With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: The first thing Al Gore did when he lost 5 to 4 in Bush v. Gore was email his spokesman. “Don’t trash the Supreme Court,” the vice president ordered.
“Had Gore tried to cast doubt on the court — in the face of arguably the worst decision since Plessy v. Ferguson — we could’ve seen rioting in the streets,” said Matt Bennett, a lawyer who worked for Gore in the White House before co-founding Third Way, the moderate think tank. “One of the scariest things about Donald Trump’s assault on previously trusted institutions is the risk it poses to the peaceful transfer of power. Can anyone imagine Trump doing what Al Gore did in 2000? … It’s impossible to even summon the image of Trump selflessly declaring the recount effort over, congratulating his victorious opponent and moving gracefully off the stage.”
Brett Kavanaugh, whose confirmation hearing to join the Supreme Court begins today, was one of George W. Bush’s attorneys during the 2000 recount. His lawyering in Florida, combined with his background as a Republican operative, landed him a plum job in the White House, which in turn helped him score an appointment to the D.C. Circuit — the second most powerful court in America.
The decision remains in dispute 18 years later. Senate Democrats are unlikely to focus on Bush v. Gore during this week’s confirmation hearing because they don’t want to look like sore losers, and there is evidence that Bush would have narrowly prevailed if there had been a complete statewide recount. But it's nonetheless a timeless reminder not just that every justice counts, but also that the judiciary’s legitimacy depends on leaders of the executive and legislative branches respecting even decisions they disagree with.
Gore spokesman Chris Lehane, who received the “Don’t trash the Supreme Court” message on his BlackBerry that December night, is still critical of the rationale offered by the Republican-appointed justices. "This was an explicitly political decision, and Gore still made the decision … for the best interest of the country in the absolute heat of the moment … where he had every reason to call out the court for acting more like Chicago ward heelers than Supreme Court justices respecting the rule of law," he recalled Monday.
-- Trump has repeatedly shown disdain for the rule of law. During a debate in 2016, Trump declined to commit that he would respect the outcome of the election if he lost. He’s trashed several federal judges by name, including GOP appointees and the son of Mexican immigrants (entirely because of his heritage). His administration has declined to defend laws in court that it disagrees with.
On Monday, though, the president perhaps went further than ever in demonstrating that he does not believe in the long-standing American tradition of equal justice under the law. Trump attacked Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the recent indictments of two Republican congressmen on corruption charges, complaining that this hurts the GOP’s chances of holding the House in the midterms. “Two easy wins now in doubt…,” he tweeted. “Good job Jeff……”
This is a reference to the cases of Chris Collins and Duncan Hunter, the first two members of Congress to endorse Trump’s campaign in 2016. Ironically, Sessions was the third lawmaker to board the Trump Train.
The president has repeatedly called on the Justice Department to prosecute his political enemies. Now he’s saying that the law enforcement community should also protect his supporters. This led to rebukes from across the political spectrum.
“The United States is not some banana republic with a two-tiered system of justice — one for the majority party and one for the minority party,” said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.). “These two men have been charged with crimes because of evidence, not because of who the president was when the investigations began. Instead of commenting on ongoing investigations and prosecutions, the job of the president of the United States is to defend the Constitution and protect the impartial administration of justice.”
“This is not the conduct of a President committed to defending and upholding the Constitution, but rather a President looking to use the Department of Justice to settle political scores,” tweeted Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).
From a former Republican congressman:
He's ordered his Attorney General to go after his political enemies. He's pressured his Attorney General to lay off his political supporters.— Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom) September 3, 2018
He ignores the rule of law. And anyone who doesn't call him out will deserve it when the next President ignores the rule of law too.
Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume wondered, “Will [Trump] never learn that an attorney general’s job is not to play goalie for a president or his party, or any party for that matter?”
“This is so dangerous and stupid it’s mind boggling,” former attorney general Eric Holder tweeted this morning. “This is a fundamental threat to the rule of law.”
“Repeatedly trying to pervert DOJ into a weapon to go after his adversaries, and now shamelessly complaining that DOJ should protect his political allies to maintain his majority in the midterms, is nothing short of an all out assault on the rule of law,” added Sally Yates, the former deputy attorney general who was fired by Trump when she refused to defend his travel ban in court.
-- Trump’s latest tweetstorm underscores how high the stakes are in this week’s Kavanaugh hearings, which kick off this morning at 9:30 a.m. Eastern with opening statements. Both Flake and Sasse are members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, giving them leverage to press the Trump nominee to make commitments related to upholding the rule of law and executive power.
-- In his opening statement today, Kavanaugh will promise to be “a neutral and impartial arbiter” if he’s confirmed. “I don’t decide cases based on personal or policy preferences,” Kavanaugh will say, according to excerpts distributed by the Trump White House. “I am not a pro-plaintiff or pro-defendant judge. I am not a pro-prosecution or pro-defense judge. I am a pro-law judge.”
-- It is quite foreseeable that SCOTUS might soon be forced to weigh in on questions stemming from special counsel Bob Mueller’s ongoing probe into POTUS, who has dragged his feet on submitting to an interview and whose lawyers maintain that he cannot, by definition, obstruct justice.
“The most important questions Mr. Kavanaugh must answer concern how he will negotiate his relationship with the man who appointed him,” The Washington Post Editorial Board says in today’s newspaper. “Mr. Kavanaugh wrote a 2009 Minnesota Law Review article favoring ‘a law exempting a President — while in office — from criminal prosecution and investigation, including from questioning by criminal prosecutors or defense counsel,’ because ‘even the lesser burdens of a criminal investigation — including preparing for questioning by criminal investigators — are time-consuming and distracting.’
“Moreover, it is likely that Mr. Trump knew about Mr. Kavanaugh’s views when he nominated him. If Mr. Kavanaugh were to cast a decisive vote favoring Mr. Trump, it would appear as though the president put him on the court to do just that, and that Mr. Kavanaugh followed the script. Americans might question Mr. Kavanaugh’s impartiality and the decision’s legitimacy. Mr. Kavanaugh must respond with substance and detail to questions about his 2009 article. And he should explain why he would or would not recuse himself if such a case came before him.”
-- Kavanaugh, just 53, could realistically sit on the high court for 35 to 40 years. Court watchers expect Kavanaugh would vote to roll back abortion rights, affirmative action, Obamacare, privacy protections and overturn the Chevron deference doctrine that is the linchpin of the regulatory state. He has also shown antagonism toward gun control and campaign finance laws as an appellate judge.
-- As he appears before the committee, Kavanaugh has arguably been vetted less thoroughly than any other Supreme Court nominee in the post-Robert Bork era.
Last night, on the eve of the hearings, George W. Bush’s lawyer Bill Burck turned over 42,000 pages of documents from Kavanaugh’s time in the White House. “No information was released on the subject matter of the documents, and Bush’s lawyer asked that they be kept from the public, made available only to committee members and staff,” Fred Barbash and Seung Min Kim report. “Burck, a lawyer representing Bush, said in a letter to Grassley that the 5,148 documents totaling 42,390 pages retrieved from the National Archives were to be treated as ‘committee confidential,’ with access limited to Judiciary Committee members and staff with no public availability … In the letter to Grassley, Burck said lawyers working on behalf of the former president would determine at a later date which of the documents are ‘appropriate for public release.’ … The Bush legal team had already turned over about 415,000 pages to the committee, with about 147,000 of them withheld from public view.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) replied to the 11th-hour document dump:
Republicans know this has been the least transparent SCOTUS process in history and the hearings should be delayed until we can fully review Judge Kavanaugh’s records.— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) September 4, 2018
Something to ponder: How long would it take you to read 42,000 pages?
A Friday night news dump: When you were probably checked out for Labor Day weekend, Burck also disclosed that more than 101,921 pages of Kavanaugh documents are not being given to the Judiciary Committee because the Trump White House considers them to be protected by presidential privilege and, after discussions with the Justice Department, “has directed that we not provide these documents for this reason.”
Senate Republicans have also insisted that documents from Kavanaugh’s tenure as White House staff secretary are not germane. Not only is this one of the most important jobs in the entire federal government, Kavanaugh himself has said publicly that it was critical in preparing him to become a judge. But Democrats haven’t had a chance to see these records.
Document production is not sexy, but this is another norm that Trump and Senate Republicans are breaking to ram Kavanaugh through before the start of the fall term. Republicans have now created a precedent that will be very hard to undo. It would be politically foolish for the next Democratic president to hold their Supreme Court nominee to a higher standard than Kavanaugh.
-- A new Washington Post-ABC News poll, out this morning, shows that just under 4 in 10 Americans — 38 percent — say Kavanaugh should be confirmed, while a similar 39 percent say he should not; almost a quarter, 23 percent, have no opinion. “Public views of Kavanaugh stand out for being more politically polarized than any Supreme Court nominee dating back to 1987,” Seung Min Kim and Emily Guskin report. “Kavanaugh has the support of 78 percent of Republicans in the Post-ABC poll, along with 13 percent of Democrats, a difference of 65 percentage points.
“Almost 6 in 10, 59 percent, say he should publicly state his opinion on abortion while about 3 in 10, 31 percent, say he should not. That mirrors Post-ABC polling since the early 2000s, finding a majority want Supreme Court nominees to disclose their opinions on abortion. More Democrats (74 percent) than Republicans (48 percent) say Kavanaugh should state his abortion position before being approved by the Senate. … Overall, a 45 percent plurality says the Supreme Court should leave the ability for a woman to get an abortion the same as it is now, while 30 percent say the court should make it harder and 21 percent say it should become easier. … Those who say the Supreme Court should not make changes to the ability for a woman to get an abortion lean toward not confirming him (45 percent) as opposed to confirming him (31 percent).”
-- More coverage:
- New York Times: “An Advocate for Women or a Threat? As Hearings Begin, Differing Views of Kavanaugh Emerge.”
- CNN: “What to watch for at the Kavanaugh hearings.”
- USA Today: “Five reasons Kavanaugh's nomination … is controversial.”
- The Atlantic: “Kavanaugh’s Unsettling Use of ‘Settled Law.’”
- Connecticut Mirror: “Blumenthal: ‘Sparks will fly’ at Kavanaugh hearing.”
- Max Boot: “Let’s be honest about why Kavanaugh was chosen.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The Taliban announced one of its top leaders, a former ally of the United States who became one of its fiercest opponents, has died. Sayed Salahuddin reports: “The statement said that Mawlavi Jalaluddin Haqqani, leader of one of the most effective militant networks in Afghanistan, ‘passed away after a long battle with illness.’ … His sons long ago took over the day-to-day running of the network, and at a time of increased Taliban attacks on the government, his death is expected to have little impact. Haqqani was among the main recipients of U.S. covert military and financial aid during the occupation of Afghanistan by the Soviet army in the 1980s. But he joined the radical Taliban movement after they took over the country in 1996.”
GET SMART FAST:
Nearly 20 million artifacts are feared lost after a massive fire broke out at Rio de Janeiro’s National Museum. Brazilian presidential candidate Marina Silva said the fire was like “a lobotomy of the Brazilian memory” and current President Michel Tremer said the loss was “incalculable to Brazil.” (Alex Horton)
An apparent insider attack in eastern Afghanistan left one U.S. service member dead and another injured. It was the first loss of an American troop since Gen. Austin Scott Miller became the top U.S. commander for Afghanistan on Sunday. (Sayed Salahuddin)
Hurricane warnings have been issued for parts of the central Gulf Coast after meteorologists forecast that Tropical Storm Gordon would intensify into a Category 1 hurricane. Gordon, which has already covered South Florida in heavy rain, is expected to make landfall tonight into tomorrow morning. (Brian McNoldy)
Two Reuters journalists were sentenced to seven years in prison by a Myanmar judge. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were found guilty of violating a colonial-era secrets law while reporting on the killing of 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys. (Shibani Mahtani and Kyaw Ye Lynn)
Some economists fear Turkey’s currency devaluation signals the beginning of a series of debt crises for developing economies. Brazil, South Africa, Russia and Indonesia could soon face similar issues given global debt has massively increased since the Great Recession. (David J. Lynch)
- Budapest’s Central European University is facing a potential exile as the Hungarian government has not said it will allow the renowned university to continue admitting new students past January. The university, founded and funded by George Soros, has become a prime target as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban pursues a nationalist agenda. (Griff Witte)
A Texas doctor sparked outrage when he claimed that female physicians face a pay gap because they “don't work as hard” as their male counterparts. Gary Tigges later apologized for his comments, which appeared in the “Big and Bright Ideas” section of the Dallas Medical Journal. "I have heard from several trusted female physician colleagues who disagree with and are deeply hurt and offended by the comments," he said. (Taylor Telford)
Eighty-seven elephants were discovered dead near a wildlife sanctuary in Botswana. Some of the elephants had been brutally injured in a manner consistent with being killed for their tusks. (Allyson Chiu)
- Aretha Franklin died without a will, leaving the fate of her approximately $80-million estate unclear. According to Michigan law, Franklin’s four sons — Clarence Franklin, Edward Franklin, Kecalf Franklin and Ted White Jr. – should split the estate equally, but legal challenges often arise when a celebrity dies without a will. (Travis M. Andrews)
Roger Federer was eliminated from the U.S. Open by John Millman, ranked No. 55 in the world. John McEnroe called Millman’s defeat of Federer, ranked No. 2 heading into the U.S. Open, one of the biggest upsets in tennis history. (Ava Wallace)
-- Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon was disinvited from the New Yorker Festival following a string of high-profile cancellations tied to his planned interview with editor David Remnick. The New York Times’s Sopan Deb and Jeremy W. Peters report: “Within 30 minutes of one another, John Mulaney, Judd Apatow, Jack Antonoff and Jim Carrey said on social media that they would be pulling out of scheduled events at the festival. Right around the time when Mr. Remnick announced the cancellation of Mr. Bannon’s participation, Patton Oswalt did the same. In Mr. Remnick’s email to his staff, he said that even New Yorker staff members had expressed discomfort at the decision to invite Mr. Bannon to be interviewed at the festival. … Mr. Bannon lashed out at Mr. Remnick, calling him ‘gutless’ for rescinding the invitation.”
-- Nike has selected former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to star in its 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign. From Michael Errigo and Rick Maese: “Kaepernick, who has been under contract with Nike since 2011, makes for an interesting choice to help lead the campaign since he is involved in an ongoing legal dispute with the NFL, one of Nike’s biggest business partners. Nike is the official provider of the NFL’s jerseys. … The campaign represents a strong commitment by Nike, which wasn’t sure how to promote Kaepernick in recent years as he became a divisive figure.”
-- With the start of its new season two days away, the NFL seems to have made little progress in reaching a compromise between players and management on protests during the national anthem. Mark Maske reports: “The revised anthem policy ratified by the owners at that May meeting, which amounted to an attempt to satisfy everyone that ended up satisfying almost no one, has been on hold since July as part of an agreement with the NFL Players Association. The league and union continue to attempt to reach a compromise on a mutually agreeable policy. But that is considered unlikely to take place before the new season begins Thursday night in Philadelphia, leaving the NFL still in the position of trying to run its business amid a polarizing national debate over peaceful protest, race relations and patriotism.”
-- “The ‘Trump effect’: How a norm-scrambling presidency and a viral video are changing the way black and white residents in Summerville, S.C., talk about race,” by Greg Jaffe: “Before he heard from neighbors about the confrontation at his subdivision swimming pool, Jovan Hyman saw a shaky video of it online, where it was quickly going viral. He clicked the link, which opened on turquoise water and a white woman walking quickly toward three black teenage boys, one of whom is filming her with his cellphone. ‘Get out!’ the woman yells, slapping at the phone in the teen’s hand. ‘Get out now!’ … The video rocketed around the country and the world — one of more than a dozen online clips from the summer that captured whites accusing blacks, often improperly, of trespassing, loitering and, in one instance involving an 8-year-old black girl, selling bottled water without a permit. … Such videos predate Trump’s presidency and have proliferated this summer in places where he’s popular and reviled. Race, however, has been an overt component of Trump’s ascendance.”
-- America’s economic growth — for which Trump often takes credit — has spread its effects unevenly across the country. “It has lifted wealthy areas … which were already growing before [Trump] took office. And it has left the most economically troubled swaths of the country, the ones that Mr. Trump promised to revitalize, waiting for their share of the good times,” the New York Times’s Campbell Robertson and Jim Tankersley report. “The divide is pronounced between the high- and low-income counties that helped deliver Mr. Trump the White House. The most prosperous Trump-supporting counties — as ranked by the Economic Innovation Group, a think tank in Washington focused on geographic disparities in the American economy — added jobs at about a 2 percent annual rate in 2017. The least prosperous Trump counties, which the group calls ‘distressed,’ did not add any new jobs, on net.”
-- “Inside Twitter’s Long, Slow Struggle to Police Bad Actors,” by the Wall Street Journal's Georgia Wells and Kirsten Grind: “When [Twitter] Chief Executive Jack Dorsey testifies before Congress this week, he’ll likely be asked about an issue that has been hovering over the company: Just who decides whether a user gets kicked off the site? To some Twitter users — and even some employees — it is a mystery. In policing content on the site and punishing bad actors, Twitter relies primarily on its users to report abuses and has a consistent set of policies so that decisions aren’t made by just one person, its executives say. Yet, in some cases, Mr. Dorsey has weighed in on content decisions at the last minute or after they were made, sometimes resulting in changes and frustrating other executives and employees.”
-- Divisive figures and groups have found refuge in Facebook’s private groups. The New York Times’s Kevin Roose reports: “Several private Facebook groups devoted to QAnon, a sprawling pro-Trump conspiracy theory, have thousands of members. Regional chapters of the Proud Boys, a right-wing nationalist group that Twitter suspended last month for its ‘violent extremist’ nature, maintain private Facebook groups, which they use to vet new members. And anti-vaccination groups have thrived on Facebook, in part because they are sometimes recommended to users by the site’s search results and ‘suggested groups’ feature. … Some experts worry that Facebook’s public cleanup may be pushing more toxic content into these private channels, where it is harder to monitor and moderate.”
-- In case you missed it: Mollie Tibbetts’s father wrote an op-ed for the Des Moines Register in which he lambasted those who have “chosen to callously distort and corrupt Mollie’s tragic death to advance a cause she vehemently opposed.” Rob Tibbetts wrote: “I encourage the debate on immigration; there is great merit in its reasonable outcome. But do not appropriate Mollie’s soul in advancing views she believed were profoundly racist. The act grievously extends the crime that stole Mollie from our family and is, to quote Donald Trump Jr., ‘heartless’ and ‘despicable.’”
THE TRUMP AGENDA:
-- The DOJ is reshaping decades of civil rights enforcement, the New York Times’s Katie Benner writes. “Since its founding six decades ago, the Justice Department’s civil rights division has used the Constitution and federal law to expand protections of African-Americans, gays, lesbians and transgender people, immigrants and other minorities — efforts that have extended the government’s reach from polling stations to police stations. But under [Jeff Sessions], the focus has shifted to people of faith, police officers and local government officials who maintain they have been trampled by the federal government. The department has supported state voting laws that could wind up removing thousands of people from voter rolls. And it has pulled back on robust oversight of police departments found to have violated the rights of citizens in their jurisdictions.”
-- The Trump administration’s rollback of Obama-era pollution regulations could lead to more deaths and illnesses in northern West Virginia coal country, according to an EPA analysis. The AP’s Ellen Knickmeyer and John Raby report: “An EPA analysis says [pollutants from coal plants] would increase under Trump’s plan, when compared to what would happen under the Obama plan. And that, it says, would lead to thousands more heart attacks, asthma problems and other illnesses that would not have occurred. Nationally, the EPA says, 350 to 1,500 more people would die each year under Trump’s plan. But it’s the northern two-thirds of West Virginia and the neighboring part of Pennsylvania that would be hit hardest, by far, according to Trump’s EPA. Trump’s rollback would kill an extra 1.4 to 2.4 people a year for every 100,000 people in those hardest-hit areas, compared to under the Obama plan, according to the EPA analysis. For West Virginia’s 1.8 million people, that would be equal to at least a couple dozen additional deaths a year.”
-- Trump is receiving conflicting advice from West Wing advisers about whether to focus on avoiding a government shutdown or press ahead with his immigration demands. Politico’s Rachael Bade and John Bresnahan report: “Some White House officials are confident that Trump will sign spending bills keeping the government open. A smaller subset of immigration hard-liners inside the White House, however, are encouraging Trump to fight on the border wall issue now, while Republicans still control Congress. These officials think the House majority is already gone — and they have encouraged Trump to hold the line for his border wall and secure a win while he can … The issue thus becomes whether Trump will try to help himself politically by provoking a shutdown over the border wall, or give some political cover to GOP lawmakers in tough reelection battles.”
-- Two researchers ended their work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after they grew worried the agency was going to misrepresent their data. Dino Grandoni reports: “When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service invited Wyatt Hoback and Douglas Leasure late last year to help it assess the threat farming posed to an endangered beetle they spent years studying, the two biologists jumped at the opportunity. But the job did not turn out as they expected. The two scientists say that federal wildlife officials pressured them to work on a rushed timeline at odds with what they saw as good science and to meld a meticulous map they made of the insect's habitat with another data set from a completely different region of the country. The pair ended their work with the agency worried the government may use their research to unduly downplay the threat big business poses to an endangered insect, called the American burying beetle.”
-- Trump attacked Richard Trumka after the AFL-CIO president criticized the possibility of pursuing a NAFTA renegotiation without Canada. Jeff Stein reports: “The deal between Mexico and the United States has many provisions that have earned the support of organized labor, including more robust rules for automobile production. Speaking on Fox News on Friday, Trumka acknowledged that the initial agreement included some improvements over the status quo but also argued that ‘it’s pretty hard to see how that would work without having Canada in the deal.’” Trump replied in a tweet that Trumka “represented his union poorly on television” and said that “it is easy to see why unions are doing so poorly.”
-- Advocates say immigrants are turning down federal assistance out of fear that it could imperil their efforts to obtain green cards. Politico’s Helena Bottemiller Evich reports: “Local health providers say they’ve received panicked phone calls from both documented and undocumented immigrant families demanding to be dropped from the rolls of WIC, a federal nutrition program aimed at pregnant women and children, after news reports that the White House is potentially planning to deny legal status to immigrants who’ve used public benefits. Agencies in at least 18 states say they’ve seen drops of up to 20 percent in enrollment, and they attribute the change largely to fears about the immigration policy.”
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN:
-- Some of Trump’s favorite cable news hosts and pundits are stepping up their calls for Sessions to be fired. From the Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng: “According to several people who speak regularly to Trump, the president still keeps polling his inner circle and allies for their take on what he should do about Sessions, all the while highlighting what he views as Sessions’ weaknesses, failings, and annoying qualities. And nowhere is Trump’s fury on this better reflected and projected than on his preferred conservative media behemoth. For her Labor Day weekend episode of Justice With Judge Jeanine, Fox News host Jeanine Pirro dedicated her opening monologue to personally and professionally trashing Trump’s attorney general as a witless ‘shill’ and as a pathetic enabler of supposed ‘corruption by the Democrats.’”
-- “How Rudy Giuliani Turned Into Trump’s Clown,” by the New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin: “[T]his version of Giuliani isn’t new; Trump has merely tapped into tendencies that have been evident all along. Trump learned about law and politics from his mentor Roy Cohn, the notorious sidekick to Joseph McCarthy who, as a lawyer in New York, became a legendary brawler and used the media to bash adversaries. In the early months of his Presidency, as Mueller’s investigation was getting under way, Trump is said to have raged, ‘Where’s my Roy Cohn?’ In Giuliani, the President has found him.” (I wrote about Trump’s history with Cohn last month.)
“This spring, Giuliani met with Mueller and his staff, and Giuliani pressed the special counsel about whether he believed that a sitting President could be criminally indicted. … Giuliani recalled Mueller saying, ‘Well, we’re going to reserve our thinking on that.’ Giuliani told me that after ‘two days, with a lot of going back and forth,’ Mueller’s team affirmed that it wouldn’t indict, regardless of the result of the investigation. (Mueller’s spokesman declined to comment.) This apparent concession has shaped Giuliani’s defense of Trump ever since. He now knew that there would never be a courtroom test of the President’s actions; the only risk to Trump was that Mueller’s report could lead Congress to impeach the President, a process that is political as much as it is legal. … As a result, Giuliani has set out to destroy Mueller’s reputation.”
-- Democrats lead on the generic ballot question by 14 points, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. Scott Clement Dan Balz report: “Registered voters currently say they favor the Democratic candidate over the Republican candidate in their district by 52 percent to 38 percent. That is a marked increase from the four-point edge in an April Post-ABC poll, but similar to the 12-point advantage Democrats enjoyed in January. Because of the overall makeup of congressional districts, analysts have long said that Democrats would need a clear advantage in this so-called ‘generic ballot’ question, and in the national popular vote for the House, if they hope to flip the 23 seats needed to take control. The Post-ABC poll puts Democrats in a stronger position today than some other recent surveys, which showed them with an edge of about eight points on this measure.”
-- But strategists on both sides of the aisle have offered a wide range of predictions on whether House Democrats will see a blue wave in November. “The range of expectations gives some sense of the scars left from 2016, when few predicted Trump’s victory,” Dan explains. “People who follow elections for a living are still burned from that election. Republican pollster and GOP strategist Scott Reed said the blue wave is overblown and predicts that Republicans will hold their losses to just 15 seats. Other Republicans, on the record, are more bearish. Pollster Whit Ayres said that if Republicans manage to keep control of the House, ‘they will have bucked a powerful historical trend.’ GOP strategist Sara Fagen wrote that the combination of factors at play ‘means Democrats will be able to pop the champagne corks on Election Night.’”
-- House Democrats who like their odds of regaining a majority have started preparing for a string of investigations aimed at the Trump administration. The New York Times’s Nicholas Fandos reports: “Democrats have been hesitant to loudly advertise the specifics of the potential investigative blitz, convinced that swing voters are more likely to back them based on kitchen-table economic issues like wages, health care and retirement benefits.”
-- Massachusetts will hold its primaries tonight, with most of the attention focused on Democratic Rep. Mike Capuano’s race against Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley. From Politico’s Stephanie Murray: “It’s a test of whether a longtime liberal incumbent can withstand the wave of pent-up ambition surging through the Democratic Party, but that’s not all. Pressley is also pressing another issue, one that attracted national attention in the aftermath of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s massive upset victory against New York Rep. Joe Crowley in June: In an increasingly diverse party, who is better suited to represent a majority-minority district — a white male or a woman of color?”
-- Joe Biden joined Pittsburgh’s annual Labor Day Parade, as the former vice president considers whether to launch a 2020 presidential bid. Politico’s Edward-Isaac Dovere reports: “Biden was here for the city’s Labor Day parade three years ago, the one and only campaign event of his almost-but-never-launched 2016 presidential campaign. A year later, he was back with Tim Kaine, trying to transfer his connection with these voters to the Democratic ticket. Monday’s parade kicked off what will be an intense, nine-week stretch of campaigning for Democratic candidates in the midterms, but also an extended gut check of whether the country has an appetite for another Biden run — and for him to decide if he has the appetite to make one.” Biden has given himself until January to make a decision on 2020, the AP’s Thomas Beaumont and Steve Peoples add.
THE #METOO MOVEMENT:
-- NBC News said it allowed Ronan Farrow to take his story about Harvey Weinstein to the New Yorker because he couldn’t get any sources to go on the record about the producer's alleged sexual misconduct. NBC News’s Alex Johnson reports: “NBC News alleged in an internal report Monday that [Farrow] had taken a source's comments out of context in his reporting … and had misrepresented the source's willingness to identify Weinstein by name. The allegation was included in a 10-page report sent to employees four days after The New York Times quoted Farrow's former NBC producer as having said ‘the very highest levels of NBC’ ordered Farrow to stop his work on the investigation. … Responding to the Times' report last week, it said, ‘The assertion that NBC News tried to kill the Weinstein story while Ronan Farrow was at NBC News, or even more ludicrously, after he left NBC News, is an outright lie.’”
Farrow strongly pushed back against the internal report: “Farrow said in a statement early Tuesday that the NBC News report contained ‘numerous false or misleading statements,’ asserting that it was the network's idea that he take his reporting elsewhere, not his, and that ‘I took them up on it only after it became clear that I was being blocked from further reporting.’ Farrow said that the network's legal and standards departments both approved his reporting, ‘only to be blocked by executives who refused to allow us to seek comment from Harvey Weinstein.’ He said he would have more to say ‘at the right time.’”
-- Pope Francis is facing pressure to release documents on the church’s sexual abuse scandal or approve an investigation into what Catholic leaders knew about misconduct allegations against the now-resigned cardinal Theodore McCarrick. From Chico Harlan in Rome: “One week after the release of a scathing 7,000-word letter from Vatican ex-ambassador Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Vatican watchers say Francis — who has yet to directly address the veracity of the accusations — is facing the greatest challenge of his papacy. … But some say Francis has not yet done enough. In a letter that had collected nearly 30,000 signatures, a group of Catholic women wrote that Francis’s earlier remarks about Viganò’s letter — when he’d said the document ‘speaks for itself’ — were ‘inadequate.’”
-- When Cardinal Donald Wuerl tried to address the scandal during a Sunday mass in D.C., a man stood up and yelled, “Shame on you.” From Antonio Olivo and Martin Weil: “A video of the incident inside Annunciation Catholic Church in Northwest Washington shows the man, identified by CNN as Brian Garfield, walking angrily toward the exit after he could be heard yelling at Wuerl during a short speech in which the cardinal also asked parishioners to forgive his ‘errors in judgment’ in handling sexual abuse allegations while he was a bishop in Pittsburgh.”
-- Chinese tech mogul Richard Liu left the United States for China three days after he was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault in Minneapolis. A spokeswoman for the e-commerce giant JD.com, which Liu founded, said in a statement, “He has been released without any charges and without requirement for bail. … Mr. Liu has returned to work in China.” (Danielle Paquette)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump issued a warning to Syria, Russia and Iran over Twitter:
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria must not recklessly attack Idlib Province. The Russians and Iranians would be making a grave humanitarian mistake to take part in this potential human tragedy. Hundreds of thousands of people could be killed. Don’t let that happen!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2018
He also expressed his hope for John Kerry to run for president, a possibility the former secretary of state did not rule out this weekend:
I see that John Kerry, the father of the now terminated Iran deal, is thinking of running for President. I should only be so lucky - although the field that is currently assembling looks really good - FOR ME!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2018
A CNN reporter noted that not many elected Republicans were responding to the president's latest affront to the rule of law:
My in-box is not overflowing with GOP responses to President Trump's suggestion that certain House Republicans are above the law. I think this is something @SenJohnMcCain would have forcefully responded to. It's Labor Day, to be fair, but the silence is a little deafening.— Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) September 3, 2018
A former GOP congressional staffer responded:
imagine how full your inbox would be if it had been @BarackObama deliberately undermining the justice system & not @realDonaldTrump ... just the latest example of #GOP #hypocrisy in this time of #Trump https://t.co/vFFhdUcwTo— Kurt Bardella (@kurtbardella) September 4, 2018
A New York Times reporter added another comparison:
How many days of a story would this have been if W hit DOJ on Ted Stevens or Obama went after em on Blago?https://t.co/GsiHsl2mQY— Jonathan Martin (@jmartNYT) September 3, 2018
A Post reporter noted this oddity:
The "Obama era" reference in Trump's tweets about Collins' and Hunter's indictments is bizarre. The Collins indictment, from actions taken in summer 2017, was brought by Trump's own handpicked US atty from Manhattan.— Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) September 3, 2018
From a Post columnist:
Even by Trump standards this shot at Sessions is atrocious. Attacking the AG because Justice is prosecuting corruption cases against Republicans??? This man swore an oath to “preserve, protect and defend” our system of laws. Politicizing justice is—let’s just say it—lawlessness. https://t.co/kmrBB6EWlk— David Ignatius (@IgnatiusPost) September 3, 2018
Senate Democrats have kept up their drumbeat of opposition to Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination:
I do believe it’s going to take every single person here, and every single person you know, fighting as hard as possible to make sure the vote to confirm Kavanaugh fails.— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) September 4, 2018
A New Yorker staff writer questioned his editor's decision to disinvite Steve Bannon from the New Yorker Festival:
Huh. Call me old-fashioned. But I would have thought that the point of a festival of ideas was to expose the audience to ideas. If you only invite your friends over, it’s called a dinner party. https://t.co/VwkL4zOrbX— Malcolm Gladwell (@Gladwell) September 4, 2018
A writer who pulled an in-progress essay for the New Yorker over the Bannon invite replied:
You would have thought wrong if you think people need more exposure to fascism. Why would you tweet this terrible thinking under your given name?— roxane gay (@rgay) September 4, 2018
Chelsea Clinton and a CNN reporter got into a back-and-forth over the Bannon uproar and the Clintons' appearance at Aretha Franklin's funeral:
(both of your parents just shared a stage for hours on end with Louis Farrakhan)— Kate Bennett (@KateBennett_DC) September 4, 2018
Hi Kate - I’ve heard this a lot today. Almost a drumbeat. A few thoughts: 1) Aretha’s family had every right to invite whomever they wanted to celebrate her life. 2) As I’ve said before, Farrakhan‘s anti-Semitism is wrong. Bigotry is always wrong. 3) ... I’m not my parents. https://t.co/HHSZiKuVYM— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) September 4, 2018
A country singer denounced Nike's decision to make Colin Kaepernick one of the faces of its anniversary campaign:
A former chief of staff to Joe Biden defended Kaepernick:
The same Constitution that gives you the right to tear up your socks gives @Kaepernick7 the right to protest systemic racism.— Ronald Klain (@RonaldKlain) September 4, 2018
It's the same Constitution that Donald Trump undermines and ignores, every day. https://t.co/HxqxEKAOt5
One of Ronan Farrow's sources for the Harvey Weinstein story also challenged NBC's internal report on his investigation:
Emily Nestor, who was on the record in Ronan Farrow's New Yorker Harvey Weinstein harassment story, has just released a statement saying that she was prepared to be on the record but NBC was "not interested" pic.twitter.com/uJXvroG7Gl— John Koblin (@koblin) September 4, 2018
A Democratic senator reflected on serving as a pallbearer at Sen. John McCain's funeral:
As I reflect on the honor of being John’s pallbearer, and on the events of this emotional weekend, I wonder: was this poignant celebration a “last hurrah” of values lost? Or is it a turning point, from which we rekindle and reclaim those values? That choice is now on us. pic.twitter.com/j2399QRI2Z— Sheldon Whitehouse (@SenWhitehouse) September 3, 2018
The president's senior adviser and daughter highlighted the work of stay-at-home parents for Labor Day:
Today, on #LaborDay, let’s also recognize the amazing stay-at-home parents across America, who seldom receive the credit they deserve for the invaluable work that they do, as they nurture and raise the next generation of American workers! Thank you!#HappyLaborDay— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) September 3, 2018
And a former House speaker appears to be enjoying retirement:
-- The Atlantic, “It’s Time for the Press to Stop Complaining — And to Start Fighting Back,” by Chuck Todd: “The American press corps finds itself on the ropes because it allowed a nearly 50-year campaign of attacks inspired by the chair of Fox News to go unanswered. If you hear something over and over again, you start to believe it, particularly if the charge is unrebutted. The Trump team now keeps pounding this message, compounding the challenge. And the president faces little penalty with his voters, no matter how disparagingly he talks about the press corps; it’s precisely what [Roger Ailes] conditioned them to believe. … If journalists are going to defend the integrity of their work, and the role it plays in sustaining democracy, we’re going to need to start fighting back.”
-- New York Times, “Hard Lessons (Thanks, Amazon) Breathe New Life Into Retail Stores,” by Michael Corkery: “Malls are being hollowed out. Shops are closing by the thousands. Retailers are going bankrupt. But it may be too early to declare the death of retail. Americans have started shopping more — in stores. … The strong revenues start with a roaring economy and an optimistic consumer. With more cash in their wallets from the tax cuts, Americans have been spending more. The boom also reflects a broad reordering of the $3.5 trillion industry, with fewer retailers capturing more of the gains. Stores that have learned how to match the ease and instant gratification of e-commerce shopping are flourishing, while those that have failed to evolve are in bankruptcy or on the brink.”
-- “San Francisco, rich and poor, turns to simple street solutions that underscore the city’s complexities,” by Scott Wilson: “The streets of San Francisco — hilly, curvy, cinematic and, in recent years, a bleak showcase for the mentally ill and economically displaced — have long reflected this eccentric city’s governing priorities and many civic contradictions. Some are easy to make fun of, the utopian fantasies of a place famous for pursuing its own artisanal world view. But a new mayor has taken office. She is, at least for the moment, trading San Francisco’s liberal-laboratory style of local government for a practical, down-and-very-dirty approach that is reflected in what she said she wants as her legacy.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Trump has visited his golf courses on 25% of his 590 days in office,” from Business Insider: “While DC heavyweights, former presidents, and celebrities gathered for the late Sen. John McCain's funeral on Saturday, [Trump] went golfing. … From Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia, Trump tweeted several times to rail against Canada, the Department of Justice, and NAFTA. Of his 590 days in office, Trump has gone to Trump properties on 196 days and Trump golf properties on 153 days, according to NBC's tracker. That adds up to 25% of his 590 days in office spent at least in part [on the golf course]. . . . [Trump] spent years attacking [Obama] for golfing and taking vacations while in office.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Cuomo mistakenly says major community figure is dead,” from the New York Post: “Gov. Andrew Cuomo was met with loud gasps Monday at the breakfast preceding the West Indian Day parade when he mourned the passing of Una Clarke, a major figure in the Caribbean-American community. Clarke, 83, is very much alive. ‘Una Clarke, God rest her soul,’ Cuomo said as an uproar reverberated through the crowd at the annual celebration of Caribbean culture. Clarke, the first Caribbean-born woman elected to the City Council, is now a trustee of the City University of New York. She’s also the mother of Brooklyn Rep. Yvette Clarke, who was in the audience when the governor made — and quickly corrected — his gaffe.”
Trump will have lunch with Pence and later meet with leaders of the U.S. Travel Association.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
When the New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin asked Rudy Giuliani if he worried about how working for Trump might affect his legacy, Giuliani responded, “I don’t care about my legacy. I’ll be dead.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- Even though summer has unofficially ended, hot and humid weather is sticking around in D.C. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Mostly sunny, hot and humid, with high temperatures in the low to middle 90s. Heat indexes hit the 100s again in the high humidity (dew points in the middle 70s). We run a slight risk of an isolated afternoon to evening shower or thunderstorm, but a large dome of high pressure today should keep most of us rain-free most of the time.”
-- The Nationals beat the Cardinals 4-3 in 10 innings, bringing their record back up to .500. (Chelsea Janes)
-- The candidates in Virginia’s Senate race have very different ideas on what caused the state’s opioid problem and how to address it. From Antonio Olivo: “[Republican Corey Stewart] says Medicaid is to blame, arguing that it provides the drug at low cost to Medicaid patients who, he says, then sell it on the black market to addicts. … Stewart wants to require Medicaid recipients to pay more for their synthetic painkillers. But he offers flimsy evidence to support his claims. … [Sen. Tim Kaine (D)] argues for a mandate to bring opioid addiction in the country under control by 2030 … A bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Kaine and pending in the Senate, would step up seizures of illegal opioids arriving at the U.S. border, push the National Institutes of Health to develop nonaddictive painkillers and fund more treatment programs, among other things.”
-- The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture began its month-long experiment of not requiring tickets for weekday admission. Since opening in September 2016, the museum has used timed passes to manage the large crowds it has attracted. More than 4.3 million people have visited the museum since it opened its doors. (Peggy McGlone)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Protesters flew a blimp of London Mayor Sadiq Khan in a yellow bikini:
Bill Clinton played the song “Think” on his phone while paying tribute to Aretha Franklin:
A semitrailer truck carrying Axe body spray cans caused a fire on a Texas highway:
And a bear in North Carolina took a nap in someone's hammock: