With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA: Now Jeff Flake can listen to his conscience, not his consultants.
The Trumpists feel triumphant and emboldened after the Arizona Republican senator announced that he will not seek reelection. Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon quickly claimed Flake’s scalp as his own. “Many more to come,” he texted a Washington Post reporter last night.
But a much better outcome for President Trump would have been if Flake ran and lost in the primary. Public and private polls showed that he was deeply vulnerable to a challenge from anyone aligned with the administration.
Flake was building up a serious campaign apparatus, and his advisers were telling him that he had to be cautious. If he had decided to take his chances, the senator’s critiques of Trump would have been very measured. If he subsequently lost in a primary, it would be much easier for the president’s allies to dismiss future attacks as sour grapes from a senator scorned.
-- Flake’s decision to retire means that he gets to leave the Senate on his own terms and apparently that entails going full “Bulworth.”
In an op-ed for The Post, Flake explains that he decided not to seek reelection in order “to remove all considerations of what is normally considered to be safe politically.”
“For the next 14 months, relieved of the strictures of politics, I will be guided only by the dictates of conscience,” he promises. “It’s time we all say: Enough.”
While some might sulk from the scene, Flake is flooding the zone. He was omnipresent and ubiquitous across media platforms last night and this morning, from CNN to NPR, warning in dire terms about the GOP’s retreat from Reagan-style conservatism.
“Here's the bottom line: The path that I would have to travel to get the Republican nomination is a path I'm not willing to take, and that I can't in good conscience take,” Flake acknowledged in an interview with the Arizona Republic. “It would require me to believe in positions I don't hold on such issues as trade and immigration, and it would require me to condone behavior that I cannot condone.”
-- As one of the most authentically conservative members of Congress, Flake has a level of moral authority rivaled by few others. He is the rightful ideological heir to Barry Goldwater, whose namesake institute Flake led before being elected to the House in 2000.
There is a very clear contrast between the president and the senator: Trump was a registered Democrat as recently as 2009. While he was defending partial-birth abortion, supporting an assault-weapons ban and filling Nancy Pelosi’s campaign coffers, Flake was proving his conservative bona fides by leading the charge to kill earmarks, voting against Medicare Part D despite arm-twisting from George W. Bush himself and speaking out against deficit spending by his own party. House GOP leaders even removed Flake from a choice slot on the House Judiciary Committee in 2007 as retaliation for his criticism.
This part of his background makes it hard for anyone to credibly argue that Flake speaking out against Trump is anything but principled.
-- Flake’s announcement packed an extra punch because it came just a few hours after Bob Corker — another senator who has decided not to seek reelection — eviscerated Trump on three network morning shows. “I don’t know why he lowers himself to such a low, low standard and debases our country in the way that he does, but he does,” the Tennessean said.
When Trump fired off a barrage of tweets, Corker replied with a zinger:
Same untruths from an utterly untruthful president. #AlertTheDaycareStaff— Senator Bob Corker (@SenBobCorker) October 24, 2017
A CNN reporter then tracked down the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the bowels of the Capitol. He happily teed off for three minutes. He called the president “the L-word” (as in untruthful), declared that he would not support him again, and expressed hope that the White House staff can “figure out ways of controlling him.”
-- Both these guys will have as big a megaphone as they want for as long as they want it. They will be the most sought-after guests on the Sunday shows and in prime time cable for the next year.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is battling brain cancer, belongs in the same category. He’s become more willing to explicitly decry Trump. In Philadelphia last week, the war hero condemned “people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.” He added that “half-baked, spurious nationalism” should be considered “as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.” In an interview, he alluded to Trump getting deferments to avoid serving in Vietnam.
-- The conventional wisdom is that Corker and Flake will both be replaced by intellectually pliable apparatchiks who will reliably support Trump. This is more likely than not.
But the changeover won’t happen for 14 months. Flake and Corker will be in office until January 2019. That’s an eternity in politics. It’s more than enough time to derail some of the more unconservative elements of the Trump agenda. Remember, Republicans only have a two-seat majority in the Senate.
Moreover, in this environment, it’s totally plausible that Democrats could pick up the open seats in both Arizona and Tennessee. If you add Nevada, and assume that Democratic incumbents up for reelection in states Trump carried find a way to survive (a big if), the GOP would lose the majority. If Republicans lose the Senate in 2018 — which was inconceivable just a few months ago — they will probably also lose the House. If Trump feels put upon now, he has no clue how miserable the second half of his term would be.
-- Some in the Washington chattering class are under the mistaken impression that — because they will never face voters again — Flake, Corker and McCain are not being that courageous by going public with their fears about Trump.
Here’s a quick thought experiment for these pundits: Can you imagine Chris Dodd, Evan Bayh and Byron Dorgan saying in 2009 that Barack Obama was debasing the country? Or Fred Thompson, Phil Gramm and Jesse Helms saying in 2001 that George W. Bush needed adult day care? Or George Mitchell, Sam Nunn and David Boren going on CNN in 1993 to call Bill Clinton a congenital liar?
Of course not. In fact, it’s inconceivable. As Flake said yesterday, this is not normal. None of it: not Trump’s behavior, nor the reaction to it.
That’s why the mainstream media cannot cover the back-and-forth like a remake of “Mean Girls.” It’s so much more than just another Trump Twitter feud. Objectively, this is an extraordinary moment in our nation’s history.
-- In a year of remarkable days, yesterday was one of the most remarkable. Whether it will be a pivot point remains unclear. Flake’s 18-minute speech on the Senate floor announcing his resignation will be talked about for a generation. (It’s worth your time to read the transcript.)
-- The million-dollar question now: Will Flake embolden more senators to speak out or will his experience scare them into silence? There are several GOP senators who feel the same way he does, but they won’t put their views on the record.
-- For now, Republican leaders on the Hill are downplaying the defections and reiterating that they believe cutting taxes is more important than the president’s fitness for office.
“There’s a lot of noise out there,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said at a news conference after Trump spoke at the Senate GOP lunch. “If there’s anything that unites Republicans, it’s tax reform. We’re going to concentrate on what our agenda is and not any of these other distractions [reporters] may be interested in.”
“All this stuff you see on a daily basis — Twitter this and Twitter that? Forget about it,” Speaker Paul Ryan said at his own news conference. “At the end of the day, I know Bob well. Bob is going to vote for … tax reform. … So put this Twitter dispute aside.”
HOW IT’S PLAYING—
Washington Post team coverage:
- Robert Costa, Philip Rucker and Sean Sullivan: “Tuesday’s thunderclap exposed the threadbare relationship Trump has with the GOP.”
- Paul Kane: “GOP senators’ struggle: Speak out against Trump, or achieve something for their silence.”
- David Weigel and Ed O’Keefe: “Democrats face risks and opportunity with Flake’s exit.”
- Callum Borchers: “In Trump’s White House, there is no right or wrong. There is only winning or losing.”
- Aaron Blake: “Jeff Flake’s big white flag in the face of Trumpism” and “Bob Corker sounds like he’s making a case for removing Trump from office.”
- Philip Bump: “The unfair criticism that Sen. Flake’s anti-Trumpism speech was too little, too late."
- Amber Phillips: “Flake’s retirement speech, annotated.”
From the opinion page:
- The Post’s Editorial Board: “Republicans who fancy themselves true conservatives … have to fashion an agenda and a political style that can compete successfully in primaries against Trumpism. Until they do, all the eloquence in the world will not be enough.”
- Jennifer Rubin: “Flake leaves the Trumpified GOP.”
- Michael Gerson: “How Trump broke conservatism.”
- Democratic operative Ron Klain: “He who must be named.”
- Republican lobbyist Ed Rogers: “Flake is making a selfish mistake.”
The mainstream media narrative:
- The Hill’s Reid Wilson: “The original Tea Partier exits, stage right.”
- The Associated Press’s Julie Pace: “Can the GOP survive the Trump presidency?”
- The New York Times’s Carl Hulse: “Another Republican Call to Arms, but Who Will Answer?”
- Politico’s Alex Isenstadt: “Trump purges enemies and reshapes party in his image. The president wins short-term victories with the retirements of Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, but the cost to the GOP agenda could be steep.”
- BBC: “Flake (is) a fallen soldier in war for soul of Republicanism.”
- Los Angeles Times: “In stunning rebuke of Trump, two GOP senators accuse him of undermining American values.”
- Bloomberg: “Flake’s Blistering Attack on Trump Is the Latest Crack in GOP Unity.”
- BuzzFeed: “Two Republicans Just Shattered Trump's Show Of Party Unity.”
- Smart Politics: “Flake Becomes 1st Arizona US Senator Not to Seek 2nd Term.”
- San Diego Union-Tribune: “Flake isn't alone. Here are 14 Republicans to say they won't seek re-election this cycle.”
On the right:
Bannon’s Breitbart News:
WINNING— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) October 24, 2017
- The Federalist’s Ben Domenech: “Flake Authenticates The Party Of Trump.”
- Arizona Republic columnist Robert Robb in USA Today: “I know Jeff Flake. Trump has shaken him to his core.”
- NYT columnist Ross Douthat: “Flake’s Defiant Surrender.”
- National Review Editor Rich Lowry: “Trump fixed Flake in his sights and basically chased him from the Senate. … I admire his candor, but I would think if you are a working politician like Flake, being a little more prudent and doing everything possible to stay in the Senate would be the better option.”
- Washington Examiner: “Trump's takeover of the Republican Party meets continued resistance.”
- Fox News’s Greg Gutfeld: “Flake Invoking 'Children & Grandchildren' in Speech Sounded Like Leftist Strategy.”
- Newsmax: “Brett Bozell: Good Riddance to 'Fake Conservative' Jeff Flake.”
- Drudge Report: “Schumer Praises: He Will Be Missed...”
- Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol: “It's too-clever-by-half to say Flake's exit may be for the best. It's bad: Flake took on Trump. Trump & Bannon took on Flake. Flake's gone.”
- Laura Ingraham: “There is no constituency for open borders, endless wars, and lopsided trade deals. [Flake should] spare us the next 14 [months].”
- Mike Huckabee (Sarah’s dad): “Note to Flake and Corker: Don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you!”
- Ann Coulter: “Sen. Jeff Flake becomes the 5th GOP senator whose career was ended by his vote for Marco Rubio's amnesty bill. Nine to go.”
On the left:
- Salon: “Flake’s exit is a win for Steve Bannon. GOP civil war has just claimed another victim.”
- The Intercept: “After day of feuding, Jeff Flake and Bob Corker join Trump to upend a major consumer protection.”
- Vice: “Flake's Wild Anti-Trump Tirade Was Also a Total Surrender.”
- Vox: “Flake can’t save America from the sidelines. By leaving the Senate to protest Trump’s agenda, Flake is making it easier for Trump to pass it.”
- The Daily Beast: “Great Speech, Jeff Flake: Now Do Something About Trump. If his seat is filled by a Bannon acolyte while the president stomps all over the republic, all the words in the world won’t mean a thing.”
- Vanity Fair: “Republicans ‘furious’ with Bob Corker … for endangering tax cuts. They privately agree Trump is nuts, but they’re willing to keep quiet to get a tax bill passed.”
- Houston Chronicle Editorial Board: “Trump poses a threat to our national ideals. Even fellow Republicans now warn about the president's reckless behavior.”
-- The late-night comedians joked about Flake’s departure in their opening monologues:
Seth Meyers: “All right! Jeff Flake! Way to eventually go! It took kinda-sorta guts to stand up only 11 months after the election and tell America not to elect Donald Trump. You said, ‘Hey, I don’t care if this hurts my 18 percent approval rating. … I’m going stand up and do what was right a year ago. I’m going to fight for the American people — by quitting my job of fighting for the American people.’”
Stephen Colbert: “First McCain, then Corker, now Flake. Why is it that Republicans only speak up against Donald Trump when they know they’re not running for reelection? They finally grow a set, and then they say, ‘I’m taking my balls and going home.’”
Jimmy Fallon: “[Flake] said that the GOP was headed in the wrong direction. Or, as Trump calls it, ‘Flake News.’”
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- SCOOP: The Clinton campaign and the DNC helped fund research that resulted in the infamous dossier alleging ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Adam Entous, Devlin Barrett and Rosalind S. Helderman report: “Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained [Fusion GPS] to conduct the research, [who then hired dossier author] Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer[.] . . . Elias and his law firm, Perkins Coie, retained the firm in April 2016 on behalf of the Clinton campaign and the DNC. The Clinton campaign and the DNC through the law firm continued to fund Fusion GPS’s research through the end of October 2016, days before Election Day.” Before that agreement, the firm’s research was funded by a still unknown Republican client during the GOP primary. When the Republican donor stopped funding the research, Elias agreed to pay for the work to continue.
“[It] is unclear how or how much of that information was shared with the campaign and DNC, and who in those organizations was aware of the roles of Fusion GPS and Steele. One person close to the matter said the campaign and the DNC weren’t informed of Fusion GPS’s role by the law firm.” People familiar with the matter told our colleagues it is “standard practice” for political campaigns to use law firms to hire outside researchers, and said that “at no point” did Clinton’s campaign or the DNC direct Steele’s activities.
The Clinton campaign's national press secretary reacted to the news:
I regret I didnt know about Christopher Steele's hiring pre-election. If I had, I would have volunteered to go to Europe and try to help him— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) October 25, 2017
Trump responded to the new this morning:
"Clinton campaign & DNC paid for research that led to the anti-Trump Fake News Dossier. The victim here is the President." @FoxNews— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 25, 2017
-- U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand Scott Brown acknowledged that he had been investigated for inappropriate comments he allegedly made during his first trip to Samoa. The Guardian’s Eleanor Ainge Roy reports: “Brown told New Zealand media on Wednesday he wanted to address ‘innuendo and rumour’ about his visit to Samoa in July to celebrate 50 years of the peace corps in the country. Brown — speaking with his wife, Gail Huff, by his side — confirmed he was the subject of an official administration inquiry by the US state department, which sent investigators to Wellington to look into what took place on the trip. Brown said the official complaints related to comments he had made at a party in the Samoan capital, Apia, where he told attendees they looked ‘beautiful’ and could make hundreds of dollars working in the hospitality industry in the US. Brown and Huff said they had ‘no idea’ the comments would be regarded as offensive.”
-- Wall Street celebrated after Vice President Pence cast the tiebreaking vote in the Senate to block regulations allowing consumers to sue their banks. Renae Merle reports: “The rules would have cost the industry billions of dollars, according to some estimates. … At issue is the fine print in many of the agreements that consumers sign when they apply for credit cards or bank accounts. These agreements typically require them to settle any disputes they have with the company through arbitration, in which a third party rules on the matter, rather than going to court or joining a class-action lawsuit. The [Consumer Financial Protection Bureau] rule would block mandatory arbitration clauses in some cases, potentially allowing millions of Americans to file or join a lawsuit to press their complaints. After more than four hours of debate, the Senate voted 51 to 50 to block its implementation.”
-- Chinese President Xi Jinping was granted five more years in power and there is no obvious successor in his senior leadership team. Simon Denyer reports: “Xi introduced the six other all-male members of the Politburo Standing Committee to the media, breaking with recent convention by not including a potential heir in the lineup. That appears to raise the chances that Xi could stay on in power beyond 2022.” The news follows the announcement that Xi’s name would be enshrined in the Chinese Communist Party’s constitution: “That means that Xi is likely to wield ultimate authority in the party as long as he is alive, experts say, and makes any challenge to that authority tantamount to an attack on the party itself.”
-- The Dodgers beat the Astros 3-1 in the hottest World Series game in history, with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees. Dave Sheinin reports: “With [Clayton] Kershaw pitching brilliantly over seven overpowering innings and third baseman Justin Turner delivering the go-ahead runs with a two-run homer in the sixth, the Dodgers beat the Astros, 3-1[.] … Game 2 is Wednesday, with Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill facing Astros ace Justin Verlander, and with temperatures expected once again to approach or climb into triple digits.”
GET SMART FAST:
- A federal appeals court in Washington ruled that a detained immigrant teen is entitled to receive an abortion “without delay,” reversing a decision last week from a three-judge panel that would have postponed the 17-year-old’s procedure. “Today’s decision rights a grave constitutional wrong by the government,” the judge wrote on Tuesday. It is unclear whether the Trump administration will appeal the decision. (Ann E. Marimow and Maria Sacchetti)
- Two top aides to Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) were indicted in connection to the investigation of $90,000 the congressman paid a primary challenger to drop out of the contest in 2012. (Philadelphia Inquirer)
- A federal judge upheld 22 of the 24 corruption charges against former congressman Aaron Schock (R-Ill.). But Schock’s defense team praised the judge’s decision to throw out two of the charges based on “separation of powers” concerns. (Politico)
- The judge deciding the fate of former Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl is slated to hear today from troops who say they were seriously injured by Bergdahl's disappearance. Bergdahl faces up to life in prison on charges of desertion and misbehavior in front of the enemy. (Alex Horton)
- The SEC for years ignored warnings that it needed to increase security before a massive data breach in 2016 — with the GAO saying as early as 2008 that the agency's failure to encrypt information made it easier for hackers to access sensitive information. (Renae Merle)
Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell was denied service at a restaurant for kneeling during the national anthem. Maxwell was home in Alabama when a waiter recognized him and refused to serve him. (Jacob Bogage)
- Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has reportedly landed a $1 million book deal with Random House. He inspired a wave of NFL protests during the national anthem. (Des Bieler)
- A new poll found that more than half of white Americans believe that discrimination against white people exists. But a much smaller percentage reported actually having experienced that discrimination. (NPR)
- A Maryland retirement community is under fire for selling houses only to Muslims. The development has sparked complaints from a spate of elected officials and nearby residents, who have accused the community of violating fair-housing laws. (Justin Wm. Moyer)
Italian soccer’s governing body ruled that a passage from “The Diary of Anne Frank” be read aloud before each game this week. The decision follows an anti-Semitic incident in which a small group of one team's fans used Frank’s image to troll an opposing team. (Matt Bonesteel and Marissa Payne)
Reince Priebus is rejoining his former law firm in Wisconsin. He has also signed with the Washington Speakers Bureau. (Politico)
- Albert Einstein’s “theory of happiness” was auctioned off in Jerusalem for a whopping $1.3 million. The handwritten note with the scientist's thoughts — which was scribbled to a bellboy in Tokyo after Einstein did not have cash to give him a proper tip — reads, “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.” (AP)
THE GOP AGENDA:
-- Trump went to Capitol Hill for a rare lunch with Senate Republicans in the aftermath of the spat with Corker yesterday morning. The lunch was supposed to focus on advancing the GOP's tax and health-care agenda — but according to participants Trump focused on touting his accomplishments. “'It wasn’t a whole lot about taxes,'” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), the second-ranking Republican. “'It was about the record in the last nine months and the successes in terms of the regulatory environment, consumer confidence, the stock market, and also the need to get the work done.'” (Sean Sullivan and Elise Viebeck)
-- So it may not be surprising that the White House and GOP leaders were scrambling to prevent defections on a key piece of their tax plan. Damian Paletta and Mike DeBonis report: “The clash centers around an expected provision in the GOP’s tax-cut plan that would prohibit people from deducting the state and local taxes they pay from their federal taxable income. Taxpayers are currently allowed to deduct these taxes in a way that lowers their taxable income, but GOP leaders want to prohibit the practice going forward[.] … This would have a disproportionately negative impact on taxpayers in states like New York, New Jersey, Illinois and other states where taxes are high and taxpayers can save large amounts of money from the deduction. The Republican margin-for-error on the budget resolution is razor thin[.] . . . An initial version of the budget resolution passed earlier this month by a vote of 219 to 207, as 218 votes are needed to ensure passage.”
-- The elimination of the state and local tax deduction could prove costly to some of the constituents of Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Bloomberg’s John McCormick and Joe Light report: “[E]nclaves of upper-middle income homeowners like [Wisconsin's] Geneva Lake are the Achilles heel of the GOP tax plan, said Moody’s Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi. While low-income and high-income households are likely to get a tax break from the GOP plan, upper-middle-income professionals could come out as losers, he said. For Ryan, who carried surrounding Walworth County in 2016 with 69 percent of the vote and has represented the district since 1998, the push to eliminate the deduction is already testing longstanding friendships.”
-- Their long-standing crusade against deficits notwithstanding, House conservatives are largely expected to support adding $1.5 trillion to the debt through the budget agreement setting up the tax rewrite. Mike DeBonis reports: “GOP hard-liners have frequently been willing to oppose must-pass legislation to achieve conservative policy goals, threatening government shutdowns and federal default as leverage. But numerous House conservatives said in interviews this week that this time is different: Republicans are under enormous pressure to pass a tax bill, given the party’s failure to take legislative action on health care, and they do not want to be seen as standing in the way.” The House is expecting to vote on the budget tomorrow.
-- At lunch, Trump instructed Senate Republicans to focus on taxes, delaying a push for bipartisan health-care legislation. Politico’s Jennifer Haberkorn and Adam Cancryn report: Trump “gave no direction on what he wants to see in a health care bill. He praised Sen. Lamar Alexander's (R-Tenn.) work on a bipartisan deal meant to stabilize the Obamacare markets, but his emphasis on taxes led senators in the room to believe Trump doesn't want a stand-alone Obamacare vote anytime soon. … The lack of clarity left Senate Republicans with enough wiggle room to interpret Trump’s Obamacare comments as they see politically fit.”
-- Ryan told a group of House conservatives that a DACA replacement would be in the year-end spending bill. HuffPost’s Matt Fuller and Elise Foley report: “Asked if he envisioned a December omnibus spending bill including Cost Sharing Reductions for Obamacare or some sort of solution for the [DACA] program, Ryan told leaders of the Republican Study Committee that he didn’t believe CSR payments would be part of the deal with Democrats, but that DACA would. … There is some risk in taking Ryan’s comments too seriously. What he means by DACA could differ greatly from what Democrats want or believe is an acceptable solution. Ryan could also find significant opposition from his conference ― or from the White House ― and be forced to revise his negotiating strategy.”
-- Under the radar: The Senate Intelligence Committee unanimously approved an amendment requiring court approval before federal officials can use information about Americans collected under Section 702 of FISA, a powerful tool that is slated to expire at the end of the year. Karoun Demirjian and Ellen Nakashima report: The amendment proposed by Sen. Mark Warrner (D-Va.) “specifies that if an FBI query turns up information on U.S. persons that it wants to use, it has one business day to submit a request to the [FISA court], which then has two business days to rule on the legality of the request. If the secret court rules against the request, investigators must toss out the information and are barred from using any other evidence they collected on the basis of that query.”
-- Congress approved $36.5 billion in emergency funds for ongoing hurricane and wildfire relief efforts. Ed O’Keefe reports: “The spending deal includes $18.7 billion for [FEMA’s] response to natural disasters stretching from the storm-scarred beaches of Puerto Rico to the scorched vineyards of Northern California. There’s also a $16 billion increase in the National Flood Insurance Program’s borrowing limit; $576.5 million to address wildfires in the West; and $1.2 billion for nutrition assistance programs that will provide low-income Puerto Rican residents relief[.]”
-- Trump asked Senate Republicans on Tuesday for a “show of hands” in support of potential Fed nominees. Tory Newmyer: “The show-of-hands survey, which Trump asked for during a closed-door lunch meeting Tuesday at the Capitol, pitted Federal Reserve governor Jerome Powell against Stanford University economist John Taylor, participants said. The president also asked about Janet L. Yellen, the current Fed chair, whose four-year term ends in February.”
- Bloomberg’s Terrence Dopp, Steven T. Dennis, and Laura Litvan with more: Trump ‘didn’t announce a winner, but I think Taylor won,’ [Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.)] said.
- Corker didn't vote: “I don’t think that’s a very good way to pick a Fed chair so I declined to participate.”
THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort is facing a new probe into possible money laundering. The Wall Street Journal’s Erica Orden and Nicole Hong report: “The investigation by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York is being conducted in collaboration with a probe by [Robert Mueller] into Mr. Manafort and possible money laundering[.] … The continuing Manhattan U.S. attorney’s probe … is unfolding at the same time the Brooklyn U.S. attorney’s office pursues an inquiry involving Kushner Cos., owned by the family of [Jared Kushner]. Mr. Trump has interviewed and is poised to nominate candidates to lead the prosecutorial offices in both Manhattan and Brooklyn. The probes could complicate the confirmation process, especially because Mr. Trump is considering individuals with ties to his personal lawyer and to a political ally.”
-- House Republicans announced two new investigations into Barack Obama’s Justice Department: one into a uranium deal reached with Russia and another into its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Karoun Demirjian reports: “The parallel investigations — both of which involve the House Oversight Committee working in cooperation with another panel — formally revive issues that the Trump campaign used to try to discredit his Democratic rival during the 2016 presidential race and later the conduct of then-FBI Director James B. Comey. Democrats were quick to charge that the GOP-led probes were ‘designed to distract attention’ from the various investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election[.]”
-- Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen met with members of the House Intelligence Committee for nearly six hours Tuesday as part of their ongoing Russia probe. The closed-door session was described by a Democrat on the panel as “contentious” and came just hours before Cohen was scheduled to meet with members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Karoun Demirjian reports: “The [House] committee also met for several hours with Trump’s former campaign digital director, Brad Parscale, who said … earlier this month that Trump won the election through use of Facebook advertising. That meeting comes just one week before House and Senate investigators are expected to speak with Facebook, Twitter and Google executives, in back-to-back public hearings on Nov. 1 to investigate how Russia used social media to try to influence the election.”
One member of the panel, Rep. Thomas J. Rooney (R-Fla.), said “there will be some overlap” between the subjects in Tuesday’s interview with Parscale and next week’s open hearing but did not detail what that would be.
-- Twitter announced Tuesday that it will now label its political ads — including who bought them and how much they are spending — as part of a bid to ramp up transparency. CNBC’s Michelle Castillo reports: “Twitter said in a blog post on Tuesday it would clearly label political electioneering ads, which the [FEC] defines as an ad used to promote a specific candidate for elected office or affiliated party posted within 30 days of a primary election or 60 days of a general election. … The ads will have some sort of visual marker, likely a purple dot next to the user handle, and a purple box with the text ‘Promoted by’ and the name of the sponsor. In addition, the company will limit which criteria can be used to target people, and will introduce a ‘stronger’ penalty on those who do not abide by the new rules. The company did not say what the tougher standards or penalties will be.”
-- The U.S. lifted travel restrictions on British businessman and outspoken Kremlin critic Bill Browder, who was temporarily blocked from entering the country after Russia placed him on an Interpol list. Carol Morello writes: “The Kremlin apparently was retaliating for Browder’s long-running international campaign against Russia and Putin over the killing of Browder’s Moscow tax attorney [Sergei Magnitsky] . . . This marks the fifth time since Browder has started tangling with Putin that Russia has asked Interpol to pick him up for ‘illegal activity.’ Browder said in a phone interview that on Monday evening, he was able to buy a plane ticket and get a boarding pass for a flight from London to the United States without being turned away, as he was last week.”
-- The ability of Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) to use congressional funds for foreign trips has been curtailed by GOP leadership over fears that he is too close to Russia. The Daily Beast’s Nico Hines and Sam Stein report: “Rohrabacher has drawn scrutiny for his long-standing links with Moscow, his closeness to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and his recent willingness to allow his subcommittee to be used for Kremlin propaganda purposes. In response, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs has placed heightened restrictions on the trips abroad that he can take with committee money as well as the hearings he can hold through the subcommittee on Europe that he chairs.”
-- Russia vetoed a U.N. resolution to continue investigating Syria’s chemical weapon attacks. Louisa Loveluck reports: “Moscow’s veto decision was condemned by the United States, Britain and others as an attempt to shield the perpetrators from answering for the most controversial human rights abuses of Syria’s six-year-old war. Western intelligence officials and U.N. investigators have blamed the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for the attacks. It was the ninth time Russia has used its veto to hinder international action on Syria.”
-- Capitol Police arrested a protester who threw small Russian flags at Trump during his visit to the Hill. Peter Hermann reports: “Ryan T. Clayton, 36, of Sterling, Va., was charged with unlawful conduct. … A video shows several flags flying through the air as Trump walked down a hallway with [Mitch McConnell.] The flags fluttered in front of Trump but did not appear to hit him. … The man identified by police as Clayton, dressed in a suit and tie, is heard repeatedly shouting ‘Trump is treason.’ As police officers detained him, he shouted his name and affiliation with a group called Americans Take Action, which bills itself as a populist organization.” The incident remains under investigation.
THE NEW WORLD ORDER:
-- Trump signed an executive order Tuesday to restart the refugee resettlement program under a new, stricter screening process. But officials said applicants from 11 unidentified countries will be subject to yet another 90-day review. The New York Times’s Peter Baker and Adam Liptak report: “Administration officials were vague about the additional 90-day review of the 11 countries, refusing even to name them . . . They said refugees from those countries could still be admitted on a case-by-case basis during the 90 days if their entry is deemed in the national interest, and they do not pose a threat to the security or welfare of the United States.”
