If you only read one thing: The Russian government is trying to influence the U.S. election, but not in the way you think, TIME's Massimo Calabresi writes in the cover story this week. Vladimir Putin may like Donald Trump, but his hacking efforts have a far larger target: Americans' trust in their system of government itself. It's a playbook the strongman has used around the world before, and as he turns it on the 2016 both candidates may be playing into his hands. Calabresi reports that despite Trump's seeming denials on the debate stage—including a joke about a 400-pound hacker—he was briefed on the U.S. government's "high confidence" in Russia's responsibility for the hack on the Democratic National Committee as part of his classified briefings as the GOP nominee. Trump told TIME that no one knows "with definitive certainty" that Russia was behind it, appearing to reveal information from that briefing. See the cover here.
More than two days after the first debate, Donald Trump is still trying to make good on all of the issues he failed to adequately address on stage. On Wednesday, Trump seemingly reoriented his campaign around the phrase "follow the money," accusing Hillary Clinton of pay-for-play and saying she would sell the Oval Office if elected. Saying she is an insider only out for her donors, Trump put a finer point on his change-agent messaging, but he missed his surest opportunity to drive it home.
Meanwhile, Trump is still falling for Clinton's bait, continuing to take shots at former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, including spreading questionable and debunked reports about her past in an interview with Fox News Wednesday night. Meanwhile his surrogates are not-so-quietly pushing stories about Bill Clinton's past infidelities.
How Alicia Machado became the next Khan family. Questions in the U.S. and Mexico about Trump's helicopter ride. And Trump's latest show of hands moment.
"And let me say … hurtful, deceitful questions deliberately designed to undermine his presidency. Questions that cannot be blamed on others or swept under the rug by an insincere sentence uttered at a press conference.” — First Lady Michelle Obama taking a swipe at Trump's birther past without mentioning his name as she emerges as one of Hillary Clinton's top surrogates
“Raise your hands, Christian Conservatives everybody. Raise your hand if you’re not a Christian conservative—I want to see this, right. .... That’s—oh, there’s a couple people, that’s all right. I think we’ll keep them, right? Should we keep them in the room, yes? I think so.” — Donald Trump in Council Bluffs, Iowa