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Photo by Doug Mills of The New York Times / President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at the Mankato Regional Airport in Mankato, Minnesota, on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020. A sprawling report released Tuesday by a Republican-controlled Senate panel that spent three years investigating Russia's interference in the 2016 election laid out an extensive web of contacts between Trump campaign advisers and Kremlin officials and other Russians.

That pesky California needs rakes

As wildfires raged across California last week, threatening thousands of buildings and forcing tens of thousands of Californians to evacuate their homes, President Donald Trump again hinted at withholding Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance to the state because California doesn't rake the forest floors.

We say "again" because the president made a similar threat after the Camp Fire in November 2018, which destroyed much of the town of Paradise and killed 84 people.

You probably remember the bizarre photo op the president staged at that time talking to California officials about how Finland was largely able to avoid forest fires because Finns "spend a lot of time raking."

(Never mind that the federal government controls more than half the forestland in California and state and local agencies oversee just 3%, the president still blames California for logging restrictions and not doing more to thin out forests.)

This time, California Gov. Gavin Newsom had had enough of the president's idiocy.

Though he had to cancel a planned formal address to endorse Joe Biden at the Democratic National Convention due to the state's newest emergency, he jumped out of the car in between visits to wildfire emergency centers to make a two-minute cellphone video.

"I'm about a mile or so away from one of over 370 wildfires that we're battling here in the state of California. We are just coming off a record week, a heat wave that led to 130-degree temperatures. Highest temperature ever recorded in California, arguably the world's history, here in our state," he said. "The hots are getting hotter, the dries are getting drier. Climate change is real. If you are in denial about climate change, come to California. 11,000 dry lightening strikes we had over a 72-hour period leading to this unprecedented challenge with these wildfires.

He went on: "This is an extraordinary moment in our history. Mother Nature has now joined this conversation around climate change. And so we too need to advance that conversation anew. Just today, the president of the United States threatened the state of California, 40 million Americans that happened to live here in the state of California, to defund our efforts on wildfire suppression, because he said we hadn't raked enough leaves. You can't make that up. There's so much at stake in this election."

Yes, there is. And Newsom's cellphone video was a convention highlight.

 

Now comes the Republican convention

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell last week became one of several Republican voices in support of Joe Biden in a video recorded for the Democratic National Convention.

Powell, who served in President George W. Bush's administration, joined former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, historian and others who made pitches for Biden in the name of values.

"The values I learned growing up in the South Bronx and serving in uniform were the same values that Joe Biden's parents instilled in him in Scranton, Pennsylvania. I support Joe Biden for the presidency of the United States because those values still define him, and we need to restore those values to the White House," Powell said.

Prize-winning author and native Chattanoogan Jon Meacham also endorsed Biden on the basis of values.

With the Republican National Convention set to begin tonight, doesn't this make you wonder who'll be taking to the airwaves to sing the praises of Donald Trump?

Maybe retired Marine Gen. and Trump's former Secretary of Defense James Mattis? Probably not, since Mattis ripped Trump in June with a statement in The Atlantic after peaceful protesters were gassed and physically removed from around the White House so the president could walk across the street for a photo opportunity in which he held up a Bible outside a historic church.

Calling it "an abuse of executive authority," Mattis wrote: "Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath [as he] would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens — much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside."

What about retired U.S. Corps Marine Gen. and Trump's former Chief of Staff John Kelly? Probably not since he agreed with Mattis and himself criticized Trump's threat to use active-duty military to deal with protests and said to voters: "Look harder" at who you elect.

Well, how about retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen and former White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster? Not likely since he, in October, said at a Foundation for Defense of Democracies event that it was "absolutely not" appropriate for the president to solicit foreign election interference.

John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and another of Trump's former national security advisers? Nah, scratch that. Let us name the ways he's already dissed the president.

 

Steve Bannon, former Trump adviser and an architect of Trump's 2016 general election campaign?

Maybe. Except, oh, wait. He just became the latest in a long line of Trump's "best people" to get arrested and charged with fraud or something worse. For Bannon it's an indictment accusing him of defrauding donors to a private fund-raising effort called We Build the Wall.

But here's an idea with legs.

Perhaps Russia President Vladimir Putin could dial up and give Trump a live endorsement.

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