“It is finally sinking through,” the president tweeted.
The first rule of propaganda is that if you repeat something enough times people will start to believe it, no matter how false. Trump uses the bully pulpit of the presidency to dismiss any journalism he doesn’t like as “fake news.” This daily drumbeat has clearly taken a toll on the Fourth Estate.
Just this month, the president called on the Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate U.S. news outlets, proposed reinstituting the so-called “Fairness Doctrine” and declared that broadcast networks should have their licenses “challenged and, if appropriate, revoked” after NBC published a story that embarrassed him. “It’s frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write, and people should look into it,” he said in the Oval Office.
The same Politico-Morning Consult poll that Trump tweeted about yesterday found that 28 percent of Americans think the federal government should have the power to revoke the broadcast licenses of major news organizations if it says they are fabricating news stories about the president or the administration. Only 51 percent think the government should not be able to do that.
A plurality of Republicans, 46 percent, thinks the government should have the power to revoke licenses if it says stories are false. As a thought exercise, imagine how much these same people would have freaked out if Barack Obama had called for revoking Fox News’s license to broadcast.
But it’s not just Trump supporters who have warped views of what makes America great. Four other recent polls might also tempt you to pour Baileys into your cereal this morning:
-- An annual survey published last month by the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center found that 37 percent of Americans cannot name even one of the five rights guaranteed under the First Amendment. About half of those surveyed got freedom of speech but couldn’t get any of the others.
- Only 26 percent of respondents could name the three branches of government, down from 38 percent in 2011.
- Even more worrisome, 39 percent of Americans support allowing Congress to stop the news media from reporting on any issue of national security without government approval. There was less opposition to prior restraint (49 percent) this year than in 2016 (55 percent).
- On free speech, 43 percent of respondents felt that colleges should have the right to ban controversial campus speakers.
- Only 59 percent believe that religious freedom should apply to all religious groups. Among those between the ages of 18 to 29, just 49 percent support equal protection for all religious faiths, compared to over 60 percent for every other age group.
-- Brookings senior fellow John Villasenor conducted an online survey of 1,500 undergraduate students at U.S. four-year colleges and universities during the last two weeks of August (immediately after the violent protests in Charlottesville). Only 39 percent of respondents said that the First Amendment protects “hate speech,” while 44 percent said it does not.
- Bizarrely, 62 percent of college students had the mistaken belief that, under the First Amendment, an on-campus organization hosting an “offensive” speaker is legally required to ensure that there is also a speaker who presents an opposing viewpoint.
- Most disconcerting, the Brookings survey found that 19 percent said it is acceptable for a student group to use violence to prevent a guest speaker it opposes from appearing on campus.
- In this same vein, a Pew Research Center study from 2015 found that 40 percent of millennials are okay with government preventing people from making unspecified statements that are “offensive to minority groups.”
-- A poll conducted by YouGov for the libertarian Cato Institute, released two weeks ago, found that 40 percent of Americans think government should prevent people from engaging in hate speech. The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf explored the partisan and racial divides that characterized the results:
- “Forty-six percent would support a law making it illegal to say offensive things about African Americans; there is less support for banning insults against other groups (41 percent for Jews, 40 percent for immigrants and military-service members, 39 percent for Hispanics, 37 percent for Muslims, 36 percent for gays, lesbians, and transgender people, 35 percent for Christians).
- “Fifty-one percent of Democrats would favor a law ‘requiring people to refer to a transgender person by their preferred gender pronouns and not according to their biological sex.’
- “Republicans were most intolerant of speech and most likely to favor authoritarian laws to punish it on the subject of burning or desecrating the American flag: Seventy-two percent of Republicans believe that should be illegal (along with 46 percent of Democrats). Most shocking to me, 53 percent of Republicans and 49 percent of Latinos favor ‘stripping a person of their U.S. citizenship if they burn the American flag.’”
-- Why these numbers matter: If we lose the confidence that good ideas will overtake bad ones in the marketplace of ideas, if we lose the sense that we may disagree with offensive comments our neighbors say but we’ll defend to the death their right to say them and if we lose the willingness to honestly debate hard issues, then the United States will keep becoming more tribal and, eventually, less free.
“If large numbers of people believe in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech even if the law forbids it,” George Orwell wrote in a 1945 essay. “But if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be prosecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.”
-- These polls underscore an existential threat to our way of life. To prevent the continuing atrophy of our democracy, concerned citizens from all walks of life and both parties must speak up for the virtue and necessity of the First Amendment wherever it comes under attack. There also clearly needs to be a national recommitment to civic education. “America’s collective ignorance of the workings of the First Amendment cannot be blamed on Mr. Trump,” the Toledo Blade’s Will Tomer wrote in a recent column. “But when you couple Mr. Trump’s public attacks on free speech and freedom of the press with this ignorance, it is a dangerous and volatile mix that has potential to do real and permanent damage to our liberties. We must not let it happen.”
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who earned his doctorate in history from Yale, gets it. “The First Amendment is the beating heart of the American experiment, and you don’t get to separate the freedoms that are in there,” he said this summer. “You don’t have religion without assembly. You don’t have speech without press. We all need to celebrate all five of those freedoms, because that’s how the ‘e pluribus unum’ stuff works.”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The U.S. Air Force is reportedly preparing to put nuclear bombers on 24-hour notice, a position not taken since the Cold War. Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reports: “That means the long-dormant concrete pads at the ends of [Barksdale Air Force Base’s] 11,000-foot runway … could once again find several B-52s parked on them, laden with nuclear weapons and set to take off at a moment’s notice. … [Gen. David Goldfein, Air Force chief of staff,] and other senior defense officials stressed that the alert order had not been given, but that preparations were under way in anticipation that it might come. That decision would be made by Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, or Gen. Lori Robinson, the head of U.S. Northern Command. … Goldfein … is asking his force to think about new ways that nuclear weapons could be used for deterrence, or even combat.”
GET SMART FAST:
The Trump Organization is building a new hotel brand dubbed “American Idea” in some of the poorest corners of Mississippi. The properties, one of which will be built to resemble an antebellum plantation, offer insight into how Trump’s sons plan to run the business while he’s in the White House. A company spokeswoman said the new brand is “designed to work in every city U.S.A.” and is the first foray for the firm into middle America or Trump's base. (Jonathan O'Connell)
Lawyers for the undocumented teenager seeking an abortion in Texas asked the full bench of a federal appeals court to allow the procedure to occur immediately. (Politico)
Bowe Bergdahl’s sentencing hearing begins today. A military judge will determine whether Bergdahl should be sent to jail for life after entering a guilty plea to charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. (Alex Horton)
Jimmy Carter said that he would go on a diplomatic trip to North Korea if Trump asked. Carter added that he thought that “the media have been harder on Trump than any other president certainly that I’ve known about.” (The New York Times)
Authorities in Texas reported they “most likely” found the remains of 3-year-old Sherin Mathews. Mathews went missing after her father sent her outside as punishment for not drinking her milk. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Avi Selk and Marwa Eltagouri)
Researchers believe they have discovered a cave on the moon. It is 31 miles long and may even contain ice or water. (Avi Selk)
The NFL confirmed that Justin Timberlake will perform at the Super Bowl. It will be Timberlake’s first appearance on the big stage since his infamous “wardrobe malfunction” with Janet Jackson in 2004. (Des Bieler)
-- Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he is “ready to move” on a bipartisan health-care bill, but requested that Trump clarify his position. “What I'm waiting is to hear from President Trump what kind of health-care bill he might sign,” McConnell said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think he hasn't made a final decision. When he does, and I know that we're not just debating it, but actually passing something to be signed, I would be happy to bring it up.” His comments come after Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) announced an agreement to restore federal payments to help offset out-of-pocket health insurance costs for low-income Americans, Tory Newmyer reports.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) urged McConnell to bring the legislation to the floor immediately, noting on “Meet the Press” that all 48 Senate Democrats will support it. “This is a good compromise. It took months to work out,” Schumer said. “It has 60 senators supporting it. We have all 48 Democrats, 12 Republicans . . . It will pass. It will pass by a large number of votes. That will put pressure on the House.”
-- Republicans doubt Trump’s supposedly masterful dealmaking skills. Philip Rucker, Sean Sullivan and Paul Kane report: “If the absence of any signature legislation is an indication, the dealmaking skills that propelled Trump’s career in real estate and reality television have not translated well to government. … [S]enators said the president shares responsibility for this year’s turbulence and gridlock, observing that the glacial pace of writing and passing laws, complicated by fits and starts, has been a culture shock for Trump.”
-- The Trump administration is drafting a plan to pause the reunification of refugee families until more security checks are performed. Reuters’s Yeganeh Torbati and Mica Rosenberg report: “The administration also may expand the use of intensive security checks by multiple federal agencies, called ‘security advisory opinions’ (SAO) to apply to women from countries designated as high-risk by the U.S. government … The administration is also considering expanding the categories of refugees required to be fingerprinted[.] The proposals, if implemented, could significantly slow down refugee admissions and leave refugees who thought they were headed to the United States in perilous situations abroad, say refugee advocates and former officials.”
-- The EPA instructed three agency scientists not to make scheduled presentationsduring a conference today in Providence, R.I., saying it wasn't a government meeting. Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report: “EPA officials confirmed Sunday that its researchers would not present at the State of Narragansett Bay and Its Watershed program but did not offer an explanation for the decision. Climate change features as a significant factor in the 500-page report, which evaluates 24 aspects of the bay and its larger watershed.” The move quickly prompted criticism from some academics and congressional Democrats.
-- Betsy DeVos has rescinded 72 guidance documents outlining the rights of students with disabilities — a change that comes as part of the Education Department's effort to eliminate “superfluous” regulations. The documents sought to clarify for both parents and educators how federal money can be set aside for special education. (Moriah Balingit)
-- The National Women’s Law Center is building a rapid-response legal team to fight what it sees as Trump’s rollback of women’s rights. Janell Ross reports: “They’ve dubbed the effort the Legal Network for Gender Equity. … The network of lawyers has begun assessing 43 cases, including a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit against Walmart.”
ONWARD TO TAXES:
-- Trump urged House GOP lawmakers to rally behind a Senate-passed budget bill, touting it in a conference call as the quickest way to enact “sweeping tax cuts." John Wagner and Tory Newmyer report: “'We are on the verge of doing something very, very historic,' Trump told GOP lawmakers, adding that success on tax cuts could provide a springboard to action on other shared legislative priorities[.] … During the call, Trump and [Paul Ryan] argued that passing the revised Senate budget this week provides the best shot to get a tax bill enacted by the end of the year[.] Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, said passage of the Senate budget could occur this week. [One] official said Trump also said action on the bill could lead to other victories, including promised legislation to spur $1 trillion in investment in the nation’s roads and other infrastructure, as well as welfare reform.”
“Significant differences between the House and Senate blueprints could have presented a stumbling block,” our colleagues write. “Most notably, the House version authorized a tax overhaul that does not add to the deficit, while the Senate approach increases the deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. But most conservative hard-liners in the House … appeared to be inclined to accept the Senate version in the interest of accelerating work on a tax overhaul.”
-- Mick Mulvaney thinks it’s “absolutely” realistic to have a tax cuts bill on Trump’s desk by December. The OMB director told “Fox News Sunday” the administration already “felt good last week” even before the Senate passed its budget. (The Hill)
-- ICYMI: House Republicans are considering significantly limiting 401(k) contributions. The New York Times’s Jim Tankersley reports: “The proposals under discussion would potentially cap the annual amount workers can set aside to as low as $2,400 for 401(k) accounts, several lobbyists and consultants said on Friday. Workers may currently put up to $18,000 a year in 401(k) accounts without paying taxes upfront on that money; that figure rises to $24,000 for workers over 50. When workers retire and begin to draw income from those accounts, they pay taxes on the benefits . . . Reducing contribution limits would be, in effect, an accounting maneuver that would create space for tax cuts by collecting tax revenue now instead of in the future.”
-- McConnell sharply criticized Steve Bannon for his bid to find challengers to most GOP incumbents up in 2018, describing them as “specialists at nominating people who lose." John Wagner and Tory Newmyer report: “McConnell argued that the kind of candidates Bannon and others are supporting will not have the broad appeal needed to win general elections in some of those states. ‘The kind of people that are supported by the element that you’ve just been referring to are specialists in defeating Republican candidates in November, and that’s what this interparty skirmish is about,’ McConnell said on ‘Fox News Sunday.’ ‘Our goal is to nominate people in the primaries next year who can actually win’ in the general election.'” Bannon's crusade “isn’t going to help [Trump] achieve his agenda,” McConnell added.
- He also played down Trump’s criticism of the Senate GOP for failing to advance his legislative priorities: “We're thrilled to have somebody in the White House who supports what this House and Senate Republican majority has been wanting to have an opportunity to do for a long time,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And so I refused to get diverted off on the various comments that may be made at one time or another.”
-- Since being ousted from the White House two months ago, Bannon has declared “war” on the GOP from his Breitbart News outpost. Still, Trump’s former chief strategist is described as “anything but estranged” from his former boss — and despite signs of their diverging political agendas, the two still speak by phone “several times a week.” Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker report: “The conversations are dictated by the whims of the president, who dials his former chief strategist when something he reads, watches or hears piques his interest. They chew over politics, float ideas and catch up on gossip. They also each ask after the other to shared confidants and friends, not unlike teenagers checking to make sure the other is not upset or disapproving. In one of his many private chats with [Sean Hannity], Trump recently asked, ‘Is Steve still with me?’ … Bannon tells confidants he sees himself as ‘the president’s wingman,’ tending to his base and taking on his enemies.” And for now, both see the continued friendship as mutually beneficial:
- “It’s better for Bannon because he doesn’t have to waste time jockeying for position in a nepotistic White House,” Ann Coulter said in an email. “And it’s better for Trump precisely because Bannon doesn’t have to tiptoe around Trump’s ‘first among equals’ relatives, but can use Breitbart to forcefully remind Trump of the issues he ran on.”
- And Trump can say, “'Well, that’s Bannon being Bannon,’ as opposed to, ‘That’s my chief strategist down the hall from me,’” said Ed Rollins, the chairman of a pro-Trump super PAC. “The president has a responsibility of running the government. Bannon is free to throw rocks against the windows, which is sometimes more fun.”
- Still, tension is likely to grow in the days ahead. “Bannon is agitating some of the very senators Trump is trying to persuade to support his tax cuts plan, which would finally hand the president a signature piece of legislation,” our colleagues write. And last week, Trump privately offered support to three establishment Republicans up for reelection in 2018, even though Bannon and his allies have been weighing backing challengers against them.
-- Bannon has laid out three conditions for GOP candidates to win him over, the Wall Street Journal’s Michael C. Bender and Janet Hook report: “An anti-immigration agenda; overturning a longtime Senate rule that seeks broad consensus — instead of a simple majority — before many policy changes; and, most important, removal of Mr. McConnell from his Senate leadership perch in the Senate.”
-- The New York Times’s Peter Baker writes that Bannon’s strategy resembles that of FDR in 1938: “[Roosevelt’s] own party controlled both houses of Congress, yet the latest elements of his New Deal were stalled. Exasperated by fellow Democrats standing in the way, Roosevelt resolved to push some of them out of office. … But Roosevelt’s purge backfired. Not only did he fail to take out his targets, but he also emboldened them, all but dooming his domestic program for much of the rest of his presidency. … Like Mr. Trump, Roosevelt was piqued by opposition from members of his own party and set out to replace them with more ideologically aligned candidates who would support his agenda — in his case, liberals who would take out Southern conservatives. But voters resented the intervention and repudiated him by re-electing nearly all of his Democratic rivals.”
-- In an interview that aired last night, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) appeared to once again implicitly attack Trump — this time for his draft deferments during the Vietnam War. Aaron Blake reports: “In the interview, McCain pointed to wealthy Americans who were able to get out of being drafted into service[.] … ‘One aspect of the conflict, by the way, that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest-income level of America, and the highest-income level found a doctor that would say that they had a bone spur,’ McCain said. ‘That is wrong.’ … Trump received five deferments during Vietnam: four for his studies in college, and one for — you guessed it — bone spurs in his heel.”
IT'S NOT JUST THE GOP:
-- If Ralph Northam loses the Virginia gubernatorial race, Democrats will face increased anxiety and questions over the direction of their party. David Weigel and Ed O'Keefe report: “It’s a surprising case of the jitters over a place that hasn’t elected a Republican to statewide office in eight years — and that voted resoundingly against Donald Trump last year. But nationally, Democrats haven’t won a marquee race since losing the presidency. … Less clear is whether the jitters will help — or whether a Northam victory gives Democrats any kind of road map for 2018. … Defeat in Virginia could also prompt another brawl between progressive activists and the party’s establishment.”
-- The DNC's fundraising disadvantage compared the RNC could affect next year’s midterms. Politico’s Gabriel Debenedetti and Edward-Isaac Dovere report: “Many donors are refusing to write checks. And on-the-ground operatives worry they won’t have the resources to build the infrastructure they need to compete effectively[.] … And it's not just donors who are staying away[.] … The party's old leaders, led by former President Barack Obama, have kept their involvement to a minimum, as well. … While the House and Senate Democratic campaign arms — and individual candidates — are having no problem raising funds, the comparatively anemic cash flow at the central committee and state branches could affect organizing efforts on the ground across the country.”
-- CHOOSE YOUR NEWS: “House GOP Fears Wave in 2018 as Money Woes Grow,” by National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar: “Republican lawmakers aren’t raising enough money to run aggressive campaigns against up-and-coming Democrats. Of the 53 House Republicans facing competitive races, according to Cook Political Report ratings, a whopping 21 have been outraised by at least one Democratic opponent in the just-completed fundraising quarter. That’s a stunningly high number this early in the cycle, one that illustrates just how favorable the political environment is for House Democrats.”
-- Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is facing bipartisan blowback for appearing to prioritize the court’s image over the Wisconsin gerrymandering case. Robert Barnes reports: “In the court’s examination of partisan gerrymandering, Roberts lamented the predicament the court would be in if called upon regularly to choose winners and losers among Democrats and Republicans. Critics on both the left and right called him out, saying it sounded as though he were more worried about polishing the court’s reputation than fulfilling its duty. … Roberts’s real objection seemed to be that forcing the court to make such decisions would put the justices in a no-win position and tarnish the reputation that they — he — had worked hard to burnish: ‘We will have to decide in every case whether the Democrats win or the Republicans win.’”
-- Khizr Khan criticized John Kelly for defending Trump’s controversial condolence call to a Gold Star widow last week. “Instead of advising the president that restraint and dignity is the call of the moment, former general Kelly indulged in defending [the] behavior of the president and made the situation even worse,” said Khan, whose own son was killed in Afghanistan seven years ago. “Our political leaders, elected by the people, are deserving of equal dignity and equal respect instead of being maligned on misstated facts. And that was beyond the call of the moment.” (John Wagner)
-- Seventeen female members of the Congressional Black Caucus demanded Sunday that Kelly apologize to Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) for his “blatant lies.” “Congresswoman Wilson’s integrity and credibility should not be challenged or undermined by such blatant lies,” the members wrote. “We, the women of the Congressional Black Caucus, proudly stand with Congresswoman Wilson and demand that General Kelly apologize to her without delay and take responsibility for his reckless and false statements,” said the members. (Politico)
-- David Petraeus refuted Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s claim that it is “highly inappropriate” for reporters to question Kelly's, saying on ABC’s “This Week” that he thinks all in uniform should be “fair game” for criticism. “We, in uniform, protect the rights of those to criticize us, frankly … we are fiercely protective of the rights of our Americans to express themselves, even if that includes criticizing us,” he said.
-- Georgia Rep. Betty Price (R), who is married to former HHS Secretary Tom Price, backtracked after inquiring whether those with HIV should be quarantined. Mary Hui and Amy B Wang report: Price “said her comments were misunderstood and intended to be ‘provocative’ and ‘rhetorical’ in a broader conversation about curtailing the virus. [Price] made the statement Tuesday, at a study committee meeting on barriers to adequate health care. Committee members had been discussing, she later said, why Georgia ranks second in the nation when it came to new HIV cases. ‘What are we legally able to do? I don’t want to say the quarantine word, but I guess I just said it,’ Price asked[.]”
-- Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens (R) called on political and “cultural leaders” to stand for the national anthem, saying during a speech in Iowa that public figures have an “obligation” to respect the flag. (Des Moines Register)
-- Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram there is “no question the [NFL] is suffering negative effects from these protests.” The remarks represent the first time that Jones has commented on the protests since the NFL meetings last week when the league decided against a formal rule punishing those who don’t stand for the national anthem.
-- ICYMI: A Marist Poll released last week found a majority of Americans have low expectations for Trump’s presidency, with 58 percent believing he will be remembered either as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history or as a “below-average” leader. Just one in five, or 19 percent, say he will be considered “average.”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Robert Mueller is investigating the Podesta Group and its chairman, Tony Podesta. NBC News’s Tom Winter and Julia Ainsley report: “The probe of Podesta and his Democratic-leaning lobbying firm grew out of Mueller's inquiry into the finances of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort[.] . . . Manafort had organized a public relations campaign for a non-profit called the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine (ECMU). Podesta's company was one of many firms that worked on the campaign, which promoted Ukraine's image in the West. The sources said the investigation into Podesta and his company began as more of a fact-finding mission about the ECMU and Manafort's role in the campaign, but has now morphed into a criminal inquiry into whether the firm violated the Foreign Agents Registration Act, known as FARA.” John Podesta, Tony’s brother and Hillary Clinton's former presidential campaign chairman, is not currently tied to the Podesta Group and is not under investigation.
-- Congress’s Russia probes have become mired in partisan squabbling. The New York Times’s Nicholas Fandos reports: “All three committees looking into Russian interference — one in the House, two in the Senate — have run into problems, from insufficient staffing to fights over when the committees should wrap up their investigations. The Senate Judiciary Committee’s inquiry has barely started, delayed in part by negotiations over the scope of the investigation. Leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, while maintaining bipartisan comity, have sought to tamp down expectations about what they might find. Nine months into the Trump administration, any notion that Capitol Hill would provide a comprehensive, authoritative and bipartisan accounting of the extraordinary efforts of a hostile power to disrupt American democracy appears to be dwindling.”
-- The House Intelligence Committee will interview Trump’s campaign digital director, Brad Parscale, tomorrow. (The Wall Street Journal)
-- On the same day that Russia placed London-based financer and Putin critic William Browder on their Interpol wanted list, the U.S. also revoked his visa. Browder began campaigning for justice in Moscow after his Russian tax lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky, was imprisoned on false charges and later died in jail.
The National Review’s Jay Nordlinger has more on the bizarre U.S. move: “In 2012, the U.S. Congress passed the Magnitsky Act, which targets Russian human-rights abusers: It freezes their assets and deprives them of visas. The Magnitsky Act drives Putin nuts. … Browder is a driver behind these Magnitsky acts, and Putin hates him for it, understandably. Twice in 2013, he tried to add Browder to Interpol’s wanted list, and twice he failed, because Interpol knew that Putin was politically motivated. Browder is not a criminal. He is an anti-criminal, which is why Putin targets him. In the wake of Canada’s new Magnitsky act, Putin has tried again. Tried for a fifth time. Interpol has accepted his request. Worse, the U.S. government seems in partnership with the Kremlin: Our government has revoked Browder’s visa.” (American-born, Browder is a British citizen.)
-- The former U.S. ambassador to Russia weighed in on the matter:
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- A newly assertive CIA is expanding its covert operations in Afghanistan, pairing small teams of highly experienced officers with local forces to hunt and kill Taliban militants. The New York Times’s Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Eric Schmitt and Adam Goldman report: “The C.I.A.’s paramilitary division, which is taking on the assignment, numbers only in the hundreds and is deployed all over the world. … Former agency officials assert that the military, with its vast resources and manpower, is better suited to conducting large-scale counterinsurgencies. … The expansion reflects the C.I.A.’s assertive role under its new director, Mike Pompeo, to combat insurgents around the world.”
“We can’t perform our mission if we’re not aggressive,” Pompeo said earlier this month at a security conference. “This is unforgiving, relentless. You pick the word. Every minute, we have to be focused on crushing our enemies.”
-- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe maintained his ruling bloc’s supermajority in Japan’s parliament, which could allow him to change the country’s constitution. Adam Taylor reports: “With Sunday’s vote, Abe and his allies have retained the two-thirds majorities in both houses of parliament that are required to call for constitutional amendments. Abe has long sought to revise Article 9, which renounces war, and remove the ambiguity surrounding Japan’s military, known as the Self-DefenseForces. While many conservatives view the amendment as overdue, many voters remain skeptical. South Korea and China, Japan’s neighbors, also are nervous about what they see as the potential return of a militaristic Japan.”
-- Rex Tillerson warned that Iranian-backed militias in Iraq need to “go home.” Carol Morello reports: “Shiite militias mostly composed of Iraqi citizens but backed by Iran were instrumental in helping the Iraqi army drive the Islamic State from Mosul and other strongholds in Iraq. There have been reports of Iranian advisers among them. Tillerson said they have no business being on the battlefield now that the Islamic State has been routed. … Tillerson also advised European companies to avoid investing in businesses linked to the Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is involved in many parts of Iran’s economy.”
-- Jim Mattis will discuss the rising threat of North Korea during meetings in the Philippines today with his counterparts in Southeast Asia. (The Wall Street Journal)
POWERFUL MEN BEHAVING BOORISHLY:
-- 38 women have accused director James Toback of sexual harassment. LA Times’s Glenn Whipp reports: “[H]e would pull out a business card or an article that had been written about him to prove he had some juice in Hollywood. That he could make you a star. But first, he’d need to get to know you. Intimately. … Then, in a hotel room, a movie trailer, a public park, meetings framed as interviews or auditions quickly turned sexual[.] … The women’s accounts portray [Toback] as a man who, for decades, sexually harassed women he hired, women looking for work and women he just saw on the street. … As is often the case, none of them contacted the police at the time. When contacted by The Times, Toback denied the allegations, saying that he had never met any of these women or, if he did, it ‘was for five minutes and have no recollection.’”
-- Celebrity chef John Besh has been accused by 25 women of allowing a workplace culture of sexual harassment to flourish. The Times-Picayune’s Brett Anderson reports: “[Those] women described a company where several male co-workers and bosses touched female employees without consent, made suggestive comments about their appearance and — in a few cases — tried to leverage positions of authority for sex. Several women said female colleagues, including in some cases their immediate managers, warned them to beware of ‘handsy’ male supervisors — at times on day one on the job. Those who complained of sexual harassment were berated, ostracized or ignored, the women said. In addition, two separate complaints alleging sexual discrimination and retaliation have been filed since December with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission[.]”
-- On Wall Street, Fidelity Investments has ousted two high-level executives over sexual harassment complaints. Renae Merle reports: “Former portfolio manager C. Robert Chow resigned earlier this month and Gavin Baker, a prominent tech fund manager, was fired by the company in September[.] … Chow was accused of making inappropriate sexual comments to colleagues and Baker allegedly harassed a 26-year-old employee. Both worked in the company’s powerful stock-picking division.”
-- ICYMI: The New York Times’s Emily Steel and Michael S. Schmidt reported that Bill O’Reilly struck a $32 million settlement with a former network analyst who accused him of sexual harassment just one month before Fox News renewed his contract: “[The woman’s complaints] included allegations of repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material to her, according to the people briefed on the matter. It was at least the sixth agreement — and by far the largest — made by either Mr. O’Reilly or the company to settle harassment allegations against him. Despite that record, 21st Century Fox began contract negotiations with Mr. O’Reilly, and in February granted him a four-year extension that paid $25 million a year.”
- Through a spokesman, O’Reilly accused the Times of having “maliciously smeared” him: “In its latest diatribe against Bill O'Reilly, the Times printed leaked information provided by anonymous sources that is out of context, false, defamatory, and obviously designed to embarrass Bill O'Reilly and to keep him from competing in the marketplace.”
-- Conservative pundit Scottie Nell Hughes told The Post’s media columnist Margaret Sullivan that her career is “dead in the water now” after accusing Fox’s Charles Payne of rape: “Hughes told me that she’s found out the hard way that conservative women have a particularly hard time making sexual harassment and assault claims. Those claims often are scoffed at on the right, she said, and retaliation can be swift and brutal. ‘Name me another conservative woman who has charged a male on the same side of the aisle with sexual misconduct outside of those involved with Fox,’ she said. The absence speaks volumes, she said: ‘Victims have been shamed into silence and it’s almost like open hunting season for sexual predators on the right.’”
-- Jim Rutenberg writes on A1 of the New York Times today that nondisclosure agreements tied to out-of-court settlements have allowed men like Weinstein and O’Reilly to escape the court of public opinion for years.
-- ICYMI from Sunday’s paper: “‘My pain is everyday’: After Weinstein’s fall, Trump accusers wonder: Why not him?” by Karen Tumulty, Mark Berman and Jenna Johnson: “‘It is hard to reconcile that Harvey Weinstein could be brought down with this, and [President] Trump just continues to be the Teflon Don,’ said [Jessica] Leeds, who claims she was groped 30 years ago on a plane by the man whose presence she cannot escape now that he sits in the Oval Office. … [F]or Trump’s accusers, the renewed debate offers a reminder that their allegations did not have the same effect. … So far, the allegations against the president have led to a single new lawsuit filed by a Trump accuser who argues that the president defamed her when he denied her allegations[.]”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump went after "Fake News" again:
From the House Intelligence Committee's top Democrat:
Trump also boasted of his administration's accomplishments:
From one of The Post's congressional reporters:
A senior writer at National Review called for Bill O'Reilly to be “Weinsteined”:
From a former Obama speechwriter:
Gretchen Carlson weighed in on the latest allegations against Bill O'Reilly:
Trump was photographed leaving his golf course:
Presidential historian Michael Beschloss marked this appropriate anniversary:
All former living presidents came together for a concert to fundraise for hurricane relief:
From performer Lady Gaga:
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) enjoyed fall activities with his grandchildren:
Eric Trump spent a Saturday with his newborn son:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- The New York Times, “A Presidential Bellwether Is Still Waiting to Start Winning Under Trump,” by Michael Tackett: “Nobody is tired of winning here. … Here in Vigo County, that disappointment carries extra weight — and perhaps a warning sign for the president. For more than a century, its voters have been almost unerring in choosing the winning presidential candidate, and last year they broke convincingly for Mr. Trump. But now, the president’s grip on voters here seems shaky. … Even as many voters here say they like Mr. Trump’s policies on tax cuts and reducing the size of government, the relentlessly combative approach that served him well during the campaign has become a source of deep discontent.”
-- Politico, “Graham and Trump become buds after campaign of insults,” by Burgess Everett and Josh Dawsey: “Graham is transforming himself from one of Trump’s fiercest critics to his chief congressional translator, talking to the president sometimes multiple times in a day. He insists Trump is ‘growing into the job’ and becoming more somber, a far different figure than who Graham once railed against as a long-shot presidential candidate. … How long this will last is anyone's guess: Graham is known as one of the more blunt-spoken senators, and it might just be a matter of time before he whacks the president and Trump hits back.”
HOT ON THE LEFT
“Cub Scout Is Exiled After Pressing Legislator on Guns and Race,” from the New York Times: “[Q]uestions from one Cub Scout, Ames Mayfield, 11, got him kicked out of his den in Broomfield, Colo., according to his mother, Lori Mayfield. At the meeting on Oct. 9, for which the scouts were told to prepare questions for State Senator Vicki Marble, Ms. Mayfield recorded her son asking the senator why she would not support ‘common-sense gun laws.’ ‘I was shocked that you co-sponsored a bill to allow domestic violence offenders to continue to own a gun,’ Ames said[.] … ‘Why on earth would you want somebody who beats their wife to have access to a gun?’ The event took place not long after the Las Vegas shooting.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“California Republicans go gaga for Trump,” from Politico: “[W]ith little else to cheer in this heavily Democratic state, the California Republican Party is falling hard for Donald Trump. … Bush and McCain both won more votes in California in their respective presidential campaigns than Trump did last year. And the most recent Republican presidential candidate to carry the state was Bush’s father, George H.W. Bush, in 1988. It was California’s own Ronald Reagan who popularized what he called the ‘Eleventh Commandment,’ which declared, ‘Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.’ But none of that seems to matter anymore. California GOP activists now celebrate a president who violates that commandment on a daily basis.”
Trump will have a working lunch with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore and later present the Medal of Honor.
Pence has a morning speech to commemorate the 1983 Beirut bombing of Marine barracks, and he will then join Trump for his working lunch and Medal of Honor presentation.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on “Meet the Press,” “I think that the Trump administration is slow when it comes to Russia. They have a blind spot on Russia I still can't figure out.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- We will see some more clouds in D.C. today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Cloud cover tends to increase as today wears on but, with the exception of our far western areas, we should hold off getting wet. Mild winds from the south, gusting up to around 20 mph, boost afternoon temperatures well into the 70s. Chance of showers in our far western areas reaches about 30 percent by 5 p.m.”
-- D.C. United played its final match at RFK Stadium, losing to the New York Red Bulls 2-1. (Steven Goff)
-- Former NAACP president Ben Jealous has 12 endorsements in the Democratic primary for Maryland’s gubernatorial race, putting him far ahead in the crowded race. (Ovetta Wiggins)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
The Post's Karen Attiah analyzed Democrats' new platform:
A Virginia middle-school football team was forced to forfeit after a racially insensitive video surfaced:
And Northern Michigan University is offering a degree in marijuana: