With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: Florida Democrats nominated milquetoast moderates for governor in each of the past five elections. They were all white candidates who hailed from Central Florida and moved cautiously toward the middle. They also all lost.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who won an upset in Tuesday’s primary over an heiress to a Democratic political dynasty, offers something quite different. He got his start in politics by working as a youth organizer for the liberal group People for the American Way. He’s running on “Medicare for all,” wants to “abolish ICE in its current form,” marches for gun control, supports legalizing marijuana and favors impeaching President Trump.

This platform helped Gillum cobble together a winning coalition of liberals, minorities and millennials. Bernie Sanders barnstormed the state with him earlier this month. Jane Fonda, Norman Lear and George Soros endorsed him, as well. Now the son of a school bus driver and a construction worker — and the first person in his family to graduate from high school or college — is the first African American gubernatorial nominee in Florida history. After trailing in every poll, Gillum prevailed in the primary by three points.

Now he will face Republican nominee Ron DeSantis, who is one of Trump’s favorite congressmen and most vociferous defenders on cable news. Thanks to an endorsement from the president, who carried Florida by 1.2 percentage points in 2016, he crushed the early front-runner and establishment favorite, state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, by 20 points. DeSantis gave shoutouts in his victory speech Tuesday night not just to Trump but also to Fox News host Sean Hannity and radio host Mark Levin, a sign of the times. Fox Business carried his remarks live.

DeSantis, a former Navy JAG officer who graduated from Yale and Harvard Law School, ran  a commercial that depicted him reading Trump’s “Art of the Deal” to his son as a bedtime story and building a border wall with blocks with his daughter.

DeSantis and Gillum are both 39 years old. They’re also both charismatic ideologues who were dismissed by senior strategists in their own parties as unelectable in the recent past. But one of them will become governor of America’s third-most-populous state next year — not to mention the biggest battleground in the 2020 presidential election.

A similar dynamic is playing out in neighboring Georgia, where both parties nominated the more ideological candidate over moderates in two-way primaries. State Rep. Stacey Abrams (D), who like Gillum is black, faces Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R), who defeated the front-runner by running hard to his right.

Lawton Chiles was the last Democrat to win a Florida governor’s race, in 1994. The Korean War vet had served 18 years in the U.S. Senate and won a second term as the state’s chief executive by barely beating a 41-year-old Jeb Bush. Chiles, a moderate, then died in office.

But this isn’t your father’s Florida. Demographically, the Sunshine State has transformed in the past 24 years. Yet Democrats have continued to nominate the same kinds of candidate that they did when Florida really could be considered more Southern than Sun Belt.

“Centrism, which is really right of center, has given us nothing. Nothing,” Alex Symington, a semi-retired gardener, told the Tampa Bay Times recently. “We've tried that route, and it hasn't worked. Let's try something different.”

Because of the electoral importance of Florida, Gillum’s victory is probably more substantively significant for the progressive movement than when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez toppled Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) in June. It also sets up a major test for the left this fall. If Gillum blows it in the general, liberals could have a harder time making the case for a hard-line presidential nominee in 2020.

-- Florida is a microcosm of America, and Tuesday’s results are a microcosm of the midterms:

Another political dynasty fell: Gwen Graham, who was favored to win the Democratic primary, claimed the mantle of her father, Bob Graham, the former governor, senator and presidential candidate who held elected office in Florida from 1966 to 2005. During her single term in the House, representing a swing district in the Panhandle, she voted like a moderate.

Another data point that the politics of guns is changing: The mother of a student murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., was elected to the Broward County School Board in a landslide. Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was killed on Feb. 14, got about two-thirds of the vote. “I am so excited. I am elated,” she told the Miami Herald. “I can’t wait to start making change and start making an impact on the school board.”

Another primary with record turnout: About 2 million Floridians voted on Tuesday. Democratic turnout was up about 70 percent compared with the last midterms, in 2014, though in total more Republicans voted.

-- In Arizona, the Republican establishment got what it wanted as Rep. Martha McSally handily won a three-way primary over former state Sen. Kelli Ward and ex-sheriff Joe Arpaio. This was expected. To shore up support, McSally lurched toward the president’s position on immigration, embraced Trump and kept her distance from retiring Trump critic Jeff Flake — whose seat she’s seeking. Her flip-flops on immigration could haunt her this fall in a state that’s trending from red to purple because of the growing Latino population, but it also might motivate Trump supporters to turn out for her.

Graham may have lost, but 2018 is still a Year of the Woman: McSally faces Democratic nominee Kyrsten Sinema. Whoever wins will be Arizona’s first woman in the Senate next year.

Democrats nominated a Latino candidate for governor in Arizona. Former state education official David Garcia ran on universal health care and replacing ICE.

-- Back in Florida, both Gillum and DeSantis were significantly outspent by their opponents, but they each had not-so-secret weapons to offset this disadvantage: DeSantis had Fox News. Gillum had Tom Steyer. The billionaire environmentalist spent more than $1.4 million helping Gillum during the final two months, including $800,000 to a political action committee affiliated with the candidate and $600,000 through his group NextGen America. The outside group focused on turning out 18-to-40-year-olds who don’t typically vote in primaries or off-year elections with a digital campaign, mailers, text messages and door knocking.

-- The size of DeSantis’s win again underscored Fox’s power as a kingmaker: “One of the key ingredients in DeSantis’ victory … turned out to be makeup. The once little-known congressman spent so much time broadcasting Fox News TV hits from Washington this year that he learned to apply his own powder so he could look as polished as he sounded,” Marc Caputo quips in Politico.

Since Trump endorsed DeSantis on Dec. 22, the congressman has made 121 appearances on Fox and Fox Business: “His campaign estimates it would have cost his campaign $9.3 million to purchase all that air time. … Seventy percent of likely Florida GOP voters regularly watch Fox News and Fox Business channels, according to the DeSantis campaign’s polling.

Putnam’s campaign consistently complained to Fox for equal time, according to a top campaign ally and a DeSantis campaign liaison with the network. It relented once by giving Putnam — a 44-year-old who had held various elected offices without interruption for 22 years — an interview with host Shannon Bream, a Tallahassee native and daughter of a former Leon County commissioner. Putnam didn’t play well on TV, at least in the eyes of Trump, who told others that the red-haired Putnam …  ‘looked like a shrimp’ … The Fox airtime for DeSantis effectively wiped out the cash advantage held by Putnam, who had never lost an election until Tuesday.”

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- U.S. officials are investigating whether a fugitive Malaysian businessman laundered tens of millions of dollars to pay a legal team that includes former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and longtime Trump lawyer Marc Kasowitz. The Wall Street Journal’s Bradley Hope, Tom Wright and Rebecca Davis O’Brien report: “Jho Low, the Malaysian businessman, has been described in U.S. court filings as playing a central role in the alleged embezzlement of $4.5 billion from a Malaysian fund called 1Malaysia Development Bhd. Malaysian authorities this week separately charged Mr. Low with money laundering in the case, which investigators suspect may be one of the biggest financial frauds in history. … There is no indication that any of the people who ultimately received payments were aware the funds could have originated from money Mr. Low allegedly siphoned off from 1MDB. The Justice Department is investigating Mr. Low’s potential use of two intermediaries to facilitate the payments through the international financial system."

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Former Dallas County police officer Roy Oliver was found guilty of murder for fatally shooting an unarmed black teen as the teen departed a house party last year. Oliver told jurors that he opened fire after seeing the teen's car “move towards his partner,” Tyler Gross. But Gross testified that he did not fear for his life and “never felt the need” to fire his own weapon. (Eva Ruth Moravec)
  2. Betty Jo Shelby, a former Tulsa police officer acquitted in the fatal 2016 shooting of an unarmed black man named Terence Crutcher, is teaching a course on how to “survive the aftermath” of such incidents. In an interview, Shelby — who has since been rehired in an adjacent county — said her course equips fellow police officers to withstand the so-called Ferguson Effect, “when [an] officer is victimized by anti-police groups and tried in the court of public opinion.” (Isaac Stanley-Becker)
  3. Hurricane Maria caused a protracted spike in Puerto Rico’s death rates last year — with nearly 3,000 excess fatalities recorded on the island in the six months following the storm. (Arelis R. Hernández, Samantha Schmidt and Joel Achenbach)
  4. Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the archbishop of Washington, is facing calls for his resignation after he was accused of knowing about the alleged sexual misconduct of his predecessor, Theodore McCarrick. McCarrick was already facing severe criticism after the Pennsylvania grand jury report claimed he mishandled sexual abuse allegations against other priests. (Julie Zauzmer and Michelle Boorstein)
  5. Four Orthodox Jewish organizations said they reached a $14.25 million settlement with victims of Barry Freundel, the prominent D.C. rabbi who spied for years on women in the changing room of a ritual bathhouse. The settlement is still awaiting approval by a judge. (Michelle Boorstein and Tara Bahrampour)
  6. Software publisher EA canceled three remaining qualifying events for its Madden Classic tournament just days after a gunman killed two competitors and injured 10 others at the opening event in Jacksonville, Fla. In the meantime, EA officials said they will conduct a “comprehensive review” of protocols to ensure safety of both competitors and spectators at future events. (Mike Hume and Samantha Pell)
  7. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) announced that she and her husband, Gail, are divorcing. “They remain committed to their children and family, and ask for respect for their privacy during this difficult time,” her spokeswoman said. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)
  8. The University of North Carolina’s board of trustees pledged to devise a plan by Nov. 15 to protect public safety and preserve the Confederate statue known as “Silent Sam.” Protesters knocked down the statue last week, attracting counterprotests to the campus. (Susan Svrluga)
  9. Right-wing mobs and neo-Nazi groups continued a violent, days-long riot in eastern Germany, which began after what officials called a “dispute between several people of different nationalities” resulted  in the fatal stabbing of a 35-year-old man. During the riots, anti-immigrant groups have hunted and attacked foreigners, led Hitler salutes, and clashed with police. The riots are believed to be incited by the far-right group Alternative for Germany. (Rick Noack)
  10. Actor John Goodman said his television wife will be killed off in “The Conners,” a “Roseanne” spinoff created after Roseanne Barr’s racist Twitter tirade prompted ABC to cancel the show’s revival this year. (Alex Horton)

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN:

-- Trump this month has revived the idea of firing Jeff Sessions and has been mulling the possibility in recent conversations with his White House advisers and personal lawyers. Carol D. Leonnig, John Wagner and Gabriel Pogrund report: “His attorneys concluded that they have persuaded him — for now — not to make such a move while [Robert Mueller’s investigation] is ongoing. [But] at least twice this month, Trump vented to White House advisers and his lawyers about the ‘endless investigation’ of his campaign and said he needs to fire Sessions for saddling his presidency with the controversy. [Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow] advised him that Mueller could interpret such an action as an effort to obstruct justice … [and] White House aides have tried to convince Trump that firing Sessions could trigger more problems than it would solve. A senior White House official said the goal was to delay a firing, because Trump’s advisers do not think that stopping it is possible …

“But there is growing evidence that Senate Republicans, who have long cautioned Trump against firing Sessions, are now resigned to the prospect that he may do so after the November midterm elections — a sign that one of the last remaining walls of opposition to such a move is crumbling.” 

  • Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) described the Trump-Sessions relationship in an interview as “toxic.” Asked whether his longtime Alabama colleague will last as AG, Shelby said: “Nothing lasts forever. I don’t know.” 
  • Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he considers the Trump-Sessions relationship to be “beyond repair.” But he later said any replacement must “support the idea that Mueller should be able to do his job without interference.”
  • “I think [Sessions] should stay exactly where he is,” Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Tuesday, adding that he has “total confidence” in the attorney general.

“Sessions’s friends and advisers have tried to buck him up in recent days, reaffirming his decision to defend his position and telling him that if Trump were willing to face the political and possibly legal consequences of firing him, he would have done so by now."

-- A DHS policy analyst has resigned from his post after his connections to white nationalists were exposed. The Atlantic’s Rosie Gray reports: “Emails show that the official, Ian M. Smith, had in the past been in contact with a group that included known white nationalists as they planned various events.  On one of the email threads, the address of alt-right white nationalist leader Richard Spencer is included as well as Smith’s. … The messages … paint a picture of the social scene in which white nationalists gathered for an ‘Alt-Right Toastmasters’ night in 2016, and organized dinner parties and visits from out-of-town friends. And they provide a glimpse into how a group that included hardcore white nationalists were able to operate relatively incognito in the wider world, particularly in conservative circles. … After describing the emails involving Smith in detail to DHS spokespeople on Monday, The Atlantic learned on Tuesday that Smith had resigned from his position.”

-- Trump is increasingly relying on cable news hosts and commentators to make decisions and determine which issues to highlight, Anne Gearan and Sarah Ellison write. “Many of Trump’s Cabinet secretaries and senior advisers have a cable news shadow. [Lou] Dobbs might be considered Trump’s television treasury secretary, [Sean] Hannity his chief of staff and [Tucker] Carlson his secretary of state. Fox’s Jeanine Pirro serves as a de facto attorney general, railing against Sessions and the special counsel’s Russia probe, while regular Fox analyst Pete Hegseth was under consideration to be the actual secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. … That Trump reacts so frequently to what he sees on television, rather than what he is reading or being told by aides, underscores the outsize role that commentators and cable programming decisions play in Trump’s administration.”

-- "Inside Stephen Miller’s hostile takeover of immigration policy," by Politico's Nahal Toosi: "[Miller] has managed to set the agenda on Trump’s signature campaign issue through another quality: sheer bureaucratic cunning. He has installed acolytes across key U.S. agencies, such as the State Department. He has inserted himself into NSC deliberations to an extraordinary degree for someone not in that elite group’s ranks. He takes care to limit his paper trail, avoiding email and keeping his name off documents when possible. He has cajoled and bullied some career staffers into implementing his vision of radically tighter U.S. borders — a vision that, according to a former White House official, even Trump has privately suggested can be extreme. Even when he doesn’t get everything he wants, such as with the recalcitrant countries, he manages to dramatically alter the boundaries of the debate."

Toosi recounts a meeting that occurred the day after the travel ban was unveiled: "After spending a few minutes leading a discussion of murky legal issues around the travel ban, Miller pivoted to what one senior administration official said felt like “an intimidation session.” “Stephen was like, ‘This is the way it’s going to be. This is the president’s will.’ That Trump was ‘heartened, encouraged,’ something like that, by what’s happening at the airports,” the official said. 'That really set the tone,' the official added. 'Stephen just had this aura about him. People realized at that point this guy — Stephen — is the president of immigration.'"

-- Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh will be introduced at his confirmation hearing next Tuesday by Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. Both worked with him in George W. Bush’s White House.  Kristine Lucius, the former Democratic staff director on the Senate Judiciary Committee, highlights some of the norms that Republicans are breaking to ram Kavanaugh through before he can be fully vetted. 

“For more than 14 years, I served as a staffer on the Senate Judiciary Committee and was responsible for negotiating, organizing and poring over the records of six previous Supreme Court nominees,” Lucius writes in today's Wall Street Journal. “I have never seen a more secretive, corrupt and troubling process than I have with Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. When President Obama nominated Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, [Pat Leahy] joined with then-Ranking Member Jeff Sessions to request and receive access to her records from the Clinton White House—a full 99% of them. But now that the shoe is on the other foot, Chairman Chuck Grassley refuses to even request the same set of records for Mr. Kavanaugh from the National Archives.”

-- Bob Bennett, a former attorney for Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, endorsed Kavanaugh’s nomination. From Politico’s Josh Gerstein: “Bennett, who represented Clinton in the civil sexual harassment suit that ultimately led to his impeachment, sent an effusive letter Tuesday paying tribute to Kavanaugh's legal acumen and his personal character. … Bennett, a veteran D.C. litigator, said that he and Kavanaugh ultimately became close despite being at odds in that searing and hyper-publicized legal battle.” “Brett’s integrity quickly won me over, and we became close friends despite our differences (and the differences between the Presidents we served),” Bennett wrote to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SECURITY CLEARANCES:

-- A White House official said the paperwork revoking former CIA director John Brennan’s clearance has been “delayed,” even as a spokesman said Trump’s order “went into effect immediately.” Shane Harris and Josh Dawsey report: “White House officials have also been looking for reasons to revoke the clearances of other former and current officials and preparing the necessary paperwork to do so, according to people with knowledge of the matter. … The White House was prompted to clarify the status of Brennan’s clearance after he appeared on television earlier in the day and said he was still unclear about his status. … ‘The only thing I’ve heard about my security clearance from the government is when Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at the podium that my clearance had been stripped,’ Brennan said on MSNBC.”

-- A former CIA officer running for Congress accused the Congressional Leadership Fund, the House GOP super PAC, of improperly obtaining her entire security clearance application — and then exploiting it for political purposes. The New York Times’s Michael Tackett reports: “Abigail Spanberger, the Democratic candidate challenging Representative Dave Brat of Virginia, sent a cease-and-desist letter to Corry Bliss, the executive director of the [CLF]. … She demanded that the super PAC destroy all copies of the form and agree to not use the information in any fashion. … Ms. Spanberger, 39, said in the letter that she had ‘clear evidence’ that the [CLF] had provided a copy of her security clearance application to ‘at least one news outlet,’ adding, ‘I am not aware of any legal way that C.L.F. could have this document.’ In an interview, she said that she suspected that the group was trying to exploit a brief time when she taught at a private Islamic school funded by Saudi Arabia. … The super PAC released a statement on Tuesday strongly denying Ms. Spanberger’s charge, saying that the document was obtained through a [FOIA request filed] by America Rising, a separate Republican-aligned research firm.” An attorney for Spanberger’s campaign said that explanation “did not ring true."

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- Trump’s effort to secure a new trade deal entered a critical stage, as Canada’s foreign minister arrived in D.C. to review a bilateral outline inked with Mexico — and as Republican senators insisted that Trump secure Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cooperation. Erica Werner, Damian Paletta and David J. Lynch report: “Trump has said … he is prepared to formalize this new deal even if Canada refuses to join. But there were mixed signals Tuesday whether the Mexican government would go along with such an arrangement, and a number of GOP lawmakers signaled that this approach was unwise and may not satisfy congressional procedures for approving trade agreements. The lawmakers’ views are crucial because Congress must sign off on any trade deal before it can take effect. Most GOP senators strongly support the existing NAFTA agreement. ... [And] although they have reluctantly gone along with the Trump administration’s attempts to renegotiate the three-party deal, the idea of leaving Canada out was met with near-universal condemnation Tuesday.”

-- Canadians fear the agreement between the Trump administration and Mexico could exclude their country from crucial negotiations. Alan Freeman reports: “The latest turn in the talks makes the ‘no deal’ option particularly dangerous for Canada if Trump goes ahead with his threat to impose tariffs on Canada’s substantial exports of cars and automotive components to the United States. That means Trudeau may be forced to cede on issues such as the protection of Canada’s dairy sector and the Chapter 19 dispute settlement process, unless the United States and Mexico decide this week that a deal with Canada is essential, giving the Canadians more leverage than they appear to have now.”

-- Trump once again clashed with the Mexican government after he renewed his promise that his proposed border wall will “ultimately be paid for by Mexico.” Felicia Sonmez and Damian Paletta report: “The offhand comments by Trump were made to reporters in the Oval Office as he met with the head of international soccer’s governing body, FIFA President Gianni Infantino. … ‘Yeah, the wall will be paid for very easily, by Mexico,’ Trump said when asked about plans for a wall at the southern border. ‘It will ultimately be paid for by Mexico.’ After footage of Trump’s remarks was widely broadcast on television, Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray immediately fired back, maintaining that Mexico will never agree to fund a border wall. ‘We just reached a trade understanding with the US, and the outlook for the relationship between our two countries is very positive,’ Videgaray said in a tweet. ‘We will NEVER pay for a wall, however. That has been absolutely clear from the very beginning.’ ”

-- When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the White House in June, he was caught off guard when Trump issued a single, pointed barb — telling Abe, “I remember Pearl Harbor” — before launching into a scathing critique of Japanese economic and trade policies. John Hudson and Josh Dawsey report: “The meeting, which left Abe exasperated, epitomized the paradoxical nature of Trump’s closest relationship with a foreign leader. The two men have a tight rapport — Trump [sees Abe as] a worthy counterpart — unlike many other world leaders who draw his derision. But in recent months, the president’s unorthodox approach to North Korea and deeply negative view of Japan’s trade practices have locked Trump and Abe in a series of agree-to-disagree stalemates. … The rift marks a disappointing turn for Abe, who invested heavily in a personal relationship with Trump … [but] has little to show for his efforts. Japan was the only major U.S. ally that did not receive temporary exemption from the metals tariffs, and it now faces the prospect of new automobile tariffs — a move tantamount to economic warfare in a country where the car industry is closely linked to the national psyche. …

“Japanese officials say Trump misstates economic data during meetings and rebuffs advice on North Korea. In phone calls and meetings ahead of Trump’s [Singapore summit], Abe repeatedly advised Trump not to halt military exercises with South Korea or entertain an agreement to formally end the Korean War until [Kim took] concrete steps to denuclearize. … The uncertainty has fueled concerns that Trump could overrule his top aides, and put the U.S. troop presence in Okinawa or Seoul on the table to secure a nuclear deal with North Korea."

-- Iran’s disinformation campaign across social media was even more widespread than previously acknowledged, per Reuters’s Jack Stubbs and Christopher Bing. “Facebook and other companies said last week that multiple social media accounts and websites were part of an Iranian project to covertly influence public opinion in other countries. A Reuters analysis has identified 10 more sites and dozens of social media accounts across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.”

-- Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said U.S. assistance to the Saudi-led coalition engaged in the war in Yemen is “not unconditional.” From Missy Ryan and Sudarsan Raghavan: “Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Mattis said aid to countries conducting operations against Houthi rebels would require that those countries ‘do everything humanly possible to avoid any innocent loss of life and [that] they support the U.N.-brokered peace process.’ The comments came hours after the United Nations human rights office released a report accusing all of the parties involved in Yemen’s conflict of violating international law.”

MEANWHILE:

-- Addressing evangelical leaders, Trump warned that Democrats “will overturn everything that we’ve done and they’ll do it quickly and violently” if they regain control of Congress. The New York Times’s Michael D. Shear reports: “Speaking to the group in the State Dining Room of the White House, Mr. Trump painted a stark picture of what losing the majority would mean for the administration’s conservative agenda, according to an audiotape of his remarks. … ‘They will end everything immediately,’ Mr. Trump said. ‘When you look at antifa,’ he added, a term that describes militant leftist groups, ‘and you look at some of these groups, these are violent people.’ … The blunt warning — delivered to about 100 of the president’s most ardent supporters in the evangelical community — was the latest example of Mr. Trump’s attempts to use the specter of violence at the hands of his political opponents and to fan the flames of cultural divisions in the country.”

-- Trump falsely claimed during the same meeting that he has gotten “rid” of the Johnson Amendment, the law forbidding churches and charities from endorsing political candidates. “Now, you're not silenced anymore,” Trump declared, adding that the law is “gone … there's no penalty anymore and if you like somebody … you can go out and say, 'This man is going to be great for evangelicals, or for Christianity or for another religion … and I'm going to talk about it on Sunday.'"

The president “cited this alleged accomplishment as one in a series of gains he has made for his conservative Christian supporters, as he warned that ‘you're one election away from losing everything that you've got,' " NBC News’s Aliza Nadi and Ken Dilanian report. “In May 2017, Trump signed an executive order that purported to ease enforcement of the Johnson Amendment. But experts … say the Trump order was basically toothless. Trump's executive order instructs the Treasury Department not to ‘take any adverse action against any [individual or religious organization] on the basis that [they speak] about moral or political issues from a religious perspective.' In other words, religious organizations can express their religious views, as they always could — but still cannot formally participate in political campaigns. The Johnson Amendment doesn't prohibit individual speech, and it has rarely been enforced.”

GOING AFTER GOOGLE:

-- Top Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow said the White House is “looking into” whether Google’s search engine should be regulated by the government — putting the company at the center of a broader debate over whether conservative voices are suppressed online. Kudlow’s comments came hours after Trump took aim at the search engine on Twitter, complaining that its results prioritized “the viewing/reporting of Fake News Media.”

-- “Trump’s tweets came the morning after Fox Business host Lou Dobbs aired an interview Monday night with the pro-Trump commentators Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, popularly known as Diamond and Silk, who have long claimed that their online videos are being suppressed by tech companies,” Isaac Stanley-Becker, Brian Fung and Tony Romm report. “ 'I am not for big government, but I really do believe that the government should step in and really check this out,’ Hardaway [told Dobbs]. Google search results are affected not only by region but also by personal search history. It was unclear whether the president had Googled himself, or whether he was referring to a recent piece in PJ Media, a conservative blog, alleging that 96 percent of Google search results for news about Trump were from ‘left-leaning news outlets.’ … But nowhere did the editor and blogger reckon with the fact that the sheer volume of content produced by different outlets plays a major role in determining the share of results they claim. She did, however, acknowledge that her methods are ‘not scientific.’ ”

-- Hours later, Trump escalated his attack on the tech giant, telling reporters: “I think Google is really taking advantage of a lot of people. And I think that’s a very serious thing. … We have literally thousands and thousands of complaints coming in. And you just can’t do that,” he continued. “So I think that Google and Twitter and Facebook, they’re really treading on very, very troubled territory. And they have to be careful. It’s not fair to large portions of the population.”

-- In a statement, Google said its searches are not politically biased: “When users type queries into the Google Search bar, our goal is to make sure they receive the most relevant answers in a matter of seconds. Search is not used to set a political agenda and we don’t bias our results toward any political ideology. Every year, we issue hundreds of improvements to our algorithms to ensure they surface high-quality content in response to users’ queries. We continually work to improve Google Search and we never rank search results to manipulate political sentiment.”

-- Meanwhile, a group of Facebook employees has launched an online group aimed at expanding the company’s ideological diversity. The New York Times’s Kate Conger and Sheera Frenkel report: “ ‘We are a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views,’ Brian Amerige, a senior Facebook engineer, wrote in [a post on an internal message board]. … ‘We claim to welcome all perspectives, but are quick to attack — often in mobs — anyone who presents a view that appears to be in opposition to left-leaning ideology.’ Since the post went up, more than 100 Facebook employees have joined Mr. Amerige to form an online group called FB’ers for Political Diversity. … The new group has upset other Facebook employees, who said its online posts were offensive to minorities. … The activity is a rare sign of organized dissent within Facebook over the company’s largely liberal workplace culture.”

THE REST OF THE AGENDA:

-- House Democrats are urging Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to clarify that states cannot use a federal grant program to arm teachers. Laura Meckler reports: “In a letter being sent to DeVos on Tuesday, 173 out of 193 Democrats in the House argue that DeVos has the authority to say no to such spending and that close examination of the law that governs the grants suggests she should. ‘Arming teachers would not only jeopardize student and staff health and safety, but also run counter to Congressional intent, precedent, and common sense,’ Democrats said in the letter. … Congressional Democrats are also hoping to attach language to a pending spending bill to bar purchasing guns with the grant money, which would require agreement with Republicans.”

-- Trump has quietly abandoned a proposal to cut billions of dollars in foreign aid already approved by Congress. Carol Morello and Erica Werner report: “The Office of Management and Budget, which had considered taking back more than $3 billion in unspent foreign aid as the fiscal year nears an end, notified members of Congress on Tuesday that the rollback will not occur, according to congressional aides. … The decision quashed for now a freeze on funds that the State Department and USAID had not already obligated.”

-- The Trump administration has also agreed to pay nearly half a billion dollars to New York and Minnesota after the states lost federal funds because of the elimination of cost-sharing reductions. Colby Itkowitz reports: “The two states are the only ones in the country to create 'Basic Health Programs,' an option for states created by the Affordable Care Act. Under such programs, people earning [slightly too much to be eligible for Medicaid] receive their health coverage from the state. … The programs have been financed with federal funds since the ACA was passed in 2010. … The win by the states is a rare bit of good news doled out by the Trump administration, which has steadily been chipping away at the regulatory framework underpinning Obamacare.”

MEMORIALIZING MCCAIN:

-- Momentum for Sen. Chuck Schumer’s proposal to rename the Russell Senate Office Building in honor of John McCain, which I wrote about in yesterday's 202, is slowing. McConnell announced plans to form a bipartisan task force to “study ways” to best commemorate the Arizona Republican. Gabriel Pogrund reports: “[Recommendations included] the possibility of adding the late senator’s portrait to the Senate Reception room — considered a ‘hall of fame’ for the most distinguished senators who have served. The room, located next to the Senate chamber, is currently adorned with artwork depicting fewer than a dozen senators. … [McConnell’s] caution was matched by fellow Republican senators, [serving] as a reminder of McCain’s testy relationship with the Republican Party establishment, from which he diverged on issues including torture, taxes and health care, alongside his outspoken opposition to [Trump].”

-- Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) gave a thoughtful floor speech last night arguing that a better way to honor McCain’s legacy would be with a fresh round of ethics reform. “Just as America is not the sum of her cities, so, too, the United States Senate is not the sum of its buildings,” Sasse said. “When the American people look at Washington, they rightly think that it's shady for Cabinet members and their spouses to be raising money from foreign sources. When the American people look at Washington, they rightly think that there's a whole lot of shady [stuff] going on and that people's taxes and their finances ought to be disclosed when they're running for an office of public trust. …

“I think we should find a way to honor John McCain in a way that John McCain would have seen fit. … We can do something big, that's in line with the spirit of how he wanted to disrupt this place. If we wanted to make both parties uncomfortable — John was a guy who liked to point both barrels at both parties — I think we could find a way to do that in a way that the American people would applaud. And I think that might be the right way to honor John McCain. His willingness to take on everybody and all the sacred cows in this town was why a lot of people hated him. But it's why a lot more people loved him. And I think if we're going to honor his spirit, we ought to find a way to do something that's big and disruptive and uncomfortable for Washington, D.C.”

-- In another floor speech, a tearful Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said no senator, including himself, will ever be able to replace McCain. Paul Kane writes: “It’s a remarkable but painfully honest admission from a senator who spent the past 15 years as the junior partner in the fight to steer the nation to a more hawkish position on foreign policy and the Republican Party to a more welcoming stance toward women and minorities.”

-- Cindy McCain is expected to wield significant influence as Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) searches for someone to fill her late husband’s Senate seat. Politico’s Christopher Cadelago, Daniel Strauss and Daniel Lippman report: “More than a dozen McCain family friends and Republicans familiar with the search said that while Cindy McCain isn’t expected to take an active political role, [Ducey] wants to avoid alienating her as he heads into a tough reelection fight. ‘If the family expressed interest in a particular attribute that McCain’s successor would have,’ said Arizona Republican strategist Chuck Coughlin, ‘my instinct is that [Ducey] would honor that.’ ”

-- Barack Obama was taken aback when McCain called him in April to ask whether he would deliver a eulogy at his funeral. CNN’s Jeff Zeleny reports: “It turns out, after talking to several friends of both men this week, their relationship isn't intimate at all, but rather one rooted in mutual respect and a shared sense of alarm at today's caustic political climate. Their telephone call on that April day was first arranged by advisers, not McCain simply dialing up Obama as he would do with his legion of friends, a sign they were hardly tight. … But McCain's decision to ask Obama and [George W. Bush] to eulogize him is part of a carefully choreographed — and, yes, even strategic — message for America and the world in the wake of his death. It's also perhaps, one last opportunity for McCain to try and tamp down a fervor that first awoke in the Republican Party during his 2008 race and has swelled ever since.”

-- McCain selected Russian dissident Vladimir Kara-Murza as one of his pallbearers, which many have read as a final dig at Trump and Vladimir Putin. Politico’s Josh Meyer reports: “The funeral cortege, or procession, is often one of the most-watched parts of any televised memorial service, and McCain appears to have chosen his pallbearers with that in mind. He picked some, such as former Democratic Vice President Joe Biden and former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), to represent his time as an Arizona congressman, senator and presidential contender. Others, such as former Defense Secretary William Cohen, honor his service as a naval aviator and prisoner of war, and some are friends, such as the actor Warren Beatty.”

-- McCain’s 106-year-old mother, Roberta, has outlived her son. From Rachel Siegel: “Roberta, who lives in Washington, spent years crisscrossing the globe, often alongside her identical twin sister, Rowena, eager for whatever spontaneous adventure came next. She has ridden through the Jordanian desert in the dark of night, hopped a ferry to Macau and trekked through Europe on less than $5 per day. … In his memoir, McCain wrote that he ‘became my mother’s son,’ often by ‘emulating and exaggerating’ her characteristics. For example, she was exuberant, so he was rowdy. ‘She taught me to find so much pleasure in life that misfortune could not rob me of the joy of living,’ he wrote.”

THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- U.S. Judge Amy Berman Jackson agreed to briefly delay Paul Manafort's upcoming trial in D.C., pushing the start date to Sept. 24 after defense attorneys said they needed more time to prepare. Manafort is being tried in the District on charges of conspiracy and money laundering. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “Attorneys for [Manafort] also said that they will ask Wednesday to move the trial to an as-yet-unnamed venue because of pretrial publicity. ‘You can file what you want to file. I won’t prejudge it,’ [Berman Jackson said]. The maneuvering came as both sides shifted focus to the next legal test for Manafort. … The two-hour hearing Tuesday mainly covered whether prosecutors could show evidence of Manafort’s alleged ‘bad acts’ to jurors before turning at the end to the more urgent questions about how extensive coverage of his Virginia case might affect seating a D.C. jury.”

-- Michael Cohen’s recent guilty plea has inspired hope among some congressional investigators that he can provide them with long-sought information about Sergei Millian, an obscure Belarus-born businessman who once claimed to have brokered Trump-branded properties to Russian buyers — and then “aggressively” sought relationships with at least six key Trump advisers during the 2016 campaign. ABC News’s Matthew Mosk and John Santucci report: “Congressional investigators have been trying for months to serve him a subpoena for testimony — but their process servers cannot find him. Several people who knew Millian say he has vanished. … [But] Millian, who in 2016 was the self-proclaimed head of the Russian-American Chamber of Commerce, exchanged several emails and private messages with Cohen.”

-- Mueller’s team continued to ask witnesses questions about Cohen even after the FBI raid on his hotel room and office. CNBC’s Brian Schwartz reports: “The special counsel continued asking witnesses about Cohen into at least May, according to sources. … Legal experts say Mueller's continued interest in Cohen suggests that he could still be a pivotal source of information for the larger probe. … Some said that the special counsel is likely trying to verify assertions being made by Trump's former attorney.”

-- The CNN writers who reported that Cohen claimed Trump knew about the Trump Tower meeting — including Watergate legend Carl Bernstein — are facing questions after one of their sources, Cohen attorney Lanny Davis, recanted. Paul Farhi writes: “ ‘I made a mistake and I have to take the hit,’ Davis said in an interview late Tuesday, commenting again on the issue. ‘I should have been much clearer [in the original interview with CNN]. I should have said, “I can’t answer that question. Don’t depend on me. I’m not confident” ’ about what Cohen might have known. ‘I don’t blame Bernstein or [his co-writers]. I blame me.’ Despite Davis’s walk-back, CNN continues to stand by its July story. A spokeswoman, Allison Gollust, said Bernstein and co-writers Jim Sciutto and Marshall Cohen had ‘more than one source’ on their original story and the organization is ‘confident in our reporting of it.’ ”

-- Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) traveled to London this month seeking information on Christopher Steele — the former MI6 officer and author of the infamous Trump-Russia dossier. But his trip failed to yield the information that Nunes probably hoped to find. The Atlantic’s Natasha Bertrand reports: “According to two people familiar with his trip … [Nunes] was investigating, among other things, Steele’s own service record and whether British authorities had known about his repeated contact with a [DOJ official, Bruce Ohr]. To that end, Nunes requested meetings with the heads of three different British agencies—MI5, MI6, and the Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. But those meetings did not pan out—Nunes came away meeting only with the U.K.’s deputy national-security adviser, Madeleine Alessandri.”

 

-- A burglar stole an iPad and a briefcase from a Manhattan home belonging to a banker who once did work for Manafort, police said. The New York Times’s Ashley Southall reports: “The homeowner, David Fallarino, 38, is a loan officer at Citizens Bank who handled loan paperwork for Mr. Manafort. … Mr. Fallarino, who was not implicated in wrongdoing, called the police around 3 a.m. on Tuesday after discovering the break-in at his apartment on West 58th Street near Central Park, the police said."

MORE ON THE MIDTERMS:

-- The first and only debate between New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his Democratic primary rival, Cynthia Nixon, will air at 7 p.m. Eastern. But in finalizing last-minute logistics, both sides have refused to concede on one detail in particular: the temperature of the debate hall. The New York Times’s Shane Goldmacher reports: “Ms. Nixon’s team has publicly accused the debate host, WCBS-TV, of catering to all of the governor’s demands to land the debate, and they are concerned that [the venue] might feel like an ice rink. … (Mr. Cuomo is famous for preferring to make his public appearances in deeply chilled conditions.) So in a pre-emptive strike, [Nixon strategist Rebecca Katz] asked WCBS-TV in an email last week that the debate hall be warmed to 76 degrees. Ms. Katz wrote that working conditions are ‘notoriously sexist when it comes to room temperature, so we just want to make sure we’re all on the same page here. … Back in May, Ms. Nixon challenged Mr. Cuomo to multiple debates but Mr. Cuomo has agreed to just this one encounter, with barely two weeks before the primary.”

-- North Carolina Republicans plan to ask the Supreme Court to preserve the state’s congressional map for the November elections, despite a three-judge panel ruling that it represented an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. Kirk Ross and David Weigel report: “ ‘What the court suggests is simply impossible,’ state House Speaker Tim Moore and state Senate President Phil Berger said in a statement Tuesday. ‘[We’re] not aware of any other time in the history of our country that a state’s congressional delegation could not be seated, and the result would be unmitigated chaos and irreparable voter confusion.’ … The shape of North Carolina’s districts has ramifications outside the state, potentially determining which party controls Congress in 2019.

-- The Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity announced it would spend nearly $5 million on ads in three key Senate races. From Roll Call’s Bridget Bowman: “[AFP] is launching television and digital ads against Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, who is running for Senate. … [The group] targets Baldwin on taxes, and supports state Sen. Leah Vukmir who won the GOP nomination earlier this month. The group is spending $820,000 on the Wisconsin ads.”

-- The Club for Growth, an outside conservative group, is planning a major ad buy for Ted Cruz as polling shows an unexpectedly tight Senate race in Texas. Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reports: “The move comes as Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke, an online fundraising behemoth who has attracted national support, continues to narrow the gap in polling. … The extent of the rescue effort remains an open question.”

-- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has 24 times as much money as his Democratic opponent, Ben Jealous. From Ovetta Wiggins and Erin Cox: “Jealous and his Democratic allies said Tuesday that they plan to begin airing television ads after Labor Day to rebut the onslaught of negative messaging Republicans have put on the airwaves since early July, and they say turnout — not spending — will determine the winner in November. But campaign fundraising tallies released this week show Hogan — who led by double digits in a recent poll — has $9 million more to spend than Jealous, a massive advantage that could drown out the Democrat’s message.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Trump touted the results and began attacking Gillum on Twitter this morning:

Liberals, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are fired up about Gillum’s win:

From Cynthia Nixon’s policy director:

From an MSNBC host:

National Journal’s politics editor offered these stark spending numbers:

The vice president sent a premature congratulations message to Martha McSally, per a CNBC reporter:

Trump blasted anonymous sources, even though reporters have said  he has previously acted as an anonymous source:

He also claimed (without evidence) that China hacked Hillary Clinton's emails and appeared to demand an investigation into the matter:

A Politico reporter compared the death tolls in Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Katrina:

An MSNBC producer provided this flashback from last year:

From the head of breaking news at BuzzFeed:

The Post's Fact Checker columnist corrected Trump's tweet on trade:

A reporter for The Fix questioned Trump's remembrance of Pearl Harbor:

A New York Times reporter analyzed Trump's criticism of Google:

Another Times reporter replied:

Senate Democrats have kept up their demands for more Kavanaugh documents as his confirmation hearings near:

The vice president accused Democrats of attempting to "obstruct" Kavanaugh's nomination:

Apparently Pence does not remember Merrick Garland. Also, of course, recent Supreme Court confirmation votes have been much narrower than he suggested.

A former special assistant to Obama reacted to a report that a GOP super PAC obtained a Democratic congressional candidate's security clearance form:

The former director of the Office of Government Ethics commented on the inspector general's report that the White House was involved in discussions about the planned relocation of the FBI headquarters:

Elon Musk challenged the New York Times's description of his interview:

A Times editor replied to the Tesla CEO:

A civil rights icon marked the anniversary of the March on Washington:

A Post reporter reacted to Vogue's piece about Stormy Daniels:

And a CNBC reporter commended the White House's Marine guards:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- New York Times, “The Man Who Took On the Pope: The Story Behind the Viganò Letter,” by Jason Horowitz: “At 9:30 a.m. last Wednesday, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò showed up at the Rome apartment of a conservative Vatican reporter with a simple clerical collar, a Rocky Mountains baseball cap and an explosive story to tell. Archbishop Viganò, the former chief Vatican diplomat in the United States, spent the morning working shoulder to shoulder with the reporter at his dining room table on a 7,000-word letter that called for the resignation of Pope Francis, accusing him of covering up sexual abuse and giving comfort to a ‘homosexual current’ in the Vatican.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

“Trump Aide Kelly Sadler Joked About McCain Dying—and Was Offered a New Job,” from the Daily Beast: “Kelly Sadler was forced out of her gig as a communications official after she infamously said that Team Trump didn’t have to worry about McCain opposing Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel because, as she reportedly put it, ‘he’s dying anyway.’ Since then, few former colleagues have heard from her and none seem to know what she’s doing professionally. … But her disappearance has not been because she’s now persona non grata in the administration. In fact, Sadler was offered help at securing another Trump administration gig after her White House departure; she just had no interest in taking it. … That Sadler would have, nevertheless, been welcomed back into the administration says a lot about how insulting McCain is a feature, not a bug, when it comes to Trump-world.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“Student Who Took Classmate's MAGA Hat Says She Was Making Political Statement,”  from CBS Sacramento: “A [student] is facing battery charges after an altercation in her classroom over a [‘Make America Great Again’] hat. Cellphone video shows some of the tension inside this high school classroom. The teacher is seen trying to subdue fired-up 17-year-old senior Jo-Ann Butler after she became enraged at a classmate for wearing the ‘Make America Great Again’ hat. She grabbed the hat off his head. ‘That’s a racist and hateful symbol,’ Butler said. She is now facing two counts of battery, one against her classmate and one against her teacher who deputies say she slapped, as he escorted her from the room. … Butler says she made the scene to express her political feelings.” “Maybe just wake people up in some type of way, because it’s not cool the environment our classroom is in,” Butler said.

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will receive his intelligence briefing and then announce a grant for a program to support drug-free communities. He and the first lady will later attend the White House Historical Association reception.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

“Soccer is a game, I guess you call it football, but over here maybe at some point they'll change the name, I'm not sure. But we'll see. It's working very well either way.” — Trump during his meeting with FIFA President Gianni Infantino. (ESPN)

 

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

-- Today’s hot weather in Washington will mimic yesterday’s. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Remember how horribly hot and humid it was yesterday? We’ve got the same today as afternoon highs head for the mid-90s, with the heat index topping out near 105. We’ll call it mostly sunny, although we could see a few afternoon clouds, with just a slight chance of a late-afternoon or early-evening thunderstorm.”

-- The Nationals beat the Phillies 5-4. (Jorge Castillo)

-- Virginia’s attorney general said one school district’s plan to arm teachers is illegal. Debbie Truong reports: “The Lee County School Board unanimously approved a plan last month that would permit teachers and staff members to become ‘special conservators of the peace,’ a designation school officials had deemed to permit employees to legally carry firearms in schools. Attorney General Mark Herring said in an opinion Tuesday to the Department of Criminal Justice Services that authorizing special conservators of the peace to carry guns in public schools would violate state law.”

-- Metro trains ended up on the wrong lines twice in two days. From Faiz Siddiqui: “Riders on a Springfield-bound Blue Line train ended up at the Court House station on the Orange and Silver lines on Tuesday morning after the train took the wrong route. It wasn’t the first time. On Monday, a Silver Line train ended up at the Arlington Cemetery station on the Blue Line, the transit agency confirmed Tuesday afternoon.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Trump jokingly gave a red penalty card to the media during his meeting with the FIFA president:

The Fact Checker investigated California GOP gubernatorial candidate John Cox's claim that he was "raised by a single mom, public school teacher on the South Side of Chicago:"

A Democratic congressional candidate in a competitive Michigan district released an ad highlighting her time in the CIA (which I wrote about in a Big Idea last October):

Mourners lined up in Detroit to offer a final farewell to Aretha Franklin:

The British prime minister joined South African students in a dance:

And a group of exterminators swooped in to save a hot dog stand in Times Square: