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Woodward book: Former intel chief Dan Coats believed "Putin had something on Trump"

Former director of national intelligence Dan Coats could not shake his "deep suspicions" that Russian President Vladimir Putin "had something" on President Trump, seeing "no other explanation" for the president's behavior, according to Bob Woodward's new book "Rage," which was obtained ahead of its publication next week by CNN.

Why it matters: Coats was the president's top intelligence official from March 2017 until Aug. 2019. Woodward reports that Coats and his staff examined the intelligence regarding Trump's ties to Russia "as carefully as possible," and that he "still questions the relationship" between Trump and Putin despite the apparent absence of intelligence proof.


Between the lines: The New York Times' Michael Schmidt reported in his new book that former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein secretly curtailed an FBI counterintelligence probe into Trump's ties to Russia, meaning the full scope of decades of the president's personal and financial dealings there has never been explored.

The big picture: The explosive Woodward book, which is based in part on 18 interviews that Trump sat for with the veteran journalist, details the "tortured" tenure of Coats and other officials described by the Washington Post as "so-called adults of the Trump orbit" — including former Defense Secretary James Mattis and former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

  • At one point, Mattis went to Washington National Cathedral to pray for the country's fate under Trump's leadership, according to the Post's report on Woodward's book. He reportedly told Coats, "There may come a time when we have to take collective action" to speak out against Trump because he is "dangerous. He’s unfit."
  • In a later conversation reported by Woodward, Mattis told Coats, "The president has no moral compass." Coats reportedly responded, “True. To him, a lie is not a lie. It’s just what he thinks. He doesn’t know the difference between the truth and a lie."

The other side: "The Bob Woodward book will be a FAKE, as always, just as many of the others have been," Trump tweeted on Aug. 14, before the book had come out.

Only Joe Biden can win the election in a popular and electoral vote landslide

Joe Biden or President Trump could win the election narrowly — but only one in a popular and electoral vote blowout. 

Why it matters: A Biden blowout would mean a Democratic Senate, a bigger Democratic House and a huge political and policy shift nationwide.

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Justice's moves ring Big Tech with regulatory threats

The Department of Justice proposed legislation to curb liability protections for tech platforms and moved a step closer toward an antitrust lawsuit against Google Wednesday.

The big picture: As President Trump faces re-election, lawmakers and regulators are hurriedly wrapping up investigations and circling Big Tech with regulatory threats.

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Democrats' mail voting pivot

Democrats spent the early months of the coronavirus pandemic urging their base to vote absentee. But as threats of U.S. Postal Service delays, Team Trump litigation and higher ballot rejection rates become clearer, many are pivoting to promote more in-person voting as well.

Why it matters: Democrats are exponentially more likely to vote by mail than Republicans this year — and if enough mail-in ballots are lost, rejected on a technicality or undercounted, it could change the outcome of the presidential election or other key races.

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Biden's mail voting danger

Data: SurveyMonkey; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Voters who disapprove of President Trump most strongly are by far the most likely to vote by mail in the presidential election, according to an Axios analysis of exclusive data from SurveyMonkey and Tableau.

Why it matters: The new data shows just how strongly the mail-in vote is likely to favor Joe Biden — with potentially enormous implications in the swing states due to the greater risk of rejection with mail ballots.

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Reopening the ACA debate is politically risky for GOP

Data: Kaiser Family Foundation, The Cook Political Report; Notes: Those losing insurance includes 2020 ACA marketplace enrollment and 2019 Medicaid expansion enrollment among newly-eligible enrollees. Close races are those defined as "Toss up" or "Lean R/D"; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The sudden uncertainty surrounding the future of the Affordable Care Act could be an enormous political liability for Republicans in key states come November.

Between the lines: Millions of people in crucial presidential and Senate battlegrounds would lose their health care coverage if the Supreme Court strikes down the law, as the Trump administration is urging it to.

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The coronavirus is surging again

Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

The coronavirus is surging once again across the U.S., with cases rising in 22 states over the past week.

The big picture: There isn't one big event or sudden occurrence that explains this increase. We simply have never done a very good job containing the virus, despite losing 200,000 lives in just the past six months, and this is what that persistent failure looks like.

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Two officers shot in Louisville amid Breonna Taylor protests

Louisville Metro Police Department said two officers were shot downtown in the Kentucky city late Wednesday, just hours after a grand jury announced an indictment in the Breonna Taylor case.

Driving the news: Metrosafe, the city's emergency services, said it received reports of a shooting at South Brook St. and Broadway Ave., near the area where protests were taking place. A police spokesperson told a press briefing the injuries of both officers were not life-threatening. One officer was "alert and stable" and the other was undergoing surgery, he said.

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Biden: Breonna Taylor indictment "does not answer" call for justice

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday condemned the grand jury indictment of a Louisville police officer who entered Breonna Taylor's home in March in a botched drug raid that led to her death, saying in a statement the decision "does not answer" for equal justice.

The big picture: Biden called for reforms to address police use of force and no-knock warrants, while demanding a ban on chokeholds. He added that people "have a right to peacefully protest, but violence is never acceptable."

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