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First Read's Morning Clips: Optics Over Substance

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day.
Image: President Donald Trump, accompanies by first lady Melania Trump, waves upon arrival in Corpus Christi, Texas
President Donald Trump waves next to first lady Melania Trump upon arrival prior to receiving a briefing on Tropical Storm Harvey relief efforts in Corpus Christi, Texas on Aug. 29, 2017.Carlos Barria / Reuters

TRUMP AGENDA: Optics over substance

Ali Vitali sums up Trump's trip to storm-battered Texas.

Aides say that Trump is eager to avoid the mistakes made by George W. Bush in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The Washington Post's headline off the visit: "Even in visiting hurricane-ravaged Texas, Trump keeps the focus on himself."

"It was a presidential trip to a deluged state where the president didn’t meet a single storm victim, see an inch of rain or get near a flooded street," POLITICO writes. "But the daylong visit, during which President Donald Trump spent far more time in the air than on the ground, gave the optics-obsessed president some of the visuals he wanted, as he checked in on the government apparatus working on relief efforts and was buoyed by a roaring crowd of locals."

Harvey cleanup will be a "costly proposition," Trump said. More coverage from the Houston Chronicle here.

The Washington Post: "As he toured rising floodwater in Texas on Tuesday, President Trump effusively praised his administration’s Hurricane Harvey response, an effort he began touting on Twitter last weekend even before the storm made landfall. But not too long ago, the president proposed a budget calling for cuts to some of the federal government’s most consequential efforts to prepare states and local communities and help them recover from catastrophic events such as Harvey."

One of us(!) takes a look at a new poll from the Pew Research Center that shows significant doubts about Trump's conduct within the GOP.

Military Times: "Transgender troops can continue to serve pending a study and recommendation from Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the Defense Department announced Tuesday. The DoD has received Trump’s memorandum on transgender service members and will implement the president’s policy direction, according to a prepared statement from Mattis. “As directed, we will develop a study and implementation plan, which will contain the steps that will promote military readiness, lethality, and unit cohesion, with due regard for budgetary constraints and consistent with applicable law,” Mattis said."

From Ari Melber: "President Donald Trump’s unusual pardon of former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, issued before his federal case was even finished, has sparked a debate over whether the president could end Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia probe with a spate of pre-emptive pardons. But even mass pardons of all suspects in the Russia case would not close the door to potential prosecutions."

POLITICO writes that Trump is at war with himself over the issue of Dreamers.

"President Donald Trump dives back into the tax debate on Wednesday with a Missouri speech aimed at emphasizing the need for major changes as Republicans try to figure out what they want to do and how to proceed," writes the Wall Street Journal.

NBC's Robert Windrem and Corky Siemaszko report on how the White House has handled the North Korea crisis so far.

The AP reports that, yes, Sean Spicer finally got to meet the Pope.

OFF TO THE RACES: Moore, Strange battle over past histories

The New York Times takes a deep dive into the new science of gerrymandering through sophisticated computer modeling.

AL-SEN: Roy Moore and Luther Strange are sparring over their past histories as state officials. "Strange’s campaign revived an attack against Moore in the primary over his salary as Alabama Chief Justice. It also attacked Moore for cuts related to budget issues and for extending raises to aides during his first term as chief justice... Moore Tuesday called the charges ‘desperate smears’ and accused Strange of being ‘a proven yes-man’ for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and of letting ‘his greed get to him’ in accepting his appointment to the U.S. Senate by former Gov. Robert Bentley."

CA-GOV: Karen Bass endorsed Antonio Villaraigosa.

KS-GOV: The Kansas gubernatorial race has another candidate: Republican former state Rep. Mark Hutton.

MO-SEN: POLITICO, on why Claire McCaskill is holding her fire: "McCaskill knows what’s coming, and she has chosen not to fire back, even at a president who is as hot a target for her party as Trump. That’s because McCaskill knows the futility of trying to persuade staunchly conservative voters, like the ones at her Branson town hall, who come from a county that Trump won with 77 percent of the vote."

NJ-SEN: Chris Christie, on whether he would appoint himself to fill Bob Menendez's seat if he's forced out: "I don't see that happening."

PA-SEN: The New York Times looks at how Lou Barletta's run is an example of the conundrum posed by "Trump Republicans" in the race for the Senate.

VA-GOV: The Washington Post: "Ed Gillespie hired a blunt-spoken veteran of Donald Trump’s campaign and sharpened his rhetoric on Confederate monuments in recent days, as the establishment Republican running for Virginia governor seeks to win over Trump voters. Gillespie (R) has hired Jack Morgan, Trump’s Southwest Virginia field director, to play a similar role for his campaign. An evangelical preacher, motivational speaker and self-defense entrepreneur in Southwest Virginia, Morgan worked for Gillespie’s opponent, Corey A. Stewart, in the GOP gubernatorial primary. He has warned that the country is on the brink of civil war and that communists are behind the effort to take down Confederate statues."