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First Read: Washington Searches for Answers After Tennessee

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.
Image: President Obama Addresses The Media In The Oval Office
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks from the Oval Office July 16, 2015 in Washington, DC. Win McNamee / Getty Images

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.

Lone-wolf terrorism: Searching for answers in Tennessee

Maybe the most remarkable aspect of the tragic shooting yesterday in Chattanooga, TN was how familiar it seemed. “Mohammad Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, was killed after spraying dozens of bullets at a military recruiting center then driving to a Navy-Marine training center seven miles away where he got out of his car and shot the Marines,” per NBC News. “Officials suspect the attack may have been ISIS-inspired because of the target of the attack and the timing — the Muslim holy month of Ramadan ended Thursday — but investigators have not confirmed that the attack was inspired by the Islamist terror organization.” And this is the challenge for the country’s elected leaders, Democratic, Republican, or independent: How do you defend what’s truly not defensible -- a lone-wolf gunman? Is this the new normal, and the nation has to adjust, a la Israel? After 9/11 and the D.C. sniper murders, many braced themselves for a “new normal” of domestic terrorism that didn't emerge. But that seems to have changed in the age of ISIS and after the Boston Marathon bombing.

Is there any reassurance out there?

Watching President Obama yesterday attempt to offer reassurance, one could tell he was searching for something, but he couldn't quite find it. What made yesterday particularly scary is that it took place in a quintessential everyday place -- a strip mall. Yes, the recruitment center is a "military facility," but it was in a strip mall, the type of place everyone is familiar with.

How Donald Trump has turned the 2016 presidential contest into a comedian’s roast

Moving to the 2016 race, Donald Trump is leading another national poll -- this time Fox News’, with Scott Walker in second and Jeb Bush in third. And what he’s essentially done is turned the presidential contest into a comedian’s roast. After John McCain criticized Trump for firing up “the crazies,” the media mogul went to Twitter: “John McCain should be defeated in the primaries. Graduated last in his class at Annapolis — dummy!” And after Rick Perry issued a statement hitting Trump on immigration, Trump responded, “@GovernorPerry failed on the border. He should be forced to take an IQ test before being allowed to enter the GOP debate.” And as we alluded to yesterday, Trump dominating/hijacking the political conversation has stepped on Scott Walker’s big week. Yes, we realize that national press is different from the local press and what’s on Fox News. But Walker’s folks might not have anticipated that Donald Trump would be the main 2016 storyline -- again -- on the week they announced.

Wisconsin’s Supreme Court ends the “John Doe” investigation into Scott Walker’s recall campaign

But here is some good news for Walker: “Dealing Gov. Scott Walker a victory just as his presidential campaign gets underway, the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a sweeping decision Thursday ruled the governor's campaign and conservative groups had not violated campaign finance laws,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote yesterday. “The ruling means the end of the investigation, which has been stalled for 18 months after a lower court judge determined no laws were violated even if Walker's campaign and the groups had worked together as prosecutors believe.” The ruling wasn’t surprising given that Republicans hold the majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. But unlike Rick Perry (who is still under indictment) and Chris Christie (whose former aides are facing legal problems associated with Bridge-gate), Scott Walker doesn’t have to worry about this John Doe investigation anymore. Maybe more significantly, the ruling means that any coordination between campaigns and outside groups is legal in Wisconsin.

Cruz demands Fox to be more transparent about its debate standards

This is interesting: “In a memo sent to fellow GOP campaigns on Wednesday, Chris Wilson, who serves as director of research and analytics for the Cruz campaign, called Fox News’ standards for deciding which national polls are used in its debate entry process ‘unclear,’” Politico wrote. “Wilson asks the other campaigns to “consider joining with us” in encouraging the network to impose additional polling standards. As it stands, Fox News is allowing the Top 10 contenders, based on an average of the five most recent national polls, into the Aug. 6 debate.”

On “Meet the Press” this Sunday

NBC’s Chuck Todd will interview British PM David Cameron, Secretary of State John Kerry, and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, as well as GOP Sen. Tom Cotton on the Iran deal. On the subject of immigration, he’ll interview GOP Rep. Raul Labrador and Dem Rep. Joaquin Castro.

Dems hit cattle call in Iowa

All of the Democratic presidential candidates -- Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Martin O’Malley, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee -- speak at the Democratic Party Hall of Fame Dinner in Cedar Rapids, IA. The takes place at 8:00 pm ET. And in advance of tonight’s dinner, the Clinton campaign has rolled out endorsements from two of Iowa’s top elected Democrats, state Attorney General Tom Miller and state Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald. Both men supported Obama in 2008.

On the trail

In addition, Scott Walker also is in the Hawkeye State, beginning his three-day Winnebago tour of the state… And Jeb Bush campaigns in Nevada.

Programming notes

Friday’s “News Nation with Tamron Hall” line-up: Alex Witt sits in for Tamron Hall. She speaks with Chattanooga State Senator Bo Watson and Counter terrorism analyst Aki Peritz about the terror attack in Chattanooga TN yesterday, Sister of Sandra Bland Sharon Cooper and Attorney Cannon Lambert discuss the death of Sandra Bland in a Texas prison, and Attorney Michael Grieco discusses the verdict in the trial of Aurora CO Shooter James Holmes

Friday’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” line-up: NBC’s Andrea Mitchell interviews Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, a childhood friend of the alleged shooter in Chattanooga attacks, Former FBI Executive Assistant Director Shawn Henry, Colonel Jack Jacobs, New York Times’ Mark Leibovich, Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza.

Friday’s “Live with Thomas Roberts” line-up: Thomas interviews Fmr. NATO Commander Wesley Clark about the possibility the Chattanooga shootings were ISIS-inspired, Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America about the Chattanooga shooting, Rashad Robinson with Color of Change about the hanging death of Texas inmate Sandy Bland, and Mike Lavender, friend of one of the Aurora theater shooting victims about James Holmes’ guilty verdict.

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