By Zeke J Miller
August 19, 2016

If you only read one thing: Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is out Friday morning, following a campaign shakeup days earlier and a steady drip of stories about his past business dealings in Ukraine. A veteran lobbyist, Manafort was initially brought in to manage the campaign’s delegate operations before the GOP convention, but rose to assume full command in June after pushing out former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in a power struggle. He was one of the leading proponents of putting the bombastic nominee on message and having him act more presidential. But Trump bristled at the calls for discipline, and Manafort was demoted earlier this week when Trump brought in Breitbart boss Stephen Bannon as CEO and elevated pollster Kellyanne Conway to be his new campaign manager.

But Trump’s operation is not the only one making news. The Clinton Foundation announced Thursday after months of speculation that it would scale back its operations and cease accepting foreign and corporate donors should Hillary Clinton win the White House. The organization, briefly called the ‘Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation,’ has faced questions for years about its role trying to influence State Department policy and to broker access for donors to the agency when Clinton served as Secretary of State. The long-delayed, but necessary, move comes after a ferocious round of fundraising in 2013-4 from all sources, designed to keep the organization flush should the Clintons move back into the White House. But lingering questions about the foundation’s—and the former president’s—roles remain and only exacerbate the ethical cloud hanging over Clinton. Speaking of questionable decisions: Hillary Clinton reportedly told FBI investigators that former Secretary of State Colin Powell advised her to use private email. So what happened to that “convenience” explanation from last year?

The Obama administration is facing a firestorm over its admission Thursday that a $400 million cash payment to Iran in January was held as “leverage” until U.S. prisoners in Iran were released. For months the administration has denied the payment was ransom, rather a coincidental transfer after two independent teams negotiated the payments and the prisoner release. But that explanation seemed to fall under the “leverage” admission, as Republicans blasted the White House for breaking with U.S. precedent and paying “ransom.” Expect a lot of dictionary reading on the floor of Congress when lawmakers return to Washington.

And then there is more from the Republican nominee. Trump expressed “regret” Thursday night for some of the hurtful things he’s said on the campaign trail as he delivered one of the most effective speeches of his campaign with the aid of the teleprompter. But like the blanket apology in a romantic comedy, in which one partner is angry at the other and the aggrieving party is unaware of what they have done to cause it, it’s unlikely Trump’s sweeping statement will stick. At bare minimum, it tees up the opportunity for reporters to ask Trump if he regrets each and every one of his most controversial statements this cycle. Meanwhile, aides are hoping they can convince the the candidate to remain scripted, but if history serves as a guide, Trump will soon grow bored and seek to return to his off-the-cuff rallying style.

Trump added a last minute stop in Louisiana Friday to tour flooding in the state in a moment designed to portray him as presidential. But the state’s Democratic governor is warning him against simply using it as a photo-op. The billionaires reshaping Trump. And Pence blames the media.

Here are your must reads:

Must Reads

How One Family’s Deep Pockets Helped Reshape Donald Trump’s Campaign

The Mercer’s backed Ted Cruz, now they’re helping remake Trump [New York Times]

Donald Trump Says He ‘Regrets’ Some Past Remarks

But which remarks? [TIME]

Mike Pence Blames Donald Trump’s Problems on The Media

The GOP ticket is on the ropes, but fighting back, TIME’s Philip Elliott reports

Hillary Clinton Told F.B.I. Colin Powell Advised Her to Use Private Email

What happened to convenience? [New York Times]

Clinton Family Plans to Scale Back Foundation If Hillary Clinton Wins Election

Operations to be handed to independent parties; Clinton Global Initiative to be halted [Wall Street Journal]

State Department: US held up cash until Iran released Americans

“Leverage” [CNN]

Sound Off

“Sometimes, in the heat of debate and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that, and I regret it, particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues.” —Donald Trump in Charlotte Thursday night.

“With concerns that Iran may renege on the prisoner release given unnecessary delays regarding persons in Iran who could not be located as well as, to be quite honest, mutual mistrust between Iran and the United States, we, of course, sought to retain maximum leverage until after American citizens were released. That was our top priority.” —State Department Spokesman John Kirby on the $400 million payment to Iran.

Bits and Bites

Trump advisers waged covert influence campaign [Associated Press]

Manafort’s man in Kiev [Politico]

The Donald Trump ABCs [Bloomberg]

A Hillary Clinton Loss Would Hobble Gun Reform, Says Connecticut Senator [TIME]

Hillary Clinton Releases Ad Hitting Donald Trump on His Tax Returns: ‘He’s Hiding Something’ [TIME]

Donald Trump Focuses on America’s Safety in First TV Ad [TIME]

Louisiana governor warns against Trump ‘photo-op’ [Politico]

Justice Department says it will end use of private prisons [Washington Post]

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