Donald Trump's invitation to Russian spies to find lost emails routed through Hillary Clinton's notorious private server was "irresponsible" and clearly underscores that "he cannot become our commander in chief," former Defense Secretary and CIA Director Leon Panetta said on Wednesday.

"Think about that, Donald Trump, who wants to be president, is asking one of our adversaries to engage in hacking or intelligence efforts against the United States of America to affect an election," Panetta told the Democratic National Convention.

"As someone who was responsible for protecting our nation from cyberattacks, it's inconceivable that any presidential candidate would be that irresponsible," he said, adding that it was "no time to roll the dice" on Trump and national security.

Earlier in the day, Trump, an admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin, asserted in Florida, that he would like the Moscow government to obtain emails said to be missing when Clinton gave the FBI data from the private server installed in the basement of her New York home that she used while secretary of state from 2009-13.

"Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Trump said. "I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press." FBI Director James E. Comey said earlier this month that by routing classified information through her personal server, Clinton and her aides were careless. He could not rule out the possibility that a hostile power hacked the account.

The email scandal prompted Republican calls to prosecute Clinton, something the Justice Department has declined to do. After that, Comey's disclosure has fed the GOP narrative — embraced by many Americans, according to polls — that Clinton is untrustworthy and that lost emails hold more embarrassments for her.

Earlier, Democratic critics and commentators at several news outlets described Trump's remarks at the Florida news conference as treasonous. Some top Republicans scrambled to downplay them as #treasonousTrump trended on Twitter.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., Armed Services Committee ranking member, said Trump's comments were "totally irresponsible."

"Asking a foreign nation to interfere with the private security of the United States is irresponsible and reckless," he said.

He did not describe Trump's remarks as treasonous.

"This is more a reflection of incapacity to work with security issues and to deal with them in a constructive way," Reed said. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), called Trump's remarks "outrageous."

"Donald Trump says Putin is a great leader," Stabenow said. "It’s time for [House Speaker] Paul Ryan to admit that Donald Trump is not fit to be commander in chief.”

The New York Times tweeted that Trump's comments "essentially sanction a foreign power's cyberspying."

"How exactly would we distinguish Trump's latest comments from treason," The Atlantic's James Fallows wrote.

[ Hillary's Honesty and Trump's Temperament ]

"This has gone from being a matter of curiosity, and a matter of politics, to being a national security issue," Clinton senior policy adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement. Donald Trump’s comments essentially sanction a foreign power's cyberspying https://t.co/UUuaBt4FVB — The New York Times (@nytimes) July 27, 2016

I know I keep saying this, but: Trump has just done something *never* seen before in politics. In a bad way https://t.co/r5KGmm9DsL by me — James Fallows (@JamesFallows) July 27, 2016

[ Biden on DNC Hack: 'Totally Consistent With Who Putin Is' ]

At the Philadelphia convention, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said he was unsure if Trump's comments fit the description of treason, but he said the remarks were "devastating" for the real estate mogul and "could be lethal to his campaign."

Separately, American intelligence agencies said this week they had "high confidence " that Russia stole emails and documents from the Democratic National Committee, the only question was whether the Kremlin had engineered their release last week by Wikileaks in order to influence the election.

The emails revealed criticism by DNC staffers of Bernie Sanders' campaign, bolstering his contention that the national committee, in violation of its policy of neutrality, favored Clinton in the Democratic primaries. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned over the scandal.

Newt Gingrich was among prominent conservatives who played down Trump's comments.

"The media seems more upset by Trump's joke about Russian hacking than by the fact that Hillary's personal server was vulnerable to Russia," Gingrich tweeted.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who campaigned against Trump during the Republican presidential primaries, went after both candidates.

@hillaryclinton put our security at risk, but Putin is not our friend; foreign meddling in US elections cannot be tolerated. — John Kasich (@JohnKasich) July 27, 2016

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who reluctantly endorsed Trump in June, tried to distance himself from his comments on Russia.

“Russia is a global menace led by a devious thug," Ryan's chief communications adviser Brendan Buck told The Guardian . "Putin should stay out of this election.”

Bridget Bowman and Alex Gangitano contributed to this report.

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Chelsea Clinton, the former first teen who has matured into a battle-tested campaign surrogate, on Thursday said she plans to eschew rhetoric and speak instead from a deeply personal place when introducing her mother, Hillary Clinton, at the Democratic National Convention.

[ 3 Things Clinton Must Do Tonight ]

Hillary Clinton is scheduled tonight to formally accept the mantle of presidential nominee from her party — a political breakthrough centuries in the making that has Chelsea Clinton contemplating our collective future.

“As proud as I am of my mom, this election to me is fundamentally about my children, Charlotte and Aidan,” the mother of two told NBC's "Today" show host Matt Lauer. “And I couldn’t imagine a better president for them.”

[ As Clinton Takes the Stage, Her Legislative Agenda Starts Coming in View ]

Former President Bill Clinton shared his side of the dynastic couple’s life story Tuesday night in a speech conventioneers dubbed heartfelt and humanizing.

[ Clintons Take Back Party as Bill Fetes Hillary ]

Chelsea Clinton intends to follow suit, offering up a uniquely insider perspective — “I’m going to talk as her daughter,” she said — designed to counter all the negativity clogging the airwaves.

[ What to Watch for on Final Day of Democratic Convention ]

“What we heard last week in Cleveland, that’s not the person that I know,” she said, adding, “I just hope that people understand even a little more when I’m done than when I started about why I love her so much and why I admire her so much.”

Contact Rojas at warrenrojas@rollcall.com and follow him on Twitter at @WARojas .

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President Barack Obama and other Democratic leaders delivered a scathing assessment of Donald Trump’s national security and foreign policy qualifications, portraying him as an erratic blowhard who embraces dictators and disparages America’s allies.

The barrage from speakers also including Vice President Joe Biden and former CIA Director Leon Panetta aimed to cast doubt on the Republican’s nominee’s credentials to serve as commander in chief. It came just hours after Trump invited Russia to find and release Clinton emails — a statement that appeared to encourage Moscow to meddle in U.S. politics and raised further questions about the tycoon’s judgment.

But the speeches also sought to present Hillary Clinton as a steady hand whose background as senator and secretary of State give her the experience needed to keep the country safe and protect its interests abroad.

“Hillary Clinton is respected around the world not just by leaders, but by the people they serve,” Obama said in the final speech on night three of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. “She’s worked closely with our intelligence teams, our diplomats, our military. She has the judgment, the experience and the temperament to meet the threat from terrorism.”

He said Clinton won’t relent until the Islamic State is destroyed, and “she’ll do it without resorting to torture, or banning entire religions from entering our country. She is fit to be the next commander in chief.”

[ McCain Condemns 'Loose Talk' on Campaign Trail ]

Trump has spoken favorably of torture on U.S. enemies, and has proposed a ban on allowing Muslims into the country.

Speaking earlier in the night, Biden provided perhaps the strongest rebuke of Trump and his ability to lead the U.S. in a dangerous world, saying “no major party nominee in the history of this nation has ever known less or has been less prepared to deal with our national security.”

He accused Trump of exploiting Americans’ fears of the Islamic State and other terrorist groups, but he said the Republican has no plan to make the nation safer. He also chided Trump for embracing “the tactics of the our enemies — torture, religious intolerance.”

“That’s not who we are. It betrays our values, it alienates those who we need in the fight against ISIS,” Biden said.

“We cannot elect a man who belittles our closest allies while embracing dictators like Vladimir Putin,” Biden said. “A man who seeks to sow division in America for his own gain, and disorder around the world. A man who confuses bluster with strength. We simply cannot let that happen as Americans.”

Panetta, who was the director of the CIA during the raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and later served as secretary of Defense, was no kinder to Trump.

[ Trump Calls for Closed Borders, Waterboarding Following Brussels Attacks ]

He battered the businessman over his comments earlier Wednesday in which Trump seemed to invite Russia to get its hands on Hillary Clinton’s emails from her time as secretary of State and make them public.

“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press,” Trump said during a news conference in Florida.

Some of Clinton’s emails during her time as the top U.S. diplomat went missing or were deleted. The correspondence was kept on a private server that Clinton set up — an arrangement that touched off a federal investigation. The FBI and Justice Department ultimately decided not to indict Clinton, but the FBI director did say Clinton was “extremely careless” in her handling of classified information.

With his remarks Wednesday, Panetta said, Trump “once again took Russia’s side.”

“He asked the Russians to interfere in American politics. Think about that,” he said.

“Donald Trump, who wants to be president of the United States, is asking one of our adversaries to engage in hacking or intelligence efforts against the United States of America to affect an election,” Panetta said. “It is inconceivable to me that any presidential candidate would be that irresponsible.”

Trump has generally shrugged off criticism of his foreign policy ideas, saying that he will get better deals with allies and rivals alike and make the country more safe. On Wednesday, his campaign dismissed the Democrats' harsh assessment of his leadership credentials.

Stephen Miller, a senior Trump adviser, offered a bleak view of Clinton's judgment, saying that she rushed to war in Libya, "which further proves her a reckless risk too grave for any American family."

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Tim Kaine wore an ill-fitting suit, addressed the crowd as "folks" and inspired a barrage of dad jokes during his Wednesday night convention speech introducing him to the nation as Hillary Clinton's running mate.

The delivery was panned as "bland" and "forgettable" by the conservative National Review . Some Sanders delegates in the hall, who have complained that Kaine is not progressive enough, chanted during his speech and protested his support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But commentators on Thursday said Kaine did an admirable job.

The Virginia senator, with his understated personality and Midwestern bona fides , is meant to carry out the running mate's traditional attack dog role, but also do it in a way that appeals to the flyover country voting block that Clinton needs in November.

"Kaine sounded like a folksy, jokey Midwestern uncle," Doyle McManus wrote in the Los Angeles Times . "The adjective Trump would use — will use — is 'low energy.' He stepped on some of his own biggest lines. But he was just partisan enough — and just riled enough — to tear a strip off the Republican nominee."

New York Times style critic Vanessa Friedman wrote almost admiringly about Kaine's "schlubby" appearance. Sure, his suit bunched awkwardly at the shoulders, the wide blue and red stripes in his tie, "somehow matched his shirt and blended the two together," and the blue of the shirt was, "dull." That was the point, Friedman wrote.

"He’s the normal guy, in contrast to a woman in extraordinary circumstances," she wrote. "The one who doesn’t wear designer duds. The one everyone who doesn’t relate to Mrs. Clinton can relate to. At least, in those clothes he was."

The technology magazine Wired did a lighthearted roundup of the best Twitter dad jokes during Kaine's speech, including the following winners: Tim Kaine surprised you by telling you that of course you're coming with his family on their trip to Disney World, you're family too — Hayes Brown (@HayesBrown) July 28, 2016

No veep debates this year just decide whose carpool you'd rather be in. — Brian Barrett (@brbarrett) July 28, 2016

I just want Tim Kaine to make me some scrambled eggs when I'm sad and ask me, "What's wrong, scout?" — Eric (@ericschroeck) July 28, 2016

And The Atlantic's James Fallows praised Kaine for coming off as happy, comfortable in his own skin and well-versed in policy. He ticked off a list of vice presidential candidates, from Spiro Agnew in 1968 to Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who had his star turn promoting Donald Trump's ticket at the Republican National Convention last week. And he put Kaine at the top.

"Tim Kaine’s debut was the best of these I’m aware of, or can remember," he wrote.

Even Kaine's inexpert impression of Donald Trump — in which he lowered his voice a few octaves and drew out the syllables of the words, "Buh-lieve me"— got rave reviews.

"Tim Kaine just mercilessly mocked Donald Trump," the liberal Mother Jones declared in a headline.

But not everyone was on board. The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza called Kaine one of the night's "losers ," noting his, "groan-worthy" lines, like, "We should all feel the Bern and not get burned by the other guy." Cillizza was also unimpressed by Kaine's "hey guys!" delivery or the Trump bit.

"Kaine wasn't actively bad but he wasn't actively good," Cilliza wrote.

But he also gave Kaine a bit of a pass. "Of course, he wasn't picked to be Clinton's vice presidential nominee because of his soaring rhetorical skills."

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PHILADELPHIA — On the front of the Liberty Bell, few out of millions notice the archaic spelling of “Pensylvania,” typically spelled with two N’s. And I feel just as sly strolling through the city, a conservative hiding in plain sight, right under the nose of all the Democrats in town for their convention. An anomaly camouflaged by colossal convention crowds. This is my first time at a Democratic National Convention. They hardly notice me. They have enough on their proverbial plate as it is.

While the DNC was busy rearranging its starting lineup and struggling to keep Bernie Sanders fans from staging a walkout, I made myself at home in Philly. And, it turns out, I should have bought stock in Uber. I mean no disrespect to the fine people of Philadelphia; I have no interest in offending a group of people who booed Santa Claus and pelted him with snowballs. But the truth is that events are sprinkled far and wide through the city, and the logistics of navigating the security cordons surrounding the Wells Fargo Center are dramatically more difficult than anything we encountered in Cleveland.

[ Philadelphia: A Rough-And-Tumble Town Puts on Its Best Face ]

But the wait is almost always worth it, and I wear my anonymity like a comfy T-shirt. “The best fame,” Fran Lebowitz said, “is a writer's fame.” This seems to be true in Philadelphia. Conservative Sean Hannity may or may not have been booed out of a Wawa in the City of Brotherly Love, but nobody raised an eyebrow when I stopped in at Pat’s for a cheesesteak (and not a single eye was batted when I burned off a few extra calories running up the stairs of the Philadelphia Museum of Art).

It's not that I'm afraid of being outed as a red meat-devouring card-carrying Reaganite. So far, my only run-ins with liberals have been pleasant. What is more, I’m not the only one spending this week in exile. (The Republican National Committee has held a few counterprogramming press conferences at an arena that is perhaps appropriately known for hosting boxing and wrestling events. Trump’s campaign guru Paul Manafort was at one such event; Omarosa of “The Apprentice” was at another, offering her foreign policy expertise.)

[ The Latest From the Democratic Convention ]

The truth is that the internecine skirmishes are often more heated than the partisan ones. After all, I’m not the one who leaked emails, nor am I the one who rigged the system against Bernie Sanders.

It turns out that Debbie Wasserman Schultz has more to fear from Philly than anyone like me (or Hannity).

A side benefit has been that my trip to Philadelphia has helped me fend off a looming identity crisis that so many conservatives have felt in the era of Donald Trump. Trump may not be my idea of a dream candidate, but nothing reassures the mind that the Democratic Party isn’t for you than spending time with Democrats. Again, no offense intended here. But it's good to be reminded of just how liberal the party has become since the last Clinton was nominated back in 1992. (Bill Clinton would, of course, ultimately pronounce “the era of big government” over. Today’s Democratic Party seems unlikely to yield a centrist presidency.)

[ Bernie's Dream: The Revolution Shall Never Die ]

Getting an up-close view of some of the “Bernie or Bust” folks has also helped. I’m not suggesting that both sides don’t have their fair share of activists on the fringe, but some of these kids need to lay off the hashish.

Despite some optimistic rhetoric, and the obvious fact that Democrats made real history in nominating the first major-party female candidate, I will depart the Keystone State more secure in my conservative philosophy than when I arrived.

When the gavel falls on Thursday night, I will slip out of town, unnoticed and unbowed. I'll be fighting traffic, not Bernie Bros. If they go low, I will go high. No one will care that I'm not with her.

Roll Call columnist Matt K. Lewis is a Senior Contributor to the Daily Caller and author of the book “Too Dumb to Fail.” Follow him on Twitter @MattKLewis .

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What If Joe Biden Had Run?

By Patricia Murphy
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Biden Calls Trump Claims "Malarkey"

By Eric Garcia
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This wasn’t supposed to be Joe Biden’s night, at least not in the mind of the two-term vice president and former chairman of two major congressional committees.

Biden was supposed to be speaking tomorrow night, accepting the presidential nomination of a party grateful for his service to its goals and to President Barack Obama.

If anyone was in line for the Democratic presidential nomination, it was Biden. If anyone paid his or her dues, it was Biden. If anyone figured out how to roll with the evolution of the Democratic Party, from moderate to liberal to third way to progressive, it was Biden. If there’s anyone still eligible for the presidency who is best suited to rally Democrats on the campaign trail and cut deals with Republicans on Capitol Hill, it’s Biden. And if there’s anyone to whom President Obama owes unflinching loyalty, it’s Biden.

It’s not hard to imagine Biden accepting the Democratic nomination for president here in Philadelphia, less than an hour’s drive from his house in Delaware and not too far from his native Scranton, Pennsylvania. He would have been a returning prodigal son. What a story that would have been, from the hardscrabble upbringing to a lifetime of public service representing Delaware in Congress to a major party’s presidential nomination. It would be hard avoid getting caught up in the sentimentality of a Biden nomination — especially because virtually everyone who knows him roots for him.

He’s the antithesis of Hillary Clinton as a politician: Smooth, charming and oppressively likable. If he stretches the truth, no one cares. But, for a variety of reasons, he never gained traction in his presidential campaigns.

[ Joe Biden and Others Who Coulda Been a Contender ]

There are few things Biden wanted more than the presidency. And there can be little doubt that he still thinks he should be the one accepting the party’s nomination on Thursday night. But he also knows that he had a much better chance of playing spoiler — of splintering Clinton’s coalition — than of defeating both her and Bernie Sanders. The threat of that was real enough to keep Clintonworld up at night last fall and to factor into Biden’s decision not to run.

By the time he sat down to take a hard look at the 2016 campaign, Clinton had already locked up so much support within the party that it would have been hard for him to build a credible operation. Part of that was the suspension of Biden’s decision-making when his son Beau died, but part of it was simply Clinton’s preparation and hard work in assuming command of the party machinery. (It's been reported that Beau Biden wanted him to run.)

So, Biden did what was best for Clinton, best for himself and best for the party. He didn’t complain publicly that the White House, including Obama, refused to help position him for the presidency. There was no visible sulking when White House officials declined to identify him as a favorite of the president or even push back hard on the idea that Obama had twice told the nation Biden was the next-best person to be president and didn’t feel that way heading into 2016.

He conducted himself with honor and redefined loyalty, even in the face of Obama’s tacit betrayal. A two-term vice president has every right to feel entitled to the support of the president — however tepid — when the administration is coming to an end. Not Biden. He had been cut out by the marriage of the Obama and Clinton political worlds.

Despite all his years of service and loyalty, Biden drew the short straw this year — a Wednesday night speaking slot in which he’s sure to make the case for Clinton, even though he certainly believes he’d make a better president.

[ One Last Hurrah for Joe Biden? ]

Democrats will cheer him heartily, handing him the equivalent of a lifetime achievement award rather than a shot at the presidency. They will recognize his service as they put a capstone on a political rise that began the year that Richard Nixon was re-elected to the presidency.

Their applause will be bittersweet for Biden. But he should bask in it. He did what Clinton always says she wants to do: all the good he could, by all the means he could, at all the times he could and in all the places he could.

Roll Call columnist Jonathan Allen is co-author of the New York Times-bestselling Clinton biography “HRC” and has covered Congress, the White House and elections over the past 15 years.

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Reid Lacerates McConnell and GOP

By David Hawkings
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A presentation at the Democratic National Convention Wednesday included footage promoting the House Democrats' sit-in on gun violence.

That drew criticism from Republicans, who said that the protest was simply a political stunt.

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., had specifically called out the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for fundraising off the sit-in and suggested the take over of the House floor violated decorum rules .

The Democrats' promotion of the sit-in during the DCCC presentation is likely to fuel Republicans' beliefs that it was all for political gain. But Democrats asserted that it was evidence of their willingness to fight for action on issues that Americans care about.

"We're going to push, pull stand up, sit down," members said in the video.

"If there is one thing you can count on, it's that House Democrats will always be in the fight," DCCC Chair Ben Ray Lujan said in his speech before the video.

Lujan also used his speech to say that Democrats can pick up House seats with Donald Trump at the top of the Republican ticket .

"If your member of Congress is supporting Donald Trump ... what does that say about their leadership, their character?" he asked.

"If they won't stand up to Donald Trump, what makes you think they'll stand up for you and your family?" he said.

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Get the latest from the convention floor

By Roll Call Staff
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PHILADELPHIA – When organizers of the Impact Film Festival decided on their line-up of topical documentaries they would show at this year’s Democratic National Convention, they could hardly have expected their screening of “Newtown,” would come on the day Democrats chose to address the issue of gun violence head-on in prime-time.

But that’s what happened, and the movie about the aftermath of the December 2012d mass murder of schoolchildren and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut was screened just a few hours before Erica Smegielski and Sen. Christopher S. Murphy, along with others touched by gun violence, were scheduled to address the party gathering.

“We are all connected to this,” Mark Barden, whose son Daniel was one of 20 children killed at Sandy Hook, said at a post-movie panel. He was referring to gun violence, but the movie’s connection to the topic at hand here was on full display as well, as advocates prepared for an emotional night of addresses.

Smegielski’s mother Dawn was the principal of Sandy Hook and was killed trying to protect her students. Murphy has been a tireless advocate for enhanced background checks. Also scheduled to speak in the convention hall: former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who survived an assassination attempt and has since founded Americans for Responsible Solutions, and Christine Leinonen, Brandon Wolf and Jose Arraigada.

[ Democrat Launches Fund to Support Gun Control Candidates ]

Leinonen is the mother of Christopher "Drew" Leinonen, who was killed in the Pulse nightclub attack in Orlando, Florida, last month. Wolf and Arraigada survived the Pulse shooting.

The timing of the film’s screening was coincidental, but provided the opportunity to discuss the issue at the festival here at the Arden Theater Company. Other films looked at cancer prevention (“The C Word”), nuclear safety (“Command and Control”), the liberal icon Norman Lear (“Just Another Version of You”) and African-American challenges in Washington (“Check It”).

But “Newtown” provided an entry point to a topic taking up a disproportionate share of the national conversation, following a rash of shootings in recent months.

“We wanted a platform to discuss issues everyone is talking about, and we found five films that all are relevant to what people are talking about in 2016 in general,” said Jamie Shor, co-founder of the festival. “We always feel like this is the best way to tell as story – ask people to take 90 minutes out of their day to spend time with an important topic.”

The film tells the story from the perspective of the parents of both victims and survivors, parents and first responders, but focuses on the post “12-14” world, as they call it, of three families who lost their first grade children that day: the Bardens, Wheelers and Hockleys.

“Kim and I sought to tell the story of what happens when the cameras go away,” said producer Maria Cuomo Cole, referring to the director, Kim A. Snyder.

“It’s a big ask to ask people to see this film,” Snyder said at a panel following the screening.

[ Filibuster Over, Senate Will Take Up Two Gun Control Measures ]

Rep. David Price, D-N.C., vice chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force, was part of the panel as well. “I don’t see how anyone can see the film and not be affected and understand … the depth of each loss,” he said.

He emphasized that the issue of gun violence isn’t going away, and Democrats will continue to push legislation to address it, particularly enhanced background checks.

“Believe me, it’ll be a national issue, front and center, in the presidential race,” he said.

This isn’t the first time this particular film had a serendipitous screening. On June 23, it showed as part of the AFI Docs Film Festival in Washington, the day House Democrats ended a dramatic sit-in on the House floor to call attention to Congress’ position on legislation designed to curb gun violence.

The filmmakers are planning another screening, this one on Capitol Hill, after lawmakers return from their summer recess.

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PHILADELPHIA – As anyone who has caught the DNC on television knows, this even more than the RNC in Cleveland has already been one unconventional nominating convention, with some boos for the nominee and a couple of “Knock it off!” remonstrations from the podium.

Some of the early speeches soared , like Michelle Obama’s when she said, “Don’t let anyone tell you this country isn’t great.” (And thanks, Mrs. O, for inspiring my 20-year-old daughter to notice that you refrained from being “mean about Melania” Trump’s speech that borrowed from your own, when that would have been so easy but so unnecessary: “I’m going to remember,” my daughter said, ‘When they go low, we go high .’ ’’)

Other addresses on Night One were so larded with high-cholesterol hyperbole that they had the opposite of the desired effect on me. (No, Hillary Clinton has not been fighting all her life for every issue in the platform.)

It was three of the less remarked-upon, non-primetime speakers, though, who highlighted some of the themes that I think will be crucial to a Hillary Clinton victory in November.

Among them, direct from San Antonio, Texas, where she heads the local chapter of Gold Star Wives, was Cheryl Lankford , a war widow who said she was bilked by Trump University out of $35,000 of the insurance money the Army gave her after her husband was killed in Baghdad in 2007.

[ Michelle Obama, a Unifying Force in Philadelphia ]

She was embarrassed to stand up there on the stage and admit she got taken, she said, in what to me was the single most effective moment of the night in terms of its potential to sway voters. But she’s willing to be embarrassed, she said, because she doesn’t want the country to fall for empty promises the same way she did.

After her husband, Jonathan M. Lankford, a command sergeant major in the Army, died, she said, she put a lot of thought into how to spend the insurance money in a way that would put her back on her feet and make her husband proud of her. So in 2009, she signed up for Trump U classes hoping to learn some of the tips that had made Donald Trump so successful in business, but almost immediately realized that the course would do no such thing.

“They broke their promises…stopped taking my calls…the whole thing was a lie…Donald Trump made big promises about Trump University. And I was fooled into believing him. Now he’s making big promises about America. Please don’t make the same mistake.”

Another potential ka-boom theme for the fall was laid out by home state Senator Bob Casey , who pointed out just where the products manufactured by the candidate who talks so much about bringing jobs back to America are actually produced.

“Donald Trump says he stands for workers and they he’ll put America first,’’ Casey said, “but that’s not how he conducted himself in business. Where are his “tremendous” Trump products made? Dress shirts? Bangladesh. Furniture? Turkey. Picture frames? India. Wine glasses? Slovenia. Neck ties? China. Why would Donald Trump make his products in every corner of the globe but not in Altoona, Erie or here in Philadelphia?”

Answering his own question, Casey continued, “Well, this is what he said: ‘Outsourcing is not always a terrible thing. Wages in America are too high.’ And then he complained about companies moving jobs overseas because, ‘We don’t make things anymore.’ Really?”

[ The Latest From the DNC ]

Another gut-punch of a speech came from disability rights activist Anastasia Somoza , who has cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia and uses a wheelchair. She has interned for Hillary Clinton, and worked on her Senate campaign, and she quite effectively answered Trump’s jaw-droppingly cruel imitation of New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski , who has arthrogryposis, which limits the functioning of his joints.

“Now the poor guy, you ought to see this guy,” Mr. Trump said last November, imitating Kovaleski in a way that Sister Mary Edna warned us against in the first grade, with the story of a boy who made fun of a disabled classmate but wasn’t laughing it up at all after God froze him in that position. Trump’s Kovaleski impersonation, which he has said was no such thing, was shown in the hall, along with shocked commentary from Fox News hosts, before Somoza spoke.

"I fear the day we elect a president who defines being an American in the narrowest possible of terms, who shouts, bullies and profits off of the vulnerable Americans," Somoza told the crowd. In mocking the reporter, she said, "Donald Trump has shown us who he really he is. I honestly feel bad for anyone with that much hate in their heart."

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Capitol Ink | Boris and Natrumpsha

By Robert Matson
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Hillary's Honesty and Trump's Temperament

By Jonathan Allen
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Democratic congressional aides have never felt more confident about their party’s chances in this year’s election.

That assessment is based on answers they’ve provided every month since October, when CQ Roll Call began its Capitol Insiders Survey, which polls staffers by email.

While the nation’s Democratic primary voters struggled over whether to choose Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, it was never a close call for the aides.

They have said consistently that Clinton was the best choice and expressed little worry about Sanders’ persistence.

“I don’t think he’s hurting her,” says Brendan Daly, a former spokesman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. “He’s very sincere and his people are as well. I believe he’ll bring his people along. It’s part of the process.”

That process started when Sanders endorsed Clinton on July 12, bringing to an end a tough primary fight.

The Democratic staffers’ sense of common purpose contrasts sharply with the divisions among Republican aides.

When CQ Roll Call asked in June who they’d vote for, only 42 percent said Donald Trump. Most said they’d vote for a third-party candidate or stay home. A handful said they’d vote for Clinton.

GOP angst over Trump is playing into Democrats’ confidence, which extends beyond the presidential race.

As it became clearer that the mogul would be the GOP’s nominee this spring, more and more Democrats said they believed their party would retake the Senate and make significant gains in the House.

Indeed, in the June survey, 9 in 10 Democratic aides were bullish about their chances of winning the Senate majority, where they need to pick up four seats if Clinton wins or five seats otherwise. In the House, where they need 30 seats to retake the majority, 8 in 10 predicted a Democratic wave.

The national polls gauging Clinton vs. Trump show a much tighter contest this November, revealing a schism, perhaps, between the Democratic establishment in Washington and voters.

Trust the aides, says Steve Elmendorf, a Washington lobbyist who was once House Democratic Leader Richard A. Gephardt’s chief of staff. “I think Hill staffers are smarter than the average pollster. The polls are a snapshot in time.”

Could the aides be too complacent? Some Republicans are holding out hope that they are.

“As much evidence as there is that Hillary is going to be the next president, and win comfortably, anyone who takes it for granted is not paying attention to anything,” says Sam Geduldig, a former aide to Republican Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio who’s skeptical that Clinton has as easy a path as his Democratic colleagues predict.

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