The audience stands and waves in support of Donald Trump in a crowded auditorium at a town hall meeting in Derry, New Hampshire on Wednesday evening. (Photo by Melina Mara/The Washington Post)

THE BIG IDEA by David Fahrenthold: Until this week, it wasn’t clear that even Donald Trump knew exactly what Donald Trump thought about immigration.

After his campaign began in June, the real-estate mogul cycled through a series of vague, and sometimes contradictory, policy proposals: Kick “the bad ones” out. Let the good ones stay. No, kick the good ones out too. No, don’t. No, do.

Now, however, the surprise GOP front-runner has unveiled a detailed, and surprisingly hard-line, proposal on the subject. And, in the few days since, a series of Republican presidential candidates rushed to show that they think just like Trump. In a CNN interview Wednesday night, Trump said he wouldn’t need to amend the Constitution to revoke birthright citizenship but such a move would take two full terms as president.

“No. 1, the 14th Amendment is very questionable as to whether or not somebody can come over, have a baby and immediately that baby is a citizen. OK?” Trump told Chris Cuomo. “Amending is too big a deal. It’s going to take — it’ll be two terms. I’d be in my second term or my eighth year by the time — assuming everything went smoothly. … I believe you can win it legally.”

Trump’s call to end birthright citizenship is setting the terms of the debate for his fellow Republicans, whether they like it or not. “Absolutely. We should end granting automatic birthright citizenship to the children of those who are here illegally,” GOP presidential rival and Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) said during an interview with the Michael Medved Show on Wednesday, calling for an end to the longstanding rule that any child born in the U.S. is automatically a citizen. “That has been my position from the very first day of my running for the Senate,” Cruz said

In Cruz’s case, that’s not exactly true: the Houston Chronicle dug up a statement he made as a 2011 Senate candidate, when he told conservatives that trying to overturn birthright citizenship was not worth fighting over. “I think it’s a mistake for conservatives to be focusing on trying to fight what the Constitution says on birthright citizenship,” Cruz said then. “I think we are far better off focusing on securing the border. Because birthright citizenship wouldn’t be an issue if we didn’t have people coming in illegally.”

This week, Cruz became one of several Republicans who said they want to end birthright citizenship, after Trump endorsed the idea — placing the issue center stage in the GOP primary, which will undoubtedly be remembered in the general election. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal tweeted that birthright citizenship should end for undocumented immigrants. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker also seemed to endorse Trump’s idea, but then sought to backpedal. And then, on Wednesday, Ben Carson added his support in Arizona. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have so far said they’d stick with current law.

For advocates of ending birthright citizenship, it’s a stunning turnabout. In recent years, the issue has gone nowhere on Capitol Hill, despite GOP majorities in the House and now the Senate. Louisiana Sen. David Vitter (R) has proposed the idea repeatedly, and gotten little support. In the House, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has thrice proposed ending birthright citizenship, but his bills all died in committee.

If Trump—or Cruz, or Jindal, or Carson—becomes president, how would they go about changing the rules? The sure-fire option would be to amend the Constitution, to change the language of the 14th Amendment, which guarantees citizenship to anyone born in the United States and “subject to the jurisdiction thereof.”

But some advocates believe it would be easier for Congress to simply pass a law that declared a new meaning for those words. “The phrase that pays is ‘subject to the jurisdiction thereof,’” said Don Bane, of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which seeks to reduce immigration. Under the new interpretation, he said, “The illegal alien is not subject to U.S. jurisdiction, except for purposes of deportation. Therefore the children born on U.S. soil should not be eligible for citizenship.”

But, even if such a law gets through Congress, it would likely have to survive a Supreme Court challenge — overturning a precedent that’s stood since 1898.

So the process of changing that rule would take months, or years. And it would force Republicans to answer a difficult question: if “birthright citizenship” has survived past waves of concern about immigrants from China, Italy and Eastern Europe, why would they deny it to today’s immigrants?

For Republican leaders, of course, just this discussion of the idea is potentially disastrous. Watching the trend that Trump has sparked, it’s hard to imagine a more direct repudiation of Republican Party’s advice—after the 2012 election—that the GOP should reach out to Hispanic voters, and recognize that “if Hispanics think we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies.”

Programming Note: James Hohmann is away this week. Stay tuned for Big Ideas from fellow Posties Robert Costa and Ed O’Keefe.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

A new Quinnipiac poll swing state poll out this morning shows Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton winning their respective primaries in Florida and Pennsylvania (despite the worst overall favorability ratings of all the candidates). But Vice President Joe Biden runs “as well or better” in the swing states than Clinton in general election matchups, the survey found. Key stats are in Florida, where ex-Gov. Jeb Bush tops Clinton (49 to 38 percent); Marco Rubio wins against Clinton, 51 to 39 percent; and Trump beats Clinton, 43 to 41 percent. In Ohio, Gov. Kasich beats Trump, 27 to 21 percent.

Donald Trump and Jeb Bush held dueling town halls in New Hampshire on Wednesday night. His debut in that forum, Trump scheduled the Derry event to compete with Bush’s 19 miles away in Merrimack. Trump’s meeting was rowdy and packed, according to the Post’s Phil Rucker and Jose DelReal, while Bush turned in a “workmanlike performance before a sedate crowd of about 150.” Trump held court with reporters beforehand, telling them: “I don’t see how he’s electable…Jeb Bush is a low-energy person. For him to get things done is hard.” But Bush displayed policy chops and slammed Trump for a lack of a conservative record. Meanwhile, John Kasich continued to impress the Granite State establishment, some of whom finds him an appealing Bush alternative.

Trump then gave an interview to CNN’s Cuomo in which he talked about immigration, the Pope and Hillary Clinton’s email server. The businessman dubbed the email controversy “devastating” to Hillary, comparing her situation to that of Gen. David Petraeus, who resigned his CIA directorship after improperly using classified information. Trump argued the ex-secretary of state won’t easily overcome the problem and that she could possibly find herself in “criminal” trouble. As for military advice, Trump doesn’t apologize for getting his information from armchair generals on television: “You get the best people,’ he said. ‘Even the generals wanna be on television, right?…And it’s really nothing to be laughed at or scoffed at.”

But the highlight came when Trump was asked how he’d respond if capitalism was criticized in a hypothetical encounter with Pope Francis (who’s visiting the U.S. next month). “I’d say, ‘ISIS wants to get you,'” Trump asserted, reminding Cuomo that ISIS “wants to take over the Vatican.” Asked whether he would really “scare the Pope,” Trump replied: “I’m gonna have to scare the Pope because it’s the only thing,” Trump said. “The Pope, I hope, can only be scared by God. But the truth is — you know, if you look at what’s going on — they better hope that capitalism works, because it’s the only thing we have right now. And it’s a great thing when it works properly.”

Twitter immediately broke into fits:

GET SMART FAST:

  1. Hillary Clinton spent another day in damage control mode about her e-mail server. Her campaign now says that material on the server was “retroactively” classified due to an “abundance of caution” by intelligence officials, The Wall Street Journal reported. Two emails sent to her from ex-State Department aides Huma Abedin and Jake Sullivan (now both campaign aides) are considered classified by some intelligence officials but were not dubbed classified when first sent to Clinton.
  2. The Florida Senate approved a congressional redistricting map, but a state House version is radically different. The lawmakers most affected are Reps. Dennis Ross (R), Vern Buchanan (R), Kathy Castor (D) and Tom Rooney (R).
  3. NSA leaker Edward Snowden‘s chances of reaching a plea deal with the Justice Department are getting smaller quickly, reported Bloomberg View’s Eli Lake and Josh Rogin. Snowden’s attorneys haven’t been in touch with U.S. attorneys in the case for “over a year,” and chances of a plea deal in exchange for cooperation are now “almost non-existent.”
  4. Greece received a key installment of its $14.4 billion bailout package in order to make a critical IMF payment on Thursday.

POWER PLAYERS IN THE NEWS:

  1. President Obama will travel to New Orleans on Aug. 27 to mark 10 years since the city was lashed by Hurricane Katrina, highlighting the city’s recovery.
  2. Steve Schale, Obama’s top Florida strategist during 2008 and 2012, has joined the movement to draft Joe Biden into the 2016 race, per NBC’s Mark Murray. Schale says he doesn’t know what Biden is thinking, but wanted to help.
  3. Ted Cruz invited Trump to visit the U.S.-Mexico border with him, but the senator couldn’t make it at the time because of the congressional schedule, a spokesman said, per the Post’s Katie Zezima. Trump ended up going to the border on his own.
  4. Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings has hired Ashley Martens, a veteran Senate fundraiser, signaling he may run for higher office. Cummings represents part of Baltimore and a poll released by a potential rival in the race for retiring Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) showed that he was more popular than either Reps. Donna Edwards or Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrats who are currently running for the seat.
  5. Rick Perry won’t say whether his campaign has run out of money. He told CNN that he’d be operating on a small budget indefinitely, and said to “Fox & Friends” that everyone’s had money troubles “from time to time,” The Washington Examiner reported.
  6. Jeb Bush says that tech companies like Apple and Google shouldn’t be using hard-to-crack encryption since that makes it more difficult for government to monitor dangerous communications (the pushback is that not using encryption makes those communications easier for bad guys to hack).

WAPO HIGHLIGHTS:

The fight over the Iran nuclear deal is being waged all over the country during the August recess. The Post has tallied the votes and put them in two handy graphics, below:


–“Congress unlikely to override an Obama veto in Iran deal fight — for now,” by Karoun Demirjian: “Congress is unlikely to override a promised veto by President Obama if both chambers reject a deal to curtail Iran’s nuclear capabilities, according to a Washington Post analysis of where the votes currently stand. But several things have to happen first…In the House, rivals of the deal would need 44 of the remaining undecided Democrats to break with Obama, while in the Senate, 11 of 12 Democrats who are still undecided or have not given any clues as to how they might vote would have to defy Obama to overturn the deal. Given the full-court press from the White House and the fierce lobbying campaign currently afoot, that is a tall order — in the Senate especially.”

senate-iran-deal-new

Rand Paul seeks a Second Wind in the Third World,” by David Weigel: From Cap Haitien, Haiti: “Over 15 crowded minutes, Paul and a team of Moran Center surgeons removed the eye coverings of more than a dozen elderly Haitians, powered by a rhino-sized generator that could go out for minutes at a time. It was Paul’s second foreign trip with the University of Utah-based eye center, a journey away from the campaign trail just days before Kentucky Republicans would decide whether to let him seek the presidency and a Senate reelection simultaneously. It was happening while stateside pundits asked if Paul was no longer a relevant candidate, and filled airtime with news about Donald Trump — who, Paul kept reminding people, donated to the Moran Center…’As a philanthropist, I would commend him,’ said Paul. ‘But I don’t think it’s enough for me to discount the craziness of his policies, or think he’d be good running the country.’

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

— ZIGNAL VISUAL: Marco Rubio hitting a kid with a football wasn’t all bad news for the Republican, especially on the Internet. According to our analytics partner Zignal Labs, Rubio’s social and traditional media mentions spiked dramatically when the GIF of the incident started bouncing around cyber-space.


Meanwhile, Twitter mentions of Rubio also spiked with the errant pass:


Pictures of the day:

The Internet celebrated Bill Clinton’s 69th birthday:

Vladimir Putin descended into the Black Sea to look at a 1,000-year-old sunken trading vessel:

And Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) mourned the loss of her predecessor, Louis Stokes, calling him a “mentor and dear friend”:


(@RepMarciaFudge)

Tweets of the day:

Guess whose hat is now available for purchase?

In other campaign swag news, Marco Rubio’s team promoted a football-themed shirt the day after a gif of Rubio beaning a kid with a football went viral:

Martin O’Malley attended a labor rally in front of the Trump Hotel Las Vegas, accusing Trump of spewing “hate and division”:

Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) toured earthquake damage in Nepal, calling it an “emotional day”:

Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) wished the Seahawks well in the coming season:

Instagrams of the day:

Scott Walker taught workers at Cass Screw in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota how to take a selfie:

Mike Huckabee met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

Bobby Jindal shared the glamorous lunch (that is, breakfast for lunch) of a candidate on the campaign trail:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

— New York Times, “Justice Dept. Presses Civil Rights Agenda in Local Courts,” by Matt Apuzzo: ” In dozens of lawsuits around the country involving local disputes, the federal government has filed so-called statements of interest, throwing its weight behind private lawsuits and, in many cases, pushing the boundaries of civil rights law…Recently, however, the Justice Department has filed statements of interest in cases involving legal aid in New York, transgender students in Michigan, juvenile prisoners in solitary detention in California, and people who take videos of police officers in Baltimore. The government has weighed in on employment discrimination claims brought by transgender plaintiffs and a lawsuit over the right of blind people with service dogs to be able to use Uber, a car-sharing service.”

— Los Angeles Times, “Prosecutor: Uber Background Checks Missed Drivers’ Criminal Records,” by Laura J. Nelson: “The background-check service that ride-hailing company Uber uses to screen potential drivers did not flag the criminal records of 25 drivers who gave thousands of rides to customers in Los Angeles and San Francisco, prosecutors said Wednesday…According to the amended lawsuit complaint, one driver was convicted of second-degree murder in Los Angeles and spent 26 years in prison. He gave a different name when he applied to drive for Uber, and a background report said he had no known aliases and no criminal history, the complaint said. The driver gave 1,168 rides over seven months, according to the prosecutors’ court filing. Using fingerprints and checking federal databases would have identified the man’s criminal history, prosecutors said. Prosecutors also said they found three unlicensed drivers who used someone else’s account to drive for Uber. Five drivers had convictions for driving under the influence in the last seven years, the complaint said, and some still drive for Uber.”

— Politico, “Carly Fiorina out of step with Silicon Valley,” by Tony Romm: “Decade-old memories of Fiorina’s stormy tenure as CEO of Hewlett-Packard have certainly blunted her appeal within the industry, as a recent flurry of media commentary attests. But just as important may be the stances she’s taken on policy issues — from gay marriage to government surveillance and net neutrality — that differ starkly from those of her former tech colleagues. One major liability in the Bay Area is her conservative position on gay rights, an issue that prompted her to lambaste Apple CEO Tim Cook earlier this year. And on policy debates that tech executives and engineers care about most, including patent reform and NSA snooping, she finds herself on the opposing side, as well.”

HOT ON THE LEFT

Trump gets his news from the Drudge Report. From the Washington Times: “Donald Trump gets his news from the Drudge Report, he revealed in a new interview with the Hollywood Reporter, calling website founder Matt Drudge ‘amazing.’ In a lengthy interview, Mr. Trump talked about his relationships with some of the big executives in television news, and said he also reads New York-based newspapers, but his first hat-tip was to the Drudge Report. ‘Matt Drudge is an amazing guy. Politically, one of the legends,'” Trump said.

HOT ON THE RIGHT

Audit: DHS employees used government card to spend $41,413 at Starbucks. From the Washington Free Beacon: “Department of Homeland Security (DHS) employees used a government charge card to make purchases totaling $31,413 at Starbucks, according to an audit by the DHS Inspector General. The IG conducted the audit to see whether DHS implemented quality internal controls for the usage of the government charge card to prevent illegal, improper, or erroneous purchases.”

DAYBOOK:

–What’s happening today on the campaign trail: Jeb Bush will attend a town hall meeting in Keene, N.H. and a fundraiser in Nantucket, Mass. Carly Fiorina will attend a dinner in Littleton, N.H. Ted Cruz will speak in Cheyenne at an event held by the Wyoming Republican Party. Bobby Jindal participate in a presidential town hall in Spartanburg, S.C. Chris Christie will attend an event in Manchester, N.H. Marco Rubio will deliver a speech to the Detroit Economic Club.

–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:

“If I were, not president, but if I were king of America, I would abolish all teachers’ lounges, where they sit together and worry about ‘woe is us.’,” John Kasich quipped at a pro-school-choice education summit in New Hampshire.

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

–“The majority of us should get much needed rainfall today. But, unfortunately, the heaviest showers and storms may coincide with the evening commute and produce some isolated flooding. Much drier air is a welcome relief Friday through the weekend,” the Capital Weather Gang reports.

The Nationals beat the Colorado Rockies, 4-1.

Hundreds turned out for the funeral of Route 29’s “Batman.”

VIDEO OF THE DAY:

Watch highlights from the first Republican debate courtesy of the folks at Bad Lip Reading:

Watch Jeb Bush criticize Donald Trump in a video released by the campaign on YouTube:

Watch a clip of the ultrasound of one of the National Zoo’s Giant Pandas, Mei Xiang, who keepers believe might be pregnant:


(Smithsonian’s National Zoo)

Watch Rick Perry, whom the Post’s Ben Terris described in a new piece as a political “zombie,” interact with voters.