THE BIG PICTURE — “Echoes of Watergate in Trump tumult,” by AP’s Calvin Woodward and Nancy Benac: “The White House seethes with intrigue and backstabbing as aides hunt for the anonymous Deep (state) Throat among them. A president feels besieged by tormentors — Bob Woodward is driving him crazy — so he tends his version of an enemies list, wondering aloud if he should rid himself of his attorney general or the special prosecutor or both.
“For months, the Trump administration and its scandals have carried whiffs of Watergate and drawn comparisons to the characters and crimes of the Nixon era. But this week, history did not just repeat itself, it climbed out of the dustbin and returned in the flesh.
“There was John Dean again, testifying on the Hill, warning anew about a cancer on the presidency. Nearly every element in Trump’s trouble has a Watergate parallel. Special prosecutor Robert Mueller is leading an independent investigation sparked by a break-in at the [DNC], the same target that opened the Watergate can of worms, though this time the burglary was digital and linked to Moscow, not the Oval Office.” AP
THE SEARCH IS ON — “White House aides narrow search for anonymous op-ed writer to a few people, source says,” by CNN’s Jim Acosta and Sophie Tatum: “Aides to President Donald Trump believe they have the search for the anonymous author of the New York Times op-ed that shook the political world down to a few individuals, a source close to the White House told CNN on Friday.
“Trump is still ‘obsessed’ with finding the person, though he is being counseled by White House chief of staff John Kelly to let it pass, to avoid bringing more attention to the claims in the op-ed. … In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Trump believes the individual is someone from the national security sector of the government.” CNN
— SIOUX FALLS ARGUS LEADER: “[Trump] even asked South Dakota’s two U.S. Senators, Republicans Mike Rounds and John Thune, to draft policies for new libel laws. ‘Hey Mike and John, could you do me a favor?’ Trump said. ‘Create some libel laws that when people say stuff bad about you, you could sue them.’” Argus Leader
CLIP AND SAVE: TOP-ED – NIKKI HALEY in WaPo, “When I challenge the president, I do it directly. My anonymous colleague should have, too”.
DEPT. OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES — @katierogers: “[email protected] is getting hundreds of (largely positive) calls post Sarah Sanders tweets and human switchboard is his new job now.” 25-second video … @kenvogel: “UPDATE: I have received 300+ voicemails this morning, & they’re still coming. I’ve answered about 10 such calls live, & am thinking about transferring to the NYT switchboard team.”
Good Saturday morning. The Nationals and the Cubs will play a double header this afternoon at 3:05 p.m. after last night’s game got canceled because of the weather.
ISAAC DOVERE in Urbana, Illinois and ANDREW RESTUCCIA: “Obama vs. Trump: The clash everyone’s waited for arrives”: “Barack Obama went hard. Donald Trump hardly responded. Friday was the day Republicans and Democrats and pretty much every reporter and political obsessive has been dreaming of — the two presidents who couldn’t be more different, who are both the throbbing hearts of their own bases and the nightmare of the others’ — going head to head.
“Six weeks before the midterms that are existential for both of their visions of the future, Obama unleashed for the first time with an indictment of Trump and Republicans that stopped just short of calling them traitors to the American ideal. Trump, who’s been swiping at Obama on Twitter and other appearances almost every chance he gets and months ago said Democrats who didn’t clap for his state of the union address had committed treason, made a joke about sleeping through it. A few hours later, he congratulated himself for the joke.
“‘That seems to be the quote of the day, by the way, which I sort of figured,’ Trump told donors in South Dakota.” POLITICO
BACK IN THE MIX — “Hillary Clinton Is Headlining A Fundraiser For First-Time Women Candidates,” by BuzzFeed’s Ruby Cramer: “The New York City fundraiser, slated for Sept. 12, will benefit five women viewed as some of the most compelling congressional candidates in competitive races this fall: Lauren Underwood of Illinois, Gina Ortiz Jones of Texas, Liuba Grechen Shirley of New York, Haley Stevens of Michigan, and Xochitl Torres Small of New Mexico. …
“The fundraiser, advertised with Clinton as its ‘special guest,’ will be held at the home of fashion executive Lauren Santo Domingo, a New York donor who most recently hosted an event on behalf of California Sen. Kamala Harris, a potential 2020 presidential candidate.” BuzzFeed
SHUTDOWN SHOWDOWN — “Ryan, McConnell try to coax Trump away from shutdown — using props and flattery,” by WaPo’s Damian Paletta, Erica Werner and Josh Dawsey: “The top two Republicans in Congress arrived at the White House this week armed with props aimed at flattering and cajoling President Trump out of shutting down the government at the end of this month.
“House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) showed the president glossy photos of a wall under construction along the U.S.-Mexico border. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) brought an article from the Washington Examiner that described Trump as brilliantly handling the current budget process, and portrayed the GOP as unified and breaking through years of dysfunction.
“Their message, according to two people briefed on the meeting: The budget process is going smoothly, the wall is already being built, and there’s no need to shut down the government. Instead, they sought to persuade Trump to put off a fight for more border wall money until after the November midterm elections, promising to try then to get him the outcome he wants.” WaPo
ANDREW RESTUCCIA, NANCY SCOLA and CHRIS CADELAGO: “Behind Trump’s obsession with social media suppression”: “Increasingly isolated and prone to conspiracy theories, President Trump in recent weeks has become fixated on the idea that the country’s largest tech giants — Google, Facebook, and Twitter — are silencing his conservative base.
“Trump has come to view his supposed mistreatment at the hands of Silicon Valley as emblematic of a wide-reaching campaign to undermine his presidency, according to a half dozen current and former administration officials and others close to the White House.
“Even though he doesn’t use a computer and is seen by those around him as tech neophyte, the president knows a powerful wedge issue when he sees one. As he has throughout his political career, Trump is amplifying for maximum potency a more nuanced idea already coursing through the conservative ecosystem – just as he’s cast the press as an ‘enemy of the people’ and dismissed NFL players who kneel during the national anthem in protest of police brutality.
“‘What President Trump is an expert at is gauging what his supporters care about,’ said Andy Surabian, a Republican strategist and former White House aide. ‘This issue has really risen up – on par with issues like immigration, judges and the Second Amendment – in terms of issues that Trump supporters care about.’” POLITICO
— “Top states say they haven’t been invited to the Justice Dept.’s meeting about tech companies,” by WaPo’s Tony Romm and Brian Fung: “Democratic attorneys general from key states said they have not yet been invited by the Justice Department to its upcoming review of tech companies, prompting criticism that the Trump administration’s inquiry is a politically charged attack on the tech industry.
“U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions first announced on Wednesday that he was gathering state attorneys general to examine whether companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter are ‘intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas’ online. The goal of the meeting, the Justice Department said in a statement at the time, is to follow up on a hearing that had just taken place on Capitol Hill with Facebook and Twitter and consult with ‘a number’ of states to figure out if Silicon Valley’s conduct is ‘hurting competition.’” WaPo
SCOTUS WATCH — “Harris and Booker borrow Trump’s tactics in Supreme Court fracas,” by David Siders and Elana Schor: “It hardly mattered for their primary audience that Kamala Harris offered no firm evidence to support one of her sharpest lines of questioning. Or that Cory Booker’s ‘Spartacus’ uprising amounted to a demand for documents that had already been authorized for release. One thing Democrats are learning from President Donald Trump as the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh draw to a close: Floating an incendiary charge, with little to no factual basis, can draw the spotlight and force the opposition to prove a negative.
“In the run-up to 2020, it isn’t the details that resonate with base voters. It’s the show. Democrats were never expected to derail Kavanaugh’s nomination in a Republican-held Congress. But his confirmation hearings served as a test for Harris and Booker ahead of the 2020 presidential campaign. And in a pre-primary measured in social media mentions and YouTube-ready moments, Harris and Booker this week came out ahead.” POLITICO
— “Kavanaugh gives no ground on abortion,” by Adam Cancryn: “Democrats knew one of their best chances to upend Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court this week was to draw out an admission he would curtail abortion rights. But Kavanaugh eluded them, tiptoeing carefully around the topic over three days of testimony.
“He managed to brush aside questions about his closely guarded views on abortion and emerged unscathed from the release of a leaked email that showed him arguing abortion rights weren’t settled law. In the end, Democrats never scored the soundbite they probably needed to flip the two Republican senators who support abortion rights.” POLITICO
THE INVESTIGATIONS – “Manafort Weighing Plea Deal to Avoid New Criminal Trial, Source Says,” by Bloomberg’s David Voreacos and Neil Weinberg: “Paul Manafort’s lawyers have talked to U.S. prosecutors about a possible guilty plea to avert a second criminal trial set to begin in Washington this month, according to a person familiar with the matter. … The negotiations over a potential plea deal have centered on which charges Manafort might admit and the length of the sentence to be recommended by prosecutors working for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the person familiar with the matter said. Manafort, 69, already faces as long as 10 years in prison under advisory sentencing guidelines in the Virginia case.” Bloomberg
— “Trump Executives Face U.S. Campaign-Finance Probe, Source Says,” by Bloomberg’s Greg Farrell and Christian Berthelsen: “Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether anyone in the Trump Organization violated campaign-finance laws, in a follow-up to their conviction last month of Michael Cohen, according to a person familiar with the matter. The inquiry, not previously reported, shows that the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office doesn’t intend to stand down following the guilty plea from Trump’s longtime personal lawyer.” Bloomberg
— “Papadopoulos sentenced to 14 days in prison,” by Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney: “George Papadopoulos, the former Trump campaign adviser whose loose talk overseas about Russians having ‘dirt’ on Hillary Clinton triggered an FBI investigation into election interference, was sentenced Friday to 14 days in federal prison for lying to the FBI early in that inquiry.
“Papadopoulos was also given 12 months of supervised release, commonly known as probation, and must perform 200 hours of community service. He was also ordered to pay a $9,500 fine.” POLITICO
— “Excerpts From the New York Times Interview With George Papadopoulos”: “Mr. Papadopoulos said he lied to federal investigators because he wanted to protect himself and the Trump campaign from ‘what was probably an illegal action or dangerous information.’” NYT
SPOTTED: George Papadopoulos at DCA on Friday at Lickety Split near Gate 17 – pic
THE LATEST ON MICHAEL COHEN — “Michael Cohen Seeks to Rescind Nondisclosure Agreement With Stormy Daniels,” by WSJ’s Joe Palazzolo and Michael Rothfeld: “Michael Cohen told a federal judge in Los Angeles on Friday that he has agreed to rescind the nondisclosure agreement that legally requires former adult-film star Stephanie Clifford to keep silent about an alleged sexual encounter with President Trump. … A lawyer for Mr. Cohen on Friday also sent a letter to Ms. Clifford’s lawyer demanding the return of the $130,000 to the shell company that paid her.” WSJ
— “‘I may never have a normal life again’: Stormy Daniels speaks out in rare television interview,” by WaPo’s Elise Viebeck. WaPo
TRUMP’S SATURDAY — The president has no public events scheduled.
CLICKER — “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 10 keepers
YIKES – “Ex-Mistress Accuses Longtime RNC Leader Elliott Broidy Of Physical, Sexual Abuse, Complaint Shows,” by Yashar Ali in HuffPost: “Shera Bechard, a former Playboy Playmate who had a four-year affair with former [RNC] Deputy Chairman Elliott Broidy, says he subjected her to physical and sexual abuse and that he exposed her to herpes. These allegations are in a complaint that remains sealed under court order in a lawsuit filed by Bechard contending that Broidy ceased making payments on a $1.6 million hush money agreement. The complaint contains significant allegations about Broidy’s sexual and medical history and his relationship with President Donald Trump.
“Bechard says that Broidy called the president ‘an idiot, who could not even pronounce the names of countries correctly’ but that Broidy ‘admired Mr. Trump’s uncanny ability to sexually abuse women and get away with it.’ Bechard also alleges that Broidy was emotionally abusive and told her that she couldn’t date or be seen with other men, and that he wanted her financially dependent on him. She also says in the complaint that Broidy told her she was ‘fat and needed to fix it’ and pushed her to undergo liposuction.” HuffPost
FOR YOUR RADAR — “Trump Administration Discussed Coup Plans With Rebel Venezuelan Officers,” by NYT’s Ernesto Londoño and Nicholas Casey: “The Trump administration held secret meetings with rebellious military officers from Venezuela over the last year to discuss their plans to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro, according to American officials and a former Venezuelan military commander who participated in the talks.
“Establishing a clandestine channel with coup plotters in Venezuela was a big gamble for Washington, given its long history of covert intervention across Latin America. … But one of the Venezuelan military commanders involved in the secret talks was hardly an ideal figure to help restore democracy: He is on the American government’s own sanctions list of corrupt officials in Venezuela.” NYT
BUSINESS BURST — WSJ’S JOHN CORRIGAN and LISA LIN: “Alibaba’s Jack Ma to Step Down as Executive Chairman”
VALLEY TALK — “Air Force is looking into Elon Musk’s pot smoking: Source,” by CNBC’s Michael Sheetz and Ryan Ruggiero: “The U.S. Air Force has begun looking into Elon Musk apparently smoking weed on a podcast, a source at the military branch told CNBC on Friday. Musk’s SpaceX provides services for the Air Force, with multiple high-value contracts. Marijuana use is prohibited for someone with a government security clearance, Fox Business reported, and is the central issue in the Air Force’s inquiry.
“An Air Force spokesperson, in a statement to CNBC, said: ‘We will need time to determine the facts and the appropriate process to handle the situation.’” CNBC
MEDIAWATCH — “Conspiracy Theories Made Alex Jones Very Rich. They May Bring Him Down,” by NYT’s Elizabeth Williamson and Emily Steel in Austin: “Mr. Jones likes to portray his digital channel, Infowars, as a media outlet, and he is quick to wrap himself in the First Amendment. But in business terms, it is more accurate to describe Infowars as an online store that uses Mr. Jones’s commentary to move merchandise. Its revenue comes primarily from the sale of a grab-bag of health-enhancement and survivalist products that Mr. Jones hawks constantly.” NYT
GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Daniel Lippman, filing from New York City:
— “Blood and Oil: Mexico’s Drug Cartels and the Gasoline Industry,” by Seth Harp in Rolling Stone: “Mexico’s drug cartels are moving into the gasoline industry — infiltrating the national oil company, selling stolen fuel on the black market and engaging in open war with the military. Can the country’s new populist president find a way to contain the chaos?” RS
— “Judging by the Cover: How the Magazine Industry’s Identity Crisis Is Playing Out on Its Front Page,” by Alyssa Bereznak in the Ringer: “Print may be dying, but the magazine cover still plays an essential role in defining—and sustaining—a media brand. Can the cover outlive the magazine?” The Ringer
— “Hollywood’s New Golden Age,” by Kevin Lincoln in Topic: “The cast and crew at this LA retirement home are in their twilight years, but the show must go on.” Topic
— “Blighted by Empire: What the British Did to India,” by Omer Aziz reviewing “Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India,” by Shashi Tharoor, in the LA Review of Books: “Before the British occupation, India was a culturally and economically prosperous civilization. According to economist Angus Maddison, in the 18th century India accounted for 23 percent of the world’s GDP, a percentage greater than all of Europe combined. By the time the British packed up their things and sailed home in 1947, that number had fallen to under three percent”. LARB … $20.14 on Amazon (h/t TheBrowser.com)
— “How Duterte Used Facebook To Fuel the Philippine Drug War,” by Davey Alba in BuzzFeed: “‘We were seduced, we were lured, we were hooked, and then, when we became captive audiences, we were manipulated to see what other people — people with vested interests and evil motives of power and domination — wanted us to see.’” BuzzFeed
— “The Obvious Suspect,” by Slate’s Will Saletan: “The quest to unmask the New York Times op-ed writer has been filled with speculation. But the article’s prose points to one person in particular.” Slate
— “The Case for a National Cybersecurity Agency,” by David Petraeus and Kiran Sridhar in POLITICO’s The Agenda: “One recent study found that a single coordinated attack on the East Coast power grid could leave parts of the region without power for months, cause thousands of deaths due to the failure of health and safety systems, and cost the U.S. economy almost $250 billion.” POLITICO
— “Why We Cross the Border in El Paso,” by Victoria Blanco in Catapult: “I felt my mom’s grip tighten around my hand as dozens surged across the Rio Grande, the water waist-high. Adults held children in their arms or carried them in rebozos across their backs. We watched as the Border Patrol agents caught and detained some people while dozens more ran past.” Catapult
— “A Day in the Life of New York City’s Subway Helpers,” by John Surico in Vice — per Longreads.com’s description: “When New York’s complicated public transportation system gets delayed or overwhelming, commuters get frustrated and they complain. Now the Metropolitan Transit Authority sends special Customer Service Ambassadors into busy stations to help the lost, offer commuters alternate routes, fix MetroCards and offer a simple ‘I’m sorry.’” Vice
— “Invasive Reptiles Are Taking Over Florida—and Devouring Its Birds Along the Way,” by Chris Sweeney in Audubon: “Birds like Roseate Spoonbills and Burrowing Owls are ending up in the stomachs of hungry pythons and nile monitors. Is it too late to stop them?” Audubon (h/t Longform.org)
— “On going on and on and on,” by Paul Sagar in Aeon: “The fantasy of living forever is just a fig leaf for the fear of death – and comes at great personal cost.” Aeon
SPOTTED: Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) sipping a drink at Boston’s Logan Airport Hilton restaurant Friday night. “He sat by himself, had pizza and a beer,” according to our tipster … Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Paul Wolfowitz at the Alfred Friendly Press Partners annual benefit gala at National Press Club — pic
TRANSITION — Jessica Seale, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)’s longtime digital director, is leaving the Hill to join Nikki Haley’s team at the State Department’s mission to the United Nations where she will be digital director.
BIRTHWEEK (was Wednesday): David Yarkin, an Ed Rendell alum who is now president of Government Sourcing Solutions (hat tip: Margaret Carlson)
BIRTHDAYS: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is 68 (h/t Wendy Anderson) … Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is 77 … Steve McMahon, CEO and founding partner of Purple Strategies … Richard Cullen, EVP of public affairs at FP1 Strategies … Madigan Schmidt … Jonathan Rosen, principal at BerlinRosen … Morgan Hook, SVP at SKDKnickerbocker … Jeremy Kirkpatrick … Will Brunelle … Sharon Páez, partner at Hilltop Public Solutions … Harry Liberman … Politico’s Jeremy White … Rhea Beal … Judy Diaz … former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) is 64 … Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) is 68 … Jillian Harding … Andrei Berman … Matthew McGregor … Michael Pratt … WSJ’s Akane Otani … Zack Ford … Jason Mattera … Lex Wexner … Howard Lorber … Ali Pardo, comms director for Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.), is 3-0 (h/ts Rebecca Coffman and Ninio Fetalvo) … Alexis Marks Mosher, who works in government affairs for Apple (h/t Mitchell Rivard) … Jess Tocco, director of the national public affairs practice at Rasky Partners …
… Samantha Osborne Reynolds, senior director of digital strategy at Advoc8 (h/t Blake Waggoner) … Vox’s Andrew Golis … David Dixon of the Dixon Davis Media Group (h/t Jon Haber) … Jill McClain … Carey Hickox … Bob Bierman … Dan Gurley … Dylan McDowell … Will Batson … Axios’ Alayna Treene (h/t Shannon Vavra) … Marco Romeo … Kim Coalter … Mike Danylak … former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) is 8-0 … Steph Tong … Jaime Lennon … Jasi Edwards … Sara Fellenz … Lenore Cho … Nick Bouknight … Al Hubbard … Brookly McLaughlin … Andrea Hoffman … Diedtra Henderson … Paul Fletcher … Charlotte Spears Ivancic … Michael Johns … Brandon Wright … JoAnne Anton … Gail Leftwich Kitch … Don Schimanski (h/ts Teresa Vilmain)
THE SHOWS, by @MattMackowiak, filing from Austin:
“Face the Nation”: Vice President Mike Pence … Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) … DNC chair Tom Perez … RNC chair Ronna McDaniel. Panel: Mark Leibovich, Amy Walter, Rachael Bade and David Nakamura
“Fox News Sunday”: Vice President Mike Pence … Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). Panel: Katie Pavlich, Liz Marlantes, Josh Holmes and Juan Williams
“State of the Union”: Kellyanne Conway … Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) … Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.). Panel: David Urban, Nina Turner, Bill Kristol and Jen Psaki
“Meet the Press”: Kellyanne Conway … Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) … Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Panel: Cornell Belcher, Erick Erickson, Danielle Pletka and Katy Tur
“This Week”: George Papadopoulos. Panel: Jonathan Karl, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Stephanie Cutter, Lanhee Chen and Michelle Goldberg
“Sunday Morning Futures”: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) … House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) … Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) … James Kallstrom … Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.)
“Inside Politics”: Panel: Mike Shear, Karoun Demirjian, Toluse Olorunnipa and Maeve Reston
“Fareed Zakaria GPS”: John Kerry … former Swedish prime minister Carl Bildt … Jonathan Haidt
“Reliable Sources”: Panel: Patrick Healy, Carl Bernstein and Tony Schwartz … Olivia Nuzzi … Sarah Ellison … Stephen J. Adler
“Al Punto”: Adolfo Franco and Phillip Arroyo … Maná musicians Fher Olvera and Alex Gonzales … Human Rights Watch Americas Division director Jose Vivanco … congressional candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar (D-Calif.)
“The Communicators”: Public Knowledge CEO Berin Szoka and Public Knowledge SVP Harold Feld … “Newsmakers”: Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, questioned by Alan Bjerga and Helena Bottemiller Evich … “Q&A”: Author and Atlantic assistant editor Zachary Wood.
“Kasie DC”: Stuart Stevens … congressional candidate Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.) … Jeff Mason … Yamiche Alcindor … Karine Jean-Pierre … Jo Ling Kent … Rick Tyler … Ken Dilanian … Dave Wasserman … John Harwood … Nate Boyer
“Mack on Politics” weekly politics podcast with Matt Mackowiak (download on iTunes, Google Play, or Stitcher or listen at MackOnPolitics.com): Dave Wasserman.