With Mariana Alfaro

THE BIG IDEA: The calls were coming from inside the White House.

John Eisenberg has been the top legal adviser to the National Security Council since the start of the Trump administration. That made him a figure of interest in the FBI’s investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, the special counsel’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election and, now, the House’s inquiry into whether President Trump committed impeachable offenses by seeking the help of foreign governments to dig up dirt on a leading Democratic challenger in the 2020 election.

At least four national security officials were so alarmed by the Trump administration’s attempts to pressure Ukraine for political purposes that they raised concerns with Eisenberg before and immediately after Trump’s July 25 call with that country’s president, Greg Miller and Greg Jaffe scooped last night: “One official who had listened on the call went ‘immediately’ to Eisenberg. By the end of the next day, at least two others who had either heard the call or seen the rough transcript had also done so. … Within minutes, senior officials including national security adviser John Bolton were being pinged by subordinates about problems with what the president had said to his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky. …

“It is unclear whether some or all of the officials who complained to Eisenberg are also the ones who later spoke to the whistleblower. … But new details about the sequence inside the White House suggest that concerns about the call and events leading up to it were profound even among Trump’s top advisers, including Bolton and then-acting deputy national security adviser Charles Kupperman.

It is not clear whether Eisenberg took any action either after the warnings he received earlier in July or after the Trump-Zelensky conversation. One official said Eisenberg vowed he would ‘follow up,’ a message interpreted to mean that he intended to investigate the matter and perhaps relay the dismay up the ranks to White House counsel Pat Cipollone. If that occurred, it would help explain how the White House was already aware of concerns about the July 25 call when contacted by the CIA general counsel. … White House officials did not respond to questions about Eisenberg or to a request for comment.”

Revelations like these make it less tenable for Trump to dismiss the investigation into his conduct as a witch hunt. They also make it harder for his loyalists to brush aside the allegations of wrongdoing by questioning the motives of the whistleblower who filed a complaint with the intelligence community’s inspector general. These are additional examples of Trump’s own people being uncomfortable with how he was using the power of his office.

The cascading investigation into what happened also puts previously obscure figures under the glare of the national spotlight. Someone like Eisenberg could soon become a household name. But he’s not alone. The former DOJ lawyer is one of several officials at the upper echelons of the government who know the answers to some of the questions that have arisen about the president in the past few weeks. Together, they can choose to offer up — or conceal — the pieces that could complete the puzzle. Eisenberg is one of several new names you might hear a lot more about in the weeks ahead, especially as Congress returns next week from its fall recess.

-- Here are three other names you might not have heard before:

1. Michael Duffey, the former executive director of the Wisconsin Republican Party who is now at the Office of Management and Budget, is one of the political appointees in the White House who intervened to freeze aid to Ukraine despite some career staffers raising concerns that the move was improper. “Duffey was involved in approving orders to hold back nearly $400 million in congressionally approved military aid for Ukraine,” Josh Dawsey and Karoun Demirjian report. “Acknowledging some of the concerns, White House budget aides eventually disclosed to other government officials that the money was being frozen outside of the normal ‘apportionment’ process. But they didn’t give officials at the State Department or other agencies a reason the money was being withheld, or who had initially made the decision to freeze it, after substantive discussions about whether the move was legal.”

2. Michael McKinley, a career diplomat and senior adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, has resigned his position amid rising dissatisfaction and plummeting morale inside the State Department over what is seen as Pompeo’s failure to support people ensnared in the Ukraine controversy. Karen DeYoung scoops: “A senior officer who has held a range of diplomatic posts, including ambassador to Afghanistan, Colombia and Peru, McKinley was serving as ambassador to Brazil last year when Pompeo recruited him as a policy adviser and a conduit between his office and the career service. … Although he had no direct involvement with Ukraine, part of McKinley’s job involved taking the temperature of the building for Pompeo. Like many others, he was disappointed in the secretary’s lack of public support for diplomats who have been named in the Ukraine controversy…”

3. Michael Pillsbury, one of Trump’s China advisers, publicly contradicted himself on whether he received information on Hunter Biden during a visit to Beijing shortly after Trump called on China to investigate the son of the former vice president. “I got a quite a bit of background on Hunter Biden from the Chinese,” Pillsbury was quoted as telling the Financial Times. Hours later, appearing on C-SPAN, Pillsbury denied making the comment. “I haven’t spoken to the Financial Times for a month,” he said. Then the FT made public a Wednesday email from Pillsbury, which included that quote.

Reached by The Post, Pillsbury gave a different explanation. “Most everything I learned was already public or well-known,” he said. “Pillsbury said he spoke with Trump just before he went on his trip to China last month, but he said the president didn’t ask him to raise Biden to Chinese officials,” David Lynch and Dawsey report. “The China expert said he’d never spoken with Trump about Hunter Biden but was aware of the president calling for the Chinese to investigate from the South Lawn of the White House last week. ‘What a wonderful, hypothetical question,’ he said, when asked if he plans to report back to Trump. Pillsbury declined to say more, saying that White House officials had asked him not to disclose his conversations with the president.”

-- A growing number of other current and former administration officials appear inclined to answer questions about Trump’s conduct. Taken together, these developments indicate that the White House’s stated intention to not cooperate with Congress won’t succeed in shutting down the investigation:

1) Marie Yovanovitch, the ousted ambassador to Ukraine, arrived this morning for a deposition on Capitol Hill. “According to people familiar with the negotiations, Yovanovitch has been quite willing to testify about her experience,” Karoun Demirjian and Carol Morello report. “Lawmakers are expected to ask Yovanovitch about her interactions with [Rudy] Giuliani, Trump, and others pertaining to the investigations they sought. … For many U.S. diplomats, she has become a symbol of the political pressures being applied to apolitical professionals working for the State Department.”

2) E.U. Ambassador Gordon Sondland will be allowed to testify before House committees investigating Trump next week, according to Axios: “After the State Department pulled the plug on Sondland's testimony, Republicans close to Trump encouraged the president to let the ambassador come before the committees. Trump's allies believe Sondland's testimony will be helpful to their side. ‘Republicans are looking for any silver lining they can get,’ the source said. ‘Sondland could be a silver lining. … He donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural. He’s a Trump guy. Whereas Yovanovitch is a career person.’”

3) Fiona Hill, who was Trump’s top aide on Russia and Europe until this summer, plans to tell Congress on Monday that Giuliani and Sondland circumvented the National Security Council and the normal White House process to pursue a shadow policy on Ukraine, a person familiar with her expected testimony told NBC News: “Hill plans to say that Giuliani and Sondland side-stepped the proper process for accessing Trump on Ukraine issues … including circumventing John Bolton,” per Josh Lederman, Carol Lee and Kristen Welker. “A Russia hawk and one of the U.S. government’s foremost experts on Russian President Vladimir Putin, Hill had wound down her role overseeing Russia and Europe policy at the National Security Council in July shortly before Trump’s call. … So it’s unclear how much she would know about that call, although she would have had deep knowledge of events leading up to the call. …

Hill’s appearance next week before Congress has stoked fear among people close to the president, said a former senior White House official. … Hill was not viewed as a Trump loyalist, leading those close to Trump to worry that she can’t be controlled or pressured not to reveal potentially damaging information about the president, the former senior White House official said.”

-- House Democrats have requested a deposition from Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, but his interview has not yet been formally scheduled. CNN reports: “The request, if met by expected White House and State Department opposition, is likely to present a quandary for the longtime diplomat, according to former State Department officials who know him. Those former officials close to the former ambassador suggested that if Taylor were made to choose between staying on to guide US policy as charge d'affaires in Kiev — a post he came out of retirement to take — or resigning to be able to testify, he would choose the former.” (In case you missed, I wrote a Big Idea about Taylor last Friday.)

-- H.R. McMaster, Trump’s second of four national security advisers, was asked Thursday whether it’s appropriate for a president to solicit foreign interference in the American political process. “Absolutely not,” he said at a Foundation for the Defense of Democracies event. He added that it’s up to Congress and the people “to make a judgment as to whether or not that happened.” But, he added, “of course it’s just not appropriate,” per Ellen Nakashima.

-- Bolton, who replaced McMaster, took another concrete step toward writing a tell-all about his time in the Trump White House. He’s agreed to be represented by Javelin's Matt Latimer and Keith Urbahn, Axios’s Jonathan Swan reports, who previously represented Jim Comey and former Trump White House staffer Cliff Sims in seven-figure deals. This could land in the middle of the election year like a grenade.

-- Perhaps just as interesting as the people who are speaking up are those Trump aides who have gone radio silent. Normally talkative advisers have pulled a disappearing act amid the impeachment inquiry, remaining mostly absent from public view, the AP observes: “Indeed, knowing ‘when to be out of town’ was one of the top nuggets of advice that Kevin Hassett, the president’s former top economic adviser, said he’d received from a predecessor and had to offer his successor. Adding to the vacuum is the continued lack of White House briefings. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham has yet to hold one.”


-- Two Soviet-born associates who have been working closely with Giuliani were arrested on charges of scheming to funnel foreign money to U.S. politicians while trying to influence relations with Ukraine, according to an unsealed indictment. Devlin Barrett, John Wagner and Rosalind S. Helderman report: “The two men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who had been helping Giuliani investigate [Joe Biden], were arrested Wednesday evening at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, where they had one-way tickets on a flight out of the country. ... Parnas and Fruman have been under investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan. After a court appearance Thursday in Alexandria, Va., the pair were approved for release on $1 million bond each, under the condition they remain at their Florida homes with GPS monitoring and third-party custodians. They will remain in jail until those conditions are met. They did not enter a plea to the charges.”

The arrests mark the first criminal charges to emerge from L'Affaire Ukraine: The president told reporters last night that he didn’t know Parnas or Furman. Jay Sekulow, another lawyer representing Trump, said in a statement that “neither the President nor the [Trump] campaign were aware of the allegations.” But John Dowd, a lawyer for Parnas and Fruman who formerly worked for Trump, told Congress in a statement earlier this week that they had been assisting Giuliani in his work on behalf of the president. 

"The indictment does not mention Giuliani or suggest that he was connected to the alleged crimes. A person familiar with the investigation said federal agents are scrutinizing Giuliani’s dealings with Parnas and Fruman but cautioned that this was to be expected as the FBI examines the pair’s finances. … In an interview Thursday, Giuliani declined to answer specific questions about the arrest of his two associates or his financial dealings with them, citing his past legal work for them. …

The Justice Department charges that Parnas and Fruman disguised the source of a $325,000 donation made in 2018 to America First, the main pro-Trump super PAC, by giving the money in the name of Global Energy Producers. … Federal prosecutors say the company was a front used to disguise the funds’ true source and that the money for the political action committee came from ‘a private lending transaction between Fruman and third parties.’ ... Prosecutors said Parnas, a Ukrainian-born U.S. citizen, and Fruman, a Belarusian-born U.S. citizen, [also] schemed to exceed campaign donation limits in giving money to an unnamed U.S. congressman, at the same time that they were asking the congressman to get the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine removed from her job. … The indictment does not identify the congressman by name, but public campaign records indicate he is former Texas congressman Pete Sessions (R), who lost his reelection bid last year.”

-- Read the full indictment here. “These allegations are not about some technicality, a civil violation or an error on a form,” said William Sweeney Jr., head of the FBI’s field office in New York. “This investigation is about corrupt behavior [and] deliberate lawbreaking.”

-- After the indictment was unsealed, House investigators issued subpoenas for Parnas and Fruman. They want documents and their eventual testimony as part of the impeachment inquiry.

-- The Post also confirmed Bloomberg News’s scoop that Trump sought to enlist the help of Rex Tillerson, when he was secretary of state, to stop the prosecution of another Giuliani client: a Turkish Iranian gold trader who faced criminal charges for evading sanctions on Iran. Dawsey, Carol Leonnig and Matt Zapotosky obtained new details about the extent of Giuliani’s lobbying effort to kill the case — including his presence in the Oval Office during Trump’s meeting with Tillerson and a visit that the former New York mayor made to the Justice Department to ask for the case to be dropped:

“After the meeting, Giuliani called Tillerson to try to follow up, but the then-secretary of state rebuffed him. … White House officials, particularly [then-chief of staff John] Kelly, were dismayed by his conversations with Trump, who did not seem to understand that he should not interfere in a criminal investigation, according to people with familiar with the conversations. … Sometime in mid- to late 2017, Giuliani showed up at the Justice Department and requested a meeting with then-Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. … One of the people said that when Giuliani, who did not have an appointment, called to say he was coming by, he said he was coming from the White House. His request to meet with Rosenstein was denied, the people said, though they said it was possible Giuliani then met with lower-level officials.”

Giuliani declined to discuss these episodes. “You’re not my prosecutor,” he told The Post.

    -- Parnas’s company, Fraud Guarantee, retained Giuliani last year for what Giuliani said was business and legal advice. From the New York Times's Ken Vogel: "Even as he worked with Parnas’s company, Giuliani increasingly relied on Parnas and his associate Fruman to carry out Trump’s quest for evidence in Ukraine that would undercut the legitimacy of Bob Mueller’s investigation and help him in the 2020 reelection campaign. Parnas and Fruman were sent to Kiev where, according to BuzzFeed, they ran up big charges at a strip club and a hotel.”

    -- The two men were bound for Vienna when they were nabbed at Dulles, per the Wall Street Journal.

    -- Giuliani was planning on flying to the same city roughly 24 hours after Parnas and Fruman were arrested, according to the Atlantic's Elaina Plott. She was supposed to meet with the president’s lawyer Thursday before he canceled at roughly the same time his associates were captured: Giuliani told the Journal that he himself only had plans to meet with Parnas and Fruman when they returned to Washington. Plott notes that something does not add up:

    "By this logic, Giuliani was also planning to fly to Vienna within roughly 24 hours of his business associates, but do no business with them while all three were there. This morning, Giuliani told me he’d have to reschedule our lunch. ... When I called at 3 p.m. ET to ask about his Vienna trip, a woman claiming to be his communications director answered the phone. I have called him more than 100 times over the past year, and this is the first time that has ever happened. She said she’d have to get back to me. As we spoke, I could hear a voice that resembled Giuliani’s shout ... in the background. ‘Oh, sorry,” the woman told me. ‘He was talking to the TV.’”

    -- House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said he will donate money he took from Giuliani’s indicted associates. From CNN: “‘These contributions were made ahead of events sponsored by Protect the House, a joint fundraising committee that McCarthy helped form last cycle,’ a spokesman for McCarthy told CNN. ‘The deception documented in today's indictment has no place in our country and as a result, McCarthy plans to donate amounts received to a local charity.’ … According to Federal Election Commission data, Parnas donated $2,700 to Kevin McCarthy for Congress, and $11,000 to Protect the House. The donations were not the only connection between the House minority leader and the two men. McCarthy had also previously attended an event with them, the Miami Herald reported last week. Fruman and Parnas brought Giuliani to a gala dinner of the National Council of Young Israel, a Jewish communal group, last March where McCarthy was the keynote speaker, according to the paper.”

    -- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also said he will return a $50,000 donation from Parnas and Fruman, per the Herald. Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott’s victory fund also received a $15,000 donation last year from Fruman, but a spokesman did not respond to the Herald’s request for comment.


    -- House investigators issued a subpoena to Energy Secretary Rick Perry over his Ukraine work, asking him to provide documents related to a Ukrainian state-owned energy company as well as his involvement in the July 25 call. The lawmakers set a deadline for Oct. 18.

    -- Lawyers for the first whistleblower asked Congress if their client can submit testimony instead of appearing in person. From the Journal: “The request reflects concerns about whether the whistleblower could testify to Democrats and Republicans without revealing his identity, and fears that doing so would lead to it being publicly leaked, jeopardizing his personal safety. The intelligence committees haven't yet responded."

    -- Trump said last night that former congressman Trey Gowdy won’t join his defense team until next year – at the earliest – after all. “Trey Gowdy can't start until sometime after January because of the lobbying rules and regulations,” the president told reporters. “So I don't know. We'll have to see.” Yahoo News reports that Gowdy coming onto the team irked allies of Giuliani, including Victoria Toensing.

    -- Trump’s biggest lender, Deutsche Bank, has told an appeals court it does not have in its possession Trump’s personal tax returns. The disclosure came in an order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, which is considering whether Trump can block subpoenas from two House committees seeking years of his personal financial documents. (Ann Marimow)

    -- As Trump lashed out at Fox News, Attorney General Bill Barr met privately with network owner Rupert Murdoch at his home in New York. According to the Times, it is unclear whether anyone else attended or what was discussed.

    -- Notable commentary:

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    -- The Washington Mystics won their first WNBA title after defeating the Connecticut Sun 89-78. “The final game of the best-of-five WNBA Finals series was a choppy, foul-laden affair that kept Washington from playing its preferred style, but that didn’t matter to the victors,” Ava Wallace and Emily Giambalvo report.


    -- Iran said missiles struck one of its oil tankers in the Red Sea, spilling oil into the ocean. The tanker was hit by two explosions near the Saudi port city of Jiddah and the blast is now under investigation. (Erin Cunningham)

    -- The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who helped end a standoff with neighboring Eritrea. Max Bearak reports: “The 43-year-old former intelligence officer has ushered in an era of hope for peace and greater freedoms in Africa’s second-most populous country, which has long been governed by authoritarian regimes.”

    -- Turkish forces are pushing deeper into Syria, as the Kurds struggle to defend their homeland. Kareem Fahim and Erin Cunningham report: “The escalating violence sent thousands of civilians on both sides of the border fleeing their homes, and aid agencies warned of a humanitarian crisis, with the United Nations reporting more than 70,000 people already displaced in northeast Syria. ... Kurdish authorities in northern Syria said as many as 10 civilians were killed by Turkish forces, while mortar and rocket fire from Syria left six people dead inside Turkey, local officials said.”

    -- Trump is under increasing pressure to take action in response to Turkey’s invasion. Karen DeYoung reports: “While one senior administration official said that sanctioning Turkey was the leading option, another said that mediation was ‘the path the president would most prefer to do.’ Separately, a senior Trump adviser described the president as indecisive and said that [Pompeo] and [Mick Mulvaney] had warned him that he was getting ‘boxed into a complete corner’ by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. … Trump has said he would strike back if Turkey took action that he disapproved of. That, [according to a second administration official], ‘would include ethnic cleansing’ of Kurdish areas in northern Syria and ‘in particular,’ indiscriminate artillery, air, and other fires directed at civilian populations.”

    -- The U.N. Security Council's emergency meeting to discuss the crisis highlighted the degree to which the Russians are on board with the Turk offensive. “Amid mounting criticism, Erdogan has threatened to open the borders to send millions of the Syrian refugees into Europe unless the governments stop calling the military action an invasion,” Carol Morello reports. “Five European ambassadors who had called the (emergency) meeting hoping to present a unified front against Turkey stood together with a sixth, from Estonia, and demanded that Turkey cease its military operations. They vowed not to provide stabilization or development assistance in areas where the local population is mistreated. Kelly Craft, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the Trump administration does not endorse Turkey’s military action and warned of unspecified ‘consequences’ but stopped short of condemning it. … The Russian U.N. ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, accused the United States and its coalition allies of conducting ‘demographic engineering’ that he said led to the conflict.”

    -- Norway and Finland have suspended all exports of military arms to Turkey. (i24News)

    -- “Our sons were killed by the Islamic State. Don’t let ISIS prisoners in Syria go free.” That's the message of an op-ed in today's paper by Diane Foley, the mother of journalist James Foley, and Art Sotloff and Shirley Sotloff, the parents of journalist Steven Sotloff: “We have heard the administration’s avowals that it has sent U.S. troops to take Kotey and Elsheikh into custody and to secure their captivity in Iraq. This is, to be sure, welcome news. But it is not enough. While we are grateful to hear that these two particular ISIS fighters are now in custody, what of the other ISIS fighters and their families? What about the local civilian population and vulnerable Kurds who have helped contain ISIS as Turkey assaults this Syrian border territory? What will happen to the evidence of ISIS crimes in the region around Raqqa?”

    -- The three top House Republicans — McCarthy, Steve Scalise and Liz Cheney — announced that they and dozens of their GOP colleagues will introduce legislation to impose sanctions on Turkey for going into Syria. Retiring Republican Rep. John Shimkus (Ill.) went further. He said he's no longer supporting Trump’s reelection because of Syria. “We have just stabbed our allies in the back,” Shimkus said in a radio interview, per Mike DeBonis.

    -- At an event in South Carolina, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) called Trump’s decision to pull troops from northern Syria “the biggest blunder of his presidency.” Chris Dixon and Colby Itkowitz report: “When a reporter asked if this could become Trump’s Vietnam, Graham replied, ‘No, this is worse.’ … At his news conference, Graham highlighted that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had asked people to ‘pray for the Kurds.’”

    -- Graham’s public comments appear to contradict statements he made in August to someone who he thought was Turkey’s defense minister. It turns out he was being pranked by Russians who are allegedly linked to the Kremlin. From Politico: “Graham labeled the Kurds a ‘threat’ to Turkey in the call, seemingly contradicting what he has said publicly in recent days. Graham also mentions Trump’s personal interest in a ‘Turkish bank case’ in the call that appears to refer to a U.S. case involving [Giuliani's client] Reza Zarrab. ... In the call, Graham was primarily concerned with getting Turkey back into the F-35 program and urging the ‘defense minister’ to refrain from using Russia’s S-400 antiaircraft weapon system, which was fully delivered to Turkey last month in defiance of requests from the U.S. and NATO.”

    -- Historians would like Trump to know that, yes, some Kurds actually did fight with us in World War II, writes Siobhán O’Grady.

    -- The NBA apologized after a CNN reporter was shut down and cut off when she tried to ask two stars for the Houston Rockets about Hong Kong. The players refused to answer. Meanwhile, the Chinese government didn’t allow players and coaches from the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets to talk with reporters before or after a preseason game in Shanghai. (Matt Bonesteel and Ben Strauss)

    -- The suspect in the German synagogue shooting that killed two people is a right-wing extremist whose motive was anti-Semitism, authorities said. Government officials said the death toll, in what they're calling a terrorist attack, would have been higher had the attacker’s improvised weapons and explosives not malfunctioned. (Luisa Beck and Rick Noack)

    -- The Trump Organization got approval to build more than 50 homes and a new ballroom at its failing seaside golf course in Doonbeg, Scotland. (Joshua Partlow)

    -- Political turmoil is erupting across Latin America following a decade of remarkable success. Mary Beth Sheridan reports: “The crises, while different from country to country, have some common threads. The economy in much of Latin America has slowed. Democratic institutions remain weak. The public is far less tolerant of corruption and poor services. And polarization is rising.”


    -- Trump's appointees at the top of the Commerce Department helped draft the NOAA statement that backed up Trump for his false statements about Hurricane Dorian. Jason Samenow and Andrew Freedman report that the drafting process, which rebuked a field office in Birmingham, Ala., for saying that Dorian would not affect Alabama was orchestrated by three of Secretary Wilbur Ross’s top deputies, including his chief of staff. Neil Jacobs, acting head of NOAA, disclosed this during an interview with House staffers last week. Now the House Science Committee is asking for interviews with those Commerce Department officials, as well as all communications concerning the NOAA statement.

    -- More than three dozen Boeing 737 jets have been grounded worldwide after wing-related cracks were discovered during recent inspections, the company said. That includes a small number of U.S. planes, the FAA said. Boeing said its customers have completed 810 inspections so far, finding 38 cases that will “require repair.” (Michael Laris)

    -- Betsy DeVos's Education Department said it will continue funding a Middle East studies program at Duke University and the University of North Carolina that it had tried to cut off. The government this summer suggested the program promoted an overly positive view of Islam. (Laura Meckler)

    -- Blackouts continue to draw the ire of residents across North California. Scott Wilson reports: “Among the most frustrating elements of the blackout has been the utility’s inaccurate warnings and, in some cases, lack of warnings at all. Stated times for blackouts have been missed consistently, prompting some businesses to close when it has not been necessary and surprising others by happening without notice.”

    -- As PG&E shuts down Northern California’s power, Internet users in search of information shut down its website. From Marie Baca: “PG&E spokesman Paul Doherty said the utility doubled its server capacity in advance of the outages but that the traffic levels were eight times what PG&E expected and slowed the site significantly.”

    -- NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine met with Elon Musk in a bid to ease tensions in their relationship. The agency recently called out SpaceX for lagging behind on the construction of a capsule to ferry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. In a news conference after the meeting, Musk said SpaceX is committed to doing “everything possible to ensure the astronauts will be safe. Only at that point will we launch.” Meanwhile, Bridenstine said he has confidence in the company. “We will make it,” he said. (Christian Davenport)

    -- An appellate court rejected an 11th-hour request by Ohio to halt a landmark trial on whether drug companies are responsible for the opioid epidemic, ruling that the bid did not meet the strict test for such an extraordinary move. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost had filed to request to postpone or dismiss the case, arguing that cities and counties suing drug companies have usurped state authority. (Lenny Bernstein)

    -- The federal government published new guidelines on how, when and whether the millions of patients who use painkillers should be forced to cut back. A main point of the new guidance on tapering is that clinicians should be slow, cautious and deliberate when reducing dosages and should ensure that patients are tolerating the process. (Joel Achenbach)

    -- The rates of sexually transmitted diseases have surged to record highs, after the Trump administration defunded clinics that offered free tests, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report reveals that, in 2018, there were more than 2.4 million cases of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia infections combined, up more than 100,000 from 2017. The report says that limited access to STD testing — something that has been a consequence of Trump administration policies — makes it more challenging to quickly identify and treat STDs.

    -- U.S. health officials will release new guidance for doctors, stressing the need to ask every patient with an apparent respiratory infection about their vaping history. (Reuters)

    2020 WATCH:

    -- Trump attacked the Bidens in personal and coarse terms during a rally in Minneapolis last night. Seung Min Kim and Aaron Blake report: “Trump repeated his dubious claims that Hunter Biden secured $1.5 billion for an investment fund in China while his father served as Barack Obama’s vice president and mocked Hunter Biden’s personal problems, including his discharge from the Navy after he tested positive for cocaine use. … Mocking Hunter Biden’s lack of public appearances, Trump bellowed: ‘Whatever happened to Hunter? Where the hell is he? . . . I have an idea for a new T-shirt: . . . "Where’s Hunter?"  … [Joe] Biden ‘was never considered smart,’ Trump said. ‘He was never considered a good senator. He was only a good vice president because he figured out how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.’”

    ­-- The president also went after Rep. Ilhan Omar (D) of Minnesota, whom he called an “America-hating socialist.” He then widened his attack to target Somali refugees in Minnesota, a group that includes Omar, and promised rally attendees, who booed loudly at the mention of the state’s Somali residents, that he would “give local communities a great say in refugee policy and put in place enhanced vetting and responsible immigration controls.” (Allyson Chiu)

    -- University of Florida students protested a paid speech by Donald Trump Jr. and his girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle. The president's son got paid $50,000 from student activity fees for coming to the state school. Lori Rozsa reports: “As Trump and Guilfoyle spoke, touching on the usual campaign talking points such as immigration and low unemployment, a small but vocal group of protesters shouted, ‘Bulls---, bulls---.’ Guilfoyle responded: ‘I bet your parents are so proud of you.’ She was soon supported by a larger pro-Trump crowd with cries of ‘U.S.A.! U.S.A.!’ … The event, which had the atmosphere of a Trump campaign rally, ended with competing chants of ‘Four more years’ and ‘Lock him up!’”

    ­-- Nineteen counties across the country have backed every president since Ronald Reagan. Wisconsin has four of them. John McCormick and Ken Thomas, two of the nicest guys in the business, visited a few for a feature that will run in Saturday's Wall Street Journal: “From an economic standpoint, they are a mixed bag. Just more than half had unemployment rates above the national average for July, while some were well below that benchmark.”

    -- Biden has slipped in the polls and has become the target of Trump’s ire, but he maintains a sizable and loyal following. Cleve R. Wootson Jr. reports: “Nowhere is that more evident than in the African American community, recent interviews suggest, especially in states like South Carolina, which holds a crucial early primary. … Shedron Williams, a state representative from Hampton, S.C., predicted that ‘Biden is going to do well in South Carolina.’ Williams has not endorsed the former vice president, but said he continues to be popular among black voters. ‘Whoever is going to win South Carolina, it’s going to take the African American vote,’ Williams said. Polls back up that contention. In South Carolina, 37 percent of Democrats in a recent CNN poll said they support Biden, who leads [Elizabeth] Warren by more than 20 percentage points in the state.”

    -- Nine Democratic candidates participated in a CNN forum devoted to addressing LGBT issues. Teo Armus reports: “Before the audience, all nine candidates promised they would outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity and would reverse President Trump’s ban on transgender people openly serving in the military. For one candidate, the night was personal. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who came out as gay after serving in Afghanistan, spoke of coming out as a ‘civil war.’ … Buttigieg, along with [Kamala] Harris and [Warren], marked the date of the town hall to release their respective agendas on LGBTQ issues. … The town hall was also marked by a number of protests from transgender activists in the audience, who interrupted the candidates several times to point to the climbing number of murdered black trans women as well as what they said was a lack of space for their perspectives during the town hall.”

    ­-- Facebook's policies allow politicians to lie in their ads, sparking outrage among Democrats who complain that it gives Trump free rein to use a major platform to spread disinformation. Craig Timberg, Tony Romm and Drew Harwell report: “Warren … made this point in a Facebook ad Thursday in which she joked that the company had endorsed Trump, adding that its policies allow ‘a candidate to intentionally lie to the American people.’ Warren’s ad was the latest salvo in a growing campaign by Democrats to pressure social media companies to curb Trump’s ability to push demonstrably untrue information on their platforms.”

    -- Following CNN’s lead, NBCUniversal (which owns MSNBC) won’t continue to air a Trump reelection ad with false statements about the Bidens and Ukraine unless changes are made to the spot. (WSJ)

    -- Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), chair of the House Appropriations Committee, announced that she will not run for reelection. Lowey, 82, was the first woman to chair the powerful committee and has played a central role in blocking the money Trump sought for his border wall. (Erica Werner)


    Trump said he doesn't know Parnas and Fruman, the two Giuliani associates who were arrested, but he also acknowledged there might be pictures of him with them. Many were quick to share on social media:

    There’s always a tweet:

    Giuliani appeared to share an already public document that came to light during the DNC hack:

    If you thought the name of the company of one of Giuliani's associates was too on the nose, wait till you hear the name of the other associate's club:

    All news is local, including this Onion story:

    Hillary Clinton said she can’t keep up:

    Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr responded to Trump's taunts, saying he became the “shiny object” in a past news cycle:

    Time magazine featured some of America's youngest soldiers, who are fighting a war older than they are:

    QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We don’t need to lock him up,” Eric Trump said of Hunter Biden during his father's rally in Minneapolis. “We’re just going to beat the hell out of him. We’re going to win.” (Jenna Johnson, Seung Min Kim and Aaron Blake)



    Stephen Colbert used a Godfather reference to make fun of the idea that Trump sees himself as a mob boss: 

    Seth Meyers, referring to Giuliani and his two Soviet-born friends, said he can’t believe a man who “looks like a vampire had a henchman named Igor”:

    A man leaving Trump's rally in Minneapolis was attacked by protesters:

    Asylum seekers at the southern border protested their conditions. Border Patrol agents responded with smoke bombs:

    Sen. Bernie Sanders allowed film crews to take this footage as he recovers from last week's heart attack: