward that end.’ Back-channel diplomacy between the Taliban and a range of countries … has taken place over several years, often under a shroud of secrecy, in an effort to end the crippling and costly 17-year war. A visit to Moscow by the Taliban for talks would [also] be a major coup for Russia, coming as the country regains influence on the global stage …”

    -- North Korea does not appear to have stopped its nuclear activities, according to the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog. From Reuters: “‘The continuation and further development of the DPRK’s nuclear program and related statements by the DPRK are a cause for grave concern,’ the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a report published late on Monday. The report … is to be submitted to the IAEA’s board meeting next month.”

    -- Trump said during his West Virginia rally that Israel would pay a “high price” in peace negotiations with Palestinian leaders after securing the U.S. Embassy’s move to Jerusalem. Trump added that Palestinians would “get something very good” in return for the embassy’s relocation “because it's their turn next.” (Jerusalem Post)

    THE IMMIGRATION WARS:

    -- Authorities said an undocumented immigrant has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of Mollie Tibbetts, the University of Iowa student who vanished while on a jog five weeks ago. Police said the suspect, Christian Bahena-Rivera, admitted to her murder and eventually led investigators to the site where he had used cornstalks to bury her body. (Eli Rosenberg, Nick Miroff and Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)

    -- The White House and RNC used the deportation of an alleged Nazi collaborator to rally around ICE, which had little to do with the move. John Wagner and Devlin Barrett report: “The White House announcement about the deportation to Germany of 95-year-old Jakiw Palij trumpeted the role played by ICE, whose agents Trump had touted as ‘heroes’ at an event the day before that was aimed at drawing a sharp contrast with Democrats over the enforcement of border-control laws. Hours later, the [RNC] pointed reporters to the fact that Palij, a former Nazi SS labor camp guard in German-occupied Poland, had settled in the New York congressional district that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is seeking to represent. … ‘Now that ICE has literally removed a Nazi from her backyard, where does Ocasio-Cortez stand?’ the RNC asked in a statement. … In reality, ICE had little to do with the timing of Ralij’s removal. ICE personnel are responsible for deporting people to other countries, but the decision to do so comes largely from the U.S. courts and the receiving countries.”

    -- Trump devoted a lot of last night's rally in West Virginia to slamming Democrats as “coddlers of lawbreakers … who would take the country down a dangerous path,” the New York Times's Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Katie Rogers report. “'A vote for any Democrat in November is a vote to eliminate immigration enforcement, to open our borders and set loose vicious predators and violent criminals,’ Mr. Trump told [the audience] … ‘They’ll be all over our communities. They will be preying on our communities.’ … He led the crowd in a chant of ‘build the wall,’ repeating his false claim that the wall along the Southwest border was already being built … and promising that it would soon be finished.” “Democrats want to turn America into one big, fat sanctuary city for criminal aliens, and honestly, honestly, they’re more protective of aliens — the criminal aliens — than they are of the people,” Trump said.

    THE MIDTERMS:

    -- Trump may spend nearly half of the days between now and the midterms out on the campaign trail. Michael Scherer reports: “‘We identified and held at least 40 days of travel from August 1 to Election Day,’ said Johnny DeStefano, a White House counselor to Trump, in a briefing Tuesday for reporters. ‘We expect him to be the most aggressive campaigner in recent presidential history.’ Final decisions about the frequency of Trump’s travel will not be made until later in the year. … White House aides are hopeful that Trump will campaign more days than President Barack Obama in the 2010 campaign, when he traveled 36 days in the final months of the campaign, according to an internal count by the administration.”

    -- Democrats are mounting a legal challenge against two California Republicans — Jeff Denham and Devin Nunes — who each described themselves as “farmers” on this fall’s midterm ballots. McClatchyDC’s Katie Irby and Emily Cadei report: “Farmer is a popular ballot description among those representing the San Joaquin Valley, used by Denham, Nunes, Rep. David Valadao, a Republican, and Rep. Jim Costa, a Democrat. Democrat groups want to force Denham and Nunes to take that description off the ballot. California’s election code allows candidates to include a three-word description of their ‘current principal professions, vocations, or occupations,’ or one they held in the previous year, beneath their name on the ballot. Red to Blue, a Democratic program … filed a lawsuit against Denham Tuesday, saying … the income he earns from [his] land, valued at minimum $500,000, is in rent and not listed as farm income on his 2018 financial disclosure report. … Nunes is facing a similar challenge, with Democratic Super PAC Fight Back California funding a challenge in court that would force the congressman to remove the farmer designation.’”

    -- The Dallas County Sheriff’s Department announced it had found former Sheriff Lupe Valdez’s missing gun, an issue that has complicated Valdez’s gubernatorial bid against GOP Gov. Greg Abbott. Alex Horton reports: “Years before her bid to become the Democratic nominee for Texas governor, [Valdez] had a problem with her sidearm. Her personally owned Beretta 92F was malfunctioning, and Valdez needed a replacement in October 2011. Range masters dug into their secure inventory and found the exact same model. But the gun was unaccounted for in an audit of department property, and it was reported as lost or stolen some time after Valdez resigned in December … Amid political upheaval in the governor’s race and public scrutiny, the department said Tuesday that it had conducted a second audit and located the firearm — in its own property room.” Abbott, who is heavily favored to win the race, seized on the initial reports, releasing an attack ad against Valdez about the missing gun.

    -- Trump trails Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) by double digits in hypothetical 2020 matchups, according to a new Politico-Morning Consult poll. From Politico’s Steven Shepard: “Biden leads Trump, 43 percent to 31 percent, and Sanders’ lead over the president is virtually the same, 44 percent to 32 percent. Trump also trails Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) … but by a smaller margin, 34 percent to 30 percent. A plurality of voters, 36 percent, are undecided.”

    SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

    A Fox News reporter heard this “reassurance” from Trump allies:

    A conservative columnist saw Cohen's guilty plea as a turning point:

    The Drudge Report also rang alarm bells:

    From Jeb Bush's former communications director:

    From a former communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.):

    One top GOP strategist applauded a longtime rival on the right for also being willing to speak truth to power:

    A Democratic senator offered this Watergate-era advice:

    The top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee said the day's news vindicated Mueller's probe:

    From the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who was fired by Trump:

    A Democratic candidate for New York attorney general pledged to prosecute Cohen:

    A New York Times editor chronicled the Trump team's conflicting statements about the payment to Stormy Daniels:

    From The Post's Fact Checker columnist:

    Trump's hometown paper put Cohen and Manafort on its cover:

    Fox News was unique in its handling of the Cohen and Manafort news:

    A Vox writer offered a little historical perspective:

    A Post columnist noted this irony:

    C-SPAN's communications director compared the day's “stakeouts”:

    A Politico reporter read the weather for divine signals:

    And a BuzzFeed News editor invoked a Sesame Street reference after the Manafort verdict:

    Trump's supporters at his West Virginia rally seemed rather unaffected by the day's headlines. From a Wall Street Journal reporter:

    From an NBC News reporter:

    Allen also noted this headline preceding Trump's visit:

    From a Post reporter:

    Trump seemed a bit distracted at the rally:

    The president of the abortion rights group NARAL used the day's news as an opportunity to criticize Brett Kavanaugh's Supreme Court nomination:

    A Bloomberg News reporter questioned a Republican senator's review of her meeting with Kavanaugh:

    From Joe Biden's former chief of staff:

    Actress Alyssa Milano also pushed back against Collins's claim:

    A Politico reporter recalled an unpleasant interaction with the now-indicted congressman's father (a former GOP presidential candidate):

    The mayor of New York swung back against Trump's criticism of his campaign slogan:

    GOOD READS:

    -- “Most people mad at the removal of UNC’s Silent Sam don’t know what it’s like to walk past the statue. I do,” by Eugene Scott: “For more than a century, individuals walking across the northernmost part of campus at the country’s first public university often set eyes on Silent Sam, one of the tallest — and most offensive — monuments on campus. … [F]or me, my main hope is that future Tar Heels who look like me — and who look nothing like me — can complete their college education in an environment that does not include a statue that was dedicated with a KKK supporter recounting how he ‘horse-whipped a negro wench until her skirts hung in shreds.’”

    -- “Even this practicing Buddhist is fed up with Metro’s constant track work,” by Kery Murakami: “If Metro has any rider who’d seem willing to cut it some slack, it would be Dereck Norville. He’s now a Buddhist, and he tries to have the patience of one. And his mom was a New York City bus driver. … So it seemed like a sign of the depths of the frustration of Metro riders last week when Norville stood at the Vienna station and said, ‘I’ve really tried to be patient and forgiving, but I’m at my wits’ end with Metro.’ … The end of Norville’s patience had actually come the day before, when a crippling kaleidoscope of a commute on the Red, then Yellow and finally the Orange Line took two hours to get him from his home in Silver Spring to work.”

    HOT ON THE LEFT:

    “Sean Hannity Melts Down About Hillary Clinton On Day Manafort, Cohen Become Felons,” from HuffPost: “Sean Hannity mourned the death of ‘equal justice under the law’ on Tuesday, riled up that [Trump’s] former associates were deemed guilty of crimes when . . . Clinton had not been. ‘Equal justice under the law . . . is dead,’ Hannity said during his opening monologue. … ‘In today’s two-tiered justice system, as a Democrat, clearly you can commit financial fraud and get away with it. By the way, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.’ The host then launched into an attack on Clinton and her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, saying she ‘destroyed classified information, which violates the Espionage Act.’ " (Cohen was actually a registered Democrat when he committed the crimes in question, and Hannity was one of his clients . . .)

     

    HOT ON THE RIGHT:

    “A ‘definite maybe’: Chelsea Clinton doesn’t rule out running for elected office,” from John Wagner: “The daughter of a former president and a U.S. senator shared her musings during an appearance at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where she also said she ‘abhors’ the presidency of [Trump] and is outraged daily . . .  ‘I think my family . . . is being really well represented,’ Clinton, a New York resident, said during an appearance at the festival on Monday to promote a children’s book she has written. ‘But if that were to change, if my city councilor were to retire, if my congresswoman were to retire, my senators, and I thought that I could make a positive impact, then I think I would really have to ask my answer to that question. . . . For me it’s a definite no now, but it’s a definite maybe in the future because who knows what the future is going to bring?'”

     

    DAYBOOK:

    Trump will have lunch with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and later preside over a Medal of Honor ceremony.

    QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

    “It’s more reminiscent of a banana republic than a grand democracy.” — Chuck Schumer reacts to Trump’s decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan

     

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

    -- There’s a chance of a stray shower or thunderstorm during an otherwise sunny day in the District. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Can’t rule out a lingering stray shower or thundershower. But for the most part we’re partly sunny as highs head for the mid- to upper 80s. Should start to notice lower humidity working in by afternoon, as winds increase to about 10 to 15 mph from the northwest.”

    -- The Nationals beat the Phillies 10-4. (Chelsea Janes)

    -- The Nationals’ trades of Daniel Murphy and Matt Adams effectively raise the white flag on the team’s 2018 season, Barry Svrluga writes. “That’s the grim reality: A team that was the easy favorite to win a third straight division title entered the final five-plus weeks of the season under .500. Its most recent performance — a 12-1 disaster of a loss to Miami on Sunday — ‘said a lot,’ according to Manager Dave Martinez. Making moves that might, even in a tiny way, help for the future is responsible. This isn’t the front office waving the white flag. This is the players, after 125 indifferent games, waving it for them.”

    -- D.C. Council member Trayon White Sr. repaid his constituent services fund for his $500 donation to an event where Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan described “powerful Jews” as his enemy. The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance determined that the donation “did not inure to the benefit of the residents of the District of Columbia and was therefore inappropriate.” (Fenit Nirappil)

    -- The recent string of severe storms in the D.C. area has inflicted millions of dollars’ worth of damage to the region’s national park land. From Marissa J. Lang: “Weather-related damage this year is among the worst in recent memory, officials said, and has forced the National Park Service to brainstorm strategies for maintenance and upkeep amid shrinking budgets. … In many cases, the damage has outpaced the agency’s ability to fund fixes and hampered basic maintenance tasks like cutting grass and emptying toilets.”

    VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

    The group Republicans for the Rule of Law put out an ad defending the Mueller investigation:

    Iran unveiled new fighter jets amid escalating tensions with the United States:

    Comedian Andy Gross was forced to apologize after videos showed him pressuring a female student at Purdue University to touch him and making lewd comments about it during his act:

    The U.S. military produced a video recreating the events leading up to the death of Medal of Honor nominee Sgt. John A. Chapman:

    And a puppy was rescued from the Kerala floods in India: