By Zeke J Miller
August 29, 2016

If you only read one thing: Four weeks from tonight, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will face off in the first of three debates organized by the Commission on Presidential Debates. The first, at Hofstra University near your newsletter author’s lovingly maligned Nassau Coliseum, will feature six 15-minute segments on topics selected by the as-yet-to-be-named moderator. Both candidates have started debate prep, with Trump relying on former Fox News boss Roger Ailes for support, as first reported by the New York Times, along with former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The more methodical Clinton has spent her days reading briefing books on Trump’s past comments. Neither has settled on a stand-in for the other in prep sessions—though Trump hasn’t even committed to holding mock-debates, believing his skills as a reality television showman will suit him. The event will be among the highest-rated political events in history, as both candidates will seek to embrace one of their final moments to reshape their public perception. Already the time-honored tradition of expectations-setting is under way, as Clinton aides talk up Trump’s primary performance and down Clinton’s own struggles in the format. But like for President Obama four years ago, lowering expectations may be impossible. The measures for success so far favor Trump. For Clinton the challenge will be anticipating which Donald Trump shows up, and for Trump, it will be to avoid any major missteps.

After waffling on his immigration position—and even whether he would address the issue once again—the Republican nominee said Sunday in a tweet that he would deliver a speech on his immigration policies on Wednesday in Phoenix. His attempt as “softening” and then subsequent “hardening” of his position on what to do with the 11 million people in the U.S. illegally brought more confusion than support to the Trump campaign. For the many Hispanic voters who look at the issue as a litmus test of support, Trump’s flip-flop wasn’t going to win them back. The move seemed designed to make white voters more comfortable voting for Trump, but the head-spinning shifts may have done damage among his loyal base. Meanwhile, Trump is trying to change the focus toward the economy, with a new ad airing in industrial states.

The FBI warns of foreign infiltration on state elections databases. When Hillary Clinton passed up the chance to make gay rights history. And Chris Christie’s “she started it” line.

Here are your must reads:

Must Reads

Democrats Step Up Pursuit of House Republicans Left Limping by Donald Trump
At very least, they are expected to weaken the GOP majority [New York Times]

FBI Says Foreign Hackers Penetrated State Election Systems
Bureau issues alert to states months before Election Day [Yahoo]

Meet the Man Siphoning Money From Donald Trump
A 25-year-old scammer with no Trump ties raises $1 million by dangling ‘dinner’ with the GOP nominee [Politico]

On Syria, Democrats Look to Deflect the Conversation
Amid few policy choices, silence [Associated Press]

Hillary Clinton Had the Chance to Make Gay Rights History.
She refused [Washington Post]

Sound Off

“Ms. Clinton has started the idea of calling Donald Trump those types of names. And the fact is that, once you are the person—and Ms. Clinton is the person who injected this type of commentary into this race—once you inject that type of commentary into this race, you can’t then sit back and start complaining about it or have some of your handmaidens in the media complain about it.” — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to ABC’s This Week on Donald Trump calling Hillary Clinton a “bigot”

“Actually, he’s not John, he’s pretty consistent.” — Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway to CBS’s John Dickerson, one week after saying his positions were “too be determined”

Bits and Bites

Trump Doctor Wrote Health Letter in Just 5 Minutes as Limo Waited [NBC]

Hillary Clinton Receives First Intelligence Briefing as Nominee [Associated Press]

Donald Trump to Give Speech on Immigration This Week [TIME]

Trump tweets Phoenix rally is on, after campaign says it’s not [12 News]

Trump stand-ins struggle to speak for and defend nominee [Associated Press]

5 Times Maine Gov. Paul LePage Apologized for Offending People [TIME]

Plane Rides and Presidential Transparency [New York Times]

The Court That Rules The World [BuzzFeed]

Welcome to Iowa, where Trump’s purple patch could turn a blue state red [The Guardian]

‘No Vacancies’ for Blacks: How Donald Trump Got His Start, and Was First Accused of Bias [New York Times]

How a Beatles T-Shirt From Japan Became the Latest Donald Trump Merchandise [TIME]

Why the GOP establishment embraces Trump in Iowa more than any other battleground [Washington Post]

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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