-- The American soldiers who died in Niger were reportedly collecting intelligence on a terrorist leader in the region before being ambushed. CNN’s Jim Sciutto, Ryan Browne and Zachary Cohen report: “The 12-member team was conducting a routine patrol alongside 30 Nigerien soldiers when they were asked to check on a site where a high-value target was believed to have been previously, one official said. The official emphasized that the terrorist leader was known to no longer be at the location, something the US military continues to believe, and the team was tasked only with collecting possible intelligence. … On their way back to their operating base, they stopped in a separate village in order to enable the Nigerien troops to replenish supplies. … The official said that it is ‘quite probable’ that someone in the village tipped off the ISIS-affiliated terrorists that US forces were in the village, setting up the ambush.”
-- The administration doesn't plan to change the U.S. military footprint in Niger following the troops’ deaths. Karen DeYoung reports: “At the same time, officials this week expressed consternation over claims, sparked by the deaths, that Congress has been kept in the dark over how many American troops are in West Africa and what they are doing there. … The U.S. mission, [one] official noted, began years ago under President Barack Obama, has continued under President Trump, and has been repeatedly expanded and briefed on to Congress by both administrations.”
-- Diplomats and lawmakers fear that communications between the United States and North Korea have broken down over Trump’s harsh rhetoric. NBC News’s Leigh Ann Caldwell and Vivian Salama report: “Joseph Yun, a top American diplomat to North Korea, has been warning of the breakdown in meetings on Capitol Hill and seeking help to persuade the administration to prioritize diplomacy over the heated rhetoric that appears to be pushing the two nuclear powers closer toward conflict[.] … Officials throughout government worry that a lack of diplomacy increases the risks of military action in the region."
-- Trump is planning to miss a key Asia summit in the Philippines next month so he can return home earlier from his trip to the region. Josh Rogin reports: “[Trump] will be in Manila Nov. 12 and 13[.] … But Trump will not travel the additional 52 miles to the Philippine city of Angeles on Nov. 14 for the East Asia Summit, an annual conference of Asian and world leaders that focuses on the strategic future of the region. … Multiple administration officials told me there was a lengthy debate inside the Trump administration about the summit, but officials close to Trump were concerned the president did not want to stay in the region for so long and worried he could get cranky, leading to unpredictable or undiplomatic behavior.”
MORE MEN BEHAVING BADLY:
-- Harvey Weinstein has been accused of sexual assault by two more women, and his former company now faces a civil lawsuit over his alleged abuse. LA Times’s Ryan Faughnder and Stephen Battaglio report: “Mimi Haleyi, a production assistant on a Weinstein Co. TV show, said Tuesday she was sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein in 2006 in New York. On the same day, actress Dominique Huett said Weinstein sexually abused her in 2010 in Beverly Hills and she sued his company for negligence, marking the first civil suit over the former co-chairman’s alleged abuses since the scandal came to light. … The latest allegations against Weinstein come as the disgraced producer’s company is fighting for its life.”
-- Bill O’Reilly’s longtime talent agency has dropped him after news surfaced that he paid $32 million to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit. The Hollywood Reporter’s Marisa Guthrie and Jeremy Barr write: “The agency on Monday evening informed the former Fox News host that it would no longer be representing him when his agreement with the company expires at the end of the year. … ‘Bill has already lined up new representation,’ O'Reilly's representative, Mark Fabiani, said[.] … But UTA's move was not unexpected . . . UTA came under pressure from many of its liberal Hollywood clients to dump O'Reilly last spring when it was revealed that he had settled harassment claims after the sex harassment scandal engulfing former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes.”
-- Leon Wieseltier, a former editor at the New Republic, lost backing for a new project after he acknowledged “offenses against some of my colleagues in the past.” The New York Times’s Jennifer Schuessler reports: “[S]everal women accused him of sexual harassment and inappropriate advances. As those allegations came to light, Laurene Powell Jobs [who was] backing Mr. Wieseltier’s [new magazine], decided to pull the plug on it. … Over the past week, a group of women who once worked at The New Republic had been exchanging emails about their own accounts of Mr. Wieseltier’s behavior in and out of the magazine’s office in Washington[.] … Several women on the chain said they were humiliated when Mr. Wieseltier sloppily kissed them on the mouth, sometimes in front of other staff members.”
-- A USA Today investigation found that military investigators have discovered 500 cases of serious misconduct among generals, admirals and senior civilians: “Many cases involve sex scandals, including a promiscuous Army general who led a swinging lifestyle, another who lived rent-free in the home of a defense contractor after his affair fell apart and another who is under investigation for sending steamy Facebook messages to the wife of an enlisted soldier on his post. Yet despite the widespread abuses, the Pentagon does no trend analysis to determine whether the problem is worsening, nor does it regularly announce punishments for generals and admirals — all public figures[.]”
-- Allegations of sexual harassment are piling up at statehouses across the country. AP’s Sophia Tareen reports: “Illinois became the latest to join the chorus, as signatures piled up Tuesday on an open letter describing harassment and intimidation for women trying to negotiate legislation and work on campaigns. … Lawmakers in Oregon and Rhode Island have spoken up to accuse male colleagues of inappropriate touching or suggesting that sexual favors be a condition for advancing bills. … Most states have formal written policies for legislative employees on sexual harassment[.] … But the rules are less clear for others who work at state capitols, including lobbyists and consultants.”
-- Fashion photographer Terry Richardson was barred from working with media group Condé Nast International due to sexual harassment claims. The Daily Telegraph’s Ben Riley-Smith and Nick Allen report: “Staff were told that any work already commissioned from Mr Richardson but not yet published should be ‘killed or substituted with other material’. … Mr Richardson, whose photographs often grace the covers of fashion magazines and are known in the industry for being sexually explicit, has been dogged for years by allegations of sexual exploitation of models, something he has always denied.”
ELECTION DAY 2017 COMING:
-- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R) will campaign for Ed Gillespie (R) in Virginia’s gubernatorial race over the next week. Fenit Nirappil reports: “Two of the Republican Party’s highest-profile Latinos are stumping for [Gillespie] at a time when the Republican is fending off criticism from Latino and immigrant groups, who blast his ads about MS-13 gang violence as fearmongering and racist. … On Tuesday, Latino groups announced they would air Spanish language radio ads in Virginia urging voters to support the Democratic ticket.”
-- Gillespie and Ralph Northam (D) have focused on Virginia’s economy in their campaign pitches, even as the state boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. Gregory S. Schneider reports: “The truth is that the top-line numbers for Virginia don’t paint the full picture. A state that had seemed immune to typical cycles of boom and bust has been vulnerable since the financial crisis of nearly a decade ago. Government work, long the prop for Virginia’s economy, is no longer reliable in an era of shaky congressional budget deals, sequestration and slimmer defense spending. Even worse, the demise of legacy industries — coal mining, tobacco, textiles, furniture-making — has left regions of the state facing a generations-long challenge to rebuild.”
-- Greg has a profile of Northam on today’s front page: “An Army veteran from an old family on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, [Northam] built a successful medical practice in Norfolk and was a prominent community volunteer before entering politics a decade ago. Local Democrats realized Northam had just the right qualities to challenge a vulnerable Republican state senator in 2007, launching him on an unlikely new career. He rose rapidly from state Senate to lieutenant governor and now the top of the ticket, aided by good timing, powerful mentors and a glittering résumé. But he is playing on a different level now, in a world of career politicians and a time of vicious partisanship. It’s unclear how his quiet bedside manner, his warbly waterman’s accent or his reputation for bipartisanship will translate in the era of President Trump. His supporters hope an exhausted electorate will welcome that more soothing tone.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump fired back at Flake and Corker on Twitter:
The reason Flake and Corker dropped out of the Senate race is very simple, they had zero chance of being elected. Now act so hurt & wounded!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 25, 2017
The meeting with Republican Senators yesterday, outside of Flake and Corker, was a love fest with standing ovations and great ideas for USA!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 25, 2017
Jeff Flake admired the Capitol in the wake of his announcement:
From Flake's communications director:
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) began the standing ovation after Flake's speech on the Senate floor:
When Flake concluded, Sen. Sasse started clapping loudly, prompting colleagues in both parties to stand and applaud.— Ed O'Keefe (@edatpost) October 24, 2017
Lawfare's managing editor responded to the disappointment of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) that Flake was leaving:
Perhaps he would have stayed if he had more courageous and steadfast allies, willing to speak the truth, among his colleagues, Senator. https://t.co/YvnQT7Fudc— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) October 25, 2017
The Federalist's publisher saw an upside to Flake's departure:
Flake went from rabble rouser in House to centrist nice guy in Senate. Departure absolutely increases the chances GOP holds seat next year.— Ben Domenech (@bdomenech) October 24, 2017
This meme of Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who is running for Flake's seat, made the rounds on Twitter:
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema right now pic.twitter.com/VLmdFkMPjs— Jose A. DelReal (@jdelreal) October 24, 2017
As most outlets focused on Flake's retirment, Fox News went in another direction:
CNN, Drudge, MSNBC and FOXNEWS homepages right now... pic.twitter.com/PHemDIOAHC— Jorge Ribas (@jribas) October 24, 2017
MSNBC's Chris Hayes added this:
Fox programming is now basically 24/7 about Hillary Clinton and Uranium. It's legit amazing.— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) October 24, 2017
Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum responded to Hayes's observation:
Especially since the only way to make the story interesting is to omit all the relevant facts https://t.co/H0QN20fPYp— David Frum (@davidfrum) October 24, 2017
Hillary Clinton's former spokesperson commented on the new House investigation into Clinton:
Never before has a political party been so sad that it won the White House and so desperate for the other party to be President https://t.co/ZZqz34NlvL— Jesse Ferguson (@JesseFFerguson) October 24, 2017
The RNC engaged in some selective editing of the story that the Clinton campaign was involved with the production of the Trump dossier:
The RNC just sent around the Post’s Fusion GPS story with this very critical line removed. pic.twitter.com/vC2NXW7om4— Byron Tau (@ByronTau) October 25, 2017
A Daily Beast reporter clarified Trump's assertion that Bob Corker “couldn't get elected dogcatcher in Tennessee":
Actually, under the Tennessee Constitution, the state dog catcher is appointed by the governor, not directly elected https://t.co/uk3oEKm0G9— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) October 24, 2017
But Corker didn't seem to mind the dogcatcher reference:
Reporter: Any chance you and Flake might be on a 2020 ticket together?— Ashley Killough (@KilloughCNN) October 24, 2017
Corker: "Oh the dog catcher! (Laughs) You know, I do like dogs."
The Post's Eugene Scott pointed out the irony of Trump's Corker broadside:
The president takes to Twitter to mock a GOP Senator's height less than 24 hrs after his wife talked to school children about cyberbullying https://t.co/yBnue4K2V1— Eugene Scott (@Eugene_Scott) October 24, 2017
The Post's Aaron Blake was skeptical of Paul Ryan's take on the Trump-Corker feud:
Paul Ryan dismissing Corker-Trump as "Twitter feud" is disingenuous or fanciful.— Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) October 24, 2017
Corker is hitting Trump on stuff North Korea can see/hear.
Trump's presence on Capitol Hill created a bit of a scene:
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) was ready for the show/lunch:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) ignored a question about the lunch:
Asked how the lunch with Trump went down, McCain snaps “I’m not going to talk about it.” 😶— Malice Ollstein (@AliceOllstein) October 24, 2017
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) paid homage to a late senator from his home state:
The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. visited with South Sudanese refugees:
The pain in the stories of refugees from S.Sudan is a reminder we can't look away. We can't let armed conflict be their only choice. pic.twitter.com/YpsInLd0ft— Nikki Haley (@nikkihaley) October 25, 2017
A former congressman noted how much can change in a year:
NYT headline one year ago today: "Victory in Sight, Clinton Presses Beyond Trump." pic.twitter.com/keksdyzmk0— Jason Altmire (@jasonaltmire) October 24, 2017
And Reuters captured this shot:
-- Krissah Thompson profiled Laura Ingraham as the conservative pundit prepares to jump from her radio program to her own Fox News prime-time show: “Even as she’s climbed the ranks in Washington, Ingraham has maintained her connection with loyal listeners, who, like her, want to stick it to the establishment. She is a member of the East Coast media elite but says she wants to speak for the ‘heartland.’ In that way, she’s similar to President Trump — a billionaire born into wealth who has positioned himself as champion of the working man. Like Trump, who lived in a gilded Manhattan tower before the White House, Ingraham sees no irony in enjoying the trappings of D.C. success while flouting the conventions of ‘political correctness.’”
-- The Wall Street Journal, “In the Ash of the California Wildfires, Hopefuls Sift for Memories,” by Parker Eshelman and Taylor Umlauf: “The fires that swept through this and other Northern California neighborhoods are gone, leaving behind a trail of ashes, charred structures and memories. Here are the stories of what some residents found amid the destruction.”
-- CNN, “This is the new 'giant sucking sound' you hear. It's changing the economy and disrupting politics,” by Ronald Brownstein: “[N]ew data show that per capita incomes, education levels and the young adult share of the population are rising rapidly in downtown urban centers that were left for dead 30 and 40 years ago. Simultaneously … incomes, education levels and the age structure is failing to keep pace, or even deteriorating, in the small town and exurban communities at the metropolitan area's periphery. This widening geographic separation between town and country … helps explain President Donald Trump's overwhelming support in the smaller, mostly white communities that largely feel excluded from the economic recovery since 2009.”
-- The Daily Beast, “Cindy Sheehan: ‘Bush Was No Better’ Than Donald Trump,” by Matt Lewis: “In 2004, Sheehan’s son, Casey Sheehan, was killed by enemy action during the Iraq War. And the following year, the grieving mother camped out near President George W. Bush’s Texas ranch in order to try to force a meeting with the president. Sheehan spent over a month there, drawing the attention of the national press corps, and becoming arguably the most important anti-war activist of that era. … More than a few outlets have favorably contrasted [Bush’s response to Sheehan] with Trump’s own interactions with Gold Star families, including his most recent. But in an email interview with The Daily Beast, Sheehan insists that ‘Bush was no better.’”
HOT ON THE LEFT:
“America’s big issue is ‘black Africans’ killing each other, Sebastian Gorka says,” from Philip Bump: “‘Our big issue is black African gun crime against black Africans,’ he said. ‘It is a tragedy. Go to Chicago. Go to the cities run by Democrats for 40 years. Black young men are murdering each other by the bushel. This is a social issue. Allow the police to do their jobs and rebuild those societies. Legislation will not save lives.’ Panelist and former Maryland state delegate Jolene Ivey challenged him on that point, noting that a key reason that most black people who are murdered are murdered by black people is that, as with white murder victims who are murdered by whites, they’re more likely to spend time with people who share their racial identity.”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“Kid Rock: Of course I'm not running for Senate,” from Detroit Free Press: “Mocking people who took the idea seriously, Kid Rock said Tuesday he's not running for U.S. Senate. ‘F--- no, I’m not running for Senate. Are you kidding me?’ Rock said on Howard Stern's SiriusXM show. ‘Who couldn’t figure that out? I’m releasing a new album. I’m going on tour too. Are you f---ing sh--ing me?’ Rock's new album, ‘Sweet Southern Sugar,’ will be released Nov. 3, Stern said at the start of a wide-ranging interview that tackled Rock's wealth, his distaste for the music business and his 2018 tour plans.”
Trump is in Dallas today — where he will receive a briefing on the state’s hurricane recovery, meet with RNC supporters and deliver remarks at a campaign “victory reception.”
Pence will travel to Oakton, Va., to campaign for Ed Gillespie and later give a speech at a dinner for the nonprofit In Defense of Christians.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) gave this assessment of Senate Republicans’ lunch with Trump: “A very positive meeting. Nobody called anybody an ignorant slut or anything.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- D.C. will see cooler temperatures today. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “We’re off to a cool start as morning readings rise into and through the 50s. By afternoon we’re on our way toward highs right around or just below average, in the low-to-mid-60s with partly sunny skies and light winds.”
-- Virginia Republicans are accusing their Democratic counterparts of racial insensitivity after a campaign mailer listed a Latina House candidate as one of Halloween’s “scariest threats.” Fenit Nirappil reports: “The mailer, funded by the Democratic Party of Virginia, features a black-and-white photo of Republican Lolita Mancheno-Smoak next to a werewolf and hockey mask under the text, ‘This Halloween season, protect your family from the scariest threats.’ The back of the mailer highlights Smoak’s opposition to abortion rights and expanding Medicaid.”
-- The Fairfax County School Board is expected to vote Thursday on whether to rename J.E.B. Stuart High. The school, currently named after a major Confederate general, could be renamed Justice High if the board approves the change. (Debbie Truong)
-- Maryland’s spike in opioid deaths came almost entirely from fentanyl-related fatalities. Deaths tied to heroin and prescription opioids appear to have leveled off after years of increases. (Mary Hui)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Trevor Noah went after Bill O'Reilly following the latest revelations of his sexual harassment settlements:
The Post's Glenn Kessler fact-checked whether Trump has done more than Obama to fight ISIS:
The White House press secretary addressed her relationship with reporters at a George Washington University event:
Ralph Northam, Virginia's Democratic gubernatorial candidate, drew upon his rural roots in a new campaign video:
The Iditarod is facing a doping scandal:
And thousands participated in the "Zombie Bike Ride" in Key West, Fla.: