With Mariana Alfaro
THE BIG IDEA: Just a few hours before President Trump confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that he has been thinking about a payroll tax cut, White House spokesman Hogan Gidley flatly denied it. “It’s not being considered at this time,” he said. Then the president called reporters into the Oval Office. “Payroll tax is something that we think about,” Trump declared. “I’ve been thinking about payroll taxes for a long time.”
Another reporter asked about the status of negotiations with the Taliban, and Trump provided a revealing window into his worldview. “Nobody can be trusted,” the president said. “In my world, in this world, I think nobody can be trusted.”
That’s certainly how most Americans feel about him. A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted earlier this year found that 36 percent of U.S. adults find Trump honest and trustworthy; 61 percent said he’s neither. These numbers have stayed consistent in other national surveys, and the president does little to disabuse these perceptions.
On Tuesday night, the president abruptly canceled his trip to Denmark. He tweeted that he scuttled the visit because the prime minister said she’s not interested in selling him Greenland, a self-governing country that is part of the kingdom of Denmark. On Sunday, however, Trump emphasized that acquiring the island was “not … at all” why he was going to Copenhagen. “It's not No. 1 on the burner, I can tell you that,” he said.
-- On Aug. 5, Trump declared that “Republicans and Democrats must come together and get strong background checks.” He tweeted: “We cannot let those killed in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, die in vain. … We must have something good, if not GREAT, come out of these two tragic events!”
Fifteen days later, the president told National Rifle Association chief executive Wayne LaPierre that universal background checks are off the table. “Tuesday’s call with LaPierre, which was initiated by Trump, lasted 45 minutes and by the end of it, the two men had no disagreements,” per Tom Hamburger and Josh Dawsey.
-- Last Tuesday, Trump announced that he would temporarily postpone the implementation of about half the tariffs on Chinese imports that he had announced 12 days earlier.
-- Last Thursday morning, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham denied media reports that Trump was discouraging Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from allowing two Muslim congresswomen into Israel. “The Israeli government can do what it wants,” she told reporters around 9 a.m. By 10 a.m., the president undercut her. “It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. [Ilhan] Omar and Rep. [Rashida] Tlaib to visit,” he tweeted.
-- These erratic, contradictory pronouncements induce whiplash. They’re also de rigueur in this administration. This is a feature, not a bug, of Trumpism. During his first 928 days in office, Trump made more than 12,000 demonstrably false or misleading claims. Our Fact Checker has documented them in a database. (Glenn Kessler has a new piece this morning on the president’s economic claims.) There are dozens of separate examples of the president’s spokespeople – predating Gidley and Grisham – saying something adamantly, only to have the president cut their legs out from under them later in the day. Why would you take anything they or the president say at face value?
-- This behavior is riskier in challenging economic times. When the business cycle turns, the wherewithal of our system depends on people having as much confidence and certainty as possible. Trump and his White House flacks inspire neither feelings of confidence nor certainty. Trump’s penchant for contradicting himself and his aides, as well as changing his mind hastily, which together fuel the credibility gap, would be problematic in a financial crisis. Investors want a steady hand on the ship of state’s tiller. That’s how you prevent runs on the banks, freefalls in the stock market and freezes in business investment. The same way that prematurely lowering interest rates takes away flexibility from policymakers down the road when times get tougher, Trump depleting his reservoir of trustworthiness may come back to haunt him.
-- Meanwhile, as Trump blamed mental illness as the cause of the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, federal health officials made sure that no government experts would contradict his claims. Yasmeen Abutaleb and William Wan scoop: “A Health and Human Services directive on Aug. 5 warned communication staffers not to post anything on social media related to mental health, violence and mass shootings without prior approval. That alarmed some government mental health experts who said they felt muzzled at a moment when many Americans were searching for answers to the U.S. epidemic of mass shootings, said three agency employees. … By contrast, two former senior health officials in the Obama administration said they did not recall ever receiving such a directive after a mass shooting. …
“While mental illness is sometimes a factor in such shootings, it is rarely a predictor, according to a growing body of research. Most studies of mass shooters have found that no more than a quarter of them have diagnosed mental illness. Researchers have noted that more commonly shared attributes include a strong sense of resentment, desire for notoriety, obsession with other shooters, a history of domestic violence, narcissism and access to firearms.”
-- Programming note: We’re taking a Labor Day recess. The Daily 202 will be on hiatus from tomorrow through Labor Day. One of my dear friends is getting married this weekend, and I’ve got a giant stack of books I’m eager to devour. I’m really hoping to minimize screen time next week. Before I go, though, I just want to thank you for reading. I hope you, too, get some rest next week.
Once we get back to work on Sept. 3, the next 14 months will be rollicking. Bonkers even. I’m both excited and deeply honored that I have the privilege to help narrate it for you. At the very least, I’m pumped about trying to make sense of what, regardless of your political inclinations, will surely be one of the most epic elections of our lifetimes.
-- I’m also still looking for help: The Washington Post has agreed to hire another reporter to help me write the 202, and we’re casting the net wide as part of a national search. It’s a demanding but amazing job. I’m looking for someone who really gets it: someone who can hear the signal where others hear only noise. You can read the job posting here. If you think you might be the one, or if you have suggestions of people who have produced memorable journalism that’s really changed the way you think about the world, please drop me a line at James.Hohmann@washpost.com. Thanks again.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The #MeToo reckoning continues: Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross was abruptly forced out of his job Tuesday night after a woman inside the department said he ignored her complaints of another officer’s sexual harassment because she broke off a two-year affair with Ross eight years ago. From the Philadelphia Inquirer: “Mayor Jim Kenney did not address that specific allegation in a news release announcing the departure. Instead, he said that Ross had not adequately responded to allegations of racial and sexual discrimination in the department that were included in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint and subsequent lawsuit filed by Cpl. Audra McCowan — the woman who alleged the affair — and Patrol Officer Jennifer Allen. … Deputy Commissioner Christine M. Coulter was named interim commissioner, Kenney said — the first time in department history that a woman has been the top cop."
An Australian court upheld the convictions of the highest-ranking Catholic official to be imprisoned on charges of sexual abuse. A. Odysseus Patrick reports: “Australian Cardinal George Pell will have to continue to serve his six-year jail term for sexually assaulting two choirboys who had sneaked into his changing rooms to drink sacramental wine in Melbourne’s grand St. Patrick’s Cathedral 23 years ago. In a case that caused bitter division among Catholics, the chief justice of the Victorian Supreme Court, Anne Ferguson, said she was convinced by the evidence of the only living witness: a Melbourne man who had accused the conservative prelate of surprising his younger self and brutally assaulting him in front of a school friend, who was attacked, too.”
Nine new lawsuits filed in New York claim sexual abuse by Boy Scouts leaders over a 30-year period, beginning in the 1950s. Emily Davies reports: “The allegations mark the latest round of legal claims stemming from a once-secret trove of internal documents that detailed more than 7,800 pedophiles in their ranks.”
Disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein wants his trial on sexual assault charges moved out of New York City, arguing the intense media scrutiny makes it impossible to find an impartial jury. From the New York Times: “Among the arguments Mr. Weinstein’s legal team made in a court document ... was that Mr. Weinstein’s name was mentioned online by Page Six, The New York Post’s irreverent gossip column, more than 11,000 times. The court papers that seek a change of venue also contend that Times Square billboards and newsstands on every corner mean city residents cannot avoid headlines related to Mr. Weinstein, and that Manhattan is the epicenter of global hashtag-driven movements like #MeToo.”
-- Trump said that any Jewish people who vote for Democrats show “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.” Felicia Sonmez and John Wagner report: “Trump began by lashing out at Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), questioning the sincerity of her tears at a news conference where she talked about her decision not to travel to Israel to see her elderly grandmother, who lives in the occupied West Bank. … ‘All of the sudden, she starts with tears, tears,’ [Trump said], ‘I don’t buy it for a second, because I’ve seen her in a very vicious mood at campaign rallies.’ … He then went on to attack Democrats more generally over the views of Tlaib and Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.). Both women have long been fierce critics of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians. …
“‘Where has the Democratic Party gone?’ Trump asked. ‘Where have they gone, where they’re defending these two people over the state of Israel? And I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.’ Critics on both sides of the aisle as well Jewish organizations immediately pointed out that Trump’s use of the word “disloyalty” echoed anti-Semitic tropes accusing Jews of dual allegiance. … Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, said that while it was unclear to whom Trump was claiming Jews would be disloyal, ‘charges of disloyalty have long been used to attack Jews.’ …
“Some conservatives criticized Trump on Tuesday, arguing his statement was equally offensive. ‘This is a disgusting comment that indicates Trump has no idea why many of us have been so sickened by the anti-Semitism of Omar & Tlaib,’ tweeted Philip Klein, the executive editor of the conservative-leaning Washington Examiner. … The Republican Jewish Coalition, meanwhile, rallied to defend Trump, arguing that the president was speaking about people being disloyal to themselves rather than to Israel.”
-- Polls show that about two-thirds of Jewish Americans identify as Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents. That means that Trump called more than 3 million American Jews disloyal or ignorant. (Philip Bump crunches the numbers.)
-- “I am a proud Jewish person, and I have no concerns about voting Democratic,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said in response to Trump’s comments. “In fact, I intend to vote for a Jewish man to become the next president of the United States,” he quipped, referring to himself. (John Wagner)
-- The Trump administration is expected to announce as soon as Wednesday that it’s moving ahead with new rules allowing the longer-term detention of migrant families. From the Times: “As early as Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security is expected to issue a sweeping new set of regulations for detaining migrant children, replacing more than two decades of protections … The new standards could allow the government to detain children and families for longer periods, revise the minimum standards of care and end the 22-year-old consent decree, known as the Flores agreement, that has protected the nation’s youngest and most vulnerable new arrivals. … When it was finally settled in 1997, the litigation transformed the way migrant children all across the southwest border were treated after arriving in the United States. … Administration officials said that the new regulations will maintain the underlying purpose of the Flores agreement, and all children will be ‘treated with dignity, respect, and special concern for their particular vulnerability as minors.’ But those who spearheaded the long-running litigation disagree.”
-- The United States will not provide flu vaccines to migrant families held in border detention camps, despite calls from doctors to boost efforts to fight infections that have killed at least three children in the past year. From CNBC: “‘In general, due to the short-term nature of CBP holding and the complexities of operating vaccination programs, neither CBP nor its medical contractors administer vaccinations to those in our custody,’ a Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. … If conditions don’t improve, Dr. Julie Linton, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Immigrant Child and Family Health, said more children will needlessly die.”
-- The administration’s new “public charge” rule applies more harshly to families of U.S. citizens in the military, an error experts think suggests officials are jamming through policies they don’t fully understand. From ProPublica: “Active-duty service members who are immigrant noncitizens are allowed to use benefits without having it weigh against them as a “public charge” in the future. So are the family members of active-duty immigrant service members. But immigrants who are the spouses or children of active-duty service members who are U.S. citizens are not included in the exception, meaning their use of benefits while their spouses were on active duty could jeopardize their future in the U.S. ‘It’s sloppy drafting. They’re trying to get the regulation out sooner than is probably practical,’ said Charles Wheeler, an immigration attorney at the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.”
-- Angry drivers have been following buses full of migrant children on their way to education programs in Idaho. From the Idaho Statesman: “‛It’s really heartbreaking, because they’re children,’ said Sonnay Alvarez, spokeswoman for the Community Council of Idaho. The council runs 10 Head Start centers for children of migrant workers across the state. ‘They don’t understand what hate is.’ … The Community Council of Idaho plans to remove and conceal signage on buses they use to transport local children of farmworkers and Head Start participants, after repeated experiences of harassment from motorists across the state. … The staff said they assume the drivers are harassing the buses — labeled ‘Migrant and Seasonal Head Start’ — because they assume that migrant means undocumented.”
-- Customs and Border Protection press secretary Katharine Gorka is leaving her position just two months after accepting the job. Abigail Haulsohner reports: “Gorka, who has a track record of criticizing Islam and embracing Muslim-focused conspiracy theories during her career, said Tuesday that her departure from CBP is a personal decision to spend more time with her family. … Gorka’s husband, Sebastian Gorka, served as an adviser to President Trump before his sudden departure in 2017 … During her time as CBP press secretary, Gorka rarely appeared in public or on television to speak on behalf of the agency.”
-- The Trump administration is trying to reach a deal with the Panamanian government to allow the United States to send asylum seekers from Africa and Asia to the Central American country. Nick Miroff reports: “The ‘safe third country’ accord would primarily apply to the relatively small but growing numbers of ‘extracontinental’ asylum seekers who arrive in South America before heading north into Panama through wild jungles and muddy rivers. Acting homeland security secretary Kevin McAleenan will travel to Panama City on Wednesday to meet with the country’s newly elected president, Laurentino Cortizo, to ‘discuss regional cooperation to confront irregular migration,’ the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement. … A DHS official said Tuesday that McAleenan is not traveling to Panama to negotiate a safe third deal, but to discuss broader security cooperation, as well as cyber and customs issues. … Growing numbers of asylum seekers from Congo, Cameroon and other African nations have reached the U.S. border in recent months, typically starting their journeys with a flight to Brazil or Ecuador, according to DHS officials and migration scholars. Some Indians and Bangladeshis are also using South America as a springboard, and thousands of Haitian migrants have been heading north after spending years working in Brazil and Chile.”
-- Two American athletes who staged protests as they received medals at the Pan American Games — fencer Race Imboden and hammer thrower Gwen Berry — were given 12 months of probation. Des Bieler reports: The head of the U.S. Olympic and Paralymic Committee also warned of “harsher punishments in the future to any athletes who might stage similar demonstrations. .. Imboden took a knee on the podium in Lima, Peru, after helping the U.S. men’s foil team win gold. Following her individual win, Berry raised a fist and bowed her head as a rendition of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ neared its close.”
-- Fox News host Tucker Carlson continues losing advertisers. From the Times: “Over the last year, dozens of advertisers, including Pacific Life, Farmers Insurance and SodaStream, have distanced themselves from Mr. Carlson, the host who caused an uproar with his recent on-air comments on white supremacy days after the mass shooting in El Paso. In the past two weeks, smaller companies, like the meditation app Calm and the online lending start-up SoFi, joined them. … The Monday episode of 'Tucker Carlson Tonight,' the host’s first since he left the airwaves for what Fox News said was a planned vacation two days after making the remarks on white supremacy, had fewer commercials than usual.” Jeff Collins, the executive vice president of ad sales for Fox News, said in a statement that the network is “on track to deliver another record year” in revenue. “Advertising budgets that were impacted have been re-expressed into other programs across the network,” Collins wrote.
-- A reporter for Playboy sued Trump and the White House press secretary after the administration suspended his press credentials. Brian Karem, a senior White House correspondent for the magazine and a CNN contributor, is accusing Stephanie Grisham of violating his due process rights by revoking his pass based on unwritten rules. (Politico)
-- The owner of a NASCAR team and a country singer stepped down from the NRA’s board, deepening the organization’s upheaval over a scandal brought on by Wayne LaPierre’s spending decisions. Carol Leonnig and Beth Reinhard report: “NRA officials confirmed Tuesday that country music singer Craig Morgan has left the board, along with Richard Childress, a well-known NASCAR team owner based in North Carolina. … Childress made no mention of [the organization’s] issues and emphasized that he had chosen to leave the NRA board to focus on his private business. … The latest resignations mean that seven directors have stepped down from the 76-member NRA board since May … Still, most board members have stayed quiet amid the turmoil, while several have publicly voiced their support for LaPierre.”
-- But, but, but: By completely capitulating to the NRA on background checks, Trump showed that he is more beholden than ever to LaPierre. The Atlantic’s Elaina Plott reports: “Three days after a pair of mass shootings in Ohio and Texas that left 31 people dead, Trump was preoccupied with visions of a Rose Garden ceremony. His daughter and senior adviser, Ivanka Trump, had proposed the idea of a televised Rose Garden appearance as a way to nudge her father toward supporting universal background checks. … On August 7, the president picked up the phone to discuss the idea with [LaPierre]. … ‘It’s going to be great, Wayne,’ Trump said, according to both a former senior White House official and an NRA official briefed on the call. ‘They will love us.’ And if they—meaning the roughly 5 million people who make up the NRA’s active membership, and some of Trump’s electoral base—didn’t, Trump reportedly assured LaPierre, ‘I’ll give you cover.’ … ‘Wayne’s listening to that and thinking, Uh, no, Mr. President, we give you cover,’ the former senior White House official said in describing the conversation. The president asked LaPierre whether the NRA was willing to give in at all on background checks. LaPierre’s response ... was unequivocal: ‘No.’ With that, ‘the Rose Garden fantasy,’ as the NRA official described it to me, was scrapped as quickly as it had been dreamed up. …
“Sources close to this president told me that Trump’s eventual siding with the NRA was never in question. ‘Trump always knew where he had to end up,’ a GOP operative in constant contact with the White House told me. ... Ivanka Trump made several calls to GOP lawmakers in an effort to mobilize support for both universal background checks and so-called red-flag laws … But if her influence was in any way an obstacle for the gun group, it was short-lived: By the middle of last week, she and her family had decamped for a vacation in Wyoming, seemingly putting the issue on the back burner.”
-- The Parkland students unveiled a sweeping gun control proposal while hoping for a youth voting surge in 2020. The plan would dramatically increase restrictions around owning guns in ways sure to spark fierce blowback, including raising the age to 21 from 18 for those who want to buy guns. (Jacqueline Alemany and Matt Viser)
-- A man who sent a South Florida woman more than 150 pages of messages filled with racist threats of violence and murder was arrested after allegedly threatening to commit mass murder in Miami. Reis Thebault reports: “On Friday, federal agents arrested Eric Lin, who they say sent the messages and devised the abduction scheme, and charged him with interstate transmission of threatening communications. The 35-year-old from Clarksburg, Md., espoused neo-Nazi rhetoric while threatening to kill both the woman and ‘all Hispanics in Miami and other places,’ prosecutors said. ‘I look forward to committing a ‘Genocide,’’ Lin allegedly wrote. ‘The Time will come when Miami will burn to the Ground — and every Latin Man be lined up against a Wall and shot and every Latin Woman Raped or Cut to pieces.’ … Prosecutors said Lin peppered his threats with paeans to President Trump, writing on one occasion, ‘I Thank God everyday President Donald John Trump is President and that he will launch a Racial War and Crusade.’”
