Good Tuesday morning. Situational awareness: More than 40 heads of state are now expected at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum on Sept. 20 at The Plaza hotel in New York. Henry Kissinger will moderate a discussion on Russia with Sergey Lavrov, Russia's Foreign Minister. Mike Bloomberg and Bill Clinton kick off the forum.
Steve Bannon provoked lots of chatter for telling Charlie Rose on "60 Minutes" that President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey may have been the worst mistake in "modern political history."
What's intriguing is the reason he said it: the belief of some close White House allies that special counsel Bob Mueller, whose appointment was triggered by Comey's ouster, could use events surrounding the firing to make an obstruction of justice case against Trump.
There's a good reason that Vice President Pence has hired a lawyer, Bannon freaked out about the decision, and Mueller plans to interview a slew of current and former West Wing aides: They were with Trump during those frantic days, and know what he was saying and what was on his mind.
White House aides with legal exposure to these events have quickly reached four conclusions, according to conservations with Jonathan Swan and me:
Republicans close to the White House say every sign by Mueller — from his hiring of Mafia and money-laundering experts to his aggressive pursuit of witnesses and evidence — is that he's going for the kill.
Be smart: Trump allies fret that the White House is ill-prepared for the public showdown with Mueller that will eventually come, and should be making legal, political and constitutional arguments for the president's right to fire Comey. Statements by Trump lawyers tend to rattle, rather than reassure, White House allies.
P.S. Russian politician Vyacheslav Nikonov, a member of the Duma (ruling assembly), said on live TV that U.S. "intelligence missed it when Russian intelligence stole the president of the United States."
Franklin Foer — former editor of the New Republic, now with The Atlantic — is out today with a book on the dark side of Silicon Valley, "World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech":
Frank's big 💡: "We have deluded ourselves into caring more deeply about convenience and efficiency than about the things that last. Compared to the sustaining nourishment of the contemplative life and the deep commitment to text, many of the promiscuous pleasures of the Web are vanishing."
P.S. "Social Finance, an online lender that is one of the more prominent financial technology start-ups, said ... its co-founder and chief executive Mike Cagney planned to step down by the end of the year," per N.Y. Times front page.
Lingo ... N.Y. Times columnist David Leonhardt, "Irma, and the Rise of Extreme Rain": "Extreme rainstorms are up more than a third since the early 1980s."
Tampa Bay Times banner: 'WE'RE LUCKY."
"$150 Billion Misfire: How Forecasters Got Irma Damage Wrong," by Bloomberg's Brian Sullivan: "By one estimate, the total cost dropped to about $50 billion Monday from $200 billion over the weekend."
Miami Herald: "More than 62 percent of the state — an estimated 13 million Floridians — remained without power as of 6 p.m. ... Of 10.5 million customers statewide, 6.5 million were still out."
Go deeper ... "Satellite images capture Hurricane Irma's devastation in Caribbean."
Apple's debut of 10th anniversary iPhones (plus announcements on Apple Watch, Apple TV and more) will stream live at 1 p.m. ET from the Steve Jobs Theater at the new Apple Park campus in Cupertino, Calif.
P.S. "Google Plots to Conquer Self-Driving Cars — by Making Peace With Detroit," per Wall Street Journal front page:
"Nine months after Donald Trump's inauguration, pictures of the president and Vice President Pence are missing from thousands of federal courthouses, laboratories, military installations, ports of entry, office suites and hallways, and from U.S. embassies abroad," the WashPost's Lisa Rein writes on the front page:
Be smart: It's Day 236. For an administration that has been slow to staff up and get the hang of governing, this is a symbol that could stick.
"A government backlog of 700,000 security clearance reviews has led agencies like the Defense Department to inadvertently issue interim passes to criminals — even rapists and killers — fueling calls for better and faster vetting of people with access to the nation's secrets," AP's Deb Riechmann writes:
"More than half of Americans (53%) incorrectly think it is accurate to say that immigrants who are here illegally do not have any rights under the U.S. Constitution," according to the Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey, by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
37% of the 1,013 adults surveyed (37%) can't name any of the rights guaranteed under the First Amendment.Why it matters, from Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the center's director: "Protecting the rights guaranteed by the Constitution presupposes that we know what they are."
NBC News correspondent Katy Tur is out today with a 2016 memoir, "Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History."
In a WashPost review scheduled for Sunday's Outlook section, Carlos Lozada says she "chronicles the Trump campaign — and the indignities of reporting while female":
During his campaign events, Trump often called out the news media, but he delighted in singling out Tur, publicly deriding her as "little Katy" and a "third-rate reporter." Part of the animosity was in response to Tur's (accurate) reporting about his behavior at rallies ...
Trump went so far as to kiss her — an unwelcome and uninvited act — just before he appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"Before I know what's happening, his hands are on my shoulders and his lips are on my cheek," Tur writes. "My eyes widen. My body freezes. My heart stops." Her immediate reaction is telling. "F—. I hope the cameras didn't see that. My bosses are never going to take me seriously."
Trump chastises Tur at the end of a July 2015 interview, telling her, "You'll never be president!" ("Neither will you," she thinks to herself.)
Former Speaker John Boehner, who has mostly kept a public silence on policy since leaving office, responds to our reporting that President Trump is still considering withdrawing from a trade agreement with South Korea that Boehner helped guide to passage in 2011:
P.S. "Trump is weighing a strategy that could allow more aggressive U.S. responses to Iran's forces, its Shi'ite Muslim proxies in Iraq and Syria, and its support for militant groups," according to Reuters.
"It's a longshot, but there's talk in Salt Lake City, and even some in Denver, of a bid for the 2026 Winter Games, which take place two years before the Summer Olympics return to Los Angeles," per AP's Eddie Pells: