With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: Principled conservatives are recoiling at Donald Trump’s threats against the free press. “Mr. President: Words spoken by the President of the United States matter,” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said in a statement last night. “Are you … recanting … the oath you took on January 20th to preserve, protect, and defend the First Amendment?”

-- NBC’s story yesterday that Trump asked his national security team about increasing the size of the nuclear arsenal tenfold prompted more than just an angry denial:

During a photo opportunity with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the Oval Office, Trump elaborated: “It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write. And people should look into it.”

He circled back to the theme again late last night:

-- This wasn’t just a one-day temper tantrum. Trump has increasingly trained his fire on the media. The president called on the Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate U.S. news outlets last week, and he proposed reinstituting the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” over the weekend. (A government-mandated “fairness doctrine” is a profoundly unconservative idea, and its repeal in 1987 – championed by the Reagan administration – helped allow for the proliferation of conservative media outlets in the 1990s.) The White House press secretary also suggested last month that ESPN should fire anchor Jemele Hill for calling Trump a white supremacist.

-- Much will be written about how Trump’s diatribe highlights his lack of respect for the Constitution and the institutions that make America great, including but not limited to the fourth estate, but the comments also add fresh data points to the cementing narrative that the brooding president has become increasingly isolated and angry. Feeling under siege, whether from special counsel Robert Mueller or Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the president has adopted a bunker mentality that prompts him to lash out at any perceived enemy.

Like Elvis shot up his TV, Trump is shooting the messenger because he doesn’t like stories that reflect poorly on his leadership abilities. The conservative base distrusts the mainstream media, so it’s always been politically useful for the president to use the press as a foil. But it’s created a vicious cycle. The more that gets revealed about Trump’s struggles and White House dysfunction, the angrier and more distracted he becomes.

Three stories this week offer insight into the president’s state of mind:

-- “Trump’s anger over Iran deal forced aides to scramble for a compromise,” by Anne Gearan: “President Trump was livid. Why, he asked his advisers in mid-July, should he go along with what he considered the failed Obama-era policy toward Iran and prop up an international nuclear deal he saw as disastrous? He was incensed by the arguments of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and others that the landmark 2015 deal, while flawed, offered stability and other benefits. He did not want to certify to Congress that the agreement remained in the vital U.S. national security interest and that Iran was meeting its obligations. He did not think either was true. ‘He threw a fit,’ said one person familiar with the meeting. ‘He was furious. Really furious. It’s clear he felt jammed.’ So White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster and other senior advisers came up with a plan — one aimed at accommodating Trump’s loathing of the Iran deal as ‘an embarrassment’ without killing it outright. To get Trump, in other words, to compromise.”

-- Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman reports the White House is in crisis as aides struggle to contain an unfocused — and increasingly irate — Trump. Comments by Corker that Trump could start World War III “brought into the open what several people close to the president have recently told me in private: that Trump is ‘unstable,’ ‘losing a step,’ and ‘unraveling,’” Sherman writes. Here are four eye-popping nuggets:

  • Even before Corker’s remarks, some West Wing advisers were worried that Trump’s behavior could cause the Cabinet to take extraordinary Constitutional measures to remove him from office. Several months ago, according to two sources with knowledge of the conversation, former chief strategist Steve Bannon told Trump that the risk to his presidency wasn’t impeachment, but the 25th Amendment — the provision by which a majority of the Cabinet can vote to remove the president. When Bannon mentioned the 25th Amendment, Trump said, ‘What’s that?’ According to a source, Bannon has told people he thinks Trump has only a 30 percent chance of making it the full term.
  • In recent days, I spoke with a half dozen prominent Republicans and Trump advisers, and they all describe a White House in crisis as advisers struggle to contain a president who seems to be increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods . . . ‘Alabama was a huge blow to his psyche,’ a person close to Trump said. ‘He saw the cult of personality was broken.’
  • “According to two sources familiar with the conversation, Trump vented to his longtime security chief, Keith Schiller, ‘I hate everyone in the White House! There are a few exceptions, but I hate them!’ (A White House official denies this.)
  • “Two senior Republican officials said Chief of Staff John Kelly is miserable in his job and is remaining out of a sense of duty to keep Trump from making some sort of disastrous decision. One former official even speculated that Kelly and Secretary of Defense James Mattis have discussed what they would do in the event Trump ordered a nuclear first strike. ‘Would they tackle him?’ the person said.”

