An unconventional president faces a conventional crisis

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.
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President Donald Trump listens to a question during a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the Oval Office on June 20, 2019.Evan Vucci / AP

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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Carrie Dann

WASHINGTON — So many of the controversies and crises of the Trump Era have originated from the president’s Twitter account.

Or the Russia investigation. Or the rampant turnover in the administration.

But this is different: President Trump appears to be facing a potential crisis in the combustible Middle East — all without a confirmed secretary of defense.

The New York Times first reported last night that Trump approved military strikes against Iran for shooting down a U.S. surveillance drone, but then he backed down.

The Washington Post then confirmed the story.

“The developments came as the United States and Iran continued to fight over whether the high-altitude U.S. surveillance drone had violated Iranian airspace when it was shot down Thursday,” NBC’s Alex Johnson, Ali Arouzi and Kristen Welker added.

More: “The incident has prompted the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA, to prohibit most U.S. civil aircraft from flying in Iranian-controlled airspace over the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.”

As the Times puts it, it’s unclear whether Trump changed his mind about the strikes against Iran because of logistics or strategy.

Or if the attacks might still go forward.

How to fix America’s democracy

Our most recent NBC/WSJ poll asked Americans about potential changes that could occur within our democracy.

Here are the most popular answers – adding up those who said the changes would improve democracy “a lot” or “just some”:

  • Term limits for members of Congress: 71 percent.
  • Non-partisan commissions drawing congressional/state legislative districts: 66 percent.
  • Election Day as a national holiday: 66 percent.
  • Automatic voter registration for every adult citizen: 65 percent.
  • Term limits for Supreme Court justices: 60 percent.
  • Eliminating the Electoral College to decide presidential elections: 56 percent.
  • Federal funding of congressional campaigns: 54 percent.
  • Eliminating the filibuster: 44 percent.

Of course, there are significant partisan differences on these fixes: 81 percent of Democratic respondents say abolishing the Electoral College would improve democracy a lot/somewhat, versus just 32 percent of Republicans who agree.

But the one fix where there’s bipartisan support is congressional term limits, with 81 percent of Republicans, 68 percent of independents and 67 percent of Democrats who think it would improve things.

Moore problems

Well, he’s running for the Senate – only producing headaches for a GOP in their one big Senate pickup opportunity in 2020.

“Roy Moore, the failed U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama who was accused of sexual misconduct by several women when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s, announced Thursday that he will run again for the seat,” per NBC’s Vaughn Hillyard and Dartunorro Clark.

“Yes, I will run for the United States Senate in 2020,” Moore said, adding, “Can I win? Yes, I can. Not only can I, they know I can.”

Tweet of the day

2020 Vision: Gone fishin’

Tonight is Rep. James Clyburn’s, D-S.C. Democratic fish fry, where nearly the entire 2020 Democratic field will make an appearance.

“This is going to be the biggest fish fry we’ve ever had,” Rep. Clyburn told NBC’s Jordan Jackson earlier this week. “I don’t know if they’re going to be able to produce enough fish for us.”

The fish fry, an event Rep. Clyburn started nearly three decades ago to say thank you to campaign workers, has become an important stop for Democrats seeking the nomination — offering the opportunity to woo voters, particularly those in the African American community, Jackson notes.

While he could be a kingmaker in the state, Clyburn says he isn’t likely to endorse a candidate ahead of the primary.

“It would be a bit selfish for me to go out and please my political inclinations and threaten the foundation on which we are trying to build a new, vibrant South Carolina Democratic Party,” he told Jackson.

On the campaign trail today

Beginning at 9:00 am ET, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren Eric Swalwell, Beto O’Rourke, John Hickenlooper and Bernie Sanders participate in a NALEO candidate forum in Miami, Fla… Kamala Harris holds two events in Columbia, S.C…. Michael Bennet also campaigns in Columbia… Steve Bullock stumps in New Hampshire… And beginning at 9:00 pm ET, the candidates appear at Jim Clyburn’s fish fry.

Data Download: The number of the day is … 4 points

That's the margin in our new poll between the share of Americans who say they're more concerned that people who should be eligible to vote are being excluded by laws meant to discourage voting (48 percent) ...

... and the share who are concerned that people who are unregistered or are not citizens are nonetheless able to vote. (44 percent).

Not surprisingly, there’s a significant difference by party: Democrats, by a 74 percent-to-20 percent margin, say they’re more concerned about people being excluded.

That’s compared with Republicans who, by a 73 percent-to-18 percent margin, are more concerned about non-citizens and the unregistered.

And independents are split down the middle – 48 percent are more concerned about exclusion, 42 percent about non-citizens and the unregistered.

The Lid

Don't miss the pod from yesterday, when we looked at how Trump and Democrats are playing by different sets of rules.

ICYMI: News clips you shouldn’t miss

Joe Biden called Cory Booker to smooth things over after their pointed exchange about race. (And he met with the CBC behind closed doors).

Our own Mike Memoli digs this out of the archives: Joe Biden once warned George W. Bush that military action in Iran without congressional approval would be grounds for impeachment.

The Washington Post has another deep dive in how money is flowing from Trump's clubs as would-be allies try to curry favor.

Hope Hicks was stopped from answering questions by White House lawyers 155 times in her closed-door testimony on the Hill this week.

Trump agenda: About-face

Here's that blockbuster New York Times story on Iran.

What gets bipartisan support these days? Fighting robocalls.

The Senate has voted to block the Trump administration from selling weapons to Saudi Arabia.

The pro-impeachment drumbeat goes on among Democrats.

2020: Acceptance

POLITICO takes a look at what might happen if Trump doesn't accept the 2020 results.

How do Asian Americans feel about candidate Andrew Yang?