-- A man was arrested with 17 guns, a grenade launcher and Nazi paraphernalia in New Jersey. Joseph Rubino was charged in federal court with unlawful possession of a firearm, along with several drug offenses, after officers extracted him from the wreckage of a car accident, where they found a stockpile of weapons and ammunition. In Rubino’s home, officials found marijuana, methamphetamine and boxes of bumper stickers and clothing with “common white Supremacist and Nazi symbols.” (New York Times)
-- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) released a new plan that took aim at the criminal justice policies that were previously championed not just by Joe Biden but also Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) Annie Linskey reports: Warren said that “as president she would eliminate the death penalty, end the use of private prisons, curtail the cash bail system and overhaul the use of presidential pardons. … Warren did not hesitate to take implicit but unmistakable aim at several specific policies embraced in the past by her rivals … Warren pledged to jettison much of the 1994 crime bill, which Biden helped write and which has been blamed for driving a sharp increase in incarceration in the country, especially among African Americans. ‘It was a mistake, and it needs to be repealed,’ Warren said. The plan says Warren would preserve ‘some’ elements of the 1994 law, including resources to pursue domestic violence.”
-- Warren ran into her doppelganger at a rally in Minnesota. Michael Brice-Saddler reports: “No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. One of the women pictured above is Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the 70-year-old Massachusetts Democrat with presidential aspirations. The person shaking her hand is Stephanie Oyen — a Minnesota native whose resemblance to Warren is so uncanny, fans mistakenly clamored for selfies with her during the senator’s Monday night rally. If you haven’t figured it out by now, Oyen is standing on the left. She figured her old Halloween costume — a blue blazer and clear glasses to mirror Warren’s signature look — would ‘get a little laugh here and there’ at Macalester College, where the senator was set to make her first campaign stop in the state.”
-- A new CNN poll shows that Biden has expanded his edge nationally over the rest of the Democratic field. Twenty-nine percent of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters say they back the former vice president, a seven point increase compared to a late June CNN survey. No other candidate has made meaningful gains over that period of time. (CNN)
-- Trump critics on the right are eying primary challenges against the president, even as they acknowledge that defeating him is infeasible. Bob Costa and Phil Rucker report: “Joe Walsh, a pugnacious former congressman, is preparing [what] … he previewed as a daily ‘bar fight’ with the incumbent over his morality and competency. Mark Sanford, a former South Carolina governor and congressman, said he is inching closer to a bid of his own by sounding out activists in New Hampshire and other early-voting states about an insurgency focused on the ballooning deficit. Jeff Flake, a former Arizona senator and Trump antagonist, said he has taken a flurry of recruitment calls in recent days from GOP donors rattled by signs of an economic slowdown and hungry for an alternative to Trump. And former Ohio governor John Kasich will head to New Hampshire next month to ‘take a look at things’ after experiencing ‘an increase’ in overtures this summer, an adviser said. …
“With state deadlines for nominating contests rapidly approaching in the fall, potential candidates face pressure to decide on running within the next few weeks. So far, only former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld has declared that he is running, but he has struggled to gain traction. … A Fox News poll last week had Trump at 88 percent approval among Republicans. … ‘Anybody who says, ‘I think I can beat Donald Trump,’ I think is stretching it,’ Sanford said. ‘It’s a daunting task and it is indeed preposterous at many different levels.’ But Sanford said he recently returned from a trip to New Hampshire and is leaning toward jumping in — ‘another ‘green light on go’ versus ‘no go’’ — and figures he ‘could win without winning.’”
-- Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney told Trump donors at a fundraiser this week in Jackson, Wyo., that a recession, if it comes, will be “moderate and short.” (Politico)
-- The Trump tariffs on China could end up costing the average American household an estimated $1,000 per year, according to experts. From CNN Business: “The tariffs Trump has already imposed on China are estimated to cost the average American household $600 per year, according to a report by JPMorgan Chase. That will rise to $1,000 if Trump carries through on his plan to levy tariffs on another $300 billion of US imports from China, the bank added. … The tariffs will ‘significantly’ impact the ‘wallet of the US consumer/voter ahead of the 2020 election,’ JPMorgan equity strategist Dubravko Lakos-Bujas wrote in the report, which was sent to bank clients.”
-- The first big anti-Trump statement of 2020 from Barack and Michelle Obama comes in the form of a Netflix documentary, “American Factory.” From Politico Magazine: “In a final scene of the [documentary], the chairman of a Chinese auto glass company walks through the sprawling floor of one of the company’s factories in Dayton, Ohio, as an aide points to different departments where employees will soon be replaced by robotic arms and other machines. ‘We’re hoping to cancel four workers in July or August,’ the aide tells him, almost proudly, before adding, ‘They are too slow.’ Scenes like this are typical in the film, which depicts the fallout after Shanghai-based Fuyao Glass revives a former GM plant and hires many of its American former employees. The employees are at first excited to have new jobs, but soon find themselves struggling to swallow a fraction of their former pay, difficult working conditions and the prospect that, no longer protected by a union, they could be fired at any moment.
"The documentary, which debuts on Netflix on August 21, never mentions [Trump] by name—but its message is clear: Trump’s promise to reinvigorate the industrial heartland is going to take a lot more than a campaign slogan. ... 'American Factory' is the first project to come from the Obamas’ production company, Higher Ground, as part of the deal they made with Netflix to produce a slate of series, movies and documentaries that reflect their values. Higher Ground acquired the movie after its debut at the Sundance Film Festival."
-- Freshman Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Ill.), who represents a traditionally conservative suburban district, announced support for opening an impeachment inquiry against Trump. “No person in America is above the law, including the President of the United States. The Mueller Report lays out substantial evidence that the President’s campaign worked with a foreign adversary to influence an election,” Underwood said in a statement. This is a risky move in a toss-up district. She's already a top GOP target in 2020. (CBS Local)
-- Even though Democratic presidential candidates have sworn off corporate PAC money, the Democratic National Committee accepted more than $155,000 in such funds last month. From Politico: “The donations flowed in from PACs linked to the audit and consulting firm Deloitte, drug company Pfizer, the National Association of Realtors and the law firm Duane Morris. ... The DNC raised additional money from PACs earlier this year, but the funds raised in July represent a sharp uptick in corporate PAC money raised by the Democratic committee in 2019. … Labor union groups, including the American Federation Of State, County & Municipal Employees; American Federation of Teachers; and the United Auto Workers, also collectively contributed more than $500,000 to the DNC last month.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- The Danes are furious over Trump’s snub after they wouldn’t sell Greenland. Rick Noack reports: “Parliamentarians and former government ministers slammed the president’s behavior as juvenile, undiplomatic and insulting, though the government itself has yet to comment on the visit’s cancellation and has scheduled a news conference for the afternoon. … Danish officials, including the royal palace, had rushed to organize the presidential visit, which was announced on short notice. A spokeswoman for the royal palace said on Wednesday that the visit’s postponement was ‘a surprise,’ according to the Associated Press.”
-- In picking a fight with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Trump provoked a world leader with whom he otherwise has plenty in common. For starters, she is also anti-immigration. Meagan Flynn reports: “Frederiksen, the face of the left-leaning Social Democrat party, became the youngest prime minister in Denmark’s history at the age of 41, and only the country’s second female leader, after wooing voters from the far right by supporting tough restrictions on immigrants. Her political platform would be an anomaly in the United States: an anti-immigration leftist embracing a host of social welfare programs and labor union rights while supporting restrictions on the rights of asylum seekers and Muslims. Were the two leaders to meet, Frederiksen and Trump would have plenty of reasons to disagree, ranging from climate change to trade agreements. But when it comes to immigration — arguably Trump’s single biggest issue — they have more in common than perhaps even Frederiksen may acknowledge, experts said.”
-- Denmark will still host an American president: Obama is expected to visit the nation in September, according to a Danish news site called the Local.
-- The European Union slapped down an effort by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to renegotiate Brexit. Michael Birnbaum and Karla Adam report: E.U. leaders declared “that they are unwilling to agree to any deal that does not include ironclad assurances of peace in Northern Ireland. The rejection began a nail-biting season of negotiations ahead of Oct. 31, when Britain is scheduled to leave the E.U. … The European response came a day after Johnson demanded that E.U. leaders throw out a plan, known as the ‘backstop,’ that would ensure an open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. … The current plan would keep the United Kingdom inside the E.U. customs union indefinitely if the two sides do not agree on a different way to keep open the Irish border during a transition period until the end of 2020. The E.U. ‘regrets that the new United Kingdom government does not provide any concrete proposals’ in its letter, E.U. Brexit negotiators wrote in a note to European diplomats Tuesday.”
-- Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will resign rather than face a vote of no confidence that was called by his far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. Stefano Pitrelli and Rick Noack report: “If his resignation is accepted by Italy’s president, it will mark the end of Western Europe’s first fully populist government after just 14 months in power and throw the country into a renewed period of political instability at a critical moment in the continent. The president’s office said late Tuesday that Conte has been asked to stay in his post temporarily as consultations over a possible new government were expected to begin Wednesday. Conte’s departure could usher in a more moderate coalition government. But it also has the potential to empower Salvini to make his expected bid to lead the nation further to the right ahead of critical budget talks with the European Union and amid an ongoing standoff with Europe over Salvini’s hard-line stance on migration.”
-- Conte’s exit and Italy’s political crisis mark yet another massive failure of populism in the West, notes Ishaan Tharoor: “Conte confirmed the collapse of one of the more intriguing recent political experiments in Europe: a populist ruling alliance that came to power just 14 months ago amid a surge of anti-establishment frustration in Italy. … Conte delivered a fiery speech in the Italian senate, directing much of his ire at [Salvini], who is the most popular politician in Italy. His anti-immigrant, hard-line League, a once-marginal regional party, has soared in popularity and is polling at about 38 percent. … ‘The interior minister has shown that he is following his own interests and those of his party,’ Conte said in his Tuesday address to a packed Senate, where lawmakers had returned from holiday for an emergency session. The speech carried a degree of political theater: Salvini, still technically Conte’s deputy, sat right next to an outgoing prime minister lashing into him for endangering the country and tipping it down ‘a spiral of political uncertainty and financial instability.’”
-- Trump renewed his calls to readmit Russia to the Group of 7. Felicia Sonmez reports: “‘I guess President Obama, because Putin outsmarted him — President Obama thought it wasn’t a good thing to have Russia in, so he wanted Russia out,’ Trump said, referring to his predecessor’s push for a united stand against Russia after it annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region. ‘But I think it’s much more appropriate to have Russia in.’ He added that ‘if somebody would make that motion, I would certainly be disposed to think about it very favorably.’ Russia was expelled from the group in 2014 and has since angered U.S. lawmakers and foreign powers over interference in the U.S. presidential election, among other actions.”
-- Trump is considering naming the No. 2 official at the State Department as the next ambassador to Russia. From the AP: “The president told reporters at the White House that Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan ‘could very well be’ his nominee to fill the post. Ambassador John Huntsman announced his resignation earlier this month and said he would be returning home to Utah. Trump says Sullivan is ‘very well respected’ and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo ‘likes him.’”
-- Chinese authorities confirmed that they have detained a British consular official but refuse to say why. Gerry Shih reports: “Geng Shuang, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, told reporters at a daily briefing that the official, Simon Cheng, was being held under administrative detention for 15 days by police in the mainland city of Shenzhen because he violated China’s penal code on public order management. Geng did not say what part of the code Cheng is alleged to have breached, nor whether China planned to release the 28-year-old when the 15-day period expires later this week. It was unclear whether Cheng would face formal charges.”
-- Trump’s White House has courted (and been courted) by Central and Eastern European leaders, leaving behind Western European powers that have long been U.S. allies. Anne Gearan reports: “For Trump, the region offers the potential for new trade, energy and military arrangements that can sometimes circumvent Western Europe and tweak traditional leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel. ‘We have a great relationship. We have a big trade business going on,’ Trump said at the start of his Oval Office meeting with [Romanian president Klaus Iohannis]. … Ahead of the meeting, a senior administration official said Trump is highlighting ‘the importance of Central Europe to the United States, both as allies and security partners, and as business and commercial partners for the future.’”
-- Trump’s financial disclosure statements appear to misstate the value and profitability of his Scotland golf courses by about $165 million, possibly violating federal law. From HuffPost: “Trump claimed in his 2018 U.S. filing that his Turnberry and Aberdeen resorts were each worth more than $50 million. … His 2018 ‘public financial disclosure’ filed with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics also claims those two resorts earned him ‘income’ of $23.8 million. His filings with the U.K. Companies House office in Edinburgh for that period showed the resorts had actually lost 4.6 million pounds ― equal to $6.3 million. His U.S. disclosure statement also fails to mention $199.5 million in loans Trump has made to those resorts.”
-- An anti-racism group is asking UNESCO to stop honoring a Belgian festival that has long featured a “savage” in blackface. Claire Parker reports: “The character — played by a white Belgian man wearing blackface, a large nose ring, a headdress and chains — has appeared on a parade float each year since 1873. ‘The ‘savage,’ chained and agitated, testifies to the taste of exoticism in the 19th century,’ the town’s website for the [Ducasse d’Ath] festival says. … Anti-racism activists have decried the character as a racist and colonialist glorification of Belgium’s colonial past. Belgium’s King Leopold II colonized what is now Congo in the 1880s, ruthlessly exploiting workers there to harvest rubber and using violence to terrorize the local population into submission.”
-- The United States is nearing a deal with the Taliban, but another threat looms in Afghanistan: the Islamic State. Pamela Constable and Karen DeYoung report: “Local leaders in the border provinces of Nangahar and Konar … say Islamic State forces continue to terrorize villagers in areas under their control, forcibly recruiting boys and banning girls from school. They and U.S. officials say that Taliban and Islamic State forces have continued to fight each other, but that they also fear that some Taliban fighters will join the more ruthless Islamic State forces if Taliban leaders make a deal with U.S. officials.”
-- The U.S. deal with the Taliban could happen as soon as next week, retired military general Jack Keane said Tuesday night on Fox News. Keane, who talks with Trump, also said he believes the emerging threats will mean that between 8,000 to 9,000 troops stay in Afghanistan. (Fox News)
-- Clouds, smog and a cold front plunged Sao Paulo into sudden darkness, an unforeseen effect of the wildfires burning in the Amazon. Terrence McCoy reports: “The news highlighted the number of forest fires in Brazil, which rose by more than 80 percent this year, according to data released this week by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE). ‘This central Brazil and south of the Amazon Rainforest region has been undergoing a prolonged drought,’ Alberto Setzer, a researcher at INPE, said in an interview with local media outlets. ‘And there are some places where there has not fallen a drop of rain for three months.’ Most of the Amazon was once considered fireproof, but as climate change and deforestation remake the world, wildfires are increasing in frequency and intensity, recent research has shown.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
The U.S. ambassador to Denmark shared a picture of Trump-branded signage in the country shortly before the president called off his visit. A top GOP strategist and Never Trumper highlighted her qualifications for the role:
Our Ambassador to Denmark is a grad of Life Chiropractic College & an actress “best known for her work in Deathstalker & the Warriors from Hell” as Wiki painfully notes.— stuart stevens (@stuartpstevens) August 21, 2019
So Trump trying to buy Greenland may not make him the most ridiculous American Denmark has encountered. https://t.co/K7qj1fUNr0
A New York Daily News editor mocked Trump's motivation to buy Greenland:
You’re laughing now, but all this is a brilliant ploy to drive up the sales price of Guam.— Josh Greenman (@joshgreenman) August 21, 2019
So did a writer for the Daily Beast:
This Greenland stuff is classic Art of the Deal material folks. Just watch and learn.— Sam Stein (@samstein) August 21, 2019
And the editor of Lawfare:
This is like if we had a meeting and you canceled the meeting because I refused to sell you Jupiter— Quinta Jurecic (@qjurecic) August 21, 2019
But a Brookings scholar explained why Trump's snub of the Danes is no laughing matter:
This is no longer funny. Danish troops fought alongside the US in Afghanistan and Iraq. 50 Danes died. The president dishonors the alliance and their sacrifice. On the same day he sought to appease Putin by supporting his return to the G8. https://t.co/f5SHS3F1qL— Tom Wright (@thomaswright08) August 21, 2019
While in Iowa, Joe Biden took aim at Trump on what has been his greatest strength:
“Donald Trump inherited a growing economy from the Obama-Biden administration, just like he inherited everything in his life,” Joe Biden says here in Iowa. “And he squandered it, like he did everything else."— Matt Viser (@mviser) August 20, 2019
More from our reporter on the trail with Biden:
I asked Joe Biden whether, as John McCain did in 2008 and others did before him, he has considered whether to pledge to serve only one term, given some of the concern about his age.— Matt Viser (@mviser) August 20, 2019
“No,” he responded.
Energy Secretary Rick Perry fell prey to an age-old Instagram chain that's fake:
The hoax, an NBC News reporter noted, shows the viral power of misinformation in social media:
The viral power of disinformation right here: Powerful, talented people with access to experts lend their credibility and platform to propagate something that, even if not obviously a hoax, at least warrants a quick Google search first thanks to its Nigerian Prince-level writing. https://t.co/4wAnHtjN1X— Alex Seitz-Wald (@aseitzwald) August 21, 2019
QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I mean, we're liable to wake up one morning and Donald, if he were president, would have nuked Denmark," Ted Cruz during the 2016 campaign. (New York magazine)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
The National Park Service is fighting to save the Jefferson Memorial from bugs and bad weather:
More than 150 air mattresses, set up for an outdoor movie night outside Denver, took flight:
WATCH: Wind sends mattresses flying in the air before a 'Bed Cinema' event in Stapleton, Colorado. pic.twitter.com/aqFZE6NGfj— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 20, 2019
A group of kids toured "The Daily Show's" library of presidential tweets: