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The Daily 202: Trump’s attacks on Senate Republicans are paying political dividends

President Trump pledged to cut taxes for middle-class households and businesses during a speech on Oct. 11 at Harrisburg Air National Guard Base, Pa. (Video: Bastien Inzaurralde/The Washington Post)

with Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve


NEW YORK — Scapegoating the Senate GOP is proving to be an effective political strategy for President Trump. Activists and donors on the right are primed to blame congressional Republicans, not him, if there is no sweeping rewrite of the nation’s tax laws — just as they did after the failure to repeal Obamacare.

-- A CBS News Nation Tracker survey published Sunday showed that majorities want more cooperation between Congress and Trump, especially the president's strongest backers and most Republicans. The most fascinating nugget from the poll: 39 percent of Republicans feel that their party’s congressional representatives “don’t like” the president and are actively trying to undermine him, while another 37 percent think congressional Republicans don’t like Trump “but pretend to” to try passing their own agenda.

-- Several polls have shown that Americans lay more blame on Congress than the president for inaction in Washington. Quinnipiac University asked in an August survey who is most to blame for the gridlock on health care: 46 percent said congressional Republicans, 29 percent said congressional Democrats and only 15 percent said Trump. Among self-identified Republicans, just 4 percent said Trump deserves blame for the failure to repeal Obamacare, while 27 percent blamed the congressional GOP and 57 pointed the finger at Democrats. A separate Kaiser Family Foundation poll in August found that 35 percent of the country thought it was a “bad thing” that the Senate failed to pass the bill. Among that group, 29 percent said Republicans in Congress deserved most of the blame while 15 percent said Trump did. (37 percent said Democrats.)

-- The biggest donors on the right feel the same way. About 100 of the Koch network’s top donors, including billionaire industrialist David Koch, huddled at the St. Regis hotel in midtown Manhattan last Thursday and Friday for strategy sessions and briefings from elected Republicans. The network didn’t support Trump during the 2016 campaign but has supported his agenda this year. It was striking how little criticism there was of Trump, but the anger directed toward moderate Republicans in the Senate was palpable.

Overhauling the tax code is the group’s biggest priority, by far. The Koch network plans to spend between $300 million to $400 million on policy and political campaigns during the 2018 election cycle. It has already invested more than $10 million this year on the tax fight. The constellation of Koch-funded affiliate groups successfully prodded Paul Ryan to drop his proposal for a new border adjustment tax. Now they’re trying to mobilize support for the plan that’s still being fleshed out.

Koch officials briefed their benefactors on plans for a massive pressure campaign that will include television ads and events in the states of targeted members. “It’s the most significant federal effort we’ve ever undertaken,” said Tim Phillips, the president of Americans for Prosperity, which is part of the network.

The deadline has slipped, but leaders are still optimistic they can pass something by the end of the year. They take it as a given that Trump is on board and will sign whatever could clear Congress. Tax cuts would be the best Christmas gift imaginable for deep-pocketed donors and the corporations they lead. It would take away a lot of the bad taste still left in their mouths from the failure to repeal Obamacare. But a failure to follow through could cause some donors to close their checkbooks.

-- Vice President Pence, addressing the Koch group on Friday afternoon, put the onus on the legislative branch. “I truly believe the future of this Congress depends on them working with our president to pass the tax cut this year,” he said. “And honestly, our entire agenda depends on this Congress stepping forward and delivering on their promise to the American people.”

Pence, who has close ties to the network, said that “cutting taxes is the single-most important policy for the future of America.” “But we need all your help to get it passed,” the vice president added. “I want to thank this network for everything you’ve already done to support this plan. … We’re grateful for all of your support. … But I’m here today, on behalf of our president, to encourage you to do even more. To get this tax cut across the line … we need every ounce of your energy and enthusiasm.”

He told the donors to reach out directly to their members of Congress. “Use your voice,” Pence said. “Use the stature that you enjoy in your communities and your state and all across this country to share the opportunity that we have with this tax relief legislation. You talk to your employees, talk to your suppliers, your fellow business leaders to get them on board. And of course, we need you to talk to your elected officials about just how important this moment is in the life of this nation.” (To become a member of the network, a donor must commit to giving at least $100,000 per year to Koch-linked groups. Many give far more than that.)

-- One big reason that Senate Republicans get the bulk of the blame is that most of them are afraid to push back against the administration.

Not one of his 51 Republican colleagues offered a robust public defense of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker last week after he accused Trump of marching the country toward World War III. While some released statements with kind words about the retiring Tennessean, none said anything that came close to echoing his criticism of the president.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is also not inclined to aggressively respond when he gets attacked on Twitter. The Kentuckian sees it as counterproductive to feud with the president, so he shrugs off his criticisms. In fact, he will have lunch with Trump and Pence today. Without anyone making the case that he’s effective, growing numbers of GOP voters view him unfavorably.

Perhaps most significantly, many individual Senate Republicans have decided to triangulate against “Senate Republicans” writ large. This was on display during the Koch retreat in New York. All three senators who addressed the major donors did not criticize Trump, but they gleefully excoriated their GOP colleagues. 

Talking about overhauling the tax code, Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) said that 48 of the 52 Republican senators “get it.” He lamented that whether a bill passes will come down to “three or four” of his GOP colleagues. (He did not name them.)

“This is not about getting Democratic votes. We’re going to do this or not do this with 51 votes on our side,” Perdue said. “If we don’t get that done, we’ll be the minority party for the next 50 years to 100 years — just like we’ve been for the last 100 years. We’ve only had the White House, the Senate and the House three times in 230 years, and two of those three times were since 2000. And what have we done? … This is bigger than taxes. This is bigger than health care. This is our chance to do something big.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) predicted Republicans will lose the House and the Senate in 2018 if a tax bill doesn’t pass, and he made clear who he thinks would be to blame: “We always have to force our friends on our side of the aisle to stay in place. Herding cats is sometimes easier than keeping our team on the same page at the same time on issues that we all say are essential.”

Scott, who served in the House before Nikki Haley appointed him to fill Jim DeMint’s seat when he resigned, complained that the upper chamber is too “individualistic”: “The House is like a football team with a couple of coaches on the sidelines and a great quarterback on the field. The Senate is a track team. Everybody is running their individual race. So the definition of purity is very different for each senator. That is problematic when you’re dealing with a number of moving levers in tax reform.”

-- The strongest criticisms of fellow Republicans came from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). At a panel on judicial nominations, Cruz declared that “the single best thing President Trump has done is nominating Justice (Neil) Gorsuch.”

“Damn near the only thing that the Senate Republicans have done is confirming Justice Gorsuch,” he complained. (McConnell is the reason Trump got to choose Gorsuch. He is the one who declined to give Merrick Garland a hearing after Antonin Scalia died …)

While his colleagues singled out a handful of recalcitrant Republicans in the Senate, Cruz suggested that half of the conference is an obstacle. The Texan spoke of a “a real generational divide” in the Republican conference. He told the group that “about half” of the 52 members are “Young Turks” like him, almost all of whom have been elected in the last eight years. He said that faction is most committed to the cause. “It’s the old bulls who don’t want to stay in session for that long,” Cruz fumed.

Cruz said he wants to change the rules of the Senate to make it easier to confirm judges, but “a handful of the old bulls” won’t go along. “It’s not complicated to figure out who we’re talking about. It’s the same people we’re running into on tax reform and Obamacare,” he said, repeatedly referring to them as “wobbly” votes.

All three senators who spoke at the Koch meeting are still in their first full-term. By contrast, “the old bulls” have spent decades serving in the minority and are more likely to appreciate the long-term value of time-honored traditions like the blue slip.

Cruz warned of cataclysmic consequences for all Republicans if “the old bulls” don’t fall in line. “Right now, we’re not gettin’ it done. I and a lot of people in this room are very frustrated by that,” he said. “We’ve got to deliver results.If we get our act together … we could have a phenomenal election in 2018. Republicans could pick up four, five or six Senate seats. On the other hand, if we do nothing, if tax reform crashes and burns, if nothing happens on Obamacare, we could face a bloodbath. We have the potential of seeing a Watergate-level blowout. Because the left is energized and ticked off, and they’re showing up. If conservatives stay home, that is a recipe for a Speaker Pelosi and a Leader Schumer. We’ve got to give reasons to show up. …

“For the last decade, we’ve heard folks in the media say, ‘The problem is those conservatives. Those conservatives are the impediment to getting anything done. They’re not reasonable,’” he added. “Well, we’re seeing right now it’s the conservatives who are leading the charge to actually honor our promises and the self-described moderates are the ones voting no and shutting everything down.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced on Oct. 13 that she will remain in the Senate instead of running for governor in 2018. (Video: Reuters)

-- The trio of conservatives addressed the donors the same morning that Susan Collins, one of the moderates they were all clearly referring to, announced during a speech in Maine that she will stay in the Senate, rather than run for governor.

-- Because the Senate is a complex institution with hard-to-explain processes, it’s easy for outside forces to disparage. 

During a lunch Q&A at the Koch meeting, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) offered extended praise for the president’s policies and Cabinet, especially the EPA administrator. “Scott Pruitt alone is reason for me to stand up and say alleluia to the Trump administration,” he said, to hearty applause.

Then he lamented the dysfunction in Congress. “I intellectually understand the rules of the Senate, particularly when it comes to budget reconciliation, but I don’t get it,” the governor said.

The chairman of the Republican Governors Association expressed optimism that Congress will pass a tax bill but expressed fear that the failure to do so will have “trickle down” effects on state-level races. Many voters are “pissed off,” said Walker, who plans to seek a third term next year. “They were told all these things were going to happen, and they’ve not happened.”

In a speech at the Values Voter Summit on Oct. 14, former chief White House strategist Steven Bannon said it is a “season of war against the GOP establishment. (Video: Reuters)

-- On Saturday, former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon declared “war” against any Republican who does not wholeheartedly support the Trump agenda. “Up on Capitol Hill, it’s the Ides of March,” Bannon said at the Voter Values Summit, referring to the Roman leader who was killed by a group of senators. (He was literally stabbed in the back.) “They’re just looking to find out who is going to be Brutus to your Julius Caesar.”

-- Lindsey Graham was one of Trump’s biggest critics in the Senate during the first few months of the year. Now they’re golfing buddies. The duo hit the links again on Saturday, after going out on Monday to celebrate Columbus Day. I was at the rally in 2015 when Trump gave out the South Carolinian’s cellphone number and told everyone there to call it. But Graham, trying to avert a serious primary challenge in 2020, has calculated that he should ignore this and other indignities to cozy up to Trump. He’s already seen advantages of being on Trump’s good side: The president wholeheartedly endorsed the health-care bill Graham introduced with Bill Cassidy (R-La.) last month.

Appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation” yesterday, Graham brought up Bannon’s threat even before John Dickerson asked him about it. He said Congress must get a tax bill passed. “If we don't, we're dead,” the South Carolinian said. “You're going to ask me about Bannon, so I'll just go and ask myself. … If we don't cut taxes and we don't eventually repeal and replace Obamacare, then we're going to lose across the board in the House in 2018. And all of my colleagues running in primaries in 2018 will probably get beat. It will be the end of Mitch McConnell as we know it. So this is a symptom of a greater problem. If we do cut taxes and we do repeal and replace Obamacare, it doesn't matter what Bannon does because we'll win. … If we're successful, Mitch McConnell's fine. If we're not, we're all in trouble.”

-- Jeff Flake wears the battle scars of having openly criticized Trump, and it could cost the Arizona Republican his reelection next year. He offers a cautionary tale for his colleagues. The New York Times’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg profiles him today: “Mr. Flake is perhaps the most endangered Senate Republican, with an approval rating in one recent poll of just 18 percent among Arizonans. Mr. Trump has savaged Mr. Flake as ‘toxic’ and a ‘flake,’ and has encouraged a primary challenge against him that has left the senator squeezed not only from the left but also the right. His fate is an object lesson for other Republicans who might consider voicing dire thoughts about the president’s fitness: Cross Mr. Trump, and your political career could well be over.”

-- Other lesser-known congressional Republicans are struggling to strike a balance between admonishing Trump’s style and not alienating his base. Elise Viebeck writes from Tulsa: “Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) believes some of President Trump’s recent threats against the news media run contrary to the Bill of Rights. Unlike some Republican senators, you won’t hear him question Trump’s character or fitness for office as a result. But Lankford has not shied away from pointing out, if sometimes indirectly, where he and Trump diverge. … The 49-year-old senator, a widely respected up-and-comer within the GOP, is a prime example of how Republicans who disagree with Trump but don’t want to alienate his supporters are navigating the president’s latest controversial comments. Lankford is savvy about the political risks of openly defying Trump, and he has done so carefully. Alienating Trump’s supporters is not the only concern: A confrontation with the president and his allies could turn into a nasty public brawl.”

-- If Trump was primarily interested in the nitty-gritty of governing, triangulating against congressional Republicans the way he does would be shortsighted. Over the long-term, he still needs many of these members more than they need him. But there is little to suggest that Trump’s paramount concern is policymaking or building a long-term Republican majority. Instead, he seems intent on waging a permanent campaign built around fostering his personal popularity, maintaining the loyalty of his base and getting reelected. If that’s the case, what he’s doing is smart politics.

The president has done a lot to make it harder for Congress to pass the big-ticket legislation he wants. For example, Trump could have kept the DACA program in place, continued the cost-sharing payments to health insurance companies and certified the nuclear deal with Iran. Instead, he chose to punt all three issues to Congress and demand legislative fixes. This extra work will eat up limited floor time, making it harder to pass a tax bill and confirm various nominees. But while Congress gets left holding the bag, to Republicans who live outside of Washington, Trump looks like a man of action who is following through on his campaign promises.

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-- The Trump campaign spent more than $1 million on legal bills last quarter amid ongoing Russia investigations, shelling out hundreds of thousands to represent staff, including Donald Trump Jr., and to reimburse the Trump Organization for legal fees. Tom Hamburger and Anu Narayanswamy report on a newly filed FEC report that shows the committee’s “legal consulting” expenditures came to $1.1 million between July and September, including $802,185 paid to the law firm Jones Day: “Another $267,000 was paid to attorneys representing the president’s ­eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., in the Russia investigations. The campaign committee also reimbursed the president’s company, the Trump Organization, $25,800 for legal consulting … Since the beginning of the year, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have spent $2.4 million on legal fees — and the bills appear to be mounting. The latest FEC reports show that the campaign spent more on legal bills over the past three months than it did during the first and second quarters of this year combined.”

  • In case you missed it: Former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus was interviewed all day Friday by members of special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. (Rosalind S. Helderman)

-- War games: The U.S. military said today that it would practice getting American noncombatants out of South Korea in the event of war. The New York Times’s Choe Sang-Hun reports: “The exercise, known as Courageous Channel, is scheduled from Oct. 23 to 27 … [The U.S.] has been conducting similar noncombatant evacuation exercises for decades, along with other joint military exercises with South Korea. But when tensions escalate with North Korea, as they have recently, such drills draw outsize attention and ignite fear among South Koreans, some of whom take them as a sign that the United States might be preparing for military action against the North.”

-- Iraqi forces began an assault to recapture oil fields and a military base near the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk on Monday, setting the stage for a battle between two U.S. allies after a Kurdish independence referendum. Loveday Morris and Mustafa Salim report: “After a three-day standoff, Iraqi forces advanced into the contested province with the goal of returning to positions they held before 2014, when they fled in the face of an Islamic state push. … The flare-up presents an awkward dilemma for the United States, which has trained and equipped the advancing Iraqi troops, which includes elite counterterrorism forces, and the Kurdish Peshmerga on the other side. But the Iraqi side is also backed up by Shiite militia forces close to Iran, at a time when the Trump administration has been vocal about curbing Iranian influence in the region … Iraqi forces said they were under instructions to avoid violence, but Kirkuk residents said that gunfire and explosions could be heard in the city in the early hours of the morning.”

-- The Dodgers beat the Cubs 4-1. They now lead the NLCS 2-0. (Barry Svrluga)

-- The Astros beat the Yankees 2-1 on Saturday, also bringing their lead to 2-0 in the ALCS. (Dave Sheinin)

The twin bombing attacks in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu is the deadliest single attack ever in the nation, according to police. (Video: Reuters)


  1. A pair of truck bombs in Somalia’s capital killed at least 276 people on Saturday. Authorities said the attack is the deadliest in recent memory — signaling that despite years of struggle and U.S. counterterrorism intervention, their war with Islamic extremists is far from over. (Kevin Sieff and Abdullahi Dahir Mire)
  2. Far-right politicians scored a major victory in Austria, according to early projections, beating out the ruling Social Democrats and the Freedom Party for first place in the country’s national election. If confirmed, the victory will put Sebastian Kurz, a 31-year-old and hard line immigration activist, in line to become the country’s next chancellor. (Griff Witte)
  3. Catalonia’s president declined to state in a letter to the Spanish prime minister whether the region would formally secede. Catalan President Carles Puigdemont had been given until today to specify his stance on independence, but he instead called for two months of dialogue and an end to Spain’s “repression” of Catalan citizens. (Pamela Rolfe and James McAuley)
  4. California’s Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon announced his Senate bid against incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D). The 84-year-old Feinstein has been criticized by some liberal activists as too centrist, but her reelection run was quickly endorsed by many of the state’s high-profile Democrats. (AP)
  5. The husband of Caitlan Coleman, the American woman held by a Taliban-linked group for five years and just released, accused the family’s captors of raping Coleman and murdering their infant daughter. A Taliban spokesman said that the claims “have no basis at all” and alleged that the baby had been miscarried. (Antonio Olivo
  6. The defense is set to begin its case today in the federal corruption trial of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). But the judge may first dismiss the case depending on his interpretation of the Supreme Court case of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell (R). (The New York Times)
  7. The NAACP is threatening to sue Texas ahead of the state’s election next month if officials do not agree to provide accommodations for the 60,000 residents who remain displaced in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. (HuffPost)
  8. Tina Frost, 27, took her first steps since suffering a head wound in the Las Vegas massacre, continuing to surprise doctors. Frost, a Maryland native, had been put in a medically induced coma from her injuries. (Amy B Wang)

Abby and Joshua Damron evacuated their home just before their entire neighborhood was engulfed in flames in Santa Rosa, Calif. (Video: Whitney Shefte/The Washington Post)


-- One week after wildfires tore through Northern California, some residents are returning home — or what remains of it. Scott Wilson files from Calistoga, Calif.: “The town stands at one end of a 10-mile stretch of road that runs southwest to Santa Rosa through some of California’s loveliest countryside, transformed now … [into] unrecognizable remains of a lifetime’s possessions, piled in ashes atop cement foundation after foundation. Metal frames of what were once two-car garages stand like soccer goals across the broad, burned landscape. Singed palm trees — their fronds deformed by the flames — rise spiky and exotic like something from the imagination of Dr. Seuss. All is gone. … A dawn drive along the [route] reveals a certain California truth that some enduring the wildfires north of San Francisco hoped did not hold here. Living in this state’s most beautiful spots has always required a sacrifice in safety, even in the unique places for rest and relaxation. . . . 'Life is a trade-off,’ said David Frame, who has lived here for 30 years … ‘We will all change; the character will change. But I think it will make us stronger.'”


-- “The Interior Department is preparing to set aside a decades-old ban on development in federally protected wilderness areas by pursuing a controversial proposal to build a nearly 12-mile road through a wildlife refuge in Alaska,” Juliet Eilperin reports: “The project in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge has long been a priority for Alaska officials … [and] fits neatly with the Trump administration’s broader goal of giving more control to local communities like King Cove. Yet environmentalists, several native Alaskan tribes and other critics warn that the road could disrupt the habitats of a variety of animals, most notably migratory birds that use the refuge as a crucial stopover on their marathon journeys along the Pacific Coast of North America. And allowing the project would violate the founding principle of federal wilderness — areas that are to remain pristine, off-limits to vehicles — and would set a precedent that could endanger other refuges, opponents say.”

-- “The fourth round of negotiations to revise the (NAFTA) agreement wraps up Oct. 17, but many people close to the talks have expressed doubts that they will succeed,” Steven Mufson explains. “If NAFTA crumbles, trade among Mexico, Canada and the United States would fall under World Trade Organization rules with modest average tariff rates and an established, if unwieldy, process for resolving disputes. But the tariff rates, although relatively low, would be higher on U.S. exports than on U.S. imports. Many trade experts say that would hurt U.S. exporters of everything from corn to auto parts and that the United States could end up with fewer jobs while paying higher prices for goods than it does. Meanwhile, Canada and Mexico would be able to fall back on free-trade agreements they have forged with Europe recently, providing zero tariffs.”

-- The Justice Department is sending a federal hate crimes lawyer to Iowa to help prosecute a 23-year-old charged with the killing of a transgender teenager. The rare move gives credence to Jeff Sessions’s pledge to prosecute acts of violence against transgender people. (AP)

-- A woman who accused Trump of groping her after she was a contestant on “The Apprentice” is using the discovery process to try to obtain all 2016 campaign documents pertaining to “any woman alleging that [Trump] touched her inappropriately.” BuzzFeed's Jessica Garrison and Kendall Taggart report: “[Summer Zervos] accused Trump of kissing and grabbing her when she went to his bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel in 2007 to discuss a possible job at the Trump Organization. After Zervos made the accusation last October, just weeks before the election, Trump denied her accusation and called it a lie. She responded by suing him for defamation. As part of that suit, her lawyers served a subpoena on his campaign, asking that it preserve all documents it had about her. The subpoena did not make its way into the court file until last month, when Zervos’s attorneys … filed it as part of motion disputing a contention from Trump’s legal team that her subpoena was too broad.”


-- WaPo’s Scott Higham and Lenny Bernstein partnered with "60 Minutes” to investigate how Congress in 2016 weakened the DEA’s ability to go after drug distributors — thanks largely to a massive targeted lobbying effort at the peak of America’s opioid crisis. “A handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills … The DEA had opposed the effort for years. The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns. The chief advocate of the law that hobbled the DEA was Rep. Tom Marino, a Pennsylvania Republican who is now [Trump’s] nominee to become the nation’s next drug czar.


-- Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has filed a grievance accusing the NFL of collusion. Kapernick remains unemployed after starting the protest of kneeling during the national anthem, and his lawyer argued in a statement that athletes “should not be denied employment based on partisan political provocation by the Executive Branch of our government." (Mark Maske)

-- Trump’s tweet threatening the NFL’s “massive tax breaks” could provide the league’s players a better First Amendment argument for kneeling during the national anthem, Tracy Jan writes: “The [NFL] is expected to decide this week whether to force players to stand for the national anthem. Legal experts say that NFL players, as employees of private teams, do not have First Amendment protections against the league and would not ordinarily be able to challenge that decision on free-speech grounds. But Trump’s intervention — through last week’s tweet and its implied threat that the government would change tax laws to hurt the NFL — could provide the players with a stronger legal basis for a free-speech challenge against the United States, some legal scholars said. Left unchecked, Trump as president could financially compel any number of companies and private entities to do exactly what he wants, they said.”

-- Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) claimed in an interview yesterday that at least one Republican is considering articles of impeachment against Trump. “I have one Republican that has said he is looking at it, he’s considering it,” Cohen said. “I have other Republicans, just like Sen. Bob Corker suggested, who have told me on a constant basis that they know this man is not balanced, he is not capable of continuing to lead us.” (The Hill)

On Oct. 15, members of both parties had sharp words on the executive order on health-care President Trump signed on Oct. 13 and called for Congressional action. (Video: Meg Kelly/The Washington Post, Photo: Melina Mara/The Washington Post)


-- Democrats on Sunday accused Trump of trying to tank the U.S. health-care system through his decision to halt cost-sharing payments to insurers — while some Republican lawmakers argued that Trump was simply “pushing for a hard bargain.” Paul Kane reports: “Trump’s decision, announced Friday after months of criticizing the payments as an insurance industry bailout, will throw in doubt the private insurance exchanges that are part of the Affordable Care Act. Democrats vowed to use year-end negotiations on the federal agency budgets as a leverage point to reinstate the payments, vowing to pin the political blame on Republicans if premiums skyrocket next year.”

  • “This is the equivalent of health-care arson,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said on “Fox News Sunday.” “He is literally setting the entire healthcare system on fire just because [he] is upset that the United States Congress won’t pass a repeal bill.”

-- Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said she has stayed on as the top House Democrat to ward off these kinds of attacks on Obamacare. “I saw the threat to it,” Pelosi said. “I said: I’ve got to stay, to take care of the Affordable Care Act, and that’s my fight, that’s my mission.” (Paul Kane)

-- Some moderate Republican senators (and ACA-supporting governors) said that, without CSR payments, millions will lose coverage or be subjected to a dramatic price spike. “What the president is doing is affecting the ability of vulnerable people to receive health care right now,” [Collins] said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “This is not a bailout of the insurers.  What this money is used for is to help low income people afford their deductibles and their co-pays so that their health care is available to them.” Asked by host Jake Tapper whether she believed it would hurt Americans, she responded: “Yes, I do believe that.” 

-- Congress will now try to work out a deal to preserve the subsidies, but it could prove impossible between the Senate and House Republicans. The Wall Street Journal’s Stephanie Armour and Kristina Peterson report: “That could be put to the test quickly, as Sens. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D., Wash.) are expected to introduce a plan within days and Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) unveils his own, more-conservative-leaning version. The result … could be a resumption or even escalation of the legislative battle that unfolded during Republicans’ attempts to repeal the [ACA]. … Conservative House Republicans have indicated any support for continuing the payments would depend upon significant concessions from Democrats on curbing the ACA.”

-- Bigger picture: After his near-constant railing of Obama’s signature policies as “outrageous” and “absolutely destroying everything in its wake,” Trump has discovered one tough reality of Washington: Those actions are also very difficult to reverse. New York Times’s Peter Baker reports: “[As] much as he has set his sights on [Obamacare and the Iran nuclear deal,] Mr. Trump after nearly nine months in office has not actually gotten rid of either. Instead, in the past few days, he took partial steps to undercut both initiatives and then left it to Congress to figure out what to do next. Mr. Trump’s advisers characterize that as the more pragmatic side of a businessman who takes maximalist positions in part to set the stage for negotiations . . . [But] his critics said that the partial steps were still destructive, and that the president was effectively leaving initiatives like health care and the Iran deal[.] wounded on the battlefield without allowing ambulances onto the scene.” 


--  NEW this morning: “Inside the ‘adult day-care center: How aides try to control and coerce Trump,’” Ashley Parker and Greg Jaffe report: “The president is often impulsive, impetuous and difficult to manage, leading those around him to find creative ways to channel his energies. Some Trump aides spend a significant part of their time devising ways to rein in and control the impetuous president, angling to avoid outbursts that might work against him, according to interviews with 18 aides, confidants and outside advisers[.] ... One defining feature of managing Trump is frequent praise, which can leave his team in what seems to be a state of perpetual compliments.” But Trump does not return the favor: “Several people who have met with Trump in recent weeks said he has a habit of mocking other officials in Washington, especially fellow Republicans.”

-- Rex Tillerson yesterday defended his standing within the Trump administration but once again sidestepped a direct question on whether he called the president a “moron.” Paul Kane and Anne Gearan report: “‘I’m not going to deal with that kind of petty stuff,’ Tillerson said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union' . . . ‘I don’t work that way.’ Tillerson’s appearances on the Sunday talk shows provided his most extensive comments since NBC News reported that the secretary of state made the ‘moron’ comment[.] … That was followed by [Corker], a close Tillerson ally, suggesting that Trump had ‘castrated’ the secretary of state[.] … ‘I checked; I’m fully intact,’ Tillerson said, after being pressed by CNN’s Jake Tapper about the castration remark.”

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley also deflected reports of a possible “Rexit” on NBC’s “Meet the Press:” “I’m not going to get into the drama of the he-said-he-said situation,” she said. “What I will tell you is what I have witnessed is the president and Secretary Tillerson work very well together.”

-- White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is looking to fill the many positions that remain vacant throughout the administration. Politico’s Nancy Cook reports: “Kelly is giving Cabinet secretaries more autonomy to pick top political appointees, reversing efforts under his predecessor Reince Priebus to run most appointments through the West Wing. … Part of the problem stems from the Trump administration’s criteria for hiring staffers and top political appointees. Potential candidates must be loyal to the administration and not have spoken harshly about the president during the campaign. That has created a particular problem when it comes to filling national security jobs, because scores of Republican experts … signed a letter criticizing the future president before the election. … The president himself seems willing to tolerate vacancies indefinitely. … Last week, over 100 conservatives released a letter to remind both the administration and Capitol Hill that ‘personnel is policy.’

President Trump announced Oct. 13 that his administration would take new steps going forward to confront Iran. (Video: The Washington Post)


-- Trump’s national security team sought to downplay any impression the president’s reconsideration of the Iran deal represented a developing habit of breaking agreements. Anne Gearan and John Wagner report: “Rex Tillerson and others dismissed questions about whether the United States is sending a message to North Korea, for example, that undermines any deal that nation might contemplate over its own nuclear program. … ‘We intend to be very demanding in that agreement,’ Tillerson said. ‘And if we achieve that, then there will be nothing to walk away from.’ … Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said that the president’s threat to cancel the Iran deal ‘set out a marker’ for the United States and its allies to fix what he called ‘a weak deal that is being weakly monitored.’ . . .

“Asked what incentive Iran has to revisit the deal, McMaster said, ‘They have to revisit it because otherwise what you do is you just give the Iranians the opportunity to develop a nuclear capability. Their programs can advance and then they can go to industrial scale enrichment of uranium within a very short period of time and then bridge into a weapon, and that is just an unacceptable risk to the world.’”

-- But McMaster also emphasized that Trump was “not walking away from the [Iran] deal yet.” “If we don’t see improvement, there is no sense in staying in, and he has every intention of walking out,” Tillerson added. He said that it is now up to Congress to add provisions that make the deal more acceptable to Trump. (Anne Gearan and John Wagner)

-- French President Emmanuel Macron said he advised Trump against tearing up the Iran deal. Macron added that Trump “wants to get tougher with Iran. I told him I thought this was the wrong approach because we have to look where we are now with Korea.” (Politico)

-- While the world monitors the progress of North Korea’s nuclear program, Pyongyang has quietly seized on development of another form of attack: the cyberstrike. The New York Times’s David E. Sanger, David D. Kirkpatrick and Nicole Perlroth report: “When North Korean hackers tried to steal $1 billion from the New York Federal Reserve last year, only a spelling error stopped them. [Bankers grew suspicious] about a withdrawal request that had misspelled ‘foundation’ as ‘fandation.’ . . . [Just] as Western analysts once scoffed at the potential of the North’s nuclear program, so did experts dismiss its cyberpotential — only to now acknowledge that hacking is an almost perfect weapon for a Pyongyang that is isolated and has little to lose.”


-- Virginians will choose a new governor in less than a month, yet residents of the state aren’t paying much attention to the race, Marc Fisher writes: “Virginians speak of being exhausted by events. They say that they have only so much bandwidth and that [Trump] takes up most of the space they allot to politics. They say they haven’t heard much about the governor’s race in the news, which seems devoted mainly to the president’s doings and sayings. As the nation’s only competitive statewide contest this year, the Virginia race has been viewed by people in the politics business as a crucial bellwether[.] …  But far fewer Virginia voters are closely following the campaign than at similar stages in the past three gubernatorial elections[.]”

-- Party leaders are paying attention: Mike Pence attended a rally for GOP candidate Ed Gillespie on Saturday. Laura Vozzella and Fenit Nirappil report: “Pence flew to the farthest, reddest corner of Virginia on Saturday to urge coal-country voters who came out in droves for [Trump] last year to do the same for [Gillespie]. … The crowd at the rally was enthusiastic … but it was far smaller than the 1,200 that organizers had expected. Gillespie’s campaign put the number at about 600. . . . Gillespie has been looking for ways to fire up Trump’s base without losing moderates and inflaming Democrats in Northern Virginia.”

-- Also on Saturday, Joe Biden attended a roundtable with Democratic candidate Ralph Northam in the D.C. suburb of Reston. Fenit reports: “The event was closed to the general public and drew about 100 supportive Democratic activists and business leaders. Biden sat next to Northam, grinning as he touted the lieutenant governor’s background as a U.S. Army doctor and joking that his Southern drawl reminded him of accents in Delaware’s Delmarva Peninsula.”

-- Trump continues to be the elephant in the room. The New York Times’s Jonathan Martin reports: “Mr. Trump has so overwhelmed a campaign waged by a pair of bland candidates lacking signature proposals that, much the same way he does across the Potomac, he has made himself and his incendiary style of politics the central issue. … With the president rampaging through news cycles seemingly every day, the biggest question looming before Mr. Gillespie is whether it is worth the risk of trying to harness Mr. Trump’s total-eclipse-of-the-sun attention-getting skills to rouse conservative voters. … [T]railing in every public poll, Mr. Gillespie is now engaged in a robust debate with his advisers about whether he should ask the president to stump with him[.]” (I asked three veterans of Virginia politics last month whether a Trump appearance on the campaign trail would help or hurt Gillespie.)

Trump did tweet an endorsement of Gillespie:

And this Democratic lawmaker made sure people knew about it: 


The president singled out a New York Times reporter:

Trump extolled the virtues of his health-care executive order:

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) celebrated the order:

A Democratic congressional candidate from Illinois posted that Paul Ryan got an earful during a flight:

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) expanded on his comment that pulling out of the Iran deal would actually benefit Iran:

The daughter of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) derided Steve Bannon’s criticism of Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) for having “mocked and ridiculed a commander in chief when we have kids in the field”:

After reports emerged that Sen. Thad Cochran may not be back in the Senate soon because of his health, the Mississippi Republican posted this photo:

The mayor of San Juan expressed gratitude to Jesse Jackson:

CNN’s Brian Stelter went after former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka:

Actress Alyssa Milano sparked the hashtag #MeToo on Twitter to raise awareness of sexual harassment and assault:

And Monica Lewinsky joined the trending conversation:

Donald Trump Jr. belittled Woody Allen’s comment that he didn’t want a Hollywood “witch hunt” after the Harvey Weinstein revelations:

Don Jr.’s criticism recalled this July tweet by the president after Don Jr.’s emails with a Russian lawyer were revealed:

This Trump tweet also hit its one-year anniversary yesterday:

And Fox News’s Jeanne Pirro interviewed new parents Eric and Lara Trump:


-- New York Times, “For Weinstein, a Brush With the Police, Then No Charges,” by Megan Twohey, James C. Mckinley Jr., Al Baker and William K. Rashbaum: “Meeting with him at the hotel was Ambra Battilana, a 22-year-old model from Italy, who had reported to the police the night before that Mr. Weinstein had groped her during a business meeting. She was wearing a wire. … The case demonstrates how Mr. Weinstein, with ample funds and influence, was able to assemble a counterstrike against the sex crime investigation using the weapons available to the powerful. It also highlights the challenges such cases pose, even for the vaunted Manhattan district attorney’s office, made famous by the television show ‘Law & Order.’”

-- Yahoo News, “Russian trolls were schooled on ‘House of Cards,’” by Michael Isikoff: “The Russians who worked for a notorious St. Petersburg ‘troll factory’ that was part of Vladimir Putin’s campaign to influence the 2016 presidential election were required to watch the ‘House of Cards’ television series to help them craft messages to ‘set up the Americans against their own government,’ according to an interview broadcast Sunday[.] … The interview … provides new insight into how the troll factory formerly known as the Internet Research Agency targeted U.S. audiences in part by posting provocative ‘comments’ pretending to be from Americans on newspaper articles that appeared on the websites of the New York Times and Washington Post.”

-- New York Times, “Faded Yukon Gold Rush Town, Population 20, Mines Its Weirdness,” by Dan Levin: “The journey to the heart of Yukon’s historic mineral wealth started with a question posed to a waitress at the aptly titled Gold Rush hotel in Whitehorse, the territorial capital: What’s the weirdest place in Yukon? Her answer was a patch of pay dirt around 290 miles north . . . There lies Keno City, a gold-rush-era relic with about a dozen full-time residents, tap water not fit for human consumption and two bars whose owners haven’t been on speaking terms for more than a decade. While this dot on the map has seen prospectors, prostitutes, miners and bootleggers come and go, it serves as a lesson on the dangers of betting it all on resource extraction, a capricious industry that has left the region scarred by environmental contamination and economic collapse.”

-- “You don’t expect to meet the person you’re going to marry at Pearl.” Those were the words of Ariana Austin, who met her husband at a D.C. nightclub — and later found out he was also a prince. The two were wed last month in an all-day event that took place in two states. (New York Times)


“The ironic, enduring legacy of banning ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ for racist language,” from Avi Selk: “The public school district in Biloxi, Miss., did not specify which words, exactly, in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ are so objectionable that the book was yanked from an eighth-grade reading list last week, 57 years after it published. . . . The n-word appears nearly 50 other times throughout ‘Mockingbird’ — almost always in dialogue. The novel won its author a Pulitzer Prize for fiction and ‘made the values of the civil rights movement — particularly a feeling for the god-awful unfairness of segregation — real for millions,’ as Michael Gerson once wrote for The Washington Post. But among those millions of readers, for as long as it has been in print, ‘Mockingbird’ has inspired strong feelings of a different sort in towns and schools and meeting halls across the country. It was not images of race, but of sex, that caused the first big uproar.”



“Late-night television host Jimmy Kimmel in a new interview said he doesn't regret talking politics even if it is decreasing his popularity among Republican viewers.” The Hill reports: ‘Yeah, I mean, I saw, I don't know if it was a study or a poll, some combination of those two things, that, like, three years ago I was equally liked by Republicans and Democrats,’ Kimmel [said when asked] about the risk in him becoming political about issues like health care and gun control during his show. “And then Republican numbers went way down, like 30 percent or whatever . . . But I would do it again in a heartbeat,” he said. “ … [If] they’re so turned off by my opinion on health care and gun violence, then I don't know. I probably won't want to have a conversation with them anyway,’ he continued.  ‘Well, not 'good riddance,' but riddance!’ he added.”



Trump has a morning Cabinet meeting and an afternoon meeting with Pence and Mitch McConnell. He will later attend a campaign event for South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster.

Pence will also meet with Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Tarō Asō for the second round of the U.S.-Japan Economic Dialogue.


While being interviewed by Britain’s Channel 4 News, Hillary Clinton was asked about the allegations against Harvey Weinstein: “Look, we just elected someone who admitted sexual assault to the presidency. So there's a lot of other issues that are swirling around these kinds of behaviors that need to be addressed. I think it's important that we stay focused, and shine a bright spotlight and try to get people to understand how damaging this is.”



-- It will be cooler and windier in D.C. today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Early-morning showers quickly zip off to the east, and then clearing skies swiftly follow. Behind the cold front, temperatures more or less hold steady throughout the day — between 60 and 65.”

-- The Redskins beat the 49ers 26-24. (Liz Clarke)

-- Civil War reenactors proceeded with their demonstration of the Battle of Cedar Creek in Middletown, Va., despite outside threats. Dan Morse and Michael E. Miller report: “In normal years, taps would be played and each side would march back to its tent encampments. But this was hardly a normal year. Last week, organizers announced they had received a letter threatening ‘bodily harm’ to attendees. And Saturday, the battlefield had to be temporarily cleared because a suspicious device, possibly a pipe bomb, was found.”


Kate McKinnon’s Kellyanne Conway took on the role of the scary clown from “It” on SNL:

And one Baltimore school choir’s rendition of “Rise Up” went viral:

This video of Baltimore’s Cardinal Shehan School’s choir singing Andra Day’s song “Rise Up” went viral. You’ll want to turn the sound up on this one. (Video: Cardinal Shehan School Choir/Kenyatta Hardison)