Fox News Halftime Report

Trump picks popularity over populists

Chris Stirewalt

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On the roster: Trump picks popularity over populists - I’ll Tell You What: You don’t go to Home Depot for milk - House will wait a bit longer to reveal tax cut plan - Ethics change lets Trump staff take lobbyist money for Russia defense - Urology department

TRUMP PICKS POPULARITY OVER POPULISTS
If Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell could have designed a deal themselves for dealing with young adults who came to the United States illegally as minors, it probably would have looked very much like the one that President Trump is making with Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer

Permanent legal status for the “DREAMers” coupled with a surge in border security and enforcement isn’t just what Republican leaders would want but, as various polls have shown, it’s what most Republicans (if not Americans) would want. 

But the good news for the House speaker and Senate majority leader comes with a big fat caveat: They cannot act like they are getting their way. 

The Democratic leaders from the House and Senate are taking care today to preserve their agreement and principle with Trump. Rather than getting huffy about some double talk coming from the White House, Pelosi and Schumer are sticking up for Trump, and point out that there are no inconsistencies with the White House public statements and what they talked about in privacy with the president.  

Meantime, Trump has actually gone on offense in comments to reporters and on Twitter in defense of the core principles of the deal. 

So why is something that is broadly popular and shares the support of the president and the congressional leaders of both parties such a big controversy?

No one knows better than Trump the power of the intense minority faction most strongly opposed to amnesty for illegal immigrants and liberal immigration policies. He wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for them. 

These activists are so angry at Trump today not because they feel betrayed, per se, because, quite evidentially, they didn’t really trust him from the start.

We can’t know, how much of Trump’s savagery toward his fellow Republican presidential contenders over immigration – remember “anchor babies” and the swipes at Jeb Bush’s Mexican-born wife – was political calculation and how much was a reflection of his own beliefs. But there was some mix of motives there, and his early backers knew it. 

Surely, immigration hardliners knew that Trump was a man of changeable views, but, presumably thought him so shackled on issues like amnesty and his promised wall, that not even an escape artist like the 45th president could wriggle free. 

Trump is probably quite right that the best way to build the wall and deliver robust enforcement of immigration laws is to start out with something where there is consensus, like amnesty for DREAMers paired with increased enforcement, than something divisive.

But the fact that Trump gets so little running room from immigration hardliners reinforces their preexisting lack of trust for the president they did so much to put in office.

Back to Ryan and McConnell, who may like the contents of the deal but can’t like being cut out of the process and then expected to deliver votes for a package built without them. 

Assuming Pelosi and Schumer can deliver all or almost all of their members for the plan, Ryan and McConnell are the ones that have to pave the legislative path forward and deliver enough votes to put the bill over the finish line. 

We can assume there would be broad popular support for a limited amnesty for a sympathetic sub-group plus more enforcement, which should make it easy for Republicans to pull together enough votes to finish the job – even if it stings.

And, one supposes, that’s just where Trump wants his fellow Republicans: Disempowered and left with little choice but to execute Democratic designs. It makes sense for Trump. He gets revenge on his foes while simultaneously doing something popular and that appears magnanimous.  

Ryan and McConnell will even have to take heat from immigration hardliners in defense of positions that Trump attacked them and their political allies for maintaining. It’s pure pooper-scooper brigade business, but how can they really complain if they’re getting what they want? 

This all assumes that under pressure from his base, Trump doesn’t flake out. His comments today seem to suggest that he is willing to try to stick it out, believing that he will have time to demonstrate his sincerity to most of his supporters on the wall at a later time.   

If the gambit works, Trump will have temporarily hobbled the Republican establishment and given himself a much-needed breather ahead of what promises to be a very contentious autumn. 

The risk, though, is that there will not be enough trust left between Trump and the GOP to make even situational bargains on big issues. Trump’s deal-making with Democrats will likely be short-lived. He has to make sure he has someplace left to go home to when this fling ends.

THE RULEBOOK: KNOW YOUR PLACE

“It is at least problematical, whether the decisions of this body do not, in several instances, misconstrue the limits prescribed for the legislative and executive departments, instead of reducing and limiting them within their constitutional places.” – Alexander Hamilton or James MadisonFederalist No. 50

TIME OUT: FEET OF STRENGTH 
Writer Henry Giardina looks at the evolution of the career of one of Hollywood’s most enduring icons, Fred AstaireParis Review: “Astaire’s career would outlive the Hollywood studio system by twenty years, though after the fifties he stopped making musicals. After Finian’s Rainbow, in 1968, his dancing days came to a close, but he kept working until he was in his eighties. Heartbreak is never the end of the world with Astaire. And … you can say that it’s because age doesn’t matter as much for him as it did for, say, Ginger Rogers. But the fact remains: the man in the top hat and tails was curiously adept at dealing with disappointments, rejections, setbacks, and pain. He wasn’t optimistic; he was pragmatic. With the world falling down around him, all he could think to do was change his plans. He’d never been too attached to them anyway.”

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SCOREBOARD
Trump net job-approval rating: -19 points
Change from one week ago: up 0.4 points

[President Trump’s score is determined by subtracting his average job disapproval rating in the five most recent, methodologically sound public polls from his average approval rating, calculated in the same fashion.]

I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: YOU DON’T GO TO HOME DEPOT FOR MILK
The dynamic duo is back! Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt talk books, the role of government and the White House calling for the firing of an ESPN reporter. Plus, Dana answers questions from the mailbag and Chris tries his hand at presidential memoir trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

HOUSE WILL WAIT A BIT LONGER TO REVEAL TAX CUT PLAN
Roll Call: “House and Senate tax writers plan to release the week of Sept. 25 an outline detailing their points of consensus with the administration on how to overhaul the tax code, Speaker Paul D. Ryan said Wednesday. The Wisconsin Republican said House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady announced the intent to release more details of the still-developing tax overhaul plan during Wednesday’s House Republican Conference meeting. ‘Then the tax writing committees are going to take feedback and input and then they’re going to go produce their bills in the weeks ahead,’ Ryan told reporters after the conference meeting. ‘And so this is the beginning of a process.’ While Ryan suggested the outline would reflect consensus of the tax writing committees as a whole, Brady said it would be a product of the ‘Big Six,’ according to a person who was in the room for his announcement.”

ETHICS CHANGE LETS TRUMP STAFF TAKE LOBBYIST MONEY FOR RUSSIA DEFENSE 
Politico: “The U.S. Office of Government Ethics has quietly reversed its own internal policy prohibiting anonymous donations from lobbyists to White House staffers who have legal defense funds. The little-noticed change could help President Donald Trump’s aides raise the money they need to pay attorneys as the Russia probe expands — but raises the potential for hidden conflicts of interest or other ethics trouble. … At issue for the Trump staffers is a 1993 OGE guidance document that gave a green light to organizers of legal defense funds for government employees to solicit anonymous donations from otherwise prohibited sources — like lobbyists or others with business before the government. That Clinton-era opinion reasoned that if such donors were anonymous, such donations could be legal because the employee ‘does not know who the paymasters are.’ But former OGE officials say the ethics office quickly determined that guidance had flaws, and instead advised attorneys to stay away from all lobbyist donations…”

Mnuchin asked to use government plane for European honeymoon - ABC News: “Secretary Steven Mnuchin requested use of a government jet to take him and his wife on their honeymoon in Scotland, France and Italy earlier this summer, sparking an ‘inquiry’ by the Treasury Department’s Office of Inspector General, sources tell ABC News. Officials familiar with the matter say the highly unusual ask for a U.S. Air Force jet, which according to an Air Force spokesman could cost roughly $25,000 per hour to operate, was put in writing by the secretary’s office but eventually deemed unnecessary after further consideration of by Treasury Department officials. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said in an interview with ABC News that Mnuchin’s request for a government jet on his honeymoon defies common sense.”

Kushner causes complications at White House and for family business - WaPo: “Today, 666 Fifth Avenue appears to be the most troubled of the projects [Jared Kushner] left behind for his family to manage. With one-fourth of its offices empty, lease revenue does not cover monthly interest payments, according to lending documents. A $1.2 billion mortgage, with escalating interest rates, comes due in 18 months. A ratings agency has classified a $115 million portion of the loan as ‘troubled,’ and company officials decline to say whether it will be fully repaid. ‘They were crushed by this,’ said Thomas Barrack, a friend of Trump and Kushner’s and former project investor. Kushner’s move to the White House ‘just about completely chilled the market, and [potential investors] just said, ‘No way — can’t be associated with any appearances of conflict of interest,’ even though there was none.’”

Flynn’s son to be questioned in Russia probe - NBC News: “Michael G. Flynn, the son of President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, is a subject of the federal investigation into Russian meddling in the presidential election and possible collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign, according to four current and former government officials. The inquiry into Flynn is focused at least in part on his work with his father’s lobbying firm, Flynn Intel Group, three of the officials said. It’s unclear when the focus on Flynn began. Barry Coburn, who said he is serving as the younger Flynn’s legal counsel, said he couldn’t comment on the matter.”

Rice reportedly offered unmasking explanation - The Hill: “Former national security adviser Susan Rice told House investigators that she internally unmasked the identities of senior Trump officials in order to understand why the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates was in New York late last year, CNN reports. Last December, the crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, met with three transition team members in Trump Tower: Michael Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser; the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and chief strategist Stephen Bannon, multiple sources told CNN.”

Trump visits Florida destruction post Irma today - LAT: “President Trump was set to travel to Florida on Thursday as death tolls continue to rise and hundreds of thousand of residents remain without power in the wake of Hurricane Irma. Trump was to arrive in Fort Myers, where he’s scheduled to meet with local officials and receive a briefing on relief efforts. The president, who will be joined by First Lady Melania Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, then heads 40 miles south to Naples to visit residents affected by the storm.”

The Judge’s Ruling: Forces beyond our control - Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano discusses the uncontrollable effects of natural disasters: “Though these forces -- the linchpin of which is the Earth’s gravity -- can be avoided through the exercise of creative reason (we can build shelters from them), they are often, as with Harvey and Irma, beyond our ability to harness or control.” More here.

GOP IN SEARCH OF HEITKAMP CHALLENGER 
National Journal: “Sen. Heidi Heitkamp announced her long-expected reelection campaign Wednesday, one day after attending dinner at the White House and one week after President Trump visited her home state and praised the incumbent As Trump inexplicably grants the North Dakota Democrat political cover in a state that delivered his fourth-largest victory margin, the field to face Heitkamp is far from settled. GOP state Sen. Tom Campbell jumped into the race last month, giving Republicans their first major candidate, while Rep. Kevin Cramer is still leaving strategists guessing about whether he will give up the safe, at-large House seat to run a grueling challenge to Heitkamp.”

Barone: ‘Republicans’ frustrations may doom their majority’ - WashEx: “The Founding Fathers didn’t expect that serving in Congress would be a lifetime career. And for a century, it mostly wasn’t. The first election in which more than half the incumbent members of the House of Representatives were reelected was in 1898. Since then, a majority of House members have been returned in every election except 1932. … Republican incumbents may be choosing to retire to avoid harsh competition in primaries and in November. But they may also be motivated by something verging despair that their party seems likely to fall far short of what it might reasonably have been expected to accomplish with the presidency majorities in both houses of Congress. In those circumstances, they seem to be behaving as the founders expected and as politicians routinely did until 1898: pursue other endeavors and let someone else endure the frustrations of trying to govern.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Rest in Peace to former Sen. Pete V. Domenici Roll Call

Berkeley prepares for Ben Shapiro speech - WaPo
 
McMaster cracks whip on government agencies about leaks - The Hill

AUDIBLE: **DING**

“Because when I didn’t have an alert, I would be in the middle of an interview with someone like you, and they would ask me about something he tweeted, and I would be caught flat-footed.” – Ohio Sen. Rob Portman explaining why he has an alert on his phone for whenever the president tweets.  

FROM THE BLEACHERS
“All I can say about your article on ‘The scariest stat you will see all day’ is YES, YES, YES! The genesis of The Big Stupid is our public education system. Rarely do they teach civics and when they do they teach distorted facts. … They do not teach the doctrine of republic versus democracy. They do not teach the concept of separation of powers or limited government. Tragically, students are not taught the sacrifice of the signers of the Declaration of Independence where almost all died penniless and often without family. The Big Stupid did not just happen overnight, it has been a long process where the public education system has pursued catchy and trendy topics while abandoning the subject that is so important to our very existence. Please continue your exposure of The Big Stupid as I believe it is the source of so much of our problems.” – Steve Bartlett, Greenville, S.C.

[Ed. note: Thanks much, Mr. Bartlett! But let me offer a word of defense on behalf of America’s educators. As you say, educational trends and fashions are partly to blame, but so too is the scarcity of time and resources. As other institutions have stumbled it has increasingly fallen to schools to pick up the slack. Americans treat their schools like minimum security prisons, yet also ask them to teach character, basic life skills, ethics, nutrition and individual sexuality. And, don’t forget, an increasingly rigorous schedule of required performance evaluations to track student progress and teachers’ abilities.  And when all of that is done, schools are also expected to identify psychological problems and domestic dangers for students. That’s why we lost programs like art and music, but also why history and civics have been bundled together in the wan substitute called “social studies.” Schools generally function as reflections of the priorities of the communities in which they operate. A school in a high-income neighborhood where parents are focused on getting students into elite colleges may go heavy on test prep and extra curriculars, while a school in a poor neighborhood may be focused on issues like classroom security, truancy and providing free and reduced cost meals. In both cases, though, something as old-fashioned-sounding as civics is likely to be a low priority for parents. Educators explaining why little Jimmy and Susie have to take civics instead of AP Calculus or English as a second language may find their appeals falling on deaf ears. If we are going to see reform in this area, it won’t be just because there is a national movement to force schools to change policies, but also that parents themselves demand its inclusion from the ground up.]

“Using a label when it either does not apply or applies only marginally diminishes its power. Two come to mind, racist and liberal bias. I see these frequently used in place of a more thoughtful argument. It seems that the oxymoron ‘fake news’ is also slipping into this category. Is this laziness, lack of intellect or conscious effort to eliminate the power of these labels? … Thank you for your insightful and unbiased (as unbiased as we humans can be) commentary.” – Bill Ciao, Bellingham, Wash.

[Ed. note: Thanks much, Mr. Ciao. I would hazard that more than anything else, these labels constitute defense mechanisms. It is lazy thinking, yes, but it is also a security blanket. By dismissing other viewpoints as either maliciously fabricated or simply wicked, we excuse ourselves from having to hear out the rest of the line. We all do this to some degree. If a man walked up to you on a street corner and started ranting to you about the inferiority of mongrel races, you could pretty well excuse yourself from listening to his thoughts about congressional reapportionment or the work of Toscanini or anything else. At the extremes, it’s easy. Where it gets harder is with ideas that challenge our core assumptions that arise from credible, well-intentioned sources. So sometimes it works the other way. Our minds unconsciously seek to impugn the character and credibility of those offering ideas that challenge our worldviews – blaming the messenger instead of considering the message. We always have to be engaging in critical thinking. And always a huge task in that regard, is the ability to separate an idea from the individual advancing it.] 

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UROLOGY DEPARTMENT 
Pedestrian TV: “It’s been almost a decade since the last episode of Scrubs aired… but Doctor John ‘J.D.’ Dorian is never far from our hearts. … Well apparently, for some of us, J.D. isn’t so much a distant memory as a constant presence in their lives. Zach Braff himself recently discovered that his iconic character was being used to advertise some kind of medical equipment in Ukraine. And as it turned out, that ‘medical equipment’ was actually male performance enhancement pills. He also recently discovered that his likeness was being used to advertised computer repairs in Ukraine. And this, apparently, is a pretty common for hot celebrities (and Bill Gates) and computer businesses over that way.”

Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland 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 politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.