From crowd size to Sharpie-gate, it's all about debase

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks about Hurricane Dorian as he speaks to reporters in the Oval Office of the White House, on Sept. 4, 2019. Copyright Evan Vucci AP
By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Carrie Dann with NBC News Politics
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First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.


WASHINGTON — It's one thing for a politician to embarrass themsleves. It's another for that politician to actually use government employees and taxpayer funds to further that embarrassment.

And that's precisely what President Trump has done to justify his claim that Alabama was somehow a target of Hurricane Dorian — when Dorian has been hitting other states like the Carolinas.

The White House yesterday released this letter from the president's homeland security and counter-terrorism adviser, Rear Adm. Peter J. Brown:

"While speaking to the press Sunday, September 1, the president addressed Hurricane Dorian and its potential impact on multiple states, including Alabama. The president's comments were based on that morning's Hurricane Dorian briefing, which including the possibility of tropical storm force winds in southeastern Alabama. In fact, from the evening of Tuesday, August 27, until the morning of Monday September 2, forecasts from the National Hurricane Center showed the possibility of tropical storm force winds hitting parts of Alabama."

And it's not the first time Trump has done this with government personnel and resources.

"It's been the pattern since the very first day of his administration, when he sent out his press secretary to show edited photos inflating his inaugural crowd size," as NBC's Shannon Pettypiece writes. "Or a few months later, when he created a commission to search for evidence of widespread voter fraud, after falsely claiming there were millions of illegal votes in 2016."

"Or in between, when he requested Congress investigate a baseless allegation that President Barack Obama had his phones at Trump Tower wiretapped."

What we still don't get is how these bureaucrats and politicians — including those with sterling reputations —allow themselves to get used in this embarrassment.


By the way, the Washington Post reports that it was Trump himself who used the black Sharpie to mark up that official hurricane map.

Howard Schultz won't be running for president in 2020 after all

Remember Howard Schultz, the former Starbucks CEO considering an independent White House bid?

Well, he won't be running for president after all.

Schultz released a statement this morning citing "vitriol," his back surgeries and the possibility that, yes, a "moderate" could become the Democratic presidential nominee. (Cough, Joe Biden, cough.)

"It has become more likely that the Democratic nominee will not be known before the deadlines to submit the required number of signatures for an independent to get on the ballot. If I went forward, there is a risk that my name would appear on ballots even if a moderate Democrat wins the nomination, and that is not a risk I am willing to take," Schultz writes.

Cheeseburgers and climate change: Comparing Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar

You can tell which Democratic 2020er has a Midwestern constituency and which one doesn't in how they answered the same cheeseburger/climate change during CNN's town halls on Wednesday.

Question: "Climate change has been linked to — to agriculture and the over consumption of red meat and also the over production of crops. Certain countries have changed the dietary deadlines to reduce the consumption of red meat in light of the impact of — of the climate change. If elected, will you be supporting change in dietary guidelines and then how will you plan on implementing the changes so that people effectively change the diets?"

Kamala Harris: "Yes, I mean it's -- and thank you Carol for your work on the question. There is -- I think of the point that you're raising in the -- in a broader context, which is that as a nation we actually have to have a real priority at the highest level of government around what we eat and in terms of health eating because we have a problem in America."



"I mean just to be very honest with you; I love cheeseburgers from time to time. Right. I mean I -- I just do. And -- and I think that -- but there is -- but there has to be also what we do in terms of creating incentives that we will eat in a healthy way, that we will encourage moderation, and that we will be educated about the effects of our eating s habits on our environment, and we have to do a much better job of that. And the government has to do a much better job of that."


Question: "The Amazon Rainforest is currently burning after being cleared for the cattle and dairy industry to expand. And livestock being grown irresponsibly has caused an accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere. As a senator from Minnesota, an agricultural state that produces large amounts of cheese and beef, how can young climate change activists, like myself, trust you to take on the beef and dairy industries that have so much influence in our government?"

Amy Klobuchar: "I am hopeful that we're going to be able to do this in a way — especially when I am president that we can continue to have hamburgers and cheese. But at the same time, understand that there are many people that choose to eat vegan and that is great too."

"But let me tell you a little bit about a different perspective on our farmers and what we can do to make them part of the solution, because I have seen in rural America many incredible farmers. And ones that are struggling right now to keep going."


2020 Vision: Manchester United

The 2020 Democratic field is set to descend on the Granite State for the New Hampshire Democratic Party state convention on Saturday, NBC's Julia Jester and Amanda Golden report.

Unlike other cattle calls in other early states, the convention in Manchester is an opportunity for the 19 candidates speaking - all in under 10 minutes each - to not only court voters, but also earn prime endorsements up for grabs, Jester and Golden add.

On the campaign trail today

Ahead of the New Hampshire state convention, many of the candidates are in the Granite State: Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Beto O'Rourke all hold town halls… Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard, Tim Ryan and Tom Steyer also stump in New Hampshire… And Jill Biden campaigns for her husband in Iowa.

Dispatches from NBC's embeds

Tulsi Gabbard held a town hall yesterday in New Hampshire, where she said her campaign will be moving forward despite not qualifying for the next debate, and also where she had herself a 2016 Jeb Bush moment. NBC's Amanda Golden reports, "As Gabbard spoke about how the government of the United States should serve its people, she took a pause, and then told the audience, 'That's worth a clap,' as they then obliged. Paging Jeb Bush…"

Beto O'Rourke wrapped up his first Massachusetts swing with a student meet-and-greet at a brewery, which was mostly attended by students from Boston University, NBC's Deepa Shivaram reports. "The former Congressman faced questions from folks here on immigration and infrastructure, and was even interrupted during his stump when someone shouted and asked what he was going to do to act (he commented on this in the gaggle and said he loves when people are engaged like they were here [last night]."


Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is …five


That's the number of years that Chuck has moderated Meet the Press!

Happy anniversary!

The Lid: Swing sets

Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we took a deep dive into what swing voters really look like (it might surprise you!)

Shameless plug: Dateline NBC's "Life Inside" airs tonight

Lester Holt spent two nights locked up and embedded inside the largest maximum security prison in America for a special one-hour Dateline NBC, "Life Inside." The program airs on NBC tonight at 10pm ET as part of the network-wide "Justice for All" series.


ICYMI: News clips you shouldn't miss

The Afghan government is clashing with Trump's envoy over a proposed deal with the Taliban for troop withdrawal.

Four states — South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona and Kansas — are poised to cancel their 2020 primaries and caucuses entirely in a move to further protect the president from a primary challenge.

Some of Trump's supporters have been to dozens of rallies. The Wall Street Journal looks at who they are.

Robert Mugabe has died.

Trump Agenda: It was all predictable

The Trump-Alabama storm flap was entirely predictable, writes Shannon Pettypiece.


Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West.

The Washington Post reports that Mike Pence's security detail bewildered residents of Iceland.

2020: Salty dog

POLITICO reports on Beto O'Rourke's fondness for salty language.

Democrats are still puzzling over whether the Sun Belt or the Rust Belt is the real path to success, writes the AP.

Joe Kennedy III campaigned for Elizabeth Warren.


Joe Biden is betting it all on the African-American vote.

Is Mike Pompeo running for Senate or not?

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