with Brent D. Griffiths

Good Tuesday morning. Bob Woodward's much-discussed book on the Trump White House, “Rage,” is out today. Thanks for reading.

The policies

DRILL BABY DRILL?: Much of the ire over the fires raging across the Pacific Northwest has thus far been directed at President Trump. But frustrations with California's Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom are also bubbling over his own climate policies.

Trump went to California yesterday, where Newsom challenged him to accept climate science, which shows that human-made climate change has made the West more vulnerable to extreme blazes. Trump instead blamed the multiple wildfires on lack of good forest management.

  • “And we come from a perspective, humbly, where we submit the science and observed evidence is self-evident that climate change is real and that is exacerbating this,” Newsom told Trump.
  • “ If we ignore that science, and sort of put our head in the sand, and think it's all about vegetation management, we're not going to succeed together protecting Californians,” National Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot said, pushing back on the forest management argument.
  • Trump responded the climate will start getting cooler." Crowfoot said he wished “the science agreed."
  • I don't think science knows," the president responded.

Friendly fire: Newsom has yet to address criticisms from his own constituents for continuing to approve new oil and gas drilling permits, contradicting his own rhetoric and campaign promise to reduce the state's reliance on fossil fuels. 

Activists are applying pressure on Newsom to move beyond the debate over whether climate change is real and exacerbating wildfires and mitigate the damage by addressing the state's dependence on fossil fuels, which release carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases into the air when burned.

“He's getting caught in this debate about whether climate change is real, which is odd to us,” Alexandra Nagy, the California director at Food & Water Watch, told Power Up. “We know it's real — we need to address the root cause and he's avoiding that.”

Nagy pointed to Newsom's failure to follow through on his promise to ban fracking and stop oil and gas practices harmful to the environment. 

  • By the numbers: “Despite pushing back against the Trump administration’s plan to expand oil extraction in California, the state has issued 190% more oil and gas drilling permits in the first six months of 2020 than were approved under [Newsom’s] first six months in office, according to two advocacy groups, per the Associated Press's Daisy Nguyen. 
  • “The agency that oversees oil and gas drilling in California issued 2,691 permits to drill new wells or rework existing ones the first half of this year, according to an analysis of state data by Consumer Watchdog and FracTracker Alliance.”
  • In 2020, [Newsom] approved drilling permits for more than 1400 new oil & gas wells. In July 2020, Newsom’s team issued 12 new fracking permits to [Chevron] alone. [Newsom], which side of this #ClimateFires crisis are you on?” Sierra Peterson, a climate investor and former Obama White House fellow in the Office of Energy and Climate Change, tweeted. 

Gladys Limon, executive director of the California Environmental Justice Alliance, told Power Up the governor has done some things “that are promising” like tackling some of the issues facing the state's oil regulatory agency.

  • Key quote: “But he’s failed to outline his vision and concrete steps to address the source of the climate crisis that is plaguing our state which can’t be done without addressing the source — gas fossil fuel operations in California, which are disproportionately placed in and sacrificing communities of color,” she contended.

Newsom's response: The governor's office agrees that new permit approval has increased but disputes by how much, contending new state oil and gas permits approved in the first half of 2020 “are up only 7 percent on an annual basis compared to the first half of 2019 not the 190 percent suggested by Consumer Watchdog in its recent news release, according to an email from Lisa Lien-Mager, the deputy communications director of the California Natural Resources Agency.

  • “Actual new wells drilled in California in the first half of 2020 are down 90 percent on an annual basis compared to the first half of 2019,” Lien-Mager added.
  • But: “We report on total number of permits and our numbers match up exactly with theirs — we look at the types of wells being permitted and the differences between years and the rates of permitting,” Kyle Ferrer, a program coordinator at FracTracker Alliance who crunched the numbers, told us. “Our numbers are on track with theirs. We are just refining the data to look at the types of wells because of the implications on public health — something they should be doing as well.”

There are rumblings among activists Newsom will next week make a climate-action related announcement. He recently teased a push to “fast-track” California's transition to clean energy.

  • He offered few specifics, but suggested that the state’s target of getting 100% of electricity from carbon-free sources by 2045 was too slow. He also cited California’s efforts to put more electric cars on the road,” reports the Los Angeles Times's Alexei Koseff. 
  • “He's saying we can do better than goals we have already set …. but he's failing to acknowledged the fossil fuel side of the issue — and that's driven climate change since the beginning of the industrial revolution,” Nagy said of the impending announcement. “The climate apocalypse is already upon us the question is how worse is it going to get.” 

Scientists, experts, and lawmakers agree that forest management is only a small part of the larger wildfire problem. And some are calling for big changes to government policies, including in California.

Jennifer Marlon, a research scientist and lecturer at Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the Climate Change Communication program, told Power Up the wildfire issue has been “developing over decades – if not centuries." She said the current situation is a “tragic window of opportunity” for institutions previously unable to make the changes necessary to “fundamentally change the way we think about and manage fire.” 

  • “What's happening right now is a microcosm of the broader climate change issue,” said Marlon. “We have to think outside the box and make radical society change changes… This is not the time to play both sides or walk a middle line.”
  • Cities and communities can take more immediate steps to lessen the wildfire damage: "At this point we’ve learned a lot about how to engineer homes and communities so that they can be more survivable,” Max Moritz, a wildfire expert affiliated with the University of California, Santa Barbara, told the New York Times's Brad Plumer and John Schwartz. “But these lessons aren’t being implemented fast enough.”

Here's the latest on the fires:

  • “Oregon fire crews continued to battle the more than 30 fires raging across the state, where more than 1 million acres have been scorched and, according to Gov. Kate Brown (D), at least 10 people have been killed,” per our colleagues Paulina Firozi and Andrew Freedman. “More than 3,000 people were staying in shelters run by local counties, Oregon officials said, which are also following protocols to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus as residents face overlapping crises.”
  • “In California, officials say at least 24 people have been killed,” Paulina and Andrew report. “Fire crews are still fighting 28 major wildfires in the state, where more than 3.2 million acres have burned and more than 4,200 structures have been destroyed since the middle of August. One death has been reported in the state of Washington, according to the Associated Press."
  • The wildfire smoke appears to be traveling all the way to D.C.: 

Meanwhile, Trump's views on climate change are out of step with an overwhelming majority of Americans as Biden called him a “climate arsonist." Just over 7 in ten Americans say global warming “is happening,” Yale and George Mason University researchers found in an April 2020 national poll, matching the highest level ever recorded in 2019 since they began tracking the issue in 2008.

  • A majority of Republicans say global warming “is happening”: Fifty-two percent of Republicans held this view in 2018, according to researchers' model.

Here's a helpful breakdown of U.S. attitudes from climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe:

Biden delivered a speech from Delaware warning that climate change is worsening and making wildfires and weather events even more destructive. The former vice president said the issue “requires action, not denial."

  • “Donald Trump’s climate denial may not have caused these fires and record floods and record hurricanes,” Biden said. “But if he gets a second term, these hellish events will continue to become more common, more devastating and more deadly.”
  • Another data point: On Monday, Trump tapped “David Legates, an academic who has long questioned the scientific consensus that human activity is causing global warming, to help run the agency that produces much of the climate research funded by the U.S. government,” our colleagues Andrew Freedman and Jason Samenow report.Legates, a University of Delaware professor who was forced out of his role as that state’s climatologist because of his controversial views, has taken a senior leadership role at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).”
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Sept. 14 criticized President Trump's "climate denial" on the wildfires in the West. (The Washington Post)

In the agencies

TRUMP AIDE WARNS OF ARMED REVOLT: “The top communications official at the powerful cabinet department in charge of combating the coronavirus made outlandish and false accusations on Sunday that career government scientists were engaging in ‘sedition’ in their handling of the pandemic and that left-wing hit squads were preparing for armed insurrection after the election,” the New York Times's Sharon LaFraniere reports.

Michael Caputo leveled the accusations in a since-deleted Facebook Live video: “Trump installed Caputo in April after weighing whether to fire Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar over a series of damaging stories about Trump’s handling of the pandemic,” our colleagues Yasmeen Abutaleb, Lena H. Sun, Josh Dawsey and Rosalind S. Helderman report.

  • Even the White House has rejected some of the Trump loyalist's ideas: “For example, Caputo proposed the federal government spend millions of dollars on a professionally directed and produced documentary about the administration’s race to develop vaccines that he wanted to air at film festivals.”

As of now, Caputo still has his job.

  • “Caputo is viewed as a Trump loyalist, but several White House officials said his behavior has been erratic and some of his ideas have been regarded as extreme. For example, he proposed the federal government spend millions of dollars on a professionally directed and produced documentary about the administration’s race to develop vaccines that he wanted to air at film festivals, said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The idea was rejected by White House communications aides,” our colleagues report.

The campaign

WISCONSIN WILL NOT HAVE TO REPRINT ITS BALLOTS: “The Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that the Green Party presidential ticket is ineligible to appear on the state ballot, a relief for state and local election officials who feared an addition at this late date would upend election preparations,” Amy Gardner reports.

  • What happened: “In its 4-to-3 ruling, with one conservative, Brian Hagedorn, voting with the majority, the court said that upending the election was one reason it denied the Green Party’s appeal.” The Wisconsin Elections Commission declined to put the party's ticket on the ballot last month because of issues with their signature petitions.
  • “The decision comes after the Wisconsin Elections Commission declined on Aug. 20 to put presidential contender Howie Hawkins and his Green Party running mate, Angela Walker, on the Nov. 3 ballot because their signature petitions featured two different addresses for Walker," Amy reports.

The issue is especially relevant in the Badger State, one of the most heavily contested this election cycle after Trump narrowly won it four years ago.

  • “In a state that Trump won by just under 23,000 votes four years ago — less than a percentage point — a third-party candidate could attract a difference-making number of votes. In 2016, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein won more than 30,000 votes in Wisconsin,” wrote Amy.

MORE INDOOR CAMPAIGN EVENTS: After an indoor rally in Henderson, Nev., on Sunday, Trump held another crowded, mainly mask-less campaign event yesterday in Phoenix. Public health officials says such events pose grave danger of spreading the coronavirus.

  • “I know this was supposed to be, you know the fake news, they said that this is supposed to be a roundtable, but it looks like a rally,” Trump said about the Arizona event, per our colleagues Anne Gearan and Josh Dawsey.  “But it is a rally because we love each other.” He then added that “it is a roundtable.” 
  • "Many around the president are acutely aware that a potential surge in coronavirus cases and deaths close to the election could be disastrous, according to campaign and White House aides, but they are mostly bowing to Trump’s desire to pack the house," they reported.
  • Alternate plan: “According to campaign documents reviewed by The Washington Post, campaign officials presented Trump and other top aides with a proposal for drive-in rallies in the early months of the pandemic. Supporters could then stay in their cars and watch Trump from the stage,” they write. “The seven-page PowerPoint plan outlined an event at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa that would include up to 10,000 attendees, 2,500 cars, 20 jumbotrons, two large screens and three times more audio than a typical rally. It also included an elaborate stage.”
  •  “Two advisers close to Trump, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter on the record, said the return to indoor rallies may not be a permanent one. ‘I wouldn’t expect to see one of those every week,’ one of the officials said. ‘It’s not an ideal situation.’”

ELSEWHERE ON THE TRAIL:

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is set to unveil the GOP's path back to power: “The document — dubbed ‘Commitment to America’ and previewed by Politico — represents a tacit admission by House Republicans that it’s simply not enough to oppose the Democrats’ coronavirus proposals,” Melanie Zanona and John Bresnahan  at Politico report. The plan also focuses on supporting law enforcement and rebuilding the economy.

  • Republicans would need to net 17 House seats to retake the chamber

A judge temporarily blocked the Postal Service from sending more election mailers to Colorado: A federal judge found the USPS mailer “'provides patently false information' about the state’s voting system that could sow confusion among voters," Elise Viebeck reports.

Some down-ballot Democrats are resuming door-to-door campaigning: “Democrat Sara Gideon's campaign is knocking on voters’ doors in her close Senate race in Maine. So is Steve Bullock in Montana, another one of the nation’s most competitive Senate contests. Democratic candidates in state legislative races in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Louisiana are doing the same,” Politico's Holly Otterbein and Alex Thompson report.

  • Democrats have largely followed Biden's lead in ceasing such traditional outreach: “Trump’s campaign and other GOP candidates, by contrast, have downplayed the pandemic and been knocking on voters’ doors for months.”

The people

HURRICANE SALLY CHURNS NEAR THE COAST: “Sally continued to gather strength as it meandered off the Gulf Coast, an oaf of a storm that could linger with hard rain and 100-mph winds threatening to shove massive amounts of storm water onto the shores of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana,” Darryl Fears, Maria Sacchetti and Andrew Freedman report from Biloxi, Miss. 

Hurricane Sally rapidly intensified to a Category 2 hurricane on Sept. 14, edging toward the coastline of Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. (The Washington Post)

Sally is one of at least five tropical systems that swirled across the Atlantic on Monday, the most since 1971: “The number of storms with a closed, low-pressure center this hurricane season has already nearly exhausted the alphabet to name them. Tropical storms Teddy and Vicky are the latest in a season that doesn’t end until November.” 

At the White House

ISRAEL, GULF STATES HAND TRUMP A DIPLOMATIC AND POLITICAL WIN: “Leaders of the Persian Gulf states are similarly grateful to Trump, who has embraced their governments, cracked down on their archnemesis, Iran, and defended them from intense political criticism in Washington,” the Times's Michael Crowley and David M. Halbfinger report.

  • More details: “Like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, they are eager to see Trump win a second term in November. And at the White House [today], Netanyahu and a select group of Gulf Arab officials will be returning the favor, doing their part to repay and support Trump by participating in a signing ceremony for a pair of new accords between Israel and two Gulf nations, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, that Trump is promoting as a historic breakthrough.”

Reality check: Trump's deal doesn't really achieve peace. “Both the UAE and Bahrain already communicate and engage with Israel, and the three countries were not locked in anything close to conflict,” Ishaan Tharoor writes in our Today's Worldview newsletter. (Subscribe here).

  • Other experts also lament that the Trump administration is not using its leverage with the UAE for actual peace — that is, applying pressure to compel the Emiratis and Saudis to draw down their U.S.-backed war effort in Yemen.”
In recent days, Trump officials have praised the president for receiving a Nobel Peace Prize nomination, at times using the news to sidestep other questions. (The Washington Post)

The agreement hasn't soothed all concerns in the region: “The proposed sale of advanced U.S. fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates is raising concerns among some security experts in Israel that the Middle East could be on the verge of an arms race,” Ruth Eglash and Karen DeYoung report from Jerusalem

  • The deal might actually be paving the way for the sale: “Senior U.S. and UAE officials say the peace agreement is smoothing the way for the Trump administration to proceed with the sale of long-sought F-35 stealth fighter jets and other sophisticated weaponry to the Persian Gulf state. That prospect is increasing the likelihood that Israel and other Middle East countries will in turn seek more advanced arms.” 

In the media

WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Trump seizes on judge's ruling that Pennsylvania's lockdown is ‘unconstitutional’: “The state’s limits on gatherings and closure of nonessential businesses violated the First Amendment and the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment, according to a 66-page opinion by U.S. District Judge William Stickman IV, a Trump appointee. The governor’s office confirmed it will appeal the decision,” Meryl Kornfield reports.

  • “Within hours after the decision was filed, Trump retweeted nearly two dozen posts about the blow to the Democratic governor’s oversight of his state.”

South Dakota's attorney general thought he hit a deer over the weekend. He actually ran over a person: “Jason Ravnsborg in a statement released late [last] night said he thought he hit a deer when he struck and killed a man on Saturday night and that he discovered the body when he returned to the scene the next day,” the Sioux Falls Argus Leader's Makenzie Huber reports.

  • Ravnsborg said he was attending a local GOP event: He said he was not drinking beforehand. The Argus Leader reports authorities have not yet confirmed any of his accounts, including Ravnsborg's claim that he called a local sheriff to investigate the scene with him and neither noticed the body in the ditch.

A fake FBI raid duped The Post: “The ‘raid’ on a house in Arlington, Va., actually involved actors recruited by Jacob Wohl, who has a history of making false accusations and has orchestrated dubious events in an effort to smear perceived opponents of Trump,” Paul Farhi and Elahe Izadi report

Former Florida gubernatorial Andrew Gillum (D) says he identifies as bisexual: Gillum gave an emotional interview to journalist Tamron Hall, his first since February when police responded to a suspected drug overdose in a Miami hotel room and found the Democrat and then-CNN contributor inebriated with two other men, CNN's Devan Cole reports.