With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: More than 50 million ballots were cast by Floridians in the seven presidential elections from 1992 through 2016. If you add them all up, only 18,000 votes separate the Republicans from the Democrats. That is 0.04 percent.
Florida is rightfully considered the swingiest of swing states. Control of the White House in 2000 came down to a few hundred hanging chads — and one vote on the Supreme Court. The past four statewide elections — two governor’s races and two presidentials — were all decided by a single percentage point.
So it could be quite politically significant that tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans, maybe more, are expected to permanently move into Florida as the result of Hurricane Maria. The Category 4 storm has wreaked havoc on the U.S. territory of 3.4 million. Most of the island still doesn’t have power a week after Maria made landfall. There are shortages of fuel, medicine, food and running water. Infrastructure that was already crumbling is in ruins.
Puerto Ricans are American citizens, thanks to a law passed in 1917. As a result, all they need to settle in the mainland is a plane ticket or a berth on a boat.
Their citizenship entitles them to vote, and they tend to overwhelmingly support Democratic candidates.
Florida-based Republican operative Rick Wilson thinks the hurricane might be a game changer. “If you put an influx of 100,000 Puerto Ricans who vote Democratic eight times out of 10 in the Orlando area, there you go,” he said. “Nobody can afford a big change in the registration pattern or a change in the voting pattern that offsets Florida’s narrowness. You could end up with a big advantage for Democrats in 2018 if they play it right. The Puerto Ricans would be coming here because they feel like Donald Trump left them high and dry. That won’t fade away. … It could be a very, very big deal.”
Hurricane Katrina had an impact on Texas politics because almost half a million people, mostly African Americans, relocated there from the New Orleans area. “It made Louisiana more red and Texas a bit more blue,” said Wilson, who has long been critical of Trump. “Texas could absorb it.”
“I don't know if you can say this changes the whole demographic game,” said Democratic strategist Steve Schale, who directed Barack Obama’s Florida campaign in 2008 and was a senior adviser in 2012. “There are still 20 million people, so a couple hundred thousand here or there isn't a huge deal. But, at the margins, everything matters! It doesn't take a lot.”
-- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has told the White House that the federal government needs to quickly take over recovery efforts on the island to prevent a Hurricane “Katrina-style” disaster. “This has the potential of being a serious humanitarian crisis in a U.S. territory impacting United States citizens,” Rubio told Politico’s Marc Caputo on Tuesday after returning from a trip to inspect the dire situation in San Juan.
-- The number of people of Puerto Rican origin living in Florida already surpassed 1 million in 2015, which is more than double what it was in 2000. Cuban Americans now represent less than one-third of Florida’s eligible Hispanic voters.
A deep recession on the island, combined with a crime wave, caused an exodus to Florida. Puerto Rico’s population declined by 7 percent from 2010 to 2015, or roughly 300,000 people. The island’s government, saddled with $73 billion in debt, declared bankruptcy in May. Maria may supercharge these long-term trends and prompt many who had been trying to hold on to finally give up and flee.
They have primarily settled in the Orlando metropolitan area, which is part of the pivotal Interstate 4 corridor. “Because so many Puerto Ricans have already migrated here, it is easier now,” said Schale, who is based in Tallahassee. “They have homes to go to and support networks in place, which also makes it easier to stay.”
-- Frustration stemming from Trump’s initially lackadaisical response to Hurricane Maria might make these new voters even more antagonistic to the GOP. The president has resisted opening up the port of San Juan to foreign ships, for example, and he hasn’t appeared as worried about the damage as he was when he went to Texas for Hurricane Harvey and Florida for Hurricane Irene.
Trump has been pilloried in the Spanish-language press for launching a culture war against the NFL amid the suffering in Puerto Rico. He tweeted more than a dozen times over the weekend about the national anthem, but he was silent and seemed unsympathetic about the damage from the hurricane.
On Monday night, pop star Marc Anthony tweeted angrily at the president: “Mr. President shut the [expletive] up about NFL. Do something about our people in need in #PuertoRico. We are American citizens too.” The post quickly got more than 89,000 retweets and 221,000 likes. Other Latino celebrities like Ricky Martin, Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez also tried to call more public attention to the misery on the ground.
“On Monday when we realized that the president had spent the weekend fighting with football players and their mothers, we realized, ‘Wait a minute. This guy hasn’t said anything about us,’” said Luis A. Miranda, a Democratic consultant in New York who is of Puerto Rican descent. “What crystalized it was Marc Anthony’s tweet. … Trump’s tweets are red meat for the third of the country — his base — that is the only thing that he has left. A tweet about Puerto Rico is not good red meat for his base, so he’d rather fight about the American flag and what African American athletes do to raise consciousness.”
Miranda is a board member of the Latino Victory Project, which helps identify and assist Latino candidates running for office. (He’s also the father of Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of “Hamilton.”) He said it is crucial for Democrats to capitalize on the new wave of immigrants. “We have to register people and we need to give them good reasons to vote,” Miranda said. “We cannot just go to them three months before the election and say, ‘Vote Democratic,’ or ’Vote for this candidate.’ … Something that energizes people a bit is when there are good Latino candidates.”
-- In the face of growing criticism and devastating visuals on cable news, the administration is finally ratcheting up its response. “In the first six days after the hurricane made landfall … the Navy had deployed just two ships, citing concerns that Puerto Rico’s ports were too damaged to accommodate numerous large vessels. But harrowing reports of isolated U.S. citizens struggling in the heat without electricity and running low on food and water have now spurred the Pentagon to throw resources into the relief effort,” The Washington Post’s Arelis R. Hernández, Dan Lamothe, Ed O'Keefe and Joel Achenbach report on the front page of today’s paper. “The more robust approach includes the deployment of the USNS Comfort, a hospital ship that has responded to other natural disasters. The Pentagon also has assigned an Army general as point person for the humanitarian crisis: Brig. Gen. Richard C. Kim …
- “Puerto Rican officials said that 10 military vessels are en route to the island and that half should arrive within 48 hours. A ship arrived Tuesday with 262,000 barrels of fuel for distribution to gas stations across the island.
- “The Pentagon’s effort to date remains smaller than relief operations marshaled after other major natural disasters, including Katrina in 2005 and the 2013 typhoon that devastated the Philippines. In those cases, the military established a joint task force led by a three-star general.”
-- Leading Florida Republicans have been taking this crisis much more seriously than the White House since the beginning. They clearly recognize the political risk of antagonizing a political bloc this big in their own backyard.
Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who may challenge Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson next year, is flying to Puerto Rico today to help coordinate recovery efforts on the island. “On Tuesday Scott placed the National Guard on standby to help Puerto Rico,” the Orlando Sentinel reports. “He visited Kissimmee on Wednesday to meet with volunteers helping Maria recovery efforts.”
Former governor Jeb Bush has been posting stories about the devastation on social media. “Time to take it up several notches,” he tweeted yesterday, linking to a story about people being unable to get medical care on the island. On Monday, Bush retweeted this post from a former governor of Puerto Rico:
The Federal Gov needs to act immediately to assist PR. Congress should support the 3.5 m US citizens residing in PR in same way as TX & FL.— Luis Fortuño (@luisfortuno51) September 25, 2017
Republicans also see opportunities to make inroads with Puerto Ricans. They tend to identify as socially conservative, and while they vote for Democrats they don’t strongly identify with the party.
The LIBRE Initiative, which is part of the Koch network, has spent millions trying to engage with the Puerto Rican community across Florida over the past few years. The effort tries to give Latinos tools for upward mobility, such as offering English classes in Orlando, Kissimmee and Miami. The group is working to help new arrivals from Puerto Rico with training for job interviews, etc.
-- The types of Puerto Ricans coming in this new wave are likely to look slightly different from the ones who came before. The average immigrant who has come in recent years tended to be younger: searching for jobs and opportunities. “You’re going to see a lot of frail people or elderly people with health needs who will be overrepresented in this flow,” said Edwin Meléndez, the director of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College in New York. “The health infrastructure has crumbled. … It will continue to be younger people searching for employment, but across the board it will also be more people who are dependent on government to survive.”
Meléndez expects a lot of retirees to come to Florida who have heretofore been reluctant to leave their home towns. “People can’t talk to their families right now, but the minute people can get through to their families, they’re going to start buying them airplane tickets to get out of there,” he said. “It’s chain migration. … Florida is kind to the elderly. People have the same Social Security card, whether they’re here or in Puerto Rico.”
MORE WAPO COVERAGE OF MARIA:
- “‘Why can’t we get out of here?’ Airports in Puerto Rico, other islands, damaged and slow to recover.” (Daniel Cassady and Joel Achenbach in San Juan)
- “White House is restricting lawmakers from visiting Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, aides say.” (Ed O’Keefe)
- “Congressional Democrats to Trump: Do more to help Puerto Rico.” (Sandhya Somashekhar)
- “All about the Jones Act, an obscure shipping law that some say is stalling Puerto Rico’s recovery.” (Amber Phillips)
- “Puerto Rico’s bankruptcy will make hurricane recovery even harder.” (Lauren Lluveras)
- “Puerto Rico is still a victim of colonial neglect.” (Ishaan Tharoor)
- “September is the most energetic month for hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic.” (The Capital Weather Gang’s Matthew Cappucci)
- “The Energy 202: Trump's hiring freeze shrank National Weather Service staff before hurricanes hit.” (Dino Grandoni)
- “Vital hurricane hunter plane has failed three times in past 8 days and has no backup.” (Jason Samenow)
-- The Daily 202 LIVE: I’m sitting down with OMB Director Mick Mulvaney next Wednesday, Oct. 4. We’ll talk about the White House’s tax plan, efforts to cut federal regulations and much more. The program starts at 10:30 a.m. at The Post’s headquarters. (Click here to RSVP.)
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Hugh Hefner died at the age of 91. Matt Schudel writes of Hefner: “As much as anyone, [he] turned the world on to sex. As the visionary editor who created Playboy magazine out of sheer will and his own fevered dreams, he introduced nudity and sexuality to the cultural mainstream of America and the world. For decades, the ageless Mr. Hefner embodied the ‘Playboy lifestyle’ as the pajama-clad sybarite who worked from his bed, threw lavish parties and inhabited the Playboy Mansion with an ever-changing bevy of well-toned young beauties. … ‘I’m living a grown-up version of a boy’s dream, turning life into a celebration,’ he told Time magazine in 1967. ‘It’s all over too quickly. Life should be more than a vale of tears.’”
GET SMART FAST:
- Both the Taliban and ISIS claimed responsibility Wednesday for an hours-long string of rocket attacks targeting Kabul’s international airport, which began just hours after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis arrived in the capital for a meeting with Afghan officials. Mattis was miles away when the blasts began, officials said, but one civilian was killed and at least 11 others were injured. (Sayed Salahuddin)
- An overwhelming majority of Kurds have voted to secede from Iraq, approving by nearly 93 percent a nonbinding referendum that has drawn intense opposition from the country’s central government, as well as regional neighbors Turkey and Iran. (Tamer El-Ghobashy and Kareem Fahim)
The Trump administration plans to cap 2018 refugee admissions at 45,000, according to a State Department report. The figure represents the lowest cap since 1980. (Matt Zapotosky and Carol Morello)
The FBI is conducting about 1,000 investigations of suspected white supremacists or other types of domestic terrorism, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate. (Devlin Barrett)
When Jared Kushner registered to vote in 2009 in the state of New York, he reportedly did so as a female. News of his error quickly went viral, prompting many online to speculate how, or why, the president’s senior aide and son-in-law could have bungled the question. (Rachel Chason)
- Nearly all Americans are better off financially since the Great Recession, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve, with minorities and adults without high school diplomas showing the greatest gains since 2013. (Heather Long and Tracy Jan)
- Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino was reportedly ousted on Wednesday, ending his 16-season career at one of the country’s college basketball powerhouses in the aftermath of a wide-ranging federal corruption case. (Matt Bonesteel)
- Seeking electoral relevance, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed a bill moving the state’s primary elections to early March. The decision — which was motivated in part by Trump’s election — comes after years of trying and failing to entice major candidates to campaign in the state. (LA Times)
- Ireland will hold a referendum on whether to lift its ban on abortion next year, paving the way to potentially relax the law that is among the most restrictive in the Western world. (New York Times)
- Paul Homer, a well-known fake news writer who for years made a living off disseminating viral hoaxes, was found dead in his home earlier this month, police said. Home also told The Post last year that he thinks he could have helped Trump win the White House. He was 38. (NBC News)
Barack Obama revealed he cried when dropping daughter Malia off at college last month. In an unannounced speech to fundraise for the Beau Biden foundation, Obama said, “I was proud I did not cry in front of her. But on the way back, the Secret Service was looking straight ahead, pretending they weren’t hearing me.” (Avi Selk)
- A missing British hiker whose body was found in northern Greece this weekend was likely attacked and “devoured” by wolves, coroners concluded after an autopsy on Wednesday. Before her death, the 63-year-old had apparently phoned her brother to say she was being attacked by dogs. (AP)
- Investigators believe a Russian “cannibal couple” may have drugged, killed and eaten as many as 30 people near the military academy where they worked — at times slipping canned human meat into others’ food to turn them into unwitting cannibals. If confirmed, the couple would rank among Russia’s worst serial killers. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
TRUMP SELLS TAX OVERHAUL:
-- In “one of the more staid performances of his tenure,” Trump assured rally attendees in Indianapolis that Republicans’ tax plan would aid the middle class and that his faltering agenda would succeed, John Wagner reports. “Whether the more disciplined approach will last or serve Trump well in what promises to be a tough legislative battle remains to be seen. … Trump made a point Wednesday of appealing to Democrats on taxes. … He brought with him on Air Force One one of those Democrats — Sen. Joe Donnelly of Indiana. During his remarks, Trump said he hoped Donnelly would be with him — and threatened to return to the Hoosier State to campaign against him if it turns out he’s not.”
-- Even though Trump told his supporters that the plan would be “not good for me,” wealthy Americans appear to be the most direct beneficiaries of tax code rewrite rolled out yesterday. The New York Times’s Binyamin Appelbaum writes: “The administration and its congressional allies are proposing to sharply reduce taxation of business income, primarily benefiting the small share of the population that owns the vast majority of corporate equity. … The plan would also benefit Mr. Trump and other affluent Americans by eliminating the estate tax, which affects just a few thousand uber-wealthy families each year, and the alternative minimum tax, a safety net designed to prevent tax avoidance. … The alternative minimum tax has been unkind to Mr. Trump. In 2005, it forced him to pay $31 million in additional taxes. …
“While some [middle-class] households would probably get tax cuts, others could end up paying more. The plan would not benefit lower-income households that do not pay federal income taxes. The president is not proposing measures like a reduction in payroll taxes, which are paid by a much larger share of workers, nor an increase in the earned-income tax credit, which would expand wage support for the working poor. Indeed, to call the plan ‘tax reform’ seems like a stretch[.]”
-- Heather Long has a good, plain-English breakdown of what's in the nine-page document. The bottom line: three different tax brackets for individuals and a corporate tax rate of 20 percent (higher than the 15 percent Trump originally insisted on). And very few revenue raisers that would pay for it.
-- Now comes the hard part. The “Big Six” tax negotiators intentionally didn't outline how they wouldn't send the deficit skyrocketing by slashing tax rates for individuals and businesses. They're leaving that spade work up to Republicans in the committee process. But it won't be easy to eliminate coveted deductions amounting to about $3 trillion in revenue, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) told Damian Paletta, Mike DeBonis and Carolyn Y. Johnson.
--Congressional Republicans plan to use the budget reconciliation process to pass their proposal (though that didn't work out so well for health care), and Toomey said he hoped that the Senate budget resolution would be on the floor next week and then be taken up by the House.
--Using budget rules means leadership won't have to nab Democratic votes to succeed. But it also means nearly all Republicans must support the plan, a tall order. More from Damian, Mike and Carolyn: “Democratic leaders will try to keep their party united in opposition, and on Wednesday they charged the GOP with proposing a huge tax cut to the wealthy but offering little for anyone else. … The House Freedom Caucus, a key holdout bloc of conservative lawmakers, endorsed the tax framework Wednesday, setting up a floor vote on the House budget as soon as next week. That would set up a conference between the chambers, with senior Republicans expecting the final, consensus budget resolution to closely resemble the Senate version.”
ALABAMA ON THEIR MINDS:
-- “As [Trump] headed to Huntsville, Ala., in a last-ditch effort to lift the floundering campaign of Sen. Luther Strange, [he] was fuming,” Robert Costa writes in an A1 story, “feeling dragged along by GOP senators who had pleaded with him to go and increasingly unenthusiastic about Strange[.] … For Trump, the trip to Alabama marked the dispiriting start to one of the lowest and perhaps most damaging stretches of his already troubled presidency, leaving him further weakened and isolated with few ways out of the thicket of challenges he faces, according to a half dozen people[.]
“His agitation only worsened on the flight back last Friday. Trump bemoaned the headlines he expected to see once Strange was defeated — that he had stumbled and lost his grip on 'my people,' as he calls his core voters. He also lamented the rally crowd’s tepid response to the 6-foot-9 incumbent he liked to call 'Big Luther.' … Several of Trump’s longtime friends and associates said he is doing what he always does in times of trouble: attempt to overwhelm with liveliness. But they acknowledged that Trump may not be enjoying the experience. ‘I’m told he’s unhappy,’ said veteran Republican consultant Roger Stone. ‘He’s surrounded by people who don’t understand politics and don’t understand why he won the presidency.’”
-- Strange’s defeat served as a reminder to Trump that his supporters won't “follow him blindly,” as one pro-Trump Alabama voter told Michael Scherer. “In the end, Alabama Republicans decided to go with the candidate who most resembled Trump’s renegade spirit, even if it meant going against Trump’s candidate. … Such sentiments should send warning signs to other incumbent Republicans who are hoping the president could provide them cover in tough primaries next year. … Republican voters have made clear that they are less interested in policy positions than in finding candidates who, like Trump, promise to shake up the Washington establishment.”
-- The GOP has become a potentially “unsustainable” coalition, The Post's chief correspondent Dan Balz writes, evidenced first by Trump’s presidential campaign and sealed by Roy Moore’s victory. “The party establishment proved powerless in its efforts to deny Trump the GOP nomination last year, then … nonetheless held out hope that [he] would follow their lead on policy and use the unique megaphone that he has developed to advance the cause. But that assumption turned out to be incorrect for at least two reasons[:] First, that Trump’s agenda was their agenda, that he was as interested in party success as in personal success. Second, that the divisions that had immobilized congressional Republicans long before Trump became a candidate would somehow disappear if the party controlled the White House. They didn’t. … Trump’s coalition is not the Republican coalition and never has been.
“The GOP today is an awkward combination of establishment Republicans who have embraced the president out of what they consider necessity; grass-roots citizens [for] whom Trump’s populist, ‘America first,’ anti-Washington rhetoric strikes a chord; and 'Never Trump' Republicans … who are looking for a home and don’t know what to do. This is a conflict with no certain outcome and no clear timeline. It reflects instability across the political spectrum and the shifting sensibilities of many voters. Above all, it reflects politics in the age of Trump and all that has come to mean.”
-- “Republicans increasingly worry that their base’s contempt for [Mitch] McConnell is more potent than its love for Mr. Trump,” writes the New York Times’s Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin. “Mr. McConnell could be an anchor around incumbents in the same fashion as [Nancy Pelosi], who is routinely used to undermine Democratic candidates. … The convulsive mood on the right has considerably reshaped the political map for 2018, making a favorable list of Senate races somewhat less hospitable to Republicans.” Emboldened by Moore’s victory, Steve Bannon told the Times that he is now looking at far-right candidates to support for the 2018 Senate races in Tennessee, Arizona, Nevada and Mississippi.
-- “If Democrats are ever going to have a shot — however remote — at a Senate seat in Alabama, this is it,” Politico’s Gabriel Debenedetti reports. “At least that’s the immediate reaction within the local party and among some excited national Democrats [in] the wake of [Moore’s] primary victory[.] … Republicans say Democrats are deluding themselves. [Trump] won Alabama by 28 points last year and the state hasn't elected a Democrat to the Senate in over two decades . . . The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is poised to start polling the state as it weighs whether to invest in the race. [Joe] Biden is flying in for a Jones rally in Birmingham next week. Operatives aligned with the former U.S. attorney are expecting a gush of campaign cash in the coming days. … So now, these Jones-backing Democrats are asking, will the cavalry arrive in time?” Dave Weigel takes a good look at Doug Jones, the Democratic nominee for the Dec. 12 special election.
-- Senate Republicans spent yesterday ducking questions about Moore’s controversial past. Politico’s John Bresnahan reports: “[Moore’s] potential future Senate GOP colleagues insist they're not aware of the years of inflammatory comments and actions by the Alabama jurist. And they're not going to ‘pre-judge’ Moore at all because, well, he'll just be one of 100 senators and they're all equal in the World's Greatest Deliberative Body. Well-trained by now in ducking the latest Trump verbal or online gaffe, the only thing that matters for party leaders is what Moore does from now on [.]”
Moore’s latest controversy: “Pro-Confederate activists twice held events to commemorate Alabama's 1861 secession from the United States at the headquarters of the foundation led at the time by [Moore.]” (CNN’s Chris Massie and Andrew Kaczynski)
Trump is behind Moore (and indeed so embarrassed by his support of Strange erased several pro-Strange tweets):
Spoke to Roy Moore of Alabama last night for the first time. Sounds like a really great guy who ran a fantastic race. He will help to #MAGA!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2017
ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN:
-- Trump said Wednesday that he is “not happy” about news that his HHS secretary, Tom Price, for taking numerous private jet flights on the taxpayer dime. David Nakamura reports: “Responding to questions from reporters, Trump said he is ‘looking into’ the situation and ‘personally, I'm not happy about it, and I let him know it.’ Price has been under fire for using public funds to pay for private flights more than two dozen times … mixing in some personal travel with business trips. The president appeared to suggest that he would considering firing Price, saying, ‘I'm going to look at it’ after a reporter asked about Price's future, though it was not completely clear if Trump was answering that direct question. Later, asked again about whether he would fire Price, Trump said, ‘We'll see.’” (Robert Costa tweeted last night that Price was expected to stay, for now).
-- It's contagious: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has taken at least four charter and military flights since February, costing taxpayers more than $58,000. Brady Dennis and Juliet Eilperin report. “’When the administrator travels, he takes commercial flights,’ EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman said Wednesday, explaining that the one charter flight and three government flights were due to particular circumstances. … The most expensive of the four trips came in early June, when Pruitt traveled from Andrews Air Force Base to Cincinnati to join [Trump] as he pitched a plan to revamp U.S. infrastructure. From there, the administrator and several staff members continued on a military jet to John F. Kennedy airport in New York to catch a flight to Italy for an international meeting[.] … The cost of that flight was $36,068.50. …. The records also indicate that Pruitt, along with a member of his security detail, flies either in business or first class when those seats are available on commercial flights.”
-- Ryan Zinke blasted many Interior Department employees this week as being “disloyal” to Trump’s agenda. Now, the agency’s inspector general is investigating whether Zinke’s own reassignments within the department have broken the law. Darryl Fears reports: “Deputy Inspector General Mary Kendall is working ‘to determine if the [department] followed appropriate guidelines and best practices in the reassignment of Senior Executive Service employees[.]’ … The reassigned workers include Joel Clement, a climate scientist who was removed from his job as director of policy analysis and reassigned to a revenue accounting position for which he has no experience. Clement said Interior officials never discussed his reassignment with him before he received a notice in June. … 'He believes … that the administration targeted him because he was speaking out about the danger [of climate change] …' said the attorney representing Clement.”
-- Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch has a full schedule of speaking events for Republican-aligned groups, leading some to question his independence on the bench. Robert Barnes reports: “His supporters say Gorsuch’s appearances are little different from those other justices make. … But Gorsuch’s detractors see the speeches as hand-delivered thank-you notes, undermining attempts to present himself as an independent-minded justice. ‘All of this indicates that he’s just ethically tone-deaf,’ said Deborah L. Rhode, a Stanford University law professor and highly cited authority on legal ethics. … Some conservatives say the criticism of Gorsuch is unfair. … What might really be troubling Gorsuch’s critics, said Dennis Hutchinson, a University of Chicago law professor and student of the Supreme Court, are his conservatism and assertiveness.”
-- One of Jared Kushner’s real estate companies has been sued for predatory overcharging practices. The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff reports: “A class action lawsuit filed in Maryland State Court this morning alleges that Westminster Management, a company owned by [Kushner], charged its tenants improper fees, and then used their failure to pay those fees as a basis to threaten them with eviction. ‘Westminster is preying on poor and working class people, by extorting what may sound like small fees but is real money when you’re living paycheck to paycheck,’ said Andrew Freeman, an attorney [representing] two plaintiffs[.] … According to the suit, Westminster Management charged late fees that are higher than allowed by Maryland state law . . . According to Kushner’s latest financial disclosure forms, Westminster Management remains a source of income, bringing him nearly $1.5 million in income for gross management fees and wages.”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- The Senate Judiciary Committee’s top Democrat said yesterday that the committee has agreed in principle to subpoena Paul Manafort in the Russia probe, just a day after news broke the committee would subpoena documents from Manafort. A representative for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) did not specify when Manafort may testify. Meanwhile, the spokesman for Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said the committee had reached “several general agreements in principle this week,” but it had not finalized details. (Karoun Demirjian)
-- Twitter will brief staff members of the Senate and House intelligence committees today as part of their ongoing Russia investigations — and there is evidence that the social media site may have been used even more extensively than Facebook to spread disinformation. The New York Times’s Daisuke Wakabayashi and Scott Shane report: “In addition to Russia-linked Twitter accounts that posed as Americans, the platform was also used for large-scale automated messaging, using ‘bot’ accounts to spread false stories[.] … Since last month, [researchers] have been publicly tracking 600 Twitter accounts — human users and suspected bots alike — they have linked to Russian influence operations.
“Of 80 news stories promoted last week by those accounts, more than 25 percent ‘had a primary theme of anti-Americanism,’ the researchers found. About 15 percent were critical of Hillary Clinton, falsely accusing her of funding left-wing [antifa] protesters, tying her to the lethal terrorist attack in Benghazi … and discussing her daughter Chelsea’s use of Twitter. Eleven percent focused on wiretapping in the federal investigation into Paul Manafort … with most of them treated the news as a vindication for President Trump’s earlier wiretapping claims.”
-- The Senate Intel Committee also hopes to hear from Twitter alongside Facebook and Google during an open hearing on Nov. 1, Karoun reports.
-- At least one of the Russian-bought Facebook ads that referenced the Black Lives Matter movement during the 2016 election was specifically targeted to reach audiences in Ferguson and Baltimore, where tensions between police and the black community had skyrocketed. CNNMoney’s Dylan Byers reports. “The decision to target the ad in those two cities offers the first look at how accounts linked to the Russian government-affiliated [troll farm] used geographically targeted advertising to sow political chaos[.]”
-- One Russian Facebook group during the election impersonated a real organization, the United Muslims of America, to reach Muslim voters. The Daily Beast’s Ben Collins, Kevin Poulsen and Spencer Ackerman report: “[T]he Russians pushed memes that claimed Hillary Clinton admitted the U.S. ‘created, funded and armed’ al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State; claimed that John McCain was ISIS’ true founder; … and falsely alleged Osama bin Laden was a ‘CIA agent.’ … The real UMA is a California-based nonprofit that promotes interfaith dialogue and political participation. Though it’s over 30 years old, it’s currently ‘not functional[.]’”
-- These Russian troll farms aren't backing down. In fact, they've been at it as recently as this week -- amplifying divisive messages about the NFL controversy, according to a GOP member of Senate Intelligence Committee. AP’s Deb Riechmann reports: “Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma said paid social media users, or ‘trolls,' were hashtagging ‘take a knee’ and ‘boycott NFL’ to amplify the issue. ‘They were taking both sides of the argument this past weekend, and pushing them out from their troll farms as much as they could to try to just raise the noise level in America and to make a big issue seem like an even bigger issue,’ Lankford said[.]”
-- Trump said yesterday that he would “probably” sign an executive order allowing health insurers to sell plans across state lines. Juliet Eilperin and Paige Winfield Cunningham report: “Trump has repeatedly emphasized his interest in allowing insurers to offer plans across state lines, which conservatives argue would lower premiums by fostering greater competition. The proposal under consideration at the White House was put forward by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who balked this week at supporting the party’s most recent effort to undo the ACA, and administration officials are confident that addressing this issue would make Paul more open to backing future health-care legislation.”
Trump added that, over the next two months, “I’m also going to meet with Democrats, and I’m going to see if I can get a health-care plan that’s even better.”
-- But he isn't giving up on the legislative route: During his tax speech yesterday afternoon, Trump said the party would reconsider the issue “early next year when reconciliation kicks back in, in any event long before the November election. We’re going to have a vote and we’re going to be able to get that through, and I think we’ll actually get it through pretty easily.”
-- True fact: no senator is in the hospital. Trump repeatedly referred to an unnamed GOP senator who was hospitalized as part of the reason Senate Republicans couldn't muster the votes to pass Cassidy-Graham. That senator is Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), who did undergo a medical procedure but is not in the hospital. Cochran's vote has never been in doubt for the GOP's health-care measure, so referring to his absence affecting the debate is just a bit disingenuous.
Cochran responded yesterday:
Thanks for the well-wishes. I'm not hospitalized, but am recuperating at home in Mississippi and look forward to returning to work soon.— Senator Thad Cochran (@SenThadCochran) September 27, 2017
-- Trump’s proposal to take executive action landed with a thud among insurance executives. Politico’s Paul Demko and Nolan D. McCaskill explain: “Several states — including Wyoming, Maine and Georgia — have already tried allowing across-state sales, and it’s been a colossal bust. The chief reason: There’s been zero interest from insurers. That’s in part because creating competitive provider networks in states where they don’t have any current customers is incredibly difficult. In addition, insurers in states with tough regulations are fearful of having to compete against out-of-state plans that don’t have to adhere to the same rules.”
-- Meanwhile, the leaders of the Senate’s health committee agreed to discuss restarting bipartisan negotiations to secure federal payments to insurers. Politico’s Burgess Everett reports: “Senate Republicans say they are still wary of any ‘bailout’ of insurance companies and are skeptical Democrats will make concessions. But [Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.)] did make an offer to [Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)] that would allow the sale of some cheaper plans and more state flexibility before their effort ended. … Some Republicans also still want to make another go at Obamacare repeal next year, in an all-GOP effort. But Alexander insisted the two approaches are compatible, as the [Cassidy-Graham bill] would kick in mostly in 2020 and Alexander and Murray are focused on stabilizing premiums in 2018 and 2019.”
-- Despite the uncertainty, insurers locked in their plans on state exchanges last night, as the deadline to reach agreements with the federal government passed. (The Wall Street Journal)
THE CONGRESSIONAL AGENDA:
-- “House Republicans on Wednesday unveiled a plan to provide $10 billion for [Trump’s] border wall with Mexico, a bill unlikely to clear the Senate but which could fuel a shutdown fight in December,” Politico’s Rachel Bade reports: “Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul said his panel will vote on the legislation next week. The bill also would add 10,000 more border patrol agents and Customs and Border Protection officers, tap the National Guard to patrol the southern border and target people who have overstayed visas.”
-- Paul Ryan told Sean Hannity last night that it was “extremely frustrating” witnessing Senate Republicans’ inability to pass key legislation. “The point is we’re on schedule in the House,” Ryan said. “We passed the health care bill back in May. We passed the repeal of Dodd-Frank. We did Kate’s law. We did sanctuary cities.” He added, “We’re rooting for our friends in the Senate. We’re really disappointed in health care, but we still got a chance to get a lot of these big things done.” (Politico)
-- Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.) plans to introduce articles of impeachment against Trump next week. Green, who has repeatedly called for the president’s impeachment, cited Trump’s NFL comments as the final straw in the matter. Mike DeBonis reports: “[Green plans to] use special House procedures to bring [the articles] to a rapid floor vote, marking the first time that Trump would be subjected to an impeachment vote in Congress. The gambit is not expected to succeed, or even attract more than token support from Green’s colleagues. Democratic leaders have sought to tamp down impeachment efforts pending the outcome of various congressional and criminal investigations into the Trump campaign’s dealings.”
-- Former senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) testified for the prosecution yesterday in the corruption trial of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), but Harkin recalled a 2011 meeting with Menendez and ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen “as a senatorial courtesy.” Alan Maimon and Devlin Barrett report: “Much of Harkin’s testimony seemed to undercut a central premise of the government’s case against Menendez — the favors he did for Melgen were proof of criminal corruption, not the regular give-and-take of politics. … On cross-examination, Harkin said it ‘was quite common’ for Senate colleagues to ask for meetings about health-care issues. … The former senator’s testimony underscores a key challenge for the Justice Department in the case: Some of the key prosecution witnesses have described their interactions with the defendants in fairly innocuous terms, even though the Justice Department has argued those acts add up to a years-long corruption scheme between the two men.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
The president went after Facebook as an "anti-Trump" platform:
..But the people were Pro-Trump! Virtually no President has accomplished what we have accomplished in the first 9 months-and economy roaring— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 27, 2017
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg responded to Trump's attack:
Ivanka Trump visited Capitol Hill to talk about overhauling the tax code:
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) fact-checked Trump's speech on overhauling the tax code:
Bottom line: Nothing in this #TrumpTaxScam for the middle class. Big, fat giveaways to Trump & his friends.— Ron Wyden (@RonWyden) September 27, 2017
Former congressman John Dingell (D-Mich.) criticized Price's private jet travel:
Trump and his millionaire cronies are flying around the country on private planes YOU pay for, destroying programs and policies YOU deserve.— John Dingell (@JohnDingell) September 27, 2017
Jesse Jackson remembered Hugh Hefner's support for civil rights:
Hugh Hefner was a strong supporter of the civil rights movement. We shall never forget him. May he Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/oL3lKLZRQ5— Rev Jesse Jackson Sr (@RevJJackson) September 28, 2017
Pitbull pitched in with Puerto Rico relief efforts:
That's right, folks. Mr. 305, Mr. Worldwide, donating his private plane to get sick Puerto Ricans off the island. https://t.co/ithq4Vs6YN— Ed O'Keefe (@edatpost) September 28, 2017
A Vox reporter had some fun with his new 280-character tweet limit:
Call me Ishmael. Some years ago—never mind how long— German Lopez (@germanrlopez) September 27, 2017
precisely—having little or no money in my purse, and nothing
particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a
little and see the watery part of the world. It is a way I have of
driving off the spleen… (1/3,815)
And Jimmy Kimmel decided to rub it in a bit more:
Hey guys! I feel SO sorry for those of you who have to abbreviate tweets because you only have 140 characters. Soooooooo lame! Anyway, what's everyone doing today? I'm just type-type-typing away! SO many characters! Talk to you soon. #blessed #280characters #abcdefg— Jimmy Kimmel (@jimmykimmel) September 27, 2017
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- New York Magazine, “Elizabeth Warren Is Getting Hillary-ed,” by Rebecca Traister: “Warren is the candidate who many cited in 2016 as the anti-Clinton: the outspoken, uncompromisingly progressive woman they would have supported unreservedly had she only run. Yet now, as many hope and speculate that she might run in 2020, the right is investing in a story line about Warren that is practically indistinguishable from the one they peddled for years about Clinton.”
-- The New York Times Magazine, “Donald Trump Jr.’s Great Escape,” by Luke Dittrich: “Whatever your politics, whatever you think of Trump, the last thing you would want is for his son to fall into the wrong hands. Meaning that if Trump Jr. had decided to give up his Secret Service protection, at the very least you would hope he wouldn’t be easy to find. I decided to see if I could track him down.”
-- The Undefeated, “Jemele Hill on doing the right thing”: “It was the first time I had ever cried in a meeting. I didn’t cry because [ESPN president John] Skipper was mean or rude to me. I cried because I felt I had let him and my colleagues down. Since my tweets criticizing President Donald Trump exploded into a national story, the most difficult part for me has been watching ESPN become a punching bag and seeing a dumb narrative kept alive about the company’s political leanings.”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“Suspect told pit bull to attack black man, used racial slur, police say,” from KGW Portland: “A 40-year-old white man is accused of using a racial slur and encouraging his pit bull to attack an African-American man. … [Mathu Dwain Karcher] is accused of following an African-American man who had just gotten off a city bus. The man told Karcher, who was walking with his pit bull, that he was uncomfortable with Karcher's pit bull walking so closely behind him. According to an affidavit, the pit bull was directly behind the man while Karcher ‘was still several yards away.’ In response, Karcher told his pit bull to ‘Get 'em!’ The man perceived Karcher's order as a threat, but he was unable to run away due to a prior leg injury[.] … Despite the command, the pit bull did not attack the man.
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Meghan McCain rips report Trump is physically mocking her father,” from The Hill: “Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) daughter Meghan McCain lashed out on Wednesday over a report that [Trump] has been ‘physically mocking’ her father behind closed doors, calling it ‘abhorrent.’ ‘What more must my family be put through right now? This is abhorrent,’ she tweeted, linking to the report. Axios … [reported Wednesday[ that in private meetings, Trump has been ‘physically mocking’ McCain by imitating the ‘thumbs down’ gesture he made on the Senate floor last month before voting against the GOP’s ObamaCare repeal-and-replace plan. Two sources present for Trump’s meeting … said the president was venting his frustration with McCain … but said he did not physically mock or imitate the gesture.”
Trump has a morning meeting with acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke followed by a celebration for the National Security Council’s 70th anniversary. He will later meet with the vice premier of China.
Pence begins the day in Michigan, where he will meet with Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and business leaders to discuss overhauling the tax code. He will also make a speech at American Axle & Manufacturing. He then travels to Wisconsin, where he and Gov. Scott Walker (R) will address the tax code at Weldall Manufacturing. He’ll end the day at an RNC fundraiser.
And Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) will make his first appearance Sunday on "60 Minutes" since he was shot.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“Any woman who voted against Hillary Clinton voted against their own voice,” Michelle Obama said at a Boston marketing conference.
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- The District could finally see the beginning of fall today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “A gusty northwest wind is our clue that cooler and drier air is heading into the area. Humidity levels fall slowly and mainly sunny skies still promote highs in the mid- to upper 70s.”
-- The Nationals lost to the Phillies 7-5. (Jorge Castillo)
-- Hillary Clinton will headline a fundraiser for Virginia’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam in New York next week. (Gregory S. Schneider)
-- Corey Stewart, who lost the Republican nomination in Virginia’s gubernatorial race and now plans to run against Sen. Tim Kaine (D), referred to the NFL as a “cartel.” (Jenna Portnoy)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Stephen Colbert and Michael Bloomberg discussed climate change:
Trevor Noah detailed the Trumpian victory in Alabama that lacked Trump:
Trump detoured from his tax speech last night to complain about the proposed cost of a White House fence:
The Post fact-checked Trump's speech:
The Post's Libby Casey considered who spun it best on Trump's failed endorsement of Sen. Luther Strange in Alabama:
And a substitute teacher in Charlotte appeared to reprimand a student for speaking Spanish: