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Wednesday's Mini-Report, 9.28.16

09/28/16 05:30PM

Today's edition of quick hits:

* The latest school shooting: "Two children and a female teacher were injured in a shooting at a South Carolina primary school Wednesday, police said. The suspected attacker, a teenager, is in custody, said V. Taylor Jones, deputy chief of the Anderson County Emergency Services Division."

* Iraq: "U.S Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said the U.S. has agreed to send an additional 600 troops to Iraq, in anticipation of the major upcoming operation to retake the Islamic State-held city of Mosul."

* The odds of a government shutdown are approaching zero: "The Senate voted Wednesday afternoon to approve a critical government funding measure -- a move which could help Congress narrowly avoid a shutdown before the general elections. The vote was 72-26."

* I'm not sure Congress fully thought this one through: "Congress has voted to override the president's veto for the first time in his administration over a controversial piece of legislation that would allow the families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for any role in the plot."

* On a related note, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) said the bill, generally known as "JASTA," could have serious negative foreign policy implications for the United States. Corker voted for it anyway.

* Donald Trump may be interested to know it wasn't a 400-pound American: "U.S. officials are increasingly confident that the hacker Guccifer 2.0 is part of a network of individuals and groups kept at arm's length by Russia to mask its involvement in cyberintrusions such as the theft of thousands of Democratic Party documents, according to people familiar with the matter."

* Syria: "The effects of Russia's bombing campaign in the Syrian city of Aleppo -- destroying hospitals and schools, choking off basic supplies, and killing aid workers and hundreds of civilians over just days -- raise a question: What could possibly motivate such brutality?"

* On a related note: Secretary of State John Kerry today "warned that the United States would stop talking to Russia about ending Syria's civil war unless it ends an onslaught in the city of Aleppo by Russian and Syrian government forces."

Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf will "forfeit $41 million for the bank's burgeoning sales scandal, marking one of the biggest rebukes to the head of a major U.S. financial institution."
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Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton shakes hands with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on Sept. 26, 2016 in Hempstead, N.Y. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)

With more debates looming, Team Trump looks for a solution

09/28/16 12:47PM

Ahead of this week's presidential debate, Donald Trump's campaign aides eagerly dished to reporters about the Republican candidate's difficulties. Over the weekend, for example, the New York Times reported that the GOP nominee "has paid only cursory attention to briefing materials. He has refused to use lecterns in mock debate sessions despite the urging of his advisers. He prefers spitballing ideas with his team rather than honing them into crisp, two-minute answers."

found all of this very hard to believe. In fact, I largely assumed this was a shameless attempt at lowering expectations and that Trump had actually done extensive preparation.

After watching the Republican amateur struggle for an hour and a half on Monday night, it looks like those pre-debate reports were accurate after all.

Of course, this week's event was one of three showdowns pitting Trump against Hillary Clinton, and his aides have time to make him a better and more effective debater. The Times added today, however, that this is easier said than done.
Campaign advisers to Donald J. Trump, concerned that his focus and objectives had dissolved during the first presidential debate on Monday, plan to more rigorously prepare him for his next face-off with Hillary Clinton by drilling the Republican nominee on crucial answers, facts and counterattacks, and by coaching him on ways to whack Mrs. Clinton on issues even if he is not asked about them.

Whether he is open to practicing meticulously is a major concern, however, according to some of these advisers and others close to Mr. Trump.
The Times reportedly spoke to seven campaign aides and advisers who "expressed frustration and discouragement" over Trump's performance Monday night, pointing to, among other things, "the lack of time spent on preparing a game plan."

The article, however, also added this gem: "Almost all of his advisers rejected the idea that the debate was a failure for Mr. Trump, noting that he landed some punches and insisting that Mrs. Clinton looked more polished than she was because of her opposition."

That's a very odd sentence. It's like saying, "The Miami Dolphins looked like a good team while playing the Cleveland Browns, because the Browns are pretty awful -- said the management of the Cleveland Browns."
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Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 9.28.16

09/28/16 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items from across the country.

* President Obama appeared on the Steve Harvey Morning Show via telephone this morning, and was only too pleased to focus on Donald Trump's mistreatment of Alicia Machado. "You had somebody who basically insulted women and then doubled down I think this morning in terms of how he talks about them and talks about their weight and talks about, you know, how they look instead of the content of their character and their capabilities," Obama said, "which is not somebody that I want in the Oval Office."

* First Lady Michelle Obama is the star of the Clinton campaign's new television ad, which was released this morning.

* Donald Trump told supporters yesterday that if he wins the presidential election, he will "make possible every dream you've ever dreamed." Oh my.

* During Monday's debate, Hillary Clinton encouraged viewers to go to her website and "see in real-time what the facts are." According to Wired, "nearly two million people visited Clinton's website within an hour after she mentioned it." This was her site's heaviest traffic to date.

* Rudy Giuliani, who's worked his way into the news a little too often lately, has a new op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, making a series of dubious claims about Trump and New York's stop-and-frisk policy.

* Earlier this year, Trump's state director in North Carolina resigned following allegations he pulled a gun on a colleague. Now, the executive director of Trump's campaign in Georgia is also stepping down, stemming from a 2008 arrest.
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Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump looks on during the Presidential Debate at Hofstra University on Sept. 26, 2016 in Hempstead, N.Y. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty)

Trump Foundation confronts yet another controversy

09/28/16 11:20AM

Over the weekend, Donald Trump was asked whether he's "confident that the Trump Foundation has followed all charitable rules and laws." The Republican presidential hopeful responded, "Well, I hope so."

Given the multiple controversies surrounding the Donald J. Trump Foundation, it wasn't exactly reassuring that the GOP candidate himself isn't certain.

It also doesn't help that the latest revelations only add to the controversy. The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold once again moved the ball forward on this story on Monday, reporting on Trump directing companies that owed him money to instead pay his charitable foundation, to the tune of about $2.3 million. In each instance, Trump was required to pay taxes on the income, and it's not clear that he did.

In fact, when the Washington Post initially asked about this, Trump's campaign "denied that any of the transactions had taken place." Later, Trump aides reversed course and provided partial answers, but left many questions unanswered.

And just when it seemed things couldn't get worse, a Trump adviser talked to MSNBC's Hallie Jackson yesterday and the story took an unintentionally funny turn. Fahrenthold summarized the latest.
An adviser to Donald Trump on Tuesday offered a new explanation for why a portrait of Trump — paid for by the Republican nominee's charitable foundation — wound up on display at a Trump-owned golf resort in Florida.

Trump, the adviser said, was actually doing his charity a favor, by "storing" its painting on the wall of a bar at Trump National Doral, outside Miami.
This is probably the funniest argument the Trump campaign has ever come up with.
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U.S. Representative Marsha Blackburn speaks during the 2nd Annual Creativity Conference presented by the Motion Picture Association of America at The Newseum on May 2, 2014 in Washington, DC.

House GOP leader: 'I think the Earth is in a cooling trend'

09/28/16 10:40AM

In Monday night's debate, Hillary Clinton reminded the audience that Donald Trump "thinks that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it's real." The Republican quickly rejected the claim. "I did not," he insisted. "I did not. I do not say that."

Moments later, a 2012 tweet from Trump started making the rounds in which he said, "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese."

In other words, Trump was caught brazenly lying about one of the most important challenges facing humanity. The Huffington Post's Sam Stein asked a variety of Trump campaign surrogates for their reactions to this, including Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). Consider this amazing exchange:
HUFFPOST: During the debate Donald Trump definitively said that he never once said that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. But here is a tweet where he says just that. [We attempt to show her the tweet.]

BLACKBURN: Well, I don't have my glasses on.

HP: Come on! OK, I'll read it. [We read it.]

BLACKBURN: Well, many times when we talk about issues related to the climate, y'all have countries that would not be forced to come into compliance with some of these agreements. Then they will say they don't have to abide by that, they plan to buy more coal.

HP: Do you believe that climate change is a hoax?

BLACKBURN: I do not believe in climate change. I think the Earth is in a cooling trend. It is not in a warming trend.
The right-wing congresswoman wasn't kidding. Blackburn went on to argue that the planet "is in a cooling trend. It has cooled for about the past 10 years." Reminded that nine of the hottest years in the history of the planet have been recorded in the past decade, the Tennessee lawmaker once again insisted, "We have also seen the past 10 years a little bit of a cooling."

Remember, Blackburn isn't just some random conservative activist. She's a frequent Sunday-show guest; she was rumored to be a contender for the GOP's vice presidential nomination; and she's the vice chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. In other words, her ignorance isn't just cringe-worthy; it's arguably quite dangerous given her official responsibilities.
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Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during the first presidential debate at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. on Sept. 26, 2016. (Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty)

Hillary Clinton picks up some unexpected 2016 endorsements

09/28/16 10:00AM

In literally every presidential election since before World War II, the editorial board of the Dallas Morning News has encouraged readers to support the Republican Party's presidential nominee -- but not this year. The newspaper editorialized earlier this month, "There is only one serious candidate on the presidential ballot in November. We recommend Hillary Clinton."

The editorial board of the Cincinnati Enquirer has supported literally every Republican presidential candidate for nearly a century, until this year. "[T]his is not a traditional race, and these are not traditional times," the newspaper told readers this week while backing Clinton. "Our country needs calm, thoughtful leadership to deal with the challenges we face at home and abroad. We need a leader who will bring out the best in all Americans, not the worst."

And then there's the Arizona Republic, which published this editorial overnight.
Since The Arizona Republic began publication in 1890, we have never endorsed a Democrat over a Republican for president. Never. This reflects a deep philosophical appreciation for conservative ideals and Republican principles.

This year is different.

The 2016 Republican candidate is not conservative and he is not qualified.

That's why, for the first time in our history, The Arizona Republic will support a Democrat for president.
The piece concluded, "In a nation with an increasingly diverse population, Trump offers a recipe for permanent civil discord. In a global economy, he offers protectionism and a false promise to bring back jobs that no longer exist. America needs to look ahead and build a new era of prosperity for the working class. This is Hillary Clinton's opportunity. She can reach out to those who feel left behind. She can make it clear that America sees them and will address their concerns. She can move us beyond rancor and incivility."

At this point, you might be wondering if any newspaper editorial boards have thrown their backing to Trump, and at least for now, the answer is no. According to the Washington Post's tally, the Republican nominee "is still without a daily newspaper endorsement in the general election." (The New York Observer is expected to back Trump eventually -- because it's run by Trump's son-in-law.)

Meanwhile, Clinton isn't just picking up support from Republican-friendly editorial boards; she's also earning support from a growing number of Republicans. The Washington Post reported overnight:
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Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton take the stage for their first debate at Hofstra University, Sept. 26, 2016 in Hempstead, N.Y. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Despite previous praise, Trump lashes out at debate moderator

09/28/16 09:23AM

After Monday night's debate, Donald Trump had nothing but positive things to say about NBC News anchor Lester Holt, the event's moderator. "Honestly, I thought Lester did a great job," the Republican said shortly after the debate ended, adding, "I thought it was very fair."

Soon after, Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, echoed the sentiment, saying Holt "did a great job as a moderator under tough circumstances."

But as it started to dawn on Trump that he lost the debate badly, the Republican changed his tune. The New York Times reported:
Sounding weary and impatient as he called into a Fox News program, Mr. Trump criticized Lester Holt, the NBC News anchor, for asking "unfair questions" during the debate Monday evening. [...]

And Mr. Trump again complained at [a campaign event in Florida] about how he had been treated by Mr. Holt, whom he referred to as "the M.C."
Trump specifically called out Holt for asking about a 1973 discrimination lawsuit against Trump's company -- a complaint that didn't make sense since Holt didn't ask about the case. (Hillary Clinton did.)

Nevertheless, if it seems like this falls into an unfortunate pattern for the GOP nominee -- praise one day, criticism the next -- it's not your imagination.
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Former Mayor of New York Rudolph Giuliani speaks at the Cisco Connect 2013 conference in Warsaw, Poland, November 26, 2013.

Team Trump has adultery on its mind

09/28/16 08:43AM

Towards the end of Monday's presidential debate, Donald Trump was clearly annoyed by Hillary Clinton's criticism of his misogyny, but he declared to the audience that he would not say what he wanted to say. "You want to know the truth?" he asked rhetorically, "I was going to say something extremely rough to Hillary, to her family, and I said to myself, 'I can't do it. I just can't do it. It's inappropriate. It's not nice.'"

The next morning, Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, appeared on MSNBC and told a national television audience that the Republican was referring to Bill Clinton's adultery. It was apparently "inappropriate" to bring this up on Monday night, but not on Tuesday morning.

Nevertheless, Team Trump seemed quite excited yesterday to generate chatter about the topic Trump "was going to" bring up during the debate. Politico had this report yesterday:
Hillary Clinton's decision to stand by her husband and attack former White House intern Monica Lewinsky when news of a sexual relationship between the two broke in 1998 prove that the former secretary of state is "too stupid to be president," Rudy Giuliani said Monday night.

The former New York City mayor made the remark, captured on video and posted to Twitter by Elite Daily writer Alexandra Svokos, in response to a question about Clinton's attack on Trump's past comments about women.
Politico had a separate report this morning on the fact that "threats emanated from Trump Tower on Tuesday that the Republican nominee was preparing to name-check Bill Clinton's mistresses."

Some skepticism is probably in order -- largely because I find it hard to imagine Democrats getting this lucky.
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How likely is a government shutdown this week?

09/28/16 08:00AM

Much of the political world has understandably been focused on the very competitive presidential race and this week's highly anticipated debate. But on Capitol Hill, a different concern is drawing attention: the deadline to prevent another government shutdown is just a few days away.

Current funding for federal operations expires at the end of the fiscal year, which comes later this week, at midnight on Sept. 30. Unless there's a spending agreement to keep the lights on, the government will shut down this weekend.

How likely is that to happen? The odds actually went up a little yesterday when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) brought a spending bill to the floor, knowing full well that the Democratic minority would balk. What he didn't realize is that there'd be bipartisan opposition to his approach: McConnell's bill failed on a 45-55 vote, with 12 Republicans joining Democrats to reject the measure, and in the process, pushing Congress just a little closer to a shutdown.

The sticking point, oddly enough, isn't some heated disagreement over a culture-war dispute or money for "Obamacare," but rather, aid for Flint, Michigan. Democrats have said they won't support any package unless it includes Flint aid, while Republicans have pushed to deal with Flint separately, with resources that could be added to a water-projects spending bill. (Note, McConnell's bill included money for flood relief in Louisiana and Texas, but no money for Flint.)

For those hoping to avoid a shutdown, last night brought some good news. The Washington Post reported on a deal in the House:
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi struck a deal late Tuesday to deliver federal aid to address the water crisis in Flint, Mich., potentially removing a major flashpoint in negotiations to keep the government fully operating past Friday.

Under the deal, the House will vote Wednesday on an amendment to a pending water projects bill that would authorize up to $170 million in infrastructure funds for communities like Flint whose water systems are blighted by "chemical, physical, or biological" contaminants.
Senators have not yet scrutinized the deal, but the Post quoted a senior aide who said chamber leaders are "optimistic" that the House agreement will prevent a shutdown.
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