POLITICO Playbook PM: Just another slow August … wait, what?
SPOTTED QUIZ: Which high-ranking former White House official was summoned as a potential juror for Greg Craig’s trial and shot a muffled hello and nod to him across the courtroom this morning?
THE PRESIDENT has been fairly quiet while on vacation at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. But his administration is still doing things. Here’s today’s batch:
TED HESSON: “Trump to restrict immigration based on use of public benefits”: “The Trump administration issued a final rule Monday that allows federal officials to deny green cards to legal immigrants who have received certain public benefits or who are deemed likely to do so in the future.
“The ‘public charge’ regulation — pushed by White House senior adviser Stephen Miller and other hard-line officials — is the latest part of President Donald Trump’s vast immigration crackdown. While Trump has railed against migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, the new regulation represents his most ambitious effort yet to restrict legal immigration as he gears up for his 2020 reelection campaign. … The benefits covered under the regulation include food stamps, welfare, Medicaid, and housing assistance.” POLITICO … The regulation
— AP: “Trump overhauling enforcement of Endangered Species Act,” by Ellen Knickmeyer: “The Trump administration is finalizing major changes Monday to the way it enforces the landmark Endangered Species Act, a move it says will reduce regulatory burden but critics charge will drive more creatures to extinction.
“The administration was making public a final rule overhauling the way the federal government handles protections for plants and animals at risk of extinction. Information about the rule and Monday’s release was obtained by The Associated Press beforehand.
“The Endangered Species Act is credited with helping save the bald eagle, California condor and scores of other animals and plants from extinction since President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1973. The Trump administration says the changes will make regulation more efficient and less burdensome while preserving protections for wildlife.” AP
BARR ON EPSTEIN, via WaPo’s Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett: “Attorney General William P. Barr said Monday that the Justice Department was learning of ‘serious irregularities’ at the Manhattan jail where registered sex offender and multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein apparently hanged himself over the weekend, and decried officials ‘failure to adequately secure’ the high-profile inmate.
“But the country’s top law enforcement official said Epstein’s death would not deter the investigation into those who might have aided Epstein’s alleged crimes. ‘Let me assure you that this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein,’ Barr said. ‘Any co-conspirators should not rest easy. The victims deserve justice, and they will get it.’
“Speaking to law enforcement officials in New Orleans, Barr said he ‘was appalled … and frankly, angry’ to learn of the Metropolitan Correctional Center’s ‘failure to adequately secure’ Epstein, who was awaiting trial on new sex trafficking charges.” WaPo
— MCC is a federal jail, which is run by the Bureau of Prisons, which falls under Barr’s supervision.
BRIEFLY NOTED: Stephanie Grisham, the relatively new White House press secretary, did not take the lectern today when Ken Cuccinelli briefed reporters on the administration’s new immigration restrictions.
THE PRESIDENT spoke with British PM BORIS JOHNSON this morning, per Rob Crilly of the Washington Examiner, today’s pooler. “The president expressed his appreciation for the United Kingdom’s steadfast partnership in addressing global challenges and looks forward to meeting with him personally in the near future.”
Good Monday afternoon.
WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT … DAVID SANGER and ANDREW KRAMER: “U.S. Officials Suspect New Nuclear Missile in Explosion That Killed 7 Russians”: “American intelligence officials are racing to understand a mysterious explosion that released radiation off the coast of northern Russia last week, apparently during the test of a new type of nuclear-propelled cruise missile hailed by President Vladimir V. Putin as the centerpiece of Moscow’s arms race with the United States.
“American officials have said nothing publicly about the blast on Thursday, possibly one of the worst nuclear accidents in the region since Chernobyl, although apparently on a far smaller scale, with at least seven people, including scientists, confirmed dead. But the Russian government’s slow and secretive response has set off anxiety in nearby cities and towns — and attracted the attention of analysts in Washington and Europe who believe the explosion may offer a glimpse of technological weaknesses in Russia’s new arms program.” NYT
WAR REPORT — “Military Probing Whether Friendly Fire Killed U.S. Marine in Iraq,” by WSJ’s Nancy Youssef: “The U.S. military is investigating whether friendly fire caused the first combat death in Iraq since U.S. troops returned there in 2014 to battle Islamic State, defense officials said.
“Marine Gunnery Sgt. Scott A. Koppenhafer was part of a team of Iraqi and U.S. troops conducting an operation Saturday against a suspected Islamic State target in Iraq’s Nineveh province when he was killed, the officials said. The Pentagon first described Sgt. Koppenhafer’s death as the result of being ‘engaged by enemy small-arms fire while conducting combat operations.’ Officials now are investigating whether he was accidentally struck by Iraqi or U.S. forces, the officials said.” WSJ
DEMS PILE ON MITCH … ERIC GELLER in Las Vegas: “Democrats stump for election security, blast McConnell at hacker conference”: “Democratic lawmakers emerged from the world’s largest hacker conference this weekend with a clear message: Congress must pass legislation to mandate better U.S. election security. …
“Election security experts overwhelmingly say these provisions are vital for protecting the democratic process. But McConnell has argued repeatedly that states, not the federal government, should decide how to run their elections.” POLITICO
2020 WATCH — THE BIG PICTURE … DAVID SIDERS in Des Moines, Iowa: “How Democrats plan to use gun control to beat Trump”: “A Democratic presidential field that has struggled to precisely define its general election indictment of Donald Trump appears to have finally found it. In the wake of mass shootings in Ohio and Texas — the latter of which was tied to a suspect whose anti-immigrant sentiments led to the killing of 22 people — candidates are road-testing a withering argument that draws a direct line between gun violence and the president’s racist rhetoric. …
“As they converged this past weekend in Iowa — a state with a robust gun culture and an affinity for the Republican president — the stinging case for gun control laid out by White House hopefuls had little in common with past appeals for additional regulation and much to do with the implication of Trump’s role in stoking violent white nationalism. Some have gone beyond implying.” POLITIC
— “Latina organizer Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez enters Democratic primary to challenge Cornyn,” by Texas Tribune’s Patrick Svitek: “The longtime organizer joins a primary lineup that is approaching a double-digit tally. Among the better-known contenders are former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell of Houston, Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards, 2018 U.S. House candidate MJ Hegar, state Sen. Royce West of Dallas and Sema Hernandez, who was the runner-up to O’Rourke in the 2018 Senate primary.” Texas Tribune … Announcement video
GABBY ORR: “‘Using the Lord’s name in vain’: Evangelicals chafe at Trump’s blasphemy”: “[T]he nation was gripped after the [North Carolina] rally by the moment when a ‘send her back’ chant broke out as Trump went after Somali-born Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar, an American citizen. But some Trump supporters were more fixated on the casual use of the word ‘goddamn’ — an off-limits term for many Christians — not to mention the numerous other profanities laced throughout the rest of the speech. …
“The issue has recently hit a nerve among those who have become some of the president’s most reliable supporters: white evangelicals … The group was key to Trump’s 2016 win, helping bolster his standing in critical swing states, and Trump likely needs to maintain that support if he wants to win a second term. But some are growing fatigued with the irreverent language that often seeps into Trump’s rallies and official events.” POLITICO
WHAT STACEY ABRAMS IS UP TO — “Stacey Abrams’s Fight for a Fair Vote: As the 2020 elections approach, Abrams is leading the battle against voter suppression,”by The New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb: “For Abrams, the point of continuing to try to organize in places like Whitfield County is to create a cross-racial coalition that can make the state more competitive for Democrats. In that sense, her efforts look less like a Hail Mary than like a pass hurled downfield toward a specific receiver whom no one else has noticed.” New Yorker
TRADE WARS — “South Korea Kicks Japan Off List of Favored Trading Partners,” by WSJ’s Eun-Young Jeong in Seoul: “Starting in early September, importing certain South Korean goods will require a process taking up to 15 days versus the current window of five days, Seoul’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said. …
“The trade spat threatens to create delays all along the world’s tech-supply chain. Japan and South Korea play central roles in the manufacturing of electronics products from Apple Inc.’s iPhones to Amazon Inc.’s data servers.” WSJ
THE INVESTIGATIONS — JOSH GERSTEIN: “Mueller fallout continues as Greg Craig trial opens”: “Craig’s the one in the defendant’s chair, set to face trial on a felony charge of lying to and misleading Justice Department officials about his work with Paul Manafort for Ukraine’s government. …
“The centerpiece of the government’s case against Craig involves his delivery to [NYT reporter David] Sanger on Dec. 11, 2012, of a 186-page report that Craig and other lawyers at Skadden Arps had worked on for months examining Ukraine’s prosecution and conviction of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on corruption charges. … The trial’s focus on the art of spinning journalists may fuel existing suspicion in some quarters that the Washington press corps, policymakers and advocates are too intimate.” POLITICO
FED FILES — “Fed Considers New Tool for a Downturn,” by WSJ’s Lalita Clozel: “The tool is known as the countercyclical capital buffer. It allows the Fed to require banks to hold more loss-absorbing capital should the economy show signs of overheating, or to keep less of it during bad economic times. …
“The Fed’s board of governors so far hasn’t used the tool, approved in 2016. Its rule on the buffer says it should turn it up when economic risks are ‘meaningfully above normal’ and reduced when they ‘abate or lessen.’ Now, some Fed officials are debating whether it is time to use the tool, which could provide banks with additional lending firepower in a subsequent downturn.” WSJ
MEDIAWATCH — DARREN SAMUELSOHN: “‘Everyone Owes Robert Mueller a Dinner … For All of This’”: “While the special counsel’s office has shut down and the boss himself has returned to life as a private citizen, the universe of pundits, podcasts, journalists and others focused on Mueller’s work has continued to expand.
“On top of the major networks and dominant national newspapers, all of which have seen their audiences grow substantially since 2017, there are more than a dozen podcasts that have emerged to pore over the Mueller saga and Russian election meddling. Mueller’s report is still selling well too … And you can expect, in the coming weeks, more details about a miniseries adaptation of James Comey’s memoir, A Higher Loyalty … And Bob Woodward himself is eyeing a second book on the Trump era that looks ‘deeply into all of these issues direct and indirect,’ he told POLITICO.” POLITICO Magazine
— Janet Shamlian is joining CBS as a correspondent. She’s a longtime TV reporter who, most recently, spent a decade at NBC.
AFTERNOON READ — THE ATLANTIC’S VANN NEWKIRK on the magazine’s September cover: “The Great Land Robbery:The shameful story of how 1 million black families have been ripped from their farms”: “A war waged by deed of title has dispossessed 98 percent of black agricultural landowners in America. They have lost 12 million acres over the past century. But even that statement falsely consigns the losses to long-ago history. In fact, the losses mostly occurred within living memory, from the 1950s onward.”
TRANSITION — Michael Dreeben will be a distinguished lecturer at Georgetown Law. He previously was a member of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s team and former U.S. deputy solicitor general.
ENGAGED — Peter Albrecht, VP at DSPolitical and a Bully Pulpit Interactive and New Partners alum, proposed to Elizabeth Bennett, director of advertising at Middle Seat and a Bernie 2016 and Revolution Messaging alum. He proposed Sunday at sunrise during her family’s annual beach vacation at Pawleys Island, S.C. Pic
BONUS BIRTHDAY: Molly Pfaffenroth, director of government relations at the National Grocers Association, is 29. (hat tip: Channing Pejic)