With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA:

COLUMBUS, Ohio — While Washington elites are fixated on Robert Mueller, the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party is doing everything he can to prevent his activists and candidates from becoming distracted by the special counsel and his next moves.

“Let me just put it this way: We don’t spend a lot of time around here talking about Vladimir Putin and James Comey,” David Pepper said in an interview here Sunday. “I’m as frustrated as anyone by what Comey did and that Putin interfered, and Congress should get to the bottom of that, but if that’s what we talk about … we will lose again.”

Pepper has spent a year now trying to figure out how Democrats can win again in a state that Barack Obama carried twice but Hillary Clinton lost. An open governorship and a competitive Senate race in 2018 have added to the sense of urgency.

“My attitude is let’s fix the things we can fix, and the way we really win is by getting a core message that appeals across all 88 counties,” Pepper said.

What is that message? In short: It’s still the economy, stupid. Democrats feel like they can both galvanize their own base and win over people who voted for Barack Obama but defected to Donald Trump by prosecuting the case that the president has not delivered on his populist promises.

Nearly a thousand of the Democratic faithful came to a convention center down the street from the state capitol last night for the state party’s annual dinner. During a three-hour program, in a dark ballroom on a frigid night, no one referenced the Russia investigation. Activists didn’t broach it during interviews, and I didn’t hear it come up in side conversations during a reception before the event. Instead, the biggest applause came whenever a politician had the good sense to celebrate Ohio State’s 39-38 win over Penn State on Saturday.

-- Mueller also went unmentioned during an hour-long debate yesterday between the four Democrats running in a wide-open primary to succeed Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), who is term limited. The lion’s share of the conversation focused on the economy, health care and the opioid epidemic. (Three issues, by the way, that are inextricably linked.)

To give you a taste of how it played out: Nan Whaley, the mayor of Dayton, boasted that she organized a lawsuit against the drug companies that have sent opioids into the state.

Joe Schiavoni, a state senator from the Mahoning Valley, replied that “it will take years and years” to see those lawsuits through to fruition, so he proposes to spend 10 percent of the state’s general fund on fighting the epidemic.

Connie Pillich noted that, as a state representative, she pushed legislation to make it easier to track pill mills. “We have to come down hard on the pushers and the dealers — put ‘em in jail — but we can’t do any of this until we restore local funding to police departments that are on the front line,” she added.

Betty Sutton, a former congresswoman, faulted President Trump for not formally declaring a state of emergency last week because that would have made more money available to states. “Nothing stops a needle like a job,” she said. “We have to go at this with every resource we can muster, because our future depends on it. This is our hurricane.”

-- If talking about Mueller is D.C.’s favorite parlor game right now, Ohio politicos like to argue over whether their state will be a permanent presidential battleground.

Clinton lost here by 8 points, about the same as her margin of defeat in Texas. As a point of comparison, she fell short in Arizona by only 3.5 points and Georgia by 5 points. Some demographers believe that a realignment is afoot, in which the Midwest moves toward Republicans while the Sun Belt becomes more Democratic. One school of thought is that Ohio is on a path like Missouri’s, which used to be a battleground but has become reliably red in presidential elections since 2000.

Democratic leaders insist that reports of Ohio’s death as a perennial swing state are greatly exaggerated, and they’re probably right. The Buckeye State has voted for the winning candidate in all but one presidential election since World War II (1960). With 18 electoral votes, the state will remain a linchpin of most realistic paths to 270 — even after it loses one more in 2020 reapportionment. That will deter national Democrats from writing it off. Culturally and demographically, it’s likely to stay competitive.  

Pepper, the state chairman, expects that 2018 will be yet another change election, a la 2016. But this time Democrats aren’t the ones in charge. He predicts that these midterms will be like 1982. Ronald Reagan won Ohio by double digits in 1980, but Democrats swept statewide two years later — winning a Senate seat and the governorship, despite a contested primary.

“We have a bounce-back pattern in Ohio, and we’re seeing a lot of the same elements now that probably happened then,” said Pepper, a former member of the Cincinnati City Council and a county commissioner who ran unsuccessfully for statewide office in 2010 and 2014. “Democrats are more energized than they were a year ago. … Ohio independent voters generally like balance. I think that’s one of the reasons Kasich is relatively popular because he doesn’t look like he’s just dogmatic and far right. That all leads to a decent opportunity in 2018 that we have to work really hard to take advantage of.”

-- Sen. Sherrod Brown, the state’s senior senator, delivered a fiery populist stemwinder at the dinner, but he too was careful not to disparage Trump supporters. His biggest pet peeve is when people describe Ohio as being part of “the Rust Belt.” It’s like nails on a chalkboard. He prefers “the industrial heartland.”

“People in Ohio are working harder today than ever. They’re working longer hours than ever, but they’re getting less and less to show for it,” Brown said. “Then they hear politicians and talking heads dismiss their proud communities as the ‘Rust Belt,’ which demeans our work and dismisses us as human beings. Ohioans think people on the coasts and in Washington look down on them, and that’s far too often the case …

“We’re working to make sure that people who have been invisible have opportunities,” he added. “We’re going to show them that we’ve got real solutions to make their lives better — not just more blame to go around. Those same pundits that like to refer to our [communities] as the ‘Rust Belt’ also like to tell folks that they should forget about Ohio because it’s turning red. Well, I can promise you that, with your help, this Senate seat and the governor’s mansion are going to go blue. … And you can be damn sure that we are not rusty!”

-- Democrats on the coasts argue about whether the party should focus on firing up the liberal base or making inroads with moderates who voted for Trump. Operatives in states like Ohio dismiss that as a false choice. In 2016, Democrats had both a persuasion problem and a turnout problem across the industrial Midwest. To bounce back in 2018, they must address both. That’s why the quality of candidates and campaigns matter, as does fundraising.

The state party is focused on running up the score in urban areas like Cleveland but also making inroads again in rural places. “Obama basically lost the red part of Ohio 60 to 40. Hillary Clinton lost it 73-27. You can’t win Ohio with that margin of loss, so we have to be smart about communicating with all those voters,” Pepper said. “It means we all need to sound as much as possible like Sherrod Brown sounds. He’s an economic populist. He’s clear on things like trade, wages, workers, working families. The more we’re disciplined enough to be really homed in on those issues, the better we do. There are 17 counties that Sherrod Brown won (in 2012) that Hillary Clinton didn’t win (in 2016). There were some similarities to Trump’s economic appeal and Sherrod Brown’s. We have to make sure our candidates are zeroed in on an economic message that talks to people in parts of the state that are frustrated they haven’t done as well in the last 30 years as they’d like to.”

-- Democrats also hope to benefit from GOP infighting. The Republican primary for governor is even more crowded and has already gotten nasty, pitting three statewide elected officials against each other and a sitting congressman.

“The road to winning the Ohio governor’s race runs through economic messaging,” said Jared Leopold, the Democratic Governors' Association communications director. “Democrats are racing to define themselves on the economy, while Republicans are racing to appeal to a restive far-right base.”

-- Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) was the keynote speaker at last night’s Democratic dinner. “The road to the White House always goes through Ohio, and that’s why we need you now more than ever,” he said. “The end of the Trump administration will go through Ohio, and you folks will be leading the way.”

While others treaded somewhat carefully, McAuliffe – who is leaving office in two months and appears to be mulling a 2020 presidential bid – ripped into Trump. He repeatedly called the president a “liar” during his 20-minute speech, arguing that “the biggest lie” of the 2016 campaign was when Trump promised to get blue-collar workers their jobs back. “This is a president who spends more time thinking about Rosie O’Donnell than about how to bring manufacturing jobs back here to Ohio,” McAuliffe said.

Listen to James's quick summary of today's Big Idea and the headlines you need to know to start your day:
Subscribe to The Daily 202’s Big Idea on
Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple Podcasts and other podcast players.
 
Welcome to the Daily 202, PowerPost's morning briefing for decision-makers.
Sign up to receive the newsletter.

WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- The Astros won an epic Game 5 of the World Series, beating the Dodgers 13-12 in 10 innings. Dave Sheinin reports: “A had-to-see-it-to-believe-it Game 5 of the World Series featured massive and incomprehensible swings of both lumber and momentum. But the last of each belonged to the Astros, giving them an impossibly rich and harrowing 13-12 win, one that tested the hearts and stomachs of everyone in the building until the final, precious out. And it leaves this upstart franchise, born in 1962 as the Colt .45’s, one victory away from its first World Series title. … In Sunday night’s thriller, there were three three-run homers in a span of 14 batters, two of which tied the game. There was the greatest pitcher of his generation blowing two big leads and failing to make it out of the fifth inning. … And that was just the first five innings.”

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Trump reportedly requested a meeting with the Iranian president at the United Nations in September. President Hassan Rouhani turned down Trump’s request, which would have come a day after Trump’s U.N. speech, in which he was highly critical of Iran. (Bloomberg)
  2. The U.S. military is investigating whether two Navy SEALS had a role in the killing of a Green Beret soldier, who was strangled in Mali earlier this year. (Dan Lamothe)
  3. A Belgian minister said the former president of Catalonia, who was removed from office last week amid a crisis over Catalonia's independence, could apply for asylum in his country. “Catalan people who feel politically threatened can ask for asylum in Belgium. That includes President Puigdemont. This is 100 percent legal,” said Theo Francken, the state secretary for asylum and migration. (Politico)
  4. The president of Kurdistan announced his intention to resign. Masoud Barzani led the push for last month’s referendum on independence from Iraq, which prompted a military response from the Iraqi government. (Tamer El-Ghobashy)
  5. Open Affordable Care Act enrollment begins Wednesday, but experts expect decreased sign-ups due to customer confusion over Republican efforts to dismantle the law and the Trump administration’s decision to slash funding for advertising. (Amy Goldstein and Juliet Eilperin)
  6. The case of an American citizen suspected to be a member of ISIS is causing problems for the Justice Department, which does not believe it has enough evidence against the man to charge him. If charges aren’t filed, authorities will have to release the suspect shortly. (Dana Priest, Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky)
  7. A retired Green Beret and convicted murderer attended Bowe Bergdhal’s sentencing hearing last week at Fort Bragg, where he made threatening remarks about the former Taliban prisoner and said during the proceedings: “I got a firing squad standing by.” His attendance appears to have been the result of a security oversight at the sprawling military complex. (Alex Horton)
  8. The Education Department is considering only partially forgiving federal student loans for students defrauded by for-profit colleges. Since its implementation, the Obama-era policy has helped tens of thousands of deceived students and canceled more than $550 million in loans owed to the now-defunct schools. (AP)
  9. Leaders of a historic church in Alexandria, Va., have decided to remove plaques from their sanctuary honoring George Washington and Robert E. Lee, who were both former parishioners. In a letter sent to members, church leaders called their decision “a sincere attempt to have a family conversation about our worship space, our larger history and our future.” (Lori Aratani)
  10. Saudi Arabia has officially granted citizenship to a humanoid robot named Sophia. But the decision quickly prompted an international outcry as critics noted the machine — which looks like Audrey Hepburn, mimics human expression and insists she “strives for empathy” — ironically now enjoys more freedoms than real, flesh-and-blood women in the country. (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
  11. A female cyclist who flipped off Trump’s motorcade generated an online firestorm after a photo of her gesture went viral. It is unclear whether Trump saw the woman, but the moment called to mind former protests against U.S. presidents — including the man who threw an egg at Bill Clinton and the Iraqi TV reporter who threw his shoes at George W. Bush. (Avi Selk)

THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- Arrests could well be coming today in what a trending Twitter hashtag is calling #MuellerMonday. “A mood of fateful anticipation is cloaking Washington, with possible arrests imminent after the federal grand jury in the Russia investigation approved its first charges,” reported CNN's Stephen Collinson this morning. “By taking one or more people into custody, a prospect first reported by CNN Friday, Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller would create a new, perilous reality for the White House . . . the charges could be the first step in a series of actions by the special counsel that strike at the heart of Trump's inner political and family circle, and could even put his presidency in jeopardy.”

-- Meanwhile, inside the White House: “Two of Trump’s top lawyers were traveling out of town when the first report broke Friday night that a federal grand jury had approved the first indictment in the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election,” Politico’s Annie Karni writes. “One of Trump’s personal attorneys, Ty Cobb, was relaxing on his deck in South Carolina, while the entire team was still working to confirm the veracity of the CNN report … The lack of information, on a case that could have major ramifications for the president, left many current and former Trump advisers livid, focusing their rage on how the information leaked and on a forever target: Hillary Clinton.”

-- Who is it? CNN’s Pamela Brown, Evan Perez and Shimon Prokupecz report: “The charges are still sealed under orders from a federal judge. Plans were prepared Friday for anyone charged to be taken into custody as soon as Monday, the sources said. It is unclear what the charges are. … On Friday, top lawyers who are helping to lead the Mueller probe, including veteran prosecutor Andrew Weissmann, were seen entering the courtroom at the DC federal court where the grand jury meets to hear testimony in the Russia investigation. Reporters present saw a flurry of activity at the grand jury room, but officials made no announcements.”

-- White House lawyer Ty Cobb told the New York Times’s Matt Apuzzo that Trump doesn’t believe Paul Manafort or Michael Flynn have damaging information to offer on the president to Mueller. “The president has no concerns in terms of any impact, as to what happens to them, on his campaign or on the White House,” Cobb said. 

-- An FBI investigation of Manafort includes a “keen” focus on 13 wire transfers it deems suspicious. BuzzFeed’s Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier report: "[In the series of transfers], offshore companies linked to Manafort moved more than $3 million all over the globe between 2012 and 2013. Much of the money came into the United States. These transactions … drew the attention of federal law enforcement officials as far back as 2012, when they began to examine wire transfers to determine if Manafort hid money from tax authorities or helped the Ukrainian regime close to [Putin] launder some of the millions it plundered through corrupt dealings.”

-- The response: Trump took to Twitter Sunday to express his frustration, writing in a flurry of tweets: “Never seen such Republican ANGER & UNITY as I have concerning the lack of investigation on Clinton made Fake Dossier (now $12,000,000?)," “the Uranium to Russia deal, the 33,000 plus deleted Emails, the Comey fix and so much more. Instead they look at phony Trump/Russia,” "'collusion,' which doesn't exist. The Dems are using this terrible (and bad for our country) Witch Hunt for evil politics, but the R's” “are now fighting back like never before. There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out. DO SOMETHING!” He later added: “All of this ‘Russia’ talk right when the Republicans are making their big push for historic Tax Cuts & Reform. Is this coincidental? NOT!” 

  • ICYMI: WaPo Fact Checker Glenn Kessler has a helpful guide to the latest allegations involving Russia, the “dossier,” and the Obama-era uranium deal. Read it here.

-- Republicans attacked Mueller in appearances on Sunday shows. Jenna Johnson reports: “‘There are very, very strict laws on grand jury secrecy, so depending on who leaked this to CNN, that’s a criminal violation, potentially,’ New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) . . . said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union’ . . . House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) cast doubt on the objectivity of Mueller’s team, noting that the prosecutor’s staff includes ‘a lot of individuals, attorneys who played in politics, who’ve given money on the Democratic side.'"

-- The reason: Trump is doing what he does best – creating distraction, the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza writes: Regarding Clinton and uranium: “The President was referring to an episode that took place in 2010 whereby the Obama Administration gave a Russian firm permission to buy a Canadian company that had the rights to mine a great deal of uranium in the U.S. The allegation is that, because Bill Clinton took some money from Russian interests, Hillary Clinton, in exchange, approved the uranium deal. … But the vast majority of examinations by journalists of the uranium deal have found no sign of wrongdoing. …”

“What’s more important is that Trump is once again spreading lies to confuse the public about the Russian attack on American democracy last year. Trump’s typical response to any allegation of wrongdoing is to accuse his accuser of the same crime. Perhaps the most famous moment of the Presidential debates last year was Trump’s response when Hillary Clinton accused him of being [Putin’s] puppet. ‘No puppet, no puppet, you’re the puppet,’ he muttered into his microphone. He has been trying to make that case ever since.”

-- ICYMI: The conservative website Washington Free Beacon first hired the firm that later produced the infamous Trump dossier. The New York Times’s Kenneth P. Vogel and Maggie Haberman reported Friday night: “The Free Beacon, funded in large part by the New York hedge fund billionaire Paul Singer, hired the firm, Fusion GPS, in 2015 to unearth damaging information about several Republican presidential candidates, including Mr. Trump. But The Free Beacon told the firm to stop doing research on Mr. Trump in May 2016, as Mr. Trump was clinching the Republican nomination. Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee had begun paying Fusion GPS in April for research that eventually became the basis for the dossier. The Free Beacon informed the House Intelligence Committee on Friday that it had retained the firm.”

-- Russia’s strategy of using oil to exert influence on the global stage could backfire,the New York Times’s Clifford Krauss reports. “The strategy faces a crucial test this week in Venezuela, a Russian ally that must come up with a billion dollars to avert defaults on its debts. Russia has been making a flurry of loans and deals all centered on the Venezuelan oil business, money that could make the difference between the government’s collapse and its survival. In return, Moscow is getting a strategic advantage in Washington’s backyard. … Moscow, through the state oil giant Rosneft, is trying to build influence in places where the United States has stumbled or power is up for grabs.”

-- And former Trump adviser Roger Stone was banned from Twitter after lashing out at CNN’s Don Lemon in a particularly profane and threatening rant. Avi Selk reports: "'Piece of s---,' Stone wrote to [CNN’s Don Lemon] mid-rant on Friday night, after CNN told viewers of an indictment in an investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election, which Stone helped [Trump] win. At 10 p.m. — as word of the indictment report spread … Stone tweeted that Lemon ‘must be confronted, humiliated, mocked and punished[.]' … The company rarely comments when it takes action against individual accounts, but it pointed [reporters to] its policies against abuse, harassment and intimidation — three words that Stone has been accused of many times in his political career.”

  • Stone has now threatened to sue Twitter with an “antitrust case” for kicking him off. (New York magazine)

TAXES ON CENTER STAGE:

-- As House Republican prepare to unveil their tax overhaul on Wednesday, a major interest group has come out against the proposal, vowing to do “everything we can to defeat this thing.” Mike DeBonis and Damian Paletta report: “The National Association of Home Builders, after learning that a ‘homeownership’ tax credit it had wanted will not be in an initial version of the bill, is preparing a nationwide campaign against it. The development underscored just how difficult the prospect of a successful tax overhaul will be, given the complex and competing interests that President Trump and GOP lawmakers are trying to serve. … Home builders are considered among the most politically influential groups, as they play a large role in the local economy for virtually every congressional district — and contribute millions to political campaigns. Lawmakers have frequently leaned in whatever direction the home builders have taken.”

Behind the scenes: “[NAHB President Jerry] Howard and [House Ways and Means Chair Kevin] Brady’s aides spent weeks working together to add to the bill a ‘homeownership tax credit,’ which essentially would have replaced the mortgage-interest and property-tax deductions, combining both benefits into a new tax credit. … The homeownership credit had some buy-in from the White House and congressional tax writers, but leaders including [Speaker Paul] Ryan were wary of threatening the bill’s passage by reneging on a pledge they had made for weeks to scores of lawmakers, according to a person familiar with the negotiations — that the mortgage-interest deduction would remain intact.”

-- Another influential group, the National Association of Realtors, belongs to a coalition that said in a statement it “will vigorously oppose this plan.” (Bloomberg’s Ben Brody)

-- Meanwhile, Republican leadership gave in a bit on their plan to eliminate the deduction for state and local taxes and pushed ahead with efforts to alter 401(k) limits. Mike and Damian write: “Republicans also appear poised to limit what American workers will be allowed to contribute pretax to their retirement plans — a change that stands to generate strong opposition. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) suggested Sunday in a television interview that the GOP is instead looking to increase the limit on post-tax contributions as a substitute. … [Brady] gave ground on the planned elimination of the federal income tax deduction for state and local taxes — a provision that had put Republican House members from New York, New Jersey, California and other high-tax states on edge — agreeing to maintain a deduction for property taxes but not for income or sales taxes.”

-- Bottom line, per our colleagues: “For the president and [Paul Ryan], the stakes couldn’t be higher. With the approach of the end of their first year controlling the White House and Congress, and the failure of health-care legislation still fresh, Republicans are desperate to post a win before next year’s midterm election cycle begins in earnest. By many of their own accounts, failure to pass tax legislation could lead to an electoral bloodbath, and the end of Ryan’s political career, in 2018.”

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN (AND WOMEN):

-- Puerto Rico said Sunday that it is canceling a controversial $300 million contract with Whitefish Energy Holdings, a tiny Montana-based firm located in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s hometown. (Zinke's son also worked there over the summer.) Steven Mufson and Arelis Hernández report: “The move came after Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said the contract was a distraction and should be canceled after critics in the electric power industry, Congress and [FEMA] raised questions about whether the company … was well equipped to respond to the hurricane damage. … Thirty-nine days after Hurricane Maria hit the territory … Rosselló said that he would request assistance from Florida and New York under mutual aid arrangements that utilities traditionally activate to help other states during an emergency.

“In tweets Sunday morning, Rosselló also called for additional measures to scrutinize contracting by the territory’s power authority more carefully. He said there should be a ‘special outside coordinator’ to monitor the utility’s purchases so we ‘can have more clarity in this process.’”

-- U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s recent trip to Africa underscored her close relationship to Trump as he and Rex Tillerson reportedly remain on the outs. Anne Gearan reports: “Her diplomatic mission to Africa — which included visits to desperate refugee camps that more than once brought Haley to tears — illustrated in stark terms her trusted position and unusually direct relationship with the president. Trump routinely talks with her about matters of world affairs even as policy differences over Iran, Afghanistan and other issues have tested his relationship with Tillerson. … Haley’s prominent role in the Trump’s administration as a kind of shadow secretary of state has led to widespread speculation that the former South Carolina governor, who has no prior experience in foreign policy, could be in line to replace Tillerson — a job she insisted she does not want during a joint interview with The Washington Post and Reuters.”

-- Jared Kushner returned home this weekend from an unannounced visit to Saudi Arabia — marking his third trip to the country since joining the administration. Politico’s Annie Karni reports: “Kushner was accompanied in the region by deputy national security adviser Dina Powell and Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt. … The trip comes at a moment when the president’s son-in-law has played a downsized diplomatic role in other parts of the globe, such as China. But it shows that he is still firmly at the forefront of the administration’s efforts in the Middle East.”

-- Maryland’s attorney general is investigating one of the Kushner family’s real estate businesses following reports alleging abusive debt collection practices and housing code violations. CNN Money’s Cristina Alesci reports: “This spring and summer, media reports exposed allegedly coercive tactics and inadequate maintenance in multifamily housing developments run by Westminster Management or related entities. An affiliate of Kushner Companies, Westminster manages about 17 properties in Maryland … In May, [other reports] detailed ‘poor upkeep’ inside developments run by Westminster, including appliance failures, mold and mouse infestations. The report also documented unsavory debt collection tactics.”

MEN BEHAVING BADLY:

-- Oscar winner Kevin Spacey has now been accused of making a sexual advance to actor Anthony Rapp when Rapp was just 14. BuzzFeed News’s Adam B. Vary reports: “Rapp is publicly alleging for the first time that in 1986, Spacey befriended Rapp while they both performed on Broadway shows, invited Rapp over to his apartment for a party, and, at the end of the night, picked Rapp up, placed him on his bed, and climbed on top of him, making a sexual advance. According to public records, Spacey was 26. Rapp was 14. … Representatives for Spacey, now 58, did not respond to numerous phone calls, emails, and a letter detailing the allegations.

“However after this story was published, Spacey posted on Twitter that he did not remember the encounter with Rapp. ‘But if I did behave then as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior,’ Spacey wrote. ‘This story has encouraged me to address other things about my life. I know that there are other stories out there about me and that some have been fueled by the fact that I have been so protective of my privacy,’ he continued. He also acknowledged for the first time publicly that ‘I now choose to live as a gay man.’”

-- Florida Senate employees are outraged by a new policy that bars them from reporting sexual harassment allegations to the director of HR. Politico’s Alexandra Glorioso reports: “Previously, Senate employees could complain to their supervisor, the Senate President or the Director of Human Resources of the Office of Legislative Services, a joint agency controlled by the House and Senate in a building separate from the Capitol. The new policy dictates that employees must now file complaints with their direct supervisor, the Senate Chief of Staff or Senate President Joe Negron. In addition, while all complaints were previously routed to the joint agency's director of human resources for investigation — no matter who they were reported to — they are now all directed to Negron for investigation. Senators and Senate staffers … said the new policy limits the options alleged victims have in reporting what is a serious and sensitive workplace violation.”

-- Meanwhile, female staffers at California’s capitol have been turning out in droves to report inappropriate incidents and what they describe as a “pervasive” culture of sexual harassment. LA Times’s Chris Megerian, Melanie Mason and Jack Dolan report: “It started with a dinner invitation from a former assemblyman more than twice her age. He had offered his services as a mentor, but his hand reaching for her knee under the table revealed other intentions. Then came the late-night phone calls and unexpected appearances at events she had to attend for her job in the Capitol. Fresh out of college, Amy Brown did what she thought women were supposed to do in these situations — she reported him. The former assemblyman accused her of slander, an experience that left her so humiliated that she left Sacramento for a new job in San Jose.”

-- The New Republic’s publisher Hamilton Fish V has taken a leave of absence as an investigation is conducted into “interactions between Ham Fish and a number of women employees,” according to an internal email. (The Daily Beast)

-- The fallout that began with allegations against Harvey Weinstein has touched a nerve in France. James McAuley reports: “A social media campaign erupted here almost simultaneously with the appearance of #MeToo in the United States[.] … As in the United States, after women began naming and shaming their attackers, some of the most prominent men in French public life stood accused of sexual assault. Most notably, the Swiss-born academic Tariq Ramadan, whose stance on Islam in Europe has transformed him into persona non grata among French elites, has been accused of raping two women, charges he denies. The outrage has only grown. Marlène Schiappa, a government minister who oversees gender equality, proposed fining men for ‘wolf whistling’ and sexually suggestive comments made on the street. On Sunday, thousands of women — and men — marched through the streets of nearly every major French city to voice their anger and demand an end to sexual harassment and assault.”

DIVIDED AMERICA:

-- Most of the Houston Texans knelt during the national anthem at yesterday’s game following a report that team owner Bob McNair made a reference to “inmates running the prison” about the ongoing demonstrations. Cindy Boren reports: “Previously, Texans players had chosen to stand, partly out of respect for the owner. But after meeting and rejecting options like removing the decals from their helmet and remaining in the locker room for the anthem, they came to the sideline, many took a knee and linked arms before the game against the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. … McNair has sought to clean up his mess, offering yet another statement Saturday after meeting with players. However, his apology to players did ‘not go over well,’ the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports.”

-- Americans now hold a starkly pessimistic view of their politics, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll released this weekend — with 7 in 10 adults now saying the nation’s political divides are at least as large as during the Vietnam War and nearly 60 percent of voters believing Trump has exacerbated the dysfunction. John Wagner and Scott Clement report: “Seven in 10 Americans say the nation’s politics have reached a dangerous low point, and a majority of those believe the situation is a ‘new normal’ rather than temporary …  [And] dissatisfaction extends well beyond the executive branch: Even more Americans, 8 in 10, say Congress is dysfunctional, and there is limited trust in other institutions, including the media.”

-- Trump’s approval rating hit a new low of 38 percent in an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll. NBC’s Mark Murray reports: “Trump’s job approval rating of 38 percent is the lowest in modern times for a president at this stage of his presidency. … Looking ahead to the 2018 midterm elections, which take place a year from now, 48 percent of registered voters in the poll say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, while 41 percent want a Republican-controlled Congress. That 7-point advantage for Democrats is up one point from September’s NBC/WSJ poll, but it’s smaller than the double digit margins they enjoyed in the 2006 and 2008 cycles, when they picked up a sizable number of congressional seats.”

-- A fight reportedly broke out in Brentwood, Tenn., between an interracial couple and a group of attendees of a nearby “White Lives Matter” rally. Amy B Wang reports: “The couple, a 30-year-old white woman and a 37-year-old black man, were dining inside the Corner Pub when a group of about 20 to 30 white men and women came in and sat at a table behind them[.] … The 30-year-old woman later told police that one of the group members asked her to ‘guess’ and that she responded ‘white lives matter,’ police said. … Police said another woman from the self-identified ‘white lives matter’ group began to argue with the 30-year-old woman, who was then reportedly punched in the face by a man, causing a cut above her eye. She did not seek medical treatment, police said.”

-- The rally itself — held in Shelbyville, Tenn. — was marked by a large group of counterprotesters (who outnumbered the white nationalist attendees 2-to-1) but no violence. Wesley Lowery reports: “At moments, the rally speakers spouted verbose diatribes about a ‘genocide’ they claim is being perpetrated against ‘the white race’ and ‘white Southern culture.’ At other times, the speeches seemed to be a grab-bag of talking points. One speaker complained that black Americans often say the n-word, but when he does, people are offended. The speaker after him railed against Black History Month. … Throughout the morning, the counterprotest oscillated between mocking the rally and drowning it out with music. At various points, they played the ‘Ghostbusters’ song, Michael Jackson’s ‘Black or White’ and the theme song to ‘Jeopardy.’ When the rally’s speakers tried to address the crowd they were drown out by ‘black lives matter’ chants.” A planned second rally was later canceled, leading counterprotesters to declare victory against the white nationalists.

-- Karen Heller profiles Rod Dreher, the popular conservative Christian writer who is no fan of Trump’s: “‘I’m a social and cultural conservative, and I think Trump is a disaster,’ says Dreher, 50. Asked why, he spits back, ‘Because of his incompetence, his recklessness and his malice. Plus, he is destroying conservatism as a credible public philosophy. The conservative movement needed serious reform, but this is annihilation.’ Once ‘a typical conservative Republican,’ Dreher is now a registered independent and last voted for president in 2008 — when he wrote in author Wendell Berry. He left the Republican Party after growing disenchanted with the Iraq War and the Bush administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina in his beloved home state. ‘I really thought the Republican Party was something you could count on. I had made a false idol of them,’ he says.”

-- Karen Tumulty and Perry Stein report from the Women’s Convention in Detroit, where organizers of January’s Women’s March led sessions on electing more women to office: “Identity issues were a theme of many of the convention events, which included a workshop titled ‘Confronting White Womanhood,’ for ‘white women committed to being part of an intersectional feminist movement to unpack the ways white women uphold and benefit from white supremacy.’ Other sessions looked at the practical challenges of turning the raw feelings left over from the 2016 election into lasting political power. Among them: ‘How to Organize a Protest/Rally in Less Than 24 Hours!’ … In one fiery speech after another, the women were told that the best way to achieve that is to elect more women to political office.”

  • Attendees from Virginia urged their fellow conventiongoers to get involved in Democrat Ralph Northam’s gubernatorial campaign, Perry Stein adds.

THE CIVIL WAR:

-- THE PROFILE EVERYONE'S TALKING ABOUT --> Politico Magazine, “John Boehner Unchained,” by Tim Alberta: “[John] Boehner is a fascinating and paradoxical figure in his own right. He was the brilliant salesman who couldn’t get his own members to buy. The back-slapping creature of K Street who never took a single earmark. The gruff chain-smoker who weeps at the mere mention of schoolchildren. The bartender’s son who became speaker of the House. … But the story of Boehner’s 25 years in Washington is also the story of the Republican Party, the Congress and American politics in the post-Ronald Reagan era: an account of corruption and crusading, enormous promises and underwhelming results, growing ideological polarization and declining faith in government.

A few nuggets:

  • He's still smoking. “If I was going to die from smoking cigarettes, I’d already be dead,” the former speaker said.
  • About Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) leaving Congress and Freedom Caucus-er Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) interested in taking his place: “F--- Jordan. F--- Chaffetz. They’re both a--holes.” Later, Chaffetz is a “total phony” and “it's always about Chaffetz.” On Jordan and his role in the House: “Jordan was a terrorist as a legislator going back to his days in the Ohio House and Senate,” Boehner says. “A terrorist. A legislative terrorist.”
  • A turnabout on Ted Cruz (R-Tex.): “Boehner, at one point, surprises me by saying he’s proud of Cruz — whom he once called 'Lucifer in the flesh' — for acting responsibly in 2017. Do you feel badly about calling him Lucifer, I ask? “No!” Boehner snorts. “He’s the most miserable son of a b---- I’ve ever had to work with.”)
  • The most bizarre tidbit: “[Boehner’s] heckling once provoked [Rep.] Don Young [R-Alaska] … to pin Boehner against a wall inside the House chamber and hold a 10-inch knife to his throat. Boehner says he stared Young in the eyes and said, ‘F--- you.’ (Young says this account is ‘mostly true,’ but notes that the two became good friends, with Boehner later serving as his best man.)”

-- “Nancy Pelosi isn’t going anywhere. Will it help or hurt Democrats in 2018?” by Michael Scherer: “The last time Pelosi led Democrats in an effort to take back the House, she was a new face on the scene, promising to ‘drain the swamp’ a decade before Trump adopted the phrase. She became the first female speaker and the most powerful woman in American history, only to lose the gavel four years later — after passing the Affordable Care Act, the 2009 stimulus and new financial regulations. … But rather than shrink from the spotlight, Pelosi is once again in control — her party’s top fundraiser, senior midterm election strategist and top legislative negotiator[.] With substantial help from the opposition, she has been winning more than not, at least as measured by a growing number of competitive seats, her ability to outmaneuver Republican leaders on Capitol Hill and Trump’s low approval ratings. ‘There are a lot of ways to skin a cat,’ she likes to joke about the president. ‘And he is skinning himself.’”

-- It has been almost exactly two years since Paul Ryan took the reins from Boehner as House speaker, and he’s still waiting for a signature achievement, Paul Kane writes: “The coming week brings what may shape up as his last, best chance to achieve one — and the most important moment of his 19-year congressional career: the debut of legislation to rewrite the tax code. … He has craved this moment. He also has good reason to dread it. A major question is whether much has changed since an unruly House Republican Conference … forced Boehner out and ground governance to a halt. … Failure to advance tax legislation … would be crippling. One possibility if Republicans head into 2018 having to explain why they failed on both health care and taxes: a political bloodbath that drops the GOP into the minority and boots Ryan off the dais.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Trump took a “not at all presidential” turn on Twitter:

Michael Moore responded to Trump's criticism of his play, which was always scheduled for a limited 12-week engagement:

The president also blamed Democrats for rising Obamacare premiums:

From a HuffPost political reporter:

The Post's conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin suggested this of the Russia probes:

The managing editor of Lawfare added this:

One of the “Morning Joe” hosts chimed in:

A former Obama speechwriter criticized a Wall Street Journal op-ed entitled “James Comey and Robert Mueller Imperil the Rule of Law”:

The Journal's editorial board also attracted criticism for an editorial that called for Mueller's resignation:

Actress Alyssa Milano devised this plan of action:

Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol analyzed “Trump rationalizers”:

It's hard to believe that the retirement announcement by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) was just last week, from National Journal's political editor:

Newsweek's political editor wondered why the conservative Federalist Society, whose members focus on an originalist interpretation of the Constitution, hasn't commented on the Alabama Senate race: 

Hillary Clinton responded to Five Thirty Eight Nate Silver's tweet marking the first anniversary of the Comey letter:

Amtrak came under fire after a passenger tweeted that she had been forced to remove her Hillary Clinton campaign button:

Amtrak apologized and blamed the incident on one employee's misunderstanding, but the exchange caught the eye of a Harvard Law professor:

James Comey once again tweeted from his not-so-secret Twitter account:

Senators celebrated Halloween on Capitol Hill:

And here's a picture of the kids of the press corps who met with trick-or-treaters in the Oval Office:

The daughter of this candidate for Arizona GOP Rep. David Schweikert's House seat chose to dress up as Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.):

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- New York magazine, “John Kasich Is Already Running,” by Lisa Miller: “Kasich 2020 is not just a media proposition. Kasich is a sitting governor exploring a run against a president of his own party — a starkly unusual circumstance. He retains a skeletal campaign staff, and they are helping him to think through his options: Should he run as a Republican in the primaries or as an Independent in the general election? … Kasich has not declared he’s running, and everyone I spoke to preempted their hypotheticals with caveats. In the Trump era, two years is an eternity. ‘Look,’ said Stuart Stevens, a strategist who advised Mitt Romney on his 2012 run. ‘We could be at war with Iraq. We could be at war with Iraq and North Korea. We could be at war with Canada. Who knows?’ But among the party’s intelligentsia, all agree there is a common wish that the White House be occupied by a different Republican.”

-- Boston Globe, “The Mercers bring their politics, and millions, to Mass.,” by Annie Linskey: “Robert Mercer and his politically minded middle daughter Rebekah have a longer-term goal: They want to sand down some of [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren’s [D-Mass.] gloss ahead of an expected presidential campaign in 2020. Their investment so far in the Bay State — a $150,000 donation to an obscure local super PAC — is hardly enough to redefine a popular senator in her own state, much less the country. But two people familiar with the Mercer family say that they intend to branch out beyond radio and pump far more cash into the effort as the campaign progresses.”

-- The New York Times, “Forget Washington. Facebook’s Problems Abroad Are Far More Disturbing,” by Kevin Roose: “Violence against the Rohingya has been fueled, in part, by misinformation and anti-Rohingya propaganda spread on Facebook, which is used as a primary news source by many people in the country. Doctored photos and unfounded rumors have gone viral on Facebook, including many shared by official government and military accounts. The information war in Myanmar illuminates a growing problem for Facebook. The company successfully connected the world to a constellation of real-time communication and broadcasting tools, then largely left it to deal with the consequences.”

-- The New York Times, “‘You’re a Quadriplegic’: A Las Vegas Victim Faces a Hard Reality,” by Julie Turkewitz: “[H]ere she was, three weeks after the shooting, strapped into a wheelchair at a rehabilitation clinic, toughing it out with a physical therapist and straining to drink from a sippy cup as her toddler grandchildren looked on. This is the road after Las Vegas, after a high-stakes gambler named Stephen Paddock hauled powerful weapons into a gilded casino and opened fire on a country music festival below. The journey — as the survivors of so many other American mass shootings will say — is one full of chronic pain, fights with insurance, ruined marriages, lost jobs, anguished parents and children, and the injustice of being forced into a new identity: victim.”

HOT ON THE LEFT

“State Department support for diplomats with children with disabilities is contracting,” from Jackie Spinner: “The U.S. State Department has been quietly withdrawing financial support for diplomat families of children with special needs, effectively forcing some parents to serve overseas without their children or ultimately leave the Foreign Service. In the past year and a half, the department has stopped funding some services that children with disabilities would be entitled to in the United States, including therapy, one-on-one school aides, periodic retesting, and summer or extended school years.”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT

“Should college students have to pay fees that go to groups they don’t support?” from Jon Marcus: “In a little-noticed offshoot of the debate about free speech on campus, Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin and Minnesota have called for letting students opt out of required fees that go to clubs and causes with which they disagree. They say their proposals would give students the right to vote their consciences when choosing how their money is divided up — and would slow the growth of student fees. … Proposals such as these raise the question of whether freedom of speech includes the right of students to prevent their money from going to certain groups[.]”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump has a morning meeting with Rex Tillerson and lunch with Jeff Sessions and Pence. He will later also meet with Jim Mattis before joining the first lady for the White House’s Halloween.

Pence will participate in Steve King’s swearing-in ceremony as the U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic after his lunch with Trump and Sessions.

And Fox News will debut its new prime time lineup tonight, with Laura Ingraham's show “The Ingraham Angle” premiering at 10 p.m. EST. 

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, defended Robert Mueller’s Russia probe on “Fox News Sunday:” “I would encourage my Republican friends — give the guy a chance to do his job. The result will be known by the facts, by what he uncovers . . . I would say give the guy a chance to do his job.”

 

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

-- The rain should taper off early today in the District. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Showers quickly end from west to east early morning and clouds should gradually decrease this morning with sunshine becoming dominant this afternoon. The combination of the morning wind, gusting over 30 mph, and chilly temperature make it feel like the 30s for some of us, so add an extra layer. This afternoon, those wind gusts ease to 20 mph or so, as temperatures rise through the 50s, it won’t feel quite as brisk.”

-- The Redskins lost to the Cowboys 33-19. (Liz Clarke)

-- The Wizards beat the Kings 110-83. (Candace Buckner)

-- Chicago Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez will be the Nationals’ next manager. Jorge Castillo and Chelsea Janes report: “The team is finalizing a three-year contract with an option for a fourth, according to a person familiar with the situation. Martinez has served as Joe Maddon’s bench coach in Chicago and Tampa Bay for a decade but will be a first-time manager.”

-- A “Bikers for Trump” rally yesterday promoted Republican Ed Gillespie’s gubernatorial bid in Virginia, but Gillespie himself did not attend. Laura Vozzella reports.

-- A death at United Medical Center has raised concerns about the quality of care at the city’s only public hospital. Peter Jamison reports: “From his bed in Room 704, Warren Webb’s moans cohered into words: ‘Help! I can’t breathe!’ A registered nurse appeared and adjusted the height of his bed. But the nurse quickly began arguing with Webb’s wheelchair-bound roommate, who was pleading for her to do more to help. Webb rolled out of bed and landed on the floor, his diaper coming loose. Webb, a 47-year-old AIDS patient, would lie on the floor in his own waste for approximately 20 minutes while his nurse quarreled with his roommate and then conversed with a security guard. When he was finally lifted back into bed, his caregivers could not find a pulse. Just after 6 a.m., he was pronounced dead.”

-- Average rents at D.C.’s higher-end apartment buildings have slightly decreased over the past year, giving at least temporary relief to a years-long pattern of rent hikes. (Aaron Gregg)

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

John Oliver criticized the federal government's system for flood recovery:

Joy-Ann Reid broke down the uranium deal that Trump has repeatedly cited in his attacks against Hillary Clinton:

Pro-Spain demonstrators took to the streets of Barcelona:

Donald Trump Jr. went pheasant hunting with Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) as part of a fundraiser for the congressman:

The White House was decorated for Halloween:

And a Halloween costume contest for dogs was hosted in Peru: