THE BIG IDEA: President Trump’s raucous rally in Phoenix last night was one giant attempt to rewrite history.
— These are the three biggest headlines out of his 76-minute speech:
- Trump threatened to shut down the federal government if Congress does not fund a border wall by the end of next month. “If we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall,” he said. “We’re going to have our wall!”
- He predicted that the North American Free Trade Agreement is “probably” going to be terminated “at some point.” “Personally, I don’t think we can make a deal,” he said of ongoing efforts to renegotiate the terms.
- And he hinted strongly that he will pardon former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio at the right moment. “I won’t do it tonight because I don’t want to cause any controversy. But Sheriff Joe should feel good,” Trump said.
— The bigger picture is that the president is in denial. His tendency to gloss over mistakes and pass the buck by recasting history in terms most favorable to himself was on vivid display. Just as the media was showing signs of starting to move on, Trump devoted more than 16 minutes to re-litigating his response to the horror in Charlottesville.
He defended the initial comment that he read on the day that Heather Heyer was killed and 19 others were injured when a car plowed into a group of people who were protesting white supremacists. Trump reread the first statement, but he notably omitted his declaration that there is hatred and bigotry “on many sides.” That is what generated the initial controversy.
“The words were perfect,” Trump said. “I spoke out forcefully…”
He complained that he did not get enough credit for the second statement, delivered from the White House two days later. “I hit ’em with neo-Nazi, I hit ’em with everything. KKK? We have KKK. I got ’em all,” Trump said.
Then he completely glossed over his news conference the day after that, in which he again insisted that “both sides” were to blame for the violence. “You had a group on one side that was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent, and nobody wants to say that,” Trump said at Trump Tower.
As he recounted the story at the Phoenix Convention Center last night, Trump complained that the press intentionally ignored his condemnations. “I’m only doing this to show you how damned dishonest these people are,” he said. “They said ‘he wasn’t specific enough.’”
Trump then turned to another page in his standard playbook. Essentially, it boils down to: I know what you are, but what am I? “The only people giving a platform to these hate groups is the media itself and the fake news,” Trump said. (Steve Bannon famously boasted last summer that Breitbart is “the platform for the alt-right.” After being ousted as White House chief strategist last Friday, Bannon is again running the site.)
The president leaned hard last night on the “us” versus “them” trope that he used so effectively during the campaign. Often, “them” is the press. Trump described reporters as “sick people.” “I really think they don’t like our country,” he said, leveling a serious (and patently untrue) charge against fellow citizens. Fox News is the exception, the president went on, singling out Sean Hannity for praise.
The media is “the source of division,” he claimed. “They are trying to take away our history and our heritage. … It’s time to expose the media … for their role in fomenting divisions in the country.”
— Somewhat incongruously, Trump went on to attack CNN for firing a pro-Trump analyst who tweeted a Nazi slogan after Charlottesville. “They fired Jeffrey Lord. Poor Jeffrey,” the president said of the ousted analyst. “I guess he was getting a little bit fed up, and he was probably fighting back a little too hard!”
In fact, the cable network fired Lord for tweeting “Sieg Heil!” during an argument with a liberal activist. “The phrase, meaning ‘hail victory,’ is banned in Germany because of its association with Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party,” Andrew deGrandpre notes.
Lord responded with gratitude, tweeting: “Thank you @POTUS !!”
— It was more than the Charlottesville imbroglio, however. Trump sketched out an alternative reality full of what Kellyanne Conway once dubbed “alternative facts.”
“I don’t believe that any president has accomplished as much as this president in the first six or seven months,” the president said, speaking in the third person.
Trump asserted that his brinkmanship with North Korea is paying dividends, claiming that Kim Jong Un is “starting to respect” the United States. (There is no evidence for this.)
“We won Arizona by a lot,” he declared near the start of his speech. (Trump carried the state by 3.5 points. John McCain’s margin of victory the same day, as a point of reference, was 13 percent. Mitt Romney beat Obama in Arizona by 9 points.)
Trump falsely claimed that the networks were cutting away from his speech as he laced into them. In fact, all three cable news channels continued to carry him live.
At another point, he maintained: “I don’t do Twitter storms.”
— Speaking about race relations, Trump defended himself by saying: “They were pretty bad under Barack Obama. That I can tell you.” They were bad in part because Trump spent years as a national leader of the birther movement.
Speaking of prominent birthers, Trump also asked the crowd what they think of Arpaio. The former Maricopa County sheriff, who lost reelection last year, was recently convicted on criminal contempt charges related to racially profiling Hispanics even after a federal judge ordered him to cut it out. “So was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job?” Trump asked, as the crowd cheered. “You know what, I’ll make a prediction: I think he’s going to be just fine, OK?”
Illustrating how off script Trump was, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters asking about Arpaio just hours before the rally that “there will be no discussion of that today at any point…”
— This is part of a pattern for Trump. What made his speech on Monday night so rare was that he admitted he had changed his mind about Afghanistan after studying the issue carefully. Last night, he was true to form. The crowd loved the red meat.
From the director of The Washington Post’s fact-checking unit:
Trump is repeating a bunch of discredited claims that are listed in our database of false/misleading claims. https://t.co/z6W6nLSqRx
— Glenn Kessler (@GlennKesslerWP) August 23, 2017
James Clapper, the former director of National Intelligence, said he found the rally “downright scary and disturbing.” “I really question his ability to be — his fitness to be — in this office, and I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it,” Clapper told CNN’s Don Lemon after the speech. “How much longer does the country have to, to borrow a phrase, endure this nightmare?”
“What we have witnessed is a total eclipse of the facts,” said Lemon. “What in the world is going on?”
The former acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency added this:
We must not become numb to this, complacent about it, or grudgingly admire it because it got him elected. It’s weird, divisive, dangerous.
— john mclaughlin (@jmclaughlinSAIS) August 23, 2017
— This morning’s press coverage presents Trump’s comments as somewhat unhinged. Here are 10 representative headlines:
- Fox News: “Trump goes on rampage against the media, sitting Arizona senators at Phoenix rally.”
- Arizona Republic: “‘Vintage Trump’: President unloads on enemies...”
- Associated Press: “Trump revisits his Charlottesville comments inangry speech.”
- Financial Times: “Trump threatens US government shutdown.”
- Time Magazine: “Trump Goes on the Attack, Again.”
- Politico: “A wounded Trump lashes out.”
- CBS News: “Trump lashes out during combative speech at campaign-style rally …”
- Los Angeles Times: “Trump fills Phoenix speech with charged language, accusing media and fellow Republicans of failings.”
- Washington Examiner: “Frustrated by governing, Trump returns to campaigning.”
- Vanity Fair: “Trump goes off-script in hour-long public meltdown. Trump explained that the biggest victim in the Charlottesville violence last weekend was, in fact, himself.”
— How Trump’s comments are playing on social media:
The president’s most devoted supporters were energized:
From provocateur Ann Coulter:
Everything immigration gets wild ecstatic applause. Nothing for Afghanistan, Gen. Kelly, Nikki Haley, etc. IT’S ALL ABOUT IMMIGRATION.
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) August 23, 2017
The banner on the Drudge Report:
— Dan Nowicki (@dannowicki) August 23, 2017
Elites were horrified:
The GOP focus group guru:
Trump doesnt just criticize media more than he criticizes neo-Nazis – he criticizes them more than radical Islamic terrorists. #PhoenixRally
— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) August 23, 2017
The political editor of Newsweek:
Trump offered no good wishes for @SenJohnMcCain in his cancer battle and no mention of the sailors lost on the USS John S. McCain IN ARIZONA
— Matthew Cooper (@mattizcoop) August 23, 2017
The New York Times columnist:
Sigh. If only President Trump denounced neo-Nazis with the passion and the sincerity with which he excoriates journalists.
— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) August 23, 2017
Until this year, it wasn’t obvious that “presidential” has an antonym. But it turns out that the antonym is “Trumpian.”
— Nicholas Kristof (@NickKristof) August 23, 2017
An NBC White House reporter:
The Arizona crowd is now chanting “McCain’s gotta go.” Wow.
— Ali Vitali (@alivitali) August 23, 2017
Mere mention of Hillary Clinton ushers “lock her up” chant.
— Ali Vitali (@alivitali) August 23, 2017
An NYT White House reporter:
Bannon may be gone, but tonight was again a reminder that his stances dovetail w Trump’s more than most ppl currently in administration.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) August 23, 2017
“It was hot! Like 116 degrees, I was out signing autographs for an hour!” says the president. It wasn’t 116.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) August 23, 2017
Democrats were aghast:
The longest serving member of the House in American history (retired Michigan Democrat):
We should have all just stared at the eclipse.
— John Dingell (@JohnDingell) August 23, 2017
The Democratic congressman who represents Phoenix:
Please everyone go home. The President has done enough damage to Arizona.
— Ruben Gallego (@RubenGallego) August 23, 2017
A Democratic congressman from Tennessee who has been pushing impeachment:
The real Donald is back!Apparently in a trance last night when he spoke of love & happiness.😈Tonight,He’s back!🤡Wild & reckless.25th Amend⏱
— Steve Cohen (@RepCohen) August 23, 2017
A Democrat from Wisconsin:
More than 9 months after the 2016 election, @realDonaldTrump is still letting “lock her up” chants go on at his rallies. Unacceptable.
— Rep. Mark Pocan (@repmarkpocan) August 23, 2017
— Finally, there’s an old Trump tweet for almost every occasion. Some were recirculating this post from 2011 overnight:
Our country is blowing up and @BarackObama is out campaigning.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 19, 2011
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
— Authorities used tear gas to disperse protesters after Trump’s rally ended. John Wagner, Jenna Johnson and Danielle Paquette report from Phoenix on how the crowd reflected America’s divide: “Uzma Jafri, a 40-year-old doctor from Phoenix, walked through the crowds of Trump supporters and protesters with a backpack of medical supplies. She said she came here to quickly treat anyone if violence broke out. ‘My ethical background, and my moral background, is to assist anyone who needs it — regardless of if they hate me,’ said Jafri, who poured a bottle of water over her black hijab in the 107-degree heat. Brian Ratchford came to the event armed with a .357-caliber gun to defend Trump supporters if things got out of hand. ‘He’s an American for Americans,’ said Ratchford, 47, of Tucson. What Trump said after Charlottesville ‘was perfect — people on both sides were causing the problems,’ said Ratchford.”
— “The Navy will relieve the admiral in charge of the service’s 7th Fleet based in Japan in response to four embarrassing accidents this year, two of which killed sailors at sea,” Dan Lamothe reports. “Vice Adm. Joseph P. Aucoin will be removed from his job formally Wednesday, the officials said. The incidents include the deadly collision Monday of the destroyer USS John S. McCain with a much heavier oil tanker off Singapore, and a June 17 accident in which the destroyer USS Fitzgerald was ripped open by a larger Japanese container ship. Seven sailors were killed in the Fitzgerald disaster, and at least some of the 10 sailors reported missing from the McCain are dead … Aucoin has been the 7th Fleet commander since September 2015, and was previously the deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems. His removal … is the highest profile in the Navy since the disasters occurred.”
GET SMART FAST:
Danish police confirmed that a headless torso found in waters off Copenhagen is that of missing Swedish journalist Kim Wall. Inventor Peter Madsen, who has been charged in her death, claimed that Wall died in an accident aboard his submarine. (Avi Selk and Samantha Schmidt)
The terrorist cell responsible for two vehicular attacks in Spain had planned to bomb monuments in Barcelona. One of the cell’s surviving members told a court that the group was assembling bombs under the guidance of their imam. (William Booth and Souad Mekhennet)
Libya’s former prime minister has been kidnapped in Tripoli. Ali Zeidan’s family said they have not heard from him in nine days. (Times of Israel)
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) stayed the execution of Marcellus Williams on Tuesday, agreeing to investigate new DNA evidence that his attorneys contend could prove his innocence in the 1998 killing of a newspaper reporter. The decision came just hours before Williams was slated to be put to death. (Mark Berman and Wesley Lowery)
A Las Vegas federal jury chose not to convict four men tied to the armed 2014 standoff near the Bundy ranch. The decision could be an ominous sign for prosecutors as they prepare for Cliven Bundy’s upcoming trial. (The New York Times)
A Virginia priest stepped down from his post after admitting that he had previously been a member of the KKK. While a member, William Aitcheson participated in the burning of a cross on the lawn of a black newlywed couple. (Dana Hedgpeth and Michelle Boorstein)
A key figure in the production of the infamous Trump dossier answered questions on Capitol Hill. Glenn Simpson, who hired Christopher Steele to assemble the dossier, appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee in a closed session. (ABC News)
17 charities have canceled events at Mar-a-Lago since Trump’s comment that “fine people” marched in the Charlottesville rally. Several groups have also attempted to move events to other venues. (David A. Fahrenthold and Drew Harwell)
German police said they have seized thousands of orange-colored ecstasy tabs in the shape of Donald Trump’s head. The haul was worth an estimated street value of more than $45,000, authorities said. (AP)
The Cleveland Cavaliers’s Kyrie Irving is headed to the Boston Celtics. In return, the Cavaliers will acquire point guard Isaiah Thomas and a 2018 first-round draft pick. (Des Bieler)
Malia Obama is officially moved in at Harvard. The former first daughter was seen Monday on Harvard Square with her parents. (People)
HERE’S WHAT ‘PRINCIPLED REALISM’ LOOKS LIKE IN AFGHANISTAN:
— One day after Trump definitively declared the United States will win the war in Afghanistan, his secretary of state appeared to undercut him. Aaron Blake writes: “[Rex Tillerson] addressed the Taliban directly: ‘You will not win a battlefield victory. We may not win one, but neither will you.’ ‘We may not win one’ is quite a different tune than the one Trump was singing Monday night. ‘We will always win,’ he began one thought. ‘I’m a problem-solver, and in the end, we will win,’ he added. … But a clear victory is something that basically any military expert will tell you is very difficult to foresee (much less predict) in Afghanistan[.]”
— “What an Afghanistan Victory Looks Like Under the Trump Plan,” by the New York Times’s Rod Nordland: “Ever since 2008, when Adm. Mike Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said ‘we can’t kill our way to victory,’ the cornerstone of American policy in Afghanistan has been not about obliterating the Taliban but pummeling them toward peace talks. … In his speech Monday night, Mr. Trump asserted that the United States would yet achieve peace through victory. … Even if the new American troop commitment limits the Taliban to the territory they have seized in the past two years, the pressure of that advance and old political rivalries have brought the Afghan government to the brink of collapse. Further, the Taliban whom the Americans hope to bring to the table are not the same. The Taliban position against peace talks has rarely been more hard-line than now.”
— The Air Force’s top general said that the service may increase its strikes in that country. Reuters’s Phil Stewart reports: “Air Force Chief of Staff General David Goldfein said, however, he was still examining the matter, as the U.S. military’s top brass had only begun the process of translating Trump’s war strategy into action. Asked whether the Air Force would dedicate more assets to Afghanistan, where the United States has been engaged in its longest military conflict, Goldfein said only: ‘Possibly.’ … Still, he acknowledged that the Air Force was ‘absolutely’ examining the possibility of increasing air power, including to support U.S. ground forces[.]”
— The White House is outlining a plan to increase pressure on Pakistan to stop harboring extremist groups. The Wall Street Journal’s Felicia Schwartz and Saeed Shah report: “The effort — the latest in a series of start-and-stop U.S. campaigns to influence Pakistan dating to the Sept. 11 attacks — comes as a centerpiece of a new strategy encompassing Afghanistan and South Asia. … But experts and former officials with experience in the region question whether it will be any more successful than its forerunners, and Pakistani officials already are chafing under new U.S. demands … [One] official said the administration’s first move to press Pakistan would be to gradually withhold some security and economic assistance. That could be followed up by sanctions[.]”
— Trump’s Afghanistan announcement will likely set off a fresh round of congressional debate over approving a new use-of-force law. Ed O’Keefe reports: “Democrats and some Republicans blasted Trump for not disclosing more information and said they will redouble attempts to pass the first use-of-force resolution since the 2001 act that authorized military action against terrorist groups in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. … Trump’s decision to adopt a conditions-based approach to the war without a specific timetable angered Democrats, who suggested the new plan could leave U.S. troops in Afghanistan indefinitely.”
President Trump speaks at the White House, flanked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan. (Evan Vucci/AP)
TRUMP VS. REPUBLICANS:
— NYT’s Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin have a deep look at Trump’s souring relationship with one of the most critical GOP players in Washington — Mitch McConnell, who more than anyone else holds the key to passing the president’s agenda. Alex and Jonathan write that the two men are “locked in a cold war, threatening the G.O.P. agenda.”
“The relationship between President Trump and [McConnell] … has disintegrated to the point that they have not spoken to each other in weeks, and Mr. McConnell has privately expressed uncertainty that Mr. Trump will be able to salvage his administration after a series of summer crises. What was once an uneasy governing alliance has curdled into a feud of mutual resentment and sometimes outright hostility, complicated by the position of Mr. McConnell’s wife, Elaine L. Chao, in Mr. Trump’s cabinet, according to more than a dozen people briefed on their imperiled partnership…
“During (a phone) call, which Mr. Trump initiated on Aug. 9 from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr. McConnell of bungling the health care issue. He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader’s refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election …
“Mr. McConnell has fumed over Mr. Trump’s regular threats against fellow Republicans and criticism of Senate rules … (He) has made sharper comments in private, describing Mr. Trump as entirely unwilling to learn the basics of governing. … In offhand remarks, Mr. McConnell has expressed a sense of bewilderment about where Mr. Trump’s presidency may be headed, and has mused about whether Mr. Trump will be in a position to lead the Republican Party into next year’s elections and beyond, according to people who have spoken to him directly. …
“While maintaining a pose of public reserve, Mr. McConnell expressed horror to advisers last week after Mr. Trump’s comments equating white supremacists in Charlottesville … Mr. McConnell signaled to business leaders that he was deeply uncomfortable with Mr. Trump’s comments: Several who resigned advisory roles in the Trump administration contacted Mr. McConnell’s office after the fact, and were told that Mr. McConnell fully understood their choices.”
Part of why McConnell is upset is Trump has a habit of going after sitting Republican officials. Last night, he did so again by attacking Arizona’s GOP senators — one of whom has brain cancer and the other who is running for reelection in 2018. The president didn’t mention John McCain or Jeff Flake by name, but his point was obvious — they’re not his friends.
Trump noted repeatedly that attempts to overhaul Obamacare went down by “one vote,” a clear reference to McCain. Then he said that “your other senator [is] weak on borders, weak on crime.” “Nobody knows who the hell he is,” Trump said of Flake. POTUS wrote on Twitter last week that it was “great” former state legislator Kelli Ward is challenging him in the Republican primary. But he did not mention or endorse Ward last night. (Sean Sullivan has more.)
The president also reiterated his calls for eliminating the filibuster rule that requires 60 votes to pass legislation on many issues in the Senate. He called budget reconciliation, which he’s trying to use to enact an overhaul of the tax code, “a trick.”“The Senate, we have to get rid of what’s called the filibuster rule,” Trump said. “If we don’t the Republicans will never get anything passed. Eight Democrats are controlling all of this legislation.”
The fiery rhetoric doesn’t help stop comments like these:
I wouldn’t wish seeing this about your own father on my worst enemy. May God help these people who inflict such cruelty in the world. https://t.co/2wV3yFI1Hn
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) August 23, 2017
A DIVIDED AMERICA:
— Following a contentious meeting, the Charlottesville City Council voted to shroud two Confederate statues in black. Emma Brown reports: “The vote to cover the statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson was unanimous, and was meant to recognize the city’s mourning[.] … In a period of public comment that stretched some four hours, residents faulted the City Council and Mayor Mike Signer (D) for the violence[.]”
— Laura Vozzella writes about Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) moment in the spotlight: “Charlottesville also vaulted McAuliffe into the national spotlight like nothing else in his nearly four years in the governor’s mansion, coming just as the term-limited, 60-year-old Democrat is considering life after January — including whether to make a 2020 bid to challenge Trump for the presidency. … McAuliffe, who once believed Confederate monuments should be left alone but now says they ought to be removed from public spaces, said the nation is facing a challenge that goes beyond bronze figures.”
— BUT BUT BUT a new survey shows that a slim majority – 51 percent – of Virginians believe the statues should remain standing. The survey also showed that 41 percent of those surveyed blame the neo-Nazis and counterprotesters equally for the violence that erupted. (Fenit Nirappil)
— Steve Hendrix has a story on how Robert E. Lee’s statue came to overlook the city of Richmond beginning in 1890 – and how Lee’s legacy represents a unique dilemma for Virginia, the Confederate general’s home state.
— Even Lee’s descendants are divided over whether the statues should remain or come down. (The New York Times’s Simon Romero)
— The monuments’ controversy is reaching into governor’s races. Politico’s Daniel Strauss and Negassi Tesfamichael report: “Democratic candidates in Maryland, Florida, Georgia, New Mexico and Tennessee have all called for Confederate statues or icons to be taken down. … For Democratic candidates running for governor, there’s a powerful incentive to make the Confederate monument argument a top talking point. It’s increasingly the dominant position within the party, and it contrasts sharply with Trump…”
— Trump has defended the statues’ continued existence as an homage to “history” and “beauty,” but he hasn’t shown deference to works of art in the past. Frances Stead Sellers reports: “In 1980, the brash 33-year-old developer instructed workers to destroy two giant Art Deco bas-relief friezes of nearly naked dancing figures and to remove a 20-by-30-foot geometric grille built into the doorway of the Bonwit Teller building, which Trump was razing to construct his namesake tower. … What ensued was a public battle over the aesthetic and financial value of the pieces, with Trump rep ‘John Barron’ (a pseudonym Trump sometimes used to represent himself) declaring that appraisers had dismissed them as ‘without artistic merit’ and that saving them would cause construction delays and be too costly.”
— Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley — now Trump’s U.N. ambassador — is familiar with the controversy after calling for the removal of the Confederate flag from statehouse grounds after a mass shooting at a Charleston church in 2015. She said she had a “personal conversation” with the president about Charlottesville, but didn’t elaborate. Haley said on CNN, “But I will tell you that there is no hate in this country. I know the pain that hate can cause, and we need to isolate haters, and we need to make sure that they know there is no place for them.” (Politico’s Diamond Naga Siu)
— Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) claimed that the Civil War was initially fought over land, not slavery. “What was the war? If you really truly read and study the Civil War, it was turned into a battle for the slaves, but initially — I mean, 7,600 Mainers fought for the Confederacy,” LePage said during an interview with a Maine radio station. “And they fought because they were concerned about — they were farmers — and they were concerned about their land. Their property. It was a property rights issue as it began. The President of the United States, who was a very brilliant politician, really made it about slavery to a great degree.” Civil War historian David Blight expressed skepticism about LePage’s 7,600 figure and referred to his idea that the war was fought over land as “patented nonsense.” (CNN’s Nathan McDermott and Andrew Kaczynski)
The landscape in Bears Ears National Monument as evidenced as the sun sets June 13, 2017 near Mexican Hat, UT. ( Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
THE TRUMP AGENDA:
— “Meet the nation’s most endangered monuments,” by Juliet Eilperin and Susan Levine: “Sweeping wilderness vistas. Archaeological relics dating back thousands of years. Undersea worlds of corals, anemones and rare marine species. Their fate could become clear this week when Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke concludes his review of 27 national monuments from the South Pacific Ocean to off the coast of New England, as directed by an executive order [Trump] signed this spring. The order targeted designations of at least 100,000 acres that were made by former presidents [Clinton, Bush and Obama] under the 1906 Antiquities Act … Trump is no fan of the act … But Interior’s review has come up against vehement pushback, [and] the secretary’s final guidance to the president could trigger both political and legal battles.”
— New York Magazine, “Is Anybody Home at HUD?” by Alec MacGillis: “In mid-May, [former HUD secretary Steve Preston] organized a dinner at the Metropolitan Club … for [Ben Carson] and five other former secretaries whose joint tenure stretched all the way back to Gerald Ford. It was an event with no recent precedent within the department, and it had the distinct feel of an intervention … [T]here is a whole other side to Trump’s takeover of Washington: What happens to the government itself, and all it is tasked with doing, when it is placed under the command of the Chaos President?”
— Federal prosecutors who requested information on web users who visited a site coordinating Inauguration Day protests are scaling back their request. Keith L. Alexander reports: “In a filing late Tuesday, prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office in the District amended the original warrant by saying they plan to focus only on the 200 or so individuals who have already been charged with rioting.” The prosecutors had originally requested more than 1.3 million IP addresses.
— The owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline has accused Greenpeace of breaking organized crime law. Dino Grandoni reports: “[Energy Transfer Partners] accused Greenpeace and other environmental activists who helped organize protests of eco-terrorism, racketeering and other crimes. … Energy Transfer Partners accused the individuals and organizations named in the lawsuit … of fabricating GPS coordinates for cultural and religious artifacts found along the pipeline route. The company also accused Greenpeace and others of falsely claiming that the company encroached on tribal treaty lands. But perhaps the most provocative charge was that the environmentalists … violated the U.S. Patriot Act by attempting to sabotage the pipeline, acts that, according to the company, amounted to ‘serious terrorist threats.’”
White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly looks on as President Donald Trump speaks at Trump Tower. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S GENERALS:
— “High-ranking military officials have become an increasingly ubiquitous presence in American political life during [Trump’s] presidency, repeatedly winning arguments inside the West Wing, publicly contradicting the president and even balking at implementing one of his most controversial policies,” Robert Costa and Philip Rucker report: “Connected by their faith in order and global norms, these military leaders are rapidly consolidating power throughout the executive branch as they counsel a volatile president.
“Critics of the president welcome their ascendancy, seeing them as a calming force amid the daily chaos of the White House. ‘They are standouts of dependability in the face of rash and impulsive conduct,’ said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) … ‘There certainly has been a feeling among many of my colleagues that they are a steadying hand on the rudder … in an otherwise zigzagging White House.’
“Among some on the right, however, the view is more suspicious. Some Trump supporters, for example, worry about blurring the line between military and civilian leadership, as exemplified by recent headlines at Breitbart News, [with Steve Bannon at the helm once again] … Trump’s announcement Monday that he would escalate troop levels in Afghanistan was covered on Breitbart with alarm. Headlines warned of ‘unlimited war’ and ‘nation-building’ led by military leaders without links to Trump’s base.” Ann Coulter tweeted Monday, “The military-industrial complex wins.”
— An email prankster convinced top editors at Breitbart that he was recently returned Steve Bannon, tricking editors into promising they would do Bannon’s “dirty work” against White House officials. CNN’s Oliver Darcy and Jake Tapper report: “[Breitbart Editor-in-Chief Alex] Marlow suggested he could have Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump ousted from the White House ‘by end of year’ and shared a personal smear about their private lives, perhaps an indication of how low the website is willing to go to achieve its agenda. … The email exchanges began with the prankster writing Breitbart editors a simple message from an account masquerading as Bannon’s. ‘Reading online about how i’ll be bringing forth my wrath on Ivanka and Jared,’ read an email sent Sunday from the fake Bannon account to Marlow. … ‘I spooked em today,’ replied Marlow. ‘Did five stories on globalist takeover positioning you as only hope to stop it.’”
— You can’t make this up: Louise Linton, who is married to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, apologized after Instagram posts showed her tagging designers and mocking critics. Damian Paletta reports: “‘I apologize for my post on social media yesterday as well as my response,’ she said, according to a publicist. ‘It was inappropriate and highly insensitive.’ … Linton on Monday was accompanying Mnuchin on a trip to Louisville so the treasury chief could discuss ways to cut taxes for the middle class and so he could tour Fort Knox. … The spouses of recent treasury chiefs rarely traveled on official business with their husbands, and there is little precedent for a social-media fight such as this.”
— More members of a White House advisory council have resigned. The Hill’s Melanie Zanona reports: “A number of those sitting on the National Infrastructure Advisory Council (NIAC), who were appointed under the previous administration, submitted their resignations on Monday evening, one day before the panel was scheduled to hold its quarterly business meeting. … ‘We can confirm that a number of members of the NIAC who had been appointed under the previous administration have submitted their resignation,’ a White House official said in a statement to The Hill. ‘The NIAC met today as planned with the majority of its members, who remain committed to the important work of protecting our Nation’s critical infrastructure.’”
This file photo distributed by the North Korean government shows what was said to be the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile. (Korea News Service via AP)
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
— The U.S. hit Chinese and Russian companies — and individuals — with sanctions for doing business with North Korea as part of a broader effort to isolate the hostile regime.Carol Morello and Peter Whoriskey report: “The sanctions against 10 companies and six individuals are designed to disrupt the economic ties that have allowed Pyongyang to continue funding its missile and nuclear program despite strict United Nations sanctions prohibiting it.
“But even as two federal agencies were taking stern measures against North Korea, [ Rex Tillerson] made a gesture of appreciation to Pyongyang, welcoming its apparent restraint in not conducting any new weapons tests since the latest U.N. sanctions were adopted Aug 5.” “We hope that this is the beginning of this signal that we’ve been looking for,” Tillerson said at a news conference, “that they are ready to restrain their level of tensions, they’re ready to restrain their provocative acts and that, perhaps, we are seeing our pathway to sometime in the near future having some dialogue.”
- China stated its opposition to the sanctions and warned they could harm U.S.-Sino relations. (Simon Denyer)
— North Korea’s state media reported that Kim Jong Un has requested the country’s scientists produce more solid-fuel rocket engines. CNN’s Ben Westcott reports: “But it was the photos of the inspection released by state media which missile analysts seized upon immediately. … One photo of Kim reveals a poster on the wall clearly mentioning a missile called ‘Pukguksong-3,’ a potential successor to the previous two versions of the missile which were both solid-fuel, medium-range projectiles. North Korea’s desire to build solid-fuel missiles is driven by their need for projectiles they can launch quickly and subtly[.]”
— Jared Kushner is conducting a quiet trip to the Middle East. Politico’s Annie Karni reports: “[Sources] said Kushner departed on Sunday and is set to arrive in Israel Wednesday night for meetings on Thursday.… It was not clear why the White House would announce the trip but keep details of Kushner’s departure under wraps. … The purpose of Kushner’s trip, according to a White House official, was to ‘focus on the path to substantive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, combatting extremism, the situation in Gaza, including how to ease the humanitarian crisis there,’ as well as to explore economic steps that could be taken leading up to any potential peace deal. … Expectations for any deliverables that the trip might yield, however, were very low in the days leading to Kushner’s arrival in Israel.”
H.R. McMaster’s decision to add longtime GOP foreign policy adviser Victoria Coates to the Israel team appears to have moved Trump’s strategy in the Middle East more towards that of a traditional Republican White House. (Annie Karni)
BUT, Egypt’s foreign minister canceled a meeting with Kushner after the State Department decided to withhold the country’s aid money. Kushner’s delegation will still meet with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. (The Guardian)
— Nikki Haley said Trump has not made a decision on next steps for the Iran nuclear deal. Anne Gearan reports: “The Trump administration is not looking for a pretext to junk the international nuclear deal with Iran, [Haley] said Tuesday … ‘We have no decision made. The president doesn’t have a decision made,’ Haley said in an interview. ‘What we are doing is trying to find out as much information as we can.’ … ‘This is not a country that can be trusted. This is not a country that has given us a reason to trust them. So I think the president has every reason to be leery of the actions by Iran.’”
Sen. Robert Menendez speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations hearing. (Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters)
— Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) will soon face trial for federal corruption charges, and the implications of his verdict could reverberate across the federal government. The NYT’s Shane Goldmacher reports: “If Mr. Menendez, a Democrat, is convicted and then expelled from the United States Senate by early January, his replacement would be picked by Gov. Chris Christie (R) … That scenario — where Mr. Menendez’s interim replacement would more than likely be a Republican — would have immediate and far-reaching implications: The Republicans would be gifted a crucial extra vote just as the party remains a single vote shy in the Senate of advancing its bill to dismantle President Obama’s signature health care law. Those potential consequences only heighten the drama around the first federal bribery charges leveled against a sitting senator in a generation.”
— The trial formally began yesterday, with a judge seating 10 jurors and Menendez entering a plea of not guilty. (Politico’s Matt Friedman)
— Menendez is being represented by Abbe Lowell, who defended former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) on campaign finance violations and recently became Jared Kushner’s counsel in the Russia probes. Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports: “It’s familiar terrain for Lowell, who has successfully represented a roster of clients including Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff, former Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign, and New York state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno[.] … But some of the most striking parallels may be to Lowell’s defense of [Edwards] … The case ended with a hung jury, prompting prosecutors to throw in the towel. …
“The crux of Lowell’s looming challenge in the Menendez case: dismantling federal prosecutors’ claims of a quid pro quo[.]
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
An attendee at Trump’s Phoenix rally endorsed an alarming web site:
— Tim Tagaris (@ttagaris) August 23, 2017
But in a bizarre twist:
Same guy was behind trump repeatedly during the campaign. They CHOSE HIM. https://t.co/dxwfD1JPaz
— John Aravosis (@aravosis) August 23, 2017
From Slate’s chief political correspondent:
Implicit in every defense of Confederate monuments is a belief that black people aren’t full and equal members of the polity.
— Jamelle Bouie (@jbouie) August 22, 2017
But many of Trump’s most ardent supporters continue to approve of him. From the president of the liberal Center for American Progress:
my analogy: if you married a loser that your whole family told you was a loser, it’d take more than 7 months to admit it. Still dumb to do. https://t.co/sujnLnGvZo
— Neera Tanden🖖🏼 (@neeratanden) August 22, 2017
The DNC tried a surprising marketing tactic:
Hmmm. The DNC is going after Trump for his “empty promises on border wall.” pic.twitter.com/mWGaiVkEkO
— Allan Smith (@akarl_smith) August 22, 2017
A New York Times reporter responded to the DNC’s strategy:
2018 Dem message: the food is terrible, and such small portionshttps://t.co/pnu6Sla38p
— Alex Burns (@alexburnsNYT) August 22, 2017
The Trump-backing Mercer family seems to be stepping up their fundraising game:
The Mercers seem to have become the New Kochs. (Insert joke here about how people ended up going back to Classic Koch.)
— Karen Tumulty (@ktumulty) August 22, 2017
Louise Linton received more criticism for her social media comments:
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) August 22, 2017
From a former Clinton campaign staffer:
Rich people believing that their paying taxes is a “sacrifice” like it’s some heroic act is why Republicans think rich people are heroes. https://t.co/gqKRdsETfs
— Emmy Bengtson (@EmmyA2) August 22, 2017
From a syndicated columnist, who is married to Sen. Sherrod Brown:
— Connie Schultz (@ConnieSchultz) August 22, 2017
From The Post’s resident satirist:
also wait does the treasury secretary’s wife think paying taxes is like a kind of credit to a government rewards program https://t.co/64XRHnI7xn
— Alexandra Petri (@petridishes) August 22, 2017
Politics is proving bad for Mar-a-Lago’s business:
— David Fahrenthold (@Fahrenthold) August 22, 2017
The first lady thanked Chelsea Clinton for defending Barron Trump:
Dear Matty-Barron is A KID. No child should be talked about in the below manner-in real life or online. And for an adult to do so? For shame https://t.co/p9jkGbMG4C
— Chelsea Clinton (@ChelseaClinton) August 22, 2017
— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) August 23, 2017
The OMB director took a hit at his former House colleague on his birthday:
— Mick Mulvaney (@MickMulvaneyOMB) August 22, 2017
And Gowdy responded in kind:
I’m just a couple of haircuts away from equaling the number of staff departures by your WH colleagues. I get it. You are hard to work with. https://t.co/sN0dg8ahrU
— Trey Gowdy (@TGowdySC) August 22, 2017
Anthony Scaramucci tried to get in on the joke:
Tucker Carlson met expectations:
Parody became reality tonight. Thanks, Tucker. pic.twitter.com/GSRc7Vdk2N
— Jim Swift (@JSwiftTWS) August 22, 2017
And two political couples celebrated their anniversaries:
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) August 22, 2017
2day is mrs grassley and my 63rd wedding anniversary 🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺🌺
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) August 22, 2017
After the ESPN news caught his attention, Sen. Orrin Hatch took the opportunity to clarify the name of another Civil War-era figure:
If you happen upon a civil war era Orrin Hatch in your reading do not be alarmed, that was also me. https://t.co/wmO0Cbo9pz
— Senator Hatch Office (@senorrinhatch) August 23, 2017
Robert Mueller, the special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 election, departs Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
— Bloomberg, “Mueller Uses Classic Prosecution Playbook Despite Trump Warnings,” by Chris Strohm: “The former FBI director leading the probe into the Trump campaign’s possible ties to Russia is taking a page from the playbook federal prosecutors have used for decades in criminal investigations, from white-collar fraud to mob racketeering: Follow the money. Start small and work up. See who will “flip” and testify against higher-ups by pursuing charges such as tax evasion, money laundering, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.”
— McClatchy, “Progressives begin 2020 dissection of Kamala Harris,” by Alex Roarty and Christopher Cadelago: “In the early jockeying for 2020, [Harris] hardly carries the same baggage as other possible rivals, such as Cory Booker, a senator from New Jersey. But the criticism, if not fully representative of the liberal left, carries a warning. Even though she’s popular with many progressives now, she’s not the hero that Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts or Bernie Sanders of Vermont are; and both of them are potential presidential candidates too.”
— FiveThirtyEight, “Fake Polls Are A Real Problem,” by Harry Enten: “Is Kid Rock leading the U.S. Senate race in Michigan? A story like that is essentially designed to go viral, and that’s exactly what happened when Delphi Analytica released a poll [with] Kid Rock [earning] 30 percent to Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s 26 percent. A sitting U.S. senator was losing to a man who sang the lyric, ‘If I was president of the good ol’ USA, you know I’d turn our churches into strip clubs and watch the whole world pray.’ The result was so amazing that the poll was quickly spread around the political sections of the internet. There was just one problem: Nobody knew if the poll was real …”
— Bloomberg, “How the Boys Run Trump Inc.: With Other People’s Money and Some Dubious Partners,” by Peter Robison and Michael Smith: “Donald Jr., 39, and Eric, 33, present themselves as hard-working, toned-down versions of their father. … Trump’s sons have each had more than a decade of experience working under their father, however. They’ve repeatedly pursued licensing arrangements in which they attach the family name to projects, generating cash without bearing much risk. They have a seemingly ad hoc, opportunistic style that’s sometimes led to partnerships with questionable characters, including people barred for securities violations or sued for fraud. And they’ve walked away, leaving employees, customers, or business partners with the fallout.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“These Teenagers Showed Up To Howard University Wearing MAGA Hats And Quickly Got Criticized,” fromBuzzfeed News: “Two teenagers stirred up controversy at Howard University — a historically black college, or HBCU — on Saturday when they arrived at the campus wearing Make America Great Again paraphernalia … Merdie Nzanga, a junior at Howard, said she was in the cafeteria eating her lunch when the school group arrived. ‘I didn’t say anything. To myself I thought, ‘This is going to be trouble.’ Nzanga said Howard students were upset because, though she feels the teens are entitled to express their views, they should have done their research and been respectful of the community whose space they were in. [She said one student] walked up to them and snatched their hats. Another student [cussed at them]. ‘They walked out, went on Twitter, and started complaining about it,’ [she said].”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“ESPN removes Robert Lee from calling U-Va. game in Charlottesville because of his name,” from Alex Horton: “The living Robert Lee, an ESPN sports broadcaster, was pulled from calling the University of Virginia home opener against William and Mary on Sept. 2 due to sharing a name with the Confederate general at the center of unrest in Charlottesville. ‘We collectively made the decision with Robert to switch games as the tragic events in Charlottesville were unfolding, simply because of the coincidence of his name,’ Derek Volner, an ESPN spokesman, told The Washington Post in an emailed statement.”
Trump will travel from Phoenix to Reno to give a speech at the American Legion’s national convention and sign a veterans bill.
Pence will be in Doral, Florida today for a briefing at the U.S. Southern Command on Venezuela’s deteriorating political situation. He will also participate in a listening session with the Venezuelan exile community in the region and deliver a speech on the matter.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Mike Pence on the controversy surrounding Confederate statues: “I’m someone who believes in more monuments, not less monuments.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
— A possible shower earlier in the day should clear up for a partly sunny afternoon. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Mostly to partly cloudy morning skies, with perhaps a spotty shower or two through midday, should turn partly sunny during the afternoon. After a fairly humid morning, we’ll see the humidity drop in the afternoon, with highs reaching the mid-80s.”
— The Nationals beat the Astros 4-3. (Chelsea Janes)
— Democratic megadonor Tom Steyer plans to spend $2 million helping to elect Ralph Northam governor in Virginia. Fenit Nirappil reports: “The former California hedge-fund manager turned climate activist told The Washington Post that Virginia … is the most important campaign priority for his group, NextGen America. … NextGen America’s $2 million commitment is expected to cover 70 paid staffers on 25 Virginia college campuses, who will register and try to turn out millenial voters in November. It will also pay for a digital campaign to reach millenials who aren’t in college.”
— The White House was placed on lockdown yesterday afternoon after a suspicious package was found. Peter Hermann reports: “Police said the item had been discovered about 1:15 p.m. in an area along Pennsylvania Avenue and Lafayette Square[.] … A spokesman for the U.S. Secret Service said the package was determined harmless about 2:15 p.m.”
— Germantown’s Lizandro Claros Saravia is struggling to adjust to El Salvador, a country he has not known since he was 10. Saravia made headlines earlier this month when he and his older brother Diego were deported, despite no criminal records and Lizandro’s soccer scholarship to a North Carolina college. (Maria Sacchetti)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Trevor Noah saw glimpses of “freestyle Trump” in his Afghanistan speech:
During a Marines meet-and-greet in Arizona, John Kelly offered a kiss to a baby:
Trump seems to love photo-ops with American-made vehicles:
The Powerball jackpot has swelled to $700 million:
And the National Zoo’s giant panda celebrated his second birthday with cake: