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On the roster: Attacking Norks would test credibility for Trump, intel community - I’ll Tell You What: The fiery and the furious - Trump keeps up attacks on McConnell - Pence, Trump in first meeting since 2020 rumors surfaced - Yadi’s in the cat-bird seat
ATTACKING NORKS WOULD TEST CREDIBILITY FOR TRUMP, INTEL COMMUNITY
One of the consequences of Congress abrogating its constitutional authority to declare war has been the increasing importance of America’s intelligence community.
If Congress wanted to, it could declare war on Canada for excessive politeness or Monaco for stingy roulette wheels. There is no set of appropriate causes for war, just the requirement that Congress votes to do so.
Theoretically, Congress could even override a presidential veto of a declaration, forcing the commander in chief to prosecute a war he opposed. Like impeachment, the conditions for a declaration of war are political, not legal. It’s whatever a majority says it is.
But for the past 70 years, Congress has shirked that duty, outsourcing it to the executive branch for “police actions,” “authorizations of the use of military force” and “kinetic military actions.”
This may be the consequence of operating as a hyper-power that hasn’t engaged in full-scale warfare since World War II. But it is also part of Congress trying not to be responsible for hard choices. One of the reasons that most humans throughout history have lived under autocrats or similar regimes is that representative government is hard.
Presidents, of course, have happily taken the mantle from Congress, ever more broadly defining their own power to use force. The Constitution is unambiguous about the fact that the chief executive has absolute power to use force to defend the country in a time of emergency. But presidents of both parties have been quite creative in deciding what constitutes such a condition, and Congress has mostly rolled over rather than be seen as endangering national security.
But that shifts the question of making war away from political will and toward legal considerations. When presidents make their case for using force with Congress, voters and allies abroad, that means they need evidence.
The history of presidential proof since the beginning of the (first?) Korean War has been a pretty spotty affair. Lyndon Johnson used some “alternative facts” about an incident in the Gulf of Tonkin to get Congress on board with his escalation in Vietnam. Most alive today remember the erroneous intelligence assessment about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.
Other times, it really has been a slam dunk. John Kennedy relied on new spy plane technology to show Americans the threat posed by Soviet missiles in Cuba. Ronald Reagan used intelligence to explain to Americans why US bombers targeted Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Which brings us to an interesting question, how would the first president who openly questions and sometimes deplores the work of the intelligence community make a case for war?
As David French points out, conflict with North Korea will not be anything like killing a jeep-load of jihads crossing a Syrian desert. The potential ramifications here are, even in a best-case scenario, dire and deadly. How dire and for whom deadly, we can’t be sure. But the risks are great enough that it would be beyond reckless for any president to take action without making his case to lawmakers, allies and, most importantly, the citizenry.
There is broad consensus that North Korea is entering dangerous new territory with its nuclear and missile programs, but before American lives are put at risk, Americans will need to know how urgent the necessity and how likely the chances of success.
There are some who will oppose action no matter what, but most Americans could be convinced, granted sufficient evidence, to support military action, even from a president with whom they broadly disagree. It has happened before.
One question that hangs over all of this: Will Trump’s very public questioning of his own intelligence team affect his confidence level for action and, more importantly, will it undercut any case he would make for taking such a gamble. Given his current standing on issues of trust and temperament with the broader electorate, he will need all the evidence he can get.
THE RULEBOOK: TRUE DAT
“Caution and investigation are a necessary armor against error and imposition.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 31
TIME OUT: DRONE GROVES
Fast Company: “For the past five years, a group of villagers in the delta of the Irrawaddy River in Myanmar has painstakingly planted 2.7 million mangrove trees in an attempt to begin to restore an ecosystem that has been disappearing for decades. But the work is laborious, and the local nonprofit guiding the work wants to cover a much larger area – so they’re now turning to tree-planting drones. The drones, from the startup BioCarbon Engineering, can plant as many as 100,000 trees in a single day, leaving the local community to focus on taking care of the young trees that have already started to grow. … To date, [Worldview International Foundation] has worked with villagers to plant an area of [about 1,853 acres], about twice the size of Central Park; the drones will help cover another [approximately 618 acres] with 1 million additional trees. Ultimately, the nonprofit hopes to use drones to help plant 1 billion trees in an even larger area.”
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Trump net job-approval rating: -23.4 points
Change from one week ago: down 3.6 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: THE FIERY AND THE FURIOUS
This week, Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt explore the ongoing tensions on the Korean Peninsula, examine the growing divide in the Republican Party and answer questions from the “I'll Tell You What” mailbag. Plus, the duo discusses airport food and what happened when Dana tried moonshine. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE
TRUMP KEEPS UP ATTACKS ON MCCONNELL
Fox News: “President Donald Trump ripped into Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in a tense private phone call Wednesday morning, a source familiar with the call told Fox News. The source said Trump was reacting angrily to McConnell’s remarks at a Rotary Club speech Monday in his home state of Kentucky in which he suggested that the president, given his lack of political experience, suffers from “excessive expectations” about what both chambers of Congress can get done. … The barb-filled phone call between Trump and McConnell -- the Senate leader whom the president still needs to shepherd the rest of his legislative agenda -- came hours before the president's Wednesday afternoon tweet expressing more gentle public annoyance over McConnell’s remarks. ‘Senator Mitch McConnell said I had ‘excessive expectations,’ but I don’t think so,’ the president tweeted. ‘After 7 years of hearing Repeal & Replace, why not done?’”
Trump’s top PAC man ponies up to take out Flake - Politico: “One of Donald Trump’s most generous political benefactors is providing a six-figure donation to a super PAC devoted to unseating Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who has been fiercely critical of the president. Robert Mercer, a reclusive hedge fund billionaire who was intimately involved in Trump’s rise and helped to bankroll his 2016 campaign, is contributing $300,000 to a super PAC supporting former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who is challenging Flake in a Republican primary next year.”
Meanwhile, team Trump tries to revive legislative agenda - Politico: “The White House is pushing a deal on Capitol Hill to head off a government shutdown that would lift strict spending caps long opposed by Democrats in exchange for money for President Donald Trump’s border wall with Mexico, multiple sources said. Marc Short, the White House’s director of legislative affairs, met with top staffers from both parties on the Senate Appropriations Committee last week to make a hard sell for the proposal, the sources said. Short — who said the border funding would be used for a ‘double fence’ — stressed that the White House is insisting on a down payment for construction this fall. Short also lobbied for a big budget increase for the Pentagon, another priority for Trump. … The White House is offering Democrats more funding for their own pet projects in return for allowing construction to move ahead on a barrier along the U.S.-Mexico border — though perhaps not the ‘big, beautiful wall’ with solar panels that Trump has long promised.”
Pressures on: Study finds Trump actions help trigger premium hikes - AP: “The Trump administration’s own actions are triggering double-digit premium increases on individual health insurance policies purchased by many consumers, a nonpartisan study has found. The analysis released Thursday by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that mixed signals from President Donald Trump have created uncertainty ‘far outside the norm,’ leading insurers to seek higher premium increases for 2018 than would otherwise have been the case. … Researchers from the Kaiser foundation looked at proposed premiums for a benchmark silver plan across major metropolitan areas in 20 states and Washington, D.C. Overall, they found that 15 of those cities will see increases of 10 percent or more next year. The highest: a 49 percent jump in Wilmington, Delaware. The only decline: a 5 percent reduction in Providence, Rhode Island.”
The Judge’s Ruling: ‘Sanctuary city’ a political, not legal term - Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano discusses the truth behind sanctuary cities: “The concept of a sanctuary city does not mean it is a place where federal law is unenforced by the feds. Rather, it is a place where local authorities have elected not to spend their tax dollars helping the feds to enforce federal law.” More here.
PENCE, TRUMP IN FIRST MEETING SINCE 2020 RUMORS SURFACED
Daily Mail: “The vice president is making his way to New Jersey for a luncheon with the president. President Donald Trump dines with his second-in-command once a week to discuss the administration's agenda and progress, and he's carrying on with tradition today, even though he is not in Washington. Trump is staying at his Bedminster golf resort while his home-away-from-home undergoes renovations. Vice President Mike Pence will chat with him there ahead of travel to South America. Pence and Trump are seeing each other for the first time since the New York Times suggested the VP was conducing a shadow campaign for president. Pence says the charge is ‘absurd.’”
The Mooch said Pence was trying to insulate himself from Trump turmoil - TPM: “Before his sudden departure as communications adviser on July 31, Anthony Scaramucci implied in an interview that Mike Pence’s new chief of staff was hired to protect the vice president from the political turmoil roiling the Trump administration, perhaps to set up a bid for the presidency in 2020. In an interview with the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza – the very same interview in which the Mooch said White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s self-regard was comparable to a stunning feat of bodily gymnastics — Scaramucci called attention to the man Pence announced as his new chief of staff on June 29, Nick Ayers. ‘Why do you think Nick’s there, bro?’ Scaramucci asked Lizza, referring to Ayers. ‘Are you stupid?’ Scaramucci continued. ‘Why is Nick there? Nick’s there to protect the vice president because the vice president can’t believe what the [expletive] is going on.’”
Uh oh: Kelly gets star treatment with Time cover - Hot Air: “Say, remember the last time a Trump aide got the cover of Time Magazine? Good times, good times. Chief of staff John Kelly gets the front-page treatment this week, along with a headline calling him “Trump’s last best hope.” That should certainly get the attention of Donald Trump, who has been known to have little patience for underlings who threaten to steal his public-relations thunder… The sure way to get an aide on the bad side of Trump is to praise him more than the boss — and to praise him at the expense of the boss. There is much of both in [Michael Duffy’s] article, which also includes a glowing bio of Kelly, whose humble roots and service-oriented life might implicitly contrast with Trump too, although Duffy avoids hitting that with a rhetorical sledgehammer.”
Don’t’ call it the deep state: ‘The committee to save America’ - Axios: “Here's one of the most intriguing – and consequential – theories circulating inside the White House: The generals, the New Yorkers and Republican congressional leaders see themselves as an unofficial committee to protect Trump and the nation from disaster. … These officials see their successes mostly in terms of bad decisions prevented, rather than accomplishments chalked up…”
TRUMP DEFENSE LAWYER GOES BALISTIC ON MANAFORT RAID
Fox News: “A top lawyer for President Trump slammed the special counsel’s office over the FBI raid of former campaign manager Paul Manafort’s Virginia home, accusing investigators of committing a ‘gross abuse of the judicial process’ for the sake of ‘shock value’ – and employing tactics normally seen ‘in Russia not America.’ Trump attorney John Dowd leveled the complaints in an email sent to a Wall Street Journal reporter who wrote about the Manafort raid.”
Andy McCarthy: Two explanations for raid - National Review: “There are two possible rationales for a search warrant under the circumstances. First, the legitimate rationale: Investigators in good faith believed Manafort, who is either a subject of or witness in their investigation, was likely to destroy rather than surrender relevant evidence. Second, the brass-knuckles rationale: The prosecutor is attempting to intimidate the witness or subject — to say nothing of others who are similarly situated — into volunteering everything he may know of an incriminating nature about people the prosecutor is targeting.”
Feds said to have squeezed Manafort son in law - Politico: “Federal investigators sought cooperation from Paul Manafort’s son-in-law in an effort to increase pressure on President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, according to three people familiar with the probe. Investigators approached Jeffrey Yohai, who has partnered in business deals with Manafort, earlier this summer, setting off ‘real waves’ in Manafort’s orbit, one of these people said. Another of these people said investigators are trying to get ‘into Manafort’s head.’”
JUDGE REOPENS SEARCH OF CLINTON BENGHAZI EMAILS
Politico: “Nine months after the presidential election was decided, a federal judge is ordering the State Department to try again to find emails Hillary Clinton wrote about the Benghazi attack. U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta ruled that the State Department had not done enough to try to track down messages Clinton may have sent about the assault on the U.S. diplomatic compound on Sept. 11, 2012… In all, State found 348 Benghazi-related messages or documents that were sent to or from Clinton in a period of nearly five months after the attack. However, the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch argued that the search wasn't good enough… In a 10-page ruling issued Tuesday, Mehta — an Obama appointee — agreed. ‘To date, State has searched only data compilations originating from outside sources — Secretary Clinton, her former aides, and the FBI…’ Mehta wrote.”
Wasserman Schultz still feeling the burn from staffer scandal - Politico: “[Debbie Wasserman Schultz] is again on defense after steadfastly refusing to explain why she continued to employ Imran Awan, an IT staffer who was under a federal investigation… But fellow Democrats are as confounded and disbelieving as ever by her penchant for making puzzling and stubborn political missteps. ‘We wish she would go away and stop being so public by doubling down on negative stories,’ said Nikki Barnes, a progressive DNC member from Florida… The problem with the Awan case, Barnes said, is that it’s not just hurting the congresswoman. It’s drawing negative attention to a party still healing after last year’s shocking losses and the divisive Democratic primary when Wasserman Schultz appeared to favor Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. ‘This adds to Debbie being re-branded as the Democrats’ disastrous destruction,’ Barnes said.”
Sorry Uncle Joe, Obama donors won’t commit for 2020 - The Hill: “Major donors to former President Barack Obama aren’t committing to Joe Biden. While it is exceedingly early in the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, top Obama donors are signaling that Biden cannot depend on their support. Some say they might prefer a fresher face. ‘He’s got more than 40 years in Washington,’ one Obama donor said of Biden. ‘He’s the opposite of what the party says it wants right now. He’s going to have a tough time if he runs.’”
FBI seized computers and documents in investigation of Rep. Duncan Hunter's campaign spending -LAT
U.S. Ambassador Haley loses two key aides at United Nations - Bloomberg
Poll: Northam leads Ed Gillespie by 6 points in Virginia gov race - Quinnipiac University Poll
AUDIBLE: WHO WOULD THAT MAKE YOU?
“@RyanLizza is the Linda Tripp of 2017. People know. And he is up at night not being able to live with himself.” – Television personality Anthony Scaramucci on Twitter Wednesday.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Speaking of ‘when Congress stopped doing budgets and started doing stopgap funding measures,’ weren’t we hearing that Congress was going to go back to “regular order”? Maybe I misunderstood, but in context I had assumed that ‘regular order’ referred to passing budgets. Does Paul Ryan talk about that anymore? I love the guy, but where has he been since the House passed their ObamaCare repeal? Can’t they do budgets in the meantime? The ‘Oh, gee! We hadn’t been thinking about that until it landed in our laps’ approach to governing is shocking. I hope Republicans learned from the healthcare failure not to postpone thinking through and writing legislation until an issue is hotly debated and a crisis looms.” – Anna Marie Davis, Douglasville, Ga.
[Ed. note: The problem with cutting corners is that they tend to stay cut. Once you have found an easier way to do something, you seldom return to the original. Homemade biscuits, made well, are pure heaven, but the kind that pop out of the tube you buy in the grocer’s dairy section are okay. There are master bakers among us who can whip up a batch so fast that they’d never dream of opening the can, but for most of us, the availability for a quicker, easier way will make us likely to obtain better results doing it the hard way. When it comes to following proper procedures in Congress, the motivations for corner cutting are intense. Not only would you rather avoid the messy mixing bowl of regular order, but also your fellow members and their constituents of the same party want victory and they want it now. Part of the way that Republicans won the House in 2010 was by promising to clean up the procedure and return things to normal. Six years later, as they try to hold on to power, Republicans are doing the same and sometimes worse as Democrats did before. If this cycle continues, Democrats will eventually regain power, in part by talking about the procedural shenanigans and secrecy of the congressional GOP, but the Blue Team, in turn, will find an even lower basement in which to climb. Wheeeeeee…]
“Senator McConnell is part of the Swamp that needs to be drained. I feel one of the main things wrong with DC is once elected, they stay to long. Maybe Mitch needs to get his lovely wife to be the go-between him and the President if he doesn't know what Mr. Trump wants! Surely, even in Washington, 7 years is long enough to make a plan and get it done.” – Harry Dishman, Santa Fe, N.M.
[Ed. note: Saying what you mean and meaning what you say are very different things, especially in politics. Trump often says things he doesn’t mean, and that was especially true about health insurance. To say that the executive branch has expressed contradictory points of view on how to rearrange the taxes, subsidies and regulations for the American health insurance industry is an understatement. But this does not trouble the president, who, looks at policy positions and ideologies as all part of a negotiation. He says whatever he thinks will help his situation or whatever expresses the mood he’s in. McConnell often means what he says, as was the case with laying some blame on the president for blowing up the process in Congress from beginning to end on health insurance. You nailed it when you talked about the need for better communication here. One of the reasons Republicans are starting to despair about their chances of hitting a grand slam in September is that communication has obviously broken down between congressional leadership and the president. If they’re not talking, this will only get worse.]
“Here’s a stumper that is not able to be intelligently Googled, but I thought you folks may be able to inform … Has a Congress with two houses held by a majority of a President’s own party ever before not reached an ‘adjournment resolution’ in the summer or over the Xmas holiday? Do you think that this time it was more due to unproductive politicians not wanting to admit they were on recess (sorta like a President’s need to say he is on a ‘working vacation’) or a Congress not wanting to allow for recess appointments? Some see these actions as a schism in the Republican Party, but in many ways I just see it as McConnell and Ryan paternalistically trying to assist President Trump in not hurting himself again – so that Republicans can maintain their strength. How do you see it?” –Ken Levine, Lionville, Pa.
[Ed. note: I can’t answer your question with certainty right now, but I promise we’ll keep digging into it. Whether it’s the first time or not, suffice it to say that it is at least highly unusual. Your surmise is correct. The best and, perhaps, only reason for Congress to technically remain in session is to restrain the executive branch. And it seems evident here that the action is to protect Attorney General Jeff Sessions and, by extension, Special Counsel Robert Mueller from firing. What a time to be alive!]
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YADI’S IN THE CAT-BIRD SEAT
Bleacher Report: “St. Louis Cardinals fans who consider themselves superstitious may soon embrace the idea of the ‘Rally Cat.’ With the bases loaded and the Cardinals trailing the Kansas City Royals 5-4 in the bottom of the sixth inning of Wednesday's contest at Busch Stadium, St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina had his at-bat interrupted when an adorable creature began a journey through the outfield. The feline made it to the warning track before being captured by a member of the grounds crew. Unfortunately, the crew member received a few nibbles for his trouble as he carried the cat away from the action. Molina clearly didn't mind having some time to think about his plate appearance, as he belted a grand slam to give the hosts an 8-5 lead.”
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.