-- WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY
Unrigging the economy is one thing. Unraveling the political thicket is something else entirely. There was something disingenuous about President Trump's using an official White House event to explicitly call for the defeat of a Democratic senator if she doesn’t support a tax bill that doesn’t even actually exist. (Launching a political attack on Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., while Harvey’s devastation continues, is just something to add to the pile of never-before-Trump cards.) But there was also something disciplined about the president’s tax speech, in its deference to congressional leaders and acknowledgements of their urgencies and priorities. Pressuring McCaskill instead of GOP Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona or Dean Heller of Nevada, say – that’s a start, so far as Capitol Hill Republicans are concerned. In principle – and that’s all there is to go on at this point – tax overhaul is something that can get bipartisan buy-in down the line. If there’s some follow-up next – backing off shutdown talk and budget brinksmanship, as even Freedom Caucus members are saying, and quick action on Harvey relief – the daunting September agenda may suddenly seem manageable for the Trump White House.
Trump wades into the 2018 fray
While his visit to Missouri Wednesday may have centered around a speech on tax overhaul, it’s no coincidence that the state has a vulnerable Democratic incumbent up for re-election in 2018. Trump’s willingness to use the bully pulpit to go after Sen. Claire McCaskill by name Wednesday shows he’s more than willing to insert himself into contested 2018 races. Trump is actively courting multiple challengers to Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, whom he has called "toxic" and "weak on borders, weak on crime," although he has yet to make an official endorsement in that race. In Alabama, he tweeted support for GOP Sen. Luther Strange, who is facing an intense primary challenge from controversial former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore. The runoff for that race takes place Sept. 26. And, in Pennsylvania, there were widespread reports that Trump lobbied Rep. Lou Barletta – a vocal Trump supporter and member of the president’s transition team – to jump in the race against Democratic Sen. Bob Casey. Barletta announced his Senate candidacy Wednesday, and characterized his campaign as an "effort to make Pennsylvania, and America, great again." While how much his support or opposition will factor into the key 2018 races, the president seems to be relishing the opportunity so far, ABC NEWS' JOHN VERHOVEK writes.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"To those Americans who have lost loved ones, all of America is grieving with you, and our hearts are joined with yours forever," President Trump said Wednesday, notably absent from his remarks in Texas Tuesday.
WHAT TO WATCH TODAY
Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence will depart Washington, D.C., at 8:30 a.m. ET and arrive in Corpus Christi, Texas at 11:50 a.m. ET. They are expected to meet storm survivors and survey damage in Rockport, Texas.
NEED TO READ with ABC News' Daksha Sthipam
ANALYSIS: Amid Harvey, Trump eschews typical presidential optics for Trumpism. Squint and it almost seemed like a traditional president doing what’s typically done after disaster strikes. President Trump was meeting with those grappling with a storm’s impact, praising the efforts and coordination of local officials, and promising quick rebuilding for the people of the afflicted region. But it’s hard to argue that the president witnessed devastation "first hand." http://abcn.ws/2vKsLVb
McCain will return to Senate next week after treatment in Arizona:"This country needs my father now more than ever," his daughter says. Sen. John McCain will return to Washington next week after the conclusion of the Senate's four-week recess, during which he underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix for an aggressive form of brain cancer. http://abcn.ws/2gql04I
Talking to North Korea is "not the answer," Trump says, conflicting with Rex Tillerson. President Donald Trump, responding to North Korea's latest missile launch, tweeted Wednesday morning that talking to North Korea is "not the answer." "The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years," he wrote, seemingly in conflict with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s calls for continued diplomacy. http://abcn.ws/2wSn5O2
Pentagon announces there are 2,600 more troops in Afghanistan than previously reported. The Pentagon announced there are actually about 11,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, much higher than the previously reported 8,400 figure used since last July. Chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said the numbers will help the Pentagon be more transparent about the way they communicate America’s commitment in Afghanistan. http://abcn.ws/2wpoRTJ
Fox News Poll: Voters’ mood sours, 56 percent say Trump tearing country apart. Fox News
With a drama-filled White House, Mattis has shown deft political touch. The Washington Post
Mueller teams up with New York attorney general in Manafort probe. Politico
Trump calls senator investigating his son’s Russia contacts about...ethanol. The Washington Post
The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.