Trump condemns attack in Barcelona

President Donald Trump on Thursday condemned a deadly attack in Barcelona and pledged the U.S. would do “whatever is necessary to help.”

“The United States condemns the terror attack in Barcelona, Spain, and will do whatever is necessary to help,” Trump tweeted Thursday afternoon. “Be tough & strong, we love you!”

A van rammed into pedestrians in Barcelona’s las Ramblas earlier Thursday, killing at least two people and injuring more than two dozen others. Local authorities are treating the incident as a terrorist attack.

A White House official said chief of staff John Kelly was aware of the situation in Barcelona “and keeping the president abreast.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson opened a joint news conference alongside Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and their Japanese counterparts by acknowledging the attack.

It “has the hallmarks, it appears, of yet another terrorist attack. We offer our condolences to the loss of life and the injuries that have occurred to so many innocent people yet again,” Tillerson told reporters. “We will continue to monitor the situation. We stand ready to assist law enforcement [and] national security authorities in Spain.”

First lady Melania Trump offered her thoughts and prayers in a rare tweet of her own a little more than an hour before the president weighed in.

Trump aides worry he hurt hopes of defeating Flake

President Donald Trump upended the Arizona Senate race on Thursday by signaling support for an underdog primary challenger — a move that went against the wishes of his advisers and potentially undercut their efforts to unseat GOP Sen. Jeff Flake.

The president gave a shout-out on Twitter to Kelli Ward, a conservative former state senator running to take out Flake in a primary next year. Flake, of course, is a vocal Trump critic who refused to endorse the real estate mogul during the 2016 campaign and recently published an anti-Trump manifesto in which he accuses his party of enabling the Trump presidency. Trump, in turn, has threatened to spend millions to unseat Flake.

“Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He’s toxic!” Trump tweeted.

Trump aides were taken aback by the tweet. Many of them are deeply skeptical about Ward’s ability to defeat Flake. In 2016, Ward received 39 percent of the vote in an unsuccessful effort to unseat GOP Sen. John McCain. More recently, she came under fire for saying that McCain should step down from the Senate “as quickly as possible” after he was diagnosed with brain cancer.

The White House has met with two other prospective Flake opponents, Arizona state treasurer Jeff DeWit, a top official on Trump’s campaign, and former state GOP chairman Robert Graham.

Some in the administration, meanwhile, have set their sights on another Arizona Republican, former GOP Rep. Matt Salmon.

David Bossie, Trump’s former deputy campaign manager and the president of the prominent conservative group Citizens United, has spoken with Salmon, now an official at Arizona State University, about jumping into the contest, according to two people familiar with the talks.

Neither Bossie nor Salmon responded to requests for comment.

People close to DeWit and Graham were also surprised by the Thursday tweet and said the two prospective candidates had been given no advance warning that the president would be weighing in on Ward’s behalf. DeWit and Graham had been waiting for weeks for word from the White House about where the president stood and whom he wanted to support.

It is not the first time that Trump has caught his team off guard on political matters. Last week, the president announced on Twitter that he was endorsing Alabama Sen. Luther Strange in an upcoming special election, a move that directly contradicted the advice of aides who urged him to stay out of the fight, which has pitted establishment Republicans against the conservative base.

The Arizona developments come ahead of a rally Trump is set to hold in Phoenix on Tuesday. White House officials said they expect the president to highlight his opposition to Flake there.

The extent to which he promotes Ward at the event, however, remains unclear. Ward’s aides have made it clear they would like her to speak at the event, though rally organizers declined to say whether she would.

Ward has been aggressively positioning herself as a Trump backer. In recent days, she has hired two operatives who worked on a pro-Trump super PAC, Eric Beach and Brent Lowder, to work on her campaign. On Thursday, she sent out a tweet thanking the president.

“Working hard so you have a conservative from AZ to help #MAGA. Arizonans excited to see you again next week!” she added.

Ward’s aides said they hope to parlay Trump’s tweet into financial backing from his donors. She has already received help from Robert Mercer, the reclusive billionaire hedge fund manager who played a critical role in Trump’s 2016 win and remains close to the president. Mercer recently gave $300,000 to a pro-Ward super PAC, and it’s possible he will provide more.

Ward also had the support of Mercer in her 2016 campaign, and Breitbart, a pro-Trump website that Mercer funds, published a number of flattering stories about her.

Trump has long disliked Flake. After the Arizona senator launched a national media tour to promote his book, which administration aides have been reading, the president privately vented about the senator. Before the election, Trump told associates he was willing to spent $10 million out of his own pocket to defeat Flake.

Trump’s move is certain to exacerbate tensions with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has vowed to aggressively defend besieged incumbents like Flake in contested primaries. Flake is expected to receive the support of two McConnell-aligned political organizations, the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Senate Leadership Fund.

Mattis rebuts Bannon: There will be ‘strong military consequences’ if North Korea strikes

Defense Secretary James Mattis said Thursday that there will be “strong military consequences” for North Korea should it take military action against the U.S. or its allies, a direct rebuttal to White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who said in an interview earlier this week that “there’s no military solution” to dealing with North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

“I just can assure you that, in close collaboration with our allies, there are strong military consequences if the DPRK initiates hostilities,” Mattis said Thursday at a joint press conference with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and their Japanese counterparts. Tillerson, asked about Bannon’s statements, said he had read them but declined to comment.

Bannon, in an interview published Wednesday night in the liberal magazine American Prospect, said the U.S. should “forget it” in terms of military planning against the regime of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, which he said had already created such an overwhelming threat to South Korea that it should deter any strike. The position is a dramatic shift from that of President Donald Trump, who has pledged not to allow North Korea to obtain a nuclear weapon capable of striking the continental U.S.

“Until somebody solves the part of the equation that shows me that ten million people in Seoul don’t die in the first 30 minutes from conventional weapons, I don’t know what you’re talking about, there’s no military solution here, they got us,” Bannon said.

The White House chief strategist also said North Korea was “just a sideshow” and that China, the Kim regime’s chief trading partner and international patron, is “just tapping us along” with North Korea amid a larger economic war that Bannon said has already begun.

“To me,” Bannon said, “the economic war with China is everything. And we have to be maniacally focused on that. If we continue to lose it, we’re five years away, I think, ten years at the most, of hitting an inflection point from which we’ll never be able to recover.”

Carson reveals vandalism incident, urges high road on Charlottesville

HUD Secretary Ben Carson, the only African-American member of President Donald Trump’s Cabinet, revealed on Wednesday that his home had been vandalized in May.

Eggs were thrown at the house, near Vienna, Va., and the lawn and trees were littered with toilet paper. Vandals used toilet paper to spell out anti-Trump invective on the lawn.

“We were out of town, but other kind, embarrassed neighbors cleaned up most of the mess before we returned,” Carson wrote on Facebook Wednesday.

The secretary publicized the episode to illustrate how communities can come together, HUD spokesman Raphael Williams said. Carson did not report the incident to the Fairfax County Police Department.

On Facebook, Carson also talked about an earlier race-related encounter in Maryland, where a neighbor flew a Confederate flag after Carson moved into the community.

“In both instances, less than kind behavior was met by people taking the high road. We could all learn from these examples,” Carson wrote. “That neighbor who put up the Confederate flag subsequently became friendly. That is the likely outcome if we just learn to be neighborly and to get to know each other.”

Carson had mentioned the Confederate flag anecdote before, in 2015, when he said it was acceptable for people to display the banner on private property.

This week, the HUD secretary was criticized for his response to the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va., after echoing language used by Trump.

“Let us pray for those killed and injured during the unrest in Charlottesville today, but also for our nation as it is being severely threatened by hatred and bigotry on all sides,” Carson wrote on Facebook Aug. 12.

On Monday, he came to Trump’s defense and warned against getting caught up in “little squabbles.”

“We all have to recognize that there are other things that are important here and don’t get caught up in these little squabbles and blow them out of proportion,” Carson said. “Obviously, when the president talks about the fact that hatred and bigotry and these things are unacceptable, he’s talking about everybody.”

Zachary Warmbrodt and Kyle Cheney contributed to this report.

Suit demands visitor logs for parts of White House

A new lawsuit is demanding public access visitor logs for several agencies located in the White House complex and contends that the Secret Service is illegally turning those records over to White House officials not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

The suit does not seek information on visitors to the core offices of the White House, which includes senior advisers to President Donald Trump who work in the West Wing as well as several administrative offices serving the president’s staff. A series of court rulings have held that those visitor logs are presidential records not covered by FOIA, but accessible through presidential libraries years after a president leaves office.

Instead, the case filed Thursday by public interest group Public Citizen seeks records of visitors to four agencies housed in the White House complex but with independent legal duties: the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Council on Environmental Quality.

Several courts have concluded that those agencies’ records are subject to public disclosure under FOIA, regardless of the fact they are housed in White House complex buildings, like the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and the New Executive Office Building.

Public Citizen said the Secret Service rebuffed the group’s initial request for the records by saying they had been turned over to the central record keeping office for the White House. The group is seeking a temporary restraining order to stop any further transfers of records from the Secret Service to the White House.

“The D.C. Circuit has already held that the records we requested are agency records subject to FOIA,” Public Citizen’s Adina Rosenbaum said. “There is no legal justification for the Secret Service to withhold them.”

Spokespeople for the Justice Department and the Secret Service did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The suit was assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper, an Obama appointee.

A similar suit is pending in federal court in Manhattan, where several other groups are seeking Secret Service visitor logs for the entire White House complex as well as Trump Tower and Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. A judge has set a September 8 deadline in that case for the Secret Service to turn over information subject to disclosure under FOIA. Just what will be made public in that case, if anything, remains unclear.

The Obama administration released most White House visitor data about 90 days after the visits, although officials said the disclosures were voluntary and the administration withheld details on some visits deemed personal or sensitive.

What establishment Republicans think about Trump’s tirade

SIREN — THE NEW CIVIL WAR: INSIDE THE MINDS OF TOP ESTABLISHMENT REPUBLICANS — FROM JOSH HOLMES, the former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the president of Cavalry: “If you took a time machine from ten years ago and arrived this week you would be forgiven for assuming Donald Trump was elected president as a Democrat on a platform of ‘the south will rise again!’

“Trump is using the precious capital of the bully pulpit to talk about confederate monuments in between savage attacks on fellow Republicans. Just think about that. Not tax reform. Not repeal and replace. Not North Korean nuclear capabilities. No focused critiques on extremely vulnerable Democrats who have opposed him at every possible turn.

“The reality is that every time he attacks a Republican he invites another member in good standing and another segment of the Republican party to abandon him. When you’re eight months in and Republicans are all you have left, chipping away at the remaining few is a helluva strategy. The outpouring of critiques from within the GOP about the President’s handling of Charlottesville could serve as a wake up call for the Administration, but if not, it could also be a Republican Party that begins to reassert an identity without Donald Trump.”

WHAT JOSH IS TALKING ABOUT — @realDonaldTrump: “Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He’s toxic!” … “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You……..can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also……the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!”

IT’S NOT SURPRISING that Trump doesn’t want Flake to be reelected — he has been vocally opposed to the president, his behavior and some of his policies. This is just the latest back-and-forth between the two in the last month. But calling for an incumbent senator’s head from your own party is unprecedented. Flake has good relationships with his Senate colleagues and is a reliable Republican vote for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. This type of intraparty pissing match in public is the exact type of thing McConnell hates. Expect Republican senators to link arms and back Flake.

— SENATE DEMOCRATS will love this. It’s like a free gift. It distracts the GOP and could force McConnell and other outside groups to spend millions of dollars in a costly primary tying up money that could be used elsewhere.

— @AliABCNews: “‘The NRSC unequivocally supports Senator Flake in his reelection bid.’ – NRSC Chairman @SenCoryGardner” … @SenJohnMcCain: “.@JeffFlake is a principled legislator & always does what’s right for the people of #AZ. Our state needs his leadership now more than ever.”