With Breanne Deppisch and Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: President Trump’s simultaneous attacks on the FBI’s investigation into his 2016 campaign and refusal to ask the bureau to investigate an allegation of sexual assault against his Supreme Court nominee are impossible to separate.

On Tuesday, Trump touted his order to declassify highly sensitive documents related to the Russia probe. He said he has not read the files but expressed confidence that they will show the FBI’s case started because of a “hoax.”

“I hope to … expose something that is truly a cancer in our country,” the president said during an interview with The Hill.

Within hours of describing a “cancer” inside the FBI, Trump declined a request to reopen the bureau’s background investigation into Brett Kavanaugh after Palo Alto University professor Christine Blasey Ford publicly accused the judge of attempted rape during a house party in the 1980s when they were both teenagers.

“I don’t think the FBI really should be involved, because they don’t want to be involved,” Trump told reporters. “If they wanted to be, I would certainly do that, but as you know, they say this is not really their thing.”

Kavanaugh, who “categorically” denies any wrongdoing, was on the White House grounds preparing for next Monday’s hearing with senior Trump administration officials when the president made his comments.

-- Ford’s lawyers announced that evening that their client does not want to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee until the FBI conducts a nonpartisan investigation, something Democrats have also called for. She told The Washington Post in a story published Sunday that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed on her back and groped her over her clothes, grinding his body against hers and clumsily attempting to pull off her one-piece bathing suit and the clothing she wore over it. When she tried to scream, she said, he put his hand over her mouth.

-- Playing hardball, Senate Republicans and Trump refused Wednesday to budge in their resistance to her request for an FBI probe, calling it both unnecessary and a delay tactic. Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) set a deadline of 10 a.m. Friday for Ford’s attorneys to say whether their client is coming on Monday — emphasizing that she will not get the FBI investigation she’s asking for. “Nothing the FBI or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee, so there is no reason for any further delay,” he said. “The FBI does not do investigations like this,” added Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who is also on the committee.

-- What’s been most striking about the past 24 hours is the degree to which rank-and-file GOP lawmakers have united behind this strategy, which is being orchestrated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Even moderate members largely seemed to endorse the take-it-or-leave-it approach, saying that Ford has her chance and that they’ll swiftly vote to confirm Kavanaugh next week if she doesn’t show up.

-- Back in 1991, when law professor Anita Hill alleged that Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her, George H.W. Bush’s White House counsel — in consultation with Senate Republicans — asked the FBI to investigate. It only took the bureau three days to send back an updated report.

“My belief is that, without an investigation, there cannot be an effective hearing,” Hill said Wednesday night on PBS “NewsHour,” endorsing Ford’s request for an FBI probe.

-- A longtime top GOP operative, who recently renounced his party affiliation because of unease with Trump, noted that the FBI also reopened its investigation of then-Sen. John Tower, who had been nominated for defense secretary, when reports of womanizing and boozing emerged late in the process:

-- A lot has changed since Thomas was confirmed, as I explored at length in Big Ideas on Monday and Tuesday.

One underappreciated factor that’s different than it was in 1991: perceptions of the FBI. The agency used to be perceived by the right as an avatar of law-and-order, and it was historically seen by the left as emblematic of big brother. Liberals mistrusted the FBI dating back to J. Edgar Hoover and the improper surveillance of antiwar protesters and civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr.

After Trump’s relentless attacks on the bureau, echoed by his allies and surrogates on Fox News, that dynamic has reversed. A July survey conducted by Pew Research Center found that 65 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the bureau, while 26 percent view it unfavorably. “But since early 2017, the share of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents with a positive view of the bureau has fallen 16 percentage points, from 65% to 49%,” according to Pew's report on its findings. “Today, Republicans are divided in their views of the FBI (49% favorable, 44% unfavorable). In January 2017, shortly before [Trump] took office, positive views of the FBI among Republicans outnumbered negative opinions by about three-to-one (65% to 21%). Democrats’ views of the FBI have changed little over this period: 77% of Democrats and Democratic leaners view the agency favorably, compared with 76% early last year.”

These changing attitudes have given more air cover for GOP leaders to reject Ford’s pleas for an FBI investigation.

-- Senate Democrats tweeted a video mash-up of Republicans endorsing the FBI investigation when Thomas was being considered:

-- Moreover, several officials from both parties who have had direct roles in the FBI background check process also say that the claims being made by Trump and Grassley are incorrect, according to Politico’s Josh Gerstein: “Some noted that the Trump White House itself enlisted the FBI last winter to explore spousal abuse claims against former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter.

The most surprising person quoted in Josh’s piece is John Yoo, a senior Justice Department official under President George W. Bush who is famous for writing the memos outlining a legal justification for the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, which many consider torture. “What happened here is actually not unusual,” Yoo said Wednesday. “The Judiciary Committee will often say to the Justice Department: ‘Can you send the agents back out and find out if this is true, find out what happened with this? . . . The normal procedure for this would have been to send the FBI out. … It seems to me you could have this done in a day or two, actually. … I actually was surprised . . . that the committee decided to just have hearings on Monday to hear from both Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford without the benefit of additional information.

-- NBC News also fact-checked Trump’s claim that the FBI doesn’t want to investigate Ford’s allegation because “that’s not what they do.” From Pete Williams and Ken Dilanian: “In fact, the FBI could certainly investigate Ford's claim, but only if the White House asks the bureau to do so. She has no authority to request it. Neither does the Senate.

“When the FBI conducts a background investigation of a presidential nominee, it vacuums up all kinds of information about the nominee, including claims from people interviewed by agents, and dumps it into the file. It does not, however, investigate whether or not derogatory information is true — unless it's asked to follow up by the White House. Several current and former Justice Department and FBI officials say this has always been the practice, and there is actually a longstanding formal memorandum of understanding between DOJ and the White House that specifies these limits.

“Additionally, some in the FBI … are annoyed by Trump's statements that the FBI doesn't do this or this ‘is not really their thing’ when there are FBI agents who do nothing but interview sex crime victims.”

From Barack Obama's former attorney general:

--Privately, discussions about the political fallout gripped the [GOP], with Republican lawmakers and strategists unnerved by the charged, gender-infused debates that have upended this campaign season,” Robert Costa reports. “Republican campaign veterans said the GOP’s reliance on Grassley — a sharp-tongued, 85-year-old conservative who has been in Congress since 1975 — as its point person brings complications as voters begin to pay closer attention, regardless of whether Ford ends up sitting before the committee.

“In the House … there are rising concerns about how the Kavanaugh issue is beginning to overshadow the Republican campaign touting the GOP-authored tax law and economic progress, according to two senior Republicans involved with national campaign planning … One of those Republicans said several top GOP lawmakers have told colleagues that they hope Ford declines to show up for the hearing even as they issue statements urging her to do so — helping the GOP avoid a risky televised drama and making it easier for Senate leaders to hold a vote next week.”

-- The editorial boards of the nation’s leading newspapers endorse an FBI investigation in today’s editions:

From The Washington Post: “The FBI is the right organization to conduct an investigation. Lying to the FBI is a crime, making the stakes much higher for anyone caught dissembling about the alleged assault. Also, FBI professionals are far more likely to conduct a fair inquiry than partisan senators at a last-minute hearing. Republican senators not only reject such a serious inquiry but also actively impede it. They are not even willing to subpoena a potentially key eyewitness — Mr. Kavanaugh’s Georgetown Prep classmate Mark Judge — who Ms. Ford claims was in the room when the alleged assault occurred. If Mr. Kavanaugh is telling the truth when he denies any wrongdoing, he should welcome an orderly investigation into Ms. Ford’s claims as the best chance he has to ascend to the Supreme Court without a cloud surrounding his confirmation.”

The New York Times: “Dr. Blasey is right to want to wait for that fuller investigation to be completed before she agrees to testify. President Trump, demonstrating his usual ignorance of basic governmental functions, said on Tuesday: ‘ … this is not really their thing.’ It is, in fact, their thing. The bureau conducts background checks on nominees to federal government posts, and it can reopen a file at any time.”

The Los Angeles Times: “It may well prove that the FBI will turn up nothing about an incident that allegedly occurred more than three decades ago that will make it any easier for senators to choose between the conflicting accounts of Kavanaugh and his accuser. But given the gravity of Ford’s allegations and the lifetime office to which Kavanaugh has been nominated, a rush to hold hearings is unnecessary and unseemly.”


 -- A former classmate of Ford said in a Facebook post that she remembers hearing about the alleged incident after it occurred. NBC News’s Ken Dilanian, Brady Zadrozny and Ben Popken report: “'Christine Blasey Ford was a year or so behind me,’ wrote the woman, Cristina Miranda King, who now works as a performing arts curator in Mexico City. ‘I did not know her personally but I remember her. This incident did happen.’ She added, ‘Many of us heard a buzz about it indirectly with few specific details. However Christine's vivid recollection should be more than enough for us to truly, deeply know that the accusation is true.’ King has since taken down her Facebook post . . . She said on Twitter that she deleted it ‘because it served its purpose and I am now dealing with a slew of requests for interviews.’ She later posted on Facebook: ‘ … To clarify my post: I do not have first hand knowledge of the incident that Dr. Christine Blasey Ford mentions, and I stand by my support for Christine. That's it.’”

-- Ford’s account rings true to other women who attended the Washington region’s private schools during the 1980s, hundreds of whom have signed letters of support for the professor. From Joe Heim: “‘There was a lot of shame and stigma then if a girl was raped, so girls tried to hide it. They didn’t tell anyone,’ [Bettina Lanyi, an alumna of Bethesda’s Stone Ridge of the Sacred Heart,] said. ‘The term ‘date rape’ wasn’t something that even existed then. So if it happened, it was always kind of the girl’s fault.’ Lanyi’s recollection of a private school culture suffused by alcohol and drugs — and frequent if unreported sexual assault or misbehavior — is widely shared by students who attended those schools in the 1980s. On Tuesday, Lanyi helped launch an online letter of support for Ford from women and men who grew up in the upper Northwest Washington neighborhoods and Maryland suburbs that fed into the exclusive private schools and country clubs during the same era that Ford and Kavanaugh attended their schools. … More than 300 people signed the letter … A similar letter of support for Ford from Holton-Arms graduates bore 925 signatures Wednesday.”

-- “Interviews with friends and acquaintances of Dr. Ford paint a picture of a guarded person, one more interested in discussions of sports and science than politics and personal trauma,” the Wall Street Journal’s Alexandra Berzon, Sadie Gurman and Zusha Elinson report. “Her decision to go public this week with the explosive accusation has thrust her into an uncomfortable spotlight[.] Dr. Ford didn’t speak widely about the alleged assault, but friends said it was clear she remained traumatized decades later. Jim Gensheimer, a friend in Palo Alto, said she confided in him that she needed more than one exit door in her bedroom to prevent her from feeling trapped."

-- “Supporters of Dr. Blasey, 51, describe her as a precise, logical scientific thinker; a community leader; a woman of integrity; and a devoted mother of two boys,” the New York Times’s Elizabeth Williamson, Rebecca R. Ruiz, Emily Steel, Grace Ashford and Steve Eder report. "’Her life’s work is about telling the truth with science,’ said Kate Beebe DeVarney, a behavioral neuroscientist who has worked with Dr. Blasey in Silicon Valley. ‘Christine doesn’t get stuff wrong. She’s obsessive about making sure it’s right,’ she added. ‘If Christine says something happened, I absolutely believe her.’ … Dr. DeVarney said Dr. Blasey called her in August to say that she had sent a letter . . . about having been sexually assaulted in high school, ‘something that had haunted her for her entire adult life.’ Dr. Blasey did not name the alleged attacker. ‘She was clearly upset about it,’ Dr. DeVarney recalled. ‘It was creating a lot of stress for her, and now it’s taken over her life.’”

-- Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) said she believed the professor's account when the two met to discuss her allegation in July. Mike DeBonis interviewed her on Wednesday: “[Eshoo] met July 20 for roughly 90 minutes with Ford, who lives in her Bay Area district … after Ford contacted Eshoo’s office about Kavanaugh. ‘It was more than obvious to me that she bore the scars of what she had been subjected to,’ Eshoo said ... ‘She doesn’t have a political bone in her body. And she obviously was really terrified about what could become of her and her family.’ ‘At the end of the meeting, I told her that I believed her,’ she added. ‘In telling her story, you know, there were details to it, and I believed her.’”


-- “White House aides have begun asking lawyers and others whether other women are likely to come out and make accusations,” Seung Min Kim, Josh Dawsey and John Wagner report.

-- “One source says Ivanka Trump has told her father to ‘cut bait’ and drop Kavanaugh,” per Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman.

-- One woman recalls that, as a Yale law student, she was advised when interviewing for clerkships that Kavanaugh preferred female clerks with a “certain look.” HuffPost’s Emily Peck reports: “The professors proffering the advice are themselves well-known. Both Jed Rubenfeld and his wife, Amy Chua, author of the controversial 2011 book The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, told this woman about Kavanaugh’s preferences. … Rubenfeld took care to warn her about two judges in particular: First, Alex Kozinski, then a judge on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, was known to sexually harass his clerks, he told her. (Kozinski retired in December amid accusations of harassment.) The other was Kavanaugh. Though the judge was known to hire female clerks who had a ‘certain look,’ Rubenfeld told her, he emphasized that he had heard nothing else untoward. ‘He did not say what the ‘certain look’ was. I did not ask,’ the woman said. ‘It was very clear to me that he was talking about physical appearance, because it was phrased as a warning ― and because it came after the warning about Judge Kozinski.’ 

“While she saw the warning about Kozinski as a flashing red signal, the advice on Kavanaugh didn’t stop her from deciding to interview with him. That’s when Rubenfeld’s wife stepped in. … 'She advised me to be and dress ‘outgoing,’ 'the former Yale student said. 'She strongly urged me to send her pictures of what I was thinking of wearing so she could evaluate. I did not.' … 'For the more than ten years I’ve known him, Judge Kavanaugh’s first and only litmus test in hiring has been excellence,' Chua [said] in a response to a request for comment from both professors. … The statement didn’t deny the student’s account .”

-- A credibility gap --> “Kavanaugh’s unlikely story about Democrats’ stolen documents,” by WaPo Fact Checker Sal Rizzo (who gives the judge Three Pinocchios): “Manuel Miranda, a Republican Senate staffer who was quarterbacking the GOP’s moves on judicial nominees, stole a trove of internal documents from Democrats on the Judiciary Committee between 2001 and 2003 … Miranda shared some of those documents, or key details gleaned from them, with Kavanaugh … The stolen documents covered the Democrats’ tactics and plans in minute detail … (And that’s just what’s in the limited amount of records released from Kavanaugh’s time at the White House.) Kavanaugh has maintained since 2004 that he had no inkling he was privy to stolen information. Our review of all the records and testimony on this issue shows that Kavanaugh’s repeated pleas of ignorance warrant heavy skepticism.

“An elite Republican lawyer who was immersed at the time in Washington’s inside baseball, Kavanaugh strains credulity by claiming this extraordinary window he had into Democrats’ thinking seemed aboveboard. He received a steady stream of insider information over nine months from Miranda, according to the documents available. … Particularly questionable are Kavanaugh’s claims about the Peddie letter (Miranda seemed to quote directly from material Democrats had received confidentially) and about the Graves memo, which went on in breathtaking detail about Democrats’ strategy for a big, contentious political battle that year.”

-- Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), facing a tough reelection, came out against Kavanaugh on Wednesday. She called Ford’s allegation “troubling,” but she primarily cited his past ruling against limits on campaign contributions. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)


-- Many prominent female commentators are expressing unease about the way that the GOP is treating a purported survivor of sexual assault:

Christina Emba in The Post: “In the hours after Ford’s story became public, women began to pour out their own stories of the same sort of sexual assault. They explained why, like her, they would not have revealed it at the time but might do so now. Alarmingly, many men have revealed something quite different. Ford must be ‘mixed up,’ according to Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah). ‘If somebody can be brought down by accusations like this, then you, me, every man certainly should be worried,’ said one anonymous lawyer close to the White House. Some have suggested that Kavanaugh shouldn’t be judged on the basis of one act — if in fact the allegations are true — rather than a pattern of behavior. Is one assault a freebie, as long as you don’t do it again?”

Quinta Jurecic in The Atlantic: “Ford’s story is highly credible. Kavanaugh denies it. This is where we are. … Here’s another question: What level of certainty about the nominee’s guilt should drive a senator to vote against that nominee? The standard to convict a defendant in criminal court is often understood as requiring anywhere from 95 to 100 percent certainty of the defendant’s guilt. In civil court, the ‘preponderance of the evidence’ standard requires 51 percent certainty. As the economist Justin Wolfers asked on Twitter, ‘Would you appoint someone to the Supreme Court if you think there were a 25 percent chance they’ve done bad things? A 10 percent chance? A 5 percent chance? A 1 percent chance?’”

Kathleen Davis in Fast Company: “Far too often in cases of sexual harassment or sexual violence, the accused is given the benefit of the doubt while the accuser is saddled with the burden of proof, even though studies show that the rate of false accusations is incredibly low (around 2-6%). Take this year’s case against former USA Gymnastics national team doctor Larry Nasser. It took not one, not two, but 250 young women to come forward and convince the legal system that these allegations needed to be taken seriously, and he was found guilty. Meanwhile, it is also possible to be a victim without having led a completely unblemished life. The problem of the ‘perfect victim’ is a tale as old as crime itself. What someone was wearing or drinking or who they are in their personal life is completely irrelevant to the crime.”

Sady Doyle in Elle Magazine: “Violence against women doesn’t just take place one-on-one, through individual rapes and assaults. It’s structural — it’s built into our assumptions and our institutions, inflicted from the top down. Sexual assaults or incidents of misogynist violence are not just tragic accidents, or outliers. They are the intended outcome within a culture that is built to empower men at women’s expense. The same rape culture that teaches boys to terrorize girls at parties now stands to enshrine Brett Kavanaugh into a lifetime position of authority, in which women’s civil rights and bodily autonomy will be in his hands and at his mercy. These are not two different stories.”


-- If you read one story today --> “Twelve years ago, Amber Wyatt reported her rape. Few believed her. Her hometown turned against her. The authorities failed her. What do we owe her now?” Elizabeth Bruenig reports: “Aug. 11, 2006, was a sweltering Friday night in the midst of a long, fatally hot summer. A 16-year-old girl reported that she was raped that night, in a storage shed off a dirt road in my hometown of Arlington, Tex. Nobody was ever prosecuted for it, and nobody was punished except, arguably, her: By the end of the fall semester, she had disappeared from our high school, leaving only sordid rumors and a nascent urban legend. … With [an editor’s blessing in 2015], I reached out that spring to the girl whose name had appeared in acronyms and spray-painted slurs, and asked whether she was interested in talking to me about 2006. Her name was Amber Wyatt, and she was.”

-- Yale’s decision to give an endowed chair to a researcher previously accused of sexual harassment has sparked intense criticism from students and faculty. Carolyn Y. Johnson and Ben Guarino report: “Five years ago, a Yale University committee concluded that Michael Simons, a cardiologist and leading researcher at its medical school, was guilty of sexually harassing a junior researcher. Now, the controversy over his behavior and Yale’s response has erupted again. A petition signed by more than 1,000 faculty members, medical trainees, students and alumni landed in Yale President Peter Salovey’s mailbox last week, questioning why an endowed chair — a prestigious honor — was given to Simons this summer. … The years-long saga, triggered by Simons’s inappropriate advances toward a younger female researcher who eventually left Yale, is a window into the aftermath of sexual harassment cases and how tensions can continue to simmer long after allegations have been vetted and sanctions have been meted out.”

-- The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has set up a confidential hotline to report abuse or harassment by a bishop. Julie Zauzmer reports: The conference said complaints gathered from the hotline would be referred to “the appropriate ecclesiastical authority and, as required by applicable law, to civil authorities.”

-- NIH launched an anti-sexual harassment website on Monday to great publicity — but only after getting slammed for its weak rules regarding sexual misconduct in the workplace. BuzzFeed News’s Peter Aldhous reports: “But critics complain that beyond the new site — which urges victims of harassment to report it to the authorities at their own institution — the NIH has come up with little concrete action to tackle the problem. … NIH provides grants to thousands of researchers, and past recipients have included several prominent scientists found guilty of sexual misconduct. They include molecular biologist Jason Lieb, who resigned from the University in Chicago in 2016 after a university investigation reportedly found he made unwanted advances toward several students and engaged in sexual activity with another when she was too drunk to consent. The NIH’s critics are concerned that its current policies are putting more young scientists at risk. ‘I think there are many dangerous gaps in what the NIH director is doing,’ [said neuroscientist BethAnn McLaughlin].”

-- The editor of the New York Review of Books, Ian Buruma, left his position after critics condemned his decision to publish an essay by a Canadian radio broadcaster who had been accused of sexual assault. From the New York Times’s Cara Buckley: “The essay’s author, Jian Ghomeshi, who was acquitted of sexual assault charges in 2016, lamented his status as a pariah, ‘constantly competing with a villainous version of myself online.’ It caused immediate furor, with some criticizing what they saw as a self-pitying tone, and soft pedaling of the accusations, which included slapping and choking, and had come from more than 20 women, rather than ‘several,’ as Mr. Ghomeshi wrote. Mr. Buruma drew further censure by giving an interview that many interpreted as showing a lack of interest in the accusations against Mr. Ghomeshi.”


-- A 35-year-old woman was fatally stabbed while jogging in the Northwest D.C. neighborhood of Logan Circle, in what authorities believe was a random attack. Police said Wendy Martinez was attacked on the 1400 block of 11th Street just before 8 p.m., and staggered into a nearby takeout restaurant, where patrons tried in vain to save her life. She had gotten engaged less than one week earlier. (Michael Brice-Saddler and Dana Hedgpeth)

-- Navy Chief Petty Officer Andrea L. Washington was found murdered the same day she was expected to appear in court about a request for a permanent protective order against a man she was in a relationship with. Washington had previously alleged the man assaulted her and threatened her with a gun. (Alex Horton)

-- Austin police are working with international authorities to bring 3-D-printed gun creator Cody Wilson back from Taiwan, after he was charged in Travis County with the sexual assault of a female minor. Police said Wilson’s last known location was Taipei, and he is believed to have purposely missed his return flight to the United States after learning of the charges. (Austin American-Statesman)

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-- South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Kim Jong Un hopes to soon hold a second summit with Trump to speed up the denuclearization process. Simon Denyer and Min Joo Kim report: “Moon was speaking on his return to Seoul after a three-day summit with Kim in Pyongyang. … ‘Chairman Kim Jong Un said he wants [Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s] North Korea visit and a second summit with President Trump to happen at the earliest convenience in order to speed up the denuclearization process,’ Moon told reporters in Seoul. Moon said Kim had also told him the closure of a nuclear weapons test site at Punggye-ri could be subject to international verification. He said he would discuss with Trump his and Kim’s goal of declaring an end to the Korean War by the end of this year.”

-- Trump hinted this morning that he might veto the spending bill that Republicans crafted to avert a government shutdown at the end of the month and punts a fight over wall funding until after the midterms. He's expressed conflicting positions — and GOP leaders on Capitol Hill are nervous he'll force a politically damaging fight just weeks before the elections:


  1. During a recent meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, Trump reportedly pitched the idea of constructing a border wall across the sprawling Sahara Desert as a means of curbing the European migration crisis. Borrell said Spanish diplomats told Trump that their situations were “considerably different” in scale — but that Trump disagreed. “The Sahara border can’t be bigger than our border with Mexico,” the president said. (Adam Taylor)
  2. Alibaba executive chairman Jack Ma has retracted his promise from last year that he would help Trump create a million American jobs. “The promise was made on the premise of friendly U.S.-China partnership and rational trade relations,” the tech billionaire said. “That premise no longer exists today, so our promise cannot be fulfilled.” But some analysts said Ma’s initial promise was just “political theatrics.” (Danielle Paquette)

  3. Two female mental health patients who were chained and shackled in the back of a sheriff’s van drowned in South Carolina after two male deputies tried to drive down a road that was flooded by Florence. Authorities said both men were rescued. The women's bodies have now been recovered and are undergoing autopsies. They've now been put on administrative leave pending an internal investigation. (ABC News)

  4. Florence has revived debate about the scale used by the National Hurricane Center to measure storm intensity levels. By the time Florence made landfall in North Carolina, the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale categorized the storm as a Category 1, prompting some residents to ignore mandatory evacuation orders despite warnings of devastating flooding. (Joel Achenbach and Emily Wax-Thibodeaux)

  5. Terrorism is down 23 percent across the globe, according to a new State Department report, which also castigates Iran as the leading state sponsor of terrorism and accuses Tehran of sending suspected operatives to the United States. (Carol Morello)
  6. A company that provides caller ID estimates that nearly half of all cellphone calls will come from scammers by next year. According to First Orion, spam calls jumped from 3.7 percent of total calls in 2017 to more than 29 percent this year and will increase to 45 percent by early 2019. (Hamza Shaban)
  7. A new anthology from the late Post columnist Charles Krauthammer will be published in December. The Point of It All: A Lifetime of Great Loves and Endeavors” will include an introduction from Krauthammer’s son Daniel, who worked on the book with his father before his death in June. (AP)

  8. An all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant has banned a German triathlete from returning after he polished off 100 plates of food. He’s estimated to have consumed as much as 18 pounds of sushi — drawing the ire of the owner, who noted that there was a gap on the buffet carousel for the rest of the night. (Amanda Erickson)


-- “Trump’s declaration ‘I don’t have an attorney general’ was not merely the cry of an executive feeling betrayed by a subordinate. It was also a raw expression of vulnerability and anger from a president who associates say increasingly believes he is unprotected — with the Russia investigation steamrolling ahead, anonymous administration officials seeking to undermine him and the specter of impeachment proceedings, should the Democrats retake the House on Nov. 6,” Ashley Parker and Phil Rucker report.

The president’s attack on Jeff Sessions raised concern in the law enforcement community and also prompted reactions ranging from exasperation to outright dismay. … A former White House official was similarly disturbed. ‘It is a complete disgrace the way that Trump is acting like a schoolyard bully against Sessions,’ the official said … After taking yet another public tongue-lashing from the president, Sessions gave a speech Wednesday to law enforcement officials in Waukegan, Ill., in which he effusively praised Trump.”

-- James Comey said former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s plea deal “may represent that we’re in the fourth quarter” of Robert Mueller's probe. “The way you normally do investigations is you work from the bottom up, and so they're getting pretty high,” the former FBI director said in his interview with St. Louis Public Radio. “But again, the reason I'm hesitant to even say that is [because] Bob Mueller's conducted his investigation like a pro — you know nothing about it except through his public filings, and that's the way it's supposed to be. And so I can't say with certainty where he is.”

-- Former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s sentencing hearing has been set for Dec. 18. From Spencer S. Hsu: “[U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan] directed prosecutors to file their recommended sentence by Dec. 4, Flynn’s attorneys by Dec. 11, and gave prosecutors three days after that to answer the defense proposal. … The date could mark an end to the special counsel office’s investigation of matters related to [Flynn], or its need for his cooperation, and might serve as a deadline for the filing of any related charges or report. Prosecutors could still ask to push back the date, however.”

-- Days after Trump ordered the “immediate declassification” of sensitive documents related to the Russia investigation, the FBI, Justice Department, and DNI’s office are expected to propose a series of redactions that would keep some information secret. Bloomberg’s Chris Strohm reports: “The Justice Department and FBI are expected to submit their documents and proposed redactions to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which will assemble all the material into a package and hand it over to the White House[.] … While the agencies want to guard against revealing classified sources and methods about the ongoing Russia investigation, doing so could put them in direct conflict with Trump, who as president has the power to override the agencies and declassify material on his own. It’s too early to say if any officials would resign in protest should Trump do that, one person said.”

-- Democratic operatives fear conservative Republicans are trying to use the release of documents related to the Russia investigation to increase turnout in the midterms. Politico’s Kyle Cheney reports: “The White House and GOP leaders have cited ‘transparency’ as their motive, and Trump has suggested the documents will show anti-Trump bias in the FBI led the bureau to supercharge its 2016 Russia probe based on flimsy evidence. But Democrats see a more sinister plan: to taint [Mueller’s probe], while simultaneously motivating Trump’s political base on the precipice of an election in which Democrats are favored to make gains. To Democrats, the situation has eerie similarities to 2016, when WikiLeaks’ slow-drip daily release of internal Clinton campaign emails hobbled Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and offered regular fodder for Republicans.”

-- The Post published an excerpt of Greg Miller's forthcoming book, “The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy”: “In phone conversations with Trump, Vladimir Putin would whisper conspiratorially, telling the U.S. president that it wasn’t their fault that they could not consummate the relationship that each had sought. Instead, Putin sought to reinforce Trump’s belief that he was being undermined by a secret government cabal, a bureaucratic ‘deep state.’ ‘It’s not us. We get it,’ Putin would tell Trump, according to White House aides. ‘It’s the subordinates fighting against our friendship.’ … It’s hard to imagine that even a master manipulator like Putin would have anticipated the full success of his operation. Not only had he sabotaged Hillary Clinton, but he had also helped install in the Oval Office someone who — by virtue of his disdain for democratic norms and volatile leadership — compounded the impact of the Russian campaign.”

-- “The Plot to Subvert an Election: Unraveling the Russia Story So Far,” by the New York Times’s Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti: “As Mr. Trump emerged in spring 2016 as the improbable favorite for the Republican nomination, the Russian operation accelerated on three fronts — the hacking and leaking of Democratic documents; massive fraud on Facebook and Twitter; and outreach to Trump campaign associates.

Consider 10 days in March. On March 15 of that year, Mr. Trump won five primaries, closing in on his party’s nomination, and crowed that he had become ‘the biggest political story anywhere in the world.’ That same day in Moscow, a veteran hacker named Ivan Yermakov, a Russian military intelligence officer working for a secret outfit called Unit 26165, began probing the computer network of the Democratic National Committee. In St. Petersburg, shift workers posted on Facebook and Twitter at a feverish pace, posing as Americans and following instructions to attack Mrs. Clinton. … On March 24, one of the members the Trump foreign policy team, George Papadopoulos, sat in the cafe of an upscale London hotel with a Russian woman who introduced herself as Mr. Putin’s niece and offered to help set up a meeting between the Russian president and Mr. Trump. … In May and June alone, the Trump campaign fielded at least four invitations to meet with Russian intermediaries or officials.”

-- Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said a major technology company told senators that their personal email accounts have been targeted by foreign hackers. From Karoun Demirjian: “[Wyden] used the letter … to question why the Senate sergeant-at-arms did not have a clear mandate to help protect the personal accounts and devices of senators and their staffers as well as the official ones. … Wyden did not specify which company made the discoveries, nor did he give more details about what type of attempted hacking or other targeting had transpired. But the letter doubles as an appeal for support for legislation that Wyden is writing to expand the protection mandate of the Senate sergeant-at-arms to cover personal devices and accounts.”

-- As the midterms approach, Facebook is in an “all out sprint” to convince the world that it is ready to deter foreign influence efforts on its platform — starting with the construction of a physical “war room” at its headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. From the New York Times’s Sheera Frenkel and Mike Isaac: “Sandwiched between Building 20 and Building 21 in the heart of Facebook’s campus, an approximately 25-foot by 35-foot conference room is under construction. Thick cords of blue wiring hang from the ceiling, ready to be attached to window-size computer monitors on 16 desks. … Although it is not much to look at now, as of next week the space will be Facebook’s headquarters for safeguarding elections. More than 300 people across the company are working on the initiative, but the War Room will house a smaller team of about 20 people focused on rooting out disinformation, monitoring false news and deleting fake accounts that may be trying to influence voters before coming elections in the United States, Brazil and other countries. 'We see this as probably the biggest companywide reorientation since our shift from desktops to mobile phones,’ said Samidh Chakrabarti, who leads Facebook’s elections and civic engagement team."



-- Embattled FEMA Administrator Brock Long was considering quitting this week, amid an ongoing fight with DHS chief Kirstjen Nielsen, and a devastating hurricane that ravaged his home state of North Carolina. Frances Stead Sellers, William Wan, Josh Dawsey and Nick Miroff report: “On Sunday, his bitter feud with [Nielsen] seemed as though it would abate. The two agreed to a truce so that the Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Florence would not be further overshadowed by the deepening acrimony between them since the disclosure of an internal investigation into Long’s use of government vehicles[.] Nothing would happen to Long in the near term, Nielsen assured him . . . Let’s just get through the storm, she said. About 24 hours later, as Long’s plane landed in North Carolina, he learned that the DHS Office of Inspector General had referred his case to federal prosecutors for a possible criminal investigation. He felt devastated and betrayed, according to [three government officials]. ‘It was FEMA personnel who convinced him not to quit,’ said one congressional aide … Long called his relationship with Nielsen ‘professional and functional.’ But behind the scenes, he and other FEMA officials have told colleagues they think she has her mind set on ousting him.”

-- Trump has tapped outgoing GOP Rep. Darrell Issa to lead the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. Politico’s Rachael Bade reports: “As former House Oversight Committee chairman, the nine-term congressman built a name for himself by dogging the Obama Administration for years. He turned the IRS upside-down by accusing top officials of targeting conservative groups for political purposes, led the charge to hold former Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt, and accused President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton of trying to cover up the Benghazi, Libya, terrorist attacks in 2012. That’s left him virtually friendless on the left, which could be problematic for his confirmation in a chamber with a very slim GOP majority.”

-- Fed Chairman Jay Powell is cultivating relationships on Capitol Hill as Trump breaks with precedent by expressing displeasure with the central bank’s interest rate hikes. Bloomberg Businessweek’s Rich Miller and Craig Torres report: “The next scuffle could come on Sept. 26, when the Fed is expected to raise rates again, the sixth hike since Trump became president but the first hike since he started grousing. … Trump can’t fire Powell under the law, but he could try to remove him for cause — a very high bar that scholars say would have to go way beyond a mere policy disagreement. A bigger risk is that Trump’s relentless attacks could erode the Fed’s support in Congress and spur legislative efforts to hem it in by hardcore conservatives and populist liberals already suspicious of its power. It all amounts to a stress test for Powell, not only as a central banker but as a politician.”

-- The president will also nominate former Fed economist Nellie Liang, a registered Democrat, to the central bank’s board of governors. The Wall Street Journal’s Nick Timiraos and Michael C. Bender report: “In 2010, then-Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke tapped Ms. Liang to form the office to oversee risks in the financial system in the wake of the 2008 crisis. Today, that operation is as large as the Fed’s long-dominant division of monetary affairs.”

-- Mike Pompeo, an apparent stickler for proper punctuation, has had senior advisers send out emails to staffers about comma usage. CNN’s Michelle Kosinski and Jennifer Hansler: “‘The Secretary has underscored the need for appropriate use of commas in his paper (both their inclusion and omission),’ [the most recent] email declares. It also notes that Pompeo prefers adherence to the Chicago Manual of Style, which states ‘effective use of the comma involves good judgment, with the goal being ease of reading.’ The email includes a long string of examples, including many from the Chicago Manual of Style, outlining when a comma should be added and when it should be excluded, and providing detailed explanations for both — along with color-coded highlighting.”


-- Andrew Gillum’s gubernatorial primary win has injected grass-roots energy into the Florida Democratic organization, which has state party leaders hoping he can sweep himself and Sen. Bill Nelson to victory. Tim Craig reports: “Democrats hope Gillum’s victory in the Aug. 28 primary gives them a chance to rebuild the coalition that twice lifted Obama to victory in Florida. … But Republicans have consistently proved their supporters — older and more white than the state overall — are more motivated to vote, which has contributed to the party’s nearly two-decade grip on the governor’s office. … [But] African American leaders and activists say that for the first time since Obama’s 2012 election, they are not particularly worried a lack of enthusiasm among black voters will be the downfall of the Democratic ticket.”

-- A small group of House Democrats have signed on to a letter proposing a rules change in how the caucus elects a speaker — which could complicate Nancy Pelosi’s potential bid. The Atlantic’s Elaina Plott reports: “At least 10 Democrats in the lower chamber have signed onto a letter to Caucus Chair Joe Crowley seeking a change to caucus rules that would raise the number of votes required to nominate a candidate for speaker. Current rules mandate that a nominee receive support from only a simple majority of caucus members before advancing to the floor for a vote. The letter requests that threshold be changed to 218, a majority of the House. … [S]ources see it as an attempt to increase the threshold needed for Pelosi, the minority leader, to be the caucus’s nominee for speaker should Democrats take the House in November.”

-- Republican Sen. Dean Heller (Nev.) is embracing the president as he faces a difficult reelection, despite keeping Trump at arm’s length in 2016. From the New York Times’s Jonathan Martin: “In a private conference call with White House aides, other Nevada Republican officials and local activists, Mr. Heller — the most endangered Senate Republican up for re-election this November — offered an unqualified embrace of the president. ‘Our arms are wide open,’ Mr. Heller said on the call, held to drum up interest in Mr. Trump’s campaign rally scheduled for Thursday in Las Vegas. ‘We’re so thrilled to have the president.’ Mr. Heller has steadily moved closer to Mr. Trump, finally acknowledging last year that he voted for the president, but the senator has not gone as far in public as he did Wednesday. Mr. Heller memorably said in October 2016, weeks before the presidential election, that he was ‘100 percent against Clinton, 99 percent against Trump.’

-- Democrats in Florida are worried that Donna Shalala’s congressional campaign is in “sleep mode,” as she struggles to fend off GOP challenger and former Spanish-language television anchor, Maria Elvira Salazar. Politico’s Marc Caputo reports: “According to internal polls from both campaigns … Salazar is either ahead — or just narrowly trailing — Shalala [in Florida’s 27th District]. Either way, the race is far too close for Democrats in Miami, who have been buzzing for months that Shalala’s campaign appeared to run out of steam well before the Aug. 28 primary, when she squeaked by with a 4.4 percentage point win. Insiders had been expecting a blowout. ‘Donna’s campaign changed in April. It went from active mode to sleep mode. And she hasn’t woken up,’ said Grant Stern, [a] Miami-Dade County Democratic Executive Committee member, echoing the sentiment of party insiders.”

-- A progressive group in Utah filed a complaint against GOP Rep. Mia Love over alleged campaign-finance violations. The New York Times’s Astead W. Herndon reports: “Alliance for a Better Utah, a progressive nonprofit, filed the complaint with the [FEC] and sent a detailed letter to the commission’s general counsel and the chief of the public integrity section at the [DOJ’s] criminal division. … In a statement, Ms. Love’s campaign called the complaint a political ploy. … But the looming investigation could have political consequences for Ms. Love, who is facing a difficult re-election campaign this year. Her Democratic opponent, Ben McAdams has made ‘fixing a broken congress’ one of his top campaign issues, and the Cook Political Report has rated the race as ‘Lean Republican’ instead of ‘Likely Republican.’”


Social media continues to be dominated by the Kavanaugh firestorm. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said she hopes Ford still testifies:

A Democratic senator slammed the GOP's handling of the accusations:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) insisted Democrats were simply trying to delay the hearing until after the midterms:

A Democratic senator first elected in the "Year of the Woman" said the chamber needed to improve its performance from 1991:

Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), who was appointed to replace Al Franken when he resigned under pressure from the #MeToo movement, added this:

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) criticized Donald Trump Jr. for an Instagram he posted four days earlier mocking Kavanaugh's accuser:

From the communications director for the liberal nonprofit Organizing for Action:

From the NAACP Legal Defense Fund president:

A Los Angeles Times reporter took issue with a National Review article about Kavanaugh:

The new cover of Time focuses on the confirmation battle as the #MeToo movement prepares to turn one year old:

Trump demanded that OPEC bring down oil prices:

He also praised the response to Hurricane Florence:

A reporter for the Tennessean expressed shock at Trump's disaster briefing in North Carolina:

A former federal prosecutor analyzed Trump's comments from his Hill interview:

And the special counsel stuck to his "no comment" rule with his taxi driver. From a Los Angeles Times editorial writer:


-- Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), widely considered a 2020 contender, was on Hillary Clinton’s final list of potential running mates until days before the 2016 Democratic convention. New York magazine’s Jonathan Van Meter reports: “Booker was on the list of 35 potential running mates for [Clinton] in 2016 and, according to her senior adviser, Nick Merrill, stayed in the running until the list had been winnowed to three. In fact, he was still being considered until the Thursday night before the Democratic National Convention. Clinton-Booker placards were printed up, and she went to bed that night still not having decided. ‘We really always thought he was a very serious candidate,’ says John Podesta, who served as Clinton’s campaign chairman. ‘He campaigns with a kind of moral positioning, and he brought out a lot of sparkle in her.’ … When I tell Booker that Clinton hadn’t decided until just before the convention, his eyes widen and he says, ‘Oh my God.’ He didn’t know he’d gotten that close.”

-- New York Times, “How Connected Is Your Community to Everywhere Else in America?” by Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui: “In the millions of ties on Facebook that connect relatives, co-workers, classmates and friends, Americans are far more likely to know people nearby than in distant communities that share their politics or mirror their demographics. The dominant picture in data analyzed by economists at Facebook, Harvard, Princeton and New York University is not that like-minded places are linked; rather, people in counties close to one another are. Even in the age of the internet, distance matters immensely in determining whom — and, as a result, what — we know.”

-- “Chevy Chase can’t change,” by Geoff Edgers: “Chase is a key piece of SNL’s history, whether establishing ‘Weekend Update’ or pioneering the path from Studio 8H to Hollywood stardom. When asked what he thinks of the current show, he doesn’t hold back, delivering a foul-mouthed appraisal that’s as unforgiving as his critics. ‘First of all, between you and me and a lamppost, jeez, I don’t want to put down Lorne or the cast, but I’ll just say, maybe off the record, I’m amazed that Lorne has gone so low. I had to watch a little of it, and I just couldn’t f------ believe it.’ … Chase is eager to work. But these days, he’s more likely to be fielding another round of bad press than a promising pitch. The man who revolutionized television in the 1970s, serving as the first breakout star on NBC’s breakout program, ‘Saturday Night,’ who made three of the best comedies of the 1980s — ‘Caddyshack, ‘National Lampoon’s Vacation’ and ‘Fletch’ — and who as recently as 2012 earned raves for his turn on ‘Community,’ wonders why he can’t get a break.”


“Constituent called 911, suspecting drug deal, on Dane County Supervisor Shelia Stubbs while she canvassed for Assembly seat,” from The Cap Times: “It was a Tuesday evening in August when a Madison police officer responded to a call on the city’s west side, where a silver sedan had been reported on suspicion of drug activity. … The driver of the car was 71-year-old Linda Hoskins. Her 8-year-old granddaughter sat in the backseat. Her daughter, Shelia Stubbs, stood nearby, talking to a resident of the neighborhood in his doorway. The two women and the child are all African-American. Stubbs, 46, was a candidate for state Assembly . . . She was knocking doors, introducing herself to voters in the 77th Assembly District. Exactly one week later, her name would appear on the ballot in the Democratic primary election, which she would win with nearly 50 percent of the vote. But in the moments when she spotted the squad car next to her own vehicle, asked the officer what was wrong, explained what she was doing and tried to then explain to her daughter why any of it had happened, she was heartbroken and humiliated.” “It's 2018,” Stubbs said in an interview. “It shouldn't be strange that a black woman's knocking on your door.”



“Pompeo blasts Kerry on meeting with Iranian officials, says time to get off the stage,” from Fox News: “Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday criticized John Kerry for meeting with Iranian officials and said the former Obama administration official ‘can't seem to get off the stage.’ Pompeo, who sat down exclusively with Laura Ingraham, the host of ‘The Ingraham Angle,’ said the former secretary of state ‘fundamentally got it wrong with Iran, and we’re trying to make it right for America.’ ‘Secretary Kerry can’t seem to get off the stage, and you have to,’ he said. ‘When I’m the former secretary, I’ll get off. Every previous former secretary has done that, too.’ Last week, Pompeo called out his predecessor for ‘actively undermining’ U.S. policy by holding meetings with Mohammad Javad Zarif, the foreign minister, since leaving office, whom he reportedly met with on several occasions and discussed the scraped nuclear deal. Pompeo said speaking with foreign governments is fine, as long as you are working on behalf of American foreign policy. ‘They’re working for the foreign policy which is theirs, not the one that belongs to the United States,’ he said.”



Trump will travel to Las Vegas today to participate in a campaign rally.


“At least you got a nice boat out of the deal.” — Trump, speaking to a resident as he assessed the damage of Hurricane Florence in North Carolina. (Reis Thebault)



-- It will be another beautiful day in the District with sunny weather and lower humidity. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “Only a scattering of clouds is expected through the day, with southeast breezes unlikely to be felt until late afternoon. Humidity is moderate (dew points in the mid-60s). Most of the area still reaches the low 80s for highs.”

-- Law enforcement officials said at least 400 investors — mostly in Maryland and Northern Virginia — were cheated out of more than $360 million in a far-reaching scam. Ann E. Marimow reports: “A Maryland man and two partners from Texas lured investors by trading on the consumer-debt crisis to build a fortune for themselves, buying Rolls-Royces, Lamborghinis, mansions and a share in a Gulfstream jet, according to indictments unsealed in federal court in Baltimore.”

-- A D.C. high school football player was not allowed to play with his team because his homelessness sparked a residency challenge. Samantha Pell reports: “[Jamal] Speaks had been deemed eligible to play for [Ballou STAY Opportunity Academy] by the D.C. State Athletic Association (DCSAA), which oversees all high school sporting events in the District. But according to Speaks, [Principal Willie Jackson] insisted he couldn’t play Saturday because the District of Columbia Interscholastic Athletic Association (DCIAA), the city’s public high school athletic league, had ruled him ineligible in August. … Speaks’s godmother, Mia Young, said Wednesday afternoon that they are still unsure if Jackson will allow Speaks to play in Ballou’s next game, Sept. 28 at Theodore Roosevelt.”


Samantha Bee encouraged senators to be “less horrendous” about sexual misconduct allegations than they were in 1991:

Other late-night hosts questioned the defenses that have sprung up in Kavanaugh's favor:

Famous actresses participated in a video expressing support for Ford:

The Post's Department of Satire tried to capture “the standpoint of water,” as Trump said in reference to Hurricane Florence:

And two Boston Red Sox fans are looking for playoff tickets in exchange for returning a banner that they found on the freeway: