Trump says he downplayed coronavirus threat

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On the roster: Trump says he downplayed coronavirus threat - I’ll Tell You What: Be of good cheer - Unrest doesn’t disrupt Biden’s Wisconsin advantage - Trump fundraising lags Biden by more than 40 percent - The allure of Appalachian foie gras

TRUMP SAYS HE DOWNPLAYED CORONAVIRUS THREAT
WaPo: “President Trump’s head popped up during his top-secret intelligence briefing in the Oval Office on Jan. 28 when the discussion turned to the coronavirus outbreak in China. ‘This will be the biggest national security threat you face in your presidency,’ national security adviser Robert C. O’Brien told Trump, according to a new book by Washington Post associate editor Bob Woodward. … Ten days later, Trump called Woodward and revealed that he thought the situation was far more dire than what he had been saying publicly. … At that time, Trump was telling the nation that the virus was no worse than a seasonal flu, predicting it would soon disappear and insisting that the U.S. government had it totally under control. It would be several weeks before he would publicly acknowledge that the virus was no ordinary flu and that it could be transmitted through the air. Trump admitted to Woodward on March 19 that he deliberately minimized the danger. ‘I wanted to always play it down,’ the president said.”

Says military leaders ‘a bunch of pu**ies’ - NYT: “President Trump denigrated senior American military officials when he told his trade adviser, Peter Navarro, during a meeting in 2017 that his top generals were weak and overly concerned with their relationships with allies, according to a new book by the journalist Bob Woodward. And in a discussion with Mr. Woodward, Mr. Trump called the United States military ‘suckers’ for paying extensive costs to protect South Korea. … In the 2017 meeting, Mr. Woodward quoted Mr. Trump as telling Mr. Navarro that ‘my f***ing generals are a bunch of pu**ies. They care more about their alliances than they do about trade deals.’ At another point in Mr. Woodward’s book, ‘Rage,’ Mr. Trump’s former defense secretary, Gen. Jim Mattis is quoted as telling the former director of national intelligence that Mr. Trump is ‘dangerous’ and ‘unfit’ for the presidency.”

Trump intel chief remained worried about Putin leverage on president - Axios: “Former director of national intelligence Dan Coats could not shake his ‘deep suspicions’ that Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘had something’ on President Trump, seeing ‘no other explanation’ for the president's behavior, according to Bob Woodward's new book.... Coats was the president's top intelligence official from March 2017 until August 2019. Woodward reports that Coats and his staff examined the intelligence regarding Trump's ties to Russia ‘as carefully as possible’ and that he ‘still questions the relationship’ between Trump and Putin despite the apparent absence of intelligence proof.”

Army chief rebuts Trump claim of corruption in service - Politico: “The Army's top general defended military leaders on Tuesday after President Donald Trump accused them of going to war to keep defense contractors ‘happy,’ saying he and others take the decision to send troops into combat ‘very, very seriously.’ Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville declined to comment specifically on Trump's remarks to reporters on Monday, but defended the Pentagon brass against the accusation that they are beholden to arms manufacturers. ‘I’ve talked with generals, I’ve talked with admirals, I’ve talked with [sergeants major] … many of these leaders have sons and daughters who have gone to combat or may be in combat right now. So I can assure the American people that senior leaders would only recommend sending troops to combat when it's required in national security, or as a last resort,’ McConville said during an event held Tuesday by Defense One.”

THE RULEBOOK: SECURITY SYSTEM 
“We must receive the blow, before we could even prepare to return it.” – Alexander Hamilton, writing about how a lack of common defense makes repelling attackers harder, Federalist No. 25

TIME OUT: TAKE A CLOSER LOOK
Smithsonian: “…[Georgetown University has] been re-appraising the school’s racist past for years. In 1838, when the Jesuit school was deep in debt, its president, Reverend Thomas F. Mulledy, sold 272 black men, women and children to Louisiana plantations to keep the school afloat. Three years ago, Georgetown pulled Mulledy’s name off a dormitory, replacing it with the name of enslaved laborer Isaac Hawkins. … What makes Georgetown’s reflective moment most remarkable, however, and complicated, is that 35 years after Mulledy salvaged the school’s finances by selling human property, the school would be led by a man who, himself, was born enslaved. The story of Georgetown president Reverend Patrick Francis Healy reveals how a university built by enslaved persons, and rescued from collapse by the sale of enslaved persons, saw its ‘second founding’ in the late 19th century under the guidance of a man whom the Jesuits knew had been born black but helped ‘pass’ as white.”

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SCOREBOARD
NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 42.6 percent   
Biden: 51.2 percent   
Size of lead: Biden by 8.6 points   
Change from one week ago: Biden no change, Trump ↓ 0.4 points   
[Average includes: CNN: Trump 43% - Biden 51%; Quinnipiac University: Trump 42% - Biden 52%; USA Today/Suffolk: Trump 43% - Biden 50%; Grinnell/Selzer: Trump 41% - Biden 49%; ABC News/WaPo: Trump 44% - Biden 54%.]   

BATTLEGROUND POWER RANKINGS
(270 electoral votes needed to win)
Toss-up: (109 electoral votes): Wisconsin (10), Ohio (18), Florida (29), Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15), Iowa (6)
Lean R/Likely R: (180 electoral votes)
Lean D/Likely D: (249 electoral votes)

TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 42.8 percent   
Average disapproval: 53.2 percent   
Net Score: -10.4 points
Change from one week ago: ↑ 1.2 points   
[Average includes: Monmouth University: 42% approve - 55% disapprove; CNN: 41% approve - 54% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 43% approve - 54% disapprove; USA Today/Suffolk: 45% approve - 52% disapprove; Grinnell/Selzer: 43% approve - 51% disapprove.]  

GOT A WILD PITCH? READY TO THROW A FASTBALL?
We’ve brought “From the Bleachers” to video on demand thanks to Fox Nation. Each Wednesday and Friday, Producer Brianna McClelland will put Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt to the test with your questions on everything about politics, government and American history – plus whatever else is on your mind. Sign up for the Fox Nation streaming service here and send your best questions to HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM.

I’LL TELL YOU WHAT: BE OF GOOD CHEER
This week, Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss Chris’ “Five Key Counties to Watch” for the 2020 election, the Republicans who are in better shape than they were in a few key Senate races, and the debate around the Trump Campaign's cash supply. Plus, Dana gets a fresh coat of Essie “Mademoiselle,” we hear listener reviews, and Chris answers presidential cabinet trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

UNREST DOESN’T DISRUPT BIDEN’S WISCONSIN ADVANTAGE
Marquette Law School: “A new Marquette Law School Poll in Wisconsin finds slight change in voting preferences or attitudes in the wake of shootings and protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in late August. In early September, Democratic former Vice President Joe Biden is the choice of 47 percent of likely voters and Republican President Donald Trump is supported by 43 percent. Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen is the choice of 4 percent, while 7 percent say they would vote for none of these candidates, didn’t know how they would vote or declined to say. In August, before the events in Kenosha, Biden was supported by 49 percent and Trump by 44 percent, with 6 percent not choosing either. Jorgensen was not included in the August poll. In June among likely voters, Biden had 50 percent and Trump 44 percent, with 6 percent not choosing either.”

Dominates in Pennsylvania - NBC News: “Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump by a 9-point margin among likely voters in Pennsylvania, a key swing state where Biden was born, according to a new NBC News/Marist poll. The survey finds that Biden and his running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, get the support of 53 percent of likely Pennsylvania voters, compared with 44 percent who back Trump and Vice President Mike Pence. In 2016, Trump barely bested Hillary Clinton in the state by less than 1 percentage point. Trump gets upside-down job approval from the Keystone State, although he still maintains an advantage on handling the economy. And Biden is doing far better among suburban voters and whites than Clinton did four years ago. Forty-five percent of likely voters say they approve of the job the president is doing, while 52 percent disapprove. And just 44 percent have a favorable impression of Trump, while 54 percent have a negative one.”

Crushing Trump in Pennsylvania ad war - The Philadelphia Inquirer: “Joe Biden’s campaign spent $10 million on television advertising in Pennsylvania last month, as the Democratic nominee maintained his lead in the polls and President Donald Trump halted his TV spending in the state. The Biden campaign spent an additional $5 million through Labor Day, while Trump remained off the Pennsylvania airwaves during the first week of September, according to the ad tracking firm Advertising Analytics. In all, Biden outspent Trump by $15 million to zero over the course of about five weeks. The spending advantage is notable given that Trump won Pennsylvania by less than one percentage point in 2016 and faces a relatively narrow path to reelection. It’s also a sign that the Trump campaign has burned through much of the huge cash advantage it built during the Democratic primary contest.”

Biden focused on rebuilding Blue Wall - AP: “In 2016, Donald Trump tore down Democrats’ ‘blue wall,’ winning the White House with surprise victories in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. This year, Joe Biden is trying to rebuild. The Democratic presidential nominee’s first pandemic-era campaign trips beyond his home in Delaware are taking him to all three states, an indication of how closely Biden’s electoral prospects are tied to his ability to flip those political battlegrounds. Last week, Biden traveled to Wisconsin and was followed quickly by running mate Kamala Harris, who held her own events there on Labor Day. On Wednesday, Biden heads to Michigan to tout a plan for boosting U.S. manufacturing. He also has two stops scheduled this week in Pennsylvania. Though the Biden campaign often emphasizes that it sees multiple ways to secure the 270 Electoral College votes it needs to win in November, the quickest path runs through Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.”

Populist plan on outsourcing - Fox News: “Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden unveiled a plan to help American workers on Wednesday, promising a series of executive actions and blaming President Trump for a manufacturing recession. Key features of ‘The Biden-Harris Plan to Fight for Workers by Delivering on Buy America and Make It in America’ include a penalty against American companies that offshore manufacturing and service jobs to other countries and then sell back to the U.S. market. It also calls for a ‘Made in America’ tax credit. ‘President Trump talks and talks – but he has failed to deliver results for American workers,’ said an outline of the plan from the Biden-Harris campaign. ‘That ends under the Biden-Harris administration.’ The offshoring penalty would include a 10% surtax on top of a 28% corporate tax rate. The plan specifically notes that it would apply to call centers or other services that American companies place in other countries to serve the American market, when those jobs could be in the U.S.”

TRUMP FUNDRAISING LAGS BIDEN BY MORE THAN 40 PERCENT
Fox News: “The Trump campaign and Republican National Committee raked in $210 million in August … short of the record-smashing amount Democratic nominee Joe Biden and the Democrats brought in during the same time period. The Biden campaign and Democratic National Committee announced last week that they had brought in an unprecedented $364.5 million in August. A senior Trump campaign official told Fox News on Wednesday that the campaign, all told, has raised more than $1.3 billion since the beginning. The campaign's cash-on-hand figure was not clear.”

Trump hones in on Harris to help with Roman Catholic voters - AP: “Soon after Joe Biden tapped Kamala Harris as his running mate, some conservatives began trying to portray her as anti-Catholic — a line of attack that President Donald Trump’s campaign continues to amplify as Democrats court Roman Catholic voters. The charge stems in part from questions Harris posed in 2018 to a federal judicial nominee about his membership in the Knights of Columbus, a lay Catholic fraternal organization. Harris asked the nominee if he agreed with the anti-abortion views of the group’s leader, views that broadly align with the church’s stance. It inflamed Republicans at the time, with one senator authoring a resolution to affirm the constitutional ban on religious tests for federal officials and state that membership in the Catholic group is not ‘disqualifying.’ Now that Harris is Biden’s running mate, conservatives are replaying the moment to try to chip at the pro-abortion-rights Democratic ticket’s appeals to religious voters.”

MCCONNELL CUTS OFFER IN HALF, PASSAGE UNLIKELY
AP: “The Senate prepared to vote this week on a trimmed-down Republican coronavirus relief package, though it only has a slim chance of passage in the face of Democrats' insistence for more sweeping aid. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell released the approximately $500 billion measure on Tuesday as senators returned to Washington for an abbreviated pre-election session, but hopes were dimming for another coronavirus relief bill — or much else. Republicans struggling to retain their Senate majority this fall have been divided, with some GOP senators in close races anxious to respond further to the pandemic, even as conservatives are tiring of all the spending and passing legislation in concert with liberal House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. … Republican senators such as Susan Collins of Maine are eager to show constituents they are continuing to work to ease the pandemic's disastrous impact... But many Senate Republicans are resisting more spending, and the scaled-back bill is roughly half the size of a measure McConnell unveiled earlier this summer.”

Pergram: Members jockey as congressional leadership elections loom - Fox News: “Election Day falls on Nov. 3. But another set of crucial elections falls in late November or early December on Capitol Hill. These are internal leadership elections staged by both parties in the House and Senate. Rank-and-file members vote in the House and Senate Democratic caucuses on their party leaders. The same unfolds in the House and Senate Republican conferences. These elections often establish the course of legislation and set the face of the party. The consequences sometimes reverberate for years, if not decades. We’ve written before that decisions made in congressional leadership elections are ‘particle politics.’ You’ve heard of ‘partisan politics.’ But the choices made as to who matriculates to serve as House and Senate leaders are made at the subatomic political level. Sometimes political fate intervenes at the macro-level and sidelines a potential rising star.”

PLAY-BY-PLAY
Former top Republican election lawyer warns his party to dial back election fraud hyperbole - WaPo

No surprises in New Hampshire, Rhode Island primaries - Roll Call

WSJ Ed. Page: ‘Biden wants to make the campaign a referendum on Trump. He’s succeeding with Trump’s help.’ - WSJ

AUDIBLE: MEET YOUR NEW R.A.
“It’s hard to demonize people you spend time with every day.” Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., in a WSJ op-ed offering a list of reforms to revive the Senate from its doldrums, including the creation of dormitories for senators to share.

Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.

THE ALLURE OF APPALACHIAN FOIE GRAS
WDRB: “A Smithfield, Kentucky, man is accused of stealing a K-9 from the Henry County Sheriff's Office. His bait of choice? Vienna sausages. According to an arrest report, 26-year-old Brandon Harmon was arrested on Aug. 26. The incident began when a deputy with the Henry County Sheriff's Office was sent to Goodlett Circle, in Smithfield, after someone said Harmon was trespassing on their property. When the deputy found Harmon, he asked the deputy for a ride to McCoun Road, where Harmon said he would point out a weed trimmer that had been stolen. … At that point, Harmon changed the subject and asked … what had happened to [the Sheriff’s Office] K-9 that had been taken from a deputy's property on Aug. 8. … When confronted about what he knew … Harmon allegedly told the deputy that he ‘had something to do with it.’ ‘I coaxed him out with Vienna sausages,’ Harmon told the deputy, according to the arrest report.”

AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“A future trivia question and historical footnote, the spectacular 10-day flameout of Anthony Scaramucci qualifies as the most entertaining episode yet of the ongoing reality show that is the Trump presidency.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Aug. 3, 2017.

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.