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Created after 9/11, the DHS has now been remade in Trump's image

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: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at MBS International Airport, Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020, in Freeland, Mich. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)Evan Vucci / AP

WASHINGTON — Two different stories this week — today’s 19th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and a whistleblower’s allegation that a top Trump administration official tried to block assessments of Russia’s interference in the U.S. — raise an important question.

Just what has happened inside the Department of Homeland Security, which was created in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks?

No single department or agency has been remade more in Trump’s image than DHS has.

Think of the family separation policy. The border wall. The DHS officers on the front lines of the protests in Portland. The overtly political appointees inside the agency. And now the allegation of minimizing any Russian interference (and instead elevating interference by China and Iran).

And no single department or agency — if Joe Biden wins in November — will be more difficult for a new administration to change, either bureaucratically or culturally.

“The president has perverted the mission of DHS,” Tom Ridge, who served as the first DHS secretary under George W. Bush, recently told the Washington Post.

“Creating the perception that the department is a political arm of the president is an abuse I never thought I’d see,” Ridge said.

Remembering 9/11

President Trump and the first lady travel to Shanksville, Pa., to pay respects at the Flight 93 National Memorial. Joe and Jill Biden also head to Shanksville later in the afternoon after attending the 9/11 Memorial & Museum’s ceremony in New York City.

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

6,427,067: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 38,446 more than yesterday morning.)

193,186: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,249 more than yesterday morning.)

84.56 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

71 percent: The share of Republicans who say they prefer to vote in person in November, according to a new Washington Post poll.

About 88,000: The number of coronavirus cases at colleges and universities since the pandemic began.

At least seven: The number of deaths linked to the wildfire raging in Northern California.

Talking policy with Benjy: Bar Talk

To paraphrase Homer Simpson, alcohol has been both the cause and solution to many a state’s coronavirus problem. When there’s been a major outbreak, bars, indoor dining, and parties are the first thing public health officials blame and restricting them is often credited with getting cases under control in places like Arizona, Benjy Sarlin writes.

The problem is that it’s very difficult to follow that advice without bankrupting bars, restaurants, theaters and other difficult-to-open institutions. The White House and Congress are still at odds on pandemic relief, putting state leaders in a difficult position of having to increasingly choose between preventing outbreaks and trying to save beloved small businesses.

Many experts argue keeping stricter rules is especially important right now, both to keep cases low while schools work to reopen and to prepare for cooler weather, which they warn could cause new outbreaks by forcing more activity indoors. But pressure to reopen is only increasing as prior relief money runs out and the financial situation worsens for owners.

“I'd love for everything to be open, but I think we can all agree sending our kids to school is more fundamental to our society functioning than bars," said Malia Jones, an epidemiologist at the University of Wisconsin. "There should be a stimulus package for businesses that are suffering. Some of them are going to be closed for a long time, I think."

2020 Vision: Compare and contrast

Thursday was a day of two very different responses to the coronavirus by President Trump and Joe Biden.

Here was Trump: “We possibly have done the best jobs when you start looking at what we're doing with the vaccines and therapeutics and ventilators. We had no ventilators. We make thousands of ventilators now a month, and we're supplying them to the whole world. The job we've done is the best job.”

And here was Biden: “[Trump] waved a white flag. He walked away, he didn't do a damn thing. Think about it. Think about what he did not do, it's almost criminal.”

Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar

Today’s Ad Watch takes a look at how GOP super PACs have helped President Trump fill a significant chunk of the gap in television and radio battleground spending between his campaign and Joe Biden’s.

Taking a look at six of the key swing states — Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — during the six-week period of July 28 through Sept. 7, Biden outspent Trump by a 5-to-1 margin ($86.4 million to $17.3 million, per Advertising Analytics).

But if outside spending is included, it’s only a 2-to-1 advantage ($111.9 million for Democrats and $65.1 million for Republicans).

It’s a reminder of how much ground the Trump campaign has ceded to the Biden camp on the TV airwaves recently (with the incumbent going off the air in battleground states for two portions of the summer). And shows how big of an asset the outside groups are to Trump, considering the spending disparity between the two campaigns.

You can read more on the MTP Blog.

The Lid: Be all that you can be

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at how Americans view the two major candidates when it comes to respect for the military.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Young Latino voters feel ignored politically, and some experts warn the repercussions could linger.

A three-judge panel has ruled that President Trump’s efforts to exclude the undocumented from redistricting counts violates the law.

Back in 2019, a DHS spokeswoman pushed NBC News to retract a story about the number of known or suspected terrorists who had crossed the southern border. A whistleblower’s recent claims give us a lot more information about what was really going on.

Harry Reid says that Democrats will flip the Senate.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says that fall and winter are “not going to be easy.”

Arizona Senate candidate Mark Kelly has apologized for a 2018 remark that critics have called racist against Latinos.