with Mariana Alfaro

With Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: The debate among Democratic presidential candidates is no longer over whether to ban assault weapons. That’s become the consensus position in the 2020 field after the recent string of mass shootings. The clash now is over whether law-abiding citizens should be required to turn in and sell the assault-style rifles they already own to the government.

This leftward lurch is remarkable because there are nowhere near the 60 votes required in the Senate to pass an assault weapons ban for future purchases, let alone making it retroactive. But the Overton window – a social science term to describe the range of ideas that are considered acceptable in the political discourse – has shifted dramatically since Barack Obama was reelected in 2012.

Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke unveiled a detailed gun-control proposal this morning that calls for a “mandatory buyback program for assault weapons and a voluntary buyback program for handguns.” Critics say this would amount to government confiscation of firearms that people have bought legally. O’Rourke proposes an increase in the excise tax on gun manufacturers and stiff fines on gun traffickers to enable the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to purchase all the assault weapons he wants to ban. Individuals who fail to sell their assault rifles would then face fines.

O’Rourke is taking this hard line as he restarts his campaign nearly two weeks after 22 people were massacred at a Walmart in his hometown of El Paso, the deadliest attack against the Latino community in American history. The former congressman’s plan also calls for creating a nationwide gun licensing system. “If at this moment we do not wake up to this threat, then we, as a country, will die in our sleep,” O’Rourke said in an emotional half-hour speech yesterday.

-- Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), plus New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, have previously signaled some degree of support for mandatory buybacks. “We should have a reasonable period in which people can turn in these weapons,” Booker said in May.

On Wednesday, Gillibrand was asked whether she supports mandatory buybacks and criminal prosecutions of people who don’t sell their assault weapons to the federal government. “I think both of those ideas are strong,” she said on CNN. “You don't want people to retain them because if you make them illegal, you don't want to grandfather in all the assault weapons that are all across America.” Pressed on whether she would prosecute those who hold on to their weapons, Gillibrand replied: “The point is, if you are arrested for using an assault weapon, you're going to have an aggravated felony. The whole point is when you make it a crime to own an assault weapon, then if you are found using it, that would be the issue.”

Gillibrand was a gun rights advocate who benefited from the National Rifle Association’s support as a congresswoman from a red district, but she flipped on the issue after getting appointed to fill Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat in 2009. She has insisted that her evolution grew out of conversations with the victims of gun violence, not craven political calculation.

-- This is the latest illustration of the party’s leftward lurch, some might say radicalization, since President Trump took office. Some operatives with gun-control advocacy groups privately see the debate about buybacks as a distraction from more achievable priorities, especially universal background checks and “red flag” laws. There are fears that talking about forcing people to turn over their guns will activate activists on the other side. The other risk to public safety is that criminals won’t turn in their assault rifles if they’re ordered to do so by the government. So gangsters, lunatics and other malcontents will continue wreaking havoc on the streets with mass shootings.

Mandating buybacks joins a growing list of litmus tests that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago, which taken together threaten to make the eventual Democratic nominee less electable. Other examples include ending private insurance to enable a government takeover of health care, paying out reparations for slavery to African Americans, decriminalizing illegal immigration, packing the Supreme Court, legalizing marijuana nationally, abolishing the electoral college, providing tuition-free college and eliminating the Senate filibuster.

-- Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, the only Democratic presidential candidate who has been elected statewide in a state Trump carried in 2016, is worried about this latest purity test. He warns that forcing people to relinquish assault rifles they already own “is going too far.” He has said that even talking about it plays into the NRA’s hands because it bolsters the struggling gun lobby’s “narrative” that “the federal government is going to come in and take away all of your guns."

“I think we should have voluntary buybacks," Bullock said this week, according to Fox News. "I don’t support a mandatory buyback."

-- Former vice president Joe Biden, who leads in the polls, endorsed a federal assault weapons buyback program last week for the first time. But he emphasized that previously owned guns will be exempted. The 1994 crime bill he co-authored, which banned assault weapons for a decade, did not include mandatory buybacks. Last week, he was asked on CNN what his message is to people who fear that he wants to take their guns away. “Bingo,” he replied. “You’re right, if you have an assault weapon.” But Biden also said he’s not going to have law enforcement “going through their gun cabinets.”

-- Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has said he wants to “essentially” make it unlawful to possess a previously owned assault weapon. In a Medium post last week, he wrote: “We need to ban the manufacture, sale and transfer of these weapons of war. Period. We have got to implement a buyback program to get these weapons off the streets. And we have got to regulate assault weapons in the same way that we currently regulate fully automatic weapons — a system that essentially makes them unlawful to own.”

-- Several other candidates have endorsed voluntary buyback programs for assault weapons, including Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan. “Then we can figure out other mechanisms to reduce the number that are circulating out there,” Buttigieg said last week.

“I support things like gun buybacks,” former San Antonio mayor Julián Castro said this spring during a town hall. “I know that they have had mixed success, but I believe that in some circumstances that's a good policy and that we can recover some weapons that shouldn't be out there on the street.”

-- A Senate vote on an assault weapons ban in 2013, after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., got only 40 votes. Nine of the 16 Democratic senators who voted against it are no longer in office. One the remaining eight senators, Michael Bennet of Colorado, supports an assault weapons ban now that he’s running for president.

Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) endorsed an assault weapons ban last week after the mass shooting in Dayton, which he represents. He changed his position after his daughter found herself across the street from where the shooting took place. But Trump said last week that there’s “no political appetite” to ban assault weapons. Indeed, yesterday he began to preemptively blame Democrats for his probable failure to enact even universal background checks over the opposition of the NRA.

It wasn’t always this way. The 1994 crime bill passed with Republican votes. In 2004, the Senate voted 52 to 47 on an amendment to extend the 10-year assault weapons ban. That included Republican Sens. Susan Collins, who is up for reelection next year in Maine, and Mike DeWine, who is now Ohio's governor. But the NRA killed the underlying bill.

-- Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) made mandatory buybacks of assault weapons the central, animating policy proposal of his presidential campaign, which he launched in Parkland, Fla. He dropped out last month, but he’s thrilled that the remaining candidates are embracing the idea. He said just passing a ban on assault weapons is woefully insufficient because more than 10 million assault-style weapons would still be in circulation. “It would take our children’s children’s lifetime until those weapons were cycled out of use if you left them,” Swalwell explained. “So it really wouldn’t do much to reduce the death and the violence and the fear, which is immeasurable.”

Swalwell has sponsored a bill in the House that would create a two-year window during which people could sell their assault weapons at the current going rate. He also would create a carve-out so that people can possess assault rifles at shooting ranges and on hunting ground. The congressman points to a buyback program in Australia as the model for what the United States should try to do.

“The NRA and gun rights groups have been effective at labeling a buyback as ‘confiscation,’” Swalwell said in an interview. “They’ll say the next step is that you’re going to take all the guns. Whenever they use that very charged word, they put you on defense. But I really believe we’re on the high ground here. These weapons have no other function than causing a lot of deaths in a short amount of time. Week after week, we learn the names of more victims when these weapons are used.”

Swalwell called me last night as he drove from the Oakland airport to meet his two brothers for dinner. Both are police officers, just like his father. He was disturbed by the recent episodes I detailed in yesterday’s Big Idea of police getting shot by people with criminal records who are not allowed to own guns. He watched some of the horrific footage of a California highway patrolman being gunned down in a firefight on the freeway Monday night by a felon with an untraceable assault rifle. He was also distraught about the six officers who were shot in Philadelphia on Wednesday night by someone else with a long rap sheet. He said he thinks often of the Dallas police officers who were killed in 2016.

“In many ways, I am selfish about this issue,” Swalwell said. “I don’t want to ever see my brothers outgunned. I live in fear that when they pull a car over, because of the pervasiveness of these weapons, they’re outgunned. … That’s my worst nightmare.”

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-- North Korea insulted South Korean President Moon Jae-in this morning as Pyongyang rejected the idea of a dialogue with Seoul and then launched two more missiles into the sea. Simon Denyer reports: “While North Korea has not closed the door to dialogue with the United States, its anger dampens expectations that Washington and Pyongyang can make meaningful progress in nuclear talks. Meanwhile, although Moon’s relentlessly rosy view of relations with the North has helped smooth the path to dialogue, experts say his approach looks increasingly unrealistic. ‘We will advance dialogue and cooperation so that seeds sown together with North Korea in the spring of peace will grow into trees of prosperity,’ Moon said on Thursday, gliding over the continued sanctions on North Korea and the absence of steps by the regime to dismantle its nuclear program. Pyongyang’s response: its sixth missile launch in a little over three weeks and a barrage of insults at Moon over the military exercises whose aim, it said, was to annihilate its army.” Talk about naivete.

-- Trump plans to meet today with Cabinet officials and other senior national security advisers to begin making arrangements for a step-by-step U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Anne Gearan and Phil Rucker report: “Officials said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney are among the Cabinet officials who will meet with Trump and Vice President Pence at Trump’s New Jersey golf resort. The session will review results of months of diplomatic outreach by Trump’s special envoy, former U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, and military plans to begin a phased withdrawal of U.S. forces and end the longest U.S. war.”

-- Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) said Friday that she will not travel to Israel after the Israeli government initially banned her from entering the country and then reversed course. Ruth Eglash, James McAuley and John Wagner report: “Israel had relented after Tlaib sent a letter requesting to see her 90-year-old grandmother, who lives in the occupied West Bank, during a four-day trip planned for next week. In my attempt to visit Palestine, I’ve experienced the same racist treatment that many Palestinian-Americans endure when encountering the Israeli government,’ she said in a statement. In her statement, Tlaib said the Israeli government had taken advantage of her personal situation and her desire to visit her grandmother, requesting that she pledge not to advocate for a boycott of Israel while she visited. …Tlaib had initially hoped to arrive in Israel on Sunday with Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on a trip focused mainly on viewing the impact of recent U.S. policies and aid cuts on Palestinians. Israel’s decision to prevent their entry for that trip immediately drew widespread criticism from Democratic lawmakers and American Jewish organizations, including the staunchly pro-Israel lobby AIPAC.”

-- The bigger picture: By pressuring the Israeli government to bar the congresswomen from coming, Trump once again used his power and platform to punish his political rivals. Toluse Olorunnipa writes: “The president has grounded a military jet set for use by the Democratic House speaker, yanked a security clearance from a former CIA director critical of him, threatened to withhold disaster aid from states led by Democrats, pushed to reopen a criminal investigation targeting Hillary Clinton and publicly called for federal action to punish technology and media companies he views as biased against him. Taken as a whole, Trump’s use of political power to pursue personal vendettas is unprecedented in modern history, said Matthew Dallek, a political historian who teaches at George Washington University. ‘It’s both a sign of deep insecurity on his part and also just a litany of abuse of power,’ he said. ‘I don’t think anyone really has done it as consistently or as viciously as Trump has.’”

-- Trump’s cheering for Israel’s ban is un-Israeli and un-American, writes The Post’s Editorial Board: “How many dictators are rejoicing today that a U.S. president has given them full permission to bar members of Congress who in the future might want to visit their countries to monitor elections or speak up for human rights?”

-- America first, Greenland second: The president has asked his top aides to investigate whether the U.S. can buy the island. An ice-smothered scoop from the Wall Street Journal: “The idea of the U.S. purchasing Greenland has captured the former real-estate developer’s imagination, according to people familiar with the discussions, who said Mr. Trump has, with varying degrees of seriousness, repeatedly expressed interest in buying the autonomous Danish territory between the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. … Some of his advisers have supported the concept, saying it was a good economic play ... while others dismissed it as a fleeting fascination that will never come to fruition. It is also unclear how the U.S. would go about acquiring Greenland even if the effort were serious. … U.S. officials view Greenland as important to American national-security interests. A decades-old defense treaty between Denmark and the U.S. gives the U.S. military virtually unlimited rights in Greenland at America’s northernmost base, Thule Air Base. … People outside the White House have described purchasing Greenland as an Alaska-type acquisition for Mr. Trump’s legacy, advisers said.”

-- Two sources with direct knowledge of the directive confirmed to our Damian Paletta that this Greenland thing is not a joke: “As with many of Trump’s internal musings, aides are waiting for more direction before they decide how seriously they should look into it. Among the things that have been discussed is whether it is even legal, what the process would be for acquiring an island that has its own government and population, and where any money to purchase a giant landmass would originate. It is a self-governing country that is part of the kingdom of Denmark. Trump is scheduled to visit Denmark in two weeks. Typically, Congress must appropriate money before the White House can use it, but Trump has already shown a willingness to get around those restrictions. ... With melting ice making the region more accessible, the United States has been firm in trying to counter any moves by Russia and China in the Arctic. … China recently sought to bankroll the construction of three airports in Greenland, drawing concern from then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and prompting the Pentagon to make the case to Denmark that it should fund the facilities itself rather than rely on Beijing.”

-- Believe it or not, there are actually two precedents for U.S. presidents trying to do this. Andrew Johnson's State Department looked into buying Greenland and Iceland after our Civil War in 1867. And Harry Truman offered Denmark $100 million for the island after World War II in 1946 to counter Soviet incursions, according to “Exploring Greenland: Cold War Science and Technology on Ice.” Denmark declined both times. Will the third time be the charm?

­-- Europeans quickly reacted to Trump’s reported interest in acquiring Greenland: “It must be an April Fool’s Day joke.” Rick Noack reports: “‘The whole idea that another country could buy Greenland — like it should be a colony — is so strange to us,’ said Michael Aastrup Jensen, a member of parliament with the influential center-right Venstre party. Another member of his party, former center-right Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, chimed in on Twitter, writing: ‘It must be an April Fool’s Day joke.’ ‘The Greenlandic people have their own rights,’ Martin Lidegaard, the chairman of the Danish parliament’s foreign policy committee and former foreign minister told The Washington Post. ‘I hope it is a joke — to not just buy a country but also its people.’”

-- A report by the State Department’s inspector general concludes that senior Trump appointees at a leading bureau mistreated and harassed staffers, accused them of political disloyalty to the Trump administration, and retaliated against them. Karen DeYoung reports: “In response to repeated counseling by more senior State officials that he address staff concerns, the report concluded, Kevin Moley, assistant secretary for international affairs, ‘did not take significant action.’ The report, released Thursday, is a sweeping condemnation of Moley and more specifically of his former senior adviser, Mari Stull. A former lobbyist and consultant for international food and agriculture interests, Stull left the department in January following press reports that, among other things, she had compiled a list of staffers deemed insufficiently loyal to the Trump administration.

The 30-page report — based on what it said were interviews with dozens of current and former employees, as well as documents — chronicled numerous episodes of Stull berating and belittling employees, and Moley’s repeated failure to deal with complaints reported to him. … Stull, it said, referred to some employees as ‘Obama holdovers,’ ‘traitors,’ or ‘disloyal,’ and accused some of being part of the ‘Deep State’ and the ‘swamp.’ … All of those so accused, the report said, were career staffers and not political appointees.” (Read the report here.)

-- Gibraltar freed an Iranian supertanker despite the U.S. government's last-minute plea to block the release. “Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo, said he had received written assurances from Iran about the ship’s cargo and destination, but did not elaborate,” Erin Cunningham and Adam Taylor report. “He met with Iranian officials in London last month to de-escalate the crisis.”

-- Trump pressured Steve Mnuchin to label China a “currency manipulator,” a move the treasury secretary had long resisted. Damian Paletta and Philip Rucker report: “There are two federal laws that dictate the treasury secretary’s power to label certain countries as currency manipulators. Currency ma­nipu­la­tion often draws a strong international response, because it can skew currency and trade markets and create distortions in how goods flow around the world. The laws are meant to protect the process from political interference, and they set out specific criteria that must be met in order for the designations to occur. In the Aug. 5 designation, Treasury Department officials did not specify what had changed after their May 28 announcement that cleared China. … One of the people with knowledge of Trump’s pressure on Mnuchin said the White House wanted China labeled as a currency manipulator so that it might prod Chinese officials back to the negotiating table. This has proved unsuccessful so far. Instead, it has inflamed tensions between the countries.”

-- The former investment company of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is flourishing in China, even as he leads Trump’s trade war. From Reuters: “U.S. money manager Invesco Ltd (IVZ.N) - for which Ross was a senior executive from 2006 until he joined Trump’s cabinet in February 2017 - has become the top foreign manager of Chinese money in China over the past year through its joint venture Invesco Great Wall Management, according to research firm Z-Ben Advisors, leaping ahead of Switzerland’s UBS (UBS.N). It is an unlikely success story that Invesco executives say has nothing to do with government policy, but is instead rooted in the company’s decades’ worth of relationships in China. … But American tariffs appear to have helped at least one Invesco steel investment in China, according to interviews and company disclosures.”

-- The Trump administration is moving ahead with an $8 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Taiwan despite strong objections from China. Ellen Nakashima and Anne Gearan scoop: “The administration notified Congress late Thursday that it would submit the package for informal review. … It would be the largest and most significant sale of weaponry to the self-governing island in years. … Lawmakers from both parties had questioned whether the White House would scuttle the sale to soften the ground for a U.S.-China trade deal, or otherwise use the fighter jets as a bargaining chip in deadlocked negotiations. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee would review the package. They are not expected to raise objections. …

Approval of the latest sale also comes amid pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, a semiautonomous part of China, and fears that China could launch a military crackdown there. Such a crackdown could embolden Beijing also to confront Taiwan, which is backed by the United States. China claims Taiwan as a breakaway province, and last month accused the United States of a ‘vain plot’ to arm the island. Taiwan requested 66 American-made fighter jets, which lawmakers have said is a test of U.S. resolve.”

-- A bipartisan chorus of lawmakers is raising concerns the United States might be supplying the tear gas being used against the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. From CNN: “Republicans and Democrats in Congress have issued statements calling for the US to block those exports in the future -- and some are planning to introduce legislation to stop more sales. … In 2017, the first year of the Trump administration, the US government authorized more than 600,000 items for export to Hong Kong's government … In addition to $81,000 worth of toxicological agents -- which can include tear gas -- the exports included 291 ‘non-automatic and semi-automatic firearms’ and 20 ground vehicles. It is not clear whether those firearms and ammunition included nonlethal guns and rubber bullets or bean bag rounds like those that have been used against the protesters in recent days.”

-- Trump called on Chinese President Xi Jinping to meet with the protesters. Felicia Sonmez reports: “'If President Xi would meet directly and personally with the protesters, there would be a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem,’ Trump said in a morning tweet. ‘I have no doubt!’ The president urged Xi again in an exchange with reporters in Morristown, N.J., on Thursday evening, although he said he knew ‘it’s not the kind of thing he does.’ ‘I wouldn’t want to see a violent crackdown,’ Trump said, adding that he believed Xi could work out a solution in 15 minutes if he were willing to meet with the protesters.”

-- Looking to China's future: There’s still plenty of Communist doctrine on tap in Beijing's top “party schools,” Gerry Shih reports from Beijing: “Since becoming paramount leader in 2012, Xi has sought to position the Communist Party at the heart of society and promulgate its ideology to skeptical young Chinese. He has policed speech on campuses and encouraged Communist Party cells to expand inside private corporations. … Playing a crucial role in Xi’s campaign have been nearly 3,000 training institutes like the top Communist school in northwest Beijing, where resident researchers ponder how to boost the party’s influence and thousands of visiting party members — or cadres — are taught how to carry out and maintain its rule. … The students who circulate from lecture halls to dorms to cafeterias do not study the same curriculum as ‘normal’ Chinese institutions, such as Tsinghua University down the road. … Here, school officials say, they study the ‘ideological armaments’ that the party relies on to run China: Marxism-Leninism, party development theory, propaganda tactics, Xi Jinping Thought.”


-- Legal claims made on behalf of migrant parents who say their children were harmed while in government custody could leave U.S. taxpayers on the hook for billions in damages. From the AP: Dozens of families who were separated at the border as part of the president’s “zero tolerance” policy “are now preparing to sue the federal government, including several who say their young children were sexually, physically or emotionally abused in federally funded foster care. With more than 3,000 migrant children taken from their parents at the border in recent years, many lawsuits are expected, potentially totaling in the billions. … The families — some in the U.S., others already deported to Central America — are represented by grassroots immigration clinics and nonprofit groups, along with some of the country’s most powerful law firms. They’re making claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act as a precursor to filing lawsuits. The FTCA allows individuals who suffer harm as a direct result of federal employees to sue the government. … The government has six months to settle FTCA claims from the time they’re filed. After that, the claimants are free to file federal lawsuits.”

-- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in San Francisco tossed out the Trump administration's challenge to a lower court’s findings that authorities have failed to provide "safe and sanitary conditions" for immigrant children in detention, as required by a 1997 consent decree. “Assuring that children eat enough edible food, drink clean water, are housed in hygienic facilities with sanitary bathrooms, have soap and toothpaste, and are not sleep-deprived are without doubt essential to the children’s safety,” a three-judge panel agreed. (AP)


-- Guatemala isn’t ready for Trump’s plan to make U.S.-bound asylum seekers seek refuge within its borders. From Kevin Sieff: “For the tiny refugee community already here, it was an absurd proposition — and one that turned their experiences into a litmus test for Guatemala’s capacity as a safe haven. Some have struggled to feed themselves while they waited for legal status. Others endured frequent threats and watched as their neighbors were murdered or attacked. … In the past year, Guatemala has received 226 asylum claims. Of those, not a single one has been processed, according to the government. The country’s asylum agency has eight employees.”

-- Trump appointees defended their treatment of migrant children amid the growing backlash against their plan to build a new shelter in D.C. Fenit Nirappil reports: “The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed that it granted a $20.5 million contract in August to a contractor to operate a 200-bed facility in the District for children ages 12 to 17. Dynamic Service Solutions, a federal contractor, applied for a permit to open a shelter, a request city officials said they found ‘inadequate.’ The permit application is still pending before the agency.”

-- U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services acting director Ken Cuccinelli touted his own family’s history when defending the new Trump rule making it harder for working-class immigrants to get legal status. In fact, an investigation of his family tree reveals that the new “public charge” rule might have blocked his ancestors from staying in America. From Mother Jones: “Cuccinelli’s great-grandfather Dominic Cucciniello was born in 1875 in the south of the newly formed nation of Italy and came to the United States in 1896. On his 1930 census form, Dominic, then a 54-year-old US citizen, stated that he was a laborer and homeowner in Hoboken, New Jersey. At the time, the census gauged Americans’ wealth and status by asking whether they owned a radio; Dominic did not. By the time of the 1940 census, he had bought a home in Jersey City worth $5,000, about $90,000 in today’s money. He appeared to be retired at 65 after completing zero years of schooling. He had made a life for his family in America, despite being the type of person the new public charge rule might exclude. Charles Kuck, a Georgia-based lawyer and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, says that in light of Cuccinelli’s likely family history, ‘Cuccinelli has no idea what he is talking about and would just as happily exclude and deport his own family.’”

-- Even before the El Paso shooting, Latinos were on edge because of Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric. Rachel Hatzipanagos writes: “A Pew Research Center study this year found that 58 percent of Hispanic adults say they’ve experienced discrimination or have been treated unfairly because of their race or ethnicity. … Researchers say victims of racism experience negative health outcomes. Studies have linked Trump’s rise to an increase in premature births among Latinas, and others have tied it to increased anxiety and depression in the general Latinx population. Those anxieties were realized in the El Paso shooting. For some Latinos who’ve been dealing with racial turmoil in the age of Trump, violence was always the horrifying logical progression. ‘I don’t think you could ever imagine something like this happening,’ said Mario Carrillo of Austin. ‘But I feel like you’d be hard-pressed to say it’s surprising, given the rhetoric.’”

-- Trump called the grieving mayor of El Paso a RINO — “Republican in Name Only” — after he corrected him about crime statistics in the city. Colby Itkowitz reports: “Mayor Dee Margo told PBS’s 'Frontline' in an interview published Wednesday that Trump made those comments in a private conversation they had while the president was in El Paso last week to pay respects after a mass shooting that killed 22 people and injured dozens more. ‘He said, ‘You’re a RINO,’ and I said, ‘No sir, I’m not a RINO, I simply corrected the misinformation you were given by our attorney general, and that’s all I did’,’ Margo recounted. … A [border wall] would not have stopped the recent massacre.”

-- Maine, one of the whitest states in the country, is facing an elder boom and a massive worker shortage. Jeff Stein reports: “Families are being hammered by two slow-moving demographic forces — the growth of the retirement population and a simultaneous decline in young workers — that have been exacerbated by a national worker shortage pushing up the cost of labor. … The disconnect between Maine’s aging population and its need for young workers to care for that population is expected to be mirrored in states throughout the country over the coming decade, demographic experts say. And that’s especially true in states with populations with fewer immigrants, who are disproportionately represented in many occupations serving the elderly, statistics show. … By 2026, Maine will be joined by more than 15 other states, according to Fitch Ratings, including Vermont and New Hampshire, Maine’s neighbors in the Northeast; Montana; Delaware; West Virginia; Wisconsin; and Pennsylvania. More than a dozen more will meet that criterion by 2030. … Experts say the nation will have to refashion its workforce, overhaul its old-age programs and learn how to care for tens of millions of elderly people without ruining their families’ financial lives.”

2020 WATCH:

-- Trump has become increasingly worried that an economic downturn could ruin his reelection plans. Philip Rucker, Damian Paletta and Josh Dawsey report: “Trump has sought to use his Twitter pulpit to drown out negative indicators. On Thursday, he promoted the U.S. economy as ‘the Biggest, Strongest and Most Powerful Economy in the World,’ and, citing growth in the retail sector, predicted that it would only get stronger. He also accused the news media of ‘doing everything they can to crash the economy because they think that will be bad for me and my re-election.’ Privately, however, the president has sounded anxious and apprehensive.

From his golf club in New Jersey, where he is vacationing this week, Trump has called a number of business leaders and financial executives to sound them out — and they have provided him a decidedly mixed analysis. ... 'He’s rattled,’ [a Republican close to the administration] said. ‘He thinks that all the people that do this economic forecasting are a bunch of establishment weenies — elites who don’t know anything about the real economy and they’re against Trump.’ … Trump has relentlessly bludgeoned Fed Chair Jerome H. Powell over interest rates and has told aides and allies that he would be a scapegoat if the economy goes south. … Lawrence H. Summers, a former treasury secretary and National Economic Council director who helped lead the Obama administration’s efforts to end the Great Recession a decade ago, said no president is immune to a recession and the government ought always to be planning for and guarding against one. … Referring specifically to Trump’s actions, Summers added, ‘It’s banana republic standard to deny the statistics, bash the central bank, try to push the currency down and lash out at foreign countries.’”

-- Trump spent most of his time at a New Hampshire rally last night defending his economic record. Josh Dawsey, Colby Itkowitz and Laura Hughes report: “Trump seemed particularly attuned to concerns about his handling of the economy, including his decision to impose tariffs on China. He falsely said that action has resulted in billions of dollars coming in from China and that American farmers are the ‘biggest beneficiaries.’ ‘I never said China was going to be easy,’ he said, contradicting his 2018 assertion that ‘trade wars are good and easy to win.’ … The meandering speech included unproven statements about protecting health coverage for people with preexisting conditions and about progress building the border wall. He briefly spoke about his administration’s work combating the opioid epidemic, which devastated New Hampshire but was interrupted by chants of ‘build the wall.’”

-- Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who is seriously mulling a Senate bid in New Hampshire, did not join Trump onstage in Manchester. From ABC News: “Ahead of his rally, Trump told the radio show ‘New Hampshire Today’ he didn't think that Lewandowski had made a decision yet on whether to run, but praised him. … While the president hasn't formally endorsed him, he has retweeted Lewandowski's tweets of reports that he is leading the GOP Senate field in polls in New Hampshire.”

-- White House officials are looking into invoking executive privilege to help Lewandowski avoid complying with a congressional subpoena, even though he never worked for the administration. From CNN: “This would be the first time Trump has tried to invoke privilege for someone who has never worked in the administration when it comes to the Russia investigation … Trump officials and allies aren't confident the move on Lewandowski will work, skeptical that the President will be able to assert the same executive privilege principles over an informal adviser as he would a staff member. The White House has been in contact with members of the Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department about whether it would be successful, and say it remains an option.”

-- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) moved ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in Fox News’s latest poll, the first major shake-up in the Democratic race. From Fox News: “Biden continues to lead the nomination race with the support of 31 percent of Democratic primary voters. Next is Warren at 20 percent, Sanders at 10 percent, and Kamala Harris at 8 percent. … Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, and Andrew Yang stand at 3 percent apiece, and Amy Klobuchar and Beto O’Rourke are each at 2 percent. Julian Castro, Bill de Blasio, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Tom Steyer, and Marianne Williamson each receive 1 percent.”

-- “Can Elizabeth Warren run for president and bring ideas back into our politics, all at the same time?” asks Walter Shapiro in the cover story of the New Republic's September edition: “Although they may now seem like the collective outcome of a carefully executed day-by-day plan, many of the striking aspects of the Warren campaign (the blizzard of footnoted position papers; the ban on high-roller fund-raisers; and the decision to, at least temporarily, avoid hiring an outside pollster and media consultant) were fairly ad hoc and incremental. They were also, Warren watchers agree, a reflection of the candidate’s own determined and focused character. As a Warren insider put it, ‘There was never a Saul on the road to Damascus moment’ in the campaign’s first strategy sessions. … By late July, the Warren campaign had released 29 position papers on topics ranging from banning private prisons to doubling the size of the Foreign Service. The pace of this paper chase and the level of policy detail and supporting material are unprecedented since I began covering presidential politics in 1980. … When the Warren campaign in January released its Ur-document—a proposed $2.75 trillion wealth tax over ten years—few in the campaign expected that this would serve as a template for the entire run.”

-- Democrats still worry about Warren's electability. From Jonathan Martin in the New York Times: “Few candidates inspire as much enthusiasm as she does among party voters, too … Yet few candidates also inspire as much worry among these voters as Ms. Warren does. Even as she demonstrates why she is a leading candidate for the party’s nomination, Ms. Warren is facing persistent questions and doubts about whether she would be able to defeat President Trump in the general election. The concerns, including from her admirers, reflect the head-versus-heart debate shaping a Democratic contest increasingly being fought over the meaning of electability and how to take on Mr. Trump.”

-- Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) wants a “baby bond” for every American child. Experts think it would face multiple political and administrative hurdles. (Elise Viebeck)

-- The Post asked 59 Iowans if they could name all the presidential candidates in the crowded Democratic field. Kevin Uhrmacher and Kevin Schaul rounded up their answers: “Of the dozens of state fairgoers we spoke to in a radically unscientific survey, all recognized former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.). There were a handful of candidates that almost everyone could identify, but fairgoers struggled to name others, especially those who haven’t participated in debates. … ‘The rest are like, ‘Who are they’?,’ [said a polled Iowan]. ‘They’re clogging up the system.’”


A Republican congressman from Wisconsin said the idea of buying Greenland should not be laughed off as a joke:

That didn't stop a conservative writer, who is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, from making some jokes about the idea:

From the editor in chief of Ricochet:

A former spokesman for Hillary Clinton made a 2016-themed joke:

One of the Democratic presidential candidates said Trump should focus on the home front:

Trump quickly negated an official statement his new White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, made: 

Middle East expert Ilan Goldenberg explained why the Israel ban will probably have complicated ramifications: 

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee also criticized Israel's move: 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), running a campaign focused on combating climate change, is gaining young followers:

Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway “lamented” former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper's exit from the 2020 race:

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock couldn't remember the name of his favorite Sandra Bullock movie: 

In Iowa, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) remembered his old college days: 

Rep. Seth Moulton (Mass.) is still running for the Democratic nomination, but no one is buying what he's trying to sell:

Yang, a first-time candidate, seems to be enjoying himself on the trail:

Connie Schultz, wife of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), threw shade at O'Rourke after he dismissed pleas that he run for Senate:

Trump criticized a protester at his New Hampshire rally:

A Times reporter noted that Trump was on repeat mode: 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The bottom line is, I know you like me, this is a love fest, but you have no choice but to vote for me because your 401(k)’s down the tubes. Everything is going to be down the tubes,” Trump told the crowd at a New Hampshire rally. “So whether you love me or hate me, you’ve got to vote for me.” (Josh Dawsey, Colby Itkowitz and Laura Hughes



Bernie Sanders and rapper Cardi B sat down at a nail bar in Detroit to talk about the issues: 

After former treasury secretary Larry Summers put the odds of a new recession at 50-50, Stephen Colbert said you can just "flip a coin," before adding, "No wait, save the coin, you're going to need it”: 

Seth Meyers imagined what a Trump rally would look like if he were 100 percent truthful the entire time: