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The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Senate Republicans want Trump to show them the money

The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

Good morning, Early Birds. The Bush administration took over the ailing mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac 14 years ago today. (And the old Fannie Mae headquarters in northwest D.C. is now the district's first Wegmans). Send tips of impending government takeovers to earlytips@washpost.com. Thanks for waking up with us.

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In today's editionDevlin Barrett and Carol D. Leonnig with the scoop: FBI agents found material on a foreign nation’s nuclear capabilities at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort … What we're watching: The unveiling of the Obama portraits at the White House … And Tyler Pager reports that despite today's White House visit, tensions linger between the Obama and Biden camps … Massachusetts primary results… but first …

🚨:Stephen K. Bannon is expected to surrender to state prosecutors on Thursday to face a new criminal indictment, people familiar with the matter said, weeks after he was convicted of contempt of Congress and nearly two years after he received a federal pardon from President Donald Trump in a federal fraud case,” our colleagues Shayna Jacobs, Jacqueline Alemany and Josh Dawsey report.

  • “In that indictment, prosecutors alleged that Bannon and several others defrauded contributors to a private, $25 million fundraising effort, called ‘We Build the Wall,’ taking funds that donors were told would support construction of a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border.”

The campaign

Trump is sitting on a campaign war chest some Republicans want him to use in the midterms

Senate Republicans have a campaign cash problem. 

Former president Donald Trump does not. 

As the battle for control of the Senate enters a critical stage, frustration is growing among Republicans that Trump hasn't — and probably won't — share some of the tens of millions of dollars that his political operation has amassed to help Republicans reclaim the chamber.

  • “He helped nominate many of the candidates who won primaries, and many of them are having a really hard time raising money,” said Scott Jennings, a Republican political strategist who has been an adviser to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) over the years. “We need all the help we can get.”

Some Republicans were tight-lipped Tuesday about Trump's lack of largesse.

Asked if he would like Trump to provide financial help to his campaign, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), who is in a tight race against Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, said he won't answer questions about that. (A Trump-controlled PAC gave Johnson's campaign $5,000 in June.)

Others said its time for the former president to turn on the spigots.

“I would sure hope that President Trump would use some of that money he's got to get Republicans elected to the Senate,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), one of Trump's fiercest Republican critics. “It'll be good for the country and good for the people he's endorsed.”

McConnell vs. Scott

Much of the attention this week will be on the simmering feud between McConnell and Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, over campaign strategy. McConnell expressed skepticism last month that Republican candidates are strong enough to help the party win control of the Senate. Scott shot back in an op-ed implying McConnell, without naming him, has “contempt for the voters” by criticizing candidates who won primaries.

Money woes are at the heart of the tensions between the two.

The NRSC had only $23 million in cash on hand at the end of July after spending more than $172 million this cycle — a high “burn rate” that the New York Times highlighted over the weekend. The Democrats' campaign committee has $54 million. Scott asked for cash on Fox News on Tuesday evening:

But while McConnell and Scott are likely to play down their tensions this week, the annoyance at Trump's refusal to give is starting to become more public.

Two PACs and a super PAC under Trump's control — Make America Great Again PAC, Save America and Make America Great Again, Again! Inc. — have more than $112 million in cash on hand, according to Federal Election Commission filings, and Trump's fundraising has surged since the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago resort for classified documents.

“If Trump wants to take credit for a red wave, he's got to spend his war chest,” the Republican donor Dan Eberhart said. “It's a failure of Trump's leadership that he has not stepped up.” 

Save America spent about $6.7 million in the primaries backing Mehmet Oz in the Pennsylvania Senate race and Kari Lake in the Arizona governor's race and seeking to defeat Republicans he felt had wronged him, including Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Rusty Bowers, the Arizona state House speaker, according to FEC filings. 

Save America hasn't spent to help Republicans in the general election aside from writing $5,000 checks to about 150 Republican lawmakers and congressional candidates. Some of those candidates are running in battlegrounds in the fall, but most of them aren't facing competitive races.

All of that spending amounts to a fraction of the amounts in Trump's campaign bank accounts.

Trump's midterm role

Our colleagues Isaac Arnsdorf, Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey reported last week that Trump is planning to be an active participant on the campaign trail, which many in the party see as a double-edged sword.

But financial support from his campaign cash wasn't high on the priority list. 

“I don't know what the Trump campaign is going to be doing in terms of financial support for the candidates, but I know the Trump endorsement in North Carolina definitely will help [GOP Senate candidate Ted Budd] to make sure we get out the Republican votes,” Michael Whatley, chair of the North Carolina Republican Party, said. 

Others would like him loosen his purse strings, too, because it's not just the NRSC with money challenges. Democrats are outraising Republican candidates in Arizona, Ohio, Georgia and Pennsylvania — key races Republicans must win. 

Karl Rove, the veteran Republican strategist who helped elect former president George W. Bush, pondered in the Wall Street Journal in July, “So what can Mr. Trump use his existing cash stash for? Well, financially supporting other candidates, but he hasn’t shown much interest in that so far.”

Scott has held his fire against the former president.

  • “I think it's important that we all work together to figure out how we can win, that means, you know, the RNC, the NRSC, the NRCC,” Scott told reporters Tuesday, referring to the three Republican campaign arms. He didn't mention Trump. 

The McConnell affiliated super PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, has $104 million cash on hand.

When asked if Scott has asked Trump for financial assistance, his spokesman, Chris Hartline, said he doesn't detail private conversations Scott has with the president. 

A Trump spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment. 

In the primary, Trump hosted fundraisers for candidates he endorses at Mar-a-Lago and held rallies for them — powerful tools in a primary campaign to engage and turn out voters. But in a general election, Republicans want campaign cash to run television ads and turn out voters in get out the vote efforts. 

Frustrated Republicans say the leader of the party needs to step up — “The 800-pound gorilla of Trump's involvement is like LeBron James deciding if he wants to play tonight,” Eberhart said — but few think he will. 

“Trump's going to do what's good for Trump,” said one Republican political consultant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe party tensions.

From Mar-a-Lago

Material on foreign nation’s nuclear capabilities seized at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago

Inside the boxes: “A document describing a foreign government’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities, was found by FBI agents who searched former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and private club last month, according to people familiar with the matter, underscoring concerns among U.S. intelligence officials about classified material stashed in the Florida property,” our colleagues Devlin Barrett and Carol D. Leonnig report.

  • “Some of the seized documents detail top-secret U.S. operations so closely guarded that many senior national security officials are kept in the dark about them. Only the president, some members of his Cabinet or a near-Cabinet-level official could authorize other government officials to know details of these special-access programs.”
  • “Documents about such highly classified operations require special clearances on a need-to-know basis, not just top-secret clearance. Some special-access programs can have as few as a couple dozen government personnel authorized to know of an operation’s existence. Records that deal with such programs are kept under lock and key, almost always in a secure compartmented information facility, with a designated control officer to keep careful tabs on their location. But such documents were stored at Mar-a-Lago, with uncertain security, more than 18 months after Trump left the White House.”

Mark your calendar:

  • The DOJ must decide by Friday whether to appeal U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon’s order to appoint a special master, per our colleagues Ann E. Marimow and Devlin Barrett. “If the Justice Department does appeal, the ensuing legal fight could take longer than any document review by the special master — and there is no guarantee that the government would prevail, particularly if the case were to reach the Supreme Court, to which Trump appointed three justices during his presidency and solidified a 6 to 3 conservative majority.”
  • “Or they could acquiesce to the order in hope that a special master could swiftly review the core documents at issue, which could get the investigation moving again sooner,” per the Wall Street Journal’s Aruna Viswanatha and Jan Wolfe. But “the prospect of the Justice Department and Trump’s team agreeing on any potential candidates for the role” appears unlikely.

What we're watching

If the Senate has the votes for the same sex marriage bill

Senate Democrats and Republicans will hold their respective policy lunches today and we'll be watching if there's any clarity on if same sex marriage legislation has the support of at least ten Republicans. 

A Democratic aide confirmed that leadership is considering attaching same sex marriage to the must-pass short-term government funding bill, as first reported by PunchBowl News, but that path seems unlikely. Republicans don't seem supportive, the aide said, and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), who is leading the Senate's effort, would prefer it not be attached to other legislation. 

Baldwin and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) wrote an opinion piece in The Post insisting the bill provides religious protections, a concern of some Republicans. 

Picture perfect: Today former president Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama will return to the White House for the unveiling of their official White House portraits. Biden and first lady Jill Biden will host the ceremony in the East Room.

  • Hello pomp and circumstance, my old friend: “The event will mark the return of the long-standing tradition of sitting presidents welcoming their predecessors — regardless of party — to the White House to unveil their official portraits,” our colleagues Amy B Wang and Azi Paybarah report. “In his time in office, Trump hosted no events at the White House for Obama.”

At the White House

As Obamas visit White House on Wednesday, Obama-Biden tensions linger

A thin line between love and … When the Obamas return to the White House today, “the atmosphere is expected to be similar to a family reunion, filled with stories, jokes and affection,” our colleague Tyler Pager writes. But “beneath that jovial atmosphere, however, is long-simmering tension, and even some jealousy, between the circles around Obama and Biden — the two Democratic presidents of the past 15 years and the ones who bracketed what Democrats see as the disastrous tenure of Trump.”

  • “Some Biden loyalists are resentful that Obama didn’t throw his weight behind Biden’s presidential aspirations, complaining that even now Obama’s team does not fully respect Biden. Obama loyalists are frustrated that Biden’s aides regularly boast of how they have avoided the mistakes of the Obama White House, such as failing to sufficiently tout the president’s accomplishments.”
  • “Aides say the ‘bromance’ was always exaggerated. The two had a strong working relationship and a personal friendship, but aides also noted that the men come from different generations (a 19-year age gap), different backgrounds (Biden served 36 years in the Senate; Obama served less than four) and have different styles (Obama is a gifted orator and deep thinker; Biden is the consummate retail politician who often goes off script).”

The campaign

Maura Healey to face Trump-backed Republican in deep-blue Massachusetts

About last night: Last night’s primaries in The Bay State – Massachusetts is the only state holding primaries the day after Labor Day – ushered in the beginning of the end of primary season. Here are the results from last night’s key races:

  • Governor: “Attorney General Maura Healey, who rocketed to prominence as the state’s litigator-in-chief against Trump before clearing the Democratic field for governor this year, officially captured the party’s nomination Tuesday, setting up an acrid general election fight with Geoff Diehl, a Trump acolyte whom GOP voters embraced as their gubernatorial nominee,” per the Boston Globe’s Matt Stout.
  • Attorney General: Meanwhile, Andrea Campbell, the first Black woman to be president of the Boston City Council, won the Democratic nomination for attorney general, per our colleagues Annie Linskey and David Weigel.

The Media

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