Punt formation

Donald Trump hasn’t been able to bend Congress to his will, but it’s looking like the NFL is ready to give him a win.

The league wants to end its fight with the president over players who have staged take-a-knee protests during the national anthem to oppose racial injustice.

Team owners, meeting next week, may consider a change in guidelines to make standing mandatory. In the meantime, Commissioner Roger Goodell sent a letter to all 32 teams, encouraging them to resolve the issue. “We need to move past this controversy,” he said.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the NFL is now “taking positive steps.”

Trump has railed against the protests for almost three weeks. He tweeted Tuesday: “Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!”

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The league actually gave up its tax-exempt status two years ago. Ironically, it would reap a windfall from Trump’s proposed business tax cuts, according to CNBC.

Trump’s brain trust (his own)

The president said he still doesn’t believe reports that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called him a “moron” — but took a seeming dig at his chief diplomat anyway.

“I think it’s fake news, but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win,” Trump said in an interview with Forbes Magazine published Tuesday.

Later Tuesday, the president said he had confidence in Tillerson. Sanders said the IQ remark was “a joke.”

For the record, a State Department spokeswoman, asked about Tillerson’s IQ, said: “It’s high.” See Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.

'Moron' the story? 

Trump indicated he wanted a tenfold increase in nuclear armaments during a meeting July 20 with high-level national security officials, NBC News reported Wednesday.

He was apparently reacting to charts that showed the stockpile reduction negotiated by past presidents and enabled by technological advancements. Those listening were reportedly shocked at this.

The network said: "It was soon after the meeting broke up that officials who remained behind heard Tillerson say that Trump is a 'moron.'"

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Trump denied the report on Twitter -- then took the unheard-of step of threatening NBC's broadcasting license.

Short shrift for Corker

Instead of coming up with a new nickname to insult Sen. Bob Corker, Trump recycled the one he previously used on Sen. Marco Rubio. The president tweeted: “The Failing @nytimes set Liddle’ Bob Corker up by recording his conversation. Was made to sound a fool, and that’s what I am dealing with!”

Fact check: Not only did Corker know he was being recorded by the interviewer, but he can be heard when the tape begins making sure of it.

As for “liddle,” The Times also reported that when Trump was deciding on a secretary of state, he told associates that the 5-foot-7 Corker was too short for the role, while the taller Tillerson looked the part.

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The take-away: Burning bridges

The Trump-Corker skirmish is part of a widening war between the president and Senate Republicans, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.

Trump has decided that the majority led by Sen. Mitch McConnell fails to serve him and wants the GOP caucus either to knuckle under or be replaced. Corker isn’t running again, but other GOP senators seeking re-election are being threatened with primary challengers backed by Steve Bannon.

Would order erode Obamacare?

Complaining on Twitter that Congress “can’t get its act together,” Trump plans to sign an executive order this week aimed at expanding access to more loosely regulated Obamacare alternatives, Politico reports.

The idea is to allow trade associations and other groups to offer their own health plans that would be exempt from some of Obamacare’s strict regulations and could be sold across state lines.

Insurers and policy experts say such a move could force Obamacare rates to rise by luring away the healthiest and cheapest customers.

Tax discredit

Trump habitually claims falsely that the U.S. is the world’s “highest-taxed nation.” Challenged on that in Tuesday’s briefing, Sanders insisted it’s right because the U.S. is the “highest taxed corporate nation.”

The corporate tax rate is tops among developed nations, but the average percentage paid is not.

What else is happening

  • Trump waved off Corker’s warning that the president was leading the U.S. “on the path to World War III” with reckless threats. “We’re on the right path right now, believe me,” the president told reporters during a photo op with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
  • Trump piled on via Twitter against ESPN anchor Jemele Hill. She was suspended Monday after criticizing Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on social media for saying he would bench players who kneel during the anthem.
  • Honoring the 2017 NHL champion Pittsburgh Penguins at the White House, Trump called them a “very handsome group of people” and joked: “In fact, I don’t like standing in front of them. ... We always like unattractive teams, right?”
  • Trump told Forbes he has prepared “economic development” legislation that would punish companies that globally outsource jobs.
  • Melania Trump offered her support to those dealing with the nation’s opioid epidemic while touring a drug recovery center for infants in West Virginia.
  • When the sexual-predator revelations about Harvey Weinstein erupted, Trump said he’d known the movie mogul “for a long time” and “I’m not at all surprised to see it.” Sanders was asked why he wasn’t surprised. “That statement speaks for itself,” she non-answered.