Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Those who speak in public on behalf of Donald J. Trump have all developed their own phrases to try to tread that tightrope between maintaining integrity and not angering or defying the boss. Sean Spicer's catchphrase was "the tweet speaks for itself." Sarah Sanders is understandably a big fan of "I'd refer you back to the president’s outside counsel."

What's happening: Now, it looks like John Bolton is developing a good one: "That's not the position of the United States."

From today's CBS interview between "Face the Nation" host Margaret Brennan and Trump's national security adviser:

  • Brennan: "On Air Force One this week, President Trump when he was speaking to reporters seemed to leave the door open to recognizing Russia's annexation of Crimea, saying we'll have to see what happens when the issue comes up in the meeting. Is the U.S. endorsing the idea that international borders can be redrawn by force? Is this actually a topic?"
  • Bolton: "No that's not the position of the United States. But I think —"
  • Brennan: "This is why it was newsworthy when he said it."
  • Bolton: "Well I don't know that that's what he said. ... I think the president often says 'we'll see' to show that he's willing to talk to foreign leaders about a range of issues and hear their perspective. President Putin was pretty clear with me about it and my response was, 'We're going to have to agree to disagree on Ukraine.'"
  • Brennan: "But that's not up for negotiation."
  • Bolton: "That's not the position of the United States."
  • Brennan: "Right. But saying 'we'll see' suggests it might be."
  • Bolton: "Well, we'll see."

Flashback: Axios, June 28 — In his private meeting with G7 heads of state, Trump told the leaders "NATO is as bad as NAFTA" after saying earlier in the conversation that Crimea probably should belong to Russia because everyone there speaks Russian.

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Early voting eclipses 2016 total with 12 days until election

People stand in line to vote early in Fairfax, Virginia in September. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Americans have cast more than 47.1 million ballots in the 2020 presidential election, surpassing the total early-vote count for 2016 with 12 days left until Election Day, according to a Washington Post analysis of voting data.

Why it matters: The election is already underway, as many states have expanded early and mail-in voting options because of the coronavirus pandemic.

What to expect from the final debate of the 2020 election

Trump and Biden at the first debate. Morry Gash-Pool/Getty Image

Watch for President Trump to address Joe Biden as “the big guy” or “the chairman” at tonight's debate as a way of dramatizing the Hunter Biden emails. Hunter's former business partner Tony Bobulinski is expected to be a Trump debate guest.

The big picture: Trump's advisers universally view the first debate as a catastrophe — evidenced by a sharp plunge in Trump’s public and (more convincingly for them) private polling immediately following the debate.

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