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Burning Man CEO says 'no need to panic' despite mud chaos, Trump recasts portrayal of Biden: Morning Rundown

Plus, how Rep. Zooey Zephyr became a national celebrity.
Burning Man Festival Flooding
A rainbow shines after heavy rains muddied the annual Burning Man festival site in Nevada's Black Rock Desert on Friday. Josh Lease / AFP - Getty Images

In today’s newsletter: The CEO of Burning Man told NBC News that despite rain and mud causing chaos, the annual festival was under control. Trump recasts Biden as he gears up for a potential 2024 rematch. And a look inside Putin's push to rewrite Russian history.

 Here’s what to know today.

From ‘Sleepy Joe’ to ‘Crooked Joe’: Trump tries to redraw his portrait of Biden

During their first showdown, Donald Trump disparaged Joe Biden as “a sleepy guy in the basement of a house” who was barely aware of his surroundings. 

Now, facing four criminal indictments and gearing up for a 2024 rematch, the former president is changing course to depict his successor as a nefarious mastermind who is pulling the strings of a complex justice system without leaving any fingerprints.

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Trump has deployed the term “Crooked Joe” in a wave of recent posts and interviews, making repeated and baseless claims that Biden is at the helm of a conspiracy to target him using law enforcement.

But with the “Crooked Joe” persona, Trump routinely implies that a man he has suggested is not mentally fit has secretly been manipulating the Justice Department — as well as state prosecutors he has no authority over, and even the grand juries who approved Trump's indictments — while covering his tracks so well that House Republican investigators with subpoena power struggle to uncover proof.

There’s ‘no cause for panic,’ CEO of Burning Man says as crowd remains stuck in muddy venue 

The CEO of Burning Man said that the situation at the venue in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert was under control and far from alarming. “There’s no cause for panic,” Marian Goodell told NBC News. “We’ve made it really clear that we do not see this as an evacuation situation,” she said. “The water is drying up.”

The festival’s estimated 70,000-plus attendees were isolated at Black Rock City as rain returned and closed roads, muddy campgrounds and one death was reported. They have turned down help from the Nevada National Guard, according to the CEO. 

More on Burning Man:

Americans used to get a summer break from politics. Not anymore. 

August has long marked a season of calm in Washington, when Congress goes on recess and the president takes a vacation. Labor Day weekend has been seen as a kickoff to the campaign season, but politics never seems to stop in our divided and always-online nation. 

August of an off-off year like 2023 — when there’s neither a presidential nor a midterm election in the fall — should have been relatively quiet. But it seems like there's no such thing as quiet moments in American politics these days.

Inside Putin’s push to rewrite Russian history 

Russian high school seniors will return to classrooms this week to find history rewritten in the image of President Vladimir Putin.

A new textbook — churned out in just four months and touted as the first state effort to unify teaching of the subject since the Soviet era — echoes Kremlin propaganda justifying the war in Ukraine, the latest stage of a drive to shape the worldview of a new generation. The book will be used by history teachers across the country, including in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories, to teach students in their final year of high school about the period from 1945 on. 

It’s all part of an education push that one Russian teacher NBC News spoke to calls “pure indoctrination,” with an hour of “patriotic” instruction per week and plans for classes that involve military training.

Today’s Talker: Neighbors of Ruby Franke say they tried to help her kids…

…before the YouTuber’s arrest on child abuse charges. The neighbors said that they and others who lived near the family had been worried for the safety of the children. “Everyone is just breathing a collective sigh of relief, because we thought they were going to come out of that house with body bags,” one said. They had previously alerted the Utah Division of Child and Family Services.

Politics in Brief

Biden’s gamble: Some Democrats are worried that Biden rarely says Trump’s name and doesn’t punch back when given the opportunity. 

State elections: Here’s which state elections to keep a watch out for in the next few months, as they could help signal what’s in store for 2024.

Trump’s eligibility: New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said he “fully expects” Donald Trump to be on the state’s ballot in 2024 even as some opponents weigh legal challenges in an effort to disqualify him from running for office.

Staff Pick: How Zooey Zephyr became a national celebrity

Rep. Zooey Zephyr hugs a supporter at the Montana State Capitol in Helena, Mont., on April 26, 2023.
Rep. Zooey Zephyr hugs a supporter at the Montana State Capitol in Helena on April 26.Tommy Martino / AP file

Rep. Zooey Zephyr made national headlines this past spring when her Republican colleagues in Montana blocked her from speaking on the House floor. In the four months since, she has become the pride of her home city and a celebrity. NBC Out reporter Jo Yurcaba details the passionate personality of Zephyr while spending time with her at the Montana state fair, and meets others who are inspired by the representative. — Elizabeth Both, associate platforms editor

In Case You Missed It

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