Trump Threatens to ‘Totally Destroy’ North Korea

President Trump threatened that, if the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies, “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” the New York Times reports.

Said Trump: “No nation on earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles. The U.S. has great strength and patience but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

He added: “Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself.”

Trump Lawyer Denies Any Role In Russian Meddling

“Michael Cohen, a former lawyer for President Trump’s business and a close associate of the president, met with the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday morning and planned to vigorously deny that he had played any role in Russia’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election,” the Washington Post reports.

“Cohen has made similar denials in the past but his statement to the panel, which was expected in a closed-door session, was made under the penalty of perjury.”

Republican Governors Launch a ‘News’ Site

Associated Press: “The Republican Governors Association has quietly launched an online publication that looks like a media outlet and is branded as such on social media. The Free Telegraph blares headlines about the virtues of GOP governors, while framing Democrats negatively. It asks readers to sign up for breaking news alerts. It launched in the summer bearing no acknowledgement that it was a product of an official party committee whose sole purpose is to get more Republicans elected.”

“Only after the Associated Press inquired about the site last week was a disclosure added to The Free Telegraph’s pages identifying the publication’s partisan source.”

McCain Faces a New Test of His Principles

David Leonhardt: “When his colleagues ignored him, McCain cast the vote that defeated their health bill two days later, with a dramatic 1:30 a.m. thumbs-down. The vote was remarkable because McCain is a conservative, reluctant to tax people for social programs, as the Affordable Care Act does. But he believed in a higher principle: the Senate’s credibility.”

“The latest Trumpcare, known as Graham-Cassidy, risks the Senate’s credibility again. There has been none of the regular process that McCain demanded, not even a Congressional Budget Office analysis. No major medical group — not doctors, nurses, hospitals or advocates for the treatment of cancer, diabetes or birth defects — supports the bill.

“Passing it would violate every standard that McCain laid down. Yet Republican leaders are rushing toward a vote.”

Will Paul Manafort Flip?

Renato Mariotti: “We now know the Mueller probe will likely result in charges. More importantly, the tactic that Mueller is using — telling Manafort that he will be charged — is generally used when prosecutors are trying to get a defendant to ‘flip.’ This strongly suggests what we’ve long expected — that Mueller is trying to ‘flip’ Manafort.”

“What causes a target to ‘flip’? The #1 factor is assembling sufficient evidence to make it likely that the person will be convicted and serve a prison sentence. Mueller’s team is being as aggressive as possible to indicate to Manafort that he should be concerned about that possibility. Subpoenaing Manafort’s aides and his lawyer… shows his focus on Manafort.”

Lawfare: “Note that if Manafort cooperates, we may not see anything public for a long time to come. Delay, that is, may be a sign of success. But in the absence of cooperation, the fireworks may be about to begin.”

Quote of the Day

“We’ve had nine months. That’s my answer. We’ve had nine months to get it done and we haven’t. Is it my problem now that we only have a week? It’s not my problem.”

— Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), in an interview with CNN, still insisting the GOP health care bill go through regular order.

‘One Vote Away’ from Repealing Obamacare

Politico: “While the proposal written by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) remains short of 50 votes, it also has just one hard ‘no’ vote, from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, and another expected ‘no’ in Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. Three ‘no’ votes would kill the bill, but in an encouraging sign for repeal proponents, no one is stepping forward yet to deliver that final nail.”

“Instead, wavering senators remain on the sidelines. Conservative Sen. Mike Lee of Utah is warming to the legislation, which would turn federal health care funding into block grants for states and eliminate Obamacare’s coverage mandate, while Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is undecided… A Republican senator who has spoken to GOP leaders said Murkowski is likely the bellwether. This senator said that GOP leaders believe other undecided senators will support the bill if it is put on the floor and that McConnell has begun whipping the bill because he ‘realizes that there’s life out there.’”

Said the senator: “We are one vote away from doing this thing.”

Playbook: “The Senate’s ability to pass the bill using a simple majority expires on Sept. 30 — 11 days from now. Generally speaking, the same people have the same problems with this bill that they had with the last. This time, there’s a true deadline. Does that end date change the dynamics enough?”

Populist Nationalists Kept at Bay by Kelly

Mike Allen: “Who is around President Trump matters much more than with most presidents, because of his impulsiveness, lack of ideology and willingness to make snap decisions. So if you wonder why President Trump has been willing to seriously entertain — and in one case so far, execute — policies that would’ve been anathema to Campaign Trump, it’s partly because of the feedback loop built by Chief of Staff John Kelly and the process adhered to by the national security team before briefing Trump.”

“Trump’s exposure to populist nationalism is now close to zero, and look for the latest version of Trump to be on display when he speaks to the U.N. General Assembly at 10:30 this morning.”

Trump Son Gives Up Secret Service Protection

Donald Trump Jr. has elected to forgo protection by the Secret Service, the New York Times reports.

“The agency ceased protecting Mr. Trump, who lives in New York City and is an executive at the Trump Organization, last week. Mr. Trump, an avid camper and hunter, is said to be seeking more privacy than he can expect with a contingent of agents accompanying him everywhere.”

Parties Prep for Battle Against Hackers

“The political world is officially obsessed with cybersecurity in 2017 — especially the Democrats burned by the hacking of their committees and operatives during the 2016 election,” Politico reports.

“Much of the Democratic Party’s permanent apparatus has already changed its day-to-day operations as a result, while beginning the slow process of persuading its decentralized, startup-like campaign ecosystem to follow suit.”

“House Democrats’ top strategists have urged consultants working on their campaigns to start using Wickr, the end-to-end encrypted messaging app used inside the DCCC — but the consulting community has been slow to give up email and embrace the program… Security measures vary widely from race to race, leaving many still vulnerable to hacking, and members of both parties say they are seeking centralized clearinghouses of anti-hacking information and services.”

Trump Privately Tries to Mend Fences with GOP Senators

CNN: “The private outreach is part of a more concerted White House effort to repair relations Trump damaged with his own party over a tumultuous August, following the failure of the GOP effort to repeal Obamacare and a slew of White House controversies, including the President’s controversial handling of a deadly protest in Charlottesville.”

“And it now comes at a critical time: The White House is desperately trying to revive its health care push before a September 30 deadline — and needs senators like Murkowski to salvage the President’s agenda. But of course, it hasn’t always been smooth — especially as Trump has tried to circumvent Republicans and cut deals with Democratic leaders — over the GOP leadership’s objections.”

Republicans Considering $1.5 Trillion Tax Cut

Senate Republicans are considering writing a budget that would allow for up to $1.5 trillion in tax cuts over the next decade, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Axios: “Writing a budget is the first step in working on tax legislation and adhering to its guidelines would let a tax bill pass the Senate with a simple majority. Details on the GOP tax plan are due next week. Putting a tax cut in the budget would put off decisions on how to pay for the cuts.”

Tillerson’s State Department Is Adrift

“As President Trump faces a collection of world leaders at his first United Nations General Assembly this week, U.S. officials are working behind the scenes to allay fears among foreign delegations that America’s foreign policy decisions have become too dominated by the West Wing, and that the U.S. State Department, where many crucial positions remain unfilled, is adrift,” NBC News reports.

“At the center of this concern is Tillerson, whose diminishing role in the administration is being blamed for the State Department’s lagging clout… Three senior State Department officials told NBC News that there a number of meetings with foreign delegations at this week’s UNGA that Tillerson either ignored or refused to attend.”