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On the roster: Trump seeks to starve post office to limit mail-in voting – Dems cash in on veep announcement – See you in September: Last hopes for virus deal fade – Kevin McCarthy gets blame for Georgia debacle – 100 gallons of wishes
TRUMP SEEKS TO STARVE POST OFFICE TO LIMIT MAIL-IN VOTING
WaPo: “President Trump said Thursday that he does not want to fund the U.S. Postal Service because Democrats are seeking to expand mail-in voting during the coronavirus pandemic, making explicit the reason he has declined to approve $25 billion in emergency funding for the cash-strapped agency. ‘Now, they need that money in order to make the post office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,’ Trump said in an interview with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo. He added: ‘Now, if we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting, they just can’t have it.’ Trump has railed against mail-in balloting for months, and at a White House briefing Wednesday, he [said] that USPS’s enlarged role in the November election would perpetuate ‘one of the greatest frauds in history.’”
Trump tells Barr and prosecutor to bring Biden down quickly – TPM: “President Trump on Thursday issued an ultimatum to Attorney General Bill Barr over the months-long probe led by U.S. Attorney John Durham, whom Barr tapped last year to investigate the origins of the Russia probe. When pressed during a Fox Business Network interview on Thursday morning on his thoughts regarding the Durham probe, Trump replied that he hopes Durham’s team will do a ‘great job’ and that his team ‘is not going to be politically correct.’ … ‘Bill Barr can go down as the greatest attorney general in the history of our country, or he can go down as an average guy,’ Trump said, regarding the Durham probe. ‘We’ll see what happens.’ The President added that Barr is ‘great most of the time’ but that ‘he’ll be just another guy’ if he ‘wants to be politically correct.’ ‘(Barr and Durham) have all the answers,’ Trump said. ‘It goes all to Obama, and it goes right to Biden.’”
Johnson admits pressure to use committee to harm Biden – Fox News: “Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson said subpoenas are ‘forthcoming’ in his panel’s investigation into the origins of the Russia probe … ‘The clock is ticking, I understand folks on our side see what Democrats have done, but I am not a Democrat. I do not lie, I do not create false information, I do not create a false narrative,’ Johnson said. ‘We are dealing in facts and truth. And I hope our base wouldn’t want us to do the exact same thing – when you see what Democrats have done, with Special Counsel Robert Mueller and the impeachment.’ … Johnson, during an interview with [pro-Trump radio host] Hugh Hewitt this week, referenced some initial hesitation from Republican committee members earlier this summer, prior to giving him authority to issue subpoenas. During the interview, Johnson acknowledged that some Republicans were ‘highly concerned’ about how the investigation and the issuing of subpoenas would look ‘politically.’”
Personnel office clears Trump acceptance speech at White House – CBS News: “The U.S. Office of Special Counsel confirmed federal law does not preclude President Trump from delivering a speech at the White House to accept the GOP’s presidential nomination during this month’s Republican National Convention. The guidance from the agency came in an advisory opinion issued in response to a request from Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney of New York, the chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, concerning the Hatch Act, a federal law that governs the political activity of executive branch employees. The Office of Special Counsel is an independent agency responsible for enforcing the Hatch Act and other laws concerning federal employees. ‘The president and the vice president are not covered by any provisions of the Hatch Act,’ Erica Hamrick, deputy chief of the office’s Hatch Act Unit, told Maloney in a letter Wednesday. ‘Accordingly, the Hatch Act does not prohibit President Trump from delivering his RNC acceptance speech on White House grounds.’”
THE RULEBOOK: SEE WILSON, WOODROW
“It is of the nature of war to increase the executive at the expense of the legislative authority.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 8
TIME OUT: SALUD AL PARRILLERO
Prior to the pandemic, food writer Pati Jinich traveled to Mexico to get the backstory on a new American favorite. NYT: “At a taco stand anywhere else, carne asada is grilled meat. But in Sonora, a carne asada is the weekly gathering of friends and family, with the dish at its heart. Every component — from the dishes (the meat, the salsa, the beans, the smashed guacamole never with lime, the pillowy-soft flour tortillas) to their preparation (the cooking, the taco assembly) to everyone’s role (the parrillero, or grill master, his family members, the guests) — is treated with almost reverence. A shared culinary experience, it embodies Sonora’s agricultural way of life, bringing together the pillars of its economy: its beef, from the cattle that roam the region’s ranches, and its flour tortillas, from the wheat that blankets its fields. I learned that, to understand a carne asada, you needed to be invited to one. And that doesn’t just happen. The gatherings tend to be tight knit, with just family and close friends in attendance.”
Flag on the play? – Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM with your tips, comments or questions.
NATIONAL HEAD-TO-HEAD AVERAGE
Trump: 40.6 percent
Biden: 51.4 percent
Size of lead: Biden by 10.8 points
Change from one week ago: Biden ↓ 0.4 points, Trump no change in points
[Average includes: Monmouth University: Trump 41% – Biden 51%; Fox News: Trump 41% – Biden 49%; ABC/WaPo: Trump 44% – Biden 54%; Quinnipiac University: Trump 37% – Biden 52%; NBC News/WSJ: Trump 40% – Biden 51%.]
BATTLEGROUND POWER RANKINGS
(270 electoral votes needed to win)
Toss-up: (109 electoral votes): Wisconsin (10), Ohio (18), Florida (29), Arizona (11), Pennsylvania (20), North Carolina (15), Iowa (6)
Lean R/Likely R: (180 electoral votes)
Lean D/Likely D: (249 electoral votes)
TRUMP JOB PERFORMANCE
Average approval: 40.8 percent
Average disapproval: 56.2 percent
Net Score: -15.4 points
Change from one week ago: ↑ 0.6 points
[Average includes: Monmouth University: 42% approve – 53% disapprove; Fox News: 45% approve – 54% disapprove; ABC News/WaPo: 40% approve – 58% disapprove; Gallup: 41% approve – 56% disapprove; Quinnipiac University: 36% approve – 60% disapprove.]
[Watch Fox: New national results from the Fox News polling team will be released at 6 pm ET on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”]
GOT A WILD PITCH? READY TO THROW A FASTBALL?
We’ve brought “From the Bleachers” to video on demand thanks to Fox Nation. Each Wednesday and Friday, Producer Brianna McClelland will put Politics Editor Chris Stirewalt to the test with your questions on everything about politics, government and American history – plus whatever else is on your mind. Sign up for the Fox Nation streaming service here and send your best questions to HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM.
DEMS CASH IN ON VEEP ANNOUNCEMENT
Fox News: “Joe Biden‘s naming of Sen. Kamala Harris of California as his running mate is already paying off. The presumptive Democratic nominee and former vice president announced on Wednesday that his campaign’s raised a staggering $26 million since Tuesday’s running mate announcement. At a virtual grassroots fundraiser with Harris, Biden said that in the past 24 hours ‘we raised $26 million.’ And he noted that 150,000 of the donors were first time contributors to his presidential campaign. ‘It’s really palpable, the excitement,’ Biden emphasized. The previous record for a single Biden fundraising event appears to be $11 million, which was the amount brought in by the former vice president when he teamed up with his one-time boss, former President Barack Obama, at a combined grassroots and top-dollar donor fundraiser in late June.”
Harris’ Senate record reflects perfect partisanship – Roll Call: “Kamala Harris’s arrival in the Senate coincided with the start of the Trump administration in 2017, and the Democratic vice presidential candidate’s legislative record shows her to be a reliable soldier of the opposition party. Because of that reality, there’s been limited opportunity for crossover voting for Joe Biden’s choice of running mate, but that doesn’t mean there’s been none. Her party unity score, calculated by CQ Roll Call as the percentage of votes cast in which a lawmaker votes the same way as a majority of the members of their caucus, is north of 99 percent. Notable times that she has dissented with the party include her 2019 vote against a Middle East security package that warned against ‘precipitous withdrawal’ of U.S. military forces in Syria and Afghanistan. She was one of 22 Democratic caucus members to cast a no vote.”
John Harris: Biden’s brand is bland – Politico: “Since JFK inaugurated the television era of politics in 1960, successful presidential candidates have been theatrical candidates. The exceptions, like Gerald Ford or George H.W. Bush, had short tenures that tended to prove the rule. Winning politicians have had narrative electricity – they were performers and storytellers who could command the attention of people who loathed them no less than those who revered them. Biden promises an end to that era. The narrative drama in his performances comes largely from the possibility that he will step on his own words and create a self-damaging storyline. After marinating for 36 years in the U.S. Senate, the best that can be said about his political persona is that it is bland. What is now clear is that his claim on the presidency comes not despite blandness but in essential ways because of it.”
SEE YOU IN SEPTEMBER: LAST HOPES FOR VIRUS DEAL FADE
AP: “Americans counting on emergency coronavirus aid from Washington may have to wait until fall. Negotiations over a new virus relief package have all but ended, with the White House and congressional leaders far apart on the size, scope and approach for shoring up households, re-opening schools and launching a national strategy to contain the virus. President Donald Trump’s top negotiator, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, tried to revive stalled talks Wednesday, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer dismissed the ‘overture,’ saying the Trump administration is still refusing to meet them halfway. Congressional Republicans are largely sitting out the talks. ‘The White House is not budging,’ Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement. With the House and Senate essentially closed, and lawmakers on call to return with 24-hours notice, hopes for a swift compromise have dwindled. Instead, the politics of blame have taken hold, as the parties head into August focused on the presidential nominating conventions and lawmakers’ own reelection campaigns.”
Layoffs dip below one million – WSJ: “U.S. unemployment claims fell to less than one million last week for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S. in March, a sign the labor-market recovery is regaining steam. New applications for unemployment benefits dropped to seasonally adjusted 963,000 in the week ended Aug. 8, the Labor Department said Thursday. … The decline in jobless claims indicates layoffs are easing and hiring is picking up, said Julia Pollak, economist at job site ZipRecruiter. ‘There may now just finally be enough activity to make businesses feel confident enough to try to open their doors even though they’re running at a low capacity in most cases,’ she said. The drop in claims could also reflect waning fiscal support, Ms. Pollak said. The expiration of the extra $600 a week in benefits puts much less money in unemployed individuals’ pockets, possibly discouraging them from applying for benefits.”
Voters give U.S., Trump failing marks on virus response – Monmouth University: “President Donald Trump continues to receive poor marks for his response to the coronavirus outbreak, as a majority of the American public believes the U.S. is handling the pandemic worse than other countries. … Most Americans (52%) think the United States’ handling of the pandemic is worse than other countries. … Less than 4 in 10 (38%) Americans express confidence that the country will be able to limit the impact of the outbreak over the next few weeks. … Public opinion of Trump’s handling of the pandemic remains negative. Currently, 40% say he is doing a good job and 57% say he is doing a bad job. This rating stood at 40% good job and 54% bad job in late June.”
The Judge’s Ruling: Courts should stop Trump from spending without Congress – This week Fox News Senior Judicial Analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explains why the Treasury cannot legally borrow or spend a nickel unless it has been expressly authorized to do so by law: “Borrowing and giving away money will just postpone the day of reckoning. … But don’t hold your breath for these free-market solutions to happen. It would mean a loss of control for the government. …[The] Treasury cannot legally borrow or spend a nickel unless it has been expressly authorized to do so by law — meaning by legislation enacted by Congress. This is neither a novel nor a political observation. It is Constitutional Law 101. Thus, when the president — no matter his goals — attempts to exercise power that the Constitution has given exclusively to Congress, it is the duty of the courts to stop him.” More here.
KEVIN MCCARTHY GETS BLAME FOR GEORGIA DEBACLE
Politico: “Marjorie Taylor Greene vowed to be the left’s ‘worst nightmare’ after she won the GOP nomination for a conservative district in Georgia on Tuesday night. But House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy is the one who is most likely to be haunted by Greene. The rise of Greene — an unapologetic QAnon conspiracy theorist who has made disparaging remarks about Jews, Blacks, and Muslims — is threatening to hurt the entire party as Republicans seek to stanch their bleeding in suburbia and expand their base of support amid a national reckoning over racial inequality. Greene won a GOP primary runoff in a deep red northwest Georgia seat, all but guaranteeing her a spot in Congress next year. Now Republicans up and down the ballot will have to answer for Greene’s controversial remarks. And she’s showing no signs of softening her rhetoric. … By Wednesday, Greene was already in a Twitter war with a sitting House Republican who said there is ‘no place in Congress for these conspiracies.’ A Trump campaign spokesman then jumped to Greene’s defense.”
Pergram: The rooms where it happens (or doesn’t) – Fox News
Will Trump fire Esper or will the Pentagon boss quit first? – Bloomberg
AUDIBLE: SOUNDS SUPER SAFE
“Just as the SEALs surmounted obstacles to bring Osama bin Laden to justice, so too would the Martin County School system find a way to provide parents with a meaningful choice of in-person instruction or continued distance learning.” – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at an event promoting in-person classes.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Chris, I have been a big fan of yours for a long time. I love to hear you reminisce about food. One of the comments that has stuck in my mind is that you didn’t like the show West Wing. Can you explain why? Is there anything about the show that you did like? Finally, has there ever been a show about politics that you found acceptable in any way. Thank you, keep up the good work!” – Dawson Miller, Jasper, Ind.
[Ed. note: It’s not just the “West Wing” I can’t bear. It’s most of Aaron Sorkin’s preachy, contrived, sanctimonious television writing that plays out in stilted expository dialogue. His show “The Newsroom” must be the most overrated television product in decades. I have more than a passing knowledge about the world of cable news and can assure you the show bears little relationship to reality. Sorkin’s Jeremiah in that one is a pompous newscaster who suddenly decides to “tell it like it is.” As if what was lacking in the world of journalism today were enough gasbags who were ready to tell viewers and readers how to think and what to do. Some of Sorkin’s movies, including “The American President,” which was the basis for “The West Wing,” “Moneyball” and “A Few Good Men” have been better than his TV work. (Though try to imagine the self-righteous tomb “A Few Good Men” would have been if Jack Nicholson had not stolen the show.) I genuinely love “Charlie Wilson’s War.” And while Sorkin is certainly preaching in that one, he allows some complexity that makes the movie more satisfying than his efforts at being a liberal version of Frank Capra. Also, Alec Baldwin’s over-the-top villain in Sorkin’s “Malice” is one of my favorites of Baldwin’s portrayals. As far as good political TV, I did enjoy the first couple of seasons of “House of Cards,” which allowed itself to revel in its absurdity. The original British version of the show is excellent, as well. But “Veep” has to be my favorite recent purely political show. It can be howlingly funny, but it never fails to reinforce an important message: We’ve got a real competency problem in politics and government these days. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is just the best. Others worth a look, in no particular order: “Yes, Minister,” “The Americans” and “Spin City.” And what I consider to be the show that best captured the intersection of politics, media and government: “The Wire.”]
Share your color commentary: Email us at HALFTIMEREPORT@FOXNEWS.COM and please make sure to include your name and hometown.
100 GALLONS OF WISHES
UPI: “An aquarium in North Carolina said it drained a wishing waterfall to cash in on 14 years of tossed coins — about 100 gallons’ worth. The North Carolina Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores said employees drained the waterfall, which for 14 years served as a wishing fountain for visitors seeking to trade their coins for good luck. The aquarium said employees sifted out about 100 gallons of coins — as well as objects including eyeglasses, toys and jewelry. Officials said the money removed from the waterfall will go toward care for the animals at the facility, which has been closed to the public for nearly six months amid the COVID-19 pandemic. They said employees do not yet know exactly how much money was removed from the waterfall.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“There are 13 million Jews in the world, one-fifth of 1 percent of the world’s population. Yet 20 percent of Nobel Prize winners are Jewish, a staggering hundredfold surplus of renown and genius. This is similarly true for a myriad of other ‘everyones’ — the household names in music, literature, mathematics, physics, finance, industry, design, comedy, film and, as the doors opened, even politics.” – Charles Krauthammer (1950-2018) writing in the Washington Post on Sept. 25, 2006.
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
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