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First Read’s Morning Clips: Mixed Messages on North Korea

TRUMP AGENDA: Mixed messages on North Korea

The New York Times sums up the mixed messages yesterday on North Korea: “Senior American officials sent mixed signals on North Korea on Wednesday as President Trump’s “fire and fury” warning rattled allies and adversaries alike, a sign of his administration’s deep divisions as the outcast state once again threatened to wage nuclear war on the United States. The president’s advisers calibrated his dire warning with statements that, if not directly contradictory, emphasized different points. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson stressed diplomacy and reassured Americans that they could “sleep well at night,” while Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said North Korea risked “the end of its regime and the destruction of its people” if it did not “stand down.”

Trump is firing back at Mitch McConnell again this morning after the Senate Majority Leader’s “excessive expectations” comment.

Our NBC News team confirms that FBI agents searched Paul Manafort’s home last month.

POLITICO writes that investigators sought cooperation from Manafort’s son-in-law.

The Washington Post notes that Trump’s rhetoric on North Korea puts China in a bind.

The AP: “On its face, Trump’s move seemed to fit a pattern in which he becomes his own biggest obstacle to achieving his objectives. Sometimes he exposes divisions within his administration that others can then exploit. Other times, Trump stakes out positions so unpopular that needed partners can’t afford to work with him. In other cases, he’s played directly into his critics’ worst suspicions about him.”

From the Wall Street Journal: “The Trump administration must decide within weeks whether to continue funding organizations that help people enroll in health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, one of several imminent choices that could signal the administration’s larger approach to the law.”

Per a release: "Americans for Prosperity announced they were expanding their multi-million-dollar effort to advance pro-growth tax reform this year, investing in digital ads to thank members of the House and Senate who have support the policy, and encouraging them to keep it a top priority."

OFF TO THE RACES: Northam holds slight edge over Gillespie

POLITICO writes that the Democratic Party has a serious fundraising problem. “Over the first six months of 2017, the Republican National Committee pulled in $75 million—nearly twice as much money as the Democratic National Committee, which raised $38 million. The predicament isn’t simply that there is a funding gap between the parties; it’s what kind of money they attract. Republicans have quietly taken a decisive edge over Democrats when it comes to small-dollar fundraising.”

AL-SEN: Luther Strange is touting his support from Trump in a new ad as the candidates keep up their feud about the president’s endorsement.

If Jeff Sessions doesn’t stay in his job, what would happen next?

AZ-SEN: Robert Mercer will give a six-figure donation to a Super PAC backing Kelli Ward’s primary challenge to Jeff Flake.

IN-SEN: “State and local Republicans have expanded early voting in GOP-dominated areas and restricted it in Democratic areas, an IndyStar investigation has found, prompting a significant change in Central Indiana voting patterns.”

GA-GOV: Yet another candidate – this time a tech exec and former Navy Seal – may jump into the GOP gubernatorial contest.

MA-5: Who will replace retiring Niki Tsongas? Hopefuls are already making moves, POLITICO writes.

MD-GOV: Krishanti Vignarajah, the former policy director for Michelle Obama, will enter the race for governor.

MO-SEN: A political novice and former Obamacare marketplace employee says she’ll challenge Claire McCaskill in the Democratic primary.

Josh Hawley’s campaign treasurer is Salvatore Purpura, who helped set up Stephen Colbert’s Super PAC “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow,”

NV-SEN: The AP sums up Dean Heller’s primary problem.

VA-GOV: Another poll is giving Northam a slight edge over Gillespie.