With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: Two powerful Republican committee chairmen from Texas announced this week that they will not seek reelection. Lamar Smith, who heads the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, said yesterday that he won’t stand for a 17th term. Jeb Hensarling, chairman of the Financial Services Committee, said Tuesday that he won’t run for a ninth.

Both said they were primarily driven to step down because of term limits put in place by Newt Gingrich in 1994. Chairmen can only lead a committee for six years before they must step aside for someone new, although waivers are sometimes given out to let them stay on longer.

“Once you lose a gavel, it’s hard to go back to being a back bencher,” said former congressman Tom Davis (R-Va.), who retired in 2008 at the end of his third term as chairman of the House oversight committee. “The upside of term limits for committee chairmen is you don’t get somebody super entrenched. The bad news is you lose good people.”

“Hensarling is going to make a lot of money in the private sector and it behooves him to get out while he’s on top,” a Republican operative involved in House races emailed last night, expressing confidence that the GOP will hold both seats.

-- Something bigger than term limits is afoot, though. Even though they have unified control of all three branches of the federal government, a lot of Republican lawmakers are just not having that much fun in this unproductive Congress. Based on several deep background conversations, here’s how a bunch of incumbents who have either retired or are contemplating it see things: You spend most of your time hitting up rich people and lobbyists for money but have little to show for it. Many colleagues in your own party seem unserious about governing. President Trump publicly blames you for his own ineffectiveness. You’re getting attacked from the Steve Bannon wing of the party.

The very real prospect of losing the majority next November makes sticking around even less desirable. Unlike in the Senate, where all 100 members can wield immense power, being a backbencher in the minority party of a majoritarian institution like the House is depressing and joyless. You get to wear a member’s pin and get invited to some cool parties. But unless you’re Nancy Pelosi, you’re functionally irrelevant.

-- Slots on the House Ways and Means Committee, which writes the tax code, are highly coveted. Yet the chairmen of the key subcommittees keep throwing in the towel.

  • Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), who chairs the health care subcommittee, announced two weeks ago that he will resign by the end of January to lead the Ohio Business Roundtable, a business advocacy group in Columbus. He’s only 54, a youngster by congressional standards.
  • Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), who runs the trade subcommittee, announced his retirement in September. Hillary Clinton won his suburban Seattle district by 3 points.
  • Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), who leads the Social Security subcommittee, announced his retirement back in January. A war hero, who spent seven years as a POW after getting shot down over Vietnam, has the best reason: He’s 87.

-- Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who announced his retirement in September, is a powerful “cardinal,” which in congressional parlance means that he chairs an appropriations subcommittee. That gives him control of tens of billions in annual spending related to veterans’ affairs and military construction. He was formerly chairman of the Ethics committee.

He expects more mainstream Republicans to also retire in the coming months, driven away by the constant chaos that emanates from the White House. As co-chairman of the moderate Tuesday Group, which has about 50 center-right members, he has also grown weary and exhausted from ideological battles with the hard-right Freedom Caucus.

-- Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) started this trend when he resigned in June, giving up his chairmanship of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee so that he could become a paid talking head on Fox News. If Clinton had won, he would have been able to stay in the media spotlight by investigating her full time. But he showed little inclination for conducting serious oversight of the Trump administration.

-- Over in the Senate, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman  Bob Corker announced in September that he would not seek a third term after it became clear that he would face a well-funded primary challenge from his right.

There’s rampant speculation that Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) will also ride into the sunset. The Atlantic reported last Friday that Hatch has privately told allies in Utah that he is planning to retire at the end of his term next year, and if he does, Mitt Romney intends to run for his seat. McKay Coppins, reporting from Utah, cited five unnamed “sources familiar with the situation.” A Hatch spokesman insists that the senator “has not made a final decision about whether to seek reelection, but plans to by the end of the year.”

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) is giving up three subcommittee gavels by ending his reelection campaign: He is the chairman of the judiciary subcommittee responsible for technology and privacy (which is so important right now in the wake of Russia’s information warfare against us), the energy and natural resources subcommittee with jurisdiction over water and power (critical for a desert state like Arizona) and the foreign relations subcommittee that oversees Africa (the continent holds a special place in Flake’s heart because he went there as a Mormon missionary.)

-- Most members of the House dream of winning statewide office. This year, that up-or-out calculus has driven several committee and subcommittee chairs to move on before their terms expire:

  • Rep. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) became chairman of the House Budget Committee when Tom Price stepped down to become secretary of health and human services. But that perch didn’t stop her from jumping into the Tennessee governor’s race.
  • Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), the chair of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, is running for the Senate seat that opened with Corker’s retirement.
  • Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.), who is running in a competitive GOP primary to face Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly, is vice chair of the Budget Committee and chairman of the Education Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education.
  • Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.), the chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance, is running for governor.
  • Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), also running for governor, is chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. 

-- Smith, a Yale-educated lawyer who has been in Congress since 1987, represents a district that includes affluent suburbs of San Antonio and Austin, as well as a swath of Hill Country. He became chairman of the science committee in 2013 after getting termed out as chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Denying climate change and using his subpoena power to cause headaches for scientists in the Obama administration earned him boogeyman status on the left and made him a darling of the oil industry.

“It is humbling living in a small apartment in Washington four nights a week. And I seldom leave the office before late at night,” the 69-year-old said in an email to friends last night. “For several reasons, this seems like a good time to [step aside]. At the end of this Congress, I will have completed my six-year term as Chairman … I have one new grandchild and a second arriving soon!! And I hope to find other ways to stay involved in politics.”

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers called Smith “a leading policy mind in our conference” while expressing certitude that the GOP will hold the seat.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Meredith Kelly said the GOP chairmen are “dropping like flies” because “it’s nothing short of miserable to be part of Speaker Paul Ryan’s establishment Congress.” “These retiring Republicans have seen the writing on the wall, and they’re not waiting around for the midterms,” she said.

Trump won Smith’s district by 10 points and Hensarling’s by 28 points. Retirements like Reichert’s worry GOP campaign strategists much more. But Republicans are enthusiastic that they got a top recruit in Washington State. Dino Rossi, a former GOP nominee for governor and Senate, raised $1 million in his first three weeks as a candidate.

-- Either way, the House will continue to change with the departure of these seasoned veterans. Hensarling was someone who received buzz as a possible contender to become House speaker after Paul Ryan. He was NRCC finance chairman during the 2010 wave and led the House Republican Conference before taking over on Financial Services.

Ryan lobbied Hensarling to stick around for another term, dangling the possibility that he could become chairman of the Budget Committeethe Washington Examiner reports. “If Ryan serves two more years I think he would like to have Jeb around,” a Republican lobbyist told David Drucker Monday just before news of Hensarling's retirement broke.

-- Two guys to keep an eye on: Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) is in his third term as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, so there’s some buzz that he might retire. Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) decided to stay in Congress after finishing his three terms as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee last year, but it’s not clear that he’s happy as a rank-and-file backbencher. That might prompt him to run against Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) next year.

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WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:

-- Trump's Twitter account temporarily disappeared last night after a departing Twitter employee deactivated the president's account. Rachel Siegel and Hayley Tsukayama report: “Trump's account initially disappeared at around 7 p.m. ET Thursday, with visitors to the page met with the message, ‘Sorry, that page doesn't exist!’ … But then at 8:05 p.m. ET, Twitter posted a statement saying Trump's ‘account was inadvertently deactivated due to human error by a Twitter employee.’ ‘The account was down for 11 minutes, and has since been restored,’ the statement read. ‘We are continuing to investigate and are taking steps to prevent this from happening again.’ However, two hours later, Twitter admitted that the deactivation wasn't an accident at all. A preliminary investigation showed that Trump's account was taken offline ‘by a Twitter customer support employee who did this on the employee's last day.’ Twitter said it would be conducting a full internal review.”

WHY IT MATTERS: “Such an event sparks deep and troubling questions about who has access to the president's account and the power that access holds. The deactivation also came at a time when the social network is under scrutiny for the role it played in spreading Russian propaganda during the 2016 presidential election.”

Trump was back this morning:

GET SMART FAST:​​

  1. Federal prosecutors haven't indicated whether they will seek the death penalty against Sayfullo Saipov, the alleged perpetrator of the truck attack in New York. The indecision marks the latest example of Trump’s Justice Department ignoring his statements as they pursue cases and craft policy. (Devlin Barrett)
  2. Army prosecutors recommended that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl spend 14 years in prison and be stripped of his military medical benefits after Bergdahl pleaded guilty to deserting his Army post in Afghanistan. Bergdahl has also pleaded guilty to misbehavior before the enemy, which carries a maximum life sentence. A judge could decide early as Friday. (Alex Horton)
  3. The Navy is exploring legal cases against service members involved in two destroyer collisions. The members have been accused of negligence. (Dan Lamothe)
  4. A Spanish judge jailed eight members of Catalonia's deposed government on Thursday, extending a crackdown on separatist leaders one week after the region declared independence. The decision prompted immediate outrage from pro-independence activists in Catalonia, who swarmed nearby public squares. (Michael Birnbaum)
  5. Markets reacted favorably to Jerome “Jay” Powell’s nomination as Fed chair. Trump formally announced the appointment yesterday during a ceremony in the Rose Garden. (Thomas Heath)
  6. Trump doesn't want Republicans to include a DACA replacement in year-end spending legislation. Democrats have threatened to withhold support for that bill unless the “dreamers” are addressed, raising the possibility of a government shutdown. (Ed O’Keefe)
  7. Senate Democrats introduced legislation that would ban former DEA and FDA employees from working in the pharmaceutical industry for two years — seeking to crack down on a “revolving door” between government agencies and the pharmaceutical companies they regulate. (Scott Higham and Lenny Bernstein)  
  8. Digital news outlets DNAinfo and Gothamist were shut down a week after voting to unionize. The sites’ owner Joe Ricketts issued a statement blaming the decision on the outlets’ lack of profitability. (New York Times)
  9.  A former University of Hartford student is facing hate crime charges after bragging online about contaminating the belongings of her black roommate, whom she referred to as “Jamaican Barbie.” Among other things, the girl admitted to rubbing used tampons on her roommate’s backpack and sticking her toothbrush in places “where the sun doesn’t shine.” (Lindsey Bever)
  10. Pizza Hut reported it isn't “seeing any impact” on pizza sales from the NFL anthem protests. The announcement came one day after the CEO of Papa John’s blamed the protests for sagging sales. (CNBC)
  11. A Dodgers player had his home burglarized while he was playing in Game 7 of the World Series. Outfielder Yasiel Puig bought the home less than a month ago. (CBS Los Angeles)
  12. Arnold Schwarzenegger revealed that OJ Simpson was passed over for the lead role in “Terminator” because he “did not look as much of a killer.” Schwarzenegger said that director James Cameron did originally want Simpson for the movie. (Daily Mail)

GOP TAX PLAN REVEALED:

-- House Republicans have unveiled their plan to overhaul the tax system, which relies on reducing or eliminating popular breaks to pay for $1 trillion in corporate cuts and $500 billion in cuts for families and individuals over the next 10 years.

Damian Paletta and Mike DeBonis have specifics on the bill:

  • It “would slash the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent, the most significant in a series of benefits the bill contains for businesses.”
  • It “would mean $300 billion in tax cuts for households and families, as well as $200 billion in tax cuts — almost all of which will benefit the wealthiest families — by repealing the estate tax[.]”
  • “The bill would nearly double the standard deduction that many Americans claim on their taxes, raising it from $12,700 to $24,000 per family.”
  • The highest income-tax rate of 39.6 percent would only apply to families who make more than $1 million. 
  • Americans will only be able to deduct $500,000 worth of loans on new mortgages, rather than the current cap of $1 million.
  • “The bill would allow people to deduct their local property taxes from their taxable income, but only up to the first $10,000.”
  • “The bill would also increase the child tax credit from $1,000 per child to $1,600. That credit would phase out once a family earns more than $230,000 a year, more than double the current $110,000 threshold.”

-- So, does it help the middle class? “The trade-off between reducing tax rates but curtailing deductions — such as the amount that homeowners can write off for their mortgage interest payments — means the impact will vary widely from one family to another,” Damian and Mike write.

-- One preliminary analysis found that the bill could result in tax increases for almost 13 million Americans making less than $100,000. (The New York Times)

-- But the wealthy and corporations make out the best in the proposal, which poses distinct problems for its prospects. Heather Long writes: “Many of the ideas in the Republican tax proposal unveiled Thursday have found bipartisan support in the past and endorsements from economists who see a way to improve the U.S. economy. That includes plans to make the corporate rate more competitive, simplify personal taxes, curb several tax breaks of dubious value and provide more assistance to working families. The controversy is over who will gain the most[.] … [C]ritics say the GOP could have chosen to overhaul the tax code in a way that concentrated benefits on middle- and working-class Americans — and chose not to.

WILL IT PASS?

-- “The uneven effects of the legislation — and the possibility that some middle-class Americans could see their tax bills increase — promise to complicate the Republican effort to unify behind the bill,” Damian and Mike write. “But for Republicans, the tax push represents possibly their last opportunity to pass a major piece of legislation before campaign season begins for next November’s elections, when their majorities in the House and Senate will be challenged.”

-- New polling (taken before the bill was released) shows that Americans are skeptical of the GOP’s plan and critical of Trump’s approach to overhaul the tax code so far. Scott Clement and Emily Guskin report: “One-third of Americans support Trump's tax plan . . . while 50 percent oppose it, a 17-point negative margin driven by overwhelming opposition from Democrats and skepticism among political independents and people with lower incomes. … Six in 10 say Trump's proposals on cutting taxes favor the rich, a perception that has dogged Republican efforts in pursuing tax reform for months.”

-- A pro-Trump group plans to spend $1 million on ads supporting the plan, and the ads will feature former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Bloomberg’s John McCormick reports: “The television and online campaign is the biggest yet financed by the White House-sanctioned America First Policies political organization. The spending is an initial down payment on what the group says will be a multi-million dollar effort it hopes will help the president and Republicans score their first major legislative win.

THE OPPOSITION:

-- Some normally GOP-allied business groups are already rallying against the bill, an ominous sign for it. Steven Mufson reports: “Many companies, especially in the real estate industry, would suffer from the proposed elimination of tax breaks, loopholes and incentives. A broad business coalition known as BUILD condemned the elimination of interest deductions for businesses, while the real estate industry bemoaned the curtailment of the deductibility of large mortgages. And the National Federal of Independent Business opposed the package in its current form, declaring that the bill ‘leaves too many small businesses behind.’

-- The Senate’s top Democrat argued there would be substantial public backlash. “The more people find out about it, the less they’ll like,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told The Post. “This bill is like a dead fish. The more it’s in sunlight, the more it stinks, and that’s what’s going to happen.” Schumer’s comments came hours after Nancy Pelosi called the bill “a Ponzi scheme that corporate America will perpetrate on the American people.” (Mike DeBonis and Damian Paletta)

-- A few House Republicans also declared their opposition, complaining about the effect the elimination of state and local taxes will have in high-tax states. (Carolyn Y. Johnson, Reuben Fischer-Baum and Aaron Williams)

-- Even if the House passes, the Senate is an uphill battle (and the upper chamber is crafting its own version anyway). Politico’s Seung Min Kim reports: “Fiscal hawks are squawking about how tax legislation could balloon the deficit. Moderates like Sen. Susan Collins of Maine are worried tax cuts will disproportionately favor the rich. Even an Obamacare-related row could bubble up and trip up passage. While a small handful of Democrats might get on board, it’s more likely Republicans will have to go it alone — meaning they can lose just two GOP votes before their tax bill tanks.”

-- HOW IT’S PLAYING:

  • Blue states that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016 could bear the brunt the costs in the plan, Carolyn Y. Johnson, Reuben Fischer-Baum and Aaron Williams report.
  • Home-builder stocks sunk after the release of the bill. (Aaron Gregg)
  • Middle-class residents of the D.C. region will be among those hardest hit by the new mortgage interest deduction cap, given the area’s high housing costs. (Kathy Orton)
  • Parents could use tax-free savings accounts for college tuition to put money away for private elementary school. Moriah Balingit reports: “The proposal would further a key piece of the agenda of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who seeks to expand school choice and to allow public dollars to follow children to private schools. … But even some school choice proponents assailed the plan, saying it offered no benefits for poor families who have little choice in where they send their children to school.”
  • “Teachers spend nearly $1,000 a year on supplies. Under the GOP tax bill, they will no longer get a tax deduction,” from Moriah Balingit.

THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:

-- Jeff Sessions is under renewed scrutiny on Capitol Hill after it was revealed that he attended the March 31 meeting at which George Papadopoulos offered to broker a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Trump. Karoun Demirjian, Sari Horwitz and Adam Entous report: “Sessions had not previously disclosed the meeting, despite being asked over multiple appearances on Capitol Hill whether he or anyone on the campaign ever discussed meeting with Russians.This is another example in an alarming pattern in which you, the nation’s top law enforcement officer, apparently failed to tell the truth, under oath, about the Trump team’s contacts with agents of Russia,’ [Sen. Al Franken] wrote Thursday in a letter to Sessions. … Last month, Sessions told the same committee he was not aware of any Trump surrogates having contacts with Russian officials. Democrats on the committee, including Franken, are now arguing that statement may have been false, too.”

  •  “The attorney general needs to explain to our committee what are the obvious implications of his presence at that meeting, and how he can square that with his testimony to our committee,” said Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Judiciary Committee.
  • “I think there are many more questions for Jeff Sessions,” said Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.). “He should be honest and disclose all truths, especially when he is under oath or testifying before the United States Congress.”

-- Trump’s former foreign policy adviser Carter Page told lawmakers he informed Sessions of his own travels to Russia during the campaign. CNN’s Manu Raju and Jeremy Herb report: “During more than six hours of closed-door testimony [to the House Intelligence Committee], Page said that he informed Sessions about his coming July 2016 trip to Russia, which Page told CNN was unconnected to his campaign role. … Sessions' discussion with Page will fuel further scrutiny about what the attorney general knew about connections between the Trump campaign and Russia[.]”

-- Court records unsealed this week revealed Trump was also present at the March 31 meeting — and the New York Times now reports the present appears to have been present when Papadopoulos boasted about his Putin connections. The New York Times's Michael S. Schmidt, Matt Apuzzo, and Scott Shane report: “'[Papadopoulos] went into the pitch right away,’ said J. D. Gordon, a campaign adviser who attended the meeting. ‘He said he had a friend in London, the Russian ambassador, who could help set up a meeting with Putin.’ Mr. Trump listened with interest. Mr. Sessions vehemently opposed the idea, Mr. Gordon recalled. ‘And he said that no one should talk about it because it might leak,’ he said. Several of Mr. Trump’s campaign advisers attended the March 2016 meeting, and at least two of those advisers are now in the White House: Hope Hicks, the communications director, and Stephen Miller, a senior policy adviser.” Hicks, for her part, is slated to be interviewed by Mueller’s team this month.

-- Clovis, out: The former Trump campaign co-chairman withdrew his nomination as the USDA’s chief scientist after it was revealed that he encouraged efforts by Papadopoulos to broker a meeting between the Trump campaign and Putin. Juliet Eilperin and Philip Rucker report: “In a letter to the president Wednesday, Clovis explained that he did not think he could get a fair consideration from the Senate[.] . . . ‘The political climate inside Washington has made it impossible for me to receive balanced and fair consideration for this position,’ wrote Clovis, who currently serves as USDA’s senior White House adviser. ‘The relentless assaults on you and your team seem to be a blood sport that only increases with intensity each day.’” However, Clovis indicated in his letter that he will stay on at the Agriculture Department in a senior role, writing, that he will “continue to serve at the pleasure of you and the Secretary of Agriculture.’ A USDA official confirmed that Clovis would remain at the department in his current job, but did not offer any further details.”

Clovis was already a controversial pick because, as Juliet and Phil note, he “has no experience in the hard sciences and had made controversial comments in the past on climate change and gay rights.” While providing information to the Senate for his confirmation, Clovis was asked, “Please list all graduate level courses you have taken in natural science.” “None,” he replied.

-- Jared Kushner has turned over documents to Mueller’s team in recent weeks, as investigators have begun asking about his role in the firing of then-FBI Director James Comey. CNN’s Evan Perez, Pamela Brown and Shimon Prokupecz report: “It is not clear how Kushner's advice to the President might relate to the overall Russia investigation or potential obstruction of justice. Two separate sources [said] investigators have asked other witnesses about Kushner's role in firing Comey. Investigators have also asked about how a statement was issued in the name of Donald Trump Jr. regarding a Trump Tower meeting and about the circumstances surrounding the departures of other White House aides …”

Those in Trump’s orbit dispute how much influence Kushner had in Comey’s ousting: “While Kushner and those close to the White House will only say he was in favor of the decision — or, in the words of one attorney, ‘did not oppose it’ — there are multiple sources who say that Kushner was a driver of the decision and expected it would be a political boon for the President.”

-- THE BIGGER PICTURE? Trump has a Mueller problem, Molly Ball writes in Time Magazine. And it’s definitely not going away soon. “Mueller’s opening gambit struck at two of Trump’s most sensitive spots. The indictments of [Paul] Manafort and [Rick] Gates, for crimes like tax evasion and fraud suggest that Mueller is following the money, digging up old financial records — potentially the tax returns that Trump has sought to shield. And [George] Papadopoulos’ alleged work with Russia inflames Trump’s fear of having his election win delegitimized. Worst of all for the President, the filings paint a broad and damning picture of where the probe may be heading — a process over which Trump has no control. ‘Now we’ve seen the iceberg,’ says a Republican operative. ‘The question is what’s below the water line.’”

-- Twice as many Americans approve than disapprove of Mueller’s Russia investigation, a fresh Washington Post-ABC News poll found — indicating that efforts to discredit the special counsel's probe as a “witch hunt” have failed, so far. A 58 percent majority say they approve of Mueller's probe, while just 28 percent said they disapprove. Meanwhile, nearly half of voters — or 49 percent — believe the president committed a crime. Some other key findings:

  • Fewer than 4 in 10 Americans believe Trump is cooperating with the probe. Half believe he is not. And among the public overall, 19 percent think there is “solid evidence” Trump committed a crime. (30 percent say that is “merely their suspicion.”)
  • 49 percent of all voters think it's likely Trump himself committed a crime in connection with Russian efforts to sway the election. 74 percent of Democrats and half of independent voters agree. (Meanwhile, 84 percent of Republicans feel the opposite.)
  • Nearly 7 in 10 approve of the charges against Manafort and Gates.
  • And more than half of Americans — 53 percent — say Papadopoulos’s plea deal for lying to the FBI represented “broader wrongdoing” by Trump campaign aides. 

DONNA DROPS A BOMB:

-- Donna Brazile previewed her upcoming book “Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House” in Politico Magazine, suggesting the party rigged the Democratic primary for Hillary Clinton.

In the excerpt, Brazile details a complex financial relationship between the DNC and Clinton’s campaign beginning months before Clinton sealed the nomination. Brazile writes: “[Gary Gensler, the chief financial officer of Clinton’s campaign] described the party as fully under the control of Hillary’s campaign, which seemed to confirm the suspicions of the Bernie [Sanders] camp. The campaign had the DNC on life support, giving it money every month to meet its basic expenses, while the campaign was using the party as a fund-raising clearinghouse. … The funding arrangement with [Hillary For America] and the victory fund agreement was not illegal, but it sure looked unethical. If the fight had been fair, one campaign would not have control of the party before the voters had decided which one they wanted to lead. This was not a criminal act, but as I saw it, it compromised the party’s integrity.”

-- The revelations caused outrage among many in the Democratic Party. Michael Scherer, David Weigel and Karen Tumulty report: “Throughout the campaign, the DNC and its then-chairwoman, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, fiercely denied any suggestion that the party was helping Clinton over other candidates. … Some Democrats now say the arrangement is evidence that the concerns were valid. … The current leadership of the party said it would address the problem. ‘One of my goals here, as DNC chair, is to make sure that the nominating process for 2020 is a process that’s fair and transparent for everybody,’ DNC Chairman Tom Perez said in an interview with CNBC. ‘We’re going to set the primary debate schedule well in advance of when we know which candidates will be there.’”

-- In an interview with CNN, possible 2020 contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said she agreed the primary was rigged in Clinton’s favor. (Aaron Blake)

-- Meanwhile, the DNC dismissed its finance director after just five months on the job. The decision comes amid slow fundraising problems that continue to plague the party in wake of the 2016 election — with Democrats raising less than half of the RNC’s total haul since January. (Politico)

-- Trump called on the Justice Department to investigate the DNC over Brazile's accusations:

He stepped up the rhetoric this morning:

THE NEW WORLD ORDER:

-- Hours after Trump wrapped a September U.N. speech slamming Iran as a “murderous regime,” Rex Tillerson asked France if it could help broker a conversation between Trump and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Iran’s response was an “unequivocal no.” Karen DeYoung reports: “In declining Trump’s offer, the French said the Iranians 'don’t believe you’re serious' and 'thought it was some kind of trick.' …

“In his own U.N. speech the next day, Rouhani denounced the ‘ignorant’ rhetoric of ‘rogue newcomers to the world of politics,’ although he did not mention Trump by name.  Before Tillerson’s request, Trump already had broached the general idea of using France as a go-between during a bilateral meeting with the French president the night before his U.N. speech … ‘You guys have good relations’ with Iran, Trump told [Emmanuel] Macron[.] ‘Could you use your relations’ to ask if Tehran is willing, should ‘the Americans want to talk?’ the official said Trump asked. ‘Macron said sure …’ Asked why Trump wanted to meet with Rouhani, the official said it was ‘in order to say, ‘Here’s all the mean stuff you do in the world, and we want you to stop. … If not, you should know we’re working on a strategy to get you to confront all of this.’ The primary message, the official said, was that ‘the golden Obama-era window of rapprochement is over.’” 

-- National security adviser H.R. McMaster said Trump will not moderate his language during his five-country, 12-day trip to Asia that begins today. CNN's Dan Merica, Jeremy Diamond and Elise Labott report: "’The President will use whatever language he wants to use, obviously,’ McMaster said. ‘I don't think the President really modulates his language. I mean, have you noticed him do that? He has been very clear about that.’ McMaster also told reporters that Trump is considering putting North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, a designation the country lost under President George W. Bush in 2008. ‘That is an option that is under consideration,’ He added that reporters will ‘hear more about that soon.’ The officials said the decision would likely be made after Trump's trip to Asia.”

-- Ahead of Trump’s visit, two U.S. bombers conducted drills over South Korea. Reuters’s Soyoung Kim and Phil Stewart report: “News of the Thursday's drills was first reported by North Korean state news agency KCNA on Friday, which said the exercises involving South Korean and Japanese fighter jets were a ‘surprise nuclear strike drill’. ‘The reality clearly shows that the gangster-like U.S. imperialists are the very one who is aggravating the situation of the Korean peninsula and seeking to ignite a nuclear war,’ KCNA said.”

-- Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein is joining Trump on his trip to China. Goldman Sachs officials confirmed his trip on Thursday, saying Blankfein plans to accompany Trump there next week as part of a two-day business delegation. He has previously called the relationship between China and the United States the “most important” in the world. (CNNMoney)

-- Ivanka Trump spoke to a half-empty room at Tokyo’s World Assembly for Women this morning. The New York Times’s Motoko Rich reports: “The lukewarm turnout on Friday morning contrasted with the breathless coverage of her visit by the Japanese news media[.] . . . It was unclear why so few people attended Ms. Trump’s speech, although a public holiday on Friday may have been to blame. Perhaps another hint could be found in the Japanese public’s view of Mr. Trump: According to a survey last month by the Pew Research Center, less than a quarter of the population is confident that Mr. Trump will ‘do the right thing in world affairs,’ down 54 percentage points from the confidence expressed for [Obama] last year.”

-- Cuba’s foreign minister called reports of severe health problems among U.S. diplomats in Havana “deliberate lies” meant to unravel building diplomacy. Karen DeYoung reports: “‘It is high time for the United States to tell the truth or otherwise present evidence,’ [Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno] Rodríguez said at a news conference in Washington. ‘The Cuban government has no responsibility whatsoever for these incidents,’ he said. His comments marked a sharp change in Cuba’s approach to the charges. Immediately after a September meeting in Washington with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Rodríguez pledged Cuba’s ongoing cooperation in finding the cause of the mysterious diplomatic ailments and expressed hope that the issue would not undermine relations.”

-- The Gulf blockade of Qatar could push the country closer to Iran, the Cipher Brief’s Fritz Lodge writes. “Nearly five months on, the ‘crisis’ between Qatar and a coalition of nine countries led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has reached a relatively stable equilibrium. The countries’ resultant blockade of Qatar — over its alleged support for terrorist groups and ties to Iran — has not significantly changed Doha’s behavior according to Qatar’s detractors, but rather has pushed it closer to Tehran.”

PERSONNEL IS POLICY:

-- GOP megadonor and Trump backer Robert Mercer is stepping down from his hedge fund and selling his stake in Breitbart News. Renae Merle reports: “In a letter to investors reviewed by The Washington Post, Mercer noted he has come under intense scrutiny for his financing of Breitbart, his relationship with former White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon and his backing of conservative provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. … In his letter, Mercer said he was selling his stake in Breitbart to his daughters for ‘personal reasons’ and sought to distance himself from Bannon. … Mercer also said he was severing all ties with Yiannopoulos, one of Breitbart’s former stars, adding that it was a mistake to have supported him. … Earlier this month, BuzzFeed unearthed a video of Yiannopoulos singing ‘America the Beautiful’ at a karaoke bar while some in the crowd raised their arms in Nazi salutes.”

-- Trump has established a habit of installing members of his clubs in government positions, USA Today’s Fredreka Schouten, Brad Heath and Steve Reilly report: “A USA TODAY review finds that Trump has installed at least five people who have been members of his clubs to senior roles in his administration[.] … Presidents often name campaign donors and close allies to administration posts, particularly prized diplomatic postings in cosmopolitan European capitals, such as Paris and London, and the tourist playgrounds of the West Indies. But never in modern history has a president awarded government posts to people who pay money to his own companies.”

-- EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt plans to travel to a luxury resort next week to speak to the American Chemistry Council. Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis report: “Pruitt, who has traveled across the country to meet with industry groups regulated by the EPA, is scheduled to address the board during a session on Nov. 9, according to the event’s official schedule. The administrator plans to bring eight EPA staffers to the event. The contingent includes his chief of staff, a senior adviser on state and regional affairs, a press aide, a public engagement official, a security detail of three and an advance person. The EPA on Thursday said the government is paying for the group’s expenses. … Traveling to the session, held at the Sanctuary Hotel at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, is the latest example of Pruitt going outside the Beltway to meet with top corporate officials.”

NEXT WEEK’S ELECTIONS:

-- Virginia Republicans are hammering Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam on the issue of sanctuary cities, a campaign tactic that has become a nationwide trend. David Weigel and Laura Vozzella report: “Never mind that Virginia has no sanctuary cities. Or that there is no evidence that they lead to increased crime or gang activity. Republicans have seized on the issue as a way of portraying Northam as soft on crime. And Northam is not alone. In tight elections from New York to Albuquerque, Republicans are using sanctuary cities to attack Democrats as enabling Latino gang violence. Democrats, who have criticized the Trump administration for deporting undocumented immigrants with no criminal records, are struggling to explain their positions.”

-- The Libertarian candidate in Virginia’s gubernatorial race accused Northam and Gillespie of allowing the election to descend into “wild-eyed accusations and divisive rhetoric.” “What is politics coming to, what is our society coming to, when two candidates for statewide office spend millions of dollars on ads accusing their opponent of sympathizing with violent street gangs, pedophiles, white nationalists and neo-Nazis, and of harboring supporters who want to run over our children with trucks?” Cliff Hyra said at a news conference. (Laura Vozzella)

-- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) will headline a rally tomorrow for Northam’s Republican opponent, Ed Gillespie. (Ovetta Wiggins)

COMING ATTRACTIONS:

-- Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.), who turned 50 yesterday, will kick off his bid for a third term on Sunday in Waukesha. A source familiar with the campaign’s strategy previews some of the themes to expect in his announcement speech: “Walker is gearing up to make the case that after bold reforms that have charted Wisconsin's come back, it's time for more reform. In other words, we need to keep moving Wisconsin forward, and his opponents want to take us back — to the days before Act 10, when Madison and government were in control. Expect him to emphasize his record of cutting taxes while investing in Wisconsin's priorities. His most recent budget, for example, contributes to a cumulative $8 billion in tax cuts during his time in office by the end of 2018, while still making a record investment in K-12 education. He'll likely talk about how all of this is possible because of Act 10 and other reforms, but then make the case that there's more to be done. … Bottom line: Wisconsin is an example of a state where conservative reform has worked, and he's going to make the case for more reform.”

MEN BEHAVING BOORISHLY:

-- A former “House of Cards” employee has accused Kevin Spacey of sexual assault. CNN’s Chloe Melas reports: “Spacey made the set of Netflix's ‘House of Cards’ into a ‘toxic’ work environment through a pattern of sexual harassment, eight people who currently work on the show or worked on it in the past tell CNN. … The former production assistant … told CNN that Spacey sexually assaulted him during one of the show's early seasons. All eight people … described Spacey's behavior as ‘predatory,’ saying it included nonconsensual touching and crude comments and targeted production staffers who were typically young and male.”

-- Another man alleges that he had a sexual relationship with Spacey when he was 14 and Spacey was 24, which ended in what was described as an attempted rape. Vulture’s E. Alex Jung reports: “He first met Spacey in 1981, when the actor was a guest teacher at a weekend acting class he took in Westchester County; he was then a 12-year-old student. Spacey was 22 and working in the New York theater scene. They met again by chance in line at Shakespeare in the Park in 1983, when the student was 14 years old; Spacey had made his Broadway debut in Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts the year prior. After that meeting, he says, Spacey gave him his phone number, and the two began a sexual relationship.”

-- One current and four former women lawmakers alleged they were sexually harassed by other members of Congress. AP’s Erica Werner and Juliet Linderman report: “For years, Republican Rep. Mary Bono [R-Calif.] endured the increasingly suggestive comments from a fellow lawmaker in the House. But when the congressman approached her on the House floor and told her he’d been thinking about her in the shower, she’d had enough. She confronted the man, who she said still serves in Congress, telling him his comments were demeaning and wrong. And he backed off. … The incidents occurred years or even decades ago, usually when the women were young newcomers to Congress. They range from isolated comments at one hearing, to repeated unwanted come-ons, to lewd remarks and even groping on the House floor.”

-- Four women have accused Danny Masterson, star of “That ‘70s Show” of rape, but the investigation into has stalled. HuffPost’s Yashar Ali reports: “Masterson is a longtime member of the Church of Scientology, an organization that has a history of covering up allegations of misconduct leveled against the organization and its members. At least three of the women who have accused him of rape were also Scientologists and reported the incidents to the Church of Scientology at the time. … The LAPD in late 2016 began to interview the women accusing Masterson of rape. … In April 2017, police referred the case to the district attorney.”

-- Alec Baldwin acknowledged having “bullied” women in the past and encouraged industry-wide change in Hollywood. “I think it’s important for us to try to make the workplace and beyond not only comfortable and right and fair and appropriate but as productive, as well. I think a lot of what we’re dealing with within this issue is hurting our business. It’s making it less productive,” Baldwin said while being recognized for his career achievements at the Paley Center for Media. (The Hollywood Reporter)

-- Mother Jones’s Washington bureau chief David Corn is now under further investigation for inappropriate workplace behavior based on emails from former staffers. Politico’s Michael Calderone reports: “One of the emails, written in 2015 by a former staffer outlining concerns she had heard from other women in the Washington office, said Corn, now 58, made ‘rape jokes,’ ‘regularly gave [several women] unwelcome shoulder rubs and engaged in uninvited touching of their legs, arms, backs, and waists,’ and ‘made inappropriate comments about women’s sexuality and anatomy.’ The other email, from 2014, was by a former female staffer who claimed that Corn ‘came up behind me and put his hands and arms around my body in a way that felt sexual and domineering.’ … [T]he magazine’s leaders acknowledged dealing with allegations of inappropriate touching and comments around the time the emails were written, and said they believe Corn has stopped those behaviors.

-- Callum Borchers writes that Fox News and NPR have pursued two radically different approaches in covering their own employees accused of sexual harassment and assault: “On the air, Fox News handled [Roger] Ailes's resignation amid sexual harassment allegations last year like an honorable discharge, lauding the professional accomplishments of the longtime network chairman while scarcely mentioning the claims against him. But NPR's coverage of [Mike] Oreskes, its senior vice president for news until his resignation on Wednesday, has been unsparing. Shortly after Oreskes stepped down, host Mary Louise Kelly grilled NPR chief executive Jarl Mohn about his decision not to remove Oreskes sooner. … ‘If you knew of these multiple allegations, did it cross your mind that leaving Mike in his job might put other women, might put our colleagues, at risk?’ Kelly demanded to know.”

-- Danielle Paquette reports on how confidentiality agreements in sexual harassment cases can silence victims but can also protect their privacy: “California State Sen. Connie Leyva said it’s time to ban such confidentiality agreements, which she said allow wrongdoers to keep their positions of power and hurt more people. … Genie Harrison, an employment and sexual abuse lawyer in Los Angeles, said the reality is more complicated. Confidentiality agreements can lead to larger monetary awards for victims, who often seek time off from work and expensive therapy to heal, she said. ‘I don't like the idea of forcing it upon the plaintiff that he or she can’t have confidentiality provisions,’ said Harrison[.] … Some of her clients want to make sure no one finds out about the harassment they endured, she added.”

SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:

Trump repeated his criticism of James Comey's leadership of the FBI:

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) criticized the GOP tax plan for not offsetting the tax cuts it lays out:

Republicans argue the tax plan will aid local job creators “by distinguishing between the individual wage income of NBA All-Star Stephen Curry and the pass-through business income of Steve’s Bike Shop." Curry responded to the shout out:

Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager advised Democrats to unify:

One of The Post's political reporters offered this commentary:

Jake Tapper pointed out that this 2016 Trump tweet "DID age well":

A Bloomberg News White House reporter noted this:

A former Clinton campaign aide has an alternate explanation for Twitter's temporary deactivation of Trump's account:

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) extended this offer to the Twitter employee who deactivated the account:

A GOP strategist commented on Sam Clovis's decision to withdraw his nomination as the Agriculture Department's chief scientist:

Paul Manafort's legal team had this embarrassing typo:

Donald Trump Jr. addressed the growing sexual harassment scandal in Hollywood:

Former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum replied to Don Jr.'s tweet:

This tweet turned one year old:

Former congressman John Dingell (D-Mich.) offered this situational awareness:

Newsweek's new cover lampooned the Trump administration's travel controversies:

James Comey promoted his new book after its title was released yesterday:

Meghan McCain announced her engagement to Federalist publisher Ben Domenech on the View:

Her father, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), congratulated the two on Twitter:

And this photo struck a chord with Astros fans:

GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:

-- The Daily Beast, “Jenna Abrams, Russia’s Clown Troll Princess, Duped the Mainstream Media and the World,” by Ben Collins and Joseph Cox: “Her account was the creation of employees at the Internet Research Agency, or the Russian government-funded ‘troll farm,’ in St. Petersburg. Jenna Abrams, the freewheeling American blogger who believed in a return to segregation and said that many of America’s problems stemmed from PC culture run amok, did not exist. But Abrams got very real attention from almost any national news outlet you can think of, according to a Daily Beast analysis of her online footprint.”

-- The New York Times, “A Weekend of Fear, Hate and Faith in Tennessee,” by Campbell Robertson: “A man at the poultry plant had offered advice to his Somali co-workers the previous day: get your groceries, do your laundry, run your errands now. Then do not go outside again until Sunday night. A coterie of white nationalists — Southern secessionists, neo-Nazis, various other strains — were headed to town for a ‘White Lives Matter’ rally. It would be the latest in a string of demonstrations since the spring: in New Orleans, Pikeville, Ky., and Charlottesville, Va.”

HOT ON THE LEFT:

 “The US Energy Secretary Just Suggested That Fossil Fuels Can Help Stop Sexual Assault,” from BuzzFeed: “Speaking about [a recent energy tour across Africa, Rick Perry] reportedly said:Let me tell you where people are dying, is in Africa, because of the lack of energy they have there. And it's going to take fossil fuels to push power out into those villages in Africa[.] . . . Perry continued: ‘But also from the standpoint of sexual assault. When the lights are on, when you have light that shines, the righteousness, if you will, on those types of acts. So from the standpoint of how you really affect people's lives, fossil fuels is going to play a role in that. I happen to think it's going to play a positive role.’”

 

HOT ON THE RIGHT:

“'Fake news' is Collins Dictionary's word of the year 2017,” from AP: “The word — two words actually — will be added to the next print edition of the dictionary. Collins said Thursday the use of the term rose 365 percent last year. It is defined as ‘false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting.’ The term has been picked up by [Trump], who routinely characterizes critical reports as ‘fake news’ in his tweets. Collins' head of language content Helen Newstead said the term ‘fake news’ has been inescapable this year. She said it has contributed to ‘the undermining of society's trust in news reporting.’”

 

DAYBOOK:

Trump will travel to Hawaii today for a U.S. Pacific Command briefing and a tour of the USS Arizona Memorial.

Pence is at the Secret Service’s training center today for briefings and demonstrations.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: 

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert recognized “International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists” by tweeting, “It is my pleasure to work [with] talented journalists every day, as my [State Department] colleagues do around the world. We support you.” Trump has referred to journalists as “bad people,” “really, really dishonest people” and “absolute scum.”

 

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

-- The District will see more clouds today, and showers are possible in the evening. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Sunshine should dominate through midday and perhaps into midafternoon. Clouds really increase, and shower potential does as well, as we get toward evening rush hour. Sorry, warm weather lovers, a cold front approaches. Enjoy the potential mid-70s to near 80 while we have them!”

-- The Capitals won against the Islanders 4-3. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)

-- Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, a longtime fan Putin fan, is launching a social movement to support the Russian leader dubbed the Putin Team. Isabelle Khurshudyan reports: After last night’s win, “Ovechkin explained why he decided on this public show of support for Putin. ‘I just support my country, you know?’ Ovechkin said. ‘That’s where I’m from, my parents live there, all my friends. Like every human from different countries, they support their president.’ Asked if his support of Putin translates into a support of Putin’s political ideals, Ovechkin said, ‘It’s not about political stuff.’ ‘I don’t try to be politics man or someone like that,’ Ovechkin said. ‘I just support my president and just support my country because I’m from there[.]’”

-- The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center has rejected white nationalist Richard Spencer’s request to host a conference there. The building and Spencer were in talks for months, but a spokesman said that the decision had been made due to safety concerns. (Perry Stein)

-- United Medical Center failed to report key details about a patient’s death. Peter Jamison reports: “The report … left out information about the case of 47-year-old Warren Webb that would likely have triggered an investigation of the long-term care unit at beleaguered United Medical Center in Southeast Washington. The report did not disclose that Webb died, let alone that he repeatedly cried out for help, complained of shortness of breath and was left lying on the floor for at least 20 minutes by his nurses after he rolled out of bed — details that have been reported by The Post based on interviews with eyewitnesses and a time-stamped audio recording of the incident.”

VIDEOS OF THE DAY:

Seth Meyers mocked Trump's suggestion to call the GOP tax plan the “Cut Cut Cut Act”:

Trump joked that his mother would never have guessed that he would one day become president:

The Post fact-checked Trump's comments on the diversity visa lottery:

The pope spoke out against war while visiting an American military cemetery in Italy:

Houston's mayor called the Astros' win “personal”:

And a hippo at an Israeli zoo attempted to break free — but then had second thoughts: