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Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is staking his presidential aspirations on the Iowa caucuses early next year — amid chatter that he has to make it through this year first.
Dogging the governor: a string of unforced errors and recurring campaign reboots, timidity about taking on former President Trump, perhaps an overreliance on anti-woke messaging and on conservative media, second-guessing by some big donors, plus assessments that DeSantis was more ice than fire while trying to woo undecided primary voters.
Newsweek: DeSantis’s decline is accelerating, the RealClearPolitics polling average shows.
The governor replaced his campaign manager Tuesday, weeks after top donors advised him to put together a more seasoned presidential team (The Hill). Also on Tuesday, he shifted his chief of staff to the campaign, leaning heavily on a trusted adviser with little presidential campaign experience, and brought aboard a top strategist from a pro-DeSantis super PAC, Never Back Down (The New York Times).
Rick Tyler, a Republican strategist with past presidential campaign experience who does not support Trump, told the Times that DeSantis is “clearly an intelligent person, but he has no idea how to run for president and no idea how to beat Trump because treating Trump as unexploded ordnance doesn’t work. We know that doesn’t work.”
Trump on Tuesday in New Hampshire said he soured on DeSantis in the past year because he’d backed him as governor and believed he should have waited for the 2028 presidential race. “I’ve been particularly hard on him and fortunately it’s worked because he’s crashing. He doesn’t know what happened,” the former president said (The Hill).
A staff shakeup is par for the course for DeSantis. During his five years in the House, his office had one of the highest turnover rates. No employed member from his victorious 2018 gubernatorial campaign team is working in a senior role on his 2024 presidential race. In 2021, Politico reported that in his first term, he fired staffers often enough that some formed an emotional support group (Time magazine).
The Washington Post analysis: Is the DeSantis slide reversible?
The stumbles have been compared with Scott Walker, who entered the GOP presidential primary as a two-term Midwestern governor in July 2015 and was out of the race weeks later in September (NPR).
DeSantis’s fumbles have also been compared with the late Arizona Sen. John McCain’s presidential bid, which McCain and his advisers overhauled, downsized to save money and eventually rode to the GOP nomination in 2008 before losing to Barack Obama in the general election. In the presidential race of 2020, then-Democratic primary contender Kamala Harris withdrew from the contest in December 2019 before Iowa, saying she had run out of money. Less than a year later, voters elected her as vice president.
Walker began as a frontrunner in Iowa and a darling of both the conservative base and powerful donors after winning battles against public unions in his left-leaning home state. Walker’s precipitous descent in 2015 was blamed on a poor debate performance (CNN).
DeSantis is counting on the Aug. 23 GOP debate in Milwaukee, which Trump may skip, to boost his flagging political fortunes.
Meanwhile in Ohio Tuesday, abortion rights supporters won and Republicans experienced a setback with the defeat of a ballot measure that proposed to make it more difficult to enshrine a right to abortion in the state constitution. The rejection by voters means that a proposed amendment on the ballot in November that would protect abortion rights in the state’s constitution could be adopted with a simple majority (NBC News).
The contest on Tuesday was seen as a test of growing efforts by Republicans nationwide to curb voters’ use of ballot initiatives, and a potential bellwether of the political climate in next year’s national elections (The New York Times).
Abortion’s role as an electoral litmus test hasn’t faded a year after the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, according to a CNN poll.
© The Associated Press / David Petkiewicz, Cleveland.com | Voters in Ohio on Tuesday weighed whether to make it more difficult to change the state’s constitution, which could impact abortion rights.
▪ The Hill: Why GOP hopefuls aren’t talking about health care costs.
▪ The Hill: Layoffs at Justice Democrats shake progressives.
▪ The Hill: The Iowa State Fair later this month marks a critical test for GOP presidential hopefuls. DeSantis and former President Trump will be there.
LEADING THE DAY
➤ TRUMP WORLD
The fourth criminal case involving Trump is likely to come to a head next week, when Fani Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., is expected to take the findings from her election interference investigation to a grand jury. The Georgia investigation may be the most far-reaching legal challenge yet to the efforts that the former president and his advisers undertook to keep him in power after he lost the 2020 election.
The New York Times reports nearly 20 people have been told that they could face charges as a result of the investigation, which has been ongoing for two and a half years.
If Trump were convicted as a result of a federal prosecution, he could theoretically pardon himself if reelected in 2024, but he would not hold such sway in state matters. Georgia law makes pardons possible only five years after the completion of a sentence, and getting a sentence commuted requires the approval of a state panel.
Meanwhile, as Trump’s legal problems continue to pile up, the former president has remained outspoken on social media and in public, attacking prosecutors, judges and potential witnesses, all while speaking openly about his actions that set off the investigations in the first place.
“It’s a unique setting because normally what we tell clients of course is don’t say anything, don’t make any public comments,” John Lauro, one of the attorneys representing Trump in his Jan. 6 case in Washington, D.C., said on a podcast with Florida lawyer David Markus. “With President Trump, because of the campaign, and I would say because of his personality, it’s impossible for him not to speak out on the issues. So it does present unique circumstances.”
The Hill’s Brett Samuels reports that political advisers and legal experts warn that Trump’s tendency to speak out could land him in hot water, posing additional risks as he campaigns.
Just a day after Trump’s posts on Truth Social were cited by prosecutors in a filing that requested strict rules on how he could use evidence, the former president ranted Tuesday about his mounting legal issues while speaking to a large crowd in Windham, N.H. During a rambling speech, he attacked special counsel Jack Smith — assailing him as a “thug prosecutor” and a “deranged guy” — and called the criminal investigation into interference in the 2020 election a “ridiculous case” that he tells supporters violates his right to free speech (The Associated Press, CNN and NBC News).
“I will talk about it,” Trump said to his supporters, referring to the 2020 election. “They’re not taking away my First Amendment rights.”
The former president’s D.C.-based legal troubles may still be broadening, as Smith’s probe of efforts by Trump and others to subvert the 2020 election remains ongoing — with at least one interview this week that focused on fundraising and spending by Trump’s political action committee. Meanwhile, the grand jury that last week indicted Trump was spotted meeting Tuesday in the federal courthouse in Washington (Politico).
▪ The New York Times: Prosecutors disclosed a previously unknown piece of evidence in the indictment of Trump, referred to as the “fraudulent elector memo,” which provides new details referenced in 2020 by a Trump lawyer involving fake electors. The memo is alleged to be part of the former president’s election conspiracy to cling to power.
▪ Bloomberg News: Trump documents case judge is reviewing the DOJ use of two grand juries.
▪ The Hill: Trump is likely to face an uphill battle should he and his lawyers seek to move his Jan. 6 criminal case out of Washington, D.C., especially before jury selection is conducted.
Zooming out from the Beltway, some Republican presidential contenders in the primary ring with Trump have suggested the nonstop media coverage of the former president’s ongoing legal woes doesn’t line up with how much voters care about the courtroom battles heading into 2024.
As The Hill’s Julia Mueller reports, former Vice President Mike Pence and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, both GOP candidates for the White House, suggested over the weekend that there’s a disconnect between media coverage of the indictments and how much voters along the campaign trail are interested in the former president’s legal troubles. “The media is covering the Trump indictments far more than the American people care,” GOP strategist Brian Darling said.
Pence on Monday told NewsNation’s Leland Vittert that he believes the number of Republican voters angry with him because they believe Trump’s false claims about winning the 2020 election is “growing smaller every day.”
“Candidly, the [former president] asked me on that day to choose between him and the Constitution, but I chose to keep my oath to the Constitution of the United States,” Pence said, adding “I’ll leave myself to the judgment of Republican voters to the judgment of history”
Republican strategists and pollsters, meanwhile, expect Trump’s criminal trials, which could all take place next year, to dominate the campaign trail in 2024 and divide their party, creating a challenge for congressional Republican candidates who will have to walk a fine line on the issue. The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports Trump’s legal troubles and his escalating battle with the Department of Justice will become litmus-test topics — similar to Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen.
▪ Time magazine: Trump is spooked and his 2024 rivals know it.
▪ The Washington Post analysis: Would you trust Trump with your evidence?
▪ NewsNation: Miami Mayor Francis Suarez: Taking the GOP debate stage is “critical.”
© The Associated Press / Alex Brandon | President Biden on Tuesday designated the Baaj Nwaavjo I’Tah Kukveni National Monument in Tusayan, Ariz.
U.S. investments in China tech: The administration today will release an executive order signed by the president to ban private-equity and venture-capital investments in some Chinese technology companies, a move that will escalate Washington’s efforts to prevent Beijing from developing cutting-edge advancements for its military. The executive order is expected to prohibit direct investments in some forms of semiconductors, quantum computing and artificial intelligence, and would require Americans doing business in China to inform the U.S. government about investments in those sectors more broadly (The Wall Street Journal).
Gun control: President Biden’s effort to regulate “ghost guns,” which are popular and untraceable weapons sold as kits, won a temporary reprieve from the Supreme Court on Tuesday. Critics sued to stop the new regulation, which did not ban the sale or possession of kits and components that can be assembled to make guns but required manufacturers and sellers to obtain licenses, mark their products with serial numbers and conduct background checks. Critics oppose the administration’s expansion of the government’s interpretation of the definition of “firearm” under the Gun Control Act of 1968. The high court’s 5-4 order allows the regulation to remain in place while challenges advance in the courts (The New York Times).
Power of the pen: Returning from a weeklong vacation, Biden flew to Arizona on Monday and began a three-state swing to champion his climate change and environmental preservation policies enacted into law. On Tuesday he designated his fifth national monument, putting land near the Grand Canyon off-limits to mining while visiting the beautiful, vast chasm he called “God’s cathedral.” Today he’ll be in Albuquerque, N.M., and he plans to travel to Salt Lake City, Utah, to visit a Veterans Affairs facility on Thursday and mark the first anniversary of the Pact Act, which expanded benefits for veterans exposed to toxic burn pits during military service in Iraq and Afghanistan (The Washington Post).
While speaking in New Mexico, Biden announced plans to visit Southeast Asia. “I’m going to be going to Vietnam shortly because Vietnam wants to change our relationship and become a partner,” the president explained on Tuesday (South China Morning Post). Biden will be in New Delhi, India, for a summit of the Group of 20 nations on Sept. 9-10 and he told a donor audience on July 28 that he received a call from the “head of Vietnam” who “desperately wants to meet with me when I go to the G-20.”
Nursing homes: A major fight is brewing between the Biden administration and the powerful nursing home industry over a proposed minimum staffing requirement for the nation’s 15,500 nursing homes. Industry groups say nationwide staffing shortages challenge any such requirement and arguably would be an unfunded federal mandate (The Hill).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
Ukrainian forces have had limited success uprooting entrenched Russian soldiers in eastern Ukraine after several weeks of fighting and significant losses of troops and equipment, USA Today reports. Now the counteroffensive faces crunch time with fall approaching, when rain and mud will make the slog even harder. The primary challenge for Kyiv is the difficulty of breaking through Russia’s multilayered defensive lines in the eastern and southern parts of the country, marked by tens of thousands of mines and vast networks of trenches. Ukrainian forces have incurred staggering losses there. Weeks into the counteroffensive, Western officials told CNN about increasingly “sobering” assessments about Ukrainian forces’ ability to retake significant territory.
“Russians have a number of defensive lines and they [Ukrainian forces] haven’t really gone through the first line,” a senior Western diplomat told CNN. “Even if they would keep on fighting for the next several weeks, if they haven’t been able to make more breakthroughs throughout these last seven, eight weeks, what is the likelihood that they will suddenly, with more depleted forces, make them? Because the conditions are so hard.”
▪ The New York Times: Ukrainians say the explosions 37 minutes apart in Pokrovsk, which killed at least nine people and injured 82 others, were a “double tap” intended to kill rescuers responding to the first strike.
▪ The Wall Street Journal: U.S.-made cluster munitions fuel the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
▪ Politico EU: Ukraine declares war on Russia’s Black Sea shipping.
▪ Foreign Affairs: Putin’s age of chaos.
The military coup in Niger is threatening to engulf the region in a broader conflict and threaten a key U.S. security partner in West Africa, where instability has given rise to growing terrorist threats. As The Hill’s Brad Dress reports, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will meet on Thursday to discuss the situation in Niger and potential action, which could mean economic sanctions or military action in the teetering country. Military junta leader Abdourahamane Tchiani is standing by his self-imposed rule after capturing Niger President Mohamed Bazoum. Tchiani flouted the Sunday deadline imposed by ECOWAS to release Bazoum and appears steeled for any outcome of Thursday’s meeting, as the crisis worries Western leaders amid existing upheaval in Africa and elsewhere across the world (Reuters).
The junta has named a new prime minister and made a slew of other new cabinet appointments. Mediation efforts appeared stalled on Wednesday after the leaders of the coup rejected another diplomatic mission, and neighboring allies who back the armed takeover appealed to the United Nations to prevent a military intervention. Victoria Nuland, the acting U.S. deputy secretary of state, made a surprise trip to Niger Monday (Politico, The Associated Press and The New York Times).
“They were quite firm about how they want to proceed, and it is not in support of the constitution of Niger,” Nuland told reporters. She characterized the conversations as “extremely frank and at times quite difficult.”
▪ The Wall Street Journal: One of America’s favorite generals is leading the Niger coup.
▪ The Economist: After Niger’s coup, the drums of war are growing louder.
▪ CBS News: The U.S. closes its embassy in Haiti amid “rapid gunfire” after Haitians march to demand security.
▪ Al Jazeera: War-torn Sudan is battered by torrential rains. More than 500 houses were damaged in the country’s north as the army and paramilitary forces engage in a bloody battle.
Moderate Republicans and those in competitive districts have largely lined up behind Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other GOP leaders as they have acquiesced to the evolving demands from hard-line conservatives, The Hill’s Emily Brooks reports, but their patience is wearing thin. Democrats have already jumped on swing district Republicans for going along with some of the more controversial votes spearheaded by the party’s rightmost flank. Perhaps adding insult to injury, many of the messaging provisions they’ve been forced to take votes on are unlikely to make it into the final version of the bill approved by the Senate.
“If we keep members in swing districts — we put them on the plank every single week, we’re gonna have huge problems. And it may be too late for that,” Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) said. “There’s only so much people can take before they say enough is enough.”
A tale of two possible impeachments:
The White House on Tuesday accused McCarthy of lying in order to cave to the far-right members of the House Republican Conference and their push for an impeachment inquiry into Biden. McCarthy on Fox News compared the Biden administration to the Nixon administration, arguing that they both used the federal government to obstruct congressional investigations. Ian Sams, a spokesman for the White House Counsel’s Office called that comparison “bizarre” and “demonstrably false,” highlighting that the Biden administration’s Treasury Department and the FBI provided the now GOP-led House Oversight Committee with records and access (The Hill).
McCarthy, for his part, has been insistent that House Republicans are still gathering evidence and have yet to decide whether to open up a formal impeachment inquiry against Biden. But many House Republicans privately told CNN that it appears to be a foregone conclusion: Biden will face an impeachment inquiry in the fall and could be just the fourth U.S. president ever charged with high crimes or misdemeanors.
Meanwhile, House Republicans once regarded Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas as their easiest impeachment target, yet now, even that inquiry is looking increasingly out of reach. More moderate Republicans were never quite sold on impeaching the secretary over problems at the border, nor aligned with their fellow Republicans’ belief that Mayorkas lied to lawmakers at a committee hearing. Now, some of the most vocal GOP members pushing to remove him are acknowledging they’re finding fellow party skeptics who are virtually immovable (Politico).
■ A gift to Putin: No uranium mining near the Grand Canyon, by The Wall Street Journal editorial board.
■ Don’t pass the ‘American Farmers Feed the World Act,’ by Stephanie Mercier and Vincent Smith, opinion contributors, The Hill.
WHERE AND WHEN
The House will convene on Friday at 11 a.m. for a pro forma session. Lawmakers return to Washington Sept. 11.
The Senate is out until Sept. 5 and will hold a pro forma session at 9 a.m.
The president is in Albuquerque, N.M. Biden will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 9 a.m. MDT. At Arcosa Wind Towers, he will speak at 1 p.m. MDT about clean energy manufacturing. The president will travel to Salt Lake City, Utah, arriving at 4:30 p.m. MDT.
Vice President Harris has no public schedule.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets at 8:30 a.m. with Algerian Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf at the State Department. The secretary at 11 a.m. will deliver remarks at the first event for the Secretary of State’s Award for Global Anti-Racism Champions.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz will visit Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming to tout the federal investment of $44 million to strengthen climate resilience across the National Parks system. Emhoff will meet with park rangers at 11:45 p.m. MT at the Mormon Row Historic District. He will tour the Grand Teton National Park’s sagebrush habitat at noon MT and speak at 12:15 p.m. MT. Emhoff will meet at 1 p.m. MT at Schwabachers Trailhead with young interns working with the American Conservation Experience and the Park Ranger Law Enforcement Academy Training Program.
➤ EARTH, WIND & FIRE
© The Associated Press / Andree Kehn, Sun Journal | Storm-flooded Jackson Hill Road in Auburn, Maine, on Tuesday.
At least two people died, thousands of domestic flights were canceled or delayed and more than a million homes and businesses lost power Monday as severe storms, including hail and lightning, moved through the eastern U.S. The storms’ spread reached 10 states, with tornado watches and warnings issued from Tennessee to New York (The Associated Press).
According to scientists, climate change supercharged storms in recent years, making hurricanes more intense and heavy downpours more frequent. People are facing increasing threats from droughts, floods, wildfires and heat waves. With extreme rainfall comes the potential for flooding, exacerbated by rising temperatures, which allow the air to hold more moisture, leading to more intense and sudden rainfall (The New York Times).
Meanwhile across the pond, stormy weather in the Baltic Sea region Monday killed at least one person and caused airport delays, suspended ferry services and caused a train’s partial derailment (ABC News). But further south in Spain, extreme heat is returning this week, with the potential for record temperatures in parts of the country (Bloomberg News).
▪ Reuters: Wildfire rages for fourth day in southern Portugal, 1400 people evacuated.
▪ The Hill: July was officially hottest month on record, scientists say.
▪ The Hill: Historic flooding in Juneau, Alaska, is the latest in a saga of climate change-linked disasters facing the nation this summer.
© The Associated Press / Eugene Hoshiko | Twenty-Six Martyrs Monument in Nagasaki, pictured in 2019, honors victims of the U.S. atomic bomb dropped on the city on Aug. 9, 1945.
And finally … On this day in 1945, the United States during World War II dropped a second atomic bomb on Japan, killing an estimated 70,000 people in Nagasaki and destroying about half the city. A B-29 bomber, running low on fuel because of a mechanical problem, had initially been headed for the city of Kokura. But, because of poor visibility, it diverted to a secondary target, Nagasaki, days after the world’s first atomic bomb had decimated Hiroshima. At the backup target, the bomb exploded in a valley filled with schools, houses and churches, killing tens of thousands of civilians, including Korean forced laborers and scores of Chinese and allied prisoners of war (NPR).
Japan surrendered within the week, but the day after Nagasaki, then-President Truman ordered that no more atomic bombs could be used by the armed forces without specific presidential orders.
“I have never had any doubt that it was necessary, and I didn’t have any doubt at the time,” Truman told reporters two years later amid international debate about the harnessing of atomic energy in war. “I hated very much to have to make that decision. Anybody would. But I thought that decision was made in the interest of saving about 250,000 American boys from getting killed, and I still think that was true.”
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