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First Read's Morning Clips: Checking in on the voter fraud commission

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day
Image: Manchester Voter Fraud Commission
The second meeting of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity was held at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College on September 12, 2017 in Goffstown, New Hampshire.Kayana Szymczak / for NBC News

TRUMP AGENDA: Whatever happened to that voter fraud commission?

From NBC’s Dartunorro Clark: “No one seems to know what's going on lately with President Donald Trump's voter fraud commission — not even its own members.”

“A top lawyer for President Donald Trump’s transition team has accused a government agency of unlawfully turning over thousands of emails to special counsel Robert Mueller as part of his investigation into Russia's election meddling and potential collusion with the Trump campaign,” write NBC’s Saphora Smith and Ken Dilanian. “Kory Langhofer, general counsel to the transition team known as Trump for America (TFA), wrote a letter to the House Oversight Committee and the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Saturday detailing claims that Mueller’s team had improperly received emails sent and received by Trump officials before the start of his administration.”

More, in the New York Times: “Legal experts said there was no indication that Mr. Mueller, who has wide power to obtain documents through written requests, subpoenas and search warrants, improperly obtained the transition emails. But amid the barrage of criticism, Mr. Mueller’s office issued a rare statement on Sunday defending how the information had been obtained during the inquiry into Russian election meddling.”

“In recent discussions, two advisers said, Trump has called the attorney general “weak,” and complained that Rosenstein has shown insufficient accountability on the special counsel’s work. A senior official said Trump mocked Rosenstein’s recent testimony on Capitol Hill, saying he looked weak and unable to answer questions. Trump has ranted about Rosenstein as “a Democrat,” one of these advisers said, and characterized him as a threat to his presidency,” writes the Washington Post.

John McCain is back in Arizona and will miss a vote on the GOP tax bill due to his health.

The Washington Post sums up the state of play on the Hill: “Republicans return to Congress on Monday facing a packed agenda with little time to enact it, as party leaders aim to quickly pass their massive tax plan and then cut a budget deal with Democrats before the end of Friday to avert a government shutdown.”

The Wall Street Journal, on the uncertainty written into the tax bill: “Republicans are on the cusp this week of passing a historic overhaul of the U.S. tax system but might also be ushering in a new period of instability in the tax code, because the plan is advancing without bipartisan support and with expiration dates that guarantee it will be revisited for years.”

From NBC’s Vivan Salama: “President Donald Trump is set to unveil his national security strategy Monday, largely adhering to the approach of his two predecessors with a pledge to bolster homeland security and prosperity while exerting American influence abroad.”

“One Environmental Protection Agency employee spoke up at a private lunch held near the agency headquarters, saying she feared the nation might be headed toward an “environmental catastrophe.” Another staff member, from Seattle, sent a letter to Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, raising similar concerns about the direction of the agency. A third, from Philadelphia, went to a rally where he protested against agency budget cuts,” writes the New York Times. “Three different agency employees, in different jobs, from three different cities, but each encountered a similar outcome: Federal records show that within a matter of days, requests were submitted for copies of emails written by them that mentioned either Mr. Pruitt or President Trump, or any communication with Democrats in Congress that might have been critical of the agency.”

In the Washington Post: “Years of conservative attacks on the Internal Revenue Service have greatly diminished the ability of agency regulators to oversee political activity by charities and other nonprofits, documents and interviews show. The fall in oversight, a byproduct of repeated cuts to the IRS budget, comes at a time when the number of charities is reaching a historic high and they are becoming more partisan and financially complex.”

OFF TO THE RACES: Dems have the early midterm advantage

From one of us(!): “Fresh off their victory in Alabama’s special Senate election, Democrats now enjoy their largest advantage in congressional preference in nine years, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, signaling a dangerous political environment for Republicans entering next year’s midterm elections. Fifty percent of registered voters say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, versus 39 percent who want Republicans in charge. The last time Democrats both held a double-digit lead and hit 50 percent on this question in the NBC/WSJ poll was September 2008, right before the party won the White House and picked up a substantial number of House and Senate seats.”

Here’s NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald on how misconduct allegations are shaking up the 2018 midterms.

And the New York Times, on how suburbs are giving Democrats a shot at House control. “Officials in both parties believe that Republican control of the House is now in grave jeopardy because a group of districts that are historically Republican or had been trending that way before the 2016 election are slipping away. Much attention has been paid to the handful of seats in New York, New Jersey and California that are represented by Republicans but voted for Hillary Clinton last year. But even with district lines drawn to favor Republicans in many states, the swelling antipathy toward Mr. Trump threatens to breach the party’s defenses and stretch the congressional battlefield beyond the dimensions Republicans and Democrats anticipated a year ago.”

AL-SEN: Doug Jones doesn’t believe that Donald Trump should resign over pre-election harassment allegations.

From NBC’s Dante Chinni: “By most any political estimation, last week’s Alabama special Senate election was an outlier. Democrats generally don’t win statewide races in Alabama and Doug Jones likely wouldn’t have if a series of child molestation stories hadn’t surfaced about Republican candidate Roy Moore. But tallies out of Alabama’s biggest vote-producing counties suggest the election was just another example of a trend that’s shaped the most-watched races of 2017: the GOP’s retreat from the suburbs.”

MN-SEN: Some Democrats are urging Al Franken to un-resign.

NV-4: ICYMI: Ruben Kihuen won’t seek reelection amid sexual harassment claims.

VA-GOV: Governor-elect Ralph Northam is angering some Virginia Democrats after telling the Washington Post that he won’t force Republicans into a broad expansion of Medicaid.