Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington
Good morning! Chris Matthews, a Fortune reporter, is filling in today for Tory Newmyer.
August is silly season in American politics, and the campaigns of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are making it one for the ages.
Trump began the week by “softening” on the core policy proposal of his campaign, his pledge to deport the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants living in America today. He argued that instead of building a new deportation force to facilitate all those deportations, we could be more selective in whom we make leave, as long as those folks pay back taxes and with the understanding that they wouldn’t become citizens.
If that sounds an awful lot like the plans put forward by Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio during the primaries that Trump mocked and derided, that’s because they are. And this fact wasn’t lost on Jeb, as he told an interviewer Thursday that Trump’s evolution on the issue makes him sound like a “typical politician.”
Clinton, for her part, remains dogged by questions over whether she gave special access to Clinton Foundation donors during her time as Secretary of State. A report from the Associated Press alleged as much, finding that “more than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money—either personally or through companies or groups—to the Clinton Foundation.” The Clinton campaign says these numbers are cherry picked, but even if this is the case, it’s tough to see the Clinton Foundation narrative as anything but one massive unforced error by both Bill and Hillary.
But the Clinton campaign can survive such sloppy maneuvering while running against an opponent with as much baggage as has Donald Trump. Case in point was her speech Thursday in which she discussed the “alt-right,” the catch-all term for various different groups of Donald Trump supporters on the white-nationalist fringe. Clinton was able to mine some pretty colorful quotes from Donald Trump supporters like Louisiana politician and former Klansman David Duke.
These are the very same supporters Donald Trump won with his fiery rhetoric on immigration in the primaries, and the sort of supporters he is hoping to distance himself from this fall. But with polls showing that most voters think Donald Trump, or at least some of his rhetoric, is racist, distancing Donald Trump from “white nationalist” and other racist groups in the voters’ mind, while not softening his stance on immigration, will be a tough task indeed.
• Judge to Clinton: Release e-mails from week of Benghazi
A federal judge this week gave the State Department a few weeks to release all of the e-mails it has that were sent between the White House and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the week of the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya. The e-mails are part of a collection of several thousand messages recently recovered by the FBI. Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server during her time as secretary of state, and her unwillingness to release at least one batch of those messages, has been an issue since her latest presidential campaign began. Reuters
• Trump team feeling for the middle
The Washington Post reports that, as Donald Trump continues to get his new campaign leadership team up to speed, his campaign remains divided on how to proceed with regard to the candidate’s recent shifting along the political spectrum. Trump is reportedly receiving conflicting advice over whether he should continue drifting toward moderation, as his recent shifting stance on immigration would suggest, or if he should remain firm on the far-right conservative platform that won him the GOP primary. The Washington Post (subscription required)
• Another blemish on Obama’s record in Syria?
With all of the heat President Barack Obama has taken with regard to his handling of the civil war in Syria, the last thing his legacy needed was another blemish from that debacle. Cue the recent investigation from the United Nations, which reported this week that Syrian President Bashar Assad has used chlorine gas against civilians multiple times over the past three years. That despite the fact that a key sticking point of the deal Obama signed with Assad in 2013 was Syria’s concession of turning over hundreds of tons of chemical weapons. Politico
Around the Water Cooler
• Citigroup thinks Trump could cause a global recession
A recent client note from banking giant Citigroup warned investors that a win for Donald Trump in November could lead to a global recession. The prospect of the real estate mogul taking up residence in the White House “could prolong and perhaps exacerbate policy uncertainty and deliver a shock (though perhaps short-lived) to financial markets,” according to the note, which was written by a team led by Citi’s chief economist, Willem Buiter. On the other hand, if Clinton wins the November election, as Citigroup predicts will happen, the bank’s team believes the U.S. and global economies will remain mostly unchanged. Fortune
• Trump turns to GOP establishment for transition team
Donald Trump has spent much of the past year-plus railing against establishment politicians, but he doesn’t seem to be shy about hiring from their ranks. The latest recruits to Team Trump include advisers with ties to the Bush family and Mitt Romney who are joining the transition team tasked with helping prepare for a potential Trump Administration. They include former Chris Christie chief of staff Rich Bagger, who is a former campaign adviser to both Presidents Bush, as well as former Bush adviser and Romney transition team member William Hagerty. Politico
• Dems also take advantage of ‘broken campaign-finance system’
While Democrats may preach a need for campaign-finance reform, a new Bloomberg report shows that the party has no qualms with taking advantage of the system as long as the current rules are in place. The report shows that at least $7.3 million of the $32 million raised in July by the Democratic National Committee came from donors who had already donated the maximum amount under federal campaign laws. So, what’s the loophole? A joint fundraising committee set up by the DNC and Clinton’s campaign helps direct donors’ money to state parties where the elections aren’t particularly competitive, allowing those states to then legally transfer that money to the national party. Bloomberg