In it, but not of it. TPM DC

As the Sept. 30 deadline to pass a government funding bill gets closer, GOP leadership is scrambling to avoid a possible shutdown over abortion politics.

At a party lunch Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) laid out a plan to Republicans to prioritize a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks in the hopes of assuaging conservatives seeking to cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood, CNN reported. The calls for defunding the reproductive health organization came after a series of sting videos that anti-abortion activists claim shows Planned Parenthood was profiting from the harvesting of aborted fetal tissue.

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John McAfee wants you to know he’s dead serious about running for President.

You'd be forgiven for being skeptical. McAfee, who describes himself as an “eccentric millionaire,” made a killing in the early ‘90s when he departed from his namesake anti-virus software company. Since 2012, McAfee has mostly made headlines for his action-movie-like exploits in Central America, where he was wanted for questioning (not as a suspect) by Belizean police in the murder of his neighbor. So when his presidential campaign came out of nowhere this week, it felt like a stunt at least in part.

First, TPM obtained a Sept. 7 email in which McAfee announced his intention to run for President. Then he filed his statement of candidacy with the FEC the next day and launched a new website. A campaign announcement video followed Wednesday night. Curiously, the software pioneer didn’t utter the standard, if banal, phrase “I’m running for President” on either the campaign site or in the announcement video.

“It just appears obvious to me,” McAfee told TPM in a Thursday phone interview when asked why he didn’t say those magic words. “But again, what is obvious to me isn’t always obvious to the American public.”

McAfee may become less of an enigma to U.S. voters in the coming weeks during what is sure to be an unconventional campaign. He says he doesn’t plan on hitting the trail or debating any other candidates. What he proposes instead is something of a direct line between candidate and voter, facilitated by the Internet technology he’s mastered over the course of his career, where the American people can follow him and debate him freely over the web.

“I do not intend to go on the campaign trail and shake hands and kiss babies,” he told TPM. “I intend to run a brand new sort of campaign entirely based on wherever I am.”

What follows is a lightly edited transcript of TPM’s conversation with McAfee.

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Now that the legislative battle to stop President Obama’s Iran nuclear deal has failed, conservatives are considering taking the fight to the courtroom.

A federal court ruling Wednesday that found members of Congress had standing to sue the administration over the Affordable Care Act has empowered some Iran deal opponents to suggest lawmakers could also bring a lawsuit against the administration over the Iran deal.

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The House “Tortilla Coast” conservatives have prevailed again.

Rather than move forward with a longstanding plan to vote to disapprove of President Obama’s Iran deal -- an opportunity demanded by congressional Republicans and grudgingly given by the White House -- House GOP leaders have acquiesced to conservatives’ plot to derail a vote on disapproval.

The 11th-hour change in course reflects a last-ditch effort by the conservative wing in the House to show their disgust with a deal they have no practical means of stopping. It came after Democrats had enough votes lined up in the support of the detail to assure that not only would Congress be unable to overturn a presidential veto of a disapproval measure, but that a Senate filibuster would prevent such a measure from ever making it to Obama’s desk in the first place.

The new maneuver is likely to go nowhere in Senate. But in the minds of House conservatives, their new plan sets up a series of votes that are more uncomfortable for Democrats, and make for better GOP political messaging down the road. It also gives the GOP one last chance to voice its collective outrage over the Iran deal, even though that was what the vote of disapproval was supposed to afford them, too.

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Updated at 12:11 p.m.: A plan hatched by "Tortilla Coast" House conservatives to delay a Congressional vote disapproving of President Obama's Iran nuclear deal got the endorsement of their ringleader in the Senate, GOP 2016er Ted Cruz (R-TX), who took to the Senate floor to outline it Wednesday.

The plan would require lawmakers to vote on a resolution declaring that the Obama administration had not submitted the entirety of the agreement
-- specifically details of so-called “side deals” between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency -- and thus that the review period ordained by the Corker-Cardin compromise had not been triggered.

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Donald Trump launched his presidential bid with a race-baiting, xenophobic bang, suggesting Mexicans are a bunch of women-raping, drug-carrying criminals. But now that the Summer of Trump is turning into fall, it looks like Trump is trying to turn over a new leaf, promising a “a big fat beautiful open door” in his 1,954-mile-long southwestern border wall, agreeing to eat Mexican food with Geraldo Rivera, and winning the praises of the CEO of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The softening is nuanced and doesn't suggest an earnest effort to make-nice with the still-furious Latino community. Rather it portends a long-term campaign strategy in which Trump tries to have it both ways: blow the dog whistle to rile the nativist extremes of the GOP base but temper his rhetoric to reassure more moderate conservatives who don't see themselves -- or want to be seen -- as racist.

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If the conservative voters who handed the GOP the Senate had an Obamacare repeal on their one-year wish list, they’re likely to be disappointed come this fall.

Republicans' promises that Obamacare would be on the chopping block as soon the GOP took control of the Senate are unlikely to be met by years’ end. After years of heated rhetoric, over-the-top campaign ads and even Supreme Court challenges, the repeal Obamacare movement continues to be a can kicked farther down the road. GOP congressional leaders are facing the political reality that the party lacks a concrete alternative to Obamacare, the votes to repeal it and, in the immediate future, a crowded calendar of extremely pressing other issues.

Now, GOP lawmakers are trying to figure out how to let down easily the base they primed for repeal across three election cycles, with some leaders lowering expectations for repeal maneuvers in the months to come and other Republicans weighing efforts to tweak the law instead.

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The day after the first GOP presidential debate, stats guru Nate Silver made a prediction: "Donald Trump Won’t Win A War Against Fox News."

The analysis on Silver's website, FiveThirtyEight, was based on a poll showing Republican voters had a high level of trust in the conservative news channel. The prediction came after the Republican frontrunner howled about the way he was treated during the debate, which was hosted by Fox and moderated by three of its best known anchors.

In the weeks since then, Trump has widened his lead nationally, and Fox was left to explain that moderator Megyn Kelly's vacation was pre-planned and had nothing to do with the Donald's complaints.

Below is a breakdown of how Trump ended up going to war with Fox and coming out on top.

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It's been nearly a month since longtime Republican operative Roger Stone resigned from Donald Trump's presidential campaign (or was fired, to hear Trump tell it.) But the two old friends haven't stopped talking politics.

"We’re on cordial terms. We talk. I have not signed on with any super PAC so I have no prohibition," Stone told TPM in a phone interview. "Trump has been my friend for 35 years. He’s still my friend."

Stone may be on the outside of the real estate mogul's campaign now, but he's still one of its most visible and vocal surrogates. In recent weeks, cable news bookers and newspaper reporters (as well as TPM) have turned to Stone to unpack the allure of Trump's candidacy, since the former Nixon operative spent so much time inside TrumpWorld and is now free of the constraints of the campaign.

Well, mostly free. Stone told TPM that he signed a confidentiality agreement preventing him from going into detail about the campaign's internal deliberations.

TPM caught up with Stone, who said he was running out for a coffee after a night without any sleep, Tuesday morning.

"I have a book coming out on the Clintons and the manuscript had to be in at 9 o' clock this morning so I was up all night," he said. "But it’s in."

Below is a transcript of the wide-ranging conversation, which touches on everything from the rising tide of white supremacist support for Trump to Stone's own U.S. Senate aspirations, that has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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