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The Trump administration tries to rewrite the story of America

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: The Statue of Liberty
Tourists visit the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor on Aug. 14, 2019.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — For all of the focus this week on the state of the economy, Trump’s tariffs and the 2020 Democratic horserace, there’s been an even more significant story staring us in the face.

The president and his administration are trying to rewrite the story of America.

Earlier this week, for example, you had acting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ken Cuccinelli revising Emma Lazarus’ poem on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

"Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge," Cuccinelli said, announcing the Trump administration’s policy to deny green cards to legal immigrants who use government benefits.

Then yesterday, you had the president of the United States urging Israel to bar two Democratic lawmakers from entering Israel.

“It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people, & there is nothing that can be said or done to change their minds. Minnesota and Michigan will have a hard time putting them back in office. They are a disgrace!”

Israel followed through in barring Omar and Tlaib. But this morning, the country backed down somewhat, allowing Tlaib to visit her grandmother in the West Bank on humanitarian grounds.

Freedom of speech. Freedom of dissent. A country built by immigrants.

Those have been the cornerstones of the American story.

But we’re seeing Trump and his administration opt for a new foundation.

As NBC’s Benjy Sarlin observed: “There's obviously one especially big example looming over all of it, but Trump's eagerness to egg on world leaders against his own government and its representatives is among his biggest departures from recent norms and would have been a five-alarm fire under any other president.”

Trump disses NATO — again

Speaking of five-alarm fires, remember when Trump criticizing NATO used to send the political world in a panic?

Well, he continues to criticize NATO; it’s just that the outrage has died down.

Here was Trump last night at his rally in New Hampshire: “Folks. I got NATO to pay an extra $100 billion. They weren't paying. They were delinquent, many nations were, except for seven, many nations weren't paying what they were supposed to be paying so we're supposed to protect them.”


“[B]ut I'm tired of paying for other nations anyway, I have to be honest with you. And today our nation is stronger than ever before, we're now stronger than ever before.”

2020 Vision: Biden leads the pack, Sanders falls to third place

A new Fox News poll released on Thursday finds Joe Biden leading the Democratic presidential horserace, followed by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

The numbers:

  • Biden 31 percent (down 2 points since July)
  • Warren 20 percent (up 8 points)
  • Sanders 10 percent (down 5)
  • Harris 8 percent (down 2)
  • Booker 3 percent (up 1)
  • Buttigieg 3 percent (down 2)
  • Yang 3 percent (unchanged)
  • Klobuchar 2 percent (down 1)
  • O’Rourke 2 percent (unchanged)

No other Democrat gets more than 2 percent in the poll, which is a qualifying survey for the Democratic debates.

On the campaign trail

Today: Cory Booker, Julian Castro and Pete Buttigieg address a Black Church PAC forum in Atlanta… Beto O’Rourke heads to Mississippi…. And Andrew Yang, John Delaney and Steve Bullock are in New Hampshire.

Saturday: Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders address the Black Church PAC forum in Atlanta… Yang, Bullock, Delaney, Cory Booker, Michael Bennet and Bill de Blasio are in New Hampshire… Buttigieg travels to South Carolina… As does Amy Klobuchar… And O’Rourke stumps in Arkansas.

Dispatches from NBC’s embeds

Pete Buttigieg yesterday finished his two-day tour through southeastern Iowa at a town hall in Oskaloosa when a woman discussed her current immigration journey. NBC’s Priscilla Thompson reports, “She’s in the process of applying for citizenship and worries that she could be deported and taken from her baby – even though she’s a lawful citizen with a green card. Buttigieg expressed the need to streamline the immigration process and address the backlog. ‘It's time to talk about what it really means to honor family,’ he said. ‘Part of it is making sure we want families to stay together and that has implications for our immigration policy.’”

Julián Castro was asked what his health care policy would entail, since there’s no information on his website, while at a Working Families Party Q&A. NBC’s Maura Barrett reports, “Castro said they’re working on rolling out several plans and it will be up soon; summarizing, ‘We should strengthen Medicare for the people who are on it, and then expand it to anybody who wants it.’”

Data Download: The number of the day is … 26 points

Twenty-six points.

That’s the margin of Joe Biden’s national lead among Democratic primary voters who say they prefer a candidate who builds on Barack Obama’s legacy, according to a new Fox News poll.

Overall, 48 percent of Democratic want a candidate to build on Obama’s legacy, and Joe Biden gets support from 42 percent of these voters — followed by Elizabeth Warren at 16 percent, Bernie Sanders at 9 percent and Kamala Harris at 6 percent.

That’s compared with 47 percent of Dem primary voters who want to take a different approach from Obama, and the horserace among these voters breaks this way – Warren 26 percent, Biden 21 percent, Sanders 11 percent and Harris 9 percent.

Tweet of the day

The Lid: Nothing odd about that

Don't miss yesterday's pod, when we gave you the rundown on the upcoming odd-year elections.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

The Washington Post looks out how President Trump has moved to "punish his rivals" through his official powers.

President Trump has mused about the possibility of buying Greenland from Denmark.

Israel has granted permission to Rep. Rashida Tlaib to visit family in the West Bank after denying her broader visit to the country.

El Paso's Republican Mayor says President Trump called him a RINO (Republican in Name Only) during his visit to the city following the recent mass shooting there.

Trump Agenda: Cautious eye

The Trump administration has a cautious eye on the uncertain economy ahead of 2020.

A federal judge denied the Trump administration's appeal arguing migrant children might not need soap for shorter stints in custody.

2020: Barack and Joe

The New York Times has a deep dive into the relationship between former President Obama and his running mate turned 2020 Democratic frontrunner, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Beto O'Rourke returned to the campaign trail Thursday, arguing he'll bring his campaign to the communities targeted by the administration's policies.

A federal judge won't let Georgia use an electronic-only voting system in 2020.

President Trump urged former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to run for Senate during his New Hampshire rally.