On the roster: Defining deviancy down on Hillary’s ethics - Power Play: Hillary's campaign about nothing - McConnell: GOP chances to hold Senate ‘very dicey’ - Audible: Your highness - A hell not even Dante could have conjured

DEFINING DEVIANCY DOWN ON HILLARY’S ETHICS
With fresh speculation swirling that there is, was or might yet be some sort of criminal probe into Hillary Clinton’s family foundation, some Republicans are seeing their November hopes restored.

It says a great deal about this election cycle that a persistent refrain throughout for the GOP has been “Hey, you never know, maybe she’ll get indicted…” When we hear the chants of “Lock her up!” at Donald Trump rallies there is, yes, rage at perceived corruption but also something of an incantation to the politics gods to deliver a victory by extraordinary means.

With Trump down nationally and in yet another slew of swing state polls, there might be reason to pray for a deus ex machina ending to the current electoral drama.

But Republicans ought to chill out on the despair and divine deliverance jazz. It is not necessary for Clinton to be in manacles for Trump to win. And setting the threshold there is actually quite harmful for the GOP cause.

The Clintons’ conduct (and misconduct) since leaving the White House has already been the subject of much coverage and opprobrium from both sides. Even the staunches Democrats will acknowledge that the way the Democratic nominee and her husband have made their money, arranged their affairs and, yes, sent their emails has broadly invited suspicion.

And the defense persists that the self-dealing, secrecy, buck raking and misleading claims are an understandable outgrowth of their persecution at the hands of Republicans in the 1990s. The Clintons are not shy feral cats being coaxed out of a darkened stairwell. They are perhaps the toughest, savviest politicians of the past 30 years.

Their excuses don’t wash, and polls prove it. Clinton is equally mistrusted as Trump despite week after week of coverage of Trump’s stumbles and reversals.

If Trump and his party want the trust deficit to work in their favor, two things are necessary. First, Trump obviously must come to be seen as more trustworthy and second, the allegations against Clinton must be proven true.

The frequent counterclaim against the allegations against her from Clinton was that there had been “no smoking gun.” Talk about setting a low bar in defense of ethics violations.

Republicans, rather than laughing off the astonishingly low expectations implied by that claim have instead agreed to the terms. Both Clinton and Trump seem to agree that the threshold for misconduct is a criminal prosecution or nothing.

When FBI Director James Comey delivered a scathing report on Clinton’s irresponsible handling of state secrets, it was still considered a victory for Clinton simply because she was not facing prison time.

Sheesh…

If Trump wants to improve his standing with voters and simultaneously cast doubt on Clinton’s suitability, he and his fellows ought to try setting the bar a bit higher. Rather than demanding the same smoking guns that Clinton does, the GOP ought to deal with the facts as presented and then hope in their hearts that the paddy wagon really is rolling to Chappaqua.

Clinton Releases Tax Return, Pressuring Trump to Follow - WSJ: “Hillary Clinton released her 2015 personal tax return on Friday, further pressuring Republican opponent Donald Trump, who has spurned a decades-old tradition by refusing to release any of his returns. Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, paid an effective federal tax rate of 34% in 2015 on $10.6 million in adjusted gross income. Their income was down sharply from $28 million in 2014, when they paid an effective tax rate of more than 35%. The latest return, 40 pages long, showed the Clintons donated nearly 10% of their adjusted gross income to charity.”

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TIME OUT: A LONG, LONG, LONG TIME OUT
We don’t know where they mate, where they give birth, or how many there are, but something researchers have discovered about Greenland Sharks: they can grow very old. Atlantic: “The Greenland shark is similar in size to a great white but the points on its body are rounded, giving it a much less fearsome countenance. It’s sluggish too, cruising at a typical speed of 0.7 miles per hour—a pace that has earned it the nickname of “sleeper shark”. Its skin looks like a charcoal etching, and its eyes usually have parasitic crustaceans hanging from them…[The Greenland] ‘is a soft shark,’ says Julius Nielsen from the University of Copenhagen. Its vertebrae are like candles—too soft to hold growth rings. Instead Nielsen and his colleagues used a creative method, based on the fallout from the nuclear bomb tests of the 1960s, to carbon-date the eyes of recently caught Greenland sharks. And they estimated that these creatures have a maximum lifespan of anywhere from 272 to 512 years, with a best guess of 392.”

SCOREBOARD
Average of national presidential polls:
Clinton vs. Trump: Clinton +9.2 points
Generic congressional vote: Democrats +2.8 points

POWER PLAY: HILLARY'S CAMPAIGN ABOUT NOTHING
Chris Deaton
of The Weekly Standard, and Adam Wollner of National Journal, join Chris Stirewalt to weigh in on Hillary Clinton's general election campaign strategy which so far is to sit back and watch Donald Trump. Can she really run a campaign about nothing but Trump? WATCH HERE

Team captain - Deaton and Wollner take on the Republican Party’s most pressing question in the wake of Paul Ryan's resounding primary win: Who’s GOP is this anyway? WATCH HERE

MCCONNELL: GOP CHANCES TO HOLD SENATE ‘VERY DICEY’
AP: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that GOP prospects for keeping control of the Senate after the November elections are ‘very dicey,’ sounding an alarm amid mounting Republican concerns about presidential nominee Donald Trump. Speaking to a Louisville-area civic group in his home state, McConnell said Senate Republicans were going to be ‘on defense’ in this year's election, regardless of who led the ticket as the party's presidential candidate. Twenty-four GOP-held seats are on the ballot this year, compared with 10 for Democrats, he noted. McConnell was promoted to majority leader two years ago when a Republican surge wrested Senate control from Democrats. McConnell did not mention Trump as being a drag on Republican down-ballot races, but he chided Trump's campaign tactics. The Kentucky senator said he hopes Trump ‘settles down and follows the script.’”

AFTER DOUBLING DOWN, TRUMP BACKS OFF ISIS CLAIM
WashEx: “Donald Trump defended his controversial argument that President Obama and Hillary Clinton founded the Islamic State by suggesting the media had misinterpreted his ‘sarcasm.’ The Republican nominee repeated the statements several times this week amid criticism from the Clinton campaign that Trump was ‘echoing the talking points of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.’ In an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt Thursday, Trump was offered an opportunity to clarify his remarks when Hewitt asked if he simply meant that Obama's policies had created the conditions for the Islamic State to thrive. ‘No, I meant he's the founder of ISIS,’ Trump said. Democrats and even some Republicans have condemned the commentsas the latest example of Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric. But the Republican nominee signaled Friday that he considered the dust-up a result of media bias.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
GOP looks for Senate help from ticket splitters – are there enough? - RCP

Trump edges Clinton in Iowa poll -
Suffolk University

Fox News Latino poll shows Clinton lead widen among Hispanics - Fox News Latino

After taking heat for all-male team, Trump adds women to economic advisers - RCP

Email troubles undermine Clinton attacks on Trump - LAT

Gannet News, NYT seek Trump’s 1990 divorce records - The Hill

Clinton bucks traditional press coverage of nominee - Politico

Reaching out to evangelical leaders, Trump acknowledges slippage in polls - NYT

Please listen to David Drucker - WashEx

AUDIBLE: YOUR HIGHNESS
“The other thing is, if Gary Johnson were president we’d have to drug test him once every four months.” – Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin in an interview with The Weekly Standard 

ANY GIVEN SUNDAY
Mr. Sunday hosts Republican vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence. Join “Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.” Check local listings for broadcast times in your area.

[#mediabuzz - Host Howard Kurtz has the latest take on the week’s media coverage. Watch #mediabuzz Sundays at 11 a.m. and a re-airing at 5 p.m. ET.]

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I keep waiting to hear someone compare this election to the 1964 race.  The Dems. put out TOO many lies about Barry Goldwater and he lost the race to Pres. Johnson.  Looking back, I wish I had voted for Goldwater! Vietnam might have been won. I also voted for Pres. Obama twice and now regret my choice.  All talk, no walk!  We need to back Donald Trump! Thanks for the chance to share!” – Myra Pearson

[Ed. note: I actually kind of think that Goldwater gets a bad rap. The idea of ANY Republican prevailing against the heir to a martyred president killed less than a year before is pretty far-fetched. Add in Gulf of Tonkin in August, and it seems all but impossible. Thanks for reading, Ms. Pearson.]

“This should not be called Fox News Halftime Report. It should be called Chris Stirewalt’s daily Donald Trump hit piece.  13 negative Trump...3 negative Clinton...0 positive on either.” – Al Marcum, Hemphill, Texas

[Ed. note: Mr. Marcum, if you’re looking for positive analysis about a presidential election, I recommend the use of either a time machine or a passport. I’ve never seen conflict on the presidential level so bitter or unrelentingly negative – nor have I seen the threats described by both sides so existential for the country. This one is uglier than a toad’s backside.]

“If Hillary’s lead continues to grow and sometime in late September or early October the November election results predict a landslide victory for the Democrats, Obama will unleash his Justice Department on Hillary, get her indicted for (any number of things) rendering her ineligible to be President, and put Uncle Joe Biden’s name into the mix (to save the election & country) where he will be the odd’s on favorite to win the Presidency without spending a nickel of campaign funds. Take this to the bank!” – Kenneth Ruszkowski

[Ed. note: Wouldn’t that be an amazing story to cover! Now, I don’t know which bank you use, Mr. Ruszowski, but I might check with the FDIC on them…]

“If you spend any time on the comment sections of right leaning publications online like Newsmax, Daily Caller, Glenn Beck etc you will find that a majority of Trump supporters are cheering each other on with requests to vote Republicans down ticket out of office. This could bode very badly for people like Toomey, Rubio, Ayotte, Portman etc.  they are purely #Trumponly.” – Karen Gabbert

[Ed. note: NEVER read the comments section, Ms. Gabbert!]

Share your color commentary: Email us at halftimereport@foxnews.com and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

A HELL NOT EVEN DANTE COULD HAVE CONJURED
Treasure Coast [Fla.] Palm: “A man charged with harassing restaurants has been prohibited from calling for pizza delivery, according to his affidavits. Randy Riddle, 49, of the 7900 block of 129th Court, Sebastian, was charged with four counts of harassing phone calls, two counts of first-degree petty theft and one count of second-degree petty theft. Sebastian police began in June investigating phone calls Riddle made to TJ’s Pizza, Danny’s Pizza, and several other pizza delivery places in the city, Indian River County and Micco. In a three-week period, police said Riddle made orders and refused to pay for them, directed delivery people to fake or vacant addresses, and made calls to the businesses just to tell them their pizza was gross…The businesses said they lost at least $667 because of food they cooked that wasn’t paid for. That’s why, as a condition of his bail, a judge ordered that Riddle can’t call the eateries any more.”

Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News. Mike Maltas contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First" political news note and hosts "Power Play," a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace."  He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.