With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve
THE BIG IDEA:
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Scott Walker hit political rock bottom in September 2015, soon after his presidential campaign flamed out. It was depressing to be one of the first candidates to drop out of a crowded Republican field that eventually winnowed to Donald Trump. But the Wisconsin governor’s first foray onto the national stage also took a serious toll on his standing back home. Less than a year after getting reelected, his job approval rating had fallen to 37 percent. Most Republicans in the state hadn’t wanted him to run in the first place, and many felt like he cared more about Iowa’s problems than Wisconsin’s.
After two years of mending fences, Walker has clawed his way back. His numbers have inched up each of the past four quarters, and his approval rating is now back in the mid-to-high 40s.
Last week I joined the governor at three events over three days as he launched his campaign for a third term. During an interview at a tailgate party across the street from Lambeau Field before the Green Bay Packers played in “Monday Night Football,” Walker talked about how much extra work he created for himself by running for president.
“I even had a sympathetic radio announcer ask me just tonight: how did you get reengaged? He said … he thought that I would never run for reelection again because I’d become a national figure and moved on,” Walker said. “You look at our numbers … and we didn’t go back up fast. We just systematically moved our way up — not through paid advertising … but through just reconnecting with the voters.”
As the GOP primaries continued without him from New Hampshire to South Carolina and beyond, Walker convened the first of more than 100 “listening sessions” in all 72 of Wisconsin’s counties. His advance team would set up two whiteboards in the front of every room. The governor would spend the first 20 minutes asking attendees to say something positive about the state, which he’d write down. Then he’d spend the next hour asking how Wisconsin could be better, filling up the second whiteboard. He tried to talk as little as possible.
The governor offered several concrete proposals in his budget around the themes that came up again and again, such as opioid abuse and broadband access, but he said the most important result of the sessions was conveying to Wisconsinites that he had not “moved on.” “I really felt like the listening sessions gave us a chance to reengage, for me to hear but also for the people of the state to see that, ‘This guy is committed and focused,’” Walker explained.
Walker boasted about how little time he’s spent in Madison, which Democrats attack him for but he believes keeps him connected with his constituents. “Almost every week, I am out Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday,” he said. “Usually, Wednesday is the only day I’m in the capitol. I love traveling the state.”
-- Walker ate a bratwurst in a supporter’s living room here as he reflected on the lessons of his presidential campaign and outlined his theory of the case for 2018. He lamented that he listened too much to the advice of D.C. consultants. His campaign got too hot, too fast and scaled up too quickly. He tried to appeal to every faction of the party and never picked a lane, which opened him up to criticism for flip-flopping.
“The biggest thing I learned there was that you need to be yourself,” Walker told me. “Not only personally, but campaign-wise, we had a really good thing going here. Particularly during the recall, we ran against some of the best that our opponents could throw at us. … One of the challenges in the presidential was that it’s really easy to get caught up in people saying, ‘You’ve got to do this, and you’ve got to do that,’ instead of just being who we were and running the campaign that we would normally run here.”
He noted that his 2018 team is stocked with staffers from Wisconsin who he trusts and have proven themselves on his previous campaigns, not outsiders. Earlier this year, Walker also finally finished paying off the debt that his presidential bid had saddled him with.
-- This is Walker’s sixth race in nine years. After getting reelected Milwaukee County Executive in 2008, he won the governorship in 2010. Then he survived the 2012 recall election, faced a competitive reelection fight in 2014 and almost immediately kicked off his presidential bid with a big Iowa speech in January 2015. Now a year out from Election Day, on his 50th birthday, he’s back on the trail again. “I know what to expect,” he joked.
The song that plays whenever he starts and finishes a campaign speech is “Centerfield,” which imagines a baseball player pleading with his coach to put him in the game. Walker both loves sports metaphors and being on the field.
Distilling his rationale for seeking a third term, he said: “It’s not like winning a championship and then you keep coming back and showing off your ring and not getting ready for the next season. We’re ready for the next season! … Elections are about the future, not the past. We lay out a synopsis of the successes we’ve had, but we also then pivot and say, ‘But there’s more to be done’ and then ‘Here’s the five key areas we’re focusing in on.’”
He argues that Wisconsin has “a reform dividend” now because of the battles early in his tenure, especially his victories against the public-sector employee unions and their contracts, which allows for increased spending on K-12 schools and other popular programs. “I am more optimistic about the future of this state than I’ve been at any point in my lifetime,” he said during his announcement speech at a manufacturing facility in Waukesha, a Milwaukee suburb. “But this is not going to be an easy campaign. … We’re going to have a tough election.”
-- Walker accepts that he’s a polarizing figure and says that’s the price of governing as an uncompromising conservative in a purple state. Basically no one in Wisconsin doesn’t already have a strong view of him. Because he’s so well defined, he’s somewhat insulated from President Trump. But if Democrats turn out in massive numbers to register their objections with what’s happening in Washington, as they did in last week’s off-year elections, Walker could be in serious trouble.
Since similar numbers of people love Walker as hate him, he’s got a high floor of support but also a relatively low ceiling. Former governor Tommy Thomson (R) won his third term in 1994 with 67 percent. Walker doesn’t even pretend to think that’s in the realm of possibility.
“We didn’t just do stuff on the margins. We did fundamental, transformational things that will really make a difference. … Some people don’t like that,” Walker said. “I’ve always felt that you’re able to govern whether you win with 50 plus one, or you win with 55 percent of 60 percent. Legally, you get to govern no matter what.”
-- Walker has thrown in his lot with Trump. He endorsed Ted Cruz ahead of Wisconsin’s May 2016 primary, but then he rallied vocally behind Trump during a prime time speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Asked to offer an appraisal of the president 10 months in, Walker said: “His actions speak louder than words. A lot of people get hung up on his words or his tweets. If you look at the actions from where I sit in Wisconsin, this is a solid administration with a good Cabinet.”
At the start of the year, his entree was White House chief of staff Reince Priebus. Now Vice President Pence is his main link. “There’s no denying that having Reince in there made a tremendous difference, but I talk to Mike Pence sometimes once or twice a week depending on the issue,” Walker said. “Mike’s just incredible.” He said he also talks with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, another Wisconsinite, “probably about once every week or two.”
Trump was the first Republican presidential nominee to carry the Badger State since Ronald Reagan in 1984, but it was close. He won by one percentage point, or about 27,000 votes.
One underappreciated reason that the president won Wisconsin is because he got to ride the reverse coattails of Republican Sen. Ron Johnson’s reelection campaign. Johnson got about 100,000 more votes than Trump by outperforming him in 30 of 72 counties, an arc that stretches from the Milwaukee suburbs up toward Green Bay. Trump outperformed Johnson in smaller, rural counties in the northwest and southwestern parts of the state. Walker wants to meld those coalitions together, as he did during the recall.
Walker knows it’s essential next year to turn out the GOP base and run up the score bigly in rural areas, where Trump remains popular. He told me that Trump’s coalition is “very similar” to his. “If you look at the counties and the areas he won, it’s almost a parallel footprint,” he said. “I’ve got to stay strong in those areas. I can’t be complacent.”
He has capitalized on GOP majorities in the state legislature to advance his agenda in a way that Trump could only dream of. But he’s worried that every Republican on the ballot in the midterms will suffer if Congress doesn’t get its act together.
“They absolutely have to get tax reform done by the end of the year, and then I think that gives them the leverage to take another crack at repeal and replace (of Obamacare) by the early part of 2018,” he said. “They kind of went in reverse order. In retrospect, they probably should have done infrastructure first because it would have been the easiest to be bipartisan. They probably could have got some Democratic support on tax reform. In the end, they’d get no support on anything that repeals Obamacare.”
Walker notes that many people who disagree with him still see him as effective, in contrast to Washington. “We’ve actually done things, so when I make bold promises for the next term, I’ve got the benefit of people going, ‘Dang, he’ll do that. Because he’s done it before,’” he said.
-- Several Democrats who hope to benefit from Walker fatigue and Trump backlash are lining up to run against him. The head of the state firefighter’s union announced on Monday. He joins a field with no clear front-runner that includes the state schools superintendent, a Milwaukee businessman, a state representative from Eau Claire and a former state Democratic Party chairman. “A year ago, people were saying that Democrats didn’t have any candidates. Now they are saying we have too many,” said Melanie Conklin of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. “We are very happy to have so many quality candidates in the race. It shows that Walker is vulnerable.”
The Democratic primary is not until the middle of next August, so whoever emerges is likely to have depleted their resources and there is little time to pivot for the general election. Walker hopes to amass a huge war chest that allows him to carpet bomb his eventual opponent. This week he’s wrapping up a one-year rotation as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, which allowed him to cultivate major donors across the country. Another built-in advantage is that he’s a favorite of the billionaire Koch brothers. Walker is always feted at their seminars, and their network plans to invest heavily in the race.
To be sure, because Walker remains organized labor’s biggest boogeyman, unions and national Democrats will also go big here. “Voters in Wisconsin are getting tired of the Scott Walker show,” said the Democratic Governors' Association’s Jared Leopold. “Scott Walker has shown that he’s more interested in Scott Walker’s next job than in Wisconsinites’ next jobs. … He will be one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the country in 2018.”
-- At its heart, Walker’s comeback strategy is all about being present. The governor is good at raising big bucks, but he’s got no personal wealth. He comes from a modest background and never finished college. He eats ham and cheese sandwiches from a brown paper bag for lunch most days. This is part of his political identity. He routinely tweets pictures of the simple meal.
So it’s not too surprising that he was giddy when a friend at the tailgate party gave him a Green Bay jersey with his name emblazoned on the back and the number “50” to commemorate his birthday. Walker said he’s always wanted a customized jersey. In 2006, when the Packers traded Javon Walker to the Broncos, he found his jersey on clearance at a sporting good’s store for $9.99. He bought all the jerseys that were left and gave them to everyone in the Walker family as Christmas gifts.
It was dipping below 30 degrees in the backyard, and he was about to walk over to watch the game. Walker, in jeans, already had four layers on to keep warm, including a Packers jacket. “Now I’ll have another layer,” he exclaimed. Midwesterners talk a lot about layers, especially this time of year.
As he mingled, posing for selfies and talking about tapping beer kegs, his go-to small talk was about cold-weather gear. “I really like your gloves,” Walker told one gentleman. “I’ve got an extra pair if you need some,” the man replied earnestly. (This is also a very Midwestern thing to offer.)
At a rally the next morning outside Appleton, Walker had changed into a red University of Wisconsin windbreaker. He joked that he wasn’t wearing green because the Packers had lost the game.
WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING:
-- Four people are dead after a gunman opened fire at multiple locations in Northern California, picking “random targets” before he was shot and killed by police. Mark Berman, Susan Svrluga and Ellie Silverman report: “This latest burst of gunfire to terrorize a community … unfolded without an immediate explanation, as the gunman spewed bullets across what police described as ‘a very widespread area.’ Ten people were injured and taken to area hospitals, including at least two children, one of whom was at the elementary school, police said. No children were among those killed…”
Still, authorities warned that Tuesday’s carnage could have been much worse. “When the gunman arrived at [the elementary school], he rammed the fence and marched onto the grounds wielding a semi-automatic rifle and wearing a vest embedded with additional clips … But when the gunman arrived, [authorities] said, he was unable to enter the classrooms, because school officials had heard gunfire and immediately locked down the premises.” Authorities said the attacker fired dozens of rounds at the school but eventually abandoned the premises because he couldn't get inside. Officials praised school officials who saved “countless lives and children.”
-- Zimbabwe's military took control of the country and its president, Robert Mugabe, in an apparent coup. Wendy Muperi and Paul Schemm report: The military made “a televised announcement saying it was ‘not a military takeover.’ Despite the assurances, the events bore all the hallmarks of a coup, with military vehicles stationed around the capital, the army taking over the television station and a uniformed general issuing a statement. The move by army commander Gen. Constantino Chiwenga came as the struggle over who will succeed the country’s increasingly frail 93-year-old leader came to a head. Mugabe has ruled since he led the country to independence from white minority rule in 1980. … The fate of Mugabe and his wife, 53-year-old Grace Mugabe, who increasingly looked set to succeed him, was unclear but they appear to be in military custody.”
GET SMART FAST:
- The Pentagon has approved a gender-reassignment surgery for an active-duty service member, delivering the latest in several setbacks to Trump’s abruptly announced ban on transgender people serving in the military. (New York Times)
China said that it would send an envoy to North Korea. The news comes after Trump leaned on Chinese President Xi Jinping during his Asia trip to pressure North Korea about its nuclear program. (AP)
A North Korean soldier who ran across the DMZ is fighting for his life at a hospital in Seoul. The soldier, who is the first person to defect across the heavily patrolled border in a decade, suffered at least five gunshot wounds in his daring dash toward freedom. (Anna Fifield)
- Three members of the UCLA men’s basketball team are on their way back to the United States after they were arrested for shoplifting in China. Their release comes after Trump personally intervened on their behalf in a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Simon Denyer, David Nakamura and Tim Bontemps)
- Trump will not meet with American Nobel laureates this year, breaking with a nearly two decade-long tradition. It was unclear if some of the winners would have attended a White House event even if they were invited, however, and at least one scientist said he was “very relieved” when he learned there was no chance of a Trump encounter. (Anne Gearan)
- Forty-four state attorneys general requested that Congress repeal the law scaling back the DEA’s ability to pursue drug producers. Many of them hail from states hit hard by the opioid crisis. (Lenny Bernstein and Scott Higham)
- Experts warned the Senate Foreign Relations Committee against crafting legislation hampering Trump’s ability to approve the use of nuclear weapons. “I do not see a legislative solution today,” Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has warned that Trump could put the country “on the path to World War III,” said. “That doesn’t mean, over the course of the next several months, one might not develop, but I don’t see it today.” (Karoun Demirjian)
- The House passed a $700 billion defense authorization bill. But the military will likely never see the full funding because Congress still has to pass a budget, which will likely provide a lot less for defense spending. (Karoun Demirjian)
- Australian voters approved same-sex marriage in a national postal survey. A little over 60 percent of voters supported the change, which parliament will now consider in a bill the prime minister has promised will become law by Christmas. (The Guardian)
A new study found that Wall Street penalties dropped during Trump’s first year in office. The SEC sought the smallest amount of sanctions, $3.4 billion, since 2013. (Bloomberg)
A fourth murder in Tampa’s Seminole Heights neighborhood has set off fears of a serial killer. Interim Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said of the investigation, “[R]ight now we are treating it as though it is related until we can rule otherwise.” (Jon Silman and Amy B Wang)
- New Yorker writer and legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin is writing a book about Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, allegations of collusion and Moscow’s role in the 2016 race. As Doubleday editor in chief Bill Thomas said: “This is the book that [Toobin] was born to write.” (New York Times)
- A Dallas prosecutor was fired this week after she drunkenly insulted and threatened her Uber driver — repeatedly calling him a “retard” and refusing to exit the vehicle in a now-viral video. When the driver threatened to summon police, she told him they would believe her side of the story and “f--- you up.” (Cleve R. Wootson Jr.)
Anthony Scaramucci is pitching a book on his tenure as communications director to publishers. A source said of the book, “It’s about his time at the White House — all 10 days of it!” (Page Six)
THE TAX PLAN BECOMES A HEALTH-CARE PLAN:
-- Senate Republicans have added a repeal of Obamacare’s individual mandate to their tax plan, a big development that allows the GOP another shot at eliminating a big piece of the Affordable Care Act. But the decision could also cause major headaches for Republicans. Mike DeBonis and Damian Paletta report: “They also announced that the individual tax cuts in the plan would be made temporary, expiring at the end of 2025 to comply with Senate rules limiting the impact of legislation on the long-term deficit. A corporate tax cut, reducing the rate from 35 to 20 percent, would be left permanent. The changes introduce volatile variables into what was already a challenging political enterprise for Republicans. And it’s unclear whether they will help or hurt the bill’s chances.”
What would happen if the mandate, which forces Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine, was repealed? Mike and Damian report that it “would free up more than $300 billion in government funding over the next decade that Republicans could use to finance their proposed tax cuts, but it would result in 13 million fewer people having health insurance, according to projections from the [CBO.] … The CBO has also projected that repealing the individual mandate would drive up insurance premiums for many Americans by roughly 10 percent.”
-- The government would lose money by repealing the mandate’s penalty, but it would save much more as millions of people went without insurance. Carolyn Y. Johnson explains: “[G]overnment spending on subsidies to help people afford coverage would plummet ... The number of people without insurance would increase for two reasons. Some healthy people who are buying health insurance today because of the penalty would stop buying it. But that would have ripple effects: As fewer of those healthy people signed up for insurance, premiums would increase to pay for the health-care costs of a sicker group of people. Those rising premiums, in turn, would price more healthy people out of the market, creating a vicious cycle. The net effect is that the government will spend far less on subsidies.”
-- So, will the plan pass with the mandate repeal? Our colleagues add: “The attack on former president Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement is likely to rule out the already slim possibility of support from Democrats, and the prospect of adding millions to the ranks of the uninsured could trouble moderate Republicans who voted down previous repeal efforts. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) … said Tuesday that including the repeal measure ‘complicates’ the tax effort. But she suggested she might be able to support it if the Senate also passes a bipartisan bill to preserve other aspects of the [ACA]. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) … declined to say whether he would back a tax bill that included repeal.”
VIDEO: CEOs asked if they plan to increase their company's capital investments if the GOP's tax bill passes.— Natalie Andrews (@nataliewsj) November 14, 2017
A few hands go up.
"Why aren't the other hands up?" Gary Cohn asks.#WSJCEOCouncil pic.twitter.com/TD2oAlN27S
-- Not helping matters: Only a handful of top dogs at the Wall Street Journal's CEO Council meeting yesterday said they would use the savings from a corporate rate cut to invest more. Heather Long reports: “The president and his senior team [keep] saying that the tax plan would unleash business investment in the United States — new factories, more equipment and more jobs. But, perhaps as the informal poll suggested, there are reasons to be doubtful that a great business investment boom would materialize. … A Bank of America-Merrill Lynch survey this summer asked over 300 executives at major U.S. corporations what they would do after a ‘tax holiday’ that would allow them to bring back money held overseas at a low tax rate. The No. 1 response? Pay down debt. … Actual investments in new factories and more research were low on the list of plans for how to spend extra money.”
-- Over in the House, the mandate repeal isn't yet a part of the package, which is expected to get a vote on Thursday. Mike DeBonis writes the fate of the measure will come down to California Republicans: “The 14 House Republicans representing California districts are under intense pressure from constituents, local elected officials and, in many cases, prospective Democratic opponents over provisions that could raise taxes for many residents of the high-tax, high-cost-of-living state. But so far, only one — San Diego-area Rep. Darrell Issa — has come out against the bill as written; the others have either declared their support or say they are still reviewing the bill ahead of the House vote tentatively scheduled for Thursday. … The support of California Republicans is a big reason GOP leaders feel confident that they will pass the tax bill this week, building momentum for the legislation and increasing pressure on the Senate to pass a bill of its own.”
THERE'S A BEAR IN THE WOODS:
-- Jeff Sessions testified before lawmakers on Capitol Hill that he has “always told the truth” in describing his knowledge of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia — even while acknowledging that he “now recalls” a March 31 meeting in which former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos offered to help broker a meeting between Trump and Vladimir Putin.
Matt Zapotosky and Sari Horwitz report: “'I do now recall the March 2016 meeting at Trump hotel that Mr. Papadopoulos attended, but I have no clear recollection of the details of what he [said],’ Sessions said. ‘After reading his account, and to the best of my recollection, I believe that I wanted to make clear to him that he was not authorized to represent the campaign with the Russian government, or any other foreign government … But I did not recall this event, which occurred 18 months before my testimony of a few weeks ago, and I would gladly have reported it had I remembered it[.]'” Later, Sessions clarified that he recalled Papadopoulos making “some comment” about a Trump-Putin meeting, and that he “pushed back.”
“Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) pressed Sessions on his shifting memories, noting that he had previously criticized [Hillary] Clinton for her lack of recall during an FBI interview and said intentionally forgetting might be criminal. ‘Do you still believe that the intentional failure to remember can constitute a criminal act?’ Jeffries asked. ‘If it’s an act to deceive, yes,’ Sessions responded.”
-- Sessions also addressed the idea of a second special counsel, saying the Justice Department would need a “factual basis” to investigate a medley of concerns raised by conservatives, including a 2010 uranium company deal and various Clinton Foundation dealings. “‘Looks like’ is not enough basis to appoint a special counsel,’ he told Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) after Jordan listed a number of things he thinks Democrats did during the 2016 presidential campaign that he thought looked fishy[.] " (Amber Phillips)
-- Still, the possibility of a second special counsel has alarmed current and former department officials, who fear such a move could further politicize the DOJ. Devlin Barrett reports: “Such an appointment could give [Trump] and Republicans a political counterweight to the ongoing work of [Robert Mueller] … [and] has raised fresh questions about the independence of the Justice Department in the Trump administration. Also unclear [was] how Sessions might appoint such a special counsel for some of the issues, given that he has recused himself from investigative matters involving the 2016 campaign[.]”
- “To have the winning side exploring the possibility of prosecuting the losing side in an election — it’s un-American, and it’s grotesque,” said John Danforth, a former special counsel … "The proliferation of special counsels in a political setting is very, very bad.”
- Former deputy special counsel Peter R. Zeidenberg said “the best-case scenario” is that Sessions is trying simply to mollify an angry Trump and doesn't intend to follow through. If one is appointed to probe Clinton matters, “I think the vast majority of people at DOJ would be completely disgusted and demoralized by it,’’ said Zeidenberg. “They don’t like feeling that they are political tools to be used by the president.’’
-- A1 of the New York Times: “‘Lock Her Up’ Becomes More Than a Slogan,” by Peter Baker: “[I]f [Sessions] or his deputy ultimately does authorize a new investigation of Mrs. Clinton, it would shatter post-Watergate norms intended to prevent presidents from using law enforcement agencies against political rivals. … Democrats vividly recall Mr. Trump on the campaign trail vowing to prosecute Mrs. Clinton if he won. ‘It was alarming enough to chant “lock her up” at a campaign rally,’ said Brian Fallon, who was Mrs. Clinton’s campaign spokesman. ‘It is another thing entirely to try to weaponize the Justice Department in order to actually carry it out.’ But conservatives said Mrs. Clinton should not be immune from scrutiny as a special counsel … investigates Russia’s interference in last year’s election and any connections to Mr. Trump’s campaign.”
-- Sessions also addressed the credibility of WikiLeaks in the wake of revelations that Donald Trump Jr. communicated with the organization during the campaign:
"I'm not a fan of Wikileaks," AG Jeff Sessions says, adding he's "not able to make a judgment" on Donald Trump Jr.'s newly-revealed contacts pic.twitter.com/Q183C8qyMD— ABC News (@ABC) November 14, 2017
-- During Sessions’s hearing, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) presented the ultimate in charts to try to document connections between Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and the sale of Uranium One --- the mining company sold to the Russian energy company in a deal the GOP now wants investigated.
The visual aid was pretty confusing, Philip Bump writes: “If it looks complicated, that’s clearly by design. There are any number of indicators that it was made to be confusing, including the needlessly long lines connecting the various items on the chart, the random assignation of shapes and colors, and, most obviously, the inclusion of things that clearly have nothing to do with the issue at hand. … If you look at this closely, you notice something interesting: There aren’t many connections between Russia and Uranium One. That includes connections with Rosenstein and Mueller, the ostensible point of the chart, per Gohmert. In fact, this is the only connection involving Rosenstein or Mueller directly[.]”
From this Obama DOJ spokesman:
Oh my. Gohmert has gone full Carrie Mathison. Someone please get him help. https://t.co/CyJu1LA0X9— Matthew Miller (@matthewamiller) November 14, 2017
-- The FBI is reportedly investigating 60 money transfers from the Russian foreign ministry to its embassies, many of which included the note “to finance election campaign of 2016.” BuzzFeed News’s Jason Leopold, Anthony Cormier and Jessica Garrison report: “The transactions, which moved through Citibank accounts and totaled more than $380,000, each came from the Russian foreign ministry and most contained a memo line referencing the financing of the 2016 election. The money wound up at Russian embassies in almost 60 countries from Afghanistan to Nigeria between Aug. 3 and Sept. 20, 2016. It is not clear how the funds were used. … The FBI was first made aware of the suspicious transactions two months ago. Two FBI sources said that FBI legal attaches in other countries are now investigating whether the money may have been used for the US presidential election and, if so, how.”
But, but, but: Russia held its own election last year for its legislative body. Russian officials responded to the BuzzFeed report after it was published: “The foreign ministry noted that it had previously announced that it would have 364 polling stations in 145 countries in order for Russians living overseas to cast ballots in a parliamentary election held September 18. The Russian embassy added, ‘this attempt to artificially draw Russia and the Embassy to the internal US disagreements has failed in the most shameful manner.’”
-- British Prime Minister Theresa May called out Russia’s election meddling and disinformation campaigns. William Booth reports: “May on Monday night charged Vladimir Putin’s Russia with attempting to ‘undermine free societies’ and ‘sow discord’ in Britain and the West by ‘weaponizing information’ and ‘deploying its state-run media organizations to plant fake stories.’ ‘So I have a very simple message for Russia. We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed,' May said.”
-- Support for Roy Moore’s Senate campaign continues to erode — and not just from establishment Republicans. (But they’re still running away from him, too.)
-- Et tu, Hannity? Fox News’s Sean Hannity told viewers last night that Moore had “24 hours” to come up with a valid explanation for the accusations. “For me, the judge has 24 hours,” Hannity said. “You must immediately and fully come up with a satisfactory explanation for your inconsistencies that I just showed.” Hannity added, “If you can't do this, then Judge Moore needs to get out of this race.” (Politico)
-- Steve Bannon is reportedly weighing ditching Moore after going all in on his primary bid. The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng report: “[O]ver the past few days, Bannon has begun privately taking the temperature of those in his inner circle to see what they think of the Moore allegations and to get their sense of how to proceed[.] … Late last week, the Breitbart chairman said, ‘I will put him in a grave myself,’ if he determines that Moore was lying to him about the numerous accusations, a source close to Bannon relayed. Bannon emphasized, to both friends and colleagues, that he’s uncomfortable with the charges of sexual harassment and child molestation that have been leveled at Moore. But he wasn’t convinced that the initial flood of on-record testimony, starting with the first Washington Post story last week, was anything more than a hit job. And he believes it may have been planted by #NeverTrump operatives to put the screws to Moore’s campaign.”
-- The RNC has withdrawn its support. It pulled out of a joint fundraising agreement with Moore and canceled a field program it had organized. (Politico)
-- Paul Ryan agreed that Moore should “step aside.” “Number one, these allegations are credible,” Ryan said. “Number two, if he cares about the values and people he claims to care about, then he should step aside.” (Sean Sullivan, Michael Scherer and Paul Kane)
-- At his hearing, Jeff Sessions told lawmakers he had “no reason to doubt” the women accusing Moore. (Sean Sullivan, Michael Scherer and Paul Kane)
-- Despite all of this, Moore vowed to keep the fight going, even threatening Mitch McConnell’s job:
The good people of Alabama, not the Washington elite who wallow in the swamp, will decide this election! #DitchMitch— Judge Roy Moore (@MooreSenate) November 14, 2017
-- Moore has been bolstered by the unwavering support of Alabama Republicans. Sean Sullivan, Michael Scherer and Paul Kane report: “Republican officials in Alabama continued to express skepticism about the accusations made against Moore, saying that they are still waiting for the evidence to back up the allegations. … Others in the state said that there is little that can be done, as the Dec. 12 election to fill the seat vacated by Sessions earlier this year approaches. ‘I don’t see anything the party can do,’ said Alabama state Rep. Mike Ball, a Republican from Madison County. ‘It’s too damn late.’ … [With the RNC withdrawing,] the Alabama Republican Party is the only other GOP entity that is participating in Moore’s fundraising efforts.”
- Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who lost the primary race to Moore, said when asked if he believes Moore’s accusers, “I believe the Democrats will do great damage to our country.” (ABC News)
-- Sen. Sessions, again? Our colleagues report: “At [an] event hosted by the Wall Street Journal, McConnell said [Jeff] Sessions fits the ‘mold’ of someone who could win as a write-in contender. … National GOP strategists believe that if they can persuade local officials to [disqualify Moore from the race], an 11th-hour write-in campaign might be successful. But if that doesn’t happen, some Republicans are pessimistic that a write-in effort would have a realistic chance, even with a popular and well-known figure such as Sessions. Instead, it could have the effect of splitting the GOP vote and opening the door for [Democrat Doug] Jones to win, which would narrow the Republican advantage in the Senate to 51 to 49.”
-- McConnell has reportedly suggested to Trump that he denounce Moore and ask Sessions to enter the race. Politico’s Alex Isenstadt, Eliana Johnson and Josh Dawsey report: “Trump is widely expected to address the predicament publicly when he returns from abroad. In order for the president to get involved, some aides to the president say, he would need an airtight plan that limits his political exposure to any fallout. It’s a vexing call for Trump. If he tries to pressure Moore out of the race … there’s no guarantee that the candidate will oblige.”
-- Meanwhile, Doug Jones, is eschewing national Democrats as he tries to eke out a win. The New York Times’s Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin reports: “National Democratic groups have not spent a dollar on their own television or radio commercials promoting Mr. Jones, a former federal prosecutor. The party’s most popular campaigners, such as former President Barack Obama and Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, have not set foot in the state. … But the national Democrats’ ostensibly arm’s-length treatment of Mr. Jones belies a far deeper investment in the race. Senate Democrats covet Alabama’s Senate seat, passionately, but … they are acutely aware of the risk of being seen as orchestrating the race from afar.”
-- Another creepy story on Moore: “Roy Moore challenged Alabama law that protects rape victims, documents reveal,” by the Guardian’s Jon Swaine.
-- The weirdest story you’ll read today: A caller falsely claiming to be reporter “Bernie Bernstein” of The Post left a voice mail for an Alabama pastor offering thousands of dollars for damaging information on Moore. A representative of Moore’s campaign said that he didn't know of the robo-call until the news reports, and our executive editor Marty Baron issued a statement saying, “The call’s description of our reporting methods bears no relationship to reality. We are shocked and appalled that anyone would stoop to this level to discredit real journalism.” (WKRG’s Bill Riales)
-- From a technology reporter for BuzzFeed News:
This isn’t easy for me but: There is a long Bernstein family tradition of going to Alabama to bamboozle gentiles and it’s time we talked about it— Joe Bernstein (@Bernstein) November 14, 2017
-- From a Post reporter:
It's sort of flattering anyone thinks we'd be throwing $7,000 at sources. I'm not even allowed to expense a charger for my work iPhone. #BernieBernstein.— Monica Hesse (@MonicaHesse) November 15, 2017
#METOO MOVEMENT SPREADS TO CAPITOL HILL:
-- Paul Ryan announced the House would adopt mandatory sexual harassment training for all members and staffers. Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports: “‘Our goal is not only to raise awareness, but also make abundantly clear that harassment in any form has no place in this institution,’ Ryan said in [a] statement.”
-- Female lawmakers recounted stories of sexual harassment by colleagues during a hearing. Michelle adds: “‘This is about a member, who is here [in Congress] now. I don’t know who it is, but somebody who I trust told me this situation,’ Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) said at the hearing. The male member tricked a young female staffer into meeting him at his residence, Comstock said. When the staffer arrived, he greeted her in a towel, then exposed himself, she said. The staffer left the house and subsequently quit her Hill job, she said. … Others have grabbed victims by their private parts on the House floor, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) said. ‘In fact, there are two members of Congress, Republican and Democrat, right now, who serve, who have not been subject to review but have engaged in sexual harassment,’ said Speier[.]”
-- 'The creep list:' CNN spoke to dozens of current and former Capitol Hill staffers who say they have either personally experienced sexual harassment in the workplace or know of someone who has: “[S]ometimes, the sexual advances from members of Congress or senior aides are reciprocated in the hopes of advancing one's career — what one political veteran bluntly referred to as a ‘sex trade on Capitol Hill.’ … The dozens of interviews that CNN conducted with both men and women also revealed that there is an unwritten list of male lawmakers … notorious for inappropriate or predatory behavior. Several people simply referred to that roster as the ‘creep list.’ More than half a dozen interviewees independently named one California congressman for pursuing female staffers; another half dozen pointed to a Texas congressman for engaging in inappropriate behavior[.]”
-- Meanwhile, federal law enforcement also has a big gender-gap problem — despite rapid expansion over the past 20 years, agencies remain almost as male-dominated as in the Clinton administration. Politico’s Amanda Ripley reports: “On a percentage basis, there are now more female members of Congress than female officers at the [DEA]. … In 1996, women held about 14 percent of the country’s federal law enforcement jobs; today, women represent just 15 percent. At this rate, it will be 700 years before women hold half of these jobs. [And] the lowest ratio of all belongs to the Border Patrol. Just 5 percent of its agents are female, which means the Border Patrol employs fewer women than the U.S. Marines (at 8 percent).”
SOCIAL MEDIA SPEED READ:
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) ripped apart the Senate's new tax plan:
BREAKING: the Senate GOP is planning to rip health care from 13 million people, drive up premiums AND cut Medicare to pay for tax cuts for billionaires and corporations. They just can’t keep their hands off our health care. If you fought Trumpcare, we need you in this fight now!— Jeff Merkley (@JeffMerkley) November 14, 2017
From Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.):
.@POTUS's absurd idea to repeal the individual mandate as a part of the #GOPTaxPlan would boot 13M ppl from the health insurance rolls and cause premiums to skyrocket - all to pay for an even bigger tax cut for the very rich, those who pay the top rate. What a toxic idea!— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) November 14, 2017
From Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.):
RED ALERT: Senate GOP just added provision to their tax plan that would gut ACA & kick 13M ppl off insurance. Yes, it's same tax plan that would add $1 trillion to deficit while giving majority of benefits to corporations & the rich. We need you to make your voices heard again.— Sen. Al Franken (@SenFranken) November 14, 2017
From a writer for Vox:
The health care bill was a tax cut for the rich. The tax cut bill takes health care from millions.— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) November 14, 2017
A certain common theme emerges.
Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) had some harsh words for the OMB director on the tax plan:
From Sandy aid to tax reform @MickMulvaneyOMB tries to screw New York. Probably feels inferior because New York subsidizes his state of South Carolina.— Rep. Pete King (@RepPeteKing) November 15, 2017
Hillary Clinton’s former spokesman took a swipe at Jeff Sessions:
These Sessions hearings are useless. He just evades questions or makes assurances that cannot be trusted. Only Mueller can get to the bottom of this mess.— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) November 14, 2017
From John Kasich's former campaign strategist:
Presidential campaign discussions I forget: Some rich dude bitching about yard signs. What i would remember: Hey John, the Russians want our guy to meet with Putin. Okay to proceed? #GoodLord— John Weaver (@JWGOP) November 14, 2017
From CNN’s senior congressional correspondent:
John Conyers (88), top House D on Judiciary, told me perhaps Sessions (70) was getting "old" - that's what he's not able to recall details.— Manu Raju (@mkraju) November 14, 2017
A House Republican drew criticism with this comment:
Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL) says he’s worried congressional offices will hire fewer women to avoid issue of sexual harassment.— Amanda Terkel (@aterkel) November 14, 2017
From George W. Bush’s former speechwriter:
Hiring only women would also work https://t.co/JP6OyC1WGZ— David Frum (@davidfrum) November 14, 2017
A Media Matters writer responded to Moore’s threat that Mitch McConnell’s time as Senate majority leader would end soon:
Moore still received a standing ovation from some attendees at a campaign event, per a BuzzFeed News reporter:
A New York Times reporter reflected on the influx of Puerto Ricans moving to Florida:
139,000 Puerto Ricans have moved to Florida since 9/20. The Mariel boat lift was 125,000 Cubans. Think about how that changed Miami forever. This could seriously be a point in history for Central Florida.— Frances Robles (@FrancesRobles) November 14, 2017
Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson slammed Trump for saying of his approval rating, “Some people think numbers could be in the 50's:”
“Some people think...”— Kristen Soltis Anderson (@KSoltisAnderson) November 14, 2017
Polls in Virginia UNDERESTIMATED disdain for President Trump, just FYI. You can’t just make up results you like. https://t.co/xyvdCNA8yH
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R) requested souvenirs from his daughter, the White House press secretary, after she joined Trump on his Asia trip:
Hey @PressSec I hope you are bringing a souvenir for your Dad. Chopsticks or silk ties maybe? And don’t forget something for husband,kids, Mom, and brothers. Christmas is near! #notpicky https://t.co/PNkZ5av4DF— Gov. Mike Huckabee (@GovMikeHuckabee) November 14, 2017
And PBS legend Gwen Ifill died one year ago yesterday:
From her former Newshour co-anchor:
From Ifill's cousin and the president of the NAACP's legal defense fund:
A year ago today, we lost a legend in American journalism, the great Gwen Ifill. I can think of no more fitting honor for her work than today's announcement from her alma mater:— Sherrilyn Ifill (@Sifill_LDF) November 14, 2017
Simmons College to name school for late journalist Gwen Ifill https://t.co/KT747f9YyU
GOOD READS FROM ELSEWHERE:
-- Politico, “Inside the ‘Lewandowski embassy,’” by Theodoric Meyer, Daniel Lippman and Josh Dawsey: “Corey Lewandowski has a new base of operations in Washington: an elegant, century-old rowhouse that resembles his own version of the ‘Breitbart Embassy.’ Just as Steve Bannon does at the rowhouse a dozen blocks away where Breitbart News sometimes holds meetings and hosts parties, Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, stays upstairs when he’s in town, according to five people familiar with the arrangement. The lower floors serve as his workspace, as well as the offices of Turnberry Solutions, a lobbying firm started this summer by another Trump campaign veteran. Lewandowski has said he has nothing to do with Turnberry, but the firm lists the rowhouse’s address on all of its lobbying disclosures, and a Turnberry nondisclosure agreement recently sat on a desk in the front room.”
-- Pittsburgh City Paper, “Johnstown progressives are sick of national media painting them solely as Trump Country,” by Ryan Deto: “On Nov. 8, Politico published a story many in the Pittsburgh region have seen too many times. Reporter Michael Kruse traveled to Johnstown, in Cambria County, to talk to the same people he interviewed for a story published prior to Donald Trump being elected president. … Like many dispatches from the Rust Belt by national publications, the story painted Johnstown as a no-hope town, overrun by drugs and blight, and still in love with Trump. … But progressives in Johnstown aren’t happy.”
-- The Atlantic, “Reflections of an Affirmative-Action Baby,” by Peter Beinart: “In 1991, the African American Yale Law School professor Stephen Carter wrote a book called Reflections of an Affirmative Action Baby. I remember reading part of it at the time. Little did I realize that the book’s title applied to me. … White men from fancy schools advanced quickly at The New Republic because that’s who the owner and editor in chief, Marty Peretz, liked surrounding himself with. … Like Carter, I was a beneficiary of affirmative action. Except that his version remedied historic injustices. Mine perpetuated them.”
-- Los Angeles Times, “The FBI called him 'Captain America.' But the informant had a secret,” by Joel Rubin and Matt Hamilton: “A Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy was caught on video stealing trim from an impounded vehicle. Another deputy was captured taking cash after a motorist was shaken down to avoid his car being towed. A third was caught on tape rummaging through an SUV at a tow yard and accused of pilfering designer sunglasses from it. The case was built around an informant who had worked for the FBI — a tow truck driver given the code name ‘Captain America.’ … But, last year, when the first case went to court, the star witness dropped a bombshell. ‘Captain America,’ it turned out, wasn’t the man sheriff’s investigators thought he was.”
HOT ON THE LEFT
“Before He Was Tapped By Donald Trump, Controversial Judicial Nominee Brett J. Talley Investigated Paranormal Activity,” from the Daily Beast: “On his questionnaire for the Senate Judiciary Committee, a copy of which was provided to The Daily Beast, Talley says that he was part of The Tuscaloosa Paranormal Research Group from 2009-2010. The group, according to its website, searches for the truth ‘of the paranormal existence’ in addition to helping ‘those who may be living with paranormal activity that can be disruptive and/or traumatic.’ … ‘Mainly we may go into a house between maybe 7 at night and 6 in the morning and stay up all night long and see if we can see what’s going on,’ [the group’s founder said.]”
HOT ON THE RIGHT
“Advertisers Delete Tweets Around Calls to Boycott Sean Hannity,” from the New York Times: “Advertisers are sending mixed messages in response to calls for a boycott of Sean Hannity. An effort to pressure companies that advertise on Mr. Hannity’s program on Fox News appeared to gain momentum in recent days based on Twitter messages from brands including Keurig, Reddi Wip, Realtor.com, Nature’s Bounty and Volvo Car USA. But by Tuesday, those companies were clarifying — or even deleting — statements they had made on the platform that indicated they had pulled ads from Mr. Hannity’s show because of comments he made about [Roy Moore.] … Those moves followed a backlash against Keurig that included fans of Mr. Hannity posting videos of themselves destroying the company’s coffee makers.”
Trump has no public events scheduled today.
Pence is in Texas today to get an update on Hurricane Harvey recovery efforts. He will later give a speech at the Republican Governors Association’s annual conference.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh offered this unusual defense for Roy Moore: “Did you know that before 1992, when a lot of this was going on, that Judge Moore was a Democrat?” Limbaugh said. “Nobody said a word.” He added, “When he supposedly was attracted to inappropriately-aged girls — he was a Democrat.”
NEWS YOU CAN USE IF YOU LIVE IN D.C.:
-- D.C. will have another cool and cloudy November day. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “High pressure provides partly sunny skies this morning, giving way to mostly cloudy skies by afternoon. Overall it’s another cool day with temperatures well below normal. Morning readings rise into the upper 30s and low 40s, and afternoon highs reach the upper 40s to near 50 with light winds.”
-- The Capitals lost to the Predators 6-3. (Isabelle Khurshudyan)
-- House lawmakers from the D.C. area asked the National Park Service to reconsider its ban on recreational activities on the Washington Monument’s grounds. Michael E. Ruane reports: “The legislators also asked the Park Service to reconsider its proposed increase in fees for use of its ball fields elsewhere on the Mall and in Rock Creek Park. … The Park Service said recently that it wants to permanently close the grounds of the Washington Monument to recreational activities and increase fees for use of its 28 athletic fields.”
VIDEOS OF THE DAY:
Shephard Smith goes rogue in debunking the Uranium One scandal on Fox:
Stephen Colbert accused Jeff Sessions of having “collusion confusion”:
Seth Meyers analyzed how Trump spent his Asia trip rubbing elbows with authoritarians:
The Post fact-checked Trump's claim that Obama “never [got] to land” in the Philippines:
And an A capella choir of Egyptian and Lebanese singers is attempting to depict a different image of the Middle East: