with Brent D. Griffiths

The People

MOOCH ADO ABOUT SOMETHING: Leave it to Anthony Scaramucci to milk a news cycle for almost as long as his short-lived tenure at the White House. 

Continuing his surprising evolution from reliable surrogate to anti-Trump truth teller, Scaramucci announced he was assembling a coalition of former Trump Cabinet officials to speak out against the president ahead of the 2020 election — a cable news sound bite that, yet again, set off the president. He says he's assembling a coalition of people like him to seek a GOP alternative to Trump in the primary.

  • In an op-ed in today's Post, Scaramucci restated what might now be obvious to all watching: He won't support Trump for reelection.
  • “I broke from Trump because not only has his behavior become more erratic and his rhetoric more inflammatory, but also because, like all demagogues, he is incapable of handling constructive criticism,” Scaramucci wrote. “As we lie on the bed of nails Trump has made, it’s often difficult to see how much the paradigm of acceptable conduct has shifted. For the Republican Party, it’s now a question of whether we want to start cleaning up the mess or continue papering over the cracks.” 
  • As for the attacks that Trump unleashed on his former ally throughout the day and late into the night on Twitter, Scaramucci told Power Up it's “because he knows I'm right.”
  • “He can feel his support eroding. He can feel himself losing control. He knows he’s unhinged but can’t help himself. He’s also trying to make an example out of me so nobody else speaks out,” the Mooch told us. 

Memo to the GOP: Many have cycled through Trump's White House since he took office — often leaving on hostile terms. But they've rarely turned against their boss so publicly a la Mooch. 

Scaramucci declined to provide names of who will be joining his gang of Trump supporters gone rogue to Power Up. Asked if he had reached out to former officials like former defense secretary Jim Mattis and former chief of staff John Kelly, both of whom had tumultuous relationships with the president, Scaramucci said he wants “to respect everyone's privacy until they're ready to come forward.” 

  • “I challenge my fellow Republicans to summon the nerve to speak out on the record against Trump,” Scaramucci writes in the op-ed. “Defy the culture of fear he has created, and go public with the concerns you readily express in private. Hold on to your patriotism, and help save the country from his depredations. And to members of the so-called resistance, please leave room on the off-ramp for those willing to admit their mistakes.” 

THEN THERE WERE NONE: Scaramucci expressed concern there ultimately won't be a Republican willing to step up to the plate to challenge Trump for fear of alienating Trump's base. However, he hopes potential candidates weigh the moral imperatives over future political prospects. 

  • “Ideally, it would be someone with broad enough support within the party to pull in both moderates and Trump voters,” Scaramucci described of his ideal candidate. 

Scaramucci also told Power Up that the only thing that stands between Trump and defeat  at the ballot box is the economy. 

  • “Yes, if the economy falters, his approval rating will be in the low 30s,” he told us.
  • Mooch described the economy as slowing due to Trump's” self inflicted wounds from the trade war,” and said voters should not support the president because of his economic policies — regardless of whether there's a recession: “This guy is causing a major amount of damage to the country and whatever those economic policies are — which are now starting to fail — they do not outweigh what he is doing style wise and as it relates to our images and alliances throughout the world,” he told C-Span radio. 


Trump tweeted this late last night:

At The White House

TRUMP BACKS AWAY FROM BACKGROUND CHECKS: “President Trump appears to be backing away from potential support for gun background check legislation, according to White House aides, congressional leaders and gun advocates, dimming prospects that Washington will approve significant new gun measures in the wake of mass shootings that left 31 dead,” our colleagues Josh Dawsey and David Nakamura report.

  • What’s happening behind the scenes:Trump’s communication with key lawmakers, including Sen. Joe Manchin III, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia who has sought to develop bipartisan gun-control measures, has gone mostly cold, according to Capitol Hill aides, in part because Congress has left town for its summer recess,” Josh and David write.
  • The NRA has stepped up pressure: “NRA officials also have lobbied Vice President Pence’s office and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, as well as governors and lawmakers who face potentially difficult reelection races in 2020, officials said. White House aides and NRA officials have pointed out to Trump that many of the states he needs to win next year have strong contingents of NRA members who would be frustrated if Trump made any drastic moves on gun control.”
  • Key quote from a longtime GOP Hill aide: “I can’t think of a single time he has really pushed Republicans to do something they weren’t going to be doing anyway,” Brendan Buck, who served as a top aide to former House speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), told our colleagues. “I think he personally wants to do something, but I’m not sure how equipped he is to maintain his attention on it for the next two months — which this would require — in the face of pushback from people he cares about.”

The Policies

WHITE HOUSE EYEING PAYROLL TAX CUT: “Several senior White House officials have begun discussing whether to push for a temporary payroll tax cut as a way to arrest an economic slowdown, three people familiar with the discussions said, revealing growing concerns about the economy among President Trump’s top economic aides,” our colleague Damian Paletta scoops. “Even though deliberations about the payroll tax cut were held Monday, the White House released a statement disputing that the idea was actively under ‘consideration.”

  • Early days: “The officials also have not decided whether to formally push Congress to approve any of these measures, these people said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose internal discussions. But the White House increasingly is discussing ideas to boost a slowing economy, they said.”
  • The takeaway: “The statement and the internal discussions over the payroll tax cut are part of a rapidly evolving effort by the White House to exude confidence about the economy’s strength while simultaneously hunting for ways to bolster business and consumer confidence.”
  • The New York Times reports the administration is considering reversing some of its tariffs, too.
  • Key quote: "Mr. Trump continues to insist the economy is 'doing tremendously well,' and he and his advisers publicly dismiss any notion of an impending recession. But behind the scenes, Mr. Trump’s economic team is pulling together contingency plans in the event the economy weakens further," report Maggie Haberman, Jim Tankersley and Annie Karni.
Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first two Muslim congresswomen, reacted on Aug. 19 to Israel's move restricting their entry to the region. (Reuters)

On The Hill

HALF THE SQUAD SLAMS ISRAEL: “Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, the two Muslim congresswomen prohibited from entering Israel last week, on Monday blasted the U.S. ally for blocking their visit and sought to highlight challenges facing Palestinians under Israeli policies in a rare news conference during a congressional recess,” our colleague Rachael Bade reports.

  • Omar pointed out the amount of aid the U.S. provides: “We give Israel more than $3 [billion] in aid every year. This is predicated on them being an important ally in the region and the only democracy in the Middle East,” Omar (D-Minn.) said. “But denying a visit to duly elected members of Congress is not consistent with being an ally, and denying millions of people freedom of movement or expression or self-determination is not consistent with being a democracy.” 
  • Tlaib, at times, spoke through tears: “My grandmother said… I’m her bird. She said I’m her dream manifested,” Tlaib (D-Mich) said, her voice growing angry as she started to cry while talking about her decision to not visit her grandmother after officials said she could if she signed a statement limiting her speech. “I’m her free bird, so why would I come back and be caged and bow down when my election rose her head up high, gave her dignity for the first time?” 

The Investigations

SENIOR HOUSE DEM BACKS IMPEACHMENT: “Ben Ray Luján, a close ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is the highest-ranking House Democrat to back impeachment thus far. The New Mexico Democrat, who currently serves as assistant speaker, is running to fill an open Senate seat in his home state next year,” Politico’s Heather Caygle and Kyle Cheney report. Luján is the number four House Democrat and the highest ranking Latino member of Congress.

  • Why this matters: “Luján's endorsement of an impeachment inquiry is a notable milestone because he helped elect many of the House's current crop of freshmen as the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee last year,” Caygle and Cheney write. “Backers of an impeachment inquiry have indicated that Luján's support could provide critical momentum among a swath of freshmen who have yet to endorse an inquiry.”
  • The total: 125 House Democrats now support opening an impeachment inquiry, according to our colleagues' count.

In the Media