Updated: August 15, 2016 10:51 AM ET | Originally published: August 12, 2016 11:08 AM EDT

If you only read one thing: After repeatedly suggesting Thursday that President Barack Obama was the literal founder of ISIS, the terrorist group the U.S. is currently waging war against, Donald Trump called it “sarcasm” in a tweet Friday morning. The bizarre turn followed Trump’s assertion to a conservative radio host in an interview Thursday morning that he did not mean that Obama’s policies created the space for ISIS to flourish, rather that he was its actual founder. In subsequent interviews he noted that the attack on Obama had been drawing applause from his supporters. But critics called it an accusation of treason toward the president, and the bombastic GOP nominee’s latest effort to delegitimize Obama. The entire incident follows a pattern set by Trump, where he makes wild accusations, sticks by them for a few days to rile up his most fervent supporters, and then tries to laugh them off as jokes to the general public days later.

On the campaign trail Thursday, Trump seemed humbled by a spate of polls showing him behind nationally and in key states. But that didn’t cut back on his braggadocio. Meanwhile, Republican National Committee veterans called on the national party to cut off its support of Trump to save the Senate and vulnerable House seats.

Multiple requests for investigation into the Clinton Foundation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation were rejected by the Obama Justice Department, CNN reported Thursday, providing the latest unseemly datapoint in the relationship between the group and the Clinton-led State Department.

Congress knew of Democratic hack long before it was public. Mike Pence is running his own race. And a programmer who thinks he can tell which tweets Donald Trump authors himself.

Here are your must reads:

Must Reads

Mike Pence Campaigns With an Eye on His Own Future

A tale of the ticket [New York Times]

Donald Trump’s Business Past at Odds With Rhetoric on Trade

TIME’s Sam Frizell on Trump’s overseas business interests

Inside the debate over probing the Clinton Foundation

Three FBI field offices wanted investigation, but Justice Department overruled [CNN]

Reefer Sadness: Feds Keep Restrictions on Marijuana

But government will allow more research into its possible medical uses, TIME’s Mark Thompson reports

Donald Trump Laments Sliding Polls While Maintaining His Provocative Approach

Acknowledges troubles in key states [New York Times]

Clinton tries to undermine central premise of Trump’s campaign

That he would help struggling Americans [Washington Post]

Sound Off

“We’re having a tremendous problem in Utah,” —Donald Trump acknowledging problems in the deep-red state this week.

“No, I meant he’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player. I give him the most valuable player award. I give her, too, by the way, Hillary Clinton.” —Trump to Hugh Hewitt on Thursday, when asked if he was suggesting Obama had created the space for ISIS to form, rather than its actual founder.

Bits and Bites

Trump Says Calling Obama Founder of ISIS Just ‘Sarcasm’ [TIME]

As Trump Struggles, Clinton Goes on Offense to Win Over GOP [Associated Press]

Top Clinton State Department aide helped Clinton Foundation [CNN]

This Programmer Thinks He Can Tell Which Tweets Donald Trump Wrote Himself [TIME]

Congressional leaders were briefed a year ago on hacking of Democrats [Reuters]

Trump: Americans could be tried in Guantánamo [Miami Herald]

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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