With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: Speculation about who wrote that anonymous op-ed continues to be an absorbing parlor game, but few people are talking about the crushing national debt.
Despite a strong economy, which could typically be counted on to reduce the deficit, a new Congressional Budget Office report shows that the federal government spent $895 billion more over the past 11 months than it took in. That’s a 33 percent increase from last year. This is the result of massive tax cuts combined with dramatic increases in spending and inaction on entitlements.
Trillion-dollar annual deficits are going to be the new normal. The money being borrowed to pay for this bender will eventually need to be repaid — with interest. Yet House Republicans are talking this week about a second round of tax cuts that could cost another $2 trillion over the next decade. Privately they admit they’re doing this to score political points against Democrats in an election year. They know that there won’t be support in the Senate to make last year’s reductions of individual rates permanent because there won’t be 60 votes.
Notably, lawmakers are facing no discernible political blowback this fall for such risky fiscal policies. Perhaps this is because people are on a sugar high made possible by what’s essentially a stimulus. Or maybe it’s because unemployment is low and stock prices are high.
Another factor: The American people are more focused on the daily drama emanating from the reality television presidency than they are substantive policy issues. Meanwhile, the administration is making meaningful moves every day — and we’re covering them — but these stories are often overlooked in favor of distracting shiny objects. This week has already offered several fresh illustrations of this dynamic.
-- President Trump got a lot of attention for using the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks to launch a fresh round of dubious attacks on the Justice Department via Twitter. Picking up a claim from Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), Trump accused former FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page of employing a “media leak strategy” to undermine him. Then he blamed the bureau and DOJ for not doing anything about it. “The claim from Meadows is debatable,” Matt Zapotosky reports. “Strzok’s attorney said his client’s reference to a ‘media leak strategy’ was an effort to stem unauthorized disclosures of information.”
Mostly under the radar, however, Attorney General Jeff Sessions worked vigorously to implement Trump’s agenda. Following the president’s recent attacks on Silicon Valley, Sessions is now weighing whether to open an investigation of social media companies and has scheduled a briefing for later this month by Republican state attorneys general from Alabama, Nebraska, Tennessee, Louisiana and Texas who have been probing the tech giants. “The meeting — which will include a representative of the Justice Department’s antitrust division — is intended to help Sessions decide if there’s a federal case to be made against companies such as Alphabet Inc.’s Google, Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. for violating consumer or antitrust laws,” Bloomberg News reports. “At least one of the attorneys general participating in the meeting has indicated he seeks to break up the companies. … One reason Sessions decided to meet with the state attorneys general is to determine if they have any evidence of bias against conservatives by the social media companies.”
On Monday, Sessions reiterated plans to increase the number of immigration judges by 50 percent before the end of the year to help accelerate deportations.
Meanwhile, a report released Tuesday from the Government Accountability Office reveals that the Justice Department is not prosecuting people who submit false information to illegally buy guns, such as lying about whether they have a criminal record or have been diagnosed as mentally ill. “Reviews by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in fiscal 2017 led to 112,000 gun-purchase denials because people were in forbidden categories,” Joe Davidson reports. “The Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) investigated 12,700 of those cases. How many of the investigated cases resulted in prosecutions? Twelve. That’s 0.09 percent of the cases ATF investigated. That means the crooks, the wife beaters and the homicidal maniacs who lie to get a gun have little reason to worry that Uncle Sam will get them for faking on Form 4473.”
To put in perspective the federal government’s lack of seriousness on this issue, the state of Pennsylvania alone convicted 472 people last year for making false statements when they applied to get guns.
Sessions announced to fanfare back in March that the feds would boost prosecutions of people who lie on their background check forms, but there’s no evidence of follow through. The ATF says it lacks the manpower to conduct time-intensive investigations. U.S. attorneys, appointed by Trump, also generally don’t accept and prosecute the cases because they require significant effort and they’d rather prioritize other cases involving gun violence, according to the GAO report. The Justice Department did not reply to a request for comment.
This is a good reminder to put the rhetoric aside, and look at the reality. The dichotomy between the surge of immigration prosecutions and the lack of gun prosecutions is striking. As Richard Nixon’s attorney general John Mitchell once said, “Watch what we do, not what we say.”
-- Two other stories also show why you should pay more attention to what Trump does than what he says:
The Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday that it will more than triple the size of a tent city for migrant children in El Paso. The camp at the Tornillo-Guadalupe Land Port of Entry will grow from 1,200 beds to as many as 3,800. “The Trump administration established the camp in June as a temporary shelter because its facilities elsewhere were running out of space,” Nick Miroff reports. “Widespread condemnation forced Trump to reverse [his family separation policy in June], but since then HHS has taken in greater numbers of underage migrants. The number of families illegally crossing the border jumped again in recent weeks . . . [HHS spokesman Kenneth Wolfe] said the agency has 12,800 minors in its custody, the highest number ever. Minors spend an average of 59 days in HHS custody, up from 51 days in 2017.”
And Betsy DeVos's Education Department reopened a seven-year-old case from Rutgers University alleging the school allowed a hostile environment for Jewish students. The department announced in a letter to the Zionist Organization of America that it will vacate a 2014 decision by the Obama administration and re-examine the conservative group’s challenge not as a case of religious freedom but as possible discrimination against an ethnic group. “In so doing, the Education Department embraced Judaism as an ethnicity and adopted a hotly contested definition of anti-Semitism that included ‘denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination’ by, for example, ‘claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor’ and ‘applying double standards by requiring of’ Israel ‘a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation,’” Erica L. Green explains in the New York Times. “In effect, Arab-American activists say, the government is declaring the Palestinian cause anti-Semitic.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Hurricane Florence continues to barrel toward the East Coast, packing 140-mph winds and threatening the Carolina coasts with a storm surge that forecasters say is “highly likely” to be life-threatening. By Tuesday evening, almost 10 million people on the East Coast were under a storm advisory, while government officials in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia ordered the evacuation of more than 1.5 million residents.
“The Category 4 storm is likely to produce ‘catastrophic’ flooding in the eastern Carolinas as well as destructive winds,” Jason Samenow reports. “Forecasts generally project Florence to make landfall in southeast North Carolina on Friday as a Category 3 or 4 hurricane, where it is poised to slow to a crawl and unload disastrous amounts of rain. ‘This will likely be the storm of a lifetime for portions of the Carolina coast, and that’s saying a lot given the impacts we’ve seen from hurricanes Diana, Hugo, Fran, Bonnie, Floyd, and Matthew,’ wrote the meteorologist on duty for the National Weather Service office serving Wilmington, N.C. ‘I can’t emphasize enough the potential for unbelievable damage from wind, storm surge, and inland flooding with this storm.’”
National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham warns that because Florence will probably linger over the Carolinas after making landfall, people living well inland should prepare for power outages, flooding and other hazards. “It’s not just the coast,” Graham said. “When you stall a system like this and it moves real slow, some of that rainfall can extend well away from the center.”
“The storm’s potential path also includes half a dozen nuclear power plants, pits holding coal-ash and other industrial waste, and numerous hog farms that store animal waste in massive open-air lagoons,” the AP reports.
-- The District has declared a state of emergency as it braces for the storm. From Dana Hedgpeth and Luz Lazo: “Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) joined city leaders including D.C. police, fire, transportation and public-works officials during a news conference to outline how authorities are preparing for the storm. District officials said they believe a main threat will be periods of heavy rain, starting Thursday night and into Friday. ‘We will see torrential rain for at least three to four days,’ said Christopher Rodriguez, director of the D.C. Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.”
-- The Post has removed the paywall on our coverage of Florence so you can access stories about it without a subscription.
-- Trump said the government is “absolutely, totally prepared” for Florence — and praised himself for his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, even though nearly 3,000 people died in the months following the storm. “In remarks in the Oval Office, Trump said his administration’s response to [Maria] was ‘an incredible, unsung success’ and also incorrectly suggested that Puerto Rico had virtually no electricity prior to the storm,” John Wagner and Felicia Sonmez report. “It was ‘one of the best jobs that’s ever been done with respect to what this is all about,’ Trump said.”
-- Reality check: The director of FEMA recently disclosed that the agency approved only 3 percent of the more than 2,000 applications for funeral assistance following Maria. BuzzFeed News’s Nidhi Prakash reports: “In response to an earlier letter from [Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)], Brock Long, director of FEMA, wrote on Aug. 14 that as of July 30, his agency had received 2,431 requests for funeral assistance from Puerto Ricans related to the hurricane — they approved just 75 of them, meaning 97% have either been rejected or have not received a decision almost a year after Maria hit the island. … Although Long did not give a specific reason in his letter for the rejections, he pointed to FEMA’s requirements for funeral assistance. To qualify, Puerto Ricans had to provide a death certificate or letter from a government official ‘that clearly indicates the death was attributed to the emergency or disaster, either directly or indirectly,’ Long wrote … But getting that information was impossible for many families because, as the Puerto Rican government recently admitted, officials were not counting hurricane-related deaths correctly.”
-- Trump's description of Florence as “tremendously big and tremendously wet” reflects his habit of “narrating even deadly crises in superlative terms that render him more a rubbernecking bystander than a conventional commander in chief,” Ashley Parker writes. “Trump has long struggled with public displays of empathy and with rising to the role of consoler in chief. In a range of situations — from deadly shootings and natural disasters to Tuesday’s anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — Trump has responded in ways that, at best, seem ill-suited to the somberness of the events. ‘Fundamentally he’s a showman, not a statesman, and he sees every opportunity as an audience to be impressed or rallied, not as constituents in his care to be comforted and inspired,’ said Jon Meacham, a historian and author of ‘The Soul of America.’ ‘It returns to the idea that he’s a promoter more than he is a president.’”
-- Trump took to Twitter this morning to tout his administration’s “unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico” after Hurricane Maria:
We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan). We are ready for the big one that is coming!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 12, 2018
GET SMART FAST:
- Cardinal Donald Wuerl told priests that he plans to approach Pope Francis “soon” to discuss the possibility of stepping down as the archbishop of Washington. The announcement comes as Wuerl, a former Pittsburgh bishop, faces mounting calls to resign over his handling of sexual abuses cases in the Catholic Church. (Julie Zauzmer and Michelle Boorstein)
- A California man was jailed after he allegedly threatened a GOP congressional candidate and tried to stab him with a switchblade. Authorities and candidate Rudy Peters said the suspect, Farzad Vincent Fazeli, was shouting obscenities about Trump as he attacked Peters at the Castro Valley Fall Festival. (San Francisco Chronicle)
The cyclist who got fired after flipping off Trump’s motorcade plans to run for local office in Northern Virginia. Juli Briskman, who lost her job at a government contracting firm because of her small protest, said she will challenge Republican Suzanne M. Volpe, the Algonkian District’s representative on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, in 2019. (Jenna Portnoy)
Just 13.7 percent of top House staffers are people of color, according to a new report, but 23 percent of House members and 38 percent of the overall population are people of color. (New York Times)
- Hundreds of thousands of Catalan separatists gathered in Barcelona to demand independence from Spain — and argue for the release of two jailed secessionist leaders. The mass protests come nearly one year after Catalonia held an illegal secession referendum, which was not recognized internationally. (AP)
- A suicide bomber targeted an Afghan protest rally in the Nangahar province — killing 32 civilians and injuring 128 others as violence in the country continues to escalate. (Sayed Salahuddin)
- Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos and the company's board of directors are visiting Washington as cities await an announcement about the company’s second headquarters. The company said it would not make an announcement during the D.C. trip, but local business leaders read the visit as a positive sign for the city’s chances of winning the headquarters' competition. Bezos owns The Washington Post. (Jonathan O'Connell and Robert McCartney)
Tennis chair umpires are considering the possibility of boycotting Serena Williams’s matches and even forming a union. The idea grew out of frustration with how the U.S. Tennis Association handled Williams’s altercation with chair umpire Carlos Ramos during the U.S. Open final. (Des Bieler)
-- New Hampshire is poised to send its first openly gay or first African American representative to Congress after last night’s primaries in the 1st Congressional District. David Weigel reports: “Democrats picked openly gay Manchester politician Chris Pappas . . . while Republicans went with Eddie Edwards, a black former police chief, in their primary. The district, which includes Manchester and the state’s coastline, has frequently changed hands between the parties; in 2016, Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) carried it by just 1.4 points while Hillary Clinton lost it by almost the same margin.”
Pappas, the establishment favorite, easily cruised to victory over Iraq War veteran Maura Sullivan, beating her 42 percent to 30 percent in an 11-way Democratic primary. Levi Sanders, the son of Bernie Sanders, finished in seventh place, with 1.7 percent (or 1,059 votes). The Vermont senator, who won the state's presidential primary two years ago, declined to endorse or help his son, who does not even live in the district. (I wrote about the fight between Pappas and Sullivan from Portsmouth in Monday's Daily 202.)
-- New Hampshire Democrats also chose former state senator Molly Kelly as their gubernatorial nominee. From the New York Times’s Sydney Ember: “Ms. Kelly’s victory brings to 15 the number of women who have won governor’s nominations in this primary season, a record. Backed by the local political establishment — she was endorsed by both of the state’s United States senators — Ms. Kelly, 68, defeated Steve Marchand, a former mayor of Portsmouth who ran to her left … [But] Ms. Kelly’s path to victory in November is a challenging one: In the general election, she will face the Republican incumbent, Chris Sununu, who is one of the most popular governors in the country.”
-- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo appears likely to win his Democratic primary against Cynthia Nixon tomorrow, despite a string of last-minute controversies. From Weigel: “But the messiness of his expected win demonstrates the political upheaval in his state — upheaval that in a federal primary in June claimed Rep. Joseph Crowley, the top House Democrat in New York. Cuomo’s campaign to defeat [Nixon] has suffered from stumbles, from a party-funded mailer linking the challenger to anti-Semitism to a rushed ceremonial opening for a bridge named after his father, former governor Mario Cuomo … While that story may fade, Cuomo has had to contemplate a new Albany where Democratic insurgents may replace some of his political allies. Cuomo’s lieutenant governor and his preferred nominee for attorney general are facing primaries against left-wing challengers. … The result has been a strangely bifurcated primary, with Democratic voters largely backing Cuomo while they flirt with electing more left-wing candidates to change how he governs.”
-- Another controversy for Cuomo: One of the governor’s top aides pitched a story about Nixon’s opposition to Israeli settlements a day before the mailer emerged linking her to anti-Semitism, potentially casting doubt on Cuomo’s repeated claims he had nothing to do with the attack strategy. The New York Post’s Anna Sanders and Bruce Golding report: “The smoking-gun email, sent Friday afternoon from an official ‘andrewcuomo.com’ account, suggested that The Post publish a story about Nixon’s support of the pro-Palestinian ‘Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions’ movement against Israel. … Nixon’s support of the BDS movement is among three points raised in the pro-Cuomo mailer, sent out by the state Democratic committee just days before Thursday’s primary, which warns, ‘With anti-Semitism and bigotry on the rise, we can’t take a chance with inexperienced Cynthia Nixon, who won’t stand strong for our Jewish communities.’”
-- Top Republicans — including Mitch McConnell — sound increasingly worried they will lose their Senate majority in November. Sean Sullivan reports: “[The Senate majority leader] on Tuesday sounded some of the most doubtful notes of Trump’s presidency that Republicans will keep the upper chamber of Congress, telling reporters, ‘I hope when the smoke clears, we’ll still have a majority.’ His comments came as Republican strategists and officials fretted over a fresh round of private polling on the Senate races, while public polls registered further erosion in Americans’ approval of Trump. ‘Shipwreck’ was how one leading strategist described the situation, adding an expletive to underscore the severity of the party’s problems. One of the most unexpected fights is in reliably GOP Texas, where Sen. Ted Cruz is trying to fend off Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke. Republicans are so fearful about losing the seat that they are diverting resources to Texas …
“At the start of Trump’s tenure, some Republicans envisioned enough wins to secure a filibuster-proof majority of 60 seats, confident they could oust many of the 10 Democrats running in states Trump won in 2016. Even a few weeks ago, Republicans were talking more assuredly about flipping seats. But less than two months till the Nov. 6 election, Republicans barely mention Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — states Trump won — as opportunities to knock out a Democrat, while McConnell reiterated that nine seats, plus Texas, were at stake. ‘Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee, Montana, North Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, West Virginia and Florida. All of them too close to call, and every one of them like a knife fight in an alley; I mean, just a brawl in every one of those places,’ McConnell told reporters in Louisville.”
-- Some GOP strategists and lawmakers in Texas have accused Cruz of neglecting the race, causing it to get as close as it is. The New York Times’s Manny Fernandez and Mitchell Ferman report: “Mr. Cruz has been criticized by his fellow party members for squandering time months ago when he should have been active and raising money. ‘I think he sort of took it for granted,’ one moderate Republican lawmaker, State Representative Lyle Larson of San Antonio, said of Mr. Cruz. ‘He’s got a dogfight on his hands. I can tell you there’s Beto signs all over my district and there are Beto signs all over deep-red parts of Texas that are unexplainable.”
-- McConnell may keep the Senate in session for most of if not all of October, depriving vulnerable Democrats of valuable campaign time. Politico’s Burgess Everett reports: “The Kentucky Republican wants to keep cranking through as many lifetime judicial nominations and executive nominations as he can with his majority in the balance and the GOP still with the unilateral ability to confirm [Trump’s] picks. … The House is expected to head home for the rest of the election season after passing a spending bill later this month. But with the Senate’s unique role confirming the president’s nominees and little political downside to staying in session, McConnell plans to forge ahead into October after slashing the August recess down to little more than two weeks.”
-- George W. Bush will begin an aggressive fundraising push today to help save his party's congressional majorities. From Politico’s Alex Isenstadt: “Bush’s tour will begin Wednesday morning, when he holds a closed-door event in Fort Worth, Texas, for GOP Rep. Will Hurd, a second-term congressman who faces the hurdle of seeking reelection in a West Texas district that [Trump] lost in 2016.”
-- An appeals panel in California ruled the Koch-backed group Americans for Prosperity Foundation must reveal its donors to the state attorney general, setting up a potential Supreme Court fight. Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports: “Charities are required to report their donors to the [IRS], but the information is kept confidential from the public. California requires charities to report the same information to the state attorney general that it does to the IRS. … The case could test the ability of state agencies to compel nonprofits to disclose the identities of their donors, particularly ones that are tied to ‘social welfare’ nonprofits, commonly referred to as ‘dark money’ groups by critics, that have proliferated since the 2010 Citizens United decision.”
-- Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s Senate campaign used his private jet to fly to a stop on his “bus tour.” Politico’s Marc Caputo reports: “Scott’s campaign said the use of his plane was a must because the governor couldn’t get from an official hearing of the Clemency Board in Tallahassee to the Republican-rich Villages retirement community in time. … But [Scott’s spokesman] said he didn’t know whether Scott has or will use his plane on other occasions to get around instead of riding the bus. In Missouri's competitive Senate race earlier this year, Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill was criticized for doing the same thing. Scott has removed his jet’s tail numbers from public flight-tracking services, making his whereabouts and travel schedule so secret that one advocacy group went to court last week to force him to disclose his itinerary.”
THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort is in talks with Robert Mueller’s team about a possible plea deal, two weeks before his second trial is slated to begin in D.C., on charges of money laundering and foreign lobbying violations. Tom Hamburger, Devlin Barrett and Spencer S. Hsu report: “[People familiar with the discussions], cautioned that the negotiations may not result in a deal … But the discussions indicate a possible shift in strategy for Manafort, who earlier this year chose to go to trial in Virginia, only to be convicted [on eight counts of tax and bank fraud]. He had derided his former business partner, Rick Gates, for striking a deal with prosecutors that provided him leniency in exchange for testimony against Manafort. The specifics of Manafort’s current negotiations with prosecutors were unclear, including whether he would provide any information about the president.”
-- Russian soldiers were joined by thousands of Chinese and Mongolian troops in Siberia as the Kremlin kicked off its annual “war games,” the largest Russian military drill to occur since the fall of the Soviet Union. Anton Troianovski, Anna Fifield and Paul Sonne report: “In Vladivostok, Russian President Vladimir Putin welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping as the headline guest at an annual conference focused on Russia’s Far East. They made pancakes together on the waterfront. This year’s Vostok (‘east’) drills … [involve] about 300,000 Russian service members, more than 1,000 aircraft, 36,000 tanks and scores of ships over the next week. China and Russia regularly cooperate in bilateral exercises. But this is the first time that Moscow has integrated Chinese forces into its annual strategic exercises typically reserved for Russia’s closest allies: drones, paratroopers, artillery and warplanes deployed in mock battles.”
-- Putin insisted two men British authorities have charged with carrying out a nerve agent attack on their soil as agents of the Russian government are “just ordinary civilians.” Amie Ferris-Rotman reports: “British prosecutors last week charged in absentia two men they identified as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov for using a military grade nerve agent in Britain against Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. ‘We know who they are, we found them. There is nothing criminal about them. They are just ordinary civilians,’ Putin told a session at an economic forum in Vladivostok broadcast on state TV. He added with a smirk, ‘I hope they will soon appear and tell their own story.’ Russia had previously said the names given to them by British prosecutors were meaningless.”
-- The head of Russia’s National Guard, Viktor Zolotov, took to YouTube this week to challenge opposition leader Alexey Navalny to a duel. The threat comes as Navalny serves an arbitrary 30-day prison sentence, which he says was intended to bar him from participating in mass protests over Putin raising Russia’s retirement age. (Bloomberg News)
-- Administration officials have prepared a draft executive order allowing them to issue sanctions against foreign citizens accused of election interference. The New York Times’s Julian E. Barnes and Katie Benner report: “The order, a concise document of less than two full pages, would give the director of national intelligence, working with other agencies, the power to identify when foreign interference in an election had taken place . . . The Treasury Department would be responsible for administering the sanctions against individuals and foreign entities. The Justice Department, the F.B.I. and intelligence agencies would be involved in investigating allegations of interference.” Officials say Trump could sign it as soon as Wednesday.
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Trump canceled his planned trip to Ireland this fall following a wave of planned demonstrations there to protest his climate policies, international relations and treatment of immigrants. Anne Gearan and Adam Taylor report: “The visit had been projected for November, when Trump is scheduled to be in Europe for a French commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. … [Sarah Huckabee Sanders said] that Trump still plans to travel to Paris. ‘We are still finalizing whether Ireland will be a stop on that trip,’ she said. The cancellation [came after local reports that Irish] political parties, including Labour and the Greens, had planned to protest the Nov. 12 visit … When the trip was announced, Ireland’s Labour Party tweeted[:] ‘Trump’s values are not our values, and there should be no welcome mat laid out for a man of his worldview.’ ... Such strong popular opposition to a U.S. leader is unusual for Ireland, where a U.S. presidential visit is usually a chance to happily mark the close ties between Ireland and the United States, sometimes over a Guinness." Said Labour leader Brendan Howlin: “We will always be firm friends of the American people, but Ireland will not welcome a man with Trump’s record of discrimination, sexism and lies.”
-- “Europe’s Conservatives Thought They Could Control Viktor Orban. They Were Wrong,” by the New York Times’s Patrick Kingsley: “As Prime Minister Viktor Orban steadily established an ‘illiberal state’ in Hungary, dismantling the country’s checks and balances, stacking its constitutional court with loyalists and creating a template for other far-right leaders, a powerful group of European politicians took note. And said little. Mr. Orban is now seen as a threat to Europe’s mainstream leadership, especially the conservative alliance that for years chose to shelter him. Leaders of the Europe’s conservative political parties — including [Angela Merkel] — refrained from reining him in, largely because he was part of their coalition in Brussels, and because they thought they could control him. Now some leaders in the alliance [have] concluded that was a mistake."
-- A group of local leaders who vowed to uphold the Paris climate deal, after Trump pulled out the U.S., is meeting this week for a conference in San Francisco. “We’re seeing signs of increasing apathy worldwide,” said Paul Bledsoe, a Clinton-era White House climate adviser. “And a lot of people are hoping that what’s happening in places like California could be the antidote.” (New York Times)
WEST WING INTRIGUE:
-- Rob Porter and Gary Cohn issued statements criticizing Bob Woodward’s new book chronicling chaos in the White House, where they previously worked. But they declined to dispute any specific incidents. Felicia Sonmez reports: “In one anecdote … Trump ordered Porter to draft a letter on withdrawing the United States from [NAFTA] … Fearing that such a move would lead to economic and diplomatic calamity, Porter reportedly spoke with Cohn, who told him he would ‘just take the paper off his desk,’ referring to Trump. In his statement, Porter … said the suggestion that materials were ‘stolen’ from Trump’s desk ‘misunderstands how the White House document review process works.’ He also defended his role as staff secretary, which he [said] required him to ‘ensure that relevant viewpoints were considered’ by Trump.” “Fulfilling this responsibility does not make someone part of a ‘resistance’ or mean they are seeking to ‘thwart’ the President’s agenda. Quite the opposite,” Porter said.
- “Cohn similarly did not dispute any specific details reported by Woodward, issuing a statement that simply took aim at the book as a whole[:] ‘This book does not accurately portray my experience at the White House. I am proud of my service … and I continue to support the President and his economic agenda,’ Cohn said.”
- Trump said Tuesday that he appreciates the statements from Porter and Cohn, telling reporters that they show Woodward’s book is a “piece of fiction.” Woodward stands firmly by his reporting.
-- Trump is leaning toward Emmet Flood to replace White House counsel Don McGahn, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Peter Nicholas and Michael C. Bender. “Mr. Trump told associates over the weekend that he wants Mr. Flood, currently serving as White House special counsel, to succeed [McGahn] … Mr. Flood wants autonomy to hire his own staff and freedom to restructure the office as he sees fit, according to people familiar with the matter. One person characterized Mr. Flood’s wishes for the office as: ‘I want to be able to run the show.’ … Mr. Flood would bring to the counsel’s office a wealth of experience fending off congressional investigations of the White House … ”
-- An appeals court dismissed a lawsuit against Trump in which three protesters who were injured at one of his 2016 campaign rallies accused him of “inciting to riot.” From Reuters’s Jonathan Stempel: “By a 3-0 vote, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the protesters did not state a valid claim under Kentucky law against Trump or his campaign, and Trump’s speech was protected by the First Amendment because he did not specifically advocate violence. … [The protesters] claimed they were assaulted, pushed and shoved, with [one of them] punched in the stomach, and unceremoniously removed after Trump repeatedly exhorted supporters to ‘get ‘em out of here.’ But in ordering the dismissal of the incitement-to-riot claim, a misdemeanor, Circuit Judge David McKeague noted that Trump said ‘don’t hurt ‘em.’”
-- In an interview with WIVB in Buffalo, Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) insisted he was innocent of the insider trading charges filed against him. From Felicia Sonmez: “Collins also acknowledged reports that he had rejected a plea deal from federal prosecutors in April, months before his Aug. 8 indictment. ‘I am innocent and I’m going to fight this right to the end in court. And I will be exonerated,’ Collins said in the interview. … Collins also detailed the scene on the morning of April 25, when he said federal agents knocked on his door at 6 a.m. ‘saying they just want to talk.’ He described it as ‘the shock of all shocks.’ ‘I’m in a bathrobe and bare feet and just got out of bed, and I chatted with them for 45 minutes or so,’ Collins said. ‘They wanted to know about my involvement, and I shared everything from A to Z. And then at the end of it all, they said, ‘Oh by the way, we have a subpoena for you.’ ’”
-- The rabbi at a synagogue in Santa Monica, Calif., where Stephen Miller grew up, denounced the White House adviser for his role in the migrant family separation policy. “The actions that you now encourage President Trump to take make it obvious to me that you didn’t get my or our Jewish message,” Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels said in his sermon for Rosh Hashanah. “That notion is completely antithetical to everything I know about Judaism, Jewish law and Jewish values.” The rabbi said Miller’s family belonged to his synagogue, Beth Shir Shalom, when Miller was about 9 or 10 years old. “What is troublesome to me is that some of my colleagues and others are concerned what I might have taught you when you were a member of our community,” Comess-Daniels said. (Eli Rosenberg)
THE SUPREME COURT:
-- Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) criticized a fundraising push for her eventual 2020 challenger if she votes in favor of Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. Eli Rosenberg reports: “[A group of liberal activists] raised money in the form of pledges that they said they would give to whoever decided to challenge Collins in 2020 if she voted for Kavanaugh’s confirmation. If she votes no, the money will never be withdrawn from donors. … The unusual fundraising effort … had raised more than $1 million by Tuesday — a not insignificant amount for a political race in the small state. But amidst the attention it was receiving were signs that its efforts could be backfiring. At least one ethics [expert] said that it may very well violate federal bribery statutes …. And Collins issued a sharply worded response through a spokeswoman that called it an attempt at extortion.” “Senator Collins will make up her mind based on the merits of the nomination. Threats or other attempts to bully her will not play a factor in her decision making whatsoever,” spokeswoman Annie Clark said.
-- In a set of additional questions submitted to Kavanaugh, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) asked the federal judge whether he has a gambling problem. From HuffPost’s Paul Blumenthal: “‘Have you ever sought treatment for a gambling addiction?’ Whitehouse asks pointedly as part of a series of questions submitted this week about Kavanaugh’s unexplained personal debts. In 2016, Kavanaugh reported credit card and personal loan debts of between $60,000 and $200,000. The Trump White House said these debts were the result of Kavanaugh buying baseball tickets for friends who later paid him back, as well as some spending on home improvements. … In addition to the baseball tickets, Whitehouse is asking Kavanaugh about his membership at an expensive country club, whether he regularly plays poker and how he paid for his house. Whitehouse’s gambling questions stem, in part, from a publicly disclosed email from 2001 where Kavanaugh apologizes to his friends for ‘growing aggressive after blowing still another game of dice’ on a weekend vacation in the Chesapeake Bay.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) criticized Trump's comments about his administration's response to Hurricane Maria:
I mean this seriously, not as a political dig.— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) September 11, 2018
If you’re in Florence’s path and considering riding it out, your President just said that a hurricane response where 3,000 die is his measure of success.
Get out of there.
One Senate Democrat explained why he would be voting against Brett Kavanaugh's nomination:
This is the most consequential Supreme Court vacancy in a generation, yet it has been the least transparent confirmation process in recent history.— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) September 11, 2018
But what we have seen provides reason enough to vote against this nominee.— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) September 11, 2018
A Daily Beast writer posed this question:
Genuinely curious. If Republicans truly think that money equates speech, what are the objections to people committing money to donate against Collins if she votes for Kavanaugh?— Sam Stein (@samstein) September 12, 2018
Eric Holder reacted to Trump's comparison of his leadership of the DOJ to Jeff Sessions's:
This is not a day for the usual unhinged Trump politics. This is a day to remember the innocent Americans we lost and the brave first responders who gave their lives. They’re the best of America and we should honor their sacrifice. https://t.co/vxBP2oZX5e— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) September 11, 2018
But the former attorney general quickly added this:
Really?! My DOJ would and did care. And continue to fight for protections for voting rights, health care, climate, LGBTQ rights, gun safety measures, criminal justice reform. Would stand up to Congressional hacks and for the career people at DOJ. Are you and Crazy Louie nuts? TFA https://t.co/vxBP2oZX5e— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) September 11, 2018
Two Trump allies are preparing a book on the “deep state” supposedly thwarting Trump's agenda:
Corey Lewandowski & David Bossie are apparently writing another book -- this one on the people inside the government trying to thwart Trump. https://t.co/Ui5lHYk9Je— Josh Dawsey (@jdawsey1) September 11, 2018
Actress Amy Schumer flipped on her choice for New York's Democratic gubernatorial primary:
View this post on Instagram
Thursday we vote. Everyone! It’s not cute to not vote anymore. I’ll tell you who I’m voting for honestly For gov: cuomo Reason: Andrew isn’t my fav dude But he’s good gov. I wanted to vote Nixon, but sadly, i don’t believe she would know what the heck to do. She needs to be able to pressure the state legislature in stuff but I don’t believe she has enough connections upstate. But I love her and think if anyone is inclined voting Nixon is cool Attorney general: I’m voting @zephyrteachout She is the MOST qualified. And she will take on trump the best. I am also proudly voting for @jumaane.williams
Some criticized Trump's Twitter messages on 9/11:
How the president begins the most solemn day on the American calendar https://t.co/tTXdCUnXG3— Jonathan Lemire (@JonLemire) September 11, 2018
An NBC News reporter mocked Trump's tweet about Rudy Giuliani:
Trump struck a different tone than his predecessors:
Presidents’ messages on 9/11. pic.twitter.com/xvis8xGdIt— Rosa Hwang (@journorosa) September 11, 2018
A New York Times photographer tweeted this picture of Trump as he landed in Pennsylvania for a memorial service:
A managing director at the organization Emerson Collective shared this striking photo:
Just took off from Newark, and there’s One World Trade Center standing tall above the clouds. pic.twitter.com/SaQv5yD9s5— Peter Lattman (@peterlattman) September 11, 2018
A story about 9/11 rescue dogs circulated on social media:
I can’t stop thinking about this pic.twitter.com/EvqsfNvaR2— Betsy Klein (@betsy_klein) September 12, 2018
And here is The Post's front page 17 years ago today:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- New York Times Magazine, “Americans Want to Believe Jobs Are the Solution to Poverty. They’re Not,” by Matthew Desmond: “These days, we’re told that the American economy is strong. Unemployment is down, the Dow Jones industrial average is north of 25,000 and millions of jobs are going unfilled. But for people like [Vanessa Solivan], the question is not, Can I land a job? (The answer is almost certainly, Yes, you can.) Instead the question is, What kinds of jobs are available to people without much education? By and large, the answer is: jobs that do not pay enough to live on.”
-- Skilled hackers have breached the UIDAI’s Aadhaar identity database -- or the controversial software containing the biometrics and personal data of over 1 billion Indians. HuffPost’s Rachna Khaira, Aman Sethi and Gopal Sathe report: “[Hackers developed a software patch], freely available for as little as … $35 … [that] allows unauthorised persons, based anywhere in the world, to generate Aadhaar numbers at will …This has significant implications for national security at a time when the Indian government has sought to make Aadhaar numbers the gold standard for citizen identification, and mandatory for everything from using a mobile phone to accessing a bank account. The patch [lets a user bypass critical security features and] disables the enrolment software's in-built GPS security feature … which means anyone anywhere in the world — say, Beijing, Karachi or Kabul — can use the software to [enroll] users. The patch [also] reduces the sensitivity of the enrolment software's iris-recognition system, making it easier to spoof the software with a photograph of a registered operator, rather than requiring the operator to be present in person.”
-- The National Association of Manufacturers is “fighting against Trump’s trade war from within,” Politico’s Lorraine Woellert and Marianne LeVine report: “[As] other executives and trade associations take a public stand against the president, [NAM] and its president, Jay Timmons, have struck a close — if still uneasy — partnership with Trump, betting it’s wiser to be on the inside than out as the administration wages a risky fight with the global business community. … Timmons has emerged as an unlikely Washington power center under the Trump administration, enjoying easy West Wing access and a bond with a president whose tactics have unnerved NAM’s largest members even as Trump plays industry booster on a national stage. During Trump’s presidency, the 123-year-old trade group has flourished, posting strong membership and revenue growth. Timmons has redirected resources to take advantage of NAM’s new platform and amped up hiring …” Asked in an interview about corporate pushback on Trump’s tariffs, Timmons said: “You can scream and yell all you want. I’ve never particularly found that to be effective.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Facebook’s idea of ‘fact-checking’: Censoring ThinkProgress because conservative site told them to,” from ThinkProgress: “Last year, Facebook announced that it would partner with The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, to ‘fact check’ news articles that are shared on Facebook. [But] The Weekly Standard has a history of placing right-wing ideology before accurate reporting. Among other things … it ran an article in 2017 labeling climate science ‘Dadaist Science’ … The Weekly Standard brought its third-party ‘fact-checking’ power to bear against ThinkProgress on Monday, when the outlet determined a ThinkProgress story about [Brett Kavanaugh] was ‘false’ … The article in question … pointed out that, when you read a statement Kavanaugh made during his confirmation hearing alongside a statement he made in a 2017, it becomes clear he is communicating that he opposes Roe v. Wade. There are serious consequences for publishing an article that one of Facebook’s third-party fact checkers decrees to be false. As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently wrote[:] ‘we demote posts rated as false, which means they lose 80 percent of future traffic.’”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“MSNBC's Joe Scarborough hit for saying Trump hurts 'dream of America' more than 9/11 terrorists,” from Fox News: “MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ namesake Joe Scarborough was slammed on Tuesday for tweeting that ‘Trump is damaging the dream of America more than any terrorist attack ever could’ in promoting a column he wrote one day before the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which killed nearly 3,000 people. Scarborough … penned a column in the Washington Post headlined, ‘Trump is harming the dream of America more than any foreign adversary ever could.’ …. Donald Trump Jr. defended his father, telling the MSNBC anchor that he should apologize to the families who lost loved ones during the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. ‘Injecting politics today is disgraceful and only shows how irrelevant and deranged you’ve become,’ Trump Jr. wrote. Several prominent pundits took to Twitter, blasting Scarborough for the column. Author Ben Howe wrote, ‘What's it like to know you spent years helping elevate someone that you now say is more dangerous than 9/11 terrorists, Joe?’”
Trump will have lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and later give a speech at the Congressional Medal of Honor Society Reception. He will deliver another speech at a fundraiser in D.C. tonight.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I think there are people in there that he can trust, it’s just — it’s a much smaller group than I would like it to be. … It would be easier to get things done if you’re able to fully trust everyone around you. I think that’s a shame.” — Donald Trump Jr. on who his father can trust in the White House after the publication of the anonymous Times op-ed. (John Wagner)
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- More of the same: Washington will likely see cloudy weather today combined with possible showers or a passing storm. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Onshore flow keeps us mostly cloudy with some drizzle, and a stalled front could trigger isolated showers or a thunderstorm through the course of the day. Temperatures top out near 80 with high humidity and light winds from the east.”
-- The Nationals swept the Phillies in a doubleheader, pulling the team back over .500 and only 1 ½ games back from second place in their division. Washington won the first game 3-1 and the second game 7-6 in the tenth inning. (Chelsea Janes)
-- The Virginia race for GOP Rep. Dave Brat’s congressional seat is turning on his opponent Abigail Spanberger’s time spent as a substitute teacher at a Saudi-funded Islamic school. Laura Vozzella reports: “The Congressional Leadership Fund … aired an anti-Spanberger ad last week that centered on her work at the school. ‘What is Abigail Spanberger hiding?’ a narrator asks as ominous music plays in the background. ‘Spanberger doesn’t want us to know that she taught at an Islamic school nicknamed ‘Terror High,’ a terrorist breeding ground.’ … Spanberger responded with two ads of her own. ‘Dave Brat and his allies will do anything to keep power, like smearing Abigail Spanberger, a CIA officer who risked her life fighting terrorists,’ begins the first 30-second spot, launched late last week.”
-- Lawyers for the man accused of killing the Savopoulos family and their housekeeper told a jury that their client’s brothers actually carried out the murders. From Keith L. Alexander and Michael Brice-Saddler: “Jeffrey Stein, with the District’s Public Defender Service, said in court that his client, 36-year-old Daron Wint, was set up by his brothers, who ‘deceived him, abandoned him and left him to take the fall’ in a robbery that turned deadly. The stunning allegation came in the opening statements Tuesday in the trial for Wint, the only person arrested in the May 2015 killings.”
-- The board for Montgomery County schools, Maryland’s largest school system, unanimously approved a plan to offer condoms in the health rooms of more than 20 high schools. (Donna St. George)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
The Fact Checker found nearly 7 in 10 of Trump's claims at his recent Montana rally to be false, misleading or lacking evidence:
The Late Show compiled a five-minute video showing Barack Obama’s long pauses during his speech last week:
Jimmy Fallon made a prediction about how long Bob Woodward's book would remain atop bestseller lists:
Two world leaders enjoyed traditional Russian pancakes, vodka and caviar after their meeting: