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First Read's Morning Clips: Trump Blames 'Both Sides'

A roundup of the most important political news stories of the day
Image: President Donald Trump answers questions about Charlottesville
President Donald Trump answers questions about Charlottesville after his statement on the infrastructure discussion in the lobby at Trump Tower in New York on Aug. 15, 2017.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images

TRUMP AGENDA: “I think there’s blame on both sides”

A remarkable lede in the New York Times: “President Trump buoyed the white nationalist movement on Tuesday as no president has done in generations — equating activists protesting racism with the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who rampaged in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend.”

NBC’s Dartunorro Clark sums up reaction to Donald Trump’s “two sides” claims yesterday.

From the Washington Post: “The president’s rhetorical ricochet — from declining on Saturday to name the bad guys in the violent confrontation in Charlottesville to his muted acknowledgment Monday that neo-Nazis and white supremacists “are criminals and thugs” and then Tuesday to a classic doubling down on his original remarks — seemed almost perfectly designed to highlight some basic truths about Donald Trump: He does not like to be told what to say. He will always find a way to pull the conversation back to himself. And he is preternaturally inclined to dance with the ones who brought him.”

POLITICO: “For the white supremacists who have been roundly vilified since their rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend, Donald Trump's news conference on Tuesday came as validation: The president used many of their talking points, condemning the left-wing groups that animate their rage and defending monuments to Confederate leaders who tried to protect slavery.”

What drives people to join hate groups? Elizabeth Chuck writes that receiving implicit permission is a major factor.

The New York Times: “Aides had urged him for days to take the high ground, persuading him on Monday to read a brief statement condemning the neo-Nazi groups from the Diplomatic Room in the White House. But over the past day, back in his private New York residence for the first time since becoming president, Mr. Trump was alone, without his wife and young son, and consuming hours of television, with many on cable news telling him he had not done enough.”

In the Daily Beast: “Steve Bannon, President Donald Trump’s besieged chief strategist, came into the White House in late January with a core group of right-wing allies and ideological fellow travelers, including senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and presidential assistant Julia Hahn.

But in recent months, Hahn and Miller have soured on Bannon, according to multiple sources in and outside the White House with direct knowledge of the situation.”

And/but, a source close to the White House tells Reuters of Bannon: “The president obviously is very nervous and afraid of firing him.”

Yet more members of the president’s advisory council are calling it quits.

The Wall Street Journal: “Inside boardrooms, leaders are torn between a desire to reduce regulatory burdens and wariness of appearing to support the administration, board members and crisis managers say.”

NBC’s Benjy Sarlin: “Health care premiums will spike, insurers will exit the market, and deficits will increase if President Donald Trump follows through on his threats to cut off government payments to insurance companies, according to a new Congressional Budget Office report. The cost of a "silver" insurance plan under Obamacare would be 20 percent higher in 2018 and 25 percent higher by 2020 compared to current law, according to the report. About five percent of the population would not be able to buy insurance through Obamacare at all next year, the CBO predicted, because companies would withdraw plans in response to the "substantial uncertainty" created by the move. The markets would stabilize in future years, however, as insurers adjusted to the new policy.”

Our colleague John Harwood writes: “Donald Trump has a very clear attitude about morality: He doesn't believe in it.”

OFF TO THE RACES: Moore, Strange advance to runoff in Alabama

AL-SEN: It’s Strange and Moore in the runoff. Here’s NBC’s Adam Edelman, summing up last night’s results. “Moore cruised to a first-place finish in the Republican side of the special Senate primary, getting 39.8 percent of the vote with 86 percent of the state's precincts reporting. Strange, the incumbent who received the backing of President Donald Trump, came in second, with 32.1 percent of the vote. Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., a Tea Party favorite who’d consistently attacked Strange for being an “establishment candidate” with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., finished in third place, with 19.9 percent, and will not advance to the Sept. 26 runoff.”

Trump tweeted this morning of the results: “Congratulation to Roy Moore and Luther Strange for being the final two and heading into a September runoff in Alabama. Exciting race!”

Mo Brooks is declining to endorse either GOP rival.

Don’t miss Roy Moore’s dubious comments yesterday about Sharia law in the United States.

Here are Steve Kornacki’s big takeaways from last night’s contest.

MO-SEN: “Missouri Treasurer Eric Schmitt will not enter the Republican primary to challenge Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, he plans to announce Tuesday — a decision that likely clears a path for state Attorney General Josh Hawley to pursue his party’s nomination in the race,” writes Rebecca Berg in RealClearPolitics.

NV-SEN: The Nevada Independent writes that Dean Heller says he’s in “a pretty good place” with Trump.

UT-3: The AP: “A Utah mayor overcame nearly $1 million in attacks from out-of-state groups to win a three-way Republican primary in a race to fill a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives vacated by Jason Chaffetz. Tuesday’s win puts Provo Mayor John Curtis on an easy path toward victory in the November special election. Republicans outnumber Democrats 5-to-1 in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District. Chaffetz represented the district until he abruptly resigned in June, citing a desire to spend more time with family.”

VA-GOV: Does Charlottesville hurt Gillespie’s chances to win the governorship?