With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: Photographers caught a giddy Jeff Sessions cracking a satisfied smile last week as he prepared to announce that 690,000 undocumented immigrants who had been brought into the United States as minors would no longer be shielded from deportation.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program “is being rescinded,” the attorney general declared in the first line of his statement. “There is nothing compassionate about the failure to enforce immigration laws. … Failure to enforce the laws in the past has put our nation at risk of crime, violence and even terrorism. … The effect of this unilateral executive amnesty, among other things, contributed to a surge of unaccompanied minors on the southern border that yielded terrible humanitarian consequences. It also denied jobs to hundreds of thousands of Americans by allowing those same jobs to go to illegal aliens.”
Fact checkers called these and other claims Sessions made about the immigrants known as “dreamers” dubious or outright false. Perhaps that’s why he didn’t take questions afterward. Regardless, the speech was widely covered as a triumph for the nation’s chief law enforcement officer and a sign that he was out of President Trump’s doghouse. Not only did Sessions get the outcome he wanted; he also got to deliver the news from the Justice Department briefing room.
Trump’s DACA decision last week seemed to validate Sessions’s decision to slog on through the summer even after being frozen out of the inner circle. From interviews to tweets, Trump repeatedly attacked his attorney general throughout July as “weak” and “beleaguered.”
The main reason Sessions chose to put up with indignities that might cause most people to quit was because he believed he could make a difference on immigration policy. That has always been his signature issue and animated his two decades in the Senate.
– But it took less than 10 days for Trump to once again undercut Sessions. The president on Thursday signaled his embrace of granting permanent legal status to these “dreamers” as part of a deal with Democrats that he said is close to being finalized. He also acknowledged that he’s not going to make a deal to save DACA contingent on getting funding for the wall he wants to build along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Discussing the exact same group of people that Sessions painted with such a sinister brush one week earlier, Trump tweeted yesterday: “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military? Really!” Trump tweeted yesterday. “They have been in our country for many years through no fault of their own — brought in by parents at young age.”
– Adding insult to injury, the New York Times reported last night that Trump “berated” Sessions during an Oval Office meeting this spring. “Accusing Mr. Sessions of ‘disloyalty,’ Mr. Trump unleashed a string of insults on his attorney general,” Michael Schmidt and Maggie Haberman report. “Mr. Trump told Mr. Sessions that choosing him to be attorney general was one of the worst decisions he had made, called him an ‘idiot,’ and said that he should resign. … Ashen and emotional, Mr. Sessions told the president he would quit and sent a resignation letter to the White House … Mr. Sessions would later tell associates that the demeaning way the president addressed him was the most humiliating experience in decades of public life.”
Here’s how the May 17 meeting went down: The president blames Sessions’s recusal from the Russia investigation for the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. Sessions was in the Oval Office with Vice President Pence, White House Counsel Don McGahn and others to discuss who should be tapped to replace James Comey as FBI director. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein called McGahn during the meeting to say that he was going to name Mueller that evening. Trump erupted when he learned the news.
“An emotional Mr. Sessions told the president he would resign and left the Oval Office,” the Times reports. “In the hours after the Oval Office meeting, however, Mr. Trump’s top advisers intervened to save Mr. Sessions’s job. Mr. Pence; Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist at the time; and Reince Priebus, his chief of staff, all advised that accepting Mr. Sessions’s resignation would only sow more chaos inside the administration and rally Republicans in Congress against the president. … The president relented, and eventually returned the resignation letter to Mr. Sessions.”
– A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment on both the president’s DACA comments and the Times’s story.
– Rachel Maddow asked Hillary Clinton on her show last night about Trump’s eruption at Sessions. “Well, look, this is a man who engages in humiliation and domination as a tactic of control,” replied the 2016 Democratic nominee, who is giving a flurry of interviews to promote her new book. “I think that’s pretty deeply embedded in his character. … I think the goal might well have been, psychologically, to really make Jeff Sessions, who is a very proud man, … more dependent on pleasing the president. … It’s all part of his manipulation.”
– Sessions believed at the start of this year that he and the incoming president were genuinely friends. He was the first member of the Senate to endorse Trump’s outsider campaign. It stung this summer when the president told reporters that he only backed him because of his popularity in Alabama. Sessions felt like he had really gone out on a limb and snubbed Ted Cruz, a friend and colleague, to do so.
– The thrice-married Trump has long struggled with staying loyal, even to people he once loved. As Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker wrote last weekend after the debt ceiling deal, Trump has a long history of broken alliances and agreements: “In business, his personal life, his campaign and now his presidency, Trump has sprung surprises on his allies with gusto. His dealings are frequently defined by freewheeling spontaneity, impulsive decisions and a desire to keep everyone guessing — especially those who assume they can control him. He also repeatedly demonstrates that, while he demands absolute loyalty from others, he is ultimately loyal to no one but himself. … Foreign diplomats euphemistically describe the president as ‘unpredictable.’”
WAPO TEAM COVERAGE:
– “Trump and Democrats strike DACA deal. Yes? No? Sort of? Trump’s world can be confusing,” by Ashley Parker: “On Wednesday night, in a Blue Room dinner at the White House with Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), the president reached a tentative agreement with the Democratic leaders … But even as Trump careens toward the sort of immigration deal that has eluded previous presidents — the latest capstone to a period of 10 days of sustained bipartisan overtures — the process exhibits certain Trumpian hallmarks: namely, a lack of clarity …
“Often, Trump’s underlings, friends, foes and allies never know quite where he stands — in part because of the president’s penchant for telling his immediate audience exactly what they want to hear in any given moment. People who meet with the president frequently leave buoyed, an optimism punctured by a nagging question mere hours later: What just happened? … On Wednesday evening, as news of the agreement trickled out, Hill staffers sat glued to Twitter trying to discern that very query as aides to both sides scrambled to explain what, in the end, turned out to be disagreements that were largely semantics.” (Read Ashley’s full story for a blow-by-blow on the confusion that reigned in Washington yesterday.)
– “House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) dismissed the potential deal … as little more than a preliminary discussion — and insisted that any agreement must have buy-in from GOP leaders,” per Elise Viebeck, Ed O’Keefe and Mike DeBonis. “Yet Ryan agreed in broad terms with the president’s goal of protecting hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants while postponing talk of a border wall but toughening U.S. border security in other ways. … Ryan confirmed that he didn’t learn of the potential deal with [“Chuck and Nancy”] until Thursday morning, when Trump and White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly confirmed it in phone conversations from Air Force One more than 12 hours after the dinner meeting. … (Mitch) McConnell remained noncommittal about a possible deal — and put the onus on the White House to come up with a proposal. …
“Specific talks on border security are expected to begin in the coming days, Schumer said. He and Pelosi said border security measures in the final agreement could include drones, sensor technology, road repairs and other strategies that were included in a bipartisan bill in 2013 that instructed federal officials to draft a plan ensuring apprehension of 90 percent of all illegal border-crossers within five years.”
– “He likes us. He likes me, anyway,” Schumer said on the Senate floor, in a comment picked up by a hot microphone. “I said, ‘Mr. President, you’re much better off if you can sometimes step right and sometimes step left. If you have to step just to one direction, you’re boxed.’ He gets that. … It’s going to work out, and it’ll make us more productive, too.”
– “Trump tests the faith of supporters with talk of immigration deal,” by Robert Costa and Michael Scherer: “‘Amnesty Don,’ declared a bright-red headline on Breitbart News … Yet the lasting political cost of Trump’s engagement with top Democrats on immigration remained ambiguous. While (Ann) Coulter and others vented, several conservative leaders Thursday remained hesitant about breaking with the president publicly given his continued grass-roots support. …
“Polling suggests that Trump has more room to maneuver with his base on the question of dreamers than on other planks of his immigration platform. An analysis of the 2016 presidential election by Hamilton College political scientist Philip Klinkner found that among 2016 Trump voters, 67 percent supported building a southern border wall, 80 percent said speaking English was ‘very important’ to being American, and 80 percent were opposed to letting Syrian refugees into the United States. But among the same voters, 68 percent said child migrants brought illegally who have been here 10 years and have graduated high school should be allowed to stay in the country. ‘That’s what the White House is wrestling with right now,’ says Jim McLaughlin, a campaign pollster for Trump who still consults with the White House.”
– “Is Trump advocating ‘amnesty?’ Ask one conservative lawmaker, and watch him squirm,” by Paul Kane: Dave Brat, the Virginia congressman who toppled Eric Cantor in 2014, “paused for four seconds, then started to talk, then stopped, then started again. ‘There’s no good answer I can give you to what they’ve been talking about,’ he said, requesting to know more details. ‘You’d have to give me — what is it? — before I elaborate.’”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
–A small explosion reported this morning on the London subway was declared a terrorist incident. Police and ambulances surrounded the Parsons Green station in west London as several morning commuters were treated for injuries, including facial burns, but the attack does not appear to have caused any fatalities. British Prime Minister Theresa May called a special afternoon meeting of the anti-terror Cobra committee to address the attack. (William Booth and Karla Adam have the latest on this developing story.)
Trump reacted on Twitter this morning:
Another attack in London by a loser terrorist.These are sick and demented people who were in the sights of Scotland Yard. Must be proactive!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2017
Loser terrorists must be dealt with in a much tougher manner.The internet is their main recruitment tool which we must cut off & use better!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2017
And used the event to plug his travel ban:
The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific-but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 15, 2017
– North Korea fired another missile from Pyongyang early Friday morning, which reportedly flew over Japan and triggered emergency alerts. Government officials said they are still assessing the launch, but if confirmed, it would mark the second time in less than three weeks that Pyongyang fired a missile over Japan, Anna Fifield reports. The launch comes just a day after a North Korean state agency issued an alarming threat to Japan: “The four islands of the [Japanese] archipelago should be sunken into the sea by [our] nuclear bomb,” the Korea Asia-Pacific peace committee said Thursday, adding: “Japan is no longer needed to exist near us.”
– The chief of the U.S. Strategic Command said Thursday that the size of North Korea’s most recent nuclear test “equates” to a hydrogen bomb, and that he must now “assume Pyongyang can build one.” writes Dan Lamothe: “The change from the original atomic bomb to the hydrogen changed our entire deterrent relationship with the Soviet Union,” [said Air Force Gen. John Hyten, who oversees U.S. nuclear forces and monitors North Korea]. “It is significantly of concern not just to Strategic Command, but to everybody in the free world. It should be of concern to people in the neighborhood, which is Japan and Korea, as well as China and Russia.”
– The Cleveland Indians set an MLB record with their 22nd consecutive victory. Dave Sheinin has the story: “Trailing by a run and down to their last strike … the Indians watched Francisco Lindor launch a ball off the left field wall, an RBI double that tied the score at 2. An inning later, with nobody out, second baseman Jose Ramirez stretched a single to center field into a hustle double, narrowly avoiding the tag at second. Two batters later, right fielder Jay Bruce laced a double down the right field line to win it, sending the Indians streaming out of their dugout to celebrate the most improbable of these history-making 22 wins. As an October-tinged crowd of 30,874 stomped and hollered, Bruce was set upon by his Cleveland teammates somewhere near shortstop; they doused him with baby powder and bottled water, then started ripping the jersey clear off his back.”
GET SMART FAST:
- NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere today, ending a billion-mile journey that is, to date, one of the most successful planetary missions in history. Cassini was the first probe to ever orbit Saturn and has revolutionized our understanding of the planet — which it will nose-dive into this morning before finally losing contact with Earth. (Sarah Kaplan)
- One Special Forces soldier was killed and seven others injured by an explosion that occurred during demolition training at Fort Bragg. The incident comes just one day after 15 Marines were injured in an armored vehicle that caught fire in California, and two days after a soldier fell to his death from a helicopter at Fort Hood. (Thomas Gibbons-Neff)
- An American citizen who was fighting with the Islamic State in Syria was captured by local forces earlier this month and has been turned over to the U.S. military. He is being held as a known enemy combatant. (Karen DeYoung)
- Russia fired seven cruise missiles at ISIS targets in the eastern Syrian province of Deir el-Zour, continuing a push for the city led by pro-government forces, who broke a three-year siege around the city last week. (AP)
- Steve Mnuchin defended his request for a government jet for his European honeymoon this summer, saying his staff explored several ways to travel so he could have secure communications with the White House. “Let me be clear. I’m very sensitive to the use of government funds. I’ve never asked the government to pay for my personal travel,” the treasury secretary said. (Alex Horton and Damian Paletta)
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has urged his citizens to breed rabbits, and later eat them, as a way to fight back against the country’s food shortages and child malnutrition. “There is a cultural problem because we have been taught that rabbits are cute pets,” said Urban Agriculture Minister Freddy Bernal. “A rabbit is not a pet; it’s two-and-a-half kilos of meat that is high in protein, with no cholesterol.” (Yahoo)
- After years of denials, China now acknowledges its history of harvesting organs from prisoners. Officials say that practice no longer exists, thanks to one man’s 10-year campaign to start a volunteer registry — but some observers remain skeptical. (Simon Denyer)
- The Harvard Kennedy School rescinded its offer of a visiting fellowship to Chelsea Manning. The decision came after CIA Director Mike Pompeo canceled a planned appearance in protest. In a biting letter, Pompeo called Manning an “American traitor” and said the school’s action “implicitly tell its students that you too can be a fellow at Harvard and a felon under United States law.” (Andrew deGrandpre)
- A Financial Times journalist is presumed dead after he was seen being dragged into a lagoon by a crocodile in Sri Lanka. The man had been taking surfing lessons there with friends, witnesses said, and was reportedly yanked into the water while washing his hands. (The Guardian)
- The History Channel is making a six-part, scripted political thriller about the impeachment of Bill Clinton, based on Peter Baker’s book, “ The Breach.” (Deadline)
- New York police are searching for vandals who dumped blue paint on the iconic “Charging Bull” statue on Wall Street, in what is believed to be a protest against Trump pulling out of the Paris climate accord. The “Fearless Girl” statue also sported a sash that read “Draw the Blue Line.” (AP)
– Florida officials investigating the deaths of eight nursing home residents in Hollywood, Fla., said that one of the residents died on Tuesday, several hours before authorities were alerted to the crisis at the sweltering facility. (Leonard Shapiro, Mark Berman, Katie Zezima and Aaron C. Davis)
– State health officials said that 64 other nursing homes are still without power — posing a potentially perilous situation for South Florida’s elderly population nearly a week after Irma made landfall in the state. It remains unclear how many residents have remained in those homes during the outages. (Leonard Shapiro, Mark Berman, Katie Zezima and Aaron C. Davis)
– Texas officials said that Hurricane Harvey’s current death toll stands at 82, a number originally feared to have been much higher. (Eva Ruth Moravec)
– Officials in Harris County, which includes Houston, announced they are “actively pursuing” Harvey-related home buyouts. It’s a controversial plan — but after three major floods in the area, homeowners in even some of Houston’s most coveted neighborhoods say they are ready to relocate. Peter Whoriskey and Patricia Sullivan report: “Buyouts would not only take homes out of harm’s way but also provide open land that could be used to absorb heavy rains or provide space for enlarging drainage channels. These would lessen flood risks for the rest of the city. … Even before the hurricane struck on the weekend of Aug. 26, many in Houston were beginning to fathom the depths of the area’s flood dangers. As a result, the hurricane didn’t uncover a new peril; it added several exclamation points to previously issued warnings.”
– The Caribbean nation of Barbuda was “extinguished” by Irma. From Andrew deGrandpre: “All 1,800 residents now are homeless, having been evacuated to the sister island of Antigua. ‘The damage is complete,’ [said] Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the United States … ‘For the first time in 300 years,’ he said, ‘there’s not a single living person on the island of Barbuda — a civilization that has existed on that island for over 300 years has now been extinguished.’”
– Hurricane Jose has weakened modestly to a tropical storm. But don’t stop watching the Weather Channel just yet — forecasters warn it’s likely to turn back into a hurricane and could even brush the East Coast. Meanwhile, two other back-to-back systems have lined up in the eastern Atlantic, and the National Hurricane Center has given both a high chance pf turning into tropical storms. (Jason Samenow)
– Trump made another visit to post-Irma Florida and vowed to repeatedly return as the state recovers. CBS News’s Emily Tillett has the story: “Mr. Trump noted the ‘incredible power of the storm’ and credited the small number of lives lost during Irma to the work of rescue teams throughout the state.” Trump also took the opportunity to acknowledge the work of Florida Gov. Rick Scott and express his wish for Scott to run for the Senate. “Mr. Trump later was able to tour a neighborhood in Naples, Florida that suffered damage and speak with supporters, as he handed out sandwiches and water to displaced residents.”
– When asked whether Harvey and Irma had changed his views on climate change, Trump had this to say, “We’ve had bigger storms than this.” Dino Grandoni reports: “Hurricane patterns in the Atlantic basin, which includes the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, have long been a puzzle for scientists. Even so, hurricane researchers were perplexed by Trump’s comment. ‘That’s just not correct,’ said Kerry Emanuel, a hurricane expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. … Indeed, Hurricane Harvey went down in storm annals for having more rainfall than any other hurricane in the continental United States. And Hurricane Irma maintained Category 5 wind speeds for longer than any other hurricane for which scientists have satellite data. … Indeed, Trump’s declaration about the size of past storms relative to Irma, at least, contradict what he tweeted while that hurricane bore down last week on Florida when he called Irma a storm ‘of epic proportions, perhaps bigger than we have ever seen.’”
THE NEW AGE OF INFORMATION WARFARE:
– Facebook is still unsure of the extent to which Russia-linked groups used its services to intervene in last year’s election. CNNMoney’s Dylan Byers reports: “These sources said it is entirely possible that unidentified ad buys may still exist on the social media network today. “One issue preventing Facebook from making a full accounting of the problem is that ads are purchased through the company’s self-service tool, which allows buyers to independently purchase and target ads, often without human interaction on Facebook’s side of the transaction.”
- “If the interaction was limited to the walled garden of self-serve, Facebook can make the case that it was just the machine talking to the Russians,” said Adam Sharp, Twitter’s former director of media partnerships. “However, there are still questions. Why weren’t there preventative measures in place to alert Facebook to the fact that this might be political advertising? And why didn’t this buy trigger an account executive to reach out to the buyer?”
– Facebook enabled advertisers to microtarget an audience of “Jew haters.” ProPublica’s Julia Angwin, Madeleine Varner and Ariana Tobin report: “Until this week, when we asked Facebook about it, the world’s largest social network enabled advertisers to direct their pitches to the news feeds of almost 2,300 people who expressed interest in the topics of ‘Jew hater,’ ‘How to burn jews,’ or, ‘History of ‘why jews ruin the world.’ To test if these ad categories were real, we paid $30 to target those groups with three ‘promoted posts’ — in which a ProPublica article or post was displayed in their news feeds. Facebook approved all three ads within 15 minutes. After we contacted Facebook, it removed the anti-Semitic categories … and said it would explore ways to fix the problem, such as limiting the number of categories available or [improving monitoring].”
– A note on the Russia probes: Paul Manafort’s spokesperson is expected to testify this morning before a grand jury. Jason Maloni’s appearance before the jury is another indication of how it is digging into Manafort’s business transactions. (Politico’s Josh Dawsey)
– AND, Trump ally Roger Stone also said he will testify before the House Intelligence Committee on Sept. 26. Stone had requested a public hearing, but the committee decided on a closed-door session. (CNN’s Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb)
– Bigger picture: How can the United States combat the war of information that Russia is waging against the West? Lawmakers and witnesses at a U.S. Helsinki Commission hearing yesterday sought to examine Moscow’s propaganda efforts — both domestically and abroad — and questioned whether our country is any more prepared to stop a similar attack in the future.
“In their weakness, the Kremlin bets big. So far, the gamble has paid off — because for years they have been strolling across an open battlefield,” testified Molly McKew, an information warfare expert. “To secure our information space, we need an integrated understanding of the threat, and an integrated set of measures that can be taken to counter it[.]”
– Here’s what the experts recommend to stop similar attacks:
- A whole-of-government response, which includes reevaluating the role of U.S. military and counterintelligence actors to secure cyber space. “Our most experienced assets should not be boxed-out of defending the American people,” McKew said.
- More information. This includes telling Americans about Russian information operations, and what they aim to achieve.
- Stopping the bots, which robotically amplify information and articles based on an algorithm, since “the U.S. does not protect the free speech of computer programs,” said Human Right’s First Melissa Hooper, who specializes in Russian policy and human rights law. Hooper also stressed the need for creating an appeals process where consumers can contest instances of content removal “and receive quick and efficient redress.”
“We cannot use the same means of information control as the Kremlin to secure our information space,” McKew said. “Our mirror-world version of Russian information control: not to control the internal information environment, but ensure its integrity; not to harden views, but to develop positive cognitive resistance efforts to build resilience in our population; not to argue that there ‘is no truth,’ but to promote the values and idea that we know matter.”
– Russia began its week-long “Zapad” exercises, or war games, with its ally Belarus on Thursday — launching what is expected to be a major effort to showcase Russia’s military might and prompting concern from NATO neighbors and the United States. David Filipov reports: “Western officials in the Baltics last week said they saw the games as a rehearsal of the capability to seal off Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and deny access to the Baltic Sea to NATO forces attempting to come to their rescue. They also see a larger strategic goal: to demonstrate to U.S. and NATO leaders the high cost of defending the Baltics, and thus bringing into question the viability of the alliance.” Putin will also appear on the sidelines of the large-scale military games this weekend in a sign of their importance.
- Concerns among NATO nations were raised by the apparent disparity between official Russian figures about the size of the exercise and Western estimates, which place troop numbers much higher. “[Meanwhile], Western military officials have expressed concern that Zapad 2017 will serves as a ‘Trojan horse,’ allowing Moscow to leave behind some of the military personnel and equipment it deployed for the drills.”
- The Kremlin accused the West of “whipping up hysteria” over the exercises: “We reject complaints of these exercises not being transparent,” a Putin spokesman told reporters. “We believe that whipping up hysteria around these exercises is a provocation.” (Reuters)
– Trump defended his original response that “both sides” were to blame for the violence in Charlottesville, saying recent violence from “antifa” (or anti-fascist) protesters justified his comments. David Nakamura reports: “Trump said he explained his views on antifa to Sen. Tim Scott [R-S.C.] during their private meeting at the White House a day earlier. ‘I think, especially in light of the advent of antifa, if you look at what’s going on there, you have some pretty bad dudes on the other side also, and essentially that’s what I said,’” he recounted. Trump added that “because of what’s happened since then with antifa, when you look at really what’s happened since Charlottesville, a lot of people are saying, and people have actually written, ‘Gee, Trump may have a point.’ I said there’s some very bad people on the other side also.”
– But Scott was quick to denounce Trump’s equivalency. In a statement, Scott said, “In yesterday’s meeting, Senator Scott was very, very clear about the brutal history surrounding the white supremacist movement and their horrific treatment of black and other minority groups. … Antifa is bad and should be condemned, yes, but white supremacists have been killing and tormenting black Americans for centuries. There’s no realistic comparison. Period.”
– Who are antifa? “Hidden behind masks … antifa activists remain mysterious,” Michael E. Miller writes. “Are they everyday citizens guarding against the rise of a Fourth Reich? Or are they, as Trump has claimed, merely the ‘alt-left’ — a lawless mirror image of the white supremacists they oppose? Interviews with a dozen antifa activists show they come from a variety of backgrounds and are only loosely affiliated. Some … are youths in search of a cause. Others have been demonstrating for decades. Many are anarchists, although some vote. They employ a range of peaceful tactics, including doxing, or exposing, white supremacists. While they are all open to using violence, some embrace it — even glorify it. ‘If everyone is punching a Nazi, it’s eventually going to create a mass militant movement based around anti-fascist,’ [Sean Hines] said. ‘That hopefully will be enough to stop them from gaining power.’”
– Dallas officials unexpectedly removed a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park bearing his name. AP reports: “In an unannounced move, a large crane was brought through the city by a police escort to Lee Park, where it lifted the large statue from its pedestal late Thursday afternoon. City officials said in a statement that an art conservator monitored the proper handling of the statue, and police tactical officers with automatic rifles provided security. … The Dallas City Council voted Sept. 6 to remove the statue but was met with a series of delays, including a brief court stay obtained by a pro-Confederacy group and a collision between a semitrailer and a crane assigned to remove the statue.”
– The University of Virginia announced it will help pay the medical bills of people injured by white supremacists in last month’s rally, using the equivalent of funds that were donated to the school by the KKK in 1921. (Susan Svrluga)
– UC-Berkeley erected concrete barriers and shut down campus buildings as conservative writer Ben Shapiro spoke on campus last night. Susan Svrluga reports: “Shapiro was invited by the Berkeley College Republicans after a series of high-profile cancellations last semester by controversial speakers that touched off national debate about free speech, academic freedom and hate speech. … The university, home to the free speech movement of the 1960s, is bracing for a larger, far more incendiary event later this month, with speakers including former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, Yiannopoulos and Ann Coulter during a ‘Free Speech Week.’”
THE TRUMP AGENDA:
– EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced that he was reconsidering Obama-era regulation on coal ash, once again pleasing industry officials who had requested a review of the 2015 policy. Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin report: “A toxic mix of mercury, cadmium, arsenic and other heavy metals, coal ash can pollute waterways, poison wildlife and cause respiratory illness among those living near the massive storage pits plant operators use to contain it. … The agency stressed that it had not committed to changes or that it necessarily agrees with the merits of the industry’s petition. If the EPA ultimately decides to roll back the coal ash standards, it will go through the usual rulemaking procedure, which could take years.”
– Wisconsin’s approval of $3 billion in state aid to ensure the arrival of a Foxconn plant may be the beginning of a Trump-era trend in “corporate welfare.” Bloomberg’s John McCormick writes: “Some analysts foresee a rush of new state-level subsidies and tax breaks as governors compete for any new facilities built by companies suddenly flush with newfound tax savings. Call it tax reform in reverse — a prospect that doesn’t please portions of Trump’s base, or deep-pocketed conservative donors, who equate such sweetheart deals to ‘corporate welfare.’ … The [Foxconn] deal — and the prospect of more like it — has irked some of the same conservatives who have championed Trump’s push to remove special corporate loopholes in an overhaul of the federal tax code being debated by Congress.”
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
– The U.S. waived nuclear-related sanctions on Iran yesterday but slapped new ones on companies and individuals linked to non-nuclear matters. Carol Morello reports: “Though the Trump administration extended existing waivers on sanctions on Iran’s oil and banking sectors that were suspended when the nuclear deal took effect in January 2016, U.S. officials described the extension as a ‘holding action’ until Trump decides next month whether to declare that Iran is not complying with the nuclear deal … ’The administration seeks to bring a change in Iran’s behavior,’ said a senior administration official … [citing] Iran’s ballistic-missile tests, support for terrorist groups such as Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad, backing of militias fighting in neighboring countries and human rights abuses including the detention of several U.S. citizens.”
– The AP has more on the terrifying sonic attacks on U.S. diplomats in Cuba. From Josh Lederman, Michael Weissenstein and Matt Lee: “The blaring, grinding noise jolted the American diplomat from his bed in a Havana hotel. He moved just a few feet, and there was silence. He climbed back into bed. Inexplicably, the agonizing sound hit him again. It was as if he’d walked through some invisible wall cutting straight through his room. Soon came the hearing loss, and the speech problems, symptoms both similar and altogether different from others among at least 21 U.S. victims in an astonishing international mystery still unfolding in Cuba. … New [details] indicate at least some of the incidents were confined to specific rooms or even parts of rooms with laser-like specificity, baffling U.S. officials who say the facts and the physics don’t add up. … Some victims now have problems concentrating or recalling specific words … [and] the diagnosis of mild brain injury, considered unlikely to result from sound, has confounded the FBI, the State Department and U.S. intelligence agencies involved in the investigation.”
– The Department of Health and Human Services is slashing funds to “navigators” who help enroll people in the Affordable Care Act by up to 92 percent. Juliet Eilperin and Amy Goldstein report: “[A]dvocates of the navigator program … said Thursday that the deep cuts would undermine work to help consumers get insurance coverage once open enrollment begins on Nov. 1. And the depth of some funding reductions, questions about those state programs’ viability and the fairness of the administration’s method for deciding how much money each group gets.”
- “There is no way you can run what we had on $328,000,” said Sarah Sessoms of Insure Georgia, whose group received $2.2 million last year. When the HHS notice arrived via email, she said, “I thought — it was disbelief — that something had to be wrong.”
- The executive director of Enroll Michigan … said its grant was slashed from $1.2 million to $129,899. “As you can imagine, this decimates our entire organization,” Dizzy Warren said.
– The CBO predicts Obamacare premiums will rise next year because of the administration’s wavering on the law. Vox’s Sarah Kliff reports: “The nonpartisan office estimates that average premiums in the health law marketplaces will be 15 percent higher next year ‘largely because of short-term market uncertainty — in particular, insurers’ uncertainty about whether federal funding for certain subsidies that are currently available will continue to be provided.’ The CBO also estimates that there will be less competition in the marketplaces next year, which it also attributes to the uncertain federal environment surrounding the health law’s future. … The CBO does expect that enrollment will grow slightly next year, from 10 million this year to 11 million in 2018.”
– Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) has a Post op-ed on how the administration is trying to “sabotage” Obamacare in Virginia.
– Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) hosted a Canadian doctor on his podcast to tout the benefits of his single-payer plan. David Weigel reports: “There are evident risks in Sanders’s embrace of Canada. The most obvious is that his plan … goes much further than Canada’s, paying for eye care and other policies that Canadians must obtain on their own. Another is that while Sanders proposes a federal program, Canada’s began in provinces and remains a partnership between provinces and Ottawa, with local governments managing their own programs and paying 75 percent of the bills. … Another problem, which the Republican National Committee jumped on Thursday, is that Canadians are unhappy with their own wait times for elective procedures.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump offered a bizarre rationale for not having previously expressed condolences to the Mexican president for his country’s earthquake:
Spoke to President of Mexico to give condolences on terrible earthquake. Unable to reach for 3 days b/c of his cell phone reception at site.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 14, 2017
A note: the earthquake took place six days prior to that tweet.
George W. Bush’s former speechwriter was skeptical of the excuse:
Trump also lambasted Bernie Sanders’s “Medicare-for-all” health plan:
Bernie Sanders is pushing hard for a single payer healthcare plan – a curse on the U.S. & its people…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 14, 2017
…I told Republicans to approve healthcare fast or this would happen. But don’t worry, I will veto because I love our country & its people.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 14, 2017
Notably, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.) requested that the CBO score Sanders’s single-payer plan — not Sanders himself (spoiler: it’s going to be really expensive):
From a Time editor:
Under the Constitution, the House tweets. If the Senate retweets, it goes to the President, who favs it into law.
— Ryan Teague Beckwith (@ryanbeckwith) September 14, 2017
Conservatives continue to bash Trump for dealing with Democrats on immigration:
Ann Coulter, who published a book this year entitled “In Trump We Trust,” said a change might be in order:
A contributor to Post Outlook offered a possible explanation for Democrats’ decision to work with Trump:
My theory of Trump’s relative appeal is no matter who you are, eventually he gets around to bullying someone you secretly think deserves it.
— Irin Carmon (@irin) September 14, 2017
Trump insists it’s not “amnesty:”
He also reflected on the power of hurricanes:
“I never even knew a Category 5 existed,” Trump said tonight of hurricanes, per pool
— Amy Fiscus (@amyfiscus) September 15, 2017
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) responded to the news that groups linked to Russia used Facebook to meddle in last year’s election:
The CEO of Russia’s Kaspersky Lab agreed to testify before the House after the U.S. government moved to stop agencies from using its products:
The mayor of D.C. made a pitch for the location of Amazon’s second headquarters:
Floyd Mayweather defended Trump’s comments on “Access Hollywood”:
And a CNN host was skeptical of his logic:
Barack Obama’s former speechwriter criticized Ivanka Trump’s claim that it’s “unrealistic” to expect her to influence her father’s policies:
The New Yorker used the release of Hillary Clinton’s new book as an opportunity to share the cover the magazine would have run if she won:
And Clinton responded to Trump’s earlier criticism of her new book:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
– New Republic, “Redoing the Electoral Math,” by John B. Judis: “If you take the percentage of Americans that the U.S. census defines as ‘minorities’ and project their past voting habits into the next decade and beyond, you’ll come up with a very sunny version of the Democrats’ prospects. There are only two problems with this line of thinking, but they’re pretty big ones. For starters, the census prediction of a ‘majority-minority’ America—slated to arrive in 2044—is deeply flawed. And so is the notion that ethnic minorities will always and forever continue to back Democrats in Obama-like numbers.”
– San Francisco Chronicle, “The pro-Russia, pro-weed, pro-Assange GOP congressman who will be tough to beat,” by Joe Garofoli: “Standing at the corner of Fringe and Conspiracy streets, [Rep. Dana] Rohrabacher [R-Calif.] would seem to be easy picking for Democrats, who are making Orange County the centerpiece of their plan to return to power in the House by flipping 24 GOP seats. They’re focused on districts like Rohrabacher’s, where Hillary Clinton outpolled President Trump and the incumbents are perceived as out-of-touch. It won’t be that easy. Rohrabacher also stands squarely in the middle of the old school, wealthier, whiter, conservative, still- lovin’-the-Gipper part of the OC. He’s run for Congress 15 times, and he’s won by more than 20 percent 13 times. Call him fringe-y, but he’s conservative OC kind of fringe-y.”
– The Atlantic, “Why Didn’t Trump Build Anything in Russia?” by Julia Ioffe: “When just about every other major hotel chain in the world was able to build in Moscow and beyond, why didn’t Trump close a deal in Russia? The absence of Trump real estate in Russia, it turns out, is a revealing reflection of the disconnect between the image Trump projects and the reputation he and his surrogates have established in Russia. In part it was because, as Donald Trump Jr. once said himself, Russia ‘really is a scary place.’”
Trump has a meeting with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and then a phone call with “Jewish leaders.” He will meet with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) before participating in an “air fleet demonstration” and discussion with airmen at Andrews. He’s in New Jersey this weekend.
Pence has a meeting with U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley at the White House.
And the 11-year-old boy named Frank who wrote to the White House offering to mow the grass for free will assist the groundskeeping crew today in the Rose Garden.
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
– It should be mostly sunny in the District today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Skies should be clearer than not and we should stay mostly dry, on the whole. There’s a chance of an isolated shower by mid-to-late afternoon. … Mugginess isn’t terrible, but it’s around. High temperatures top out around 80, to perhaps mid-80s south of town.”
– The Nationals beat the Braves 5-2. (Jorge Castillo)
– The House approved a spending bill that would block five D.C. laws from taking effect, including the assisted-suicide bill signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser in December. The matter now falls to the Senate, which could choose to not take up the measures. (Jenna Portnoy)
– The House also passed a bill from Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) meant to ease the federal government’s ability to deport or detain immigrants suspected of gang activity. The proposal sprang out of violence perpetrated by the MS-13 gang in the D.C. region. (Jenna Portnoy)
– Virginia Gov. McAuliffe (D) sent a letter to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) arguing that Hogan’s plan for Metro funding will not create a long-term solution. Hogan has proposed raising $2 billion for the transit system over four years between Maryland, Virginia, the District and the federal government, but he said he would not raise Maryland taxes, which could provide dedicated funding to Metro. (Robert McCartney)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Seth Meyers compared Trump’s negotiating skills to Daffy Duck’s:
Trevor Noah provided an answer to Trump’s question of whether anyone really wanted to deport the dreamers:
Trump described the White House as “a house like no other” during an event last night for the White House Historical Association:
The tweet from ESPN’s Jemele Hill calling Trump a “white supremacist” raised questions about objectivity in journalism:
Tennis legend Serena WIlliams introduced her new baby to the world:
And researchers have discovered a gene that may explains why dogs are so friendly: