The Daily 202: Trump’s triangulation shows what might have been – Washington Post
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are seen through a window of the Oval Office during a meeting with President Trump on Wednesday. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)
THE BIG IDEA: In early 2016, as the field of Republican candidates winnowed, Bob Dole said that Donald Trump was preferable to Ted Cruz because he could “probably work with Congress.”
“He’s got the right personality, and he’s kind of a dealmaker,” said the former Senate majority leader and GOP presidential nominee.
Cruz pounced on that quote, working it into his stump speech as evidence that “the Washington establishment” believed Trump could be co-opted. “If as a voter, you think what we need is more Republicans in Washington to cut a deal with … Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, then I guess Donald Trump is your guy,” said the Texas senator.
That line of attack never resonated with most Republicans. Many rank-and-file conservatives don’t like dysfunction, gridlock and government shutdowns. In the general election, even if they didn’t like him personally, swing voters overwhelmingly felt like the author of a book called “The Art of the Deal” could probably make pretty good deals — whether with foreign countries, defense contractors or Democrats. Indeed, that was a central rationale of Trump’s populist campaign.
Yesterday, President Trump cut his first big deal with Pelosi and Schumer. Snubbing Republican leaders and his own treasury secretary, he agreed with Pelosi and Schumer on plans for a three-month bill to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling for the same amount of time.
The president also signaled support for a Democratic push to pass legislation that would shield undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children from deportation. “Chuck and Nancy want to see something happen — and so do I,” Trump said.
Then he flew to North Dakota on Air Force One with Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, declared he really wants to work with her on overhauling the tax code and called her “a good woman.”
— As some Trump advisers signaled that this is a sign of what’s to come, Republican leaders on Capitol Hill seethed with anger about all three of these developments. Veteran negotiators in Trump’s adopted party think the freshman president agreed to a bad deal that gives Pelosi and Schumer more leverage. They feel like they’re being boxed in on immigration and being set up as fall guys. And they resent that Trump just gave meaningful air cover to one of the most beatable Democrats in 2018.
— Entertaining counterfactuals can be silly, but what if Trump had acted this way from Day One? What if he had positioned himself consistently as a nonideological pragmatist? What if he made an earnest show of bipartisanship and focused on issues which Democrats would have felt compelled to cooperate on, such as infrastructure spending to repair crumbling roads? What if instead of demanding a straight repeal of Obamacare, he had insisted on regular order, supported fixing the health-care system and frontally challenged pharmaceutical companies over drug pricing? What if the White House tried negotiating in good faith on overhauling the tax code, instead of focusing primarily on big corporate tax cuts?
Yesterday offered a small taste of what might have been if he had triangulated from the beginning. For one thing, it does not seem unreasonable to speculate that his approval rating would be higher than 37 percent.
President Trump meets with Hill leadership in the Oval Office. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)
— Think back to Jan. 20: After railing against political elites of both parties during his inaugural address, Trump went inside the Capitol for a cozy lunch with congressional leaders. He was chummy at a signing ceremony to nominate members of his Cabinet. He handed Pelosi one of the pens he used so she’d have a memento to remember the day. Then he gregariously told Schumer to also take a pen. He called them “Nancy and Chuck,” just like he did yesterday.
That backslapping repartee suggested that the new president might be serious about building bridges. Perhaps he would slam Washington on the stump but schmooze his critics behind closed doors.
Instead of bargaining, though, he chose to govern with the very scorched-earth tactics that he had successfully employed on the campaign trail. The result is a litany of missed opportunities, essentially no legislative accomplishments and a well that has been poisoned.
There are 10 Democratic senators up for reelection next year in states Trump carried. The White House had good reason to believe that several of these lawmakers would feel compelled to work with them. (Trump won North Dakota by 36 points, for example.) But as the president’s approval rating kept falling, even in red states, and Trump seemed to constantly be struggling with self-inflicted wounds, these senators lost that incentive.
President Trump walks out of the White House to begin a trip to North Dakota. (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)
— Sometimes when Trump looks crazy, he’s being crazy like a fox.
The media’s coverage of the debt deal this morning is over-the-top negative. Partly this is because top Republicans on the Hill are angry that Trump didn’t do what they want, so they’re trashing the deal to reporters. Their frustrations are legitimate and sincere. They thought they had a real opportunity to not talk about the debt ceiling again until after the midterm elections. They know from experience how hard it is to get conservatives to vote for raising the borrowing limit, which always forces them to rely on Democratic votes to make it happen. “A three-month debt ceiling? Why not do a daily debt ceiling?” Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) joked to Politico. “He’s the best deal-maker ever, don’t you know? I mean, he’s got a book out!”
Let’s keep what happened in perspective: Democrats didn’t really win major concessions. They just agreed to prevent the government from defaulting on its debts for three months and funded initial relief efforts for Hurricane Harvey. Schumer and Pelosi are gleeful because they think they’ve positioned themselves perfectly for December negotiations. “Democrats still must prove, however, that they can actually land those victories,” Paul Kane writes. “For now, they have (merely) secured a seat at the negotiating table.”
Meanwhile, Trump looks independent from unpopular congressional Republicans and showed he can work across the aisle. In North Dakota last night, as an illustration of this, Trump boasted about his “great bipartisan meeting” with Schumer and Pelosi. “I’m committed to working with both parties to deliver for our wonderful, wonderful citizens,” the president said. “Everybody was happy. Not too happy, because you can never be too happy, but they were happy enough.” He called it a “very good” deal.
Trump also recognizes that he cannot force a showdown over funding for his border wall with Houston flooded, another hurricane bearing down on Florida and several must-pass bills on the docket. Now he gets to have that fight in December instead. Democrats insist they will never support money for the border wall, but administration officials believe they will agree to increased border security or some version of a fence if it means protecting 800,000 “dreamers” from deportation. “We believe that helping to clear the decks in September enables us to focus on tax reform,” White House director of legislative affairs Marc Short told reporters on Air Force One. “I think it puts pressure on all of us to get tax reform done before December.”
— Another key reason Republican leaders are mad: Trump has once again humiliated Paul Ryan. Administration officials reportedly told congressional leaders on Tuesday night that the president would endorse their request for an 18-month extension. Based on that, Ryan told reporters at the Capitol that it was “ridiculous and disgraceful” that Democrats wanted just a three-month extension. Acting outraged, the speaker accused the opposition of playing politics “when we have fellow citizens in need.” Less than an hour later, though, Trump accepted that “ridiculous and disgraceful” offer. Then Ryan and Mitch McConnell got on board.
They did so because they know Trump has more suction with Republican voters than they do. Just 28 percent of Republican voters said they’d be more likely to vote for a member of Congress that supported McConnell, according to a Politico-Morning Consult poll published yesterday, while 30 percent said they’d be less likely and 15 percent said McConnell’s support would have no impact.
— “The pivot is real, and it’s spectacular,” writes conservative thought leader Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist. “It may be that this is the first sign Trump is himself waking up to the inaccuracy of the conventional wisdom about ‘needing McConnell and Ryan’ which has animated so much of the early failures of the Republican legislative agenda. So he’s being more honest: he doesn’t like McConnell and Ryan, never did. He likes Chuck Schumer, and knows him, and thinks he can work with him. And he knows Chuck always makes money for his partners. … Trump siding against GOP leaders and seeing them bend over illustrates how he could get them to do this on just about everything. The path of least resistance, the path of popularity for him, is to dismiss the demands of Congressional Republicans on virtually everything except abortion, judges, education, free speech, and regulations.”
Bill Clinton flies on Air Force One in 1995 with Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich. (File)
— Triangulation worked for Bill Clinton. He got reelected in 1996 after brutal losses in the midterms by positioning himself against both congressional Republicans and Democrats. Clinton declared that the era of big government was over, endorsed an income-tax cut and signed onto welfare reform. Negotiating big bipartisan deals made him look like a third-way centrist after the HillaryCare debacle during his first year. Outside Trump advisers have suggested in recent weeks that the Clinton model is instructive.
— But, but, but: The kind of deal making we saw yesterday probably cannot and will not last. Trump is toxic to most Democrats because of his personal behavior and his reaction to events like Charlottesville. Not to mention rescinding DACA, instituting the travel ban, pardoning Joe Arpaio, firing James Comey, etc., etc. The window for grand bargains has probably closed. Any Democrat who wants to run for president in 2020 recognizes that collaborating with Trump in any way will be a liability in the primaries, and more than a dozen Democratic senators want to run for president.
There is also a reasonable expectation that Trump will invariably go back to his old ways sooner than later. Maybe even with a tweetstorm today. Trump’s instinct is still to play to his base and preach to the choir. (Recall last month’s Phoenix rally.) The left also sees the Russia investigation as potentially fatal for the presidency.
— Furthermore, continuing down this new course would require Trump to show self-discipline that he’s lacked over the past seven months.
Trump’s biggest cheerleaders in the conservative media are mad that he’s reaching across the aisle and will ratchet up pressure on him not to do it again. He’s tended to be more comfortable pleasing his base than challenging it.
There’s another risk: Relationships matter more than anything else in Washington, and trust is the coin of the realm. Trump’s ties with Ryan and McConnell continue to fray. They might put on a good face publicly and show a stiff upper lip, but each time the president embarrasses them they become marginally more likely to turn on him down the road during his darkest hours. For example, what if Trump were to fire Robert Mueller as special counsel? Are Ryan and McConnell really going to risk permanent damage to their own legacies to defend someone who has burned them more often than not? Is that a risk the president would be willing to take?
— Happening tomorrow at 9 a.m.: The Daily 202 Live with Wilbur Ross. Want to attend my discussion with the secretary of commerce at The Washington Post tomorrow? We have lots to cover!RSVP here.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
Shoppers wait in line for the arrival of a shipment of water during preparations for the impending arrival of Hurricane Irma in Florida. (Joe Burbank/AP)
FLORIDA BRACES FOR A “CATASTROPHIC” STORM:
— Hurricane Irma continued to tear across the Atlantic Wednesday with record-setting strength, sustaining Category 5 winds of 185 mph as it ripped through the eastern Caribbean and left areas of massive destruction in its wake. The latest models currently show Irma making landfall in Florida by Sunday. Locations in northern Florida as well as up into Georgia and the Carolinas could also get significant impact early next week. (Read the latest from the Capital Weather Gang here.)
— Last night, the National Hurricane Center said a direct hit on Florida is more likely, prompting a new wave of mandatory evacuations in Miami-Dade County and the Florida Keys. In a blunt warning to residents, Gov. Rick Scott (R) said that anyone who intends to evacuate should “get out now.” (Sunshine State News)
— As Irma continues to track toward South Florida “as if following directions by GPS,” the mood in the state has grown increasingly frantic. Joel Achenbach, Francisco Alvarado, Sandhya Somashekhar and Mark Berman report from Miami: “With the storm still days away, it was relatively unusual for the people of South Florida to go into full-on storm preparation mode. But this is a scary hurricane at a moment when anyone paying attention to the news understands what a big storm can do.”
- “There are more than 6 million people in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, all concentrated between the beach and the swamps. Many have been streaming north on Interstate 95 or Florida’s Turnpike, and gas stations have plastic bags on the pumps.
- “The region’s airports were slammed, and it had become difficult to score a seat on any airplane, going anywhere. Seats that were available still for purchase … were often exorbitantly expensive, in the range of $2,000.”
- “[University of Miami professor and Capital Weather Gang contributor] David McNoldy … called up the model forecasts and showed how Irma is expected to move in more or less a straight line toward Florida, west by northwest, but then hang a sharp right to the north. That track could send it right to McNoldy’s cubicle and on up the Gold Coast, as if the storm were trying to grind away a century of urbanization. ‘That’s extremely bad,’ he said. ‘That’s basically every East Coast Florida city. This could easily be the most expensive U.S. storm if this happens.’”
— “Irma’s peak intensity (185 mph) ranks among the strongest in recorded history, exceeding the likes of Katrina, Andrew and Camille— whose winds peaked at 175 mph,”our colleagues report. “The storm has maintained maximum wind speeds of at least 180 mph longer than any other storm on record in the Atlantic.” To put that size into context, if it was dropped over the state of Ohio, it would cover the Buckeye State from Toledo to Steubenville and from Cincinnati to Cleveland, Philip Bump notes.
— The New York Times reports that Irma “leveled” the small island of Barbuda, damaging or destroying 95 percent of its buildings and rendering the island “barely habitable.” Barbuda’s prime minister said Wednesday that the island, home to more than 1,500 people, is now “literally rubble.” The storm also passed directly over Anguilla and St. Martin, causing severe damage.
— “As the storm heads west, hurricane warnings are in effect for the Dominican Republic, the Turks and Caicos, Haiti and the southeastern and central Bahamas,”Jason Samenow and Brian McNoldy report. “A hurricane watch covers Cuba and the northwestern Bahamas.” In Turks and Caicos, and the southeastern Bahamas, Irma could push ashore a “devastating” storm surge of 15 to 20 feet.
— Meanwhile, two new hurricanes formed late Wednesday in the Atlantic basin: Jose in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, and Katia in the southwest Gulf of Mexico.
— #FakeNews: Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh ludicrously accused the media of faking the potentially catastrophic effects of Hurricane Irma. “There is a desire to advance this climate change agenda, and hurricanes are one of the fastest and best ways to do it,” Limbaugh claimed on his talk show on Tuesday. “The media benefits with the panic, with increased eyeballs, and the retailers benefit from the panic with increased sales, and the TV companies benefit … These storms, once they actually hit, are never as strong as they’re reported.” Infowars founder and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who has accused the federal government of using “weather weapons,” last week suggested Harvey might have been manufactured or manipulated.
— One Florida sheriff’s department took heat after it warned fugitives in a series of tweets that they would be escorted to jail if they turned up at a storm shelter, a policy that will likely risk lives. (The Daily Beast)
GET SMART FAST:
- In other extreme weather events, Western states continue to battle out-of-control wildfires. Almost 1 million acres in Montana have burned since the beginning of the summer. (John Hopewell)
The Charlottesville City Council unanimously voted to remove a statue of Stonewall Jackson. But the decision could be blocked depending on the outcome of a lawsuit questioning the council’s ability to remove a separate statue of Robert E. Lee, the alleged subject of last month’s violent rally. (Dana Hedgpeth)
- The Washington National Cathedral began the removal of stained-glass windows honoring Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, citing the “painful, distracting, and one-sided stories” told in the decades-old art. (Michelle Boorstein)
- 2017 appears to be on track to have the second-lowest annual violent crime rate since 1990. The Brennan Center for Justice released data showing that the rate is expected to fall by 0.6 percent, despite previous doomsday predictions from Trump officials like Jeff Sessions. (Philip Bump)
Some prominent Republicans are urging the Supreme Court to find partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional. That position puts former politicians like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bob Dole against the Republican National Committee, which is backing the GOP-led Wisconsin legislature’s gerrymandered electoral map. (Robert Barnes)
Trump announced the recipients of his $1 million donation to Harvey relief. The Red Cross and Salvation Army each received $300,000, while 10 additional nonprofits split the remainder. (David A. Fahrenthold)
- A U.S. general in Afghanistan apologized for the distribution of offensive propaganda leaflets, which superimposed a key Islamic text on the image of a dog. Dogs are considered unclean, diseased and dangerous in Afghan society. (Sayed Salahuddin and Pamela Constable)
- A tiger in Georgia was shot dead by police, after residents in an Atlanta suburb discovered the animal slinking through their neighborhood and attacking a dachshund.(Kristine Phillips)
- “Veep” is coming to an end. The HBO series will conclude next year after its seventh season. (The New York Times)
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
— Facebook told congressional investigators that it discovered it sold ads to a shadowy Russian company seeking to target U.S. voters during the 2016 election.Carol D. Leonnig, Tom Hamburger and Rosalind S. Helderman scoop: “Facebook officials reported that they traced the ad sales, totaling $100,000, to a Russian ‘troll farm’ with a history of pushing pro-Kremlin propaganda … A small portion of the ads, which began in the summer of 2015, directly named [Trump] and [Clinton]. Most of the ads focused on pumping politically divisive issues such as gun rights and immigration fears, as well as gay rights and racial discrimination. … Even though the ad spending from Russia is tiny relative to overall campaign costs, the report from Facebook that a Russian firm was able to target political messages is likely to fuel pointed questions from investigators about whether the Russians received guidance from people in the United States …
“Facebook discovered the Russian connection as part of an investigation that began this spring looking at purchasers of politically motivated ads … It found that 3,300 ads had digital footprints that led to the Russian company. Facebook teams then discovered 470 suspicious and likely fraudulent Facebook accounts and pages that it believes operated out of Russia, had links to the company and were involved in promoting the ads.” (An official familiar with the probe said Facebook does not have the ability to determine whether the ads it sold represented any sort of coordination. The company also turned over information about the ads to special counsel Robert Mueller.)
— Donald Trump Jr. will meet today with Senate Judiciary Committee staff. CNN reports: “Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate judiciary committee, [said] her panel ‘will have a public hearing with Mr. Trump at an appropriate time.’ She did not say when or if Trump Jr. has agreed to the hearing. ‘The agreement that we had is that there will be a public hearing and, if they don’t come, they’ll be subpoenaed,’ she said. Feinstein also clarified Trump Jr. will meet with committee staff for the interview Thursday — not the committee. … She said members can drop in, but cannot take over.”
— The Don Jr. meeting represents a new challenge for Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who has vacillated between defending the president and criticizing him for impeding the committee’s investigation.Karoun Demirjian reports: “Grassley can be punishing with anyone who tries to circumvent his committee’s authority — even the president, whom Grassley recently lectured in a letter to be more responsive to congressional oversight requests from Democrats and Republicans. … Grassley’s refusal to be constrained, and his reputation for putting the integrity of his probes above all, including party, is why many Democrats trust him with the reins of an investigation into Trump.”
— House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) sent Jeff Sessions a letter last week threatening him with an open hearing if he didn’t hand over documents tied to the infamous Trump dossier. CNN reports: “Nunes … accused Sessions and the FBI of stonewalling him repeatedly in a Sept. 1 letter … In the letter, he threatened to drag Sessions and [FBI director Christopher Wray] before the committee for a public grilling and hold them in contempt of Congress — a jailable offense — if they don’t hand over the documents. Nunes also writes that he subpoenaed to discover whether information from the Russia dossier was used in the crafting of applications to conduct surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. In the letter, which was signed only by Nunes and no other [panel] members … Nunes explained that he was extending the deadline for responding to the subpoenas to September 14.”
— “Hackers gain direct access to US power grid controls,” by Wired Magazine’s Andy Greenberg: “Security firm Symantec is warning that a series of recent hacker attacks not only compromised energy companies in the US and Europe but also resulted in the intruders gaining hands-on access to power grid operations — enough control that they could have induced blackouts on American soil at will. … Never before have hackers been shown to have that level of control of American power company systems, [Symantec security analyst Eric] Chien notes.”
— “The Gerasimov Doctrine,” by Politico Magazine’s Molly K. McKew: “Lately, Russia appears to be coming at the United States from all kinds of contradictory angles. Russian bots amplified [Trump] during the campaign, but in office, Kremlin-backed media portray him as weak, [and Vladimir] Putin is expelling U.S. diplomats from Russia. … Confused? Only if you don’t understand the Gerasimov Doctrine. In February 2013, [Russian General Valery Gerasimov] laid out a new theory of modern warfare — one that looks more like hacking an enemy’s society than attacking it head-on. Thanks to the internet and social media, the kinds of operations Soviet psy-ops teams once could only fantasize about — upending the domestic affairs of nations with information alone — are now plausible. The Gerasimov Doctrine builds a framework for these new tools, and declares that non-military tactics are not auxiliary to the use of force but the preferred way to win. … That they are, in fact, the actual war.”
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) makes his way to a meeting with other members of the House Freedom Caucus. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)
GOP RIFT DEEPENS:
— House hard-liners target Paul Ryan (again). Robert Costa scoops on the meeting between the perennially disgruntled House Freedom Caucus with the speaker to “candidly express their frustrations with his leadership and his handling of the Republican legislative agenda.” The difference this time is that HFC members first met with ousted Trump adviser Steven K. Bannon, who is back at the bomb-throwing site Breitbart. “Several people close to Bannon and [ HFC Chair Mark] Meadows said on Wednesday that the two men, who met on Monday on Capitol Hill, have begun to discuss who could replace Ryan as speaker, should conservatives rebel against him. But they stressed that those discussions remain speculative and informal, with no plan yet for action.” We’ve seen this play before and House Republicans are so divided they had a hard time finding someone to replace Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) once they achieved his ouster. But Bannon’s influence could help put momentum behind their cause.
— Beginning of a wave?: Dave Reichert, a moderate Republican from the Seattle suburbs, is retiring — representing a good pickup opportunity for House Dems. More from David Weigel: “Reichert was elected in 2004 and is one of 23 Republicans who represents a district where voters picked Hillary Clinton for president over [Trump]. … This year, Democrats had already put the 8th District on their target list, and eight Democrats had piled in to run against him. … But veteran GOP advisers are waiting to see if this is the first of a string of retirement announcements, as the congressional session has produced little legislative results to tout, and looks like the 2018 midterms could be difficult for Republicans. Reichert is the 12th Republican to leave the House since the start of 2017.”
Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) makes an opening statement as he chairs a subcommittee hearing in 2014. (Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News)
— Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Tim Murphy admitted publicly on Wednesday to a marital affair with a “personal friend” after pressure from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to open his divorce court proceedings.
From the paper’s Paula Reed Ward: “Congressman Tim Murphy publicly admitted Wednesday to having an extramarital affair with a personal friend, issuing a statement about the relationship hours after the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette prevailed in a court motion to unseal a divorce action. Mr. Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, is not a party to the divorce. However, the husband in the case, Jesse Sally, a sports medicine physician, sought in July to depose the congressman as part of his divorce from Shannon Edwards, a forensic psychologist. Dorothy Wolbert, who represents Dr. Sally, said that the deposition is relevant to alimony requested by Ms. Edwards.” The judge agreed and said he must be deposed by Sept. 29, as well as turn over text and email communications between himself and the woman.
“Mr. Murphy, 64, who is in his eighth term in Congress, is a practicing psychologist and is married with an adult daughter. Ms. Edwards, 32, has a doctoral degree, and her practice involves significant work within the Allegheny County court system, performing evaluations of defendants in criminal and child custody cases. The two met, she said, when she contacted his office to volunteer to do work on his mental health bill that was signed into law in December. … In an interview Wednesday evening, Ms. Edwards said that her relationship with Mr. Murphy has ended.”
— Murphy’s statement: “Last year I became involved in an affair with a personal friend. This is nobody’s fault but my own, and I offer no excuses. To the extent that there should be any blame in this matter, it falls solely upon me.”
— Under fire: The corruption trial of New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez (D) kicked off yesterday, “with a federal prosecutor charging that the lawmaker sold his office in exchange for luxury getaways, private jet flights and hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign cash.”
The Post’s Devlin Barrett was on the scene in Newark: “‘This is what bribery looks like,’ said Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Koski in opening arguments at U.S. District Court … ‘These two defendants corrupted one of the most powerful offices in our country. The defendants didn’t just trade money for power, they also tried to cover it up.’ … Supporters of the senator applauded as he walked into the courthouse to face trial on 12 separate charges. ‘Not once have I dishonored my public office,’ Menendez said. He became emotional and choked back tears as he thanked his children and supporters who ‘have stood by me as I try to clear my name.’ … Menendez’s lawyer, Abbe D. Lowell, accused the Justice Department of trying to paint a decades-long friendship as something sinister and criminal.”
Sen. John McCain speaks with reporters outside of his Senate office. (Oliver Contreras/The Washington Post)
— Hope for health care? John McCain, the Arizona senator who effectively killed the GOP push to repeal-and-replace Obamacare, hinted yesterday he may be open to a new compromise being advanced by Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.)
David Weigel and Sean Sullivan report: “On Wednesday, McCain told the Hill that he backed a proposal from Sens. [Graham and Cassidy] that would end the ACA’s Medicaid expansion and insurance subsidies, and instead dole out money to states for whatever health insurance programs they favored. … ‘If it’s not through regular order, then it’s a mistake,’ McCain said. ‘But it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t vote for it.'” McCain later clarified his stance in a follow-up statement: “I want to see the final legislation and understand its impact on the state of Arizona before taking a position. As I have said all along, any effort to replace Obamacare must be done through the regular order of committee hearings, open debate and amendments from both sides of the aisle.”
— During Senate hearings on Obamacare yesterday, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) called on Trump to extend cost-sharing reduction subsidies that help low-income Americans buy insurance through 2018. Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin report: “He also said the government should allow states greater freedom to deviate from a variety of ACA rules, including the benefits that health plans sold through marketplaces must include. Alexander acknowledged that each party ‘may be reluctant to support’ certain elements but added, ‘This is a compromise we ought to be able to accept … If we don’t, millions of Americans will be hurt.’” A bipartisan group of state insurance commissioners echoed Alexander’s recommendations at the hearing.
— Paul Ryan yesterday assured “dreamers” they could “rest easy” as Congress looked to replace DACA following Trump’s decision to rescind it (maybe, probably). Mike DeBonis reports: “Ryan sketched out a compromise that has been floated by numerous congressional Republicans — pairing relief for [“dreamers”] with border security and other enforcement measures supported by conservatives. He did not mention funding for a Mexican border wall[.] … He added: ‘What we don’t want to have happen is another DACA problem in 10 years from now. We want to make sure that we fix this issue for these kids, for these young people, and to address the root cause of the problem.’”
— Trump said that he wants a congressional solution on the issue “where everybody is happy.” He tweeted Tuesday night that he would “revisit” the program if Congress can’t pass a replacement. “I have a feeling that’s not going to be necessary,” Trump said yesterday on Air Force One when asked to clarify. “I think they’re going to make a deal. I think Congress really wants to do this.” (Politico’s Nolan D. McCaskill)
— Congressional Democrats appear willing to consider some border security measures in exchange for replacing DACA, but there are many poison pills that could ruin a compromise, including Trump’s border wall. Politico’s Seung Min Kim reports: “Democratic leaders showed some willingness to play procedural hardball, when they vowed to try to attach Dreamers legislation to other must-pass items later this year. ‘There are some things that are absolutely unacceptable. A 2,200-mile border wall is unacceptable. Making it easier to deport the parents of Dreamers, not gonna do that,’ Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois, a longtime advocate for Dreamers, said in an interview. But, Durbin added, ‘If they want to put something on the table, I’ll look at it.’”
— But immigration hard-liners’ controversial comments about the dreamers could complicate the path forward:
- Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) told NBC News yesterday, “They came here to live in the shadows, and we’re not denying them that opportunity to live in the shadows. … They need to be exposed to the enforcement of the law.”
- Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who also co-chairs Trump’s voter fraud commission, said to CNN, “They came in presumably with a parent or parents, and so the correct policy is for us to enforce federal law and deport the whole family to the home country.”
— Attorneys general from 15 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit to save the DACA program. Matt Zapotosky reports: “The suit says that unwinding the program would damage states because DACA beneficiaries pay taxes, go to state universities and contribute in other ways and that phasing out the program would jeopardize their ability to do those things. ‘Rescinding DACA will cause harm to hundreds of thousands of the States’ residents, injure State-run colleges and universities, upset the States’ workplaces, damage the States’ economies, hurt State-based companies, and disrupt the States’ statutory and regulatory interests,’ the [attorneys general wrote].”
— Immigration advocates continue to worry that dreamers’ information, stored in a federal database, could be used to deport them. Craig Timberg and Tracy Jan report: “Much that is necessary to find and deport those who applied for [DACA] is contained in the database: home addresses, phone numbers, financial information, and education and employment history, as detailed across several federal forms and backed by supporting documentation. Even entries and exits from the country and visa expiry dates were required to complete the DACA application, giving government officials what amount to signed, dated admissions about violations of federal immigration law. All this information is now just a few clicks away on federal government computer systems.”
White House economic adviser Gary Cohn takes part in a strategic and policy CEO discussion with President Trump. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
WEST WING INTRIGUE:
— Trump is now very unlikely to nominate top White House economic adviser Gary Cohn as the next Federal Reserve chairman after Cohn criticized Trump’s response to the violence in Charlottesville. Damian Paletta reports: “Trump is now leaning strongly against nominating Cohn, [sources said] … upending the search for who will control the most powerful economic post in the world. It is unclear who would be the next most likely option for Trump’s pick for Fed chair. ‘The president is considering several candidates,’ said one of the people, a senior administration official. Cohn [who is Jewish], last month told the Financial Times that Trump should have responded differently to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. Trump was livid at the criticism, complaining to other White House aides that Cohn was being disloyal. Fed watchers think other candidates could include John Taylor of Stanford University, former Fed governor Kevin Warsh, Glenn Hubbard of Columbia University and current Fed Governor Jerome Powell.”
— John Kelly is shoving out some Trump allies and replacing them with experienced Washington insiders. Politico’s Tara Palmeri and Eliana Johnson report: “Mercedes Schlapp, wife of American Conservative Union chairman Matthew Schlapp, is expected to be Kelly’s first high-profile addition. She’s in talks to join the White House in a senior role in the communications department[.] … It’s the latest sign of Kelly’s transformation of the West Wing from a drama-filled social hub into a more buttoned-down workplace that resembles previous administrations, at least in structure and process. ‘General Kelly is methodically looking at the portfolios of all the senior level staff and identifying redundancies and clarifying roles so that everyone has a clearly defined lane,’ said one current White House official. … Trump’s new chief of staff has also taken aim at aides close to Steve Bannon[.]”
— Trump’s top Russia lawyer Ty Cobb engaged in a lengthy, bizarre email exchange with a D.C. ramen bar owner on Tuesday night, in which he defended his decision to join Trump’s team and appeared to refer to himself and John Kelly as the “adults in the room.” He also suggested he might not stay in the role for long. Business Insider’s Natasha Bertrand reports: “The exchange [was with restaurateur] Jeff Jetton … who has made himself known to reporters by digging into Trump’s alleged ties to Russia — partly as an unabashed troll. [Cobb] responded to Jetton’s obscenity-laden emails using his official White House email account.” “How are you sleeping at night? You’re a monster,” Jetton wrote. “Like a baby,” Cobb fired back. The conversation escalated quickly and continued for more than two hours. Asked at one point to explain how he is “justifying” his role at the White House to himself, Cobb replied he “can say assertively [that] more adults in the room will be better. Me and Kelly among others.”
— Stanley Fischer announced he is stepping down as vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, citing personal reasons, creating yet another vacancy for Trump to fill at the central bank, with only three of the seven board members staying past October.(CNBC)
— Steve Bannon will appear on “60 Minutes” this weekend, sitting with Charlie Rose for his first major televised interview since leaving the White House. (CBS News)
— The reporter who was arrested at the West Virginia state capitol earlier this year for “aggressively” questioning HHS secretary Tom Price will not be prosecuted. Prosecutors finally announced yesterday that after a “careful review” they determined Dan Heyman had not acted unlawfully. (New York Times)
— A new EPA buyout program is on course to slash the agency’s workforce to Reagan-era levels, reducing the number of personnel from 15,000 to 14,428 after buyouts and retirements. (Reuters)
Hillary Clinton speaks to guests at the American Library Association’s conference on June 27 in Chicago. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)
— CNN obtained an early copy of Hillary Clinton’s new book, set for widespread release next week. Dan Merica and Kevin Liptak write that Clinton has “a voice that swings from defiant to conciliatory to — at rare moments — deeply vulnerable[.]”
Here are some of the key nuggets:
- On losing the 2016 election: “I go back over my own shortcomings and the mistakes we made. I take responsibility for all of them. You can blame the data, blame the message, blame anything you want — but I was the candidate. It was my campaign. Those were my decisions.”
- On Trump’s tactics: “I was running a traditional presidential campaign with carefully thought-out policies and painstakingly built coalitions, while Trump was running a reality TV show that expertly and relentlessly stoked Americans’ anger and resentment.”
- On the concession phone call: “I congratulated Trump and offered to do anything I could to make sure the transition was smooth. … It was all perfectly nice and weirdly ordinary, like calling a neighbor to say you can’t make it to his barbecue. It was mercifully brief[.] … I was numb. It was all so shocking.”
- On Bill Clinton: It has been a marriage with “many, many more happy days than sad or angry ones.”
- On intense media scrutiny: “What makes me such a lightning rod for fury? I’m really asking. I’m at a loss. … I think it’s partly because I’m a woman.”
- On Vladimir Putin: “There’s nothing I was looking forward to more than showing Putin that his efforts to influence our election and install a friendly puppet had failed. … I know he must be enjoying everything that’s happened instead. But he hasn’t had the last laugh yet.”
— CBS‘s “Sunday Morning” landed the first TV interview with Clinton about her new book.
NEW WORLD ORDER:
— South Korea has deployed an antimissile system to rebuke North Korea’s latest test, as the U.N. considers diplomatic options for reining in Kim Jong Un. Reuters’s Christian Shepherd and Katya Golubkova report: “The United States wants the U.N. Security Council to impose an oil embargo on North Korea, ban its exports of textiles and the hiring of North Korean laborers abroad, and subject leader Kim Jong Un to an asset freeze and travel ban[.] … Amid the rising tensions, Seoul installed the four remaining launchers of the U.S. anti-missile Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system on a former golf course in the south early on Thursday. … Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping committed on a phone call on Wednesday to ‘take further action with the goal of achieving the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula,’ the White House said.”
— “Lacking a Point Person on China, U.S. Risks Aggravating Tensions,” by the New York Times’s Mark Landler: “[Trump’s call with Xi] still served to underscore the widening fissures between Washington and Beijing and the deepening confusion about how the Trump administration is managing the relationship. … Aside from Mr. Trump himself, it remains unclear who in the administration wields genuine influence on the relationship. … That lack of a guiding hand has contributed to the administration’s dissonant signals toward Beijing. … If Mr. Xi refrains from putting more pressure on North Korea now, it will further test the relationship with Mr. Trump, which, analysts said, was already strained by the president’s resolve to hit China on the trade front.”
— The commander of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet argued in an interview yesterday that the sanctions-focused approach to North Korea has been a success. Anna Fifield and Michelle Ye Hee Lee report: “Adm. Scott Swift said that the only alternative to diplomacy and pressure was military action. ‘I think that the strategy has worked,’ Swift said[.] … ‘I say it has worked because we are not at war.’ Swift reiterated recent pronouncements from the secretaries of defense and state that ‘all options are on the table’ but that diplomacy and pressure were preferred to military action against North Korea. The international community is in a ‘much better place’ to deal with Pyongyang ‘than if we had foreclosed on the diplomatic options,’ Swift said.”
Afghan commandos practice moving wounded soldiers to an Afghan air force helicopter at Camp Bastion in Helmand province. (Thomas Gibbons-Neff/The Washington Post)
— Officials are now saying that the U.S. will send 3,500 additional troops to Afghanistan, bringing the total number of American troops in the country to over 14,000, Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Dan Lamothe report: “Last week, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis told reporters that he had signed deployment orders for some of the troops but would not make an announcement on the specific numbers until after he briefed Congress. On Wednesday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. met on Capitol Hill with lawmakers during a closed-door session.”
— U.N. investigators formally accused the Syrian government of using sarin gas in an April chemical attack on its people, which killed more than 80 civilians — including dozens of women and children — and prompted a retaliatory missile strike from Trump. Investigators said that sarin attack was one of more than 20 chemical assaults from the Assad regime since 2013, most of them targeting families with no part in the conflict. (Louisa Loveluck)
— The U.S. has placed sanctions on three associates to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir. The sanctions’ targets have been accused of personally enriching themselves as the country faces civil war and famine. (Carol Morello)
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump previewed appearance with Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) yesterday to tout tax reform:
Will be going to North Dakota today to discuss tax reform and tax cuts. We are the highest taxed nation in the world – that will change.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2017
But that fact, previously cited by the president, has been repeatedly debunked:
No, the United States is not “the highest taxed nation in the world.” Maybe a gif will convince the president to stop repeating this lie. pic.twitter.com/EosJBC41KO
— Michael Linden (@MichaelSLinden) September 6, 2017
From the Wall Street Journal’s tax reporter:
To repeat, the US has the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world. However, the US is a low-tax country overall. https://t.co/6H7DonvRDG
— Richard Rubin (@RichardRubinDC) September 6, 2017
Trump also commented on the historic nature of Hurricane Irma:
Hurricane looks like largest ever recorded in the Atlantic!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2017
From a reporter at the Houston Chronicle, which has been doggedly covering Hurricane Harvey’s impact:
Trump talks about storm categories like he talks about his crowd sizes. https://t.co/Jw9qM0IdYM
— Lydia DePillis (@lydiadepillis) September 6, 2017
The Weekly Standard’s editor at large criticized the GOP after Trump’s budget deal with Democrats:
As Trump tosses Republicans & conservatives under the bus one thinks: They chose dishonor over defeat, but they will have dishonor & defeat.
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) September 6, 2017
A Senate Republican put it more plainly:
The Pelosi-Schumer-Trump deal is bad.
— Senator Ben Sasse (@SenSasse) September 6, 2017
And once again, there is always a relevant Trump tweet for any situation. This one’s from 2013:
The worst negotiators in history (otherwise known as Republicans) have just offered to suspend debt ceiling for four months. Pathetic!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2013
Conservative firebrand Ann Coulter commented on Trump’s promise to “revisit” DACA if Congress can’t pass a replacement:
Possible 2020 slogan: “I broke my promises, betrayed my friends & used my office to help my family, but, hey — at least I’m not Hillary!” https://t.co/pz3LxfVgFI
— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) September 6, 2017
Paul Ryan’s position on DACA underwent some rapid change:
On Trump ending DACA
Paul Ryan 9/1: “I actually don’t think he should do that.”
Paul Ryan 9/6: “President Trump was right in his decision”
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) September 6, 2017
Florida Gov. Rick Scott pleaded with his constituents as Hurricane Irma approached:
Do not sit and wait for this storm to come. Remember, we can rebuild your home – not your life.
— Rick Scott (@FLGovScott) September 6, 2017
NBC’s Al Roker criticized Rush Limbaugh for questioning weather forecasts amid Irma’s devastation:
— Al Roker (@alroker) September 6, 2017
Irma’s eyewall is visible from space:
— WeatherTAP (@weatherTAP) September 6, 2017
A rare bright spot was seen as the storm raged:
— Hurricane Hunters (@53rdWRS) September 6, 2017
And NBC’s Lester Holt welcomed a new grandson:
— Lester Holt (@LesterHoltNBC) September 6, 2017
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
— New York Times, “A Funeral of 2 Friends: C.I.A. Deaths Rise in Secret Afghan War,” by Adam Goldman and Matthew Rosenberg: “Today there are at least 18 stars on that wall representing the number of C.I.A. personnel killed in Afghanistan — a tally that has not been previously reported, and one that rivals the number of C.I.A. operatives killed in the wars in Vietnam and Laos nearly a half century ago. The deaths are a reflection of the heavy price the agency has paid in a secret, nearly 16-year-old war, where thousands of C.I.A. operatives have served since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.”
— New York Times Magazine, “Michigan Gambled on Charter Schools. Its Children Lost,” by Mark Binelli: “Free-market boosters, including Betsy DeVos, promised that a radical expansion of charter schools would fix the stark inequalities in the state’s education system. The results in the classrooms are far more complicated.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Tom Perez, former U.S. labor secretary, to teach at Brown,” from Providence Journal: “[Perez] will join Brown University as a senior fellow at the Watson Institute for Public Affairs, the university has announced. … Perez will lead a study group called ‘Governance and Leadership in Challenging Times,’ and it will feature speakers including Denis McDonough, Obama’s former chief of staff; Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo; Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, and others.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“Some Harvard students protest Charles Murray speech,” from Susan Svrluga: “Protesters greeted author and libertarian scholar Charles Murray at Harvard College on Wednesday evening, objecting that he should not be allowed to speak on campus because they believe he is racist. But others gathered in the auditorium to listen to Murray’s talk, titled ‘Coming Apart: Isolation of Elites & How Trump Became Possible,’ and he praised the school for bringing both tough questions and security to make the event successful.”
Trump has a hurricane preparation briefing followed by a meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Trump will then have a working lunch and news conference with Kuwait’s emir, Sabah Ahmed al-Sabah. Paul Ryan will later join the president for dinner.
Pence will also meet with the Kuwaiti leader, and, in the evening, he will give a speech to the Texas congressional delegation at the Naval Observatory.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Trump on his daughter Ivanka joining him for the tax event in North Dakota: “She wanted to make the trip. She said: ‘Dad, can I go with you?’ She actually said: ‘Daddy, can I go with you?’ I like that, right? ‘Daddy, can I go with you?’ I said: ‘Yes, you can.’ [She said,] ‘Where are you going?’ [I said,] ‘North Dakota.’ I said, ‘Oh, I like North Dakota.’”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
— Today begins a wave of beautiful weather in D.C. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Some clouds and patchy fog are likely at sunrise but should break up steadily as drier air gradually settles in. Humidity levels may be downright low by day’s end. Winds are on the light side out of the west and highs only reach the lower 70s for most of the area.”
— The Nationals beat the Marlins 8-1 in Miami. But the victory was overshadowed by the impending hurricane about to hit the area. (Chelsea Janes)
— The National Democratic Redistricting Committee donated $500,000 to Ralph Northam’s gubernatorial bid in Virginia. The group is led by former attorney general Eric Holder and backed by Barack Obama. (Fenit Nirappil)
— Protesters in D.C. tore down a fake statue of Jeff Sessions dressed as a Confederate soldier. (Rachel Chason)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
A Delta flight safely departed Puerto Rico for New York despite Irma’s harsh conditions:
Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.), appointed to replace Jeff Sessions, released his first television ad for the Alabama primary runoff, slamming Roy Moore as a “swamp critter”:
Panasonic has created a robotic fridge that can fetch you drinks:
The Post explained the “love story” between Michelle Obama and Beyonce:
And this video of a father attempting to get a bat out of his kitchen went viral:
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