TRUMP AGENDA: Diplomacy in peril with North Korea
From Leigh Ann Caldwell and Vivian Salama: "Diplomatic efforts between the United States and North Korea are in peril with Pyongyang shunning talks in response to President Donald Trump's increased public attacks on Kim Jong Un, according to multiple U.S. government and congressional officials. Joseph Yun, a top American diplomat to North Korea, has been warning of the breakdown in meetings on Capitol Hill and seeking help to persuade the administration to prioritize diplomacy over the heated rhetoric that appears to be pushing the two nuclear powers closer toward conflict, sources familiar with the discussions told NBC News."
First, in the Washington Post: "The Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee helped fund research that resulted in a now-famous dossier containing allegations about President Trump's connections to Russia and possible coordination between his campaign and the Kremlin, people familiar with the matter said. Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS, a Washington firm, to conduct the research. After that, Fusion GPS hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community, according to those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity."
Alex Seitz-Wald wraps Jeff Flake's stunning move yesterday: "Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona stunned Washington on Tuesday by announcing that he will not run for re-election next year, expressing dismay with President Donald Trump and the direction of the Republican Party."
Here's Flake in a Washington Post op-ed: "How many more disgraceful public feuds with Gold Star families can we witness in silence before we ourselves are disgraced? How many more times will we see moral ambiguity in the face of shocking bigotry and shrug it off? How many more childish insults do we need to see hurled at a hostile foreign power before we acknowledge the senseless danger of it? How much more damage to our democracy and to the institutions of American liberty do we need to witness in silence before we count ourselves as complicit in that damage?"
POLITICO looks at Trump's short-term win with the retirements of Jeff Flake and Bob Corker — but notes that the costs to the party in the long run could be high.
Paul Kane, in the Washington Post: "The struggle for Corker and Flake, over the months ahead, is to provide room for more Republican critics to emerge. The struggle for others is to achieve something for their silence."
And Carl Hulse, in the New York Times: "Well aware of the mercurial nature of the president, most congressional Republicans are loath to do or say anything that could upset Mr. Trump and risk provoking an early-morning Twitter tirade from the White House when they are trying to delicately piece together a complex tax agreement. One can practically sense Republicans tiptoeing around the Capitol, taking extra care not to awaken the president to their presence in a way that could draw a scolding or rebuke."
And the AP asks: "Can the traditional Republican Party survive the presidency of Donald Trump? That existential question, which has nagged at Republicans since Trump's stunning election one year ago, flared up anew Tuesday with Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake's announcement that he is retiring from Congress. One of the GOP's most consistent critics of the president, Flake was facing a tough primary challenge in next year's election from at least one candidate with the backing of some Trump allies."
Important, from the AP last night: "The Republican-led Senate narrowly voted Tuesday to repeal a banking rule that would let consumers band together to sue their banks or credit card companies to resolve financial disputes. Vice President Mike Pence cast the final vote to break a 50-50 tie. The banking industry lobbied hard to roll back the regulation, which the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau unveiled in July. The rule would ban most types of mandatory arbitration clauses found in the fine print of agreements that consumers enter into when opening checking accounts or getting credit cards."
POLITICO asks: Are Trump's generals in over their heads?
The Wall Street Journal: "The Manhattan U.S. attorney's office is pursuing an investigation into possible money laundering by Paul Manafort, said three people familiar with the matter, adding to the federal and state probes concerning the former Trump campaign chairman. The investigation by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York is being conducted in collaboration with a probe by special counsel Robert Mueller into Mr. Manafort and possible money laundering, according to two of these people."
Scott Brown has been investigated for inappropriate comments. The Guardian: "Brown - speaking with his wife, Gail Huff, by his side - confirmed he was the subject of an official administration inquiry by the US state department, which sent investigators to Wellington to look into what took place on the trip. Brown said the official complaints related to comments he had made at a party in the Samoan capital, Apia, where he told attendees they looked "beautiful" and could make hundreds of dollars working in the hospitality industry in the US. Brown and Huff said they had "no idea" the comments would be regarded as offensive."
OFF TO THE RACES: How Flake's retirement could help the GOP in 2018
AZ-SEN:POLITICO notes that Flake's retirement could be the move that helps the GOP save its Senate majority.
And the Arizona Republic notes how Flake's announcement is upending Arizona politics.
From the AP, on the possible GOP candidates not named Kelli Ward: "For months, the names of other potential GOP challengers have been floated, but none has entered the race. They include current state university regent Jay Heiler; former state GOP chairman Robert Graham; state Treasurer and 2016 Trump campaign chief financial officer Jeff DeWit; and Reps. Paul Gosar and Trent Franks. The other three GOP members of Arizona's House delegation could be wild cards — David Schweikert, Andy Biggs and Martha McSally. A spokesman for GOP Gov. Doug Ducey said he was "absolutely not" considering running for Senate."
AL-SEN: In a column, AL.com's Kyle Whitmire previews Roy Moore's potential effects on the United States Senate: "If elected to the the Senate, this is not a man who will disappear until this next election. He will use that new platform to preach his message every opportunity he gets. And cable TV news shows will be more than eager to give it to him, because every time he blathers something hateful or embarrassing, they'll then get to weaponize that and use it against other Republicans running for other offices."
MI-SEN: ICYMI: No, Kid Rock is not running for Senate (but he's still not off the hook from complaints against him on campaign finance issues.)
NJ-SEN: Bill Clinton stumped for Phil Murphy yesterday.
TX-GOV: The Texas Tribune: "Andrew White, the son of late Gov. Mark White, is mulling a run for governor as a Democrat in 2018. White, a Houston investor, told The Texas Tribune on Tuesday that he is going on a "social media listening tour" before making a decision whether to challenge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. He said he expects the process to take three or four weeks."
VA-GOV: The Richmond Times-Dispatch: "After crying foul for weeks over the severity of Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie's attack ads, Virginia Democrats have responded with a harsh mailer of their own that connects Gillespie and President Donald Trump to the string of white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville. In the mail ad that surfaced Tuesday, images of Trump and Gillespie are superimposed above a photo of torch-wielding white nationalists and a message saying Virginians have an opportunity to "stand up to hate" in the election that's now less than two weeks away."