-- “Trump in recent days has shown flashes of fury and left his aides … scrambling to manage his outbursts,” Robert Costa, Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker reported on Monday, based on interviews with 18 White House officials, outside advisers and other associates of the president. “One Trump confidant likened the president to a whistling teapot, saying that when he does not blow off steam, he can turn into a pressure cooker and explode. ‘I think we are in pressure cooker territory,’ said this person … (Another) Trump loyalist — noting that Corker has many more friends in the Senate than Trump does — said the rift could dash chances for a tax law overhaul or other meaningful legislation. ‘His presidency could be doomed,’ said this person…”

HOW IT’S PLAYING:

  • Philip Bump: “Trump’s often compared to Putin, but his comments on the media once again evoke Erdogan.”
  • Aaron Blake: “Trump’s threat to NBC’s license is the very definition of Nixonian.”
  • Callum Borchers: “Trump does not value or understand how a free press works.”
  • The Fix: “Trump’s ‘frankly disgusting’ comments about the media and the First Amendment, annotated.”
  • NBC News: “First Amendment Advocates Push Back on Trump’s Licensing Threat.”
  • CNN: “Donald Trump just issued a direct threat to the free and independent media.”
  • Associated Press: “Trump Threatens NBC but Experts See No Real Risk to Licenses.”
  • Washington Examiner: “Trump can challenge NBC's broadcast license, but he's likely to fail.”
  • The Wrap: “Trump Can’t Pull NBC’s ‘License’ — But That Doesn’t Mean Stations Are Safe.”
  • Reason Magazine (a leading publication in libertarian circles): “Is it a day ending in the letter ‘y’? Then yes, President Donald Trump has said something flippantly authoritarian, made a wholly empty threat, and blasted the media, all before lunch.”
  • Slate: “Trump Says Media Licenses ‘Must Be Challenged’ After Reported Story Shows Him Not Knowing Anything.”
  • New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist Tim Morris: “Censoring a free press would be moronic.”
  • Breitbart: “Defense Secretary James Mattis Disputes NBC Report Claiming Trump Wanted More Nukes.”
  • The Atlantic: “The Deep Republican Roots of Trump's Media Bashing. As the president threatens to crack down on unfriendly news outlets, many conservatives say their goal is to ‘destroy’ the mainstream media.”
  • Fortune: “Kellyanne Conway Calls for 'Full and Free Press' After Trump Suggests Revoking NBC's License.”
  • HuffPo: “Kellyanne Conway Says She Never Uses The Term 'Fake News.' But She Has.”

From the host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and a former Republican congressman from Florida: 

From the politics editor of the Fox News Channel:

Finally, consider this juxtaposition:

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Deadly wildfires continued to sweep through Northern California on Wednesday, torching dry hills and vineyards in a catastrophic blaze that has killed at least 23 people and destroyed more than 3,500 buildings. In total, the fires have burned through roughly 170,000 acres — a collective area larger than the city of Chicago. Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Kristine Phillips and Joel Achenbach report: “Officials expect the death toll to rise as crews begin to reach heavily burned areas. Hundreds in flame-ravaged Sonoma County remain missing, and higher winds coupled with low humidity and parched lands could hamper efforts to contain the fires or create new ones. ‘It’s going to continue to get worse before it gets better,’ Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott said."

  • Nearly two dozen fires have raged through Northern California, and firefighters fear that several of them will merge.
  • Officials are continuing to order evacuations, including one yesterday that covered the entire city of Calistoga in Napa County
  • Unfavorable weather: “High winds that whipped up 22 large wildfires had faded Tuesday, and humidity increased . . .  [But] the National Weather Service expects ‘red-flag’ conditions — dry air and wind gusts up to 40 mph — to remain until Thursday in the North Bay Area, which includes Sonoma and Napa counties.”

-- The Nationals forced a Game 5 against the Cubs, winning 5-0 in Chicago. Jorge Castillo reports: “Rain and a last-gasp antibiotic switch gifted Stephen Strasburg the time and vigor to take the ball and dominate the Chicago Cubs in a 5-0 win in Game 4 of the National League Division Series. A bad hop on a routine groundball produced their first run instead of their third out of the third inning. And fierce winds prevented the hardest-hit ball the Cubs managed against Strasburg from going over the left field wall. In the eighth, those Wrigley breezes could not keep Michael A. Taylor’s grand slam from exiting the yard, by barely a foot, in right field.” The two teams will face off for a final time tonight in Washington at 8:08 p.m. Eastern.

-- Eliminating the Indians in Cleveland, the Yankees won Game 5 and advanced to the ALCS. Adam Kilgore reports: “History and heartache loomed Wednesday night over Progressive Field, twin demons the 2017 version of the Cleveland Indians was supposed to extinguish. As of the weekend, the Indians boasted an enchanted summer[.] … Suddenly, cruelly, inconceivably, winter arrived. The Indians will gather next spring still lacking a World Series title since 1948 after the New York Yankees toppled them, 5-2, in Game 5 of the ALDS and completed a comeback from down 2-0 in the series, stunning the Indians three times in four days.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. The Boy Scouts of America announced that it will allow girls to join its ranks. The move was criticized by the Girl Scouts as an attempt to steal its members. (Eli Rosenberg and Ellie Silverman)
  2. Prosecutors rested their case in the corruption trial of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), capping a six-week trial that has included testimony from 35 witnesses. (CNN)
  3. Barack Obama will headline a rally for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam (D) in Richmond next week, making his first return to the campaign trail since leaving the White House. (Fenit Nirappil)
  4. The former chief of staff for Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) was charged with filing a false security clearance form. Isaac Lanier Avant was accused of making a false statement on whether he had failed to pay taxes. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor last year for neglecting to file his 2009 taxes. (Clarence Williams)
  5. Louisiana authorities have issued arrest warrants for 10 people on hazing charges related to the death of an LSU freshman, who died from “acute alcohol poisoning” while attempting to pledge a fraternity in September. The 10 men, between ages 19 and 21, all face possible expulsion and up to 30 days in prison. (Eli Rosenberg)
  6. Tyler Perry is expected to play Colin Powell in the upcoming Dick Cheney biopic. Perry may have foreshadowed the role Monday, when he parodied a White House news conference as his famous character Madea for Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show.” (Helena Andrews-Dyer)
  7. Obama joined the Army Navy Country Club this spring, bringing his number of country club memberships in the area to three. Tillerson also became a member this summer. Both have been on the tee sheets in the last month. (Washingtonian)
  8. Sign of the times: A tech company has built a Siri-like chat bot to respond to Trump-related concerns. “Hope,” as the bot is known, can even talk users through a difficult conversation with family who have opposing political views. (CNN)

PERSONNEL IS POLICY:

-- A win for John Kelly: Trump nominated cybersecurity expert and deputy White House chief of staff Kirstjen Nielsen to be Homeland Security secretary. The position has been vacant since July, when Kelly left the department to become Trump’s chief of staff. Ashley Parker and Maria Sacchetti report: “Nielsen, a longtime Homeland Security Department official who served as Kelly’s chief of staff when he was DHS secretary, accompanied him to the White House as his deputy. Other contenders for the Cabinet post included Tom Bossert, Trump’s homeland security adviser, and Kevin McAleenan, the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection … But Nielsen had one crucial advantage — the absolute trust and support of Kelly, to whom she grew close after volunteering to help ‘sherpa’ him through the confirmation process earlier this year.”

-- Michelle Boorstein goes deep into Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders's religious upbringing — and the unique clout she has among many Trump supporters. “As a girl, she watched her father, Southern Baptist pastor-turned-GOP-governor Mike Huckabee, sidelined when he entered politics. Arkansas Democrats literally nailed his office door shut. In the years after, she saw conservative Christians — like her family, like most everyone she knew — ridiculed in American pop culture. … [Now,] as the public face of the U.S. president, Sanders is a fitting symbol for her fellow religious conservatives, who are both insider and outsider, powerful and powerless. Religious conservatives ‘aren’t outsiders in this White House, but generally speaking, they are,’ the 35-year-old said recently in an interview in her West Wing office.”

TRUMP'S AGENDA:

-- In an interview with Sean Hannity last night, Trump said that minorities “want” and “need” police protection “more than anybody,” per Philip Rucker and Damian Paletta, adding that Democrats were to blame for the “crazy” number of Chicago murders. “Trump said police in big cities are 'not allowed' to respond to what he described as rampant crime because 'they have to be politically correct.' 'Minorities want police protection more than anybody,' Trump said. 'They need it more than anybody. What's going on is crazy. And you look at some of these inner cities where it's just out of control.'”

-- Trump will sign a health-care executive order today that aims to relax certain Obamacare regulations for specific insurance plans. Amy Goldstein reports: “The White House and allies portray the president’s move to expand access to ‘association health plans’ as wielding administrative powers to accomplish what congressional Republicans have failed to achieve: tearing down ACA insurance marketplaces and letting some Americans buy skimpier coverage with less costly benefits. … Critics, who include state insurance commissioners, most of the health-insurance industry and mainstream policy specialists, predict that a proliferation of such plans will have damaging ripple effects: driving up costs for consumers with serious medical conditions and prompting more insurers to flee the law’s marketplaces.”

-- NEW this morning: Since Trump entered politics, professional sports teams have abandoned his hotels in droves. Tim Bontemps and David A. Fahrenthold report: “At least 12 [NBA] teams — more than a third of the league — had stayed [at the Trump SoHo hotel] since it opened in 2010. … All but one of the 12 teams said they have stopped patronizing the Trump SoHo since [Trump] launched his presidential bid in 2015, according to team officials. … Another NBA team quit staying at Trump’s hotel in downtown Chicago. And at least three National Hockey League teams and one Major League Baseball club have stopped frequenting Trump hotels in the same time[.] … The trend has sapped his hotels of revenue and big-league buzz, a survey of teams by The Washington Post found. In all, The Post found that 17 teams from across the four major sports had stayed at Trump properties in recent years. Now, at least 16 are no longer customers.”

-- Trump sold the GOP tax plan in a Pennsylvania speech to truckers yesterday. Damian Paletta and John Wagner report: “Trump’s speech came just one week before Senate Republicans must decide whether to pave the way for his tax plan. … Until recently, Senate Republicans were touting progress on the budget deal as a sign of their party’s ability to unify, after party deficit hawks found a compromise with those pushing for the large, supply-side tax cuts to move the bill through committee. But the budget’s prospects in the broader Senate again have become clouded.

-- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the White House to discuss NAFTA, even as Trump continues to toy with the idea of killing it. Steven Mufson reports: “‘We’ll see what happens,’ Trump told reporters in the Oval Office . . . ‘We have a tough negotiation, and it’s something you will know in the not too distant future.’ The two leaders met as the fourth round of NAFTA negotiations began just outside Washington, with trade experts, businesses, labor and lawmakers from all three countries warning of a possible breakdown in the talks. While Trudeau reaffirmed that he continued to believe in ­NAFTA, Trump said that he was willing to strike bilateral trade deals with Canada or Mexico if the negotiations failed.”

THE GOP CIVIL WAR:

-- The war for control of the Republican Party was seized by new volatility on Wednesday, with some conservative activists unleashing a fresh round of attacks on Mitch McConnell and calling for him to step down. Sean Sullivan, Karoun Demirjian and Michael Scherer report: “Separately, an outside group affiliated with [Steve Bannon] endorsed GOP Senate candidates in three states that were not objectionable to traditional Republicans. The developments … raised new questions about the trajectory of the intensifying war for the soul of the Republican Party and further blurred the battle lines within it. The complex struggle is expected to affect not only the midterm campaigns, but also the ongoing GOP attempt at a sweeping rewrite of the nation’s tax laws.

“Addressing reporters in a conference room inside the Capitol Hill office of FreedomWorks, a hard-right organization, five of the activists said that if McConnell does not step aside, they will wage an effort against him in next year’s midterm elections … 'If [McConnell] does not step down, we foresee a scorched-earth disaster from a furious Republican base that will take it out on elected officials in 2018 and again in 2020,' said Brent Bozell, the president of the Media Research Center."

-- An undisclosed deal guaranteed Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore $180,000 a year for his part-time work at a small charity he founded — despite his public claims that he did not take a “regular salary” to avoid being a financial burden on the group. Shawn Boburg and Robert O’Harrow Jr. report: “[Privately], Moore had arranged to receive a salary of $180,000 a year for part-time work at the Foundation for Moral Law, internal charity documents show. He collected more than $1 million as president from 2007 to 2012, compensation that far surpassed what the group disclosed in its public tax filings most of those years. …. At a time when Moore was running for other public offices in Alabama, the charity kept him in the public eye, and helped establish a nationwide network of donors while he took on controversial positions against same-sex marriage, Islam and the separation of church and state. Over the years, it has provided him with health-care benefits, travel expenses and a bodyguard, documents show. The Foundation for Moral Law’s website routinely promoted Moore’s speaking engagements and his book … In his last two years as president, as fundraising dwindled, Moore’s compensation amounted to about a third of the contributions to the group, tax filings show.”

-- McConnell indicated to the Weekly Standard that he wants to no longer honor “blue slips,” a key tradition of senatorial courtesy. Basically, they allow a senator from a nominee's home state to hold up their confirmation by not returning the slip to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Republicans used this process to stop many judges during the Obama administration.

Ultimately, over the long term, abandoning blue slips would actually hurt the conservative cause — but outside groups are playing a short-term game and want to pack the courts as quickly as they can in case Republicans lose the majority in 2018. The Senate majority leader, responding to pressure from some groups on the right, told Fred Barnes that blue slips will be treated “as simply notification of how you’re going to vote, not as an opportunity to blackball.”

-- After the interview published, a spokesman clarified that McConnell was only explaining “his position” on blue slips, “not announcing a committee position.” The decision is ultimately up to the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). (HuffPost)

-- GOPers backing off gun restrictions: Paul Ryan appeared to abandon attempts to ban bump stocks yesterday (the device used to make the Las Vegas shooting more deadly). Mike DeBonis reports: “Instead, Ryan and many of his fellow House Republicans hope the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) will act administratively to outlaw the devices, which the agency ruled legal in 2010. … Ryan made his remarks a day after 20 bipartisan House members backed a bill to ban bump stocks and similar devices meant to accelerate the firing rate of semiautomatic rifles. … With the presidency and both chambers of Congress under GOP control, and yet few pieces of major legislation signed into law, multiple House Republicans said privately this week that it would be politically untenable to put a gun-control bill on President Trump’s desk.”

-- Due to an administration mandate, hundreds of thousands of Americans with outstanding arrest warrants may now to be eligible to purchase firearms. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Rhonda Cook reports: “Six months after the U.S. Department of Justice issued a memo redefining who is a fugitive from justice — and cannot have a gun — more than a half a million names have been dropped from a national law enforcement data base used to determine who may purchase a firearms and or obtain a carry permit, according to FBI records provided to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.”

THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- Congressional investigators are scrutinizing Cambridge Analytica, a data firm backed by top Trump allies including Steve Bannon and Robert Mercer, as part of their ongoing Russia probe. The Daily Beast’s Betsy Woodruff and Spencer Ackerman report: “The company is in the process of turning over documents to [the House Intelligence Committee] … Another source close to the investigation said that the probe’s focus on Cambridge Analytica is ‘fruitful.’ [Bannon] had holdings in Cambridge Analytica worth between $1 million and $5 million as recently as April of this year … Another key Cambridge Analytica investor is Robert Mercer[.] Cambridge purports to go beyond the typical voter targeting — relying on online clues like Facebook Likes to give a hint at a user’s political leanings and construct a picture of a voter’s mental state. The “psychographic” picture Cambridge ostensibly provides to a campaign is the ability to tailor a specific message based on personality type … Those purported capabilities have generated some speculation that there was a Russian link to the outfit.” Jared Kushner also played a role in Cambridge Analytica’s work. “A cover story in Forbes published shortly after the election noted that ‘Kushner’s crew’ brought on the firm ‘to map voter universes and identify which parts of the Trump platform mattered most.'”

-- RT, a news outlet funded by the Russian government, said that it plans to remove ads appearing to reference Hillary Clinton’s election loss. The decision comes after the Justice Department asked the outlet to register as a foreign agent. (Justin Wm. Moyer)

-- Here are what a few of the ads looked like:

-- Russia’s influence campaign was so sophisticated that even Pinterest became an unwitting vehicle for disinformation, company officials said. Elizabeth Dwoskin reports: “Russian operatives don’t appear to have posted directly on Pinterest, but their influence spread to the site through users who came across Russian content elsewhere and unwittingly ‘pinned’ it onto their Pinterest scrap boards. ‘We believe the fake Facebook content was so sophisticated that it tricked real Americans into saving it to Pinterest.’ said [Pinterest’s Charlie Hale] … 'They’ve gone to every possible medium and basically turned it into a sewer,' said Columbia University’s Jonathan Albright, who unearthed the Russian content on Pinterest." He says he found over 2,000 images tied to the Internet Research Agency on the site. 

-- Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said that the panel will release Russian-bought Facebook ads purchased during the election. Karoun Demirjian reports: Speaking after a meeting with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on Wednesday, Schiff and Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Tex.) told reporters they have asked Facebook to “help scrub any personally identifiable information” and will release the ads “as quick as we can.” Schiff told reporters he doesn't know whether the committee would get every post from the roughly 470 pages and accounts Facebook identified as responsible for the ads.

-- Trump’s legal team is reportedly open to having  Robert Mueller interview the president. Politico’s Darren Samuelsohn reports: “If Mueller doesn’t request an interview by Thanksgiving, Trump’s lawyers may even force the issue by volunteering Trump’s time, the official said. The White House believes such an interview could help Mueller wrap up the probe faster and dispel the cloud of suspicion over Trump. A meeting with Mueller could bring serious risks for Trump—exposing him to questions about everything from potential obstruction of justice over his firing of FBI Director James Comey to what Trump might know about Kremlin support for his presidential campaign. But the official suggested that the White House has no reason to stonewall Mueller.”

-- Bigger picture --> “The making of a Russian disinformation campaign: What it takes,” by CNN's Michael Weiss: “It started with a synagogue in Cologne. On Christmas Eve 1959, two men drew swastikas on the wall of the house of worship, along with the phrase, ‘Germans Demand That Jews Get Out.’ Within days, Jews began receiving menacing anonymous phone calls, as Jewish grave sites and Jewish-owned shops were desecrated in over twenty towns . . . [Years later, it was revealed that the operation was] cooked up by General Ivan Ivanovich Agayants, who headed Department D … of the Soviet KGB. The ‘D’ stood for Dezinformatsiya, or disinformation, and Agayants, an austere ethnic Armenian, was very good at his job … [Today], the swastika graffiti campaign remains a vivid case study of a poisonous weapon used for decades, not only by the Soviets, but also by their heir, [Vladimir Putin], in trying to influence western nations, including the course of American democracy.”

IN MARIA'S WAKE, PUERTO RICO IS DESPERATE, DARK AND PLEADING FOR ASSISTANCE.

-- But Trump seemed to blame Puerto Ricans for the problems in a volley of tweets this morning and suggested FEMA might pull out sometime soon:

-- The House will likely pass its $36.5 billion disaster aid package today to provide desperately needed funds to the island. Mike DeBonis reports: “Draft legislation released late Tuesday allows up to $4.9 billion in direct loans to local governments in a bid to ease Puerto Rico’s [cash] crunch. Without intervention, the territory may not be able to make its payroll or pay vendors by the end of the month."

-- “It has been three weeks since Hurricane Maria savaged [Puerto Rico],” Manuel Roig-Franzia and Arelis R. Hernández report from on the ground in the island. “But much of the rest of the island lies in the chokehold of a turgid, frustrating and perilous slog toward recovery. Late each night, Rafael Surillo Ruiz, the mayor of a town with one of Puerto Rico’s most critical ports, drives for miles on darkened roads, easing around downed power lines and crumpled tree branches — to check his email. During the day … [he operates more like a 19th-century mayor orchestrating city business in an information vacuum], dispatching notes scrawled on slips of paper … that he hands to runners. … Deeper into the island’s mountainous interior, thirsty Puerto Ricans draw drinking water from the mud-caked crevasses of roadside rock formations and bathe in creeks too small to have names.”

BY THE NUMBERS:

  • 84 percent of Puerto Rico is still without power. In many areas, local officials say they are steeling themselves for six months or more without electricity.
  • Roughly half of residents on the island have no working cellphone service.
  • Just 63 percent of residents have access to clean drinking water, and only 60 percent of wastewater treatment plants are working. In poorer communities, doctors have reported a “worrying” numbers of patients with diseases such as conjunctivitis and gastritis, brought on by contaminated water and poor hygiene.
  • More than 40 percent of bank branches on the island remain closed, and just 560 ATMs are functional. (Puerto Rico’s population exceeds 3.4 million.) Few facilities on the island are operational, and the vast majority of the ones that are cash-only.

Things are so bad the EPA says it's heard reports are residents trying to drink well water from polluted Superfund sites:

-- One week after Trump made headlines for tossing paper towels at residents in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, and telling them they “don’t need” their flashlights, that city remains powerless and largely without water. BuzzFeed News’s Nidhi Prakash reports: “’There’s no electricity, and water has arrived at two or three neighborhoods, but very few,’ said [one city official]. … The city, a 20-minute drive outside San Juan, is one of the economically better-off areas of the island. But residents are still struggling without electricity, cell phone service, and water …”

  • “The biggest priority is food,” said one resident. “And if you go to the supermarkets the shelves are practically empty … You can’t tell the world that we’re okay, we’re not okay, we’re not okay, we’re not okay.’”
  • Still others expressed frustration that Trump did not visit harder-hit areas of the island. “He went to see one home that practically didn’t have any damage,” one resident said. “There are people who are dying in the countryside."

MORE WEINSTEIN FALLOUT:

-- More sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein have surfaced. French actress Léa Seydoux wrote a Guardian piece yesterday describing her nonconsensual encounter with the producer: “He invited me to come to his hotel room for a drink. We went up together. It was hard to say no because he’s so powerful. … We were talking on the sofa when he suddenly jumped on me and tried to kiss me. I had to defend myself. He’s big and fat, so I had to be forceful to resist him. I left his room, thoroughly disgusted.”

-- Weinstein himself spoke to Page Six in an interview published yesterday and said that he was “profoundly devastated” that his wife had left him over the revelations.

-- Despite the Weinstein Company’s claim that the allegations came as an “utter surprise,” internal records show that executives knew of payouts to Weinstein’s victims for at least two years. The New York Times’s Megan Twohey reports on the paper’s front page today: “David Boies, a lawyer who represented Mr. Weinstein when his contract was up for renewal in 2015, said in an interview that the board and the company were made aware at the time of three or four confidential settlements with women. And in the waning hours of last week, as he struggled to retain control of the business[,] … Harvey Weinstein fired off an email to his brother and other board members asserting that they knew about the payoffs[.]”

-- Business connections between the Weinstein Company and Steve Bannon have now come to light. The development led to accusations of hypocrisy from some liberals, given the spotlight that Bannon’s website, Breitbart, has put on Democrats who accepted donations from Weinstein. AP’s Erica Werner reports: “Bannon served as chairman of a small company that distributed DVDs and home videos, and went into business in 2005 with The Weinstein Co. … The Weinsteins became 70 percent owners of the now defunct venture, Genius Products.”

-- Hillary Clinton told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview that she was “sick,” “shocked” and “appalled” by the allegations. “I certainly didn’t [know], and I don’t know who did,” Clinton said. “But I can only speak for myself, and I think speak for many others who knew him primarily through politics.” (Mary Hui)

-- NBC has also come under fire for abandoning Ronan Farrow’s Weinstein piece before it was published by the New Yorker. Paul Farhi writes: “For the second time in a year, NBC News has given away a major scoop to another news outlet. And just like the first time, the reasons for the network’s hesitation are in dispute. … Almost exactly a year ago … [NBC] declined to air footage of then-candidate Donald Trump bragging about groping women, prior to a 2005 appearance on ‘Access Hollywood.’ … NBC News said Tuesday that Farrow’s story wasn’t ready for airing in August when the reporter asked his bosses to release him from further reporting on the piece for the network. At that point he had spent months investigating Weinstein. …

“Farrow took exception to NBC’s characterization on Tuesday. ‘I walked into the door at the New Yorker with an explosively reportable piece that should have been public earlier, … and it is not accurate to say that it was not reportable,’ he told Rachel Maddow . . . ‘In fact, there were multiple determinations that it was reportable at NBC.’”

-- But it’s still unclear whether the unfolding controversy will have any effect on Hollywood. Jessica P. Ogilvie writes: “While some hope that the sheer number of women coming forward … signals a shifting wind, others remain unconvinced that change will come any time soon. … When an alleged attacker is a man like Weinstein, the deck is stacked even further against anyone who might publicly accuse him. The size, scope and influence of Hollywood is nearly unrivaled, even among other white-collar industries. … Which means that despite the avalanche of allegations against Weinstein, other powerful Hollywood players may be reluctant to speak out.”

NEW BENGHAZI DETAILS:

-- Appearing under false names, and in wigs and a mustache to protect their identities, two active CIA officers on Tuesday gave gripping testimony at the terrorism trial of an accused Benghazi mastermind, saying that the body of a U.S. ambassador was returned only after he overheard Libyan militia members discussing whether to tell Americans about the dead compatriot. Spencer S. Hsu reports: “The two witnesses said they used $30,000 in cash to arrange a one-hour, midnight flight for six U.S. security operatives to go from Tripoli to reinforce Benghazi in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. There, they waited — futilely — for an armed escort of Libyan Special Forces personnel who were supposed to take them from the Benghazi airport to the CIA annex. In the end, one testified, he offered $1,000 to Libyan ambulance drivers for a litter to carry Stevens’s body with a ‘last iota of dignity’ aboard a Libyan Air Force C-130 aircraft evacuating the American dead and surviving security officers. [The CIA officers] testified that U.S. forces on the ground could scarcely tell friend from foe among rival militia groups, and were delayed by conflicting aims of keeping a low profile while still moving in force to avoid being ambushed and needing rescuing themselves.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) joined the president for his speech in Pennsylvania on the GOP tax plan:

The MSNBC host noted this in the wake of allegations against Harvey Weinstein:

Conservative columnist Ben Shapiro also commented on the Weinstein controversy:

A national correspondent for the LA Times replied to Shapiro's tweet:

From a Politico reporter:

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) praised a court decision upholding the House tradition of beginning each legislative day with a prayer:

A CNN correspondent offered this somber reminder:

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) criticized Trump's ban on transgender troops:

Clinton's former secretary of labor had this conversation with a former Republican lawmaker:

And the Clintons marked another anniversary:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- STAT, “An old-school pharmacy hand-delivers drugs to Congress, a little-known perk for the powerful,” by Erin Mershon: “Mike Kim, the reserved pharmacist-turned-owner of the pharmacy, said he has gotten used to knowing the most sensitive details about some of the most famous people in Washington. ‘At first it’s cool, and then you realize, I’m filling some drugs that are for some pretty serious health problems as well. And these are the people that are running the country,’ Kim said, listing treatments for conditions like diabetes and Alzheimer’s.”

-- New York Times, “Rohingya Recount Atrocities: ‘They Threw My Baby Into a Fire,’” by Jeffrey Gettleman: “Hundreds of women stood in the river, held at gunpoint, ordered not to move. A pack of soldiers stepped toward a petite young woman with light brown eyes and delicate cheekbones. Her name was Rajuma, and she was standing chest-high in the water, clutching her baby son, while her village in Myanmar burned down behind her. ‘You,’ the soldiers said, pointing at her. She froze. ‘You!’ … In the next violent blur of moments, the soldiers clubbed Rajuma in the face, tore her screaming child out of her arms and hurled him into a fire. Much of the violence was flamboyantly brutal, intimate and personal — the kind that is detonated by a long, bitter history of ethnic hatred. … ‘People were holding the soldiers’ feet, begging for their lives,’ Rajuma said. ‘But they didn’t stop, they just kicked them off and killed them. They chopped people, they shot people, they raped us, they left us senseless.’”

-- Politico Magazine, “The Bellwether County That Explains Eminem and Kid Rock,” by Zack Stanton: “Just north of Detroit, Macomb County has emerged as the de facto national capital of white middle America. Now, its two most famous native sons are entering the political fray.”

HOT ON THE LEFT

“Megyn Kelly is destroying NBC’s morning ratings,” from Page Six: “The numbers are in, and ‘Megyn Kelly Today’ is dragging down the ‘Today’ show franchise, an insider explained to Page Six. ‘Not only are ratings plummeting since Megyn Kelly joined the “Today” franchise, but the numbers show Kelly’s lead-in has also affected Kathie Lee [Gifford] and Hoda Kotb’s show, which follows straight afterwards,’ a source said. … Kelly’s hour of ‘Today’ is down 32 percent compared to a year ago. And ‘Kathie Lee & Hoda’ is down 26 percent.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

“The N.F.L. Is Now One of the Most Divisive Brands in the U.S.,” from the New York Times: “Trump voters are now much more likely to say that they view the N.F.L. negatively, reflecting a sharp change around Sept. 23, when Mr. Trump criticized the players at a speech in Alabama. The views of Hillary Clinton voters have not changed appreciably over the last few weeks. … Both Democrats and Republicans were more likely to report seeing negative news about the N.F.L. around the time of Mr. Trump’s [Alabama] remarks[.] … But Trump voters were much more likely to do so, while respondents who said they voted for Mrs. Clinton were more mixed in the coverage they reported seeing.”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will sign his executive order on health care today and then formally announce the new DHS secretary nominee, and Pence will attend both events.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Second Amendment Caucus, explained his skepticism that a ban on bump stocks would pass Congress: “It’s the height of irony if we don’t repeal Obamacare, we don’t cut taxes, but we do implement more gun control. … That’s a perversion of the GOP agenda, and I think my colleagues recognize that, which is why they’re hoping the ATF will do it.”

 

NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:

-- It will be a bit colder and rainy today in D.C. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Clouds dominate the area today but produce more drizzle than significant showers. Temperatures are notably cooler as highs are likely to do no better than mid-to-upper 60s.”

-- The Capitals lost to the Penguins 3-2. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)

-- Policy consultant Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, who is married to Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), announced her bid to be Maryland’s next governor. She is the second woman and third African American to jump into the crowded Democratic primary. (Ovetta Wiggins)

-- Charlottesville schools was placed on modified lockdown yesterday after a threat was posted to a message board. Sarah Larimer reports: “The FBI on Wednesday alerted the Charlottesville Police Department about the post, which expressed ‘discontent with recent events in Charlottesville,’ according to a police statement on the city’s website. … ‘They went on to say that Charlottesville, in particular, schools within the city, should be the next target,’ the statement said. A message sent to the families and staff of Charlottesville City Schools on Wednesday evening said authorities had given the all clear for normal activities to resume Thursday.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Eminem's anti-Trump rap inspired Seth Meyers:

Rep. Al Green (D-Tex.) announced plans to introduce an impeachment resolution against President Trump:

The Los Angeles Times has intense drone footage of the California fires:

A postal worker continued to deliver mail to California neighborhoods devastated by the fires:

And Russian President Vladimir Putin received a puppy for his birthday: