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First Read's Morning Clips: A State Department Adrift

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day.
Image: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at a press conference in London
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at a press conference in London on Sept. 14, 2017.Leon Neal / Getty Images file

TRUMP AGENDA: A State Department that’s adrift

NBC’s Vivian Salama: “As President Donald Trump faces a collection of world leaders at his first United Nations General Assembly this week, U.S. officials are working behind the scenes to allay fears among foreign delegations that America's foreign policy decisions have become too dominated by the West Wing, and that the U.S. State Department, where many crucial positions remain unfilled, is adrift.”

Benjy Sarlin, on why Obamacare is in danger again: “A last-ditch Republican effort to repeal Obamacare picked up steam on Monday as a key senator opened the door to supporting the bill, which is popularly known as Graham-Cassidy. The GOP got a boost when Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who was one of three Republican "no" votes in July that derailed the last GOP health care effort, said he might "reluctantly" vote for the bill if his governor supported it. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, backed the legislation later that day. McCain has yet to take a solid position on the measure and has said he prefers a longer bipartisan approach. The Senate Finance Committee announced it would hold a hearing next week on the bill, which could help address his complaints about the rushed process.”

More, from the Washington Post: “The appearance of a new measure reflected just how damaging Republicans consider their inability to make good on a key campaign promise of the past seven years: to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement. But trying again brings its own perils. It remains far from certain that McConnell can marshal the 50 votes he needs to pass the measure. Already under fire from Trump for falling short in the earlier effort, McConnell could see his standing with the president and other Republicans suffer all the more if he fails again.”

FYI: The plan won’t get a full CBO report by the end of the month. POLITICO looks at why that matters.

By the way, Save My Care is going up with a six-figure TV ad campaign urging Murkowski, Collins and Capito to vote against the bill.

NBC’s Ali Vitali previews Trump’s speech to the United Nations.

The Washington Post notes how Trump has often started tributes to others by paying tribute to himself.

Breaking yesterday in the New York Times: Details of how federal agents raided Paul Manafort’s home in July and how prosecutors warned him that an indictment was coming. “The moves against Mr. Manafort are just a glimpse of the aggressive tactics used by Mr. Mueller and his team of prosecutors in the four months since taking over the Justice Department’s investigation into Russia’s attempts to disrupt last year’s election, according to lawyers, witnesses and American officials who have described the approach. Dispensing with the plodding pace typical of many white-collar investigations, Mr. Mueller’s team has used what some describe as shock-and-awe tactics to intimidate witnesses and potential targets of the inquiry.”

And from CNN: “US investigators wiretapped former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort under secret court orders before and after the election, sources tell CNN, an extraordinary step involving a high-ranking campaign official now at the center of the Russia meddling probe.”

From NBC’s Mike Memoli and Ken Dilanian: “Senate investigators probing Russian attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election will zero in on reported links between Moscow and President Trump's businesses when longtime Trump associate Michael Cohen answers questions from a congressional panel Tuesday. Cohen, who served as executive vice president and special counsel at the Trump Organization and continues to serve as the president's personal attorney, is perhaps the closest associate to Trump outside of his immediate family. He will speak with professional staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday weeks after the president's son and son-in-law spoke with it and other congressional panels looking into Russia's meddling in U.S. elections.”

The Senate has passed a $700 billion defense policy bill.

The Wall Street Journal: “Senate Republicans are considering writing a budget that would allow for up to $1.5 trillion in tax cuts over the next decade, said people familiar with the discussions. Budget talks are continuing and no final decision has been reached yet.”

OFF TO THE RACES: Another controversy for Roy Moore

The Washington Post, on how a different California primary date could be very bad news for Trump.

AL-SEN: Alex Seitz-Wald , on yesterday’s Roy Moore controversy: “Roy Moore, the Republican front-runner in next week’s special Senate election in Alabama, referred to "reds and yellows fighting" in a campaign speech, a video shows. Moore, the ultra-conservative former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, lamented racial divisions in his remarks on Sunday.”

If Roy Moore wins Alabama’s Senate seat, it’s bad news for Mitch McConnell, POLITICO notes.

Trump will now visit Huntsville for Luther Strange on Friday, not Saturday. (And Pence will be there next week, too.)

MD-GOV: Doug Gansler won’t run for governor.

MI-SEN: “Lena Epstein, who co-chaired President Trump's campaign in Michigan, has decided to forgo a bid for Senate and instead run for Congress in one of 2018's key House races.”

NJ-SEN: POLITICO has the latest on the Menendez trial.

TN-SEN: The AP: “President Donald Trump is encouraging Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee to run for another term, according to two people familiar with a meeting between the two Republicans at the White House last week.”

VA-GOV: More polling in the Virginia governor’s race shows a close contest.