The Daily 202: Kavanaugh could offer the decisive vote to uphold Trump’s crusade against affirmative action

With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: In 1999, a conservative legal activist named Brett Kavanaugh said he believed it was “inevitable” that the Supreme Court, “within the next 10 to 20 years,” would conclude that “we are all one race in the eyes of the government.” Nineteen years later, as Kavanaugh prepares for his confirmation hearing next week to join the Supreme Court, the Trump administration filed a legal brief Thursday to support a pending lawsuit against Harvard University that could end affirmative action as we know it and perhaps even give Kavanaugh an opportunity to make his prophecy a reality.

Because Kavanaugh is the nominee to replace retired justice Anthony Kennedy — who offered the decisive vote in a 2016 case that saved affirmative action in college admissions — civil rights advocates are alarmed by evidence of Kavanaugh’s skepticism toward racially tailored policies intended to rectify centuries of injustice.

That was one factor that led the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, in formally opposing Kavanaugh’s confirmation on Thursday, to describe him as “a grave threat to civil rights, racial justice and … marginalized communities.”

Senate Democrats last night also announced their witness list for next week’s hearing. The first speaker on the first panel will be Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. He will speak about Kavanaugh’s record on affirmative action, civil rights and voting rights.

— During a speech last year at Notre Dame Law School, Kavanaugh identified affirmative action as a “long-standing exception” to the “basic equal-protection right not to be treated differently by the government on account of your race.” He was discussing how hard it is for a judge to be a neutral umpire calling balls and strikes. Laws are “ambiguous,” he explained, and courts have created “amorphous tests.”

Summarizing the high court’s previous debates about where to draw the line, the 53-year-old said: “On what basis is the court making those decisions? Is there something in the text of the Constitution that tells us one is good enough and the other is not good enough? Not really. Again, this is common-law judging to define the contours of the exception to the constitutional right.”

— The Trump administration has taken several steps to make it harder for schools to use race as a factor in admissions. With a brief filed yesterday in a Boston federal court, the Justice Department supported a lawsuit challenging Harvard’s use of race or ethnicity in admissions by alleging that the Ivy League school is biased against high-achieving Asian Americans.

In an effort that appeared designed to minimize public attention, in a news dump on the eve of Independence Day, the Trump administration also revoked federal guidance on affirmative action that had been issued during the Obama era. In April, the DOJ also asked a federal judge to allow for the public release of internal documents from Harvard’s admissions office that show how students are chosen. And last year Trump political appointees launched an investigation into Harvard’s practices.

The case, likely to be tried in October, could become the next test of whether the Supreme Court is willing to overturn decades of precedent and ban consideration of race in admissions,” Nick Anderson reports. “The high court has affirmed multiple times … that schools may take race into account as one factor among many in pursuit of assembling a diverse class. But the court also has put limits on the practice. It has prohibited racial quotas and pushed schools to consider whether they can achieve their goals through race-neutral alternatives, using financial aid and other recruiting tools to ensure socioeconomic and geographic balance. The premise is that such methods could produce adequate racial diversity indirectly, without subjecting applicants to racial bias. The results of that theory have been tested in several states, including California and Florida, that prohibit consideration of race in public university admissions. Many educators say those results have proved disappointing, with the share of African Americans and other historically underrepresented minorities falling at the most competitive schools.”

The university criticized the Trump administration’s filing for “recycling the same misleading and hollow arguments that prove nothing more than the emptiness of the case against Harvard.” The Ivy League school released this statement: “Harvard does not discriminate against applicants from any group, and will continue to vigorously defend the legal right of every college and university to consider race as one factor among many in college admissions. … Colleges and universities must have the freedom and flexibility to create the diverse communities that are vital to the learning experience of every student.”

— Kavanaugh made his 1999 prediction about race during an interview with the Christian Science Monitor while discussing the case of Rice v. Cayetano. As a lawyer in private practice, he had just joined Robert Bork — the Ronald Reagan SCOTUS nominee who got rejected — in filing an amicus brief for a conservative group called the Center for Equal Opportunity. They argued that it was unconstitutional to prevent people who were not native Hawaiians from voting for trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. The court agreed with them in a 7-to-2 decision, written by Kennedy.

Kavanaugh also wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal arguing that the Supreme Court should follow an originalist standard that had been laid out by Antonin Scalia: “Under our Constitution there can be no such thing as either a creditor or a debtor race. … In the eyes of government, we are just one race here. It is American.”

— Four years later, in June 2003, while working in George W. Bush’s White House, Kavanaugh emailed his colleagues to alert them that the Supreme Court was poised to release its decision on the constitutionality of the University of Michigan’s use of race as a factor to admit students. “It was an issue of great interest to his boss, President George W. Bush — who favored race-neutral admissions — and one Kavanaugh had followed for years,” the Associated Press’s Jesse Holland and Tammy Webber report this morning. “Staff prepared a response anticipating the practice would be struck down, saying, ‘We must be ever mindful not to use means that create another wrong and thus perpetuate our divisions’ in the pursuit of diversity. But the next day, justices released a 5-4 opinion written by Reagan appointee Sandra Day O’Connor that upheld the university’s law school admissions policy, a disappointment that prompted then-Bush policy adviser Joel Kaplan to email Kavanaugh, then a White House attorney: ‘What’s going on???’ ”

Senate Republicans have selectively released documents from Kavanaugh’s time in the White House, breaking with tradition, so it’s not totally clear whether Kavanaugh responded: “Kavanaugh’s keen interest in affirmative action is evident in the released White House emails,” the AP notes. “Although he appeared careful to withhold his own opinion, he clearly was interested in Bush’s anti-affirmative action views, often emailing and receiving articles and opinion pieces on the issue.”

Kavanaugh has not ruled directly on affirmative action while sitting on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. His defenders are quick to note that two of his four law clerks this year were African Americans he met while visiting Yale, his alma mater. They also point to a quote from his 2004 confirmation hearing for his current job in which he promised to uphold existing precedent. “The Supreme Court has decided many cases on affirmative action programs and, if confirmed, I would faithfully follow those precedents,” he said at the time. “My personal views or the views of my former clients on these or other issues would not affect how I would approach decisions as an appeals court judge.” But justices are not bound by precedent the way that appellate judges are.

— Civil rights advocates have seized on an opinion Kavanaugh wrote in 2012 that delayed for a year but ultimately allowed stringent voter identification laws in South Carolina that were opposed by the Obama Justice Department to go into effect. “Kavanaugh acknowledged concerns … about the disproportionate impact on black voters, who were less likely to have an acceptable photo ID,” Ann Marimow reported this month. “Civil rights advocates say it is telling that Kavanaugh did not join the other judges [on the panel] — Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, a [Bill] Clinton nominee, and John D. Bates, a George W. Bush nominee — in a separate opinion in which they noted the ‘vital function’ of the Voting Rights Act provision that required federal oversight of election laws in states with a history of discriminatory practices. The following year, the Supreme Court invalidated that provision, known as Section 5.”

— The progressive justices on the court say affirmative action remains as important now as ever. Earlier this week, Justice Sonia Sotomayor made an impassioned case for affirmative action during a speech to incoming freshmen at Michigan State University. “I was the perfect affirmative action child,” she said. “Don’t look at how I got in. Look at what I did.”

Sotomayor went from the housing projects in New York City to Princeton and Yale Law and eventually became the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court in American history. She said Monday that affirmative action was necessary to get her “in the door” and noted that universities also give preference to athletes and the kids of wealthy alumni.

“You get in because you’re giving something of value to the community,” she said in Lansing, according to the Detroit News. “And so is being different. So is coming from a background that a majority of students are not from. The question is not, how did I get in? It’s what did I do when I got there? And with pride, I can say I graduated at the top of my class.”


— To highlight Kavanaugh’s record on executive power, Democrats will call former White House counsel John Dean to testify during his confirmation hearing. “Dean was a star witness of the 1973 congressional hearings on the Watergate scandal, recounting how he told President Richard M. Nixon that there was a ‘cancer’ growing on the presidency,” Michael Kranish notes. “In a telephone interview, Dean said he would focus on Kavanaugh’s views on executive power and his statements about the case, U.S. v. Nixon, in which the Supreme Court ruled that Nixon had to turn over secretly recorded White House tapes. … [Kavanaugh] said in a 1999 panel discussion that ‘maybe Nixon was wrongly decided — heresy though it is to say so.’ …

Dean also said he would focus on Kavanaugh’s 2009 Minnesota Law Review article, in which the federal appeals court judge wrote that a president is too busy to be distracted by civil suits and criminal investigation while in office. … Dean, who has said Trump is ‘more dangerous’ than Nixon, said it is a ‘correct presumption’ that he is opposed to Kavanaugh’s nomination.”

— Inside the murder boards. Seung Min Kim takes us behind the scenes on how Trump’s nominee is prepping for hearings, which start Tuesday with opening statements: “Kavanaugh has already faced off against Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) — or at least a mock version of him. In the slew of practice hearings ahead of the real deal, Kavanaugh has practiced how he’ll answer if Durbin presses him about his 2006 testimony in which Kavanaugh said he was not involved in questions about rules governing detention of enemy combatants in the Bush administration. For several weeks and hours at a time, Kavanaugh and the officials preparing him have assembled inside a large conference room at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, drilling his answers to that and other pointed questions he will confront.

Several administration officials and prominent lawyers enlisted to help Kavanaugh prepare sit before him in a formation shaped like a hearing dais, playing the role of the 21 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. ‘Everything is set up to mimic what a hearing would look like,’ said a White House official who described Kavanaugh’s hearing preparations. ‘If you were to sit there for the feedback after the first session vs. the most recent, you understand that he has really gotten a command of the facts, his answers.’

All the closely-watched swing votes — Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), as well as Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) — do not plan to announce their position on Kavanaugh until after the hearings conclude, so a major error could be fatal to his confirmation. In turn, several Senate Republicans have offered their help. Among those senators are Orrin G. Hatch (Utah), Rob Portman (Ohio), Dan Sullivan (Alaska) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), who huddled with Kavanaugh last week for their own rapid-fire prep session. Hatch, a former Judiciary Committee chairman, was the ‘chairman’ at the two-hour mock hearing held Aug. 20. The senators fired off questions for about two hours … pretending to be different members of the committee as Kavanaugh practiced answering.

One mock hearing this week went the full length of a day’s worth of questioning, starting at 8:30 a.m. (the real hearings will start at 9:30 a.m.) and concluded shortly before 6 p.m., with a few breaks sprinkled throughout the intensive session.”


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— “Trump’s disapproval rating has hit a high point of 60 percent, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll that also finds that clear majorities of Americans support the special counsel’s Russia investigation and say the president should not fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions,” Philip Rucker and Scott Clement report:

  • Nearly half of Americans, 49 percent, say Congress should begin impeachment proceedings that could lead to Trump being removed from office, while 46 percent say Congress should not.
  • A narrow majority — 53 percent — say they think Trump has tried to interfere with [Robert] Mueller’s investigation in a way that amounts to obstruction of justice; 35 percent say they do not think the president has tried to interfere.”
  • Two-thirds of Americans oppose Trump pardoning [Paul] Manafort — 53 percent strongly oppose it — and 18 percent support a pardon.
  • Sixty-three percent support Mueller’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, with 52 percent saying they support it strongly. Among independents, 67 percent back the investigation.
  • Sixty-four percent of Americans do not think Trump should fire Sessions: “Nearly half of Republicans, 47 percent, say Trump should not fire the attorney general, with 31 percent saying he should.”

— The Trump administration has decided to cancel all U.S. funding to a U.N. aid program benefiting Palestinian refugees, a decision that effectively eliminates the “right of return” to contested land in the region, which has long been considered a critical component of any Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement. Karen DeYoung and Ruth Eglash report: “In an announcement to be made within the next several weeks, the administration plans to voice its disapproval of the way the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, spends the funds and to call for a sharp reduction in the number of Palestinians recognized as refugees, dropping it from more than 5 million, including descendants, to fewer than a tenth of that number. … More immediately, many regional foreign policy and security experts, including in Israel, say that slashing UNRWA’s budget, amid a call to ‘de-register’ refugees, would worsen an already disastrous humanitarian situation [and] sharply increase the level of violence. … The administration’s response, according to officials … is that if the United Nations wants the money, it needs to change UNRWA’s rules and the way it operates.”

— The NBC News producer who worked with Ronan Farrow on the Harvey Weinstein story — which the network never published — has quit. The Daily Beast’s Maxwell Tani and Lachlan Cartwright have insider nuggets about why NBC may never have run the Weinstein piece, which was published by the New Yorker, that helped win Farrow a Pulitzer Prize: “The Daily Beast has uncovered new details of how the process went awry, including alleged threats from NBC, back-biting inside the network about who was truly responsible, and a previously unreported ultimatum by Weinstein’s attorneys. According to multiple sources familiar with the matter, NBC News general counsel Susan Weiner made a series of phone calls to Farrow, threatening to smear him if he continued to report on Weinstein. A spokesperson for NBC News, speaking on the condition of anonymity, vigorously denied those allegations. ‘Absolutely false,’ the spokesperson told The Daily Beast. ‘There’s no truth to that all. There is no chance, in no version of the world, that Susan Weiner would tell Ronan Farrow what he could or could not report on.’ “


  1. A new study says climate change could drastically alter many of the Earth’s ecosystems over the next century. In conducting the research, scientists examined fossil and temperature records from the past 20,000 years, during which the Earth transitioned from an ice age to an “interglacial” period.  (Sarah Kaplan)
  2. A judge rejected Alex Jones’s attempt to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed against him by Sandy Hook parents, siding with families who Jones claimed staged a massacre of their children at an elementary school. (HuffPost)
  3. An Uber driver in Florida shot and killed a man who aggressively approached his vehicle — under the mistaken belief that his ex-girlfriend was inside — and threatened to shoot him. Authorities, who said the Uber driver is licensed to carry a weapon, described the incident as a classic “stand-your-ground” case. (Lindsey Bever)
  4. A California man was arrested for making threatening phone calls to the Boston Globe. Echoing Trump’s anti-media attacks, he called journalists the “enemy of the people” and purveyors of “fake news.” Robert Chain allegedly said in one call that he would kill everyone at the paper, even listing a date and a time. (CNN)
  5. Microsoft announced it will work only with outside contractors who offer their employees 12 weeks of paid family leave. The move is a first by a large U.S. company. Businesses typically outsource culinary, housekeeping and receptionist duties to contractors with smaller benefits packages. (Danielle Paquette)
  6. Republican lawmakers in the Northern Mariana Islands voted to approve the recreational use and sale of marijuana. If approved by Gov. Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres (R), it will become the first U.S. territory to allow recreational use of the drug and the first to create a commercial marijuana market via congressional action. (Christopher Ingraham)
  7. An Ohio State University trustee has resigned over the three-game suspension of football coach Urban Meyer, saying in a letter that he “fundamentally disagreed” with the board’s lenient punishment. The trustee, Jeffrey Wadsworth, later told reporters he was the “lone voice of dissent” who believed Meyer’s punishment should have been “more profound.” (The Columbus Dispatch)
  8. French actor Gérard Depardieu is under “preliminary investigation” after he was accused of rape and sexual assault by a 22-year-old actress, Parisian authorities said. An attorney for Depardieu said the actor was “shocked” by the accusation against him and “totally denies any assault, any rape and any criminal act.” (CNN)


— Trump has seemed especially agitated on Twitter over the past day or so. Ashley Parker has more: “The president and his supporters are under siege, the tweets imply, from pernicious forces conspiring against them. … The president’s tweetstorm late this week reflects a certain agitation with the news swirling around him, according to people close to Trump, including a growing anxiety within the White House about the possibility of the ‘I-word’ — as the president sometimes refers to impeachment — and what a Democratic takeover of the House would mean. His tweet warning that ‘fake books’ about his administration are ‘pure fiction,’ for instance, was viewed by some as an effort to mitigate any possible damage from Bob Woodward’s upcoming book, ‘Fear: Trump in the White House.’ …

“Trump’s latest social media proclamations are not premeditated, poll-tested strategy, these people added, but rather the president’s raw, visceral response to incoming challenges, and messaging to his base. One former White House staffer described Trump’s tweets this week as just the latest salvo in the long narrative arc he’s long been building against his favorite villains, including the media and Mueller’s probe.”

— Trump announced that he wants to freeze pay raises for some 2 million federal employees in 2019. “We must maintain efforts to put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and Federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases,” Trump wrote in a letter to Congress, which is at a stalemate on the issue (for now). Eric Yoder reports: “Trump’s move Thursday means federal pay rates will remain flat unless Congress passes — and the president signs — a bill that includes a raise by the end of the year. … Lawmakers representing the Washington region — home to about 15 percent of the federal workforce — decried the presidential statement.”

— Some 8,000 Vietnamese people, including the offspring of U.S. troops, could be deported under Trump’s new immigration policy, which seeks to expedite deportation proceedings against immigrants who have green cards but never obtained citizenship and have been found guilty of a crime. Simon Denyer reports: “The new arrivals were given green cards when they reached the United States, but many … lacked the education, language skills or legal help needed to negotiate the complex bureaucratic process of acquiring citizenship. Many came as children, attended schools and colleges in the United States, worked, paid taxes and raised families. Decades on, their lives and families could be ripped apart again. The Trump administration, in a policy shaped by senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, has reinterpreted a 2008 agreement reached with Vietnam by the George W. Bush administration — that Vietnamese citizens who arrived before the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1995 would not be ‘subject to return.’ Now, the White House says, there is no such immunity to deportation for any noncitizen found guilty of a crime.”

— The Trump administration is weighing a plan to send hundreds of captured Islamic State fighters to an Iraqi prison and to Guantanamo Bay. NBC News’s Courtney Kube, Dan De Luce and Josh Lederman report: “The possible Guantanamo detainees include two ISIS fighters [Alexandar Amon Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh] who participated in the murder of Americans and other Western hostages, say five U.S. officials. … Detainees sent to Iraq would be held in Iraqi prisons with Iraqi guards, but the U.S. might retain the right to prosecute them if they could not be sent to their home countries, said officials. Democrats in Congress and human rights groups oppose sending new detainees to Guantanamo and say those ISIS fighters suspected of murdering Americans should be tried in federal court, where they could be held accountable instead of held indefinitely without charges.”

— “Trump’s plan to build an entire village in rural Scotland,” by Quartz’s Max de Haldevang: “Last month, the Trump Organization announced something strange: a plan to build an entire town in rural Scotland, with a kitsch design that blends American suburbia with Scottish oil country. The price was $200 million, but where the Trumps will get that cash is a mystery. It’s the latest in a string of Scottish investments which appear to make little business sense. The Trump Organization has already shelled out hundreds of millions on two golf courses in the country in the last 12 years, and both have performed terribly. The new project would see the US president’s company build 500 houses, plus swaths of commercial and leisure buildings, on the same estate that houses his Aberdeen golf course [which has lost money every year since it opened]. … There seems to be little chance of turning around the courses’ fortunes; golf’s popularity in Scotland has been plummeting for a decade.”


— The president sharpened his attacks on the Justice Department and the FBI during an Indiana rally last night, threatening to “get involved” if they don’t start “doing their job.” “At some point, if it doesn’t straighten out, I will get involved, and I’ll get in there if I have to,” Trump said to cheers. “Disgraceful.”

— During an afternoon interview, Trump told Bloomberg News that he will not oust Jeff Sessions before the November midterms, even as he took aim at his attorney general for failing to rein in an “illegal” Russia investigation. John Micklethwait, Margaret Talev, and Jennifer Jacobs report: “Asked if he’d keep Sessions beyond November, he declined to comment. ‘I’d love to have him look at the other side,’ he said, reiterating calls for [Sessions to launch a new investigation of Hillary Clinton].”

  • “Asked whether he would comply with a subpoena from Mueller to answer questions, Trump said … ‘I’ll see what happens.’ ‘I view it differently. I view it as an illegal investigation’ because ‘great scholars’ have said that ‘there never should have been a special counsel,’ the president said.”
  • He insisted Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg did not “betray him” in cooperating with Manhattan prosecutors in their federal investigation of Michael Cohen. “100 percent he didn’t,” Trump said. He added that Weisselberg’s cooperation — for which he was granted immunity — was tied to “a very limited period of time.”
  • Trump also defended his initial response to John McCain’s death. Asked whether he missed a chance to unite the country, Trump said, “No, I don’t think I did at all.” But he noted that Sarah Huckabee Sanders was “having a nervous breakdown” over his response.

— Longtime Trump ally Roger Stone says he expects to be charged with a crime by Mueller. NBC News’s Ken Dilanian reports: “Stone, whose history with Trump goes back nearly four decades, says in a letter to supporters that [Mueller’s] team is ‘examining every aspect of my personal, private, family, social, business and political life.’ The goal, Stone says, is ‘to frame me for some nonexistent crime to silence me and pressure me to testify against the president. … I am not going to do it.’ … While it is known that many associates of Stone have come under scrutiny by the special counsel’s office, it is not clear whether Stone is a target of the investigation. Questions have long swirled about Stone’s possible interactions with WikiLeaks and hacker Guccifer 2.0 during the 2016 [campaign].” Mueller’s team has interviewed at least eight of Stone’s current and former associates.

— Former NSA contractor Reality Winner — who was jailed for leaking classified information about Russia’s 2016 election interference campaign — thanked Trump after he called her sentence “so unfair.” Amy B Wang reports: “Winner, 26, was sentenced last week to more than five years in prison for the leak, with an additional three years of supervised release, the longest sentence given to someone for such a crime, her attorneys said. She is the first person to be charged under the Espionage Act during the Trump administration. In an interview Thursday with ‘CBS This Morning,’ Winner … [said] she ‘deeply’ regrets having leaked the report to the media and appreciated Trump for verbalizing what she and her family had not been able to for more than a year. ‘You know, even our commander in chief … has kind of come out and said, ‘Wait a minute, this is really unfair, there’s this double standard here,’’ Winner [said]. ‘And for that I can’t thank him enough because for 16 months those words ‘so unfair’ were actually not allowed by myself or my team or my family to say out in the public.’” 


— Department of Homeland Security political appointee Ian M. Smith, who resigned this week after he was revealed to have ties to white-nationalist groups, attended multiple immigration policy meetings at the White House. “Smith quit his job Tuesday after being questioned about personal emails he sent and received between 2014 and [2016],” Nick Miroff reports. “The messages … depict Smith engaging in friendly, casual conversations with prominent white supremacists and racists. In one email from 2015, Smith responded to a group dinner invitation whose host said his home would be ‘judenfrei,’ a German word used by the Nazis [to describe] territory that had been ‘cleansed’ of Jews during the Holocaust. … ‘I was planning to hit the bar during the dinner hours and talk to people like Matt Parrot, etc.,’ Smith added, a reference to the former spokesman for the neo-Nazi Traditionalist Worker Party. … He joined the department as an immigration policy analyst in 2017 and focused on refugee issues and temporary worker visas, according to former colleagues. He also worked on an effort, led by [ICE], to expand the ‘Public Charge’ rule by penalizing more legal immigrants who use tax credits or accept government benefits.

— Jared Kushner told reporters the White House is “very close” to finalizing a criminal justice reform package in the Senate. Seung Min Kim and Anne Gearan report: “Kushner has worked for months with key House lawmakers and senators to shepherd through a legislative package that reforms federal prison policy and, potentially, mandatory-minimum sentencing laws. The issue is one where Kushner has seen some success, although the measure is still far from being signed into law and otherwise allies of the White House, such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), are determined to kill it. … He dashed to Capitol Hill soon after a pivotal meeting on the issue with Trump last week and met with key senators, including [Mitch McConnell] to begin hashing out a strategy to pass a package of criminal-justice bills after the November midterms.”

— Trump is slated to tap a centrist to head the EPA’s chemical safety division — shifting gears after his previous nominee, Michael Dourson, was forced to withdraw amid controversy last December. Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report: “EPA Region 1 Administrator Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, who was appointed to her current post in November, has deep roots working at nonpartisan environmental organizations and academia. Before becoming the agency’s top official for New England, Dunn served as executive director and general counsel for the Environmental Council of States. Before then, she occupied the same role at the Association of Clean Water Administrators. … American University law professor Amanda Leiter, who served the Interior Department’s deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals under [Barack Obama], praised Dunn’s environmental expertise in an email.”


— “A ‘bootstraps’ story like no other: Kyrsten Sinema lived in a shuttered country store and gas station. Now she’s running for Senate,” by Amy Gardner, Sean Sullivan and Alice Crites: “This former gas station and country store on a rolling ribbon of rural highway in the Florida Panhandle, across the road from an endless vista of cotton fields, is a main character in Rep. Kyrsten Sinema’s life story. … Sinema, now 42, talks about the experience frequently on the campaign trail. … [But] the way Sinema has described her early years in DeFuniak Springs, the hometown of her stepfather, has surprised a few members of his family, who say she does not adequately credit their efforts to give her a home.”

— Last night in Indiana, Trump ramped up his attacks on social media companies — criticizing Google, Facebook and Twitter by name as he proclaimed to the crowd, “We will not let large corporations silence conservative voices.” Rachel Chason, Felicia Sonmez and Anne Gearan report: “At a rally for Republican Senate nominee Mike Braun, Trump pledged that his administration will protect the ‘free speech rights of all Americans’ and accused the three tech giants of favoring liberal voices over conservative ones. ‘I’ve made it clear that we as a country cannot tolerate political censorship, blacklisting and rigged search results,’ Trump told the crowd.”

— House Republican campaign strategists are preparing to make some painful decisions, jettisoning some GOP incumbents as the party fights to retain its majority. From Alex Isenstadt at Politico: “GOP officials say as many as 45 Republican-held [House] seats are at serious risk, making it impossible to salvage each one in the costly scramble to protect the party’s 23-seat majority — especially those members who have waged sluggish campaigns and posted lackluster fundraising totals. … Behind the scenes, senior party strategists have begun polling to determine which incumbents may be beyond saving. Among those most in jeopardy of getting cut off, they say, are Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, Pennsylvania Rep. Keith Rothfus, and Iowa Rep. Rod Blum, all of whom are precariously positioned in their districts.”

— The U.S. Postal Service apologized after it “improperly divulged” the security clearance form of Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer and Democratic House candidate, and requested that a House Republican super PAC return the documents. The New York Times’s Michael Tackett reports: “’We take full responsibility for this unfortunate error, and we have taken immediate steps to ensure this will not happen again,’ David Partenheimer, a Postal Service spokesman, said in a statement. … The Postal Service also acknowledged the possibility of additional inappropriate disclosures, but when asked, would not provide details like whether those disclosures involved other candidates for office. ‘We are continuing our review, but believe the issue began in June of 2018, and that only a small number of additional requests for information from personnel files were improperly processed,’ Mr. Partenheimer said.”

— At least one campaign staffer for Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Va.) who allegedly forged signatures on ballot petitions appears to still be working on his campaign. That’s despite promises from Taylor that he would “purge” all five staffers accused of being involved in the illegal activity. Roll Call’s Griffin Connolly reports: “Democrats in the state have accused Taylor’s campaign staff of forging the signatures of dozens — possibly hundreds — of people in Virginia’s 2nd District to help Shaun Brown get her name [on] the ballot as an independent in order to siphon off votes from Democratic nominee Elaine Luria.”


— Former vice president Joe Biden and NFL star Larry Fitzgerald were among the half-dozen speakers who paid tribute to John McCain at an emotional memorial service in Arizona. Avi Selk and Felicia Sonmez report: “The ceremony was attended by more than two dozen of the Arizona Republican’s current and former Senate colleagues as well as former vice president Dan Quayle. Fitzgerald, who has known McCain for years and visited the former Navy pilot’s jail cell … described him as someone who ‘celebrated differences’ and cared about ‘the substance of my heart, more so than where I came from.’ McCain, he added, ‘didn’t judge individuals based on the color of their skin, their gender … their political affiliations. … He evaluated them on the merits of their character and the contents of their hearts.’ ”

“An emotional Biden, who dabbed at tears with a handkerchief, spoke for a half-hour. ‘I know how hard it is to bury a child, Mrs. McCain,’ Biden said, addressing the late senator’s 106-year-old mother, Roberta McCain. ‘It’s like being sucked into a black hole inside your chest, and it’s frightening, and there’s nothing anyone can say or do to ease the pain right now.’ Near the end of his speech, he quoted from John McCain’s final letter to the public as a balm against despair. ‘John believed in the American people — all 325 million of us,’ Biden said. ‘He believed always in the promise of America because ‘nothing is inevitable here. Those are the last things John said to the whole nation as he knew he was about to depart.”

— “The McCain-Biden bond is truly unique,” Paul Kane reports from Phoenix. “They met when McCain was stationed in the Senate in the late 1970s as the Navy’s liaison, leading to many trips abroad with senators. Biden, who had just turned 30 when he was sworn in … looked to McCain as a contemporary. They hit it off right away. Not just because they were close in age but also because each man had been through hell on earth — Biden’s first wife and daughter dying in a car crash in 1972; McCain enduring 5½ years of captivity. … Those trips around the world forged a bond that lasted through many policy fights, particularly over the Iraq War, and survived the 2008 presidential campaign. ‘We would sit on that plane, and late into the night, when everyone else was asleep, and just talk,’ Biden recalled. … ‘We talked about everything except captivity and the loss of my family,’ he said. They instinctively knew, without going into details, each had suffered an unspeakable tragedy.” “All politics is personal,” Biden said Thursday. “It’s all about trust. And I trusted John with my life.”

— Three top aides on McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign were excluded from his funeral proceedings. Politico’s Eliana Johnson reports: “[Campaign] manager Steve Schmidt, senior adviser Nicolle Wallace and longtime strategist John Weaver were not invited to any of McCain’s services, according to three people familiar with the guest list. It’s not clear whether McCain ordered the snubbing of formerly high-ranking aides before his death. … After nearly a week filled with eulogies from friends and family remembering McCain’s finest qualities, the exclusion of the trio, along with [Sarah Palin], is a quiet acknowledgment of an unhappier chapter of his life. The campaign saw McCain rise from the ashes in the winter of 2007 to become the Republican nominee, but it also spawned legendary staff feuds: McCain went through two campaign strategists, including Weaver, before settling on Schmidt. The exclusions are also indication that, 10 years on, McCain and his family still resent the fallout from the senator’s decision to choose the former Alaska governor as his vice presidential running mate, which elicited criticism from some of his closest advisers.”

— Vice President Pence praised McCain during a speech Thursday to a veterans group that criticized Trump earlier this week for his failure to keep flags lowered at half-staff in honor of the senator. John Wagner reports: “Speaking to a national conference of the American Legion in Minneapolis, Pence said he wanted to address ‘a particular veteran that I know is on the hearts and minds of people all across America.’ ‘He came from a long line of service in uniform,’ Pence said. … ‘He served in the Vietnam War. He spent five and a half years as a prisoner of war, and he did not yield.’ Pence then praised McCain’s service in Congress, calling him ‘one of the most unwavering advocates of our Armed Forces to ever serve.’ ‘I can assure you, America will always remember and honor the lifetime of service of United States Senator John McCain,’ Pence said. ‘By honoring him, we also honor all of you.’”


Lots of powerful symbolism from the McCain events in Arizona. He will lie in state in the Capitol today.

Obama’s former chief strategist blasted Trump’s move to freeze federal pay raises:

The host of “Meet the Press” seemed to lament the president’s tweets:

A Democratic senator from Connecticut tried to connect a few of the day’s big stories:

From BBC’s Moscow correspondent: 

For your calendar:

Alec Baldwin, who plays Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” will headline a Democratic dinner in New Hampshire:


Trump-era politics creates turmoil, firings and, sometimes, great ratings for entertainers,” by Steven Zeitchik. Our colleague tells the tale of how Lorne Michaels, producer of NBC’s “The Tonight Show” initially wasn’t concerned about the fact that Jimmy Fallon was less political than Stephen Colbert on CBS’s “Late Show.” But Fallon has been “steadily losing the race for total viewers” to Colbert, “as audiences seem to prefer the acerbic anti-Trump comments of [Colbert] to Fallon’s nonpartisanship.

“Late-night TV viewers are ‘making their decisions based on what’s happening in the White House,’ said Rick Ludwin, who ran NBC’s late-night programming for years. A year and a half into the Trump presidency, entertainment companies are grappling with a fan base that is splintering into political factions as never before. Whether in regard to explicitly political entertainment or the rapidly multiplying number of entertainers who talk about politics, Americans appear to be increasingly figuring ideology into their Hollywood ­choices.”

— BuzzFeed, “I Helped Create Insider Political Journalism. Now It’s Time For It To Go Away,” by Ben Smith: “Traditional political journalists were the last people to notice in 2016 that the world had changed. [Trump’s] campaign made a mockery of political reporters who thought they were — in the old sports metaphor — the referees, blowing their whistles ineffectually as he marched past. … The game changer, the horse race, the Hail Mary — apt, perhaps, for the party politics of the 1990s and 2000s — are painfully inadequate for the movement politics of a new era, with higher stakes, higher passions, and far wider interest. A Brazilian editor once told me that you could tell his country was in political crisis because everyone was talking about politics all the time. In a normal country, nobody cares about politics. And I think that most of all, the political journalism of that crisis is no longer a special genre of journalism, but instead the core of the profession: getting to the truth, explaining the world, and often telling stories with a clear right and wrong. … When I spoke the other day to one of the key figures of the old school … he sounded a little wistful: ‘You almost long for the days when it was a game.’ ”

— New York Times, “Mob Protests in Chemnitz Show New Strength of Germany’s Far Right,” by Katrin Bennhold: “Waving German flags, with some flashing Nazi salutes, the angry mob made its way through the streets, chasing after dark-skinned bystanders as police officers, vastly outnumbered, were too afraid to intervene. A Syrian refugee and father of two … watched horrified from a friend’s fourth-floor balcony. They were hunting in packs for immigrants just like him, he said. ‘Like wolves.’ … The city had never seen anything like this — and, to some degree, neither had post-World War II Germany. The rampage now stands as a high-water mark in the outpouring of anti-immigrant hatred that has swelled [in Germany]. … The crowd this time was 8,000-strong. Led by several hundred identifiable neo-Nazis, it appeared to be joined by thousands of ordinary citizens. More marches are planned Saturday. In the face of this newly assertive far right, Chemnitz has become a test of state authority. Some say it has even become a test of Germany’s postwar democracy.”

— Politico Magazine, “Why Mark Penn Is Sounding Trumpy,” by Annie Karni: “Because he was against Ken Starr, Penn’s logic is that he has a unique perspective on why Robert Mueller is harming the country, too. And as a Democrat bashing the Mueller investigation and making arguments that are useful to President Donald Trump, Penn has found a prominent new perch in the Washington ecosystem. … Penn has now become a regular face on Fox News — CNN and MSNBC won’t book him. …

“In our interview, he even implied that he may have a new admirer in the Oval Office, possibly due to regular appearances on shows the president watches regularly, like ‘Fox & Friends’ and ‘Mornings With Maria,’ featuring the Trump-friendly Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo. ‘I don’t comment on whether I talk to people or not,’ he says. ‘I don’t have any relationship with Trump. I never met the guy, but I’m not going to comment on whether anyone reaches out or not.’ “


“Vermont’s Only Black Female Lawmaker Withdraws Re-Election Bid After Racist Attacks,” from The Root: “The state of Vermont’s lone black female lawmaker, Rep. Ruqaiyah ‘Kiah’ Morris (D-Bennington), announced that she will not be running for re-election this year, in part because of the overwhelming amount of racist threats she’s received. Morris, who won the Democratic nomination earlier this month, shared her decision to withdraw her candidacy last Friday. … Earlier this month, [the Vermont state NAACP director] released a statement calling out the hateful vitriol directed at Morris. ‘No other Vermont state lawmaker’s family is the target of hate filled verbiage, such as ‘go back where you came from’ or racist remarks referring to her child as an ‘ugly mongrel’—a well-known epithet used to disparage children of mixed race,’ the press release said.” 



“Maine kills PETA’s lobster tombstone request,” from the Washington Examiner: “Hard-hearted bureaucrats in Maine have denied PETA’s request to erect a beautiful roadside tombstone memorializing thousands of innocent lobsters who lost their lives in a truck crash earlier this month. The state’s Department of Transportation informed [PETA] on Thursday that the scene of the Aug. 22 crash falls along a ‘Controlled-Access Highway,’ which means all forms of signage are prohibited. The brave lobsters are now at risk of being lost to history, destined to fade into the proverbial mist of time, gone but also forgotten amid the fast pace of modern life. PETA had hoped to erect a five-foot-tall granite tombstone that read, ‘In Memory of the Lobsters Who Suffered and Died at This Spot.’ The marker would have also included PETA’s logo and the phrase, ‘Try Vegan.’ “


Trump  will depart the White House this afternoon, en route to Joint Base Andrews. 


“Stop cleaning toilets abroad and come back.” — Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, urging people who have fled the country to return and to stop working in “economic slavery” overseas


— It’s another oppressively humid day in D.C. — but one that (thankfully) might be relieved by some midafternoon rain. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Clouds are a positive for keeping the temperatures down in the low-to-mid 80s, but it’s uncomfortably steamy. … Combining temperature with our muggy dew points, we still may feel around 90 degrees. Grab that small umbrella, given the chance of showers, thunderstorms and downpours. … If we stay drier and sunnier than currently expected, temperatures could get a few degrees higher.”

— As many as 35 million Americans and 800,000 D.C.-area residents are expected to hit the road for Labor Day weekend this year — shattering projections from previous years and ending one of the busiest summer travel seasons on record. Luz Lazo spoke to AAA’s John Townsend about what travelers should expect: “ ‘If past trends hold true this Labor Day, holiday travelers departing the Washington metro area for the weekend will find slowing traffic beginning at 2 p.m. on Friday and the worst time to travel between 5-6 p.m,’ Townsend said. ‘The best bet for drivers is to wait until after 7 p.m. on Friday or before noon on Saturday to help ensure valuable vacationing time isn’t spent in standstill traffic.’ ” (Are you heading to a beach or traveling by plane? Check out a holiday travel guide here.)


Arizonans bid farewell to McCain:

Should Prince Harry join the cast of “Hamilton”?