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First Read's Morning Clips: Ambush in Niger

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day
Image: Funeral for Sergeant La David Johnson one of four US soldiers killed in Niger attack
The hearse carrying the body of the US Army Sergeant La David Johnson passes in a procession after his funeral at Christ the Rock Church in Cooper City, Florida, on October 21, 2017.Cristobnal Herrera / EPA

TRUMP AGENDA: Ambushed in Niger

Breaking last night, from Courtney Kube, Carol Lee and Ken Dilanian: “An emerging theory among U.S. military investigators is that the Army Special Forces soldiers ambushed in Niger were set up by terrorists, who were tipped off in advance about a meeting in a village sympathetic to local ISIS affiliates, three U.S. officials who have been briefed on the matter told NBC News.”

“President Donald Trump's plea for party unity in the drive to pass tax reform received a skeptical reception from some Republicans on Capitol Hill Monday,” writes Leigh Ann Caldwell. “After months of internal divisions and a failure to score any major legislative wins, the president is trying to rally the GOP troops, telling House members on a call over the weekend that he’s a Republican “inside, out and backwards” and that he’s “for the Republicans,” according to an individual familiar with the phone call.”

The AP looks at the stakes for Trump’s meeting with GOP senators today.

From the Washington Post: “Republicans are accelerating efforts to fill in key details of their plan for massive tax cuts, but as lawmakers work to turn their proposal into legislation, President Trump’s numerous tax promises are proving difficult to keep. On Monday, Trump promised the party would not touch tax benefits for 401(k) retirement plans, protecting a popular benefit for more than 50 million Americans but also further limiting the areas where Republicans could seek to raise new revenue. His vow to protect 401(k) plans, made in a Twitter post, comes just days before House Republicans are planning to introduce a bill that would dramatically slash corporate tax rates, consolidate tax brackets for families and individuals, and eliminate the alternative minimum tax and estate tax.”

And the New York Times: “Publicly and privately, supporters of the Republican tax effort say they are concerned that Mr. Trump will make a hard task even harder. The Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act was a similarly difficult effort, and the president’s comments and actions were often not helpful.”

The Wall Street Journal also has the latest on the health care fix debate. “Republicans returning to Washington will decide in coming days whether to embrace or set aside a bipartisan health bill that has gained traction in Congress, a decision potentially made harder by President Donald Trump’s statements praising the effort but opposing the bill itself.”

Don’t miss this scoop from the Washington Post: “For the sprawling effort to restore Puerto Rico’s crippled electrical grid, the territory’s state-owned utility has turned to a two-year-old company from Montana that had just two full-time employees on the day Hurricane Maria made landfall. The company, Whitefish Energy, said last week that it had signed a $300 million contract with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority to repair and reconstruct large portions of the island’s electrical infrastructure. The contract is the biggest yet issued in the troubled relief effort… The unusual decision to instead hire a tiny for-profit company is drawing scrutiny from Congress and comes amid concerns about bankrupt Puerto Rico’s spending as it seeks to provide relief to its 3.4 million residents, the great majority of whom remain without power a month after the storm.”

NBC’s Jonathan Allen: “In a full-throated defense of President Donald Trump's foreign policy, former White House adviser Steve Bannon said Monday that Trump is neither an isolationist nor an Islamophobe and that Trump deserves credit for destroying the ISIS' caliphate in the Middle East. It was Trump who set the mission by writing a line in his inaugural address — ignoring the concerns of some advisers — in which he promised to "eradicate ... radical Islamic terrorism," Bannon said. When he was warned that was too big a promise to make, Trump replied, "This is my obligation to the American people," Bannon said.”

President Donald Trump’s comments about Bowe Bergdahl have delayed his sentencing.

The Wall Street Journal: “The Trump administration will allow refugee admissions to the U.S. to resume for all countries but with new rules meant to better vet applicants, administration officials and others familiar with the planning said. The White House plans to announce the resumption of admissions and at least some of the new rules on Tuesday, officials said. Refugee admissions had generally been halted in June, with some exceptions.”

The AP previews Trump’s Asia trip.

What exactly happened on Rex Tillerson’s trip? The New York Times: “Soon after a two-hour secret visit to Afghanistan by Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson on Monday was publicly disclosed, the American Embassy and the office of President Ashraf Ghani made statements about their productive meeting in Kabul. The problem is that the meeting was not in Kabul, but in a windowless room in Bagram, the heavily fortified American military base a 90-minute drive away. The misinformation, apparently meant to obscure the true venue, was betrayed by discrepancies in similar photographs released by the Americans and the Afghans.”

By Alex Seitz-Wald: “Climate change is costing taxpayers billions of dollars in disaster relief and the tab will only increase as extreme weather events become more common, according to a new government study. The federal government has spent an estimated $350 billion over the past decade responding to extreme weather and fire events, which are exacerbated by climate change, according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. It comes as Congress moves to approve billions of dollars in extra funding for hurricane relief.”

OFF TO THE RACES: McAuliffe predicts Dem sweep in Virginia

AL-SEN: Transgender rights are becoming a factor in the race, writes

CA-SEN: The Hill writes that many California Democrats are keeping their powder dry and declining to publicly back Dianne Feinstein.

NH-1: A female retired Marine officer is the latest Democrat to jump into the First Congressional District race.

NJ-SEN: From the New York Times: “[I]n the waning days of the race to become New Jersey’s next governor, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, a Republican, has taken a sharp turn to the right as polls show that she is well behind her Democratic opponent, Philip D. Murphy, a former Wall Street banker.”

TN-SEN: Tennessee’s top GOP gubernatorial campaigns sat down with party officials in “an effort to add some semblance of order to the competitive primary race as robust local party chapters continue to host their own events throughout the campaign.”

UT-GOV: The Salt Lake Tribune writes that Jason Chaffetz is the early front-runner for governor.

VA-GOV: Terry McAuliffe predicted that Democrats will sweep the upcoming statewide elections and flip six to eight seats in the House of Delegates.

And felon rights restoration is the subject of a new anti-Northam ad.

VT-SEN: Bernie Sanders says he’s “an independent and I have always run in Vermont as an independent… that’s what I’ve been doing for a long time and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”