The Daily 202: Paul Ryan’s Trump dilemma has gotten much, much worse – The Washington Post

House Speaker Paul Ryan bangs the gavel ending the final day of the Republican National Convention. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

THE BIG IDEA:

By Mike DeBonis, filling in for James, who is on vacation

The uncomfortable truce meant to keep the Republican Party united through Election Day is now hanging by the slimmest of threads. And all that is keeping the GOP from outright civil war is a raw political calculation from the party’s self-styled guardian of conservative principles.

For months, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan agonized as Donald Trump trampled on long-held GOP doctrine with his populist rage as he edged closer to the party’s presidential nomination. But once Trump had the nomination in hand — and after Ryan withheld his endorsement for weeks — an informal deal seemed to emerge. 

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Ryan (Wis.) would campaign on his “Better Way” policy platform and make the case that Trump would be the candidate most likely to enact it into law, and Trump would “pivot” into a more conventional general-election presidential campaign.

That deal evaporated Tuesday, when Trump refused to endorse Ryan’s re-election in an interview with the Phil Rucker and gave precious oxygen to his populist Republican opponent just a week before the primary. (Read the whole Trump interview here in which he also rejected backing Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) — saying he “should have done a much better job for vets” — and Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) — who he called “weak.” McCain and Ayotte are both supporting Trump.) 

“We need very, very strong leadership. And I’m just not quite there yet. I’m not quite there yet,” Trump said in a conscious echo of Ryan’s own refusal to endorse Trump in the days after he cleared the GOP presidential field.

It was a stunning assertion of dominance by Trump after days of self-inflicted controversy — sparked by his criticism of the parents of a Muslim-American Army captain who died in Iraq — that left Ryan and other GOP officeholders struggling to mount a reaction.

Ryan on Monday put out a carefully worded statement that defended the family of Capt. Humayun Khan but did not mention Trump by name. It stopped well short of the full-throated denunciation that Democrats, Trump’s Republican critics, and the Khans themselves had called for.

But Trump hit back anyway, in a manner calibrated to underscore the gaping divide between Ryan conservatives and Trump populists.

In Wisconsin, the populist right is clearly hoping for a repeat of the 2014 dethroning of then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) in Ryan’s primary. His unabashedly pro-Trump opponent, Paul Nehlen, has taken a hatchet to the Ryan mythos of a young conservative warrior steeped in Friedman and Von Mises and raised at the foot of Jack Kemp to reshape the federal government in Reaganesque fashion.

In a Tuesday interview with the publisher of Breitbart.com, for instance, Nehlen called Ryan a “soulless globalist” and an “open borders guy” who was “grown in a petri dish in D.C.” 

But don’t expect Ryan to abandon Trump — at least, not yet.

The institutional stakes are simply too high for Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) to spark a GOP crackup. Both the Trump and Ryan wings need to show up on Nov. 8 and vote Republican if the party is going to keep its congressional majorities — and it’s Trump, not Ryan, who has the party in his thrall.

That being said, there were reports late last night and into the early morning that more Republicans would abandon Trump in the coming days as infighting in his campaign increases. In one prominent defection, Mitt Romney backer Meg Whitman of eBay fame announced that she will support Hillary Clinton and raise funds for her, calling Trump a ” dishonest demagogue.” The story revealed that Clinton is actively seeking the support of Republican donors (Whitman said she had a “lovely chat” with the Democratic nominee in a phone call last month).

There were some signs of a campaign shake up yesterday as two senior staffers who’d previously worked for Ben Carson were let go,  reports Politico’s Alex Isenstadt and Ken Vogel — longtime GOP operative Ed Brookover, who was advising Trump politically; and Jimmy Stracner, who was Western political director for the Western region.

John Harwood reports that things are bad inside the Trump campaign, with even campaign chairman Paul Manafort refusing to challenge the candidate and calling the staff “suicidal:”

longtime ally of Paul Manafort, Trump’s campaign manager: “Manafort not challenging Trump anymore. Mailing it in. Staff suicidal.”

— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) August 3, 2016

NBC’s Katy Tur says the chaos extends to the RNC, where Reince Priebus, who has worked to unify the party around Trump, is not happy with Trump’s Ryan comments:

Top republican: @Reince is ‘apoplectic’ over Trump’s refusal to back Ryan. He called several Trump staffers to express his displeasure.

— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) August 3, 2016

More from same source: The next 24 to 72 hours are crucial. There is serious talk about key Republicans coming out hard against Trump.

— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) August 3, 2016

Per ABC’s Rick Klein and Jon Karl:

Priebus “furious,” per @jonkarl. Senior GOP officials “actively exploring” how to replace Trump on ballot if he drops out. @GMA

— Rick Klein (@rickklein) August 3, 2016

Trump himself tweeted this morning that there is “great unity” in his campaign:

There is great unity in my campaign, perhaps greater than ever before. I want to thank everyone for your tremendous support. Beat Crooked H!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 3, 2016

Trump consigliere Roger Stone pushed back hard on campaign in disarray narrative:

The idea that @PaulManafort is not doing everything humanly possible to help @realDonaldTrump win is patently false

— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) August 3, 2016

But Liam Donovan, a former National Republican Senatorial Committee staffer who has been one of the sharpest observers of the contemporary GOP,  signaled that Ryan — and McConnell — might not let go, just yet anyways. He tweeted the below on Monday, before the latest controversy.

Single biggest, if counterintuitive, problem for GOP right now- it’s too successful. Too big of footprint. Too much to lose.

— Liam Donovan (@LPDonovan) August 1, 2016

It’s hard to throw away a Senate majority out of principle. It’s painful to put the House in play. Much easier to ride out the next 100 days

— Liam Donovan (@LPDonovan) August 1, 2016

Throw in existential and enduring SCOTUS implications and you get the current paralysis. Can’t reject him entirely, but can’t say his name.

— Liam Donovan (@LPDonovan) August 1, 2016

For better or worse, permission structure to run against Trump is tied to polls. If/when his #s fall, suddenly people find their courage.

— Liam Donovan (@LPDonovan) August 1, 2016

#NeverTrump conservatives are begging Ryan to renounce Trump and redeem their party. They include former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, who aimed his Tuesday Post column squarely at Ryan, who frequently speaks reverently of the “American idea.” 

“Those who support Trump are setting the Republican Party at odds with the American story told by Lincoln and King: a nationalism defined by striving toward unifying ideals of freedom and human dignity,” Gerson writes. “… It is not too late to repudiate.”

But Donovan said in an interview that the moment for party leaders taking moral stands against Trump — after the Khan controversy, after his attacks on a Latino judge, after his questioning of John McCain’s war record — has long since past. 

For Ryan, he said, what will matter are House seats.

“He’s looking at it as protecting the [House Republican] Conference and keeping his job in the immediate term,” he said. “I wish he’d do it. He’d make me feel better. But it wouldn’t be a good idea from a strategic standpoint. … Until [Trump] is dragging them down, I don’t think anyone is hitting the panic button.”

Rep. Tim Huelskamp answers questions from the media following his primary election watch party last night. Lindsey Bauman/The Hutchinson News via AP)

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

Kansas, Washington, Michigan, and Missouri held primary races Tuesday:

–One House Republican — KANSAS Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a high-profile tea partier, was ousted by local physician Roger Marshall in a rare win this year for the political establishment (the U.S. Chamber and farm lobby backed Marshall, who was booted off the Agriculture panel by then-Speaker John Boehner because of repeated challenges to the leadership). Huelskamp’s loss is a defeat for the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity and Club for Growth, which both heavily invested in the campaign. Huelskamp becomes the third House incumbent to lose their primary this year behind Pennsylvania Rep. Chaka Fattah (D) — under federal indictment — and Renee Ellmers (N.C.), who was redistricted into a seat with another GOP incumbent. The Kansas seat will stay in Republican hands given its deep red nature (and the fact there’s no Democratic, only an independent opponent).

In WASHINGTON, Cathy McMorris Rodgers won reelection, but failed to net the majority of the primary vote for the first time since 2004. She’ll face Democrat Joe Pakootas in November. (The Spokesman Review)   

–Businessman Paul Mitchell won the Republican primary in MICHIGAN, and will face off with incumbent Candice Miller in the general election this November. (Detroit Free Press

–In MISSOURI, former Navy SEAL and political newcomer Eric Greitens emerged from a bruising four-way primary as the Republican nominee for governor, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. “Meanwhile, state Attorney General Chris Koster easily won the Democratic gubernatorial primary over three minor candidates, as expected. The results mean that, on Nov. 8, the state’s gubernatorial race will be between Koster, a former Republican turned Democrat, and Greitens, a former Democrat turned Republican.” 

Ummm, bombshell folks: MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said this morning that Donald Trump had asked a foreign policy adviser why, exactly, it is that the U.S. can’t use nuclear weapons.

From CNBC this morning: “Several months ago, a foreign policy expert on the international level went to advise Donald Trump. And three times [Trump] asked about the use of nuclear weapons. Three times he asked at one point if we had them why can’t we use them,” Scarborough said on his “Morning Joe” program.

Scarborough made the Trump comments 52 seconds into an interview with former Director of Central Intelligence and ex-National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden.”

Watch video here:

Watch: What are some major concerns about Trump’s handling of national security? Hayden and #morningjoe weigh in. https://t.co/FyFoSmJlJI

— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) August 3, 2016

Leonardo Espindola carries the Olympic torch on its way to Rio for the opening ceremony in Niteroi, Brazil. (AP /Felipe Dana)

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Nearly one third of Australia’s Olympic water polo team is being quarantined for a gastrointestinal illness believed to have been picked up in Rome. The illness is the latest in a series of recent setbacks for the team, which has also battled unsafe Olympic Village housing conditions, an attempted robbery of an Australian Paralympian, and a slew of recent robberies from their living quarters. (Cindy Boren)
  2. Meanwhile, Olympic sailors said they have become more adept at dodging floating garbage as they prepare to compete in Rio’s polluted waters, swiftly navigating around items ranging from garbage bags to full pieces of furniture. (New York Times)
  3. … And another athlete racked up a $4,900 bill playing Pokémon Go in Rio. The Japanese gymnast was sidelined by outstanding roaming charges and confusion over his overseas data plan. (Boston Globe)
  4. The Obama administration “secretly organized” the sending of $400 million worth of cash to Iran in January, coinciding with the release of four Americans detained in Tehran. Critics charged the payments are tantamount to “ransom” money. Senior U.S. officials denied any link between the payment and the prisoner exchange, however, calling the two events coincidental. (WSJ)
  5. Gov. Chris Christie called for a state probe of Bridgegate investigative committee chairs Sen. Loretta Weinberg and John Wisniewski, suggesting the two may have used state resources to pursue a “politically motivated attack” on him. The statements come as a dramatic turn following the release of thousands of emails in the DNC hack. (NJ.com)
  6. The U.S. Attorney’s office has ordered sealed the autopsy report of Alton Sterling, the black man who was fatally shot by police officers last month outside a Baton Rouge convenience store.
  7. A Turkish lawyer has filed a criminal complaint against top U.S. generals, accusing the group of conspiring with plotters in the country’s failed coup in July. “While it’s unclear whether prosecutors in Ankara will take on the case, it’s a sign of the heated atmospherics surrounding U.S.-Turkish relations since last month,” Ishaan Tharoor reports.
  8. At least one child has died due to a naturally-occurring anthrax outbreak in Siberia, believed to be connected to a 75-year-old reindeer carcass that was exposed during a heatwave. At least 20 others have been hospitalized in connection to the pathogen, and more then 2,000 reindeer have succumbed to the disease. (Max Bearak)
  9. London protesters unleashed thousands of locusts, crickets and cockroaches upon a popular burger chain after it trapped its employees in a controversial immigration sting. Foreign workers were duped to believe they were attending a food safety seminar before British immigration officials descended to arrest them. (Travis M. Andrews)
  10. Kesha dropped her California sexual assault lawsuit against Dr. Luke, ending charges against the music producer who she says “drugged, raped and emotionally abused her” in order to focus on restarting her music career. The pop star vowed to appeal similar charges levied against him in New York, however, pledging to fans that her “fight continues.” (Elahe Izadi)
  11. A seven-year-old boy born with a rare disorder that attacks the brain and autoimmune system died one day after he was made an honorary Marine by his father’s colleagues. He is the 96th person in U.S. history to receive the distinction. (New York Times)
  12. An idealistic Dutch man was forced to spend 10 days alone in a Chinese airport terminal after flying across the world to meet his online girlfriend. She pulled the ultimate no-show – later revealing she was recovering from plastic surgeries to her face – while he was eventually hospitalized after collapsing in the terminal from diabetes-fueled exhaustion. (Kim Soffen)
  13. An American Airlines pilot was lauded as a hero after tackling a 25-year-old belligerent, intoxicated passenger who laid hands on a female flight attendant. The slurring man threatened to “break the jaw” of the female employee as he attempted to exit the plane before it safely landed. (Peter Holley)
  14. An AP investigation found little evidence that flossing really helps your teeth, potentially refuting decades of recommendations from dentists and federal health agencies. (Sarah Larimer)

Trump holds a Purple Heart given to him during a campaign event in Ashburn, Virginia. (Reuters/Eric Thayer)

THE DAILY DONALD:

— Trump, trailing in the polls, has begun to hit the election as a “rigged” system that could potentially cost him the presidency. He appears to be laying the predicate to be able to challenge the election’s outcome should things go south for him between now and Election Day.

From David Weigel: Trump recently pointed to several court cases nationwide in which voter ID laws have been thrown out, saying the decisions “open the door to fraud” in November. “If the election is rigged, I would not be surprised,” he told the Post during a Tuesday interview.  “The voter ID situation has turned out to be a very unfair development. We may have people vote 10 times.”

  • These comments are emerging as a new pattern for Trump: At an Ohio rally yesterday, he declared to voters that “the election is going to be rigged.” Later in the day he beseeched Republicans during a Fox News appearance to start “watching closely” or the election will be “taken away from us” through fraud. (His only evidence for fraud consisted of “precincts where there were practically nobody voting for the Republican” in the 2012 election.) “If you don’t have voter ID, you can just keep voting and voting and voting.”
  • Meanwhile, his more “freewheeling” supporters went even further: Radio host Alex Jones warned that the Obama administration might “cancel the election,” and off-again, on-again adviser Roger Stone told Breitbart News that Trump needed to be ready for a “violent post-election contest.” “I think he’s gotta put them on notice that their inauguration will be rhetorical,” Stone said. “I mean civil disobedience, not violence, but it will be a bloodbath. The government will be shut down if they attempt to steal this and swear Hillary in.”

“Like much of what Trump says, the ‘rigged’ riff defies the recent norms of politics,” Weigel writes. “And like of much of what he says, it taps into fears that long predate his campaign. One is a growing and unsubstantiated worry that elections are being stolen. The other is a broader unease that regular Americans are being cheated by Wall Street, by Washington and by a duplicitous media … Those worries have found voice in both parties this year, with Trump and [Sanders] both rallying their supporters during the Republican and Democratic primaries with the assessment that the system is rigged. Now, Trump is reviving the theme to highlight the possibility of voter fraud in November.”

— Rep. Richard Hanna (R-N.Y.), a moderate Republican who is retiring this year, told Syracuse.com that he will support Clinton, calling Trump unfit to lead and citing Trump’s criticism of Khizr Khan. “I think Trump is a national embarrassment,” Hanna said. “Is he really the guy you want to have the nuclear codes?” Hanna is the first sitting GOP member of Congress to publicly announce he is voting for Clinton. (The Post’s Aaron Blake is keeping a full list of Republican Trump defectors here.)

–In his most vocal condemnation yet, Obama yesterday denounced Trump and calling on Republican leaders who repeatedly denounce Trump’s statements to cut ties with their party’s candidate. Greg Jaffe: “’The question they have to ask themselves is if you are repeatedly having to say in very strong terms that what he has to say is unacceptable, why are you still endorsing him?’ Obama asked. ‘What does this say about your party that he is your standard-bearer?’ Speaking at a White House news conference with Singapore’s prime minister, Obama said the ‘words were not enough,’ and called on [John] McCain, Ryan and McConnell to withdraw their endorsements of Trump. ‘There has to be a point at which you say this is not somebody you can support as president of the United States,’ Obama said. ‘The fact that that has not happened makes some of these denunciations ring hollow.’”

  • “Reflecting on the novelty of his own remarks, Obama said his warning stands apart from his criticism of his own Republican presidential rivals, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, with whom he disagreed on ‘certain policy issues’ but whose qualifications and ‘basic decency’ he didn’t dispute.” (Isaac Stanley-Becker and Sean Sullivan)

— Meanwhile, the Trump campaign wants its Capitol Hill allies to defend his heavily criticized remarks about the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan. Sean Sullivan: “In an email sent to congressional supporters this week with the subject line ‘Urgent Pivot: Khan and TPs,’ Trump’s director of congressional affairs Scott Mason writes that ‘the media is working against our efforts and our messaging specifically as it relates to the tragic death of Capt. Humayun Khan.’ He encourages backers to incorporate the campaign’s talking points in press releases and social media posts. 

— Trump said that women who are sexually harassed in the workplace have three options: taking action within their company; leaving their employer while still seeking retribution; or quitting. From Katie Zezima and Philip Rucker: “I think it’s got to be up to the individual,” Trump said in the Post interview. “It also depends on what’s available. There may be a better alternative; then there may not. If there’s not a better alternative, then you stay. But it could be there’s a better alternative where you’re taken care of better.”

Trump’s comments came after he drew criticism Monday for saying that if his daughter Ivanka were sexually harassed it would be “up to her to find a new situation.” ‘I would like to think she would find another career or find another company if that was the case,’ Trump said.” Eric Trump later echoed those comments, saying “Ivanka is a strong, powerful woman. She wouldn’t allow herself to be, you know, subjected to it.”

  • The comments sparked swift condemnation from women’s rights advocates, as well as Gretchen Carlson, the former Fox News television host whose sexual-harassment lawsuit against Fox chief executive Roger Ailes led to his ouster.

— Ivanka Trump did not respond directly to her father or brother’s comments, but said in a statement: “Harassment in general, sexual or otherwise, is inexcusable. At our companies, we do not tolerate harassment of any kind. Our policies both on paper and in practice require that every complaint be fully investigated and if claims are substantiated, our H.R. team takes swift disciplinary action.” (New York Times)

—  U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel ruled that the Trump University lawsuit can proceed to trial in November, rejecting the businessman’s request for summary judgment and delivering a victory to the students who alleged they were defrauded by Trump’s now-defunct university.” From Rosalind S. Helderman: “Curiel ruled there was indeed enough evidence that Trump University ads were false and that Trump had a hand in their creation that a jury should be allowed to decide the issue. At the same time, Curiel rejected a request by media organizations to allow the public release of hours of videotaped testimony by Trump in a California lawsuit over Trump University … The two rulings offered Trump mixed results from the federal judge he has repeatedly attacked as biased, accusing Curiel of being unable to rule fairly in the case because of his Mexican heritage.”

— Trump hired a new state director in North Carolina, bringing on board former Romney staffer Jason Simmons as the campaign seeks to shore up support in the southern swing state.  “Jason Simmons, 35, has ostensibly taken over for Earl Phillip, an outspoken African-American conservative who Trump hired last fall to run North Carolina for him,” Politico’s Eli Stokols reports.

— Trump proposed to DOUBLE Clinton’s infrastructure plans: “Trump took a step to Clinton’s left on Tuesday, saying that he would like to spend at least twice as much as his Democratic opponent has proposed to invest in new infrastructure as part of his plan to stimulate the United States’ economy,” NYT’s Alan Rappeport reports. “The idea takes a page out of the progressive playbook and is another indication that the Republican presidential nominee is prepared to break with the fiscal conservatism that his party has evangelized over the past eight years.

  • “We have bridges that are falling down,” Trump said on the Fox Business Network. “We have many, many bridges that are in danger of falling.” “Mrs. Clinton has called for $275 billion in infrastructure spending over five years,” Rappeport notes. “That would include the creation of a national infrastructure bank, which would be given $25 billion to support loans and loan guarantees. In sum, the plan would support about $500 billion in spending on infrastructure.
  • He was vague when asked how he’d pay for his massive plan, saying he would create an infrastructure fund that would be supported by government bonds that investors and citizens could purchase. “We’ll get a fund. We’ll make a phenomenal deal with the low interest rates …” 

Trump stands next to a genie lamp as the lights of his Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City. (AP/Mike Derer)

Trump was thundering about a minority group, linking its members to murderers and what he predicted would be an epic crime wave in America. His opponents raged in response—some slamming him as a racist—but Trump dismissed them as blind, ignorant of the real world. No, this is not a scene from a recent rally … Trump … appeared before a panel on Indian gaming with a prepared statement that was level-headed and raised regulatory concerns in a mature way. But, in his opening words, Trump … went off-script, even questioning the heritage of some Native American casino operators, saying they ‘don’t look like Indians’ and launching into a tirade about ‘rampant’ criminal activities on reservations.”

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