Washington Brief: Trump Sets New U.S. Strategy for Afghan War

Top Stories

  • President Donald Trump announced his strategy for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, though he declined to talk specifics when it came to troop levels or benchmarks for success. A troop surge is expected to be paired with a more hawkish stance toward Pakistan in a bid to crack down on terrorist activity in the two countries. (The New York Times)
  • As Trump preps for his rally tonight in Phoenix, GOP leaders are hoping he lays off the state’s potentially vulnerable U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R) and doesn’t endorse — or increase his support — for long-shot primary challenger Kelli Ward. (The Washington Post)
  • House Speaker Paul Ryan took flak from constituents during a town-hall style forum hosted by CNN. The Wisconsin Republican largely blamed the Senate for a lack of progress on the GOP’s agenda and said Trump “messed up” with his comments on Charlottesville, Va. (Politico)
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said there is “zero chance” that Congress will fail to raise the federal debt ceiling. But how lawmakers reach an agreement before an end-of-September deadline remains unclear. (The Washington Post)

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Divers Find Remains in Search of U.S. Navy Ship Damaged in Collision
Richard C. Paddock, The New York Times

Divers have found remains of missing American sailors in the flooded compartments of the Navy destroyer John S. McCain, which collided with an oil tanker on Monday off the coast of Singapore, the commander of the United States Pacific Fleet said Tuesday. The commander, Adm. Scott H. Swift, did not say how many bodies had been recovered from the ship, which is docked at Changi Naval Base here.

Spanish police track down, shoot dead Barcelona attacker
Angus Berwick, Reuters

Spanish police on Monday shot dead an Islamist militant who killed 13 people with a van in Barcelona last week, ending a five-day manhunt for the perpetrator of Spain’s deadliest attack in over a decade. Police said they tracked 22-year-old Younes Abouyaaqoub to a rural area near Barcelona and shot him after he held up what looked like an explosives belt and shouted “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greatest).

Trump’s team and lawmakers making strides on tax reform plan
Nancy Cook, Politico

President Donald Trump’s top aides and congressional leaders have made significant strides in shaping a tax overhaul, moving far beyond the six-paragraph framework pushed out in July that stoked fears about their ability to deliver on one of the GOP’s top priorities. There is broad consensus, according to five sources familiar with the behind-the-scenes talks, on some of the best ways to pay for cutting both the individual and corporate tax rates.

Republican committees have paid nearly $1.3 million to Trump-owned entities this year
Matea Gold and Anu Narayanswamy, The Washington Post

The Republican National Committee paid the Trump International Hotel in Washington $122,000 last month after the party held a lavish fundraiser at the venue in June, the latest example of how GOP political committees are generating a steady income stream for President Trump’s private business, new Federal Election Commission records show. At least 25 congressional campaigns, state parties and the Republican Governors Association have together spent more than $473,000 at Trump hotels or golf resorts this year, according to a Washington Post analysis of campaign finance filings.

In U.S. Trade Fight With Canada, the Border Watches, Warily
William Mauldin, The Wall Street Journal

The river that divides the U.S. and Canada in this border town also cuts directly through the Twin Rivers Paper Co.’s wood pulp and paper operation. The two-country arrangement has worked for years in the tightly integrated operation, with a Twin Rivers Canadian lumber mill up the road supplying wood chips to a plant that turns the chips into pulp in Edmundston, New Brunswick.

Jeffrey Lord, Fired Pro-Trump CNN Figure, In Talks With Breitbart
Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsang, The Daily Beast

It’s been nearly two weeks since Jeffrey Lord, the former Reagan administration official and pro-Trump political commentator, was sacked from his contributor job at CNN. The abrupt firing, officially due to Lord tweeting “Sieg Heil!,” prompted a phone call of support from Steve Bannon, then President Donald Trump’s chief strategist.


Trump Sets U.S. Strategy but No ‘Blank Check’ for Afghan War
Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Mark Landler, The New York Times

President Trump put forward on Monday a long-awaited strategy for resolving the nearly 16-year-old conflict in Afghanistan, but he declined to specify either the number of troops that would be committed, or the conditions by which he would judge the success of their mission there. In a nationally televised prime-time speech to troops at Fort Myer, Va., Mr. Trump said there would be no “blank check” for the American engagement in Afghanistan.

How Trump swallowed a bitter Afghanistan pill
Eliana Johnson, Politico

In his first national security address, President Donald Trump broke with his “America First” campaign rhetoric and his past skepticism about the war in Afghanistan, bowing to the stay-the-course advice of the generals who occupy top posts in his administration. Trump’s Monday night speech laid out a new American strategy for the war in Afghanistan that he cast as a bold new approach – “I’m a problem-solver… in the end, we will win,” he said – but which critics cast as an extension of a failed approach.

Lobbyist at Trump Campaign Meeting Has a Web of Russian Connections
Sharon LaFraniere et al., The New York Times

Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian immigrant who met last summer with senior Trump campaign officials, has often struck colleagues as a classic Washington mercenary — loyal to his wife, his daughter and his bank account. He avoided work that would antagonize Moscow, they suggested, only because he profited from his reputation as a man with valuable connections there.

White House Going Ahead With HBCU Conference After Charlottesville
Darren Sands, BuzzFeed News

A White House official said that a Trump administration-backed conference for historically black colleges and universities will go ahead as planned next month. In recent days, a Democratic lawmaker and prominent nonprofit donor to the schools recommended to the White House that the National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week Conference be postponed because of concerns “related to recent national events.”

Secret Service director cleans up comments on Trump travel demands
Louis Nelson and Sarah Ferris, Politico

The head of the U.S. Secret Service appeared to engage in some damage control on Monday, clarifying in a statement that the stresses placed on the agency by the travel habits and large size of President Donald Trump’s family are nothing new. In an interview with USA Today published earlier Monday, Director Randolph “Tex” Alles had said Trump and his family’s travel had stretched the Secret Service’s budget so thin that the agency would not be able to pay some agents for work already completed.

Trump nominee Sam Clovis: ‘As far as we know’ homosexuality’s a choice, ‘logical’ LGBT protections could lead to legalization of pedophilia
Andrew Kaczynski and Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Sam Clovis, Donald Trump’s pick to be chief scientist for the Department of Agriculture, has argued that homosexuality is a choice and that the sanctioning of same-sex marriage could lead to the legalization of pedophilia, a CNN KFile review of Clovis’ writings, radio broadcasts, and speeches has found. Clovis made the comments between 2012 and 2014 in his capacity as a talk radio host, political activist, and briefly as a candidate for US Senate in Iowa.


As Trump heads to Arizona, GOP leaders want him out of Jeff Flake’s Senate race
Sean Sullivan and Ed O’Keefe, The Washington Post

Long-shot Senate candidate Kelli Ward was sound asleep just after 4 a.m. in Arizona last week when President Trump praised her on Twitter. She and many other Republicans were caught utterly by surprise — and her phone started buzzing immediately.

McConnell says there is ‘zero chance’ Congress will fail to raise debt ceiling
Damian Paletta, The Washington Post

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday that there was “zero chance — no chance” Congress would fail to raise the debt ceiling by late September, although he offered no clues about how he hoped to persuade lawmakers to back such a measure. McConnell spoke during a public event in Kentucky with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who minutes before had implored Congress to focus immediately on raising the debt ceiling when members return to Washington after Labor Day.

McConnell: ‘Most news is not fake’
Jordain Carney, The Hill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) defended the media on Monday, just hours after President Trump lashed out at “fake news” on Twitter. “My view is that most news is not fake, but I do try to look at a variety of sources,” McConnell said at a Louisville Chamber of Commerce event when asked what publications he reads amid “accusations and counteraccusations about fake news.”

Susan Collins: ‘Too difficult to say’ whether Trump will be 2020 GOP nominee
Negassi Tesfamichael, Politico

Though President Donald Trump has already ramped up efforts for a 2020 reelection campaign, one of his frequent critics, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), says it’s unclear whether he will be the GOP nominee. “It’s too difficult to say,” Collins said in an interview with MSNBC on Monday when asked whether she thinks Trump will be the Republican Party’s nominee.


Ryan faces heat back home in Wisconsin
Rachael Bade, Politico

Paul Ryan was one of most popular Republicans in the country last fall, routing his Democratic challenger and beating back a Donald Trump-inspired primary challenger who trolled him at every turn. Yet there he was, taking flak from discontent constituents at a town hall in Racine on Monday night.

This House Democrat Lost A Leadership Race To Nancy Pelosi. Now He May Run For President.
Alexis Levinson, BuzzFeed News

It’s still more than three years until the next presidential election, and yet here was Ray Buckley — the chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party for the last decade — riding shotgun last Wednesday from Boston to Hopkinton, New Hampshire with Rep. Tim Ryan, the 44-year old Democrat from Youngstown, Ohio. Ryan made a name for himself when he challenged Nancy Pelosi for the leadership of the House Democrats last year, arguing he was the right man for the job because he was one of the few who was able to handily win re-election in a district where many of his white, working class constituents also voted for Donald Trump.

Judge orders Gianforte to take mugshot, fingerprints
Whitney Bermes, Bozeman Daily Chronicle

A Gallatin County judge has ordered that U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte must have his mugshot and fingerprints taken as part of his misdemeanor assault conviction. In a one-page ruling issued Thursday afternoon, Justice Court Judge Rick West ordered that the Republican congressman must report to the Gallatin County Detention Center to provide booking information, including a photograph and fingerprints, no later than Sept. 15.

Ed Perlmutter changes course and will run for re-election to Congress
Mark K. Matthews, The Denver Post

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter has found the “fire in the belly” again — or at least the desire to remain a member of Congress. The Arvada Democrat said Monday that he would run for a seventh term in Colorado’s 7th Congressional District, a declaration that comes five short weeks after Perlmutter said he was done with politics when he dropped out of Colorado’s crowded race for governor.


Why Gov. Doug Ducey won’t attend President Donald Trump’s Phoenix rally
Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, The Arizona Republic

Gov. Doug Ducey will greet President Donald Trump on the tarmac after Air Force One touches down Tuesday afternoon for his first presidential visit to the Grand Canyon state. But the Republican governor, who like many in the GOP has diplomatically sidestepped Trump and his more divisive rhetoric, will not attend Trump’s campaign-style rally at the Phoenix Convention Center.

A Man Has Been Charged For Trying To Blow Up To A Confederate Statue
Jim Dalrymple II, BuzzFeed News

A man was charged Monday with attempting to blow up a Confederate statue in Texas. The man, Andrew Schneck, was spotted by a ranger kneeling in the bushes near a statue of Confederate Maj. Richard Dowling on Saturday evening at Houston’s Hermann Park.


GOP divided over Trump’s Ex-Im Bank nomination
Zachary Warmbrodt, Politico

President Donald Trump’s nomination of former Rep. Scott Garrett to lead the Export-Import Bank has opened up yet another front in the Republican Party’s civil war. Pro-business trade groups, free-market advocates and even social conservatives and gay-rights activists are targeting GOP senators with competing lobbying efforts as they clash over Garrett’s past attempts to shut down the bank and his controversial views on LGBT issues.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition: 

Taking a road trip to escape the heat this summer? Watch out for skimmers at gas stations, which can steal your card data-including PINs-and cause you a headache during your vacation. Learn more from EPC.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

This would be a travesty of justice
Editorial Board, The Washington Post

Even as President Trump urges the nation to heal, he is publicly considering a step whose effect would be the exact opposite: a pardon for former sheriff Joe Arpaio, the former Arizona lawman who made his name as a paragon of racial profiling. Pardoning Mr. Arpaio now would throw a bone to the president’s partisans on the racist alt-right just days after Mr. Trump fed them a juicy steak by explicitly equating the neo-Nazis, anti-Semites and Ku Klux Klansmen in Charlottesville with those who marched against them.

(Still) Seeking IRS Accountability
Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

The Obama Justice Department dismissed the IRS political targeting scandal as no big deal, and the Trump Administration hasn’t been any better. At least the judiciary is still trying to hold someone to account for this government abuse.

Can Kid Rock Become Michigan’s Next Senator?
David Byler, RealClearPolitics

“How could an entertainer with no political experience and a long history of controversial comments ever win one of the most important political positions in the United States?” No, that’s not a quote from last year’s presidential election.

A Message from the Electronic Payments Coalition: 

$2 BILLION! That’s how much theft from gas station skimmers cost consumers in 2014. The Electronic Payments Coalition (EPC) has tips to help you protect yourself when you’re filling up at home or traveling far and wide this summer.

Research Reports and Polling

Who Falls for Fake News? The Roles of Analytic Thinking, Motivated Reasoning, Political Ideology, and Bullshit Receptivity
Gordon Pennycook and David G. Rand, Yale University

Inaccurate beliefs pose a threat to democracy and fake news represents a particularly egregious and direct avenue by which inaccurate beliefs have been propagated via social media. Here we investigate the cognitive psychological profile of individuals who fall prey to fake news.