THE BIG IDEA: Summer doesn’t officially end until Sept. 23, but today is the first unofficial day of fall. As you stow your white clothes in the upper reaches of the closet until Memorial Day, here are four things to watch:
1) Support for Joe Biden has been soft but remarkably durable since he joined the race, despite a string of unforced errors. Will any of his rivals eclipse him in the polls?
In an interview with NPR and Iowa Public Radio that aired this morning, the former vice president declared that “details are irrelevant.” Biden was talking about a Washington Post story that came out last week, which detailed how a dramatic tale he told on the stump about the war in Afghanistan conflated and confused facts from multiple incidents. The 76-year-old explained that what matters more than getting the facts right is having good judgment, which he insists that he’s shown during five decades in the arena. “The details are irrelevant in terms of decision-making,” Biden said.
This is the kind of proclamation that could derail other candidates, but Biden – like President Trump – has often appeared to be coated in Teflon. Stuff like this just never seems to stick. Will that change as voters begin to pay more attention? The Iowa caucuses are still five months away. Eugene Robinson argues in his column today that voters are fine with misstatements and malapropisms because they care about electability. This, he says, is why the Democratic nomination is still Biden’s to lose.
But Biden continues to get hammered in the press. Mark Leibovich has a damning story on the front page of today’s New York Times about his inability to articulate a rationale for why he’s seeking the presidency beyond defeating Trump. After a recent speech in Iowa, a reporter asked Biden: “How badly do you want to be president?” The question apparently came at him like a curveball.
“He then launched into a classic Biden roller derby of verbiage in which he listed all the reasons he found Mr. Trump so distasteful,” writes Leibovich. “He landed on a question to himself. ‘Could I die happily not having heard ‘Hail to the Chief’ play for me?’ the Democratic front-runner asked. ‘Yeah, I could,’ he said. ‘That’s not why I’m running.’ So why is he running? … Remarkably, after all this time, Mr. Biden stumbles to come up with a clear answer. … Would he be doing this if a more conventional Republican (a Mitt Romney or Jeb Bush) were in the White House? ‘Um, I’m not sure, to be quite honest with you,’ Mr. Biden said. ‘I hadn’t planned on running again.’ …
“He seemed a bit riled up, and not in a good way. ‘Where are we going?’ the candidate glared down at a young staffer in front of his podium a few minutes after finishing his remarks. ‘Where are we going,’ he said again, more pointedly. He became annoyed at a Fox News reporter who asked him about the relative smallness of his crowds compared to those some of the other candidates were attracting — in this case, (Elizabeth) Warren, who had drawn a reported 12,000 at a rally in St. Paul, Minn., the night before. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ Mr. Biden said.”
Warren gained a lot of ground on Biden in the early states and in national polling this summer. The third debate is next week in Houston. It will be the first time Biden is on the same stage as the Massachusetts senator, who has a checkered history with Biden dating back to his time as a champion for Delaware’s credit card industry in the Senate.
Warren was not just a state champion debater as a high school student in Oklahoma; she’s also built her campaign around detailed policy proposals. Biden musing that “details are irrelevant” is precisely the kind of statement that Warren could seize on if she’s so inclined. But would Biden supporters care?
2) Trump has been largely successful at stonewalling congressional oversight so far this year. Will House Democrats be able to break through when they return from recess next week?
Momentum for impeachment seemed to slow somewhat during the August recess. Yes, several lawmakers endorsed initiating proceedings. More than 130 House Democrats have publicly called for opening an official impeachment inquiry, despite Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s position that going this route – when Senate Republicans will never remove Trump from office – could help the president get reelected. But opening an impeachment inquiry could help Democrats break logjams in several court cases, where Trump’s lawyers are fighting tooth and nail to block discovery and otherwise slow compliance with subpoenas.
My colleagues Rachael Bade and Tom Hamburger scoop that House Democrats plan to make Trump’s alleged involvement in a 2016 scheme to silence two women who claimed they had affairs with him a major investigative focus this fall, picking up where federal prosecutors left off in a case that legal experts say could have led to additional indictments. The House Judiciary Committee is preparing to hold hearings and call witnesses involved in hush-money payments to ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal and adult-film star Stormy Daniels as soon as October.
“Democrats say they believe there is already enough evidence to name Trump as a co-conspirator in the episode that resulted in his former attorney, Michael Cohen, pleading guilty to two campaign finance charges,” per Rachael and Tom. “Cohen, who is serving a three-year prison sentence for those counts and other crimes, testified under oath that Trump directed the payments that helped land him behind bars. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan also described Trump’s alleged role in the scheme, referring to him in court papers as ‘Individual-1.’ But they concluded their investigation this summer without bringing any additional charges. … As part of the probe, Democrats plan to explore whether the investigation was stymied or obstructed.”
In addition to the hush-money inquiry, the committee plans to continue exploring five of the 10 episodes of potential obstruction of justice by the president that were outlined in former special counsel Bob Mueller’s report this spring. Democrats say Trump would have been charged with obstruction in those five instances were he not the sitting president. These five episodes, plus the hush money, could be used as the grounds to draft articles of impeachment.
3) The trade war just got more painful for Americans, and consumer confidence is slipping. Will Trump blink again if more evidence continues to emerge of a looming recession?
In the face of mounting economic uncertainty, Trump has become increasingly erratic. In mid-August, for example, Trump announced that he would temporarily postpone the implementation of about half the tariffs on Chinese imports that he had announced 12 days earlier to reduce sticker shock during the holiday season. He was trying to reassure the markets. The president’s priority seems to be getting reelected, and he might back down if he fears that the trade war will jeopardize his hopes of a second term.
On Sunday, though, Trump allowed the latest round of tariffs on Chinese imports to go into effect and China retaliated with big levies on products from soybeans to pharmaceuticals. Unlike the previous tariffs, these are more likely to be felt directly by consumers. “The 15 percent duties on about $112 billion worth of goods will raise prices on items from clothing and footwear to sports equipment and televisions. While the Trump administration formulated earlier rounds of tariffs to try to shield consumers, hitting only 29 percent of so-called final goods from China, with the latest round, that number jumps to 69 percent,” Tory Newmyer reports in today’s Finance 202. “That will swell the tab for the average American family from $600 a year from earlier rounds of tariffs to $1,000, per JPMorgan Chase.”
And there’s new evidence that these tariffs are going into effect as consumer confidence declines. The University of Michigan index saw its biggest monthly decline since December 2012 last month. “The August data indicate that the erosion of consumer confidence due to tariff policies is now well under way,” survey director Richard Curtin said in a statement. “While the overall level of sentiment is still consistent with modest gains in consumption during the year ahead, the data nonetheless increased the likelihood that consumers could be pushed off the tariff cliff in the months ahead. This could result in a much slower growth in consumption and the overall economy.” (A Wall Street Journal survey reveals a separate drop in confidence among small business owners.)
Talks are at something of a stalemate right now. “Chinese and U.S. officials are struggling to agree on the schedule for a planned meeting this month to continue trade talks,” Bloomberg News reports. “The world’s two biggest economic powers have yet to agree on basic terms of re-engagement, with mistrust on both sides. … The date for a visit of Chinese officials to the U.S. capital hasn’t been set, though that’s not necessarily a sign it still won’t happen … In conversations over the past week, the two sides have failed to agree on at least two requests -- an American appeal to set some parameters for the next round of talks and a Chinese call to delay new tariffs … Chinese state media reacted by signaling the government is ready to weather the economic turbulence. Beijing then said it planned to file a complaint at the World Trade Organization against the U.S. tariffs under the dispute settlement process.”
4) How many more mass shootings?
August started and ended with terrible massacres in Texas. The stories about the latest victims in Odessa and Midland, where a gunman killed seven people and injured 23 others during a rampage on Saturday, are stomach churning. They always are, no matter how routine mass shootings become.
A high school student who recently celebrated her quinceañera bled out after leaving a car dealership where her brother had just picked up the keys to his new truck. A middle-school math teacher who had a knack for hilarious impersonations was shot fatally while sitting at a traffic light with his wife and two children, who will be traumatized forever. A 29-year-old letter carrier was killed when the gunman hijacked her Postal Service vehicle. She was nearing the end of her shift and on the phone with her sister, who heard her scream in agony as she died. A 17-month-old had her front teeth knocked out. Thankfully, she lived.
Authorities said yesterday that the alleged shooter, who was killed by police, had been fired from his job earlier that day. He and his employer both called police after his termination, but state troopers who pulled him over for a traffic violation were unaware of this. Seth Aaron Ator, 36, opened fire on the troopers with an AR-15, military-style rifle, striking and injuring one of them, while firing through the rear window of his car before fleeing the scene. This type of gun was banned under the assault weapons ban that was in effect from 1994 until Republicans allowed it to expire in 2004.
“Authorities said Monday that he shouldn’t have had the gun at all,” Ben Guarino reports. “Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) tweeted Monday that Ator did not go through a background check when obtaining the gun used in the attacks, which were spread across at least 15 crime scenes. Ator had before failed to pass a check with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System while trying to buy a gun, said John Wester, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent. Years earlier, Ator had been charged with criminal trespass and evading arrest, according to a public records search.”
Despite the latest shooting, prospects for meaningful congressional action on gun control remain dim. Talk are ongoing, but Democrats have grown pessimistic. The Trump administration is talking about a national “red flag” law to take guns away from mentally unstable people, and the president backed away from universal background checks under pressure from the National Rifle Association. The White House is exploring other ideas, including the death penalty for mass shooters and "lie and try" laws to encourage the prosecution of those who lie on background check forms, according to the Times.
At Labor Day picnics and parades from Iowa to New Hampshire, the Democratic presidential candidates found themselves talking about gun control instead of touting their support for unions, which is more typical for the holiday. Biden has built his campaign around saying he could work with Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But, on Monday, he said gun control is an issue that he would not try to negotiate on with the GOP. “I think there’s no compromise,” Biden said in Iowa. “This is one where we are going to just have to push and push and push and push and push.”
With Mariana Alfaro
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Hurricane Dorian, which has slowed to a Category 3, has parked itself over the northwestern Bahamas since Sunday night, unleashing a nightmare 24-hour siege of devastating storm surge, destructive winds and blinding rain. With Dorian perched perilously close to the Florida peninsula, this morning has become the critical time that is likely to determine whether the state is dealt a powerful blow or a less intense scrape, Jason Samenow and Andrew Freedman explain. “Just tens of miles and subtle storm wobbles could make the difference between the two scenarios,” they write. “If it soon starts to turn north, Florida would be spared Dorian’s full fury. But if Dorian lumbers just a little more to the west, more serious storm effects would pummel parts of the coastline. Such small differences in the track forecast will have similar implications farther north.”
In a 2 a.m. bulletin, the National Hurricane Center wrote that Dorian will “move dangerously close to the Florida east coast” late Tuesday through Wednesday evening, then up the coast to North Carolina by late Thursday. For this reason, the National Hurricane Center has issued hurricane, storm surge, and tropical storm watches and warnings from the Atlantic coast of Florida northward into South Carolina. Serious storm effects are likely in coastal Georgia and the Carolinas in the middle and latter half of the week as Dorian picks up speed and heads north.
-- But, but, but: Even if Dorian turns north and travels parallel to the Florida coast, it could deliver damaging winds and produce a storm surge that could flood low-lying areas across vast portions of the Eastern Seaboard. Lori Rozsa, Patricia Sullivan, Fenit Nirappil and Joel Achenbach report: “The National Hurricane Center has repeatedly urged people not to focus too much on the exact track predicted for Dorian. Hurricanes are fickle, and this one could ignore the computer models and roll right onto Florida’s crowded, condominium-lined coast. … While Dorian is projected to lose some of that intensity in coming days, its anticipated path over water will keep it from losing too much of its punch, and it is expected to remain an exceedingly destructive hurricane."
-- Dorian is the strongest storm on record to ever hit the Bahamas, leaving at least five people dead. Jasper Ward and Anthony Faiola report: “Prime Minister Hubert Minnis confirmed the first fatalities late Monday. … In sharp contrast with fast-moving storms that pass within an hour or two, some parts of the Bahamas, including the Abaco Islands and Grand Bahama Island, were witnessing more than 36 hours of brutal conditions. As the storm virtually stalled, the strike on northern Bahamas was dragging into Tuesday. Few places on the planet have experienced storm conditions as horrifically lengthy. ‘The Bahamas is presently at war and being attacked by Hurricane Dorian,’ Minnis said in an interview. ‘And yet, it has no weapon at its disposal to defend itself during such an assault by this enemy.’ … Severe flooding and power and phone outages extended beyond the worst of the strike zone, as far south as the capital, Nassau. Unconfirmed reports of deaths emerged on Abaco Islands — reports that authorities said they were still struggling to confirm.”
-- Three people were shot outside the Minnesota State Fair last night, sending thousands of Labor Day fairgoers into panic. Timothy Bella reports: “St. Paul Police spokesman Steve Linders told The Post that no arrests have been made and that the identity of the gunman remains unknown. The three injured men, two 20-year-olds and an 18-year-old, suffered nonfatal injuries and are expected to survive, Linders said. … Police were called to outside the fair in St. Paul, Minn., around 10 p.m., shortly after responding to the city’s 15th homicide of the year several miles away. Authorities received a report that a 19-year-old woman was hit by a vehicle in a pedestrian crash, Linders said. … Then, around 10:20 p.m., several gunshots were heard a block south from the crash scene. When police arrived, they found one man had been injured from the gunfire. Later, two more victims arrived at area hospitals with wounds from the shooting. … While Linders said it was possible that the pedestrian crash and shooting were connected, police are still investigating both incidents. Given St. Paul police’s heavy presence at the fair, which attracted nearly 250,000 visitors on Sunday, Linders categorized the scene as ‘disturbing.’"
-- At least 25 people are now confirmed dead and nine others remain missing after a boat fire at 3 a.m. yesterday off the Southern California coast, the AP reported overnight. Our Scott Wilson and Eli Rosenberg have additional details on what happened: “It was the last night of a Labor Day weekend dive trip to the idyllic Channel Islands, a pristine national park. … Anchored in a harbor just 20 yards from the shore of Santa Cruz Island, three of the 33 guests aboard had celebrated their birthdays at dinner that night, and a crew member went to bed late after doing the dishes. He woke up just a few hours later to the sound of a pop in the dark, thinking someone was up and stumbling around. Instead, he opened a door to find the ship around him bathed in an intense orange glow, completely aflame. …
“There was a fire burning uncontrollably in the galley of the 75-foot Conception just after 3 a.m. … which was filled with divers on a private excursion and the tanks of air they used to explore the depths. The guests, sleeping tightly packed in stacks of bunk beds below, were trapped. Five of the crew members were able to escape into the waters near the shores of Santa Cruz Island, but authorities fear the rest were lost. … After burning, the boat sank in about 65 feet of water, its bow exposed above the water. ...
“Conception is one of three dive boats operated by Truth Aquatics, a 45-year-old company based in Santa Barbara that has a sterling reputation among the local diving community. … Coast Guard officials said they believe the ship was in compliance with all regulations and did not have any violations of note. … The diving tanks — usually filled with compressed air or a nitrogen/oxygen mix known as nitrox — might have fueled the fire. [A witness] said that she heard and saw the explosive bursts each time a tank exploded on the boat.”
MORE ON 2020:
-- Pete Buttigieg plans to open 20 offices in Iowa in 20 days. From the Des Moines Register: “He’ll also have 98 paid staffers on the ground by the end of the first week of September, with additional hires expected. Buttigieg began launching the brick and mortar spaces Monday, with back-to-back office openings in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City. … The moves represent a major ramp up in the first-in-the-nation caucus state for the South Bend, Indiana, mayor, who previously had one office in Des Moines. He had 62 staffers in Iowa as of mid-August.”
-- Buttigieg’s campaign also plans on opening 12 new offices with 16 additional paid organizers in New Hampshire. (WMUR)
-- Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) announced this morning that he will not run for governor against the GOP incumbent. The 72-year-old held the job from 2005 to 2010. He was reelected to the Senate last year. (Developing.)
-- Rep. Justin Amash (I-Mich.), who quit the GOP in July, says he’s still considering whether to run as a third-party candidate for president in 2020. “It’s obviously something that is realistic,” the 39-year-old told Ben Terris over dinner in a crowded bar in Grand Rapids. “If someone were to do something like that, there’s obviously a good chance it would be me. … It’s something I could decide to do.” (Read the whole profile here.)
-- Former South Carolina governor and congressman Mark Sanford postponed his announcement on whether he’ll challenge Trump in 2020 until after Hurricane Dorian and its impact on the Carolinas are clear. From the Post and Courier: “In a phone interview with The Post and Courier on Monday, the former South Carolina governor and congressman said the country is focused on the hurricane, as is he. Sanford previously had given himself until Labor Day to formalize and declare his intent. His team additionally confirmed the decision to delay in a statement issued to political media. … Since announcing his plan to explore a possible presidential campaign, Sanford has visited New Hampshire and Iowa — two early states in the presidential nomination process. He has also drawn the ire of Trump, who poked fun at the idea of facing a political challenge from Sanford — or any other Republican — in a pair of tweets last week.”
-- Beto O’Rourke’s campaign is selling T-shirts with a profane message in support of gun control. (CBS News)
-- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio spent just seven hours at City Hall during the month he launched his White House bid. From the New York Post: “Hizzoner showed up at his office on just six occasions in May, taking part in two meetings, four events and five phone calls, one of which was his weekly appearance on WNYC radio, according to entries on his official calendar. The 11 appointments amounted to a meager one-fifth of the 50 meetings, calls and other events at City Hall on de Blasio’s calendar for May 2018. He had a total 152 city events scheduled for the month.”
-- A California city is testing out a buzzy campaign idea that’s been popularized by businessman Andrew Yang and Sen. Kamala Harris: Universal basic income. From the Los Angeles Times: “Susie Garza has never heard of Yang. But since February, she’s been getting $500 a month from a nonprofit in Stockton as part of an experiment that offers something unusual in presidential politics: a trial run of a campaign promise, highlighting the benefits and challenges in real time. Garza can spend the money however she wants. She uses $150 of it to pay for her cellphone and another $100 or so to pay off her dog’s veterinarian bills. She spends the rest on her two grandsons now that she can afford to buy them birthday presents online and let them get the big bag of chips at the 7-Eleven. … Garza is part of an experiment testing the impact of ‘universal basic income,’ an old idea getting new life thanks to the 2020 presidential race, although Stockton’s project is an independent one and has no connection to any presidential race. … Stockton, once known as the foreclosure capital of the country and for one of the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcies, is a step ahead of both candidates. In February, the city launched the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, a pilot program spearheaded by a new mayor and financed in part by the nonprofit led by Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes. The city chose 125 people who earned at or below the city’s median household income of $46,033. They get the money on a debit card on the 15th of each month.”
-- In Mississippi, a similar program is giving low-income mothers a year of “universal basic income,” our Robert Samuels reported over the weekend.
THE IMMIGRATION WARS:
-- A Harvard freshman who was denied entry to the United States 11 days ago was finally allowed to arrive on campus yesterday to start his studies. From the Harvard Crimson: Ismail B. Ajjawi, 17, was deemed "inadmissible" on Aug. 23 after, he alleged, a border official questioned him for hours about posts his friends made on social media and about his religious practices in Lebanon, his home country. "Ajjawi’s immigration difficulties sparked outcry from Harvard student groups, several of which organized a petition supporting him that has garnered more than 7,000 signatures as of Monday night. Ajjawi's story has also drawn international media attention and elicited statements of support from several organizations including the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Staff from both Harvard and AMIDEAST, a scholarship organization sponsoring Ajjawi’s education, worked with federal officials to ensure he could matriculate on time.”
-- Another U.S. visa holder, a Pakistani national, was also denied entry after being detained at an airport in Houston From TechCrunch: “Dakhil — whose name we have changed to protect his identity — was detained for hours, but subsequently had his visa canceled. He was sent back to Pakistan and banned from entering the U.S. for five years. … Dakhil, who had never traveled to the U.S. before, was waiting in the immigration line at the border when a CBP officer approached him to ask why he had traveled to the U.S. He said it was for a vacation to visit his family. The officer took his passport and, after a brief examination of its stamps, asked why Dakhil had visited Saudi Arabia. It was for Hajj and Umrah, he said. As a Muslim, he is obliged to make the pilgrimages to Mecca at least once in his lifetime. The officer handed back his passport and Dakhil continued to wait in line. At his turn, Dakhil approached the CBP officer in his booth, who repeated much of the same questions. But, unsatisfied with his responses, the officer took Dakhil to a small room close but separate from the main immigration hall … The officer then rummaged through Dakhil’s carry-on luggage, pulling out his computer and other items. Then the officer took Dakhil’s phone, which he was told to unlock, and took it to another room.”
Ultimately, TechCrunch found, a graphic image sent by another person was used as the grounds to deny him entry: “'The officer who took my phone showed me an image,' [Dakhil said]. It was an image from 2009 of a child, who had been murdered and mutilated. Despite the graphic nature of the image, TechCrunch confirmed the photo was widely distributed on the internet and easily searchable using the name of the child’s murderer. 'I was shocked. What should I say?' he told TechCrunch, describing the panic he felt. 'This image is disturbing, but you can’t control the forwarded messages,' he explained. Dakhil told the officer that the image was sent to him in a WhatsApp group. It’s difficult to distinguish where a saved image came from on WhatsApp, because it automatically downloads received images and videos to a user’s phone. Questionable content — even from unsolicited messages — found during a border search could be enough to deny the traveler entry. The image was used to warn parents about kidnappings and abductions of children in his native Karachi. He described it as one of those viral messages that you forward to your friends and family to warn parents about the dangers to their children. The officer pressed for details about who sent the message. Dakhil told the officer that the sender was someone he met on his Hajj pilgrimage in 2011. 'We hardly knew each other,' he said, saying they stayed in touch through WhatsApp but barely spoke.... 'You can search the image over the internet,' Dakhil told the officer. But the officer declined and said the images were his responsibility. 'We found this on your cellphone,' the officer said."
-- The Trump administration reversed a decision that would force immigrants facing life-threatening health crises to return to their home countries, days after a damning story about a migrant woman with a rare genetic disease who was told she'd face deportation if she didn’t leave the country voluntarily. From the New York Times: “On Aug. 7, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, without public notice, eliminated a ‘deferred action’ program that had allowed immigrants to avoid deportation while they or their relatives were undergoing lifesaving medical treatment. The agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, had sent letters informing those who had asked for a renewal, which the immigrants must make every two years, that it was no longer entertaining such requests. The letters said that the immigrants must leave the country within 33 days, or face deportation. On Monday, the agency said in a statement that while limiting the program was 'appropriate,' officials would ‘complete the caseload that was pending on August 7.’ The statement said that deportation proceedings had not been initiated against anyone who had received the letter. … Among those who had been impacted by the administration’s decision to end the program was Maria Isabel Bueso, 24, who has participated in several medical studies, including a drug trial that resulted in a treatment for her rare disease, which causes dwarfism and other physical deformities.”
-- The kidnapping of a pastor in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, underscores the threat migrants face when they are forced to return to Mexican border towns. From the Los Angeles Times: “On Aug. 3, when the Rev. Aaron Mendez, an evangelical pastor and head of the Amar shelter, refused the kidnappers’ demands, the thugs took him away. The pastor entered the twilight world of Mexico’s ‘disappeared’ — officially 37,000 and growing, with Tamaulipas state leading Mexico in the grisly statistic. Federal and state police are investigating what happened to Mendez, said Ivan Moyle, a spokesman for the Tamaulipas prosecutor’s office, who declined to comment further. … Extortion-minded mobs view vulnerable migrants as walking ATMs. They are easy prey, lacking family ties in Mexico and known to have U.S. relatives with access to dollars. Mob halcones — hawks, or lookouts — watch bus stations and other strategic spots, eyeing potential quarry. Though drug trafficking provides the bulk of cartel income, Mexico’s organized crime groups are multibillion-dollar conglomerates that also control migrant smuggling, kidnapping and other illicit ventures, working in cahoots with corrupt police and politicians. ‘There is no protection,’ said Father Julio Lopez, a Catholic priest who runs the Casa de Migrante Nazareth shelter in Nuevo Laredo.”
-- More Cubans are seeking asylum in Mexico amid a clampdown on their legal path to the U.S. From the Guardian: “In the first seven months of this year, 4,604 Cubans applied for asylum in Mexico, representing 10% of all applicants. In 2018, 218 Cubans sought asylum, representing 1% of total applicants. Historically, US-bound Cubans encountered far fewer obstacles on the migration passage due to unique legal protections and economic and educational advantages compared with Central Americans. But, a crackdown by both US and Mexican governments has left tens of thousands of Cubans trapped in Mexico, facing the same dangers and hurdles as migrants from elsewhere. In April, Cubans spearheaded a mass escape from one overflowing detention centre in protest at delays and inhumane conditions.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Vice President Pence’s top aide said this morning that Pence and members of his traveling entourage are staying at a golf resort in Ireland owned by Trump at the president’s suggestion. But he defended an arrangement that Democrats have criticized as enriching the president, citing logistical concerns. John Wagner, Robert Costa and David Fahrenthold report: “Marc Short, Pence’s chief of staff, told reporters traveling with Pence aboard Air Force Two that the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel was ‘the one facility’ that could accommodate the size of the delegation traveling with Pence in Doonbeg, a village from which Pence’s family hails. The hotel has 120 rooms. … Asked if Trump had asked Pence to stay at his property in Doonbeg, Short characterized it as ‘a suggestion.’ … ‘It wasn’t like a, ‘You must.’ It wasn’t like, ‘You have to,’’ Short said. … Doonbeg reported losing more than $1 million every year from 2014 to 2017, according to Irish corporate records.”
-- The first day of school in Hong Kong brought class boycotts, as tens of thousands continued protesting. Shibani Mahtani and Anna Kam report: “Hong Kong’s government had been hoping that once school started, the tensions — and occasional violence — that have played out weekend after weekend on the city’s streets would subside. Students on Monday, however, hoped to send a clear message that they are not going anywhere and plan to continue to be the backbone of dissent against their government, the city’s police force and Beijing’s influence on their semiautonomous territory. Students plan to ‘escalate’ their actions if the government doesn’t meet their demands — raising the specter of even more unrest as Hong Kong’s police force cracks down harder on protests and the city’s government remains unwavering in its refusal to compromise. … Outside the gates of several high schools across the city on Monday morning, students and alumni in black surgical masks, helmets and respirators linked hands in protest. At St. Francis’ Canossian College, an all-girls high school that counts Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam as one of its graduates, students held up signs that read: ‘Chief Executive, will you listen to the voices of the younger sisters from your school?’”
-- Lam said she would quit if she could, saying her ability to resolve the crisis at this point is “very limited.” From Reuters: "Lam said she has caused ‘unforgivable havoc’ by igniting the political crisis engulfing the city and would quit if she had a choice, according to an audio recording of remarks she made last week to a group of businesspeople. … Lam’s dramatic and at times anguished remarks offer the clearest view yet into the thinking of the Chinese leadership as it navigates the unrest in Hong Kong. … Lam suggested that Beijing had not yet reached a turning point. She said Beijing had not imposed any deadline for ending the crisis ahead of National Day celebrations scheduled for October 1. And she said China had ‘absolutely no plan’ to deploy People’s Liberation Army troops on Hong Kong streets. … Lam noted, however, that she had few options once an issue had been elevated ‘to a national level,’ a reference to the leadership in Beijing."
-- The Hong Kong protests are also dividing families. From the Wall Street Journal: “Many parents, used to decades of peace and stability, worry about the safety and future of their children as they take to the streets. Some families are locked in arguments over the direction the protests have taken, including instances of arson and vandalism -- or argue over the purpose of the protests altogether. Some parents are turning against the government and police as the city’s young protesters are violently arrested and blame officials for not doing enough to defuse the tensions.”
-- Huawei accused the U.S. of cyberattacks and threats made to its employees to disrupt its business. From the Wall Street Journal: “Huawei detailed the numerous allegations against the U.S. in a press release issued on Tuesday, in which it also denied stealing smartphone-camera technology from Portuguese multimedia producer Rui Oliveira and accused him of ‘taking advantage of the current geopolitical situation.’ China is locked in a trade dispute with Washington and struggling to deal with protests in Hong Kong. … Huawei accused the U.S. of ‘sending FBI agents to the homes of Huawei employees' to pressure them into spying on the company. The company also said the U.S. has launched ‘cyberattacks to infiltrate Huawei’s intranet’ and has searched, detained and arrested Huawei employees and its business partners.”
-- Prime Minister Boris Johnson signaled that he is prepared to call a high-stakes snap election next month if his political opponents try to block his plans for Britain to exit the European Union on Oct. 31. Kevin Sullivan and Karla Adam report from London: “Johnson on Monday said publicly that he did not want an election. But he made his intentions clear to his cabinet and other staff amid a rising and emotional stalemate over his handling of Brexit. A senior member of his government said that if Johnson’s opponents are successful in delaying Brexit, ‘the inevitable consequence of that will be an election.’ A general election would be a serious gamble for Johnson and his opponents, headed by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, in the bitter Brexit debate that has raged in Britain since 2016, when a slim majority voted to leave the E.U.
“Johnson, who took office in late July on a defiant pledge to deliver Brexit by Halloween ‘do or die,’ could see his government crash and burn quickly in a national vote, or he could potentially emerge in a far stronger position. But an election could also see Corbyn, a far-left leader and harsh critic of Trump, end up as prime minister, leaving Brexit and the U.K.’s relations with the United States filled with uncertainty. … Britain’s next general election is scheduled for 2022. But under the British system, a general election can be called at virtually any time, as long as two-thirds of Parliament supports it. … The most likely date for an election would be about Oct. 14, ahead of a key European Council meeting on Oct. 17. … In a speech Monday, Corbyn said he would support an election.”
-- After a Taliban bomb killed at least 16 civilians in Kabul, Afghans are calling for a foreign compound that houses foreign nationals to be shut down. Siobhán O’Grady reports: “The powerful tractor bomb exploded at 10 p.m. outside the Green Village, a large compound in eastern Kabul where number of international organizations are based. The blast came even as the top U.S. negotiator in peace talks was on TV talking about how close an agreement was. The attack shook Kabul and reignited fears that Taliban violence against civilians is on the rise. … The Taliban quickly asserted responsibility for Monday night’s attack, saying in a statement that they had targeted ‘foreign invaders.’ But initial reports suggested the victims were entirely Afghans, including employees of the Green Village and three members of the security forces. Officials said around 400 foreign nationals were evacuated from the heavily guarded premises.”
-- A draft of the peace agreement with the Taliban calls for the United States to withdraw 5,400 troops from five bases in Afghanistan within five months. Siobhán O’Grady and Sharif Hassan report: “U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad described the proposed plan as ‘an agreement with the Taliban in principle’ but cautioned that ‘It is not final until the president of the United States also agrees to it.’ In a meeting last month, Trump gave Khalilzad the go-ahead to finalize such a deal. Khalilzad, in the interview on Monday, declined to name the U.S. bases that would be affected but noted that any withdrawal would be contingent on the Taliban abiding by the terms of the agreement. In exchange for the initial troop withdrawal, which would amount to more than one-third of the U.S. troop presence in the country, the Taliban would cut ties with al-Qaeda and provide counterterrorism guarantees. Khalilzad also said that the draft identifies the Taliban as the Islamic Emirate, the militant group’s preferred name. But he said that implied no recognition of the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan. U.S. officials have said previously that the name would identify the Taliban as a political party.”
-- Administration officials are at odds over the CIA’s role in Afghanistan. From Monday's Times: “Some administration officials want C.I.A.-backed militia forces in Afghanistan to serve as part of a counterterrorism force that would prevent the resurgence of the Islamic State or Al Qaeda as American military troops prepare to leave — in effect, an insurance policy. But others are skeptical that the shadowy militias, many of which face accusations of brutality, can serve as a bulwark against terrorism without the support of the American military.”
-- French President Emmanuel Macron is promising Iran a $15 billion bailout package in exchange for Tehran returning to the 2015 nuclear deal. From the Times: “While Mr. Macron and Mr. Trump gave no hint of their differences in public comments, administration officials say the French effort, which other European nations appear to support, is undermining the administration’s effort to exert what Mr. Trump calls ‘maximum pressure’ on Tehran. … Without Trump administration support for the deal, it is not clear whether European banks would risk American sanctions by extending credit to Tehran or whether the credit might be extended by the European Central Bank, or France’s central bank, which would be more difficult for Washington to sanction. If the talks, which French and Iranian officials began in Paris on Monday, are successful, Iran would return to the restrictions negotiated with the Obama administration four years ago.”
-- A bipartisan group of lawmakers is making a fresh push to end the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen. John Hudson and Missy Ryan report: “The lawmakers’ goal is to prohibit U.S. logistical support for the coalition’s airstrikes through an amendment to the annual defense policy bill, a move that they hope would effectively ground the air campaign by banning the U.S. provision of spare parts that Saudi Arabia needs to maintain its planes. The measure would also restrict certain forms of intelligence-sharing. The amendment, first presented by Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna of California, already passed in the House’s version of the defense authorization, and now members of both chambers are pressing their colleagues not to remove it during conference negotiations with the Senate. … The lawmakers’ appeal comes as the Yemen conflict drags on in its fifth year, with the civilian death toll rising and feuding among factions allied with key U.S. partners complicating prospects for peace.”
-- Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are trying to coordinate a dramatic diplomatic gesture that would help Netanyahu win the Israeli election in two weeks. From Haaretz: “In recent weeks, there have been intensive talks between some of Netanyahu’s advisers and people close to [Trump] over a potential statement by the American president, in which he could commit to protecting Israel in the future from any existential threat. In addition, Netanyahu is also trying to orchestrate some form of gesture from Russian President Vladimir Putin — either in the form of an official Putin visit to Israel or a trilateral meeting of the national security advisers of Israel, Russia and the United States.”
-- Trump has repeatedly dismissed North Korea’s missile tests as “very standard,” but American intelligence officials and outside experts believe the launches have allowed Kim Jong Un to test his advancing arsenal. From the Times: “Japan’s defense minister, Takeshi Iwaya, told reporters in Tokyo last week that the irregular trajectories of the most recent tests were more evidence of a program designed to defeat the defenses Japan has deployed, with American technology, at sea and on shore. … The rapid improvements in the short-range missiles not only put Japan and South Korea in increased danger, but also threaten at least eight American bases in those countries housing more than 30,000 troops. ... Such missiles, experts say, could be designed to carry either conventional or nuclear warheads. … An estimate by the Defense Intelligence Agency, circulated to select officials inside the United States government this summer, estimates that the North has also produced enough fuel for roughly a dozen new nuclear weapons since the historic talks in Singapore.”
-- A Baptist minister from Myanmar could be prosecuted after spending less than 60 seconds in the Oval Office telling Trump about the abuse his people suffer. From the Times: “The minister, Hkalam Samson, told the president in July that ethnic groups in his homeland were being ‘oppressed and tortured by the Myanmar military government’ and thanked him for imposing sanctions on four top generals. Now, as if to prove Mr. Samson right, a colonel in the Myanmar Army has gone to court seeking to have the minister prosecuted for his comments about the military during that conversation with Mr. Trump. Mr. Samson, who returned home to the northern Myanmar city of Myitkyina after his White House visit, said he was waiting to see whether a court would accept the colonel’s complaint. The nature of the complaint was unclear, but in similar cases, the military has taken advantage of Myanmar’s sweeping criminal defamation laws. A judge is expected to rule next week whether the case can proceed.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump spent the holiday weekend golfing after canceling a trip to Poland, which was meant to honor World War II veterans. He said he needed to stay in the United States to monitor Hurricane Dorian:
A North Carolina Republican senator who is facing a tough reeelection fight said Trump called him:
Just got off the phone with President @realDonaldTrump. He told me he will be granting the Governor's emergency declaration and assured me that North Carolina will have the full resources of the federal government to respond to #HurricaneDorian. Thank you, Mr. President. #ncpol— Senator Thom Tillis (@SenThomTillis) September 2, 2019
The president also spent his long weekend tweeting, as an NBC News reporter noted:
More than dozen presidential tweets before 8:30am on a federal holiday.— Kelly O'Donnell (@KellyO) September 2, 2019
Trump shared false information as the hurricane approached:
Trump shared incorrect info during an emergency, and now he's claiming he was right, when he was wrong. His own National Weather Service said he was wrong. This is a big deal. https://t.co/BkwTmYfBqN— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) September 2, 2019
A Times reporter offered an insider's take on why the president is attacking the press:
A Trump adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said weeks ago that the president, whose own approval ratings have stayed upside down, needs voters to feel negatively not just about his opponents but about longstanding institutions > https://t.co/SYtOq7KFAm— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) September 2, 2019
A White House spokesman suggested the vice president supports LGBTQ communities because he will meet with a prime minister who is openly gay:
The argument here appears to be that the vice president, by not refusing to meet with the sitting head of government of Ireland while in his country, is demonstrating LGBT support https://t.co/UoaWxi7nUd— Josh Lederman (@JoshNBCNews) September 3, 2019
Pete Buttigieg's husband bristled:
I’ve sat at tables with people who would gladly deny me the right to marry, who openly support conversion therapy, and who adamantly believe being gay is a choice. Doesn’t mean they’re any less homophobic because we shared a meal. https://t.co/cECWvnFUUV— Chasten Buttigieg (@Chas10Buttigieg) September 3, 2019
And new residents were spotted in the D.C. region:
Researchers Identify New Bloodsucking Leech Outside Washington DC https://t.co/PNI4Fknf6v— carolynryan (@carolynryan) September 2, 2019
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I can’t say that they overreacted because there is so much going on in the country right now, you can’t overreact, you just can't,” said Paul Fessock after authorities canceled his band’s concert in South Plainfield, N.J., because explosive devices were discovered near a Labor Day parade. (New York Times)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
On Sunday, as the nation prepared for Dorian to hit, Trump said he wasn't sure he'd ever heard of a Category 5 hurricane:
A Mississippi wedding venue turned down an interracial couple, citing “Christian belief":
Pope Francis apologized to a crowd at St. Peter's Square on Sunday for being late after getting stuck in an elevator for nearly 30 minutes:
And Hasan Minhaj sat down with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to examine the country's current leadership: