The president allowed the National Archives to publish about 2,800 records that the agencies did not object to making public. But about 300 additional records — the ones historians were most interested in seeing — will stay secret for now.
Federal agencies have known since 1992 that the midnight deadline was coming up. It was created by Congress, in a law signed by George H.W. Bush, after Oliver Stone’s “JFK” movie in 1991 suggested a broad conspiracy to kill the president that included the CIA, the FBI and the military.
But they were sending requests to the White House to withhold documents as late as midday yesterday. Trump acquiesced under the pressure.
Even as he holds back some of the juiciest stuff, the president wants credit from his base for releasing the documents. “I am ordering today that the veil finally be lifted,” Trump said in a statement. “At the same time, executive departments and agencies have proposed to me that certain information should continue to be redacted because of national security, law enforcement, and foreign affairs concerns. I have no choice — today — but to accept those redactions rather than allow potentially irreversible harm to our nation’s security.”
Trump is probably the most conspiracy-minded president in U.S. history. At the very least, he is the most likely to buy into far-fetched conspiracy theories since Richard Nixon. He catapulted to stardom on the right by falsely claiming that Barack Obama is from Kenya — not Hawaii. He’s wrongly claimed that his predecessor didn’t attend Columbia University. He insisted that Obama personally bribed New York’s attorney general to investigate Trump University. He accused Obama of “bugging” Trump Tower after taking office.
He said there’s something “very fishy” about Vince Foster’s suicide. He suggested that Antonin Scalia may have been a victim of foul play after the Supreme Court justice died in his sleep. He said the IRS audits him because he’s a Christian. He’s peddled the dangerous falsehood that vaccines are connected to autism. He has never backed off his assertion that he watched TV footage of thousands of Muslims celebrating in New Jersey on 9/11 after the collapse of the World Trade Center.
He suggested before the final primaries in 2016 that Ted Cruz’s Cuban-born father, Rafael, was somehow involved in the Kennedy assassination and knew Lee Harvey Oswald. After the Texas senator refused to endorse him at the Republican National Convention, he revived the silly claim again last summer.
Against that backdrop, no one can deny that the president’s impulse is to get all these files out. His longtime adviser and friend Roger Stone wrote a book alleging that Lyndon Johnson had Kennedy killed, and he’s been lobbying the president to open all the files.
Trump has already shown that he wants to make public anything that might back up his conspiracy theories or reflect poorly on what his supporters derisively call “the deep state.” Remember, after losing the popular vote last November by 2.9 million votes, the president began insisting that 3 million to 5 million undocumented immigrants voted illegally. When every expert called that claim preposterous, Trump didn’t back down. Instead, he created a taxpayer-funded commission to look into it.
But the president was reminded again yesterday that it’s really hard to tell national security officials “no” when they’re warning you of potential dangers to the country and its intelligence apparatus if certain information goes out.
For example, CIA officials say that they pushed to withhold documents to protect their assets, the identities of current and former officers, intelligence-gathering methods and sensitive partnerships that remain in effect today. “Every single one of the approximately 18,000 remaining CIA records in the collection will ultimately be released, with no document withheld in full,” the agency said in a statement, adding that the redacted information in the 18,000 pages represents less than 1 percent of all CIA information in the Kennedy collection.
To varying degrees, every president finds himself persuaded by these kinds of arguments — no matter how spurious. The best example of this came in 2014 when Barack Obama’s White House aggressively worked behind the scenes to limit how much the public got to see of a Senate Intelligence Committee report documenting the CIA’s brutal interrogations of terrorism suspects. The effort to conceal the findings of the investigation was completely at odds with the spirit that animated Obama’s 2008 campaign. (He also never closed Gitmo.)
In the national security realm, Trump has already backed away from several commitments he made during the campaign. He escalated in Afghanistan after promising withdrawal. He explicitly endorsed NATO’s Article V after initially refusing to. He didn’t pull out of the Iranian nuclear deal, instead settling for a middle-ground compromise pushed by his advisers. The list goes on.
The presidency has a way of warping a person’s perspective. George W. Bush said no more nation building during the 2000 campaign. After invading Afghanistan and Iraq, he did more of it than anyone since Harry Truman unveiled the Marshall Plan.
This is a tale as old as the presidency. A generation of presidents never tried to remove J. Edgar Hoover as FBI director because they worried what dirt he might have on them.
Trump’s decision to acquiesce to the CIA will only add to the cloud of public suspicion that hangs over the official story line — even 54 years later — that Oswald acted alone.
Secrecy corrodes public trust in government. The government’s refusal to be fully transparent and forthright has contributed to a climate in which few citizens trust institutions. The feds have long had an over-classification problem, erring on the side of marking files secret that really don’t need to be. It has become even worse since the 9/11 attacks.
A poll conducted last week by SurveyMonkey for FiveThirtyEight found that only 33 percent of Americans believe that one man was responsible for the Kennedy assassination, while 61 percent think that others were involved in a conspiracy.
“In pretty much every demographic, most respondents believed that Oswald didn’t act alone,” Harry Enten notes. “A majority of men, women, white people, people of color, registered voters, non-registered voters, old people, young people, Democrats, Republicans and so on all believe that more than one person was involved in Kennedy’s assassination. This is one of the few questions in this polarized age on which you can even find agreement among Hillary Clinton voters (59 percent believe in a conspiracy) and Trump voters (61 percent). … African-Americans (76 percent) and Hispanics (72 percent) are far more likely than whites (56 percent) to believe that Oswald didn’t act alone. The government, of course, has a history of lying to the black community, which may be why African-Americans are more likely to think the government isn’t telling the whole story about Kennedy’s death and other major news stories.”
What exactly is still being withheld? “Some of the material that assassination experts had been most eager to review was not included in the documents released Thursday,” Ian Shapira, Steve Hendrix and Carol D. Leonnig report. “The missing records include a 338-page file on J. Walton Moore, the head of the CIA office in Dallas at the time of the killing, and an 18-page dossier on Gordon McClendon, a Dallas businessman who conferred with Ruby just before he shot Oswald. Several files on notorious anti-Castro Cuban exiles were apparently withheld, including those focusing on Luis Posada and Orlando Bosch, who had been accused of a 1976 airline bombing that killed 73 people …
“Researchers had hoped the release would shed new light on Oswald’s movements and contacts in the months before he shot Kennedy. Historians were particularly eager for new details of Oswald’s six-day trip to Mexico City, where he met with Cubans and Soviets two months before the assassination. None of those documents appeared to be in the batch released Thursday. Nor were there revelations on Watergate burglars E. Howard Hunt and James McCord, both of whom were longtime CIA operatives of interest to assassination theorists.”
What might the CIA be afraid of? “Since the Warren Commission concluded its investigation, historians and journalists have written extensively about how the CIA deliberately concealed information about Oswald’s interactions with Cubans or Soviets in Mexico City before the killing,” per Ian, Steve and Carol. “Philip Shenon, author of a 2013 book on the Warren Commission, interviewed one of the commission’s chief investigators, David Slawson, for Politico two years ago and showed him documents that had been declassified in the 1990s but that Slawson had never seen. Slawson’s conclusion: The CIA tampered with surveillance evidence of Oswald in Mexico City that would have revealed the agency knew of Oswald’s threat well before the assassination …
“Even the CIA publicly acknowledged in 2014 that John McCone, its director at the time of the assassination, participated in a ‘benign cover-up,’ according to a paper by agency historian David Robarge. His article said McCone was ‘complicit in keeping incendiary and diversionary issues off the commission’s agenda.’ The agency historian wrote that McCone purposely did not tell the commission about CIA-Mafia plots to kill (Fidel) Castro, some of which had been planned at the Mexico City station. ‘Without this information,’ Shenon concluded in a 2015 Politico story, ‘the commission never even knew to ask the question of whether Oswald had accomplices in Cuba or elsewhere who wanted Kennedy dead in retaliation for the Castro plots.’”
The White House insists that Trump remains committed to disclosure. Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the president has directed the agencies “to minimize redactions without delay,” and that redactions will only be made on the remaining documents “in the rarest of circumstances.”
But many Kennedy experts are dismayed about what they see as the president caving. They worry the final batch will still be heavily redacted and think the odds are high that the new six-month deadline will slip. University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato, for example, wrote a 2013 book on the assassination:
-- What is in the files that did come out? More than a dozen reporters and editors for The Washington Post combed through the 2,800 records after the went live at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. (Read their full story here.) Here are 10 of the wildest nuggets they found:
- “An FBI file contains information on the bureau’s attempt to locate a stripper named ‘Kitty,’ last name unknown. According to the file, another stripper named Candy Cane said Kitty had been an associate of Jack Ruby, the Dallas nightclub owner who killed Oswald on Nov. 24, 1963. Leon Cornman, business agent with the American Guild of Variety Artists in New Orleans, told the FBI that ‘the only stripper he knew by the name of Kitty who worked in New Orleans was Kitty Raville.’ He advised (that) Raville committed suicide in New Orleans in August or September 1963,’ the report states.
- “Several documents summarize internal discussions within Communist Party meetings after the assassination, discussing whether Oswald was innocent and whether communists would be blamed for Kennedy’s death. Agents ran down rumors from prisoners and poets.
- “The documents show that for years, the FBI used informants to monitor the Communist Party in Dallas — a group that consisted of 5 or 6 people — so small they could sometimes hold a meeting inside a car.
- “An April 1964 memo from J. Edgar Hoover ordered the FBI to check out a report that Jack Ruby and Dallas Police officer J.D. Tippitt — fatally shot by Oswald shortly after Oswald killed Kennedy — had met at Ruby’s strip club, the Carousel Club, sometime prior to the assassination. Hoover seemed skeptical.
- “One memo described tensions between CIA and FBI officials that still exist today. It quotes FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover saying, ‘more and more we are telling CIA about our domestic operations and always to our detriment. I want this stopped.’
- “A 1964 FBI memo describes a meeting in which Cuban exiles tried to set a price on the heads of Fidel Castro, Raul Castro and Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. ‘It was felt that the $150,000.00 to assassinate FIDEL CASTRO plus $5,000 expense money was too high,’ the memo noted. At a subsequent meeting, they settled on more modest sums: $100,000 for Fidel, $20,000 for Raul and $20,000 for Che.
- “Some of the papers recounted the agency’s well-chronicled schemes to kill Castro. One document, a summary of the CIA’s plans to assassinate foreign leaders, recounted how the CIA tried to use Gen. William Donovan, the former head of the agency’s precursor, the Office of Strategic Services, for one plot. He would give Castro a contaminated skin-diving suit while the two negotiated for the release of the Bay of Pigs prisoners. … Donovan didn’t go through it, instead presenting the Cuban leader with ‘an uncontaminated skindiving suit as a gesture of friendship.’
- “A draft report by the House Select Committee on Assassinations found it unlikely that Cuba would kill Kennedy as retaliation for CIA’s attempts on Castro’s life. ‘The Committee does not believe Castro would have assassinated President Kennedy, because such an act, if discovered, would have afforded the United States the excuse to destroy Cuba,’ the draft states. ‘The risk would not have been worth it.’
- “In an internal FBI report from May 1964, an informant told the FBI that the Ku Klux Klan said it ‘had documented proof that President Johnson was formerly a member of the Klan in Texas during the early days of his political career.’ The ‘documented proof’ was not provided.
- “The records also reveal a deposition given before the presidential Commission on CIA Activities in 1975 by Richard Helms, who had served as the agency’s director. After a discussion of Vietnam, David Belin, an attorney for the commission, turned to whether the CIA was involved in Kennedy’s killing. … Belin asked: ‘Is there any information involved with the assassination of President Kennedy which in any way shows that Lee Harvey Oswald was in some way a CIA agent or agent …’ Then, suddenly, the document cuts off.”
-- How it’s playing elsewhere:
- NBC News: “J. Edgar Hoover Said Public Must Believe Lee Harvey Oswald Acted Alone.”
- Politico: “A Cuban intelligence officer told another Cuban that he knew that Oswald was a ‘good shot,’ because he ‘knew him.’”
- New York Post: “Unsealed docs reveal KGB thought LBJ could have been behind JFK assassination.”
- Dallas Morning News: “Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev believed Kennedy could not have been killed without complicity by Dallas police.”
- The Guardian: “New JFK files reveal FBI warning on Oswald and Soviets' missile fears.”
- The Evening Standard: “Local UK newspaper warned of 'big news' by mystery caller 25 minutes before president shot dead.”
- Washington Examiner: “WikiLeaks offers bounty for unreleased JFK assassination records.”
-- Access the full tranche of documents posted last night on the National Archives Web portal.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- The timeline: After a U.S. Special Forces unit was ambushed in Niger, four of the soldiers were separated from their 30-person unit, the New York Times’s Thomas Gibbons-Neff and Eric Schmitt report. “Their squadmates immediately alerted commanders that they were under attack — then called for help nearly an hour later … and ground forces from Niger’s army and French Mirage jets were both dispatched. About two hours later, the firefight tapering off, French helicopters from nearby Mali swooped in to the rescue on the rolling wooded terrain. But they retrieved only seven of the 11 Americans. The four others were inexplicably left behind, no longer in radio contact and initially considered missing in action by the Pentagon, a status that officials say raises the possibility they were still alive when the helicopters took off without them …”
-- The Pentagon briefed senators on the ambush, but some lawmakers aren't satisfied. Karoun Demirjian reports: “Several senators said after the Thursday briefing that military officials were unable to tell them why it took so long to find [Sgt. La David] Johnson. On other matters, however — including how the ambush happened in the first place — lawmakers came away with differing impressions. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said he was confident ‘there were not significant steps that could have been taken to prevent this assault.’ But [Sen. John] McCain [R-Ariz.] argued that ‘whenever there’s a failure, it could be prevented,’ saying that the soldiers’ deaths were caused by both bad luck and bad strategy.”
GET SMART FAST:
- Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) testified at Sen. Bob Menendez’s corruption trial, praising the New Jersey Democrat as an “honest and trustworthy public servant” and a “profoundly honorable” man who understands the struggles of the working-class. (Alan Maimon, Devlin Barrett and Paul Kane)
- Mitch McConnell is ramping up attempts to fill influential court seats. He moved yesterday to advance the nominations of four judges to the appellate courts, which can provide final decisions on cases that aren’t taken up by the Supreme Court. (Politico)
- A group of current troops and veterans testified before a military judge that some who searched for Bowe Bergdahl suffered lasting injuries on the mission. The prosecution argues the injuries demonstrate how Bergdahl put other troops in harm’s way by deserting his post. (Alex Horton)
- Two House committee chairmen sent a letter to Puerto Rico’s public utility system asking that it retain all records related to the hiring of Whitefish Energy. The $300 million contract was given to the tiny firm based in the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. (Aaron C. Davis)
- Catalonia’s president has ruled out the possibility of holding a snap election to declare independence from Spain, calling instead for a regional parliament to decide the next steps in its long-running bid for autonomy. The Catalan parliament is slated to meet by week’s end. (William Booth
- Trump’s assertive new strategy in the Middle East is putting the United States on a “collision course” with Iran and ramping up tensions in the region. Experts fear the strategy could lead to a new era of proxy wars. (Liz Sly)
- CVS Health is in talks to acquire insurance giant Aetna for as much as $66 billion. If successful, the merger — potentially the largest in 2017 — would allow the pharmacy giant to expand into an entirely new area of health care. (Carolyn Y. Johnson)
- A Georgia computer server central to a case against the state’s election officials was wiped. The lawsuit aims to force Georgia to change its election system, which critics argue is outdated. (AP)
- A car drove into a group of protesters gathered outside the district office of Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.). No injuries were reported, and the alleged driver was arrested. (LA Times)
- A Grambling State University student was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of another student and his friend. Authorities said that the incident began when Jaylin M. Wayne produced a firearm during an argument with Earl Andrews. (Marwa Eltagouri, Amy B Wang and Rachel Siegel)
- The National Park Service has denied a permit to a group seeking to place a 45-foot statue of a naked woman on the Mall for four months. In a letter officially scuttling the group’s request, park officials said they were concerned that the large female statue would damage the Mall’s turf. (Perry Stein)
FIRST STEP TOWARD A TAX DEAL:
-- The House narrowly passed the Senate-approved budget, clearing the way for the GOP to pass $1.5 trillion in tax cuts without Democratic support. Mike DeBonis reports: “Leaders are aiming to pass tax legislation through each chamber before Thanksgiving, with the differences to then be hashed out before year’s end, and then send a bill to President Trump for his signature. … No Democrats voted for the budget Thursday, and 20 Republicans declined to support it. A key holdout bloc consisted of Republican lawmakers from states with high local tax burdens who have resisted the GOP’s plan to eliminate, or at least scale back, the income-tax deduction for state and local taxes.”
-- But the real fight is just starting. Mike DeBonis and Damian Paletta report: “[L]awmakers have not resolved basic questions about how the tax overhaul would affect the wealthy, the middle class or lower-income earners. Still unresolved were several questions: whether the legislation would moderate the expected benefits for the wealthy; whether it would cap or eliminate popular middle-class tax breaks like the state and local tax deduction or the tax benefit of 401(k) retirement plans; and how dramatically it would expand a child-care tax credit that helps working-class families. Also on the table were several critical questions about how the corporate tax code would change."
The problem in a nutshell: “I know, and [Republican leaders] know, that there were people that voted yes only to keep the process going forward but who disagree with the fact that we don’t have a deal yet,” said Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.).
-- Meanwhile, the White House is reportedly mulling an increase in the federal gas tax to pay for infrastructure projects. Ashley Halsey III reports: “That news was conveyed to House members Wednesday in a meeting by Trump’s chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn. … After campaigning on a promise he would lure private capital to invest in infrastructure, Trump in late April said he would be open to bumping up the federal gas tax, which has not seen an increase since 1993. … With strong Republican opposition to a gas tax increase — even as more than two dozen states, including many red ones, bumped up their own gas taxes — highway and transit funding has been bolstered with what critics have dismissed as fiscal gimmicks.”
HALPERIN ACCUSERS MULTIPLY:
-- Paul Farhi spoke with nine women who experienced or were aware of sexual harassment by journalist Mark Halperin: “Dianna Goldberg was a young researcher at ABC News in 1994 when she asked a colleague, Mark Halperin, for some information about a story. He readily agreed to help her and asked her to come to his office. Close the door, he said when she arrived. Come over here, he said, seated at his desk. Sit down and I’ll give you the information, he said. He motioned to his lap. ‘What?’ she remembers thinking. ‘I don’t want to sit on your lap.’ … She reluctantly agreed and sat down briefly. Halperin, she recalled on Wednesday, had an erection.”
The other women Farhi spoke to described conduct that “ranged from relatively trivial unwelcome contact — grabbing and holding women’s hands, for example — to inappropriate late-night phone calls and aggressive and repeated sexual propositioning. Several of the accusers recounted episodes in which he rubbed his erect penis against them — a claim specifically denied by Halperin in an interview. One woman said he appeared wearing only an open robe when a young campaign operative was summoned to deliver information to his hotel room. … ‘It was not okay,’ [one woman who worked with Halperin at ABC said]. ‘It was unwanted and unwarranted. It was like the guy just thought it was all a perk of the job, that he could shoot as many fish in a barrel as he liked.’”
-- Two additional women have come forward with their own allegations against the veteran journalist. The Daily Beast’s Andrew Kirell and Asawin Suebsaeng report: “'MeToo,’ conservative author and reporter Emily Miller wrote [on] Twitter, directly responding to the CNN report . . . I was ANOTHER junior ABC employee he sexually assaulted.' Without specifically describing her encounter with the pundit, Miller elaborated: ‘I did not report Halperin to ABC because I thought I was the only one, and I blamed myself, and I was embarrassed and I was scared of him.’ Another journalist, who currently appears as a commentator across multiple networks, joined the chorus on Thursday, [saying Halperin] made unwanted advances at her while they worked together at ABC News more than a decade ago.”
-- The backlash was swift. NBC News said in a statement Halperin would be “leaving his role as a contributor until the questions around his past conduct are fully understood.” HBO has dropped a planned miniseries on Trump’s election based on an untitled book by Halperin and co-author John Heilemann. And Penguin Press canceled its publication of the book.
-- #Youtoo?: “The sound you hear is a million men shaking in their wingtips and cowboy boots — men who are experiencing, perhaps for the first time, the kind of enveloping unease and fear that they’ve triggered in women, to some degree, for years,” Dan Zak and Monica Hesse write. “The flip side of the #MeToo campaign, in which legions of women on social media have revealed their experience with abuse, is something like #YouToo?, in which every day another prominent man is frogmarched into the spotlight for his behavior. Heads of state. Creators of entertainment. The publisher of ArtForum magazine. Journalists … who are the gatekeepers of what we see and how we understand it. Allegations are coming by the bushel, and we are in a moment of figuring out how to sort them … [but the] discussion has gotten really loud. It’s pretty hard to ignore.”
-- The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove reports spotlights the relentless tactics Lisa Bloom utilized as a member of Harvey Weinstein’s legal team: “Ronan Farrow was stunned and disgusted early this year when famed feminist lawyer Lisa Bloom phoned him, in the midst of his investigation for NBC News of widespread allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein, and offered to share opposition research on one of Weinstein’s accusers. ‘I don’t know if you’ve talked to Rose McGowan, but we have files on her and her . . . history,’ Bloom told Farrow, according to knowledgeable sources inside and outside NBC. … [N]o sooner had Farrow divulged to Bloom his interest in Weinstein than executives at NBC and Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency, Farrow’s professional representatives, began to receive a barrage of calls and letters, as the movie mogul … sought to wield every ounce of leverage to stop Farrow’s investigation.”
-- Actresses Selma Blair and Rachel McAdams recounted their experiences with director James Toback, who has been accused of sexual harassment by more than 200 women. Vanity Fair’s Krista Smith and Julie Miller write: “Blair, 45, and McAdams, 38, tell remarkably similar stories about Toback’s modus operandi — the requests to meet him in hotel rooms, flattery about their acting skills, the promise of a role in the movie Harvard Man, which opened in 2001. … Explained McAdams, ‘I was 21 and in the middle of theater school when I met [Toback]. Theater school was a very safe space.’ But Toback, she said, ‘used the same language during my audition — that you have to take risks and sometimes you’re going to be uncomfortable and sometimes it’s going to feel dangerous. And that’s a good thing — when there is danger in the air and you feel like you are out of your comfort zone.’”
-- On Capitol Hill, suspicion of bad behavior is rampant. But the power structure and reporting process has made such transgressions hard to reveal and even harder to resolve, Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Elise Viebeck report: “Briony Whitehouse was a 19-year-old intern in 2003 when she boarded an elevator in the Russell Senate Office Building with a Republican senator, who she said groped her until the doors reopened. She never reported the incident to her bosses for fear of jeopardizing her career. … ‘At the time, I didn't know what to do, so I did nothing at all,’ said Whitehouse[.] … ‘Because this happened so early on for me, I just assumed this was the way things worked and that I'd have to accept it.’ … ‘We've worked with a number of women who, after these experiences, stopped working on Capitol Hill,’ [employment attorney Debra] Katz said. ‘They were done. They felt so betrayed.’”
-- Even if Whitehouse had chosen to file a complaint, the steps to do so can be onerous on Capitol Hill. Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Elise Viebeck add: “Under a process put in place in 1995, a claimant has 180 days after an alleged incident to give written notice to the Office of Compliance. Even to file a complaint, the accuser has to call the office to get an online password to access the form. Next, they must go through a counseling process that typically lasts 30 days. … After counseling, an accuser must go through mediation for roughly another 30 days. During that time, the OOC notifies the claimant's employing office and appoints a professional mediator to try to resolve the complaint. If mediation is unsuccessful, the accuser may ask for an administrative hearing or file a case in federal civil court. The allegation and the case remain confidential, except in limited circumstances.”
-- Attempts to improve the outdated system have received pushback, our colleagues write: “Like Hollywood, … the Capitol Hill environment is dominated by powerful men who can make or break careers. Congress has resisted efforts to improve the culture by making anti-harassment training mandatory in their offices. ‘It is not a victim-friendly process. It is an institution-protection process,’ said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who has unsuccessfully pushed to overhaul how harassment cases are handled. ‘I think we would find that sexual harassment is rampant in the institution. But no one wants to know, because they'd have to do something about it.’”
- To contact a Post reporter about workplace violations on Capitol Hill, please email firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Scott Brown’s comments at a party on the island of Samoa may have been worse than the U.S. ambassador to New Zealand initially acknowledged. The Guardian’s Eleanor Ainge Roy and Julian Borger report: “One woman told the Guardian that Brown allegedly stared at her body when she was introduced to him. She did not want to be identified, but said: ‘The first time I met him, he looked at my chest immediately.’ She alleged that another female colleague had a similar experience. ‘I felt immediately uncomfortable and it didn’t feel right,’ she added. A male ex-peace corps volunteer described a strained atmosphere developing at the party as the ambassador shouted at guests to be quiet and listen to him. ‘It was very culturally insensitive,’ said the man. … ‘At least twice, maybe three times, he was telling everybody, “Stop talking, be quiet, listen to me.’”
-- A third woman has accused George H.W. Bush of groping her in the manner described in other accounts. Christina Baker Kline writes for Slate: “‘You wanna know my favorite book?’ he whispered. I had to lean close to hear him. ‘Yes, what is it?’ By now the photographer was readying the shot. My husband stood on one side of the wheelchair, and I stood on the other. President Bush put his arm around me, low on my back. His comic timing was impeccable. ‘David Cop-a-feel,’ he said, and squeezed my butt, hard, just as the photographer snapped the photo. Instinctively, I swiped his hand away. It’s right there in the official photograph. …
“After the photo op, my husband and I were whisked out the door. At the curb, a woman who introduced herself as a friend of the Bush family was waiting to drive us back to the hotel. Once we were on our way, I told David what had happened. … Our driver, who was stopped at a light, sat there for a moment, then leaned back and looked at us. ‘I do trust you will be … discreet,’ she said. Her comment wasn’t menacing. But in that moment I thought: She has heard this before. The people around President Bush are accustomed to doing damage control. There must be many of us, I remember thinking. And now I know there are.”
THE OPIOID CRISIS:
-- Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in a White House speech on Thursday, pledging full resolve in dealing with the epidemic. Jenna Johnson reports: “’Addressing it will require all of our effort, and it will require us to confront the crisis in all of its very real complexity,’ Trump said … [accompanied by Melania Trump] and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie[.] … With Trump's declaration, the federal government will waive some regulations, give states more flexibility in how they use federal funds and expand the use of telemedicine treatment …”
Trump also did something he rarely does: spoke about his older brother, Fred — a former airline pilot who struggled with alcoholism and died when he was just 43. “I had a brother, Fred. Great guy, best-looking guy, best personality — much better than mine,” Trump said — a rare jab that drew laughter from the audience. “But he had a problem. He had a problem with alcohol. And he would tell me: ‘Don’t drink. Don’t drink.'" He continued: “To this day, I’ve never had a drink[.] . . . And I have no longing for it. I have no interest in it.”
“In sharing his experience on Thursday afternoon, the usually boastful president briefly revealed a more reflective side of himself, trying to connect with those … who have lost a loved one because of addiction,” Jenna writes. “Fred Trump’s death more than 30 years ago seems to have shaped the way the president thinks about substance abuse and addiction. His emphasis on abstinence appears rooted in what has worked for him personally — but it is also rooted in the 1980s, when then-first lady Nancy Reagan urged schoolchildren to ‘just say no.’ [But] scores of researchers since that era have concluded it doesn’t work very well[.] … [Trump] acknowledged that millions of Americans are already addicted[.] … But he kept coming back to the idea of never starting in the first place[.]” “The fact is, if we can teach young people — and people generally — not to start, it’s really, really easy not to take them,” Trump said.
-- Democrats argued that the emergency declaration did not go far enough to address the crisis. John Wagner, Lenny Bernstein and Jenna Johnson report: “[T]he president stopped short of declaring a more sweeping national state of emergency that would have given states access to funding from the federal Disaster Relief Fund, as they would after a tornado or hurricane. Officials who briefed reporters said that such an emergency declaration would not be a good fit for a longtime crisis and would not offer authorities that the government doesn’t already have.”
-- Eight complete border wall prototypes were displayed for the first time in San Diego. But unveiling of the 30-foot structures comes as the future of Trump’s border wall proposal remains in doubt — and without funding. Wall Street Journal’s Alicia A. Caldwell reports: “’These prototypes are vitally important for the future of border security …’ [said Customs and Border official Ron Vitiello] … He said testing of the prototypes at the border and a second set of mock-ups at another nearby location will start soon, and could take three to four months to complete. But the fate of the proposed wall [is] in doubt. Congress hasn’t approved funding, California is challenging the project in court and some who live on the border object to the wall."
-- Meanwhile, the wall will not be a “solar” one — at least, from the looks of the prototypes. Tracy Jan reports: “Instead, the 30 by 30 foot structures … feature concrete, steel or a combination of both. Five are solid. Three have slats to see through to the other side. Beauty, though, is in the eye of the beholder. One is painted royal blue. Another is stamped with a brick pattern, topped with sloped metal grating. All would evoke a prison feel if replicated for miles on end …” Some have also criticized the price of the prototypes, which cost between $300,000 and $500,000 each.
-- A 10-year-old girl with cerebral palsy (who was brought to the country illegally when she was 3 months old) was detained by ICE authorities in Texas after stopping her at a checkpoint on her way to receive an emergency gallbladder surgery. The New York Times’s Vivian Yee and Caitlin Dickerson report: “The girl, [Rosamaria Hernandez], was being transferred from a medical center in Laredo to a hospital in Corpus Christi around 2 a.m. on Tuesday when Border Patrol agents stopped the ambulance she was riding in, her family said. The agents allowed her to continue to Driscoll Children’s Hospital, the family said, but followed the ambulance the rest of the way there, then waited outside her room until she was released from the hospital. By Wednesday evening … immigration agents had taken her to a facility in San Antonio where migrant children who arrive alone in the United States from Central America are usually held, even though her [parents] live 150 miles away in Laredo. Her placement there highlighted the unusual circumstances of her case … [It] is rare, if not unheard-of, for a child already living in the United States to be arrested — particularly one with a serious medical condition.”
- “The fact that they spent so much time and resources to follow this girl, to treat her like she was the highest-priority criminal that ever walked on this earth … is just beyond what a 10-year-old special needs child should be treated,” immigration activist Priscila Martinez said.
-- A federal judge ordered the Pentagon not to block fast-tracked citizenship applications that it promised to some 2,000 foreign-born U.S. Army Reserve soldiers, Spencer S. Hsu reports: “The order Wednesday came in an ongoing lawsuit over the department’s year-old effort to kill a program designed to attract foreign-born military recruits who possess medical or language skills urgently needed in U.S. military operations. In exchange for serving, those recruits were promised a quicker route to citizenship. [U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle] issued a rare preliminary injunction saying that while the lawsuit can move ahead, the government cannot in the meantime withhold a form that three named Army plaintiffs and other military members in similar situations need to start the vetting for citizenship."
ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (AND WOMEN):
-- Trump has largely narrowed his Fed chair choice down to two people — either former investment banker Jerome “Jay” Powell or Stanford economist John Taylor. Damian Paletta and Robert Costa report: “Powell is a Fed governor who has supported current chair Janet L. Yellen’s cautious pace of raising interest rates. Taylor, a conservative economist … is considered more hawkish on fighting inflation, and many economists believe he would move more quickly to raise interest rates than Powell. He has also criticized Yellen for going too far in trying to help stimulate the economy, warning that it could lead to out-of-control inflation that the United States saw in the 1970s and early 1980s.”
-- Time magazine's new cover story takes a dive into the “Demolition Crew,” the three Cabinet officials it says are “undoing American government as we know it:” HUD Secretary Ben Carson, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Massimo Calabresi writes: “Quietly, the Administration has taken thousands of actions, affecting everyone from the poorest day laborer to the richest investment banker. And it's touting its work. ‘No President or Administration has deregulated or withdrawn as many anticipated regulatory actions as this one in this short amount of time,’ says White House communications director Hope Hicks.”
-- Trump’s nominee for senior adviser for environmental policy once wrote that Texas would be “better off” as an independent republic. CNN’s Andrew Kaczynski and Nathan McDermott report: “Kathleen Hartnett White, the nominee to head the White House Council on Environmental Quality, authored the essay for a 1995 edition of the now-defunct Texas Republic magazine marking the 150 year anniversary of Texas statehood, [which she called] ‘not a happy occasion.’ If confirmed, White would oversee environmental policy across the government. In her 1995 essay, White singled out ‘onerous’ environmental regulations such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act as examples of federal overreach on states' rights. White further argued that the federal income tax, unfunded mandates, federal money with conditions, and direct federal regulation are all examples of ‘federal domination’ White specifically identified federal environmental laws as ‘graphic examples of federal shackles on basic state rights in Texas …’”
-- While advising Trump in 2016, former CIA director James Woolsey pitched a $10 million contract to two businessmen to help discredit a U.S.-based Turkish cleric whom Turkey’s president accused of instigating a failed coup. Reuters’s Nathan Layne reports: “Just eight days after formally joining Trump’s campaign … Woolsey met on Sept. 20, 2016 with businessmen Ekim Alptekin and Sezgin Baran Korkmaz over lunch at the Peninsula Hotel in New York, they said. Woolsey and his wife, Nancye Miller, proposed a lobbying and public relations campaign targeting [Fethullah Gulen]. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan … wants [him] extradited to Turkey to face trial. In an email memo … Woolsey and Miller sketched a plan to ‘draw attention to the cleric’s possible role in the coup attempt’ and encourage an official investigation into his activities. Alptekin, an ally of Erdogan, had already agreed through one of his companies to a $600,000 contract with the consulting firm of Michael Flynn to research Gulen.”
-- The New York Times’s Katie Rogers and Karen Yourish explored how much White House officials could have saved taxpayers by flying commercial: “[I]t cost taxpayers $172,283 for [Treasury Secretary Steven] Mnuchin to fly to Florida, Kentucky, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia on a military plane. It could have cost $3,402 — about 50 times less — if he had flown commercial.”
-- Rachel Siegel profiled E. Scott Lloyd, the White House official who attempted to block an undocumented teenager from getting an abortion: “Lloyd built a career as a champion of religious values, holding strong antiabortion views that have now thrust him into the center of a national controversy. His past work has also made him a target of critics who argue he is ill-prepared for his current role as director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement[.] … Lloyd has personally intervened to try to persuade unaccompanied minor girls not to have abortions, according to an HHS official. … The official declined to say whether those girls had been blocked from getting the procedure, as in the case of the 17-year-old detained in Texas and identified in court papers as ‘Jane Doe.’”
THERE’S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Former Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and former DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz both denied knowledge of any payments to Fusion GPS, the firm behind the infamous dossier. CNN’s Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb report: “The interviews happened before this week's disclosure that the Clinton campaign and DNC paid for the research. Senate investigators may seek to further question the two top Democrats and dig deeper on the origins of the so-called Trump dossier … Sitting next to Podesta during the interview: his attorney Marc Elias, who worked for the law firm that hired Fusion GPS … Elias was only there in his capacity as Podesta's attorney and not as a witness.
“Asked about her interview before [congressional investigators], Wasserman Schultz reiterated she had no awareness of the dossier. ‘I didn't have any awareness of the arrangement at all,’ she told CNN. ‘I'm certainly not going to discuss with you what I talked to any committee about.’”
Julie Vitkovskaya has a helpful explainer on what the dossier is and how it could affect the Russia probes.
-- Twitter has banned the Kremlin-backed outlets RT and Sputnik from advertising on its platform. Elizabeth Dwoskin reports: “Twitter said its decision to block advertising from the sites stemmed from the conclusion of the U.S. national intelligence report in January that said that the Kremlin used the sites Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik, along with a far-flung network of ‘quasi-government trolls,’ to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. … Twitter's move may put some pressure on Google and Facebook to pull similar advertising from their sites.”
-- Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general tasked with overseeing Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation, said in an interview that he believes American voters are too “savvy” to be swayed by Russian disinformation campaigns. “I think what people need to keep in mind is that there’s a distinction between people trying to sway American elections and succeeding in swaying American elections,’ [he said]. ‘ … You know, American citizens are pretty savvy, and they decide who to vote for. I don’t think they’d be influenced by ads posted by foreign governments.” (WTOP)
-- The Fix’s Aaron Blake says he is “skeptical” of that argument: “We have just come off an election in which conspiracy theories and fake news ran through social media like viruses. And we all have that relative who passes along a dubiously spun news report claiming the other party's politician said something that they didn't really say. People are unable to distinguish fact from fiction in these cases, but they know when they are being influenced by an ad that might have been paid for by a foreign entity (and which they likely don't even realize came from a foreign entity)?”
GILLESPIE V. NORTHAM IN FINAL STRETCH:
-- Trump jumped into the Virginia governor’s race again on Thursday, saying in a pair of tweets that Ed Gillespie will protect “our great statues” and “heritage.” Fenit Nirappil reports: “’Ed Gillespie will turn the really bad Virginia economy #’s around, and fast. Strong on crime, he might even save our great statues/heritage!’ Trump tweeted at 10:07 a.m., an apparent reference to new Gillespie ads that call for preservation of the state’s Confederate monuments. Four minutes later, Trump added, ‘Ed Gillespie will be a great Governor … His opponent doesn’t even show up to meetings/work, and will be VERY weak on crime!’ … Gillespie’s Democratic opponent, Ralph Northam, is a former Army doctor and pediatric neurologist … Northam later shared a video of him treating patients at a free health care clinic in southwest Virginia, adding ‘While I was treating patients at the RAM clinic, Donald Trump was golfing in Sterling. You tell me who doesn’t show up for Virginians.’”
-- Over the course of his campaign, Gillespie has spent a surprising amount of time away from the spotlight, Marc Fisher writes: “Gillespie has led something of a stealth campaign this fall, issuing few of the advisories that other campaigns use to let TV stations, newspapers and other media outlets cover their efforts to win votes. Even as [Northam’s] campaign issues hour-by-hour listings of his appearances, Gillespie, more than any other recent gubernatorial candidate, Republican or Democrat, often avoids reporters, ignores their questions, and advertises his whereabouts mainly to invited audiences. … In an effort to learn where Gillespie was campaigning Wednesday, Washington Post reporters arrived outside his house in the darkness of the early morning and drove along with the cars that left his cul-de-sac.”
-- From The Post’s editorial board: “Gillespie’s ads are poisonous to Virginia and the nation.”
-- Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) became the first Republican senator to oppose Roy Moore’s Senate bid in Alabama. David Weigel reports: Flake “said that Moore represented exactly the politics that had ruined his party. ‘A guy who says that a Muslim member of Congress shouldn’t be able to serve?’ Flake said. ‘That’s not right.’ Flake, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has frequently criticized religious discrimination. But he is the only Republican in the Senate to criticize it in the context of Moore’s campaign.”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Trump praised his relationship with China's president:
From the Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol:
A New York Times investigative reporter questioned Mark Halperin's role in covering Hillary Clinton's presidential campaigns:
From CNN's senior international correspondent, who formerly worked at ABC:
And there's no end to the controversy in sight, per CNN's media reporter:
A Daily Beast editor parodied Trump's Muslim ban announcement in her rebuke of sexual harassment:
A contributor to the Daily Beast recirculated this screenshot following Trump's announcement on the opioid crisis:
The chair of the American Conservative Union applauded Trump's sobriety:
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) marked an important anniversary:
Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) assured those on Capitol Hill that the rumors are true:
And Hillary Clinton celebrated her 70th birthday:
Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) is refusing to give up:
And former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka couldn't help rubbing it in:
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- Politico Magazine, “How the GOP Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Spending,” by Michael Grunwald: “During the Barack Obama presidency, congressional Republicans constantly denounced out-of-control spending; in 2011, they almost forced the government into default to extract significant spending cuts from the White House. Now they’re reverting to their habits during the George W. Bush era, when Republicans oversaw a major spending spree on the military, homeland security and even prescription drug coverage. The GOP has already punted on three belt-tightening opportunities in the Trump era.”
-- The Wall Street Journal, “Facebook Steps Up Efforts to Sway Lawmakers,” by Julie Bykowicz: “The Menlo Park, Calif., company has invested more than $8.4 million this year on its 36-member federal lobbying team — putting it on track to spend more on federal lobbying than in any previous year. The company recently added Republican-led Hamilton Place Strategies and other communications strategists to its team and posted an ad seeking a crisis communications specialist. … Facebook was soliciting advice as to how best to respond to the Russia ad controversy — and how to communicate with Republicans in particular[.]”
-- The Atlantic, “Trump’s Critics Can Sense the GOP Slipping Away From Them,” by David Graham: “Many of these figures seem to still be operating under, or to have recently recognized the faults of, the assumption that Trump is an ephemeral aberration. As Tom Edsall writes, the Republican Party is now the party of Trump. One reason for that is that Republicans tend to more closely identify with the party than Democrats do with theirs, but another is that Trump sensed where GOP primary voters were — angry about immigration, sour on free trade, open to racist rhetoric both subtle and blunt, hostile toward Wall Street — while his rivals were pushing immigration reform, free markets, and inclusion.”
HOT ON THE LEFT
“GOP lawmaker spars with CNN reporter over Charlottesville conspiracy theories” from the Hill: “Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) on Wednesday doubled down on his conspiracy theory that Democratic mega-donor George Soros could have been involved in organizing an August white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., saying ‘proof will be coming.’ ‘My proof will be coming; check my website out,’ the Republican lawmaker told CNN reporter Randi Kaye. ‘It has not been debunked, absolutely not debunked whatsoever. So stay tuned,’ he added, when asked why he is pushing a baseless conspiracy theory with no evidence to support it. Gosar goes on to tell the reporter that CNN is ‘fake news.’”
HOT ON THE RIGHT:
“DNC Chairman Tom Perez: 'The Electoral College is not a creation of the Constitution,'” from Washington Examiner: “Perez made the comment while speaking at Indiana University Law School's Sixth Annual Birch Bayh Lecture. ‘The Electoral College is not a creation of the Constitution. It doesn't have to be there,’ he said. ‘There's a national popular vote compact in which a number of states have passed a bill that says we will allocate our vote, our electoral votes, to the person who wins the national popular vote once other states totaling 270 electoral votes do the same.’ Perez went on to note the first state to pass such a measure was Maryland. Contrary to Perez's claim, the U.S. Constitution establishes the Electoral College in Article II[.]”
Trump has a morning meeting with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
Pence will travel to the Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota for a briefing and tour with the state's Gov. Doug Burgum (R) and Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.). (While there, he will see the launch facility for the only land-based ICBM in the U.S.) He will also give a speech to the base’s airmen.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
While viewing a statue in Geneva, Rex Tillerson said, “Some days I feel like I need to do that. Curl up in a ball.” The secretary of state’s remark was caught on a hot mic as he toured parks in the Swiss city yesterday.
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- D.C. will be very sunny today, but we are expected to get a storm starting Saturday night. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Lookin’ good with sunshine. Perfection by afternoon hours! Temperatures top out in the mid-60s to around 70.”
-- The Capitols lost to the Canucks 6-2. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)
-- Chief baseball officer Joe Torre seemed to confirm that the Nationals were hurt by a missed call in Game 5 of the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs. Dan Steinberg reports: “[T]he controversy concerned whether, with two outs and two strikes, Javier Baez should have been allowed to run to first on a passed-ball swinging strike three, since his bat made contact with catcher Matt Wieters. … ‘You know, the whole rule interpretation — there’s rules, and then there’s instructions to the umpires,’ Torre [said in a radio interview]. … ‘However, the rule states … that when contact is made — in other words, when the bat came around and hit the catcher’s mask — it’s a dead ball,’ Torre went on. ‘It’s a dead ball. And that’s the one thing that should have taken precedence.’”
-- Barry Svrluga argues in a new column that the Nationals should hire Joe Girardi as their new manager. Girardi was let go from his role managing the Yankees yesterday.
-- Democrats and Republicans dumped more than $500,000 each into the race for Virginia attorney general. Patricia Sullivan reports: “The Republican Attorneys General Association donated $550,000 to John Adams (R), who is trying to unseat first-term incumbent Mark R. Herring (D) on Nov. 7. The Republican group has now contributed about $4.1 million to Adams, a conservative Richmond lawyer. The Democratic Attorneys General Association was planning to announce later Thursday that it has pumped an additional $725,000 into Herring’s campaign fund — a $500,000 donation made last week and $225,000 this week — bringing its total cash contribution to $2.25 million.”
-- The man who allegedly crashed through an NSA gate in 2015 was convicted of conspiracy, carjacking and destruction of government property. He now faces up to 30 years in prison. (Lynh Bui)
-- A woman accused of throwing a cup full of urine at a Metro bus driver pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault. The exchange — which occurred after the driver told the woman to “have a nice day” — was captured on surveillance footage. (Keith L. Alexander)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Trevor Noah criticized Trump's announcement on the opioid crisis:
Stephen Colbert parodied Trump's interview with Fox News:
The Post's Fact Checker team reviewed White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's remarks about Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.):
Citizens in Puerto Rico delivered a generator to an elder-care facility, saying “there is no FEMA here”:
The pope spoke via video conference with astronauts on the International Space Station:
One librarian's angry defense of libraries went viral:
And a snow leopard cub made her debut at the Bronx Zoo: