NATION POLITICS ESSENTIAL WASHINGTON

Donald Trump campaigns Thursday in New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton swings into the battleground state of Iowa for an event in Des Moines.

  • Employees at Donald Trump's California golf course say he wanted to fire women who weren't pretty enough.
  • Trump leads Clinton in marriages, 3 to 1. That may not stop him from attacking hers
  • Detroit News, another paper that has long backed GOP nominees,endorses Gary Johnson
  • White supremacist David Duke on Trump's rise: "I'm winning."
  • Trump has paid off the severance he owed to former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.

Trump leads Clinton in marriages, 3 to 1. That may not stop him from attacking hers

 (John Locher / Associated Press)
(John Locher / Associated Press)

Will he bring up the blue dress? The thong? The cigar?

Donald Trump appears to be setting the stage to start attacking Hillary Clinton for her husband's marital infidelities, whose sordid details engrossed the nation during the end of Bill Clinton's presidency.

At the debate this week, Trump held back -- out of respect for their daughter, Chelsea, he said.

But in an interview Thursday with NH1 in New Hampshire, Trump said that at the next debate he might not exercise such restraint.

"We’ll see what happens," he said.

In recent days, Trump's advisors have said that when the candidates spar again on Oct. 9 in St. Louis, he might raise Bill Clinton's famous affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Taking the low road would carry political risks for Trump. It could be seen as a move of desperation. It could earn Hillary Clinton sympathy from female voters.

And it could open a conversation about Trump's less-than-perfect marital history.

In 1991, after Trump's affair with actress Marla Maples became public, his wife, Ivana, divorced him. Trump married Maples two years later, then divorced her in 1999. He married his current wife, Melania, in 2005. 

So if Trump raises Bill Clinton's history, is it fair for Hillary Clinton to mention Trump's?

"I guess," Trump said in the interview. "I mean, they can, but it's a lot different than his."

"I have a very good history,” he said.

'Don't vote for Trump,' says USA Today in first presidential endorsement in its history

USA Today broke its 34-year tradition of not endorsing in a presidential race, publishing a scathing argument against voting for Donald Trump.

The editorial board unanimously found Trump "unfit for the presidency" and the editorial, published Thursday, goes on to list the reasons why, among them: his "erratic" behavior and his "checkered" business past.

The anti-Trump sentiment does not translate into an enthusiastic Clinton endorsement. The piece notes that although some editorial board members admire her record, others have "serious reservations about Clinton’s sense of entitlement, her lack of candor and her extreme carelessness in handling classified information."

The editorial urges readers to follow their convictions, whether that means voting for Clinton, a third-party candidate, a write-in or by focusing on down-ticket races.

The piece ends on an unequivocal note.

"Whatever you do, however, resist the siren song of a dangerous demagogue. By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump."

Also on Thursday night, USA Today published an op-ed by Trump's vice presidential pick, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who praises his running mate as leading a movement similar to the one catalyzed by Ronald Reagan.

The newspaper also published a companion piece to its editorial, explaining its reason for breaking precedent and weighing in on the presidential race this year.

Turns out there's one thing Trump and Clinton agree on

 (Tobias Schwarz / AFP-Getty Images)
(Tobias Schwarz / AFP-Getty Images)

While Gary Johnson continues to struggle to pick a foreign leader he admires, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both had a name ready when quizzed Thursday. Turns out they share admiration for German Chancellor Angela Merkel — with some caveats.

Clinton, when asked by reporters to name a favorite world leader, briefly feigned ignorance with a laugh before naming Merkel.

"Her leadership and steadiness on the euro crisis and her bravery in the face of the refugee crisis is something that I am impressed by," Clinton said.

With a subtle dig at Johnson, who was unable to name a leader he admires during a town hall Wednesday, she volunteered: "We could talk about lots of different leaders if you want to." 

The Merkel pick also was a tweak at Trump, who has called Clinton "America's Angela Merkel," an attempt to link the Democratic presidential nominee with the German leader's decision to welcome more than a million refugees from Syria and elsewhere.

But on Thursday, Trump named Merkel as a world leader he also admired. He quickly added a caveat that her immigration policies were "a very tragic mistake."

For his part, Johnson tried to make a point about his inability to come up with a pick. 

Hillary Clinton blasts Donald Trump for report on Cuba business

 (Brendan Smialowski / AFP-Getty Images)
(Brendan Smialowski / AFP-Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton said a report that Donald Trump attempted to do business in Cuba during the embargo suggests he puts “his personal and business interests ahead of the laws and the values and the policies of the United States of America.”

The Newsweek report said Trump’s hotel company had explored investing on the Caribbean island in 1998 while it was ruled by Fidel Castro.

The trip to Cuba by consultants working on Trump’s behalf was falsely characterized as a charitable effort to avoid detection, the report said.

Clinton told reporters aboard her campaign plane that the actions appear “to violate U.S. law, certainly flout American foreign policy, and he has consistently misled people in responding to questions about whether he was attempting to do business in Cuba.”

Although Clinton has supported lifting the embargo – something the Obama administration has taken steps to do – she said the evidence showed Trump “put himself first.”

Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said Thursday that “they paid money in 1998” but that Trump did not invest in Cuba in the end.

“He decided not to invest there,” she said.

Detroit News, another paper that has long backed GOP nominees, endorses Gary Johnson

 (Molly Riley / AFP-Getty Images)
(Molly Riley / AFP-Getty Images)

Another major newspaper that's a near-lock for Republican nominees seeking an endorsement has decided Donald Trump is not a viable option. 

The benefactor: Libertarian Gary Johnson. 

In an sharply worded editorial, the Detroit News editorial board backed Johnson, setting aside the newspaper’s 143-year history of supporting only Republicans.

"We abandon that long and estimable tradition this year for one reason: Donald J. Trump," the board wrote Thursday.

"Trump is unprincipled, unstable and quite possibly dangerous. He cannot be president," wrote the board, noting that Johnson is the "longest of long shots," but a better option than Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Trump's campaign is aiming to flip traditionally Democratic Michigan into his column with appeals to working-class white men.

Editorial boards that traditionally support Republican nominees have eschewed backing Trump, citing some of his charged rhetoric toward Mexican immigrants and women. 

Clinton has received the endorsements of the Dallas Morning News and the Arizona Republic, newspapers that for decades have been stalwart supporters of GOP nominees. 

Last month, Johnson also received the support of the Union Leader in New Hampshire, which for the first time in more than 100 years did not endorse a Republican. 

The endorsement on Thursday comes even as Johnson has had stumbles as of late. A day earlier, he had trouble naming a foreign leader he admires. 

Watch: Donald Trump rallies supporters in New Hampshire

Support for death penalty drops to a four-decade low

Support for the death penalty, which peaked in the mid-1990s, has dropped to a four-decade low, according to new data from the non-partisan Pew Research Center.

Just under half of respondents, 49%, said they supported capital punishment in murder cases, Pew found, while 42% said they opposed it.

The last time opposition to the death penalty was this high was in 1972, the year the Supreme Court in effect banned capital punishment -- a hiatus that lasted four years.

Support for the death penalty climbed steadily from the mid-1970s through the 1980s as crime rates rose to historic highs.

Since crime began a long, steady decline in the late 1990s, backing for capital punishment has dropped in polls, and juries have grown increasingly unlikely to impose it. Since 2009, six states have ended capital punishment, bringing to 19 the number that do not authorize it.

As with many issues, a large gap exists between Democrats and Republicans on capital punishment, and that division has widened in recent years. Support for the death penalty has dropped much more among Democrats, only about one-third of whom still back it. Among Republicans, more than seven in 10 back capital punishment. Independents split evenly on the issue.

Men support the death penalty more than women, whites more than blacks or Latinos and older Americans more than those under 30. A more detailed study by Pew last year found that just over seven in 10 Americans said there was some risk of an innocent person being executed and just over six in 10 said they did not believe the death penalty deters serious crime. 

The Pew survey was conducted Aug. 23-Sept. 2 and has a margin of error of 3.7 percentage points in either direction. 

Hillary Clinton pumps up early voting in Iowa, where she trails Donald Trump

 (Joe Burbank / Associated Press)
(Joe Burbank / Associated Press)

Hillary Clinton didn’t want to leave anything to chance when she arrived here for a rally on the first day of early voting in Iowa. Her campaign stationed volunteers around her downtown rally to direct members of the audience to nearby polling places to submit their ballots.

“When you finish here, you can go vote,” she told the crowd of roughly 2,000. “We can be on the path to victory here in Iowa.”

President Obama won Iowa in 2008 and 2012, but Clinton is trailing Donald Trump in the state, lagging five percentage points behind in a Real Clear Politics average of polls.

She hopes voting early can give her campaign an edge, but mail ballots haven’t kept pace with previous elections.

About 54,000 Democrats had requested absentee ballots as of Friday, according to the Iowa secretary of state’s office. That’s far more than Republican voters, but about half of what Democratic voters requested at this point four years ago. Democrats rely on early voting more than Republicans in this state.

Nationwide, early voting could play a larger role in the campaign, said Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida who runs the Elections Project. The earliest ballots could be cast was in North  Carolina, where residents could vote by mail as soon as Sept. 9.

“The volume of early voting is going to be very high in a number of states,” he said.

Census data show 30% of voters cast ballots before election day in 2008, and 32% in 2012. McDonald estimates about 34% will do the same this year as the method becomes more popular and widely available.

David Chico, 64, has been going door to door and working the phones for the Clinton campaign to get more early voters in Iowa.

“It’s more convenient,” he said, and ensures the ballot gets cast even if someone runs into a scheduling conflict on election day.

Joanne Peterson, 59, has already filled out her absentee ballot and mailed it in for Clinton. She likes the “comfort level it gives the party” – she’s one fewer person the campaign needs to spend precious resources on to ensure she votes.

“The more people that have voted, the better,” she said. “It’s a boost of energy. I try to help.”

Harry Reid's latest insult of Donald Trump: He is Republicans' 'Frankenstein monster'

 (David Becker/Getty Images)
(David Becker/Getty Images)

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid has had a lot to say about Donald Trump. 

He bluntly called the Republican nominee a "racist" ahead of Monday's debate. Last week, it was "scammer in chief," as Trump continued to resist releasing his tax returns. In August, he challenged Trump to take a U.S. citizenship test. 

And on Thursday, Reid used a few minutes on the Senate floor to deliver his latest invective against Trump, and widened it to include the Republican Party. 

"The only thing Republicans have done this years was to prove that they are the party of Trump," Reid said. "They are the party of Trump. They say they're not the party of Trump, but they are. They would have us believe that Trump just fell out of the sky and somehow mysteriously became the nominee of the party."

Trump, he said, is "their Frankenstein monster."

Trump's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reid, the Nevada Democrat who has served in the Senate since 1987, will retire next year and has used these final months of his tenure to assail Trump and Republicans. 

In Nevada, he has also interjected himself in the state's competitive race for his seat, stumping for former Atty. Gen. Catherine Cortez Masto in her contest with GOP Rep. Joe Heck. 

On Thursday, Reid, an ardent defender of President Obama, also castigated Republicans for their treatment of the outgoing president. 

"Everything, anything that President Obama wanted — they filibustered things they agreed with just to slow things down," Reid said. "Trump is no anomaly."

Watch live: Hillary Clinton holds rally in Iowa

'Star Trek' cast and crew, including J.J. Abrams and George Takei, sign an open letter against Trump

Live long and...vote for Hillary Clinton?

A bevy of "Star Trek" cast and crew members from multiple generations signed an open letter Thursday by the Facebook group "Trek Against Trump," blasting GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump and arguing against a third-party "protest vote" in the November election.

"Never has there been a presidential candidate who stands in such complete opposition to the ideals of the Star Trek universe as Donald Trump," reads the letter from fans of the popular television and movie franchise.

George Takei, who played Hikaru Sulu in the original television series, signed on, along with family members of some of "Star Trek's" now deceased icons, including series creator Gene Roddenberry and Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr. Spock.

Names of those featured in the more recent film reboot also appear, including director and producer J.J. Abrams (a prolific Clinton backer) and actors Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana and Zachary Quinto.

The message makes a particularly pointed plea to Trekkies not to consider voting for a third-party candidate for president.

"We have heard people say they will vote Green or Libertarian or not at all because the two major candidates are equally flawed. That is both illogical and inaccurate," the letter reads.

The letter ends with a plea to register to vote -- with a space-themed flourish: "Vote for a future of enlightenment and inclusion, a future that will someday lead us to the stars."

This post was updated at 5:06 p.m. with the correct name of the group. It is "Trek Against Trump," not "Trekkies Against Trump."

Green Party's Jill Stein needles Libertarian by naming her favorite world leaders

 (Alex Brandon / Associated Press)
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein poked fun at Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson's struggle to name his favorite world leader by listing a few of her favorites in a series of tweets Thursday.

When a few news outlets pointed out that no one she listed had been elected to lead a country, Stein responded in a tweet.

"I admire real leaders, not politicians who sell their people out to the global economic elite for power," she said.

The hashtag #AleppoMoment was also inspired by Johnson after he recently failed to recognize the name of the city at the heart of the bloody Syrian civil war. He used the phrase "Aleppo moment" himself to describe his mind going blank again Wednesday when he was asked to name a foreign leader he respected during a town hall on MSNBC.

Gary Johnson's campaign manager downplays world leader gaffe

Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson's campaign manager downplayed on Thursday the former New Mexico governor's inability to name his favorite foreign leader in an MSNBC town hall a night earlier.

"Yes, asked to name a favorite foreign leader, Gov. Johnson didn’t quickly name a specific favorite," Ron Nielson wrote on Facebook. "That really doesn’t mean much. Most Americans and certainly most political candidates would have to stop and think before responding, with the possible exception of a Donald Trump who is enthralled by [Russian President Vladimir] Putin."

Johnson was repeatedly pressed by "Hardball" host Chris Matthews on Wednesday to name his favorite foreign leader, but couldn't come up with one.

"I guess I'm having an Aleppo moment," Johnson said, a nod to what appeared to be his unfamiliarity with the war-torn Syrian city during an interview this month.

Corey Lewandowski no longer getting paid by Trump campaign

Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski at the 2016 Republican National Convention. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski at the 2016 Republican National Convention. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

CNN contributor Corey Lewandowski is no longer receiving severance payments from his time as Donald Trump's campaign manager, Politico reported Thursday.

CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota announced when introducing Lewandowski on Thursday morning that the campaign had paid the amount remaining on his contract in a lump sum.

"In previous appearances we have told you that Corey was still receiving severance from the Trump campaign," Camerota said. "That is no longer the case, we are told. Are you done with those payments?"

"Amazing, everything comes to an end," Lewandowski said.

Politico reported that the decision came from the Trump campaign, which considered news of the payments a "distraction."

CNN hired Lewandowski to provide commentary on the presidential race after he was fired as Trump's campaign manager in June, but ethical questions have lingered over Lewandowski's continued involvement with the campaign, the severance payments and the nondisclosure agreement he signed with the campaign.

New Yorker magazine drops Trump onto a beauty queen's stage

He’s beauty, he’s grace, he’s ... Miss Congeniality? That’s how the New Yorker portrayed Donald Trump on its upcoming magazine cover, complete with the bouquet of roses, swimsuit and royal crown.

“Watching the debate, the artist Barry Blitt recognized a significant moment in the presidential campaign,” Françoise Mouly wrote in the preview of the cover. Of all Trump’s controversial beliefs, Blitt said, his misogyny "might just be his Achilles’ heel."

Trump’s feud with former Miss Universe Alicia Machado won the illustration spot after he continued his criticism of her following Monday’s presidential debate, when Hillary Clinton mentioned his attacks against her.

After Machado took the Miss Universe pageant crown in 1996, Trump called her “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping” because he believed she had gained too much weight and because of her Latino heritage. On Wednesday, he reiterated that criticism when he told Fox News that her appearance had become a "real problem."

The magazine publishes on Oct. 10.

Trump's rise draws white supremacists into political mainstream: 'I am winning,' says David Duke

David Duke, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, at home in Louisiana. (Lisa Mascaro / Los Angeles Times)
David Duke, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, at home in Louisiana. (Lisa Mascaro / Los Angeles Times)

David Duke worked the Louisiana gun show like a preacher pursuing souls, cornering potential voters as they picked over firearms and ammo.

The robes are gone and the rhetoric is softer than during his grand wizard days. But Duke has not shed his relentless proselytizing for the white race, even though voters have repeatedly rejected the former Ku Klux Klan leader’s attempts to regain public office.

Duke is undeterred. As he sees it, this is the moment. After last running for election in 1999, he’s back with a long-shot bid for Louisiana’s open U.S. Senate seat.

And his reason for optimism is clear: Donald Trump.

“I love it,” said Duke, 66, tearing into a chicken garlic pizza at a restaurant later. “The fact that Donald Trump’s doing so well, it proves that I’m winning. I am winning.”

Employees at Trump's California golf course say he wanted to fire women who weren't pretty enough

Donald Trump poses next to the 11th hole at Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes in 2005. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Donald Trump poses next to the 11th hole at Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes in 2005. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Donald Trump wanted only the pretty ones, his employees said.

After the Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes opened for play in 2005, its world-famous owner didn’t stop by more than a few times a year to visit the course hugging the coast of the Pacific.

When Trump did visit, the club’s managers went on alert. They scheduled the young, thin, pretty women on staff to work the clubhouse restaurant  — because when Trump saw less-attractive women working at his club, according to court records, he wanted them fired.

"I had witnessed Donald Trump tell managers many times while he was visiting the club that restaurant hostesses were 'not pretty enough' and that they should be fired and replaced with more attractive women,” Hayley Strozier, who was director of catering at the club until 2008, said in a sworn declaration. 

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