POLITICO Playbook: The latest September surprise – POLITICO – Politico

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TWO DAYS BEFORE the first presidential debate between President DONALD TRUMP and JOE BIDEN, and just 37 days ahead of Election Day, The New York Times dropped what it promises is the first of several stories detailing TRUMP’S tax returns — a prize journalists, congressional committees and prosecutors have been seeking for years.

THE REVELATION seems to have caught the White House flat-footed, with the president left claiming that the paper hadn’t contacted him — though his company’s lawyer is quoted in the story — and that the article was “fake news.” The BIDEN campaign has already cut an online ad in response.

NYT’S RUSS BUETTNER, SUSANNE CRAIG and MIKE MCINTIRE: “Long-concealed Records Show Trump’s Chronic Losses and Years of Tax Avoidance”: “Donald J. Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750. He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.

“As the president wages a re-election campaign that polls say he is in danger of losing, his finances are under stress, beset by losses and hundreds of millions of dollars in debt coming due that he has personally guaranteed. Also hanging over him is a decade-long audit battle with the Internal Revenue Service over the legitimacy of a $72.9 million tax refund that he claimed, and received, after declaring huge losses. An adverse ruling could cost him more than $100 million. …

“Together with related financial documents and legal filings, the records offer the most detailed look yet inside the president’s business empire. They reveal the hollowness, but also the wizardry, behind the self-made-billionaire image — honed through his star turn on ‘The Apprentice’ — that helped propel him to the White House and that still undergirds the loyalty of many in his base. Ultimately, Mr. Trump has been more successful playing a business mogul than being one in real life. …

“The picture that perhaps emerges most starkly from the mountain of figures and tax schedules prepared by Mr. Trump’s accountants is of a businessman-president in a tightening financial vise. Most of Mr. Trump’s core enterprises — from his constellation of golf courses to his conservative-magnet hotel in Washington — report losing millions, if not tens of millions, of dollars year after year.

“His revenue from ‘The Apprentice’ and from licensing deals is drying up, and several years ago he sold nearly all the stocks that now might have helped him plug holes in his struggling properties. The tax audit looms. And within the next four years, more than $300 million in loans — obligations for which he is personally responsible — will come due.” NYTKey takeaways from the report

TO GIVE A SENSE OF HOW ABSOLUTELY CRAZY this election is shaping up to be, Speaker NANCY PELOSI sent an email to her House colleagues Sunday afternoon urging Democrats to focus on flipping House state delegations in case neither BIDEN nor TRUMP wins an Electoral College majority. In that case, the Constitution says the election goes to the winner of the majority of House delegations — not an overall majority within the chamber itself. Congress is scheduled to certify the results — and vote if no one has a majority — on Jan. 6. Read this terrific CRS report

— PELOSI’S NOTE: “[Trump] was suggesting that if GOP leaders can hold up the final election results so that Joe Biden doesn’t get 270 electoral votes certified, the 12th Amendment would require the House to decide the presidential contest. But instead of giving every Member of Congress a vote, the 12th Amendment gives each state one vote, which is determined by a vote of the state’s delegation. In other words, how many state delegations the Democrats win in this upcoming election could determine who our next President is. …

“The Constitution says that a candidate must receive a majority of the state delegations to win. We must achieve that majority of delegations or keep the Republicans from doing so. Because we cannot leave anything to chance, House Majority PAC is doing everything it can to win more delegations for Democrats. It’s sad we have to have to plan this way, but it’s what we must do to ensure the election is not stolen.

“That’s why it’s so important that we support House Majority PAC right now. We have outstanding candidates in these key districts and they have built strong campaigns, but we must forcefully ensure they win. Simply put, this strategy to protect our democracy and elect Joe Biden will take an all out effort and resources.

“Many of you have already been patriotically generous supporting House Democrats and the Biden-Harris ticket. I’m asking you to help with this delegation strategy as well. Thank you for your generosity, your support, and your consideration.” More from John Bresnahan, Kyle Cheney and Heather Caygle

Good Monday morning.

NEW DCCC AD RESERVATIONS: THE HOUSE DEMOCRATIC ELECTION ARM is spending deep into GOP territory, putting up $330,000 on Little Rock broadcast — JOYCE ELLIOTT is looking to knock off Rep. FRENCH HILL (R-Ark.). And the DCCC has reserved $1,072,000 on Rochester, Mankato and La Crosse-Eau Claire cable — an effort to boost DAN FEEHAN, who is running against Rep. JIM HAGEDORN (R-Minn.).

AP: “Trump ex-campaign boss hospitalized amid threat to harm self,” by Jonathan Lemire and Tracey Spencer with a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., dateline: “President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Brad Parscale has been hospitalized after he threatened to harm himself, according to Florida police and campaign officials.

“Police officers talked Parscale out of his Fort Lauderdale home after his wife called police to say that he had multiple firearms and was threatening to hurt himself when he was hospitalized Sunday under the state’s Baker Act. That act allows anyone deemed to be a threat to themselves or others to be detained for 72 hours for psychiatric evaluation.”

SCOTUS WATCH … MICHAEL KRUSE in Summerfield, N.C.: “Can a Supreme Court Pick Fix Trump’s Female Voter Problem?”: “Women I talked to at the event here last week said they didn’t care that much that the president pointedly is putting a woman on the nation’s highest court. ‘I just want the best person for the job; if it’s a woman, great,’ shrugged JoAnn Houghtby, from down the road in this growing swing-state suburb north of Greensboro. But Trump himself framed it precisely that way from the start. ‘It will be a woman,’ he said, at an airport rally, also in North Carolina, a couple of hours away in Fayetteville—the day after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. ‘It should be a woman.’

“The bluntness of Trump’s intent was a reflection of the political stakes. Trump, after all, won four years ago because of (white) women just as much as (white) men, and he could lose in November because he’s lost enough support of enough women in enough of the places that matter the most. His pick for the court marks a readymade chance for him to change the topic from the still-raging pandemic (by nearly all accounts the biggest drag on his re-election hopes) and remind conservatives of the most consequential accomplishment of his first term (steering the federal judiciary to the right for a generation to come). Just as importantly, though, it offered the possibility to bolster support with not only the most ardently pro-life women in his base but women in general, and college-educated suburban women in particular.”

“Political Groups Begin Dueling Over Barrett in a Costly Clash,” by NYT’s Ken Vogel, Maggie Haberman and Jeremy Peters: “The declarations of political war started coming fast as President Trump stepped to the podium in the Rose Garden of the White House on Saturday evening to announce his nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

“By the time she had finished her speech accepting the nomination, less than 30 minutes later, more than a dozen groups supporting and opposing her nomination had announced, or were poised to announce, advertising and grass-roots advocacy campaigns that were expected to bombard airwaves, Facebook feeds and Senate inboxes.

“If activists’ fervor and spending commitments hold, the battle over Judge Barrett’s nomination could near $40 million in spending — and potentially much more — and help define the final five weeks of the presidential campaign between Mr. Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr.”

STATE OF PLAY — “With five weeks left, Trump plays defense in states he won in 2016,” by WaPo’s Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey: “The presidential battleground has shifted on the margins five weeks before Election Day, with President Trump still on defense as the contest with Democratic nominee Joe Biden is fought almost entirely in places that Trump won in 2016.

“Of the 13 states where Biden spent money on television last week, according to Biden’s head of paid media Patrick Bonsignore, only three — Minnesota, New Hampshire and Nevada — were won by Hillary Clinton four years ago. Of the 12 states where Trump is spending, all but Minnesota and Nevada are places that he won in 2016.

“Biden has committed millions to advertising in Georgia and Iowa, where Trump won in 2016, while Trump’s campaign continues to decrease his investment in other states, including New Hampshire and Michigan, as the candidates prepare for the first presidential debate Tuesday.” WaPo

WAPO’S JENNA JOHNSON in Sandusky, Ohio: “‘All in’ for Trump: These White men, the strongest Trump supporters, say they can’t be swayed”

ALEX ISENSTADT: “Big money flows to Trump to counter Bloomberg”: “The newest super PAC supporting Donald Trump’s reelection has spent more than $80 million in the last month, providing a badly needed boost to the president as his campaign faces a cash crunch and he confronts an avalanche of liberal money.

“Preserve America, an outfit that has the backing of GOP megadonors, has suddenly become one of the biggest outside group spenders of the 2020 campaign. Its most recent investment is a $25 million TV ad buy featuring a Kenosha, Wisconsin man accusing Democrat Joe Biden of refusing to stand up to rioters who burned down his small business.

“The infusion has given Trump some cover as an array of liberal super PACs descend on swing states. Billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has launched a $100 million blitz in Florida – a massive sum for a single state. But Biden’s advertising advantage over Trump is more concerning for the president. Biden out-paced Trump more than 2-to-1 on the airwaves last week, according to the media tracking firm Advertising Analytics.” POLITICO

“Ex-White House aide launches ads aimed at getting mothers to vote for Trump,” by Nolan McCaskill and Daniel Lippman

TRUMP’S MONDAY — The president will give an update on the U.S. coronavirus testing strategy at 2 p.m. in the Rose Garden.

ON THE TRAIL … Sen. KAMALA HARRIS (D-Calif.) will travel to Raleigh, N.C. She will deliver a speech on the Supreme Court. Harris will also participate in a “Sister to Sister meets Shop Talk” roundtable.

HAPPENING TONIGHT … GEORGE W. BUSH and BARACK OBAMA will be participating in the Partnership for Public Service’s Service to America Medals at 9 p.m. Register

PETER BAKER and SUSAN GLASSER in POLITICO Magazine: “James Baker’s 7 Rules for Running Washington”

CORONAVIRUS RAGING — “Global Coronavirus Death Toll on Cusp of One Million,” by WSJ’s Adam Martin: “The U.S. reported 36,919 new coronavirus cases Sunday as the world-wide death toll approached one million. India, meanwhile, became the second country after the U.S. to have reported more than six million cases nationally.

“The new U.S. cases bring the nation’s total reported infections to about 7.12 million, with more than 204,750 dead, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. World-wide, 33 million have been infected and more than 997,700 have died.” WSJ

— NBC’S MONICA ALBA: “Redfield voices alarm over influence of Trump’s new coronavirus task force adviser”: “The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has grown increasingly concerned that President Donald Trump, pushed by a new member of his coronavirus task force, is sharing incorrect information with the public on the pandemic.

“Dr. Robert Redfield, who leads the CDC, suggested in a conversation with a colleague Friday that Dr. Scott Atlas is arming Trump with misleading data on a range of issues including questioning the efficacy of masks, whether young people are susceptible to the virus and the potential benefits of herd immunity.

“‘Everything he says is false,’ Redfield said of Atlas during a phone call made in public on a commercial airline and overheard by NBC News. Redfield acknowledged after the flight from Atlanta to Washington D.C. that he was speaking about Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no background in infectious diseases or public health. Atlas was brought on to the White House task force in August.” NBC

THE LATEST CRISIS — “Some Workers Face Looming Cutoffs in Health Insurance,” by NYT’s Reed Abselon

USPS UPDATE — “Third U.S. judge bars Postal Service delivery cuts before November presidential election,” by WaPo’s Spencer Hsu: “A third federal judge on Sunday ordered the U.S. Postal Service to halt changes that have delayed mail delivery nationwide, handing the latest judicial rebuke to unilateral service cuts that critics allege would suppress mail-in voting in November’s elections.

“U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of Washington, D.C., sided with the states of New York, Hawaii and New Jersey and the cities of New York and San Francisco. They alleged that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy disrupted operations without first submitting changes to the Postal Regulatory Commission, and told Congress he had no intention of returning removed collection boxes or high-speed sorting equipment.

“The opinion was the latest by a court to conclude that Postal Service changes were likely to risk the timely delivery of election mail and hinder state responses to the novel coronavirus pandemic.” WaPo

AP/MADISON, Wis.: “Appellate court halts Wisconsin ballot-counting extension,” by Todd Richmond: “A federal appeals court on Sunday temporarily halted a six-day extension for counting absentee ballots in Wisconsin’s presidential election, a momentary victory for Republicans and President Donald Trump in the key presidential battleground state.

“As it stands, ballots will now be due by 8 p.m. on Election Day. A lower court judge had sided with Democrats and their allies to extend the deadline until Nov. 9. Democrats sought more time as a way to help deal with an expected historic high number of absentee ballots. …

“U.S. District Judge William Conley ruled Sept. 21 that ballots that arrive up to six days after Election Day will count as long as they’re postmarked by Election Day. Sunday’s action puts Conley’s order on hold until the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals or U.S. Supreme Court issues any further action.” AP

— FOR THOSE KEEPING TRACK: This is Amy Coney Barrett’s court, though it’s not clear from Sunday’s filing whether or how she voted on the matter.

LATEST ON TIKTOK — “TikTok Download Ban Is Blocked by Judge,” by WSJ’s Katy Stech Ferek and Georgia Wells: “A federal judge blocked the Trump administration’s attempt to ban TikTok downloads in the U.S., giving the Chinese-owned app a short-term victory as it scrambles to ensure its future while caught in a battle of brinkmanship between global superpowers.

“The ruling by Judge Carl Nichols of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., gives TikTok owner ByteDance Ltd. more time to get approval from U.S. and Chinese authorities for a pending deal that includes Oracle Corp. and Walmart Inc. The court drama on Sunday, with the ruling landing less than four hours before the ban was to take effect, was a new chapter in a protracted saga still without a clear ending.”

BUSINESS BURST — “Amazon’s Late Prime Day, Now in October, Set to Fuel Record End to Year,” by WSJ’s Sebastian Herrera: “For years, Amazon’s annual Prime Day shopping extravaganza has pulled in sales during the lull of summer shopping. This year, it could help the company shatter its fourth-quarter earnings record.

“Amazon.com Inc.early Monday confirmed that Prime Day will take place on Oct. 13 and 14, marking the second straight year the company has opted to extend the sales period to two days. While Amazon doesn’t disclose its Prime Day revenue, some analysts estimated it was more than $7 billion in 2019. Amazon said it sold more than 175 million items during the event last year, surpassing its sales for the previous Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.” WSJ

MEDIAWATCH … NYT’S BEN SMITH column: “Trump Wants to Discredit the Election. This Nerd Could Stop Him.”

— LAT ED BOARD: “Editorial: An examination of The Times’ failures on race, our apology and a path forward”

Send tips to Eli Okun and Garrett Ross at [email protected].

SPOTTED: National security adviser Robert O’Brien chatting briefly with former national security adviser Susan Rice midday Sunday when they ran into each other on the tennis court at St. Albans Tennis Center. It was their first time meeting.

TRANSITION — Molly Mitchell is joining the National Democratic Redistricting Committee as states press secretary ahead of the 2021 gerrymandering fight. She most recently was at Hamilton Place Strategies, and is a DCCC 2018 and Axios alum.

WEEKEND WEDDING — Ashley Highlander, finance director at the Republican Attorneys General Association, and Tony Trenzeluk, director of government affairs at Sentry, got married Sunday in a small ceremony with family and friends outside of Lexington, Ky. South Carolina A.G. Alan Wilson officiated. Pic

BIRTHDAY OF THE DAY: Helen Aguirre Ferré, executive director of the Florida GOP. A trend she thinks doesn’t get enough attention: “Mexican drug cartels have been preying on the country’s avocado industry and extorting many growers of their profits. Not all the avocados exported from the U.S. stem from the predatory drug lords affecting the Michoacán agriculture industry, but it does give one pause. Personally, I love Florida avocados.” Playbook Q&A

BIRTHDAYS: Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) is 63 … Jen O’Malley Dillon, Joe Biden’s campaign manager … Brandon Hynes … Jay Byers … Laura Quinn, president and CIO of Catalist (h/ts Teresa Vilmain) … Scott Mulhauser, partner at Bully Pulpit Interactive (h/ts Jon Haber) … AP’s Andy Taylor … Steve Schmidt is 5-0 … L.A. Times’ Del Quentin Wilber … Facebook’s Julie Bone … E&E News’ Christian Vasquez … Antonio Weiss is 54 … Texas Tribune D.C. bureau chief Abby Livingston … Brent McIntosh is 47 … Chris Geidner, director of strategy at the Justice Collaborative … Matt Corridoni, press secretary at Senate Majority PAC, is 31 (h/t Rachel Irwin) … Katie List … Bloomberg’s Evelyn Erskine … Kelsie Wendelberger … Chrys Kefalas, VP of brand strategy at the National Association of Manufacturers, is 41 … Dave Davis … Brian Rogers, partner at Bullpen Strategy Group … Molly Crosby of Planned Parenthood … Rohan Patel … Rory Murphy of Squire Patton Boggs … Bhavna Ghia … Poppy MacDonald, president of USAFacts … Google’s Mattingly Messina … Ron Meyer …

… Jon Summers, president of Summers Strategies … Dan Crawford, campaign comms director and national press secretary at the Hub Project (h/t Zack DiGregorio) … Ben Greenman is 51 … Katharine Pichardo-Erskine, president of Hamilton Campaign Network (h/t Enyibel Rodriguez) … WaPo’s Emily Heil … POLITICO’s Patrick D’Silva … Laura Santucci … Kat Kane, senior partner at Fenway Strategies … former Rep. Curt Clawson (R-Fla.) is 61 … former Rep. Steve Largent (R-Okla.) is 66 … Jeff Barnard (h/t Nigel Duara) … former Vermont Gov. Madeleine Kunin is 87 … Kate Sheckells … Suhani Sanwar … Ayelet Cohen … Hortense Goulard … Jane Abraham … Calley Means … Nadia Szold (h/t proud brother Daniel Lippman) … Will Thompson … Dorothy Lutz … Peacock TV’s Joanna Brenner … Darren Grubb … Melissa Charbonneau … Katie Smith Allen … Tony Case … Marty Machowsky … Martin Edwin Andersen … Phil Gallo … Gabi Renz … Simon Winchester is 76 … Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina … Czech President Miloš Zeman … Serbian PM Ana Brnabić

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