NATION POLITICS TRAIL GUIDE

Donald Trump stops in Chester Township, Pa., Thursday for a rally in the battleground state. Hillary Clinton maintains a lighter schedule heading into the first debate next week.

  • Donald Trump faces his first questions over controversies involving his foundation and "birther" comments
  • Mike Pence says there's "far too much talk" about racism and policing.
  • Trump wants to expand stop-and-frisk policies despite concerns that the policies are racially discriminatory
  • Meanwhile, Trump orders a cheese steak from a Philadelphia restaurant with controverisal past
  • Hillary Clinton wonders, "Why aren't I 50 points ahead, you might ask?"

Where's Hillary Clinton? Donald Trump insists she's 'sleeping'

 (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)
(Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

As he traversed Pennsylvania on Thursday, Donald Trump offered, as he has several times this week, an assessment on the whereabouts of Hillary Clinton.

"Where is Hillary today? ... Well, they say she's practicing for the debate. Some people think she's sleeping," he said at a rally outside Philadelphia.

Trump has questioned Clinton's stamina on the campaign trail, even before she was forced to take several days off this month to recover from pneumonia. On Thursday, he used Clinton’s illness to raise money.

Aides to Clinton, who held no public events Thursday, indicated the Democratic nominee was using the day to prepare for Monday's debate with Trump. Her campaign said, however, that she spoke with officials in Charlotte, N.C., where violent protests continue after the police shooting of a black man.

At his rally Thursday night, Trump blamed the Democratic nominee for contributing to the current unrest and portrayed her as an elitist out of touch with the concerns of "forgotten Americans."

"Hillary Clinton doesn't have to worry about the sirens and the gunshots at night," Trump said. "No, she's sleeping."

On Tuesday, Clinton also had a light schedule as she went through debate preparations, leading Trump to mock her, saying she needs "rest" ahead of the debate.

"Sleep well," he wrote in a tweet. 

Asked Thursday about his own preparation ahead of the debate with Clinton, Trump said simply, "It's going great," while ordering cheesesteaks in south Philadelphia. 

He added: "I'm here at Geno's. Unbelievable."

Congress should force colleges to lower costs, Trump says

A student at Westmont College. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
A student at Westmont College. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Donald Trump added a new idea to his thin collection of specific policy proposals, saying the federal government should withhold tax breaks for colleges and universities unless they reduce student costs.

The plan, mentioned during a speech Thursday in Chester Township, Pa., was Trump's first crack at addressing the growing cost of higher education. It's a topic that's been repeatedly highlighted by Hillary Clinton and her rival from the Democratic primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders, but largely absent from the Republican candidate's campaign.

Trump criticized colleges and universities for getting "massive tax breaks for their massive endowments" without spending the money to lower costs.

"They should be using the money on students, for tuition, for student life, and for student housing," he said.

Trump said students were "choking" on their loans, and he pledged to work with Congress to make higher education more affordable.

If universities want access to special federal tax breaks and tax dollars, he said, "they are going to make good-faith efforts to reduce the cost of college and student debt, and to spend their endowment on their students rather than other things that don't matter." 

Clinton's plan would allow students to attend in-state public colleges and universities without paying tuition if their families make less than $85,000 annually. The income threshold would increase to $125,000 over four years.

She's also proposed a "timeout" to allow students to work with the U.S. Department of Education to consolidate their loans and reduce their monthly payments.

Watch: Donald Trump is scheduled to speak shortly in Chester Township, Pa.

Are news media too soft on Trump? 43% of Democrats in poll say yes

 (Matthew Cavanaugh / Getty Images)
(Matthew Cavanaugh / Getty Images)

It’s not out of the ordinary for Americans to believe the news media treats Democratic presidential candidates too easily.

That’s what 33% say about the news media's handling of Hillary Clinton now, and what 31% said about coverage of Barack Obama in 2008, according to the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.

However, Donald Trump is generating unusual responses for a Republican presidential candidate.

The survey of 1,000 adults conducted this month found 27% said the media had gone soft on Trump, much higher than the 20% who said the same about coverage of Mitt Romney in 2012 or the 15% who said as much about the media's treatment of John McCain in 2008.

The change in perception is driven by Democrats. This year, 43% say the media are being too easy on Trump, twice the proportion that said the same about coverage of McCain.

On the other side, Republicans have been more consistent in their displeasure of how the media cover Democratic candidates. About 60% believe the press has gone too easy on them for the last three presidential elections. 

Trump orders sandwiches (in English) from Geno's, where controversial sign hangs

 (Mandel Ngan / Associated Press)
(Mandel Ngan / Associated Press)

At the famed Geno's Steaks in Philadelphia, patrons have to order in English — at least, it’s strongly suggested.

Geno's, which sits across from its competitor, Pat's King of Steaks, has a sign plastered to its window telling customers: "This is America: When ordering 'speak English.'" Its founder, Joey Vento, who died in 2011, put the sign up as the neighborhood saw an increase in Latino residents.

Many political figures avoid eating at Geno's because of the sign, but not Donald Trump. He stopped by Thursday as he campaigned across Pennsylvania. 

Trump, whose anti-immigration policies form the core of his campaign, ordered and joked, "I think I'm going to get one for Hillary" Clinton. 

Asked about his preparation ahead of Monday's debate with Clinton, Trump said simply: "It's going great." Then he added: "Well, I'm here at Geno's. Unbelievable."

With a bag of sandwiches in hand, Trump returned to his motorcade after the short visit. No details were available about what he ordered.

Local elected officials have called for a boycott of Geno's after the sign was posted, and Vento was assailed as being discriminatory. He stressed that the sign was merely a suggestion and that he would not deny service to non-English speakers.

His dying wish was for the sign to remain posted — which it does. 

Hillary Clinton hikes her proposal for higher estate tax

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The gap between how Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump want to tax the rich just got even wider.

Trump has proposed completely eliminating the estate tax, a levy on assets being passed to heirs when someone dies. The tax currently hits only estates worth more than $5.4 million, roughly .2% of households.

Clinton, on the other hand, is ramping up her proposal to increase the estate tax, which currently maxes out at 40%. A new plan released by her campaign would boost the top rate to 65% for estates worth more than $1 billion for couples or $500 million for single individuals. That's up from her earlier proposal of a top rate of 45%.

The new level was the target previously suggested by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, her rival in the Democratic primary.

The higher rate would raise an extra $75 billion over a decade, Clinton's campaign estimates.

Aides said the revenue would be necessary to cover the cost of additional government programs the former secretary of State has proposed. 

“We want to make sure we’re meeting the secretary’s core goals of paying for our priorities,” said Mike Shapiro, an economic policy advisor for Clinton.

Trump's spending plans, by contrast, are not covered by additional revenue. A new analysis from the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said the national debt would rise 25 times faster under Trump than Clinton. Trump's plans would raise the debt by $5.3 trillion over 10 years, the group said.

Stop talking about racism in law enforcement, Republican vice presidential candidate says

Mike Pence (Darron Cummings / Associated Press)
Mike Pence (Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

People should stop talking so much about racism and policing, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Donald Trump's running mate, said Thursday.

"Donald Trump and I believe that there's been far too much talk of institutional bias or racism within law enforcement," Pence said during an event with pastors at a Colorado church. His comments came on the heels of renewed outrage over police killings of black men in Tulsa, Okla., and Charlotte, N.C.

Pence also said that police officers have to be "held to strict account" when they make mistakes but that the country's president should stand behind law enforcement.

"We ought to set aside this talk, this talk about institutional racism and institutional bias," he said.

By contrast, Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, has repeatedly said she wants to address what she calls "systemic racism" in the criminal justice system and other areas of the country.

"We white Americans need to do a better job of listening when African Americans talk about the seen and unseen barriers you face every day," she told the NAACP in July. 

Donald Trump uses Hillary Clinton's illness to raise campaign money

 (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)
(Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

A new fundraising message from Donald Trump's campaign takes direct aim at Hillary Clinton's recent illness, when a bout of pneumonia kept her off the campaign trail for a few days.

"I hope Hillary overcomes all her recent health problems, but let’s face it, she’s just not up for the job," said the email to Trump supporters. "Help me defeat her and give you the strong leadership you deserve – make one generous donation ASAP."

Trump has often used references to strength and stamina in his campaign, a tactic some analysts and critics say is an attempt to suggest a woman couldn't handle being president.

Donald Trump promises to 'lift the restrictions on American energy' in appeal to fracking industry

Donald Trump promised to lift environmental regulations, open federal lands to oil and gas production and ease permitting for oil pipelines during a speech at a fracking conference in Pittsburgh on Thursday in which he accused Hillary Clinton of wanting to kill the energy industry.

“I am going to lift the restrictions on American energy and allow this wealth to pour into our communities — including right here in Pennsylvania,” Trump told shale industry leaders. The shale energy revolution will unleash massive wealth for American workers and families.”

Trump cast his energy policy as part of his larger economic agenda, which includes a major reduction of the corporate income tax rate from 35% to 15%, renegotiation of major trade deals and an end to many federal regulations.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio warns Donald Trump to 'be careful' when suggesting stop-and-frisk

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

The key pillar of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's mayoral run was to end stop-and-frisk policing, and now he has a message for Donald Trump: Be careful. 

"Donald Trump talks about stop-and-frisk like he knows the facts," De Blasio, a supporter of Hillary Clinton, said Thursday on CNN. “He should really be careful because if we reinstituted stop-and-frisk all over this country, you'd see a lot more tension between police and communities."

The Republican presidential nominee said Wednesday he supported stop-and-frisk tactics in black communities as a way to lower crime rates. Trump's comments come as protests have erupted from North Carolina to Oklahoma in the wake of police shootings of black men. 

On Thursday, however, Trump sought to clarify the remarks, saying it was not necessarily a nationwide policy but one that could work in Chicago, a city plagued by ongoing gun violence.

In 2013, De Blasio's campaign for mayor was centered on ending stop-and-frisk, which gained traction in New York under two former mayors, Rudolph W. Giuliani, now a top Trump surrogate, and Michael R. Bloomberg, a fierce Trump critic. But prior to De Blasio entering office, a federal judge ruled that New York's stop-and-frisk policy had violated the rights of minorities and ordered it to end. 

study from the New York Civil Liberties Union found that blacks and Latinos were disproportionately stopped by police from 2002 until 2013 under the stop-and-frisk policy. Few had committed any crimes.

House Speaker Paul Ryan can't say whether he'd support Trump on stop-and-frisk

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan has not been shy about distancing himself from some of Donald Trump's more controversial ideas.

But on Thursday, the top Republican in Congress appeared stumped over whether to back Trump's call for a return to "stop-and-frisk" law enforcement tactics, which have been found unconstitutional.

"I can't speak to that," Ryan told reporters. "I don't have an answer for you because it's not something that I've familiarized myself with - the constitutionality of it, its efficacy, or whether it worked well in New York City or not."

With a wave of protests following police shootings of African Americans, Trump suggested a return to "stop and frisk" tactics as a way to combat violence in black communities.  

"I would do stop-and-frisk," Trump said Wednesday on Fox News. "I think you have to. We did it in New York; it worked incredibly well. And you have to be proactive."

Civil rights advocates said the tactic unfairly targeted minorities, and after several lawsuits, a federal district court judge in 2013 ruled the practice unconstitutional.

Donald Trump says Charlotte violence makes country look 'bad to the world'

 (Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)
(Mandel Ngan / AFP/Getty Images)

Law-abiding African Americans would be harmed most by the violence in Charlotte, and order must be restored, Donald Trump said Thursday, adding that clashes between police and civilians should be treated as a national crisis.

“For every one violent protester there are thousands of moms and dads and kids in that same community who really just want to be able to sleep safely at night,” Trump said, reading from prepared remarks before an energy speech at a hydraulic fracturing conference in Pittsburgh. 

Trump, who on Wednesday had called for police departments to step up "stop and frisk" policies, treaded relatively lightly into the situation in Charlotte, trying to acknowledge both sides while insisting that the need for order was paramount.

The unrest was part of a larger issue involving the economy and crime, he said. 

“We need a national anti-crime agenda to make our cities safe again,” Trump said citing former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, a close advisor, as an example of his approach to crime.

"Our job is not to make life more comfortable for the violent disruptor, but to make life more comfortable for the African American parent trying to raise their kids in peace," he said.

The rights of peaceful protesters needed to be respected and police misconduct needed to be vigorously responded to, Trump added. But, he said, police needed more recognition for risking their lives.

“Our country looks bad to the world, especially when we are supposed to be the world’s leader," Trump said. "How can we lead when we can't even control our own cities?”

 

Clinton rules out suggestion she undergo neurological tests

 (Matt Rourke / Associated Press)
(Matt Rourke / Associated Press)

Hillary Clinton laughed off the suggestion that she should undergo and release results of neurological tests to rule out lingering health concerns, declaring herself to be “physically, mentally healthy and fit” to be president.

In an interview with an Orlando, Fla., television station Wednesday, Clinton was asked if she would submit to neuro-cognitive tests given the suggestion that, because of her and her opponent’s ages, they may be susceptible to dementia or even Alzheimer’s.

Clinton seemed surprised by the question, one that seemed to conflate genuine questions among some about her health with conspiracy theories about it.

“I am very sorry I got pneumonia. I am very glad that antibiotics took care of it. That’s behind us now,” she said. “I’ve met the standard that everybody running for president has met in terms of releasing information about my health. I have to say my opponent has not met that standard.”

“There is no need” for such advanced tests, she added when pressed.

Clinton was also asked in the interview about lingering concerns among voters about whether she could be trusted with classified information after the controversy over her use of a private email server.

Clinton’s answer may have reflected the preparation she has been doing for Monday’s debate, as she opted against the often lawyerly and lengthy discussion of the issue she has offered in the past.

“If people are concerned about information, I’ve had some of the most secret information that anybody in government could have,” she said.

“I was involved in the small group advising President Obama about whether or not to go after Bin Laden. I am very committed to and careful with classified information. I think that anybody who looks at my whole record knows that.”

She also reflected on the thick skin that is often necessary for women to succeed.

“You can take criticism seriously. Try to learn from it. But don’t take it personally,” she said. “Don’t let people mess with your head.”

Watch: Donald Trump addresses the fracking industry in Pittsburgh

Donald Trump says stop-and-frisk would work for Chicago

Donald Trump lamented a “lack of spirit between the white and the black” that he said was on display in violent demonstrations overnight in Charlotte, N.C., and said distrust between law enforcement and the public seemed to be getting worse.

“You have to have law and order,” Trump said on “Fox & Friends” on Thursday. But at the same time, “there has to be a unity message somehow that has to get out, and it starts with leadership.”

Trump defended advocating an expanded stop-and-frisk policy, saying that it “really straightened things out” in New York City. He suggested it was not necessarily a nationwide policy but one that could work in Chicago.

“You have 3,000 people shot and so many people dying — I mean, it’s worse than some of the places we’re hearing about, like Afghanistan,” he said. “You have to do something. It can’t continue the way it’s going.”

Scores of former ambassadors back Clinton, warning of Trump's 'ineptitude' on world stage

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

Seventy-five former U.S. ambassadors have signed a letter endorsing Hillary Clinton for president, warning of the damage that Donald Trump’s foreign policy “ineptitude” could cause in the world.

The group, which includes 57 ambassadors nominated by Republican presidents, fretted that Trump not only “is ignorant of the complex nature of the challenges facing our country,” but has demonstrated he “misunderstands and disrespects” the role of career military and intelligence officers who would serve under him.

“By contrast, Hillary Clinton’s handling of foreign affairs has consistently sought to advance fundamental U.S. interests with a deep grounding in the work of the many tens of thousands of career officers on whom our national security depends,” they write. “Not every one of us has agreed with every decision she made (and the same would be true of every one of her predecessors), but we have profound respect for her skills, dedication, intelligence, and diplomacy.”

The letter is the latest from the foreign policy and national security community to express reservations about Trump. The GOP candidate has brushed off such letters as representing the viewpoints of career bureaucrats and politicians who have caused many of the world’s problems.

Lots of new polls add up to a small Clinton advantage

 (Matt Rourke / Associated Press)
(Matt Rourke / Associated Press)

Hillary Clinton appears to have survived one of her worst stretches on the presidential campaign, including concerns about her health, with her lead intact in some key battleground states, several new polls indicate.

Surveys released this week delivered good news to Donald Trump in some states, Clinton others. But the balance continues to tilt toward the Democrat.

In Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio, new polls by Fox News showed Trump leading, although narrowly. A poll released Thursday by the New York Times and Siena College showed the two candidates tied in North Carolina at 41% apiece.

The average of recent polls shows the two candidates in a dead heat in each of those three states. 

The problem for Trump is that even if he wins them, those states aren’t enough. 

Hillary Clinton sits 'Between Two Ferns'

Can Zach Galifianakis do for Hillary Clinton what he did for Obamacare?

When President Obama took part in the comedian’s “Between Two Ferns” interview series on “Funny Or Die,” officials said it helped provide a surge in enrollment in Affordable Care Act plans from younger adults — precisely as intended.

Now, the Democratic nominee is appearing as part of the series as she seeks to win over millennials to her presidential campaign. She matched the typical dry and sarcastic questions with dry and sometimes serious responses.

What would the country do if its first female president became pregnant, for instance?

“I could send you some pamphlets,” Clinton suggested.

Would you move to Canada if Donald Trump won?

“I would stay in the United States,” she said. “I would try to prevent him from destroying the United States.”

So leading a civil war? “I wouldn’t take up arms. I think that might be a little extreme,” she added.

And Galifianakis teased Clinton about her pantsuits, asking who makes her signature attire because “I wanted to go as a librarian from outer space” for Halloween.

Clinton was unsure what she’ll wear at the first debate. She assumes Trump will wear his trademark red “power tie.”

“Or maybe a white power tie?” Galifianakis asked.

“That’s even more appropriate,” Clinton deadpanned.

Obama: Americans know that Trump's temperament is unsuited for the White House

 (Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images)
(Jessica Kourkounis / Getty Images)

Donald Trump is a “phenomenon of an expression of certain fears” that is common through American history, President Obama said in a new interview.

“There are always going to be figures who become symbols and expressions of those fears and resentments. So he’s not unique in that sense,” Obama said in a conversation with presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin for Vanity Fair.

“I don’t think it’s a surprise for me to say that I don’t think his temperament is suited for this office. But it’s not something that I have to emphasize because I think the majority of the American people have figured that out,” he added.

Obama also said having Hillary Clinton succeed him as president is critical in part because of how much more work needs to be done for the country. “You don’t do anything significant by yourself,” he said, granting Picasso or Mozart as exceptions.

“I think about this being a relay race in that way. I welcome the next president saying, ‘This is a good start. Here are some additional things we shouldn’t or should be doing. Here are the things that we’ve learned from the first phases of this that could stand improvement,’” he said.

“That’s a good thing. To me, that’s not a failure on my part. That’s not a criticism of me. That’s the nature of how social change comes about.”

Trump says he's 'going to be nice' to Clinton at the debate

I’m going to be very respectful of her. … I think she deserves that. And I’m going to be nice.

Donald Trump, Republican presidential nominee, speaking to Fox News "Fox and Friends" Thursday about his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and the upcoming presidential debate.

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