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First Read's Morning Clips: 'The Calm Before the Storm'?

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day
Donald Trump, Melania Trump
President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump, center, pose for a group photo with senior military leaders and their spouses in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017.Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

TRUMP AGENDA: “The calm before the storm”?

What’s “the calm before the storm”? Our NBC News report on the president’s cryptic remarks last night.

From NBC’s Carol Lee, Kristen Welker, Courtney Kube and Andrea Mitchell: “John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, abruptly scrapped plans to travel with President Donald Trump on Wednesday so he could try to contain his boss’s fury and manage the fallout from new revelations about tensions between the president and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, according to six senior administration officials. Kelly summoned Tillerson, and their ally Defense Secretary James Mattis, to the White House, where the three of them huddled to discuss a path forward, according to three administration officials. The White House downplayed Kelly's decision to stay in Washington, saying he did so to manage day-to-day operations.”

The New York Times: “President Trump is expected to overrule his top national security advisers and decline to certify the Iran nuclear agreement, according to people who have been briefed on the matter, a decision that would reopen a volatile political debate on Iran but is likely to leave in place the landmark deal negotiated by the Obama administration. By declining to certify Iran’s compliance, Mr. Trump would essentially kick it to Congress to decide whether to reimpose punitive economic sanctions. Even among Republicans, there appears to be little appetite to do that, at least for now.”

“More than any other issue that has threatened transatlantic cohesion this year, President Trump’s decision to decertify Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal could start a chain of events that would sharply divide the United States from its closest traditional allies in the world,” writes the Washington Post.

Jonathan Allen notes that one person has the power to ban bump stocks: the president.

NBC’s Ken Dilanian: “Members of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team traveled to interview the former British intelligence officer who authored a dossier alleging collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, a source close to the ex-spy tells NBC News. Few other details were forthcoming about the interview, but Mueller’s interest in Christopher Steele puts a new focus on the 35-page dossier he compiled, which includes salacious sexual allegations that then-president-elect Donald Trump denied. CNN first reported Thursday that the interview with Mueller’s team and Steele took place.”

POLITICO: “White House officials believe that chief of staff John Kelly’s personal cellphone was compromised, potentially as long ago as December, according to three U.S. government officials. The discovery raises concerns that hackers or foreign governments may have had access to data on Kelly’s phone while he was secretary of Homeland Security and after he joined the West Wing.”

Rep. Linda Sanchez of California is calling for Nancy Pelosi to step aside.

How much of a scandal was the IRS-targeting issue in 2013? The Washington Post writes on a new report from a Treasury watchdog: “The new finding suggests Republicans and the media provided an incomplete or even misleading account of what the IRS was up to when it was reviewing political organizations that sought tax-exempt status.”

Buzzfeed got its hands on a cache of documents showing Breitbart’s courtship of the alt-right. “These new emails and documents, however, clearly show that Breitbart does more than tolerate the most hate-filled, racist voices of the alt-right. It thrives on them, fueling and being fueled by some of the most toxic beliefs on the political spectrum — and clearing the way for them to enter the American mainstream.”

The Washington Post has an update on the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the ACA. “Supporters of the Affordable Care Act see the president’s opposition even to changes sought by conservative states as part of a broader campaign by his administration to undermine the 2010 health-care law. In addition to trying to cut funding for the ACA, the Trump administration also is hampering state efforts to control premiums. … And with the fifth enrollment season set to begin Nov. 1, advocates say the Health and Human Services Department has done more to suppress the number of people signing up than to boost it. HHS has slashed grants to groups that help consumers get insurance coverage, for example. It also has cut the enrollment period in half, reduced the advertising budget by 90 percent and announced an outage schedule that would make the website less available than last year.”

POLITICO has more on Rep. Tim Murphy’s resignation: “Ironically, Murphy’s swift collapse came not because of text messages he sent to a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair, encouraging her to have an abortion as first reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Tuesday. In fact, fears among senior Republicans about a potential wave of negative stories on how Murphy ran his congressional office were what ultimately pushed him out the door… The Post-Gazette had reported on a June 2017 memo in which Murphy’s longtime chief of staff, Susan Mosychuk, warned the Pennsylvania Republican that he was mistreating and “harassing” staff, causing 100 percent turnover. But Mosychuk is a source of controversy herself. A number of former Murphy staffers told POLITICO that it was Mosychuk’s behavior that drove them to leave Murphy's office. And these ex-aides said the combination of Murphy and Mosychuk — who had a close personal relationship, according to GOP lawmakers and staffers — made the situation intolerable. Mosychuk was promoted to Murphy’s chief of staff in 2004, just a year after becoming his legislative director.”

OFF TO THE RACES: Marsha Blackburn is in, Bill Haslam is out

POLITICO: “With Republican Senate primaries from West Virginia to Montana promising to pit Trump-inspired insurgents against more mainstream candidates, Democrats are considering ways to step in and wreak some havoc. The idea: Elevate the GOP’s most extreme option in each race, easing Democrats’ path to victory in a range of states tilted against them.”

The New York Times: “Republican leaders in Congress are under attack from all sides of their own party, battered by voters from the right and left, spurned by frustrated donors and even threatened by the Trump White House for ineffective leadership and insufficient loyalty… Republicans are increasingly mystified by their own grass roots, an electorate they thought they knew, and distressed that a wave of turnover in their ranks could fundamentally change the character of Congress. They fear that the inchoate populism that Mr. Trump personifies, and which Mr. Bannon is attempting to weaponize against incumbents, is on the march.”

Don’t miss Dante Chinni’s look at how both parties are trying to reclaim their 2016 defectors in the Detroit suburbs.

AL-SEN: asks: Can the GOP weather the Roy Moore storm?

MO-SEN: From POLITICO: “The Republican establishment pick to take on Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill quietly reached out to former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon last week — the latest step taken by concerned Republicans to counter Bannon’s threats to wreak havoc across the Senate landscape in 2018… Hawley’s allies in Missouri are worried Bannon — who is recruiting challengers to incumbent Republican senators around the country — could back former state GOP chair Ed Martin, now a prominent Trump surrogate, in a primary. Martin said in a text message that he was still looking at a run.”

SC-GOV: Donald Trump will campaign for Gov. Henry McMaster later this month, writes The Post and Courier.

TN-SEN: Marsha Blackburn is in (and Bill Haslam is out.)

VA-SEN: Tim Kaine’s re-election campaign announced that it has raised more than $12.4 million this cycle, and it has more than $8 million cash on hand.

VA-GOV: The president tweeted yesterday: “Ralph Northam,who is running for Governor of Virginia,is fighting for the violent MS-13 killer gangs & sanctuary cities. Vote Ed Gillespie!”

More, from the Richmond Times-Dispatch: “While former President George W. Bush will appear with Gillespie at a fundraiser in Richmond this month, as yet there is no word about a Trump campaign event with Gillespie. In response to the president's endorsement, Northam tweeted: "TBH (to be honest) I've been expecting this" and provided a link where his supporters could donate to his campaign.”

WV-SEN: “Several of Donald Trump's most generous and influential donors are wading into West Virginia's increasingly nasty Senate GOP primary, according to new financial disclosures that reveal that the powerful Mercer family has donated to Rep. Evan Jenkins' Senate campaign,” writes McClatchy. “Robert, Diana and Rebekah Mercer have each given Jenkins $5,400, the maximum individual contribution, even as Breitbart head Steve Bannon--who is generally very close to the Mercers—has so far appeared aligned with Jenkins' chief rival in the race, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.”