First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Trump’s confrontation with the Khans raises the temperament question again
Donald Trump’s dismissive response to Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan over the weekend has prompted yet another crisis for the GOP nominee’s campaign. But even more so than the recent dustups over Trump’s positions on issues like the U.S. relationship with Russia, the optics of his vice presidential rollout, or his wife’s plagiarism scandal, for example, Trump’s confrontation with the Khans raises a core question of temperament.
His decision to push back against a Gold Star family, perhaps the most unimpeachable group in American culture today (across party lines, too) is prompting new pressure on Republican leaders to decide once again whether to stand by their nominee. We’ve seen parts of this movie before, particularly just over a year ago when Trump disputed Sen. John McCain’s heroism and poked fun at his capture during the Vietnam War.
But the Khan story is potentially much more harmful to Trump, considering that a) Trump is now the nominee of the party rather than just an ascendant primary candidate, b) McCain was a known political figure with an already-baked-in reputation among fans and foes alike, and c) McCain ultimately declined to go to war with Trump, instead endorsing him as the choice of Republican voters. The question that’s going to dog Trump as this story continues to unfold: Can a person who makes an enemy of a Gold Star family serve as commander-in-chief?
The GOP establishment responds, and Mike Pence attempts some cleanup
The Khan imbroglio means that Republican establishment figures are once again in the sticky position of disavowing Trump’s statements while still accepting him as their party’s nominee. Consider Paul Ryan’s statement: “Many Muslim Americans have served valiantly in our military, and made the ultimate sacrifice. Captain Khan was one such brave example. His sacrifice — and that of Khizr and Ghazala Khan — should always be honored. Period.”
And Mitch McConnell: “And as I have long made clear, I agree with the Khans and families across the country that a travel ban on all members of a religion is simply contrary to American values.” (Worth noting: Neither Ryan or McConnell’s statements mentioned Trump by name.) Of course, every Trump-backing Republican who slams his response to Khan will be asked why they’re still endorsing him.
By the way, as NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard notes, GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence’s statement on the Khan family came more than 30 hours after ABC released its initial clips of Trump discussing the controversy. “Donald Trump and I believe that Captain Humayun Khan is an American hero and his family, like all Gold Star families, should be cherished by every American,” he said in a statement issued by the campaign in Pence’s name at 8:44pm ET Sunday night.
Khan responds again on TODAY, and Trump hits back
Appearing this morning on NBC’s TODAY, Khizr Khan reiterated his criticism of what he calls Trump’s lack of understanding of the Constitution. “This candidate amazes me. His ignorance -- he can get up and malign the entire nation, the religions, the communities, the minorities, the judges and yet a private citizen in this political process… I cannot say what I feel? That proves the point, he has not read the Constitution of this country. Had he read that, his behavior would be different.”
Khan’s wife Ghazala also spoke out about Trump’s implication that she did not address the Democratic National Convention because of her religion, saying “My religion doesn’t prohibit me from doing whatever I want to do for the goodness of mankind, for the goodness of myself, my family.” Not deterred, Trump continued to engage with the Gold Star family, tweeting Monday morning: “Mr. Khan, who does not know me, viciously attacked me from the stage of the DNC and is now all over T.V. doing the same - Nice!”
Bounce or no bounce?
Post-convention polling is not all created equal, but from what we know so far, it’s looking like Hillary Clinton has at least made up any ground she lost during Cleveland, and perhaps may have a significant bump coming out of Philadelphia. A new CBS poll out this morning shows Clinton now up 46 percent to 39 percent, compared to a tie between the two candidates at 42 percent apiece after the Republican National Convention. A Morning Consult poll showed a seven-point swing in Clinton’s favor, and a CBS Battleground poll showed a small bounce for Clinton in 11 competitive general election states. It’s worth looking at polling averages as new data comes out over the next few days, but Team Clinton has to be feeling pretty good about these numbers so far.
Mook: No evidence the Clinton campaign breached by hack
Appearing on Meet the Press on Sunday, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook told one of us(!) that there’s “no evidence” of a hack of the Clinton campaign itself, saying that the only system accessed by hackers was one run by the DNC. “As we've explained in the press, the campaign itself, based on everything we've been told by the experts that are monitoring this for us constantly, the campaign itself, to our knowledge, has not been, uh, has not been breached. The system that you were mentioning is a system run by the DNC that our campaign and a number of other entities were utilizing,” Mook said.
On the trail
Donald Trump holds campaign rallies in Columbus, Ohio and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Mike Pence holds events in Nevada. Hillary Clinton appears in Omaha, Nebraska. And Tim Kaine has a homecoming rally in Richmond, Virginia.