NATION POLITICS ESSENTIAL WASHINGTON

Donald Trump told supporters in Florida losing to Hillary Clinton in November would be humiliating.

  • Trump to supporters: “Wouldn't that be embarrassing to lose to 'Crooked Hillary Clinton?’”
  • Clinton jabs at Trump’s criticism of fire marshals during Colorado rally
  • Donald Trump may not be able to recover the time he lost to court voters in swing states
  • Homeland Security will give election officials pointers to better secure electronic voting machines

Hillary Clinton is content to let Donald Trump grab the attention while she campaigns

 (Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

As Donald Trump stumbles from one self-inflicted wound to the next, that other candidate in the presidential race — the one Trump has been too distracted to engage with very much — has also been out on the campaign trail, garnering much less attention as she relentlessly focuses on selling her message.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton has been doing a lot of skating — right through some notable mishaps that could have caused serious damage if she were running against a more disciplined opponent.

A week that might otherwise have been difficult for Clinton is turning into one of the best of her campaign, as her Republican rival’s troubles eclipse her own, enabling her to hit the stump unfettered, staying on message and on task in events in one hotly contested state after another, with the national polls moving in her favor.

'A sense of panic is rising' among Republicans over Trump, including talk of what to do if he quits

 (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Donald Trump’s relations with the Republican Party – and his political fortunes – worsened dramatically Wednesday, as party leaders fretted openly about the inability of his campaign staff to control him and even began to discuss what to do if their unpredictable nominee suddenly quit the race.

“A sense of panic is rising” among GOP elected officials and operatives, said Ed Rogers, a former Republican White House official.

“Serious, senior lawyers” have begun researching how the rules would work if the party had to replace Trump on the ticket, a senior GOP figure in Washington with close ties to the party hierarchy confirmed.

Serena Williams is asked about Donald Trump

 (Chris Graythen / Getty Images)
(Chris Graythen / Getty Images)

Wimbledon champion Serena Williams was asked questions about Maria Sharapova, equal pay issues, Team Great Britain flagbearer Andy Murray and one about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

The gist of the Trump question wasn’t entirely clear but the essence was: How did she, as an American, feel about a candidate like Donald Trump?

“I don’t involve myself in politics,” she said, adding, “but I think it is important we should pass the message of love, as opposed to hate.”

Local GOP tweets picture of executioner 'ready for Hillary'

The Riverside County Republican Party tweeted out a picture of a shrouded hangman holding a noose, with a caption below saying, “I’m ready for Hillary.”

According to the Riverside Press Enterprise, the tweet was sent out by the county party’s official Twitter account at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The tweet has since been removed.

Riverside County GOP Chairman Scott Mann said he was "horrified" by the tweet, and promised to take action against the person responsible.

Donald Trump's tough week could cost him in swing states, and he's running out of time to recover

 (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Debora Matthews, a 64-year-old Republican, loaded plastic grocery bags into her sport utility vehicle one day this week, down the road from where Donald Trump was entertaining a crowd at a high school auditorium. Matthews shook her head in disgust at the campaign, unable to help her 18-year-old daughter figure out whom to vote for and considering a Democrat for president for the first time in her own life.

“His mouth is digging a hole for himself that he’s falling into,” Matthews said of Trump. “It’s kind of scary.… You can’t be that way when you’re handling the lives of the people in our country.”

If Trump recovers from one of his worst weeks as a candidate, he will need to cement, rather than repel, voters like Matthews in swing states like Virginia.

Interviews with dozens of voters here and in Arizona, another battleground, suggest that many of Trump’s core supporters remain locked in and are willing to ignore, forgive or defend the candidate’s statements. But Trump may be losing a chance to close the deal or make gains with those who are less committed during a crucial phase of the campaign. The small percentage of voters who have not made up their minds in presidential elections often begin forming stronger opinions during and after the two party conventions, the second of which concluded last week.

Hillary Clinton starts Colorado rally with dig at Donald Trump

Hillary Clinton kicked off her rally in Colorado on Wednesday with a jab at Donald Trump when she told supporters her campaign would need to "come to some bigger spaces," the next time she's in town.

She also added that she likes fire marshals, alluding to Trump's criticism of fire marshals who he claims are not letting all of his supporters into his rallies for political reasons.

Donald Trump asks supporters in Florida how 'embarrassing' it would be to lose to Hillary Clinton

Donald Trump asked the audience at his rally in Florida on Wednesday how embarrassing it would be to lose to Hillary Clinton in the general election in November.

Trump calls Clinton 'a founder of ISIS' at Florida rally

Donald Trump told supporters at a Florida town hall that Islamic State should give Hillary Clinton an award as a founder of the group, criticizing her tenure as secretary of State for creating the conditions that have allowed the terrorist group to thrive.

Trump assures Florida supporters that his campaign is united

Donald Trump told supporters at a rally in Florida that his presidential campaign has "never been so united." The Republican presidential nominee's declaration comes after reports surfaced that campaign chairman Paul Manafort has lost control of Trump and that the campaign is in turmoil.

Homeland Security sending advice to election officials to protect voting machines from cyberattack

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, shown in April on Capitol Hill, says that "the nature of cyber threats has evolved.” (Lauren Victoria Burke / Associated Press)
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, shown in April on Capitol Hill, says that "the nature of cyber threats has evolved.” (Lauren Victoria Burke / Associated Press)

The Department of Homeland Security is preparing advice for election officials to better protect electronic voting machines, online ballots and vote counts from hackers, following the high-profile breach of Democratic National Committee emails, the head of the department said Wednesday.

“We are actively thinking about election cyber security right now,” Jeh Johnson said at a breakfast with reporters in Washington hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

Any effort to guard election computers from being breached is complicated by the fact that there are more than 9,000 different voting jurisdictions in the U.S., and each has its own leadership and way of operating, he said.

“There are some short-term and long-term things I think we should do to bolster the cyber security around the election process,” Johnson said, stopping short of detailing what kinds of weaknesses hackers could find to influence election results. “There are various different points in the process we have to be concerned about,” he said.

After the problem of hanging "chads” on punch cards confounded vote counters in Florida during the 2000 presidential election, Congress moved to overhaul the electoral process. Since 2002 it has allocated more than $3 billion in grants to help local officials upgrade voting processes and equipment.

In some areas, officials purchased computerized voting systems to replace punch-card machines. But some digital voting booths don’t leave a paper trail, and a few are connected to the Internet in order to receive software updates from the manufacturer, which has lead to concerns that results could be altered by hackers.

In addition, some voting jurisdictions allow military service members stationed overseas to vote online, a system that experts believe could be vulnerable to hackers.

We should carefully consider whether our election system, our election process, is critical infrastructure, like the financial sector, like the power grid.

Jeh Johnson, Homeland Security secretary

The 2002 law “raised the bar” for securing ballots, Johnson said. “But there is more to do,” he added. “The nature of cyber threats has evolved.”

Anxiety about outside influence over election results is high. Supporters of Hillary Clinton have expressed concerns that Russian hackers, who are believed to have infiltrated a computer network of the Democratic National Committee, might try to adjust tallies in Trump’s favor. Some suspect Russia might prefer Trump because he has vowed to improve relations with Russia and said he would reconsider U.S. commitments under NATO to protect former Soviet Bloc states in Eastern Europe.

Trump told voters in Ohio this week that he, too, was afraid the November election is “going to be rigged.”

Homeland Security officials are debating whether the U.S. election system should be considered “critical infrastructure,” a designation that could prompt the department to spend more time and resources on protecting the integrity of vote tallies, Johnson said.

“We should carefully consider whether our election system, our election process, is critical infrastructure, like the financial sector, like the power grid,” Johnson said. “There’s a vital national interest in our electoral process,” he said.

Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City will shut down after Labor Day

Striking workers shout and hold signs as they picket outside the Trump Taj Mahal hotel and casino in Atlantic City, N.J., on July 6. (Mel Evans / Associated Press)
Striking workers shout and hold signs as they picket outside the Trump Taj Mahal hotel and casino in Atlantic City, N.J., on July 6. (Mel Evans / Associated Press)

The Trump Taj Mahal casino will shut down after Labor Day, the victim of the longest strike in Atlantic City's 38-year casino era.

The closure of the casino opened by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump but now owned by his friend and fellow billionaire Carl Icahn will cost about 3,000 workers their jobs, and reduce the number of casinos in Atlantic City to seven.

Those job losses will be in addition to 8,000 workers who lost their jobs when four Atlantic City casinos closed in 2014.

Donald Trump once owned three Atlantic City casinos, but cut most ties with the city by 2009. Having lost ownership of the company to bondholders in a previous bankruptcy, Trump resigned as chairman of Trump Entertainment Resorts, retaining a 10% stake in return for the use of his name. That interest was wiped out in bankruptcy court when Icahn took over in March.

Watch: Donald Trump campaigns in Florida

Mike Pence endorses Paul D. Ryan and says Donald Trump encouraged it

Donald Trump is not prepared to endorse House Speaker Paul D. Ryan in his primary race next week, but Trump's running mate offered his unyielding support Wednesday. 

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence told Fox News that Ryan was a longtime friend and Trump encouraged him to back Ryan.

"He strongly encouraged me to endorse," Pence said a day after Trump indicated he was not ready to toss his own support behind Ryan. "This is all part of a process of bringing a party together."

Trump has also tweeted praise for Paul Nehlen, a businessman who is challenging Ryan in his Wisconsin district's primary next week.

“I like [Ryan], but these are horrible times for our country," Trump, who also declined to endorse Sen. John McCain’s reelection, said Tuesday. "We need very strong leadership. We need very, very strong leadership. And I'm just not quite there yet. I'm not quite there yet."

A spokesman for Ryan's campaign said no endorsement from Trump was ever sought and expressed confidence in winning the primary.

In recent days, Trump has drawn scorn from Democrats and Republicans alike for his criticism of an American Muslim family whose son died in combat in Iraq, and several prominent Republican operatives have backed off from supporting his candidacy.

Pence insisted to Fox News that the campaign is not in disarray.

“This campaign is totally focused on strengthening America at home and abroad,” Pence said.

But Pence has separated himself from Trump several times in recent days, including releasing his own statement lauding the heroism of the soldier killed in 2004, Humayun Khan.

Pence's insistence that the campaign was in good shape was echoed by Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign manager. 

"The candidate is in control of his campaign," Manafort said on Fox News. "We are organized; we are moving forward."

How is Donald Trump's mental health? A California congresswoman is just asking

U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) has launched a petition and a hashtag, #DiagnoseTrump. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) has launched a petition and a hashtag, #DiagnoseTrump. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A California congresswoman has launched a petition drive calling for a mental health examination of Donald Trump.

Yes, that is a real thing that is happening.

Rep. Karen Bass, whose district includes areas in and around Los Angeles, also put a hashtag behind her effort: #DiagnoseTrump.

"It is our patriotic duty to raise the question of his mental stability to be the commander in chief and leader of the free world," she wrote in the petition on change.org.

Trump "appears to exhibit all the symptoms of the mental disorder narcissistic personality disorder," wrote Bass, who worked as a physician assistant before launching a political career. Those who suffer from the disorder can function in many careers, "but not the presidency," she added.

The notion that Trump might suffer from a mental defect marks an effort by a Democrat to push an idea that has been offered by prominent writers and others in recent days. Trump's "grasp on reality appears to be tenuous at best," Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote this week.

It reflects the degree to which both parties have sought to ascribe some rationale to Trump's unpredictable behavior. 

For now, Hillary Clinton's campaign is sticking to a simple approach of broadly questioning Trump's temperament. President Obama, in comments at a White House news conference Tuesday, was more concerned with Trump's lack of policy knowledge.

Paul Manafort dismisses reports that Trump campaign is in turmoil

 (Seth Wenig / Associated Press)
(Seth Wenig / Associated Press)

Donald Trump's campaign is in fine shape, its chairman told Fox News on Wednesday, dismissing reports of discord and labeling them Hillary Clinton-created narratives.

"The candidate is in control of his campaign," Paul Manafort said. "We are organized, we are moving forward, and the Clinton machine may not like it, but we're prepared for the fight."

Manafort's assurances came as Trump navigates a rough patch in which he has been condemned for his criticism of the parents of a fallen soldier, pushed to explain his comments on Vladimir Putin and his involvement in Ukraine and sought to distance himself from fellow Republicans.

Another top Trump staffer, Jason Miller, also denied the reports of staff dismay.

Trump campaign touts $80-million fundraising haul in July

 (Charles Krupa / Associated Press)
(Charles Krupa / Associated Press)

Donald Trump's campaign on Wednesday celebrated an $80-million fundraising haul in July and touted its strength among small donors.

The campaign estimated it raised $64 million in digital and direct-mail operations with the Republican National Committee.

Growth in smaller-dollar donations "shows the broad-based support of over 1 million donors across America," said Steven Mnuchin, the Trump campaign's finance director.

Trump told supporters at a rally in Ohio on Monday that his campaign had raised $35.8 million in July, and that the joint fundraising efforts were still being tallied.

Trump once dismissed the need to raise funds, saying he would finance his campaign with or without the Republican Party's help.

The Republican nominee's fundraising totals have consistently lagged behind Hillary Clinton's. Her campaign's joint fundraising operation with the Democratic National Committee raised $90 million last month

Trump's 'erratic' behavior could test nuclear protocols, former head of CIA and NSA says

 (Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

Giving nuclear launch codes to Donald Trump, considering his history of “erratic” behavior, could create a crisis, retired Air Force Gen. and former Bush and Obama administration official Michael Hayden warned Wednesday.

“He’s inconsistent, and when you’re the head of a global superpower, inconsistency, unpredictability — those are dangerous things,” Hayden, the former head of both the CIA and the National Security Agency, told MSNBC. “They frighten your friends and tempt your enemies.”

Putting the choice of whether to use nuclear weapons in the hands of someone who often changes his mind is a grave risk, he said. Once the military has been ordered to launch a weapon, service members act immediately, Hayden explained.

“The system is designed for speed and decisiveness; it’s not designed to debate the decision,” said Hayden, who has not endorsed a presidential candidate.

Donald Trump's ex-campaign manager tries to revive the discredited debate over Obama's birthplace

President Obama must release his Harvard Law School transcripts to prove his citizenship, Donald Trump's former campaign manager said, reviving the disproved assertion that Obama was born outside the U.S.

“Did he ever release his transcripts or his admission to Harvard?” Corey Lewandowski asked in a heated panel debate on CNN late Tuesday, asserting that the transcripts would show Obama's place of birth. "... Did he get in as a U.S. citizen or was he brought into Harvard University as a citizen who wasn’t from this country?”

Lewandowski asked the question after former Congressional Black Caucus Executive Director Angela Rye cited Trump's prominence in the so-called birther movement as an example of why he is unqualified for the presidency.

Lewandowski’s reignition of the years-old debate fired up Rye.

“You’re so out of line right now," she told him.

Lewandowski’s suggestion was “blatantly disrespectful,” added Bakari Sellers, a former South Carolina state representative and CNN commentator on the panel.

French president has sharp words for Trump

Francois Hollande (Raymond Roig / AFP/Getty Images)
Francois Hollande (Raymond Roig / AFP/Getty Images)

Some excesses make your stomach turn, even in the United States, especially when — as did Donald Trump — he speaks ill of a soldier, of the memory of a soldier.

French President Francois Hollande

Hollande's remarks were made Tuesday during a meeting he had with members of the French press. 

A government spokesman said Hollande's comments were a response to Trump's recent verbal attacks on France. 

“In this [U.S. presidential] campaign, there are some extremely unusual types of comments,” Stephane Le Foll told reporters following a Cabinet meeting Wednesday. 

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