THE BIG IDEA: Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been holding his cards close to the vest on the Iran deal and could become a decisive vote. Now that Chuck Schumer, the likely next Democratic leader, is openly opposed to the agreement, Cardin has been getting increasing attention and pressure from both sides.

Cardin intends to remain neutral until after Labor Day – which is precisely when Congress will vote on the Iran deal, Karoun Demirjian reports this morning for PowerPost. He’s nodded to both sides in his public comments: saying the Obama administration “got an awful lot” but also worrying about the strength of the inspections regime and the U.S. ability to impose other sanctions on Iran for non-nuclear infractions. He’s also complained that Congress should have been more involved in the process.

And he has broken with the administration on foreign policy before, Karoun notes, including when President Obama sought Congress’ authorization to use military force against the Islamic State earlier this year, and in 2012, when Cardin pushed the Magnitsky Act through Congress — legislation requiring Russia to maintain a list of human rights abusers that Moscow responded to by banning American adoptions of Russian children — over the White House’s objections.

Though it still seems difficult to imagine Congress overriding an Obama veto, it would be a very significant blow if Cardin came out against the deal and would make it that much harder for the lame-duck president to persuade on-the-fence Democrats to fall in line. So keep your eyes on this guy:

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

— The FBI picked up the e-mail server used by Hillary Rodham Clinton when she served as secretary of state from a private data center in New Jersey, Tom Hamburger and Karen Tumulty scooped. “It was picked up about 4 p.m.,” said Barbara J. Wells, a Denver lawyer who represents Platte River Networks Inc., a small computer services firm that has managed the Clintons’ private e-mail system since mid-2013.

— “North Korea has been stepping up its capacity to mine and mill uranium, new satellite imagery shows, raising fears that Kim Jong Un’s regime is trying to expand its stockpile of nuclear weapons,” Anna Fifield reports from Tokyo. “The images show that a major mill that turns uranium ore into yellowcake, a first step towards enriching uranium, has recently been refurbished, says Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia non-proliferation program at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.” Meanwhile, North Korea’s vice premier has been executed for voicing frustration at the forestry policies of Kim Jong-Un, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said. Separately, we’ve learned that South Korea’s president will visit the White House on Oct. 16. She canceled her planned trip in June to deal with an outbreak of MERS.

TRUMP LATEST — 

A CNN/ORC poll conducted since the GOP debate put him in first place among likely Iowa caucus-goers, garnering 22 percent. Ben Carson took a surprising second (14%) over Scott Walker (9%). That’s a really bad number for the Wisconsin governor, who has allowed expectations to get dramatically out of hand.

George Will has had it with Republican leaders passively waiting for Trump’s support to collapse. Excoriating the billionaire as a “a counterfeit Republican and no conservative,” the columnist presses the Republican National Committee in his column this morning to “immediately stipulate” that subsequent Republican debates will be open only to candidates who pledge to support the nominee. “Conservatives today should deal with Trump with the firmness [National Review founder William F.] Buckley dealt with the John Birch Society in 1962. The society was an extension of a loony businessman who said Dwight Eisenhower was ‘a dedicated, conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy.’ In a 5,000-word National Review ‘excoriation’ (Buckley’s word), he excommunicated the society from the conservative movement. Buckley received an approving letter from a subscriber who said, ‘You have once again given a voice to the conscience of conservatism.’ The letter was signed, ‘Ronald Reagan, Pacific Palisades, Cal.’” Boom.

Rand Paul continues to troll Donald Trump in an effort to stay in the national conversation. It’s working. 

  • Paul released a TV ad (that his campaign says will run in New Hampshire and Iowa over the weekend) mocking The Donald for “telling it like it is” by praising the economy under Democrats, universal health care and Bill and Hillary Clinton — including the infamous clip of Bill saying it “depends what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”
  • Trump released a statement to the Post noting that he “trounced” Paul in a recent round of golf (after which he donated cash to Paul’s eye clinic). “Senator Paul has no chance of winning the nomination and the people of Kentucky should not allow him the privilege of remaining their Senator,” Trump said. “Rand should save his lobbyist’s and special interest money and just go quietly home.”
  • Not to be outdone, Paul strategist Doug Stafford replied with this: “Trump couldn’t set the intellectual conservative agenda of anything, not even the tiniest rooms, never mind a country. He is devoid of ideas other than he likes the idea of power and getting attention for foolish statements and bluster.”

GET SMART FAST:

  1. Jimmy Carter, 90, announced that “recent liver surgery” revealed that cancer has spread to other parts of his body. He’s undergoing treatment at Emory in Atlanta. “A more complete public statement will be made when facts are known, possibly next week,” he said in a three-sentence statement.
  2. TSA will move its 3,800 headquarters employees from Arlington to Alexandria, making it the latest in a string of agencies the federal government is moving out of the county to save money.
  3. The amber-toned plume of toxic mining waste spilled by the EPA in Colorado last week is slowly snaking its way toward Lake Powell — whose southern tip serves as an entry point to the Grand Canyon, the Las Vegas Sun reports.
  4. Ohio voters will vote in a ballot initiative this November on whether to legalize both recreational and medicinal use of marijuana. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)
  5. The United States has launched its first manned air strikes against Islamic State targets from the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.
  6. Switzerland will officially lift its sanctions against Iran today because of the nuclear deal. (Reuters)
  7. The Labor Department announced that total hiring rose 2.3 percent to 5.18 million in June, the most in six months and second-highest total since the recession ended in June 2009, per the AP. “Employers posted fewer job openings, but that figure has risen strongly in the past year. And more people quit their jobs, which is a good sign because many people quit when they have new jobs lined up, typically at higher pay.”
  8. More than 30 cars and homes were tagged with anti-Semitic graffiti in a Jewish enclave of San Antonio, including spray-painted swastikas, “KKK” lettering and other hateful slurs. (Express-News)
  9. The total number of whites younger than 20 declined in 46 of the 50 states between 2000 and 2014, National Journal’s Ronald Brownstein writes in a piece with a state-by-state breakdown.
  10. The Center for Medical Progress released its sixth anti-Planned Parenthood video.

POWER PLAYERS IN THE NEWS:

  1. CIA director John Brennan wrote a letter last July to the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee acknowledging that his agency’s penetration of the computer network used by committee staffers reviewing the agency’s torture program was improper and violated agreements the Intelligence Committee had made with the CIA. But he never sent the letter, and it is only coming to light because Vice News’ Jason Leopold got it through a FOIA request.
  2. Ben Carson said on Fox News that Planned Parenthood puts clinics in African-American neighborhoods “to control that population.” The retired neurosurgeon also attacked Margaret Sanger as someone who “believed in eugenics” and “was not particularly enamored with black people.”
  3. Scott Walker signed legislation in Wisconsin that will spend $250 million of taxpayer money on a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team, despite howls of outrage from movement conservatives. The team’s ownership group includes one of Walker’s top campaign fundraisers, Jenna Johnson reports.
  4. The liberal Jewish group J Street has decided to support both Democratic candidates in Maryland’s Senate primary race, a snub for Donna Edwards, who received their endorsement in May. Now Chris Van Hollen appears on its roster of approved candidates. (Rachel Weiner)
  5. National security leaker Chelsea Manning (aka Bradley Manning) could be placed in solitary confinement indefinitely for allegedly violating prison rules by having a copy of Vanity Fair with Caitlyn Jenner on the cover and an expired tube of toothpaste, among other things, her lawyer told the AP.
  6. Jeb Bush announced endorsements from two senators yesterday: Utah’s Orrin Hatch and Nevada’s Dean Heller. He’s rolling out a fresh list of Iowa grassroots supporters this morning ahead of his trip to the state.
    Martin O’Malley will unveil his list of “15 goals to rebuild the American Dream” during a speech on The Soapbox at the Iowa State Fair today. He’s spending the next three weeks traveling the state.

WAPO HIGHLIGHTS:

— The Narrative > “Voters’ anger is fueling outsider 2016 candidacies,” by Philip Rucker: “The surging candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders are fueled by people’s anger with the status quo and desire for authenticity in political leaders… ‘There are a lot of voters who are exceptionally frustrated with traditional politics and politicians and who quite simply feel failed by the system,’ said pollster Geoff Garin, who advises Priorities USA Action, a super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton. … ‘There’s a longing for real authenticity in politics today,’ said Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist advising Sanders. ‘People feel that the candidates are too manufactured, there’s not enough spontaneity. They want someone who, even if they don’t agree with them, is telling it like they see it.’”

— Coming attractions > — “U.S. diplomats in Havana ponder how to make the most of their new status,” by Nick Miroff and Karen DeYoung: “When Secretary of State John F. Kerry arrives here Friday for a ceremony to raise the Stars and Stripes once more at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, he’ll be the highest-ranking American official to set foot on the island in 70 years. His demeanor could matter as much as his remarks. Will he maintain the all-business approach that U.S. diplomats typically project here? Or will he treat the occasion as a celebration, signaling perhaps that it’s okay to have fun in Cuba again?”

— “Librarian’s trips abroad, posh hotels, all paid for by James Madison Council,” by Peggy McGlone: “They are the one-percenters who make up the James Madison Council, a loosely organized group of donors brought together by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington to support the country’s oldest federal cultural institution…Although its mission is outreach, the group is insular and exclusive. Membership is by invitation and individual donations go undisclosed. This year, the group numbers 69 — a who’s who of industry titans and philanthropists from Detroit, Philadelphia, Dallas and New York — who contribute $25,000 a year and receive exclusive access to the institution and its collections. Although they’ve raised millions, they’ve spent almost half of their recorded contributions on private parties, exhibition receptions, travel and employees and consultants, financial statements from the council and the library show.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ: 

— ZIGNAL VISUAL: If you took Trump out of the equation, the media is actually much more interested in the Democratic primary fight than the GOP contest. There may be 17 Republicans running for president, but our analytics partners at Zignal Labs note that 70 percent of all presidential chatter on Wednesday across the media was about Trump, Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. Here’s their breakdown:

Looking at the same chart without Trump, 58 percent of the coverage and chatter is about the Democratic field, while the other 16 candidates split the remaining 42% between them. While the GOP field has the numbers, the media’s focus this week has really been on the Democratic contest.

Trump is definitely good for ratings: Sean Hannity got his most viewers in four months when The Donald appeared Tuesday night: 628,000 adults 25-54 watched, his strongest number since April, according to Variety. NBC’s Chuck Todd announced he will interview Trump Sunday on “Meet the Press.”

–WHAT EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT:

Pictures of the day:

Beyonce posted a photo of Michael Brown on Facebook over the weekend to mark the anniversary of his death by a white police officer, leading to a backlash from some fans in her comments section:

Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) threw out the first pitch at a Dodgers game. “It was a strike! What a rush!” he tweeted:

Tweets of the day:

The Internet laughed when Hillary Clinton’s campaign encouraged Twitter users to describe their feelings about student debt with emojis:

Clinton’s campaign, however, was undaunted by the criticism:

Vice President Biden wished Carter well learning that he has cancer:

And Jeb Bush slipped up briefly during an interview with Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren:

Instagrams of the day:

Clinton’s campaign welcomed cat supporters:

Ted Cruz enjoyed barbeque in Russellville, Arkansas:

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), who lives a vegan lifestyle, shared a photo of his morning smoothie. He cut out carbs and sugar 10 days ago (read more here):

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

Wall Street Journal: “Biden Is Sounding Out Allies About a 2016 Bid,” by Peter Nicholas and Colleen McCain Nelson: The veep is using his vacation in South Carolina this week to sound out friends and family about a presidential bid … “From his vacation spot on Kiawah Island, Mr. Biden is giving the strongest signal yet that he is actively considering making a third run at the presidency. He is asking political allies for advice and gauging the strength of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign as he weighs his options.”

Biden is expected to announce his decision next month. “There are Democrats who are concerned about the turmoil swirling around the secretary with the emails and the server, and now the FBI is investigating and congressional hearings are coming up in the fall,” said Steve Shurtleff, the Democratic leader in the New Hampshire House of Representatives and a Biden supporter in the 2008 presidential campaign.

Boston Globe, “John Kasich shows momentum in New Hampshire,” by James Pindell: “Less than a month after announcing his late-start in the presidential race, Kasich is surging in New Hampshire surveys to third place in the Republican presidential primary behind…Trump and…Bush. He’s picked up top-flight endorsements, including one of the state’s best-known party strategists, the state House majority leader, and a county sheriff…[One reason for the surge:] Kasich’s super PAC spent $4 million on television advertisements in the state. At the same time, only Christie’s Super PAC was on the air.”

New York Times, “Carly Fiorina Emerges as a GOP Weapon Against ‘War on Women’ Charge,” by Amy Chozick and Trip Gabriel: “This week, Donald J. Trump said that listening to Carly Fiorina, the only woman competing for the Republican presidential nomination, gave him ‘a massive headache.’ It was music to Mrs. Fiorina’s ears…Mrs. Fiorina’s candidacy did not start to sizzle until her performance at last week’s second-tier Republican debate, where viewers realized that as the sole woman in a 17-candidate primary field, she was singularly qualified to stand up to Mr. Trump…It is not a role Mrs. Fiorina necessarily wants to emphasize. “I don’t spend very much of my campaign time talking or thinking about Donald Trump,” she said in an interview Wednesday.”

Huffington Post, “Mothers of ISIS,” by Julia Ioffe: “Since the Syrian civil war began four years ago, some 20,000 foreign nationals have made their way to Syria and Iraq to fight for various radical Islamist factions. Over 3,000 are from Western countries. While some go with their families’ blessing, most leave in secret…their parents are left with a form of grief that is surreal in its specificity. It is sorrow at the loss of a child, it is guilt at what he or she may have done, it is shame in the face of hostility from friends and neighbors, and it is doubt about all the things they realize they did not know about the person whom they brought into the world. Over the last year, dozens of these mothers from around the world have found each other, weaving a strange alliance from their loss.”

HOT ON THE LEFT

Humans have used up a year’s worth of the earth’s resources in months. From the Huffington Post: “Less than eight months into 2015, humans have already consumed a year’s worth of the Earth’s resources. Ecological Debt Day, or Earth Overshoot Day, falls on Thursday and marks the point in the year when ‘humanity’s annual demand for the goods and services that our land and seas can provide — fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, wood, cotton for clothing, and carbon dioxide absorption — exceeds what Earth’s ecosystems can renew in a year,’ the international think tank Global Footprint Network explains.”

HOT ON THE RIGHT

States warned over ending Medicaid funds for Planned Parenthood. From the Wall Street Journal: “The Obama administration has notified states that have taken steps to halt Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood Federation of America that they may be in conflict with federal law, government officials said. Federal law requires that Medicaid beneficiaries may obtain services, including family-planning care, from any qualified provider. Terminating Planned Parenthood’s Medicaid provider agreements restricts access by not permitting them to get services from providers of their choice, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.”

DAYBOOK:

–What’s happening today on the campaign trail: Jeb Bush will attend events in Davenport and Ankeny, Iowa. Carly Fiorina will attend a town hall in Alden, Iowa. Rand Paul will hold events in Somersworth and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Mike Huckabee, Jim Webb and Martin O’Malley will speak at the Des Moines Register’s soapbox at the Iowa State Fair. Later, O’Malley will attend a reception in Des Moines. Rick Santorum will hold events in Chariton, Ottumwa and Mt. Pleasant, Iowa. Ben Carson will campaign in Manchester, Hookset, Londonderry and Windham, New Hampshire. Rick Perry will hold a town hall meeting in Anderson, South Carolina. Ted Cruz will visit Oklahoma City, Bartlesville and Tulsa, Oklahoma as part of his multi-state bus tour. Marco Rubio will hold a fundraiser in New Jersey.

–On the Hill: Both chambers are in recess.

–At the White House: President Obama is on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard. 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I don’t favor citizenship [for illegal immigrants] because, as I teach my kids, you don’t jump the line to get into a Taylor Swift concert,” Ohio Gov. John Kasich said on CNN.

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

Today is a winner from start to finish weather wise. “A nice dry almost cool start gives way to a sun drenched warm afternoon without any of that nasty humidity ‘residue,'” The Capital Weather Gang forecasts. “Highs only peak in the mid-80s in most areas.”

For commuters: A crash Thursday morning has closed all northbound lanes of Interstate 295 at the Laboratory Road exit to the U.S. Naval Research Lab in D.C.

The track defect that caused last week’s Metro derailment between Smithsonian and Federal Triangle was detected more than a month ago, but it was not repaired, the agency’s top executive revealed yesterday. “In addition, the flaw’s detection should have triggered the immediate shutdown of the section of rail involved, but the agency continued to run trains through it until the derailment,” per Faiz Siddiqui and Lori Aratani.

The Dodgers shut out the Nationals — again — last night, 3-0, which means we’re now 3 1/2 games behind the Mets. Los Angeles pitcher Clayton Kershaw is really, really good:

VIDEO OF THE DAY:

Watch BuzzFeed’s “Try Guys” recite Donald Trump quotes:

Watch scenes of Washington, D.C., celebrating Japan’s surrender in World War II 70 years ago this week (The news reel is via C-SPAN):