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The Guns of August: Republican Super PAC unloads on House Democratic candidates

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: WI Democratic Congressional Candidate Randy Bryce Holds Primary Night Event
Democratic congressional candidate Randy Bryce speaks to supporters at an election-night rally after being declared the winner in the Wisconsin Democratic primary in Racine, Wisconsin on August 14, 2018.Scott Olson / Getty Images

Facing a challenging political environment, a Republican president whose approval rating is around 40 percent and an expanding battleground map for control of the House, Republicans are spending their resources — now — on trying to disqualify Democratic candidates.

On Wednesday alone, the Congressional Leadership Fund – the main Republican Super PAC for House races – released at least FIVE different ads hitting Democratic congressional candidates:

And the day before, CLF went after Democrat Katie Porter in CA-45, blasting her over sanctuary cities, ICE and single-payer.

This is what you do when you’re behind. Sometimes it works (sowing doubts about challengers). And sometimes it doesn’t. As the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman points out, “Only hope for House Rs to save majority? Disqualify Dem nominees w/ nuclear oppo & slug it out race-by-race starting in Aug/Sept. And so it begins.”

By the way, CLF — at nearly $58 million and counting — is set to be the biggest single advertiser in House races, according to Advertising Analytics’ ad spending data through Election Day. (Sheldon Adelson and his wife gave the Super PAC a combined $30 million in May, and CLF has $71 million in the bank as of the end of June.)

But also remember that Super PACs like CLF don’t get the same advertising discounts as campaigns do, so their money doesn’t go as far as candidates’ cash — where Democrats have been outpacing Republicans.

Here’s a look at the Top 10 advertisers in House contests through November 6 (which includes reserved ad buys):

  1. Congressional Leadership Fund: $57.7 million
  2. NRCC: $38 million
  3. House Majority PAC (Dem Super PAC): $33.4 million
  4. DCCC: $32.9 million
  5. American Action Network (GOP): $5.1 million
  6. Patriot Majority USA (GOP): $3.6 million
  7. Conor Lamb campaign (Dem): $3.2 million
  8. Women Vote: $3.2 million (Dem)
  9. Club for Growth (GOP): $3.0 million
  10. David Trone campaign (Dem): $3.0 million

Trump links revoking John Brennan’s security clearance to the Russia investigation

The Wall Street Journal: “President Trump drew a direct connection between the special counsel investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election and his decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan and review the clearances of several other former officials. In an interview Wednesday, Mr. Trump cited Mr. Brennan as among those he held responsible for the investigation, which also is looking into whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Mr. Trump has denied collusion, and Russia has denied interfering.”

“‘I call it the rigged witch hunt, [it] is a sham,’ Mr. Trump said in an interview. ‘And these people led it!’ He added: ‘So I think it’s something that had to be done.’”

Brennan fires back: “Mr. Trump’s claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash”

Writing in the New York Times, Brennan fires back at Trump. “While I had deep insight into Russian activities during the 2016 election, I now am aware — thanks to the reporting of an open and free press — of many more of the highly suspicious dalliances of some American citizens with people affiliated with the Russian intelligence services. Mr. Trump’s claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash.”

More from Brennan: “The only questions that remain are whether the collusion that took place constituted criminally liable conspiracy, whether obstruction of justice occurred to cover up any collusion or conspiracy, and how many members of ‘Trump Incorporated’ attempted to defraud the government by laundering and concealing the movement of money into their pockets.”

Giuliani says Trump’s legal team would fight subpoena all the way to the Supreme Court

“Rudolph W. Giuliani, President Trump’s lead lawyer for the ongoing Russia probe, said Wednesday that he is still awaiting a response from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to the Trump team’s latest terms for a presidential interview, which were made last week in a letter that argued against Trump’s having to answer questions about his possible obstruction of justice,” the Washington Post says. “In the meantime, Trump’s lawyers are preparing to oppose a potential subpoena from Mueller for a Trump sit-down by drafting a rebuttal that could set off a dramatic fight in federal courts.”

“‘We would move to quash the subpoena,’ Giuliani said in an interview. ‘And we’re pretty much finished with our memorandum opposing a subpoena.’ Giuliani added that Trump’s attorneys are ready to ‘argue it before the Supreme Court, if it ever got there.’”

Again, this is what makes the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination so extraordinary — Trump is appointing someone to the highest court in the land who might eventually have to hear cases involving the president and his 2016 campaign.

Jury to begin deliberating Manafort’s fate

“The jury will begin deliberating the fate of Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman who is on trial for bank and tax fraud, Thursday morning, Judge T.S. Ellis announced Wednesday,” per NBC News. “In their closing argument, prosecutors told the jury that Manafort lied to hide the full extent of his wealth from U.S. tax authorities and lied some more to obtain loans that would continue to fund his luxurious lifestyle."

“The defense argued that Manafort is innocent — and what's more, that the government failed to meet its burden of proof that Manafort is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Manafort's attorneys also sought to paint Gates, the prosecution's star witness, Manafort's former business partner and an ex-Trump aide, as the real criminal who took advantage of his boss's trust.”