Since President Trump likes alliterative nicknames, maybe the special counsel’s should be Methodical Mueller.
Unveiling the first batch of criminal allegations to come from probes into possible Russian influence in the American political system, Robert S. Mueller III proved Monday that he is not messing around. The former FBI director has played his cards carefully since his appointment in May. He’s clearly turning over every rock to see what crawls out from underneath. Unafraid to play hardball, he’s being strategic in showing his hand.
You surely know the news by now: Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, and his longtime business partner, Rick Gates, were charged in a 12-count indictment with conspiracy to launder money, making false statements and other charges in connection with their work advising a Russia-friendly political party in Ukraine.
But the biggest bombshell of Monday — the real October Surprise — is that former Trump foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos agreed to a plea deal and admitted to making a false statement to FBI investigators about his contacts with foreigners claiming to have high-level Russian connections.
“The charges are striking for their breadth, touching all levels of the Trump campaign and exploring the possible personal, financial wrongdoing of those involved, as well as what appeared to be a concerted effort by one campaign official to arrange a meeting with Russian officials,” Matt Zapotosky, Rosalind S. Helderman, Carol D. Leonnig and Spencer S. Hsu write in our lead story.
“[Mueller’s] opening bid is a remarkable show of strength,” Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes explain on their Lawfare blog. “He has a cooperating witness from inside the campaign’s interactions with the Russians. And he is alleging not mere technical infractions of law but astonishing criminality on the part of Trump’s campaign manager, a man who also attended the Trump Tower meeting. Any hope the White House may have had that the Mueller investigation might be fading away vanished . . . Things are only going to get worse from here.”
-- Here are 10 takeaways from Mueller’s opening gambit:
1. We now know that multiple members of the Trump campaign at least entertained the idea of getting help from the Russians.
Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails were apparently hacked by the Russians in March 2016. That same month, Papadopoulos began communicating with someone he believed to be linked to the Kremlin. By July, Trump was publicly encouraging the Kremlin to release Clinton’s emails. “The White House can no longer claim honestly (if it ever could) that the investigation into Russian collusion is nonexistent,” Jennifer Rubin notes.
This comes against the backdrop of the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower that we already knew about, which came after Donald Trump Jr. emailed that he loved the idea of getting dirt from Russia about Hillary Clinton.
“At this point, it would be a truly remarkable coincidence if two entities that had so many ties to each other, that had so much information about what the other was doing, and that were working so hard toward the same goal never found a way to coordinate,” Vox’s Ezra Klein writes.
2. Sam Clovis is about to be in the hot seat.
The former Iowa radio host and social conservative activist is awaiting Senate confirmation to serve in the Agriculture Department’s top scientific post. His confirmation hearing is expected next month.
Victoria Toensing, an attorney for Clovis, confirmed to our Rosalind Helderman that several references in court filings to “the campaign supervisor” refer to the former radio host from Iowa, who served as Trump’s national campaign co-chairman.
“At one point, Papadopoulos emailed Clovis and other campaign officials about a March 24, 2016, meeting he had in London with a professor, who had introduced him to the Russian ambassador and a Russian woman he described as ‘Putin’s niece,’” Helderman reports. “The group had talked about arranging a meeting ‘between us and the Russian leadership to discuss U.S.-Russia ties under President Trump,’ Papadopoulos wrote. (Papadopoulos later learned that the woman was not Putin’s niece, and while he expected to meet the ambassador, he never did, according to filings.) Clovis responded that he would ‘work it through the campaign,’ adding, ‘great work,’ according to court documents.
“In August 2016, Clovis responded to efforts by Papadopoulos to organize an ‘off the record’ meeting with Russian officials. ‘I would encourage you’ and another foreign policy adviser to the campaign to ‘make the trip, if it is feasible,’ Clovis wrote. Toensing said Clovis ‘always vigorously opposed any Russian trip for Donald Trump and/or the campaign.’ She said his responses to Papadopoulos were courtesy by ‘a polite gentleman from Iowa.’”
Will Trump stand by him?
3. Papadopoulos is helping the government, but we still don’t know how much.
Papadopoulos has been working with Mueller’s team for three months now, and he is described in court documents as a “proactive cooperator.”
Former public defender and professor Seth Abramson explains why that term is probably bad news for others in Trump’s orbit: “Prosecutors often require a defendant to perform cooperative services for the government well in *advance* of his or her formal plea,” he tweeted. “The reason for this is that — via both ‘proffer’ and sometimes actual performance — a defendant must show they're of value to the government. So there is *every* reason to think that Papadopoulos was wired for sound not long after his arrest on July 27th, 2017 at Dulles airport. For Papadopoulos to get his October 5th plea, one of two things had to be true: (a) the feds had already got good sound from him; or... ..(b) he'd made a sufficient proffer establishing that he *could* get good sound for them — valuable evidence — shortly after October 5th.”
Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who Trump fired earlier this year, told Politico Magazine: “Hard to tell, but the George Papadopoulos guilty plea tells us (a) Mueller is moving fast (b) the Mueller team keeps secrets well (c) more charges should be expected and (d) this team takes obstruction and lying very, very seriously. That should be of concern to some people.”
From the Toronto Star's Washington reporter:
4. The updated timeline raises a host of new questions about what Trump knew and when he knew it.
First, was Trump present when Papadopoulos said that he could set up a Trump-Putin meeting? “The indictment says Papadopoulos attended a ‘national security meeting’ about March 31 with ‘Trump and other foreign policy advisers for the campaign,” Aaron Blake notes. “It says Papadopoulos told ‘the group’ that he had connections and could arrange a Trump-Putin meeting. The text doesn’t technically say whether Trump was present when this claim was made. But if he was, it would render Trump’s own denials of his campaign’s contact with Russia pretty dishonest.”
Second, did Trump know Papadopoulos had been interviewed by the FBI when he called James Comey in January to allegedly ask for the FBI director’s loyalty?
From an alumnus of Obama’s Justice Department:
5. Mueller is playing hardball as he tries to flip Manafort and Gates.
Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty in D.C. federal court. A judge set a $10 million unsecured bond for Manafort and a $5 million unsecured bond for Gates. They will be on home confinement.
“The criminal charge of being an unregistered foreign agent — a so-called ‘FARA violation’ — against Paul Manafort is a rare crime, used just four times (all successfully) in the last decade. Normally, it’s allowed to be just a civil penalty, so the fact that Mueller has deployed it as a criminal one means he’s going for maximum leverage,” Garrett M. Graff explains on Wired.
A former Watergate assistant special prosecutor, Nick Akerman, said the court filings “all spell bad news for Trump” because he cannot see any strong defense to the Manafort indictment. “The only defense that you’ve got is to go in there and start singing like a canary to avoid jail time,” he told our colleagues. “And once he starts singing, one of the tunes is bound to be Donald Trump.”
“Manafort may now be facing the prospect of years in prison, and the indictment seems meticulously rooted in facts and evidence that Robert Mueller accumulated; if I were Manafort, I’d be very worried,” adds New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. “Presumably that was the intention, and one purpose of the indictment is to gain leverage to persuade Manafort to testify against others in exchange for leniency. If Manafort pursues his self-interest, my bet is that he’ll sing. That then can become a cascade: He testifies against others, who in turn are pressured to testify against still others. And all this makes it more difficult to protect the man at the center if indeed he has violated the law.”
6. Mueller’s moves are designed to send a message to everyone else entangled in the probe that he's not messing around.
Devlin Barrett, Sari Horwitz and Ellen Nakashima explain why in a story that quotes several legal experts: “This is the way you kick off a big case,” said white-collar defense lawyer Patrick Cotter, who formerly worked alongside the man spearheading the prosecution of Manafort and Gates. “Oh, man, they couldn’t have sent a message any clearer if they’d rented a revolving neon sign in Times Square. And the message isn’t just about Manafort. It’s a message to the next five guys they talk to. And the message is: ‘We are coming, and we are not playing, and we are not bluffing.’”
“Mueller's team controlled the selection of facts in the Papadoupolous plea. Three messages, at least, shaped their choice,” author and former Post reporter Barton Gellman explained in a series of tweets: “One: Mueller knows things, some of them about Russia, and has proof. He's warning other campaign witnesses against perjury. Two: He's not saying exactly what he knows or how. Uncertainty there inspires dread, may flush out evidence he doesn't even know about. Three: Early cooperation will save you from the worst. Mueller could have taken a lot harsher approach to the Papadopoulos facts. Classic leverage … He may know what you're hiding. He'll scorch you & yours if you lie. Spill and he'll go easier. Don't wait too long.”
7. Unsealing the guilty plea was an insurance policy that makes it politically untenable for Trump to fire Mueller.
Most congressional Republicans stayed silent in the face of the news (more on that below), but a handful of key lawmakers on the right telegraphed that firing Mueller would cross an unacceptable red line. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said in a statement, “it's important to let our legal system run its course”: “It’s good to see the Justice Department taking seriously its responsibility to enforce [FARA].”
“He’s not going to be fired by the president,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said of Mueller. “Because I know him. He knows that’d be a stupid move.”
Trump lawyers Ty Cobb, John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, who have each advised the president to use caution in his public response to the mounting investigation, all sought on Monday to tamp speculation that Trump is even considering firing Mueller. “Nothing about today’s events alters anything related to our engagement with the special counsel, with whom we continue to cooperate,” Cobb, the White House lawyer overseeing Russia matters, told reporters. “There are no discussions and there is no consideration being given to terminating Mueller.” Sekulow, one of Trump’s outside lawyers, also echoed that response: “There’s no firing-Robert-Mueller discussions,” he said. Asked whether Trump is considering pardons for Manafort or Gates, Cobb said: “No, no, no. That’s never come up and won’t come up.”
To be sure, that does not mean he won’t be tempted. Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon “is pushing Trump to take action against Mueller, urging him in particular to defund the investigation … a move that would defang Mueller without the president formally firing him,” Politico’s Eliana Johnson reports. “Longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone told the Daily Caller that for the president appointing another special counsel — this one to investigate [the Obama-era uranium deal] — was his ‘only chance for survival.’”
8. Yesterday’s indictments will contribute to a climate of fear in the White House that makes it harder for Trump and his staff to be effective.
“Away from the podium, Trump staffers fretted privately over whether Manafort or Gates might share with Mueller’s team damaging information about other colleagues,” Robert Costa, Philip Rucker, and Ashley Parker report. “They expressed concern in particular about Gates because he has a young family, may be more stretched financially than Manafort and continued to be involved in Trump’s political operation and had access to the White House, including attending West Wing meetings after Trump was sworn in. ‘The walls are closing in,’ said one senior Republican in close contact with top staffers … ‘Everyone is freaking out.’”
9. Mueller has proven that his investigation is not partisan.
Democratic uber-lobbyist Tony Podesta abruptly quit his post atop the Podesta Group, the capital’s eighth highest-grossing lobbying firm, just hours after the first indictments were unsealed. The indictments of Manafort and Gates raised questions about the work Podesta’s firm did with Manafort to improve the image of the Ukrainian government.
“Tony’s Podesta Group is one of two firms described in Monday’s indictment as having been recruited by Manafort and Gates to lobby on behalf of Viktor Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine who fled to Moscow in 2014,” Marc Fisher and Carol Leonnig report. “Federal prosecutors have accused Manafort of creating a scheme to mislead the government about his secret work for a Ukrainian political leader. Both the Podesta Group and the other firm, Mercury Public Affairs, have said they were hired to lobby for a European nonprofit based in Brussels trying to polish Ukraine’s image in the West. But behind the scenes, prosecutors allege, the real client was a political party led by the former Ukraine president, who was friendly with Russia.”
10. The indictments cast fresh doubts on Trump’s judgment and his discernment in surrounding himself with good people.
It was widely and publicly known that Manafort was one sketchy hombre when Trump hired him to run his campaign last year. BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith has a good primer on “the open secrets of the Russia story,” detailing the long and well-known history of Manafort and Gates’s work abroad.
Manafort joined the campaign with his own reasons to help the Russians, separate from Trump’s agenda. While the current charges against Manafort do not focus on attempts to collude with the Russian government, his interests and Russian interests overlapped on several occasions while serving on the campaign. (Philip Bump lists some.)
Finally, and perhaps most significantly, Mike Pence is only vice president today because Manafort persuaded Trump to pick him. It was very clear last summer that the then-Indiana governor would not have gotten tapped for the ticket if Manafort hadn’t prodded the GOP nominee.
HOW IT’S PLAYING:
-- Today's print edition:
-- Across the mainstream media:
Our Michael Kranish and Tom Hamburger have more on Manafort’s lavish lifestyle, as highlighted in the indictment. “In all, out of more than $75 million that flowed through the offshore accounts, more than $18 million was ‘laundered,’ with income concealed from the U.S. government, and was used in part to cover Manafort’s ‘lavish lifestyle.'”
Los Angeles Times: “In Beverly Hills’ ultra-luxury shopping district, it’s easy to get sticker shock. Still, some merchants expressed disbelief that someone could spend that kind of money on clothes in a four-year period.”
David Stern and Andrew Roth in Ukraine: “The news of [Manafort’s] indictment on Monday elicited cheers in Ukraine, where activists and politicians seeking to root out political corruption had seethed at the American political operative’s counsel to the country’s ousted leader, Viktor Yanukovych.”
New York Times: “Rick Gates, a Protégé of Paul Manafort, Is Indicted Alongside Him.”
Politico: “Inside White House, a sense of both danger and relief in Mueller’s first moves.”
The Atlantic's David Frum: “Staying Silent May Backfire Spectacularly on Republican Lawmakers.”
The New Yorker’s John Cassidy: “Trump’s relatively muted reaction doesn't mean that the White House’s ongoing disinformation and propaganda campaign against Mueller is over. As the special counsel’s investigation continues, this effort will surely expand and intensify, with conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton continuing to feature prominently. And, judging by the last few days, plenty of Republicans on Capitol Hill will be willing to join in this great diversion.”
Bloomberg’s Eli Lake explains why Papadopoulos’s search for Russian dirt on Clinton differs from the Clinton campaign’s funding of the Trump dossier in key ways: “Trump supporters would seem justified in asking, why is it permissible for Russians to help Democrats and not permissible for Russians to help Republicans? … The Russians tried to sow chaos in the election by trolling both the left and the right on social media with fake news. But when Russian hackers distributed stolen emails on the internet, they came from only one party: the Democrats.”
-- On Capitol Hill: Senate Republicans largely avoided weighing in on the Russia investigation or the substance of the charges — deferring questions instead to Mueller. “That’s [Mueller’s] wheelhouse, not ours,” Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said. “I probably know less than you,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said, declaring that he was “way behind on that issue.” (Karoun Demirjian and Sean Sullivan)
- Mitch McConnell (Ky.) left his “press conference” on judicial nominations before reporters could ask him about the indictments.
- Paul Ryan (Wis.) avoided the subject in a radio interview, except to say that it wouldn't interfere with House Republicans' efforts to overhaul the tax system.
- Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (N.C.) said “nothing that happened” on Monday will change his approach to the investigation. “The special counsel has found a reason on criminal violations to indict two individuals and I will leave that up to the special counsel to make that determination,” he said in a statement.
-- On right-wing media:
- “The Paul Manafort indictment is much ado about nothing . . . except as a vehicle to squeeze Manafort, which is special counsel Robert Mueller’s objective — as we have been arguing for three months,” Andrew C. McCarthy argues on National Review.
- “They don’t have anything on Trump,” Laura Ingraham said on Fox News. “If they had something on Trump, that would be the indictment today. … I mean, we don’t know anything more than we see in these 31 pages, but as far as a smoking gun that in any way casts aspersions on Donald Trump — it’s a nothing-burger.”
- “If there was collusion, any evidence or even an allegation has yet to be revealed by the special counsel,” Fox News’s chief White House correspondent John Roberts noted.
- Fox’s Sean Hannity suggested a new Clinton investigation on his show.
- New York Post: “Robert Mueller’s big catch was low-level, unpaid intern.”
-- On left-wing media:
-- How it played on the late-night shows:
“I know it’s almost Halloween, but it really feels more like Christmas,” Stephen Colbert said. He also responded to the White House’s claim that the “real collusion scandal” had to do with Clinton: “Of course, Hillary Clinton colluded with Russia to lose the election,” Colbert said. He added of Papadopoulos's attempts to set up meetings with Russian officials, “You can't do that. That's Don Jr.'s job.”
“The Trump administration is turning into a game of Clue, but since it’s Trump, Clueless,” Seth Meyers said. He mocked Trump’s attempts to play down the controversy on Twitter: “It’s like getting pulled over and saying ‘I wasn’t speeding officer and there’s no cocaine in the glove compartment! Don’t look there. It’s a waste of your time.'”
“At least it happened before Halloween, so now [Manafort] can change his costume to ‘sexy convict,’” Trevor Noah added. He also said that the Trump camp seems to have a new name for Manafort: “New phone, who dis?”
-- How it played on social media:
The president continues trying to turn the tables:
This picture of Papadopoulos in a March 2016 meeting with Trump was resurrected:
James Comey tweeted this cryptic quote after the indictments were unsealed:
It was a tough day for this other George Papadopoulos, a financial planner from Michigan:
A CNN host responded to Trump's claim that “there is no collusion”:
Political reporters made fun of the alt-right:
Many complained that Fox News devoted relatively little airtime to the news. From a Teen Vogue columnist:
From a Republican strategist in Florida:
The Post’s in-house satirist mocked the White House press secretary's spin:
Barack Obama’s former chief strategist mocked Sanders’s assertion that the indictments have “nothing to do with the president”:
MORE ON RUSSIA’S DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN:
-- Facebook plans to tell lawmakers today that Russian content on its site may have reached 126 million users during the presidential campaign — far more than first disclosed, according to draft testimonies from the company. Craig Timberg and Elizabeth Dwoskin report: “Previously, Facebook had focused its disclosures on Russian ads. The company has said that 470 accounts and pages run by a Russian troll farm had purchased roughly 3,000 ads, [which reached] an estimated 10 million users. But the troll farm … also published free content [which is estimated to have a spread] far greater than that of ads … On Tuesday, Facebook’s General Counsel Colin Stretch is expected to say that between 2015 and 2017, the troll farm posted about 80,000 times, and that roughly 29 million people received that content in their news feeds. Because those posts were also liked, shared, and commented on by Facebook users, the company estimates that three times more people — and at most 126 million — may have been exposed to a story that originated from Russian operatives.”
-- Russia-linked Facebook accounts even organized events supporting both sides of divisive issues in the lead-up to the election. The Wall Street Journal's Deepa Seetharaman reports: “In July 2016, as outrage swelled over fatal shootings in Dallas and Minneapolis, alleged social-media agitators tied to Russia worked quickly to capitalize on the emotionally charged atmosphere. Workers linked to a Russia-based firm organized two gatherings, both for July 10: In Dallas, a ‘Blue Lives Matter’ rally honored the five police officers slain there on July 7; and near Minneapolis, nearly 300 people rallied in support of Philando Castile, a man fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop. The events show that the Russian-linked account activity went far beyond paying for polarizing ads dropped into Facebook members’ news feeds.”
-- Meanwhile, Google acknowledged for the first time Monday that its platform was also compromised by Russian trolls, who uploaded over a thousand videos on 18 different YouTube channels.
GET SMART FAST:
- A federal judge in D.C. partially blocked Trump’s directive banning transgender people from serving in the military, writing in a strongly worded opinion that the policy “does not appear to be supported by any facts.” The decision, which was hailed as a victory by LBGT activists, allowed to stand a part of the proposal that would bar military health funds from being used for sex-reassignment surgery. (Justin Jouvenal)
- The FBI is investigating Whitefish Energy’s $300 million contract to rebuild Puerto Rico’s electrical grid. The bureau is looking into why PREPA chose to award the now-canceled contract to the small, Montana-based firm. (The Wall Street Journal)
- Jim Mattis and Rex Tillerson told Congress that it did not need to pass a new authorization for use of military force. The two Cabinet members argued to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that they already have the legal authority to conduct military operations against groups like ISIS. (Carol Morello)
- A second suspect in the Benghazi attacks was taken into custody. American commandos captured Mustafa al-Imam this weekend near Misurata, Libya. (New York Times)
- Catalonia’s dismissed leader popped up in Belgium. Carles Puigdemont may seek asylum in Belgium after Madrid announced it would pursue prosecution of the region’s separatists. (New York Times)
- The judge determining Bowe Bergdahl’s sentence denied a motion to dismiss the case based on Trump’s disparaging comments about Bergdahl. But the judge acknowleged the comments could result in a lighter sentence, if anything. Taking the stand yesterday, Bergdahl recounted the terrible treatment he suffered at the hands of his captors. (Alex Horton)
- Sen. Bob Menendez’s defense team rested its case in his corruption trial without the New Jersey Democrat taking the stand. The judge and attorneys will next determine jury instructions before deliberations begin. (Politico)
- South Korea and China will hold summit talks next week to address U.S. deployment of a missile defense system in the South. China has voiced fears that the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system installed this year threatens its security. (AP)
- Sen. Claire McCaskill’s husband is in the hospital. The Missouri Democrat tweeted that her husband, Joseph Shepard, “has a very big heart but right now not working very well. Currently in ICU. Thanks for your prayers in advance.” (AP)
- A Danish inventor admitted to having dismembered the body of journalist Kim Wall. Peter Madsen has changed his story repeatedly about what happened to Wall on his submarine, but he maintains that he did not kill her. (Rachel Siegel)
- Richard Nixon’s “Western White House” is on the market for $63.5 million. La Casa Pacifica hosted a number of world leaders while Nixon was in office, and he lived there full time after resigning until 1980. (Amy Dobson)
PERSONNEL IS POLICY:
-- It's Jerome Powell as the next Fed chair, with Trump expected to make the announcement on Thursday. Heather Long and Damian Paletta report: “Powell, a Republican, is widely viewed as a safe pick who is unlikely to make any dramatic changes to the Fed's handling of the economy at a time when the stock market is soaring and unemployment is at a 16-year low. Unlike some of the other candidates Trump considered, Powell has been supportive of [current chair Janet] Yellen's policy of slowly raising interest rates, which have been at historic lows for nearly a decade[.] … [Powell has] served as a Fed governor, a top leadership role within the central bank, since 2012. He also has deep experience on Wall Street and in Washington.”
-- The American Bar Association has deemed a second of Trump’s judicial nominees “not qualified” to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The ABA letter did not expound on its reason for the rating, but noted that a standing committee “unanimously” ruled that Leonard Steven Grasz was unfit to serve as a federal judge. (Politico)
-- EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt appears poised to rid the agency’s Science Advisory Board of scientists who have received EPA grants. Juliet Eilperin, Brady Dennis and Chris Mooney report: “The move represents a fundamental shift, one that could change the scientific and technical advice that historically has guided the agency as it crafts environmental regulations. The decision to bar any researcher who receives EPA grant money from serving as an adviser appears to be unprecedented. … Among the likely appointees are sharp proponents of deregulation who have argued both in academic circles and while serving in government that federal regulators need to raise the bar before imposing new burdens on the private sector. … At least three of the listed appointees have backgrounds working for large corporations whose activities are or could potentially be regulated by the EPA[.]”
-- White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has not apologized to Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) for misrepresenting her remarks in a 2015 speech. Philip Rucker reports on Kelly's sitdown with Laura Ingraham for her new Fox News show: “‘Oh, no,’ Kelly replied. ‘No. Never. Well, I'll apologize if I need to. But for something like that, absolutely not. I stand by my comments.’ Kelly suggested that he may have been accusing Wilson of grandstanding in a private discussion, as opposed to in her public speech, although his comment to Ingraham was vague. ‘I'll go back and talk about before her comments and at the reception afterwards,’ Kelly said. ‘Again, it was a package deal. Don't want to get into it.’”
-- The House GOP leadership is considering gradually lowering the corporate tax rate to 20 percent over five years. Bloomberg’s Jennifer Jacobs and Anna Edgerton report: “House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady told reporters Monday that there hasn’t been a decision yet. When asked whether a phase in was being considered, he said only: ‘We want to get the growth up front.’ The phase-in proposal would reduce the rate from its current 35 percent rate by three percentage points a year starting in 2018. If adopted, it would delay some of the economic effects Trump and his advisers have sought to emphasize from their tax cuts.”
-- Uh-oh: Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) says she is opposed to repealing the estate tax and lowering the top tax rate, which could jeopardize one Republican vote for the overall plan. Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur reports: “Still, [Collins] said: ‘There is far more outreach on the tax bill’ than there was on health care. Collins declined to say she’ll oppose a tax bill that adds to the deficit, in contrast to her colleague Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee. But she said she cares about the debt and doesn’t want the tax bill to ‘blow a hole’ in the deficit. … ‘I hope very much to be able to support a tax reform package,’ Collins said.”
-- The Wall Street Journal’s Siobhan Hughes and Richard Rubin have a new profile of Ways and Means Chair Kevin Brady: “Mr. Brady was passed over for the House Ways and Means Committee chairmanship when the slot opened in 2014, but got the job after Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who beat him out, was elected speaker in 2015. … He has spent the past year watching his ideas get whittled down. Mr. Brady was the chief author of the House Republicans’ 2016 tax blueprint, centered on the idea of ‘border adjustment,’ which would have taxed imports and exempted imports. He had to give up on the idea after retailers mounted a monthslong lobbying campaign against it.”
-- Meanwhile, outgoing Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) is under pressure from ethics groups to step away from the tax discussions as he negotiates a new job with the Ohio Business Roundtable. Politico’s John Bresnahan reports: “The Ohio Republican, a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee, denies any conflict of interest and refuses to recuse himself from the tax debate. Tiberi's aides say he intends to continue work on the matter until he leaves Capitol Hill on Jan. 31. … Watchdog groups assert Tiberi has a clear conflict of interest in helping to draft the tax legislation. Companies that belong to the Ohio Business Roundtable would benefit from the Republican tax bill, they note, and so Tiberi should be barred from working or voting on a package that is likely to slash tax rates for big and small companies alike.”
MEN BEHAVING BOORISHLY:
-- NBC News terminated its contract with Mark Halperin on Monday following sexual assault allegations that surfaced last week. Paul Farhi reports: “Halperin, 52, will no longer work for NBC or its sister cable network MSNBC, a network spokesman confirmed. The decision to terminate Halperin’s contract makes permanent a preliminary announcement last week from NBC saying he would not appear on NBC pending a review of the allegations. A dozen women have accused Halperin of unwanted contact, including assault, while he was working at ABC News over a period stretching from 1994 to 2004.”
-- Kevin Spacey’s declaration that he identifies as a gay man while addressing sexual assault allegations outraged many in the LGBT community. Amy B Wang and Elahe Izadi report: Many “accused Spacey of trying to deflect from a serious accusation — making a sexual advance on a minor — by coming out and implying that it was his choice to be gay. For years, the actor has danced around rumors he had relationships with other men. ‘Coming out stories should not be used to deflect from allegations of sexual assault,’ GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement. ‘This is not a coming out story about Kevin Spacey, but a story of survivorship by Anthony Rapp and all those who bravely speak out against unwanted sexual advances.’ Even worse, they said, was the implication that the two paragraphs in his statement might be related in any way.”
-- Meanwhile, Netflix announced the next season of “House of Cards” would be the show’s last, claiming that decision was made months earlier: “Beau Willimon, the creator ‘House of Cards,’ released a statement Monday calling Rapp’s story ‘deeply troubling.’ ‘During the time I worked with Kevin Spacey on “House of Cards” I neither witnessed nor was aware of any inappropriate behavior on set or off,’ Willimon said. ‘That said, I take reports of such behavior seriously, and this is no exception. I feel for Mr. Rapp and I support his courage.’”
-- More of Harvey Weinstein’s accusers have reached out to the New York Times, expanding the timeline of his alleged assaults back to the 1970s. The Times’s Ellen Gabler, Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor report: “Hope Exiner d’Amore said Harvey Weinstein raped her in a hotel room in the 1970s, when he was a young concert promoter in Buffalo. Cynthia Burr said that during this time, he assaulted her in an encounter that began in an elevator and ended with forced oral sex in a hallway. Ashley Matthau, a dancer with a bit part in one of his movies, said that in 2004, he pushed her down on a bed and masturbated while straddling her. Days later, she said, he paid her to remain silent. … Together, the accounts provide a widening tally of alleged abuses, and illustrate the toll on women who say they felt ashamed and isolated as they watched the Hollywood producer walk red carpets[.]”
-- The board of the Producers Guild of America voted unanimously to ban Weinstein for life. (People)
-- The House Administration Committee is now reviewing whether Capitol Hill needs to adjust its process for reporting sexual harassment. Politico’s Rachael Bade reports: “The panel, which oversees employment and office logistical matters for the House, will determine whether internal policy changes are needed to curb sexual harassment or ease hostile work environments — and ensure that staff have a mechanism to report abusive behavior.”
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- The New York Times, “Opioids on the Quad,” by Kyle Spencer: “Coming to terms with a habit that nearly killed her, she has found support at the Haven at Drexel, Drexel University’s housing for students in recovery. Seven students from colleges in the Philadelphia area — including the University of Pennsylvania, Temple and Villanova — live, eat and socialize here, where they can abstain without temptation. … Already on campuses, recovery programs are expanding and multiplying, populated by students who have struggled with dependence on Percocet (oxycodone) and Vicodin (hydrocodone), as well as those who have moved on to fentanyl and heroin, which are far cheaper on the street than prescription pills.”
-- The New York Times, “Who Betrayed Anne Frank? Former F.B.I. Agent Reopens a Cold Case,” by Christopher F. Schuetze: “Who gave them up has remained a mystery. Now, almost 75 years later, a team of experts led by a retired F.B.I. agent is bringing modern forensic science and criminology to bear in hopes of solving one of history’s most famous cold case files. … The use of other modern techniques like forensic accounting, crowd sourcing, behavioral science and testimonial reconstruction may also hold promise of a breakthrough. The team, for example, is carrying out a three-dimensional scan of the original house and using computer models to determine how far sounds might have traveled.”
-- The Wall Street Journal, “No Bones About It: Animal Skeletons are Hot for Halloween,” by Ellen Byron: “Humans looking to take their spooky game to the next level have come to a consensus. Fake skeletons of animals, these humans say, are the way to go. Among the many categories of Halloween decorations at Home Depot Inc., skeletons of all types are the No. 1 sellers. … Oddly enough, the more they love an animal, the more inclined people are to exhibit its bones. One of the leading markets for Home Depot’s horse skeletons, Ms. Charles notes, is Kentucky — a state that holds those animals in high esteem. … Martha Stewart, the global home-decorating authority, set up a pair of Home Depot horse skeletons on her farm in Bedford, N.Y., for Halloween last year. Her real horses shied away as she rode past them, she said.”
-- Columbia Journalism Review, “The Jared Bubble,” by Kyle Pope: “I was six months into my tenure as the editor of the New York Observer, and I was schooling my publisher, Jared Kushner, on why ordering up a slam of someone who had crossed his family in business didn’t pass the journalistic smell test. … A year after that conversation, I would be tossed out, one of five editors at the Observer in the 10 years Kushner served as publisher. My case wasn’t helped when I was quoted in a blog post calling the place a [disaster] under Kushner and his business-side team.”
HOT ON THE LEFT
“Trump allies can't stop accidentally referring to Hillary Clinton's nonexistent administration” from Business Insider: “Fox News host Sean Hannity accidentally referenced Hillary Clinton's nonexistent administration on Monday, continuing an unusual emerging trend among allies of [Trump.] … ‘What did President Clinton, or President Clinton wannabe, President Obama, and key members of the administration — what did they know about the Uranium One scandal?’ he said. … In an interview on ‘Fox & Friends Weekend’ on Saturday, former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski mocked pending indictments of former Trump campaign officials[.] … ‘The speculation is so insane right now,’ he said. ‘What we should be focusing on are the continued lies of the Clinton administration, the continued fallacies that they perpetuate.’”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“Bryan Cranston Talks 'Last Flag Flying' and Why He Isn't Rooting for Trump's Failure,” from the Hollywood Reporter: Cranston said, “It’s just astonishing to me. President Trump is not the person who I wanted to be in that office, and I’ve been very open about that. That being said, he is the president. If he fails, the country is in jeopardy. It would be egotistical for anyone to say, ‘I hope he fails.’ To that person I would say, f--- you. Why would you want that? So you can be right? I don’t want him to fail. I want him to succeed. I do. I honestly do. … And if you’ve got a good idea that helps the country, oh man, I’m gonna support you.”
Trump has a morning “tax reform industry meeting” followed by a foreign policy lunch. He will later meet with Paul Ryan.
Pence is on Capitol Hill today to meet with Senate Republicans and House GOP committee chairs.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“I would tell you that Robert E. Lee was an honorable man,” John Kelly told Fox News’s Laura Ingraham when asked about recent attempts to remove monuments of the Confederate general. “He was a man that gave up his country to fight for his state, which 150 years ago was more important than country. It was always loyalty to state first back in those days. Now it's different today. But the lack of an ability to compromise led to the Civil War. And men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had to make their stand.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- It will be sunny during the day but cooler for tonight’s trick-or-treating. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “A few morning clouds possible, but otherwise mostly sunny skies offer a fairly decent day as temperatures move up toward seasonal high temperature levels in the upper 50s to low 60s. … The night becomes partly cloudy and cooler with lows ranging from the middle-upper 30s in the outer suburbs to the middle 40s in the city.”
-- The Latino Victory Fund released a new ad in Virginia’s gubernatorial race that ties Republican Ed Gillespie to Trump and the violence in Charlottesville. Fenit Nirappil reports: The ad features “a pick-up truck flying a Confederate flag and sporting a bumper sticker for [Gillespie] chasing a group of minority children. The minute-long spot … ends with the children waking up from a nightmare and adults watching footage on television of torch-bearing white nationalists marching in Charlottesville[.] ‘Is this what Donald Trump and Ed Gillespie mean by the American dream?’ the narrator says.”
-- Gillespie appeared at a rally last night with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), while immigration activists protested outside. Jenna Portnoy reports: “Within minutes, Rubio alluded to the immigration controversy, telling the crowd Gillespie would work for them ‘no matter where your family came from or how your last name is pronounced.’ Rubio said he, too, comes from a community impacted by gang violence and said it would make no sense to ignore MS-13 in a state impacted by the gang. ‘That would be like talking about organized crime, but refusing to talk about the Mafia,’ he said to chuckles from supporters.”
-- Emily’s List endorsed political consultant Maya Rockeymoore Cummings in the Maryland governor’s race. (Ovetta Wiggins)
-- The Maryland Senate pushed ahead with legislation that would allow women who become pregnant as a result of rape to terminate the parental rights of their rapists. The bill, similar to laws already passed in almost 25 other states, is expected to be taken up when the new legislative session begins in January. (Ovetta Wiggins)
-- The D.C. Council held a hearing yesterday on the management of United Medical Center. The hearing — which came the same day that The Post reported on the death of Warren Webb after he was left unattended on the hospital’s floor for more than 20 minutes — focused on whether to renew the contract of Veritas of Washington, which has managed UMC since last year. (Peter Jamison)
-- D.C.’s campaign to host the Gay Games 2022 fell short, with Hong Kong winning the honor. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and 23 city representatives traveled to Paris last weekend to pitch the federation. (Perry Stein)
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
The Post reviewed the White House's haunted history:
Trick-or-treaters visited the White House:
The Post's Glenn Kessler fact-checked whether Russia actually obtained "20 percent of our uranium”: