When House Democrats stayed unified, buoyed by their mandate in the midterms, the president declared a “national emergency” in February. Under the auspices of that emergency, Trump announced he would divert money that had been explicitly appropriated for the military to move ahead with his pet project. In late July, the five Supreme Court justices appointed by Republicans voted to lift a freeze on the money that had been put in place by a lower court and upheld by an appellate court.
Last night, the Pentagon finally released to the public a list of the 127 construction projects that stand to lose funding to free up $3.6 billion for 175 miles of fencing and other barriers on the southern border. These are spread across 23 states, three U.S. territories and 20 countries. Here are some of the most notable projects that Trump is raiding:
1) Puerto Rico will lose out on more than $400 million of planned projects.
The Pentagon is defunding 13 projects at military installations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, 10 of which were related to recovery from Hurricane Maria. Among them is the rehabilitation of Camp Santiago, a training facility operated by the Puerto Rico National Guard.
Guam, another U.S. territory, will lose a quarter of a billion dollars in construction projects. North Korea threatened to strike the Pacific island in 2017.
Trump’s disdain for Puerto Rico and his resistance to helping the U.S. commonwealth has been well established. It led to a delay of several months in a disaster relief funding bill.
This could become a problem for Trump next year in Florida, where there’s a sizable Puerto Rican population. Because they’re U.S. citizens, they can vote in the presidential election if they move to the mainland. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) very narrowly won his race last year because he made big inroads with the island’s expats. In contrast, Trump has repeatedly alienated the community.
The Miami Herald has a story on another cut in the Florida Panhandle: “When [Trump] visited Tyndall Air Force Base in May, he promised it would be rebuilt ‘better than ever’ after Hurricane Michael caused catastrophic damage. Four months later, the Department of Defense announced that a $17 million project to build a fire-rescue station at the base near Panama City will be put on hold to pay for portions of a wall … A spokesperson at Tyndall Air Force Base was not aware of the funding cut when reached by a reporter Wednesday.”
2) Another $770 million is being diverted from projects that have been approved to help American allies deter attacks from a revanchist Russia.
This is the bulwark of the European Deterrence Initiative, which was created after Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. Along with Trump’s push to get Russia back in the G-7, this is the latest illustration of the president projecting weakness in the face of Kremlin bellicosity.
A facility for special operations forces and their training will not get built in Estonia, the tiny but thriving democracy whose sovereignty depends on the American security guarantee. Also on the chopping block are projects to construct ammunition and fuel storage facilities and staging areas in Poland, and planned upgrades to surveillance aircraft facilities in Italy, as well as airfield and fuel storage upgrades in Slovakia and Hungary.
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling tweeted: “To the untrained eye, the 127 defense projects postponed for the border barrier may seem confusing. But as a former commander in Europe, many of these … are big deals. ‘Support the troops?’ Not so much.”
3) Nine of the projects on the list involve renovating or replacing schools for the children of U.S. troops.
4) Utah will lose $54 million. This is striking because both of the state’s conservative senators, Mike Lee and Mitt Romney, voted against Trump’s border emergency in March and supported the resolution of disapproval. Is it retaliation?
Romney said in a statement last night that he would vote to fund the border wall but only through appropriate channels. He said taking money from these projects undermines “military readiness.” About half of that was for an antenna calibration facility on Hill Air Force Base, and the rest was for the Utah Test and Training Range Consolidated Mission Control Center.
Lee is also pushing legislation that will make it harder for presidents to abuse their emergency powers in the future. “Congress has been ceding far too much powers to the executive branch for decades and it is far past time for Congress to restore the proper balance of power between the three branches,” he added in a statement.
5) To be sure, GOP senators who supported Trump’s emergency declaration didn’t get spared.
“Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), one of those who voted in support of the declaration, announced early Wednesday that the Trump administration was diverting $30 million in funds from an Army base in her state to construction of the wall ― even though she previously received assurances from an acting secretary of defense that her state would be spared,” HuffPost’s Igor Bobic reports. “The Arizona Republican, who is looking at a tough reelection fight next year, downplayed the move in her statement, saying the ground transportation project at Fort Huachuca was already facing delay due to ‘unforeseen environmental issues’ at the construction site. Those issues are expected to continue until next year, her office said. … Former astronaut Mark Kelly, who is running to be the Democrats’ Senate nominee next year, accused McSally of failing ‘her most basic responsibility to put Arizona first.’ He added that the senator ‘told Arizonans she had protected funding for Arizona military bases, and the fact is that she didn’t keep her word.’
“Other Republican senators whose states are impacted by Trump’s diversion of military construction funds to build the wall include Thom Tillis of North Carolina ($80 million), Mitch McConnell of Kentucky ($62 million), John Cornyn of Texas ($48 million), Lindsey Graham of South Carolina ($11 million) and Cory Gardner of Colorado ($8 million),” Bobic notes. “All of the above senators are also up for reelection in 2020, and they all similarly voted in support of Trump’s emergency declaration in March.”
6) In the long term, the greatest damage from the diversions could be the fundamental break that it represents with the founding fathers’ conception of the separation of powers. James Madison made the power of the purse explicit when he drafted Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution: “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.”
Trump is creating a potentially dangerous precedent for future presidents to disregard the will of a coequal branch. He’s using an obscure provision from a law passed during the Cold War that was intended to give executive branch officials flexibility in the event of truly existential emergencies, such as a Soviet first strike. Future Democratic presidents may try to use “national emergencies” to restrict gun ownership or take drastic action against corporate polluters. The country is traversing a very slippery slope.
“Officially, the Pentagon is saying the affected projects are ‘deferred,’ but in order for them to go ahead in the future, Congress must again fund them,” Paul Sonne and Seung Min Kim note. “The Republican-led Senate has agreed to do so in its annual defense policy bill, but the Democratic-led House refused in its version of the bill. The two sides will negotiate a possible compromise in conference … If Congress declines to fund the construction projects, they will remain in limbo and effectively be defunded. If they are indeed ‘backfilled’ in the coming year’s budget, some could proceed without delay, because the Pentagon deliberately chose projects with contract award dates scheduled for future years. The department also chose projects that were already facing delays. But Democratic lawmakers vowed again this week not to backfill funds for the affected military projects — arguing that Congress already approved the money once and would not do so again.”
As the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Military Construction and Veterans Affairs put it:
-- This morning, newspapers and television stations across the country are highlighting the local construction projects that have been nixed by the Trump administration. Here’s a typical story of this variety from the State in Columbia, S.C.:
“South Carolina will lose nearly $11 million that had been designated for building a new fire station at a local military installation … The decision to target Laurel Bay at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort … contradicts the assurances from South Carolina Republican elected officials earlier this year that federal funding for military construction projects in the state were not likely to get touched. … It puts Trump’s staunchest South Carolina allies in a difficult spot as they are busy preparing for Hurricane Dorian to wreak havoc along the state’s coast. And it gives political ammunition to U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, the South Carolina Democrat whose district includes the Beaufort base. Cunningham is facing a tough reelection in 2020 and the outcome of his race could depend on voter dissatisfaction with the Trump administration.”
-- A taste of additional local coverage:
- The Daily Press of Newport News, Va.: “Trump’s border wall funding plan hits military construction projects in Hampton Roads.”
- WBAL of Baltimore: “3 Maryland Projects Among Military Work Deferred To Fund Border Wall.”
- The Anchorage Daily News: “Border wall will take $102 million from Alaska projects.”
- The Honolulu Star Advertiser: “$32M in Hawaii military projects to be cut for border wall.”
- The Sun of Kitsap, Wash.: “Funding for a new pier to dock Coast Guard vessels that protect the Navy's Trident ballistic missile submarines has been diverted to help pay for a wall along the Mexican border.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Dorian regained strength and is once again a Category 3 hurricane. Jason Samenow and Andrew Freedman report: “Powerful Hurricane Dorian is unleashing its full array of hazards on the Carolinas just days after causing a humanitarian crisis in the northwestern Bahamas and then zagging around the Florida Peninsula. The Category 3 storm has already flooded parts of downtown Charleston, S.C., with a combination of storm surge and rainfall runoff, prompting a flash-flood warning through midmorning there, in addition to a storm-surge warning.”
-- As the Carolinas prepared for Dorian, Trump showed a doctored hurricane chart that indicated that the hurricane would reach Alabama, a day after he erroneously warned that the state would also be affected. Matthew Cappucci and Andrew Freedman report: “In a White House video released Wednesday, Trump displays a modified National Hurricane Center ‘cone of uncertainty’ forecast, dated from 11 a.m. on Aug. 29, indicating Alabama would in fact be affected. The graphic appears to have been altered with a Sharpie to indicate a risk the storm would move into Alabama from Florida. ‘We had, actually, our original chart was that it was going to be hit — hitting Florida directly,’ Trump said as he displayed the graphic from Aug. 29, which now includes an added appendage extending the cone into Alabama. ‘That was the original chart,’ Trump said. ‘It could’ve, uh, was going towards the Gulf,’ Trump explained in the video. Asked about the altered hurricane forecast chart at a White House event on opioids Wednesday afternoon, Trump said his briefings included a ‘95 percent chance probability’ that Alabama would be hit. When asked whether the chart had been drawn on, Trump said: ‘I don’t know; I don’t know.’ White House deputy press secretary J. Hogan Gidley later confirmed the drawing was made using a black sharpie, while criticizing the media for focusing on it. …
“Photos posted on the White House’s Flickr site reveal that Trump did receive the correct briefing on Aug. 29 from acting National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration head Neil Jacobs, in which the National Hurricane Center’s forecast called for Dorian to hit Florida. Alabama was never included in any National Hurricane Center forecast cone for Dorian, though it was included for a time in a map on the probability of tropical storm conditions, but that showed a low likelihood of that outcome. … Altering official government weather forecasts isn’t just a cause for concern — it’s illegal.”
-- A massive search-and-rescue operation and relief effort are underway in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian unleashed a catastrophe unlike anything seen in this part of the world. Anthony Faiola, Maria Sacchetti, Tim Craig and Joel Achenbach report: “The death toll late Wednesday was 20, according to Minister of Health Duane Sands, and it is likely to rise further as emergency responders work their way through the debris and rubble and the drowned neighborhoods. Rescue workers are racing through flooded terrain looking for survivors and the bodies of victims. The U.S. Coast Guard has dispatched nine cutters from Key West and has been deploying helicopters, pre-staged in the Bahamas as Dorian approached, to transport the injured to medical facilities in Nassau — the capital, on the island of New Providence — south of the devastation. The British Royal Navy, numerous aid groups, and first responders from Fairfax County, Va., and Los Angeles have joined, or are in the process of joining, the Bahamians’ rescue and relief efforts. Dorian, which weakened on Monday and Tuesday, grew on Wednesday and was upgraded to Category 3 status with 115 mph winds.”
-- Ten of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates offered their plans to combat climate change during a seven-hour CNN forum. Here are some highlights:
- Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) pledged to end the Senate’s filibuster if needed in order to pass a “Green New Deal,” report our Chelsea Janes and Colby Itkowitz. Harris also said she would ban plastic straws – but complained that paper straws are too flimsy. “We gotta kind of perfect that one a little bit more,” she said, per USA Today.
- Fresh-off the climate forum, former vice president Joe Biden will head to a high-dollar fundraiser co-hosted by a founder of a fossil fuel company today, per Janes and Itkowitz: “Biden faced a question about [the fundraiser] hosted by a co-founder of a natural gas company, Western LNG. First, Biden said Andrew Goldman wasn’t a fossil fuel executive and, when pushed, he said he didn’t know Goldman was. Goldman doesn’t currently have any day-to-day responsibilities with the company, CNN’s Anderson Cooper later clarified. Biden, who signed a pledge not to take any fossil fuel money, said that’s what he had understood, but that if it turns out Goldman is still involved with the company, then Biden wouldn’t ‘in any way accept his help.’”
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said he would be willing to discuss curbing population growth as part of his climate plan. From the Guardian: “‘Especially in poor countries around the world where women do not necessarily want to have large numbers of babies,’ he said, he supports access to family planning services. But Sanders stopped short of discouraging people to have babies if they want children.”
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) created a viral moment when she scoffed at a question about Trump’s decision to roll back regulations on lightbulbs, per Janes and Itkowitz: “She said the fossil fuel industry wants to distract from the greater climate conversation by talking about ‘lightbulbs, straws and cheeseburgers’ instead of carbon emissions.”
- South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg said climate change is “a kind of sin,” per the Times: “‘If you believe that God is watching’ as humanity spews pollutants, ‘what do you think God thinks of that?’ he asked. ‘This is less and less about the planet as an abstract thing and more about specific people suffering specific harm because of what we’re doing right now. At least one way of talking about this is that it’s a kind of sin.’”
- Former housing and urban development secretary Julián Castro framed the fight against climate change as a civil rights issue. From Vox: “He cites a study conducted by the United Church of Christ that found the majority of Americans who live near toxic waste sites are people of color … To this end, Castro wants to use presidential power (along with some new laws) to protect Americans — and particularly Americans of color — from ‘environmental discrimination,’ a term he uses to encapsulate what he frames as the way climate change ‘disproportionately affects communities of color and low-income Americans.’”
-- The climate forum came just hours after the Trump administration rolled back another Obama-era environmental regulation: "This time the Energy Department issued a final and a proposed rule that will prolong the life of certain old-fashioned — and energy-intensive — incandescent lightbulbs invented by Thomas Edison 140 years ago. The bulbs would otherwise have been effectively phased out by Jan. 1," Steven Mufson reports. “The rollback will mean $14 billion a year in higher energy costs and add to the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study by the Appliance Standards Awareness Project and the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The Energy Department said phasing out the bulbs would be ‘a lose-lose for consumers’ because of the higher cost of more efficient bulbs. And it said it would be ‘regulating these lightbulbs out of existence.’ … The standards, while technical, affect approximately 3 billion — nearly half — of the bulbs currently in sockets in U.S. homes. … Fifteen states, New York City and the District of Columbia filed comments opposing the rollback.”
POWER PLAYERS IN THE NEWS:
-- A federal jury found Greg Craig not guilty of lying to the Justice Department, acquitting the former Obama White House counsel of concealing media contacts in 2012 related to his work with Paul Manafort for the Ukrainian government. Spencer S. Hsu and Rosalind S. Helderman report: “Jurors deliberated less than five hours before vindicating Craig, 74, a former top legal adviser to Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. … His defense team, which said the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan had declined to pursue Craig, called the Trump Justice Department’s decision to move ahead with a prosecution in Washington ‘a disgrace.’ Craig was the first prominent Democrat charged in an investigation spun off from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia probe. … But Justice Department officials have emphasized in recent years they are stepping up enforcement of a long-neglected foreign lobbying disclosure law, the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). ...
“In March, a prosecutor who had been detailed to the Mueller team was tapped to lead the department’s FARA enforcement unit, and the department’s ‘zero-tolerance’ crackdown toward nondisclosure has triggered a 30 percent increase in registrations. The acquittal marks a setback for the Justice Department’s crackdown on foreign lobbying in the United States, exposing flaws in a difficult prosecution of events from 2012 that was handed off among several investigative offices before Craig’s April indictment. ... Before Craig’s trial began, a judge dismissed a charge alleging that Craig made false statements under FARA, citing a lack of clarity in the law. She allowed his trial to proceed on a general false statements charge. Several Washington attorneys representing foreign governments and former Justice Department officials cautioned that even a slam-dunk acquittal did not mean the government acted recklessly or in bad faith — or that it would lead to a passive stance. ...
“In other work involving longtime political players, the Justice Department also has been investigating — but has not charged — Democratic lobbyist Tony Podesta and former Republican congressman Vin Weber for their work alongside Craig in Ukraine. … Two members of Craig’s jury said in interviews after the verdict that although a few jurors were ‘deeply disturbed’ that Craig was not completely forthright in his actions and statements, the jury unanimously concluded there was insufficient evidence to support a conviction. They could not reach a conviction, according to the two jurors, because jury instructions limited them to consider only actions Craig took near the end of the FARA unit’s investigation, after Oct. 3, 2013, 10 months after Skadden issued its report.”
-- Retirement watch: Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the Wisconsin Republican who has served in Congress for 40 years and is the second-most senior House member, won’t seek reelection. Colby Itkowitz, Rachael Bade and John Wagner report: “The 76-year-old Wisconsin lawmaker becomes the highest-ranking Republican to say he would step down at the end of his term, part of a growing wave of retirements that suggest GOP pessimism about regaining the House majority in 2020. Sensenbrenner has been a mainstay on the House Judiciary Committee, where he served during President Clinton’s impeachment in January 1999 and was one of 13 House impeachment managers who tried the case in the Senate. He also served as the panel’s chairman in the past decade and has headed the Science Committee. … ‘I think I am leaving this district, our Republican Party, and most important, our country, in a better place than when I began my service,’ [he said]. … Republicans will be favored to hold the Wisconsin seat as Trump handily won the district by 20 percentage points in 2016 and Sensenbrenner rarely had a tough race. …
“Sensenbrenner joined two of his colleagues in calling it quits on Wednesday alone, making him the 16th House Republican to announce he would not seek reelection in 2020. By contrast, only four Democrats have announced plans to voluntarily exit the chamber.”
Democratic Rep. Susan Davis, of Southern California, also announced her retirement yesterday. She’s represented her district since 2001. From Itkowitz: “Davis did not say why she was leaving but expressed a desire to live and work in San Diego after 20 years of commuting cross-country. She wrote that she had ‘struggled to make this very difficult decision.’”
Republican Rep. Bill Flores also called it quits. The Texas Congressman said he wants to spend more time with his family, per Wagner: “Flores, a retired oil and gas executive, first won his seat by defeating a longtime Democratic incumbent. His Central Texas district has since become reliably Republican.”
-- The head of the asylum office at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will be removed from his job and reassigned as the White House pushes for tighter immigration controls. Nick Miroff reports: “John Lafferty, a career official who has run the asylum division for six years, will become deputy director at the D.C.-area USCIS processing center, according to an email sent to staff on Wednesday. The position appears to be a demotion. Lafferty received a leadership award last year from the agency’s then-director, L. Francis Cissna. But the asylum division of USCIS under Lafferty has been a source of frustration to immigration hard-liners in the White House, especially senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller. … Lafferty was well-liked by the agency’s roughly 500 asylum officers, who have been working long hours in recent years amid a soaring number of border-crossers seeking to halt the deportation process by citing a fear of harm if sent home. ‘He was pro-asylum officer,’ said one officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters. ‘He clearly respected their work, and you could tell he wasn’t too enthused about the various new policies under the Trump administration.’”
-- The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the Department of Homeland Security for all documents pertaining to any suggestion by Trump to pardon immigration officials who broke the law to follow his orders to close the border. Rachael Bade reports: “The committee is also asking for documents pertaining to any pardon promises for immigration officials or others engaged in trying to build Trump’s southern border barrier. ‘The dangling of pardons by the president to encourage government officials to violate federal law would constitute another reported example of the president’s disregard for the rule of law,’ House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. ‘The Framers did not envision the use of the presidential pardon power to encourage criminal acts at the president’s direction.’” The news about the subpoenas comes just days after the Post reported that Trump directed aides to “fast-track billions of dollars’ worth of construction contracts, aggressively seize private land and disregard environmental rules, according to current and former officials involved with the project. He then told subordinates concerned about legal repercussions that he will pardon them of any potential wrongdoing should they have to break laws to follow his orders. In response, the White House said Trump is joking when he makes such statements about pardons.”
-- Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) drank water from a toilet fountain at a migrant detention center and said it was “actually pretty good.” Antonia Noori Farzan reports: “’I smacked my lips,’ [he told constituents]. That’s because it wasn’t actually toilet water. As King went on to explain, some detention center cells have an unusual setup where a sink doubling as a water fountain is attached to a toilet. Though it might not look appetizing, the water that comes from the sink isn’t coming from the toilet, making it theoretically safe to drink. … King’s remarks, which were first reported by NBC News, resurfaced a months-old debate about conditions in Border Patrol stations near the U.S.-Mexico border. … One report, in particular, prompted a strong visceral response: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) wrote on Twitter that migrant women were being held in cells without water and that Border Patrol agents had told them to drink out of the toilets instead. … King didn’t address the freshman congresswoman’s claims that the water fountain wasn’t working in the cell that she visited.”
-- Republican Rep. Devin Nunes (Calif.) filed a lawsuit claiming that a left-leaning transparency nonprofit conspired with a research firm to damage his reputation. Rachel Weiner reports: “The lawsuit in federal court in Alexandria follows two that Nunes filed in state court against parody Twitter accounts, Twitter, a Republican strategist and the media company McClatchy for reporting on or mocking him. In the federal suit, Nunes says ethics complaints filed by the Campaign for Accountability are retaliation for his work on the House Intelligence Committee, in which he has repeatedly impugned the integrity of the firm Fusion GPS and the credibility of a dossier a researcher hired by the firm compiled on President Trump’s alleged connections to Russia. … In the suit, Nunes denies sharing text messages sent by Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) with Fox News, a leak that provoked concern about his committee from senators on both sides of the aisle. The lawsuit claims ‘active, coordinated and ongoing corruption, fraud and obstruction of justice’ that caused ‘injury to his business and reputation, court costs, and other damages.’”
-- Former Illinois congressman Aaron Shock, once a rising Republican political star, was officially cleared of criminal charges after striking an unusual deal with prosecutors. From the Chicago Tribune: “Completing what’s known as a deferred prosecution, federal prosecutors in Chicago dropped all charges against Schock after he completed a probationary period where he stayed out of trouble and paid back $68,000 to his congressional campaign funds that he’d used for personal expenses. Schock, of Peoria, was also required to work out a plan to pay back taxes to the IRS.”
BRAVE NEW WORLD:
-- Voice-mimicking software was reportedly used to imitate a company executive’s speech, duping subordinates into sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to a secret account. Some researchers believe this is one of the world’s first publicly reported artificial-intelligence heists. Drew Harwell reports: “The managing director of a British energy company, believing his boss was on the phone, followed orders one Friday afternoon in March to wire more than $240,000 to an account in Hungary, said representatives from the French insurance giant Euler Hermes, which declined to name the company. The request was ‘rather strange,’ the director noted later in an email, but the voice was so lifelike that he felt he had no choice but to comply. … Now being developed by a wide range of Silicon Valley titans and AI start-ups, such voice-synthesis software can copy the rhythms and intonations of a person’s voice and be used to produce convincing speech. … Researchers at the cybersecurity firm Symantec said they have found at least three cases of executives’ voices being mimicked to swindle companies. The company declined to name the victim companies, or say whether the Euler Hermes case was one of them, but noted that the losses in one of the cases totaled in the millions of dollars.”
-- Federal law enforcement officials met with Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft to talk about election security ahead of the 2020 presidential race. Tony Romm and Ellen Nakashima report: “The meeting at Facebook’s headquarters in Silicon Valley included security officials from each of the four tech companies as well as representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence and the FBI, the sources said … In a statement, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, Nathaniel Gleicher, said the goal was to ‘build on previous discussions and further strengthen strategic collaboration regarding the security of the 2020 U.S. state, federal, and presidential elections.’ … The gathering marked the first such meeting involving industry and government of its size this year to address 2020 election security, according to one of the sources familiar with the proceedings.”
-- Google will pay $170 million to settle allegations that it illegally collected data about children younger than age 13 who watched YouTube videos. Tony Romm, Greg Bensinger and Craig Timberg report: “In a sweeping complaint, state and federal regulators alleged Google knew that some channels on YouTube were popular among young viewers and tracked kids’ viewing habits for the purpose of serving them targeted ads, ultimately raking in ‘close to $50 million’ from just a short list of channels that violated federal children’s privacy laws. … State and federal regulators said the settlement would force YouTube and other social media companies to be mindful when children under age 13 are using their services. But a wide array of privacy advocates, lawmakers and even some of the FTC’s own members said the penalties against Google would serve as no deterrent given its massive revenue. … The settlement also held no Google executives directly accountable, didn’t require the company to admit guilt and left some experts fearful that it might contain a loophole allowing YouTube to avoid liability for kids’ privacy missteps in the future.”
-- Two Stanford grads thought they’d come up with the “future of smoking” fifteen years ago with a product that they hoped would earn them glory in Silicon Valley. Instead, the creators of Juul are now at the forefront of the panic over the teen vaping epidemic. Marie C. Baca reports: Adam Bowen and James Monsees “are chief technology officer and chief product officer, respectively, of Juul Labs, a company valued at $38 billion. But instead of being seen as an agent of social change, Juul has increasingly found itself labeled — by politicians, regulators and health experts — as one of the instigators of the teenage vaping epidemic. … As the market leader, Juul has borne the brunt of accusations it has drawn younger users with its sweet-flavored products. Earlier this year, researchers at Stanford’s medical school concluded that ‘Juul’s advertising imagery in its first 6 months on the market was patently youth oriented,’ and that its use of social media platforms and influencers may have targeted the market. … Juul has vehemently denied the allegations.”
-- A federal judge ruled that a federal government database that compiles people deemed to be “known or suspected terrorists” violates constitutional rights. From the Times: The ruling calls “into question the constitutionality of a major tool the F.B.I. and the Department of Homeland Security use for screening potential terrorism suspects. Being on the watchlist can restrict people from traveling or entering the country, subject them to greater scrutiny at airports and by the police, and deny them government benefits and contracts. In a 32-page opinion, Judge Anthony J. Trenga of United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia said the standard for inclusion in the database was too vague. … As of 2017, about 1.2 million people were on the watchlist, which is maintained by the F.B.I.’s Terrorist Screening Center. Although a vast majority of them were foreigners abroad, about 4,600 were American citizens who are protected by the Constitution. Among them, a group of 19 Americans, represented by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, filed a lawsuit charging that their inclusion violated their due process rights.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson suffered two major losses in Parliament, leaving not only the terms of Brexit unclear but also his governing authority in doubt. Kevin Sullivan and Karla Adam report: To recap, “after just six weeks on the job, Johnson has lost his governing majority, exiled some of his party’s most honored members and been slapped down by lawmakers three times in 24 hours. … Things came to a head Wednesday night when lawmakers in the House of Commons, as they had the night before, defied Johnson’s will and, this time, passed legislation seeking to avert a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31 and effectively delay Brexit another three months. Opposition lawmakers were joined by more than 20 rebel members of Johnson’s Conservative Party to hand him a humiliating defeat. The bill still needed to be passed by the House of Lords, which planned to debate all night Wednesday but is expected to give its approval.”
-- Johnson also lost a key supporter – his younger brother, Jo, who quit as a Conservative Member of Parliament, saying he is “torn between family loyalty and the national interest.” In a tweet he tagged #overandout, the younger Johnson said it is time “for others to take on my roles.” He voted Remain in 2016. (BBC)
-- But the prime minister at least still has Trump’s support, per Anne Gearan and Robert Costa: “He’s a friend of mine, and he’s going at it, there’s no question about it,” Trump said. “Boris knows how to win. Don’t worry about him.”
-- Trump’s support for Johnson – and Brexit – might falter once he sees what it does to the economy. David J. Lynch reports: “Continuing instability in the world’s fifth-largest economy — coupled with anti-government protests in Hong Kong, a U.S.-China trade war, and financial problems in major developing countries such as Argentina and Turkey — threatens to become a drag on an already troubled global economy. … Global worries already are showing up in currency and bond markets. Investors seeking the safety of liquid markets or guaranteed returns are driving up the value of the dollar and U.S. government securities. The greenback last month reached an all-time high against a basket of major trading currencies. That’s a hint of what might happen in the event of an abrupt Brexit. If Britain were to quit the E.U. without a formal withdrawal agreement — as Johnson has threatened — the biggest blows would fall on the United Kingdom and its European trading partners.”
-- China and the U.S. will resume trade talks in Washington next month. Gerry Shih reports: “China’s top trade negotiator, Vice Premier Liu He, agreed to the October visit in a phone call with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer, China’s Commerce Ministry said in a statement. It added that ‘serious’ mid-level discussions will begin in mid-September to prepare for the October visit. … The October talks — the 13th round of dialogue — were previously scheduled for September. Chinese officials in recent weeks have suggested that lower-level discussions with Washington were continuing even while Trump has fumed on Twitter about China’s behavior and threatened ‘much tougher’ actions. New tariffs from both sides went into effect Sunday. It's unclear whether either side expects significant outcomes from the talks.”
-- Iran will abandon restrictions on nuclear research and development as it continues reducing its commitments made under the 2015 nuclear deal, President Hassan Rouhani said. Erin Cunningham reports: “Rouhani said Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization will ‘immediately start research and development on whatever technical needs the country has and will set aside all the commitments stipulated’ under the nuclear deal, according to Iranian state media. … Iran has said it will reduce its commitments under the agreement every 60 days until Europe negotiates improved economic terms and offsets the effects of the U.S. sanctions. … The announcement Wednesday could raise tensions with the United States, which has pushed a ‘maximum-pressure campaign’ that it says will persuade Iran to strike a grand bargain on issues such as its nuclear program, ballistic missiles and support for proxy forces in the region.”
-- The Taliban bombed Kabul again, killing two NATO service members, as the U.S. envoy tries to seal a peace deal. Siobhán O’Grady and Sayed Salahuddin report: “The U.S. and Romanian soldiers died in a Taliban-claimed car bombing in a heavily fortified part of central Kabul just after 10 a.m., a U.S. military official confirmed. … The Taliban said in a statement that it had targeted a convoy of foreigners. In footage circulating on social media, a van is seen entering a crowded traffic circle before exploding close to two white SUVs, a number of sedans and some pedestrians, including one who appeared to try to run from the scene just before the bomb detonated. The United States and the Taliban completed their ninth round of talks in Qatar on Sunday, and top U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad then flew straight to Kabul to brief officials here on the proposed plan.”
-- Russia and India agreed to work together on military projects. Amie Ferris-Rotman reports: “The commitment was made during talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who are in Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East for an economic forum. … Russia and India, historical allies that build nuclear plants together and have similar plans for Kalashnikov automatic rifles, did not give details about the military cooperation but said the collaboration would ‘include establishing joint development and production of military equipment, spare parts and components as well as improving the system of after sales services,’ according to a joint statement.”
-- A conservative town in Australia set aside its politics to rally for a family facing deportation. Rebecca Tan reports: “Biloela sits firmly in the voting territory for Australia’s conservative National Party, but the presiding rule, residents say, is that it’s rude to talk about politics. Folks here have little interest in the issues that plague Parliament in Canberra — that is, until it took away one of their own. In this past year, Biloela has campaigned vigorously against Australia’s national government in defense of a Tamil family from Sri Lanka seeking protection against deportation, becoming the unlikely champion of immigration reform along the way. Kokilapathmapriya Nadesalingham and her husband, Nadesalingam Murugappan, who go by Priya and Nades, fled Sri Lanka amid a civil war and settled in Biloela five years ago. After failed attempts at securing the appropriate visas, the couple, along with their two Australian-born daughters, Kopika, 4, and Tharunicaa, 2, were seized by immigration authorities from their home last year and placed in a detention facility under deportation proceedings.”
-- The former first lady of Honduras was sentenced to 58 years in prison for embezzling about $600,000 in government money between 2010 and 2014, when her husband Porfirio Lobo was president. (La Prensa)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
A CNN correspondent found the source of Trump's controversial Hurricane Dorian map:
A reporter noted that 2020 candidate Marianne Williamson deleted this comment on Hurricane Dorian:
The lifestyle guru took offense at the re-posting of her message:
Rep. Sensenbrenner's departure didn't come as a shock to this Republican operative:
The BBC introduced a stressed Britain to Boris Johnson's new pet:
A couple of 2020 candidates took public transit while in New York City for the CNN climate forum:
And a Vox writer envisioned what former 2020 Democratic candidate Jay Inslee, who ran on a platform focused on combating climate change, might've felt like while watching the forum:
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “If I wanted to do nothing with China, my stock market — our stock market — would be 10,000 points higher than it is right now,” Trump said, admitting that his trade war is hurting the stock market. “But somebody had to do this. To me, this is much more important than the economy.” (JM Rieger)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert grilled Joe Biden about his gaffes, and Biden responded with another one. But it was intentional:
Speaking of gaffes, Colbert also made fun of Trump for allegedly doctoring a hurricane map:
Seth Meyers mocked the White House's release of a list of Trump's accomplishments:
And "Daily Show" correspondent Jaboukie Young-White presented an idea to keep would-be shooters away from guns: